(lmao hey guys! been a hot second but i'm back on this. lmk if anyone still reads this/what you think!)

At least his day started with a bang.

More specifically, the bang of a metal-toed boot against his door.

Hiccup shot out of bed and right into action, throwing a shirt on and nudging Toothless under the bed. Beginning to run a comb through his hair, he reconsidered, grabbing the cat and throwing him in a drawer. "I know, bud," he responded to the cat's indignant yowls. "Just please stay quiet." He double-checked his reflection, and finding it as good as it was going to get, inhaled, regained composure, and opened the door.

"Finally," Astrid Hofferson complained, perfectly posed against the wall. "What were you doing, putting on makeup?"

"Oh, it takes a while to perfect all of… this," Hiccup chuckled nervously, gesturing to his face and doing his best femme fatale impression. Hofferson was not amused. "Uh… so to what do I owe the pleasure?"

"Save it," she commanded. "I need the password you used to lock Stormfly's central system."

"Hey, every heard of the magic word?" The minute he said it, he regretted it. Astrid Hofferson wasn't one for backtalk, especially not when her eyes were as murderous as they were right now. She lifted a cool eyebrow, and he suddenly wondered why he ever thought it was a good idea to stand between Astrid and her Drengr. "Uh, okay. Never mind. Well, uh, assuming you're gonna use it to override said lock I put on said central system, then, uh, no," he rubbed the back of his head, "I can't give that to you." Stormfly looked fine on the outside, but he still hadn't assessed all the damage to the internal systems. Piloting her could be dangerous- both for the Drengr and the pilot. "Sorry. Not safe yet. You know, she's an older model, so I'm waiting on some parts from the Alaskan base, and I'm still not sure whether the cooling system works on the entire engine… but I think I'm close!"

She looked at him the way one would look at a bug they were getting ready to squash. "You think I give a shit about close?" Hiccup got the impression not many people had ever said no to her. "Look, I just-" she winced, subconsciously placing a hand on the spot above her ribcage where a piece of Stormfly had resided only a month before, "I need to get in there. I'm not going to pilot it. I won't even link up." It went unspoken, but understood, that she had nobody to enter the Drift with. "I need to see it."

He knew the right answer was no. He knew Marshall Stoick would have told her to scamper back to her friends and leave him alone. He knew Gobber would have phrased it a little cruder. But when Astrid turned her too-big blue eyes on him, practiced vulnerability apparent, he found himself unable to think about Marshall Stoick or Gobber. "Under one condition." Assured in his approval, she dropped her act as easily as a mask and went back to her practiced expression of nonchalance. Damn. He hadn't even made her sweat. "I'll come with you." The expression dropped, and so did Hiccup's stomach. Why did he say that?

"Absolutely not," she shot back. "You'd probably break something."

"Hey, there's only one of us here who's actually totaled a Drengr unit, and it's not me." He almost relished the way her expression dropped, the way he saw the slightest hint of weakness in her face. It was exciting to shock Astrid- it was the only way he got to really see her. "Sorry. That was below the belt."

The weakness was gone and the mask was back up, like it had never been down. "I don't give a shit what you think, say, or feel about me, let's get that straight right now." Her voice was measured and cold. "I need you to let me in my Drengr, and you know what? Sure, fine, come with me. I don't care anymore. If that's what it takes for me to get what I want, I'm fine with it."

The worst kind of victories are the kind you don't want to win at all. Astrid was telling him she'd comply with anything he wanted, but squirming under her ice-cold glare, he wished he'd lost. "Okay then. Um, meet me outside the engineering bay during dinner, I'm the only one who's ever there then."

"Gee, you skip meals?" She gestured to his fishbone body. "Shocking."

"See you at 6:30, milady," he dropped an exaggerated, scraping bow. "It was so gracious of you to honor me with your presence this morning."

Turning on her heel, Astrid Hofferson stalked away, presumably to go intimidate someone else, and Hiccup was left alone. Again. "That was fucking weird," he mused, freeing Toothless from the prison of his bedside drawer. The cat mewed in response, looking up at Hiccup with eyes that agreed Astrid's request was, indeed, fucking weird.

Hiccup's day simultaneously sped past and crawled by- for every moment he wished it was dinnertime, he felt a twinge of anxiety. Tick. He swung the hammer. Tock. He hit the nail. Tick. He swung the hammer. Tock. He hit his thumb. Letting out a sharp hiss of breath, he locked eyes with Gobber from across the room. A raise of eyebrows and a concerned look from the mentor was answered with a roll of eyes and a dismissive shrug from the student. Tick. He swung the hammer again. Tock. The dinner bell rang.

All around him, men dropped their tools, stripped out of their jumpsuits, and filed out the door, the bay echoing with banter. Hiccup took his time- no one would miss him. "Boy," he nearly jumped out of his skin when Gobber clapped a hand on his back.

"Oh. Gobber. Hey," he gave his best attempt at a 'normal' smile.

It wasn't returned. "You've been off all day. What's eatin' ya?"

On any other day, Hiccup would welcome the attention. But with one eye darting towards the clock, he was going to try his best to get Gobber out before Astrid came. Astrid was coming! To see him! "Nothing!" He plastered a grin on his face. "Absolutely nothing. Actually, I've been doing really well. Getting 8 hours of sleep, well-balanced meals, I'm the poster child for health. You have nothing to be concerned about. Go eat dinner! See you later! I'm right behind you!" Hiccup nudged Gobber with everything he had- although, compared to what Gobber had, it wasn't much.

Unconvinced, Gobber took the hint, heading towards the door. The lure of dinner was too tempting to resist. "Well… alright then. We'll talk later. Just… stay safe, m'boy." With a clap on the back, the man was gone, leaving Hiccup with his parting words and a girl who was anything but safe.

"Hey there, Useless." It wasn't the first time he'd heard the nickname, but it was the first time she'd said it. She was, of course, playing with a hammer that didn't belong to her, golden hair catching the fading sunlight coming through the only window in the workshop. Leave it to Astrid to find her light. "Damn, I see why you all call this place DIRT. This floor's disgusting."

"Well, you know, we actually do work here," Hiccup resisted the urge to ask her if she's forgotten what work's like while she's been on leave. "Sorry it's not up to your standards." He couldn't tell if he was excited or terrified, if he was attracted to her or if she was activating his fight or flight instinct (Hiccup was a flier. At least against her).

"Whatever. Can I see Stormfly now, or are you not done with your witty banter?" She rolled her eyes, cutting him off.

"Put the hammer down first, and then we'll talk." That girl wasn't coming anywhere near him with a weapon.

She cracked a smile- or maybe she bared her teeth? "I prefer axes anyways," she returned the hammer to its place on the wall. "And if I wanted to kill you, we both know I wouldn't need that."

Gulping, Hiccup crossed the room, punching in the first passcode to access the Drengr. DIRT kept their prized possessions under lock and key, with one PIN to access the robots, another to unlock the hatch, and a third on Stormfly's central system. Hyperaware of Astrid hovering over his shoulder, he reminded her "I'm not supposed to show you these, but we do a retinal scan anyways. So don't even try it." Stormfly's hatch opened, and he couldn't miss the way Astrid's eyes brightened. The connection between a pilot and a Drengr was something Hiccup would never understand. To him, it was a piece of metal artistry meant to fight Ámáttugr, but to the pilots, they were home. "One more password," Hiccup muttered as he punched in his custom code- B E R K.

"What does that even mean?" Astrid wrinkled her nose condescendingly.

"And what the hell is a Storm Fly?" Hiccup countered, pushing 'enter'.

Watching a Drengr power up was always exciting. First came a rush of electricity that almost put Hiccup's hair on end. Next was a loud humming that filled the entire workshop. And finally light, bright light, emanating from the "eyes" of a Drengr. Hiccup practically made this, and he was afraid of it. He almost pitied the Ámáttugr.

"Thanks," Astrid tossed him flippantly, brushing past him at an effortless jog to get in her Drengr.

"Remember our deal," he caught up, with a less-effortless jog. "Not without me."

"Ugh. Whatever." Hiccup thanked his lucky stars she was so in awe of Stormfly to be annoyed with him. He stood back, admiring the central control hatch he'd been working so hard to reconstruct. Of course, there were things to be fixed- a chair that didn't swivel all 360 degrees, a control screen that didn't have voice command, wires that hadn't been integrated yet- but Astrid didn't seem to see any of those things. She was drinking everything in with eyes wider than Toothless', running her hands over the defective chair and control panels, quieter than he'd ever seen her.

"It's so different," she sighed, so quiet he almost didn't hear her.

"Good different or bad different? Because if it's bad different I can change things. I mean, it'll take longer, but I can change it. If you want."

"Good different," she nodded, and the look in her eyes reminded Hiccup that this was the room where she might have watched her mother die. "Hey, look, I know I've been pretty hard to handle, but I want to say tha-"

But Hiccup never got the thanks he so desperately craved, because her sentence was interrupted by Marshall Stoick. And a siren. And a megaphone. "EXIT THE DRENGR IMMEDIATELY!"

Any humanity in Astrid's face vanished immediately, and a hardness took its place. "Fucking great. Just what I need." Cutting in front of Hiccup, she stalked out of Stormfly. "Do I need to put my hands where you can see them?" She snarked.

"Junior Ranger Hofferson," Stoick sounded closer to disappointment than Hiccup had ever heard him. And he'd heard the Marshall disappointed many times. "You're on protected property that doesn't belong to you. Trespassing."

"How can I trespass in my own Drengr?" Astrid countered, folding her arms. "I wasn't going to link up. I was just… checking her out!" A glare from the Marshall was all it took for her stance to change. "…I'm sorry. I was wrong," she sighed, red and blue lights dancing across the architectural planes of her face.

"Shoulda known," Gobber stepped out of the darkness to add to the guilt trip sandwich. "Clearly she wasn't stable." Both Marshall and Ranger turned to glare at him. "Well, she's not!" Eating his words, he decided to change the subject. "How'd the lass get inside in the first place? Did you hack past all 3 blocks? Maybe you're in the wrong department," he chuckled.

A guilty look from Astrid over her shoulder looked like his cue. Gingerly stepping out of the shadows of Stormfly, Hiccup stood next to her in the flashing lights, feeling like an actor stepping out to a discontented audience. "Uh, no. That was all me."

A nervous guffaw from Gobber only underscored the seriousness of Marshall Stoick. "Hiccup," he sighed, not disappointed, not surprised.

"Hey there, Dad."