Chapter 1

Loving can hurt
loving can hurt sometimes
But it's the only thing that I know

The first drop of the rising sun fell into the dark, empty room, lightening the dark, empty floor. The single sun beam was almost the only source of light – the only one but a small candle standing on the desk. It was dying slowly, surrounded by maps, charts and scriptures. All of them were covered in Nordic runes; and all of them calling for the highest attention.

"Looks like we're about to welcome a new day in our favourite way, Bud. From over a stack of paper. Again..." The young Chief of Berk turned to his dragon friend and reached out his arms, trying to stretch out. He yawned, not bothering himself to cover his mouth. No one on Berk did that.

Toothless opened his eyes and then ostentatiously turned his head to the wall.

"Yeah, I know, I shouldn't. You really don't have to remind me." Despite of being tired, Hiccup didn't sound annoyed in the least. He took his eyes off of the Night Fury and leaned over his notes again.

'How, on Thor's name, did all of this get here?' he thought. He did have a point – each day brought him more and more documents. More duties in general, actually.

The dragon murmured with disapproval.

"I know," he sighed out loud. "But I really have no choice."

He felt a hit on the back of his head when Toothless once again proved how good he was at throwing small items he could find around him. This time, dice, which had just reached the target with great effect.

"Could you please calm down?" the Viking raised his voice slightly. "Trust me, I really don't feel like doing all this. Actually, there is nothing I want more than a possibility of snapping my finger at it and just throwing myself on a bed. I don't do that for fun, you know? But I am a Chief and as a Chief, I have obligations to my people. In our world, it is mostly about management. In our world, the leader is expected to control the situation, to know and understand more than anyone else. And this thing takes time."

"I'm not the Alpha, Bud," he resumed after a while. "In our world it's not enough to roar to make everything right."

His friend seemed by no means satisfied with this kind of answer. He snorted in response and right after that, he fastened his eyes on Hiccup's face. He was staring at his rider so meaningfully, that the boy simply couldn't ignore him. They were staring in each other's eyes for a moment – two leaders, each of them convinced that he was right.

After that moment, the dragon looked at the other side of the room and rested his gaze on the small portrait, pinned to the wall. His tactic worked just the way he wanted, when Hiccup's eyes involuntarily followed his. The difference was, the Chief looked away immediately.

"No, Bud."

Toothless snorted again. He didn't use to consider himself being wrong.

"Still, you are wrong," the Viking answered as if he heard his friend's thoughts. "She wouldn't want it at all."

Hiccup felt his hands shake. He put away the charcoal, knowing it would fall out of his hand anyway; he clenched his fists. It didn't help a bit.

"You should try to work on your argumentation, Bud, because those remarks of yours aren't even half as convincing as you think they are. Would she chide me for sitting by my desk till morning? Of course she would. Would she make an entire speech about my warped understanding of responsibility? What a speech it would be! She could say many things, you know. The point is, it is not about what Astrid would say. It's about what she would do while saying all that. How much she would do."

He clenched his fists even harder and his knuckles went white. He tried to speak calmly. He tried to breathe calmly.

He really did.

"You know how much. More than anyone else." His voice trembled a little. "Yes, she used to drag me away from work. She would make me promise I'd go to bed at a proper hour and when I didn't keep my promise, she wouldn't speak a single word to me. So I listened. But the only reason why I could've afford that was Astrid herself. She used to reproach me for being over eager, and at the same time, she was determined to take over a lion's share of the tasks, no matter how hard I protested against it. She would take over the duties which had never been hers – they'd been mine."

He stood up, shaking with anger; he felt impotent rage overcoming him again. And then, the qualms. He was burnt with guilt, he almost could've felt the physical symptoms of it.

Moments like this made him hate himself, and his life was practically filled with these kind of 'moments'. In fact, the remorse had become his constant companion and hadn't left him for a second. It had accompanied him for more than a year now, making his life impossible to bear; but Hiccup had to live.

He had to go on. For his tribe, for his village. For his people.

The young man felt the earth washing away from beneath him. He felt dizzy. He leaned against the big wooden pole right next to the stairs, as if he feared he would fall down. It was more likely to happen than he thought.

"After three days of her being silent, I was ready to fall on my knees, begging for her forgiveness just to make her notice me. One day she got really mad and as a punishment, she ignored me for a week. You remember that?"

The dragon kept staring at the boy. Yes, he did remember. He remembered Hiccup getting crazy. He had understood something was wrong then. But it was nothing compared to the present.

"I thought I'd lose my mind. I barely saw her for the entire week and when I did, she was always occupied with something else. Or someone else. And she never made an impression of the whole situation bothering her in any way. I was going mad but I could have assumed that she would forgive me and the matter would be resolved, that in the end, everything would be alright. I… I did a lot of thinking then, wondering what I would do if it lasted for longer. But the very idea of spending as much as a month without her by my side was unbearable. And completely absurd, by the way."

He paused.

"It has been a year."

Silence descended on the room. It was dull and bitter, filled with grudge and pain. It was the silence covered with tears – the ones he shed and the ones he hid. The silence of helplessness and misunderstanding. The silence that called for answers – with no hope to ever get them.

Toothless was lying with his head lifted. He was looking at the boy who'd found him in the woods, defenceless and wounded and yet, he'd done what no other Viking would do. Hiccup had helped him get his flying ability back. He'd helped his people make peace on Berk. Now he was the one who needed support, but there was no one who could offer it to him.

Hiccup was still standing next to the pole, bracing on it., no longer caring if he was breathing coolly or not. He kept silent. If he could, he would hold more than his tongue – the young man would be most happy if he simply could stop breathing. No more inhaling. No more exhaling.

No more pain.

He really wanted that, even though he couldn't do it. He was the Chief and the Chief had no right to play with his life; it belonged to his tribe and the only reason for sacrificing it was do defend his people.

Because a dead Chief is a poor Chief.

He felt Toothless poke him on the side, trying to catch his rider's attention. He lowered his hand and put it on the dragon's head. Toothless nugded him again.

"Yes, Bud. I still have you. I can't even imagine how I would go through all this alone."

He straighten up and sighed deeply, glancing at the heap of papers, that still covered his desk. He couldn't let go. If the Chief's life belonged to the tribe, it meant he couldn't let them down in any way.

Despite of the clear objection of the Night Fury, Hiccup approached the table.

"The thing is," he answered to his friend's silent reproach, sitting down on a chair and taking his charcoal back."The thing is that nobody can ever replace her. Nor you, nor Valka. Nor anyone else."

The young Chief woke up in his own bed. He couldn't have recalled how exactly he had ended up there, as he definitely did not remember making his way to the bed at night.

'Morning, Hiccup. Morning.' he pointed out to himself.

The dawn was something he remembered pretty well after all. What he also remembered, was reading all the lists and charts he'd made and how sleepy he'd been at the time. Eventually, he assumed he must have gone to his bed half-conscious, with the assistance of his four-legged companion. He also noticed that he was still wearing the same clothes as the night before – obviously – fortunately, this time it wasn't his leather armour. Sleeping in the armour usually resulted in a hard backache that would last for more than a few days.

The recollection was enough to make him wince.

He rolled over to his other side, pulling up his blanket. It was getting colder every day, regardless to the fact Berk had officially welcome Autumn only two weeks earlier – unfortunately, even the middle of the Summer couldn't be called warm in this part of a world. Hiccup realised he should get up immediately and he found this idea highly repulsive.

He gathered his thoughts. How long had he been sleeping? Three, four hours?

'Too long anyway.' He rose up reluctantly. 'It's always too long.'

The Viking walked up to a bowl of water and quickly rinsed his hands and face soon realising that the icy-cold liquid turned out to be much more refreshing than he needed it to be. Another charming feature of the Berkian climate. He shivered.

He put his armour on as quickly as possible and wrapped a thong around his right boot. There was no reason he should busy himself with the left one – his metal leg was in a perfect condition. He looked up before he'd get downstairs and focused on the portrait drawn by him, the one which had caused such strong emotions only a few hours earlier.

"I'm sorry, Astrid," he said carelessly, with no sign of remorse. "I can't lie around any longer. Besides, you're not talking to me anyway, are you?"

He almost ran downstairs and immediately, he was welcomed with the scent of roasted meat. In the Viking society, it was silly to expect anything else – his people would eat nothing but mutton, venison and poultry, if only they had a chance. Hiccup thought that a little change of customs wouldn't hurt, though, however, as soon as this thought crossed his mind, he felt it was unfair. The very circumstance of a well prepared breakfast waiting for him should be enough to make him grateful. The young Chief promised to himself not to feel anything else in the future.

"Morning mum," he greeted, exerting himself to smile. "It smells delicious."

He meant that. Valka's cooking abilities were more than impressive, no matter how unbelievable it would've sounded just a few months earlier. Not so long ago, Hiccup would've agreed that his mother wouldn't have much problem with burning water; yet there she was, frying, boiling and roasting like if it was nothing. The Dragon Lady – that was how she'd be called in the cordial jokes – suddenly started to run rings around her competitors on the island. The fact they were all Vikings didn't diminish her success in the slightest.

Valka looked up from above her plate and nodded her head as a thank-you, but didn't say a word.

"Yes, I have slept," her son answered, even though she'd never asked the question. "Really. And no, I have not fallen asleep on my desk."

"Of course not."

He almost couldn't hear that ironic attitude in her voice.

The man smiled a bit more sincerely and rolled his eyes as he walked up to the fire place.

"I have to peek in the stalls," he said after a while, putting a fair portion of a yak stew on his plate. It looked really inviting. "Gobber seems to have some troubles with his clients. They complain, he makes a fuss over it… In other words, a typically Viking-like situation."

"They complain about Gobber?" the Dragon Lady looked surprised. "As far as I remember there hasn't been a better blacksmith in the entire Archipelago. Has anything changed?"

"Not really. I took a look on the new equipment and I don't think it's any worse than the old one. I'll try to find out what's going on out there. Unfortunately, Gobber refuses to understand that calling his costumers names – and you know how creative he can be about that – isn't exactly helping in the case."

"Looks like the Vikings are becoming choosy," Valka said.

"Gods help us all."

Finally, Hiccup sat down and started eating.

'Thank you, Thor, for a mother like this,' he thought as soon as he'd tasted the stew. True, the first trials could've make his stomach really unsettled. So what? The cook of this class was worth waiting for.

"What's next?"

"Sven and his sheep, obviously being in the place they should not be." He tried not to speak with his mouth full, but then again, he was too much in a hurry to really care about that. "Some kids have destroyed the fence on his farm and now I have to find someone to help repair it, and to gather all the sheep so they don't run all over the island, which they're probably doing now. Next, Gothi needs herbs for her potions so, first, we have to make a list, second, find out which of those special plants can be found on Berk and which of them requires a longer flight. And third, we need to collect it. Quite a lot of it in fact, as I concluded from our small talk."

He remained silent, thinking.

"The summer is over, it's getting colder every day. I have to check the granaries, both ours and dragons'… As soon as possible. One of the feeders has been damaged, we have to fix it immediately. Fishlegs mentioned the wells, the twins said something about a breakdown in the stables and Snotlout spent about a quarter reporting every detail of an argument between Bucket and… I don't even know who that other man was. Oh, and we really need to disassemble Mildew's old hut, at last. All it does is threaten children and dragons."

"You have no idea how much you resemble him." Valka smiled sadly, looking at her son. "Everything must be done, everything must be arranged, everything must be taken care of. All by yourself. Alone."

"I'm not alone." Hiccup shrugged. "And I can't complain about the help I get. How many Chiefs have a Night Fury as their support?"

"You know, what I mean." The Dragon Lady wasn't going to give up. "It just won't work. Your father tried that, I saw it. Don't repeat his mistakes."

"My father was the best Chief that has ever led Berk." The man raised his voice. Valka had hit the raw nerve. "I wish his mistakes were the only defect of my reign. I'm afraid I have a long list of my own potential flubs, though."

"What's the point in making both?"

Valka stood up and started collecting the dishes. She was still staring at Hiccup, who on the contrary was preparing to leave in any minute.

"Don't be stubborn," she continued. "Remember that even Stoick the Vast, the best of Chiefs, eventually learnt to use help. Your help, too."

Hiccup, who was just about to turn to the door, stopped. He fixed his eyes on a floor, ruminating on what he should answer. At last, he turned to his mother and glared right into her eyes.

Valka barely managed to stop herself from stepping back – what she saw in his sight threw her for a loop; it was so full of anger, so full of hatred – none of these feelings aimed at herself, but she was terrified nevertheless.

"You know mum, you're right." He was speaking slowly, carefully pronouncing each and every word. "My father had a son, ready to take over some of his duties. As you can see, though, I do not. And I don't think we can see it change any time soon."

He promptly shut the door behind him, leaving Valka to wonder if darkness within her son's heart would ever disappear.

Author's note: Finally!

Guys, you have no idea how happy I am to finally share this chapter with you. And how sorry I am about making you wait for so long…

Anyway, it's here. I wrote this chapter long ago but I still quite like it. If your hearts were breaking while reading it, it means I achieved my goal. If not… Well, I'll keep on trying.

Now, the huge thanks to my three dear friends, who helped me with the translation – as I said before, I wouldn't make it without their help. If it was not them, you'd probably get a total crap, full of grammatical and lexical mistakes. These three people are:

Penelope, also known as water-star, the author of Thaw Slowly – the best Hiccelsa fanfiction ever. The best fanfiction in general, in my opinion. Thank you for your wise advice, especially with parting the text and proper using of bolding and italics. It really matters.

Mae, also known as jubbery/apple-sauce, a great Non/Disney video editor and the author of Unthawing, a beautiful Felsa story, which I hope will be updated soon. I know it's been hard but I really appreciate your wish to help me. Hopefully, we will have a nice, long Hiccunzel fic after all.

Katherine, also know as KTMB17, the author of Fall of the Guardians – and also a completely new story, Legends of the Guardians, with a new, original character starring in it (I am stil excited about it!). Thank you for your last-minute correction, I really didn't expect you to do it that quickly.

Also, thanks to Sab, Ludo, Sara, Lucy – and all of you, who've been supporting me all this time. I hope you're satisfied with the final result. Don't forget to let me know about what you think!

Love, Margaret.