Darling, just hold my hand
Be my girl, I'll be your man
I see my future in your eyes
"Can I finally open my eyes?" She asked impatiently, waiting for Hiccup to bring to a close of what he deemed to be the unbelievably important business which had made them stop here in the first place.
"Absolutely not. Calm down, Raps, nothing's happening."
"Oh, right. It's just me, standing still in the middle of a city, forbidden to look at anything, while you're busy with your shady deals. I guess I should be grateful for you not leaving me somewhere."
The boy glanced at her questioningly and raised his left brow, even though she couldn't see it.
"You've only been standing here for two minutes and I'm like six feet away. Thank you kindly." He added, turning to an elder shop assistant as she'd handed him the object he'd asked for. He passed her the cash with one hand, taking the elongated, delicate item with the other; he slipped it into his bag, in a way the upper part of it would poke out of its main pouch. "Have a good night."
"But you've been making a blind woman of me, and I still don't know why. What is it all for?"
"You ordered me to decide where we're going, so now you must let me do it my way." He answered calmly, approaching her. "Stop freaking out, you know I'd never let anything happen to you."
"But why won't you tell me anything more?"
"Remember what I told you about surprises this morning?"
"Of course I do. Only then you were talking about some hypothetical, imaginary stranger, while I have to deal with you. And I'm well aware of how much you love being amazed."
Even with her eyelids down, she was still capable of rolling her eyes.
The dark-haired man didn't seem to care much about that silent commentary, and having pulled his elbow toward her, he cleared his throat meaningfully.
"My arm is at your service. Will you allow me?"
He hoped his anticipation had been correct and that Rapunzel's whining showed nothing, except her usual eagerness for teasing him. When the girl didn't respond to his proposition, he nudged her softly. She didn't even flinch.
"Hey." He tried again, feeling his confidence slowly going away. Oh, no. Not today. "You'll huff at me only because I'm trying to make the evening pleasant for you? Come on, you're not like that. There's one more place where I want to take you, however, it will be rather hard for you to get there without a guide – and it's important that it would remain a surprise. So you can either take my arm, as you have so far, or I'll be forced to keep my promise and sling you over my shoulder, taking you there by force. I thought you preferred to avoid that."
"Anything, but this." She replied, eventually. Relieved, Hiccup noticed that the corners of her mouth were twitching from the laugh she was trying to hold back. He sighed inwardly. For now, it looked like he'd managed to bring back that most cheerful Rapunzel – he couldn't let her escape again.
He felt his friend's arm carefully interlocking with his, but showing not the half of that enthusiasm which had characterised her grip just a moment earlier - it was much more careless this time, and the man couldn't deny that the change didn't please him in the slightest. He quietly rebuked himself. With some difficulty, he managed to chase away the intrusive thoughts, and slowly set off in the direction of their mysterious destination, constantly making sure Rapunzel was not in the danger of stumbling over any of the numerous obstructions.
"Have I ever been there?" She asked almost immediately, hoping to avoid the uncomfortable silence. "Have I ever been to that special place to which you're dragging me now?"
"And why did you think I made you close your eyes?" Hiccup answered with a question. "Of course you have."
"It's in Berk?"
"In its very heart."
"Then I've been there for sure. Why won't you tell me -"
"Because of that exactly. You know the place and you'd guess what I am up to in no time; and that would spoil most of the effect. That wouldn't make much sense, would it?"
"Well, maybe." She nodded pensively. "But I will like it?"
"If you don't, I will be quite disappointed myself. But the spot is really charming; I think I can remember you saying you liked it, and there shouldn't be too many people there at this time. Plus the weather is on our side."
"It's beautiful." The girl's voice was once again resonating with her usual dreaminess, finally taking over the recent anxiety. "The sky is so wonderfully clear, that I think I saw more stars than I have for the entire month. Or at least it was twenty minutes ago, when I was still allowed to admire it." She laughed shortly.
"I guarantee you that nothing has changed since then. Are you sure you're not a little chilly in that shawl?"
"Yes. It's much warmer than it may seem – besides, it's not that cold in general. So not only I know the place, but I also like it?"
"There again. Be patient, Lily."
"You're pretty taken with those names, huh?"
"You were the one complaining about the silly nicknames, right?"
"You've heard that? I thought you were more interested in The Return of the King."
"You're always complaining about them."
"Perhaps, but as long as I'm using your pseudonym, I have to deal with mine. Oh, no!" she resumed quickly, hearing her friend inhaling to answer her argument. "I won't start calling you by name. It's beautiful, I agree, but don't expect me to move over to it."
"You too think that 'hiccup' is a better description of my character?" He asked rather caustically, as if the declaration had really offended him.
It might have stung him a little, that's all.
"That is the name I heard when I first met you, and I want to keep it this way until the end of our wretched existence, no matter what. I'm sorry, but I won't exchange Hiccup for even the best of Alexanders."
Maybe he would've protested against that new statement, had he not felt a familiar clasp on his right forearm. He smiled at the thought of his beloved friend – no, not only a friend, but simply a beloved woman – was stepping so close to him, leaning on him so faithfully. She could banter with him, tease him, remind him of his oldest slips, but Hiccup knew about that incredible, enormous confidence she put in him at the same time.
Today had given him a feeling of certainty, and this filled him with some kind of an amazingly joyful pride. He was honoured with the awareness of Rapunzel relying on him that much.
She asked how long it would take to reach their target. He calmed her, saying that they needed no more than a few minutes, and laughed, when she repeated the question just a moment later.
She really couldn't wait.
"Now." He stated eventually, stopping; he corrected himself at once, renewing his demand about Rapunzel keeping her eyes shut. He edged away from her, freeing their hands. "It's alright, I'm not going anywhere. Give me a second."
He reached to a leather bag, hanging on his left shoulder and pulled a bunch of keys out of it. The fair-haired girl frowned thoughtfully, when she heard the tinny clank. Hiccup slipped a key into the small hole and turned it.
"Just a moment. You only have to come here, yes, just like this…" He kept talking, softly pushing her forward. Standing behind her back, he was now resting his hands on the shawl on her shoulders, guiding her as gently as he found possible. "That's it. Now, stop, you need to let me lock it. Ok, done. Give me your hands."
The brows which Rapunzel had frowned so recently were now raised in astonishment. Noticing her lack of understanding for the command he had given, Hiccup took a place before her and explained, "Just stretch your arms in front of you, so I can grab your hands. You're standing at the edge of the stairs, and this is the easiest – and the safest – way of crossing them with your eyes closed. Please?"
She shook her head, amused, and slowly, she raised her shoulders as Hiccup ordered her to. When only their fingers met, the young man felt the familiar shiver running through his body. He still couldn't understand why even the smallest, the most innocent gestures made him react so intensely, as if he was surprised that his organism hadn't adjusted to them yet. But this is how it was – the butterflies were not only in his stomach, but in his chest and head as well; his heart was beating madly; and the goofy grin, which always made both Astrid and Rapunzel – or even Heather – laugh, was finding a way to his face, impossible to hide.
Besides, Rapunzel wasn't looking at him anyway. Why would he care to hide anything?
"You'll catch me if I fall," the girl ensured, taking a step in his direction, "Right?"
"With the greatest joy." He answered, and almost blushed, ashamed by the realisation of how pleasant the projected situation appeared to him.
'You really must stop giving me ideas.' A thought crossed his mind. 'I have more than enough of my own.'
The (un)fortunate event didn't occur, though, and a few seconds later her feet touched something, that most probably was a gravel park alley. She fought the urge to look around; she waited. She felt Hiccup pulling her towards him and hesitantly, she followed him in the suggested direction. He was stepping in the exact rhythm she was, guiding her in the same way he'd proposed on the stairs.
Rapunzel smiled, imaging they boy walking backwards – simultaneously, she hoped he wouldn't stumble on the uneven ground, landing on his back, because in that case, she would surely follow after.
"You know there's no need for holding me like this?" She suggested.
"Stop overthinking it. Feeling bad?"
"No, but I did feel a little more confident when you saw where you were putting your feet."
"Don't you worry about that, I know exactly what I'm doing."
"And you won't fall down, dragging me along?"
"And I've already started to believe you trusted me!" The man sighed theatrically, and shook his head. "How naive of me."
"But of course I trust you, I'm just concerned about your general condition."
"Look, just let me lead, alright? I know it's not exactly your wheelhouse, but please, try. Like you do in the waltz – one, two, three, one two, three…"
"Are you really dancing?" This time Rapunzel laughed quite openly, doing her best to adapt to the sudden change of pace. She couldn't miss how smoothly Hiccup himself had done it. "I didn't think I'd ever see it again. Or feel it. Either way, you're doing pretty well."
Hiccup beamed at the praise.
"Better than when you first started to teach me?"
"When I started to teach you, you seemed not to be able to count to three. And you call yourself an architect."
"Oh, come on, it wasn't that bad. Besides, I think I've improved on that, haven't I?"
"But I'm sure you're still stooping."
"Only because I have to lead you quite literally. Just wait until you see my framing!"
She didn't respond at once.
"Have you been practicing since then? Some dancing courses I've never heard of?"
"I have never in my life danced with anyone but you. And that old broom in my flat, but I don't think it counts. It doesn't reproach me for my posture."
"Were you really dancing with a broom?"
"We made a really pretty couple."
"If you say so. However, weren't you supposed to dance that waltz with your mother? That was the reason for even starting all this practising, right?"
"Oh, yes." Only this moment the boy remembered the great wedding anniversary, celebrated by his parents during the previous year; an anniversary that became a pretext for his very first dancing attempts. "Yes, yes, I was dancing with her then. Actually, it turned out better than I expected."
"So it worked out?"
"I certainly succeeded in astonishing them all. Didn't I tell you about it?"
"You did, I suppose… I must've forgotten it. But I'm glad I could help. Who knows, maybe there is a dancer hidden in you."
"Oh, no, don't even think of it. It's enough you made a romantic out of me today, it's more than I could wish for. I don't dance. I could have mastered waltz, but ask me to dance anything else, and I'll stumble over my own prosthetic after the first bar."
She was ready to express her demur, when Hiccup stopped, not bothering to give out a warning; if it wasn't for her perfect reflex, she would have walked straight into him.
"We're here." She heard.
She raised her eyebrows again, waiting for the upcoming instructions. For the last time this evening, her friend made her move, turning a little, apparently wanting to take her off the alley. It wasn't until then, when they stopped talking, that she became aware of the surrounding silence, so uncommon for a city they both lived in.
It wasn't a silence of void, the one she could be expecting in a stiltedly muffled room, nor the natural stillness, interrupted by nothing but the nature itself. She could still hear the distant drone of cars, speeding on the streets; the talks of passers-by; the sound of music, coming from behind the ajar windows, different, accordingly to their listeners taste. But all of those sounds were muted, as if they were separated from the rest of Berk with a not fully physical wall.
There was only one place that made her feel like this – but there was no way she could visit it at this hour.
"Okay, you can stop now."
Hiccup was speaking quietly, clearly not wanting to disturb the peaceful atmosphere around them. The girl he was guiding halted, not saying a word, though inwardly wondering if she could really treat that "station" as the last one, and yet, it was only a moment later, when she felt her friend letting her hands out of his gentle grip, did she understand, that this time she truly was at the destination of their mysterious journey.
She heard Hiccup passing her furtively, and she involuntarily turned her head, as if she wanted to follow him with her sight. With her eyelids still shut the gesture made no sense and Rapunzel shook her head thinking of her own silliness. She smiled under her nose, listening carefully to the nightly noises, echoing around her. Her companion was bustling behind her back; if she'd been allowed to look at him then, she would've seen him laying both his own leather bag and her linen one on a bench – the latter had been taken from her much earlier, before they had entered this strangely quiet space. Instead, she was standing, lost in thoughts, focused on the sounds approaching her from before her, and pondering if the rustle she heard was in fact what she thought.
Her contemplation was interrupted by Hiccup's firm voice.
"Take off your shoes."
With difficulty, she refrained from turning on her heel and giving him a disbelieving glare. She crossed her arms instead, and in inquired shortly, "Excuse me?"
"You've heard me. Take off your shoes."
"Raps, for once in your life, could you just carry out my order, not asking a million of questions first? Please, just do it."
"With my eyes closed?"
"If you can, then yes."
She sighed as loudly as she could, but she obeyed. Unhurriedly, the girl unbuckled the straps of her light sandals and, having straightened up, she slowly slid her petite feet out of them, dipping them in the luxuriant grass, already wet with the evening dew.
That was the moment when Hiccup let her finally open her eyes.
For the first few moments she was convinced she was dreaming, and yet, there she was, standing on a huge park glade, encircled by enormous, ancient oaks, which were probably older than Berk itself. In front of her, there was a marvellous fountain, shining with thousands of reflections, flickering on the flowing streams of water, humming in a perfect harmony, as if it was playing a melody composed beforehand. The sky had lost nothing of its former clarity and Rapunzel needed more that those few seconds to bring herself to believe that what she saw was happening for real.
However, as soon as she did, her thoughts turned to the dark-haired boy, to whom she owed all of those feelings. She wanted to run towards him and throw her arms around his neck, not knowing how on earth could she express her still rising gratitude; but when she turned back to put her intention into practice, she hesitated.
And the reason for it was this: Hiccup was not looking at her with his casual, ironic expression reflecting on his freckled face, waiting for her reaction. He wasn't bustling zealously, enforcing his own, secret ideas, either.
Standing just a few steps from her, he wasn't looking at her at all. With his hands laced behind his back, he was strenuously staring at the ground beneath him, as if reflecting upon some highly important issue. Indeed, the debate he was now having with his own thoughts was one of the hardest – and most disturbing – he had ever faced.
Only then did he acknowledged the glare his beautiful friend had fixed on him. He jerked up his head, straightening automatically, although he still kept his arms behind him. He glanced at her attentively, trying to guess if his plan had worked out, arousing at least a part of the impression he he had hoped to make. In her eyes, he noticed joy he'd been missing for moths.
It did work out.
"How did you do this?" She asked, feeling the tears filling her eyes, which this time she had no intention fighting. "The place, the time..."
"Isn't that what you've dreamt of ever since coming to Berk?" Hiccup responded quietly, gazing at her with a tentative smile. "To see its greatest garden brighten up with the moonlight, to watch the white fountain -"
"Dancing barefoot around it."
"Well, looks like you're dream is coming true."
"But… how?" She dithered again. The last thing she wanted was spoiling the moment with unnecessary questions, but not knowing the answers for them, she was ready to conclude, that it was all nothing more than an incredibly delightful dream.
"How did I break into the museum park an hour after closing?" The man laughed. "Quite legally, in fact. I asked Gobber to let me borrow the keys, and all he demanded was not to give him away to my Dad."
"The charms of being a Mayor's son, huh?"
"As you can see, your Godfather being a custodian can be much more profitable."
He lowered his sight again, setting his teeth. He inhaled deeply, looked straightly into her eyes, obviously filled with curiosity and started his speech.
"Raps, you know me well enough to realise that I hardly ever do things without having a good reason for it. And today is no exception. Of course, I hoped this little trip would lift your spirits a little, and distract you much enough to make you forget about all the thoughts that have been bothering you so much lately, but… that wasn't the only cause." He was weighing his words carefully, making sure his friend would understand his intentions correctly. For once, he really had to speak clearly. "It's not a coincidence that I brought you here today. You know why?"
She shook her head.
"Do you remember how we met?" He tried once more, approaching her; he was afraid to sound too seriously and hoped, that the recollection would give his declamation its casual, playful tang.
"You doused my own coffee on me?" She chuckled softly. "On the very first day after my arrival to Berk."
"Yes, that's it. Very typical of me, I'm afraid."
"You've never explained to me what had angered you so much."
"Does it matter? It gave me an opportunity to start one of the most important of my acquaintances, so whatever it was, I'm glad it occurred."
She looked down, suddenly feeling abashed.
"I really owe you a lot..." he continued. "I don't know what would've happened of me if you hadn't appeared in that dingy café that day. And you probably don't realise that, but it's been exactly two years since that accident… I thought I should thank you for all this time, one way or another."
Cautiously, he moved his arms from behind his back.
"Happy anniversary, Rapunzel."
She almost jumped, surprised by the sight in front of her. Her best friend was standing before her, reaching his hands in her direction – and a white, slender rose was being kept between his fingers. It surely was the last thing she could expect. She glanced at the rose – she glanced at him. He also was gazing at her questioningly, a bit teasingly maybe, and yet, there was some special tenderness shining in his eyes, which she didn't know, nor she'd ever noticed before.
Or maybe it was just the night light playing with her senses?
With her hand slightly trembling, she reached out for the dedicated flower, not wanting Hiccup to think that the gift wasn't appreciated. She peeked at him again, and smiled gratefully. She had no idea how could she possibly repay for all of his kindness.
"So much trouble, so much preparations, because of the date you shouldn't even remember. Why?"
"You know, just because it's not a romantic anniversary, doesn't mean it's not an important one."
Rapunzel looked away again, focusing her gaze on the rose she kept in her hands. She understood that something was changing, that with all Hiccup's gentleness, his words carried more than just an exclamation of joy, caused by their friendship. His whole behaviour seemed to be a declaration, discreet, yet firm, and the flower she was now fiddling with was the best proof of it.
But what if she couldn't answer him in the similar way?
At the same time she truly felt she could get used to that. To Hiccup, taking her for long, night walks. To the flowers given by him – not the splendid, overdone bunches, but unpretentious white roses, as the one she'd just got. And that wouldn't have to mean resigning from their foregoing, friendly relationship.
Yes, she certainly could get used to the romantic side of Hiccup.
The music playing in the distance became louder; it wasn't that disrespectful junk, as Hiccup would usually call it, but a calm melody, rich with the multitude of instruments. Rapunzel looked up at her friend, beaming again.
"Is that a waltz?"
"I believe so." Hiccup smiled, seeing a sparkle in her eyes. He had no doubts about the girl understanding the message, hidden behind his small gesture. If after all of this she still could be looking at him like that, he didn't have a single reason for regrets. He knew what to do. "May I?"
She nodded and gave the man her hand, letting Hiccup lead her to the centre of the glade. As she eventually found herself in his arms, she couldn't not remember the last time she had a chance to experience anything of the kind, when she herself was teaching him those few basic moves. She never would have assumed, that the skills she had imparted to him would be used in such circumstances, however, she was no longer surprised.
Barefooted, she was dancing a waltz with possibly the most important person in her life, and all she wanted to bother herself with was not to spoil the moment with her own inattention.
The music eventually ceased, and yet, they were still drifting and spinning, not only smiling, but laughing with all their hearts. When they finally stopped, none of them thought of moving away from their partner. For a next couple of moments, they were just standing still, too afraid to move, and only their gazes expressed how much it meant for both of them – his, bold and ready – and hers, uncertain and confused, although just as eager. Not for the first time Hiccup felt like leaning towards her.
Not for the first time, he restrained - and that was another thing which made Rapunzel feel grateful.
"Will you wait for me?" She whispered, fear reflecting in her big, green eyes.
Hiccup hold his breath. He didn't dare to dream of such a response.
"As long as it takes."
She grinned, calmed and with no more hesitation, she rested her cheek on his chest. Hiccup pulled her even closer, and this time, he put a long, loving kiss on her hair – the kiss he didn't venture to give just a few hours earlier.
Soon enough they both agreed it was high time to come back home. When the metal gate had eventually closed behind them, Hiccup joined the girl waiting for him nearby, and together, they headed in the right direction. They didn't manage to make even few steps, when Rapunzel broke the silence.
"We'll be alright, won't we?"
The dark-haired boy looked at her and nodded confidently.
"Of course we will. Who, if not us?"
She nudged him teasingly, but even that didn't force him to take off her his adoring gaze, which he finally didn't have to hide. And then, he laughed, as under her left eye he had noticed a little detail, that in all his previous excitement he'd somehow managed to forget.
"Now what?" She blurted, not understanding the sudden outburst of joy.
"Oh, it's nothing, really. You know you still have paint on your face, right?"
"What?" She brushed her cheek with her fingers. "Can't be."
"Sorry, but that's exactly how it is."
He laughed again, embracing her with his arm. On her part, she sighed, shook her head and mumbled, "I really am a mess."
"Nonsense. As for me, you look perfect."
The rest of their journey drew on in the very similar atmosphere. And when Hiccup visited the green room the next day, he found a finished, ideally copied White Tree, proudly spreading its branches on the wall.
With a delicate, fresh bud on it.
Author's note: It's here! Finally! I am so, so sorry for the delay.
Seriously, that was supposed to be that one time when I actually would have my story updated regularly, once a week. But I made a mistake, starting to post it when the last chapter still wasn't translated, hoping that I three weeks would be enough to do it. Unfortunately, with the university kicking in again, it turned out it wasn't.
Now I need to make one more shout-out to Noctus Fury - it was great to get such a positive feedback for you every time I posted a new chapter, making me feel that someone actually cares for this story. And even though you didn't agree with all of my crazy ideas, you always made sure to let me know about it in a polite, kind way, and that really means a lot. I hope you've enjoyed this final chapter just as much as the rest.
And of course, once again, big thanks to water-star, for helping me with the editing of this story. And you, my dear readers really should check out her stories.
And that would be it, guys! The story ends here, I hope you had fun. If you want to read more of Hiccunzel, you're more than welcomed to check my other stories - "'ll call the cake shop" and "Once Mine".
God bless you all