"Ever since we met, we've both known it was not meant to be," he said slowly, carefully weighing each of his words. "Nothing more than a friendship, that is. We could be friends, sure. We could have great time together, sure. But that was all. We compared our symbols at the first day, and there was absolutely no way they would match – yours looks like a tattoo, while mine is almost like a natural birthmark; yours is an outline, when mine is a quote. The symbol you're wearing on your wrist is purely Nordic – and the line under my collarbone is written in old French. Our marks couldn't be any more different – honestly, we would be insane to think there might me some sort of a connection between us. But I'm afraid that the last thing I am right now is sane.
"We've been friends for more than eight years now, laughing together, complaining together, standing by each other's side. I have learnt to care for you, like I never cared for anybody else; still, I knew I would never be allowed to love you differently, than as my friend, because no matter how hard I would try, I couldn't change the world we live in.
"I wasn't as tough as I thought, though, and there came a moment, when I had to admit to myself that I broke the rules, and fell for you. That it was no longer platonic, or sibling-like love – but what was worse, that it was not just some stupid crush I could ignore. My feelings had grown, and the truth is, they still are. Every second makes me more aware of how much you mean to me. I'm sorry if it makes you feel uncomfortable; but after all these years, you deserve to know the truth."
Astrid bit her lower lip, and Hiccup saw her doing it. He couldn't tell what she thought about his speech, except that he was almost sure she did not like it. He sighed. Once more, the heart he had almost managed to mend was breaking, falling apart into hundreds and hundreds of pieces, too small to be hoped to ever be brought together again.
However, he had no choice now. If he had found the courage to begin his confession, he had to find the strength to finish it.
"I would never have thought I'd be bold enough to tell you all this. It was always simple, almost painfully so: you were meant for someone else, and someone else was meant for you. I didn't know who that guy would be, except that he was the luckiest man on earth, but since it was not me, there had to be a reason for it. I couldn't imagine being happy with anyone but you – but it made no difference as long as I remembered that you would not be happy with me.
"And that's how it had been until this morning, when I talked to my mum, and she told me some things about her and Dad. You know, for me, there's only one couple that are greater than your parents – my own. For twenty three years I was sure it was because they were lucky to be in love with their soulmate from the very start. But my parents are not soulmates, Astrid; not in the way we were taught to see it. If there's a chance we could be half as happy together as they are, we will be fools not to give it a try."
He finished, almost as surprised as the girl who stood in front of him. Ten minutes earlier he hadn't had a clue what to say, and now he was delivering some huge, smart, oh-look-how-good-with-the-words-I-am speech. He hadn't intended to do it; if anything, he'd been scared he would get stuck after the first few sentences, unable to make an articulated sound.
But he meant it; and he could only hope she would understand.
It took Astrid a while to think it all over, furrowing slightly as she thought about a proper answer. She raised her sight eventually, and whispered, "How long?"
Hiccup shook his head, "It's hard to tell, really. It was so slow, so smooth, it was already done when I realised what was going on."
"When did you realise it, then?"
He made some calculations, "Eight months ago. Christmas. Your parents were abroad, and you came to spend it with us… I glanced at you and knew that I wanted every holiday to look like that. With you as a part of my family. As my family."
Astrid gritted her teeth as she listened, and Hiccup wasn't sure if it was pain or anger he saw in her eyes. He inhaled deeply, determined to make her speak.
"Astrid, I understand you may not like this. I don't expect -"
"I called Eret," she blurted out.
He was too late.
Astrid saw his terrified expression, yet decided not to comment. Instead, she inhaled deeply, just like he had a few moments earlier, and finally loosening her self-embrace, she began to tell her own little story, "I told you I didn't know what to tell him, and that was true. As soon as you left, I went to bed, only to spend the night thinking of what I should say, or how to do it – it wasn't easy, but those few hours were enough to figure it out. He texted me about half past seven this morning, and I called him back. We talked for like, ten or fifteen minutes. I told him I was sorry for my behaviour yesterday, and that I'd like to make it up to him; of course he said there's no need for that. Either way, we're good now."
She smiled mildly, and brushed her blonde bangs away from her forehead. Hiccup could swear he saw her blushing. He felt a twist in his stomach, certain of where Astrid was heading, mentally kicking himself for being vain enough to think, that she could ever have him. He was ridiculous; his declaration was ridiculous.
Why, why had she let him say all this?
"I thanked him for his attention -" she went on, blind to the suffering that reflected all across her best friend's face "- but I said I couldn't accept it. He had offered me his heart, and was almost ready to offer me his hand as well – the problem is, I would never be able to return those feelings. Not when my heart belongs to someone else."
She didn't realise how wet her eyes were, until one of the tears escaped them, and she had to wipe it with her hand. She laughed shortly, with this kind of laugh which only appears when you cry. All of this felt surreal, but she couldn't force herself to dislike it.
Hiccup's eyes were wide with shock.
"And who would that be?" was everything he managed to stammer.
They still were standing so far away from each other, and yet, it suddenly felt like if there was no distance between them at all. The icy walls were melting, the imaginary obstacles were crumbling down, and it just felt right.
Astrid covered her mouth with her trembling hands, however, the gaze she gave him was so fond, so enthusiastic, that Hiccup was sure his legs would give way. He was grinning like an idiot, and he was aware of that; he shook his head in disbelief.
"How long, Astrid?"
"Eight months. Christmas."
He was staring at her for a short while, before slapping his hand against his face, crying out "Screw you, destiny!" and dashing towards her at the top speed. Next moment she was in his arms, openly crying into his neck, holding to him for dear life, while he was asking himself how on earth could they have wasted so much time.
"Good God, Hiccup, we were such fools."
"This world is foolish."
"This world is mad."
Yet she laughed anyway, tightening her grip on him, as if she was afraid he would let her go if she hadn't held him strongly enough. He leaned down, and kissed the soft skin on her neck. Astrid relaxed onto him, and finally, finally they were at peace.
It took a while before either of them was able – or willing – to speak; again, it was Astrid who first decided to say anything.
"It will be hard, won't it?" she asked, the last tones of anxiety playing in her voice. "I mean, we're literally risking everything."
"Nothing that's worth anything is easy -" he mumbled, smiling, brushing his lips against her cheek, "- but all we need is a little more of time. For example, you may be sure I won't propose after a month."
"Would you do that if we were soulmates? Propose after a month?"
"I would have done it on the New Year's Eve."
He tickled her, and she giggled, her sonorous voice resonating in the air.
"But you can still call Eret if you want."
"What on -"
"You know, in case you were having second thoughts."
"Okay, now I positively hate you."
"Nah. You love me."
She didn't answer immediately, pushing away only as much to look him in the eyes. He was still smiling, returning the glare – however, she couldn't miss the occasional glances he was casting at her lips. She rolled her eyes, only to see him grin ever more. She moved her hand from his neck and dipped her fingers in his hair, while her other hand found its way to his jaw.
"I do. I never thought I'd say it out loud, but I do love you, Hiccup Haddock."
"And I love you back, Astrid."
He pulled her closer, and leaned in, curious if she would move; she didn't.
"You were right about your parents, Ast -" he whispered against her mouth, letting their breaths intermingle. "They didn't get along because the universe told them to; it was their own goodwill and determination. And we have so much more than that."
He didn't have a chance to say anything else, as Astrid stood on her tiptoes, pressing her lips against his, and to be fair, he was more than willing to respond. And they stood like that, two young people, in the middle of a large library, melting into one another in a perfect harmony.
Hiccup knew their journey to happiness wouldn't be the easiest one; but if he was to take it with Astrid Hofferson by his side, he knew it would be the greatest adventure that could have ever happened to him.
Because she was his soulmate.
Author's note: And it ends here, guys.
I wanted to thank you all from the support you've been giving me, following and commenting on this story. It's amazing to see someone so excited about my writing, and trust me, it's the best motivation an author can get.
Also, I'm sorry (or am I?) about the cliffhanger. It just felt necessary to end the chapter at that specific point, and I hope you agree with me. Then again, it's amazing to see how much you care (so much that it causes the threatening to hit me with a stick? Which I probably deserved anyway, though).
I also must thank my two amazing friends, Water-Star and QueenoftheWilderwest, both fantastic writers, who have helped me with the final editing of this story.
Oh, and I have some good news, too! Even though my holiday caused you all to wait longer, it inspired me, and gave me an idea for a new multi-chaptered Hiccstrid story. I'm not sure when I'll be able to share it with you, but I hope it won't take too long. One thing you may be sure of is that it will be longer than this one.
So, that would be all. Thank you again, and hopefully, see you soon.
God bless you all,