Hiccup woke up with a scream.


At first, he didn't even know where he was, incapable of recognising the familiar surrounding of his own hut. As a matter of fact, all that he was able to acknowledge at that specific moment was that he was sitting on something hard, hand pressed to his chest, breathing heavily as he rested on his other arm. Nothing felt real at the moment – nothing except his bed, his palpitating heart, and the horror he'd just seen.

Tears were sparkling in his eyes.

He lowered his eyelids, and continued to inhale, trying with all his might to calm down his shattered nerves. Toothless twitched anxiously in his sleep.

It was just a dream, Hiccup. A very bad, very realistic, very painful dream.

The young leader cursed underneath his breath, and slowly opened his eyes again. How many times would he wake up like this? Scared, shocked, with the cold sweat streaming down his back? Almost crying, because of some stupid, improbable nightmare?

"It's not improbable," he muttered, rubbing a hand against his face. "That's what makes it so awful."

The Night Fury moved again at the sound of his voice, and this time decided to raise its head, fixing its gaze on the miserable Rider. The dragon's green eyes were filled with concern, and suddenly Hiccup felt guilty for voicing his thoughts out loud.

He smiled weakly at his winged friend, and slightly shook his head.

"It's alright, Toothless. It's just a bad dream. I'm fine."

The room was definitely brighter than it had been when they went to sleep, and Hiccup easily deduced that it was just about dawn; he groaned quietly at the realisation. With the light stealing in, he was sure he wouldn't get any more sleep.

But then again, he probably wouldn't have anyway.

He reached for his prosthetic, and with few simple moves attached it to his leg. The noise he caused when he rose to his feet made Toothless look at him again, however, the boy only waved a hand at him.

"I'm going down, Bud," he explained warily. "I need some fresh air to help me clear my mind, or I'll be even more tired than if I hadn't went to sleep at all. Don't worry, I'll be right before the front door."

Having said so, he made his way downstairs, pushing away the unpleasant memories that were springing into his head. He approached the entrance, and quietly left the dwelling – only to lean on one of its walls right after, tipping his head back, so it would touch the wooden surface as well.

He closed his eyes, and sighed.

Get it together, he ordered himself for the hundredth time that morning. It is not what had happened. It is not what we saw. It's just your unrestrained imagination, playing tricks on you with some dumb, meaningless -


The Rider almost jumped at the sound, turning abruptly towards the person who owned it. Oh, right.

It had to be her.

"Astrid? What are you doing here?"

Oh gods, why did he even ask?

"I heard your… I heard you," she responded uncertainly, as if she didn't want to disturb him with her presence. "I thought it'd be better to check if everything is fine."

Hiccup sighed again, before he asked, "I woke you up with that shouting, didn't I?"

"What? No, no, you didn't." She shook her head vigorously. "I was getting ready for my morning flight with Stormly, when that… noise came from your hut."

He laughed shortly, and yet, there was not a trace of mirth in it. "You heard a scream, Astrid. That is what it's called. I screamed. You may as well say it out loud."

The blonde warrior frowned, dissatisfied with an answer she'd just received, but decided not to dwell on it. She hadn't come here to lecture him – she'd come here to help.

"Well, it doesn't really matter what it's called. What matters is why I heard you scream in the first place."

The dark-haired boy slouched as another memory flickered in his mind, and winced, when the other followed. He rested his back against the wall once more, letting his arms hang along his body.

"It was just a nightmare, Astrid. Nothing serious, really."

"The same one that's been haunting you for the past week?"

Hiccup froze.

How do you know?

"Don't look at me like that, Hiccup," she responded gently to the astonished glare he'd shot at her. "It's not the first time you left your bed at an hour at which you usually stay there fast asleep. Today it's the dawn, yesterday it was midnight. Two nights ago it was probably some other hour. So would you please tell me what it is about?"

Her betrothed looked down at the ground, biting his lip in anxiety. Should he really answer her question? It wouldn't change anything. It was his struggle, his fears he had to deal with… there was no reason for which he should burden Astrid with his own problems.

"How did you figure that out?" he mumbled, hoping to at least gain some more time before he made his final decision whether or not he wanted Astrid to know the details of his trouble. "You must have heard me or -"

"I hadn't until last night," she answered immediately. "If I had, I would've talked to you about it earlier; but I did notice some things. Like, when you came to the clubhouse a few days ago, the bags under your eyes were even darker than usual. You were silent during breakfast, and even more so during the day. Look, as much as I'm used to seeing you tired or under-slept, I know when it's something more serious. So please, forget your pride for a moment, and tell me what it is you've been dreaming about."

"It's not about my pride, Astrid. It's about the pain."

He pulled his head back again, assuming the same position in which he'd been staying before the girl had joint him. She didn't respond this time, and Hiccup felt grateful for that. He inhaled deeply.

"It's Vanaheim."

Out of the corner of his eye he could see Astrid blink in surprise; had it been at any other time, he would at least smile at the sight, but not now. He swallowed, setting his teeth, trying to force himself to actually start talking.

Why, if even thinking of that dream made him feel like fainting.

"It's about Vanaheim," he repeated after a moment, closing his eyes as if it was easier to go through all that without having to look at the world around him. "My trip to it with Dagur those few days back. I keep dreaming of it. It's all just the same – we walk around the island, we find a huge skull, we go through a long tunnel hidden behind it. The Grim Gnashers attack us. We fight back, and scare them off. But it's not just the events that mirror the real-life situation, but also the colours, the scents, the light. Everything is perfectly as it was back then. Every single detail is true to what we saw."

Astrid remained silent, and only the sound of her quiet breathing reminded Hiccup that she was still there, listening carefully.

"And then there's the hut. For some reason, it doesn't have the Berserkers' seal on the door, but we don't care. Dagur hesitates before entering, and I urge him to do it. So he does. But then -" he paused, unable to go on, feeling his heart bang against his chest again. He clenched his fists. "Then it all changes. There are no signs of Oswald. No drawings on the wall, no shield on the floor, no letters for Dagur or Heather. There's just one letter, addressed to me… and my father's helmet lying on the ground."

A tear escaped his eye, leaving a wet trace on his skin, but he paid it no mind.

"Every time I see that scene, I tell myself it's not true. It's Oswald who's gone, not Stoick. It's Dagur and Heather who must grieve, not me. Still, it is all for nothing; because a part of me knows that my Dad won't be here forever, either, and that makes me want to scream so much more."

He lowered his head, so his chin was now touching his armour.

He squeezed his eyes tighter.

"I know it may not happen for a while. My father is a strong, healthy man, and even in danger, he usually knows what he's doing. But he's a Viking, right? It's an occupational hazard to throw yourself into some mess or another, no matter if it's necessary or not. My Dad is a wise man, and a Chief, so he won't act recklessly – but we both know that if there was a need for that, he would not hesitate to sacrifice his life in order to protect Berk. And yes, he's been through a lot worse that some nasty Hunters, and still is in one piece. It may not be for another twenty years before he's… you know," Hiccup's voice trembled a little. "- but I can't be sure it will be that long, can I?"

Another tear appeared on the Rider's cheek, and once again, it was disregarded. Hiccup was still breathing deeply; he raised his eyelids a little, just to make sure Astrid was still standing next to him.

"When we'd buried Oswald, I tried to convince Dagur he shouldn't be too harsh on himself. That he really couldn't have helped his father, having no idea how and where to find him… That even if he had neglected some things, it didn't really matter, because Oswald had cared for him as for his son. I told him not to let guilt consume him – but Astrid, if anything ever happened to my Dad, and I knew I could've prevented it… If I knew it wouldn't have happened if I had acted differently, I don't think I could ever forgive myself."

He wasn't looking at her any longer.

For all of this time Astrid had remained silent, refraining from making even the slightest noise. She didn't dare to interrupt the young man's confession with her answers, knowing that the best way to make him speak was to just stand next to him, and make sure he feels listened to; besides, what was she supposed to tell him in the first place? How could she advise him in a matter so difficult when she'd only heard his tale for the first time?

Still quiet, the girl kept her gaze fixed on him, following his every move, every change of feature, every nerve on his unhappy, tired face. Usually, when he was distressed she tried to ease him with her touch and gentle words; yet, this was different. It wasn't a time for meaningless pep talks; the casual gestures wouldn't have worked here. She couldn't just cup his face and smile at him, or distract him with a peck on his lips. This was serious, and she had to act seriously as well.

At the same time, it felt so wrong to just stand there, so close to him, and do nothing. Even if she knew what to say – and gods knew she didn't – it would still seem cold and reserved, and if there was one thing she knew, it was that at this point Hiccup needed anything but cold.

After a moment of hesitation, she shifted a little, and reached for his hand, cautiously taking it in hers. To her surprise, Hiccup reacted immediately, gripping it, and making their fingers intertwine. She smiled.

Here goes.

"Your father is a great man, Hiccup," she whispered, hoping that the boy would answer to the sound of her voice, and turn in her direction; indeed, even though he was still hunching, he had opened his eyes and gave her an uncertain glare. Astrid squeezed his hand. "You've said so yourself. He's not a brainless soldier, who'd risk his life for nothing. He's smart, and he's skilled. I'm pretty sure that if we hadn't managed to back him up with dragons at the Red Death's island, he would have taken the beast down with his own bare hands."

Hiccup finally grinned, remembering the day they had defeated the dragons' Queen. It was a very small grin, but for Astrid it meant more than all the laughter she could get.

Hiccup sighed.

"It still doesn't make him immortal," he answered. "I just… I don't know. I've never really thought of it, and now I'm so… overwhelmed by the idea. Just to think that one day I may wake up and find out he's not there, it feels absurd. I can't… explain it… But it hurts so much."

Astrid gave him an understanding smile. "Hiccup, I almost lost my parents once. I can relate."

That was when he straightened up, and finally looked at her properly.

She'd almost lost her parents.

Of course. How could he not think of that?

"The point is," he stammered after another long moment of silence. "that I can't even imagine a life in which my Dad isn't present. Even considering how bad our relation was for most of the time… I would never have anyone else for my father."

"And it's the most natural thing. He's always been there – you literally don't know the life without him."

"Yes, but also… Astrid, when he… goes… with my Mum gone, I will be on my own. I'll be alone. And I'm not ready for it."

"You will never be alone, Hiccup. Never. I promise."

When she said that, she certainly didn't expect her betrothed to let go of her hand, and fling himself into her arms as a result; and yet, that was exactly what he did. One moment he'd been standing next to her – the next he was burying his head in her shoulder, with his arms wrapped around her petite figure. Again, it was different from any hug they had shared so far; there was no whispering into her ear, no cuddling, no rubbing her back. Just this firm, steady embrace tightening with every passing second.

Taken aback at first, Astrid soon understood her role. She moved her own arms, embracing Hiccup's neck, and resting her chin on his shoulder. Her hand found its way to his hair quite easily, and Astrid stroked it affectionately.

"Thank you," she heard him mumble a moment later. "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

She smiled again, and ignoring her previous doubts, she kissed the back of his head.

"Any time, Hiccup. Any time."

"I'm sorry, Dad."

Hiccup blinked a few times, trying to fight the tears that were once again welling up in his eyes, feeling one of them flowing down his cheek already. He could hear his friends sniffing, sighing, shifting uncomfortably while wiping their own tears. He could feel Astrid's stare at the back of his head.

It was so much more than he could bare.

"I'm not the Chief that you wanted me to be. And I'm not the peace keeper I thought I was. I… don't know..."

It was all his fault. It was him being so foolish, so stubborn, so childish in his belief that he could change the mind of a man such as Drago Bludvist.

After everything he'd been through so far, he should've known better than to try.

His mother approached him from behind, and brushed her hand against his hair. He had to do his best to focus on what she was saying, so huge was the heartache he was battling right now; but even if he didn't believe that her words would change anything for him, he couldn't just ignore her. He owed her that much.

She spoke about his birth, about how weak he was during his first days; she admitted she was scared, fearing he wouldn't survive; and finally, she told him what he'd been yearning to hear for as long as he could remember.

"Your father… he never doubted. He always said you'd become the strongest of them all. And he was right."

She probably didn't realise how much those words meant to him. Especially the first part.

He didn't feel any less guilty at this point, and was perfectly aware that he would feel guilty for the rest of his life. It was his fault that his father was no longer there, and nothing his mother would say could take the qualms away. However, it did remind him that no matter how broken he was at the moment, he could not forget about the lot of his people.

Stoick had not only been a father. He'd been a Chief as well.

And the needs of the many outweigh the needs of a few.

The young heir took a few steps forward, fixing his gaze on the flamed ship that was slowly fading from their view.

"I was always so afraid of becoming my Dad. Mostly because I thought I never could. How do you become someone that great? That brave? That… selfless?"

He paused.

"I guess… you can only… try."

He might have been devastated, but he knew what he was supposed to do. He knew what he had to do.

"A Chief protects his own."

They had to go back.

As his friends were preparing to leave the island, Hiccup walked down to the misty coast again, staring at the spot in which Stoick's ship had been. He didn't want to go just yet. It felt unfair to abandon his father like that, even if there was a great cause for them to do so.

Of course, the reasonable part of him was telling him that the best he could to at the moment was to take care of his tribe, just like his Dad would have done. And he knew he would listen to that part, taking off to Berk as soon as they were ready.

Yet, Hiccup was determined to use every second he had left.

He felt a hand slipping into his, and gentle fingers squeezing it slightly. He turned, and faced Astrid, who was looking at him steadily, with a sight that only bore one message.

You are not alone in this.

"I know I'm not," he smiled at her weakly, his voice barely a whisper; he tightened his grip on her hand. "Come on, M'lady. Let's go home."

Author's note: Have I just uploaded another story? After less than a week?

This is what happens when your exam is coming, and you know you should do nothing but studying. I'm the most irresponsible fanfiction trash that has ever walked the Earth.

Anyway, I really hope you enjoyed reading the story, even though it was rather sad, or even depressive. It was inspired by a post I saw on tumblr, by ashleybenlove, in which she pointed out the fact, that even though the episode focus on Dagur and Oswald, Hiccup soon will be the one mourning his father, too. So, instead of doing my wonderful Russian grammar exercises, I decided to write down the idea that immediately appeared in my mind.

I wanted to focus on Hiccup's thoughts about his relationship with Stoick, which is the main reason I refrained from writing anything between happening between Hiccstrid. I wanted to keep it gentle here, and I hope you understand why I did it.

I'll be thrilled to know your thoughts about this little piece, especially about the final scene. Do you think it was a good idea to mix the series with the film? Or was it unnecessary? I'll be waiting impatiently for your comments on that :)

Big thanks for my friend Phoebe for helping me with the final editing of this story!

And you, my lovely readers - thanks for all your support. I really appreciate it.

God bless you all,