"aN UpDAtE thAt IsN't 6 MoNThs LaTEr" ... I have nothing to say for myself.
Hiccup threw his bag into his locker and plopped down onto the bench in the dressing room with a heavy sigh.
His phone vibrated in his pocket.
'Astrid: I GOT THE JOB! Ms Bog invited me to a trial shift tomorrow morning!'
He stared at the message for a moment, then sighed again and put his phone away. For a moment he contemplated writing back a short reply but quickly discarded that idea. 'I don't want to sound passive-aggressive,' he thought and rested his chin on his hands. 'She got the job, huh. That's good.'
It wasn't that he wasn't happy for her. In fact, Hiccup would have to lie to himself if he kept on pretending this news didn't try and chase a smile onto his face - but was it more relief than joy on her behalf?
He'd thought a lot about what she'd said.
He couldn't really blame her; Berk wasn't exactly the best place on earth. To be fair, he'd been wanting to get off this island for a long time himself. And he obviously couldn't expect her to just throw away her chance at her dream career for a two-month relationship, of course not. He knew all this and it was rational.
He also knew that love, like fear, was never rational. Or at least, for him, it wasn't. She'd sounded like she'd thought about all this pretty logically.
It didn't really surprise him that his heart was sharpening its picket fence, yelling at his brain how she wasn't really all that invested in their relationship as he was and that she'd always put her career over him and that she was being selfish, and how unfair everything was.
"Oh, get over yourself," Hiccup mumbled to himself and pushed himself off the bench. If anything, he was being the selfish one. How could he blame her for pursuing her career and wanting to explore all her options?
Still, the nagging feeling of anger and hurt clawed onto his back as he made his way into the control room.
"What's that long face for?" Gobber asked him as he entered the room, his clumsy smile slipping off his face at Gobber's question.
"Trouble in paradise?" Snotlout asked from his desk, slightly less teasing than he would usually be.
"I don't really wanna talk about it, guys," Hiccup said, letting himself fall onto his chair and turning to his desk. Both Snotlout and Gobber shrugged and turned back to their work. Hiccup was gnawing on his lips, nervously clicking his pen.
"Okay, maybe I do want to talk about it," he blurted and put down his pen and turned to face Snotlout. "Remember when you asked me if she was as much emotionally involved in this as I am? I guess … she might not be as much as I thought."
"Wait, what?" Snotlout moved in closer, lowering his voice. "What do you mean? What happened?"
"She got invited to an interview this morning at Berk High School and we talked about what would happen if she didn't get the job and – well, I guess she kind of said she'd move away if that meant having a better shot at getting into assistant teaching and I feel guilty because I know it's her dream job, and I shouldn't make her feel bad about it but I also feel like shit because I guess I thought she wouldn't be that one hundred per cent ready to just leave me in the dust and then that's making me feel even more guilty and-"
"Hold up, hold up," Snotlout interrupted him, raising his hands. "Did she get the job?"
"Yeah," Hiccup admitted, somewhat hesitantly.
Snotlout looked at him for a second, slightly confused before he said, "What's the problem then?"
"Well …" Hiccup started but then trailed off, staring at his cousin for a moment before he continued, "I guess I'm just … disappointed I'm an afterthought to her, in a way."
"Okay." Snotlout sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Right. Listen. I'm saying this because you're my cousin and my friend and because I love you. I get it – but you're being a dick about this. You've been talking about getting off of Berk for God knows how long, and I know for a fact that if your dream career was anything other than being a firefighter, you'd have left this stupid island before I could've even said 'Good idea'. So, you can't really hold wanting to pursue her career against her. Also, have you maybe considered that long-distance is a thing? Or maybe that she'd like you to come with her? I mean, I don't know what pace you guys are moving at but this seems pretty intense for the fact we're talking about a, what, 2-month-relationship here? Three at most."
Hiccup was staring down onto his prosthetic the entire time Snotlout spoke.
"I know I'm being stupid," he said, burying his head in his hands. "I just … I don't know. I love her. And I'm afraid she doesn't love me back as much as I love her."
"I get that," Snotlout said, his voice softer now. "But if I've learned anything in the past few weeks, is that love – real, true love, whatever you wanna call it – should never be conditional. And sounds to me that that's what you want from her but don't want to give to her. You know what I mean?"
It felt like something in Hiccup clicked.
'Nice! I'm happy for you! Let's speak later?'
Hiccup's message had been sitting, unopened, in her notifications for about an hour now. Astrid was gnawing on her lips, still unsure about what to reply. She did want to talk and resolve this. On the other hand, she was afraid she'd get emotional and blow this way out of proportion than it needed to be. But maybe this was more serious than she thought? He'd seemed quite bothered by the whole thing, almost hurt. She really should try and resolve this as quickly as possible, shouldn't she? Astrid grabbed her phone and started typing.
'Yeah, let's. When are you off? I can pick you up from the station and we can take a walk through the park?'
She hit SEND and exhaled sharply. Astrid didn't really know a lot about relationships, but she knew she did not enjoy fights, heavy conversations about feelings even less so. Still, she couldn't just let this whole thing sit and fester. Sure, opening up might be a bit uncomfortable, but it'd be worth it – hopefully. All she could really do was be honest and hope he didn't run far away after from her because of this.
Hiccup only realised as they entered the park that this was where they'd gone on their first date, that night that felt both an eternity ago and incredibly, stupidly near. Thinking about it, that had been their first and only 'traditional' date, all the other ones either slightly drenched in natural semi-disasters or laced with late-night chats in the break room.
They'd been fairly quiet on their joined walk to the park. Hiccup had still greeted her with a kiss and had held her hand on the way to the park but now that they had come to a halt and were sat on the park bench, drenched in the cold light of the park light, Astrid felt strangely distant from him in a way he had never felt before.
He did not like it, that was for sure.
"Listen, I …" he started but broke off, quickly grabbing her hand. "I just wanted to say I'm sorry for being such a jerk about this. I know how important this job is to you and I've been a complete dick about it. I don't want this to jeopardise our relationship."
"No, I get it," Astrid said, her eyes meeting his. "This job IS very important to me but I didn't want to come off like it's the only thing I care about, you know? I wanna be with you and move forward in my career."
Hiccup cracked a smile. "I'm just happy to be included. I mean, listen, it's not like I've never thought about leaving, you know? I guess it just kind of hurt to hear you say it so nonchalantly. I realised though that I was being unfair, I mean - well, Snotlout helped me realise, actually." He squeezed her hand. "I love you, Astrid, and I don't want to be conditional about it. So whatever you decide to do, I'm there every step of the way."
Astrid smiled up at him, and all of a sudden the street light seemed a lot warmer than it initially had seemed.
"I love you, too," she said and leaned forward, resting her head on his shoulder. "It's nice to know that, you know? No conditions. I want to feel like I can do whatever, and that'd be okay."
"You can," Hiccup whispered and gently stroked the top of her head. "I'm sorry I didn't make you feel like that before."
They sat in silence for a while, until Hiccup said, "You know, if this whole thing doesn't work out, you could still try the mainland. Probably a lot more openings over there. And we could do long-distance."
Astrid frowned. "Not sure I'd be up for that, to be honest."
"Oh. Well, then … I'd just have to come with you."
Astrid smiled into his shoulder. "Yeah, I'd like that." She pulled back. "In the meantime though, I got the job so I think we can ease up on the whole 'Uprooting our whole lives' thing." She grinned and Hiccup laughed, pulling her against him again.
Astrid chuckled. "We're pretty intense for a two-month relationship, huh?"
He chuckled, resting his hand on her head. "Yeah. Yeah, I guess we are."