Without you, I feel broke
Like I'm half of a whole
Without you, I've got no hand to hold
Without you, I feel torn
Like a sail in a storm
Without you, I'm just a sad song

- We the Kings


Arm-in-arm, side by side, they kept staring at the shape of a boat that slowly ebbed away from the sight, a boat on the deck of which their new friend was heading towards her long missed home. An oceanic breeze was enfolding them, while the last beams of the setting sun illuminated their tired, yet joyful, finally peaceful faces. All in all, the scenery was more than romantic.

And that was when she punched him again.

"Hey!" he cried out, sending her a mock-offended glare, and shook his head, seeing the perverse grin on her lips. He'd already managed to get used to it; more than once was he to feel her knuckles on his shoulder, though usually, it signified nothing but sympathy.

Truth be told, it was rather an unusual way of showing one's affection – why, if everything about her was unusual, as well.

"Good Thor, why is it always violence with you?"

The blonde girl glanced at him dismissively, and only shrugged her shoulders, once again fixing her gaze on the horizon's line. Neither she, nor her dark-haired companion said anything for quite some time.

"Disappointed, aren't you?" the warrior broke the silence eventually, causing the most natural astonishment of the boy standing beside her.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," he answered sincerely.

"Oh, come on. You were sure you'd get that hug."

"I… don't… why…"

"I saw what you did there." She nudged him much more gently this time. "And I saw your face when she turned towards Toothless. If that makes you feel any better, I also expected her to throw her arms around your neck rather than mine."

Hiccup rolled his eyes, unable to hold back a smile.

"You think we'll see her again?"

"Who knows. If we do, I bet it will be in the most unexpected circumstances." Having summed up the matter like this, Astrid yawned lingeringly, simultaneously turning on her heel and stretching her arms above her head. "That day was way too long. What do you say we go back home, throw ourselves on our beds and sleep it all off?"

"Sounds like a plan." The boy laughed quietly. "Although I still have a few trinkets waiting for me in the workshop; but of course, I'll gladly walk you home and to the very door of it."

She raised her brows, eyeing him sceptically.

"You don't need to walk me home."

"We're heading in the same direction anyway."

The warrior wanted to respond with a more cutting comment, eventually however, she only waved her hand and set off towards the village, letting Hiccup join her at his own pleasure. She winced when the cold sea gust reached her. It really was getting late – the sun had just ultimately hidden below the far ocean line – and with every passing second it was getting colder and darker on the island of Berk. Moreover, she truly was exhausted by the events of the last few days, not only – and not primarily – because of a physical struggle.

She was happy to think how well it all ended for them; but she was even happier to know that the entire upheaval could be now put behind them.

She peered at the boy walking next to her, and smiled seeing him nervously rubbing his neck, clearly desiring to raise some mysterious issue, yet not having the courage to do so. It was a gesture she hadn't noticed him do earlier, and she couldn't help wondering if it was only a one-time action, or was it a new habit that, for some reason, Hiccup developed exactly at this time.

Personally, she found it quite… adorable.

The Rider took notice of her intrigued glare, and confounded, he shifted uncomfortably, unable to understand the sudden interest in him.

"A-Astrid? What… What is it?" he asked, completely taken aback.

Good gods, hadn't he already learnt how to control that stuttering?

"I was wondering what you are so focused on."

"I… Ah, it's nothing." Pretending not to care, he waved his hand absently, even though he was well aware that Astrid wouldn't ease up on him like that. In fact, he himself knew that there were thoughts he should voice – he simply didn't feel like doing it at this particular moment. "I'm doing a review of the past few days, that's all."

"There certainly are things you should think over."

Resigned, Hiccup sighed.

"Okay, I know what you're trying to say. I acted like an idiot, believing in Heather's stories in spite of all of the signs that something was wrong. I ignored all of your observations, I didn't believe you when you told me about what you'd seen during that night, and -"

"Hiccup, stop."

Even though the command obviously referred to the torrent of words that came out of the young Viking's mouth, Hiccup halted in the most literal sense; having stopped like this, he glared at the girl that stood by his side, with a question reflecting in his bright, green eyes. Still, whatever it was that was happening inside of his head, Astrid gave him no time to pronounce it out loud.

"That's not what I meant. All I'm saying is that a lot has happened recently, and that we all have issues we must reconsider. Although… it's good you're aware of your own mistakes."

A sparkle that twinkled in her eyes while she was voicing the last sentence positively proved that she wasn't going to let go of the matter completely. Hiccup snorted.

"You couldn't just, I don't know, comfort me?"

"I could. And I will, one day. When you earn it."

"Amazing. So you agree I behaved like a moron?"

"You leave me no choice here."

"Fantastic." The boy looked away, not entirely sure how he should treat his best friend's answer. On one hand, Astrid sharply cut off his remorseful speech, laughing up his explanations and general agitation – on the other, she openly admitted that she found his behaviour at least invalid, stupid even.

And even though it was no revelation to him, it didn't make him feel a little bit better.

"You're still angry with me, aren't you?" he muttered, not even realising how accurately the tone of his voice conveyed the qualms that were still torturing him. "What am I asking, you must be. Exposing the island is one thing, but you yourself… No, please Astrid, let me finish this. It's not even the fact I let them trick me, but even knowing what was going on, I insisted to stick to what I thought was true. When you came to tell me about Heather meeting the Outcasts… Gods, you don't know how hard it is to talk about it." He stroke his palm against his face, full of despise for his own being. "I don't know what happened to me. After everything we'd been through, I should've trusted you, not her. And it's all clear and obvious now, and that's what you had every right to expect."

His hand found its way to his neck again, and he still couldn't force himself to look her straight in the eye. Astrid kept observing him silently, fully focused on that slightly incoherent, not entirely understandable dilatation.

Hiccup sighed again.

"That night I said things I never should have said. I had no right to assume that you were mistaken, and I surely shouldn't have reject your warnings that easily. It won't happen again. I just wanted to say… I'm sorry, Astrid."

Not until he poured out the last word, did Hiccup dare to look up at the girl. Her facial expression showed nothing but concentration – her brows were furrowed, but revealed no ire, her mouth was closed, but it was not tightened. She was staring at him half-expectantly, without that spiteful, teasing grin – with no grin at all.

That was probably the worst part of it.

'Say something. For the love of Thor, Astrid, please say something,' the brunette Dragon Rider kept repeating in his thoughts. Till that moment he'd been assuming that Astrid can't be too mad at him – until he himself voiced all of his guilts out loud.

She had every reason to be mad at him.

"You know, that last line would be enough."

Roused from his own meditation, he focused his sight on her. She still looked absolutely serious, however, something in her glare told him she didn't at all feel like being cross with him.

He swallowed nervously.

"Really?"

"Yeah. Though, as I was saying, it's good you see what went wrong."

"And you're not upset?"

Astrid shrugged.

"Now, when it's all over anyway? I think I'm too tired to argue with you at the moment."

"That's… understanding of you."

"Which doesn't mean I'll forgive you."

"Oh."

"Or more like, I forgive, not forget. You can bet your leg I'll bring it up at the suitable moment."

"I don't doubt that." The boy allowed himself a shy smile. "All I need now is your 'I told you so'."

"Well, if you admit that I've earned it yourself, I don't think there's a point in me actually saying it." Astrid smiled more widely, no longer able to hide the amusement that the sight of her intimidated, confused friend had caused.

As far as she could recall, Hiccup had been "different". He'd been that quiet, private, isolated kid, in whose eyes playing with his peers (whose games, she had to admit, were far from refined) was much less entertaining that the almost legendary troll hunting and his own sketches. He'd also been, or at least he'd seemed to be gauche, as though he couldn't adjust to the world in which he'd come to live. He had always been smart, she had no doubts about that – but there was something in his behaviour that had made him look as if he'd been unable (or maybe, unwilling?) to use his outstanding intelligence to improve his existence on the isle of Berk.

And he'd constantly been baffled.

Each and every time she had happened to appear in the smithy, she was met by his perplexed stare; no matter what he'd been doing earlier, having noticed her he always came back to work with a doubled investment, as if he was trying to conceal the fact that he was aware of her presence in the first place, letting Gobber take her order instead.

It had always amused her, and she'd never thought it could have been anything improper. She knew she was pretty, and she knew what an impression her personality made on her peers. She neither took pride in it, nor let it vex her – she didn't need Snotlout courting her to realise her worth, and she certainly could do without it. Yet, she couldn't deny that she liked to compel awe.

Still, Snotlout's importunity or Fishlegs' amazed staring were one thing; Hiccup, as usual, was a very different matter. She couldn't have said whether she'd liked him or not – they had hardly ever spoke, and even if they had, the boy had usually got lost in his own stammering, making the whole conversation an absolute failure anyway. Astrid had shrugged her shoulders then, and set off to her own business, totally and perfectly indifferent to the miserable boy she had been leaving behind her.

Hiccup had not disturbed her. That's all that she could have said.

And then everything had changed. The Training, Toothless, the battle at the Dragon's nest – the events from a year before not only had turned the life of Berk upside down, but they had directly influenced the boy without whom they wouldn't have taken place. Hiccup had changed. He had grown in strength and reason, earning the sense that he was a worthy young man. He'd finally gained the confidence that his opinions had mattered – and suddenly, he'd stopped being afraid of sharing them.

The fair-haired warrior had finally found a companion, with whom she could simply talk, debate, dispute. Someone with whom she was able to cooperate.

However, as she was gazing at him now, she realised she was glad that the Viking hadn't got rid of his shyness completely. Honestly speaking, it was a feature she pretty much liked about him.

She shook her head.

"Really, Hiccup. It's fine."

She nodded towards the village, wanting to end the discussion that in her own eyes seemed entirely unnecessary. Hiccup had understood his own silliness – and he had apologised for it. She needed nothing more.

The boy divined her thoughts, and with no further dallying, he set off in the pointed direction, close by the golden-haired girl's side.

Toothless was following them close behind, reminding the Riders of his presence with occasional jogs, plainly eager for a flight. Still, his taunting remained unanswered – however tired the two friends were, they really didn't feel like parting their ways just yet, even if they didn't fully realised it themselves. They simply walked in silence together, focused on their own musing, enjoying the company of one another. At that time, it was all they wished for.

Despite all this, Hiccup couldn't help but shoot furtive, uncertain glances in the direction of his dear friend, incapable of chasing away the thoughts that were invading his mind. Even assuming that the misunderstandings between them were clarified, the young leader still had a lot to think about.

And Gods, it wasn't easy.

Glancing at the warrior that was walking beside him, he couldn't not think of the danger in which she had been just a few hours earlier. Of course, he hadn't doubted that Astrid would perform perfectly, eventually finding her way out of the trouble, all while staying safe and sound – she always had. Had he not had that confidence, he would never have agreed to carry out that insanely risky operation.

On the other hand, it was a plan prepared by the warrior herself, and he knew better than anyone that when Astrid set her mind on something, it was hard to talk her out of it. If there was one person on Berk that was more stubborn than he was, it was Astrid Hofferson.

"You're sure about this?"

"No! But this is our only chance!"

That was all her.

They were marching closely by, so that their hands brushed repetitively. Astrid seemed not to notice, concentrating her sight on the path before her or sporadically peering at Toothless, who still hadn't ceased to demand her attention. Her companion couldn't force such an indifference on him, and tensely setting his teeth, he was once again thanking the deities that the girl was too busy to actually look at him.

He inhaled deeply, somewhat disappointed, and making sure Astrid's attention was fully focused on the Night Fury that was pacing beside her, he fixed his gaze on his friend's profile.

His friend. Exactly.

That was how he would describe her to anyone who'd ask him about the relationship that linked them, and what is more, it was also how he called her in his own meditations. They were friends, there was no doubt about that – Hiccup dared to think that their friendship was intimate and strong, and he was far from underestimating it. Astrid was more than just his advisor, his right-hand girl, his second in command. It was her he came to when finding a solution to his problems seemed impossible, it was her he asked for help when his own wit let him down. It was her with whom he first shared all of his plans.

Astrid supported him when everything appeared to be falling into pieces, and she never seemed to doubt in him, at the same time remaining perfectly ready to whack his head with a shield, when she only realised that his ideas were getting out of the reason's hold.

In other words, she trusted him to the point at which he had to trust her.

The Viking swore inwardly, recalling how much he'd abused that trust during the last few days.

'What about us, Astrid?' he asked himself, unable to take his eyes off her. 'What is between us?'

He had put the question so many times already, and he still couldn't find an answer that would satisfy him. If he'd been to explain the matter a dozen or so months earlier, he wouldn't have had the slightest troubles doing so: shortly and truthfully, he would've responded that he was entirely infatuated, as strongly as only a fifteen years old boy can be – all while she paid him no mind whatsoever. Analysing his previous feelings, Hiccup had to agree that they were rather shallow and silly – but at least they weren't as tangled up as the ones that were whirling inside of him presently.

However ridiculous it might seem, he really couldn't define his attitude towards her. The old crush had long been gone, extruded by a healthy, firm, friendly relationship… and yet, Hiccup would have lied if he'd said that friendship was all he desired. It was like building a foundation for the further rapprochement, without which their acquaintance would have been – at most – nothing but a relation between a pair of naively besotted teenagers, and thus only a mere shadow of what it could become with the minimal involvement on their side.

He wanted to treat it seriously, and was convinced that rushing things would bring them no good – then again, the thought of Astrid concluding that she didn't want anything more herself, terrified him. He reminded himself over and over again that he was overreacting, that he was dwelling on the subject too intensively – but it was of no use.

Maybe he was only sixteen years old. Maybe, in the eyes of the older generation he and Astrid were just a couple of kids, quite responsible, but surely far from maturity. This, however, did not mean that their emotions were any less important, nor that they deserved to be given less attention.

The dark-haired Rider had stopped looking at his companion long ago, instead boring into the ground below him. His metal prosthetic wasn't clattering against the wooden panels of the dock's platforms anymore, as they had left those in the distance behind them; the sky was darkening rapidly, and he remained silent, deaf and blind to the surrounding that changed around him.

He kicked a stone that happened to lie in his way.

"Hiccup?" Astrid roused him from that odd wistfulness. The boy met her glare, and immediately spotted the anxiety that was reflecting in her way too blue eyes. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," he denied a little too quickly. "Everything is fine."

She raised her brows, not believing a single word of his.

"Hiccup."

"What?"

"You're a terrible liar."

"I wasn't trying to lie."

"Then tell me what this is all about."

"What for?"

"Because I'm starting to worry."

Once again was he to halt in his tracks, this time on his own account; but that surprised, he simply had to stop.

"What do you mean: worry? I'm fine."

"First you stare at me for minutes, and then you can't even look me in the eye properly. Don't pull that face at me, just because I'm not looking, doesn't mean I can't see."

"But -"

"Look, as for me, you're way overthinking it. As always." In the most natural manner she put a hand on his arm and squeezed it lightly. "I had to give you an earful, but that's enough. It doesn't matter if we meet Heather again or not, this particular episode is now behind us. Draw conclusions, but don't stew."

Hiccup smiled weakly.

"You almost sound as if you wanted to comfort me," he mumbled. "But it's not about Heather."

"Then what is it about?"

"Nothing important."

"You still can't lie."

He sighed ostentatiously.

"I'd just rather not answer that."

'But one day I will,' he finished in his thoughts. One day. When he would finally deal with the doubts that were plaguing him, when he would sort out his own hopes and longing, finally, when he would muster the courage needed for the task – then he would answer her. All he could do was to pray to Odin that he wouldn't miss his chance.

Astrid didn't say a word, only nodding to show that she accepts his explanation. Then, she glanced at the house before which they had halted – her own house. Hiccup followed gaze; until that moment he hadn't been aware that they had already reached the destination of their short journey. Something in his chest stung him unpleasantly when it occurred to him that in a very short while he would have to say his goodbye.

Hardly had he managed to realise that, he felt a punch on his shoulder, one that was way too strong for his liking.

"What on… Astrid!"

"That's for not being honest with me," the warrior answered his cry without the slightest falter. "And for making me upset during the last days. I forgive, not forget."

And then, not giving him another second to think it through, she moved closer to him, and brushed her lips against his cheek.

"And that's for everything else."

And just like that, as if was the most obvious act in the world, she turned on her heel, and briskly ran upon the stairs that lead to her hut. Having opened the door, she hesitated, peered at the couple that was watching her from below; with a strangely uncertain grin she threw them a short 'goodnight' - and with that, she was gone.

Hiccup kept staring at the wooden frame for a long while, ignoring Toothless' nudging, which was becoming more and more regular, while the dragon clearly was annoyed with the lack of attention of his human friend. At last, the boy looked down at him, shook his head on both Night Fury's impatience and his own distraction, and jumped onto the saddle almost immediately after.

If he'd had problems figuring out the meaning of his own feelings earlier, he was not even trying to do it now; he well knew that it wouldn't change a thing. At this point he could only count that his relationship with the blonde girl would clarify in some natural way, and that it would happen sometime soon.

The more rational part of his being was telling him it would be exactly the opposite.


Author's note: Good evening, my friends!

Alright, I guess I owe you some explanation. What you've just read is a chapter taken from my big Tangled/HTTYD crossover Once Mine. But since it works perfectly well on it's own (and is pure Hiccstrid) I've decided to share it with you as a separate story, hoping that maybe (maybe!) you'd like it enough to overcome your scepticism and give the Big Story a try. If not, I'll just hope you've enjoyed what you've read.

Also, this was the very first time when I was writing something for Young Hiccstrid. I'm still not sure what to think about it, so your opinions will be of even greater meaning.

Thank you for stopping by, and see you soon!
Yours truly, Margaret