"Why is it always so wretchedly cold in here?" Astrid asked impatiently, standing on the driveway before the Haddock Manor, rubbing her hands while waiting for her fiancé to unlock the door and finally let them both inside.
After three hours spent in the open, she felt like any additional minute of delay would result in her quick, yet painful death.
Hiccup only laughed at her.
"You know what they say about Berk. It's twelve days north of Hopeless and a few degrees south of Freezing to Death. It's -"
"-located solidly on the Meridian of Misery," she chimed in, hardly able to stop her teeth from chattering. "Yes, I know. You came up with that monologue when we were both fifteen, and have kept repeating it ever since. Though, I've never heard anyone else say it, so I really don't know who they are."
"They are people who can appreciate my talent for naming things, thank you very much."
"Oh, so we're talking about your imaginary friends now?"
"Ha, ha. Very funny."
A characteristic "click" was heard when Hiccup finally got to the last of the locks – Astrid wasn't even sure how many of them there were – and pushed the door open with one hand, waving the other one in an inviting gesture. The blonde girl sighed with relief, and crossed the threshold without any further delay.
Hiccup closed the door behind them and shrugged his jacket off, simultaneously putting Astrid's heavy backpack on the floor in the corner. He turned back towards her, ready to help her with her coat, yet in fact half expecting her to be already finished with the task – only to see the girl standing still next to the radiator, with her arms crossed on her chest, as if trying to keep the warmth she was continually losing.
He chuckled again, and approached her.
"Come, let me take this," he offered with a smile, putting his arms on her shoulders and swirling her around.
"I'd rather not," she answered, turning back so she could face him again. "I'm still freezing, you know."
He gave her a piteous look.
"Astrid, your coat is cold, if anything, it's keeping the warmth outside. It's like a Thermos flask, and you are ice-cream."
"Oh, now that's the compliment I've been waiting for all along. You're a true romantic, Hiccup."
"Stop teasing, and give me your coat. Or do you want me to take it by force?"
"You seem way too eager to make me take my clothes off," she retorted, while unzipping the coat. She couldn't refrain from casting a sly glance at him; and when she did, she saw Hiccup raise his eyes to the ceiling, obviously pretending that her words affected him in no other way than amusing him – and she obviously knew it was not the case.
So many years together, and she still could make him blush at will.
"Fine, I surrender. I'll take it off. But I really don't need your assistance, I'm perfectly aware where the rack is."
"But-" Hiccup tried to protest, but she only pressed her hand to his mouth, making him turn around with her other arm, doing it even more easily than he had done with her moments earlier. Ignoring his groans and moaning, she pushed him towards the kitchen, laughing at his poor attempts to withstand.
"Come on, go in there and boil some water. I could kill for a hot drink so for your own sake, please don't make me wait longer than I have to."
"Hold on, that means that as long as I don't have a hot drink you have nothing to kill for, right? So the best I can to for my own sake is -"
She finally managed to push him over the kitchen's threshold, and slammed the door before Hiccup had a time to block it. She held the handle to make sure he wouldn't try to escape, laughing wholeheartedly at the new grunting that she had caused, and only let go of it when her ears were filled with the noise of pouring water and the clank of shifted mugs. She shook her head, imagining Hiccup's mumbled beefs, and slowly, she made her way to the living room, leaving her coat and shoes on the way.
She opened the door ajar, and slipped inside, trying to stay as quiet as she could. The spacious room was chill and silent, yet even though she knew some might have called it overwhelming, there was no other place on earth where she felt more at home than there.
It was here where she had spent her first evenings with Hiccup, sometimes alone, sometimes with his or even her parents accompanying them. They had sat here cursing their high school teachers, their driving instructors, their university lecturers; they had said quite a lot of improper things about their own families, too. They'd laughed, and cried, and fought here – the list of memories was just too long to be fully recalled at once.
Their bond hadn't been born inside of these walls, but it had certainly grown inside them, slowly but surely leading them to the point at which they were now.
And she was so glad they were.
Astrid made her way to the window, passing the now cold fireplace, part of her wondering if she should try to make a use of it before Hiccup reappeared in the room again. She stood by the sill and, crossing her arms once again, she looked through it, expecting to see the usual sight of the garden, covered in snow and adorned with frost. She was not disappointed – everything was exactly like she remembered it to be. Like it always should be.
"I really missed this place," she muttered, smiling gently, breathing in the smell of the house she loved so much.
"I think this place missed you, too."
She turned her head to see her fiancé leaning on the wall next to the door in what was meant to be a nonchalant pose, but as usual, turned out to be the dorkiest position he could have assumed. Astrid had to suppress the smile that was springing to her lips, and only raised her eyebrows in a curious grimace.
"You think so?" she asked, finding it even more difficult not to let the laughter resonate in her voice. "And what do you mean by the place, exactly?"
Hiccup pushed away from the wall, and walked casually in her direction.
"The same thing you meant when you said you had missed it," he explained quietly. "The walls, the bookshelves, the spruces in the garden… The good lady who's the actual owner of this house complained about your absence, too."
Astrid compressed her lips, although she knew her mirth was more than visible.
"So your mum missed me?"
"She sure did. But also -" he took her hand and lifted it to her eye level, brushing his fingers over the ring she was wearing. "I've heard that the guy who gave you this missed you pretty much as well. I didn't really see it for myself, but Fishlegs says he looked absolutely miserable."
Astrid bit her lower lip, but that couldn't stop her grin from widening – she was more than sure than after tonight her cheeks would hurt from all that smiling. Then again, there was hardly a time when meeting with Hiccup didn't result in this sort of pain, and now the situation was even more intense.
After all, it was not every day when they met after a five weeks long separation.
"Oh he did, did he?" she asked innocently, meeting his gaze with her own.
"I believe he really did," he answered. "Again, I can't know for sure, but being cut off from the most important person in your life seems like a good reason for not staying in the best shape."
Astrid chuckled lightly, and looked down and her fingers, seeing and feeling Hiccup still fiddle with the ring. She raised her gaze at him again, and prompted carefully, "You know, it's not like we were exactly cut off. I recall receiving at least one Skype call every night, and from what I remember, none of them lasted for less than forty minutes."
"Well, that is true. But Skype calls don't really allow you to do this -" Hiccup reached out and put his hand on her waist, pulling her closer to him. "or this -" he cupped her cheek with the other one. "or this -" he leaned in, brushing his nose against hers and letting their breath intermingle. "or -"
A highly pitched whistle of a kettle resonated in the air, startling them, making them open their already half shut eyes and almost jump in surprise; however, as unexpected as the noise was, their reactions to it certainly were not. Astrid laughed cordially – Hiccup groaned impatiently. She stood still and straight – he took the first opportunity to bury his face in her shoulder, only by miracle holding himself back from screaming out of frustration.
"Why does that always happen?"
Astrid kept laughing, knowing that Hiccup's accusation was not entirely wrong. True, he did exaggerate a little, but the point remained anyway.
She embraced him tightly, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and neck, putting her hand on the back of his head and pressing it gently, as if she wanted to assure him that the attempt was still appreciated. She turned her head and pecked his cheek.
"Just the way it is, I guess," she hummed, still smiling against his skin.
"I guess that hate it."
"Oh you don't say," Astrid straightened up and forced her fiancé to do the same, earning another groan in acknowledgement. "Come on, let's turn that thing off before everyone in Berk hears we're having tea."
She pushed him gently towards the door, but didn't move from her spot herself. Hiccup looked back at her, surprised.
"You're not coming?" he asked.
"You put a ban on me entering your kitchen. Of course I'm not."
"Right, I almost forgot how much of a threat you are to a place like this." The man chuckled in response, shaking his head at the blonde girl in front of him. "My fire alarm must have missed you terribly. Should I let it know you're back?"
"I can do it myself if you wish."
"No! No. I certainly do not."
Once again, Astrid found herself alone in the room. Now that Hiccup was longer near her, she felt the chillness get to her again, almost making her regret her decision on not following him. First, because the Haddocks' kitchen had always been the warmest place in the entire house, and second – Hiccup the Radiator was there, too.
She looked around the room, pondering whether or not she could kindle some flame in that great fireplace; yet seeing no wood fuel, she decided to wait with the action for the host. Of course, she knew perfectly well where the Haddocks stocked the logs – only getting it required going outside of the house. She certainly wasn't that desperate.
In the corner of her eye she noticed a blanket, folded neatly on a couch. She smirked with satisfaction, and approached the furniture, grabbing the covering with both of her hands. It was thick and soft – just want she needed it to be.
Astrid unfurled the blanket and threw it over her shoulders, wrapping it tightly around herself, and nestled on the couch immediately after, pulling her legs to her chest and covering them as well. She felt better at once, and even though it still wasn't a perfect situation, it would certainly do until Hiccup reappeared in the room with their drinks.
He came in a moment later, carrying two mugs of aromatic, steaming tea. He was clearly surprised not to find her at her former place by the window, however, seeing her wrapped in that particular covering, sitting on his coach like a big blonde burrito made his astonishment grow even more. He raised both of his eyebrows at her.
"Are you really that cold?" he asked, putting the mugs on the tea table that stood nearby.
"I sure am. I spent three hours walking in the snow, and this room is the coldest place in an entire house. I think I'm better now, though."
"Where did you even get this blanket?"
"It was lying here, on the couch. What, is it some special blanket I shouldn't put my hands on?"
"No, of course not." Hiccup shook his head, laughing, and sat down at the edge of the furniture. "It's just funny to see you like this."
"See me like what?" she asked, and reached out towards the table for the tea that was obviously standing too far from her to get a hold of.
Hiccup understood the sign, and handed her the mug. "Well, you know. Sitting here all wrapped up, hiding under the blanket and huddling in it with such a serene expression. I can't remember when I last saw you this… peaceful."
"Considering that for the last month you haven't seen me at all, it's not such a big deal." Astrid stuck out her left leg and poked him on the rib. "And the blanket is warm and fluffy, of course it makes me feel good."
"Fluffy? Since when do you -"
"For goodness' sake, Hiccup, just take your mug and come here."
Hiccup obeyed willingly, and ensconced himself in right beside her, deliberately reducing the space between them to minimum. Astrid didn't waste her time, and snuggled her face in his shoulder, slowing her motions only to avoid spilling her tea on them both. Hiccup grinned; if he hadn't known better, he would have sworn he'd heard Astrid purr.
"Someone missed me," he mumbled into her hair as he planted a gentle kiss on the top of her head.
"I didn't," came a muffled answer. "It's just warmer when you're here."
Hiccup laughed and gave her another kiss before stretching his arm and embracing her tightly.
"This should make it even warmer, shouldn't it?"
"But seriously, if you're still that cold, maybe I should light up the fire…? I don't want you to spend our first evening together thinking of how freezing it is here."
"I'm not freezing. I'm just… warming up very slowly."
"A working fireplace could speed up this process. Come on, let me -"
"No," she cut him off. "Stay."
He shook his head at her, but again, he complied.
"You did miss me," he added in a satisfied voice a moment later, watching Astrid carefully sip her tea as she held the mug in a firm grasp. The cup was still full at this point, and Hiccup rightly guessed that it was the only thing that stopped his fierce wife-to-be from punishing him with a punch for a remark like this.
He lifted the steaming liquid to his own dry mouth. "What part of you feels the coldest right now?"
"My feet," Astrid mumbled, and closed her eyes. She was tired as Helheim, and the change of temperature was finally getting to her – if Hiccup had stopped asking her those ridiculous questions, she probably would have fallen asleep.
She opened her eyes and drank some more tea, trying to prevent it from happening.
She could feel Hiccup shift as he put his cup away – he never could have finished his drink in a normal time, either pouring all of it into himself at once, or leaving it for the better times and consequently forgetting about it for a week – and glanced at him, curious to see his next move. If she expected him to return to his previous position, she was wrong; if she supposed he would leave the couch, she was wrong, too.
Her puzzle was solved soon enough, when Hiccup used his now free hand to reach out towards her ankles and touch them lightly, as if he was asking for the permission he didn't need. Astrid flinched at the dab, instinctively jerking her legs and again, miraculously avoiding splashing the beverage on them.
"Don't do this!" she exclaimed louder than she thought she could after almost choking on her tea. "You know how I hate this!"
"Hey, I was just trying to -"
"Don't touch the feet!"
Hiccup raised his eyes to the ceiling, and flopped on the couch's back, his arm still rested behind Astrid's neck, even though she was no longer leaning against it. She was scanning him now, as if expecting another attack. It took a good few minutes before she calmed down enough to resume her previous action of drinking, and even more before she decided to move any closer to her aggressor, who also happened to ignore her for the entire time.
It wasn't until she was done with the tea that she spoke to him again.
"You're going to pretend I'm not here now?" she asked with a sigh, putting the mug away and fixing her gaze on him. "Just because I didn't agree to be tickled?"
Hiccup gave her a death glare. "I was going to massage your feet so they would warm up more quickly. Again, I was trying to be romantic and considerate, and you ruined it."
"And that's why you're pouting, big baby boo?" Astrid laughed openly; she shifted towards him, only to see him look away and cross his arms in response.
"Oh, so you're also stealing my best lines now, huh?" he grunted in a mock offence. "What a fantastic girlfriend you turn out to be."
Astrid couldn't refrain from snickering.
"Bad news, dragon boy," she announced cheerfully. "I stopped being your girlfriend about a year ago, when you decided to ask me to marry you, and I had no choice but to agree. Also, I always ruin our perfect moments, you should've got used to it by now."
"That you certainly do," Hiccup answered with a smile, finally turning to glance at her. He had never been particularly good at hiding his emotions, and there was nothing that could affect him more than the mention of their upcoming wedding – and it was something Astrid was well aware of. So she grinned back at him, and resting her hands on his shoulder, she pressed a soft, yet long kiss to his cheek.
"That's bribery," was the best comeback he could come up with.
Astrid couldn't help but chuckle against his skin; she pulled back, and cupped his face in her hands, making him turn in her direction. Their eyes met – their grins widened – and Astrid spoke again.
"You've never seemed to have much problem with this kind of bribe," she stated teasingly, leaning in once more, to the point where their lips were almost touching. "I only hope it's not that effective when you're dealing with someone else than me."
"It's not," was the only thing Hiccup cared to say before closing the space between them, and immediately drowning in the kiss he himself had initiated.
Astrid didn't blink in surprise, but smiled under his lips, hoping that this time they would not be interrupted. Her right hand moved to his neck, pulling him even closer to her as she kissed him back eagerly, with every passing second more aware of how much she had missed that physical closeness which no call and no letter could bear.
Hiccup's hands were now on her waist, and she realised how thirsty of his touch she was. It was all the little gestures, or at least that's what it would have seem for most of her friends. Brushing her fingers through his thick locks; feeling his fingers gently rubbing her back; and his lips, his lips moving against hers in that perfect manner, telling her with every quiver that he'd missed her as much as she had missed him.
Astrid's left hand moved from his cheek, easily finding its way to the back of his head, while the other one left his hair and travelled down to his chest. She parted her lips a little, and Hiccup used the opportunity well, letting their tongues meet, making her groan against her will.
She grasped the collar of his shirt and tightened her fingers on it.
She definitely had missed him.
Apparently Hiccup decided that keeping both of his hands on her waist was a waste of potential, because as soon as their kiss had deepened, she felt his left arm move smoothly, once again resting on the sensitive skin of her bare ankle, gripping it gently, and pulling it up towards him. Astrid understood the suggestion at once, and in a swift move she lifted her legs, letting Hiccup lead them to the other side of his lap, all in a perfect integrity, to the point when it would be hard to decide which one of them was the originator of that manoeuvrer.
The thick blanket, now wrapped loosely around her shoulders, fell down after Hiccup pushed her gently to the couch, making her lie down on her back, somehow managing not to break the kiss for more than a split second. All this time his hand was running up and down her calf, causing new shivers to go down her spine. She embraced his neck with both of her arms, pulling him even closer, when his fingers stopped their impatient journey, settling to caress her knee instead.
Every time they kissed Astrid felt like laughing. Not chuckling, not giggling, but laughing, openly and wholeheartedly laughing, as she felt it would be the only way she could ever express the happiness and love that began to twirl in her chest with even the slightest show of affection on his side. The most beautiful part was, however, that she knew her feelings were fully reciprocated, that he wanted and needed her to the same point of ridiculousness as she did; that he felt unworthy of her love just as much as she felt of his, but having argued about it all too many times already, they both realised that they would never be more equal with anyone else.
And they were engaged. Engaged to be married, willing and ready to spend a lifetime together long before any of the vows were said – and yet, they both understood the meaning of that promise, which had a bigger power than any of the love tokens they had shared with each other so far.
Hiccup wasn't the only one who couldn't wait for their wedding day. Astrid, that strong, independent, butt-kicking Astrid couldn't be more impatient to start that new chapter of her young life, in which they would no longer be two different people, but one being, blessed in the sacred institution of marriage. She wanted to be called his wife, and she wanted to call him her husband. Not for a year, not for a decade, but forever.
Until death do they part.
She stiffened a little when she felt his palm move up her thigh and almost in a reflex action, she grabbed his hand in her own. Hiccup stopped, as if alarmed, and pulled away ever so slightly.
"Don't get too excited," she mumbled with a smile, watching him from under the lowered eyelids. "I haven't changed my mind about the limits."
Hiccup froze when he realised what she was referring to, and looked away, embarrassed.
"I wasn't going to -" he started, but cut it off immediately, realising there was no point in finishing that sentence. He glanced back at Astrid; she was still smiling at him.
"I know you weren't," she answered. "I just thought I should react before we both lose our senses."
As if to make sure he wouldn't feel guilty about the situation, she craned her neck and pressed a short kiss on his lips, and when that didn't seem to solve the problem, she repeated the action.
She fell on her back again, gazing at him intensively.
"Remember that one time when I had to put drops into my eyes for that examination, and couldn't see clearly for almost an entire day?" she asked out of a blue, suddenly recalling the events from almost four years earlier. "Everything was so blurry that you had to lead me everywhere, so I wouldn't walk into a lamppost or anything."
Hiccup chuckled at the memory.
"Well, blurry is a serious euphemism. You were practically a blind person then, or at least, you were acting like one."
"That's not the point."
"So what is?"
"That walk, in the evening. I remember I was rushing somewhere, and you were trying to stop me, but of course, I didn't listen and -"
"You stumbled on a stone and in my chivalry I tried to catch you, which obviously resulted with both of us hitting the ground in a very embarrassing position." Hiccup laughed softly, carefully freeing his treacherous left hand from Astrid's firm grip, intertwining their fingers instead. "Feels kinda similar, doesn't it?"
Astrid closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. "It does now."
She expected Hiccup to lean in and kiss her again, but to her surprise, the man hardly even moved. She cracked one of her eyes open, then the other… Only to find him staring at her in that dorky, blissful awe, as if he was seeing her for the first time, and yet, with the certainty of someone who knew her better than she knew herself.
"What now?" She asked.
"You can't even imagine how much I wanted to kiss you back then," he answered, his voice barely a whisper. "I was so hopelessly in love with you, but at the same time I was so certain you would never have me. Because we were just friends, right?"
Astrid shook her head piteously. "We were never just friends, Hiccup."
"We thought we were."
"Yeah, I guess we did. That was pretty damn stupid of us, wasn't it?"
"It was, but you know? I wouldn't have it any other way."
He finally did kiss her, and even though it was nothing like the passionate exchange from earlier, it was long enough to carry all the emotions that filled them at the moment. It might have been calmer, but it was just as meaningful – if not even more.
After their lips parted, Hiccup slowly returned to a sitting position, offering his hand to Astrid, and pulling her up towards him. Her legs were still thrown across his lap, and at first, she wanted to move them, and simply curl by his side in a similar way she had earlier that afternoon. Before she had a chance to put her plan into life, however, something landed on her thighs, gracefully, yet decisively sitting itself on the spot, and purring contently while boring its big green eyes into her.
"Look who decided to show up," she commented on the scene, but reached out to caress the mischievous cat nevertheless. "Do you remember me or should I introduce myself again?"
"I don't think he could ever forget you," Hiccup said absent-mindedly, observing the pair carefully. "No one spoils him as much as you do, and he still needs someone to team up with him against me."
"Me? Against you? Never."
Hiccup only shook his head at her and pecked her forehead. Astrid on the other hand felt another wave of tiredness take over her, and still stroking Toothless' back, she buried her face in Hiccup's neck, and closed her eyes.
"Will you drive me home?" she muttered into his collar, breathing in the scent of his aftershave. One more thing she hadn't known she'd missed.
"Wait, right now?"
"Not necessarily." She yawned. "But in an hour or so?"
"Why so soon?"
"Because first, I don't want to fall asleep on your couch again, and second, believe it or not, I'd like to see my parents today, as well. I sort of promised them I wouldn't make them wait for me for too long."
"Well, now that's just rude."
It was Astrid's turn to frown, as she straightened up and looked him in the eye, completely puzzled.
"What, wanting to spend time with my parents after all this time abroad?"
"No. Ruining another of my highly romantic evening plans."
Astrid's eyes widened, but on contrary to his accusative words, Hiccup only laughed at her reaction. He embraced her tightly, forcing Toothless to jump to the floor in order to avoid being crushed by the future Mr and Mrs Haddock, who somehow managed to forget that the poor animal was still curled on the lap of the latter. He squeaked angrily, but again, none of the humans seemed to care.
"I can always call them and say I'm coming back later than planned," Astrid broke the momentary silence some time later. "They wouldn't make much fuss over it. Although… My dad will probably be disappointed."
"It's okay," he hummed in response. "You should go. Especially as there's the rumour going that they invited some special guests for the occasion."
"I hope you know I'd rather spend the evening here. But I did miss them, too."
"Really Astrid, it's fine. I mean, I would be lying if I said I didn't see that coming. After all, ruining our moments is what you do, isn't it?"
"I swear, Hiccup, two more months and you'll have all of my evenings to yourself. Just… wait."
"I will." He pecked her on the cheek, and chuckled. "Though I'm pretty sure you'll find a way to ruin them as well."
Astrid pulled away from the hug and punched him fiercely, yet apparently, that was still not enough to bring Hiccup to a more serious state. Even while massaging his arm, he was still grinning at her like an idiot.
She snorted, which obviously only made his smile widen.
"You know what, now I think I'll need to find a way to ruin our perfect wedding as well."
"Sure. Just do me a favour and try to ruin it nicely?"
"No promises, Hiccup. No promises.
Author's note: I don't write fluff. I don't write meaningless, plotless fluff at least. That is, until someone dares me to do it.
Yes, this story is another result of talking to QueenoftheWilderwest - so I'm jut going to put the whole responsibility on her. If you liked this story, you should probably thank her; if you didn't, you know whom to blame.
And more seriously speaking, I''m pretty proud of the outcome, even though - or because - it's very much different from what it was supposed to be at first. Like, it was supposed to be five times shorter.
Either way, I hope you had fun reading it. I hope to come back with another story soon, so stay tuned!
God bless you all,