In his camouflage army uniform, Hiccup Haddock stood with a flag banner in hand for his daughter. He carried a little baby doll in his arms along with an assortment of clothes that may or may not fit her.
Three years. He thought to himself. Three years I've been gone and changed dramatically to pay off the bills after Astrid and get a good mind set by defending my country. Hiccup sighed and looked down at the doll in his hands.
And yet, that led to three years away from my daughter. Will she remember me? She was only three. Hiccup boarded a big blue bus heading close to his house which housed his father who had also lost a wife. The man had taken care of Hiccup's daughter when her real daddy should've been there.
Hiccup wasn't right in the mind though. He had went through extreme depression and grief when he lost his wife. He lost confidence, and needed a way to pay the medical bills the loss of Astrid had caused. Joining the army was a way to pay the debt he owed, say a thank you to the people who served his country, gain strength and confidence, and return home to his now six year old with a better sense of self. It was hard leaving his daughter, but Hiccup knew leaving would allow him to become a better person for her and himself.
Suddenly the bus pulled to a stop, the jerking motion knocking Hiccup clear out of his thoughts. He looked out the window, and realized he was only a block away from his house. Tightening his prosthetic leg which he'd earned just years before Astrid died thanks to a disease of his own, Hiccup rushed to the front of the bus, paid the driver, bid him and his friends farewell, and took off down the street with his fellow veterans shouting their good lucks to their friend returning to his family.
Hiccup ran as fast as he could. The running and constant sweat lining his forehead helped him ignore his anxious thoughts. "She'll remember me." He breathed into the cold air. "Emma would never forget her daddy." Reaching the doorstep far sooner than expected, Hiccup hesitated at the door.
He drew in a breath. Was this really a good idea? Raising a shaky hand, Hiccup rang the doorbell to his two story house. Could he turn back now? Thunderous footsteps followed by much quieter padded ones came towards the doorway. What will father think? Despite his years in the army, being praised by his fellow recruits for his strategics and intelligence in battle, Hiccup still thought of his father as a man on high, someone to be praised and admired by many. One who made little to no mistakes in conflict.
The door opened, and Hiccup went wide eyed at what he saw. Little Emma, six years old and standing around 4 feet tall already. Her auburn hair from her father was tied back in a perfect braid, her baby blue eyes from her mother shaded by a pair of reading classes. A book Hiccup once loved to read called 'how to train your dragon' was tucked under her left arm, a doll with brown yarn hair clutched in her right hand.
Emma was wearing a shortened version of one of her mother's old dresses. Dark red with an attached fur jacket. Her head band was leather, the old spikes removed. Hiccup's daughter looked beautiful, and she stood stunned in front of her father who didn't even know if she recognized him.
That's when it happened. "D-Daddy!" Emma choked out and Hiccup immediately fell to his knees so he could better mach her height being almost seven feet tall himself. He threw his arms around his daughter at the same time she reached out for him, the little girl letting tears fall from her face.
"It's okay. Daddy's here I promise you Emma. I'm not going away for a long time." Hiccup whispered in his daughters ear who nodded against his shoulder pads. Hiccup stood up, lifting Emma into his arms with the muscle he earned fighting at war. Emma smiled and gripped his shoulders tightly as her father held her in place against his chest, the little girls legs linking around his waist.
"Son." Hiccup suddenly heard his father, and only had a second to prepare himself for the massive bare hug. "Uh dad….c-can't breathe." Hiccup stuttered out with lack of breath. Stoick let go of his son, ruffling his hair.
"It's so good to see you home my boy. You've definitely earned your strength too I can see." Hiccup smiled brightly at his father's compliment, like I said before always longing for his dad to be proud of him thanks to how great the man was in his son's eyes.
"Yeah well...three years in the army will do that for you. I can't believe I'm already thirty one." Hiccup said with a chuckle and Stoick sighed. "Eh don't mention it I beg you. I'm feeling older everyday taking care of this little one." Stoick gestured to Emma.
"Aw common dad. Your in your mid fifties. That's not really that old." Hiccup and his dad caught up after taking a seat on the couch, Emma falling asleep in Hiccup's lap. Hiccup looked down at his daughter, a warm expression taking over his face. She's still so attached. And after so long.
"So...you hungry?" Stoick suddenly asked, looking at his watch and seeing it was already seven in the afternoon. "I'll cook." Hiccup said a bit too quickly, making his dad frown but then nod in understanding with a sigh.
Gently prying Emma's arms from his shoulders, Hiccup lay the little girl back in the recliner next to the TV. For a man who had fought many years at war, been through the loss of a wife, and had the stress equivalent to a Catastrophic Quaken in a jail cell full time, Hiccup had the most gentle touch with his daughter. Every time his rough as sandpaper hands grazed her skin, he made sure to use delicate fingers as if untying silk laced shoes. No way would he ever in his entire life risk even scratching his daughter with his own hands that had killed so many from the offending country. He was a killer for his own people, and used to the blood shed after what some would call murder. When Emma was in his arms though, Hiccup was the most gentle of gentle fathers, and you wouldn't have even believed he'd hurt a fly.
Quietly leaving the living room, Hiccup walked to his and previously Astrid's bedroom upstairs. The room was just as he left it, and dust had collected on the dressers. Sighing as memories of him and his wife play fighting, drawing, sleeping beside each other on cold winter nights, Hiccup sitting by her bedside and braiding his sick loves hair filled his mind, Hiccup felt a tear sting his eyes.
This is why he had joined the army. Before he just shut down, unable to handle emotions and unable to find a sense of self. Now that Hiccup knew better who he was, and now that he had spent so much time working to protect people he didn't even know, he finally had the time to tend to his own needs, and grieve his loss in a healthy manner.
Grabbing a picture of Astrid and his' wedding along with an old candle which would still light, Hiccup took an old rose out of a vase, and lit the candle beside the picture on his sight stand. The candle lit up his wife's beautiful face, and Hiccup got on his knees while bowing his head, silently letting Astrid know he loved her as quiet tears left his eyes.
Finally finding his strength again, Hiccup stood up and changed into his old black leather suit and green leggings. He adjusted his prosthetic leg and headed back down stairs after tidying up him and previously Astrid's room.
After putting some steamed vegetables and alfredo noodles on the stove, Hiccup walked back to the couch where his daughter was now awake and reading. "Hey what ya reading Em?" He asked in a cheerful tone, hands in his pockets.
Emma's eyes lit up at the sight of her father in something other than his army uniforms like in letters or postcards. She showed her book to Hiccup who was surprised about her intelligence for her age. Apparently Emma was a top student in her class just like her father once was. She was also in soccer, volleyball, and home economics like her mother who used to love extra activities such as sports.
"Wow, you're really getting ahead in your grade aren't you?" Hiccup asked in a surprised voice, exaggerating how proud his tone sounded for his daughter's sake. They both sat and read, before eventually getting ready for dinner.
Later that night, Hiccup was sound asleep in a bed far to small for him. He lay in Emma's bedroom with the little girl refusing to leave his arms. Her room was a dark blue with posters of men from the army and barbie commercials everywhere. On her desk was a stack of coloring sheets from her favorite movies.
Hiccup Haddock, gone three years, back home for a long time. Veteran and soldier for his country. Gentle father and strong leader. He went to bed in the tiny room knowing three things that night. One, his wife was in a better place and he could finally move on. Two, his daughter still loved him and would now and forever more be his top priority.
And finally the most important thing. Hiccup knew, no matter what, even if he was gone for years at a time, he always had a family to come home too.