This is one of my favourite chapters so far! For the best mood (and if you like to listen to music while you read), I recommend listening to 'interlude' by Tessa Violet, after which I named the chapter!
Astrid awoke with a knot in her chest. Her gaze wandered to her left.
Nobody's arms were weighing down the side of her bed. Nobody's breathing mingled with her own.
She closed her eyes again and sighed, quietly hoping the feeling would go away. Maybe she'd got used to him sleeping next to her in the hospital, knocked out after hours of sitting awake by her side.
No sunlight was dripping through the blinds. The heavy feeling in her chest had not yet faded.
A knock at the door, hesitant. Astrid sighed again, wishing he wouldn't have to ask permission to enter his own room. But here he was, and she didn't really recognize this room as their own.
She tried to raise her voice above anything but a whisper, but the only sound that dragged itself over her lips was a quiet "I'm awake," and she almost wished she wasn't. The urge to be able to avoid this whole situation was getting so strong, that she held her breath and counted to three.
The door opened.
Hiccup stepped in, his hair a mess, his smile not quite in place.
"Good morning," he husked and stepped closer to the bed, his tired eyes full of affection and it made her skin burn. "How did you sleep?"
While waiting for her answer, he crossed the room and pulled up the blinds and opened the big window. It was an ordinary, simple thing, from his movements to the way he knelt on the oriel window. Grey light trickled in, along with the steady sound of rain hitting the ground and roof.
Astrid hesitated for a second, noticing the weight on her chest was getting lighter the more she studied his face in the dull lighting and followed the curve of his back.
"The bed smells nice."
The words had escaped her before she had time to think about it, and Hiccup stopped in his tracks, then sat down on the oriel, smiling lightly.
There was no judgement in his voice when he spoke. "Does it smell of something particular?"
Soap and your aftershave, she thought, but bit her lip and shrugged as she watched him get up again and walk towards the bed. "I don't know, but it's definitely nicer than the hospital bed."
"That's good, I'm glad to hear that," he replied softly and came to a halt in front of her, offering her a smile, which she returned, and it was almost easy. "You wanna get up?"
The weight on her chest had lifted. She flung the covers aside.
He crouched down next to her, pulling the wheelchair next to the bed simultaneously. Then he gently pulled her legs towards the edge of the bed and let her wrap her arms around his neck.
"As soon as you're ready."
Astrid gritted her teeth and nodded against him a few seconds later. He lifted her up and placed her, as carefully as possible, back into the wheelchair. The young woman loosened her grip around him and watched him pull back.
Hiccup found her gaze and felt his heart flutter in his chest. She was still looking him in the eyes. That was a good start.
"Since when have you been up?"
He furrowed his brows. "Six, maybe seven. I went out for a run and lost track of time." He barked out a low laugh and raked a hand through his hair. She nodded, her hands folding in her lap as he pushed her across the room and into the hallway. He stopped in front of the bathroom, the question unspoken between them.
"I'll just go wash my face," she whispered and let him push the door open for her.
When she returned, she was smiling at him, relieved the stale taste in her mouth had gone. So she let him push her across the hallway, folding her hands again, her fingertips brushing the wedding rings. Hiccup stopped in front of the stairs, groaning lightly. "Ah, I forgot about those."
He cracked a smile at her, one of his lopsided ones, and she shrugged again, returning the smile hesitantly.
"I'm gonna have to carry you."
"I don't mind," she replied, maybe a bit too quickly, and felt heat crawl up to her cheeks, but he laughed and leaned down, her hair tickling his neck when she wrapped her arms around him again.
"Good, 'cause I think I'll be doing that a couple more times today."
Astrid stayed silent and inhaled his scent, her head dropping against his shoulder. Suddenly the gloomy light didn't bother her at all anymore.
Hiccup had not at all forgotten about yesterday night's events, and something told him neither had Astrid. But he had chosen not to bring it up if she didn't either. That had seemed to settle it. They got through the morning without speaking about it.
Halfway through her toast with scrambled eggs, Astrid set her food down and fixed her eyes on him, angling towards him.
"Hiccup, can I ask you something?"
His initial answer was "Of course" but in his mind, he was already panicking and going through all five stages of grief imagining the question to follow.
Can we get a divorce?
Why the fuck did I marry you?
"You said we wanted to have children."
Oh, dear God. He sighed inwardly and thanked whichever deity was currently present.
She hesitated but kept her eyes on him.
"Then why the condoms?" she asked then, squinting her eyes. Hiccup breathed out, almost relieved. "Oh, we're just not ready," he explained simply, smiling lightly. When she didn't stop squinting but also scrunched her nose in addition, he chuckled and continued, "We once thought we'd, um ... had a little mishap. You know, you ... started getting really nauseous and lightheaded, even fainted once. I think I drove to at least four different pharmacies before I found one that was still open. Basically, I just shouted something along the lines of, 'Someone give me a fucking pregnancy test, I think my wife is pregnant!' ... they took it with humour."
Astrid chuckled into her coffee, making his heart flutter in his chest hopefully. He tried to push it down.
"Nobody ever tells you how long five minutes can be when you're waiting for a result like that. We were sitting in the bathroom, I was pacing the entire time, and honestly, I think I was more panicked than you were. Actually, now that I think about it, you were remarkably calm about this whole thing. I always thought I'd be the one telling you to calm down, not the other way round," he admitted with a light smile. "Well, you weren't - pregnant, I mean. The next day the doctor told us it was simply stress and the summer heat getting to you."
He leaned back, folding his hands, feeling the absence of his wedding ring like a weight on his finger. "I can't wait, though. For when it's positive. When it's planned."
To his surprise, Astrid smiled.
"I've always liked children," she said then her voice low and somewhat dreamy. She looked up at him. "I think you'll make a great dad."
Hiccup returned her smile tenfolds.
Silence had usually never been uncomfortable between them. But this, they both knew, was by no means usual. Nor comfortable. They had resigned to the living room, her leg propped up on multiple cushions on the sofa. Neither of them had uttered a word since their conversation over breakfast, apart from the short exchange when he had lifted her out of the wheelchair onto the sofa.
Hiccup's eyes were scanning her face, noted her teeth sinking themselves into her bottom lips, her fingers turning the wedding bands over and over again, and he couldn't help but wonder why her hands seemed to gravitate towards them.
He exhaled, almost imperceptibly and leaned forward, intertwining his own fingers to stop himself from taking her hand.
"Astrid, listen, I ... I've never done this before," he admitted, his voice barely above a whisper. "I have no idea how to go about this. I have no idea where to start."
'Again,' he thought, recalling their first private conversation in the hospital just a couple of weeks ago.
Their eyes met.
"I don't want to make you feel uncomfortable, at all, but I need to tell you about our lives together or-" He broke off, ducking his head, avoiding her gaze.
Astrid's heart was beating up to her throat. Had he heard her yesterday? She hesitated.
"I don't know how to do this either," she said then and quietly added, "I also don't know why I expected you to know." She let out a humourless chuckle. "It's not like you were prepared for this to happen."
Her unspoken apology hung in the air. Hiccup gripped his own hand tighter.
"It's okay," he mumbled quickly, eyes flitting up to hers again. "It was different at the hospital, wasn't it?"
Her hands were shaking. It took all of his self-control not to take them into his own. He'd step out of line.
"A bit. It feels ... more real here, I think."
Would he, though? It was a comforting gesture.
"You were there at the hospital, of course, but ... this is our home. And I don't even remember living here."
'Fuck it.' He took her uninjured hand, slowly, gently, maybe to comfort her, maybe to also anchor himself.
Her eyes fell on their joined hands as if she couldn't quite piece the picture in front of her together, eyes wide, teeth releasing her lip. Hiccup's voice was low, gentle, and she met his gaze, finding only honesty in his eyes, her throat closing up.
"I couldn't possibly understand how you feel and what you're going through, but I promise you, whatever happens, whatever you decide, whatever you think is right ... you have me, Astrid, Whatever you want that to mean."
There was hesitation in his touch, but when he raised his free hand to wipe her spilt tears away, Astrid closed her eyes, everything else around her vanishing.
There was his hand, warm and certain, a calloused thumb stroking the back of her hand. There were their breaths, hers ragged as if she'd run a mile.
When she opened her eyes again, there was his face offering a careful smile.
Her heart calmed down.
Finally, she nodded, clinging to his hand with strength she didn't know she'd left.
"What do you need from me, Astrid?" he asked, and Astrid knew that whatever she told him right now, he would respect. "How do you want me to start?"
Astrid looked at the man in front of her and only saw a love for herself she could neither comprehend, remember nor understand.
What did she want?
Her life back. Her memory. Her home. Her husband.
But what did she need, right now?
There were new tears running down her cheeks, and she didn't even know where they were coming from, but maybe she had not cried enough yet; right now she couldn't even recall the last time she'd ever cried and maybe this was also what she needed.
"Please, can you just-" she closed her eyes, the tears dropping on the fabric of her trousers, and she was almost reaching for him. "Can you just hold me for a moment?"
If he replied, she would never know. Before she knew it, he had moved forward, his gentle hands catching her when she let herself fall forward, against him, wrapping around her, letting her cry freely into his shoulder.
His hands were roaming her back, her own clutching into the fabric of his jumper as she sobbed soundlessly into his body for the woman she had forgotten how to be.
Also, thank you so much everyone for your kind words last chapter! i appreciate all of you!