14-year-old Zephyr Haddock was not spying. Really, she wasn't! Mom had even told her specifically to work on her stealth exercises today. True, she'd meant to practice by trying to sneak up on the flock of chickens on the edge of town. But when Zephyr saw her dad head into the Council Hut with Uncle Gobber, the opportunity to see what they were up to was just too good to resist. She'd figured out years ago that the high window in the roof, left over from when the dragons used to live there, could be easily nudged open and allow for some excellent eavesdropping if you could climb up without being heard. It was a skill Zephyr had perfected.

In minutes she'd scaled the hut's wooden beams and positioned herself so she couldn't be seen from below. Then she eased the window open and put her ear to the crack.

"Chief," she heard Gobber's voice say.

"Gobber," came her father's warning tone. He always hated formalities.

"Hiccup," Gobber amended. "The Council's been talkin', and we think it's high time yeh officially named yer heir."

Heir? Zephyr scrambled to change her position to actually see the two men down below. If they looked up, they would also be able to see her, but it didn't look like they were on the lookout for spies. Her dad was staring at Gobber with wide eyes, as if he'd been smacked.

"Oh don' give me tha' look," Gobber said, fixing his chief with a look of his own. "Yer littl'uns are more tha' old enough fer yeh to start thinkin' abou' the future."

Hiccup sighed. "You're right, Gobber," he said, to Zephyr's profound shock. "I just don't want to admit that they're growing up so fast."

"I felt the same abou' you, once," Gobber said with a chuckle. He clapped an arm around the smaller man's shoulders. "But it's settled, then?" Hiccup nodded with a slightly sad smile. "Good. I'll hunt up Nuffink tomorrow mornin' to bring 'im to the Council."

Hiccup started, and shook off Gobber's arm vigorously. "Nuffink? No, no, Zephyr."

Zephyr froze. Surely she couldn't have heard right.

"Wha'?" Gobber sounded as shocked as she was. "Zephyr? Yer jokin', Hiccup."

"No," her dad said, face resolute. "Astrid and I have discussed this all over. Zephyr is the eldest, and she's smart and able. She's going to be the heir to the tribe."

Zephyr's breath came quick and shallow. She'd never expected this. It had never been done, as far as she was aware. Daughters never inherited when there was a legitimate male heir available. But once the initial shock was over, a small warmth began to grow in her chest. She was going to be chief!

The warmth lasted only a second, as Gobber's next words dashed icy water on her soul. "Hiccup, be reasonable. The girl can't be chief." He seemed to laugh at the very idea.

"She can if I say she is," Hiccup said stubbornly, crossing his arms. "I have the right to appoint my own heir."

"Hiccup," Gobber said, voice now serious. "The Council won' agree teh that! No one would take her seriously. I mean, could yeh really see Spitelout take orders from the likes o' her?"

Every word sent a jab through Zephyr's heart. Gobber had always been like family to them. It was him who'd given her first lessons in weaponry. If Gobber didn't think she could handle this, then nobody else would ever give her the chance.

She hadn't realized she'd made a noise until both men suddenly looked up at the window. Immediately Zephyr ducked her head back, but she knew it was too late. They had to have seen her. Her thoughts in a tumble, she scrambled down from the roof in a half-blind rage. Then she ran.

"Zephyr, wait!"

She didn't stop to look back at the call. She ran through the village as fast as she could. Sheep and carts scattered in her wake, but she didn't care. She just had to get away from everyone.

She didn't stop running until she'd reached the stream on the edge of town. When she was sure there wasn't a soul in sight, she plopped down on the riverbank and hid her face as tears sprang from her eyes. Warriors didn't cry, she knew. But apparently, she wasn't a warrior. She was just a girl. A totally useless girl, who no one would ever listen to. A girl who would never be chief.

She wasn't sure how long she sat there by the river. It didn't seem like too long, though, when footsteps came up behind her. She didn't look up.

"Hey, Zeph," her dad's voice came from above. "I thought I might find you here." He paused, but Zephyr didn't respond. "Can I, uh, sit with you?" She still didn't look up or say anything, but Hiccup sat next to her anyway. For a minute, they both just gazed at the running water.

"So," Hiccup said, breaking the silence awkwardly. "I take it you heard all that." Zephyr nodded, her eyes still on the river. "Well, um, yeah, you're the heir!" her dad said, still a bit awkwardly. "It's not exactly how I would have wanted you to find out, but then you did always have a way of taking things into your own hands." She could hear a smile in his voice at the small joke, but she didn't smile back. Nothing about this seemed funny to her.

"So… what do you think?" Hiccup asked, breaking another short silence.

Zephyr snorted. "What does Gobber think?" she asked bitterly. She tossed a pebble into the river with a satisfying plonk.

"Gobber is a muttonhead," Hiccup replied, his voice quiet but the fury intense enough to make her look up. Her mom was the one with the temper. Zephyr had rarely heard her father use such language. "You might be happy to know that I've already put him on latrine cleaning duty for the next month," he added.

That surprised Zephyr into speech. "You put a Council member Elder on latrine duty?" she asked. "I didn't think you could do that."

Hiccup smiled, happy that she was paying attention now. "I can do what I want. I'm the chief." He chuckled, then sobered. "He was wrong, Zeph. In every way. You're going to make a great chief."

"Maybe I don't want to be chief!" she snapped suddenly, tears glistening. Hiccup looked thoroughly startled at her outburst.

"What's wrong with being chief?" he asked gently. "You've led the New Berk Guard on a dozen patrols by now. They all say you're a great leader! Chiefing isn't that much different, I promise."

Zephyr scoffed. "For you," she muttered.

"What was that?" her dad asked. He cocked his head, obviously giving her his full attention. For some reason, his concern sparked her anger even more.

"I said that it's easy for you! You're you!" she said bitterly.

Hiccup frowned. "What do you mean by that?" he asked. His voice sounded sincere, but Zephyr rolled her eyes. As if he didn't know.

"I mean," she said with exaggeration, "that everyone loves you! You're a hero, and super smart, and a great leader, and saved the village a whole bunch of times, and everyone knows it!" She paused for breath. "I'm not like you. I haven't done anything cool or heroic. I'm a nobody." She hung her head, studying the swirling water again.

Hiccup didn't say anything for a long moment. It was long enough that Zephyr began to fear that he agreed. But then he said something that caught her off guard. "Do you know what my nickname was, when I was your age?" he asked softly.

She nearly laughed again in derision. He really didn't get it, did he? "Hiccup the Dragon Conqueror," she said with an exasperated sigh.

He snorted, making her look up. He looked like he actually found that funny! "Who told you that?" he asked, an amused quirk to his lips.

"Uncle Fishlegs," she answered, confused. Her confusion only increased when he snorted again.

"Here's a good rule: never believe anything Uncle Fishlegs says about me. Actually, that goes for Uncle Snotlout and Uncle Tuffnut too," he said. "No, contrary to what Fishlegs says, I was never a 'Dragon Conqueror.'"

Zephyr couldn't help feeling like there was more to that story, but she could always ask her uncles some other time. Besides, she'd heard more nicknames for her father. "Hiccup the Hero, then," she said. Again, he shook his head. "The Pride of Berk?" she tried. Another negative.

"Before all that," he said. "Before I met Toothless. You remember how I met Toothless?"

"You mean the story that we hear at Snoggletog every year?" she asked with sarcasm. "Yeah, I remember."

"Well, before that story, before the Red Death, before any of that… I was called Hiccup the Useless."

Zephyr snapped her head up to look her father in the eyes. She tried to find a sign that he was teasing her, but his expression was unusually somber. She knew her dad never joked about serious things (actually, all his jokes were usually pretty bad). He had to be telling her the truth, except…

"The Useless? No!" she said fervently. "That can't be right!"

Hiccup chuckled at her indignation. "Oh, it was, believe me," he said drily. "Up until I was a year older than you, nobody thought I would ever be a real Viking, let alone chief."

"Why?" said Zephyr, completely flabbergasted. This story didn't sound anything like the Dad she knew.

"I was… different," Hiccup began, apparently struggling for the proper words. "I was always sort of a small kid. All the rest of the kids - your mother, Uncle Snotlout - they were all really good at fighting and weapons and things like that. When I was 15 years old I couldn't even lift a bola."

"No way," Zephyr said, incredulous. She'd been swinging bolas since she was 10.

"It's true," Hiccup said, again smiling a little at the look on her face. "And what was more… I didn't even like fighting. I just wasn't interested in the things everyone else seemed to be. So even though I tried, I really was… useless, at least at the things everyone expected a Viking to be good at."

Zephyr couldn't believe this. "And people really called you that?" He nodded. She pondered this for a moment, then grinned when she thought of something. "I bet Grandpa Stoick really told them off for that!"

She'd intended her comment to make her dad feel better. After all, the whole tribe knew the story of how Grandpa Stoick had died to save her dad's life. Her grandpa must have loved his son a lot, and she doubted that he'd have stood for anyone mistreating Hiccup. Somehow, though, the mention of his father made Hiccup's expression twist into something even more sad, and a little pained. Zephyr didn't understand it, but she didn't like it one bit.

"When I was a kid, Grandpa Stoick and I… didn't always see eye to eye," Hiccup said at last. He looked off to Zephyr's side, not meeting her eyes. "He loved me, but when I was little, he always wanted me to be more like him. He was strong, and brave, and a warrior, and I was… well, not. I heard him call… I mean, um, I don't think he understood me that well."

I heard him call me Useless too. Zephyr could tell clear as day what her father had been about to say. Her head spun at the implications. If his own father had thought Hiccup was useless, then the whole tribe really must have thought so too.

"Oh," she said in a small voice. She didn't know what to say after that. The only thing she knew is that somehow after all of this, her father had become a hero and had become chief. She'd thought she'd known the story. Now she wasn't so sure.

Hiccup shook his head as if brushing away a memory, then met her eyes once more. "Anyway," he said, "it all got worse after I started keeping Toothless a secret. Everyone expected a lot of me, but no one really even knew who I was. So I decided to run away."

"You what?" Zephyr cried. Even hearing how miserable this all sounded, she'd never thought her courageous, clever father would just run away from it all. "Where did you go?"

A tiny smile met his lips. "I never made it anywhere. You know what stopped me?" She shook her head, mystified. "Your mother."

"Mom?" Zephyr asked. This was getting really interesting now. "What did she do?"

"Well, first she tried to tell on me, so I sort of kidnapped her, and Toothless kind of tried to scare her to death, and…" He stopped at the sight of her wide-open mouth and bugged eyes. "Uh, all that's not really important. But she did something that no one had ever done for me in my entire life."

"What?" Zephyr breathed, mind reeling. Knowing her mother, Zephyr guessed that it probably involved weapons.

"She believed in me," said Hiccup, simply. "She was the first person who ever thought that I could be something, even though I was different." He clasped Zephyr's shoulder warmly and held her gaze. "You'll be a different chief too, Zephyr. Not everyone may accept you at first. But I believe in you."

That warm feeling from earlier seared through her body so fast that Zephyr thought she might start glowing. She wrapped her father in a tight hug, squeezing so hard that Hiccup began wheezing. "You hug like your mom," he gasped when she released him, but his eyes were twinkling. She gave him an unapologetic grin. He returned the smile, saying, "You okay now?"

"Yeah," she said. They might not speak about what had just happened, but Zephyr knew she'd never forget it. "Thanks, Dad."

Hiccup surprised her by tugging her up, then seizing her by the waist and spinning her around, like he'd done when she was a little girl. She laughed and swatted his arms away when he put her down, but she was smiling. Her dad was the best.

"Come on," said, nodding back toward the house. "Let's go tell your mom and your brother that New Berk has a new heir."

~Fin~

A/N: I never thought I'd write a post-HTTYD3 story, but this plot bunny just wouldn't leave me alone until I got it written down. We can tell from "Portrait of Hiccup as a Buff Man" that there doesn't seem to have been a female heir on Berk for centuries, but of course Astrid wouldn't let Zephyr get passed over! For those of you waiting on an update for How to Sign a Viking Treaty, it is still coming, and I hope you enjoyed this little one-shot in the meantime! Let me know what you all think in the reviews!