Chapter 8: It's Not A Dream

The air was tense. She sat, one leg propped on the bench, as she slowly sharpened her axe. There was a prickling along her shoulders, like an itch she couldn't scratch. It stretched down her spine as the minutes ticked by; the restlessness that built from that tension was ground into her axe as she sharpened it. The sound of heavy footsteps neared, but she didn't bother turning around. She could recognize that familiar clank of metal against the floor.

"Last chance for scaredy cats to run," she said nonchalantly, not even looking up.

"I'm not running."

The voice was surprisingly heavy, and Astrid looked up.

"I didn't think you would," she replied, a little softer than before. Hiccup stared down at her, his eyes tinged with sadness and determination. Toothless was standing beside him, his eyes also tinged with sadness. He gave a soft purr and stepped forward to be scratched under the chin. Astrid smiled at the black dragon, her own heart panging softly in longing for her own dragon.

"We'll get her back," Hiccup said, and Astrid looked up at him. But her heart couldn't connect to the determination in Hiccup's eyes. She felt sluggish, but she wasn't sure if it was because of lack of sleep, or because of Stormfly...

She supposed it didn't matter, and tried to smile at Hiccup. But the smile came out more like a grimace, and she went back to sharpening her axe. She paid Hiccup no mind when he sat down next to her, his hand resting on her knee in silent support. The small comfort of it seemed like a confession, or maybe a forfeit. She wasn't quite sure yet.

"Are you sure you don't want help on the eastern front? Toothless and I can easily-,"

"If you finish that sentence, I will gut you."

Hiccup promptly shut up at the axe shoved against his throat. Toothless gave him a sympathetic purr. He rubbed his nose against Astrid's arm, as if to say, "Hey, stop fighting among yourselves. We've got bigger dragons to worry about." Astrid supposed he was right, and lowered her axe. It killed her to admit how outnumbered they were, because a Viking never showed weakness, and in her family a Viking never even thought about weakness, but there was no denying it.

"If... if it all goes to Hel," Astrid said softly, looking down at her axe, refusing to meet Hiccup's eyes, "Take Toothless and run. Please."

She knew he was going to protest. She knew he was going to say something about how she should come too, about how he would get her and they would escape together and fight another day and win another day, but the explosions were loud, and they shook the very foundation of the island. They unrelentingly demanded Astrid's full attention, and she wasted no time jumping off her seat and into the fray, leaving Hiccup and Toothless in the dust behind her, calling out her name.

'Eastern front, eastern front,' she chanted to herself, weaving through the crowds of weapon-clad and armor-clad Vikings. She saw Tuffnut off to the side, waiting behind an encampment with his weapon gripped tightly in his hands. She tried not to think about how lonely he looked without his sister. She tried not to think about what happened to her.

Instead, she kept pushing through the crowd, brushing past Snotlout at one point who was rubbing Hookfang's nose to try and calm her down. Fishlegs was next to him, full-body hugging Meatlug and shedding a few tears. She looked away, somewhat guilty that she had looked in on that private moment. But there was no real time for regrets as she came upon the eastern front. Other Vikings had already made it there before her, and they struggled against the barrage of dragon fire.

Astrid leapt into the fray, using the shield strapped on her back to block a jet of fire from a Gronckle. The Viking she had saved hadn't even wasted time thanking her for saving him, and found another shield and weapon to attack with. But she wasn't mad. She would've done the same thing, after all.

Instead, she swung at the Gronckle in front of her, that all-too-familiar battle cry bursting from her lips. It scared her how quickly they had fallen back to fighting dragons. No, more like... she was scared at how easy it was. She didn't recognize this dragon in front of her. It was possible he had never been a dragon of Berk, but did that make it okay? She was still swinging at him, hoping that she got him before he got her, hoping that it would be quick and easy so she could help the struggling Viking on the other side of the field. It scared her how quickly she could think about it as if it was "us vs. them" all over again.

She was just about ready to seal the gruesome fate of the dragon she was fighting when its eyes dilated and its head turned away from her, towards the centre of the village. Before she could so much as grab it, the Gronckle dashed away, and she barely had time to understand what was going on before she turned at the sound of a shrill, deafening scream—

—and woke up.

Astrid stared up at her wooden ceiling.

"What the..." she mumbled, reaching up to grip her head, surprised at how vivid her dream was. But it faded into obscurity as she blinked her eyes against the sunlight and began to get ready for the day. Soon enough, it was forgotten somewhere between throwing her clothes on and snatching breakfast off the table. She headed out into the bright morning sun, greeting an energetic Stormfly as she prepared for her regular morning flight.

"Today's the day, girl," she grinned at the Nadder. Stormfly chirped happily.

The past few weeks had been absolutely mind-numbing. She had (grudgingly) obeyed orders from Stoick to stick to the ground until her ankle healed, though he had convinced Goethi to allow her outside the house. She spent most of that time on the steps leading to the Great Hall, as it had given her a splendid view of the happenings of the village. She even attended dragon training a few times, though she was only allowed to watch and not participate (via very strict orders from Hiccup).

But Goethi had given her ankle an 'all-clear' the other day, so now she was itching to finally go flying. And the first thing she was going to do?

Astrid grinned as she spied Hiccup and Toothless already in the skies.

"C'mon Stormfly!" She shouted, urging the the Nadder forward, peeking behind her to see Hiccup and Toothless steadily gaining on her. She and Stormfly had managed to outrun them a few seconds ago in the sea stacks by throwing a few Nadders spikes their way. She knew Hiccup was going to argue later that she cheated, but for the moment she merely grinned and faced towards the wind.

It was so easy to forget how exhilarating flying could really be. After two weeks of being grounded, flying again felt like the first time. The pounding in her chest, the harsh wind against her face, that giddiness that spread across her body until it leaked out of her mouth, stretching her lips so wide it hurt. Her cheeks were turning pink against the chill of the wind, and her fingers tightened around Stormfly's saddle. Just a little more...

But then a black blur raced past her, touching down on the cove (the finish line) just as she shouted in victory. Her glee died in her throat, but she was a little surprised when the wide smile stayed on her lips.

"You almost got me that time," Hiccup laughed, brushing grass off his suit. He and Toothless had barrel-rolled into the cove to win, and the green of the grass mixed in with his brown hair. She laughed at him and dismounted Stormfly, and laughed harder when Toothless started licking Hiccup, as a way of grooming the grass out of his hair. He sputtered and complained and moaned at his dragon, and she sat on the ground to watch the show. At some point, Stormfly had joined in, and she laughed heartily at the image of the great 'dragon master' trying to fend off two eager dragons.

She wasn't laughing for long, though, after Hiccup decided that she couldn't possibly miss out on all the fun, and tackled her to the ground.

"Wha— Hiccup don't—"

He tore into the grass and dumped strands of them in her hair, making sure plenty of them ended up in her face until she sputtered and coughed and her lungs were heavy with laughter. And the dragons never let up, batting their paws at the silly humans as they rolled all over the ground, wrestling each other and getting messier and messier. His fingers skittered up the sides of her ribs, and she would swear that that high-pitched shriek was Stormfly's indignant protest at her rider being attacked, but Hiccup would only grin knowingly at her.

Once her cheeks were streaked with dust and his fingernails were caked with fresh dirt and the fading sounds of her laughter, they fell back to the ground, snickering and laughing and giggling madly. Shoulder-to-shoulder, the two of them gazed up into the bluest skies, and smiled. She felt his hand sneak into hers, warm and rough and strong, and her hand squeezed back.

They stayed that way, gently touching, quietly sharing warmth. They stayed that way as the grass tickled her cheeks and a warm blanket of sunshine was cast over her; until her breaths evened out against the laughter and her eyes shut against the bright day.

Astrid groaned a bit as she woke up, not even realizing that for the first time in weeks, she hadn't dreamt while she slept. But her attention was occupied almost immediately after waking up. In fact, her sleep was disturbed because of the shuffling and grunting next to her. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes, Astrid turned over to see Hiccup ripping up the grass under his hands. He was sweating and his face was twisted in pain.

"Hiccup?!" Astrid gasped, reaching over to grab his shoulder. The dragons woke up too, and Toothless leaned forward to nudge Hiccup awake, but the nudge didn't do anything. Hiccup seemed to be stuck in his sleep, face still contorted in pain. What kind of dream was he having? she wondered. It scared her, because he was already digging up pockets of dirt after going through all the grass. "Hiccup!" she shouted. She shook him a little more roughly. "HICCUP!"

"ASTRID!" Hiccup screamed. His arm shot forwards, fingers spread like he was reaching for something. His breath came in short gasps, his body tense but unfocused.

"Hiccup, I'm here!" Astrid said, grabbing his outstretched hand.

"Wh-what…?" he muttered, turning to her. His eyes wildly searched her face, almost disbelievingly. "B-but you can't… I have to… be…" his hand reached out and touched her face, and she felt how terribly it trembled, "dreaming…"

"It's okay, Hiccup," she said soothingly, stroking his other hand with her thumbs, "it was just a bad dream." She smiled reassuringly at him, grabbing his dirt-smudged hand on her face to set them both in her lap. She continued to soothe him with calm caresses. His eyes were still searching her face, still dazed and confused.

"No," he whispered, trying to tug his hands out of hers, "no, no, no, no, no, no," he was becomingly increasingly panicked, and Astrid let his hands slip out of hers, a little lost from this intense reaction. "THIS is a dream, I'm dreaming right now," he surged to his feet, running his hands through his hair as he tended to do when he panicked. "I have to wake up—have to—" she watched him warily as he looked around the cove wildly.

"Hiccup?" she said softly, leaning forward, almost like trying to approach an injured dragon. He was panting like he'd jumped off a sea stack. Toothless approached him, nudging his hand and crooning softly. He didn't seem to notice the wetness tickling at his fingertips, and Astrid was worried he was going to start hyperventilating. "Is everything okay?" she asked him.

He shook his head slowly, back still turned to her. "No… no it's not… not okay," he said, breathless. He turned slowly, eyes locking onto hers. "It's not… it wasn't a dream… I… it can't…" He inched forward towards her, his legs a little shaky, "it can't have been a dream." Astrid jumped a little when he lunged for her, his fingers digging into her cheeks as he searched her eyes desperately, like somehow she had all the answers.

"You can't be real," he said.


"Okay, maybe you need to lie down again," Astrid said, grabbing his hands and trying to take them off her face. Toothless was crooning in agreement, trying to bump Hiccup into sitting down, at least. But he refused to budge, standing crouched over Astrid. He grasped at Astrid's arms, pulling her to her feet. She yelped at the sudden movement, and was still trying to get her bearings when Hiccup started speaking rapidly.

"—need you to punch me."

There was a beat.


He looked completely serious. But it had to be a joke, right?

"Hiccup, I think maybe we should go see Goethi," she said slowly, her hands out like she was trying to calm an irate wild dragon. But his face was set in that expression she knew all too well; the stubborn one.

"I know what the problem is," he snapped at her, his stubborn expression melting into impatience, "I'll wake up once you punch me, so punch me!"

At this point, Astrid was getting a little frustrated too. He wanted to get punched? Fine.

Her arm reared back, and she slugged him as hard as she could in the arm.

He staggered back, yelping in pain, and she smirked haughtily at him. "You asked for it," she said smugly, crossing her arms in that, 'I told you so' way. Serves him right for being bossy! (Which was funny, considering she was the bossiest person in Berk.)

But when he only looked shell-shocked at the ground, Astrid started to worry again. "Hiccup?" she said.

He looked up. There were tears running down his face.

"Hiccup, what—,"

"It's not a dream," he murmured, stepping towards her. His hands cupped her face again, but this time without the fingers digging into her skin. He held her so gently, like she would break apart at any moment. "You're real."

She touched his hand. "Of course I am, Hiccup," she said. "Did you hit your head a little too hard on that landing or something?" She reached up to run her hands through his hair, trying to find a bump of some sort. But Hiccup just laughed softly, the tears still in his eyes, as he pulled her tightly against him.

"It doesn't matter," he said. Astrid begged to differ. It definitely mattered, considering how weird he was being. But she let it go, relishing in the hug for longer than necessary.

"It's getting late," she said as she watched the sun beginning to dip. "We should probably get back." Hiccup nodded, looking a little solemn about going back to the village. "Don't worry," she grinned, "I'll let you eat some of the Hofferson leftovers. I know your dad isn't the greatest chef ever."

She turned around to walk to the exit of the cove, so Astrid didn't see the shocked look on Hiccup's face. Because if she had seen it, she would have grown more worried, and more suspicious, and she would have realized that something was wrong.

Something was very, very wrong.

A/N Alright, so, I know it's been a while. Hi!

I've changed the title of this fic, because I'm taking it in a different direction than I originally intended, all those years ago...

Yeah, haha, I'm not so great at finishing things? In a timely manner? Sorry TT-TT

But I'll do my best! So thanks for sticking it out with me! :)