A/N: The following story details the months and years following the "Integration". The reader will find a healthy blend of booklore and reality. The events start one year after the movie.
Please note: Because this story switches between Hiccup/Astrid moments and Hiccup/Camicazi moments it is in the category that applies to the most recent chapter.
Dreamworks and Cressida Cowell own the characters I desecrate.
Camicazi quietly padded up the dense, wooden steps, ascending into the loft of the Haddock household. A steady beat of thuds and clunks knelled from above, holding curious power of attraction to power her advance and a lesser sense of foreboding to repel her.
She reached the top step, and her eyes sought the noise haunting the chief's residence. The source immediately stood out to her, and Camicazi spent a moment studying the young man pacing the floors in mismatched steps. He seemed so...off—and it was more than the missing leg or his anger at the village twisting his features. He was at war with his own body—worn, stretched in every sense of the word, with arms too long and hollowness to his face. The bristles on his chin emerged in an agonizing pace—a complaint he shared with her for every visit—and he'd already had to adjust his leg twice over the last few months.
There were more changes than he knew how to deal with, and she knew Hiccup hated to be out of his comfort zone. He hated being off-balance. The universe hated him.
Hiccup muttered into the hand he continually ran over his mouth, sticking to the same mantra as though trapped in a loop.
"I can't...I can't..."
"Hiccup," Camicazi spoke his name softly, both to announce her presence, which he was likely already aware of, and to break him from his slump. Her voice did the job of spurring him into a tirade.
"I can't do this anymore," he exploded. His hands flew to his hair, roughly pulling the long fringe back from his face. "The...the...the decisions, and the-the opinions? They're always shot down—always! They don't want to hear what I have to say. They just want my approval so they can feel good about themselves!"
Camicazi chewed on the corner of her lip, hovering on that top step. She knew there was little she could say to placate Hiccup—certainly not by disabusing his claims. The multi-clan Thing hadn't exactly gone smoothly—shouts for exploits filled the Hall for much of the hour. Expansions, power plays, lands to be conquered...and all on the backs of dragons. Her mother hadn't helped by boasting about the haul from Lindisfarne.
"They're restless," Camicazi settled on mentioning. "They're just..."
"Searching for something to prove their "Vikingness"," Hiccup snarled in an uncharacteristic display of aggression.
Camicazi blinked, but made no attempt to out-snark him. Only one of them could be hotheaded at a time—it was an unspoken rule. Unused to being the calmer of the two, she struggled with finding a way to pacify him.
"They're just trying to adapt," she said delicately. And they were. The Vikings of Berk may have been the first to incorporate dragons as home-sharing allies, but it proved to be a large hurdle to overcome. Fear still lingered on both sides, habits and instincts would rear up from time to time, usually setting in motion some rather violent confrontations.
"It's been a year!" Hiccup sounded desperate, like he needed to find reasons why his village couldn't accept their peaceful lives as is.
"After three hundred years of fighting dragons. You can't expect them to just stop fighting. They need to direct their energy elsewhere."
"By using dragons? It's not...how could they...?"
The words wouldn't come to him. Hiccup stilled from his agitation, but the energy remained in his shoulders and fists. His head bowed, his tongue darted out to wet his lips.
"What do they expect from me? Did they think that I'm some miniature form of my father? Just because I showed some backbone once they thought I was suddenly going to blossom into one of them?"
Camicazi had to grin despite herself.
"You call defeating the greatest dragon ever seen "showing some backbone"?" She'd been to the island; she'd seen pieces of the skull. She'd heard the story more times than she'd care for—boastfully by Stoick, gritty and tragic by Hiccup.
Hiccup didn't look at her. He stared at the wall, his chest swelling with deep inhalations. When he moved again she saw his bad leg shudder, just before a harsh swear blew past his lips, loud enough to startle her.
"You alright?" She stepped into the room fully. Ignoring her, Hiccup swore again, lowering himself to the bed with an angry hiss.
Camicazi continued to advance until she stood just before him. She dipped her head, wanting his attention. "Hey..."
He still wouldn't look at her. He concentrated on the prickling stump and rubbed the side of his leg irritably. "It's going to rain."
She knew this. She saw the signs in the waves earlier.
Once again, Camicazi felt unsure of where to put herself, so she idled just before him. She wanted to soothe his pain; she didn't know how but she wanted to take away the discomfort of his leg, the troubles of his mind. There had been plenty of amputees in her time—most older from battle, a couple younger from accidents. Never did she think someone she knew would suffer such a fate, not at their age.
She didn't know what to say to him when she first found out. She still didn't know what to say.
"Is this how I'm going to have to get their attention every time?" he asked quietly, clearly on the same mental wavelength. His focus remained on the meeting of flesh and metal; a fierce glare heated the prosthetic, blaming it for more than it should rightly burden. "They'll rush into thing with their new, handy rides and it'll take me losing my other leg to make them realize it's not the answer!"
The village saw the battle with the Green Death as the dawning of a new era. Hiccup, who already saw dragons as equal and sentient beings, looked back and saw loss. He lost his leg, he lost a freedom he never realized he had, and he lost some of the purity that dragons represented before the integrations. Humans corrupted. He could see that now.
"Even Astrid," his own words startled him—her name on his lips startled him—because it hurt more than he was willing to admit. "She'll side with the village; she always does."
She hissed at him from his side for every headshake or disapproving noise he made at that meeting.
"What are you doing? Do you have any idea what this could do for our village? Why are you being like this?"
He remembered her face just before he stormed off. Astrid looked at him the way she looked at him back in their dragon-training days—When he had almost gotten them both killed by the Nadder and she stared down at him in incredulity.
He was losing her; one by one he was losing all the humans who had briefly accepted him. Losing her would be the hardest blow to take...if he could take anymore.
Camicazi reached out, leaning forward a bit to run a hand over the back of Hiccup's head. "That's just who she is Hiccup. She's just a 'greater good' kind of girl. You're more of the...freethinking individualist. Look, you'll work it out later."
"What if we don't," he sounded frightened. "What if she continues to lean towards...towards fighting, and I don't want to fight—and we just grow farther and farther apart? I know I'm frustrating her right now, but she's frustrating me. Why does she have to do this? Why do they," he jabbed his hand at the wall, "why do they have to do this? Why do they have to look for fighting?"
The answer was obvious to Camicazi.
"They just...they want to get into Valhalla."
Her tribe hadn't changed much. They continued to roam and pillage—plenty of opportunity for a glorious death—with only a handful taking on dragon companions, herself included. Berk had always been on the defense. Now they sought an offense that Hiccup could not cope with.
Hiccup ran a hand down his face. He knew this as well.
"Gods, I'm sorry. You shouldn't have to listen to this. You came here and...and I'm just..." He drew in a shuddering breath and his shoulders sagged under defeat. "I don't know what to do. I don't know what they expected. If they thought I was some big Viking hero underneath all of...this..."
His focus went back to his leg—where it usually went. Even after a year, even after he learned to walk with the barest of limps and, on occasion, move rather quickly, it felt alien. A bitter reminder that he could change a village, but not its people.
He shook his head. "I'm sorry," he said again. "I just...I feel so inadequate. Like I'm..." Half a person. Still a disappointment. Still different.
"You got people to finally look at you," Camicazi reminded him, because she feared he lost sight of how much progress he made.
He continued to shake his head, much to her chagrin. He didn't want to hear it—every bit as stubborn as the village he cursed.
"And low and behold—they're seeing the same person I've always been. I haven't changed." He couldn't agree with what they wanted to do, he couldn't imagine a world where he ever would.
"But you did show them that you can be just as brave and remarkable in your own way." She'd always known it. He'd proved his grit when they were younger and ever since she tolerated his passive demeanor because she knew it was by choice. She knew what he was capable of with the right weapon and under the right duress, and it was enough for her.
Hiccup turned his neck up and stared into her eyes, his gaze dark and intense and wavering with tumult.
"But it isn't their way. It never will be." He leaned forward to rest his elbows on his thighs, and he stared at his clasped hands. His voice carried on in a whisper. "I didn't do this so that dragons could be used as instruments of war…I never meant for...I...I just wanted to help Toothless. I just wanted all the killing and the hate to stop."
Unthinkingly, Camicazi moved to sit down beside him. He hardly reacted to the shifting of weight, or to the hand that rubbed his shoulder.
"That's what makes you a hero," Camicazi sighed. Something about seeing him look so lost and disturbed had her feeling extraordinarily sympathetic, and she couldn't seem to cap these feelings. They held some sort of intensity, like the energy that built in her belly during a really good fight. But this one filled her chest; squeezing her lungs and making her feel strangely breathless at the heat of his shoulder beneath her palm.
He glanced away from her. "No one else sees it like that."
"They're Vikings. You're some...sub category of Viking."
He snorted. "Thanks."
A short grin found its way to her mouth at the comforting cynicism.
"You're awesome," she told him, as frank and honest as she'd always spoke.
"I don't feel awesome," he responded in a slightly strangled voice. "I feel like a disappointment...again."
The way his father looked at him when he spoke out against raiding...Like he broke a promise...Like he was suddenly supposed to understand their way of thinking.
"You're not a disappointment," she deadpanned. "You can't be, after all you've done—"
Without thinking, without realizing, her gaze fell to his leg. He caught on before she could move it.
"It wasn't enough," he said with a vacant expression. "I knew...knew it wouldn't last..." That perfect fantasy world; the dream he had roused into upon awakening after the battle. The understanding, the peace, the respect. All temporary. "I can't control the dragons. I can't tell them not to listen to the humans they've chosen to bond with. But once I heard having them live with us was an option, I just kept pushing for this integration to work...I never thought...now they're being pushed into..."
"You couldn't have known," she soothed. She knew now that she wouldn't be able to shake this acute compassion; that she had to act on it. "You had the best intentions—you usually do."
As if he couldn't hear her, Hiccup continued to mumble to his lap. "Do they even realize they're being used?"
"I—I don't know," Camicazi cringed. He was asking questions she couldn't answer, would never think to answer. He always thought too deeply for her to follow.
"I hate this," he moaned. "Using the dragons is wrong and...and..." He paused, as if he just realized a truth within himself. "I brought this on us..."
His voice hitched and Camicazi felt her heart break. She immediately set to hushing him like her mother used to do when she was upset. Her left hand moved of its own accord, reaching out to his face, to the clenching jaw and furrowed brow. She wanted to smooth it all out some how.
Hiccup closed his eyes at the touch of her hand brushing back his hair, the thumbs rolling over his forehead and his cheekbones. To Camicazi's alarm, it had the opposite affect to what she was going for. Hiccup pulled both his lips inward, and his face screwed for a suspended moment as he battled back more emotion than what was appropriate.
"Now I don't know how to fix it," he rasped. The knob in his throat bobbed a couple times with his harsh breaths. "They won't listen to me. I can't stop this. I don't know...I can't..."
Camicazi's heart pounded. She didn't want to see this; she didn't want to see him breakdown like this. She didn't want him to be alone either, but she couldn't think of anyone else who would give him the reassurance he needed, the tolerance and patience and tenderness no one but he would openly seek.
Gods, why did he need so many things their culture couldn't provide? The difficult man...
"Hiccup...Hiccup listen to me," His eyes were still closed; he refused to open them, even as she took his face in both her hands. She focused on his tear-darkened eyelashes, on the pattern of freckles across the bridge of his nose and his upper lip. Her fingers explored the textures of his broadening jaw, rough and solid and losing more familiarity by the day.
"You are not inadequate," she spoke firmly. "You are different and you can make a difference and people care about what you have to say."
"But I can't—" He tried to shake his head, but her hands held firm.
The first tear fell. Like a healing touch drawn to pain, Camicazi's lips met the warm and briny bead just as it took the curve of his cheekbone. She wasn't thinking; it was so natural, this impulse to comfort him this way.
The flesh of his cheek called to her—wind-burned but young—so she kissed him there again, tasting Berk and ash and him.
His breathing had calmed. In fact, his breathing had stilled all together after that second kiss. He waited, questioned, with closed eyes. The silence of the room suddenly became loud—eerie and oppressing, making her actions so poignant.
Something held her senses hostage as she gently nudged his head to face hers with the hand remaining on his jaw. She felt like an outsider to her own body, an observer to her actions. Her lips never strayed far from his skin, landing again at the lines of his mouth, and again at the corner of his lip.
The sensitive graze sent a spark into her body that stole the breath from her lungs, and because she couldn't quite make sense of it she decided to seek it again. She kissed him because he hadn't stopped her yet and she didn't quite know what that meant. She didn't know if the need to tremble came from kissing a man sort of spoken for, or kissing a man who she knew. Who knew her.
Oh gods, oh gods...
She knew him well enough to know he reflected her exact thoughts. It read in the stiffening of his shoulders and the stillness of his mouth. Neither could move; they were too scared. This was scarier than facing a better-skilled foe, scarier than disease or starvation—this was a step into the unknown.
Her mind scrambled as her body froze in the moment. How did she get in this situation? What led to this? How could she get out without destroying the trust they had in each other? She didn't know if there was any turning back, and not just because she crossed a line they had silently agreed to never cross, but because she got a taste of something she never realized she wanted.
There was no turning back. Not for her.
Then she felt pressure. He was kissing back—by Freya Hiccup was moving his lips against hers, grabbing, almost—and Camicazi remembered that Hiccup needed her. Her. Because she saw him before the integration and after; she saw who he was long before Berk had it shoved in their faces, and she continued to see who he was as Berk continued to refuse to. She could see what this did to him.
This was ignoble, but necessary. This was trouble.
She loved trouble.
Time lost all meaning—the kiss lingered forever and ended in a heartbeat. Reality settled over them, heavy and sustained all at once, as their bottom lips parted. That was as far as either was willing to move. Their noses continued to brush cheeks, their foreheads pressed together.
She couldn't open her eyes. She didn't want to see him angry or disappointed. She didn't want to have to explain herself because she didn't think she could.
It took Camicazi another eternal moment to realize she still held his face—and a moment after that to confirm that he wasn't, in fact, pulling away. The silence still thundered at her and her body still shivered with an indescribable charge, but Hiccup stayed. He waited and he wanted with eyes closed and lips slightly parted in—what she interpreted as—an open invitation.
So she kissed him again, and this time she intended it.
Hiccup is in the...danger zone.
Each chapter will detail events that can be anywhere from hours to weeks to months apart. They will mostly consist of introspection and pivotal decisions in the years following the movie. They will switch between Hiccup and Astrid and Hiccup and Camicazi (see note above). There will be good and bad moments for both relationships.
Let me know what you think! I'm really interested on characterization thoughts :)