“And how, exactly, did Lorik’s yak get into the Byström’s bedroom in the first place?”
At this point Hiccup is strongly resisting the temptation to dump his head into his hands and just give up. This was ridiculous. He was exhausted. How his dad had ever managed to run this village so perfectly was almost a complete mystery to him. Odin help him. Hiccup really, really wishes he’d paid more attention to Stoick’s chiefing lessons now that...
Hiccup sighs as another argument breaks out between the two stubborn, ugly Vikings before him, and he only just reacts in the nick of time as one pulls out a mace and suddenly they’re brandishing weapons. He’s acutely aware of his exhaustion as he springs between the two and begins to offer solutions that would be favourable to both sides. He’s not sure he’s getting through though.
He’d spent the morning helping with the next section of ice clearing and house repairs/rebuilds as necessary. Then he’d been dragged away to sort a dispute over a dragon egg between an old elderly couple before he’d been asked to marry the Steffensen boy to the Lundgren girl and he’d been called away from that before the feasting to fix the new dragon hangar’s roof; they’d read his plans all wrong. Then he’d been called over to the fishing huts to solve a netting problem, and then he’d run all the way to the other side of the village to hold a quick problems council in the great hall, and then he’d had to fix a problem the Twins had had with Snotlout, and then he’d named a child for the Göransson’s, and then he’d finally found five minutes peace to see to Toothless when he was called away yet again to work out how exactly the huge, six foot five, one thousand and three hundred pound yak that allegedly belonged to young, headstrong Lorik Klausen had managed to get into the Byström family’s house, up the stairs and into the middle aged couples bedroom, terrifying their second youngest child; pretty little Magnus, and waking a screaming Mrs. Byström from her late afternoon nap.
And so that’s where Hiccup is now; stuck between a rock and a hard place. Or, at least; stuck between two fighting Vikings and a very confused, very grumpy yak... who is, oh no, chewing on Mrs. Byström’s favourite floral draperies and...
“Nonononono! Don’t do that! No!” Hiccup leaps into action, trying his level best to tug the great beast away by one of his horns. The most Hiccup achieves is back peddling over the slick wooden floorboards and toppling off his peg leg and sprawling back onto the floor at the exact moment Lorik and Mr. Byström start shouting and waving around swords and things again.
Hiccup let’s his head fall back with a thunk against the floor boards.
How did his father ever do this?
Hiccup had managed to extract himself from the now finally yak-less Byström household and is standing a little way away in the square, feeling the cool late evening breeze ruffle his hair and tickle against his skin. He takes a big, deep breath and sighs it out, letting his shoulders slump forward in exhaustion as he rubs at the dark circles he knows must have formed by now under each eye. He takes quick stocks of his aches and hurts and his yak-induced bruises. His sore muscles and complaining limbs and the scrapes and scratches from ice and wood and Snotlout’s demanding that he’s never the problem when he really mostly is.
Hiccup looks quickly around him; the square is quiet right now and if he’s quick to escape before anyone wanders though looking for him, this might be his job load of the day over, thank Thor. He can’t go back to his house yet, as much as he wants to see his mum and Toothless and perhaps Astrid if she’s done her evening laps with Stormfly yet, but he just knows that’s exactly where everyone will look for him first and that if he goes back now he’ll not get a moment’s peace all evening. He’ll be turfing out yaks and naming babies all over the place.
Which also mean all the heavily populated areas of Berk, the busy, bustling sections of the village, are off limits too, because someone’s going to want him for something and if he doesn’t get out of the square right now he’s going to get caught.
Which only really leaves either going and crashing with crazy old Mildew alone on his cliff-side cabbage field for the night (as fun as that would be), or going and hiding in the forge, where perhaps Gobber might be his only challenge.
Unsurprisingly Hiccup chooses to slink off into the forge with all the grace a one legged Viking with current balance issues and a deep, heavy ache of exhaustion in his bones can muster.
He all but throws himself inside the forge and briefly entertains the idea of firing up the hearths, pumping the bellows and beating out his exhaustion and frustration on a red hot chunk of iron on the anvil with his favourite hammers.
He quickly finds himself dismissing the notion, too exhausted for both the physical labour and for his inventive brain to kick itself into action to actually make anything that would be of use. He smirks briefly to himself as he thinks the Byström’s could really use some kind of gates on their stairs; whether to prevent their young children from falling down them or to keep out yaks, it didn’t really matter. He then dismisses the idea as ridiculous and probably a waste of valuable time, as fun as it would have been. He bets his Dad would have had better, more useful ideas.
Hiccup works his way slowly, craving rest over even food at this point, towards the back of the forge, and curls himself into the shadows atop the piles of woven reed basket’s that Gobber uses for saddle leather storage. The metallic glint of the racks of tools and knives are surprisingly comforting in a gentle, familiar way to him and the heavy scent of burnt wood lingers soothingly, reassuringly in the air.
Hiccup allows his head to fall back, resting it heavily against the back wall, and, before he realises what is happening, he find himself falling asleep.
“An’ I’ve got my axe, and I’ve got my mace, and I love my wife with the ugly...” Gobber cuts himself off from his merry ditty the moment he enters the forge and his cheery face drops into the soft curve of an eyebrow-furrowing frown.
Something isn’t right here.
But the forges aren’t lit or anything; in fact, they’re just as he’d left them and, looking quickly around, everything seems to be in its place. It doesn’t look like Grump’s lumbered chaotically through here or like Hiccup has been in and moved around his organised chaos. Why the boy’s been far too busy what with the rebuilding of the village to help him out here on more than a few occasions lately anyway. A surge of pride fills Gobber’s chest at what Stoick’s little runt has made of himself. He always did say the lad would get there, and get there Hiccup sure did.
Why when the boy started working here, Gobber hadn’t thought there was a hope in hell for the tiny, pale-faced boy with scraped knees and hopeless coordination. When Stoick had first dropped him off with strict instructions to keep him out of the dragon raids and in the forge Gobber hadn’t seen anything special at all in the lad. But he’d soon come to see how the child’s quick fingers and quicker wit were something else entirely. Something very special indeed.
The boy had reminded him a lot of Val, in fact, though Gobber hadn’t given it much thought at the time.
But still, as Gobber moves further into the forge, pushing Hiccup from his mind, he feels as if something is not right here.
It takes him another couple of moment’s to actually notice the small, hunched figure in the furthest, darkest corner and he finds himself sighing in half amusement half exasperation at his former apprentice before he lumbers over towards him.
“Ach, Hiccup, yeh can’t sleep here, honestly I...” Gobber pauses in his lightly grumbled musings as he notices the heavily pinched expression on Hiccup’s pale, sleeping face. The lad’s got a bruise forming, harsh and purple against how very white his skin looks and the darkness of the corner throws the steep, bony lines of his face into stark relief; so much so that Gobber starts to wonder if the boy’s been eating right. Or at all even.
Hiccup groans in his sleep, tossing his head slightly to one side and exposing another bruise, this one on his jawline, to the light. His eyebrows become more pinched and a frown tugs down the corners of his mouth as he mumbles something unintelligible and tosses his head back.
Gobber’s frown deepens. Is the lad having a nightmare?
“Hiccup?” Gobber reaches out his good hand, intent on giving his shoulder a good, firm shake to wake him, but as he reaches out, a set of small, thin fingers wrap themselves around the sturdy cloth strap bindings at his wrist so that just the very edge of the boy’s littlest finger presses against the bare skin of the back of his hand. Hiccup seems to curl into himself before his mentor, his knees curving up towards his chin and his back bowing under the taught, shaking tension of his muscles.
“No...” the young chief whimpers in his sleep, tossing his head back and forth, expression distraught, clutching Gobber’s wrist ever tighter. “No...”
“Eh, come on lad, time to wake up now.” Gobber jerks his wrist, frowning and trying to dislodge the clinging boy. “Come on Hiccup, wakey wakey. Yeh can’t sleep in the forge...”
But the boy only curls closer, a pained whimper on his lips as his hand slips down and latches around Gobber’s broad thumb. The man’s about to berate him a little louder, when he realises Hiccup is mumbling something soft and hurt and horribly broken under his breath.
“Dad... please Dad... Don’t go, please... Dad...”
It takes him a minute to work out what the lad means but when he does, Gobber’s expression falls faster than a stone through ice. His eyes widen and his own breath hitches, and his whole posture melts like yak butter left in the warm, afternoon sun.
“Oh no, no, no, no.” Gobber is a torn, ugly mix between horrified and so, so deeply sad. “It’s only me, Lad. Only old Gobber.” The older man whispers heavily, leaning in to Hiccup’s smaller frame. But Stoick’s Pride of Berk just whimpers louder and clutches harder, his father’s name a shattered litany under his breath, his face distorted with pain and the beginnings and endings of tear tracks stain his features.
“Shh now Hiccup, that’s a good boy.”Gobber breathes just as Hiccup squirms harder and cries out pitifully, sounding years and years younger than he is. His fingers are still wrapped tightly around Gobber’s large thumb as;
“Daddy?” Soft and questioning then; “Daddy!” He cries, his face so distraught with pain and sadness Gobber can almost feel his heart breaking.
“I wish I was, laddie.” Gobber untangles his good hand to press it softly, if a little awkwardly into the boy’s soft, fine hair; the way he’d seen Stoick do when Hiccup was a small, scared child without a mother to shield him from the goriness of dragon attacks. “I wish I could be,” Gobber let’s himself plunk down on the baskets next to the boy, “But I’m not.” His fingers catch in their running at the nape of the boy’s neck and linger there. The boy’s thrashing seems to calm a little as Hiccup presses himself into the kind, fatherly touch.
“I’m so sorry he’s not here, Hiccup. But,” Gobber takes a deep, harsh breath, memories of his best friend burning like brands behind his watering eyes, “He loved you very much and... he’d want us all to look out fer you, I know it. Our pride of Berk, you are Hiccup.” Gobber teases gently and the boy mumbles something unintelligible again, his face smoothing out a little in sleep and his muscles unwinding into soft, relaxed shapes.
“And so if you’re tired or stressed or need help, you can come to us laddie.” The Forge Smith presses on. “T’ me or yeh Mother or that little firestorm of a girlfriend yeh’ve got. A chief looks after the village, yes. But yeh don’t ever have to do it on your own, you know lad. Stoick sure used our help loads of times. A chief delegates to his people and...” As if suddenly realising he’s rambling, Gobber shakes his head lowly, looking down at the soft, sleeping boy before him.
“Come on,” The stout man untangles his hand from Hiccup’s hair and slides it under the boy’s sharp shoulder blades with a mental note to check the scrap of a boy’s been eating right. He then slides his other arm, forge hammer attachment and all, under the boy’s knees and swiftly lifts him right up into his arms, with as little jostling as possible.
“Mmm... Thanks, Gobber.” Gobber almost startles the boy right out of his arms at the drowsy, semi-conscious mumble from Hiccup, and he looks down just in time to see the Stoick’s green eyes slip closed as his son falls back into the clutches of sleep; one of his hands intertwined tightly in the thick blond stands of one of his moustache plaits.
“Come on then. Let’s get you home.” The older Viking sighs softly, shruking Hiccup up a little higher so he fit’s better against the curve of his chest. Gobber hasn’t carried the boy like this since he was small and needed to be scooped away from the forge fire or carried back to Stoick after he’d scraped his knee and needed his father to make it better.
And though Gobber would never be Hiccup’s father, he’d truly like to think of himself as a crazy old uncle of sorts instead.
And perhaps, just perhaps, that will be enough.