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Summary: Three years after the events of the movie, Astrid makes a choice.

Toothless growled, Tuffnut swore, and Hiccup sighed.

A few seconds later there was a knock on the doorway to Hiccup's workshop.  "Come in," he called with some trepidation.

The door creaked open and Tuffnut's head poked in, followed quickly by the rest of him.  "Hey," he said.

"...Hey."

Tuff gestured vaguely towards the still open door.  "I accidentally kicked your dragon."

"I'm sure he'll recover."

"Right, right."  Tuff rocked on his heels.  "So, what're you up to?"

"Eh, the usual," Hiccup said, motioning to the piles of plans and notes on his desk.  "Obscure engineering stuff no one really understands."

"Yeah?  Like what?"

Hiccup blinked.  "Um, well, right now I'm looking at some architectural plans.  Which types of buildings retain heat better in the winter, and how we can use that information in the future.  I think our architecture's a little lacking since it used to be buildings were barely up long enough to get used to them before they were destroyed, but now that they're lasting years we should probably make sure they're actually worth having around that long."  He realized he was rambling, and shrugged.  "I mean, it's not the most exciting stuff, but it's important."

"Yeah, no, it sounds really useful," Tuff said earnestly.  "Like, I'm glad you're doing that, because I think most people wouldn't even think of it."

Hiccup shot him a curious look, but his face wasn't anything but sincere.  "Thanks, Tuff."

"So, do you think you could take a break?  I got something I wanna show you."

Hiccup tilted his head back and looked at the ceiling.  "Tuff, you're a nice guy and all, but I wish you'd stop trying to get me to have sex with you."

"I'm not," Tuff said, and this time Hiccup looked at him in shock.  "Unless you really wanna," he added with a lascivious grin.  Apparently Hiccup made a face, because he quickly said, "No, too fast, right?  That's okay, that's cool.  Actually, I just found this cool spot by this waterfall, and I wanted to show you."

Hiccup blinked again.  "Tuff, that sounds almost...romantic."

Tuffnut looked absurdly pleased with himself, and Hiccup had to fight back the urge to laugh.  Well, at least there wasn't much room for duplicity there.  "All right," he said, "I guess I can take a break."

"Awesome!"  Tuffnut grabbed Hiccup's wrist and dragged him through the door, startling Toothless.  "This is gonna be great, you'll see!"

"All right, all right," Hiccup said, laughing, as the curious dragon bounded after them.

Behind them, Stoick the Vast reached out from the shadows and slowly closed the workshop door.


**********************


It was late when Hiccup got back, and his father was good at filtering out background noises when he slept, so Hiccup wasn't particularly quiet about opening the front door.  Then he saw his dad sitting at the table, and for some weird reason felt like he should have been.

"Hey Dad," he said, as Toothless slipped past to curl up in front of the fire.

Stoick had his head bowed, and his hands clasped on the table in front of him.  "Where have you been?" he asked gruffly, without looking at Hiccup.

"Uh...out."  Then, because for some reason he felt like he should offer an explanation even though his father wasn't asking for one, "With-with," not Astrid, "the guys."

"Oh?" said Stoick.

"Yep."  Hiccup swung his arms a couple times, then made for the bed.  "So I'm just gonna --"

"Where did you go?"

Hiccup paused, for some reason nervous.  "We were just hanging out in the forest.  Near this waterfall Tuff found."

Stoick clenched his hands more tightly together.  "And who, exactly, is we?"

"Oh, well, it was really just me and Tuff.  He just found this spot, and I guess he wanted to show me.  He --"

Stoick's fist slammed down onto the table, making Hiccup jump and Toothless look up in alarm.  "Enough of this!" he shouted as he stood.  "I've put up with a lot through the years, Hiccup, but there's only so much I can take."

Toothless was on his feet and growling.  "It's okay, buddy," Hiccup said, keeping his voice deliberately steady.  "Dad, I don't know what you're talking about."

"I heard you," Stoick said, looking at him.  "You and that boy, making plans."

Hiccup felt the blood drain from his face, and knew his father saw it as the confirmation it was.  Stoick's face hardened, and for a moment he tore his eyes away from Hiccup to look around the darkened house.  "Dad," Hiccup said weakly, "that wasn't..."  But for once in his life he couldn't think of a thing to say.

"You were doing so well," Stoick said.  "After all those mistakes, I thought you had found your place."

"I'm not --"

"What are you doing?  What are you thinking?"

"It's just --"

"What about Astrid?" Stoick demanded.  "What about her?"

Toothless's back was arched as high as it could go, and he was pawing the fur rug underneath him restlessly.  Stoick didn't seem to notice, but Hiccup did, and as unsteady as he felt, he forced his voice to be calm.  "I care about Astrid, but we're not --"

"You end this," Stoick said.  "You stay away from that boy.  My son ca--"  His voice broke, and for a moment he and Hiccup stared at each other in silence, Stoick seemingly unable to speak, and Hiccup having no words.  Then Stoick was brushing past Hiccup, storming out the door, and slamming it behind him.

Toothless cautiously approached Hiccup, and gave a soft whine.  Hiccup realized his hands were trembling, and balled them into fists.  "What are we going to do now, buddy?" he asked quietly.


**********************


Astrid was out far too late.  She had been in the woods, drilling for hours, and her body was almost shaking with exhaustion.  However, despite her best efforts, her mind was still racing, and she knew it would be another long night.

She almost didn't notice Hiccup's house, and then wasn't sure why she noticed it at all.  But light was shining through the windows, and after hesitating for a moment, she walked the familiar path towards it.

She knocked quietly, just in case, and after a moment Hiccup called, "...Yeah?"  She pushed open the door and slipped in.

"Oh hey," he said, leaning back from where he was sitting at the dining table.  "I thought maybe I was imagining things."  Toothless was curled up directly behind him, and for some reason he looked at Astrid suspiciously.

"Nope," she said.  "You're up late."

"Couldn't sleep," he said, rubbing his face with his hands.

She gave a wry smile and straddled the bench next to him.  "I know how that is."  As usual, the space in front of Hiccup was strewn with various papers and books.  "What are you working on?"

"Uh, politics," he said, rearranging some of the paper.

Astrid looked at him.  "What do you mean?" she asked slowly.  "Your dad's chief, and one day you'll be chief.  Unless there's something I don't know."

"No, that's not what I'm looking at.  I mean, me becoming chief, that's pretty much been set since I was born.  But the thing about being an," he looked at his notes, "'unelected official' is that I get my position whether people like me or not."

"Isn't that good?" she asked.  "And everyone likes you now anyway."

"Yeah, yeah, which is a plus, but I don't want them to just tolerate me being chief.  'Oh, Hiccup, he's not the mess we thought he'd be, at least.'  I want them to want me to be chief."

"Because...?"

Hiccup chewed his bottom lip and looked at his notes again.  "Because then I can do more than just settle fights and organize fishing trips.  If they like me, maybe they'll trust me if I want to change something.  Like, a social change."

"I don't understand," Astrid said.  "You already completely changed society with the dragons.  What more do you want to do?"

"Yeah, and that's what got me thinking!  Because I mean, Vikings are stubborn, but that showed they're also adaptable.  And there's always im-improvements that can be made..."  His hands suddenly jerked and sent some of the paper to the floor.

"Hiccup?" she asked in alarm.

He pulled his hands into his lap and sighed.  "My dad overheard me and Tuff earlier," he said, and Astrid gasped softly.  "He wanted to take me to a waterfall, and I told him that sounded almost romantic."

"Well, you and the guys tease each other all the time.  Can't you play it off?"

"I don't think so," he said.  "Before that we were kind of talking about sex.  In a kind of serious way."

"Oh, Hiccup," she said.  "I'm sorry."

"Yeah, he wasn't really happy."  Hiccup inhaled deeply, then forced himself to sit up straight.  "But it happened, and I couldn't sleep anyway, so I started thinking."  He looked at the mess in front of him.  "But now I'm tired and I'm not sure any of this makes any sense at all."

"It's a nice thought," Astrid said softly, "but it seems like there has to be an easier way for you and Tuff to have sex than a political regime change."

"This isn't about me and Tuff, really.  I mean maybe, eventually, depending on where things go, but if we wanted to have sex, we could just be sneaky about it."  Which was exactly what Astrid had been thinking.  "It's more about everything else.  Like you and Ruff," he said, shocking her, "or Speedi and Buck, or Spinster Helga, or that old man who used to live by the lake?  I don't remember his name.  I know people have this attitude of pretending like it doesn't exist, but come on, we ride dragons now.  Why can't we just...Astrid?"

Astrid suddenly snapped back from wherever her mind had drifted, and saw Hiccup looking at her with some concern.  She pressed a hand to her cheek and realized she was crying.

"Are you okay?" he asked quickly.  "Gods, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you.  I just had this idea, and...I'm sorry, it's a stupid thought."

"It's not stupid," Astrid said, sniffling.  "But I don't think it'll work."

One corner of Hiccup's mouth edged up into a half-grin, and he turned and put his hand on Toothless's snout.  "I don't know.  I think we have a chance."

A sob worked its way up Astrid's throat, and Hiccup looked at her in alarm.  "Oh gods, I don't know what's wrong with me," she cried, pressing the heels of her hands against her forehead.

Hiccup winced.  "I'm sorry, really.  I didn't mean --"

"No no, it's not -- it's just Ruff.  I, I still feel so...you've gotten better, haven't you?  From us?" she asked.  Hiccup hesitated, then nodded.  "Right.  And Ruff is..."  She trailed off.  "So what's wrong with me?  Why am I the one who, who can't..."  She gave up and buried her face in her hands.

Hiccup shifted towards her and put a consoling hand on her back.  "It's okay to hurt from this kind of thing.  Everyone does."

"No!" she cried.  "This isn't me.  Gods, I'm not this crying little girl.  I just don't feel right, and it's like I don't know how to get back to where I was, and everything I try just makes it worse."

Hiccup paused, then shifted so that he was fully facing her and gently took her by the shoulders.  "Astrid, we all have to find the chinks in our armor somehow," he said.  "How else are we going to get stronger?"

Astrid started sobbing, because 'strong' was the last thing she felt right now.  Then Hiccup was holding her, his arms safe and familiar, murmuring words of comfort in her ear, and she felt so lonely, and so tired, and suddenly she was kissing Hiccup.

He didn't pull away, although he didn't reciprocate either.  She slowly moved back, and he stroked her hair and face, giving her a sad smile.  "Oh gods," she said, horror dawning on top of everything else.  "I'm so sorry."

"It's okay," he said quietly.

"I didn't mean..."

"I know."  He gently cupped her face, and his expression was both affectionate and sympathetic, but it was also devoid of the passion he once held for her.  "Do you want to stay here?"

Astrid hesitated, then nodded.

"Okay," Hiccup said, then helped her to her feet.  It might have been her physical exhaustion finally catching up to her, or the emotional stress, or both, but she felt she could barely walk.  He helped her to the bed, then set about removing his prosthetic and shirt while Astrid removed her boots and extraneous outerwear.  Then he curled up behind her and wrapped his arms around her, and despite herself Astrid feel almost immediately into a deep, dreamless sleep.
It saddens me that some people might read this without reading my other representations of Stoick. Usually he and Hiccup have a very good relationship, really!

I'm unsure about this one. It feels like I'm crossing the line into angst for angst's sake, but that's honestly not my intention. It's less, 'We need some more complications here!' and more, 'Things are changing dramatically, and that has consequences.' I don't actually want to delve into the social aspect too deeply, but I wanted to at least touch on it.

The thing about posting these rather informal pieces of fiction onto the Internet (as opposed to a formal published piece) is that I like to use the opportunity to experiment and explore. What I want to explore with this story is the many emotional issues that come up with love in general, and in loving someone of the same sex specifically, because for obvious reasons that's something that near and dear to my heart, and it's not always easy to do.

This is Astrid's catharsis. It's been simmering just under the surface for a while now, and it had to happen eventually, because you can't move on if you can't move forward. I hope it comes across as that, and not just needless angst.

In other news, I've finished charting out the timeline, and it looks like this thing will have 10 chapters, plus a short epilogue. So we're over halfway there!

Oh, and I was hoping it'd be understood from the context, but Speedi and Buck are a gay couple mentioned in another fic of mine.

Links:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Epilogue

Into the Forest - a Ruffstrid prequel
Add a Comment:
 
:iconthislifesend:
Thislifesend Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
I love how you showed that that the story takes place a few years after the movie, but Hiccup and Stoik still have their differences.
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:iconstmemmerson121:
stmemmerson121 Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2011
I really like this portrayal of the relationship shifting between Stoic and Hiccup, it's much closer to the established HTTYD canon, and, to be honest, it fits his character better to be the stumbling block than to be open minded and happy to help.
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:icongeneralzoi:
generalzoi Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2011
I'm not 100% happy with that story element, so I'm glad it rings true for you.
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:icondying-here:
dying-here Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2010
I completely forgot Hiccup lost his foot!(Or was it more? I couldn't tell...)
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:iconnegativeprotons:
NegativeProtons Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2010
I thought it was impressively thoughtful and presidented. After all, this exact same change or cause & effect -if you will, is currently occuring all over the world today. And the idea of changing the society's view on same-sex relationship really does appeal to me, because there are usually only three stereotypes gay-fic fall prey to, and those things are: Coming out, cheating, and or death. Never has there been a political slant from a 3rd party where his ideas parallel the modern society. A very interesting touch and one I very much appreciate. Also I think Stoick's reaction is a well placed character-development. With the time era and his constant fret with his public image, this is exactly how he would respond. It seemed to me, from the movie, that Stoick doesn't take too kindly to change all that much.

But enough about Stoick, because there are much larger fishes to catch. Such as your amazing development of Hiccup and Astrid's relationship. As a person who did, once upon a time, go through the almost exact same transgression, I must say that the consequences and emotions behind it was exactly the same and accurate. As Astrid felt, I also felt as if I was taking advantage of my ex's kindess, however it turns out he needed me as much as I needed him, as Hiccup mentioned in Ch2. You can live without your gf but you cannot live without your bff.

As for Astrid and Ruffnut's interesting delima, I cannot help but laugh at how cutsy their little jealousy banter is. It is quite amusing to be omniscient to their thoughts, as it is easy to see how oblivious they are to the 'bacon dangling right under their eyes'. I think this is exactly what first love should be like. A bit of confusion but a whole lot of fear and ultimately bravery. With love there is no half-way mark, you either leap into or you hedge along the edges looking off with deep longings (unrequited love lol).
However my favourite aspect between these two is how much they are both affected and yet both emphazing on both ad yet completely the same issues. Ruffnut wants Astrid to drop Hiccup like a rock, because that's what Astrid did to her -or so it seems to her. While Astrid wants Ruffnut to just settle for just her. Ah the wonders of love, all so lovely, no? Lol.

Either case you make an excellent author and a brilliant person for writing such a favourite. Thank you!!!
(and up-date soon? lol)
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:icongeneralzoi:
generalzoi Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2010
Now that's an impressive comment. With this particular story, it wasn't so much I decided I wanted to cover certain things as the scenes just popped into my head, like Hiccup talking about the social and political angle. All the same, I glad I could add a unique take on things.

I like the idea of relationships with lots of layers to it, and the complexity that comes from being attracted to one person but still caring deeply about someone else you're not necessarily attracted to. I really like the scene with Astrid and Hiccup, because I think it illustrates the confusion people can have about their sexuality, but I'm not sure that's something you would understand if you hadn't in some way gone through it yourself.

You've hit upon one of my favorite things. I love it when the reader has insight into each characters' thoughts that the other characters don't have, so you get that contrast between what character A thinks is character B's motivations, and what you know character B's motivations are. I've always enjoyed that when reading.

The story should be finished within a week. There's two more chapters after the last one I posted, and short epilogue. I'm almost done writing them up.
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:iconilikehats:
ilikehats Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2010
I had to take a break to FREAK OUT when you revealed that Stoick was there listening to the conversation. I'll comment again in 5 minutes :P mannnnn don't do that! :D
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:iconilikehats:
ilikehats Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2010
A thumbs up was had by all :)
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:icongeneralzoi:
generalzoi Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2010
I apologize for nothing ;P. Although I do wonder who the "all" you reference is...
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:iconilikehats:
ilikehats Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2010
both of my hands.
I don't have any shipping friends...
that ship HTTYD :D
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:icondoom--kitteh:
Doom--Kitteh Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2010
Aww poor Astrid.

And the angst thing. Totally warranted here. I've seen stuff where the angst came out of no where and it's just all "wtf?" But this is good angst and slightly.. needed? Or it just fits. So there. I'm awesome with words.

rofl

anyhow lookin forward to the next bit :3
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:icongeneralzoi:
generalzoi Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2010
I think in my mind I differentiate between understandable depression/sadness/anger and angst, which has taken on an unflattering connotation.

The next bit is forthcoming. You're lucky, I have absolutely no life right now, so I end up writing a lot of fic.
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:icondoom--kitteh:
Doom--Kitteh Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2010
Yeah, I understand that part especially. True definitions have take na warped sense now adays for many words, lol.

And yay :D moar fic is always awesome
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:iconfortheloveofpizza:
fortheloveofpizza Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2010
I've read some of your previous work with Stoick, and I've enjoyed your interpretation of him all throughout. I think Stoick's reaction in this, even including how they have gotten along before, is very honest and true to what you've set up: he cares for his son, but of course he worries and there are plenty of parents who would have a reaction like that to hearing that kind of conversation between his son and another boy.

Hmm, as for crossing the line into angst for angst's sake, I wouldn't think you have. People go through tough patches and we cry and we bemoan the sadness, but it's not too much angst. Astrid isn't crying all the time or pulling out her hair or cutting herself. This is true, her emotions are traceable throughout the other chapters and leading into this one and it is, as you said, her catharsis. This isn't a sudden and inexplicable cry, it's been welling up in her and Hiccup is just the guy to bring it out, because he's just so gosh darn sweet.

So, in short, not needless at all, great exploration of issues you care about in a believable and, frankly, very moving way. I seriously wanted to just hug Astrid myself.

Yay, ten chapters! And gah! I don't know where this is going to go! I could see the happy ending and I can see a sad ending and I don't know where you're going to take it so I'm so anxious about it all! XD
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:icongeneralzoi:
generalzoi Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2010
Well thank goodness. That's what I was trying to convey: it's hard for the kids, but it can be really hard for the parents too. That doesn't automatically make someone a bad person, it just makes them human.

I'm trying really hard to deal with all the negative emotion without going all "OMG EMO NOW ;_;" As long as the progression of Astrid's emotions makes sense, I'm doing a decent job. I like exploring this really close but non-romantic (impulsive kisses aside) relationship between Hiccup and Astrid.

My beta also said she wanted to hug Astrid in this chapter. Which led to me having a mental image of everyone who's said that dogpiling Astrid at once. It'd be a pretty sizable pile.
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:icontiny-ruffian:
tiny-ruffian Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2010
astrid could have easily sounded very angsty, and so could hiccup here,
but you have kept below the line of angst and stayed with confusion and heavy emotion very well.

im really enjoying this, and i love how cute tuff is being
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:icongeneralzoi:
generalzoi Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2010
See, that's what I was going for. Sad, serious emotion without dipping into angst.

I'm trying to give the twins similar but unique personalities. So Ruff is very sexually aggressive and self-confident, while Tuff is still rather sexual, but more transparent and kind of naive about it.
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