Astrid groaned and turned over in her bed.
Knock knock knockknockknock
Her eyes flew open. Oh no! What time was it? She was going on her date flying with Hiccup today! Astrid leapt out of bed, threw her outerwear on and braided her hair, fingers flying. “Coming!” she shouted. Grabbing her hood, Astrid whistled for Stormfly, then yanked open the door. Hiccup, who had been leaning on said door, tumbled backward and fell flat on his back across her entry rug.
“Well that’s one way to greet me, milady,” smiled Hiccup good-naturedly, getting up from his position lying on the floor.
“Oh gods I’m sorry!” Astrid managed. She thought she might have cracked a rib from trying not to bust up laughing.
Hiccup scrambled to his feet. “No problem!” Spotting Stormfly peering around the door, he added, “I thought we could both ride on Toothless?”
Ten minutes later, they were on their way to… wherever they were headed. Hiccup had a determined expression on his face, usually the expression that preceded a foolhardy and brave move on his part. “First I want to show you something, then I’ll tell you what’s been going on, and why I’ve been gone. I guess this isn’t exactly a date, but…” Hiccup trailed off.
Soon they were swooping along a wall of cliffs. “Hold on!” Hiccup warned, just in time as they fell into a steep dive. It seemed like they were going to hit the ground.
“Hiiiiiiiicccccuuuuupppp!” Astrid screamed, squeezing her eyes shut. This was the end. Then they shot into a narrow ravine in the ground. She wouldn’t have noticed it in a million years, and the part of her that wasn’t recovering from panic wondered idly how Hiccup and Toothless had found the ravine. Toothless swooped towards the floor of the ravine, and landed. This part had a slight overhang. It was also freezing. Astrid doubted that sunlight ever reached down here. “Hiccup, mind explaining yourself? Where are we?”
Hopping off Toothless, Hiccup spread his arms and said, “This is where I was during the storm.”
Astrid saw the overhang in a new light. “But didn’t you get hungry? Toothless couldn’t have gotten out of here, the wind was too strong.”
“Huh?” said Astrid, confused.
“I didn’t. Eat. Or drink, or do anything. I was unconscious, or in a coma or something, in this cave for three days, and Toothless never left to get anything because I’m pretty sure I would have frozen to death if he had.”
Hiccup hopped back on the saddle. “It’ll all make sense in a bit. Let’s go somewhere more enjoyable. I mean, unless you like dark, cold caves. Which is fine, if you do, no worries, we can stay here! And…I’ll shut up now.”
They flew to the cove. After the three of them landed, Hiccup pulled a basket of food out of nowhere. “Do you want to sit down?” He scratched his head, “There’s grass, rocks, uh I guess that’s it.”
Astrid sat down and pulled a sandwich out of the bag. Holding it delicately, she said, “I uh, didn’t know your mother could bake!”
Hiccup waved his hand, “I go them from Gobber. He’s surprisingly adept at making- it’s not important.” He sat on a rock across from her. Astrid had never seen her boyfriend so fidgety in her life. She started in on the sandwich.
“So…Toothless has been sick. He appeared to come down with it right after I got back. He’s had uncontrolled fire, slept a ton and barely eaten.” In response to a worried glance from Astrid, he rushed, “but he’s fine now! I don’t think it’s a big deal, I talked to my mom about it. It was a dragon cold or something.”
“Okay, so your dragon has been sick. That explains why you’ve been gone so much; if Stormfly were sick, I’d drop everything to take care of her! But that doesn’t explain everything.” Astrid commented puzzeledly.
Hiccup looked uncomfortable. “Yeah so you know how people can catch a disease from someone before they show any symptoms?”
“Well I apparently caught Toothless’s cold.”
“That shouldn’t be possible! You’re a Viking and he’s a dragon.” Astrid felt like she was stating the obvious.
“Exactly. I don’t know how it happened. It might have something to do with the fact I’ve been with Toothless more than regular people since I was fourteen.” Hiccup looked sheepish. “I must have caught it when we were stuck in that cave. Toothless kept me warm by wrapping me against his body with his wings, plenty of time for me to catch his cold.” Hiccup appeared to be reaching his point, as he had been getting increasingly quiet. “And yeah, it shouldn’t be possible, and…I don’t think people really react very well to dragon diseases.” He finished at nearly a whisper, worry evident in his eyes. He began unbuckling his armor, first the arms, then the rest, and slid it off until he was just in his tunic and pants. Toothless, who had previously been attempting to catch fish in the water, stalked over, almost like he was protecting Hiccup. He lay down curled around the Viking. “Thanks, bud,” Hiccup mumbled. “Okay, now don’t…freak out.”
Hiccup started pulling off his shirt. Astrid’s jaw dropped. “If this is you trying to- trying to seduce me, it’s not working, Hiccup! Gods, you scared me half to death!”
“Mmhhh mmmt nnrrryyng thhhhm mmhmmmmhh mmmh!” came Hiccup’s voice as he struggled to take the shirt off. He was stuck. “Hmmmhh mmmhhhh!”
Laughing, Astrid tugged his shirt off, turning it completely inside out in the process. “Really, Hiccup.” She tossed the shirt on the ground and reached to lace her fingers around his neck. She touched- she yanked her hands back in a flash. “Hiccup, there is something on your neck,” she hissed.
Sighing, Hiccup slowly turned around. Along one shoulder and up the back of his neck, instead of skin, there was an uneven patch of black. It almost looked like…
“Dragon skin. Or something like it, I don’t know. Like I said, I don’t think this is supposed to happen,” Hiccup bit out. “So I don’t have something on the back of my neck, haha ha ha haaaaaa okay I’m done.”
Astrid ran her fingers over his neck. Hiccup shivered. “It doesn’t seem to be spreading. I got a really bad scrape on the way into that ravine; the entrance is really narrow. I guess my body got confused, because that’s exactly the area it was. Then it was all red and blister-y, then I thought it was a scab or something, but no. It had to be weird dragon skin.” Hiccup remarked, turning his head to gauge her reaction. Astrid was still kneeling behind him, eyes wide and fingers still touching his back. She didn’t know how she was supposed to react to this revelation. It wasn’t exactly a normal situation.
Hiccup suddenly grabbed his tunic and quickly shoved it over his head. Standing up and turning to face her, he said, “So that’s what’s been going on.” He awkwardly shrugged his shoulders, “And if that’s too weird I can take you home now, gods it’s too weird isn’t it,” Hiccup was rushing, “or if you’re okay, that’s the weirdest bit, but there’s more.” He ran around Astrid, scooping up his armor in his arms. “Other…” he sniffed, “side effects.”
“Hiccup, sit down. I’m not about to go running for the hills,” Astrid remarked, rolling her eyes.
“Okay. Well then.” Hiccup sat down. “I’m also constantly running a temperature. Like, a ridiculously high one. Let me show you.” He searched around, picking up a dead leaf. Holding it close to his mouth, he blew, as if he were fogging up a pane of glass. A thin wisp of smoke rose from the edge of the leaf for a second, then dissipated. Hiccup appeared slightly frustrated. “Huh. Well I can usually get it to ignite, let me try again-“
Astrid swatted his hand away from his face. “Hiccup, you don’t need to light a leaf on fire, I believe you!”
“Oh! No it was just interesting, let me make a note of that, hang on!” Hiccup pulled out his notebook and scribbled something down. “Okay, anyway, the last thing…” he sniffed, shrugged his shoulders, looked as nervous as possible, “it’s the strangest.”