If - Chapter 16 - harrypanther (2024)

Chapter Text

Sixteen: Unfamiliar Problems.

Gobber had been predictably annoyed that Hiccup had reappeared at the tiny apartment with a wounded dog and he had instantly vetoed keeping the mutt.

"There's nae room!" he pointed out bluntly. "And that mutt will probably die anyway. Ye should hand him intae the council dog wardens..."

"Who will kill him," Hiccup protested. "Look, Gobber-I found him up near Raven Point. There were construction workers tearing up the forest and they had him and they thought it would be fun to set two huge, fierce dogs on him to tear him to pieces and I couldn't leave him..." His voice was thickening and he realised his eyes were burning with tears as well in anger and upset at the thought of the young dog being killed just for amusem*nt. He bit his lip. Just at that moment, he could feel the dog's pain so acutely, Alone, rejected, cast out...Hiccup saw himself in the wounded young animal and he blinked. He turned away and crouched by the dog, who was curled up on his blanket.

"Hiccup-this is a one bed apartment and we're too crowded here already..." Gobber tried to explain but Hiccup's hand fondled the ears. Breathing hard, the young dog pricked its ears and whimpered, nuzzling against his hand.

"If you throw him out, I'll go as well," Hiccup said stubbornly, staring into the dog's pained eyes. "He trusts me-and I promised I would look after him." Gobber sighed and rubbed his forehead.

"Laddie-why on Midgard would yer promise something that yer could never deliver? Yer have nowhere-not even a room tae call yer own..." he pointed out and Hiccup looked up sharply, his eyes shining.

"Thank you for summing that up," he said bitterly. "Yeah, I forgot I don't have a home, any money, any family or friends or basically anything. I just wanted to save this one being from being killed because if I just crouched there and watched...well, I would be as bad as they were. He was all alone and I can understand that because I am." He hefted the dog in his arms. "I'll get my things, Gobber, I'm sure I can find somewhere to stay..." Gobber was on his feet in a second, grabbing Hiccup's shoulder and jerking him round to face him.

"Laddie..." he began, seeing Hiccup's stubborn face-but reading the desolation in his eyes. "Look-if anyone from family services comes round, they'll tek yer away. You understand that?" He nodded mutely. "Ye can keep him-but he's yer responsibility. I canna afford tae pay fer a dog as well..." Hiccup chewed his lip and nodded. He hugged the dog to his chest and nuzzled his neck.

"You hear that, bud? You can stay?" The dog whined as Hiccup gently laid him down by the couch. "Don't worry, bud-I'll go out and find you some food." He looked up at Gobber. "You won't regret it," he said and Gobber sighed and slumped onto the sagging couch.

"Hmph. As long as yer mutt doesnae bite me, I'll be happy," he grumbled as the dog gave a small whine. "Yeah...I agree," he added as Hiccup rose and headed to the door.

"I'll be back soon," he said. "I'll walk to Sven's Mart." Peering at the crack in the curtains-which showed it was raining, Gobber sighed.

"Wrap up warm," he advised and Hiccup grinned.

"Yes, Mommy," he smirked and headed out the door.

He returned half an hour later, frozen, wet and weighed down with supplies that he had collected from the cheapest possible places he could find. Shivering hard, he stripped off his sodden jacket and soaked boots and then swiped his soaked hair off his face. The dog was much the same but looked up as the boy knelt down. He had bought a simple collar as well as two bowls, a dog bed and a large bag of dog food.

"H-hey, b-bud," he managed, his teeth chattering as he got out the antiseptic he had bought. "I'm b-back." Shivering, he carefully cleaned the dog's wounds and gave him a small bowl of biscuits but the dog only managed a couple of bites before he lay down and closed his eyes. Gobber sighed.

"Get in the shower, laddie," he ordered the boy. "Yer frozen." He nodded. "I'll watch him," he added. Hiccup nodded and got achingly to his feet.

"Thanks," he murmured and rose. "I really am very grateful..." Then he trudged into the shower, shedding sodden clothes and allowing the water to warm him up. Finally, warmer, he emerged and dried off, then wandered back in his pyjamas, settling on the couch by Gobber who had cracked open a beer. They clicked the TV on and Gobber found some football to watch while Hiccup paused and then went to the kitchenette. It had taken him precisely one meal to realise he was already a better cook than Gobber, who could only make one dish. And much as Hiccup enjoyed yak noodle soup, after the third time, he was not wanting to ever see another noodle so he had taken over cooking duties, though he was still working his way through the food he had rescued from his home before he was thrown out.

Calmly, he defrosted a pizza, shook out some fries and threw to the lot in the oven, then found some left over salad and managed to throw something together. His father had taught him to cook, though he had paid limited attention because he considered it beneath him. He sighed, tossing the salad: it was another opportunity to bond with his Dad he had wasted and would have given anything to have again. He sighed and retrieved the pizzas and fries, dishing up the food and taking the plates to the living area. Gobber peered at the salad with a jaundiced eye.

"Where's meh ketchup, laddie? Yer know I dinnae hold with this green stuff..." he grumbled as he attacked the pizza. Sighing and shaking his head, Hiccup scrambled up and went to fetch the ketchup and a glass of water for himself. Gobber slathered the red sauce all over his fries and pointedly pushed the salad aide while Hiccup dutifully ate his-and Gobber's when it was obvious Gobber would just throw it away. Then Gobber clouted the lad across the shoulder. "Good job, laddie," he said in satisfaction and Hiccup let out a relieved breath that he hadn't realised he was holding. It meant more to him than he understood for Gobber to be happy with what he produced-because Hiccup could bring very little to the arrangement. And worse, he had brought another mouth to feed in.

As Gobber sat back, cracked another beer and started to comment on the game, Hiccup sat back and sipped his water. The fact was that he was almost broke-he had spent a lot of his limited savings on the credit card bill he had racked up before he had realised he wouldn't be inheriting anything, paying for pizzas for his far richer friends, getting a new suit for the funeral, generally frittering money away as he always had done. And now he had barely enough to buy gas for the car and nothing left to sort out the damage.

"Someone scratched my car today," he murmured quietly during a lull in the game and Gobber eyed him.

"Oh?" he said.

"Keyed it. Full length," Hiccup sighed. He stared at the advertisem*nts on the TV for a moment. Then he sighed. "If I help out in the garage, will you show me how to respray it?" he asked softly. "I can't ask you to do it because I can't afford it. But I want to learn because it's the only way it will get done..." Gobber stared at him and then he smiled.

"I'll show yer lad-and we'll do it together," he said warmly. "I'll need yer tae pay fer the paint though..." And Hiccup sagged in defeat, knowing how much that would cost. He nodded.

"Then there's only one option," he murmured. "I'll have to get a job."


He spent a restless night on the couch, his throat sore and a cough hurting his chest. The dog whimpered on and off during the night and as he tossed and turned on his uncomfortable and sagging bed, Hiccup trailed his hand reassuring over the mutt's head, trying to reassure the canine that he was safe. He felt the dog press into his touch and felt a flicker of relief before another bout of coughing shook him. But as the dog changed position slightly and the horrible wound on his throat came into view, Hiccup was determined not to regret a thing. He had saved a life and gained a friend: a cough was a small price to pay.

By morning, he was feverish and coughing hard but he forced himself up, had a hot shower to try to clear his chest and then shoved some toast down his throat. He wore an extra sweater under his hoodie to stop him shivering but the dog was a little brighter and struggled to his feet to lick his new friend-then stole Hiccup's warm space on the couch. Gobber rolled his eyes but the dog limped to him and solemnly licked his hand as well so once Hiccup had taken him out before he left for school and put some paper down, the two limbed man had sat beside him and offered him a strip of bacon.

"Okay-he's not too bad," he commented as Hiccup smiled, pulled his hood up and zipped up his coat then headed out. His car was still keyed and his head was muzzy but he forced down some aspirin and headed in to school.

A foot hooked his legs and he stumbled and slammed into a locker, his vision greying with the loud metallic clang as his head hit the door. Taken by surprise and stunned, he lay still for a long time as Thuggory and Eret roared with laughter at his 'clumsiness' until Principal Wing walked through and the hall silenced. She stared at the laughing boys.

"What is so amusing that another student has fallen and injured himself?" she asked icily and the gang dispersed rapidly, leaving Hiccup isolated, grimacing as he slowly levered himself up. He glanced up and then clambered to his feet as she leaned close to him. "Hiccup-your head in bleeding," she said quietly. "I'm taking you to Mother Gothi." Wearily, he shook his head.

"I'll be fine, Ma'am..." he tried as another bout of coughing shook him. Instantly, she grasped his arm and as he was gasping, she steered him along to the nurse's office where Mother Gothi was waiting. The woman looked up at him in surprise, her squint raking his shape. Then she rose. She was a tiny woman, probably over seventy with grey hair in a long thin braid, a dowager's hump and a very determined expression. She never spoke and was supposed to be a retired Nun, a Bride of Odin and it was rumoured she took a vow of silence when she swore herself to a religious life. She pointed to the couch and Hiccup warily sat on the edge.

"I'm sure I'm fine," he protested as she clambered on a small set of steps and dabbed the cut on his forehead. Then she frowned and rested a cool head on his hot forehead, before fishing a thermometer out of her drawer and getting him to open his mouth so she could take her temperature. Her eyes widened in shock. She scribbled a few words on her pad and handed it to the Principal, who had stayed, watching the scene thoughtfully.

"She says your temperature is 103 and you are to be sent home immediately," she read. "You need to see a doctor as well..." He shook his head.

"Please-can't I just sit at the back?" he asked desperately.

"Is there no one at home?" the Principal asked astutely and he blushed and opened his mouth to lie...and then paused. He shook his head.

"My uncle works," he admitted. "And the health insurance was in dad's name so...well, no longer working. I can't afford a doctor, Ma'am. If I have some aspirin, I'll be fine..." The Principal and the nurse shared a look and then Mala Wing nodded.

"See how you do during the morning, Hiccup," she said thoughtfully. "But if you aren't well, you will be sent home." He nodded in defeat.

"Thank you, Ma'am..." he began and his words deteriorated into a severe bout of coughing. "I won't cause any trouble..." The Principal gave a small smile.

"You may not try...but trouble seems to follow you," she commented with the thinnest smile. "Off to class. Inform Mr Larson you have been with Mother Gothi on my instructions." Nodding in thanks, he pressed a hand to his chest and coughed, then left the room. Mala Wing stared after him. "Watch out for him, Gothi. I want to know if he ends up here again." The old woman nodded and scrubbed a couple of words on her pad.



Slipping into the back of English, Hiccup mumbled his apologies and opened his book at the correct page to stare at the words without being able to focus his mind. The room felt cold and he huddled down, forcing himself to read the stanza.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

He blinked: the words were blurring but he scrawled down he rest of the poem and noted the questions he was to answer. He coughed again and his chest hurt but he ignored any queries or snide comments and pushed on through the rest of his lessons until lunch.

Without money for lunch or the appetite for any, Hiccup got a coffee and headed to the library, wearily settling by a computer and searching for jobs. The local job-board had a multiplicity of jobs but all were full time or required more skills than he could offer-and most wanted experience. He rested his hot head on the table and sighed, closing his eyes because the light was hurting his eyes.

He jerked awake, frowning as he raised his pounding head and automatically checked his watch: then he jerked upright and stared in horror: it was 3pm. School was over and he had missed the afternoon lessons. Grabbing his bag, he raced down he stares and to his locker, dipping his head and speeding for the door-before and hand grabbed him and slammed him back against the lockers. He groaned as Eret and Thug sneered at him and he coughed hard.

"Where have you been, loser?" Eret sneered. Hiccup's feverish eyes flicked up and he managed a small smile.

"I was in the library," he managed roughly. "You remember? Big room, full of books, anathema to brainless jocks..." They slammed him back against the locker again and he gave a little smile. "You know Principal Wing isn't happy about this morning. In fact, if I turn up with any more bruises, she has asked to be personally informed."

"He's bluffing," Thuggery sneered, drawing back his fist.

"You wanna bet your scholarship on it?" he asked wryly. "The Principal doesn't care how big Daddy's bank balance is: if you break the rules, you'll be suspended. Want to risk that?" The two boys shared a look and then shoved him back, watching him stagger and almost fall.

"Stay out of our way, loser!" Eret sneered.

"Hey-you grabbed me!" Hiccup protested. "And we shared classes-so unless you want to skip lessons, we can't." And then he coughed deliberately over then. "Enjoy the cold!" Looking shocked, they backed away and headed off to the bathrooms as He tumbled out into the cold afternoon, barely making it to his car before coughing overtook him. He could hardly breathe as he stared the engine.

The drive home passed in a haze as he struggled to breathe and coughing almost caused him to crash twice. He had never been so relieved as when he pulled up outside Gobber's apartment and locked the car then stumbled in. The man was still at work but the dog was there and he managed a weary smile, seeing the newspaper in need of changing. He dumped his bag and dutifully took the paper down to the bins outside, the struggled back up to the small apartment. The mutt seemed brighter, his tail wagging and eyes brighter as he waited for his new master and though he was feeling truly dreadful, Hiccup gratefully smiled at the welcome, fussing the dog even though he was shivering with fever. He shook his head and frowned. He couldn't afford to be ill: this was just a cold and he just needed another aspirin and maybe a warm drink...

But his head was spinning and he had barely finished putting out fresh water and more biscuits for the dog than the strains of the day overcame him and everything went black.

If - Chapter 16 - harrypanther (2024)


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