Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III was currently in his school's library, laptop open on the desk in front of him. The teenager swiped uneven bangs out of his face, brows furrowing as he hunched over his laptop. He prided himself on being highly intelligent, bordering on genius status, but even this was tough for him. Biology wasn't much his thing, and reading about complex, multi-gene mutations that caused bizarre defects in skin tone on his favorite Web-Encyclopedia (which was much more reliable than those stuffy teachers made it out to be, especially on scientific subjects) took more concentration than he initially thought. Anything pertaining to Calculus (even multivariable), engineering, robotics, or physics was a piece of cake to him, even the tough stuff (really, he didn't understand why physics was so hard to people! It just made such simple sense! Calc and the rest he got, but physics just seemed to click in his mind.).
Hiccup loathed biology. Sure, he aced the basic class required of him freshman year, and even the AP Bio he took last year as a sophomore, (hey, he was a near-genius. High-school classes, even advanced ones, would never be a problem for him. He longed for college, and nearly salivated over the idea of a class that actually challenged his intellect. In reality, he should have been able to skip more than one grade, possibly even start university this past year, but he'd had to fight his father tooth and nail even to get ahead by one year. His dad was a retired pro football coach, and even now volunteered his time with the high-school team. For the past two years their team had been nigh undefeated. But more on that later.) but never had he delved into anything deeper. And now he wish he hadn't.
But Hiccup was doing this for his new friend, his best friend.
His only friend.
For his entire life, Hiccup had been horribly awkward, both in body and in social situations. He was pale, freckled, and extraordinarily scrawny. He had a mop of dark auburn hair, and a long nose that, although not too big for his face, was rather bulbous on the tip. He was rather short, and could neither gain weight nor muscle to save his life. Both his parents were of a different build. His father, the admired football coach, was a huge man in both height and girth. His mother, or what he could remember of her, wasn't as tall or as wide, but was still a sturdy woman. From pictures, he could see she had toned arms, all to be expected of a girl's club basketball coach, and a former pro tennis player. For all her less-than-modelesque figure, she had a very pretty face, and stunning green eyes.
Eyes that Hiccup inherited from her, and one of the few things he liked about himself.
The fifteen year old was a junior in high school. He was the youngest in the grade by far, due to the fact that he skipped a grade in middle school. This, compounded with his awkwardness and weak appearance, made him a target for bullying. He'd been physically bullied a couple times, but more often than not the worst was the laughter. In class, in hallways, at lunch, there was scarcely a week that past when someone didn't point and laugh at the school freak. More often than even that was the whispers and pointed looks of his peers whenever he answered a particularly hard question or the teacher praised his work.
So it was only natural that he had no friends. His friends from elementary school became estranged when he skipped a grade, thinking he though he was better than them, and his new classmates just sneered at the little upstart. Hiccup therefore developed the defense mechanism of becoming very solitary, as well as very sarcastic when approached by his peers.
But when he saw another person just as lonely as himself...he saw himself, and reached out to the other solitary soul.
Toothless, as Hiccup had nicknamed the other boy, was a loner. Considered a freak by the populace for something entirely out of his control, he developed a reputation of being fearsome, aggressive, and dangerous. There were rumors (entirely false, by the way) that he was a gang leader, or a gang member, or according to some, the right hand man of a drug lord.
Toothless, whose birth name was Theodore, and nicknamed by the other kids as "the Fang" or "the Fury", had a rare birth defect. His skin, when exposed to the sun, turned a dark, dark blue, very nearly black. Indoors, it became white as a cotton sheet. And it was rough, almost scaly in texture. His teeth were slightly more pointed than normal, and his ears had several odd scaly points to each one. He only recently transferred to Berk High, and shortly after seeing the new boy on campus, Hiccup has hesitantly approached him, and over time, befriended him.
Toothless, Hiccup learned, was fiercely loyal and a great friend. The taller, oddly-skinned boy was also intelligent and funny, and for once Hiccup felt acceptance around his new friend. So the near-genius had put his efforts to researching Toothless' condition, seeing if there was anything to be done for his friend's sake.
So far, it was slow going.
Suddenly, the sounds of footsteps reached his ears. Hiccup could tell from the pace of the approach that it wasn't Toothless, who had a very distinct, lanky gait. The person stopped just behind his shoulder. Hiccup hated the feeling of people looking over his shoulder, and his irritation mounted.
"I'm not doing your homework for you. So don't even bother asking."
"I was actually going to ask you for advice," a somewhat deep, but distinctly feminine voice replied, thick with amusement. Hiccup jumped in surprise, and turned his head with wide green eyes.
"Astrid! Hi! Uh, hi, Astrid! Er, sorry, I didn't realize..." he trailed off, twisting around in his chair uncomfortably to look at the girl. She was, and had been, his crush for two years now. They were in the same grade, but to Hiccup she was as distant as the stars. The girl had thick, beautiful blond hair past her shoulders and stunning blue eyes. A small spattering of faint freckles spread across her little nose, and her cheeks and lips were perfectly pink. Hiccup long thought she was perfect smart and socially graceful and an amazing athlete. Oh yeah, athlete. Although not captain, she was named "MVP" of the high school swim team ever since joining as a freshman. She was the fastest swimmer on the team, and was faster even then all the guys. She'd won her races at the high school championship since freshman year, and there were even rumors circulating that she was training for the Olympics. Of course, Hiccup guessed it was just a rumor, due to their high school's knack for rumor-circulating, but one never knew.
"It's alright," she waved his explanation off. Up close, he could see some small imperfections; a scar right underneath her each of her eyebrows, on the outside corner of her eyes, very faint. He could see the marks of a tan she had from her 'goggles', disguised by a sheer layer of makeup. He even saw a scar right in the center of her lower lip, just faintly darker than the pink of her lips.
He tried his best not to think about her lips too much. That would be bad, and he would end up doing something stupid.
"I was actually hoping you could help me," she said, shifting her weight from her heels to the balls of her feet and back again, in what Hiccup guessed was a nervous habit. "It's my computer. I can't get it to start up, and because everyone knows you're the resident computer genius, I figured I would ask you. No one in my family knows enough about computers, and there's an essay due in my English class on Friday, so..." with the hand that wasn't holding her laptop (how had he not noticed that earlier?), she brushed her blond bangs out of her face, biting her lower lip anxiously.
Oh, maybe that was how she got that scar on her lip. From biting it...
No! Bad thoughts!
Hiccup blushed, hoped Astrid wasn't paying enough attention to his face to notice, and cleared his throat nervously.
"Uh," he stopped short as his voice came out an octave higher than normal. He cleared his throat again. "Yeah, yeah, no problem."
Astrid handed him the laptop, and he blushed again as their hands brushed in the exchange. Hoping to distract himself, he popped open the computer, hit the start button, and waited.
The screen lit up briefly, then flashed blue for a split second before returning to a primitive black screen with scrolling white text that spelled out some gibberish about 'proper restart' and 'cognitive function' being hindered. Hiccup frowned, testing a few basic troubleshoots, and Astrid leaned in to watch. He tried not to get distracted by the fact that he could feel her body heat, smell her breath (it was minty, but faintly so, like the scent left by toothpaste after a few hours), and her chin nearly touched his shoulder. Her hair fell over his shoulder, covering the green of his long-sleeved shirt with golden strands. Focus, Hiccup!
It took a minute, but he was able to load her computer, then shut it down and restart it to make sure the problem was taken care of.
With a touch of reluctance, for she would have no more cause to be around him, he handed her back her laptop.
"There, all fixed," he said, a small smile on his face. The girl took it with a much broader grin, her expression positively radiant.
"Oh, thank you! You are a genius! Thank you so, so much. You're a life saver! I was about ready to jump off a cliff if it didn't start working!" she laughed, smiling at him as he never dreamed she would.
"Well, I don't think a computer is really worth suicide," he tried to joke, but was cut off by Astrid when she kissed his cheek.
"Thank you, really," she said when she pulled back. Hiccup watched her walk away, too stunned to move or speak or even blush.
"Oh, and Hiccup?" she paused, turning.
"Yeah?" he croaked out, voice hoarse.
"Don't be afraid to say 'hi' in the halls or in class or whatever. I know I'm not the nicest or most approachable person around...but I wouldn't mind talking to you. Just so you know."
And with that, the girl left completely, leaving Hiccup to watch as her blue-tank-top-and-jeans-clad- figure retreated.
Well, now he really wouldn't get any research done.
He didn't know that he wouldn't have to say 'hi' to Astrid in the halls tomorrow. She would actually start the exchange.