The blonde girl sat at the rickety bar table with her hands folded in her lap. Tilting her head towards the grizzly man who sat opposite her, she posed a seemingly innocuous question. “What do you mean he’s not interested?”

Scratching the back of his head, Viktor sighed. Ever since Nina had shown up in the tavern he began consuming his drinks with vigor. Her obsession-filled ramblings were as irritating as Flik’s during the last war. She reminded him of Flik at times; the two of them seemed driven beyond words to capture the attention of another. It was almost like having the younger version of Blue Lightning around—except for the fact that Nina’s voice was higher and she wore a skirt. “Just what I said. He’s not interested.”

“But why?”

“So many reasons,” the man replied, heaving a belch towards the annoying girl that would have sent most women running.

She raised a piqued brow at him. “Well tell me one!”

“First of all you’re only sixteen.”

Her glare leveled on him. “I’m very mature for my age.”

“No you’re not,” he replied, shaking his head for emphasis.

“I helped Lady Teresa while she was in exile,” Nina tapped her manicured nails on the table impatiently. “Try again, Viktor.”

“Come on,” he snorted. “You’re at least ten years younger than he is.”

“Eleven years, two months and six days,” she supplied with a psychotic perkiness that caused Viktor to set his glass down on the table in shock.

Viktor blinked, trying to force a little of the alcohol induced miasma back just a few steps. “There. To know that is just immature…and crazy.”

Her pink lips formed a perfect pout and the words sliced from her tongue. “I. Am. Not. Crazy.”

The burly man raised his glass. “Yes you are.”

“I am not!” she nearly growled as she leaned closer to him.

“Yes you are,” he teased between sips.

Nina stood up and shrieked in one long, agonizing breath, “I am not crazy! I am not crazy! I am not crazy!”

Viktor coughed as the other patrons in the tavern turned to look at the two of them. “I think I proved that point.”

Her face flushed and she quickly reclaimed her seat. “Okay. So maybe I’m a little immature. But so is he. I made him cookies and he didn’t want to eat them. That’s just rude!”

“Maybe he wasn’t hungry.” Viktor replied flatly, wishing he hadn’t lost that bet on cards to Flik and wishing he hadn’t been drunk enough to wager he’d get the girl off his friend’s case for once and for all.

“Everyone is hungry for cookies.”

Viktor couldn’t argue that point. He had been known to consume an entire platter of cookies in one sitting and nearly beat Georg in the last cheesecake eating contest.

Nina frowned. “You’re hiding something from me, Viktor. And since I bought your last two rounds you should be honest with me.”

The man took a long drink of his ale and looked towards the ceiling. “And what would that be? I’ve told you already: Flik has no romantic interest in you.”

“But I want to know why!” she whined, throwing a few extra syllables onto the last word for an even more galling sound.

Viktor looked down into his mug to plead with the alcohol to numb him just a bit more. The girl’s voice could chase bats from the rafters. “I told you why.”

“You’re lying. Your nose twitches when you lie, Viktor!”

He reached to touch the tip of his nose to see if she was speaking the truth and nearly poked himself in the eye.

“See,” she said. “You’re lying.”

Frowning again he raised the mug to his lips and finished the ale. “Bring me another drink and I’ll tell you a story.”

“It better be a story about Flik,” she said, standing to take the mug to the bar for a refill.

“It will be.”

He could have run away at that point but he chose not to. Despite the annoyance of a girl and her endless inquisition, he promised he would stop this insane infatuation she had with Flik. When she had returned with his drink, he began the tale that made even the sweetest ale taste like vinegar. “Flik and I were in another war—”

“I know that. In Scarlet Moon. Well, now Toran.”

“Do you want to hear the story or not?” he asked, harsher than he had intended.

She folded her hands in her lap and sat prim in the rustic chair. “Sorry. I’ll be quiet.”

“Good,” he took a drink and shook his head, his thick black hair falling into his face. “Before the war started, we were part of the original Liberation Army. Flik fell in love with Odessa, the leader of the Army, but she was killed.”

“How terribly sad!” she said, not sounding at all sympathetic. She tapped her cheek in thought. “Actually, I think I read about that somewhere. But, Viktor, how serious were they? Were they married?”

“I suppose in a way,” Viktor replied, the expression on his face unreadable.

Nina leveled her eyes at him. “You’re either married or you’re not, Viktor.”

“Flik is from—”

“The Warrior’s Village,” Nina supplied.

He slammed the mug on the table, a mouthful or so spilling out of it. “Quit interrupting! Yes. And in that village the men name their blades after their lovers. If you look at his sword, you will see Odessa’s name etched into it.”

“I’ve seen it. I watched him oil it the other day. I think he was talking to it.” She frowned and grabbed Viktor’s drink. “But having a sword doesn’t mean you’re married.”

The swordsman was not amused at her tales of stalking or of her stealing his drink. He reached for the mug as she held it back from him. “Give it, Nina!”

She stood up. “Is he married or not, Viktor?”

“Give it back,” he slurred as he tried to get to his feet to liberate the ale from the girl’s grasp.

“Tell me the truth,” she said, setting the mug down in front of him again. “I don’t want stories of swords and names.”

“In the Warrior’s Village it might. I never asked him.”

Nina reclaimed her seat. “I see, though it doesn’t really matter if he was married or not. He’s upset because she died. But it’s been awhile. He should get over her.”

Viktor glared at the girl through half-hooded eyes clouded with anger and alcohol. “It’s never as easy as you seem to believe.”

“She’s dead. She’s not coming back. What’s not to get over?” Nina asked, her tone rather tame considering her words.

If Viktor had been sober he might have grabbed the girl by the scruff of her neck and shook her like a dead cat. Fortunately that wasn’t the case. Instead, he just belched in her face. “You’re an idiot.”

She smiled so sweetly he half expected to see wings blossom from her back and a halo shine from her head. “I’m a realist.”

“You’re a real pain in the ass, that’s for sure. I’m leaving. Good night, Nina.” He found his feet and unsteadily walked back to his quarters not once looking behind him to see what the girl was doing.

The Next Day…

“You made it worse!” Flik grumbled as he sank into the bath. “The damn girl now thinks she needs to ‘help me with my loss.’ Her words, not mine.”

Viktor slid over to make room for his friend. “I tried, man. I really did.”

“You shouldn’t have told her that anyway,” the ginger-haired man said darkly.

“It’s the truth though,” Viktor replied, leaning his head back over the edge of the tub.

Flik raised a brow at the larger man. “She doesn’t deserve the truth. She just needs to leave me the hell alone!”

Viktor frowned. “I’ll try again tonight.”

Flik nodded and the two of them sat in the lavender scented water for a long time without speaking.

Later, breaking the comfortable silence, Viktor asked, “Does my nose twitch when I lie?”


That Evening…

Viktor had never actually set foot in the library at the castle, but he knew it was where he would find Nina. The stacks of books felt like they were sneering at him as he approached the girl. She smiled ever so sweetly and gestured to the seat opposite her but did not close the book that held her attention. “I’ve talked to Flik. I realize he has some deep-rooted emotional problems and I’m trying to learn more about them to help him.”

“He doesn’t need help,” Viktor said, his teeth clenching as he noted that the spine of the book proclaimed its title as Death and Love: Coping with Loss.

“Yes he does. He can’t go through the rest of his life being a slave to a woman who is dead.” She flipped a page in the open book. “I’ve spent most of the day in here reading about things like this. I’ll be an expert in no time and then I can help Flik!”

Viktor kept his anger in check—barely. “Look, I lied to you the other night.”

“You lied?” she hissed. “You lied about his lost love?”

Viktor shrugged. “So you want the truth?”

Slamming the book shut she glared at him. “Yes.”

“Flik’s not interested in you because… he….plays for the other team.”

“He’s a spy?” she asked, her eyes wide with intrigue. “Spies are romantic!”

“No!” Viktor shouted, glancing around to see if he had offended any of the other patrons or those blasted books.

“I mean…he’s…a little light in his boots.”

Her face twisted in concern. “He’s not eating right?”

“No…umm…uhh…look, he doesn’t like girls.”

She flipped her hair defiantly. “I’m not a girl. I’m a woman.”

“Nina,” he said, exasperated. “Flik is gay!”

“No!” Her face paled. “He can’t be! He can’t be…gay!”

Viktor smirked at her, relishing the look of utter horror on her face. “He’s queerer than General Milich Oppenheimer’s closets!”

But she wasn’t ready to take information without a bit of a fight. She narrowed her eyes at him. “If that’s true then who is his lover?”

Viktor hadn’t been ready for that question. He bit his lip nervously as the list of possibilities cycled through his mind. Camus, no. Everyone knew he and Miklotov were likely more than just comrades in arms. Rikamaru, no. He was a strange fellow and definitely not Flik’s type. Shin, no. Nina knew Shin. Jess, no. Who could take a man in yellow pants seriously? Shu…?

“It’s you!” Nina screeched before he had an answer. “You’re stealing Flik from me!!!”

“No!” Viktor shouted, this time not caring who heard him. “I am not gay!”

She stood up and began to talk the words all running into each other. “But Flik’s always with you and I saw you two go into the bath together and I saw you carry him to his room when he had too much to drink!”

Viktor slammed his head into his hand. His plan had backfired in the worst way. Taking a deep breath, he thought that if Flik didn’t murder him, he might do himself in. “Nina. No.”

By the time he glanced up, she was gone. Little did he know, the rumors that became to be known as “Fliktor” had just begun spreading throughout the castle.

All That Glitters Is Cold 3 Fanfic Competition

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