Author's Notes: Not mine, I don't claim the characters or anything from Suikoden, they belong to...Konami, I think. The story's mine, though. I'm not making a profit off of this...
And yes, I did rip the title off of a Duran Duran song. That belongs to them, not me.
I Don't Want Your Love
Clouds hung low and dreary during the latter part of the year in Toran, causing icy rain to fall in sheets and sometimes to snow.
Flik awoke in the middle of the night during one such winter storm. Freezing rain beat against the windows as the wooden shutters outside slammed loudly into the house. The fire had all but died in the fireplace; only glowing embers remained. He was freezing despite the several heavy blankets he had piled on top of him.
He had lost some weight since the fall of the Scarlet Moon Empire 2 months before. Flik was still recovering from a wound he received while escaping from the crumbling castle. He'd gone down fighting enemy soldiers and when he regained consciousness, he was in a small clean room in an inn somewhere.
Since then, Flik had spent much of his time recovering from his injury, but about two weeks ago he'd managed to leave the inn for a small, uninhabited cabin he's found. Flik had thought about returning to Toran Castle, but had rejected the idea after hearing of McDohl's desertion. Flik decided that neither he nor the boy was cut out for life as a statesman.
The outcome of the war had left many loose ends. Unsure of his allies' fates, he could only hope for the best. Flik was concerned for the Young Master, but also for his comrade Viktor, who had fallen in battle when the Gregminster castle had been falling all around them. He had never seen his party leave the castle--he hoped they were all right.
Flik watched his breath fan out before him in the darkness of the small room. He dreaded leaving the warm cocoon of his blankets to rekindle the fire. The simple stone floor of the cabin was ice under his feet. He didn't suppose he'd ever get used to the colder northern temperatures of Toran.
He grimaced as he thought of the Warrior's Village, where he grew up. Ironically, he was still on his journey of manhood--a silly ritual where a boy leaves the village around their nineteenth of twentieth birthday to make a man out of himself. When Flik had left five years ago with Odessa, he never had any intention of returning. He hadn't liked how the town was set up--too steeped in tradition and ritual--and, having no real familial ties to the place; Flik was an orphan; he'd left without a backwards glance.
Flik sighed. He may not have liked the place, but right now he couldn't help but wish for one of its balmy winters. He curled himself up into a tighter ball and winced as the action pulled at a long gash on his back. He shoved his hands between his legs to keep them warm and burrowed further under his blankets, praying for a freak heat wave as he drifted off to sleep.
The next morning sunlight was caught and refracted in the frost-covered windowpanes. Flik wrapped himself in a blanket as he walked about the cabin. He ate stale bread as he kindled the fire in the main room's hearth.
The end of the war had left Flik with a small fortune and lost of time. He didn't have to work to eat. It was a fortunate set-up, as he was not up to pulling hard labor and women's work for a warrior like him was more than a little ridiculous, not to mention demeaning.
As it was, Flik bought food in the town about a mile away whenever he found the need for it. Between the infrequent visits and sitting at home for the past two weeks, Flik was more than a little bored.
As he was pulling on clothes from the trunk that had been abandoned along with the cabin, Flik's eyes lingered on the Odessa, his sword, propped against the headboard of the bed. On impulse, he strapped the sword to the belt that hung low on his hips.
The plains of the country were over-run with animals and other creatures. Flik drifted aimlessly over the muddy fields, waiting for a group of aggressive cut-rabbits or furfurs to approach him. Luckily for him, unluckily for the creatures, he didn't have to wait long.
Three dozen furfurs later found Flik a little winded. He slumped against a nearby stone and tried to catch his breath before he started home. He was startled when a deep baritone voice called out behind him.
"Don't tell me that Blue Lightening Flik--who defeated the Golden Hydra of Emperor Barbarosa, is tired after fighting a bunch of bunnies?"
"Viktor!" Flik shouted as the man approached him. "I'm glad to see you're alive, even if you are a bastard." Flik extended his hand for the larger man to clasp, but was pulled into a bear hug instead.
"Glad to see you're all right, too." Viktor laughed and released him.
"Where'd you come from?" Flik asked. "I thought after Gregminster fell you..."
Viktor placed a confident hand on his hip. "I plan on sticking around for a while longer yet." He took a moment to survey Flik's work. "But from the look of things, you won't be." Viktor laughed again. Flik cast a dark glare at him.
"Alright, alright. I'm sorry. What happened to you, anyway?" Viktor asked.
"After you left the party, a group of soldiers attacked us. I was caught in a volley of arrows. But what about you? We all saw you get hit." Flik said.
"It was only a scratch. I didn't suffer from it has much as you did for yours, apparently. But listen, I have to go, if I'm to make Lenankamp by dark. It's been nice seeing you." Viktor hefted his pack from where he had dropped it on the ground. An idea occurred to Flik.
"Why don't you stay at my house for a while? My house is just over that ridge there." He pointed to emphasize his point.
Viktor looked taken aback. "Such an offer from you? How can I turn it down?" He said with a smirk.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Flik asked, eyeing Viktor dangerously.
"Oh, nothing. You're just not the world's most compassionate man, is all." Viktor said.
"Not to bumbling idiots like you, I'm not." Flik replied. He started to pick up his things and trudge off. Before Viktor could follow him, Flik turned his head and said, "I really did miss you, you know."
The walk back to Flik's house was not a long one. However, both men were weary from their respective day’s excursions. With an air of exhaustion, Flik rested in the single chair by the fire while Viktor sprawled out on the floor.
"Nice set up you got here." Viktor commented, glancing about the room. "Who does your housekeeping?"
"Me. I live here alone." Flik said. Viktor nodded.
"I bet you cook, too." He said. When Flik replied affirmatively, Viktor chuckled softly. "You'll make someone a good wife one day."
Flik just glared hatefully at him from his chair. Viktor decided to change the subject.
"How long have you had this place, anyway?" He asked.
"A week or two," Flik replied. "I was holed up in a village not far from here the rest of the time. It took me a while to get back on my feet."
"I guess. After I heard about McDohl, I decided not to return to the Toran Republic. After all, what need is there for guys like us?" Viktor replied. Flik nodded in his agreement. It was silent for a few moments while the two men were lost in thought.
"What did you think of McDohl?" Viktor asked, after a while.
"About his desertion, or about him as a man?" Flik asked in return.
"Either, both." Viktor said.
"He wasn't really ready from any of it, was he? He was still just a kid. In a way, I feel sorry for him. It had to be rough, what with his father and all. I can't really say I blame him for leaving. I would have done the same thing, and I'm twenty-five. It's better left in Lepant's hands, anyway. He's more capable for the job." Flik said.
"Hm. I don't think any of us in Odessa's original resistance movement really knew what we were getting into. Even now our goals seemed unrealistic. It was only through McDohl acting as the head of the army that Toran was able to achieve so much..." He paused and looked away. "Sorry, Flik...Odessa was..."
Flik sighed. "No, you're right. Odessa was a natural leader, but she didn't have what McDohl had. She was too idealistic. The only way for Odessa's goals to be fulfilled was for him to be the leader. It could not have worked any other way." He said.
"You seem older, Flik." Viktor said, looking up at him from the floor.
"We all grew up a little during the war." He replied. "It's whom we grow up into that counts."
"I suppose. That's awful deep of you, Flik. Lighten up a bit. Say, did I ever tell you about the time Gremio walked in on Alen and Grenseal?" Viktor asked.
"I guess I didn't."
They talked well into the night, trading stories and remembering better times. The conversation finally ran out sometime after midnight.
"So, where will I be sleeping?" Viktor asked.
"Are you so uncomfortable now?" Flik replied.
"As lovely as you hard-packed stone floor is..." Viktor trailed off, looking balefully up at Flik.
"Fine, you can use my bed, but keep to yourself. I don't want to wake up to you all over me." Flik said, recalling one of Viktor's more annoying habits of moving around in his sleep. Viktor grinned.
As they were getting ready for bed, Viktor could not help but notice Flik's still-healing wounds and frail-looking body. He'd lost a lot of weigh. Viktor quickly turned around before Flik could catch him studying his lean body.
Although it took awhile to admit, Viktor had been attracted to Flik almost since he had joined the Resistance Movement. Their friendship had gotten off to a rocky start, mainly due to Flik's spikiness and Viktor's uncertainty, but it remained fairly strong as they got to know each other better. It wasn't something Viktor would throw away so easily. However, he certainly wasn't going to pass up an opportunity when it was presented to him. Because, who knows, maybe Flik wasn't as disgustingly heterosexual as his seemed. Viktor prided himself on being an optimist.
Viktor let out a long mental sigh when Flik rolled as far away from him as the bed would allow. Oh well, another day, perhaps. For now, he was just content to have talked to the man again. He marveled over how much he had missed Flik's companionship.
The last time he saw him, Gregminster Palace had been falling down around them. After fighting the small troop so the others could escape, he had found Flik in horrible shape. It had been he who had placed him in the care of the small village. After seeing to it that he was safe and would live, Viktor had left to see about Toran. Obviously Flik carried no memory of this event, not that it mattered. But still, Viktor wondered if Flik had ever thought about how he'd gotten there.
Call it what you will--Viktor called it cowardice--he didn't want Flik to feel indebted to him in any way. Something about the idea didn't sit well with Viktor. It was better left unsaid--a secret left hanging between them.
He sighed softly again, and was shocked to hear the sound returned from the other man on the opposite side of the bed. Flik's back was to him, shrouded in several blankets. Maybe he should just get some sleep and try not to think of the beautiful creature lying next to him. No, Viktor thought, some things can never belong to me, but half the fun is trying.
Flik awoke to a sound not unlike the sound of a small beast trying to eat another. He rolled over and found only Viktor, sleeping away. Having been woken up in this fashion for the past three days, Flik was understandably in a less than pleasant mood. Viktor's breath caught as he slept, causing him to make an atrocious noise and roll even closer. His legs tangled with Flik's own and one heavy arm came to rest on Flik's chest. He glared at the sleeping man's now still form. This was not new, either. Of all the people to be a cuddler, it had to be someone has large as Viktor.
Flik groaned softly as he rose from bed. A muscle in his back spasmed and screamed in pain. He gritted his teeth against the sudden pain.
"You're pushing yourself too far and too fast, you know that?" Viktor's sleep-roughened voice said from the other side of the bed.
"Yeah?" Flik asked, throwing a pained look over his shoulder. Viktor frowned when he saw it. "I didn't ask you for your advice, Viktor." He rose off the bed. Viktor averted his eyes when he began to dress.
"When did you get so touchy?" He asked. There was no reply, only the door slamming. Viktor stretched out in the bed and glared at the ceiling before finally starting on his daily routine.
Flik hissed as the axe he was holding rubbed painfully against a newly formed blister. For the past half-hour he'd been chopping firewood and at the same time taking care of some frustrations he really shouldn't be having. Viktor's almost constant presence during the past few days had put a strain on him he hadn't been aware of. The man was always there with some sarcastic or biting remark, but it was even worse when he tried to help him do things he was fully capable of handling. He even had the audacity to...
Flik forced himself to take a deep breath. It was just Viktor's way, he reminded himself, to try to take care of people. Hadn't he seen that often enough during the war? But when he looked at Flik as though he was some sort of invalid...No! Flik wasn't weak, no matter what anyone said. Or thought. He raised the axe high over his head. Flik uttered a surprised cry when it was removed from his hands and he was sent toppling backwards into someone's arms.
"Let me take care of this," Viktor said, whispering almost directly in Flik's ear and recovering the axe at the same time. A small shiver went through him before he replied.
"No!" He cleared his throat before continuing, "No, I'll finish here." Flik said. Viktor just looked at him and blinked, and carefully removed Flik's hands from the axe.
"I made breakfast. Once you eat, you can finish." Viktor said.
Flik was growling as he stormed back into the small cabin. That was another thing Viktor had been doing since he got here. If Flik didn't know any better, he'd say Viktor was trying to seduce him...
Flik stopped and thought of Viktor a moment. And rapidly shook his head to clear the thoughts. He didn't want to think it was possible.
At very least, Viktor had no personal space barriers. Just the way he was always so close was unnerving to Flik. And certainly, he shouldn't be getting a reaction at all. After all, he had Odessa...
Odessa was dead.
But Viktor was too much. He had to ask him to leave. He didn't want...He didn't want...
He didn't want what?
Flik turned around. Viktor had continued chopping wood, but he removed his shirt before doing so. The early morning sunlight streamed lightly through the few leafy trees, causing random patches of light to shine on Viktor's already glistening body.
It was like something out of a romance novel, Flik thought wryly, smirking to himself. And wasn't a bit cold to be doing that half-naked? Then he remembered that Viktor had grown up in a colder environment than he, somewhere in Jowston.
But still...he supposed Viktor wasn't bad to look at. He was good looking in his own way, not handsome like Alen, or pretty like Gremio, or even cute like Futch, but he certainly had something. A very rough something. No. He thought firmly. Remember Odessa. What would she think of all of this? Somewhere in the back of his mind, he realized that it didn't matter.
Viktor's breakfast was good, surprisingly. He was glad Flik had at least eaten before he locked himself in his room. He swore the man was as hard to figure out as a woman was sometimes. Viktor winced as he thought of the consequences if Flik had heard that thought.
Well, no matter. Flik was certainly no mind reader. And if Viktor actually sat and thought reasonably, the motives for Flik's actions were fairly apparent. He obviously had some issues over his own strength. It was plain to see he didn't think much of his abilities as a warrior, even though he helped take down the Scarlet Moon Empire. Sitting by the hearth in Flik's chair, Viktor sipped at a cup of coffee. He gasped when Flik emerged from his room and scared him, sending the scalding liquid flying over his hand. Heedless of the bigger man's pain, Flik spoke.
"How much longer are you planning on staying here with me, Viktor?" An unreadable emotion passed over Flik's face.
Of all the things for him to say, Viktor was expecting this one the least. It hadn't occurred to him that Flik would kick him out. To be perfectly honest, he didn't think Flik had a strong enough backbone at the moment to try.
"I see. Do you want me to go then?" Viktor watched as a pained expression took hold of Flik.
"I--don't--" Flik took a deep breath. "Maybe it would be for the best. After all, shouldn't you be getting on with your journey?" Of all the 108 stars, why? Why him? Slowly, he raised his eyes from where they were fixed on the floor to meet Viktor's.
But Viktor was moving quickly to his side of the room. He took Flik's hand and grasped his chin tightly in the other, forcing his head to tilt and their eyes to meet.
Sometimes, Viktor thought, it was best just to unleash a frontal assault, and forget subtlety completely. Especially in matters such as this.
"I want to respect your wishes, Flik, but I don't think you know what they really are. So I'll ask you again. Do you really want me to go?"
Flik's eyes widened, the normally cerulean blue irises turned a deep violet. Viktor lowered his head until their foreheads were almost touching. His voice was only a rough whisper when he said, "I want only to make you happy. Should I leave?"
As their eyes met, Flik realized something, and it crushed him. He wouldn't be happy if Viktor left. It wasn't supposed to be so...he...he...needed him to be here.
"I--Don't leave me. Please don't go."
It was all the invitation Viktor needed. He pulled Flik into a rough embrace. "I won't. Not now." Viktor murmured into Flik's hair. One sword calloused hand reached up and clutched at the fabric of Viktor's shirt.
"What's wrong with me, Viktor? Why do I...?" Flik trailed off, his voice muffled by Viktor's shirt.
"I was about to ask you the same question." Viktor felt a chuckle be stifled from Flik's lithe form.
"Can't you ever say anything useful?" Flik asked jokingly, lifting his head off Viktor's shoulder. They remained like that, holding each other quietly before Viktor asked, "Does this bother you?" Referring to the position in which the larger man was holding the smaller.
"I don't know." Flik answered.
"Do you want me to stop?" Viktor asked, unconsciously holding Flik tighter.
"Please stop asking me questions..." Flik said, once again placing his head on Viktor's shoulder. "Just this once, please shut up."
Viktor chuckled, but complied. His free hand crept up from its place on Flik's back to smooth Flik's hair.
"Thank you." Flik sighed and let himself, for the moment, forget that he was Blue Lightening Flik and that this was Viktor, and they were touching in a manner that was very uncomradely.
Forget Odessa Silverberg. She'd never been there...he'd always had to be the strong one for her. It was human to grieve, to hurt, and to seek comfort from another human being. But he had never been able to come to her with his feelings. It was unacceptable, to let her see him in any manner except for the strong, capable mercenary. He had been her crutch.
Flik hated being used. Even if it was for love.
"Flik are you okay?" Viktor asked. The man had suddenly started shaking.
"I'm fine," he said, pulling away. "Thank you." Flik smiled shakily.
"I think we need to talk," Viktor said, glancing over to the blazing hearth.
"Yes, maybe we do." Flik agreed. He sat down near the heat, and drew his legs up to his chest. Viktor had never seen him look so vulnerable. He doubted anyone had. He sat down next to Flik, close enough to provide comfort, but not so close as to be uncomfortable.
"Tell me what's wrong." Viktor began.
"About what? Be specific." Flik said in return.
"Start with why you've been so pissy the past few days." Viktor said.
"I wouldn't necessarily call it 'pissy,'" Flik said, glaring, "but it has been because of you."
"You, stop making me repeat myself."
"Fine, by all means," Viktor said, smiling to himself, as if he had proven a point.
"What have you been trying to do, anyway?" He asked, turning to face him. "Surely you..." Flik trailed off.
"What do you mean?" Viktor asked.
"Come one, standing too close to me, whispering in my ear? You think I wouldn't notice? Have you been trying to unnerve me or something more? What do you want from me? Tell me exactly."
Viktor sighed and ran a heavy hand through his hair. "I've never lied to you, Flik. But I'm honestly thinking about it now. I--" He cut himself off.
"What? Please tell me." Flik said.
"I think I love you."
Flik sat for a moment, unable to do much but blink. "I--I don't know what to say to that. I still don't know what you want from me...exactly..." He said after a long, long, moment. Viktor looked away. Flik wrapped one hand in one of the loose ends of his bandana, unconsciously. "You didn't lie to me, so I'm certainly not going to lie to you. You confuse the hell out of me, Viktor, I don't know if I'll ever feel the same for you, Odessa..."
"I hate to tell you, but she's dead." Viktor interrupted, a bit bitterly.
"Odessa was the first person I ever loved." He shot back. "And I realize she's dead, and that its time to move on. But this...I'm not ready for this."
"You never know unless you try." Viktor said hopefully.
"Now you just sound like a lecherous old man. And it doesn't work that way and you know it." Flik said.
"Ouch." Viktor winced.
"You deserve it. It was unfair of you to put me in this situation to begin with." Flik said.
"Well, had I known you would have had a nervous breakdown because of a couple of come-ons, I wouldn't've bothered. 'Sides, I believe it was you who was clinging to me back there."
Viktor really wasn't expecting a punch in the face when it came.
By the time his vision cleared, Flik was already out of the cabin and stalking further away. Viktor had to run to catch up to him; when he did, Viktor grabbed Flik's arm and roughly turned him around.
"Don't touch me, you ass!" Flik yelled as he wrenched his arm free. He drew his hand back to deliver another punch.
"Stop! I'm really sorry!" Viktor deftly dodged the blow and caught his hands the next time he tried.
"Let go of me!" Flik tried to struggle free.
"Not until you listen to me!" Viktor replied.
"Why should I?! So you can...!"
"I have no good reason for you to. But you were right. About everything. It was unfair of me, and what I said was unexcuseable, and I am an ass." Viktor finished, "You had every right to hit me."
"Damn right I did." Flik yelled in response.
"I'm sorry!" Viktor had never been that close to pleading in all of his life. He released Flik's hands.
"Is that supposed to make everything better?" Flik dropped his head, his eyes hidden by his hair. "You can't make someone love you. Don't take your frustrations out on me."
"I know--" Viktor began.
"Shut up! Don't you think you've said enough?" Flik interupted. "Nothing you can say right now can make this any better." He turned from Viktor.
"Flik..." Viktor started towards him, but Flik evaded his touch.
"Just go away, please..." His voice was soft; Viktor could barely hear him.
"Can I..." Viktor started to say.
"What? What more do you want of me?" When Flik turned around Viktor was shocked to see that he was crying.
"Can I--Do you want me to stay?" Viktor was really feeling like a scumbag. He wanted to fall off a cliff somewhere.
"Yes." Flik answered. Viktor walked away without a word, not wanting to screw up any more than he already had. As he entered the cabin, he wished he'd kept the Zodiac Sword, if only so he could run himself through with it.
The sun had set before Flik finally came home. He was soaked to the bone and freezing because a winter storm had decided to erupt right over his head, which he thought was just lovely. Not to mention ironic. The cabin was cold as well, obviously Viktor had let the fire go out.
When he approached the hearth he stumbled over something. Viktor. Huh. As he picked himself up off the floor, a large hand closed over his ankle.
"Are you still mad at me?" Viktor asked, rather pathetically.
"Yes, but I'm cold, wet, and hungry first." He felt the hand release his foot.
"Sorry," he heard from the floor.
"Come eat with me," Flik invited.
"Sure, but shouldn't you..." Viktor motioned to Flik's clothes.
"I'm getting to it." He walked into the room, not bothering to close the door and appeared a moment later in a nightshirt and breeches. Viktor only watched as he bent and pulled a bottle of something from the trunk at the foot of the bed. It was too dark for Viktor to make out what it was.
"Bourbon," Flik supplied, holding up the bottle. "Saved for just such an occasion as this."
"What are going to do with that?" Viktor asked.
"I should think it's fairly obvious," Flik quipped.
"Shouldn't you at least eat something first?"
"Food, bourbon, same thing. What difference does it make?" Flik finally managed to pop the seal on the bottle. Viktor watched as Flik rummaged around, looking for a cup. He finally gave up and started drinking straight from the bottle.
"Alright, another question, then. Why are you doing this?" Viktor asked, moving towards him.
"Seemed like a good idea at the time," Flik answered. Viktor reached out and grabbed Flik's wrist as he was bringing the bottle to his mouth. Flik looked affronted as he jerked away.
"Don't touch me," he continued drinking himself into oblivion. It didn't take long. Viktor brewed a pot of coffee, figuring he'd need it for one reason or another. He also considered making something to eat, but decided against it. Cleaning up after Flik was the last thing he wanted to do tonight.
"Are you incoherent yet?" Viktor watched Flik consider carefully.
"Nope." He took another swig. He'd managed to finish off a fifth of the bottle already.
"Are you angry?" Viktor grabbed the bottle away and took a long swallow. He quickly returned it.
"Sometimes," Flik answered. It wasn't really the response Viktor was looking for.
"Why'd you say you love me?" Viktor was taken aback.
"Why are you getting drunk, Flik?" He returned.
"'Cause I figured this was the only way I could talk to you." Flik answered.
"Were you really that mad at me?" Viktor asked, filled with self-directed anger.
"No. Well, yes. But that's not what I meant. I'm a coward."
"Ah." Viktor sat down across from him. "Why do you say that?"
"You scare me." Viktor winced when he heard the bottle slam against Flik's teeth, but Flik's response hadn't surprised him.
"You make me doubt myself. I hate that." He rested his head on his out-stretched arms.
"I didn't realize you were that insecure. I'm sorry." Viktor said, taking the bottle again.
"Stop. Stop apologizing. I'm getting sick of the sound." He tried to snatch the bourbon back, but missed. Viktor handed it to him.
"Thank you." Flik slurred.
"Yeah. How do I make you doubt yourself?"
"You..." Flik visibly lost his train of thought, his eyes unfocused slightly. "You make me feel..." He dropped off.
"What? Feel what?" Viktor asked insistently.
"Vulnerable. Scared, confused. Other things I shouldn't be feeling...not with you." Flik wrapped deceptively slim arms around himself. Flik glared up at him. "Who do you think you are, anyway?"
"Are you upset because I try to help you out?" Viktor rushed. "I care for you, no matter what happens here. You're my friend, right? It's something I would do no matter who you were, male or female."
"That's not what I meant." Flik snapped. Suddenly he seemed to be lucid, all the drunkenness gone. "I'm not sure how I feel for you, but I do...feel something. Like what I felt about Odessa...but different." Flik growled. "I hate it. I hate the fact that..."
"That what?" Viktor prodded. He had an idea of what was coming, but he needed Flik to say it.
"All I'm going to say, Viktor, is stay away from me." Flik warned.
"I'm appalled that you would think that of me, Flik, after all we've been through." Viktor said dramatically, although a hint of disappointment could clearly be heard in his voice.
"I'm not kidding," Flik continued, still too drunk to pick up on the tone of Viktor's voice, "if you lay a hand on me, I'll kill you." Flik said, and promptly fell face first on the table. Way too drunk...to pick up on anything.
“Someone can’t hold their liquor. What a lightweight.” Viktor regarded the barely breathing form on the table. For a second, he almost considered taking Flik’s warning to heart, but quickly blew it off. He hefted the smaller man up and carried him to the bedroom.
Viktor silently thanked whatever gods were watching for Flik having the foresight to change his clothes before he got wasted. Viktor didn’t think he was up to stripping Flik, and then having to redress him. After taking care of Flik, Viktor decided to just sleep out in the main room to avoid further confrontation that night. A bad back in the morning was a small price to pay, compared to the certain death that would result if Flik found him in his bed.
The first coherent thought Flik had in his head in hours--days it felt like--was wondering why there wasn’t a huge man all over him. Then he realized his bed was empty, excluding himself.
The second thought went something along these lines, “Damn, my head hurts,” only with so many more expletives. The light streaming through the windowpanes was agony epitomized. The heavy, distinctive scent of bacon wafted in from the other room.
It was then that he realized he hated Viktor. A lot. Then his stomach muscles clenched--and had he eaten anything the day before he would have thrown it all up. He staggered out of his room and managed to fall into his chair. His eyes shot bloodshot daggers at Viktor, who continued to cook merrily away.
“I never even bought bacon,” Flik choked out, mostly to himself.
“Good morning to you, too! And I did, this morning, just so I could cook for you!” Viktor said jauntily.
“Aw. Just for me? How sweet.” His stomach clenched again. “I hate you so much,” he hissed. Viktor ignored his comments--he probably didn’t mean them anyway--and handed him a small vial.
“Picked that up, too. Drink it.” He directed.
“What is it?” Flik asked.
“For the hangover.” Flik hastily forced the thick syrup down his throat.
“You’re so insightful,” Flik said sarcastically.
“Thank you. I do try! Bacon?”
“Remind me to never get drunk around you again.” Flik muttered. Viktor chuckled.
After drinking the tonic, Flik wanted nothing more than to return to his bed. But Viktor, with a sudden burst of enthusiasm, insisted they partake in a little sport. By insist, Flik meant forced, in every sense of the word. Viktor maintained that Flik was “simply too inactive” and would “be cured right up by a little fighting.”
By about noon, after wandering around the woodlands for about three hours, Flik finally called for a rest. Although the headache had mostly faded--Viktor held true to his word--he was tired; his body still hadn’t returned to its full capacity.
“What’s with you? We haven’t been out here too long and all these monsters are way below our level.” Viktor jeered, while towering over Flik, taking advantage of his height to its fullest. “Let’s go find something a bit more challenging.” He rushed off.
“But--” Flik was forced to follow. He doubted he knew where he lived now, after all their aimless wandering. He certainly hoped Viktor knew the landscape better than he did. The last thing he wanted was to be stuck out here in the freezing cold all night.
Flik finally was in sight of Viktor; he’d been leaving him behind for the past hour, and he was about ready to beg Viktor to please, PLEASE let them go home. The terrain had gotten rockier, it was hell pulling himself over the rocks. Any more and he was going to die, right there, he was sure of it.
“...hey...Hey!” Flik called out. “Stop! Just a second!” He pulled himself over the next ridge only to be face to face with a huge snarling monster.
The creature was built like a pig, but uglier, with huge tusks for goring and bristles down its spine, and a face like a really angry baboon. Lovely, Flik thought. Careful not antagonize it further--his very presence seemed to provoke the creature--Flik pulled his sword from the sheath very slowly. He raised the weapon, bracing himself for the pig-monkey’s attack. When the first blow came and he was thrown back several feet, he realized he couldn’t do this on his own.
...And also that he should have been able to. He would have been able to if not for his previous injuries. The trick, he thought, was to be smarter than the monster. And surely he was smarter than the pig-monkey. At least, he hoped.
So maybe he could win, after all. Maybe. Flik prepared himself to unleash an all out attack.
The skirmish dragged on for a while, and at some point Flik began to wonder where Viktor had gotten to. He’d just been there. Caught off his guard, the monster managed to gash Flik’s leg fairly deep before he moved out of the way. He fell to the ground, rather unceremoniously. Damnit. Damn it all to hell, there was no way he would win now.
The monster reared for its final killing blow when it was struck in the neck, hard, by a sword.
“Viktor!” Flik called out.
“Sorry,” he managed to gasp out, “there was, another one...sorry.” He looked apologetically at Flik’s leg. Great, he thought. He’d never live this one down. “When I heard you call out I--”
“I didn’t call out.” Flik interrupted.
“Didn’t you?” Viktor asked, a confused look in his eye. Maybe Flik was seriously wounded, after all.
“No, but...” He motioned toward his leg. “I don’t think I’m going to be able to make it out of this forest...by myself.” Viktor carefully tore the fabric enclosing the injury. It was deep and wide, but it was short, Viktor noted. It would need to be taken care of immediately, else infection set in. He made a quick decision. He pulled Flik into his arms and rose slowly, as to not jar the wound.
“Hey! Stop!” Flik yelled, trying to struggle out of his arms.
“Oh, do you plan on walking out, then? Because I can drop you right here if you want.” Viktor said, moving as if to drop him.
“No! No. You just startled me, is all. Have it your way. Do what you like.” Flik growled out.
“Thanks, Viktor! No problem, Flik! I’m only to happy to drag your ass out of the woods. You’re so kind, Viktor! Aw, pshaw.” Viktor went off.
“Oh, shut up! We wouldn’t be here at all if not for you! I’m holding you accountable for everything!” Flik shouting in response.
“This wouldn’t be necessary at all if you hadn’t decided to get plastered last night!”
“I wouldn’t have felt the need, if not for you! Besides, when did you take it upon yourself to teach me a lesson?!”
“Since you’ve been acting like a...you know, I don’t want to fight with you anymore.” Both men seethed at each other for several moments. A small battle was waged without a muscle being moved. Finally, Flik averted his eyes and backed down.
After awhile, when the tensions has receded completely, and the only sound was of Viktor’s heavy footfalls, Flik said, “A coward.”
“What?” Viktor asked, bewildered.
“Acting like a coward, that’s what you were going to say, right?”
“No. I was going to say ‘acting like a woman,’ but that works too.” Viktor answered, a bit harshly. Flik nodded his head, then looked at Viktor.
“But isn’t that what you want be to be for you? A woman?” Flik asked.
“No, as cliche as this sounds, I want you to be Flik. That’s why I like you.” He responded, smiling at him.
“I see,” Flik said. He looked away, at the dead undergrowth of the forest.
“Do you? Sometimes I really wonder. You’re really clueless sometimes.”
“What do you mean by that?” Flik asked. Viktor winced as he slipped in an unseen pothole and his foot faltered.
“Are you alright?” Flik asked, concerned.
“Yeah,” Viktor answered, continuing through the forest. “I’m just glad you haven’t gained any weight back yet.”
“Thanks.” Flik said sincerely.
“For what?” Viktor asked.
“’For dragging my ass out of the woods,’ as you put it. I appreciate it.” Flik said.
“Really. It’s the least I could do. After all, I used your money to buy the bacon.”
When they returned to the cabin Viktor sat Flik down carefully on the bed. He set about cleaning the wound without delay.
“What did you mean before?” Flik asked as Viktor cleaned the dried blood from his leg.
“About what?” Viktor replied.
“About me being clueless.” Viktor shrugged, seemingly absorbed in his work.
“It’s just that you’re so...I don’t know, unaware of yourself.” Viktor answered distractedly.
“What do you mean?” Flik winced as Viktor pulled something the wrong way. But surprisingly, it was the first time he really hurt him. Viktor ran a soothing hand up Flik’s leg. He had gentle hands, for one so large.
“It’s just that...” he stopped his work and turned to meet Flik’s eyes. “Do you have any idea of how attractive you are?” Flik’s eyes widened and he turned a deep pink.
“See?” Viktor said, returning to cutting gauze to wrap the wound. “And by the way, it’s cute when you blush. Modesty is only attractive when it’s sincere.”
Despite his deepening color, Flik pressed on. “But is that it? Just my looks?”
“What are you doing? Fishing for compliments?” Viktor quipped.
“You’re one of the strongest men I know,” Viktor continued, meeting Flik’s eyes at the word ‘men,’ “but you always seem to sell yourself short in that area.” He began binding the wound. “Somewhere along the line your self-esteem was shot to hell,” he paused, “if you had any to begin with.”
“Viktor, I--” Flik began, but Viktor cut him off with an impatient hand.
“I don’t want to hear what happened right now. It’s in the past. I’m just going to tell you,” he kneeled by the side of the bed and leveled his eyes with Flik’s, “you mean something to me, and to a hell of a lot of other people. You saved this country. And I--”
“Viktor, don’t...” Flik warned, distressed.
“I love you.”
Viktor lowered his head until their foreheads were touching. “I love you. Doesn’t that mean something?” Viktor reached up and cupped the back of Flik’s head. “Anything at all?”
Brown eyes met blue, and several emotions were passed between them. Viktor was so close...all Flik had to do was reach out and...And what? What?
“Yes,” Flik replied, finally finding his voice, “but what?” He turned his eyes away.
Viktor released him all at once. “If you don’t know, Flik, I’m not going to tell you.” He began to walk from the room.
“That’s not fair!” Flik yelled after him, feeling like his only opportunity had been wasted, unshed tears in his eyes.
“No, it’s not. Not for either of us.” Viktor said and left. Left forever.
Behind him, Flik tried to mask his sobs, and ultimately failed.
It didn’t rain that night. The stars could even be seen peeking through the leafy canopy of trees. A chilly breeze raced through them, scattering dead leaves and making the branches sing. Viktor watched as a maple leaf colored as a dying sunset came to rest of the glassy surface of a nearby pond, concentric circles lighting from it. A howling could be heard on the wind that night, whether it was spawned from the hollows in the trees or something more human he never could tell.
Viktor never regretted anything he did. Nor did he start now. This was the only way. Flik would not let it be any other way. But to blame everything on Flik would be unfair. Unfair...but so much easier...
He dashed the mirror-like surface of the pond with one hand. He wished more than anything that he had taken the other road to Lenankamp...but that was a lie. Just to see Flik again...even though it had only been a few months in between...it was worth it. It had to be worth it--they’d never be able to look each other in the face again. Their tenuous friendship--at best--had been shattered.
Viktor sighed long and hard before turning to lift his pack. It looked like he’d be seeing Lenankamp again, after all. Only this time, he was alone. He turned back to the pond one last time. A single maple leaf sunk under the water’s surface. Flik’s face appeared behind him in the reflection.
He was pale, his injured leg buckling underneath him. Tear tracks on flawless skin, blue eyes violet with emotion, he stood there, blood pooling at his feet.
“What are--” Viktor started towards him, scared that he might fall.
“You lied to me,” Flik accused, eyes burning. “You lied.” His legs gave out, after much suffering, sending him crashing to his knees.
“Flik!” Viktor fell down in front of him. “Why are you out here? You’re injured! Bleeding! You’re such an idiot!”
“You lied. You said you wouldn’t leave me!” His wide eyes momentarily lost their focus. “You said you...You said you loved me!”
“I do, I do, but you...we have to get you back inside.” Viktor moved to pick Flik up.
“No! I listened to you when you asked me to! It’s time for you to listen to me, now!” He slapped his hands away and shakily rose to his feet once more. “Did you ever even think about what I’ve been going through?” Viktor met his eyes for the first time since Flik had arrived.
“Viktor, you’re selfish, self-serving, impatient, and presumptuous. And for some stupid reason I love you. Are you listening to me now?” Flik choked out. His knees gave out again, only this time, Viktor was there to catch him.
“Flik!” Flik buried his face in Viktor’s chest. “Flik, you know I love you, but you are the most naive, stupid, selfish, self-centered guy I know.” Viktor returned.
“Once I realized that, I realized that’s why we’re so good for each other.” Flik mumbled. Viktor laughed softly.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Slowly, Flik raised his head to meet Viktor’s.
“Please don’t leave me...I couldn’t take it.” He pleaded.
“I guess I can stick around for a while longer.” Viktor pulled Flik to him in a tight embrace. He felt Flik’s arms encircle his neck. Viktor watched Flik study his face before settling on his mouth.
“I meant what I said,” Flik said, “I really do love you.”
It was Flik who closed the distance between them, bringing his hand to touch Viktor’s face lightly. The kiss was simple; chaste; and yet, passionate. Flik put every ounce of emotion he had into it, forcing Viktor to respond. It seemed to him, it was over before it started, Flik pulling away far to early. Flik managed to lick his lips quickly before he fainted for a second time in Viktor’s presence.
Dear Friends and Comrades,
I hope this letter finds you whole and in good health. I’m sending this letter to notify you of our own continued health. Although I was wounded in Gregminster Palace, I still live, as does Viktor, which I am sure you all are pleased to hear.
We will be leaving for Jowston in the spring, to form a mercenary group for an old friend of Viktor’s. We will miss you all greatly, however, we feel our continued residence in Toran in unnecessary. Please understand.
Sincerely, and with the best of Luck,
“What are you doing in there?” A loud voice called from the other room.
“Nothing. Come do me a favor.” Flik responded. He smiled as Viktor sauntered into the room.
“What’s up, Snookums?” Viktor said, coming up behind him and inelegantly draping himself over Flik, who sat in the small desk chair.
“Shut up, Viktor. I told you if you ever called me that again, I’d kill you.” Flik brought up the letter he’d been writing. “Deliver this to Toran, would you?”
“What, now?” Viktor asked, still trying to stifle a laugh. “And you wouldn’t kill the man you LOVE, would you?”
“Rub it in, why don’t you. And no, give it a traveling messenger, they’re all over the place now.” Flik said. He smiled a little as Viktor began kissing a line up his neck. “Stop it. I hate it when you do that.” He said, even as he raised his head to allow better access.
“Uh huh. I know you do.” Viktor said. He easily pushed Flik off the chair and sent him careening to the floor. Viktor settled into a comfortable position on top of him.
“I really hate it when you do that.” Flik said, rubbing the back of his head.
“I know,” Viktor said, continuing his ministrations on the floor. Flik looked amused as Viktor bent to kiss him, trying not to laugh into his mouth as they did. He stopped laughing when Viktor pried his lips open gently and entered his mouth.
Suddenly, Viktor stopped. “I suppose you hate that, too.” Viktor said, with a smirk.
“Oh, more than anything.” Flik responded, his eyes half open.
“Then I suppose you won’t mind if I just returned to my busy schedule.” Viktor said, getting up, and pulling Flik with him.
“That I might mind.” Flik turned and sat on the table he was writing at, reached out and grabbed his arm and dragged Viktor to him. Viktor was caught off
guard--he always forgot just how strong Flik was. As it was, Viktor was trapped in the circle of Flik’s legs--not that he was trying to escape. Not refusing the opportunity granted to him, he began to remove Flik’s shirt as he ran a hand through his hair and down his back.
Neither of them were expecting the table to collapse like that, especially not Flik. They landed in a heap amidst the pieces of tabletop, Viktor pinning Flik to the floor.
“Damn. Certainly wasn’t expecting that,” Flik said, after getting the wind knocked out of him.
“See, Flik? This is why we can’t have nice things.”
They both laughed for a while.
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