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“When I retire for good, we’re going to spend an entire summer on the southern coast of France.” Victor’s arm is draped over Yuuri’s side, his fingers brushing idly at Yuuri’s stomach. His words are lazy and sleepy, and Yuuri can feel them on the back of his neck. “We’ll drink the most expensive wine we can find. We’ll go to nude beaches and stun everyone with our gorgeousness. I’ll teach you French.”

“I know some French,” says Yuuri, and his lungs aren’t tightening, hearing Victor make all these plans. They’re not. Everything’s fine. Yuuri is fine.

“I mean real French,” Victor says, pressing himself closer, his chest hot against Yuuri’s back. “Not just the dirty bits.”

“Bonjour,” Yuuri says. He is relaxed! “Au revoir. Escargot.” Relaxed and happy! This is a normal night! “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?” he adds, because he is relaxed and happy and making jokes!

Victor giggles, high-pitched and ridiculous enough that Yuuri can’t help joining in. It’s only when they both calm down a little bit that Victor adds, “Je t’aime toujours.”

“Je t’aime…” Yuuri pauses. Does he know the word? He doesn’t think so. “Too. Also.”

“Aussi,” Victor supplies.

Yuuri repeats it. Victor snuggles closer, and Yuuri can feel the press of lips on the back of his neck—followed shortly by the sound of Victor’s breath evening out, and the feeling of his arm going slack across Yuuri’s body.

Yuuri closes his eyes, ready for sleep.

Aussi, said Victor, just now. Yuuri breathes.

Je t’aime toujours, said Victor. Yuuri breathes again; he can feel his heart hammering in his chest. Why is it hammering?

You, of course, said Victor, earlier this afternoon. Yuuri breathes; it’s shaky, this time. His heart is speeding up, not slowing down, and—

And this is stupid. Yuuri tries to deepen his breathing. Tries to will his heartbeat to slow. It should be easy, falling asleep this way.

It usually is.

It’s been easy for months.

But.

But everything is so loud tonight. Victor, exhaling softly against his neck. The distant hum of traffic outside. Makkachin, snoring gently in his doggie bed on the other side of the room. His own heart, pulsing against his eardrums.

That thing Victor said earlier—those three words—

You, of course.

—they’ve been cycling through his head all afternoon, all evening, all night, like a mosquito that he can’t quite catch.

The room is too hot. Or Yuuri is too hot. Or Victor is too hot. One of those. Victor’s chest is against him, and Victor’s arm is across him, and his skin is starting to crawl because it’s too much, it’s all just too much, and his stomach is roiling, and—

Holding his breath, he slides out from underneath Victor’s arm, out from under the covers, and off the bed. He darts to the bathroom, crouches in front of the toilet, and lifts the lid. His stomach lurches. He leans over, stares into the bowl, and waits.

Nothing comes up.

“Come on,” he whispers, and feels tears squeezing out of the corners of his eyes. “Come on, come on, just…”

You, of course.

“Come on,” he tells his body. Come on and let it out. Come on and calm down. Come on and do anything, anything at all, to stop this coiling, tightening panic.

This coiling, tightening, stupid, stupid panic. What the hell kind of person has a goddamn panic attack just because his fiancé, the love of his goddamn life, tells him—

I used to try and imagine what came after skating, and it would just seem to… end. Everything just blurry and gray.

What’s different now?

You, of course. Now I look at it and I see you there.

A normal person would not be panicking. A normal person would be sleeping soundly already, cradled in the arms of his fiancé, who loves him, whose whole future suddenly has color and shape and meaning because of him, because of Yuuri, but Yuuri is not normal. Yuuri has never been normal. Yuuri is not worthy of being told you, of course.

His stomach heaves. He does not throw up. His heart is racing, and his breath is coming too fast, and there’s a sound, like someone gasping for air, and Yuuri can’t have changed the course of Victor’s life like that, he can’t have, he’s not enough of anything to be able to do something like that, and he’s losing his balance and he’s probably not going to throw up, so he sits back, his ass cold against the tiles, and that feels good, punishingly good, so he scoots across the floor until there’s cold against his back, too, and he curls in on himself, hugging his knees to his chest, and you, of course, and there’s fire in his lungs, and Victor is going to teach him how to speak French and how to play hockey, and Victor is maybe going to grow a beard, they are maybe going to go on a cruise, and they are maybe going to have kids, and Victor keeps making these plans, like they’re actually going to happen or something.

The you, of course was fine, at least when Victor first said it.

No, it was more than fine. It was warm and intimate and Yuuri felt so, so loved. But now that it’s had time to settle in, it’s… it’s too much. Even though it’s not. No, Yuuri is too much. Or… or not enough. Or something. Either way, he’s just some dumb kid from a nowhere town whose heart is pounding way too fast, who can barely breathe, whose stupid eyes are leaking stupid, stupid tears all over his stupid legs, which are bare because he was too stupid to remember to put clothes on before he came in here, and now he’s cold, and—

“Yuuri?” Victor’s voice is soft and sleepy and confused. The overhead light flicks on, which makes Yuuri flinch and shut his eyes. Almost immediately, it flicks off again. “Oh, no light,” Victor says. “Okay.”

No light. No company. No anything. All Yuuri wants is to be human again. An actual human being in a human body, instead of a puddle of skin and tears.

“Sweetheart, come here,” Victor says.

Yuuri tries to take a deep breath. The only results are a burning, squeezing feeling in his chest, and a noise so gross that he would laugh at it if he only had enough air.

“Oh, honey, no.”

This time, the voice is coming from right in front of him. Yuuri forces his eyes open. Dimly, through the haze of tears, he can make out Victor crouched in front of him. He probably looks worried. Yuuri can’t tell for sure, without his glasses, but he can imagine. He knows Victor’s worried face way too well.

“You,” Yuuri tries. The word emerges as barely more than a croak. He licks his lips and tries again: “You don’t—don’t have to—”

A hand lands in his hair, tracing a path over his ear and down his neck, before it comes to rest on his shoulder. “Come back to bed, sweetheart.”

Yuuri shakes his head. Can’t Victor see that moving is impossible? That breathing is difficult enough?

“What’s wrong?” Victor asks.

Everything. Everything is wrong, and the universe is upside-down, because Victor is planning his life around Yuuri, and that just isn’t right, because… because it’s not right.

There are hands on his shins. Right above where his own hands are clasped. There are hands on him, and the hands are warm, and Victor is saying, “Breathe with me. Yuuri? Are you listening? Do you want to breathe together? I can count for you.”

Yuuri doesn’t reply, because can’t and because even if he could, he doesn’t know the answer

But that doesn’t seem to bother Victor, who starts counting anyway: “In for one, two, three, four…”

And so on, and so on. In, then out, then in, then out, until Yuuri’s body can’t help but fall into sync with the rhythm that Victor sets. Eventually, his heart slows. Eventually, his lungs remember how to work again. He is still naked and cold, and his face is still a mess of tears and snot, but he can breathe.

“One more?” suggests Victor, and Yuuri nods. So Victor counts him through one more inhale and one more exhale, and then he goes quiet. They both do.

“Thanks,” Yuuri finally says. His voice sounds sullen, although he didn’t mean it to. It embarrasses him. The fact that he’s naked and Victor is wearing underwear and a T-shirt embarrasses him. This whole goddamn thing embarrasses him.

Victor pulls a wad of tissues out of the box beside the sink, and hands it to him. “Want to talk about it?”

Yuuri blows his nose, then folds the tissues over and wipes his face with the dry side. Wordlessly, Victor takes it from him and throws it away. Yuuri’s stomach twists to see it: Victor, handling his trash. He shouldn’t have to do that. Nobody should have to do that. But especially not Victor.

“Are you cold?” Victor asks.

Yuuri thinks about saying no, but then realizes that he is shivering. Literally shivering. So he nods, even though he feels his face go red at the idea of needing yet another thing from Victor—and Victor, perhaps sensing that Yuuri doesn’t want to move yet, pulls a towel down from the rack and throws it over his shoulders. It is large and thick, and Yuuri wraps it around himself like a cloak. It helps a little. It makes the shivering stop, at least.

“There you go, beautiful,” says Victor. And then pauses. And then asks, again, “Do you want to talk about it?”

“I’m not,” Yuuri mutters.

“What?”

“Beautiful. I’m not—Don’t call me—”

“Of course you are,” says Victor with a little laugh. “You’re the most beautiful person in the world.”

Yuuri pulls the towel tighter around himself. “Stop, just… just don’t, okay?”

That’s when Victor falls quiet, for which Yuuri is thankful. Normally, Yuuri likes being called beautiful—by Victor, at least. On days when his brain is behaving, he even gets off on it. Tonight isn’t normal, though. Tonight is…

Yuuri stares firmly at his knees, and lets out a shuddering breath.

“All right,” Victor says, after a long moment. He’s still right there, crouched in front of Yuuri. His whole body, just in the periphery of Yuuri’s vision. “All right, sweetheart. What can I do?”

“Nothing, I’m fine,” Yuuri says automatically.

There’s a split second where he just knows Victor will state the obvious—that Yuuri is clearly not fine—and his whole brain goes on the defensive. “What was your first clue?” he’ll say to Victor, as snidely as he can. Or maybe, “Thanks so much for your diagnosis, Doctor Nikiforov.”

But then, as soon as that split second is over, Yuuri is awash with shame. What kind of person is he, to even think of talking to Victor like that? Victor, the love of his life, the man of his dreams, the five-time world champion who is kind and good and deserves someone far better than Yuuri…

Victor, who, instead of speaking, is curling himself around Yuuri’s body.

It shouldn’t be possible, since Yuuri has his back to the wall and his knees pulled up to his chest. But, for Victor, the impossible is always possible. Sitting down on the tile floor, Victor wraps his legs around Yuuri’s ankles, his feet meeting in the few inches of space behind them. Then he scoots forward, tucking Yuuri’s toes under his thighs. He hugs Yuuri’s legs, and he rests his chin in the dip between Yuuri’s knees.

His face is so close. Close enough that, even without his glasses, Yuuri can see every detail of it. The serious set of Victor’s jaw, the concern in the crease between his eyebrows, the patience in the line of his lips. It’s so much. It’s so beautiful. It’s so hard to look at.

Yuuri shuts his eyes.

Victor doesn’t say anything, and doesn’t say anything, and doesn’t say anything.

And… and Yuuri doesn’t decide to speak. In fact, right up until the words start falling out of his mouth, he’s very adamant about not speaking, maybe ever again. But then, suddenly: “It’s just that you’ve been talking so much about when you retire.”

Shame flares up inside him for a split second; can’t he even control his own mouth? Can’t he do anything right? But the seconds tick by, and the world doesn’t end or anything, and Victor hasn’t moved, and talking feels… not good, but… but kind of okay. Like releasing a pressure valve or something. So, with eyes still firmly closed, Yuuri goes on: “And then you said that thing today. When I asked. You said. Um.”

You, of course.

“When I asked what was different,” Yuuri tries again. “And you said. You, um. You said me? And? I just.”

Victor’s arms squeeze even more tightly around his thighs. He doesn’t say anything.

“It’s just that I’m not,” Yuuri begins, but then stops, because there’s a tightness building in his chest again, and he needs to breathe through it. In, slowly. Out, slowly. Then, “I’m not—I mean, I know I’m… we’re… sorry, sorry, I’m not making any sense.”

Victor kisses one of his kneecaps, and doesn’t say anything. Yuuri can sense him waiting, though.

He takes a deep breath and tries to start over:

“I know you love me,” he says. “I know you do. And I know you want to marry me, and I know you haven’t secretly hated me all this time, but…”

“But sometimes you wonder?” It’s the first time in a long while that Victor has spoken, and the sound of it startles Yuuri into opening his eyes again.

There wasn’t any accusation in Victor’s voice; there isn’t any in his expression, either. There’s only concern. And love.

So Yuuri makes himself reply. “It’s not wondering. It’s knowing.”

Victor frowns, confused—but instead of asking for clarification, he bends his head to kiss Yuuri’s other kneecap, and he waits.

“I mean, not, not real knowing,” Yuuri says, forcing himself not to close his eyes again. “But that’s how it feels? Like certainty. It’s dumb, but…”

“It’s not dumb,” Victor says quietly, and then pauses. Licks his lips. He’s still clinging tightly to Yuuri’s legs. “Describe it to me?”

Yuuri blinks. “Describe what?”

“The… whatever happened today,” Victor says. “When did it start? When I said you changed my life?”

“Kind of,” Yuuri says.

“Should I not have—”

“No! No, no, god, no,” Yuuri says. “It’s me, it’s my stupid brain looking for a reason to… it’s…”

He takes a deep breath. Victor is trying so hard to understand. And Yuuri wants him to. Yuuri wants it, so very badly.

He closes his eyes again. It’s the only way he’ll be able to say all this without tripping up. Or crying. Or having another attack.

“You said it was me,” Yuuri tells Victor. “We were holding hands, and I was just walking along next to you, and you said it was me who changed everything, and I loved hearing that, I loved it so much, but there was this part of me that was like, ‘Yeah, right.’ And I told it to shut up. I was like, ‘Look, he’s going to marry me. I’m living in his apartment. We train together every day, and we go home and have sex almost every night. We’re holding hands right now, so you, Mister Voice In My Head, can fuck right off.’”

Victor laughs. Presses another kiss to Yuuri’s knee.

Yuuri sniffles and smiles—a wobbly sort of smile that doesn’t last long.

“And it did fuck off,” Yuuri says. “For a little while. And then it came back. And I chased it away again, with… with logic and facts and with kissing you and watching you cook dinner for us tonight and… but…”

“It came back again,” Victor says.

“Over and over,” Yuuri says. “Louder every time. ‘He’s not going to stay interested. You’re not enough for someone like him. You’re too much to deal with.’”

“Too much and not enough?” Victor says, bemused.

“I never said it made sense.” Yuuri opens his eyes again. It seems safe now. “And that’s part of the problem. I know it doesn’t make sense. So there’s this logical, rational part of my stupid brain that’s saying, ‘Hey, you know none of this is actually true, right? It doesn’t even make any sense,’ and there’s anxiety-brain going, ‘Ha-ha, that’s what you think,’ and they keep bickering like that, back and forth, and before I can get them to go sit in their corners and stop fighting, here I am, you know, crawling out of bed so I can cry in your bathroom.”

For a moment, Victor just looks at him.

“It’s so dumb,” Yuuri says. “I know how dumb it is.”

“It’s not dumb,” Victor says softly. “And it’s your bathroom, too.”

Yuuri blinks. “What?”

“You just said this was my bathroom,” Victor tells him. “It’s yours, too. You can cry in it as much as you need to.”

Which, of course, immediately makes Yuuri start crying again. He’s so sick of crying. He’s so sick of himself.

But as Yuuri sniffles and sobs, Victor just says, “It’s okay, everything’s okay. Just let it all out.”

So Yuuri does. And when the tears eventually stop, Victor is ready with another handful of tissues.

“Sorry,” Yuuri murmurs, once he’s blown his nose and dried his face a little bit.

Victor doesn’t tell him not to be sorry. He doesn’t say not to worry about it. He just smiles and hugs Yuuri’s knees tighter. Yuuri’s toes are still warm under Victor’s thighs, and he feels strangely anchored, despite the lightheadedness that always comes after a good cry. He feels like a balloon whose string is safe in someone’s hand. It’s a good feeling.

So he closes his eyes and breathes deeply, memorizing all the places where Victor’s skin is touching his. Muscular forearms against Yuuri’s legs. Thumbs brushing Yuuri’s knees. Chest against Yuuri’s shins, thighs warming Yuuri’s feet, toes resting against—

Yuuri opens one eye. “Um.”

Victor raises one eyebrow, tilting his head in a silent question.

“Your feet are, uh…”

Victor wiggles his toes experimentally—then bursts out laughing as he realizes. “Sorry! Sorry, that was an accident. I swear I didn’t mean to give you a foot job while you were crying.”

Before Yuuri knows it, he’s laughing too. “Honestly, I didn’t even notice.”

Wow, Yuuri,” says Victor, still grinning. “I can’t decide if I’m insulted or not. Are my foot jobs really that bad?”

Yuuri thwacks him on the shoulder.

“Ow,” Victor says.

“Yes,” Yuuri says. “You’re the worst accidental-foot-job-giver I’ve ever met.”

“Out of how many?” Victor says, feigning shock.

“I’ll never tell,” Yuuri says, and finds that he’s grinning too. The feeling is almost foreign, after so much crying. But it feels nice. He keeps doing it.

“You must tell me. You must. How many accidental-foot-job-givers were there before me? How jealous should I be?” Victor wiggles his toes again, more deliberately this time.

“There haven’t—ah!” Yuuri gasps as a shiver zings through his body, followed by another one. “Stop that…”

Victor stops. The shivers don’t.

Their eyes meet, and Yuuri swallows. He can feel himself thickening against Victor’s foot—and he knows Victor can feel it, too.

“I could keep going,” Victor says, and somehow the foot job thing isn’t a joke anymore. It is, instead, a thing that Yuuri is actually considering saying yes to.

But despite the dissipation of his panic attack, and despite the fact that he feels more or less human again, and despite his growing erection, Yuuri still feels… precarious. He is still puffy-eyed and lightheaded. He is still naked on the bathroom floor. It wouldn’t take much, right now, to nudge his brain from Hey, let’s find out if Victor can make you come with his feet straight into Your kinks are gross and you are worthless.

So Yuuri tries to deflect: “You don’t have to.”

Victor shakes his head. “I want to. Let me? Doesn’t have to be my feet. Whatever you want. You could fuck me, if you—”

“Your mouth,” Yuuri blurts out, before Victor can finish. His face heats up with embarrassment at how quickly he said it, but he doesn’t take it back.

A smile blooms on Victor’s face. He presses one more kiss to Yuuri’s knee, then extricates himself—somehow gracefully—from his position on the floor, and stands up. Extending a hand down to Yuuri, he says, “Come to bed, love.”

Even in just underwear and an old stretched-out T-shirt, even lit only by the ambient light filtering in through the bedroom curtains, Victor is impossibly beautiful. So much so that Yuuri braces himself against the voice that he knows is coming: the one that will tell him that he’s not worthy of a man like this. That Victor deserves better.

But there’s no voice. This time, there’s only silence.

Yuuri takes Victor’s hand and lets himself be pulled to his feet. He lets Victor lead him back to their bed and seat him on the edge of the mattress, his legs spread wide.

Victor grabs a pillow, puts it on the floor at Yuuri’s feet, and sinks to his knees. Desire curls through Yuuri at the sight. Victor, on his knees for Yuuri, resting his hands on Yuuri’s thighs as he leans in. Victor, Yuuri’s fiancé, with his hair falling into his face as he noses at Yuuri’s half-hard cock. Victor, looking up and smiling, as if waiting for instructions.

“Please,” whispers Yuuri.

Obediently, Victor lowers his head again, and Yuuri feels him mouthing at his balls, then up his shaft, before he finally closes his lips around the sensitive head. Victor’s tongue pokes its way beneath Yuuri’s foreskin, teasing and tasting, and Yuuri groans. Yuuri swells. Yuuri absolutely melts.

Yuuri also wants, desperately, to see Victor’s face. Reaching one hand out, he uses two fingers to brush the silvery hair away. Victor looks up at him, with those clear blue eyes and that mouth and those cheekbones and how is he even real? How?

“You’re amazing,” Yuuri whispers. “You’re just so gorgeous like this.”

Victor hums, and takes Yuuri slightly deeper. A feeling of contentment radiates from him, like Yuuri has done something very, very right. And so Yuuri keeps going.

“On your knees,” he murmurs. “Just for me. So beautiful.”

This time, the hum that follows is almost a whine, and Victor begins to bob his head up and down on Yuuri’s cock, and the slide of it is, just, god.

“So beautiful, and all mine,” Yuuri says. And then, remembering their conversation earlier that day, he lowers his voice and adds, “When you retire for good, I’m going to keep you on your knees for a full day. You’re going to use your mouth on me from the second I wake up until the second I fall asleep, and you won’t get up unless I say you can, because you’re so good, you’re so very good….”

Victor groans. A shiver racks his body—visibly; Yuuri can see it—and he swallows Yuuri’s cock down to the hilt. Yuuri can feel himself caught in the tight channel of Victor’s throat; he can feel, on his belly, the in and out of Victor breathing carefully through his nose.

He’s utterly lost. Victor, that is, not Yuuri. His eyes flutter closed, pale lashes casting strange shadows over his cheekbones. The little moans that escape him aren’t performance; Yuuri can tell the difference, by now, between Victor performing and Victor being himself. His lips grasp at the base of Yuuri’s cock, and his tongue cradles the underside, and he sucks and sucks like his life depends on it.

Sometimes Yuuri gets lost like this, too. Sometimes his world narrows enough that it consists only of the sight and sensation of Victor lavishing attention on his cock. Not tonight, though. Tonight, Yuuri feels… grounded. Present. Maybe it’s the fact that, not even ten minutes ago, he was a sobbing bathroom-floor mess. Maybe it’s how crying, for Yuuri, nearly always leads to some flavor of clarity. But whatever the reason, Yuuri isn’t losing himself to Victor tonight—and he finds that he doesn’t want to.

“God, I love watching you do this,” Yuuri whispers, and runs his fingers through Victor’s hair, nails scraping against scalp.

Victor leans into the touch as a high-pitched, keening sound escapes him. Another shiver shoots through him, tensing his shoulders, arching his back. His fingers dig harder into the meat of Yuuri’s thighs. They clutch and knead, almost like Victor is trying to distract himself from—

Oh.

The space between Victor’s legs is shadowed by the curve of his upper body, so Yuuri can’t see for sure. But it’s evident in the curve of Victor’s spine, in the heat of his mouth, in the desperation of his hands: Victor needs to be touched. And he is trying to wait.

Yuuri opens his mouth to ask why he isn’t touching himself. Then he thinks better of it, and tries to find the words to tell him—no, to order him to touch himself. But then, Yuuri remembers. He smiles, and he lifts his left foot off the floor.

Adjusting the bend of his knee just the slightest bit, Yuuri brings his foot over Victor’s thigh and settles it between his legs. He extends his toes outward, outward, until he finds what he seeks, soft and tender, covered in cotton.

“Nng!” exclaims Victor, mouth still full of Yuuri’s cock as his eyes fly open in surprise. Yuuri just smiles, and keeps moving his toes against Victor’s balls.

“Good?” he asks, after a moment.

Victor whimpers in reply. And as he lets his eyes fall shut again, he inches his knees just a little bit forward. Just the tiniest bit. Just enough that Yuuri doesn’t have to extend his foot so far.

Yuuri, encouraged, moves his foot a bit higher. His big toe finds Victor’s shaft through the thin cotton of his underwear, and he begins to stroke.

The effect it has on Victor is stunning. He moans and writhes, his whole body twisting this way and that as Yuuri’s foot moves over him. Somehow, at first, his mouth stays more or less steady—but then his lips go slack, and he begins to slip off, panting, moaning, his cock twitching against Yuuri’s foot…

“Victor,” Yuuri says firmly. He feels giddy with power, made bold by his own arousal and the sight of Victor falling apart before him. “Sweetheart.” He fists a hand loosely in Victor’s hair. “Aren’t you forgetting something? Don’t stop until I say.”

Victor makes a sound that might be sorry or might not be anything at all, but he listens. He obeys. He sucks Yuuri down again, nose nudging against Yuuri’s belly, cock pressing against Yuuri’s foot.

Yuuri adds his other foot, then. The angle is weird at best, but he manages to grasp Victor’s dick between his feet. He rubs. He squeezes. It’s weird. Good-weird, he thinks. But definitely weird.

Victor digs his fingernails into Yuuri’s thighs, panting harder and faster around Yuuri’s cock, until—

He shudders and gasps. There is wetness against Yuuri’s toes. Victor’s shoulders bunch up, and the bend of his spine is magnificent, and there is sweat beading on his forehead, and he doesn’t stop sucking.

He doesn’t stop, because Yuuri told him not to stop.

And that is what sends Yuuri over the edge: Victor, obeying. Yuuri clutches at the duvet and does his best to keep his hips from moving too much, and his whole body goes hot as he shoots straight down Victor’s throat, and he still doesn’t lose himself—he never really can, so soon after a panic attack—but it feels so good. So impossibly, improbably good, after the night he’s had.

Yuuri’s breathing slows. So does Victor’s. Eventually, Victor pulls off, leaving Yuuri’s cock spent and bared to the cool air. He presses a kiss to each of Yuuri’s thighs, and he sits back on his heels, working his jaw, loosening it up again.

Yuuri realizes, after far too long a moment, that he’s still got his hand in Victor’s hair. He lets go. Victor gives him a slightly dazed smile.

Still buzzing from his orgasm and a little drunk on how easy it was to make Victor obey, Yuuri says giddily, “So, which one do you like better? Accidental foot jobs given by you, or on-purpose foot jobs given by me?”

Victor nearly doubles over with laughter. “Oh my god, Yuuri. Your feet, the way you just—just, wow. Wow!”

“So, the second option, then?” Yuuri asks, feeling unexpectedly smug.

“I didn’t know,” Victor says, breathless. “I didn’t even know. And it was so… Have you done that before?”

Yuuri shakes his head, suddenly shy. “It was okay, though, right?” he asks, even though obviously it was okay, so why bother asking?

Well, no, he knows why he’s asking. It’s that little voice in the back of his head. He actually thought the foot thing was pretty weird, Yuuri, it will say. Or maybe, He really liked the foot thing, but only because of the novelty of it. Not because you were any good at it. Speaking of which, let’s talk about how terrible you were. That’s what it will say, unless Yuuri asks, and unless Victor gives him the right answer.

“Okay? Was it okay?” Victor says, clasping his hands to his heart. “Yuuri, there are many words for what that was, but okay is not one of them. Marvelous, maybe. Brilliant, definitely. Amazing, most certainly. Can we do it again? Immediately?”

This, it turns out, is the right answer.

And Yuuri knows that even this—even Victor gazing up at him with the purest adoration, praise falling from his lips like water from a tap—won’t be enough to keep the voice quiet for long. It will come back, because it always does. It will tell Yuuri that every part of him is wrong, that he is too much, that he is not enough, that Victor is only humoring him, that nobody loves him, nobody even likes him, he will probably die alone, et cetera, et cetera.

All the usual stuff.

And Yuuri will feel terrible for a little while, and he will probably cry, and he will maybe have another panic attack, and he will get through it, and Victor will be waiting for him on the other side.

Or maybe, like tonight, Victor will meet him halfway.

“Yuuri?” says Victor. Which is when Yuuri realizes that he’s started crying again. Not sobbing, like before; just a little overflow of emotion. Just something that has to get out of his system so he can level out again.

Yuuri swipes at his eyes. “Sorry.”

“You all right?” Victor is still kneeling between Yuuri’s legs. He looks so at home there. So comfortable.

“Yeah, I just…” Yuuri takes a moment to compose himself, to make sure his lungs are still working properly. “Thanks. For before. The, um, breathing thing you did. With the counting. It was… it helped. A lot.”

Victor brightens, his eyes shining in the window light. “Really? Oh, good. I hoped it would. I read an article online.”

“An article?” Yuuri says with a laugh.

Victor nods. “Well, a couple of articles. A lot of them, actually. I spent an afternoon looking up what to do if your fiancé, who you love beyond all reason, has a panic attack, and you are not, historically speaking, a person who sticks around when other people start crying in front of you.”

This time, it’s Yuuri who doesn’t know what to say. The thought of Victor devoting an entire afternoon to reading up on panic attacks—the thought of him researching and remembering, it’s…

“When did you look up all that stuff?” Yuuri blurts out.

Victor shrugs. “After the first time it happened.”

“After the…” It clicks in Yuuri’s head. The first time he had an attack in front of Victor. “You mean at the Cup of China? That was…” Months ago. Almost half a year ago. But somehow, what comes out is: “We weren’t even engaged yet!”

“Well, the results weren’t fiancé-specific or anything,” says Victor, grinning up at him. “And they didn’t all say the same thing. But, you know, they gave me some ideas to keep in mind.”

“Like counting.”

“That was honestly just the first one I remembered.”

Yuuri smiles. His chest feels… something. Like maybe he’s about to cry again, but maybe also like he doesn’t really need to. Victor is… Victor is just…

Yuuri leans down, takes Victor’s face between his hands, and kisses him soundly. Victor lets Yuuri in with a soft sigh, and Yuuri can taste himself on Victor’s tongue. Musky, salty. It sends a thin streak of lightning through him, and he says, “Come up here.”

But Victor pulls away. “Let me clean up first, okay?”

Yuuri nods, and Victor finally pushes himself off his knees. He stretches, then heads into the bathroom. Yuuri lets out a long breath and watches him go.

His mind is quiet, now. The apartment is, too, except for the sound of the tap running in the bathroom, and Victor puttering around, finding a towel, wetting it, cleaning himself off. There’s the wet swish of mouthwash, the flick of a light switch, and the muted padding of bare feet on the floor. Then Victor is standing over him, looking down. He is naked now, and the look on his face is soft and uncalculated. It’s a private look. A nighttime look. Yuuri is so lucky to be allowed to see it.

“I see you in my future, too, you know,” Yuuri tells him. “Just because I freaked out doesn’t mean I don’t think about it. I do. All the time.”

Victor’s smile is so warm. “I know, Yuuri,” he replies, just before he climbs into bed.

Yuuri scoots over so Victor can have room, and they arrange themselves under the covers. Not back-to-front, like before, but face-to-face. Victor’s hand comes to rest on Yuuri’s waist. Yuuri reaches out and brushes his fingers over Victor’s cheek. Victor lets out a happy sigh, turning his face into the touch, nosing at Yuuri’s hand like a puppy. Yuuri laughs softly at the sight.

“What?” says Victor, eyebrows raised, like he already knows the answer.

“Nothing,” Yuuri says. Victor’s skin is warm under his hand. “It’s… I’m just happy. That’s all.”

“Oh yeah? What are you happy about?”

Yuuri smiles. “You, of course.”