This tightness --this thread of doubt ribboned around his neck-- pittered the breaths that spilled from Viktor’s lips when he peered at himself through the bathroom mirror. Droplets rippled down from his face, bits of blue across the lovely shade of velvet that used to paint Viktor’s canvas. Of life, of a perpetual freedom that had always been within an arm’s length, but the touch was neither tangible or close enough for Viktor to graze with the edge of his deft thumb. His touch only slipped and found support against the groove of the bathroom sink. Viktor held himself steady.
He had been down this road before. As many times as his mind needed the travel, as many times as it had left him crumble. Unable to stand when expectations loomed over his shoulders. And then, Viktor found himself on the bathroom floor. The back of his head touched the gentle curve underneath his sink. His back brushed against the copper piping and the cemented bolts. His breathing, more-so or less, fluctuated in discord. Unsure of how to remain steady until Viktor tucked his knees close to his chest. It gave a framework of how far his chest could extend with every breath, and Viktor concentrated on that.
In and out. The numbers were lost to Viktor when he counted every second between his breaths, but his breathing eventually eased into a steady tempo that his body could perform on its own. When he had a clearer grasp of his mind, Viktor pressed the edge of his kneecaps against his collarbone and bits of his shoulders. The weight and the warmth gradually eased his body, almost tricking it into believing that someone had come to comfort him. Even so, the mind couldn’t be fooled. It was good to know how to comfort himself on his own, but Viktor wasn’t alone.
Believing in those words progressed another set of challenges when the mind couldn’t discern between reality and purely fiction, but Viktor held onto his hope. It was one of the few things that an attack on the mind couldn’t take away from him, and Viktor was adamant about it when he closed his eyes. Pretended to drift into the quiet of a stream before a whistle trailed from the edge of his lips. Soft and almost papery in its quality, fragile but heard when a familiar pitter patter of steps emerged from the down hall. Along with the swivel of a tail and the jangle of a dog tag when a furry friend poked her nose through the sliver of the bathroom door.
Batting the opening wider with her paw, Makkachin squeezed through and approached Viktor. Slowly at first, sniffing the floor to gather her senses for the situation before widening her jaw for a yawn. The tuft of fur nestled beneath her ears were exposed when Makkachin shook herself. Her ears flopped into every which direction before her paws clicked against the tiled floor. Marked every step that Makkachin took beneath her pace before she cuddled against Viktor. Motioning with her paw that Viktor could extend his legs. With the space provided, Makkachin rested over Viktor’s lap and gently pressed herself against Viktor’s stomach. Her nose trailed across Viktor’s torso as she sniffed before resting her cheek against Viktor’s heart. Listening for the subtle stir of his heart as Viktor finally found his peace.
In the silence of this embrace, Viktor could close his eyes and watch as his mind finally found its ease. Makkachin never left him. Even though her legs shook and it got harder to stand upright over the jigsaw of Viktor’s limbs, Makkachin remained at where she was until Viktor whistled once more. Makkachin rested from her paws and cuddled against Viktor’s side. Digging her nose into the hem of his shirt as he slowly stroked the top of her head.
Each stroke trailed his fingertips through the tuft of her fur, lulling Makkachin over as if she was a puppy again. Makkachin shook her head as Viktor’s fingers trailed down the path of her neck, and she found her moment of ease when Viktor snuggled her in his arms.
There was a time where Makkachin could’ve lifted her head and nosed at Viktor’s palm. In the moment, all Makkachin could do was steady her breathing so that Viktor could match her pace. It kept the atmosphere still yet reassuring, knowing that every breath wasn’t taken alone. In the minutes that followed, Makkachin would attempt to stand before her joints inflicted every manner of pain that stopped her in her tracks. In the slight shakes of her body when she fluffed her fur, Makkachin simply closed her eyes when she melted against Viktor’s warmth. He helped her stand, helped her shuffle out from the bathroom and to a comfier spot that provided a haven for her bones.
When they nested on the couch, snuggled under a fleece blanket from Makkachin’s bed, Makkachin buried her nose into the crook of Viktor’s elbow. While she did that, Viktor slowly worked through the knots that tightened beneath Makkachin’s fur. He stared from her head, down the back of her neck, down the sprawl of her back, and to the tip of her tail to numb her aches.
Makkachin’s tail slowly wagged, back and forth, and a bit of a bork rumbled from her jaw when Viktor massaged a particularly sore spot along the edge of Makkachin’s shoulder. The poodle sighed against her owner’s thigh, sinking into the touch as the pressure fizzled what ached her there.
She and Viktor were like two soldiers : not impervious to pain and they had found their unique ways to get through it while helping the other. Half of Viktor’s life was dedicated to Makkachin, much as how all of Makkachin’s life was dedicated to Viktor. That was their time together, held in the form of tangible feelings and moments where loneliness couldn’t cause a strife between them, and Viktor held Makkachin closely against his chest. Close enough where her snout nuzzled over the top of his heart, and a sliver of bangs curtained Viktor’s eyes.
For the year Makkachin had left, Viktor wanted to give all of his life and time into making her the happiest poodle. As much as Makkachin had made Viktor the happiest man in the world when she was near Viktor’s side.