Naked men appearing in Yuuri’s life should not be a recurring theme. In fact, Yuuri should never have to deal with unexpected naked people ever, if you want his opinion. Of course he doesn’t mind it in the onsen, it makes sense there. The same is true for locker rooms, there’s no need to think about nakedness—though there is a need to know Chris’s whereabouts, there.
The first time Yuuri encountered a naked stranger, it wasn’t as alarming as it could’ve been. Yuuri was so small when a child appeared, fully naked, and with shimmering silver hair almost to his waist. Yuuri was entranced by this older boy named Vitya, of course, and tried to get him clothes from his parents.
No one else could see the naked boy.
An imaginary friend, people said. No one thought it odd. Before he had Takeshi and Yuuko, Yuuri was a lonely kid that spent way too much time at Minako’s studio. The fact that the imaginary child showed up naked at first was… maybe a little odd. Some people suggested it was how one of his soulmates was presenting, but that didn’t seem right.
Any soul that is connected to another will show up in a different way—his family tended to share tattoos, and Yuuri has two twining dragons on his chest to represent his bond to his parents, and a ring of the mermaids that bask on Hasetsu’s beach around his thumb that also appeared on his sister’s skin when he was born. He even has a small tattoo on him from Vicchan.
Phichit tends to glow a bit for Yuuri, which is fitting considering his personality. Yuuko and Yuuri apparently switched bodies once when they were toddlers—even though neither of them remembers that. Spiritual projection wouldn’t have been so strange for a soulmate manifestation.
But when Yuuri first saw Victor gliding across a TV screen, he knew he must have made his Vitya up. He must have seen Victor Nikiforov in passing and based this imaginary friend off of him.
Sure, the imaginary kid started thankfully showing up with clothes on—though they were pajamas since he claimed that he only came to Yuuri when he slept. He said Yuuri would visit him when he slept, too, though neither could remember when they were awake. But then, if he couldn’t remember, how did Vitya remember to put on clothes when he slept? And it didn’t make sense that Yuuri could understand what his Vitya said when Yuuri could barely speak English, much less Russian. It didn’t make sense that no one else could see any signs of him, because, yeah, every soulmate was unique and different, but normally spiritual projection leaves signs.
Not to mention that no one as impressive as Victor Nikiforov could be connected to someone like Yuuri. So he ignored his imaginary friend until he stopped showing up—which was proof in itself that it wasn’t anything meaningful—and that was that. A kid’s daydream.
Until now, apparently.
It’s sometime after noon, Yuuri’s just rolled out of bed, and there’s a naked man in Yuuri and Phichit’s living room. And not just any man—Yuuri would know that ass anywhere.
A hysterical laugh almost bubbles out of his mouth, but he bites it back before it escapes. His failure at Sochi, and then just squeaking by finals last week is leading him to a mental break. And now, Yuuri’s chubbier than he’s been in years, surrounded by his and Phichit’s mountain of take-out containers and pizza boxes from last week—and some maybe a little bit older than that—and their ratty, second-hand furniture, with the afternoon sun illuminating… an imaginary, very naked man that looks like his idol.
If he’s going to be hallucinating, it makes no sense for Vitya to be naked. If it was a dream, and this was Victor, that’s a different story. But this is Vitya. Vitya only showed up naked twice before he started wearing clothes.
He can’t call this delusion Victor. He met Victor Nikiforov briefly, and if anything dashed his distant, impossible hopes that they were somehow soulmates, it was two words:
Victor never knew Yuuri’s full name, probably, but aren’t people supposed to at least recognize their soulmates? So this is Vitya, not the man who decided Yuuri wasn’t even enough of a competitor to know his name. That, or maybe the man cruel enough to want to immortalize Yuuri’s awful performances with a mocking photo. Either way, his Vitya wouldn’t have done either. They’re totally different—even if they sort of share a name. He must’ve heard or seen Victor’s coach call him Vitya at some point, and latched onto it. That’s all.
Yuuri squints a little, totally out of confusion and the sleepiness clinging to him, and absolutely not because he’s appreciating the imaginary view in front of him, nope. He should ignore this delusion and go drink some tea. That would be smart.
So, naturally, he doesn’t do that.
“Why are you naked?” Yuuri blurts, blinking a few times. “Again?”
His delusion turns and Yuuri absolutely refuses to look at anything below Vitya’s face.
“Yuuri! It is you!” A huge, heart-shaped smile spreads across Vitya’s face as he steps forward. “After Sochi, I was nearly sure, but—”
“Don’t talk about Sochi. Just.” Yuuri bristles before he reaches up, pushing up his glasses up and rubbing at his eyes. Breathe, he needs to breathe through this. Maybe he can meditate a bit and everything will be back to normal. He just woke up, maybe he’s still half-dreaming. “Just don’t. I don’t need even my hallucinations rubbing it in.”
It’s quiet for a moment, and Yuuri almost believes that Vitya will be gone once he opens his eyes and looks around. The painful twinge in his chest at the thought is only there because he’s too groggy to think straight.
“I’m not rubbing it in, Yuuri.”
Yuuri sucks in a breath. God, being even in the general vicinity of Victor has made Vitya’s voice too much like the real thing, just too much.
“And if you don’t believe that I’m really here, I’ll prove it! I’ll—”
Arms wrap around Yuuri and he jumps, scrambling backward only a couple of feet before he trips over some piece of garbage and lands hard on his butt and… Oh no, that puts him on eye-level with Vitya’s—
Yuuri slaps his hands over his face, not even bothering to move his glasses this time. Maybe if he’s lucky they’ll be so smudged that he can’t see anything. “I don’t care if you’re real or not, I really, really don’t! You can just, um… go, okay?”
There’s a second of quiet. “I can’t just leave while I’m naked, Yuuri.”
That does make some sort of weird sense… Except Vitya’s literally a hallucination so it doesn’t matter who will see him. But maybe if he clothes Vitya, he’ll go away. Bargaining with a delusion doesn’t seem like the best plan of action, but maybe this is some weird form of grief over the death of his figure skating career and everything going on with Vicchan?
“Fine.” Yuuri draws in a steadying breath, getting to his feet and almost falling right back over if it weren’t for the light touch on his arm. He refuses to move his hands. “I’ll get you clothes, and then you’re leaving, okay?”
There’s another moment before, “Well, clothes do seem like a good first step.”
As a master of avoiding subjects that he’d rather not ever talk about, Yuuri recognizes deflection when he hears it. This whole thing it would be much, much easier if Yuuri had a few more minutes to wake up and process this absolute mess, and also if he wasn’t speaking to a naked mental breakdown wearing Victor Nikiforov’s face. At least he can get rid of the naked bit before getting rid of the rest.
Yuuri parts his fingers the tiniest amount to start picking his way around the living room and toward his bedroom, pushing the door open and cringing at the mess created by stress, apathy, and binge eating of the past… who knows how long. Well, maybe he’ll have clothes that’ll fit Vitya, even if the hems will be a little too short. Thank god he’s not some Victorian man with an ankle fetish, or—
“Oh my.” Vitya’s voice has an obvious smile to it, and Yuuri’s stomach fills with dread. “I didn’t know you were such a fan, Yuuri.”
Yuuri’s cheeks burn against his palms. He may have… a lot of posters of Victor on the walls, but they were what kept him sane in this strange, loud country, and what kept him focused on his dreams. Though now…
Now it doesn’t matter. Vitya isn’t real. Yuuri doesn’t have to pretend this horribly awkward and uncomfortable situation is actually going on.
He digs through his dresser and tosses Vitya the nicest workout clothes he has in a size that might kinda fit him, and knows that his delusion catches them when he doesn’t hear them smack against the floor.
Now that is one thing that was always odd; Vitya can sometimes touch things. Maybe Yuuri has some innate natural magic talent? And all he can do is levitate objects. Maybe he missed his calling and should’ve trained as a witch. After all, Minako teaches some magic on the side… But he always loved dance so much. And maybe he can levitate objects, but he can only fall on the ice.
He clenches his fists as he glares up at the posters. Maybe they’re why he’s hallucinating Vitya. And it’s not like he needs the reminder, and he’s packing anyway…
The posters have to go.
Yuuri walks over and begins pulling everything off the wall, being sure not to rip or tear the paper. These posters are nothing compared to his collection in Hasetsu, of course, but he’s continued to accumulate them throughout the years that he’s been away. He can pinpoint when he got each one, which season, which program. How his hopes to be an equal on the ice with his idol were dashed every single time.
“Yuuri, no!” Vitya’s voice nearly squeaks behind him. “Don’t be embarrassed!”
“I’m not—” Yuuri freezes, half-turned, before the tension bleeds out. Thankfully Vitya actually put the clothes on. “It’s not… It’s just time they come down.”
There’s a furrow on Vitya’s forehead and a frown on his face, and they look so wrong there. “But why?”
Yuuri opens his mouth, half-prepared to let the truth fall out, but he can’t bring himself to say it. Not when he’d be letting down those bright blue eyes, real or not. “I’m going back to Japan soon. They need to come down, anyway.”
The frown doesn’t leave Vitya’s face, but before Yuuri can do a thing about it, the sight in front of him finally sinks in, a heavy, sickening lump forming in his stomach. A Victor look-alike is standing feet from Yuuri, in Yuuri’s bedroom, and in Yuuri’s clothes.
This is… This is way too much.
“I need a cup of tea,” Yuuri mutters, pushing past Vitya. “And some breakfast.”
“Breakfast?” Vitya squints at the window that the blinds half blot out, like he doesn’t quite know what time it is.
Good, if he doesn’t know what time it is, he can’t judge Yuuri more than he already has.
Yuuri hums a vague agreement that yes, he needs food in his mouth, and walks into the kitchen. He eyes the mountain of dishes in the sink before grabbing the kettle, filling it with water and setting it on the stove. Phichit is a heathen that warms water in the microwave when he wants tea, but Yuuri refuses to give into that blasphemy.
He grabs a bowl and barely sets it down before arms curl around his shoulders.
“You’re not a morning person, are you?” Vitya coos into Yuuri’s ear as he settles his chin on Yuuri’s shoulder.
He should not be blushing this much over something that isn’t even real, but… but Vitya feels warm, and weirdly familiar and nice? Not as nice as food and reality, though.
He pushes away from Vitya’s grip, putting a solid foot between them—which is all that Yuuri’s going to get in this tiny kitchen. “Go sit down. Do you want something? I have—”
Yuuri snaps his mouth shut. Vitya can’t eat.
“It’s been so long that my Yuuri forgot how this works.” Vitya reaches out and runs the tips of his fingers along Yuuri’s cheek and Yuuri absolutely does not shiver at this. “I’m not hungry like this, thank you.”
He’s not hungry ever because he’s in Yuuri’s mind. And Yuuri’s not going to let himself get pushed around by his own creation. “Then go sit down, I’m busy.”
There’s a soft chuckle before there are receding footsteps, and the scrape of a chair being pulled out.
Before he can think too much about anything, Yuuri grabs the sugariest cereal he can find in their cupboard and throws his breakfast together. Vitya will more likely than not judge him for this, but—
Yuuri slams the jug of milk down on the counter, possibly sloshing a little of it everywhere. This is enough. He’s got enough things to worry about without having to take into account a person that doesn’t exist. Maybe it won’t be so simple to get rid of Vitya, but he’s not going to give in. He’s not going to be afraid. He’s got enough to run away from, he doesn’t need to add himself to that list.
Yuuri throws his meal together, then shuffles and plops down in the chair opposite Vitya.
Even if it’s not reality, it’s a strange sight; imaginary Victor Nikiforov, in Yuuri’s clothes, sitting at the most rickety table still standing, each of its four chairs a different height and style and color. He snorts a little before shoving the first spoonful of sugar heaven into his mouth.
Vitya’s nose wrinkles. “That garbage actually tastes good?”
Yuuri narrows his eyes. He knew Vitya was going to judge—but, well. He’d be judging himself if he could be bothered to give a damn. “Have you ever tried it?”
Vitya hesitates, but shakes his head. “I don’t break my diet.”
Yuuri snorts. Well, he wouldn’t put it past Victor Nikiforov, but luckily he’s not actually here to witness Yuuri pigging out. “Then don’t judge me.”
“Yuuri, I know that you aren’t competing right now, but…” Vitya folds his hands in front of himself, leaning forward. “With that cute little chub weighing you, I doubt you can even do ice shows.”
Yuuri winces. Vitya says it so brightly, like he didn’t just absolutely gut Yuuri. It isn’t like Yuuri doesn’t know that. He doesn’t need it rubbed in.
“I’m not doing ice shows.”
Vitya stills, his smile freezing on his face. “What? But Yuuri! You’re Japan’s Ace, of course you’re doing ice shows.”
Yuuri frowns, shoves another mouthful in his face, and refuses to move his gaze from his cereal. All that sort of stuff used to go through Celestino, but he hasn’t gotten invited to anything. He doubts he ever got into any that his coach didn’t have to beg to get him into in the first place. “I’m not Japan’s Ace.”
“But they call you—”
“They called me that, yeah.” Yuuri glances up at Vitya, at that pitying frown. “But not anymore. I’ve let Coach Celestino go. I’m not going back.”
Vitya gapes. It’s weird on a face that’s always looked so composed while it stares down at Yuuri from his many posters. More proof he’s fake.
It’s a moment before Vitya swallows. “What?”
Yuuri shrugs. “I meant what I said. I’m going… home.” Though it’s been five years. So long since he’s stepped foot in Minako’s studio; since he’s woken up to the mermaid song echoing in through his window in time with the waves crashing along the shore; since he’s had the comfort of his family and his mother’s cooking; since he held Vicchan and skated at Ice Castle. Though that last one’s impossible, now.
“Why?” Vitya breathes, eyes wide. Another scrap of evidence for Yuuri’s pile—Victor Nikiforov wouldn’t care about him retiring.
You, Yuuri doesn’t say, but he thinks it. It’s not fair, and it’s not even true. The fault doesn’t fall on Victor that Yuuri let everyone down at the moment he should’ve proven that he was worth all of their time and sacrifice—that he could’ve been a worthy soulmate for Victor, even. But that was only ever some weird, creepy pipe dream that at least half of Victor’s fans daydream about.
Sometimes Yuuri will sit and wonder which one of those fans might be one of Victor’s actual soulmates—though that path leads to madness.
Well, more madness than he’s already dealing with.
“You’re not real, but I’m sure you know about Sochi through my brain.” Yuuri grimaces, pushing the rest of his cereal away. “Don’t pretend you don’t know.”
“How do you know I’m not the real Victor Nikiforov?” Vitya leans forward, eyes searching Yuuri’s face. “Soulmates work in mysterious ways, you know.”
Yuuri meets Vitya’s gaze, weighing his words. Of course that’s what Vitya latches onto. Being soulmates means a deep connection between people, no matter the type of relationship. Victor would’ve known, Yuuri would’ve known. Something should’ve happened when they saw each other, but it didn’t. Still, though, that’s not Yuuri’s greatest reasoning at this point. And what’s the use in keeping the truth from himself? “I know you’re not real because there is no universe in which Victor Nikiforov could love me.”
Vitya sucks in a breath. “He could love you.”
Yuuri shrugs. “Sure. And I could grow a second head.”
“Fine!” Vitya stands up, looking down at Yuuri. “Then I’ll just have to take every opportunity to prove I’m real, and that I’m your soulmate, and that you’re a beautiful skater.”
Yuuri glares up at him. Fine, he wants to prove he’s real? That all that nonsense is true? Well, Yuuri’s going spend just as much time proving the opposite. “Have fun with that. But you haven’t been awkward at all about showing up in my apartment. You haven’t questioned anything. You say my skating’s ‘beautiful’ when the real Victor didn’t even know my name at Sochi. And you’re way more enthusiastic and way less suave than the Victor that I’ve seen on TV.”
“That’s… a lot to unpack.” Vitya frowns. “But first, that Victor isn’t—”
The door slams, making both Vitya and Yuuri jump.
Phichit turns the corner out of their small entrance hall and…
And the clothes Vitya’s wearing immediately flutter through him and to the floor.
Well… that’s the same as when Yuuri was younger. Vitya can hold things until someone other than Yuuri sees him, and then he goes slightly transparent. It was really unhelpful when Yuuri was trying get help with his chores, and it made everyone think Yuuri was a klutz for a while, but everyone assumed he’d grown out of it.
But now Vitya’s naked again, and Phichit’s back from the rink, and Yuuri has no excuse.
Yuuri glances between Vitya and Phichit, but Phichit’s eyes don’t even pause on the very naked imaginary man at the table—another sample of evidence for Yuuri’s case—and instead glue themselves to the clothes that shouldn’t be there.
With a deep breath, Yuuri places his face in his hands.
This is going to be awkward, isn’t it?