Phichit spends a moment staring between the clothes that just fell on the empty chair across the table, and Yuuri.
Yuuri, on the other hand, keeps glancing at Vitya, remembering he’s now absolutely naked again beneath the table, and then looking back at Phichit with probably the reddest face to ever grace a human being.
“Um, Yuuri?” Phichit finally starts, words slow.
Yuuri preemptively winces. Phichit obviously can’t see Vitya or there would be a lot of screaming—and pictures, unfortunately—but instead he’s got that furrow in his brow that says concern, and Yuuri’s not ready for Phichit ask about the clothes flopping onto a chair as he walked in, or maybe he overheard Yuuri talking to himself, or—
“Are you eating cereal?” Phichit frowns.
“Uh.” Yuuri looks down at his bowl, then up at Phichit, and back down again. “Yes?”
Phichit places a hand on his hip. “You do know it’s dinnertime, right?”
Yuuri blinks at Phichit. He did stay up pretty late playing on his phone, but it wasn’t like he would’ve been sleeping anyway. He’s had trouble with it since Sochi, between finals, and anxiety, and finals anxiety. But he doesn’t have school anymore, he doesn’t have skating, he doesn’t have any plans.
He has nothing.
So Yuuri shrugs and shoves another spoonful of sweet, slightly soggy goodness into his mouth.
“Yuuri,” both Phichit and Vitya say his name in varying degrees of disapproval, and Yuuri wonders if there’s a hole that he can jump into so that he can eat his cereal in peace.
“I’ll try to sleep better tonight,” Yuuri promises, knowing that even if he does try to sleep well, it’ll be light and restless and full of weird dreams like always.
Phichit frowns at him, knowing exactly what Yuuri means. The downside of having a roommate that actually cares about him is that he calls Yuuri out on his bullshit way too much.
Yuuri doesn’t even dare to look at Vitya. First, because he’s totally naked and has less shame than anyone Yuuri’s ever known; even growing up in a hot springs resort with so many naked people around, he’s never seen anything like this—and he means both shameless nudity and that body. Second, because he has a feeling Vitya will see through him, too. After all, he grew up with Yuuri, and he is just a hallucination.
Finally, Phichit’s face relaxes and a queasy icicle of dread forms in Yuuri’s stomach. “Good! Then to tire you out, we’re going shopping!”
Yuuri groans. “Phichit, you know I don’t have any money.” Not after losing so thoroughly at Sochi; he doesn’t even have enough for Vicchan.
“No, not that kind of shopping. Groceries!” Phichit rolls his eyes, like Yuuri should’ve known exactly what he meant. “We literally only have cereal, and I want to eat something that Ciao Ciao won’t yell at me for tomorrow—we don’t have the excuse of finals anymore.”
Yuuri sighs. “But you just got back from practice. Aren’t you tired?”
“You wish!” Phichit grabs one of Yuuri’s arms, trying to tug him away from the dregs of his breakfast—or dinner, whatever. “C’mon, we gotta run to make the bus.”
Yuuri knows when he’s fighting a losing battle, so after taking a moment to gather his wits, he sighs again. “Fine. Whatever. Let’s go.”
Phichit draws back as if burned. “You’re wearing that out?”
Yuuri glances down at himself and feels like he’s had a bucket of ice water dumped over his head. Victor’s seen him all this time in his ratty sweatpants and old, stained t-shirt that he slept in. He knows what a pig Yuuri is. He’s—
He’s Vitya. He’s not real. It’s fine, everything’s fine.
Yuuri sucks in a deep breath. “I haven’t changed yet, Phichit, my fashion choices aren’t that bad.”
Phichit gives him that terrible side-eye only he has mastered. “You tried to leave the house in crocs and a Hawaiian shirt, once.”
Yuuri rolls his eyes, pushing himself away from the table. “That wasn’t that bad.”
“Just because you have an ass that slays for days doesn’t mean that you can wear whatever you want!” Phichit scoffs.
“I—what? Phichit!” Yuuri jumps to his feet, face already beet red again.
“He’s right. Crocs are atrocious, Yuuri.” Vitya taps his lip, eyes scouring over Yuuri’s outfit.
Oh god, Yuuri would like to die.
“I’m changing!” Yuuri announces before scrambling toward his room. He turns to slam the door and finds Vitya standing right there instead, head tilted in a wordless question.
Yuuri almost opens his mouth to respond, but then realizes he can see Phichit staring at him through Vitya’s semi-transparent form, and steps aside to let Vitya in before quickly slamming the door shut. Without glancing at Vitya’s face, Yuuri walks to his bed, collapses, and lets out a small scream into the safety of his pillow.
Yuuri sucks in a deep breath. What’s with Vitya’s obsession with saying Yuuri’s name? Is it some form of narcissism on Yuuri’s part, if Vitya’s just a part of his brain?
“Go away,” Yuuri says instead of one of his hundreds of questions, though he doesn’t say it with any force. How can he have gotten up less than an hour ago and be so tired already?
Vitya’s quiet for a moment before there’s the slight jostle of someone sitting on the bed beside Yuuri. “I’ll go if you want me to.”
Yuuri takes a deep breath, turning his head a little so he can be heard instead of speaking into the pillow. “I mean, I do have to change clothes, so…” And he would like some time to scream more, thank you very much.
There’s another moment of silence before Vitya clears his throat. “That’s not what I meant. Though, now that you mention it, you’ve seen me naked more than enough. The least you can do is return the favor.”
Yuuri promptly grabs his spare pillow and chucks it behind him. Something wicked and satisfied grows inside him at Vitya’s, “Oof!”
“What did you mean, then?” Yuuri keeps his voice low enough that Phichit hopefully won’t hear beyond the paper-thin walls, but moving the conversation forward before Vitya can retaliate.
“What I meant was if… if you really don’t want me here, I’ll leave.”
Yuuri grips his pillow a little tighter, swallowing down the bitter disappointment on his tongue. “You really aren’t Victor Nikiforov if you give up that easy, then.”
That sort of thing would be more like Yuuri.
Vitya scoffs softly. “I won’t give up, but I’ll find another way to prove myself to you. I’m just letting you choose which method you prefer.”
Yuuri nearly opens his mouth to ask what the not haunting him in his ugly apartment option entails exactly, but he doesn’t dare to. Because if he asks, and Vitya gives him an answer, he’s going to latch onto whatever dumb idea he spews and hope for it to happen. Despite the fact that he knows it won’t ever come to exist.
He doesn’t need another disappointment, even if he almost wishes this was real.
He wanted to be worthy of Victor on the ice, yeah, but also as a person. He still does. And if Yuuri could have Victor anyway, without having to earn him and prove he has some sort of value, that… that would be…
Way too good to be true. And embarrassing on top of that. Victor doesn’t need the likes of Katsuki Finished-Last-At-The-Grand-Prix-Final Yuuri as a soulmate. And Yuuri doesn’t think he could stand being kept a secret for being so embarrassing, despite the fact that he knows he’s more than earned it.
And now he’s just… he’s lonely, and he wants any fragment of what he had, even if he doesn’t deserve it; even if it’s probably not at all healthy.
Yuuri turns his face back into the pillow, now more to hide the wetness gathering in the corners of his eyes than to scream into it. He takes a shaking breath, but only manages one word, “Stay.”
A hand falls onto the small of Yuuri’s back, and it almost feels real. Yuuri can nearly pretend that the weight there belongs to the Victor Nikiforov, but… there’s no warmth. There’s no real hand there, it’s not him, it’s just Yuuri having a mental break after the panic of school and skating’s finally settled.
Yuuri’s feet itch to run, to grab his skates or ballet shoes, to move.
But the rink’s closed, he doesn’t have access to a dance studio since he dropped skating—regardless of Celestino’s too-kind offers—and Phichit expects him to go shopping.
“Yuuri,” Vitya nearly purrs his name, a shiver rolling up Yuuri’s spine. “Does this mean you know I’m real?”
“You’re not real,” Yuuri mumbles into the pillow, squeezing his eyes shut. “You can’t be real. But it doesn’t matter because I’m going to Japan soon, and I’m leaving skating here, and you’ll go away.”
Vitya’s hand presses a little more firmly on his back. “You really want to leave skating?”
Does he? Does he want to leave the ice behind? Leave his dreams of competing with Victor behind? Abandon everything he’s ever worked for?
“No,” Yuuri murmurs into the pillow. “But I… I can’t right now. I’m going to Hasetsu. I don’t have a coach anymore.”
“Good!” Vitya chirps. “Celestino was terrible for you.”
Yuuri freezes, before swiveling around to see Vitya smiling down at him as he perches at the edge of his bed.
God, he’s never going to get used to seeing him—even if it’s just Vitya—here.
“Celestino is a great coach.” Yuuri jabs a finger at Vitya’s chest to hopefully draw attention away from his pinkened cheeks.
“Oh yes. I like what he’s doing with your friend, Phichit.” Vitya reaches out and takes Yuuri’s hand, interlacing their fingers like it’s as natural as breathing. “But he didn’t push you like he should have. Your anxiety is a part of you and something to consider when skating, yes. I knew you too well as a child to forget that. But it doesn’t define you. You have so much potential.”
Yuuri snorts. “Sure.”
Vitya frowns at him. “I’ll have you know that I’ve watched all of your programs, and—”
“You what?” Yuuri almost yanks his hand away on pure instinct, but Vitya holds on tight.
“If I only exist in your head, is it really that surprising?” Vitya winks at him.
Yuuri splutters. Vitya’s right. It shouldn’t be surprising if Yuuri believes that Vitya’s fake, but… he just…
“Besides, how could I resist? Your musicality is breathtaking. I’d just wanted to see some of the highlights of your career, but once I started, I couldn’t stop.”
The heat in Yuuri’s cheeks spreads, reaching up to his ears and down toward this neck. “Does that mean… um…”
“Yes.” Vitya’s grin grows wicked. “Even your exhibitions. I didn’t know anyone could move like that, Yuuri, and that costume—”
“Nope.” Yuuri sits up straight, pulling his hand away. “No, no, no, nope!”
Vitya slides a little closer, enough so that if he was real, Yuuri would feel his heat. “Yes, Yuuri. You’re beautiful. Enrapturing, really. I can’t believe it took me until Sochi to—”
“No!” Yuuri grabs a pillow and shoves it into Vitya’s face. “If anything is proving that you’re imaginary, it’s this.”
A slight rapping sounds on Yuuri’s door, making them both jump before it creaks open.
“Uh, you okay in there, Yuuri?” Phichit peeks his head in, brow furrowed and obviously already knowing that no, not everything’s all right.
“Um yes!” Yuuri glances around, very carefully not making eye contact with an extremely naked Vitya before grabbing his phone and waving it around. “A game!”
Phichit narrows his eyes.
Yuuri swallows. “I was playing a game and I was super into it? So I was just… being loud. Yeah. I’ll get ready to go now.”
Phichit’s mouth turns down. “Sure. So long as you’re okay…”
“Yep, I’m fine!” Yuuri waves his hands in front of him, like he can physically shoo away Phichit’s concerns. “Just give me a few minutes.”
Phichit stares at Yuuri a bit longer, making sure that Yuuri knows Phichit doesn’t believe a word—and it’s not like he can blame Phichit, especially if he could hear part of what Yuuri was saying through the paper-thin walls. And it’s not like he can tell Phichit what’s really going on…
Well, actually, he probably could do just that. They’re best friends. If Yuuri was going to tell anybody, it would be Phichit. But… Phichit’s busy preparing for Worlds. He’s got a new semester starting up soon, and he’s three years younger than Yuuri, it’s not like he’s going to be magically more mature and have all the answers that Yuuri lacks.
No, there’s no need to worry him.
Finally, Phichit lets out a sigh. “Yeah, all right. Stop playing on your phone and get out here. Some of us didn’t just laze around all day and are actually hungry for a real meal.”
And with that, he shuts the door.
Yuuri lets out a long breath before jabbing a finger at Vitya again. “You,” he whispers as aggressively as he can. “Quiet.”
But Yuuri knows that his command’s already in one ear and out the other by the way that Vitya taps his lip and how his eyes search Yuuri’s face. “You’re not really fine, are you, Yuuri?”
“Does it matter?” Yuuri huffs, getting up from his bed and rummaging through his dresser. “Now turn around, I’ve got to put clothes on.”
Vitya raises an eyebrow, but does as he’s told, standing up and facing a wall of Yuuri’s room, staring at the fading wallpaper like he’s trying to make sense of the nonsensical pattern. “It matters to me.”
“Why?” Yuuri snaps as he tosses clothes on the bed, then begins stripping off his shirt.
“Well, you can look at it one of two ways. If I’m not real—and I assure you, I am, you won’t find anyone with more knowledge about Coach Yakov’s bald spot and Makkachin’s life history in this world—then I’m concerned for you and therefore myself, by your reasoning.” Vitya’s words are so light, almost… nonchalant. “But as a real person, I care because of course I would care for my soulmate no matter the relationship destiny has in store for us, and naturally I’m concerned about any person who’s reached the point where having visual and auditory hallucinations is so… unsurprising.”
Yuuri scowls as he puts on clothes. “Fine. I’m not all right. I blew my one chance to… I blew my first Grand Prix. Vicchan, my best friend, the ice dragon that maintains the rink at my hometown, is sick and can barely create ice anymore and I can’t afford treatment.I was supposed to win and use that money to pay for the medicine he needs, but I lost. I don’t have enough. And the disease he has, even if I can cure it, it might lead to other problems and I don’t have the money for that, either. So now we’re going to have to try and give Vicchan to someone who can take care of him, and on top of losing him, I won’t have an ice rink to skate at anymore unless they revamp the place and get a Zamboni—but again, money. I messed up with Vicchan, I messed up at skating, and my idol didn’t even recognize me when I had the smallest chance of meeting him. I left home and wasted all this time and money on a career that’s blown up in my face, and a degree that I’ll probably do nothing with, so I’m going to stop chasing after something I’ll never catch and go home and help out the family business for the rest of my life.”
Yuuri closes his eyes, reminding himself to breathe. “No. I’m not all right.”
Vitya’s quiet for a long moment, to the point where the silence becomes deafening before he speaks. “But I thought you said you didn’t want to quit skating?”
“I don’t want to, but what choice do I have? I just… I’ll have to figure it out.”
“And if you don’t?”
Yuuri winces. “Then I don’t.” He takes another shaking breath before opening his eyes. “I’m dressed.”
Vitya turns around and—oh. That’s a face that Yuuri’s only ever seen on him in competitions, his brow furrowed, eyes alight in concentration. Vitya takes a step toward Yuuri, getting very close in this very small, crowded room. “I can help you.”
“No,” the word snaps out of Yuuri’s mouth before he can even think about it, his pride flaring up hot and overwhelming.
“Please just think about it, Yuuri.” Vitya takes one of Yuuri’s hands again and… and something in Yuuri settles at the touch. “I can afford it.”
“You shouldn’t… It’s my responsibility, and I failed, and what if Vicchan gets gets more and more sick? What if you’re not around to help then, and—and you’re not real.” Yuuri shakes his head, almost drawing back but finding he doesn’t want to.
“Then let me prove I’m real.” Vitya’s grip tightens. “Give me your phone number, or give me your address, and I will send you what you need, I’ll talk to you. I’ll send you pictures of Makk—my ice rink, and my rink mates. I can prove it.”
Yuuri shakes his head, no hesitation in his mind. He can’t… he can’t do this. He can’t handle finding out Vitya is fake—or worse, the minuscule chance that this is really the truth, and Victor Nikiforov has seen and known him like this. A failure, a slob, a recluse and… No. Everything that’s messed up is Yuuri’s fault, and he has to fix it.
“No, thank you,” Yuuri finally manages to whisper before pulling his hand from Vitya’s grip and turning to grab his coat.
“But, Yuuri, I have the money—”
“No.” Yuuri meets Vitya’s eyes for a brief moment, before pushing past him. “Thank you, but no. I… I can’t.”
And he opens the door, ending his side of the conversation with Vitya.
Phichit pops his head up over the edge of the couch, where he must’ve been lounging. “Ready?”
Yuuri almost laughs. Ready for what? To accept the fact that he’s dealing with the most intense hallucination he’s ever heard of? Ready to completely dismiss the tiny little part of him that both wishes and dreads that this is real? To face the music and the end of his life and career here in the States?
But that’s not the question, and Yuuri knows that. So he just nods, giving Phichit a small smile that he hopes look genuine. “Yeah,” he lies.
He can’t… he can’t think about any of that.
But in the meantime, why can’t he indulge himself with this dumb, ridiculous hallucination, and an even more ridiculous shopping trip with Phichit?