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Just Let Our Walls Cave In

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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:

Commemorative photo?

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—

No.

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.

“Yuuri, I’m—!”

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?

Chapter Text

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?”

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?

Chapter Text

There are a lot of things that Yuuri expected and hoped for out of his life. So many dreams and aspirations have passed through his brain that he couldn’t tell you half of them, if you asked.

But he can definitely say seeing the likes of Victor Nikiforov standing naked in the middle of a Walmart was not one of them.

“Yuuri, what are you staring at?” Phichit waves a hand in front of Yuuri’s face, breaking him out of his shocked stupor.

“Uh.” Yuuri blinks rapidly, trying to ignore Vitya’s smiling and very naked form, and glances down the nearest aisle, heading toward it before he sees what it holds. “I was just looking at…”

He lets out a sigh. Of course it’s an isle of toys that he wandered down—dolls, specifically. Yuuri might take a bit of pride in his video game obsession, but he’s a little old for toys.

“Yuuri, look!” Vitya gasps, pointing frantically at the shelf. “This car looks exactly like mine!”

Yuuri glances at the bright, bubblegum pink convertible, and decides he’s just going to… go. He’s going to walk out of the store and swim back to Japan where there aren’t any Walmarts or naked Vityas or obnoxious pink convertibles. Hopefully. Oh no, what if this hallucination follows him to Japan?

“Wait,” Yuuri whispers, looking closer. “You actually own that?” Yuuri saw the photoshoot with the car, of course he did. He has a number of posters of it—it’s not like he was gonna pass up on that many shirtless Victors, and the looks he gave to the camera? There was no way Yuuri could resist, despite the horrific screaming of his bank account.

“Of course I do!” Vitya beams. “Makkachin loves it. I’ll take you for a ride in it if you give me your phone number and let me buy you a plane ticket over to Russia.”

Yuuri can only gape. Yeah, sure, just fly him out to Russia for a ride in a convertible in the frigid cold and snow. It’s getting close to spring, sure, but if there’s still snow in Detroit, he doesn’t want to think about what it’s like in practically the Arctic.

And not to mention, Vitya’s very much so not real.

“Oh, figure skater dolls!” Phichit yanks one from the shelf in front of Yuuri, thankfully not commenting on how Yuuri’s seemingly muttering to himself. “I didn’t know they made figure skating themed dolls. It’s… wow, that’s not accurate, but it’s cool! Maybe I should get one for my sisters…”

“If you get one, they’d murder each other over who gets to play with it. And you can’t get four.” Yuuri glances down at the price and winces. “Besides, aren’t we here for food?”

Phichit huffs. “Well, I’m not the one staring into space looking at figure skating dolls. You know… If you wanna go back to the ice so badly that you can’t help staring longingly at these things, you can come to practice with me. Even if it’s just working on that routine again and again and again, like you did before finals. Celestino won’t mind, since you keep all the younger skaters in line with your creepy levels of concentration.”

Yuuri winces. Thankfully Phichit didn’t mention the name of the routine that Yuuri’s been obsessively practicing and perfecting. Everyone probably thought he was ridiculous, that Yuuri flopped at the Grand Prix Final, then crashed and burned at Nationals, and all he could skate afterward—and during, if he’s being honest—was another skater’s routine.

Even if Victor had shunned Yuuri as a fellow competitor, as anything but a fan, it’s a weird sort of comfort to know this routine. Sharing the same ice as Victor is his dream—or was, whatever, he doesn’t know. And skating Victor’s free skate, it just… It makes Yuuri feel connected with the ice and his lofty dreams in a deep, settling sort of way. He doesn’t have to master it—though nothing will stop him from trying, he can’t resist that challenge—because it’s not something he could ever compete with. It’s not his, and the real Victor Nikiforov would probably be horrified to see him skate it. But it’s a connection to the ice that somehow, impossibly doesn’t hurt.

And… honestly, maybe Yuuri should take Phichit up on that offer. He’s gotten to the point where he’s hallucinating, and it’s just exhausting to be so miserable all of the time. If today’s shown him anything, it’s that it’s time for a change. He was starting to claw his way out of this emotional pit after Nationals, but then his very last finals…

“Oh, was that your longing stare, Yuuri?” Vitya purrs into Yuuri’s ear, jolting him out of his thoughts.

Heat floods Yuuri’s face, and he stands up straighter and turns toward Phichit. “U-uh, maybe I’ll take you up on your offer, if I sleep all right tonight?”

“Yeah, that sounds good.” Phichit smiles, relief obvious in every line of his face.

Guilt creeps beneath Yuuri’s skin, and he only just resists curling in on himself. He knows he’s been worrying everyone,  it’s just… he’s just… He clears his throat. “Well are we actually going to get food, or just starve?”

“Oh, Yuuri.” Phichit walks up and wraps an arm around Yuuri’s shoulders, dragging him along despite being a few inches shorter. “Always thinking with your stomach.”

“Well someone took me away from breakfast before I was finished,” Yuuri mutters, letting Phichit guide him around while absolutely not paying attention to how Vitya prances about, examining all the odds and ends he can find.

Yuuri’s always thought of Walmarts as dirty, loud, and full of people who would be terrifying to meet in any other setting, but apparently Vitya’s finding something that Yuuri’s never seen in the supermarket.

Well, Victor’s always been inspired by weird things. If Vitya is Victor, somehow, then maybe next year the world will see a Walmart-inspired short program by the man.

Yuuri snorts.

“What?” Phichit bobs his head, trying to follow Yuuri’s gaze.

“Oh, uh…” Yuuri points before his mind catches up to him—but at least it’s better than the dolls this time. “Look, they have maple bacon pop tarts.”

For a long second, both Vitya and Phichit are quiet—a small miracle that makes Yuuri’s hair stand on end.

Then Phichit sighs. “Yuuri, we need to have a junk food intervention.”

“W-what?” Yuuri waves his hands in front of him. “No, no, no, I don’t want it, I was just looking at it!”

Phichit stares blankly at him. “Yuuri, you’re the one who tried the bacon cotton candy.”

Yuuri scowls. “Yeah, but you’re the one who bought it.”

“Morbid curiosity and something only costing a dollar is a dangerous combination.” Phichit shakes a finger at Yuuri. “I didn’t force you to get up in the middle of the night and shove half the container in your face. I still can’t believe you were able to stomach that much.”

Yuuri wrinkles his nose. “I can’t believe I stomached that much.”

“Yuuri.” Vitya’s tone drips with disapproval, a frown on his face.

“Look, okay, it was finals and I hadn’t slept in two days and—can we just get some real food? Please?”

Phichit shakes his head and keeps walking, heading toward the refrigerated section, poking around at everything and anything.

Yuuri turns to Vitya—to find that they lost him.

With a sigh, Yuuri backtracks a little, catching Vitya peering into a case. “Vitya,” Yuuri whispers as loud as he dares. “What are you doing? C’mon.”

“But Yuuri!” Vitya’s voice is loud enough to make Yuuri wince. “Look at these sausages! There are so many! How do you even choose what kinds to get? There have to be at least twenty kinds of hot dogs, here.”

“Vitya.” Yuuri lets out a huff. “There is already enough sausage on display with you around, let’s go!”

“My, Yuuri!” Vitya covers his mouth with a hand, probably aiming for a shocked look, but his grin is too obvious. “How forward of you.”

Yuuri rolls his eyes and turns away with his cheeks burning. It’s like he’s dealing with a toddler, not a full-grown adult. But if Vitya isn’t real, does that mean Yuuri is like a toddler?

“Um, Yuuri?” Phichit’s close—too close, and Yuuri almost runs into him. He must’ve overheard Yuuri muttering everything. “Who are you talking to?”

“Uh, no one! I just found… these.” He points at a nearby freezer case. “And I was…” Oh god, what did he find?

Phichit’s eyes widen. “We have to try them.”

Yuuri splutters. “Weren’t you just judging me for my bad choices?”

“Yeah, but Yuuri. It’s bacon cheeseburger on a doughnut bun! Not to mention you don’t have much longer in America with its ridiculous food. We gotta.”

“Wow,” Vitya breathes, and actually seems earnestly shocked. “I thought I was well traveled, but one trip to an American grocery store has me proven wrong!”

“W-we can’t,” Yuuri tries, despite knowing it’s a lost battle.

“Oh c’mon.” Phichit wraps an arm around Yuuri’s shoulders again. “It’s not like you’re training or anything.”

For a moment Yuuri stiffens, but before he can say anything, Vitya walks up a little closer.

“Well.” Vitya tilts his head like he’s looking at some endangered animal in a zoo, and not doughnut bacon cheeseburgers. “You’re obviously not going back to the ice anytime soon, so Phichit has a point. Even if it’s disgusting.”

The words knock the fight and the breath right out of Yuuri. It’s not like Vitya’s wrong. Yuuri doesn’t have any hope of skating professionally anytime soon, and he doesn’t even know if he’ll be able to skate when he gets back to Hasetsu. Yeah, maybe he can go with Phichit to practice a little tomorrow, but that won’t get him in shape, or any make him more of a decent athlete.

Yuuri shrugs away Phichit’s arm. “Fine. Get whatever you want.”

Phichit hesitates, eyes searching Yuuri. “If you really don’t want it, we won’t get it.”

“Does it matter?”

“Yuuri—“ Vitya starts, and…

And that Yuuri can’t take. He can’t hear Vitya second that sentiment. He may not be Victor, but that’s his voice and his slight accent, and his eye, and—Yuuri can’t.

“I’m going to the bathroom,” Yuuri says, turning and walking away before either his hallucination or Phichit can say anything.

Yuuri keeps his eyes down as he goes, so hopefully no one else notices him blinking away the tears as he moves as fast as he can to the front of the store. Luckily this is Walmart. There are stranger things here than a crying man—including, unbeknownst to the people shopping, a naked hallucination version of a famous athlete.

He makes it to the bathroom and shuts the door on a stall before the hysterical laughter bubbles out of his chest and the tears stream down his face. This is… it’s too much.

His knees threaten to buckle, but of course he chose a stall with a disgusting toilet, this is a Walmart. So he turns toward the door and crouches on the ground, covering his face with his hands and pushing up his glasses before muffling his laughs or his sobs—he doesn’t know which they are anymore

Things that Yuuri can’t explain are normalcy in his life. His best friend glows. He has four, small dragon paw prints below his left ear to symbolize his connection to a creature he can’t even talk to. But this is… this is too much. He can’t handle Vitya—if he’s fake, and especially if he’s real—not after Sochi, not after having to let go of his dream. He has to go home with absolutely nothing to show for himself, after all the time and money that his family had invested in him, and he doesn’t want to.

Yes, he wants the quiet comforts of his childhood home, he wants his loving parents, and the warm bluntness of his sister. But he doesn’t want to see how the town’s moved on without him. He doesn’t want them to have to accept him like this.

And Vitya… He doesn’t want any pity or sympathy from him either. He doesn’t want evidence that he’s lost his mind. And if Vitya is real, he doesn’t want a soulmate to show up because he’s hit rock-bottom. If he has any other soulmates out there besides the ones he’s found, Yuuri wants to be able to sweep them off their feet, to show them that he’s not worthless, but…

But can he prove something that’s not true?

“Yuuri?”

Yuuri opens his eyes—then squeaks and jumps back.

Vitya’s on the floor, looking up from underneath the stall door.

“V-Vitya!” Yuuri manages to get out. “What if I was peeing?”

“I could hear you—” Vitya cuts himself off with a frown. “Well, I’ve been calling for you. I even knocked on the door when no one was looking, and you didn’t answer, so I was worried.”

Yuuri wipes at his face, looking away from Vitya. “I’m fine.”

Vitya huffs. “You need to stop saying that when you don’t mean it.”

“And you…” Yuuri jabs a finger down at him. “You need to get off the floor, you’re in a Walmart.”

“I noticed.” Vitya raises his eyebrows. He opens his mouth again, almost shuts it, and then speaks, “I’m pretty sure I don’t carry pathogens like this, considering no one but you can touch me.”

“I…” Yuuri’s never exactly thought of it in those terms, specifically, and a slight warmth blooms in his cheeks. How weird would it be to be the only one who could touch Victor Nikiforov?

“Besides, to continue our argument: you can definitely keep ice skating if you want to, you know.” Now it’s Vitya’s turn to point a finger at Yuuri. “The only one keeping you from skating is you, Yuuri.”

“You think I don’t know that?” Yuuri snaps, squeezing his eyes closed for a moment. “I could keep trying, but I just… it’s just… I fucked up, okay? To the point that the JSF is pissed at me, and I don’t think I got into any ice shows this year—if I ever got into any without Celestino helping out. It’s… it’s time to go home. I’ve tried this path for long enough, okay?”

Vitya stares at him for a long moment before taking the hand that was just pointing at Yuuri and resting it on Yuuri’s calf, instead. “If that’s what you want, Yuuri.”

It’s not.

The thought hits Yuuri with a clarity that almost takes his breath away. He doesn’t want to go to Japan. He doesn’t want to give up skating. He doesn’t want to stop competing.

It should be something totally obvious, after the thoughts that he’s had about going back to Hasetsu. But the problem is that he doesn’t want to stay here, either. He loves the people in both places, he’s had good memories in both. But here, in Detroit, Yuuri’s falling to pieces. In Hasetsu, Yuuri will have no choice but to stagnate.

And these thoughts are way too deep to be having in a Walmart bathroom stall with a naked Victor Nikiforov lookalike laying on the floor and staring up at Yuuri.

“I…” Yuuri swallows.

What does he want?

What can he have?

“Yuuri?”

Yuuri jumps back and out of Vitya’s grip. “Phichit?”

“Yeah. Um. Were you talking to yourself?”

Yuuri glances down at Vitya. Well, technically, yeah, he was. But Phichit’s probably already super worried, so, “I was just… trying to work some things out.”

“Yeah, I’m getting that.” There’s quiet for a moment, and Yuuri both dreads and wants to know what expression Phichit has on his face, and if he even remotely believes Yuuri. “Anyway, are you… do you need anything?”

Yuuri swallows. “No. No, I just… I needed a minute.”

“Yeah.” Phichit draws in a breath. “I don’t want to rush you, but we’re gonna be late for our bus—”

Yuuri jumps forward, slamming open the bathroom door. “But the groceries—!”

“I finished up while you were in here. The groceries are in a cart outside the bathroom, because, ew.” Phichit smiles. “It’s faster to shop when I don’t have my junk food addict with me.”

Yuuri snorts. “Yeah, says the king of stopping and taking pictures of everything.”

“Hey!” Phichit crosses his arms. “I was good today. Anyway, c’mon, let’s go.”

Phichit turns and heads out of the bathroom, Yuuri hesitates for just a moment to look back at where Vitya sits on the floor. They look at each other for a moment, Vitya studying Yuuri, before he gets up and begins to trail Yuuri without saying a word.

Not that Yuuri could respond now that Phichit’s kinda around, but that’s not the point. Vitya doesn’t really stay quiet all that often.

But the moment he’s out of the restroom, Phichit’s got a hold of Yuuri’s hand and they’re sprinting through the store to the exit, busting through the doors and grabbing their bags out of the cart with hardly a glance back, and Yuuri can’t help a small laugh escape from his lips, despite the rollercoaster of emotions that today has been.

How can a day be so long when he’s only a few hours into it?

They make it just in time for the bus, and Vitya naked on American public transport continues to be something horrific that will haunt his nightmares—and dreams, if he’s being totally honest with himself—for the rest of his life. At least it’s not as bad as the ride to Walmart, that’s something he’d rather not think about ever again.

In a stupor, Yuuri helps Phichit haul the bags up to the apartment, Vitya hovering around them and trying to peek into what they got. Yuuri barely resists the urge to swat him away, even if he can’t really touch Vitya right now. By the time they’ve put everything where it belongs and scarfed down some food, Yuuri wants to pass out again.

Which is stupid. He just woke up.

He stands in the living room for a moment, staring at the couch and wondering if he should dare sit down—passing out on that damned couch has lead to way too many aches and pains the day after. And if he sits down, he’s going to fall asleep. No ifs, ands, or buts.

“You’re dead on your feet.” Phichit pokes Yuuri’s shoulder, and Yuuri sways a little before he catches himself.

“I’m fine,” he says, before snapping his mouth shut and glancing out of the side of his eye at Vitya—who’s frowning at him, of course he is.

“Sure.” Phichit raises his eyebrows. “What time did you say you went to bed last night? Or, well, this morning?”

“Uh…”

“That’s what I thought. If you’re going to join me on the ice tomorrow, you better get some rest!” Phichit spins Yuuri on the spot and starts guiding him back to his room.

“B-but I—!”

But you got out of the apartment more today than you have in a while and we both know you don’t sleep.” Phichit opens Yuuri’s door, then turns back to Yuuri. “Don’t make me tie you down to your mattress, you know I’ll do it.”

Vitya steps into Yuuri’s room, turning around with a bit of a smirk on his face. “Oh? You’re into that kind of thing, Yuuri?”

Yuuri lets out a breath, carefully keeping his eyes off of Vitya. “I don’t deserve you, Phichit.”

Phichit beams. “You totally do deserve me. We’re soulmates, aren’t we? Now sleep.”

Phichit nudges Yuuri into his room after Vitya, and Yuuri barely has enough awareness to take off his pants before collapsing on top of his bed for the second time that day.

The blankets shift and are tugged out from underneath him, and Yuuri turns in time to watch them drift back down, and for Vitya to pluck Yuuri’s glasses from his face.

“You could still fall asleep through a volcanic eruption, couldn’t you?” Vitya grins down at him.

Yuuri grunts.

Vitya hesitates, just a split second, before his typical smile spreads across his face. “Well, if you’re going to sleep, then I might as well sleep with you!”

That gets Yuuri to open his eyes all the way. “W-w-what?”

“Ah.” Vitya’s smile falters slightly. “If you don’t want to, that’s fine. I suppose you and Phichit are soulmates, and very close, so sharing a bed with another man wouldn’t be appropriate, hm?”

“Phichit and I aren’t like that. He’s important to me, but he’s a friend and to anything else. I just… You aren’t going to sleep, right?” Yuuri squints up at Vitya, trying to make out the finer details of his expression. “You could wander the apartment, or go outside, or anything. You don’t have to stay here.”

“I know. But I want to. I don’t… Makkachin gives great hugs, but it’s been a while since I’ve had one of yours and, don’t tell Makka, but I think I prefer yours a little more. There’s less slobber involved.”

“Oh.” Yuuri wants to question it, wants to find fault in that statement, but he’s just so tired. He hasn’t cried that much in a day since… Maybe after Sochi? There’s been plenty of pain, sure, but the tears are rarer, and they always leave him so raw. Yuuri tries to find reasons that Vitya shouldn’t sleep in the same bed as him, but he comes up with none. “Then I… I guess it’s okay.”

Vitya beams, and then lifts up the sheets, and crawls in and—

Oh no, he’s still naked.

Yuuri grabs a bunch of sheets and shoves the fabric between them.

Vitya pouts, scooting as close as he can. “But then how can I cuddle with you?”

Yuuri doesn’t even bother rolling his eyes, just pulls an arm out from his cocoon of blankets and throws it around Vitya.

And Vitya lets out a shuddering breath.

“Good?” Yuuri murmurs, his eyes already closed.

“Good,” Vitya answers, pushing an arm beneath the blankets and Yuuri, then putting his arm around Yuuri ever so slowly, like one of them might break. “So good.”

Yuuri hums and snuggles in a little closer. Vitya’s hand tentatively plays with the short hairs at the nape of Yuuri’s neck, and that’s the last thing he remembers before sleep takes him.

Chapter Text

Yuuri wakes up alone.

It shouldn’t be surprising. It shouldn’t be disappointing. But of course it is. Yuuri shifts in the warmth under his covers, fingers searching and finding nothing and no one. His stomach sinks a little, though he knows it’s for the best. If he’s stopped hallucinating, he’s getting a little better. This is good.

And… Yuuri’s had the best sleep he’s had in ages. He snuggles in a little deeper beneath the blankets, and instead of reaching for nothing, he grabs his pillow and pulls it close. Yuuri may sleep like the dead, but once he’s up he’s up. Still, nothing’s going to stop him from enjoying the warmth and comfort of his bed. Nothing except…

Except skating.

Yuuri sits bolt-upright in bed. He was supposed to go to practice with Phichit this morning, he was supposed to set an alarm, but instead he just fell asleep with Vitya—

Oh no, he can’t think about that—about how nice it felt with Vitya’s arms around him, and his fingers in Yuuri’s hair, and nope.

Yuuri scrambles for his phone, jabbing at it until it wakes up and…

Oh.

It’s earlier than even Phichit gets up to skate.

Well, he did only stay up for a few hours yesterday before passing out again… Yuuri wrinkles his nose. He really has turned into a gremlin, lately.

Ugh, he’s picking up too much meme terminology from Phichit. Yuuri should never have introduced him to Tumblr. He created a monster. But… it does make Phichit happy. And Phichit’s been so good to him…

Yuuri sighs. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made for the greater good, he supposes. And, well, he really owes Phichit for putting up with him yesterday.

 


 

 

It’s a little while longer before Phichit emerges from his room—and when he does, he nearly runs face-first into a wall at the sight of Yuuri in the kitchen. Or maybe it’s just because Yuuri’s awake for once. Or the fact that he’s in his workout clothes and not just sweatpants and a ratty t-shirt.

Not that the last one’s much of an upgrade, but still.

“Uh…” Phichit manages to get out, cautiously eyeing the eggs that Yuuri had just finished cooking. It had been a while since Yuuri’s tried to make tamagoyaki, and the ingredients they had from their last run to the Asian market run are old… but it seems edible? “This is new. Normally I have to literally drag you from your bed in the morning.”

Yuuri gives a tentative smile and a shrug. “I slept a lot? I guess? So I… got up.”

Phichit stills, turning fully to Yuuri. “That’s… good?”

“Yeah.” Yuuri nods. “I think so.”

“And…” Phichit clears his throat. “You’re coming to the rink? Or are you just going jogging?”

“No.” Yuuri grimaces. “No jogging. Jogging’s gross.”

Phichit snorts and then starts getting his breakfast together, filling his mug of water and placing it in the microwave—now that’s gross.

“Are you sure?” Phichit asks once his back’s turned. Maybe he doesn’t want to see Yuuri’s reaction—Yuuri doesn’t blame him. “Not that I don’t want you to come! I totally want you there. It’s just… you know, last time… Uh, it didn’t go good.”

Understatement of the year.

Last time Yuuri went onto the ice was right after Nationals, and right as he was gearing up for finals. He was just going to do some figures to get the buzzing anxiety out of his system, but seeing Phichit land all his jumps when Yuuri had screwed up all of his at Nationals just made the buzzing worse. So he tried to skate one of his routines, and, well. He may have had a full-on panic attack in the ice rink.

Celestino had no idea what to do—the poor guy could try his best to handle competition jitters, but Yuuri having a complete breakdown in a public venue was a little bit beyond his knowledge of expertise. Luckily Phichit’s much more experienced in that department and helped Yuuri breathe through it, and then helped him take the bus back to the apartment—cutting his own practice short.

Yuuri still feels pretty shitty about that.

And there’s no guarantee Yuuri won’t break again. He might get on the ice and just… shatter. It’s not like he didn’t just have one hell of a hallucination yesterday or anything.

But he just… he can’t keep going like this. Even without a hallucination busting into his life yesterday, it was only a matter of time before everything had to change. This isn’t living. And he doesn’t know what he wants to live for yet, with everything he’s ever reached for shattered into tiny, sharp shards around him—but he knows that where his head is at this morning is different than where it was last time he tried to skate. Something about actually talking about everything that’s happened to him and having Vitya listen has made something… shift. And the heavy grief of what’s happened isn’t gone, it could easily roll right back into place, but he should be okay, if just for today.

That doesn’t stop him from worrying, but it won’t stop him from moving forward either.

“Yeah.” Yuuri gives a sigh. “Last time sucked. But if you don’t mind, I want to try again. I mean, if you do mind just tell me and I’ll—”

“Katsuki Yuuri.” Phichit turns and jabs a spoon at him, expression darkening. “If you dare to imply that I don’t want to spend one of the few remaining days with you sharing the ice, I will yeet you out the window.”

Yuuri glances at the window, and then looks back at him. “I bet you can’t even lift me up.”

Phichit’s eyes narrow. “You wanna bet?”

“Maybe.” Yuuri smirks.

Phichit’s façade drops, and he snorts out a laugh. “It’s good to see you doing better today, Yuuri.”

“It’s good to be doing better,” Yuuri admits, shoulders slumping a little.

Phichit just grins, patting Yuuri on the back. “Let’s eat food so we don’t pass out on the ice, and then get going.”

“Hey, that almost happened once, okay? And I was a little sick and—yeah, fine, I shouldn’t have been skating, fine.”

Phichit only snorts in response, and they get to business, shoving their faces full of food while getting their things together. Yuuri’s gaze keeps wandering to the table—something that rarely ever gets used on mornings with practice—and his brain unhelpfully provides the image of a very realistic naked Victor Nikiforov sitting there.

Though he can’t exactly be sure about how realistic some parts are. Victor’s been in some… interesting photoshoots, and Yuuri’s seen a lot of skin. But not all of his skin.

Unless Vitya is actually…

No. It’s done. It’s over.

Phichit and Yuuri barely catch the bus, as is their usual style, and before Yuuri knows it, his skates are laced, and he’s standing at the entrance to the rink, the sharp, icy air cutting through his clothes, his breaths coming a little too quickly.

“You all right?” Phichit skates up to him as Yuuri stands frozen, his limbs unwilling to move.

That’s funny, isn’t it? Being frozen in an ice rink.

Oh no, he’s so panicked his jokes are as bad as Phichit’s.

“Fine!” Yuuri squeaks. “I’m fine. I’ll just…” He forces himself a step forward, taking off his skate guards, and stepping on the ice and… And he’s still standing.

It isn’t magic, he isn’t suddenly better and okay with everything. But he’s on the ice. He’s standing. He can do this.

Celestino barks something at Phichit, so he gives a quick smile before zooming off around the rink.

Yuuri takes another second to just stand there, shifting a little on his feet until he feels too awkward to keep standing in everyone’s way. He makes slow laps around the rink at first, enjoying the feel of the wind in his hair, against his already chilled skin. And he enjoys seeing—he’s absolutely forbidden himself from trying his jumps or any sort of fancy footwork that would send his glasses flying across the rink. He may have left his glasses on as insurance that he wouldn’t do any of that, since he can’t afford a new pair.

Then he begins to weave in some footwork to his movements, bits of familiar things from routines, or just movements inspired by whatever music is being played for whatever skater at the time. Yuuri’s mind goes quiet—but not in a numb sort of way, like it has been lately with his exhaustion and binge gaming and junk food comas.

It’s just… good to be moving. To remember why he loves skating, to enjoy that feeling of flying, to move with the music and his emotions and let them out.

Before he knows it, Phichit’s skating up toward him, asking if he’s ready to head back and, well. No, he isn’t. He wants to do more, he wants to stay longer, he wants to skate his comfort program until his muscles ache.

But he can’t do that.

So he agrees to leave, and they duck out—Yuuri’s very careful to avoid looking directly at Celestino or saying a single word to him—and go back to the apartment. They play a game of rock, paper, scissors that Phichit wipes the floor with Yuuri in, so he gets first dibs on a real shower. Honestly, Yuuri would probably have let him go first anyway, considering he’s the one who had the real workout. Besides, Phichit has dance and conditioning later today at a different facility. It’s only fair.

So Yuuri shuffles over to plop face-first onto the couch—

And there’s a knock on the door.

Yuuri freezes for a second, trying to remember if Phichit mentioned anything about someone coming over, or a package, or something, but… no. Yuuri would remember that. He hates answering the door.

But Phichit’s in the shower, so he has no choice.

With a long-suffering sigh, Yuuri goes to the door and yanks it open.

A guy shoves something into Yuuri’s face.”Here you go.”

Yuuri blinks down at the… pizza box? A giant sheet pizza box.

“Uh… I didn’t order a pizza.” Yuuri says, fingers twitching to reach out and take the box, anyway. Fate can’t tempt Yuuri like this; cheese doesn’t exactly agree with his digestive system, but also… it’s so good.

The guy looks between the number on the door, and Yuuri. “Look, this is where they told me to deliver it to. If you don’t take it, I’m just going to toss it.”

Yuuri blinks. “I would, but… I’m broke. I can’t afford it.” Not something this big.

“You don’t need to pay for it.”

“Is it paid for?” Yuuri’s eyes widen.

“Yep,” the guy pops his p. “Even covered the tip.”

Yuuri’s never snatched anything so fast in his life, the door already half-way closed before he pauses. “You sure?”

The guy snorts, walking away.

Well, that counts as permission, doesn’t it?

Yuuri scrambles across the room, placing the pizza down on the dining table and opening it and… oh god.

It’s just cheese, but there’s so much of it, oozing when he pulls off a piece. And the smell. Fresh baked dough, and oily, rich cheese, and the sharp tang of tomatoes—this isn’t some generic chain pizza. This is the good shit.

Yuuri takes a bite, still standing at the edge of the table, no plate in sight—and he moans. This is the best thing he’s ever put in his mouth. This is the best thing he’s ever experienced. Skating this morning? Nothing compared to this pizza.

Before he even realizes it, the first piece is gone and Yuuri grabs another, but pauses before putting it in his mouth. He doesn’t really know where this came from. Well, there’s the name of the place on the box, he could Google it, but who bought this for them?

His brain instantly jumps to the most impossible choice, of course; Vitya was here, in this apartment. He might have sent something.

But, no. The most reasonable possibility is that Phichit ordered it for them while Yuuri wasn’t paying attention, maybe before they even got into the locker room.

Either way, Yuuri isn’t going to let it go to waste.

He shoves the next piece in his mouth, feeling a moment of disapproval about breaking his diet before remembering that doesn’t matter anymore. He isn’t going to Worlds and if he wants to eat half of this pizza, no one can stop him. In fact, he would fight the universe itself for his right to keep shoving his face full of this delicious goodness.

“Holy crap.” Phichit pauses in front of the table—Yuuri didn’t even hear him come out. He blames food euphoria. “That’s one hell of a pizza.”

Well, it was one hell of a pizza. Yuuri’s made a good dent in it and he regrets nothing.

Well, not yet at least.

“Did you order it?” Yuuri glances over at Phichit, his hair still a little damp from the shower.

Phichit snorts. “No, of course I didn’t. I’m as broke as you after getting not-pizza foods yesterday. Why? Did you get it?”

Yuuri frowns at the pizza. “The delivery guy was sure that our apartment was the right one, and he said that it was already paid for…”

Vitya could have seen his apartment number and his street name yesterday. And it’s not like any other details couldn’t be filled in with Google. And he could easily look up any pizza place that delivers, and give them a call and order… Yuuri could probably call the place and see if the person that ordered the pizza had a slight Russian accent.

Except he won’t because Vitya isn’t real. He can’t be real. Yuuri’s trying to get back on his feet and dealing with his idol in the flesh—or rather, not in the flesh but with a lot of flesh showing—is not an option. Yuuri can’t—he just can’t.

“Yuuri, you okay?” There’s a hand on Yuuri’s shoulder and suddenly Phichit’s right next to him. “Look, don’t worry about it. It’s not like it’s poisoned, you’d totally be dead by now, and besides! It’s probably the neighbor getting our addresses mixed up again. Remember the package a couple of months ago?”

Yuuri grimaces. How could he forget? He grabbed the box without thinking, opening it because he’d ordered a new controller for his console and assumed that’s what the package was.

It was not.

He didn’t even know about kinks like that. Like, honestly, it looks painful— though it explains the noises that Phichit and he hear from next door sometimes.

“I remember,” Yuuri finally grumbles. “You’re right. I just…”

“You saw free pizza and you took it.” Phichit pats him. “As any reasonable person would do. I think that the pizza’s getting to your head. Go shower it off and then we can chill out until I have to leave.”

“Yeah.” Yuuri sighs. “You’re right.”

“Yep, I know,” Phichit says before he digs into the pizza himself.

“Hey, what about your diet?”

Phichit winks. “What Celestino doesn’t know what hurt him. I won’t have too much, I swear. Now shoo! Go shower!”

Yuuri snorts and heads off to go and shower. Phichit’s right. The neighbors have been idiots before, and even if it’s not them, there’s gotta be some other reasonable explanation. It’s terrible when things happen that just feed his anxiety like this, but it’ll be done, soon. Eventually Yuuri’s going to be in Hasetsu, and… until then, he’s going to skate and try to chase off his dumb nervous demons.

When Yuuri emerges, Phichit’s in his own food coma, sitting on the couch. Yuuri flops down next to him and Phichit collapses onto his lap while Yuuri grabs the controller to his console.

“Too… much… pizza…” Phichit moans into Yuuri’s thigh.

Yuuri pats him directly on the face as he starts up his current RPG addiction. “No such thing.”

“Not all of us have black holes for stomachs.” Phichit pushes off Yuuri’s hand, but he’s grinning.

“I wish my stomach was a black hole.” Yuuri sighs, navigating through the title screen. “It doesn’t get sucked away and torn to shreds into some far off section of the universe, it all goes right to my stomach, my thighs, and my butt.”

Phichit snorts. “You say that like it’s a bad thing, like you don’t have half the campus checking you out in season and off season.”

Yuuri snorts right back at him. “Phichit, be serious.”

“I am being serious!” Phichit lets out a long-suffering sigh, dramatically tossing his hand up over his eyes and nearly taking out Yuuri’s glasses in the process. “When will oblivious heartbreaker Katsuki Yuuri stop his reign of terror?”

Yuuri nearly spits out that he’ll be gone and out of everyone’s hair soon enough, but he stops himself just in time. Instead, he just says, “Shut up,” shoves at Phichit’s shoulder, and gets sucked into his game for a little while as Phichit passes out into a true food coma.

It’s nice to have this normalcy. With Yuuri’s weird hours and Phichit getting ready for Worlds, he hasn’t seen much of his best friend—and he can’t exactly say that it wasn’t on purpose, either. But… it’s nice to have things back to normal for now, before Yuuri goes back to Hasetsu, and Phichit’s eaten alive with training and school starting up again. It’s settling.

Or, at least it is until arms wrap around Yuuri’s shoulders and Yuuri nearly jumps through the roof.

“Yuuri! Did you enjoy my pizza?”

Oh no. No, no, no.

Yuuri stays still and quiet for a long minute, waiting for Phichit to rouse—but he’s used to Yuuri jostling him through boss fights and a couple of cursed rhythm games that might have caused Yuuri to throw the controller against the wall. A few times.

“You didn’t send it.” Yuuri finally whispers, his heartbeat ringing in his ears. “You couldn’t have sent it. It was the neighbors screwing up their address again like they did with all of that kink stuff, you are not real.”

But what if he is? The thought echoes around Yuuri’s head in a cacophony of sound, getting louder and louder and louder.

Yuuri,” Vitya half-laughs and half-whines as he settles his chin on Yuuri’s shoulder. “Did you not like it? Is that why you’re being a grump?”

“I’m not being a grump. I’m slowly but surely losing my mind, despite my best efforts.” This is fine. Everything is fine. “God, I wish it were more kink stuff so it was easier to dismiss.”

Vitya’s quiet for only a second before asking, “Did you keep the—”

“We aren’t talking about this! I’m playing video games while Phichit sleeps. There’s nothing else. Absolutely nothing else.”

For a long while, Yuuri almost dares to think and hope Vitya’s shut up.

He should’ve known better.

“What can I do to prove to you that I’m real?” Vitya reaches up and tucks an unruly lock of hair behind Yuuri’s ear—he should get it cut before he heads back to Japan. “Please, Yuuri. Just give me your phone number, it’s as simple as that. I’ll text you and then you’ll know. Please.”

Yuuri very, very carefully steps around the urgency in Vitya’s voice, the desperation in his words. Of course Vitya would be like that; Yuuri would want Vitya to be Victor that badly.

“No,” Yuuri says firmly, but trying his best not to be unkind. “No, Vitya. I have to get better. So just… for now, this is what it is. It’ll go away eventually.”

“Just like your career?” Vitya huffs. “Just like skating and all your dreams?”

Yuuri stiffens, gripping his controller so tight he’ surprised he doesn’t break it. “Yes. Just like that.”

Yuuri, I didn’t—”

No, Vitya, that’s enough,” Yuuri snaps, barely keeping his voice low. “You’re right. It’s exactly like my career, and I will be going to Japan and you will disappear and everything will go back to normal and the world will forget about me.

For a moment, Vitya’s quiet, and in that time Yuuri almost takes back his words again and again. But Vitya said the truth, and Yuuri might as well throw his truth out there, too.

Even if neither truth quite sits right with Yuuri.

 

Chapter Text

If there is a torture method worse than packing and moving, Yuuri has yet to find it. How the hell did he accumulate so much crap? He’s spent his whole college career exhausted between studying and skating and competitions, he couldn’t have bought much. He even spent his first few years here being a hermit before Phichit busted in and insisted on being shown around Detroit—as if Yuuri knew any more of it than him.

But even then, it’s not like he went on shopping sprees. The only things he purposely kept buying were his Victor posters, which is honestly the worst part of packing. But it’s not the amount that makes it difficult.

No, it’s that not only is Vitya still around and very pleased about this, he also insists on helping.

And by “helping” it seems he meant uncovering Yuuri’s deep, dark secrets. After about a week of having Vitya’s assistance, Yuuri might be about to lose his mind.

Vitya gasps, kneeling over a box that he pulled out from underneath Yuuri’s bed—and nothing good exists in that abyss. “So you did keep the package from your neighbor. Wow, I’ve never seen magic used so… creatively.”

Yuuri stomps across the room, yanking the box from Vitya and dumping it in the trash. “Of course I didn’t just throw it out, it wasn’t mine and I…”

Vitya pouts. “You don’t want to try it out?”

Yuuri splutters for a second. “It’s just—it’s ridiculous! What do you even do with all those straps?”

“I have an idea.” Vitya smirks. “I have some… experience with bondage.”

“Of course you do, you have a skating costume based off of bondage—what am I saying.” Yuuri groans into his own hands.

“I’d be extremely happy to help you figure out how to use it, Yuuri. I’ll be your test subject,” Vitya purrs into Yuuri’s ear, suddenly much closer than Yuuri remembered or is ready for—Vitya’s not naked, thankfully, but that little black thong is not much better.

“No!” Yuuri squeaks, scrambling backward until he trips and falls onto his bed. “No, no thank you, it’s staying in the trash where it belongs.”

Vitya pouts, leaning over Yuuri. “You don’t like to play a little, Yuuri? You even remember what that skating costume was inspired by, you never were curious?”

Yuuri flushes, and he catches that glint in Vitya’s eye that means that’s exactly how he wanted Yuuri to react in the first place. Yuuri glares. “It doesn’t matter what I have or haven’t done, I’m not trying anything with my own hallucination.”

Vitya huffs, leaning back a little to put his hands on his hips. “Do you really still believe that I’m not real?”

Yuuri opens his mouth—but hesitates.

Vitya can’t be real. Yuuri still just can’t… he can barely think about it being otherwise.

But it’s getting hard to look around some things.

Like, yeah, maybe Yuuri has some weird, undiscovered magic, because his packing inevitably goes quicker in the afternoons when Vitya appears, as if he’s really there. Even with Vitya’s “helping” to put away Yuuri’s things, especially all of his Victor Nikiforov merch. No one should be so happy to see that much merch of themselves—or, well, their lookalike—but maybe that makes sense as some sort as Vitya’s being an extension of Yuuri’s mind.

Phichit still can’t see him or hear him, but Vitya can still move things when Phichit isn’t looking. Luckily he’s not as distracting now that he’s clothed, but it’s rare that Yuuri lucks out and gets Vitya in PJ pants. Typically he shows up like he is today, in his underwear.

It’s such a detailed hallucination. When Yuuri gets close he can see the pores in Vitya’s skin, the small laugh lines forming around his eyes and mouth, and how shiny and soft Vitya’s hair looks even mussed as it always is. He’s so present that sometimes Yuuri finds Vitya gives a small comfort to his otherwise lonely evenings while Phichit is training. No one cheers him on quite like Vitya does while he’s gaming, even if it seems like he has no idea what he’s saying. If Yuuri’s being honest, it seems like Vitya mostly likes the excuse to lean up against and cuddle with Yuuri while he plays—but would the real Victor Nikiforov be that desperate when he could have nearly anyone on the whole planet?

And then there’s the fact that the real Victor Nikiforov also followed Yuuri’s Instagram account. Though they are—were—competitors, that could explain him doing that, right? Even if Yuuri’s been in the senior circuit for years. And he hasn’t posted anything in months… maybe he’s just hallucinating notifications at this point, too.

Yuuri can’t think about it too much or for too long. If the thought that this is real starts to settle in, it gets harder to breathe, and his hands get clammy, and his vision gets blurry, and it’s just not good. He’s finally doing a little better. He goes to the rink every morning, even when Phichit doesn’t need to go, and he skates. With Vitya wrapped around him every night, he’s started to have somewhat of a decent sort of sleeping pattern again. He’s eating better. He’s getting things packed. Hell, he even called Mari the other day and checked in—he doesn’t know how they’re excited for him to go back to them when he’s such a dead weight, but they are. And… it’s nice to not feel like he’s one little crack away from shattering.

So Vitya is Vitya. Not Victor. And what they have is good, it’s working. It’s not like the real Victor Nikiforov would be able to leave and follow Yuuri to Hasetsu to just hang out and get to know Yuuri, and Yuuri can’t exactly afford to just hop on a plane to Saint Petersburg—and that’d be creepy, too. Being soulmates isn’t exactly an excuse to busting into someone’s home. Even if they do know each other, and Victor has offered… but that has to be a joke, right? Yuuri tries to imagine himself riding in Victor Nikiforov’s pink convertible through Saint Petersburg, but he just can’t.

This is fine. This is enough. Even as a small part of Yuuri aches at the fact that he can’t feel the heat of Vitya’s leg as it brushes against his own, at the fact that he can only have Vitya on these long, lazy afternoons.

It’s better than any of the alternatives.

“Fine.” Vitya eventually sighs, drooping a bit as he backs away. “Be stubborn! I’ve always said I like challenges, and I guess those words came back to haunt me.” He squares his shoulders. “I will make you believe I’m real if it’s the last thing I do.”

“You can’t change my mind, Vitya.” Yuuri shakes his head, sitting up. “There’s nothing you can do. There’s nothing I want you to do.”

“What if there’s something I want to do?” That gleam is back in Vitya’s eye. “What if I want to come to Detroit? I’ve earned a vacation.”

Yuuri gapes. “No!”

Vitya smirks. “You can’t stop me if I want to.”

“Y-You can’t!” Yuuri scrambles from the bed, standing up and getting right up in Vitya’s face. “Not just because you’re not real, but Worlds is coming up. Yakov would murder you. You’d let all your fans down.”

“What if I don’t care about Worlds?” Vitya’s teasing smile is still spread across his lips, but there’s something darker in the tone of his voice and in the depths of his eyes.

Then… what the reporters were saying might be true. Victor hasn’t answered any questions about what he’s going to do next season. There’s a lot of speculation that he might be taking a break, or even retiring, but Yuuri’s vehemently spoken against that—on anonymous accounts on the internet, at least.

But the look in Vitya’s eyes says a lot more than those interviews ever did.

“Then maybe you’d let me down,” Yuuri murmurs before he thinks about it, then winces when he does.

Vitya blinks a few times, face going blank.

Yuuri barely resists the urge to fidget, and then the urge to run, but before Yuuri can take back his words, Vitya reaches out and takes Yuuri’s hand with a grip just edging on too tight.

“Fine. I’ll stay, then. But you have to promise that you’ll watch me, all right, Yuuri?” Vitya’s eyes search Yuuri’s, wide and… imploring?

“Why?” Yuuri’s brow furrows, trying to figure out how this turned around so quickly.

“It’s going to be for you, of course!” Vitya smiles, and there’s a hint of something honest in there.

Yuuri’s breath catches in his throat as the aching inside him breaks, and something cold trickles through him from the wound. Both of Victor’s routines this year are gorgeous, but his free skate means so much too Yuuri. The longing for things you can’t have and aren’t yours resonates deep into Yuuri’s bones, and having that dedicated to him?

It’s too much.

And yet… and yet Yuuri still nods. “Y-You don’t have to, you know. I’ll be watching it anyway, probably.”

“You will?” Vitya blinks. “You’ve been avoiding everything skating related this entire week.”

Yuuri bites back his retort—Vitya would have no way of knowing about Yuuri’s practice sessions in the morning. Except that he’s in Yuuri’s head.

Ugh. This is too complicated.

“I said I will, so I will.” Yuuri turns away and starts wading through the piles of junk and boxes that make up his room.

“Where are you going?” Vitya hops after him, never straying too far from Yuuri.

“Food,” Yuuri answers as he trudges into the kitchen, opening the fridge—and wrinkling his nose. There’s nothing good, it’s all healthy. He sighs and yanks out some broccoli and rice, tossing it in the microwave.

When Yuuri turns around, Vitya’s staring at him with a wrinkled nose. “Doesn’t your family run a resort? How are you so uncreative with your diet?”

Instead of answering, Yuuri waits until the microwave beeps, gets a fork and his food, and shoves a bite into his mouth, chewing slowly while making direct eye contact with Vitya—who looks like he might start gagging.

“Please, Yuuri, at least put some sort of sauce on that? It looks like that outfit I wore when I was in juniors—and I imagine that it tastes about the same.”

Yuuri snorts. “The one everyone said looked like kale?”

Vitya huffs. “I’ll have you know it was broccoli! It had more body than plain old kale.”

“Hmm,” Yuuri pretends to think. “No, I think I saw kale. So much kale. They even called you kale boy. There were early internet memes and everything.”

Vitya’s brow pinches, his lips thin as he presses then together, before he opens his mouth—

And the front door creaks open, saving Yuuri from certain death.

“Hey Phichit! How was practice?” Yuuri calls as Phichit drags himself into view.

Phichit meets Yuuri’s eyes for a long second before letting out a slow, exhausted moan and continuing to shuffle himself toward the bathroom.

Yuuri smiles, shoving another mouthful into his face.

Vitya mutters something that sounds suspiciously like, “Disgusting.”

Yuuri chuckles.

And Phichit turns toward Yuuri again, eyes suddenly a lot more alert. “What’s so funny?”

“Uh…” Yuuri scrambles for an answer. “You look like death and sounded like a zombie?”

Phichit’s rolls his eyes. “Wow, thanks.” And he shuts the door behind him.

Yuuri winces, once again. He’s such an idiot sometimes. Well, a lot of the time. But, at least for Phichit, Yuuri can hopefully do something to properly apologize.

He walks across the kitchen, heaving the rice cooker from the cupboard and then grabbing the rice, measuring it out before he begins to rinse it. Regardless of almost driving Vitya up a wall with Yuuri’s ability to stomach almost anything when hungry, he does know how to cook. And now that he’s not training as intensely as Phichit, he has the time and energy to do more.

Though he often gets distracted by Vitya, instead.

“You could just tell him, you know?” Vitya places his chin on Yuuri’s shoulder as he works, like he’s prone to.

Yuuri’s never been one to reach out for affection, but to be honest, having Vitya always hanging off of him in some shape or form is… kind of nice? “Tell who what?”

“Phichit.” Vitya’s dislodged for a moment while Yuuri moves the rice into the cooker. “That I’m here.”

“I’d rather not get checked into a mental hospital when I’m leaving in three days.” Yuuri turns a little to eye him. “Even if you were real, this isn’t a typical soulmate presentation.”

Vitya sighs. “Nothing about this is typical. But if you let me come to visit—”

“It’d be a waste, with how soon I’m leaving. That has to be a hell of a long flight, too.”

“Twelve hours or so,” Vitya chirps cheerfully.

Yuuri turns fully to look at him. “No.”

Vitya frowns. “You told me no, so I won’t. But I want to.”

Yuuri rolls his eyes. “Besides, it’s not like you can remember anything in the morning. That’s how it’s always been.”

Vitya stiffens ever so slightly. “No. I can remember now.”

Yuuri stills for a moment. “I guess that would explain why you’re wearing clothes,” he murmurs, squinting at Vitya. He’s normally a lot more enthusiastic about talking about their connection. “Then why don’t I remember anything when I wake up, since this goes both ways?”

“You…” Vitya clears his throat, eyes landing on anything but Yuuri. “You aren’t there.”

“What?” He can’t mean… no, that’s how it always was.

“You never come visit me in Saint Petersburg. It’s like was when you stopped believing in me and I stopped believing in you when we were younger.” Vitya takes a shaking breath. “Ever since we met again—really met, not in passing in competitions—I’ve come to you every night. But you don’t come to me.”

Yuuri just… gapes. That is what Victor Nikiforov would consider a real meeting? Dismissing a fellow competitor as a fan? Snubbing the loser of the Grand Prix Final and making him feel even worse after failing his beloved pet, and his coach, and his family, and his friends? That was enough for the connection between their souls to reignite?

Never mind anything Yuuri’s ever thought before. If Victor Nikiforov is his soulmate, and that sort of connection is what they have, maybe Yuuri wants nothing to do with him.

“I don’t show up on your end?” Yuuri turns away, walking over to the fridge and yanking it open to grab ingredients. “Well I suppose that makes sense after not getting your commemorative photo, don’t you think?”

Yuuri hears Vitya draw in a sharp breath but doesn’t turn to look at him. Instead, he dumps everything on the counter, grabs a knife and cutting board, and starts slicing.

“But, Yuuri, what came after—”

Yuuri snorts. “Nothing came after. I slunk away with my tail between my legs, I fired my coach, and now I’m going back to Japan! It’s what Russian Yuri wanted, and no one else cares other than me.”

“If you wanted to stay on the ice…”

“Then what?” Yuuri gives a cold laugh. “I could keep making an ass of myself until I retire? No thanks. I’ll just…”

A hand wraps around Yuuri’s wrist, stopping the staccato beats of the knife blade against the wooden cutting board. “You’re beautiful on the ice, Yuuri. You aren’t a failure. You had every reason to have trouble at the Grand Prix Final.”

Yuuri turns a little to look at him. “Would you have?”

Vitya’s eyes widen. “If… if Makkachin were…”

“Oh, no, you could afford her treatment, how could I forget?” Yuuri turns back to the food—

But Vitya’s hand comes up to cup Yuuri’s face, turning it back towards him. “If something happened to Makkachin, I would retire on the spot.”

Yuuri nearly drops the knife. “W-what? But you…”

“But I’m human, and Makkachin’s been my best and only companion for years.” Vitya’s gaze stays focused on Yuuri, those blue eyes almost unbelievable so close. “She’s the only one who I’ve had a true soulmate connection with—until you.”

“Until me,” Yuuri repeats, like saying the words out loud would make them any easier to digest.

They don’t.

“Sometimes I wonder if you’re real.” Vitya gives a smile, but it doesn’t reach up to those lines around his eyes.

Yuuri blinks. “Isn’t that what I’m supposed to think? Why wouldn’t you believe in this?”

“You don’t show up when I’m awake.” Vitya strokes Yuuri’s cheek, and from this close Yuuri can see he has very faint freckles—they must airbrush those away in photoshoots, and that’s honestly a tragedy. “I only ever see you when I’m asleep. I remember you when I wake up, which I couldn’t when we were kids. And you’ve said it yourself: it’s strange, and there’s no evidence to prove this is reality. How am I supposed to know that this isn’t a dream?”

Yuuri opens his mouth to argue—but he really has no leg to stand on, does he? He told Vitya not to do anything to prove that he’s real, so how can he know that Yuuri’s real? He sent over a pizza, but it’s not as if he got any confirmation that it was delivered to Yuuri. He might be able to sort of stalk their apartment through Phichit’s social media, but how would he know he didn’t just imagine what it looks like inside?

It’s not fair.

Yuuri’s made his choice; he’s already felt crazy most of his life for pursuing such wilds dreams when life would’ve been much easier working at the onsen. And proving he’s real to Vitya doesn’t mean that Vitya has to be real to Yuuri.

“Whatcha cooking?”

This time Yuuri actually drops his knife, the blade going right through where Vitya’s foot is—thankfully not solid with Phichit’s eyes on him.

Though would it have even hurt if Vitya were solid?

Vitya just sighs as Yuuri turns his attention to Phichit, both of them freaking out about the fallen knife for a minute before falling into small talk as they finish cooking together—it ends up turning into a generic stir fry in the end, but Phichit has a way of seasoning things so they’ve got one hell of a punch—with flavor and heat, always.

But Yuuri’s mind has trouble focusing on the task at hand, his eyes and his mind wandering back to Vitya again and again. Vitya just watches their antics with a small smile on his face, not goading Yuuri into reacting for once. Yuuri has no way to reach out to the real-life Victor Nikiforov, absolutely no connection to him other than having his hallucination hanging around.

Except…

Except for one thing.

Yuuri rushes through the rest of getting dinner ready, depositing their portions onto plates, and then taking his to the table.

“You want to eat there tonight?” Phichit raises his eyebrows. “Isn’t there a new episode of that soap opera you like out?”

“It’s not a soap opera, it’s a drama,” Yuuri mutters as he takes out his phone.

Phichit gasps. “A food pic? Really, Yuuri?”

Vitya moves a little closer, and Yuuri makes direct eye contact with him.

“Uh… yeah. Mari’s been worried about me eating, so. Evidence.” And that’s not entirely a lie; Mari did worry about his terrible self-care habits last time that they talked.

Phichit shrugs, walking over and flopping down on the couch. “Whatever, when your fans murder you in disappointment that a food pic is all they get after months of silence, it won’t be my fault.”

Yuuri snorts as he angles his phone and gets a few good shots. “Fans, sure.”

“He’s underestimating them,” Vitya says quietly, eyeing Yuuri. “Your fans would murder anyone but you for a picture of your pinky toe at this point—they’ll be just as happy as your sister to see you’re eating. But… what are you actually doing, Yuuri?”

Yuuri slaps on a decent enough filter to the picture, then hesitates when it comes to captioning it. It should be distinct, something that makes sense. Something like…

This isn’t a dream.

There. He can say it’s a song lyric if anyone asks.

Yuuri angles his phone toward Vitya, whose eyes widen as Yuuri taps the button to publish the pic.

“There,” Yuuri murmurs, looking up at Vitya. “Proof.”

“Good, now come on!” Phichit waves him over. “I’m about to pass out.”

Yuuri holds Vitya’s wide-eyed gaze for just a moment longer before shaking out of it, and turning toward Phichit. “I thought you didn’t care about this show?”

“I don’t, but I’ll probably die if I don’t know if she really died.”

Yuuri rolls his eyes as he flops down next to Phichit. “That’s caring about it, you know.”

“Shut up.” Phichit shoves his shoulder into Yuuri’s before they settle in and the noise of the TV washes around them.

And when Vitya comes over to lay a hand on Yuuri’s shoulder, out of Phichit’s sight? That’s all he does. For once, Yuuri’s able to enjoy the evening in peace and quiet, and that’s that.

For now.