(literally one person asked for this but I needed a stress reliever so I blew the dust off this draft and finished it so here ya go)
He doesn’t remember being young. Sometimes it’s almost like he didn’t exist before that first time on the ice, in front of the cameras.
His name had been Vitya then, not Victor Nikiforov, living legend, and he hadn’t yet discovered his fondness for the icy air in the rink, the crisp scrape of blades on ice, the way it hurt to smile. He was just Vitya. Friendless, parentless, alone but for the grumpy old man that took him in.
Yakov was the first. The first to take Vitya and chip away at him, little by little, to reveal the person on the inside. Then, to chip away at that too.
Smile, Yakov says, time and again, during practice. Apparently, skating without smiling is akin to a mortal sin in the junior skating world.
I’m trying, he wanted to say. It hurts.
The thing about smiling when you’re made of stone is that if you manage it, you crack. And yet, he did it. The first time, he marvelled at the cold, the emptiness that smile brought. What is it about smiles, he wondered, that makes you feel like there should be a reason for them?
Victor! Victor! Victor!
The applause sands down the cracks. The compliments and medals and praise buff out the imperfections formed by false smiles. He gets used to the cold. To the emptiness. To the voice chipping away at who he is, bit by microscopic bit. Of course, that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t find ways to stave it off a bit, to find ways to go back to being Vitya: alone, yes, but whole. At the very least, he wants to be whole.
So he thinks. And he dreams.
He didn’t think he was capable of dreaming. But he dreams up a faceless nobody, someone who loves him for Vitya, not for Victor Nikiforov.
As time passes, and the applause gets louder (but also much, much quieter, as he ceases to amaze one person after the next), and more and more of him chips away, his faceless nobody is the only thing keeping his heart from truly becoming stone, just like the rest of him.
There are some people that help warm him for a time, but even as they soften up his rougher edges, they’re taking something. They all want Victor, even those like Yakov who know and remember (probably even better than he does himself) who Vitya once was. It’s not their fault, he knows. He’s become Victor to them now, because as much as he hates the constant chip, chip, chipping at his very being, he can’t bring himself to fight it. So he gives up what little warmth he manages to gain from this thing that he loves, and trades it for friends, for fame, for medals.
He doesn’t know how not to be cold, how to keep himself from drawing warmth from the ice and giving it away. The echo of that warmth rings in his smile, the smile that cracks his face and shatters him.
His faceless nobody, the shadow that he’s dreamed up to stave off the loneliness, helps for a moment every once in awhile. Then it’s gone, flickering away like a dream, like the shadow it is. The cold crashes down on him like an avalanche of loneliness every time he lets himself dream, lets himself wonder what it might be like to not have to be made of stone all the time.
He’s so used to being cold that when it gets worse, when it begins to burn, he hardly even notices.
The smiles, those damned things that crack him, ruin him from the inside out, begin to freeze in place. He can no longer find it within himself to fake his warmth, to give any away. There is no more to give. The icy air in the rink, the crisp scrape of blades on ice, everything he loves about skating becomes bitter, dull, hateful. His programs take on a longing, melancholy feel.
He cuts his hair. Perhaps, he thinks as he’s taking a pair of scissors to it in the bathroom, it will show people that Victor Nikiforov is dead. He can no longer surprise people with his skating, with the exceedingly crazy stunts he pulls on the ice in a desperate attempt to regain some of the warmth, some of the softness that he once had, even just for a moment. That would be enough.
No one is surprised. In fact, they are ecstatic.
It’s a very masculine look, Victor.
You were getting too old for that hairstyle anyway.
This time, when it begins to burn, he feels it. He smiles that same shattered smile, frozen in time. There is nothing else for him to do.
His new hair goes unnoticed, his cry for warmth unanswered. His feet, his body, are marble, perfect. His skating has stagnated, and he seems to be the only one noticing it because no one notices when perfection plateaus. The world, the reporters, the competitors, the medals continue to chip, chip, chip away at him piece by piece. Soon, he worries, there may not be anything left for them to take.
When he’s twenty seven, the marble wears thin. His shadow, his dream is gone; lost in the absence of hope and the fear of that avalanche one day consuming him. He hasn’t thought about it in years, not until this season. Until the whispers in the corridors and the more public speculations of sports reporters.
His last season.
Still so perfect.
Try as he might, he can’t help that the only word that comes to mind when he choreographs Stammi Vicino is cold.
He’s always been vaguely aware of the fact that he can’t be on the ice forever. The reality of that coming to fruition, though, is much, much more bone-chilling than he expected it to be.
He knows how they are going to see Stammi Vicino, if they see any meaning in a at all. A cry for true love, they’ll think. A final call for attention and companionship before he retires. That’s even what Yakov seems to think it is; he’s started calling him Vitya again, in a misguided attempt to make him feel better about his loneliness. It’s far too late for something as simple as a name change to give him the softness, the warmth he so desperately longs for after spending so long being carved out of marble.
Because that’s what Stammi Vicino is– not a cry for attention or love. He doesn’t know what love is, not really. But he does remember warmth, and softness. The program is a cry for those, the things that would make him more human than marble. He longs to know what it would be like to be alive, to be made of something more than stone.
He doesn’t expect that prayer to be answered so soon, and especially not by a drunk Japanese skater with a tie– a godawful tie, at that –wrapped around his forehead. The man clings to him, and begs him to become a coach, of all things, before dragging him out onto a dance floor.
For a first time in his life, he thinks that maybe his faceless shadow, the one that he’s been dreaming of and wishing for for years, may have a face. It may even have a name: Yuuri Katsuki. So he lets himself be whisked away onto the dance floor.
Just for tonight, the marble gives way to flesh. Blood pumps through his veins, warming him for the first time in… he can’t even remember how long. He’s always been cold. But his smile stretches around his teeth, for the first time bending and molding itself into shape instead of shattering his face and soul into jagged pieces. Yuuri is the first person to shape the marble instead of chipping away at it. He discovers that he far prefers the former to the latter.
And just for tonight, dancing obnoxiously in a room full of businessmen and professionals, Vitya lives.