“Men’s Final: Group 4 to the ice, please. Men’s Final: Group 4 to the ice please.” the pleasant, disembodied voice of the announcer sounded over the loudspeaker system, a startling opposite to the heavy backstage atmosphere that surged to immediate cacophony as the final group of skaters lurched to their feet as one. Coaches, choreographers, competitors and the like all now brimming with last minute advice, well wishes, and in the instance of one unfortunate skater from the tiny country of Volantis, vomit.
Nerves. They were everywhere. You could trip on them like a livewire and watch your dreams die before you even had time to draw your next breath. But then again, this was the Olympic Games. One could hardly expect anything to be easy when the entire world was watching, especially with a gold medal on the line.
Jon Snow lifted his head from where it had been lightly resting in his hands, reflexively reaching to toss his wayward curls out of his eyes before realizing that his hair was secured in a half bun. He tightened the laces to his ice skates once more for luck, and took his place in line among the other skaters as the final group was called to the ice.
“Snow.” he turned as the voice of their-- his, his coach, Tyrion Lannister sounded in his ears, and lifted an eyebrow. “Breathe.” Tyrion continued. “It’s just the warm-up. The hard part comes later.”
Jon nodded once, opening his mouth to reply before Tyrion cut him off again-- “And none of that ‘Aye’ business. I have no idea where you picked it up, but I don’t condone it and will not be a part of it.” the words softened by just the barest wink.
Jon glared anyway- he rarely appreciated the teasing nature of his coach, but he would continue to put up with it now as he had for the last five years, putting up with it for her--
He took a cleansing breath. Now was not the time to get emotional. Sentiment could wait until after the competition was done. He joined the line, last of the 5 competitors for this final group. The favorites.
“... remember to fucking count this time would you? I swear if you pull out of another sit spin after only three seconds, I will make my way out onto the ice to beat you into submission myself, and it will not be a pretty sight.” Jon smiled slightly in reply.
“Oh thank the gods, he lives. Be sure to save some of that ‘charm’ for the judges, Snow.” the laugh in Tyrion’s voice was bubbling dangerously close to the surface. Jon wondered if he should be worried that his coach had hidden a flask somewhere on his person. Again--
Right. Right. Not the time, nor the place. If Tyrion had fallen off the wagon again, they could deal with it just as well in an hour when the most important skate of his life had concluded. Well… second most important anyway…
A hand on his forearm startled him out of his thoughts. Jon glanced down at Tyrion, surprised to see actual seriousness in his eyes. “You’re in your head. I can see it.”
Jon sighed. “Yes.” There was little use in denying it.
Tyrion pursed his lips. “Go land a fucking quad loop. That will either clear it, or not. If it does, great. If not, well, we have 45 minutes to snap you the fuck out of it.”
The official escorting their group turned to fasten Tyrion with a level of side-eye that even she would have been proud of. “Right, right. International decorum and all that.” Tyrion waived her off, but his hand tightened on Jon’s forearm, finally tugging on it, so that he had Jon’s undivided attention. “I know that we agreed not to speak of--”
“We did.” Jon interrupted.
Tyrion’s shrewd gaze always unnerved him, even more so now that he was moments away from his final Free Skate, but something in his eyes softened. “My boy--” the pain cracking through his tone did nothing to settle Jon’s nerves in this moment. “You know that she would want--”
“I know.” Jon clenched his jaw stubbornly.
“Tyrion- I can’t.” Jon peeled Tyrion’s fingers from his arm as gently as he could. “I know you’re trying to help, but this-- this isn’t the way.”
“United States?” the official from before crossed purposefully to them, “We have a call--”
“We’ll talk about it after.” Jon said, definitively ending the conversation by removing his skate guards and handing them to the PA assigned to the US skating team before stepping out onto the ice.
It was electric.
It never ceased to amaze him how the thrill of competition could change the molecules of air around you, simultaneously making it harder to breathe and causing your entire nervous system to speed up in response. Breath, heart, pulse, everything pounding in one deafening rhythm that could easily carry you into madness, if you let it.
Some of the greats said it was that pulse, that pounding that drove them to their victories, while others still claimed that it was in the quietness of the moments between that contained the actual competitive fire and glory. The moments where you ceased to be, and became one with the drive inside of you.
Jon had no idea which of these theories he favored. All he knew is that this was finally his time. His moment.
Curse be damned.
To settle back within himself, Jon pushed off, gliding clockwise around the ice, taking his place in the jump rotations. As he had pulled the coveted last position that his first place finish in the Short Program had afforded him, that meant he would be skating directly after the other gold medal favorite from Japan, Yuzuru Hanyu, currently sitting in 2nd place. With every lap, he came back a bit more to himself, breathing steadily, and trying to ignore the fact that his hands felt empty, wanting.
Someday that feeling would go away.
Yuzuru finished his jump pass, and Jon accelerated, eager to prove to these competitors, these judges, this audience, that his Short Program win had not been a fluke (as many felt), and that he deserved a place here in this pantheon. He felt the same single minded concentration drop over him as he approached his quad toe-loop, planting his toe-pick into the ice at just the right moment to launch himself into the air, pulling his arms to his chest in a tight x as he rotated, all of it over in a blink of an eye as he came to land cleanly on his right foot. He was dimly aware of the crowd’s surge of energy as he rejoined the rotation, resuming his laps of the ice.
He could do this. He would break this curse. He would do it all.