Hey, everyone. So I know this show is long over now, but the Olympics being on inspired me to sift through my computer and pull together some of my unfinished attempts at fic for it. If there's anyone still reading stuff for this show, I'll upload some more, so leave a review and let me know! Thanks, and enjoy.
"Money" Lauren says, and she's surprised to hear no anger, no disappointment in her own voice. "You want money. You never came back for me."
She thinks her mother does look disappointed, but her mind is moving at half-speed. Of course, the Tanners, it's always about money. Even Lauren's own dream is just about gold, she supposes.
"I came back to see you, Lauren, to be there for you. I just can't, you know, right now, not with this...it's not fair to you. I can't be in your life with this hanging over me. You understand that, don't you, baby? Just a little money, and when all this is sorted out, then I can come back for you, you see?"
Lauren unzips her gym bag and pulls out the bills without looking away from her mother. "I don't understand anything" she replies.
It's her mother who breaks eye contact, her gaze flicking towards the money and fixing there. The disappointment is gone. If Lauren had to name the older woman's expression now, she would call it hunger.
It's so ugly and disconcerting and familiar that Lauren suddenly feels sick. The air is too close. She grabs her mother's hand, almost forces the cash into it, five hundred dollars, and Lauren is already pedalling backwards, trying to escape.
"If you show up at the house again, I'll tell Dad" she says, although they both know she's probably lying. It's all she's got, though. She spins on her heel and walks away, doesn't speed up or slow down, doesn't look back.
Her breath comes back to her in the parking lot. She's okay. Her mother can't do anything to hurt her. It's only five hundred dollars. Lauren is an elite gymnast with lots of friends and a father who loves her and her dream boyfriend and great hair.
On cue, her phone buzzes, and she smirks to herself. Pretty, popular, perfect. Lauren Tanner does not need some washed-up, drugged-up nobody of a mother. Reaching into her gym bag to retrieve it brings back the ghost of a feeling, the change in her mother's face as she'd seen the money, but a text from her Dad or Carter or Kaylie or Payson is sure to squash it.
Unknown number. Huh. She opens the message and her eyebrows knit.
Better watch out, Lo. Like mother, like daughter, like liar. But don't worry, I'll keep your $500 secret – for now.
Kaylie pushes her chicken around on her plate, subtly burying chunks of it below her mound of uneaten rice. Then again, she could probably fling them at the wall before either of her parents noticed. She could probably smash the plate and scream.
"Your daughter is a national champion, an athlete at the top of her game. I know you can't understand what that's like, Ronnie, but Kaylie and I know that the key to success is to keep doing what works, and that's classical."
Kaylie wants to protest, that maybe this isn't the top of her game, but the words die on her tongue. She's not sure if they're true, and she is sure it won't do any good to say them. She's missed her chance, anyway, her mother already retorting.
"Sasha seems to think she needs to take more risks, so unless you're going to tell me that he doesn't understand what it takes to be a world-class athlete-"
"Calculated risks, he said! Look, no-one's more in favour of Kaylie pushing herself than me, but in the right way. She's a classic, she's not suddenly going to become a dynamo. She's not Lauren."
"I might not be an athlete, Alex, but I was a star. I know all about public image, and right now, Lauren's is on point. And Kaylie's is boring."
Kaylie is boring, pushing her broccoli around her plate, piling it up against the rice.
Her dad snorts. "A clean, wholesome public image, now there's something neither you or Sasha Belov know a single thing about."
Kaylie feels her Dad circling round, via Sasha's reputation to Marty's, and then the affair. Her mom obviously feels it too, because she puts down her knife and fork and her eyes narrow as she switches tack.
"I saw Payson at the gym today. She's looking great. The dance lessons are really helping her, and she's getting some of her power moves back. Honestly, she looks better than she did before her injury. And she's still improving."
Alex Cruz has always liked Payson, which stops him looking as distressed as he should by this news.
Ronnie goes in for the kill. "She's going to win Nationals next year. Sasha knows it. Everyone can tell. Kaylie needs to capitalise now. New music, more adult routines, bigger parties, better outfits. And yes, Alex, whatever sponsors and endorsements she can get, before it's over."
A little fanfare erupts from under Kaylie's napkin, and both her parents jump, startled out of their private war. It's her phone, and she knows she's not supposed to have it at the table, but she can't care even a little bit about 'family dinner' tonight. She'd been waiting for her Dad's reply, and found herself actually hoping he'd take a dig at her gymnastics, her lack of progress or wandering focus. Anything to show he still believes she can get better.
She throws her napkin down over her uneaten stack of food as casually as she can, picks up her phone and presses it open. One new message.
"Who is that?" Her dad asks sharply, at the same moment her mother chides "No phone at the table, Kaylie, you know this.". They glare at each other again, and Kaylie seizes her chance to leave. "Tara, she wants me to call her. She's helping with my beam, wants to set a time. I'll just go do that now."
"Kaylie, it's family dinner" Ronnie protests, but her daughter's already backing away, shrugging as if she has no choice in the matter.
Out in the long corridor, Kaylie finally opens the message, expecting something to make her feel worse. Lauren's out at a party with Carter and they're sneaking off to have mind-blowing sex. Payson's just left the Rock, and she's upping her DOD on floor. Leo can't come home for the weekend after all.
That's weird, though. Unknown number. Kaylie collects numbers, has everyone's at the Rock. She hits open, and lets out a little gasp.
Be careful, Kay. All gym and no carbs make Kaylie a very dull girl, and even her parents know it. Lucky you won't have to put up with both of them for long.
"Thanks, Razor" Emily mumbles as he hands over the latest envelope.
"Don't thank me" his tone is light, but there's no mistaking their relationship's changed since she fell for Damon. "Just pay me."
She has the money ready to go, not wanting to draw this out any longer than she has to. Emily reminds herself why she's doing this; a shot at the Olympics, a future for Brian, a chance for her mom to be happy, even if it is with Steve Tanner.
She figures Razor will say something snarky, and he doesn't disappoint, going with the classic "Pleasure doing business with you, Emily Kmetko."
She feels herself rise to it anyway. "It doesn't need to be a pleasure. It just needs to work."
Razor is already walking away, but he turns back towards and raises his hands, almost as if he'd just stuck a landing. "When have I ever let you down?"
She waits until she's sure he's gone before opening the envelope. The first two pages she pulls out are gibberish to her, making no sense at all. That's kind of the point, she supposes. The third is easier to identify, if only because it's got a title: "The Abolition of Slavery: Moral Imperative or Economic Reality?". At least she's only sticking to Math and History. She can do everything else herself, definitely biology, probably literature, and even impossible Spanish conjugations. And she can absolutely nail her new bars mount, too. All she needed was a little more time.
Her phone plays a tinny little tune, and she winces. She's used to hoping texts are from Damon or Brian and right now those are the two people that are going to make her feel worse about what she's doing. Her mom usually calls instead of texting, so her best hope is that it's one of the girls, although it's rare for any of them to be in touch unless it's a group thing.
Even her battered old phone has caller ID, so she sees the unknown number and feels a momentary rush of panic. The National Committee, suspicious of her rising grades? Emily gives herself a mental shake. They wouldn't text, would they? Well, she's never going to know unless she opens it.
Top of the class, Em. But if you're interested in history, try remembering what happened last time you got caught breaking the rules.. Emily + secrets + lies = everything to lose + no way of stopping it.
It's 11.32, almost the middle of the night, and even Payson is beginning to question how late it's reasonable to keep training. Even when Emily was sneaking back in at midnight, she'd been taking a couple of hours off for dinner and Damon.
Sasha, though, seems to have no such concerns. "Again" he instructs, head tilted, arms crossed "and this time, do it better."
Do it better. Great. That's the kind of world-class coaching she fought tooth and nail for. Sasha Belov, ladies and gentlemen.
She keeps it all to herself and lines up to repeat her most difficult new tumbling pass, the one that's going to take her DOD past Kaylie's, if Sasha's ever happy with it. For some reason, he seems hyper-critical of her reintroduced power elements, more than he ever was before.
The pass feels ugly, but she lands it, her tiny hop not enough to take her out of bounds. It's strange, not to have an event she needs it ready for. She's still impatient, though, and Sasha's broad grin and slow clap as he walks towards her tells her he's both amused and annoyed that she can't perfect a pass she insisted on adding.
"I'll get it" she tells him. It should sound defiant, but he's gone to such lengths to encourage defiance in her that his smirk turns into a full-on smile.
"Of course you will" he answers, and what should come out stern makes her heart soar. Of course she will. Sasha knows it, and he will carry that certainty until she knows it herself.
He finally looks at the clock, and despite her earlier concerns, Payson's soaring heart drops.
They speak together, a jumble of tongues.
"I'd really like to do just one more run-through on beam, just to-"
"If you're still good to go, your beam could use a look before-"
He laughs, looking away. "Should've known. Alright, beam it is, then."
"I should let my mom know we're still here and not kidnapped or eaten by bears or something."
"That's the first thing she'd think? My gymnast daughter's late, she won't be at the gym, she's probably been kidnapped?"
"No, the first thing she'd think is probably eaten by bears. Kidnapped is a close second."
Sasha shakes his head, makes eye contact with her again. "You Americans with your crime and your wild animals. You know in England, if someone's late home, we'd just assume they'd stopped for a pint." He eyes the clock again. Quarter to Midnight. "Actually, the pubs would be shut by now. If it was this late, we'd probably just assume they'd pulled."
"Okay. I'll tell my mom that's what we're doing, then."
She's teasing, and she's sort of out of her depth with it. Payson doesn't tease, she has no idea what he's just said, and for some reason, Sasha's turned scarlet. "No, don't. Definitely don't do that." The reason becomes apparent when he carries on "I'm sorry, I shouldn't be making dirty jokes."
"Oh" Payson blinks. "I didn't even realise that was what that was. Next time you want to say something dirty, just, I don't know…give me a sign or something."
She expects him to snap back to talking about her beam routine, but a beat passes and he doesn't. She's afraid he's going to laugh at her, even kindly, for missing whatever dirty thing he said. She hopes he might make a quip about how that's another problem with Americans, not understanding his humour. Maybe that's what she expects, and she hopes for something more. She hopes he might come closer.
She's gotten good at reading Sasha, but she can't read what's on his face now.
He takes too long to speak, and his voice comes out hoarse. And one of them must have moved closer, because she has to tilt her head up to look at him. "There's another thing with you Americans. Always looking for signs, even for things that are right in front of you."
"That's not Americans. That's just me."
Nice work, Pay. Only one week of high school and you've still managed to be hot for teacher – and it looks like he's hot for you too. But if you want to kiss Sasha, you'd better kiss your perfect reputation goodbye, too.
Anyone looking past the Pizza Shack might have caught a glimpse of the figure. They wouldn't have seen much, though. Maybe just a different shade of black against the dark night, maybe a blur of movement or the outline of a shape. They could barely have heard a sound as the figure disappeared, soft and silent.
But there was only a single mother struggling with two unruly teens and a toddler, and a besotted young couple on a flourishing first date, and a harried waitress slipping back to her car, and nobody noticed anything at all.
So as you might have guessed, this is based on the PLL premise, with a mysterious someone texting our girls. I love the two shows and think they have a lot in common, so I couldn't resist a crossover. I did notice there's a great PLL/MIOBI crossover already started here (great minds), so I hope mine will be quite different in that all I'm really taking from PLL is the idea of 'A' and the mystery/noir/thriller tone of it. Otherwise, the characters, settings and some events come from MIOBI, and most of the plot is an original.
I'm also going to declare myself at the beginning so as not to get lynched: My MIOBI ships are Payson/Sasha and Kaylie/Austin, and there will also be Emily/Damon and some other random surprises.
I hope you keep reading, and I'd love to hear any early guesses as to who the mystery texter could be...