The gym door was locked and Payson sighed in frustration. The sun had barely risen, but usually the doors were open by now. She eyed Sasha's trailer. Door shut firmly, no lights on, there was no indication that he was awake, but she knew she had to talk to him before it got even more awkward than it was last night.
She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. She'd go over, knock on the door and apologize for being such a complete and total idiot. She marched over with purposeful strides, all the while wanting to run away as fast as she possibly could. Reaching the door, she hesitated, looking down at the moss green Astroturf he'd put down over the black top. Suddenly something slammed into the top of her head, full force, sending her flying back onto the aforementioned Astroturf. Payson lay on the ground for a few seconds, her eyes squeezed shut.
"Payson!" Sasha's concerned voice called to her. She knew he was next to her, kneeling there, concern etched all over his face. She didn't remember her accident at Nationals, but she imagined that's how he sounded and as she opened her eyes, the panic written in his expression was clear. "Payson, Christ, can you hear me? Are you alright?"
She groaned. "I'm fine." He twisted his mouth into a grimace that said he didn't believe her. "No really, I'm fine. You didn't even knock me down," she said. "I tripped over a bunch in your er- lawn, when I stumbled back." She sat up; putting a hand to her head, but motioning to the crumpled bit of Astroturf she'd caught her toe on. He stood and offered her a hand, which she ignored and stood with him. The world didn't spin, but she thought that maybe it would be a good idea to sit down. She sat in one of his lawn chairs and then looked up at him and grinned sheepishly. "Good morning."
He chuckled a little, sitting down in the chair across from her, his blue eyes twinkling with good humor. It was too much and she just stared at him for a moment. She knew why she had kissed him and it had only a little to do with the excitement of landing her routine. She was intensely attracted to him. Who wouldn't be? Her coach was an extremely good looking man, combined with his accent and his shared love of gymnastics, he was exactly the kind of man she'd always imagined herself with – in the future, after she'd won gold. It would be her luck that he would turn up now, long before her moment in London and he would of course be her coach, as if the ten year age difference wasn't enough to keep them apart.
"Good morning, Payson." It wasn't a question, but she knew it was as good as him asking, what the bloody hell are you doing here?
"I came over to apologize, for last night," she said, before she could lose her nerve. "I don't know what happened. I was just so excited to land those moves the way we talked about and it all just came bubbling to the surface and you were standing right there. I didn't mean to kiss you." She shook her head and he was looking at her with an unreadable expression. "Well, obviously, I meant to, but I, look I know how incredibly stupid it was and completely inappropriate. You're my coach and well, you're so old –" And now he wasn't unreadable, he almost looked offended, "older than me, I mean and well, you know what I mean. I'm just sorry and I'm hoping that we can pretend like it never happened." She finally stopped speaking and looked up at him, having to squint now that the sun was rising just behind him.
Sasha leaned closer to her and for a moment she wasn't sure if he was going to laugh at her, or yell or –her breath caught in her throat – kiss her. Despite herself and all the words she'd just spoken, the mere idea thrilled her, but he stopped well before he invaded her personal space and said, "I think that's a good idea."
She blew out a breath in relief and he smiled. "Great, because I was thinking about working on an somersault mount for my new beam routine. I know it doesn't fit in with the whole idea of being a more artistic gymnast, but I don't see a reason why I can't. I know I can land it consistently."
Relieved wouldn't even begin to describe how Sasha felt. Perhaps he'd been dense, but he hadn't seen that kiss coming. Maybe from one of the other gymnasts: Kaylie, Lauren, even Emily, all three had daddy issues and their major distraction from gymnastics had always been boys, but Payson shocked the hell out of him. One moment they'd been celebrating the enormous accomplishment of perfecting her new floor routine and the next he'd felt her lips pressing against his, first tentatively and then more confidently. It wasn't unpleasant, far from it, but it was completely inappropriate, in every way. He'd been going over it in his mind all night. Had he led her on? Had he somehow pushed her down this road? He'd decided around one in the morning that he had, in fact, been to blame. Linking the events of the last few weeks together in his head, he could see how a 16 year old girl with limited experience could start to view their relationship as something more than it was. But then she showed up, not four hours later to apologize and blame it on the excitement of the moment and he allowed himself to agree with her. If she felt like he hadn't done anything wrong, well then, perhaps he hadn't.
"Sasha, are you listening to me?" she asked, tilting her head expectantly.
He shook himself from his thoughts, "Sorry, no on the somersault, but what would you say to a strength element? Something to remind the judges of your power, but keeping with the idea of lines and grace, I'm sure we can come up with something with a higher value than a somersault."
She rolled her eyes, but nodded to him, biting at her bottom lip as she tried to visualize it. He unlocked the door to the gym and held it open for her. She ducked under his arm and brushed past him. He caught the scent of her shampoo as she stepped through the door and he felt his stomach flip, doing the somersault he'd just nixed from her beam routine. She was already past him, walking into the gym to stretch, but he just watched her go. Bloody hell, this is not happening. But he knew it was. The major problem was that Payson Keeler was exactly his type, petite, blonde, smart, athletic just like Summer.
Yes, that's it old boy, think of Summer.The beautiful woman who wouldn't let him lay a hand on her, whose values and opinions so obviously clashed with his own and in ways he could barely fathom most of the time. Just when he'd think he'd found a neutral topic, he'd realize that they had completely opposite views on the issue. She usually sounded like a Fox News or a 700 Club broadcast and he was much more a MSNBC kind of guy. He spent most their conversations trying not to roll his eyes. He told her he'd respect her values, he was above all other things, a gentleman, but he didn't understand her. They were both set in their ways and he knew deep down, eventually that's what would drive them apart. He imagined he and Payson had much more in common, despite the difference in age.
Damn it, Beloff. Get yourself under control. Payson is sixteen years old and you are her coach. You can admire and appreciate, but you cannot touch.That was just it though; impulse control had never been his strong suit. He could talk all he wanted about discipline, but his entire life, gymnastics had been the only thing he could control. The first kiss he'd shared with Summer proved it and while that relationship was between two adults, it was complicated and ultimately frustrating. He was terrified that his lack of control when it came to women he was physically attracted to could spill over towards Payson.
That's just completely unacceptable, Beloff. You cannot let this girl down. You swore to her you'd get her to the Olympics and that's what you're going to do.He set his jaw and felt his teeth clench; it was a familiar feeling. When he was going to be stubborn about something he knew it was written across his face and now was one of those times. He wasn't going to let his baser instincts ruin the most normal relationship in his life: his coaching relationship with perhaps the most talented and focused gymnast he had ever and would ever come across in his life. He was going to coach Payson Keeler to the Olympics and help her win gold if it killed him. And Lord knew, it might, but then whatever this was, if it was something, it would still be there or it wouldn't and that would be that.
Nodding to himself, he walked into the gym to find his gymnast stretching up against the beam, one leg hitched over it, her head thrown back and her eyes closed. He felt his stomach flip again and he groaned appreciatively at the unknowingly seductive imagine she presented.
Payson opened her eyes at the sound and smiled when she saw him approaching, but quickly turned back to finish stretching. Shit, even worse when she smiles at you, lights up her whole damn pretty face. Enough!He walked towards her, stopping just behind her, only inches separating them, "Ready?" he asked, his voice sounding strangled to his own ears.
"Not just yet, but almost," she said, as she continued to stretch.
Not yet, Beloff. Did you hear that? Not yet, but almost.He leaned down close, his lips almost brushing her ear as he spoke,"Well, you just let me know," he said and her eyes flashed to his for a moment, as if trying to decipher what he meant. She smiled, not the bright smile she had just bestowed upon him, but a different smile, one he hadn't seen before, but hoped to see again. He stepped away, not breaking eye contact and nodded. There, it's done.
A/N: I'm incredibly intrigued by the idea of a relationship between these two beyond that of "student/teacher". Although I think that the show is not actually going in this direction, despite what we've seen in the previews, I wanted to explore what would happen if Payson did actually kiss him (and it wasn't just a ploy to allow Lauren or Steve or Beals to drive a wedge between Sasha and the Rock etc. or whatever they have planned for the season finale). This might be it, or I might add a few more chapters, highlighting their attraction over the years leading up to the Olympics. I'm not sure yet. Please let me know what you think!