So this is it guys. All the random thoughts and character plans end in this. It kind of ended up with a Harry Potter-esque giant child tangent. Sorry about that.
I hope this is fulfilling for all of you!
Special thanks go to Luv2Live who continuously reminded me that I needed to finish this. It's been about 90% done for months but Luv2Live definitely pushed it over the line (many times, for many chapters!)
Luv2Live – Here you are. I finally squeezed the last of it out. Hope you enjoy it and you don't mind the Sasha/Payson stuff too much.
ELM-Tree10 – I hope you're still here. And don't worry Lauren managed a life and a career before. Her parental model is Steve Tanner remember. And with her family issues? She's got serious plans for her future that include well… you'll see. There's stuff about Payson and Kelly, and a little about Beth. I hope you enjoy it.
Elizabeth – Thanks. Hope you're still around.
AshtrayTragedyM.D. I thought about using more contemporary gymnasts. My general rule for all the gymnastics (including scores etc. as well as some of the gymnasts I used) is that they were all based on 2008 because I could access it all (like Olympic routines etc.). So that's why some gymnasts got mentions and others didn't.
Iargyrop: Well… we'll get there. Hope you like it.
Anam & Guest – I hope you like what happens… I tried to be balanced and realistic.
- All In On A Backroom Bet Final Epilogue: Legacy -
The light shining in reflected off the sterile white colours hurt Lauren's eyes when she first woke, but as soon as she remembered where she was she completely forgot about the aches and pains.
Carter noticed, and watched her smile grow, taking over her entire face. She glanced around. "Where is he?"
"In the nursery; I saw him through the window. Your Dad already has him in designer baby clothes." Carter laughed softly. "He's perfect Lo."
That morning her father turned up first, carrying a huge bouquet of silk flowers and a box Carter was sure contained jewellery. The baby followed shortly after. When Austin and Jack arrived, it was Steve holding him, while Carter helped Lauren shower.
Steve handed over his grandson reluctantly, but the awe on the men's face made it easier. When Lauren and Carter emerged, Steve made room for his daughter next to Austin. "J.J." Austin grinned. "It suits him."
"Welcome to the family little guy." Jack added. He stroked the baby's palm and he latched on tight to his finger. "He's holding on." He marvelled.
"It's a reflex." The nurse informed them, as she changed the sheets on Lauren's bed "it's a good sign it's strong"
"He's got good genes for that." Jack continued.
"Not from me." Lauren joked "not if he turns into a bars worker."
"Would you mind taking a picture" Steve stated, holding out his cell to the nurse.
"I'll take it." Carter offered.
"No." Lauren protested. "I want a picture with everyone."
She glanced to Austin "We need to post something anyway."
AusTuck: So proud to introduce the new member of the family. J.J. (Jack-Jr.) Holt. With his Dads, Mom, Grandpa and God-dad. Twitpic793
US NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS WELCOMES GYMNASTICS' FIRST FAMILY
Gymnastics legends Austin Tucker and Lauren Tanner were spotted with their newborn son at the recent U.S. Gymnastics Championships. Tanner was in town to promote the single-event portion of the championships named after her, the Tanner Cup, and was also on cheerleading duty for her fiancée, Carter Anderson, who swept the Floor, Vault and All-Around Competitions.
Tanner was the surrogate for long-time friend Austin Tucker and partner Jack Holt. The happy family were spotted intermittently in the stands, with baby J.J. happily watching the competition when not taking a nap.
AUSTIN TUCKER RELEASES AUTOBIOGRAPHY – "STRENGTH" – gold, glory and the true story of how a deal between two gymnasts would change the sport forever.
AUSTUCKER –Thx for all the support. Had an amazing time on #GFGFbooktour but I can't wait to get home & see my guys.
February 2020 - ROCKY MOUNTAINS GYMNASTICS CLUB
Going into the Tokyo games, there was only one thing Carter wanted more than an individual gold medal, and that was for Lauren to deliver their baby safely. The doctors had always told her she might have trouble conceiving so they'd started trying when J.J. was just two years old and they'd only been married a year. It took another year before they managed.
After Lauren and the baby's safety and his gold, the next thing he wanted was his star gymnast to qualify to Tokyo as well.
Jordan Randall had struggled to come to terms with what had happened to her (and the world knowing about it) but the day she'd approached him and him to be his personal coach was the best of his coaching career. Now, within the Olympic year, her nerves had resurfaced on the vault and so Carter was relieved when he saw Jake.
He told Jordan "time for lunch" and she scowled. "My brother's here." He informed her, making it clear they weren't stopping because he was running out of patience.
Jake opened with a hug and "Congratulations." They headed outside to avoid the predatory and eagle-eared gym moms.
"A little better" Carter answered honestly. Between her plummeting weight, nausea, migraines and blood pressure, the doctors had put her on bed rest. Lauren had only become more stressed. She was back at work and it turned out toying with interns lowered her blood pressure.
Jake stared appropriately at the ultrasound picture Carter pulled out.
They made a half-hearted attempt at small talk before Jake cut to the chase. "You know I'm really grateful for what you did with the inheritance."
Carter froze. He'd thought Jake had just needed a signature for something. "Dad… It was family money." He sat down awkwardly. "Is everything okay?" Transitioning to a specialised boutique organic business model had sounded like a good idea and the business guys M.J. had hooked him up with when he'd asked had certainly agreed.
"Really well. We might actually turn a real profit next year."
"So what's the problem?"
"We got an investment offer, huge contracts and the finances to expand immediately." Jake was clearly uncomfortable "I had a lawyer look over it. It's was all a bit too good to be true. So I asked him to do some digging; turns out, basically the guy is Steven Tanner."
"Steven Tanner, Lo's…"
"Yeah; you didn't know about this?"
Carter shook his head. "Any chance this it's just, a coincidence? I'm pretty sure he does a lot of business."
"He probably wouldn't choose a family organic beef ranch to invest in. There are bigger guys who'd be a much better deal."
Carter rubbed his face, he hated this stuff. "I'll find out what's going on." He promised his brother. He'd tolerated a lot from Lauren's father but surely messing with his family was crossing a line.
"I don't want to get involved in your business and if this is thing between you two well…" he trailed off" "but" he informed Carter with pride "if it's a legitimate offer I want you to know, we can deliver…"
Waiting in Steve Tanner's office, Carter knew that it was designed to intimidate and impress, and it worked.
The secretary smiled sympathetically. "I'm sure his call will be wrapping up very soon."
When Steve Tanner did emerge with a wolfish smile, he unnecessarily introduced Carter as his 'son-in-law' to the woman. It was the first time he'd ever called Carter, that despite the years since the wedding.
"I don't think I've told you congratulations yet." Steve smiled. Carter could see a clear spring sky and Denver spread out behind him. "Cigar? Scotch?"
"I'm in training."
"Of course. So, what can I do for you today?" Steve leant back in his chair while Carter leant forward.
"My brother came to see me. He runs our family ranch up in Wyoming and he received a business offer recently."
"Really?" Steve's smile increased "It's always hard, running your first business investment is wise."
"He's worried, about the offer. He thinks it might not be as good as it seems."
"Maybe it is." Steve pointed out.
Carter shifted uncomfortably. He didn't enjoy the back and forth the way the Tanners did. He threw his cards on the table. "You're the investor."
Steve smirked. He was enjoying it.
"Why?" Carter pressed "What do you want with my brother's ranch?"
"It was my understanding it was half your business? That you invested your inheritance."
"Is that really any of your business?"
"You're married to my daughter." Steve retorted quickly "I make it a point to make it my business."
Carter's jaw clenched. "What's your plan then?"
"You're a Tanner. You always have a plan."
Steve laughed, deep and hearty. "Lauren's taught you well."
"And what would she think about this?" Carter's temper was tested.
"You haven't told her?"
"Not yet. She doesn't need the stress right now." Carter reminded him. The humour drained from Steve's face and he didn't say anything. "I know you've never liked me." Carter stated unnecessarily "but like it or not, Lauren and I are married. I'm her family as well."
"Marriage doesn't mean anything." Steve informed him, standing up and pouring himself a scotch from the bar "Flesh and blood is what matters. She could divorce you in a heartbeat."
"She won't" Carter replied instantly. He stood, feeling off-balance. He accepted the glass Steve handed him automatically, but didn't drink.
"A split was a possibility." Steve informed him "but now you're going to be the father of my grandchild. That means a hell of a lot more than any marriage certificate." He paused and took a sip of his scotch. "We've been looking into the boutique beef industry for a while. Why would I look elsewhere when there's a good opportunity inside the family?" He took another sip "Blood of my blood and all that."
"So you're just doing this, to be nice?" Carter was disbelieving.
Steve patted him on the back. "Welcome to the family kid. I'll expect you at the next dinner. Wear a suit."
-All In On A Backroom Bet Final Epilogue: Legacy-
June 2020: Gymnastics Team Captain Anderson celebrates making 3rd Olympic team and impending fatherhood: Carter Anderson secured his position on the team for Tokyo this weekend, and, as he and wife Lauren Tanner confirmed exclusively to People Magazine, he's got impending fatherhood on the brain. "It'd be nice to dangle a gold medal over the crib."
2020 – Press Release - Jack Holt named to U.S. Olympic Team Medical Staff
2020 – Austin Tucker's book reaches NYTimes bestsellers list. Tucker to appear on NBC Olympic Colour Commentary Team with Nastia Liukin.
2020 - TOKYO PROFILES: USA GOLD MEDAL HOPE CARTER ANDERSON
At 28 Carter Anderson is the old man of the US Gymnastics team, but with over a dozen world championship medals (including three gold) he's also its best chance of Olympic glory. In Rio he won silver in the all-around and floor, as well as bronze in the team after several teammates fell. Since then he's gone from strength to strength both on and off the mat.
Not wasting any time following Rio, he married long-time girlfriend Lauren Tanner, became a godfather and stepfather to her and former teammate Austin Tucker's son, then promptly became the World Floor Champion in 2017 as well as finishing 3rd in the All-Around. He followed up in 2018 with another individual medal on floor.
Despite a shoulder injury that caused him to miss the 2019 world championships and the National Championships earlier this year, Anderson proved his return to form at Olympic Trials by posting the highest scores in the all-around, floor and vault, as well as the second highest on high-bar and rings.
Anderson will also be serving as the coach of female gymnast Jordan Randall. He teamed up with his own legendary coach, Sasha Belov, to guide her to glory. For Anderson, the choice of whether or not to be on the floor with his gymnast was easy. "If I wasn't there with Jordan, I'd be stressing about it anyway. I did tell her I'd be cutting out on the victory celebrations early though."
The notoriously media shy Randall trains with Anderson at the Rocky Mountain Gymnastics Centre, which he part owns with his 2012 Olympic teammates. It was the Rock in 2015 that sounded alarm bells about the inappropriate behaviour of Coach Ray Keegan towards several gymnasts including Randall. Then living in foster care, she relocated to Colorado and attributes her recent successes to the Anderson, his wife Lauren and the Rock.
While Anderson is a favourite in the all-around and floor events as well as team, Randall was chosen for the team primarily due to her incredibly difficult vault and uneven bars routine, where she could also medal in the event finals.
After the games Anderson will add another title to the list – that of father - when he and wife Lauren, welcome a baby girl.
JULY 2020 - US Gymnastics team miss out on Gold: In a shocking result, the U.S. Olympic team failed to win a single gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, despite going in with strong medal hopes…
2020 – COLORADO GYM – 'ROCK' WINS TRIPLE SILVER AT TOKYO OLYMPICS
Nicknamed 'the silver prince' for his perpetual silver Olympic finishes, Carter Anderson can add two more silver to his collection –finishing second in the all-around and on floor in Tokyo. Fellow Rock gymnast Jordan Randall also won silver in the uneven bars, while the women's team collected a bronze team medal.
While Randall is Stanford bound, Anderson notably did not confirm his expected retirement from gymnastics. At 28 he's the oldest member of the US Gymnastics team, but also proved the most successful in Tokyo, the only American to complete the team competition without a major fault. Instead Anderson has stated he's taking a break to enjoy fatherhood but that he'll see how he's feeling in the New Year.
Anderson is expecting his first child with wife Lauren Tanner later in December.
2020 - Olympians welcome baby girl – just months after winning two silver medals in Tokyo, Olympic Gymnast Carter Anderson and wife Lauren Tanner, welcomed a healthy baby girl, Stephanie Anderson, in Boulder, Colorado…
2021: USA Gymnastics Congratulates Soaring Stars Max Spencer & Kelly Parker on the birth of their son.Both mother and son, Lucas, are doing well. Since their successes in 2012 Spencer works as a Sports Photographer with credits including the cover of Sports Illustrated. He has been nominated twice for ESPN Sports Photo of the Year. Parker is works for USA Gymnastics, promoting the growth of the sport in the Florida area.
2022 – WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP LIVE UPDATES – Carter Anderson confirms end to his two year retirement – In a webchat with NBC, Carter Anderson confirmed that he's again training and is focused on next year's national championships. "After looking after a newborn baby, I've grown used to exhaustion." He joked "Now she's sleeping through the night I guess I don't know what to do with all this time on my hands." The last time Anderson competed was the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo where he won two silver medals.
2024 - Nairobi, Kenya Intercontinental Hotel
Lauren clutched the table with her hand as the room span. Time seemed to slow down as the world gradually righted itself. She sank down against the wall, glad she was in their hotel suite and not somewhere humiliating like a public function.
She didn't know how long she sat there, marble cold against her skin. She only moved when the door opened. She didn't (couldn't) get up, but managed a smile.
"Mum!" Jay hurled himself into her and she absorbed it with a slight grunt. Austin kept a tight grip on Stephanie's hand.
Lauren smiled nervously at Payson (she was always nervous at the moment). Payson grinned back, her hand resting on her own ever-increasing stomach. Unlike Lauren, Payson was glowing with good health.
Lauren was for once glad she wasn't representing the gymnast and dealing with that situation. Being her friend would be enough work.
"I'm fine." Lauren lied. "just… dizzy. Someone walked passed with food; made me nauseous."
"I should call Jack." Austin offered, while singlehandedly scooping up Stephanie and suggesting to their seven-year-old boy "Jay, why don't you go grab your flag? And your cap."
Jay's eyes lit up. He was already wearing an actual Team USA t-shirt that someone in the USOC media team had mocked up (Lauren knew exactly who, and if it wasn't so cute they would have had words).
"Jack won't say anything different from my obstetrician." Lauren reminded him. "Pay, pull me up."
"Help her to the couch." Austin corrected. Payson obeyed.
"Steph, can you go play for a minute?" Lauren suggested. The girl nodded determinedly.
She was the exact opposite of half-brother. She was quiet and spoke and did everything carefully and deliberately. It was a completely different experience to Jay who could transition from a verbal whirlwind to a full-blown sulk in less than a minute. Their colouring was completely different as well, Jay with dark hair and eyes while Stephanie sported tight blonde curls.
They both shared a seemingly limitless supply of physical energy though, which meant Austin and assorted others had been taking them out to run some of it off at least twice a day.
"Lo." Austin leant forward. "You really don't look so good."
"Can you take the kids to lunch?" She requested. "I think I need to lie down."
Maybe…" Austin chose his words carefully "you should think about going home."
"It's Carter's last Olympics. I was sick with Jay and Steph." she reminded him.
'You weren't this sick." Austin replied her in turn "not for this long. And it's not just nausea. I'll put the kids in kids club then I'm coming back."
She shook her head. "Pay can keep me company. I want her to catch me up on what's been happening in London."
Payson glanced between the pair. There was subtext she missed.
Austin took the kids, still wary, but Lauren hugged them all goodbye and then told Payson she needed a shower.
Mostly she just stood under the spray, but she would be in the arena that night, not to mention dealing with press and sponsors (even if she was on leave) so tried to put in some effort.
Afterwards she sat down with Pay on the couch and sipped on tea with as much sugar as would dissolve in it. Gone were the days were she tried to limit calories while pregnant. Now she needed anything she could keep down.
"So tell me how it feels to have a psychology degree." Lauren asked. "What are you going to do now? And now we're kid-free, what exactly is going on with you and Sasha? You show up with that stomach and he's walking around with a stupid weird grin on his face."
"How about you tell me what's going on with you." Payson leant forward. "Austin was right, you do look awful."
"It's been a… difficult pregnancy." Lauren admitted. "But just think, next Olympics I'll be able to party." She attempted levity. "You know I've never been able to properly celebrate for the whole Olympics. In London I had events and press and then every Games since then I've been pregnant."
"Should you even be here?"
"There was no way I was missing Carter's last Olympics." Lauren snapped, a little sharply. "I'd be more stressed on my own, alone, anyway." She took a deep breath "Carter doesn't know quite how sick I've been, so don't you dare tell him."
Payson frowned in confusion and Lauren explained. "Between all the competitions and camps, even though he isn't coaching anyone competing…he knows some of it." She trailed off. "So, you and Sasha. Deets."
"He asked me to marry him." Payson confessed.
Lauren forced a smile, even as her body wanted her to hurl.
"I haven't said yes yet." Payson added, causing Lauren's jaw to drop
Lauren struggled to sit up and pay a bit more attention. "You said no?"
"I didn't want him asking just because I was pregnant."
"Wow Pay." Lauren gaped "that is truly the most messed up thing. You spend years chasing after Sasha, and then you turn him down?"
"I didn't chase him for years." Payson rolled her eyes at Lauren's dramatics.
Lauren was tempted to do the same. "I thought you'd be sculling the non-alcoholic champagne."
Payson's lips twitched into a smile and Lauren rolled her eyes. Payson was clearly celebrating, mentally at least. "I haven't exactly said no…" she corrected.
"Just keep that ring off your finger for the Games at least." She warned Payson. "We can still imply random stranger or immaculate conception for your stomach, ring is harder." She was momentarily distracted by the television on mute where the cycling medal ceremony was going on.
"That's one of your clients isn't it?" Payson checked.
Lauren nodded, snuggling deeper into the couch. "
"Are your minions looking after all your clients? Not that I mind. Rick's nice." (Lauren knew Rick was freaking out over how to handle the baby-coach situation. She'd heard him praying and thanking god that Payson didn't have any active contracts. After the baby-coach situation, Lauren doubted she ever would).
"Some." Lauren stated "long-term ones. But the big Olympic ones got handed off to other people." She smiled weakly but it didn't hide her anger at herself. "I'll have to build my portfolio from scratch once I get better."
"Like you'll have any problems doing that." Payson rolled her eyes. Lauren's reputation as a shark-toothed sports agent was so legendary it had spread outside the profession. There had been more than one article that put her on lists of "people who pull strings." The most famous story was that, just two months after giving birth to Stephanie, she'd resumed her tactic of joining in athlete workouts when attempting to sign them. 'The Athletes' Agent' they called her.
- All In On A Backroom Bet Final Epilogue: Legacy -
Lauren woke with a start, clutching her TV was turned down and Payson was sitting cross-legged devouring a bowl of cereal.
"We've still got an hour and a half before we have to leave to get there on time." Payson informed her "Austin called. He said to let you sleep as long as possible. Carter called as well, and I told him you were taking a nap."
Lauren lurched up and headed to the bathroom but as soon as she stood Payson recoiled in horror. Where Lauren had been curled up was a huge red smear. She followed her former teammate.
Lauren dropped to the floor in front of the toilet, struggling to breath as she dry-heaved.
"I need to go to the hospital." Lauren managed as Payson leapt into action. "Call Austin." She took a few deep, struggling, breaths. "Don't let him call Carter."
At Payson's startled look and then immediate protest she added "he's qualifying tonight."
- All In On A Backroom Bet Final Epilogue: Legacy -
"And Carter Anderson receives a huge roar here in Nairobi. Some questioned whether he couldn't do it, but even with three qualifications still to go, it's safe to say Anderson has proved the doubters wrong and qualified to the All-Around and floor final. What a triumph. I wouldn't be surprised if Team USA qualifies in the top two either."
Carter glanced around looking for Lauren and the kids, they weren't where he thought they were supposed to be but it was a huge stadium. He'd probably got it wrong so he waved at the whole crowd, congratulating gymnasts as he passed them.
"Carter" Sasha interrupted. "We have to go."
He frowned, glancing over at the rest of his teammates. They'd had a fantastic day, sitting in first so far, but they weren't being led away with him.
Once they were out of the glare of the competition floor Sasha simply stated "It's Lauren."
"What…" he struggled to find words "is she… the baby?"
"I don't know." Sasha tried to stay calm for his gymnast "Payson and Austin are with her at the hospital. She's in surgery."
Carter's eyes narrowed "When did this happen?"
"She didn't want you to know." Sasha stated quickly. Carter immediately stormed off, with Sasha racing after him "there's a car waiting." He called out, naming the exit. Carter heard, but didn't slow.
M.J. herself was waiting, which was remarkable in itself. She was typing furiously but softened as she guided him into a car. She'd never admit it but Lauren was her favourite agent, not least because she reminded M.J. so much of herself.
In the hospital Carter stormed up to Austin "Why didn't you call me?"
Austin glanced down at his lap, where Steph was sitting with a tablet. She dropped it and reached up for her father who scooped her up easily.
"Hi princess" Carter kissed her forehead.
"Mommy's hurt." She informed him.
Jay looked up from where he occupied by something zebra related on his tablet. He was missing school to come to the Games, so he was piled high with educational material to compensate. He also looked absolutely furious, with swollen red eyes and all the markings of an epic Jay-meltdown.
"Daddy said we couldn't watch you because Mom was sick." He proclaimed, launching himself at Carter's legs. J.J. was just starting to really get into gymnastics. While it escaped his understanding that two of his three parents were former gymnasts, his still-competing Uncle Carter was just about the most amazing person he could comprehend.
"Yeah buddy" Carter ruffled his hair. "I'm sorry."
Payson stepped up, reaching out for both kids "Why don't we go get some water for everyone, okay?"
Stephanie was absolutely not letting go of her father. Carter waved off Payson, shifting her onto his hip and turning to Austin for an explanation.
"She told me not to."
"How bad is it?"
Austin's expression said it all. Carter frowned. He knew his wife had been having a rough time of it but nothing like this. "What are you saying?"
Austin shook his head. "I called Steve, but he's not answering."
- All In On A Backroom Bet Final Epilogue: Legacy -
Gymnast's Olympic Tragedy – USA Gymnastics team captain flew home early following the double tragedy of his wife's miscarriage and news of the death of his father-in-law in just 24 hours. Anderson's wife, 2012 Olympian and triple gold medallist Lauren Tanner was hospitalised during qualifications. Following reports that she was medically stable, he competed in the team final, where USA finished 4th. Subsequently informed of his father-in-laws sudden death due to heart-failure Anderson withdrew from individual competition, allowing team mate Jackson Grasso to move up from his reserve position…
One Week Later:
"Excuse me, ma'am?" Lauren glanced up from her tablet but froze, staring at her surroundings. She wasn't used to seeing her father's office from this perspective. The secretary continued "Payson Keeler is here to see you?"
Lauren frowned, and it deepened as Payson came into the room. She was in soft purple and the glow had, if possible, increased. Lauren, by contrast, already appeared to have lost most of the small amount of baby weight she'd managed to put on and had coated herself in sharp black business attire. The make-up couldn't cover everything though.
Payson hugged her tightly and Lauren nodded along mindlessly as she offered condolences, as though she hadn't been avoiding her entirely.
Lauren re-seated herself behind her father's desk. "Please thank your parents for the flowers." She interrupted Payson. The Keelers had sent one of the few bouquets that arrived at the house rather than the gym.
"How can I help?" Payson offered.
"I've suddenly inherited the multi-million dollar investment company that my Dad spent his life building, my son is probably talking to all his friends about death, again. Carter wants to know what we're going to tell Steph because she wants to know whether her baby brother will be here in time for the funeral. Half the city of Colorado apparently wants to come to Daddy's funeral, which is freakin' fantastic and apparently my Dad and Brian Kmetko have a business together. Yeah Brian freaking Kmetko." She exclaimed loudly.
"as in Emily's little brother?"
"He upgrades video games for kids with disabilities or something." Lauren said nonsensically. "Which, whatever, I don't care, but he and his freak-show mother are coming to Daddy's funeral." She laughed "I can introduce them to Sara, his latest girlfriend who wants to give a eulogy." She explained. "And apparently all of the Rock gymnasts want to come in some show of solidarity. And Denver's business elite. That'll mix well.
"I think that's up to you." Payson stated "but I can pick Jay up from school today and I'll be around to help as much as you need."
"You'll be around? For how long?" Lauren scoffed.
Payson blushed prettily and Lauren's eyes narrowed, as she paid proper attention. "Is that an engagement ring?"
Payson blushed prettily. "No. Actually, I wasn't going to tell you, but Sasha and I; we eloped, on the way back. I guess with everything going on, we just realised life is short, you know. So I said yes." She rambled a little "I haven't spoken to Carter yet but I can help out at the gym as well."
You're not going back to England?"
Payson shook her head "No. I mean, where else would we want to raise our son?"
"Ah somewhere where his parents won't forever be known as the gymnast who fucked his coach and Sasha as the coach who fucked his gymnast."
"I'm thirty years old." Payson rolled her eyes but she winced a little. It hurt coming from Lauren. "People need to get over it."
"Because the gymnastics world is so good at that? There's a reason Sasha hasn't been the national team coach and it's not because he's not a great coach" Lauren scowled at the desk in front of her "I wouldn't want to raise my child somewhere like that."
"That's really what you think?" Payson stated, a little shell-shocked at Lauren's forceful opinion.
"I think you should take that ring off and not make it blatantly obvious you're fucking your former coach at my father's funeral. That's hardly what I want people to be talking about."
Payson gaped until Lauren glanced up again and stated cruelly. "Were you serious about picking Jay up? Because I have work to do."
2025 – FORMER GYMNAST AND COACH HAVE BABY – 2012 Olympic Gold Medallist Payson Keeler has given birth to a baby boy… and the father is her former coach Sasha Belov. Despite being scandalously linked while Keeler was still underage and coached by Belov, the pair denied any wrong doing or inappropriate behaviour. While not working as the US Head Coach since 2012 (when the pair were first connected and Keeler won two Olympic medals), Belov has coached approximately a dozen elite gymnasts, remains the head coach of the infamous Rocky Mountains Gymnastics Centre and is recognised as an accredited coach by the National Gymnastics Organisation. Sources within the Gymnastics community say he and Keeler are said to be 'on-and-off' for many years and that their relationship was an open secret in the gymnastics community. The National Gymnastics Organisation declined to comment.
2025 – SASHA BELOV RESIGNS FROM HEAD COACHING POSITION AT ROCKY MOUNTAINS GYMANSTICS CENTR, IS EXPECTING BABY WITH FORMER GYMNAST.
2025 – PAYSON KEELER AND SASHA BELOV RELEASE STATEMENT CONFIRMING MARRIAGE & PREGNANCY.
Dear Friends, Fans and the wider Gymnastics Community,
We have decided that it is an appropriate time for us to clear up some misconceptions and share some news. Just like it was a surprise to us, it will surely be a surprise to some of you that we are expanding our family and we are expecting to welcome our son in November.
Sasha and I also married in a private ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya, during the recent Olympics. We wanted to formalise our relationship before the arrival of our son.
Despite rumours to the contrary, we were never involved romantically during our time as coach and gymnast and were not together for most of the years immediately following that time. Our romantic relationship has always been one between adults, and neither of us would want to be involved any relationship not based on equal and mutual respect.
We hope that you will understand that our relationship is healthy, happy and solid, and celebrate with us the impending arrival of our son.
While I has been studying and living in England and Sasha has been coaching in Colorado for several years, we have both decided it's time for a change in location and lifestyle. We're sure that in time our baby will discover the sport that we both love (and we'll be happy to show it too him) but in the meantime we have decided the best thing for us and our baby is to relocate to a new location where we can all live together.
Thank you all for your best wishes,
Payson and Sasha Belov.
December 2020 – Annual Denver Business Partnership Fundraiser for Christmas Toy Appeal
"Lauren…" A voice interrupted her as Lauren nodded along to one of her father's partners (they were her business partners now, she reminded herself). At least until she'd finalised the handover of control the company.
"Marcus." She greeted the President of the National Gymnastics Organisation, happy to see him if not happy himself. "Merry Christmas."
"And to you as well." They chatted until he was drawn away by sponsors and the like. He smiled saying 'what can you do?' with his expression and she returned it ruefully. It was the closest she'd come to a real smile in months.
He found her again as the night wore on. She'd gone onto the deck in her floor length gown and with snow falling was turning numb. He offered his jacket.
"Bored with the party?" He asked. She took a better look than she had earlier. His hair was much more silver, but still thick, and he filled out a suit well. They made small talk. He expressed condolences for her father. The baby wasn't mentioned.
"You've had a rough year as well." She reminded Marcus smartly. "The board is stupid if they're blaming the tour sales on Nairobi. I mean, it didn't help but let's face it, they were in need of a miracle with that group of gymnasts."
"They were nice girls" He defended loyally before changing the subject.
"I hear M.J. Martin is forming a new company."
Lauren shrugged. "They wouldn't put her name on the wall. It was going to happen sooner or later."
"Are you going with her?"
"I don't have any clients at the moment." She reminded him "You know, between the maternity leave and then my father. But yes, of course."
"How would you like a client to walk in with?" Marcus questioned "something to get you a seat at the big table."
Her head tilted "A gymnast?" In the year following the games it were a gamble to pick one to last four years
"The NGO; I think it's time we went back to external representation. You, and M.J., were a formidable force in the past."
"What happened to your internal people?" They'd taken the contact off Lauren's company a few years ago for efficiency reasons and she'd enjoyed watching the consequences.
"A lack of loyalty, apart from their blatant incompetency." Marcus evidently, also wasn't thrilled with the results.
"You're offering an exclusive contract?"
"I'm offering a seat on the NGO board. I'm sure you can do something with that." He smirked. "There needs to be some changes. I think you'd bring a lot to the Organisation."
She smiled, a little weakly, as her mind raced. She could do this.
- All In On A Backroom Bet Final Epilogue: Legacy -
"No." Carter said instantly. He set Stephanie down in her chair and set about pulling lunch materials out of the fridge.
"You haven't even heard the whole story yet." Lauren pointed out.
"You want to quit your job, accept a new one with longer hours, more travel and less job security, and help Marcus kick out half the NGO board so you can take their place."
"It's a little more complicated than that." Lauren insisted.
"Mommy." Stephanie requested "cereal."
Lauren absentmindedly poured her daughter cereal as she sent an email one handed.
"Lauren." Carter snapped as Stephanie called out "Mommy."
"What?" Lauren replied, tongue sharp.
Stephanie's eyes widened but she didn't cry; just stared. Lauren sighed. "I'm sorry darling. What's wrong?"
"It's the wrong cereal." The girl muttered, eyes down.
Carter stepped in. "How about some eggs, princess?" He mentioned to Lauren "we haven't been to the market."
She was already on her tablet again. "Lauren!" Carter repeated.
"I have to get to the OTC." She insisted. "You'll drop Steph off?"
"I'm keeping her with me." Carter stated definitively. "You're supposed to be picking Jay up from school today. Austin's looking at restaurant locations. Remember?"
"I'm on the floor." He reminded her tersely.
"I'll figure it out." She stated certainly. "We can talk tonight?"
"What is there really to talk about?" He turned away and Lauren bent down so she could talk to her daughter.
"Do you want me to braid your hair?" She offered.
Stephanie shook her head. "I want to go with you."
"But you're going to have lots of fun with your Daddy today, okay? And I'll see you tonight. Your brother will be here too." She smoothed a hand through her daughter's curls. "I love you my darling. You're the most precious girl in the whole world."
(five months later)
Lauren was surprised to find the gym well-lit. Since Carter had retired and no longer had to balance coaching with workouts the place was normally quiet by 7.30, when classes were over and the on-site elites were to be in the dorms, less they never stop training. She had expected a light in the coaches' office, catching up on paperwork. Jay and Steph were both on the side of the mat, but neither was looking at their tablets, discarded beside them. They were both equally captivated by the figure on rings. Next to him, Janet was spotting, but he didn't need much assistance.
She froze. Sure, she knew Carter still worked out in the gym, but Lauren knew that wasn't what this was. He moved seamlessly through the motions, ending in a competition level dismount. The kids applauded. He smiled at them before turning to Janet to confer.
Lauren walked further in, her heels making noise on the wooden floor.
"Mom!" Jay called out abandoning his sister to be swept up. "Hi kiddo. Having fun?" He nodded, immediately bursting into a play by play of his day at school and what had happened in the gym afterwards.
She only had eyes for Carter though, who looked guilty just for a moment and then stared back defiantly. It felt like a punch to the stomach for Lauren
They went through the motions when they got back to the house, setting out dinner and getting the kids ready for bed. She watched Jay carefully read Stephanie a book, sounding out the words and wondered when he'd gotten so good.
"Are you going to eat anything?" Carter asked from the doorway. He'd been mentally describing her as shell-shocked for months, urging her to talk to somebody, to spend more time at home, anything. He was anxiously awaiting the next development.
Lauren turned and stated bluntly "You're training." She knew what she had seen. She had stared at the food in the fridge as she'd gotten the kids a drink, taking note of the specific high protein contents; perfect for bulking up.
He didn't say anything, just flopped onto the bed and turned on a football game (volume down low).
"Its insanity!" She finally insisted. "You're thirty-two. Nobody competes that old."
"Yep." He agreed. He turned off the TV. Maybe she'd finally talk.
"What are you possibly thinking? How could you do this?"
"Nope. You don't get to talk to me about logical decisions. Not when you took two jobs without talking to me."
"That worked out fine."
"Did it? How many times has Steph asked me when Mommy's getting home from her trip? She thinks you're travelling you're home so late and leave so early. You've barely seen Jay, let alone Austin and Jack."
Lauren swallowed roughly. "Well not all of us can take our kids to work, okay. But what are you doing training again?"
Carter hesitated. "It just kind of happened."
"You accidently started competition level training again?" She was disbelieving.
"You weren't here so I was at the gym. I was showing the gymnasts some stuff, and it just kind of spiralled. I realised I can still do it."
"For how much longer?" She checked. "Until there's nothing left of your body?"
He shrugged. "You're really going to offer an opinion here Lo? As my wife or my manager?"
Lauren stared. That was cruel. Carter wasn't cruel.
She stood. "I'm going to bed."
He hesitated before asking. "Do you want me to sleep on the couch?"
"When have I ever wanted that?"
He headed into the bathroom and she heard the shower switch on as she curled around her pillow. Half an hour later she felt him slip into bed behind her. For once she didn't have a phone or tablet in front of her and he slid his arms around her. He felt her freeze as he touched her stomach. He waited for her to pull away, but instead she tugged his hands up so they were across the top of her chest instead.
He breathed in and rested against the back of her neck. She let out a shuddering breath and held back the tears.
"You have to talk to me." Carter exclaimed, concerned but more frustrated. "I know you're hurting, but you won't let me help."
She turned in his arms. "How could you possibly help?" She exclaimed. He was overwhelmingly hurt until she continued speaking "How could anything help? We've lost everything!"
"No." Carter was forceful. He held her face to stop her turning away from him and she trembled under his grip but didn't fight it. "Not everything. We have each other, and Stephie, and Jay… You have to stop punishing yourself."
"Why are you not punishing me?" She exclaimed, suddenly fighting to sit up. He let her instantly, recoiling back as she shoved back the covers. "He was your child too. Your dead son, because of me."
"He was." Carter spoke quietly. "and it hurts, I'm hurting too, but it wasn't your fault. Lo, it wasn't."
"The doctors disagreed. They said that it was the result of the difficult pregnancy; which was my fault."
"No. There was never anything you could've done."
"I could've not damaged my body beyond repair, so that I could barely get pregnant in the first place. So I could give you the family you wanted." She spat the last bit.
"Hey." Carter quietened her. "I have the family I want, okay? You weren't there, Lo, in the hospital when they told us what had happened." now it was his turn for his eyes to flash with dark, repressed pain.
"When they told you I'd gotten your son killed?" She didn't pull any punches.
"When they told me I might lose you." He countered "and I knew you were the most important thing to me. I can survive losing our baby, but I can't handle not having you too." he pleaded.
She held his gaze for a second before it fell and she insisted "I'm so sorry." She apologised.
He pulled her tight to his chest. "It's okay. I know." He repeated. Denying she had anything to be sorry for hadn't worked.
"I couldn't hold onto him." She pleaded. Her face was a wet mess crumpled into his chest.
"You've got me, and the kids." He reminded her continually, using his thumb to wipe away the hot, angry, tears, "and we love you so much."
After she had sobbed herself hoarse, he scooped her up and carried her into the huge tub. She sank into it, quiet, and he hoped (prayed) that quiet Lauren wasn't going to be as painful to watch or last as long as manic, workaholic, Lauren.
She curled up in the bath, and then reached out and grabbed his hand. He joined her and already it felt better. They'd never relied too much on words, but so long as they could stop and simply be together, they might be able to handle things.
It last about ten minutes. She let out a huffy little groan when he took the shampoo and massaged it into her hair.
"I've done some really bad things lately." She offered up finally.
Carter stilled. He didn't pull her close but he didn't pull away. "With Marcus?" He questioned finally; quietly.
She twisted, confused "Marcus, My Marcus? NGO Marcus?"
His face betrayed everything.
"There were rumours. You've been spending a lot of time together; trips; private meetings… People called me."
"No." Lauren exclaimed vehemently. "He's just as much as a sociopath about work as I am. He's planning for Denver after..." she trailed off. After Nairobi. "We've been strategizing. It's politics." Lauren twisted and smiled falsely. He let it go as she blatantly changed topics. "Do you really want to train again?"
"It's ridiculous. I'm too old." He admitted "but it helps it not hurt quite so much."
She was quiet again, but at least with him physically. She settled against him, skin to skin.
"You should do what you want." She stated finally, firmly. "If you're going to be in the gym anyway, you may as well compete, especially with the Games being right here." She turned towards him and cupped his face. "I just don't want you getting hurt."
Carter didn't admit that he couldn't imagine feeling worse than he had lately.
The next morning, he woke to an empty bed and his stomach lurched. He rushed down the stairs when he found Jay and Stephanie's bedrooms empty.
He froze when he reached the kitchen. Jay was proudly recounting something to his mother, who was sitting with Stephanie on her lap..
She looked up and smiled. "There's breakfast in the oven." She informed him with a smile, finishing her daughter's perfect hairstyle.
"Baked eggs?" He checked, surprised.
"Now you." Stephanie insisted of her mother, bathing in the maternal affection that had been somewhat rare of late. Lauren was obviously feeling guilty because by the time Carter had put the few remaining scattered plates in the dishwasher, cautiously poked at the eggs and brought them down to the living area, notably not their usual breakfast setting, Lauren's hair matched her daughters in an elaborate braided hairstyle he hadn't seen the likes of in years. It made him smile.
He ruffled Jay's hair. "You guys have already eaten?"
"Mom only had to call Dad for help once." Jay informed him. "and we had bacon."
"Had to get that out of the fridge" Lauren informed him "I'll do the groceries today." She checked the time. "Jay, run and grab your bag so I can check you've got everything for school."
He grumbled but took off, thundering up the stairs.
"I can drop him off, and take Stephie with me." Lauren informed him. "I need to meet with M.J. and Marcus, get a workable timetable going, but they should be flexible about me working from home, especially if I tell M.J. you're making another run. Hometown hero and all that."
"Don't get her hopes up too much." Carter warned.
She set Steph down before addressing Carter again. She squared her shoulders "I can call Payson." She offered. "Get Sasha to come back."
"I can." She repeated. "I'll apologise."
"You should" he agreed. "But not for me. If I'm doing this, which is insane, I can do it with Janet, and Greg." He named the Rock's other top coaches.
She sighed and smiled. "Okay."
They smiled at each other before Jay's loud "Mom!" broke into the moment.
Lauren smirked. "Duty calls. I'll see you tonight okay?"
He nodded and then grinned as his step-son's voice echoed shortly followed by Lauren's "Jay, if it's that urgent, come and find me. Don't yell."
2028 – Denver, Colorado – Men's team final.
With one hand, Lauren held onto her daughter and with the other kept a hand on her son's shoulder. She sighed in relief when she caught sight of their seats. Austin and Maxxie were chatting conspiratorially while young Trent Spencer sat beside them in a Team USA t-shirt.
They all exchanged greetings.
"Hi Spencers." Lauren greeted "Where's your worse half?"
"Doing whatever it is you two do at these things!" When Max Spencer grinned he still oozed boyish charm but his hair had started streaking grey early and gone somewhat wrinkly from all the sun damage. He checked the time. "I've got to go actually." He was regretful. "Be good for Austin and Lauren." He told his kid. "Mom'll be here soon."
"Hey Maxxie." Lauren added "You haven't seen Payson or Sasha have you?"
"They're meant to be here." He shouldered his huge camera bag, presspass dangling around his neck. "I'll see you at the victory party?"
"Do not jinx it." Lauren warned him.
While Stephanie was content to stare wide-eyed at the arena and whatever was pointed out to her, Trent and Jay were chatty together. Trent had a serious case of hero-worship for the older Jay, as well as his father's relaxed nature and his mother's comic timing. He dropped countless comic one-liners, of which about half were deliberate jokes.
Lauren and Austin exchanged snickering glances over their head as they both checked in with work before the event started.
Austin's restaurant, on the outskirts of Boulder, was the place to see and be seen at the Games, in large part due to it being the restaurant of choice for the various US Olympic teams. He'd barely had a moment free to enjoy the games but no one was going to miss the Men's Team Final at the first home games since Atlanta in 1996.
Kelly arrived, taking her seat. Lauren, if pressed, might describe what she and Kelly shared as friendship.
It was hard to argue against an alliance when they had aligning but non-competitive targets within the NGO. While Lauren focused outward, playing marketing and media game, Kelly focused inwards, exerting her influence over an ever increasing network of training programs, coaches and gyms.
It also helped that they weren't in the same state for much of the year.
The athletes were about to appear when two of the three seats adjacent to them were filled. Payson looked frazzled but, Lauren had to admit, happy.
They said hello, cautious of each other. Payson had a young, painfully beautiful, blond boy with her.
She turned to talk to Payson who smiled back warily but not without warmth. They exchanged pleasantries. Payson and her son Nicol were both happy and healthy. Lauren cautiously asked about Sasha and felt relieved when Payson's face lit up even more.
After everything, they'd still ended up working together.
Payson was using her psychology degrees and personal history with injury to help those overcome severe injury and disability. Sasha had found a second career as a physical coach for her patients. She smiled, confessing to Lauren that it was still a little odd that she was in charge of the patients as their mental recovery led their physical.
"He wanted to come." Payson confessed. "But we didn't want to cause any drama. Not for Carter."
Lauren felt guilty. "You should both come to Carter's event final. He wants you both there."
Payson smiled and nodded as the music began. The kids all sat on the edge of their seat, captivated by the parade of athletes.
"Is Daddy going to win?" Stephanie questioned seriously, causing Lauren to stifle her laughter.
"Of course he is." Jay stated precociously. "He's the best. That's why he's my coach."
2028 – THE DROUGHT BREAKS – MENS GYMNASTICS TEAM WINS FIRST GOLD IN 16 YEARS
(Four days later…)
2028 – CARTER ANDERSON RETIRES ON TOP OF THE WORLD
When Carter Anderson announced his retirement most of the wellwishers spoke of his sportsmanship rather than his considerable medal haul, which after this week contains two Olympic gold medals. Congratulations came from all corners of the world including the US President, Greatest Olympian of All-Time Michael Phelps, President of the International Olympic Committee, and those he had just beaten.
At 36, he's one of the oldest gymnasts in the world. All of his teammates from his first two Olympics have retired. Only one remains from Nairobi; but long has the illusive Olympic Gold escaped him. He admitted he both loved and hated his nickname of 'The Silver Prince.' It began when legendary 'gymnastics king' Austin Tucker named him his successor back in 2012; twelve years on, it's only been what All-Around Olympic Champion Victor Mines calls "the worst luck in the world' that's kept Anderson from the top of the Olympic podium. Eric Sontez, who finished second to Anderson in the floor final stated "no one deserved this more than Anderson."
Anderson has just one final duty to perform. He's been selected to carry the US Flag in the closing ceremony.
- All In On A Backroom Bet Final Epilogue: Legacy -
Three weeks later… New York City.
Lauren sank into the chair gratefully. "Stay where I can see you." She reminded her children firmly. A playground was a sure-fire way to wear the kids out while Carter filmed an advert. Instantly Stephanie was heading towards the play equipment and Lauren was certain she'd be reminding her that the monkey bars weren't in a safe gym environment in under a minute, but in the meantime she called out "Jay!"
He didn't listen. "Jack-Junior Holt!" She called.
He came back, dragging his feet. "I know kiddo, but if you're good we can do whatever you want later, okay?"
Lauren took her time before answering. "If you keep an eye on your sister for me, yes, we can go get a hotdog afterwards."
Jack (Snr.) appeared twenty minutes later, sitting down beside her.
"So?" She asked, not looking away from the kids. "What's the verdict?"
He smiled, but it was a shakey smile.
"Oh god." She breathed.
"Hey, its okay." He hurried to reassure her. "It's alright. All the tests were good. You're okay."
"It's not okay. I can't do it again!" She exclaimed loudly, before dropping her voice "Jack, I can't. Carter and I can't. They said this couldn't happen."
"They also said you probably wouldn't have Jay and Stephanie, but look how that turned out. How are you feeling today?" He asked her pointedly.
"Fat. I just told Jay we could get hot dogs because I've been craving one all day. I was never like this with Jay and Steph, or…"
"Exactly. This time might be different." He suggested .
"But…" she pursed her lips "what if I…" she trailed off, unable to say it.
"You said it yourself, you feel good. There's no reason for that to change. But you should see your OBGYN as soon as we get back of course."
Lauren nodded. "You can't tell Carter." She stated resolutely "I know that didn't exactly work out last time but… I just need to wait, okay? Until the end of the first trimester. That's when…"
Jack's smile widened. "That was the other thing. You're not just getting big because you're eating. According To the HCG levels, you're already well into your second trimester. You're already through the danger zone with no problems."
Lauren's head shot up and she slid a hand over her stomach.
"There was one abnormality." Jack admitted….
2029 – OLYMPIANS WELCOME TWINS
2030 – LAUREN TANNER ACCEPTS NEW POSITION AT US OLYMPIC COMMITTEE
2031 – ANDERSON NAMED ASSISTTANT-COACH BY NATIONAL GYMNASTICS ORGANISATION
2032 - An Unusual Partnership
Growing up, J.J. Holt was surrounded by gymnastics legends. He called them Mum, Dad and Uncle.
While most young gymnasts' first exposure to the original, iconic, Rock Rebels, is in photographs and videos, for this Olympic hopeful, it was the reverse.
J.J. recalls that the legend of his family was always present. "Other gymnasts would have pictures of them. It was like, why do you have a picture of my Dad in your locker?"
While Jack-Junior bears the name of his father, Dr Jack Holt, a physician with patients on the US Olympic Team and the Denver Broncos, he's inherited his gymnastics talents from parents Austin Tucker and Lauren Tanner who between them won 18 Olympic medals (11 gold).
When asked about his professional idol though, he speaks of the man who holds three significant positions in his life: godfather, stepfather and coach: Carter Anderson.
He remembers, four years ago, aged just 11, watching Anderson win two gold in Denver Olympics. "That was when I knew for sure I wanted to be an Olympian."
Now, aged just 15, he's been invited to Olympic Team Trials. His chances of success are slim to none. Gymnasts don't peak until into their twenties and most of his competitors will be about a decade older. J.J. smiles and acknowledges this will be good practice "for next time."
2035 – Boulder, Colorado (Lauren is 41 if you're struggling to keep track)
Stephanie Anderson had been nicknamed "the lioness" before she'd even turned elite. No one knew exactly where the nickname came from, maybe a pun from her mother's "Queen of Beam" title and "Queen of the Jungle" or maybe it was the way she had catlike balance and always landed on her feet. Maybe it was the way she watched gymnasts across the gym, carefully taking note of all their skills, before, months later, knocking them off their spot in the rankings.
Now she was fourteen and had her sights firmly fixed on the Olympics. They were less than 12 months away and everyone was keeping a wide path.
"Mom, my gym bag's missing?" She bellowed, thundering down the stairs as Lauren winced before waiting.
"Mom!" She repeated, before entering Lauren's office. "Didn't you hear me? I can't find my gym bag."
"Sit." Lauren insisted.
"I'm going to be late." Stephanie pursed her lips and sighed dramatically. "Mo-om."
"Unless you don't want to go to practice at all?" Lauren offered. It was a rare enough threat that Stephanie dropped into a chair gracelessly.
"This is so unfair The Rock isn't some community centre. New kid needed to learn that you either keep up or get out of the way."
Lauren's eyes narrowed. "Did you make somebody cry again?"
Stephanie froze. "Isn't that why I'm in trouble? Normally Dad gives me this lecture."
"You can't think of anything else that you might have done?" Lauren pressed. Her daughter shifted under the attention.
"No?" She protested weakly.
"So you wouldn't know why your sister wants to quit gymnastics because, and I quote, Stephie says I'm never going to be good enough anyway?"
"I did not say that." The girl protested hotly.
"Beth didn't sound like she was making it up." Lauren just waited for her hot-headed daughter to relent.
She sighed dramatically "The only thing I said was, if she ever wanted to go to the Olympics she had to stop mucking around and focus. She spends half her time in the gym goofing off with Tanner."
"They're seven." Lauren dryly pointed out.
"Well I never behaved like that."
"They're not you." Lauren had to remind her. "and you're not their coach or their teammate. You're their sister. Your job is to have their back, no matter what."
"So I'm just supposed to watch them squander their talent? Beth could be amazing."
"Not." Lauren insisted "if she doesn't want to be. Be the sister they need and not the one you want to be. Is that clear?"
Stephanie sighed dramatically once more. "Fine; I'll apologise to Beth. Can I go to practice now?"
"No. You're done for this morning and, you're not going in early for the summer." Before she could protest Lauren continued "Beth and Tanner are going to take a break from gymnastics, and try a few different day summer camps. Your Dad's got privates this morning, so someone will have to babysit because Sandra is on summer holiday as well. And no. This does not mean you'll train late either. You have school work in the afternoon."
Stephanie struggled for worlds, she was so incredulous. Her tightly wound curls bobbed angrily. "I cannot miss training!" She exclaimed.
"Your father agrees with me" Lauren told her simply.
"This is so unfair. You don't get it!"
Lauren resisted the urge to let loose a withering comment towards her daughter "I do." She settled for eventually "it hasn't been that long or changed that much."
Lauren and Carter were pretty much ying and yang when it came to the kids. While Lauren was utterly impervious to their temper tantrums (but would be hurt by their more barbed comments), Carter was easily targeted by superficial and crabbishness but was generally much more patient with the big stuff. Stephanie knew, staring comments down her mother, this was a fight she'd loose.
"I just feel like I'm never going to win." She confessed. "It's the Olympics."
"I know." Lauren repeated "trust me, if I thought for a second this would harm your chances I would never let it happen. But you need to relax a little."
"Right." She scoffed dismissively. "Relax." She glared "Why can't people take things seriously. It's the Olympics. I'm going to win, not to have fun."
Well you've certainly got my competitive streak." Lauren commented dryly. "and you can do both, you know."
"No, you could! I'm never going to be you. I'm not sassy or ridiculous. I hate beam and I can't just pull gold out of nowhere at the last minute. I need to focus!"
Lauren stilled, "oh Stephie.
"Don't patronise me." Stephanie snapped. "Maybe I should just braid my hair and drag out your floor music. That's what Bretta Davis thinks I should do."
Bretta Davis. Lauren mentally rolled her eyes. Now there was an Ellen Beals 2.0. Luckily she was too in awe of the Anderson-Tanner legacy to actually mess with her daughter's head; until now, apparently.
"Close your eyes." Lauren leant forward. "Trust me. Just close your eyes, and picture winning. And then tell me what it feels like."
"Shouldn't you be telling me?" She grumbled, but at Lauren's pointed look she closed her eyes. "It feels perfect. But in a hard way. Perfect like when you get something right" she stated definitively. "Every step where it should be, every foot, every gesture… and then I win."
"Floor" Lauren deduced. She pursed her lips "my daughter wants to win gold on floor."
"I want to win the all-around." Stephanie corrected "and floor."
"Then you need to stop letting everyone telling you to be just like me into your head."
"But you won." Stephanie stated definitively, "and if I can do that…"
"You're forgetting one thing. Lots of people have won, in many different ways, two of whom gave you DNA. One of those gymnasts pursued perfection his entire career, loved floor, never used ridiculous chorography in his life..." Lauren smiled softly "just because you have people telling you what to do all day doesn't mean you don't have choices. So if you're going to copy one thing from my gymnastics career, I want it to be that the gymnast pocks what kind of gymnast she's going to be. And if anyone says different, I will handle them, okay?"
Stephanie smiled, a little shyly. It was a stark reminder to Lauren that for all her bluster and bravado she was still very much a kid.
She ruined it with a sentence. "Do I really have to babysit the squirts?"
Stephanie had made a point of awkwardly chatting to the twins on the way out of the house. While Tanner was happy to explain his vision for the summer, Stephanie did feel guilty when Elizabeth kept her head down, sunny smile nowhere to be seen.
"Don't be late for online class." Lauren reminded her "and have a good practice."
They were leaving when Jay jogged up from the gym complex.
Stephanie rolled her eyes at his damp, artfully tousled hair and broody look. As though he didn't do it deliberately for the girls. She glared at the boy. "Are you already done?"
"I'm doing two sets." He shrugged "I wanted to check the time for dinner tonight?"
"Seven at the resturaunt. You can come with us if your father's coming from the hospital, and we need to talk about endorsement deals."
His charming grin faded away a little.
"You've been getting more." Lauren informed him.
"I already told you, After the Games, I want to go to Stanford."
"Okay" Lauren nodded. "I'm just telling you. And you'll probably have to do some press for them to leave you alone."
He nodded. "s'all good." He nodded at Steph. "Have a good practice sis. Try relaxing? The judges love that." She scowled, but listened. "See ya squirts." He added to the twins.
"Be careful." Lauren called after him.
- All In On A Backroom Bet Final Epilogue: Legacy -
2036 BROTHER AND SISTER MAKE OLYMPIC TEAM
2036 - A GOLDEN FAMILY TRADITION – GYMNASTICS ROYALTY STRIVE FOR GOLD.
Like many Olympic team-mates Jack Jr. (J.J.) Holt (19) and Stephanie Anderson (15) have a lot in common, they share dreams of Olympic glory, a gym and, a little more unusually, a lot of DNA. They also share the weight of a gymnastics legacy; their parents being part of the legendary Soaring Stars of the 2012 Games in London.
Half-siblings (sharing mother Lauren Anderson, who was the surrogate for J.J.'s fathers), these gymnasts have grown up in the legacy of their parents. Both are coached by Carter Anderson, Stephanie's father and J.J.'s step-father, who retired from competition seven years ago after winning two gold medals in Denver. Since then, the US team has not won an Olympic gold, nor a Team World title.
While J.J. was part of the US team at last year's world championship, where he finished second on vault, and third on floor and high bar, this year is Stephanie's first of eligibility on the senior team. Both are medal favourites.
USA GYMNASTICS NAMES CARTER ANDERSON HEAD COACH – Will not have role in selection
CARTER ANDERSON'S GYMNASTICS LEGACY:
Carter Anderson will have his work cut out for him at this weekend's Olympic trials, with five gymnasts on the floor. While the new head coach is not part of the selection committee, due to obvious conflicts of interest, he will be pulling double duty as coach and parent.
The last time a coach had this many gymnasts at trials was back in 2012, when Anderson was one of the gymnasts. Anderson has worked at a Gymnastics Coach since he was a teenager, often serving as an assistant and secondary coach at international competitions throughout his own gymnastics career, as well as fostering young talent at the infamous Rock Gymnastics Club. In 2020, while competing himself, he served as joint head-coach for Jordan Randall, who would win two silver medals. Over the course of his career he has coached no less than twelve international elite gymnasts including Daniel Wu four years ago, who despite being just eighteen years old, and a reserve gymnast, qualified into the high bar finals and missed out on a podium finish by just .005 points.
The Rock Mountains Gymnastics Club team is made up of his daughter Stephanie Anderson (15), fellow elite freshman Padmi Latish, world floor champion Jess Wright, Step-son J.J. Holt (19), and Benjamin Costello, the 2035 vault champion who has since struggled with injuries to both shoulders.
2036 - US WOMEN'S GYMNASTICS TEAM FOLLOW MEN IN WINNING TEAM GOLD.
2036 - J.J. Holt misess out on All-Around Qualification.
2036 - Stephanie Anderson qualifies to All-Around, floor finals.
2036 - Olympic Recap: Stephanie Anderson wins All-Around Silver.
2036 - Olympic Recap –USA and Rock Go 2-3 in floor final. Anderson wins Silver, Wright Bronze. Costello (ITA) wins gold.
2036 - Olympic Recap - J.J. Holt wins 2 individual silver medals (FX and VT)
- All In On A Backroom Bet Final Epilogue: Legacy -
Lauren was having a hard time letting go, Stephanie and Jay were with their managers (her carefully selected minions) and Carter in New York, doing the rounds after their return.
She forced herself to not check her blackberry and instead make idle chit-chat with the parents of the twins' age-mates. They were all distracted when a huge gasp and then tiny splash rippled around the pool. She shot into a standing position. "Beth!" She called out, hurrying to the pool's edge. This was what happened when you went to a public pool. Lauren thought fiercely.
Beth emerged from the surface of the water laughing victoriously. Lauren felt her heart race. It wasn't every-day you saw your seven-year old daughter summersault through the air from a diving board only to dive-head first into the water. The other kids had just been leaping off and competing for the biggest splash.
"Why on earth would you do that?" Lauren insisted, rubbing her down with a thick fluffy towel.
She shrugged casually. Lauren checked her over for a concussion once more. "Just, sit with me for a few minutes." She requested. Beth obediently sat and drank some water before jumping up.
"Can I go dive off again now."
"No." Lauren instantly forbade it.
"Please Mom, it was so much fun. Everyone else is doing it!"
Few looked seven-years-old. "No more diving." Lauren instructed "feet first. I don't want you hitting your head. And send your brother over." Lauren cast a look to where Tanner had arranged a gang of boys into what looked like a fierce game of tag in the neighbouring pool.
Elizabeth returned, Tanner behind her. He quickly drank the water his mother handed to him and rolled her eyes as she applied more sun-cream.
"Tann's going to jump off too." Elizabeth declared happily.
"Feet first." Lauren repeated. "It's a long way up."
Tanner shrugged, unconcerned.
Lauren fixed her son with an unimpressed glance but he was distracted by the bunch of boys who'd been playing tag.
She watched her children climb the diving tower and be cautioned by the lifeguard. At least she wasn't the only one concerned. Tanner went first, throwing a big grin at his sister before launching himself off the dive-board with as much force as he could. His intent was clear when he cannonballed into the water, causing a huge splash and a cheer from the spectators.
Beth was much more cautious, and Lauren thought maybe she'd lost her nerve. Instead she somersaulted before hitting the water, perfectly and with her feet first.
Lauren closed her eyes and sighed deeply as Tanner and Elizabeth reconvened on the side of the pool. She missed the tense exchange but saw Tanner head back to the diving tower, looking to win back the hearts and minds of the crowd that had cheered so loudly for his sister.
- All In On A Backroom Bet Final Epilogue: Legacy -
If Carter thought coaching his family was hard not coaching them was harder. While Jay had surprised them all by actually going to college after Games, it hadn't occurred to Carter someone else would be coaching his stepson until Jay actually started at Stanford. Contact had been rare and his gymnastics had rapidly gone downhill.
They'd all known Jay hadn't done his best at the Olympics, even though he'd come home with two silver individual and a team gold. Then at Stanford he'd spiralled, fluctuating between moments of brilliance and inexplicable mistakes. Nationals had gone no better.
Down on the floor they could see him and the Stanford coach exchanging heated words before the older man walked off. Thankfully the p-bars routine was as close to textbook as Jay had been performing lately. Good enough to get him onto the event podium.
He finished the meet with a disgruntled sigh and tossed his stuff into a bag, almost missing the final competitor on p-bars that would push him down the rankings.
After the presentation of the medals and awarding of positions on the national team, which both Jay and Stephanie got by virtue of being on the gold medal teams, there was the obligatory mingle; neither wanted to attend. While the siblings weren't normally super close, they'd obviously teamed up over this. Carter and Austin found them both outside, Stephanie with her headphones in (and was that her floor music, already?") while Jay had a tablet out.
"Can we go?" Jay asked.
"A few minutes. Your Mom and Pop are at it." Austin told him.
"Doing what?" Jay stretched.
Austin laughed. "networking."
Stephanie stood and hugged her own father tightly. "We talked about this." Carter reminded her gently. "You took time off. We'll get back there."
Stephanie reminded him it hadn't been her idea to take half a year off.
"Yeah." Jay grumbled "and what's my excuse."
"I don't know." Carter had his 'coach' voice on "What is it?"
Jay winced and ducked his head.
Waiting for Lauren and Jack, they were approached by a nervous looking seventeen-year-old.
"Hi." He greeted them all.
He nodded politely, nervously. "Trent. Welcome to the national team. First year senior as well."
He smiled nervously before looking to Stephanie. "Hi, that uneven bars routine was incredible."
Jay laughed when Stephanie didn't even look up. He nudged her.
"Oh, Trent. Did you want something?"
"Just to say, your uneven bars, it was incredible."
"Thanks. How'd you go?" She asked blithely.
"I, uh, came second overall. Won pommel, and high-bar."
"Oh." Stephanie's jaw dropped. Her eyes darted to her brother. "Congratulations."
"You didn't see?" He shifted, sticking his hands in his dress pant pockets.
"No. I was busy."
Jay laughed sardonically again.
"Time to go." Carter placed a hand between his daughter's shoulder blades and started steering her towards the exit. "We'll find your mother."
"Bye." Trent called.
"Goodbye Spencer." Carter replied tersely.
March 2037 ( one month later )
After Championships, things only improved slightly. When Jay came home for the national training camps, he found Trent leaping forward in leaps and bounds. Stephanie was even more sullen as her gymnastics slowly recovered.
Trent had looked like he was about to cry when he slunk back towards practice, and Carter's glare didn't help matters. Carter knew exactly what the young gymnast had been trying, even if his daughter had barely noticed his attention.
After practice, Jay headed up to the house, hoping the conversation with his mother went as well as he'd hoped. "Hey girl-squirt." He greeted the newly eight year old girl seated at the kitchen counter. Elizabeth was happily chatting with their housekeeper-come-nanny and bounced over to hug her brother eagerly.
"In the study." The housekeeper informed him.
His mother's study had always reminded him of a military command room and he sank onto one of the overstuffed couches while she raised a finger, talking on the phone.
"No feet on the leather." She reminded him, before asking "How did practice go?"
He groaned, always the first question out of anyone's mouth.
"That good, huh? Carter giving you a hard time?"
"It was fine. He's being nice. Everyone's being nice."
"They're worried about you." Lauren admitted "you don't call, barely come home for the holidays… Your fathers are really worried. I am too."
"I just had to sort some stuff through." He paused before seizing the moment. "If I wanted to move back here and train, would that be okay?"
"Drop out of college?" Lauren's eyebrows rose. "Your education is important. We could discuss you deferring…"
"What about transferring?" He proposed.
"You've talked about Stanford for years." Lauren pointed out. She decided she was tired of waiting for her son to come to her but she was also entirely unprepared for what he said next.
"I've been thinking about which one of the Dads is my biological father." He confessed suddenly.
She gaped and he continued "Everyone always just presumed it was Dad, you know. I mean, that's the story, I got Pops' name and Dad's DNA. But what if I didn't? Does the gymnastics thing really come from you?"
"Kiddo" Now Lauren was both curious and concerned. "What is going on?"
"I know I've been really bad about training lately, but I just had some stuff I had to deal with."
"We've noticed." She told her son pointedly "but you wouldn't talk about it. Is this what's been worrying you?"
"No." He answered shortly with a dramatic groan.
"Is it something going on at school?" Lauren doubted it. He'd been off since before the Olympics. Her heart thumped as she considered maybe he'd gotten caught up in something he shouldn't have. Drugs? Her brain vividly provided. "A girl? A boy?" She offered up.
"No." He scoffed "there's more chance of Steph and Trent." And didn't Lauren frown at that. "It's about school. Do you know Stanford's really tough on grading, even for athletes?"
She frowned "Are you having trouble?"
He shook his head "I did good Mom." He admitted "but I lied when I told you that I was trying a bunch of different stuff, and I lied when I said I wanted to go to Stanford to be on their gymnastics team. I hate college gymnastics. It's boring."
She waited; curiosity raging.
"I wanted to see if I could hack it pre-med, but I knew I couldn't get in without gymnastics." He shrugged "Turns out I kick ass at pre-med."
She smiled at the pride in his voice. "Are you saying you want to be a doctor?"
He nodded but shrugged "I also want to be a gymnast. Doing both hasn't been going super well so far."
"Because you tried to do it without your family." The idiot went unspoken.
"I just… wanted to see that I could do it." He stated out-loud for the first time "I didn't want to talk it up and then fail."
"How long have you wanted this?" She was curious.
He hesitated "since always." He admitted "I just wasn't sure I could do it. That's why I wanted Stanford."
"You've been talking about Stanford since you were fifteen!"
- All In On A Backroom Bet Final Epilogue: Legacy -
Steph was old enough to understand what was going on when Jay told her he was moving back home and dropping out of NCAA gymnastics. At first her jaw had dropped then he'd explained that he wouldn't have time for it; studying pre-med to get into medical school and training for the Olympics in three years would be enough.
"We'll both get gold again?" He offered up.
"Individual this time" she replied with a smile. She didn't get the whole pre-med thing but whatever. "This is what was stressing you out? Everyone thought you were having a nervous breakdown."
Tactful. Jay thought ruefully. "Is boy-squirt around? I should say hey."
"In his room."
Tanner's room was Jay's old room, and the little guy had completely taken over. He'd grown since Jay had last seen him and was sprawled out on his couch with a game console.
"Hey squirt." He nudged him. "Room looks good. Can I play?"
Tanner silently logged him into the game with a wary glance. It made Jay wince. He though his little brother had grown a little. His face had definitely become more intense, especially with his brow furrowed as he focused on the game. They had opposite colouring. While Jay had smouldering dark hair and eyes (certainly not from his mother), Tanner looked downright angelic with his blonde curls. He had gelled it as well, Jay noticed, precocious little eight-year-old.
"Are you excited for summer?"
He shrugged but his face told a different story. "It should be cool."
"Yeah, all the kids at the gym. That should be fun." Actually to Jay, trying to squeeze in a workout time around all the classes sounded like hell.
Jay shook his head. "Mum and Dad are letting me go to a real camp."
- All In On A Backroom Bet Final Epilogue: Legacy -
Downstairs, Austin had opened a very good bottle of wine, relieved that their son wasn't going completely off the rails, while both Jack and Carter were trying, and failing, to hide their pleasure. Carter was getting his prize gymnast back and Jack was overjoyed (and somewhat surprised) to have a son wanting to follow in his footsteps.
"You should change for dinner." Lauren informed her daughter, who was strapping one of the recovery mechanisms to her shoulder. A far cry from the ice-baths of decades earlier.
"I'm going back to the gym after dinner." She stated absentmindedly. Lauren made eyes at Carter over her daughter's head. He shook his head firmly. No way.
"Okay, come on kiddo; time for a talk." She prodded her daughter towards her study.
Stephanie groaned. "Not a study talk."
By the time Austin called everyone to the table for dinner, bridges had been mended and Jay and Stephanie had their heads together.
"What are you two whispering about?" Jack enquired. The two eldest had matching grins on their faces. One's that had been rare in previous months.
"We're planning for Jaipur." Jay admitted with a grin.
The adults all stifled groans.
Austin requested. "It hasn't even been a year since Qatar. Could we have a little more of a break before Olympic fever hits again?"
Stephanie was horrified "it's only just over three years away."
Lauren smirked before reminding them. "Just think, one last Olympics as a family."
"Uh huh." Beth spoke up from the other end of the table. She frowned when she realised she had everyone's attention focused on her. "I'm going to win a gold medal too. In diving." The duh went unspoken.
"How about we see how camp goes this summer?" Lauren suggested instead.
They all laughed, and Carter leant over to his wife. "Diving?"
She shrugged. "You might get some insight into how those parents in your office feel" she teased.
"Just tell me it's easier than being her coach." He whispered back.
Jack asked the youngest member of the family sitting at the table. "How about you, Tanner? Any plans for the Olympics?" Jack questioned the youngest at the table. He looked up, guiltily.
"Tan, no screens at the table." Lauren corrected.
"Sorry." It disappeared into his pocket.
He poked at his food before announcing loudly. "Can I be excused?"
"It's Jay's first night home." Lauren protested.
Tanner glowered. "Isn't he moving back now anyway? I have homework."
Lauren seriously doubted that. Tanner always had his homeward done weeks in advance. She thought it was so when told to do it, he could always answer that he'd finished.
After exchanging glances with Carter, she nodded and he disappeared
"Are you and Tan really eight, girl-squirt?" Jay broke the tension by asking Beth. "Because I swear I wasn't that hormonal until I was at least thirteen."
"Try the last eighteen months." Austin corrected playfully.
"I'll go." Carter offered.
"No. Let me." Lauren stood "it seems tonight is the night for deep and meaningful chats with my children."
Carter caught hold of her wrist, and kissed her sweetly. Decades after they first got together it still made her smile.
- All In On A Backroom Bet Final Epilogue: Legacy -
March 2044 (Seven years later)
Every Friday, at 4.30pm, Lauren Tanner headed into the diving area of the Olympic Training Centre.
The first time she'd walked through the doors of the facility had been just following the Jaipur Games in 2040. Not only had her children distinguished herself but she had as well.
She was floating on the high of managing to put a young US hand-baller on the cover of Sports Illustrated. She'd almost singlehandedly made handball a thing, though of course she'd give credit to the young (beautiful) handballers that had actually won the gold medals. She was a senior partner at The Martin Agency, was courting entire sporting organisations as clients and worked as a consultant for the USOC itself.
Years earlier, the coaches of the US Diving team hadn't been expecting the little girl they'd spent the weekend noticing to bounce up to the Lauren Tanner, spin around and proclaim "I got a jacket, Mom. Isn't it cool?"
Now, with the Games looming, little Elizabeth "Beth" Anderson was the talk of US elite sports world. Daughter of two Olympic champions, sister to two more, she had pressure on her like Lauren had never seen placed on a fifteen year old. She spent hours arguing with Beth's personal agent saying no to the cover of magazines and multi-million dollar deals. It helped she was also the agent's boss. But they couldn't stop people and the media commenting on her life as though they had some kind of ownership over it.
Initially, Lauren and Jack had split chauffer duties, both working at the OTC. Lauren had gradually made her OTC office her base of operations, and then she'd accepted a furnished apartment onsite so she and Beth could stay there during the week. Arrangements were made to do land training at the Rock and Lauren made sure that her daughter (who wasn't enthusiastic about school) kept up. It had been hard, being away from Carter and Tanner, and now, on a Friday afternoon she wanted to get home but her daughter was missing.
Beth's coach waved Lauren over. "We wrapped early as a birthday present. I think she went to catch up with some friends."
She called her daughter, who finally answered and then turned up fifteen minutes later, jogging and flushed red. "Sorry." She grinned happily "I forgot it was Friday."
That did sound likely. On the way to the car various athletes and officials called out "Happy Birthday."
"Are you sure you don't mind delaying your party?"
Beth shrugged. "After the meet we can have a proper party, and the weather will be warmer too." She had to be prodded into starting her homework.
Wanting to avoid (another) lecture, Beth nodded and tried to focus but couldn't. "I think Tanner's mad about the party."
"He's not." Lauren reassured her "We talked to him. He said he'd prefer to wait as well."
Actually he'd said "If we wait can the party end later than a five-year-old's, bedtime?" and been appeased by a cash bonus Lauren had slipped him without telling Carter. The days where the twins were inseparable were well and truly over.
"Well dinner should be nice tonight." She reminded her daughter "I spoke to your Uncle. He's planned something fantastic I think. And with spring break, we get Steph and Jay home too."
Beth nodded and was then distracted by her phone.
Jay was studying in the house when they arrived and he greeted them both with a close hug and a wrapped present.
"It's gorgeous!" Elizabeth exclaimed.
"I had to find it and flirt with the designer to get that for you." He informed her covertly.
"J.J.!" Lauren protested before going to fetch her daughter a box.
"My Christian Louboutins." Lauren made clear "They'll go with that dress if you want to wear it tonight though. Now I'm going to find your errant sibling and father so we can actually get to the restaurant on time…"
In the gym the Friday night madness raged. Most of the gymnasts were finishing up, the only thing missing was Tanner Anderson.
"He didn't show up." Carter hugged her tightly and kissed her, the way he always did when she got home.
Lauren's first instinct was panic as Carter explained. "He skipped classes tonight. He was meant to be helping with the fours."
"Did you call him?"
"Of course I did. He's screening my calls. He messaged. Said he was fine but is going out with his friends tonight."
Her jaw dropped. Carter checked his watch.
"We have a family dinner!" Lauren exploded before taking a deep breath. "I'm going to change and I'm going to see if I can find him…"
The attempt at dinner was dismal. Afterwards, Lauren stayed up, racking her brain for where her absent son might be. She was terrified when the phone rang.
They identified themselves and the blood drained from Lauren's face. "Mrs Anderson… your son… possession of drugs…underage…"
- All In On A Backroom Bet Final Epilogue: Legacy -
(One week later)
Lauren flinched as Tanner dropped into the dining room chair. Across the table Elizabeth had the exact same reaction. Lauren had barely spoken to her youngest since Carter had escorted him back into the house. He'd kept his head down, and was barely eating or speaking to any of them.
"What are you doing?" The female twin enquired. She was tolerantly being permitted to paint her older sister's nails while Stephanie stared intently at a biology text.
"Homework." He rolled his eyes dramatically, making clear his irritation.
"You don't have to be rude!" Their elder sister snapped right back.
"I don't have to speak to you. Can I wait in my room?"
"No" Lauren informed him. "You know the rules. Public spaces except for sleeping."
He read furiously, fingers tapping away, and if she hadn't known the tablet was locked down to the school portal she would have been worried. She sighed "are you all ready?"
With Jay and Stephanie both heading back to Columbia, the traditional dinner was planned, this time at Austin and Jack's house, and Lauren was planning on escorting Tanner herself.
They made it through most of dinner before he got started, listening to Beth gush about going to Barcelona for her last international competition before Olympic Trials.
"What a waste of money." Tanner scoffed "they fly you half way round the world. Why can't they just weblink it and have you do it in your training pool?"
It was one snide comment too many. Beth bit her lip and then burst out "You're just jealous!" and put words to what everyone had been thinking for months.
"Beth." Lauren chided, but gently. "Tan, not tonight okay?"
Tanner ignored his mother completely. "Jealous that you get to go to Barcelona? Who wouldn't be jealous of your countless international trips?" He was disparaging "But give it 5 years. You'll be the washed up has-been and I'll be the one with an actual future."
"Tanner, that's enough." It was Carter's turn to parent. "If you can't be polite…"
"You'll what?" Tanner interrupted. "Stop me talking to my friends? lock me up? force me to do stupid slave labour for your stupid gym?"
"Sit down and be quiet." Lauren's tone was like ice, sharper than anything she normally used on her children.
"Or you'll send me to boarding school?" His face twisted beyond the scowl. "That's the plan right?"
"Tanner this is not the time nor the place." Lauren spoke calmly, but underneath was both steel and panic.
"Right, because the good kids are here. Beth can't have any distractions right? You think they're all so perfect." He scoffed "Sweet Beth, as if you have any idea what the fuck she gets up to."
"Tanner, don't!." And Lauren definitely took note of Beth's wide panicky eyes.
"And Steph? Well she's failing out of college she never should have been able to get into in the first place. And that just leaves J.J. the perfect son. When he's not fucking around with half the gymnasts in the state. I mean, I thought Beth's boyfriend was inappropriately aged but wow."
"What is your point Tann." Lauren stood up. "you're making a scene. Obviously you have something you want to say. Now's your chance."
"I am not the bad guy." He was on the verge of tears. "Only in this family is the kid who gets straight As, who gets invited to freaking New York, the bad kid." Tanner froze and Lauren's eyes narrowed. He scoffed and tried to deflect but she pressed.
"That's not the point." He scoffed, scowl firmly in place.
"Because it's a month-long camp for all of July, so of course I'm not going to go." He bit into his lip and his eyes welled "We're a family that does the Olympics, so that'd make me the bad guy who doesn't watch his sister at the Olympics, because of course I must be jealous, or I'm the guy who makes her feel bad, right? Distracts her by coming and then making it all about him? Well I guess that's what I'm doing."
Carter was dumbstruck by the sheer pain in his youngest's voice. Tanner was vibrating as he stepped back from the table. "You should send me to boarding school." He laughed morosely; a horrible sound. "I, uh, I'm going home. I can't be here right now." He bolted outside, picking up pace. He paused long enough to empty his stomach on the grass.
Carter followed first.
"Excuse us." Lauren made excuses. "girls, you can stay if it's alright…"
Austin insisted "Of course it is." He pressed a quick kiss to the side of Lauren's head. "Anything you need."
"I want to come home too." Beth burst out "it's not fair. He doesn't just get to do that and then leave."
- All In On A Backroom Bet Final Epilogue: Legacy-
At home, Tanner's room was empty but the shower was running. Carter banged on the door. "Are you in there?" No answer. "Tanner, I need to know you're okay?"
"I'm…" Tanner's voice cut "I'm okay. Give me a minute."
Carter sat down on his son's bed to wait until Tanner emerged, towelling his blonde hair. It was almost long enough to form into curls.
Carter stood. "If you really want to go to New York for school you should go. The same with boarding school."
Tanner stared at his father. "You don't get it at all." He exclaimed loudly. If they weren't already in his bedroom, Carter was sure he would have stormed out and slammed the door.
He took a deep breath and prayed for patience. "Then try explaining it."
Tanner paused for a moment before answering. "You've never forgiven me for quitting gymnastics and you never will."
"Just admit it. You're closer to Jay than you've ever been to me."
"No" Carter insisted "you know I love Jay, but he isn't my son."
"He's the son you want." Tanner prodded viciously.
"I want to have a relationship with you. " Carter confessed "soon you'll be off and college and then who knows where, so we haven't got that much longer together left, and I'd like to do something other than argue with you."
Tanner shrugged, sullen.
When the doorbell rang Tanner tensed. "So, uh."
Carter waited as they heard Lauren answer the door.
"That's probably my boyfriend." He confessed. "I was kind of upset so I called him."
"And he drove all the way up here that fast?"
Downstairs Lauren opened the door. "Charlie?" She stared at the boy in surprise. She knew him. Of course, even if she hadn't been his coach's wife she kept an eye on the up and coming gymnasts. While he would likely not make it beyond trials this year at 17, she, Carter and a lot of others were expecting great things.
"Hi Mrs Anderson." He shifted awkwardly.
10 minutes later, Carter was clearly struggling with the 17 year old, hulking gymnast in his baby son's room but the African-American future star had taken one look at Tanner and had him in his arms. Tanner had pulled him into his room with a hurried apology to his parents.
Lauren and Carter exchanged glanced. "Give them a little bit of time?" Lauren suggested. "We can deal with the girls."
Carter's eyes narrowed at the memory of Tanner's outburst.
In the loungeroom he pleaded "Elizabeth, sweetheart, tell me you don't have a boyfriend."
Lauren's eyes narrowed as she watched her daughter consider lying. Beth caught sight of her mother's expression and winced guiltily.
"How could you possibly? You're always the OTC." Lauren corrected.
"He's at the OTC." She admitted.
"Name?" Lauren pressed, mentally running through athletes.
"Age." Carter added.
"Piotr Remire" Beth confessed, waiting for the explosion.
Lauren glanced to Carter "19, and boxing."
"Hand them over." Carter held out his hand.
"Everything." Lauren countered "We cut you some slack because we thought you were trying your hardest, but if you've got time for a boyfriend, you've got time to study harder, and you don't date boys we haven't met."
"You don't date at all." Carter amended. Lauren glanced over. "You definitely don't date boys we haven't met."
Beth sighed "can I at least message him to let him know I'll be out of contact."
"You've got 20 seconds." Lauren informed her "twenty, nineteen, eighteen…"
10 minutes later, with Beth Beth settled in with her homework, attention turned to Stephanie.
"Please. Save me the lecture." Stephanie insisted "I'm not a teenager anymore. I know I need to do better in school. I just can't figure out how."
"Are you trying your hardest?" Carter checked.
She was affronted "of course."
"That's when you come to us then." He corrected gently.
Stephanie shifted uncomfortably on the couch. "I went to Jay."
After Stephanie was squared away with renewed dermination and a plan, it was Lauren who headed upstairs to check on Tanner. She didn't comment at him wiping at his eyes, or the way his apparent boyfriend stayed in-front of him (as though he needed to be protected from her!)
"If you'll excuse us Charlie, I need to talk to my son."
He nodded, turning. "I'll see you, uh…"
"Tanner is still grounded." Lauren reminded him "but you're welcome to join us for dinner."
"Well, I, uh, hope that's possible." Charlie insisted. He squeezed Tanner's hand and pressed their foreheads together.
"You don't have to tell him." Tanner insisted.
"Yes, I do." Charlie replied. He nodded respectfully. "Good night Mrs Anderson."
Lauren closed the door behind him. "So, you're dating Charlie. How long has that been going on for?"
"A while; It's kind of complicated."
"Because he's one of your Dad's gymnasts?"
"Your first love is tough." Lauren commented.
"He's not." Tanner snapped again "I have dated other people, and besides, how would you know. You married your first love."
Touche. Lauren thought. "So what are we going to do, Tann?"
"Everything, because you don't seem happy anymore."
His lips twisted into the ever present scowl. She took a seat. "What are you doing?"
"Sitting. We're going to have a conversation."
"Isn't this more a study talk? Or Dad's office or something."
"I thought we could do it on your terms." She folded her hands in her lap "So, lay it on me."
He took a deep breath. Once he finished talking, Lauren felt like crying. "Oh, my baby."
He winced at her endearment.
She shushed him "you are my baby boy, my beloved youngest." She insisted "and Tann…"
I didn't tell you for your pity." He insisted.
"I know." She cut him off before he could rant some more. "I know. So, can I just reply?"
He nodded cautiously, pulling one lanky knee up to his chest and wrapping his arms around it.
"First off, you are absolutely smart enough to get into Columbia, if you want."
"It's not about smarts. It's about the package. That's how Steph got in, and North Boulder Charter isn't exactly rolling in extra-curricular opportunities."
"Debate club, future business leaders, the JSA, the investment club."
"It's a school for athletes.." Tanner reminded her "Maybe if I had a gold medal or a nation title, but I don't. And I'm not going to. That's why you should send me to boarding school."
"We're not sending you to boarding school." Lauren insisted. "and I know you sometimes feel like we're too strict on you, but there are things you don't know, especially about drugs."
"Is this about your mother?" Tanner was curious. Lauren's eyes narrowed. "I have read your biography. And Dad's, and Uncle Austin's."
"What else do you know about?" Lauren checked.
"Everything I guess. Everything in the public forum. Like a fucked up family tree project."
"Languuage." Lauren corrected "and there are parts that aren't, things not even your father knows too much about."
"Like" Lauren took a deep breath. "You know about the baby? In Africa?" He nodded "well had just lost a baby, your grandfather was dead and all I could think about was getting a hit of morphine."
"We're not like all your friends, Tann. You can never take drugs. Never."
"You were a drug addict?"
"They gave it to me after the surgery, and then when I recovered, I couldn't stop thinking about how good it felt. I was waking up in the middle of the night with drugs the first thought I had."
On his lips was a question.
"I never, never took any, after I left the hospital. I haven't taken anything stronger than asprin since." Lauren told him. "I had you and your sister with nothing, but you two were my little miracles. Especially you. My youngest, and I never want you to feel that way."
"I won't." He promised "I tried weed and..."
"Never again, Tanner. It's in your blood."
He nodded, seriously freaked out.
"Good. Which brings me to my second point. You might not be a gymnast but that is not all this family is."
"I'm serious. "Your sister…"
"Is a diver."
"And your grandfather, the one you are named after, remains the most impressive, amazing man I've ever known, and the only time he stepped foot near a gym floor was because he was related to me."
"Didn't he found the original Rock?"
"Yes." Lauren leant forward to smooth her son's hair back. "He did. He moved away from everything he'd ever known and tried something completely new, for me, his child. And if or when you figure out what it is you want, if you need it, your father and I will do the same."
"Of course. Gymnastics is what we do, but you have Tanner blood in your veins, and that means family first; always."
"What about Dad?" Tanner checked.
"He'll understand. I'll make him." Lauren teased, coxing a smile out of her son.
"Mum, I'm serious about the school. I mean, I'm willing to be away from Charlie, and all my friends…"
"But I'm not willing to not see you." She promised "we can talk, maybe about taking some college courses online, an internship…"
"It's all on the table, except you not being part of this family."
"Maybe you could take the job offer and I could go to a Swiss boarding school." Tanner played his trump card At her frown he informed her "it's on the internet."
"it's a rumour on the gym sites." She pointed out. "and I already told them I'm not interested. The Federation Internationale de Gymnastique isn't going anywhere. You on the other hand are growing up faster than either your father or I can handle."
He nodded again, throat feeling choked. She squeezed him tightly.
-All In On A Backroom Bet Final Epilogue: Legacy -
Lauren descended the stairs slowly, smiling softly. It might just be a step in the right direction, but for the first time in a long time, things with Tanner felt better.
She descended to find Carter rolling around a glass of bourbon. "That good huh?"
"My star gymnast…" he groaned.
"You're next words better be isn't good enough for our baby boy." She warned him playfully.
"Turns out the party with the drugs. Charlie was the one that organised it. It was Tanner's birthday party, with a bunch of kids from school, lots of booze. Indulgence was the theme. Tanner wanted all the things he'd never get at his actual birthday party."
"Like what?" Lauren was offended.
"A real birthday cake was top of the list apparently. Cotton Candy. Milkshakes…"
"Yeah and when the cops showed up, Tanner distracted them so Charlie could get away."
"He didn't use drugs?"
"No. He did but if he hadn't caused a scene they probably wouldn't have noticed. Just told the kids to disperse."
"Damn." Lauren repeated.
"A least tell me I can beat up the boxer."
Lauren shrugged. Pouring herself a glass of wine, she rejoined him on the lounge. "You could try. He's pretty good."
"Charlie's been living half a mile from our son for years." He got back on topic "God knows what they've been getting up to."
"Big picture." She pointed out "I think I finally got through to Tanner."
"He's not half as grown up as he'd like to be."
"And Beth isn't as young and innocent as she'd have the world believe apparently."
"No." Carter agreed, tugging Lauren closer. She laughed, slipping into his lap as though she was still 18.
"I told Tann I'm not taking the FIG job." Lauren offered up. "it wouldn't have wanted to be away from you that much, and I don't want to be away from the kids any more than I am already."
"Still" Carter commented "FIG."
She shrugged. "Another board position. You know I prefer it when I get my hands dirty with real clients anyway. And that way I can work from home a bit more." She continued. "And I was thinking, you could take him as well, when you go to Spain. Have some vacation time."
Carter frowned. "So he's no longer grounded until the end of time?"
"No he still is. But that doesn't mean his future should suffer. He's worried he won't get into Columbia for college. He needs the extracurriculars, and he's in the Spanish club."
"Have his grades slipped?" Carter checked.
"No, but you need more than a 4.0 to get into Columbia, and he's not going to have Olympic medals like Steph and Jay did. About whom, he might have a point."
Academia had never been Stephanie's strong suit. It had been something she'd 'gotten done' and rarely anything more.
They were distracted by a phone ringing. "Is it all clear?"
When Austin arrived, he fetched Carter and himself a bottle of beer, topped up Lauren's glass and collapsed onto the couch.
"So, Jay's in love." He proclaimed. "devastating, all consuming, love."
Lauren sat up, out of her slump. "With who?"
"Won't say. He's heartbroken. Apparently she won't knowledge his existence so he's sleeping with every girl he can get his hands on."
"Wow." Carter laughed.
Lauren and Austin fixed him with equally unamused expressions. Their son was in pain.
"Sorry, I've just seen too many of my gymnasts follow him around like puppies."
"Well Jay's not alone. It turns out both Elizabeth and Tanner have had secret boyfriends."
Now it was Austin's turn to chortle.
"Yeah, laugh it up." Carter grumbled good-naturedly. "But they won't for much longer. They're too young."
They relocated to the lounge area. "You were going to tell me about the restaurant?" Lauren reminded Austin "Did you sign the papers?"
"Yep. They'll start fitting out the new location straight away and then I'll be feeding athletes in three different Colorado cities."
"Good, I can get a bit sick of the USOC cafeteria."
"You and Jack both. But does that mean you're sticking around?" Austin questioned.
"Looks like you're stuck with me." She grinned. "Someone has to do your new restaurant launch, and its not a good time to be around here less."
"Tanner?" Austin deduced.
"And Beth." She agreed. "Even if the Games would be over by then."
Passing around food, they could've been thirty years younger.
They covered Carter's current team, the state of the Rock which now had three facilities (the one on the Ranch with the dorms, fifty live-in gymnasts and an overflow of elite gymnasts and one in each Boulder and Denver which targeted casual and young gymnasts with a few exceptions), Lauren's current roster of clients and the goings on of the USOC, Austin's plans, Jay's trials and tribulations at medical school, Stephie's struggles and, of course, more about the twins.
But there was one order of business left to be discussed.
"We don't need the money" Carter was ever the conservative one.
"But think of what we could do with it though." She posed.
"Summer in France after the games?" Austin retorted with a grin, before Lauren continued her argument in favour.
"It could raise the profile of the sport, not to mention the Rock."
"You want to do it?" Austin checked.
Lauren and Carter exchanged glances. "We're still thinking." Carter informed him. "We wanted to hear what you were thinking"
"It's a miniseries about our lives. Is it weird that people want to make it? That we're 'history'?." Austin admitted "yeah, but it's also kind of awesome."
"I just don't want it to be a hatchet job." Lauren insisted "we all got offers after London."
"You two got offers." Carter corrected good-naturedly.
"and we turned them down."
"It was the wrong time." Austin pointed out. "And the wrong production companies. None of us wanted a lifetime movie but that's not what this is. You saw what they did with the athletics one last year. It was good. And fair."
After a successful miniseries on the 2020 American Olympic Athletic Team (who'd matched their own in craziness), now the production company was looking to do a second 'series' of a second sport.
There was a lot in it on how the 'Soaring Stars' rose above individual challenges to become one of the most successful American Olympic teams ever. The gymnasts would have individual storylines leading up to London finale; kind of a multi-angle biopic charting their roads to success.
While Lauren's was about her late-blooming, underdog status and how she tackled a male-dominated elite sports world (she was proud of that) there would also undoubtedly be some less complimentary stuff. She wanted to see a script. And she knew Carter wasn't yet comfortable over how his "journey from the wilds of conservative Wyoming" would turn out.
And then there was the fact that Kaylie, Payson, Beth, Kelly, Max, Nicky and Jon had all apparently been approached, though Lauren doubted with offers quite the size of hers, Austin's or Carter's. She'd seen the proposal to Kaylie though, and was relieved it didn't offer to villainize Lauren as a top point (though did include the widening gap between her and her team mates). Instead it was on the unrelenting pressure placed on them. They seemed to want to counter Lauren and Kaylie off each other. Kelly had sent Lauren hers (which was about how despite being the NGO golden girl she was then cast aside as she aged and then had to fight to keep her place on the team despite injuries etc.)
She'd called Payson, who'd admitted to being incredibly unsure about what to do. Lauren was glad she wasn't involved in that discussion, let alone the one they were surely going to have with their kid.
"Do you really want the kids to see a miniseries of us as teenagers? Do you remember the stuff we did?" Carter had checked. That was the other thing. They didn't want to hold back on the wild years documented in Austin's (and to a lesser degree Lauren's) autobiography.
"Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing." Austin posed "it might give them some perspective into their own lives." At their confusion he added. "I thought Jay, at least until tonight, had finally grown out of his teenage shit, but Stephanie is still so single-minded about what she wants, Elizabeth wants everything and neither are afraid to do what it takes to get it just like their mother, and Tanner…"
"Yeah. I heard it. Just like me, if I were a teenage boy."
"Actually I was going to say like his father." Austin corrected Lauren.
Carter disagreed. "Tann and I have nothing in common. That's the whole problem."
"Really?" Austin's tone dripped with irony. "Cause I seem to remember you sleeping in your car because your father wouldn't accept that you didn't want to be part of the family business. You partied as a teenager, and Tann's desire to avoid conflict until it explodes…"
"Plus the stubbornness." Lauren chimed in thoughtfully. "That's you as much as me."
"Just maybe it might help if he saw some of the similarities?" Austin posed.
- final, fin/al epilogue -
Lauren smiled beatifically as she , the other soaring stars, and the members of the most recent U.S. Gymnastics team lined up. They were nowhere near as successful of course. A few gold and a handful of silver and bronze, but they'd done well. She'd already had the mandatory shot with this generation's golden girl. It was a novelty to be the focus after all these years.
They were all there. Payson with Sasha, her still looking classically beautiful after all these years and him, grey but still physically fit. The first question out of any reporters mouth was still always "so you married your coach" (and the second was "and you're still together") but they kept their answers short and hurried inside as fast as possible. They weren't there for the press.
Their son had come but wouldn't be anywhere near the press. Lauren knew from Payson he was still struggling with everything he'd learned about his parents recently.
Her own children were notably more comfortable in front of the press. Beth was stil revelling in her gold and Stephanie and Jay had been around a time or too, but her attention was much more closely focused on Tanner. On one of their visits to the set in spring he'd caught the eye of the director and casting official. Combined with his lingering gymnastics skills, he'd promptly been offered a minor roll and was now fixated on the movie business. "Acting school." Lauren and Carter kept repeating. For now, he soaked up the experience, making connections like only a Tanner could.
Kelly and Max were there. There had been rumours of complications in their relationship (either Kelly or Max having an affair, or what Lauren thought was more likely, a third in their relationship) but the two had arrived together with their son (who was talking closely with Stephanie, Lauren noticed). Max hadn't aged well, a combination of sun and life, but his face still lit up with a charming, roguish grin as he caught up with Austin. He wore the age well.
Kelly, of course, was buttering up every gymnastics person there. Lauren thought she was a shoe-in for NGO president.
Beth was there, with her family. Lauren had barely seen her in recent years, but she hugged her enthusiastically. The same with Jon Horton, his wife and their kids. Nicky came as well.
And Kaylie; she'd shown up looking fantastic. Lauren thought she'd probably had work done because her breasts were never like that. She lived in a big city with a huge, over the top house, married to a former reasonably good baseball player who now owned a string of carwashes or dry-cleaners or something. Lauren had responded politely, when Kaylie had approached, glint in her eye and then dismissed her equally quickly.
Across the red carpet, she caught Carter's eye. He was reminding some of the eager USA gymnasts of the time and place they were in. They straightened up accordingly and he grinned at her ruefully. She smiled back before asking the publicist to repeat the photographer's request.
A shot of her, Austin and the two actors who were playing them? Of course.
-- All In On A Backroom Bet Final Epilogue: Legacy -
So that's it. The end. I hope you like it. I hope some of you are still around and I'd love to hear your thoughts. If you're curious the pintrest page is still up just go to pintrest dot com and add lizagirlff/legacy/
I probably wont write in this fandom again (So long, so epic, I'm all burnt out) but if anyone else is, speak up, lets chat!