Disclaimer: I do not own Make It or Break it. I did not write the series or star in it. Seriously, I'm just a bored Canadian...
Warnings: AU, language, evil plots, bunnies and whatever else I feel like throwing in.
Kelly Parker was a morning person. While Payson thought she handled mornings well, Kelly Parker was the type that as soon as her eyes opened she was raring to go. Payson, in turn, wasn't truly awake until she ate something, or had a shower. Oh she could run on autopilot and work out, but her mind would still be clinging to the sweet world of sleep.
Since she moved in with the World Champ, Payson had come to expect a certain routine in the morning. She would stumble out of bed, grab the closest clothes to her, and then walk into the kitchen to find Kelly cooking something that fit into her strict diet. A diet that she had three nutritionist work on, a diet she laminated and framed on the kitchen wall.
So it was understandable when the two days after the last nation team practice, Payson was confused to her teammates uncharacteristic behaviour. Payson walked in the kitchen yawning to stop at the sight of an empty table and Kelly Parker near a blender. The brunette was cutting up a couple bananas and throwing the pieces into a blender. Payson quietly watched as Kelly expertly threw in ice, granola, milk, and some honey. The other girl covered the blender and started it, and Payson wasn't sure what to make of the situation.
"Morning KP, what's going on?" Payson asked warily.
"Well Marty told us that he was going to try a few new things with our training right? To mix things up so we don't get stagnant. Well this morning I woke up thinking about it and I looked online and read a few blogs from other athletes and I came up with a few things to try. Then I called my first nutritionist and explained that I wanted to mix up my diet, and she sent me a list of breakfast smoothies we can have every day." Kelly explained.
"Oh I bet she loved that." Payson muttered as she watched Kelly turn off the blender and pour the smoothie into two cups.
"Oh, and I bought these last year but never go to try them. They look like regular cup but you can put a travel lid on them and insert a straw. I figure it's perfect so now we can eat on the way to the gym." Kelly demonstrated by firmly sealing one cup and drinking through the attached straw.
Payson blinked and slowly picked up her breakfast and drank it. It was a bit thick going through the straw but it was satisfying. "Thanks Kelly."
"No problem, now get ready so we can leave." Kelly commanded.
Payson looked at the girl and couldn't help but smile. "I'm really glad I came to Denver."
Kelly gave her a bemused look and then snorted. "One smoothie and you're already this close to professing your love to me? I never knew you were so easy Keeler."
Payson laughed and took another drink. "Well, you've tried the smoothie; if someone made this for you wouldn't you do the same?"
Kelly hummed as she tilted her head back and forth in thought. "I suppose… but I fail to believe I will find someone as awesome as I am out there, so it will never happen."
Payson laughed again and walked out of the kitchen. Her mother taught her how to pick her battles, and this was a prime example of one to avoid.
"I know the vault. I respect the vault. I am one with the vault."
Sasha stared at his once prized gymnastic in bewilderment. Payson Keeler was sprawled on the vault table, hugging it as she chanted a mantra about being one with it. He had seen a lot of weird things from gymnasts, but he had yet to see this one.
"The beam is my friend. The beam is my lover. The beam will bring me gold."
Sasha followed the new chant and spotted Kelly Parker, wrapped around the beam, lightly caressing it with one finger. He didn't know what disturbed him more. Kelly Parker and the beam, or the entire concept of both gymnasts doing whatever they were doing. The other gymnasts in Denver Elite were giving the two a wide berth, pretending like they weren't there as they practiced. Sasha didn't blame them, but since he was there to see them, he couldn't just look the other way.
"Sasha. What are you doing here?" Marty's voice broke Sasha from his thoughts. Looking at the American coach, Sasha knew he could get some answers.
"Marty, what are they doing?"
Marty chuckled as his eyes drifted to the two girls. "Well…"
"You don't have some weird plot up your sleeve do you?" Sasha asked the man warily.
"No, nothing like that. You see the girls are determined to prevent any unfortunate stumbles, so Kelly went online and found an article about learning through osmosis or something." Marty explained.
"The book under the pillow trick?" There was a slight edge of disbelief to his voice. No one actually believed that worked did they?
"Yeah, some famous tennis player lives by it or something. They figured if it's worked for him, then it can't hurt to try. Anything to win."
"And you're letting them do this ridiculous…training, because?"
Marty laughed. "It's can't hurt, can it? Plus, they only do it on their breaks, no actual interference with training time."
"How long have they been doing this?"
"Has it garnered any results?" Sasha doubted it.
"You could see for yourself." Marty teased.
Sasha smirked at the man as he recognized the familiar underlying challenge his rival used to use. "Let's see then." Sasha used an arm to gesture towards the girls, and stepped back.
Marty clapped his hands together and called out. "Kelly, Payson, it seems we have a special guest that wants to see what you two have been up to."
Both girls raised their heads and stared at the pair of coaches.
"What's the English bulldog doing here?" Kelly asked. Sasha frowned at the girl. She was much more polite when at The Rock.
Marty paused in his reprimand towards the girl and then turned towards Sasha. "What are you doing here?"
Sasha sheepishly rubbed the back of his head. "Since news that Payson and Emily have left spread, some of the other national team members have decided to transfer and fill their spot at The Rock. I have two of them transferring in tomorrow and once Lauren heard… well you can imagine Lauren's reaction. I decided to let the assistant coaches work with Lauren and Kaylie today as I check up on Payson and Kelly."
Kelly snorted. "So Tanner got all pissy and you ran here with the tail between your legs."
"Kelly!" Payson lightly scolded the girl. "Sasha is the national team coach, you should be more respectful."
Marty chuckled. "Sasha wants to see your routines. I wanted to surprise everyone at the next national team practice, but I think we can let him in on some of the upgrades."
"Upgrades?" Sasha frowned. "This close to Worlds they should be working on execution."
"Just watch." Marty commanded. "Okay girls, let's start with your floor routines."
Kelly and Payson stood up and stretched as the made their way over to the floor. Sasha chuckled wondering if they realized they dressed alike. Payson was wearing a purple practice leo with black work out shorts. Kelly wore a black leo with purple accents, and walking together they looked like an intimidating pair of opposites.
Marty heard him and shot him a smirk. "I know what you're thinking but don't tell them. They have grown quite close since Payson came and are unconsciously starting to mirror the other, but they take pride in being opposites."
"How so?" Sasha asked.
"You learn more by watching I find." Marty replied mysteriously.
"I'll go first." Payson offered. The blonde walked to the middle of the floor and lowered herself down into her starting position. Sasha smiled fondly. He had worked hard to get her to accept the new starting point, and it had been worth it. Now Payson assumed the position so naturally, it could have been a daily habit her whole life.
Marty started the music, and the soft notes of her music floated through the air. Payson rose with such grace and elegance that it took Sasha's breath away. She floated across the floor, her leaps and jumps merging seamlessly into her steps and other dance moves. Sasha watched with critical eye as Payson readied herself for her first tumbling pass. She didn't have the power moves she once had and she would need a flawless execution to stamp her mark on the event at World's.
"Here it comes, the first upgrade." Marty whispered.
Sasha's eyes narrowed wondering what they could have done. Payson did a little jump and then she was running. Sasha's mouthed opened in shock as the blonde performed a near perfect whip whip full in back out and landed with a small hop. She moved on quickly, preparing for her second pass.
"Marty…" Sasha whispered.
"Just keep watching." Marty responded his eyes locked firmly on Payson's form.
Payson threw herself into a two and a half twist with a front layout pass. She stuck the landing, and moved on with her routine. It was beautiful to watch. The pure beauty that flowed off her was stunning, and Sasha could freely admit, that Payson Keeler was growing into a fine young woman.
The routine came to an end, and Sasha felt an ache in his chest at the loss. He wanted to watch more, see how far Payson could go, and just stay mesmerized in her performance. The last note sang through the air, and Payson finished.
"That was beautiful." Sasha commented.
Payson looked at him and smiled widely. "I've been working hard on it. I know there was a few little hops and that one small step out on the third pass, but I can bring it together for Worlds." Payson got straight to business. "My spilt leap wasn't fully extended I could feel it. I've been focusing on the new tumbling pass that I neglected working on my leaps, so I will do that tonight, but anything else you noticed?"
Sasha could have laughed out loud at her question. In all honesty after the first pass, he hadn't been watching from a coach's point of view. "I think you covered it all."
"Kelly, you're up." Marty changed the disc over and Kelly stepped onto the floor, striking her first position. "We changed the music and the dance a little, but the tumbling is all the same." Marty explained.
"When Kelly saw Payson getting a new tumbling pass, she demanded that I improve her routine as well." The American coach whispered.
"Sasha shook his head, he could believe that.
The music started and Sasha could tell why they changed it. Marty had said that they enjoyed being opposites and this was a clear example of it. Where Payson was a light butterfly, gliding through her routine with beauty, Kelly was a powerful predator. Sasha could hear the drum beats vibrating through his body. Kelly's moves were graceful, but foretold of with restrained power, but it didn't scare him. It was more of a female warrior, readying for battle than an actual fight. Her tumbling was smooth, and overall he was impressed with her routine, but not as he had been with Payson's.
That aside, both girls had upped their game, and were ready to throw down the gauntlet at World's.
"I'm impressed." Sasha clapped as Kelly stepped off the floor. "Is this the only upgrade or have you been working on all your routines?"
"Have you ever had a four course meal?" Marty asked. "This was just the appetizer, a sample of what to expect."
Sasha had to agree that the floor routines set the mood for the rest of the apparatuses. As they moved to the uneven bars, Sasha watched as Kelly attacked the bars with more fervor than she had on floor. She had some very daring release moves, and even worked a half twist into her transition from low bar to high. He didn't think he had ever seen such a power and vigorous bar routine since Beth Tweddle. In contrast, Payson took her time. She had perfectly pointed toes, her pirouettes were perfect, and she made it look so effortless. The routine hadn't changed since he last saw it, but the execution as much better.
Beam rendered the same results. They girls kept to the same theme, showing off their individual skillset, but they also demonstrated what they had in common. They were winners. Gold medal winners. Finally they came to vault, and Sasha was excited. He hadn't been this excited since he was offered the Rock position, and knew that he would get to work with three gymnasts that could be Olympians.
"Payson will show you two vaults. She is aiming for the vault finals, but Kelly will only do one. We take special care to watch her ankle." Marty lectured. Payson, was fixing the springboard for Kelly, and the World Champion was at the end of the runway, chalking her feet and hands.
"How is her ankle doing?" Sasha asked.
"Better. I had her concentrate of bars while taking physio for the ankle. We only incorporated beam in recently, and even then we tape her ankle up before she practices. And make her wear a heel pad. Floor was easy to adjust, just the music and some dance moves, nothing too strenuous on her ankle so it worked. If Kelly had a weakness it's vault but even then she's better than most."
"We're slightly weak on vault but Lauren has been working on a two and half Yurchenko. It's still sloppy but it will get us the points. She's going to try for vault finals too. I fear our biggest weakness is bars." Sasha mentally started plotting. If they could pull of successful vaults, then Kelly and Payson could be the all-around contenders. He would need a third, but it wasn't as important now since it was only World's. Right now he was thinking about the Olympics and helping present the best team possible to Marta. With the juniors moving up next year, he would have more of a pool to pull from, and there were already a few very promising juniors waiting in the wings. But he needed to stop thinking about that and focus on the two girls in front of him now.
"Well, I certainly have a lot to think about." Sasha stated as Kelly threw herself into a Yurchenko double.
"It's not the highest start value, but the execution is near flawless." Marty explained.
Sasha nodded his head. "Yeah, she will get a good score for that. Has Payson's vault changed?"
"No. She's still doing an Amanar, but for the vault finals she will also perform a laid-out Podkopayeva."
"Does she still have room to improve, or is that her limit?" Sasha asked.
Marty ran a hand through is hair as he watched the girls prepare for Payson's two vaults. "We can work her into a harder second vault, but the Amanar will be the same. I don't want to push her beyond that. A few years ago we had a dream of getting new vault named after her, and that's what injured her back in the first place. I'm not going to do that to her again." Marty admitted.
"Her own vault…She only performed an Amanar before her accident." Sasha stared at his fellow coach wide-eyed.
"Yes. Payson was a powerhouse, it was so simple to just ask one day 'Hey Pay, would you like your own vault?' After that… well you can guess. I asked her why she didn't perform her vault at nationals and she bluntly told me that if she wasn't going to perform it if it gave me credit. She was quite mad at me at the time…"
Sasha chuckled deeply. "I can see that. " Sasha coughed and sobered up a little. "So now you're scared to really push her on vault again." Sasha stated.
"Yes. When she fell and they were saying she was done for good… the guilt ate at me daily. I was the coach that pushed her to that point, not you, and I didn't know how to fix it or make it better. When she came here, looking at me to coach her again, for a moment I wanted to say no and send her back to Boulder." Marty whispered.
"But you couldn't."
"Because…" Sasha prompted.
"Because I saw a small glimmer of hope that maybe by coaching her again I can make amends. I can coach her properly this time, bring her to the Olympics, and then the guilt won't be as present." Marty responded.
"And you took it."
"Of course I did." Marty snapped "Now enough of this emotion shit, Payson is giving us a look."
Payson was standing at the end of the lane, eyebrow raised, silently asking them to hurry up so she could go. When she noticed their attention finally on her, she rolled her eyes, and readied herself.
"Whenever you're ready Pay." Marty called.
The blonde nodded her head, and her eyes narrowed as he looked down the runway and to the horse. Suddenly she was off; her feet pounded the ground, her body twisted, hands on the floor and then feet on the springboard. Sasha smiled. It was a clean vault and would score high. It was what the team needed.
"I think I've seen enough." Sasha announced.
"What?" Payson stopped walking and turned towards him. "Don't you want to see my Podkopayeva?"
"No." Sasha answered truthfully. "I don't think my ego could handle it."
Marty laughed. "I never thought I would hear the day…"
Sasha glared at him. "Yes well, now I think it's time I returned to Boulder and worked my own gymnasts into the ground. I can't have you beating me."
"I'll show you the door." Marty crooned. The American coach walked way, a slight swagger to his step, and Sasha followed.
He had a lot to think about, and apparently a lot to do if he wanted Lauren to be able to compete with these two on an even playing field.
If only Kaylie would have been ready for World's, it would have made his job easier.
Kaylie grunted in frustration as she hit the treadmill. Sasha had been adamant that she not train until he cleared her. Instead, she had to work on conditioning and building her stamina and strength. The whoel thing made her frustrated because now that Paysonw as gone, she would need to step up and fulfil her duties as captain. The girls around here kept whispering and it was driving her up the wall because all they talked about was Payson's sudden departure.
She hadn't been here when the announcement was made, but she heard all about it from Lauren. Now that she was back, she hoped that all the tension in the air would start to dissipate, or lessen now that the gymnasts had a captain to lead them again, but it didn't work. Kaylie tried to hide it, but it hurt when she heard the other girls talking about how one captain abandoned them and the other could barely keep herself together much less a team. But what hurt the most was hearing one girl comment that even before Kaylie's 'absence' Payson had been a better leader and that she wished she had never left.
She could never win against Payson.
Today she had arrived looking forward to another day with Sasha focusing his attention on her for once, but she was disappointed. She walked into the gym to see Lauren ranting because her dad told her about the new girls coming to train with them. Sasha had been off to the side watching the entire thing but even he had enough. He loudly told the assistant coaches they were in charge today as he was going to go to Denver.
Even at another gym, Payson was more important to Sasha than she was. Sasha could have spent the day training her and avoiding Lauren, but his instinct drove him to drive to Denver instead.
Kaylie had thrown herself into her condition, hoping to impress Sasha when he got back, but the more she ran on the treadmill and the more she felt the action related to her relationship with Sasha. She could keep trying and trying, but the Romanian coach would always stay in one place, and only care about one person.
Kaylie let out another highly frustrated noise and threw her water bottle at the machine.
"Woah woah… what did the exercise equipment ever do to you?" Austin asked, coming up to her side and placing a warm hand on her shoulder.
"Nothing, it did nothing, and it does nothing!" Kaylie bit out, glaring at the offending machine.
"Okay… I feel like we're talking about something besides the machine…"
Kaylie scowled. "It's just… Payson isn't even here anymore and Sasha is still giving her more attention than me."
Austin withdrew his hand and walked around so they faced each other. "I may have been at another gym these last few weeks, because as far as I know Sasha has been helping you every day and carefully monitoring your progress. He even talks to your parents every day and updates them. Besides Lauren, you get most of his attention…" Austin trailed off, not sure what else to say.
"I don't mean like that." Kaylie huffed, annoyed that her boyfriend didn't understand. "Every time I do something, I feel like he's comparing me to her. Like his eyes are always asking 'why are you still only this far when Payson was further at this point and she broke her back' or saying 'if it were Payson she would be better at this' when I fail to meet one of his high expectations. And today, he ran off to go see her in Denver. We're his club, his team, his gymnasts, and he goes to see her." Kaylie ranted.
Austin frowned. "Well technically Payson is his gymnast too. He is the national team coach, and I don't think it's unreasonable to go check on Payson and Kelly. If I had an excuse to avoid Lauren today, I would take it too. I mean have you seen Lauren? I'm pretty sure she made three girls cry already."
Kaylie glared up at the gold medalist. "You don't get it. He should be here helping me, because the faster I get back to serious training for the Olympics, the faster this club gets back in order. I can prove that I am still the national champ, and then everyone can stop hoping that Payson will come back, because they will have me."
"So this isn't about having more of Sasha's attention, it's about proving you're better than Payson. Well that's good to know, I was worried I would need to fight Sasha over you." Austin joked.
"Austin!" Kaylie yelled. "I'm being serious."
Austin sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "I know, and I think you need to relax a little. Trust Sasha knows what's he's doing, because he has a plan to get you put on the Olympic track. Just calm down a-"
"Calm down?" Kaylie screeched. "It's easy for you to say since you already have a gold medal, but I' still fighting for my spot. You're Austin Tucker, the gymnastics bad boy, you just have to show up and smile and you get paid. I bet that you don't even have to do the trials, they probably already have your name down, pulling in sponsors. I need to work hard if I ever want to prove that nationals wasn't a fluke. I need my coach here helping me for that, but he's off in Denver with Payson."
"Kaylie, seriously, I think you need a walk to cool your head or something, you're saying some pretty-"
"What I need is for you to leave me alone, and for Sasha to pay attention to me." Kaylie snapped, completely fed up with the situation and how her boyfriend just wasn't getting it.
Kaylie stormed away from Austin and right past Lauren on her way out of the gym.
Lauren smirked as she took out her phone and shot off a tweet.
Lauren Tanner BeamQueenLauren Things are getting rocky over her in Boulder because of Keeler, right AustinTucker?
Lauren closed her phone and bounced off, eagerly awaiting the fallout.
Phew... sorry for the wait. Thanks to everyone who reviewed, and hopefully I will start to spend more time on the MIOBI fics.
Also, please ignore any spelling or grammar... I tried, but i'm not perfect.