Long time no update, I know. And I'm sorry. Real life hasn't agreed with me and I've had some.. let's call it health issues. I hope the chapter doesn't feel too rushed.
But here it is, as promised, the epilogue. The last update of Payson the Guardian.
Payson turned off the light and locked the front door to her practice. For once she could leave early, one of her patients had canceled. Not only did the swimmer have a bad shoulder, she also had the flu.
She walked the short walk between her practice and the City Gym. Sasha would still be there, coaching the elite groups. A smile spread on her face. It was spring outside, a season Payson loved. Not too warm, not too cold. Perfect jeans and t-shirt weather.
Heading inside the gym she took her sunglasses off. From the door of the gym she could see her wonderful husband on the floor. By the looks of it he was scolding a group of young girls. When he was done, and the girls walked away with hanging heads, he spotted her. The smile on his lips still made her heart flutter.
"Hi," she said when he came closer.
He walked right up and kissed her. "Hi Dr. Keeler Belof," he said.
"My friends just call me Payson," she joked.
He laughed. "There's some messages for you in the office."
"Thanks," she said. "I'll get right to that before Rose Green comes in. Apparently her x-ray didn't look good."
"Damn," Sasha sighed. "More rest it is."
"Rest? I have her working hard, thank you very much."
"Sorry," he said, raised hands as if prepared to defend himself.
"Go back to work silly husband," she smiled and gently slapped him on the shoulder.
Payson walked over to the office she shared with her husband. On her desk a couple of new post-it notes were stuck on her computer screen. It was the only way she would see them, if they were stuck to the screen, the rest of her desk was a sea of notes, books and papers. Always having been a very neat person, it wasn't like Payson to have a mess of a desk. She blamed it on Sasha, his desk was even worse.
"Pay! Please tell daddy that he's stupid!"
Payson looked up with a smile. "Hi Allie," she got down on the young girls level and hugged her goddaughter. "What's Austin doing now?" she asked the five year old dressed in a bright pink leotard.
"He's not letting me do my new trick on the beam!"
Payson couldn't help smiling at the tiny girl. She loved gymnastics far too much for her own good. "Allie, if your dad says you're not ready, you probably should listen to him."
"But I'm really good," Allie pouted. "Please?"
Payson could never say no to the girl. Her hazel eyes, brown hair and always so emotional face was impossible to refuse.
"Is she trying to manipulate you again?" Austin suddenly asked from the door.
"No," Payson said, standing and turning around to face her best friend.
"She so was," Austin said, looking between his daughter and Payson. "You need to learn to say no, Pay."
Payson turned Allie around and shrunk down to the same level as her goddaughter again. "But look at this face!" she said, pointing especially on the dimples. "How could I say no to it?"
Austin just shook his head. "Allie go back to your group now or Becca will be mad at you."
Allie stomped out of the office, still pouting.
"She'll be the death of me," Austin said, leaning against the doorway as he spoke. "Imagine her starting to do more difficult tumbling passes or vaults," he shook his head. "I'll have my first heart attack before 35."
Payson smiled. "Our parents went through the same thing," she said. "I think you'll survive."
"You're right," he said with a sigh. "I don't know how they did it though... I'm terrified every time she just hangs from the bars or walk over the beam."
"You'll get used to it," Payson said, patting her friends shoulder before looking out the office door and spotting the group of kids over on the floor. "How's it going for Becca?"
Becca was teaching some of the younger groups a few night a week. She had no intention of becoming an elite coach, but she was very good with the kids.
"Good, she said she didn't need any help."
"Good," Payson said and walked back inside to sit down at her desk. "How's Kelly? I meant to call last night, but time kind of just disappeared."
"She's okay," Austin said, nodding. "Tired and nauseous."
"We'll come by for dinner tomorrow, tell her I bring desert."
Austin nodded and waved before heading out to the gym, back to the group of boys that had scattered around the gym.
Payson looked out over the gym again. She saw Allie run over to her group of young children doing "tumbling" on floor. Allie was a natural, and she was fearless, a combination that would either get her far, or get her injured. Payson couldn't think about it too much. She loved her goddaughter, but it would have been so much easier, and calmer, if Allie hadn't liked gymnastics.
She woke up from the daydreaming when Allie waved for her to look. Payson nodded to indicate she had understood. Allie then took off running and performed a tumbling pass most eight year olds wouldn't be able to master. When Allie turned around Payson clapped her hands and smiles. The younger girl smiled and then pointed at the beam. Payson shook her head. Allie pouted and Payson couldn't help laughing.
Payson spent half an hour consoling a crying gymnast and treating his twisted ankle after the boy blew a landing on the vault. With two years until the next Olympics everyone pushed themselves harder and harder to make the team going to worlds in the end of the summer. It was difficult to watch, even more so than when it had been Becca. Becca was never injured, not more than a twisted ankle after a vault, and some soreness in her knee. As the boy walked out of the gym, leaning on a friend for support, with a hanging head Payson felt almost as sad herself. She wished she could help them all.
"Pay! Pay! Look at me!" Allie called from the floor. Payson nodded and the girl took off once again, running before flipping and twisting over the floor. It was a combination she had mastered at seven or eight, herself. She clapped her hands and Allie came running over.
"Can't I try it on the beam? Pllllleassss?" Allie's puppy eyed look was impossible to deny.
Payson looked around the gym. Austin was working with a group of boys on the rings in the other part of the large gym. She looked back over at Allie, who now looked like she was about to burst with excitement. Payson cursed herself as she nodded.
"Fine, one time Allie," she said and came down from the office and followed Allie who had already sprinted over to the beam. The young girl was so short that she had to work really hard to climb up on the high beam.
"Start with a simple cartwheel Allie," she said, stopping the girl just before she was about to throw herself into a combination.
Payson wasn't sure how Allie was so good. It must simply be in her blood. Without any hesitation, the girl just did a cartwheel and landed as if her feet were glued to the beam under her.
"Okay, try it," Payson said as Allie looked impatiently at her.
Holding her breath she watched Allie throw herself into the same combination as she had done on the floor. Payson felt her body tense, prepared to try to catch the girl if she would fall. But of course she didn't, Allie never fell. She landed perfectly with straight back and raised arms.
Payson clapped her hands as Allie smiled largely.
"Allie and Payson!"
Austin's bark made Payson jump. She turned an looked at Austin and Sasha, both glaring at them.
"Payson said I could do it," Allie said, jumping down from the beam and moving to stand beside Payson.
"She did the puppy eyes!" Payson said. Looking at her oh so handsome husband, giving her his serious face, it felt like she was transferred ten years back in time. Her stomach fluttered and she had to work hard to keep a smile from showing on her lips.
"Allie, go back to your group before Becca notices that you're gone!" Austin said. Looking sternly at his daughter.
"Sorry," Allie whispered to Payson and ran over to Becca and the young children now practicing on a small version of a vault.
"You're impossible," Austin said to Payson as he shook his head, crossing his arms over his chest.
"She begged me, you know I can't say no to her! I tried!" Payson defended herself. Sasha looked very amused about the whole situation. He was smiling as he watched her getting scolded by her friend.
"You're both impossible!" Austin said, also noticing Sasha's smile. Austin stomped away, leaving Payson and Sasha bursting with laughter.
Payson let Austin calm down for ten minutes before heading over to the second office which he shared with the other assistant coaches. It was only Austin in the room, he was doing something on the computer as she knocked on the door.
"Sorry about falling for her charm," Payson offered with a small smile. "And I'm very sorry about me and Sasha behaving inappropriate and laughing at you."
Austin sighed. "I'm not angry."
Payson knew that, he was never really mad at her. "I knew she would be able to do it, she was so secure on the floor. I would never do anything to jeopardize her health."
"I know that Payson, chill."
He motioned for her to sit down and she took the invite. Her feet were always hurting these days.
"She's good," Payson said.
"She is," Austin nodded. "Why couldn't she had been the clumsiest kid ever? Or hated all sports?"
Payson smiled. "You don't mean that," she said, even if she had thought the same thing herself only hours earlier. "And you don't worry, she'll change interests so many times before growing up."
"You're right," Austin nodded. "I'm very glad you're always on Allie's side, thanks."
"Don't worry about it," Payson smiled and got up. "I need to do some work..."
A couple of hours later Payson was done with her work in the gym. She had made a few calls, answered some emails and of course met with Rose who had a stress fracture in her foot. Payson hated to see injured athletes. They were always so sad, but she liked the feeling of helping them.
Getting up from behind the desk she walked over to the wall of windows dividing the office from the gym. The gym was full of gymnasts in different ages, all about to end a long day of training. It was always full speed a head at the city gym. Payson loved it, first working at her own practice and then coming here, to her second home. But it would probably be a little bit less of it in the future.
"I'm heading out," Becca suddenly said from the doorway, causing Payson to jump.
"See you tomorrow at Kelly's?" she asked.
Becca nodded. "Can Jay get a ride with you? I'll have to stay late at school so I thought I would head over there straight from the library."
"Sure," Payson said. "We'll leave from here at seven."
While Becca was now in college, Jason was still practicing gymnastics full time. He'd done one Olympics, and was now working toward a second. It looked good. He probably weren't going to do as well as Becca had, a couple of years ago, but he would hold his own. A result like the one Becca had accomplished probably wouldn't be seen for years and years, if ever.
"You look a little pale, everything okay?" Becca asked, coming further into the office.
"Everything is great," Payson said with a smile.
"Like great-great?" Becca asked, face very neutral.
"Like fantastic," Payson's smile grew.
Becca smiled broadly. "Good to hear," she said.
Payson hugged her sister good bye and waved to Jason who came out from the changing room. She was still very relieved that she hadn't managed to scare Jason off all those years ago. He and Becca might have had their ups and downs, like everyone, but it was hard to imagine life without him. After the Olympics two years ago, about the same time Payson and Sasha got married, they had moved in together in a very nice apartment just outside campus.
Payson shook her head, waking up from her sentimental daydreaming. She watched as the gymnast filed out one after one, waving to them as they waved to her before leaving. Allie came into the office to hug her before leaving with Austin. Lastly it was just Payson and her husband left. She walked out to him where he was moving some mats.
"Are you coming?" she asked. It was getting late and she was starving.
"Coming love," he said, throwing the last mat on the pile.
"I thought we would go out to eat," Payson said. "Maybe that Italian restaurant?"
"What are we celebrating?" Sasha asked, not really looking at her before he started putting away the weight bans.
"That I'm pregnant?" it was more a question than a statement. The sentence that was, she was sure of the facts.
He turned to face her. "What?" he asked, a smile playing on his lips.
She just smile.
"No, what did you say?" he ask, coming closer. It was clear that he had heard what she had said.
"I said I'm pregnant," she smiled, feeling tears pressing behind her eyes as she saw his smile. He pulled her into a tight embrace and she hid her face in the crook of his neck. For how long had she dreamed about telling him those news by now? Three years?
"Are you sure?" he asked.
"I took three tests," she mumbled against his skin.
"We're going to be parents?"
She nodded and felt a tear escape as she watched a tear roll down his cheek. "We're going to be parents," she said the words out loud for the first time, leaning back to look him in the eyes.
"I never thought I would feel happier than when I married you," he said, wiping the tears from her cheeks. "I was wrong. I love you so much. And I'll love our baby more than anything in this world."
"I'm counting on it," Payson said and kissed her husband. "I love you too, by the way."
Thank you, all of you, for your support. It's meant everything for me. I can't believe I actually finished this.
I know I talked about other fics before, and I've started writing, but I can't make any promises about when and if I'll upload them. It's just a bit up in the air for me now. I still write though, both miobi and other fandoms and original fiction. So maybe there'll be more from me, I just can't say when.
Again, thank you all. I love you for sticking with me :)