I do not own MIOBI; if I did, things would have been a lot different.

I also have no beta, so all mistakes are mine :(

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He was getting better, he was sure of it. Not that Sasha counted because then that would be strange. Counting the number of times he involuntarily searched for Payson in the gym would be stranger than the overpowering need he felt to watch her. He tried to convince himself that he watched her from a purely coaching perspective. After all, she was his best gymnast, the best chance to win overall gold, plus a chance to win a few more in the individual all-around, so it only made sense that he kept an eye on her more so than some of the other girls, he just needed to make sure that she wasn't having any trouble with her new routines, that she didn't need his help.

That's what he told himself anyway. He watched her as any coach would watch his or her athlete. He needed to believe that because the alternative was a road he couldn't go down. He couldn't let himself think that maybe he watched Payson the way a man watched a woman. He needed to believe that his gaze lingered on her legs because he had to make sure she was extending on all her positions during her new floor routine. He couldn't let himself contemplate that the reason he watched her long legs was because he wondered what those legs would feel like wrapped around his waist.

He couldn't, so he wouldn't. It was as simple as that.

But he was getting better, he hadn't look in her direction for at least -

Damn it, he swore silently, he had been watching her this whole time.

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Payson sat on the mat next to Lauren and Kaylie. She had been so distracted trying not to get caught watching Sasha (she didn't needed to endure any more childish gossip) that she missed the beginning of whatever Lauren was talking about. Although knowing Lauren, the topic of conversation was probably Lauren.

"...Carter is so amazing, our relationship is so intense, it's like, you know, the kind of love where you just want the guy to fuck you against a wall," Lauren practically purred.

"I must have missed that verse in Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height. I love thee enough to let you...bang me against a wall." Payson responded completely deadpan.

"Oh my god Payson, you are such a child. You can't even say 'fuck'," Lauren laughed in her most condescending tone, which was saying a lot as Lauren excelled at being condescending.

"Sorry if my vocabulary isn't as varied as yours."

"Come on Payson, you are such a prude, say it, say fuck," Lauren taunted, laying extra emphasis on the 'k' sound in the word. "God, I don't know why I bother, we all know sweet virginal Payson couldn't even imagine fucking someone, let alone say the word." Lauren finished, employing her second favourite tone: haughty bitch.

Payson was officially done with this conversation, "Well, I'd love to stay here and listen to you being crude but I have to work on my bar routine."

Payson ignored the soft laughter coming from Lauren and walked over to the chalk bowl. While she had been planning to work on her floor routine next, she needed an excuse to get away from Lauren and pretending to work on bars was the best excuse she could think of at the time. So what, she didn't say the word 'fuck', that didn't mean anything. And so what if she was still a virgin, better a virgin than a slut who sleeps with other people's boyfriends. So what if everyone else thought that she was boring. She was quiet, pleasant, and obeyed all the rules (except for the one about not kissing your coach, because that seemed less like a rule and more of a suggestion). Payson continue to fume quietly near the chalk bowl unaware of the pair of eyes watching her.

To the casual observer Payson looked, as always, as the epitome of calm and poise. No one would know that her heart was pounding furiously or that she was perilously close to screaming, so it was a good thing that Sasha was not a casual observer.

Despite berating himself only minutes earlier about how he needed to stay away from Payson, Sasha was like a moth to a flame or any other horribly unoriginal cliché. He was simple drawn to her, his feet already on a path towards her before conscious thought entered his brain.

"I thought you were going to work on floor after break."

"I was. I am. I just needed to get away from Lauren. Sometimes she's just too much. She's like Pokey the Bear. Smokey's less helpful, more annoying brother."

Sasha fought the smirk that threatened to break across his face, while Payson's comment was funny (and accurate) as their coach, he needed to stay neutral and not show favouritism.

"Payson," he softly admonished her.

"I know, I know. At least I didn't say it to her face."

"Hurray for small miracles. Now stop thinking about Lauren and focus. Play around on the bars for a little while to clear your head, but after break we work on floor."

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As Payson ran through her floor routine, she couldn't help but think about how she had returned to the scene of the crime. The Kiss. It was either the worst decision of her life or the best. She still wasn't sure.

After the video had been leaked and Sasha had left she was sure that her decision, no matter how impulsive and wonderful, was the worst moment of her life, then when he returned to The Rock and it appeared as though things would return to normal she regretted nothing. In fact, she replayed the kiss, no matter how fleeting, over and over again in her head.

Now she wasn't sure how she felt. She felt stuck in a strange holding pattern. Sasha and she couldn't go back to the way things were, the kiss had happened and there was no way to disperse the air of awkwardness surrounding them. But at the same time they couldn't move forward either. In any other situation when two friends kissed a discussion would be had, should be had, a discussion about whether or not their friendship should move forward, whether or not the kiss had meant something or was just a temporary moment of insanity. However, most friendships weren't clouded by a 13 year age difference and the strange dynamic of a coach slash athlete muddying the waters.

So a discussion was never had about progressing from friendship to a romantic relationship, it couldn't be had. Payson knew that any conversation at this point would be pushing it too soon. She was only 17 years old, still seen as a child by many. Not that Payson hadn't been a mini adult since she was 5 years old. Payson had never had the normal acting-out teenage years; she had been too busy devoting her life to gymnastics. Her goal was to go to the Olympics and win gold. A goal that only Sasha Belov could help her achieve. Which was partly why she needed to iron out her relationship with Sasha. How could she win gold if they weren't on the same page? She needed Sasha, while she may want Sasha in her life personally; she needed him as her coach professionally. As great as Marty had been as her coach, Sasha had gotten more out of her gymnastics in the months that they had spent together than the years she had spent training under Marty.

It was just too confusing. Were her feelings real or simply the only outlet she could think of to express her feelings of gratitude to Sasha? Did Sasha feel the same? Did he feel anything?

If Lauren were in the same situation as Payson found herself in now, knowing Lauren, she would have showed up at the Airstream in the middle of the night in some Victoria Secret number and thrown herself at Sasha.

Payson couldn't imagine in a million years having the confidence to be so sexually forward.

God, maybe Lauren was right (that was a scary thought) maybe she was a prude.

But Payson wasn't like Lauren. Lauren had a wide smile, gorgeous blonde hair (unlike Payson's own dull blonde locks), shining seductive eyes, an infectious laugh, and a curvy body that drew male attention. In comparison to Lauren, Payson faded into the background, which was precisely how Payson had liked it. Until now. She didn't want to be a prude. She wanted Sasha to look at her, really look at her. She wanted to feel sexy and desired. She just didn't know how to go about achieving that. Sometimes she just felt so awkward in her own skin.

Was this always going to be her life? Shying away from things that made her feel uncomfortable?

God, she wished she had just an ounce of Lauren's confidence.

That was another depressing thought. She wasn't even as brave as Lauren.

No, she could do this. She could. If she could throw herself in the air, launching and twisting her body in loops and rotations at the risk of permanent injury then surely she could handle attracting a man.

Even if that man was Sasha.

She could do it. But she had to be smart and careful. So she would wait, wait until she was 18. Her birthday was only a few weeks away. Even though the legal age of consent in Colorado was 17, most people were more comfortable viewing 18 as being the mark from teenager to adulthood.

So she would wait until then, but after that day, all bets were off.

TBC…..

This is my first story for this pairing (I usually write West Wing Josh/Donna stories) so I am a little nervous. I have outlined the whole thing, but as I am currently working on two other stories if there is no interest in this then I won't post any more…let me know what you think :)