A/N: I wrote this a little while ago to explain how Sasha knew about them going to that keg party, and of course it turned into something Sasha/Payson. There is a smutty companion piece to this posted over on my livejournal (username flowerchild3286) and another chapter to post on here in a couple of days.
Sasha moved to Cambria to hide. He was man enough to admit that; he just wished he'd been man enough to stay bloody hidden.
That had been the plan, to stay hidden, and none of the fourteen voice messages that Steve Tanner left for Sasha had made a dent in his resolve. He had no interest in returning to gymnastics and if Tanner hadn't been so persistent then that would have been the end of the story.
There was only one thing that could ever induce Sasha Belov to leave his hiding place and it wasn't at Denver Elite, but when Steve showed up in California, Sasha couldn't help but push. He tried to pass it off as interest in the Rock girls as a team, and he thought Steve bought it, but there was only one reason and one person that he was coming back to the sport: Payson Keeler.
Nobody but his father knew that he had very briefly considered a return to coaching about five years ago. Payson made her elite debut that year and Sasha had never seen so much potential in a gymnast. He knew he could take her to the Olympics, but he doubted himself enough to seek out his father's advice before speaking to the Keelers. He and his father disagreed on nearly everything, but Sasha could at least trust Dmitri to be honest if he thought it was a bad idea. He didn't, and Sasha called Payson's gym in Minnesota the next day, but it was too late. She had already been head-hunted by Marty.
He spent five years wishing for another opportunity to work with her, but now that he had it, he wanted to go back to Cambria, because something happened over those five years that Sasha hadn't counted on. Payson Keeler grew up.
It was the eyes that did him in. There was a fire and passion in them that wasn't suited to a sixteen year old girl, and they had barely exchanged two words before he found himself wondering what those eyes would look like while she was making love. He should have climbed in the car and left that instant, but then she said she needed him and he was lost.
Once he opened the door to the attraction, he couldn't shut it out. He noticed the curve of her breast and hip, fantasized about tangling his fingers in her long blonde hair, wanted to taste her lips, and again and again he imagined her eyes. At first he thought only about her eyes as she fell apart beneath him, but as the day wore on it got worse. He paced around his small hotel room and thought not only about making love to her, but also about the way her eyes must look as she lay drowsy after sex, or in the first few moments after waking in his arms the next morning. This naturally led to picturing the light in her eyes when she laughed, their fire when she was angry, their glow when she told him she loved him. That was the moment that he knew he was well and truly buggered.
The best thing to do would be to leave, but he already told her that he would stay and he couldn't bring himself to betray that trust. Somehow abandoning her and her dream seemed like an even worse betrayal than his feelings already were. The only other solution he could find was to get pissed out of his mind and try to forget about her. To that end, he headed out to find the nearest liquor store.
The store seemed to cater mostly to university kids but it served his purpose anyway. He ignored the boys buying kegs and filled his arms with beer of his own. He was nearly out the door when he registered what they were talking about—some teenage girl doing a keg stand at the party by the lake. There was no reason for Sasha to be suspicious, really, but his gut instinct said this had something to do with his gymnasts. How many girls could do an unassisted handstand on top of a keg, much less when they were drunk?
He loaded his beer into the passenger seat of his rental car and headed toward the lake. It wasn't difficult to find the party; all he had to do was follow the trail of drunken gits hanging out the passenger side of cars and yelling nonsense.
Leo Cruz had been on the elite circuit for a few years, so when Sasha saw the young man climbing out of an SUV a few car lengths away, he recognized him immediately. He recognized the girls Leo met there, too. Payson, Kaylie, and Emily.
It was immediately clear who did the keg stand. Kaylie was the only one drunk enough to do something so stupid. In fact, the others didn't look drunk at all. Emily simply looked uncomfortable and Payson looked downright annoyed at being put in the situation. She had a chip on her shoulder, Sasha thought. He found it rather adorable, which reminded him of exactly why he was driving around Boulder with a seat full of beer. He was supposed to be forgetting her, not stalking her.
Once they were gone, he circled his car around to head back to this hotel, but he didn't make it out in time to miss Steve Tanner's obnoxious Hummer pulling into the party. Did these girls know nothing about breaking rules? If you were sneaking out to a party then you bloody well shouldn't drive a car with your last name plastered all over it. He would have to show them that their sneaking skills weren't good enough. It could be fun to punish Payson. She was probably the kind of person who got off on it, much like he did—but he wasn't supposed to be thinking about her.
He made it through the first six pack in record time, and after that he forgot the point of the exercise. He went from trying not to think about Payson to blatantly thinking about her in every context possible—sex, love, marriage, having children, growing old together. Pandora's box was open, and if he couldn't find a way to shut it soon he was going to ruin everything.