The Chance of a Lifetime - Chapter 1
Summary: Since she was six Payson always dreamt of becoming an elite gymnast and go to the Olympics. However her mother, who worked as a dance teacher, at the 'St Paul Ballet Academy', always wanted for her to become a ballerina. Therefore Payson never really pursued that dream, she merely kept doing gymnastics at a public gym near her house. When her mother suddenly dies in a car accident, Payson is forced to leave Minnesota, where she lived all her life, and going to leave with her uncle and aunt, Mark and Kim Keeler, in Boulder, house of one of the best gymnastic club in the Country and one of the greatest coaches in the world, Sasha Belov. The tragedy that has suddenly hit her thus becomes an unexpected opportunity to make her apparently impossible dream come true.
Alternate Universe. Payson in this story is Mark and Kim's niece. She had never competed at Nationals. She's completely unknown in the Gymnastic World.
Marty trains the Denver Elite Club and Kelly Parker, current National Champion. Kaylie is the second best gymnast in the Country and number one at the Rock. Sasha has been the Rock's coach from two years. Kaylie and Lauren trains at the Rock since they were little. Emily since she was thirteen, three years. The three of them are best friends.
Since this is actually an AU story, the background and events leading to the beginning of this fiction may change, not only regarding Payson but the other characters too. Possible OOC characters. You have been warned!
Disclaimer: I don't own Make it or Break it, nor any of its characters. If I did, Payson and Sasha would be together.
Someone was knocking at the door of his airstream. A progressive thud that shocked him from slumber. Who was bothering him at this hour on a Sunday morning? Sunday was the only day of the week when he wasn't forced to wake up at dawn to train. It didn't seemed so but he liked to sleep in, and if someone awaked him in the only free day he had, well, he became more than a little grumpy. "Bloody Hell" He murmured, eyes still closed, accent thicker than ever just awake.
"Coming, coming!" he answered grumbling, when the knocking on his airstream didn't give sign of stopping anytime soon. He stood up reluctantly, hair a mess.
"Yes?" he asked rudely, while opening the door without bothering to check on his appearance first. That was until he found out who was that had woken him. It was Kim Keeler along with a blonde girl he had never seen before. The hair tied at the top of her head with a bun and the way she was standing reminded him of a ballerina. She had her head turned slightly and was trying very hard not to look at him, a slight blush covering her cheeks, an amused smile barely visible on her lips. For a second he couldn't understand what was wrong until he realized he was wearing his boxer shorts and nothing else. He had the sudden urge to blush along with her.
"Hello Kim!" he said somewhat shyly "Can you wait just a minute until I put some clothes on?"
"Oh, of course Sasha; I'm sorry to have come without warning you first but I was hoping to ask you for a favor."
"What can I do for you?" he answered from inside the trailer, while putting on a shirt and jeans on. A moment later he was standing outside looking curiously at Kim and her companion.
"This is Payson, my niece." Kim introduced with a wave of her hand in the girl's direction. "She's from Minnesota. Her mother died just a few weeks ago and since yesterday she's living with us. She loves doing gymnastics and would like to train at the Rock."
"How old are you?" he asked her directly.
"Sixteen Mr Belov." She answered somewhat awestruck. He received often that reaction from people so he wasn't particularly surprised. What made him grimace was the use of his surname. "Just Sasha. Mr Belov is my father."
"Oh, okay. It's a pleasure meeting you Sasha." She said extending her hand. They shake hands, hers warm and smooth in contrast with his calloused one. "So, in which gym you used to train? The ?"
"Yeah, the St. Paul Ballet Academy." Payson answered ironically. Then she continued more seriously. "I have never trained in a gym like the Rock before. Just a public gym, near my house."
"I know that usually you don't accept gymnasts unless they are competition-ready." Kim interjected cautiously."But I was hoping you could make an exception."
He was already starting to shake his head, about to refuse their request. A ballerina who never trained in a serious gym, wanted to be an elite gymnast?
When Payson began speaking again though he stopped, listening to what she had to say. "I know that you think it's just a whim on my part but it's not. I love gymnastics, more than I've ever loved ballet, and that's saying a lot. I always wanted to be a gymnast more that I've ever wanted to be a ballerina, but I guess I never pursued that dream because I wanted to make my mother proud, making the ballet my career. But now, I realized that, if there is even a slight chance to achieve the dream that I had since I was six years old, when I saw a gymnastics competition for the first time, then I should grab this opportunity. I know it's a lot to ask but I just need a chance. If, after showing you what I can do you still think I'm not ready to train at this gym, I promise I won't bother you again but please can you just spare judgment until after having observed my routines?" Her voice was strong, her tone without an hint of uncertainty, very different from the shy girl of just a moment ago.
"Okay. But I promise you I'll be brutally honest. If I think you have no talent, I'll tell you that without the slightest remorse." He was trying to scare her, he had no problem admitting it.
"I know." She was smiling now, amused but not surprised by his words. "And Thank You". She had a really beautiful smile, he couldn't help but notice. He nods in response before turning around, keys in hand, ready to open the gym, the whispered "Why does he live in a Airstream?" question catching his ears. He couldn't help but smirk at the familiar reaction his unusual choice in living arrangement always caused.
The truth was, he could easily rent an apartment, but living this close to the gym was first of all practical, but it was also a way to scare the less dedicated gymnasts and a way to always keeping an eye on what was happening in his gym.
Once inside he told Payson to start stretching and that he was going to have a few words with Kim. When both were inside his office he closed the door, the situation calling for privacy.
"Thank you for giving her a chance Sasha, I know that's very important to her." Kim said, gratefully. Her tone implied that it was important for Kim too.
"Don't thank me yet." He warned her. "I meant what I said earlier, if Payson is not good enough to train at this gym than I can't let her stay here. Even if she's your niece I can't make exceptions, you know that."
"I know. Just… she had a difficult few weeks between her mother's death and the moving in another state. If doing gymnastics can help her feel better…."
"I get it, believe me, I do." He said, thinking about her mother and how doing gymnastics helped him get over her death. "But I don't think that she'll be happy if the only reason she's permitted to train here is because of pity, isn't it? Anyway what's her story? How her mother died?"
"In a car accident. About two months ago." Kim answered, her tone sad, for Payson or her sister-in-law, he couldn't say.
"And her father? Where is he?"
"Her father isn't in the picture. We don't even know who he is. Lisa got pregnant when she was nineteen. She was in Boston at the time, dreaming of becoming a ballerina and studying in one of the best dance school in the country. Until suddenly she's back in Minnesota, pregnant, her dream abandoned, and without telling anyone who was the father of the child she was carrying. Mark and I were still engaged at the time. You can imagine the family's reaction. Anyway she had the baby as you can see and I think she was content if not happy with the life she had. Of course it must have been difficult raise a child all by herself but she has done well. She worked as a dance teacher at the 'St Paul Academy' and I see the way Payson talks about her, she was very proud of her mom. I can't even imagine what she's going through right now. "
Sasha didn't know what to say to that. What he was feeling wasn't pity but compassion. He partly knew what Payson was going through. He too had lost her mother when he was young and it had been really difficult to accept. But he had still a father that, even if they didn't always get along, loved him. Payson never even knew his. Still she had Kim and Mark in her life now and they were wonderful people. He hoped she was going to be okay.
He shook those thoughts from his head. Now he had to be an impartial coach, he couldn't let himself feel sorry for her. Not when he had to decide if she was good enough for this gym. Unfortunately very few people that came from a public gym had really the potential to make of gymnastics their career, partially because they didn't train enough hours to achieve the level necessary to achieve excellence, and partially because they simply didn't have the talent. Payson was already sixteen years old, it would have been very rare if she had actually the talent required.
"Ok, I think now it's the time for the evaluation, she had waited long enough."
He exited the door and went down the stairs until he was standing in front of her. Payson was standing, hands on her hips, face determined. She was wearing a simple black leotard, more similar to those wore by ballerinas than gymnasts. But after all she was a ballerina. She was also taller than the usual height for gymnasts, maybe 5 feet 4, but that wasn't necessary a bad thing. Emily Kmetko was tall too, even taller than her, but she was an exceptional gymnast.
"Okay, show me what you can do." He said to her, looking directly in her blue eyes. "What do you want to do first?"
"Bars if that's okay for you."
He only nodded in response, watching her chalking her hands and then placing herself in front of the low bar. The beginning of her routine was pretty simple, her mount a glide kip on the low bar, one of the easiest. Except that the difficulty was increasing more and more release after release. The lines were perfect, toes pointed, knees always close together, with the illusion that both her arms and legs were miles long. It was beautiful to watch, even the more difficult transition looked extremely easy. There was grace and elegance in every movement, a meticulous execution that reminded him of Nastia Liukin. Except that there was also power in every transition between bars, the search of the height, the strength that was typical of a power gymnast. It was a perfect mix that he had never seen before today, not even in Kaylie or Kelly Parker that, no matter how good they were at charming the audience, were fundamentally power gymnasts. She finished the routine with a double salto backwards straight, a D level, but there was easily enough space to add a full twist. She touched the mat with both feet, knees slightly bent to cushion the landing, not even the slightest hop. He counted mentally the degree of difficulty of her routine and shook his head incredulous: 6.7; Amazing. Just three tenth of a point lower than Emily Kmekto, the best in the Country on the Uneven Bars, and two tenths lower than Kaylie. And he was sure that if she had been in a real competition she would have gained an almost perfect score. It seemed incredible that she had reached such a level all on her own. He was already busy thinking how he could up her DOD before Nationals when he realized that Payson was watching him expectantly. He knew his face revealed nothing and it was best this way, she would have to wait the end of the rotation to hear his opinion.
"Vault next." He only said. Her face fell slightly for a second before changing to determination. He was impressed.
"Two vaults, two different groups. You know how this work. Do your two best vaults ok?"
She nodded before preparing herself, closing her eyes for a moment and then she was running. She touched the springboard with both feet, before touching the vault with both hands, launching herself in an handspring front layout with an half-twist. And she stuck the landing with no problem. Her lines perfect even on vault. 5.4, not a really high DOD but she would have gained high points in execution. And there was room for improvement.
She didn't turn to watch his reaction this time, just returning at the beginning of the run, preparing herself a second time and then she begun to run, a Yurchenko with one and half twist and then she landed, flawless once again.
"Beam." He merely said. In this particular event the fact that she was a ballerina was very evident. She began her routine with a walkover forward through handstand and then she immediately launched into a switch split ring leap. Most of her routine was composed by dance elements and she really looked like she was just simply dancing in these four inches of wood. None of his gymnasts could hope to achieve such perfect lines, not even Kaylie, whose style resembled a little Payson's. Lauren too, the best gymnast in the Country on beam, was a power gymnast, her beam routines consisting mostly in high difficult acrobatic elements. Her DOD was lower that both Kaylie's and Lauren's but not by much, and like always the execution scores would be an almost perfect ten.
"Floor now. Do you have a routine prepared?" he asked ready for a negative answer.
"Yeah. I guess. It is just something I put together watching the other performances in television and my knowledge of the Ballet."
"Ok. Do you have the music?"
She nodded before pulling the IPod out of her bag. He connected it to the speakers before asking her what song she had chosen.
"Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake." She answered biting her lips uncertain, almost as if she was expecting to be told she wasn't allowed to use it. Of course a ballerina would have chosen something like Tchaikovsky for her floor routine. He almost smiled at that, shaking his head.
"Okay. The floor's all yours." He said winking at her. She smiled shyly before positioning herself at the centre of the mat. The performance was amazing, she could go from a tumbling pass to a grand jeté or a fouetté with ease. But it wasn't the almost perfect execution that captured the attention of those who watched her. It was the emotions she was able to express, the story she was telling with her body.
On beam the execution was something mostly technical, the audience held captive by her elegance and grace, but in this, it was not that what kept his eyes glued on her form. It was the fact that she was flowing with emotions. There was a sadness in it that was almost palpable, but also the hope that things would be better in time. She was telling her story, how she had lost a person very close to her, the abandonment she had felt, maybe even a bit of anger for the injustice of it all. It was simply breathtaking.
It was without a doubt her best event, the dance execution was perfect, the tumbling passes with a high degree of difficulty, and the connection to the piece that touched the heart. When she finished he was certain there were tears in her eyes but the moment after they were gone.
"We'll need to upgrade your vault first of all. Then we'll think of the rest of your routines. Unfortunately there are only eight weeks till Nationals but I think we'll be able to upgrade all of your routines in time." He said without preamble.
"What?" Payson asked, having caught up in what he wasn't saying. Her blue eyes were suddenly huge. "Does this mean I can train here?"
He smiled at the question, like he was going to pass the opportunity to train her after what he saw just now. "Of course you can. You are at Elite Level, without a doubt. The rotation, exactly like you did it right now, would have given you an higher score that anyone in this gym except Kaylie Cruz, who is after all the second best gymnast in the Country, and Emily Kmekto, and her routines are barely higher than yours. With a little bit of work I think you'll easily surpass her."
"Wow. I never thought… I mean I knew I was pretty good or I would never tried to ask to be accepted in this gym but I hadn't realized…." She shook her head, dazed.
"I want you here tomorrow morning at eight sharp, not a minute later. And you should know that if you decide to train here there would be no boys, no parties, nothing that could distract you from gymnastics. You'll think of gymnastics and nothing else until after the Olympics. In two days there will be the Nationals Trails, that we do every year at The Rock. I want you to shine that day. Don't make me regret the opportunity I'm giving you." He added sternly.
"Of course." She answered dazed, then a second later she asked. "Nationals? I'm going to Nationals?"
He nodded and her smile became even more beautiful if that was possible, her eyes shining. He was surprised when a second later he found himself with an armful of Payson Keeler, her soft curves crashing with the hard planes of his chest.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you." She kept chanting, her warm breath caressing his ear, making him shiver slightly. Sasha stayed stiff, not returning the hug, more than a little stunned by her exuberance and by his reaction to her close proximity.
"Oh, sorry." She said a moment later, blushing furiously, before abruptly moving away from him.
"It's fine. You just surprised me a little." He smiled, reassuring her.
"I promise, I won't let you down." She added then, both immediately forgetting the awkwardness of a moment ago.
"I know you won't. Oh, and Payson? Welcome to the Rock!"