Yes, another Payson/Sasha story. I can't help it, I love them together and I miss the show.
This is kind of AU. It's set after Nationals, Payson still broke her back but in my story she has the surgery after four weeks, not three months. And the competition in France for the National Team happens before the meet against China, not after.
Summary: After the surgery that fixed her back, Payson is ready to make her come back and be reinstated on the National Team. Even if she's ready, the NGO refuses her request anyway. Because of her accident, the NGO doesn't trust her to be consistent and dependable when they need her to be. There's only one person left in the Gymnastic World that really believes in her and that will help her in her path to greatness. Sasha helps her find her inner artistry in time for the meet against China. But because of the hours spent together, they become closer than either of them expected. Kind of AU.
It's more of less a rewrite of the second half of season2 with pieces from the second half of season1, starting from after the surgery.
NEVER, EVER GIVING UP
"It feels like I have lost this fight
They think that I am staying down
But I'm not giving up tonight
Tonight the wall is coming down"
(One more by Superchick)
He saw it happening in slow motion. Payson, about to attempt the Shaposhnikova that he saw her doing a million times before. This time though, the hands didn't remain on the high bar like they were supposed to, they were slipping and she was falling. He tried to run, in time to catch her, even though he already knew he wouldn't reach her in time. The fall was terrible to watch and he just knew that she was going to fall on her neck. A part of him couldn't believe it was happening, the other part on the other end kept telling him that this was his fault, he shouldn't have left her compete, not with her back in those conditions. He was near her now but it was too late. She wasn't moving and he was terrified. He tried calling her name but she wasn't answering. Her parents in the meantime were running down the stands and the paramedics were laying her out in a stretcher. She still wasn't moving.
Kim was the first to arrive at her side, Mark a few seconds later. She too was calling her name. Payson said something in that moment that sounded like "I didn't take it", but he had no idea what she was referring to. A few minutes later they were taking her away and her parents were following after her.
He didn't know how he convinced his other gymnasts to concentrate on the competition when the only thing he could think about was Payson. The guilt was eating at him together with the fear. What if Payson couldn't do gymnastics again? Or worse? He couldn't even bear the thought of this happening.
Even when Kaylie became the New National Champion and both Lauren and Emily were chosen for the National Team, he still wasn't able to enjoy the moment. And he wouldn't, not until he had had the certainty that Payson will be ok.
When she woke up she realized she was in a hospital room. She realized she was wearing a neck collar and a back brace. For a minute she couldn't remember what had happened and why she was there, then the incident on the uneven bars came back to her. She froze for a moment remembering the sensations of falling, the ground coming closer and then the nothingness. She had fainted for a few minutes and had regain consciousness just to tell her parents that she hadn't taken the cortisone, even if she could have. It had seemed important in that moment.
In that exact moment, like summoned by her thoughts, her parents entered the room. She didn't like the expression they both were wearing on their faces. A few seconds later she realized why.
She couldn't believe what she was hearing. No, it couldn't be over, not now, not like this. They had to be wrong. The doctors had to be wrong.
She didn't cry often but in that moment she felt like her entire world was crushing down on her and she couldn't help it. Her dream, everything that she had given up to achieve it, all destroyed now. What she was going to do now? What was she without gymnastics?
For the first time in her life she was without a purpose, her future a black hole. She couldn't stop crying. Even hours later, when she was that tired all she was able to do was sleep, the tears still marred her face.
He entered her room well past midnight. He hadn't been able to come earlier what with the press and all the things post-competition that he had to attend to. It was well past the time for visit hour but he had convinced, with a little flirting, one of the nurses to let him see her. She was sleeping but there were tears still on her face. The sight made his heart clench. He had called Kim just after the end of the competition, and she had told him what the doctors had said. She couldn't do gymnastics ever again, not if she still wanted to be able to walk. It seemed impossible to believe, the great Payson Keeler unable to do the thing she loved the most. And he was all his fault. If he had prevented her to compete all of this wouldn't have happened.
Still, he wasn't going to give up so easily. He was going to contact all the back surgeons in the States if he had to, and if that wasn't enough, he would contact all the best back-surgeons in the world. There had to be one of them able to operate her, to allow her to keep pursuing her dream. He had to try, for her and for himself, and stop only when there were no other options to try.
Only a week had passed since Nationals, but it had been the longest of her life. She had spent her time at home, dragging herself all over the house, not knowing what to do. She wasn't used to having spare time, even during the weekends she went to the gym to train. Now though all she had to do was study.
She couldn't seem to accept her situation, no matter how much she tried to do so. She wasn't ready to give up her dream, even when the doctors hadn't given her any hope. At night she dreamt of coming back at the gym, ready to train like nothing had happened, better than ever, and every time she woke up finding out it was just an illusion hurt more each time.
Yesterday she had gone to the gym for the first time since her accident, thinking that maybe being at the Rock again, the place she had always found herself the most comfortable in, could make her feel better, but she was wrong. She had only felt worse. Even talking to Sasha hadn't had any use.
He had proposed her to coach with him and the only thing she could think as a answer was shouts and insults. Not that she had really scream at him, she knew what had happened to her wasn't at all his fault but still. How could he think that she could be happy training other people and help them achieve the dream she couldn't fulfill anymore?
And come Monday she had to begin high school for the first time in her life, like what she was already going through wasn't enough. In front of her parents she smiled, pretending she was fine, but inside she was miserable and she didn't think her situation could improve any time soon.
Three weeks. That was how much time had passed since Nationals and he hadn't found anything yet. He had asked all the doctors that he knew about if there was a possibility to do the operation to Payson's back but without results. It really seemed there was no hope for her. And more time passed and more were the possibilities that even after finding some doctor that could operate her, she still wasn't going to be the gymnast she once was. The situation seemed really hopeless. But he couldn't give up, even if all the odds were against her. Payson Keeler was a champion and she would be a champion again if he had anything to say about it.
He didn't even know why, when she had came to the Rock for the first time after the accident, he had propose her to coach at the gym. Maybe after seeing her like this, so insecure and uncertain, almost afraid she wasn't welcome in the gym anymore, he had hoped it could make her feel better, showing her that she still did have at place at the Rock even without being a gymnast anymore. But he should have known that that wasn't a great idea. Of course she couldn't be happy to train future Olympians when for all she knew she hadn't any hope of being one anymore. He had still hope though and he would find a solution sooner or later, he just knew it.
High school was a nightmare, just like she thought it would be. She hadn't been able to fit in, the only people she talked to were outsiders like her. Her first day of school she met a boy, Ike, that seemed to understand, at least partially, what she was going through. At the end though, all she was doing was being bitter and angry and not moving forward. She realized she couldn't keep hoping for some miracle that would magically fix her back.
It was why she had decided to go to the Homecoming dance tomorrow. She was a normal high school student now and she had to accept it. And what normal students do? They go to High School Dances.
That was it. The miracle they had all hope for. He had received the call just minutes ago. Doctor Clijster, an orthopedic surgeon, had heard about Payson's case and said she had develop a new procedure that could fix Payson's back. And just four weeks had passed since her accident. She could be ready to train even in two weeks. He couldn't stop smiling. Now all he had to do was call Kim Keeler and give her the good news.
Four weeks had passed since she had her surgery. And two weeks since she had started training again. She was back and she was ready to do gymnastics again but she was far from being the gymnast she once was before the accident. It was why she was standing where she was now, in front of Sasha's airstream, at eight o'clock on a Sunday morning.
She took a deep breath before knocking on the door, hoping Sasha would listen to what she had to say. She heard some noises from the inside before the blond head of her coach appeared before her. He blinked his eyes for a few seconds before speaking: "Payson…" from the tone of his voice it was obvious he was asking what she was doing here.
"I'm sorry to bother you Sasha but I really needed to talk to you. It's important."
"Okay, let's go talk in my office." He seemed pretty bewildered but accepted her request despite that.
A few minutes later he was opening the doors and turning on the lights, before going up the stairs to his office, Payson following after him.
"So what did you want to talk to me about?" She was nervously wringing her hands and wasn't looking at him. Maybe it hadn't been such a good idea after all but she couldn't waste anymore time. She needed to be reinstated in the National team or she won't be able to compete at Worlds. And without Worlds, she could say goodbye to her dream of going to the Olympics.
"Did you know that the first international meet of the National Team is in two months? They'll compete in France and I want to be there. I want to petition for the reinstatement in the team during that meet."
"Payson…" She knew that tone, the one he used every time she wanted to add a new move on her routine he didn't approve of. The one that said: "Don't be stubborn, I'm your coach, I know what's best for you!" Still nobody had believed she was going to be able to do gymnastics again but here she was, with her back healed, ready to be the number one once again. If she had overcome something like that, there was no reason why she couldn't return to have the same level she once had.
"I know what you're going to say, that it's too soon, that I lost muscle mass in the six weeks I spent without doing gymnastics…I know all of that, but I also know that I didn't do the surgery just to be able to do gymnastics again. I did that surgery to be the best once again. I will go back to the gymnast I was or I will quit, I can't be content with anything else, you know that. And I'm very stubborn. You know I'll do it even without you but I'd prefer to have your help. I'll come early every day and stay late and I'll train even on Sundays if I had to, but please tell me you'll help me. I need you Sasha, you know as well as I do that I can't do it without you." She was resorting to plead now but she really needed his help.
"Payson you have to know that you'll need time to regain the power you've lost, maybe a lot of time, and I don't think two months are really long enough. But I'll help you in any way I can, I can promise you that. But first you need to see something." Payson watched as Sasha came closer to the scale he had in his office.
"You want to weigh me?" Sasha shook his head, telling her to stand on it. He was measuring her for whatever reason. She knew how tall she was.
"Look for yourself." She looked at him strangely before watching the scale herself. 5 feet 4.
"No, this is wrong I'm 5 feet 3. "
"You were 5 feet 3 before your injury but you've had a growth spurt during your time without training."
"No, I can't be growing, I was already at a disadvantage before because I was already too tall for a power gymnast but now?"
"Payson, listen to me. You can still regain your strength and power but your body will need to get used to the one inch difference. This means we'll need to start with simple exercises and then upping the difficulty gradually. You can't just try your old routines and expecting to be able to do it like you did it before. You have to be patient, in time they'll come to you again."
"But that's the problem, I don't have time, I have to be ready in two months."
"Okay, let's make a deal. If I deem you ready to ask for petition in two months time then you'll go to France and I will come with you. But if you're not ready for that time you will listen to me and you will wait. Remember, you have only one chance to be reintegrated on the team, I don't want you to waste it."
Payson trusted Sasha but it was difficult to accept that she'll need who knows how much time before returning to her former self. In the mean time all the other gymnasts will have upgraded even more all of their routines and she would have found it even harder to reach their level. At the end though she didn't have much of a choice.
"Okay. But I'll do anything I can to be ready in two months."
"I know you'd said that. If there's one thing I know about you Payson Keeler is that if you put your mind on it, you can do anything".
She smiled at that. He knew her well.
"So I was wondering if I could start trying today. We're here anyway." He laughed at that but nodded.
"Of course. Never waste time if you can't help it. I'll have a schedule ready for you tomorrow morning with your new training regime. Be here at six. Now we go for a run and then you can start conditioning."
"What are we waiting for then?"