|Take the Plunge
Author: thenorthface PM
Slash. COMPLETE. Alex and Shane were synchronized diving partners for years before Alex was injured in a terrible accident. Afterwards, Shane never saw or spoke to him again. When they run into each other three years later at the 2012 Olympics, Alex has to juggle the stress of the competition with all the memories of that fateful day.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance/Angst - Chapters: 3 - Words: 16,043 - Reviews: 28 - Favs: 56 - Follows: 15 - Updated: 10-29-12 - Published: 09-11-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3057616
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Day 4; continued:
As it turned out, Shane's nerves about the preliminaries were not unfounded. That afternoon, Alex watched anxiously as Shane and Jayme's routine started out rough and only worsened with each dive they took.
Shane and Jayme's style on the 3M springboard was high risk, high reward. A diver's total score for a dive had two components: 1. The scores given by eight judges for technique and synchronicity and 2. the degree of difficulty of the dive. The two highest and two lowest judge's scores were dropped and then the remaining four were added together and multiplied by the difficulty. Shane and Jayme preferred to go for high difficulty over perfect technique, so they threw big twists and turns in the air. That also made them more vulnerable to mistakes. It's hard for two people to flip four and a half times without getting out of line with each other.
Alex preferred the opposite technique. He had perfected every detail of his dives, from the point of his toes to the angles of his arms. Where Shane and Jayme might get an 8.5 from a judge, he could get a 10.
Their first dive was fine, if a bit sloppy, but they still pulled 8's from the judges. Then, on the next one, Jayme over-rotated and kicked up a huge splash when he entered the water. On another, Shane's hands slipped and he lost his hold in a tuck. Each round, their scores got progressively lower and they slid further and further in the rankings. For each of their extremely hit or miss dives, they consistently seemed to be missing.
Their few decent dives were the only thing that kept them alive. They barely scraped through, qualifying in 30th place out of 32 spots. Alex found it ironic that Shane had mocked him for "barely" qualifying, when Alex had ended up ranking higher in his own group.
As the last set of scores came through, Jayme turned and furiously threw his water bottle against the wall. Shane just vanished from the arena; one minute he was standing next to his coach, arguing, and the next he was gone.
Shane never handled losing well. He had probably slipped out of a back door to find somewhere he could be alone for a while to calm down. Alex didn't think too much about it until later, when he realized that Shane had never come to dinner.
At 9:30 that night, after no sign of Shane in either the apartment lobby or the weight room, he caved and knocked on Shane's door. Jayme answered. He was wearing sweats from head to toe and Alex could hear the TV on in the background.
"He's not here," Jayme said curtly, upon seeing that it was Alex at the door.
"Do you know where he is?" Alex asked.
"No, I haven't seen him all day."
Alex bit his lip, trying to figure out where Shane could possibly be. "Okay, thank you."
Jayme turned to go back inside. He moved slowly, looking exhausted. Alex reached out to catch the door before it closed. "Hey, are you okay?"
"Just peachy," Jayme replied, the corner of his mouth twisting up to give him an unpleasant expression. "It's been a great day."
"Everyone has a bad meet from time to time," Alex told him. "I know you guys haven't had one in years, but you're still human. You can start over tomorrow."
"I am aware of that," Jayme pointed out. "You should tell my partner that, I'm sure he's handling it much worse than I am."
"He's not the one throwing things on national television," Alex couldn't resist objecting.
Jayme let out a reluctant chuckle. "True, but I got it out of my system and moved on."
"Well I'm going to go look for Shane," Alex said. "I hope your training goes well tomorrow."
Jayme closed the door, and Alex walked down the stairs and out of the apartment.
The night was misty- it was evident that it had rained some time earlier. Alex took a meandering walk around Olympic Village, looking around to see if Shane was sitting anywhere outside. The grounds were desolate. No one seemed inclined to brave the damp grass or wet benches.
The dining hall was closed this late at night, so Shane couldn't be there either. Alex wasn't going to leave the village— if Shane had gone to get drunk somewhere in London that was out of Alex's control. The only place left he could think to check was the water cube. Maybe Shane had gone back to train.
It was almost 11:00 pm. Most athletes had gone to bed by now to prepare for the next round of competition or another long day of practice. When Alex entered the cube he couldn't see a single person inside. All of the lights above the bleachers were off. Most of the gymnasium was illuminated by the bright blue glow of the pool and a few dim lights overhead. The diving boards cast two shadows out on the water; one short, one long. He couldn't even make out the top of the 10M platform; it was so shrouded in darkness.
From the stillness of the water, it was clear that no one had been diving recently. He had almost turned around to walk back to his room when he noticed the lone figure sitting on the opposite side of the cube, all the way at the end of the 50 meter pool. It took Alex a few minutes to walk over to that side because to do so, he had to cross three pools— the diver's pool, a small warm up pool, and the full Olympic length pool the swimmers competed in.
Shane was sitting at the edge of the last pool, his feet dangling into the water. He had changed into a t-shirt and shorts, but his looked hair still looked wet, as if he had only just gotten around to showering.
Alex approached him slowly. "Hey."
"Go away Alex," Shane told him, tiredly.
Instead, Alex kicked off his flip flops and sat down next to him. "Why are you still here?"
Shane scowled. "I'm trying to figure out how today turned into such a fucking train wreck."
"You're over thinking it," Alex said. "There's nothing to figure out. I was there. It was a bad day, that's all."
"I don't have bad days."Shane spat out the words like they gave him a nasty taste in his mouth. "Something went wrong and I just need to figure out how to correct it."
Alex laughed. "You're just going to drive yourself crazy. You still advanced, just wipe the slate clean and start over."
Shane and Alex were both perfectionists, so Alex could understand how he was feeling. Looking back, he recognized that the combination hadn't worked well in their partnership. They would grow too frustrated with each other's mistakes. Neither of them was ever willing to admit when enough was enough and call it a day. Jayme probably didn't put up with Shane's shit. He probably put his foot down when Shane pushed him to work too hard or too long.
But, Alex had always thought they got along well outside of training. Shane rarely hung out with anyone in his free time. He didn't seem to like being around other people, especially in large groups or loud places. Sometimes, though, Alex could coax him to go out for pizza or to play video games. Just before the accident, Shane had even started to open up more; to talk to Alex when he felt worried or frustrated about something.
Of course, that had ended as quickly as it began.
"It's not that easy to do," Shane complained bitterly.
"Well you have to get over it. Move on, or go home."
For the first time, Shane looked up at him. His gaze seemed to be weighing Alex, mulling him over.
"Alex Isner," he said. "Look at you, you've really grown up."
Alex looked away, feeling his unusual spell of boldness disappearing. "I would hope so. It has been three years since you last saw me."
"I guess it has," Shane remarked thoughtfully.
They sat there, letting their legs trail in the pool for another half hour, just talking. Alex offered more of his perspectives from the stands on which other divers he envisioned would be threat in the semifinals, then asked Shane about his new training facility down in Auburn. Shane told him about some of the sponsorships he hoped to get if he medaled.
Alex had just finished describing how different home schooling was from high school when Shane asked, "Do you still have that lucky towel?"
He was fully smiling now, kicking his legs against the edge of the pool. He seemed to have cheered up from when Alex first found him.
"I never admitted to that!" Alex protested. "How did you find out?"
"It was pretty obvious," Shane joked, laughing. "You always did laundry before meets so you could have that same pink towel every time."
"Okay, I guess I wasn't being as subtle as I thought I was," Alex admitted.
"So do you still use it now?"
Alex waved his hand behind him. "Yeah, it's in my locker."
"Can I see it?"Shane requested. "For old time's sake?"
Alex quirked an eyebrow at him. He could tell Shane was up to something, but he couldn't figure out what it might be. "Sure, I'll be right back."
He walked back to the men's locker room, and entered his code into locker 54.Shane had followed him as far as the diving boards, but had waited outside. The pink towel was hanging on a hook just inside the locker, right above Alex's cap and goggles. Alex grabbed it and walked back out to the pool.
"Here it is," he called over to Shane, waving it around. "Feel free to mock me for it, but you have a lucky breakfast, so I'm not sure how much you can talk."
Shane was standing by the side of the pool now, smiling mischievously. As soon as Alex got close enough he snatched it away and held it out over the pool.
"Hey!" Alex yelped, reacting too slowly.
"Would it just totally throw you off if I dropped this in the pool? You might not be able to get laundry done in time for semifinals."
"No," Alex lied. "I would be fine."
Shane let his arm drop another foot further.
"Stop, stop!" Alex exclaimed.
"How about you make me?" Shane teased.
Alex leaned out over the water, trying to keep his balance and almost snagged it. Shane moved out of the way just in time and held it over Alex's head.
Shane had a few inches on him, and Alex stood up on his toes, trying to get a hold on it. They were pressed together now; every part of his body was touching Shane's. Neither of them could stop laughing. When Shane glanced down at him for a second, Alex's breath caught in his throat. He had the sudden, wild hop that Shane might try to kiss him.
"Whoops," Shane said, "I almost let you get it there; I'll have to try harder."
He turned and jogged away from Alex. By the time Alex caught up to him, he was already three steps up the ladder of the 3M springboard.
"I have you cornered now," Alex pointed out, starting the climb. "You have no way to escape."
"I could just jump off the diving board," Shane countered.
At the words diving board,Alex was struck by where exactly he was standing. He froze on the ladder, feeling the blood drain out of his face.
"What's wrong?" Shane asked. His smile had slipped in his uncertainty.
Alex couldn't answer. He was being rocked by flashbacks- his foot slipping, his head hitting the board- and he just stared up at Shane in terror. His legs started to shake.
It was clear when Shane realized what was happening. His face went white with shock. They both stayed there on the ladder, sharing mutual expressions of horror. Shane threw the towel back in Alex's face as if he had been burned
"This is stupid," he bit out. "Why do you always have to interrupt me when I'm trying to focus?"
"What are you talking about?" Alex demanded. "You started this!"
"When we were partners you always did this; always tried to get me to relax. Guess what, I can't relax. We're at the fucking Olympics. I can never concentrate when you're around. I wish you would just leave me alone so that I could focus on winning."
Alex felt dizzy standing on the rungs of the springboard. He viscerally remembered the throbbing in his head and the months of loneliness that followed the accident. His hands were turning white; he was gripping the rungs so tightly. He found it bitterly ironic that he was being accused of slacking when he couldn't remember the last time that he had done anything other than homework or diving.
"Well I won't bother you anymore," he said, trying to sound cool as he took three unsteady steps down the ladder. He needed to be away from the water and away from Shane. "I'm going to go back to my room."
As soon as he got to his room, he fell face down onto his bed and pulled a pillow over his head, furiously trying to stave off his panic.
"It's okay, it's okay, it's okay," he repeated over and over to himself, a mantra to try to calm down.
About an hour later, he was still awake and he heard Shane's footsteps returning to the room next door. He didn't manage to fall asleep until late into the night.
Day 5- Training Day
Alex didn't sit with Shane at breakfast the next day, like he had every other day that week. Instead, he found an empty table in the dining hall and was pleasantly surprised when both Chelsea and Rose joined him. In the weight room, he kept to the complete opposite side of the room. He kept feeling the weight of Shane's stare- little questioning glances- but Alex had gotten the message loud and clear, so he kept his distance.
All day, Alex was uncharacteristically quiet. This worked out well because it made him hyper focused during his afternoon practice session. Four hours at the water cube had flown by. The pool clock said that it was almost 5:30, but he hadn't gotten tired of working his way through his routine, pushing through one round of the six dives after another.
After his third dive in a sequence (he had lost count of how many times he had completed his routine), Alex grabbed the rungs of the ladder and pulled himself out of the pool. There was water running down into his eyes and he shook his head, flinging droplets everywhere. When he opened his eyes again, he noticed Shane standing a few feet away. Shane was wearing jeans and a white t-shirt and holding a cup of coffee.
"Hey," Shane said cautiously.
"Hey." Alex replied.
He thought about saying, I really need to keep practicing, and walking away, but he was pathetic so he stayed there, just dripping onto the pool tiles. Shane shifted awkwardly from side to side. He thrust out the coffee cup.
"I brought this for you. I thought you could use a break."
Before his accident, Alex easily had three cups of coffee a day. Most days they were up at 5 am for their first practice session, and he would need a cup every few hours after that just to stay awake. In the build up to the Olympics, though, he had cut it almost entirely out of his diet. His nutritionist would kill him if she found out, but he was touched that Shane remembered, and thought that he wouldn't mind a warm drink after being in the cold pool all afternoon.
"Thank you," he said, taking it.
Shane was pointedly looking anywhere but at Alex.
"I'm sorry about yesterday," he told the floor. "I was stressed out and I shouldn't have taken it out on you."
Shane didn't usually make a habit of apologizing to people when he offended them and it was evident that doing so now made him feel uncomfortable.
Taken aback, Alex stammered out, "Oh, that's-that's…thank you, I appreciate it."
"It was nice of you to try to cheer me up," Shane muttered, scuffing his shoe on the tile. "I needed to stop beating myself up."
"Do you want to sit?" Alex asked. "I need to drink this before it gets cold."
"Sure," Shane said.
As they turned to walk over to the bleachers, they passed Ryan, who was walking out of the cube in sweats with headphones blaring and a gym bag slung over his shoulder.
"Looking good Isner," he called out.
Instantly, Alex felt himself turn a vivid shade of red.
"Someone has a fan," Shane observed dryly.
Alex rolled his eyes. "I think he's just trying to get into my head and throw me off."
Shane snorted. "You haven't looked in a mirror lately, have you? I don't think he's trying to get in your head as much as your pants."
Alex's face was never going to return to a normal shade. "What?"
He wasn't completely socially inept— he had already recognized that Ryan was flirting with him—but it threw him to hear Shane admit it so frankly. His mind kept catching on Shane saying have you looked in a mirror lately?Did Shane think he was attractive?
Shane noticed his confusion and he came to a stop next to Alex, putting a hand on Alex's arm.
"Look," he said seriously. "Is Ryan making you uncomfortable? I'm… not sure what your preferences are. I can make him stop."
Ryan was objectively far more attractive than Shane. And, Alex had come to realize that Ryan was somewhat of a local celebrity—teenage girls had taken to bringing signs when he competed, and screaming for him whenever he completed a dive. By contrast, Shane was pale, bordering on too skinny. In certain kinds of light you could tell that his blonde hair had been tinged green by years of chlorine exposure. Nonetheless, it was Shane who Alex thought of—standing under a cool down shower in low slung swim trunks—and he instantly went hot. His arm was burning where Shane was touching him. "My preferences? Oh no, that's not an issue, you don't need to do that."
Alex was pretty sure he knew where Shane's preferences lay. Back in the early days of their partnership, Shane had dated a guy from his high school for a few months, but the guy broke up with him because he practiced too much.
"Thank you though," Alex added, feeling stupidly happy. Shane was looking out for him.
Day 6- Free Day
After two days in a row off, Alex was going stir crazy. All he had done was practice nonstop for his semifinals tomorrow and he needed a break to clear his head. He wanted to explore London; to see some of the city outside of the village.
On his way out of the apartment he decided to stop next door and try to elicit some company. Shane answered the door, but Alex could see Jayme inside as well. They had both already had a morning weightlifting session and breakfast and had probably come back to the room to rest.
"Hey," Alex greeted them. "I wanted to see if you guys would be interested in going to the U.S. women's beach volleyball match with me. It's a nice walk into the city and we're apparently doing really well."
"No, thanks," Shane said. "We have to train."
At the same time, Jayme said "Sorry but I'm already going to the Men's basketball game with Stephanie Pitts."
Shane turned on him. "You're doing what?"
Jayme shrugged. "Look, we have two days off and I'm tired. I want to take a break and watch Lebron James play. Plus she's super hot- have you seen her in her leotard?"
"It doesn't do me any good to practice without you," Shane complained. "I can't believe this."
"Come with me," Alex coaxed. "You'll have plenty of time to practice this afternoon, and Jayme will be done by then too. I'm sure you need the rest more than you think."
"Yeah, Shane," Jayme said, grinning. "Don't be a loser."
Shane caved under the weight of both of them pressuring him. "Fine, Alex, let me change, and then I'll go with you."
It turned out to be one of the best mornings Alex could remember having in years. The volleyball team won easily in two sets, and he had fun cheering with Shane each time they scored a point. Then, he persuaded Shane to run over to look at Big Ben, which was just behind the courts. Finally, they stopped in a pub for sandwiches and chips (which Alex was shocked to realize were actually fries). The greasy food tasted delicious compared with the bland dining hall food they had been eating for the past week. His whole body seemed looser. He was sun warmed and happy as he returned to Olympic Village with Shane.
Even Shane had relaxed. At lunch he leaned far back in his chair as he listened to Alex recounting the crazy last spike that had won the volleyball match. Never once did he complain about being away from pool.
On the way back though, he glanced down at his watch and cursed, "Crap, it's almost 1:00, we need to hurry up."
They jogged back to Olympic Village, ignoring the curious looks they were getting from tourists. Jayme was waiting outside the door, his back against the frame.
"Sorry," Shane said, not sounding the least bit apologetic. "Let me grab my bag and we can go."
"I'm sure I'll see you guys at the cube," Alex said. "I'm going to go watch some of my tapes for a while and then I'll be over."
"Later," Shane called out, the door to his room closing behind him as he ducked inside.
Jayme was looking at Alex with a curious expression. "Did you guys have fun at the match?"
"Yeah, it was great! How was Lebron?"
"He killed it; we won the game by a landside."
Shane reappeared. "Okay, let's get moving."
"See you Alex," Jayme said, and then the two of them headed out to go practice.
Day 7- 10 Meter Semis
Coming into his semifinals, Alex knew that he had to be perfect on all of his dives. If he made a single major mistake, it was likely that he was going home.
This time, he was scheduled to dive at noon. He was glad that he could start diving earlier so that he would have less time to get nervous. There were four groups of eight divers scheduled to compete. The top eight scores on the day, overall, would advance to the finals.
Both Ryan Sutter and Bryce Lawson, the other USA 10 meter diver, were in his group. Seeing two familiar faces was comforting. He had high hopes that Bryce would advance so that the U.S. would have at least one diver represented in the finals. Luckily, no one from either of the two traditional diving powerhouses—China and Italy—was diving with him.
His first four dives were great and he slowly allowed himself to relax a little. The fifth dive in his series was his favorite. He started in a handstand facing away from the water and threw himself into a dive from there. While waiting for his turn, he took a minute to scan the audience. Once again, Chelsea, Rose and Jayme were sitting together. Shane was nowhere to be seen.
Alex frowned in confusion. Several of the divers here today were also competing on a synchro team. Didn't Shane want to scope out the competition? Jayme had come, after all.
Ryan caught him staring at the modestly sized US cheering section. At least half of the stadium was specifically there to cheer for Ryan, so the few posters in the audience for Alex seemed meager in comparison.
"Hmmm," Ryan made a curious noise in the back of his throat as he followed Alex's gaze. "So he's not your boyfriend is he?"
Alex's mouth dropped open. "Whoisn't my boyfriend?"
"Shane Bennett. I've been wondering about that, but he would be here if he was, so that answers my question."
Alex's heart had started racing, threatening to beat out of his chest.
"No," he said, giving his words an edge of finality. "We're not dating."
Ryan very purposefully looked him up and down. "Lucky me."
It was sheer chance that the next diver up finished his turn at that moment, making Ryan second in line to go, because Alex was at a loss for how to respond. Ryan returned back to his place in line and Alex tried to return to focus as well.
Trying to get into my pants my ass, he thought. Shane was 100% wrong about that. It was clear that Ryan was trying to distract him; he had just miscalculated what would work with Alex. Most people in Olympic Village seemed to be fooling around with each other- they were young and in prime physical shape- so it was the perfect time to do so. Regardless of how attractive Ryan was though, Alex wasn't even tempted. He wasn't the kind of person who would be okay with a one night stand.
The only thing Ryan had gotten right was mentioning Shane. Alex thought he had managed to hide how much it bothered him that Shane wasn't here, but having it thrown in his face destroyed much of the confidence he had gained from his four good dives. Shane wasn't here because he doubted that Alex could perform well, especially since Alex had messed up their chance to win so phenomenally two years ago.
Likewise, Ryan wasn't going after him because he thought Alex was a serious threat; he was going after Alex because he thought Alex was weak. If Alex had fallen once, maybe he would fall again.
Suddenly, Alex didn't feel hurt or inadequate or confused anymore. The roar of the crowd faded into the background and his sight crystallized on the pool. A fierce drive was ripping through him. Well, he wasn't weak. He had come to the Olympics to prove himself and he was going to.
He hit his last two dives out of the park. The judges awarded him 9.5s and 10s across the board. That left him in third place for the day, but only half the divers had gone so far. As proud as he was that he hadn't caved to pressure, he still had to sit through the last two rounds of divers to learn if he would advance. He changed out of his Speedo and pulled the hood of his jacket over his head so that he could retreat to the top of the bleachers and watch the rest of the competition in relative anonymity.
After the next round of 8 divers, he fell to 6th place. If more than two divers scored higher than him in the final round, he wouldn't advance. His stomach was in knots the entire time. Each of the last 48 dives was agonizing to watch.
There was a flurry of activity after the final dive as the results board was updated. Alex had lost track of his calculations and he wasn't sure where he stood. He thought he was in 9th or 10th place.
The names appeared one at a time. A Mexican diver was first, then a Chinese diver, then Ryan. None of those were unexpected. Four more names popped up, all vaguely familiar. Finally, in spot number 8, the board flashed Alex Isner.He gasped, staring up in disbelief. He had advanced!
His phone started buzzing in his pocket, messages from the IOC chair and his coach. He immediately texted his parents to let them know, and planned to call them as soon as he got back to his room to try to get them on an overnight plane to London for the finals.
Outside the cube, Chelsea ran up to him, catching the strap of his gym bag to slow him down. "Alex, hey, I really need to talk to you."
"Hey Chelsea," he said, feeling confused. Her seriousness jarred with the exhilaration buzzing through him right now. "What's up?"
She didn't even congratulate him on advancing, and instead cut right to the chase: "You need to throw harder difficulty dives in the finals."
Alex stopped in his tracks, startled. "I don't understand. What are you talking about?"
"I ran a calculation today after they announced the eight divers moving on. All of them have a higher possible score than you. You don't have enough points to get on the medal stand right now, even if you somehow dive better than you did today."
"I know that," Alex said. "I can't even believe I made it to the finals. I'm just happy to get the chance to dive again."
"Don't put yourself down," Chelsea ordered. "Your technique is better than all of them, but you need a higher score for difficulty. It's the only thing holding you back."
Now he was convinced that she was crazy. "I can't change my routine two days before the finals. That's not enough time."
"Yes you can! I've seen your old synchro routines; you know these dives. You would have to alter them for the height, but you could do this, you could win."
"It's not that simple," Alex protested, but his mind was starting to race. He had already been practicing a few harder dives, thinking he could use them at Worlds next year once he was through the Olympics. They wouldn't be too hard to remember; he had just never been able to perfect his technique with them.
Chelsea kept pressing. "Worst case scenario is that you make a mistake, and you don't medal. You aren't going to medal anyway as is. You have nothing to lose."
"Okay," Alex agreed slowly, suddenly overcome with the possibility. There was a chance he could medal. "How many points do I need? How many dives would I have to change?"
"You're about 30 points back. You need to change two dives at a minimum, but three to be safe. And the deadline to submit any changes to the judges is tomorrow at noon, so you need to decide soon."
Alex was already starting to dash back into the cube. "Wow, thanks Chelsea! I'll catch you at dinner, I need to go talk to Coach Colgate about this, see what he thinks."
"Good luck!" She called after him.
Day 8- 3 Meter Semis
Shane and Jayme returned to competition with a vengeance after their disastrous showing in the preliminaries. There wasn't a single moment of the 3M semis that they didn't have a lead over the other divers. When their high difficulty dives were executed well, the points awarded by the judges could hit triple digits. That day, they had three dives of 100 points or more.
Once it was over, and the seven other divers advancing to the finals had been determined, Alex jogged down the bleachers and waited by the entrance of the locker room to catch them before they went inside.
"How does it feel to end the day in first place?" he heard an American reporter ask Jayme. Shane stood silently next to Jayme, giving off a very clear vibe of do not ask me any questions. He still seemed lost in concentration, like he hadn't allowed himself to relax just yet.
"It feels pretty great," Jayme said. "We wanted to send a message to all the other divers competing today and I would say we succeeded."
The reporter nodded, acutely focused on Jayme. "If you had to put that message in words for the viewers back home, what would it be?"
Jayme smirked. "Come and get us."
"Do you think you'll be able to bring a gold medal back home?" she asked next.
Alex shook his head. It would be a miracle if he medaled, let alone took gold. Clearly any doubts Shane and Jayme had leftover from Tuesday had been wiped away easily by a good day today.
By the time the reporter ran out of questions and the partners finished shaking hands with their competitors, most of the crowd had dissipated. Shane stopped quickly to thank his coach, and then he and Jayme started walking over towards where Alex was standing.
Jayme noticed Alex first. He tapped Shane on the arm to get his attention, then pointed over to Alex. Shane's focused concentration broke up into a smile as he held up a hand to wave.
Alex had only wanted to stay behind to talk to them for a moment and tell them what a great job they had done. He had seen how torn up both of them were after preliminaries and was glad to see how well they had bounced back. Something about that smile, though, caught in his chest, making it hard to breathe.
He ran up and threw his arms around Shane. "Congratulations, that was incredible!"
For a long stretch of time, Shane was stiff. Worried that he had overstepped his bounds, Alex started to pull back. Then, Shane exhaled, his breath tickling Alex's hair, and he wrapped Alex tightly in his arms.
"Thanks," Shane murmured into Alex's ear.
Shane hadn't had an opportunity yet to change to change out of his swimsuit, so Alex's hands were flat against Shane's bare back. Shane's skin was still damp from the pool, with a grainy feel from the chlorine. Alex felt warm and secure, and he never wanted to let go.
Instead, he let one more second pass before he stepped back.
"You too, Jayme," Alex added, feeling embarrassed that he had forgotten Jayme was standing next to them. "Great job."
"So I don't get a hug?" Jayme asked, obviously mocking both of them.
"Shut up Jayme," Shane said.