They got through the Salsa. They were the last to perform, keeping Helen in a prickly state of anticipation for a lot longer than she liked. When they did finally dance, at stupid moments she'd remember it was Nikola's hand on her back, Nikola's skin on hers, his leg she stood astride as she dipped and shimmied. Then he'd say something dance related (or just a string of ha noises on the beat) and Helen would be glued to the dance again.
The judges were nice, running through their feedback quickly in deference to the ticking clock of live television. Craig spoke last, looking especially dragon-like, all supercilious and cool - "There's only one thing to say, darling," - until he broke out into a smile, "fab-u-lous!" he announced, hitting the desk with each syllable. Helen sighed, hand on heart, and grinned back.
"Helen and Nikola everyone!" Tess called, letting them run backstage to wait for their result.
"You did really well, moja draga," he told her, holding her hand as they jogged off stage.
"I probably could have done some of those cucarachas better," she replied as they joined Claudia backstage.
"They were perfect," he murmured into her hair, arm around her shoulders as Claudia started speaking. Helen could only nod, grinning, as Alan Dedicote's voice boomed overhead. "The scores are in. Craig Revel Horwood."
Helen couldn't breathe. Ten? Perfect ten?
Twenty points. Could her lungs start working please?
Her knees were giving way.
Nikola bounced next to her, trying to hold her up while all she wanted was to curl into a little ball. Forty points? Tens across the board? Claudia was talking but Helen couldn't hear her, barely felt her co-celebs jostling her in celebration, only the warmth of Nikola's hand on her back. The corners of her eyes prickled. Forty points!
"We did it, Helen!" he all but yelled as Claudia read the tele-prompt.
"All together now, the phone lines are now--"
"Open!" everyone yelled. Helen looked at Nikola and grinned, a warm bubble forming in her chest as everyone, herself included, jumped around. Nikola tugged her hand, and led her to the back backstage where they had to react on camera for social media.
Her hand in his was all she could concentrate on.
They had time to kill between the show finishing and the results show being recorded. Nikola could fly, the way he felt. They'd both bounced for joy in front of the camera, but now, in one of the empty opera boxes, Helen was quiet, in her own head. "Say it."
"Say what?" Helen asked, bemused.
"Whatever's on your mind, just say it."
She shook her head. "It's nothing."
"Hey," he murmured, stepping up to her and touching her arm. "It looks like something."
She chewed her lip, before saying, brightening like sunshine, "We got a perfect score!"
"We did," he said, echoing her smile. "You've done really well, moja draga."
"I'm hoping that's polite," she said, arching her brow. Her hand was on his arm, her head tilted to one side. Did she just lick her lips?
"It is," he breathed, inching closer, his heart doing a quickstep. Were they really about to--?
"What does it mean?"
"... My darling."
She looked at his lips (his mind fizzing to a glittering stop), arching that perfect brow again. "Am I?"
He nodded, licking the very dry corners of his mouth. She nodded back. They were breathing the same air, her eyelids fluttering closed, his doing the--
"Nikola!" Nigel, banging on the door, stopping everything.
"I'm going to…" he growled.
"Not if I do it first," she countered, dropping her forehead onto his shoulder. "You best find out what he wants."
He pouted. "Do I have to?"
She kissed his cheek. "Yes, my darling, you do."
She nodded, her smile so soft he wanted to wrap them up in it. Dropping a kiss on her hair, he stepped out of her hold. "This better be worth it…"