Wednesday started like any other day - early morning interview, rushed breakfast, landing feet first in the dance studio. True to his word, Nikola wore what Helen told him to wear, along with a few choice articles of clothing.
"Not seen that t-shirt lately," she commented, nodding at his chest.
"What, this old thing?" He grinned. "Just picked it out on a whim."
"Uh-huh," she said, getting her shoes on. His Team Teslen tee went really well with the tutu and shorts combo. "Nice knees."
"I see you've been practicing with your ear muffs on," Nikola commented after they danced through their routine. He tapped her shoulders at her look of consternation. "I know I'm a peach to be around but I thought you wanted the night off."
She shook her head, and a determined glint flashed in her eyes. "It's not the afternoon yet."
Quirking his eyebrow, he smirked and said, "Again. Shoulders down. Back straight."
"Dance with the wall?" Helen rolled her eyes, exasperated at the exercise. "How can I dance the bloody Quickstep with the wall?"
He shrugged. "Find a way. Just remember, it's three pm and we have to be in make up by five." Stepping into her space, he added, "Or do you want to lose our bet?"
With a dramatic sigh, heaved all the way from her core, Helen turned and faced her new partner. "Hello, wall." Going into a facsimile of hold, she started her steps. As her feet scampered, Nikola's hand cupped the top of her trapezius. His long fingers brushed against her clavicle as his other hand rested on her hip.
"That's it," he murmured, "relax." When his thumb started massaging circles on her T1, everything became honeyed - her steps slowed, time became viscous, and all that mattered was his hands on her. The fingers on her hip drummed gently. "You can't slow down, Doctor Magnus, or you'll never keep up." Even his whisper across the shell of her ear lasted a lifetime in a moment. She knew this would end soon, but oh, the hand moved to her abdomen. "You're slouching," he murmured, plastering himself to her back. Her spine felt bereft for just a second, straightening (and melting) against him as he changed her arm positioning.
(Locking fingers with his was just an added bonus.)
"Much better," he finally announced, his fingers having somehow made their way under her t-shirt. The heavy warmth on her abdomen was almost a reward, if it wasn't so distracting. "Looks like I'm losing this bet."
"Looks like," she replied, finally finding her voice again.
"Shall we try again?"
Licking her lips, she nodded. A gasp escaped her when he hugged her fully, the two melting fully into the embrace. How long they stood there she couldn't tell, but it was blissful.
Until they heard the door creak open, and a voice call, "Hey guys, we need some VT…"
"Not again," he sighed, soft and tired, letting her go. "Linnet--" almost a yell after his soft admission "--what have I told you about interrupting a rehearsal?"
"So what's with the tutu, guys?" Rylan asked on air as Nikola smoothed it out. They'd already spoken about their routine, and how practice was going, so the tutu was a natural third point.
"He lost a bet," Helen explained, smiling.
"And I look good in a skirt," Nikola added.
"But youse two are always making bets, aintcha? Watch this…"
Helen watched as she and Nikola on screen repeatedly said, "Bet you," in a variety of different tones and outfits, even the, "Bet you'll get tens for this," for their salsa the week before.
"We are pretty competitive," Nikola whispered.
"Youse have a bet going now, haven't you?" Rylan asked, after the video finished.
"We do," Helen answered, smug.
Rylan grinned, his teeth taking centre stage. "And you've won, from the look on your face."
Rylan laughed, then turned to camera. "Well, that's it from us tonight. Join us…"
"Mummy!" Ashley yelled, running to the door. "You're home! I've missed you!"
Flinging her arms around Ashley, Helen smiled and said, "Not as much as I've missed you, darling."
Ashley looked up at her mum, then behind her. "No Nikola?"
"Well… no." Ashley's face fell. Helen's heart squeezed painfully. "Why, did you want him to follow me home?" she asked gently.
"Yes," Ashley replied, plainly. "He's funny."
"You could always call him back, he probably hasn't got far," Henry yelled from the front room.
Helen narrowed her eyes, then whispered to Ashley, "I think I just heard someone knock. Want to check the door?"
Ashley nodded, unsure to begin with, opened the door. "Nikola! Nikola's here!" she yelled, bouncing. "Yes! Come and see my dance moves!" she yelled, grabbing his hand and dragging him in.
"Gentle with him, Ashley, we don't manhandle guests," Helen called after them, smiling at Nikola's, 'Well, this is happening,' expression.
"Hey, auntie Hell," Henry greeted her from the front room's doorway. "Nikola there all along?"
"Staying for dinner?" Helen nodded. He nodded back. "Cool. Nice to see you happy again. Ray says hi." Off he wandered after Ashley.
She smiled, warm and comfortable. Definitely worth it.