Chapter 1: That didn't stop you before.
Helen stared at the phone in her hand. James only had half an idea what it was about, but the way she stood stock still was downright unnerving.
"Is anything the matter?" he asked finally, sitting in a vacant armchair.
She blinked a few times. "I'm in a bit of a quandary, to be honest," she replied.
She nodded. "I've been offered a… a job… Of sorts." Her head tilted, hand and phone still aloft. "I have a week to decide."
The seconds merged into minutes, but James said nothing, knowing how his friend did not appreciate idle chatter. She needed the quiet.
"I can't tell the children yet either," she added, putting her phone down on the mantelpiece.
"In case they tell John?"
Helen snorted. "In case they tell the press."
"The…?" James leant forward on his chair. "Why on Earth would you worry about those soulless oiks?"
"If I sign the contract the information is embargoed until August."
James nodded, caught up with what her 'job offer' actually was. "Embargoes aside, you still appear worried."
Turning to him, smiling, she said, "I've never been one for extreme glamour."
"You went to the SU President's Ball, back in Oxford. Glamour hasn't stopped you before… Unless…" James narrowed his eyes. "Unless you're afraid that your new job will supercede how you appear in your old job and you'll no longer be seen as a competent doctor but a foolhardy try hard gambolling around in satin high heels and sequins."
"Nu-- Not quite how I would have phrased it, Jim," she muttered, sitting opposite him. The phone was in her hand again. James knew her answer, even if she didn't quite yet. "It's only twelve weeks… Less if I'm…" Her sentence dwindled to nothing. Silence enrobed the room.
"Whatever you decide, Helen," he said, his quiet voice breaking the silence, "I'll be in the wings supporting you."
This made her smile, and spurred her on into action. "James darling, I'd expect you in the audience, waving to camera with my children and clapping to the music." Slapping her hands on her knees, Helen got to her feet. "I best call Kate, have her call them back."
"You made that decision quickly."
"Being scared has never stopped me before, why should it now?" She grinned. "And now I'm going to my interview and I will see you later." As she left, he heard her say, "Hello, Kate? Tell them I'm going for the Glitterball."
Chapter 2: Unacceptable, try again.
"Unacceptable, try again."
Helen sputtered. "What?"
Nikola Tesla, her partner for this rigmarole, smirked as he walked away to grab a water bottle. "Unacceptable. You can do better. Try again."
Hands on hips, Helen rolled her shoulders. "And what, exactly, is unacceptable?"
He didn't even look at her as he reeled off his list. "Your heel turns are on the balls of your feet, you're leading with the balls of your feet not your heels, you're slouching, not spotting as you turn, no rise and fa--"
"Fine!" Helen interrupted, already sorry she'd asked. "Fine. One thing at a time?"
Nikola looked at her and nodded, drinking his water all the while. "Frame first." Grace enveloped the man as he strode across the dancefloor, and Helen couldn't help feeling a touch awkward. Give her a list of symptoms and she could run, a scalpel and she'd fly, but the waltz? She felt like a newborn foal on stilts. "Wha--?"
"You have a long neck, Doctor Magnus," he explained, gently placing his hands on her, "and while in hold your head should be tilted back and to the left, like so." With the softest push to the underside of her chin, he moved her head back. "Keep your shoulders down," he added, arranging their arms.
"I'm trying," she said through gritted teeth,
Forcing each breath through her nose, Helen held herself like the posable mannequin Nikola treated her as, counting threes in her head as she waited for the torture to end.
"Better," he murmured. "Now, I'll count us through the routine. Remember your feet, and--" He winked, "-- follow my lead."
They didn't so much as dance as stutter through steps, but Nikola, possibly in love with his own voice or really just that passionate about the waltz, explained each figure. He held her through each turn, and by the end of their morning session she almost trusted him not to let her go.
Chapter 3: That was impressive.
The first show, dancing the waltz.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
"Dancing the waltz, Helen Magnus and her partner Nikola Tesla."
"Is he always that loud?" Helen asked as they walked out onto the floor, applause flooding her ears.
"Always," he answered. Getting to his mark on the stairs, he added, "Remember, head back."
"And follow your lead?" She raised her eyebrow, daring him to say something.
His stage smile morphed to his smirk she knew so well from practice. She grinned back. She could do this.
Then the music started. The first few bars were fine but then-- "What's next?" she hissed.
"Head back," he hissed back. "Natural turn." The audience, the cameras, everything muted as Nikola smiled and all but carried her in places, announcing dance steps she barely remembered the name of, let alone how to perform. In short, it was everything Helen hoped it wouldn't be, especially with Ashley and Henry in the audience.
The music stopped. Nikola squeezed her shoulder. "Dobra devojka," he said as they walked to the judges table. Unused to his native tongue, Helen just smiled and nodded, only half listening as Tess introduced the judges. Shirley seemed in good form, explaining the components needed in a waltz, but it was Bruno - as effervescent as always - who dragged her from her cyclical thoughts.
"That was impressive! Your frame in hold, your frame out of hold, those beautiful natural turns down there…" Bruno's voice faded into the background. A smile plastered Helen's face but she had no idea what he was saying. Nikola's hand was on her hip, patting when they said something good.
"I have no idea what you were watching," said Craig, a large boo rising from the audience. "It was a disaster. Flat footed throughout, barely any rise and fall. I believe you missed a few steps too, up on the stairs."
"Lighten up, this is her first dance, and she's opened the show," Bruno responded. "Everyone gets nervous."
Craig sighed. "How can she get better if I don't tell her what to correct?" Nikola squeezed her waist, eyes forward. How much longer? She hadn't had a battering this hard since medical school. "Your frame was passable, and you managed to hit your musical cues, but you must remember your feet."
Well, nothing Darcy said got through. All Helen could think about was her mind going blank. Stressful situations were nothing new. What if she had to do the dance off and forgot her steps again?
"Helen and Nikola everyone!"
The tap of her lower back and Nikola's gentle, "Come on," moved her forward. This was not how she planned it at all. And the pantomime surrounding it all? The cheer when they reached Claudia at the top of the stairs and the arm rubs as they squeezed by the other couples loosened the knot forming in Helen's stomach. How did Nikola do this all the time?
"The scores are in!"
No Strictly judges were harmed in the making of this fic. XD
Chapter 4: Yes I did, what about it?
Start of week two.
After the debacle on Saturday, Helen was surprised she was even in the dance studio the following Monday, let alone the person at the top of the leaderboard. She thought for sure some of the younger celebrities (she mentally snorted at the word) would better her, but the three sevens (and the one four - thank you Craig) had her just above Dana Whitcomb (dancing with Anton, although why they asked her escaped Helen) and Declan MacRae (the sports pundit for one of the breakfast shows). In short, she felt very lucky.
Until Nikola dragged out a tablet from his kit bag and made her sit down. There, on the screen, were their faces. Nikola looked unflappable but Helen could see the fear in her eyes, the tightness in her walk, her hands like claws in his. "How on Earth did I get sevens?" she asked aloud, grimacing.
"Hush, Helen, watch it."
"I have to watch?"
Nikola just looked at her, the video momentarily paused. His silent, "Duh," hung around them like the ring of a bell. Giving in, Helen watched, and saw the moment she forgot her routine. Blind panic filled her face on screen. Wanting the torture over, she watched the two minute clip in horror. Nikola's voice was quiet. "What do you see?"
She swallowed, handing back the tablet. "A middle aged woman pretending to be a dancer?"
Nikola shook his head, and rose to his feet. "No pretending, you danced."
"I forgot the routine," she replied aghast.
He shrugged. "You followed my lead." He stretched out his arm, his fingers waggling. "Get on your feet, doctor, so I can sweep you off them."
Her bark of laughter surprised her, but soon enough he was laughing too. Gleeful, they went into hold. "Remember, head back, shoulders down."
"I thought we started something new today?"
In the midst of counting his beats, Nikola replied, "From now on, we waltz for half an hour. Believe me," he winked, and spun them around the room, "you'll thank me when we get to the Viennese waltz."
So for the next half an hour, they danced, Nikola keeping time in his head as he kept talking to Helen. How he did it she had no idea, but the spins weren't so daunting now they were talking about the next routine. "We've lucked out," he said. "Week two and we've got the Jive. Hey," he caught her eye, "it's going to be cool."
"So long as I'm not flat footed," she muttered.
"You'll be on the balls of your feet so long you'll barely notice your heels," he responded. If he hadn't smiled at that precise moment, Helen wasn't certain she would've carried on. But he did, so she did.
When they came to a stop, a young researcher type stood just inside the door. "Hey guys, we need some VT of you, Helen, learning about the jive. Cool?" She stuck her right thumb up and winked like a cartoon girl Henry would watch. "Oh, and tonight Nikola's taking you out dancing."
"I can't do tonight," Helen replied instantly. "I have an interview at six and dinner with my children afterwards."
The researcher checked her clipboard then shrugged. "Ok, we'll get Abby to take Will when they do it. Thanks guys, I'll leave you to it."
A few hours later, Nikola had walked through the first half of the routine with Helen when--
"I thought I said no interruptions!" Nikola thundered. She was finally getting it.
"It's the school," Helen explained, dashing to her bag. "They only call when it's an emergency."
"Oh." Nikola bowed his head for a moment, contrite.
"Hello? Yes, yes…? What?" Helen looked at the flashing red light mere inches from her head. "Nikola, I just have to step outside."
"Sure." Humming their jive song, he walked to their water bottles, glancing every so often to the door. He knew of Doctor Magnus, she appeared quite regularly on various television shows, but he never imagined her so… Driven. Their very first day as a couple she said she wanted the Glitterball - "I'm not doing this to come runner up" - and every practice, regardless of her other commitments, had her full attention.
Except today. He dragged her from her criticisms. "Pretending to dance?" He shook his head. Helen was his third celebrity, but the first with any real talent. From the way she walked in to the group rehearsal he knew he needed to dance with her. How could she not see that she could do this?
Even watching the playback he saw her potential. Sure, her shoulders came up, but he could teach it out of her. For the Glitterball, he would.
"Helen, I-- did you… turn off the camera?"
"Yes I did, what about it?"
Nikola raised his eyebrows, touched his chest and replied, "But I thought Doctor Magnus was always on call?"
Helen growled. "Not when her bitter ex husband decides out of the blue to--" She stopped short, eyes blazing but still unsure. "Sorry, I shouldn't unload on you about him." Shaking her head, pressing the On button, she joined him by the chairs, smile firmly in place. "Henry and Ashley have decided to visit this afternoon."
Nikola blinked, his own show smile affixed. "Cool, maybe they'll learn a few steps too. Now," he walked to the centre of the hall, "kick ball changes."
Chapter 5: I'm not doing that again.
More jive practice, and a visit with Zoe on ITT.
My Google searches are super random right now, but mostly to do with jive dance steps and baby sleeping bags (youngest is out growing her current one). Again, I am not a professional dancer (or even an amateur one - I don't do the whole movement thing) so if anything sounds wrong, that's why.
But lemme know what you think. (So far, touch wood, this has been fun and easy. Fingers crossed, eh? XD)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Come on, more bounce," Nikola called, watching Helen's reflection in the mirror dance. "Sharper kicks. Point your toes. Kick, kick, turn, flick, spi--" Coming in for the figure after her spin, he found himself with arms full of Helen, panting. "Hello?"
"Bloody spin," she growled, trying to push away from him. "Kick, kick, turn, flick, spin?" He nodded, his hands on her upper arms. "I'm fine, I just need to get that step."
"You need a drink," he replied. She started arguing but his, "Ah ah ah, water, then spin," shut down her complaints. "Your right foot doesn't come back to the left before you spin," he explained.
"Stop doing it then, and you'll stop falling." He winked. "Unless you're throwing yourself at me for another reason."
Helen stopped drinking and laughed for the first time since starting the afternoon session. "In your dreams, Nikola."
He waggled his eyebrows, starting another burst of laughter. Much better; with her mind relaxed the steps should come easier.
And she should really laugh more.
"How high are your heels?" Nikola asked, sat next to her on the It Takes Two sofa with his eyes wide.
Helen looked at her feet and did that thing with her face Nikola found funny (cute) while she thought. "Four inches? Jess in wardrobe threw them at me."
Turning his body to face her, he asked, "Think you could do a few kicks in them?"
Looking around over his shoulder then back to him, she nodded. Offering her his hand they moved off the sofa to a little area away from the stage. Counting her in, they practiced gently for a few minutes, her spins much more confident than they were two days ago.
"Yes, that's it," he quietly encouraged. "Last one," he added, seeing the floor manager coming their way.
"Two minutes, guys."
"That was much better," he told her, guiding her with a touch to her elbow.
"Great! I-- Oh bloody hell," she complained, pulling her hair off her lip gloss as they made themselves comfortable on the sofa for the second time. "Damned make-up. I'm not doing that again with my hair down."
"Ok, memo to hair and make-up, make Doctor Magnus' lip gloss less glossy," he joked, fake writing on his hand.
"Hi guys, you doing ok?" Zoe asked, sitting down on the opposite couch, ready to interview them.
"VT ending in five, four, three…"
No It Takes Two presenters were harmed in the making of this chapter.
Chapter 6: Will you look at that?
After the high of her jive routine, Helen comes down to Earth with a bump.
This one took a bit to write, mostly because I wasn't 100% sure where I was going with it. But I got there.
Helen and Nikola are dancing to Hustle by Pink (and if you haven't seen the fanvid SammyFlower made, you're missing out).
Lemme know what you think. XD
"Don't hustle me."
Turn. Arms. When will this end?
"Don't mess with me."
Whoa, spin spin spin. Almost done.
"Don't hustle me!"
The music finished. The studio erupted with applause. Helen could see every inch of Nikola's triumphant grin, standing as he was in her space. "Dobra devojka!" he said, eyes alight, arms around her waist and picking her up. Helen had to admit she felt as happy as he looked - no more mooches, chicken walks, or neck breaks, and definitely no more jive - and not even Craig's, "Not enough bounce, darling," brought her down. Floating through her bit to camera with Claudia (noting distractedly she had two eights in her score), she came down with a thud off stage.
She growled, but Nikola still came and touched her back. The bead fringes weighed the world around her thighs, but the phone in her hand weighed more. "Will you look at this?" she muttered, turning and shoving the blasted thing in his hand.
His eyes scanned the screen, his brow furrowing. "Who's John?"
"My ex husband…"
"Oh…" His pause was long, and awkward, and Helen almost yelled at him to say something (anything) when he shrugged and smiled. "Looks like old Johnny's angry about something." Turning the phone over, he found the off switch. "But whatever it is," he handed it back, "he's just using you as target practice."
Throwing her phone back into her bag, she nodded. "You're right. I'm going to go watch Abby and Will."
"Nuh-uh," he hastily said, his smile now a full blown grin. "Do my ears deceive me? Did you just say I'm right about something?"
Rolling her eyes with almost fond exasperation, she started walking back to the waiting platform to rejoin the others. "Don't let it go to your head."
Chapter 7: All I ever wanted.
Week Two's afterparty (of sorts), and Helen explains a bit about her ex-husband.
Uh oh, I'm bringing up John, can't be good.
Lemme know your thoughts. :)
The place was packed, not just with her colleagues from the show but friends and family and strangers happening to be around Elstree Studios on a Saturday night. Helen kept looking at her phone and scowling.
"So, what's old Johnny's problem with you on this?" Nikola asked, shoving a large glass of red wine in front of her.
She shrugged. "He's sent more my way."
"Tweets, messages, emails. If I have an account he's sending me notes." Her phone pinged. She looked down,grimaced, and opened the screen. Nikola sipped his own wine, waiting.
"Damn Helen, why is your screen so bright?" he all but yelped, taking the offered handset.
Helen, you look amazing.
Will you answer the phone?
I just want to talk.
Answer the phone, Helen.
Pick up your phone.
Why aren't you picking up?
The texts were all in that vein, but in such a number that-- "Has he nothing else to do?"
"Obviously not on a Saturday night," she replied, taking the phone and opening the next app. Her Twitter feed was just as bad. Not as obviously weird, but half the mentions were from him.
They should change the awful Serb dancing with @RealDrHelenM.
You look splendid @RealDrHelenM.
Short dresses suit @RealDrHelenM.
Individually, it wasn't bad, but again, the volume was staggering.
"The emails are the worst," she explained, looking around. "He doesn't send many, but they're… long, and rambling. Usually with a link to an article from a tabloid. Did you know we're sleeping together?" she asked.
"Us two?" he asked back, using his finger to indicate the two of them. Helen nodded. Nikola shook his head. "But we're not?"
Helen's eyes went wide, silently saying, Obviously not.
"Then why…?" He groaned. "Those paparazzi."
She nodded. "I'm telling you this as he might set his sights on you." Drowning the last of her glass, she added, "He's also six foot three, and a ENT consultant. He's often said he could make a murder look like an accident."
"Because that's a healthy thing to say!"
"Why do you think I divorced him?"
Nikola sighed dramatically. "I thought you divorced him so you could one day meet me and fall madly in love."
She laughed, loud and bright like the studio lights they just escaped. "Come on, let's get another drink before I have to go home. Same again?"
Nodding, he watched as she walked up to the bar. She smiled at everyone, even though her phone (left on the table) kept flashing every few seconds with another notification.
"You alone, Nik?"
"Not at the moment," he replied, looking pointedly at Nigel in front of him.
"How come you always get the good ones?"
"Lucky? They're contractually obligated to give me someone with feet that work? Lucky?" he shrugged. "Sorry you got voted out."
Nigel batted the commiseration away. "Mate, I got to dance with a model. It's all I've ever wanted in life." They laughed,
"Hello, are you joining us, Nigel?" Helen asked politely, holding two full wine glasses.
"Nah love, just keeping Nik here company until you came back. He can get into all sorts of mischief when left alone." Standing, Nigel held the chair out for her. "Your jive looked great, by the way. Craig's just blind."
Watching him leave, Nikola leant in and asked, "Is there any way you can stop him?"
"John?" He nodded. She shook her head. "It's never threatening, just a lot of hot air."
Later, back at home, Nikola remembered the look on her face. Maybe it was hot air now, but he had the feeling it wasn't always that.
Chapter 8: I told you so.
The morning after the night before.
Lol, yeah, I'm not sure where this came from, but I was missing the kids so they're here. XD
Thought, comments, questions? Use the box below to let me know!
Sunday was, by and large, a day of rest in the Magnus household. Both Henry and Ashley would sleep in, whilst Helen would (normally) be up at seven, catching up with a few household chores and preparing for the week ahead.
Normally, she'd be up by seven.
Normally, she'd be listening to Radio 4 with a cup of tea.
Normally, her phone would be on her bedside table, charging.
Today was not normal.
At half past nine she finally cracked open her eyes to see both her children looming over her. Her undignified yelp made them both laugh. Henry handed her a glass of water as Ashley clambered onto her bed. "Uncle James told me to give you this," he explained, sitting at the edge of her bed. "And he said your phone's charging down in the kitchen, and he got a taxi for Nikola, Nigel, and Abby."
Helen nodded, glugging. She had a vague (very vague) recollection of drinking something with the dancers, and Abby saying to work her hips in the cha cha cha. "Have you both had breakfast?" she finally asked, her mouth slightly less downy after the (glorious) glass of water.
They nodded. She nodded back, her action slow and delicate. "Shall we watch--" A doorbell chime interrupted her train of thought. "Who could that be?"
"I'll go," Henry volunteered.
"You looked pretty last night, mum," said Ashley, hugging her tightly. Helen said nothing. She hugged back just as tightly, kissing her head. "Uncle James let me vote for you too."
"Did he now?" Helen asked, laughing. They could hear Henry talking with someone in the hallway. "We best rescue your cousin."
"He's my brother from another mother, mum," Ashley told her, exasperated.
The voice sounded familiar, and Henry didn't sound anxious so it wasn't someone he disliked (John). "She won't remember, man, she didn't wake up until just now."
"What?" Helen looked down at her pyjamas - functional and only minimally rumpled.
"Nikola's here," Ashley parrotted, grinning up at Helen then dashing down the hallway. Dragging herself behind Ashley, Helen walked into the kitchen, almost glad he didn't look impeccable. But he did look ready to… Oh. Oh dear. A memory about exercise was slowly surfacing.
Henry laughed as Nikola explained, with fond exasperation, "Conditioning for quickstep in a few weeks?"
As she walked back to her room, she heard Henry saying, "I told you so."
Chapter 9: Watch me.
Week three begins Helen's relationship with the Cha Cha Cha. She just wished her hips would work like Nikola's.
Seriously, my Google searches are confused af atm. It doesn't know if it should show me Animal Crossing things, dance videos, or fan stuff about SG1. Either way, super late in the day, here's the next chapter. :) Hope you all enjoy.
Monday, week three, and after waltzing for half an hour (finally getting used to all the spins), Nikola introduced her to their next dance.
"It's the Cha Cha Cha, Helen, not square dancing with your arm in a sling," he explained through gritted teeth, having watched, in horror, as she walked the first simple step. "What is it about, 'Move your hips,' that is so hard to comprehend?"
"It's not as if, 'Move your hips,' is a very explicit direction," Helen argued back, having given up moving back and forth. "What sort of bloody movement do you want? Gyrating like a pop star? Side to side like a pendulum?"
"Watch me!" he ordered, before doing the same simple step, his hips undulating in the opposite direction to where he was travelling. He looked a bit like someone had swapped his spine for a wet noodle but something about it caught her breath. "See?" He kept moving. "Easy."
She nodded, still watching. "Sure."
"You're not moving, Helen."
Shaking her head and blinking (I am not that desperate for sex), she tried again, concentrating on making her hips sway like his, but all she could think was I'm going to look like a desperate idiot in front of millions.
Her hips would not budge.
Her hips didn't want to budge.
"Like this," Nikola muttered, his hands on her hips, guiding her. Her breathing all but stopped. The skin beneath his hands burned. He was flush against her back, his breath tickling her neck and ear. She should be worried as to how this footage would be edited, but at that moment she prayed he wouldn't move away.
Getting a bit desperate there, Helen.
"Yes, there you go!" Nikola crowed, his hands still pushing and pulling her hips. "Shakira eat your heart out. Now," his hands exerted less pressure with each movement she made, "remember that when you do your walks."
Nodding, she moved to their first position. You can sort yourself out later, just remember the bloody hip action.
Chapter 10: I missed this.
A moment of light hearted angst with Nikola and Abby.
Did the oxymoronic light-hearted angst intrigue you? Come in, sit down. Listen as Nikola and Abby have a chat about their celebs, and remember, all things pass. (Except for one or two things, but we'll get to that later once the slow burn has burnt for a while.)
Triggers: Brief mentions of food and alcohol.
Lemme know what you think. XD
"This was... nice… Not your usual idea of fun," said Abby, smiling and stabbing her last French fry and piece of diced chicken. "But we've not caught up like this in a while. What's wrong?"
Nikola groaned, and banged his head against the table.
"You have a crush on your celebrity and now you don't know how to act around her?" she asked, sweet and innocent, knowing the head banging action too well (she might've done it herself, once or twice).
"She thinks she can't swing her hips!" he cried. "All she does when she walks is wiggle her hips. It's hypnotic."
"So… no crush then?"
Nikola rolled his eyes and folded his arms, looking away. Abby just smiled. "It'll pass. Remember when Nigel had that crush on his first star? Or me with Tom over in the US?" She tapped the sole of his foot with the tip of hers. "It passes."
Nikola shook his head. As much as he trusted his partner in the dancing world, when it came to how he felt attraction to anyone, ever, she never understood.
"Of course you like people more once you get to know them," Abby said over their seventh (maybe eighth) drink.
"But I only want to have sex after I get to know a person. I can't just go up to someone and say, 'Wanna have a ride?'" He shimmied his shoulders - it was fun to shimmy… shimmy shimmy shimmy.
"Not even that hot girl at the bar?" she asked, incredulous. He shook his head. She looked back, making eye contact with the woman in question. She licked her lips. "I like the hot girl."
He saluted with his drink. "Good luck, partner!"
"Well, I missed this sort of conversation with other friends, but with you it's confusing…" She patted his arm again. "I have to go back to the training room, but I'll call later, yeah?"
"Young William having problems?"
She shrugged. "For a psychiatrist, he's very out of touch with his emotions."
Nikola sipped his wine. "What have you been set?"
He sucked his breath in sharply between his teeth. "Ouch."
Abby's eyebrows shot up as she nodded. With a grin, she added, "At least I've not got a crush on him."
Chapter 11: You better leave now.
Why are Thursdays always difficult, and why is John trying to break down the door?
Things were going too easy for Helen so I had to mix things up a touch.
Trigger warning: Ex/abuser hounding his victim, homophobic insult, call to the police. (The insult is kinda blink and you'll miss it, but I don't want to ruin the experience for someone.)
Any comments, questions, concerns, please let me know. :)
By Thursday, Helen knew all of the words to their song, and most of the musical stings for her arms. Nikola hadn't manipulated her hips again and she wasn't sure if she was sad or glad about it. The look of glee on Kate's face was a picture though.
"They're calling you team Teslen!"
"A portmanteau? Really?"
"Fangirls and hashtags for you, Doc."
Nikola laughed about it when she told him Monday afternoon. Tuesday afternoon he blessed her with a black t-shirt with "Team Teslen" emblazoned in pink glitter across the shoulders. "You're having much too much fun with this, Nikola," she remarked, trying not to grin.
It was the most comfortable t-shirt she'd ever worn.
Wednesday, a bit subdued whilst waltzing, he explained again how the hip movements helped the flow of the cha cha cha, especially the basic step in place. "It's moving your lower body in time, like anyone else doing cha cha." He stopped their travelling around the room, and looked her dead in the eye. "Nobody is going to laugh, they'll be too busy clapping."
She held his gaze for a moment before nodding. They started waltzing again, talking about their interview that evening.
Thursday night, as she lay in bed, she knew the words, most of the choreography, and the fact Nikola was probably going to be a friend for life. They were having an evening session to offset her early interview that morning. The kids were in the corner, quietly doing homework, now fully accustomed to her dancing. The studio door was locked, as they were the last ones there (and the owners knew Nikola well enough to trust Helen with a key), and darkness encroached through the windows. As Duffy pleaded through the speakers the doors started rattling. They ignored it to begin with, but the rattling would not stop.
In the middle of their New Yorker they broke apart, the music carrying on regardless as a deep voice yelled through the door, "I know you're in there, Helen! Let me in."
Everyone looked at the door. "Open the bloody door, Helen," he yelled again, the door still rattling, something (most likely his hand) slapping against it.
"Mommy?" came Ashley's small voice from the distance. Helen barely heard her, already stuck in bad memories, and taking steps away from the door.
Just as far away, she heard Nikola say, "Johnny, my man, my dude, you need to be calm to enter the dancefl--"
"Shut up, you lackluster excuse of a fairy. Let me see my wife. Open the bloody door!"
"Helen?" Henry, holding her hand. Ashley quickly latched on to the other, squeezing. Heart hammering, she squeezed back, shaking her head.
"She doesn't want to talk to you," Nikola called, walking to the camera.
"Leave it on," she heard herself gasp.
He nodded. Still the door rattled. "What do you want me to do?" he asked, standing between her and the door.
"Tell him to go away," Ashley answered. Her words were high, and fast, but did nothing to get Helen out of her head.
John's cacophony certainly didn't help either. His words and thumps were now a madrigal spinning around the room, filling the hall with noise.
It was too much.
Everything was too much. Too much noise and sensation and expectation and without fully letting go of Henry's hand, she dragged her phone from the thigh pocket of her leggings. "I'm calling the police, John. Leave us alone."
The banging stopped, then resumed, harder and louder than before. "Open. The. Door."
The phone rang and rang, Nikola's, "You better leave now," almost obliterated by the battering ram that was John's hand.
"999, what's your emergency?"
It was a blur after that, but Nikola's bright, electric blue eyes were a constant, as was his joking with Henry as Helen stroked Ashley's hair. After dinner in McDonald's, Nikola stopped her. "Dress rehearsal tomorrow, as usual." He brought her head up with a gentle finger beneath her chin. He held her gaze, as gently as the finger under her chin. Smiling, he added, "I'll see you bright and early. Team Teslen all the way."
Chapter 12: Not interested, thank you.
At the end of a busy week, Helen takes a moment to review the fallout of Thursday night.
Yeaaaaah, still with the aftermath of the whole John being a dick thing, but I'm putting it to rest now (I think). I kinda just want the fluffy feels, y'know? Meh.
I don't think there are any triggers here, but if there is, please let me know (and I am so sorry in advance if I have triggered something because not my intention). Oh, wait...
"Oh, but listen to this. How protective was Nikola though? He's so adorable. #TeamTeslenForever And there's this, I knew @RealDrHelenM had an ex hub, but how #creepy was he? And she still danced on #Strictly? She's #Goals. You're hashtag goals, Doc," Kate crowed over Sunday breakfast.
"I'm hashtag not interested, thank you," Helen replied, spreading marmalade on her toast. "All the papers are still going on about it, and it's old news."
Kate blinked. "You haven't blocked him on your socials--"
"Most of which you write," she interjected.
"-- and he still has access to Ashley. Right now, you're hashtag news, and will be unless you make a statement."
Helen groaned. A statement. "That's the last thing I should do. I don't want any more publicity surrounding this."
But Kate's suggestion meandered into her thoughts at inopportune times, including during her (now daily) run with Nikola (late this evening as someone had a sore head from the night before). "Come on, Helen, you're letting me win now."
She laughed; too bright, too loud, too short. They kept moving through the lush greenery of Regent's Park, edging closer to Primrose Hill. Helen suddenly wished it was twilight during the summer, not half past four on a dreary Sunday afternoon.
"Kate says I should make a statement."
He nodded, still setting the pace. "You don't want to?"
Helen shook her head. "John's had more than enough of my attention these past twenty years. A statement feels like a PR stunt… And I'm not the poster girl for this."
They kept jogging.
"Did you read your messages on Twitter, after Thursday's debacle?"
"... You should."
They made their arrangements for the morning as they walked back to Helen's home. Early morning breakfast television meant early start in the rehearsal room. "And I get to teach you my favourite dance," he explained at the steps leading up to her front door.
He winked, and dropped into position, holding an invisible, imaginary woman. "Tango, my dear Doctor Magnus. With you in my arms, we're sure to get a perfect score."
Rolling her eyes and smiling fondly, she threw a faux exasperated, "Go rest, Nikola," over her shoulder, taking out her phone. He'd piqued her interest; now she'd see what the fuss was all about.
Three hours later, a statement landed in Kate's email.
Chapter 13: I never wanted anything else.
Monday lunchtime, a snapshot.
Not quite with it at the mo, so this is quite short. But you get another chapter quite soon too. :)
"Was the dream always celebrity doctor?" Nikola asked. They were in the cafe connected with the dance hall, having stopped tangoing for lunch. The lasagne looked so tempting but Helen could still feel Nikola's warmth against her front. Deciding discretion was the better form of valour, she avoided the garlic. (She still had the cake though.)
She countered, asking, "Have you always wanted to be a dancer?"
"I never wanted anything else," he answered simply.
"You sound surprised," he replied, grinning. "An art form that's also a sport? And I can tell people what to do?" He waggled his eyebrows. "I love a good power trip."
It was a blessing Helen's hand was close to her mouth - her half eaten salad wanted to join in her laughter. With tears of mirth streaming down her face, she said (after a few moments to breathe and chew), "I never would have guessed." She sipped her tea. "Yes, I think being a doctor was always the dream. My mum…" She looked around, wary of anyone not at their table. "My mum died when I was eight. But even before then... She was a doctor. I wanted to be like her."
Nikola nodded, holding his bottle of water like a talisman. It was the only thing he'd touched that lunchtime. Helen said nothing, but filed it away. "Almost done?" he asked.
"Cake?" she offered.
She paused, fork in midair. "Mind if I carry on?"
Gesturing that he didn't mind, he started back on their dance. "So, this afternoon we're going through it again, with the music, so you can feel where the accents are."
They were dancing to some rock band Helen had never heard of. They weren't bad, just… very loud. The song started slow, but when the drums kicked in? Helen's main concern was not melting in the face of Nikola's domineering persona. His Tango facade was so hard, except for his eyes. They still glittered with whatever feeling simmered under the surface.
(She'd never admit to noticing though. They were just dancing, after all.)
Chapter 14: Give me a minute or an hour.
Tango and frustration equals Helen needing a break.
... It's a slow burn, ok? And the tango is very passionate
and Helen is allergic to feelings. I hope you enjoy. :)
He complained again in Serbian. It was his release valve, she guessed, and possibly a way to swear on air without the Beeb crushing him. Also meant she understood absolutely nothing of what he said and that was completely fine by her. (She'd look it up later on a translation site.)
"Uradite to ponovo," he said, waving his hand in the oft used 'repeat it' fashion, and walking to the CD player.
"English, Nikola." He might've used the gesture but Helen needed the words.
Holding back a growl, he said, "Do it again."
Her jaw dropped. "Again? Nikola, I can barely feel my feet!"
He stalked right up to her, and in her dance trainers (a concept she had no clue about until she met this maddening man) she had to look up at him. Her spine was slowly melting as he repeated, low and dark, "Again, Helen."
Her breath caught as he bundled her (gently) into hold, her feet floating along the dance floor as he led her. The musical accents made sense as he commanded her to kick on time, look away and snap back, extend the back leg as they both dipped. His expert hand on her back burnt through her t-shirt, his thumb strumming her T9. Electric shocks sped through her and then the world's upside down and he's murmuring, "Dobra devojka," in breathless adulation like she knew what it meant.
She didn't care what it meant, staring at his lips, she just wanted-- "I-- I need a break. Can you give me a minute?" Or an hour? she asked, pushing away from him. All she could smell and feel and sense was him and it was all too much.
"S-sure," he replied, just as shaky.
As she walked out the door, she tried to forget his bright blue eyes staring openly at her lips.
Chapter 15: You don't see it?
The results of the tango.
I'm sorry, I bottled it. I was so excited to write the tango that it all got a bit too much and I had a bit of a brain break with this chapter, so have the snapshot of after.
(And if you haven't seen, Elysandra wrote a fic after reading the last two chapters. You should totally read it. XD)
The Tango went off without a hitch. Every step was in time, every breath in sync. Even his hand on her bare back didn't distract her from the music. Shirley and Motsi both complimented her, adding little criticisms, but it was Bruno (Brilliant Bruno) again who made her smile. "It was as if you ate fire for breakfast," he said, his arms as expressive as ever. "Your kicks were so sharp they could've cut someone. Shirley's right; you do need to strengthen your core because you sometimes crumble in hold and flop onto Nikola, but otherwise? Hot hot hot!"
The crowd cheered and Helen beamed. Something about the dance just seemed to click and make sense. She felt as powerful on the ballroom floor as she did in her surgery. She even felt comfortable with all the make-up slathered to her face, and with the fauxhawk braid (made longer by the extensions clipped into place).
"And finally, Craig?" Tess invited.
Helen dragged in a breath.
"Trouble's certainly coming, and it's looking fab-u-lous! You still have lots of small things to correct--"
"Sranje," Nikola muttered into her hair, stroking her waist. She smiled distractedly, trying to listen to Craig's constructive (for once) criticisms.
"-- But you were mesmerising together." The crowd cheered again as Tess bade the pair go up the stairs to see Claudia. Helen grinned at Nikola, feeling his hand grab hers to run up the stairs together, waving as they did.
"I understand now," she said, going up the steps, "why you love this."
"The adoration?" he replied with a wink and a smirk.
She rolled her eyes, faking annoyance. "Prat."
"Helen! How did it feel?" Claudia asked when they got through the crowd of other dancers and celebrities.
"Amazing!" she gushed. "I really wouldn't have thought it at the start of the week, but yes. Amazing." She grinned at Nikola.
"Even Craig was impressed," Claudia added, filling time.
"The scores are in!" the announcer's voice boomed through the speakers before Helen could answer. Which was probably a good thing, if Nikola's fidgeting from foot to foot was anything to go by.
They both bounced giddily when they got an eight and three nines. "How did we do that?" Helen asked once they were off camera.
"You don't see it?" Nikola asked. She shook her head. He laughed, "It because we're Team Teslen--"
"I'm never living that down."
"-- And we're hot hot hot, baby!"
Laughing, they sat down to watch the next couple dance, Nikola explaining all the while what steps Will was obliterating. (After twenty minutes, Helen had almost forgotten he'd called her baby.)
Chapter 16: I can't do this anymore.
When you do this much training, something's got to give.
I'm slowly catching up with these prompts... Very slowly. (Brain has not wanted to comply these last few days.) Anyhoo, hope you enjoy!
Helen knew, coming into the competition, that she'd end most days a sweating, panting mess, but she hadn't expected it this way. With Nikola's hands on her abdomen, she slowly lowered her shoulders to the floor. He hovered over her, looking down with a soft smile and almost mischievous eyes. "If I knew from the start how well you followed direction, I wouldn't have been so nice."
She snorted, undignified, "Because you were the easiest of teachers from the very beginning."
His hands went to her right ankle, the thumbs rubbing small circles. Minutes passed, quiet and perturbed. "How does that feel?"
"Better. I'm going to have to keep it elevated for a while though."
Those eyes, normally so bright and sparkling and naughty, were now full to the brim with worry. (She tried not to show her disappointment - he wanted to win, and her hurting her ankle hurt his chances.) "How long do you need?"
Extending her leg (distractedly noticing how he didn't fully let go) and letting it rest on Nikola's right shoulder, she pondered for a minute, not wanting to diagnose but also not wanting to see the show's medic. "If I rest it today, and pop a support on it, I should have partial use and strength by tomorrow afternoon."
He nodded. "So a full twenty four hours?"
"Yes," she hissed as his fingers found her ankle again. How are his fingers so cool?
"Homework then!" he proclaimed, still gently rubbing.
"But I'm meant to be resting?"
"Hush, Helen, it's easy homework," he explained, moving her foot and grimacing when she hissed. "Sorry. Now, we are going to one of the conference rooms, turn down the lights, and watch dance films."
Helen narrowed her eyes. "Watch films?"
"Ye of little faith," he replied, one hand leaving her leg to splay over his heart. "Yes, dance films. Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, dancing backwards and all that." He grinned. "It'll be fun, and you can see some of the steps we'll be using in the future."
"Fine," she sighed, not wanting to miss (time with him) anything that could make her dancing better, but also wanting to wallow just a bit. "I need a cup of tea first, because I can't do this--" she waggled her finger back and forth along her prone form "-- anymore. Floor's a bit hard."
Nodding, he stood and offered his hand. "I think we can buy an ankle support at the front desk. Shall we?"
Looking at his hand then up at his face, she smiled, and took it.
Chapter 17: Did I ask?
Sunday morning with Helen and Henry.
Yeaaaaaaah, wasn't feeling the foxtrot. Just imagine it was pretty and flooffy and smooth as silk. Because it was. (Like, in my head Helen and Nikola got 31/40 - 7 and three 8s - so not bad at all.) But enjoy this chapter, because awkwardness incoming!
Spreading the jam on Henry's toast, and Marmite on her own, Helen hummed. Everyone loved her foxtrot, even if a quarter of it was spent on her bum. Nikola, upon realising that Helen's twenty four hours rest wasn't going to be enough, changed the routine. Her left foot was suddenly doing much more work as her right foot came up for kicks ("From the knee, Helen!") and turns. They were in hold for much more of the song, and ended back on the stairs, her bad ankle in the air as the leg rested on his lap. (His hand warm on my calf.)
"I guess it's half timing, and the other half's luck," she sung quietly, pouring water into her teapot.
"You sound happy, auntie H," said Henry as he walked into the kitchen, busily texting someone. "Ray says you looked cool last night, by the way," he added, holding up his phone, as if she could see anything.
"That's nice of her," she said, putting toast in front of him. "Ashley's still with James, so what would you like to do this morning?"
Helen nodded, and started on her own breakfast.
"Did you ask?" Henry asked, almost under his voice. Helen still caught it.
"Did I ask?"
"Sorry, texting Ray."
"I thought she was going out with Gerry?"
Henry nodded. "We were friends first though, so we still talk." His face fell. "What?"
"Nothing," she replied, shaking her head and reaching to touch his arm. "Just… be careful? You wouldn't want to upset your friends."
He nodded, slowly. The sound of toast being crunched filled the room. Sipping her tea, Helen read the news on her tablet, avoiding anything remotely related to the night before.
"When did you start liking Bublé?" Henry asked, brows furrowed. She tilted her head, and he explained, "You're humming again."
"Oh." She smiled. "I suppose I am."
"And when exactly is Nikola coming over?"
"We're going for a short run this eve-- What?"
Henry shook his head, laughing. She narrowed her eyes, which only made him laugh harder. "It's nothing, really." He finished his toast. Helen waited, wary - she'd raised this child after all, she knew him - and sure enough, "He's just way cooler than any of your other boyfriends."
Chapter 18: This, this made it all worth it.
It's the start of Rumba week, and Helen's getting additional tuition.
Yessssss, Rumba! So here for this.
Hope you enjoy!
The words stuck in her head like a broken record. She almost cancelled their arranged run ("It's totally a date, aunt Hel!"). Almost, but didn't. Ignoring the little (Henry sounding) voice, she answered the door with a smile.
The run was like every other run they'd had around Primrose Hill - easy and fun. Nikola was his usual ball of energy, with an infectious happiness that boosted her own..
"You did well last night," he said as they sat next to each other on Primrose Hill in the semi darkness. "How's your ankle?"
"Almost all better, thank you," she replied, stretching it.
He nodded. "Good. Then tomorrow's surprise will be a good one."
Grinning (... date, aunt Hel!), he just tapped the side of his nose. "You'll see."
Helen sauntered into the dance hall on Monday morning, bundled in a wool coat that begged to be touched. (And boy, did he want to touch.) "We have a vid thing to do," he muttered, taking her coat and chucking it over his in the corner. "Ready for your surprise?"
"Is it a nice surprise?" she asked, stretching.
Nikola watched, dry mouthed, as she bent to touch her toes. Has she always been that bendy? How long is she staying like that? What's that noise?
"Nikola!" she sing-songed, waving her hand in front of his eyes. "Earth to Nikola? Are you in there?"
He blinked, and smiled (and hoped to everything she hadn't caught him staring). "It's a surprise."
"You won't even tell me if it's good or bad?"
He shrugged, still grinning, and opened his arms. "Warm up, then surprise."
Sat facing the camera, Helen tried to ignore the warmth radiating from Nikola's (strong, muscular) thigh, and concentrate on the words spewing forth from his mouth. This was meant to look natural, as if they were just having a conversation and the camera-- Wait… "Ballet? With the tutus?"
"To help strengthen your ankles, and make toe pointing second nature," he explained. "The rumba is so much more about body positioning and line extension than any of the other dances."
"... Are you wearing a tutu?"
Laughing, Nikola clicked his fingers, and they held their pose. All the while Helen kept imagining Nikola in a tutu (and not much else). But ballet? Her last ballet class was at the age of six, and she spent most of it sitting on the floor (sulking). And surely they weren't going to the dance class now? "That's that done," he announced, waving at the camera. "Class is this afternoon, so for now, rumba basics."
Well, this was a turn up for the books. Watching his sister tell Helen what to do during the ballet class stirred something in Nikola, a possessiveness he hadn't felt in the longest time. Angelina physically manipulated Helen's arms and legs in a way Nikola hadn't dared, for fear of giving into temptation. Helen listened intently to Angelina's instruction, moving through the positions seamlessly.
"Ladies, step aside and let a master do his thing," he announced, walking into the room. His heart did that (stupid) pitter-patter thing when Helen smiled at him, turning into a pleased gallop when she laughed. "What? It's a ballet class, with the tutus." He grinned and gave a little twirl, his bright pink tutu getting air time.
He almost forgot the cameraman hovering behind his shoulder.
A few hours later, after saying goodbye to Angelina and doing the second half of the video clip, they went back to their dance room. Already Helen stood firmer, toes pointed beautifully, extremities fully extended, and more receptive to instruction. Even her smile was back. Looking down once again at the tutu he still wore he thought, This, this made it all worth it.
Chapter 19: And neither should you.
Nikola plays a song from Helen's past that she'd rather stay there.
So... a bit more grit for our dynamic duo. And the spectre of John reappears. But it'll get better... I think.
Lemme know what you think! :)
"I can't dance to this."
Helen handed the tiny bluetooth speaker back to Nikola. "I can't dance to this."
"Ok." He put the speaker down with utmost care, thinking of what words to use next.
"It was the song John and I used for our first wedding dance."
Neither looked at each other, and to be honest, Nikola wasn't sure what, if anything, he should say. He'd never been divorced, or married, or even had a deeply intimate and romantic relationship. It wasn't something that really came up on his radar. But now he wanted to know. Why that song? Who chose it? How long did they dance? Did she rest her head on his shoulder and forget the world existed? Did the DJ blare it at ear splitting levels or was it background music?
"Whatever's on your mind, Nikola, ask it," she told him, sitting crossed legged on the floor. "I might not answer, but you would've asked."
He looked at her, really looked at her. Whatever strength she'd gained had been zapped by the song. He shook his head. He'd gain nothing from his asking, except a recession in their (friend) partnership, and that hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach was all the cold water he needed. "I was just trying to figure out what song to use instead."
"Will it be a problem?"
"Nothing you should worry about," he assured her. "With everything that's happened recently, I think they'll be understanding."
She nodded. He'd turned his back for a second when she released an almighty yell, slamming her hands onto the polished wood flooring. It was like nothing he'd ever heard from her before (and she got frustrated with her feet). "Damn that man!" Panting, she quickly glanced at Nikola, then the camera, then walked out the door.
Nikola waited a few minutes before turning the camera off and following her. The receptionist pointed to the door opposite their hall.
"You know, if you keep your feet shoulder width apart you get more force in your punch." Looking up from the punching bag she all but hugged, Helen watched as Nikola swaggered in, his hands up in peace. "I can hold it for you, if it helps," he added, tapping the heavy leather bag.
"I'm sorry, he's…" She sighed. "I chose that song, so to hear it after everything…"
"You don't need to explain anything." He tapped the bag again, not looking at her. "And neither should you have to."
She let go of the bag, taking half a step back to look at him. He was so pale in the fluorescent lights she could count each freckle along his temples, but his eyes… Leaning ever so slightly on her front foot, she whispered, "Thank you."
"For what?" he asked, equally quiet.
"Not asking questions when I think you really wanted to?"
He grinned, although it didn't look like his normal smile. "Self control, it's what I'm good at." His eyes didn't look so bright either. "I'll find us another song, don't you worry." His hand tapped hers, and gosh didn't those sparks fly up her arm. "The old one was way too cliche, anyway."
Chapter 20: Do we have to?
Still more rumba practice, but now someone's starting to notice Feelings.
Ok, I admit, I'm wallowing in this dance now. Maybe this should've happened during Tango but... meh. XD Have the feels during Rumba instead.
Lemme know what you think. :)
Late Wednesday night, music finally sorted, choreography almost all learnt, Nikola reminded Helen, again, about her frame. "You're still dancing, even when your arms are around me. Don't lose the strength in your core."
"All I'm doing is concentrating on my core!" she complained.
"Really? Because from where I am it feels like you're just letting your legs hang there."
"It's not like I can wrap them around you or anything like that, so what--! What?" she bit, seeing him narrow his eyes.
"Let's try that. Wrap your right leg around my hip."
Helen swallowed. "I-- I didn't…"
He grinned, although it didn't quite meet his eyes. "It'll look good going into the chorus."
He counted them in, calling the beats and steps, supporting Helen's thigh when it hooked around his hip. "Make sure your left foot stays on the floor or it's a lift."
"Don't lift me any higher and my foot'll stay on the floor," she retorted.
"I have to if I want to use my legs."
"Get longer legs."
"What?" He stopped moving, looking her in the eye. "Get longer legs?"
Helen nodded slowly, fighting the smile twitching on her lips. "Yes?" The laughing happened out of nowhere, but it shook them both. Nikola stood on tip toes and they both laughed harder. Helen tightened her leg around his hip and they both stopped, as suddenly as they started, panting hard. Her hand moved gently from his shoulder to his neck, his own hand moving around to her back.
"Maybe we don't do this move on stage?" he suggested, shrugging.
"Sounds like a good idea." She tried for nonchalant but her leg was still around his hip. Nodding, attempting to look away, she started bringing her leg down. It felt, for a moment, like he was trying to keep her there but the resistance fell away. Pointing to the door, she murmured about needing, "A five minute break?"
He shook his head, holding her hand. "Helen, the rumba is about emotion, about feelings. A by-product of that is us dancing close. If you're uncomfortable with anything, you have to tell me."
She shook her head back. "Nothing's uncomfortable, I'm just allergic to feelings."
Throwing his head back, he laughed again. "Helen Magnus, you are not allergic to feelings, or you wouldn't feel them so deeply."
Straightening her back, she replied, "Be that as it may, I'm not uncomfortable with anything, I just need a five minute break."
His laughter dwindled (Ouch, that hurt.). "... Sure. When you get back we'll run through it again, to the music."
Crumpling slightly, and doing an impressive impression of Henry, she groaned. "Do we have to?"
"Do you want to win?" he replied, arching his brow.
As she walked out the door, Helen couldn't say exactly what she wanted (except to feel his hand on my thigh again) but knew she needed fresh air. It might bring me to my senses.
Chapter 21: Are you kidding me?
Show night, and it's not a good night.
I've not had much sleep as I'm posting this, but I hope you enjoy.
Tiny bingo fill: apologising.
Maybe it was the lights, or the song, or the way Nikola looked at her as if she hung the moon, but a good rumba was not on the cards for her that night. From the moment the singers started everything else fell to pieces. Every judge pulled her up on it.
"Clunky, stompy, pigeon toed." The audience boo'd but Helen quite agreed with him. "You walked your walks instead of dancing them. Really, a rumba should be mesmerising, but yours was more like passing a car crash." She nodded as he said, almost gently, "And you know it."
"Ok, now Shirley?" Tess asked.
"Oh Helen, where's the firebrand from the tango a few weeks back? This feels like you've gone backwards. Your arms should fully extend, not just your legs. I did like Nikola pulling you across the floor, but," she shook her head, smiling sadly, "this was not your dance."
Motsi's expression resembled Shirley's. "Your footwork wasn't as clunky as Craig says but you could see you concentrating. You have the ability to make it look natural, but this evening it didn't happen."
Even Bruno couldn't cheer her up, and really, she felt like she didn't deserve the cheering. "What happened, Helen? The last few weeks you two were playing off each other beautifully. This week? Your dance lacked emotion, or even connection. Where was your eye contact from the tango? Rumba is just as intense." He shook his head. "Not your dance."
"And the last couple through to next week is Will and Abby, meaning Helen and Nikola are in the dance off." The light above their heads went red. Nikola growled, but squeezed her shoulders. Helen knew Tess was still speaking but she heard none of it. She'd buggered up.
"I'm sorry," she murmured to him as the band played the theme sting to get them off stage.
"Are you kidding me? Helen…" He looked around then dragged her to a dark corner near the stage. "You don't need to apologise. You know you can dance this. What happened?"
She shook her head. "I'd rather not say."
"You're on in thirty seconds," a stagehand announced, smiling. "Critiques."
They nodded. "Whatever happens, Helen, I'm glad I got to dance with you," he murmured, squeezing her hand.
It all became a bit of a blur again, Shirley reminding her to show her connection with Nikola. "This could be your last dance."
Oh. Oh no.
"I'll keep a part of you with me," blasted through the studio but Helen barely heard it. All she did was look at Nikola, showing her emotions through the dance like all the judges wanted, ignoring everything else (his hands on my stomach, pressing up behind me, lips close to my ear, one last turn together, end looking at--)
"Savršeno," he murmured as they rested their foreheads together, lowering in time with the music to the floor. "So much better."
She smiled as the applause erupted around her, and didn't stop smiling through the judges unanimous vote to keep her. Jumping for joy with her arms around Nikola, she decided no more holding back.
No-one would ever get to know how she felt for him (He's just my friend), but she would no longer hold back in her dancing.
Chapter 22: Sometimes you can even see.
The dance off, from Abby and Will's perspective. She just wishes he'd keep his trap shut.
Hell WeekMy week covering my parents at work is over! So, in celebration, have a chapter. (The hiatus has nothing to do with me having writers block, nuh-uh.)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Watch closely," Will told Abby, as Nikola and Doctor Helen danced their rumba again, "there's something there."
Abby scoffed, rolling her eyes and shaking her head. "There isn't."
"Look, there!" They were pushing from each other before Doctor Helen wrapped her arms around Nikola, almost stopping him from walking away. "Sometimes you can even see genuine emotion from her to him, like she likes him."
She shook her head, but brought him closer. "Shut up, keep smiling," she added, noticing a stage hand edging nearer. God knows they didn't need any gossip. "Do not let the stage hands or producers hear you say that, or they will interfere." Abby widened her eyes, hoping he'd get the hint.
"I'm just saying--" He didn't. "-- They look good together."
"And I'm saying that they don't need gossips. Keep smiling," she whispered, seeing the camera pan the audience. "Keep it to yourself."
They really did look good together. They'd finished the routine and -- "You know something, don't you?" No peace.
Turning fully to him, she answered, "There's nothing to know about either of them."
You might wanna keep that whole
crush thing on the downlow. Will's figuring
Nikola looked at his phone. Between being in the bottom two (and that hurt) and being saved (get to dance again) he didn't have the energy to deal with Abby's warning.
Another message. From Helen. Grinning, he opened it.
I'm sorry I let you down tonight, but I'm
so glad we get to dance together again. I'll
see you tomorrow.
Didnt let me down. Im glad too.
He really was. Especially since next week was salsa week and Helen needed a hip shimmy. He'd need a drink by the end of it, but it'll be worth it. A party dance was exactly what his doctor should call for.
Don't @ me about Nikola's texting. He doesn't like apostrophes.
Chapter 23: How about you trust me for once?
Start of salsa week, baby, yeah! So why is Helen having odd dreams?
I am so going to make a soundtrack for this fic, all the songs used sorta thing. Anyhoo, I'm slowly coming to the end of the Fictober prompts, so after I'll be using... something. Someone will suggest something. XD
Hope you enjoy. :)
"How about you trust me for once?" Helen looked down at his hand. She always trusted him on the dance floor, why was this different?
Taking his hand, she jumped into his embrace, wrapping her legs around his waist. Something that felt so alien only a few days ago now felt natural.
Holding his head in her hands, he looked into her eyes and said, "Auntie Helen, we're going to be late for school!"
The dream dissolved around her. A hand jiggled her shoulder. "Come on, auntie Hel, it's Ashley's trip day and we're going to be late." Eyes opening, she looked up at Henry, harried and a bit wired. "All she's done all weekend is talk about this trip. She can't be late."
Helen nodded, real life rushing back to her. Looking at her watch she said, "Is she ready to go?"
Henry nodded. "She needs lunch money though."
"I'll be down in a minute." Just let me shake off this dream.
"Are you sure they'll let us dance to that?" Helen asked, handing Nikola his little bluetooth speaker. He shrugged and winked his eye. She may only have known him just shy of two months, but she learnt that expression early on. "You're not telling them?"
"We have until Tuesday night to learn this routine," he explained, "so požuri!"
"If I learn this in two days, won't the producers just make me learn a different dance in two days?"
He shook his head, holding out his hand. "They're so busy with Blackpool preparations that our song choice is the least of their worries." He waggled his fingers. "Come on; this week we salsa!"
"Ok, shoulder shimmy, move your hips, turn turn turn, and pop, arm, pop-- what?" Nikola all but growled at the assistant walking in.
"Hi, uhm… We need VT of you practicing? I'm just here to grab the tape."
Helen smiled, softness infusing her features as she said to the quaking assistant, "Nikola's only grouchy as I've trodden on his toes a few times."
"And the rest," he added, having grabbed a water bottle in their impromptu break.
"I'll get out of your hair now," she said, minutes later. The nervousness had all but disappeared when she smiled and said, "Good luck for Saturday. Mum and I are rooting for you, Doctor Magnus."
Nikola turned to Helen, seeing the fleeting expression of shock cross her face. As the door closed, a soft snick, he asked, "Are you ok?"
She nodded. "I sometimes forget other people are watching." Sighing happily, she said, "Let's get these arm twist things right."
Chapter 24: Give me that.
Nikola gets set straight about an issue.
... I'll explain the why to this chapter in the footer notes. Just know the second half of this chapter came from nowhere
and I like it. Hope you all enjoy. :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Wild wild wild, wild wild wild…"
"Slinky hips, arms right, hands, slink slink, shimmy." Nikola shimmied behind her, then with his hand on her hip he pushed her into a spin. She twirled on the spot, feeling ever so slightly like a music box ballerina on speed. Another rotation and she stopped, falling backwards into an arch that stretched muscles she hadn't used in years, Nikola supporting her the entire time. Back up, and his hand was on her shoulder, "Side by side!" he called, as they slid into some simple back and forth step that Helen loved on screen but -- "Concentrate!" -- and now she'd lost the routine.
"Tesla! A word!" They both looked and gulped when they saw the big bosses by the door.
"Oh dear," Helen muttered, watching Nikola saunter to them. En masse they left the room, but it didn't help much. The words, "Family friendly," reverberated around the door, as well as, "Warning you!"
Stretching the way Angelina taught her, Helen kept herself busy as she waited.
The yelling stopped a fair while earlier (thank heavens) but she was still alone. Mind made up, she changed her shoes.
"You're more likely to hurt yourself than anyone else with that form," she told him. They were in the room opposite their rehearsal hall, the punch bag now Nikola's confidante. When he didn't respond, she stood behind him and pulled his elbows in and down. "You want to protect your upper body, make yourself small."
He's dreamt of moments like this, her hands on him, commanding and contorting. He'd deny it, but a thrill raced down his spine each time he remembered a fantasy. Her hands were firm and knowing, her breath butterflying on his neck. "Better," she murmured, smoothing his shoulders. "Shall I spot you, or are you just hugging the bag?"
"Very funny," he replied, voice hollow.
"Want to talk?"
"Want to punch the bag?"
Glancing at it, he shook his head. Bruised knuckles were passé. "We have to either change the song or get penalised."
"How badly penalised?"
"... We could only get half marks."
Nodding, he went back to glaring at the punch bag, as if it would change anything. It wasn't a question of whether or not Helen could learn a new dance in a short amount of time - he knew she could - it was the principle. And he had quite enjoyed singing along to Rihanna. And dancing close.
"Wasn't that song based on sample?" He nodded. "Could you change the dance to fit it?"
"It's not as simple as that," he muttered.
"You could make it that simple," she murmured. Staring into her eyes, he almost missed her, "I have faith in you."
With a lump in his throat, he wrapped his arms around her. "Ok--" he kissed the side of her head, "-- I'll make it that simple." She grinned, and all he wanted to do was beg for all her smiles. Turning them both, he said, "Come on. Give me that faith on the dance floor."
Everytime I tried to plot out the dance in my head, Work by Rihanna would play, rather than Wild Thoughts so I'm saving my brain. XD
Chapter 25: Do I have to do everything here?
Travelling up to Blackpool on the coach? Perfect time to chill out and catch up.
Sorry I've not updated in a few days. But to make up for it I've made this chapter a bit longer.
This is almost pure self indulgence, so enjoy! Let me know what you think in the little box below. :D
"Not that I'm complaining but is there any point to this jaunt?" Nigel asked the lowly assistant from the back of the bus. "Wouldn't a plane or a train work just as well?"
"Its auntie Beeb, Nige," Anton answered from close to the front. "They can barely afford the coach!"
"And the big bosses want you all to share a coach trip," Lin, the assistant, added. "Look, the camera's here for two minutes while you get comfy, and another will be at the tower to record you disembarking. Between those two points, you could all have an orgy for all I care, just don't distract the coach driver."
A loud whooping noise from the back filled the small space, and Helen remembered, almost gratefully, about her ear plugs. She was getting ready to put them in when Nikola flopped into the seat next to her. "Hi?"
"Hi. This seat taken?" He blessed her with his winning smile, and Helen couldn't help the little butterflies headbutting her stomach. Covering up her appreciation, she just shook her head indulgently.
"I can go sit in the back with the naughty kids, if you like," he joked (although, there was a glimmer of worry in his eyes that looked totally out of place in his gaze).
Helen looked back and saw Nigel, Giovanni, and Abby doing… Well, she wasn't quite sure what they were doing. She sighed dramatically, "You're sat down now, so I suppose you can stay here." She winked; he laughed and sprawled his arm out along the back of the chair.
"Thank god, Nigel's a nightmare on a coach."
The first hour passed noisily, but soon enough everyone settled down - Oti and Amy glared until certain people stopped yelling. By then, Nikola was watching their last rehearsal, nodding every now and then. His concentration was mesmerising. "You need to curve more into that spin," he murmured, pointing to what he meant. "And more hip action there."
"How was your dress fitting?"
"Painful." She rolled her eyes. "Nobody's fault, but my hip found one of the remaining pins." He hissed sympathetically. "I'm fine, and the ladies in Costume were very apologetic."
"And the dress itself?"
"It's very… Blue. With lots of whispy skirt bits." She shrugged. "It moved a lot when I did."
They lapsed into a comfortable silence, and again Helen thought of his arm slung across the seat back. The same arm that, only two days ago, wrapped around her shoulders before he kissed her head. Now, she knew from watching Nikola with Abby, Nigel, and some of the other dancers that he was tactile, but that had thrown her for a loop.
Mostly because she wished it hadn't just been a swift peck to her temple.
"What do you do on long journeys?" he asked, out of the blue.
"Depends on who I'm with," she replied. "If I'm alone and I'm driving, I listen to the radio."
"And when you're not alone?"
Helen laughed. "Ah, I have become quite the I Spy master. It keeps the children quiet for many miles."
He smiled. "I spy with my little eye…"
"Hey, Nikola, have you got…?" The question died on Abby's lips. There, curled up in their shared seat, were Helen and Nikola, sound asleep. His arm was around her shoulder, her head against his shoulder, his head on hers. If Abby didn't know any better, she would have said they were more than professional and celebrity.
"Abigail darling, you've been stood there-- Oh!" Anton's eyebrows flew up into his hairline. "Well, now that's a turn up for the books," he said, sotto voce. "What are you going to do?"
"Do?" she echoed, eyebrows furrowing. "I'm doing nothing. Nikola's an asshole if you wake him up."
Anton tsked. "Do I have to do everything here? Give me your phone." He held his hand out expectantly.
"Fine," he grumbled, taking out his own from his pocket. Abby realised his plan, snatching his phone away.
"My camera's better," she explained, simpering. If Anton had that picture things could get very bad.
"There you go, take a picture. If it's good enough you could always leak it." He said this with an elbow shove and an air of conspiracy that made Abby's tummy roll. Still, they did look cute.
Photo taken, she crept away.
Helen jolted awake, batting away Nikola's chest.
She blinked. Nikola's chest?
"Good morning, sleepy head," he whispered, sounding as sleep sodden as she felt.
"Hi," she finally managed to say, her hand on his chest. She tried to ignore the roughness of his voice and how she reacted to it, the same way she tried to ignore his hand stroking her upper arm as if waking up together (oh my) was normal. But even she couldn't ignore the racing rhythm his heart beat. "We should get up."
He nodded, but neither made any effort to move. If anything, Helen's movements were towards--
"Come on, Nik, poor Helen's desperate for the loo there," Nigel commented as he walked by. "Let the poor woman up."
And like that, the moment was broken. Laughing self consciously, she bobbed her head. "You've probably had enough of being my pillow. Come on, let me out."
Later, she could still feel his heartbeat in her fingertips.
Chapter 26: Back up!
Rehearsals and fun times at Blackpool's Tower Ballroom.
Long time coming (RL is kicking my butt atm), but have another chapter.
Let me know what you think (and if there's any mistakes please let me know). :D
Nikola watched Helen take in the space. The Tower Ballroom, golden and gleaming, looked almost cathedral-like with its painted ceilings and bright lights pointing to the heavens. Opulent was his go to word when describing the place. Crimson chairs surrounded most of the dance floor's perimeter, except for the judges' desk. It should look out of place, but right now it looked like a bare altar, waiting for the right moment. The place was a hive of activity. Up on the stage, Dave Arch and his band were setting up, various production team members were dashing around, and Helen, his new best friend (oh for it to be more), stood transfixed. Her eyes were like saucers, taking it all in. Touching her lower back, he murmured her name.
"It's bigger than the studio," she muttered, still looking up. Had she noticed the boxes up the wall? Nikola swallowed harshly, an image of hiding in one of those sequestered places with Helen trying to form. He mentally stamped that image into dust.
"Have you danced here before?"
He nodded. "Once with the show, twice at competition." He wrapped his arm around her shoulder and, with the other, made a grand sweeping gesture. "And this floor will be yours tomorrow."
"Ok guys," a crew member yelled, "we're going to let Dave and the band finish setting up, then we'll have a quick run through before dinner, and a full dress rehearsal starting at half six."
Dave and his band were, as usual, quick at setting up and tuning up, and by three o'clock couples started taking their turns. Abby and William volunteered to go first, dancing a passable Cha Cha Cha. Dotted around the hall were other couples, walking through their routines. Nikola, instead, had Helen working through her stretches. "Pointed toes, Helen, not pigeon toes." All the while he kept her informed of what the others were doing.
"Nikola, stop complaining."
"I'm not complaining, I'm keeping you abreast of the competition."
She looked at him in askance. "You just spent the whole song bitching about Giovanni, and the ten minutes before that telling me about Will's lazy feet." Using the back of a stool for balance, she did a plié and said, "I know we celebrities are only playing in your sand pit but you must learn to share."
"I don't mind sharing with you; it's sharing with everyone else I don't like."
Her indulgent smile as she rose shot straight to his heart. "I like sharing with you too." Another plié, with one arm above her head this time. As covertly as he could, he watched her, revelling in her form. "When are we?"
"Whe--?" He coughed, covering his almost guilty expression (she's smiling though, so maybe…?). "We're after Aljaž and Clara."
"This should work," she said, coming out of Wardrobe in her dance costume. Nikola nodded distracted, barely looking up from his phone. He'd recorded their first dance through to study as she changed (the men were always quicker getting dressed and he hated, "The wasted time waiting.") He hummed along with the recorded band. "Shall we get back in there," she prodded, "or are we practicing out here now?"
"We'll be…" His words trailed off. "Wow."
She nodded. Arms outs, she gave a little twirl (smile a little brighter when she heard his quiet intake of breath). "I like the skirt, and these flowers," she added, touching the ruffles and applique flowers at the apex of her skirt's split. "Back's a bit cold though."
"Yeah. Th-- those straps don't look very warm," he agreed, looking just a touch deer in the headlights, though Helen couldn't fully understand why. It couldn't be the dress - he danced with Abby whilst she wore less - or herself (because that would be silly talk). Must be the colour...
"Back up!" a voice yelled as a thundering of feet travelled down the narrow hallway. Within seconds Nigel, Giovanni, and Aljaž barrelled by. Nikola, in a blink, protected her against the wall, caging her in with his body. He smells good. Licking her lips, she chanced a glance at him
Dilated pupils? Who's panting? Is he about to…? Oh goodness he looks--
"Bloody hell, this wall's cold," she muttered, arching her back.
"Helen." Her name came out a strangled plea. She just wanted to burrow into his arms never leave them.
One warm hand landed between her scapulae, index finger on her T2, and oh goodness she was going to swoon if he kept stroking her skin like that. Time stretched like toffee, and all she wanted was to stay in this moment, teetering on the precipice of something. Stretching her neck, her breath butterflying back from his lips, his eyelids fluttered closed and--
"Two minutes to curtain! Get moving people!"
Spell broken, Nikola stepped back, drawing back his hands as if burnt. "I uh… I'm in uh… I'll see you backstage." Like lightning, he bolted.
Chapter 27: Just say it.
"The judges scores are in..." They danced the Salsa, and now they have time to kill.
We're almost coming to the end of the Fictober prompts. I'm gonna keep going though (because Elysandra has been *super* awesome and bundled a bunch of prompts for me - thank you!). Also, we're just about finishing Blackpool week too!
No triggers here, but uh... Please be kind to Nigel.
Oh! And lemme know what you think!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
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…"
Please don't hurt me. XD
Chapter 28: I trust you.
What happens in Blackpool, stays in Blackpool
Well, the last Fictober prompt is here, but that doesn't mean the story's finished. But as it's been a few days, have a longer chapter
and a change of rating.
Thank you to everyone who's reading and enjoying. I hope you enjoy this chapter. Lemme know what you think! :)
"You're back!" Ashley yelled, seeing Helen walk into the kitchen at James' house.
"Hello my darlings," she said, having the wind squished out of her when two sets of arms wrapped around her. Ruffling Henry's hair first, then Ashley's, she asked, "How was your weekend?"
"I got to stay up until ten!" Ashley announced, bouncing.
"James couldn't get her to sleep before then," Henry explained. "We got to have hot chocolate too."
"Well," she breathed, "we best make our afternoon out a short one."
Ashley cheered whilst Henry asked, "Are you dancing next week?" Helen nodded. The results show wouldn't be shown for several hours yet. Henry nodded back and grinned. "Awesome. Is Nikola coming with us?"
Helen flushed, and blinked. "... No?"
"Leave your poor aunt alone, Henry," said James, coming into the kitchen. "She gets enough of that from the mediocre hounds camping outside her dance rehearsals." Hugging Helen, he asked, "But are you spending time with Nikola today? Inquiring minds must know."
Scoffing, she rolled her eyes. "The man is exhausted after last night and we start the quickstep Monday, so he's deigned to give us the day off."
Henry shrugged and took out his phone, meandering away, whilst Ashley sat at the table, swinging her legs as she read a book. James just looked at Helen. "Something's happened between you, hasn't it?"
"Tea? I'm parched."
"I'll boil the kettle."
"Avoidance doesn't work," he told her in a sing-song manner, over the rumbling boil of the kettle.
"It does when there's a child is in the room," she sing-songed back, looking pointedly at Ashley, still reading her book.
"Ashley, my dear miscreant, could you read in the drawing room? Mummy and I need to have a word."
"But I'm reading here," she complained. "It's cold in there."
"Go get changed first then, darling," Helen told her.
"Fine," she sighed. "Just because uncle James wants to gossip."
"I do not gossip!" James argued, aghast and grinning as Ashley walked out the room. He turned to Helen. "Give me the gossip."
Helen rolled her eyes. "There isn't much to tell…"
Abby whooped as Nikola all but dropped a tray full of drinks onto the table. "Another Blackpool night done!" she announced, taking a glass each for her and Will. She pushed the tray towards Helen, Amy, and Nikola, who was trying to drag Giovanni out of his chair by his ear. "Gio, move your ass."
He muttered something about Americans and Serbs, but it was in English so they knew he didn't mean any malice. He sat down one seat over, whilst Nikola grabbed his drink and plopped down next to Helen. "And another chance to survive!" he announced, clinking glasses with Abby, then Giovanni, then Helen. "Sorry you're out, Amy."
"We tried our best," she surmised, smiling. "But I get to watch you all now without worrying!" Even over the raucous pub crowd, Helen could hear the South Wales accent tingeing Amy's words. It was adorable with her (although she'd never admit it).
"Aren't you joining?" Helen asked, holding up her drink.
Amy shook her head. "It plays merry havoc with my meds if I'm honest, and I'll be off soon." She smiled at Abby, "I'm going home for a few days."
They squealed and started chatting excitedly about weddings and plans. Helen caught Nikola's eye. They both smiled nervously then looked away. Helen bit her lip, then grinned as she sipped her wine - Nikola's hand was on her lower back, his thumb stroking.
True to her word, Amy left soon after, waving at them all. Will decided to get a round in. "Gotta keep you dancers hydrated," he said after making a note of what everyone was drinking. Giovanni and Abby were deep in conversation, and Nikola was still stroking Helen's back.
"How does it feel to be top of the leaderboard?" he murmured later, close to her ear.
"Now that I have feeling back in my legs? Amazing," she replied, grinning. "Thank you for being such a good teacher."
"And just think, I still have more to teach you."
Helen looked at his lips. "Oh really?"
Waggling his eyebrows, he replied, "Sure. We have the quickstep next week and that's a whole new dance." He leant in closer, "You're gonna have to keep up with me, Doctor Magnus."
"Don't I always?" she shot back, arching her eyebrow.
"We get it, you flirt all the time," Giovanni complained with a laugh, throwing a wadded up napkin at them. "Either kiss or drink your wine!"
Laughing, Helen drank whilst Nikola threw the napkin back. It bounced off Giovanni's head and landed neatly in Abby's drink.
"Look what you've done, Nikola! You've ruined Abigail's drink. Come signora, I shall get you a new one!"
"Wait, weren't the papers saying something about Abigail and that Zimmerman fellow?" James interrupted as Helen drank her tea.
"They also say I've been shagging Nikola since week two," she reminded him.
James nodded. "Fair. Continue."
"I should really be going," said Helen, looking at her watch. "I'm catching an early train back to London in the morning."
"Picking up your kids?" Will asked, a bit bleary eyed. She nodded. "It's nice your kids like you dancing… Is your ex still bugging you?"
That stopped her short. Flushing, she replied, "No. He's been following the rules of the restraining order."
"That's cool. Sorry he's a dick. You deserve to have fun. You're so cool."
"And you're so drunk," Helen pointed out. "You best be off too."
"Is that an invitation to join you?"
She laughed. "No, it's me, as a medical doctor, suggesting you go back to your hotel room to sleep it off."
"But you need someone to walk you home, protect you from the the… Uh…" He narrowed his eyes. "I'm so drunk. Ignore me."
"We do, frequently," Nikola whispered as Will's head met the table. "Come on, Helen, I'm going that way."
She shook her head, smiling. "Aren't you celebrating with the others?"
The both looked over to the bar. Giovanni had his hand on Abby's hip as she leant in to whisper something. A few feet away were some of the other dancers, and in the opposite direction were some of the crew. Nikola shook his head. "I'll celebrate when we win."
"When?" she asked, grinning as she stood. He nodded. "You're very certain of yourself."
"With you as my partner, and me as your teacher," he said, standing so close she could smell the remnants of his aftershave - spicy and electric at the same time - and count the freckles on his temples, "of course we're gonna win."
"Yes yes, you flirt, you drink. Get to the good bit," James groused.
Helen blinked. "You're worse than the gossip sites Kate follows."
"Well, this is me," Helen murmured outside her hotel door, leaning her back against it. "Thank you for walking me back." He shrugged, and smiled, and that heavy, obvious tension fell between them. He licked his lips, his eyes darting all over her face. "Nikola, I--"
"Helen, I--" They spoke together. Laughing, Helen touched his wool jacket's lapel. "After you," he murmured.
"I really like yo… your jacket," she told him, licking her lips.
"I uh… really like your jacket too," he echoed, touching her arm.
The seconds stretched. All she wanted was to bridge that gap but she knew a kiss wouldn't be enough. "I should…"
He nodded, but neither moved away. With as much grace the drunken gods gave her, she moved her head closer, almost sighing when he cradled her cheek in his hand. "Can I kiss you?" he whispered, his thumb gentle on her cheekbone.
James stared at her. "And?"
Helen's phone rang. Looking at the caller ID, she shrugged at James. "And nothing. Hi Kate," she greeted over the phone.
"We need to rearrange your Monday," she said. Looking at James, Helen shrugged again and smiled.
"Can I kiss you?"
Eyes wide, she nods. The first brush of his lips against hers is soft and electrifying, frying all her neurons. Eyes closing, all she needs is his mouth on hers, his body hard against her. Clenching her hand around his lapel, she flattens herself against him, his hand on her lower back. This was bliss, all she had imagined and more. Everything's screaming for her to drag him into her room and explore all of him, but she can't. "Nikola," she says, a prayer and a pant as he kisses her neck. "Nikola, wait."
"Wait?" he asks, bemused and kiss-drunk.
"Wait," she repeats, smiling. "I want to win the show, but I don't want to risk ruining our dancing rapport with whatever this is," she indicates between them.
"In case it goes bad?" he asks. His voice is so quiet, unsure, the opposite of his usual manner, that she can't help but kiss his cheek.
She nods. "We're going to win the show, and then we'll… celebrate." She arches her brow, smiling suggestively, and his whole face lights up.
"You're very certain of that," he murmurs, his smirk wicked as he edges closer, crowding her against the door.
"With you as my teacher," she replies, pecking a kiss on his lips, "I can win anything. But for now," another small kiss, "we keep our hands family friendly."
"Ok," he says, kissing her again. "Are you sure?"
Their kiss is lingering, his lips worshipping hers. "Ok. I trust you, and your judgment."
With one last kiss, he steps away, eyes dark. Unlocking the door, she steps across the threshold. Turning back, she leans forward and crooks a finger, licking her lips. "Starting tomorrow?"
"Hvala Bogu," he mutters, running his hands into her hair as they kiss. The door slams firmly shut.
Chapter 29: Me? What did I do?
Quickstep is here!
Things have kinda gone sideways here in real life. I drive a private hire vehicle (a fancy name for a cab you book in advance/don't hail), for my dad's business. Tuesday he went into self isolation. He's fine, sent his test back yesterday, waiting for results. Its kinda made writing a bit hard. So things might slow down. Not 100% sure.
Either way, huuuuge thanks to Elysandra for this next set of prompts. Absolute life saver!
Hope you enjoy! Lemme know what you think. :)
"Good morning, Helen," said Nikola, with a smile, looking up from his phone. His voice was the same as always (a gentle purr), but there was a naughty twinkle in his eye that made her smile back.
"Good morning, Nikola," she replied, taking off her coat, scarf, and shoes.
"Fully rested after Saturday night?" he asked, walking to her.
Glancing at the unobtrusive camera, she quickly licked her lips and nodded. He was in her personal space and already she wanted to drag him somewhere dark, and private. "Rested enough. Took the children to watch a film, ate popcorn… didn't jog." She winked and grinned, dragging her shoes out of her training bag. Fully broken into, they slipped on easily as he spoke.
In full drama mode, he held a hand to his chest. "I'm wounded; you would give up on such a fun exercise mere hours before the descent into our crucible." Extending a hand, they went into hold, Nikola leading them in their usual half hour of warming, twirling waltz.
"I thought the rumba was our crucible?"
"Very funny," he replied. "Shoulders down, remember your frame. Reverse turn." They spun anti-clockwise on the spot before going back to traversing the room. "Rumba was our… emotional crucible, Doctor 'I'm allergic to feelings' Magnus," he explained. Helen rolled her eyes indulgently. "Quickstep will be our physical one."
"Thank heavens I slept last night," she murmured, suddenly reminded of how close they were in hold, and how--
"You're looking flushed," he remarked, "should I slow down?"
"And waste all the effort of my daily jog?" she replied. "Not on your nelly."
They spent the morning walking through the routine, Nikola explaining each step and figure, grinning when Helen understood what exactly she needed her feet, and arms, and head, to do. "This needs to be smooth," he explained as they walked their six quick run. "Craig's first comment will be, "Too much rise and fall, dah-ling," if there's bounce."
Helen nodded distractedly, trying to remember what came next.
"And your shoulders are still trying to hide your neck," he added, leading them into a natural turn.
"Only at the minute," she said, looking into his bright blue eyes. "Wednesday my shoulders will be down."
The look he gave her was critical. "A wager then. Fishtail here. If by Wednesday your shoulders are still up, we train until they're down."
"And if they stay down?"
Nikola turned them on the spot, leading them down the room with a running stop. "We have our interview with Zoe that day, correct?" Helen nodded, having seen it in the diary that morning. "No practice after the interview."
"An early night? Mr Tesla you know how to spoil a person." She winked.
"That's only if you keep your shoulders down," he replied, holding her much closer than was strictly necessary to whisper in her ear. "Keep them up and you're mine all night."
A shiver ran down her back. Whether it was the words or the banked fire in his eyes, she couldn't tell, but the warmth coalescing in her abdomen enjoyed him all the same.
"This?" Helen asked, astonished. "This is the song you've chosen?"
He nodded. Bobbing his head along to the music from his speaker, he said, "Correct speed, correct rhythm, and, most importantly, family friendly."
Those last words, with the ostentatious eyebrow wiggle, caused an eruption of laughter from deep within her. Still, even with his explanation, the lyrics felt a little too on the nose for her. And the tune was likely to be stuck in her head all week. Nodding back -- really, what choice did she have? -- she agreed it was a good song. "If I find myself singing this any time after nine at night, I'm blaming you, and letting you know."
"Moi? What did I do?" Faux aghast, his hand came to his chest in his oft used pose. Rolling her eyes and indulging his dramatics, she pressed play. Soon enough, Phil Collins' voice filled the room. With his head tilted to one side, Nikola listened, then smiled at her as the chorus played. "Catchy song..." Looking into her eyes, and with a whole depth of meaning to his words, he said, "It'll be worth it."