"You will never believe who called!"
Emma rolls her eyes as she slips off her sunglasses and pulls off her Red Sox ball cap, letting her blonde curls fall down freely now that she's back within the safety of her apartment. "I probably won't care either."
"Oh no, Emma, this one, you'll care about." Lily's head appears over the top of the couch from where she's apparently been lying, marathoning some show or the other on Netflix, if Emma had to guess.
"Lils, I've told you already, I am so done with this whole 'Savior' thing. I don't want to do any more interviews, okay? And you promised you'd deal with all the calls so can't you just… do that? Please?" Emma knows she sounds whiney, but she's exhausted and oh so tired of the constant barrage of phone calls she's been getting. She slumps down on the large overstuffed chair that she had narrowly rescued from the clutches of the Boston City Sanitation truck, letting her head fall back into the worn out leather. "Or just take the damn phone off the hook."
"Emma." Lily says her name and it's about as serious as Emma's ever heard her before. "It was Dancing with the Stars."
"Shut up, Lily." Emma barks out a laugh, tossing the throw pillow that's bunched behind her back in the general direction of Lily's voice.
"Emma, I'm being serious."
Emma's eyes open, wide.
"Dancing with the fucking Stars called, Emma!" Lily's bouncing on the couch now, rocking back and forth between her heels and her knees. "They want you to be on the show!"
Lily leaps from the couch and lands in Emma's lap, putting both hands on her cheeks and pushing their foreheads together. "Dancing with the Stars wants you to be a contestant on their show, moron!"
"No." Emma shakes her head. "No."
"Yes! They do. I swear to god, Emma. I'm not kidding you."
"No, I mean – I mean, no. Lily. No, I'm not going on Dancing with the Stars. That's – that's crazy. No."
"Emma!" Lily shouts, in motion again, this time jumping from Emma's lap to the floor and beginning to pace around the room. "What the hell do you mean no? Are you kidding me right now?"
"Lily." Emma sighs, reaching up to push the black framed glasses that she's just put on down so that she can pinch the bridge of her nose. "I just got done telling you that I am done with all the interviews and –"
"This isn't an interview, Emma! This is you competing on the show."
"Where there will be interviews every week! Hell, probably every day! No. They just want to turn me into some kind of ratings monkey and I'm not doing it. I'm not."
Lily stops pacing and looks at Emma. She knows that these last few weeks have been hard on her friend. She's well aware that Emma's exhausted. And that's why Lily knows that Emma has to do this.
"If you agree to be on the show –"
"Which I'm not going to do!"
Lily continues on, undeterred. "They'll pay you $125,000. Just for agreeing to be on the show. That's not to mention the bonuses you get for each episode you last through after the first two. Emma, I did the math and if you stay until the finals, you can make $345,000."
"Plus, you'd have to move to LA for the duration of your time on the show and you're the one who's been complaining about staying here in Boston and wanting to get away and see the west coast. Here's your perfect opportunity. I even finagled a deal over the phone so that the production company would deal with getting us an apartment so we don't have to worry about it."
"You finagled a deal. An apartment for us? What the hell are you, my manager?" Emma scoffs.
"Actually, as far as the Dancing team knows, yes." Lily smirks right back.
"Hey, did you or did you not tell me to handle all the calls? That makes me your manager, babe."
"Okay, manager, you're talking as if you already agreed to this for me."
Lily says nothing and Emma jumps up from the chair. "No. Lily. No!"
"They're sending the contract over tomorrow – priority mail. They want you, Emma. Bad."
"But I don't want them!" Emma explodes, the words coming out much harsher and louder than she wanted them to. Lily takes a small step back from her and Emma sinks down onto the chair again, yanking off her glasses and burying her head in her hands.
"I'm sorry." She says when she can finally catch her breath. She looks up and there are wet lines on her cheeks. "I just can't do this, Lily. I can't. This Savior stuff is bad enough, but then to go on that show and have all that publicity and that speculation and to have to dance with some professional male dancer while they tout their openness about my being gay and say what a hero I am, I just… I can't."
"They want you to dance with a woman." Lily says softly, sitting on one arm of the chair, grabbing Emma's hand while she digs her feet in under Emma's body. "Totally their idea by the way."
"Yeah." Lily plays with Emma's fingers for a little, waiting until she feels them relax before she continues. "Look, I get that this has been crazy for you. That's what happens when you decide to go rushing into burning buildings and save a bunch of orphans, these days." She nudges Emma with her foot. "And I know that you've been interviewed and hounded to death. But Emma, this is actually kind of a big deal. I mean, number one, that money will not hurt you. And number two, just think about what you being on the show – being open and actually dancing with another woman – could do for all those kids still struggling. Think what it could do for the world."
Emma lets out a shaky laugh. "So not only am I a hero because I saved some kids from a burning building, now I'm a hero for dancing with a woman on national TV as well? Bet you never imagined this when you said you wanted to stay with me."
"Please," Lily rolls her eyes and nudges their shoulders together. "You've always had a hero complex. So what do you say? Are we loading up the truck and movin' to Beverly?"
Emma pushes Lily off the chair in answer.
"This contract is… kind of crazy." Emma murmurs as she reads through the pages for what feels like the millionth time. She pushes her glasses back up her nose as she reads something off one of the pages. "I mean, 20 hours of rehearsal a week?"
"That's like four hours a day, with weekends off, you wimp. If you wanna win, you've gotta put in the time."
"Yeah, but I have to wear a mic for all of that. And be filmed. And get the producers' approval if we have dance rehearsal that's not in their specific studios. And –"
"And get final hair and makeup approval from them and do the television shows they tell you to do and not leave LA without clearing it with them. You've told me all of this a million times, I swear to god, Emma."
"It just seems a little… excessive."
"Emma, they're paying you a ton of money. And it's not like you have anything better to do."
"Well thanks." Emma huffs.
"You know what I mean." Lily smacks the back of her head. "Come on, you know you love the show. And before you start protesting, remember, there's a DVR subscription to it that I did not make, my friend."
"I hate you." Emma mutters.
"Right back at ya, baby." Lily puckers her lips up and makes kissing noises in Emma's direction before she turns serious again. "But seriously, are you doing this thing or not? Because I mean, if I was going to be paired up with Regina Mills, I'd be –"
"Wait." Emma looks up, the contract suddenly forgotten. "Regina Mills?"
Lily smirks. "Oh yeah, did I forget to tell you that the producers told me that that's who your partner will be? Must've slipped my mind."
Lily laughs. Hard. Emma throws a pillow at her.
"That's such bullshit. The producers don't tell the celebrities who their partners are before the first meeting. And besides, she hasn't done the show for like, five years."
"Under normal circumstances, you're right. But they really want you to do the show, Emma, so they bent the rules a little bit. They all must be making an exception for you, huh? The producers and Regina." Lily grins. "So tell me, Miss Contract Reader Extraordinaire, is there a clause in there about falling in love with your dance partner? Because I fear you're going to break it."
"Shut up, Lily." Emma says, shoving her away, even as she reaches for a pen.
Emma most definitely does not spend the entire night after she drops the contract back in the mail falling down a YouTube rabbit hole of Regina Mills dance videos.
She most definitely does not do that.