After their families have left, Mel keeps a brave face until the cameras leave too. Then she goes into the bathroom and cries until she pukes.
Keenan sits on a stool in the kitchen and stares at the wall, feeling tears trickle down his face. Mel cries at the drop of a hat and he envies her for it. He's got all that useless "be a man" shit in his head, getting in his way. But seeing the kids and his dad—his dad! who thought him going on telly was the world's biggest joke—has undone him.
He hears water running, and Mel brushing her teeth. He swipes his arm across his face and goes to put the kettle on.
Neither of them says anything until they're both sitting at the kitchen counter cradling cups of tea. Sitting side by side makes talking easier, he's found, because they don't have to look at each other and see just how red their eyes are. (And their bright green shirts make red eyes look even redder. He wonders whether the showrunners did that on purpose.)
"That was murder," Mel says finally.
"Yeah," he says.
"I don't know why I ever agreed to do this stupid show," she says. He can hear her getting choked up again. "Harrison... he's so big, Keen! I don't even know what I missed while I was here, how many firsts—"
"If he takes after his mum," Keenan says with a little smile, "he's probably built some amazing Duplo towers."
She laughs and sniffles. "A few," she says. "Colin sent me photos."
"I missed Sarah's first date with the girl she's sweet on," Keenan says glumly.
"Shut up! She's not old enough to be dating!"
"She thinks she is."
"Our big kids." Mel grabs a serviette and blows her nose. "Yours are great, you should be proud of them."
"Oh hell yeah I am." Keenan blinks hard and has to stare at the wall again for a bit. "Can't wait to get back to the beach with them."
"And invite Sarah's girlfriend along?" Mel teases.
"Fuck." Keenan rubs his forehead. "Yeah. I guess." He glances at her. "You'll be just as stressed when Harrison's dating."
"Don't even. I've got ten years at least before I've got to worry about that." She plays with the tag on her teabag. "God, Keenan," she says, "I don't want to be away from them for even another two weeks. And at the same time there's still so much to do to get the house ready... how do we get through this?"
He puts an arm around her and she leans into him. "Like this," he says. "Until we have to go head to head. We just hold each other up and soldier on."
"Shit, that's right. I keep forgetting that at some point you and I have to do a face-off. Why can't we just go on being a team?"
Keenan pinches his lips together as more tears threaten. "We're the best team," he says around the lump in his throat. "We'll always be the best team, no matter what." And then he gives in and just starts crying because the thought of this partnership with Mel coming to an end is as hard as saying goodbye to Dad and Chad and Sarah.
Mel tries to hug him and nearly falls off her stool. They stagger to their feet so they can hug each other properly, her face buried against his shoulder and his cheek against her hair, and sob like they're at their best mate's funeral.
For once Mel is done crying first. She unabashedly wipes her face on Keenan's shirt. He gives her a shove, laughing through his tears. "What?" she says. "We're gross enough after working all day."
"Dibs on the shower," he says.
"The grout in the master ensuite's dry now," she points out. "Let's see whether the water heater can handle two showers at once. And then go out for Thai or something. My stomach thinks my throat's cut."
"Nothing spicy," Keenan says. "You know I can't handle chilis."
"Wuss," she says, shoulder-checking him with a smile. "You better man up, or I'll kick your arse in the head-to-head."
"You just try it," Keenan calls after her as she heads toward the bathroom.
"Come get your stuff," she calls back, "before I lock myself in there with all the soap and towels."
He chuckles a little to himself as he goes into the master bedroom (head renovator's privilege) and strips off his sodden shirt. "Man up, huh," he murmurs. If he's learned anything from being put through the Renovators wringer, it's to be less of a bloke, or at least less of a shit about being a bloke. Mel's little and sweet and cute and does her makeup every single morning, even when she knows they're going to be sweating or getting rained on for the next twelve hours; she's also at least as tough and skilled as he is, and as focused on the win. She really might be the one to take the house to auction. It's not just her, either. Natalia's a force of nature, Christie not far behind her—if they win their respective head-to-heads, he'd be honored to lose to either of them.
The shower heats up fast, and he starts whistling as he gets in. The head-to-head's going to be brutal, no denying that. There's still a lot to do before the house is ready for auction, and hardly any time left. And yeah, Mel's probably going to insist on Thai for dinner and try to destroy him with chilis. But soon enough it'll all be done and he'll get to go home a winner, or close enough to one that he can hold his head up. And he'll have his kids right there to hug whenever he wants—no more fucking Skype calls.
Speaking of kick-arse women, Sarah did good work today, he thinks. Chad's never shown much interest in the concrete business, but maybe Sarah'll be game to come on board when she's a little older.
He reaches for the soap and starts laughing. It's Mel's hibiscus lime shower gel. He must have brought the wrong bottle in from the other bathroom. Well, he's already cried like a girl today; he might as well smell like one too.
"Soap thief," Mel greets him when he emerges from the bedroom. She's wearing a blue dress and he's got an old U2 T-shirt on. They're both pretty sick of green.
"I didn't mean to!" he says.
"Sure," she drawls. "You stuck me with smelling like 'steel courage,' whatever the hell that is."
"I smell like potpourri, so we're even."
She takes an exaggerated sniff of his arm. "I like this on you, actually," she says.
He can't resist saying, "I thought you wanted me to man up."
"Any man willing to smell like hibiscus lime is clearly secure in his masculinity," she says.
"Two months ago I probably would have rather gone without soap than used it," he admits.
"Two months ago I wouldn't have gone anywhere near your steel courage stuff either," Mel says. "I think we've merged and become one person."
"Best team," he says, holding up a fist.
"Best team," she says, dapping it. "Let's go grab a feed."