Category: RPF, Dancing With the Stars, Hines/Kym
Summary: She knows. She just doesn't want to.
Author's Note: What am I doing. I don't even know.
The first time you see him, the first time he smiles and you smile back, you know.
You know you'll like him.
You know he will do well at this, that he'll charm the judges and the audience as swiftly as he has charmed you.
You know you'll fall for him, a little. Maybe more.
You know, because you've been here before, how much that can hurt.
You pretend you don't.
You do like him. It would be imposible not to.
You got lucky. Hines has rhythm, and dedication, and a surprising lack of ego. You expect resistance when you train celebrities; people used to excelling at one thing don't usually enjoy stumbling through beginner moves. He teases you for getting ahead of yourself, but you're swept up in the enthusiasm of having a real contender this season.
You like teaching him. You're not tired when the rehearsal day ends, and your cheeks hurt from smiling.
Monday comes in a rush of adrenaline and production, hair and costumes and live music. The crowd and judges love him, and you're not surprised.
In the press line, he calls you his coach, and you say over and over how lucky you are.
His hand on your back as you walk to the next interview reminds you how it felt under the lights.
You like dancing with him.
He follows you to dinner in the evenings, to Mark's gigs, to the clubs with Louis and Karina. You're teammates, and he always says building a team means doing everything together. Besides, he doesn't know anyone in LA.
Soon, Hines stops asking if you mind that he's tagging along, because it's so clear that you don't. Publicity for Dancing requires that you go with him to as many of his official Steelers or charity events as you can, but you'd go anyway. No one makes you go all the way to Vegas for his friend's birthday party.
Karina is the first to ask what's going on, in the ladies' room at Villa. "He likes you."
You dismiss it without disagreeing: "We're teammates." You aren't sure if the rush you feel when you see him, even if it's only been an hour or two since you saw him last, is anything more than new friendship and the high of competition. You're not sure you'd do anything about it if it were.
Karina keeps sending you looks throughout the night. She's the queen of impulsive romance, almost taking pride in the inevitable explosive conclusion. You've outgrown that; Karina's engagement hasn't lasted long enough yet for you to judge if she has, too.
You wonder, when he hails you a taxi outside the club and smiles before closing the car door for you, if you've really outgrown it at all.
You kiss him a handful of times, but it doesn't count.
You're choreographing, you're rehearsing, you're close to each other and joking around and when your lips touch his it's like it's a dance step you're considering adding to the routine.
That's how he seems to see it, like a friendly peck on the cheek that just missed the mark. You're missing all kinds of marks this week, crashing into each other and knocking heads and tripping yourselves to the floor. You're more sore from laughing than from the bruises.
He kisses you when he hauls you up after dropping you again, a touch at the corner of your lips in the midst of his apology.
You don't want to count it, but you do.
In Pittsburgh, he's a hero. You should be exhausted from the red-eye, from rehearsing, from accompanying him to award dinners and speaking with the press, but it's easy. That's what you say when they ask you about Hines for the news stories, he makes it easy. He's incredible. The locals treat you like you're a hometown hero too, by association.
The paso you've choreographed is difficult, you know, but you're not worried. He claims he's mad at you, you know he's frustrated, but you still have to remind him to stop smiling when you dance.
"You have too much faith in me," he tells you.
Impossible, you think. You spent your past two evenings watching him receive some of the city's highest honors to thunderous applause. It amazes you that he doubts himself at anything.
On Monday, of course, he's flawless. You still feel a little breathless hours later, at Katsuya for Petra and Dmitry's after-party. Hines' teammates are in town for the show and you don't ask why he's here with you instead of out with them, why his hand doesn't leave your back, why no one bats an eye when you grab a pair of chopsticks and sneak food from his plate.
You have one glass of wine too many and you think that's why you kiss him, in a dark corner of the lounge where there's no one around, no camera phones, no witnesses. You're used to his body next to yours after six weeks of dancing but not like this, not with his tongue slipping between your lips, and you wonder if you've really been breathing at all this whole season. When the kiss ends he smiles against your cheek and you think, I don't have a chance.
You share a cab – your apartment is in the same direction as where his teammates are partying and you're tipsy enough that Chris joked be sure she gets home safely – and you know, you know, if you ask, he'll say yes. Thoughts and feelings and the haze of alcohol are slamming around inside you and you focus on what's familiar, on the American Week Rumba you've already started planning, on the competition that's so important to both of you, on everything with him you can't stand to lose.
You get out of the cab alone.
The reporters start to ask questions, and you don't deny it, but there's nothing to admit.
He covers for you, jokes that he tries to seduce you but you aren't buying it.
Nothing changes after the kiss at Katsuya except that he touches you more, on-camera and off, and the way he flirts with you feels even sillier, reinforcing that it's fine, that you're friends and teammates and there's nothing you have to figure out.
You're relieved. You flirt back, and pretend that this season will never end.
Reporters stop asking if you're secretly dating because Hines is mistakenly handcuffed by the LAPD, and that's a much bigger story.
He calls you before you can hear it from the news to assure you that he's fine and there was "no harm done." For the rest of the week you dodge questions from paparazzi who expect that you will have feelings about this you'll want to share.
You've got two dances to focus on, so you put aside the task of figuring out what those feelings might be. Kendra is out of the competition now so Louis has time to gossip, to call you and ask why Hines was in a car with another woman. You snap at him for making assumptions.
You think, when you have a moment to think at all, that you're angry about this. You know him, and it hurts you to be asked if you think he was a victim of racial profiling, asked what the show would have done if he'd really been arrested, hurts to have strangers sound so gleeful when asking about an incident that could so easily have gone badly.
You're only angry when you're alone, though. He lets you go wild with the choreography this week, and even when the timing is off, when he can't get the steps, when he drops you on the floor (again), you can't stop laughing.
You don't have to ask him about the other woman because Ralph does in front of you during the dress rehearsal.
"She's just a friend," Hines says. His hand was already on your waist before Ralph asked the question, but you only notice it when he answers, "This is my only priority right now."
You have to remind yourself that he means the show.
The next time, the next after-party, he kisses you. You both end up breathless, hands inside each other's clothes. You feel far away from everyone on the other side of the dividing wall that shields you from view, and you don't ever want to let go.
He breathes your name against your ear, and it feels like you're drowning, or like you might drown if you stop.
Hines told you everything about himself when you were doing pre-season rehearsals in Georgia. He showed you the house two Lombardi trophies bought, introduced you to his mum, to Jaden. We're teammates, he explained. It has become a refrain. This is how we become a team.
It doesn't surprise you at all that he wants to meet your mother when she comes to visit. He asks a lot of questions about you as a child, and you don't feel embarrassed when your mum answers them, because he let you page through all his family photo albums when you were getting to know each other in Atlanta. You miss home, but you miss it less when your mum is here, when yours isn't the only Sydney accent you get to hear.
"I've never seen you so happy," she tells you, again and again. It's only as she's leaving for the airport that she reminds you, with the gravity of being the only person who really knows your whole story, "Be careful."
You do tell Hines about your run on the Australian DWTS, about Shane and Tom, about the messy public showmance that broke your heart twice. It was a long time ago on literally the other side of the world, so you're surprised you get choked up when you're telling the story. You blame the beers you're sharing at the dark pool bar near Hines' rented apartment. You're grateful this is the sort of place where none of the patrons watch Dancing With the Stars.
He doesn't ask why you're telling him this, but you say anyway, "We're teammates." You can barely remember how strange it first seemed when he wanted to share everything with you.
He's frowning, and he asks if you want him to do anything differently. He smirks. "Stop trying to tongue you down during live taping?"
You grab his hands and laugh until you can't breathe.
You don't want anything to change.
You start to feel the pressure as you get closer to the finals.
You haven't been nervous this season – having such a good partner with a dedicated fan base relieves a lot of anxiety – but the last few weeks are relentless and your mind and body are stretched to the limit.
"It's almost over," Louis reminds you. He's choreographing a pro dance for the semi-finals results night, and you keep forgetting where you are in the routine. Your mind is full of redemption dances and freestyles and 10 paddles and the need to keep your stress from affecting your partner.
Louis texts you the same message later, after you finally get the steps down and head back to partner rehearsals. Hines brings you a sandwich, somehow knowing you skipped lunch. Maybe Louis texted him, too.
"No pressure," Hines reminds you. That's usually your joke, and you roll your eyes. "We're almost there."
You try to put your hard day behind you, to stop thinking about the stage of the competition and just focus on the dance, but he doesn't buy your fake laughter. He knows you too well.
"We said we want to finish in the top three," he reminds you when the rehearsal cameras are off. His arm is draped over your shoulders, reassuring, trying to let you off the hook. "The mirrorball trophy doesn't really go with the décor in my house."
You wonder if you do.
You make the finals.
You don't win.
You try to apologize, but he's already hugging you and then on to everyone else. You're swept up in the raining glitter and surge of excitement and the crush of bodies congratulating you – just being in the finals, making it to the end, is victory enough. In the interview line, it's easy to talk about how amazing the season has been, how amazing the dances were tonight, how you're happy with second place. You're willing now, after a season of dodging the question, to let Hines trick you into admitting on camera that he's been your best partner on the show, because it's true, and because you want to give him something since you can't give him the trophy. The moment, the entire season, overwhelms your usual diplomacy about not naming favorites.
"This was an incredible season. It feels like we just started," you say, thankful for his arm around you and the way he picks up the rest of the interview.
The celebration continues on the chartered ABC plane to New York. You get sprayed with champagne, you laugh when Mark toasts you as the runner-up queen, and Maks keeps putting you in a headlock for some reason, but your energy is ebbing fast and you don't even try to join in when Chelsea and Kirstie start doing shots.
When the party devolves into Kirstie and Mark doing impressions of dancers from past seasons, Hines comes to check on you.
"Sorry you didn't get your second championship," he says, and you shake your head, because even if you had, it wouldn't make a difference.
You turn into him where he's sitting next to you, press your face into his chest, and shiver when he hugs you. You can't look up, can't see his face without risking tears, so you stay there with your eyes tightly closed. He smells like him, like soap and sweat and the champagne spray that caught him too, and you try as hard as you can not to picture next week, next month, next season, when he's in Georgia or Pittsburgh and you're in LA dancing with someone else.
You're unspeakably grateful when he doesn't let go.
As the runner up, you don't have to do much at Good Morning America except smile. It's pouring in New York so they forego the usual outdoor dance routines and have each couple just do a few steps inside. Hines dips you backwards with his trademark grin and you smile back, even though it might be the last time.
You always stay friends with your partners, of course, but lunch once a year when your paths cross and a tweet every few months isn't enough. Isn't this. Usually you want to sleep for a month when taping ends, but this time, you'd redo the whole season right now if you could.
That's why, you remind yourself while you're still smiling and waiting for the segment to end, that's why you don't start relationships with your dance partners anymore. Dancing With the Stars is a rarefied environment, three months of constant televised togetherness, and you know from experience that things which seem inevitable when you're partners don't work when the cameras stop rolling. You should only have to make that mistake once. You shouldn't feel like your heart is breaking. That's why you didn't, why you spent this whole season being careful, loving his company without losing yourself – so you wouldn't feel like this.
When you collect your purse after the show, you have a text from Karina asking how it's going. She was disappointed last week when she didn't reach the finals, but she's Karina; nothing ever bothers her for long.
I'll miss him, you text back, an understatement. You think she'll understand.
The reply comes when you're out to lunch, all six of you plus two members of the production team. Chelsea's trying to badger Mark into visiting the Statue of Liberty in the rain, Kirstie and Maks are beyond punchy, and Karina texts you:
He's been watching you all day, from the moment you landed in New York at six a.m. You've been in each other's pockets every day for three months now, so you can't really blame him for noticing that you're out of sorts.
He doesn't ask you what's wrong until you're back on the plane, heading West this time. With the promotional duties over, everyone seems to be coming down at once. Kirstie is already sleeping. Chelsea and Mark are squabbling over a pillow, but on the whole, it's quiet.
Hines touches your nose. "What's wrong?"
You say it. "I want to see you again."
"Of course you will." He looks at you like it's not even a question.
It's not enough. "When?" You need to say more, clarify what you're really asking, but you can't over the fear that this might be it, no matter what he says. You might have missed your chance. The season's over, he's going home, and maybe it was always going to end here.
He covers your hand on the armrest with his. "Saturday?"
You don't understand.
"Come visit me," he says, leaning closer to you. "As soon as you can."
He just touches your lips with his, like you did in rehearsals.
You smile. "Okay."
You think you're probably crazy.
You imagine, as you fly to Atlanta, every possible way this can go wrong.
Maybe, without dancing, you'll have nothing to say to him.
Maybe you both just need to get this out of your system, have a weekend of wild passion and then he'll never invite you back again. (You mentioned this scenario to Karina when you dragged her out for drinks last night to calm your nerves; her "So what?" wasn't particularly reassuring.)
Maybe you bought in to the rumors, the reporters' questions, to the way everyone else looked at the two of you, and there's nothing really here except gossip.
You've steeled yourself for the worse by the time you land, dread twinning with excitement inside your chest, until you get past the security checkpoint and he's there, waiting.
He waves you over, beaming, and it's like the very first time you met.
And you smile.