Category: Dancing With the Stars, rpf, Hines/Kym
Summary: Not everyone says I love you.
Author's Note: Andie, Erin, Manille & Glitter are each partially responsible for this fic that nearly killed me, which means they all have to read it. (It's optional for the rest of the class.)
You don't know a thing about Hines Ward except that he's a football player, an active athlete, and that Jenny in production promised, You'll love him, Kym, as she gave you his name.
Cheryl calls these celebrity partnerships an arranged marriage; you wouldn't go that far, but your palms are sweating before you meet him like it's at least a blind date.
When he walks in, you actually forget that you were worried about not having had the chance to research him. You don't think anything could have prepared you for the impact of his smile in person.
Hines hugs you, tells you about himself. He's charming, relatable – the audience will love him. You're both laughing within minutes.
"See you in Atlanta," he says when the rehearsal is over, and the grin on his face exactly matches the way you feel.
You smile back. "I can't wait."
When he tries out his first basic steps, you cheer out loud.
He has rhythm. Potential. The season hasn't started yet and you're already thinking about the Freestyle.
(You don't tell him that – he has already accurately pegged you as someone who too easily gets ahead of herself.)
"You're a natural," you say instead, almost breathless with excitement.
He gives you a look like you're a little bit crazy. "It don't feel natural."
You laugh, thinking, but it will.
He takes you out at night, shows you his hometown. You pause when he helps you out of your jacket at the restaurant and pulls out your chair – not because it's unwelcome, but because it's unexpected.
"Welcome to Georgia," he says, eyes twinkling. After, when you get to the car, he opens your door first.
It's not a date, but if it were, it'd be the best you've had in a while.
You have a rule about this: you don't date your partners. (Not anymore, not after your heart broke all over the Australian tabloids, after you came all the way to America swearing never again.)
You tell him about your rule – it seems prudent after the Hoff, bless him, spent your abridged last season trying to talk you out of it – but you think you might not even have needed to.
"You're my coach," Hines says when you tell him, like he'd never have considered otherwise.
You're endlessly surprised about how often you're already on the same page.
He's nervous when you move back to L.A., when it starts to feel real.
"Are we ready?" he asks, again and again. You find his anxiety endearing, since he might already be the best amateur you've taught.
You can't wait.
Opening night is music, blocking, lights, nerves. He gives you a surprised look the first time he sees you tanned and in makeup, like he's just landed in a foreign country.
"It looks normal on camera," you explain. You've gotten used to these trappings as a second skin, so you're surprised to find you feel a little self-conscious. You want him to recognize you.
He looks you up and down, hair extensions to fishnet tights, and finally nods. "I like it," he decides, grinning.
You wonder if you'll ever get used to that smile.
You're not surprised it comes up again after his first full round of press interviews, the first time he encounters a line of people all asking how he can possibly dance with a woman for five hours a day without sleeping with her.
"You'll get that a lot," you say, thinking of Cheryl, who's still telling interviewers over and over that she never slept with Drew in season two. "It's just the show, you know? The girls, the costumes..."
"It's a little insulting, isn't it? I mean, you're here to be my teacher, and here they all assume you're gonna seduce me."
"Me?" You've long gotten used to that line of questions, but you enjoy how indignant he seems to be on your behalf. "How could I resist you? You're the football hero."
He gives you a cranky look. "I guess I've just never been asked if I'm having sex with one of my teammates before."
The unexpected mental image nearly makes you choke on the water you were drinking. He pats your back while you cough.
Once you're breathing again, he winks at you, fingertips tapping random patterns between your shoulder blades. "They don't look like you, though." His eyes are twinkling.
You laugh, roll your eyes. "You're a charmer."
You miss his hand when he pulls it away.
He calls you his full-time lover after the Quickstep, and you laugh, talk over him, keep marking his face with lipstick kisses. He asks you three times if he really did well, like he doesn't believe the scores, the rave reviews, the way you haven't stop beaming at him since the second you got off the floor.
"You killed it," you assure him over and over. He squeezes your shoulder every time you do, pulling you closer. Your heart races for hours, like you're still dancing.
You go to the after party with the entire cast, but don't talk to anyone but him.
Brooke asks it first, then Cheryl, then Karina.
"Is he married?"
You wouldn't. It's not an option, but you still feel yourself blushing every time you admit he's available.
In week 3, you meet his mum, his son, more of his friends. He makes Jaden show you his own version of "Daddy dancing," and you all end up laughing when the kid grins right at you and strikes a pose. He's got his father's charm.
"He likes you," Hines reports the next day, looking adorably eager, like he's the one who just turned seven. "Kept telling grandma, 'Kym's so pretty.'"
You feel your face warm at the compliment, even second-hand. "Aww, that's sweet."
Hines laughs and winks. "I think he's got a crush."
I'm taken, you think, even though you're not.
He's known your coffee order for weeks, but it somehow catches you off-guard at 5 a.m. in a Pittsburgh airport terminal.
"-with Splenda," he says along with you. This time, he doesn't even argue that your love of artificial sweeteners will give you cancer; you're sure he'll bring it up again someday when you've both had more sleep. You only caught an hour or two on the flight over, woke up disoriented when the plane started to descend, your head on his shoulder, his hand in your lap.
When he passes you the cup, his fingers brush yours.
He touches you before you head on-stage for the Rumba, his hand slipping beneath the fringe of your dress to rest on the bare skin of your stomach.
You think don't move, don't move, and you don't know if your silent mantra is for yourself, so you won't give away how your heart's suddenly in your throat, or for him so he'll keep touching you.
"You're up next," the backstage manager says, and you nearly jump out of your skin.
Hines moves away smoothly, heads for the prop table to look for something fun to use for the bumper, and it takes you a few seconds to remember how to breathe.
You wake up in the middle of the night in tangled sheets, sweating. You can still feel what you were dreaming about, feel his breath on your face, the tingling paths where his imaginary hands traced patterns on your skin.
You know you shouldn't, but for half an hour, your hand between your legs, his name caught in your throat, you let yourself want him.
"I think I should get to kiss you this time," he says when you lay out the Viennese Waltz for him. He grins mischievously, pokes you in the arm.
"It's too cliché," you argue, swatting his hand away. "Everyone does that."
You're not going to, so it doesn't matter either way, but if you were to kiss him, you'd want it to count.
They ask you ever week, every time through the press line. You're surprised sometimes by how outrageously he flirts with you in front of reporters, but even then, even when you're both giddy on post-show adrenaline, he never takes it too far. You talked about this before the season started. Neither of you are the type to risk the competition on something so frivolous.
You wouldn't. He wouldn't, you find yourself thinking over and over in the moments when your own resolve starts to slip. He wouldn't.
"I respect her," he explains when pushed for an answer, are you or aren't you. His arm is heavy and warm around your shoulders.
The interviewer waves it off like it's just a line, something anyone would say, but you know to your bones that he means it.
You choose your clothes for the cameras.
It's not because the first time you wore a mini-dress to rehearsal you caught him staring, smiling to himself like he was thinking something he shouldn't. You've memorized how his hand feels on your bare back, could probably trace out the pattern of calluses from memory, but that isn't why you wear the tops you do. It's important, you think, to rehearse like this, so he's not thrown on Mondays by your revealing costumes.
It's practical. It's what anyone would do in your shoes.
It's not because sometimes he leaves his hand there after you stop dancing. Your skin is slick, you can feel the pulse in his fingertips matching the rush in your ears, and you think if the camera weren't there, if you were alone-
(It's the Tango, you think, it's the character he's playing that makes him look like he wants to pin you to the wall, push your short skirt even higher.)
"One more time," you say.
As soon as your mum sleeps off her jet-lag, she starts asking when she can meet the dance partner you've been talking up all season. Hines wants to meet her, too, so you invite him to join you for dinner.
You get your friendly nature from your mother's side, so you're not surprised when the two of them hit it off before the food arrives. He asks you both about Australia, about the home you miss and love, and you find yourself saying When you come visit... because you want so badly to share it with him.
When he gets up from the table to return a call, your mum leans over to you and whispers, "I like him."
You grin. You can't actually imagine anyone not liking Hines.
It isn't until later, until you catch her watching you while he's telling a funny story about your trek to Pittsburgh, that you wonder if she really meant, I like him for you.
Your publicist wakes you before seven a.m. He starts with I don't want you to worry, which is never a good sign.
"He's fine," he tells you, "it was all a misunderstanding," but you panic anyway, from the moment you hear held at gunpoint until you see Hines in the studio, hearty and whole.
He laughs about the incident with Maks and Kirstie at lunch, jokes about being on Punk'd, but you're still imagining an accidental gunshot and can't find anything funny about it.
You text him from bed when you can't sleep, different calls you could have gotten that morning running around your head: Hope u get home safe tonite.
Already here, comes the response. Sleep well shawty.
You want to call him, to hear him say it in person, but you don't.
You really thought he'd object when you first suggested the theme for your Foxtrot, but he gamely proposes to you on camera, kisses your cheek, slips a gaudy costume ring on your finger for 24 million people to see.
"That's quite a rock," Romeo teases on your way to the press line. He pretends to admire the thirty carats of plastic on your hand before elbowing Chelsie. "You want one of these?"
She rolls her eyes. "Yes. Just like that."
Hines slings his arm around your waist. The beaming grin you adore so much hasn't left his face since Carrie Ann compared him to Gene Kelly.
"Watch out, Kym," Romeo says. "That Hines Ward is a high roller."
Hines laughs and tugs you closer to him, pulling you off-balance. "She deserves it."
He's worried, but you're not.
It's risky, maybe, trying things you haven't done before with an amateur partner, but the competition demands it. It's the twelfth season already; it's your job to bring new things to the table.
Besides, it's Hines. You don't think there's anything you could throw at him that he couldn't handle.
When it happens, when you fall and he falls on you, everything goes white. He's talking to you, asking if you're okay, and you can't even force out words over pain and shock and fear. You gasp for air, for equilibrium, dig your nails into his arm and think, over and over, This can't be happening, it's not, it's not.
You have no idea how long it takes before the paramedics arrive and pull Hines away from you. You feel naked on the stretcher, exposed, like Maks and Mark and the entire world can see your mistake.
"You're going to be fine," a medic tells you in the ambulance, trying to keep you calm. "We're almost there."
You miss Hines' steady hand in your hair, his face next to yours whispering I got you, even though there was nothing he could do.
He comes to the hospital and stays until they discharge you, talking with the doctors, writing care instructions in his phone, holding your hand when they insert the I.V. You try to lighten the mood once the painkillers kick in, get him to tease you for being afraid of needles, but you can't shake loose the haunted look from his face, like he's afraid you'll slip away.
"I can come in tomorrow," you say as he's driving you home. Monday is looming large in your mind. You still feel like you're shaking. "I'll be fine if I'm wearing the brace."
"You just rest," he says. His voice sounds painfully tight, and you wonder what other words he's not letting himself say.
He comes over the next day, moves your coffee table to show you what he worked on with Cheryl, follows up on your medications, swelling, ice. He knows more about neck injuries than you ever wanted to.
You try to stay awake but end up drifting in and out on muscle relaxants while he chats with your mum. You feel safe with their voices mingling around you, and you find yourself wishing he would stay while you sleep.
You feel a kiss on your forehead before he goes.
You don't actually know how you make it through the first dance, or the next one, or the next.
All you know is that for two hours, there's no one in the world but him.
"You're the best," you say, too overwhelmed for anything else, and when he hugs you, it feels like he's the only thing keeping you standing.
"It's all you," he breathes into your ear, and if you didn't have to, if you didn't have more cues, more costumes, another dance to do, you'd never let go.
The crowd screams when you make the finals. Hines laughs, hugs you, says Let's win this.
After, though, after the show and the press line, when he's carrying your bag to the car for you and you're babbling about the Quickstep, the Freestyle, all the things you'll have to do to win, he changes his tune: "It don't matter."
You laugh in surprise, because he's usually even more competitive than you are, and that's saying something. "Of course it does."
His hand's on the car door, keeping it closed, and your breath catches when he touches your face.
You feel, again, like he's the only other person in the world, like if he says it, if he wants you, you're his.
"One more week," you whisper into the space between you, feeling a little desperate. You swore you'd never fall for a partner again, he said he wouldn't risk the competition, but after, after…
A ghost of a smile passes over his mouth. "Let's win this," he says again, and kisses your cheek.
Wednesday's hard, Thursday. Being in pain makes you easily frustrated, with him, with yourself, with the way your stomach drops in fear the first time he lifts you in the air.
"Are you okay?" Hines asks, rubbing your back when you're on solid ground again. You're not sure if the reassuring action is for you or for him; after what happened, he's more scared of dropping you than you are of falling.
You know the tricks you're doing are safe, and besides, he's taking no chances. You joke about the thumb-shaped bruises dotting your arms and thighs, but you're deeply grateful that he errs on the side of holding you too tight.
They're not all as visible, but his fingerprints are all over you this week. He's touching you more, kissing your forehead when you're standing close, brushing his hand against yours to punctuate everything he says.
"Are you okay?" you ask him on a break.
He nods and adjusts the ice pack he's holding to your neck. There's an echo in his face of what you saw when he was sitting next to your hospital bed.
"I'm okay now."
"I think Kym should open a studio in Pittsburgh," Cheryl declares while you're all goofing off, waiting around in the blocking run-through. "Shouldn't she?"
Louis nods. It sounds rehearsed when he adds, "The market's there now."
"And everyone loves her."
"She's like..." Louis waves his hand with dramatic flourish, "... like their patron saint of the Mirrorball trophy."
You look over at Hines to see his response to this bizarre little role-play.
He's smiling, the one that always makes you warm to your toes. He echoes:
"Everyone loves you."
He stares at you for so long the first time he sees you in your Quickstep dress that you ask if there's something wrong with it.
"No," he says seriously, touches your shoulder. You think the impending end is getting to him, too.
"It's okay?" you push, butterflies taking off in your stomach.
He looks like he might kiss you. He doesn't.
"You look beautiful," he says.
When you do it, when you pull off the Freestyle, when he hits the lifts and all the accents and it's perfect, when you get three tens and the cameras switch off and he hugs you so hard he lifts you off the ground, for a moment-
For a moment, his arms around you, your heart racing with adrenaline, your nose pressed to his cheek and his delighted laugh in your ears reaching deeper into you than any words he could say-
For a moment, you feel like you have everything you want.
You go home after dinner, declining his invitation to join his friends for a round of drinks. You tell him you need sleep, which you do – win or lose, you'll get none on the plane to New York after the results show.
Really, with the end rushing up on you, you just need a moment of calm. On Thursday, you'll wake up and it will be over, and somehow you'll need to find yourself again in the midst of everything that's happened this season.
It's hard to believe that three months ago, you didn't even know his name.
You're too wired to rest, though, so your mum makes you tea. She sits up with you, even though you don't have much to say.
You stop drinking when there's about an inch of tea left, slowly pour in a packet of Splenda to have something to do with your hands. You hear his voice in your mind, That junk'll kill you, you know.
"You'll see him again." Since you were a little girl, she has always been able to guess what you're thinking.
You stir the grainy liquid, spoon scraping the bottom of the cup, and admit:
"It's not enough."
It's your last dance, your last places call, and he smiles at you, awaiting your last pep talk.
You've got nothing. You're too full of emotion, of memories from the season, of pride about what he's done, who he is. There's everything to say and no way to say it.
You repeat the same thing you said in week 3, when there was still so much you didn't know about him. "Do it for your mom."
Hines squeezes your hand, meets your eyes. "And for you."
It isn't the first time you notice, but it's the first time it sinks in: no one's ever looked at you quite the way he does.
"Performing the Samba..."
For ninety seconds, you dance.
It feels like you're under the red light for an hour.
You want this, for him you want this, because no one has ever deserved it more.
No matter what happens, you think, holding tight to his arm, no matter what happens-
Tom yells, "Hines and Kym!"
It hits you like an explosion, the crowd and the relief and the raining glitter, the congratulations and the crush of bodies all hugging you at once. Somehow you manage to make it back to him through the sea of people to throw your arms around him one more time. You can feel the joy in his chest, in the way he laughs, in how he squeezes an arm around you to keep you close, like you belong here next to him, and you've never in your life been more in love.
"You're tied with me now," Mark jokes on the plane, clacking his plastic champagne glass against yours. "Race you to the third trophy?"
"Listen to them!" Chelsea feigns indignance. "Casting us aside already?"
"I don't know what you're complaining about," Kirstie says, flopping dramatically on one of the plush benches in the cabin. "After tomorrow, I can stop pretending to like him."
"I can't wait," Maks says, before piling on top of her.
Hines laughs, catches you around the waist. "Kym's never getting rid of me. I'll be texting her every day for Cha-Cha tips."
"You had better," you say, pulling his arms tighter around you against the thought that he's almost gone.
You fall asleep next to him that night.
"How's your neck?" he asks, because of the dancing, because the reclining seats on the corporate jet are uncomfortable, because he asks you this eight times a day. Sometimes it sounds like a real question demanding an answer; right now it almost feels like he's holding you with just his voice.
You wish there wasn't an armrest between you. You think your neck would feel better if you could lay your head on his chest. Instead, you reach over to him across the thin gap between seats, sleepily trace the letters on his shirt.
His eyes slide closed. Heat pools in your belly at the contentment on his face, how his lips twitch with the movement of your hand. He's warm, and beautiful, and you don't want to think about how you know it never works once the show ends, how he'll be on the East Coast and you won't, how you aren't good at long-distance relationships, how your heart always always always ends up breaking.
His hand comes up to trap yours against his heart.
I love you, you think, but you say, "Get some sleep."
By the time you meet up with Maks and Kirstie for dinner, you're both exhausted, but you don't want to sleep.
You're still punchy on the victory, the New York morning shows, your jet-lagged trip down Fifth Avenue. Maks crushes you in a hug, asks if you're ever going to stop smiling, and you say, "No, never will," but you're thinking Tomorrow at 2, when your flight leaves from La Guardia. You're not ready.
Kirstie notices your new bag, your shoes, nods knowingly at Hines like she thinks the gifts mean more than they do. It's the first time it really bothers you that everyone assumes you have something you don't.
Your second drink at 1Oak hits you like a truck.
You're not sure if you really forgot about your painkillers, the labels that warn do not mix, or if you just need courage. You know better, but you order drink after drink until the room is spinning and the only thing you see clearly is him.
You've spent three months dancing with him, but not like this.
"Are you okay?" he asks over the music, and your eyes slide closed when his lips brush your ear. You can smell his skin like he's the only thing in the crowded club, and you're not sure what you're going to do tomorrow, the day after, the rest of your life without this. His hand slips under your shirt, his fingertips brushing beneath the waist of your jeans, and you lose every thought in your head except how much you want him.
You feel the strangled sound in his throat when you move your hips against his, and his hand tenses on your back, reflexively pulling you closer.
His head drops to lean against yours, temple to temple. "Kym." The raw emotion in his voice shoots right through to your spine, and you swore you wouldn't, swore you'd never find yourself on this road again, but you can't wait.
Not when you're here, after everything, when his hand is in your hair and you're thinking, if he kisses you here, in public, you won't care where you are. You'll never stop.
Not when it's him.
"Pay the tab," you hear yourself say.
He cups your face in his hands, kisses your forehead. He looks at you for a long moment before he lets you go.
The first time you kiss him, his hotel room door is still swinging closed.
Yes, you think when your back connects with the wall, when his tongue slips into your mouth, oh, God, finally, because it's been thirteen weeks, because the alcohol makes your every nerve feel like a live wire, because you can't even remember when you first started wanting this.
He's pressed against you from head to toe like you're dancing. You have no idea anymore how you spent all those weeks in the studio pretending that having him this close didn't affect you, didn't keep you up at night, didn't make you want to give him every part of you he'd take.
Your hands fumble with the hem of his shirt, drag up over his ribs, and his hips jerk into yours before he gasps your name against your cheek, like it's the only word in his head. You make a sound that isn't quite language but is I want you and Hines and please all at once, push him toward the bed-
He pushes you away.
He takes a step back from you, chest heaving, eyes closed, and you freeze like you've just been dropped in ice.
For all your doubts, all your fears about distance and the future and your disastrous track record, it never occurred to you that he might turn you down.
You have no idea what you must look like, horny or hurt or humiliated or all three. You don't even realize that you're backing toward the door until he grabs your arms.
"Kym," he says, strong hands sliding up across your skin to cup your shoulders. The look on his face roots you in place. "This... can't be a mistake."
Tears spring to your eyes, and he pulls you to his chest.
You get it, belatedly. You're drunk, and he's not. You're drunk, and you told him all season that you never sleep with your partners, that your whole country watched you go down in flames, that you could never make a mistake like that again, for anyone.
(You didn't know you meant except him.)
"I'm sorry," you manage, because you lost control, because you're still out of control, because you shouldn't have made him the one to say no.
His chest vibrates with a wry laugh. He holds the back of your head, buries his fingers in your hair. "You know I want you."
You nod into the crook of his neck, feeling drunk and helpless and not at all sure what to do. You're never more grateful than when he says, "Just come here," guides you into bed with your clothes still on. You laugh when he pulls the covers up over your heads like a tent, and then he spoons behind you, wraps his arms around your chest, tangles his fingers with yours. Like this, your breathing automatically keeps time with his.
You don't think you'll sleep, but you do.
You get up in the night to drink water, take aspirin and pull off your jeans. He must have been up before you, because your purse is on your night table next to a tumbler of water, and he's not wearing a shirt.
He doesn't fully wake up when you get back in bed, just enough to react to the dip in the mattress with an airy smile. You snuggle close against his side, enjoy his warmth, and pray this isn't the last time.
You wake up to the sound of his voice.
He's sitting in one of the lounge chairs in the hotel room, still shirtless, giving what sounds like a radio interview. You smile when he says your name, when he calls you an amazing teacher, and you try not to notice the uneasiness you feel when the conversation turns to football, the lockout, something about a 'Steeler rule.'
He's talked about football all season, of course, on and off, but it's different now that he's really switching gears.
You have no idea how you're ever going to get over him.
"Good morning," you say after he hangs up. He smiles at you with a warmth that makes your skin tingle.
He nudges you over, crawls back in bed with you, and your whole body relaxes with how right that feels.
"How're you feeling?"
You smile, touch his chest, tell him you pretty much stopped having hangovers after your tour on Broadway. You think matching drinks every night with theater dancers while doing nine shows a week got it forever out of your system.
"Maybe it's New York that does it to you, then." He combs his fingertips through your hair, now almost completely out of the tidy ponytail you started with last night.
You know his body so well, have touched him – by accident or on purpose – nearly everywhere, but you've never had the chance to do this, to slowly palm the muscles in his arms, his chest, for nothing but enjoyment. He's doing the same; you feel like he's tracing you, mapping out your edges with the same care he put into every step you taught him.
You bite back a moan when he reaches your hip and then follows the edge of the bone over the thin cotton of your underwear, trails one finger down an imaginary inseam halfway to your knee, then back up the other leg. You move your own physical exploration south, down across his stomach, and watch for the curve of his smile when you reach the waistband of his sweatpants.
He doesn't object, so you hook your fingers into the elastic, push the fabric over his hips. He kicks them all the way off, and then he's got nothing on but that smile.
You learn him with your hands, your eyes, your ears for the sounds he makes, the hitches in his breath, learn with your whole body when he strips you bare and returns the curious attention, studies you with his fingers, his hand, his mouth. When you can't stand it anymore, when he pulls you on top of him, when he watches you while you take him in, when you come with a slow heat while he holds you up, you have no idea how you held out this long.
And his face when you bring him over the edge, the way his hands tighten on your hips like he'll never let you go... well.
You kiss him as you come down, and it somehow makes perfect sense that he would start to laugh.
He looks over at you after you collapse to his side, and you remember last night, what he said, this can't be a mistake, and now you know your answer:
"I mean this."
He brushes your hair from your face with a tenderness that takes your breath away. You feel like there's nothing else, no future to worry about, nothing at all outside this room.
He says, "So do I."
It isn't as hard to get on the plane as you thought it would be.
You used up the time when you should have been showering choosing a shirt of his to steal, and you wonder with a smile, as you go through the screening checkpoint, what the security agents can smell on you.
As they close the cabin doors and you start to switch off your phone, he texts you: Miss you already.
The flight attendant is standing right in front of you, cutting off your chance to think of a response.
You turn your phone back on when you disembark to change planes in Charlotte, and there's another text waiting.
Call me soon. :)
You stop in your tracks, imagining his face as he tapped out the message. The flow of other travelers seamlessly parts around you.
You call him on the way to your next gate.
"That was fast," he says as a greeting. You know he wasn't expecting you to call until you got home, maybe not until tomorrow when you're lounging poolside with your mum.
Your heart jumps with excitement at just the sound of his voice, and you tell him the truth: "I couldn't wait."