Seeing Michael again, for the first time in nearly two years, was literally breath-taking. A blur of black wool sped toward Billy from the side and knocked him over onto the pavement, almost knocking both of them off the kerb.
Billy started shoving at the mass of clothing atop him, his irritation subsiding only when he heard that familiar laughter.
"What's the matter, Billy? Can't an old friend attack another in the middle of London proper without a brawl breaking out?" Michael stood and offered Billy his hand, which Billy promptly ignored.
"Thanks Michael, but I think I'd rip those chicken arms off your toothpick body."
"Hey, not all of us can spend our days with our hands up girls' skirts and call it a workout."
"You can't even pretend to be jealous about that. Although, you should see the blokes I get to work with every day. Think I could set you up if you –"
Michael shoved Billy a bit harder than he had been shoved. "Prat."
Billy found himself grinning more easily than he had in a long time as they slowly walked back toward his dorm. He had missed Michael and the connection to childhood and home he represented more than he'd expected. Billy turned his head, intending to ask if Michael were planning on dragging Billy out to Crash when he found Michael's gaze already fixed on him.
"Plotting something, Caffrey?"
"I'd never tell, Elliot."
There it was again -- that grin that Billy could feel stretching his lips to their breaking point. He had already forgotten the gay bar quip he had been planning and just dissolved once again into the comfortable silence that had been previously encompassing them. As they passed a group of fellow students, Billy nudged Michael.
"That's George Conaway, the blond, and that's David Thomas with him." Billy followed Michael's eyes as he sized the two of them up.
"I know it doesn't look like a fair fight now, but I knocked Conaway flat out, back when we were both at audition together."
Michael laughed as he turned toward Billy. "You ended up at school together? That's sounds fucking awful."
"Could've been. But Conaway's alright. Asked me out while we were still at Lower School, if you can believe it. I told him that I danced instead of fucking."
"You told him what?"
"Debbie -- Mrs. Wilkinson's daughter? She said that about her mom. Said she danced instead of having sex. It was the nicest thing I could think of on the spot. He and Thomas paired up last year and they've been practically joined at the hip."
"Literally, I hope."
"I'm sure you do." Billy turned his head from Conaway and Thomas, now running along the North Path, and focused on Michael. His childhood friend's boyish face had been replaced by the chiseled jaw --framed now by long, tousled locks instead of the cheeky bowl cut he used to sport -- of a man. Billy's eyes darted over all of Michael, wondering if he was really as slight as the bulky jacket made him appear, and then wondering why he cared when Michael caught his eyes.
"So, you going to show me your dorm or are we going to freeze our bollocks off all night?"
Billy figured the shoulder-shove was answer enough and continued toward the building.
"You have a roommate?" Michael nodded toward the bed that was against the far wall.
"Yeah. He went home for the week-end. Birthday or christening or … fuck if I can remember. His family seems to have parties every day of the week.
"Whereas you haven't even come home for Christmas since your Nana passed."
Billy flushed guiltily. It had been difficult, returning home to bury his Nana next to her daughter, his mom. She had told him the year before how proud his mom would have been--reminding him that she could have been a professional dancer herself. He wanted to smile at the memory, but it made him think of her face in the coffin, stiff and wax-like, and he visibly shuddered.
"It wasn't the same. I mean, Dad has his new girlfriend and Tony always has at least one girlfriend and …"
"And you haven't even kissed one."
"I have too, you fucking wanker." Billy moved to sit next to Michael, who had settled on his bed. "I've kissed loads of them here. It was nice, you know. Soft lips and all that. But I kept thinking about getting them pregnant and how it would mess up my dancing. How this is my one chance. You know?"
"I know, Billy."
"My dad hadn't even been out of Durham before we went to the audition. I don't want that. I want to travel all over. I want to play to packed houses. Look out into the crowd and see all the people just watching me -- watching the boy from Everington who made it big. I want to see my Dad in that crowd, and George and Tony. See them seeing me, succeeding. I want to be the best, be the Lead, so that I can support my Dad and so he never has to go underground again."
"Wow. You think about all that while kissing birds?"
"Nah. Mostly I think about how to improve my pirouette à la seconde."
Michael chuckled. "Know what I think about when I'm kissing a bloke?"
Billy hesitated, more curious than he would like to admit. "What?"
"I think about how he feels. His stubble against my cheek, his tongue wrapped around mine, his muscles beneath my hands as I start to explore. And I listen to how he sounds. The stifled moan he makes as I gently stroke my tongue against his, his sharp inhale as I gently scratch my nail over his nipple. I don't think about anything but what's happening right then."
Billy swallowed, unexpectedly affected by Michael's words. "Sounds … nice."
"It is." Michael shrugged his jacket off and tossed it to his left to land on Billy's desk chair. "It feels nice, too. I mean, not just losing yourself in the moment but the actual physical stuff."
Billy mirrored Michael's movement, though he just flung his jacket, not caring where it landed as long as it was gone. It had become warmer than usual in his room. He turned so he was fully facing Michael, one leg curled under his other thigh.
"Yeah. I'm sure I'll get that too. Later."
"After." Billy flushed as he realized he was speaking in one-word sentences. He flushed harder as he realized that Michael's eyes had to be tracing the redness as it traveled over Billy's face and neck.
"School." Billy cleared his throat, embarrassed that his voice had broken for the first time in years. He was determined to find his vocabulary again. "After I have a job and can afford to think of such things."
"You mean you don't think of these things? At all?" Michael slid closer to Billy on the bed, their knees almost touching when he brought his leg up and under him, as Billy had.
Billy shook his head, too afraid of his voice cracking. The sudden proximity to his closest friend was affecting him in all sorts of embarrassing ways. Hormones, he thought. It's normal. I'm young.
But then his breath hitched when Michael slowly reached out his hand and placed it gently on Billy's knee.
"Is this …" Michael trailed off, his voice having gone breathy and deep where Billy's was daring him to speak again so it could once again show off its ability to squeak. He could feel the heat from Michael's hand burning into his skin through his jeans.
Billy shifted, though he wasn't sure if he were trying to move back or move into the touch, but he leaned forward and came even closer to the mouth he had once seen decorated with bright red lipstick. He couldn't help but note how close it was and how tempting those once ordinary lips had suddenly become.
"I don't. Think about it. It never really comes up. Always so busy with school. This school. Where we are. Where I am, I mean. Where I dance. Cause that's what I do. That's what I want to do. Dance. Dance is –"
Michael saved Billy from embarrassing himself any further by leaning forward across the few inches that separated their mouths and softly pressing his lips against Billy's own.
It was an effective way to stop one from rambling, Billy noted. But then Michael moved his lips infinitesimally and Billy gasped. He could feel the stubble that Michael had mentioned before and, as he recalled the rest of what Michael had said, Billy had to stifle a groan at the thought of Michael's tongue in his mouth, sucking on his own tongue, coiling around it.
Billy pulled his lips away but pressed his forehead against Michael's, not wanting to move back at all but finding the lack of oxygen was making him light-headed.
Michael brought his hands up and started slowly rubbing Billy's upper arms. "All right?"
Billy heard the hesitancy in Michael's voice. He thought of the boy who had answered the door in a dress when Billy had stopped by, seemingly completely unafraid of Billy's reaction. The boy whose response to Billy asking if he was a poof was a 'promise not to tell' instead of a yes or no. He remembered a kiss pressed to his cheek that had felt like it held a lot more than just 'thanks for being my friend'. He remembered teaching the same boy a plié as he stood before Billy, beautiful and strong where he should have looked ridiculous in a pale-pink tutu.
Billy smiled and opened his eyes, staring into the one part of Michael that hadn't been changed by time.
"Brilliant." Billy felt the same grin that had plagued him outside returning to his face. "Fucking brilliant."
Michael returned the grin and leaned back on the bed, pulling Billy with him. "Show me."
And he did. He did.