the dance goes on

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by templemarker

Notes: Gen, with a slight dash of Billy/Michael for Yvi in Yuletide 2008. Read it there.


It wasn’t until he was absolutely sure he was offered a place with the Royal Ballet that Billy could start convincing Michael to move to London.

He checked and double-checked with the registrar’s office and the company office, because being a student at the School for seven years didn’t automatically guarantee a place. Plenty of other students had left for the ABC or San Francisco or even, god help them, Russia. He could have just as well have been one of them, and then all his plans would have had to be drastically altered.

Billy spent four years soaking up every bit of instruction his tutors could throw at him, quickly gaining a reputation as that odd, serious boy from the North who would dance even during his free time. It took him some time to reconcile all the anger he felt, being away from home and from all that he’d known, thrown in with a bunch of prissy boys who’d never known anything about a strike other than what they’d read in the newspaper, with the sheer elation and freedom he felt in dancing, and being in the school. One of his early teachers, the one who spent hours with him drilling him on his frame and his carriage and the proper way to bend and point his feet–making up for the years of training his peers had–had told him to put all his emotion into his dance.

He hadn’t understood at first, but the first time he nearly punched someone who made fun of his accent, he went to an empty studio and danced for an hour and a half to one of the precious Clash records Tony had given him as a going away present. Then he got it: no matter what happened, what anyone said, he could always use those feelings to fuel his dancing. It was powerful, and captivating. His instructors saw it, refined it, and once he was eligible he was the obvious choice for principal male dancer in the school productions.

Still, Billy was certain he would have gone crazy if he hadn’t spoken to Michael every week, with the coins he was able to save away. He told Michael everything, and Michael responded with his usual bluntness every time. While he was dancing his heart out, training until his feet cracked and bled in London, Michael was hiding more and more of himself away, trying desperately to keep the secret only he and Billy shared.

That was why Billy *had* to get Michael down to London. Staying with his family in Everington was killing him–Michael kept packing little pieces of himself away until Billy was afraid there would be nothing of his friend left, the friend who trusted him enough to kiss him and never tell, the friend who wanted things their little village could never give them. So Billy had a plan. It started with a bus ride.

It was the summer holiday, and Billy had a week or two to spare before he had to be in training and rehearsal with the RB for the fall season premiere. So he purchased a train ticket (a luxury he couldn’t quite afford, at least not until his salary kicked in) and went back home. The town looked much the same, except where it didn’t to his newly adult eyes. Where before, when he was a child, he saw miles of brick and rusted tin to bang into and dance again, now he saw his little coal-dusted village for what it was. He loved it still, somewhere deep in his heart. The people of Everington still asked after him all the time, and he was grateful for their support, even if they didn’t understand what it was he chose to do with his life. But it was a very different experience, coming home after being so far away. He wasn’t the same person who could live in the village of Everington any longer.

He saw his father and his brother, who kept a rather louder house despite Nana dying a few years ago. Tony’s young partner and their daughter saw to that–the house was filled with children’s toys and nappies, and Billy was relegated to the couch for the duration of his visit. He took it with good humour, though–it was nice to see his dad happy, holding his grand-daughter, Patricia, while Nancy made dinner at the stove. They were pleased to see him, asking about London and about his new job. They had never been able to come down for his school performances, but they were eager to hear about everything going on in his life.

As soon as he could he escaped across the street. Billy shuffled on Michael’s stoop for a couple of moments, and as he raised his hand to knock, the door swung open. “What, you’re not going to stand outside for all night, are you?” Michael asked with a slight smile on his face. Billy laughed and pulled him into a hug.

“Let’s have a look at you,” he said, and frowned slightly when he got a full view of his friend. Michael didn’t look well–he was too thin, with a gaunt look about him. His clothes were tucked in neatly, but they were worn with repair evident. His hair was well-tended, but there were circles under his eyes.

“Michael,” Billy said gently.

Michael pulled away, avoiding Billy’s eyes. He grabbed his jacket from inside the door and said, “Let’s go to the pub, then.”

The pub was crowded, as usual, with the locals watching the football game on the telly above the bar. Billy cut through the far end to grab a couple pints, while Michael secured a table in a far darkened corner, away from the noise. Billy smiled away a couple of friendly inquiries about what he was doing down south-like, and brought the glasses back to Michael, who was staring off into space.

“So tell me,” Billy said, “what have you been doing since your A-levels?” It was a pointless question–they both knew perfectly well that there was little for Michael to do. His family said university was too expensive, especially with the mine in the process of closing down after much bitterness and government implacability. At least there was no chance Michael would go down to the mine. As difficult for the village as it was, Billy couldn’t help but be relieved that Michael wouldn’t follow into his father’s footsteps that way.

“I found a job at the shop,” Michael said with a faint grin. “They still sell the same ices we loved in primary school, you know. I can get you a discount now.”

Billy smiled back, looking down at his pint briefly before taking a deep breath and meeting Michael’s eyes. “Michael, I want you to move to London with me.”

Michael sat up in his chair. “What?”

“It’s why I came back. I’ve found us a flat, y’see, and I want you to come down and be my roommate.” He paused to let Michael take this in for a moment, and then tried for a bit of levity. “I can’t afford it on my own, not even with my company salary–I need a roommate, and I really think you’d like London, a lot.”

Michael’s mouth was open slightly, and the air was charged with disbelief. “What?” he said again. “You want me to what?”

“Come to London,” Billy said slowly. “Be my roommate. Find a job, something that makes you happy. I don’t know, go to uni or work in a library or do whatever it is you want to do. Just do it in London. With me.”

“What?” Michael said shrilly.

Billy sighed. “Do I have to say it again? I could probably manage it in French, if you like, and Paolo’s been teaching me a bit of Italian–”

“No, I understand.” Michael’s voice was hoarse. “But–my family, what about my parents? What about my job?”

“I’ve been away for seven years now,” Billy pointed out, “and my family has gotten on just fine without me. And you can find another job in London, probably easier than you could find up here. Or at least something different, something that makes you happy.” Billy took Michael’s hand in his, where the shadow masked the touch they had always been free with. “Please, Michael. Come to London with me.”

Michael looked down at their hands and blinked once. “Yes,” he said simply, and Billy broke out into a smile.


He spent the last of the money he could spare buying two bus tickets back down to London. Billy had only brought a small overnight bag with him, and Michael didn’t have much to his name. Everything of his fit into an old shabby suitcase with enormous, faded pink flowers on it. “It used to belong to my grandmother,” Michael explained with a shrug.

The long bus ride into Victoria was spent alternately talking and sleeping, Billy speaking of SoHo, the commute to the Vic, the new practise space and his hard-acquired skill of a split leap. Michael, for his part, listened to everything intently, but offered little up himself. After some time, Billy started to feel self-conscious. They fell silent, though it was a mostly companionable one.

When they got to Victoria, Billy hustled them down to the tube stop. He kept tugging Michael away from this place or that, and from standing stock-still in the middle of the station, looking around in shock. Once they had their tickets and were on their way to the flat, Michael, holding his suitcase between his legs, murmured, “I’m not sure I’m cut out for this.”

Billy looked at him, startled. “What are you talking about? You’ve only just gotten here.”

“Yes, but it’s so…big. And busy.”

“You’ve been to Manchester before,” Billy pointed out.

“That was a different sort of big. You could still breathe in Manchester, and not be crowded into a tin can with four hundred other people,” Michael said, shifting against the train wall.

“You’ll be fine,” Billy said, putting a hand on Michael’s arm. Michael twitched for a second, looking around. But no one was watching–in a city like London, no one was watching anything except their bag or their newspaper. Hesitant at first, Michael covered Billy’s hand with his own, and with Billy’s smile encouraging him, he gave one back himself.


The apartment was a rubbish little hole of a place, but it was theirs. Billy was able to get it with the advance he received on his salary from being a matriculating RBS student, but the deposit and first month’s rent had nearly cleaned him out, not bothering to count his brief excursion up north. He’d purchased a mattress for a song (or more properly, on-call tickets to the summer showcase and a smile) and one of the earlier graduates from the School was discarding an old, beaten up couch, which Billy had gladly taken off her hands. But that was about the limit of furnishings he’d been able to acquire–he’d nicked some paper plates and plastic cutlery off the RBS canteen before he’d cleared out of the dorms, and stocked the freezer with a bottle of celebratory vodka. Beyond that, he’d be begging for scraps, at least until the next paycheck came due. It would be a tight few weeks.

Michael, though, looked around the place like it was grand, poking his head into the bedrooms and the sparse bathroom with unadulterated wonder. “This is our place, then?”

Billy leaned against the kitchen counter. “That it is, Michael.” He motioned with his head towards one of the bedrooms. “There’s only the one mattress at the mo; I thought you could have it, and I’ll take the couch for the time being. At least, until we can afford some proper things.”

Michael shook his head emphatically. “No, of course you’ll take the bed,” he said, sporting his lopsided little smile. “After all, you’re the breadwinner of this little flat. You should have the honour of the uncomfortably stained mattress.”

Billy laughed. “Well, I don’t much fancy sleeping on the lumpy, threadbare couch.” He cocked his head. “Perhaps we could share the mattress for the time being, until fortune smiles upon us again? Keep the couch for company?” Michael shifted uncomfortable, but said, “Right, that could work,” even if he didn’t look Billy in the eye.


The first few weeks passed by in a blur–training began, and Billy’s body conformed once more to the rituals and forms that rang through his bones. Even when he came home to find Michael, making dinner after a day spent job hunting, Billy would still grasp the edge of the counter with one hand and run through the forms, one more time, before he’d shake it off and still down to discuss the day with Michael. He barely had time to notice what was going on in Michael’s head, as preparations for the Firebird were well underway and he had secured a plum part for a dancer of his age and experience, with a showcase routine amidst the peasant dancing.

They had slept side by side, undisturbed, for all this time; more than once Billy had noticed Michael’s rigid back and death-grip on his pillow as he rose early for his morning exercises before heading out to the centre. He didn’t think much on it, though, chalking it up to nightmares, or leftover anxiety from moving to the city.

It wasn’t until he woke in the middle of the night, three am on a Tuesday morning when he had to be up in three hours for his run, to see Michael hovering over him, a terrified and uncertain look on his face, that he realized there was probably something going on in his friend’s head he wasn’t aware of.

Michael kissed him. Of course he did; Billy should have known, but his head was deep into the pas de deux at the thirty mark, and he hadn’t even thought this through. He let Michael kiss him for a moment, and then, with a hand on Michael’s shoulder, gently pulled himself away.

“I’m sorry,” Michael said, scrambling off the mattress to the door frame in an instant. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that, I’m sorry–”

“Please don’t be,” Billy said on a sigh, propping himself up on his elbows. “I should have noticed before now, but I’ve just been so caught up in this show–”

“I didn’t mean to, I just, you’re here now, all the time. Before, it was months and months before I’d see you, and I could get it under control so no one would know, and it would be okay, but you’re always *here,*” Michael said, trailing off.

Billy pushed himself into a stand and carefully, slowly, walked across the room to where Michael was hugging himself. He laid his hand on Michael’s arm and drew him close, resting his head on Michael’s shoulder. He could feel Michael trembling, and Billy held him until the shaking stopped, until he felt Michael’s tears on his shoulder and murmured nonsense into his ear.

When the moment had passed, Billy led Michael to the couch and sat next to him, still holding Michael’s hand. Michael looked lost, as if he didn’t know what to say or do or think.

“Well,” Billy said, giving Michael a small smile, “I should probably tell you that I don’t fancy boys.”

Michael blinked, looking even more confused. Billy couldn’t help but laugh. “I’ve had a small bit of experience with this, you know. At the School.”

Michael’s eyes widened, then narrowed, and he gave a swat to Billy’s shoulder. “Now that’s one thing you left out of those bloody phone calls!”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry! There’s no easy way to tell your best mate, over the phone in a public dormitory, that the bloke in the next bed tried to give you a wank, but you managed to fend him off without punching him in the nose.” Michael’s hand briefly tightened on his, and the lost look regained on his face.

“Look, Michael,” Billy said cautiously, “it’s not that uncommon, amongst the dancers, for the boys to fancy other boys. I’m, well. I’m used to it. I have to remember that it’s unusual for other people. This whole dancing world, well. It’s a very different one from the village we grew up in.”

“I’m beginning to see that,” Michael said quietly, but with a bit of hope in his voice. “And you’re certain you don’t…like boys, then?”

Billy smiled. “Very sure. But let me tell you, the playing field was very, very open for me. It was like a buffet full of caviar and champagne, with no one to compete with for the table.”

Michael gave him an arch look. “Yes, thank you, I remember those stories very well. Enough notches in the bedpost to last you a good long while, if memory serves.”

Billy had the grace to blush slightly. He squeezed Michael’s hand and said, “I could introduce you, if you like. To the other boys.”

Michael gave a harsh breath for a moment, and Billy waited, concern in his eyes. “Yes,” Michael said finally. “I think I’d like that.”


Billy was not at all surprised to see that Michael was a smash hit with the fellows who were inclined that way. Even those who didn’t eye Michael as fresh meat were kind to him, welcoming him into a world that Michael had never known existed, and Billy only knew of tangentially. Over the year, Michael transformed from a pale, worrisome boy into a very happy and healthy one, with a string of boyfriends to mark his time there. As he became more comfortable with himself, Michael branched away from Billy’s dancer friends and developed his own social circle. Billy and Michael would often host parties that brought their divergent, yet complementary friends together.

Billy only raised an eyebrow as Michael’s friends began to take on a distinctly, well, unusual, direction. Michael became more open about his different clothing choices, though he took Billy aside one day to make sure he was all right with this. Billy just laughed. “If I can survive you putting hideous flamingo pink lipstick on me, I think I can overcome a bit of transvestitism.”

Michael decided to attend university just as Billy’s second season with the Royal Ballet began, and soon they were both so busy that they were only able to make time for each other once a week; though Michael still attended all of Billy’s performances, and Billy was on hand to make late-night coffee and takeaway runs as the demands of a student making revisions needed.

And when Michael graduated with a degree in English and an assistant’s position at the Times in the Arts and Entertainment section, Billy was clapping the loudest of them all.


After six years with the company, Billy had performed many a choice role, but it wasn’t until his eighth season with the Royal Ballet that he finally was offered the opportunity to dance that which he had dreamed of for so very long: the Swan King, principal male dancer in Swan Lake. This cornerstone of the Royal Ballet’s catalog had been done to perfection before, but in some ways Billy felt he had been waiting his whole life to perform this piece. He remembered well an afternoon spent on a ferry, listening to the story of a young princess chained to her avian body and given freedom only at night, only to dance. He had sent a card to Debbie when he accepted the role, inviting her to come for a performance; she had declined, only because her husband’s health had turned for the worst, but she congratulated him and told him how proud she was of him. He didn’t realize just how much her pride meant to him until he had it.

He had rung up his father as well, and his father said in his gruff, choked up voice that he and Tony would come down for the premiere performance. Billy sent tickets, for the show and for the train, and hoped for the best. His family had only seen him perform a handful of times, and for them to come on the opening night meant that this performance had to be the jewel of his career.

Billy had no doubts Michael would be in attendance. Michael had come to the premiere of nearly every show Billy had ever done, no matter how minor the role. He always brought whichever young man he was stringing along at the moment, to dazzle them with his knowledge and contacts inside the biz.

This, however, was a very big deal. It cemented Billy’s relationship with the company as a principal dancer, and Michael had taken the occasion to bargain with his editor for a prime column space on the front of the A&E section of the paper: an interview with longtime friend Billy Elliot, star dancer of the Royal Ballet. It was big for both Michael and Billy–for Michael, it was a nice change of pace from covering the opera and orchestral scene with gossipy thoroughness, and for Billy, the chance to see his name in print, and the focus of an article, would more than boost his prestige amongst the company, and the scene.

By quirk of scheduling, Michael and his lover Charles were sat next to Billy’s father and brother. Billy didn’t learn of this until it was too late to change the seating arrangements, and Billy hoped that Michael wouldn’t take it too much as an occasion to delight at his family’s discomfort. Though Michael hadn’t been home since he first left fifteen years ago, Billy had, and he’d be the one to face the village’s curiosity when he went back for the holiday.

Still, every thought was cleared of his mind as he prepared for his first entrance onto the stage. It was dynamic, dramatic; the director had told him that he wanted the first show of power from the Swan King to thrill the audience, to bring them to the edges of their seats in one singular moment. To that affect, Billy was set to launch himself midair, meeting the half-mark of the stage with his arms swept out like a pair of fierce wings. It was challenging, but in the best of ways: pushing Billy harder while drawing on his skill, focus, and natural flair for the dramatic.

It also required no thought but for his centre of gravity; but he was more than willing to sacrifice that particular level of concentration for the news from the PA that his family was in the house. Billy let himself grasp the pleasure of that for a moment, and then discarded it like all else in his mind. He pushed his shoulders back and angled his hips, and in one quick motion, he was onto the stage and into the dance.


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