The mannequin in Thrillers’ window was wearing a scarlet sequinned corset, with black sequinned hearts on the cups, and a black g-string which was also heart-shaped. In its silver hand was a red silk rose, and its blank silver face was marked with red lipstick kisses.
'That would look great on you,' Indianna observed. 'For Chained Heat next week, the Valentine ball, obviously, but you could wear it again.'
Cerise looked at the display. Indianna wasn't wrong: despite being displayed on a standard slender mannequin, the corset was obviously the type that actually looked its best on a woman with curves and cleavage, like Cerise.
'I don't know,' she said, though she coveted the corset. 'I mean, I'll be in the DJ box most of the night anyway, so I wasn't going to make a big deal out of it.'
Indianna turned round and stared at her, raising her eyebrows in an exaggerated manner. 'What kind of a pervert are you anyway?' she asked in mock-shock tones.
'A skint one,' Cerise laughed, hoping it didn't sound too forced. Though she knew her friend wasn't seriously probing her motivations, she had lately been wondering about that herself. Relatively new to the whole fetish scene, she was still a little unsure of where she stood and what she wanted from it. Sure, she'd always been open-minded or so she liked to think, and she'd gained the general impression that anything consensual was OK with these new-found friends, but still... There had been some action; she'd had some fun, and a fair few orgasms, without wanting or needing anything deeper than casual playtimes. She wasn't even sure that she wanted a relationship in this case, whether or not one was possible. She'd tried to tell herself she was having a crush, that was all it was, that it probably wasn't reciprocated, but though she'd often in the past enjoyed the feverish speculation that characterized those days when you'd met someone, and there had been that feeling of intense communication, of something special about to happen, she hadn't said anything to anyone since it all began. She just couldn't find the words.
She supposed a lot of it was not wanting to look like an ignorant newbie: there had been a degree of condescension in the way some people had treated her on her first few DJ bookings that had grated, but now she was making friends she was less bothered by it. It was just – well, it was the old thing of not wanting to make herself look stupid. That, and a fear of being thought rude as well as ignorant, and maybe giving offence to the last person in the world she'd want to offend.
She tried to derail the train of her thoughts as Indianna made for the shop's entrance, telling her to come on, at least they could have a look, see what else was on offer, but her mind kept sliding back to last Friday's gig at Fetishworld. She'd been enjoying herself, a few requests for tracks, a few compliments on her choices, the awareness that she was doing bloody well tonight keeping her mind off a certain person, who she was not, she kept telling herself, looking out for. There was no need to fill a dancefloor here, and indeed the more esoteric the tracks, the more the majority of the punters seemed to like it. So in the last few minutes of the set, without really thinking, or at least without admitting to herself she was thinking about it so much, she'd put on this old album track from the 70s because she had it with her, because it fitted nicely with the song she'd just played, and because she wanted to hear it again. 'Does Everyone Stare?' by The Police, a curious, fractured, haunting three minute hymn to obsession, and she could have ridden it out with a wry smile but then she glanced up part way through hunting out what she was going to play next and their eyes met for a moment.
It had only been a moment, the room was crowded and everyone had things to do, she was sure. But it had set her off again, thinking crazily about how it would be, lips on lips, those strong, capable hands touching her body, stroking her and then pulling her closer with mounting passion and then... what would happen next? That was the question, of course. The strange crashing, pulsing piano chords of the song seemed to vibrate through her whole body, and her nipples went tight and taut as she dropped her gaze, feeling herself blush, heat suffusing her. She'd managed to stick the next track on and the next one, but when Big Phil jumped up into the booth to take over, she'd barely managed to be polite to him before rushing off to the Ladies and locking herself in the end cubicle. She'd leaned her forehead against the cool melamine wall for a few minutes, breathing hard, wondering if she dared go out there and go looking, say something, ask, offer, or even beg, and then she'd unzipped her PVC jeans and thrust her hand between her legs, thinking: come and find me now, kiss me hard, kiss me and do me, I saw you looking at my mouth and then you looked away, it's not just me that's thinking like this, is it? And in all this incoherence her middle finger had found her clit and was rubbing, rubbing, the little bead of flesh firm slick with desire, her vulva aching, a dull trembling in the pit of her stomach, and she braced her spread legs and squeezed her eyes shut, and came very hard. And then she had something like an idea.
Dizzy normally liked hanging out in Thrillers, catching up on the gossip with whichever of the proprietors happened to be behind the counter – whether it was Ricky or Malorie's turn to be off sourcing stock or dealing with admin or indeed having a lie in upstairs. Ricky was more likely to offer a cup of tea to a longstanding, thirsty and, Dizzy hoped, well-liked supplier, though Malorie usually had the best gossip and the most interesting point of view. Dizzy liked original viewpoints, as you do when you're a bit of an original yourself. Dizzy also liked the kind of advice Malorie or Ricky dished out when you had a problem. Dizzy had mainly overheard, rather than been the direct recipient of, any advice Malorie offered on sorting out a tangled love life, but had perceived the advice to be useful. It was not a thought to be admitted, that going here today had partly been inspired by a small but miserable wish to actually ask for some advice along those lines.
Of course it hadn't happened. All very well reassuring yourself that these people are your friends, are not judgemental, are quite capable of dealing with frankly unexpected behaviour, but it's quite another thing to actually put your hand up and say, you know the impression I always give? Well it's not entirely the right one. When it started out, it was part game, part political statement, and it took on a life of its own, and the other thing didn't matter. But now all of a sudden it does matter, it matters a lot, and what am I going to do?
Perhaps if it had been Malorie's day in the shop rather than upstairs, Dizzy would have cracked and confessed, as it was, with Ricky leaning against the till and discoursing semi-seriously on the joys of true love, Dizzy had taken refuge in a rant about Valentine's Day.
'Just because it's on a fucking Saturday, you'd have thought at least someone somewhere would have realised that half the perverts in town want to escape all that romance and red roses crap. Mind you I'm amazed the venue let them book the night, after all, they could charge much more if they opened it to the normals and gave them heart-shaped stickers on every packet of fucking crisps. Fucking normals, it's no more than they deserve.'
'So you're not going, then?' Ricky said, with a smirk that was infuriating even though there was no malice in it. 'You're going to stay at home and watch the telly with a bottle of gin and a ready meal, are you?'
Dizzy was tempted, for a moment, to say: Yeah, I'm going to do just that. Tell them they can collect the frames and the backdrop in the afternoon, I'm not coming out on Saturday, I hate Valentine's Day. You know I hate Valentine's Day, it's nothing to do with me, or my life, is it? But I can't say that, I want to go even though I know I shouldn't. Because if she's there, and she will be there, and if I see her, I might think I might say something like, look, will you have dinner with me? And then I'll want to kiss her and if I kiss her once I'll want to snog the face off her and oh this is so ludicrous. She can't think anything more about me than Eccentric Old Freak with a good line in conversation. OK, maybe the topping thing, maybe there’s something there. Dizzy couldn’t think back to that particular scene without a rush of blood to the head, and maybe a few other places as well. It had happened towards the end of the night, when the place was starting to empty of people, and maybe that had been why: the cheeky sub with the pert little arse, going, bet the two of you together wouldn’t be enough for me, and Cerise saying, we’ll see about that, come on, Dizzy, help me out here.
'You should go.' Ricky's statement came after a long enough pause to make Dizzy jump slightly. 'The music's going to be good, for one thing.'
Dizzy was temporarily breathless, almost panicked. Did Ricky suspect something? Did Ricky know? Oh fuck, was it actually anywhere near visible? Visible enough for people to be talking about it?
Ricky had the air of someone about to say something else, a kind of compassion on his face, but then the shop door swung open and Indianna walked in and behind her – Oh hell, this wasn't fair at all – Cerise herself. Even dressed down, she was lovely: her black hair in a loose ponytail over one shoulder, big black sheepskin coat and flat black boots, understated make-up – and there was Dizzy in uninteresting grey combats, long red-gold curls a mess, no slap at all. Cerise looked taken aback and Dizzy tried not to wince. Let me out of here, OK. That's obviously squashed flat any interest she might have had, and it's probably all to the good, now let me go.
'Hey, Cerise,' Ricky was saying. 'Got your playlist for Saturday? Going to be doing any special requests, are you?' Cerise laughed and blushed a little. 'Maybe, if you ask me nicely.' She cleared her throat. 'Hi Dizzy, how's it going.'
'Oh, you know. Totally busy, stuff to build, people to see. Ricky I'll call you about that cage, OK?'

'Funny old thing,' Indianna observed, without much interest as Dizzy made a rapid exit. Cerise swallowed hard, fighting a rush of humiliated foolishness: she must have given herself away somehow, been embarrassing. Otherwise, surely, that headlong rush out of the shop wouldn't have happened, Dizzy would have stayed, chatted, they'd all have had a laugh together and maybe she'd have said, how about a quick drink down the road and... Stop it, she told herself. She turned swiftly back to Ricky and asked, 'So is there anything you specially want to hear? Have you and Malorie got a favourite song?'
Ricky grinned, running a finger over his blond moustache. 'Ah, you can choose one for us. You generally play good stuff after all.'
Cerise was gratified. She didn't actually know Ricky or Malorie that well, but knew they were people whose opinion mattered, and the praise sounded sincere. A combination of pleasure at this recognition and something else she wouldn't want to label made her say, 'Well, thanks. That red corset in the window, have you got it in a 14?'

In bed that night, Ricky and Malorie were talking over the day's events. Malorie had been having lunch with a couple of magazine distributors, who wanted Thrillers to stock their range of fetish-themed titles. Malorie never turned down a free meal, but had no inclination to take the magazines, which were lowest-common-denominator housewives-in-rubber tat, and was grumbling mildly about the unreconstructed attitudes of some people who wanted to sell to the BDSM scene without understanding it.
'Honestly, silly sods, it's like they still think that only men are interested in smut at all. I did ask them if they'd ever thought of doing a mag aimed at women and they looked at me like I was losing the plot completely. Not that I want them to, it would just be a load of gay mag stock shots and vibrator adverts, they couldn't think beyond that if they tried.'
'Speaking of men,' Ricky began, and Malorie put her hand on his cock.
'Yes love, I know what men are.'
'Well,' Ricky was undeterred. 'Dizzy came by. We were just having a chat and then believe it or not, Indianna showed up with Cerise the DJ, right then, just like that.'
'Ooh! So what happened?' Malorie demanded, beginning to stroke him gently, trailing the pads of her fingers up and down his length and over and around his balls. Ricky groaned.
'It was funny. Mm, not funny exactly. Dizzy kind of flounced out in a hurry, wouldn't look at her. She bought one of the red heart corsets, though. Looked brilliant in it. I don't know if you're right or not, but there's definitely something going on with Dizzy at the moment. Whether it's anything to do with Cerise, though. I mean, has she got a partner? Mmm, that's nice, don't stop.'
He had his arm round her and now he moved his hand onto her breast and started playing with the nipple, which erected under his touch.
Malorie commenced a long, slow, languid pulling movement, her hand gripping the base of his shaft, sliding almost off the head, then loosening her grip to slither back down and start again.
'Go on,' she said. 'Do you think they're at it and not wanting anyone to know?'
Ricky exhaled with pleasure and closed his eyes. 'Nah.' He rolled onto his side and ran his other hand over the curve of her bum, then round between her buttocks, as she slipped her leg between his, still keeping hold of his cock, and began to rub the tender head of it against her clit, using it to pleasure herself. Ricky kissed her, mouth hard against her mouth, parting her lips with his tongue and she lay back, drawing him on top of her, guiding his hot sex inside her and bringing her hands up to rake her nails lightly and repeatedly down his spine and dig them gently into his arsecheeks.
Though much of their sex life together involved a lively variety of whippings, spankings, bondage and roleplay, there were times when neither of them wanted anything more elaborate than this; what Malorie sometimes called a midweek fuck, short and sweet and simple. He got his fingers into position to tease and caress her clit, his hand squeezed between their bodies, getting sticky-slippery with her juices, and then she was coming, shuddering against him and her warm slick cunt engulfing his rod so he started to move faster, faster, listening to her gratified moans, feeling her teeth gently nip his earlobe as he reached his own peak of excitement.
It was only afterwards, when they were holding each other quietly, their muscles relaxing, that Malorie reverted to the conversation they'd been having.
'Have you ever noticed the way we all talk about Dizzy, though?' she asked, quite suddenly and Ricky frowned.' Everyone likes Dizz, though, don't they?' he said.
'That's not what I mean. Look, how many people say,' she paused then went on, 'he's -'
'Hang on, she -' Ricky stopped. 'No, hang on. Look, I've never asked, how far along - ' He stopped again.
'People really try to avoid it, don't they?' Malorie was musing. 'Have you ever heard anyone say, he, she, him, her about Dizz without looking a bit , you know, looking over their shoulders to see if anyone's heard them say the wrong thing.'
'Heard people arguing about it,' Ricky said. 'Usually about what's polite, you know, she when she's in drag or whatever, he when he's not. But then half the time, what's drag and what ain't? I’ve never seen Dizzy in a frock, not ever. But there’s the make up, and the heels and stuff. I heard someone say she was a butch dyke with a glam streak.'
'And then someone else probably piled in with some transgender rights stuff', Malorie observed.
'But, you know, I don't actually know what Dizzy is. I mean, I really don't know and I don't know anyone who does. Dizz is just Dizz and always has been.'
Ricky suddenly snickered. 'Remember when that silly cow Angela actually asked? And Dizz said, well as you're never going to get to have sex with me I don't see what the fuck it's got to do with you.'
'What do you think Cerise thinks?' said Malorie. 'I mean, I've seen Cerise with men, I reckon she's basically straight, but then again. Do you think she thinks Dizzy's a bloke? Do you think Dizzy is a bloke?'
'I've never seen Dizz with anyone,' Ricky remarked. 'Not ever. That's what threw me when you said they might be shagging. You know, Cerise.'
'I don't think they are.' Malorie snuggled closer to him. 'They want to, though. I told you about those looks, the way they look at each other. But I don't think either of them knows what to do with each other. I think that might be a problem.'
'You might be right, love,' Ricky said with a yawn. 'But it probably isn't actually our problem.'

Cerise hadn't planned to go to the Friday 13th munch the night before the Ball. However, Pat from Chained Heat had rung her at work that afternoon and asked if she could possibly take a batch of Ball flyers down to the Swan and scatter them around the tables as the whole Chained Heat team were embroiled in the finishing touches and all that: Cerise had said yes, of course, and thanked her lucky stars that even when absorbed in the straightworld, doing yet another temping job, she was reasonably well turned out, sharply-cut black skirt, heels, a scarlet knitted top that wasn't low-cut but still clung nicely. If she went straight from work to Pat's, picked up the flyers and then on to the Swan, she'd look OK still. And there would be others worse dressed, of course, as if that mattered. As she hurried up the street ahead of the icy wind, making for the warmly-lit Swan, she finally allowed herself to speculate on the likelihood of Dizzy being there, before telling herself that the idea was ludicrous. For one thing, Dizzy and Cerise had initially bonded over a mutual disdain for munches, for another, Dizzy, the perfectionist, would surely be spending this evening in the workshop, fiddling with all the props and artwork and stuff that were needed for the Ball.
The munch was, as she had anticipated, not that exciting. People were mainly talking about either Valentine's Day and whether or not they had Ball tickets, or ranting about how much bad luck they'd had all day and that there must be something in it, this Friday 13th business. Cerise distributed her flyers and agreed cheerfully to consider various musical requests for the following night, in between sneaking glances at her watch and wondering how long before she could reasonably make a move.
Just after nine o'clock, she spotted Leon, owner of one of the better gossip and information websites, brandishing a BlackBerry decorated with silver star stickers, which looked oddly familiar. Leon noticed her glance and turned to her immediately. 'Course – you're crew for tomorrow, you'll be in early. Can you give this to that daft tart Dizzy? We were doing an interview this morning round at mine, and then this afternoon I realised that this was still sitting on my kitchen bloody table. So of course there's no way of phoning up and saying,' Oi, you left your Blackberry, is there? Can't even send an email.'
Cerise took the device and almost dropped it, biting her lip in sudden rage at her own idiocy. It’s a glorified mobile fucking phone, that's all, that just happens to belong to someone I fancy the arse off, get a grip. She meant to say something cheerfully non-committal but obliging but what actually came out of her mouth was, 'The workshop's on my way home, I'll drop it round. Poor Dizz must be going frantic for it.'

Elbows on knees, chin in hands, Dizzy was sitting hunched up on the bench at the end of the workshop, feeling stupid, cross and thoroughly fed up. All very well to mutter about the ubiquity and annoyingness of modern communication gadgetry and how much you'd like to do without it, until you do something bright like lose your BlackBerry and have no idea how to get in touch with anyone to track down it's whereabouts. Friday the fucking 13th, all right. And tomorrow would be Valentine's Day, with the Valentine's Ball, full of people either flaunting their couplehood or desperately trying to jump on the couple bandwagon. Dizzy snarled, then sighed, wondering what Cerise thought about the trappings of traditional romance. Roses are red, violets are blue, I'm nuts about you, but what can I do?
The sudden banging on the workshop door was an almighty shock, and Dizzy jumped up reflexively, catching a good crack on the elbow from a half-finished A-frame in the process.
'Oh for fuck's sake!' A quick scoot across the floor to the front, a wrestle with the bolt which was as recalcitrant as ever, and oh what the hell else was this day going to throw up? Because there was Cerise, wide-eyed and slightly windblown, big coat framing her body in still-sexy work clothes, and looking, well, gorgeous as ever, but seriously on edge.
'What are you doing here?' Dizzy barked, regretting it the minute the words were out. Cerise recoiled, as well she might, then tightened her lips.
'You left this at Leon's' she said, producing the Blackberry from her coat pocket. 'I said I'd drop it round to you.' But I wonder why I bothered, was the unspoken conclusion.
'Oh. Oh, right.' Dizzy didn't entirely know what to think. When you don't know what to say, sometimes it doesn't hurt to say nothing, of course, because in that moment of silence, Cerise had stepped through the rickety wooden door and was standing inside the workshop, looking around her and nibbling her lower lip.
'Look, Dizzy...' She seemed to gather her resources. 'I, um, I wanted to say, after the other week, I think, maybe I - '
'Right.' Here it would come then, the 'I only think of you as a friend, and anyway aren't you...' speech. Dizzy felt a stab of regret for the friendship they'd been building up, the meeting of two minds on the same wavelength, and the way such a thing never did survive the acknowledgement that one of the friends wanted more. Oh say your piece and go, Cerise, darling girl, I'll cope, it doesn't matter, and no one will ever know if I spend the rest of the night sitting on the floor in here crying my eyes out.

It had only been in the last few seconds before knocking that Cerise had come to the decision that she was going to say something, at any rate try to get some idea of how much of a fool she might be making of herself. Someone must have spotted something, or said something, and now Dizz was horribly embarrassed about it, and Cerise had to reassure her friend that it was OK, she wasn't going to make a bunny-boiling pest of herself.
But somehow, the words just wouldn't come, and Cerise looked up for a moment, and spotted something like agony in the amber eyes gazing down at hers.
'Cerise, don't stress, please,' Dizzy was saying. 'I'll get over it, OK? You're gorgeous and funny and smart and maybe you shouldn't be surprised when people fall for you, but I promise I won't ever hassle you about it.'
'Whu?' Cerise managed, inelegantly, and then she stopped. Dizzy stood still in front of her, face tense, body even more so, saying nothing more.
And then it all seemed so utterly simple that Cerise almost laughed.
'What a pair of prats we are,' she said. She reached up with both hands, pulled Dizzy's head down to hers and pressed one firm kiss on the full lips, which immediately opened, and Dizzy's arms were suddenly round her, pulling her close. They kissed on, and now they were backed up against one of the pillars in the workshop, grinding against each other. Dizzy's hands were under her coat, inside it, running up and down her back and over the curve of her arse cheeks, squeezing and caressing. Cerise in turn was stroking her friend's hair, running her fingers through the long messy red curls and tracing the line of Dizzy's cheekbone and jaw. She spread her legs a little to improve her balance, and Dizzy held her tighter. The length of Dizzy's body was moulded to hers, all hard muscles and strength and sheer heat, detectable even through two sets of clothes. Cerise's nipples were up in taut points and she moaned aloud when Dizzy lifted a hand to them, cupping her tits and squeezing gently. Now her quim was opening up, juicing up, as their legs intertwined, and she could feel that firm powerful thigh between her own pressing right on her pleasure centre.
There was a pile of dustsheets on the floor, less than a foot away, and Cerise glanced at them and decided they would do. She backed away from the embrace and shrugged out of her coat, tossing it aside. She couldn’t speak, couldn’t think of anything to say; she just lay down on the jumble of fabric and held out her arms. For one brief moment, Dizzy looked uneasy, then gave a shrug and knelt beside her, bending to kiss her again. Cerise pulled up her skirt and slid her own hand into her panties, cupping her mound, feeling the heat and the wetness of it, and then Dizzy’s hands were there as well, tugging down tights and panties, baring her, and Cerise spread her legs as wide as she could, hearing and feeling the faint rip of nylon as the crotch of the tights split apart.
‘Beautiful,’ Dizzy whispered. ‘You’re so beautiful.’ Powerful fingers twined in Cerise’s damp pubic curls, and then began to explore the folds of her slippery cunt. She moaned, pushing her hips forward and Dizzy fingered her clit, circling it, applying a gentle but insistent pressure. One finger eased inside her, then another, and Dizzy was leaning over her, body angling down closer, and Dizzy’s tongue was on her hot spot, tasting her, hot and wet and teasing, and Cerise cried out, something frantic and incoherent and the licking and the fingerfucking speeded up. It was almost unbearably delicious. Cerise moaned and clutched at the sheets, rolling her head from side to side, aware that orgasm was imminent, feeling the little quiverings in her stomach and the muscles of her thighs, a sense of pressure building in her quim. She bore down, gripping Dizzy’s plunging fingers with her pussy walls, and then the moment was on her, inescapable and immense, a long screaming convulsion of delight.
‘Holy fucking shit,’ Dizzy murmured. ‘It’s about five years since I did anything like that.’
Cerise reached out, wanting more contact, another embrace, needing the closeness. They hugged, stroking one another’s hair, pressing their bodies together.
 ‘I want – ‘ Cerise stopped, and they gazed at one another. She took a deep breath and tried again.
‘Tell me what to do for you,’ she whispered. ‘Just tell me. That was just the beginning, wasn’t it? I don’t want to stop.’
Dizzy’s head dropped on her shoulder for a moment, and the words were faint but still audible.
‘Nor do I, but… Cerise do you know? I mean, do you mind? I haven’t… I haven’t done anything for years.’
‘That’s OK,’ Cerise suddenly laughed. ‘I’ll be gentle with you, love.’
The perfect thing to say popped into her mind. ‘You can even keep your pants on. Or not.’
Dizzy sat up then, looking stunned, but delighted.
‘I really don’t care,’ Cerise said, as firmly as she dared. ‘Dizzy, honestly, I don’t.’
‘Well, let’s at least get upstairs, then,’ Dizzy said.

The kiss was a little clumsy, but heartfelt on both sides. The rest of the night was going to be interesting.

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