Michael’s known Butch for over a year when something finally happens. He’s been living on Butch’s couch for three weeks already. They’ve been working in the studio, Butch producing and Michael playing guitar for whoever needs it.
They go out to a bar. That happens a lot; Butch likes drinking and socializing fine, but it’s more than that. From his carefully cheerful laugh to the way he manages to talk to everyone he’s worked with that day, Michael knows this is just another part of the job for Butch. Michael usually doesn’t come. He’s not with Hillsong anymore, but old habits die hard. He almost never drinks or smokes. He doesn’t like crowds. All he really wants these days is to play music and be by himself, and being in L.A. helps with this. He doesn’t know many people, and almost no one knows him. It’s like being in a little, anonymous bubble. He plays guitar and he goes back to Butch’s house and he doesn’t really interact with anyone.
He doesn’t really know why he goes to the bar this time. Butch asks, “You coming?” just like he always does. Usually Michael just smiles and shakes his head. Today he takes a deep breath and says, “Yeah, why not.” Butch doesn’t react, really, just grins at him and tilts his head towards the door.
Maybe it’s the weather; it’s so fucking humid and the sky is dull grey and low and it’s been threatening thunder and rain all day. When they walk outside, the air settles over them, too heavy and wet. He feels restless and itchy. Earlier, when he was tuning his guitar, Butch reached over him to get to the sound board and they brushed against each other. Butch smelled nice and it felt good and he can’t stop thinking about it.
The bar is already crowded when they get there. Butch weaves his way to the bar easily, nodding greetings and smiling and stopping to chat just briefly enough with everyone he knows. Michael sticks close, just behind him, and doesn’t meet anyone’s eyes. He looks at Butch’s back and his shoulders, watching the way they move under his thin white tee. His mouth feels dry.
Butch finally gets to the bar, smiling at the bartender and nodding easily.
“Hey man, how’s it going,” he says, “I’ll have a Bud, and…” his eyes shift to Michael, just for a second, and Michael meets his gaze and nods slightly, “yeah, and one for him too.” He smiles and nods easily at Michael and the bartender nods back and sets two glasses on the bar.
They grab their drinks, and make their way over to where Darren and Randy are already seated, Butch leading the way again. Michael sips his drink quickly, so he won’t have to talk too much. He doesn’t like the taste at all, really; even when he was younger and still drank regularly he wasn’t much into beer.
Butch smiles and laughs and seems to be able to juggle a conversation with Randy about the CD they’re working on – “I just think the track needs a little bit more, you know, maybe we should try to get some backup singers in next week” – while still greeting the twenty or so people who constantly crowd around their booth. Michael’s pressed right against Butch, which means at least he doesn’t have to talk to him or look at him much, instead attempting to carry on a conversation with Darren that consists mostly of “Yeah”’s and “Uhuh, uhuh, right”’s.
Butch’s thigh is touching his, though, and when they scoot over to let someone else in, Butch slides an arm around Michael’s shoulders, leaning in close to him to say something to Darren. Michael can’t breathe. All he can smell is Butch’s cologne and the slightly tangy smell of alcohol on his breath. He has to get out of there.
He clears his throat and Butch glances towards him immediately, so Michael smiles weakly and says, “Uh, yeah, can I just get out?” He nods to the loo, and Butch immediately slides out of the booth so Michael can get up.
Michael stumbles a bit getting out, not used to having so little room to move, and Butch steadies him with a hand on his arm, looking at him oddly seriously and asking, “You okay?”
Michael looks at his feet and mumbles, “yeah, m’fine.”
Down the hall in the loo it’s a little quieter; through the open window he can hear the rain pounding down. He sighs, and looks at his reflection. He looks scared. There’s a flash of lightning, and thunder booms faintly over the music just after. He glances up at the little window above his head. He’s straining to look out and see the lightning, so he doesn’t hear Butch until he clears his throat behind him and says, “Michael.”
Michael doesn’t want to turn around. He just wants to keep waiting for the lightning and thunder. When he was little, he used to stay up on stormy nights and stare out the window, counting the time between the lightning and the thunder. Butch walks over to him, pressing up against his back, touching his shoulder lightly but not trying to turn him.
“I used to be scared of thunder when I was a kid,” he says softly. “I used to always hide under the covers and pretend it was just someone playing the cymbals really loud instead.”
Michael wants to tell Butch how he used to love it, how he stayed up to listen to it, but he can’t talk. He can feel Butch everywhere against him – his breath against his neck and his chest brushing Michael’s back and his knees bumping the backs of Michael’s knees.
“Michael,” Butch says, with a strange kind of strength in his voice. “Michael, turn around.”
He has to do it. He turns, and he looks at Butch because he can’t look anywhere else – Butch is right there in front of him, blocking everything else out.
“Michael,” Butch says, bringing a hand up to cup his jaw, “I’ve been waiting a very long time.” His eyes are so serious and so dark and his moving even closer, his lips hovering just over Michael’s and not quite touching.
Michael thinks, Oh, thinks Yes, now, and leans in to the kiss, allowing it to happen, asking for it to happen. When they come together, lips pressed just a little too firmly, Michael’s arms coming up to Butch’s back, chests colliding firmly, that’s when the thunder clashes, so loud Michael can hear it over the music. So loud that he can hear it over his own blood rushing in his ears.