(A/N: This is such a mean update to post on the day before Mitch’s birthday lmao)
“At least let me take care of breakfast. There should be some open restaurants nearby,” Mitch pleaded on the way back to the car. “Please? Pleasepleaseplease?” He whined until Avi could no longer deny him, otherwise it would be a long car ride back.
With a heavy sigh, Avi finally responded. “Somewhere with a vegan menu?”
“Do you know how many gay vegans reside in the Cape? No wait, why would you?” Mitch snorted. “We’ll find something. If we don’t, I’ll eat my own hat.”
“Oh no, don’t do that, Jodie did such a great job on it.”
“Well we better find a place, then.” Instinctively, Mitch went to fish out his phone, but hesitated when his hand came into contact with the case. “Actually, why don’t you pick a place?”
Avi let out a small laugh. “I uh, forgot my phone back at the house. So I can’t.”
“Fantastic! We’re both doing great today.” Mitch slapped himself upside the head, then winced at the quizzical look that Avi gave him. No use hiding this, he decided. “I got a text from Calvin earlier. And I fully anticipate that Toby will also try to get in touch in the very near future to try to smooth things over. I don’t wanna be on the grid right now.” He left out the part about how he found out that his best friends were fucking each other, and knew that Jodie would try to contact him to explain it. He wasn’t in the headspace for any of it.
“Lucky you. Not one shitty ex, but two of them,” Avi dryly commented.
A short delay kept Mitch from immediately processing the words, but as his brain fought to catch up, his face burned while the rest of his body turned clammy. When it registered at last, Mitch wasn’t sure if that was meant to be a criticism of his character; while he could stomach something like that from Jodie, it stung coming from Avi.
“I don’t date good men,” he shot back, at a total loss of how he was supposed to respond, and Avi’s mouth went agape. Whatever warmth that had accumulated vanished, leaving Mitch stripped bare and exposed to the elements. He rubbed his nose to check if it succumbed to frostbite.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t- that came out wrong. It’s not what I meant,” sputtered Avi, who’d fully turned to face Mitch. He stepped forward, prompting Mitch to take a step back. “Just meant the timing was bad. I didn’t-“
“It’s fine.” Mitch cut him off, and this time powered his phone back on to focus on something else. His mouth went dry and he blinked back tears and triplechecked to make certain there was nothing too weird on the browser, then closed out a few open tabs just to be safe before handing over his phone to a distraught Avi. “You’re not wrong. It’s fine. Just pick out a place to eat, please.” Vestiges of his accent faintly surfaced, adding further to the embarrassment; it occasionally manifested during times of stress or when emotions ran high. The last time he recognized it was during one of the earlier therapy appointments, but otherwise he’d done a commendable job keeping it locked down.
“I’m sorry,” Avi apologized again as he took the phone into his possession. His regret sounded sincere, prompting Mitch to flash a rueful smile. When did he get so unbearably sensitive?
As he watched Avi type on his phone, Mitch almost considered taking it back because he’d forgotten about the dating apps that he downloaded during a bout of loneliness and grief. Not that he ever even opened them. But at the same time, assumptions were already aired about him, so what was the point in acting otherwise? “Mitch?” Avi’s voice broke through his thoughts.
“Did you find a place?” Mitch asked, trying to keep his tone light and acting as though nothing was wrong. He’d get over it in due time, after he had a little breathing room.
“Uh, yeah,” Avi mumbled.
As suspected, the tension during the car ride was suffocating, but Mitch didn’t have the energy to reconcile it; as far as he was concerned, that wasn’t his job, either. The natural inclination to make things right before conflict arose was hardcoded into his DNA, and every second that passed where he didn’t apologize for things that weren’t his fault was a victory. Instead, he closed his eyes and leaned his head against the window, ignoring all of Avi’s little tics that indicated discomfort.