Though his match concluded, Mitch remained on high alert. Without enough time to shower before Louis and Avi were scheduled to fight, he freshened up with baby wipes and retouched smeared facepaint, his hands unsteady throughout the application process. Louis stood the better chance of winning, or so Mitch repeatedly told himself. Avi may be an incredible, a once-in-a-lifetime talent, but Louis had raw power and brutality on his side.
Adjusting his jacket, Mitch debated either keeping or abandoning it; ultimately, he decided that it may be a useful prop against Avi. Then again, what if Louis disapproved? Were they good guys now? He should have mentioned it earlier in the day, but that fleeting look that Louis gave left Mitch pinpricked with confusion, which threatened to turn to resentment. He proved himself countless times; hell, Bad Moon Rising was his idea, his stable. He didn’t need anyone’s permission to do this.
On the flip side, Mitch hoped that Avi didn’t take anything personally. Otherwise, the car ride back home would be weird.
Convening with Louis and Sandy, Mitch refrained from discussing either his own personal strategy or the proposition offered behind closed doors. They stood together as a trio at the curtain and awaited their cue, Sandy shifting about while Louis cracked his knuckles. Mitch’s palms sweat worse than during his own match, and he wiped them dry on his tights. He glanced around to discreetly seek out Avi, but could not spot him.
The intro to their song played -the first time since the injury- and Sandy and Mitch flanked Louis, now in full Lucian mode and charging ahead. Sensing that this wasn’t the time for antics, they refrained from accompanying him into the ring itself, where he paced and thrashed about as though he was prepared to maim for real.
But anticipation and guilt thrashed about in Mitch’s core, and he couldn’t choke it down any further. He could hash this out with Louis later, but Sandy didn’t always adapt to sudden changes so well. In the pause between one competitor’s entrance in the next, Mitch nudged her. Under his breath he said, “Hey, Jodie’s looking to shake things up. Just roll with it, OK?”
Her face scrunched and head titled as she stared back at him. She whispered, “W- we’re not breaking up, are we?”
Mitch’s heart rate escalated, but he gave a small shake of the head. “No. Not quite.”
The lights went down, and a solitary blue spotlight shone on the curtains. Unlike the Hunter’s first appearance, there was no fog, but the first few piano notes for his entrance song were equally haunting and caught Mitch off guard. He expected pop music that Avi always gravitated towards, not blues guitar and the vocalist’s soulful rasp that hit him directly in the gut and reverberated throughout the rest of his organs.
Avi emerged calm and collected, his gaze steely and fixed on the ring while he was greeted with a chorus of boos. He moved in deliberate strides, unhurried as he passed Sandy and Mitch. Keeping in character for Zevon, Mitch bared his teeth and growled, forcing Avi to meet him eye-to-eye, who dropped the Hunter gimmick long enough to toss a playful wink.
To say that he looked great would be an understatement. Gone were any traces of Avi Sher’s flashiness, his favored gold gear traded for something far more sinister. Wil and Gianna had gone all out for this design, influences from the likes of Van Helsing and Mad Max evident particularly with the brown pleather tights and the various straps that criss crossed over his torso and thighs. He looked right out of some fetishist version of a Spaghetti Western fantasy.
And of course, there was that obnoxious hat.
When he finally got into the ring and the lights turned back on, Avi demanded a microphone and Desiree handed hers over. “Wolf,” he addressed Louis, who did not appear to be interested in anything other than violence. “How about we make this interesting?” Louis paused, but stayed in character with an unwavering bloodthirsty glare. “If you win this, I leave you and yours alone. For good.”
“And if you win?” Louis asked in a low growl, fully embodying Lucian.
“I take one of yours.” Pantomiming eeny meeny miny moe between all three members of Bad Moon Rising, Avi’s finger extended towards Mitch and stopped. “He’ll do.”
Louis and Mitch exchanged uneasy glances with one another, while the audience murmured amongst themselves. “You got this,” mouthed Mitch, then found his voice as Zevon again and repeated the statement, this time shouting, “Lou, you got this!”
Hesitation washed over the room, but Louis tapped back into being Lucian with resolve and agreed. “Fine,” he announced with a firm jaw and gritted teeth.
“Fine,” was parroted back -not in the Hunter’s voice but in Avi’s- and something inside of Mitch tightened.