(a/n: As posted earlier, will be going on a two week hiatus. Chapter 26.1 will be posted on Saturday, July 15th. You may want to subscribe to the email reminders to be notified. Thank you for understanding.)
Standing over the mattress, Mitch held the mug near Avi’s mouth.
“Drink that,” Mitch said.
“You came back,” Avi croaked, staring up at Mitch as though he could be a mirage. Mitch let out a soft laugh.
“Did you think I wouldn’t?” He watched Avi struggle to grasp the handle, opting to hold the bottom steady for him while he sipped. Once Avi finished, Mitch placed it on the nightstand.
“I didn’t know.” Throwing his arm over his eyes, Avi rolled onto his back.
“Oh no, don’t do that.” Mitch moved fast, crawling onto the mattress and pulling Avi until he was on his side again. But when he went to stand back up, Avi’s arm flailed about until it landed along Mitch’s flank, almost as if he was trying to keep him there; in the process it turned to dead weight, nearly knocking the wind out of Mitch.
“Don’t,” Avi weakly protested.
“You’re so fucking drunk.” Mitch tsk’d under his breath.
“Sorry,” Avi murmured, and Mitch snorted.
Surrendering to his fate, Mitch sat down then scooched up until his back was against the headboard. Avi’s arm dropped and repositioned across Mitch’s legs, staying in place since nothing else kept it propped up anymore. At the very least, Mitch served as a physical barrier to keep Avi from attempting to move around any further.
Finally Avi settled with his knees drawn up, and his forehead rested against the side of Mitch’s thigh. Mitch broke the silence at last. “I’m sorry I didn’t communicate better. I was in a really bad place. But it’s not your fault. You know that, right?”
A small whimpering noise came from Avi, the most pitiful thing that Mitch had ever heard outside of the noises that he made himself. He lightly stroked Avi’s hair in an attempt to sooth him, which eventually did the trick. They existed in a companionable silence for a while, and Mitch swore that Avi’s steady breathing indicated that he was asleep, so he closed his own eyes and his thoughts started to drift into nothingness.
And then Avi spoke up. “Why’d you kiss me before you left? Was that the uh… the French thing?”
“The French thing?” Mitch huffed a small laugh. “Faire la bise, you mean? I uh…dunno. Was kind of caught in the moment, sorry that I didn’t ask beforehand. Most people I’ve met in America are weirded out by it.”
“I’ve never seen you do that with anyone aside…Jodie, maybe?”
“Oh.” Chuckling nervously, Mitch rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah, I kind of only save it for family, I guess? The VIPs in my life,” he joked.
“Am I a very important person?” Avi craned his neck to look up; as far as Mitch could tell, the inquiry was entirely serious. Before responding, he took the opportunity to remove the glasses from off of Avi’s face so that the frames wouldn’t dig into his leg anymore, and set them next to the mug. It bought him a little time to contemplate an answer.
“You’re the most important person, Avi,” Mitch settled on -partially teasing but mostly being honest- and Avi said nothing for a while.
“I’m glad you’re back,” Avi finally spoke in a whisper.
“Glad to be back,” Mitch replied, then slid down to get comfortable, assuming that he wouldn’t be going anywhere for some time. “Let me know if you need anything, alright?”
“Yup,” Avi nodded, resettling so his forehead was against Mitch’s shoulder and his arm stretched across Mitch’s midsection. After giving the arm a few reassuring pats, Mitch closed his eyes again and passed out with ease.