As if things weren’t busy enough, a new project dropped into Mitch’s lap.
During a recent title defense, Gianna fractured her ankle during a routine hurricanrana to her opponent. Her frustration was two-fold, for not only did it mean that the titles could potentially be vacated, but she’d been working her ass off to get a horror-themed burlesque show ready in time for Valentines Day. It was her very first production for the new troupe that she assembled, and Jodie gave her blessings to use the school as a venue.
Originally, Mitch signed on to play music, but declined any other roles that’d been offered to him on account of not being quite ready to do the whole striptease thing again. His ego was still bruised from Calvin, and showed little signs of healing.
“C’mon, you’re great at it,” Gia begged. “I can only do so much now, but I know you have experience. I’ve seen you perform.”
“Jesus fucking Christ,” Mitch muttered while Gia hobbled after him on her crutches.
“Mitch, I’m injured. We’re friends. Just show your tits to strangers, for me, your dying friend. That gave you an incredible deal on your sweet new gear!”
“It’s tits AND ass, and I am extremely out of practice,” Mitch rebuffed.
“C’mon, you’re a babe and you’re talented,” she attempted to coax. “We can reconfigure my part to have you do it instead. Please?”
“Do I get to make out with Wil?” teased Mitch.
“Fuck, I wish you would, actually. We should do a collaboration,” Gianna gasped and put her palms together in prayer pose, making Mitch burst out laughing. But she was nothing if not persistent, and after a few more incentives were dangled in front of him -more pay, some free gear, and a healthy slathering of flattery- he agreed. He wasn’t exactly surprised when the role ended up as an assistant manager position, but he actually enjoyed that aspect of the work.
Between the radio show, Liner Notes’ reunion, fine tuning the new tag team with Avi, and now this burlesque show, he found himself re-invigorated. He hadn’t experienced this amount of living since just after college, in the limbo between Toby and Calvin where he indulged in every creative whim imaginable. And when Gianna or Ingrid asked him for a little extra help -be it picking up fliers for the show or stepping in for someone else at the station if they called out due to it being flu season- he leapt at the occasion. Either Jodie or Avi or Victor were always happy to loan a vehicle to him, and he was so grateful to his family, his VIPs.
For the first time that he could remember, he felt content, if not complete. He was so busy that the idea of dating became unfathomable, and loneliness no longer held him in its teeth, no longer at risk of clamping down and swallowing. And perhaps that was due to being on the cusp of 30, which he never expected to make it to.
Yet, his heart still belonged to Avi. Spending more time with him hadn’t exactly tempered the emotions, but he’d come to appreciate his sweetness and endearing qualities without mourning how they didn’t mean more for him personally. Wildflowers didn’t need to be picked to be admired, he determined; if anything, they ought to remain intact in their environment, beautiful and whole. He was just grateful to have any experience at all with him, nevermind to be blessed with constant access.
To Ingrid’s chagrin but everyone else’s delight, he made a stronger effort to smoke less, and once Avi became yoga instructor certified, attended his new classes at the school. At home, he unpacked more and continued to settle in, even if he didn’t yet have his own bedroom. As he went through a box of miscellaneous items and Avi kept him company via guitar practice, he came across a small trophy and burst out laughing.
Avi looked over Mitch’s shoulder and read the words on the small engraved plate. “Horniest Match: The Dark Lord vs Zevon? Well that’s a first.”
“Jodie’s idea of an awards ceremony. Lotta unusual categories…” Mitch trailed off and shook his head, then put it to the side. And to their credit, it’d been a hell of a bout, happening shortly after Maya and Louis broke up and Calvin had called for yet another break. It was the first time that Mitch truly had Zevon figured out, an unruly hot mess of a creature, simultaneously masochistic and sadistic, bloodthirsty and never satiated.
The energy that night was impossible to describe, though Mitch gave it his best shot when Avi asked for more details; eventually he found the match online and played that rather than talk about it, which Avi watched with rapt attention.
(Of course, Mitch left out what happened later that night, after the show when everyone gathered at a bar and Maya propositioned him. Not for him to do anything to her -she knew better, and laughed sharply as he stammered out apologies about being flattered but not swinging that way- but for her to test out her new strap. ‘I wanna blow off some steam and you seem like you’d be fun to fuck, Calvert,’ she said point blank. Mitch appreciated the candidness, and also appreciated that she wasn’t looking for foreplay or for him to do even really anything aside be her test subject for the night and get railed. Temptation nearly overcame him to ask if she’d ever done this to Louis, but he respected his friends’ privacy. Also it was hard to think when he was getting the dicking down of a lifetime.)
But not everything went smoothly. The situation with Nate, however, still hurt. Then again, he still wasn’t entirely over Calvin, either, despite all of the bad aspects of that relationship. Sometimes he’d zone while doing the dishes or laundry, and when he came back to, realize he’d been crying for some undetermined amount of time. He brought this up to Jodie and how stupid he felt for still being attached, she told him that having a big heart and being able to love easily weren’t negative traits. What was important is that he stayed the course and didn’t return to anyone that hurt him.
He relayed all of this to Ann, and she commented that he radiated a new confidence. At the end of that session, they decided that he only needed to come in every other week. It made him nervous, but she assured him that this was a positive development, and reminded him that they could always return to a weekly schedule if he needed it.
By the time February came around, he could dare to say that the scales at last tipped in his favor, and pros in his life outweighed the cons. Mostly, he looked forward to putting his 20s behind him for good.