“It’s all true, I promise.” Avi held a hand over his heart. “Scout’s honor. And I was an Eagle Scout, so that matters.”
Mitch snorted. “You dork.” But it took everything to refrain from launching into questions about Avi’s scout past. A few seconds passed where they held one another’s gaze, and then Mitch looked away. “Still not thrilled about the kiss, though,” he sighed. “What if I didn’t want it? You should have said something.”
“Yeah, that’s my bad. I fucked up big time,” admitted Avi. “So check this out, I had this whole list.” Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a folded piece of notebook paper, and handed it to Mitch. On it were several bullet points:
- have Louis distract Mitch
- decorate break room
- play song
- kiss?? (please)
“This cannot be for real,” Mitch read it over several times, torn between amusement and being moved by Avi’s efforts. “An actual list? You fucking wrote ‘kiss’ on here? And you planned all this on Valentine’s Day? Why are you like this?!”
“It’s for real. Well, actually, I wanted to do this on Sunday, but-“
“The bouquet?!” Mitch exclaimed.
“Yeah, I lost my nerve. Those were from me. Anyway, this is what the break room looks like right now.” Avi passed his phone over, and on it was a picture of the room covered in crepe paper streamers and balloons and more flowers. Mitch couldn’t stop staring at the picture. “I got mixed up when things deviated from my plan because you wanted to spar. I was a nervous wreck, and you were so close. When I pinned you and we made eye contact, I thought you got it. Or like, you wanted to. Thought we were on the same page. And I remembered when I talked to Louis earlier, how he kept telling me that I was wasting my time with all this prep and that I should just go in for the kill, because actions would mean more than words. But that wasn’t cool of me. I’m really sorry.”
While Avi apologized, Mitch handed the phone back to him. “OK, but what if I didn’t want to kiss?” He teased, his knees playfully swinging apart then coming back together, and he savored the way that Avi’s eyes flicked towards his legs before hastily looking back up, a blush now darkening his cheeks.
Then it was Avi’s turn to fold his arms and give him an incredulous look.
“Mitch, full offense, but I had more than a vague idea that you were into me.” Mitch opened his mouth, but Avi continued without letting him talk, “It still was absolutely not acceptable of me to do that without us discussing things beforehand, but in the moment it did seem like the world’s safest bet.”
“One last question,” Mitch held back from grinning, satisfied with Avi’s explanation but still needing to get one last rib in. Avi went wide-eyed, as if he couldn’t figure out how else to break this further down.
“What?” Avi asked, holding back exasperation.
“Why didn’t you do all this sooner? If you’ve been all-knowing this entire time?” He thought it was a slam dunk joke, and Avi would join him on the bed where they’d kiss and laugh forever.
“Ah,” Avi reached up and rubbed his beard in contemplation, and Mitch cocked his head in confusion, because he hadn’t expected a serious reaction. “So when we went to the Cape, you said you wanted someone that valued and appreciated you, and I gave that a lot of thought. I told myself that I wouldn’t make my move until I settled a few other affairs first. So…I decided that meant coming out to my parents, because I didn’t want to keep anything a secret if this-” he gestured at the both of them, “-actually worked. But that ended up being much harder to approach than I originally thought, so it delayed things.”
“You- hold on!” Mitch sat up straight and squawked, “You came out to your parents? For me? We’re not even together, are you actually insane?”
“Happy Valentine’s Day?” Avi shrugged with a sheepish laugh. “Dunno. Yeah it’s kind of because of you, but I was also tired of not being me. My dad’s trying to use correct terminology and I have to remind him that I’m bi and not gay, and my mom’s very much overcompensating with her acceptance. But. Yeah. You -everyone at Monument- make me feel like a better version of myself. An authentic one. So even if you reject me, at least there’s that peace of mind.”
“One more question.” Avi groaned, and Mitch struggled for his life to hold back a laugh. “For real, I promise this time.”
“What?” Avi gave an undignified whine, sounding like helium leaking from a balloon.
“Can you come over here and kiss me now?”
“Oh, are you sure that you want to? Because you know, you definitely don’t telegraph super hard or anything.” Still, Avi stood up and crossed the gap between them, and his legs slotted between Mitch’s, the denim of his pants scratching against Mitch’s inner thighs.
“I’d really like you to.” Mitch dropped all humor and did the only thing he’d ever wanted to do: observe Avi without any shame or guard in place. One of Avi’s knees propped up on the mattress and Mitch slid backwards, giving him enough room to straddle his lap. His arms went around Avi’s waist to hold him steady while Avi leaned down, and their lips softly grazed. Nervous energy radiated off of the both of them as they determined how they fit against one another, but it was perfect nevertheless.
All of the sentiments that ceaselessly weighed heavy on Mitch’s mind -ranging everywhere from ‘I love you‘ to ‘please god don’t hurt me‘- were mercifully silent for once, and he was allowed to just feel.