As Mitch taped up his wrists, a million different thoughts raced through his head.
He hadn’t watched any of Lupercalia’s matches, and a vague sense of guilt overcame him since both Louis and Sandy were in the tournament. At some point, he’d make it up to them. Until then, he applied his face paint then isolated himself in a storage closet that reeked of cold, damp concrete and musty wood from the palettes scattered on the floor. After clearing some space towards the back, he stretched and tried to keep strict focus on how to destroy Nate.
It didn’t work. He knew it’d be futile, but it was worth a shot.
Mostly Mitch thought about Avi, who he asked to keep away until the match. Avi, being a good sport, obliged.
Avi was a good sport about so much, Mitch came to find in the last 48 hours.
After checking out of the motel, they went out for breakfast and addressed a few immediate…challenges, to put it gently. Namely Jodie. Mitch needed more time to figure out how to break the news about this very new situation while somehow keeping their friendship intact. It meant asking Avi to keep things discreet in the meanwhile, which pained Mitch to request of him. Hurt flashed across Avi’s face, his mouth hanging open for a moment before he smiled brightly to cover it up. And as soon as Mitch saw it, he almost scrapped the idea entirely, ready to throw caution to the wind and call Jodie that very second. He stammered apologies and tried to excuse himself from the table, assuring that he’d take care of it, but Avi stopped him. “It’s OK, I get it,” he said with a kiss, and Mitch stayed put.
When they got back to the house, Avi disappeared into his room for a good while as Mitch holed up in the attic and staved off an anxiety attack, idly picking away at guitar strings. As far as he knew, he’d already fucked this up and lost Avi before anything even really started. Why couldn’t he just be smarter and braver? Consumed by guilt, he combed through Craigslist ads for studio apartments in anticipation of telling Jodie and possibly getting kicked out.
And then Avi sent a text with a link to a spreadsheet. It contained Jodie’s work schedule and his own, and he’d highlighted the cells where the two didn’t overlap. A few minutes later, he ascended the attic stairs and asked if Mitch got his message; Mitch responded by leaping to his feet and kissing every inch of Avi’s face. He copied the schedule into his own calendar, and swore that he’d be around the house during those gaps, come hell or high water.
One thing was for certain now: he’d rather be fooling around with Avi than getting prepared to be choked out by a chain. The match was good idea at the time, he reminded himself, and according to Jodie they were set to break the attendance record. At least this wouldn’t be for nothing.
He attempted to tap into the indignation and fury from New Years Eve, but his brain continued to sabotage his efforts by reminding him that if he was still with Nate, he wouldn’t be with Avi. Yes, at the time it was humiliating, but everyone made mistakes. Besides, did he even ever have feelings for Nate, or did he just want to be wanted so desperately that he was willing to bypass what his heart needed in order to settle? A safe bet, more or less.
“Fuck,” he muttered. He couldn’t say for certain, but in hindsight, he guessed that his hands weren’t entirely clean in this scenario. Although Nate still shouldn’t have lied by omission for nearly a month. They were friends, for crissakes.
Back to being agitated, Mitch stoked that spark as he went back even further and threw memories of Toby and Calvin and even Dylan on for kindling, allowing it to erupt into a bonfire. If Nate was up to it, they could bury the hatchet after the match. Until then, he allowed this slight to be the worst imaginable transgression that one man could commit against another.
Settling differences in the ring was the whole point of kayfabe, wasn’t it?