“Do we have everything?” Avi asked, his hand on the open rear hatch door as he peered into the trunk. To placate him, Mitch checked his bag and confirmed that all of his medication was inside of it.
“We’re good,” he nodded. “Even if we missed anything, we can get it up there. Not like we’re going into the wilderness.”
“Alright.” Shutting the trunk, Avi turned to Mitch with crinkled eyes, looking adorable in the hat that Jodie knit for him as a Christmas gift. “So…we’re off, I guess?”
Mitch was about to respond, but felt eyes on him. He looked towards the house and saw Jodie at the front door with a shawl pulled around her shoulders. With a bright smile, Avi waved at her, and she responded in kind. “Just a minute, and then yes.” He planted a kiss on Avi’s cheek, then jogged up the walkway and the steps, slowing down once he landed on the porch. “Salut,” he greeted.
“You guys better have the most fun,” she pouted with crossed arms, and Mitch rolled his eyes. “I’m serious, I’m gonna miss you!”
“It’ll be three days,” Mitch squawked in exasperation. Though she pretended to be frigid, she yielded once he pulled her into a hug; affection had always been her kryptonite, after all. “Thank you for being OK with this.”
“You’re not getting out of having a party,” she warned.
“I know,” sighed Mitch, slumping. That’d been the agreement: she wouldn’t take offense to him not being home for his 30th birthday -despite it being on a Saturday (“the world’s most perfect timing to have a party for a milestone”, she lamented repeatedly)- so long as she could throw him something big and extravagant the following weekend.
“But I think you need this more,” she quietly admitted.
“You could come with? It’s not too late, Maya’s welcome as well-“
“Nooope,” Jodie cut him off. “Babygirl, it’s your birthday. Go get nasty over every imaginable surface with your man.”
“Gross,” Mitch stuck his tongue out at her. “Well, on that note, I’m gonna get going.”
“Love you,” she said with one last squeeze. “I am really happy for you both, I promise. Even if it’s the world’s worst timing.”
“Love you, too,” Mitch laughed, kissing both of her cheeks. “And I’m sorry, I’ll consult your schedule next time I fall for someone.”
“No, you’re stuck with him. This is the last one,” Jodie shouted while Mitch laughed even harder and bounded down the stairs. He heard her take a deep breath before she shouted, “LOVE YOU.”
“LOVE YOU,” Mitch shouted back.
“AVI, TAKE CARE OF MY BOY.” Oh god, the dramatics. The entire neighborhood was about to be aware of their newly christened…whatever it was.
“I will,” Avi responded, not quite as loudly. Mitch grabbed his arm, ushering him into the car as quickly as possible. They both buckled up, and Mitch let out a breath once they were on the road and there was some distance between him and the house. “So, she didn’t wanna come?”
“Nah,” Mitch responded, not willing to repeat what she told him. “Uh, thanks for being the one to break the news to her, by the way. You’re much better with words than I am.”
“Of course. I mean, I didn’t wanna tiptoe anymore, but I’m also not nearly as close to the source as you are, so I thought I’d take advantage of that.” Avi took his right hand off of the wheel, and rested his arm on the center console. “You know the Vermont trip was her idea, right? Don’t tell her that I told you, though.”
“I didn’t know that,” Mitch marveled while he stared at Avi’s free hand from the corner of his eye, longing swelling in his chest while a thousand other emotions swirled about: equal parts uncertainty and certainty, gratitude and reverence. A peaceful calm, but with wariness that a new storm could emerge any moment.
And then he remembered that it was permitted for them to hold hands.
“Say, if I pull up the Starbucks app, could you place an order for us?” Avi passed his phone over before Mitch could make his move, the app already loaded.
“Not really giving me any choice,” Mitch teased. “Fine. What do you want?”
As Avi recited his order, a text arrived and distracted Mitch.
god, excuse me for checking in! well have fun with your BOYFRIEND, i guess
Mitch blinked a few times. “Boyfriend?” he squawked. “Me? That’s me, right? Am I the boyfriend?”
“What? Did Cat send something?” Mitch held up the phone, and Avi nervously chuckled. “I mean like…you are, right? Is that out of line? I just assumed when two people are in love with each other, that’s a relationship.” Avi frowned when Mitch didn’t respond. “Am I reading this all wrong? We’re together, right?”
“I love you,” Mitch blurted out as if his life depended on it. “I’m-I’m in love with you.”
Avi laughed. “I know that,” was all he said, and Mitch felt all of his organs seize up as he waited for more. The most excruciating pause followed, a whole lifetime passing by, where he died and then resurrected, and at last decided that he was perfectly OK with confessing and not having it yet be reciprocated. Then, with a twinkle in his eye, Avi grabbed Mitch’s hand again. “Oh, I love you too. Duh. I didn’t come out to my parents for nothing.”
“Thought you wanted to be more you?” Mitch raised an eyebrow.
“Oh my god, that was a total bluff. Not the telling them part, that’s real. But if you didn’t want to be with me, I would have -Iunno- left the country for good and started a new identity? Maybe go wrestle in Mexico full time. But I love you. Thank you for loving me back.”
And Mitch could breathe again. He eventually found his voice, which betrayed his emotions by creaking as he spoke. “Great,” he laughed and wiped his eyes. “Anyway, sorry, I wasn’t listening earlier. What kind of drink do you want?”
(A/N: OMG Thank you so much for reading this!!! There will be a post on Weds, 9/20, where I go over my thoughts and talk about future IC related stuff and projects. Stay tuned!)