Avi can’t stop his heart and mind from racing, despite multiple attempts at things like meditation and breathing exercises. He’s normally a pro at centering himself, but -to put it mildly- it’s been a rough day. Every time he closes his eyes to focus, the fight with Charlie loudly resurfaces. It hasn’t been this bad between them in years, but like a storm looming on the horizon, it was easy to see it coming. Long overdue, in fact. He was naive to think that Vermont fixed anything.
If he wasn’t a coward, he would have handled this already; but he didn’t and now he’s stuck.
When he opens his eyes, he’s instantly back on Instagram. A username pops up in the search bar after pressing it with his thumb, and without a modicum of pride to be found, he selects it.
Until an hour ago, Avi didn’t know who Toby was; based on Jodie’s colorful description, the man is the devil himself. She started cursing his name sometime in between watching the season 14 premier Supernatural and explaining the previous 13 seasons worth of plot to Avi.
“FUCKING KNEW IT!” she shouted, shoving her phone in Avi’s face. “Of course he’s with Toby!”
“Who?” Avi asked, his attention split between Jodie’s outburst and what’s happening on her screen. It took a moment to process, but it’s Mitch. He’s somewhere dimly lit, unguarded and laughing, and someone’s hand was touching his. When the Story closed, Avi reopened it to continue watching, trying to absorb and process the few seconds worth of video. “He ditched me to go on a date?” he asks, still in disbelief.
“With Toby, of all people!” spat Jodie.
“I don’t know who that is,” Avi responded, bewildered.
So Jodie told him. Or rather, she yelled about it. After she finishes and the show ends and Avi retreats back into his room, he sits on the bed in a daze. The exact emotion that he’s experiencing eludes him, but he knows that it isn’t good. A bit of shame courses through him, because he memorized Toby’s username and now scrolls through the account on his own phone. When he stops because he can’t fathom why he’s wasting his time, he quickly returns to the Story and stares at it some more.
It’s bad enough that Charlie ran him through the ringer and all day he’s felt useless, but knowing that Mitch blew him off to hook up with his ex doesn’t sit well, either. This is the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and his stomach clenches tightly as he continues to look at Mitch’s face, wondering what made him laugh so hard.
He couldn’t have done this literally any other night? They made plans, and it hurts that getting laid was more important than keeping a commitment. Why didn’t he just say something beforehand, instead of waiting until the last possible second? Avi doesn’t get it. Every time he thinks that he finally understands Mitch, the rug is pulled out from underneath him.
And now he’s so upset that a headache’s formed. Studying the video isn’t getting him any closer to an answer. Part of him wants to send a text to see if Mitch would answer it, but instead he closes his eyes again and tries to sleep.
It’s just after 11pm when Avi’s phone rings. Though he dozed off, it wasn’t for long, and he’s disoriented when he answers the call. He almost forgets that he’s upset until he says Mitch’s name out loud, and suddenly it tastes like sand’s in his mouth. When there isn’t an immediate response, he wonders if he’s been buttdialed, and the sting of betrayal grows more potent with each passing second.
But something nags at him and he doesn’t disconnect, instead asking if Mitch is there. Ragged breathing comes through the speaker.
Mitch’s voice is distant and shaky as if he’s frightened or in shock, and Avi’s body moves of its own accord. Sitting up, he flings the covers off before Mitch finishes asking to be picked up. The address hasn’t been recited yet, but Avi has his keys in his hand and is half way to his car. And when the call disconnects, his fingers fumble over themselves as he types the destination into his GPS. It isn’t until he’s down the road that he realizes that this trip is a half hour in the pouring rain, and his hands grasp the steering wheeling so tightly that he could probably bend it in half if he put the effort in.
He wants to be angry, and still is to some degree. His time matters, and in this industry it’s rather valuable. An argument that hasn’t happened yet forms in his head. They’re going to need to set expectations, because he can’t afford to train someone that isn’t committed, not when the demand for his services are so high.
But mostly, he’s just worried. Mitch’s voice haunts him for the entire ride over; it’s gotta be a bad situation if he needs to get bailed out by the person that he screwed over. Avi has a lot of questions about where they stand, but by now he’s certain of this: Mitch would rather get his teeth pulled out than ask for help or favors.
Or maybe Avi’s the biggest pushover that’s ever lived. Both things can be true, he decides. He’ll work on being more assertive after he’s made sure that his friend isn’t in any danger.
As he follows the directions and pulls up to the address -presumably Toby’s apartment- Avi thinks about the things that he should leverage for. Gas money, certainly. More coffee, absolutely.
The more that he considers it, the more that he realizes that Mitch doesn’t really have much that he wants. Longer, in-depth guitar lessons? To be prioritized? It reminds him a little of when he had a regular roadwife, way back in the day. Communication was key to getting through grueling tours.
He doesn’t think about that. Can’t think about that. He’ll lose it altogether if he does. It’s been 8 years, but he still…
Shaking his head, Avi purges the thought altogether and lets Mitch know that he’s arrived. For the next minute or two, he tries to predict what the mood will be. It’s safe to assume that it won’t be positive, otherwise there’s going to be some real issues. The good and bad news is that when Mitch gets in the car and collapses into the passenger seat, the vibe is horrible. For someone already so sullen and moody, the energy which radiates off of him tonight would set off a Geiger counter.
When Mitch speaks at last his voice is broken, and it seems like his spirit isn’t in any better shape.
But that isn’t enough, Avi decides. He needs to be honest and discuss his feelings as well. Mitch made a choice to be deceitful, and he has to understand that it can’t fly, not if they’re real friends. So he tries to feel it out, and everything that he says seems to push Mitch closer to breaking down. It isn’t his intent, but it isn’t fair that he should always have to tiptoe around anymore. It isn’t fair that he keeps getting disregarded by the people that are supposed to care about him.
He settles on relaying that he’s disappointed, and it’s as if the oxygen has been sucked out of the car.
Also, what the fuck? Is he his own dad now?
Then Mitch starts sniffling, and it’s obvious that he’s trying to stop but can’t. He’s somehow contorted himself into the fetal position in his seat, and it’s a pitiful display. Whatever tension and heat that drove Avi to try to make a point peters out. This is someone’s low point, someone that he cares about, and he should have swallowed his pride and waited until later.
The rain pounds harder, and Avi’s too tired to be out in these conditions. He can’t think straight and the road’s visibility is poor at best, so he slows down and pulls over to see if it’ll pass. He also figures that being stationary will help him select his words with more care. Mitch, however, unbuckles and reaches for the door, as if he’s a caged animal that’s desperate to flea.
Panicking, Avi grabs onto him and holds tightly, pulling him into a hug so that he doesn’t take off into the night. At first, Mitch goes stiff; after struggling and trying to push away, he finally goes limp in Avi’s arms. His entire body wracks in sobs, and it’s the worst sound imaginable. Avi rubs Mitch’s back and feels hot tears soak into his t-shirt. The righteous fury and indignation have been replaced with concern, and it scares Avi to think about what may have happened.
He doesn’t know what to do, doesn’t know how to console someone in this position, so he holds tighter and stays quiet and hopes that it helps. There’s something wafting off of Mitch, both residual musk that faintly reminds Avi of a locker room, and an unidentifiable cologne that smells nothing at all like him. He assumes it’s from Toby, and for whatever reason it makes Avi’s stomach roil. Nothing about this feels right, and guilt wells up for going into this so hot headed, instead of reading the room and waiting until the both of them were better equipped to have this conversation. All he wanted was to be heard and understood, but he needs to be compassionate.
Just because he’s hurt doesn’t give him the right to hurt.
“I didn’t know that I could even disappoint you!” Mitch wails, and Avi’s heart breaks a little at that. Mitch’s self-esteem is atrocious, everyone knows that, but there’s always a playful coating to dull the sharp edge enough that it doesn’t seem fatal.
But this is just sad.
He can’t begin to comprehend how Mitch isn’t aware of how important he is, and wonders if he hasn’t done or said enough to convey this. It makes him think of friends that were taken too soon, that he never got to say goodbye to, and how every waking moment is filled with regret for not doing more when maybe he could have.
And also, Avi wasn’t aware that he could get a reaction like this from Mitch. So maybe he needs to pay closer attention, or at the very least value himself more. He doesn’t know. But he’s humbled by this, and in the back of his head makes notes on what needs work.
Scrambling in an attempt at lightening the tone, Avi explains that yes, of course Mitch matters to him. He thinks about how Jodie or Victor or Louis would handle something of this gravity, and subconsciously his hands go to Mitch’s hair to smooth it. Like a charm, Mitch starts to calm down in the process. Eventually, the tears are reduced to sniffles, and Mitch apologizes yet again for what he did. He doesn’t even deny the absurdity of his thought process, but Avi’s chest tightens when Mitch candidly says the phrase “seeing my ex”.
Avi doesn’t know Toby at all, only has Jodie’s testament and glimpses through an Instagram account to go off of, so he can’t exactly make any calls on his character. Yet, it doesn’t seem okay: an ex is an ex, and though Jodie might be biased she also doesn’t mince words. Ever. Judging from Mitch’s current state, the situation is a bad one. Avi is so uncomfortable and so helpless as he looks Mitch over, who won’t lift his head to look back at him. The shame is so obvious on his face, and Avi doesn’t want to add to that, wants to be there when Mitch needs him, wants to make it clear that his friend can depend on him no matter what.
Again, he considers what Jodie would do here, partially to solve a problem and partially because he’s feeling down, and a little selfish and needy as well. Charlie accused him of being unreliable, and he doesn’t know when that wound is going to heal, but he’s pretty sure that she’s wrong. Once he figures it out, he acts instead of dwells, because if he hesitates he won’t do it at all.
He leans forward, then presses his lips on top of Mitch’s head.
He’s seen Jodie and Victor and Louis all do it a hundred times; though Mitch has known them all much longer, Avi doesn’t want to be left out anymore. By driving to the middle of fuck nowhere in the middle of the night while there’s a downpour, he feels like he’s earned the right to at least court the idea of being drawn into the fold. He knows that he can’t brute force it or make that decision for Mitch, but he just wants to be considered.
When Mitch doesn’t immediately react, Avi jokes about getting something to eat. There’s still silence even after that, so he fills the void with more words, but accidentally opens up about Charlie. It wasn’t right to do, nor is it a good time because this isn’t about him it’s about trying to take Mitch’s mind off of whatever happened, but Mitch does react to that so Avi affords some vulnerability of his own and supplies the Cliff Notes version.
His throat tightens with every word spoken. Frustration begins to boil over, and he’s on the brink of letting it all out, but thankfully Mitch fills in when Avi falters and comments about how relationships are hard. It’s enough to reset Avi and keep him from spilling his guts about the last few years.
As Avi drives, he sneaks glances at Mitch, who stares out the window and is far more sprawled out than when he first sat down. Temptation rises to ask about Toby: what’s he really like, and how accurate are Jodie’s accusations? But he says nothing, and tries not to be unnerved by the lack of conversation. Sometimes Mitch chats freely for hours, usually if a topic strikes his fancy, but other times he’s lost in his own head without any sign of emerging. Avi’s almost comfortable with the quiet by now, or at the very least he’s grown accustomed to it. Usually he’ll fill the void with his own tangents, but this doesn’t seem like the time or place and he doesn’t even know what to say.
His eyes drift to Mitch’s leg, which isn’t bouncing like it often does. The air is too heavy in the car, and the instinct to lighten the mood becomes all encompassing and suffocating. Avi’s right hand leaves the wheel and reaches for Mitch’s knee to pat it and offer reassurance, but he catches himself before it gets that far. Instead, he wipes his palm on his own jeans, and turns his attention fully on the road again.
This shouldn’t be so difficult, but he doesn’t want to say anything that’s less than genuine. Avi can’t figure out how to approach this because he can’t get the answers that he needs to untangle the mess, let alone find the courage to ask the questions that would help him get started with that task.
He just wants to know why Mitch would seek comfort from someone that’s -allegedly- so awful. For someone that’s wealthy in friends and loved ones, that’s constantly surrounded by them, he settled on the person that emotionally devastated him many times over? Why?
Is his self-esteem so low that he’d scrape the bottom of the barrel in order to feel something? Is that Toby’s fault as well? Is it Calvin’s? Some other guy? Acid reflux erodes Avi’s insides as he mulls this over. Does Mitch just need someone, anyone, to be gentle and affectionate and authentic with him? To show him that there’s better alternatives than whatever this is?
How hard would that be to achieve? Realistically speaking, if they weren’t in motion, if Avi just pulled the car over, what would Mitch do? How would he respond to a mouth at his ear and being told wanna make you feel good , and a hand in his pants and-
Avi’s breath hitches, and he jolts in place. He looks back over at Mitch, and worries that he’s projecting…something. But Mitch hasn’t moved much and his eyes are closed, with long lashes against his cheeks and all of the normally sharp angles of his face have softened under the dim light. He looks peaceful for once, and Avi doesn’t know what to do with this image, but he wishes that this was Mitch’s default instead of the stress lines and bags under his eyes.
Is this what he looks like in intimate moments, like when he’s being touched? Is this what he would look like if Avi did pull the car over, and could provide the gentleness that seems to be absent? If Avi unbuckled and leaned forward, head in Mitch’s lap, jeans unzipped, cock in his…in his…
He slams the breaks as they approach an intersection, almost missing the stop sign. Mitch grunts, and his eyes open back up. “Everything alright?” he asks as he stretches, then looks back and forth down the empty road.
“Yeah,” Avi nods. His glasses have fogged up, he notices. “Sorry, didn’t see the sign.”
“This intersection sucks,” laughs Mitch, and Avi holds back from asking how he knew that.
Toby’s apartment is at least 10 minutes away now, and Avi would prefer it to be much further.
They keep driving, the mental image resumes, and Avi doesn’t know how to turn it off or switch it to another thought. Guilt surges, because he’s so ill-equipped to actually be the person in that position. He wishes he could be, but not out of any interest in Mitch. He just wants Mitch to be in a better place, and his stupid messiah complex keeps putting this idea in his head that a blowjob of all things would fix what ails his friend. Like it’s that simple! Like there’s literally no other way to help!
This isn’t his place in Mitch’s life, but he wonders why it never feels like it’s enough to simply be present? Why is it as if there isn’t anything he can do otherwise?
Also, he reminds himself that he has a girlfriend. So although they’re upset with one another, Avi tries to think about Charlie instead. It works briefly, and he imagines long, strawberry blonde hair in his lap, her freckled cheeks flushed and those pretty pink lips wrapped around his dick.
And then there’s another change. When he goes to run his fingers through the imaginary strands of hair, they shorten and turn dirty blonde. They’re so soft, and Mitch flicks a glance up to Avi when the eye contact is made, his gray eyes are molten under the streetlights. His stubble scratches at Avi’s inner thigh, and the tip of his nose is buried in pubes, and good god he looks amazing. Feels amazing. His mouth is so warm and wet, and a really mean voice in the back of Avi’s head makes these awful bets about how easy it’d be to get Mitch like this. “Just show him a little sweetness, and you’d have this in a heartbeat,” it says, and Avi grows nauseous at the intrusive thoughts that have decided now, of any given moment, is the best time to plague him.
None of this is real, although he swears that he can feel breathing on flushed skin. His heart tries to leap from his throat and escape from the moving vehicle.
He shakes off the terrible voice, keeps his mind blank for the rest of the ride, and ignores how tight his pants are. At this point he’s not even hungry, and he’s so mad at himself that he gets another headache, but he wants -needs- to keep an eye on Mitch to make sure that he’s going to be alright before releasing him into Jodie’s custody.
Even if he can’t bring himself to make eye contact.
Later, after they’ve had their fill of bad coffee, Mitch circles back to the conversation they had in the car, and sweetly -so so sweetly- insists that Avi isn’t the disappointment which he claims that he is. Avi wants nothing more than to believe him, and for the briefest moment he’s able to shake off the grasp that Charlie’s accusations have on him. The veneer which he’s carefully laid down and tended to for over the last 8 years crackles apart, peeling and flaking away as Mitch continues his declarations that Avi’s a good person with this amusing sense of urgency. It’s the most impassioned that he’s ever heard him ramble on about something.
He doesn’t quite feel like any of that when he selfishly asks for another hug, and gets a second whiff of what he assumes is Toby’s cologne. Something deep down, past the muscle tissue and embedded deep within the viscera, becomes agitated, and stirs up the visuals from while he was driving.
There isn’t a chance in hell that Mitch is right, he concludes, though he desperately wishes that were the case.