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Walk Away

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Mitchell didn’t like to say he hated anyone. Hate was such a strong word, bringing up unpleasant emotions and images of violence. But he was willing to admit he deeply, deeply disliked Anders’ family.

That dislike was getting deeper by the minute, sitting in Mike’s bar and listening to a group of gods and goddesses bicker. He took a swig of his beer and reminded himself that Anders would get upset if he killed the entire lot of them.

Then again, maybe not. A quick glance showed that Anders, who usually was able to keep his smiling mask firmly in place when he was around his family, was starting to get frustrated.

Michele caught Mitchell looking. With a smirk in his direction, she sidled up next to Anders. She leaned down and murmured something into Anders’ ear, never breaking eye contact with Mitchell.

Mitchell fought the urge to roll his eyes. He didn’t know why Michele did things like that, but she was always trying to stir up trouble. He just ignored it, while Anders thought it was funny and usually encouraged her. It was a testament to Anders’ emotions when he brushed her off without a smile or flirting back.

Anders said, “I’m just saying, maybe we should try a different method.”

“We don’t need a different method,” Axl said.

“Yeah, because wandering around town hoping to bump into Frigga has been working great for you so far,” Anders countered.

Axl sneered at Anders, and Mitchell tensed. He wanted to get up and knock that sneer off of Axl’s face but took another drink instead. Being around Anders’ family was going to turn him into an alcoholic. He indulged in a quick fantasy of drinking the Johnson clan instead of beer, then put the thought out of his mind. Better to not even think of going down that road.

Olaf asked, “What do you suggest then, Anders?”

“I don’t know, but with all of us we should be able to come up with a plan.” Anders ran a hand across his face. “Look, I just think—”

“No one cares what you think,” Axl interrupted. “No one gives a shit. The only reason you’re here is because of Bragi, so just shut up.”

After a beat of utter silence, Mike said, “Why don’t you just go home, Anders? We’ll let you know if we need you.”

Anders’ face went completely blank. Without another word, he turned and left the bar.

Mitchell’s grip tightened on his beer until the bottle creaked in his hand. He forced himself to place it on the bar, instead of whipping it at Axl’s face like he wanted to. He stood and kept his gaze on the floor. He didn’t trust himself right now. If he saw Axl’s sneer or Michele’s smirk, he did not know if he could leave without violence. He made it to the door without incident, though.

Anders was already about half a block away, but Mitchell’s longer legs caught up quickly. He fell into place at Anders’ side, and they walked a few minutes in silence.

Finally, Mitchell couldn’t stand it anymore. He blurted, “Hey, do you want to go to the beach?”

Anders shot him a sideways glance. “You hate the beach.”

“I wouldn’t say hate,” Mitchell muttered.

Anders stopped and gave Mitchell an unimpressed glare.

“Fine, it’s not my favorite place,” Mitchell admitted. “But I have a few days off, and I thought we could get out of here for a while. Go on a little road trip and take a break.”

“Yeah, okay.” Anders shrugged and started walking again.

“And you know, maybe we both just kind of forgot to pack our chargers, and the phones died or something so no one could get in touch with us.”

That got a smile from Anders. It was small, nothing like his usual cheery grin, but it was there. “You’re brilliant. Let’s do this.”

Mitchell made a vow: by the time they got back into town, Anders would be smiling and back to his usual sarcastic self. He’d make sure of it.