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Baywatch (movie) fic: The Final Countdown (1/1)

August 28th, 2018 (02:10 pm)
crazy

feeling: crazy

Title: The Final Countdown (And Other Things That Are Completely Mitch’s Fault)

Rating: R (but probably a light R, but there is more language than I usually use)

A/N: This happened, okay. Last spring I saw The Greatest Showman and I kind of (completely) fell for Zac Efron. So the next thing I knew, I was watching as much of his work as I could. And the most fic-able character by far was Matt Brody. And this happened. And continued to happen. And is still happening. I have no excuse. I also have no regrets.

A/N 2: This fic isn’t remotely realistic. And it’s also very unbeta’ed. So take it for what that’s worth :) Oh, and this fills my square for Time Bomb in hc_bingo.

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Summary: It’s a good thing that Baywatch is the best thing that’s ever happened to him. Because, consequently, it may also be the worst thing.



-o-

So, technically, as far as Brody is concerned, this is all Mitch’s fault.

In Brody’s narrative, a good portion of the things that have happened to him since arriving at Emerald Bay are directly related to Mitch Buchannon. Sure, some of this has been good. Mitch has, by all accounts, provided him with a place to live, important job training and a place on a team that has decidedly transformed Brody’s entire existence. So it’s not like Mitch is all bad or something.

But, Mitch doesn’t like to admit it because Mitch is convinced that he’s always right and never makes mistakes, but Mitch can also be traced to the vast majority of negative outcomes in Brody’s life over the past two months. For starters, Mitch is the reason the Brody is perpetually sore -- because they work out together and the dude is like twice Brody’s size and for Mitch, every day is like bulk out day. Brody has also had to massively adjust his sleep schedule since Mitch puts them together on opening shift, and he’s cut his drinking way back since Mitch is hyper boring and stays in drinking cheap beer and only on non-work nights. These changes could actually count as improvements if Brody is feeling generous, but he’s not most of the time because this is Mitch Buchannon and he’s a damn crazy person more often than not.

The same Mitch Buchannon who took it upon himself to thoroughly humiliate Brody at every turn during his first week there. There’s also the small matter of Mitch dragging him along on a murder investigation before getting himself fired and leaving the rest of said investigation to Brody. Brody who then felt so bad about Mitch getting fired and was therefore obliged to finish said investigation even when it led to him getting concussed, kidnapped, drowned and held hostage with a gun to his head. He was also hit with a foot. A real human foot.

Shit, Brody still has nightmares about it all. Like, real nightmares.

Mostly about the foot, if he’s honest. But he’s also not fond of going in cages underwater, though that’s not actually a thing that happens often in real life.

(Neither are flying severed foots, but Brody’s not ready to concede that point. He’s never going to be ready to concede that point since Mitch’s only consolation at the time had been to tell him to keep it for good luck. Which is illegal, incidentally. You can’t keep human body parts. And no, Brody didn’t learn that particular lesson the hard way.)

Therefore, while everyone in the bay is convinced that Mitch is seated at the right hand of God or something equally outrageous, Brody’s a bit more discerning. He likes Mitch; he does. He readily and freely admits that. He tries to listen to Mitch and learn from Mitch. He even respects him. Like, more than anyone else basically ever. He just doesn’t think the guy is perfect or like the second coming of Christ or whatever. He knows that Mitch is responsible for a lot of shit, and this latest snafu is just one among many.

Because Mitch, he has these stupid, unreasonable expectations, and Brody has a desperate inferiority complex that he covers with a smartass attitude. So whenever Mitch asks for something, Brody bitches and moans and feels utterly compelled to comply. For most people, this isn’t so bad. But for a guy like Mitch?

It’s totally insane.

And Brody is speaking as someone who is an Olympic gold medalist. Like, Brody’s had heartless bastards for coaches most of his adult life. He’s had those coaches, those horror story coaches, the ones that literally ask him to ruin his body for a faster time. He’s had coaches who have trained him until he can’t move the next and the only comfort they offer is painkillers so he can do it again. Seriously, his Olympic coaches? The ones that took him all the way? They didn’t give a shit about him, but only what he could deliver, and they didn’t give a shit if he knew it. His teammates weren’t any better, asking for more training, better training before leaving him passed out on the pool deck until getting drunk or high was sincerely the only coping mechanism he had left to him. All those years, he trained through strained muscles, torn ligaments, high fevers and the common cold.

All that, and Brody’s telling God’s honest truth here, Mitch still asks for more.

So Brody honestly feels like this is more than a technicality.

In the barest, bluntest truth, this whole shit-fest is all Mitch’s fault.

-o-

It’s this latest case Mitch is obsessed with.

Now, Brody’s accepted that Baywatch lifeguards have cases. It doesn’t even sound weird to him when Mitch starts talking like he’s a beat cop instead of an elite lifeguard. And really, after the situation with Leeds, Brody’s just basically all in, and the truth is that he values this job and this work community too much to not play the game by whatever weird rules Mitch has in place. So sure, he’ll chase down sand grifters. He runs way faster than them so that’s basically not a problem. Plus, it’s super rewarding to give people their shit back because they’re so grateful and as it turns out, Brody likes hugs.

On top of that, he’s learned to identify schools of manta ray -- like, he knows what they look like and he can see them before they cause a problem, which is impressive because Brody grew up in Iowa where there are more pigs than people and aquatic life consists of tiny frogs every summer. As an added bonus, he’s mastered the art of coaxing manta ray away from shore before anyway gets stabbed in the chest or whatever it is happens when mantra ray invade your beach. It’s actually easier than catching those tiny frogs, if Brody is perfectly honest.

The thing with the surfboards and diamond smuggling hasn’t come up yet. Brody is pretty sure that’s not a thing. Like, ever. Mitch is full of shit sometimes. He’s not sure if everyone is just too invested in his shit to see through it or if this is like some secret inside joke they’re all in on mostly at his expense. Both options seem equally likely to him.

What is a thing, however, is weapon trafficking.

Which is (Brody looks it up on his phone, just to be sure) the movement of weapons on the black market. On a small scale, this is how small time criminals purchase guns on street corners. But on a larger scale, it involves the sale and shipment of military grade shit.

Naturally, this operation, as best Mitch can tell, is a large scale thing.

Of course it is.

Nothing is ever simple where Mitch is concerned.

Brody isn’t sure how Mitch finds these things out, but it’s Mitch. Everything associated with him is ridiculous. It doesn’t seem possible for one dude to be involved in every dangerous plot in Southern California, but Mitch is pretty exceptional in that way.

“Okay,” Brody says, trying not to sound like he thinks this is an insane thing for them to be worried about when it is, of course, an insane thing for them to be worried about. “Even if there is evidence of weapons trafficking--”

“No if,” Mitch tells him resolutely over breakfast. Because yes, this is what they discuss over breakfast. To think, Brody sometimes misses the awkward conversations he had with foster parents in which they barely remembered his full name. It’s further evidence that Brody needs to get his own place, which is not going to happen for like three years because real estate out here is about as ridiculous as Mitch himself. “There’s a ton of evidence.”

Brody lets that one go. He knows to question the evidence is basically an invitation for Mitch to tell him all the evidence. In detail. Again. Brody’s skeptical; he’s not a shitting masochist. “Right,” Brody concedes out of necessity. “And the evidence points to weapons trafficking down in the shipping district.”

“Right, south of the developed part of the bay,” Mitch says, appearing to be glad that Brody is with him on this point. “The warehouses.”

“Which are not technically in the bay,” Brody ventures, hoping that his new point is evident. It took him like half a week to come up with this objection.

It is, by the way, very evident, but Mitch somehow ignores it anyway. “They’re still connected to the bay,” he says, dismissing half a week of Brody’s mental work with a single, off the cuff rejection. “I’ve been watching the boats cut across the water for weeks now. They’re not fishing trawlers or recreational vehicles, and they work on exact schedules throughout the day.”

So at least they’re punctual criminals. That could be worse. “But, like, there aren’t weapons on the beach,” Brody reminds him. Because if there were actual guns moving on the beach, Brody is confident that they would have been involved in a shootout by now simply by virtue of who Mitch is.

“But it’s only a matter of time,” Mitch says. He believes it; he always believes it. He calls it trusting his balls; Brody calls it shit. “They’ve grown in size too quickly. I notice one or two boats a week before this. This week, though? They’ve got five boats at regular intervals. Either this means they’re planning something big or they’re going to attract attention from other criminal cells in the area. In any case, it’s going to come to conflict soon, and the only battleground in the area happens to be our stretch of beach.”

Mitch has this way about him. He’s capable of saying things that are completely ridiculous and yet he says them in a way that makes them sound totally reasonable. Like, inevitable.

Brody is almost convinced.

Almost.

It’d be easier if he was convinced. It’d be easier if he had no common sense and his notion of self preservation was much less developed. It’d be easier if Brody was actually the moron that Mitch sometimes made him out to be.

But damn it, Brody can’t quite buy into this.

It’s just: “I know you hate it when I say this, but maybe -- just maybe -- this time we call the police.”

Brody does not have Mitch’s ability to make things sound reasonable or inevitable. Or, if he does, Mitch is just completely immune to it. Brody sees both options as equally likely. In his life, he’s only been good at one thing: swimming. His interpersonal skills are basically shit. Most people like him at first because he’s got a good smile, lots of muscles and two gold medals. After they talk to him, they think he’s stupid and annoying and not worth the trouble.

All of which is besides the point. See, Mitch isn’t a normal person. Therefore, expecting a normal response from him is stupid.

And not even Brody is quite that stupid.

Stupid enough to try, maybe. Not stupid enough to be surprised when his efforts come up short every single time.

“Of course we’ll call the police,” Mitch says, drinking some of his coffee. “I’ve already been in contact with Ellerbee. They’re looking into it.”

Brody breathes a sigh of absolute relief. Feeling better, he scoops up a spoonful of oatmeal to shovel it into his mouth. “Thank God,” he says. “Because we’re armed with flotation devices, so we’re hardly equipped to take on weapon trafficking.”

Brody is laughing about that.

He stops short, food still in his mouth when he sees that Mitch isn’t laughing.

Mitch never laughs at this stuff.

Damn it, why does Mitch never make jokes about the right things?

What sort of jokes does Mitch even laugh at? Knock knock jokes about jellyfish? Why did the whale cross the ocean? A crab, a manta ray and a sea slug walk into a bar?

Brody forces himself to swallow and braces himself.

“What Ellerbee lacks is justification to act,” Mitch says. “There’s just not enough evidence for the cops to move in until something happens. And when something happens, it’s going to be too late. Our beach -- our people -- will be in the crossfire.”

This sounds a little extreme to Brody. Mitch won’t admit it, but he really does have a thing for melodrama. “How do you know, though?”

“Because I’ve gotten descriptions of the men driving these boats,” Mitch says. “They all share the same tattoo. My best guess is that it’s a crime syndicate out of Mexico.”

“Okay,” Brody says, and he tries to sound like a sane, rational adult. Somehow, eating Mitch’s oatmeal for breakfast after sleeping in Mitch’s spare room makes everything he says less coherent. He’s pretty sure that when he speaks, Mitch just hears a whiny little kid who asks why all the time. If he’s being real, sometimes that’s how Brody feels. “But how does that prove anything?”

“I’ve seen that same tattoo showing up on people across the beach,” Mitch says. “They’re already patrolling the area. I guarantee you that they’ve scoped out our beach and made contingency plans for using it in case of an attack. There are half a dozen men on the beach daily. More on weekends. It’s just a matter of time.”

What’s funny, when Brody thinks about it, is that all this evidence Mitch is talking about isn’t evidence at all. Mitch has instincts and ideas and notions, but it’s all just speculation. On some level, Brody knows that. But he also knows that Mitch’s theories, as over the top as they usually are, seem to be right. The guy was right about Leeds.

He was right about everything with Leeds, even when Brody had been the voice of reason throughout the entire process. So, Brody can acknowledge that Mitch has a point or whatever.

It’s just, the case with Leeds was a disaster.

Brody doesn’t want to nearly die again.

“And you’ve told this to the police?” Brody ventures, not really hopeful but wanting to be.

“Nothing they can do yet,” Mitch says. “They don’t have probable cause, which makes this not within their jurisdiction.”

Mitch is using the big police words now. At least Brody knows what they mean now, after the mess with Leeds. Other than that, however, Brody doesn’t know shit. He just knows that if Mitch is talking like this, then Brody better be prepared for shit to go down.

“So, we’re not working with the police,” Brody says, even though deductive reasoning is not one of his particular strengths. Suddenly, he’s not hungry for the rest of his oatmeal.

“We are,” Mitch says, finishing off his breakfast like this is totally normal. Come to think of it, it is kind of normal. That only makes Brody feel worse. “But they’ve got to wait for concrete evidence. So, in the meantime…”

Brody forces himself to finish his coffee at the very least, leaving the rest of his breakfast uneaten as he gets up to follow Mitch to work.

In the meantime, he tells himself. That’s short term, temporary. It’s a stop gap.

Brody can handle things in the meantime.

He’s confident in that.

-o-

He’s confident of that for exactly a day and a half. That’s how long it takes for Mitch’s investigation to get way out of control. That’s the precise time it takes for Brody to be off the beach wearing sandals and swim trunks and poking his head through an abandoned warehouse instead.

Honestly, as he pokes through the empty shipping crates in the warehouse, he’s not sure how he ended up here in this amount of time. Yesterday they had spent time doing surveillance. Then Mitch had pitched the idea of checking out the warehouses themselves. When Brody balked at the notion of looking into active trafficking locations, Mitch had assured Brody -- explicitly and excessively -- that he only wanted to look at the abandoned facilities.

Why? How the hell is Brody supposed to know? Mitch tells him some shit about how this warehouse is owned by the same company that operates the active ones, but that this one fell off the map a month or so ago when the new operation kicked up. Why does Mitch know this? He knows everything; the dude literally never sleeps and is friends with everyone and people just tell him stuff because they like him. So of course he knows about who owns warehouses and what they ship and when they’re active and when they’re abandoned. In the grand scheme of things, that’s the least weird thing about this investigation.

In Mitch’s estimation, this whole stupid mess of information implies that this warehouse is too small to fit their current needs, but that it may still hold some clues as to what the group is currently up to.

This is the crux of what Mitch tells him to justify this otherwise questionable course of action.

All Brody hears is: go look in a warehouse and try not to die!

Also, as an afterthought: you’ll probably be fine!

As if any of that is reassuring.

As if any of that is going to stop Brody from doing what Mitch wants.

It’s stupid the way that works.

Mitch is stupid.

Brody’s stupid for letting Mitch talk him into this stuff.

Everything is stupid.

That’s how he ends up here.

In an abandoned warehouse three buildings away from where a massive weapons trafficking ring has been set up and established. Better still, he’s actively poking through the abandon shipping crates, not at all concerned about the fact that there may still be active weapons inside.

Like grenades. Rocket launchers. Motion sensitive bombs.

This search isn’t simply the definition of breaking and entering or at least trespassing (and shit, Brody has a criminal record and he’s on probation, damn it), it’s also the stupidest possible course of action ever. Seriously, Brody is not entirely sure what the worst case scenario here is: get arrested and sent to jail or get blown up.

He hates Mitch.

He hates Mitch so damn much.

It helps a little that Mitch is checking out a similar warehouse on the opposite side of the bay. Another holding from the same company that operates this one and the new ones. It’s not like Mitch is asking Brody to do something that he’s not willing to do.

It’s just that Mitch doesn’t always account for the fact that Mitch is Mitch. He has amazing luck.

And Brody is Brody. Brody’s luck is shit. And that’s on a good day.

Still, Brody reminds himself as he looks. He just has to spend 30 minutes. Poke around. Make a few mental notes. They’ll reconvene at HQ in no time to compare notes and determine their next course of action. It’s easy.

Brody’s going to be fine, Mitch promises him that much.

Brody, being the idiot that he is, believes him.

-o-

To Mitch’s credit, everything is fine for most of the trip. Brody searches the warehouse and he finds evidence of weapons and a bunch of paperwork that Brody is too impatient to actually read through but it looks suspicious. He grabs a little and makes his way out, ready to be done with this. Mitch can back later, if he wants.

When he opens the door to go back outside, that’s when things are not fine.

Because on the other side of the door is a dude who looks surprised for about two seconds. Then, when he looks at Brody’s lifeguarding uniform, looks at the papers in his hand, he looks really pissed off.

Brody opens his mouth to come up with some kind of excuse but he’s just a beat too slow.

Because the other guy doesn’t bother opening his mouth.

Instead, he raises a gun.

And points it right at Brody’s chest.

Shit, Brody thinks, and this is all he can think now. All of it. There’s nothing else, nothing at all. Just this: he’s going to die.

It’s not the first time he’s thought this since joining Baywatch. It’s not even the first time he’s had a gun on him. But it doesn’t have to be the first time.

It just has to be the last time.

Brody tries to think. Of an explanation. Of an excuse. Of a swift diversionary tactic that might let him run like hell and get away. Of whether or not Mitch is having this kind of trouble.

This last thought almost makes Brody laugh.

Of course Mitch isn’t having this kind of trouble.

This shit only happens to Brody.

It’s a good thing that Baywatch is the best thing that’s ever happened to him.

Because, consequently, it may also be the worst thing.

Brody is so prepared for the sound of a gunshot that the movement of the gun straight at his face is something he’s not expecting. Before he can think about what’s happening, his vision explodes into white and the whole damn world is drawn into blackness.

-o-

Brody had been prepared to die.

As a lifeguard, this is kind of stupid, but Baywatch lifeguards are a thing unto themselves. Apparently almost dying is implied in the job description. (It’s not there officially; Brody’s looked. He even read his whole damn contract and mastered the Lifeguard Handbook. It’s not in any of those either.)

All of Brody’s life has been about taking the good with the bad, and in the cost benefit analysis of his situation here on the bay, Baywatch is still a winner compared to every other life situation he’s had. And that’s including the Olympics.

So okay. Brody was prepared to get shot and die in some crappy abandoned warehouse where Brody had no right to be in the first place.

That’s what Brody think is going to happen.

It’s a surprise, then, when he wakes up.

His head is throbbing; his cheek feels decidedly swollen.

But he’s, like, not dead.

Not even a little dead.

This swell of relief inside of him is hard to fully capture. Because he’s accepted the whole mortal peril thing but he really doesn’t want to die.

So this is good.

This is really good.

Until Brody opens his eyes and realizes that he can’t move.

He can’t move because he’s been handcuffed to a chair.

The chair has been handcuffed to the exposed pipework inside the building.

So he’s inside the warehouse again, handcuffed to a chair which has been anchored to the pipes.

There’s no one there, which means he’s not going to be tortured slowly for information.

But the reason there’s no one there is because they left a bomb.

It’s also attached to the handcuffs, the wires looping back behind Brody so he can’t see them. What he can see, however, is a shit load of what he guesses is C4 and a timer that currently reads 15:44.

Shit.

Brody stares at the bomb in utter disbelief.

Suddenly, Brody’s not prepared to die at all.

-o-

Brody’s not freaking out.

The bomb reads 15:24 now, but Brody’s completely and totally not freaking out.

It’s just a bomb, after all.

And Brody just alone in an abandoned warehouse with no way to contact anyone.

A warehouse that is so unimportant that the bad guys are apparently willing to blow it up to get rid of the evidence and any possible witnesses.

Like lifeguards who happen to be doing their own independent investigation without jurisdiction that is completely illegal.

At least this proves that Mitch is right. There’s some seriously shady shit going on here. Massively shady. Whatever Brody found here, it’s probably the paper trail Mitch needs to prove that the operation is growing, that it’s expanded, that it’s upped its game and is an imminent threat to the bay. No doubt, if they’re willing to use explosives and resort to, you know, murder, then there’s probably bigger stakes at play. Maybe Mitch is right; maybe they’re starting a turf war on the bay and this is the opening volley. At least it’s not the beach; there’ll be minimal collateral damage here.

That’s something, right?

That’s got to be something.

In less than 30 seconds, Brody has successfully concluded that all of Mitch’s suspicions were right and he is undoubtedly sitting on the evidence to make sure Ellerbee has probable cause.

Except there’s just one problem.

Like, a small, huge problem that Brody can’t see any way around.

All that evidence? The paper trail? The abandoned weapons? Brody’s personal witness? All that shit that’s going to take down these criminals?

Is all going to be gone.

The only evidence that’s going to be left is scraps of Brody’s DNA.

The only thing that will prove is that Brody’s a shitting moron.

The bomb counts down to 15:11.

Brody is completely freaking out now.

The timer ticks down, and Brody watches as it turns from 15:00 to 14:59. It’s like a punch to the gut and Brody thinks he’s going to be sick.

There are less than 15 minutes.

How has his life been reduced to less than 15 minutes?

For a moment, his mind seizes on the possibility of getting out. Mitch wouldn’t take this sitting down. Mitch would find a way to get out; he always does.

Brody works at the bonds, but the handcuffs are pretty secure. He tries to move his chair, jostling the whole set up, but the pipes are well grounded, too. He twists his hands, wondering if he can slip them out, but his thumb is in the way. He’s heard about people who break their thumbs off, but since his hands are behind his back, Brody’s got nothing to work with. He’d have to gnaw off his arm at the elbow, and even that seems logistically unlikely from his current upright position.

Mitch would probably just turn into a fish or something.

But Brody’s not able to do that. He can’t turn into a fish or gnaw off his arm or break handcuffs or rip pipes out of the ground.

Brody’s pretty useless.

Completely useless.

Shit, no wonder no one wanted him growing up.

The timer ticks down: 14:24.

Brody watches it for a second, trying to comprehend what it means. He tries to understand that he’s measured his life in years and now it’s been reduced to minutes.

Minutes?

14:13.

Seconds.

Shit.

Seconds.

Brody’s swum races in seconds, minutes. Those races, the big ones that count, are measured out to fractions of a second, just to be sure, just to make sure that every instant counts as something.

That’s funny, really. That’s funny because races always seem so long to Brody. They feel like lifetimes. Eternities when he’s pushing his body beyond its limits, exhausting every muscle in his body. They last forever and ever and Brody eeks out those seconds with a desperation just to see them finished as fast as he possibly can.

These seconds, though?

These minutes?

They’re flying.

They’re speeding by him. He blinks, and opens his eyes and more time is gone. Just like that. Gone and not coming back.

13:56.

It’s slipping away from him; all of it. And this time there’s no gold medal at the end to make the sacrifice worthwhile. There’s just explosions and blood and flying body parts and death.

Brody knows what that looks like. Leeds blew up right in front of him. He wonders if Mitch will keep his foot when this is over.

If there’s anything left of him at all to recover.

Shit.

13:42.

13:41.

Brody’s been fighting his whole damn life. Fighting for a place to belong, for an accomplishment to call his own, for an identity that mattered.

In these last, fleeting minutes, he’s got no fight left.

Just 13 minutes and 39 seconds.

38 seconds.

37 seconds.

Each second feels shorter than the last.

-o-

Brody decides that it’s worse seeing the timer.

Like, if he’d woken up, strapped to a bomb, he’d freak out.

But the fact that this timer is visually showing him how little time he has left is the worst. Why not just shoot him? Why put him through this? These people are sadistic bastards, that’s what they are. Maybe they don’t want the gun traced to anything, so instead they’ll just use explosives traced to everything, but it’d be a lot less stressful if Brody didn’t know how much time he had left.

This is what he decides with 11 minutes left.

When there are 10 minutes left, he screws all that and tries to fight. He thrashes and screams and rages.

At 9 minutes, his voice gives out.

For the next two minutes, he cries a lot.

He cries about the foster families he pissed off. He cries about the coaches he never thanked. He cries about the girls he never called back and the interviews he made an idiot of himself in. He cries about the foster parents who treated him like shit and the coaches who broke his spirit and the girls who took photos of him in compromising positions just to steal their fifteen minutes of glory and fame at his expense.

He cries about the races he won in Rio, and he sobs about the one he lost. He cries that he’ll never kiss Summer again or work on his tan one more day. He’ll never pull anyone out from the ocean, and Mitch will never tell him he’s done a good job one last time.

When the timer counts down to 7 minutes, Brody stops crying. Instead, he sits and watches as the timer counts down and he thinks about the case. He knows Mitch will solve it. He’ll crack the weapons ring, and he’ll stop the influx of guns and shit into the bay. While he’s at it, he’ll make sure whoever did this to Brody will be brought to justice.

Mitch will probably oversee the funeral, too. Something small, on the beach. Mitch will probably say nice things about him, and Summer will cry. Even Stephanie will look a little sad, and Ronnie will say, “At least he was pretty.” CJ will nod along and they’ll commit his ashes to the wind together, like he mattered to them or something.

For some reason, this makes him feel better.

Until there are only 6 minutes left.

How are there only 6 minutes?

What does Brody do with 6 minutes?

The answer, of course, is nothing.

Brody does nothing with 6 minutes.

He just sits there.

And prepares to die.

His only consolation is that, thanks to Baywatch, he’ll actually be missed by someone.

-o-

At 5 minutes, Brody nearly throws up. He starts hyperventilating, and his heart is hammering so hard that he doesn’t hear Mitch calling for him until he looks up and sees Mitch running at him.

Like, really.

There’s Mitch.

Mitch.

Running through the warehouse.

Right at him.

Brody thinks that the five minute mark is the start of hallucinations, but then Mitch is on his knees in front of him, shaking him by the shoulders.

Even then, Brody sees Mitch’s mouth move but he doesn’t hear any sound. Nothing over the buzzing in his ears and the rapid throb of his own heart.

“Brody!” Mitch yells, sounding like he’s underwater. Louder, clearer as they approach the surface together. “Brody!”

Brody blinks, the sharpness of Mitch’s voice compounded with the tightness of his fingers at his shoulders. He’s staring at Brody like this is his fault, like he should have some kind of valid explanation that justifies why he’s currently got 4 minutes and 51 seconds left to live.

“What the hell happened?” Mitch demands.

He demands it with such vigor that Brody has to fight the inappropriate desire to laugh. As if Mitch can’t figure it out. As if he can’t realize that Mitch’s easy and foolproof plan has been foiled by Brody’s inability to do anything the easy way.

Brody realized this about three minutes ago. It takes Mitch two seconds to catch up. Normally, Brody wouldn’t begrudge him that, but seconds are kind of precious to him right now.

“Shit,” Mitch says. “They caught you?”

“It wasn’t quite so abandoned,” Brody tells him, because what the hell. If he’s only got minutes to live, he might as well tell someone why he’s about to die. “I found the evidence you need -- there’s a bunch in those crates right over there.”

Brody nods to the crates, which have been pushed closer to him. Brody realizes dimly that this is to make sure they are destroyed beyond recognition in the blast -- right alongside him.

These bastards are sadistic but they’re idiots. Not like Brody.

This time, he does laugh. 4:42. “You were right,” he says, and the laughter falters and his whole disposition turns shaky. “They were ready to escalate.”

Mitch looks at the crates of evidence. He looks at the handcuffs. He looks at the bomb.

Brody feels numb; his head feels disconnected from his body. “And they’ve got some crazy shit in here,” he says. “I mean, is that C4? I don’t know what C4 is. I don’t know how much you need but it seems like they have enough, you know?”

He’s rambling. Shit, he’s being an idiot. 4:33 and he’s the biggest moron ever.

Mitch straightens a bit, regarding Brody with a look of discernment that is too calm for the situation. “There’s no time to call the cops.”

Brody is almost hysterical at that. He laughs again because if he doesn’t, he’s going to start sobbing again. 4:19. He doesn’t need to be humiliated before he dies. With a ragged breath, Brody tries to find something resembling courage instead. “Take what you can carry,” he blurts. “Take the documents. They should have enough. If you go now, you’ll be clear of the blast.”

Mitch seems surprised by this notion. Maybe he’s surprised that Brody can actually be selfless. Maybe he’s surprised that he hasn’t thought of it himself. Who the hell cares why. There’s 4:11 left on the clock and Brody doesn’t want to spend his last few minutes thinking about why Mitch is surprised.

“You didn’t show up on time,” Mitch explains, using his fingers to trace the wires around again. He flips over the countdown at 4:08 to get a look at the underside where the wires are connected. That’s more than Brody has managed to do in the 10 minutes or so since he’s been conscious. “I came back to see what you’d gotten hung up on.”

“I screwed up,” Brody says. “I wasn’t careful. I wasn’t smart. I screwed up.”

That’s the story of his life. Like, really. If someone tries to write his biography, to cash in on whatever value his pathetic reputation might still have, that’s really all there is to say. Brody takes his chances, makes a really impressive showing, and then squanders them because he’s an idiot who was born to do nothing but get everyone’s hopes really high just to let them down.

He tries to decide what he hates more. The thought of being the Vomit Comet or the thought of being blown up as a final act.

They both suck.

Everything sucks.

Mitch turns the timer back over. 3:55.

Brody can’t help it; he catches on a sob again.

Three minutes isn’t very long. He can’t take a shit in that time. He’s had too much he wants to do, too much he wants to make right, too much he wants to prove, and he’s got three minutes. He wants to go back, tell his coaches that they can stuff themselves. He wants to tell his foster parents, the good ones, that he’s sorry he’s an asshole. He wants to tell Summer, what the hell, let’s move in together, let’s get married, let’s make a baby with the bluest eyes in the whole damn world.

He can’t do anything of that.

He’s got three minutes, and he’s strapped to a bomb.

Brody looks at Mitch.

There’s one thing he can do.

Just one. Last. Thing.

He swallows hard. The clock reads 3:41.

“You need to go,” he says, the words hoarse. “You need to get out of here.”

“What?” Mitch says. He’s examining the handcuffs, looking at the pipes. “You’ll die.”

Brody makes a noise; it’s too hysterical to discern. “Which is why I’m telling you to go.”

“Don’t be stupid,” Mitch says, looking at the wiring again.

3:33.

“Mitch, please,” Brody says and he’s begging now. Honest to God begging. Begging like he’s never begged before. “Please get out of here. I don’t want you to die, too.”

Mitch looks at him quizzically, like there’s not 3:29 on the clock and like Brody hasn’t just asked him to leave him behind for dead. “No one’s going to die.”

Brody is used to Mitch saying stuff like that, saying impossible things and expecting them to come true. Brody’s used to it; most of the time, he goes along with it.

But the clocks ticks down to 3:21.

“But how?” Brody asks.

Mitch does the inexplicable. He grins. “I’m going to disarm this bomb.”

-o-

Brody is trying to make sense of that one. For several long moments, he zones out, unable to comprehend anything while Mitch takes out his pocket knife and looks more closely at the bomb and its wires. Mitch is talking, he’s talking about the wiring and the trigger mechanism. He’s explaining that the bomb isn’t motion sensitive but that there’s no way to disconnect the bomb components without advancing the explosion. Brody is staring at him blankly when Mitch concludes that all he has to do is cut the power source for the timer.

“Make sense?” Mitch asks, pausing to look at Brody for some type of affirmation.

Brody doesn’t have affirmation. Shit, he doesn’t even know what the hell Mitch said. All he knows is that there are now 2 minutes and 44 seconds left.

“Brody,” he says again, as if he wants an answer this time. “Does that make sense?”

Brody’s look at him is nothing short of incredulous. If he’s honest, and he rarely is, nothing about his time at Baywatch makes much sense. It’s been a crazy journey that Brody doesn’t know how to explain or justify or quantify. This particular chapter -- the final chapter, as it seems -- is even more out of joint.

Mitch sighs, as if he knows Brody’s not going to cooperate with him. “I just want to make sure you’re okay with it.”

Brody is okay with nothing. Brody is the very opposite of okay.

“Because if I cut the wrong wire, then the bomb explodes,” Mitch says. Like this particular point is more important than the rest. “Immediately.”

Immediately. Mitch says it with impact.

Okay, so it is kind of an important point.

But the timer reads 2:25.

That diminishes the impact.

Brody is dead either way.

That’s, like, the crux of it.

Brody’s dead.

Brody was probably dead 13 minutes ago but the timer seems more perfunctory about that fact now. Each second is like the pulsing in his head you’re dead, you’re dead, you’re dead.

“Brody,” Mitch says again, voice sounding strained for the first time since he showed up in the warehouse. “I need you to stick with me, man. Is it okay if I cut the wire?”

This time, Brody does find his voice.

Not for himself.

Because he’s a lost cause.

But Mitch.

Mitch.

“No,” he says, shaking his head, trying to muster some kind of strength into his voice so it stops wobbling so bad. “Mitch. You need to go. Don’t cut the wires. Don’t take the chance. You can still run out of here. You don’t have to die.”

“I’m not leaving without you,” Mitch says resolutely.

“That’s stupid!” Brody hisses back at him. He’s crying again, his throat seizing up as his chest is tightening like a vice. “Get out.”

“I’m not leaving you here,” Mitch says. He’s calm and reasonable and he’s not freaking out.

Why the hell isn’t he freaking out?


Brody can’t even breathe anymore. “I don’t want you to die,” he says, and he’s shaking now. Like, trembling. “Not for me.”

“And I don’t want you to die,” Mitch counters. “For any reason.”

“Damn it, Mitch!” Brody yells, and there are lots of tears now. So much for pride. “You have to go!”

“That’s not how this works,” he says, and he looks at Brody, not the timer that reads 1:56. “We end this thing together, dead or alive.”

“This is shit, Mitch!” Brody screams.

“This is family!” Mitch roars back.

For several seconds, they stare at each other.

Several seconds before Brody looks down.

1:47.

“I’m going to cut the wire,” Mitch says.

Brody closes his eyes. “How confident are you that you’re cutting the right wire?”

“50/50,” Mitch says.

Brody opens his eyes.

Mitch shrugs. “We’ve played at worse odds.”

“Have we?” Brody asks.

“Probably not,” Mitch admits, shrugging. “But you don’t count the odds. Not when family is worth every risk.”

There’s no argument to that.

The timer reads 1:33.

There’s no time to bother.

Mitch puts his hands in position and meets Brody’s gaze for what could be the last time.

“You ready?”

Brody shakes his head. “No.”

“Whatever happens,” Mitch says, and his fingers twitch ever so slightly as he presses the knife to the wire. “I’m glad we’re doing it together.”

1:29.

Brody’s heart staggers. His palms are sweating and his breathing is stuck somewhere inside his chest. He’s eight years old, running away from a foster family. He’s 13 and winning his first swim race. He’s on the podium in Rio, and then he’s taking phone calls in his motel room while his sponsors drop him one by one by one.

He’s four when his first foster family says they don’t have room for him anymore. He’s 16 when a coach sees him and tells him that he can go far if he’s willing to let go of everything. He’s in a police station, being offered a plea deal. He’s at the bottom of the ocean, drowning to death.

He blinks, back in the present.

1:23.

Mitch’s fingers waver. He hesitates.

1:22.

This is all Mitch’s fault.

1:21.

He’s back on Baywatch, spending time with Summer, CJ, Ronnie and the others.

1:20.

When this over, he’ll have to thank Mitch for everything.

1:19.

Mitch fingers move.

The knife splits the wire case.

Brody closes his eyes.

And waits for it to be over.

-o-

It’s over.

Brody’s heart beats again. Involuntarily, he takes another breath.

He open his eyes. Mitch is looking at him.

“It’s over?” Brody asks.

Mitch holds up the knife and the severed end of the timer. Its screen is blank now.

“It’s over,” Mitch concludes for him.

For a second, Brody can only stare.

Maybe it’s more than a second.

Now that there’s no timer, Brody has no freaking clue.

Shit.

“It’s over,” he says again, trying to believe it. He laughs; he cries; shit, he does everything. “It’s over.”

-o-

It’s not clear to Brody how long he sits there, saying it’s over while crying and laughing hysterically. He stops intermittently to thank Mitch with sloppy, overwhelming gratitude before devolving into hysterics again. Mitch tolerates this, as well he should.

This is his fault.

On, like, every possible level.

Eventually, Mitch turns his attention to the rest of the situation, using his pocket knife to manhandle the lock on the handcuffs off. Brody wonders why they didn’t try that approach earlier, but he’s vaguely aware that the process is long enough. It could be five minutes before the lock finally gives.

Five minutes; no explosions.

Shit, that’s amazing.

Brody is still shaking when Mitch releases him, but he’s managed to stop crying. Still, when Mitch reaches down a hand to help him get up, Brody can’t even move.

“We should get out of here,” Mitch says, hand still outstretched. “We should call the cops.”

Figures; Mitch wants to call the cops now.

“We have the evidence after all,” Mitch reasons. “And your eye witness account.”

How is this still about the case?

How is it not?

“Brody?” Mitch asks, finally letting his hand drop. “You okay?”

“No,” Brody says with a little snort. He doesn’t try to stand because his legs feel like jello and he’s pretty sure they won’t support his weight at all. “I’m really not.”

“Concussion?” Mitch asks, as if noticing the bruising on his face for the first time. He leans down a little to get a better look.

That’s okay, though. Honestly, Brody hasn’t thought about it much either. Though, now that Mitch mentions it, his face really does hurt like a son of a bitch and his vision is kind of wonky.

“We’ll get it looked at,” Mitch concludes for him. “I think you’re okay.”

There’s that word again. Okay.

How is Brody okay?

How could Brody possibly be okay?

Brody’s the opposite of okay?

Brody’s trembling and scared and overwhelmed and shit. “Dude,” he says. “I was strapped to a bomb.”

“Which I defused,” Mitch reminds him plaintively, like that somehow makes it all better.

“I know,” Brody says. “But I think I pissed my pants before that happened.”

Mitch thinks Brody’s joking at first.

But Brody stares at him until they both realize he’s probably not joking.

Mitch steps back, cocking his head. “Really?”

“I thought we were going to explode,” Brody tells him. He lifts a shaky hand, running it through his hair. “I really thought I was going to die.”

When drowning, he’d thought that too, but drowning is about dulling the senses. Everything is muffled under the surface. He’d been too busy suffering from oxygen deprivation to pee. And on the barge, he’d made the choice to put his head to Leeds’ gun because he’s a reckless idiot with impulsive self destructive tendencies. And whatever, he’d been wearing a wetsuit then, so no one noticed if he had an accident, but if people think he only vomited in the pool, then they’re willfully idiotic.

The last thing you think about under pressure is pissing your pants.

It’s the first thing you think about when it’s over, though.

Mitch can’t possibly follow that train of thought, but he seems to cut Brody some slack anyway. If he’s going to cut wires on bombs while Brody is strapped to them, then Brody figures he’s probably entitled that, too. “Well, I’ve seen weirder shit,” Mitch says as a consolation.

Brody looks at him, incredulity returning. “You defuse bombs often?”

“No, this was a first,” Mitch admits.

“And you wonder why I pissed myself!” Brody exclaims. “You’re a lifeguard, Mitch. You don’t know how to defuse a bomb!”

“Clearly, that’s not true,” Mitch says, holding up the defunct bomb as evidence.

Brody wonders momentarily if they have blown up and this is some version of hell.

Or heaven.

Purgatory?

Whatever.

Brody exhales, still trembling. “Also, I don’t think my legs work,” he says, slumping down miserably.

“Well, I can help you,” Mitch offers, holding out a hand again.

Brody eyes it. As the adrenaline fades, he starts to feel exhaustion. It’s that kind of draining exhaustion you feel after competing in three races in two days. The kind of exhaustion where you forget who you are, what you are, all of it. The kind of exhaustion his coaches had expected from him day after day in training.

Only it’s, like, fifty billion times worse now.

Shock, is what the doctors might call it.

“I’m probably going to vomit,” he confesses.

Mitch pulls away his hand. “Dude, I defused a bomb for you,” he says. “I’m not catching your vomit.”

Brody said it like it was a punchline, but it’s not a punchline.

It’s happening.

Brody’s heaving before he can stop himself, and he’s too tired to even lift his hands to make some weird attempt to catch it. It’s a sign of Mitch’s affection for him that he hastily reaches down, pushing Brody’s head between his knees so the vomit doesn’t get on his shirt. Some of it hits his pants, but they already smell like piss, so that’s probably not a problem. In fact, that solves a problem. Vomiting isn’t nearly as embarrassing as pissing yourself -- unless you’re in a pool.

They’re not in a pool right now.

Shit.

Brody vomits some more, and Mitch moves into position to keep him from keeling over headfirst into his own mess.

When Brody’s stomach is empty, Mitch helps him sit up again, regarding him warily. “You really don’t do things the easy way, do you?”

Brody slumps back breathlessly. “Well, now that I know you can defuse bombs, why should I have to?”

To his surprise, Mitch concedes that point. “Fair enough.”

Groaning, Brody drops his head back. “What the hell are people doing trying to blow us up anyway?” he asks. “We’re lifeguards. We’re not supposed to have anything to do with bombs.”

“Eh,” Mitch says.

Brody lifts his head to give Mitch a critical look. “Eh?”

Mitch shrugs. Like he’s innocent. And not a total bastard. “Well, it’s not like we haven’t dealt with explosives before.”

Brody is trying to make the connection to that point, because it seems like something he should remember. Like, there he is, checking in at tower two and oh no! It’s a bomb. Or he’s off, running toward the beach to make a save when oh shit! It’s an exploding surfboard!

Mitch shrugs again. This time he actually looks nonchalant. Brody wonders how it’s possible to love and hate someone so much at the exact same time. “Leeds, remember?”

Right because Brody’s going to forget the maniac who dried to drown him and shoot him in the same night.

“We blew her ass out of the sky,” Mitch says.

Brody wonders if Mitch realizes how utterly ridiculous that sounds. Because it had been Ronnie who did most of the exploding, all Brody had done was duck for cover a lot. Oh, and also? Using a roman candle to kill someone is not the same thing as defusing a bomb.

It’s not the same thing at all.

Not in the slightest.

“You blew her up,” Brody reminds him, because for some reason that’s the distinction his brain wants to make right now.

“Damn right,” Mitch says with a definitive nod.

Brody tilts his head. “So this is your fault, then.”

Mitch’s expression falters. This is clearly not the response he expected. “Should we review how, while you were shitting your pants--”

“Pissing my pants,” Brody interjects. “I pissed them. There was no shitting.”

“Sorry, pissing your pants,” Mitch corrects himself. “I was the one risking my life to save yours?”

Brody laughs. This time he’s sure it’s a laugh and not a half hysterical sob, so he’s totally making progress on things now. “Only after you sent me into a warehouse filled with bad guy shit without backup so I could get caught and strapped to a bomb!”

“Well, you should have been more careful,” Mitch says. “I didn’t get caught.”

“Was there anything in your warehouse?” Brody asks.

“No--”

“So it’s not the same thing!” Brody says.

“Okay, so maybe you needed backup,” Mitch says.

Brody stops.

He like really stops. “Wait,” he says, wondering if hearing loss is a part of shock. “Did you just say I was right?”

Mitch tries to act cool, but he’s flustered. He handled the bomb with grace. He’s been cool about the pee and the vomit.

But admitting he’s maybe a little wrong?

That this is kind of his fault?

“Shit,” Brody says, eyes going wide. “You are saying that.”

“I didn’t mean for you to be in danger,” Mitch clarifies, but the concession is already made and Brody’s never going to let him take it back. “If I had thought for a minute that you’d be in actual danger, I never would have asked you to go.”

Brody laughs.

Louder, stronger than before.

“I’m serious!” Mitch says.

“No, you’re not!” Brody counters. “Dude, you ask me to risk my life all the time. It’s basically a part of my job description.”

Mitch opens his mouth to refute this, but he can’t.

He can’t because he thinks of every other case they’ve been on. He thinks about how they shouldn’t be on cases at all since they have no actual jurisdiction as lifeguards. He thinks about the gun to Brody’s head on Leeds’ boat and finding Brody in a cage at the bottom of the bay.

Mitch thinks about that.

Brody doesn’t know why he knows that, but he does. He just does.

And then, Mitch closes his mouth.

The truth is, there’s nothing to say.

Because, yeah. Mitch asks the most of Brody. He has the most unreasonable demands and expectations that it’s not even funny.

But the thing is, Mitch gives the most, too. He’s the moron who stays when the timer is counting down, and he’s the one cutting wires when he has no idea what the hell he’s doing.

Finally, Brody reaches out his hand. “Help me up?”

Mitch hesitates, but he looks at Brody’s hand. Then, purposefully, he extends his own to clasp it. “We’ll go slowly,” he says. “Together.”

Brody allows himself to be pulled up, shakily getting his footing while Mitch comes alongside him. They take their first step in tandem.

Brody smiles at him, and his gait is shakier than ever, but Brody knows he won’t fall.

“Together,” he agrees, as Mitch helps him along another step.

This is technically Mitch’s fault, Brody knows that. And Brody knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they’ll be here again. Not this warehouse or this bomb or this case, but something equally stupid and ridiculous and out of the scope for your average lifeguard. Brody’s even pretty confident that his life will be on the line again.

No doubt, Mitch will save him, then, too.

What’s more certain, Brody knows as they exit the warehouse together, is that no amount of technicality is going to stop him from going along with Mitch’s crazy dumbass plans every single time.