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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Baywatch fic: Rocks and Hard Places (3/10)

December 21st, 2018 (10:20 pm)

PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE
PART FOUR
PART FIVE
PART SIX
PART SEVEN
PART EIGHT
PART NINE
PART TEN



-o-

Honestly, Mitch had been so fixated on getting Brody out of the boat that he hadn’t really thought through what he’d do next.

Out of the boat, just him and Brody treading water in the ocean, he was struck by the irony of this situation. He’d taken this trip to teach Brody to love and appreciate the ocean.

Brody was impaled, bleeding and shipwrecked.

There wasn’t much love or appreciation going on right now.

Even Mitch, who loved everything about the ocean, was hard-pressed to find anything resembling a silver lining.

Fortunately, there wasn’t really time to speculate on the emotional repercussions of this incident.

Not when Mitch still had to account for their physical safety.

In his arms, Brody was not thinking about any of this. If anything, Brody was barely staying conscious at the moment. His blood was spreading out around them, and while Brody probably would have been afraid that this would attract sharks, Mitch knew that the bigger problem was blood loss.

The wound needed to be treated.

And the ocean, while great for many things, wasn’t a good place to stem bleeding.

“Hey,” Mitch said, giving Brody a small shake. “Brody.”

Brody blinked heavily, and it was an obvious effort for him to drag his attention to Mitch. “Hm?”

“We’re not far from an island,” he explained.

“People?” Brody asked, perking up slightly.

Mitch did his best not to wince at Brody’s misguided hope. “Probably not.”

“Telephones?”

“Yeah, not likely,” Mitch confirmed.

Brody looked increasingly pathetic. “Then why is this island so exciting?”

“We’ll get you out of the ocean, for one. Let us look at your side,” Mitch told him. He offer a brilliant smile, fake as fake can be. “And hey, you’ll be out of the ocean.”

The quip had its due effect. Brody laughed. “Sounds like a plan then.”

Mitch sobers somewhat, glancing again to judge the distance to the island. “It’s a bit of a swim,” he said, underplaying it dramatically. On a good day, both he and Brody would have no problem with the distance. This was not a good day by any stretch of the imagination. “You think you can make it?”

Brody looked into the distance, but it was unclear to Mitch if he actually saw the island. “Is this one of those choices you’re giving me that aren’t really choices at all?”

“There’s always a choice, man,” Mitch said.

Brody huffed, even as he prepared himself to move. “You’re such a liar.”

“I know, I know,” Mitch said, steadying them both. “But I’ll be there every stroke.”

-o-

It was a slow, laborious process, but Mitch was determined and Brody was trying. They made it halfway when Brody seemed to falter. Mitch slowed, hoping it was just a momentary stop, but then Brody’s legs seemed to stop work and Mitch saw his eyelids start to flutter as his head dropped forward toward the ocean.

Abruptly, Mitch drew up to a stop, pulling Brody back and tipping his head up against his own shoulder. “Whoa, man, stay with me,” he coaxed. “You got to stay with me.”

Brody blinked a few times, trying to comply. “Just tired, man,” he mumbled.

Mitch shook him again. “Come on,” he said, louder this time so his voice carried over the waves. “We’re close. Close. How fast can you do the 200 meters?”

Brody grunted with a grimace. “Faster than you.”

“Prove it,” Mitch said, not missing a beat. He was a lifeguard. He saved lives at whatever cost. Usually that was physical exertion but if it required emotional manipulation this time then Mitch was game. To save a life, Mitch had to be game.

For Brody’s life?

Hell, yeah.

Brody rolled his head toward the sky miserably. “But this is the ocean.”

“And so you’re admitting defeat?” Mitch prodded him.

Brody looked ready to cry. “I’ve been impaled.”

“That’s just motivation,” Mitch said.

“Mitch--” Brody started, but he didn’t have the words to finish. It occurred to Mitch for the first time that maybe he was asking something from Brody that Brody couldn’t give. That Brody wasn’t being weak or whiny or obtuse or difficult.

Brody was just a guy who had his limits

And Mitch had forced him to break them all.

“Come on,” Mitch said, more earnestly this time. “I’ve got you.”

All Mitch’s other appeals seemed to pale in comparison. With this promise, Brody rallied himself. Of all the incentive, Mitch hadn’t expected that one to work.

As Brody weakly kicked and they started to swim again, Mitch wondered if he should have.

-o-

The last leg was the hardest one. By the end, Mitch was all but carrying Brody, and when Mitch’s feet his the sand in the shallows, he dragged Brody upright. Brody, in response, tried to crumple back down to the surf, and it was all Mitch could do to catch him. He was about to go full lifeguard and lift Brody into a carry just to get this done with, but Brody seemed to sense what was coming and weakly got his feet beneath him

With staggering steps, they made their way up onto the beach with the surf. When Brody’s strength flagged again, Mitch manhandled him another several feet up the beach until they were well clear of the waves. Then, he helped lower Brody back to the ground.

The minute he hit the sand, Mitch knew that Brody had given all he had left. Sagging back, Brody collapsed to the sand, eyes closed and face pale. Mitch, having done most of the swimming himself over the last haul, wasn’t feeling too keen himself. Sitting next to Brody, he allowed himself one moment of reprieve as well.

A moment to breathe.

A moment to think.

A moment to realize that they were still really screwed.

Opening his eyes again, Mitch looked back to Brody. The younger man was still lying with his eyes closed, breaths coming in ragged gasps. The wound on his side was bleeding everywhere, with red sand starting to form beneath him.

Mitch didn’t have a moment.

On his knees again, he leaned over Brody, lifting his shirt away. Brody grunted, a meager protest, but he barely cracked his eyes open. “Dude.”

“It’s nothing personal,” Mitch told him curtly. “We need to see what we’re dealing with.”

Brody did not seem to like that idea, if his expression was any indication. But he also didn’t have anything he could do about it, so he closed his eyes again.

Mitch slipped the shirt up, rolling the wet fabric until it was on Brody’s chest, leaving his flank exposed. At first, all Mitch could see what the blood. When mixed with Brody’s wet skin, it had spread everywhere, creating a macabre scene.

Looking past that, Mitch leaned closer to see the actual wound itself. As Mitch had discerned back on the boat, the injury was a through-and-through. The back wound was bigger than the front, which made sense with the trajectory of the metal. For as garish as it looked, Mitch had to keep his training in mind. It really could have been worse.

A lot worse.

Now that he could see it, Mitch could tell that the wound was even farther to the side than he’d previously thought. There was no question that it had missed all Brody’s internal organs. All Mitch had to do was keep it clean and stop the bleeding.

He bite back a rueful laugh as he looked at Brody again. The red patch of sand was rapidly growing and fresh blood was spilling over his stomach and running down in all directions to the beach. Even when taking into account the water mixed with the blood, it was a lot of blood.

First things first.

“Okay,” Mitch said. “We’ve got to clean this.”

Brody grimaced. “We just swam in the ocean,” he muttered as he cracked his eyes to squint up at Mitch while he lifted his head off the ground. The sun was high in the sky; it was just before the dinner hour. “Isn’t it clean enough?”

“Do I need to remind you that this wound goes all the way through your side?” Mitch asked.

Brody made a face, dropping his head back to the sand.

“If we don’t make sure the wound is free of debris, you’ll be looking at an infection for sure,” Mitch lectured him.

Sighing, Brody rolled his head miserably on the sand. “Haven’t you tortured me enough for one day?”

Mitch looked closer at the wound, trying to gauge his best approach. Salt water would be effective, but what was he going to use to get inside? They didn’t have bandages, much less medical supplies. There had been a first aid kit, but it was currently at the bottom of the ocean.

Absently, Mitch looked at Brody while he took stock of his options. “Most people wouldn’t consider fishing and sailing torture.”

With a grunt of indignation, Brody disagreed. “When they come with so many damn stipulations, they are.”

Mitch was shrugging out of his swim shirt with a glower. “There were no stipulations.”

“If I didn’t love it, you thought I hated it,” Brody shot back.

“I just wanted you to appreciate it,” Mitch said.

“I did,” Brody said. “But I would have appreciated being allowed my own opinion more.”

“Oh, please,” Mitch said. “Don’t pretend like you’re the normal one here.”

“You have a miniature version of yourself in a fish tank and you sleep with a CB radio on,” Brody said. “You don’t get to play the normal card.”

“And you’re the one who’s scared of whales and doesn’t care about the ocean,” Mitch said.

Brody snorted. “I used to not care,” he muttered. “I’m starting to actively dislike it now.”

There was an argument to be made here, but Mitch wasn’t so concerned about what they were saying. Just that they were saying it. Brody was alert and awake, which was exactly what Mitch needed. “Hold that thought,” Mitch said. “I need to go get this wet.”

Moving to the ocean, Mitch took as much time as he dared to clean out his swim shirt. He made sure it was free from debris, getting all the sand out before wringing it damp. Then, he scoured his own hands before jogging back to Brody.

To his relief, Brody was still awake when he got back.

“You don’t always have to be right, you know,” Brody told him.

Mitch took up a position next to Brody, helping roll the younger man to his side. “I don’t have to be, but I am.”

Brody inhaled sharply, grinding his teeth together as Mitch tentatively probed the wound. “Even you are sometimes wrong.”

“Okay, maybe,” Mitch said, using the shirt to start washing away some of the blood. “But that doesn’t mean you’re right.”

Brody took a staggering breath, trembling harshly. “You do know that sometimes opinions aren’t right or wrong? Sometimes they’re just opinions.”

“Sure,” Mitch said, frowning while he wiped some of the grit away from the wound, carefully working on both openings even as fresh blood spilled over his fingers. “But that’s for stuff like your favorite color or what hairstyle you choose.”

Visibly straining to hold in his pain, Brody’s face twisted in a half laugh, half grimace. “You hate my hair, too.”

Mitch used the shirt to wash as much water as he could through the wound. “Because you look like you’re trying too hard.”

Brody was shaking hard now, the sound of tears in his voice even if he refused to blink them free from his eyes. “So I have bad hair and hate the ocean,” he said, grinding the words out. “Anything else you hate about me?”

“You want a list?” Mitch asked, giving the shirt one more squeeze to empty as much water as he could.

With a groan, Brody’s voice hovered between a sob and a cry. “Just nice to know I’m a valued member of the team.”

Mitch was now tearing the shirt into three pieces, making sure one was longer than the others. “The team has nothing to do with this.”

Shakily, Brody shook his head, head dipping against the sand. “It has everything to do with this.”

Mitch used the long strip, wrapping it around Brody’s midsection and tying it tight. Brody winced, but Mitch kept pushing, balling up the two other pieces and stuffing them in directly over the wound to make the best version of a pressure bandage that he could. “Don’t muddy the waters on this one.”

As Mitch eased Brody back onto his back, the younger man let out a controlled sob of relief. “I think the ocean did that well enough on its own this time.”

Mitch bit back a reply. Not necessary because Brody was right or that he wasn’t necessarily wrong. But because he looked spent now. The color was washed from his face entirely, and his skin had a strangely translucent look. With his eyelids hooded, Mitch knew he’d asked for about as much as Brody could give at the moment.

“We’ll debate that point later,” Mitch said. He sat back on his heels, allowing himself for the first time to mentally take a step back and get the bigger picture.

When he did it, he kind of wished he hadn’t. Brody was sprawled on the beach, poorly bandaged and questionably conscious. Without the conversation and banter, he was flagging -- and badly. Sapped by blood loss, pain or simple exhaustion, Mitch wasn’t sure; it probably didn’t matter at the moment. They were on some unidentified island after crashing their boat miles out at sea. There was no indication that this island was inhabited, which meant there was no indication that this was going to get better any time soon.

He bit his lip.

This wasn’t a rock and a hard place.

This was just hard.

No choices involved.

That wasn’t true, though. Mitch had choices. He had choices about how to improve their odds, how to make Brody comfortable.

Reaching down, he shook Brody by the shoulder. “Hey,” he said, shaking him again to bring his focus back on point. “Brody.”

Brody roused with some difficulty, but when he looked at Mitch, his eyes were at least cognizant. “What?”

Mitch reached down, picking up Brody’s hand and pressing it to the top wound. “I need you to hold this here.”

“Why?” Brody asked, words starting to slur a bit more. He lifted his head, trying to crane it for a better look. “I thought you fixed it?”

“I cleaned it and we’ve got some pressure on it,” Mitch told him, trying not to wince at the trust in Brody’s voice with that assumption. “But a little more can’t hurt.”

“Shit,” Brody said, because from his vantage point, it probably looked pretty macabre. “Am I dying?”

“Not if I can help it,” Mitch told him shortly, allowing no room for argument. He adjusted Brody’s hand, pressing it firmly against the bandage. “But you can help me out with it by keeping pressure.”

Brody seemed to understand that, fingers curling a little stronger over the bandage. He glanced up at Mitch. “Where are you going?”

“To figure out where we are and what we have to work with,” he said. “We have some daylight hours yet, and the sooner we can get some kind of signal going, the more likely we are to get rescued.”

Brody nodded, but it wasn’t clear how much he was truly comprehended. “But wait,” he said, pausing to take a breath. He licked his dry lips as he screwed up his nose. “Where are we?”

“Remote island, remember?” Mitch said. “Boat crash?”

“Oh,” Brody said, nodding again. This effort was only vaguely more convincing than the last. “Right.”

“I won’t be gone long,” Mitch promised. “I just want to see what our full range of options are.”

That much seemed to registered. Brody tilted his head. “Options?” he asked, then he cracked a small, weak grin. “You mean more rocks?”

The quip was so unexpected that Mitch actually laughed. “I’ll try to find a few hard places for you instead this time, buddy,” he said, patting Brody’s hand to the wound again. “Now stay here, and keep the pressure on.”

Brody nodded his affirmation, still smiling as Mitch got up and turned to face their predicament.

-o-

The island was somewhat bigger than Mitch expected, stretching maybe for two square miles with several winding channels, especially around the far side. This was visible from the island’s high point, which was a small area off rocky cliffs not far from where they had hit the shore.

With generous beaches, much of the island was open and pristine, but the interior was dense with trees. Overall, it was scenic, but it’s small size made it unattractive for development. It was too far from shore to be a viable daytripping location, and with room for lodging, no one would want to invest in it.

None of this was particularly unsurprising to Mitch. If this island had been noteworthy, he probably would have remembered to check for it.

What was surprising, however, was that the island had a sustainable ecosystem. This was possible thanks to a stream which snaked through the core, with one convenient outlet just down the beach from Brody’s current location.

Fresh water was essential to survival, but it yielded many other benefits as well. Things like animals, plants and other food sources.

Plus, though they’d lost all their supplies in the crash, Mitch did still have his keys and pocket knife in his pocket. The keys wouldn’t be much use, but the pocketknife would help him prepare a campsite sufficiently.

That was the extent of the good news, however. This was still a deserted island, miles from shore. He could only guess that it was privately owned, probably someone who wanted to say they owned an island with no concept of what to do with a remote island. Either that, or it was government owned, which meant it was deemed useless and sat forgotten on maps. In any case, with his cursory exploration, there was no sign of human development. Which meant no communications systems or any kind of broadband signal. This was an ideal island to be stranded on, but they were still well and truly stranded.

And with Brody injured and night approaching, Mitch knew he had to start making difficult decisions. As much as he needed to believe in rescue, he had to be realistic. They could be here for the night, maybe throughout the day tomorrow. Mitch had to be ready, for Brody’s sake as much as his own.

Thus determined, Mitch started collecting as much dry wood from the interior of the thicket as he could, amassing it near the stream. He would have liked to collect more -- not to mention start finding something viable to eat -- but every time he hit the sand, he looked down where Brody was resting.

Resting was the nice way of saying it.

Sometimes, Mitch wasn’t sure if Brody was awake, and he had to stand and watch long enough until Brody seemed to twitch and rouse himself, fingers tightening on the makeshift bandage once more.

Mitch tolerated this as long as he could until he finally abandoned his preparations and trudged wearily back down the beach.

Brody didn’t hear him coming, and it wasn’t until Mitch cleared his throat and sat down in the sand next to him that the other man seeed to realize he was there. He blinked, making a half hearted attempt that he wasn’t surprised.

There was no point in chiding him; Mitch knew it wasn’t his fault. Even with a quick glance, he could tell that Brody was still bleeding. The rate had slowed to a sluggish drip, but Brody had already lost a lot. He couldn’t afford to lose much more.

“How’s it going?” Mitch asked, reaching over to adjust Brody’s grip on the bandage. The bandage itself was saturated, sodden with water and blood. The properties of swimwear made it less than ideal for a pressure bandage, but Mitch had hoped that it would do.

Brody tried to smile, but it looked more like a grimace. “Super,” he said, trying to wake himself up a little more. He took a deep breath, using it to push his hand harder against his side for Mitch’s sake. “How’s it going with you?”

“Not bad,” Mitch said, choosing the best version of the truth. “I found a good site to set up camp down the beach.”

Brody made a feeble attempt to look down the beach, but he clearly didn’t see what Mitch was talking about. “Is there a house?”

Mitch tried not to look disappointed. Brody was more out of it than he’d hoped. “Not exactly,” he said, reaching down and slowly propping Brody until he was in a sitting position.

Brody’s breathing stuttered with the movement, and he slumped back down again, not resisting when Mitch used his shoulder to prop him up. “So, like, more beach?”

“It’s not that far,” Mitch said, trying to maneuver him into a more stable position.

Brody’s head rolled for a moment before he seemed to get a hold of its movement. “But how’s it better?” he asked, managing to lift his head up toward Mitch. “I was getting kind of comfortable here.”

Looking at Brody, fighting for consciousness, Mitch wasn’t sure comfortable was the best thing for Brody right now. He needed him ready to fight.

What Mitch really needed was for rescue to come.

That wasn’t a choice within his control at the moment.

Brody’s comfort, however, was.

“Come on,” Mitch said, not waiting for permission to drag Brody upright. “Down the beach we’ll have easy access to fresh water, wood and food.”

Brody inhaled, legs giving way beneath him as Mitch forcibly kept him upright. “Like, I think I’m good.”

Brody was anything but good. “It’s a one time walk,” Mitch said, securing Brody against him and encouraging him to find his feet. “Once we get there, you’ll have food and fire and then you can rest.”

Heading slipping forward, Brody’s knees gave out again. “I’m really tired, Mitch.”

“I know, buddy,” Mitch said, keeping him upright and balancing one hand on Brody’s chest. “So let’s just get this over with.”

With some effort, Brody seemed to find his footing. He straightened marginally, panting with the exertion. “Okay,” he said. “Okay. Just.”

Mitch waited, as patiently as he could. “Just what?”

“I don’t know if I can move,” he admitted in a small and defeated voice.

Tightening his grip on the younger man, he jostled him gently. “You’re not doing it alone.”

At this, Brody lifted his head. “Promise.”

Mitch looked at him, resolutely nodding. “Of course.”

Brody looked back down, this time with a steadying breath. “Okay,” he said, keeping his legs beneath him this time even as Mitch took them forward a tentative step. “Okay.”

-o-

By the time they made it back down to Mitch’s camping spot, Brody was ready to be done. As much as Mitch hated to keep pushing him, he knew that Brody needed to replace some of his fluids before he settled down. Without access to an IV, fresh water was the only option. While they definitely had fresh water, Mitch didn’t have any cups or canisters off hand. The only way to get Brody to drink was to take him to the stream in person.

This was easier said than done, and Mitch had to cajole Brody the last part of the trip, all but carrying him the last few steps. The collapsed together by the stream, each of them spent by the weight of their journey.

Mitch allowed them several moments just to breathe before he sat Brody upright again, waiting until Brody looked him in the eyes. “We’re here.”

Brody was more than winded; pain and exhaustion were taking hold. “We’re here?”

“You’re going to have to bend over to get close to the stream. Cup your hands,” Mitch explained, and even as he said it, he knew Brody wouldn’t be up for it. “Come on.”

Mitch rotated Brody, turning him until he was facing the stream. They made one meager attempt for Brody to scoop the water, but none of it made it to his mouth. Mitch tried lowered Brody to the stream, but the risk of drowning him was too high. Finally, when all options seemed spent, Mitch used his own hand to cup the water, lifting it up to Brody.

“Dude--” Brody protested, turning his mouth away.

Mitch shrugged, apologetic but unrelenting. “Unless you can do it yourself.”

“Is water really that important?” Brody whined.

“Do you want to die here?” Mitch asked bluntly.

Brody turned miserable eyes on Mitch. “You promised.”

“And why do you think I’m giving you water?” Mitch asked back sharply.

Brody’s spirits sagged and he swore.

“It’ll be our secret,” Mitch promised, reaching down for a fresh handful of water. “Just between you and me and the ocean.”

Brody might have been able to fight the ocean.

He couldn’t fight Mitch.

Somehow that realization made total feel not like a total loss.

-o-

After helping Brody drink, they made a shuffling walk back to the beach, where Mitch had prepared a small bed by making a mound of sand to serve as a pillow next to a hollowed out area Mitch hoped to use as a firepit shortly. It was approaching early evening now, so Mitch knew he had to start moving things along, but first things first.

He helped Brody get comfortable before discreetly checking on the wound.

His bandage was still in place, but it wasn’t doing a great job. Blood was sluggishly leaking from it now. Away from the reddened sand down the beach, Mitch was able to get a better sense of how much Brody was losing. Clearly, the bleeding had slowed, but it was also clear it just hadn’t stopped.

The effects of the blood loss were increasingly visible as well. Brody was weakening steadily, and even though the water was good for him, the movement had sapped him of his energy. His complexion hadn’t recovered; if anything, he was looking worse. His lips were patchy and discolored, and his breathing was starting to become shallow.

All of these observations were ones Mitch was keeping to himself.

Instead, he looked at Brody and laid out the rest of the situation at hand. “So,” he said. “Here it is.”

Brody looked more than a little confused. “What?”

Mitch took a breath, girding himself for this. He couldn’t bring himself to give voice to Brody’s condition, but he would keep Brody updated on the rest of their predicament. He needed to make sure Brody understood what they were doing, what was at stake. Brody needed to feel like he still had a say in this if they were going to get out of this alive.

“The low down,” Mitch explained. “I’ve had some time to look around and figure out what the extent of our situation is.”

Brody gave him a strangely quizzical look. “We’re crashed on a deserted island, right?” he asked, the words halting but clear. “Gilligan’s Island? Just, like, worse?”

Mitch couldn’t bring himself to smile. Instead, he stuck grimly to the facts. “Our boat is submerged off the coast, and everything in it is probably a loss,” he said. “We have no food, no first aid and most importantly no communication devices. Even if we could retrieve something, the water would have rendered it useless by now.”

Brody blinked at him.

Mitch forced himself to continue. “This island, as best I can tell, is remote and uninhabited. I have to think it’s charted because we’re not that far out and it’s big enough, but my best guess is that it’s privately owned and whoever bought it hasn’t had time or interest in doing anything with it but call it their own.”

Brody’s eyes widened slightly.

“That means there’s nothing here to communicate with the mainland,” Mitch said, doggedly now. “But we’ve got fresh water and plants, and I’m pretty sure I saw some rodents, which means there are edible plants nearby. There’s plenty of wood, and the fact that the trees are thick means I found enough dry kindling for a fire.”

Brody was staring at him now, not sure what to say.

“Also, we did file a log with the harbor, and I talked to the guy who lent us the boat,” Mitch said. “When we don’t come back, people will start looking for us in generally the right location. Unfortunately, we went pretty far off course with the storm, which means that when they do launch a rescue, we may be beyond their primary search grid. That could slow them down.”

Brody’s brow started to furrow in vague distress.

“Best case scenario, they start searching tonight,” Mitch said. “But tomorrow morning is more likely. That means we’re stuck here overnight at least. Maybe part of the day tomorrow. Hard to say.”

When he had obviously concluded, Brody took several long moments to comprehend. Finally, he swallowed and wet his lips. “So,” he said. “Like I said. Crashed on a deserted island. So Gilligan’s Island.”

“Also, you need medical attention,” Mitch added on, as a strange but relevant afterthought.

“Right,” Brody said. “So, like, way worse.”

Way worse.

Mitch couldn’t bring himself to admit Brody was right. “But we’ve got to stay optimistic,” he said. “We’ve got two hours of daylight left, give or take. If we can get a fire started, we’ll make ourselves visible. There could be other ships in the area; we could get lucky.”

That seemed like a funny sentiment. Luck wasn’t exactly something that had been on their side today.

“Well,” Brody said after several long minutes. “Maybe this day isn’t a complete waste.”

“How do you figure?” Mitch asked wearily, looking out toward the water.

“I mean, you wanted me to love the ocean,” Brody said. “You thought it was so weird that I could like the beach but not the ocean.”

Mitch looked back at Brody, curiously hopeful. “Yeah?”

Brody looked up at him, weak but coherent. “Well, I can’t say my opinion has improved on the ocean,” he said. “But for the sake of consistency, I’m starting to think the beach is overrated, too.”

It was a familiar banter, weaker and more halting than before, but still Brody.

Still them.

Mitch grinned despite himself, giving Brody a light but playful shrug. “Shut up, asshole.”

Brody grinned back, somehow managing a shiteating smile despite his own weakness. “At least I’m consistent now.”

Mitch chuckled, but it died off in his throat as he looked back to the water beyond the sand.

At least.

He’d started the day with big plans, and none of them had come to fruition.

But at least Brody made more sense now.

That wasn’t what he wanted; it probably wasn’t enough.

But it was all he was going to get for now.

At least he still had Brody and his good humor.

He glanced at Brody who was sagging again, head slipping to the side as he fought off the growing drowsiness. Mitch didn’t have the heart to rouse him again.

At least, he thought, the words feeling more numb than before.

Brody caught himself, lifting his head back to center blearily.

At least.

Shit, Mitch was certainly aiming low today.

-o-

After rallying himself, he made Brody wake up again, pressing his hand more firmly still against the bandage on his side. Brody did his best to comply, and Mitch would have to live with that effort if he was going to get the campsite ready for the night ahead. As much as he wanted to be optimistic, he also had to be realistic. If they were staying the night here, Mitch needed them to be ready.

He started by gathering stones to secure the fire pit, widening it and shifting it slightly closer to shore. He needed it visible first and foremost. The smoke was his main vehicle for attracting a rescue. But he also needed it to be sustainable, out of the way even in high tide and close enough to Brody to get him through the cooler night hours.

To that end, Mitch bulked up the wood pile even more, ensuring that he wouldn’t have to scavenge in the dark. He also found rocks and twigs the would help start the fire, since matches were another supply they had lost in the boat. He used the pocketknife to prep the wood, cutting into the right sized pieces and cutting deep inside to make sure it was dried out.

Finally, Mitch turned his attention to food. Water was in plentiful supply, and Mitch himself would survive for several days without food, but Brody was weak enough as it was. He would need every advantage he could get.

In that light, so could Mitch. Brody’s survival at this point was reliant on Mitch, which meant he needed to be at full capacity.

The options for food weren’t as plentiful, and nothing he could scavenge would look delectable, but Mitch was able to identify a few weeds that would do. Insects were another option, but he thought his odds of convincing Brody to eat crickets was lower than his odds of successfully serving weeds and grass. There were a few species of berry, but Mitch couldn’t be certain which ones were safe for humans, so he left those alone. In the morning, he might have time to look for fish or sea life to eat, but for now, this would do.

He looked to the sky, where the sun was progressing in a lazy downward trajectory.

Then, his eyes went back to the beach, where Brody was fighting to stay awake.

With night coming, Mitch had to keep his priorities in order.

-o-

This time, when he made his way back, Brody was at least watching for him. He was drowsy, but he smiled faintly as Mitch approached. Whether it was actual relief or an attempt to offer reassurance to Mitch, it wasn’t clear. Either way, it made Mitch’s chest twinge with pressure.

He dropped the fresh supplies in the small dug out he’d made in the sand, not far from Brody and closer to the fire. He’d try to convince Brody to eat something later. For now, he crossed closer, sitting down next to Brody. “How’s it going?” he asked, pressing his own hand over the top of Brody’s to remind him to keep up the pressure. Under his touch, Brody’s fingers are weak and cold. They’re also stained red.

Brody did not seemed to have noticed these things however. He smiled, a placid, lazy sort of smile. “This place has its drawbacks, but it’d be good for sunbathing,” he said, but his words lack their usual gusto. Still, he was trying. With Brody, that had always counted for something.

Without commenting on it, Mitch peeked at the wound around Brody’s hand. The bandage was completely useless now, and blood had continued to snake down Brody’s side. There was a fresh collection of red sand beneath him now, small enough but Mitch watched as another droplet fell into it.

“See, you still like beaches,” Mitch said, because the banter did Brody some good. More good than Mitch’s shit-like bandage. “Now we just have to work on the ocean.”

Brody gave a short, bemused laugh that fell weakly from his lips. “You think maybe I’ve earned a night off?”

Mitch pointed out at the waves. “Well, it is right there,” he reasoned.

Brody’s laughed was hemmed in by an obvious wince of discomfort. He had to swallow hard to right his expression. Even then, Mitch could see that he was starting to tremble.

“You getting cold?” Mitch asked, trying not to sound too concerned -- even if he was.

Any attempts to hide this fact were undone by Brody’s obvious shudder. “Just, you know. A little.”

“Well, I was going to start a fire here,” Mitch said. “We need one going to help alert anyone in the area that we’re here. But we can also use it to keep warm tonight.”

It was an easy shift in the conversation, one Mitch preferred anyway. He’d done what he could for Brody’s wound. It had to coagulate and stop bleeding; Mitch couldn’t control that, however. At least, not in ways he was ready to consider just yet.

Instead, he was better off focusing on issues that were actual able to be dealt with.

The fire was one of those issues.

Better still, the fire served multiple purposes.

Brody gave him a lopsided look. “You have matches?”

“No,” Mitch said. “All that went down with the boat.”

“So how are you going to start a fire?”

Mitch was already moving to the fire pit, setting up the kindling and picking out the sticks he thought would work best. “All you need is dry kindling, two sticks and a little oxygen.”

Brody lifted his head slightly, his curiosity overpowering his pain for a few moments. “You know how to start a fire on a deserted island with no supplies?”

Mitch gathered the kindling, prepping his two sticks by smoothing away the bark on them both with his pocket knife. “Of course.”

“But,” Brody said, halting just a little to catch his breath. “Why?”

“Because if you don’t, you die,” Mitch told him, matter of fact.

Brody looked particularly disconcerted by this answer. “It just seems like sort of a strange contingency to plan for.”

“Well, it’s not just for deserted islands,” Mitch said, placing his sticks together experimentally. “It would work in any number of disaster scenarios. After an earthquake, for example. A post-apocalyptic event.”

Brody nodded, gauging Mitch’s seriousness. “You do know that’s the most ridiculous answer, right?”

Mitch scoffed, ready to start rubbing the sticks together in earnest. “Maybe,” he said. “But it’s one that could save your life. Do you really want to complain about that?”

Brody flopped his head back to the sand, making a small gesture with his free hand. “Build your fire, ocean man,” he said, fingers loosening around the bandage again. “It’s not like we’ve got something better to do.”

It wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, but Mitch forced himself to look back down to the task at hand.

There were a lot of better things to do, things that involved not being deserted on an island with night approaching and still-bleeding wound.

Mitch, however, was unable to do any of those things.

Brody was impressed with Mitch’s ability to make fire.

But when he turned embers into flame, it hardly felt like enough to Mitch.

-o-

Mitch tended the fire for a while, studiously adding wood and kindling until it solidified. When Mitch was sure it wouldn’t burn out, he checked the sun in the sky again, noting how it was dipping closer and closer to the horizon.

It would be night soon. Mitch was prepared for nightfall. They had food, shelter, water, fire. Everything to that end was in order.

But when he checked on Brody, the wound was still bleeding.

Mitch tried not to be obvious about it, but he knew this was bad news. Brody had lost too much blood already. He couldn’t be sure how much, but much more and Brody’s body would start to shut down. And then, none of the food, shelter, water or fire would make a bit of difference.

Worse, there was nothing conventional to be done. Mitch had cleaned and packed the wound, but a swimsuit was a poor excuse for a bandage. Besides, it was too sodden to be worth anything now. And with the wound being two-sided, it was hard to get sufficient pressure. More than that, wrapping the torso tight enough to control the flow conventionally was damn near impossible. With an arm or a leg, Mitch could use a tourniquet. With the abdomen, Mitch just didn’t have enough resources to be effective.

Which limited Mitch’s options to only nonconventional methods. Stitching might be an idea -- not recommended, of course -- but Mitch didn’t have anything resembling a needle or thread anyway. All Mitch had going for him was fire.

Fire was searing, and Mitch knew that in the past, people had used cauterization to stem the flow of blood, often on battlefields. Now, in those contexts, the process killed as many people as it saved, but Mitch knew there was a logic to it. Doing nothing was a guarantee of death.

Doing something at least presented a fighting chance.

But the risks were substantial. Not only did it hurt like hell and scar like a son of a bitch, but it made infection extremely likely. Mitch didn’t have any antibiotics to counteract that.

In theory, though, he wouldn’t have to. This was a waiting game. Mitch just had to keep Brody alive long enough for rescue, then the hospital could deal with the rest.

He looked at Brody, still struggling with consciousness on the beach next to him.

At this rate, he wasn’t going to make it through the night.

Chewing his lip, Mitch looked at the fire. Idly, he played with his pocket knife, wondering if he was crazy to even think about it.

The answer might have been yes, if it was just up to Mitch.

But Brody’s voice broke the silence and reminded Mitch that it wasn’t his choice to make alone.

“It’s not good, huh?” Brody asked.

Mitch looked at him, surprised to see him coherent. “What? We’re good.”

Brody shook his head, too tired for pretense. “No it’s not.”

“We have fire, we have water, we have food,” Mitch said. “The search parties will start looking tomorrow. We’ve got what we need.”

Brody shook his head again, unconvinced. “You know what I mean.”

“No,” Mitch started to say. “I don’t--”

“Me,” Brody interjected tiredly. “I’m not good.”

Mitch opened his mouth, ready for a denial, but Brody’s haggard expression was far too knowing.

“I’m in shock, right?” he asked.

Mitch made a dismissive face. “What would you know about it anyway?”

Nonplussed, Brody maintained eye contact. He was not going to be dissuaded. “Everything. I just passed the first aid test at work. Summer helped me study, and she’s, like, a really motivating study buddy.”

Mitch had known that, yet it hadn’t quite occurred to him. In so many ways, Brody was still the screw up smart ass; it was hard to remember, sometimes, that he was a fully integrated and dedicated part of the team. Even though Brody was meeting all of Mitch’s expectation on the job, it was easy to still assume he was lacking.

Mitch was going to have to contend with that, among other things, when this was done.

Still, for now, Mitch shook his head, telling himself that denial was still best for Brody. “We have no way of knowing.”

“Rapid pulse, clammy skin, rapid breathing, weakness, fatigue, nausea,” Brody recited.

“You’re nauseous?” Mitch asked.

“Mitch,” Brody said, more tired than before.

Mitch felt his own stomach tie itself into a knot with a roll of nausea. It was the same conclusion he’d come to just seconds ago, but hearing it out loud, seeing the resignation on Brody’s face -- it was harder than Mitch expected. “We don’t know that.”

Brody, however, had become strangely persistent about this. “I’ve probably lost, what? Close to a third of my blood supply?”

“Dude,” Mitch said, genuinely surprised now. “How much did you study?”

“A lot,” Brody said. “Summer was, like, really sexy that night. I committed everything to memory.”

Another denial was caught in Mitch’s throat, but no matter how much he wanted to say it, he knew that it wasn’t true.

More than that, he knew that Brody deserved to know the truth. The denials weren’t just for Brody at this point. In fact, they weren’t even primarily for Brody.

And if Mitch was going to make the hard choices, then Brody deserved a say in it, too. He was coherent enough to make those decisions. Even if it was Mitch who would have to live with the consequences.

Brody was watching him, eyes half-lidded but open doggedly. “You have a plan, don’t you?”

Wearily, Mitch sighed. “I have two plans, actually,” he said. “But we’re going to have to pick one.”

The heaviness in Mitch’s voice did not deter Brody. “I’m listening.”

Mitch gave Brody a rueful smile. “You are in shock,” he said, confirming Brody’s assessment. “We’ve slowed the bleeding, but it’s not stopping. We have no bandages, and no way to put enough pressure on the wound. I’ve been hoping rescue could come tonight--”

“But it’s not,” Brody concluded for him. “We’re almost out of daylight.”

Mitch drew a breath, pressing his lips together flatly. “We can do our best, wait it out until morning--”

Something flickered in Brody’s expression. Pain, regret, realization. “I’ll be dead by morning,” he said, giving voice to the notion for Mitch. “Won’t I?”

Mitch sighed, heavier than before. “There is one alternative.”

“Okay,” Brody prompted him.

“You’re not going to like it,” Mitch warned.

“I also really don’t like dying,” Brody reminded him.

That was true, but it was hardly consolation. Mitch was crazy to have thought of it; crazy to consider it; crazy to suggest it outloud. Plain and simple: crazy. “Cauterization.”

Brody had been bracing for the worst, but this wasn’t the answer he expected. If anything, he merely looked vexed. It wasn’t an unusual look for Brody. “That’s, like, when you burn the wound?”

“More or less,” Mitch said. “Fire and metal are about the only two supplies we have. We heat up the metal and then press it to the wound on both sides, effectively sealing it. It’s been shown to stop hemorrhaging pretty effectively.”

“And it sounds really painful,” Brody interjected, sounding suddenly reticent.

“That’s not it’s real problem,” Mitch told him.

“There’s a real problem?” Brody asked, increasingly uncertain.

“Any burn leaves your skin exposed to its lower layers,” Mitch explained. “It’s associated with really high infection rates.”

“Why do you know so much about this?” Brody asked, letting his head roll back to look at the sky. “This isn’t on the first aid test.”

“Because it’s basically archaic,” Mitch said. “No one uses it anymore.”

Brody turned, looking at Mitch again. “And you want to?”

“I didn’t want any of this,” Mitch said, gesturing around them. “But you have to think about the big picture. I can’t stop this bleeding any other way. The blood loss will probably kill you tonight. Infection, if we go that route, will give you days, weeks. That gives us plenty of time for rescue.”

The emotion seemed to die out of Brody, and he let out his own weary breath. “Shit,” he said dejectedly. “We’re back to rocks and hard places, aren’t we?”

“I know it’s a hell of a choice,” Mitch told him, steadily now. “I swear to you, if I knew of another option, if I could think of one, I’d tell it to you.”

Brody smiled, even fainter than before. “I know.”

“I’ve forced you into a lot of stuff today, but I won’t force you into this,” Mitch vowed. “This is your choice to make, and I’ll respect whichever option you choose.”

Brody chuckled, a weak, tired sound. “You need to stop thinking that you’re giving me choices.”

Mitch looked away, guiltily now.

“I mean, living or dying -- that’s not a choice,” Brody said. “So do it.”

Mitch glanced up, almost afraid of the answer.

“Do it,” Brody said. “Because I want to get off this island, away from the ocean and back to Baywatch.”

“The ocean’s really not so bad,” Mitch said, almost out of instinct.

“Are you really doing this now?”

Mitch held up his hands. “Sorry,” he said. “But are you sure about this?”

“I told you, this isn’t much of a choice,” Brody said. “No matter what happens, I want the chance to get through this. I know you can give me that chance, Mitch. I know it.”

That level of trust was more than Mitch had ever asked for. More than he probably deserved.

A lot more than he wanted right now.

And it was something Mitch could not refused. “Okay,” he said, grim and resolved. “Let’s do it.”

-o-

The light was fading, but that wasn’t the only reason Mitch was working fast. He had to work fast because he knew if he didn’t, he would lose his nerve. As it was, his fingers were shaking and his mind was racing. All he could think about was how stupid this was, how many possible ways this procedure could go terribly, terribly wrong.

On the beach next to him, Brody didn’t seem to be having any similar doubts. If anything, his resolve was deepening. Mitch probably should have found that reassuring.

He just found it condemning somehow. He’d talked Brody into this, in his own way. He’d presented the choice that wasn’t a choice. Brody believed in him. As if it wasn’t Mitch’s choices that had gotten them into this mess in the first place.

Sure, it wasn’t really his fault. He couldn’t have foreseen any of the shit that had happened.

But he’d been the one who was insistent. If not for him, Brody would be safe on the shore.

Not here, ready to have this skin burned shut.

It was what it was. Mitch had promised to respect the choice, and that was what he had to do. Still, staring at the fire, he wanted another option.

The pocket knife was the only available metal. The fire was hot enough to warm it to the necessary temperature, but the blade’s small size would be an impediment. It would take several attempts to close each side of the wound. Worse, each one would have to overlap, which would lead to some very raw patches of skin.

Not to mention the fact that the process would take a lot longer this way. It’d be several minutes, at the very least. Probably more to make sure the job was done correctly.

Several minutes of purposefully burning Brody when he was already in shock.

In essence, several minutes of torture.

Mitch was effectively planning to torture Brody.

The fact that Brody had agreed didn’t make it easier. The reality that the other option was to let Brody die quietly over the night didn’t make it more palatable.

The only fact that mattered was that it had to be done.

And Brody had made the choice.

Mitch tentatively lifted the blade, having washed it in the ocean, and put it in the flames. He watched as the metal glistened, watched as it visibly warmed and turned red. He held it for as long as he could, his own fingers getting singed before he took it back to Brody.

On the ground, they had prepped Brody as best they could. The bandageds had been removed and Brody was lying on his side, face away from Mitch. Blood was continuing to trickle from the wound, making a crazy path down Brody’s front and back.

Brody’s eyes were open; his body tense.

“You ready?” Mitch asked.

Brody nodded convulsively. “This is going to work, right?”

“Yeah,” Mitch said. “It should.”

“And, um,” Brody continued, letting out a shaky breath. “You’re not going to let me die?”

“Not if I can help it,” Mitch promised.

Brody nodded again, trying to steady himself. “Do it.”

Mitch moved closer, the hot metal almost to the skin.

Brody flinched. “Is this going to hurt a lot?”

Mitch blinked stupidly at the question. “No,” he lied.

Brody craned his neck to look at him. “Is this like the last time you told me that?”

Mitch made a shrug. “No, of course not.”

With an exhale, Brody dropped his head back to the sand. “Okay,” he said. “Okay.”

Okay, Mitch told himself, bringing the hot metal closer.

Okay, he thought as he let it hover over the skin.

Okay, was all he could think when he pressed it to the torn flesh of the back and Brody started to scream.

The flesh sizzled, searing into the wound, and as Brody’s body bucked, Mitch was forced to hold onto him, careful to steady him without mishandling the tip of the blade against the already damaged flesh. It was agonizing seconds -- for both of them, in different ways -- before Mitch pulled the metal free and put it back in the fire again.

On the ground, Brody was all but sobbing, his entire body wracked with tremors. He said nothing as Mitch returned, moving the blade over the other side of the wound in an attempt to seal that half as well. Brody made some effort to steady himself, but after another several seconds of roiled flesh, he was rocking badly once again while Mitch’s free hand dug tighter into Brody’s shoulder in a vain attempt to still him.

Sitting back, Mitch removed the blade, giving the wound a close inspection. On the ground, Brody trembled even more, breathing harshly as he sobbed apologies. “I’m sorry, shit, I’m sorry, sorry.”

The flesh was seared now, blackened and red, but the back wound had been larger than the front; there was still a top portion, dribbling blood.

Gently, Mitch brushed his free hand on the back of his neck. “It’s okay. You’re doing great.”

It wasn’t clear if Brody heard him, the litany of apologies continuing regardless.

Mitch sighed, putting the knife back in the flames. If they were going to do this, they could half-ass it. He wasn’t going to put Brody through this for nothing.

“Okay,” Mitch said this time, putting his free hand in place. “One more time on the back here.”

Brody’s only response was a sob, his body taut as he visibly tried to prepare himself.

It was a futile effort. Mitch did his best to not overlap the burns, but the curdling of Brody’s flesh was enough to turn both their stomachs. The flat side of the blade left oblong indentations, bringing fast blisters over the surface of the surrounding skin. Mitch held it in place as long as he dared before removing it and giving them both a chance to breathe.

This time, Mitch was relieved to see that the wound was fully covered. The flesh looked red and angry, but the blood flow had necessarily stopped. That had been the intention, but it was hard to consider this a success.

Worse, they weren’t done yet.

Mitch put the blade back in the fire, trying to find some kind of encouragement to offer. “Half done,” he offered meekly. “You’re doing great.”

Brody’s frame was shaking badly now, and the sobs had quieted but not stilled. He was inhaling in desperate, heaving gasps, and his exhales were colored with tears. “Did it work?” he said, the words ground out like gravel.

“So far,” Mitch said, watching for the blade to turn red again.

“Half done?” Brody asked, sniffling loud and keeping his eyes fixed ahead.

Mitch pulled the knife back out of the fire. “Yeah, buddy,” he said, coming around and clapping Brody on the shoulder. He kept the knife out of sight and tried to smile over Brody’s shoulder for good measure. “Half done.”

That was the optimistic way to look at it, but Brody was too weak to last much longer on sheer optimism alone. Even an oceanic force like Mitch couldn’t control that.

This time, the heat on the raw wound was too much. Brody jerked heavily, and Mitch was forced to pull away for fear or stabbing him by accident. The movement jarred the wound, which only made the pain worse, and fresh blood come out of the unsealed front wound while Brody screamed.

It was a hoarse, horrible scream, ripped from Brody’s lungs and echoing across the beach and calling over the waves. There was no one there to hear it except Mitch.

And he’d never forget it.

He tried to hold Brody down, but it proved pointless. Whether it was the pain or exhaustion, Brody’s entire body went horribly limp, and the cry was cut off as he collapsed back to the sand. For a moment, Mitch fears the worse. He moved his own trembling fingers from Brody’s shoulder to the pulse point on his neck. There was a heartbeat -- far too fast, far too thready -- coursing beneath his touch.

Mitch sat back, reheating the knife again for good measure. It was just as well, he tried to convince himself. It would be easier to do the job thoroughly with Brody unconscious.

Easier was relative. Brody didn’t moan or cry and jerk, but the smell of his burned flesh was acutely prominent in Mitch’s nose. The front wound was smaller, and Mitch was able to seal it shut with two well placed burns, and he had time to wash out the bandage in the ocean, clearing it of as much grit as he could. Mitch didn’t need to keep pressure on the wound anymore, but those burns were significant. Mitch would have to keep it covered and cool in order to best prevent infection.

Between Mitch’s own soiled swim shirt and what was left of Brody’s, he was able to come up with two clean patches of fabrics, cleansed even more by the salt water. Then, mindful of Brody’s exacerbated pain levels, he rinsed the cloth again in the freshwater, hoping to cover all his bases. Leaving the wounds open wasn’t an option, not with one wound on the back and the other in the front. The sandy beach was great for many things; wound care was not one of them.

When he got back to Brody, he washed the wounds gently, mindful of the bubbling fresh before covering each side with a wet swath of cloth. Brody remained unmoving throughout these ministrations, and when Mitch was done, he hardly felt like he should be done. Awkwardly, he brushed away the bloodied sand from around Brody, trying to build up the sand dune he’d created for a pillow one again. Mindful of Brody’s injuries, he shifted him slightly, trying to ease out his limbs into more comfortable positions.

It was pointless, maybe, given the whole scope of the context. But Mitch had done what he could do. Brody wasn’t bleeding, the fire was going and the night was falling.

That was all there was.

He sat numbly, watching Brody’s lax features in the depths of unconsciousness.

This was all there was.

-o-

Mitch didn’t quite know what to do with himself now. During the daylight hours, he’d been filled with ideas of tasks that might help them. Now that night was taking hold, all his preparations had come necessarily to a close and all he could do was tend the fire and make sure Brody was still alive.

In truth, he barely tended the fire. He made lackluster efforts, poking at it from time to time and adding a branch when he felt too useless. But the hard work was done now; really, this was a waiting game.

Inaction, for Mitch, had always been the hardest part. At least, with the fire, he could feel like he was doing something

With Brody, he couldn’t even do that much.

That didn’t seem to stop him, however. He spent most of the time watching Brody’s chest rise and fall, as if somehow that signified a major accomplishment on his part.

At least, he knew the opposite would indicate failure.

He’d take what he could get at this point.

Sitting on the beach, he watched the sun set, and he watched as the stars started to come out, one by one across the water. Someone would have missed them by now. Stephanie would have been considered that he didn’t come in to certify the schedule for tomorrow. His friend would be curious as to why his boat wasn’t back in harbor. Summer might even wonder why Brody wasn’t returning her texts.

They’d start the search, putting together the disparate pieces of the puzzle. They’d probably have to chart the course Mitch had filed. They’d have to talk to each other about Mitch’s favorite places at sea and his experience with the waters beyond the bay. Eventually, someone would look at the meteorological charts from the day. They’d see the storm; they’d start to put more of the story together.

Stephanie wouldn’t sleep while they were missing, neither would Summer. Ronnie and CJ would help map out a search area and the Coast Guard would be notified. Ellerbee might pull a few strings to get a preliminary search zone overnight, but they wouldn’t get this far out.

Not tonight.

Mitch looked at Brody, knowing he had to face the reality of this. It probably wouldn’t be early tomorrow either.

In fact, Mitch hated to think it, but tomorrow might be an optimistic timeframe. Mitch knew how ocean searches went. He knew how vast the ocean was, how variable it was to navigate.

This could take days.

He watched Brody, oblivious to these realities, but the smell of his burned skin was still fresh in Mitch’s nostrils.

Mitch looked up, across the water again, wondering why this had happened. Wondering if he’d been wrong to push this, wrong to try. Wondering if it mattered as much as he thought it did.

Because right now, Mitch had to admit, the ocean didn’t seem all that great to him, either.