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Baywatch fic: Five Times Mitch Saved Brody (And the Time that Mattered Most) (1/2)

December 24th, 2018 (11:19 am)

Title: Five Times Mitch Saved Brody (And the Time that Mattered Most)

Rating: M

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

A/N: This is my fill for bodyguards on hc_bingo. Unbeta’ed.

Summary: “I’ve saved your ass six times in the last six months,” Mitch announced, as though he’d known this all along. He gave a smug nod, looking down his nose at Brody. “Let’s not make it seven.”



-o-

One.

When Mitch got fired, he tried to take it in stride. He tried to get on with his life, to pick himself up by his bootstraps. He told himself that his life wasn’t over, that he could make something better of himself through this. Those are the kind of things he would have told anyone else on his team, and he would have meant it.

But putting away the sandals was harder than he anticipated. Making the break from Baywatch was like making a break from everything that had ever defined him. There was a reason he was so protective of Baywatch. It was everything to him. Without it…

Without it, he was just a sad guy working a miserable job. He put on loafers. He wore a shirt. He sold cell phone policies. When people from work called, he didn’t answer. He didn’t respond to texts, either. At night, when it was just him and a beer in front of his fish tank, he thought about turning off the CB, too, but he couldn’t let that go yet. He liked hearing about the action on the bay. He liked hearing when someone was saved, when one of his own made the right call.

Of course, it was a strange thing, too. Listening in a life that wasn’t his and realizing that they didn’t need him after all. Brody, as it turned out, had it well in hand.

Until one night, he didn’t.

He’d turned his phone off due to Summer’s incessant calling, but when her panicked voice sounded over the CB, he sat up straighter and listened.

“Mitch, please, you have to come, you have to help,” Summer said, and the desperation in her voice was clear over the crackle of static. “Brody found the flakka, but we can’t take down Leeds by ourselves. She already tried to kill Chen, and I don’t know where Brody is…”

Mitch didn’t know either, but still, somehow, he did. When he got to the beach, Leeds’ boat was easy enough to find, and the figure in the bait cage was easy enough to identify. The hard part was waiting to take action, waiting until the cage hit the water, waiting until Leeds had turned away before diving in.

From the pier, it wasn’t a short swim. It wasn’t a swim he’d recommend to any of his lifeguards.

But Brody was in a cage, sinking to the bottom of the ocean.

He’d be faster, stronger, better. For the bay, for his team. Even for an asshole like Brody.

When he got there, he filled his lungs with oxygen and made his first dive. He’d misjudged it in his haste. Breaking the surface, he glanced toward the retreating image of Leeds’ boat and recalculated the distance in his head again. Swimming forward several more strokes, he dove again. With the clear skies, the moonlight cast a hazy glow over the ocean floor, and Mitch saw the glint of the cage a short distance away.

The debris had already started to settle into stillness; there were no bubbles.

Moving faster, Mitch propelled himself downward, using strong, steady strokes. In the cage, Brody’s eyes were closed and he was floating, hands tied against the top bars. The gag around his mouth was loose, but the lock on the cage was still in place.

Scowling, Mitch dove deeper, grabbing the first rock he found. It took one hit, two hits -- precious seconds for each -- but the corroded lock broke loose, and Mitch wasted no time flinging the bars open.

Set free, Brody merely floated a little higher, and Mitch grabbed him by the arms, yanking him up until they were face to face.

It hadn’t been that long, Mitch knew, but it had been long enough. Drowning could happen quickly, that was what he told his people. A matter of seconds can cost you someone’s life.

He had to wonder, of course, if this could have been him. If he would have walked into Leeds’ trap. If he would have ended up on the bottom of the ocean if Brody hadn’t taken his job. Because he’d been following the investigation; he knew Brody was following Mitch’s lead. Brody had been the one to insist they were lifeguards, not cops, but here he was, drowned at the bottom of the ocean, doing a job he was never meant to do.

Mitch felt an unexpected swell of pride.

Right alongside a surge of panic.

Brody had followed Mitch’s lead -- straight to the bottom of the ocean.

Mitch had spent enough time sitting on his ass.

He had to fix this.

Now.

In the murky water, Mitch wondered how many seconds he’d wasted. He wondered if Brody had any left to spare. His own chest tightening -- the lack of oxygen, he convinced himself, just the oxygen -- but he pulled Brody closer anyway. Brody needed to breathe -- now.

The only air Mitch had to offer him was his own.

With the first breath, Brody still felt warm, but far, far too still. The color was starting to drain from his face, and the moonlight through the water cast an insipid shadow on his unmoving features.

Mitch’s gut twisted, and he felt guilt roil inside him. He’d been fired from his job, but wasn’t he the one who’d said that this wasn’t a job? It was a way of life? And he’d cut them out, all of them, from his oldest friends to his newest ones. Brody shouldn’t be here, and if Mitch had done his part in this family, he wouldn’t be.

With a second breath, Mitch determined that there would be no turning back this time. No more feeling sorry for himself. No more wondering what would become of him. Even if he had to work a crappy day job, Baywatch was still his home. It was still his family. Even Matt Brody.

Mitch gave a third breath.

Especially Matt Brody.

Under these ministrations, Brody stirred. Groggily, he opened his eyes, and it took him several seconds before he got his bearings and realized where he was.

More to the point, who he was with.

He looked dismayed to see Mitch, but not surprised. It had been his idea to reach Mitch over the CB, after all. He’d known, even before Mitch, that he’d come when he was needed.

Then, Brody seemed to realize what had happened.

Smirking, Mitch gave him the finger.

Brody swore.

This only made Mitch smile broader as he pulled Brody against him and tugged him back to the surface. They wouldn’t talk about this later, about how Mitch saved Brody’s ass and gave him mouth to mouth resuscitation that Brody had enjoyed in a oxygen-deprived haze. Because if Mitch talked about how he’d saved Brody, he’d have to talk about how Brody saved him first.

All in all, Mitch decided as they broke the surface and took huge gulps of air, they broke even on this one.

He watched Brody cough and splutter, alive and okay.

After all, one good save really deserved another.

Two.

Mitch had wanted to call all things equal after the incident in the cage, but it wasn’t like Brody to go and make things easy.

Of course not.

Brody had to go and make things very, very hard.

Which was why Mitch was the one who got shot, kicked over board and left to die, and he was still the one who had to make the save in the end.

This was how he thought about it afterward.

In the moment, he hadn’t really been thinking of anything at all except that Leeds was threatening the bay. She was threatening Baywatch. And Mitch didn’t need a paycheck to know that that just wasn’t going to fly.

When he went overboard, it had been tempting to let the water take him. He was tired and bleeding and generally knew that any fight he put up now would be lackluster at best. Mitch was good, but he wasn’t that good. He couldn’t just come back from a gunshot wound.

Floating on the surface, bobbing near the edge of the barge, he knew that wasn’t an option, though. The bay. Baywatch.

Besides, he’d left Brody alone on that rig. Alone with a psychopath.

Now, Brody had done good work over the last three months, but the last time he went head to head with Leeds, he’d ended up in a bait cage at the bottom of the ocean. That save was too recent to let Brody go and undo all his hard work now.

Problem was, Mitch couldn’t do it on his own this time.

Turning his head, he looked up the length of the rig, weighing his options.

That was when he saw the urchin.

Well, Mitch reflected as he grabbed it, he’d had worse ideas over the last few months.

With a grimace, Mitch plunged the urchin into the back of the next, pushing it deep so that the venom would find a vein. It hit him like a shot of adrenaline, and he roared to life with a strength so unexpected that it nearly overwhelmed him. With a burst of effort, he hoisted himself back on the ship, barely feeling the pulling of his shoulder wound. Finding his feet, he looked for Leeds first but it was Brody who caught his attention.

There he was, gun pressed to his head, standing undaunted in front of Leeds’ taunting face. He wasn’t backing down; stupid kid was going to let her shoot him because all the things Mitch had taught him, he’d never taught him that he was a valuable member of the team, a member that Mitch wouldn’t lose for anything.

That would be their next lesson, then.

After Mitch stopped Leeds.

And saved Brody’s ass.

Again.

What happened next was a little vague to Mitch. He remember something about a whale’s dicks and using balls as loofahs, but mostly he remembered lots of fireworks and blowing Leeds out of the whole damn sky.

And, more than anything, he remembered Brody safe on the ground, picking through body parts that weren’t his own.

He’d be happy to gloat about this one, saving Brody’s ass twice in one night, but he was a little too busy passing out to enjoy his opportunity.

What the hell, he decided as Brody scrambled down to help him. They might just make this thing work, he and Brody. They might make a hell of a team.

If only they could keep each other from dying.

Three.

After two saves in one night, Mitch had sort of thought he and Brody would find some even ground. Really, being a lifeguard wasn’t that dangerous of a job, not if you understood the ocean and respected its power and followed all protocol to a t.

To be fair to Brody, he’d actually learned a lot about being a lifeguard in Mitch’s absence. Summer must have been one hell of a study buddy, because Brody was up on his protocol, and he quickly became one of Mitch’s more reliable lifeguards.

Yeah, that should have been the tip off. Brody could never be good for too long without screwing it up.

Not that Brody was a bad guy, but he was a perennial screw up. As much as he needed and wanted a place on the team, being a team player would never come naturally to him. Mitch liked to say it was because Brody was inherently an asshole fighting against his nature. Summer tried to explain it as attachment issues based on being raised in foster homes.

Whatever.

In the end, he was always going to need to save Brody again.

He had just expected it to be Brody’s fault, if he were honest.

The boat that came out of nowhere during a rescue off the coast, that blindsided both of them. One second they were pulling people to safety after a sailboat capsized.

The next their own boat was skidding across the top of the water, and Mitch was hurled head first into the water.

The speed of it was disorienting, and Mitch flailed for a moment before righting himself and getting his head above water. He spluttered, spitting out salt water, and treaded water as he tried to figure out what the hell had happened. Their boat was still upright, though its position had moved, and a new boat was on the scene, dented and damaged as it teetered precariously on its side.

A man was at the wheel of the unexpected speedboat, blinking wildly as if he had no idea what had happened.

Gritting his teeth together, Mitch swam toward him, pulling him from the wreckage before the boat started to sink. “Sir, you need to move this way,” he said, keeping the biting remarks to himself.

“Dude,” the man said, and it was clear that he was probably drunk. “That boat, man. Came out of nowhere.”

“A lifeguard boat,” Mitch corrected him, pulling him safely away from the debris. “Do you know how fast you were going?”

The man giggled, tapering off with a hiccup. “Not fast enough, I think.”

“Uh huh,” Mitch said, making to the edge of their boat. With his sheer upper body strength, he hoisted the man up, catching a strong whiff of alcohol off him as he lowered him to the safety of the deck. The other victims, all conscious and in good condition, looked bewildered. Mitch offered them a reassuring smile. “Is everyone else okay?”

The three victims nodded, looking somewhat worse for wear. “We were all down when we got hit,” one of them explained. “We got tossed around--”

“Head injuries? Spinal injuries?” Mitch asked.

Another victim shook her head, eyeing the new man with wary disbelief. “You went flying, though,” she said, and she looked at his as if worried about his safety. “You and the other lifeguard.”

“I’m fine,” Mitch said shortly before he realized the full extent of her comment. “But the other lifeguard…”

All three victims looked at him blankly. The drunk man cackled completely inappropriately.

Brody’s absence was suddenly glaringly obvious.

“He went overboard,” the first victim said haltingly. “We thought he was with you.”

The words were like rocks, each one hitting Mitch square in the gut. The victims came first, the victims always came first, but Brody was family. Brody was one of his own. Brody was…

He shook his head; there was no time for that now. Emotion bonded them together, but when they had to be called to action, there was no time for doubt or uncertainty.

Just time for action.

“Can you watch him for me?” Mitch asked, nodding to the drunk boat driver. “And if someone knows how to work the radio, call in for backup. Tell them there was a collision.”

Mitch gave the orders; everyone else complied.

Everyone else except Brody.

Son of a bitch.

Turning back toward the water, Mitch dove in. Coming up for air, he oriented himself, looking out across the chaotic scene on the still-choppy water. He reminded himself that he was a trained, experienced professional. This was just another save, just another rescue.

Logic, however, didn’t explain why it felt so much damn harder this time.

Forcing himself to move, he swam out, in the opposite direction from his own recovery. There was debris in the water, but no sign of human movement. True, it was possible for a victim to get submerged, but underwater searching was time consuming and often less successful. He had to focus on the more probable -- and more preferable outcome.

For all he knew, Brody was out there, looking for him.

With even, strong strokes, Mitch started his way around to the bow. The debris field was more pronounced here, and Mitch recognized Baywatch’s life jackets and recovery equipment, even the first aid kit, which had been plunged into the water after the collision.

No sign of Brody.

As he moved onward, pushing aside the debris as he swam, he rounded the bow to explore the other side of the boat. That was when he saw the figure, floating in the water.

Floating -- unmoving.

Face down.

For a second, just a split second, Mitch was not a lifeguard but something more. He was a roommate, coworker, supervisor, mentor and friend. He was family. It was a paralyzing realization, that this was personal, that the outcome of this moment could affect him and the rest of Baywatch forever. He’d saved Brody before, against worse odds, but fate didn’t always give second chances.

That was why Mitch didn’t trust fate.

That was why, despite his split second of hesitation, he was a lifeguard.

And a damn good one at that.

Moving forward again, Mitch crossed the distance to Brody without seconds. Carefully, with a firm hand supporting Brody’s neck, he rolled the younger man over in the water, treading water with his legs to keep them both afloat. Using one arm to continue supporting his neck, Mitch propped Brody up on the surface of the water, gently tilting his head back so that his airway was exposed to the fresh air.

From this vantage point, with the sun glaring off Brody’s slick skin, he could see the gash still leaking watery blood along Brody’s hairline. Clearly, in the collision, Brody had struck the boat or some of the debris. Undoubtedly, he’d been unconscious before he hit the water.

They’d have to have that looked at and stitched.

But, first things first.

He had to see if Brody was breathing.

Distantly, Mitch could hear sirens from the beach, but he had to keep his focus on the here and now. With a trained ear, he leaned down close to Brody’s lips, waiting to feel a tickle of breath more than to hear it. Frustrated, he leaned closer, lifting his other hand to splay it on Brody’s exposed chest, feeling for any movement above the rippling of the waves.

It was hard to tell, but only because there was nothing there. Mitch hadn’t taken long to start a recovery, but face down in the water? It had been long enough.

Brody wasn’t breathing.

Mitch’s own breathing stuttered, and it would be easy to panic right about now. But panicking now would mean Brody would die for sure.

If Mitch kept it together, Brody had a chance.

And Mitch sure as hell was going to give Brody that chance.

Quickly, he shifted from breathing to circulation. Breathing could stop quickly, but it took longer for the entire body to shut down. Respiratory distress was one thing; cardiac arrest was another. With steady fingers, he pressed down into the pulse point on Brody’s neck, doing his best not to look at Brody’s rapidly paling complexion.

Over the thudding of his own heartbeat, it was hard to tell for a moment, and he pressed harder just to confirm the thready beat. Brody’s heart was beating.

Mitch hadn’t lost him, not yet.

It was like a life preserver being thrown to a drowning man. That sliver of hope was all he needed to hold on and keep fighting. For his own sake as much as Brody’s.

Still treading water, Mitch could hear the sirens approaching. That meant backup was on the way. Feeling resolved, Mitch moved his fingers, pinching off Brody’s nose as he leaned over and covered Brody’s mouth with his own. Two puffs of air went in, and Mitch watched as Brody’s chest rose and fell with each one.

He waited for it to continue, but Brody was still once more.

Undeterred, Mitch breathed for Brody again. He remembered the last time he did this, when Brody had woke up swearing and Mitch had rescued him with his middle finger raised. He’d played it for laughs, then. A close call.

No one was laughing now.

Brody’s chest remained stubbornly still.

In fact, instead of laughter, Mitch could feel burning at the back of his eyes as his mind raced to the situation beyond him. How he was more than a lifeguard, how this wasn’t just another save. How Brody was only alive because Mitch was breathing for him. It was a hell of a responsibility, one Mitch didn’t want and never asked for, but one he was terrified to fail at.

“Come on,” he muttered, willing Brody to respond. “Come on, asshole. Come on.”

His fingers were shaking now as he gripped Brody’s nose, and his own lungs were feeling tight as he breathed again.

Then again.

This time, Brody convulsed beneath him, his body jerking as he coughed, spluttering with a mouthful of water.

Overcome with relief, Mitch’s instinct was to hug the other man. His training, however, offered him a more reasonable response. Brody was breathing, but he was still in the water, clearly disoriented and not quite fully conscious. He would need Mitch’s support because the rescue wasn’t over yet.

Drawing Brody close, he kept the younger man buoyed up above the waves, using his own chest to prop up Brody’s head. Still dazed, Brody blinked blindly into the sunlight, coughing up another mouthful of water, as Mitch wrapped a protective arm around Brody and waved at the approaching boats for assistance.

“Easy,” Mitch coached, softly into Brody’s ear. “Just breathe.”

Brody seemed to startle at that, and though it would be hard to recognize Mitch from his current position, it seemed like he still knew who had him all the same.

This was the third time he’d rescued Brody. The last two times, Mitch had been ready with a punchline.

There was no joke this time.

Just relief.

Mitch had a one up on Brody this time, but what the hell. No need to start keeping track now.

“I’ve got you, Brody,” Mitch said, and it was a promise, so true, so earnest, that Brody’s confused gaze fixed on his in the melee. Mitch would be his anchor, his center of gravity when the water was pulling him down. “I’ve got you.”

Brody didn’t say anything, still focused on his breathing.

He didn’t need to say anything.

Because Brody had a lot to learn still.

But he’d already known that truth since the start.

Four.

Mitch didn’t hold Brody’s tendency to almost die against him, but it did make Mitch on his guard.

Given Brody’s propensity for stupidity near the water, he couldn’t help it. Of course, the obvious answer was to maybe find Brody alternative employment, but given Brody’s history, it appeared his only skills were getting drunk, being an asshole and swimming. Since the first two skills were not employable, Baywatch really was the only solution. At least as part of the team, Mitch could keep an eye on him.

Besides, Mitch had rationalized, lifeguards didn’t spend all their time in the water. On solid ground, he had every reason to assume that Brody would be less likely to get himself into messed up situations.

Leave it to Brody to prove him wrong.

With Brody, Mitch was never going to be able to leave his guard down.

Ever.

This time it happened in HQ, of all places. Mitch and Brody had each pulled the morning shift, which meant they were the first ones in the building. Brody thought this was unlucky, given that it required getting up early, but Mitch often engineered it this way. He actually preferred the early shift, and he tried to keep Brody on duty alongside him as often as possible. Brody grumbled about that, thinking that it suggested that Mitch didn’t trust his ability to be a good lifeguard.

The truth, however, was that Mitch was beginning to wonder if he could trust Brody to watch out for himself. Brody was actually a pretty good lifeguard; no one drowned on his watch.

No one but himself.

At this point, Mitch had invested too much time and effort into Brody to let him get himself killed. Keeping an eye on him was entirely pragmatic.

That was what he told himself anyway.

“Dude,” Brody moaned, flopping onto Mitch’s couch as Mitch went over his paperwork before starting the shift. “I don’t even see why we open the beach this early. No one normal is up.”

“Well,” Mitch told him, sifting through the papers indifferently. “We look out for people, normal or not.” He looked up, giving Brody a snarky smile. “Even you.”

“Ha ha,” Brody muttered. “By the way, there’s no power in the locker room.”

This made Mitch stop. “What?”

“No power,” Brody repeated, acting as though this revelation should have been obvious to Mitch. “I was just down there; none of the lights worked.”

“Well, did you trip the breaker?” Mitch asked, because his reply was in fact obvious to everyone with a sound mind.

He was talking to Brody, however. He gave Mitch a look of confusion. “The breaker?”

“The electrical breaker,” Mitch clarified, though he knew it was probably pointless. “Controls the electrical currents throughout the building.”

“I know what an electrical breaker is,” Brody snapped, though it wasn’t clear if he did.

Mitch sighed, striving for patience. “Power isn’t out all over HQ. We still have it here,” he explained. “So that means one of the breakers probably got tripped. All you have to do is go down, find the right breaker and flip it back into place.”

This was something most average people would have known.

Brody gave him a long, serious, contemplative look. Mitch held his tongue, preparing himself to further explain common sense to a grown man who should have known better. To his surprise, however, Brody finally nodded. “That’s in the utility room, right?”

Mitch was visibly relieved. “Under the showers, yes,” he said.

“Those are all wonky too,” Brody reported as he got to his feet. “Light were out, but it sounded like things were still running.”

“Well, flip the switch and we’ll figure it out,” Mitch said.

Brody gave him a mock salute. “Yes, sir.”

“Hey,” Mitch growled, but his voice didn’t carry any real menace. “Hurry it up! Shift starts at 0600!”

Brody rolled his eyes before disappearing into the hall.

Mitch gathered a breath, going back to his paperwork. Funny enough, he could trust Brody with this. He could actually trust Brody. He would do the things he said he was going to do. And really, what could go wrong with tripping a circuit breaker?

Suddenly, the lights in his office flickered. There was a loud bang as the power blinked out entirely.

Mitch’s stomach sank.

It looked like he was about to find out just what could go wrong.

Grabbing a flashlight from the emergency kit, Mitch started down the hallway. The sun outside hadn’t quite broke across the horizon yet, leaving the predawn rooms dim. Strictly speaking, Mitch didn’t need the light to navigate -- he knew every inch of HQ like the back of his hand -- but the lower level had less light access. The utility room didn’t even have windows. If Brody had screwed up something back there, he’d need to shed some light on the situation to figure it out.

Moving down the stairs, Mitch slowed down just a little. “Brody?” he called out, listening for signs of movements. He continued down the steps. “Is everything okay?”

There wasn’t any response, but Mitch didn’t slow down. Moving forward, he made his way through the dimness, reaching for the handle to the utility room. He stopped himself, however, when his foot came away wet.

Confused, he pointed his flashlight down. Water in HQ happened. They were lifeguards, after all. But Brody had been dry this morning, and there was no one else here.

On the ground, his flashlight reflected in a pool of water. The pool rippled and Mitch looked up, pointing his stream of light toward the ceiling. A drip fell free, falling into the puddle, and Mitch thought back to what Brody had told him about the showers.

The showers had automatic shut off valves, which prevented them from running indefinitely. However, the valves were electrical; the water itself didn’t use the circuits. Which meant it was possible for the water to keep running if the electrical controls were somehow inactivated.

This was, naturally, an unlikely series of events. The power disruption would have had to occur at the end of the shift last night, leaving at least one of the showers running all throughout the night. The timing of this situation made it somewhat inconceivable, but here Mitch was, looking at a power outage and a clear flood of water from the upper floors.

This conclusion was disconcerting.

It was not as disconcerting as the fact that there was standing water and Mitch had sent Brody in to play with the circuit breaker. Worse still, there was no word from Brody whatsoever.

Mindful to skirt the puddle, Mitch pushed open the door. “Brody? You in there?”

He took a hesitant step in, noting the haphazard spread of the water across the floor. Large portions were wet, though portions were still dry as more water dripped down through the ceiling tiles.

Flashing his light around, Mitch zeroed in on the circuit breaker. It was open, all the breakers turned to the correct side.

Then, he pointed the beam down.

That was when he saw the figure, sprawled face first in the water, completely still.

Mitch swore. “Brody!” he gritted through clenched teeth as he raced forward. He used wide steps, keeping his own feet clear of the water. There was no way to know for sure if the water had somehow been electrified -- was there an exposed power line, somehow -- or if Brody had merely forgotten the fact that water and electricity did not mix. All he knew was that if he got zapped, then Brody would drown in a few inches of water on dry land.

Balancing himself carefully, he grabbed Brody by the leg, dragged his limp body clear. Hastily, he got on his knees, using the flashlight to try to get a better look at Brody’s face.

What he saw was hardly encouraging.

Brody’s eyes were closed, his face pale. It was impossible to tell if he were breathing.

Anxiously, Mitch looked around, knowing he had to start assessing Brody’s condition in more detail. But the water levels were rising, and it was too hard to see in the dimness. It went against his instincts to move a victim before stabilizing the airway, but compromises were necessary.

He just hoped that this one wouldn’t cost Brody more than he could afford to give.

Grunting, Mitch abandoned the flashlight, pulling Brody to a sitting position instead. Quickly, he threw one of Brody’s arms over his shoulder, using his other arm to loop under Brody’s legs. The effect was essentially a bridal carry, and he hoisted Brody’s smaller frame up easily, balancing Brody’s limp neck against his own broad shoulder.

With broad steps, Mitch made his way out of the utility room. The light was better in the hallway, and Mitch dared to increase his strides, taking the stairs two at a time while Brody’s deadweight lay motionless in his arms. He tried not to think about it, the way Brody’s head lolled against his shoulder, the way his flaccid fingers brushed against his side, the way Brody was completely unresponsive. The way deadweight might be far too accurate of a term.

The upstairs was much better lit with the sunlight starting to show across the horizon line and filling the windows with brightness. He’d made it as far as he’d dared, dropping quickly to his knees before gently lowering Brody to the ground again, carefully supporting his neck before his head bounced off the hard surface floors.

Even here, in the hallway, Mitch’s training as a lifeguard overrode everything else. With skilled hands, he adjusted Brody’s neck to clear the airway before dipping his head down to listen for breath.

There was no soft tickle against his cheek; there was no movement to Brody’s chest. He waited an extra beat, just to be sure.

Clenching his jaw, he sat up rapidly, pressing two fingers steadily into the pulse point on Brody’s neck.

Logically, given that Brody had probably suffered from an extreme electrical shock, he knew there wouldn’t be a pulse.

Still, when he felt nothing but stillness beneath his chest, he felt the unusual vestiges of panic begin to set in.

He’d saved Brody before. He’d dragged him from the bottom of the ocean, he’d saved him from being held at gunpoint. He’d pulled him out of the water. Always, just in the nick of time.

This time, Brody was dead.

Laying on the ground before Mitch, Brody wasn’t breathing, he didn’t have a pulse.

He was already dead, and Mitch had already failed.

The thing was, though, that Mitch tried to save dead people on a regular basis. He’d performed more CPR than he could remember, and some of those people lived. Some of them died, sure, but some of them lived.

That was how he was able to do it again and again and again.

That was why he knew he couldn’t quit now.

Not when it was Brody.

Still, Mitch had to be realistic. CPR had saved lives, but most of the time, it didn’t bring people back. Usually, it served as a stopgap. Mitch used it as a first resort because he knew there was more advanced backup coming. The paramedics were always on their way with necessary life saving equipment and medication. Shots of epi, intubation kits and defibrillators.

Mitch blinked, the thoughts pouring through his mind in rapid succession.

CPR would help preserve brain function and organ vitality, but the odds were low that it would bring Brody back. Calling for help now would be a waste of precious seconds -- seconds Brody might not have. But if he didn’t call for help, then he had to be confident that he could bring Brody back on his own or he was essentially condemning the other man to death.

There was a third option, of course. And it was the hardest one of all. It involved leaving Brody, essentially dead in a hallway, and running back to his office where the HQ’s defibrillator was stored. He’d been the one to insist on getting one several years ago, even though Thorpe had said it wouldn’t be necessary. Mitch had argued about how split seconds mattered in an emergency, how having it on hand could mean the difference between life and death for one of their own.

Thorpe had acquiesced, but now that Mitch had the chance to prove his point, he found himself hesitating.

It would take time to go get it, time Brody had already lost too much of. And if it didn’t work. If Brody didn’t come back. Mitch would never forgive himself.

It was a split second debate.

It was a split second decision.

He spared Brody one last glance, where he was going gray on the ground before him.

It was the only motivation he needed.

Decided, Mitch got to his feet, sprinting down the hallway. Moving as fast as he was, Mitch skidded dangerously around a corner before picking up speed down another straight away. The device was strapped to the wall, the label still clear and pristine before Mitch yanked it clear and turned abruptly, losing his sandals as he sprinted all the way back.

His heart was hammering by the time he got back and dropped to his knees next to Brody. Fingers shaking -- exhaustion, he told himself, exhaustion -- he let the device clatter to the ground before ripping Brody’s shirt from collar to hem. He flung the two ends open, leaving Brody’s chest exposed as he opened the lid of the defibrillator and turned it on.

All those years ago, he’d been the one to explain how to use it. He’d been the one leading the training exercises. Still, when the device whirred to life, Mitch found he could hardly think. If not for the plaintive instructions offered by its mechanical voice, there was a good chance Mitch would have forgotten everything.

Quickly, Mitch removed the pads, pressing them firmly to the spots designated by the device. He ignored it as it confirmed that Brody had no pulse. Flicking a switch, he let the defibrillator charge, following the directions numbly when it told him to sit clear while the first shock was delivered.

The jolt made Brody’s body shudder, but he fell still again. The device announced that no pulse was detected again, and it prepared a second shock. Mitch could feel his own heart stuttering, and he felt the unfamiliar pangs of self doubt. Brody’s life had been in his hands; it had been his call. Whatever happened next, he’d have to live with it.

Even if Brody died.

He’d refused to think of that as a possibility so far. He’d refused to think of it when he dragged Brody from a cage from under the ocean. He’d not let himself entertain the notion when he found Brody with a gun to his head. And he’d not accepted it when he found Brody face first in the water after an explosion. Even dragging his ass up the stairs in the empty HQ, Mitch hadn’t really believed that Brody could die.

That was ridiculous, of course.

Especially since Brody was already dead.

Mitch held his breath, feeling his emotions mount desperately. This had been an accident, this whole thing had been an accident. Brody being a lifeguard, for goodness’ sake, had been nothing more than an accident.

And here they were.

Brody and Mitch.

Mitch and…

The second shock was delivered, rocking Brody’s still figure on the floor. This time, Brody convulse again, his mouth falling open as his chest inhaled sharply.

It worked.

Oh, shit, Mitch thought to himself with a jolt of realization. It actually worked.

On the ground, Brody was flailing weakly, and Mitch hastily bent over, rolling Brody to his side into recovery position. While Brody struggled to breathe, he laid a steady hand on Brody’s shoulder, leaning down close to make sure the younger man could tell he was there when he opened his eyes.

“Careful, man,” Mitch coached. “Even, steady breaths.”

For a moment, Brody obeyed. Then, contrarily, he opened his eyes. It wasn’t without some effort, and as much as Mitch knew Brody needed to rest, the thought of seeing him alert and awake was more than he could resist. Bending lower, he smiled reassuringly as Brody’s eyes came into focus, fixed resolutely on Mitch face.

“Hey, Backstreet Boy,” he quipped, forcing the words to sound light around the tightness in his own throat. “Welcome back.”

Still taking ragged breaths, Brody’s brow creased with a frown. “Did you just save my life?”

“Again,” Mitch confirmed, as if it hadn’t scared him shitless. “Asshole.”

This confirmation was what Brody had expected but it still seemed to bother him.

“At least you didn’t drown this time,” Mitch offered.

“What happened?” Brody asked, visibly trying to reconstruct the events of the past ten minutes.

“You went to trip the circuit breaker, but the showers had flooded the basement. You stepped in a pool of water,” Mitch explained. “Don’t you know that electricity and water don’t mix?”

“I guess I didn’t think about it,” Brody said vaguely. “You said we didn’t have time…”

Mitch gave a little huff. He preferred it when Brody’s lack of common sense was the punchline. When Brody’s desire to please him came into play, it could be emotionally inconvenient. “Well, you should have thought about that before you went and took us both off early shift this morning,” Mitch said. “I’m going to have to get back up in here ASAP.”

“I’m fine,” Brody started to say, attempting to push himself up. His face drained of color rapidly, and he was falling back to the ground before Mitch could push him back down. Brody blinked a few times, as if to clear his vision. “Mostly.”

“Uh huh,” Mitch said, letting his skepticism speak for itself. “We need to get you to a hospital.”

This time, it was Mitch who helped pull Brody up, making sure to keep his movements slow and steady as he helped the smaller man maneuver into a sitting position. The exertion had clearly been too much for Brody, who allowed himself to rest upright against Mitch’s chest, close enough for Mitch to feel the reassuring heartbeat through his own shirt.

“Thanks,” Brody said, a little breathless as he tried to get himself together. “For, you know. Saving me. Again.”

Mitch smirked, shaking his head. “I’d say any time, but I don’t want you to take me literally,” he said, guiding Brody the rest of the way to his feet, shouldering most of his weight while they did so. Brody wavered, but Mitch held fast. “Now come on. We really do need to get you to a hospital.”

Taking a shaky step, Brody leaned into Mitch even more. “Yes, sir,” he said, but this time, there was no trace of irony.

Just relief.

And Mitch knew exactly how he felt.

This was a debt Brody probably would never repay.

He was damn lucky Mitch didn’t expect him too.

All he wanted was to never, ever do this again.

PART TWO