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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Baywatch fic: Beggars and Choosers (1/2)

December 24th, 2018 (08:55 pm)

Title: Beggars and Choosers

Disclaimer: I got nothing.

Rating: M

A/N: Fill for my begging square on hc_bingo. Unbeta’ed.

Summary: Mitch has never begged before in his life, not once. As it turns out, begging is easy. When you finally have something you don’t want to lose.



-o-

Mitch doesn’t beg.

He just doesn’t.

It’s not a question of being too proud or too strong or too macho or some other bullshit. Mitch just doesn’t have to beg. He knows what he’s doing, which avoids the problem nine times out of ten, and when something is truly out of his hands, he just accepts it.

Plain and simple.

You’ll never hear Mitch Buchannon beg.

But then Matt Brody comes into his life.

-o-

This isn’t about Brody, though. Not really. This is about Mitch.

This is about Mitch, walking into HQ one morning to find it dark and empty. The off-season on a Sunday; no one would be there for hours. So when Mitch hears a noise, he thinks, what the hell?


Opening the door to his office, someone jumps him from behind the door and Mitch starts to fight. But then another guy comes from behind and smashed Mitch over the head with something hard.

Shit, Mitch thinks as he passes out. This really is about Mitch.

-o-

When comes to, he finds that he’s in a chair. Not just in a chair; he’s literally tied to it.

He pulls at the bonds, seeing how tight they are.

Unfortunately, they’re pretty tight.

He tugs again, really making an effort this time.

They’re super tight.

Then he realizes the ropes are not his biggest problem.

Nope, his biggest problem is the two dudes, one of whom is holding a gun.

Which is pointed straight at Mitch’s head.

-o-

“Beg,” one of them says. He’s the bigger one, the one Mitch had seen hiding behind the door in his office. He’s burly, white and very nondescript. He looks angry, though. “Beg for your life.”

The gun is a compelling case, but Mitch looks from the guy with the gun to his partner not far away. This guy is also white, but smaller. His eyes are darker, and Mitch knows in a second that this is the one who knows what’s what.

“Beg for your life!” the big guy says again, the gun shaking in his agitation.

Mitch looks between them again. “Why?” he asks.

The big guy flinches. “What?”

“Why should I beg?” Mitch says.

The guy steps forward, moving the muzzle closer to Mitch’s head. “Because I’m going to kill you if you don’t.”

“If you were going to kill me, you’d probably have done it by now,” Mitch reasons with more confidence than he probably has reason to feel at the moment. He looks back at the other guy. “So what is it you want exactly?”

This is the question, and Mitch can tell it gives the smaller guy some satisfaction to answer it. Villains, even bad ones, like to monologue, apparently. “We want the paperwork,” he says, and he’s trying to look smug. It makes him look diminutive, however. Like a cartoon instead of an actual bad guy. “The paperwork that proves our brother is innocent.”

That is not an answer Mitch quite knows what to do with. He looks at the two men again, and he can see the resemblance. However, he’s not sure he can place these two yahoos with any of the people he’s met on the beach. Moreover, he’s not sure what paperwork they would possibly have to prove anything. Despite Mitch’s insistence on taking cases, he knows they don’t have legal jurisdiction. Their documents are for funding and statistical tracking.

He starts with the more obvious question, however. “Who’s your brother?”

“Leon,” the big guys says with a grunt.

That doesn’t help.

The smaller guy clarifies. “He was a bodyguard for your friend Leeds.”

Mitch has a headache, he’s tied to a chair and there’s a gun to his head. He comes to the conclusion as quickly as he can. “Oh,” he says, and he can’t stop himself from adding, “One of her goons?”

“He wasn’t a goon!” the smaller man all but yells. His voice echoes off the empty walls of the office. “He was a bodyguard!”

“Yeah!” the bigger guy yells. He’s clearly the younger brother here, Mitch can see that now. The small one is the middle brother, full of insecurities. “And you got him killed!”

“Uh, no,” Mitch says. “Did you read the report about Leeds?”

The report which delineated her many crimes including the murder of one of her henchmen. Mitch has read that report. Truth be told, he only vaguely remembers that night due to being shot and jacked up on urchin venom.

He’s not sure that’s what these two want to hear, however.

The smaller one glares at him. “I know she put the bullets into him, but it was you who brought the case together, you who made sure there was evidence to bring her -- and everyone around her -- down,” he spits, a little venomously. The younger brother inches closer to Mitch for good measure. “You locked all his accounts, and the civil cases have taken everything we have!”

Family revenge, Mitch sort of gets.

Monetary compensation; now that actually makes sense. You don’t break into an office, take someone hostage and hold a gun to their head to avenge a deadbeat brother who took to a life of crime and who was legally proven to be guilty as sin. However, you might break into an office, take someone hostage and hold a gun to their head to get money.

It’s still among the stupidest things Mitch has ever heard. Hostage or not, he snorts. “Your brother did that all by himself.”

“He was just a guy working a job!” the small one yells. He gets in Mitch’s face, spitting a little in a way that somehow manages not to be menacing at all. “Just like we are!”

Mitch has a lot of doubts about a lot of things, but that gun is a little closer to his head than he would prefer. He wets his lips and tries not to be a smartass. “So, let me get this right,” he says, glancing between the two brothers. He actually feels ridiculous, knowing their story, that he managed to let them get the drop on him. He’ll never live this down. “You broke in here, Baywatch headquarters, to steal paperwork about your brother, who worked for Leeds?”

He says this like he hopes they might get the problem.

He’s not surprised when they don’t.

“We’re lifeguards, guys,” he says. “Not the cops.”

The bigger one seems disconcerted by this revelation. The fact that it’s a revelation is telling. “But you gathered all the evidence,” he says, and the gun falters a little in his confusion. He looks to his brother. “Right?”

“Of course they did!” the other one says. “It made all the papers, how it was the lifeguards who solved the case. It was a big ass deal!”

“Sure,” Mitch says, because he’s not going to deny that he spearheaded the investigation when Ellerbee would have let it ride, and the he was the one responsible for bringing the case to justice. “But we turned over the evidence to the cops. They still have it, along with any paperwork.”

The older one is vexed by this, and Mitch tries not to laugh at the fact that this is the worst plan he’s ever heard. He has to be careful, not just because they have a gun and he’s tied to a chair, but because these two non-criminal masterminds got the better of him.

Still vexed, the older one ducks close to the younger one and they whisper for a moment. Mitch politely pretends not to hear, though the fact that they are berating each other and considering what the hell to do next is not hard to see.

Finally, in a fit of frustration, the smaller one turns back around. “Fine!” he says, throwing his hands up a little as the younger brother moves the gun back toward Mitch’s head. “We want the money, then!”

This is going from ridiculous to nonsensical. “What money?”

“All of the money!” the younger one yells, seemingly inspired by this turn of events. He jabs the gun at Mitch. “All of it!”

Mitch ducks away from the muzzle as best he can, but endeavors to remain nonplussed. He knows these two aren’t criminal masterminds, but they’re stupid enough to pull the trigger. “What money do you think we have?”

“There’s always money,” the small one snaps. “Funding, payroll, equipment, whatever. There’s money.”

Mitch can’t even laugh at this one because there’s no basis to go with. “Look,” he says, hoping to sound reasonable now. “You made a mistake. Your plan was a little hasty. There’s no evidence. There’s no money.”

The bigger guy looks like he might cry now. He jabs the gun at Mitch again. “Shut up and give us what we want!”

Mitch tries to shrug his shoulders despite the fact that he’s tied down. “I can’t!”

The smaller guy seems fed up with this. Frustrated, he snatches the gun from his brother, shoving him out of the way. “I think maybe you can.”

“How?” Mitch asks.

The gun is moved forward, this time until it presses against the skin of Mitch’s forehead. “No justice, no money,” he says. “Okay. So we’ll settle on revenge.”

For the first time since this started, Mitch’s heart skips a beat.

The gun is cocked, and this time, when the smaller guy sneers, it’s actually kind of effective. “Beg,” he orders. “Beg for your life or I’m going to pull the trigger right here and right now.”

-o-

Mitch doesn’t beg.

He just doesn’t.

It’s not a question of being too proud or too strong or too macho or some other bullshit. Mitch just doesn’t have to beg. He knows what he’s doing, which avoids the problem nine times out of ten, and when something is truly out of his hands, he just accepts it.

Plain and simple.

Also, in this case, why give this idiots the satisfaction? This is a farce; they want him to perform. And even if he does, it’s not going to save Mitch’s life. These guys either have the balls to shoot him or will end up letting him go. Mitch’s begging is just a stopgap between one of those conclusions; it’s not a contributing factor to anything.

It’s not that Mitch doesn’t want to live. Sure, he’d rather not die today. But he trusts his own strength, ingenuity and dignity more than he trusts these assholes.

“Let’s just talk about this,” Mitch reasons instead, testing his bonds again and judging the strength of the chair he’s sitting in to see if he could bust out of it. He doubts that, but it might be an effective weapon if he can get any leverage. “Like rational adults.”

That’s a stretch, he knows, but he finds that treating people with respect will sometimes make them respect themselves even more.

The younger one bellows. “Shoot him!”

“Beg!” the older one shouts, pressing the gun more firmly to Mitch’s head.

He allows himself a wince this time. Clearly, respect is not something these guys have going for them. “I’m sure we can come to some kind of agreement,” Mitch says.

“You said there’s no money!” the younger one protests. He looks to his brother, as if for confirmation. “Or evidence.”

The only confirmation is the tightening of his brother’s jaw as he stares Mitch down. “I just want to hear you beg,” he says, letting the words drip from his lips. “Beg right now.”

Mitch considers: standing and ramming the men, offering lies of compensation, or even begging to buy himself a few moments. He’s not sure which option he likes best when suddenly there’s a sound.

It’s not ominous like the sound of a bullet in a gun.

More like the sound of a door opening and someone climbing the stairs.

The two men, however, find that quite ominous. They scramble, pulling the gun away as they regroup and face the door. Mitch is relieved momentarily, because he couldn’t bring himself to beg.

You’ll never hear Mitch Buchannon beg.

But then Matt Brody comes into his life.

And up the stairs.

Right into the line of fire.

-o-

It could be anyone on staff, Mitch knows this. It’s most likely to be Casey Jean, who works more hours than any of them. It could be a janitor for all he knows. CJ and Ronnie coming back for something they left yesterday. Summer who wants to study some more because she always does.

But Mitch knows, somehow.

He knows from the early hour and the sound of the footfalls on the stairs, familiar and comfortable and in synch with Mitch’s own. Mitch has trained Brody, shaped him into the lifeguard, the man he is today. He and Brody are inseparable, even though neither or them admit it, they’re best friends. They live together, work together, exist together.

Because if Mitch comes in early on a day off, there’s one person who’s likely to follow him. One person who’s likely to come in just to lend a hand. One person who’s likely to stop by to bring him coffee, donuts or take him out for lunch.

One person.

Brody.

Stupid, well intentioned and likely to get himself killed.

Mitch’s first instinct is to yell a warning, but the muzzle of the gun is jammed so hard into the back of his head that he finds himself unable to speak. It presses deeper still as the younger brother situations himself behind the door, a repeat of the overly simplistic ambush from before.

It’s crude, Mitch thinks.

But as Brody comes into view, Mitch remembers with a throbbing headache just how effective it was.

He hates to admit it, but he’s completely helpless as Brody makes his way into Mitch’s office. At first, he’s smiling.

Then, he sees the gun.

And the dude holding it.

“What the hell--” he starts to say, but he’s cut off when the younger brother comes charging out of his hiding place. He catches Brody with a hard punch across the jaw, which sends Brody reeling. As he rights himself, barely keeping his feet, the guy follows up with another punch, and another.

Before a hard cross to Brody’s temple sends him crumpling to the floor.

Brody’s clearly unconscious, but this day has not gone the way any of them planned. Mitch just wanted to get some work done, and these two brother had planned a quick plot for justice. Or money.

The fact that it has failed so miserably is not Mitch’s fault; it’s not Brody’s fault.

But that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

In a fit of rage, the younger brother lashes out at Brody again, showering his unconscious figure with kicks up and down his torso, with a vicious one that comes close to shattering Brody’s nose if the amount of blood that spurts from it is any indication.

“Whoa, hey!” Mitch yells, straining despite his better knowledge against the bonds. “He’s already unconscious!”

This does not seem compelling to the younger guy, who stomps on Brody’s knee so hard that Mitch hears a crack.

“Seriously!” he says, even louder now as he watched with horror. “Just chill!”

The guy doesn’t seem to listen to Mitch, but the guy’s brother finally intervenes. “Come on, ease up,” he says. “We don’t even know who that guy is.”

The big guy seems to hear that, but he doesn’t seem to like it. He steps away from Brody, and looks at him as if the first time. “He’s a lifeguard, right?”

“Well, probably, but I haven’t fully decided if we hate all lifeguards right now or just this one,” the smaller guy says. He’s still got the gun on Mitch, but it’s not pressed to his head anymore as he seems to contemplate the morality of this situation.

This is laughable, of course. They came to steal and possibly murder. It’s not clear to Mitch how going after Brody changes anything.

The big guy nudges Brody with his foot, kicking him over onto his back. Mitch grits his teeth together when he sees the damage to Brody’s face. The blood from his nose make everything look macabre, and there’s significant swelling around one eye. It’s hard to tell, but Mitch is pretty sure Brody’s lip is split badly and there’s a gash near his hairline.

As he tries to conclude how bad Brody’s injuries are, the big guy concludes something different. “Hey! I know this guy!”

The little guy peeks over, but he appears to not particularly enjoy looking at Brody’s bloodied face. “Yeah?”

“This is the Vomit Comet!” the guy says, and he sounds a little excited about that.

“The who?” the other guy says.

The big guy squats down, and Mitch’s stomach tightens. Brody hates that nickname, but he’s also pretty sure Brody will hate being beaten to a pulp, so nothing about this situation is going well. Squatting next to Brody, the big guy reaches down and turns Brody’s face toward him. “Yeah, he was in the Olympics,” he said. “Barfed in the pool. What an asshole.”

He seems impressed by this revelation, as though he’s pleased with himself for beating up said asshole. Mitch starts to squirm again.

Behind him, the other guy seems to put something together. “Wait, Olympian? Matt Brody?”

“He’s a lifeguard now,” Mitch says, hoping to distract them from Brody. “He’s nobody here.”

The smaller guy comes around a little, still holding the gun up but it’s not directly pointed at Mitch’s head. That doesn’t do Mitch much good, seeing as he’s still very much tied up, but it’s still a bit nice not to feel like he’s going to have a bullet put through his skull at any second.

The smaller guy looks a bit awed. “Matt Brody was his accomplice,” he says, and he looks at Brody with a little more interest now.

Mitch’s stomach tenses.

The smaller guy looks back at him knowingly. “Wasn’t he?”

“I didn’t commit a crime, so there’s no accomplice for anything,” Mitch tells him, trying not to sound threatening. He wants to sound threatening, but as he’s in no position to threaten, he figures it’s best not to purposefully provoke them right now.

The smaller guy shakes his head. “Partner then, whatever,” he says. “He was there, though. When our brother died. He was there.”

The big guy looks at Brody with suspicion now. “He was?”

“Yeah,” the smaller guy says, and his eyes narrow at Mitch. “Wasn’t he?”

Mitch struggles with this one. He doesn’t like to lie. He doesn’t. It’s not in his nature.

But to save a life?

To save Brody’s life?


Would a lie be justified somehow?

Ultimately, the point proves moot. Mitch’s hesitation is all the smaller guy needs. He nods, something clearly solidified in his expression. “He was,” he says. And then he seems to have an even more pronounced revelation. “He’s your friend, isn’t he? What is they say about Baywatch? It’s not just a team?”

“Oh!” the bigger guy says, getting to his feet sounding excited. “It’s family!”

Mitch presses his lips together and refuses to speak. Normally, he’s proud of how well Baywatch is known throughout the bay. Usually, it’s a good thing.

Tied to a chair with Brody on the ground and crazy men with guns looking for any sign of weakness? Makes it less a good thing.

Mitch’s silence is confirmation enough.

This time, when the small guy smirks, it’s cold and calculated. He nods a few times. “Get the Vomit Comet up,” he orders. “Tie him to the other chair.”

The younger brother furrows his brow. “But what--?”

“Just do it,” the smaller one says. “I think I have an idea you’re going to like.”

As the bigger man shrugs, reaching down to hoist Brody up, the smaller one takes a step closer to Mitch, the muzzle of the gun dangerously close to his head again.

“And I think you, my oversized friend,” he says, and by this point, he’s actually getting effectively ominous like practice has finally made perfect. “Are going to hate this idea.”

Sitting there, watching Brody be dragged to a chair, gun to Mitch’s head, Mitch had to concede, the guy is probably right. Mitch already hates everything about this idea.

-o-

Mitch stays silent while the larger guy manhandles Brody up. He grits his teeth as he drops Brody several times, trying to figure out the best way to go about things before finally moving the chair closer before hefting Brody up and dumping him unceremoniously inside. Mitch hates to think how they handled his mass; Brody’s that much smaller than Mitch, and the guy is having a hell of a time making it work.

When Brody is finally slumped in the chair, the big guy sets to tying his arms and legs down. For all that he doesn’t know shit about other things, the big guy clearly knows how to tie knots. Mitch’s own are immovable, and Brody’s are so tight that Mitch can see where the ropes cut into the exposed skin on his wrists and ankles.

The process feels like it takes forever, but Mitch estimates it only takes about five minutes. During that time, Brody is completely lifeless. His head is tipped forward, and Mitch watches as blood drips from his nose on to his shorts. Mitch’s own headache is enough of a suggestion of a head injury; Brody’s obviously fared a lot worse.

Finally, the big guy steps back and gives Brody a look, nodding a little as if satisfied with his work.

Mitch can’t help himself; he glares. “So now what?”

The smaller guy has gained some confidence since their last go around. He looks down his nose at Mitch. “The same thing as before,” he says simply. “I want you to beg.”

Mitch sighs, because this is getting wearisome now. “I’ve already told you,” he says. “I’m not going to beg for my life.”

The bigger guy looks disconcerted, as if he’s panicking because the plan isn’t work. He looks anxiously at his older brother.

The older brother doesn’t look back. He’s too busy grinning at Mitch, as if he’s figured out a secret that no one else has yet. Mitch feels his stomach flutter just slightly. “I know,” he says, a little conversationally now. “I don’t want you to beg for your own life.”

With that -- and Mitch has to admit, it is an effectively dramatic flourish -- the smaller man turns the gun away from Mitch, leveling it straight at Brody’s head.

He looks back at Mitch, unabashedly triumphant. “But I think you might beg for his.”

-o-

Shit.

That’s all Mitch can think for about three seconds.

Shit.

Shit, shit, shit.

A gun to his own head, he can go with that. He can work with it. But a gun to Brody’s head? Mitch has been here before, but last time he’d been so jacked up on urchin venom that he hadn’t really had the wherewithal to think about the reality of the situation. This time, there’s no urchin venom. There’s no backup. And Brody’s already unconscious, so he’s not going to be any help.

Plus, Mitch is literally tied down. His fingers curl, but he knows there’s no point. There’s nothing he can do to get out of his bonds fast enough to prevent this asshole from getting a shot off.

This is bad.

This is really, really bad.

What can Mitch do? Stall for time? Hope that his bonds come loose so he can mount some kind of counter offensive? Maybe hope that Brody works up and that they can play these doofuses together? There’s a chance someone else may come in if Mitch can play this out long enough, but Mitch has to play this out.

Shit.

He comes to the conclusion about three seconds after that.

He has to play this out.

Breath tight in his chest, he shakes his head. “This is pointless,” he says. “Killing him won’t get you anything except a prison sentence.”

Logic is something; logic can be a bid for time.

The little guy is unconvinced. In fact, he’s not even remotely swayed. “Nah,” he says. “I’ll get revenge. I’m this far into this, and if that’s all I can pull out, then it’s enough for me.”

Mitch isn’t panicking, but the urgency of the situation is more and more acute by the minute. He wishes Brody would wake up, but Brody will not oblige him for nice. “It just puts you in prison,” he explains reasonably. Then, he adds, less reasonably, “Which is where your brother would be if Leeds hadn’t killed him.”

So Mitch probably shouldn’t have said it. But he does mean it. And these assholes don’t seem to get the implications of their choices here. Maybe Mitch can chalk it up to tough love.

The little guy scrunches up his face in disdain. “Shut up!” he yells, and Mitch’s voice catches in his throat as the guy lashes out, striking Brody in the head with the gun. The contact us sudden and violent. Brody’s head rocks back, his head lolling forward again after the impact.

Mitch winces. So logic is out. Tough love is, too. “Okay, okay,” he says, words in a rush as he tries to placate this time. “You don’t need to hit him. Just stop.”

The little guy likes this, although the brute looks a little uncertain about what comes next. They’re off book now, which Mitch can’t see being a good thing.

Worse, the little guy is having fun now. He likes it when Mitch placates him, but he has no obvious intention of actually being placated. “What’s that?” he asks with a taunt, and he steps closer to Brody with the gun to prove his sadistic point.

Mitch endeavors to keep his voice even, betraying as little emotion as possible even as blood continues to stain Brody’s shorts. “You don’t have to hurt him.”

The little guy clicks his tongue, shaking his head. “Nope, not good enough,” he says, maintaining an ominous position next to Brody. “You need to beg. Really beg.”

Peril or not, Mitch can’t bring himself to do it. “Seriously, I’m the one you want, not him,” he says, trying to play up his importance now. “I’m the one who led the investigation, and I’m the one making decisions here. I’m the one who can help you, but only if you let Brody go.”

Mitch won’t beg, but he will make a deal. He’d be happy to promise these idiots anything. Hell, he’d take them down to reporting, find them some files and even write them a check. The files are worthless, and the check would be voided instantly, but Mitch isn’t above a bribe to save Brody’s life.

His offer is met with hope from the big guy. The little shakes his head, face set in determination. “You know, I don’t think that’s what I want, not anymore,” he says, gun still fixed on Brody’s unmoving form. “You’re right, none of the rest will work, but maybe I don’t need it. I came here because you hurt us. You took something from us, something that matters more than money or justice.”

Mitch strains against his bonds again, but they don’t give as the guy moves the gun a little closer to Brody’s head.

“Maybe the only thing I need to do is take something from you,” he says, and he seems unduly pleased with his revelation. His eyes flicker to Brody. “Something that matters.”

The guy is fishing for a reaction; Mitch tries not to give one to him. “He’s just a coworker,” he says. “There are a two dozen lifeguards on the crew.”

Mitch doesn’t lie out of habit, but that doesn’t mean he can’t do it.

It just seems to piss the little guy off. His face contorts, sneer deepening as he reaches out and takes a handful of Brody’s hair, yanking his head back. Brody, still unconscious, doesn’t have any idea what’s going on, but the little guy rams his gun hard into Brody’s temple anyway.

Mitch can’t hide his reaction this time. The wince on his face, the jerk against his bonds; it’s small stuff.

These guys are pretty stupid, but they’re not that stupid.

The little guy grins. “More than a coworker I think,” he says, glancing to his brother as if for affirmation. The big guy is wide eyed; he’s still not sure what the end game is. Mitch is pretty sure that’s a bad sign. The little guy looks back at Mitch. “Should I kill him, then?”

“No,” Mitch says, and he can afford to be emphatic about that. “Just, come on. He’s got nothing to do with this. Let him go.”

Fingers still wrapped in Brody’s hair, gun still jammed with unnecessary roughness into Brody’s temple, the little guy smiles. “Then beg.”

He’s so smug, so self satisfied; Mitch shakes his head. “You’re making a mistake,” he says. “Your brother wouldn’t want you to throw your life away.”

Mitch has no idea if that’s true, but an emotional ploy is all he’s got left.

“Nah, Leon wouldn’t care,” the little guys. He glances at the bigger one. “Isn’t that right?”

“Yeah, he was always asking us to steal shit with him before Leeds hired him,” the little guy says. “He said it was the best job he ever had.”

Of course he did. Mitch feels himself start to deflate as he mentally scrambles for something, anything.

Then, the little guy ups the ante. He cocks the gun. “Beg for his life,” he says, and he’s dead serious now. “Or I put a bullet through his temple and call it a day.”

Mitch is out of options. He can’t move; there’s no way he’s breaking free in time to do shit. Reason’s not going to work. This has gone way past bribery. There are no emotional ploys that are going to be effective. Mitch has to hold on, he has to drag this out in the hope that someone else shows up and soon.

And in the meantime, Mitch has to save a life.

That’s the job.

That means facing any danger, every peril.

It even means begging.

Demeaning himself, going lower than he is.

For Brody, it means laying himself down in any way he can.

“Okay, okay,” he says. “Don’t kill him. Please, don’t kill him.”

The little guy gives Brody’s head a jerk, leaning forward with a menacing smile. “What’s that? I can’t hear you.”

Mitch’s heart is racing; his palms are starting to sweat. The blood is rushing to his head, and he stares at the bruises blossoming around Brody’s slack features, all of which are obscured by red. “Please,” Mitch says, giving the word an emphasis he doesn’t have to fake. “Don’t kill him.”

“Can you hear him?” the guy turns to his brother. The brother shrugs stupidly, as the little guy wheels back around, driving the muzzle of the gun even harder into Brody’s exposed temple. “I can’t hear him.”

Now Mitch’s throat is threatening to close, and there is burning in his eyes. “For the love of God, don’t kill him,” he says, letting his voice rise a little bit. He can’t quite keep the wobble out of it. “Please, don’t kill him!”

Because what’s the point of holding onto the rest? What’s the point of being proud or confident or sure or right? What’s the point of any of it if it means Brody has to die?

Mitch can’t pretend this is just another day at the beach. There’s no way to pretend like Brody’s just another victim. Sure, Mitch feels bad about everyone he loses on the beach -- he does -- but this is Brody.

Shit, he’s not come to realize the weight of that until he’s staring at it down the barrel of a gun.

Brody’s changed him, just as much as he’s changed Brody. Brody’s changed everything, and Mitch can’t sit here and act like there’s no sacrifice he’s not willing to make if it saves Brody’s life.

The weight of this realization nearly guts Mitch, and he feels panic grip him with a ferocity he’s never known. He’s never been afraid, but he’s scared shitless right now

The realization seems to only please the little guy more. “I’m not sure I follow your meaning,” he says mockingly, tapping the barrel of the gun against Brody’s head for what he appears to think is good measure. “Can you please be a little clearer for me?”

Mitch has nothing left. Every truth he thought he knew, he has to question. Every constant he’s held to is suddenly suspect. At this point, Mitch has no idea what he’s doing, and all that’s left is the gun to Brody’s head and the words spilling out of Mitch’s mouth.

“I’m begging,” he says, and his voice breaks on the word but he doesn’t stop. He can’t stop. “I’m begging you to let him go.”

It’s as much as he can give.

The little guy with the gun recognizes that much. He knows when he’s won. After a tense moment, he draws back the gun, letting Brody’s head drop again. There’s a look -- confusion and somehow relief -- on his younger brother’s face, but Mitch is too busy trying to discern the little guy’s next move to worry much about that.

He straightens a bit, and he looks clearly pleased with himself. “That’s better,” he says, and there’s a note of surprise in his voice, like he hadn’t actually expected it to work.

Like he hadn’t expected to break Mitch.

At this point, Mitch can bring himself to care. There’s no shame, no regret: just Brody. “So you’ll let him go?”

The thing about begging, and it’s the thing that Mitch has known since the start. It’s one reason why he doesn’t normally beg: it rarely works.

It’s such a simple truth, such a self evident one.

One that the fear of Brody’s life being wasted in front of his eyes has made him forget.

He remembers, however.

As the little guy saunters back toward him, he remembers.

“Nah,” he says. “Where’s the fun in that?”

Red suffuses Mitch’s face, and he feels his body start to roil with rage. He’s a big guy, but he’s not an angry guy. He can pull of big and scary, but everyone knows that he’s really just a teddy bear most of the time. The truth is, he doesn’t need to get angry most of the time. Usually, he’s too self controlled to bother.

He’s losing it now.

And he’s not just angry.

He’s pissed.

If these assholes are going to make him beg, then they better give him what he asks for.

Or, straight up, they’re going to have to kill him.

“I gave you what you want,” Mitch says, and he growls out the words. “Now let him go.”

“Oh, that’s cute, it is,” he says.

He squats down to look Mitch in the eye. He’s more diminutive this way, and the fact that he’s got the upper hand in this situation makes Mitch hate him more. The guy is lucky Mitch’s bonds are so tight or it’s quite possible that Mitch would rip this asshole’s head off with his bare hands. The guy seems to know this; he seems to relish it. He pats Mitch on the head.

“You did do what I asked, I have to give you that,” he says. “So I’ll do you a favor.”

Mitch’s eyes slip back to Brody, who’s resumed a slumped position in the chair, still totally unaware of what’s going on.

“I’ll give you a fighting chance,” he says.

Before Mitch has time to ask the question, the guy is on his feet again, moving the gun so fast that Mitch doesn’t have time to protest. The butt of the gun connects with Mitch’s head, and pain explodes through it again. There’s a curse, a second blow, and that’s all there is.

-o-

It’s funny, actually. When Mitch thinks about it, it just seems funny. This whole situation would have been so much easier if Brody just hadn’t showed up. It’d be less complicated, less dangerous, less emotionally fraught.

And really, when you get right down to it, that’s an apt metaphor for Brody’s entire stint at Baywatch. All things being equal, Mitch’s life would be so much easier if Brody wasn’t around. It’d be less complicated, less dangerous, less emotionally fraught.

There’s a catch, though.

One that Mitch is just now able to appreciate.

None of that makes it better.

Mitch has never begged before in his life, not once.

As it turns out, begging is easy.

When you finally have something you don’t want to lose.

-o-

He wakes up with a cough.

Then, a pounding headache blinds him before he even as a chance to open his eyes. It takes several long seconds to sort through that pain, and several more seconds after that before he realizes that his eyes are, in fact, already open.

He coughs again.

It’s dark in here.

Inhaling, he chokes and there’s an acrid smell burning in his nose.

Burning.

Dumbly, he grapples with the ground, managing to get himself up to a sitting position. He recognizes this place, but only dimly. It’s the basement storage room; not a place often accessed or used.

Dimly isn’t just because of his pounding headache.

It’s also not because it’s a dark, closed off room with no natural light.

It’s also because it’s on fire.

Mitch takes several seconds to process that.

Shit, it’s on fire.

Mitch scrambles to his hands and knees, staying below the worst of the smoke as he tries to orient himself among the flames. He remembers the outline of this room roughly -- the multiple head injuries don’t help -- and he makes a mental note of the source of the flames in comparison to the closest -- and only -- exit.

It’s not ideal. The fire has been started near the exit.

No doubt, when the two jackasses left.

Mitch trusts that they’re well and gone now. They’re not criminal masterminds, and they probably wouldn’t have the guts to stick around if they thought emergency personnel would be coming. Mitch has to cut them some slack, however; they were smart enough to start the fire in a secluded place so that it may take several additional minutes for the fire alarms to sound.

Groping around, Mitch tries to feel his way forward, mindful of any impediments in his path. He has to get out of here, and find Brody--

He stops.

The instant he thinks it, he has cold fear wash over him despite the fact that the flames are licking up the walls.

Brody was with him.

Brody had also been beaten far worse than Mitch had, even with the last two blows to the head taken into consideration. If Brody’s trapped somewhere, there’s no chance he’s getting out on his own.

Worse, Mitch remembers the last promise the little guy gave him.

A fighting chance.

It’s not likely that they have conveniently left Brody upstairs. But, Mitch also has to think, it’s not likely that they were smart enough to separate them by much. This is a fast job, the slipshod kind that are not thought through. Brody’s probably nearby.

Mitch has a fighting chance to find him and drag him out to safety.

Before they both die in here.

“Brody!” he calls out, feeling back in the opposite direction, away from the door and away from safety. “Brody!”

There’s no reply, at least not from Brody. The fire catches on one of the adjacent walls, sending fresh sparks crackling into the air.

Mitch moves faster, a little more purposefully as he feels around the ground, squinting as best he can against the burning of the smoke in his eyes. “Brody! Talk to me!”

This reminds him a little of the first time he saved Brody, from underneath the bay behind the bars of the cage. Mitch hadn’t seen the cage go in the water, and he’d had to guess the location of the cage to the best of his ability.

Of course, that had been underwater. Mitch is good underwater. He’d guessed right, almost on the first try, and he’d gotten Brody out before he drowned.

This isn’t the water.

Mitch isn’t any good here.

And he has no bearings or instincts to help him figure out where Brody is.

“Brody!” he calls again, going as close to the far wall as he can, patting his way along on his hands and feet while the smoke continues to thicken above him. He starts a methodical course, as best he can, moving from one end to another, searching for any sign.

He’s coming up blank.

He coughs again, wishing he had something to cover his mouth with to minimize the smoke in his lungs.

At the end of the line, he makes a hard turn, going back the other way.

“Come on, Brody!” he yells, and he feels his resolve slipping toward desperation now. The fire is growing in size and intensity. It’s harder to see; harder to breathe.

He tries to increase his speed, increase his range. Something, anything.

“Brody!” he all but screams it now, voice cracking under the heat of the fire as it starts to burn the ceiling. Surely the fire alarm has been tripped; surely. But this far down, they’ll be hard to find. Help might come too late.

Mitch might be too late.

It’s all getting away from him now, not just the situation but his emotions. He’s given too much; he’s gone too far. He needs to walk away with Brody.

Or he’s not walking away at all.

“Matt, please!” he calls out, and he stops for a moment, trying to catch his breath. “Matt, answer me!”

It took him weeks to use Brody’s actual name and not insulting nicknames. In the months since then, he’s never once acknowledged Brody’s first name.

It’s too close, too familiar.

Too vulnerable.

It’s the only name he can think of now.

“Matt!” he says, and there are tears streaking down his face now. “Matt, you got to help me here! You have to answer!”

For the second time in the same day, Mitch begs.

Unabashedly.

He begs.

The first time left him wanting.

This time, however, it pays off.

There’s a pitiful groan, almost inaudible over the flames. Then, Mitch hears a weak voice call his name. “Mitch?”

Galvanized, Mitch’s adrenaline starts to mount again. Fight or flight: what the hell, he’ll do both if necessary. “Matt!”

There’s another groan, a little louder. More confused, though. “Mitch?”

Mitch traces the sound, turning rapidly until he sees the faintest flash of movement through the fog of smoke that is thickening with each passing second.

Scrambling now, Mitch races on all fours to the location, honing in on Brody, who is still on the floor. He’s on his back, chest rising and falling rapidly as he blinks dazedly up at the ceiling, which is now starting to blaze.

Mitch doesn’t pay it much heed.

Instead, he grins at Brody. “Hey, buddy,” he says. “You ready to get out of here?”

Brody can only see out of one eye; the other is swollen shut. The blood has at least stopped by now, but the dried tracks over his face give him a gory visage. The bruises have visibly set in by now, and Brody doesn’t appear to know where he is or what the hell is happening.

This could be the obvious concussion he’s sustained.

Or it could just be the fact that Brody walked into a hostage situation and got the shit beat out of him before he had the chance to even realize it was a hostage situation.

Mitch can figure out which later.

First: “Come on,” he cajoles, reaching down to take Brody by the arm. “We need to get you out of here.”

Brody gets to a sitting position, but when Mitch shifts his weight, Brody slumps back down again. Mitch catches him with a curse, propping him up against his shoulder. “You got to stay with me, okay? Stay with me?”

Brody’s head falls back, and he coughs. “Mitch?”

If possible, he sounds even more confused now.

“Yeah, I’m here,” Mitch says, trying to give Brody a small shake to bring his attention back around. Brody’s head lifts but only for a moment, before it slumps forward again. “But I need you to help me now, okay? Can you help me?”

There’s a small sound that escapes from Brody’s mouth, but he can’t quite seem to lift his head.

“Matt,” Mitch says, and he takes Brody’s chin in his hand, lifting it so that Brody’s good eye can see him. “Come on, Matt. We need to get out of here.”

Brody’s good eye blinks, but there’s nothing that denotes understanding. Just the basest sense of recognition. “Mitch.”

In all that Brody’s been through today, he still recognizes Mitch.

And if that doesn’t make this whole shitty thing worthwhile, then Mitch isn’t sure what does. There’s no way Brody’s crawling out of here. There’s no way Mitch is going to drag Brody out of here on his knees.

Policy would dictate that staying low is the smartest options, but screw that. Mitch doesn’t need policy right now; he doesn’t need what’s smart.

He just needs to get Brody out.

And now.

“Come on,” Mitch says again, but he’s not cajoling anymore. He’s saying exactly what he means, just like he always does. He gets to his feet, physically lifting Brody up when he does. He hoists him up, positioning him over his shoulder and adjusting his grip before he takes a tentative step.

Brody has gone still over his shoulder; the fire is continuing to build.

Mitch thinks about revenge and justice.

Mostly, though, he thinks about Brody.

And how some things are worth it.

Some things -- some people -- are worth every risk you take.

-o-


Mitch gets out of that room.

Mitch avoids the fire.

Mitch climbs the stairs.

Mitch carries Brody the whole way.

Because Mitch may not beg on a regular basis.

But he sure as hell saves lives every damn day of his life.

-o-

Mitch’s chest is tight, his eyes are burning, and his throat feels like it’s constricting to a close. When he opens the front door, bursts into light, he feels himself start to stagger. But the weight on his shoulder is something to contend with, something he must contend with.

Something he will contend with.

Forcing himself on, he manages down the front walkway before there are firemen swarming around him. Even then, he lowers Brody to the ground on his own, easing Brody off his shoulder and lying him prone on the sand while one of the firefighters calls for medical support.

“Sir, are there more people inside?” someone asks, vying for Mitch’s attention as another firefighter takes off his gloves and checks Brody for a pulse. Underneath the soot, it’s hard to see the extent of the blood and bruising, but Brody’s eyes aren’t open anymore.

Mitch can’t tell if he’s breathing.

“Sir?” the man asks again, right to Mitch’s side. “Are there more people inside?”

Someone brings over oxygen, pressing a mask over Brody’s mouth and nose and squeezing the bag. It’s still not clear to Mitch if Brody is alive, if he’s okay, if anything.

“Sir!” the man says again, loud enough, insistent enough that Mitch startles.

And he startles badly.

This isn’t who he is.

He’s not the waffling victim. He’s not shellshocked by trauma. He’s not shocked into silence.

He’s Mitch Buchannon.

He’s calm, confident and in control.

“Uh, no, not that I know,” Mitch says, barely remembering how to speak as he glances up at the firefighter. “It was, uh, break in. Attempted robbery or something. Turned into a hostage situation. They, uh, knocked us out and left us in the storage room, to the left on the bottom floor. That’s where the fire has started.”

That’s all the critical information. Mitch watches as the firefighter nods, getting to his feet to go back and direct his men. He has a job to do, just like Mitch.

He looks back at Brody, the oxygen still being forced into his lungs.

Maybe Mitch’s job isn’t exactly what he thought it was.

“Is he okay?” he asks, and it’s not clear even to him if the hoarseness in his voice is the smoke or something else. “Is he okay?”

“I got faint pulse,” the firefighter says, even as he squeezes the bag again. “But couldn’t quite tell if he was breathing. Medics should be here any second.”

Brody’s still, though. Brody’s too still. There’s not even the flicker of awareness now, no trace of recognition.

“He’s going to be okay, though,” he finds himself saying, the words falling over one another. “Right? He’s going to be okay?”

The firefighter doesn’t have an answer.

Just like Brody doesn’t have breath in his lungs.

And just like Mitch no longer knows who he is or what the hell he’s supposed to do.

He’s not bound to a chair; there’s no gun to his head. The bad guys are gone.

It doesn’t matter, though.

Mitch is still just as helpless as before.

Before he can remember how to move, more sirens resound nearby, and Mitch watches numbly as a paramedic comes onto the scene, followed quickly by a second. They take over from the firefighter seamlessly, and one of them gives Mitch a long glance while her partner starts running Brody’s vitals.

“What’s his name?” she asks.

“Brody,” Mitch says. And then he clarifies, “Matt Brody.”

“Okay, and does Matt have any previous medical issues we should know about?” she asks.

Mitch stares at her, and then he looks blankly down at Brody. They’ve spent so much time together over the last few months, but Mitch has spent most of that time telling Brody what to do. He hasn’t spent it asking questions or trying to get to know Brody better. Some things have come up naturally in the course of casual conversation, but medical histories aren’t among them.

Mitch shakes his head. “I don’t think so,” he says, if only because any major issues would have been noted in Brody’s official file.

It feels ridiculous to think like that. To think that the important information is in Brody’s file when he’s been living in Mitch’s spare room.

“Okay,” she says, and she smiles as her partner makes a little face.

“He’s got an erratic pulse, but he’s not breathing on his own,” he reports quietly, as if he doesn’t want Mitch to hear. “With manual oxygenation, his pulse ox isn’t bad.”

Mitch doesn’t actually want to hear, not that. He does, though, and he wets his lips. “Is he okay?”

The paramedics are working, with one of them setting up an IV while the other continues blowing air into Brody’s lungs. “Probably the smoke,” the woman tells him. “How long were you to inside?”

She nods to the building behind him, but Mitch doesn’t glance back to even see what its state is. He probably should -- HQ is a second home to him -- but he can’t bring himself to look away. “Hard to say,” Mitch admits. He clears his throat with a wince. “Five, ten minutes.”

She nods again, and the man looks at Mitch. “What about the bruising? Is that from the fire?”

“No,” Mitch says. “Uh, we were hostages, kind of. They roughed him up.”

The man looks a little more closely, frowning. To his partner, he says, “We’ll want to check mental status, get a GCS rating.”

Mitch shakes his head, feeling frustrated. These people are here to help, but it doesn’t feel very helpful for some reason. Because Brody’s still unconscious and Mitch is still powerless and what the hell is he supposed to do with that?

The woman has set up the IV, and she gives Brody a closer look before looking up at Mitch. “How are you doing?” she asks.

“I’m fine,” Mitch replies.

The hoarseness of his voice betrays him.

“Shortness of breath?” she asks.

“I’m fine,” Mitch says again, a bit more insistently now.

She doesn’t seem flustered by his demand. It’s a strange thing about today, how no one gives a shit about what Mitch says or wants or does. “We should get you check out at the hospital, just in case.”

“I don’t need to be checked out,” he says, and he’s growling a bit again. “What about Brody?”

“Well, we’re going to get him loaded up and out,” she says with a gentle smile. “If you go to the hospital, too, you could ride along.”

This woman, she has it figured out. She knows what leverage is, and she knows how to use it.

Apparently, everyone can see that Brody is Mitch’s weak point.

Everybody but him, it seems.

“Yes,” Mitch says. “Let’s do this.”

At least this time, Mitch thinks as they load Brody up in the ambulance, he doesn’t have to beg.

-o-

Usually, Mitch feels like he’s in control of things because he is.

Usually, Mitch can make situations turn out the way he wants because he’s smart, strong and just plain good.

At least, that used to be the case.

Mitch can chalk it up to another thing that’s changed in his life since Matt Brody came into the picture.

-o-

They make it about two minutes into the trip before the monitor starts to sound. At first, Mitch doesn’t know quite what’s happening, but then the sound goes long and flat and Mitch understands.

Brody’s heart has stopped beating.

For all intents and purposes, Brody’s dead.

Covered in soot, blood staining his face, bruises starting to swell, Brody’s slipped away from him.

But then, had Mitch ever had him?

The male paramedic springs to action quickly, shifting the oxygen out of the way to bring the defibrillator into play. Mitch feels ice cold as the metal paddles are pressed to the exposed skin of Brody’s chest and a shock is applied.

All the times Mitch has seen someone resuscitated. Shit, all the times he’s done it himself. And it’s like he’s seeing it for the first time, really seeing it. The utter vulnerability, the complete helplessness as fate spiral wildly beyond his control. You can save everyone, Mitch knows this. He drills it into the heads of his lifeguards so they can do the job without being emotionally compromised when it goes wrong. He says it, and he only says things he means.

It’s just that it means something different now.

Now that Brody’s in his life.

Now that Brody’s lying in the back of an ambulance.

Now that Brody’s dead.

The paramedics keeps his composure, but Mitch can see him make the mental calculations, as if Brody’s viability can be parsed down into seconds and electrical pulses. He injects something into Brody’s IV and charges the paddles again.

Mitch remembers begging for Brody’s life, he can still feel the words on his tongue. He can feel them pounding his chest, please, please, please.

The defibrillator whines and Brody’s body jerks with the current.

Mitch closes his eyes and he holds his breath.

Please, he thinks, and it’s all he can think, please, just let him live.

The sounds of the heart monitor is still a continuous sound, and this time, Mitch hears the medic curse. He opens his eyes, watching as the defibrillator is placed on Brody’s chest again before another current shocks Brody, lifting his upper body off the table with the force.

Please, he begs now. He begs the universe, fate, God, anything he can think of. I can’t live without him.

This time, there’s a blip on the heart monitor, and then another. The medic grins a little, picking up the oxygen bag and starting to push air into Brody’s lungs again. He gives Mitch a little nod, as if to tell him that things are still okay, as if it’s not all hanging precariously by a thread.

Brody’s life.

Mitch’s entire existence.

Mitch begs for everything now.

Because there’s nothing else he can do.

-o-

They make it to the hospital, and Brody still has a pulse. It might be tempting to be relieved by that, but Mitch’s emotions are too strung out to find much in the way of peace. In the past, Mitch would have been inclined toward optimism, but that’s another casualty of having Matt Brody in his life.

Suddenly, he realizes that there’s always something more to lose.

And Brody’s inclination toward disaster, whether recklessness or pure bad luck, isn’t a habit Mitch has managed to break him of yet.

That’s why he’s still standing at the end of the gurney, watching as the doctors transfer Brody to a gurney and take to assessing him anew. They seem to tolerate his presence as he fills in the gaps about what happened, and he also suspects that he’s too large for them to easily move.

All the same, it’s not exactly easy, watching as they check Brody’s pupillary response, driving knuckles into his sternum, neither of which elicit a reaction from Brody. Someone orders a head CT while someone else complains about his blood oxygen levels and threads a tube down Brody’s throat.

They’re trying to save his life, not take it, and Mitch knows that. He really does.

Still, it feels like someone’s still got a gun to Brody’s head, just itching to pull the trigger. If Mitch blinks or looks away, if he says the wrong thing or does something off, they’ll pull the trigger.

And there will be nothing Mitch can do about it.

Except beg.

“You have to save him,”Mitch pleads as the doctors work

“Sir, we’re doing everything we can.”

“You have to,” Mitch repeats, voice starting to break. He catches on a cough, but still croaks out the words. “Please.”

Someone squeezes the bag of oxygen into Brody’s lungs. Another has hung the IV.

“Sir, we need to look you over.”

Mitch shakes his head. “Please,” Mitch says, throat almost on fire now. He feels himself stagger. He’s losing it now, he’s losing everything.

“Sir, if you could sit—“

“Whoa, he’s going—“

Mitch begs for another second, but this time, he’s denied. His knees go weak, his head starts to spin as his chest seizes. The last thing he sees before he hits the ground is Brody’s still figure still lying prone on the gurney.

PART TWO