Thanks to Supergirl for betaing. Love my betas!
Lance nervously shifted his clipboard from one hand to the other and back again. He had four minutes before his next session – Booth and Brennan. And with every second that passed, Lance felt more like being sick.
It had been five days since that unfortunate incident at his apartment. The morning after his – um, run-in with the hairbrush in Booth's hand, Lance had awakened to find himself slightly sore but fully rested. He had crept out of his bedroom to find Booth asleep on the sofa.
The next hour had proved very awkward as Booth woke up and insisted they go get some breakfast. Lance had tried to resist, but Booth made him go along and practically forced breakfast down the younger man's throat. Once they had eaten, Booth left, only after offering the chance for Lance to come out with him to park with his son from which Lance promptly excused himself by saying he had other work to do.
In the four days that followed, Lance had avoided both of them. They had tried to call several times and Brennan had even come up to his office yesterday and knocked on the door. Lance had hidden behind his desk. However, he had also been with a patient at the time, and the patient got alarmed at her doctor's erratic behavior.
"Is everything all right?" the patient had whispered when Lance finally stood back up.
"Yes, yes," he assured her. "I'm hiding from my – uh, codependent narcissist who comes back every few hours, wanting to talk to me more."
The patient hadn't really bought it, and Lance doubted he would ever earn her full respect back after she watched the brilliant Dr. Sweets cower behind his desk and furiously gesture for her to stay quiet.
But that had been yesterday, and today Booth and Brennan had their weekly session. Lance had racked his brain to come up with a way to not see them. He'd considered playing sick, but then he'd have to cancel his other appointments and go home and they could find him at home. He thought about asking another doctor to take them, but that would lead to awkward questions. And there was no way in hell that Lance was going to admit to his colleague that one of his patients had paddled him with a hairbrush while another patient watched and encouraged the whole horrible thing.
He could simply not go to the session – he could hide somewhere in DC, but his absence would be reported and then even worse questions.
So he would face them in – oh, jeez, two minutes.
The next hundred-twenty seconds were agony as Lance watched the second hand tick around the clock, getting closer and closer to his doom. How could he face them after what had happened? How could he act like their therapist, when he had gotten spanked like a child?
Two o'clock and they weren't there. Lance gasped in some air. They weren't coming – they had skipped out on him. Or maybe they were out working a case. Or they had forgotten and he would never have to see them again.
He heard the footsteps down the hall – Booth's determined tread and Brennan's hurried pace to keep up with him. In the twenty-two seconds it took them to reach his office, Lance lost his head about five times. He considered ducking behind his desk or making a run for it. He would have jumped out the window, but they were on the fourth floor and he doubted he could survive the leap without any broken bones.
He ended up freezing right where he was, round eyes staring at the door.
Booth opened the door, but allowed Brennan to go in first. She smiled at him as she entered the room.
"Hey, Sweets," Booth nodded. "Sorry we're a little late. I couldn't drag someone away from the bodies."
"It's my job," Brennan protested as she sat down, but she smiled at Booth, clearly in a teasing mood like he was.
Lance knew he was supposed to sit in his seat and get them started but he stood like stone, watching them.
Booth reached forward, and Lance jumped backwards.
"Whoa!" Booth put his hands up. "I was just going to adjust the coffee table. You okay there?"
"I'm fine, I'm fine," Lance took his seat, tense and ready for any sudden movements.
"What's wrong?" Brennan asked.
"Yeah, besides avoiding our phone calls," Booth added.
"What? No! No," Lance shook his head, "I'm not avoiding anyone. I was busy. I'm always busy."
"Calm down," Booth tried to smile at him in a friendly fashion, but Lance kept shaking his head.
"It's all right," Brennan suddenly said. "This is a safe place here. No one is going to hurt you, and Booth isn't going to punish you again."
"It's not about that," Lance said in a high voice, hating himself for showing his fear. "It's just I'm supposed to be the – the – I'm telling!"
"Telling who?" Booth asked skeptically.
"Telling whom," Brennan corrected.
"Na-uh," Booth disagreed. "It's who – who is he telling?"
"It's only who when it's a subject. Anything else is whom. He was using it as a direct object. He said 'I'm telling' and you wanted to know the person he was telling, so it's whom."
"I've heard who used in the middle of sentences," Booth refused to let it go. "'I like Angela, who is good at her job.' You wouldn't use whom there."
"It's a subject there because it's two sentences," Brennan explained. "I like Angela, and she is good at her job. Still a subject."
"Sweets?" Booth looked at him for backup. "Who or whom?"
"I don't give a damn about that!" Lance exploded.
Brennan blinked, and Booth frowned.
"Hey, no reason to get so touchy just because I didn't get my doctorate," Booth said. "I have good grammar, and I know the difference between I and me."
"No, you don't," Brennan told him. "You say 'Come ride along with Brennan and I' all the time. It should be 'Brennan and me.' I is only used as the subject."
"I hate the English language," Booth scowled. "All these rules and tenses and verbs."
"It's language," Brennan frowned. "You are an evolved species that should be able to master a complex language. Just buy a grammar handbook and look up the rules that confuse you."
"I'm not looking up grammar rules. That's for fifth graders."
"Are we seriously going to argue about grammar?" Brennan demanded. "We're supposed to get counseling about important things."
"Ha," Booth smirked. "Told you grammar isn't important."
"Sweets," Brennan looked at him, "don't you think Booth's passive-aggressive stance is an evasive tactic to hide his own insecurities?"
"I'm not insecure! I might not have all your education, but I'm smart and I'm good at my job. And Sweets respects me, don't you?"
"Oh, God, yes," Lance said in a rush.
"He's always concerned about people respecting him," Brennan objected. "Why can't you see that that itself is a cover-up for insecurity? There's nothing wrong with being insecure."
"You're insecure! People who go around telling other people they're insecure are the ones who are really insecure."
"You think I'm projecting?"
"There you go with the doctor terminology again. Sweets, I want to make a formal complaint against this woman."
"Why?" Brennan's brow creased. "Because you don't know words? Buy a dictionary."
"I have to side with Dr. Brennan on this," Lance began in a shaky voice. "You can't make a formal complaint because –"
Booth jumped to his feet, and Lance grabbed the clipboard to hold up as protection.
"No," he protested, "no, don't spank me. I'm on your side."
"Spank you?' Booth looked stunned. "I wasn't going to – I was just going to get the dictionary on the shelf over there."
"Booth, he's terrified," Brennan realized. "He's thinks we're going to use corporal punishment on him again. I guess the side affects are worth studying – you were too harsh on him."
"Me?" Booth whirled to face her. "This whole punishment thing was your idea. I thought you were crazy, but you insisted. Now he's all jumpy and worried and avoiding us."
"Well, it was just the first time," Brennan frowned slightly. "Most studies on corporal punishment say it's only affective on children when used in a consistent method with the parents showing full love and support towards the child before and after."
"So I have to paddle him again to show him I still care?" Booth looked incredulous.
"You're not touching me!" Lance sounded near hysterics.
"Well, it's different here," Brennan started to look stressed. "We're mixing two different studies – one for adults suffering from guilt and one for children with parents. And most of it was hypothesis."
Booth put his hands on his hips, managing to glare at both of them at the same time. "What do I do to fix this?"
"That's your problem," Brennan stood up so she could look him in the eye. "You want to fix everything. Fix this, fix that, fix me, fix Sweets, fix the whole FBI. Some problems can't be fixed."
"If you truly believed that, you wouldn't be in here with me," Booth retorted.
She blinked, caught off guard at his logic. Booth looked smugger than ever.
"Score for the dumb FBI agent," he chortled. "Sweets, straighten up."
"Sweets, you stay however you like," Brennan said, facing off Booth. "He doesn't have to change for you."
"Oh, yes, he does," Booth reached down and grabbed Lance by the collar.
Lance gave a half cry as Booth pulled him to his feet.
"Apologize to her," Booth moved Lance to face Brennan. "Say you're sorry for avoiding her."
"He doesn't have to say that," Brennan argued. "You're not his father, Booth – you don't get to push him around like you push Parker around."
Lance turned in horror to look at Booth. No one had ever said a critical word about Booth's son, and Lance dreaded to see how Booth would respond.
The man narrowed his eyes. "I do not push Parker around."
"You bully him," Brennan threw at him. "The poor kid is scared to death of you."
"A boy's supposed to be a little scared of his father."
"He's terrified of you."
Lance had seen Parker before, and he didn't think the kid was that scared of his father. Booth was big and looming, and Lance was sure that he seemed huge to the small boy, but he had never seen Parker cower in fear in front of his dad. However, Booth took the bait and retorted,
"You're just jealous because you're too much a cold-hearted bitch to ever nurture a child."
Hurt flashed over Brennan's face, and Lance jumped to her rescue. He thrust out his fist at Booth, meaning to punch the man in the face, but Booth easily deflected the blow, putting up an arm to block the punch.
At the sudden block, Lance stumbled back, his left arm flailing and hitting Brennan in the mouth. The accidental strike didn't hurt Brennan too bad, but the surprise of it caused her to trip over her own high heels, and she tumbled to the ground, knocking her arm on the coffee table as she fell.
"Ow," she grabbed her arm and used the hand of her hurt arm to rub her mouth.
Lance stood in horror at what he had done, but before he could apologize or help Brennan up, Booth grabbed him and manhandled him over the desk, bending Lance down and holding him there with one powerful hand while the other hand started swinging away at his bottom.
"No, Booth," Lance tried to twist away. "It was an accident."
"Like hell," Booth growled, spanking harder and harder. "That's no way to treat a lady. I'm not letting up until you're ready to apologize."
"Booth," Brennan got to her feet, "it really was an accident. He didn't mean to, and we shouldn't have been saying such mean things to each other."
"He's going to apologize," Booth smacked hard, and Brennan winced at the loud sound.
"I'll apologize!" Lance wailed. Thank God the rooms were sound-proof! The humiliation if anyone else heard what was happening to him.
"Go right ahead," Booth ordered, still spanking him.
"You aren't going to stop?" Lance asked between whacks.
"I think you deserve this for trying to punch me and then assaulting her."
"You're assaulting me!"
"No, I'm giving you the spanking you've been asking for. You've avoided us since last week, and Brennan thought you were hiding from her when she came up yesterday, and if you're going to act like a child, you're going to get treated like one."
"You treat Parker like this?" Lance felt tears fill his eyes. Booth sure could give a memorable spanking. The man had a hand like iron and enough strength to wallop pretty hard.
"How I raise Parker is no one's business but my own, and Parker shows people more respect than you do."
Lance writhed against the table. He didn't understand how they had gotten to this place. Friday night Booth had been reluctant to paddle him, and now Booth thought it was his right. So unfair.
"That's enough," Brennan intervened.
Snarling something under his breath, Booth pulled Lance up to face Brennan. "Say you're sorry."
"I'm – I'm sorry," Lance gulped, tears spilling down his cheeks.
"Don't ever hurt her again," Booth warned. "Or I swear I'll take my belt to you until you can't sit for a week."
Lance nodded, but he felt more tears gathering up and falling down. He felt raw inside, and he wanted to find some place to curl up and hide.
Brennan crossed her arms at her partner. "That was too harsh! You didn't hug him the other night, but you're going to now. Do it, Booth, or I'm taking my belt to you."
Booth scoffed at her threat, but he took Lance by the shoulder and put one-arm around him, a half-hug.
"A real hug," Brennan insisted.
Rolling his eyes, Booth pulled Lance in for full embrace and was promptly shocked with the younger man hugged him back with both arms and buried his face in Booth's shoulder, still sobbing.
"Hey, hey," Booth lowered his voice, no longer stern. "No need for all this. I over-reacted a little, but it's Brennan, you know and –"
Lance didn't make a reply as he kept crying into that strong, rock-like shoulder. Lance had never expected to get a hug from Booth – the agent didn't exactly look like the hugging type, but the hug was everything Lance thought it would be: strong, reassuring, comforting, and leaving him in no confusion as to who was in charge.
When Booth finally pulled back, Lance straightened, but he found himself turned into Brennan's arms, pulled into a female embrace. Brennan wasn't as tall as Booth, and Lance found he could lay his head fully on her shoulder. For a woman who seemed so cold and reserved, Brennan was good at hugging, even stroking her hand over Lance's wavy dark hair while keeping him close.
When she released him, Lance collapsed back on the sofa, exhausted and emotionally worn-out.
"All right," Booth stepped in front of him, tall and looming, "we got some new rules here. You don't avoid us anymore and you tell us when you're worried about something. In return, Brennan and I will try not to fight in front of you. You're our therapist, but we'll respect each other during our sessions. Sound fair?"
Lance nodded, unsure what else he could do. He felt his heart breaking for the two people in front of them, and he didn't understand why he felt so strongly about them. He cared about all his patients, but Booth and Brennan were different, different in an awful, horrible, wonderful way that he wanted to spend time with them and seek their approval and have them assure him that they were his friends.
In the last five days, he had never felt so lonely and upset, mad at them for punishing him, but desperate to gain their approval back. He was beginning to understand that he could never be an equal – well, at least not Booth's equal. Booth had a way of talking and acting that let everyone know he was in charge, very much the alpha male. Booth respected other people's opinions, but Lance knew at the end of the day Booth made decisions and his team followed his orders.
He might have a shot at being Brennan's equal, but she was older. Both of them were older, and he wondered if he was doomed to be the little brother figure to both of them forever.
"We still value your opinion," Brennan assured him as she stood beside Booth. "We're still under your supervision here, but outside we're going to look after you a little better. There's no reason you can't spend a little more time with us, maybe even ride along with us on some cases."
"What?" Booth glanced at her.
"A few safe cases," she assured him. "And he's not getting a gun until I get one."
"So never," Booth quipped. "Well, we got about half an hour of time left, so what do you say we go get some coffee at the corner store?"
"Coffee would be nice," Brennan agreed.
"I could drink some coffee," Lance said.
"How 'bout some milk for you?" Booth smirked. "You're still growing."
"Stop teasing the boy," Brennan playfully smacked Booth on the arm. "He can have coffee."
"Nah, we left the sippy cup in the car," Booth grinned. "And what are we going to do about a bib so he doesn't drool everywhere?"
"Shut up," Lance smiled as he got to his feet. "I bet I can handle coffee better than you. You better have decaf, or you won't be able to go to sleep in six hours, old man."
"Smart ass," Booth laughed as they all headed out the door.
Lance deliberately positioned himself a little closer to Booth than necessarily and he felt warm and comforted inside when Booth gave his shoulder a friendly pat. Brennan reached over to grab his fingers and squeezed them warmly.
"Any chance we can do something this weekend?" Lance asked as they stepped into the elevator.
"Probably," Booth nodded. "I wouldn't mind seeing more of that Lord of the Rings stuff. We could have dinner at my place Friday or Saturday."
"That would be nice," Breanna said.
Lance tried to not grin too much. He glanced at the hallway, and then the elevator doors shut, enclosing him with his two friends.
"Though the monsters might scare one of us," Booth couldn't resist teasing a little more. "We'll tell you when to cover your eyes."
"Keep it up, old man," Lance said. "I'll tell your boss you're getting too farsighted and forgetful to do your job."
Lance saw the swat coming, and he skirted out of the way to avoid it, grinning cheekily at the indulgent look on Booth's face. Brennan smiled and pushed the ground floor button.