Hey all! Back again with as yet another side character centric story ;) The kudos and credits though all go out to Jelsi4Life who literally dropped out of the sky to contact me sayin' "hey, here's a great story idea...will you help?" And I, being a sucker for punishment and having a soft spot for Sweets (oh come on, who doesn't?) agreed. The titular format is based off of songs...soundtrack to our story style. You guys may recognize a few. It's titled The Whipping Boy (testament to Sweets' past) by Train. Review, of course...and follow!
"I refuse to talk to you." Booth stared straight ahead, his face spasming with anger. Sweets winced and dangled his wrist in front of his friend's face.
"I'm really, really sorry. I just wanted to see if they were easy to get off and on. Daisy and I have been thinking about getting a pair and-"
"STOP!" Booth bellowed, smacking the steering wheel with one hand, and Sweets' arm away from his face with the other. The handcuffs jangled against the console and thudded dully on the seat. Sweets' face was a brilliant crimson. Booth shook his head furiously. "Just stop."
"Dude. Like I said. This was totally a bonehead move. I didn't realize if you hear the clicking sound they lock. So now I know." Sweets grinned sheepishly as Booth glared at him in skeptical amazement. The psychologist rolled his eyes.
"Oh come on! Like you and Dr. Brennan haven't tried these on for size!"
"Get out of the car."
"Get out of my car right now."
"We're on a stake out Booth! I can't just get out of the car!"
"Jesus Christ! You can't talk like that! We just had a baby! Bones, she's still on maternity leave! You cannot talk about…handcuffs…that are on your body by the way…" Booth made a disgusted face again and yanked the glove compartment open. "Just find the keys, would ya?"
"I said I was sorry," Sweets griped.
"Well be sorry," Booth snapped. "And we're going to need those." Sweets bit his lip.
A radio crackled on the dash.
"Ten-four we have possible suspect exiting building now."
"Crap. We need to move now." Sweets glanced up in panic, the keys still fisted in his fingers.
"But I'm not-"
"No time!" Booth barked, and pushed the handle of Sweets' door open for him. "Just come on!" He burst out of his own door, gun drawn. Sweets hesitated, still fiddling with the locknetics before he felt his tie being yanked like a dog leash and he stumbled to the ground, dropping the keys, the other handcuff still dangling open.
"Move it Sweets," growled Booth, his soldier clip faster than Sweets' regular morning jogs. He complied, panting, still being half strangled by Booth's fist in his neckwear.
"Hold it right there!" Booth shouted to a burly man barreling at them, using both hands to steady his gun. The suspect was built like a linebacker. He had a crazed look in his eyes that Sweets analyzed as a matter of practicality in the back of his mind as sizing up his opponents during his animalistic fight or flight response. Unfortunately for the psychologist, he was a good 60 pounds lighter than Booth, and several inches shorter. The suspect actually growled, and then charged.
Sweets held his breath and set his legs apart like he had seen people do on football games, not that he watched unless Daisy forced him to, but at the last second he realized that was the stupidest move in the book. With the rate of trajectory and combined mass and velocity the man was travelling, his collision with Sweets would undoubtedly compromise his spinal discs. And then he and Daisy's favorite sexual position would no longer be possible. Which would totally be a bummer.
So at the last possible second he stepped aside, glancing around for Booth, hoping he would step in and shoot the guy…in the leg or something. Unfortunately his brain registered the clicking sound before he was conscious of his fingers doing it; and then his legs were swept out from under him and he was being dragged along behind. However having 160 lbs of scrawny - well, he honestly preferred lean, psychologist – did give his attacker pause. Enough of one to give Booth time to pounce and Miranda his ass.
"You have the right to remain silent! Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you."
Sweets could only hide his face in blood red shame the entire rest of the day through booking and process until someone could find an extra key to let him out of being handcuffed to the perp.
He decided to get a different toy for Daisy.
"It really wasn't that bad!" Booth assured him later, clapping him on that back and sloshing the meniscus of the top half of his beer over the side of his high ball glass. Sweets sighed, dripping foam on his pants and set the heavy tumbler on the bar with a shake of both hands and a head, glancing around for a napkin.
"It was awful," he corrected mildly.
"For your first bust," Booth put in, taking a big swig of his own drink, "it was actually pretty good." Sweets looked up in actual astonishment, his hand glued to his crotch in a genuine Freudian gesture if he had ever seen one in shock at Booth's rare but hard won praise. He quickly looked back down to keep mopping at his pants.
"Why, do most first busts go like that?" he asked morosely, but hopefully, a bit of a smile twitching the corners of his mouth. An answering one flitted around Booth's cheeks, biting at his temples into a full fledged grin of embarrassment.
"Ah hell yeah. Hell yeah. You should have seen Charlie. Or Shaw? Or Bones? I mean, she tried to shoot a guy while intoxicated. I mean, you're looking pretty good right now, handcuffing the guy to yourself."
"Betcha they didn't lock themselves in the handcuffs first," Sweets said miserably, drinking more of his beer. He blinked at it sleepily. He usually preferred something lighter. Like a martini. Beer was good, but in a can. The kind of beer that came with burgers on the porch on a Sunday afternoon. The stuff Booth liked was dark and strong and frankly smelled like urine. But somehow half of his glass was gone. Sweets raised his eyebrows and swallowed a very feminine hiccup.
"Well," shrugged Booth under his big leather jacket. "No," he admitted rather unwillingly. He used the same recalcitrant tone that he always used talking to Sweets. But this time it was tinged with regret, as if he honestly wished he could make him feel better. Sweets appreciated it.
"But you can leave that part out of the story, you know, when you tell it."
Sweets peered at him sidelong.
"Are you going to leave it out of the story?" Booth pursed his lips, glancing down at him, looking torn.
"It's a hell of a good story," he prevaricated, and Sweets knew he was doomed to be the laughingstock of the FBI until he died. But then something in the older man's face softened and he shrugged. "But nah. I'll save it until you don't need it anymore."
"Until you're too you know, old, or bad ass or accomplished or something for it to be a big deal anymore. For now," Booth raised his glass and bumped it against Sweets' which still sat on the bar as he stared at him in stupefied amazement, "it'll just be between us. Tell it like you want it."
"Can we leave out the part where I got dragged?" Sweets asked hopefully. Booth spluttered into his beer.
"Hey I'm giving you one. You can pick. Being dragged or admitting you locked yourself into the handcuffs."
"Yeah. Okay," Sweets agreed quickly. "I get it. It's funny."
"Plus no one would believe it if a first bust went perfectly. I mean, you've come a long way Sweets, but…" Booth shrugged a smile. Sweets slammed his beer down with a little more forced than he intended and spun on his bar stool with a faintly ingratiating smile.
"But what? What was that?" He pointed a finger and circled it around Booth's face. "What you just did there with your eyebrows?"
"My eyebrows?" Booth frowned a smile.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"You said that I've come a long way but…" Sweets tried to mimic Booth's frowned condescension but by his friend's reaction it came off as extremely constipated.
"Look, I respect what you do-" Booth began.
"Really?" Sweets, who had taken a sip of beer in defeat, spluttered it back into his glass. Booth thwacked him between the shoulder blades.
"Jesus, yes of course I do that's why I work with you. To profile perps. Don't choke there sparky."
"Really, Agent Booth, that's what you're going with here? To profile suspects?" Sweets rolled his eyes. "I feel like we have the same conversation at least twice a week."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Booth stalwartly exclaimed.
"You need to learn to take a compliment," Booth criticized. Sweets flushed a bit, feeling hot about the collar and knew his ears were pink. He told himself it was from the beer, but that wasn't much of a comfort.
"You're right. I apologize Agent Booth, that was rude. Thank you, for recognizing my profess-"
"But anyway," Booth steamrolled his explanation. "Like I was saying. You're good at what you do, but I'm glad you came out into the field since Bones has been on maternity leave. I mean, it's good to know you know…that someone…has my back. For Bones."
Sweets sat in silence, digesting. He burped behind a fist quietly and then winced at the completely inopportune time to do that. He peeped a glance at Booth who seemed totally unfazed by it. Apparently social norms of most males didn't find his overt masculinity to be incredibly off putting as his mother would have led him to believe growing up.
"Thank you," he finally said, not able to think of anything else to say. His head was swimming slightly. He felt completely inadequate. What a ridiculously trivial thing to say; for Booth that was pretty much the most heartfelt speech he had ever heard him make to anyone that wasn't Dr. Brennan. But then again, she was on a different scale entirely. (He had, in fact, written an entire book about that same topic.) Booth had paid him the highest compliment he could expect to receive and all he could think of to say was thank you? He endeavored to search for something better and stared desperately into the bottom of his glass at the clear amber liquid that was much lower than he remembered it being as if it would spell out the answers.
"Look, normally I really, really, really don't want to have this conversation," Booth began uncomfortably shifting in his seat and Sweets' head snapped up, his ears perking as if he were a Labrador retriever coming to attention at the sound of his master's voice.
"But?" he asked eagerly. He tried not to sound like he was begging for scraps.
"But…Daisy is the intern on Cam's next rotation, and Cam and I are best friends so she asked me to speak to you if anything was…up…with you and Daisy?"
Sweets stared at him unblinkingly for five long seconds before his brain informed him of what he was hearing.
"Are you…asking about my personal life, Agent Booth?"
"Not willingly," Booth admitted through gritted teeth.
"That is touching," Sweets smiled, and wavered slightly on his chair.
"Yeah, no more beer for you. No problems? Great!"
"Damn." Booth hissed a huge sigh like a faucet hitting a frying pan, the steam coming off his burning red face in invisible great gouts. Seeing how reticent he was to talk, Sweets attempted to brush it off.
"Actually, never mind. It's just embarrassing."
"No, no, you've opened up the can of worms. Lay it on me."
"Really Booth, it's fine."
"Just tell me."
"It's not Daisy or anything. We're fine."
"What. Is. It."
"No really, you can tell Dr. Saroyan Daisy will be on her best behavior."
"Sweets, what is bugging you?"
"Just tell me!"
"GOD DAMN! JUST TELL ME!" Sweets cracked a tiny guilty smile.
"Not that this was my intent or anything, but now do you get what it's like for me every week?" Booth stopped mid bellow to stare at him nonplussed.
"When you 'don't' want to talk about Parker, or Dr. Brennan, or your father?"
"You want to talk about your father?" Sweets froze.
"Damn you're good," he cursed quietly.
"It's not that hard of a leap," Booth said just as quietly, drawing even further into the shadows of the bar and Sweets followed him wordlessly. "The guy we caught today…beat up on little kids with a whip. You were a little kid. Got beat up on with a whip. Figured it would bother you. Just didn't know if you'd bring it up. Bones does that too. She'll pretend nothing's wrong so we'll talk about something else for hours and hours until she'll say something five minutes before closing."
"Oh." Sweets felt very small suddenly and realized why for the first time in his life why other people hated therapy. It didn't feel so very cathartic on the other end of the power play. It was really only fun playing God.
Booth didn't look at him as he turned his back to the bar and leaned heavily against it, nursing a new glass of beer and drinking deeply from it, staring out of the shadows until only the bottom half of his face was visible. Sweets realized he was waiting for him to start. Classic shrink move. And really annoying.
"I mean," he fumbled. How many times had he inwardly criticized others for that same inane phrase? "I've always been fine with it."
He didn't need to see the sardonic glance Booth was studiously not directing his way to know he was being called for his bullshit.
"What I mean is that…it doesn't come up much. You know. For me being a psychologist." Booth nodded grimly towards the ceiling as Sweets nodded morosely towards his mostly empty glass.
"And I don't know. The man today thought…really thought he was doing the right thing 'educating' his children. Those kids will have scars for the rest of their lives." He angrily shoved his glass away from him down the bar, clenching his fists against the lip of it, almost whispering in his fierce fury to the faux grain wood. "Do you know what it's like to have scars from something like that? Scars you can't explain to anyone?"
There was an audible swallow.
"Yes. I do."
It was Sweets' turn to swallow.
"Sorry. I forgot…who I was talking to."
"Yeah." Booth drank more deeply. Sweets had to wonder how Booth was on his second tall glass when he had barely managed to finish one.
"Look," Booth finally grated out. "I mean…you shouldn't have to apologize for the kind of man you are." He nodded and stared at the ground before shrugging. "I don't. And Jared doesn't. And part of that…part of Jared…that's my fault."
It was probably the closest omission Sweets was ever going to get from Booth about his past abuse with his father.
"Shouldn't your actions define you?" Sweets asked raggedly. Booth nodded. "Well then what the hell was that man thinking, beating those kids? What were our fathers-"
Booth clapped a hand to his shoulder to cut him off, both in comradery, and in a warning.
"Your actions define you. And today you did an amazing thing. So go home. See Daisy." He gave a wretched smile. "Don't play with handcuffs."
Sweets turned away, shrugging off the hand on his shoulder, uncomfortably lined over his old scars.
"Yeah man, sure." He could feel Booth watching him.
"Daisy knows. Right?"
"She's seen me naked," Sweets assured him with a forced laugh that sounded hollow and horrible to even his own ears. "Believe me."
"I do," Booth reminded him. "I've seen you both, like it or not." Sweets clapped a hand over his eyes and groaned at the memory. Booth laughed with him but his voice dropped chillingly as Sweets had heard it do with suspects, but never before with his own friends.
"She knows you have scars. She doesn't know what from?"
"She knows…they're from a different life," Sweets admitted evasively. "That I had a troubled past when I was a little kid." Booth raised both eyebrows, crossing his arms in a way that suggested Sweets couldn't call a cab until he spilled every last drop of truth. "Okay, so I told her I couldn't remember." Booth pressed his lips together in a thin judgmental line but said nothing.
"Look! It's not my fault!"
The line of Booth's mouth became thinner.
"Okay! It is. But you don't get it. I may not be the best at communicating with Daisy about all that…but I mean, my life is insane! I loved my parents. But I was into death metal! Daisy's life has been all puppies and rainbows, the white picket fence and being valedictorian while Daddy smokes cigars. I'm serious! The things we bond over are how much we love our families. And I really, really loved my parents Booth. My real parents. The ones that adopted me. That's what I love about Daisy. Is how much she loves her parents. But her life has been a fairytale. And she thinks it's sweet that I'm her prince. Her Lancelot. How can I take that away and show her that I'm not? That I'm just some kid whose mom was a junkie and whose dad beat the living shit out of him? I'm not a prince in a shining castle. I'm really messed up, pretty far down. And these scars? And the music? That's another lifetime. One I'd like to forget."
Booth rolled the thick glass tumbler thoughtfully between his large hands with a mulling perspective, his jaw also rolling discordantly with a series of sharp pops. His lips did not lessen their thin line before he looked back at Sweets.
"Well that's a load of shit." Sweets blinked. Booth's method of psychology was…well, crude. Well actually his method of psychology wasn't really a method of psychology at all.
"Um," he said brilliantly, blinking slowly at the agent.
"Look, Daisy has been there for you for the long haul."
"That's not true," Sweets spluttered. "She left me! For the Maluku islands. She rejected my proposal and took off."
"Yeah. And you took that really well. By taking a sabbatical, growing a soul patch and playing the piano." Sweets flushed Kool-Aid red.
"I was due for a vacation," he said stiffly. "That had nothing to do with-"
"Fffft," Booth made a loud farting noise. "Bullshit. Come on. Daisy will love you no matter what."
But Sweets was shaking his head even before he was finished.
"Hey," Booth's bark was sharp. "If she doesn't, than she's not the kind of girl you should think about marrying."
Sweets' eyes went wide. Booth's eyebrows went up and a bit of a smile hitched the side of his face as he fiddled with the ring that glinted in the light, walking it on the backs of his fingers.
"Where did you get that!" Sweets gulped.
"Nicked it," Booth said casually, "from your pocket." Sweets grabbed at his pocket where he kept his mom's ring. Sure enough, the small set diamond stone was in Booth's hand, and not next to his car keys.
"Fine then," Sweets shot back, his indignation and slight inebriation making him brave. "If you're so wise, have you told Dr. Brennan about all the abuse you've been through?"
There was a dead quiet that Sweets wasn't sure he made up as the Founding Fathers went silent and the ring clunked to the floor. He scrabbled after it and snatched it up, breathing a sigh of relief as he slipped it into his pocket.
"Shut up Sweets," Booth growled, spinning back into his chair and draining the last of his beer.
"So you haven't?" he pressed. Booth simply grunted and kicked his shoes at the front of the bar. Sweets made a decision that felt both very brave and very foolish. He reasoned it was probably the atmosphere.
"Look," and to his surprise, Booth actually looked at him. "I'll try to talk about it with Daisy…if you'll make the attempt with Dr. Brennan." Booth's mouth resumed its former tight line.
He jerked a very tight nod, which Sweets took to be agreement.
"Come on Sweets," he finally said, and his voice sounded like a bucket of gravel. He jerked his hand up for another drink, but Sweets firmly jerked it back down, shaking his head at the bartender. Booth glared fiercely at him, but didn't contest the point after shaking him off. "Just because you had shitty parents…doesn't mean…" Booth shrugged. "You know…anything."
Booth was nothing if not eloquent. He tried again, hitching half a smile. "Look. That guy today. He was bigger than you. He was meaner than you. But in the end you were smarter than him; that counts for a lot. It's more about your head, and the decisions you make." Sweets nodded jerkily, wiping his face into his jacket hard as he pulled it on before emerging from its depths with his calm once again in place.
"Yeah. Yeah I know. Thanks."
Booth clapped him on the shoulder outside the Founding Fathers and they peeled apart, Booth to his car, and Sweets to walk home.
On the table in his apartment The Heart of the Matter lay forgotten. He sighed and threw his jacket over it, hiding his unfinished manuscript from himself. Christine complicated everything. Through a crack in the door he smiled.
Daisy was sprawled across his bed, snoring up a storm as she always did, although she insisted (even when he recorded her) that it was him who snored. He slipped through the opening, skipping the creaky floorboard, and undid his tie, which was cinched shut at the knot from Booth's yanking.
He sank onto the bed to concentrate and felt Daisy's hand slip around his waist with a sleepy murmur.
"I missed you Lance," she whispered in a slur.
"I'm sorry," he smiled. "I had my first big bust today." He finally managed to get the noose off of his neck and started on his shirt. He wrestled out of his undershirt and into pajama pants. He hesitated at the soft cotton shirt he usually wore to pair with his favorite Star Wars pj pants. He could feel Daisy's suddenly alert brown eyes feasting on his ivory white scars shining in the moonlight.
"Lancelot?" she whispered. He threw the blue super soft polo shirt back in its drawer and slammed it shut. He turned around, swallowing hard. He climbed into bed, sliding into his own spot, shivering slightly at how cold it was on his bare skin.
Hesitant fingers stroked over his chest.
"You never sleep without your shirt on."
"Daisy," he said quietly, returning the stroke to her hair with a sad smile, "I have something to tell you." She leaned in with a delighted smile to kiss him.
"Okay," she giggled. He groaned.
"Not that kind of thing."
"Right," she whispered. She ignored his hands attempting to push her off. She was smaller than him, but fiercer. His hands became weaker and weaker and finally he whispered:
"In the morning…" Before he gave in.
In the background his phone buzzed six times, which let him know someone was calling him. It buzzed once after that, letting him know someone had left a voicemail. When he got up much later to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night he checked it. It was from the FBI director and his boss, directing him to be at the building tomorrow at 9 am sharp.
(Title Track: Secrets by One Republic)