Danny glanced across the table at his brother, who was finishing his third or fourth cocktail of the night. They were at a dinner where their parents, Simon and Elaine, would be receiving an award for a paper they had written the previous year, along with some of their colleagues. The boys were spending a long weekend with them, both to celebrate the accomplishment and Ben’s recent return to the state. He and Danny now both lived just a few hours away from their childhood home.
He was trying to catch Ben’s eye, but had a feeling he was being purposefully ignored. Although Ben was excited for his parents, he had come to the dinner begrudgingly and now seemed to be intent on drinking his way through it. He had, of course, been charming as he and Danny had shaken hands with a dozen professors and many of their partners, answering the same questions about their lives and jobs over and over again. Danny hadn’t particularly loved it, either, but they saw how much their parents lit up as they introduced them to person after person.
Ben finally looked in Dan’s direction, and Danny raised an eyebrow and then looked pointedly at the drink in his brother’s hand. Ben shrugged noncommittally and raised the glass to his lips once again. Danny nodded thoughtfully to himself. It was going to be one of those nights. At any other event, he would have dragged his little brother from the table. Tonight, he just hoped that Ben would keep himself together until after the meal had ended.
~ ~ ~
They made it through, though not unscathed. Ben grew clumsier as the night went on, spilling his drink across the table and nearly upending a platter when he leaned back into a passing waiter. Though most people wouldn’t take notice, their parents had exchanged more than one worried glance. Danny’s palms were itchy by the time the last speeches had finished and people began to stand. Still, it wouldn’t have been a noteworthy night if it hadn’t been for the last ten minutes. Ignoring Danny’s offer to help him step away from the table, Ben had walked away with the table cloth tucked in with the napkin he had clenched in his fist. There were gasps around the room as he dragged an entire meal’s worth of dishes crashing to the floor. Silence followed after, and then finally nervous chattering.
They made it home without further incident, where Ben immediately fell into a dreamless sleep and Danny laid awake, thinking about how he planned to handle the situation tomorrow.
~ ~ ~
The next morning, their father was predictably out of the house early. Neither parent was at all equipped to handle confrontation unless it was a scholarly debate, and Simon knew his oldest was unlikely to let the incidents of last night go. When Danny entered the kitchen, his mother was waiting for him with a cup of coffee– also predictably. She hated confrontation as much as her husband; it was one of the reasons Danny had so easily assumed the role of a third parent in their home growing up. Neither of them could quite bring themselves to challenge him when he began to intervene with their younger son. It certainly made a difference that Danny assumed the least gratifying parts of helping raise him. And approve or not, they saw how well Ben responded and how close the boys had continued to grow.
Still, in Elaine’s eyes, Ben could do no wrong, and so she was waiting on Danny with a cup of coffee at the breakfast table. He smiled at her and hugged her shoulders before he sat down. “Good morning.”
“Hello, darling,” she said with a smile. “Did you sleep well?”
“I did. Did you?” he replied as he sat next to her and wrapped his hands around the large warm mug. “And thank you.”
“Mhmm. Your father’s gone on a hike, says he’ll be back around lunch.”
“I noticed his car wasn’t in the driveway before I came down.”
They heard movement from the floor above them; Ben must be awake. Elaine stood, going to pour another cup of coffee and humming quietly to herself. She placed it at the table just as Ben came down the stairs, still rubbing his eyes as he sat. She put an arm around him and kissed the top of his tousled head. “Morning,” he said with a yawn.
“Good morning,” Danny said, somehow giving the simple greeting an authoritative quality.
“Daniel,” clucked Elaine disapprovingly, her arm still around her youngest. “He’s only just woken up.”
“Yeah Daniel,” said Ben groggily, taking a sip of his coffee.
Danny sighed, but didn’t say anything. Content that things were going to remain calm for the moment, Elaine smiled and asked cheerily, “What would you boys like for breakfast? I can make French toast, or we have oatmeal? Omelettes?”
Ben’s face seemed to gray at the mention of all the food, and Danny raised his eyebrows at his mother– “See?” his expression said clearly. She followed his nod at Ben and said hurriedly, “Maybe just some orange juice after your coffee. That sounds nice.”
Danny rolled his eyes as she went to the refrigerator, and slid two painkillers he’d brought downstairs with him over to his brother. Ben glanced up guiltily, then reached over to take them. Before too long, the table was littered with empty mugs and glasses and Danny was tired of waiting. “Alright,” he said, looking directly at Ben, “you need to get yourself upstairs. I’ll be up in a few minutes.”
“Awww c’mon,” Ben said, frowning and crossing his arms, “I wasn’t that bad!”
“He really wasn’t, Daniel, your father and I hardly noticed,” added his mother.
“You are both being ridiculous,” Danny said sternly, “Ben, you embarrassed the entire table, including yourself.”
Elaine sighed and put a hand on Ben’s arm as she appealed to Danny, “Benjamin really didn’t mean it, and I’m not upset.”
“Well I am upset, Mother. And Ben and I are about to go upstairs and talk about why.”
Ben’s shoulders slumped; he recognized the steel in Danny’s voice and knew this was a done deal. “Alright alright,” he said, pushing back from the table. “Thanks for the coffee and juice, Mom,” he said, giving her a reassuring smile and another side hug. “Sorry I drank too much last night.” He looked at Danny as he said this last part and gave a small shrug.
“I’ll be right up,” Danny said approvingly. He gathered up the dishes while Ben left and his mother rose to pace the kitchen and ring her hands. “Mom,” Danny said, stopping her pacing head-on with a hand on each of her shoulders, “I’m going to take care of him. I promise.”
She took a deep, intentional breath, exhaled slowly, and said “I know you will. I think I’m going to go work in the garden for a bit.”
Danny pulled her into a hug and kissed the top of her head. “Alright, I’ll come out and join you in just a little while.”
They parted, and Elaine went to grab her sturdy work boots and her wide-brimmed hat before heading outside. Danny pushed the chairs under the table and made his way upstairs.
~ ~ ~
When Danny entered his brother’s room, Ben was sitting on the bed twirling a basketball. He was still in his pajamas, and looked every bit the teenager he’d been the last time he had called this room home. He put the ball down on his lap and sat up a little straighter as Danny walked in. Be’s expression was sullen, but Danny didn’t feel any sympathy for him as he thought about how embarrassed he had been last night. He picked up the ball and set it aside. “Up,” he said shortly to Ben.
Ben sighed dramatically but stood. He felt guilty enough to accept a punishment, but it just wasn’t in him to do so gracefully. Danny didn’t mind. He knew Ben would be genuinely and deeply sorry minutes from now. He sat on the bed like he had so many times before, and pulled his brother across his lap.
After a very brief warm up, Danny had Ben’s plaid pants around his knees; he began to lecture as his hand came down on the seat of Ben’s red and black underwear.
“You made several very poor choices last night, young man. Tell me the biggest one.”
“Ow,” Ben said, “It wasn’t that bad! Ow!”
Danny began to put more force behind his swats as he said, “It was exactly that bad, Benjamin Kendrick. And it was intentional. That was a tantrum. They asked for one night, and you were sulky about it.”
“Ow, okay, I’m sorry!” Ben said as Danny kept spanking harder and faster. In response, Danny paused the spanking and jerked Ben’s underwear down to join his pants.
“You’re lucky I don’t send you to the car to get the hairbrush. I packed it just in case, and now I’m not sure I don’t need it.”
“Ow, you don’t!” Ben said earnestly, throwing his hand back to cover his quickly heating bottom. Danny snatched his wrist up easily with his free hand and continued the spanking. Ben’s bottom flattened with every painful swat. Danny wasn’t holding back.
“You will apologize to Mom and Dad,” he said firmly. “And you will behave yourself the rest of this visit. I was unimpressed with your attitude last night, on top of your behavior. I don’t appreciate being ignored.”
His palm slammed into the curve of Ben’s sitspots as he spoke now, and Ben squealed and struggled. Something about this room made him even less stoic than usual– and Ben was never stoic. Danny paid him no mind as he worked to ensure that his younger brother would feel this spanking well into the afternoon.
~ ~ ~
When he finished, Ben’s eyes were red-rimmed and he couldn’t help but rub his sore bottom as he stood and danced around the room. Danny watched him for a minute, and then lifted his right arm, waiting for Ben to sit next to him. Eventually Ben did just that, easing his way down onto the bed and leaning up against Danny for comfort. Danny offered him kind and soothing words as he rubbed his back. After several minutes, when they had stopped talking and were sitting quietly, they heard a loud buzz from the dresser at the foot of the bed.
Danny reached over, surprised to see “Oliver” flashing across his phone screen. He showed Ben, shrugged, and answered.
“Hey Oliver, what’s up? You’re on speakerphone. Ben is here.”
“Hi babe,” chimed in Benjamin.
“Hey babe, hey Danny. I’ve got little bit of a situation. Do you have a minute?” Danny looked at Ben, who nodded, and said “Sure.” He put the phone down face-up on his chest.
Oliver began to speak again. “So Emma called me last night…”