What you see is not what you get

Summary : Joe is in trouble and his brother might not be able to bail him out in time. Will Frank be there for Joe? especially when people are not what they seem.

Disclaimer : The hardy boys belong to Franklin. and the publishing agencies. I am simply borrowing the premise.

Rating : T plus

Chapter 1

"I swear I am trying Frank" Joe insisted as his dark haired older brother raised an eyebrow in doubt. "Joe, if you are really trying, it ought to reflect in your grades and it hasn't. I am afraid Dad is losing his patience little bro, you better do something about it".

Joe sighed and ran a hand through his hair as he picked up a ball and threw it on the bed before sinking onto it heavily. "I don't know what to do Frank. What do you think Dad will say?" he asked turning to his brother with worry lacing his bright blue eyes.

Frank exhaled, this was the worst part of being the older brother, of being sandwiched between his dad and his younger brother. A younger brother, who was looking at him like he was the saviour but this was one battle he could not fight for his brother, however much he wanted to.

"I am not sure; we will know for sure once he comes back with your test scores but for now I know it has reached a point where he is at his limits. You know that being able to solve mysteries was always on, provided we keep up our grades. Perhaps he will want you to concentrate on academics and not handle any cases until your grades are up...perhaps something else...I don't know ok? let's just wait for dad".

"It must be so easy for you ...you are a damn straight A student and look at me, struggling to balance out the B's "Joe burst out his voice rising at the end. Frank held up his hand "whoa bro, calm down. Shouting is not going to help matters. Tell you what, just get good scores on the next two tests and it will at least show dad that you are putting in the effort" he said laying a hand on his brother's shoulder. "Is that good enough for you at least?" Joe asked skeptically and Frank gave a wan smile "You are always good enough for me bro, good grades or not" he said drawing Joe in for a hug. "Just stop freaking out" he advised.

"Oh god! what am i going to do Frank? what if I can't do it? What if I fail? and you know what's really the worst part? the next test is geography and that's the worst" Joe ranted as Frank gave a dim smile.

"Well, moaning about it is not going to help you get a grade, but if you are nice to me maybe I can help you prepare for it " he said with a smile only to be hit by a flying pillow. "Real mature little bro" he teased as Joe sat up with a small smile. "Yeah, yeah rub it in and milk it for all it's worth "Joe groused as Frank chuckled "as if you don't do it when you can".

"Not fair "Joe retorted "You, being well you know youu I hardly get a chance to play that card" as Frank grinned. "Well you just have to do a little more planning and little less 'whinging it' and things will improve. Anyway I am going to make myself a sandwich, you want one too?" he asked.

"When have I never said no to food, especially when someone else is making it? Bring it on bro" Joe grinned as he followed his brother to the kitchen.

They were halfway through their sandwiches when they heard the front door open and their parents walked in. Joe immediately tensed as Frank laid a supporting hand on his wrist. Their dad's face did not reveal anything but their mom had a 'deep in thought look'.

"Are there any sandwiches left for us?" Fenton Hardy asked as they walked into the kitchen. Frank got up and extended the as yet uneaten sandwiches to his dad while Laura Hardy switched on the kettle. "So what did the teacher say? "Frank asked unable to keep quiet any longer. Joe's heart skipped a beat as his dad answered "finish your sandwiches after which Joe and I need to talk".

"Dad.." Frank started but his father cut him off "no Frank this is something that I need to discuss with your brother and your presence is not required. I am pretty sure he will tell you about our talk but that is between you two. Now Joe, if you are finished let's head to the study shall we?"

Joe cast a last pleading look at Frank and followed his father to the study feeling quite like the sacrificial lamb. He knew that his father had been fair in all his dealings with them but still, he could not help but feel that this time was different and his gut feelings had never let him down.

His father sat behind the desk and gestured for Joe to take the opposite seat which he did. "Joe, today your mother and I were called for a conference with your teachers. They were worried that your grades are slipping and so are we. The teachers believe that you have the potential to do so much better and we think the same. I am sure even you can agree with that. But before I get further into the conversation I want to know if there's any particular reason why your grades are so low especially in geography?"

Joe looked down biting his lip. He was feeling awful and he knew that there was nothing he could say. He shook his head "No particular reason dad but I promise that I will do better" he said ardently.

"You better do so son otherwise we would have to rethink if all the sports practice you do after school will be better spent on tuition. I will give you one last chance to get your grades up especially in geography where you are practically failing. We will see what happens in the upcoming test and if I don't see any improvement you will have to give up sports practices for the term. I think it's fair enough, can we agree on that?"

Joe looked up feeling sick to his stomach "Dad you can't do that. Please" he amended "we have two big matches coming up and I have to play "he begged. "I will do anything you want, anything but I can't give up football. I can't let down my teammates and the coach" he pleaded.

"But you can let us down and yourself is it Joseph?" Fenton asked his voice becoming steely "the next two tests Joe, show me that you are applying yourself. Show me that you give the same importance to academics as your other activities and then we will talk. Otherwise it's just a matter of one semester that you will have to withdraw from sports".

"If I take a break I can never get back in and besides Cooper is a grouch and he has it in for me" Joe shouted his voice rising at the end. "Don't raise your voice young man and you will treat your teacher with respect. He seems to be a reasonable man and he also believes that you have the potential to do better. So stop trying to find excuses and start working Joe".

"Dad..."Joe started pleading but his father held up a hand "I believe we are done Joe. Start working on your tests and we will talk then" he said as he got up and walked toward the door. Joe had no choice but to follow and he made his way to his room automatically even as blind panic threatened to overcome him.

He entered his room to find frank sitting on his bed. He sank next to his brother and dropped his head into his hands. Frank rubbed his back "Joe what did dad say?" he asked. Joe did not respond and continued sitting in the same pose. Frank felt the first stirring of worry...what could have his dad said that was so bad? he wondered. Joe was not a person who got depressed easily and just school stuff should not upset him so much.

"Joe" he tried again "you are scaring me now...come on bro tell me what happened. Whatever it is we can deal with it "he said softly. Joe looked up with anguish in his eyes which changed to anger startling Frank. Anger, that too directed at him was the last thing he had expected.

"What do you know of my problems? You are the darling of the teachers, a straight A student, borderline genius and what not. Why the hell do you have to be so good...now I am the villain ...the dunce and I might lose what I love because of that. I hate you" he said in a scathing tone. "What?" Frank was taken aback by the hate in Joe's eyes and felt deeply hurt. "Joe do you mean that? What did I do?" he asked weakly. Deep down he knew that this was his brother's quick temper talking but that did not mean that the words did not sting.

When Joe did not respond Frank felt his own temper rise. "You know what? You are an idiot" the words fell from his own mouth as he stormed out of Joe's room into his own. He fell onto his bed and tried to still the rage that was his mind.

The logical part of him pointed out that Joe was distraught and did not probably mean what he said but the part of him that was hurt ignored it. Well, if Joe did not want his help he was not getting it and it would probably be good if Joe resolved his problems on his own for once. But even as he reasoned it out in his own mind it felt wrong...his brother needed him..ugh for the first time in his life Frank felt deeply conflicted and these 'gut instincts' business was more Joe than him anyway. It was not helping him any. Finally after tossing and turning the idea in his mind he made a decision.

He decided that logic was his strong point and firmly shut down the small coil of unease gnawing at him. Maybe Joe will do better if he stayed away for a while he told himself, maybe the time apart will help them grow in different ways and this was for the best.

Joe in the meantime was still sitting on his bed with his arms around his knees, drawing them up to his chest. He was so angry at himself, his father and the world around him at the moment but mostly at himself. "What is wrong with me? How could I be so stupid?" he berated himself. The words he had flung at Frank came back to haunt him "Big bro I don't hate you, I love you. Please don't leave me now" he whispered in the darkness but he knew from experience that it was more difficult than not.

He was the one to blow up quickly and also forgive as easily but Frank...Frank was the opposite. He reined in his temper almost to the level of a robot but on the few occasions that he was either mad or very deeply hurt he would just withdraw. It would take forever for him to come out of it and become normal and Joe somehow knew that this was going to be one of those times.

The only person who could hurt Frank so deeply was Joe himself and he knew it. He mattered the most to his brother just as his brother mattered the most to him and now it was all a mess thanks to him and his big mouth. He had said hurtful things to the one person who would be behind him come hell or high water. At this point nothing mattered...not even football and he would gladly slog at his homework for twenty fours a day if it would set everything right with his brother.

Tomorrow, he decided..tomorrow he would grovel at his brother's feet and set things right. He needed his brother to get through the semester. Frank was his rock of Gibraltar and he would be damned if he lost that.

Author notes: Hi, I have grown up with Hardy boys as many of you are and I honestly didn't think there was a fandom for it until I literally stumbled on to it recently. The bug bit me again and wouldn't let go and so here I am.

I have been having unbelievable trouble with uploading the story. This is only my tenth try and I hope all the words are there in the final version. Otherwise I have to conceded that technology has bested me for the moment and let things rest. So here goes, fingers crossed.