Seventeen year old Joe Hardy leaned back in his chair and took a few deep breaths. How had he gotten so out of shape, he wondered as his breathing returned to normal? He had run from the field where he had taken Coach Olsen something for Principal Dylan and back to the main entrance. He was used to running fifty times that far and at a faster speed. He opened his textbook as his classmates filed into the room.

After class he walked to his locker and put the book inside and pulled out the two he had homework in. These he tucked into his backpack as his year older brother, Frank, came up beside him. "We're meeting the guys at Mr. Pizza," Frank said, looking at his blond headed sibling.

"I think I'll give it a pass," Joe replied looking up from his task.

"Why?" asked Frank, concern marring his handsome features.

"I have scads of homework," Joe replied, his blue ones meeting Frank's brown ones. "It's going to take forever to get it all done."

"Want some help?" offered Frank, reaching up and tucking a stray strand of brown hair behind his ear. His hair had gotten a bit shaggy over the winter and he was long overdue for a trim.

"Thanks," Joe replied with a smile. "But I got it. Besides," he added, grinning. "Mom made you an appointment to get your hair done."

"She did?" Frank asked in surprise.

"Mmm-hmm," Joe replied. "She told you this morning while you were on the phone with Callie... but I guess you were too involved to listen."

Frank blushed at the mention of his girlfriend. "Do you remember where and when?" he asked.

"Five-thirty at Harrison's in the mall," Joe answered. "Can you drop me off at home before you head to Mr. Pizza's?"

"Sure," Frank agreed.

"You're home early," commented petite Laura Hardy, the boys' mother when Joe entered the living room that afternoon.

"I have a lot of homework," Joe answered, giving the woman whose feature's he had inherited a wan smile. "I'll see you later," he added, turning to go upstairs.

"Honey, are you feeling well?" asked Laura in concern, standing up and going over to him. Joe turned back around as he heard his mother rise. She laid a hand on his forehead as she neared. "You don't feel hot," she said.

"I'm fine," Joe assured her. "Maybe a little tired."

"Why don't you take a nap?" she suggested. "I'll wake you for dinner and you can do your homework afterwards. If you need any help, I'm sure Frank will help you."

"I might just do that," Joe replied, smiling at her. He kissed her forehead then went on upstairs, trying to smother a spurt of coughing.

Joe closed his bedroom door and sat down on the bed. He opened his backpack and pulled out his history book. He could do part of his homework now and the rest after dinner and still get a nap in, he thought. He lay down on the bed and opened the book to chapter four and began reading.

Almost three hours later his bedroom door opened and Frank entered. "Wake up, baby brother," he said, nudging Joe's arm.

Joe opened his eyes and blinked as the overhead light assaulted his eyes. Joe looked down at the book on his chest in disgust. He hadn't gotten more than a few pages read. "Dinner's ready," Frank told him. "Feeling better?" he asked as Joe sat up slowly. "Mom said you were tired when you got home."

Joe stretched. "Yeah," he said, grinning up at Frank's six foot one frame. "I'll be down in a minute."

Frank left the room and headed back downstairs as Joe stood up. He groaned and sat back down on the bed. "Ouch," he moaned, reaching down and rubbing his left ankle. He looked down at his feet. His left ankle looked bigger than the right one. He pulled off his shoe and then his sock. "Definitely swollen," he murmured, seeing the imprint of his sock's elastic on his skin. "Wonder how that happened?"

He pulled the other sock and shoe off. Taking a deep breath, he stood up again and gingerly put weight on his left foot. It didn't feel like it was sprained or broken; just uncomfortable. He headed into the bathroom to wash up, deciding to leave his socks and shoes off for the remainder of the night.