Three days later

"Frank, will you just relax? I'm fine!"

Joe was glaring at his brother in exasperation from his nest of pillows and blankets on the couch. Since being released from the hospital that morning, his family- and Frank in particular- had gone out of their way to make sure Joe was comfortable. Joe's battle with pneumonia, though brief, had been enough to send their protective instincts into overdrive.

Frank paused on his way to the kitchen to fetch Joe a glass of water. "You sure?" he asked, dubious. "Your doctor said to stay hydrated."

Joe rolled his eyes. "I've already had three glasses of water, two of lemonade, and a mug of hot chocolate. Trust me, I'm good. Besides, the guys'll be here soon. We're just gonna chill, snack, and watch movies. Remember?"

Frank grinned ruefully. "I guess I've been overreacting a little, huh?"

"Just a little," Joe confirmed, smirking. "Er . . . can I ask you a question?"

Frank sensed his brother's seriousness and moved to sit on the coffee table across from Joe. "Sure. What's up?"

Joe hesitated, as if searching for words. "Do Mom and Dad . . . do they seem different to you?"

Frank wasn't sure how Joe meant, but he ventured a guess. "Different? Well, you were just really sick, and finding you in bed like that-."

He was cut off by Joe waving a hand. "No, not different like that. I mean . . . they're acting like they're proud of me or something. Especially Dad."

"Well, they are," Frank pointed out.

"I know that," Joe insisted. "But it's like I did something recently that made them be proud of me. Why do you think they're acting like that? I haven't done anything."

Frank studied Joe's puzzled face for a long moment, choosing his words carefully. "I think," he began, "that Mom and Dad are proud of the person you are. And, with you being sick, they had a chance to learn from our friends and each other why they are proud."

"What did you guys talk about?" Joe wondered.

Frank was saved from answering by the sound of the doorbell. He stood to answer it, but paused halfway across the room. Turning back to Joe, he said, "You know, we spend almost all of our time together, but it took you getting sick to find out what kind of person you are."

Joe gave him a dubious look. "And that is?"

Frank grinned affectionately at his younger brother. "Someone I'm really proud to call my brother."

With that, he left Joe in the room, stunned, as he went to go welcome their friends.