Chapter 14

"We commit his body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust…"

Frank Hardy was only half listening to the words of the Minister, his mind elsewhere. The sun beamed down uncomfortably hard on the back of his neck, the rain of the last few days having disappeared. He thought it a cruel twist of fate that the sun had decided to appear just as they were burying Mike.

With a glance around the packed cemetery, Frank swallowed hard. Most of NYPD had turned out to pay their respects to the big man. They stood, grim and silent figures in their dark uniforms, mourning the loss of one of their own. Frank had never witnessed such solidarity before; the motorcade procession to the cemetery had brought several of New York's streets to a standstill. Not that he found it surprising, Frank understood only too well their bitter sense of loss.

Mike had been a good man and a great detective; one who believed strongly in justice and in doing what was right. He had spent most of his life fighting to protect those who could not protect themselves. It was how he had died.

Frank glanced at his brother, standing so very still beside him in a dark suit. Joe had barely said two words in the last few days. He had become a stranger, robotic and silent. Frank still did not know the full story of what had happened to him the night Mike had died, and that fact both scared and hurt him. His brother had never shut him out before.

Feeling his eyes start to blur a little, Frank blinked quickly. Mike had saved his brother's life and taken down a murderer…and yet there was no happy ending.

A dry sob to his left drew his attention. Imperceptibly, he turned and glanced at his father. Fenton Hardy's face was a mask of grief; eyes scrunched shut in pain and his mouth a thin line of clenched anguish. He was heartbroken by his old friend's death.

Frank shivered, despite the sun, as his thoughts drifted back to the awful night Mike had died. It had been late when his father returned home, his face carrying such a harrowing expression of grief that for one terrible moment, Frank had been sure his brother was dead. Then Joe had entered with Sam Radley behind him, and Frank's mind had gone completely blank with relief.

White-faced and shaking, his clothes and face splattered with dirt and blood, Joe had been unable to look his brother in the eye. When their mother raced forward to embrace her son, Joe had taken a step back and Sam had put his hand out to stop her, shaking his head violently.

"Joe?" their mother whispered while Frank's heart plummeted.

"I need a shower," was all he said, before climbing the stairs without even so much as a backward glance at his family.

Frank's fleshed crawled as he flashed back to the nightmarish thoughts that had forced their way into his mind at that moment. He knew they had occurred to his mother too because she had turned, terrified, to Sam.

"He never touched him," said the detective at once, picking up on their fear.

The relief had been so overwhelmingly painful that Frank had closed his eyes, only opening them when he heard his mother ask, "Fenton, what's wrong?"

It had been a long minute before he answered her, his face twisting in pain as he tried to speak. Finally he had managed to choke out, "Mike's dead."

Laura's eyes had widened in shocked pity. Wordlessly, she slid arms around her shaking husband, whereupon he had broken down and sobbed desperately on her shoulder. Watching his father weep openly as his wife held him tightly had been the moment when Frank had realised just how human his father really was.

The sudden sound of gunfire made him jump, and Frank almost ducked before realising that it was the three volley salute.

The men and women of NYPD raised their right hands as one, and saluted the coffin. Frank felt the lump in his throat swell as the Honour Guard fired again. Beside him, Joe started to shake. As the third and final shot was fired, Frank bowed his head in memory of a man who had sacrificed his own life to keep his brother safe.

xxx

The drive back to the hotel was uncomfortable and silent. From the back seat, Frank could see his mother stealing anxious glances out of the corner of her eye at her husband. Fenton was rigid in the driver's seat, his eyes glued to the road and his jaw clenched tightly. He hadn't said a single word since they left the cemetery.

Joe was sitting beside Frank, quiet and unmoving, his head lying against the glass as he stared unseeing at the street outside. Frank wished there was something he could say to make his brother feel better, but he didn't know how to deal with this silent ghost. The dark haired boy swallowed. He didn't know how to handle any of this.

The car entered the hotel parking lot and Fenton pulled up in front of the door. "I have some things I need to do," he said quietly to his wife. "I'll be back later."

She nodded, biting her lip. Frank could see that his mother was having as much trouble dealing with her silent husband as he was having dealing with the stranger that had replaced his brother.

Saying their goodbyes to Fenton, the Hardys climbed out of the car and watched as the detective reversed and pulled out of the parking lot.

Laura turned to her sons. "Are you boys hungry?"

They shook their heads and she smiled sadly. "Me neither. Let's just go back to our rooms, okay? We can get some dinner when your father returns."

"Sure, Mom," Frank replied while Joe shrugged.

Entering the hotel, they crossed the lobby to the elevator. As they waited for the elevator, Frank listened to the tinkling noise of laughter and conversation that filled the room. He was struck by how surreal this normality felt after the grim strangeness of the last few days.

The elevator doors pinged and opened. Laura entered first, followed by Joe and then Frank. An elderly lady came hurrying in after them just as the doors slid closed, her arms around a skinny, hairless little dog with long white hair around it's ears that looked like a wig. She was crooning to it and talking to it in a baby voice as though it were the most precious thing in the world.

Frank thought it was the ugliest thing he had ever seen.

"Is Mummy's little Darling tired after his walk?" cooed the elderly lady while the little dog snarled and yipped. "Poor baby! Never mind, Mummy will make sure you have a nice long nappy-nap when we get back. Would you like that, Lulu? Yes, you would! Yes, you would!"

She made kissy noises at the dog and Frank snorted as he suppressed a laugh. He tried to catch his brother's eye but Joe didn't seem to be paying any attention to the woman or her dog. With a bitter pang, Frank remembered a time when his brother would have imitated this woman with gusto while their mother wasn't looking.

The doors opened on their floor and to Frank's relief, the woman and her dog did not get off with them. He watched Joe slowly make his way down the corridor and his heart ached. He desperately missed the side of his brother that would once have exploded with laughter as soon as he left the elevator.

His mother was also looking after Joe in concern and with a helpless glance at Frank, indicated that they should follow him. They made their way down to the end of the long corridor where their rooms were. Frank and Joe were sharing a room just across from their parents.

"I'm going to call Gertrude," Laura told them softly. "I'll be in the room if you boys need anything."

Frank nodded and watched his mother enter her room before pulling their key from his pocket and opening the door. He stood back and let Joe enter first, before following him into the room.

Joe kicked off his shoes and lay down on his bed, staring up at the ceiling. He never said a word to Frank.

Frank sat gently on the side of his bed, facing his brother's prone figure. He stared at him in silence for several minutes.

"What?" Joe demanded finally.

"Joe, what's wrong?"

"Nothing." The younger boy's tone was uncharacteristically hostile and Frank winced.

"Are you mad with me?" he asked quietly.

That got Joe's attention. He sat up and stared at Frank. "No! Why would you think that?"

"Gee, I wonder," said Frank sarcastically.

Joe dropped his head and Frank immediately felt bad. "I'm sorry. It's just…you've barely said two words to me in the last few days!"

The younger boy shrugged in response and Frank wanted to shake him in frustration.

"Talk to me, Joe!" he begged.

"What do you want me to say?"

The question caught Frank off guard. "I don't know…anything. Just say something! Don't shut me out. Talk to me, please."

"You want to talk? Okay, Frank, let's talk!" said Joe, starting to get angry as he stood up and looked down at his brother. "What do you want to talk about? Lets see, what about the fact that I can't sleep because every time I close my eyes I see Mike dying? Or how about I can't bear to have anyone touch me because every time someone does I think of him? Or what about the fact that Dad can't look at me because he blames me for Mike's death? Oh yeah, and I nearly forgot…how about every time I look at you I keep thinking 'why me?' Is that what you wanted to talk about, Frank, huh?"

Joe's voice had been rising progressively with every word and he was now shouting. Frank stared in open-mouthed shock as angry tears formed in his brother's eyes.

"You're the one who wanted to talk, Frank, so talk!"

Frank blinked and stared at his brother, confused and hurt. Why was Joe angry at him?

"TALK!" Joe screamed.

The older boy stood up, holding his hands out in a pacifying gesture. "Joe, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you, I just wanted to help."

"Oh yeah, help!" Joe spat, angry tears rolling down his cheeks. "Who did you want to help, Frank, me or you?"

"You!" Frank shot back, his own temper starting to rise. He was baffled by his brother's anger. "What the hell is the matter with you?"

"I don't know!" Joe howled and covered his face with his hands. He sat on the bed and sobbed, than choked as he tried to stop crying.

Frank stared at his brother for several minutes, stunned, before sitting down beside him. He itched to put his arm around Joe but was afraid to touch him. Instead, he waited in silence for him to regain control of his emotions. Finally the younger boy sniffed and wiped his eyes.

"I'm sorry, Frank," he said shakily. "I didn't mean any of that. I don't know what's wrong with me."

"Nothing's wrong with you, Joe," Frank replied softly. "You've just been through something really horrible."

"But it's not fair of me to be taking it out on you," Joe sniffed. "And I'm glad you weren't there. I would have hated it if anything happened to you. I don't know why I said it…I'm sorry," he added in a whisper.

The miserable expression on his face tore at Frank's heart. "Joe, don't apologise. It's not your fault, any of it."

"Yes it is! I begged Dad to let me go to football practice and I was stupid enough to fall for his trap! Mike's dead because of me!"

"It wasn't your fault!" said Frank fiercely. "If you hadn't been kidnapped then that guy would still be alive and free to keep killing! And if Mike hadn't found you…" Frank's voice trailed off and he shuddered at the thought of what would have happened if Mike hadn't been near the school at precisely that moment.

"Joe," he continued in a softer voice. "I'm pretty sure that Mike would rather it were him instead of you, and he would have been glad that he took this guy down with him. He went out a hero, Joe."

"He shouldn't have died. It's my fault."

"It's not your fault! Haven't you been listening to me? Why would you think it's your fault?"

"Why not? Dad does."

Frank frowned. "Of course he doesn't! Where would you get an idea like that?"

Joe shrugged.

"I'm serious," Frank argued. "Give me one good reason why you think Dad blames you."

"He won't talk to me," Joe whispered. "He can't even look at me!"

"He's grieving, Joe! He's barely talking to any of us."

"I know. It's just…Look, Frank, it doesn't matter-"

"But it does matter!" Frank interrupted. "Joe, Dad doesn't blame you! Nobody does. The only person at fault here is that sick, evil, twisted psycho…and he's dead!"

Joe didn't respond but his expression was so lost and miserable that Frank couldn't stop himself from putting his arm around his brother's shoulder.

"Stop that," he said softly, as Joe stiffened. "Joe, you know that Dad doesn't blame you. And don't let what happened with this guy freak you out so much that you don't even want to be near your own family!"

"I can't help it." The younger boy's voice was barely a whisper.

Frank swallowed. Part of him wished this man weren't dead so he could throttle him himself. "Joe," he said quietly. "I know this hurts. And I know it's scary to think there are guys like him out there…but he was sick and evil! Please don't shut out the people who care about you because of him, we just want to help."

"I know you do," Joe replied, sounding tired. "But I don't know how to get him out of my head."

"Just keep telling yourself that he's dead," said Frank. "And that he can't hurt you or anybody else ever again."

Joe nodded then flinched as Frank squeezed his shoulders before removing his arm.

"Don't," Frank reprimanded him gently. "He's gone and you're safe. Don't let him win by being afraid. You can't last your life without human contact. For one thing, what about girlfriends?"

Joe gave a watery laugh at his brother's desperate attempts to make him smile. "Um, I think you're talking about you and Callie."

"For now. But your turn will come too…don't make the gross face!" Frank groaned as his brother pulled a face. "Joe, why do you do that?"

"Do what?"

"Make a face when I'm trying to give you advice."

"Because I like to bug you?" Joe gave him a small smile and Frank felt an inward flip of delight to see a trace of his brother's old humour.

"Funny!" he retorted. "Just remember who's taller."

"For now," Joe teased.

Frank rolled his eyes.

Joe's expression sobered. "Frank, thanks."

"For what?"

"For not getting mad. I was a real jerk and you were…really cool."

"Just don't like seeing my little brother so upset," replied Frank.

"Uh…yeah. About that? Could you not tell anyone that I behaved like a total girl?" Joe asked, his cheeks reddening slightly.

Frank smiled. "My lips are sealed. Want to get something to eat?"

Joe shook his head. "I'm not very hungry. Think I might try and catch a nap."

His tone was cheerful but Frank still sensed an unease lurking beneath the surface. He searched his brother's face for signs that he would lapse into his silent funk again, but although Joe's face was pale and there were sunken shadows beneath his eyes, he looked a lot more like his old self.

"Alright," he conceded. "When Dad comes back, I'll call you and we can all go for something to eat."

There it was. At the mention of their father's name, a shadow of pain flashed across Joe's face. Frank groaned inwardly, realising that he had not totally convinced his brother that their father didn't blame him for Mike's death. Frank couldn't help but feel slightly angry at his father for not seeing this. Didn't Joe have enough to deal with?

Knowing that if he pushed too hard he could make matters worse, Frank decided to let Joe get some rest. But he had no intention of letting the matter go. He might not be able to convince Joe of their father's feelings…but Fenton could.

And Frank was going to make sure that he would.

He made his way slowly to the lobby. He was going to park his butt on one of those sofas and wait for his father to get back. Even if it meant waiting all night.

xxx

Fenton pulled into the hotel parking lot and neatly parked the car. Turning off the engine, he sat with his hands on the steering wheel, staring off into the darkness. His heart ached with a weighted heaviness. It hurt to move and it hurt to breath. He couldn't believe Mike was really dead.

With a ragged gasp, he tightened his grip on the wheel. He had just spent the last two hours with Leona, clearing out Mike's office. She had showed signs of wanting to talk about Mike, but for him it was just too soon. He had been relieved when Con and Sam had shown up with more information on the killer; it had given him something else to focus on.

Ben Mathis had been forty-two and a sociopath if ever there was one. His father had been one of the wealthiest shipping magnates on the east coast and Ben had been raised in impossible luxury, attending the best schools and enjoying the best of everything. This was a man who always had everything money could buy…but apparently it wasn't enough.

Violent anger surged through him as he remembered what Con had told him. As well as several paintings, the police had discovered diaries that went into vivid and horrific detail about what his victims had endured during their last few days on earth. Con had told him that the police expected to find evidence of other victims in his other properties that were scattered up and down the East Coast. Even though Ben was dead, the investigation wasn't over. The full sordid story behind all of his crimes had yet to be unveiled. NYPD were also hoping to find something that might lead them to the location of Chris Gallagher's body so that his family could finally put him to rest.

For Fenton, however, the case was over. After fifteen years of chasing this monster, he was done. He had sacrificed so much to this case and none of it had been worth it. Too many innocent lives had been lost, including Mike's, and he felt cheated that the monster responsible for all this pain would never face justice. Fenton could only hope that he was burning in hell for his crimes.

Sighing painfully, the detective got out of the car and walked slowly towards the hotel. As he reached the front door, an older couple exited, laughing. The man's booming laugh was like a knife to his heart; it reminded him so much of Mike. Fenton closed his eyes for a moment, remembering that when Mike laughed it had been impossible not to laugh too.

Swallowing hard, he entered the lobby and crossed it. He had just reached the elevator when a voice rang out.

"Dad!"

Fenton turned and saw Frank hurrying towards him. There was a grim and somewhat scared expression on his face and Fenton felt his heart quicken as he wondered what was wrong. "Frank! What is it? Has something happened?"

"Nothing's happened," Frank replied, before stopping in front of him. "We need to talk."

"Can't this wait till morning?" asked Fenton, suddenly very exhausted. His brain was on overload, still processing the events of the day, and he just wanted to lie down and sleep for a year.

"No it can't!" said Frank fiercely and Fenton recognised his determined expression as the one he usually wore when he had something to say that he knew the other party was not going to like. It was pointless even trying to put him off; come hell or high water, Frank was going to have his say.

Fenton sighed. "Alright. What is it?"

"Why aren't you talking to Joe?" demanded Frank at once. "You've hardly looked at him since you came home the other night! Do you blame him for Mike's death or something?"

"Don't be ridiculous!" said Fenton, shocked. "What on earth would make you say that?"

"Because Joe is up there thinking that you do!" snapped Frank, indicating wildly upwards with his finger.

Fenton was stunned. "Joe thinks…why would he think that?"

"I have no idea!" snapped Frank. "But you need to do something about it right now! He's got enough to deal with, Dad."

Fenton looked down at the furiously indignant face of his eldest son, so much an old man's head on a young boy's shoulders, and felt pain. Pain that his son should see with the eyes of an adult and knowing that it was because life had made him so. Why couldn't Fenton protect his children from the horrible truths of this world? Without a word, he reached out and hugged Frank.

Whatever reaction the teenager had expected from his father, this clearly wasn't it and he patted Fenton's back awkwardly. "Er, Dad? Are you okay?"

As Fenton pulled back, he could see the boy's eyes darting in nervous embarrassment around the lobby to make sure no one was watching them and despite his grief, he couldn't help but smile.

Still a teenager in some ways.

"Dad, you okay?" Frank asked again, looking worried now.

"I'm fine," Fenton told him softly.

"Okay." Frank cocked his head on one side and frowned. "So, what are you going to do about Joe?"

Fenton smiled sadly. He could feel a twinge of warmth stab through the pain at this example of his sons' closeness. No one could deny the bond between Frank and Joe.

He put a hand on Frank's shoulder. "Frank, I promise I'll sort this out."

Frank bit his lip. "How?"

"I'm going to go and talk to Joe now. Tell you what, why don't you see if you can book us a table in the restaurant for eight thirty and we can all have dinner together?"

Frank nodded. "Okay, Dad."

Fenton hit the button and stepped into the elevator as the doors opened. His last view of the lobby before the doors glided shut was of his eldest son's face looking slightly apprehensive and more than a little worried.

The detective stared at his reflection in the polished elevator doors. The pale and dishevelled ghost staring back at him didn't look anything like him. No wonder his wife had insisted they spend another night in the hotel so they could all get some sleep; he looked like a hobo in someone else's dress suit. There was a little jerk as the elevator stopped and its doors slid open. Fenton found himself staring into the cream coloured hallway leading to their rooms.

Stepping out of the elevator, he walked slowly towards the boys' room. He stopped outside it and took a deep breath before knocking softly. "Joe? It's me."

There was no answer.

"Joe, I know you're in there," said Fenton. "We need to talk."

He heard movement inside the room and the door opened. Joe stood there looking scared, pale and tired.

Fenton felt ashamed of himself at once. He had spent the last few days wallowing in self-pity and misery, and forgotten all about the frightened teenage boy who had watched the man who had saved his life die.

The blond boy remained frozen by the door, his eyes on his father. Fenton could see that he was nervous and apprehensive, unsure of what his father was about to say.

Swallowing hard, he stepped into the room and pulled his youngest son into a tight hug. He felt the boy stiffen in his arms and his heart ached. How could he have been so selfish?

"I'm sorry, Joe," he whispered into the boy's hair. "I am so sorry."

Joe went limp and Fenton felt him start to shake as all the tension and all the fear started to pour out of him. The detective's shirt grew damp but he didn't let go.

"It's all right," he said softly, feeling as though he may cry himself. "It's okay. Let it out." He pulled the boy tighter to him.

Lost in the embrace, it was several seconds before Fenton became aware that Joe was saying something. He put his ear down. "What was that, Joe?"

"I'm sorry, Dad," the boy whispered. "I'm really sorry."

Fenton swallowed the lump in his throat. "You have nothing to apologise for," he said fiercely, his voice hoarse with emotion. "Do you understand? Nothing. This is not your fault!"

Joe nodded into his father's chest and Fenton heard a muffled sob.

"It's alright now," he told the boy. "Everything's going to be alright."

xxx

"Ahhhh! Come on, Biff! How could you have missed that shot?!"

His brother's yells roused Frank from his pleasant slumber in the sun. Sighing deeply, he cracked open one eye and glanced at the game of three-a-side that was taking place in the park; Joe, Biff and Phil against Chet, Tony and Iola.

Judging by his brother's frustrated face, they were losing, and Frank knew that would particularly irk him because there was a girl on the opposing team…and because that girl was Iola.

Not two nights ago, Joe and Iola had gotten into an argument about how no girl could ever beat a guy a football. Joe had insisted that girls didn't possess the same athletic ability as guys, while Iola had argued that his point was sexist and crap. The current gleeful expression on her face suggested that she was going to enjoy spending the rest of the day rubbing his face in it. Frank chortled at the thought.

"Hey, there," said a soft voice from somewhere above him. "It's about time you woke up. I had no idea you found my company so boring!"

Frank smiled, opened both eyes and sat up. "I could never find your company boring," he replied, looking into Callie's eyes.

"Oh, really? Is that why you've been snoring your head off for the last twenty minutes?" she teased.

"Who? Moi? I haven't been snoring! I've simply been preserving my strength to take you dancing tonight. I intend to show you moves on the dance floor that you've never seen before!"

"Oh, I can think of other ways to spend that energy," she grinned impishly and Frank blushed before leaning forwards and kissing her softly on the lips. He still couldn't believe he'd been dating this girl for over three months now; Callie Shaw was incredible.

A burst of cheering broke the moment and they drew apart, smiling at one another before turning to look at the game. It was over. Chet, Tony and Iola had won. As the six teenagers walked back towards Frank and Callie, Frank noticed Iola teasing his brother and Joe's half-sheepish grin…and smiled.

The last few months had been extremely difficult for the Hardys. Fenton missed his old friend terribly, and there were days when his mood had been so black that Frank wondered if his father would ever get over Mike's death. But in the last few weeks he had noticed that his father was much more cheerful and much less inclined to lock himself away in his study, brooding over what had happened.

The previous Friday, the entire Hardy family had gone to dinner to celebrate Fenton's birthday. As they toasted the detective (and Joe teased him about getting old), Fenton had raised a glass to Mike and thanked him for everything he had done. It had been the first time he had mentioned his name without looking as though it hurt him and Frank knew then his father was finally moving on.

Ben Mathis had been all over the news for the first two months following Mike's death and it had been particularly difficult for Joe as the gruesome details of his crimes were slowly leaked. The blond boy had only told his brother part of what had happened with Ben, and Frank had reluctantly accepted that he didn't want to talk about it. But it bothered him whenever he saw Joe tense if someone came too near. He was slowly getting less skittish though, and Frank noticed with particular satisfaction that he had no objection with how close Iola stood to him.

At that moment, Iola was holding the football behind her back and laughing while Joe kept trying to reach around her and grab it. Frank wondered briefly if his brother would ever make a move, before remembering how long it had taken him to even try and ask Callie out.

He felt a gentle hand slip into his. "Stop thinking so hard," Callie's soft voice sounded in his ear. "It's too nice for deep thoughts."

"So I shouldn't be thinking about how pretty your hair looks?" Frank teased and she laughed.

"Now that you can do!"

Leaning in, Frank kissed her again, feeling himself get lost in the moment.

"Ewwwww! Could you two get a room and stop grossing us out?" Joe's indignant voice sounded and everyone laughed.

Frank pulled away and looked at his brother. "Now why would we do that when it's so much fun grossing you out?"

"Oh funny, you're funny!" Joe snorted, glaring at his brother as he flopped on the grass.

Frank grinned devilishly. "I like to think so."

"Think being the operative word," Joe muttered while Biff and Tony guffawed with laughter. Frank rolled his eyes.

"Hey, guys, anyone up for a movie tonight?" Chet interrupted them, clearly not listening.

"Ooooooh, yes!" exclaimed Callie. "There's a new Meg Ryan movie out that looks really good."

"Not some chick flick!" Biff groaned.

"Well, what do you suggest?" said Callie indignantly. "Something without conversation and lots of explosions?"

"Don't forget car chases," Tony put in helpfully. "Can't forget car chases."

They started to bicker about film choices and Frank smiled, raising his face to the sun. He enjoyed these moments. They were a nice reminder of the simple pleasures in life and helped chase away any dark thoughts. He wondered if Joe felt the same way about them before opening his eyes and glancing at his brother.

Joe was oblivious to the movie debate that was raging. He and Iola were sitting cross-legged a few feet away from the rest of the teenagers, heads bent forward as they leaned towards one another. Iola was gesticulating animatedly, a mischievous grin on her face and Joe's shoulders were quivering as he laughed at whatever she was saying.

Frank guessed it was a joke. Iola possessed a knack for wicked humour, a talent which she had used frequently in the last few weeks to buoy Joe's spirits.

For the millionth time, Frank wondered why his brother and Iola were so slow to get together when there was so obviously something there. He had even briefly considered interfering to get things moving, something Callie had been quick to shoot down the second he had mentioned it to her.

"Don't you dare, Frank Hardy!" she had warned him. "They need to do this at their own pace."

But watching them now, Frank's fingers itched to get involved. He wondered if he had looked this painfully slow when trying to ask Callie out…although he didn't dare ask her. Callie flair for honesty lacked finesse sometimes.

"Stop that," her voice scolded suddenly in his ear and Frank blushed guiltily before turning back to face her.

The debate had obviously been forgotten about or else something had occurred during it because Tony and Biff were now wrestling on the grass. Chet and Phil were holding their sides and laughing while Tony yelled at Biff to let him up because his armpit smelled of feet.

"Joe and Iola will get there…eventually," Callie told Frank gently. "You'd be surprised at how these things work themselves out."

Frank stared into his girlfriend's gentle brown eyes as he thought back over the events of the last few months. Life had the oddest, and sometimes the most painful, ways of giving people the things they wanted the most. But sometimes, it was exactly that which made the thing so precious.

Frank smiled. "You know what? I don't think I would."

Beaming, Callie leaned forward and kissed him. But they barely had time to enjoy their stolen moment before Joe's voice rang out once more.

"For Pete's sake, not AGAIN! Don't you two ever do anything else?"

Frank and Callie could do nothing else except throw themselves back in the grass and laugh.

A/N: Here it is, the final chapter of Lost Sons. I'm very sorry for the delay in getting it up but I've been without a computer for the last week and a half (it was torture! I hate being without the internet.). Anyway, I hope you all enjoy it. And thank you so much to everyone who has commented on the story as it posted. Your thoughtful comments and lovely words really made my day and are the best payment in the world for writing a story. So thank you all, very much.