"The truth; it is a beautiful and terrible thing, and therefore shuld be treated with great caution." Dumbledore

Joe opened his eyes just as someone was trying to move him onto a gurney. The first thing he did was to punch the man, the second was to scream. Could you really blame him? The last person to manhandle him had both stolen his car and knocked him out with an iron.

"Woah, Joe. Joey, calm down, it's okay." That was when Joe realized that the person he'd all but punched out was Frank. For some reason, the sight of the person he'd been hoping to see made him want to cry. What was wrong with him?

"F-Frank?" Why was he in a hospital? He seemed to end up in hospitals a lot, through no fault of his own. He was just…accident prone. But the last thing he could remember was that iron coming down on his head, and the faintest sense of Aunt Trudy's little car speeding away.

Which really didn't explain how he ended up in a hospital in Bayport, especially with Frank looking at him like that, and his father and Chet and Biff by the door, staring as if he was Lazarus back from the dead.

Frank didn't seem to mind that Joe had hit him, which was weird. Usually the older Hardy would make a snarky comment about being the mature one, while Joe's attitude was to "shoot first, shoot later, and when everyone was dead try to ask some questions." Instead, his face got really soft and serious, like it always did when Joe was hurt, like it was his fault. "Hey, Joey."

That was twice now, and Frank hadn't called him Joey since he was eleven and Joe was ten and threatened to steal Frank's copy of Harry Potter if Frank called him Joey in front of their friends. "What's wrong?" It was a good question. Other than his killer headache, there was nothing wrong with him that warranted the looks he was getting from everyone.

Then his father was there, pushing Frank out of the way. Joe felt his eyebrows raise at that; for some reason, Frank looked murderous as he was pulled from Joe, and Joe wasn't exactly about their dad taking his place either. He inched away from the man, feeling his heart rate pick up against his will.

"What do you remember, Joe?"

"The hitchhiker I picked up was totally into the whole sadist/saw thing. He threw me out the car. That's what I get for being a good Samaritan." Joe sighed, winced at the pain in his head, and made to get up to find he was all but tied to the bed. "Uh, a little help here?"

It was Biff who eventually disentangled him from the various tubes and wires holding him to the unnecessary machines. Joe noticed his best friend staring at him, eyes looking just as concerned as Frank's. "What's up?" Joe asked, seriously worried. What was he missing?

"Later." Frank said quickly, and Joe turned to the doctor before he could see the older boy glare at Biff.

Joe stood, wobbled for a second and leaned on Biff for support. "So, doc, am I out of here or what?"

The doctor had that same look of 'what the heck are you doing breathing/upright?' Joe was seriously getting tired of that look. Still, the doc managed to shake his head (literally)and and say, "Just one or two quick tests. Concussion."

Joe groaned at that, distinctly remembering his last concussion, the one he swore to Frank he'd get checked out as soon as the case was over. He'd blown it off, of course. "How many tests?" He prodded, looking out the window. The sun was going down and it was the middle of July, so he estimated the time was around eight or nine pm. And he'd wanted to pick up girls with Biff…

"An MRI, at least." And Joe consented. How could he not with Frank looking like that? He couldn't remember the last time his big brother had looked so vulnerable, or so scared.

Something about passing out in the examination room meant that Joe needed to have a wheelchair. He put up a fight, found he was too dizzy to stand exactly upright, and grudgingly consented on the condition that Frank pushed him and their father got as far away as possible.

He felt terrible as soon as the words were out of his mouth, seeing his father's face drop by degrees before he turned and left the room. Joe would have called him back if the man didn't make him feel so uncomfortable.

"Joe, man, what's up with that? You totally just dissed your dad. He seems really upset." Biff's voice was low and urgent as the four boys trailed behind the adults. "What made you say that?"

Joe shifted uncomfortably, making the pounding in his head double. There was no way he was going to tell anyone about his headache, though, or they'd never let him out of this torture chamber. "I don't know. He…scares me." The last part was mumbled, ashamed. He was seventeen. He'd gone against men with guns. He should not be afraid of his own father.

"What did the hitchhiker look like?" Chet asked, and Joe shook his head and closed his eyes. He didn't remember. He didn't want to remember.

Frank said something along the lines of the time, them all having a long, emotional day behind them. The cue for Biff and Chet to leave. They both said their goodbyes, making Joe promise to call the next day.

"What do you mean about a long, emotional day, Frank?" Joe asked, closing his eyes. God, if the pounding would only stop…just give him some Advil and a long night's rest.

He felt a gentle hand in his hair and couldn't muster up the will or the energy to swat it away. "Later." A rough voice said. "Just concentrate on giving a good MRI. You don't want to stay here overnight." Frank knew of Joe's paranoia about hospitals. They'd been in far too many.

"If I end up failing this thing, you'll bust me out. Right?" Joe asked hopefully, forcing his eyes open. They were almost to the exam room, but he needed to extract this promise, needed it more than he needed anything else. He wanted the reassurance that his brother was behind him one hundred percent.

Suddenly warm hands were around his waist, helping him stand. "Of course, bro. Mom won't let you stay." Joe didn't understand that, not until… "One day I'll tell you what I went through today." His hands got tighter and Joe leaned into him, realizing that Frank was shaking. Was he…he couldn't be crying. Not Frank.

"I'm sorry." Joe said quietly, not quite sure what he was apologizing for. "I'm sorry." Maybe for making Frank this upset over him. Why was he worth it? Why was Frank always looking as if he was more important, more special than anyone else on Earth?

A mumble, and a kiss was placed gently on his head. Something was wrong, something Frank wasn't telling him. Scared now, and worried, "Frank?" The name was said quietly, breaking in the middle.

"I thought you were dead, bro." Explanation just as Joe was pulled away, asked to lie down in the chamber, told not to move, not to breathe.

"I thought you were dead."

Poor Joe. Poor Frank. So Joe will be going home, though he still has a couple of issues. Frank is working through the realization that he was about to kill himself. Chet and Biff are worried and angry. Mr. Hardy is confused.

Issues all around. Midterms are over, love is in the air, and it's still six frickin' degrees.

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