This story has no basis in medical reality. It was merely a scenario that I had thought up and wanted to see played out. I guess a Twilight Zone type situation but I hope you'll enjoy it as well. The story starts out when the boys are young but quickly jumps to canon ages. It is quick moving and takes place over 8 chapters. Let me know what you think.

Originally posted under the penname Mellon, here it is… the longest sleep.

Warnings: this story contains mature themes and, while not graphic, remembered violence against a minor. Not appropriate for sensitive or under-aged readers.

The Longest Sleep

Chapter 1

The two children rode side by side enjoying the last day of summer to the fullest. They had just reached a part of the road where there were no houses for a block, just shrubs and trees on both sides of the road.

11-year-old Joe Hardy hated this part of the ride home. Not because of the remoteness of the area, but because it was the one section of their chosen path, where they had to ride on the road… and he hated riding on the road. He found it very nerve wrecking to have to have to remember to be extra careful about looking out for cars.

Riding just ahead of him was his older brother, Frank. At 12, Frank Hardy was already a handsome boy with dark hair and warm dark eyes, and as he glanced back to remind his brother to watch out for cars, a spike of terror shot through his heart.

Almost on top of the younger boy was a dark blue van with tinted windows!

"Joe!" Frank cried as he slammed on his brakes and swerved to the side of the road. Joe heard his brother's voice and instantly looked behind him – but there was nothing he could do.

The front end of the van clipped the rear wheel of the child's bike and he was thrown from it and onto the dark pavement.

Screaming, Frank jumped from his bike and raced towards his still brother just as the van slammed on its brakes and fishtailed to a stop a few feet ahead of him.

"You killed him!" the older boy yelled, as all he could see was the quickly pooling blood beside his brother. But before he could find out if Joe was dead or not, a man had crossed the distance from the van to the boys, and before Frank knew what was happening, he was grabbed by the man and dragged towards the waiting vehicle.

Struggling, the boy tried to keep from panicking but it was hard to do, especially when a second man opened the door and pulled him into the side.

"Shut up brat", Frank heard one of the men growl, but that just made him fight harder. But the guy who had grabbed him, was just too strong and there was nothing he could do. Waves of fear overwhelmed him and he started to scream again, as he fought with the hands holding him down. But it was no use and as the van pulled away from the curve, there was no one to hear his screams.

------

Life had become hell for Frank. He no longer even wondered if his brother was still alive. All he knew was that he wished he were dead.

When the man finally finished with him, he was beyond pain. All he wanted to do was curl up somewhere and die. The darkness around him was no longer on the outside. It was inside him as well.

He didn't even protest when they bound, gagged and then stuffed him inside a big black garbage bag.

That's all I am now, he despaired, garbage.

Closing his eyes, he waited for the inevitable. The end. But fate had other plans for him, and he was surprised when suddenly light shone into his world, and then he heard warm words and felt gentle hands pulling him from his prison.

He had been found.

------

Numbly Frank sat in the chair and watched the sleeping form in the hospital bed. It was Joe and he knew that something was wrong with him, but right now he couldn't focus on anything outside himself and so he just sat and waited.

He really just wanted to go home, take a hot scalding shower and go to bed.

Frank watched as his parents hovered over his brother while casting him with looks of worried sympathy. They didn't have the words to comfort him or to take away what had happened and he rebuffed their attempts at making him feel better.

Nothing would ever make him feel better.

Finally his father, private investigator Fenton Hardy, stood up and smiled, "Come on son, let's get you home."

Like someone sleep walking, Frank stood up and followed his father out the door, without even casting a glance back.

------

Fenton didn't say anything. He really had no idea how to help his older son except by being there for him and he was insanely pleased that the child hadn't shirked from him when he offered to take him home.

Inwardly, he was terrified that his son would be afraid of him but Frank just followed quietly, a shadow of his normal self.

The doctor had made arrangements for the Frank to see a counselor in the morning, after he'd had a good nights' sleep. They'd wanted to keep him in overnight but Frank wouldn't hear of it. He wanted to go home.

So after they ran some tests to make sure the man who had hurt him, hadn't infected him with anything, they said the determined youngster could go home.

They told Frank he was very lucky. Somehow Fenton doubted his broken child felt lucky at all.

The detective resolved to catch his sons assailants and held hope that Joe might be able to give them some more details if he regained consciousness – Fenton corrected himself - when he regained consciousness. He was not ready to give up that easily; although he was more worried that if Joe didn't wake up, they would have lost more then just his younger son that night…

Frank was changed.

Nothing was ever going to be the same for him.

------

Three days later, Frank finally looked around and wondered for the first time why Joe hadn't come home yet.

He had resisted all attempts to go to the hospital to see his brother as all he wanted to do was stay home; begrudgedly he hurried the short distances between it, the car and the therapist's office. But after three days, as the haze of pain and shock started to lift, Frank suddenly wondered how Joe was.

Going downstairs, he was surprised to hear soft crying coming from the kitchen and pushing open the door between the living room and the kitchen, he saw his mother sitting at the table with her head in her hands, sobbing brokenly.

"Mom?" he asked tentatively, his voice thin and small sounding. Laura Hardy raised her head and tried to hide her tears, but he saw through her and reached out with a hand to touch the wetness on her face even as he pressed, "What's wrong?"

Holding his hand against her cheek, she closed her eyes, "Nothing sweetie. How are you feeling, baby?"

"Okay", Frank said, deciding that was as close to the truth as he could go, and then asked, "Mom, why isn't Joe home yet?"

Opening her blue eyes, Laura turned away from her son as fresh tears tracked her cheeks. Choking back a sob, she tried to think of the best way to tell this to her oldest son. He had already been through too much… lost too much… she loathed to tell him. But he needed to know.

"Frank… son…" she started and found it very hard to hold the gaze of the intense brown eyes that watched her very carefully, "Joe was hurt very badly when the van struck him…"

Frank closed his eyes as for one brief second he remembered that too vividly. But over laying his own memory of the accident, and of seeing his brother on the pavement, was the knowledge of what had happened after that.

"How badly?" he finally asked and held his breath without even realizing it; and then letting out a little at a time as his mother listed off his brother's injuries.

"A broken leg, shattered pelvis, broken ribs, sprained wrist…" Laura stopped for a second, surprised by her own reaction as she listed off her younger son's injuries. This was the first time she had vocalized the full list, "but that's not the worst. Son, your brother's skull was fractured… and… and…" she sobbed, "his brain's been hurt."

"What?" Frank was shocked to find himself getting upset… well angry really. It wasn't bad enough what that man did to him – he was mixed up and it hurt, but he was smart enough to know that in time he would get past it… but they had hurt his brother's brain.

Brain damaged.

That was permanent.

"Oh honey, try not to get upset", Laura said as she saw the growing anger written so clearly on the face of her normally coolheaded son.

"What kind of damage?" the 12-year-old needed to know. Laura hung her head and looked at her hands as she said softly, "We don't know yet, Frank. Joe hasn't woken up yet."

"Its' been four days", Frank said in disbelief, "When's he going to wake up?"

"We don't know", his mother admitted, "the doctor's don't think he ever will. It's not looking good." And that was why she had been crying. The doctors had sat her and Fenton down, and told them point blank, that they needed to think about long term care for Joe. There were no signs of neurological activity in Joe's brain and they were ready to declare him brain dead.

Frank was in shock, "I need to see him." It finally got through to him and he pushed away his own pain. He needed to see Joe. It couldn't be true. It couldn't.

"His body is still alive, "his mother said, "it is breathing… but he will never wake up."

------

For the next six years, Frank was haunted by that prognosis, and night after night his dreams were haunted more by his mother's words then even by what had happened to him.

Joe had been moved from the hospital a month after being struck by Frank's assailants. Laura refused to hear of her son being put in a long-term facility and had him moved home instead.

She quit her job and spent her time taking care of her growing son. It was hard on the family but they did the best they could.

In the beginning, Frank spent a lot of time in Joe's room – in too much shock to believe the truth.

He watched as his brother slowly healed from the accident, until at times he appeared to be just sleeping. But then his mother would come in with the feeding tube or to change his catheter, and Frank was reminded of how real this was.

Their father buried himself in his work, obsessed with finding the men who did this… but finding nothing. He was seldom home and when he was, he spent his time in the office, refusing to look upon the son he felt he had failed.

Slowly over the years, the routine was established and slowly, as Frank managed to put behind him what had happened that last day of summer, he started to spend less and less time in his brother's room.

Until it started to be easier for him to by pass the door then to go in. His mother needed his help sometimes turning Joe, so he wouldn't get bedsores, or to change the sheets, but that was about the only he time he went into that room now.

And over the house hung an invisible shroud of mourning. Frank felt like his home was the host of a wake that never ended. A wake for his brother.

His friends never came over. It was just too creepy knowing that Joe was lying like that upstairs. All silent and still as death.

But Joe Hardy was not dead.

And six years later… almost to the day, brilliant blue eyes opened slowly and looked around the room blurrily. He lay in the bed and tried to make sense of it all. It was his room… but it wasn't. Slowly he tried to raise himself up off the bed but found he was too weak to move. So he lay back down to gather his strength.

He could hear the sound of the vacuum cleaner on downstairs and figured it was Monday. His mother usually did the vacuuming on Mondays and Thursdays… but it didn't feel like a Thursday.

Glancing at the nightstand, his eyes caught sight of his arm and he stared at in shock, what was this?

Instead of the smooth, clear skin of an 11 year old, this arm was bigger… and had hair!

Feeling whatever color was in his face, draining away, Joe cautiously lifted the blanket and stared down at the body that was in his bed.

And then he screamed!

TBC