A/n: okay so I lied a smidge. Joe and Fenton do find out who Mike is. but you don't. at least not yet

Chapter 9

Joe spent the next hour on the phone with his father, Mr Frisk and Agent Reeves of the FBI who had been called in to handle Danny's kidnapping. It was easier to shove his worry about Frank into a tiny compartment of his brain while he was brainstorming with the others. Reeves was intrigued by Joe's theory and promised to do some research using some of the criteria that had been discussed, such as the non threatening ransom notes. Joe soon found that the hour was almost up, so he hung up and made his way back into Dr Suitland's waiting room. The receptionist told him that the session was running a little late.

At first this was no big deal, his own sessions with Dr S had occasionally run over as well, mostly because he had a tendency to ramble and not make a whole lotta sense, not even to himself. But as the minutes ticket by, Joe began to pace the large airy reception area. Mary tried to studiously ignore the increasingly agitated blond but was rapidly reaching the end of her patience as well. She was spared any impending showdown when the door to the inner office finally opened. Joe whirled and stopped short in shock at his brother's face. It had a haunted quality to it that sent a chill down his spine. Whoever Mike was, Joe decided, it was a good thing he was already dead. Otherwise, Joe would have killed him for causing such agony in his brother.

Frank was silent as they returned to the SUV. Joe was also noncommittal, only asking what Frank wanted for lunch. He ended up getting subs and decided while he was in line exactly how to tackle the next phase of the plan. He was going to show Frank how it should have been done, when their roles were reversed. He was going to be Frank's brother. Not a babysitter. Not a mother hen. None of the things that so annoyed him when he was the one in pain. So what if Frank's wasn't physical. Emotional pain was worse. Joe knew that intimately. And so Joe found himself driving a long unused but well remembered route to Barmet Bay. To his Thinking Place.

This cliff above the Bay, with it's large rock outcropping, had saved his soul when Iola died. "The sound of the waves helps" he said in response to Franks unvoiced question, and handed his brother a Sweet Onion Teriyaki sub. They ate in silence. Just listening to the waves.

After their hunger had been satisfied, Joe cleaned up the remains and then quietly, gently, placed his hand on his brother's. "When you are ready, I'll be there." He got up and walked back to the SUV. He sat in the car a long time, alone. He let Frank decide when he was ready to come and sit beside him. He was there so long that he had fallen asleep when Frank finally opened the passenger side door and slipped in.

"Where to?" Joe asked blandly. "your place, mine, the office or the 'rents?"

Franks voice was ragged, he had obviously been crying as his eyes were red although dry at this point. "My place."

"Okay." he started the SUV and drove back into town towards Frank's apartment. Chet was out of town that week, having some family reunion or other to attend, so the place was empty. "Want me to stay?" Joe left the decision entirely up to Frank, placing no expectations one way or the other. He was determined to do and be only what Frank wanted him to at that moment.

"I..I want to be alone right now, Joe." He said this half fearfully, fully expecting his brother to protest. But he was surprised when Joe merely said "Okay. I'm heading over to the house. I need to do laundry. Will probably stay for dinner. Cell phone is charged. Call me if you need to. No matter what time it is." Joe headed towards the front door, stopped, turned, swiftly crossed the room, grabbed his brother's face between his hands and gave him a piercing look. "I meant it. Whenever you are ready, I will listen. No matter what, Frank. Just remember, I am an impatient bastard so don't take too long." He pulled Frank into a rough embrace, held him fiercely for a long minute then let him go and strode out the door in one lithe movement.

Joe took his sweet time driving across town to his own apartment, figuring he needed to gather his own thoughts before facing his parents. Grabbing the laundry basket that was overflowing, he was shortly at his boyhood home. Laura was mildly surprised that only one son had shown up on her doorstep, but accepted Joe's explanation that Frank wanted to rest quietly. Joe spent a few minutes in the basement sorting darks from whites and then hung out in the kitchen keeping his mother company while she was finishing a pineapple upside down cake for the evening's dessert. At one point he tentatively broached the subject of Frank's hospitalization, not sure how much his Father had told her.

Laura paused, a smudge of flower across her nose as she wiped her face. "Your father said that he became violent. And that they made him stay in the hospital for psychiatric observation." she was calm, but the tightness around her eyes betrayed her concern.

Joe nodded. "Yeah. He was really out of it when he woke up after I got there. Kept raving about some guy named Mike." Joe deliberately left out the details.

"Mike?" Laura mused. "That name sounds familiar."

"It does?" Joe spluttered, trying hard to contain his excitement. "Dad was certain it wasn't a client."

"No, dear. A friend of your brother's though, I think. He used to mention him a lot when he was first in college." Laura paused, considering. "Oh! I know! he was Frank's first roommate at NYU."

Joe was ecstatic. Finally, a break! "I don't suppose you ever knew the last name, Mom?"

"Hmm, Donnely, Donaldson...Wait! Donovan! Mike Donovan! I am sure of it!" She proclaimed.

Joe leaped up, knocking the kitchen chair over as he did so. He grabbed his mother around the waist and lifted her up in a great big hug. " You are definitely the greatest mother in the history of the universe!" and he left her catching her breath as he raced upstairs to the old office. He was soon typing away on the computer. While it was no longer a work related PC, Joe used his recently honed Googling skills and within an hour had an extensive history. One that ended with a death certificate dated over 7 years ago. He was still going over the information he had dug up when his father knocked on the door.

"Joe? Dinner's about ready."

"I have it Dad!" he half shouted. "I know who Mike is!"

Fenton was amazed. "How did you find out? Did Frank tell you?"

Joe shook his head in the negative. "Nope. Mom knew the name!" he sobered. "I know how he died, too." he passed over a few printed pages, newspaper articles mostly. Fenton spent a minute skimming over the information.

"What are you going to do with this, Son?" Fenton asked soberly.

Joe grew pensive. "Nothing. When Frank is ready to tell me, he will."

Fenton was a little surprised at the newfound maturity of his younger son. "Are you sure, Joe? You have a reputation for being, shall we say..impatient."

"I know. But I learned something in that mine shaft, Dad. Being the Big Brother is hard work. Especially for somebody like me." he smiled a bit self consciously. "And I think I have a pretty good idea of what pushed Frank over the edge. I owe him." This last was said in a whisper.

The sound of Laura's voice impatiently reminding them that dinner was getting cold put a hiatus on anything further Fenton was going to say. But after dinner, he asked Joe if he could keep the printouts and take a closer look. Joe was fine with that. He soon departed for his apartment with half a pineapple upside down cake and clean laundry. Fenton spent the rest of the evening going over the information Joe had dug up and before long had made a few phone calls of his own and gotten even more. By the end of the night he had a full accounting. And what he had discovered chilled his soul.

To be continued in There But for the Grace of God.