Author's Note:

Yet another little ditty from me. This time it's just Frank and Joe right before Joe gets married. Thought I'd have a little bit of fun. Enjoy!

Checkmate

"You're move, Joe," Frank replied as he made his own across the chess board. He saw the moves he needed to make in order to win though he kept his poker face on. Joe sat across from him, studying the board. He looked bored more than anything.

"Explain to me again why I'm spending my last night of bachelorhood playing a game of chess with my brother?" Joe asked. He stuck his tongue out in consternation before moving a chess piece along the game board.

"Because you said you didn't want a party, if I remember correctly," Frank answered, never looking up at Joe. He was trying his best to hide his amusement over Joe's complaining.

"No, I said I didn't want anything big," Joe corrected him. "To not even have a couple of drinks with friends is just wrong."

"Well, I asked everyone what they were doing tonight and they said they already had plans. Except for maybe one or two," Frank said, defending himself. "It's a tough weekend for sure to do anything. Only you would pick the weekend of Spring Break to get married."

"Hey! I didn't know that was the case until we already sent out the 'Save the Dates!'" Joe cried. "At least there are people coming to the wedding or it would have been a disaster and Vanessa would have killed me!"

"Okay, how about this," Frank replied, shifting another piece across the board. "If you beat me, I'll take you out for drinks, my treat."

"What if you win?"

"We still go out but you're buying."

"Oh, that's cold." Joe looked at his brother incredulously. "You're suggesting that I buy my own drinks plus yours to celebrate the demise of my bachelor status? Seriously? Oh, why don't I just dress up as Winnie the Pooh for Katey's first birthday party while I'm at it?! You always beat me, Frank!"

"Hey, you could win." Frank held up his hands in defense. "For once. You never know."

Joe sat glaring at his older brother before sighing. "Fine. But I'm not dressing up as Pooh!"

"I never said you would. That was all you!"

Joe shifted his gaze back to the board, not noticing the smirk on Frank's face. Only a few more moves and the older Hardy would have his younger brother where he wanted him. The two continued their game in silence before Joe spoke again.

"I have another wager for you, Frank," Joe smiled. Frank raised an eyebrow, questioningly, his attention now on his younger brother. "If I win, you have to ask the BIG question."

"Huh?"

"Man, for an intelligent person, Frank, you really can be dense sometimes." When Frank still didn't respond to him, Joe continued. "To Nancy. You know. Geez, what she sees in you, I'll never know."

"You mean?"

"Yup, you have to take the same plunge I am. Honestly, I would have thought you'd done it while you two were trekking across Europe or wherever you were the last few years."

"For your information, Joe, I never had the chance to ask her while we were in Europe. Don't you think we had other things on our minds? Even Mason was up our butts the entire time plus the fact that we were rarely alone." Frank moved another piece into position before continuing. "This coming from a guy who took six years to ask his own girlfriend to even move in with him let alone ask her to marry him. Plus the fact that Dad told me you carried around the ring for months before finally asking Vanessa."

"So? Are you saying you haven't even thought about it?"

"I'm not that thick, Joe," Frank muttered, concentrating yet again on the chessboard, avoiding Joe's look. "Of course I have and Nancy and I have already discussed it."

"What's the holdup then?"

Frank got quiet for a moment. The two brothers stared at one another, the chessboard momentarily forgotten. Frank finally sighed and pulled out a small light blue box, setting it on the table between them.

"I knew it!" Joe laughed, clapping his hands. "And you lectured ME about being a procrastinator! Now you really have to take me up on the wager! What have you got to lose?"

"How can it be a wager if I was already planning on doing it?"

"Then you have to do it this weekend. Publicly."

"Oh, hell no!"

"Okay, fine. At least promise me you'll do it in the near future." Joe made a move without looking down while staring at his brother, waiting for the answer. Frank purposely continued looking at the board, ignoring him. He looked up and rolled his eyes before nodding in acknowledgement. Then Frank perked up a bit and smiled broadly before moving his queen into position.

"Checkmate! Ha ha! What size should I get you for the Pooh costume?"

"Hey! That wasn't part of the deal! Besides this isn't checkmate!" Joe pointed to the board and Frank looked on.

"Yeah it is!"

"NO, it isn't!" Joe took his older brother's queen and smiled triumphantly, whooping loudly. "THAT is a checkmate! I can't believe it! I actually beat the great Frank Hardy at chess! Wait till I tell everyone! Now, where are we going?"

"Okay, you win. For once. Not really something to brag about, Joe." Frank acted defeated but a small smile was etched on his face as he rose from the table. "Let's get this over with before you blow a blood vessel from being overly excited."

Ten minutes later. The brothers were walking into Bennigan's Pub. The whole place seemed to be exceptionally lively that evening, making Joe wonder why Frank brought him there.

"Hey, Troy!" cried Frank over the din. "What's going on?"

"Oh, some schmuck rented out the back room," replied the bartender, pointing down the hall. Joe gazed in the direction, wondering who the "schmuck" was. "All of our regulars have to cram in here."

Troy placed two beers in front of the brothers, winking at Frank while Joe's head was turned. Frank nodded with a smile and toasted the man before guiding Joe away from the bar.

"Where are we going?" Joe asked, confused.

"I want to see who it is," Frank answered. "We might know them. Besides, we could crash the party."

"Frank Hardy crash a party? Now, this I have to see!"

Frank pushed open the swinging doors just as a loud cheer rose up from within. Joe looked around in shock as he realized that the party was actually for him. All of his closest friends cheered for him, toasting their drinks in his honor. He looked back at Frank, who burst out laughing from Joe's reaction.

"Do you honestly think I wouldn't throw a bachelor party for my little brother?" Frank laughed again, wrapping his arm around Joe's shoulders.

"But you told me everyone was busy! You lied to me!"

"I didn't lie! They were busy. You were just too gullible to believe that their plans didn't have anything to do with you!" Frank guided Joe into the throng of friends all wanting to congratulate him. "Don't have too much fun now! You might want to remember your wedding tomorrow!"

Joe went on to greet his friends and thanking them for the surprise. Frank watched happily as the party progressed into the night. Later on, he sat at one of the tables, nursing another beer as an old friend from River Heights walked up to him and sat down.

"So, Joe tells me that he beat you at chess in order to get you out the door for a couple of drinks," replied Max Norris with a smile. "Is that true?"

"Yup. He beat me fair and square. Didn't even see it coming."

"Neither did he, I take it?"

"Nope." Frank smiled as his brother was gesticulating enthusiastically to his friends nearby. Max laughed and shook his head.

"You let him win, didn't you?"

"Yup."