If it's Thursday, it's two boxes until the end of the row. If it's Sunday, it's take down the new week and leave the old pill box on the top of the trash bin. Leave tabs up so Adam can check, leave the cup in the sink so Adam doesn't worry. Check sections on forms, sign this, sign that, initial here. Adam always cuts the pills on Tuesdays.
Joe had never realized dying could be so regimented.
On Mondays, the nurse comes. Joe used to go to the doctor, now it's the hospital, which Adam can't say without the skin around his eyes tightening. Adam gets him into the car. Adam gets him through the doors. Adam gets him to the room. Adam sits there and takes notes and accepts being called his grandson.
When Adam's penciled in time to have his nervous breakdown, Joe doesn't know. But he's sure it'll be on schedule and Adam will make sure he doesn't know about it. Because he doesn't want him to worry.
It's as if Adam thinks that if he goes about this very quietly, he can fool death into thinking Joe's already gone. Joe's not fooled; he's been on borrowed time for over a year. It's been fifteen months since he'd been given the news. More and more these days, Joe wishes the Watchers had managed to execute him. It would've been shorter. It would've been cleaner. It would've been a hell of a lot easier than watching Adam watch him die.
On Fridays, Adam takes a couple hours and goes shopping. He comes back with movies and books and magazines. Joe's never been one to make lists of things he'd do before he died, never made a list of books he wished he could read. Adam's ransacked the local bookstores in search of anything Joe might find interesting. But he's bored so much these days. So bored, and in so much pain.
On Saturdays, Joe tries to get up his dignity and throw Adam out. Adam meekly goes. He comes back fifteen minutes later with the Sunday paper. Once, he came back and Joe was on the floor, clutching his left hip. Adam hasn't let himself be thrown out since.
Joe lets Adam be the gatekeeper now. Now that he's old and dying, he tells Adam he's going to be selfish. He's giving himself the right to be that mean old bastard who always lived down the block and who everybody was secretly glad when he finally kicked it. Adam agreed. Joe thinks it's only because Adam loves telling the Watchers to shove it up their ass, but only loves Adam the more for it. Adam's the one who's going to have to live with the Watchers after this. He's going to have to live with this as a line in his Chronicle.
And then the great and legendary Methos took a vacation to nurse Joe Dawson to death.
And the Chronicle will then go on. Maybe he'll fight some wandering headhunter who didn't know who he was challenging. Maybe he'll pick a new identity and a new name and jet off somewhere warm and exotic and spend ten years relaxing on a beach. Maybe he'll go back to Seacouver and find MacLeod and slip right back into that old life, hovering between practicing with MacLeod, teaching at the university, and drinking at the bar.
Someone else's bar.
Of course, life will go on without Joe Dawson. Adam's life will go on without Joe Dawson.
Joe likes to think about that. He likes to think that, some day relatively soon, Adam will find himself alone again. He will find himself alone, like he has been so many times, and he will go on. He will survive. Because he's Methos and that's what he does.
Joe likes that.
Adam is sketching lately. He is working on sketching hands. He has been focusing on the curve of a wrist for hours at a time, dwells on fingers and joints.
Joe has trouble holding his hands steady enough to pick up a pencil, most days.
He is spending his time dying watching television and listening to audio books. At the beginning, Adam tried to tell him stories, but Joe never wanted that, never wanted the lies. He spent years of his life listening to Adam spin tall tales. It was fun while it lasted, but it's not fun anymore.
Joe listens to non-fiction audio books and watches the Discovery channel. He knows more about Lincoln and sharks than he ever wanted to know. But he doesn't know what Adam would invent to take his mind off his pain, and so it is enough.
Adam has timed this all, so Joe takes the pills with time built in to vomit before the shows he likes to watch. It's as close as they come to romance. Adam schedules Joe's frailties around his hobbies. Adam bites his tongue whenever the remote settles on the History channel. Adam bites his tongue through a lot.
Joe's waiting for Adam's patience to end. He's hoping for one last explosive lecture, one last closing argument from the bench on how this is utterly unacceptable. He's waiting. And he's running out of time.
The last time Joe heard Adam shout, it was on the phone to Amanda. But that was more than a year ago. Now, Adam greets the world with tight lips and wary eyes.
If there's one man who should know how to relax in the face of death, it's Adam. But Joe hasn't spent this long around Adam without learning a few things about him. Adam is good with inevitable in abstract, but only in abstract. Give him a body rebelling against its owner and he starts hunting for legends.
Joe wonders if Adam was the type to let men die on the battlefield or if he went around after with his sword and finished them off. He wonders if Adam believes the quick death is better than the tortured life. He wonders if the only reason Adam hasn't asked him if he wants to end it all is if Adam is still looking for one final way to fix this. As if this could ever really be fixed.
These days, Joe really, really, really understands why Adam turned to mass murder. What's the point in living if you're only going to die? What's the point in dealing with humans if one day you'll turn around and they'll be gone? It must have been wonderful for Adam to leave it all behind. It must have been wonderful for Adam to make it all end.
He can't tell Adam that.
If observe and record are the pinnacles of belief, and never interfere is the net to catch you when you care too much, where in the Watcher Code should they tell you, never try to understand? They should.
He looks at Adam, standing over him with a cup of water, a napkin, and the morning's worth of pills, and he understands what Methos is. Methos is someone who will torture himself with his failure, who will wait for a man to die before moving on, every day living in his knowledge that there is nothing he can do. And still he stays.
Joe wonders if he can get Adam to shout at him again if he asks if all of this is penance on some cosmic scale for his past. He might try it, in a week, if he's still around. If Adam still looks at the world like it exists solely to one day leave him.
On Wednesdays, Joe turns to Adam and says, "how's the stone coming?"
And Adam holds up the sketch pad. The perfect hands, cupped together, holding nothing.
Because the last desperate hope is splintered on the rocks below.