"Evenings Bright and Fair".
Paula Stiles

Summary: Joe faces losing one of his oldest friends-- piece by piece.

Disclaimer: Don't own the universe. Not making any money off of it. Davis/Panzer Productions, Rysher Entertainment, and Gaumont Television do that. Don't own the song, either. Don't bother to sue me. I'm poor.

Note: This story is for my grandfather, John Dickenson Stiles--son, father, husband, athlete, sailor, carpenter, antiques dealer, bartender, and unapologetic scamp. One night, my muse ambushed me (as muses do). "Write this tonight, or it will never happen," it hissed in my ear. So, I wrote it. Less than 24 hours later, I found out that my grandfather had died. He was a generous, adventurous soul who crammed more living into his 83 years than most people could into a thousand. He's with my grandmother, now, which is all he's wanted for a year. God, I miss him.

This is my first HL fanfic. This, and my other stories, can be found at: http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/Andes/3071/arch.html

Archive: Sure. Just ask first.

Warning: character death, turbo-angst, no happy endings whatsoever.

Thanks to Valerie Shearer for betareading this for me; to my brother for giving me "An Evening at Joe's" for Christmas; and to Peter Wingfield, whose story in that anthology kicked my fanfic muse into high gear.

Evenings Bright and Fair

Paula Stiles

I'm losing you.

I used to resent you whenever you disappeared to Bora Bora or Tibet. When things got hot, you flew away. God, how I wish you could do that now. Now, your wings are clipped. You sit all day in the tv room of that goddamned nursing home, ten kilometers outside of Paris, staring out the window. If you notice anything now, I sure can't tell anymore.

You used to talk my ear off. And Mac's. And you ran up one hell of a bar tab. You never did pay it off. When I visited you last week, I did all the talking. The last time you spoke, over a month ago, you asked me for a beer. I couldn't give you one, of course, not in your condition.

Mac had you committed finally, two months ago. For some reason, you'd made him your next of kin. After you stopped answering your calls for a week, Mac and I busted down your door. You were lying on the couch in front of the tv, catatonic. You hadn't washed. You hadn't shaved. You hadn't eaten. Maybe a hundred beer bottles littered the floor around you. The smell was...well it was pretty bad.

Ohhh, Old Man, I was so sure you'd outlive us all. How could I believe otherwise when I've only got a few decades of my own left? I'm just a Mortal. I really miss your jackal laugh. You were so vibrant, so bright. And you seemed so young. That was an illusion. I can hear the staff talk about you when I come visit.

"It's so sad," they say. "He's so young. It doesn't seem fair." If only they knew how old you really are. We see the Sphinx on the sands, and we think, if it's lasted over 4000 years, why not forever? And you, even older than that hunk of desert rock--because you look so young, we thought that you'd always have more time. You were a constant--first a myth, then an exasperating, cagey survivor. A force of nature. Seeing you like this is like watching the sun go dark.

Your body goes on, naturally, as tough as ever. You've lost weight, though. You were always rangy. But, that faded t-shirt and those stained sweatpants they put on you every day just hang off you now. You wouldn't make much of a challenge anymore. Any other Immortal would find your formidable Quickening an easy prize. I can't protect you 24 hours a day. So, I just visit you as much as I can, and hope for the best.

Still, your physical condition isn't the problem. Your body keeps on regenerating and maintaining itself
with its usual efficiency. It's your mind that's broken, crumbled to dust by the weight of five millennia.

Those were hard years, too. You weren't any Darius, hiding in a monk's robes on Holy Ground. No, you stayed out in the world--living, dying, loving, hating, roaming, studying, building, burning. You were a busy boy. Even when you did the monk gig, you wandered.

Let's not forget the Horsemen. Even Darius, with his Immortal Catholic guilt, couldn't top the thousand years of sins that you stocked up as Death on a Horse. You once told Mac you had a thousand regrets. Was one more too many?

I guess, if you noticed anything anymore, you'd be disappointed in us. Mac has made it out to the nursing home maybe three times since you arrived. Amanda could only handle it once. I try for twice a week. I'm sorry. It's so hard, seeing you like this. You lie in your chair, in a parody of your familiar, casual sprawl. Your eyes stare, unfocused, past my shoulder. I think they used to be hazel; now they're this muddy, light brown. Sometimes you drool, your mouth hanging open. Your face was always pale; now it's pasty. Your lips are cracked, your hair unwashed. Most days, they don't shave you. You never react to that nursing home stink that makes me choke--the miasma of strong people who have lost all control over their lives. You don't hear your roommate screaming at the walls all day long.

Next to you sits a picture frame. You never look at it anymore. We found you clinging to it, in your
apartment. The photo is one of those tourist snapshots. You and Alexa roped some poor local in Santorini into taking a picture of you two on the beach. It's nighttime, a sunset glow behind you. You're both laughing, overexposed by the camera flash. Your eyes are closed. Alexa has redeye, her face blotchy. Your hair is sticking up on one side. The angle is skewed, as if the picture- taker had been as drunk as you two were. 

I am so glad that she didn't live to see you like this.

The nurses encourage me to talk to you. They think you might still be able to hear me, that you might
respond. I try. I do the touchy-feely stuff, patting you on the head, shoulder or knee, the way I would a little kid. I use every name I can think of that you might recognize: Methos, Adam, Ben, Doc, even Death. I hug you when I come in and when I leave. Sometimes, I ruffle your hair. It's a funny thing. It used to be that you would have tolerated that kind of familiarity for approximately a second. Then, you would have disemboweled me with your sarcasm.

In the beginning, a little over a year ago, you used your wit as a shield. I remember the first time I really noticed the cracks. You walked into the bar, the morning after standing me up for lunch. When I called you on it, you laughed at me, told me I was getting senile. Then, Mac stomped in from the cold, in a snit because you'd stood him up for dinner. That wasn't so funny then, was it?

It turned out later that you didn't remember that day at all.

After that, the holes got bigger and harder to hide. You started to blank out in the bar. I'd come off stage from playing a set. You'd be sitting there, staring intently up at the stage. When I'd talk to you, you wouldn't respond for a couple of seconds. Then, you'd drag yourself out of some inner place. You'd flash your crooked smile at me, tease me, call me, "Dad" for acting so concerned. The joke wore thin once you started fading out on me in the middle of conversations.

Still later, you began to confuse languages. I watched you trying to get gas once after you'd taken me
to an outdoor jazz concert. You banged your head on the steering wheel, getting angrier and more frightened as you cycled through half a dozen dead languages, trying to communicate with the gas attendant. After you started crying in sheer frustration, I stepped in and paid the kid 50 francs that I couldn't afford. You didn't rediscover French (or English) for another hour.

Sometimes, it really sucks not having legs anymore. We could have used mine that day. As it was, I had to get the attendant to pull the car over to the side of the garage until you remembered how to drive again. He looked disgusted as we finally drove away. Stupid kid. Did he think he'd never grow old? Did he think he'd live forever?

Other times, you were manic. I still remember the night you played Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want to Be With You" repeatedly on my jukebox for three hours. You sucked down beer after beer, dancing by yourself with your eyes closed. Then, you babbled about Alexa to anybody who would listen. It didn't seem to matter that your wife had died five years before that night. You acted as if you'd lost her yesterday.

I had to close the bar early. The other customers were getting nervous. I didn't like the way they stared, whispering behind your back. Later, I sat with you at a table in the silent bar as you shaped her in the air with your hands, talking, talking, talking about Alexa. The longing in your voice...I guess I'd thought you'd get over her eventually, the way you seemed to get over everyone you ever lost. I didn't understand that you were already forgetting her, losing her a second time along
with the rest of your life, helpless to stop the erosion. I was so wrong about you, in too many ways.

Like Lucifer, you crashed and burned. No long twilight for you. No Immortal come to take your head at sunset in one last challenge. You pretended to the end that nothing was wrong, until it was much too late to express your wishes about anything. Mac won't do what he needs to for you. Please don't blame him. He still thinks there's some magic that will bring you back. He's only four centuries old. He can't let go of you. After all the bitterness and betrayal, he still loves you. You are still his revered elder, his Immortal clan chieftain, even in eclipse. It's up to me, now.

I know you don't want to linger like this. You loved life, more than anyone I've ever met. You loved it beyond reason. This isn't life. You'd know that if you still knew anything.

That's why I've brought you out here to this cemetery that holds so many of your dead, with a sword.
It's your Ivanhoe blade, too heavy for me to use, but too appropriate for me not to. At least you can walk unaided. You wander between Amy and me, going wherever we guide you. The afternoon is turning fair and warm after a foggy morning. A breeze ruffles the flowers sprouting out of the thawing earth. Spring is here.

I didn't think you'd want to die in the morning. You always hated mornings. I wish you would give me some sign that I'm doing the right thing, but you probably won't. You'll be contrary to the end, I'll bet.

Thank God for Amy. Not only has she started speaking to me again, but she's also willing to go to the wall with me for you. I guess you saved more than her life that day four years ago, when I tried to sell you down the river. Thank you for my daughter, Old Man. It will be worth it going to prison for you. Amy will probably get time, too, as an accessory, but it doesn't matter. They can't take my daughter away from me again.

We don't have much time. We snuck you out of the home while Mac was distracted arguing paperwork with one of the nursing supervisors. He'll be hot on our trail, soon. And if not him, the police.

In a way, I hope he catches up with us in the end. I don't want your Quickening to go to waste like Darius', despite the risk. The doctors say you have some kind of senile dementia, like Alzheimer's, that your brain, not your mind, is what's finally breaking down. Maybe that's the reason why there are no other 5000 year old Immortals. If that's true, then your Quickening should be clean and true, and I won't have to watch Mac go down into the dark like you did. He's the only one who deserves that gift from you.

All too soon, we arrive at our final stop. The flowers that I ordered for Alexa's grave have been neatly
planted around her headstone. I thought this might be the last place you'd like to see in the world. I already know that you want to be buried here.

I pull your sword out of my coat, then stop, not sure how to go on. I glance at Amy, who shrugs. You're a big guy, Old Man, and your sword feels like it weighs a ton. My artificial legs hurt like hell, making it hard to concentrate on raising the sword. How do I get you on your knees so that I can do this quick and clean? How do I do this so that you go out like a man and not a potted plant?

Then, I get that miracle I was looking for. As you stand in front of Alexa's headstone, something in you stirs. Slowly, you kneel down in front of the stone, reaching out to touch the hyacinths and yellow daylilies there.

"Alexa..." you whisper.

I lurch forward. "Methos?" You look up at me. I think you know me again, Old Man.

"Joe?" you say.

"Methos!" The faint shout comes from out on the road. Oh. God, Mac. Not now.

"Joe! Don't do it!" Mac's voice blue-shifts, closing fast. He's not in sight, yet, but he's obviously figured
out where we've gone.

"I'll stall him," Amy says. "Hurry!" she calls back as she runs down the row of graves. "I don't know how long I can hold him."

I turn back to you and you are there, all of you. You move away from the headstone to face me, still on your knees. You're holding a daylily. You raise your head high, your back straight. You look me full in the face. I see you: ancient, scholar, Horseman, wanderer, Watcher, teacher of Duncan MacLeod, best friend of Joe Dawson.

"Thank you, Joe," you say, three words of love and absolution. Then, you smile, the sun breaking through the clouds. There's a smell of grass and flowers on the breeze. I raise your sword high, wrists aching from the weight.

"Do it," you say.

The sword comes down in an arc, quick and clean even through my tears.


"I Only Want to Be with You," by Dusty Springfield
I don't know what is that makes me love you so.
I only know I never want to let you go.
'Cause you started something.
Oh, can't you see that ever since we met you had a hold on me?
It happens to be true.
I only want to be with you.
It doesn't matter where you go or what you do.
I want to spend each moment of the day with you.
Oh, look what has happened with just one kiss.
I never knew that I could be in love like this.
It's crazy, but it's true.
I only want to be with you.
You stopped and smiled at me
And asked if I cared to dance.
I fell into your open arms.
And I didn't stand a chance.
Now, listen, honey,
I just want to be beside you everywhere.
As long as we're together, honey, I don't care.
'Cause you started something.
Oh, can't you see that ever since we met you had a hold on me?
No matter what you do, I only want to be with you.
Ohh, you stopped and you smiled at me
And asked if I cared to dance.
I fell into your open arms.
I didn't stand a chance.
Now, hear me tell you:
I just want to be beside you everywhere.
As long as we're together, honey, I don't care.
'Cause you started something.
Oh, can't you see that ever since we met you had a hold on me?
No matter what you do, I only want to be with you.
I said: no matter, no matter what you do, I only want to be with you.

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