Summary:
God suggests to Joan to do some gardening work, which makes her stumble right into Adam's personal problems that he doesn't want anyone to know about. Takes place between episode 2x21 and 2x22. Lots of Joan/Adam, less of the rest of the characters.

Author's Notes:
So, here's another piece about Joan and Adam. I don't know what's wrong with me, I can't keep from writing Joan/Adam fanfics! And I'm sorry about having Adam suffer again. I have tried to explain it to myself, and I guess it's a) because I'm a sucker for dramatic, emotional stuff and b) because Christopher Marquette is doing such a great job with the puppy dog eyes and the soft voice. :o) And I just love the Joan/Adam dynamic, so it's not like I had a choice.

This takes place between 2x21 'Common Thread' and 2x22 'Something Wicked This Way Comes', although I am kinda ignoring Ryan Hunter. Don't like that storyline, so there is no mention of Ryan (but it's not set up as though it didn't happen either). And I realized something almost three weeks after having written this story! In episode 2x22 Ryan gets Adam a job at the Arcadia Herald newspaper. I wasn't aware of that when I wrote this piece, but maybe it was buried deep in my subconscious. Or maybe it was pure coincidence that I came up with the same thing.

Reviews more than welcome (they're always an inspiration to any writer), flaming not so much.

Disclaimer:
These characters and settings are not mine (except maybe those that weren't in any JoA episode). Nor am I claiming they are. They are property of CBS, Barbara Hall Productions, Sony or whoever else they might belong to. I'm not making any money out of this, although I wish I was.

Second Chances
- an Adam & Joan story -

by TeeJay

--...----...----...--

"--and then my mom said that she would only do it if it was the last thing she ever did. That is so twisted."

Waiting for a comment or some sort of response, Joan paused and looked at Adam, who was standing next to her at their lockers in the school hallway. It was Wednesday morning and classes would be starting in a few minutes. Adam didn't seem as if a word of the little anecdote from home she had told him had registered with him.

To get his attention, she addressed him, "Adam."

He looked up at her. "Hm?" he asked.

"I just told you how my mom - oh, never mind."

"Sorry." He looked apologetic. "Guess I'm just a little spaced out today."

Joan's expression took on a tinge of worry. "You all right?"

Adam quickly nodded. "Yeah, I'm fine, I just didn't get much sleep last night."

"You're not trying to chicken out of the climbing lessons, are you?" Joan, Grace, Luke and Adam had arranged to go the recreation park and try their skills on one the climbing walls after school. It had been such a long time that all of them had done anything fun together, so Joan had been looking forward to it the whole week.

"The climbing lessons," he mumbled to himself. He looked at Joan with a serious expression on his face. "Cha, I'm really sorry, but I can't come."

Joan's face fell. "What do you mean, you can't come? We arranged this weeks ago."

"I know. I just have something more important to do."

"More important? Like what? Hooking up with some other girl?" Joan now sounded sardonic and disappointed.

At that last question, Adam's eyes clouded over with an expression between heartstricken and offended. Bitterly, he said, "Yeah, I'm going to hook up with some other girl and screw the brains out of her." He grabbed his bag, turned around and hurried down the hallway.

Joan was immediately sorry. She ran after Adam, calling, "Adam, I'm sorry. That was mean."

Adam kept walking. Joan tried again, "Adam! Please, I'm sorry," but he had turned a corner and vanished. Joan thought about following him, but just at that moment the bell rang and Joan had to get to her biology class. She decided she would apologize to Adam afterwards.

--...----...----...--

During lunch break, Joan had tried talking to Adam, but it seemed he was avoiding being with Joan and her friends. When he had joined them at the cafeteria counter briefly, he had seemed absentminded and brusque. Joan had not gotten a chance to apologize to him.

When Grace, Luke, Friedman and Joan sat at one of the tables to eat, Grace leaned over to Joan and asked her, "What's up with Rove today?"

Joan shrugged. "I don't know. He already seemed under the weather this morning. And I think I kept making it worse by saying something really mean to him before first period. I was going to apologize, but he's making himself kinda scarce today."

Grace smiled, "Maybe he's just scared that we'll kick his ass on the climbing wall today."

Joan told her, "He's not coming."

Grace's eyes widened. "He's not coming? Oh, that little chicken-hearted wimp, I'll teach him 'not coming'," Grace said as a mock threat.

"He said he had something more important to do. And this morning he looked, I don't know, like something was up, but he wouldn't tell me. Maybe you could, you know, talk to him?"

Grace pointed to herself. "Me? Girardi, you know I'm not exactly Sigmund Freud."

Joan sighed, "Yeah, I know. But you're also his friend, so can't you make an effort?"

Grace faltered. "Okay. I'll see what I can do."

--...----...----...--

Throughout the school day, Grace had not seen Adam except during class when there was no chance to talk. Strangely, Adam had always left the classrooms very quickly, as if he wanted to avoid conversation with anyone. It was just like that after last period, but Grace managed to catch him just as he was closing his locker, leaving the school. She ran after him, calling his name.

"Rove. Wait up!"

Adam had already left the building, so Grace went into a little jog to catch up with him. When she had reached him, she addressed him again. "Yo, Rove, would you stop for a second?"

Adam turned to her and told her in an irritable and impatient tone, "What do you want, Grace?"

"Whoa, ease up, I wasn't going to rip your head off or anything."

Adam looked a little less irritated, but still not at ease. "So, what is it you want?"

Grace didn't know how to start. "I ... Joan said you're not coming with us to the park today. Look, are you okay? You seem a little ... on edge today."

Sounding irritated again, Adam almost spat at Grace, "Yes, I'm fine. And, yes, I can't come. Why can't everybody get off my back about this? There will be another time to go to the stupid park, okay?"

He walked off without another word and Grace made no attempt to follow him. With her face in a confused frown, she went back to the lockers to put her school gear away and meet up with the others.

--...----...----...--

Joan, Luke and Grace had thought about rescheduling the climbing lessons for when Adam could join them, but they decided to go anyway. They could always come back another time. Even thought none of them had managed to get to the top of the climbing walls with their little colored knobs and protrusions, they had all had a lot of fun.

Luke and Grace had gone to get a soda at one of the snack booths in the recreation park, Joan was slowly strolling towards the exit, waiting for her brother and her friend to join her again. She barely noticed the gardener, dressed in a green overall, raking a flower bed next to the path she was walking along. When Joan passed him, he addressed her, "It's a beautiful day for gardening, isn't it, Joan?"

She stopped. "Yeah, I guess it is," she said in a fake cheerful voice. "Let me guess, you want me to join some freaky gardening club."

Gardener-God shook his head. "Naw, not really. I think it would be more appropriate that you volunteer at the cemetery for some cleaning up work. Lots of fresh air, sun." Gardener-God took a deep breath through His nose. "Doesn't it smell good?"

Joan wrinkled her nose. "Yeah, whatever."

"You'll find contact details at the chapel at St. Andrews cemetery. And remember to bring Wellingtons." With that, Gardener-God put the rake into the wheelbarrow nearby and waved to Joan when He trotted off to the next flower bed He had to take care of.

--...----...----...--

'Volunteers willing to help keep Arcadia's cemeteries clean, please call 555-939029 or see Father Tanner, St. Andrews Church, 39 Avery Road, Arcadia.' That's what the simple note printed in black letters on white paper in the glass showcase in front of St. Andrews chapel said. "Wow, that's a real eye-catcher," Joan mumbled. She jotted down the number and address on a piece of paper and went to go.

St. Andrews cemetery was a rather large area, surrounded by trees, hedges and flower beds along the paths that led through the cemetery like a branching river bed. It looked almost like a park, if it wasn't for the headstones in between. Benches were scattered along the paths at regular intervals, often you would see them occupied by mostly elderly people, bringing flowers or saying goodbye to their loved ones.

Joan wasn't really paying attention to the cemetery visitors, but the smallish figure on a bench to her left caught her eye. There was something strangely familiar to the way he was sitting on the bench, his back hunched, his head covered by a woolen hat. Joan carefully went up to him.

"Adam?"

He looked up at her, his eyes slightly bloodshot. The look in his eyes made Joan's heart skip a beat. The only time she could remember having seen him that sad was when they had watched the home videos that his mother had shot of him as a child. She sat down next to him.

"Adam, what's wrong?" she tentatively inquired.

He didn't say anything, he just stared at the ground beneath his feet, his head bowed. Joan tried again, "Adam, talk to me."

He just shook his head and suddenly got up. "I can't," he said, walking away from Joan.

Joan went after him, having to hurry to catch up with him. She grabbed his arm from behind to stop him. "Adam, don't run away! Please, tell me what's going on."

He looked her in the eyes and spat bitterly, "My father's going to die because of me. There, are you happy now?"

Joan was dumbstruck. Adam had continued walking again, so Joan now ran after him, placed herself in front of him and took him by his upper arms, so he would have to stop walking. She looked at him. "What do you mean, your father's going to die?"

"It's none of your business, Jane." He tried to worm himself from her grip, but she wouldn't let him.

"Oh, no no no, I'm not letting you walk away like this," she told him matter-of-factly. "Here, let's sit down." She guided him to another bench a few feet away where they both sat down. "Tell me the whole story," she urged him.

He still seemed reluctant, but realized that Joan was not gonna let him go unless he told her more. Hesitating, Adam finally said, "I never told you, but my dad's been having kidney problems the last couple of years. He's in chronic renal failure now and needs dialysis once a week."

Joan didn't know what to say. Quietly, she asked, "And how is that your fault?"

Adam looked to the ground again. "We don't have insurance. My dad lost his job this week because of his illness, and now that Michael fired me..."

"Adam, why didn't you tell me?"

"I ... I don't know. So much has happened recently. And after what you said to me in the bookshop, that it wasn't your problem anymore when I messed up my life, I didn't want to dump this on you on top of everything else," he said in a sad and soft voice.

"Isn't there anything anyone can do?" Joan asked.

Adam sadly shook his head. "He's already on the list for a transplant, but that list is so long." He fumbled his fingers absentmindedly. "You know, I tried to donate one of my kidneys, but we're not a match, he has a rare blood type. And if I can't find another job soon, we won't be able to afford the dialysis anymore. And I think you know what that means."

"Isn't there some sort of social state fund program or something for cases like this?" Joan asked.

"Well, yeah, we tried that ... but ... it's complicated," Adam said.

"Look, I can ask around if there are any jobs. I can ask Kevin, maybe there's something he can get you at the newspaper. Maybe I can talk to my mom and she can speak with Michael again, explain how good you are in her arts class."

"No, you don't have to do that, I can look out for myself."

"Oh yeah? And how well has that worked so far?" Joan made a sweeping gesture with her arm at their surroundings. "You don't have to do this alone, Adam. Friends are there to help you out when you need help."

"Right," he admitted, but didn't sound convinced.

Joan stared at the headstones in the distance. "What were you doing here anyway?" she asked Adam.

Quietly, he told her, "My mother is buried here. I ... I was going to visit her grave, but ..." He briefly paused. "But I couldn't."

Joan understood. She had had a hard time going to Judith's grave after her friend's death. She knew how it brought the sadness that always lingered in a part of her heart back to the surface, how it would make her death real and final. It was ironic, she thought, that it had been Adam who had come with her for support when she had gone to visit Judith's grave for the very first time after her burial. The least she could do was to repay the favor.

"Do you want me to come with you?" she asked Adam.

He slowly shook his bowed head. "I don't think I can. Not right now."

Joan nodded. "I understand." She took his hand and squeezed it as a silent sign of support. "Is there anything I can do?"

Adam looked at her again. "Short of winning the lottery for me, no."

This made Joan think. "You know, if it's only the money, maybe something can be worked out. Maybe I can--"

Adam pulled his hand away from underneath hers and interrupted her firmly. "No, Jane, I don't want any charity."

"This is your father's life! I don't think this is the time for misguided pride."

"You don't understand," he answered, sounding bitter again. "You've never had to struggle, you live in your nice, big house with your happy family."

Joan looked hurt. "That's not fair, Adam."

He looked away, ashamed. Quietly, he admitted, "I'm sorry. That was uncalled for. It's just ..." He stopped, biting his lower lip, fighting tears.

Joan took his hand again and tugged at it, motioning him to get up. It had gone dark by now and they should get home. "Come on, we'll figure something out."

Adam got up and walked next to Joan towards the cemetery exit. Joan asked him, "Does Grace know about this?"

"She knows about the dialysis, but not about the money stuff. You're the first person I've told."

"Do you want to tell her?"

Adam's brown creased uncertainly. "I don't know."

--...----...----...--