AN: It's obscure fandom time, everybody! So I stepped away from my Four Brothers story for a little while to write this, because I watched Saw for the first time last weekend, and I kind of fell in love with the character of Adam. I mean, who just feels really bad for this guy? And does anybody else get continuous chills for the last ten minutes of the movie? Because I know I do. Anyways, this is set post-movie, hope you all enjoy it!
Disclaimer: I don't own anything in the Saw universe (although I wish I owned Leigh Whannell).
Adam Faulkner was constantly searching for the perfect shot.
He figured he'd know what the perfect shot was when he saw it. He definitely knew when his best was not enough, and when it was enough, but that when he was paid up front, it didn't really matter, did it?
Adam never thought about concepts like life and his purpose in the world. Too broad of a concept for someone who was, at best, obsessed with details and, at worst, completely indifferent to them, life was something that Adam never really had the notion to sit down and ponder. As a photographer, he saw the world by frame.
Click. A house.
Click. A car.
Click. A doctor.
Flash. A cheating husband, fucking his secretary in a seedy motel.
The camera never lied. The click, the flash...it flawlessly exposed the truth every time, without fail. That was the first thing Adam loved about photography: the way you could capture that impeccable moment where time stood still, fixed for eternity in film. Little pieces of infinity, of truth, hanging on his refrigerator, on his wall, in his red room...
Adam still hadn't found the perfect shot.
He used to take pride in his work, in his craft. He had unmistakable talent, an eye for the artistic, as his grade school teachers used to tell him. He'd begged for a camera on his twelfth birthday, and his parents had, for once, reluctantly caved, buying him one of the cheapest they could find. Adam hadn't cared one bit. Running directly to the front yard, he'd taken pictures of anything and everything, from the neighbor's brown and white spotted dog in the distance right down to the miniature red ants that crawled along the concrete sidewalk.
He'd wanted to be an artist, although as a child, and as a teenager, and even now, as an adult, he wasn't entirely sure what the term "artist" implied. He knew that he loved to take pictures, and he also knew that some people took really good pictures, and that those people got paid a lot of money for their really good pictures. Their pictures were put into books and magazines, on websites, all with the photographer's name gracing the bottom like a trophy; their prize for taking the perfect picture. He'd become infatuated, trying to achieve that status, trying to find that perfect picture that would skyrocket him to new heights in his so-called career. However, as much of a perfectionist as Adam was with his photography, he tended to ignore such details in other areas of his life.
When Adam had wanted artist, he got starving artist. When he wanted fame, he got solitude. When he wanted perfection, he got good. Not great, but good. He'd wanted to be the best. What he got was promise.
You've got promise, kid. Come back in a couple of years when you've had some experience, some practice. You're gonna make one hell of a photographer someday.
Adam didn't have a back up plan. He didn't have someday. He had now. He had a shithole apartment, an empty refrigerator, a dirty mattress, a red room, and a camera. What he didn't have was a college education, his parents' support, or a steady income. And suddenly, in the blink of an eye, in a flash and a click, Adam couldn't afford details anymore.
His "steady" job involved spying and sneaking, trailing and following, hiding and pursuing. His employers couldn't care less about the perfect shot. They cared nothing about art or capturing a timeless moment. All they cared about was getting a shot, any shot, of a rich scumbag in a compromising situation. It wasn't beautiful, and it certainly wasn't anything that Adam could stamp his name on, claiming it, with pride, as his own. But it (barely) paid the bills, and lately, that's all he could allow himself to care about.
Apathetic. It was a word that Adam didn't hear on a daily basis. As a twenty something year old loner living from one freelance job to the next, he didn't really get the chance to use words like apathetic, and he didn't work for people that were eloquent enough to do so. When he heard the word used to describe him, however, it made Adam really stop and think. Apathetic. Pathetic. A pathetic, angry voyeur. Could that be right? Is that really what he'd become?
It was true that Adam no longer obsessed over details, nor did he waste any precious time or focus on bullshit philosophical concepts like the meaning of life and his place in the world. He simply woke up, got paid, took pictures, ate, slept, and did it all again, week after week. Some days, when he couldn't find a job or didn't particularly want to, he'd wander aimlessly around the city, snapping pictures of meaningless things without much thought or care as to what he was shooting or why.
He had some friends, and sometimes he'd go over to their apartments and drink some beers and laugh and relax. Sometimes he'd go to shows, where his friend's band would play some almost decent music and he'd snap some pictures for promotional posters at no charge. Sometimes he'd ask random people on the street or in his building if he could take their picture, like he'd done earlier with the girl on the stairs. But mostly, when he wasn't working, he'd just sit and smoke and wonder what had happened, not really putting any effort into finding the answer.
Adam never thought that his life would turn into something so...Jigsaw had it right...pathetic. But being pathetic wasn't a crime, was it? Having destroyed dreams wasn't a sin, and finding a way to keep himself alive shouldn't have condemned him to this.
This was sitting alone in a pitch black dilapidated bathroom, chained to a pipe with a dead body lying next to him and another dead body that had simply gotten up and walked the fuck away. This was waking up in a bathtub, submerged in darkness, wondering why he was there and feeling the panic bubble up in his chest like it hadn't done since he was eighteen and kicked out of his house for being a "lazy son of a bitch who won't do shit with his life and doesn't give a fuck either way." He'd yelled and screamed for someone to help, and the man he'd been following and taking pictures of told him to sit down and shut up, in so many words.
Lawrence Gordon. The cheating doctor. That's what Adam had labeled him in the photographs he'd taken. He never got personal, never asked for names or anything like that. Instead, he gave them his own detached nicknames: the millionaire whore, the gang bang banker, the cheating doctor. All ways to remove himself from the situation, to desensitize, to keep himself separated from the images he captured, the secrets he unearthed, the people he exposed. He wasn't a pervert like the millionaire or the banker, a liar like the doctor. He was just a guy, trying to eat, trying to pay the rent...
Trying to survive. What part of that did Jigsaw mistake for a death wish?
Apparently, his efforts at disinterest hadn't been all that successful. His involvement alone was enough for Jigsaw to take interest. He was labeled as a voyeur and chained in hell with the cheating, lying doctor from whom he'd tried to disconnect. Talk about irony.
Adam didn't usually make mental notes about things like irony, but at that moment, he could think of nothing else. Not only was it ironic that he'd been stuck with Dr. Gordon in the first place, but it was equally, if not more, ironic that in the end, when it was all said and done, when Lawrence had done the unthinkable and Adam was practically sick with pain and terror, that the last thing he'd wanted was for Lawrence to leave.
Leaning to be alone wasn't hard for Adam, since he'd been somewhat of an outsider for the majority of his life. Sure, he had friends, but his best friend was always his camera. His camera didn't hurt him, like Scott Tibbs had when he'd stabbed him with that nail. His camera didn't betray him, like his girlfriend had. She said he was too angry, but he wasn't angry, not really. He was just fed up. Tired of the way life was, the way his life wasn't supposed to be.
So, although Adam was used to being by himself, used to being hurt and betrayed and insulted by everyone around him, the prospect of Lawrence leaving him alone in the bathroom had sent him over the edge. He'd gone from caring absolutely nothing about Lawrence, to hating him, to feeling mildly concerned and sympathetic towards him, to needing him. Needing in the sense that Lawrence had been the only thing holding Adam together the past couple of hours. Panicky, obsessive, over-dramatic Adam Faulkner was countered only by calm, collected, "let's think this through," Lawrence Gordon. When Lawrence began to lose it, Adam began to lose it, and together, they spiraled down into blind panic.
When Lawrence sawed off his own foot, Adam almost drove himself crazy with the fear that coursed through his body. When Lawrence went to shoot him, he completely lost control of his emotions. And when Lawrence used so much of his precious energy to crawl over to Adam, grabbing his arm, touching his face, telling him that he was going to be okay, Adam became absolutely hysterical. He cried, he begged, he pleaded with Lawrence to stay, even though he knew that for either or both of them to survive, Lawrence had to go. After hours of fear and confusion, though, after spending so long balancing on the line between reason and panic, Adam latched on to that little piece of human contact, the feel of skin against skin that he thought he might never feel again, and just begged.
Adam wasn't used to begging. He wasn't used to getting what he wanted, and he definitely wasn't used to letting anyone intentionally see his vulnerable side. He knew all about fear, and he thought he knew how to handle it. When he was little, he would wake up from nightmares and crawl into his parents' bed, only to be pushed away and scolded for acting like the child that he was. When he was a teenager, he used to have panic attacks, sitting in class and suddenly his heart was pounding and his hands were shaking and he couldn't breathe, couldn't breathe, couldn't breathe...
He smoked a lot. He smoked and that took care of his nerves, which, without cigarettes, were frazzled almost to the point of shaking hands and frantic breathing. Sometimes he took pills to help him sleep, and sometimes, when he couldn't sleep even with the pills, he'd just sit in his red room and stare at the pictures, stomach churning and shoulders tensing without really knowing why.
Now, sitting in the deserted bathroom, Adam stared numbly into the darkness, eyes heavy with exhaustion. He wished he had a cigarette. He wished he had a pill. His stomach churned as he slowly starved and he didn't have the energy to be tense. Everything hurt, but in a detached sort of way. It was almost as if he was watching himself die, watching himself slowly deteriorate from outside his body...
Like the voyeur that I am. Adam might have laughed, once again at the irony, if he wasn't so tired. What do voyeurs see when they look in the mirror?
Adam was almost positive that if he looked in a mirror right then, he wouldn't see himself, and that scared the shit out of him. He wondered absently what he must look like. Dirty, bloody, pale, thin...
I must look like death, he thought, grimacing inwardly at the sick derision of it all. In his mind, Jigsaw was mocking him, taunting him with every little detail. His voice swam through Adam's head, repeating the same phrase over and over again...
What do voyeurs see? What do they see, Adam?
"Stop," Adam croaked hoarsely, his voice barely above a whisper. After the not-so-dead body had gotten up and walked out, shutting the door and leaving him in total darkness, Adam had screamed until he lost track of time. He might have screamed for minutes, hours...maybe it'd been days...but when he'd finally stopped screaming, his throat was raw and he could taste blood in his mouth. He thought about the blood, the blood in his mouth, on his shirt, surrounding Zepp, and snapped. Broke down sobbing until he could drag himself to the bathtub and vomit the meager contents of his stomach into the metal basin. He thought about the key, lost in the maze of pipes, how he could have saved himself from the very beginning had he known, and cried even harder. For a moment, he had a wild idea that he could break the tub, pulling the pipes into tiny pieces and retrieving the key, but after minutes...hours?...of slamming his good shoulder into the side of the bathtub, he succeeded only in causing himself more pain and anguish.
It was mostly a blur after that. Sometimes he'd try to yell, but nothing would emerge from his throat except barely audible whispers and more blood, and God how Adam hated the blood. He cried sometimes, but he lost the energy to do that after a while, as well. He slept occasionally, but most of the time he was too afraid to sleep. He thought, maybe, that if he went to sleep, he'd never wake up, or that perhaps Lawrence would come back...oh please, please let him come back...and he wouldn't be able to find him. Mostly, though, Adam refrained from sleeping because when he slept, he dreamt. He dreamt of camera flashes and pigs' heads and that fucking doll. He dreamt of Lawrence and the saw and all that blood. He dreamt of Lawrence leaving, of him begging. He dreamt of Lawrence coming back, rescuing him, opening the door and letting sweet fresh air and sunlight wash over him again.
He dreamt of Lawrence gripping his arm, one hand on the side of his face, telling him that everything was going to be alright, that they were safe, that Adam wasn't alone anymore. Adam usually woke up from those dreams in tears, reaching out desperately in front of him only to find empty air and darkness once again. No Lawrence. Nothing. Alone.
"Lawrence," Adam whispered, leaning back against the wall, rubbing his shoulder weakly. He wondered whether or not Lawrence had made it out alive, and whether or not he would actually send someone back if he did. The look in Lawrence's eyes told Adam that he would, the sinking feeling of mistrust in the pit of Adam's stomach told him that he wouldn't. Adam liked to picture a scenario in which Lawrence made it out and rescued him. He would pretend that the door would open, the light would flicker on, momentarily blinding Adam but hurting in such a fucking good way, and that Lawrence would be standing there, smiling that little arrogant smile that Adam hated from the moment he saw it. Adam would stand up and ask why he'd come back, and Lawrence would shrug, saying something like, "Because I promised. And I wouldn't lie to you." And they'd walk out of that hell hole together, because the hours they'd spent there had formed a friendship stronger than any Adam had ever encountered.
Adam knew it wouldn't happen, though. Rationality told him that Lawrence would lose too much blood, and that even if he didn't, even if he came back, Adam wouldn't be able to stand up and walk away with him. Lawrence had only one foot, now, and Adam was too weak. But something inside Adam told rationality to go fuck itself, and he settled for the simple notion that if Lawrence came back, they could hobble out together. Limping, one step at a time, towards freedom. They would be broken, but not destroyed. Weak, but strong enough to get out, not necessarily by themselves, but together. Together...
Sighing, Adam rested his head against the pipe, feeling his eyelids close on their own accord. He didn't find himself rejecting sleep; rather, this time, tiredness was a welcome feeling. Images swirled through his mind, random bits of his life that fired like nerve endings behind his eyes. He wished he had his camera right then, to take a picture of what was going on inside his head. He saw colors, swirling between bits of white light. He saw his mother. He saw Lawrence's family. He saw that girl on the stairs. He saw Lawrence.
Click. A cheating doctor.
Click. A lying husband.
Click. A rich scumbag.
Flash. The only person that had ever been willing to comfort him, to tell him that it's alright when in reality, nothing was alright. The only person to look at him and see the person he really was, not the person he showed to the world, the false exterior of confidence he presented to everyone he met.
Everyone except Lawrence. Lawrence Gordon got the real Adam Faulkner, the nervous, awkward, slightly clumsy, more than slightly childish, and maybe just a little bit paranoid man that he'd tried his best to hide.
What do voyeurs see when they look in the mirror?
Suddenly, through the colors and the images, through the flashes and the clicks, Adam knew.
Voyeurs see what everyone else sees when they look in the mirror. Voyeurs seem themselves...through the eyes of another.
In his mind, Jigsaw laughed, a cold and menacing chuckle that sent shivers down Adam's spine. "Very good, Adam. And how does a voyeur go about seeing himself as he really is, in his true state?"
Adam blinked, opening his eyes wearily and looking around. Something swelled within his chest, something warm that sent tears to his eyes and created a lump in his throat. "The shot," he wheezed. "The...perfect..."
"What do voyeurs see, Adam," Jigsaw's voice was now a whisper, a mental breath somewhere next to his ear, "in pictures of themselves?"
"Everything," Adam breathed. All his life, he'd been searching for the perfect shot, the perfect picture that spoke the ultimate truth and kept it secure for all eternity. Now he realized that he'd been searching in all the wrong places.
The camera doesn't lie, he thought, letting his eyes slip closed again. Behind the pictures...behind the click and the flash...is something else...
"And what is that something else, Adam?"
"Life." Adam coughed, his shoulders shaking roughly, the tangy taste of blood reaching his tongue again. He knew now that if he could look back at his photos of Lawrence, he wouldn't see the cheating doctor anymore. He'd see the only real friend he'd ever had...
He knew now that if he saw a photo of himself, he wouldn't see an angry, lying voyeur. He'd see a desperate, frightened child.
The perfect shot, the ultimate truth...right there...all along...
For the first time in a long time, Adam fell asleep within seconds, his mind a content, easy void.