A/N1: This chapter is a little long because I wanted to wrap everything up. A lot of you seem to understand now, hopefully this chapter won't confuse the hell out of you. Go with your original instinct and you'll understand just how twisted it all is.

I'm interested to see if you get the ending and your thoughts on the story as a whole.


Scratch the Surface – Chapter 18

The sounds of Avenge Sevenfold's It's Almost Easy fill my ears, but I'm not really paying attention to it. I can't. Not when there so much here for me to remember. I haven't been here in years, but the place looks just like I remember. Judging from how everything is exactly how we left it, no one's ever found it.

Taking in a deep breath, I cough immediately from the smell of mold and dust. Apparently the hole in roof did nothing for arrogating this place through the years. Making my way to the window to force clean air in here, I stop at the memory. The window. Adam kicked it in for me the day he first brought me here. The broken glass still decorates the windowsill and the outline of his boot is still there. It's like he never left.

God, I miss him.

I swear that it feels like if I were to close my eyes right now and open them again he'd be standing here smiling at me. But I know the truth. The truth is, if I closed my eyes, when I open them, I'll be standing in the middle of a broken down cabin… without him.

I knew the memories would come flooding back if I came here, but I couldn't help it. It's just that I miss him so much lately. I guess I just needed to feel close to him again. For so long Adam was my everything. He was my best friend, my companion…my soul mate. For so long I needed him. And now, I just want to see him, even if it's only to ask him why.

I just want to know why he left me. He didn't even say goodbye. He just never came back for me. I waited. God, I waited for so long, hoping, praying…needing for him to save me. But he didn't.

Apparently, time doesn't heal all wounds, because for five years I've been asking myself the same questions. Why didn't he love me enough to stay? Why did he make me love him so much only to leave me? I don't understand.

For five years I haven't seen him, haven't talked to him, haven't felt those warm hazel eyes look at me. For five years, I've been alone in a room with drugs and talking and pain like nobody's business. For five years I let them break me down only to build me up to what they want me to be.

I still don't remember how I ended up there. I know there was a trial because they put a tight blue suit and an ugly paisley tie on me. I remember sitting in a room next to this crack pot public defender wondering when it was going to be over. I swear this guy had the cheapest cologne and a big ass cowboy hat that he never took off. I think his name Layfield or Lakewood or something like that. He sat next to me at least a dozen times in those hard ass chairs and never once did he talk to me. The least he could have done was talked to me.

Hell, even that detective that Lillian had interviewed on the news, Batista, I think his name was, talked to me. He told me they were gonna get me help. I didn't know what in the hell he was talking about. I didn't need help, I needed Adam. But at least his eyes were warm. They weren't as comforting as Adam's, but they made me feel less alone.

Even Stephanie talked to me and I hate her. Every time they would show pictures, there would be gasps and screams, she would come over to me and rub my shoulders and tell me that everything was going to be fine. She got them to let me stay in a break room when the screaming got to be too loud or if someone wore red. I don't like screaming and I hate red and there were plenty of both in that place. And as much as I hate Stephanie, she kept them away from me. She helped me. At least I thought she did. But it was fake. All of it. She didn't care about me. She lied to me. She told me she would never hurt me, but she sat in front of everyone and she lied.

She said that I did all of these horrible things to people. Shit that Adam did, she blamed on me. She told everyone and they all believed her. I knew that bitch wasn't to be trusted and she proved me right.

Now I'm not denying that the hunger was bad, and maybe I did some things that weren't so nice. But I wasn't as monstrous as she made me out to be. She told them I had all these problems and that I couldn't deal with real life. She made it sound like I was crazy. But the craziest thing was they all believed her.

After that, I don't remember everything that happened. I know that Layfield or Layman or whatever the hell his name was, guy sat further away from me. Even that detective looked at me with pity. And then those fucking people started watching me like I was a freak show. I don't like to be laughed at and I could hear their snickers and their whispers of how weak they thought I was. It was too much to handle. I just wanted to die.

I prayed that they would kill me. I wanted them to strap me down to a table and shoot me up full of all the drugs they could get their hands on. Or put me in the gas chamber and let me choke off of my own vomit. Anything was better than the laughing and the whispering. Matty once told me to be careful what I pray for, because I just might get it. Well he was right. If I died, I would have gone straight to hell. Well, they didn't kill me, but I went there anyway.

After I stopped going to court, I started going back to Stephanie's little Drug Store hell everyday for five fucking years. Drugs and talking. Headaches and blackouts. Bruises and scars. And of course, her file full of lies and the fucking memories.

They should have killed me. But it wasn't all bad. I learned a lot and I used it to buy my ticket back to real life.

See, I learned that people only see what they want to see and they really don't care about anything but their version of the truth. They feel accomplished when they scratch the surface. As long as they get enough to prove themselves right, they let up and don't want to dig any deeper. For them it's all about perception.

For me it's all about adaptation. Take my life in hell for example. In hell, drugs are an amazing thing. If you take enough of them, you become immune to their effects. If you listen to how bad you are long enough, you learn to alter your behavior so that it looks favorable. If you smile, you're not thought to be sad. If you do everything they say, suddenly you're cured. And most importantly, if you stop talking about Adam, they stop thinking you're crazy and let you go.

I'm not gonna lie, being in the real world has been hard. But it's gotten easier over the last six months. I have my routine now and a life that doesn't focus on blocking out the past and running from my future. Shit, I even found a great girl that's a student at the local college. We're getting married in a few months.

I'm building my life back. And it's finally getting to the point where I don't have nightmares about being in that place. I don't even think about Adam every single minute of every single day anymore. I've finally got that normal life that I always wanted. But lord knows it's boring as a motherfucker without Adam.

Adam.

Don't get me wrong, I never stopped thinking about him. I can't. He's in my blood. It's like trying to stop thinking about a mother's love. It's like denying that the love of your life ever existed. He's never far from my mind, but my thoughts of him don't consume me anymore.

Well, normally they don't. Today is just a really shitty day.

Sitting the iPod on the window ledge, I absently wipe the tears from my eyes and I look out at the brook behind the cabin. Things were so much simpler the last time I got lost in watching the water flow downstream. I remember standing there with Adam feeling like I could conquer the world. The world. Yeah right. I haven't been able to do that yet. But at least I've been able to conquer the hunger. It doesn't sound like much, but it feels like the world to me.

It's gone, I think. At least I don't feel it that much anymore. Stephanie said that it'll never go away completely, but as long as I learn how to manage it with meds and therapy, I should be fine. So far it's worked. I guess that bitch was right about something after all.

Thank God it's not all consuming anymore. Now it's just a little twinge every now and again. I can deal with that. I've learned to ignore it. I mean, I still hear it and see it, but I don't taste it anymore. That's got to count for something, right?

Turning away from the window, I count the steps pass the weakened floor board and walk toward the door. This place feels like it's getting smaller by the minute and apparently something died in here because it stinks. The smell of death never bothered me before, but right now it's getting to me. I guess without the hunger, I actually smell it for what it is now. It's comforting, just not that damn appetizing.

Leaning against the door frame, I take a deep breath of the heavily wooded air. That feels good. I almost forgot how good fresh air smells. Lord knows I didn't smell it for years and now I can't seem to get enough of it.

I guess that's why I bought a little house in the country. Adam left me money. A lot of it. I don't know where he got it and I really don't give a shit. All I know is I was able to get a nice place out in the middle of nowhere that I fucking love. There's not another house for miles and I don't have the temptation of a bunch of people around me. It's secluded, like I'm trying to keep society out. Or maybe I'm trying to keep me away from society. Either way, I'm happy there. I'm surrounded by woods so I can smell the grass in the summer and the dying leaves in the fall. Adam would shit a brick if he found out I became a nature lover. He'd shit golden egg rolls if he knew half of the shit I discovered about myself. I'm not the same Jeff as I was before.

It's still hard for me, harder than it is for most people, but I don't seem to cower from the world now. I know they're watching me. Every week when I go back to hell for group meetings, they're watching. They're just looking for some sign of me slipping back into who I was. They're waiting for me to get scared and tell them that I can't do it on my own.

The truth is I don't get scared anymore. I don't worry about everything every single second. Yeah, I feel alone sometimes, but I'm not afraid of it now. I guess being in hell taught me how to deal with it. It's not like I had a choice in that place. In there, the loneliness would have eaten me alive if I had let it. But I didn't. I had to prove to myself and I guess to Adam that I could make it. And I did. I made it without him.

There's a breeze whipping the fallen leaves around in the air. It'll be dark soon and it looks like it's going to rain. I don't mind though. Even with a huge hole in the roof, I'd rather stay here and get soaked then to go home and be alone. Layla's staying on campus tonight because she's got a test in the morning. Not that I mind. It's just that it's fucking lonely in that house all by myself. Besides, it's been so long since I could just be alone with my memories and just feel what it is that I'm feeling that I'm actually enjoying it here. I'm not really ready to give that up yet. After five years of having everything about me questioned, dissected and analyzed, it's nice to have a minute just to remember without someone reading more into it.

Even now it's like that. I'm sure Layla doesn't mean it, but she likes to talk and every time I get quiet she thinks something's wrong. It's cute actually, how she tries so hard to keep me happy. She's one of those girls that does any and everything to make sure things between us stay good. Even after everything I've been through and all the lies the media told about me, she still loves me. Granted, she was just a kid when all of that shit went down, but she knows. At least she knows what she chooses to believe. If you ask her, I got sent away on some bullshit because I took the rap for Adam. It's the truth, I did, and she refuses to believe anything other than that.

But still, she knows they're watching me and she sees how much it gets to me. She tries to keep my mind off of it and when that doesn't work, she wants me to open up about it. It doesn't bother me, though. Not like when Stephanie did it. That shit got on my nerves. I know that Layla loves me and she's just trying to make me happy. But still, I'd be lying if I said the solitude of this place wasn't nice.

Closing my eyes to fully take in my surroundings, I hear the sound of leaves crunching in the distance. With a sigh I place the filter of the cigarette to my lips and feel my entire body relax as soon as the tip is lit. There's something about a quiet smoke that always seems to put things in perspective for me. With my head against the frame of the door I watch the world.

The woods are beautiful with their bare trees and the multi colored leaves decorating the ground like a blanket. The sound of the brook bubbles happily in the distance without a care. It's alive; everything about these woods is bursting with life even though winter is coming. It's like nature is preparing for it, but this place is resisting. It's ironic actually, because that's exactly how I feel.

This is the shit that I missed out on when I was in hell. This is the shit that I missed at home while I was still taking Steph's pills. Yeah, I loved being high all the time, but they kept me in a state of numbness, preventing me from seeing and enjoying the world around me. They were necessary when I needed to be what they wanted me to be so that I could go home. Well, now that I'm home I don't need them anymore.

I don't want my senses dulled. I don't want to have a medicine haze surrounding me at all times. I want to taste the rain on my lips and feel the cool air on my face. I want to smell the smells of fall. I want to live and those damn pills were killing me slowly. Well fuck that. Not anymore.

Staring at the large bare oak tree in front of me I feel an overwhelming sense of peace. Tears fill my eyes, but they're not sad tears. They are tears of contentment.

I knew this would happen. I knew I needed to come here. I knew I needed closure.

"Hey, Jeff." Without words I watch as he walks with his hands in his pockets. Dressed in blue jeans, a white shirt and black leather jacket he looks like just stepped out of a magazine. Stopping next to the tree, he leans against it and looks at me. His wavy blonde hair blows in the breeze and with a toss of his head he forces the strands out of his face.

"Adam." I thought after all this time I would be happy to see him. But I don't feel anything. For years I practiced the thousands of things I wanted to say to him. But right now, I can't think of one. All I can do is stare at him.

A slow smile slides across his face and he lowers his head as if he is going to laugh. But instead he raises his eyes to mine and nods. "You look good."

"You, too." And he does. He is beautiful. He's always been so beautiful.

"Had a feeling I'd find you here. You always did love this place."

Fuck the small talk. We don't have to have some long drawn conversation. "Why?" That's it. That's all I want to know. "You left me. Why?"

Taking a deep breath he pushes off from the tree and starts to walk toward me. There was once a time where I was afraid of the power that Adam exuded. I was never afraid of him, but of his strength because it only amplified my weakness. But that time is long gone. I've been through much shit - felt pain like never before. I don't fear. Not anymore. "I didn't leave you, Jeff."

"Bullshit. You didn't try to help me. You watched what that bitch did to me and you didn't try to help me." I can still see his face outside of that glass door, looking at me…smiling at me...leading me to believe that he was going to help me. But then he walked away. He blew me a kiss and walked away. "Do you have any idea what it was like for me? Do you? I've had everything short of a fucking lobotomy, Adam. Electroshock therapy, graphic desensitization…if you can think of it, they did it. And believe me, that bitch Stephanie can give you a run for your money in the torture department. And do know why they did all that shit to me? Because you fucking disappeared. You left and all fingers pointed to me. They ripped my fucking soul apart because of your shit and you have the balls to show here today like nothing fucking happened."

With a calm like only Adam can possess, he walks to the porch and takes a seat on the old splintered rocking chair. Running his fingers through his blonde waves he tilts his head and considers me. He's impressed, I know that look in his eye. He's never seen me stand up for myself without blacking out in the process. Well guess what? I don't fucking black out anymore. "Would I do that? I didn't leave you, Jeff. I was there every fucking day. You wouldn't leave with me."

I'm so sick of people twisting the truth into their form of reality. I waited for him for five years and he never showed. But still there's a calmness in his voice that makes me want to listen to his reasoning. "I wouldn't leave with you? Contrary to popular belief, I'm not fucking crazy Adam and it's pretty fucking hard to leave with a memory. Every fucking day I waited. But you never showed up. You let me rot there."

"Bullshit, I did. You were so fucking out of it that you didn't recognize me." Folding his hands in his lap his eyes narrow slightly in my direction. For a second, I recognize that look. Irritation. But I'm not backing down. Not this time. Not until he tells me the truth. "And when I finally got to you, you looked at me like you didn't know who the fuck I was. You had it all. Your drugs, your little brunette that hung on your every word. You were in your element, Jeff. Everybody was so worried about my poor little baby. Why would you leave with me? You had everything you ever wanted and you forgot about me."

"I could never forget you, Adam. I would have never turned my back on you." If the roles were reversed, I would have done everything in my power to get him out of there. "And what the fuck do you mean I was in my element? I never wanted to be babied, Adam. You did that because it made you feel better. I just didn't wanna be alone."

With a shake of his head he smiles in disbelief. "If you didn't want to be alone, why did you keep turning me away? You should ask that Steph girl how many times I came to see you. And then her, ask how many times she turned me away at your request. You left me, Jeff." He came to visit and Steph turned him away? No. That's not right. I was there. She never said anything like that. That couldn't have been how it happened. "You want to blame somebody for this? Blame her. She became more important to you than me. All the fucking lies she told you about me, you believed. All those sessions on her little couch, ending up with you crying. She was the one that started taking care of you. She replaced me. You should have the satisfied look on her face when she told me that you didn't want me anymore." He raises his brows at my shocked expression. He saw that? He was there and watched what she did to me? "Did know I knew that much, did you? Yeah, I saw it all. I saw how you stopped crying after awhile. And you didn't black out anymore, either. I notice how after awhile you were there, sitting tall and proud, talking and laughing. You were happy there, Jeff. And I finally saw you. I didn't just look at you. I saw you. And that's when I knew that you didn't need me anymore. You were strong on your own. You didn't need me in your life anymore, so I stopped coming. You were strong enough without me. And just look at you now…"

"You think you did me a fucking favor?" Stepping back inside the doorway I grab my bag from the floor. It takes a second to locate what I'm looking for but with damning evidence like this there is no way he can deny it. "Look at this shit. Look at it! You thought I had a good time there? You saw all of the shit she did to me and you thought I fucking enjoyed it? I forgot torture is your thing. It must've looked like a fucking field day to you. Tearing me down…that's your idea of teaching me how to be strong?"

His eyes dance over the red printed letters on the front of the file and instantly I feel a chill at the sight of them. St. Dymphna Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Reluctantly, he opens to the first page and glances over everything. Without interest he starts to read aloud, "Sociopath…Psychopath...Paranoid Schizophrenia… Histrionic…Disassociative …Borderline... Personality Disorder…Multiple Personality… What the fuck is this?"

"That's your little lesson, Adam. That's what the fuck I learned on Stephanie's couch." In all of the things I've felt for Adam over the last five years, never once have I felt anger. But right now, I'm so pissed with him it's taking everything I have not to punch him in the face. "I learned that I'm supposed to be fucking crazy. I was taught that I killed my brother and my friend. Supposedly, I got sent away to a fucking funny farm and not to Matt's house for six years. But I didn't take my medication and I got sick. Shit, apparently I fucking made you up…"

"Those motherfuckers." His eyes grow cold for a moment, and then they soften when he looks at me. Adam doesn't show remorse, but I can tell from that look that he genuinely had no idea it was that bad. "You don't believe this shit do you? You never went away. You were at your brother's. You fucking lived with him. I helped you get your stuff from his house. And that shit about me? If you believe that shit, then you are crazy."

"You know it's funny what pain will make you believe. You'll believe anything if it means that they'll stop hurting you. You of all people should know that, Adam."

"You don't believe me? Touch me. I've held you, wiped your tears…I've been there for you more than anybody else has ever been. You know me. Fucking touch me and you'll know I'm real." That seems to be all he cares about. Not the fact that the guards would beat me when I was strapped to my bed at night. Not the fact that Stephanie forced me to lie to my father and say that I killed my brother. He doesn't seem to care that I looked in that man's eyes and broke his heart just so I could get out of there. That was the first time I've seen my father in ten years and I lied to him.

"I had to admit to everything you did in front of a room full of people and apologize for it. I had to tell them that I was sick and I didn't know what I was doing. They made me jump through fucking hoops and made me feel like a freak, only to let me out and keep fucking tabs on me. I still have to go back there once a week and get fucking tested. They always want to talk and they look at me sideways to see if I'm stable." Lighting another cigarette, I suck back on the toke hoping it will calm me down. "Motherfuckers come to my house to make sure I'm following the fucking rules on the outside. I don't have any privacy. I'm lying to my girl about what the fuck is going on. But I'm stronger than a motherfucker now." The sarcasm drips from my words before I can stop it. "'Cause that's all that really matters, right? You left me there to die, and just hoped that I was strong enough to survive. But what if I wasn't, Adam? What if I didn't make it? What then?" As soon as I see the look on his face, I know that he didn't mean to hurt me. More importantly, I know that I can't end it like this. No matter what, I still love him.

Nodding his head in understanding he stands from the chair and glares out at the woods around us. "It was that fucking head shrinker wasn't it? She pumped you full of drugs and lies. You know she lied to you about all of that other shit. But you think she was telling the truth about me? Well here's the truth Jeff. If I thought for one second that you weren't strong enough to make it, I would have taken you from there. You can believe all of that other bullshit if you want, but you know that for a fact."

Staying angry with him is harder than I thought. But it feels so good to lash out after keeping all of this shit in for years. Always pretending to be what they want me to be so they'd let me out, keeping my real feelings bottled away…it's fucking hard. Finally I get to be myself and it figures it's with the one person who I've always been able to be myself around. I know I should hate him. But I don't. I never did. I feel myself calming down and all I can do is look at him with serious eyes. "You were right about one thing. I don't need you anymore. I'm doing just fine on my own now."

A sly smile pulls at the corners of his lips and instinctively his hand runs through his hair. "You're right. You don't need me…but it wouldn't it be fun to have me around again?" His smile grows when I try to keep my face stern but it softens almost as soon as he says it. It's the truth. I miss him. Without him I feel like a part of me is missing. "We had some good times, Jeff."

Resting my head against the door frame again I instantly feel the anger and frustration leave me looking into the hazel pools of his eyes. "Yeah, we did." I look out at the forest and notice that the wind is picking up. The bare trees swing their branches like skeleton fingers waving goodbye to me. Or is it hello? I can't tell anymore.

"You came out on top, baby. You're bigger and better than you were before." Throwing the file on the chair behind him, he turns to me with a warm smile. He touches his hand to my cheek and I can feel the electricity from it all over my body. God, I miss him. "I just wanted to see you again and to tell you that I'm proud of you." As soon as he steps down from the porch he turns to me and nods. "If you ever get bored, look me up. You know where to find me. I miss you, Jeff." No sooner does he say that, does he turn around and starts to walk away from the cabin.

Watching him leave a second time hurts more than I thought it would. "Adam?" I steady my voice and force a smile on my face. "I miss you, too." I won't ask him to come back into my life, but I damn sure won't deny him if he does. In the few minutes that we spent together, I didn't feel lonely at all. I actually felt normal. That's all I've ever wanted.

His smile is illuminating. It lights up everything in this darkened wood, like the sun was shining directly on him. It's magical. "I don't know how to apologize, Jeff. That's really not my thing. But I don't lie, so believe this. If you let me back in, I promise I will never leave you again."

There's so much to think about. I've been lied to so much by so many people I don't know what the truth is anymore. All I do know is I haven't felt this alive in years. With a shrug of my shoulders I turn toward the door. "We'll see. I need to talk to my shrink first." With one last glance at him, over my shoulder, I walk into the cabin and leave the front door open.

Pulling out the pack of Malboros out of my pocket, I dust off the chair and take a seat. Lighting the end, I close my eyes and concentrate on the thick smoke filling my lungs. I love the taste of menthol. With everything there is to consider, it's nice not to have to concentrate on anything but my cigarette while my thoughts fall into place. This is more than I can handle right now. I need some direction.

Resting my arms on my thighs, I lean forward and consider the mattress and the gagged brunette chained to the fireplace upon it. "So Steph? What do you think I should do?"

Fin.


A/N2: So there you have it. My first attempt at a psychological thriller. It's been a blast to write and I think this is the best my writing has ever been. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you loved it as much as I did!

Special thanks to Kenny-Bell for making me laugh. Isilofthedark for making me excited to keep writing. Grleviathan for getting it from chapter 6. And special thanks to Queen of Kaos for all of the many hours of brainstorming and character development with me. To everyone else, thank you so much. You guys are rockstars!

Be easy!

Shanny

One final thing. A few of you have asked if Adam is real or not. I'll let you be the judge of that. But if you have questions ( granted this story isn't the full scope of everything I wanted to do with it. You would have been confused beyond repair had I done everything.) PM me and I'll tell you how it played out in my mind.