A/N: Okay, words cannot describe how much I'm going to miss this fic, but… This actually IS the last chapter! (Cries) Also, once again, I'm going to have to explain the chapter title: If you look at the title of chapter five, this makes more sense. Adam has come to a place in life where he has to stop looking at himself and look at Lawrence, and hopefully by this, stop focusing on his flaws and see how amazing he is… Damn, now I'm ranting. Just read and ignore me!
Epilogue: And Now Look At Me
Adam Faulkner is no longer in pain.
He's sitting with Lawrence in his kitchen, he stares hesitatingly at a plate with spaghetti in front of him, and this is new, it's unaccustomed, but he's no longer in pain. He doesn't have to be anymore.
Lawrence's love is like a warm, soft hand that gently strokes over his stomach. Takes away the nausea, eases the pain.
Lawrence is sitting opposite him. He has spaghetti in front of him, too, but he hasn't touched it yet. He just stares at Adam over his plate. Not demandingly. Patiently.
"Are you going to eat?"
It's a question, not an order. And Adam nods silently.
"I will. It's just…"
He quiets down and picks up the fork next to his plate.
"What?" Lawrence asks.
Adam chuckles and shakes his head.
"It's scary as a living hell."
It is. It is scary. But Adam isn't scared.
He's been scared for so long. He's sick of it.
When you've lived your life wrapped up in a blanket of fear, and it suddenly drops from your shoulders and you stand exposed, shivering and squinting against the light, it's pretty hard to not be scared. The fear has almost turned into Adam's security at this point, but now, the fear is different, it's a tingling, tickling nervousness, a nervousness that after a while gets too much to bear on an empty stomach and makes him spin the fork between his fingers before he mercilessly jabs it into the spaghetti and lifts a big load to his mouth.
He feels like a baby. This is something brand new, he misses the mouth at the first shot and when he finally gets the damn food into his mouth, he almost gets shocked.
He'd actually forgotten what real food feels like on his tongue, big bites instead of pitiful little pieces of bread, and his stomach almost hurts again when it comes to life, wakes up after a long slumber like a sleeping dragon that suddenly stretches itself with a powerful roar.
It seems like Adam gets hungrier by every time he puts the fork in his mouth. Eventually, the bites get so big that he can't chew it all at the same time and has to spit some of it out on the plate to be able swallow. Lawrence laughs and finally picks up his own fork.
"Don't eat too fast," he says and spins some spaghetti onto his fork. "You'll throw up."
Adam chews quickly and swallows to reply.
"No way in hell," he says calmly. "I'm done throwing up."
Lawrence's smile lingers. Even when he puts the spaghetti into his mouth.
He's so proud.
He's proud of himself for helping Adam this way, proud of Adam for finally letting him help him.
Proud of them both. Because they're not afraid of each other anymore.
"Are you going to talk to me?" Lawrence asks and takes a sip of the beer in front of him.
Adam looks up from his plate. His cheeks are all blown up by the spaghetti in his mouth, he looks completely mental. He can't even shrug and answer until he's swallowed.
"Sure. What do you want to know?"
Lawrence puts his fork down. It feels like at least one of them should have their eyes on the other during this conversation.
"How long did it go on?"
Adam shrugs again. His gaze is steadily fixed on his plate.
"Don't know. At least three years, I think. It wasn't like I had someone around to keep tracks on if I had breakfast or not."
He doesn't know why he wants to know this. Maybe he takes the chance, now that he notices that the questions don't really bother Adam anymore. Or he just wants Adam to hear his own answers.
Hear how damn stupid they sound, so he'll never do it again.
"Why did you do it?" He then asks.
That's what he really wants to know. Hell, that's what he's wanted to ask Adam since he saw him fall down on the sidewalk in front of him.
Adam still doesn't look at him. The grey eyes are hidden in the spaghetti on his plate, because he's ashamed, ashamed of the fact that it took him three years to understand that he actually almost was psychotic, three years and so many, many sleepless nights.
"Don't know," he says again, vaguely, and takes another bite of his food. "I guess it was that feeling of being… Vulnerable, or whatever you call it. Food can be so damn good sometimes, and… Well, I kind of thought that it'd… Maybe… Make up for all the times I actually had something good and watched it go away if I stepped off it. I've never had anything good that hasn't disappeared sooner or later."
There's a pause. The following sentence just slips out of his mouth, and even though he's not nearly as scared of admitting his love for Lawrence anymore, he immediately regrets that he said it.
"Not even you."
Lawrence startles a little. Like Adam's hit him. He's perplexed for a brief second, slowly opens his mouth, because he doesn't know hat to say, what are you supposed to say to that?
"Adam…" He says fumblingly. "I never wanted to leave you. Never. You know that."
Adam looks down. Ashamed. Tries to be dignified, but he's ashamed. And he's scared.
But once again, just for a second.
He doesn't have to be scared anymore.
"I'd never leave you," Lawrence says, and god, the words are just pouring out now. "I love my job, but if it was up to me, I'd still stay with you in this shithole all day."
Still in a low voice. But Lawrence can swear that he sees a little smile on the turned-down face.
"You need to leave all that behind you, Adam," Lawrence says.
Adam doesn't even look up then.
"Everything. Your brother, the bathroom, your mom…"
The words sort of stumble over his lips now. Weird, you'd think that they'd keep rushing out in a perfect gush, considering that he's wanted to say them for a very, very long time now.
"It was awful," Lawrence says. "I really meant it when I said that not a day goes by without me whishing that that never happened to you. But… You have to let go of it now. You have to… Allow yourself to have a good life. Okay?"
Adam nods silently.
"Okay?" Lawrence repeats.
"Okay, okay, okay," Adam says with a chuckle, still without looking up. "Fuck, you're not my dad. Then we'd have a damn disturbing relationship."
Lawrence laughs, too, but is still quick with putting on a sincere face.
"Did you want to do it?"
There's another question that's been stored up in him forever now.
"I mean…" Lawrence says insecurely. "Were there never a part of you that just… Thought that it was sick?"
Now, Adam looks up. But he doesn't look at Lawrence, his gaze gets stuck somewhere in a corner of the ceiling.
"No," he says after a second's considering. "I know it sounds weird, but…"
Pause. All the spaghetti on Adam's plate is gone, and Lawrence waits.
"I felt… Good."
There's no better way to put it. And just the simple word of choice fills Lawrence with a feeling of powerlessness, the feeling of he's-in-misery-and-I-can't-do-anything-about-it, before he remembers that that's exactly what he's doing.
He's curing Adam.
Curing him from the anorexia. Curing him from the suffering.
"It sounds weird," Adam says again. "But… I didn't have one of those little voices in my head that told me I was an idiot, like normal people. I just had this big, fat, fucking voice that told me I was good when I threw my lunch up."
Lawrence has to work to keep that feeling from welling up again.
"Where's that voice now?" He asks and tries to sound like he's joking.
Adam can't possibly believe that Lawrence has any humor whatsoever in this situation. He knows him better than that. But he still smiles, a true, happy grin spreads over his face, and right then, it's probably the best moment of Lawrence's life.
"It's shutting up," Adam says and puts some more spaghetti into his mouth from the pot in front of them. "And believe me, it's about time.
Lawrence smiles, too. Because right now, everything's right, right now he's all warm, right now he can actually look at Adam without that grinding anxiety that he won't be able to wake up tomorrow in the bottom of his stomach. And that really is something to be thankful for.
Maybe Jigsaw would approve of them now.
"Just one more thing," Lawrence says.
"Bring it on," Adam says halfheartedly.
"If you could do it all again," Lawrence continues. "Would you?"
Adam furrows his brows.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean," Lawrence says, suddenly unsure of what he actually means. "If you went back in time. Three years, or whatever it was, and you had a plate of food in front of you. Would you eat it? Would you… Change those years if you had the power?"
Adam laughs. Completely joylessly.
"Of course I would."
"Hell, you're not the only one who'd put me through that fucking bathroom again if that could change all this."
Lawrence doesn't get nearly as surprised over this as he'd like to. But he still doesn't think that Adam's fully understood his question.
"Yeah," he says. "I just wonder… Have you understood that you don't have to be in pain?"
Adam smiles uncertainly down at his plate.
"You want me to say it?" He says with laughter dancing in his voice. "If I could go three years back in time and change all this shit, I would, because at that point, I would've gotten that you're here, I'm stuck with you from now on, and you wouldn't let me skip a meal if a gun was held to my head. Is that a satisfying answer?"
Lawrence doesn't answer right away. He just keeps smiling, even though he knows Adam can't see it, and when he does answer, it's with something that slides up to the front of his mind from some hidden space in his brain.
"And once you have stood up," he says slowly, "don't turn around. There is no way back from where you came."
Adam finally looks at him. One eyebrow is raised, and his jaws stubbornly mill the spaghetti in his mouth.
"What the hell are you talking about?"
Lawrence smiles uncertainly.
"I read that somewhere. And don't make fun of me, because in your case, I think it sounds like a reasonable advice."
Adam blushes and lowers his eyes again.
"Adam," Lawrence says seriously.
"What?" Adam mumbles and scrapes his fingernail against some invisible dirt on the table.
"You know I love you, right?"
Adam looks up at him, for a moment, but his gaze bounces back down and his blush gets even deeper.
"Adam, look at me," Lawrence says coaxingly.
He needs Adam to look at him when he says this.
Needs to know that he knows this. Needs to know that he doesn't have to worry about him running away anymore.
Adam smiles weakly and actually does look up, though reluctantly.
"Yeah," he says softly. "I know."
"And?" Lawrence says amusedly.
Adam chuckles and takes the opportunity to look down again.
"You looking for confirmation?"
Now, Adam has to look at Lawrence again. That grin is back, happy and true, underlines what he now says, finally, from the bottom of his heart.
"And," he says. "I love you, too."
And he's never meant anything more in his life. Adam's told a lot of lies, to himself, mostly, even though he's terrible at it, but this, he means. He realizes now. Dares to realize it now.
Because Lawrence is right. It's time to move on.
Time to realize that not everyone leaves you.
Time to realize that no matter how much he wants to deny it, there is, deep down in the bleeding, scarred, battered thing that is Adam's heart, still warmth, still life, a life that he can live if he only has the courage, and love, so big and so comforting and so easing, the he wouldn't even be able to suppress it even if he still wanted to.
Lawrence smiles. And then, he stands up from his chair, walks up to Adam, pulls him onto his feet, pulls him into his body heat.
Adam inhales shakily and puts a hand on Lawrence's chest. It's true that he's not scared anymore, hell, he'd probably even let Lawrence touch his stomach this time if he wants to. But he's still inexperienced, because this is completely new to him, he's never kissed Lawrence without a mind-numbing fear that he'll notice how damn skinny Adam was.
Now, he's moved on.
Everything he once was afraid of disappears in a steamy haze of Lawrence's lips, ragged breathing, warm, naked skin pressing against his own.
Sometimes, life can really be that easy.
If you allow it to be. If you don't clutch to your own self-loathing.
It can even be as easy as Adam falling asleep an half hour later, sweaty, tired without being malnourished, sleeping without waking up in the middle of the night, writhing in pain and not remember it the morning after.
Sleep without nightmares.
Sleep soundly, but still feel, somewhere deep down in sleep-dark water, how Lawrence puts an arm around his waist, hums softly into his ear.
"And when I kiss your soul,
Your body be free
I'll be free for you anytime.
And I'm going to love you more than anyone."
Damn, this fic really is done, isn't it? ARGH! Well, thanks a lot for the reviews I've gotten along the way! For the record, I have two new fics in mind that I'll force you to read and review, too, so don't think for a second that I'll let you relax!