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teach me a kinder way to say my own name

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Staring at the mirror, into hazel irises flecked with bright cinnamon brown and pine green, at constricted pupils designed by the harsh light of the bathroom; coasting the ridge of high cheekbones dusted with colour, traveling the slope of a thin bridge leading to a crooked nose, mapping out features that should be familiar but are entirely foreign in this molasses-slow trickle of altered space-time.

How long has he been crying? Eyes rimmed red, wholly unrecognizable. The person in the mirror is not him. He is not the person in the mirror. But then who is it? Whose hands are these, as the fingers flex and the bones beneath pale skin shift to follow the movements? Whose eyes rove over every single inch of that face, tracing the sharp line of that jaw, synapses firing and trying to make some sort of connection that just won't come?

Adam is floating. He is drifting somewhere far, far away, so far he doesn't even know where he is. So far that no one will know where he is. Here in this bathroom. Here with the phantom sting of cool metal biting into the sensitive flesh of his ankle, tethering him to this earth, this room. Simultaneously trapped within his body, and yet soaring completely independent from it.

He knows his name - Adam Faulkner-Stanheight, sometimes Adam Radford if he doesn't trust you, sometimes Adam Gordon if he feels so inclined - but who is Adam Faulkner-Stanheight, truly? He's not sure, right now. He's here but he's not. He's safe but he's trapped here in this bathroom. A glance over his shoulder tells him that the door is open. He can leave.

How does he leave?

"Angel? Are you in here?"

There, the slow creak of the door as it's edged open further. A second person behind the first in the mirror, one infinitely more reassuring and identifiable than the other. There is Adam's angel, his knight in shining armour, his Westley, all of the things he never quite imagined for himself when he was younger. He does not flinch when warm, wide palms reach out to rest upon his shoulders, as he knows there's only a gentle touch coming.

At least he can be certain of that.

"Oh, Adam, you've been crying." A gentle tug to pull him back against the soft line of a familiar chest, the flicker in river-blue irises shifting from confusion to concern beneath the glitter of the white light, a light that narrows those pupils. Is it fluorescent? Adam isn't sure. He's not quite sure if the way he keeps seeing the clean tile shift below his feet into that of pitchy, filthy and bloodied broken flooring is a hallucination or if having Lawrence here is the hallucination.

Adam wants to speak, but he's not entirely certain he's capable of that. A tongue made into lead by the uncertainty of his surroundings, eyes flickering over every inch of the mirror once again just to see if he can spot any more inconsistencies. Still, despite his brain fog, Adam leans back into the warm embrace provided to him, humming softly when his blue-eyed saviour's arms come to wrap around his waist.

He opens his mouth, winces as it splits the corners of his lips further. Whines softly as the scab made from his teeth digging too hard into his lower lip breaks too, spilling copper over his tongue. Ah, there's the blood. He was wondering when that'd show up. (His heart thumps, off-beat in the hollow of his throat as the acrid iron floods his senses. His ankle twinges again.)

Lawrence, beautiful, wonderful, unfathomably kind Lawrence, catches on quickly to the storm that is raging inside Adam's head. He presses one of those feather-soft kisses into his hair that lights a small candle of warmth in the depths of the photographer's chest, sends it coursing through his veins so that the rest of him can be warmed by this love, too. In any case, it's far more reassuring than the questions he's desperately in need of answers to.

"Where are you right now?" Lawrence's voice is so soft, not careful like he is afraid but careful like he wants Adam to know he doesn't have to be. Slowly, Adam's eyes trace the purple-blue shadows beneath the eyes of whomever it is reflected in the mirror. Inexplicably, though it is slow and currently he is merely grasping at the fence of understanding, he begins to recognize those features.

"Bathroom," he mumbles, and oh, Adam doesn't think he's ever been more relieved to watch that action be repeated in the mirror beneath his intense scrutiny. That's his cracked lips working with his sandpaper-dry mouth to form that word, alright. His eyes look no less lost, but he knows now that they are indeed his. "Jus' - it's - the bathroom."

"Which one, bug?"

The barest twitch of the corner of his mouth, a fragile but no less affectionate smile. Bug. That's him, that's Adam. He's Lawrence's bug. It's enough encouragement to get him to open his mouth again. "Ours. I - it's... I mean, sometimes it's - not, you know? It's moving."

"It's moving?"

"Like - like 'm here, but..." Adam feels his throat click as he clears it, swallows hard to try and alleviate the sudden discomfort licking up the back of it. "But... not? But I am here. Home, I mean."

Lawrence gives him a light squeeze, and Adam feels his eyes flicker shut at the sensation. He feels safe here. He does not feel as though he's being held prisoner by unforgiving, cold metal locked around his ankle or a sliding door locked and left alone when he's allowed the comfort of Lawrence's presence and his grounding touch. He can't be in that bathroom if he's here, right?


"Our bathroom," he repeats, tongue darting out to wet his lips, though it doesn't seem to do much, an effort made futile by the inherent dryness currently afflicting him. Speaking of, his eyes ache, now, bruise-like in their heaviness and the burning that comes with having cried for so long. He's sleepy. He doesn't know what time it is, but Adam could fall asleep easy if he were to sit down on the couch or maybe in Lawrence's lap, if he'd allow it. "I'm - we're in our bathroom, in our apartment."

"Good, baby, that's good. And what's your name?"

"Adam..." His eyes blink open and he watches the movement through his lashes, sighing softly when they finally re-focus and he can see the two of them reflected once more, Lawrence's chin atop his head and his arms curled around him, keeping him cradled close, safe. "Adam Faulkner-Stanheight... right?"

He's not in the bathroom. Just a bathroom. His, the one he shares with Lawrence Gordon. It might be the other man's name on the lease, but he's just as much a resident of this apartment as Lawrence is. His name is Adam, Adam Faulkner-Stanheight with a hyphen, and he is not a prisoner of Jigsaw's game anymore.

"Very good," Lawrence murmurs into his hair, and finally, finally, Adam feels himself relax.

When he glances into the mirror again, he is so far beyond pleased to recognize himself that he cannot help giving a quiet punch of laughter, a fractured sound that rumbles in the back of his throat, mildly unpracticed; still, though, the relief is present. "That's me," he hums, nuzzling under Lawrence's chin just because he can. "In the mirror. That's me, isn't it."

"It is."

"Did I scare you?" Adam turns in Lawrence's arms so that he may look up properly into his face, though there's admittedly not too much of a difference between their heights. Thankfully, his partner adjusts to this change in position easily, glancing down at him with eyes that practically glow with relief. Now that he's been successfully placed back into his body, Adam winces - he can feel the worry rolling off of the other man in waves. "I did scare you, didn't I?"

"A little bit," Lawrence answers truthfully, though he closes the small distance between them to press a tender kiss directly between Adam's smoothed out brows. "But it's happened to me too, before. And I can see it in your eyes now - you're here with me again." He holds himself there a moment, another soft brush of lips before he pulls away and smiles softly. "All that matters to me is whether you're feeling okay or not. Are you okay?"

"I will be." God, it's so very soothing to be able to say such things and actually believe them. Adam supposes that Lawrence has quite a bit to do with that, his mere presence a deflector in part when it comes to the way the photographer's head tries to turn him around, make him see or hear things that aren't actually there. However, he also recognizes that he's gotten better as to how he goes about dealing with this through effort and therapy, too. He's strong. He made it this far.

Lawrence and his love can't take away the things that have made his brain work the way it does, can't change the way it's wired or the reactions he has to certain environments and sounds, but he is rather adept at soothing the panic, at least a bit.

He will be okay. He can be sure of that. Leaning up, hands braced along the slope of Lawrence's broad shoulders, Adam presses his lips softly to Lawrence's - it's brief and chaste as far as kisses go, close-mouthed and just a gentle pressure, but the sentiment behind it is strongly felt all the same. In fact, the photographer feels the way his partner smiles against his lips, almost too hard to continue kissing him.

Lawrence hums when they part, lifting one of his hands from Adam's hip to delicately brush his hair away from his forehead. "I love you," he sighs sweetly, laying a kiss there as well, just because he can. Adam can feel the imprint of that smile against his skin when the gesture causes him to laugh, just a bit, and his heart thrums with an almost overwhelming wave of love and stubborn affection. "I was thinking maybe we could order pizza tonight? Just something easy, and we can sit on the couch instead of at the table. Do you feel okay to eat, bug?"

Adam grins, his first true smile of the day. He revels in the sensation of his facial muscles pulling and tugging, one corner of his mouth lifted more than the other to create the crooked smile he's had all his life, the one Lawrence has told him countless times makes his heart skip a beat sometimes. How he came to be with someone who tells him things like that, Adam isn't sure, but he wouldn't have it any other way.

"God, I love you," he murmurs, tilting his head once more to leave a kiss against the curve of Lawrence's jaw. "I - yeah, I could eat. Gotta take my meds soon anyway, don't I?"

The smile he gets in return is so bright and so warm, Adam could swear he feels his heart swell just at the sight of it.

He'll be okay. Love doesn't omit what has happened to him, or the way his brain has been altered in the way it reacts to those things, the way it tries to cope with the terrible things he'd been forced through. It's the same for Lawrence, they both know that.

But having Lawrence's love, loving each other, still helps.

And really, that's all that needs knowing.