Chapter 15 - I Come Alive in Slow Motion
I Come Alive in Slow Motion
“Please, I want to see them.”
Adam’s request was echoing in Tommy’s mind as he looked at his husband unsure. He’s been asking for this in the last few weeks, but Tommy always said no. He felt ashamed and ugly. Ruined for life. He never really cared when people told him that he was beautiful or pretty. To be honest, from the latter word he itched nowadays as it reminded him of the time he spent in captivity. But now… Now he knew he was ugly and disgusting because of his healed, but still shiny and red scars which were caused by the whip Vito and Carlo used on him to torture and blemish his smooth pale skin. And Adam wanted to see that ruined skin.
Tommy’s stomach turned from the idea and he was breathing a bit faster as he dropped his gaze.
“Please. I don’t care about the scars. You’re still perfect to me, Tommy,” Adam said gently and the blond man had to press his eyes together.
He was hesitating. He thought Adam would change his mind and be grossed out. He always hated to be so small and scrawny despite all the exercises and fights he did to get stronger. Now the scars just added to the feeling of not feeling good in his own skin. But he could thank himself for the scars. He was stubborn and refused spilling the secrets of the Sand and the Sea. He didn’t regret keeping his mouth shut though. He didn’t want to become a traitor and fail as the king of his people. He paid his prize and he wouldn’t care about the scars if they came from a fair fight or if he wasn’t married. He could be wearing them proud if he got them during defending himself and his land, but no, they were a constant reminder of his humiliation and weakness.
On the other hand, Adam knew how he looked before. He praised his flawless skin countless times, told him how much he loved its smoothness. Well, that smoothness was gone for good and Tommy had to admit that he was afraid of making Adam think he was ugly. He was afraid that his own husband would be too disgusted to be around him or touch him. Not that there was much touching going on between them since Tommy was brought back to the Sand. Aside from that one time he tried to comfort Adam with nuzzling to him at the night of Neil’s funeral, he got anxious and jumpy when someone came too close to him or tried to touch or hug him. So he avoided that as much as he could. He still only let Taylor touch him when he put ointment on the scars that remained on his skin. Twenty-two scars, to be exact. So Tommy made sure that Adam never saw him naked.
“You can’t hide from me forever, Tommy,” he heard Adam say and the blonde looked up into his eyes biting his healed lips.
Adam has been so patient with him, so understanding. Tommy started feeling himself bad for isolating himself this much and causing more pain to his husband. He himself didn’t matter, but Adam lost much more than just his dignity.
Finally Tommy sighed and stood up from the edge of the bed where he’s been sitting after getting ready for bed. Adam was already sitting on his own side watching Tommy. The blonde could feel his intense eyes on him, which made him feel uncomfortable, but they have been working on that too.
By now Tommy knew more of the Lamberts’ secret teachings as Adam tried to help him with different methods. Taylor told Tommy that it was Adam who made the healing ointments, lotions and teas which were applied on his wounds or were drank by him. But there was more. After Tommy’s real return Adam tried to spend as much time with his husband as possible. The war council could usually deal with the questions and problems which came up or with the aftermaths of the battle they had with the army of the Volcanoes by their door step while Adam was in Devil’s Hook to save his husband. They won the war, but they were working on strengthening their own army and were building more warships. Adam refused to be unprepared for battles in the future – let it be with Queen Thalia or anyone else.
The freckled man used his alone time with Tommy teaching him a breathing technique which could help on his quite frequent panic attacks. It was normal though to have them after the trauma he went through. Another method he used was teaching Tommy to meditate and relax his mind and tense body. He was slowly getting better at it and he had less panic attacks or nightmares thanks to Adam’s patience and teachings. Not to mention that by now he could sleep at least a couple of hours at nights. It was still strange for Tommy to learn these things, but it was interesting and next to helping him heal at least those sessions distracted his mind from his dark thoughts.
“Alright… I’ll do it… just… I know they’re ugly…” he mumbled. He wanted to say ‘I know I’m ugly’, but changed his mind in the last moment. He sighed heavily and dropped his gaze as he took off the soft tunic he started wearing for sleep. He was facing the bed only in his undergarment and avoided Adam’s eyes. His wounds at the front were completely healed by now and the ink on his arms weren’t too much damaged either, but Tommy was already thinking of asking Ashley to redo some of the tattoos once his skin was completely healed. Maybe he’ll ask for a more intricate tattoo all over his back too to hide the scars or make them less prominent. He knew that his front wasn’t what Adam was curious about, but it took a minute for him to reveal his back. He took a few deep breaths the way Adam taught him and finally turned around to sit back on the edge of the bed. He bent his head and was glad that this way he didn’t have to see the pity or disgust in his husband’s eyes.
The silence stretched between them and Tommy started nervously biting his lip again, his hands picking at the cover by his thighs. His mind was already coming up with insane things, only making him worry more, but then he felt and heard Adam coming closer behind him. His body tensed and he felt his heart beating faster in his chest, breathing quickening.
“Just breathe, baby…” he heard Adam’s soft voice from behind. He was within arm’s reach, but didn’t come closer. Tommy hated that everyone was walking on eggshells around him, but at the same time he needed it too to protect himself. He quickly focused on his breathing and soon calmed down and his body relaxed a bit too.
“Can I touch them?” Adam’s question startled him a bit and he licked his suddenly dry lip, his hands fisting around the black and gold cover.
“Uhm…” he started, wanting to say ‘no’ so badly, but they talked about this too with Adam. At some point Tommy had to start letting Adam closer again. He took a deep breath and just nodded, slightly turning his head to the side, but still not looking back at the other man.
The first touch made his body tense up again and he bit his lip hard not to jump up right away. Adam continued gently tracing the shiny scars without a word while Tommy was focusing on his breathing, fighting off a panic attack. As minutes passed by it became a bit easier and his tense muscles started slowly relaxing too. He closed his eyes under the gentle, feather-light strokes.
“They are a part of you now, Tommy. You’ll eventually have to accept that,” Adam said softly while tracing one of the longest scars starting from Tommy’s shoulder and going down across his shoulder-blade and back.
“I… I know… it’s just…” he whispered hoarsely but trailed off.
“It’s just what, baby? Please, tell me.”
“They… they make me ugly, doesn’t they?” he uttered what really bothered him.
“Oh baby, don’t say silly things… This is what you are afraid of? That I’d see you ugly and wouldn’t want to touch you?” Adam asked and waited until Tommy nodded. “That’s stupid. In my eyes you are just as beautiful… and I’ll always want to touch you. You are my husband…” he whispered as he slowly leaned down and pressed a soft kiss on Tommy’s naked shoulder. “I love you, Tommy. No matter what. You are my beautiful husband and I love you until my last breath,” he whispered and pulled back to gently turn Tommy’s body to the side so he could sit between Adam’s open legs.
The small man slowly looked up into Adam’s eyes and felt relieved when he saw that Adam was telling the truth and there was no pity or disgust in those amazing blue eyes, just love. Pure and unconditional. It made Tommy’s heart flutter and he had to swallow hard as a knot in his stomach started to ease up. “You mean it,” he whispered more as a statement than a question.
“I do,” Adam nodded and kept slowly caressing Tommy’s back, feeling the bumps of the scars under his palm as they protruded from the healthy skin. “I was so scared I’d never see you again, that I’d lose you. That’s when I really realized how much I fell in love with you since our wedding. Please, believe me when I say that nothing changed between us. You are and will be my husband, my love, my soulmate. I just want you to feel better. Heal both physically and mentally. I know it will be a slow process, but I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. I want to help in any way I can…” he gave him a small smile.
Tommy looked hopeful as he searched the freckled face. “Thank you. I know I’m fucked up and unsure and I hate it… I want to be… I want to be like before all this went down. I really do… but I think that Tommy is gone for good.”
“I don’t mind as long as the new Tommy’ll stay by my side. We are already dealing with this and will continue doing so. Besides I love the new Tommy the same. I promise I’ll be patient and help whenever you need it.”
“You’re already helping me a lot, Adam. I’m grateful for that. I’m trying to get better for you.”
“No, not for me. Get better for yourself, Tommy. I’ll be happy if you do that.”
“O-okay. But… there’s something I should tell,” he averted his eyes again as a wave of guilt and worry washed over him and he tensed a bit once more.
“What is it?” Adam asked watching Tommy nervously biting his lip again. It was a habit he picked up lately.
“I… I’m not proud of what I’ve done… I guess I could blame it on the drinks I had or the fact that… his unexpected appearance surprised and confused me, but it still wouldn’t change the fact that I… I cheated on you with Carlo,” he swallowed hard and wanted to curl up as small as possible in fear of Adam’s anger. He wondered if all the rapes he had to suffer through counted as cheating too, but he banished that thought for now.
Adam didn’t react as Tommy expected. “Tommy… baby, look at me,” he tipped his chin up with two fingers under the ashamed man’s chin. He waited until Tommy’s sad brown eyes met his. “I know. It hurts, I won’t lie about it, but I already knew about that. Carlo wrote a fake letter in your name while he… took you away from me… I thought it was a lie, but he reminded me during his trial too. I hoped he was just lying to hurt me more, but I guess it was the truth then. Look, Tommy… I’ll get over it. I’m just glad I got you back. If you try not to do that to me in the future, we can start clean. We can leave the past behind us now that everyone responsible for hurting you is gone. We can build a new future together. A happier future. What do you say? You would like that?” Adam asked searching Tommy’s eyes.
“Yeah… yeah I would like that very much…” Tommy whispered barely audible as his eyes welled up with tears and he sniffed. “I’m so sorry, Adam… I’m so sorry for everything…” he said as the first two drops slid down on his pale skin. “I promise I won’t do anything like that in the future. I… I promise,” he said shaking lightly as he tried keeping his emotions under control. After days and sometimes weeks being detached from his own body and suppressing all that’s happened to him along with his emotions, they were sometimes all over the place now. There were random times when Tommy burst out in tears shaking like a leaf. They knew from Taylor that it was normal. It was a sign that Tommy started dealing with what happened to him. Another step in his healing. “I’m so sorry,” he repeated.
“I know and it’s okay, baby…” Adam assured him and couldn’t help himself, he had to gently hug Tommy to him. First the freckled man thought he’d pull away as he felt how much he tensed up again and heard the tiny gasp too, but after a few moments he relaxed into the hug and buried his face into Adam’s chest. The bigger man didn’t mind Tommy’s tears wetting his tunic he started to wear for sleep too. Although they usually slept naked, this was an attempt not to intimidate Tommy with having to sleep with a naked man in the same bed after everything.
Once Tommy calmed down enough while Adam was holding him and stroking his hair he sighed. “Can I ask you something, Tommy?”
“Sure,” he lifted his head off Adam’s chest to be able to look at his husband. Adam lifted a hand and wiped off the remains of Tommy’s tears.
“I can’t really help it so I’m sorry about that, but… I feel kinda jealous of Taylor…”
“What? Why?” Tommy rounded his eyes surprised.
“I know he’s been helping you a lot as he was the only person you let close to you. I know he tended your wounds back there too… I just… well, I’ve noticed how close you two got. The bond between the two of you. I promise I won’t get mad at you, no matter what but… should I be jealous?” he asked softly and a bit worried.
“No, Adam. No!” Tommy shook his head and sat up more straight in the embrace. “I swear, you don’t have to. He’s just someone I trust, someone who went through the same things I did. I guess I could say that he became my friend. But nothing more. Really. I never looked at him like that and he likes girls more anyway,” he claimed.
“Alright, alright, I believe you, baby. Don’t work yourself up on this, please. I believe you. I just wanted to see clear,” he smiled softly down at him, seeing the truth in Tommy’s nearly desperate-looking eyes. He caressed his face with his thumb until he relaxed again. Adam felt relieved too as he wasn’t one for sharing the man he loved and he just barely got Tommy back. He didn’t want anyone to come between them. Especially now when they had to work on getting close again too. He ran his fingertip along Tommy’s jaw-line and leaned down to give him a tiny peck on the lips then pulled back to see his reaction. He was a bit afraid that maybe he shouldn’t have done that. “Was this okay?”
Tommy didn’t have to hesitate with his nod and he even gave Adam a tiny smile as it truly felt okay. He was moved by how much Adam cared and didn’t want to hurt him in any way. He really didn’t deserve this wonderful man. He even forgave his unfaithfulness and wanted to have a future with him! Tommy was flooded by gratitude. Not just for saving him and caring about him, but because Adam gave him hope. The promise of getting better and a better future is what keeps Tommy waking up in the morning and work with Adam.
For a while he was shocked and in denial of what happened to him. Then the rage came and he wrecked more than one piece of furniture in the process. He knew that both Vito and Carlo and the other guards who abused him were all dead and he couldn’t strangle them with his bare hands, so the poor furniture had to suffer for that. But no one said anything about it. They understood and Tommy didn’t talk about it. Then he accepted what happened and finally he got to the point where he wanted to get better. For Adam, for himself, for the kingdoms. No one saw him in public since he was brought back and he knew that the day would come soon enough when he’ll have to leave the chambers and stand out in front of his people. But for now the idea of facing so many people still made him nauseous. For now he was starting to get comfortable around Sutan, Isaac and Adam too. Adam. He was the most important. He wanted him to have his husband back as much as possible.
That’s why he fought the urge to pull back and instead he mustered up all his courage and closed his eyes to lean up and kiss the freckled lips. The soft encouraging moan he got made him peck Adam’s lips a few more times before he let the kiss get deeper. He then realized how much he’d missed the taste of his husband’s lips and tongue as it slowly slid in his mouth and took its time massaging his own. The uneasy feeling in his chest slowly eased up and he completely melted into the kiss which went on for long minutes.
“Let’s lie down and try to sleep, okay?” Adam said with the gentlest and proudest smile Tommy ever saw on his face. The blue eyes were sparkling with happiness and hope and it made the blonde man return the smile as he nodded.
They soon got comfortable with Adam lying on his back and Tommy snuggled up against his side, a big hand gently caressing the narrow back. It didn’t bother Tommy that much anymore. Adam accepted him like this too and he had no idea it was something he really needed to know to be able to heal faster.
“Did Carlo suffer?” Tommy asked after a while.
Adam opened his eyes and stared at the painted ceiling. “I may have given him less drugs and perform the sacrifice slower than necessary…” he said thinking back at the ritual and the struggles of the dying man.
“That’s… good,” Tommy said after a moment and sighed a bit calmer as he closed his eyes and soon fell into an exhausted sleep. It was the first night in a long while when he had no nightmares.
There was something else Tommy – and everyone else around him – realized soon after that. Spending time with Neil’s little boy, Joshua helped on him too. He opened up easier to the small boy and he was a sweetheart anyway. In some things he reminded Tommy of Neil and he still couldn’t fight the guilt he felt for being the reason why this little boy had to grow up without his father, but he couldn’t do anything about that now, could he? He wished he had the power to bring his father and Adam’s brother back, but he just had to deal with how things were. And he was trying hard.
He was helping Joshua in building a tower from painted wooden blocks while Sutan watched over them pretending to be cleaning and doing other things which weren’t necessary, when he suddenly heard a little girl’s squeak and he barely had time to open his arms and close them around his niece, Bridget.
“Uncle Tommy! Surprise!” she giggled holding on to Tommy, who quickly pushed back the urge to let her go. Easing himself into letting others touch him was better than being jumped on like this, but he knew his niece couldn’t help it. So he just let her hug him for a few more seconds and kiss his face all over. That actually made him chuckle softly.
“Well, it is a big surprise,” he looked up seeing her sister standing next to a servant who led them there. “But a good one,” he smiled genuinely. “Now let me look at you,” he held Bridget at arms’ length. “You grew a lot, princess,” he said and watched the little girl beam proudly.
“Yes I did! I have to get tall and strong to be able to protect my baby sister or brother!” she announced and Tommy glimpsed at Liza again, who was stroking her round belly smiling warmly.
“That’s a great plan, sweetheart,” Tommy assured.
“I know. Who’s he?” she asked looking at the curiously watching Joshua.
“He’s Prince Joshua, Adam’s nephew. Prince Joshua, this is Princess Bridget, my niece,” he smiled watching the kids getting to know each other.
“A prince?” she giggled as she sat down opposite the boy. “I’ll call you Joshy!” she smirked, making Tommy softly chuckle again.
“Play with him for a while, okay? I’ll talk to your mother,” he stroked her brown curls and smiled again as she nodded and turned her attention to the younger boy while Tommy got up from the carpet they were sitting on and made his way to Liza.
“It’s so good to see you, Tommy,” she greeted him with a careful hug. “We wanted to surprise you.”
“You did surprise me. It’s good to see you too,” he said and pecked her cheeks as he took one of her hands. “Come, sit down. You shouldn’t be traveling with such a big belly, sis,” he gently scolded Liza.
“I know, but I wanted to see you with my own eyes. I’ve heard about everything and I was so scared and worried. But… you look good, Tommy,” she said as they walked to some comfortable chairs by a round table and sat down.
“Thank you, sis. I’m trying.”
“I can see that. Adam’s taking good care of you?”
“Yes. He’s… wonderful,” he blushed lightly. “He goes away only when there are duties that require his presence as king. Did you meet father yet?”
“Adam’s a good man. You’re lucky to have such a husband. Yes, I did. We talked a little then I came up to see you.”
For a while they were chatting about the things that were going on in her kingdom and at home then the recent war came up too. They were keeping an eye on the kids as well as a servant brought some snacks for them.
Tommy just popped a grape in his mouth when his sister turned to him again.
“So how are you really, Tommy?” she asked on a more quiet voice.
“I’m better. It was much worse,” he said just as quietly. “I’m trying hard and Adam helps a lot. Sis… I’m glad I married this man. I don’t think many would have so much patience, no matter how much I don’t want to be a burden to him.”
“I’m sure you aren’t a burden to him. It’s just natural that he wants to help the man he loves,” she said and gently slid her hand on the back of Tommy’s as it was resting on the table.
“He really loves me, huh?” he asked with a small dreamy smile.
“It’s very obvious, but he told me too,” she answered examining her brother’s face.
“Yes, he did. He’s just as much in love with you as you are with him.”
“What? How…?” Tommy asked a bit shocked.
“I know you, Tommy. And despite everything I never saw your eyes light up the way it just did when I told you that Adam loves you. It’s okay and right to feel like that towards him. He’s a good man and I love him forever for saving you and trying to take such good care of you.”
Tommy blushed and played with a grape on the table. “You’re right, sis. I do love him. I’m just… trying to work myself towards opening up to him again… and telling it to him.”
“I understand,” she nodded pulling her hand back to rub her belly. “You two’ll make it.”
“How do you know? I might still fuck it up…” Tommy glimpsed at his sister.
“It’s because I can already see the hope in your eyes and the way you talk about Adam tells everything. Your bond goes deep. Keep trying, because it’ll be worth it.”
“I will. I promise,” he smiled a little shyly.
“Good. And aw, don’t go all blushing on me!” she chuckled softly. “You’re cute though.”
“Oh shut up…” Tommy blushed even more but it felt good to smile and laugh again. “Are you gonna stay until my niece or nephew is born?”
“Probably. I don’t want to risk a long trip back to the Caves so close to giving birth. My king’ll come after me once he can,” she said rubbing her belly again. “Wanna feel the baby? It’s active now,” she asked and had to smile again as Tommy nodded and reached out to feel his niece or nephew under his palm, not having any bad feelings about the physical contact as he got lost in the miracle that was going on with his sister again. He wondered if that’d ever happen to him and Adam with the help of a woman. He didn’t notice but Liza was watching him and could pretty much read Tommy’s thoughts off his face. She was getting hopeful too seeing that his brother’s thoughts were turning more and more away from the trauma that happened to him and towards happier future plans.