Atonement – Part 2
Emily was mid-sway back and forth with Daniel to their wedding song, when a sudden urge to stop crept up into her heart. She disregarded it at first, but upon looking over Daniel's shoulder she soon read it as intuition. "Wait," she begged softly, nudging for him to look. Margaux was a few feet off and they had yet to acknowledge her presence. "I should speak with her," she insisted.
"Are you sure?" Daniel was barely able to get the words out before Emily broke away in her direction.
"Margaux," she addressed her at once, surprising them both with the stillness in her tone. The other was clearly expecting an adverse reaction but Emily was pleasantly soft. "I just wanted to thank you for supporting us," she mired instead, taking her hand.
Margaux nodded graciously. "I know you weren't expecting me to," she pled sincerely and there was a hint of remorse in her countenance, as if atoning for past sins. "But I made your father a promise that I would not interfere with your happiness. After the interview I don't blame you for finding it hard to trust my word," she went on, nervously glancing at Daniel.
He glared, recalling their last interchange. It dawned on him to ask how she had even gotten invited, but based on what she had just said it was clear David must have been optimistic about her support. So rather than object, he simply let her finish.
"But I assure you," Margaux was saying, more pointedly to Emily. "Your secret is safe with me."
Though it was tempting to hold her to it, Emily surprised her by shaking her head. "Actually that won't be necessary," she replied confidently. "I've decided to come clean about my identity to the public. And I'd much appreciate if you would help me tell the untold story," she petitioned.
"Em, are you sure?" Daniel interjected, just as surprised as Margaux.
"Absolutely," Emily insisted, glancing at him. "This isn't just about the legal formality. I want the world to know who I am and why I hid for so long," she paused to avert her gaze back over to Margaux. "What happened with my father was unfortunate, but I believe people deserve second chances. Since I'm certainly asking a lot of everyone else to give me one—it's only right I set the example."
Margaux stared back at her, notably shocked. While she had always found Emily pragmatic and endlessly clever, this was her first time seeing a noble side to her intelligence. By entrusting her at the helm, Emily was extending an unexpected olive branch and she was impressed.
"So will you?" Emily persisted.
At last Margaux found her words. "I would be honored," she responded humbly and they exchanged respectful looks with one another, just as Charlotte approached with the children.
"Hey, any idea where Dad ran off to?" she posed to her sister, toting Summer on her shoulder while holding Declan Jr's hand at her side. "I was hoping to get a family picture."
"That's a great idea," Emily agreed, softening at the sight of her daughter. "Ohh, I missed you," she cooed and started to take her.
Just then Daniel reached over. "Here—let me," he offered, lifting her from Charlotte instead. "I think David went up to the beach house, why don't you go get him," he suggested to Emily.
"Alright," Emily agreed, but not before checking with them. "There isn't another surprise waiting, is there?"
"Nope, we're fresh out," Daniel assured her with a chuckle.
Charlotte turned slightly in the direction Emily was poised in. "Wait—um, well not quite," she differed, motioning for her to look at the top of the hill. There, about halfway the distance to the house, was Jack.
Emily took Charlotte's lead to break away from the rest and go up to greet him. "Jack," she sighed, immediately giving him a hug. "I can't believe you came—how did you manage it?"
He answered with a look down, where Emily suddenly noticed a puppy at their feet, running circles in the sand. "I had to bring the dog," he explained, "Sorry, but without notice I couldn't get anyone to watch him. My grandmother doesn't mind looking after Carl, but when it comes to pets, she draws the line."
Emily broke into a warm laugh. "No, it's alright—it reminds me of my first surprise party in the Hamptons," she reminisced, inciting them both to nostalgia.
"Yeah that's right, me and Sammy crashed," he recalled wistfully, taking a moment to remember. And though it could have easily been a saddening memory, it soothed him to remember it as a positive one. His gaze wandered down to the beach where he noticed Charlotte and Daniel were looking up at them. "Some things never change. I'm pretty sure Daniel threw that party too," he was prompted to add.
Emily followed his gaze and reflected with a grin. "Yeah, I guess he has a knack for making grand gestures to impress me," she attributed.
Jack sensed her restraint to be fully enthusiastic, but rather encouraged it. "It did impress you," he urged with a snicker. "You and him were meant to be from the start," he stated suddenly. "I hope you know how happy I am for you both. I think I've had a hard time expressing that in the past."
Emily was taken by his rare confession. "Jack, you don't have to—" she minimized it instinctively, but he pressed on.
"Yeah I do," he insisted. "I don't say it enough. Things have been rough this past year but I don't ever want you to think I'm not glad you came back into my life," he confessed openly. "Or that you finally found happiness – because you deserve it … Amanda."
Emily flinched at her name, certain that it stung for him to say it. "I wish she were here," she exhaled suddenly, closing her eyes. In his presence, she was unable to accept the name Amanda as anything other than his wife. "I wish I could repay her for everything she did … letting me have her name was only the beginning. She sacrificed so much for me, for all of us." While Emily's intent was not to awake painful memories, she thought it a disservice not to acknowledge how truly missed her dear friend was.
Jack pushed back, taking her hand to prevent an emotional moment. "Hey—" he reminded her, firmly but still kind. "If 'Emily Thorne' could have done it all over again, I know for a fact she wouldn't have done a single thing differently. She didn't live with regrets," he reminded her, clearly drawing on reasoning that gave him comfort in her absence. "And I also know that she would be happy for you too. And she would have made sure we came without the dog," he chuckled.
Emily was forced to smile again and quickly wiped away a stray tear. "You will always be a part of this family," she insisted, squeezing his hand back. "You know that right?"
"Yeah," Jack admitted it was true with his typical shrug and nod. "You'll always be a part of mine."
It seemed fitting to end their brief but sentimental exchange with just one more hug. After they separated Emily made a concerted effort to collect herself, ultimately relieved that their friendship was intact and had even matured with time. "Speaking of family," she resolved, remembering her purpose in coming up towards the house. "I'm supposed to be getting my father so we can take a picture."
Jack scrunched his brow. "Well, he's not at the beach house," he gestured backwards. "I went there first before I realized the party was down here."
"Hm," Emily found it odd, and her eyes searched into the distance, down the beach towards the Manor. "I wonder where he disappeared off to…"
Victoria's eyes were a dancing flame as they locked onto David's. "There's more than one way in and out of here," she enlightened in the most eerily calm tone. "How else do you think I was able to sneak off to meet you all those years?"
Though he found her presence inside the Manor unsettling, David was more determined to find the cause. "I suppose whatever tactics you used to get in must have come in handy when you kidnapped our granddaughter," he guessed with a glare. "She's not here, by the way," he added, in case she was contemplating a redux.
"Oh, I know," Victoria replied flatly, implying her interests were elsewhere. "But I didn't come for Summer, nor did I intend to interfere with your family gathering." She watched as David circled her with suspicion. "I merely came to reminisce before saying goodbye," she announced calmly.
He stopped in place and stared down her challenge. "I took care of the manuscript," he informed. "So if you were planning to ruin Amanda as a sendoff, you can forget it. Mason's words will never go to print."
"I certainly hope not," Victoria was unfazed. "That was the entire point in my giving it to you," she added, surprising him. "I knew you would take care of it."
David lingered in place, still trying desperately to read what was behind her still-gazing exterior. But he could find no hint of her true motive. "Tell me," he finally demanded.
Victoria cocked her head to the side innocently. "Tell you what?"
"What it is you're really after," he drilled, shaking his head. "The manuscript… going to Stevie… coming here tonight," he enumerated each oddity aloud. "I keep waiting for you to come out and say what you want."
Victoria shook her head and relaxed her shoulders. "No, David," she replied, and for a moment he thought she was denying to tell him. But she rose to her feet instead, slowly approaching him. "There's nothing I want in return. This time, I'm only seeking the one thing I should have asked for from the start." With that she reached over to take his hand, pleading with sincerity. "Your forgiveness."
David gazed at the mysterious woman that stood within inches of his face, sickened at himself for even allowing her so close to his proximity. She had been his obsession for a few unforgettable months, only to become a painful regret after ten torturous years. He had challenged himself to confront her, protect her, and then finally walk away from her. So why did he suddenly lack the conviction to rebuff her one final time?
"Why couldn't you have said those words years ago, when I needed them," he found himself whispering, and it answered the question lingering at heart. Despite knowing they could never have a future, he still wanted a resolution to what haunted him. "I loved you, Victoria," he admitted honestly. "And I believed you when you said you loved me too?"
The penitence in Victoria's eyes was quickly overcome by emotion as she dared to close the space between them. "I did, David," she swore with all her heart, and leaned in hesitantly to attest it. "I still do…"
Before her lips could discover if he was willing to accept, the proposition was bluntly interrupted by a cringingly distinct comment from behind.
"Well, isn't this like déjà vu all over again?"
Victoria's eyes remained locked onto David's, but her face was wrought with fright as she recognized the familiar voice. "No," she was barely able to gasp, and allowed David to verify it first.
Sure enough, he looked beyond Victoria's shoulder to find Conrad looming in the open rear porch doors. Yet it was not his mere presence that made David freeze in place, but rather the gun he was holding level, aimed to his left. He kept it pointed as he took a step into the room and pulled forward the person who was held at his mercy: Emily.
"Surprised to see you here…"
Nolan waited patiently for Louise to turn upon moseying over to her side, bracing himself for an indifferent response. But she had mellowed since their last prickly encounter. "I crashed," she responded, adding a smirk. "Not intentionally. I was on my way out of town when I decided…" She paused, fidgeting with her fingers. "Well, maybe I was being too big for my britches?"
Nolan drew close, folding an arm under. "So you're not still angry about the whole 'Emily is Amanda' thing?" he tested, watching her closely.
Louise gazed in the opposite direction, searching for someone else in her path of sight. "When you mentioned Charlotte was in town, I suddenly remembered I had my own skeletons to face. And seeing how I'm not much for people in glass houses casting stones," she prattled on, shrugging. "I realized I can't hold anything against Emily when I haven't exactly been honest with her sister… I need to square things with her."
Proud to see the unexpected show of humility, Nolan offered Louise his drink in consolation. "That's quite a big step," he praised her amusedly.
"Yeah, well I didn't do it for you. And don't think it means I forgive you for lying," she cautioned, but took a swig of the drink anyway. When she lowered it, there was a sign of truce in her eyes. "But I'm willing to move past it for now," she admitted.
"That's all a friend could ever ask," Nolan replied appreciatively, grateful just to see her come around. "I'm really happy you came. This is turning out to be quite the interesting event," he appraised, joining her side to survey the beach. He too glanced over at Charlotte, anticipating how she would accept Louise's confrontation. "But then again," he rationalized slyly. "It is the Hamptons."
"Mm, never a dull moment," Louise agreed, just as she heard an alert go off at Nolan's hip. She glanced down to watch him answer it. "Clearly not for you either?"
Nolan shrugged curiously as he fumbled to answer it. "Now who could this be, seeing as how all of my friends are here…"
"Friends, huh?" Louise joked, assuming she was included in the broad reference. She raised her glass to finish off the last few drops. "Yeah, why not—"
"Oh my God!" Nolan was suddenly exclaiming, steadying himself with a hand on her shoulder.
"Nolan, what is it?" she asked, watching the color drain from his face.
"The—the tracker on Conrad, this can't be right," he stammered, looking frantically back to Grayson Manor.
"Conrad?" Louise remained clueless beside him. Her brow furrowed in confusion when he suddenly broke away with a terrified look.
"Nolan, what's wrong?!"
Though Conrad yanked at her shoulder to keep in step as he entered the Manor, Emily was no timid hostage. It took all of her restraint to comply while he kept the barrel of the gun tightly lodged at her neck, topping off his threatening stance with a wicked grin at the others.
By now Victoria had spun around to face him, while David stood protectively in front. "Conrad, please—" he begged, advancing towards his daughter. His heart sank with fear as he met eyes with his firstborn. "Let her go!"
But Conrad was more interested in taking in his surroundings than negotiating. "You know, I never expected to set foot in here again," he mired, gazing up at his former home. "Lovely, what you've done to the place, by the way," he sneered in Emily's ear. "I suppose you always did envy our lavish lifestyle?"
Emily grinded her bottom lip but again resisted the urge to fight back, watching the gun in his hand. She motioned with a slight shake of her head, pleading for her father not to pursue. In all her haste to find him she could have never imagined stumbling across both her enemies instead.
"But to have this experience compounded by both your presences," Conrad was babbling on in David and Victoria's general direction. "Well it is, in a word, surreal," he fawned at last.
"Conrad—" David began, freezing solid when he saw him pinch the barrel of the gun even closer to Emily's neck. He put his hands up in surrender. "Please, just tell us what you want?"
Conrad rebuffed him with a wry look. "Is that all you have to say? For a man that not only escaped but also faked his own death, I'm not impressed," he exhaled a hearty laugh. His eyes rested on Victoria next, making sure she did not fade into the background. "And you, my dear, once again I find you in the arms of the man who destroyed our family and all you can do is quiver with fear?!" He clicked his tongue with reprimand. "Tsk, tsk, how very underwhelming."
"David didn't destroy this family—you did!" Victoria fired back without hesitation. She took a step forward, even as David motioned for her to stay put.
Emily agreed with her eyes, whispering forcefully in the small margin of space she had to speak. "Victoria, get back—" she urged her.
But she disobeyed, moving up slowly to insert herself between the two men. "You lost, Conrad," she dared her ex-husband with a raw familiarity that only she could wield. "Face it. The world knows what you did, and you are going to rot for the rest of your life! Haven't you put them through enough?" she charged him, surprising both Emily and David with the enthusiasm in her defense.
But Conrad hardly bought it. He looked past her in ignorance, directing his response to David. "If history has taught us anything, it's to never trust this woman," he challenged instead. With that he removed the gun from Emily's neck just long enough to shove her forward to the floor, and then pistol whipped Victoria across the forehead.
"No!" David lurched forward again, but still without time to respond.
In slugging Victoria, Conrad had managed to send both women to the floor evenly spaced. He now threatened the two of them at gunpoint, gesturing again to David. "Believe me, I'm not being overly rash in my assessment," he made a grandiose explanation. "It's just I can't bear to watch her play another unsuspecting fool with her lies again—even you," he granted halfheartedly. He glanced between Victoria and Emily. "If you knew just how much Victoria has loathed your daughter these past three years, you'd know she could never mean of word of what she just said."
"I do mean it," Victoria countered, this time pleading with David. "Please, don't believe this monster!"
"Oh, now I'm the monster?" Conrad cracked a grin, and it earned her another slug across the forehead.
Emily half-turned to watch but held still in a kneeling position. Her concern remained with her father, who appeared anxious to intervene. "Dad, don't," she mouthed to him.
Meanwhile Victoria clutched her head in pain but slowly rose to about the same stance as Emily, placing them at an even distance on either side of Conrad. "You know as much as I'd like to retort with a bitter repartee," he chided Victoria first, brushing the barrel against her cheek while she pulled away. "I have to say, I've contemplated over and over again which of you two vile women I'd rather eliminate first and surprisingly…" he rose to his feet, glaring at David again. "I can't decide."
David chafed at the bit, watching as Conrad began a slow parade between them. "I mean on the one hand, I think both of us can attest to firsthand to Victoria's deceit," he brushed over, focusing his attention on Emily. "But then there's the elusive Ms. Thorne, or should I say the bold and desperate Amanda Clarke who would do anything just to become a Grayson – including infiltrating my family and seducing my unassuming son."
Emily hissed at his last few words. "That's not what happened!"
Conrad grabbed her by the back of her head in response, toting the gun overhead. "Spare me, my dear, Mason told me all about your extensive revenge plot… I'm only shocked to admit I didn't see it sooner."
"The story of your life, Conrad," Victoria seized the opening to snap at him wryly. "Always the last to find out everything!"
As Conrad turned to address her, David was growing weary of the charade. "Alright, enough of your games!" he demanded, clenching his fists. "Stop acting like your quarrel is with anyone other than me, and let them both go!"
Conrad broke into a sinister laugh. "Did you really think that was an option?" he tested the other, shaking his head adamantly. "David you've got this all wrong… you see even though I came here to destroy, well, all of you," he admitted with a cavalier gesture of his firearm. "I've decided that's too easy, and frankly, rather anticlimactic. No, I'd rather have you watch as one of the two leading women in your life slips away in front of your eyes…" His tone grew serious as he stood perniciously above the women, pointing to David at last. "So tell me, David – which one do you love the least?"
David shook incredulously. "What—" he stammered.
"Choose," Conrad was already explaining. He vacillated from resting the barrel of his gun atop Emily's head on his left, and then over to Victoria's on his right, as if they were dogs kneeling at his feet. And as they both faced forward, neither could be absolutely sure which one he was leaning towards. "The one you pick dies – the other lives. Which one is it going to be?"
Emily inhaled a sharp breath, watching the panic set into her father's heart. She glanced around, desperate to spare him a way out of the situation. But the fear in his eyes told her everything she needed to know. It was the same fear that had crept into her heart only moments earlier when she came up from the beach, curiously peering in to find Victoria in his arms—only to leave her vulnerable to Conrad's ambush from behind. It was a circumstance out of her control and there was nothing she could do. And though she was certain her father would never condemn her to death, she also knew how much it would pain him to do so at the cost of another life—even Victoria's.
"Dad—" she had barely begun to whisper when Conrad grew impatient overhead.
"Enough delaying, David—CHOOSE!" he shouted angrily, pointing the gun in anger. "Or I KILL THEM BOTH!"
"Alright!" David shook away the last trace of uncertainty in his eyes, accepting this was his fate. He turned slowly to stare into her eyes for the last time, and though it was a just comeuppance of betrayal it pained him nonetheless. "Victoria," he sighed hoarsely. "Victoria dies."
Emily closed her eyes, not to shield herself from the truth but from having to watch the execution. Yet as damning as his choice was, Victoria's eyes misted over with acceptance. "It's alright, David," she whispered, knowing it would be his choice. She owned it proudly, nursing a wish that had been in her heart for some time. At last, a chance to repay fully for her sins against him. In three words, she attempted to soothe his distress. "I forgive you."
And yet Conrad was not so easily moved, though he feigned mock sympathy in reply. "Aw, isn't that a touching final show of nobility," he clamored. But instead of cocking his gun at Victoria, he moved it behind Emily's head instead. "Unfortunately, I'm afraid I can't be so obliging—not when it's clear you'd go to any lengths to protect your beloved daughter."
Enraged that he had been fooled again, David broke forward in resistance. "WHAT!" he fought relentlessly, but he was powerless to stop it. "You can't do this-!"
Emily echoed his sentiment, concerned not just for her life, but that Conrad was going back on his word regarding both of them. "Victoria, run!" she shouted to her right, assuming what was about to happen next.
It only prompted Conrad to sneer deliciously as he clutched tight to pull the trigger. But to his alarm, in the mere seconds it took him to take his eyes off of David and line up the shot, Victoria had darted across to her left, leaping into the path of the bullets. Bang! Bang! The sound of their discharge was muddled with Victoria's cry.
"No, stop!" she shouted as the bullets riddled into her back, ultimately protecting Emily from impact.
The next moments were a blur as Conrad stood aghast at a sacrifice he could have never predicted, while David took advantage of the distraction to charge him with all his might. He tackled him to the floor, knocking the gun free of his hands to clatter several feet away and then began a series of hits to his face and jaw.
Meanwhile, the force of Victoria throwing herself in front of Emily had pressed her to the floor. She disentangled herself, shocked to find that she was unharmed and instead Victoria was bleeding out on her side.
"Victoria," Emily stammered, assessing her wounds in disbelief. She reached over hesitantly, and placed her bare hands over top to stop the bleeding. "Victoria, I told you to run," were the only words she could find in the surreal moment. "Why didn't you run?"
Nolan was midway through a flustered explanation to Daniel when the sound of gunshots being fired echoed down to the beach, sending a tremor through them both. "My God," Daniel gaped, immediately turning towards the Manor where they had come from.
"Daniel—" Nolan fumbled, but the other was already frantic.
"Where's Emily?" was Daniel's first concern, quickly realizing she was missing from the party.
"She went to the Manor to look for David," Jack's answer came from behind after overhearing, incredulous of what it implied. "You don't think she—" he feared even suggesting.
Daniel cut them both short in reaction. "Stay here and watch her," he managed to place Summer in Nolan's arms, quickly advising the other. "Call 911—make sure no one leaves this beach!"
Jack agreed without hesitation, falling in line with protocol to protect the others despite wanting to follow him up to the Manor. "Daniel, be careful!" was all he could shout before he took off. He got on the phone at once, still not satisfied. "I'm calling in for backup—"
His response was overrun by frightened murmurs of the others. "Jack, what's going on?" Stevie was next at his side. "Where's David and Emily?" she voiced what they were all thinking, meanwhile Charlotte broke away from where she had been talking with Louise to chase after her brother.
"Danny, don't!" she was flush with concern, but Daniel was already dashing halfway down the beach.
"Stay there until the police get here!" he insisted over his shoulder, forcing her to stay back. She took hold of her son instinctively as she watched him go, flinching as the sound of three more gunshots could be heard. She reached down to pick up Declan Jr and ran back over to the crowd, pulling in close with the others as they all looked on in horror of what he was running towards.
Conrad and David's fight had spread onto the outside terrace, where Conrad was gaining the upper hand. He used his brute force to grab David by the neck and it finally stopped his blows while David grasped for air. Conrad used the break to shift his weight, throwing David off of him. He broke free and writhed over to where the gun lay nearby, taking hold of it. But just as aptly, David managed to seize his hand while he fired the remaining few shots, directing them abstractly into the distance.
"Dad!" David could hear Emily's fearful cry from inside at the sound of the shots but he continued squeezing Conrad's hand until the barrel was emptied. Rendering the gun useless, David knocked it from his hands and Conrad reacted with a left hook across David's jaw. At last he held the advantage to reverse their entanglement so that his weight now rested on top.
He grabbed David by the neck to finish him off, all the while grinning like a madman. "You can't escape it, David," he spat vehemently. "No matter what you do, that woman will always be the death of you!"
Again David gasped for air but Conrad seized down, intent to choke his final breaths out of him when a gunshot suddenly jolted through his chest, causing him to release his grasp. As David inhaled a deep, long stretch of air, yet another bullet punctured Conrad's abdomen, and at last a third impacted him to fall lifelessly off of David and back onto the ground.
Emily looked up at the sound of the shots and turned from where she was hovered over Victoria. Her glance went first to the open back door, where Daniel had just come running through. "Daniel," she sighed, instantly fearing that he had been on the receiving end. But one quick look told her he had come to her rescue instead.
"Emily!" he reacted fervently. She was crouched over a figure he could not make out but appeared to be alright.
"I'm fine! Outside—on the terrace," she shouted first, preventing him from coming in to her aid just yet. "Conrad's got my father," she urged him to check.
Daniel followed her line of sight fearfully only to find the two men grounded on the terrace. David was struggling to catch his breath while Conrad was lifelessly outstretched on his other side, with three bullet wounds. He raised his eyes gradually to the eastern, where the shooter finally stepped forward into view. There, on the other side of the barrel that had saved David's life, stood Aiden.
Aiden lowered the gun slowly, exchanging a look with Daniel that told the entire story. "Sorry I'm late to the party," he huffed between deep breaths, almost sardonically. He gave him a moment to let it register, adding in his defense. "Conrad was about to—" he found himself explaining, but Daniel silenced him with a word.
"Don't apologize," he insisted with all his might, dropping his gaze to where his father lay dead. "The son of a bitch had it coming." With his acknowledgment and near permission Aiden nodded, giving attention to David who was still coughing beside him but alive. Daniel started to assist, but Emily's urgent call from inside prevented him.
"Daniel—in here!" she beckoned, alerting them both that the situation was not over.
He dashed back inside, leading with the good news. "Your father's safe," Daniel announced, but this time he witnessed more closely who she had been giving special attention to when he first arrived.
Upon reaching her side he saw it was his mother. Emily now had her cradled onto her lap, her arms beneath what appeared to be fatal wounds in her back. Victoria was staring up at her, but managed to crack a half-smile at the sight of her son overhead. Daniel looked into his wife's eyes for reassurance but all Emily could do was shake her head in bitter absolution. "Victoria, just stay with us," she found herself consoling, rocking her back and forth.
Daniel could not believe his eyes. "The paramedics are on their way," he informed hoarsely. Jack and Nolan had obviously taken heed of his instructions because he could already hear them in the distance. Again he could not resist looking to his wife for explanation.
"She saved my life," Emily answered, still stunned from all that had transpired. Awkwardly she looked back down at Victoria, but she was fading quickly. "Hey—Victoria, you're gonna be ok," she tried to assure her.
"Hmm," she humored them both. "Still lying to me?"
Daniel exchanged an uneasy glance with Emily and took his turn at support. "Mom, you have to hang on," he insisted, even as he watched the life draining out of her. "Mom—"
"It's alright, son," she assured him, weakly reaching out to cradle his face. Her fingers barely caressed his hairline as she spoke. "Just let me go. This is what I deserve … what you both wanted."
Though her words incensed Daniel, Emily found the courage to look past them and urge her in the opposite. "We never wanted this," she insisted, holding Victoria's hand. Strangely enough it occurred to her it was her first time doing so. She was overrun with a sudden rush of compassion, and found herself expressing things that were buried deep down inside. "Victoria, I want you to know – I'm sorry for all the pain I brought to your family. I am," she promised, burrowing her stare into the eyes of her once nemesis and now, seemingly unexpected savior.
"I'm sorry about Pascal," Emily went on regretfully, shaking her head as she admitted the last. "… and Patrick. I should have stopped this when I had the chance."
Daniel watched in disbelief as his wife contritely owned sins that did not belong to her, but chose to take accountability for nonetheless in his mother's last moments. And giving rise to even more shock, he watched as his mother accepted it.
"I know. I forgive you," Victoria gasped, mustering the strength to utter her final words. "Will you forgive me?" With a measure of desperation Emily wanted to, but she would never have the chance. Before she could respond the light disappeared from Victoria's eyes, and with one last breath she died in her arms.
It was all she could do to look up in shock to her husband who was sure to be both distraught and conflicted by her passing. In her glance up at Daniel, she finally saw her father hobbling through the doors with Aiden's assistance, and she could not be more grateful for his presence in such a harrowing moment. David was the one person she could trust would know what to do.
"Dad," she gasped in need. "Dad, what do we do—" she continued to beg, not actually sure what she was asking of him, but simply unable to fathom that Victoria had just gave her life in place of her own.
Respectfully, she moved so that Daniel to take Victoria from her and allowed him his moment to grieve. It freed her to grab hold of her father, pulling him close to beg for his assistance. "Dad, we have to do something," she repeated again, as he crouched in the empty space between them.
And as surely as David wanted to comfort his daughter and son-in-law, even he was at a loss. He watched mournfully as Daniel held his mother, expressionless and unable to rationalize exactly how to feel or what to say. So rather than speaking, David merely reached over to gently close Victoria's eyes, and then take his daughter into his arms…
ONE YEAR LATER
David was holding Emily in a similar grasp when she finally let out a sigh, prompting him to separate. As he did it cleared the path of Emily's line of sight so that she could clearly read the names on the headstones: Conrad Grayson. Victoria Grayson. The burning memory of their date of death would be forever etched into her brain, mingled with her wedding anniversary, and nearly every other pastime that had come to be stained by the Hamptons. Emily stared at their final resting place with conviction, and at last finished her statement.
"There was something I could have done," she reiterated. "I could have forgiven, like you asked me to," she recalled, consigning herself to a truth she had often tried to avoid over the past year. "Victoria was the last person I ever expected to change. It wasn't until her final moments I realized… even someone as ruthless as her is capable of redemption. And maybe if I had allowed myself to believe that sooner, we wouldn't have suffered so many losses along the way."
David watched her gaze towards the other familiar headstones in the cemetery, assuming she was thinking of Declan, Amanda and Ashley. "You can't know that for sure," he reminded her. "Conrad was evil to his death, and even if Victoria did have a change of heart at the end, she ruined lives for years without remorse. Who's to say how long they both would have gone on doing just that," he pointed out, adjusting his usual outlook to one supporting her cause. "By fighting back when you did – you were able to stop them."
Emily turned to face him with determination. "I may have stopped them," she concluded wistfully. "But in all these years, I never felt remorse after any takedown as when my arch enemy asked for mercy – and still I couldn't bring myself to forgive her."
"Yes you did, Amanda," David insisted, taking her hand. "I saw it in your eyes in Victoria's last moments." He cupped her face tenderly. "She died knowing she atoned for her past by saving your life. So that I could have everything I missed out on before. I have a family – you, Charlotte… my amazing son-in-law," he enumerated, bringing the first glimmer of joy to his daughter's face. "My beautiful grandchildren… And I even found love again."
At last Emily afforded him a soft smile, his words serving as a reminder that it was, after all, his wedding day. If there was any day where he deserved her willingness to just listen and take his word for what it was, it was today. And though a part of her would probably always hold herself in a place of reckoning, making peace with the past was the one thing her father gave her the strength to do.
"Well then," she resolved, taking his arm. "Let's not make the bride wait too long."
David returned a grin. "You once told me that any woman that gets my heart should be willing to wait forever?"
Emily agreed thoughtfully, adding. "Maybe not forever… just infinity times infinity."
END SCENE / MONTAGE
The smile on David's face filled the room as he waited patiently at the altar, beaming first at the sight of his youngest coming down the aisle on Nolan's arm. Charlotte gave him a wink when they separated at the end, joining the bride's side while Nolan took the open spot next to David.
David's pride only continued to overflow at the sight of the next members of the bridal party: Emily taking the aisle on Daniel's arm. They appeared to float into the room almost in slow motion, whispering softly to each other with the occasional smile. It warmed David to see Daniel at the first large occasion since his parents' passing the year before. Admittedly it had been an uphill struggle, but time had made him resilient and there was solace knowing his mother's death was an act of redemption. And further, David drew a strong sense of security knowing that Emily burdened the lion share and always respected the time he needed to grieve. She was the rock he needed to lean onto, and after their conversation that morning David was convinced that she and Daniel would only emerge ever stronger.
At last the ring-bearers and flower girl made their debut, eliciting coos from the crowd. Summer, nearly eighteen months old, was helped by Carl and Declan on either side of her, and Emily hung back to make sure they followed the path. She scooped her up at the end and led the boys over to Charlotte, waiting for the grand moment to arrive.
It came, and they all stood, making some members in attendance more visible. Louise was on the groom's side, and across the way even Ben and Margaux were in attendance, the latter sporting her shiny engagement ring as she pictured a similar day in their near future. Emily let out a warm sigh as she took in the sight of all the people she was thankful for around her, most of all her husband at her side.
And still there was a special place for the last two to arrive. The doors reopened and in came the bride: Stevie, escorted on her son's arm. Jack proudly walked his mother down the aisle, bringing her to David in climax of the ceremony. At last the proceedings began, but not before the officiant made a point to first ask who gave the bride. Jack remained in place, attesting in a loud, clear voice. "I do—Jack Porter," he affirmed.
"And do we have a witness present for Mr. Clarke?" the officiant went on.
It was a moment Emily had looked forward to for quite some time, giving her the platform to announce what had taken nearly a year to get used to. After placing Summer in Daniel's arms she stood, catching eyes with her sister first, and then her father before proudly offering her support.
"I do—Amanda Grayson."
EPILOGUE (From here onward, Emily will be referred to as Amanda)
The guests were emptying out, giving Nolan and Amanda a well-timed meeting at the bar. He grinned watching her nuzzle a sleeping Summer on her father's shoulder, sending them off to get the car while she hung behind to say goodbye.
"Well, this is it," Nolan expressed what they were both thinking. "Last excuse to see you for a long time …"
"Mm, I'm gonna miss all of this wedding hoopla," Amanda sighed, surprising him. "Not because I'm into any of that stuff, but it's been nice getting to see everyone these past few months."
"Well, you could always move back to the Hamptons," Nolan suggested not-so-subtly.
Amanda replied with one of her signature looks. "It's been a year, Nolan," she reminded him. "Let it go. Besides, Daniel and I are happy in our house upstate. Trust me," she added when he returned a skeptical look. "It's not as boring as it sounds. Daniel has his private practice; I have quality time with Charlotte, and the kids love being near each other. You should come visit us sometime?"
Nolan made a noise pushing air through pursed lips. "And miss all the drama of my new summer neighbors?" he shook his head, implying the people that had just moved into the old Grayson Manor were already a handful. "Memorial Day weekend may not have been as exciting as the good old days, but I'm sure the newbies will spice up the Hamptons eventually…"
Amanda couldn't help a chuckle. "Still desperate for summer thrills," she appraised, not really surprised to hear it. "I hear Louise is off to visit her family in Savannah after this?"
"Yup, and I have the house all to myself," Nolan lamented with little enthusiasm. After moving in with him, Louise had become his unofficial partner in crime for the past six months now. It was becoming a ritual to miss her when she was gone. "I asked Margaux if her and Ben wanted to use it as a venue for their wedding, but it sounds like your book sales have given her countless other options in the upper echelon… oh and uh, speaking of?"
With that he reached behind the bar counter, producing a copy of Amanda's autobiography with a wicked grin. She let out a chuckle in reply. "I don't know whether I'm more surprised you brought that to my father's wedding reception, or the fact you actually bought a hardcover?"
"Heh, neither," Nolan answered in mock alarm, gesturing over his shoulder as he handed it to her. "Obviously I already had it downloaded to my MacBook. But I snagged this one from the bartender while he wasn't looking…"
Amanda ran her fingers over the cover, reflecting on the unexpected success of the book Margaux had helped her to publish. She paged through a few chapters, proud to have been able to tell her story. Nolan had been instrumental in it of course, especially after alerting her of Mason's plan to go to print first. Thanks to her father thwarting his plan, she eventually decided it was not a bad idea—on the condition that it was told in her words. She browsed to the heading of the final chapter:
"When everything you love has been stolen from you, consider my story as you embark on your own journey of revenge..."
She smirked to herself. "Margaux did an amazing job on the final edition," she commented, closing the book to return it to him. "Well, I'm sure after you show her you got a physical copy—" she paused in jest. "Even if you had to steal it—she'll reconsider using your place for the wedding festivities."
"Oh, but that's not why," Nolan explained, taking it only to reopen to the first page and hand it back over. "You see, even though I completely understand the dedication page going to dear old Dad and darling Danny," he quipped in his usual snarky tone. "I suddenly realized I wouldn't be able to get through the summer without at least one last takedown..."
Nolan then reached into his pocket and handed over a red sharpie. Amanda scrunched her brow in wonder but before she could protest he followed up with an anecdote. "So what do you say; can I trouble you for an autographed edition?" he asked sweetly.
Realizing he was merely asking her to sign it, Amanda let out a cathartic laugh. "Oh, Nolan," she grinned, shaking her head and took the pen in hand. He watched while she wrote rather privately, relating it to having a best friend sign his yearbook at graduation. It had all the same feels, especially considering how final this goodbye was about to be, and how certain, though unspoken it was that she had moved on. But ultimately he was proud of her, and despite also having moved on in his life with Louise, he knew she would always have a special place in his heart.
At last Amanda was finished, but she closed the book promptly before switching subject. "So, what's next for Nolan?" she asked, blinking away a tear that was suddenly brimming on her lash line.
Nolan gave her a sympathetic look, daring her to leave him with some morsel to live on. "You tell me. I'm used to my bestie calling the shots, but without you around things could get pretty slow on the Revengenda."
Amanda tried to brush over her sentimentality. "Must be going around… I hear Aiden decided not to go after Niko in the end," she noted with relief, finally handing the book back to him. "You should look him up."
She watched as Nolan gave it thought. "I suppose that's an idea. He went off the grid after his heroic feat last year, but if there's anyone who can find him – it's me," he joked.
Amanda took it as a cue to begin her farewell. "When you do, tell him thanks from me again," she made him promise with a sobering look.
"I will. I'm gonna miss you, Em," he suddenly volunteered. Though she was Amanda now, he insisted on calling her by his affectionate nickname of old. He reached out to pull her into a hug.
"I'm gonna miss you too," she whispered over his shoulder, choking back tears again. But when she pulled away there was a twinkle in her eye. "Though something tells me you'll keep yourself busy."
With that she forced herself to the exit before it was too hard, finding Daniel pulled up outside. She got into the car and leaned over to give him a kiss. "What was that for?" he glanced up in mild surprise.
"No reason," she decided not to elaborate, resting her gaze out of the window as they pulled away. "Just feels good to go home."
Sensing it was one of her more reflective moments after leaving a life of revenge behind; Daniel took it in stride and merely focused on the road.
Meanwhile, back inside Nolan finally cracked open the book to read what Amanda had written. He did his best not to cry at the sentimental parts, but instead skipped down to an intriguing item in her post-script. It was a telephone number that his curiosity impelled him to dial right away. To his surprise, Oliver Queen answered.
"Mr. Ross," he greeted him. "I've been expecting to hear from you."
Nolan wrinkled his brow in surprise. "You were?"
Oliver continued right into request. "I'm in need of your services. Your friend Emily, or should I say, Amanda, mentioned you were an invaluable asset when it came to lists… turns out there's a few people left on mine that I need to take down."
With marked speed, Nolan returned to Amanda's parting words in the front page of the book, this time reading them through. It was then he realized she had signed it with a most foreshadowing mantra:
"…And always remember, what goes around comes around."
Just beneath it she had drawn the infinity symbol, which alone was an indicator – history was about to repeat itself.
"Well played, Ems," he whispered to himself with a grin. "Well played."
ENDNOTE: Words cannot express how excited I am for you to have read this final installment and how much I sincerely hope you liked it! I so appreciate you sticking it out for this very long and convoluted retelling (admittedly more than I ever though I could possibly write) but I really did enjoy sharing my vision of how things could have ended, inspired by some things that did and some things I wish didn't, lol. How did you like Victoria's outcome? Was it satisfying? As much as I always hated her on the show I always felt that her death could have held way more significance and in doing so should have inspired a change of heart in the heroine, as revenge stories often do. I've been inspired for some time by The Count of Monte Cristo (which as it turns out, inspired the show) to adapt that ending into one for Emily/Amanda and show that as much as we loved to root her on, even she had to admit that vengeance is not the only way. Would things have been markedly different had she decided to forgive all along? We'll never know! (Or maybe that'll just be my next fanfic, lol) Either way, it's nice to sit back and see this story finished and I'm just hoping you liked all the outcomes for each character. I wanted them to be happy and in this Revengeverse, they will be :) Thanks so much again everyone and please don't hold back on your final review! Let me know if you liked or if you feel like I had more to tell… and again thanks SO MUCH for all your support – best wishes always and hopefully see you around the fanfiction net! ~ Love and Revenge ~ MothToANewFlame