A/N: To all the Inklings who have made this crazy Naomily fandom experience truly memorable, Thank You!
The sounds of the terminal, the dull rumble of roller-bags and footsteps, the chatter of conversations and exchanges, the scratchy PA announcements of departures and arrivals, faded to silence and were replaced with the steady thumping of Emily's elevated pulse as her heart pumped blood and oxygen through her body while simultaneously getting itself caught in her throat.
And then she was breathing again, she could hear it as she inhaled, the sound filling the space between her ears, the air filling her lungs to capacity before they deflated and the action was repeated.
She had no idea how long they had been stood there, a minute, five seconds, longer; it didn't matter, really. And she couldn't help but feel like a child who was awaiting a punishment for breaking curfew or calling names or committing any other form of general disobedience. She couldn't blame this one on James or Katie; she couldn't claim ignorance or misunderstanding. She had done this all on her own knowing exactly what she was doing.
Her skin felt hot. She began to worry that her heart was going to combust, but the worst part of it all was the silence she received from the woman stood in front of her. She had imagined anger, screaming, wild gesticulation, perhaps even some choice swear words, but silence...she had never expected that.
"Mum?" It was barely whispered, but seemed to break the spell that they had been under. With it, all the noises that surrounded them were turned back up and people hurried past them as if nothing of importance was taking place.
As Jenna stood frozen, her eyes on the top half of her daughter's right arm, her face stoic, Emily chanced a glance to her father, to Katie and James, their expressions all nervous and full of anticipation.
Emily's focus snapped back onto her mum as Jenna took a step closer to her daughter. The redhead tensed a bit as Jenna took another step and another until she was standing right in front of her. Jenna's expression still hadn't changed and Emily truly had no idea what was going to happen next.
Slowly, Jenna reached out and took Emily by the elbow, lifting her arm ever so gently, like one would with an expense vase or a ticking time bomb. She studied Emily's half-sleeve, her eyes scrutinizing every detail, every color. When she got to the edge, she turned it and ducked her head to the side to see the entirety of it as it wrapped around Emily's thin arm.
Satisfied with her inspection, Jenna straightened up, letting go of Emily and replacing the unreadable expression on her face with one that could hardly be misinterpreted. "That's enough." Jenna picked up Emily's jacket and pressed it to Emily's chest. "What's this all about?" Jenna fixed her eyes on her daughter.
Emily looked down at the jacket that had been forced into her hands and shook her head. "No, mum."
"Put your coat back on." Jenna glanced around at the strangers in their vicinity, placing a tight-lipped smile on her face.
"No, mum. I'm done."
"Emily Fitch. Do as I say-"
"No." Emily's voice was firm and a bit louder than before.
Trying to avoid a scene at all costs, Jenna refrained from raising her voice in response to her daughter's defiance. "I knew she'd screw you up."
"What?" Emily's eyes narrowed as she tried to grasp the meaning of Jenna's declaration.
Jenna scoffed. "Well, this is obviously Naomi's influence. The minute she shows up in your life...and now this." Jenna sneers at Emily's half-sleeve.
"Naomi had nothing to do with this, mum! I got it done well before meeting her."
"So it was that Stonem girl then." Jenna was seething, her eyes narrowed.
"No, mum! Neither of them had anything to do with it. I mean, it's Effy's work, yes, but I didn't get it for her. I got it for you. I got it for us, our family."
Jenna did her best to keep her sour expression firmly on her face, but there was something breaking through. "Rob? Are you hearing this?" She turned to her husband, looking for reinforcement.
Rob stepped closer and stood next to his wife. His eyes were wide and his trademark smile was absent from his face. "Emsie, I can't believe it. It's beautiful."
"It's a tattoo, Rob! It's a permanent tattoo!"
"It's our lake, Jen." His smile returned and it was ear-to-ear as he looked into Jenna's cold eyes. "And yes, it's permanent." Rob turned and excitedly admired the artwork on his daughter's arm. "So Effy did all this, huh? Wow, what a talent."
Rob's genuine delight caught Emily off guard completely. She could only blink and stutter out, "Yeah, she's amazing."
James was next to join in with his opinion of this newly discovered side of his sister, as he approached her and checked out her tats. "I bet all the girls go wild over this. You think Effy will do me once I'm old enough?"
Jenna was quickly becoming outnumbered as she threw up her hands at her son's comment, turning to Katie for some help. It seemed as if the Fitch Boys had all gone mad! Jenna looked at Katie with an incredulous expression, waiting for Katie to chime in with her shared outrage.
Katie scoffed. "Who do you think made sure she always covered it up?" Without waiting for an answer, she shrugged and smiled over at her sister. "I think she looks fierce."
Jenna was officially on her own. "I refuse to stand here while my family-"
Emily didn't let her finish. "Loves me for who I am, no matter what?" Emily quirked her brow at Jenna, waiting for a response.
Jenna played up her reaction to Emily's insinuation. "Emily, your mind!" She shook her head in disbelief. "Of course we still love you! How could you even think such things?!" She huffed and took a beat to think of another approach. "And knowing how much we all love you, I feel like it wouldn't be too much to ask for you to continue to wear long-sleeves to family gatherings…" Emily shot Jenna a warning glance, but let her finish. "...until we all get a bit more comfortable with your new...look."
Emily smirked. "I'll do my best."
"Oh. And under no circumstances can Gran and PopPop know about this!" Jenna placed her hand dramatically on her chest. "The shock alone would kill them."
Emily's face was all of a sudden very somber. "I showed Gran and PopPop my sleeve last summer. They loved it."
Jenna blanched as she was confronted with this revelation. She didn't get the chance to formulate a retort as the boarding announcement for Emily's flight sounded over the PA.
"Alright, kiddo. You better get moving." Rob gave Emily another hug.
Katie and James hung back; they had already hugged her their sister. There was no need to go crazy with the hugs.
Emily turned to Jenna, who was still visibly fussed about the whole thing. "I love you, mum."
Jenna gave Emily the best smile she could muster and wrapped her up into a Fitch hug. "I love you too." Once Jenna had squeezed her sufficiently, she eased up and Emily pulled away, but Jenna kept a hold of her for a moment longer.
She looked down at the fine lines and vibrant colors that made all the memories of the lake, their lake, spring back into the forefront of her mind. She couldn't hold back a real smile this time. "It is rather beautiful, isn't it?"
Emily recognized her mother's smile immediately. It was the one she had seen every time Jenna was truly happy.
Jenna fought back the tears that were collecting behind her eyes. "Well, I suppose this is goodbye then." Emily gave her mum another smile and kissed her cheek. "Unless, of course, someone else would like to share a secret tattoo with the group."
The voice was soft, yet jarring, as Emily's entire body tensed, her heart suddenly running at full speed once again. She turned in the direction of the voice, not able to calm her mind as it raced with the realization that Naomi was there, standing right in front of her. She didn't have time to respond; her body was humming, yet paralyzed, her eyes glued to the blonde's as Naomi continued on with what she had obviously come there to say.
Naomi took a step closer, as she swallowed back the fear that had kept her silent long enough. "I've loved you from the first time I saw you...I think it was twelve or twelve-thirty, perhaps."
Taking another step closer to the redhead, Naomi hoped beyond hope that her mum and Kieran and Cook would stay put behind her and not cause any distractions. It was difficult enough to get the words out with Emily's eyes on her, let alone the entire Fitch Family looking on.
Naomi shook off her uncertainty, her scared blue eyes showing Emily the sincerity of her words. "It took me all this time to pluck up the courage to tell you. I was so scared of the way I felt about you, that first night, the night we met, that I convinced myself it couldn't be true. I screwed up. I led you to believe that I couldn't remember. And it wasn't all a lie; I didn't remember at first, not clearly. I couldn't let myself believe that all those cloudy images were real, that I hadn't just dreamt them. I didn't believe in love at first sight, that sort of thing doesn't happen in real life. It couldn't have happened to me and even if my feelings were real, I thought that you'd think me a fool for what I felt and for what I had done."
Naomi let her eyes drop from Emily's hold. "But once I saw you again that next day, once I saw you standing there, with your red hair and your red lips and those eyes, it all became clear." The smile that spread across Naomi's face was both heartwarming and heartbreaking.
"When we got together, I couldn't admit the truth. I thought that it would ruin everything. I held onto the lie, made you believe that I truly didn't remember that night. Every time you tried to talk about it, I pushed you away. I made you think it was your fault for upsetting me. But really I was just terrified of pain. If you ever found out…if you ever knew that I had lied..." Naomi choked back the tears that were making it difficult to speak.
"I felt like I couldn't tell you and I'm a total fucking coward because..." She held out her wrist to Emily, the dark, black lines of her tattooed letter E elegant and striking against her pale skin. Naomi's eyes locked onto the dark brown eyes she loved more than anything else in the world. "I got this for you."
The lump in Emily's throat was threatening to choke her, as tears welled up in her eyes.
"I tattooed your initial on my skin, because I knew on that first night that I would love you forever. It's always been for you, but I was afraid. Can you understand? You were trying to push me, trying to make me confess and it's horrible. It's so horrible because really, I should have never lied to you. I should have been brave for you like I was that first night. I love you, Emily. I love you so much. I would die without you."
Naomi's voice broke on the last few words, the adrenaline wearing off and the suspense of Emily's response weighing heavily on her shoulders. Naomi waited as Emily stared back at her.
There was a pause, a brief moment in which Emily fought against the dizzying whirl of emotions that threatened to overtake her, and then she began to breathe again. She stepped forward, her arms lifting out of reflex, her lips curling up into a smile, as she wrapped her arms around the shoulders of that beautiful blonde in front of her, and brought their lips together.
As it was happening, as she watched Emily coming towards her, not away, Naomi let out a visible sigh, her shoulders releasing the pressure of her fears and relaxing with relief as she felt Emily's beautiful arms enclose her into the most welcomed of all embraces.
They had to fight their instincts, hold back on the way they truly wanted to kiss each other. They were surrounded by both sides of their family for fuck's sake. So their kiss was firm, closed lips pressed together almost too forcefully, but with added purpose to punctuate the sentiment, the promise they were making to each other.
It was a walloping whoop! from Cook that broke the kiss, Naomi's forehead resting against Emily's, all smiles and tears of joy.
The smile on the face of one Katie Fitch was enough to launch rockets. The only one brighter came from Gina as she looked on at her daughter with pride. Rob, who had already slung one arm around Jenna's shoulders, pulled James in for a crushing Fitch hug from the side. The youngest Fitch didn't even try to squirm away, his mouth hanging open from the marvel of two girls having just kissed right before his eyes. Cook clapped his meaty paws on Kieran's shoulders in a show of excitement, the action startling the Irishman who had most likely drifted off during the intense emotions of the preceding exchange. And even Jenna Fitch couldn't hold back a bright smile as she saw pure happiness beaming from her daughter.
As the girls broke apart, a blush covering their cheeks, the Welsh-accented voice of a male airline associate buzzed over the PA.
"May I have your attention, please? Would passengers Emily Fitch and Naomi Campbell please report to Gate 44B? This is the final boarding call for passengers Emily Fitch and Naomi Campbell, Flight 313 en route to Glasgow. Emily Fitch and Naomi Campbell, please report to Gate 44B for immediate boarding. Thank you."
During the announcement, Emily, as well as all the other members of the farewell party, turned their attention on the sheepish looking blonde.
"I canceled my trip to Cyprus and switched my ticket three weeks ago. It was meant to be a surprise." Naomi waited again for Emily's reaction, her bottom lip held between her teeth, her blue eyes dancing with happy anticipation.
Emily grinned up at the blonde, her head shaking from side to side in amusement. "You are just full of surprises, aren't ya Naoms?"
Naomi's face lit up with a devilish grin. "You have no idea, Ems, no idea." Naomi's cheeky retort turned into serious business instantaneously. "I figure, taking into account your set schedule of nine to five, Monday through Friday, we'll have the weekends open for day trips and overnight excursions, not to mention all the local restaurants and bars I'd like to take you to, all highly reviewed, of course. I've got it all planned out, actually. I've put together an itinerary for us to go over on the flight."
Emily just nodded as Naomi rambled on, digging through her bag and pulling out a file folder.
It was Jenna who brought them back to the present and reminded them of the flight they were going to miss if they didn't get their rear-ends moving.
There was another round of hurried hugs and goodbyes as Emily and Naomi gathered their bags and coats and headed to the gate.
They were greeted by the same man who had made the announcement over the PA. "Ah. Let me guess. Miss Emily Fitch and Miss Naomi Campbell. How good of you to join us. We were seconds away from leaving without you, but I am glad you've made it. Oggy! Oggy! Oggy!"
The girls stood there, not quite knowing how to respond. Emily glanced to his name tag. "Thank you, Doug."
"Right. Well then, your boarding passes please?"
As Doug went about scanning things and checking them into their flight, Emily smiled to herself, taking a moment to sort everything out. Naomi was there; she was right there, standing next to her, about to board a plane to go with her to Glasgow for the summer. The intense joy she was feeling was a bit hard to wrap her head around considering the hopeless misery that had consumed her just a matter of minutes ago.
Then, without warning, anger swelled up inside Emily's chest and her body tensed. Her grip on Naomi's hand tightened.
"Here you go, ladies. Have a wonderful flight." Doug handed them back their boarding passes.
Naomi reached for them as she glanced down at Emily out of the corner of her eye, the grip on her hand reaching bone crushing levels.
Emily shot him a tight-lipped smile. "Oh, we will."
Naomi was practically dragged along behind as Emily marched them toward the jetway and down the long corridor.
"You alright, Em?"
Emily turned her head just enough to catch Naomi's eye, gave her a withering look, and then set her sights on the path directly in front of them once again. "You have so much explaining to do."
"This whole time?"
"I know. And I will explain. I promise."
Emily took a deep breath and her grip on Naomi's hand lessened slightly.
They were almost to the end of the jetway when Naomi chanced her first set of words out of the millions she would eventually need to string together to explain all of this. "I love you, Emily Fitch."
There was a fluttering in Emily's chest, beneath her rib cage, the feeling of her heart skipping a beat. She was instantly taken back to the first time Naomi had said it...on the night they met...and smiled up at her. "I know."
I really could have never imagined that I'd write so many words over such a long period of time just because I wanted to and I enjoyed it. There were many times that I wanted to quit, but I couldn't, because I knew that I'd be letting you down, letting myself down, and that just wasn't an option. I said that I would finish Ink and I have.
To all the regular reviewers, semi-regular reviewers, et al., Thank You! Taking the time to write your thoughts, feelings, appreciation truly made an impact. I've let my imagination run wild a bit and what I hope to see is one last review from each and every one of you. I know that some of you have been with me from the start and are still out there and to you I must say that I'm sorry this took so long.
A big thank you also needs to be directed towards Hi Mom Hi Dad Hi Bitches for all the fantastic song picks she cultivated as a soundtrack to Ink.
Thank you to scriptmanip for holding my hand through the last few chapters and gracing me with your superior insights and Naomily wisdom.
The most heartfelt and honest "I've loved you from the first time I saw you" goes to the woman who holds my heart, 6seatertable. This story is yours; I wrote it for you. You, my love, are the reason I could never give up on it. I've been lucky enough to have you in my life for 8 years, I've spent the last 4 of them writing this, and I am looking forward to continuing putting words on paper for you...for the rest of our lives together.