Revenge is not mine, sadly.

"The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live."- Flora Whittemore


If this was a movie, Amanda Clarke would have given birth to the baby, and it would have been Jack's with complete certainty. They'd have kissed and made up, and the baby's godparents would have looked on happily before going back to their typically scheduled program of revenge.


Reality is as different as it can get.

Nolan stops by Emily's place to pick up the last box of his belongings, and they're just in the middle of an awkward goodbye (no arm stroking on his part though, and no tears on hers - they had that out in private and her front porch isn't the stage for a repeat performance) when Amanda calls in sobbing mess, and arrives in the driveway before the phone call is finished.

"I need a lawyer and I need to talk to you," she says through heaving, choking breaths, eyes fixed entirely on Nolan's blond friend.

Emily immediately ushers the pregnant woman in, well maybe 'steers' is the better word (Nolan thinks she's probably bigger than the boat with the same name she's borrowed) to the sofa. The moment the woman is seated, Emily quietly asks if Nolan can work on contacting Amanda a lawyer; the look they share conveys to him that she's just as clueless as he is, but since it's Emily, she's gracefully working on getting control. Just as she asks him to step outside and excuse them, her glance flickers over to the mantle.

She put the whalecam back.

He says 'of course' in a way that says 'fuck you', huffs, and once he's sure they definitely get that he's offended, he makes an exit.

The call takes two seconds - he's got lawyers tucked away for all sorts of issues, both professional and personal. By the time he's brought the feed up on his tablet and jammed his headphone in his ear, they are already having a heated, low-volumed conversation.

"-with me right now, Amanda. What happened?" It's Emily's typical calm, composed voice, but underneath he can hear the slightest edge.

"I told him it wasn't his…I just, I love him but I don't deserve him," Amanda tells her, hands draped over her swelling stomach. The baby card. Nice. Well played, he thinks, because neither of the women he's watching seems to understand the term 'transparency' when it comes to their goals and the actions they take to get to them. "I can't lie to him like that. I lost him because all of this. There are already too many secrets and lies to add to.

"He doesn't love me, Emily. After everything...after I came back, I thought it would be different. I was trying. Now I lost him, I lost any sense of home I had..."

"If you need a place to stay, you can stay here."

Amanda's answering smile is a little too bright and too rehearsed.

And Emily can see that. Almost instantly, the sweetness in her tone acidifies. Preggo vs. Sleep Deprived Real Life Buffy sounds hilariously entertaining in theory but practice is something different. Not that Emily would ever hurt her - he's seen enough to know he may never know what transpired between them in juvie.

"Why do you need a lawyer, Amanda?"

"If something happened to m-"

Emily pushes off of the couch, hard and ferociously protective in an instant. "Who is after you?"

Amanda seems to be a leaky mess today. She's starting to cry again. "N-no one, Emily. I just...I keep having these nightmares, and I keep worrying. I can't expect Jack to raise this child. I want to make sure that things are taken care of, that he's cared for."

Nolan isn't always as quick to see what's coming as his friend, but he sees it now. He finds himself leaning heavily on the railing. This would not bode well, not if Emily wanted to see her plans fully through (and he wants to see her accomplish them as well). If Amanda cuts and runs, she'll be left here with that kid. And he knows that as much as she talks a good talk and can force herself to be as strong and thin as a blade there is, miraculously, a heart beneath.

And Amanda is preying on that now. Maybe not consciously, but it's there. Some maternal, survivor instincts-driven part of the stripper-bartender knows what to do to ensure the safety of her baby.

"Ems," he whispers out loud. "No."

"We were both in foster care, Emily," reminds the woman on the couch beside his best friend. "That's my nightmare; that's the one, vivid nightmare I keep having: something happens to me and he ends up in the system...that he has to go through the things we did."

Emily tenses, seems suddenly very still. The sound of silence in his earbuds is deafening.

"So you want to name me as his guardian?" she asks, words careful and brittle.

Could she hear it as loudly as he could, the door out of this life closing?

Amanda shakes her curly head. "Trustee, actually. You're good with details like that."

Who the hell would she want raising the kid if that's what she was doing?

"And the guardian?"

Nolan can't help it, he's all but frowning at the screen, lip curling up as he tries to imagine Victoria's response to Charlotte being named guardian of the baby. No kid should be forced to grow up in a house with the Grayson matriarch.

Amanda takes a deep breath, sits a little straighter on the couch. "Well," she starts, "I can't ask Charlotte - I don't want this baby that close to Victoria, if something happened-"

Okay, claps to the preggo. He didn't think she was actually that logical.

"And they say it's gotta be someone who can afford a kid. I'm in the Hamptons, I walk down the street with some of the richest people in America," continues Amanda.

Emily is just as impatient as he is.

"Who?"

Amanda smiles, happy and satisfied with her decision, thinking Emily will be too. "Who better than Nolan Ross?"

His grip on the railing increases, and he feels his nails digging into white paint, leaving marks.

When he finishes processing what this woman has proposed, Emily, he has to give her credit, is trying awfully hard to dissuade her from this line of reasoning. Amanda is basically making this decision based off of his credit score and friendship with Emily, and Emily reminds her that there's a lot more to raising a child...to which Amanda replies he's got the money to buy any of it.

Well, how very nice of her to consider these things. He's financially padded enough to buy this kid a cadre of nannies and all the bounce houses he could ever want.

What gives him pause is that she says Emily is her second plan. He knows if it ever came to any of this, she'd never leave that child. If she made that promise, she wouldn't break it.

The lawyer messages that he is already in the air, and Nolan is just finishing the call to the car service to meet them at the airport when he hears someone stepping onto the porch.

"You can say no," Emily reminds him, coming over to stand beside him. "I'm not going to let anything happen to her so it's not like this will matter."

There's got to be something he can say right now, something funny. Except he's got nothing. Nada. Zilch. The truth is, he's exhausted. He's spent the last few days in a numb-to-the-bones sort of state because he's been trying to keep up with Emily's relentless schedule, which apparently includes naps that last for the duration of a blink. He's going to take her down with a tranq gun if that's what it takes, because there's no way her lack of sleep or food is healthy.

And he knows she's been pushing herself extra hard, because while she's standing inches away, her fingers tracing the double infinity on the post between them, he knows she's years away from here and now.

"Lawyer will be here shortly," he answers by not answering, and then says more loudly "Is Amanda alright?"

She gives him a look that speaks of frustration like he can't even being to fathom; most people who bother her end up with broken bones or in a body bag so the fact that Amanda is still waddling along should be considered a miracle.

"Amanda has something she wants to ask you."

And so he finds himself seated in a chair facing the sofa. Amanda asks him to be the godfather, and he bites down hard and quick on the question he wants to ask - 'Guess you can't ask Uncle Declan, huh?' - and it tastes bitter (maybe it's just coffee leaving an aftertaste - he lives off of it now).

The lawyer arrives, and they start the process of drafting the will. He smiles, acts flattered, and then feigns shock when Amanda asks him about the guardianship. Emily, now seated across from him, smiles warmly, but it doesn't quite meet her tired eyes.

The lawyer pushes a NolCorp tablet across the coffee table to him.

He could say no, since this will never happen. He could say he 'doesn't do things that cry or poop that much', he could say it's not right (it isn't). He could leave Emily to sign it and watch as she lingers for years in the Hamptons, worrying over the woman living what could have been her life (he can't imagine it would be this fragmented if it was truly her though) while he keeps her close with this one selfish act and it eats him alive.

She comes first, though. She always has. It's not even something he thinks about consciously - maybe it was some biological imperative before David Clarke gave it a name, but that name isn't even the correct one anymore, is it?

He can feel Emily's gaze on him as he picks up the stylus and signs.