I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.
Nolan finally resorts to kidnapping.
He feels bad about it. Of course he does. And not just because it's a felony; honestly, that was somewhere near the bottom of his list of reasons to feel bad about kidnapping his best friend. But, the thing is, she drove him to it. He simply ran out of alternatives.
"It was for your own good," he offers. He's repeated variations on this through the entire journey: while getting Ems to the car (and wow, he's glad he hired two guys to help him, because she fights dirty), in the car, on the plane, and now in the helicopter. At least this time she doesn't glare at him, hiss traitor, or do that thing where she narrows her eyes and makes him worry that she might have a touch of Medusa's special skill set. So he ploughs on. "I did it because I care."
And isn't that just the truth. More than he can manage to convey with a few trite, way overused words. He's been telling himself for months that he cares too much and he needs to back away, give her some space, keep out of her schemes and machinations. But he can't. It's like he's as powerless as he was as a kid, when he was full of ideas that he knew were brilliant but helpless to get anyone to listen to him. A Clarke came to the rescue then, but this time it's a Clarke who's holding him captive, even if she doesn't fully realize it. She's the Earth and he's the Moon, and he's finally made his peace with that. No use fighting the inevitable. He cares for her, and that's okay. It's probably love, even if he hasn't worked out exactly what type of love yet.
He doesn't hear her reply over the noise of the helicopter. But he's gotten good at reading lips. She says, "I know."
The approach to the lodge is spectacular, a fast swoop over the island, skimming over the trees that reach the shoreline until the clearing comes into view. "You own the island?" Ems shouts over the noise of the helicopter as they drop to the sand. She's still in the high-heeled pumps she was wearing when he had her grabbed; she kicks them off and carries them, wriggling her toes in the warm, white sand. Nolan thinks that's a good sign that she's on her way to forgiving him.
Nolan nods, and takes their bags from the pilot. There's just going to be the two of them here. No one else on the island once the pilot takes off. No one for Ems to exact revenge upon. Except him. And he'll take his chances.
"I thought you hated the ocean?"
"I did. I worked through it."
Ems just raises an eyebrow and doesn't ask anything else. Which is good, because he's not here to deal with his issues.
"Come inside, and I'll make us drinks," he says. It's late afternoon now, but it's still hot on the island, the sky clear of all but the highest clouds. Once it cools and the evening breeze picks up, the birds will start chattering, but for now it's peaceful, the only sounds the ocean waves crashing on the beach and their footsteps on the steps up to the wooden verandah.
Ems doesn't follow him inside, so he brings their Mojitos back out to the verandah. He's put an extra slice of lime in Ems' drink, and sure enough, she ignores the drink in favor of sucking the slice of lime. "You wouldn't get away with that in the Hamptons," he says, sipping his own drink through the straw.
Ems rests her arms on the verandah railing and picks out the second lime slice. "Good thing I'm not in the Hamptons, then," she says, and despite the dry tone, that's definitely forgiveness.
"Yeah," he says, "a good thing." In so many ways, he doesn't add, though he's sure Ems knows what he's thinking.
"Nice place," she says, waving her hand back at the expanse behind them. It's ridiculously extravagant really, especially considering how rarely he gets out here, but he has to spend his money on something. "But there's no swing." There are wicker chairs filled with soft cushions, set out earlier in the day when he sent his last-minute orders to get the lodge ready for two, but she's right: it would be better with a swing.
"I'd offer to build you one, but that wouldn't turn out well." It earns him his first smile of the day.
"I hope you packed my swim suit," she says, looking out at the water. It's an incredible blue, almost unreal.
He did, one bathing suit and three bikinis, but now he's picturing her skinny-dipping and half-regretting packing them. "Of course," he says, though. He doesn't like lying to her. Not unless it's necessary.
Ems sips at her drink, and Nolan stands next to her, almost touching at the elbows. The waves are hypnotic, the relentless back and forth and steady crash of water.
"Am I forgiven?" he risks eventually.
She doesn't answer out loud, just nudges up against him and rests her head on his shoulder. It's answer enough.
They stand like that and watch the sky turn red and the sun go down. It gets dark rapidly, the way it always does here. Nolan puts his arm around her; she isn't tense any more, not like she's been for the last few weeks, gradually getting more and more fraught and desperate and angry. And bitter. The bitterness was the worst. He hated seeing her like that. This is the kind of place that makes you let go. It's why he brought her here.
"Forgiveness is a funny thing. It warms the heart and cools the sting," Nolan whispers. He read it somewhere; he can't remember where but he remembers thinking of Ems, her heart getting colder, the sting more painful. It had made his own heart ache to think about it. He understands why she's so driven, but it doesn't mean he'll let her be consumed by revenge. Some day, it has to end. Some day, she'll have to lead her own life. And even if it isn't yet, at least this is a start, an interlude to remind her how peace feels.
She snuggles in closer and he kisses the top of her head. He's proud of her right now, for not rejecting what he just said. For not fighting back any more. For accepting that she needs this.
"Let me look after you. Just for a few days, okay?" He wants to make it longer, but he won't risk spooking her.
She sighs, and doesn't answer him straight away. When she does, it's little more than a whisper. "It's been a long time since anyone looked after me," she says, and for the first time ever, Nolan can hear the innocent child in her voice. Young Amanda is still there. She's buried, but she's a part of Ems. And if Nolan can bring her to the surface, just for a while, it'll be worth any cost.
"I'll take that as a yes," he says, and squeezes her tighter. "Love you, Ems," he whispers into her hair, and vows to keep Amanda alive.