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you won't let go

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Nolan doesn’t even think about her as Amanda anymore. He used to, when she first showed up in the Hamptons, barely recognizable but still Amanda (at least in his head.)

But watching Emily—she has to be Emily now, Amanda was young and scared and broken, and this woman is nothing like that—casually destroy families and lives has forced him to take a step back. The young woman—the little girl—he remembers wouldn’t have been able to do that. Or, at least, he doesn’t think she would have wanted to.

Even when she was a teenager, messed up and reckless and confused, Nolan doesn’t think that Emily—Amanda, then—could have pulled off the things she’s doing now. They’re so meticulous; she plans to the last detail and then she plans everything around those details so that they’ll work out.

It’s a little frightening.

Nolan doesn’t let himself think that too often, because he does genuinely like her—there’s a chance, bigger than he wishes it were, that he likes her because she scares him. And more of that liking is sexually charged that he really wants it to be.

He’s not particularly interested in dating her, and not just because she scares him. But she’s young and pretty and dangerously smart. Watching her work is thrilling and fascinating and more than a little inspiring. And, from time to time, arousing. Unfortunately.

Reminding himself constantly that all he wants from Emily is friendship—well, that, and he wants to help her, as best he can, before she’s so far gone that there’s so coming back or she drives herself into the ground by caring too much about destroying other people and paying no attention to her own life.

She spends a lot of time up to her eyeballs in other people’s lives—if it weren’t for the fact that she were doing with the intent of slowly and painfully ruining them, he’d call her selfless.

As it is, she’s so buried in he quest that he’s pretty sure she doesn’t remember that catharsis doesn’t make people happy. If she ever knew, that is. It’s dangerous to her, for obvious reasons, and it’s dangerous to him, for equally obvious reasons, and it’s dangerous to everyone they both know, regardless of their role in her father’s wrongful conviction.

If it weren’t for his (probably misplaced) sense of loyalty to her, he’d have been gone the minute he realized she’d stop at nothing to get the Graysons back.

Not that loyalty has ever been worth shit to these people.

But the fact remains that he feels some sort of fucked-up urge to stick with Emily-formerly-known-as-Amanda, and well, in for a penny in for a pound, right?

Nolan lets his shoulders sag a little, and turns off the monitor to the camera he could use to watch Emily. He’s not, not right now, but he could. It’s a power thing. Pretending he has some measure of control in this crazy game that Emily’s playing with everyone she knows.

Probably including him.

Almost certainly including him, Nolan admits. If Emily ever met a person she wasn’t playing somehow, he would be shocked.

Being along for the ride is pretty fun, though. And she’s good company—smart and charming and interesting—when she’s not ruthlessly cutting people down.

Besides, Nolan’s not exactly the type to play it safe.

He gets up from the desk, picking the familiar path through the dark towards his bedroom. Briefly, he considers watching the video from when Tyler—stopped by, but it doesn’t feel like the right kind of night. If there were ever a night when contemplation and insomnia were in order, it would be tonight, after having spent his evening staring at a computer monitor and pondering the mystery that is Emily/Amanda Thorne/Clarke, which is an exercise in futility if he’s ever seen one.

Nolan flops onto the bed, and—to his surprise—is asleep before he even undresses.