27. December 13th 2012 ~ Rome, Italy
Daniel finished his letter and folded it up, sliding it into the top drawer of Amanda's bedside-cabinet. The slight squeak it made caused her to mumble something and turn beneath the sheets on the bed. Daniel gazed at her sleeping frame longingly, before he slipped in his Hidden Blade and the silver Templar ring he wore on the little finger of his left hand, and closed the drawer as silently as he could.
The glowing figures on the clock told him it was 4:30 am.
He sighed, and lay back on the bed beside Amanda. She nuzzled her head in the crook of his neck, her body aligning itself to his. One of her hands rested on his chest, her fingers placed between the groove of one of his scars.
Daniel loved that - the way she held him.
It was as though her body was shaped for his, and his for hers. Daniel placed a hand on her back and rested his head against Amanda's. He breathed deeply, inhaling her scent, pangs of guilt stabbing at him as he became intoxicated by her, making him feel as though he never had a care in the world.
And with every second that passed, that guilt grew in him.
He did have a care in the world. He cared about Amanda. He cared about Abstergo. He cared about Sung and Vidic and capturing Desmond Miles.
But he cared about Amanda.
Daniel didn't know whether he ought to tell her. It didn't feel right. But the idea of leaving her in the dark seemed even more wrong.
Daniel knew he should have let Amanda sleep, but as the minutes ticked away the less time he had with her.
He turned to his side and shook her shoulders gently, “Amanda,” he whispered, “Amanda, wake up.”
She scowled in her sleep and muttered, “What is it?”
Daniel kissed her. It was a hard kiss and Amanda had to push him off to make him stop.
“Good grief, are you that desperate?” she said angrily, scowling at the taste in her mouth, “There is cold water in the shower, you know!”
He sat up on the bed, crossing his legs as Amanda rubbed her eyes. She got up and opened the curtains. It was still dark outside, so she frowned and closed them again. She scurried quickly to the bathroom to wash her face and clean her teeth. When she came back in, she found Daniel staring at the time intently. He returned his attention to her when she sat beside him. Amanda didn't have warning or even time to brace herself for his rough affection. Daniel kissed her mouth once more, moving her progressively back.
“Daniel...” she said, between breaths, “What...? God...” a gasp escaped her lips, “Stop!”
Daniel let her go, crouching on top of her.
Amanda giggled, “What's wrong with you today?”
Daniel paused, got up and sat to a side, his back to Amanda. She took a moment to look at the straight scars that ran parallel to his spine on either side, before she got up and said, “Do you need to leave again?”
Daniel bowed his head deeper, being unable to look at her as he said, “No. I'm... I'm staying in Rome.”
Amanda put a hand to his shoulder, “Then what is it?”
He turned, “I love you,” he murmured.
Daniel watched her brows rise and held her hands before he continued, “I know that maybe it's too early or maybe I'm coming on too strong, and you don't have to say it back or even accept it. But... I can't leave you without telling you, without letting you know.”
Amanda made a face, “I think, Daniel, that with all your free-time you've become victim to too many romantic-comedies. You just said you aren't leaving.”
Daniel shut his eyes and sighed, wondering how he would make her understand, “I don't know how to tell you, how to say it, Amanda, I...” he caught himself, again unable to look at her, “You know how, at the end of an action movie, the story gets really intense and a lot of people die just before the hero wins?”
Amanda waited for him to continue, her face becoming more serious as he spoke.
He looked up at her, “I think... Maybe...” Daniel shook his head.
“Is your story...?” Amanda said, “is it coming to an end?”
“And I'm not entirely sure I'm the hero.”
There was silence. An unpleasant cold fell on them as they looked at each other, both trying to understand the circumstance and trying to find a solution to the problem. But there was none, Daniel knew. There wasn't a way of getting out of this. It could cost him not only his own life, but it would put Amanda in substantial danger also if he backed out of the mission.
“Do you think you won't come back?” Amanda asked softly.
“I don't know,” Daniel whispered, “I've... You know that thing you said about supporting the losing team?” he sighed, “Well... I've been on the winning team for ages, but we've been losing,” Florence, “and losing,” New York, “and losing,” San Paolo, “and... I don't know. Maybe I will come back. Maybe I'll get my job done and I'll find you and we'll celebrate. Maybe. But...” he looked away, “I just don't know.”
Amanda sat in silence, taking in his words and attempting to process them. She could feel tears build up in her eyes and a stinging sensation creep in her nose. It wasn't fair. It wasn't fair that she would lose Daniel so soon. But she sniffed and held back her tears, taking Daniel's hand, “So... what do you want to do?”
Daniel gazed at her sadly and took her shoulders, “Whatever you want me to do.”
She couldn't help it. Amanda blinked and tears leaked from her eyes, her face became distorted with creases of emotion, “Don't look at me,” she whined, closing her eyes and trying to hold back, “Don't look at me,” she sniffed and rubbed her eyes and said, “Can we go outside? And sit in a public park or something?”
They both threw on some clothes in silence. Amanda pocketed her keys and stepped out after Daniel, closing the door behind her. They held hands as they walked through the dimly-lit, empty corridors of the building - their fingers intertwined. They said nothing as they rode the elevator. Walked down the streets. Found a park. Sat by the trunk of a tree.
All at once, everything seemed blurred, moving too quickly around them; and all the sounds became muted, except for their footsteps clacking on the pavement. The sky was still dark, too heavy with clouds to see any celestial bodies. Daniel drew up his knees and wrapped an arm around them, looking at the sky searchingly. For what he was searching, he didn't know. Perhaps a Sign, so that he could beg mercy or ask protection for Amanda. But there was nothing but a veil of black up there, the Signs hiding from him.
Why should they hear him anyway? After the way he'd lived his life?
But he felt Amanda's hand on his arm and her head on his shoulder and he knew - and he thanked - that they had given him something. He didn't know if it was a Sign of mercy or punishment, but he was grateful that it - she - was there.
“I don't want you to go,” Amanda murmured, “Please don't go.”
Daniel put an arm around her shoulders and held her face with his hand, “To be honest, I don't want to go.”
Amanda smiled hopefully, “Then you'll stay?”
Daniel gazed at her, “No.”
Amanda sighed, but nodded. She understood.
“Don't be sad, Amanda,” Daniel said. She looked up at him, to see if there was more, but it was the extent of his consolation. What more was there to say?
“It can't be helped,” Amanda said, “I didn't know it, the night I saw you at the bar, but... the more I spoke with you, the more I sat with you, the more time I spent with you...” her eyes became tearful, “It's like I've been waiting for you my whole life, Daniel.”
“You don't mean that.”
“Why would you ever say that?”
“Because. Look at me, Amanda. Nobody wants this.”
“Not by looking at you, maybe.”
“Not by knowing me either! I'm a wreck.”
“So am I.”
“Not as much as me.”
“It's not a competition.”
“But if it was-”
“Oh, shut up and listen to me for a second, will you?” Amanda, despite herself, laughed, “You're a lot better than you give yourself credit.”
“Oh yeah? How?”
Amanda paused, scratching at the grass beneath her before she said, “I've never met someone who hates everyone so much, Daniel. I've seen how you look at people. The way you glower at them like they're these disgusting, malignant creatures that just piss you off all the time. You genuinely just hate everyone.”
Daniel paused, wondering where she was going with this.
“And yet...” Amanda said, “you chose not to hate me. You chose to like me,” her voice cracked, “I remember one time we ordered pizza and every other word you said to the pizza guy was 'fuck' with either an '-ing' or an '-ed' attached. You were howling so much, I could practically see the exclamation points in the air as you spoke! But you barely swear when you talk to me,” she looked at her hands, “The words you've shared with me are far from curses. You called me beautiful. You said you liked me, missed me. You said you love me. Nobody's ever said those things about me,” Amanda looked back at Daniel, her face wet and her eyes sparkling, “You might be a wreck, Daniel, but I'll always want you around, I'll always wait for you, and... and... and I don't know what I'll do if I lose you,” she curled into him and sobbed. Daniel held her and felt his whole body shake - with something he'd never felt before. It was as if he would fall apart.
He swallowed thickly and closed his eyes, cursing his misfortunes inwardly.
“You know what I really want to do right now?” he asked.
“What?” Amanda whispered.
“I want to track down all your exes, beat the bloody crap out of them and ask them what the fuck is wrong with them.”
Amanda laughed. She sniffed and looked up at Daniel and laughed again.
They both sighed.
“I misled you, Amanda,” Daniel said.
“I don't work for a government. I'm a secret agent, but not for a government.”
“Do... do you work with the Mafia?”
Daniel scoffed, “Because I live in Italy? Isn't that racist?”
“It's the first thing that came into my head.”
“Not the Mafia, no... I wish I could tell you,” he said, “It would take so much off me, but... they're everywhere and I'd put you in danger if you knew.”
Amanda sniffed, “Why are you telling me this, then?”
“I don't know. I guess, because, I just want to set everything right. And because... it's the reason why I can't just ask them to let me off or discharge me. The people I'm with... They're the kind of people you die with, you know?”
Amanda sighed, “I barely know anything about you, Daniel.”
“What do you want to know?”
Amanda thought for a moment, “Where are you from?”
“I grew up in Philadelphia, I think. Most of my memories are from there. You?”
“London,” Amanda said, “Who are your parents? What were they like?”
“I don't know.”
“You grew up an orphan?”
“I don't know. I don't remember. A lot of my childhood is just a huge blank in my head. Except...” Daniel put a hand to his head, “I remember, a long time ago, I was walking down a country road. I can't remember where I was, but I must have been... maybe five or six years old and I was half-naked. It was cold. A car came up and a couple got out and asked me a bunch of things I didn't understand then. I just told them I wanted to go home.”
“That's it?” Amanda said, “That's all you remember?”
Daniel nodded silently, a faraway look in his eyes.
“Only a little kid...” Amanda sighed, “All my life, I thought I had it bad...” she scoffed sadly, “Where have you been my whole life, Daniel Cross?”
“I don't know. I don't remember,” Daniel's voice cracked, “It's not even my real name, you know. 'Daniel Cross'. It's what everyone calls me, but it's not my real name.”
“Then what is?”
“I don't know,” Daniel said, his voice shaking, “I don't remember. Hell, I'm just pathetic, aren't I?”
Amanda cried again, she hugged Daniel, “I wish I could make it better.”
“You did,” Daniel said, “Thank you for it. Thank you for making sense. Thank you for being real,” he sighed and sniffed, putting both his hands to her face, “Damn it... If I had known that at the end of my life, you were waiting for me... maybe I wouldn't have done all the things that I did.”
“And yet, maybe if you hadn't done all those things, you never would have met me.”
“It sucks, right?”
“Daniel...” Amanda said, “Don't leave me.”
“I told you, I don't want to,” he sobbed, “and I'm sorry that I have to.”
“I love you too,” she whispered and kissed him passionately. The sun began to rise as they revelled in their passion, their tears slipping between there lips as they kissed.
“Are you going to go now?” Amanda asked, dreading the answer.
Daniel sat up, and looked at the brightening sky. He wiped his face with his hands and said, “Don't wait for me, Amanda. If I don't come back in a month, don't wait for me,” he took her hands and implored her, “And please - please - don't hurt yourself because of me.”
Amanda embraced him, “Come back to me,” she whispered in his ear, “Please, come back to me.”