10. October 31st 2012 ~ Rome, Italy
As Daniel walked through the corridors, looking for Amanda's apartment, the only thing he could think about was all the children loitering about.
Why were they dressed like that? And why were they running around everywhere?
They kept their distance from the tall, grim-looking man - but their presence and noise failed to keep Daniel in a good mood.
Especially since the attack on the Florentine Assassins had failed and Subject 17 had gotten away. Again.
Daniel, himself, didn't remember so much of it: mostly a lot of light which had triggered a very painful Bleeding Effect. But Daniel had been told that the Assassins had planned an ambush and, also, after the Apple of Eden had been procured - Daniel had gone insane, taking out two whole Delta squads and Theodore Rizzo as a result.
He was surprised they let him out of the compound so early.
But now he stood before Amanda's door and sighed. He took out his general cell-phone and reminded himself of all the reasons he shouldn't be here - the multiple texts and voice messages. She had given up on calling him, texting him, waiting for any reply.
He shouldn't be here.
Yet, here he was.
Daniel took another deep breath and pocketed his phone before knocking on the door. He looked around, seeing kids in cowboy uniforms and superhero costumes just stare at him.
“What?” he said in Italian.
The kids giggled and chattered to each other. A grown man out trick-or-treating? Hilarious.
The door swung open, a slight creak accompanying it, and Amanda appeared - holding a bowl of candy in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. She looked at Daniel with surprise at first, then with cold wariness.
“Um...” said Daniel, being unable to place the look on Amanda's face, “Hi, how was your day?” he continued sheepishly.
“That's what you're going with?” Amanda whispered before she punched him. Daniel staggered back, the glass of wine shattered onto the floor and the red liquid seeped around Daniel's feet. The kids gasped, rigidly glued to the spot, looking from Amanda to Daniel and back.
Amanda might have been as thin as a string-bean but, God, did she have a solid fist!
And if she regretted the action immediately, Daniel saw no such a sentiment on her face. He hadn't expected this and so didn't know how to react. He had expected some yelling, crying maybe, perhaps even a slap.
But a punch?
He composed himself slowly and said, “I suppose I earned that...”
“What are you doing here?” Amanda demanded, “And if you say you're looking for candy, I will hit you again.”
“I'm...” Daniel raised his hands, “I'm here to apologise.”
Amanda regarded him for a while, her face set in a frown, her eyes observing and unblinking. “Come inside,” she said softly, stepping to a side, “No need for an audience.”
Daniel paused, but went in. Amanda shut the door behind him, “Why are there so many kids around? I haven't seen-” a kiss crunched into his face. He received it with shock enough for him to lose his balance, but he regained his composure quickly and returned the kiss.
Amanda let go first and moved away holding her forehead, “Explain everything. I've called you like a hundred times. Where have you been?” she asked.
Daniel paused, “You, uh, actually quit at one-hundred-and-twenty-seven calls,” he held up his phone.
“I'm sorry, I'm sorry,” Daniel cut in quickly, “I just...” he sighed, not knowing where to start.
“Was this some elaborate plan to get rid of me?”
“No, Amanda, it wasn't. That doesn't even make sense. Why would I be here if I was trying to get rid of you?”
“I don't know! You couldn't find someone else to bang?”
“Look, stop,” Daniel said, taking her shoulders, “I'm not trying to get rid of you.”
“Then why did you just disappear?”
Daniel was tongue-tied again.
“What?” Amanda pressed.
Daniel looked away.
“Is there someone else?” she said, as he walked off. She put her hands on her hips, “A man like you must have a girl like me in every city.”
“What's that supposed to mean?”
“You're not giving me an explanation, Daniel!”
“I can't!” Daniel shouted, “Okay? I can't give you an explanation!”
“Because... Because it's work-related! God, thank you, that's the phrase I was looking for!” he said. He took a few breaths before he continued in a more calm voice, “I'm not allowed to talk about it.”
Daniel nodded slowly, “Really.”
Amanda pinched the bridge of her nose, indecisive, “It doesn't explain why you didn't take my calls.”
“The phone I use for you, I left at home,” he said.
Amanda scoffed, “You use a special phone for me?”
Daniel took a seat on the arm of her sofa, “Taking your call at work... It can harm you, put you in danger - so I leave my general cell in my apartment when I go to work,” he explained, “Though, honestly, a few things went down just before my... mission came up and I kind of forgot about it, about you,” he rubbed the back of his neck, “but I didn't mean to leave you hanging, Amanda.”
“How do I even know...?” Amanda sighed, pulling out a chair - the legs scraping along the floor as she did so - and sat at her table. She rubbed her forehead, “How do I even know you're telling the truth?”
Daniel got up and pulled out a chair beside her. He sat down and said, “Why would you think I was lying to you?”
“Because!” Amanda looked up incredulously, as if this was the most obvious thing in the world, “Because it's what people do, Daniel! It's what guys do! They buy you a few meals, smile and laugh and fuck around for a bit, thieve your dignity, and then just disappear without a trace. And if they come back, they do... this! Give you all the reasons in the world as to where they went and why: and every single word they utter would be a goddamn lie.”
“I'm not one of those guys.”
Amanda burst out laughing.
“What?” Daniel said.
Amanda rubbed her eyes, and smiled at Daniel, “My God, you really are just so clueless...” she sniffed, “How many times have I heard that before? 'I'm not one of those guys'?”
“You... don't believe me then?”
“You're making the idea of disbelieving you very difficult, Daniel,” Amanda shook her head, “For all your fighting and swearing and anti-social behaviour - you really are just so... innocent about some things. Cute, even.”
Daniel looked offended, “'Cute'?”
“Daniel, just go with it,” she gestured to the bottle on the table, “Pour yourself a drink, mate, I'm sorry for all the... drama.”
Daniel got up and did just that. When he sat back down again, he said, “You still haven't explained why there's so many miniature people out in the corridors.”
“It's Halloween, you lobcock.”
Daniel paused, “Oh.”
Amanda laughed, “You seriously couldn't put that together? Kids in costumes asking for candy at night?”
In truth, Daniel couldn't. The Bleeding Effect had severely damaged his memory, confusing his own reminiscences with that of his ancestors', and leaving behind gaping holes in what he could and could not remember. In his mind, the way it was, Halloween wasn't anything overtly special. It was just the eve of All Saints' Day. But he wasn't about to explain all of that to Amanda. He just said, “I just returned from saving the world, okay? Cut me some slack.”
Amanda scoffed, and rubbed Daniel's cheek with her thumb - the area that she had punched him. She pulled him forward and kissed him softly. Daniel put a hand to hers, then her arm. She withdrew immediately.
“Something wrong?” he asked.
Amanda pulled her sleeves over her hands, her cheeks flushing, “Don't...”
Daniel frowned, but didn't press, “If I'm aware, I will let you know in future if I... have to be somewhere for a while.”
“Thank you,” Amanda said.
Daniel gazed at her for a long time. He felt bad about this. It was quite an achievement, given that he rarely felt bad about anything. He knew Amanda had problems, and having similar ones himself - perhaps he could admit inwardly that he felt the way he did because the two could relate. Daniel found himself wondering how well Amanda had eaten and, for that matter, when was the last time she had.
“Have you had dinner?” he asked.
Amanda didn't answer for a moment, before she shook her head.
“Let's go get some food, then?” Daniel offered, “Nothing fancy, or anything. You don't need to wear painful shoes.”
Amanda smiled slightly - finding his remark on shoes amusing, “I'd... I'd like that.”