“Amanda?” Shaun said, “What are you doing up so late?”
Amanda looked up from her work and furrowed her brows at Shaun. She'd never seen him in a T-shirt. For once, he didn't look so aloof and he definitely didn't look as smart without his glasses. He actually looked like a regular guy, normal in everyway, an Average Joe. Amanda wanted to laugh - but Shaun would never forgive such a breach. He was Shaun Hastings after all - a man convinced he was the smartest of them all. Even if he looked like an idiot now.
“I couldn't sleep,” Amanda replied, taking a can labelled with the name of an energy-drink brand off the desk and drinking it, “so I thought I'd go over all the material you gave me.”
“Workaholic,” Shaun muttered, going up to the fridge and taking out a carton of milk. He poured some into his mug and drank it cold, “You should really get some sleep,” he said, a milk-moustache having formed on his upper-lip.
Amanda held back a snort, “I told you, I can't.”
“She says whilst drinking an energy-drink that was once charged with having a measure of cocaine in it - however small.”
“You say that like it's a bad thing.”
Shaun blinked, “It-”
“I'm messing with you,” Amanda laughed, shaking her head.
He sighed, “Of course,” Shaun took a seat opposite to hers and flicked through the corners of a stack of paper with his thumb, “So, tell me why it is you're boycotting a necessary human function?”
“Nightmares?” Shaun prodded, drinking his milk.
“Of a kind...” Amanda said, sitting straight and rubbing her arm. She dismissed the thought of sharing her feelings with Shaun, “You probably don't want to hear about it.”
“What do you mean?” Shaun asked. When Amanda didn't say anything, Shaun realised, “Oh! About Daniel? I thought that was water under the bridge.”
Amanda paused, “He's been... haunting me.”
Shaun didn't comment.
“I keep hearing his voice, the things he said when he died and well... I looked away, at that point, so I keep seeing the different ways he could have died,” Amanda looked down, “I know you don't want to hear it, but I really miss him. He wasn't as...” she looked at Shaun, making a face. Openly insult Shaun? How would that work out?
“You're going to take another shot?” Shaun snorted, “Go on: Shoot.”
“Okay, well, he wasn't always stuck up his own arse about everything,” Amanda said, “and he didn't look like much, but... he knew everything. Like, he was informed, intelligent. And, yes, he's spent a lot of his life doing stupid things, but in some respects - he was innocent, in his own way,” Amanda paused, “I wouldn't have said that if I'd only encountered him once... That man... He was a mess.”
“You can't escape sleep forever, Amanda,” Shaun said.
Amanda slammed her fist down on the desk, “Did you hear anything I just said?”
Shaun raised his hands, “You said I probably didn't want to hear about it, and you were right.”
“Did you at least hear the bit about being stuck up your arse all the time?”
“I'm sorry, Amanda,” Shaun laughed, “It's just...”
“Is... is this about Desmond?” Amanda asked, “I heard you and Rebecca talking out there.”
As if by magic, Shaun remained silent.
“You told me Daniel and Desmond were like major villain and major hero. The Templar and the Assassin.”
“We didn't know him for very long,” Shaun admitted, his voice small and unsteady, “And with you around... I don't know, I guess we're trying to substitute him. Except... he was nothing like you.”
“Oh, is it my turn now?”
“He was annoying and a bit dopey in an... endearing kind of way,” Shaun said, ignoring Amanda's ill-timed humour, “But it was easier to patronise him. You're still infuriatingly annoying, but you're... well, more of a me.”
“Yes. Smart and British.”
“I wouldn't say that those are the two characteristics that scream 'Shaun Hastings'.”
Amanda chuckled and paused, “My resent for you and your resent for me isn't proportionate, is it?”
“I'd say it's 2:1 or so,” Shaun chuckled, “but no... I think it's because you remind me more of Lucy. We were a quartet for a time... And now...”
“Who was Lucy?”
“She was... a friend, to be perfectly candid. But it turned out that she was a double-agent, and Desmond killed her after it was revealed to him by Juno in her Temple.”
“She... meant something to you?”
“I had a soft-spot for her, you could say. She liked Desmond, it was clear to see. And let's face it,” Shaun leaned back, mug in hand, “Smart women prefer dopey men.”
“Excuse me?” Amanda laughed, “Daniel was not dopey.”
“Let's not make this about you.”
“Fine. So Lucy was...”
“Smart. Incredibly so, but she was more of a science person. She used to work with Warren Vidic at Abstergo before she 'joined' the Assassins, and for all his faults, Dr Vidic was an extremely intelligent man. He was also one of the highest ranking Templars of our day, but he died last year, same day as Daniel.”
Amanda looked away.
“Are you alright?”
“How do you people deal with all this?” Amanda asked, clawing her hands and shaking them in the air, “It's crazy, right? This, these relationships, these ends and endings and enders - they aren't ordinary, are they?”
“No, but then - we aren't ordinary people, Amanda.”
“Good, I was just checking,” she rubbed her forehead, “Don't you ever lose faith in all this confusion?”
“Have you met me? Of course I do. But then I remember that the rest of the ignorant world might become a farm of dazed animals on short tethers because I wasn't there to stop it - and I get back to work.”
Amanda shook her head, “Shaun...” What did you have to do to be so up-high?
“Go to bed. Pretty boy like you must need his beauty sleep.”
“Yes, well, a snippy bitch like you ought to be muzzled, but I don't think that's happening any time soon.”
“So you're going to sit here with me - you and that stupid milk-moustache - until, what? I go away?”
“Oh, please! Like you want me to leave.”
“But I do. With every fibre of my body.”
“Shut. Up!” John exclaimed from his seat.
Amanda and Shaun laughed in hushed tones. Shaun finished his milk and got up. Amanda watched him rinse out his mug in the sink.
“I think there's scones in the fridge,” Shaun said, wheeling back around.
Amanda rolled her eyes and looked back at her work, “Why are you doing this? Let me focus.”
Shaun held her wrist and said, “Get some rest, Amanda.”
Amanda looked at him and then shook her head, “I won't be able to. I'll just snooze, hear his voice and then wake up screaming.”
“You're not the only one who gets nightmares, you know.”
“I don't know how much training you have in people skills, Shaun, but people stuck in a lick of despair or discomfort hate hearing that there are worse scenarios than theirs.”
“It doesn't change the fact that you require sleep.”
“And that doesn't change the fact that I won't get any.”
“Then do the only logical thing you can,” Shaun suggested.
“What's that?” Amanda asked.
“Substitute,” Shaun said, bending down and kissing her.
It was a small tentative kiss, and Amanda received it with surprise and resistance. But Shaun held on and eventually Amanda gave in - holding his face between her hands and kissing him. Her hands explored the back of his neck, the line off his jaw and knots in his hair.
For a moment suspended in timelessness, Amanda felt relief.
She let go and licked the milk off of Shaun's upper-lip. But almost immediately, she began to regret it.
“Shaun...” Amanda gave him a look and murmured, “I... I don't know if I can just do this.”
“Oh, don't be daft,” Shaun replied.
“I'm serious... I... I feel like I'm... cheating.”
“Amanda, Daniel is dead,” Shaun rubbed her cheek gently, “Let him go.”
She didn't want to. It seemed liked she hadn't waited long enough, like there was a sting attached to her and Daniel was tied to it at the other end.
She couldn't just cut him loose, could she?
The fact was - she didn't need to.
If Amanda was to pull on that rope, she'd find nothing at the end of it. Maybe she had been tied to him, once, but Shaun was right - Daniel was gone.
All the emptiness, all the hollowness Amanda had felt when she had first been told of Daniel's death returned and Amanda buried her face in Shaun's chest.
It felt like only yesterday... Daniel had beaten-up her ex in a rundown Italian bar, and they had met...
“Amanda?” Shaun said, bringing her back to the present.
Amanda sniffed, and then looked up at him, “No-one can know about this.”