Bang! Plink. Bang! Plink. Bang! Plink.
“That's nine,” Daniel said.
Amanda breathed in, and shot once more at the rock-face, watching as the mysterious mineral absorbed the virtual bullet. Her hands expected the recoil and moved with it rather than against it.
“Ten!” Amanda said, punching a fist in the air, “I hit the correct spot ten times in a row!”
Daniel hugged her from behind, “Told you, you could do it.”
Amanda stiffened, a welcome shudder running up her spine, “I'm sorry I ever doubted me,” turning and slipping the gun into Daniel's back-pocket.
Daniel smiled and whispered, “You are so hot right now.”
Amanda kissed him once. Twice. Three times. Again and again until small kisses merged into one. Heat spread through Amanda's body, and she tangled her hands in Daniel's hair. Daniel's hunger for her love grew and he pushed her back onto the column, his lips moving to hers. His hands travelled from her waist to her hips and then lower...
...Amanda awoke, looked up at the sky. The blue was being sucked away into a blood-red sunset, as a false night began to emerge. Amanda nuzzled her head into Daniel's arm. She smiled when Daniel curled around her and held her back.
“The doctor who's monitoring you is going to get a lot of weird readings,” he pointed out, with a soft chuckle.
Amanda laughed, “Are you sure they can't see us?”
“Yeah. All they have is a bunch of line-charts. Though, you probably have a wet patch on your pants,” Daniel chuckled. He sat up, sweat glistening on his chest. He put a hand through his hair, his muscles rippling every time her moved.
Amanda smiled at him and then looked away. She sat up and ran her hands through the sand.
“You okay?” Daniel asked, his brief amusement dropping into concern.
“Fine...” Amanda said, “I just...”
“Been a while, huh?”
“Not... really,” Amanda admitted. That feeling again. Tainted, contaminated, digusting. Guilt.
Daniel paused and then crossed his legs, “You... don't have to feel bad about it,” he said, and he meant it.
“But I do,” Amanda said, “I always felt bad about doing it... after you... you know...”
“Were any of then better than me?” Daniel quipped.
Amanda laughed, knowing what 'better' meant, “No.”
Daniel shrugged, “Then I don't see what the fuss is about.”
Amanda scoffed, but didn't comment further.
“Are you... going to tell me now?”
“About what?” Amanda asked, her voice small.
“Everything... After I died...”
Amanda gazed at him and didn't say anything for a while. Where to start? But eventually she took a deep breath and said, “I don't really know... what to tell you.”
“Well... How long did you wait for me?”
“About a month,” Amanda said, looking at the ground, “after that I... I guess I couldn't take it anymore. Maybe it's stupid, but... It never crossed my mind that you died. I never felt you were gone. I know you told me it might happen, but... I... I mean, maybe I knew it, deep down, but... I...” she looked at Daniel, “I believed that maybe you were just too busy or... you left me.” she swallowed, “I flew out of Italy eventually and moved to Pasadena.”
Daniel frowned slightly, but didn't say anything.
“A few months later, I... I felt like I got over you. I mean, I kept your letter and the stuff you left me,” she touched her ring, “but... I don't know... I could live with the fact that you weren't there, you know? I cut my hair, I started dating again - with poor results - I even went blonde for a while,” she closed her eyes and looked away, “Then the Assassins found me. They sat me down and we talked. They, uh... mentioned your death without realising that I didn't know. You'd been gone for five months,” Amanda's voice shook and she sniffed, “This isn't fair, Daniel, I don't want to blame you... But I have been,” tears streamed down her face and she put her head in her hands, “I blamed you for dying and I feel awful for doing it...”
Daniel reached for her tentatively, and then pulled her into a tender embrace, resting his head on hers, “I'm sorry,” he whispered.
“The Assassins... They kept me with them, and they dug up some footage featuring you. And... Oh God... I... I saw you at work and... then I saw you die. Heard your last words,” she looked up at him and shook her head, “It doesn't matter if you're here now - those words... They'll haunt me forever.”
“Amanda,” Daniel wiped the tears from her face with his hands, “...I don't know what to tell you... I'm... I'm really, really sorry,” he looked at her bare arms, line after line of white scars. Daniel pressed his forehead against hers.
“Why did you leave me?” Amanda cried, “I begged not to go, you bastard! I told you not to go...”
“Because I'm an idiot. I thought I could stop this from happening,” Daniel replied, tears in his own eyes, “Stop you from getting involved in... everything. I was stupid.”
Amanda wept and panted, “There wasn't a moment since the day you left me, that I didn't wish you were with me,” she whispered, “But it was like I was holding onto a ledge and I wanted to let go so bad,” she sniffed, “But I couldn't.”
Amanda wept all her emotions in that one sitting and Daniel could do nothing but apologise repeatedly.
“I'm... I'm scared,” Amanda said.
“Of this,” Amanda said, holding his arms, “Of you. You died, Daniel. And now you're here?” Amanda shook her head, “What if I lose you again?”
Daniel swallowed. What could he say to that?
“I love you, Danny,” Amanda said, “Please. Please, don't leave me again,” she wrapped her arms around his neck.
Daniel stroked her back with a hand and said, “I'm not going anywhere.”
Amanda sighed, feeling as though a great burden had been lifted off of her. Daniel held her close and didn't let her go.
“Daniel?” Amanda whispered.
“Are you crying?”
Daniel sniffed, “Shut up.”
Amanda laughed softly in his ear. She shifted and she rested her head against his shoulder. Daniel wiped his eyes with the base of his palms and looked out at the computer-generated horizon, “You still don't believe I'm me, do you?”
“I believe you're my Daniel. I know my Daniel and if you're not it - then I know he's gone,” she touched his face, “There could only ever be one of him.”
“You come up with the nicest things sometimes...”
“You should try it.”
Daniel grinned a small smile, “I love you, Amanda.”
“I know,” she said, sitting up and giving him a small kiss.
“I'm glad... I'm glad you can still be with me, in this way,” Daniel said, “and I'm sure as hell glad it wasn't you that died before me,” he looked at her searchingly, “I don't think I could have lasted this long if you just... disappeared.”
Amanda smiled her appreciation, “You're not at all bad at this.”
“I learn from the best.”