She ran like there was no tomorrow, like she could never run again if she didn't now, like her life depended on it.
She ran and ran and ran until her labouring lungs and pounding heart could take no more, and she collapsed in a dishevelled heap on the golden sand of Animus island.
She flopped onto her back and stared at the blue sky.
She couldn't believe herself.
She couldn't believe that, for a second, she thought...
Amanda got up and ran through the island, bumping into trees and columns in her panic and despair, low branches scraping at her face and pulling at her clothes, while winding roots tripped her up. As if everything was accusing her for the evil, malicious things she had thought...
She wanted him. Nothing else. Only he could understand this. Only he could help her make sense of it.
She didn't care that he might not want to.
Not until she saw him.
Amanda stopped, watching as Daniel regarded her from a rock he was sitting on. He curled his lip and got up. He began walking away.
“Daniel!” Amanda said, her words coming out thick and heavy, “Daniel, please, I need you!”
He didn't reply, he just kept walking.
Amanda furrowed her brows and staggered after him, “Please! Please! Just hear me out,” she stumbled on a rock and crawled onto her knees, pulling at his trousers and saying, “I need to talk to you!”
Daniel stopped walking, but remained silent.
“Daniel?” Amanda cried, “Daniel!”
“What do you want, Amanda?” Daniel said.
“They...” Amanda swallowed, “They asked me to shoot someone.”
Daniel snapped his head around and looked down at her.
He scowled, “You're lying.”
Amanda stared, not believing what she had heard him say and then shook her head wildly.
“You're just saying that because of this, because I'm ignoring you.”
Amanda's mouth parted. She searched Daniel's eyes with her own, those cold blue eyes that she loved to look into. But all she could find was an icy glare, a freezing disdain and disregard. She could see no warmth in them, not for her.
She looked away and mumbled, “Forget it.”
She let go of him and went away.
Daniel watched her go.
He hated it, this.
She wasn't who she had been. She wasn't the warm, welcoming young woman who used to comfort him when he needed it. She wasn't Amanda. No. She was someone else. She was someone who took on challenges, questioned everything and her warmth - that warmth that Daniel's consciousness had crackled with when he had rediscovered her in the Black Room - had ebbed away into something else. Into something far too familiar for Daniel, and by no means euphoric. She wasn't the dream anymore. No - she had become Daniel's reality.
She still looked like Amanda. She still sounded like Amanda. She still joked and laughed like Amanda. And those tears on her face, those straight white marks on her arms... She still cried like Amanda.
It made Daniel hurt - in a way that only she could make him hurt. It made him upset and angry, the indecision and frustration made him shudder, crack his neck and pull his hair.
“Oh, damn you!” he said under his breath and followed her.
Daniel found Amanda sitting on the beach, holding her coat to her nose, as if breathing through it. She had a distanced look in her eyes, such that she didn't see or hear him approach.
He cursed himself inwardly and sat down next to her, digging holes in the sand with his fingers, until he felt the need to break the unbearable silence, “So, are you going to talk or not?” he grumbled.
Amanda sucked her cheeks in and said, “If you don't want to speak to me, it's fine. Go away.”
“You followed me around for half the goddamn day when you were here the last time!” Daniel said, “Am I supposed to think that that was because you did it for the fun of it?”
Amanda shut her eyes, holding back a hell-load of pent-up aggression, “I don't need this right now,” she said in a tight voice.
“Do you want to talk or don't you?”
She looked at him, the fury plain on her face, “I want Daniel back. That's what I want,” she said, standing up, “But you know what? The sorry little fucker got himself killed! And I lived my life for five fucking months more - never hearing about him, never seeing him, never getting the faintest trance of him; believing that the arsehole was so fucking bored of me that he went away! And then all this crazy, insane, senile shit happens - and that guy, that dead, sorry little fucker expects me to be exactly the same person I was when he was running off on suicide missions every other goddamn week!” Amanda turned away, her entire body shaking and then turned back, her voice cracking with emotion, “I'm sorry, Daniel, that I can't be that person anymore! I'm sorry,” a sob, “I feel like you're the only person I can actually talk to about this! I am so sorry that I am going out of my goddamned mind because some fucking goddess wants to possess me! If you want to leave me, have nothing more to do with me - I am fine with that! You'll just join the list of the other five thousand hundred million bad fucking decisions I've had to deal with in my life!” Amanda walked away and in a smaller voice she said, “I'm well-accustomed to being alone.”
Daniel was too shocked to say, do or even feel anything. He just stared as Amanda moved further and further away from him.
“Shit,” he muttered, “Shit, shit, shit!” he got up and followed her, “Amanda, I-”
“Just go away!” she exclaimed, “I don't want your apologies! I am sick and tired of apologies! Your apologies! I just...” she collapsed on the ground and looked at the sky, “I just want things to make sense again.”
Daniel looked at her, concern beginning to bother him. It was like looking at a different version of himself.
He sat down next to her, waiting for the discomfort and awkwardness to disappear, and then he asked: “Can we start over?”
“Go away, Daniel,” Amanda croaked.
Daniel paused, “They... they made you shoot someone?”
There was a long pause. Daniel didn't think she would answer. She didn't. Amanda held the bridge of her nose and squeezed her eyes shut. Daniel touched her and she flinched away from him. He held her, picked her up and she clung to him - and burst out in tears.
He didn't say anything, he just let her get it out and stroked her back awkwardly.
“It didn't happen,” Amanda croaked, eventually.
“I didn't shoot anyone,” she continued.
“That's not a bad thing,” Daniel tried to reassure her, “Why are you upset?”
“Because... For a second, I was holding that gun to her and... and I considered doing it. I considered and justified killing a completely innocent person who has nothing to do with anything!” Amanda shook her head and sobbed again.
“Amanda, look at me,” Daniel said, pulling her off his shoulder, “I want you to listen very carefully, okay? Those thoughts go through everyone's heads. Everyone considers doing it. I considered doing it a hundred and more times - just because it's easier, more convenient, simple,” Daniel held her face, “But you didn't do it,” he stressed each word, “You didn't kill the completely innocent person who has nothing to do with anything. You didn't shoot her.”
“You thought about it, okay, fine. But she's still alive, isn't she?”
Amanda nodded slowly, “You were right, I'm a complete stranger.”
Daniel closed his eyes, “Well, at least you know you're not a bad one, Amanda.”
“It can be difficult to tell apart the two, from time to time - good and bad. But you... you're not bad.”
“I feel bad...”
“I know...” Daniel whispered, “I... I know.”
Amanda hugged him and didn't let go, “How much shit am I in?”
“What do you mean?”
“I disobeyed a direct order from Laetitia, I put a gun in her hands and told her to kill me if she wanted information that badly.”
Daniel raised his brows, the thought of Amanda asking for her own death physically shaking him, “You did what!”
“I didn't know what else to do!”
“I don't know. I just... I know I'm not on her good side.”
“Didn't know she had one. That bitch treats everyone like shit,” Daniel shifted his position to look at Amanda, “I don't know exactly how much shit you're in, but - if it helps - I've never been on Laetitia's good side.”
“But you're Daniel Cross! Everyone depended on you for everything! You were bound to be on someone's good side!”
“I don't know, Amanda,” Daniel confessed.
Amanda bowed her head and sighed.
Daniel raised her chin and said, “I know you said you didn't want it, but: Sorry, for being a douchebag.”
Amanda looked at him, at the returned warmth in his cold, cold eyes, “Daniel...” she tried for a smile, “don't bother. Just assume I'll forgive you.”
“Just, because,” she kissed his cheek, “I guess it's one of those things a woman has to suffer. Appreciate a piece of work from a distance. Stand back a bit and admire her idiot, because sometimes that's as good as he's going to get. Even if it is her dead idiot.”
Daniel scoffed, “So you're feeling a little better then?”
“I'm just... trying to ignore my impending doom.”
“Maybe things will work out, maybe...”
“Don't. Just... don't.”
Daniel wanted to make her smile, to make her laugh - but he was fresh out of ideas. He did the only thing he could think of doing - he kissed her. Daniel didn't know if she'd return the kiss, but she did eventually.
What better way to ignore impending doom, but with romance?
Amanda began to moan on Daniel's lips and she pushed him away.
“What is it?” Daniel asked.
“Dr Sung is going to think I masturbate every time I come here,” Amanda giggled, “I can't do this right now.”
Daniel gave her a strange look, “Why not?”
“Because this appointment wasn't scheduled, I literally rushed in and asked her to plug me into the Black Room. She's going to wonder why I didn't just lock myself in a bathroom.”
“She's not going to judge you.”
“Daniel, I just... I can't.”
“Okay, fine,” Daniel said, moving off of her, “Typical British fancy-pants.”
“Typical shameless American,” Amanda retorted.
“I... can't top that.”
“Hence the cuss.”
“But I can top you, have topped you plenty of times, so what exactly does that make you?”
“A great advocate of enjoying shameless, unnecessary American morons.”
Daniel laughed, “This is becoming racist.”
“You started it.”
Daniel kissed her again, pinning her to the ground.
“Stop it!” Amanda laughed
“What's the matter? I thought you were a great advocate of enjoying, well, me.”
“I didn't say right now!”
“Once a great advocate, always a great advocate. Your words, not mine.”
“I didn't say that!”
Daniel kissed her again and again, crouching on top of her, “Sorry I can't hear you over all the moaning and grunting.”
“Oh, please, Daniel, please!” he moaned mockingly in a surprisingly very good British accent.
Amanda laughed, “Shut up!” she pushed him to her side, “Stop it,” she kissed his nose lightly.
He pulled her close to him and lay back on the sand, “You're cute when you're irritated,” he said, “But scary as fuck when you're angry.”
Amanda put her head on Daniel's shoulder, and his arm automatically enclosed around her, “So I've heard it said.”
“So... What now?”
“I don't know.”
“We could jump off a cliff again.”
“No,” Amanda said, “No, I don't want to make that a habit.”
“You said you wanted a distraction.”
“Daniel... Have you ever wondered what things would have been like if we, I don't know, got married and had kids?”
“No,” was Daniel's immediate response.
Daniel looked at her, “Have you?”
“Then, yeah, I guess... A bit.”
Amanda sighed, “This is the weirdest conversation we've ever had.”
“Where would you want to get married?”
“What, if it was anywhere?”
“Never going to actually happen, so, sure.”
Amanda paused, “In the Sistine Chapel.”
“No, you smiled. What?”
“I'm not allowed to smile?”
“Not if you're not going to tell me what you're smiling about!”
“I was just... picturing you.”
“In a wedding dress...?”
Daniel paused, “Sure, let's go with that.”
“Ew,” she slapped his shoulder, “Daniel!”
“You said wedding, I thought wedding night, I'm sorry!” he laughed.
Amanda shook her head, “This is so stupid...” she scoffed unhappily, “I'm going to feel so shitty when it's time to leave.”
Daniel held her closer, “You can always come back though, right?”