Disclaimer: I don't own Ugly Betty, nor am I in any way connected to ABC, Silent H Productions or any of its affiliates. No copyright infringement is intended, so please don't sue.
Summary: Follow-up to The Choice. Mostly fluff, but hopefully still enjoyable. It may be necessary to read The Choice in order for some of the more subtle details to make sense, but it is possible to read this as a stand alone as the other fic is a bit long.
A/N: Special thanks to MaddieStJ for helping me out with a baseball reference (I am completely clueless about baseball!) and polishing up the exchange between Justin and Santos. Thanks for your help!
A brief summary of The Choice can be found at the end of this one-shot if you are interested and do not have the time to read the longer story.
The Choice Revisited: Four Months Later
It was May and at MODE that meant summer fashion shows, models in bikinis walking around everywhere and another stampede to the closet to sign up for swag.
Suddenly, a loud, indignant whine filled the silent hallways of MODE. "What?! How is Betty on the list already?! I'm first in line!!!"
Betty smirked to herself as she walked to her desk, leafing through the papers she had just photocopied. She counted to ten silently. At eight a curly haired head poked into her office.
"How did you do it?" Marc gave her a suspicious, beady-eyed look.
Betty smiled sweetly. "Christina put the list up early. Didn't you get the memo?"
"What memo? There was no memo!"
Betty paused, feigning confusion. "Oh, I guess it was just another one of those memos sent only to me!"
Marc's eyes popped wide open as his thoughts went back to October and the supposed office-wide memo he sent to Betty about the MODE costume contest.
"Well played Suarez. But if you think about taking the Dolce and Gabbana jacket or the Luis Vuitton bag, you will be very, very sorry. Remember the bunny." Before Marc could continue with his ominous threats, Wilhelmina's voice pierced through the air.
"I'm watching you," Marc said, giving her one last look.
Betty gave a cheery wave as she watched him scurry off to do Wilhelmina's bidding.
"What was that all about?"
Betty looked up to see Daniel standing in his office doorway.
"Nothing much. Christina posted the sign-up list for swag."
"I hope you got on it this time."
Betty gave a bright smile. "I'm first on the list."
"Well done," Daniel said with a quirk of his brow and a crooked smile. "Do you have anything particular in mind?"
"It's Justin's birthday next weekend and he saw a Ralph Lauren outfit featured in our Winter issue that he really liked. I want to get it for him as part of his gift. Christina said that she could alter it so it would fit."
"Do you know which one he wants? Because, you know, there are a lot of different clothes and you don't want to get the wrong…"
"Already ahead of you, boss." Betty whipped out a copy of MODE and opened it up to an ear marked page. "I stole his copy the other day."
Daniel gave a small nod. "You're prepared as always, Betty."
Betty hummed in response and put the magazine back on her desk. "Is there anything I can do for you?"
"Yeah, there's actually a reason I came out. I have a meeting with the photographer that Alex has been raving about at one o'clock today. What else is on my schedule? I was thinking of leaving early today to get ready for my weekend in the Hamptons."
"We have a house up there. They're predicting good weather for this weekend. I thought that I'd go there with," at this, Daniel paused to clear his throat and avert his gaze, "a friend and enjoy the first taste of summer."
Betty gave him her patented look, but inside was secretly amused that Daniel was embarrassed to tell her about another one of his revolving door women.
Daniel predictably winced a bit as he caught her look and Betty fought not to grin.
"So, my schedule?" Daniel asked, returning back to his original question.
"You're clear for the rest of the day, except you need to have the proofs from last week's photo shoot delivered to Wilhelmina by 5. I'll be happy to give them to her for you."
"That would be great, thanks. I have to take one last look at them, so I'll drop them off on my way out. Will you be around?"
"Henry and I are going out for lunch, so if I'm not here you can just leave it on my desk and I'll make sure she gets it."
"Lunch with Henry again?"
"Don't start, Daniel. We've been over this. We're just friends."
"If I recall correctly, you're exact phrasing was 'We're going to be friends for now'. When does the 'for now' part end?"
Betty fidgeted for a moment. "I'm not really sure. Things have been going great so far, just as friends. I don't want to ruin it."
Daniel leaned against the doorframe as he considered what to say next. "You know, Betty. I understand why you wanted to take time to just be by yourself after you broke up with Walter. Not everybody can go from relationship to relationship, or bed to bed, at the drop of a hat. That takes a certain, well, a certain type of person."
"Like you?" Betty couldn't help pointing out.
"Yeah, well, we're talking about you, now." Betty laughed at Daniel's emphasis on 'you'.
"What are you waiting for with Henry?"
"I just don't know if it's a good idea… to risk ending this friendship that he and I have built to start something else that may be less than what we have already."
"Life is full of risk, Betty. If you really wanted to stay in your comfort zone you would have stayed with Walter."
"But how do I know when's the right time? Or if there is a right time?"
"How long do you want to wait? How long is too long before you reach the point of no return in a friendship? Do you want to wait so long that you miss the opportunity for something more with him?"
"Have you been watching Dr. Phil again?" Betty asked.
"Actually, I've been talking to Christina. She asked me to give you a little nudge."
"Figures. She's been going on and on about it for the last month."
"We both have your best interest at heart. We just want you to think about it."
"I have been."
Daniel gave her an encouraging sort of smile. "It's a hard decision to make. All of the really important ones are. Just think about it," Daniel said.
Betty gave a big sigh as she fiddled with the Metropolitan Museum of Art pen she had bought when she and Henry had gone to an exhibit there in March. She stared at it glumly as she mulled over Daniel's words.
- - - - -
Henry was sitting in his cubicle, mechanically entering numbers into a spreadsheet. His mind was not on his work. He was daydreaming about Betty, something that he had found himself doing more and more frequently for the last little while.
Today, he was reminiscing about all of the time that they had spent together over the last few months. Every memory brought a smile to his face and evoked a nervous flutter in the pit of his stomach.
He and Betty had ended up going on the Valentine's Day outing that he had suggested prior to her and Walter breaking up. As they had both predicted, they had had a wonderful time. He had recommended a Thai food restaurant, and unlike the sushi restaurant catastrophe, they had both enjoyed their Pad Thai.
Afterwards, they had gone to an early screening of 'Bridge to Terabithia'. To be honest, he didn't quite recall much of the movie as he had spent the majority of the time watching her. He had loved seeing the emotions play out on her face as her attention was riveted on the screen.
He had promised himself that he would keep it casual and friendly on that first non-date. He had had to keep reminding himself not to reach out and hold her hand. He had succeeded, although it had cost him.
He understood that she needed time. He had been like that when he had broken up with his girlfriend Charlie from Tucson. He had had little time for dating, as he had been preoccupied with moving to New York, adjusting to his both new surroundings and his new job. That break from the dating scene had been a godsend as he had learned a lot about himself and what he wanted, both in life and in love. His brother had mocked him for not jumping into the dating pool right away, but it had definitely been the right thing to do.
Since February, he and Betty had gone out quite regularly together. Sometimes they would go with Christina from the Closet, to dinner, a show or one of the many attractions that New York had to offer. They had even gone to a musical, after which Betty could not stop singing the songs. It had struck him as endearing rather than annoying, which he decided was a good thing.
His friendship with Betty was strong and steady and, unfortunately, had not evolved into something more. He still had hope that perhaps that would change. She seemed to genuinely like him. She didn't mind that he knew strange little bits of useless information. Charlie had hated that about him, while Betty actually shared the same quality.
He remembered with fondness the one night they had spent one-upping each other about little factoids. It had been hilarious. The waiter at the restaurant had to clear his throat half a dozen times before they had noticed that everyone had gone and it was well passed closing. He had left a rather sizeable tip once they had bundled up and hurried off.
He had learned so much about her. What she liked. What she didn't. And in turn, she had learned about him… his habits, both good and bad. For him, the most telling sign that Betty 'got' him was that she had survived tax time. Everyone knew that March and April were the scariest and most chaotic months for accountants. It was doubly frantic at Meade as their fiscal year-end was March 31st.
She had been able to deal with his harried schedule and all of the stress. She had even come by his office when he had worked late (which was practically everyday for those two months) bringing food, her dad's cupcakes and mugs and mugs of coffee.
Being friends wasn't that hard. Most of the time. Sometimes, like at the end of one of their friendly little get-togethers (he had to remind himself that they were friendly) when he would walk her to the subway (she insisted that he not go all the way to Queens with her, only to get back on the public transpo to go to his place) he would fight the urge to reach out and make contact. He had not tried to touch her since that day he had punched Walter. He was scared that he would not be able to stop.
Sometimes, a little part of him sort of protested at the whole thing. He was human after all. There was a voice inside of his head that whispered, 'Move on. Run away. Why are you sticking around?' He was quite adept at ignoring it, but for the last couple of weeks, that whispering voice had started getting louder and louder. He wondered if the time hadn't come to start doing something about it.
- - - - -
Just over a week had passed and Henry was walking up the stairs of the Suarez resident for Justin's birthday party. He had a brightly wrapped gift tucked under his arm and a bottle of wine in his other hand. Before he could reach out to knock the door was opened by a smiling Justin.
"Oh, hi, Henry. I thought that you were my dad." Henry noticed that Justin's smile, upon seeing him, dimmed a little. Henry turned quickly, hoping to see a glimpse of another person walking up the street.
Catching no sign of anyone, he turned and gave Justin an apologetic smile. "Sorry, Justin. He's probably just running a bit late. I was nearly late myself. There was a multi-car collision blocking traffic, so it's probably keeping him."
Justin acknowledged his words with a too-casual shrug. "Come on in. Thanks for coming."
"I wouldn't miss it. Happy birthday!" Henry said, a little too cheerfully as he gave Justin his present.
The birthday boy took it and eyed it critically. "Hmmm… it's really thin." He gave it a little shake and whatever was inside made a dull bumping noise. Justin gave him a questioning look.
Henry grinned. "You'll find out soon enough."
A chorus of hellos greeted Henry as the two entered the kitchen. Ignacio took the wine from his hand with a hearty thank you and Betty approached him, a glass of cola with a lemon wedge floating inside, his drink of choice, in her hand. She gave him a big smile as she handed it to him. Their fingers brushed, startling him, but he managed not to drop the glass as he returned her smile with one of his own.
"We're glad you could join us," Hilda said, as she walked passed him with a plate of empanadas.
"Thanks for inviting me. Do you need any help with anything?"
Ignacio shook his head as he carried another plateful of food to the table. "We're almost ready to eat. Why don't you and Justin just take a seat?"
"Shouldn't we wait for dad?" Justin asked.
Everyone paused momentarily at Justin's words. "We'll just start without him, okay honey. He won't mind," Hilda said, brushing a hand on his shoulder as she came up behind him.
Justin nodded silently.
The family, plus Henry, gathered around the table and enjoyed a delicious meal consisting of all of Justin's favorite foods. The banter around the table was a little more boisterous than usual in an effort to keep the celebrant's spirits up.
Mid-way through the meal, the doorbell rang. Justin immediately jumped out of his chair and rushed to the door, swinging it open with gusto.
Santos, wearing jeans and a slightly mussed white t-shift, stood on the porch.
"Happy birthday, kid. Sorry I'm late. Traffic was a b…"
"Santos," Hilda cut him off sharply.
Santos shot a smile her way and walked over the threshold, tousling Justin's hair as he walked by.
"We started without you," Justin said as he regained his seat.
"No problem. I was late." As Santos helped himself to some food he turned towards Henry. "Hey, who are you?"
Henry pushed his glasses up a little self-consciously. He had never met Santos but had heard a lot about him from Betty, and not all of it was good. "I'm a friend of Betty's from work. Henry," he stated, holding his hand out.
"A friend, eh? I didn't know work friends were invited to family functions. If I'd known I would have invited a few of my co-workers." Santos smirked, pumping Henry's hand briefly.
Hilda and Betty shot him a look, the former accompanied her glare with a swift kick to Santos' shin.
The rest of the meal passed relatively smoothly, with Justin's disposition much improved. After the meal, Betty and Hilda cleared the table. Before the last plate was carted off to the kitchen, Hilda asked, "Cake or presents first, Justin?"
Grinning wildly, Justin sang out, "Birthday presents for me, for me…" to the tune of Annie's 'It's a Hard-Knock Life'. Betty smiled indulgently at his display of musical talent while Santos gave him a rather perturbed look (that Justin chose to ignore).
Justin ripped into the presents with reckless abandon and made appropriate oohing and aahing noises as each gift was revealed. Coming to Betty's gift, he let out an ear-splitting squeal when he found the Ralph Lauren outfit and Luis Vuitton belt nestled inside the box.
"Oh, my, God! I can't believe you got this. How did you remember?" Justin grabbed the sweater and clutched it tightly to his chest, his eyes shining.
Betty gave him a delighted smile. "I'm glad you like it! I have to admit, I stole your copy of the Winter issue of MODE. You had some of the pages marked and since I was first on the list for swag, I chose the whole outfit. You must have noticed that I didn't give you as much stuff when I came home last week."
Justin bounced happily in his seat, still admiring the clothes. "I figured you weren't able to get much stuff. Thanks so much Aunt Betty. I love them!"
Santos cleared his throat, interrupting Justin's excited reaction over Betty's gift. He reached into his pocket and withdrew an envelope.
"Sorry I didn't wrap it. I figured that you would just rip up the paper anyway." He handed it over to Justin who immediately slit open the white envelope.
Spying two tickets inside, he grinned widely. "They're tickets to… baseball?" His shoulders slumped slightly as he held the tickets in his hands.
"They're great seats, right along the first baseline. I thought we could go together."
"Yeah, that would be great."
Noticing Justin's less than enthusiastic response, Santos said, not unkindly, "I know you like musicals and all that other sort of stuff, but I gotta be honest, that's not really my thing. But I figure this is something that we can do together. It'll be fun. A nice father-son outing. Plus, it's a promotional day, cap trade, so you get a new accessory."
Santos' explanation buoyed Justin's spirits and he looked at the tickets with much more interest.
Hilda grabbed Henry's gift from the table and handed it to Justin. "Last one."
Justin took off the wrapping paper and uncovered a plain white box. Inside, wrapped in several layers of tissue paper was a program for the musical Hairspray. Justin looked up questioningly at Henry. "Thanks, Henry, but I already have one." Betty began to admonish Justin for being rude, when Henry interrupted her.
Curiously, Justin opened it and his jaw dropped when he saw that each performers' picture was accompanied by an autograph and a short message to Justin.
"How did you…???" Justin's voice trailed off as he flipped through each page and read the comments from each cast member.
"You mentioned that you went to see the musical and wished that you had gotten them to sign your program. I know one of the actors. He lives in my building and I asked him if he could get me their signatures." Henry smiled, delighted that Justin liked his gift.
"And he just said yes?" Justin asked, incredulously.
Henry's smile turned bashful. "Well, I told him that I would do his and his girlfriend's taxes. She's part of the production, too. I ended up doing the taxes for a few of the other players, as well."
Betty looked at Henry, her eyes wide and full of wonder. "How did you manage? I mean, you were so busy at work."
Henry adjusted his glasses. "Individual taxes are actually quite easy as long as you have all of the receipts. It wasn't that hard and I'm good at it. I didn't mind."
"Thanks. I love it. I can't believe you got them all!" Justin continued to look through the program as Ignacio and Hilda cleaned up the garbage.
Henry turned and noticed that Betty was still looking at him. Henry raised his eyebrows in confusion. "Is something wrong?"
Betty, finally realizing that she was gawking at him, blushed slightly and hurried to help clean up the mess, effectively avoiding Henry's question.
"Time for cake!" Hilda called out. Betty turned off the lights and everyone sang Happy Birthday with Justin chiming in at the end in his melodious alto.
Sometime later, after the cake was demolished and everyone had at least one go at Dance Dance Revolution (where Henry had managed to fall twice) Henry got ready to leave. He wished Justin a happy birthday one last time and thanked the Suarezes for their hospitality. Betty was the last to say good-bye to him. She stood in the doorway and began to put on her shoes.
"Hey, don't worry about it. You don't have to walk me out. I should know my way around your front porch by now," Henry joked.
"I'll just walk you down to the gate. I don't mind."
Henry held the door open for her and she walked through. As they made their way to the sidewalk, Henry looked up into the night sky. "It's so odd for me. When I look up, it's so difficult to see any of the stars. You can hardly see Sirius from here. Back home in Tucson, on a clear night, it almost feels like you can touch them they're so distinct and br…"
Henry's recitation stopped as he felt Betty's hand brush against his. He looked down from his stargazing to her upturned face. That same look of wonder from earlier was back in her eyes.
"I just wanted to thank you, for what you did for Justin. I know he really appreciated it."
Henry paused at Betty's words. "I hope you don't think I did it to impress you or because…"
Betty shook her head, dispelling his worries. "No, I know you wouldn't do anything like that. I know you did it for him."
The silence seemed to stretch between them, as Henry didn't know what to say.
"I've been thinking a lot about what we talked about in February." Betty was careful not to bring up Walter's name, not wanting him to tarnish the moment. "It's been so great spending time with you and getting to know you as a friend."
"I've had a good time, too."
"Even though I knew that you wanted more, you never once pressured me or made me feel like you were just biding your time. You genuinely seemed to enjoy all of the time that we spent together."
"I did enjoy it. I mean, I do enjoy it."
"Tonight I realized that I was wasting my time." Betty felt Henry flinch beside her. She grabbed his arms and hastily tried to correct herself. "I meant wasting our time. The time that we could be spending together."
"I watched you as you watched Justin looking at the gift you got him. You weren't thinking about the time you put into getting him his gift. You weren't thinking about trying to impress me, or him. You were just happy. You knew that he wanted something and you found a way to get it for him."
"You did the same thing with his present. You could have chosen anything out of the swag, but you chose something for him. Because that's the type of person that you are."
"That's the type of person that you are." Betty repeated his words. "After, well after what happened, I wanted time to find myself again, and to get to know you… to make sure that those initial feelings that I had for you weren't based on some idealized version of you."
Betty shook her head. "They weren't and they're not. I've known for a while, but I didn't want to mess up this wonderful friendship that we've built. I was kind of waiting for some sort of big event or clear-cut signal letting me know that I should just risk it. But…"
"Nothing is ever clear-cut," Henry finished for her.
Betty nodded. "You just have to decide whether it's worth the risk."
Henry looked into Betty's eyes, a soft smile playing on his lips. "And is it?" He asked quietly, his face dipping down slowly, hesitantly.
Instead of answering, Betty met him halfway. As their lips touched, Betty's eyes closed and the world fell away. As the kiss continued on and on she heard, as if from far, far away, the sound of whooping and cheering from inside of the house.
A/N: I really wanted to finish off the "Betty and Henry will they, or won't they" story-line that I started with The Choice… in a way that stayed truth to both of their characters and wasn't too predictable. I hope you enjoyed the story. As always, please let me know what you think. Comments and suggestions are always appreciated.
- - - - -
As promised, The Choice in a nutshell:
Chapter 1: Henry asks Betty out for Valentine's Day.
Betty declines saying that she is still dating Walter and that they have plans.
Henry leaves dejectedly.
Some Daniel/Betty interaction in which Daniel gives some sage knowledge (well, his two cents at least) and tells her to go home early.
Chapter 2: Betty spends the entire chapter contemplating her relationship with Walter.
Chapter 3: Betty breaks up with Walter in her front hallway. In front of Justin and Hilda. Ignacio makes a brief appearance. Walter storms off in a huff.
Chapter 4: One week after the break-up. A brief look at Betty's life post-Walter. Henry is pining on the third floor.
Chapter 5: Walter shows up at Mode to "win" Betty back. Hilarity and some cheesy lines follow. There is a showdown/smackdown between Henry and Walter. Betty breaks up with Walter again.
Chapter 6: Betty makes her choice and chooses… herself.