It Takes a Village
A/N: I am in two minds about this chapter. For one, I really felt that I owed it to my readers (if there are any still out there) and to myself to finish this story- it is the last remaining incomplete story I have on this site. On the other hand, I have not watched Ugly Betty since Bradford died and I'm not sure I can capture the characters anymore. I couldn't even bring myself to re-read this story because (even if this chapter doesn't show it) my writing style has changed and improved so much that it's painful to read. Also I don't feel like I gave this story or its readers the ending that it deserved. I am the first to admit that it is rushed and cheesy but to be honest, I don't have it in me to give it anymore attention. But no matter what I think about this chapter, I want to thank everybody who has read it or reviewed it from the bottom of my heart. It is because of you that I began this story and that I am finishing it now after three years. You will never know what your support means to me. Even the shortest review has bought a smile to my face. I think this will be last fanfiction ever (lucky you, haha) and I think it is fitting that it is with a story that has had so much report. Again, thank you for everything. See you on the other side ;-) xx Genevra.
Disclaimer: I do not own nor am I affiliated with Ugly Betty in anyway.
Chapter Twenty Four: The Hardest Decision is Sometimes the Best Decision
Gabe and Betty sat across from each other in the non-descript café with coffee and white chocolate and blueberry muffins between them. Louisa slept in her pram next to them, sucking her thumb. Every time Betty pulled it out she shoved it back in until the mother shrugged and gave up.
"Are you going to eat that muffin or just play with it?" Betty asked Gabe amusedly. Every time he pulled off a chunk and raised it to his mouth he placed it back on the plate. As a result his muffin was in chunks on the plate and crumbs on the table.
"Probably just play with it," he answered. He picked up his water bottle and took three large gulps, keeping them in his mouth for a few moments before swallowing. "Betty, Samantha can't have kids."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Betty said sincerely. Instantly her eyes swept over her still sleeping daughter- she truly did feel for Samantha.
"I know we went about it wrong but that is part of the reason why we would like to have a more of a role in Bella's life. Ideally, a full-time role," he said, still playing with his muffin and unable to look Betty in the eye.
Betty sat silently for a moment, mulling his words and eating her muffin. She took a sip of her coffee and swallowed before she said, "I truly feel for you but you will never have full custody of our daughter. I won't allow it and the courts won't allow it. You haven't always been around and I promise that a judge will take notice of that."
"I'm willing to negotiate," Gabe replied, finally looking up at her. He shrugged. "I love my daughter more than you realise and I just want to be a part of her life but I don't just want to be an occasional weekend and sometime in the holidays. I want to try to make a family with her and Samantha just like you and Daniel have."
"What kind of time are you thinking?" Betty asked.
"Maybe we can switch off school-terms?" he suggested. "We live in the same school district so she wouldn't have to change schools…"
"A school-term? That is way too long. I don't want her to be away from me or her siblings for that long. It's too long," Betty disagreed, shaking her head emphatically. "Maybe you can have her for a week every month."
"How about an entire month each?" he asked.
"You want to take her away for a whole month?" Betty sputtered. She looked down and Louisa and shook her head. "I don't want her to be away from her sister for so long. They need each other."
"Louisa is just a baby, Sybella is nine. They will live," he replied. "And Christopher will be okay too. They will still see her."
"You're an only child, Gabe, you don't know what having an older brother or sister is like…"
"And I will never know what it's like to see my child with her brothers and sisters," he replied. Betty closed her eyes and inhaled. Gabe's phone vibrated in his pocket and he jumped but he didn't check it. "It was a mistake agreeing to meet up with you alone. I think we're both too emotional about this."
Betty said nothing but pursed her lips in reply. Of course they were both emotionally involved in this- it was their daughter, the only thing they shared in the entire world.
"I'm going to go now. I'll talk to my lawyer about setting up a family court appointment," he said. He stood and placed a few bills onto the table. "I'm not trying to be a monster, Betty, just trying to be a better dad."
"And I'm trying to be a good mum," Betty replied, looking him straight in the eye.
"You are a good mother, Betty. No-one would disagree with that. I just want Samantha and me to have the chance to have what you and Daniel have," he said. He put his jacket on and strode away from the table leaving Betty alone with her thoughts.
Samantha was waiting outside the building when Betty returned.
"I know this is probably inappropriate and frowned upon but I was really hoping I could talk to you," Samantha said before Betty could say a word.
"It is inappropriate," Betty replied but she didn't move and Samantha took it as an invitation to speak.
"I know you had breakfast with Gabe today and I spent the whole morning thinking about it so I just decided to leave work and come over here. Betty, I want you to know that Gabe and I don't want this to turn into a huge legal battle. And this isn't some ploy to steal Bella away from you. It really isn't. It's just… well, I don't know if Gabe told you but I can't have children and I just thought-"
"Thought you would raise my child instead?" Betty interrupted, eyebrows raised.
"It sounds bad when you put it like that," Samantha replied. She took her time before continuing. "I know I will never replace you and that isn't what I want. You know this might surprise you but when Gabe and I met he told me about his daughter but he said he didn't have much to do with her. He said it was the biggest regret of his life and if I didn't want to be in a relationship with him because of it he would understand."
"He said that?" Betty asked the surprise evident on her face.
"It's his biggest regret. I don't know if it changes anything but he really does want to make up for it, to do the right thing. And I want to support him. This is about letting Gabe be a father, nothing to do with stealing your daughter," Samantha answered. A couple of tears were running down her cheek but she quickly wiped them away. "I guess it seems like I'm trying to emotionally blackmail you. I should have thought about that. I was just so worried that breakfast with Gabe would go badly and this would become a big argument. I don't want it to start or end that way."
"And I guess I have a lot of thinking to do," Betty answered.
"We're doing the right thing, aren't we?" Betty asked Daniel for the thousandth time.
"Yes," he replied shortly. He felt Betty tense beside him and he tensed himself.
"Sorry," she murmured quietly. She looked up at him and crinkled her face like she often did when apologising. "I must be driving you crazy."
"Just slightly," he admitted but he moved behind her and rubbed her shoulders anyway. For two weeks he had had to deal with Betty changing her mind, second-guessing herself and basically ignoring him as she struggled with her decision. He was trying to be supportive but he knew that he was going to be relieved when things had settled into a routine and Betty was his Betty again. "I know this is going to be hard for you but we'll adjust."
"I know, I know," she sighed. She moved away from Daniel and straightened her jacket up. "I'm ready. Let's go."
She walked into the room and sat down at the long walnut table that Gabe, Samantha and the court appointed judge were already seated at.
"We've decided to agree with your request for joint custody," she said. She looked briefly at Daniel who nodded at her in encouragement. There was no reason to involve lawyers and have a long, drawn out battle when the answer was so obvious to everyone.
The look of joy on Gabe and Samantha's faces made the long, agonising fortnight worth it and Betty wondered why she had ever had such trouble in the first place. Gabe did deserve to help raise his daughter, no matter how late he was in coming to the party, and Samantha would make a great step-mother who would love her step-daughter, that much was obvious to everyone.
"Thank you, Betty," Samantha managed to squeak out. "Thank you."
"So, do you have everything?" Betty asked Sybella. She reached over and smoothed her daughter's hair.
"Yup. I have all my clothes and my school stuff and my Barbies and my toothbrush," Sybella answered. She was wearing a purple backpack covered in silver and hot pink stars, a present from Daniel on this momentous occasion.
"Are you going to miss me?" Betty asked, sitting down on Bella's bed. "Cause you know I'm going to miss you."
"Of course I'll miss you, Mama, but I'll have Daddy and Samantha. I am only going for a month. That's not very long. And I have Cassidy and Morgan's birthday parties to go to. I'm going to be very busy," Bella answered patiently. She sat next to her mother on the bed and let Betty envelope her into her arms. "Are you going to be okay, Mama? You can call me too if you miss me."
Betty laughed but the statement bought her back into reality. She squeezed Sybella for another ten seconds but then released her excited daughter. As if on cue, the doorbell rang.
"Come on, Bella. Let's go say goodbye to your brother and sister."
Ten Years Later
"Mama!" Sybella shouted the second she entered the apartment. She found her mother cooking dinner while Topher and Louisa did their homework at the table. They both leapt up from the tables and she gave them both big hugs before racing into the kitchen and throwing her arms around her mother.
"Guys, your sister is here," Betty said good-naturedly. They were used to her coming in at all times and in all kinds of moods but this was different as she had just returned from two weeks away with Gabe, Samantha and her slightly older boyfriend Geoff. She turned around and returned Bella's hug. "How was Italy?"
"Hot and full of old things. Whatever. Who cares about Italy? Geoff proposed!" she said, jumping up and down.
"Can I be a flower girl?" Louisa called from the table.
"Of course you can be a flower girl. And Topher you can be one of Geoff's groomsmen. Isn't it so exciting?" she squealed. She ran back over to the kitchen table and pulled Louisa- ten but still tiny- into her arms and swung her around, knocking a chair over.
Daniel came in and righted the chair before finding Sybella launching herself into his arms. He returned the hug with a laugh and asked, "What's all the excitement?"
"I'm getting married, Daddy!" she cried. Gabe was still Dad and Daniel was still Daddy. "Geoff proposed. It was so romantic! Mama, you haven't said anything. Isn't it great?"
"But you're only twenty," Betty sputtered.
Daniel and Sybella exchanged glances but within a second Sybella was bounding across the room again.
"And how old were you when you had me?" Sybella asked.
"Older," Betty answered snottily but then a smile came across her face. She put her arms out to Sybella and pulled her in for another hug. "Congratulations, darling. I'm really happy for you."
"Thanks, Mama. Me too."
"Are you staying for dinner?" Daniel asked. "It sounds like we have a lot to talk about."
"Of course I'm staying for dinner. What are we having? Tacos?"
"Who do you think I am?" Betty tutted, shaking her head. And then they were off talking like a normal family, smiling, laughing, and teasing each other.
Just the way it should be.
Daniel and Betty sat up in bed talking about their children, their day, each other, Sybella's engagement. It wasn't much of a shock to Daniel as he revealed that Geoff had gotten him and Gabe together to ask for her hand in marriage. Betty was mollified (and surprised) that Daniel had been able to keep it a secret from her but he had promised Geoff and he was not going to fail at his first test as a father in-law.
Life was pretty great, Betty realised. All of the heartache and the tough decisions of the past seemed not just so far away but so unnecessary. It had been a shock to her all those years how easily she had gotten used to Sybella living with Gabe every other month. It had given her and Daniel more time to themselves which had allowed them to stay husband and wife, not just father and mother. It had allowed Gabe and Samantha to have a family of their own even more so when they adopted a baby girl from Guatemala and had allowed Gabe the chance to right his past misgivings. Sybella never would have met Geoff if it weren't for well-connected Samantha. Yes, Betty had to admit that sometimes the hardest decisions to make turned out to be the best decisions.
She had been blessed with amazing friends, incredible children and (in her eyes) the greatest man ever who just happened to be in love with her, still after twenty years. She also knew that without her amazing friends and the greatest man ever, her incredible children would either not be so incredible or even existent. After all, it takes a village to raise a child.