Disclaimer: Ugly Betty does not belong to me. I'm just borrowing the characters for a little Christmassy fun.
Summary: 'And so she had taken his heart. And he had gladly handed it over. He just hadn't realised it would hurt this much.' Christmas throughout the years, Daniel and Betty style.
Author's Note: So this is my thank you for all the wonderful stories you guys have written and shared; and an early Christmas present for all you Daniel and Betty shippers out there, enjoy!
23rd December 2007
Mode's Christmas party was in full swing now. The credit could only really belong to Amanda and her spirited rendition of 'I'm Every Woman' whilst dancing bare foot on the reception desk. Although under the influence of copious amounts of sparkling champagne, she was still surprisingly coordinated, though somewhat short of being graceful.
The entire floor was in stupefied uproar – the partying spirit taking on an uninspired corporeal form. It could have been any other office party – only difference being the substantial lack of frumpy forty year olds and geeky computer nerds.
Except Henry of course.
Daniel just couldn't help himself. Sat in his darkened office, his eyes were drawn to them like moths to a flame.
He was already numb. Lost, confused and alone – and the sight of their beaming, unabashedly happy faces was more than Daniel could admit to take.
He wasn't really sure how it had happened. Why it had happened. And now that it had – he vehemently wished it hadn't. It made entirely no sense. None whatsoever and what made it that much worse was that he understood the hopelessness of it all. Yet he had neither the fortitude nor sense to prevent it from happening in the first place.
In the space of a few weeks he had not only lost his father, his mother but he had lost himself. He had given himself away without quite realising it. She had taken his hand, shown him his worth, shown him her heart and in exchange taken his own. It was only fair that that woman, standing out there, with the brightest smile to rival any star in the sky, should ask for that small part of him in return, especially considering just how much more she had given him.
She didn't have to ask though. It was rightfully hers. Perhaps it always had been but he had been too far off his path to realise it. She had, however, set him back on it – forcing him to see what was right in front of him all along.
And so she had taken his heart.
And he had gladly handed it over.
He just hadn't realised it would hurt this much.
18th December 2008
It was 5pm. The sky had turned dark an hour ago; the streetlights, Christmas lights and the headlights of every vehicle that sped across the Manhattan roads created a fantastic blur of colour, reflecting off the fresh blankets of snow that covered the ground all around them.
The park was practically empty. But there she sat. In her puffy powder blue coat, scarf wound tight around her neck, hat firmly on her head with tendrils of her dark hair spilling out from under it.
He drew closer, hands in his pockets and his eyes never once leaving her face.
He said nothing as he stopped beside her.
She did nothing to acknowledge him, but Daniel knew not to take any offence and instead sat down beside her and waited.
It was ten minutes before she spoke. Quiet and hoarse; "It's over."
He had known. He had known with just one look at her tear streaked face and the dimmed light of her brown eyes. And yet he had felt no relief, no joy and no hope.
He had come to the realisation that she and him could and would never be. He didn't deserve her, and she deserved better. And though he had always known that that was not him, he had known with just as much conviction that it wasn't Henry either.
But that didn't mean his heart hadn't broken along with hers. Again.
He had quickly come to the realisation that there was no joy to be had if she didn't smile along with him.
"I thought it could work," she whispered into the darkness.
But Daniel had known it could not have. Henry was a good guy; he admitted that much begrudgingly. His sense of duty and loyalty towards his child would have always guided him away from her. And for that – he was also a fool.
"I guess it just wasn't meant to be," she said, her voice catching on her final words.
It was as instinctual as Mother Nature had intended it to be. It had required no thought and was perhaps the easiest thing he had ever done. And as his bare cold hand met hers and grasped it tight, he could not help but feel this was exactly his place in life.
By her side.
And that unequivocal thought needed no other substantiation than the fact she squeezed back and never let go.
22nd December 2009
He wasn't sure what he had expected, but as Betty continually liked to remind him every ten minutes or so, he had asked for it.
"No one in their right mind does their Christmas shopping three days before Christmas," she had chided.
He had laughed, shrugged his shoulders and said, "I'm Daniel Meade," as if that gave him some superhuman power to render the mayhem of Christmas shopping obsolete.
"What about this?" Betty asked, holding up a bold red cashmere sweater, "Alexis likes red, right?"
Daniel attempted to remain impassive, but he couldn't quite stop the short laugh that escaped his lips at the sight of the hideous item, "Oh no the colour's fine."
Betty rolled her eyes, before placing the offending sweater back on the rail, the hanger clanging against the metal as she did.
She crossed her arms and glared with all her might, "You asked for my help."
Daniel's stray thoughts led him to the conclusion that she was awfully cute when she was annoyed. He cleared his throat, shaking off the inappropriate and fruitless meanderings of his mind, "No you're right. I'm sorry. I really do need your help."
She defrosted a little, giving him a smile that made his heart jolt a little as if conditioned to respond in such a way, every single time.
"What about jewellery?" Betty asked, and not waiting for an answer, grabbed a hold of his arm and started pulling him into the crowd of crazy last minute shoppers.
They found their way there somehow. How they had survived without being crushed was a mystery - a merciful one at that.
She led him towards the earrings display. All bright and sparkly – different shapes and lengths, and all he could do was stare at them blankly.
Betty rolled her eyes, "Those," she pointed out some diamond studs, "Simple but elegant and beautiful."
'Rather like yourself,' Daniel was tempted to say, but his mouth remained clamped tight, his mind instead berating him on torturing himself over impossibilities. Two years now – he ought to be careful; one might have considered his masochism a fetish.
The shop assistant lifted them out of the glass case for Daniel to examine. Why, he hadn't a clue. It's not as if he had any idea what he was doing.
"Betty?" he called, turning around.
But she had wandered off to the side; her fingers gently running through the golden chain of a necklace on display.
It was a locket. Simple yet not Betty at all.
Curious he walked over and just in time to hear her mutter, "Hilda would love this and my bank manager would love the price even more." She obviously hadn't intended for him to hear her, but he had, and he just couldn't help himself;
"Let me buy it," Daniel said, reaching forward to grab the necklace.
Betty slapped his hand away, "I can't let you do that."
"Consider it part of your Christmas bonus."
Betty rolled her eyes, "You already gave me my bonus."
"Ah," Daniel smiled, "Not all of it."
Betty shook her head, a smile playing on her lips, "You're just changing all the rules now."
Daniel nodded in the affirmative, "That I am. But then, I can do what I like."
She could not refute the statement, and besides Daniel gave her no chance as he quickly whipped the necklace away,
"I'll have this and those earrings," he said to the assistant, flipping his wallet open and fishing out his credit card.
And so their mission was complete, but it wasn't until their car rolled to a stop outside Betty's home, that Daniel felt any sense of the magnitude of his actions.
She turned to him, sat in the back seat of the company car, and gave him a wide toothy smile sans the metal of the braces that had only just recently come off. He loved her smile. He had loved her smile even with the harsh glint of metal. But without it, she no longer had the soft child-like aura that had always followed her everywhere. Part of him was saddened with that realisation, the other part of him overwhelmed with awe over the woman she was becoming. But neither of these rare insights distracted from the fact that he absolutely adored every part of her.
Even though it was killing him.
"Thank you," she said.
Daniel shook his head, "Hey I should be thanking you – I would still be standing in that shop, scratching my head, and still be none the wiser as to what to get Alexis for Christmas if it hadn't been for your help."
"Daniel, don't do that."
"Do what?" he asked, slightly perplexed.
Betty sighed and edged a little closer to him, "Don't sell yourself short. You did something really special and kind." And as if she hadn't been close enough already, she leaned forward and lightly brushed her lips against his cheek and smiled, "So thank you Daniel."
He swallowed, "You're welcome." It came out as nothing more than a whisper, his blue eyes wide. But Betty hadn't noticed; she had already turned around and opened the car door, letting herself out. He watched in a stupor as she waved through the open window.
"See you tomorrow."
He waved back; and as he watched her walk up the steps to her front door, all he could concentrate on was the small, entirely irrelevant fact that the skin of his cheek was still burning.
15th December 2010
It had been five months since Betty had left him.
He had always known she was destined to do bigger and better things than to be Daniel Meade's assistant all her life. And he wanted it for her. With all his heart. Nothing made him prouder than knowing she was doing what she loved. She loved writing. And she was good at it. Scrap that, she was brilliant.
But that didn't make him miss her any less. It didn't make his heart ache any less.
He had stupidly attempted to fill that hole she had left with numerous relationships. He had had so many girlfriends, he'd lost count. He'd fallen back into the comforts of his old ways. Without Betty there to guide him, to save him from himself, he could feel himself spiralling further and further into the pits of a lonely abyss.
He pushed back from his seat, gliding over to the window behind him and staring out into the night sky.
His new assistant, the 34th he'd hired A.B. (After Betty), had gone home already. She had some party she had to go to and Daniel hadn't the energy to say no. They had a lot of work to still get through if they wanted to get this month's issue out on time. It didn't help it was the Christmas issue – people always expected more from Mode every year, and Daniel was getting worried that the idea bank would soon be running dry.
He sighed, rubbing a tired hand across his face.
The words made him jump. He'd know that voice anywhere.
"Betty?" he asked, the word dripping, entirely saturated in undisguised hope. He spun around on his chair, to face her, to ensure this was not some figment of his tired imagination.
"Hi," she smiled, both feet still hesitating on the other side of his open door.
"Hi," he countered, a few seconds late as the sight registered in his brain.
He stood up, floundered a little with wildly gesticulating hands at her appearance, "Wow, you look great!"
And she truly did. Her hair was cut perfectly to fit around her face; she still wore her trademark red-rimmed glasses, but pulled it off with an effortless style that was still uniquely Betty. Her clothes were no longer loose and mismatched, but coordinated, flattering yet modest all at the same time.
"So do you," she said.
Daniel chuckled, a hand running through his already messed up hair.
"How have you been?" he asked.
"I heard your first piece for the magazine was a roaring success."
"Oh I don't know about that."
"Trust me," Daniel grinned, "It was brilliant."
Betty stepped forward, finally entering his office, "You read it?"
Daniel shrugged, moving around to the other side of his desk, "Of course I read it - ran down a couple of hundred people to get my hands on one of the first copies."
Betty laughed, and it was the best thing he'd heard for weeks.
"I've missed this," she said, "I've missed you."
He could feel his air passages tightening, squeezing shut, suffocating him.
"I miss you too."
This was the first time he had seen her in weeks. Sure they had talked over the phone, almost daily at first after she had left, but then one day she forgot to call. He forgave her instantly – she was a busy woman. But then the phone calls became scarcer, and he had mourned the loss of his lifeline more acutely.
Betty nodded and cleared her throat, "How's the Christmas issue coming along?" The subject had changed, and Daniel wasn't sure if he was relieved or not.
There was an odd silence that fell then between them. One that really shouldn't have been there and one that Daniel couldn't quite comprehend.
And it only made sense once she opened her mouth again. He could now piece it together;
He really didn't know if he was even breathing anymore.
"He asked me to marry him."
Now he knew he wasn't breathing.
"Oh," was all that managed to escape his lips.
Betty sighed, folding her arms across her chest.
"What did you say?" he asked. He had to know, yet at the same time he grasped helplessly at blissful ignorance.
"I said I don't know if I can."
"Do you still love him?"
Please say no. Please say no.
A beat of silence, a moment of cautious relief and festering hope – all shattered in a second;
And all hope was gone. And he didn't care anymore.
"How?" he asked.
She looked up at him, "How what?"
"How can you still love him?" There was a steely, hard glint to his words; his blue eyes dark and anguished, uncomprehending and desperate. They bore into her, searching for an answer.
"He hurt you. I was there, I saw him break your heart, I helped you put it back together again, for what?"
Betty's shocked brown eyes stared back at him - molten in the glaring city lights shining through the large window.
"So that he can just rip it to shreds all over again?"
Her voice quivered ever so slightly, "It won't be like that. Not this time." She almost looked as if she was trying to convince herself the words were true.
And she couldn't answer him.
He ran a hand across his face. He turned away from her – unable to bear it any longer. Wondering just how much longer he could keep it bottled in. Three years had been some going. Believing that by keeping his unrequited feelings to himself, he was protecting her, doing what was best for her, perhaps had been his very first mistake.
He was scared.
So very scared.
"You deserve someone who loves you regardless. Who'll be by your side forever. Who won't ever even consider putting you second. You deserve someone who worships the ground you walk on. You deserve your every dream and desire to be a reality. You deserve someone who'll give you all of that, and so much more, and won't even ask for anything in return."
He turned around again. This time facing her, mustering all his courage, and looking her straight in the eyes, "Can he give you that?"
She had no answer, but to Daniel, her hesitation was enough.
He strode forward, closing the gap between them in a fleeting second.
"Betty," he whispered.
And he could see she was struggling to look back up at him. She was frightened - maybe just as much as him. Scared, confused and lost – and it was perhaps the worst thing he could do. The most idiotic. The most thoughtless. The most reckless. But he did it anyway. He was too tired not to.
His fingers gently brushed her cheek as he forced her to look up and meet the near cerulean blue of his eyes, "Please don't marry him."
"Why?" she asked. He had already given her his answer, but lost to the intensity of his gaze, the emotion pouring out of him, his fingers hot on her skin, she couldn't remember.
And then his lips were on hers and she forgot to even try.
His hands cradled her head, gentle, precious; but the kiss was anything but.
Desperate, possessive; a dying man's last gulp of breath.
He didn't know what he was doing, but all he knew was that he didn't want to let go; and it was only the smallest whimper which brought the realisation he was hurting her. Her salty tears on his skin startling him and forcing him to pull away.
But he didn't get far.
And it was as if he were inhabiting someone else's body because she didn't let him leave. Instead, by any definition, she was kissing him back.
Her arms winding their way up around her neck, his falling to her waist – and he was drowning in an amalgam of disjointed euphoria, incomprehension and gratitude; fire coursing up his veins.
And then it was over.
She pushed away from him with all her might.
Her face streaked with tears, she stared at him in undisguised horror. Eyes wide, terrified.
And then she ran.
And he let her.
24th December 2010
Days of self-inflicted torture, lack of sleep and aimless wandering had finally brought him here.
All that had occupied his thoughts for the last ten days had been her.
He saw her everywhere – and all that stared back at him was her stunned face. Because no matter how much he had tried to deny it, no matter how much his brain protested, his heart hammered the words 'she kissed me back' further and further, deeper and deeper. Now all that was left was the shell of a madman, consumed with the need to know, once and for all.
It had taken him ten days to get here.
She had ignored every message he had left on her phone.
He had hounded Christina, hell even Amanda.
Finally he had turned to Henry.
And for his efforts, he was now sporting a rather fetching black bruise just right of his left eye. And as sick as it was; it had given him hope.
So here he was. At her doorstep. Frozen. Staring at the doorbell.
"Are you going to ring that doorbell with just the power of your mind?"
"Pretty much," he shrugged.
"Well good luck. I've tried it before. Didn't work so well."
He finally turned around.
There she was.
He almost laughed at the sight of her, convinced it wasn't real – that's how far gone he was.
"I tried calling you," he said.
"I know," she said.
"I called your editor," he took a step forward, down one step.
"I asked Christina, I even asked Amanda if she'd heard anything." Another two steps.
"I even asked Henry." One last step.
She swallowed, "I know."
He finally stepped down on to the street, so very close. "He punched me."
Her eyes lingered on the dark, ugly bruise; her fingers reaching up, brushing along the edge – feathery light, "I know."
He caught her hand, held it there.
"I've been asking myself the same question over and over again, and I need your help. Tell me Betty," he said, inching closer, "Why would he do that?"
She stared at him. It seemed forever before she said anything. Responding with words he'd only ever heard her whisper in his dreams; where everything was in their rightful place – and where he finally had what he had forever sought.
"Because I love you Daniel."
And that was more than enough.
25th December 2012
God, she was beautiful.
It never failed to transfix him into a state of awe - even after all these years.
She would catch him staring at her, now and again, and would then roll her eyes, but her smile always lingered longer than it should have done for it to have any real impact.
But now as the sunlight of Christmas morning filtered through the curtains of their bedroom window, lighting her up like an angel; every lash perfectly shadowed, every stretch of skin glowing; he realised he would be content to just sit and watch her forever.
He leaned forward, kissing the top of her sleeping head.
It was eight in the morning, and he was sorely tempted to just curl up and go back to sleep. But it was Christmas, the innate child in him argued, and he felt the pull to climb out of bed and savour the spirit of the day – not letting a single moment go to waste.
But Betty, it appeared, had other ideas.
He felt her hand wrap around his lower arm, a smile playing on her face and half into her pillow, "And just where do you think you're going?"
Daniel grinned, "Betty, there are presents waiting for me under that enormous tree – and they need to be unwrapped now."
Her eyes snapped open, sparkling with laughter.
She propped herself up slightly on her elbow.
"Daniel Meade, you are such a big baby."
He chuckled, his hand grabbing the one that held his, which incidentally happened to be her left hand. He entwined his fingers with hers, leaving only his thumb free to run over the diamond studded engagement ring that adorned her ring finger.
"So is that a yes, I can go and open my present?"
Betty laughed, but nodded. To try and stop him would have been futile.
Though, saying that, she still had one more trick up her sleeve.
She tugged on his hand. Not letting him leave just yet.
He stopped and turned, raising his eyebrows in curiosity.
"You're forgetting something," Betty smiled, her eyes rolling upwards to the ceiling as if to clue him in.
Daniel followed her gaze up and grinned.
She had hung up something that looked suspiciously like mistletoe just above them. He shook his head in wonder at her sneakiness. That had not been there the night before. He shook his head again and laughed.
"Have I told you I love you?"
Betty bit her lower lip, "Yes, many times."
His fingers wove their way through the strands of her soft hair before he leant down and kissed her.
"Merry Christmas Betty," he smiled against her lips.
"Merry Christmas Daniel."
Needless to say, the presents stacked neatly under their tree remained untouched and unwrapped.
They could wait.
After all, what were a few more hours?
A/N 2: So there were buckets of angst, buckets of drama, buckets of fluff, but most importantly of all, a sneaky sprig of mistletoe. I really hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it, and I only leave you now with a shameless plea; please please review – feedback is love. Cheers.
Happy Holidays people,