-1Only When It Rains
A/N: So, here's the last bit, finally. I apologise for the delay, but I've been busy and February has been insanely long. This chapter's essentially pointless, but it's fluffy and a little bit angst, and that's what counts, right? ;)
"I take it everything worked out fine, then?" Christina's voice emanated from the doorway and they broke apart, somewhat self-consicously. She was clutching a can of hairspray in one hand, shaking it casually and grinning, her hair dripping.
"Nice job, Christina," said Daniel. "Thanks."
Betty stared at them both in turn. "You were in on this, too?" she asked accusingly.
"Betty, by all accounts, you admitted to me earlier that you were going a wee bit mad. You didn't expect me to do nothing, did you?"
"I guess not…"
At that moment, a man in a janitor's uniform entered the office. "Are you the guy in charge?" he asked. Daniel nodded. "Okay, well, the water's fixed."
Feigning ignorance, Daniel asked, "Any idea what caused it?"
The man nodded and made a gruff noise that sounded unimpressed. "Aerosols," he said simply. "If I've told you magazine people once, I've told you a million times: lay off the hairspray." Christina hid the can behind her back and tried to look innocent. "The clean-up squad will be in tomorrow," continued the janitor. "You might want to give everyone the day off."
The janitor sloped off again, muttering to himself. Once he was out of sight, Betty let out the breath she'd been holding and burst into hysterical giggles, as did Christina. Daniel managed to contain himself until he caught sight of Wilhelmina stalking out of her office towards him, an image which would ordinarily have struck fear into even the bravest soul, except that she was dripping wet, fuming, and sporting a halo of frizz that had once been her perfectly-coiffeured weave. Daniel let out a snort of amusement but managed to just about regain his composure, as Wilhelmina finally stamped into his office looking supremely unimpressed, wearing her 'I-can-kill-you-with-my-laser-vision' face.
Betty and Christina regained control of themselves and took a step back, leaving Daniel to march into the breach on his own.
"Hello, Wilhelmina," said Daniel calmly. "I was beginning to think you'd melted."
This comment set Christina off into a paroxysm of laughter, but Betty elbowed her in the ribs and she shut up again.
"What," said Wilhelmina slowly, ignoring him, "just happened?"
"Just an accident," he said. "Too much hairspray." Christina had a hand clamped over her mouth and was twitching and turning bright red. Wilhelmina looked decidedly suspicious.
"Oh, really? Funny how there's never been an accident like it before."
"Well, it was your idea to go for big hair this issue," he said. "I'm surprised people can even breathe around here with the amount of beehives I've seen coming out of the hair and make-up department."
Wilhelmina raised a sceptical eyebrow, but seemed to concede defeat. If she was honest, she was too uncomfortable to give a damn. "Hm. I suppose 'Winehouse Chic' may have been pushing things too far. In fact, with the latest…" she struggled for the correct word, waving a hand regally, and settled on: "…hoo-hah in the news about dear Amy, we might be better off reconsidering the idea."
"I would have to agree," he said diplomatically. "The office is being cleaned up tomorrow, so you might want to let people know."
She gave him a withering stare at being ordered around, but even Wilhelmina could appreciate a free day off, and scuttled off to tell the rest of the staff. When she was safely out of sight again, Christina finally managed to breathe out, and Betty felt herself relax again. The seamstress placed the half-empty can of hairspray on Daniel's desk.
"I don't know how you did that," she said with an admiring tone. "She gives me the willies."
Daniel suddenly shuddered violently. "Believe me, inside I'm terrified." He gave Betty a somewhat knowing glance, and she knew he wasn't only referring to his encounter with Wilhelmina.
"Thanks for saving my arse there," said Christina gratefully.
Betty interjected. "No, thank you, Christina. You've been amazing." She leaned over to give her friend a hug, but they soon separated again. The brief comfort from the heatwave was now replaced with unpleasant dampness.
Christina sensed that she was imposing and decided to make herself scarce.
"I'm going to change and get out of here," she announced. "I think my work here is done. Have fun, you two."
She squelched down the corridor back in the direction of the Closet, pausing momentarily at reception to snap Amanda out of her stupor by splashing her with some of the water which had accumulated on top of the circular desk, before disappearing quickly. Amanda was heard to yell, "Hey! I totally deserve some free clothes!" before following her.
Daniel and Betty were left alone in the slowly emptying office. She squeezed some excess water from her shirt and brushed down the front of her skirt with both hands, flicking droplets everywhere.
"Well, this is familiar."
"Come on," said Daniel without hesitation, inclining his head towards the exit. "You can dry off at my place."
She began to laugh – yes, definitely familiar. Daniel reached for his suit jacket, which was just as drenched as everything else, and they made their way to the elevator.
Betty was beginning to feel a slight chill in the shade and shivered a little. Without really thinking, Daniel offered her his jacket, which she took gratefully. She felt warmer, but couldn't tell if that was because of the extra layer or the wonderful, heated feeling which coursed through her veins as soon as the heavy item settled on her shoulders.
The elevator arrived and they stepped inside, and she was struck by a decidedly random thought.
"Your suit must be ruined…"
He gave her a smile. "I have lots of suits. But I only have one of you."
She returned the smile, the lovely heated feeling washing over her once more. As they were the only occupants of the small space, she reached over to take his hand in hers.
A few minutes later the elevator came to a stop and they released each other and stepped into the lobby, making the short journey across the spacious foyer to the revolving doors at the front of the building. As soon as they stepped into the sunshine, Betty felt her bones start to warm again. She paused a moment, tilting her face to the sun and letting the heat cascade over her skin.
Daniel was only half-watching her, trying to hail a cab. One pulled up fairly quickly and Betty snapped back to reality when she realised Daniel had opened the passenger door and was waiting for her to get in.
"I'd really like to walk," she told him. "It's not that far."
He closed the door again. "Okay."
They walked side by side to his apartment building, drying off in the mid-afternoon sun. The journey passed quietly and without incident, neither drawing attention to themselves and the new development to their relationship. Passers-by mostly ignored them, and they reached the familiar apartment complex in no time.
Before they entered, Daniel stopped.
Betty felt a horrible tug of fear in her heart. Was he backing out now that they'd come so far?
"What's wrong?" She hoped that her voice hadn't betrayed her, but he must have seen the fearful expression on her face, as his own expression softened from its initial seriousness.
"Nothing's wrong, Betty. I'm just glad we finally broke that stupid rule."
"It was your stupid rule," she reminded him jestingly, with a smile.
"I know. I'm sorry." He gave a sigh. "I'm just a coward."
"You expect me to believe that after you stood up to Wilhelmina earlier?"
"That was different," he said, shrugging. "Come on, I'll explain inside."
He entered the security code and held open the door, allowing Betty to enter the building first. They made their way up to the penthouse in silence, and upon entering, Betty paused at the threshold. The apartment looked significantly different in daylight, quite the opposite from the last time she was there. Sunlight was streaming through the street-side windows, the kitchen was clean and white and the sparse surroundings seemed entirely more welcoming. Still, she had to admit that the darkened, television-lit glow of their rainy night together had seemed just as cosy.
"Well… here we are again," she said. He had been oddly quiet since their exchange outside the building, not saying a word on the way up, and Betty had a slightly disconcerting sensation of butterflies in her stomach, a faint dread that she couldn't quite identify. She cleared her throat to break the silence.
"So… are you going to explain why you think you're a coward?"
He gave a slightly sheepish smile. "I suppose so."
Betty went to drape Daniel's borrowed jacket over the back of the couch, and he watched her for a while as he tried to find the right words to say. She paused to look out of the window at the view, which she'd never really had chance to do before. It was almost as breath-taking as from his office.
Daniel took a few steps forward, still watching Betty. The play of light and shadow caught her just so in that moment, and he felt his breath hitch unexpectedly in his throat. Whatever he'd been planning on saying next was lost, and no more words would form to take its place.
'You're beautiful…' he wanted to say; nothing would come out. Besides, she would only pretend he was mad. He knew her well enough to predict that her damnably low self-esteem would not allow her to believe him, no matter how sincerely he tried to convince her. No, it could wait. There would be a better time.
She snapped him out of his reverie by prodding him again about his earlier cryptic admission.
"So. Yes. I'm a coward," he repeated, trying to remember what he'd intended on saying.
She smiled. "You said that already, and I still don't believe you."
He joined her by the window and gathered his thoughts. Betty's gaze was curious and already accepting, and it gave him enough courage to continue.
"This is all pretty scary stuff, you know," he said. "I knew that much when I was with Sofia." He sighed. Sofia had hurt him; Betty was not Sofia. He tried again, leaving the past in the past. "I don't… I don't remember ever feeling this way about anyone before, not really. It's all new to me. It's new and amazing and absolutely terrifying, and the reason I'm a coward is… I knew, Betty."
He reached to caress her cheek and she gazed at him with a mix of curiosity and sympathy in her eyes, silently urging him to continue. "I knew I'd fallen for you that night, and I tried to pretend I hadn't. I tried to carry on like nothing had happened, because it was a lot easier than acknowledging it, and because I didn't think there was any point…" He sighed again. "Except then it rained again, and all those feelings came flooding back, so I thought… why not give it a shot? The stupid weather idea was the only way I thought you'd give it a chance, but I had no idea things would get this far…"
"Nor did I," she admitted, speaking for the first time in his explanation. "I thought your idea was crazy, you knew that…" He gave a nod, and she continued. "But… I don't know, when we were in that alleyway it seemed to make so much more sense."
She could remember their conversation in the rainstorm clearly. Every time she had gone over it in her head, it had seemed even less plausible, but the insanity of it was always overwhelmed by the lingering memory of their kiss.
She sighed heavily. "You know what? The only coward here is me, Daniel… I wanted the rule to break as much as you did, but I was too scared to suggest it, because…"
Her sentence trailed off into nothingness, the planned explanation sounding ridiculous and pathetic in her head, and she looked away. Daniel placed a finger beneath her chin, raising her face to his again.
"Because..?" he prompted.
"Because I… I thought you'd reject me," she finally admitted. "I thought maybe you were only humouring me… humouring yourself… I don't know what I thought." She sighed again in irritation. "I couldn't believe it was happening… and then I felt myself starting to fall for you and I didn't know what to do."
"You should have told me," he said.
Daniel paused. They had both been hesitating too long in admitting their feelings for each other, and there seemed little point in dwelling on that now, when things were out in the open. Throughout their secret liaisons, neither had wanted to take things further than dinner, walks in the rain, late night movies and goodnight kisses, and perhaps that had been the problem.
"Do you have any idea how difficult the past few weeks have been?" he asked; she gave a fairly non-committal shrug. "Impossible," he said. "You're amazing, Betty. This has been amazing, and this heatwave… The worst thing is, I've forgotten what it feels like to kiss you."
Betty felt herself turn bright red, but smiled. A slightly mischievous glint flashed in her eyes. "Apparently," she said, "the braces get in the way. I wouldn't know."
With a small smile, he asked, "Am I permitted to jog my memory?"
She felt an incredibly familiar rush of heady passion, but this time was aware enough to control herself and not jump on him. There was something so impossibly adorable about him asking for permission that she almost lost control of her faculties.
"Oh, my God, Daniel – you have got to stop asking me that, or I will not be responsible for my actions!"
He took that as a more than adequate affirmative, finally indulging in the kiss they'd both been waiting for since his impromptu surprise at the office. For Betty, it was as though everything was finally sealed and dealed; she'd been waiting for this from the moment the sprinklers had gone off. Before now, every kiss had felt like a final goodbye. This was different – very much a new beginning.
When they finally parted, there was no anxious sorrow about when they could see each other again. Betty smiled and nestled herself comfortably in Daniel's arms, settling her clasped hands at the base of his spine, and he gave her a squeeze.
"I meant it, you know," he said. "I do love you, Betty."
"I know you do," she said. "I'm just… I'm still having a little trouble believing it. I mean, I've seen the kind of women you usually aim for and-"
He interrupted her by pulling out of her arms and grasping her shoulders firmly, but gently, to make his next point as clear as possible.
"Don't even finish that thought. You're the exact opposite of them, and that's the only reason I need." With each of his next points, he gave her a little shake to drive them home. "You're smart, and capable, and you make me laugh, and you brighten up every room you walk into. More than that, you understand me, instead of viewing me as a walking pocket of cash… and even if you do, I don't mind, because you deserve every penny I want to spend on you…"
There were unshed tears glistening in her eyes, but she gave him a small smile.
"And somehow," he added, "if I can make you smile, nothing else matters."
She shook her head a little. "I don't think I deserve you."
"You're absolutely right," he agreed. "You deserve someone better. You know full well I'm a screw-up, Betty… but I can only promise to try harder."
"You're not a screw-up, Daniel," she said, trying to reassure him. "You make mistakes, but you're a good person."
"I want to be better," he told her. "For you."
She couldn't find the words to say all the things that were running through her brain. Daniel had thrown her for a loop for the second time in as many hours, and if she had been in any doubt of where they stood, he had dispelled her fears quite effectively. Her heart ached with need and love and utter bafflement, and all she could do was wrap her arms around him again and let out a long, contended sigh.
After a moment, she spoke. "I'm glad it's stopped raining."
A/N: There, I finally got this blasted thing to end. Honestly, at one point I thought it would just keep going and going with no sign of an ending. I managed to sit on it, anyway.
So, my two-part one-shot turned into three parts, but it's still a one-shot. ;) I may do a few snippets of their Sekrit Romanss (:P) before the sprinkler incident, but we'll see how it goes. For now, I shall get right back on to "Strange Glue" before it's Christmas again and the damn thing is seasonal…
Let me know what you thought of this final chapter, if you would be so kind…