Paint My World . . .
Disclaimer: Okay so I think we've established that I do not in fact own Ugly Betty. Never have, never will . . .
Summary: 'A flash of red. A flash of a girl in a ridiculously oversized and outrageous Guadalajara poncho, crashing face first into their world – into his . . .'
Author's Note: So I was sitting on the window seat on a central line train in to uni one morning (for those of you who aren't particularly familiar with the Tube/London's Underground – it's the red line on that colourful little map), and this just came to me – in a wonderfully abstract haze of colour . . .
It hung there.
Amongst the chaos of clashing vibrant colours. A sea of everything she was.
That was one way to describe her.
So many other words, but they probably wouldn't have done her justice.
Her clothes were a mess of uncoordinated shades of the bright, bold and fantastical. But there they hung; neat, pristine and in perfect order.
It drove him mad.
His wardrobe most likely needed to come with its own hazard warning.
A pile of worn, clean, didn't matter which, shirts and trousers just thrown in – haphazard and careless.
Two lonely blue shirts were the only salvageable items that hung there on the bare railing – easily wrinkle free with no other items hanging there, packing them together.
Betty had given up.
She no longer opened his wardrobe.
She said it gave her a migraine.
He let himself a small smile of victory – success at long last.
"Have you found it?" Her voice easily carried up the stairs and into their bedroom.
Shaking off his wandering thoughts, he set his mind back to the matter at hand.
'A black cardigan,' she had said.
He was surprised she even owned something monochrome.
But there it was; hanging at the far end of the railing, forgotten and forlorn.
He reached out, carefully teasing it off the hanger. Once free he draped it over his arm, moving to shut the mirrored wardrobe door close. But something had caught his eye – the door staying exactly as it had been.
Frozen in time.
A flash of red.
A flash of a girl in a ridiculously oversized and outrageous Guadalajara poncho, crashing face first into their world – into his.
And he saw her.
Bright eyed and impossibly eager.
Notebook in hand, pen ready – so innocent and untarnished by the true realities of the cruel, cut-throat world she lived in.
He wondered if she ever regretted walking into that building that morning so very long ago.
Had she changed?
Or had he?
What he did know was this: he had never regretted one second of it.
He would never trade that red, ridiculous poncho for anything.
It would stay there.
Years would go by, gathering dust.
But it would stay.
"Did you find it?" She had given up on him it seemed.
There she stood in the doorway, an amused smile playing on her perfect lips.
He held up the item in his hand and grinned, "Found it."
She shook her head, moving forward to grab the cardigan from his hands, "About time too."
He did his best to look indignant, "What, I don't get so much as a little thank you?"
Betty rolled her eyes in feinted exasperation, before planting a quick kiss on his mouth.
But Daniel wasn't ready to let her go just yet, as he deepened the kiss, teasing, and eliciting a throaty groan. It could have been a protest, but Daniel blindly ignored it, pulling her further into the room, and on to the bed.
"We should really get going," she said, but the hand that had reached out to shut the bedroom door behind them didn't agree.
The magazine awards ceremony could wait an hour or two.
Above all else, they fascinated her.
Ask any five year old and they could only tell the difference between two shades of blue.
The dark, primary blue of poster paint splodges across the breakfast table and the light blue of the skies scattered with candy floss clouds.
It had taken her another twenty years to fully grasp just how wrong that childhood assertion truly was.
But it wasn't the only thing she had learned in the stretch of three seconds.
She finally understood where all the chick lit authors of today, and all the romantics of the world were coming from.
It was a glorious autumn day.
It was the season of reds, oranges, yellows and browns – deceptively warm yet openly beautiful.
But what she saw, only saw, in sleep and in waking was blue.
Eternal, bottomless depths of nothing but blue.
And in the wide expanse of sea, she saw colour and life. An intricate dance, an eloquence that made things so perfectly clear. And she didn't need to hear him say it, because he was already saying it. Had said it, so many many times before.
If only she'd stopped to notice.
To really look.
They smiled down at her.
She could do nothing but smile right back up at him.
She didn't need to say it either.
In those three endless seconds, she had learnt.
To say three little words took nothing at all.
The eyes really were a window to the soul.
And truer words had never been spoken.
"How many times do we have to go through this?"
He gave her a bashful grin. His eyes sparkling his answer in all it's mischievous glory – 'at least once more' they were saying.
She glared at him. It was a half squint really and only made him grin wider – not threatening at all.
"Ok, ok," Daniel relented, "How about half blue, half pink."
She looked up at him, now wide eyed and incredulous;
He shrugged, "Why not?"
Good grief, he was serious.
"Because that's your most ridiculous idea yet, that's why."
"Well, do you have any better ideas then?" Daniel asked, arms folded across his chest, petulant.
"Yes, as a matter of fact I do," Betty nodded, folding her arms, mirroring his stance as best she could, "Pink."
Daniel rolled his eyes, but couldn't quite help the grin forming on his face as he shook his head in defeat, "I say we cut for a break."
Betty smiled, before walking out the door, "That's the best idea you've had all morning."
She left him standing there, half indignant and affronted; the other half a hopeless lost cause as he smiled after her.
The Next Day
She'd left her cardigan hanging on the back of the chair.
It was damn freezing and she needed it.
She pushed open the door, passively expecting bland white walls, unopened cardboard boxes either propped up against the walls, or lying carelessly in the centre of the generously spaced room.
What she found, with a start, was neither.
She stood stock still, mouth agape as a gentle, "Oh," left her lips.
She felt him stand behind her. His arms wrapping around the swell of her belly, his face pressed into her neck, warm as he spoke, "Well? Do you like it?"
He grinned, "You mix pink and blue, and you get yellow."
"In which part of the world, exactly?"
She shook her head softly, before moving forward out of his grasp.
Her hand ran over smooth old wood; wonder and awe shining bright in the midst of the brown of her eyes, "When did you do all this?"
"Last night, while you were sleeping."
"You made this?" she pointed to the object in question, disbelief plainly etched in her face.
"Hey, I resent that. You don't think I can follow instructions?"
She flashed him a huge smile before looking around the room again – taking it all in.
Gone was the plain white of the walls, and in its place, bright, beautiful buttercup yellow, that brought with it only blissful feelings of sunshine and smiles.
The painstakingly built cot stood beside her – a new rush of emotion hitting her as it sunk in.
The tears were well on their way.
Sensing this, Daniel had moved to stand behind her again, holding her against him, his chin resting gently on top of her head.
"You think he'll like it?"
"You mean, do you think she'll like it?"
"No, I definitely meant he."
"We're having a girl."
"Nuh uh, it's definitely a boy."
Betty laughed, shaking her head, "It's a girl. You're a beautiful little girl, aren't you sweetie?" she cooed, her hands placed flat against her rapidly expanding bump.
"Care to bet on that, Mrs Meade?"
She turned her head, smiling up at him before placing a kiss on his cheek, "I would, except I don't think we should be endorsing gambling in front of her."
She let out a groan of frustration, before turning completely in his arms and dragging him down for a hard, long kiss.
That shut him up.
"Congratulations, Danny boy, you actually managed to pull it off."
Daniel, although slowly simmering away inside at the implication, somehow found himself returning Alexis' grin, a spark of self-satisfaction seeping through the words, "I did, didn't I?"
Alexis nodded, "Yes you did." A vision in silky red, a flute of champagne held steady in her hands, she gave off every vibe the elder, world wise and patronizing sibling.
Daniel had long realised that Alexis truly did care about him, and though she had the most peculiar ways of showing it, it was understood nevertheless. It didn't mean she didn't annoy him ninety nine percent of the time – but theirs was a strange relationship. And in many ways, that one constant, was a comforting yet sobering thought.
Daniel gulped down the last drop of his champagne, his gaze skimming over the scattered guests in the rather magnificent hired hall.
"So what's the party for?"
Alexis laughed, "Mode, you idiot; your, our, highest selling issue in the history of the magazine, heck, in the history of Meade publications."
Daniel shook his head, his hand reaching out a moment later to swap his empty glass of champagne for a full one from the tray of a passing waiter.
He took another sip.
"Daniel, take it easy with the alcohol, would you. I don't want you trashed before it even hits eleven."
He took a larger sip this time just to annoy her.
Alexis rolled her eyes, "You know I take it back. It wasn't you behind the success of that issue of Mode, Daniel, it was her."
Her, happened to choose just that moment to wander into his peripheral vision.
And what a vision she was too.
His chest tightened of its own volition, his throat unbearably parched, his pulse quite literally throbbing under his skin, his hands now clammy with what felt like dripping sweat.
"I don't think you appreciate her as much as you should," Alexis said, the barest, knowing hint of a smile gracing her red lips.
She, quite simply put, looked stunning.
A floor length, black silk dress hung from her curves effortlessly; the bodice coming in tight at her waist, the skirt coming out only slightly, but enough to flow around her. The soft skin of her shoulders was partly obscured by the thick straps of the dress that came down to give her sumptuous neckline a rounded v-shape.
She wore her hair loose, the waves a little tamer, but not so much that it distracted from her. And even in spite of the dress and the hair, somehow, she had still made those red rimmed glasses of hers work seamlessly.
She caught sight of him at long last.
Turning on the spot, she grinned, braces and all, before slowly making her way towards him as she wove her way through the many guests.
His heart lurched forwards, the momentum almost causing him to stumble in pursuit.
"You might want to do something about the drooling," Alexis whispered, a smirk hidden behind the glass of her drink as she took another sip.
But Daniel hardly heard her, "Hey," he croaked. Clearing his throat, he tried again, "Hey."
"Hey," Betty smiled, holding his gaze a second too long, before breaking it to look around her, "Wow, Alexis, you've done a great job with the party."
Alexis smiled, "Well we deserve to celebrate after last month."
Betty nodded, "True. I guess our hard work paid off, huh?"
"It most certainly did."
Meanwhile, Daniel stood there, his thumb running traces against the glass in his hand, hardly focussing on a word being spoken to even attempt to interject his contribution to the conversation. He could have, if he tried, but he doubted whether whatever it was that came out of his mouth would actually be coherent or not.
With Betty smiling like that, dressed like that, he was more inclined to go with not.
"What do you think Daniel?"
"Huh, what?" Daniel looked up at his sister, inwardly grimacing at his sudden inability to pay attention and fighting the urge to punch that smug look right off her face.
"Betty," Alexis repeated, "I was saying she looked beautiful tonight. Wouldn't you agree?"
He gulped inaudibly, turned to face Betty, which in hind sight he really shouldn't have done. She was now blushing a pretty pink; and the only word that could slip from his mouth was;
"She is, isn't she?"
A hand slipped around her waist, and he found his eyes meeting those of one Henry Grubstick.
He held her closely, his grin friendly but the meaning, the threat, clear, 'She's mine. Stay away.'
Daniel nodded, "Yeah."
Henry's gaze moved from Alexis back to Daniel and then finally down at Betty again, "I have some friends I want you to meet," he told her.
Betty nodded, "Ok."
With a small smile, which could have been laced with an apology, she turned and walked away from them; Henry's arms still possessive around her waist.
Daniel felt Alexis' hand on his shoulder – a supposed gesture of comfort.
But he felt nothing.
Instead, he brushed the hand away, and took another large gulp of his drink.
He welcomed the numbness – extinguishing the fire and leaving him with nothing.
"Woohoo! We are done!" Daniel exclaimed, overjoyed, as he lifted his hand up for a high five.
Betty dutifully responded – grinning wide.
He shut The Book with a resounding thump, pushed it back across the glass coffee table, and leaned back against his couch.
They were sat on the polished wooden floor of his apartment, side by side, legs outstretched in front of them and paper cuttings strewn over every last inch around them.
"I think we may just make the deadline," he grinned sideways down at her.
Betty shook her head, picking up the now lukewarm glass of orange juice beside her, "A whole four hours early. That's quite some feat."
She took a sip, before grimacing.
"I'm getting another drink," she said pushing herself up off the ground, and stepping over Daniel's long legs to head towards his grossly underused and underappreciated kitchen, "Do you want one?"
Daniel shook his head, "No, I'm ok."
She nodded her head, and he sat and watched as she made her way over to his near empty refrigerator.
She found her way around his kitchen with a natural ease, almost as if she could navigate her way blindfolded. The scene brought with it feelings Daniel had hopelessly tried to bury away for months now. The fact she was dressed in a casual pair of grey slacks and was barefooted didn't help. Did he mention barefooted? That just didn't help at all.
With a groan, he pulled himself up to stand, feigning the need to stretch his tired and taut muscles.
Betty glanced his way as she shut the refrigerator door; her glass now full of fresh, icecold orange juice.
She walked back to where they had been working for the past four hours, brushing past him as she sat down on the couch.
He was sure she was revelling in how easily she tormented him.
Her movement had been so deliberate and slow. The fact the contact had been entirely avoidable just damned her torturous streak further.
The tension between them had been steadily rising for weeks now.
It wasn't just him anymore.
If it was just him – he would have silently, nobly, soldiered on through the pain. He didn't deserve her – and his silence would be his penance.
But she had changed the rules.
And now anything went.
He turned on the spot, sat on the glass yet sturdy coffee table and faced her.
"Are we ever gonna talk about this?"
The glass dropped from her lips, the orangey-yellow liquid sloshing perilously close to spilling, "Talk about what?"
"You and me."
She was unbearably quiet; her teeth biting down on her lower lip as she stared back at him, the sight driving him stir crazy.
He leaned forward, "Betty . . ."
"I know," she said as she held his gaze.
She reached forward, inches away, her hand grazing his - silky soft skin - before she entwined her fingers with his and whispered, "I just need more time."
He looked down at their hands and nodded, "Ok."
If time was what she needed.
Then he would wait.
A small breeze hurried past her just then.
A few strands of her dark, thick hair dancing with the invisible wind.
She dropped her empty wine glass on to the checked blanket and sighed.
Plastic picnic plates full of half eaten sandwiches lay in front of her.
Untouched cut slices of cucumber were unabashedly discarded and thrown on to another plate.
She sighed again.
'Like father like son.'
Speaking of which.
"Dad! Let go!"
"Are you kidding? So you can fall over and break your arm, or worse your neck?"
"But I can do it myself!"
"I'll believe that when I see it."
"Dad! Let go!"
He stumbled backwards, petulant. The same disgruntled expression on both their faces and Betty could do nothing but laugh.
The short tousled hair, the exact shade of light brown, the same nose and mouth. Ben looked so alike his father, it was uncanny. But, as she had been told many times before, their son had her eyes.
Daniel argued it was why he gave into his son on more occasions than appropriate. Yep, it was all her fault, he had said.
She shook her head at him, as he huffed his way over to the blanket and dropped onto the ground beside her.
"If he falls . . ." he didn't finish the sentence, staring out intently, watching as Ben climbed up a rung of the climbing frame, one sure foot after the other.
Betty smiled, her hand coming out to rest on his arm.
Daniel wasn't convinced.
"But if he does," she continued slowly, "you'll be there to catch him."
He turned his head to look down at her, and after a moment gave her a defeated smile.
With a sigh, he pushed himself up off the ground and made his way back to the climbing frame.
Hovering underneath, he embodied the sight of every vigilant father before him; every unsure and self-doubting man who had once been in his place.
But he had Betty, and together, the two of them would be fine.
"You're doing great buddy," he smiled.
And, truly, they both were.
The words came spilling out of his mouth before his brain had even acknowledged that he was on the verge of saying the two words he had been juggling around in his head for days.
"What?" she asked. Mouth wide open, flabbergasted.
Which of course made sense entirely. And didn't deter Daniel in the least.
After all, here they were. Stuck out in torrential rain. Their clothes plastered to their bodies like a second skin. Freezing and bloody tired. Stranded and fuming. And the only thing he could say again, as he watched the water ripple down her bare arms, the drops catching her eyelashes and skimming the silky surface of her lips was "Marry me."
She looked at him as if he had sprouted two heads. Either that or become delirious from a torrid fever from standing out here in the rain for the last half an hour.
"What?" she said again. Mouth still agape and eyes unblinking wide.
Thinking he hadn't made himself clear enough, he did something so deliciously adorable. It was only of course adorable to those with a predilection for gushy romance, to anyone else it was downright crazy – and to Betty it was exactly that.
He got down on one knee.
His knee hit the large puddle of the sidewalk, soaking what was already soaked and therefore making not the slightest bit of difference to him.
"Betty Suarez, will you do me the honour of being my wife?"
She was silent; staring at him, the sight registering and finally sinking in as she whispered, "You're serious." It was more a statement than a question.
She was sure her heart had stopped beating, finding it impossible to keep up with her dangerously rapid pulse.
"I've never been more serious in my life."
There was never any doubt she would say yes. But the suddenness of it all had caught her completely and utterly off guard. And so she stood there; stuttering and staring like she had never done before.
He rose slowly from his position. His hands clasping hers, wet yet warm, as he stood staring intently down at her.
And then she couldn't help it. She grinned wide and shouted a jubilant "Yes!"
He grinned right back at her.
"Yes!" she said again, "Yes, I'll marry you." Each word coming out singularly after Daniel left frantically overjoyed and ecstatic kisses on her lips.
She grabbed a hold of his neck as she hugged him tight. He spun her around in the rain, laughing, his every fibre singing his thank yous for the woman he held in his arms.
She asked again, "You are serious aren't you?"
And he laughed again, "Yes. I'm serious."
And though she believed him, since she had no reason not to, it was only in the morning that it finally sunk in.
On opening her eyes to morning sunlight, the rain of the night before gone, leaving only small damp patches on the road and their ruined shoes as they had stumbled deliriously happy home, in its memory; she was greeted not by the sight of Daniel, but by the sight of a small suspicious purple velvety box.
She picked it up in her hands. She didn't have to open it to know just what exactly sat waiting for her inside.
But she did anyway; and it was just as stunning as she had ever dreamed it would be. Simple, elegant and priceless. A beautifully cut diamond engagement ring sparkling in front of her.
"I told you I was serious."
She quite literally jumped out of bed and jumped him instead.
Daniel laughed as he caught her. He slipped the ring on to her finger and whispered in her ear, "Do you believe me now?"
And she had no response to that except to kiss him firmly on the mouth and drag him back to bed.
A growl of frustration was accompanied by the slamming of the front door.
Loud stomping footsteps before Daniel all but kicked his shoes off.
Betty meanwhile sat on the couch, waiting for old misery guts to make an appearance.
And sure enough; "Argh! Can I strangle her?"
"She's your sister."
"She's a bitch!" he yelled, shrugging off his jacket and dumping it on the coffee table.
"She's your sister," Betty repeated, a wry smile on her face as Daniel collapsed on to the couch, his head falling into her lap.
"She's a tyrannical tranny despot."
A laugh escaped her lips as she simultaneously slapped him on the arm, "Daniel!" she chided.
He grinned up at her, his hand grabbing hers and brushing it against his lips.
"I missed you."
Betty rolled her eyes, "You saw me three hours ago before you left for your meeting."
"Three hours too long."
"Was it really that bad?" she asked, a frown creasing her brow as her free hand found its way into Daniel's soft hair. She threaded her fingers through it. Her minute movements lulling him to sleep as he relaxed, his eyes drooping closed, the white of the ceiling disappearing behind closed eyelids.
"Yes," he said, his hand still wrapped in one of hers.
"You know you should both try to get along."
"I try," Daniel muttered defensively.
Betty laughed, "If biting each other's heads off every second of every day is called 'trying', I'd love to see what 'not trying' is. And anyway, if you can't get along, you're not exactly going to be setting good examples for our kids now are you?"
Daniel didn't respond – having fallen asleep it appeared.
She tugged his hair.
"Ouch!" he woke up with a yelp, "What was that for?"
"You're not listening."
"I am too."
"So what was I talking about?"
It was funny how that one word had seeped into his subconscious. And it was no coincidence either.
He had expected her to shake her head, slap him on the arm, pull his hair again for not listening, but instead she sat staring down at him. Her loose hair curled around her face, a strange serene smile playing on her lips, and all the while he could still feel her gentle fingers playing mindlessly with his hair.
And with that one word he knew his whole world was about to change.
His heart was pounding ferociously, the butterflies in his stomach were whipping up a cyclone with their frantic movements and he could only stare up at her face in wonder.
"We're having a baby," she said with as much calm as she could muster; nerves fluttering inside as to how he would respond.
But she needn't have worried.
Turning his head in her lap, he planted a kiss on her stomach; and smiled up at her. His crystal blue eyes, blurring with tears he would never cry, "We're having a baby," he repeated.
And Betty let her own tears of joy fall for the both of them, "Yes we are."
"I think we have a problem."
Betty looked up at him. They were stood in the kitchen – she cutting up vegetables on the chopping board, he standing there next to her, back against the kitchen cupboards, arms folded across his chest and a fretful look on his face.
"What's wrong?" she asked, picking up the chopped carrots and throwing them into a colander.
"Ben's been raiding your wardrobe."
"So?" Betty asked, rolling her eyes, "He's four. That's what kids do."
"But he's a boy."
"Trust me." Betty said, "All kids are just curious – they all ransack through mommy's things."
"And you don't mind?"
Daniel wasn't convinced.
"You really do worry too much."
"Do I really?" he said, the intonation clear.
And Betty realised a moment later, why.
Their son had clambered down the stairs, excited and eager, to show off what he'd found.
There he stood at the doorway of the kitchen, a bashful, toothless grin, "Look Mommy, Daddy."
Betty opened and closed her mouth.
There stood her son. A familiar red poncho hung around his shoulders, the too large item of clothing dragging along the floor.
"See?" Daniel said.
"I'm Superman!" Ben said.
And then it was Betty's turn to smile up at Daniel, and retort with a juvenile, "See? Nothing to worry about."
Nothing to worry about at all.
Daniel rolled his eyes. Admitting defeat in his excessive worrying and turning to his son, "Sure you are. You gonna show daddy, what you can do?"
Betty watched as Daniel ran after their son, and laughed.
That ridiculously oversized and outrageous red Guadalajara poncho was sure racking up quite a story of its own.
She laughed again - who would have thought it?
A/N 2: Okay so I have a number of things I'd like to mention:
1. This wasn't supposed to be chronological. It was supposed to be abstract. Flashes of D/B in flashes of colours.
2. To those who wanted a sequel to 'Hypotheses of the Unverifiable Kind' – one of the parts of this story was my little compromise. I'm sure you can all figure out which - grins
3. Myth87 – I hope the scene you asked for turned out the way you'd imagined it. At least a little, if not entirely . . .
4. I am, if it hasn't been established already, a hopeless, shameless romantic. 99 percent of this was pure fluff, and I'm well aware of it, but there was not a damn thing I could do about it. It kind of morphed into its own entity and I found I just couldn't stop writing. So I apologise for it being excessively long.
5. And lastly, I was nervous as hell about posting this. I have absolutely no idea how you guys are gonna receive this. This was a different type of fic for me altogether, so I would really appreciate any feedback you can give me, because I'm seriously biting my nails here . . .
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it,