Disclaimer: I'm a fangirl, I just take scenes and rewrite them and add my own scenes in complement. It's all in good fun and I'm doing it all for free and to put smiles on my Getty Girls' faces, promise. I do rewrite some on-screen scenes, but no copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: Missing Scene Fic (MSF) for 2.14 – What happens between the fireworks and Betty's arrival home? G/B
Author's Note: A surprising thing happened when I began to type: my narrator suddenly understood Betty's perspective and not Gio's. I've never written from hers before and this was while not a challenge, certainly different. I don't think the emotion comes through, I put a lot of nuance in there that I don't think comes through, and I think it's very slow. I love the idea of this fic, but I feel like I bombed the execution. Needless to say, this isn't my favorite fic, but I do dearly hope you enjoy a little Getty before Thursday. :D
Betty stood at the edge of the sidewalk, covered in hot chocolate, hair tangled, glasses askew, and laughing genuinely, for the first time all day. She surprised even herself with her lack of embarrassment, lack of worry about the cocoa, disappointment in the night. The carriage ride certainly wasn't the one of her dreams, but she hadn't felt like herself since seeing Charlie next to Henry and figured if there was one Typical Betty moment, it would surely be falling out of a carriage.
She was fine, pride barely bruised and dress just slightly muddied, but really no worse for wear. Gio surprised her when he ran to the other side of the carriage with a horrified look on his face. He gingerly wiped some errant cocoa off of her cheek and she could only watch in silence as he apologized and searched for adjectives. She tried her best to soak some of the cocoa into the smiling pickle on his napkin when she noticed his tone had changed, had dipped into a kind of softness. Before she could lift her gaze to meet him, he began a dejected sort of reverie.
"You're such a great girl…you're so good and nice…you deserve an amazing birthday." She looked up, surprised. Was this the man who once quacked at her?
"Gio, it's not your fault, you did everything you could! It's fine." She meant it, too. It wasn't perfect and yes, she was covered head to toe in cocoa, but it really was fine.
"No," he argued. "No, it's not. I'm…" He looked up, scanning for a split second through his mental repertoire until he found simple truth. "I'm not a big believer in this whole fantasy thing," he began again, "but I at least wanted you to have a little bit of yours. I'm sorry…I wasted your whole night."
Her face softened. Looking into his eyes and at the wrinkle in his forehead, she suddenly saw not this leather-clad Gio, the owner of a sandwich shop with access to a horse-drawn carriage, but his disappointed ten year old self, stuck inside on his birthday, pushing cake around on a plate while watching the snow come down in unending droves. Her heart broke for this little boy and she realized almost immediately that their emotions had reversed. He was feeling her embarrassed disappointment while she felt his laughing ease. She couldn't explain it, but she needed to salvage his night as he had salvaged hers.
Suddenly, a flood of white-orange sparks began to pour from the scaffolding in front of her and her heart skipped several beats.
"No, look!" His eyes turned vaguely toward her, almost dumbfounded if curious. She grabbed his arm to turn him toward the light. "Look! Fireworks!"
Together, the pair marveled at the makeshift display, the true life of the city coming through in the clutch. Their faces painted in a golden glow, Betty felt overwhelmed with emotion. The realization of the implications wouldn't hit her for another few hours, but with the sparks flickering in their eyes, she smiled up at him, hoping he understood how glad she was that he was next to her. The corners of his mouth turned upward as he looked down to her, but he didn't register a true smile and to coax one from him, she allowed her head to find his shoulder. Physical contact bred peace, passion, and comfort—all of which she suddenly realized she'd always felt around him. Upon her head meeting the leather of his shoulder, she was immediately surprised at how comfortable she felt there, having forgotten what it was like to be with a man of comparable height. She felt him turn to her briefly and in reply, she nuzzled just slightly into the crook of his neck while they watched the construction crew perform their unbelievable magic.
After an immeasurable number of romantic, radiating seconds, the sparks began to die down and Betty stumbled slowly out of her trance with a smile still illuminating her face. Gio was the first to speak, still unsure.
"I know this isn't Central Park, but theirs couldn't have been any better, do you think?"
"Gio, it's perfect. The wheel couldn't have broken in a better spot." She giggled softly to punctuate, her endorphins taking over from the surprise and wonder of it all.
Gio's lips pursed inward, still unconvinced that he'd provided her with anything other than a long night of disappointing inconveniences and a freak but happy accident. "Yeah…I should fix that before we get out of here."
Betty clearly hadn't convinced Gio that her night was suddenly better than she expected it to be and due solely to him. She had a plan. "Gio? Hey…" She walked over to him, bent to try to lift the carriage wheel, and put her hand on his elbow. "Hey, why don't we walk? Just for a little while? I don't want to go back yet." Her eyebrows lifted in the center in a plea she couldn't verbalize.
Gio's brow raised in a question of his own. "You haven't had enough of me tonight?"
"Gio." It was simple, pointed, effective.
"Alright," he smiled. Finally. "Alright, I'll call my cousin and see if he can pick up Snowflake tonight. Grab a blanket while I call? You'll freeze out here."
Soon, the two had fallen into an easy rhythm, Gio's jacket zipped to his throat and his blanket wrapped snugly around Betty's shoulders. It was cool for an April evening, but Midtown had provided enough glitter to keep their cheeks aglow and their paces lit. After a long but amicable silence, Betty caught Gio sneaking a glance in her direction.
They walked a few more steps before she noticed he was looking at her again.
This time, he smirked his classic Gio smirk and this tiny signal of a regained self-esteem calmed her immensely.
"What?!" Her eyebrows raised, mildly unnerved.
"I know tonight wasn't what you imagined and everything, but for the sake of argument, if you could have any birthday gift, anything in the world, what would it be?"
Betty could tell by the wrinkle in his brow that he was betting himself, trying to guess how she'd respond before she did so. The perfect gift didn't immediately come to mind, though, and she struggled for a moment to decide what she wanted most, what would truly make her happy. She cycled through several contending possibilities before realizing what she wanted, what she ached for, occasionally cried for was:
"One more night with my mom." She paused, swallowed the emotion that had gathered in a lump in her throat, and turned her gaze straight ahead. The image was suddenly overwhelming and she fought to blink back a tear.
"You've never mentioned…" Gio's voice lowered to a soft murmur unlike any she'd heard him use before.
"Cancer. I was 10." Guarded.
"I'm so sorry, Betty." Genuine. He'd said this once already tonight.
"It's okay. What about you? Best real or imagined birthday present ever?" Her voice was light, easier than she felt, but if they'd kept on this path, she wouldn't be able to keep her composure and turned the conversation back to him as quickly as possible.
He turned his gaze from hers back to the sidewalk in front of him. He didn't need to think about his answer, but he held off for just a moment so it wouldn't spill haphazardly from his lips. "A pitchers' duel, drama, tension, and then a bottom of the ninth walk-off homerun in a come from behind victory." His eyes narrowed as he imagined the intensity of the game.
"Baseball?" She was curious in its simplest, most childlike state.
He gave a half-shrug to accompany his half-smirk. "As a little kid, I guess I always wanted a little drama and while snowmen and sledding were great…baseball is sort of the ultimate."
She smiled. She had never taken the time to care about sports, but Papi had always loved the Mets and to imagine a young Gio's face lit up with the excitement of a snowcone catch, all of that hair flooding from underneath a backwards cap wasn't difficult.
"No, Gio, I just meant…I didn't know you liked baseball."
He paused. "Well, we haven't talked for a while." The words were accusatory, but all she heard was hurt in his voice. She couldn't confess, not now, and she didn't know what to say next, so she said nothing.
They fell into a long silence, the only sounds coming from the city itself and from their feet on the pavement. Betty began to worry that she'd just undone the magic of her own night and that she'd hurt Gio, to cap the small disaster. Could she get the conversation back on track?
"Dark chocolate." Betty lingered over the words, savoring them, rolling them over her tongue as if they were the cacao itself.
He screwed his eyebrows up into a curious arch and questioned her from the corner of his eye. "What? Another birthday present?"
"No, I just…it's one of the things that makes me happy—like memories of my mom or you and your baseball game."
"Ah." He paused and she was sure it was over, soured—had they gone back to Snowflake, they'd have found a mouse. Suddenly, she realized her feet were aching and assumed they'd turn toward a subway station at any moment.
"Jack Kerouac." He said it as if issuing a challenge and though she wasn't looking at him, she could have sworn she saw his eyes sparkle.
"Hilda's peptalks." Her relief flooded through her words.
Her eyebrows raised in surprised approval. "Your chicken salad sandwiches."
He turned to her with pride and a wide grin. "Women who wear glasses."
She blushed. Deeply. "Gerbera daisies."
"Single malt scotch."
"Papi's cupcakes." At this moment, she realized she'd forgotten them that morning. Her expression fell.
Gio didn't notice, relaxed his muscles, taking in a breath to fill his lungs to capacity. "Night air."
She breathed in too, hoping the air might clear her mind. It had been quite a day. Quietly, she almost whispered "birthdays."
Suddenly, he tensed as the breath he'd just taken violently left his lungs. "Betty, I'm…"
"No, Gio…you were, you have been so…so sweet tonight, thank you." At this, she shivered hard, from either emotion or the cold.
"Hey…" he put his hand on her shoulder. "You're freezing. Let me buy you another hot chocolate?"
"Oh, Gio, I couldn't…"
"Come on, consider it a birthday present...a real one, no disappointment, no broken wheels, just cocoa. What do you say?"
Betty considered. She'd spent the whole night with Gio, in direct violation of her promise to Henry. She'd put her head on his shoulder, they'd flirted, she didn't know how much else she could get away with. But it was just cocoa, right? What could it hurt?
They found a small greasy diner with neon signs, red glittered seats, and all-night hours. She sat down at a table near a window and got comfortable while Gio went to the counter for the cocoa. When he came back, they sipped quietly and fell into a friendly rhythm. She told him about the first time she made tamales for Ignacio's birthday just after Rosa died. He told her about the first time his heart was truly, devastatingly broken, right before midterms in his freshman year at CUNY. They talked about work. They talked about Phillip Roth, Jonathan Lethem, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Suddenly, he smiled at her. "Have you written anything lately?"
"Actually, I've been submitting pieces to magazines all over Manhattan," She began upbeat until she realized she'd have to continue. "…I'm getting a lot of rejection letters."
"How'd the Phil Roth article go?"
She considered his face, realizing for the first time that she'd stopped seeing him just after she wrote that article. "It went okay…I was actually proud of it, after I started to see things differently. Thanks for helping me out with that, by the way."
"You're welcome. But they didn't publish your article? I actually…I checked the newsstands, but I didn't see anything."
She was taken aback that he'd cared enough to actually pick up a MODE magazine. It embarrassed her, not least of all because she knew she'd hurt him by staying away. "No, I..Alexis decided not to..anyway."
He took a long sip of his cocoa. "You'll get published, Betty. If that's what you want to do, if you're passionate about it, then don't stop until you're there. By the way…" His smile forced his words out quickly. "Thanks for getting me fired in the Fall."
When he noticed her cheeks flush to match her glasses, he explained. "No, seriously, Betty. My deli's doing well, I love what I'm doing and in your way, you definitely had a part in that."
Betty smiled, suddenly understanding their first meeting in a different way and then promptly blushing. Again. To hide her face, she put her mug back to her lips and took her last long sip of cocoa and yawned widely.
Watching her intently, Gio asked gently "Should I get you home?"
Betty looked at her watch and then up at Gio, visibly reluctant to be transported back to reality, back to Charlie's arrival, and even back to Henry. "Yeah," she admitted slowly. "I should probably get back."
With his hand on her back, Gio guided Betty down into the G-train and they sat silently on the ride back into Jackson Heights. At this hour, the train car was empty except for them, but neither spoke, savoring instead the last few moments of what had turned out to be a sweetly romantic evening.
Their silence was maintained until Gio stopped their walk short, three houses from the Betty's, "in case Henry's inside." Betty nodded and turned to hug him slightly awkwardly. "Gio? Thank you for tonight. Reality is pretty good." She smiled warmly.
He bowed his head slightly toward her and smiled just slightly. "Happy birthday, Betty" he repeated once again quietly before turning to walk away.
She quickly climbed the steps to the porch and stood with her back toward the house until the light shining off of his jacket became fainter, fainter, and disappeared. She took a deep breath and sat down on the steps with her arm linked through the cast iron railing. She didn't know what tonight meant and she didn't know what tomorrow might bring. She didn't know whether to tell Henry what happened or if so, how she could lie and tell him she felt nothing. Come to think of it, she didn't know if she really cared to lie or to keep the peace.
It was late, though, she was tired, cold, and she would figure it out in the morning. For now, she slowly rose, took another deep breath of Gio's favorite night air and turned the doorknob.