Title: "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly"
Word Count: 4,311
Summary: "He doesn't tell her – not for a long time at least – that she's somehow become his best friend." How Daniel and Betty's friendship changes and transitions through the years, from Daniel's POV.
Spoilers: Everything to 3.06, AU after that.
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, just borrowing. All ABC's and UB creators. I am playing so do not sue me, please.
Author's Notes: Hello from a newbie, my humble first offering to the Detty fandom. I've written for other shows of course, but it really took me a while to get going with Detty. I really like the direction Detty is going at the moment though, which kicked my muse into gear. I'm eager to get feedback on how accurately (or not) the characterisations are.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
~ I ~
They've seen each other at their best and worst; at the crest of the highest highs and at the dip of the lowest lows.
Well, for him anyway. Daniel Meade doesn't remember a time when, even at her lowest, Betty didn't come out on the other side smelling of roses and something different, something unique. Something her.
He doesn't tell her – not for a long time at least – that she's somehow along way become his best friend. Who would have believed it all those years ago when his dad had force-fed her into his life?
Not his father certainly, even if he had been the architect of the greatest innovation in the history of Daniel's life; had the lucky foresight to inject the rationality and brilliance otherwise known as Betty Suarez.
She's eating a cream cheese bagel at the moment, eyes shining in pure joy at the taste. Gives him a happy wave through the window that serves as a notional partition between Co-Chief Editor and Personal Assistant, boss and employee, and even in this moment of rare introspection Daniel can't help but give a tiny smile back.
The glass is as transparent and flimsy as reality, because if he has anything to tell her she'll know anyway and come rushing in; if she wants to tell him something he somehow knows, is able to straighten and brace for the shock of hurricane Betty on her latest quest to make the world a better place seconds before it decides to arrive in a flurry of kaleidoscopic colour.
He likes his life at the moment, can say for the first time he's finally putting his past behind him. His mother's not in jail, he and Wilhelmina have a strange, truce-like period of inactivity that's lasted more than a day and he's finally able to espouse an opinion on a layout without feeling insecure about it. He's even somewhat reconciled to the birth of his half-brother; the little guy can't help who his mother is just as Daniel can't help who his father was.
He visits DJ in France when he can; they still have a bond although that's beginning to fray a little at the edges. And if news of Alexis moving closer to DJ and his grandparents bothers Daniel just a little too much, he powers over the trough with some good old fashioned drowning himself in work.
In short, life is good. Stable. Quiet. But not boring.
Betty finishes her bagel and he can tell in a moment or two she's going to rush in with a list of things on his to-do list that must be done by the end of today.
He straightens, and braces for the onslaught.
He remembers all too vividly the day she quits her job.
He's devastated of course. Knew this day would come eventually; he had never expected her to be his assistant for the rest of her life. She's too bright, too smart and too talented for him to want that.
But still. When it comes, he isn't prepared. Has no time to brace and the full shock of it leaves him incapable of forming the right words at the crucial juncture.
"Daniel? Are you … please say something. Are you okay with this?" She's anxious and worried and just like Betty, she's concerned about him when by rights she should be overjoyed at starting the next phase in her life. She's still going to be at Meade Publications, still going to work in the same building. They'll run into each other in the lift and she probably will still be thoughtful enough to have a cinnamon twist (or two) for him. He imagines she'll still want to drop by now and then to talk about stuff. What kind of 'stuff' he can't fathom at the moment but he anchors to that thought and suddenly he's able to function again.
But it won't be the same and they both know it. It's the end of an era; same Betty, new job, new life.
And then it hits him.
Daniel doesn't know whether he'll be okay without her to manage his life for him.
Which is stupid and absurd. He's a grown man, he shouldn't need her to manage anything for him, let alone the sum total of his life. But she's more than just his assistant of course; everyone knows it. Maybe he hadn't known it for a while but he certainly does now. She's seen him through the good, the bad and the ugly and still wants to be his friend.
That's real friendship; even an emotionally stunted dunce like Daniel recognises that.
He opens and closes his mouth one last time; beginning to draw his thoughts together now into some form of coherence. Aims for a careful but not-nonchalant tone. "Of course I am Betty." He needs the emphasis to convince himself, maybe. "I'm so happy for you. You deserve it." His voice softens involuntarily and yes, he really does feel it this time, he really is happy for her. "I'm really happy for you."
"Thank you Daniel. Thank you for being so wonderful about this."
He stands, finds her already there in front of him and wraps her in a hug. She's conditioned him to giving hugs now, although he'll never be as free with them as she is. He is a man, after all.
He decides he likes how her eyes shine when she's happy. He's genuinely happy for her and is proud he's thinking of someone else besides himself for once (if the latter thought negates the former he ignores it).
He doesn't know why the look in her eyes makes his stomach bubble with warmth, but it does. He puts it down to the chilli he had at lunch.
Daniel is more relieved than he can express when Betty continues to fly into his office unannounced even after she's moved out of his professional life. He rather enjoys her visits although he sometimes pretends he doesn't welcome the interruption; it's hard to tell whether she buys his grumpy early morning façade sometimes.
The first time they purposely have lunch together, it's in a small, homespun diner a few blocks from the office. He guesses it's a milestone of sorts that he's going out of his way to clear time in his schedule to have lunch with her; the distinction is important although if anyone asked, he wouldn't have been able to tell them why.
He doesn't know the diner, not that he's surprised at his lack of knowledge. For someone born and bred in Manhattan he's lived a pretty insular existence. All soirees and parties and the rich and the famous, but never the simpler pleasures that can be derived from life.
It's then that he realises; it's what he has Betty for. To introduce him to the smaller things that would otherwise make a person's life whole. Those small pleasures like finding the perfect hot dog, the smell of New York on a bright summer's day, snowfall in Manhattan against a clear night sky. The smaller moments that only mean something when he takes the time to really smell the roses, even if it's accompanied by the smell of exhaust fumes as well.
He manages to not make a face at the sight of the ramshackle chairs, the linoleum seemingly plastered to every available surface. He's less successful when he notices a rather dark brown blotch on the upholstery where he's supposed to sit.
"Relax Daniel, the place is perfectly clean."
He feigns offence; knows she's rolling her eyes even as he takes his coat off. "I wasn't thinking that. Give me a little credit, Betty."
She makes a 'whatever' face but drops the subject. Soon she's talking happily about her new job and life and writing and potential sort of maybe could be love interest – which cracks Daniel up because it's just like her to say 'love interest' rather than boyfriend or cute guy – and then she's looking at him with a slight sense of wonder.
It makes him self-conscious, it always does. "What?"
"No, it's just …" She's flustered, a little flushed even. "Do you realise it's the first time we've had lunch? I mean, as friends? Real friends? Not as boss and assistant – not that I don't count those, I do – but yeah. Friends. We're doing lunch. How cool is that?"
He almost smiles; almost. Makes sure his face is perfectly straight. "Really? I hadn't noticed."
"Well, I have. And I think it's amazing. We're transitioning, Daniel! From boss and assistant. Isn't that cool?"
She beams, and he smiles. Well, he's beaming inside too, just like she is on the outside.