DISCLAIMER: "Ugly Betty" is copyrighted to ABC Studios. I retain rights to the plot, but not the characters. This story is meant for enjoyment purposes only. No infringement is intended.
TIMELINE: AU. Set in 'Gio Rossi Land' – the place where he always gets the girl
SYNOPSIS: A romantic, fluffy Getty tale for Christmas.A LITTLE HOT CHOCOLATE
It was Christmas Eve afternoon and Betty Suarez walked quickly down the street, her boots crunching on the newly fallen snow. As she hurried to her destination, she pulled her coat more closely around her and glanced upwards as the light flakes of snow suddenly started falling heavier.
Knowing that she only had a few yards to go, she sped up even more which ended up being her downfall…literally.
Upon reaching the deli she'd been heading for, she tried to slow her gait but found her feet slipping on the icy ground instead. Letting out a shriek of surprise, she lost her battle to stay upright and landed, face first, in an inelegant heap on the cold, wet floor.
Gio Rossi had just turned the sign to read 'Closed' in his shop window when he saw a woman hurrying down the sidewalk. The snow was getting heavier and he felt a pang of sympathy for her being out in that kind of weather. He was about to turn away when a brief flash of her face as she looked upwards made him do a double take.
It couldn't be…but it was.
Betty Suarez, his unrequited love.
He hadn't seen her in months, ever since he'd walked out of her life without a backward glance. Not that he hadn't thought about her, because he had. Every single, damn day.
She was almost outside the deli now and he kept staring at her despite himself. He really wanted turn around and walk away because that would prove that he was finally over her…but his feet were listening to his heart rather than his head and he took a step forward instead.
Expecting her to continue on, he was surprised when she suddenly slowed down. He didn't have time to think about what that meant, however, because it was then that she unceremoniously slipped over. Without a second thought, he opened the door and went outside to help.
Betty raised her head then spat out some snow and let out a groan. Lifting her gloved hand, she wiped her glasses to remove more of the slush then started to push herself up, only to pause, when she felt someone take a firm hold of her arm and practically hoist her off the ground.
"God, Suarez, it's been three months and the first thing I do when I see you again is help you out," drawled a familiar, low voice. "Looks like I'll never learn."
Finding herself back on her feet, she adjusted her glasses and automatically brushed herself down. How typical that the one time she wanted to look really good, she was a complete soggy mess. "Thanks, Gio," she muttered in annoyance before flicking the young deli owner and one time nearly boyfriend a quick self-conscious glance.
Damn, he looked good. The dark blue sweater emphasised his compact physique and his snug jeans had her temperature rising despite the chill air.
Not realising she had just checked him out, Gio bristled at her irritated tone and felt like he'd been dismissed. Just like the old days, he'd help out then be sent packing. "You're welcome, Suarez," he said with a touch of bitterness.
Hearing the slight edge to his voice, Betty hastily looked up and saw him turning away to head back into his shop. "No, wait!" she called out. "I wanted to come in."
He turned back and shook his head. "Sorry, I've closed up early today."
"No, you don't understand, I don't want a sandwich, I want to talk," Betty explained urgently. She took a couple of steps towards him then felt herself start to fall again. "Oh no!"
Just as her backside was about to hit the floor, two strong arms came around her waist and pulled her up. She found herself held tightly against Gio's firm body, her hands resting lightly on his chest.
He smiled sardonically and raised an eyebrow. "Just left the office party?" he mocked her sense of balance dryly.
"No! I…" she began heatedly as she looked up. Their gazes locked and her voice trailed off. "I…" she mumbled again. Her breath caught for a moment then resumed, much more laboured than before. The feel of his arms, the closeness of his body…she loved him so much.
She just hoped she hadn't recognised her own feelings too late.
Everything she'd passed off as friendship in regards to Gio, especially when she'd been with Henry, had actually run so much deeper than she'd ever acknowledged…even to herself. It had taken Gio dropping out of her life and leaving a huge void in her heart to help her understand that. And that was when she'd promised herself that she'd give him three months.
Three months during which time he'd have the chance to get over her if he really wanted. It was the least she could do considering how much she'd hurt him. Not a day had gone by during all that time that she didn't regret her unthinking actions towards him; but for once, this wasn't about her, it was about Gio and his feelings.
If he still cared for her then it would be the best Christmas present she could ever get. If he didn't…no, she wasn't going to think about that…she couldn't…
Reflexively, her fingers curled into his chest, trying to keep him physically close as she pushed away her negative thoughts.
Gio's smile faded as he stared into her soft brown eyes. God, he loved her. He felt her fingers curl slowly into his chest as though savouring the contact and tightened his hold on her waist in response. Hearing her breath catch, his gaze dropped down to her mouth and he watched in fascination as the tip of her tongue came out to run along her full lips…drawing him in.
The temptation to kiss her was overwhelming, but this time, his head overruled his heart and he loosened his grip as he determinedly took a step backwards, putting some distance between them. He'd be stupid to set himself up for another fall. She didn't love him and he had to pretend he felt the same.
"If you want to talk then let's go inside, I'm freezing," he said abruptly, remembering what she'd said just before she slipped again.
Unable to let go of her entirely, Gio took hold of her left arm then turned away and almost dragged her into the warmth of the deli, shutting the cold air out behind them.
For a fleeting moment, Betty had thought he was going to kiss her, so it was a surprise to find herself suddenly stood in the middle of the store. The swift change in temperature from freezing to hot made her face sting and her glasses fog over a little.
Taking off her gloves, she put them in her pocket then pulled out a tissue and gave her glasses a quick wipe. Putting them back on, she saw that Gio was standing nearby and staring straight at her.
She gazed back at him, her heart speeding up at his intense look. Maybe she hadn't been wrong after all…maybe he'd felt the same desire she had…maybe he was going to take her in his arms and…
"Your nose is so red you look like Rudolph."
She let out a small sigh. Maybe not. Hiding her disappointment at his comment, she summoned a smile and shrugged her shoulders. "I'm fine."
Gio raised an eyebrow at that. She certainly didn't look fine. She looked very wet and extremely cold. The protective male in him wanted to go over and hold her until she was warm and dry again. The rejected soul, however, reminded him he wasn't allowed then had him turn away and walk behind his counter. Feeling better now that there was an actual barrier between them, he relaxed a little.
"Do you want something hot to drink?" he offered, gesturing to the machine behind him.
"Yes, thank you."
Betty went to the counter then unbuttoned her coat and took off her red woolly hat. She sat down on one of the stools and looked around the store. There were festive decorations adorning the walls and a small Christmas tree with twinkling lights that sat in the far corner.
"Gio, this place looks amazing," she exclaimed, turning back to him with an appreciative smile. "I love it."
"Thanks," he replied with a small smile of his own. "One of my cousins helped me."
He turned away and started preparing her drink. As he moved around, Betty's gaze roamed unhurriedly over his body. With his back to her, she could be as voyeuristic as she pleased. A smile touched her lips when she noticed the subtle play of muscle beneath his sweater as he reached up to get some cocoa powder. It turned into a full-on grin when he bent down to get a mug out of a cupboard and presented her with a wonderful view of his firm, jean clad backside.
Head tilting to get a better angle, her eyes glazed over a little as the sight instigated a fantastic daydream. One that allowed her to slowly peel those tight pants down his muscular legs and reveal, what she had no doubt was, a taut, naked butt…
"You want cream on that?"
"Yes, please," she replied dreamily, still in the throes of her little fantasy. Suddenly, his voice registered on her consciousness and she sat bolt upright, embarrassment flooding every part of her body. "I mean, no!" she exclaimed loudly, feeling her face grow warmer by the second.
"Well, what is it? Do you want cream on your hot chocolate or not?" Gio queried, clearly puzzled by her behaviour.
Betty blinked and looked down at the steaming mug that now sat on the counter in front of her. "Oh, the hot chocolate, yes, yes, I'll have some cream please." Keeping her gaze on the mug, she watched him squirt some cream and muttered her thanks before taking a sip of the warming drink.
Gio eyed her with a frown, trying to figure out what had caused her odd behaviour. His musings were soon forgotten, however, as Betty put her mug down and he noticed that the cream topping had left a large, white moustache. He felt his heart begin to quicken as her tongue darted out and ran slowly along her top lip, gathering up the creamy residue. The appreciative moan that accompanied her action, hit him straight in the groin and he moved his hips slightly to try and relieve the pressure.
"That's really good, Gio," she murmured appreciatively.
"Uh-huh," he responded inanely, still focussed on her lips. She'd missed a small spot and he longed to lean forward and kiss it away.
Her tongue darted out again to lick up the last spot and he closed his eyes, his hands gripping on to the edge of the counter in order to physically stop himself grabbing her.
"Are you OK?"
Gio opened his eyes at her concerned question and shook his head. She was driving him as insane as ever and yet she was still oblivious. He couldn't stand it any longer.
"What do you want, Betty?" he demanded, his voice sounding strained.
Betty stared at his tense face and bit her lip nervously. She'd been hoping to work up to what she had to say, but she obviously wasn't going be given the chance. He seemed angry and she knew, considering the circumstances, he had every right. If the roles were reversed, she wasn't sure she'd be happy at seeing him either.
"God, Suarez," Gio ground out as he gazed at where her teeth were worrying her bottom lip. He took a deep, shaky breath, feeling a further tightening in his pants. What the hell was she trying to do to him?
"OK, look, this is kind of hard for me," she began.
"Hard for you?" Gio interrupted with a bitter laugh. He shifted uncomfortably. "Trust me, you don't know the half of it, Suarez."
"But I do, Gio," she informed him fervently, taking his comment at face value. She got off of the stool and stood across from him. "I know what it's like to go through the day feeling as if a part of me were missing." She placed her hand on her chest. "I know what it's like to lie in bed and have my heart ache, just wondering if the person I love has his arms around someone else now." She paused and continued in a quieter, more meaningful tone. "And I know exactly how hard it is to want someone, so badly, every day, but can't do anything about it because I sent them away."
Gio stared at Betty in disbelief. Had she really come here and just said all that? To him? A healthy dose of ire suddenly rose to the fore and he strode over to the front door of his deli and opened it. A blast of icy air rushed in but he determinedly ignored it and glared back at Betty. "I think you'd better leave."
"What? But why?" she asked in confusion. "Gio…"
"Look, I had enough of you mooning over Egg Salad months ago," he told her angrily. "I don't need you coming down here feeling sorry for yourself and expecting me to pick you back up again. As of three months ago, I don't do that anymore. You gave up that right when you let me walk away."
"You think I'm talking about, Henry?" she queried dubiously.
"Well, who else, Suarez?" He really didn't want to sound bitter but he couldn't help it. How much torture was one man supposed to bear from a woman?
Her tone was one of stating the obvious and it threw Gio. He looked at her as though she'd suddenly grown another head, his brain a whirl of questions and demands that finally manifested themselves as, "Huh?"
"I said, I was talking about you," she repeated firmly then took a deep breath before continuing, "And I want to know if you still feel the same about me? If we could, maybe, try again?"
There, she'd said it and now it was down to him. She just hoped against hope that she wasn't too late.
Gio looked away and frowned. She'd completely floored him. It was the last thing he'd expected from her and he really wasn't sure how to handle it. He dearly wanted to tell her 'yes', but a little voice in his head kept reminding him over and over again just how much she'd hurt him. His fingers had been burnt so badly last time, he wasn't sure he could put himself through it all again.
What if it didn't work out? It had taken all his inner strength to pick himself up after coming back from Rome and even though he still wasn't over her, he'd actually been managing fine.
He looked back at her and saw the hope burning bright in her eyes. Slowly, he shook his head, steeling himself for her reaction. "No, Betty, I'm sorry. I don't feel the same anymore," he lied.
At his words, Betty felt as if her heart had actually cracked in two. It was a physical pain. In truth, she'd never really thought that he would move on but that's what she got for still living in her own little world, she realised.
Needing to get out of the store quickly, she summoned up a small smile. "OK, I understand," she told him, trying to keep her voice steady.
She walked past him to go out the door then suddenly stopped and turned back. There was something she needed to do first. Reaching up, she wound her arms around his neck then leaned in and gave him a soft, lingering kiss on the mouth.
Breaking away, tears filled her eyes as she whispered softly, "Merry Christmas, Gio. I love you."
Without a backward glance, Betty then broke away and hurried out of the store onto the snowy street.
Gio couldn't move. His body and mind seemed to have completely shut down the minute Betty had kissed him. And what she'd said…
His heart starting thumping wildly in his chest and he found he had trouble breathing as her words repeated themselves over and over again in his head.
She loved him! Betty, his Betty, actually loved him!
He clutched the door handle tighter as it hit him that he'd just sent her away with a lie. At that very moment, she was walking along the street thinking that he didn't care for her anymore. And it was all because he'd been afraid.
What a stupid, stupid ass he was!
Grabbing his coat from a nearby chair, he headed out of the deli and slammed the door shut behind him. The snow was falling even heavier now and he squinted through the whirling flakes, just making out Betty's retreating form a few yards in the distance. Putting on his jacket, he strode as quickly as he could along the sidewalk.
Betty walked slowly down the street, arms wrapped around herself as she let the tears fall unchecked down her cheeks. She was absolutely devastated that Gio didn't return her feelings but was glad that she had finally told him her own.
She was so wrapped up in her own misery that she didn't hear the crunching of footsteps in the snow coming up behind. It wasn't until she felt a hand on her shoulder that she realised anyone was there. With a small cry of surprise, she turned around so fast that she couldn't maintain her balance and felt the ground slip away from under her feet for the third time that day.
As before, strong arms slipped around her waist and caught her before she fell. "Falling for me again, Suarez?" Gio quipped dryly as he pulled her flush against his body.
"I never stopped," she replied shakily, unable to believe that he was really there and holding her so tightly.
His heart leapt at her words and he smiled tenderly down at her tear stained face. He raised a hand and cupped her cheek, gently wiping away a stray tear with his thumb.
"I love you," he said softly.
Betty gave a small gasp and searched his features. "But, I thought you…"
"I know and I'm sorry. I was just scared of getting too close again," he admitted with a shake of his head. "I didn't mean what I said. There hasn't been a day I haven't thought about you since I walked away. You don't know how many times I picked up the phone to call you."
"Yes, I do," she answered meaningfully.
They looked into each other's eyes and smiled. Slowly, they both leaned in until their lips met. The kiss was passionate and intense, the months of separation a distant memory now they were finally together at last.
They broke apart both breathing hard from the kiss and the emotions it had evoked. Gio felt her shiver and looked up at the snowflakes.
"You're cold. Let's go back to the deli," he suggested as he put his arm around her shoulders and started walking. "I can make you some more hot chocolate. You didn't finish the last one."
"Will you put some more cream on it?" Betty asked eagerly.
"Yeah," he replied, remembering the way she'd had to lick it off her lips. "And maybe later, we can find somewhere else to put it."
"Gio!" Betty exclaimed, lightly slapping him on the chest at what he was implying.
Gio laughed and bent to capture her lips in a slow, drugging kiss. He had a feeling this was going to be the best Christmas ever.