Title: "Small Things"
Word Count: 3,007
Summary: It's only when they dance that Daniel notices the thousand small things he's never seen about Betty. Primarily Daniel's POV, with bits of Betty's thrown in.
Spoilers: Everything to 3.10 "Bad Amanda"
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, just borrowing. All ABC's and Ugly Betty's creators. I am playing, so do not sue me, please.
Author's Notes: Written for the daniel_betty livejournal community's Advent Calendar, Day 23. It's way too long for one part, so I'm chopping it in two (posting second part tomorrow). Also, RL made a meal of me this week, so I'm sorry if this isn't as polished as it should be. Merry Christmas!
Daniel doesn't know when they stopped moving.
One minute they're dancing in the darkened office to non-existent music only they can hear and the next they're still, frozen by the sudden heaviness of the moment.
It's not every day this happens to Daniel Meade, this paralysis whilst becoming more aware of every small detail with each passing second. He sees, feels, hears, inhales small things that would usually escape his attention but they exist for him in the here and now.
Small things like how Betty's hair smells of summer strawberries, the suppleness of her skin against his; her full eyes with that unusually inscrutable expression looking up at him like he's the only person in the world.
Her lips are slightly open, poised to ask one of her usual questions but it doesn't register as much as the sweat congealing in his palms. For no particular reason he's fascinated by the detail and the reaction it elicits in him.
His reaction is ridiculous for too many reasons to name. For one, he hasn't experienced the sweaty palm syndrome since Sophia (and he doesn't really care to remember that) and for another, this is Betty. His Betty yes, but he doesn't think of her like that. They're friends but he's painfully aware that in this moment, in the split second between reality and realisation, she feels like anything but his friend.
More than a friend may be, but definitely not less. Not in the merlot red dress Christina had altered for her at the last moment before the ball, Betty's dark eyes searching his face, the glow of her skin in the moonlight that streams through his office windows, the smoothness of her hair that's been tucked into a sleek bun at the nape of her neck, a style that's shiny and new and will no doubt be forgotten tomorrow.
Their eyes lock. They don't smile, her eyes aren't twinkling and he doesn't know how they jumped from normal to this; their bodies moulded together, his hands around her waist, his other safely entwined in hers.
He doesn't think he's ever felt so close to anyone and it's crazy because they're dancing, they're just dancing.
He feels her breath against his skin and he must be close to feel it, too close maybe but the implications don't register, not yet.
As one they glance to the mistletoe dangling innocently from the ceiling, mistletoe Betty herself had hung only that afternoon.
12 Hours Earlier
She's frenetically running through his action list like it's no big deal, but the longer she rattles things off the more alarmed Daniel gets. It's true he's picked himself up by the bootstraps since getting half control over Meade Publications but he's still Daniel, a normal (he likes to think) human being with only so many hours in a day. And no matter how much experience he's got under his belt it doesn't seem enough.
She stops, gives him a pointed look. "You've got a look."
He briefly considers denying the presence of the Look but decides against it. "It just sounds like a lot to do."
"I don't mean you need to do all that stuff right away. That's just your Two Week Outlook."
"What's –? Is it even worth asking what a two week outlook is?"
"Sure it is. It's what your Outlook calendar looks like for the next two weeks." Thankfully, she leaves off the 'you idiot' part.
Maybe if he ignores his momentary stupidity, she will too. "So, you're going to this charity ball thing, right? I know it's last minute, but we need some more people from MODE to go."
"Yeah, who knew people at MODE would pass on free alcohol just from the flu?" She frowns, puts down her notepad and pen. "Are you sure you want me to go? It's a Christmas industry thing and – you know." He stares blankly at her. "I'm not exactly fashion industry material."
"You don't have to be." He's surprised. "Betty, it's going to be fun. It isn't really about the industry you know. These sorts of things never are when they're this close to Christmas. It's just a reason for us to cut loose while donating stuff."
"So it's an excuse for rich people to feel better about themselves during the holidays because of the thousands of homeless on the streets? If you really want to make people feel better, you should volunteer at a homeless shelter or something." She rolls her eyes but she's smiling, so he knows she hasn't taken serious offence. "I don't have anything to wear."
He isn't going to take no for an answer, counters every objection as he tosses his jacket on. "Go to the Closet. Get something."
"Daniel, the Closet's got clothes for supermodels. And you."
"So, get Christina to alter something." He gives her a full blown smile, would have thrown in the thumbs up if he was sure she wouldn't yank them off in irritation. "I know for a fact there are plenty of size 6 dresses down there."
"I'm not a size –"
"Christina will find you something. Betty, just come, okay? For your soon-to-be ex boss?"
He thinks she's disconcerted by the way his playful smile suddenly drops from his face. They both know this will be the last Christmas she spends at MODE now that her graduation from YETI is fast approaching. Perhaps he thinks that once she does she'll be out the shiny, white door and will never look back.
She blinks at his hands on her shoulders, the earnestness radiating from his eyes.
"Oh, all right. If you really want me to." But her face breaks out into a slow smile.
He tries high fiving her but she shakes her head, no. Maybe even Betty has outgrown him in that, too.
6 Hours Earlier
"Betty, what do you think? The Armani or Ralph Lauren?"
She resists the urge to roll her eyes, forces herself instead to look at the two identical tuxedos Daniel holds up for her inspection. To her (very) untrained eyes, they both looked good. Like what tuxedos should look like.
She anticipates his next line of questioning; Daniel can be so predictable sometimes. "They both make your eyes pop, okay? Your eyes always pop. They pop like popcorn at the movies. Now can we please get back to this issue? That software virus really cost us a lot of time and we've only been able to get our graphics –"
Far from being mollified, he moves on to shirts. She watches as his brow creases in concentration, eyes deepening with indecision and what on earth is his problem?
"Daniel, are you listening? We need to get this to the printer tomorrow and we both know you won't be able to do anything after the after-party tonight."
"Give me a break, I've been in the office since 7 this morning."
"I know, I was here too. At 6.30." She thrusts a jam filled donut at him. "I got you these lovely chocolate and jam donuts because I knew you'd need the sugar rush for the rest of the day, remember? And I got you three cinnamon twists and three cream cheese bagels so don't say you aren't sugared up enough as it is."
Secretly she's surprised he's not already bouncing off the walls in a cream-cheese daze, but he's relatively in control excepting any clothing obsession issues.
He's momentarily chastised and looks like he's going to dump the ridiculous preening, but picks it up again with belts.
"Enough with the outfits! They all look the same!" She marches over, plucks a suit (learns later it's Armani) as well as a shirt, belt and tie from the mobile hanger. Shoves them all into his suddenly empty arms and pushes him, rapidly crinkling Armani suit and all, onto his chair, wheeling him around to his desk. "You have an issue to put out so snap out of it!" She snaps her fingers in his face for emphasis.
She hears him sigh behind his designer heap. "You're right. I should concentrate on this." The slight pause only "Do you really think the Armani makes my eyes pop?"
She considers it a minor Christmas miracle that she restrains herself from strangling him.
2 Hours Earlier
"That's – different."
Daniel's referring to the big ass mistletoe she just hung from the ceiling in his office.
Betty doesn't bat an eyelid. "Spare mistletoe from the prop department. I think they had to make it 3 times normal size for it to show up in pictures. I thought your office needed some Christmas cheer. It's really … bland in here." She accepts Daniel's hand to climb off the step ladder. "And is there a rule we can't put up decorations in here?"
"Occupational health and safety. But more importantly … what is oversized mistletoe doing in my office?"
"You never know." She says in a sing song voice. "You might get lucky tonight. You know alcohol and models."
He makes a distasteful noise. Thoughts of sex and Betty had never really sat comfortably side by side.
"I'm offended you think I need – you know – to have a good time. Besides, you know I'm over the model thing. I'm looking for something more real now."
The momentary allusion to Molly is so unwelcome he skips onto other, happier thoughts. He's not going to make the mistake of dwelling on Molly during the holiday of all times.
"So, ah, have you been to the Closet yet? Christina mentioned you hadn't been up yet."
She shakes her head slightly in the way that she does when she's trying to avoid owning up to something.
"I haven't gone yet. Christina looked really busy and … yeah. Busy."
Even a dullard like him can sense her reluctance. "It's going to be fine. Look Betty, if you don't want to go, I understand. It's not really your thing. I just – I'm selfish. I just wanted you to be there."
He's giving her an out and frankly he doesn't know why it matters to him either way whether she's there or not. One charity event is going to be as boring as the other. Maybe he's being clingy and needy, like how his (male) therapist said he did with people he's close to.
"No, I think I'll go. You need more MODE people and I still work here and besides, I need the break and free booze. So if you'll excuse me –" She scoops a pile of tinsel from the floor. "I'll be going to the Closet now. I'll have my phone if you need anything."
"Oh, can you get me –"
"I'm not getting you another cinnamon twist Daniel." She snaps, not even bothering to turn around.
She's almost out the door when he says quietly. "Thank you, Betty." He doesn't know why he's so grateful, but he is.
The smile she gives him is pure sunshine. "You're welcome."