Title: "Silent Night"
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 2,008
Characters: Daniel/Betty

Spoilers: Everything up to 4.09 "Be-Shure"
Summary: It's Christmas Eve when Daniel suddenly realises his true feelings for Betty. "He loves her. Loves his best friend, confidante, some time saviour; loves that irrepressible girl from Queens who's taught him so much without really trying."
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, just borrowing. All ABC's and Silvio Horta's. I am playing, so do not sue me, please.
Author's Notes: So this came out of a discussion over at the LJ community for daniel_betty about how Detty could potentially get together.

Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

"Silent Night"

By Viv

It's been a year like no other and Daniel Meade, for one, is glad to see it go out with a whimper rather than a bang.

He sips champagne but doesn't really taste it. Doesn't really see his carousing employees drunk on good spirits, in all senses of the word, from his perch on the mezzanine balcony.

Meade Publications had recovered most of the money lost from Connor Owen's sensational embezzlement courtesy of Wilhelmina, since reinstalled as Mode's Creative Director. Together with Daniel and his mom, they had managed to buy out Cal Hartley's controlling stake in Meade.

The takeover had been frenetic, sucking most of Daniel's thoughts and energy – just the way he had wanted it. Losing Molly had been devastating and eve now he can barely suppress a flinch at her memory; the very definition of bittersweet.

There had been changes as part of the takeover. Matt Hartley had departed along with his father's other minions and while Daniel wasn't partial to the guy, he had been Betty's boyfriend which had carried a lot of weight with Daniel.

But they had called it quits not long after Matt had left the country to take charge of some Hartley interests in Paris and yeah, Daniel had been annoyed about that. He doesn't want to be the pot calling the kettle anything and he's not exactly sure what went down exactly between them, but Matt's departure had made Betty sad and as far as Daniel was concerned, that was not anacceptable state of affairs. Especially just before Christmas.

"Enjoying yourself?"

Betty's newly visible teeth gleam under the chandeliers. She should be having fun, it's the Mode Christmas party to end all parties with free booze and entertainment and it's like all the redundancies and craziness over the last year never happened.

But he can tell Betty isn't having fun, not really. She puts up a good front for friends and family but lately Daniel has discovered he can tell, reallytell, what the real deal is with this perplexing friend of his.

"Same as you, I suspect." His smile is as grim and cheerless as her own as he looks out over the swanky ballroom. It's no more old world charm than Daniel is, but it is the hippest, trendiest new hotel in town, not that he cares.

He tries alleviating the mood by bumping into her playfully, watches as her champagne almost tips over her glass.

"Daniel!" She doesn't smile at first so he keeps doing it, until he gets the reaction he's looking for. "Okay, okay, I get it. We're both having a sucky time."

"Yes we are." He ditches his glass on the stone railing. "But that doesn't mean we have to keep having a sucky time."

"Oh?" She mirrors him by placing her champagne glass down, brown eyes glinting with mischief. "What do you have in mind?"

"Who says I have something in mind? I was merely making a suggestion. You're the brains behind the operation, remember?"

"Come on Daniel, I know you."

She's given him more credit than he's due because he doesn't actually have a suggestion at all. But he surprises himself and comes up with one on the spur of the moment.

"Why don't we go back to my place?"

He sees her bugged eyed look, interprets his own words in his head and realises he's a bit of an idiot because that is not what he meant. "Oh no, I meant – not that. I mean, you know."

He looks on expectantly but she shakes her head. He's relieved to find proof she can't actually read his mind.

"You know, we could just chill out or something. Watch a movie. I just got a brand new entertainment system, you have to see it, the sub-woofer is awesome and the pixels on the screen are just out of his world."

"Gee Daniel, you really know how to persuade a girl." She's crossed her arms over her chest but she isn't displeased with the suggestion. "All right, why not. Let me grab our coats from the cloakroom and I'll meet you out front?"

He's about to suggest the opposite; he's the gentleman (in training) but she doesn't wait for his agreement before rushing off, which is such a Betty thing to do. She knows what she wants and goes for it and he's reminded again of how confident and sure this Betty is to the one he had hired as his assistant.

If someone had told him then that Betty would be one of his closest friends now – probably his best friend – well, he probably would have thought his future self was on an unnatural high.

He doesn't have to wait by the ballroom doors for long; it's probably too early for people to actually leave the party which is why she had no issues with the cloakroom.

"Okay, I'm ready." He watches as she throws her coat haphazardly on, the way she always does. Her collar is askew, so he smoothes it down for her. "Thanks."

"No problems." He's offhand with his response, but the action, instinctive as it was, surprises him. The last time he had done that, been so familiar with a person was, with, well, Molly.

He snatches a glance at Betty as they wait for his town car. She's smoothed down his shirts and re-tied his ties and picked outfits that made his eyes pop, but he had never thought about returning the favour. This feeling was strange, and new. But not entirely uncomfortable.

"Hey do you mind if we grab some actual food on the way back? You know your fridge doesn't actually have anything edible left, right?"

Daniel should be affronted by her assumption, but he's not. Mainly because she's absolutely right. "I won't even dignify that with a response."

She railroads on, smile wide. He watches her keenly, fascinated for no actual reason whatsoever.

"Carl, can we make one stop please? The usual place?"

When had Betty gotten onto a first name basis with his driver? And where on Earth is the 'usual place'?

"Not a problem Betty."

The 'usual place' turns out to be a cute little pizzeria a few blocks from his apartment, a place that he never even knew existed. How is it that she knows his neighbourhood better than he does?

"Why do you look so surprised, Daniel? All those times I brought pizza over, you thought I brought them all the way from Queens?"

He shrugs, has no idea what to say. Daniel's mind really is blank sometimes.

He's relieved when they step into his apartment, only because he knows the cleaner had come just that day and he's had no chance to actually make his usual mess for Betty's disapproval. He's been much neater since living with Molly but he finds himself reverting to his bachelor ways sometimes.

She's already on the couch when he reappears with two bottles of champagne, waving one in each hand. "Look what I found in the fridge. Something that's actually edible."

"Daniel I'm going to get drunk on that. And it's not edible, it's ... a bottle of champagne."

He ignores her jibe. "Betty, it's Christmas Eve. Live a little." He runs back to the kitchen to fetch some glasses.

She's already tucked into her first slice of pepperoni pizza when he returns, starts filling their glasses. "Why do you have The Devil Wears Prada?" She waves the DVD in his face like it's evidence of some crime he hasn't committed yet.

"What do you mean?" He hands her glass to her, brimming. "Do I need a reason to own a DVD?"

"Well maybe you do, for this one. It's the ultimate chick movie and the last time I checked, you're not a chick."

"No I'm not." They toast and their glasses clink merrily and he can't explain it, but he's starting to enjoy himself already. "It was Molly's."

The smile drops from Betty' s face. "I'm sorry, Daniel." She moves to put the DVD down but he stops her.

"Do you want to put it in? It's actually pretty funny. Meryl Streep as Anna Wintour has nothing on Wilhelmina."

They share a smile at the thought and Daniel remembers later it's the first time he can think of Molly without the sharp pain of her loss weighing his memories of her down.

"Are you okay?" Betty's eyes are all concern and he tries reassuring her that yes, he's okay. Everything's going to be okay for him.

He puts his arm around her, gives her a quick squeeze. "I'm fine. Let's watch the movie. I think you'll find the Ann Hathaway character really ... familiar."

He thinks about Molly and how much of a guilty pleasure this movie had been for her, imagines her reactions and laughter as he watches it through her eyes for the first time.

It's how he loses track of time and how much champagne he and Betty consumes; one moment he remembers two full bottles and the next, well, they're empty. "We're out."

Daniel thinks she's too engrossed in the movie to respond but on closer inspection her eyes are glazed. He knows that look, he has a PhD in it; it's the hazy, clouded look of someone who's had too much to drink.

He gently removes the champagne flute from her hand, places it on the table quietly. She's half leaning against him so his movement stirs her momentarily. He whispers something reassuring, can't remember what exactly but he thinks it was something to do with cleaning up and sleeping and she snuggles back into him with a contented sigh that he doesn't want to admit melts something inside him.

The light is dim but it's like suddenly he sees her in a whole new light, bright and comforting. He can't pinpoint it for a while but when he's gently placing a throw over Betty's sleeping form, it suddenly hits him.

Betty is comfort and reassurance to him, someone he feels safe with. Being with her is like – coming home.

His eyes widen and he swallows once, very slowly, trying to digest his realisation. Betty has become family as much as his mom and Alex and Molly. How and when exactly this had happened he doesn't know nor cares at the moment.

Daniel is a guy and a prosaic one at that, but even he isn't stupid enough to miss the point. The point being – he loves her. Loves his best friend, confidante, some time saviour; loves that irrepressible girl from Queens who's taught him so much without really trying.

The thought should shock him, but it doesn't. It'll probably freak him out in the cold light of day, but on Christmas Eve with the heat blazing and the snow falling outside, the end of The Devil Wears Prada playing silently in the background, it doesn't faze him one bit.

"Merry Christmas, Betty."

He leans over and makes sure she's fast asleep before gently brushing her bangs off her face. Takes her hand gently in his and curves them around his waist. He settles next to her, likes the warmth of her body against his. He stretches his legs out onto the coffee table, switches the TV off with the remote. He brings his arm around her shoulders, careful to not disturb her sleep.

Betty tightens her grip, snuggles closer to him with an almost inaudible sigh.

It's the only response he gets to his Christmas well wishes, but Daniel doesn't mind one bit as he closes his eyes, and sleeps.