A/N: I was blindsided. That's all I gotta say. I read some comment or something on here, I think, maybe in a fic, where the author commented on how Daniel probably found out where Betty would be, but at one point, I thought...wow...London is REALLY big...so how did he really know where she'd be? I posted this first on the Bachelor and the Butterfly lj com some weeks ago, meaning to post it onto here relatively quickly afterward, but then I forgot.
Thanks: To all of the B&B com members who answered my hastily posted question at a crazy hour so I can get this plot bunny exorcised! You guys are a great comm. I always get responses, even though I am so horrible about posting or commenting on there with any regularity.
"Did you know I was lost / until you found me?"
- A Stroke of Luck, Garbage
"Before you say anything, hear me out!" he said as soon as the ringing was interrupted by a click and a sharp inhaled breath. The listener on the other side of the line paused, and Daniel heard the slow exhale. He could picture the look, the stance, the caution on her expressive face.
"Okay," Hilda answered grudgingly. "You've got five minutes to speak before I hang up on your sorry ass."
"I'm in London," Daniel blurted.
Hilda was surprised for a moment, but to her credit, she recovered quickly. "Yeah, so?" she questioned when his pause seemed to suggest he wanted some recognition. "You want a cookie or something?" she asked. She wasn't really surprised he'd gone after her little sister, after all.
Daniel, for his part, was surprised at the apathy in her tone. Sure, he hadn't expected elation, but some surprise, maybe. "No!" Daniel answered, the fatigue making his tone sharper than it maybe should've been. "I'm here, but I don't know where she is!" he said it as if it were her fault, knowing that it wasn't, but unable to keep his tone neutral. "She changed her cellphone number, so I can't call her directly," he admitted, trying to keep the plaintive, frustrated tone out of his voice but certain he didn't succeed. "I used my contacts to find out where her new magazine's offices will be, but they're still building things and there's no one there," he confessed. "I found out where the magazine's temporary offices are, but the security guards won't let me up, and no one can even confirm she's there anyway," he continued, his tone losing any semblance of calm the more he spoke. "She doesn't have an assistant yet, so there's no one I can get to tell me her calendar or where she's going to be, nothing I've done has been able to get me her home address or her new cell number," he kicked half-heartedly at a garbage can with the flyer announcing the customer service number for British Telecom because it was obviously mocking him, and growled, "god damnBritish telephone company and its fucking privacy rules that are above money or wheedling." He stopped himself and took a deep breath, but looked around him and knew it hadn't worked to get the exasperation out of his tone, "and London is fucking huge!" he finished his rant. He exhaled, turning around to look at the street corner he was on and the people walking by. "I've been roaming around all the places I can imagine or that anyone thinks she might be at for days," he added, the anger and frustration gone from his voice, leaving behind only dejection and misery. "I can't find her," he said softly into the receiver of his cellphone. "I need to find her, Hilda," he admitted.
Hilda took in his words in silence for a moment and all he could hear was the noises of a busy city around him and the far away noises of a tv on somewhere in Hilda's new apartment. "And what do you expect me to do about it?" she asked finally, her voice cold and empty.
Daniel hadn't expected that her family would just offer up Betty's whereabouts, which was why he hadn't asked (No, if he were honest with himself, he hadn't known how to face them, hadn't wanted to face them with this desperation that had been building inside him) so he waited until the last moment, until he couldn't find her any other way. Still, he had thought that when he asked, when he let them know how he'd tried, they would tell him...maybe. The barely restrained anger he heard in Hilda's voice surprised him. "I thought--" Daniel started, only to be cut off by a sharp scoff on the other end of the line.
"You think I'm going to give you a way to get yourself into her life again?" she asked. "What for?" she pressed, without giving him a chance to answer. "What do you want in it, huh?" she challenged caustically. "She waited for you until the very last moment, pendejo,"(1) Hilda said, her voice tight. "I saw the tears when she realized you weren't going to be saying goodbye," Hilda continued mercilessly. "You think flying to London and treating everything like nothing happened is going to be enough?" she demanded. "Tch," she scoffed, "I bet you think you can just show up weeks later with your puppy-dog look in those big blues and that she'll just forgive you?" she asked. "Hell, knowing my little sister, she probably would, but if you think I'm going to make it easier for you, you've got another thing coming, you...you, hijo de la gran puta(2), so, if you expect me to tell you one word about where she is--"
"Hilda, stop," Daniel finally interrupted. He was so surprised when she did, that he didn't know what to say for a moment and almost lost his chance to say anything at all. "I know I messed up," he admitted. "I know it," he repeated, running a hand through his hair and looking around the busy street helplessly. "But I'm not here expecting everything to be the way it was, I just..." he sighed and sat on a nearby bench. What did he expect? He didn't know, not really. He only knew that he couldn't let things end in such a way between them. Hell, he couldn't let things end between them, period. He needed her in his life. He couldn't live without her. He really couldn't. He had told her as much before offering her the job, he just hadn't told her enough.
"You just what, Daniel?" Hilda prompted sharply.
"I couldn't say goodbye to her," he admitted, then, shaking his head and realizing that wasn't the full truth, he admitted it to himself. "I couldn't face losing her."
Hilda took a breath and started to speak, but cut herself off. "Why not?" she asked after a moment.
Daniel sighed. "I tried to do what I thought was best for her," he started. "I tried to let her go, because I knew that she was meant for better than Mode, I knew it, deep down, so I tried to let her go, but..." he trailed off. "I can't." He shook his head. "She's a part of me, Hilda," he admitted. "She has been for years, and I've known that," he assured her. "I've known she was there in everything I did, in some way, but I thought...I thought that everything I felt was just because she was my friend -- because we worked so well together, because..." he made a sound somewhere between a growl and a heaving sigh and ran his hand through his hair again angrily. "Because, because, because," he said derisively, sick with his own excuses.
He stood from the bench and began pacing like a madman. "I just didn't let myself think of her as anything more than that," he admitted, the frustration clear in his voice. "I couldn't afford it," he added quickly. "I couldn't afford to lose her, don't you understand?" he asked, but he didn't wait for an answer, just plowed on, his words escaping from his heart like water from a dam once broken. "She was always the most stable thing in my life, always supportive, always truthful, always..." he trailed off again. "So, I pretended I didn't notice the way my heart skipped a beat when she smiled at me, or how my skin burned every time she touched me or how hard it was to let her go when I touched her..." he trailed off, memories playing across his eyelids, unbidden. "Or how easy it was to tell her how beautiful and amazing she was, or the way I wanted to punch out each of her boyfriends at the slightest provocation," he shook his head and opened his eyes, looking blindly across the street, "and I let myself fall for Molly, and oh god," he groaned, admitting it to himself at last, what he had only ever allowed to be a whisper in his subconscious, "I fell for Molly because she was kind and warm and so much like Betty," he shook his head, feeling the tears stuck in his throat. He swallowed past it because he had to say this -- to convince Hilda to tell him where she was, yes, but also because he needed to clear it up in his own head.
"I can't believe I did that to Molly," he admitted on a whisper, "but I think I hoped she'd make me happy, and I knew I'd do everything in my power to make her happy, because I couldn't have..." he trailed off again. "And when she died, god help me, Hilda, but after Molly died, those days when I started really losing it, I kept having these awful nightmares, where I'd look in the casket and it was Betty laying there," he spoke what he hadn't spoken to anyone, even in counseling, "And it nearly killed me, and the only time I could sleep when when Betty was right there with me, because I could smell her perfume and the scent of her shampoo and I knew she was alive, she was okay, but it tore me up inside, because I couldn't admit to what it was, I just couldn't, so I called it stress or something and after awhile, we were okay, but..." he sighed and slumped back onto the bench. "But when Henry came back to New York just before your wedding, I started to unravel," he admitted, almost laughing. He stood up again and started pacing once more. "All the lies I'd told myself, all the buffers between my heart and her..." he trailed off and exhaled. "And then during your wedding...you said..." he paused. "You talked about how you fell in love with your best friend and it all sort of..." he trailed off, stopping his frantic pacing and looking up at the nearest building, a gray brownstone. Where the hell was he?
"Clicked," he whispered into the phone. "It all just...clicked," he sighed.
Finally coming back to himself, finally remembering who he was talking to and who had managed to be quiet all this time, he focused back on the sounds coming from the small electronic device pressed like a vice to his ear. "Hilda?" he asked.
"I'm here," came her voice after a moment, and it sounded strained.
He wasn't sure if she was pissed or something else, but he knew he had a limited amount of time before she started in on him again.
And there was one more thing he had to tell her.
One more thing he hoped he could make her understand.
"I love her."
Hilda exhaled a somewhat shaky breath and after a seemingly interminable amount of time, she spoke. "She'll be in Trafalgar Square around 3:30 London time," she said flatly. "She has a meeting in the area."
Daniel's breath caught. He opened his mouth to speak, to thank her for understanding, but nothing came.
There was the sound of shuffling papers as Hilda cleared her throat and when next she spoke, her voice was once again no-nonsense. "She lives at 10 Ambrosden," her tongue tripped over the strange word and she repeated it again, making certain to enunciate clearly, "Ambrosden Avenue, # 6, in Westminster,(3) which apparently is in London, how it can be both, I'll never know, but there you go." She paused for a moment. "You hurt her again and I'll find you, Meade," she warned into the phone. "I'll find you, rip out your spleen through your throat and feed it to rabid pigs, you got it?" she added sharply.
"I--" Daniel started, grinning and standing, still about two seconds behind the conversation -- back when she told him where Betty would be, back where he was thinking about how he'd finally be able to see her again, how he'd have another chance. He hadn't processed the threat just yet. He started to walk and was trying talk and to look at his watch only to realize he'd never changed the time on the timepiece anyway.
"Daniel, you got it?" Hilda insisted.
Finally, the parts after Betty's address filtered through to his brain and he stopped dead, swallowing. "I got it," he said, almost fearfully. He had no doubt she was capable. But then, he stood taller, squared his shoulders. "I won't," he vowed.
"Good, cause you know, Bobby knows people," she added menacingly. "And I'll find ya."
"Thanks, Hilda," was all Daniel could manage.
"Yeah, yeah," Hilda said, but there was a slight smile in her voice. "Did you get the address?" she asked.
"Yeah," Daniel confirmed. "Trafalgar Square at 3:30, and she lives on 10 Ambrosden Avenue in Westminster," he repeated. "Apartment #6."
"Yeah, that's it," Hilda said. There was a pause, and then: "Try not to fuck it up this time," she added as a farewell.
Before Daniel could answer, she had hung up.
Looking around, Daniel found a clock along the outside of the nearest tube station and grinned. It was barely 2 pm now...if he hurried, he could probably catch her in Trafalgar Square...
Without a second thought, Daniel sped through the tube entrance and sought out the nearest map.
(1) pendejo = spanish curse word. Generally used like an american would call someone a "fucker". Cubans like myself hardly ever use this word as it has a lot more of a crude connotation to us. The actual definition of it is "pubic hair". So, yes, Hilda is calling Daniel a "pubic hair". :-D
(2) hijo de la gran puta: Literally translated, "son of the grand whore". And no, Hilda doesn't mean anything about Claire. It's just a saying. Again, equivalent to the English, "sonofabitch".
(3) Betty's address: I went looking for addresses in London, in decent neighborhoods and found a loft to let on Ambrosden Avenue, but couldn't get its address, so I made it up. There might not be anyplace actually on 10 Ambrosden Avenue. But it is in Westminster.