Notes: Nicked this cool little writing exercise from elise50 over at the Daniel/Betty Livejournal community – except I totally cheated. I tried and tried to limit these to single sentences, but holy shit that's hard. I just couldn't do it, so most of them turned into miniature scenes. I also restricted myself to within-series moments only, which made it doubly difficult. But I kind of like some of these, and I hope you do too.
Some are a little raunchy, just skimming an R rating.
"You won't get far with that attitude," Betty tells Daniel when he crumples a layout change they've been poring over for hours, and hurls it across the room.
They hold a silent glaring contest. He loses, retrieves the proof, smoothes out the creases. She pats him on the head like a kindergarten teacher, flattening his hair. He bats her away, but doesn't really mind.
The day after her braces come off, Daniel buys her a pack of strawberry Hubba Bubba. Inhaling the delicious scent of double-dutch and summer vacation, she looks at him regretfully and confesses she doesn't remember how to blow bubbles anymore. Betty watches his tongue slip around in his mouth, past his lips sometimes, as he teaches her.
On their late-night jaunt around Brooklyn, somewhere between crashing the Muzzis' wedding reception but before deciding to check out the view from the Brooklyn Bridge, they pick up an orange and white striped stalker. Betty coaxes the tatty creature closer with a hunk of mushy vanilla sponge cake, delighted when it takes the bait.
"You don't know where that's been," Daniel warns when she scoops up the tiny kitten, snuggling it against her puffy blue coat. "What if it has rabies?"
"I'm too fwiendly to have wabies, you mean human." She hoists the kitten high, its orange face cheek-to-cheek with her own. The tabby yawns widely, baring its miniature fangs at Daniel. Cheeks rosy from two and a half glasses of red wine, Betty does the same, wrinkling her nose and showing off her braces.
After the Guggenheim, after the candy corn and new lipstick, after practicing all her new smiles in the mirror . . . Betty dreams. In burning, erotic detail.
She wakes up coming, but by the time she stops gasping and clenching, the memory of what set her ablaze in the first place is gone.
Daniel rarely enters the cafeteria, but he forgot to tell Betty about the fresh squeezed orange juice he craves every day around noon. Even he can't figure out a way work that into his get-Betty-to-quit scheme, so he fetches it himself.
She sits alone at a table near the back, ostensibly reading a thick novel. There's no way she can't hear the whispers or feel the stares.
He finds himself calling out across the room.
"Betty. Sorry to cut your lunch short, but I have a job for you. Top priority."
The whispers hush. Daniel bites the inside of his cheek.
"Sure thing, boss." Betty snaps the novel shut, and tucks it away in her tasselled bag, her movements quick and efficient. After a beat of hesitation, she dumps the remainder of her lunch in the trash.
Then she straightens her shoulders, game face on, and follows him out of the cafeteria, notepad and pen already out to jot down his instructions. He sees Amanda shoot Betty a dirty glare.
"Right. You know my dry cleaners two blocks over . . . ?"
One really bad morning, Daniel spends over an hour clicking through Betty's Facebook profile. He reads her most recent status update ("Shopping on Oxford Street with Christina McKinney – wish she would tell me why we're avoiding some place called "Primark"!), her old status updates, flips through the album of photos from her 26th birthday party just a few weeks ago. He right-clicks and saves a picture of himself feeding her a hunk of white chocolate-raspberry cake, the pair of them caught unflatteringly in mid-hysterics.
For now, he avoids the newest photo album, giddily entitled, "Just Touched Down in Londontown!"
They have over 50 friends in common, but it's the unfamiliar names he fixates on, like Darius Bramwell and Trina DiPaulo-Pappis. And aside from Hilda, Justin and Ignacio, there are half a dozen other people with the last name Suarez on her Friends page. Daniel has no idea who they are. Cousins, maybe?
He hates, hates himself for never finding out.
Betty worriedly blinks up at his foolish, gaping expression. "What? Why are you looking at me like that? Is something wrong?"
He laughs, feeling as though someone sucker punched him with a downy pillow. "Betty, you look . . . great."
She smiles at him in relief. He's the first person in the entire world, he realizes, to see this. It's like watching a sunrise: Familiar, and yet utterly glorious now that he's looking straight into the light.
"Oh my God." Betty flops down in the empty reception chair beside Daniel, fanning her red face and neck with a napkin. She undid her sleek updo over an hour ago, leaving her hair to tumble somewhat riotously around her neck and shoulders. "Who killed the air conditioning in here?"
"It's still on. You just can't feel it because you're heating up the dance floor," he teases. His own jacket and tie lay draped over the back of his chair, his top buttons and cuffs undone.
"Is that so?" She giggles, bopping along to the beat in her seat. The ruched shoulder of her emerald dress slips down; she seems not to notice or care that he can now tell she's wearing a strapless bra. "Come on. Break's over. Show me what else you've got."
Betty never asks him, not once – not even during the petty arguments and big blow-outs she's refereed between him and Alexis – if Daniel really, actually wants control of Meade Publications.
She understands that it's not the point. The two of them will deal with that part later, together.
Their last night in the Bahamas, Daniel invites Betty to join him and Marc at the bar for a few final rounds of umbrella cocktails. They're dead cheap here, and he knows how Betty loves her sweet mixed drinks.
Four mai tais in, Marc recites a surprisingly straight joke about a divorced woman who's a virgin despite being married three other times.
" . . . 'and my second husband', she goes, 'was an artist so all wanted to do was look at it'," Marc slurs, grinning around his bendy straw. Mortified, Daniel covers his face, avoiding Betty's eye. "'My third husband was a stamp collector', she says, 'and all he wanted to do was . . . wait,why did I leave him again?'"
Daniel peeks through his fingers when Betty bursts into peals of laughter, spilling her banana daiquiri everywhere.
The moment she pulls away from Daniel Meade's pretty lips, Hilda knows Betty is going to hold this against her for a long time.
In snowy February, Daniel ducks into a used book store while waiting for the town car to circle around the block. He doesn't venture in much past the doorway, so it's pure luck that the vintage, leather bound Shakespeare anthology displayed on the checkout desk catches his eye. He purchases it on the spot.
He doesn't remember when Betty's birthday is – or Shakespeare's for that matter – but he does remember Betty's glowing pride when she told Daniel that she was born exactly 420 years after the legendary playwright.
He'll Google it later.
"Shut. Up." Betty gapes at the two fanned-out tickets in Daniel's hand. "Shut up, shut up, shut up."
"Justin's really into the movies, right? Seriously, I've been to like five of these. I have no idea what they're even about anymore. You guys want to go in my place?"
Betty is speechless. She snatches up the red carpet premier passes, clutching them to her pounding heart. "Oh my God, I'm totally wearing the Gryffindor scarf I knitted in college!"
On their way to a meeting with Betsey Johnson, Daniel taps away on his phone, refreshing his email again and again to give him something to do in the silent town car. Beside him, Betty pores over his day planner, scheduling out his week with almost military efficiency.
It's her first day back at work, and he's not sure how to talk to her. He doesn't know what to do with this grim, sunken Betty.
Glancing over at the day planner in her lap, Daniel's heart sinks as her pen scrawls mindlessly across the page.
Miss him love him so much
Bring him back
B + H
What did I do wrong
NOT FAIR NOT FAIR NOT FAIRNOTFAIRNOTFAIR –
Gentle swirling hearts and flowers float beside harsh block print. Daniel watches helplessly as Betty scratches one spot over and over again, until the page rips right between his dentist appointment on Wednesday and Thursday's meeting with editorial. She appears not to realize.
Gently, Daniel plucks the pen from her fingers.
As Betty's expression crumbles, Daniel taps the glass and asks the driver to keep circling around the block.
As their plane tilts to complete its descent into Nassau International Airport, Betty's window view is filled with clear turquoise, deep teal and sparkling cerulean. The rich colours flood her with inspiration, although she doesn't know yet how it'll manifest. Probably as shoes. She doesn't have enough blue shoes in her new wardrobe yet.
She reaches across Amanda – passed out and snoring after six glasses of complimentary first-class champagne – and jostles Daniel, still dozing with his iPod headphones plugged in.
"It's my first time seeing the ocean," she whispers, mindful of the serious concentration required to land a plane.
His eyes remain shut. "You go to the Jersey Shore like every summer."
"That doesn't even count. Just look."
He sighs, but tugs out his earphones and leans across Amanda. The plane tilts again, and the sky and sea seem to blend together, the horizon line indistinguishable in all that blue.
Daniel looks up at Betty and smiles sleepily, his eyes squinting a little against the tropical Bahamian sunshine. "You're right. Very pretty."
Daniel showers and puts on some real clothes for the first time in two weeks. With a mind to help Betty tidy up the disaster he created in his loft while pretending to be in Rio, he steps out of the bathroom – only to find Betty staring into his bedside table drawer.
He freezes in his tracks.
Betty slams the drawer shut so hard the lamp tips over. Eyes wide, she clutches a stack of folded-up pyjama pants in front of her. "I, uh, thought that might be where you keep these."
Daniel has to clear his throat twice before he can speak. "In the closet. Second shelf."
"Can we put on a movie or something? It's just . . . it's kind of quiet in here."
Outside Molly's apartment police sirens howl, cabbies honk, and judging from the garbled swearing a fight might be about to break out. To Betty, it seems she can barely hear her own (scrambled, panicked, disorganized) thoughts on tomorrow's UN shoot.
"How about something Disney?" Betty asks.
Daniel finds Betty pacing outside her apartment door, clutching a heavy winter boot. She's wearing rubber ducky pyjama pants and a Queensborough High sweatshirt, her hair in two mussed braids.
"Daniel! What are you – oh. Right. That's still happening." After an awkward beat, Betty holds out the boot. "So it's like the size of my face. Help?"
Ah, the great six-legged equalizers of New York City. No amount of money can buy immunity from one crawling out of your drain or heating duct.
Daniel doesn't want to, but he doesn't want to see that look on Betty's face again even more. The one he just received as he eased Amanda's door shut behind himself.
He takes the boot. "Where'd you see it last?"
As Betty swishes her bubble tea around with the straw, contemplating two photos for the 100th anniversary issue of MODE, a thought occurs to Daniel:
In the four years they've known each other, this is the first time that he and Betty have been without a significant other at the same time (and not in deep mourning over a dead spouse).
When he points this out to Betty, she gives a comically mournful sigh but then adds, seemingly to herself, "It's probably for the best."
Tyler is six foot three, and Betty's chartreuse top is uncharacteristically low cut today. Glaring at them from behind a mannequin, Daniel adds one more item to his Stuff I Hate About My Stupid Stepbrother list.
Molly sways in the arms of her new husband, light as air. For the first time in weeks her belly isn't iron with dread. Even the constant crushing headaches have given her respite enough to enjoy the moment.
Resting her chin on Daniel's shoulder, she catches Betty's eye across the room. Betty grins and waves, and makes an exaggerated aw cute! expression at the two of them. Molly waves back, and wonders if she has the words to thank her for giving them this precious day. She doubts it, but she will try anyway. The sight of the quirky, admirable young woman fills Molly with a sort of relief about what's to come.
Molly has her beliefs, ones she can't explain to Daniel. He doesn't want to hear it, but she feels herself fading already, becoming a part of something else. Something larger. But she knows one thing as surely as she knows how to breathe and blink:
Even when she goes, she'll stay with him.
This is Daniel's second relationship in two years that has gone up in flames right before Valentine's Day. Literally, in this case. He can't even spend two weeks wallowing in misery with his face buried in Renee's side of the bed – that won't work on Betty twice. Besides, everything still smells faintly like barbeque.
So he puts on a festive pink tie, ignoring the creeping apprehension in the back of his head telling him he's going to die alone.
As Betty tries not to listen to her new boss murmuring into the phone with yet another model from yesterday's bikini shoot (he probably thinks it's seductive, but in her opinion he sounds kind of smarmy), she finally figures out the inspiration behind his bedhead hair style.
DJ is an inquisitive, bright child. It makes Daniel fiercely proud, even if he can't answer most of the hundreds of questions his son asks every day. He still tries.
When DJ asks about obscure baseball rules, Daniel Googles them secretly and then pretends to know them all along. When DJ wonders how many pods there are on the average Ferris wheel, they take their fourth trip to Coney Island in as many weeks to research the answer. And after watching Up, DJ wants to know if he collects enough fairground balloons, could he really lift off the ground and fly? So Daniel calls in a favour, and the next episode of Mythbusters confirms it.
But when DJ comes to Daniel with some earnest and wide-eyed questions about his dad's bedside table, where he was searching for a spare iPod charging cable, Daniel wonders if there's anything in her contract that prevents Daniel from handing this one over to Betty.
"Do you think . . . ?" Daniel swallows, his eyes wide. "Do you think I have a shot?"
Claire cups her boy's cheek. The pad of her thumb still fits perfectly into the tiny dimple in his chin. "There's only one way to find out."
Daniel closes his eyes, pressing his mother's hand to his face. Then he opens one again. "You'll come visit me, right?"
"As often as you'll have me, sweetheart."
Daniel pulls her into a hug, as warm and generous as the ones he gave her every day after school. "Better keep the Meade jet on standby then."
Even as he's pitching his idea to Alexis about rigging the scales by twenty pounds for Fashion Week, Daniel knows that if he were to step on one of those scales, it would read nothing. Zero. He has no substance.