"Are you ready?" Betty asked Daniel and Justin an hour after Christmas dinner, which ended mid-afternoon. "Where are we going?" Daniel asked, finishing a reindeer-shaped cookie before getting up from the couch and putting Chester back in his crate. "To the children's hospital – we always bring a few gifts and sing carols," she said.
"Justin, do you have the set list you made up for us?" she asked her nephew, who immediately turned off his new 'Just Dance' game they were playing and ran up to his room. "Come on . . ." Betty smiled and tugged on Daniel's arm, but he didn't budge.
"Wait – I just need to do this . . ." he stopped her. "What?" she innocently inquired. Daniel slowly cupped her face and caressed her cheeks with his thumbs, carefully leaning his head into hers and capturing her lips in a gentle, tender kiss, allowing it to slightly deepen before gradually pulling away. "W-What was t-that for?" Betty stuttered in shock, out of breath.
"Got it, AB!" Justin exclaimed, running down the stairs. Betty turned around. "That's great, Justin. We'll be right out," she told him before focusing her attention back on Daniel. "So . . .?" she expectantly awaited an explanation. "We should go – everyone's waiting on us. We can talk later – I promise," he said and lead her out the door.
The entire time they were at the hospital, Betty found it hard to focus. She couldn't get the feel and taste of Daniel's lips out of her head, how he had cradled her face in his gentle hands and earnestly kissed her. What had possessed him to do it? Was he just feeling lonely and vulnerable, appreciative of anyone's kindness, or was there something more . . . something he felt for her?
Daniel was on pins and needles, waiting for the right time to talk to Betty, to sort out everything that had happened with them the past couple of days. He knew, after he had fully kissed her before they left, that there was no question his feelings were much deeper than platonic and beyond lust.
"You were great with them," Betty broke the awkward silence as she and Daniel sipped hot chocolate by the fireplace. "Thanks – I've always liked kids," he humbly said. "So were you – they loved you . . . and even your tone-deaf singing," he cracked. "Hey! Be nice – Justin picked those songs, not me – they weren't really in my key," she protested.
"Maybe I should finally give you your present . . ." he winked, going to the coat closet. "But you already gave me my present – those tickets to 'Chicago' for everyone?" she said, puzzled. "Yeah, but this one's just for you . . . Here, I hope you like it. You can read Shakespeare, the latest romance novel, or study singing tips . . ." he playfully smirked. She smacked his arm before eagerly unwrapping her gift.
"A Kindle! Daniel, this is incredible – I love it!" Betty hugged Daniel so hard she almost caused him to fall backward on the couch. "Good – I can tell!" he chuckled. He'd never get tired of her warm, over-enthusiastic hugs. The feel of her arms wrapped around him always made everything bad in his life disappear, if only for a few minutes.
"How did you guess?" Betty asked, pulling away. "Well, I knew you liked to read, so I figured this was better than lugging around a ton of heavy books . . . Plus, I overheard your conversations with Hilda, hinting how great they were," he said. Betty sheepishly smiled. "So you were spying on me?" she joked. "More like . . . unavoidably overhearing," he corrected her. She lightly shoved him.
"There's a case, book light, and gift card in there, too," he added, trying to detract her annoyance. "This is too much, Daniel – really . . ." Betty told him, becoming serious. "After you gave me Chester, and everything else you've done for me? Betty, nothing will ever be too much," Daniel maintained, toying with a lock of her hair.
"No one's cared about me like you do. When I'm with you, I'm not a millionaire or a sex object – I'm me. You call me on my B.S. and are truly interested in my problems. And if something decent happens, you're genuinely happy for me," he began. "That's what being a good friend is for . . ." she humbly replied, feeling butterflies in her stomach.
"You're more than that – a lot more. Seeing you take care of your family, and me . . . how you made an effort to visit those sick kids . . . just the way you are every day . . . You make me want to be a better person. I feel alive when I'm around you, like there was something missing until you walked into my life. And I realized, after we kissed yesterday, being with you today . . . something's changed between us," he said.
"Daniel, are you sure you're not just missing Molly or drunk from all the eggnog?" Betty skeptically asked, overwhelmed by his heartfelt admission. "No, Betty – I'm positive. I loved Molly, and a part of me always will. But what I'm starting to feel for you is different. You've been standing right in front of me – guiding me, supporting me - no matter how big a mess I get into or how I treated you in the beginning. And now I finally see what I've been blind to all these years," he insisted, taking her hands in his. Betty felt her heart skip a beat.
"Daniel . . . you don't have to do this," she nervously said. "I do – you deserve to hear this, before I lose my nerve," he told her, taking a deep breath and continuing. "I love the way you smile, your laugh, your passion, the way you light up a room – even your unique sense of style . . . I love the way you get excited over the smallest things – like free candy canes or company pens. I love how you always know me better than I know myself, but almost never say 'I told you so'," he smiled.
"You're beautiful, strong, smart, and sweet . . . You can do anything you set your mind to - I admire that. You're the only woman who can turn me on one minute and have me laughing hysterically with you the next. You're amazing, Betty. Seeing you is the best part of my day and . . . I-I'm falling for you," Daniel hesitantly confessed.
"I-I don't know what to say . . . is this real? It's Christmas and everyone's always a little more emotional than normal . . ." she timidly asked. "It's real, Betty – at least for me. It could be a Tuesday in September and I'd still feel the same. I-I guess I need to know what you're thinking – no pressure," he assured her, nervously waiting for her response. The longer she took, the more his heart began to sink. He knew Betty . . . knew if she took time to think things through, he was more than likely screwed.
Betty took a minute to process everything. She'd never imagined this happening – especially not coming from Daniel. But after the way their day had gone, the fact that they had spent all those years working closely together . . . spending most of their time together – whether it was good or bad . . . being each other's rock or biggest cheerleader . . . or just having fun. Maybe this thing between them wasn't as strange as it originally seemed.
". . . I have a lot of the same feelings you have. I-I haven't been able to stop thinking about you after what happened . . . how much you mean to me . . . how good it feels hanging out with you – knowing you don't care how I look or how silly I act sometimes . . . how it felt every time you looked into my eyes, or touched me, or when we kissed . . . But what exactly does this mean – what does it make us?" she slowly spoke.
Daniel exhaled a sigh of relief. It was definitely a better outcome than he had anticipated. "Whatever you want us to be. All I know for sure is that we have something worth taking a chance on . . . I'm not asking you to marry me or anything. But maybe we could try dating and see where it takes us?" he hopefully suggested.
"That sounds . . . good," she shyly smiled. Daniel grinned and kissed her, not holding anything back. His lips crashed into to hers as if his life depended on it, his tongue gradually slipping into the warmth of her mouth. He tasted sweet, like chocolate and candy canes. The sudden need to be close and the curiosity of one another overpowered any resolve either of them had to take things slow.
Betty welcomed Daniel's eagerness with open arms, feeling herself getting lost in the moment, dizzy with joy. A wave of desire and a hint of apprehension rushed over her as she explored the depths of Daniel's mouth for the first time, running her fingers through his hair, never experiencing kissing as passionate and satisfying until right then.
She wondered if this was what it was like to know – to feel that spark so intense and incredible it left you wanting more. She'd never felt anything remotely like that with Walter, and while Henry and Matt were progressively better, she'd always had a sense there was something missing. She'd never dreamed feeling this way about her best friend – her boss. While she was falling deeper into Daniel's entrancing spell, it hit her that this would be more complicated than either one of them took into consideration.
"Wait . . ." she pulled away, panicked. "What? Is something wrong - are you having second thoughts?" Daniel worried, his breath ragged. Betty nodded until she was able to speak. "I'm not your assistant anymore, but you're technically still my boss. What's the staff going to think when they find out about us?" she asked, concerned. "Relax, Betty. The majority assume we're secretly together anyway. I've heard all the rumors and I doubt many people will be surprised," he eased her fears.
"You've heard rumors? All I get are Marc's not so subtle complaints about you being my 'luvah' and calling me 'Daniel's Lady'. I thought all the big ones died down a few weeks after you knocked out Matt?" she said. "Apparently not – you know Amanda. She's notorious for bringing in all the latest gossip and I've heard every detail, since she became my assistant again," Daniel chuckled.
"Great . . . I don't need everyone talking behind my back again or loathing me like they did last fall. And I don't want any special treatment. So no raises, or special assignments, or promotions, or extra vacation days or anything just because we're . . . whatever we are now," she requested.
"I promise. I'll even treat you worse than the others if you want," he joked. "Daniel . . ." she half-heartedly berated him. "What?" he boyishly grinned. "Nothing – just kiss me," she playfully commanded. "Don't have to tell me twice," he muttered into her lips as she closed the space between them.
Daniel and Betty contentedly cuddled on the couch with Chester, after an extensive make-out session. The ease at which they fell into the new level of their relationship was as if they'd been together for years. However, they decided some things should wait for the right time and place. So until then, they'd enjoy simpler things.
"Have you ever noticed how depressing this movie is? Aren't Christmas films supposed to be happy?" Daniel half-heartedly complained, dangling a toy just beyond Chester's reach, as the kitten balanced on the back of the couch and batted at it.
"Yeah, but it is in the end, after he stops complaining and realizes all the things he's taken for granted – that's why it's called 'It's a Wonderful Life'," Betty pointed out. "And only after a bunch of horrible crap happens to him – no wonder he complains," he countered.
"It's sweet and romantic – and it's a classic," she maintained. "So's 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation' – and it's a lot funnier," he argued. "True, but you can't compare them – they're on completely different levels," she said, stopping the DVD as the credits rolled.
"I wonder if your family's on their way back from the movie theater yet? I feel kinda bad for ditching them – especially since they and mistletoe are the reasons we're together now," Daniel admitted. "Not too bad, though," she slyly grinned.
"Definitely not," he agreed, dropping the toy and kissing her neck, sending a sensation throughout her entire body. "And the new holiday movies just aren't as good. Besides, Chester deserved some much-needed attention," he added as the kitten climbed over their bodies and began to lick Daniel's cheek.
"Do you think we'd have ever gotten to this place if we hadn't kissed under the mistletoe?" Betty wondered. Daniel paused for a few seconds. ". . . Yeah, but probably not so soon. I think it would've taken something else - something big - to make us realize what we had. I mean, we already spent about four years not having a clue," he contemplated. "True. It's ironic when you think about it," she added. "It is, but I'm glad it happened," he smiled. "Me, too," she happily said.
"He really likes you," Betty giggled as Chester pawed at Daniel, and shifted to face him. "Yeah . . . I've got the two greatest presents I could ever ask for – Chester . . . and you," Daniel sincerely admitted. "Merry Christmas, Daniel," she said, sweetly kissing his swollen lips with her own. "Merry Christmas, Betty," he told her as Chester curiously came between them.