Betty knocked on the door to Daniel's new London flat. She was glad that after a couple of weeks of staying in a hotel suite, he was officially going to be living in the city. During their first dinner together, they had developed an unspoken understanding of why he was there; the way he looked at her and found excuses to touch her said it all. But while they both acknowledged it deep down, neither one of them was ready to say it out loud. She wasn't sure what was going to happen between them, but she was glad to have a permanent friend close by.
"Hey, come on in," Daniel gave her a warm smile as he opened the door.
She walked inside and gazed in awe at the enormous space.
"What do you think?" he asked. "Be honest."
"It's amazing – it's twice as big as your one in New York!" Betty said, looking around at the spacious living area with built-in shelves and a gourmet eat-in kitchen.
"Yeah, well, I got a good deal on it and I figured the extra room wouldn't hurt," he explained. "So you like it?"
Betty wondered why he was so desperate for her approval, but didn't question him.
"I love it!" she smiled.
"Good," he grinned with pride. "You know, you don't have to help me unpack – we could just hang out. The cable's hooked up and I've got a blu-ray player if you wanna watch a movie. Or we could go to one –"
Betty couldn't help but laugh at how accommodating he was being. When she was still at MODE – even on her off-days - she would help him with whatever he needed her for.
"It's okay, Daniel. We really need to unpack your stuff - before you trip and kill yourself in the middle of the night," she said, shoving boxes out of the way in order to look at the rest of the apartment.
"Where's your bathroom?" she asked.
"Is your toilet acting up again?" Daniel asked, worriedly, weaving around the boxes to show it to her. "You should really talk to your landlord."
"I know, but I've been so busy lately and every time I get a chance, he's not there," she excused.
"We could go now?" he suggested, before tripping on a box close to her and knocking her over.
"Ow!" they both exclaimed.
"Sorry," he apologized, his eyes lingering and his warm breath falling on her lips.
It was enough to make Betty wonder what kissing him would be like, but she quickly wiped the thought out of her mind.
"See – I told you this would happen – and this time you took me down with you," she teased and attempted to get up. "And I appreciate the offer, but it's really not that bad – plus, he's not there on Saturdays anyway . . . So . . . the bathroom?"
"It's over here," he stood up and guided her around the corner, his hand on her waist.
A tingling sensation went up her spine.
"Thanks," she said, an awkward silence falling upon them. "Well, I'd better . . . you know."
"Yeah, sorry," he cleared his throat and went back to the living room.
Betty sat on the floor, unpacking a box of Daniel's CDs, and laughed at what she came across.
"Three copies of the 'Wicked' soundtrack? Is there something you aren't telling me, Daniel?" she teased. "All these years, maybe Marc was more your type . . .?"
"Shut up!" he snatched the CDs and smacked her with a throw pillow.
"Hey!" she giggled in protest.
"I am definitely NOT into guys!" he said, taking a seat dangerously close to her.
"Good to know . . ." she flirted. "Not that there's anything wrong with it, but I'd be a little disappointed if you were . . ."
"Really?" he cocked his eyebrow.
"Really," she smiled, slyly.
His sexy grin and his thigh brushing against hers made her heart race.
"Seriously, MODE always got promotional stuff - I just never had time to get rid of those," he explained. "Here, take 'em. I know how much you liked that show and maybe Justin and Hilda would like one, too."
"Thanks," she told him.
She smiled and thought back to when he had given her the tickets in the first place. Hiding them in a sandwich and trying to get her to find them, but she had assumed there was something wrong with it and ruined his surprise. She remembered how adamant he had been about her not dating Henry again, pretending to go with Gio, and at the same time, trying to keep Daniel from using his body to gain investors. And when Daniel found out she had really been there with Henry, he had gone as far as saying she was stupid, crossing the line in their relationship in order to protect her from being hurt again. God, they had almost been like a couple in a triangle.
"Hey, you okay?" Daniel snapped her back to the present.
"Yep. Just thinking," she replied.
"Anything important?" he asked.
"Memories – that's all," Betty said.
"Grubstick?" he scoffed.
"And you," she added.
"Me?" he said, skeptically.
"Mmm-hmm. You were a big part of the 'Wicked' event," she reminded him.
"Oh, yeah. Sorry about that . . . It's just that guy always pissed the hell out of me. I know you liked him, but he hurt you so much – I couldn't stand it," Daniel excused.
"I know I never said it then, and I always refused to listen, but thank you. All those times he showed up . . . you were only looking out for me, and it was really sweet," she said, squeezing his hand.
Daniel smiled shyly at her before rifling through more CDs.
At three in the morning, Betty slowly opened her eyes, feeling a weight on her head and across her stomach, as well as a major crick in her neck. She woke up enough to realize it was Daniel. They had fallen asleep against one of the last boxes. Having unpacked almost every one of them, they must have collapsed from exhaustion, too tired to move.
"Daniel? Daniel, get up," Betty nudged him.
"Mmmm . . . it's too early . . ." he mumbled.
"Daniel, come on – you need to go to bed," she said, dragging him off the floor.
"What time is it?" he rubbed his eyes.
Betty glanced at her watch.
"3:15AM," she answered, pushing him toward his bedroom and heading to the couch.
"Betty?" Daniel said, padding back to the living room a few minutes later, in a wife-beater and a pair of sweats.
She looked up from unfolding a blanket.
"Yeah?" she asked.
"What are you doing?" he wondered.
"Sleeping on the couch," she said, innocently.
"Come, on – the bed's more comfortable," he offered.
"Daniel . . ." she hesitated, yet found herself walking toward him.
"It's a really . . . big . . . bed – we could go miles without touching," he gave her a convincing grin.
"Miles, huh?" she smirked.
"Miles," he repeated, throwing her an oversized t-shirt.
"Okay . . ." she agreed, unconvinced.
She came out of the bathroom and timidly entered the bedroom. He wasn't completely lying – it was a king. And as they crawled onto opposite sides, there was still plenty of room in the middle. Plus, it was definitely more comfortable than the couch would have been. She closed her eyes and drifted off, too tired to analyze anything anymore.
The next day, Betty awoke to find herself literally tangled up with Daniel. She had no idea how they had managed to go from different sides of the bed to getting completely wrapped up in each other. Was it a sign? She tried to wriggle out, but it was too hard and she didn't want to wake him. In a way, it felt good to be held in his warm, muscular arms, to feel his chest rise and fall, to feel the scruff of his cheek tickle hers . . .
"Mmmm . . . Hi," Daniel sleepily smiled down at her.
"Hi," Betty said, shifting around to face him. "So this is what it's like to sleep with Daniel Meade . . ."
Daniel laughed so hard, his entire body shook, causing Betty to laugh with him.
"Sorry," she smiled, sheepishly. "So how did we end up like this?"
"I don't know . . . but I'm not complaining," he grinned boyishly, toying with a lock of her hair.
"You did not just say that!" she giggled in protest, throwing a pillow at him.
He threw one back at her and playfully wrestled her down.
"This from the girl who started the shameless flirting in the first place?" Daniel countered, his lips mere inches from hers.
"Yeah," she half-heartedly maintained.
He smiled and slowly pressed his mouth to hers. Betty didn't resist. She welcomed it, feeling a sense of relief knowing for sure that her assumptions were true. His lips melted into hers and she briefly fell into a state of bliss before realizing where they were and what would inevitably happen if they didn't stop.
"Wait," she pulled away. "I don't think we should be doing this."
"Yeah . . . you're right. I'll uh . . . I'll go make some coffee . . ." Daniel said, trying to hide his disappointment.
But Betty saw straight through it.
"Daniel . . ." she said, grabbing her jeans and following him.
"Hazelnut or French Vanilla?" he asked, putting a single cup into the machine for himself.
"Daniel, talk to me," Betty pleaded.
"Cream? Sugar? I think I've got some Splenda around here somewhere . . ." he continued to avoid her.
She took his arm and pulled him over to the couch.
"Daniel, you can't ignore me forever," she said.
"I'm not ignoring you. I was talking to you the whole time," he contended.
"You know what I mean. We have to talk about what just happened," Betty insisted.
"What's there to talk about? We kissed – no big deal!" he claimed.
"Yes, it was," she argued. "We don't kiss!"
"Exactly," Daniel bluntly stated, going back to the kitchen.
Betty tailed him.
"What I meant was that we've never done that before . . . and it was huge," she clarified. "It's not that I didn't like it . . . I just thought we were moving a little too fast."
"Can we just forget about it?" Daniel requested, curtly handing her a cup of coffee.
Betty accepted it, feeling the chill in his mood.
"I'll um . . . I'll help you unpack these last few boxes and then I should go home and change," she said, fingering his Harvard shirt.
"Whatever," he said, starting on a box of dishes.
Betty sighed and pulled open a box in the living room marked BS. She assumed it stood for Bedroom Suite, but was surprised when she opened it up to find the Mexican sombrero she had brought Daniel back from Guadalajara.
"You still have this?" she questioned, holding it up.
Daniel turned around and shrugged, going back to the dishes before realizing what box she had opened.
Betty looked beyond the hat to find newspaper clippings of their dinner the night he'd been stood up and another of her BLOBBY award ceremony, the MODE issue of Fabia and the issue featuring Victoria & Diego, snapshots of various moments, the thumbs-up mug and other random gifts she had given him over the years, a framed professional photo of them at Hilda and Bobby's wedding, and last, but not least, the 100th Anniversary copy of MODE, featuring the bio she had written for him. So many of their major milestones and even not-so-major ones were in that box, and he'd kept them . . . brought them to London with him.
"I can't believe you saved all of this . . ." she said, almost speechless.
"What are you talking about?" he asked, then saw what she was going through. "Oh. I-It's nothing . . . I found most of it in my desk, when I was cleaning out my office . . . Guess I, uh . . . couldn't bring myself to throw it away . . ."
She took one look at him placing plates in the dark cherry cabinets, attempting to fight the tears in his eyes, and immediately knew how deep he truly was in this. She walked over and gently turned him around.
"Hey . . . look at me," she cupped his face. "I want this, too."
Her own eyes pooling, she earnestly kissed his lips.
"I'm sorry," he said, resting his forehead against hers.
"Don't be – we just got our signals crossed, that's all. We need to communicate a little better from now on," she smiled.
"Now on?" he repeated.
"Yeah. I'm in this, Daniel – wherever it leads. These past couple of months – me leaving . . . you shutting me out, only to end up coming here - I've realized that you mean more to me than I ever thought anyone could. I was too scared to admit it, but I'm ready now. I want to find out what's next for us – together," Betty said.
Daniel caressed her cheek and looked at her with deep blue eyes, capturing her lips until her knees weakened from pleasure. If he hadn't been holding her up, she would've collapsed - but it didn't matter - he'd always be there to catch her. She was certain of that now more than ever.