A/N: This all I have of this particular idea right now. I may add more later, but for now it's just what you see here. I love the last three episodes, but sometimes I wish we had a few more following Betty and Daniel after he arrives in London. It would be adorable. Anyway,
Filling In the Blanks
Daniel hadn't been there. He'd let her leave without a goodbye. How could he do that? What did that mean? She felt a strange mix of sadness and anger settling in her gut. One minute he can't live without her, his words, and the next he's avoiding her. It didn't make sense and it hurt. He'd been such a big part of her life for so long. He couldn't just disappear. Did it ever occur to him that she might need him too?
For four years her work day didn't start until she handed him his bagel and coffee. Even if it wasn't technically her job anymore. But who was going to do that if she didn't? Amanda wouldn't. Okay, Marc would as long as he wasn't conspiring to trick Daniel into losing weight, that is. She was the only person who would continuously make sure he had breakfast. Even if it was a sad one.
But it had become as much a part of her day as his, and it gave her an excuse to make sure they stayed up to date on each other's lives. Not that they needed an excuse, but it made her feel less self conscious to have one. And now, because she was looking out for herself for once instead of him, he'd abandoned her.
Yes, she could have taken that job at Mode. She could have stayed with him, but if she did she would have always wondered about what might have happened. She didn't want to end up resenting Daniel for keeping her at Mode. She had no doubt that he would have been her only reason for staying. Her family was finally settled and happy, Marc and Amanda would miss her but they didn't need her, and she was totally and completely single so there was no boyfriend to hold her back.
There was only Daniel.
Except her efforts to keep herself from resenting him had caused her to lose him. She'd started to think there would never be a day when she and Daniel didn't need each other, but he'd proved her wrong. His recent actions were a clear statement of how little he needed her.
She'd tried to call him before she'd left for the airport, before the going away party her family threw, and ever after her Mode going away part had ended. Maybe calling him before, during, after the Mode party wasn't the most composed thing she'd ever done, but…she wanted to say goodbye. She needed to say goodbye.
She was going to call him one last time. She had it all planned out. She'd land, call her family, and then call Daniel to let him know just how much he'd hurt her. He was supposed to be her best friend. They'd been through too much for it to end like this. So, she'd call him once more and after that it was up to him. If he wanted to talk to her he'd need to call her. She would not, nor should she have to, chase her best friend.
The Plane landed and once she made it through customs she pulled out her phone. She left a message on the answering machine for her family and then waited to call Daniel from the privacy of the town car that had been hired to take her to her new apartment or flat as they called it in the UK. She had Daniel on speed dial so a split second after the car door closed her phone was calling him. She rolled her eyes as it went to voicemail yet again. She wasn't surprised. She was, however, disappointed.
"Daniel, is this really how you want this to go? I leave and you never look back? I thought you said you couldn't live without me? Isn't that why you offered me that promotion?" She sighed and blinked back tears. "I know my leaving hurt you and I'm sorry for that, but you're not the only one hurting. Have you ever once thought that maybe I need you as much as you need me? It hurt you to see me leave, but it hurt me to leave without seeing you. I'm going to miss you and it's going to hurt every day. It would've helped to know that we had resolved some things before I left." She took in a deep shaky breath and wiped away a rebel tear. "This is my last voicemail. I've tried to work this out, but there's only so much I can do when you refuse to meet me in the middle. I hope you'll call me, Daniel. I don't want to lose you. But I'm not going to beg you for approval on this. I made the right choice for me and I refuse to feel badly about. You helped make me who I am and I never could have gotten here without you, but I won't let you keep me from living. Goodbye, Daniel. I'll miss you."
She hung up the phone and tossed it into her purse. That was done. Now it was time to get serious. She'd been waiting her whole life for this chance and she wasn't going to waste it.
Daniel thought he was doing what was best. He had to let Betty go, right? This was what she wanted and if he was honest with himself he knew she deserved this opportunity. He couldn't let himself stand in her way and he didn't know if he could keep himself from begging her to come home.
Home. Was New York really his home? He used to think so but it was starting to feel foreign and unwelcome. He didn't quite understand why either. He'd been using his new free time, since quitting Mode, to try and reconnect to the city but he was beginning to think it was a lost cause. New York just seemed to be missing something lately. Something bright and warm and…inspiring.
He picked up his phone from his coffee table and stared at it. He knew Betty would have an answer and a solution. She always did. But he didn't know what he would say or what he would be able to stop himself from saying. His eyes landed on the number of voice mails that had built up and guilt ate at him. Half of them were from Betty. The others were probably his mother and his sister, but he couldn't check their messages for fear of hearing Betty's. Did she hate him? Did she understand? Did he really want to know? Did he want to hear how happy she was?
Her refusal to stay with him had hurt his pride, but he knew he didn't blame her for her decision. So why did her leaving result in him feeling so…broken? Why did the relationships that really meant something to him always seem so unfair? He loved Sofia but she used him, Molly was taken away much too soon, and Betty…
He'd just started to see how much she truly meant to him, how much he needed her, and how strong his need to protect her and take care of her was. And that moment is the moment she gets the offer of a lifetime? Why? He couldn't have had even a little time to adjust? Maybe some room to stretch out into his newly discovered feelings? That would have been too convenient and his life was never convenient.
The lock on his apartment door turned and Daniel fought the urge to hide in his closet like he had after the Sofia Incident when Betty had discovered him hiding out in his apartment. Instead he hid his phone in his pants pocket and bolted for the kitchen. He started washing dishes to look busy. He tried not to think about the shape his apartment was in. He'd been too busy wallowing to clean.
Of course it was his mother. Who else?
"In the kitchen, mom," he called.
"The kitchen? Were you having a pity party before I walked in, dear? You never do dishes unless you have some other reason like looking busy, for instance," Claire Meade said as she made her way into his kitchen.
"Mother, I do not have pity parties," Daniel said with a scoff.
"I beg to differ. Have you done anything today besides eat junk food, stare out your window mournfully, and avoid checking your voicemail?"
"Yes," Daniel said defensively. Obsessively looking through all the scrap books Betty made him through the years counted as doing something, right?
"Daniel, have you really stopped to think about why you're so…broken, right now?" Claire asked curiously as she placed a comforting hand on her son's shoulder.
His head shot up from where he was pretending to do dishes and he blinked at his mother. Did she know he'd thought that same thing about himself earlier? "Yes," he answered honestly.
"Have you come to a conclusion?" she asked.
"Just that New York seems to have lost its luster and that—that Betty's—"
"Gone? That she turned down your job offer to be alone? That you're totally and hopelessly in love with her?" Claire asked knowingly.
"In-in love?" Daniel asked in shock. "Mom, I'm not in love with her. Yes, I have complicated feelings for her and, yes, nothing feels the same since she left, and I haven't been able to even look at an onion bagel since the day she told me…since she said…"
"Since she said she was going to London? Since she took her warmth, smiles, and colorful wardrobe and left you all alone and uninspired in New York?" Claire finished for him with a small smirk. "Let me guess, New York seems colder? More cynical? Darker?"
"Yes!" Daniel said in a surprised tone. "How did you know?"
"Daniel, New York has always been that way. It was Betty who was bright and warm and hopeful. Just admit it, you love her as much as you miss her," Claire said with a challenging grin.
"A lot of good it would do to admit it now," Daniel said with a sigh. "She's gone."
"She's not gone. She's across the pond," Claire said with a playful wink. "Call her, visit her, surprise her and then take her out to dinner. Good God, Daniel, do something before she meets some British Lord who falls desperately in love with her and then you really lose her." She shook her son's shoulders gently before she continued. "You are a Meade for Christ's sake, and Meade's do not give up without a fight. Now wake up and go get her!"
He smirked softly at his mother. "That's a nice thought, mom. But I doubt she would speak to me." Daniel sighed and shook his head. "I didn't say goodbye and I've been…I've been screening her calls. She's probably pissed."
"That may be true, but I like to think I know Betty rather well after all these years and the things I respect the most about her are how compassionate and forgiving she is. I'm sure if you asked she could find it in her heart to forgive you," Claire assured him. "You're both so close."
His hand rested on the phone in his pocket briefly before he took a deep breath and squared his shoulders. His mother was right. He needed Betty. He couldn't live without her. He refused to live without her. Why did not being in New York mean they couldn't have a chance? It didn't. If Betty couldn't be here then he could be there.
And who's to say he couldn't find his passion, like he'd promised himself he would, in London? Betty inspired him. She made him better. Surely having her nearby would help him find what he truly cared about? He didn't know about being in love with her but he did know he needed to be near her. He needed to find out exactly what he felt and the best way to do that was to be with her. But London was a very big city. How would he find her? Would she take his call if he contacted her? If she ignored him this would turn out to be quite the man-hunt.
He smiled warmly at his mother and then pulled her in for a hug. "Thank you, mom."
"When you find her, and I know you will, tell her I say hello," Claire Meade said as she kissed her son's cheek.
The first thing he did was call Betty but every call went straight to voicemail. He couldn't tell if she was genuinely busy or giving him the silent treatment. Knowing Betty, probably a bit of both. His next step was to visit Jackson Heights. Betty's family would know where she was, where she worked and lived. He was not, however, prepared for Hilda's reaction to the sight of him on their doorstep.
"Oh no, you are not here right now!" She exclaimed through the window on the door before glaring at him and shutting the curtains.
"Hilda, I need to know where to find Betty," He pleaded through the glass.
He could see her roll her eyes through the sheer lace curtains before she yelled sarcastically, "You'll find her in London. Which you would know if you'd bothered to bring your rich spoiled ass over here to say goodbye!"
"I deserve that," he said as he looked down at his feet. "But I want to try to make it up to her!"
Hilda huffed on the other side of the door before she ripped the door open and pulled him inside. She slammed the door and locked it behind him before turning and pointing a scolding finger at him. "Do you know how hurt she was when you didn't say goodbye to her? You're a big part of her life, jackass, and you just vanished. She didn't say anything to me, but I could see it on her face. She needed to see you and to know you didn't hate her. But it's too late now! You missed your chance!"
"No, I didn't!" Daniel yelled. "I still have a chance if I can just find her—"
"And you think I'm going to tell you? If Betty won't talk to you then why should I?" Hilda asked with a glare and her hands on her hips.
"Because I—" He cut his sentence short and gulped. He knew what the words were that almost rolled off his tongue. The very thing he denied with his mother had almost escaped his lips. Was it true? Did he love Betty? Regardless, now was not the time or the place to admit it. "Because I want to apologize to her. I know I did a stupid thing and I plan on fixing it. I just have to find her first."
"Well, you're gonna have to find her without my help because I won't—"
"Trafalgar Square," a voice said from the top of the stairs.
"Justin," Hilda said in a huff as she glared at her son.
"Mom, look at him. He looks terrible. Clearly, he's in love. He's all pale and drawn and I'm not even going to talk about his jeans. Clearly, he needs Aunt B," Justin said as he joined them in the living room.
"Thank you, Justi—what's wrong with these jeans?" Daniel asked as he looked down at his legs. "They're my favorite pair."
Justin and Hilda shared a look before Justin continued. "Trafalgar Square. One o'clock. She'll have to pass through it to get to her office from her business lunch. Do not screw this up and do not wear those jeans."
"How do you know for sure that she'll be—"
"Don't worry about that. Just be in that Square at one tomorrow and keep your eyes peeled," Justin told him. "I'll get her there. Now, you should go. You have travel arrangements to make."
He turned to leave and heard Hilda sigh as he did so. "Daniel?" Hilda said as he opened the door. "Make it look casual, okay? If she thinks you're there just for her she'll freak."
"Okay, I got it. Trafalgar Square. One o'clock. Different jeans. Casual," He repeated to himself before he smiled softly at Hilda and Justin. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. Just don't be stupid this time, okay?" Hilda demanded.
Daniel took a deep breath and nodded. "Trust me, I don't plan on it. I'm through being stupid."
"Can you really make that promise though?" Hilda asked with a teasing grin.
Daniel laughed and shook his head. "Only when it comes to Betty."
"Well," Hilda said with a small smile. "That's when it counts. Now go! Pack your bags and book a flight! You don't have time to waste, Boss Man!"
Hilda shoved him out the door and, Daniel couldn't be sure, but he thought he'd just gotten her blessing.
"I went by Mode to visit Marc the other day," Justin told Betty over the phone.
She was about to leave the restaurant where she'd had her business lunch and this was when Justin would put his plan into action.
"Aww, you did? How is he?" Betty asked.
"He's great. Things are working out with him and Troy. I saw Daniel too, by the way," Justin told her.
"Oh?" Justin could tell she was only pretending to be uninterested. She still cared. And, okay, so he didn't see Daniel at Mode. He didn't expressly say he did, did he? He just implied it. It was only a half truth or a lie by omission. That was acceptable.
"He looked terrible. He was tired and pale and dressed like he didn't care that he was being seen in public. He wore carpenter jeans, A.B. Carpenter jeans! It was hideous. I think he really misses you. Don't forget to walk by the fountain in Trafalgar! You promised!"
"Why did I promise that again?" Betty asked. "And what's wrong with his carpenter jeans? I've always liked them."
Only love would blind someone to carpenter jeans in Justin's opinion. This was further proof of how his aunt felt about her former boss. "You promised because I need to live vicariously through you and the pictures you sent me of that fountain were my favorite. You have to look at it every chance you get because I can't," Justin told her. "Has he called?"
"Daniel. Has he called?"
"A few times. I was at work for some of them and…too chicken to answer the others," she admitted.
"Why?" Justin asked.
"Because I just…I don't know what to say. I miss him more than I thought I would and I'm starting to think that I—" She cut herself off and sighed. "Never mind. I really just don't know what to say or how to act."
Justin smirked. "You tell him about the date you went on the other night, sound deliriously happy, and make him so jealous that he has no choice but to track you down and kiss you senseless. And if you wear something hot while you talk to him it'll help you sound confident. Dress pretty to feel pretty to sound pretty. Easy."
Betty laughed for a split second before he heard her fumble with the phone and mutter apologies. And that's when he heard it. His cue to hang up.
Justin smirked as he ended the call and turned to smile victoriously at his mother. "Mission accomplished."
"That's my boy!" Hilda said proudly before she high fived him and kissed his cheek.
What was going on? Daniel was here? How? Why?
"I—what—what are you doing here?" Betty asked in confusion.
"Can we talk? Catch up, maybe?" Daniel asked with a nervous breath. "I think we need to clear the air a bit."
"You mean because I told you to call me and then when you did I didn't answer?" Betty asked with a sheepish and guilty expression.
Daniel paused and gave her a strange look. Almost like he was bewildered as to why she would ever feel guilty. He shook his head and gently grabbed her elbow to pull her closer to the steps that were nearby. "No, I mean because I was a jackass and selfishly avoided you until it was too late."
Betty bit her bottom lip and studied his expression. He looked so guilty and so hesitant like he was waiting for her to walk away and never look back. She sighed and placed a hand on his arm and she guided him to sit down on the steps with her. "Okay, catch me up. What have you been up to this week? You look…nervous."
He chuckled secretively and then gave her a small smile. "I look nervous because I am nervous. People with uncertain futures often are."
"Uncertain future?" Betty asked worriedly. "Spill. What did you do?"
"I love how you assume I didn't choose my uncertain future," Daniel said with a teasing grin.
Betty gave him a stern glance and shook her head. "You know that's not what I meant. Now, come on, what happened?"
"I gave Mode to Wilhelmina," He said quickly as if he were ripping a band aid off of sensitive skin.
Betty blinked at him in shock. "Oh. I see."
"She worked for it. She deserved it," Daniel said with a shrug. "Let's face it; nepotism has pretty much made my resume."
Betty gave him a measuring glance and then shook her head at him. "Well, I think you proved yourself capable, but I can see why you might feel that way. Was that…hard for you?"
Yes, she was still mad at him, but this latest development was too much for her to resist. Despite her hurt and anger Daniel was stepping out on his own and, as someone who had stood by him through so much, she was incredibly proud of him. It was daunting and scary but he did it. So, for now she'd call a truce, but he was far from off the hook.
Dinner. He'd asked her out to dinner…and she'd said yes. But did she intend for this dinner to be different than all their other dinners? He did. He definitely did. He took a deep breath to calm himself. One step at a time. No rushing. Hadn't he wished for room to stretch out in to his feelings earlier? Well, now he had it. Hilda's advice yesterday resounded in his head at all times. "If she thinks you're there just for her. She'll freak."
And he didn't want to be there just for her. Sure she'd brought him here, but he was staying for himself as much as he was staying for her. London had real…possibilities. It was a hub of commerce, and publishing was taking a whole new turn. Print was dying, but digital media was booming. He could look around for a project to invest in. There was bound to be something he could really care about (other than Betty, of course.) First things first, though, he needed an apartment, not a hotel suite. Betty got off work at 5. That meant he had hours to kill before he could call her about their dinner plans.
Time to start apartment hunting. Or maybe he'd look for something more than an apartment. Maybe he'd look for a home. He could make a home in London.
Daniel was here and he was staying for a while. Suddenly, she felt a lot less homesick. Was he here to see her? Was he staying for her? The idea of Daniel leaning on her for everything like old times suddenly struck her and her throat tightened. That was pressure she didn't need right now. She'd come here to start living her own life. Daniel was her best friend but she couldn't handle her job plus taking care of Daniel. She could barely balance her family and Daniel when Daniel was her job. There was no way she could balance Needy!Daniel and being a managing editor.
But then again, Daniel had grown. She'd spent a full year as just his friend and, yes, he'd leaned on her, but he hadn't laid it all on her as he had in the past. She could see the possibilities of an evenly matched relation—friendship. One where she could lean on him as much as he leaned on her.
He was loyal, after all, and he did really try to protect her in his own way. Yes, he'd screwed up with London, but to be fair she had kind of sprung it on him. She hadn't even told him about her interview with Dunne or about the fashion column. He'd never even known she'd met Lindsey Dunne. She'd blindsided him, and as well as she knew Daniel she should have known his initial calm was an act. She realized now that she wasn't blameless in the circumstances of their goodbye (or non-goodbye as the case may be.) She'd contributed to the explosion by not communicating.
Well, no more. They were going to talk at dinner tonight. Lay it all out there. The only question that remained was…
Did "all" include the way she'd missed him since she left? Or the way she constantly thought about the words Claire Meade hadn't said at her going away party? Or the flip in her stomach that happened when she realized just who she'd bumped into in Trafalgar Square? Would she be laying all of that on the table too?
She gulped nervously and felt her hands suddenly go clammy. Was she ready to admit that out loud? She dropped the red pen she was using to make notes on page mock ups and frantically dug around in her purse for her phone. It was times like these when she needed a little bit of Mode in her life. She dialed a familiar number and waited for an answer.
"Betty! It's not even two o'clock! Don't tell me you want me to skip out on work and get a drink already? What's that country song Americans seem to like so much? 'It's Five O'clock Somewhere'? I mean, I suppose it's true, but really, Betty—"
"Christina, I don't want a drink."
"Damn, the bloke who invented reverse psychology lied. It never works!" Christina exclaimed.
There was dead silence on the other end of the line and Christina spoke up after an awkward pause. "You sure you don't want that drink?"
"He's here and we're going to dinner tonight," Betty continued.
"Going to dinner or he's taking you to dinner?" Christina asked warily.
"Is there a difference?"
"Oh, Betty, there's a world of difference. Did he ask or suggest?"
"Neither. He just, sort of, declared it."
"He's taking you to dinner," Christina said with audible glee.
"I still don't understand the difference," Betty said with a furrowed brow.
Christina sighed in exasperation and her accent thickened. "Christ, Betty, you've got a date with Daniel Meade! That's the difference!"
"What?" Betty shrieked. She took a breath before speaking again, but she still sounded shrill. "No! No. No way! Daniel and I don't…date."
"You told me what Claire Meade said before you left, remember? You were just asked out on a date by your ex-boss!" Christina told her.
She blinked in silence for several moments. "Oh my God, he totally wants this to be a date. I don't know what to think…or feel. Christina! What do I do?"
"As much as I've listened to you whine about missing him this week…you go out with him! You go and you be your sexy charming self and kiss him senseless. Borrow a shirt and stay at his place, make plans for breakfast in the—"
"Christina!" Betty said as she suppressed an excited smile. "I am not going to rush into anything."
"But you want to. Admit it."
"I plead the fifth."
Christina laughed. "Oh my dear sweet Betty, that's basically a confession. So, what are you going to do?"
She took a deep breath and smiled brightly. "I'm going to go on a date, Christina. With Daniel." The words felt right as they fell out of her mouth and Betty felt excitement bubbling up in her chest. "And you are going to help me find something to wear."
Christina let out a victorious yelp. "You'll have to let me know if Daniel cooks you breakfast in the morning or orders room serv—"
"Christina, it's a first date. Calm yourself," Betty said with an amused grin.
"A first date with a guy you already know practically everything about," Christina reminded her. "No one would blame you for any—" she paused and cleared her throat, "—Nocturnal activities."
"Oh my God, Christina, shut up," Betty said as she felt her cheeks heat up with a blush.
Christina laughed merrily on the other end of the phone line. "Just make sure you blush like I'm positive you are right now in front of Daniel. He'll love it."