Disclaimer: Betty is obviously not any product of mine, I would never be able to come up with clever enough things for Amanda.
Summary: Daniel Meade's daughter reflects back on her young life and her father's relationship with Betty.
Warning: Warning, original characters in the form of Daniel's future children
Pairing: slight Daniel/Betty
Notes: Honestly? I have no idea where this came from.
When Serena Meade’s mother died she thought the world was coming to an end. College didn’t seem worth it anymore, nor busting her father’s credit cards, or driving her brother’s girl friends away with well-aimed unflattering stories. She didn’t want to write plays or go to the pretentious book club she’d started with her friends that was really just an excuse to get pastries. All she wanted was her bed.
She’d gone through cartons and cartons of pictures of her mother, and their were thousands—with the public life her mother lived—hoping for some part of her to be made real, to be unleashed. Maybe it affected Serena so much, not because she’d been close with her mother, but because she’d never really knew her, never really got to love her and she couldn’t go back now.
Elizabeth Meade had been tall and blonde, always fashionable, the owner of a popular art gallery when her father had met her, but she’d always been so inscrutable. She did PTA and she signed permission slips, she wasn’t a neglectful mom in the least, but she wasn’t all there. The pictures were not enlightening. Her mother in top of the line fashion next to her father in this one, her brother Kyle’s birth in 2015 with her mother looking tired and proud and pale and yet still gorgeous in that one, a family outing with fake smiles and unshed tears over here, her mother in the sunlight over there.
She looked at the wedding album that had been put together by professionals, the fine bone white paper announcing, “Daniel Meade and Elizabeth Reese Stanley invite you to celebrate their wedding on the fifth day of May, 2010.” Her handsome and kind father and her beautiful and aloof mom who had told ghost stories with admirable aplomb but couldn’t drive out to see soccer games or school plays captured forever on paper. Not terribly motherly.
When endless supplies of Kleenex and vicodin weren’t enough, she took the semester off. She wasn’t sure why it was hitting her so hard. Her mother was dead. They’d never been close. But she couldn’t find the will to just be okay. Their home, manor according to the friends she brought home, was wood paneled and empty. Her father rarely spent time in it. Said it was too haunted by bad memories, it burned a little that her childhood hadn’t created any new good ones. She understood though, she really did, but she needed her daddy, and he wasn’t there.
Kyle called her once—asked her why she was still moping. He’d moved on like Elizabeth was just some person he knew.
And then Betty came storming into the house, opening long shuttered windows, and fluffing comforters. She made tea and dumped out tissues by the cartload. Serena was prickly, needling her for her fashion sense, always polka dots but no shape, no drape, no style.
Betty took it all in stride, silently rearranging her disordered life and forcing her out of the house to the grocery store so that they could make Empanadas and Mole. She just wanted to sleep. Why couldn’t Betty let her sleep?
Betty had always been a part of her life. She’d heard the stories of the fabulous team that she had made with Daniel as his assistant, before rising to work at bigger and better and less fashion related magazines. Suddenly Betty had left her little four-bedroom in Queens behind and gained a job as the communications director for the junior senator of New York and all because she’d been too homely for her rakehell of a father to sleep with. Her mother had found enormous pleasure in that.
Serena had always liked Betty and the warm chaos of her family, but she simply couldn’t handle her now. She couldn’t even handle her darling manicurist, Cece without seriously considering suicide. Betty must have said something to Daniel though, because one day her dad was blustering through the doorway, graying at the temples and laugh lines around his eyes, but his back ramrod straight and his suit pristine.
She threw herself on him. His response was to pour her a glass of brandy and ask which spa she’d like to go to. She drew back. Is that what he thought of her? When she asked, he smiled and said his methods for grief coping as a youth were hardly fitting for his darling daughter.
She felt better. Kyle flew in after that, taking a week off his freshman year at Stanford. Suddenly it was like the home was full again with just the four of them. Sheets were being pulled off of furniture and picture frames were propped back up to show their captured sunlight and smiles. They all made fajitas together that evening, corn meal and other substances smeared across their faces—only home-made tortillas would do. Kyle stuck to Betty’s side like glue. Serena may have always liked Betty, warm smile and quirky Halloween costumes, but it had been Kyle that had adored her.
Her dad laughed and tossed ingredients around like a goof while they did all the work. She’d never really seen this side of him. He’d always been slightly reserved, always there for a hug, but slightly, slightly distracted. She wouldn’t say her parents failed her, but maybe they did. She’d met Betty’s family, and they were nothing like this. Betty’s husband would do the chicken dance if he thought it would cheer someone up, and Justin would make you over in a heartbeat just for looking like you needed directions.
Serena wondered if she hadn’t seen this side of her dad because her mother simply wouldn’t allow it. The thought punched a hole in her good mood but she gained it back over dinner and virgin pina coladas. Daniel teased Betty practically round the room and Betty, a middle-aged woman, huffed and threw all the napkins on the table at him. Daniel laughed 'til he had tears in his eyes and Serena felt her face smiling for the first time in ages.
Betty played spit with Kyle in the ginormous oak paneled sitting room while she and her dad talked. At a lull in the conversation she watched as her father looked over at Betty, who was flushed with laughter and the little bit of wine Daniel had allowed her to have. Their eyes connected and she saw it.
Her father was in love with Betty. She guessed it wasn’t a recent development, not like people fell in love with 40-something communications directors who wouldn’t give up the polka dots when they should. People might fall in love with 20-something assistants who wouldn’t give up polka dots though. Her heart clenched. And she had her answer, the one she’d so desperately been seeking in long hours of solitude and meditation, but mostly through depression and lots of cable TV.
It was possible for the Meades to love, to make up for the way they didn’t really love each other, to not fuck around, to have more then blocks of steel in their chests. Daniel had married her mother, but he must have always loved Betty. She could see now, he’d been good enough, strong enough, not to make a move in a way her grandfather certainly hadn’t been capable of if the legendary Faye story was even partly true.
At the same time that knot inside of her eased, her heart broke just a little for her handsome and kind father, who’d never once in his life truly gotten what he’d wanted. It was the lot of the second son in a family like hers. But it was a tragedy just the same.
She called after him that night as they were making there way off to the bedrooms. “How long have you loved Betty?” Because she had to be sure.
He started and turned back to her, blue eyes wide with surprise and maybe just a little worry. “What?”
“How long have you loved Betty?” she repeated, cocking her head.
He saw something in her face and his own expression changed. “I’d liked to say from the minute she ran into the glass door of the conference room, but in reality the day she caught me kissing her sister.”
Serena’s eyes widened. “What?”
Her dad shrugged. “Always was a bit of a jerk.” He kissed her on the forehead and bid her goodnight. When she woke up the next morning Betty was gone, but there was a plate of cookies sitting on the sitting room table, and a warm message to them all.
Did Betty love her father? Maybe just a little. She’d heard Alexis’s stories at crazy family gatherings where people smiled with swords for teeth and spiked the punch to get through it. You’d have to love Daniel just a little to put up with him in the salad days. But they’d gotten married to other people, chosen different lives, and why? Because it would’ve made the Cinderella fantasy too real? Because they couldn’t have made it work?
But to Serena, as she bit into a still warm cookie, it looked as if only Betty could make it work with Daniel. Perhaps nothing was solved in life after all, the Meades were doomed to the loneliness that their money had granted them, the prison it had created for them. And Betty wouldn’t be Betty if she was a part of that.