The Monday after Betty leaves for London, Daniel arrives at the office at 8 AM. It's been a long time since he's come in so early – the days before Hartley took over, maybe? – and he doesn't expect to talk to anyone for at least another hour, if not two. So when he sees Marc at the door with two coffees at 8:30, he's surprised.
“I thought you weren't anyone's assistant any more,” Daniel says, quirking his mouth.
“Of course I'm not,” Marc replies, mirroring the grin as he approaches the desk. “But you still don't have one, and we both need coffee, so here we are. You owe me four bucks.”
Daniel pulls out his wallet, waiting for Marc to tell him he's kidding. But Marc's face doesn't move at all, so Daniel pulls out the exact change, and Marc promptly grabs the bills and shoves them his vest pocket.
“How did you know I'd be here?” Daniel asks, taking a sip.
“I came early to use the gym and saw you skulking up the stairwell.”
“I wasn't skulking.”
“Of course not. You take the stairs every day to maintain your fitness.”
Both of them chuckle.
“Seriously, though, why did you take the stairs? Sofia's long gone, Willie's made up with you, and Betty's –"
Marc stops as though he just made fun of the dead.
“–in London,” Daniel finishes, his tone perfectly normal.
“Yes, in London,” Marc says. “So who are you avoiding?”
“No one.” Now Daniel's annoyed. He and Marc have rarely talked without one of them wanting something, and since he didn't start this conversation, he'd really like to end it.
“So you weren't at the party because...”
Marc rolls his eyes and shakes his head. “You really think you can fool me, Daniel? After seven years, plus two months of being your assistant?”
“Look, Marc. You ambushed me. You started asking stupid questions. Don't get mad at me because I'm not answering them.”
“I'm not mad,” says Marc. “But she probably is.”
“Why do you care?” Daniel asks.
“Because, contrary to popular report, I don't hate Betty. Sure, I did for a while when you gave her my job” – Daniel snorts – “but she's my friend. And if I, who mocked her mercilessly for four years, could come to her party and let her hug me” – here Marc cringes – “then you, who have been way more than her friend for four years, could've at least called her before she left. Or sent her flowers. Or something.”
“We are not lovers, Marc. We never were.”
“Did I say you were?”
“In this conversation?”
“No, but that's not the point.” Daniel really doesn't want to do this now, especially since more people are starting to come in. “She's the one who hid the job from me. She's the one who took it without asking and without notice. And I'm supposed to be happy? Pretend like she didn't do something wrong wrong?”
“Well, what did she do wrong?” Marc pounds his hand on the desk on the word did. “She got an amazing offer and she took it. I would've done the same thing.”
Daniel's pretty sure that isn't true. “Would you have hidden it from Wilhelmina?”
“No, but that's because she'd dismember me without the benefit of anesthesia. You and Betty have never been like that. Didn't you write her a ten-page recommendation letter for YETI?”
“It was six, and if I had known it would take her across the ocean, I would never have done it.”
“Okay, now you're rambling and I have to go to my desk.” Marc rises from the chair.
“You forgot your coffee,” Daniel says. Not because he cares, but because for once he'd like to have the last word.
He doesn't get it.
“You drink it. Clearly your brain is still addled – although coffee probably can't cure that.”
Around 1 o'clock, Daniel decides to go out for lunch, dreaming of something greasy. As he puts on his jacket, his stomach rumbles so loudly that he doesn't notice Amanda barreling toward him until her hand hits his cheek with a resounding smack.
“You really are a douche,” Amanda snarls, shoving him into a chair.
“Hello to you, too,” Daniel bites back. What did he do to deserve that?
“You weren't at the party?” It's an accusation, not a question. What is with the third degree today?
“Did you and Marc plan this?”
“I haven't seen Marc since Friday night,” Amanda says, which isn't actually an answer. “But I did go to Queens to get some comfort flan, and Hilda said that Betty's totally pissed that you never said goodbye.” With the rant apparently out of her system, Amanda sits down opposite him, her expression softening. “Are you that jealous of her that you can't even send her an email?"
“What are you talking about?”
“Remember that stupid blog award? How you were upset because you thought she was moving away from you?”
He does remember. He remembers swallowing his pride and telling a group of strangers that he respected and admired and adored her. And she's thrown that back in his face.
“I'm not jealous,” he says.
“Then why haven't you talked to her?”
“Why do you care?”
“Because, as much as I've hated her, she took care of me when I needed it. She's done way more than that for you.”
He knows she's right. He knows he owes Betty more than he can ever repay, mostly because what she's given him has nothing to do with money. And yet he's been so angry, and so sad, and sometimes both at once.
“I have to go,” Amanda says, standing up just as suddenly as she slapped him. “Spencer set me up for a power lunch with one of his soap friends. And you need to go screw your head back on.”
Daniel's lucky enough to avoid both of them for the rest of the week. But Friday night, he finds himself at one of their favorite hangouts, and this time they attack him from both sides as soon as he sits down at the bar.
“So, Daniel,” Marc starts, learning in from the right, twirling his appletini before tipping it back. “What brings you out on a Friday night?”
“Why wouldn't I be out?”
“Because you'd be home, drowning your sorrows in ice cream like a lonely girl. Or tearing up that American Airlines billboard down the block. You know, the one advertising tickets to –
“Yeah, I know,” Daniel cuts him off, the image of the London Eye burning in his brain. He turns to leave, only to bump into Amanda's cocktail and have it spill on his sleeve.
“Stay a while, Daniel,” she says, gripping his left arm. “Have a drink.”
“No, you won't.” She sits him down on the stool, and she and Marc turn their backs to the bar, looking past him. “Because we are the only friends you have right now, which is pathetic 'cause we don't like you very much.”
Marc signals to the bartender, who pours Daniel two fingers of scotch. Really expensive scotch, which he will no doubt make Daniel pay for.
Off of Daniel's raised eyebrow, Marc leers and says, “I know what you like. Small, brown, earthy...”
“We still talking about the drink?”
“What else would we be talking about?”
He walked right into that one. But he keeps sipping the scotch, partly because it is so good, mostly so his face won't reveal anything.
“Let me make this easy for you, Daniel,” Amanda starts. “Be honest with us, and we leave you alone. Keep bullshitting us, and we keep you drinking till you're passed out and we call the paps to take pictures of your slobber.”
“Fine with me,” Daniel says, draining the glass. “This stuff's fantastic.”
“Oh, honestly, Daniel.” Marc's whining now. “Why can't you just admit that you miss her?”
“We're not playing that game again.”
“Fine,” Daniel says, slamming the glass on the bar, which, to his deep satisfaction, startles both of his so-called comrades.
“Yes, I miss Betty. Yes, I'm angry that she didn't tell me about the job, and I'm angry that I burned her release form, and I'm angry that she hasn't tried to get in touch with me once since that stupid party. Happy now?”
“Nope,” says Amanda, whirling around. “Why does she have to call you, huh? She's the one who just moved across the ocean.. She's the one running her own magazine for the first time.” Each she is punctuated by her finger jabbing his chest. “You're still here” – another jab – “in the same cushy job you got from your father. You could call her – hell, you could even fly there – anytime you want. And you were the one who screwed up here, buddy. Not her.”
“She didn't tell me –”
“She didn't want to hurt you, you idiot.” This from Marc.
“Well, she did. No thanks to you.”
Marc nods, ruefully. “I really am sorry about that.”
They all stay silent for a couple of minutes. Daniel orders a beer; he feels like trash and that's what he wants to drink. Marc and Amanda finish their drinks, and for a moment the three of them catch each other's eyes in the mirror behind the bar.
“Look, I'm just going to say this, and then we'll go,” Amanda says. Marc nods again.
“We all know what a crappy history I have with guys who I stay with because I think they'll change.” It's goes without saying that Daniel's one of them. “You didn't change for me, Daniel. You changed for her.”
“Betty and I have never been together –”
“That's not what I mean.” After an eye roll, Amanda continues. “When I think about what you were when we were sleeping together – the first time – and what you are now, I know it had nothing to do with me. You stopped sleeping around because Betty told you it was wrong. Every time you left Mode, you came back because Betty told you to. You married Molly because Betty threw you a wedding, and you only became normal again after Betty talked you down.”
Daniel wants to object – especially to the marrying Molly part – but Amanda's piercing gaze silences him.
“If you want to be angry, then be angry. But don't pretend like Betty meant nothing to you. You owe her better than that.”
“What she said,” says Marc, and they both stand up to leave.
As they saunter off, Daniel knocks back the beer. He doesn't tell them that he hasn't called her because he has no idea what he would say, that he's terrified of coming to her as the needy idiot he was when they first met. If he does talk to her again, it has to be on equal terms.
And that's never going to happen.