Characters/Pairing: Lane Pryce/Joan Harris, Peggy Olson, Ken Cosgrove, Don Draper, Rebecca Pryce, Roger Sterling, Gail Holloway, Stan Rizzo, Michael Ginsberg
Summary: In which two friends fall out, fall to pieces, and -- much, much later -- fall in love. AU from 5x09.
Here on A03, but you can also read chapter 1 below.
Cutler, Gleason and Chaough
Sitting in her office with her feet kicked up onto the desk, Peggy's deep into her second cup of coffee and scribbling down potential tags for a new Alfa Romeo campaign when Kenny bursts into the room, a folded newspaper in one hand and his coat in the other.
“You've gotta see this!”
She sits up with an exaggerated grumble, bright morning light from the window behind her making her squint to see him better. “Don't you knock?”
“Guess who's getting hitched.” Ken's smiling so widely Peggy wants to smack him. Judging from his gleeful tone, it's someone at the old place.
“Not Roger, I hope.” She folds her arms across her chest. “Stan still owes me money.”
“Nope,” he replies, his smug grin refusing to budge as he waves the paper in front of her face. “Take a look.”
Peggy snatches the paper from him with a huff, opening it over her desk and fluffing the pages to see the type clearly. She scans the vows section and lands on a picture with two familiar faces whose caption reads HARRIS/PRYCE.
Her eyes nearly bug out of her head.
“Oh, my god!” she shrieks, looking up from the paper and back to her friend, open mouthed.
“Told you it wasn't Roger,” he says, starting to laugh.
“Bullshit!” She lunges towards him in an attempt to smack his arm. He dodges around the desk, just out of reach. “Did you know about this?”
Ken shakes his head, still grinning as he runs a hand through his hair. “Cynthia kept asking all these questions. How long they'd been an item – if I'd noticed anything before I left. I think I told her no a hundred times before she believed me.”
“Jesus,” Peggy breathes, her mind still reeling. “I can't even believe it.”
She stares at the blurb for so long the words seem to run together:
Mrs. Joan Harris and Mr. Lane Pryce, both of Manhattan, announce their engagement to be married. Both the bride- and groom-to-be are senior partners at advertising agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The wedding will take place in October.
Peggy casts her mind back, trying to recall some possible hint of romance between them. They'd walk to the elevator together on Fridays – like clockwork, at 5:45 on the dot. And there was tea some mornings, too, she thinks – early in the week?
Mostly, she's coming up blank. Lane and Joan, married.
She has to be hallucinating.
“I really should call her,” Peggy says, looking back to the picture. It's a candid shot of the two of them in Lane's office. Lane's sitting at his desk, glasses on, holding one side of an open Wall Street Journal. Joan's leaning over the back of his chair, right arm resting on Lane's shoulder, left hand curling around her half of the newspaper page. Lane's glancing up and over at her out of the corner of his eye, mouth open as if in mid-sentence. Joan's attention seems to be on the paper but she's smiling from ear to ear, teeth and everything, like he's just said something hilarious.
Peggy stares at the image. She can't imagine what must have changed for them to start seeing each other, let alone get married. And they look so happy. A strange wistfulness curls in her chest.
“It's been too long,” she says, clearing her throat.
Ken tosses his coat in the chair opposite Peggy's desk.
“I'll be right back,” he says, with a glance at the doorway behind him. “Don't move!”
He darts outside. The sound of his running footsteps echoes down the hall and eventually fades. After several minutes, he re-appears, a little breathless, carrying a small Rolodex in hand.
“Give me your phone,” he says, setting the box on a corner of her desk and flipping through the cards.
Peggy gapes at him. “What are you doing?”
He pulls a single card from the rotary. “Calling Lane. What's it look like?”
“You have his phone number?” Like that's the strangest part of all this. Lane and Joan are getting married, but that's nothing. Kenny has Lane's phone number.
Ken gives her a pointed look. “Who'd you think recommended me for this place? Pete?”
“It's been what, two years since you left?” Peggy argues, while Ken's on hold with Lane's secretary. “You can't just call him up and invite them to dinner. They'll never say yes.”
“Don't be dumb,” Ken says. “I'll lead with lunch.”
He casts her a questioning look. “You free Wednesday?”
In the cab, Peggy smooths down a wrinkle in her skirt, suddenly nervous.
“How do I look?”
Ken glances over as they come to a stop. “Relax. You look fine.”
Peggy wrinkles her nose. The purple suit with the gold embroidery looked good in the mirror this morning, but she wishes she'd worn something different. Something a little more fresh.
“I can't help it,” she says by way of explanation, as they step outside into the sunshine, and Kenny pays the driver. She still feels a twinge of that Bay Ridge nervousness creeping into her stomach. “You know Joan doesn't miss a thing.”
She's not mousy little Peggy anymore. She hasn't been mousy little Peggy since Don sat by her hospital bed and told her to get up and move forward, but Joan is probably still....Joan. Powerful and striking. She's going to notice Peggy's clothes.
The DON'T WALK sign flickers to life a few feet before they hit the last crosswalk, forcing them to linger on the curb. As they wait, Peggy watches the traffic pass, cars zooming by in endless but forgettable patterns of black and yellow and grey.
If they're doing TV, she thinks idly, the Alfa needs to be red.
When she looks back at Kenny, he's gauging her expression. “Peg, it's just lunch.”
“I know,” she repeats, matter of fact. She tries to put nervousness out of her mind as they cross 51st.
“There they are,” Ken says, pointing to a couple standing near the corner of the Time Life building. “Lane said the restaurant was a couple blocks over, maybe less.”
From a distance, absorbed in conversation, the two of them look unchanged. Joan – in a black belted trenchcoat and a crimson-colored dress – holds a cigarette between two fingers, a smirk playing at her lips. Lane's in a tweed three-piece. They're talking with a relaxed air, standing about a foot apart.
Honestly, Peggy thinks, they look like two coworkers on a smoke break, not an engaged couple. It takes a few minutes for her to notice any differences.
Lane's hair is graying at the temples. Joan's developed a few more crow's feet around her eyes – not that Peggy will say that aloud. Lane doesn't take Joan's hand as they all walk down 6th. Joan doesn't pat Lane's arm when he opens the restaurant door for them with a jaunty gesture: ladies first. But when the redhead steps into the doorway, Lane's hand moves to the small of her back – so quickly that it's barely noticeable.
Peggy, walking just behind Joan, has to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from visibly reacting.She's so gonna tell Kenny after they leave.
“How's things at the 4As?” Ken asks Lane, after they get their drinks.
“Oh,” Lane says modestly, stirring sugar into his tea. “Bit dull, really. We're working through the fiscal-year budget, so I'm swimming in paperwork.”
“You're through quarter three now, aren't you?” Joan asks him, and Lane makes a noise of assent, putting down his spoon.
“Yes, finally. Though I had to have a word with Mark Grissom. Never gets things in on time.”
Joan gives Ken and Peggy a pointed look. “He's with Y&R.”
“What about your work?” Lane asks. “Things holding up all right?”
“As well as they can be,” Peggy replies with a shrug, looking over at Ken, who seems to agree. “Accounts is doing well, and the writers are on a roll. Plus, Ted's stopped prank calling half of McCann. I consider that a victory unto itself.”
Confusion etches itself into Lane's face at that last part. Joan's raising an imperious eyebrow.
Peggy's not sure if they think she's joking or serious (and she is serious – Ted blows off steam by pranking people on a regular basis) but either way, the moment's falling flat.
“He ever call Harry back?” Ken asks, after a moment, and Peggy grins.
“Please hold for Mr. Roddenberry,” she says in her best secretarial voice, and Kenny starts to snicker.
“That one was inspired,” he says, turning back to Lane and Joan. “Okay. You guys remember Paul Kinsey?”
Joan gives him a look that plainly says don't remind me, while Lane's frown deepens.
“Copywriter from the old Sterling Cooper?” Peggy prompts. “Had a beard? And a pipe?”
“Was ridiculously pretentious?”
Lane's shaking his head, and glances over at Joan, who mouths something at him. Peggy can't tell what it is, but the words seem to jolt Lane into recognition.
“Ah. All right.”
“Anyway,” Peggy continues with a wave of her hand, “he used to write a little on the side, and he'd come up with these screenplays. Last I heard, he wrote a spec for Star Trek, and gave it to Harry.”
“Really?” Lane asks – with what, Peggy is surprised to note, is genuine interest.
“Don't get your hopes up,” Ken warns the other man. “Apparently it was awful.”
Peggy makes a face at her friend. “Of course it was. It was called The Negron Complex.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she notices Joan's placid expression falter for a brief moment. One side of her mouth curves up in a smirk.
“So,” Peggy continues, gesturing to Ken. “Kenny, Ted and I were all in the office one afternoon – this was the year he started. We'd taken Alfa out to lunch and were...a little relaxed.”
“Sauced,” Ken supplies with a chuckle. “Those Italians put us through our paces.”
“We're talking about old coworkers, the script comes up, and suddenly Ted's on the phone as Gene Roddenberry.”
“He starts out by saying how much he loved Kinsey's ideas, but that the script would need heavy editing to make it to TV, and he needed Harry's help. Starting with the title.”
“What was the one he gave us? Before he figured it out?” Peggy asks her friend, trying not to laugh.
“Ivory Tears,” Ken says with a snicker, and they dissolve into laughter.
When Peggy finally gets hold of herself, she looks across the table to see that Joan's watching them with detached amusement, calmly smoking a cigarette, while Lane just seems befuddled.
“Why would he want to call someone as Mr. Roddenberry?”
Peggy exchanges a bemused look with Ken. She's never thought about Ted's pranks much, just learned not to take them personally. “I don't know. It was just funny.”
There's a small silence. Kenny clears his throat. Peggy tries not to fidget. Maybe you had to be there to appreciate it.
The young waitress sets plates in front of them with a little flourish and a smile, and refills Peggy's coffee before walking quickly back to the counter. Ken digs into his food with gusto, but Lane's peering at his sandwich with a hesitant expression.
Joan looks over at him, briefly. “I thought you were hungry?”
“Oh,” Lane waves a dismissive hand, his voice quiet. “It's got mayonnaise. I didn’t realize.”
But Lane makes no move to signal their waitress, staring at his plate with a hesitant expression, as if he’s not sure whether to scrape off the bread and eat the sandwich as is or send it back. It’s like he’s deciding whether to start nuclear war.
Peggy looks at Joan, waiting for the redhead to make some pointed comment.
Instead, Joan holds out her hand to the Englishman, brisk. “Switch with me,” she says, motioning to Lane's plate. “You like chicken.”
Within a minute, she's cutting into his roast beef sandwich with her knife and fork. Lane's looking down at his new plate and shaking his head like he doesn't understand how this could have happened.
Peggy watches, still stunned, as Joan sets the vinegar bottle by his knife and spoon. Lane takes it with a mumbled thanks, dashing a little of the contents onto his french fries. He's pretending to be absorbed in the process, but a tiny smile blooms at the corners of his mouth. Joan, in turn, pretends not to notice, but she's carefully not looking at him, taking a dainty sip of her tea.
Jesus. If it were anyone else, Peggy would roll her eyes and make some stupid joke: get a room, you're weirding us out. But they're not even doing anything, just eating, and all she can do is gawk like an idiot.
Peggy feels Ken nudge her foot with the toe of his shoe, and she looks over at him, questioning.
He leans over to mutter something in her ear.
“Hands off my sandwich.” And he pops a potato chip into his mouth as he draws back.
She has to turn a laugh into a terrible cough.
They get to talking about SCDP. Caroline's retiring. Scarlett's getting married.
“Trudy's expecting again,” Joan confides, and Peggy is thankful this isn't new information.
“I heard,” she says, in an attempt to be breezy.
“You serious?” Ken asks. “When?”
Peggy shrugs. “Last week. I...ran into Tom.”
A lie. But Tom's always been a little loose-lipped, so it could be true.
Kenny's frowning, studying her intently. “He never told me. I saw him Thursday.”
“That's weird,” Peggy says, fighting for a neutral expression. Really should have kept it vague. She's ready to at least attempt a story, when Joan clears her throat, quietly.
“Gentlemen, if you'll excuse me.”
The two men stand – Lane moves to let Joan exit the booth – and Joan eyes flick to Peggy as she passes, in a silent Well, are you coming?
“Be right back,” Peggy murmurs to the men, sliding out of her seat as quickly as she can.
In the ladies' room, Joan takes the opportunity to powder her nose, sweeping makeup under her left eye in an easy, practiced motion. Peggy stands by the second sink, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, eyes fixed on the faucet. The other woman's not going to pry, but Peggy feels like she should tell Joan something.
“My boyfriend told me,” she begins awkwardly, meeting Joan's eyes in the mirror. “About Trudy, I mean.”
Even if Don wasn't twice-divorced, he's too old to be called a boyfriend. But Peggy doesn't have a better word to describe him. They've been seeing each other. It's not just sexual (anymore), but it's something. So.
Joan casts a sideways glance at Peggy, replacing her compact in her purse. “I see.”
Peggy doesn't know if Joan has figured out who she means, or if she's just letting her get the words out of her system before they go back to the table.
“Thanks for saving me, back there. I haven't told Kenny about him,” Peggy continues in a rush. For some reason, she wants Joan to understand why this is important, why she hasn't said anything to her closest friend. (She tries not to dwell on the fact that her closest friend is Kenny. I mean, Jesus.)
“We're keeping it quiet. It's kind of....complicated.”
And still new – less than six months. No one at the old place knows, though Peggy's sure that won't last. Once Roger hears about it, so will the rest of the world.
Her mother still hatesDon, so telling her is out of the question. Anita might warm up to him eventually, but Peggy doesn't have high hopes. Plus there's Megan – and even Betty – to worry about. They'll know sooner or later.
“It's beyond complicated,” she says, with a little sigh.
Joan stares at her for a moment, considering.
“I understand,” she says. Her eyes sweep sideways, briefly, as if she's thinking of something else, then snap back to Peggy's. Her mouth quirks in reassurance. “It can be difficult, at first.”
Peggy blinks, surprised. Joan, admitting something was difficult? It dawns on her that for all the time she spent wondering how Joan and Lane began seeing each other, she never really thought about how hard it must have been to be together at all. They were both married before, and with kids. Trying to work together and figure out how to be a couple at the same time.
She reaches out, puts a tentative hand on Joan's arm.
“I'm really happy for you,” she says. As weird as this scenario is, she wants Joan to know that, at least.
Joan smiles at her, and Peggy smiles back, feeling a sudden rush of nostalgia. She's not friendly with many women at CGC. If she's being honest, she has missed Joan. Six years at the same agency – they went through so much together.
“Have a drink with me,” she continues, impulsive.
Joan raises an eyebrow, and Peggy pulls back, fumbles for the right turn of phrase.
“I don't mean now, just...soon. This has been nice.”
Peggy's almost afraid the older woman's going to say no, make some comment about how earnest little Peggy Olson still is, after all this time.
“Lane's taking the boys to the movies on Friday,” Joan says instead. Her tone is casual, as if she's just making an offhand comment about weekend plans, but Peggy knows Joan well enough to understand this is the invitation.
She could do Friday. Don's got to go to Rye anyway. It's Bobby's birthday.
“We could stop by PJ Clarke's.” Peggy says dryly. She hasn't been there since at least '63. Probably some kind of awful punk bar by now, packed by kids with eyeliner and weird piercings, dancing wildly to David Bowie instead of doing the Twist.
Joan actually laughs. “Yes, I'm sure we'd blend in very well.”
It's pure Lane, right down to the inflection. Peggy can't help but laugh.
They end up in midtown, at the Pierre. Joan suggested it more for old times' sake than anything else, but Peggy didn't argue. She was curious to see how the hotel had changed, now that she's not working out of a cramped two-room suite.
Her first impression is that it isn't as nice as it used to be.
Sure, it's still reputable, and the bar's elegant, but it has a distinctly old-fashioned look. It looks like something Cooper's sister would have dreamed up. Heavy brocade curtains, pale blue, frame the high windows on one end of the room. A cream-colored wallpaper with an intricate pattern dominates the walls, and even in the low light Peggy can tell it's peeling at the corners, in small yellowing pieces.
Thank god some things never change. The drinks are as good as Peggy remembers.
She takes another sip of her whiskey, casting a sideways look at Joan.
“So the boys are at the movies?”
“Yes. And it was Kevin's turn to choose,” Joan says with a nod. “God only knows what they'll see.”
“Is Lane's son with you, too?” Peggy asks, a little surprised. She can't imagine Lane's ex-wife letting their son live in America. Didn't she always hate New York?
“For the summer. School starts back on September first.”
Peggy assumes he must go to school in England.
“How old is he now?” She has a vague impression of meeting a little red-haired boy on the day they moved into the Time Life building. He kept dropping his glasses.
Joan's mouth is wry. “Fifteen.”
“Jesus,” Peggy says, horrified. She tries to imagine that red-haired boy as a teenager. In her mind, he's a gawkier version of Lane, all knees and elbows. “Really?”
“We're not as young as we used to be,” Joan says, arch.
“Speak for yourself,” Peggy grumbles, taking another drink.
They've started making fun of their fellow bar patrons when Joan checks her watch, eyebrows lifting in surprise at the time.
“I should go,” she says. “I told Lane I'd be home before ten.”
Peggy makes a frustrated face. So soon? “One more drink. You can call him when you leave.”
Joan responds with one of her patented glances: eyes flicking up to Peggy's with cool condescension. “Sorry. We've got plans.”
A little jolt of embarrassment courses through Peggy's chest, but she decides to tease her friend instead of apologizing for the faux pas, doing a sort of saucy wiggle in her seat.
Joan rolls her eyes, but she's smiling, so Peggy's not worried.
“Peggy, are you asking if I sleep with my fiance?”
The redhead puts a cigarette to her lips, lighting it in an elegant motion, while Peggy presses a hand to her mouth and tries not to giggle. So she's acting like a teenager. It's still Joan and Lane and sex. Lane's a nice man, but he looks like he couldn't turn on a stove.
She tries for the millionth time to imagine the two of them living together, being married, but the picture of family life she conjures up looks like something out of a wackier Father Knows Best. Lane and Joan sitting side by side at the kitchen table, dressed to the nines and working through a stack of budget reports. Sleeping in twin beds, wearing his and hers pajamas. Lane in a stupid little nightcap.
She really shouldn't press the subject. It'd be rude.
“Is it the tweed?” she asks, dry. Her mouth twitches as she tries and fails not to grin, and her voice turns low, an exaggerated purr. “Does it drive you wild?”
Joan takes a long drag from her cigarette, voice airy when she speaks. “You'd be surprised.”
Peggy dissolves into laughter again, her cheeks growing warm. God, it's too weird. She's definitely shutting up now.
She goes over to Don's on Sunday morning. Mostly for the sex – it's been two weeks, which is a long time for them – but she can't help fussing at him, afterward. She's sprawled on the left side of the bed, sheets tangled around her feet.
“Why didn't you tell me Lane and Joan were dating?”
He actually starts laughing. Bastard.
“Come on,” he says, tone innocent, turning his head to look at her. “I thought you knew.”
They've made it a point not to talk about work, but in the handful of times he's mentioned either Lane or Joan in the past few months, it's always in the context of the agency. Lane thinks the overhead is good, but won't increase our budget. Joan keeps denying Stan's expense reports. Lane and Joan were out on Monday, and Roger bitched all morning.
(Okay, that one makes more sense, now that she thinks about it.)
Peggy props a pillow behind her neck as she sits up, shooting Don the side-eye. “They've always worked as a team. How was I supposed to know they were doing more than...budgeting?” She flaps a hand at the bedsheets between them as she says the last word.
Don's still lying on his back, staring up at her with a raised eyebrow. “Budgeting? Really?”
Ugh, he's so smug. She's scatterbrained right now. He knows what she means.
“You know they've been together four years?” she continues, undeterred.
“I didn't,” he says, quietly.
Peggy reaches to her left, fumbling around in the nightstand drawer for the pack of Luckys she knows is in here somewhere. “I asked Joan how it all started. She said it was hard to pinpoint.”
She's curious. It's not a crime.
“Come on,” Don says again. She can feel the bed springs shift as he rolls toward her. “Things happen. People don't always know why.”
His way of changing the subject. Peggy rolls her eyes. She can take a hint. Somewhere between a pair of nail clippers, a few hastily-folded pages of Ad Age and an airplane-sized whiskey bottle, her fingertips nudge the pack of cigarettes, and she pulls it from the drawer with a victorious air. Putting one to her lips, she tosses the pack onto Don's chest, casual. His hands move to pick it up, pluck a cigarette for himself before grabbing the lighter from his side of the bed.
“Hand it over, slowpoke,” she says with a grin, holding out a hand, palm up.
Don places the lighter in her hand, his voice low. “You are very bossy today.”
Two clicks, and Peggy exhales in a jet of smoke.
“You love it.”