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an island in your arms

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After the stress of the past few weeks, Joan has to admit that it’s a relief to see Myra again. Although she’s never needed to talk to a psychiatrist, it’s still reassuring to see a familiar face, especially now that Lane’s been doing so well. There aren’t many people who understand his overall progress, or who can answer Joan’s most delicate questions, generally speaking. Myra’s been a good sport at guiding her toward the best ways to help him without seeming intrusive.

“I’m sure you see plenty of patients who haven’t recovered as fully as Lane has, but in my opinion, he’s done exceptionally well.”

Joan doesn’t know how long she’s been talking, but she can’t seem to shut up. She really does need to find something else to get excited about, other than her friends, her mother, and Kevin.

“Even the migraines don’t disrupt him that often. As long as he sticks to a good sleep schedule, and doesn’t strain himself, he seems to do fine.”

Myra’s smile is strangely sly. “He’s surpassed most of the others I’ve seen.”

Now that Joan’s on the subject, it’s honestly a little difficult to stop. She allows herself to brag for another few seconds. “I’m just so proud of him. Nobody else knows how much work it took for him to get to this point. Everyone thinks he’s on some low-salt diet for his heart.”

“Has he told many others what happened?”

“Oh. Well, his brother. Lewis was very concerned.” Joan lowers her gaze to her tea mug. “Honestly, more like distraught. I don’t know if you saw the updates to the apartment?”

“I did. It looks beautiful.”

“Yes.” Joan lets out a breath. “He worked hard. It almost made up for the fact that he drove Lane completely bananas.”

“Sure. But I meant, has Lane told anyone other than family?”

Joan comes up blank for the first time in a long time; her mouth opens and closes in surprise. She has no idea.

Months ago, she could rattle off all the answers to Myra’s questions without blinking. But more and more often, these days, she’s at a loss.

And yes, of course she wants Lane to continue doing well. Of course she wants him to live a full life. It’s just hard to accept that he doesn’t want to share all of these little milestones with her. Or rather, with a friend.

“I don’t know.”

“That’s okay.” Myra just shrugs. “These things take time.”

“Why do you ask? Is that bad?” Joan’s frown deepens. “Should he tell people?”

“Well,” Myra gives her a knowing glance, “that’s up to him. Like you said, he’s been very fortunate with his recovery so far. And you never know. Some people even get into mental health advocacy once they become stable.”

Joan gives her a grateful look. Maybe it’s not so terrible after all.

“Either way, I think he’s becoming more sure of himself—confident. With an attitude like that, you never know what could happen.” Myra smiles warmly at Joan before taking a sip of her coffee. “He could take up a new hobby. Heck, he could even start dating again, once the dust settles.”

The idea startles Joan so much she almost knocks her silverware into the floor. For a split second, she’s speechless.

“Dating.”

Myra actually laughs at Joan’s shocked expression. “Well, honey, do you think he’s going to stay divorced forever?”

“No, but he doesn’t need to jump into some random fling, either. I—maybe he’ll want to start going out eventually, but there isn’t anyone good on the horizon. And right now, I just don’t see the rush.”

Myra gives Joan a very queer look. One eyebrow cocks into a sharp little bow.

Quickly, Joan takes another sip of her tea. “What?”

“Well, how long do you think the man should wait? If it were up to you?”

“Oh, Myra.

“Humor me. Is he waiting for just anyone, or for a specific person?”

The other shoe drops.

“What?” Joan realizes she’s still fiddling with the string of her teabag, pulling the tab one way and another so that color swirls through the water. She quickly drops it. “No. You—Lane’s my friend. Why would I care who he’s seeing?”

“I don’t know,” Myra says with a careful little shrug. Sincerity radiates off of her in waves. “You’re the only person who can answer that.”

“Don’t turn this into—” Suddenly, Joan is so enraged she can hardly speak. “For god’s sake, it doesn’t matter. I was just making a comment.”

“Sounds like it matters a lot.”

Myra reaches across the table, but Joan yanks her arm up and backwards before the other woman’s fingers can brush her wrist.

“Why are you giving me the third degree?”

“Why don’t you want to say that Lane’s important to you?”

“Because you’re twisting my words!” At the counter, someone’s head perks up, and so Joan quickly lowers her voice to a whisper. “All I said was that he can do whatever he wants. It’s not my life. I’m not involved.”

“Do you want to be?”

Joan sees red. “Maybe your husband should watch out, if you care so much about who Lane is or isn’t screwing.”

Myra’s cheeks darken, and she narrows her eyes, but she still doesn’t take the bait, just cocks her head in an imperious way and speaks very, very slowly.

“Joan Harris, I didn’t say one word about anybody screwing.”

Oh, shit.

Joan can’t find the words to explain any more. It was a verbal slip—no, less than that. A slip is deliberate. This doesn’t mean anything. She’s exhausted and she’s nervous and she’s just blowing everything out of proportion. All she’s trying to say is that Lane shouldn’t rush into bed with some stupid floozy just because he can.

For all she knows, maybe he already has a girlfriend waiting in the wings: some cute young thing he met through one of Lewis’s adventures, or even while sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. Maybe on the mornings when he shows up to work pink-cheeked and slightly sweaty and a little out of breath, he’s been in bed having wild athletic sex with that girl, instead of walking the twenty or thirty minutes over from Sutton Place for a little exercise.

Jesus, why is she even thinking about that? What does it matter?

“You’re delusional,” she hisses feebly, grabbing for her purse with one blind hand and flinging a couple of crumpled bills onto the table. Her eyes sting in a dangerous way, but she just turns up the venom in response as she slides out of the booth, voice high and rushed. “And I am not going to sit here and have some—washed-up idiot too stupid to see the obvious—”

“Really?” drawls Myra, with a flash of teeth that isn’t a smile. “You want to project on me right now?”

Joan’s head is pounding and her stomach’s churning and she feels stupid, stupid, stupid. She has to get out of here before she starts crying, and so she shoves out of the booth with panic welling in her throat.

“You’re wrong.”

Before she can look back, she storms off and out the front door, sucking down big gasps of cold winter air in an attempt to clear her head.

God, of course she didn’t mean it like that. Having any sort of feelings for Lane would be ridiculous—impossible, even. All she’s doing is considering the bigger picture. He shouldn’t date some random woman when he’s made such incredible progress; he doesn’t need to risk having a snotty twenty-year-old stomp on his self-esteem. Why would he do that?

Who would understand the scale of the journey he’s gone through in the past year—or more? What kind of woman would be able to see past all the little oddities on the surface? Who wouldn’t just write him off as some hysterical little story to tell at parties? Remember when I went out with that weird financier?

What if they laughed at him?

What if it wasn’t someone random at all?

Joan shakes her head no, so vehemently that she accidentally catches the eye of a confused stranger lingering in a nearby doorway.

No. Myra’s wrong. Joan is with Tony now. He’s a good man, and they’ll have a good time together tonight.

That’s the end of it.

           

**

 

The silence in their stylish hotel room is agonizing. At the moment, Joan’s so embarrassed that she can’t even speak.

Half-dressed with her slip bunched up around her waist and her bra askew, she grips the top sheet in one hand in an attempt to center herself.

Standing next to the bed with his back to her, Tony hasn’t said a word in several minutes; a dim stream of light flickers through the windows as he pulls on his undershirt.

Joan can’t stop watching him. She can’t even think straight.

Fix this. Talk to him. Say something, damn it!

“Tony, I—I’m so sorry.”

He doesn’t turn around. “Yeah. I got that.”

“I know, but I—” Joan flushes scarlet all the way down to her toes; shame curls deep in her stomach. How the hell could she have done something this ridiculous? “My mind was on work. That’s all.”

He’s already threading his arms through the sleeves of his collared shirt; the shadow of his fingers plays across the wall as he buttons it up.

“Really not making me feel better.”

She gulps down a breath in an attempt to keep from panicking, and presses a palm to her forehead as she sits up. The sheet pools around her crossed legs.

“You have to believe me. I’ve never done this. I don’t do this.”

“All right.” He still won’t look at her. “Whatever you say.”

Shit. Why isn’t anything working?

“Please don’t be angry,” she pleads.

Tony’s hands still at the top of his collar, and after a second, he finally turns to look at her. Although he’s in profile, she can still make out the fraught expression on his face.

“Do you love him?”

She recoils; the sheet flutters to the mattress.

“What?”

“Simple question.” He lets out a breath. “I mean, do you two have some kind of history I don’t know about?”

“Do we—oh, my god.” She stutters out a laugh because it’s so absurd, but quickly stamps it down when Tony’s face darkens, and he turns away. “No. Of course we—I don’t think about him that way. Ever.”

“Come on.”

“I don’t,” she says weakly.

When he speaks again, Tony doesn’t even sound angry, just disappointed.

“You said his name, for god’s sake.”

Joan flinches. Just hearing this out loud makes her want to burst into tears and beg for forgiveness.

“It was an accident.”

Closing her eyes doesn’t stop her from remembering it all over again: Tony’s warm weight setttled on top of her nearly-naked body while his cock brushed gently between her legs. Rough day-old stubble grazed her jaw and neck as he sucked a bruise into the skin just below her ear; the sandpaper rasp of his face pressed against her throat made her shiver with delight.

But when her eyes slid closed, suddenly she wasn’t seeing Tony at all, just a flash of blondish red hair, and a shocking spray of freckles dotted across a familiar crooked nose. When he’d finally met her gaze, the mischievous glint in his blue eyes had made her gasp out loud and clutch him even tighter.

Just like that. Oh, yes. Oh—

“Why’d you even invite me up in the first place?”

“Stop.” Joan reaches out and puts a hand against the small of his back; he startles at the contact. “I’m here with you. I like you.”

“Well, it kinda seems like you don’t want me.”

Joan’s heart drops into her stomach.

“Tony.”

She knows exactly what she’s supposed to say.

Of course I do. We were having such a good time. It was a mistake. It meant nothing. Let me make it up to you.

“Please come back to bed,” she murmurs, and strokes his back a little—not trying to get him going, just trying to soothe his hurt feelings.

No reaction. It still doesn’t work.

“I’ll call you tomorrow,” he finally says, and walks toward the bureau to pick up his suit pants.

With nothing to hold it in place, her palm drops away from the small of his back and falls to the mattress.

 

**

 

He doesn’t call.

Joan waits until after lunch to indulge the heavy, maudlin feeling that’s unfurled inside her chest; it’s easy to pour a dram of gin into the earl grey she’s nursing. Without milk, the hot drink feels soothing in a medicinal way, and it doesn’t keep her from finishing the rest of her quarter end paperwork two days ahead of schedule.

The second and third cups of spiked tea boost her spirits even higher, and by the time she leaves for her hair appointment so she can change into something a little more impressive before her client dinner, Joan doesn’t think twice before pouring the rest of the gin into a large silver flask she’s kept stashed in the bottom drawer of her desk.

Engraved. Roger gave this to her for her wedding. She’d thought it was a dumb choice at first, but now, she thinks the gift had less to do with his careless whims than she’d imagined. Maybe he knew she’d need it.

By four thirty, Joan’s at the salon, feeling slightly more normal. She’s even able to relax and listen to the idle chitchat going on around her while Marjorie sets and pins up locks of soaking wet hair into hard plastic rollers with warm brown velvet and metal cores.

Five o’clock comes, and she’s sipping leisurely from her flask, sitting under the warm heat of the whirring, industrial-sized dryer, and leafing through a wrinkled issue of Cosmopolitan as she and Marjorie and a few others gossip about nothing at all. By six thirty, her hair and makeup are finished, and she’s picked up the gown and coat that were waiting at the dry cleaners.

Joan gets back to the Time Life building with almost ten minutes to spare. Everyone is gone for the night – even creative – so it’s easy for her to slip into the ladies’ room and change without a care in the world, without even bothering to lock the door.

She hums to herself as she steps into her dress, zips it up, and smooths out the verdant green chiffon against her skin. It’s so pretty. One-shouldered with a sheer panel to hide her other bra strap. A layer of filmy chiffon cascades down from the bodice and floats around her toes like the silkiest caftan. A silver filigree brooch adorns her right shoulder and anchors the chiffon in place. It’s prettier than Joan would normally wear to a client meeting, but it’s not like she could have gone to a late dinner in something as plain as a skirt suit. Not at this time of night. Better to stand out, especially if she’s the only professional woman at the table.

He’s never going to call you back, whispers a tiny voice in the back of Joan’s mind as she adjusts the single strap of her dress against her clavicle.

She takes another gulp from her flask, ignoring the same voice that whispers stupid, stupid as she secures it under one of her garters.

 

**

 

Dinner goes fine for the first hour. Joan’s on and upbeat and ready to tease any kind of life out of Ed, despite the fact that his wife’s at home sick. Is the woman terminally ill or just out with a nasty flu? These are the kinds of questions you can’t ask in the middle of the entrée, and Cynthia’s context clues are zero help.

The other shoe drops when she’s almost halfway through her salmon. She’s not a lightweight or a sick drunk, thank god, but Joan can feel the pull of total plastation when it hits.

Wait. Plastation’s the wrong word. What’s the one she meant?

Within seconds, the room gets a little brighter, slightly loose around the edges, and her stomach gets that familiar soaring feeling. Like she’s on the biggest coaster at Coney Island.

And yet somehow nobody else has noticed how drunk she is. Can they tell she’s totally blasted? Is she being too obvious?

Her eyes are awkwardly wide as she listens to everyone and laughs and smiles through some small talk about Cynthia’s cousin’s kids.

From this angle, sitting directly across the table, Ed really doesn’t look like he’s in the peak of health, just radiates an orange and white glow in his beige dinner jacket, like a creamsicle with a bad rug. Or a shaved-and-dyed poodle.

Oh, boy. Oh, don’t say that out loud.

“Well,” and suddenly Cynthia’s hand is on Joan’s arm, “if you’ll excuse us, we’ve got to go powder our noses. Joan?”

Ken and his father in law stand as Joan and Cynthia make their way out of the dining room and into the marble-tiled restroom. Joan’s focusing all her energy on not staggering; it’s easy to stand by the sinks and say hello to the attendant as Cynthia relieves herself.

When Joan realizes she wants to go sit on the sofa, starts to walk over, and falls down like a sack of potatoes, with her arms splayed out in front of her, she finally realizes she may be too drunk to play this off.

“Oh!”

Her purse and flask skid loudly across the floor and past the attendant’s station.

“What was that?” Cynthia calls. A toilet flushes loudly, drowning out the rest of her sentence.

Joan can’t even answer. The attendant gathers them up, hurries over and helps her into a sitting position.

“Ma’am? You all right?”

“Yes, of course.” Joan acceps the fresh tissue the woman pushes into her hand. “I just—tripped on my hem, that’s all.”

The stall door unlocks, Cynthia walks out, and finds Joan sitting to the right of the paper towel dispenser, almost under the small counter that doubles as equal parts attendant station and lipstick mirror.

“Oh, my god. Are you okay?”

“Yes,” Joan manages after a second of silence, and dabs at her forehead with the now-crumpled tissue before letting out a deep breath. “It’s fine. I’m fine.”

“Thank you for your help.” Cynthia tells the attendant, who nods and walks away. “I’ll take it from here.”

“I’m sorry,” Joan says again.

Her flask and purse sit safely in her lap, but the glint of silver clearly draws Cynthia’s eye.

Gingerly, she reaches out and shakes Joan’s flask from side to side, eyebrows lifting in surprise when she hears a litlte bit of gin sloshing around in the bottom.

“Some party you’re having. Are we invited?”

“I was just trying to cheer up at lunch,” Joan sighs, and takes two more tissues from the box. “Bad date last night.”

“You’ve been drinking since lunch?” Cynthia lowers her voice, and immediately holds out one hand. “Here. Give me those. I’ll touch up your lipstick, and then we’re going to go out there and call you a cab home.”

“No, we’re not.” Joan pulls a face. “I promise, I’m fine.”

“You’re really not. We’ll tell Daddy that you aren’t feeling well. Kenny’ll be—”

“No. Come on, Cynthia!” Joan shakes her head no, and is thankful she’s the good kind of drunk, not nauseated, because the gesture just makes her feel like she’s leaning out of a car window with the breeze rolling through her hair. She wants to wave her arms up and down against the swirling currents. “I can’t go home yet. I wanna stay.”

“Well, you can’t pitch like this.”

“Not going to.” Joan focuses her energy into sitting up straight. “Um. All we hafta do ‘s keep your dad talking to Ken. ‘S easy. Let him joke and talk and—everything.” She hiccups a little. “And I’ll—put on my—listening face. It’ll be great.”

“Oh, my god. Okay. Let’s go.” A deep furrow is etched between Cynthia’s brows, but she gamely helps Joan up from the sofa and ushers her out into the lobby. “We’ve already been in here too long.”

They hurry out into the lobby with their arms linked in a sisterly way. Joan’s already fumbling for her clutch purse; but drops it onto the tile before she can get it in hand. Cynthia quickly stoops to pick it up.

While she’s distracted, Joan glances right and sees an empty telephone booth a few feet away. She quickly swirls toward the door and thumps down onto the bench in an ungainly way.

“Wait! I have to—make a call.”

“What? No, you can’t just—” Cynthia huffs out a sigh and puts Joan’s purse on the bench next to her. “Never mind. I’ll tell them there’s a problem with your babysitter. Sit right there. I’ll be right back.”

Squaring her shoulders, she hurries away, toward the dining room.

Joan ignores the stares of the crowd waiting for tables as she shuts the door of the little telephone booth, thumbs open her purse, and shoves a couple of dimes into the slot with clumsy fingers.

One ring. Another. Another. Another.

What is she doing? Why can’t she just leave well enough—?

“Mmph.” Lane clears his throat. “Sorry. Hello?”

Joan’s entire body floods with goosebumps.

“Hi. It’s me.”

“Joan?” He sounds confused. “Are you at home?”

“No,” she snorts. “But you aren’t either.”

“Oh. Well, no. Erm. Just putting in some extra hours. Meant to take a little break before I went back to it. Order in a Chinese, that sort of thing. But I’m still here, and the food isn’t. And then I put the papers down somewhere, and now they’re gone.” He huffs out a breath. “Probably never find them.”

She’s already giggling.

“And now you’re laughing at me. Wonderful.”

“No.” Joan traces one fingertip over the concave outline of the rotary dial, and bites her lip to dim her smile. “Check the end table by the sofa. The side hidden by the potted plant. You always leave things over there and forget them.”

“Yes, ha ha ha. One mustn’t doubt the psychic connection of a woman calling in from—“ he makes a surprised noise, “oh, hang on a minute.”

She laughs even harder as he puts the phone down with a clank.

When he comes back, he sounds extremely chipper. “Remind me never to mock your terrifying omnicience.”

Joan laughs again, low and pleased.

“Anyway, thanks. Must say, I—”

“Hey. Don’t go home yet,” Joan blurts out, and sits on her free hand to keep from running it through her coiffed hair. The idea comes to her instantly; of course she should stop by the office after dinner. Of course she should see him.

He pauses before answering. “Sorry?”

“After dinner. I’m coming back to the office. So don’t—” she hiccups again, and has to put one hand over her mouth “—you should wait for me, okay?”

“Oh.” He lets out a soft breath; static crackles down through the receiver. “Well, what—aren’t you with clients?”

“Yeah, but I’m prob’ly going home soon,” Joan glances toward the dining room. “’M too drunk to stay much longer, and Kenny’s bored out of his mind.”

Lane bursts out laughing. She can’t help laughing with him, until she sees Kenny and Cynthia striding out from the dining room with identical concerned looks on their faces, scanning the room to see where she’s gone.

“Shit, they’re coming over. But don’t leave, okay? I wanna see you.”

“All right.”

Joan nods in an emphatic way. “Okay. Just stay.”

“I will. I promise. Just—phone when you’re on the way.”

Joan hangs up, just in time to open the folding booth door and come face to face with both Cosgroves.

Standing next to his wife, with his arms folded across his chest, Ken’s clearly anxious and jittery. The penguin suit certainly doesn’t do him any favors in that department. He looks like a skittish Titanic passenger.

“Okay, look, Dad thinks your kid has a fever or something, so we’ve got to keep this short. Why the hell did you pick tonight to pull a Roger Sterling?”

“Hey. Roger doesn’t get drunk at client dinners.”

After she blurts this gem out, Joan puts a hand over her mouth.

Nobody’s supposed to know that. Part of the sell. State secret. Big secret.

“That’s not funny,” Ken growls.

Cynthia puts a comforting hand on his arm.

Oh, thank god, they think she’s joking.

“Really, I’m fine,” Joan makes a conscious effort to sit up straight, and regards Ken with the clearest stare she can muster. “I just need some—some water.”

“You can’t talk details like this. Six sheets to the wind.”

“Oh, the hell I can’t!”

A savage gleam comes to Ken’s eye. “Tell me the name of Kinsey’s play without laughing.”

“Ken, come on,” Joan’s mouth purses as she tries not to snicker, and she flashes him a pleading look. “That isn’t fair.”

“See? Sauced. I once saw you needle him about it, straight-faced, for twenty minutes.”

“Fine.” Joan feels like pouting, and just manages not to cross her arms over her chest. “Just—give me the contract, then. When we get back. I’ll pretend to read.”

“You’re not talking media buys,” Ken warns. “Just act like you’re proofing.”

“All right, all right,” Joan hisses. “I won’t.”

 

**

 

She keeps this promise for all of five minutes once they’re back at the table. Ken’s yammering about some football game and cracking Ed up with his imitation of one of the less talented New York players, while Cynthia’s just being little-girl charming, as if being on her best behavior for Daddy is going to somehow mask the fact that Joan’s so drunk she can barely keep her cigarette lit.

A little drop of ash suddenly falls onto the paper.

Joan puts the cigarette in the nearest ashtray, and brushes the rest of the ash away from the subtotal column.

She has to do a double take when she reads the number under the greyish residue. ‘S way too high.

“Ed.”

All eyes snap to hers. Across the table, Kenny looks terrified, but Ed just seems bemused.

“Why the hell would you spend thirty thousand on direct mail pieces?”

“Thirty thousand,” Ed repeats flatly.

Joan frowns down at the page in front of her; although half the type is swimming, she feels like she can read the number by her thumb reasonably well, and quickly folds down the top left corner. “That’s what it says.”

Cynthia leans in and glances over Joan’s left shoulder to confirm this; Joan gets the faintest whiff of White Shoulders before the other woman makes a surprised noise.

“Daddy, she’s right. That’s way too much.”

“Let me see that.” Ed’s shoving his glasses onto his nose, and motioning for Joan to hand him the rest of the finalized budget; quickly, she hefts the pile of papers in his direction. He takes it, flips to the page Joan had flagged earlier, and sits there with a stunned look on his face as he examines it.

Joan’s sure she’s been found out; the anxiousness in her stomach keeps building and the room feels like it’s sliding. But when Ed pulls off his glasses and looks up at her, he’s grinning. Honest to god, smiling ear-to-ear, like she’s just given him the best news of his life. Or maybe given him a blowjob.

Don’t think about blowjobs in front of his daughter.

“You just saved me twenty seven grand.”

Joan’s mouth drops into an oh of surprise.

Next to Ed, Ken looks wrung out with relief, and Cynthia’s beaming.

Thankfully Ed isn’t waiting for Joan to say anything poetic.

“Listen,” he says as he reaches into his inner jacket pocket, and pulls out a slim white envelope. “Your kid like baseball?”

“Oh, my gosh,” Cynthia murmurs.

“Yes.” For a second, Joan forgets that Kevin doesn’t pay much attention to anything except throwing GI Joes into the toilet. “Um. The Mets are his favorite.”

“And now I know two more Mets fans,” Ken jokes .

“Well, we’re sponsoring a little charity event in a couple of weeks. Nothing fancy, just a few drinks with the Foundation. I’m sure your boy would love to meet some of the players in person, even if they’re not on the field.”

He slides the envelope across the table. Joan stares at it with her mouth open.

“Are you kidding?”

“Hey, don’t thank me too much. I’m only going for Yogi.”

“Daddy’s really a Yankees man.”

“Ed.” Joan’s smile is so wide it practically splits her face. “My goodness. I don’t know what to say.”

“Honey, just say you’ll see us there.” He pats her hand, and seems tickled at his own generosity. “Now. Enough business. Where’d that waiter of ours get to?”

 

**

 

Joan stumbles into the Time-Life lobby and waves a distracted hand at Victor, the night security guard, who’s sitting behind his desk with a battered mystery novel. He waves back without a word.

To her right, Cynthia tails her so closely she might as well be Joan’s partner in a three-legged race, while Ken hovers just awkwardly behind them.

“You sure you left your keys upstairs?”

“Yes,” Joan insists as the bell dings and they board the elevator.

“Because we could give you some cab fare home. You don't look so steady.”

“Don’t be such a baby,” Joan hisses as she slaps at the button for floor thirty-seven, and slouches into the paneling. ‘S really comfortable. “I can walk.”

Probably. She’s pretty sure.

The ride up isn’t as long as she’s expecting; once the doors open, she strides out before anyone has a chance to say boo.

“I’ll wait out here,” Ken offers.

Joan barely pays attention to him. Walking forward at a fast clip, she braces her hands in front of her to push open the glass doors. Still unlocked. She can almost hear Cynthia wince when her palms smack against the glass, but the door pushes open easily.

“Is somebody else in there?” Cynthia asks loudly.

“Don’t know,” Ken answers, distant.

“Hellooo?” Joan calls out. The mahogany doors are closed. Why’re they closed? He said he’d be here. “Where’d you go?”

“Joan, honey, why don’t you tell me where your wallet is, and I’ll just—”

One of the double doors swings open, and there, framed in the dim light, is Lane. His eyebrows jump up when he sees her.

“What on earth are you shouting about?”

“Well, I didn’t know it was open,” Joan huffs, before she remembers Cynthia is right beside her. “We just finished dinner. Um. You remember—Ken’s wife.”

“Hi,” Cynthia sounds confused. “So sorry. I hope we’re not interrupting your work. Joan forgot her keys in her office, and she’s a—a little drunk.”

"Oh. I was just working late, so it isn't—"

"Come on. I'm not that drunk," Joan huffs loudly to the room.

Is that a smirk on Lane’s face?

“Aren't you?” he asks, voice carefully neutral.

“Cynthia, this really isn’t n’ssary.” Joan walks forward, almost stumbles, and quickly puts a hand against the wall to steady herself. “I’ve got it.”

Lane’s eyes widen, and he moves to help her. “Oh, dear.”

“’S okay. I can stand,” Joan tells him quickly, before he can do something silly like take her arm, or help her walk. "I'm okay here."

Cynthia seems at a loss, like she’s not sure what to say or do now that Lane is here. “Are you sure you’re all right? Kenny and I really don’t mind waiting for you to get your things. We’d be happy to put you in a cab.”

“No, I just wanna rest for awhile.” Joan waves a hand at Cynthia in a reassuring way. “Don’t worry. Lane’s with me.”

Lane says something she can’t hear at first. Joan does catch the tail end of the conversation once she starts concentrating.

“….I’ll get some food in her. Make sure she gets home safe.”

After a long moment, Cynthia nods.

“All right. If you’re sure.”

“Yes. Positive,” Joan turns an innocent look on Lane. “We’ll be fine.”

Cynthia seems uncertain, but she doesn’t say a word, just places Joan’s flask and purse onto the nearest armchair and waves at them both.

“Okay, well. Good night, you two.”

“And to you,” Lane offers as Cynthia walks back through the double doors.

 

**

 

Thankfully, once they drop Joan off, the car ride home is uneventful. Only weird thing that happens is that after about twenty minutes, Cynthia lifts her head from Ken’s shoulder with a soft, wordless exclamation.

“Are you sure they’re not sleeping together? Joan and her friend?”

Ken barks out a laugh that’s a little harsher than he intended. Lane and Joan? Yikes. “Oh, my god. No.

“What? I’m just asking!” Cynthia huffs out a warm laugh against his neck. “They seemed very familiar.”

“Oh, they’re just cordial. Don’t get excited.”

“Hmph.” Cynthia doesn’t sound convinced, but she doesn’t say another word, just snuggles back down into his side.

They get quiet again as he drives them back over the Queensboro Bridge.