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an island in your arms

Chapter Text

June 1971

 

Thursday morning, Joan's at her desk putting together a to-do list for next week, while Lane sits in an armchair across from her, reading the Journal. Every so often, he'll make some comment on the stock report, or draw her attention to a headline, but for the most part, they sit in companionable silence.

He flips to the next page. She caps her pen, glances over her itinerary with a satisfied expression, and then reaches for the mail in her inbox: a bill, another bill, several pieces of junk mail, and the open cream-colored envelope that’s been sitting at the bottom of her tray for at least a month. Joan opens the letter and pulls out the handwritten invitation, glancing over the pretty cursive for what feels like the millionth time.

“Don’t forget we have Dawn’s dinner party on Saturday,” she says, with a little huff of breath. “I can’t believe they’re going through with this.”

Like she’s fooling anyone by calling it a dinner party. The invitations were hand-delivered almost two months ago; accompanied by a quiet warning (not everyone’s invited) and a little post-it note stuck to the back of their RSVP card. Don’t wear white.

Lane looks up from the newspaper. Blinks. “I should think it’s fairly obvious.”

“Those two are completely wrong for each other,” she retorts, pushing aside the envelope with a scoff. “This is a terrible idea.”

He levels her with a be nice expression: eyebrows rising in amusement, mouth turning up at the corners, and eyes reproachful. “Well, they're—young.”

Meaning he thinks it's cute. She huffs out a sigh.

“Why would they feel the need to get married?”

This time, Lane gives her a sly look over the top of his glasses, one that's usually accompanied by the slight press of his hand on her hip as she's getting undressed.

She makes an amused noise. “People don't need wedding rings to fool around.”

He’s still grinning.

“It's an important decision,” she continues, rolling her eyes, “and it deserves consideration.”

“She's very prudent.” Lane reaches for his newspaper again, and opens it over his lap. “Perhaps they're suited.”

Joan snorts out a sound that's almost a laugh, shakes her head, and goes back to writing her list. Subject closed, apparently. Dawn's practical, so it must be fine.

“You're such a romantic.”

He chuckles in response, and flips to the next page.

“Oh, Dow's up today.”

**

An intricately woven garland of artificial flowers is draped over the doorway to Dawn’s apartment. As Lane and Joan walk closer, a couple of young kids in their Sunday best – ringbearer and flower girl, by the looks of their outfits – fling the door open and burst outside into the hallway, giggling hysterically, running past them toward the stairs.

Joan takes in the scene with raised eyebrows, as they pause in the hallway. Her left hand rests on Lane's right bicep; she releases his arm to unbutton her black raincoat.

“Well, won't this be charming.”

“It's only for the ceremony.” Lane's studying the flower garland, and pokes at one leafy plastic vine with a finger, making an impressed face. “Reception's at that place we passed along the corner.”

“I saw that.” Joan adjusts her purse over one arm. The ceremony is extremely small, while the reception is for a larger group: coworkers, members of Dawn's church, and so on. It's clear the families couldn't agree on the size of the wedding.

She huffs out a breath. “You know, if they wanted to get married at home, they should have had the reception here, too. Or invited fewer people.”

“Could have disagreed on the size,” Lane says mildly. Joan snorts out a laugh. They'd decided months ago to save money and sanity by having a private ceremony at City Hall. It's all arranged. Kate and Lane's older brother will be their two official witnesses. They'd asked her mother if she wanted to come down. She'd just laughed. Joanie, do I have to drive down to the city every time you get married?

Lane peers around the empty hallway with an apprehensive expression, as if someone's waiting to jump out at them once they try to step inside.

“Are we supposed to knock?”

“I don't think it matters.” Joan motions for him to come on.

**

After several minutes spent chatting with wedding guests, Lane goes to get more punch and disappears to god knows where. Joan continues to talk with Scarlett and her extremely boring fiance – the man’s a manager for some manufacturing company, but thinks he's the next Edison – until she can barely stand for boredom. She excuses herself, deciding to duck into a back bedroom so she can fix her face before the ceremony.

When she opens the door, expecting to see nothing more than the large pile of coats lying on the bed, she finds Dawn seated in front of the large bureau mirror, fully dressed in her gown, and the matron of honor standing over her with a can of hairspray. The girls stare at Joan's reflection in surprise before the friend makes a frantic gesture.

“Shut the door!”

Joan does, and slips quickly into the room, not wanting anyone else to get a glimpse of the bride.

“Val, be nice!” Dawn commands. She turns to give Joan an apologetic look before addressing her, with a shy wave. “Hi, Joan.”

“Sorry to interrupt,” Joan smiles as she looks over the bride’s gown and makeup. “You look beautiful.”

The white gown is very flattering for Dawn's figure and dark skin: featuring long, elaborate lace sleeves and a high scoop neck collar. The bodice is satin, paired with an a-line skirt and completed by a cathedral lace veil that’s being pinned in the back. Looks antique. Her short hair is set into pretty curls. She's also wearing eyeshadow and some bright lipstick in addition to her usual face. Joan privately thinks it suits her much better than the bare, practical makeup she wears to work.

Meanwhile, the matron of honor, who’s wearing a long purple gown and has her hair set in a stylish natural bob, keeps fussing over Dawn’s veil. Two hairpins are now clenched in her hand like weapons.

“Will you stop moving? I'm not done.”

Dawn dutifully turns back around, but she continues talking, catching Joan's eye in the mirror as her friend works. “I'm glad you and Mr. Pryce were able to come.”

Lane keeps saying that they’re not particularly close to either bride or groom, really, but Joan bites her tongue to keep from saying this out loud. “Well, I'm surprised you invited so many friends, considering the size of your apartment.”

Val snorts out a laugh. Joan amends her remark, to ensure Dawn doesn't take it as an insult. “I used to have a place just like this. It was very cozy.”

Good enough for a girl living with a roommate, or when she's first married.

“Peggy said the same thing,” Dawn says with a smile, tilting her head to the right side so Val can pin the veil from underneath. “She used a different word.”

“I haven't seen her yet.” Joan examines her reflection in her powder compact before snapping it closed.

Dawn and Val exchange an amused look, before the bride clears her throat. One corner of her mouth keeps twitching up into a smile. “She's a groomsman.

Joan's mouth drops open.

Val bursts into helpless laughter. “Lord, that gets funnier every time I hear it.”

The bride rolls her eyes in her friend’s direction, but directs an apologetic smile toward Joan. “I’m sorry, I thought you already knew.”

Joan waves away the young woman's apology. “Well, I guess it makes sense.”

Even with Peggy at a different agency, creative is practically sewn together at the hip. But a female groomsman is beyond ridiculous.

“Someone's been reading too many issues of Ms.”

Val laughs again, slanting Joan an appreciative look. “Wait till you see her outfit. We tried to match her to the bridesmaids' dresses first. That was a sight.”

She examines Dawn's reflection in the bureau mirror and lets out a sigh, releasing the veil. “Honey, this still won't sit the way you want.”

“Don't you dare say that,” Dawn pats lightly at the gauzy lace draped over her head, frowning at her friend in the mirror. “You know it was Granny's.”

Val makes a tutting noise, undisturbed. “I don't care if it's Mother Nichols' negligee. You want to go out there with limp lace?”

Dawn grimaces at the word negligee—while Joan has no idea who they're talking about—and finally grumbles out a response that sounds like well, fix it.

Val grabs another hairpin from a box on the bureau.

“See you girls in a minute.” Joan gives them a wink, and slips out the door.

**

Lane's tried the wedding punch, and made horrible small talk with strangers before the insistent press of people on all sides becomes too much to bear. He can’t go out into the hallway, or into the bedrooms, but the living room window is open. Peering out onto the balcony, Lane notices it's connected to a set of metal stairs. Fire escape.

Up a floor, from the roof, comes an aggrieved shout.

“Stan, you asshole!

Weighing his options – continuing to talk to people he doesn't know, or to investigate the ruckus on the roof, which clearly involves Mr. Rizzo and Mr. Ginsberg – Lane decides on the second. Gingerly, he steps out the window and climbs up the fire escape staircase. His balance is rubbish, but he's able to make it by going slowly.

When he gets to the top of the stairs, he finds Peggy Olson doubled over in laughter several yards from the staircase, her arms wrapped around her stomach. Stan Rizzo, standing to her right with his back to the stairs, watches her with amusement, clutching a closed book by its spine. Twenty paces beyond both of them, Ginsberg paces in agitation, his tuxedo jacket flapping as he moves back and forth.

Mr. Rizzo crushes what Lane hopes is the remains of a cigarette under one foot. “You asked a lot of questions at the bachelor party.”

“It's for your own good,” Peggy adds, folding her arms over her chest in a way that suggests she's not to be crossed. Her severity is tempered by the fact that she's grinning. “And Dawn’s, technically.”

“Jesus! I hate you,” Ginsberg chokes out, “you're both—"

He stops talking, and stares straight at Lane. “When’d you get up here?”

“Oh, erm. Just now. Sorry.”

Lane avoids meeting the lad’s eyes. He's halfway into another apology before Peggy's got her arms around his shoulders in a hug.

“Hi! You look good,” she says as she releases him. “Did Joan pick this out?”

“Oh—I don't know,” he mumbles, ducking his head to obscure the fact that he's blushing. “You look...very modern.”

She's wearing trousers, a white blouse with a bow at the neck, and a black waistcoat instead of a dress.

Peggy laughs at this, pushing her curled hair out of her face. “Thanks. I'm a groomsman.”

He has no idea how to respond to such a pronouncement.

Thankfully, Mr. Rizzo can always be counted upon to interrupt. “Everyone cool downstairs?”

Lane stumbles for an apt description. “Yes—it’s, erm, nice.”

“Great.” Stan checks his watch, and turns back to Mr. Ginsberg. “Okay, ten minutes. I told Dawn I'd get you down with five to spare.”

“Oh, Jesus.” Ginsberg runs a hand through his hair, and immediately rubs the same palm across the outside of his trouser leg. “I'm gonna melt. I can't stop sweating. Why'd you put me in this jacket?”

“Take it easy,” Stan says, voice calm. “Give it to Peggy if you want.”

“Pop already downstairs?” Ginsberg asks in a rasp, not shedding the coat.

Peggy nods once. “Do you want us to—?”

“No—” Ginsberg chokes out, “don't bother him. I'm just—”

He growls out a frustrated noise, turning away from the group.

Several minutes later, Lane slides into his seat next to Joan, trying to avoid the prying eyes and curious looks that accompanied his clambering back into the wedding venue, just ahead of the groom’s party.

“Why were you all on the roof?” Joan asks in a whisper, quickly brushing brick dust from the side of one of his sleeves.

“Long story.” Lane waves a dismissive hand. “I'll tell you after.”

 

**

 

July 1967

 

“Just fucking kill me already,” Ginsberg groans as raised voices get louder on the other side of the shared wall, softly banging his forehead on the paper-covered surface of his desk in an attempt to drown out Lane and Joan's argument.

Stan watches this, shaking his head in a mix of pity and amusement. “Will you cut that out? You're gonna give yourself a concussion.”

The door to the hallway swings open – hinges always squeak – and Stan swivels around in his chair to see Clara glaring at him. He can't help laughing at the frown on her face. Pete must've yelled at her again.

“What do you want me to do? Bang on the transom?”

“Mr. Campbell says he can't concentrate,” she says in a clipped voice.

Lane came back to work thin, pale, and shaky on his feet, even with that cane. They all had about four days of normalcy before he and Joan started cutting into each other over every stupid mishap. After a few weeks, Stan isn't sure what the hell those two have left to fight about, but the arguments keep getting louder every day, and although everyone's too chickenshit to say anything to Lane or Joan directly, it's driving the collective office up the wall.

“He has headphones,” Stan answers with a shrug of one shoulder, remembering the giant hi-fi that sits to the left of Pete's door. “What does he care?”

“Why is this our goddamn problem?” Ginsberg blurts from the corner, rummaging through one of his desk drawers.

Stan doesn't say this often, but the kid's got a point. Get Cooper in there to referee, or Roger, or even Don. Lane and Joan are company partners, while he and Ginzo are creative lowlifes. Lowlifes don’t get involved.

“Yeah, we’re not doing it.”

Clara shoots him the dirtiest look she can muster—it's kind of working for him, to be honest—and marches back to her desk without another word. He can hear her heels clicking on the floor as she storms away.

Behind the shared wall, there's a sound like furniture scraping on tile floor, followed by Joan's voice. She gets high-pitched when she's angry. He can even pick out half the words at this point:

I don't know whythis—promised me—

Jesus. Never ends. He's no sooner turned back to his sketch in an attempt to work when he hears a loud throat clearing from the doorway.

When he looks up, he sees Dawn crossing her arms over her chest, frowning at them with pity in her eyes.

“Hi,” is all she says.

“Oh, c'mon, Chambers,” he groans, going a little theatrical. She's grown on him. She doesn't care if he jokes around with her when the bosses aren't watching, long as he doesn't use the word goddamn. “You're killing me here.”

“Well, it's not your fault,” she says briskly, and thank you, it's fucking nice of somebody to point that out, for once. “Mr. Draper wants to know what's going on.”

“Murder,” Ginzo pipes up in one of his weird outbursts, like it's some kind of grand epiphany. Stan puts a palm to his forehead, briefly, then lifts his head and slants a glance at Dawn, who looks like she wants to roll her eyes. She doesn't.

“Who the hell knows?” He checks his watch. It’s got to be over soon. “I give it five minutes, max, before one of them gets laryingitis.”

Dawn exhales a breath through her nose, shaking her head like this is the most pathetic thing she's ever heard in her life.

“Okay. I'll tell him.”

“Fantastic.” He lets out a sigh.

**

They’re less than ten minutes into the scheduled traffic meeting before the next argument starts. Pete’s out for some account lunch—or maybe he’s skipping, at this point, who knows—so it’s just finance, him and Ginzo, Ken, and then Harry. Joan’s already pissed off. Stan can tell by the way she practically rips the cap off her ballpoint pen, and the second they’re done listing account names, it all goes to hell, fast.

“Lane, if you'll hand out the newest quarterlies, please.”

“Sorry—I don't have those,” Lane’s frowning at Joan as if she's insane. “You said they were all in your office.”

Her lips tighten. “No, I said you needed to bring them—”

Before the two of them can really get into it, Ginzo beats them all to the punch, banging two hands on the table with a frustrated groan.

“Jesus, will you two quit fighting for one second of your lives? I can't handle it anymore!”

Everyone stares at the kid, completely stunned.

Stan risks a glance back at Lane and Joan to see how they're taking this outburst. Lane's avoiding everyone’s eyes, turning so red it looks like he's been sunburned, while Joan's face is drained of all color. She's glaring at Ginsberg like she could burn holes in his head just by looking, and after another second, she slams her pen down onto the wooden table, stands up, and points a shaking finger toward the lobby.

“Outside.”

“Oh, god.” Ginzo stumbles to his feet and around the table toward the glass doors as if pulled on strings. “Joan, sometimes I get this weird feeling on the back of my neck—”

She practically drags him out of the room like a little kid, her hand clamped around his elbow, and they disappear into her office by the back door. Poor guy's toast.

“We’ll come back,” Ken says into the silence, shooting a significant look at Harry, who jumps up immediately, and follows the other man out the door.

Lane rubs a hand across his face, pulling something out of his jacket pocket – a black notebook – that he flips open with a loud sigh. After a second, he glances around in confusion, searching under his papers and in his other pockets.

Looking for a pen, Stan guesses. He slides a fine-point sharpie across the table toward the older man, taking pity on him. It rolls to a stop against Joan's teacup, but Lane doesn't grab it right away, although he clearly sees it. It's like he's so embarrassed he's frozen in place. The sudden quiet is worse than the yelling, and so Stan decides to break it as a kind of peace offering.

“Kid doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut.”

Lane gives a shrug, as if to say it's fine, but they both know it's not, and they might as well quit bullshitting, especially since they can hear Ginsberg blurting frantic apologies to Joan through the shared wall.

Jesus, please just—yell at me already! Yell at me!

Shit. If Joan's not even speaking, that's bad.Ginzo is fucked.

“Look,” he says to Lane, trying to keep it casual over the sounds of the kid having a nervous breakdown. “I don't know what you and Joan are arguing about all the time, but it's loud as hell, and everyone's too chickenshit to tell you to keep it down during business hours.”

The other man is silent. Stan doesn't know if Lane's angry or surprised or what, but he's not dragging him out by the ear, so it's probably safe to keep going.

“Popular theory is if we tell you to shut up, it'll drive you into another coronary or Joan into a homicide precinct. Or both.”

“They—” Lane begins, but stops, and shakes his head. “Erm...”

Next door, Ginsberg’s gone silent, too; a weird awkwardness lingers in its place.

Stan's fingers itch to doodle something in the margin of his spreadsheets, but he doesn't look away from Lane. If the guy's got something else to say, might as well hear it.

Lane clears his throat, and finally seems to get his thoughts together.

“We'll—try to keep it quiet. Sorry.”

He reaches for the marker Stan had given him earlier, and begins to write something in his notebook.

Stan snorts out a surprised noise, clamping down on the impulse to make a joke. Hey, he's fulfilled the unpleasant duty. He didn't die.

“Thanks, man.”

Heh. Duty. He steals Ginzo's pen, and starts to draw a stick figure in a stockade.

“Mr. Pryce?” Scarlett pokes her head into the conference room from the lobby. “Sorry to interrupt. Joan, um, said to tell you this meeting is rescheduled.”

Lane stares back at the girl, his mouth falling open a little.

“Did she—leave?"

His secretary nods, biting her lower lip. “I think so.”

Silence falls over the room. Scarlett gives them an awkward wave, unhappiness written all over her face, and walks back toward her desk.

The door squeaks as it shuts.

“Okay. Good meeting.” Stan stands up, gathering up his stuff as quickly as possible. Once he's walking, he doesn't even look back to see if Lane's getting up, just wants to get the hell out of there before his luck runs out.

He gets back to creative and sees Ginzo slumped in his desk chair like a kindergartener who’s just gotten a time out, sniffling in a suspicious way.

“Jesus. She made you cry?”

Ginsberg mops at his face with his jacket sleeve. His voice wobbles. “No.”

It is officially too early in the morning for this shit.

Stan reaches for the plastic cooler underneath his desk, where they've started keeping extra beer. Probably room temperature by now, but he doesn’t care.

“Okay, I need a drink.”

**

           

In the afternoon, they pick up the work right where they’d left off this morning, before the arguments, with Joan sitting in the same wooden chair in Lane’s office, to the left of the door. He doesn’t ask where she’s been since the traffic meeting, and she doesn’t volunteer any answers.

By dusk, she’s nursing a headache. They’ve made decent progress on invoices from Ponds to Topaz, but her concentration has waned. Her last break was at two something, and it's nearly seven.

Joan glances over at Lane, still working on the sofa, who's obviously just as exhausted as she is. Every so often, his eyes flutter closed, and his head bows over his work, only to snap upright after a few seconds.

“Lane, go home if you want.” She lets out a sigh. “I’ll finish these.”

“No,” he says, with more force than she expected. She raises an eyebrow.

He’s flushed and drawn, like he’s running a fever, but he straightens up and rubs at his eyes, like he’s determined to prove he’s just fine.

“I’m—I don’t want to argue, but I’m staying.”

Jesus. She doesn’t even have the energy to ask him why.

“Okay.”

Ten minutes later, Joan looks over to ask him a forgotten question about Fillmore Auto, but Lane's fast asleep, with his head slung back onto the cushion. His grip on the clipboard in his hand has slacked, and papers are slowly spilling to the floor, but he doesn't move. His mouth is slightly open, breathing quiet, as if he's too tired even to snore.

She can’t help studying his face. He looks haggard. Dark circles are visible under his eyes, mottling the fair skin. Joan lets all the harsh truths flood her mind, now, while she’s got a minute to herself. His short-term memory has been slow to improve—slower than she thought it would be. He hates that she’s micromanaging him, and he hates all her methods—even little things like organizing the papers in file folders alphabetically, instead of by date. He’s angry, and she’s frustrated, and everyone in this agency needs something from her all the time—it just zaps all her energy, these days. She works and works and feels like she’s never going to catch up.

The clipboard in his lap suddenly clatters to the floor. Joan pushes these thoughts out of her head, while Lane makes a sort of strangled noise, snapping alert with a jerk. Papers fly everywhere.

"God," he says, voice rough. "How long was I—?"

She tries to reassure him. "It was barely a catnap."

He removes his glasses briefly, rubbing his eyes. "Sorry. ‘M awake."

Ten minutes later, he’s fighting sleep again. For god’s sake, he’s being as stubborn as a child. This is exactly how Kevin gets when he won’t go down for a nap.

Joan stands up, her decision made, and takes the teapot from the service on his side table. He watches her with bleary eyes.

"Just going to boil some water. Be right back.”

In the kitchen, she puts the kettle on, and then sails straight into her office, searching through the middle drawer of her desk until she finds the item she’s looking for – a single packet of extra-strength aspirin. Powder form. If Lane refuses to take care of himself, she’ll just have to do it. He can be furious with her if he wants, but for god’s sake, whatever cold war they’re currently having can wait until he’s less exhausted.

She pours the powder into Lane’s cup, and pours steaming black tea over it, stirring the mixture together carefully and adding more tea until the surface of the amber-colored liquid is clear and dark.

Half an hour later, Lane’s drained his cup and is sound asleep, slumped to his left on the sofa, his head hovering over the arm of the couch.

Joan shakes her head. Well, at least the aspirin did the trick. She watches him carefully for signs of alertness, but he doesn’t even twitch. His glasses are askew on his face. After a moment of consideration – will it wake him? – she leans forward, and removes them carefully. Her fingertips brush his cheek as she draws back.

Lane stirs at the contact, mumbling something too quiet for Joan to hear as she sets his glasses on the coffee table next to the tea tray. She shushes him, placing her free hand on his shoulder.

"It's all right.”

He shifts onto his back, pillowing his head on the armrest with a little sigh.

Joan gathers up her pile of invoices and leaves the room, closing the door behind her. Scarlett's typewriter is covered, and she decides to work here for a little while, so she can keep an eye on the door.

When Lane shuffles out of his office over an hour later, bleary-eyed and leaning heavily on his walking stick, he walks up to the desk, and clears his throat.

“It was bitter, you know. The—aspirin.”

Joan doesn’t bother pretending innocence, just pushes her papers aside before meeting his gaze. God. Of course he’d taste it. How could she forget that?

He clears his throat again. “You wouldn’t—not that you’re aware, but I, erm, don’t sleep well, most nights. I’m sorry if it bothered you.”

Oh, shit. She closes her eyes, briefly, willing herself to stay calm. Deep breath in, deep breath out. This is what you get for meddling.

“I just saw that you were tired,” is all she says, voice very small. She doesn’t voice her next few thoughts, which border on a plea. Do I push you too hard? Does any of this matter? “You don’t have to pretend you aren’t tired.”

Her mind flashes back to this morning—to Michael Ginsberg standing in front of her desk in a complete tizzy, while she said nothing, staring at the closed door behind him.

Can’t you stop arguing for one second of your lives?

All she could do was ask a single question.

What do you want from me?

After a minute, Ginsberg had noticed the water in her eyes before she could blink it away; this was what had finally made him stop shouting. His mouth fell open as he sat down heavily in one of her upholstered chairs.

Oh, god, Joan, I’m sorry, I never—I’ll keep my mouth shut—god, please don’t look at me like that—my stomach’s in knots—

Joan lets out a breath, and looks back up at Lane. He’s still standing there, motionless, and gauging her expression with the weirdest look on his face. Like he feels guilty for bringing this up—for wanting to determine his own sleep schedule.

Jesus. She’s the one who did something stupid, not him.

She swallows the lump in her throat.

“I’m sorry.”

A shadow shifts in his face—his eyes widen slightly in surprise, or maybe in frustration. She’s not good at judging his mood, these days.

They stare at each other for several seconds before he finally speaks.

“Not your job to take care of me.”

His voice is still quiet, but forceful, like he’s been waiting to say this to her for weeks and she’s finally ready to listen.

This done, he shifts on his feet as if he’s going to leave; Joan grabs for his left hand before he can move out of reach. Lane’s palm is between both of hers, and she’s leaning forward a little due to the odd angle, but he doesn’t pull away, or ask her to let go. He’s just watching her face again, waiting for her to speak.

“I just want you to feel better. That’s all.”

It’s the most childish thing she’s ever said; she hates the words almost as soon as they come out of her mouth.

Lane doesn’t say anything, but he’s still watching her. The lingering silence is horrible. Joan releases his hand, and gives him a tremulous smile, making her voice as airy as possible when she speaks.

“Well. We should go home.”

She stands up, collects the remaining invoices into one large, messy pile and deposits this on Bridget’s desk with very little ceremony.

Lane doesn’t look like he believes her sudden cheer.

“You’re—sure?”

Joan nods, pretending to search for a pencil among the secretary’s things so he doesn’t see the tension in her face. She’ll just…come in early tomorrow to finish the rest.

“Yes. It’ll be fine.”

Two minutes later, Lane emerges from his office wearing his hat and coat. He shuts his office door behind him, trying to wrangle his walking stick into submission as he fumbles with his keys.

Joan scrawls one last notation onto a yellow post-it, sticks this to the top of the remaining invoices, and turns out the desk lamp.

“Good night.”

He glances over, pocketing his keys. In the dark, his face is shadowed; all she can see is the barest glint of street light filtering through the open doorway, reflecting off the lenses of his glasses.

“Oh—and to you.”