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Like As A Father

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As Don held Bobby tightly in his arms, he was reminded of the circumstances that brought them to this moment; a rarity in their short relationship. It had been a very long day and all Don wanted to be able to relax. But stepping through the doorway to Betty's endless complaining that their youngest child Bobby was a troublemaker was not Don's idea of relaxation.

And so Don was filled with frustration when, after dinner he sat alone on the bed in their bedroom, trying to forget about the shoving match that he'd gotten into with his wife. He'd never struck her before, or even laid a hand on her, but when she forcefully pushed him, nearly sending him to the floor, he was simply acting on instinct. And now he felt guiltier than ever before; even more so than of the deep, dark secret he was harboring inside. He was becoming his father, and that scared the hell out of him.

But he couldn't bring himself to apologize to his wife. Nor could he tell her why he didn't agree with her methods or ideas of disciplining their children. Sally and Bobby were, by all accounts, good children. They were much better-behaved than Don had ever been, and that spoke volumes.

His father beat the hell out of him so often that Don constantly dreamt of the day when he could kill him-and amazingly Don wasn't a violent man. And when Sally was born, Don vowed that no matter how angry he became at his daughter-or any other children that he and Betty might conceive, he would never lay a hand on her.

So when Bobby disobeyed Betty at the dinner table by continuing to play with his plastic robot and bumping into his sister in the process, Betty pleaded with Don to do something.

Angered by her assumption that he did nothing to discipline his children, Don grabbed the robot and sent it flying across the kitchen where it hit the wall and smashed into tiny little pieces. Sally was visibly shaken by Don's sudden outrage, while Bobby just sat there, stunned.

Don rose from his chair and without saying a word stormed up the stairs where he went straight to the bedroom. And he was sitting on his bed when Bobby stuck his head in the doorway.

"Bobby, this is not the time!" He shouted.

But Bobby was undeterred. "I'm sorry, Daddy."

Don sighed. "It's okay Bobby. Sometimes daddies get mad."

"What did your daddy look like?"

Don chuckled softly. "Like me but bigger."

"What did your daddy like to eat?"

Another chuckle. Bobby certainly was full of questions, tonight.

"Ham." Don replied. "And candy that tasted like violets."

"What did your daddy do?"

"I told you once before. He was a farmer." Don replied.

"But he died." Bobby said.

"A long time ago." Don reminded him, wondering where this conversation was headed. It certainly was an unusual one for a boy Bobby's age.

"We have to get you a new daddy." Bobby said.

Don looked into his son's young, bright eyes and immediately softened. "Come here."

Bobby went to him, his arms outstretched for a warm hug; a hug that lasted much longer than Don intended. "All right, come on. You'd better get ready for bed. I'll be in later to tuck you in."

"Will you read me a story?" Bobby asked.

"Sure. But you'd better be in bed when I get there."

"Okay, Daddy."

The young boy turned to leave but then paused in the doorway. "I love you, Daddy."

A familiar warmth filled Don's chest. "I love you too, Bobby."

(The next day)

A knock on his office door and then the door opened. Don was about to protest when he saw his boss Roger standing in the doorway. "The people from Kellogg's are here for the meeting. Are you ready?"

Don rose from his desk. "No, actually I need to go."

"Go? Where the hell do you have to be at-." Roger looked at his watch. "3:30 in the afternoon?"

"I… I need to run an errand."

Roger laughed out loud. "An errand? What a crock, Don! I know damn well that you're meeting Susan from Accounting at the Hotel Dewar. She can wait. But this meeting can't."

"I can't wait either, Roger. And it's none of your business where I'm off too, now is it?"

"It is if you make us lose this account. Where the hell are you going?"

"It's… a family matter."

"Betty's not pregnant again is she?"

"Don't be ridiculous, Roger. Who put that in your head?"

"Hey, it's not that ridiculous. You're still young."

"Right and two kids is more than enough for me to handle right now. I'll see you tomorrow. Tell the Kellogg's people that I'll call them tomorrow, all right?"

"But Don-."

Don grabbed his coat, hat and briefcase and moved past his boss. He crossed the huge office of Sterling Cooper, ignoring the looks he received from Peggy, Joan, and Roger, Burt and Pete as well as everyone else. He didn't give a damn what they thought of him at the moment. All that mattered was the matter at hand. Besides, it was Good Friday. Who in the hell was going to be able to concentrate, knowing that Easter was only two days away?

Outside he hailed a cab, amazed that it arrived so quickly. "Thurston's on 34th, please. And step on it." He barked at the cab driver. The cab sped away and within minutes they were pulling up in front of the most exclusive toy store in Manhattan. He paid the driver and the cab once again sped away with such speed that Don had to hold onto his hat.

Still shaking his head in disbelief, Don walked into the toy store, almost wishing that he hadn't. Everywhere he looked there were kids and their parents who seemed frazzled beyond belief. It was like a child's drugstore. Toys filled each and every shelf, some reaching as high as twenty rungs. There were teddy bears and dolls of every shape and size-some bigger than Sally and almost as tall as Betty.

But he wasn't looking for anything that was in plain sight. Damn… that meant he had to swim through the chaos and find someone to help him.

However, he'd barely left the shallow end when he finally spotted someone; a woman dressed in the most ridiculous outfit he'd ever seen. It was so brightly colored that he considered reaching into his briefcase for his sunglasses.

"Hi! I'm Tricia! Can I help you?"

"Um, yes… I'm looking for something for my son."

"Oh! Is it his birthday?"

"No, um… Actually it's… never mind."

"That's all right! I can help you." She reached into her pocked and produced a pen and paper. "Just put his name and a bit about him here and we'll help you find the perfect gift!"

"That won't be necessary. I was thinking of something very specific. A robot."

"Of course, sir. That would be in our robot section. Just follow me."

His eyebrows rose. "Robot section?"

After following the woman across the store, which was practically the distance from Manhattan to the Bronx, he found himself face to face with the biggest array of plastic robots he'd ever seen. "Jesus…" He mumbled.

The woman blushed and adamantly shook her head. "I'm sorry sir. That's not allowed in here."

"I'm sorry, what? What's not allowed? I'm not smoking, although I see plenty of people in here are."

"Swearing." She hissed.

"Excuse me?"

"We have children in here and that type of language could be damaging to our children's ears."

Don looked at the woman as though she was completely deranged. And considering the way she was dressed and working in a place like Thurston's, she must have been.

"Sorry, it won't happen again." He reassured her. What the hell kind of place was this? Well, as long as they had what he was looking for, he wasn't going to question it. He scanned the huge array of robots, unable to fathom how there could be so many different types. His eyes landed on a small red and grey robot that was almost identical to the one that his son loved so much. With a sense of satisfaction, he reached for the item and pulled it down, pleased to find that it was of a reasonable price.

At once he began his swim upstream to the registers where he was greeted by an even more bizarre cashier. He did his best to ignore her cheerfulness until she smiled and said "Would you like me to wrap this up for you?"

"Sure. That would be great." Don replied, handing the woman his Diners' Club card.

She placed a credit card slip into the contraption and slid the bar across making an imprint of his card on which she quickly wrote the amount and then handed it to him. He signed it and smiled eager to get out of this play land from hell.

"Here's your copy and I'll be right back."

Before he could even put the receipt into his wallet, she disappeared from sight. While he waited, he gazed overhead at the obnoxious clock that sang and spun at fifteen minute intervals. And unfortunately the hour chime was even worse. It was enough to make a guy want to drink himself into oblivion.

The woman was back in a flash, carrying the robot which was now covered in the most obnoxious wrapping paper Don had ever seen. But Bobby was young; chances are he wouldn't be fazed by it.

"Thank you." He said, handing her a dollar as he took the box. The woman's eyes widened at the unexpected gift and she thanked him profusely even after he was rushing out the revolving door.

The taxi couldn't get him home fast enough and he fumbled in his wallet for some cash to pay for the fare. He couldn't wait to see the look on Bobby's face.

"You're home early." Betty said as he walked through the door and kissed her.

"Yeah, I left work early because I had to run an errand. Is Bobby home?"

"Of course he's home, but-."

"BOBBY! GET DOWN HERE, NOW!" Don yelled.

"Don…"

Seconds later they heard the sound of small feet running down the stairs. Sally looked just as surprised to see her father and she jumped into his arms, nearly throwing him off-balance and causing him to drop the shopping bag in his hand. "Daddy!"

"Hey, how's my girl?" He said, hugging her tightly.

"Good! Guess what I learned in school today?"

He slowly brought her to the ground and smiled. "Um, hold on a second, okay, Sally? We can talk about that later. Bobby can you come here for a minute?"

His son's eyes grew wide and fearful. "Okay, Daddy. I'm sorry I didn't mean to do it."

"Do what?"

"Mommy's mad at me again."

"Don honestly, I don't know what's gotten into him lately. He's impossible!"

"He's a child, Betty. And as a child he should be entitled to act the way he chooses, within reason."

"I'm sorry, Daddy." Bobby said again, hanging his head low.

Don held out his hand "Come here."

Bobby took Don's hand and allowed his father to lead him to the table. "Have a seat."

"Am I in trouble?" Bobby asked.

Don smiled. "No, actually just the opposite."

"Don, what are you talking about?" Betty asked.

"I'm talking about this." Don reached into the shopping bag and removed the brightly wrapped gift.

"What is it?"

"It's for you."

"Don Draper, we specifically said we weren't going to give the children their Easter gifts until Sunday after they open their gifts from the Easter Bunny! Why are you always going behind my back?"

"Betty this isn't an Easter gift! In fact, would you and Sally give us a few minutes alone?"

"Why?"

"Just do it, okay? Don't question my authority around here!"

"Fine." Betty grabbed Sally's arm more forcefully than Don would have liked and dragged her out of the room. He'd deal with that situation later.

"This is for you." He said to Bobby. Would you like to open it yourself or do you want me to help you?"

The child nodded wordlessly, making Don laugh. "All right. Let's just sit it right here on the table and peel back this ridiculous paper and see what's inside, shall we?"

Together they did just that and when the paper fell away Bobby's eyes widened. "My robot! Where did you find him?"

"Well, actually I bought you a new one." Don said.

"Is this from the Easter Bunny?"

"No, it's from me. To tell you that I'm sorry."

"Why?"

"Well, because it was wrong of me to get so angry at dinner. I shouldn't have thrown your robot across the room and broken it like that. It wasn't right. Violence is never the answer to anything and I hope you'll remember that."

"Okay Daddy."

"Now what do you say?"

To Don's surprise, Bobby hugged his neck tightly. "Thank you Daddy!"

"You're welcome. What do you say that after dinner we'll open this box and put this robot together, okay? Now I need to go apologize to your mother and sister. So why don't you go watch TV for a little while. Go on."

Bobby jumped off of the chair and hurried into the living room. But he paused just as he reached the television set.

"Is something wrong?"

The child surprised him once more by running and jumping into his arms. Don lifted Bobby up and held him. "I love you, Daddy."

"I love you too, Bobby."

Still holding his son in his arms, Don looked up to see Sally and Betty in the doorway, smiling through their tears.

It was certainly a Good Friday, in more ways than one.

THE END