“Lane? Did you hear me?”
Joan glances up from her notepad, writing a small question mark next to Mohawk with the comment ads suspended, pending strike resolution.
Though he has the provisional budget gripped in one hand, it's clear Lane's attention is far from work. They've been sitting in his office for a little over an hour, and it's not even noon, too early to be distracted. Lane's sitting to her left on the sofa, staring out the window with an expression of deep longing etched into his face.
Joan puts her work aside, gauging his troubled expression.
“Lane,” she says again.
He blinks, and seems to come back to himself. She takes the opportunity to continue, gently:
“Talk to me. You've been quiet today.”
To be honest, he's been quiet all week. If Joan asks him what's wrong, he'll probably downplay the problem, make it sound like nothing, but if she phrases her concern as a statement, he'll honor the inherent request, and eventually circle to the problem at hand.
Lane's very still. He doesn't even look at her.
“I think I might have to leave New York.”
The words leave of absence flit through her mind, unbidden.
“For how long?” she asks. She tries not to dwell on a reason.
Lane glances over at her now, as if he’s surprised to have spoken aloud, and she sees an answer in his ashen face.
“What?” she breathes. A sharp feeling settles in her chest. “Lane, why?”
They've worked as a team for so long it's difficult to think of doing this job alone. She could take over the finances with little issue, but he excels at reining in the partners when her opinion might be ignored. Having Lane here allows her to focus on day-to-day operations. He can't leave. He's needed.
A muscle in Lane's jaw twitches. He gets up, walks over to the bar and pours three fingers of scotch into a tumbler, draining the liquor from the glass in one long gulp.
She watches with mounting anxiety as he fixes a second drink. Instead of downing the contents, however, he returns to the sofa and offers it to her without a word, sliding back into his seat.
“You recall Lucky Strike, of course,” he says after a moment, and Joan can't help it – she has to bite back inappropriate laughter. Twelve and thirteen-hour days spent in full-blown panic, and Lane in London for the first week of crisis, leaving her and the then-head of accounting to work through billings on their own. As if she could forget.
He must see the tension in her face, because he tries to smile, but it's more of a grimace.
“Yes. Well.” He removes his glasses, rubbing a hand over his eyes.
“At the time,” he continues, “considering the...significance of that account to this company, the bank required...capital in order to extend our credit line. As a form of collateral.”
Joan casts her mind back. There was a significant amount of money given to the bank. She remembers that much, but the exact number eludes her. She hadn't seen the canceled check, and at the time, Lane had dealt with the bank almost exclusively.
“This contribution was...divided among the partners, I imagine,” she says, careful to phrase it as a statement instead of a question.
He gives a jerky sort of nod. “Yes.”
She exhales, trying to shed her anxiety. The overall problem is becoming obvious.
“What was required—” Joan has to amend her question “–-from the senior partners?”
If she has an idea of what Bert, Roger, and Don paid, it'll be a window into Lane's particular situation. It'll spare him the embarrassment of naming a figure.
Lane's voice is so quiet, she has to strain to hear him. “One hundred thousand dollars.”
Her mouth drops open, and he glances over, noting her shock. “Each.”
“Good god.” Joan reaches for the glass in front of her, and takes a long gulp. It sounds like a joke. Eight times what she makes in a year, and they wrote a check without even blinking.
If the senior partners gave a hundred grand each, what the hell was asked of Lane and Pete?
The question must show plainly on her face, because Lane continues, slowly:
“Junior partners...put in half that.”
Fifty thousand dollars. God, no wonder he wouldn't talk about it.
“Pete doesn't have that kind of money,” she blurts first. It was a hardship for Lane, obviously, but Pete's still young, early thirties, with a new mortgage and a baby. And Joan's aware his family was once well-off, but he's no Roger. He would have struggled to put up that kind of cash.
That muscle in Lane's jaw works again, taut. “Don paid his share.”
The bitterness in his voice – the way his lips press together in the silence, and how his hands clench and unclench into fists – betrays the anger underneath that simple statement. Don paid an extra fifty thousand on Pete's behalf. But he didn't even think to do that for Lane.
(And Lane would never ask, even if he was desperate.)
Joan suppresses a sympathetic noise. Even after three years at this agency, Lane's still an outsider, excluded from the rest of the group. He had to write that number in a ledger, like it was just another billing: Pete Campbell, fifty thousand, paid. It must have been painful.
She takes a breath, forces herself to push frustration aside. Get to the root of the problem.
“How does that affect your being here?” she asks, trying to word this question as delicately as possible. “You're...very responsible.”
He's not like the others. Lane would have budgeted for the loss. There wouldn't be gambling, or women, or needless extravagance. He'd need money for his family, of course, but there's still something she's missing.
“British...expatriates...are taxed at a considerable rate,” Lane begins, as if this explains everything. He's staring at her glass, and she slides it towards him in silent permission. He takes a long drink, then sets the tumbler aside.
She's quiet, waiting for him to continue.
“My contribution was seen as an investment, rather than a personal expense.” He laughs without humor, the expression on his face bordering on despair. “And Inland Revenue takes issue with overseas investments. To put it lightly.”
Inland Revenue...a British IRS, she supposes.
“They want their share,” she guesses, and he nods, once.
Joan watches him silently. Depending on the interest – and, she thinks suddenly, the exchange rate – he could owe them quite a bit of money. He might not have been able to budget for that.
After a moment, he takes a pen from his suit pocket and tears a corner from a page of her steno pad. He scratches something on the scrap paper – a number. Carefully avoiding her eyes, he pushes it into her hand. His calloused fingers are rough as they brush hers.
She unfolds the paper:
$8,000. By Thursday.
Her heart pounds in her throat. Three days, counting today. Oh, my god.
“What are you going to do?”
“I—” he begins, but his voice hitches, and he presses a fist to his mouth, overcome.
She puts a hand on his shoulder. “Lane...”
His face crumples at the contact, a harsh cry escaping him, and tears prick her eyes. She rubs his shoulder for a moment with a little shushing noise. It's all right. You're not alone.
“I can't go back to England,” he sobs.
The word surprises her. Can't? He feels that strongly about it?
“What would I tell my wife? My son?”
Lane pulls out his handkerchief, covering his eyes.
Joan stares at him, aghast. If this began with Lucky, it's weighed on him for a year, and he hasn't even told his wife? Why on god's green earth wouldn't he say anything? She feels a stab of pity. Pride comes before a fall, her mother used to tell her.
“Listen to me,” she says, her grip on his shoulder tightening. “You need to talk to the other partners. They—”
“No,” he chokes out. She's taken aback at the vehemence of it. “Out of the question.”
“Excuse me?” she interrupts. “Lane, it's a business expense. If you'd just—”
“I said no!” he retorts harshly, one fist clenched around his handkerchief. “I cannot!”
She lets out a huff of surprise, retracting her hand from his arm. If this is how he's dealing with the problem, it's no wonder Mrs. Pryce has been left in the dark.
“I'm sorry,” Lane says after a moment, his voice a raspy plea. “It's—you cannot ask that of me, Joan. I can't do it.”
His face is flushed with shame. Joan presses her lips together, willing herself to stay composed.
Lane wipes his eyes, stuffing his handkerchief in a pocket. “I couldn't bear it if they all knew.”
She understands his reluctance, to a degree. It's difficult to ask for a favor, particularly one involving money. And it can be even more difficult to watch others spend without a thought, while you're struggling to make ends meet. But this favor – this money – is the difference between being happy in New York and being unhappy in England. He has to speak up for himself.
“Talk to one partner, in confidence,” she suggests. “Don, or Mr. Cooper.”
“Cooper?” he echoes, recoiling a little. “You must be joking.”
No reaction to Don's name. Joan wonders if he could be trusted to help.
Lane turns his attention back to the spreadsheets on the table in front of them – a signal that the subject is now closed.
“I'm taking care of it,” he says, after a long silence. “I don't want you to worry.”
He sounds embarrassed, like he regrets confiding in her.
Joan watches him carefully. Ordinarily, she would pretend to know nothing and they'd carry on with work as before. But this is a serious problem. There are only a limited number of actions he can take at this point, and he's refusing the most straightforward solution. She can't help worrying.
“What will you do?”
He waves one hand in a dismissive motion.
“I'm expecting a call from my solicitor.”
Which means he hasn't decided. She sighs, putting a hand on his arm.
“Take an early lunch. I'll say you have something at the 4As.”
She wants him to smile, but his anxious look won't budge. “I couldn't eat.”
“No arguments,” she says, fixing him with a mock-stern expression. “You should try.”
It takes her several minutes, but she finally talks him into going. He'll feel better if he has something besides scotch, she says. If he gets away from the office for an hour or two.
Her motives aren't completely pure. Once she's seen him disappear into reception, Joan begins to take inventory of the situation. There is a problem, and it has to be solved. She feels a tingle of exhilaration at the back of her neck. It energizes her to be in the midst of a particularly difficult task. Makes her focused.
She needs to speak with Don. It may take time to convince him to help.
(But she has a feeling that he would be willing to help, if he were aware of the situation. He paid fifty thousand out of his own pocket to keep Pete out of debt, and they're not close. Why wouldn't he do the same for Lane, when it's so much less?)
Joan gathers the company checkbook and ledger from the file cabinet, her heart pounding. Something's been brought to my attention, she recites to herself, attempting to suss out the perfect turn of phrase. A business expense.
“Jesus,” Don says, after she finishes her explanation. “Why didn't he say anything?
What he means is, why did Lane say something to you, but there's an insinuation there she doesn't like, and so she shakes her head. “You know Lane.”
The sharp feeling in her chest has returned, indicating her nervousness. She isn't sure Don does know Lane, not very well, at least. They seem friendly enough, but Joan thinks that any genuine friendship between the two men, if it exists, has happened by accident, rather than design. She hopes he'll realize what she means. Lane's too proud to ask for something this significant. He might even be afraid the debt reflects badly on him, professionally.
After what seems like a year, Don nods his head, as if her words have finally clicked in his mind.
“Cut him a check. I'll cover the difference.”
She feels dizzy with relief. Thank god. “It should be routed to London immediately. We can't make it out to Lane. He'll never take it.”
Don raises his eyebrows, plainly stunned. “So who the hell do we send it to?”
“I have his lawyer's information,” she says primly.
In point of fact, she has the name and number of someone who is likely Lane's lawyer. Anthony Marsh, Esq. called from London at eleven-twenty-five – while she and Lane were talking in his office – and left a message marked 'urgent – please call.' Lane didn't check his messages before going to lunch, and Scarlett was too busy gossiping with Clara to notice Joan lifting the slip from her desk.
If Joan's instincts are right, Mr. Marsh will try to call again before the hour is out. Scarlett's lunch break will run through until one fifteen, and Joan needs to be available to intercept this call.
If. If. There's so much that could go wrong. What if he doesn't call?
(But this is the person to speak with. Joan can't explain how she knows; she has a gut feeling.)
It will be easy to pretend to be Lane's secretary. Mr. Pryce has given me strict instructions. All she needs is the routing number. She can pretend to have misplaced it, get him to repeat it over the phone, then go to the bank and have the money wired to England this afternoon.
Of course, they'll call Lane tomorrow morning – or very late tonight – to speak with him personally. She can't keep him in the dark forever.
Don lights another cigarette straight off the last. He's staring at her, intent, like he's trying to wrap his mind around something baffling.
“Why does this matter to you?”
Joan keeps her expression carefully neutral. “He's a founding partner.”
“So's Pete,” Don counters, exhaling smoke. “You wouldn't do this for him.”
She gives a little shrug, choosing her next words carefully.
“Lane’s work is essential. We need him here.”
Don still has a calculating look in his eye. Joan's not one for unnecessary sentiment, but she knows she owes him something more than shop talk. This is a very generous gesture. The fact that he's willing to do this for another person – on behalf of someone who isn't even here to represent himself – is important.
She clears her throat, trying to distill her thoughts into the simplest words.
“He's my friend,” she says eventually.
It’s a little odd, saying the word aloud, but it is true. Lane is probably the closest friend she has in this office. They see each other every day. They work together well. Occasionally, they’ll discuss personal subjects, things that are bothering them.
Friends. If you’d asked her three years ago, she wouldn’t have believed it.
Don stubs out his cigarette, and motions for her to hand him the checkbook. She watches closely as he fills in the blanks with a careful hand.
12/5/1966. Eight thousand and no/one hundredths. Donald Draper.
He looks up from his work, sliding the book back across the desk in a silent your turn.
Joan's hand shakes slightly as she signs her name above Don's, turning the H in Harris wobbly. She's been authorized to sign company checks for months – in case of emergencies, Lane insisted when she returned from having Kevin, in case I'm not here to do so – but she has never put her name to an amount this large. Most of the checks she signs are ones Lane can't be bothered with: petty cash, secretaries' payroll, etc.
Lane will be furious, but she couldn't watch his growing desperation and do nothing. She couldn't allow him to be spun out of control by a problem that was fixable. Period.
She takes the book from Don, grateful.
“Thank you,” she says, her words clipped. He gives her a short nod, and she collects her things, exiting his office without another word.
The next morning, Joan sits in her office, observing Lane's closed door. He didn't come back to work yesterday.
She's aware that sending him into the world after two gulped-down drinks wasn't her best idea. He looked exhausted and hungover when he arrived this morning.
Her stomach churns with anxiety each time Scarlett picks up the phone. Ten o'clock: they should have called by now. Eleven o'clock: they will call soon. Mr. Marsh assured her he would phone by close of business. She doesn't want Lane to be ambushed by the news, but she hasn't been able to articulate the best explanation for her actions. It's important that she find the right words before she speaks to him.
Eleven-forty: Lane's private line rings. At eleven forty-six, an almighty crash echoes from inside his office, as if he's shoved the contents of his desk onto the floor. Scarlett is already rising from her chair – and Joan has a sudden vision of the girl fleeing Lane’s office in tears; he won’t react well to an interruption – but before the secretary can get around the desk to investigate further, the door flies open, and Lane storms into the hallway, his expression livid. Ignoring Scarlett completely, he enters Joan's office, slamming the door behind him. The pictures on the walls tremble a little, but Joan remains seated, her expression steely.
"You had no right!" he shouts, pointing an accusing finger.
Joan raises an eyebrow, trying to keep a lid on her temper. She needs to show him his financial security matters to her more than his outrage. “What did he say?”
“What did—are you out of your mind?!” Lane sputters, face reddening, as if he can't understand her composure. “How dare you go behind my back! I told you what was happening in the strictest confidence!”
Her voice is cold. "You told me you couldn't go back to England. I did what I thought was necessary."
"It was not your decision to make!" Lane shouts back. “It was none of your goddamn business!”
She’s seen Lane angry – flowers come to mind. She’s heard him scream at Pete Campbell and the other partners through a shared wall and an intercom, but he has never allowed himself to break this way in front of her. It certainly isn’t pretty. A purple vein stands out on his forehead.
A headache pounds behind her temples, and she stands slowly. "It became my business the minute you said the words Lucky Strike – for god's sake, Lane, it was always the company's business!” She folds her arms across her chest, stubborn. “I wasn't going to sit back and let you dangle like a worm on a hook. It's done."
"You should have done nothing!” He slams a fist down onto her desk. A flower-patterned teacup, empty from this morning, rattles loudly in its saucer. “I was taking care of it!”
“By doing what?” Joan counters loudly. “Pretending everything was fine? You should be thanking me!”
“You deliberately lied to me!”
“It fixed your problem.” She stares him down. “I'm not sorry.”
Lane's face is blotchy with anger, eyes narrowed behind his glasses. He steps closer to her desk, leaning over it slightly – recognizing for the first time that they aren't alone in the building, that there are other people listening. When he speaks, his voice is a harsh hiss: “You realize I haven't even shared this information with my own wife?”
He’s pathetic, Joan thinks suddenly, a knot of contempt forming in the pit of her stomach. What kind of man clings this desperately to his pride, when it’s almost ruined him? Critical thoughts tumble into her head, one after the other, as if a dam has broken. He's self-conscious. Awkward. Hungry for the smallest scraps of kindness, like a stray dog. And nearly as handsome as one, to boot.
She fixes her glare on Lane’s plain, pockmarked face, feeling sharp anger spread through her chest as she remembers that kiss. Why did he have to ruin everything with one desperate pass? Joan can still feel the ghost of his hand on her waist. His mouth over hers.
She keeps her voice low. “Well, it isn't my fault you're too afraid to solve your own problems.”
Lane’s mouth drops open, and he recoils.
“You have no idea—” he sputters, voice rising with each word, “–-the kind of sacrifices I've made for my family—"
“Excuse me?” Joan snaps back. “I'm supporting my mother and my son!”
He’s shouting again: “And you are so arrogant, you think you can simply—”
“At least I'm not a coward,” Joan snarls.
Lane's so stunned that he chokes on his next words, staring at her with complete incredulity. Color floods his face, and he lets out a shaky breath.
She should probably be more ashamed to throw that word at him, but all Joan can feel is a sick satisfaction, heartbeat thrumming loudly in her ears.
That muscle in Lane's jaw is twitching again. When he speaks, it sounds as if he's forcing out the word: “Don't.”
“It’s true,” Joan says, watching as a ruddy flush spreads to his ears and neck, and she hears herself say something so vehemently it’s almost a relief. “You must need an adult to look out for you if your only solution is to panic and stick your head in the sand. For god's sake, Lane, if you confide in someone, don’t act surprised when they try to do something for you, because you certainly weren't complaining about my help yesterday.”
“Help?” he snarls in a low voice, pointer finger hovering in front of her face. “Considering the pleasure you take in reigning above the rest of us, how satisfied you are to think you’ve got your fingers on the office pulse, a head buzzing with other people’s humiliating secrets, and the correct answer for everything, no matter whose job you’re somehow magically brilliant at doing, I might as well call it foreplay.”
Joan snatches her teacup from the desk and sends it sailing into the file cabinets. It shatters with a satisfying crash, porcelain spraying across the tile.
Lane's half-frozen in shock, eyes wide, and she grabs his wrist, pulling him towards her a little. She can feel his heartbeat thudding under her palm.
“You don't get to talk to me that way,” she snarls.
They stare at each other for a moment. Joan's so furious she's practically baring her teeth. Lane's jaw is clenched tightly.
She wants him to yell, now. She's ready to scream at him for as long as it takes to force an apology. But Lane yanks his arm out of Joan's grasp and turns away from her, flinging open the door. It smashes into the coat rack with a loud clatter.
In the now-open doorway is Meredith, wearing a stunned, embarrassed expression, and surrounded by a gaggle of dumbstruck secretaries.
“Oh, for god's sake! Move aside!” Lane snaps, gesturing wildly, and the girls scatter in ten different directions to let him through. Joan's two steps behind him into the hallway, eavesdroppers fixed in her sights, when out of the corner of her eye she glimpses Pete push his way into Lane's path.
“Do you two have any idea—”
The tantrum Pete's prepared is mercifully cut short as Lane plants a hand in the center of the young man's chest and shoves him away, continuing toward reception without pause. Pete stumbles backward into the corner of Scarlett's desk, loses his footing, and falls to the floor in a graceless tumble of arms and legs.
An awed silence settles over the spectators, punctured only by the sound of someone's badly muffled laughter.
Pete picks himself up, adjusts his blazer, and approaches Joan, his voice even haughtier and louder than before. “What is going on?!”
Joan's fury rises to new levels.
“I don't have time for this,” she snaps, turning away from Pete and rounding on the secretaries who are still gathered near her own door.
“What the hell are you all looking at? Get back to work!”
Heads down and eyes averted, most of the girls snap into action with murmurs of yes, Joan, sorry, Joan. The slowest person to retreat is Meredith, sniffling like a little girl who’s lost a toy, clutching a pink-pastel handkerchief.
“Why are you crying?!” Joan snaps, seeing red. For god's sake.
The blonde girl gives a little squeak of fear and takes off toward the ladies' room.
Joan looks to her left, briefly. Pete's staring at her with a gobsmacked expression, as if he can't believe scolding a secretary was more important than his little fit.
She turns to Scarlett, who's half-standing, half-sitting on her desk.
“Have Meredith clean that up,” she orders the brunette, gesturing to the broken china in her office.
“What about—” Scarlett inclines her head toward Lane's office, her expression tense.
Joan stares at the secretary, incredulous. Does she have to do everything around here? “What do you think?”
She turns on her heel with a huff, walking briskly toward the kitchen. Once alone, she yanks a ceramic mug from the cupboard, pouring coffee into it with a shaking hand. She hasn't been able to stand the taste of coffee since she had Kevin, but there's no tea in here, and the water has always been disgusting. She's not going to leave the kitchen empty-handed. It would seem impulsive, as if she needed the time to cool down.
(She does. No one else needs to be aware of it.)
It's too quiet. Peggy notices the silence as soon as she and Kenny step out of reception.
The only foot traffic Peggy sees – freelancers and a couple of secretaries – are all taking the long route toward Roger’s office, past the kitchen and cigarette machine, avoiding the creative hallway altogether.
Scarlett's desk is piled high with work, while Clara and Bridget keep shooting each other little nervous glances over their typewriters, like they're waiting for something to happen, or someone to speak.
Pete's door is closed. Lane's door is closed. Joan's door is wide open, but a quick glance through the window reveals she isn't in her office.
Stan, Ginsberg, and Harry are sitting on one of the couches in the lounge, their conversation barely a mutter. Standing close to them are Scarlett and Meredith. The blonde is holding a broom in one hand and a handkerchief in the other. Her eyes are wet with tears. The brunette has her arm around the younger girl, trying to comfort her.
“What's going on?” Peggy directs her question to the boys.
Harry gives her a nod in greeting. “You missed the fight.”
She's gonna kill Kenny. Scheduling a client brunch on a Tuesday. Stupid.
“Are you serious? Who?”
“Mom and Pop,” Stan says, and Harry starts to snicker.
Peggy rolls her eyes. Not this again.
“Don't call them that.”
Ginzo's sketching something in a notebook. “He's been at it for an hour. Not gonna stop.”
“It's the same old story,” Stan says solemnly gesturing expansively toward Joan's office as if he's narrating a movie. “Mom bought something expensive. Dad blew his stack. They screamed so loud they made the baby cry.”
Meredith makes a little noise of frustration. “No one yelled at you!”
Stan raises his hands in a gesture of innocence, not bothering to hide his amusement.
“I wasn't the moron with my ear at the keyhole.”
Meredith's eyes well with fresh tears.
Peggy hits Stan's arm with her purse, while Scarlett shoots him a frustrated glare. “You're not helping.”
It's quiet for a moment, and then Harry speaks up. “Plus, Pete got pushed into a desk.”
Ken's frown of confusion is so deep it's almost cartoonish.
“Who was fighting?”
“Lane and Joan,” Ginzo says in a bored tone, not even looking up from his work.
Ken glances from Ginsberg to the other boys, like he isn't sure whether to take this answer seriously.
“It was brutal,” Harry says, shaking his head like he still can't believe it happened.
“Your office is over there,” Meredith protests in a wobbly voice, gesturing down the long hallway with the broom handle. “How would you know?”
“Hey, we heard ‘em all the way in creative,” Stan offers with a shrug. He turns to Peggy, his mischievous smile widening. “Lane was actually shouting. And one of them threw something. The way those two were going at it, I’m surprised Don didn’t hear.”
Ken's confused expression is morphing into curiosity.
“What'd they fight about?”
Peggy's curious, too. She can't imagine what would make mild-mannered Lane lose his cool. Joan, sure. Peggy remembers the old Sterling Cooper, how the steno pool lived in fear of her temper. Right day, right time, and Joan could blow up on anyone. But Lane? Who knows what makes him tick?
(Besides Pete, apparently. Peggy still hasn't gotten over that.)
Harry shrugs. “We missed a couple key parts. She's—” gesturing to Meredith “—the only one who heard the very end, and she won't fill us in.”
“I'm not a gossip,” Meredith snaps, looking offended.
“You already told Scarlett,” he complains, put out. “What's the difference?”
Meredith pretends not to have heard him, but a flush of embarrassment stains her cheeks. Scarlett gives a little shrug and a tight smile, but says nothing.
The approaching click of Joan's high heels on the tile floor spurs the girls into motion. Meredith drops the broom in a clumsy panic, practically running to get back to her place at reception, while Scarlett – with an exasperated sigh – gathers it up in one quick motion and heads for the storage closet.
Peggy watches them go, sympathetic. The rest of today won’t be easy for them.
Joan rounds the corner with a cup of coffee in one hand, entering her office and briskly closing both doors.
Once she's inside, Harry clears his throat and stands, fidgeting a little and peering into Joan's window with an anxious expression.
“I should probably — CBS is supposed to give me a call, so...”
With that, he leaves, giving them an awkward wave.
(He's always been terrified of Joan. It's pretty funny.)
Ken taps Peggy's elbow with his hat, walking backwards in the direction of his office. “Don't forget, we're meeting Art at 3:00.”
“I'll buzz you when we're done,” she tells him. He nods once, to show he’s heard her.
She motions to the boys on the couch, inclining her head towards their office. “Come on. We've got rewrites.”
As they pick their way across the lounge, Peggy glances into Joan's office through the window. The older woman's brow is knit in concentration. She's studying a large spreadsheet that takes up most of her desk, only breaking focus to write notes on a small steno pad by her right arm.
Behind her, Stan gives a low whistle under his breath, sounding impressed. “Like it never even happened.”
Just before they hit the hallway, Peggy sees Joan fumble and drop a cigarette as she takes it from the package. It surprises her. She can count on one hand the number of times she’s seen the other woman fumble anything. Joan is nothing if not steady.
She’s probably reading too much into it, Peggy thinks as she sinks into her chair, eyes flicking over a corrected mock-up for Cool Whip, which tops the pile of work on her desk. Lane and Joan are both reasonable people. Give it a couple of days and it’ll all blow over. Like that thing with the flowers.
She shakes her head in an attempt to clear it. She’s got work to do.