|Just Taste It
Author: Scarlett88 PM
One-shot. Takes place during 5x08, Lady Lazarus. Don asks his ex-wife to help him impress the gentlemen in the Birds Eye test kitchen.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - Words: 4,395 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 4 - Published: 05-20-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8135781
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Mad Men belongs to Matt Weiner, AMC, and Lionsgate. I own nothing.
Don Draper closed the doors to the main office of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The bleak New York weather, which would usually indicate leaving early for the day, was pushed aside for more pressing matters. Folding his arms across his chest, Don looked at his creative team and account manager Ken Cosgrove.
"What are we supposed to do about the Cool Whip test kitchen?" Michael Ginsberg, the newest addition to the advertising agency, darted his eyes around the room. He was the only employee who dared to speak first.
Peggy Olson quickly hushed him with her eyes, asserting her seniority as senior copywriter. Resting her hands in her lap she waited for Don to speak, not wanting to add anything of her own. She felt that she knew too much to begin with.
"Why exactly did Megan quit?" art director Stan Rizzo asked Peggy who quietly mouthed that she would talk to him later.
"We can always reschedule." Ken was the next one to speak, and confident with his solution to the problem. "It will give us time to convince Megan to come back."
"Or find someone else to take her place," Peggy muttered under her breath, trying to hold in her disdain for Mrs. Megan Draper, the boss' newest wife and now former employee at SCDP. She had told Administrative Assistant Joan Holloway that she was disappointed that someone with as much natural talent as Megan would choose to quit so suddenly. And for acting of all reasons, Peggy scoffed, glaring out the window at the torrential rainfall. Doesn't she know how many people would have killed to have her job? That most people don't reach her level of success within the first months. Peggy realized that the alarms should have gone off when Megan was obviously disinterested in her success after helping her husband Don convince Heinz to stay with the agency over a company dinner. Megan acted as though it was nothing, wanting to continue about her day, while everyone else in the building rejoiced with champagne and congratulatory pats on the back.
Advertising is stupid. Megan's sharp criticism of Peggy and Don's profession rang in her ears. We're just better off without her, Peggy told herself, struggling to stay on topic and find a solution to the upcoming problem created by Megan's sudden absence. Rumors of Megan's magic touch had spread throughout Manhattan and Birds Eye wanted to see Mr. and Mrs. Draper taste their new product called Cool Whip and banter in the same way they did at the Heinz dinner. Don, always saying yes to the client agreed to have him and Megan attend a taste tasting session before Megan had heard the idea, before she quit.
And now we're in the lurch Peggy reminded herself, wondering why it was always the people like her who did the right thing that got hurt in the end by others.
"Rescheduling is not an option," Don argued. "We'll tell Birds Eye that Megan's sick and bring someone else in her place.
"Who?" Ginsberg piped in once more.
"If I knew the answer to that I wouldn't have you in here with me right now," Don grumbled, his mind racing to solve the problem. He would never admit it to anyone in the room, but his young wife had cut him deeply with her quick declaration of wanting to leave advertising for the far less cultured world of theater.
"It has to be someone you know, someone you can interact with," Ken thought out loud, looking to Peggy.
Peggy adamantly shook her head. "You even suggest that to him and I'll let you have it," she hissed, not wanting to be involved in this situation any more than she already was. The thought of her having to sub in for Megan and banter with her boss, who had become increasing less available to her and the company since Megan entered the picture was not the least bit appealing to Peggy, who had decided that she had more than enough of Megan in her life.
Ken shot Peggy a questioning look, wondering just what he was missing out on. He opened his mouth to speak once more when Don quickly instructed everyone to leave the room.
With a glint in his eye, Don called for his secretary Dawn to place a phone call to Westchester, New York. There was one other woman in the state that he could present to Cool Whip and he was going to get her to say yes if it was the last thing he did.
The phone in the Francis residence rang exactly four times before Betty Francis managed to get down the stairs to pick up the receiver. The former model and housewife had been moving more slowly in the past several months after losing what had once been a perfect figure, what she had considered her very best feature. While other women were told that they had a beautiful face, Betty had always been told that she had the whole package, the presence to launch magazines and sell everything from soft drinks to fur coats. But her modeling days were now clearly behind her, and though she had been working to lose part of her unnecessary weight, it was a long and grueling process that was making her more bitter than she already was.
With the children at the park with the nanny, and her husband Henry in Washington D.C. on business, she was the only one in the house to make the incessant noise cease. "Hello?" she said dully; since her unfortunate weight gain, she had not wanted to keep in touch with her socialite friends, who didn't seem to miss her as much as she thought they would.
"Betts, it's me."
The sound of Don Drapers' voice sent Betty Draper into high alert. Their relationship could finally be described as mix between amicable and strained, depending on who was present at the meeting. Their run-ins usually consisted of dropping the kids off or picking them up for the weekend, discussing scheduling and upcoming holidays so that both parties could get what they wanted, or at least something close to it. Since her weight gain, Betty's runs in with Don, and his young wife Megan felt even more tense than normal, filled with unmentioned thoughts and uncomfortable silences because no one was stating the obvious: how Betty had seamlessly let herself go, how she was no longer the beautiful New York model, but a frumpy housewife, a shadow of her former self. And Betty knew in her heart, that her now ex-husband was comparing her to his current trophy wife and it was not in her favor.
"Betts?" Don repeated, hearing silence on the other end of the phone.
"Yes," Betty stammered finally. "I'm here."
"Are you doing anything this week?" Don asked, getting right to the chase. "Because I need a favor and you are the only person that I can think of to help me."
Betty Draper held her pink umbrella over her head as she walked to the front doors of the Time Life building in Manhattan New York. Against what seemed to be her better judgment, she had agreed to help her ex-husband with one work favor. It's not like I'm doing anything else lately, she reminded herself as she doorman opened the large double doors, allowing Betty to shake the surplus of raindrops outside the front door. And I do like dessert, she relented, touching her stomach to remind her what too much dessert often did to housewives in New York.
"Betty!" Don waved her over in the lobby, giving her a quick once over. Betty grimaced, unwilling to look him in the eye and see what she believed to be pity and disappointment. Why did I do this again, she asked herself softly. Simply leaving the front door was enough of a task these days, when she was now getting stared at for all of the wrong reasons. The truth of the matter was that people treated her differently now that she was lost her lithe form; friends stopped calling to meet for lunches and shopping excursions, and Betty was now past the point of waiting by the phone hoping for it to ring.
Don ushered her next to one of the black leather sofas in the lobby of the building, placing one hand on her shoulder. Looking into her deep blue eyes, Don whispered, "You are saving my life."
Betty let out a small, nervous laugh as Don showed her the notes that had been taken by Peggy Olson during the initial Cool Whip meeting a few days earlier.
"Seems simple to me," Betty mused, as she nodded her head. What Don was asking to do was not essentially complicated; he was asking her to once again play the part of his better half to impress an audience. The difference was that it would require more acting on both of their parts to pull off the scene for the Birds Eye employees.
"If it's done right it will land us the Cool Whip account." Don placed his left arm around Betty's back. "They have to love it."
"They will," Betty said confidently, feeling a surge of energy at once again being seen as useful rather than her usual sedentary self. Don and Betty stood up as Ken Cosgrove arrived, announcing that the car was ready to take them to the Birds Eye test kitchen. Betty walked in step with Don, careful not to make eye contact with passersby.
If Ken had noticed Betty's changed appearance, he was too preoccupied to say anything out loud as he talked with Don on how to handle the gentlemen at Birds Eye, who were still expecting Megan Draper.
"We'll tell them she's sick and we found the perfect substitute," Don said, patting Betty's knee.
Betty took in a deep breath as the car navigated its way through the rain. It was too late for her to turn back now; she was once again teamed up with Don as she had been for so many years. Betty looked out at the harsh rain hitting the cab window, wondering if the weather was going to be a sign of things to come.
Sensing her nerves, Don squeezed her hand, promising her that she would be just fine, a mantra that he had repeated to her often in their own marriage. There was no time to wonder if the old adage was going to prove true once more. Don assumed that everything would be fine, as he always tended to do in the end, and he naturally stepped up to his old role of assuring Betty and holding her hand along the way.
The creative cookery kitchen for the Birds Eye division of General Foods was covered with cream walls and an off white floor tile, which was said to promote positive feeling while sampling the variety of foods offered during the day. There was a long table set up in the middle of the room, with three different sets consisting of three different types of Cool Whip, each labeled A, B or C. A spoon and a glass of water adorned each setting.
Ken, Don, and Betty trooped in, grateful to get out of the New York rain. Handing their coats and umbrellas to the female attending in the room, they stood at their respective stations, waiting for their hosts to arrive.
Betty looked down at the three dishes of Cool Whip in front of her. She had been struggling to cut out the sweets to no avail. It truly seemed that the bigger she had gotten, she more she craved, and she hated the feeling; it made her feel humiliated and helpless.
"Hey," Don said gently, resting one arm at the small of her back. "You are a pro, and you can do this."
Betty looked at him and nodded. She would do this for him, and not let her own insecurities or past history get in the way. This was her own way of taking control. She would worry about her diet when she got back to Westchester; there was little else for her to do there.
The threesome stood at attention as a spectacles-clad gentleman named Pat Wallace came into the room, shaking the hands of each individual. He stopped at Betty and offered her a warm smile, which took her by surprise.
"I've heard wonderful things about you Megan," Pat said, nodding his head in approval. He had been the one to hear the rumors of the Heinz dinner and demanded to meet the Drapers to see if they could make magic once more.
Betty took in a sharp breath, unsure of what to say as Ken looked down at the ground, pretending to be admiring the tiling.
"Actually Pat, this is my first wife, Betty," Don said with a confidant smile, holding her a little closer to him for good measure. "Megan's fallen ill."
"Oh," Pat said, turning red in embarrassment. He attempted another smile, trying to hide his immediate disappointment in missing half of the Draper act.
"We're very excited to be here," Betty smiled, slowing regaining her confidence. "Don's told me all about your product."
"Only good things I hope," Pat chuckled.
"Yes," Betty promised, easing into the situation.
A portly gentleman came in through the large double doors of the cookery kitchen. "Good afternoon everyone," he greeted with a smile. "I'm Phi Beachum, Head of Desserts here at Birds Eye and I think we are all in for a real treat."
Pat quickly stepped in to introduce the three taste testers, eliminating any more confusion over who was who for the afternoon.
"An ex husband and wife working together," Phil narrowed his eyes at Don and Betty as Pat stepped into the background with his notepad. "I like it," he grinned, "Very progressive, something you don't see every day."
"Of course when we cast the commercial it will probably be a husband and wife type," Pat quickly added.
"You can all start with Sample A," Phil instructed. "Pat will take down notes; all we're looking for are first initial thoughts about the dessert."
Don and Ken placed a heaping spoonful of cream on the utensil, bringing it to their mouths. Betty paused, wondering how much to place on her spoon. She was hungry enough to inhale the entire dessert after eating one slice of grapefruit for breakfast. Taking a deep breath, Betty settled for a medium portion, filling the spoon halfway. As she swallowed the food, she surprised herself and the room by letting out a delightful moan.
"Wow," she murmured allowed. "I've never tasted anything quite like it." Betty knew that she was telling the truth as she took another spoonful, opting for a more generous portion the second time around.
"I can't imagine anything tasting better," Ken added as Pat took down notes.
"Delicious," Don agreed.
"Why don't you two go into your little bit," Phil suggested, gesturing to Betty and Don.
The ex husband and wife shared a quick smile. They were both more than ready to go.
Don touched Betty's hand. "Honey, I don't even think I want dessert."
Betty clicked her tongue. "But you love dessert," she pointed out with her classic housewife smile. In her mind, she was no longer the frumpy housewife but her beautiful model form, at the pinnacle of her career.
"You love dessert and you want me to have some so you can have some," Don pointed out.
Betty smirked, holding two imaginary dishes behind her back. "Lucky for you, I made two," she explained, gesturing to her two empty hands.
"What is it?" Don asked quizzically.
"It's Cool Whip," Betty explained.
"It looks like whipped cream."
Betty shook her head. "Just taste it; it's better than whipped cream."
"Is it a topping?" Don prodded further, furrowing his brow in mock confusion.
Betty placed the pretend dishes on the table, counting off the various uses for Cool Whip on her fingers. "Well you can have it on ice cream like this, or on fruit, cake, Jell-O, or pudding. It even tastes great by itself."
"So it's a dessert?" Don repeated.
"Just taste it," Betty encouraged, patting Don's arm.
"Is it sweet?" Don asked further.
Betty scooped a large helping of Sample A on a spoon. "Just taste it, for me?" she asked, holding the spoon up to Don, her voice lilting.
Don rubbed his forefinger under Betty's chin. "Anything for you."
Betty held the spoon up and spoon fed Don who took a long and satisfying swallow. "Amazing," he finished as Don and Betty turned to Phil and Pat.
"Wow," Ken said under his breath, the first one to speak. He had seen the first run through with Megan and though it was funny, it didn't seem to capture the intimacy that Don and Betty had recreated in a flash of one moment.
"Terrific," Phil said as he began to clap. Pat and the female attending clapped as Betty and Don playfully bowed for the audience. "That is exactly what we are looking for," Phil asserted. "That exact…." Phil was searching for the right word.
"Chemistry?" Pat offered.
"Yes," Phil agreed. "Chemistry. I tell you what it's going to be hard to cast the commercial."
"We'll be with you every step of the way," Ken promised as he talked to the men about their ideas for the shoot. "We're planning on the slogan being, Just Taste It; it's simple and timeless, people will remember it for years to come," Ken explained as he went through the rest of the thought process.
"That was even better than when we rehearsed it," Don whispered to Betty, hugging her shoulder.
"You wrote a great skit," Betty complimented.
"But you made it great," Don insisted. "It's just words on a page without the right presentation."
Betty offered Don a smile, she really was enjoying herself that day, and if she wasn't mistaken, Don was enjoying himself as well.
"Why don't you all sample the second type of Cool Whip and give us your thoughts?" Phil suggested, taking a step back. He had originally planned to only stay for the first taste test, but he was completely hooked and had to see more.
Don and Betty shared another smile as they scooped Sample B on their spoons. Without being prompted, they both crossed their arms and spoon fed each other, wedding cake style.
Betty closed her eyes and licked her lips, savoring the dessert. "It's a little sweeter than Sample A," Betty said, looking right at Don.
"Agreed," Don said, unable to take his eyes off Betty. Betty smiled once more when she saw that her ex husband was not looking at her with pity but admiration. She had saved the day once more, come to his aide, and she could feel that old sense of pride that he had in her, when they once went to work functions together as a team. I don't want this to end, Betty thought softly as she reached for Sample C. Reinforcing her smile for the Birds Eye gentlemen, Betty spooned Sample C into Don's mouth, relishing the taste in her own. Betty found herself unable to speak as she looked at Don's hypnotic blue eyes.
"More creamy?" Don suggested to Betty, and she methodically nodded her head, unable to speak.
"Excellent," Phil clapped his hands together, calling Don and Betty's attention back to him. "That first skit got me thinking," he said, producing another dish of Cool Whip from the refrigerator, "What would you two do if there was only one dish left?"
Don let out a small laugh, and took Betty's arm. "There's only one left."
"You take it," Betty said sweetly, utilizing her once common housewife smile.
"No you take it," Don insisted.
"And leave you with nothing?" Betty asked in shock.
"Why don't we split it?"
Betty offered Don a warm smile. "You always have the best ideas." Betty reached for the extra dish and lifted it for Don to take the first bite. As Don lifted his spoon toward the dish, a tiny smirk formed on Betty's mouth. In a flash of a second she thrust the dish upward, sending it right into Don's face.
Don let out a gasp of shock as the room broke into a fit of all around laughter. Betty couldn't help but laugh at her ex, covered in Cool Whip. To her pleasure, Don seemed more than willing to get in on the joke, laughing along with the others.
Phil's eyes widened with amazement as Don leaned in and kissed his partner on the mouth, soliciting a shriek from a very surprised Betty. Their scene made the crowd only laugh harder. The female attending quickly produced towels for Don and Betty who cleaned themselves off as the room clapped even louder.
"I've never seen anything like it," Pat whispered to Phil.
"Makes me wonder why they ever separated," Phil responded.
"Afraid I don't know that story," Pat admitted.
Phil and Pat shook Don and Betty's hands. "You two are quite a team," Phil complimented. "If I got along that well with my ex-wife we'd still be married," he joked.
Don and Betty shared a conspirational look that ended with a smile for their hosts.
"It was a pleasure to meet you both," Betty smiled, shaking their hands.
"Ken can finalize the details for you," Don explained as he and Betty walked to the door with their belongings.
In the hallway of the building, Betty suddenly found herself shy once more. He kissed me, she said to herself, he really kissed me. It broke Betty's heart to know that it was all part of an act, that Don could turn on the charm just like her when the situation arose.
"Birdie," Don said gently, stopping her at the door. "I don't know how to thank you for today."
Betty lowered her head shyly. "You already did," she said softly. "This afternoon."
"That doesn't seem like enough," Don admitted. They both turned to look out the window. The rain had finally stopped.
Betty opened her mouth to speak. She wanted to ask him if he felt anything when he kissed her, or if it really was all part of a little show for some businessmen. Betty felt a tinge of pain at feeling his touch once more, hearing the special name that he reserved only for her. "No need to mention it," she said quietly, believing that it would be better for the both of them if they didn't speak of their afternoon together again – they did after all have separate families to tend to.
Don shook his head. He wasn't ready for the afternoon to end, he wasn't ready to say goodbye to her. "Let me take you to dinner, as a thank-you. We already had dessert," he joked.
Betty offered Don a small smile. She couldn't imagine eating more food; after partaking of three servings of Cool Whip she had most likely used up her caloric intake for the week in that one sitting. "What about Megan?" Betty mentioned. "Isn't she sick?"
Don knew that he had the opportunity to tell her that Megan wasn't physically sick, only sick of advertising. Don had wanted to tell her other things about Megan as well; the fact that she wanted to pursue an acting career – of all of the professions in the world, that Megan was now taking him to theater different theater productions every other week – an activity that he was beginning to despise. But he didn't want to mention her, knowing that it would only spoil a perfect afternoon together. "Megan's stable," Don promised, opening the door for Betty.
Don took her arm. "There are restaurants all over the area, I'll even let you pick," Don teased.
"Tempting," Betty chuckled, knowing that the offer she was receiving from Don was more fascinating than any offer back in Westchester, where she was now a prisoner in the large mansion owned by the Francis family.
"Then you've said yes," Don said confidently as they crossed the street.
"No I haven't," Betty stopped him at the sidewalk. Their banter together, their kiss, it was becoming too much for her to bear. If she stayed any closer to him, she was afraid that she would crack.
"Coffee, then?" Don compromised, unwilling to take no for an answer. "We should be celebrating together after what we did."
"Just coffee?" Betty asked, wondering if Don would keep his promise, or if he would try to convince her to stay for more.
"I promise," Don affirmed, resting his hand on her shoulder. "We haven't talked in a very long time."
"No we haven't," Betty admitted.
"Then it's settled," Don said as he offered her his arm.
Betty hooked her arm in his. "It's settled," she agreed. It felt good to be wanted by someone, anyone, even if it was just for a moment. And the fact that that someone was Don, it made Betty feel all the more confident, allowing her to believe that maybe she hadn't completely lost her touch in the last several months. Walking arm and arm down the busy New York streets, the couple felt a familiar feeling of nostalgia, remembering memories of the past. They had indeed made a great team together, no matter what was said between them during the divorce proceedings. It was those strong feelings of nostalgia that kept them drawn to one another, even after all of this time, after moving on with different people, they would always find a way back to one another in some way.