Written for Yultide 2009 for Tali.
Spoilers for Season 3, including the finale.
Roger Sterling was the last one to leave the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce AKA room 435 of the Pierre Hotel. Don, who practically lived there since he no longer had a wife and house to go home to, had his children for the weekend. Even that industrious little mouse, Peggy Olsen, had left. Apparently, she had a hot date. Who would have thought that?
Roger reluctantly got up from the 'account's bed' where he had been napping. He buttoned his vest, rolled down his sleeves, and reattached his cufflinks. Then he moved over to the mirror to tighten and straighten his tie. Finally, he slipped on his suit coat. He grabbed his overcoat and fedora from the closet and headed out of the 'office'.
He wasn't quite ready to head home yet. He glanced at his watch. It was late. Jane was probably already loaded by now. If he waited a little longer maybe she would be passed out by the time he got home. He really couldn't deal with yet another breakdown tonight.
He lingered in the lobby debating whether he could grab a drink in the hotel bar without Joan finding out. Knowing Joan, it was likely that all of the bar staff were already her informants and had been provided with photographs of the employees of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. He wasn't bringing a client there, so what did it matter if she did find out? He could always go to another bar, but somehow being seen drinking alone in a hotel bar didn't look quite as sad as being seen drinking alone in a regular bar.
Roger checked his coat and hat and went into the bar. He looked around trying to find an open space and somewhere away from the traveling salesmen types who would want to recount the trials of the road to him. Suddenly, bright red hair caught his eye.
Surely, it wasn't…
He moved closer. There she was, the very person that had forbidden visits to the hotel bar.
He could hear Joan telling the man that was trying to chat her up, "Really, that's very nice of you, but I'm waiting for someone."
"Sorry, I'm late, honey," Roger said laying a possessive hand on Joan's shoulder and giving the other man his sternest glare. "Is this gentleman bothering you?"
She gaped at him for half of a second, before smiling, "Of course not. He was nice enough to keep me company until you arrived, dear."
The man quickly moved to the other end of the bar and Joan turned on Roger. "What are you doing here?" she hissed.
"What are you doing here?" he retorted. "What would Doctor Harris say about his wife sitting alone in a hotel bar with strange men trying to ply her with booze?"
"Don't be silly, Roger. I can take care of myself as you should know. But to answer your question, Greg's working late and I didn't feel like sitting at home alone."
He wasn't fooled by that. Roger knew her well enough to know when something wasn't right with her. She didn't want to go home any more tha he did. He sat down next to her and ordered a drink for himself, then asked, "Another, Joanie?"
"I should go home." She started to get up.
"Stay." he said laying a hand over hers. "Have a drink with me." She eyed him suspiciously. "Just one."
"Alright. Just one."
"See, there's no reason for us to both drink alone. I'll guard your matronly virtue against the lecherous and you can guard mine."
While they were waiting for the drinks, he offered her a cigarette and a light. Then he lit one for himself.
She seemed to regroup after taking deep drag from the cigarette, "So why are you here, really?" Then she added overly sweetly, "Why aren't you at home with dear Jane?"
"Dear Jane," Roger mused taking a sip of his newly arrived martini. He glanced at Joan whom he could tell was intrigued. He wondered if he should talk to her about this. But who else could he talk to- Cooper, Don? They'd both say 'I told you so.' Hell, he'd even itched to pick up the phone and call Mona. What a joke that'd be.
"I think I made a mistake, Joanie."
"Oh, really?" she smirked.
"Oh, please, don't give that tone. I used to be able to talk to you. I- I miss that. More than any of the rest."
She seemed taken aback. She probably wasn't expecting sincerity from him of all people. She studied him a moment as she took a sip of her drink, then said, "Talk and I'll listen."
Roger motioned to the bartender with his empty glass. "Keep these coming. I'll need it." He waited until he had his refill and had taken a long drink before starting. "Jane's like a child. A drunk child. The girl cannot hold her liquor. I think I'm going to have to send her to dry out."
"She must not be very happy either."
"I suppose not. The whole thing with Margaret's wedding wasn't helpful. I don't know which of them was more of a brat. And now with the starting the whole new company, I told her she had to cut back on the spending. You should have witnessed that scene. She can't seem to understand there's not a lot of income at the moment and I've got the alimony payments from hell. Mona was actually way more understanding than Jane. She even offered to invest in the new company. She said it would be good for me to start something on my own and that she was proud of me. Jesus, what is that all about? Hell, why couldn't Jane be more like Campbell's wife and at least bring us sandwiches now and again?"
Joan quickly took a sip of her drink in an attempt to hide her laugh.
"Do you really have to laugh at me, too?"
"I'm sorry. It's just too ridiculous. You really didn't know what you had, did you? You should have let me fire Jane when I wanted to."
"Probably," he shrugged. "I thought you were just jealous of her."
"Now, Roger, you should know me better than that. I don't let personal feelings interfere with work."
"I should have. Not a lot to do about it now." He finished another drink and then focused on her. "So, Red, how are things in the Harris family?"
"Wonderful," she said with smile that almost looked real.
"Like you just said, I know you better than that. You've heard my tale of woe, let's hear yours."
"You don't care, Roger. You just don't want to go home."
"I don't want to go home, but I do care." He took her hand in his and said with all the earnestness he had in him. "I've always cared about you, Joan. I always will."
She looked down at their joined hands and then back up into his face. "Greg joined the army. He's-" she paused collecting her thoughts. "Surgery just wasn't for him. Or psychology, for that matter. The only way he could have a career in medicine was practicing in some middle of nowhere town or the army."
"Will you go with him?" He didn't want to think about her leaving again, the office or, God forbid, the city.
"I'll stay here while he's training with the army. After that I don't know."
Roger squeezed the hand that he still held, "If you ever need anything, Joanie, anything at all, you only have to ask. I'll do whatever I can to help you."
Joan looked down for a moment and when she looked back up, her eyes sparkled with unshed tears. "Thank you, Roger. That means more than I can say."
The tension was suddenly too much for him, so he had to add in as an irreverant tone as he could manage, "Well, if you decide to go to Reno, let me know. I may come too. We can be roommates. What would they say then?"
Joan laughed and wiped at her eyes, "You cannot be serious for five minutes, can you?"
"That's not true." He checked his watch. "I've been serious for nearly an hour and a half now."
"It must be a record then." Joan checked her own watch and sighed deeply. "I really do need to go."
Roger signaled for the bill. "I'll go with you. We can share a cab."
After the check was settled, Roger guided Joan to the coat check and retrieved their coats. He held hers out for her. She tied her scarf over her hair as he shrugged into his. Once he'd put on his hat, he offered her his arm, "Shall we?"
She threaded her arm through his and he led her to the lobby. As they neared the elevators, he paused, "You want go up and try out the 'account's bed'? For old time's sake, I mean."
Joan just smiled and propelled them toward the doors of the hotel.