Disclaimer: I don't smoke, I don't really drink, and I don't own Mad Men.
Summary: Now, while he was still on top of the world, he needed to kiss the girl and make the dramatic exit appropriate to the idiom. One-shot, a companion to episode 5.05. Lane-centric.
Author's Note: I didn't find last Sunday's episode (Signal 30) very satisfying - except for the fight seen in the conference room - that made my night. It's my new favorite thing. Hell, when I feel bad I YouTube that clip (and the Lawnmower scene) and instantly feel better. I've been waiting for someone to KO Pete since season one – and I like Pete. The Lane/ Joan scene after the boxing match is what tempted my muse, however. I totally yelled at my TV because I was hoping, not for Joan and Lane to become a couple, but for them to actually be good, supportive friends. Apparently in the Mad Men world not only can men and women not be friends but people in the office can't be either. This is my reinterpretation of that interaction. I've taken some liberties with the scene, but hopefully not too many.
"Not now!" Lane shouted at the polite knock on his office door. Did they not see it was closed? Did they not understand that that meant that he wanted to be left alone - alone to drown in shame and a bottle of Jameson? After making a complete ass out of himself in front of the other partners and physically assaulting the young account man (the dumb kid had no idea how to form a fist, let along box), he'd returned to his office, closed the blinds and collapsed on his couch.
"It's me!" It was Joan's breathy voice on the other side of his door. He scrubbed his less injured hand across his face and sighed.
"Come in." Joan entered his darkened domain quietly and shut the door behind her firmly. Lane sat up slowly, stiffly; it'd been ages since he'd been in a fight. Not since University. Time was not on his side.
"I brought you some ice." He couldn't bring himself to look her in the eye; instead he focused on the hem of her smart work dress. He wasn't sure what to call the color; in this light it was more green, but in the conference room it had been blue. He felt the sofa shift next to him as she sat down, placing the bucket between them.
"Thank you." He croaked, shifting his gaze to the bucket and sinking his right hand into the cubes. It stung, watering his eyes.
Joan didn't say anything. For a long moment accountant and secretary sat in silence side by side in the dim office. She didn't say anything at all but instead he felt the caress of her fingertips smoothing his hair back into place across his forehead.
"What is it that I even do here?" He lamented quietly. Joan's hand was cool from dealing with the ice; it felt wonderful against his battered flesh. She continued to smooth his hair, soothing him in the process. He could feel her teal gaze studying him, taking in the bloom off a bruise around his eye and across his cheek. Without his glasses he was bare before her – his exhaustion, his scars, his wrinkles open to her. He felt old. Even older than he usually felt, older than he was. He was old and he was useless.
"Something essential." She replied, trying to cheer him. He had never been one for false flattery.
"You could do my job." Her fingers tucked his hair behind his ear; he felt a tear escaped his eye. Fuck all. Now he was old, useless, and crying.
"If they are trying to make you feel as if you are different from them – you are. And that is not a bad thing." She was so sincere. He lifted his gaze from the empty space between the bucket and her leg to meet her eyes. She was looking at him, really looking at him as she spoke. In her oceanic gaze there was a sadness and a sympathy and something else. He saw himself, watery and broken. He didn't like the picture.
But he'd just knocked out the unctuous Peter Campbell. In this moment he was Errol Flynn; he'd just bested his opponent with panache. Now, while he was still on top of the world, he needed to kiss the girl and make the dramatic exit appropriate to the idiom. His focus dropped to her lips – full and pink. She was so beautiful, and she was here, with him. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and took a leap of faith.
His lips found their mark, pressing against the pink pout with the subtlety of a hammer. She didn't move, didn't even breath. He pulled her a little closer to him, his large hand on her small waist. She did not yield.
WHAT – WHAT – WHAT ARE YOU DOING? His mind screamed at him and he relinquished her lips quickly. His face was burning; his blush was so deep he was sure it produced heat. Joan stood quickly and headed for the door. Lane hung his head. You Idiot his mind chastised him. He'd just alienated his only ally in the office, the first and quite possibly only true friend he'd made since he landed in New York. Could he have behaved any more inappropriately? Could he have treated her any worse?
Joan opened his office door, but instead of storming through it she returned to his side, settling beside him once again.
"I just seem to find no end to my humiliation today. I'm sorry."
"About what?" She replied lightly. His head snapped up from its shame and he looked at her in wonder. She gave him a crooked smile. "Everyone in this office has wanted to do that to Pete Campbell."