Chapter 23:

Late August, 1965

"Soon, Mr. Falco, soon we can grant you a raise. Just wait until next trimester and ask me again." Lane Pryce closed his account book and adjusted the frames on his nose, looking into Mike's defeated eyes.

"Alright Mr. Pryce. I understand." He turned from his boss and opened the office door behind him.


"Yes?" he paused in the doorway.

"It's Lane." The Englishman smiled. Mike let out a half-hearted smirk and walked into the hallway.

"Mikey!" Ken shouted from down the corridor: he quickstepped to catch up with Mike as they walked towards their office.

"We bagged Sony yesterday." Ken's mood was showing on his face.

"Of course we did." Mike smiled and shook his hand. "Solid plan, solid execution, solid account."

"Solid." Ken repeated as he pushed the handle and the door to their joint office swung open. Ken sat down at his desk and pulled out the file folder on Sony, sprawling the contract onto the desk. Michael smirked, staring at it, and then pushed his briefcase onto his desk: unclipping the locks. When he did, a few papers fell from the case and landed on the floor. At once he scrambled to amass the pages together.

Ken picked up a piece on the ground, read the first line and spoke,

"What's this for?"

Michael's embarrassment shone through his cheeks in red,

"Just my dabbling in poetry."

"You write?" Ken began reading down the page.

"Well… well… you see I just do in my free time." Michael walked over to interrupt his reading. Ken pushed him away and continued down the page.

"This is pretty good… good use of metaphor's here." Ken sat down and continued reading. Mike leaned on the edge of his desk.

"Look Kenny, just don't tell anyone… it's kind of a secret for me."

"I know the feeling." He mumbled as he finished the page. "Are you published?"

"Published? As in, in a magazine or paper?"

"Yes, like that." Ken grinned.

"No… I've never even considered it."

"I know a guy, he's mainly for short stories but he knows many, many poetry publishers. If you want, I could send it in to him?"

Michael stood up and thought for a long moment. He pondered what it would look like to be published, the accolades he could sustain, the feeling of success. Then he weighed it against his job, and saw the fruitlessness in that effort.

"I don't think so Kenny. If I ever got caught it would…"

"It would look like you're devoting more time to your writing than your copywriting. I understand."

"You write poetry!" Mike was riveted.

"Not quite." Ken stood up and reached into his top drawer pulling out an older magazine.

"The Atlantic Monthly!" Michael cried. "You have a story in here? I read this often!"

"Yes, well I did write a lot in high school, thought I'd follow through with it."

Mike flipped through the magazine and found the story by Ben Hargrove.

"Could I borrow this? Maybe read it over?"

Ken seemed embarrassed by the gesture, but by now he was used to the interest, and differently this time was the attention from a man of his literate understanding.

"Alright, but the one condition is that I can send this to my friend." Ken flipped the magazine back in gesture.

"You have a deal." They both exchanged items and shook hands.

There was sudden boom through the intercom system, "Peter Campbell here for both of you."

Ken leaned over and pressed the reply. "Send the bum in." they laughed.

"I heard that." Pete said as he entered the quaint office. "Well I see now I would never have wanted this office; too small." He was looking around the area and scanning it with his eyes.

"What is it Pete?" Ken rubbed his eyebrows, seemingly in distaste.

"Well a congratulations on getting Sony." Pete reached out and shook both of their hands quickly. "I've been on the phone this past while with Viacynth, and I've been waiting for their ad to self-destruct. I watched the commercials, read through their ads and honestly, its garbage compared to what we put together. I've befriended one of the high ups, I won't bore you with the details, but they're numbers are dropping, and so they dropped McCain-Ericksen. Viacynth is on the market once again!" Pete was smiling broadly.

"What makes you think they'll want to join us?" Ken lit up.

"I had my man put in a good word: he spread about some of our good fortune this past while with Lincoln, Sony, so on and so forth. I got a call back. They want a meeting!"

"Well that is good news." Mike smiled.

"Yes, and if you have any questions about it, just address it to my secretary. The head man seemed to only want to speak with me." Pete turned and made his way to the door. "Oh, and there is a company meeting in an hour." He shut the door behind him.

"It's funny you know, he's just so humble! If he had a beard and a sense of dignity I'd call him Jesus." Mike mused as Ken chuckled.

After a few minutes he stepped outside of his office and shut his door just in time to see Peggy dip into the creative room. He brushed his hair over with his hand and walked past the offices, breezing into the open space.

"You hear about Kenny's good news?" he opened.

"Who hasn't?" she grinned.

"I guess I was the last one." He walked over to the drinks table and grabbed a glass.

"This early?" Peggy cocked a brow.

"I'm getting water, but thank you mother." He ran down the hall quickly to empty lunchroom. Well, almost empty.

Peter Campbell was standing with one of the secretary's and seemed to have cornered her. Mike poked his head around the bend and could see them, his view slightly obscured because of the cabinet, but he could also hear what they were saying.

"… Oh I dunno Petey… this doesn't sound like a good idea… maybe we shouldn't"

"Look it's just this one time. Hotel Americano, 7:30. No one even has to know."

"Fine… I'll see you there then." The girl pecked him on the cheek and quickly walked in Mike's direction. He spun around to avoid being seen, but accidently positioned himself in her upcoming path. As she left the lunchroom, she turned and ran into him with a hot mug of coffee, spilling it everywhere. Mike screamed in pain and the surprise. He suddenly had the attention of the office.

"Oh goodness!" she covered her mouth in horror. "Mr. Falco, I am so, sorry!"

Mike flung his hands at the ground letting to coffee drip.

"It's alright, we all have accidents." He took off his vest and saw that the blue shirt underneath was stained brown.

"What is going on here?" Joan demanded as she appeared from her office sanctuary. "Janice you really have to be more careful, especially with hot drinks. This is the second time this month." She walked over to the incident site.

"I know, Ms. Holloway, I'm sorry. It won't happen again, I swear." The girl was nearly trembling in fear.

"Good. Today, you'll spend the afternoon at the drycleaners with Mr. Falco's suit, and as a token you'll foot the bill."

The normally bubbling secretary looked at the floor where the broken mug was laid out in pieces; her expression that of a young schoolgirl who was about to receive the belt.

"Of course Ms. Holloway… I'm sorry Mr. Falco."

"It's alright, lucky I carry an extra suit for emergencies" His slight smile helped liven the girls' mood. He tossed her the wetted vest. "You'll get the rest soon."

"Clean this up, then back to work." Joan assterted.

Mike began walking down the hall; Joan following him.

"Sorry about that, she can be such a klutz sometimes."

"Well I should be thanking you, it's not often I get free dry-cleaning."

"You're welcome." She cocked an eyebrow and smirked, leaning back into her office. Mike watched as she played coy closing the door on him. Once she had closed the door, he observed Roger Sterling reeling out from his office.

"Caroline, could you go to the liquor store down the street and buy me cognac?"

"Mr. Sterling, I feel that's highly unorthodox during wor…."

"Here's a hundred, buy yourself something nice. Clothes wise I mean… Do you have any other clothes than that dress?" He slammed the door behind himself.

Michael walked over to Caroline who was in slight shock from the exchange. "Could I go in?"

"I don't see why not." She mumbled. He turned from the older woman who was grabbing her coat to leave, and pushed open the grand office's egress.

"Caroline, I don't really care if it's unorthodox, just go down the street, take a break and buy me the bottle!" He nearly shouted as the portal to the real world closed behind Mike.

"I think she's actually doing that at the moment." Mike spoke up.

"Oh." Roger flung around his chair to face the younger man in his splendor. "Mikey, pleasant surprise. I'd offer you a drink, but well, I don't have one." He gestured to the cart of open empty bottles.

"That's alright." Michael walked to an open chair and took a seat.

"Nice shirt." He snorted. "So? What's on your mind." Roger began.

"Viacynth Chemicals: the one that got away."

"What about her? I thought McCain snagged that pooch." Roger concluded.

"They did, but it looks like they lost control of the hound."

"Oh really? And who led you to this privileged information?"

"Pete Campbell."

"So you came to gloat then?"

"Quite the opposite actually. I figure we can both see the sun on this shining day." Mike grinned.

"Both hey? I'm listening."

"I think our distaste of Peter Campbell is mutual, and so I propose a mutually beneficial account split…"

"Now you have my attention." Roger smiled deceitfully.

Conference Room: 11:30

"Good morning everybody." Roger began. "I'm sorry for pulling you all away from your countless duties, but we have a few announcements. Lane would you like to start?"

"Of course." Lane stepped forward. "Most of you realize that we incurred Lincoln Cars a few weeks ago, a monumental and important step in this company's success. A car is all the prestige we could ask for, and can open many gates to future. With that in loom, I'd like you all to remain on your toes. This may be a breather into the door but could be our downfall if we loosen our belt buckles. I'm just encouraging you all to work your hardest in the upcoming weeks. Our phones have been ringing off the hook, so let's keep up this bout of luck!" Lane smiled and a few people clapped.

"Where's Pete?" Stan leaned over and asked Mike.

"I think he's at a meeting."

"During a companywide announcement?"

"Must have been important." Mike's eyes never left Roger's golden face.

"Secondly." Roger stepped forward once again. "I'd like to announce that we have a new member joining the upper echelons of power. Joan will you please step forward."

From the bubbling crowd, Joan Holloway made her way confidently to the front of the group. She turned to face the wondering audience.

"All the partners have agreed; with recent events on the upswing, it would be good to have our Director of Agency Operations placed at our head table making the important decisions that need to be done. That said, we promoted Joan to Junior Partner at the firm." Roger smiled as did many people around them.

There were loud whistles being blown and a brash round of applause resounded through the room. Mike was hit by a wave of awkward jealousy. This woman whom he loved, was surpassing him, in great strides, and he hadn't even got much of a raise. A hollow pit formed in his stomach as he clapped slowly, and methodically.

Joan was absorbing the rays of excitement exuding from the crowd in front of her. She felt a great accomplishment in her heart and mind.

In a busy restaurant two miles away, Peter Campbell was waiting patiently at the table he had been presented. There were two empty spots adjacent to himself, where two representatives from Viacynth were to be sitting shortly: or at least as Pete assumed they would. By this point, they were half an hour late and he was getting restless.

Pete glared down at his watched and scoffed. The waitress walked over to him;

"Would you like to order now sir?"

"I guess I shall." He mumbled in anger. "The filet mignon with garlic mashed potatoes please." Just as he was handing the menu to the waitress, two men in suits walked through the doors. Pete stood up and buttoned his shirt to meet them. His smile vanished quickly as he noticed who was approaching him.

"Roger, Michael. What are you two doing here?"

"A follow up on a red herring." Roger smiled and took a seat. "Sherry. Neat" he said the waitress.

"Same, but on the rocks." Michael added to the order. Pete took a moment to absorb the information.

"So there is not meeting?"

"Oh there is a meeting." Roger began. "But just not with Viacynth."

"Then what is this about?"

"Pete, we are going to acquire Viacynth, and when we do, we want you to hand the account over to Roger." Mike said blatantly. The drinks arrived as Pete was holding back a tantrum of rage

"And why would I do that?" he said sarcastically.

"It's in your best interest." Roger swigged the drink. "Trust me."

"It seems that it's more in your best interest, no?" Pete rebutted. Roger's enthusiastic smile annoyed Pete even more. "I think I'll be staying overhead of this one." Pete stood up about to leave.

"Why don't you tell me about Laura." Roger reached into his pocket, stared at his silver lighter, then lit the cigarette he had reached for.

"Laura? You mean Laura; Joan's secretary?" He seemed puzzled.

"Yes, that Laura." Roger inhaled on the cigarette.

"She's alright, kind of friendly. Does a good job. What does this have to do with anything?"

"I dunno Pete, why don't you tell me." Mike stood to meet with Pete's attempt at leaving.

"I fail to see what you're getting at."

"Hotel Americano, 7:30."

Pete looked phased for a moment, then refocused his eyes. "I have no idea what you're talking about.

"I do. You, Laura, tonight? Maybe you should keep your conversations more private than our lunchroom, no?" Mike smiled witfully.

Pete stood a moment in silence.

He responded after a good moment. "The account is yours. Do we understand each other?"

Roger stood up and reached out for Pete's hand. Pete didn't move for it.

"Understood." Roger withdrew his reach, just as a defeated Pete Campbell left the diner, as sour as a granny smith.

They both smiled and looked at each other.

SCDP, 7:00 P.M.

Mike was alone in his office sifting through the files of the old Viacynth account. The ideas they had were still fresh and strong as they were months and months ago. He pulled of few of their best ideas and left the remaining. He placed them on the table and opened their main idea on the pitch. After reading into the few lines following his writing, he heard a tap at the door as Peggy walked in.

"Mikey!" she saw he was deep into reading. "Aren't you going to come celebrate?"

"Celebrate which?" His eyes never left the workload.

"Well… Joan's promotion… I thought you'd be joining us."

"Too much work to do. You girls have fun."

"Ken really wanted you to be there though, it would just be him and Harry!" she was trying to prod him into going.

"Then I'll guess he'll stay chapped, won't he." Once again, his eyes never left the paper. Peggy backed off in confusion, slowly withdrawing herself.

"I'm sorry to intrude then." She began walking out. "Don't let it get the best of you."

Michael looked up; "What will?"

Peggy simply nodded and closed the door behind her.

Mike wiped his face over with his hands in anger, then looked back down to his work. He brought his fist down onto the table in resentment.

Joan was not far behind her, swinging the door open without knocking, and then yelling for the girls to go on a bit without her.

"Busy day?" she opened.

"You could say that. Just going over the details on Viacynth."

"Mr. Campbell informed me on that. I'm glad to see they are coming back." Joan smiled. Michael didn't share the same enthusiasm and simply pushed the spectacles up further on his nose and turned the page.

"Yes, as, am, I." he drew out the words in long breaths. Joan was slightly off-put.

"Take a break from this, come to Maxie's with us." She leaned down onto the desk, exposing more of the deep curvature of her cleavage. Mike was tempted for a moment looking to it, then her face.

"I really shouldn't. I have lots of work to do." He spun the chair slightly and then reached for the bottom drawer, sliding another folder into the cabinet.

"Why are you being like this?" Joan demanded.

"Like what?" He was playing dumb, and she knew it.

"You know what. You'd have died if I asked you this a month ago."

"Well I'm not dead, am I?" there was a greening to his eyes that Joan observed when they met with hers. Something she hadn't seen in him before. It worried her at first, and the she had recognized where she had seen it before. In Rogers, in Lanes, in Paul Kinzies, in men who passed her by: it was the green of envy.

Joan leaned back slowly off the desk. "I never thought you of all people, you would act this way."

"What way?"

Joan sat opposite him in a chair. "Jealousy is like a stomach bug. It's imperceptible to the human eye, smaller than we can imagine, and unstoppable if it gets caught. It flares up in the person it reaches, and takes hold in them, poisoning the things in their stomach until inevitably, they come up."

There was a hollow defeat in Michael's head when he knew he had been caught. He wished, menacingly, that she hadn't been so wise to him. That she didn't know him so well, so that he could draw the anger out for days. He knew that it wasn't the right thing to do though, and so he finally said two words,

"I'm sorry."

He stood up, and walked over to her, standing her up with his one hand. Gently he placed his left hand on her neck and kissed her, holding it a moment as she placed her hand on his cheek.

"I'll come with you tonight." He mumbled.

"Good, I knew you would."

Mike smiled at her, Joan smiled back and then she slowly looked to the ground in fright.

"What's wrong sweety? I really am sorry, I shouldn't have done that. I take it back."

"I forgot to tell you something… It just has been slipping my mind all day."

"Well, what is it?"

"Well… I didn't get my present this month…"

"Your present?" his mind wandered a moment, then his jaw dropped. "Oh! OH! Well that would mean… You're… you are…"

"Yes Michael, I'm pregnant."