It's late. She's been working; he could sense the atmospheric shift from her brainstorming tingling down the hall since lunch. He should be working too, and is in his own special way, but Ted has always known the time to call it a day and when to make a night of it- whatever it is. At the moment, trying to get a creative spark from the Ford- sponsored sitcom only has the benefit of getting Peggy in his office. The highlight of his day, to be sure, but still a spotlight on how little he's accomplished so far.

He sighs a brief sigh, a little sound of frustration that just slightly affects her heartbeat. "Maybe Frank was right. We should've never dumped Alfa. It's one thing to want something. It's another to… need it." He's talking about so much more than the account right now, and he wonders if she's caught on.

He liked her fire when they first met, so bold and shy at the same time. She was and is brilliant, and totally new, and has a set of solid brass balls to balance the brains. She's loyal and he loves that, and appreciates how hard it's been to transfer that loyalty to him and the firm. She's not gorgeous but still pretty, understated in a fresh way like a bunch of wildflowers when you were expecting lilies.

When Frank had dropped his bombshell this morning, Ted wanted to call her, just to hear her voice and ask her to tell him it would be alright. He'd stared at the phone for 5 minutes solid, actively daring it to ring while keeping his fingers tightly laced to avoid dialing it himself. Then he'd stared at the door, willing her to walk through it on some importantly trivial matter so he could wrap her in his arms and hold onto something solid in a world that had just been knocked sideways. He'd needed Frank's pessimistic brilliance- the perfect counterpoint to his own temperament- for the better part of 2 decades. He'd wanted Peggy Olsen for her brains and instincts and sass for over almost 2 years, and wanted her for everything else for about 4 months. Now he has to admit, at least to himself, that he's started to need her too (although he's completely unaware of exactly when that shift occurred.)

"I like the fact that you're-" He's suddenly in her face, breathing the same air in as much time as a breath takes.

"Do not say I'm nice. I hate it when people say I'm nice." Especially when his thoughts are decided not G-rated, when he wants nothing more than to be bad.

Her voice is quiet, a little breathless from surprise at his vehemence and abrupt proximity change. "Actually, I was gonna say strong." He almost laughs. Strong? He's not strong. He's weak, totally helpless in her presence, as lacking in self control as a 6 year old on cookie jar guard duty.

Peggy's lips are soft against his, not yielding but not forbidding. He doesn't even want to deepen the kiss right now. Ted's totally content to suspend this moment like a piano wire, stretching on to a beautiful harmonious tension. He's a bit concerned that their tongues actually mingling might make him explode, and besides, he's currently fascinated by the way he can just feel that tiny puff in her upper lip; she must've been worrying it between her teeth the way she does when she's working. He loves that she treats every account, every thing like it's make or break, though he worries sometimes the stress will prove too much. He—

Is suddenly aware of the gentle yet undeniable pressure on his chest, that he's being pushed away rather than reeled in closer. With that touch he returns to his body in a rush of awareness, like the weight of the wedding band on his ring finger, and the bright and vivid memory of that beatnik she calls a boyfriend.

When he speaks, his voice is soft. "I'm sorry." His tone a little sheepish. "I'm just grateful." His words a complete lie.

It may be his imagination, but he almost swears he sees a flash of disappointment at his explanation.

He spins around and puts a few steps of much needed distance between them. "Good night, Peggy."

He keeps his focus on the very expensive objet d'art he keeps behind his desk to suitably impress people when he's pitching. If he turns around, he won't keep his eyes off her. His hands are gripping the desk's edge so tight, he wouldn't be at all surprised to find indents in the wood when and if he finally lets go. If he relinquishes his hold, he'll never let her out of his arms. He's concentrating on his breathing, timing each inhale and exhale to the sound of her footsteps as she walks to the elevators. If he lets his control slip, if his strength falters, if he follows her now, he'll kiss her until she kisses him back.

It's one thing to want something. It's quite another to need it.

A/N: this is being dashed off because I can't sleep and the plot bunnies were pestering me. Good, bad or ugly, let me know what you thought.