After a long day of drawing endless tubs of Fleishmann's margarine, Stan Rizzo had konked out on the office sofa. His right arm hurt, and his mind swam with visions of dancing cows and glistening pats of oleo. Sleep came easily to him, and he welcomed it for the first time in months.
Since the night he and Peggy kissed during the "lost weekend," Stan hadn't exactly gotten much beauty sleep. He was still haunted by the death of his cousin Robbie, and the horrible phone call he'd gotten from his mother the evening the family found out about the tragedy. He tried not to think about it; the pain was too great remembering her shaking voice. Robby had been like the kid brother he never had.
He tried blocking out his grief by thinking about Peggy. Every time he closed his eyes, he remembered her sweet lips parted against his, that brief moment where their breaths mingled and he could feel her body leaning into his. He'd dreamt of that moment for years now; never thinking it could even be possible without her smacking him or yelling at him. Things were weird.
Looking back, it was a really lousy idea to fuck that weird hippie chick that had showed up in his office a half hour after the incident between Peggy and him. Feeling dejected, horny and drugged up, the hippie girl had seduced him with a single, cryptic sentence: "I'm here to make you feel good." It did, for about three seconds. It ended as abruptly as it started, when Stan realized his office door was open and the spell was broken by Peggy stomping down the hallway and yelling that she was going home. Stan looked up into the hippie's eyes and saw none of the tenderness that he'd gotten from Peggy. This girl was a poor substitute. Margarine to Peggy's butter.
And like that, his raging boner was gone. The girl looked at him with disappointment.
"We have to stop this."
Immediately afterward, Stan felt worse. Peggy was right. This was bullshit.
The phone rang, jostling Stan out of his sleep. He rubbed his eyes and looked at his clock. 12:12 AM.
Jesus Christ, who could be calling at this hour?
He picked up the phone, and thought he heard someone sniffling.
"Hello?" he asked, tentatively.
"Peggy? What's wrong? Are you okay?"
"I need to talk."
"Now?" Stan sighed. The last thing he wanted right now was another gentle denial of his feelings, but he was genuinely worried. "Where are you?"
"Down the hall," she replied, sniffling some more. "I can't go back home. I don't have anyone."
"Look, I'll be right over. Explain later," Stan said.
Stan found Peggy sitting on her office sofa, sobbing. He sat down next to her and wrapped her in a hug.
"Tell me what happened, Peewee," he said to her gently.
"I stabbed him," she choked.
"It was an accident. I stabbed Abe, I thought he was an intruder. He snuck up behind me in the bedroom while two people were fighting outside. I was scared and didn't know. It went right in his stomach."
Her eyes were red and swollen, her hair a greasy mess. The sight of her all disheveled and devastated was a bit jarring; she'd taken to dressing so professionally of late. She looked sad and scared: two words he never thought he'd have to associate with Peggy Olson.
"I can't spend another night in that place," she said, winding down. "Abe insisted we go there and fix it up, but when rocks come flying through your bedroom window and junkies poop on your stairs…"
"Peggy, you don't have to go back there tonight. Are you okay?"
"No. We're done. He ended it in the ambulance."
"I see." Stan leaned back on the sofa and tried to take in Peggy's story. She was not quite drunk enough to tell him about Ted as well, so she wisely refrained from doing so. Stan knew Peggy well enough to understand how low she felt.
"I had no one else to talk to," she finally whispered. Stan felt horrible for his friend. She'd never looked this broken before.
"Come on, Peggy, lie down. Get some rest," he said calmly. "You really look like shit."
Peggy laughed weakly, put down her glass of scotch, and obeyed. She put her head in his lap. He stroked her shoulder and hair gently as her trembling body began to slowly relax.
Stan matched his breathing to hers, feeling the weight of her head on his thighs. At first, the sensation of her so close to him again kept his mind swimming, but as she drifted further asleep, he began to follow suit. Suddenly the thought of them being discovered by Don or Ted jolted him awake.
"Peggy, hey…" he whispered to her before she fell asleep too deeply. He remembered the morning he had once woken her with a coach's whistle, and smiled at the memory. She woke with a snort.
"We can't spend the night on your sofa," he said gently. "It'll kill my back."
"You're right. I should go home."
"No…come on, you can stay the night at my pad. No funny business, I swear. I'll sleep on the sofa. But you're not going back to that shit palace, especially with that fink."
Peggy nodded. She was too exhausted to protest, and Stan only lived six blocks away. The night was humid and hot, and the idea of going back up to the UWS frightened her. They arrived at Stan's flat twenty minutes later.
Stan got out a couple of sheets for the sofa and an old work shirt and a pair of shorts for her to sleep in. They were comically large on her small frame, but she looked cute in them. He changed into his boxers and a t-shirt. Stan had a very small studio apartment, with the bed in one corner behind a bookshelf partition.
"Are you sure you'll be comfortable on the sofa?" She looked at the width of it, and knew it wouldn't be pleasant for someone of his height.
"I'll be fine. Get some sleep. Are you comfortable?" He turned on the fan, offering sweet relief to the sweltering room.
"Yeah. Thank you."
"Good night, Peggy. I'll set the alarm for quarter to 8, okay?" He settled on the sofa, his long legs and wide, muscled arms spilling off of the sides. He looked miserable. Peggy felt a pang of guilt.
"Come to bed."
"Yeah. You'll be more comfortable."
Stan walked across the room and lay in bed with her. She curled up against him, wrapping her arm around his chest. He held her against him, stroking her hair gently, feeling his heart pounding against his chest at the thought of her in his bed. His sanctum sanctorum, the place where he'd spent countless nights dreaming about her right there, with him.
"I love you," he mouthed inaudibly in her hair, half hoping it would awaken her.
She answered with a snore.