II. Ted

Peggy carried the Fleischmann's file to Ted's office. She stopped at Moira's desk and asked, "Is he available?"

"Let me see," Moira said. Instead of using the intercom, she stood and let herself into Ted's office. A beat later she returned, closing the door behind her. "I'm sorry, Ms. Olson. Mr. Chaough has to make a personal call. He said he'll come by your office later."

Peggy thanked her and turned away. She headed back to her office and tripped on the suitcase she had been trying to conceal between two filing cabinets.

x

The meeting ended with Pete storming off and if pressed, Peggy wouldn't be able to say why. She had kept herself occupied with drinking coffee, chewing on a pastry – anything to keep awake. She didn't sleep well on the couch in her office. She hadn't been doing it every night, but she slept even worse when she did go home.

"What do you think, Peggy? Peggy?"

She heard her name and turned her chair toward Don. "Sounds good to me?" Peggy guessed.

Don pushed his chair back from the table. He dismissed her with a pointed stare and headed for the door.

She stood and when Ted was almost out of the room, she called, "Did you have time to look at the copy for Topaz?"

Ted paused with his back to her, his shoulders tensed. He turned and smiled. "No, I haven't. I'll come by your office later."

"That's what you said yesterday," Peggy muttered to his retreating figure.

x

Ted passed by Peggy's office seven times without knocking on the door. He wasn't even sure if Peggy had arrived yet for the day; it was too early for most. On his eighth trip down the hall he tapped on the door and it squeaked open an inch. "Peggy?" he called, easing it open with his elbow.

She wasn't at her desk, but a nightgown was folded over the back of her chair. A blanket was rumpled at one end of the couch and two of her throw pillows were piled at the other end.

Ted reared back, pulling the door shut.

x

The work was conjuring the smell of motor oil and the sound of engines revving. It gave Peggy a headache. She was beyond tired of evoking images of transportation and the deeper meaning behind vehicles. The intercom buzzed and for a minute it sounded like the bleat of a Chevy's horn.

"Yes, Phyllis?" Peggy responded.

"May I come in for a minute?"

"Of course." Peggy turned her chair around to face the door.

Phyllis let herself in and glanced at the sofa. It was tidy. "You have a room at the Waldorf for three nights, Ms. Olson. Room 629."

Peggy narrowed her eyes. "Excuse me?" Her mind reeled back a couple years, to Vicks and stripping out of her clothes and needling Stan.

"Think of it as a gift, I guess."

Peggy could tell by the way Phyllis glanced to the couch and to where her suitcase was poorly hiding under the desk that her makeshift bedroom wasn't that much of a secret. Peggy stood up. "A gift? Who is this from?"

"Room 629," Phyllis repeated. "The reservation is in your name."

"Phyllis. I'm not going to check into a hotel room if I don't know how I even got the reservation."

"It's up to you," she said and made a hasty exit.

x

Room 629 smelled like clean laundry. The temperature was moderately cool. Peggy pressed her fingers into the center of the mattress and decided she wanted to slink under the covers but not go to sleep. The enormous bed was much too comfortable to sleep through; she wanted to enjoy every second of it and luxuriate under the thick, soft blanket.

Her suitcase looked small on top of the long dresser. Everything in the room was oversized and ornate, including a complimentary box of chocolates on the nightstand. Peggy lifted the lid and selected a dark chocolate truffle. She bit into the soft enter and no longer cared who had reserved the room, although she had a hunch it was Joan, charging it as a business expense. Peggy was certain she had given away her living situation after complaining to Joan too many times about a stiff neck and realtors who don't return calls. Or, she suspected, Phyllis had paid Joan a visit on her behalf.

Peggy licked chocolate from her fingers and popped her suitcase open. She changed into her pajamas and took a little work into the bed with her.

The folders were never opened.

x

Peggy finished her first cup of coffee and pushed the mug to the back of her desk; she didn't feel a need to fill it up again. The dull ache in her lower back was gone. She hadn't yawned through the first meeting of the day.

There was a knock on the door and Peggy called, "Come in."

Ted appeared, closing the door behind him. "Phyllis stepped away," he said.

Peggy nodded. She opened her mouth to speak but couldn't. She had been trying to secure time with him all week and was ignored and avoided.

"How was your evening?" Ted asked.

"Fine," Peggy answered after a long pause. "I'm sorry but I didn't get any more work done, other than the ten tags I tried to submit the other day. If that's what you're asking."

He held his hand up, dismissing her apology. "I am about to sit down and review that. Maybe you can come by in half an hour?"

She nodded.

"Good." He moved to leave but turned back around. "How are you feeling?"

"I'm… fine."

"You look rested." He smiled and when she didn't carry the conversation further, Ted turned and put his hand on the doorknob.

Peggy stood, her movement so abrupt her chair toppled and almost tipped back. "It was you," she said.

"Excuse me?"

She circled around her desk. "The room at the Waldorf? You had Phyllis reserve that room for me."

Ted shrugged. "I don't know what-"

"Why did you do that?"

He lowered his voice, inched a step closer to her. "You're sleeping in your office, Peggy. I don't need to know why, exactly, but it concerns me."

"Well, it shouldn't. You should have Moira call and cancel the reservation. I'm not going back."

Ted nodded once. "Alright." He opened the door and stepped into the hallway. "Half an hour in my office?"

"I have an appointment then," Peggy said sharply.

x

She only went to The Waldorf because she had left her suitcase, but when the clerk told Peggy the reservation had never been cancelled, she decided to stay in the room. For just one more night. And maybe one more after that. It bought her more time to find a place to rent while she put her building on the market.

Peggy changed into her nightgown and stood at the side of the bed. It was nice to come home to a clean, put together bed. She saw the appeal in bed-making when it was time to turn down the covers; the sheets were crisp, it was unexpectedly cool under the blankets.

She heard a knock on the door but thought it was probably coming from across the hall. When it became louder she bit her lip, staring suspiciously at the closed door. Peggy turned the lock but kept the chain intact. She opened the door enough to see a slant of Ted's face.

"You did come back," Ted observed.

Peggy ignored the way he smiled, proud of himself. She didn't move to let him in. "I was about to sleep. Did I leave something at the office?"

"No. May I come in?" Ted asked. Peggy unhooked the chain and opened the door all the way.

He blushed; her nightgown was short, above her knee, and the lace trim around the oval neckline drew his eyes to her chest. He didn't know if he'd ever seen her wear such a bright, feminine pink. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and focused his gaze up and over her shoulder.

Peggy picked up her robe from the edge of the bed and slipped it on, tying it tight across her waist. She went to the dresser and put her hairbrush and cosmetic bag in her suitcase. "I'm not staying," she said.

"Peggy, stop."

She shook her head. "I shouldn't have come back. You shouldn't have done this." She dropped a tube of lipstick and it rolled under the dresser.

Ted took two big strides across the room and bent to retrieve the lipstick. He set it on the dresser and when Peggy moved to drop it in her bag, Ted moved the suitcase out of her reach.

"Why are you here?" she asked, clenching her hands into fists at her sides.

"I'm worried about you."

Peggy laughed.

Ted reached into his pocket and removed a business card. "This is for a realtor I've worked with many times. I don't know if you've been in contact with anyone, but I know Julian will be able to help you quickly."

"I have a realtor."

Ted reached behind him, setting the card on top of her closed suitcase.

"Why are you here?" she repeated. Peggy regretted how wounded her voice was.

"I told you, I-"

"Because I think it's some kind of game for you," she said, generating as much contempt as she could muster. "You ignore me for days. And then you make this grand gesture. You hide behind this."

He looked down at his feet and then sharply back at Peggy. "You're wrong."

"I won't do this, Ted. I won't let you ignore me at work and then hide me away like this. I can put everything behind me. I can pretend like nothing ever happened. I can pretend like you never told me you loved me. I can continue to work with you. I've had to do that before," Peggy said.

His eyes widened.

"But I won't let you be cruel to me."

"I'm not… This wasn't meant to be cruel," Ted told her.

"Well it is. You're dismissive at the office. The way you treat me has changed. And then you put me up here? Like I'm your mistress?"

Ted wiped a hand down his face. He reached out, resting his hands over her shoulders and then pulling back, pressing his palms together. "That was not my intention, Peggy. I swear. I was worried about you. I was trying to be helpful." He looked down, ashamed.

"You haven't been acting very concerned for me."

"How can I, Peggy? I feel like it's written all over my face – how I feel about you. This isn't me. I don't fall in love with women who aren't my wife. I don't put women up in hotel rooms. Isn't it obvious how terrible I would be at sneaking around?"

She smiled despite herself. Peggy felt herself wilting. She drew closer to him without, it seemed, even moving her feet. "I'm going to pay you back for the room," she said.

Ted didn't argue. He sat on the foot of the bed, propping his elbows on his knees and burying his head in his hands. "Can we start over?" he asked.

Peggy stood at his side. "I hope so. I don't want to hate you."

He looked up at that. "I couldn't stand it if you did."

"You have to promise me that you won't ignore me at work," Peggy implored. "You have to make a decision. Either we can move forward and go on like none of this ever happened or… Or I don't think we can work together."

"I don't want the agency to lose you, Peggy." He heaved a sigh. "Tomorrow, at the office, we go back to normal. Deal?" He extended his hand.

Peggy nodded and accepted his handshake, but once his fingers were wrapped firmly around hers, her resolve broke.

Ted absently rubbed the pad of his thumb across her knuckles. He tried to stand from his perch on the bed but his knees wouldn't let him. "Peggy," he whispered, his voice a mere rasp of longing.

She let go of his hand but didn't move. She thought about the time he had kissed her, how she'd pressed her hands to his chest. The pressure of her fingers had been a warning to stop, at first. Peggy hadn't been able to stop thinking about what might have happened once she'd recovered from the shock and if Ted hadn't apologized right away, how she would have moved her hands up to his shoulders, winding her arms around his neck.

Peggy lifted a hand to his shoulder. She closed her eyes when she felt Ted's hand at the small of her back. He tugged her forward, between his legs, until she was almost sitting on his lap. He kissed her cheek, the corner of her mouth. They both tried to resist the kind of frenzied, passionate kiss they craved. They clung to one another, caught in an embrace that was both consuming and teasing. Peggy lost her footing and sank further against Ted, and it was then he captured her lips in a searing kiss.

She pulled back and realized he'd been clutching the tie around her robe. The strip of fabric loosened and her robe opened across her chest. She held it together.

Ted dug his hands into the bed to hoist himself up onto his shaky legs. "I want you to know," he said, catching his breath, "that was not why I came here."

Peggy nodded. "Tomorrow," she said, reminding him of their agreement. She walked to the door and held it open.

"Yes," Ted agreed. "Tomorrow."