Title: Click of the Latch
Fandom: Mad Men
Pairing: Don/Pete, Pete/Trudy, Pete/Peggy implied
Length: 1810 words
Spoilers: S1 only
Warnings: slash, het, obsession
Disclaimer: Not mine, seriously. All belongs to AMC.
Summary: Pete doesn't believe in hero worship. Except when he does.
Pete knows when Don's in the office and when he's not. He knows the sound of that office door closing: to head out for a long lunch with a client, when Roger steps inside for a drink and the latest, when Don's alone. Different sounds, all of them, the click of the latch.
The office breathes and catches when he's gone, waits for him to come back.
You either work for Don or against him. It's magic really, how he can look at a client and know what they need is greater than what they want. How he pauses, lights a cigarette, looks out the window and then back again. The artwork, the copy, doesn't matter. It's his voice and his silences. Pete has that too, but Don doesn't see it. He's a nuisance, a threat. A name and nothing else.
You either work for Don or against him.
It doesn't have to be this way.
Don has the house in the suburbs, the beautiful blonde wife. Rumor is that she was a model. Kids. They have barbeques on the weekends, invite the neighbors. Or so Pete thinks. He's never been invited. None of them have, the worker bees, the drones. Don isn't the type to mix it up with the hoi polloi, pretend to be one of the guys. Don doesn't have to pretend anything.
Pete goes for a drink sometimes after work with the guys, jokes around. They laugh and he's supposed to be having a good time. It's how its done. Don has to know this. Wherever he is, it's a different bar, restaurant maybe. He can't head back on the six o'clock every night and be where he is.
No, he's here in the city. He has to be.
What does it take to have a drink with the man?
Pete gets the next round.
If Don pours you a drink, you're in. He calls you into his office, says, "Good job." Pats you on the back. Small talk. Pete's seen this happen.
Peggy gets the next drink, not him. He can smell it on her breath and it's disgusting. The way she carries herself now. Brazen. And she can't have thought of it on her own. Don's had to have taken her under his wing, whispered in her ear. Not like that, Pete would know if he had. Don's never chased a girl around the office, had a girl on the side.
He doesn't walk up Amsterdam and wonder what happened to the sweet girl pecking away at her typewriter. Don doesn't do anything like that.
Trudy says it's time for a housewarming, the apartment's as set up as it's going to be. Pictures on the wall, the bed made, appetizers in the oven. She's made him rearrange the furniture half a dozen times.
The record's going in the stereo cabinet, lid down, and the doorbell rings. Everyone's here.
Don didn't bother to say no to the invitation. He just didn't show up.
McCann Erickson is courting Don. Everyone knows this. The gifts, the way Roger glares at him and then doesn't. Gossip and a soon to be empty office. Nature abhors a vacuum and someone will move in there. Pete has plans, he's been noticed.
It's business. This is how a man moves up in the world.
They'll bump elbows now, just not in the hall. Don won't be there.
Don stays. The door to his office clicks shut.
Pete comes to bed with only his pajama bottoms. Trudy asks where his top is as she puts down her book, gets the light.
"It's hot," he says. And it is, the window open, car horns blaring. Don wouldn't put on a top to sweat underneath a sheet so why should he. He climbs into bed and kisses her, hand on her face and then in her hair.
"I'll just be a minute," she says, pulling away.
He holds onto her arm. "You don't need it," he says.
"Oh, honey." A whisper and smile as she lies back, raises her nightgown. She's not wearing underwear, and he's noticed the hint over the last few months, the one week when she doesn't. "It's the perfect time."
"It's not what you think," he says. Pete's a married man now, he can experiment. He moves down the bed, spreads her thighs.
"What are you...? Don't, that's disgus—"
At school, his fraternity brothers would laugh and say, "If you'll lick a hole, you'll suck a pole." But they weren't Don Draper. Don would be above such childishness and fear. Creativity is the key, see what they need and not what they expect.
"Oh! Oh. That's...nice."
It is. Especially when it's his turn. It's all in the pitch.
Pete's quick on his feet, an innovative thinker. The other fellows do it the way it's always been done. By the rules. And so they can't make that step forward. They see a ladder and stop at every rung. They flirt with the girls, have their hobbies. Really, anyone could write a book, a short story. He's done that.
No, it's that blank look in their eye until they get it.
Don's eyes are never blank. They narrow as he leans forward, taps his cigarette against the ashtray, a puff of smoke wisps around him. The stuff of dreams.
Sometimes, Don shoots them down.
They decide to try. Trudy closes the diaphragm case and never opens it again. Pete leaves the lamp on.
If Don reaches over, turns his lamp off, it's only because he doesn't want to wake up his kids. His wife's kept her figure. Don moves over her, blanket sliding down the bed, arms braced and powerful. Don rolls, hands on her hips, her knees at his sides.
"Wow, tiger," Trudy says above him as she breathes and rolls away. "That was different."
"It was, wasn't it."
It's a lie. All of it. Don Draper doesn't exist, the truth crammed in a shoe box. Photographs and a name. Dick Whitman.
It's a lie.
Pete doesn't put the lid back on the box for a long time.
It's a lie. And an opportunity.
It's a lie.
Dick doesn't suit him. The name sits in Pete's mouth until he spits it out. That promotion is his, he's earned it, and Don's holding him down, back. Down. Holding him down.
Don strides down the hall to Cooper's office, daring Pete to pull the trigger. Brave and idiotic and it makes no sense. Don's a criminal, a thief. He stole everything.
And none of that matters. Pete's bullets, the truth, ricochet like Don's Superman, impenetrable.
Don lights a cigarette, flicks his wrist, raises his eyebrow. He doesn't look relieved or grateful, not even sharp anger. He just stands there while Pete gets the dressing down.
And why shouldn't he? He's Don Draper.
Trudy's crying in the bathroom. It's that time of the month and she didn't stock her necessities. Bad luck, she had said.
"Did you look in the cabinet? You don't have one just lying around, do you?"
No, she doesn't. So Pete finds himself inside the all-night drugstore not going down that aisle. Perhaps they need some other things.
Don would never find himself in this situation. But if he did, he'd be at the register right now with a box of Kotex in his hand, unashamed, chat with the clerk.
Pete pauses by the comic book rack. Superman, just as he remembers. But that's not quite right. The dark hair, larger than life. But it's not quite right. Pete flips through an issue of Batman, takes an occasional glance down the aisle with the floral boxes. Really, tiny flowers on the box. It's quite something. And Trudy's crying in the bathroom, he needs to get home.
Batman. Well, that's interesting.
Don's not Superman, he's Bruce Wayne.
Pete has a bottle of eighteen-year Buchanan's in his desk. He's been saving it.
Don passes him in the hall now, not even a nod, goes back inside his office. He's working late. Pete listens to the elevator doors open and close, people going home. The janitor empties Pete's wastebasket.
It doesn't matter which of them gets a story in The New Yorker, the Atlantic. Don hasn't written a book; he writes his life. And Pete wonders what it's like to do that. Repackage.
He opens his desk drawer, gets the bottle, gift box.
"Don, do you have a minute?"
Don leans back in his chair. His the only light left on, a single lamp on his desk. Down the hall, the elevator bell rings, closes on the janitor. It's quiet.
"This isn't a good time, Pete."
Pete steps inside, leaves the door ajar, places the box on Don's desk. He waits.
Don picks it up. "Apology not accepted." He places the box back down, still looking at Pete.
Don's eyes are never blank.
"Aren't you going to open that?" Pete stays where he is.
The corners of Don's mouth twitch. He rises, gets two glasses from the bar. "Don't make a habit of this," he says as he pours. He hands a glass to Pete and he sits on his couch, arm along the back, in shadow. He sips his drink, says nothing.
Pete's still standing in the middle of the room. He swirls his glass and then sits on the couch too.
Whoever Dick Whitman was, he died in Korea. This is Don Draper.
Don can walk into any room and own it. Pete's still working on that.
Don shifts on the couch, comfortable, waiting.
What's there to talk about, really? Pete finds that his glass is now empty, a burn in his throat. And he doesn't even know that he's doing it until he is, his eyes closed. Don's mouth is nothing like Trudy's.
"You're drunk, Pete." Don pulls away, stands.
He might be. He skipped lunch today, worked through. "Maybe I am."
Don puts his drink down at the bar, glass half full. He lights a cigarette, looks out the window, broad shoulders and back. Regal, and Pete's supposed to be the aristocrat, but Don's the self-made man. They both know whose kingdom this is.
A wreath of smoke, ember and ash. "Go home to your wife."
Pete leans forward, places his empty glass on the coffee table. He stands, goes to the door. Don turns, a silhouette, the Manhattan lights. Pete can't see his eyes, but he can feel them, assessing. The angle and new information.
"Get the door."
Pete's already stepped across that threshold and he's not going back. He stays where he is, reaches for the knob, pushes. The door clicks shut.
Don's eyes are never blank. You either work for Don or against him. It doesn't have to be this way.
Don leaves the lamp on, just like Pete knew he would.