Title: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Fired (Part 2/2)
Rating: M. It went up.
Word Count: I knew I'd pass that five k mark eventually. So sorry I broke your ficathon minimum rules, Punky. You're too good to the rest of us whining writers.
Summary: Unable to work up the gumption to quit in Paris, Andy decides she'd better let Miranda fire her instead. What follows is an unplanned journey along the surprisingly fine line between self-inflicted unemployment and… something else entirely.
Beta: Many thanks to shesgottaread for catching the little things that tend to slip through my fingers, and to a certain group of people who can only stand knowing how to spell one word at a time, for being inspiring. All remaining oddities are mine alone.
Disclaimer: Own? Me? Nahhh…
"—I was trying to get fired, not married!"
Even the look on Miranda's face couldn't stop the words once they had started.
"I screwed up your coffee order! I bothered you all the time with pointless questions, I—you made such a big deal about hating freesias and then… You don't even hate freesias! How was I supposed to know that?"
Finally, Andy noticed that the temperature in the room seemed to have dropped twelve degrees and it almost certainly had to do with the frosty look on Miranda's face.
"No, Andrea. I don't hate freesias," she echoed. Her voice had gone cold and flat.
With the severity Miranda afforded that statement, one might have thought it was the biggest bombshell she had dropped all day. Of course, in the face of the fact that Miranda though Andy had been flirting with her, it seemed rather an insignificant thing focus on. Instead, it was merely an awkward truth now perched atop a teetering pile of misconceptions ready to fall over on them both.
"Well," Andy whispered. "Yeah. Oh."
"Yes," Miranda added, voice dropping into that chilling register reserved for only the most insufferable fools. "Oh." Andy tried not to squirm visibly. "Very well. I've been known to be magnanimous, give the people what they want." Miranda turned her back once again. "Congratulations; you're fired."
Had those words been just a few lines earlier in their conversation, Andy would have been jumping for joy, finally able to move on with her life after this one last bumbling triumph. Now, though, after Miranda's heartfelt revelation, the words felt like a slap in the face. "Miranda, I—"
Andy was too shell-shocked to do anything but obey.
She had the whole elevator ride down to realize maybe she hadn't known quite what she wanted after all.
Andy drifted around her apartment in a haze for the rest of the day, telling herself she was just going to get some cleaning in before the job hunt started up again, when really it was all she could do to distract herself from how painfully empty her home felt, now that she didn't have the long hours of Runway madness to fill her life with other people. The distance between New York and her parents had never felt so wide, Nate was gone for good, and Doug and Lily hadn't been exactly open to her halfhearted overtures at rekindling their friendship. As Andy dumped the last of Nate's expired cheeses from the fridge, she realized that she'd done a whole lot more today than merely running away from a bad situation. In getting herself fired, Andy had alienated the last person left in New York who actually… cared about her.
Miranda wanted to have a… she thought we could… Even in her mind, Andy had a hard time putting the words date or relationship in the context of that particular woman. It wasn't a side of Miranda she had ever imagined. Then again, it was fairly easy to see why. The most genuine happiness Andy had ever seen from Miranda had come from work, from Runway, while her personal life had always seemed a source of pain. Now, Miranda's hopeful smile was haunting her, taunting her with the knowledge that everything she had done to try and keep Miranda happy through the loss of another assistant had instead become a greater betrayal than stealing Paris from Emily. Trying to make sure Miranda kept more of that same professional happiness she seemed to thrive on had ended up crushing the only glimpse of personal happiness Andy had ever seen outside of her time with the twins.
Andy tried hard to shake off the guilt. It wasn't her fault Miranda had gotten the wrong idea, and she certainly wasn't obligated to have a… a relationship with her boss, of all people! Andy didn't even like girls, for crying out loud.
Miranda's no girl, that dangerous voice in the back of her head reminded her, and the rest of Andy was forced to agree. Miranda wasn't a girl; she was a beautiful, powerful, frightening woman, and for every horrible thing she had done that should have made Andy hate her, somehow the little moments between had made that impossible. Even through this whole quitting business, Andy had known that much. She was getting herself fired because she was worried about hating herself, hating what this life was doing to her, not because she was worried about hating her boss. All she felt for Miranda was a lot of respect, a touch of dangerous sympathy, and a healthy dose of anxiety.
She finally made it to the back of the fridge, pulling something vaguely squishy and gross out of the far corner. Realizing what it was, she sat back on her heels and stared silently down at it for a long moment. Nate's birthday cupcake, candle and all, uneaten and glowering up at her with a glazed stare of silent judgment, just like Nate had done on so many late nights. Suddenly furious, Andy shoved the cupcake into the trash bag beside her. Why should she hate herself for that, for working late nights, for coming to respect Miranda's work, or for taking opportunities when they were handed to her? Why were those things so terrible?
Because Nate said they were. Nate and Doug and Lily and my parents. All the people I never talk to anymore because… because I've grown up.
The realization was like a punch in the gut. Nate hadn't resented the late evenings. Doug and Lily hadn't resented the interrupted get-togethers, and her parents hadn't resented Miranda Priestly. Her friends acted the same way they always had, treated her like the same naïve Andy they had laughed and bitched and drank their way through college with. Her parents treated her much the same way they had when they were paying her tuition and worrying about her grades. None of them were ready for Andy to grow up, to have a life beyond their control. They resented Miranda's manipulation, her monopoly on Andy's time, because turnabout may have been fair play, but it was hardly fun and games.
After eating the pizza she ordered for dinner as a halfhearted attempt at celebrating her new freedom, Andy realized what a coward she had been. She wasn't running away from a bad job, she was trying to run back to her childhood, to her innocence. Now, after she'd fucked it all up, of course, she realized how stupid the whole thing was. If she had just stuck it out, kept on for another few months, she could have a new career somewhere far away from Miranda's biting wit and cold, challenging stare, somewhere where a single glance wouldn't make her feel naked and exposed and vulnerable, and somewhere she could have had a genuine fresh start. Instead, she was here, stuck in her apartment and sick to her stomach at the thought of what Miranda's retribution might look like, but even more sick at the thought of the strange, fragile connection she had broken between them.
This… this running away, running back towards the past… it hadn't started in Paris. It hadn't ever been about Nigel, about Miranda's coldhearted betrayal. It had started the night Miranda had called to her in the townhouse, the night she had offered up Emily's future to Andy instead. It started that night, when she went back to the apartment and flipped through pictures of her childhood in a haze of memory until three in the morning, staring at her wide-eyed smile and trying to remember a time when she never would have considered stabbing someone in the back for a chance to get ahead. A time when…
A time when her whole universe didn't revolve around Miranda Priestly.
It took Andy until she had one foot on Miranda's doorstep to realize what a terrible idea this was. Miranda wasn't even going to be home yet. It was barely past dinner, so it could be hours before she stopped working and ventured out of Elias-Clarke, and there was no way in hell security was going to let her in there after what had happened this morning. Dropping everything and racing to try and fix the mess she'd made had sounded great in her head right after she realized how obtuse she'd been, but now she just felt tired. The sun hadn't even fully set yet, and while Andy longingly fingered the key resting in the bottom of her pocket, it felt impossibly wrong to so much as consider letting herself in.
She sat on the stoop, and waited.
After the painfully early morning she'd had, it was little surprise that she woke in a haze some indeterminate time later, curled up against a potted plant with Miranda's bewildered face staring down at her.
The open confusion in Miranda's gaze quickly closed down into frosty anger. "I didn't realize firing you was going to turn you into a homeless vagrant," she quietly snapped as soon as she had Andy's attention.
Andy struggled to wake up both her tongue and her brain at the same time, with limited success. "I'm sorry, I made a mess of things, I wanted to—"
Miranda stepped over her legs and proceeded to unlock the door, completely ignoring Andy's bumbling attempt at speech.
"Miranda, please, I—"
The door shut in her face.
For a long time, Andy stared through the wood-bound glass at the departing figure who had just slammed it closed on her future. Eventually, she slumped against the door, sliding back down until she was once again next to that hideous potted plant, the doorknob waiting just two inches above her head, as though taunting her to just say, "Screw it!" and let herself in. On the other hand, the logical part of her knew that, even if Miranda was going to blacklist her off the face of the earth, getting arrested for harassment or breaking and entering wouldn't help.
Finally giving up, Andy took the key out of her pocket and slid it under the door; a final pitiful peace offering, but as she did, she suddenly realized that she hadn't heard Miranda lock the door behind her at all. She had done it herself so many times that she knew that particular click by heart, and Miranda was never so careless. Refusing to overthink it, Andy decided that an unlocked door was all the invitation she needed.
Stepping right on the key she had just slipped under the door, Andy let herself in.
She found Miranda in the sitting room, perched on the lounge with her back towards Andy's cautious entry. Her legs were curled up beside her, feet tucked back, and her reading glasses dangled uselessly from the end of a limp wrist. As Andy hesitated in the doorway, she saw Miranda's shoulders twitch for a moment as she drew in a shaky breath. Though the entire moment was nearly silent, the memory of Miranda's vulnerability from that night in Paris was imprinted on Andy's mind, and she knew the editor had been crying.
It was probably the only reason she hadn't heard her ex-assistant creeping around in her house and called the police.
Just as she was about to speak, Andy caught sight of the table beside her. Or, more specifically, the bouquet resting on it. It was one from the office, the one from two days ago, if Andy remembered her own flower arranging correctly. Looking at the delicate blooms, clearly still thriving in freshly changed water, Andy finally admitted to herself that she hadn't just come here to apologize. Heart in her throat, she carefully tugged one pale freesia from amid the others and walked towards the couch.
Miranda visibly stiffened when Andy stopped trying to keep quiet, but she didn't immediately react when Andy sat beside her and gently placed the flower on the editor's lap.
"I think I lied to you today," Andy whispered, her voice cracking and raspy as though it had been years rather than minutes since she had last spoken.
Miranda's head spun towards her, and the fury in her eyes was unspeakable. "You came into my home just to tell me something else you did wrong?"
Andy shook her head, trying not to visibly cower beneath the force of Miranda's visceral anger. "Not exactly. More like something you got right. I… I'm not sure I was trying to get fired, not after the first day or two when we talked, anyway. I think somehow along the way I – I lost track of trying to get myself out and fell back on the original idea… making you happy."
Andy decided to take the confusion in Miranda's eyes as an improvement.
"After Paris, I almost quit."
"I know," Miranda murmured, glancing away. "You walked away from me. I didn't expect to ever see you again."
Andy nodded, even though she knew the other woman wouldn't see. "Even when I thought I was furious at you, I still didn't want to do that. I didn't want to ruin Paris for you, to mess up anything with Runway, especially not when you… after that night…. Anyway, I still thought I had to go. That I had to get out, but I thought you would like it better if I let it be on—on your terms. Firing incompetent people makes you happy. Apparently I just suck at being incompetent."
Despite the tension in Miranda's shoulders and her red-rimmed eyes, that drew a shaky smile across her lips.
Drawing a deep breath and summoning her courage, Andy murmured, "Since firing me made you miserable, is there any chance you'd let me try the 'making you happy' part again?"
"How?" Miranda asked with a bitter attempt at a laugh, brushing away the track of an invisible tear from the space between cheekbone and jaw.
Slowly, Andy reached out and picked up Miranda's hand. Before she could second guess her emotions, her feelings, and her fears, Andy leaned in and captured Miranda's lips with her own.
Honestly, Andy didn't know what she'd been expecting from the kiss. She had kissed her fair share of people in her life, and most of them had been warm, welcoming, and a bit scratchy around the edges. Miranda's kiss was something else entirely. After an initial moment of stunned silence, Miranda's fingers wrapped around the back of her neck and pulled her gently but firmly closer. She immediately deepened the kiss, turning it into something prolonged and intimate and heady with a heat Andy could never have imagined feeling while still fully clothed. Andy had been running on instinct since she left her apartment, but Miranda kissed just the way she did everything else, with confidence and power, and Andy's instincts finally conveyed to the rest of her that, yes, this had been exactly what she didn't know she wanted all along.
When they finally drew apart, Andy couldn't take her eyes from Miranda's lips. She didn't even realize she was still holding her breath. When a quick smile finally broke her concentration, she managed to meet Miranda's gaze, and all the air rushed out of her lungs. The unguarded want in those eyes, a heat only a small step removed from her earlier wrath, was nearly enough to stop her heart. Trying to muster some degree of dignity despite her flushed cheeks, Andy muttered, "I'm still not so sure about the whole 'marriage' bit, though."
Miranda smirked. "And I'm still not sure why I haven't kicked you out of my house."
Andy winced. "Touché."
Miranda's smirk turned into a grin as she tugged Andy's face towards hers once again. With her breath ghosting over Andy's lips, Miranda whispered, "Remind me why I should let you stay?"
Closing the last bit of distance between them, Andy did just that.
Of course, none of it was quite that simple.
Miranda, despite Andy's series of blundering excuses, didn't actually want Andy to leave her job. Despite having a difficult time articulating her protests between mind-melting kisses, some part of Andy was still aware of just how horrible an idea dating the boss was. Eventually, after a lot of pouting, Andy managed to earn the reluctant agreement that this would count as the first day of her last two weeks.
The remaining thirteen days were practically torture. Miranda had an astonishing ability to act exactly the same as she always had, and Andy had a hell of a time keeping up. Just when she would get caught up in the editor's tasks and usual workplace attitude, an insistent summons of "Andrea" would lead to a quick, deadly kiss hidden behind the door rather than to the expected tasklist of instructions. Andy dropped more notepads that week than she could keep count of.
Finally, thankfully, her resignation – if she could really even afford to call it that after this whole mess – was official, and the tension between her and her finally-ex-boss was allowed to reach its breaking point.
"Hmmm, imagine," Miranda murmured with her lips pressed against Andy's upper thigh. "Imagine if we did get married. You could be here. In my bed. Every night."
Andy groaned. Over the past few hours, Andy had learned just what sort of incredible stamina Miranda had. Apparently, her workplace tenacity applied in the bedroom as well, and so did her deadly manipulative spirit. Ever since Andy had offhandedly rejected Miranda's insistence that she would make a great wife and replacement "father figure", Miranda had been determinedly dropping less-than-subtle hints that she wouldn't be dropping the topic anytime soon. Now, after they had finally fallen into bed together some two hours before, Miranda was using every ounce of her considerable persuasion to seduce Andy into a more permanent residence.
She was doing a damn good job, too.
"Stop it, Miranda," Andy gasped out.
"Stop what?" The innocent reply was marked by a cruel pause in the motion of Miranda's fingers between Andy's legs.
Andy whimpered at the loss, her hips twitching against the empty air. "Not that," she hissed.
Miranda grinned. Just the sight of that silver hair hovering above her center had Andy's abdomen so tight she could barely breathe. "I'm merely offering you a… taste of how it might be to move in for good."
Even as achingly ready as she was for Miranda to finish her, Andy couldn't help but let out a breathless laugh at the terrible innuendo. Miranda's answering chuckle was dark, and it fed the flames burning in the depths of her stomach, a steady heat begging for Miranda's touch to finish her. They had been lovers for less than a day, and already Andy's body knew exactly to whose call it answered.
Miranda stole the rest of her breath with those cursed lips of hers, tasting and teasing for far too many seconds before finally gripping her hips and tugging her fully into the searing heat of her mouth to finish. After so many times in this single evening, Andy's last orgasm came like sunlight washing down a mountainside; slow and heavy and entirely unstoppable. In that half-delirious moment, Andy swore she would trade away the sunlight itself for just another day in Miranda's arms.
Still, she wasn't about to concede to any of the rest of it, not so soon. Moving in would be one thing, but marriage would be entirely another, and while she could deal with kittens, children would take a bit more adjustment. Honesty, though, Andy knew she could get over all those hang-ups if Miranda really was serious in asking; it was more the principle of the thing. Andy hated being wrong. After all, she had set out to get fired, and she had come out mostly triumphant. It wouldn't do to end up married instead. Then Miranda would win.
Rolling over and curling up along Miranda's spine, Andy mused, And we can't have that now, can we? as she lazily drifted off into a well sated sleep.