Part One

December 7, 2007

When Fraser finally woke up, the first thing he recognized was the sign. Only part of it was visible, but enough to jog his memory. The bold, green letters told him all he needed to know; the smells and lack of fresh air helped to awaken his memory even further. Fraser had been here before and was more than a little disappointed. He'd hoped for fresh air at the very least. Maybe next time, he thought, continuing to look around, gathering whatever information possible about his surroundings.

And there would be a next time.

Year after year Fraser searched for answers but found none. Technically, he should not be able to go through this kind of thing as often as he did. But for Fraser, things began again every-single-year, no development necessary and always high in the mountains of a place called North Carolina. Constant attention and fresh air were in abundance there, but eventually, he would be taken away to someplace else and a fast approaching end.

Fraser had gone through this so many times… But nothing ever changed for him. Not even his name.

Putting away those thoughts, Fraser decided even if it felt incredibly early in the morning, he ought to make himself presentable. Why should being stuck in an endless loop become an acceptable reason to go around looking less than your best?

Shaking off what bit of snow had managed to settle on him in the night, Fraser stood tall, and tried to look regal and deserving of his excellent coloring. He worked hard on that every year; the subtle hints of blue and silver were difficult to achieve and even harder to maintain.

No one would ever guess being a Christmas tree was this stressful. Not to mention painful.

Still early in the morning, a man walked by in an awful hurry, not bothering to greet Fraser or even glance his way. Typical. Not only did he remember where he was, but Fraser remembered people in this place never seemed to stop for anything, and their choices seemed to always be made at just as fast a pace. Lengthy deliberation was pointless. One quick circle around and that was that.

Fraser's nobility and the corresponding sacrifice he made meant nothing to these people.

A few others came and went. They must be the unfortunate ones working this season. A tough job, Fraser knew, and most likely thankless but he appreciated what little water and care they had time to give. Hopefully this year he would be taken to a home where his owners would not be completely clueless as to his requirements. Fraser tried desperately to always retain his best features for as long as possible but the facts were, he could not go and find water by himself. Ultimately, at this stage, Fraser was completely dependent upon people that always took him for granted.

Well, perhaps that was not entirely true. The children paid him handsomely in affection. Or maybe it was only because of what was placed underneath him shortly before the end? It was hard to say, but in either case, water and proper upkeep were essential.

The sound of a woman's voice piqued Fraser's curiosity in an unusual way not long after the hustle and bustle of the day truly started. Though sounding hurried, her speech was cheerful; more animated than he'd heard in ages and oddly—she sounded as if she might care about life in general a little more than most.

When Fraser finally saw her, he was even more intrigued because she saw him, too. Really saw him; and honestly, it was a bit scary.

The woman came to a full stop as she caught sight of Fraser out of the corner of her eye. For a long moment they simply stared at one another while the worker remained next to her, no doubt amazed at the time she was wasting.

Snapping out of her peculiar trance, she stalked forward in silence. Fraser didn't know what to think, other than that she looked as nice as she'd sounded a few minutes ago. Not only did she appear determined, but was dressed smartly which impressed him. This meant she was on her way to work, yet laid aside time for this. She'd set aside time to search him out.

Taking a deep breath of unpleasant air, Fraser stood taller than he'd thought possible and held still, hoping against hope that this Christmas would turn out different than all the rest. She might tend to him better than anyone, regardless of the presents that would eventually be placed underneath his branches. She might like him well enough to keep him. Forever. Instead of tossing him out to be chipped up into oblivion, only to start the process all over again.

Surely Fraser could figure out a way to keep on looking as if he were worthy of the chance to live.

Finally in front of him, the first word to come out of the woman's mouth made Fraser glad he was securely held in place by a sturdy but temporary stand.

"Keith," she said, eyeing Fraser with a question he could not comprehend. Or maybe she was questioning her own judgment? That would be perfectly understandable since she'd yet to even circle around him.

While Fraser remained tall and motionless, he knew on the inside at least, he must be tilting a tiny bit as she repeated the word.

"Keith," she stated again, turning to the man. "His name is Keith. And I want him. Tonight… But not until I call you, okay?" The woman sounded rather desperate while Fraser tried not to turn completely blue. "I know I'll owe you big time, Taylor, but I really need this favor. It can't be until I'm sure the office is empty. Please… Please, do this for me."

The man, well, Taylor, shook his head and unexpectedly a smile formed on his face. Fraser still couldn't breathe. Keith? Who was Keith?

"Don't worry, Andy. I'll do whatever you say so long as you hook me up with a suit for my wedding."

So her name is Andy. But who is Keith?

Clearly, Fraser did not understand what was happening.

"I will totally hook you up. Probably Ralph Lauren. But we'll see." Andy smiled so brightly it almost dried up all of Fraser's water and he could tell there wasn't much to drink anyway, so that wasn't good. "You'll never look better," she grinned again and for a moment, Fraser wasn't sure if Andy was talking about him, or Taylor, or this Keith person that was nowhere in sight.

"Cool. I'll go ring everything up and get a tag."

The next thing Fraser knew, they were alone. He finally took a breath, but only a small one.

"I guess you want to know why your name is Keith." Andy eyed him again and Fraser tilted a little more. He was sure of it. "Honestly, I just think it's a nice name." There was not the sound of desperation in her voice now, but of despair. "I need you to help me with something," Andy said seriously, yet, she began to pay close attention to her shoes as she continued to speak. "My personal life, you know, is a big huge mess… If I could just," for split second Andy looked back up at Fraser, then back at her shoes, "stop wanting. But I can't. So if you could wrestle this… problem… into, oh, I don't know..."

Before Andy could finish telling Fraser what she needed from him, Taylor came back and there was no more talking. Or at least not to Fraser. Andy demanded Taylor give him more water because "It doesn't look like anybody knows what they're doing around here," and then he watched in misery as she walked away. Probably to her job. Maybe even toward this problem she needed help with.

Before real panic could set in and cause him to start involuntarily losing needles, Fraser reminded himself that he would see Andy later. She'd already paid for him and considering the "no return policy" yes, he would see her again. So he calmed down. He was wanted. There was no need to worry. And most importantly, he had a name.

A real name.

He was Keith now, and Keith was committed to seeing this through. For Andy, he would do anything.


His new home was not a home at all. In fact, Keith wasn't sure what this place was. The building seemed enormous, like most things in this city, but not as enormous as some, and definitely not an apartment building.

Needless to say, realizing this put Keith's stress level near maximum. First of all, travel was never pleasant. Second of all, this might mean that belonging to Andy wasn't quite true. But surely she would not have lied to him. She seemed so honest and sincere.

But how was he supposed to help her if…

Just when Keith was about to lose a few precious needless over it all, he was shoved into an elevator then quickly out. Passing through a few doors that were honestly too small for his height and girth, then brought down a few hallways that were even narrower, until, at last, Keith saw Andy.

This time she was not dressed as smartly as before, but still nice enough. He supposed that was alright. Keith didn't care so long as he got to live in her presence.

For now, Andy did not address him at all. Instead, she bossed Taylor and some other man around like she could command an army. Perhaps she had. Briefly, Keith wondered if she had ever been to war. The times he'd been sat down in the vicinity of a television were many, so he knew about such things. War did not seem like such a pleasant industry, yet Keith figured betting a few branches on Andy's skill would not be in vain. She could probably do anything. That is, anything but what she needed his help with…

After several pieces of furniture were rearranged, Keith was carried into a brilliantly lit room that held a desk, a couch and some chairs. As he had begun to suspect, this was an office of some kind. Trying to not get too frustrated as Taylor and the other man fiddled around, attempting to set Keith in his stand correctly, he breathed a bit easier. Even though he would not be at home with Andy, he would spend the day with her. That, at least, was something and hopefully enough could soon be relayed so Keith would know all about the task he was needed for. And he'd rather sooner, than later. There were only so many days left until Christmas.

Andy must have agreed, sending Taylor off with some sort of long, flat bag, promising that he would be the, "best dressed groom in all of New York." Keith had his doubts but once they were finally alone, he forgot who Taylor even was.

"Okay," Andy smiled, finally looking at him. "Let's get you some water. Taylor's a klutz and I don't trust him with my method."

Her method? Keith watched in silent awe as Andy rushed in and out of the room a few times, again looking commanding and determined even though there was no one to boss around. Soon there were all these weird things in front of him but Keith was not stupid. He had it figured out in a minute or two.

Before the watering took place, Andy, who seemed unsatisfied with his placement in spite of how much she'd ordered Taylor around, did a fair amount of spreading out Keith's branches and turned him around a bit. Her touch was gentle, unlike so many others who had handled him in the past as if none of that mattered to his survival. Andy obviously knew differently. As she worked, she hummed the usual Christmas songs though there wasn't a radio in sight. By the time she was done getting him situated to her liking, Keith was almost asleep.

Then the 'method' began. Reaching in toward the back, Andy used ties to secure a clear plastic tube along his trunk. It took a while, and had Keith more than a little amused as Andy seemed prone to mutter a few curse words here and there. Nearly getting her eye poked out a few times was not his fault. It's not as if he could move by himself.

Once that task was complete, Andy left a little of the tubing undone and was able to reach it and fit a funnel inside. A few short minutes later, he had all the water he needed and couldn't have been happier. How easy was that? He thought, wondering why no one else he'd belonged to had tried it. Even fully decorated, the clear tubing would never be seen and Keith was certain Andy would be careful enough with the water that none would ever spill on any gifts in the process. And he knew she'd check the level all the time.

As he took his first good drink in quite a while, Andy sat down on the floor in front of him, much like a child often would. Again, he was amused because for a moment she even looked like one. How many times had he been surrounded by children making wish after wish for the toys and gadgets they hoped would appear when the day came? Her face held the exact same look, yet there was a little of that despair from earlier this morning. Evidently, she did not have a lot of faith in him. But he would prove her wrong. Whatever she wanted, she would have. If only she would just tell him what that something was.

Like she could hear him, Andy said, "I want to make Miranda see how much I love her." Before Keith was able to think of all the questions he wouldn't have been able to ask anyway, Andy stood and looked up at him; he was and had always been eight feet tall exactly. "I don't know how else to do it. I've tried… Sort of it. Actually," her face turned a bit red, "I'm the biggest chicken in the world. But I really, really care about her and… Well, I just do.

"This year she's spending Christmas alone. Greg—her ex—is pretty much forcing her to swap holidays. She has twins. Caroline and Cassidy. But you know," Andy paused to wipe a hand across her face, "I think this was their idea. Not Greg's. For whatever reason, they want to be with him this Christmas… Instead of Miranda. And I don't want her to be by herself. I want her to spend Christmas with me. Is it screwed up to want a person for Christmas, Keith? If it is," Andy wiped her face again then threw up her hands. "Then I guess I'm screwed up."

Suddenly, like she was ashamed to have been talking to a tree—though he was not just a tree—Andy left all talk of what she wanted and quickly stood up to put on her coat. It seemed to take forever, giving Keith plenty of time to remember he was stuck.

Stuck in a loop.

Stuck with no way to communicate.

Stuck with nothing that ever changed.

This Miranda person was obviously important to Andy. As if her entire happiness might depend on his coming through. But how would he ever be able to help her with this? How could he tell her that her feelings were not screwed up at all? How could he tell her not to cry anymore because… Well, just that she shouldn't or all his branches might break.

Done with her coat, Andy said, "I'll be back tomorrow with a friend to decorate you. Early. And I gotta tell you now: my friend Emily isn't the nicest in the morning. Especially when she's supposed to be sleeping in. I'll make her be nice to you, though. So don't worry about anything, Keith. You'll do great. I know you will."

A tiny bit of pain formed deep inside him as she turned out the light and left him there alone with so many things left unsaid. But he did not allow himself to panic. She would back. There would be time to learn more.


December 8, 2007

Keith awoke with the sun. Only then did it occur to him that he was high in the air, in a room with windows all along one side. This was certainly different. He'd never been able to see this far and counted himself lucky, admitting even if he failed Andy, the view from here had been incredible.

But he would not fail her.

Not long after Keith had stretched out a bit and checked to ensure none of his needles had fallen, he heard footsteps. Returning to his tall and regal bearing, Keith prepared himself for not only Andy's arrival, but her friend Emily.

And goodness what a treat Emily was. Dressed stylishly enough, it was still apparent she'd just woken up and would rather be back in bed. Keith could not exactly blame her. Then again, taking pity on Emily was short-lived when she immediately began to berate Andy for buying him in the first place, but also his appearance. He was anything but "ugly". Certainly not "dying already". And definitely not something "Miranda will burn this straight away" because Andy would never like someone who was that cruel.

In order to reduce the stress Emily's complaints caused him, Keith closed his eyes and slowly counted to not ten, but two hundred.

After all that counting, he decided it might be a good idea to open his eyes and get some idea of what he'd end up looking like by the time this was over. Hopefully nothing too hideous. And please God, no bows. Or at least not too many. Keith did not like bows.

The lights were lovely, round little bulbs, done in a variety of ways, but all white or clear in coloring. One bulb looked like a pearl, one as if it was covered in frost and the other simply looked like glass. Their arrangement rotated on each strand and they were probably the nicest lights Keith had ever seen. Then again that might only be because Andy had chosen them.

Thankfully she was the one putting them all around him, being gentle of course. Emily was seated at the desk nearby and to his dismay she was putting red ribbons through what looked like…Starbucks lids. If he'd have had eyebrows to raise, they would have been to the ceiling.

"I must be suffering from the swine flu," Emily mumbled, threading another ribbon through a cup lid as Keith watched in horror. "You, talking me into this, must mean that I'm sick. That or in some sort of nightmare that has yet to end."

Andy, who was two arms deep in his branches, seemed like she could care less about the state of Emily's health. "Bitch about it all you want, Emily, but remember, you volunteered to help. You volunteered to get everybody to sign a cup. So shove it."

Everyone? Exactly how many was – everyone?

While they kept on at each other over who talked who into what, Keith surveyed the desk Emily was sitting at and nearly fell over. There were a lot of cups. They were all different sizes; colored red, green and white. And worst of all, they were going on him. Every single cup. Feeling faint, Brain sucked up most of his water in an attempt to not lose his mind completely.

"It's official," Emily sighed through his biggest nervous breakdown to date. "I've only one word to say: Stockholm syndrome."

Actually, that's two words.

"Uh, actually, that's two words, Emily," Andy corrected her since Keith couldn't. "Besides, don't you have to be kidnapped to end up with that?"

"I'd say you've been kidnapped, Andrea." Emily snorted. "But, let's check just to be sure."

"What?" Andy asked with a high-pitched voice that caught Keith off guard, causing him to forget about processing the fact that Emily had called Andy by a different name. For all their somewhat playful arguing, it didn't appear she wanted to get into this topic of syndromes. And to confirm, Andy's hands began to tremble as she continued on with the lights. "We don't have time to play around, Emily. And anyway… I'm just trying to do something nice for her."

"Uh, huh." Emily mumbled and even snorted again which Keith was really getting tired of. What was that all about anyway? "I'm looking it up regardless," she retorted, turning on a screen of some kind, and punching buttons.

"You shouldn't be sitting in her chair." Andy looked over her shoulder toward Emily.

So this isn't Andy's desk? Or Emily's?

Well, this not being Emily's office was fine by Keith. He didn't fancy spending the next few weeks stuck beside her to begin with. But then that must mean this was Miranda's office? Duh, Keith thought, wishing he could smack himself for being so stupid. Of course this was Miranda's office. Of course…

He was a gift for Miranda.

While Andy worked, Emily, in a monotone voice, read aloud from the screen.

"Oh, here we go," she began. "…form of traumatic bonding, which does NOT necessarily require a hostage scenario… See?" Emily smiled and from the look on Andy's face, she didn't like what she'd heard. "I told you, didn't I? Andrea Sachs: you are literally ate up with it. There's never been a worse case." Emily pointed a finger specifically at Keith. "That's proof enough. We should call the Federal Bureau of…whatever you people call it." Emily started laughing.

Andy rolled her eyes and started placing those dreadful looking cups all over Keith. Only because this was her would he put up with such a thing. Otherwise, he'd have started dying already simply to cut things short. "You're such a dumbass, Emily. And that's nothing to joke about," Andy pointed out and Keith couldn't agree more.

"Who's joking?" Emily grinned again and this time tossed a yellow block of paper at Andy's head, which obviously ended up hitting Keith.

"Hey!" Andy yelled and threw it back, hitting her mark perfectly. "Stop throwing things at Keith! He didn't do anything to you."

"He's got a name?"

"Yes…" The blush on Andy's face was probably visible for miles. "He's got a name. So what?"

"Well, regardless, I'm not joking. I never joke." Emily replied. "You're in need of a doctor. Possibly a hospital stay."

Finally Andy appeared to have had enough. "Take that back," she charged at Emily, hitting her with what looked like a newspaper. "Seriously." She hit Emily again. "Take that back. Like I said, I'm just trying to do something nice for her!"

"No," Emily snorted again, trying to defend herself against the repeated blows. "Shan't. You're very ill. Even a blind chicken can find a pea, Andrea. If you don't think I know what's going on…"

And then everything stopped.

Emily shut her mouth and leaned back in her chair since Andy had forgotten all about hitting her. Even if it was someone else's desk, for a brief moment, Keith was forced to admit she looked as if she belonged there. But why was Emily being so mean? Then again she'd stopped, hadn't she? Something had made Emily finally shut her mouth.

Hitting herself in the head with the newspaper this time, Andy's shoulders slumped as she fell into the chair in front of Emily's…Miranda's desk. Yet, she remained silent.

"You've gone and fallen in love with someone who doesn't even know you exist," Emily said quietly. "And I fail to see how this will help you get anywhere. Miranda is likely to come unglued. God, she might even fire us for it."

"But you're helping me." Andy stated, looking up only for a second, then down at the floor. "If you think we're going to get fired, why are you helping me?"

"Swine flu… Or maybe I think there's no other choice. It's either help you or watch you wilt away into nothing. Which is pathetic, by the way. And so obvious. Besides, as I said, a blind chicken can find a pea. I'm not an idiot; but perhaps she is."

Andy looked up. "Where in the hell did you come up with that blind chicken thing?"

"Oh, my mother. She's full of wisdom."

"Yeah. Sounds like it," Andy managed to laugh and Keith took a deep breath. "But really. Thank you for helping me. I never would have had time to get everyone to sign a cup without you, Emily."

And of course, Emily blew her off. "It was an inconvenience, I won't lie."

"Oh, yes, I'm sure it was."

"It was!" Emily beat her hand on the desk dramatically then settled down quickly. "Tell me one thing," she demanded. "Why this? Why Keith?"

"You know she's going to be alone this year. The girls…"

"Yes, yes. How could I not know? Having countless gifts shipped upstate tells me plenty. That still does not expla—"

"She's never had one," Andy cut her off and Keith was just as puzzled as Emily looked.

Never had a what?

"Never had a what?" Emily asked for him, thankfully.

"A tree," Andy answered impatiently as if they should already understand.

"Bull." Emily threw another yellow block of paper at Andy only to have it thrown right back at her own head. "They have two or more at the townhouse every year! I ought to know."

"Get serious for a second, okay. Miriam. Miriam, you idiot. Trust me. They never had a tree when they were kids. Never. Their parents couldn't afford it. Haven't you seen the interview her brother did years ago when he won the Nobel for…hell, I can't remember? The point is: there's not one at the townhouse this year because the girls won't be there. You know she'll spend a lot more time here just avoid it… I want her to understand, Emily. To know that I…"

Emily looked positively stunned. And so did Keith. Somehow, in all his repeated years, he'd never realized there were people out there that had never had a Christmas tree. How was that possible? But then Andy had explained, hadn't she? No money. And like Andy, apparently, Miranda had another name, too.

"Right… Right." Emily mumbled. "I'd like to know who names their kid, Cy, for God's sake."

"His parents!" Andy cried, throwing up her hands, exasperated. "Obviously, his parents. Now can we get on track here, or what?"

"Oh, calm down. So, as a gesture of love, you've gotten her a tree. Miriam. And you intend for her to get that message how? Because I have a feeling Miranda won't stop long enough for you to tell her before she tosses both of us out of the building." Andy shrugged like she had no answer and hardly any hope. Emily, miraculously, let it drop. "Get back to work, will you," she said, and Keith could tell she had to force the harshness to come out in her voice. "I haven't all day to waste. Some of us have lives. Some of us have better things to do than get a girlfriend via a tree. Which I have to admit… Even though this is completely absurd, I hope it works."

And so did Keith.

Somehow, someway, he would make Miranda see. He would make her see how much she was truly wanted—by someone who'd probably been standing right in front of her for a long time.


Part Two

December 15, 2007

For the seventh night in a row, Miranda found herself sitting in a chair near the couch in her office, staring up at Keith. Yes, she knew his name; but only in the quiet darkness did Miranda acknowledge him and what he was meant to be. A gift.

A gift she'd wanted to fire Andrea over for about half a day.

Luckily, Keith himself had stropped Miranda. For starters: he was enormous. It felt like he took up half the room. And those cups, for God's sake. Every one of them signed by only the hardest working—thereby most abused—members of her staff. There were little, silver stars, too… Done by hand; glitter and everything. They reminded Miranda of the handcrafted ornaments she'd made in grade-school with the rest of her classmates, but never had a tree to hang them from.

Things like that were thought to be too extravagant back then. Well, maybe not extravagant. But whatever the definition, there simply wasn't the money for it. Whatever money her father made went into keeping a roof over their heads and though she didn't know it at the time, the rest was saved to put Miranda and her twin brother through college when they were ready. Then—for her at least—there was living in Paris and London, which her parents supported her through also. Cy, was eventually able to finish school on scholarship after scholarship which turned out to be a blessing. Helping Miranda make her way ended up being more of an expense than either of her parents dreamed it would be. But they'd done it. They had continued to make all the sacrifices so she would not have to.

In all reality, she'd never given much thought to not having a Christmas tree when she was a child. Or at least pretended not too. Of course, she made up for it now, but it wasn't something she focused on for herself; it was all for Caroline and Cassidy. Yet, here was Keith in the corner of her office. This tree was for her. Just her. And while Miranda had been given many things over the years due to her job or marriages, no gift held up to what was in front of her now.

Andrea had set aside quite a bit of time for this. She'd set aside time for Miranda. Set aside time to give Miranda this incredible gift and Miranda had no idea what, if anything, she was supposed to do about it. The tree. Andrea. Any of it. Miranda was at a complete loss.

"What am I to do with you, Keith?" Miranda asked the tree like he could tell her. Actually, she'd been asking him quite a lot of things during these solitary nights but like all trees, Keith could not talk. "No answer?" Miranda started up again like a lunatic. "It's a shame, really. And I'd like to know why you're here. And why your name is Keith. Surely you know that much. But you're not going to tell me. Are you?"

Again, Keith gave no answer.

Deep down, Miranda knew that Caroline and Cassidy's absence this Christmas was no doubt the catalyst for Keith's appearance. Andrea and her empathy… It had been wearing Miranda down for who knows how long. As much as she hated to admit it, and was equally mystified by it, Andrea saw her. Truly. And it scared the hell out of her. In fact, Andrea had been scaring the hell out of Miranda since the day they met and for all her power, Miranda couldn't figure out how to stop feeling that way. Andrea'd not even known who Miranda was. Yet, she somehow managed to see her.

The cause for her daughters' absence, however, remained elusive. Perhaps, they wanted a change in scenery this year? That's what Miranda was hoping for, anyway. Just a change in scenery. Nothing more. They would be back after New Year's. This was temporary. A vacation. They were not leaving her. But the fact that they'd wanted this scared Miranda as much as Andrea did on a regular basis.

To be blunt: Miranda did not handle change very well. Not when it came to her personal life. Maybe her lack in adaptability was caused by the usual feeling of being stuck? In general, not much ever changed for her. It was always a loop of idiocy on her part. The marriages, the this, the that…the whatever bad decision was next. It seemed like nothing ever changed, so when something did, Miranda's navigational skills were put to the test and then some. That's not to say she enjoyed the feeling of being in a loop, going nowhere at an incredible speed. It's just that she didn't know anything else and definitely didn't know how to communicate that to anyone. As if she'd want to. What good would come of that? Yet, she'd been sitting here talking to a tree for how long? With ease. Throw another person into the mix, though, and Miranda wouldn't have known what to do with herself besides be what she always was around other people. Closed off, mainly a bitch and most definitely a block of ice.

Which is exactly the person she would have been if she'd been unlucky enough to come in on Monday morning with no prior knowledge of the Christmas tree.

Perhaps, it was meant to be; that Caroline and Cassidy left last Sunday, instead of Monday, to go to their fathers, leaving Miranda with nothing to do but go to work. Meaning Andrea was not present when Miranda saw the tree for the first time. She'd had no idea Miranda would be there, leaving her time to flip out, in her own way, reading Andrea's card—all alone. The card said:

Please accept this gift for what it is – something that is simply for you. Merry Christmas, Miranda. P.S. – his name is Keith.

By the time Monday morning rolled around, Miranda's anger—or just flat-out dismay—was nothing to bother mentioning. In fact, Miranda had yet to thank Andrea for the gift. She'd not said a single word about it. Not even when Andrea came in occasionally to check Keith's water level. Her mouth was sealed shut; yet she had the audacity to leave the card right there on her desk, displayed with care.

Once again, Miranda's failure to verbally communicate in a way she felt was real, honest and personal got in the way.

"Keith, I have no communication skills." Miranda began to list off all the things bothering her on this lonely Saturday night. "I think my children are leaving me. I still don't know why you're really here. Or what to do about Andrea. Or my life. It's a big mess, you know. My personal life…" Miranda said dully, resting her elbow on the arm of the chair, with her hand being the only thing holding her head up. With any luck, Miranda would just fall asleep. What was the point in going home to an empty house again when she could stay here; move in until Christmas was over?

About the time Keith put her to sleep, rendering her helplessly trapped between a nightmare and a daydream that would never be possible, Miranda thought she heard the sound of soft footsteps. "Who could that be?" She asked Keith like he knew and would tell her. Well, it couldn't be the cleaning crew, or it had better not be. It was Saturday after all. And someone from printing had already given her the Book a while ago which was still sitting on her desk, untouched.

The footsteps continued. Miranda groaned. Whoever it was, was headed in her general direction instead of down the hall. Hopefully, her slumber induced silence—because Miranda Priestly does not snore—would leave them ignorant. Like anyone would dare come in her office…

Well, there was one person.

Born out of wishful and dangerous thinking, Miranda felt Andrea walk past her. She must have left her shoes somewhere in order to make her approach unnoticeable. Typical. She cared so much about so many things that no one else did. Then again, Andrea wasn't from this place; a place where everything happened at a break-neck pace, leaving little time for caring about something so simple as waking up your boss.

Ever so quietly the girl knelt in front of Keith and fiddled around, checking the water and whatever else one checks when they have a tree. A Keith. Finding things to be unsatisfactory, Andrea rose and with her usual commanding demeanor she disappeared then reappeared with a bottle of water.

Making absolutely no sound, Andrea poured its contents down a clear tube hidden in the back; the most resourceful idea Miranda had ever seen.

What was not resourceful, though, was Andrea turning around, putting that empty bottle on the coffee table by Miranda…and then kissing her.

Andrea kissed her? Right there. While she was asleep. In the hardest chair imaginable. In her office. And Miranda couldn't wake up. Keith held her in such a heavy fog, she simply could not do anything…but kiss Andrea back.

And then Andrea kissed her again. So lightly that Miranda could not respond, unless you count a tiny little sigh as a response. Some people might. Andrea probably did. Which meant Miranda probably should, too.

Something akin to the feeling of despair settled in the pit of her stomach as she felt Andrea smooth back her hair, kiss her forehead and then walk away. In the last few seconds, without realizing it, Miranda had begun to hope this Christmas might turn out differently. That the self-made loop she was stuck in, would straighten itself out. That maybe, just maybe, Miranda could live a different kind of life where instead of setting herself up to be thrown away, repeating the process over and over—she could be kept, in spite of everything she could not figure out how to be.

But Andrea was gone. She'd left before Miranda could wake up, come to her senses and finally open her mouth. Then again, Andrea would be back. There was that kiss, and of course there was Keith to consider. He had not been given to Miranda without purpose. So, yes, she would see Andrea again. She was wanted. There was no need to worry.


December 21, 2007

Friday morning, Miranda woke up finally ready to admit her plan of living at the office until Christmas was over, was not necessarily a good one. She'd been sleeping on the couch for almost a week, which wasn't really a problem. The problem was that Miranda missed her pillow; her neck was killing her. And she missed her dog. Then again, the girl's had taken the dog, so what of it? And if she wanted her pillow, then she could go home and go to bed, couldn't she?

Going home remained out of the question, though. Keith was here. He wouldn't last forever. Therefore, Miranda subconsciously—and now consciously—wanted to spend as much time with him as possible. In some way, this was sort of like a 'first Christmas' for her so she was going to take full advantage. Regardless of the neck pain.

At least she was getting an awful lot of work done by being here every hour of the day and night. It was a given that Miranda always tried to stay ahead of the game but seeing as how she'd not left the building since last Saturday—but for three meetings and one luncheon—her productivity was through the roof. God, she'd even taken over half the planning for the coming New York Fashion Week which was normally done by her assistants and many others. This one would be the best yet. The dark circles under eyes were proof enough.

Maybe she'd manage to get some extra sleep during the next few days. This weekend—even most of today—the office would be nearly empty and certainly would be come Monday and Tuesday…Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Everyone would be gone. Even the cleaning crew.

The day progressed with a series of worried looks from not only Andrea, but Emily, too. Apparently they realized she was living here, figuring it out by all the meals Miranda had insisted her personal chef package up and bring over coupled by the fact they were no longer required to bring the Book to the townhouse. They weren't stupid, after all. Yet, since it was Friday, and so close to Christmas, it was likely they were hoping Miranda would finally go home. Showing no signs of that as the day wore on, those worried looks continued. Miranda had no idea why they'd care. But they did.

In order to keep them busy, busy enough to forget about Miranda, she had her two assistants running all of the city and the office, accomplishing tasks that didn't even matter, claiming it was all in preparation for the coming week. A week that would be half over by the time anyone came back into the building who gave enough of a damn to actually get any work done.

By late afternoon, Emily was back to her old self: bitchy, hungry and full of hatred for all things that put her out of her depth. Andrea, however, was not back to her old self: endlessly happy, hopeful and full of love for life in general. She was still worried, making a game of checking on Keith not once, but three times. Miranda suspected it was just so she could get a good long look at her, instead of the tree.

Miranda did not need anybody to tell her she looked like death warmed over. There were the obvious circles under her eyes, of course, but more than anyone, Andrea could probably pick up on the distinct differences between the Devil in Prada and whatever Miranda had been this week, and especially today.

Caroline and Cassidy had not called her this morning. They'd called her every morning for thirteen mornings but not this one. This morning, all she'd received was a one-line email saying they were "extra busy" and would call her tomorrow. Perhaps, they were leaving her after all? That's what "extra busy" sounded like to her and the thought of another trip through the same journey as always, made Miranda feel much more than the usual panic. This feeling was more like despair.

Despair. Each time the word popped into Miranda's head it was followed by an image of Andrea. She'd liked nothing better than to be able to say the word and the woman were not interconnected in any way. But they were. For once, Miranda felt like she was missing something. Some detail, as if a puzzle had been completed right in front of her, and then tossed into the air again, with a piece left floating about. Unreachable.

Miranda wanted that piece of the puzzle back about as bad as she wanted to be unstuck from the loop she kept perpetuating without meaning to. She wanted to know why Andrea seemed to be at the center of it all, yet missing in some way or at least obscured from view. She wanted… And Miranda tried hard to never want anything. That had been engrained in her almost from birth.

Get what you need—not what you want.

A knock at her door quickly forced Miranda to realize she'd been sitting there staring out her office window for a solid hour, wondering about that loop she was stuck in and how maybe, just maybe it was because of that very thing. Wanting. Never getting what she wanted. Only what she needed. Because there was a difference in the two; a glaring difference. And Miranda had just wasted a hour thinking about it. Possibly two.

Everything beyond her office—the darkened, quiet hallway and distant sound of a vacuum—told her the truth. She'd been sitting here doing nothing, for hours. Not just one or two.

"Miranda."

Andrea said her name not as a question, but in a "wake up and pay the fuck attention" manner. She was standing in the doorway looking like the Commander in Chief she'd become a while back when Miranda'd been out to lunch too long or something and screwed up the schedule, royally, all by herself.

She never did that again.

Somewhere along the way, being the Editor in Chief of Runway could have easily been whittled down to being the Editor in Chief of some meaningless internet blog when compared to this girl, even on her worst day. And there weren't many of those. Andrea could do anything.

Of course, going through this line of thought, in silence, while staring blankly over her glasses, only served to close a gap. Coming from the doorway, fully into the room now, Andrea did not stop until she ended up behind Miranda's desk.

"Miranda." She said in the same commanding way. Miranda paid proper attention this time, even taking her glasses off before she looked up at Andrea, who towered over her. "I got a table at Ralph Lauren's new restaurant. It's been open a month and you haven't been yet." Then, with less authority in her voice, Andrea managed to falter. "And I thought," she started in with those broken sentences Miranda had almost forgotten Andrea she was capable of. "Well, you haven't been. I thought we could go. Tiffany's is close by… I need to pick up a few things. For Christmas. For my family. So it would be like a…uh." And then, like she'd hit some invisible rewind button, Andrea stood tall, like a Commander in Chief should stand, and started all over again.

This time, with hands on hips and a tightened jaw, she snapped, "You haven't been out of this building, like really out of it, in a week, Miranda. We're going to dinner and then we're going to Tiffany's. You," Andrea pointed at her, then the office door, "are getting out of here. This isn't healthy. You're not doing this anymore. So go get ready. I'm going to Nigel's office to change. I already put an outfit in your bathroom two hours ago—and you didn't even notice. You have fifteen minutes before Roy is downstairs."

Miranda felt a look form on her face that she couldn't identify but before she got a chance to think anything over, Andrea was gone, marching out of the room. It reminded Miranda of the first time they'd met.

In the moment, it was a mystery as to why she'd had Emily chase the girl down. Now it was as clear as it should have been all along. Miranda had met her match. Andrea was strong-willed and something else the word "determined" failed to describe. And even if Miranda had broken that in her for a short time, Andrea found it again. Today of all days that was evident; saying "no" did not appear to be an option open for discussion, and frankly… a part of her was just too tired to argue. There was little else to do but go and get ready.

To be so strict with the timeframe she demanded everything in her life adhere to, for the first time ever, Miranda learned how fast fifteen minutes could truly fly by. Too fast. She wasn't ready when she was supposed to be.

Like being notoriously early, Miranda could also be late. But on her terms. On purpose. Just because she could. Just to piss Stephen off or to keep some lower life-form in her world waiting and guessing. Just to put them ill-at-ease. Just to give them time to second guess their own existence. It always worked.

But this time her tardiness had not been on purpose. It wasn't to piss Andrea off or make her feel ill-at-ease or anything of the kind. Miranda simply couldn't get her hair right and time was inconsequential when it came to looking your best. That should never be rushed. Especially since this felt so important for reasons Miranda had not figured out yet.

When she finally emerged from the bathroom—looking better than she had in a week or more—Andrea was patiently sitting in a chair, staring at Keith as if the wait had either been planned or expected or both. Like it didn't matter at all.

Turning in her chair after a few seconds delay, Andrea smiled. "Hey," she said, managing to somehow change Miranda's life just a tiny bit due to the lack of griping and bellyaching Stephen would have met her with.

But what did he have to do with anything?

Yet, for the better part of thirty minutes Miranda had spent agonizing over her hair, she'd thought of nothing else; about how they were so different. Andrea was nothing like Stephen. In fact, she wasn't like anybody Miranda had ever met before. She'd known that for ages but denied it. Now Miranda was standing here completely motionless, in awe of how such an unassuming word like "hey", could make her feel so differently.

In the middle of being motionless and in awe, she noticed Keith appeared to be a few inches off-center. Instantly fearful, Miranda forgot all about Andrea, coming forward. "He needs water," she stated and began to look him over in earnest, worried for his health. Surely he would last longer than this. The child in her that only got what she needed and never what she wanted—wasn't ready for Keith to leave yet.

"I just took care of it," Andrea said behind her. Very close behind her. "He's okay, Miriam."

Again, with one word, her life changed just a little bit more. Andrea knew her name.

Miranda took in a deep breath before facing Andrea, knowing she'd need it, although not knowing just how much. For all the good a deep breath did her, not a single word could pass her lips once she turned around because that's when Miranda saw it. That's when she remembered…

There was an empty water bottle on the coffee table. The missing puzzle piece was right there in front of her. It hadn't been a dream after all. Andrea had kissed her. Twice. Well, three if you count the kiss Andrea left on her forehead. Some people might. Andrea probably did... Miranda wanted it to count. So it counted. Without question.

The internal acknowledgment of that night must have been written all over Miranda's face. Andrea turned pale and took a step backward in retreat and though Miranda wasn't facing Keith now, she could swear once again that he'd moved another inch off-center.

Knowing Keith would just have to wait a damn minute, Miranda caught up with Andrea's retreat, grabbing her by the waist, putting a hand over her mouth as it opened to probably apologize. Which wasn't what Miranda wanted to hear. In fact, she didn't want to hear anything.

"Don't," Miranda begged her, silently praying to God that Andrea could keep her mouth shut. "Don't say anything. Don't ruin it."

Then Miranda stopped, remembering a sad fact. She was without the means required to communicate her feelings effectively. In a way, she was still stuck. And that might never change.

With a hand still over Andrea's mouth, and ignoring the pain in her chest due to the sympathetic look in Andrea's eyes, Miranda let go of her waist and said, "Hold the elevator. I'll just be a moment."

This time, Miranda was the one to step back in retreat.

Despair settled in her once again as she watched Andrea walk away. Though Miranda remembered having convinced herself many nights ago that Andrea would be back, that there was the kiss and Keith and a sense of being wanted, Miranda was no longer sure. There was a need to worry. If she allowed it, things were not going to turn out differently this time around. Her self-made loop would continue.

"I need help," Miranda said before she could stop herself, realizing there was only one person she could confide in. "Help me figure out how to… Just… I don't know how to do this, Keith," she pleaded. "But I know I want this. I want this. I want…her. For Christmas." Miranda, no, this crying thing was definitely Miriam, wiped tears away she'd not shed in years, thanking God for waterproof mascara. "So if you could help me with this, I'd appreciate it. Truly. Because otherwise… Well we both know what will happen. Nothing will change. Nothing…"

"But she's already in love you. You don't need my help."

Needless to say, hearing his voice shocked Miranda right into the chair in front of Keith. The chair she'd fallen asleep in days and days ago. The chair where Andrea had her kissed not once, but three times.

In her silent state of shock, Keith kept on. "She is already in love with you. You've had your Christmas gift for longer than I've been standing here."

Forget thinking she was going crazy. Forget everything. "But how am I supposed to tell her…anything?" she asked.

"Who says you have to tell her anything? Can't you figure that out later? You should relax. If I am stressed, I lose needles…and lean in all sorts of directions, obviously. You're losing sleep and your sanity, if you don't mind me saying so. The two of you have complicated this far beyond what was needed. Humans… It's a miracle I haven't toppled over by now."

"Oh, yes." Miranda made a face of annoyance. "I'm sure we're all as dumb as a box of rocks compared to you."

"Well, I don't know about a box full…"

"Enough. Enough," Miranda held out a hand to shut Keith up. "So I go to dinner…shopping. And say nothing?"

"Be yourself. That's good enough."

Sadly, Miranda had to admit, "I don't know who that is."

"Seems to me that she likes you just fine the way you are. But maybe you don't. Maybe you don't like yourself. Maybe that's the real problem. Regardless, I don't have all the answers. I didn't know how to talk until a moment ago. But I couldn't wait around for you to get the point any longer. So I figured out how. You'll just have to do the same. Speaking of, she is waiting."

"Oh," Miranda looked at her watch. It was likely Andrea had been standing around for another fifteen minutes too long. "I have to go," she said, hurrying to find her coat.

But Keith stopped her.

"Hey, Miriam?"

"Yes?" she answered like she'd never been called anything else.

"It's okay to want things. I promise."

Miranda knew Keith was right. She could want. It wasn't all an extravagance. Especially not when she wanted someone this badly. But there was also something else she wanted and there was no way she was leaving this room until she made it known.

"You can't leave," Miranda stated, almost demanded.

"I will. That's just how these things are. I will leave. But I come back. Every single year."

"How?"

"I have no idea. It's not exactly…easy. Lucky for me, Andy found me this year; I got a new name, too. And you haven't been so bad to be around. Overall, I've had a nice time."

"Me too."

"You're welcome."

"Oh, shut up," Miranda rolled her eyes, knowing the whole time that she'd miss this. She'd miss him. But there had to be a way… "Could she find you again?" She asked, almost frantic for an answer. "Could Andrea find you? Surely…"

"Maybe. I hope so…" Keith didn't sound as convinced as Miranda would have liked but it was better than nothing. "She might be able to," he continued. "She saw me. Nobody else ever has."

Miranda smiled, feeling much calmer. "I know exactly what you mean, Keith. Exactly what you mean."


Miranda resisted the urge to put her sunglasses on once they stepped outside. It was dark, but the bright lights of the city were too much for her considering that she'd not been out for so long. Catching sight of Andrea's flushed cheeks—the temperature being in the lower thirties—she decided against it, though.

As Roy pulled up to the curb, "I thought you said Roy would be here much earlier," Miranda complained in spite of herself because really, some things were not ever going to change. Miranda complaining would probably be one of them.

"I did." Andrea opened the door for her and waited on a very confused Miranda to get into the car. Roy was supposed to open her door. He had for twenty years. No one else. "But I padded the schedule." Andy motioned for Miranda to get in. "I thought you might run a little behind. Get in the car, Miranda. It's cold. And Ralph is expecting us."

Us.

Miranda got into car, feeling a bit numb, but not due to the cold.

The ride was hellish, taking forever on account of it being not only a Friday, but the last weekend for holiday shopping. Odds were good that Andrea had taken that into account also and since silence was stretching on and on, Miranda worried about filling it with something. Some sort of conversation. She wasn't chatty. But Andrea was.

"These gifts?" Miranda tried her best to initiate a conversation. "For your family?" And then she tried her best not to think about the word "parents" or how old they might be. "Are you flying home for Christmas?"

Andrea shook her head. "I am but not until next weekend. My dad won't be home and my sister can't fly in yet anyway. So next weekend. Remember?" Andrea paused for an answer but Miranda gave none. "I requested off Friday through Sunday."

Miranda did not remember. Maybe Keith was right. She really had started to lose it. "Yes, I remember now. Of course," Miranda covered her ignorance and pretended to concentrate on the throng of people outside her window, unsure of what to say next.

A moment later, Andrea made it perfectly clear Miranda was not required to say anything unless she really felt the need.

"It's okay." Andrea whispered, like Miranda had spoken all her fears in one silent breath. "You don't have to say anything…small-talk. Unless you want to. This isn't about that. It's just—"

"About having dinner together," Miranda cut her off still looking out the window, surprised by her almost pleasant tone. "And shopping. Getting out of the office."

"Right."

Miranda didn't have to turn her head to witness a smile spread across Andrea's face or the way her cheeks flushed again. She saw it anyway, though. When the car finally reached its destination, Roy did not open her door. Andrea did.

Understandably, it took a second for Miranda to realize that she was actually supposed to get out of the car.

Yes, Keith was right. She had lost her mind.

True to Andrea's word, Ralph was waiting for them at the door, looking like he'd just returned for a successful fox hunt and it was impossible to miss the funny look on Andrea's face. Not because he was hugging Andrea—let's be truthful, the Commander and Chief had more friends in the business than Miranda—but because of how he was dressed. It really was quite comical.

Obviously, there was no hug for Miranda, only a few air kisses then complements on what they were both wearing. Ralph Lauren, of course. God, Miranda hadn't even noticed what she'd put on in her bathroom an hour ago and still didn't care to look.

She did care about what Andrea was wearing, though, and took ample time to search out all the details, finally getting a real look at her dress once Ralph ever-so-graciously divested Andrea of her coat.

Through all this, Ralph's voice droned on. He was so proud, as he should have been, even if the place resembled a hunting lodge from a different era right along with Ralph himself. And, God, was he happy Miranda'd finally gotten around to making an appearance and even happier that it had been "beautiful Andrea's" idea all along.

Miranda tried her hardest to remain polite but having known her for a million years; Ralph knew when he'd worn his welcome thin. He disappeared, promising to bring them something that would be beyond anything they'd ever had before. Miranda had her doubts but was glad to be rid of him.

It seemed that Andrea agreed, yet, she watched him go and turned her head this way and that, like she was searching for someone.

"Are you looking for someone?"

"What?" Andrea swung her head around and gave Miranda a puzzled look.

Miranda gestured around the room. "Are you looking for someone?" she asked again.

"Oh, God no." Andrea shook her head then laughed. "I'm just wondering when I am and whether or not any hounds are going to be popping up…or horses. I mean, is he really serious with this?"

For the first time in weeks, Miranda laughed, knowing that whether she was able to say much at all, this would most definitely be one of the best nights of her life. More importantly, the best 'first Christmas' she could have ever asked for.


Epilogue

During their very short walk to Tiffany's, it started to snow. That wasn't in the forecast. In fact, it was supposed to be a Christmas without snow. And alright, technically, it wasn't Christmas just yet, but for Andy, it might as well be.

They'd had a great dinner—in Andy's opinion, anyway—in spite of Ralph and all his hovering and innuendos that surely Miranda had caught on to. He knew too much and, obviously, had too big a mouth. Sometimes, it really did feel like everybody in the world knew she was in love with Miranda –but Miranda.

Yet, judging by the way Miranda had been looking at her all night; Andy figured it was a safe bet that she'd finally gotten it. Her hand was still resting on Andy's lower back, having been there since departing the restaurant, canceling out the nervousness that had settled in Andy since trying to truly converse with Miranda during dinner was anything but easy.

She knew Miranda wasn't a talker. She knew that… God, she'd even told Miranda she wasn't expected to talk. But Andy had to admit, Miranda had given her best effort. She'd tried. She took a step and that meant the world to Andy. Any step toward her, meant the world to Andy and she suspected that this Christmas would be full of "firsts" for Miranda.

It certainly was turning out that way for Andy. She never thought she'd get this far, have this much courage. Somehow it was so much easier to get everybody around her to fall into step in order to get things done… She could do anything. Anything but get what she wanted. But that was changing.

"I wonder what is taking them so long." Miranda mumbled in complaint, just as she was prone to do.

Apparently, a nice dinner was not a cure for things like that where Miranda was concerned. Then again, Andy didn't think there was a cure. Just like there probably wasn't much of a cure for Miranda being able to easily hold a conversation about something that did not involve fabrics or photographers or models. In time that would change, though. Andy would see to it. Miranda just needed to know she was listening.

"There are two hundred people in here, Miranda," Andy pointed out with a sigh. "Half of them are probably picking up orders just like I am. If you'd rather, I can call Roy."

"Non-sense." Miranda pressed her hand into Andy's back with a bit more pressure. "I can…deal with it."

"You don't have to—"

The argument was settled by Miranda interrupting, leaning in to speak directly into Andy's ear, so close that her hair tickled Andy's face. She whispered, "Oh, but I do. You've obviously failed to notice that out of the two hundred people in here; nearly all of them have their eyes on you, Andrea. As they should. I myself am among them. So, yes, I will deal with it. To keep the vultures away."

Never mind that that was probably the longest string of sentences Andy had heard from Miranda all night, her face burned hot. Everything in her wanted to shy away from the fact she was so turned on, and had been turned on for a solid year.

She really hadn't intended to flirt tonight, but… Oh, to hell with it.

"You are among them?" Andy eyed her playfully. "A vulture? I don't believe it."

"Yes." Miranda responded briskly. "Though I've just been made aware of that fact. Recently. It would appear that I am…fascinated by you."

"Ah," Somehow, Andy managed to not kiss Miranda, backing away a step to look her up and down. "You might find me fascinating, Miranda, but you don't look like much of a vulture. I'm just sad I really can't take credit for picking out what you're wearing. Because I like it. A lot."

Miranda looked down at herself then back up quickly with her features contorted in shock. Andy laughed right there in her face. She couldn't help it, knowing all along that Miranda was so caught up in everything; she'd not really looked at herself. Until now. But Andy wasn't about to listen to a lecture.

"Ralph sent it over with my dress," she explained before Miranda could open her mouth. "He knows. God, I think everybody knows," Andy refused to blush, "how much I like you in pants…and belts. So here you are. Miranda Priestly. In jeans, heels, and I have to say, I never thought a fifty dollar oxford shirt could ever look so good. And I think my love for you in trench coats just got elevated a level or two." Some guy named Bradford showed up right then with all her things, probably saving Andy's ass because Miranda looked positively murderous.

Deciding to let her stew a little while, Andy looked over the gifts. There were cufflinks for her father and brother; a locket for her mother; a passport wallet for her ever-traveling sister and another charm for her grandmother's favorite necklace. Overall, everything was just as she'd wanted it to be and they were ready to go a few short minutes later.

Or Andy was. Miranda, however, didn't seem ready to go, picking up the conversation as soon as Bradford's back was turned.

"You love me in trench coats?"

Andy nodded.

"You like me in pants?

Andy nodded, noting that not only was Miranda's face red, but her neck also. She could certainly sympathize, only wishing they were anywhere but in the middle of Tiffany's.

"You kissed me. Three times…"

Andy looked around them, scanning those two hundred people who were still there and not nearly two hundred at all. More like fifty. Even so, she and Miranda were not the center of attention.

"I did," Andy shook her head and looked Miranda in the eye. "I did kiss you, Miranda. Three times. I know you said you didn't want me to talk about it but I—"

"Only because I did not want to ruin anything," Miranda let out a deep breath. "And I was afraid you would apologize. Which I did not want you to do."

"I really wasn't going to apologize. I mean I… Well…" Okay, so maybe she had been about to apologize. She shouldn't have kissed Miranda that night. It hadn't been right. Miranda had been asleep. So, no, she probably should have but… "I'm not sorry." Andy stated confidently and then, without thinking much about the consequences, "I'm in love with you. I'm not sorry for that either. I've just never known how to…make you see. Make you see me. How much I felt…"

"So Keith, then?" Miranda tilted her head. "You gave me something I have never had, Andrea. I'd like to say that the gift was not needed to open my eyes… But that might very well be the truth. For that, I am sorry. Because I do see you." Her hand came up and brushed a strand of hair back behind Andy's ear. "I just didn't know how… There is so much I want to tell you."

"Lucky for you," Andy smiled and reached out to straighten the lapels of Miranda's coat, "I'm a very patient listener. You can take all the time you need. Say whatever you need to say, Miranda. I will listen."

"I…" Miranda swallowed.

Andy smoothed her hands over Miranda's lapels again just as an excuse to touch her, hopefully keeping her calm. Perhaps not though, considering the way Miranda's jaw tightened. Before Andy could remove her hands—Miranda must have anticipated it—they were covered by Miranda's own, keeping them still.

"I asked for you" Miranda griped her hands tightly. "For Christmas. You had already given me such a wonderful gift…and while Keith is precious to me…I asked for more. I asked for you, Andrea. Though I'm not at all sure how to keep you."

Taking a gamble, Andy tugged at Miranda's hand and brought it up to her lips. Kissing it once, she said, "I'm right here. Probably a little harder to care for than Keith, but I'm right here, Miranda, and I asked for you, too. You are what I wanted for Christmas. Just the way that you are, okay? Just you."

It seemed Miranda's limit in words had been reached. She couldn't say anything else, but Andy could tell enough by the look in her eyes. She got it. There was no need for her to panic or worry; emotions Andy had witnessed flash across Miranda's face a lot lately.

Miranda finally knew that she was wanted.

Miranda finally knew that she was loved.

They'd both ended up with what they asked for this Christmas: each other. And while it might not always be easy, this would repeat itself every single year. They'd have each other and somehow, someway, they'd have Keith, also. Andy had found him once. She could find him again.

After all, she'd made a promise to him. That's all Keith had asked for, and Andy was certainly committed to seeing the challenge through to the end.

For Keith, she would do anything.

THE END.