Tickle Tantrum Part 18/20

Pairing Miranda/Andy

Rating: Um PG 13 maybe... eventually?

Disclaimer: Everything belongs to whoever wrote or owns DWP, lucky sods. The characters etc. aren't mine but I'd sure as hell put in a bid if they ever came up for sale. No profit, yadda, yadda, if TPTB didn't know what to do with the characters they should have consulted the Rabid Lesbian Horde, yadda, jabber, rhubarb, I dare ya to sue me, I'd love the opportunity to read femmeslash smut out loud in court.. Pfffftt!

For more disclaimers - See Part 1

A/N 1: I looked up the possible penalties for the charges I've listed against Stephen and the figures I've quoted are I believe reasonably accurate.

Monday morning saw Andy dropping Miranda off at a Starbucks about eight blocks from Elias Clarke at 7:30am, here she waited a mere five minutes before Roy rolled up and took her the remainder of the way to work. Andy then took almost an hour to return the car and make her own way to Runway, stopping off at their regular Starbucks for the morning's coffee run. She smiled at the man who took the car back, she smiled at the people on the subway, at the little boy who smiled back at her from a bus window and at the barista who handed over her coffee; she was in an excellent mood after her wonderful weekend with Miranda.

Unfortunately her good mood evaporated the minute she spotted the Elias-Clarke building which was once again swarming with the media; press and television, both local and national. Andy blanched wondering what had happened to cause this kind of reaction and picked up her pace to a near run. Using her momentum, determination and the threat of scalding coffee, she pushed through the crowd like a hot knife through butter, fetching up at the main doors where she was pulled inside by Little John. She managed to get out a one word question.


Little John responded quickly reassuring Andy that the editor was safe and upstairs in her office, so with her immediate fear assuaged, Andy hurried to the elevator.

When Andy arrived on Runway's floor, she barrelled past Emily, Serena and Nigel without a single word. She went straight into Miranda's office, automatically shutting the door behind her. Miranda was sitting in her office chair staring at the cell phone she held in her hand, a look of shock etched on her face.

Andy rushed over to her, haphazardly setting the tray of coffees on the desk corner, she quickly made her way around the desk and knelt in front of Miranda. She took hold of the older woman's ice cold hand and reached up with her free hand to turn the beloved face above her so that she could look directly at her.

"Miranda, what happened? What's going on? Are you okay?" her worry wouldn't let her pause to allow the editor to respond.

Miranda blinked a few times before her hand went slack and her cell phone fell to the desk with a soft thud. She blinked again and her eyes finally focused on the concerned chocolate gaze of the girl at her feet. She spoke, her voice soft with surprise.

"It's over."

For a moment Andy's heart stopped beating, was Miranda referring to their budding relationship? This terrifying thought was quickly banished when the older woman pulled her up into a fierce hug and repeated what she'd said.

"It's over Andrea, it's over!"

Andy returned the embrace before gently disengaging and pulling away to seek clarification.

"What's over Miranda? Please Sweetheart I need to know what's happened."

Miranda stood up, pulling Andy with her and guiding the brunette over to the couch where they could be comfortable. When they sat down Miranda waved a hand back toward her desk.

"I've just been on the phone with A.D.A Cabot. She called to tell me that…" Miranda paused and took a deep cleansing breath. "…to tell me that Stephen has pled guilty to all charges and accepted a plea bargain." She looked at Andy as her lips started to form a tentative smile. "There won't be a trial Andrea, no one else will need to see that damned video."

The older woman explained how she'd arrived to a small press presence and made her way easily to her office only to be informed by the security desk about a half hour later that the media frenzy had exploded outside the building and more reporters and news vans were arriving every few minutes. She'd immediately called the A.D.A, but had initially gone to her voice mail as had her calls to the detectives in the SUV unit, and the young A.D.A had only just returned her call.

Alex had explained that she'd offered the plea deal the previous week and Stephen had refused, but it appeared that a full week's experience of the joys of Ryker's Island and possibly the enforced sobriety had softened his resolve. The video evidence was just too damming to form a defence against, that coupled with his stupid assaults on the police and contempt of court charge meant his lawyer had not been very hopeful and so had urged him to accept the plea when it was offered the second time. Andy stopped her there and asked her the key question.

"How long?"

"Twelve years, possibility of parole in eight." Miranda answered. "Not nearly enough, but at least it means not struggling through a long and invasive trial."

Andy's mind reconciled the twelve year sentence with what she knew Stephen might have faced if he'd been convicted of all the charges against him. Being who she was, she'd looked up the likely penalties for all the offenses and found that the man had potentially been looking at 52 years in prison. Even if the judge hadn't given the maximum sentences or if he'd allowed the nine charges of extortion to be served concurrently, he'd been looking at a minimum of 19 years.

Andrea figured the eight to twelve years wasn't enough given he'd been preying on women for so long, and it would never be enough for his attempt to hurt her Miranda. The brunette's mind skittered to a halt with the wording of her last thought, her Miranda. Well damn it, yes she was her Miranda and she was Miranda's Andrea just as much.

Andy looked at the older woman, still a little dumbfounded as she tried to process this amazing turn of events her mind feeling like it was slogging through quicksand. Quite suddenly her stomach dropped and she felt dizzy and nauseous as she experienced the sudden drop from her earlier adrenaline rush. She bent forward and put her head between her knees until she felt less like she was going to pass out. Miranda seemed to understand what was happening and traced gentle circles on her back. Eventually the brunette felt well enough to sit up and ask for more details from Miranda.

Miranda reported that due to the statutory rape charge Stephen had pled to, Alex assured her he would be serving his sentence in a proper prison, not one of the minimum security open prisons to which so many white collar criminals were sent. The young A.D.A had also taken pleasure in pointing out to Miranda that she had heard from several of the other victim's lawyers that they would be taking out private suits against the man and suing him for the blackmail money they'd paid over to him and of course for damages as well. Just as Miranda had wanted Stephen would continue to pay and it looked like he would, given the top flight lawyers involved, be paying for the rest of his life.

The two women sat back on the couch, both trying to process the amazing turn-about in events. Andy felt like she was in an episode of Star Trek, caught in some kind of temporal distortion as she kept mentally repeating the phrase, 'A week, everything has changed in a little over a week! How can all of this have happened in so short a time?' the question finding no answer as it looped in her mind. She found herself letting the loop continue if only to avoid allowing the logical follow up question of, 'What now?' from taking its' place, she really didn't want to think about that yet.

Miranda was in a similar mental state, her thoughts running hither and thither looking for something on which to focus. Having spent the past week summoning and refining her anger in order to go into the first battle in what had promised to be a bloody and drawn out war, Miranda seemed unsure what to think or how to process the sudden defeat and removal of her enemy. As she thought of metaphors to explain how wrong footed she felt, a sudden twisted version of one of her father's favourite films flashed in her mind's eye. It was, she felt, like the scene in Spartacus where Kirk Douglas stands up to say he is Spartacus, only to have dozens of his followers beat him to it each calling out, "I'm Spartacus!" The twist being that in her version the many fake Spartacus' then proceed to attack and completely defeat the Romans leaving herself as the real and stunned Spartacus on an empty battlefield, victorious but not by her own hand.

After a few minutes Andy finally took hold of Miranda's hand gave it a gentle squeeze before she voiced some of what they were both feeling.

"Well heck, it's all kind of anticlimactic isn't it?" She smiled ruefully at the older woman.

The sheepish grin on her beloved's face broke Miranda from her own stupor and she let loose with a great shout of laughter.

"Anticlimactic? You could say that. Yes my dear, like expecting a nuclear bomb and ending up with a party popper instead."

They both broke down then and laughed until they had tears in their eyes. Miranda described her image of the Spartacus metaphor and Andy snorted in amusement at the idea of anyone making a claim to be Miranda, she was truly one of a kind.

Needless to say the press were once again rabid for a reaction from all parties concerned in the case against Stephen. Miranda continued with her work as she had the previous week, not allowing them to slow her down one bit. She'd hoped the lack of a trial would have allowed the twins to return home, but after a discussion with Andy she decided to have them stay in Connecticut for a while longer. Her maternal instincts were proved correct when there was a nasty spike of renewed interest in Miranda in particular toward the end of the following week when they discovered the Editor had received her final divorce decree in record time, her lawyers having been successful in getting it pushed through the courts as quickly as humanly possible.

Andy delivered the Book on the day the divorce was finalised at the ridiculously early time of 8 pm as per special instructions from Miranda who had gone straight from the court to the townhouse earlier in the evening. Roy got out with her and elbowed a way through the throng of rabid reporters, Andy following behind with her load of dry cleaning and the Book. When she got to the top of the steps she made a point of speaking loudly enough for the vultures below to hear.

"You don't need to wait Roy. Miranda wants to go over next week's schedule and the preliminary planning for the September issue. I have no idea when we'll be finished but I'll call a car when I need to leave." She smiled at the man as he relieved her of the dry cleaning long enough for her to get her key out and into the lock. Taking his cue from Andy he also spoke loudly.

"Damn, the September issue already? You'll be lucky if you get out of there before 1 am. Hell a couple years running Miranda had one of her assistants staying here over night in the guest room so they could work till 4 am and still get a couple hours sleep before they were both back in the office at 8 am the next day." He winked at her as he handed the dry cleaning back. "Tell you what, text me if you end up stuck here and I'll come by early enough to swing you by your place for some fresh clothes for work."

Andy laughed at his blatant help in laying a logical premise to cover her spending several hours or even the whole night with Miranda. Roy was the only one who knew about her and Miranda and it was obvious that he was giving them his blessing and his help. Smiling into his kind green eyes, Andy assured him she'd let him know what was happening…as soon as Miranda let her know what was happening. Chuckling, the two turned in opposite directions, Roy going back to the car and Andy pushing the door open before quickly entering the foyer and shutting it firmly behind her.

Andy placed the Book on its' usual table and then struggled with the larger than usual amount of dry cleaning needing to step completely into the closet to properly hang up the nearly two dozen hangers containing blouses, skirts and jackets. When everything was neatly hung she stepped out of the closet and straight into Miranda's arms. Without preamble the older woman pulled her close and kissed her so thoroughly that Andy started to see stars. Eventually letting the younger woman pull away for some much needed deeper breaths, Miranda smiled and stroked the back of her hand across Andy's cheek.

"Mmmm, I've been waiting all day to do that." Miranda moved in for a second kiss and a third. Andy returned the older woman's passion with her own and allowed her hands to move up the statuesque neck to play with the soft white hair her questing fingers found as she pulled Miranda in for more kisses.

After a few more minutes of mutual bliss Miranda finally moved back and allowed Andy to properly step out of the closet into the foyer. She kept tight hold of one of her hands leading the brunette toward the kitchen. Andy gasped when they arrived in the comfortably familiar room, now transformed into a new guise of romantic date scene. The room was lit only by the small light over the oven and two ivory candles in the centre of the kitchen table. Said table was spread with a plain linen tablecloth and two place settings of fine china and crystal wine glasses. Between the two tapers was a small vase containing a single, but perfect rose, its' satiny red petals absorbing the soft light of the candles.

Andy pulled Miranda back to her side wrapping her arm around a slim waist as she gazed fondly into sparkling blue eyes. After a heartbeat Andrea raised her eye brow slightly and Miranda shyly nodded affirmation to the unvoiced question that yes this was all for her, all for her Andrea.

"This is amazing Miranda." Andrea leaned in and kissed Miranda's cheek. "You're amazing." She smiled and kissed the other cheek. "Wonderful." A peck to the forehead. "Brilliant." She pulled back a little bit and with a sly grin gave a final quick kiss to the beloved little bump on Miranda's nose before smilingly finishing. "You're absolutely perfect."

Miranda chuckled and gave a cheeky smile, "This is something you hadn't realised Andrea? Tsk, tsk, a writer needs to be far more observant my dear."

Andy laughed happily at that. "Oh I knew it well enough, I was just reporting it." She smiled at Miranda's answering chuckle and allowed herself to be nudged toward one of the seats. She paused before actually sitting down to enquire if there was anything she could do to help.

"Yes, could you get the bottle of Syrah over there and pour for us while I grill the salmon and set the asparagus to steam." She kissed Andy's cheek, "Then have a seat, dinner will only take about 10 minutes." She then retrieved the apron she'd been using carefully pulling it over her head and tying it round her waist before moving over to the oven.

Andy did as she was asked, taking the time to read the label on the wine, it was a type of red she'd never had before so she gave the bottle a little sniff before she poured the rich purple/black liquid into the waiting glasses. The scent had been rich and earthy with a hint of berries and spice, and she noted that her mouth was watering to have a taste.

Taking the seat Miranda had indicated was hers Andy ignored the wine in favour of watching Miranda cook. She'd enjoyed the experience of Miranda expertly treating her to a breakfast fit for a king the previous weekend and knew the woman knew her way around a frying pan. It was even more enjoyable to watch her in a kitchen with which she was completely familiar, her movements and actions fluid and certain as she moved from stove to steamer and back again. Andy was mesmerised and only broken from her trance when her own stomach betrayed her with a very loud rumble just as she caught the delicious scent of the grilling salmon.

Miranda looked up at the sound and wagged her finger at her girlfriend. Her finger halted mid-wag as the appellation she'd used smacked her in the consciousness. Girlfriend!? Her body tensed in surprise and she looked over at the blushing brunette who had both hands pressed across her stomach sheepishly trying to quieten down her belly's vocal display. As suddenly as the stiffness had arrived it left and Miranda relaxed into the warm, warm feeling the word elicited as she thought again. 'Girlfriend? Yes, my Andrea, my girlfriend.' She gave the woman in question a blinding smile and then continued to cook and serve their dinner.

They sat and enjoyed a flavourful repast peppered with equally flavourful conversation that ran the gamut of the divorce, Runway, Andy's pleasure at the surprise date, Roy's noisy information dropping from earlier, the girls and how they were doing having been away from school for more than a week, Andy's underdeveloped wine palette and Miranda's 101 recipes for salmon. It was all blissfully domestic and, as Andy found herself thinking more than once, it was like they'd been doing this all their lives, comfortable and trusting each in the other. Their meal long finished they eventually let go of each other's hand and rose together to tackle the clean-up. When the kitchen was once again spotless and the dishwasher was humming away, Miranda pulled Andy into her arms bending her head to lazily nuzzle her neck for just a moment before looking into very contented brown eyes.

"Thank you for a wonderful meal Miranda, and even more wonderful company." Andy leant in for a quick peck on those beautiful lips to which she decided she was definitely addicted.

"My pleasure I assure you Andrea. I told you I'm determined to use every single one of those 101 recipes for salmon." Eyes glinting with mischief she continued. "Your obvious enjoyment of the cedar plank fillets does mean that you are now the official salmon guinea pig. The girls loathe salmon as does their father." She faltered slightly as if she was going to add more to the statement but refused to tag on the similar information about Stephen. As far as she was concerned if she never had to say the vile creature's name out loud again she'd be quite happy.

Andy sensed what had caused the distracted pause and gently rubbed Miranda's back as she cheerfully accepted her new status of culinary guinea pig. Miranda smiled at her before giving a resigned little sigh.

"I really must go over the Book now I'm afraid. The accessories department hadn't submitted the stills for pages 17 and 20 when I left for court and I need to see how many heads will roll tomorrow." She finished with that now tell-tale little roll of her shoulders and Andy sniggered as she left her arm around Miranda's slender waist and began walking them both down the hall to the Study.

"No problem, I'll just get the Book and see you set up before I call a car."

The final part of her statement was said with a note of regret and a little uncertainty. Miranda knew from their dinner conversation that they had a cover story that would allow her to remain for hours yet or even all night but Andy however hopeful that Miranda would use the cover, hadn't wanted to assume she would make that choice. They'd arrived at the study but Miranda didn't release her hold on Andy.

"Hmmm, it would be a waste not to make use of Roy's efforts don't you think?" She lifted a hand and brushed back a lock of brown silk tucking the errant hair behind a delicate ear. "Will you stay with me tonight my Andrea?"

Andy gave her a gentle, satisfied smile and nodded.

"Tonight and every night you'll have me, love."

Noting the older woman's blush at the endearment Andy shooed her into the study and went to get the Book and gather her own bag which she'd dumped under the table when Miranda had ambushed her earlier. Throwing the huge carry all style Prada bag over her shoulder she caught sight of the envelope sticking out of the outer pocket and her stomach did a flip at the reminder of a difficult discussion she needed to have with Miranda.

Andy returned to the study handing the Book to Miranda who had settled at her desk.

"Here you go I hope Accessories got their act together." Andy smiled at the older woman.

"I'm just gonna settle on the couch and…" She blushed and ducked her head a bit. "Umm well I'm going to work on this article I, um well." Miranda looked up from the Book to see Andy still standing beside the desk shuffling from one foot to another like a naughty school girl. The image compounded when Andy started to rub the back of her neck before she continued.

"Article?" Miranda enquired.

"Aww hell, get a grip Sachs." She mumbled toward her feet before she finally raised her head and stopped fidgeting. She moved to sit in the chair in front of the desk and reached into her bag for the small envelope, pulling it into her lap before taking a deep breath to answer Miranda's still quirked eyebrow.

"I really enjoyed writing the article for Runway." She ducked her head and continued speaking but not meeting Miranda's eyes. "It reminded me of what I really want to do, the reason I came to New York in the first place, so I could write."

She looked up then, her eyes brimming with all kinds of emotion; gratitude, concern, uncertainty, eagerness and determination all rolled into a single look.

"I put some feelers out last week and found out that New York Magazine was looking for a couple of articles for their October issue. I…well… I pitched them an idea and they liked it, the Features editor gave me the go ahead for a 2500 word article. Miranda I promise this won't interfere with my work, I'll be doing it on my own time and well it isn't due for eight weeks yet and I have to…I mean I want to talk about…" Andy petered out not sure how to move on to the most important part of what she needed to tell the editor, uncertain how Miranda would react.

"I thought you wanted to work for a newspaper Andrea?" Miranda's voice was carefully neutral.

"Yeah well, let's just say that the past few weeks have been more than an eye opener for me Miranda. I mean some of the worst of that bunch weren't even from the gossip rags, they were from what are supposed to be legitimate journalistic newspapers like the Times and the Herald." Andy snorted and glared as she shook her head. "I still want to write, I still want to be a journalist, and I just think I might be able to maintain my integrity better if I work freelance." She gave another rueful little snort before adding. "Of course I'll probably have to get a second job to pay the rent but it'll still be worth it."

"Why would you need another job Andrea? Does Runway not pay enough for you to cover your obligations?" The older woman looked sadly and knowingly at Andy, her voice a little wistful. She knew now where this conversation was headed and was not happy at the destination.

Andy immediately picked up on the sadness and moved so she was beside Miranda behind the desk. She bent down on one knee, holding the envelope in one hand and reaching for one of Miranda's hands with the other.

"Miranda." She raised the hand she held to her lips kissing each knuckle. "Miranda, despite the unusual circumstances that brought us together, I really do want to be with you so much. I mean I want it all Love; I want to hold you every night and talk about our day together, cook for you, have you cook for me, give you back rubs and foot rubs, have pizza nights with the girls, help them with their homework, go on vacations the four of us together." She leaned up and gave her love a searing kiss.

"I want to make love with you so very much, I ache for it." She stroked one sculpted cheek bone with the back of her hand before continuing in a gentle, regretful voice. "But I can't do all that if I'm still working for you, it wouldn't be right."

Andy held up the envelope for Miranda to see before setting it on the desk beside them.

"That's my four weeks 'notice." She went down on both knees leant forward and as a final note of trust she lowered her head onto Miranda's lap, releasing the other woman's hand which immediately began to stroke through Andy's hair. Getting comfortable, she sat and folded her legs underneath her before she continued in a subdued murmur.

"I hate the idea of not seeing you every day, of not being there to make your day go smoothly, make your life that little bit easier in any way I can." She curled an arm around Miranda's leg and clung to her "God! Miranda I hope you want those things too, I, don't know what I'd do if you changed your mind now." Her words were brought to a halt as her insecurities got the better of her and she couldn't fight the tears or the small sob that went with them.

At first Miranda stared at the deceptively innocuous piece of paper on the desk, the horrid piece of paper that spelled the end of so many things, the very least of which was the loss of an exceptionally capable assistant. Andrea was leaving her, kept rolling through her mind. How was she supposed to get through a work day without Andy's blinding smile and gentle voice to buoy her up? How could she go for more than a day without feeling that sense of calm, and now that she knew it for what it was the sense of being truly cared for that the young woman had brought into her life?

Her fingers sifted through silky strands of the young woman's hair for another minute before her

brain finally registered the sound of a sob and she felt Andrea's hold on her leg tighten. Her hand stopped mid-stroke and she looked down at the woman at her feet. The woman silently crying! Crying? Andrea was crying. That was not acceptable! She reached down and pulled Andrea up even as she rose herself till they were both standing, she guided them to the couch and sat down, pulling the brunette into a firm embrace as she made soothing sounds and rubbed gentle circles on her back.

"Shhh, it's alright Andrea; my brave, brave Andrea." She kissed the top of the girl's head. "Thank you for being bold enough to act on this, you're right of course, much as I hate the idea of not having you by my side every day at the office…"

She pulled Andrea's face up so she could look into her eyes. "The opportunity to have you here in my life, in the girls' lives..."

She ignored the tear stains and sniffling and leant forward brushing pale pink lips in a gentle kiss.

"This opportunity to love you, to be loved by you," Miranda gave a playful tap to Andrea's nose, her lip quirking into the tiniest of rueful smiles as she continued. "It's worth putting up with the thousand incompetent replacements that will follow you as my assistant." She bent to the young woman's ear before speaking in a sultry whisper. "You will just have to compensate me for the inconvenience in other ways." She nibbled the earlobe causing Andrea to shiver. "I've already started a list of suitable ways you can make it up to me."

Andrea let her had fall back as she gave a joyful bark of laughter and relief. Smiling Andy pulled her love into a series of deep, satisfying kisses before moving away and pulling her into an upright position. Stroking down the older woman's arm she stood up drawing Miranda with her till they were standing in a loose embrace.

"Mmmm okay, you make that list and I'll sign the I.O.U." She led Miranda back to her desk, giving her a quick kiss before she sat down. "Now, we both have work to do so no more dramatics for tonight."

Andy stroked a finger down Miranda's cheek finishing with a tap to her nose before she went back to the couch and pulled out her laptop. Some minutes later, computer booted up, she settled back sighing in satisfaction at the background sound of Miranda flipping pages and scribbling notes. Casting a final look at the older woman she allowed the feeling of contentment to wash over her before she pulled up her article and set to work.