TDWP: On an Altar pt. 6

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Again Miranda guided, leading them both through the crowded social waters with careful aplomb to the specific destination, or rather persons, she had in mind. She stepped back only slightly from Andy, giving a little more room, but not too much. They had found a rhythm in the closeness and she utilized it. More, those present had come to expect it, save for the less observant.

A few people stopped to greet them. Andy was much more relaxed by this time, though she still limited her conversation, choosing to let the focus stay on Miranda. The other woman experienced a welling of affection, as she knew far too many persons who would have attempted to leap to shine in her place. Not that she would let most persons get away with it.

Eventually they closed in on Miranda's targets.

"Emily. Serena," the editor greeted them.

"Ah. You found her," the Brazillian said warmly. "Hello again Andy. Miranda, your timing is perfect, as usual. I have been trying to convince Emily to come to the dance floor with me. Now she will have no excuse."

"Oh, I can come up with more," Emily declared. Her words were sharp, but her expression was soft when aimed at her lover.

Serena, the taller of the two, offered a mouse-ate-the-cat grin. "But you won't." She extended her hand and the redhead took it.

"You will at least look good doing it," Miranda said easily, an especially bright twinkle in her eyes.

"True. Especially Emily." grinned Serena. The blonde glanced at her lover and her eyes, once again, might have been a match to the fire. Emily, who had managed not to blush through the whole evening, now did. The Brazillian was holding nothing back in front of Miranda, apparently.

"Serena," the Brit started, and then looked a little startled as she realized they had been joined by a fifth person.

Nan, her expression quite serious, joined the conversation as if she'd always been there. "Hello, all. Emily, you look positively dangerous and edible. Were you not attached to this tall, leggy one, I would expend every effort to snatch you up. That gown is delicious on you."

Once again the Brit found her skin flushing warmly. "Thank you," she managed and smiled.

"It is almost as if it were made just for her," Serena said agreeably. "Or me. I can't decide which."

Nan grinned suddenly, but it was Miranda who said, "Given the designer, it is a distinct possibility. Certainly when she gave her permission to have it made, she may have had you in mind. In fact, as I recall, she insisted on a redesign because it was for Emily."

Emily blinked and then stared. "You had it made and sent me a personally designed gown?"

"Yes," Miranda said easily.

"But … but..." Emily was assailed with too many questions at once.

"Ah, which does bring me to what I came over here for, though I had every intention of waiting until later, I simply can not. Nigel and I had a lovely conversation. He had images on his cell-phone of all places. Did you see that suit? So handsome." Nan stepped closer, as if including them in the secret. "He did warn me the designer was very, very exclusive and sometimes difficult to reach. He did not say her name and suggested I take it up with you, Miranda. Are you making me run the gauntlet because of last week? Back and forth. I promise it was accidental. Also, your friends can be quite stubborn."

"Do you include yourself?" Miranda teased.

Everyone except Nan and herself looked slightly startled.

The other woman said, "Of course. Which is why I dug a little. Still mum. But did let slip a few details, which is why I simply had to take the opportunity now. Before you left."

"I assure you, I still take your calls." Miranda arched a brow.

"Yes, but there is no guarantee she will." Nan pointed.

"You!" Emily's tone was outraged. "You did this!" She waved her hand down, indicating her gown.

"Em," Andy began pacifying, "It isn't what you think."

"Oh, but it is," Miranda said, and then she addressed the issue very completely and turned her attention on Andy. "She drew and designed the dress, ordered specific colors and textures, sent the fabric, provided excruciatingly detailed patterns, threatened Nigel with death if he did not get it right and Emily was upset..." Her expression was affectionately tolerant. "All we did was provide the seamstress."

"Not real death..." Andy protested weakly. "And I would have handled the sewing, but we were already working on the other gown." She added absently, and then she turned to her friend, "It's just... Look, really Emily, it's not a big deal. If you hate it now, I understand. Just, if you don't like it, don't waste it. Give it..."

Now Emily smacked Andy on the shoulder. "Give it away! Are you insane? This is my gown. Mine, Andrea Sachs, and you will not dictate to me what I do with this dress, even if you are the designer."

"I'm not a designer, Em. I'm just..."

"Nan," Miranda interjected. "Is Andrea a designer?"

"Well, of course she is. One of the most exclusive. Obviously. Which does bring me to..."

"Miranda," Andrea started.

The editor turned and narrowed her gaze at the young woman and arched a brow, "Really, Andrea. Nan understands that your designs aren't just for anyone." Then she smiled a tiger smile, one which caused the young woman to gulp. "She just wants one of her very own. I'm sure she'll keep the origins to herself."

"Like a sieve," Emily stage whispered.

Nan grinned, "Oh, so true. But I will try, at least for the first hour. I need something for the benefit in three months. Is that enough time?"

Andy felt a little wobbly, but before she could become too distressed, she felt Miranda step a little closer. "I'm sure it is," the editor answered for her. "She has several drawings to..."

"No, no, no..." Andy said, not really thinking about the fact she sounded like she'd told Miranda no. As soon as Miranda offered the previous works, she knew she needed to put a stop to that line of thinking. She might not be a designer, but those dresses had been made with specific dimensions. "Even if I were to do it, it would have be fresh. Those drawings weren't for her. I don't mean this badly, but they were well, for a specific body type." Miranda's, she now realized, but that was a whole other discussion. "Hers is her own." She looked at the other woman, really taking her in. "We'd need to do a fitting."

"Of course. At your convenience."

"And talk. I need to get to know you. I mean, past... well... previous introductions."

"I'll have someone contact your people. I'll get the number from Miranda tomorrow. Is that alright?"

"I …"

"Of course it's alright, Nan." Miranda reassured the other woman.

"Excellent. Well, then, I'm off." She lifted a hand and waved slightly and then left with a big smile of triumph on her face.

"But, wait. When did I say yes?"

"I believe it was right after you said no." Serena smiled tolerantly. "Or a close approximation of it."

"It sounded like a yes to me," Emily agreed. "Though I am a little confused. I thought you hated fashion."

"I didn't hate fashion. Much. I just..." Andrea was staring out, trying to grasp what had just happened. "There are far too many belts to choose from, sometimes."

"That's why we have Miranda," Serena said firmly.

The editor offered one of her more genuine smiles to the art editor. "I hope you remember that on Monday."

"I always do," the Brazillian grinned back. "So. Andy, when do I get my dress?"

The pop and flash was pretty much all Andy remembered of their walk to the car. She was still a little glazed. She had mumbled, before they stepped out, "But I don't have anyone for her to call," and then had gone silent, but pretty.

Roy had the door to the car already open and ready. Andy slid in and then to the side. Miranda followed with easy grace and settled in. The door shut them in. Miranda turned a little to gaze at the younger woman and realized that she had not planned for this moment. She had not originally intended to go anywhere with the brunette.

Yet here they were. "I understand you have a new residence?"

The last time Andy had been in a car with Miranda, they'd been in Paris and the discussion there-in had led to one of the more life-altering decisions of the both of their lives. The brunette's body language shifted slightly, and though she turned toward Miranda like a flower to the sun, her eyes were wide and pupils dilated.

Miranda reached and took the younger woman's hand in her own, clasping it with both hands. "Where would you like to go?"

Her words were a puzzle. "Home where you are."

Miranda let go with one hand and grasped the seat in front of her. She leaned and said quietly. "Do you remember Andrea's new address Roy?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Take us there, then."

Miranda could recall a time when Andrea chattered.

The silence, however, was not unnerving; perhaps because she had not let go of the younger woman's hand. Now the back of Andrea's hand rested on her thigh and her fingers threaded trustingly through Miranda's so their hands were palm to palm.

It was restful.

They arrived at their destination, still in that quiet space. Miranda noted that Roy drove the car into a wide, generous garage space rather than park on the road by the sidewalk. Interesting. As if arriving had been her signal, Andy turned and finally spoke. "Have you had dinner?"

Miranda glanced down at her dress, then at Andy.

"I'll take that as no. Are you hungry?"

"Where was this assertive person earlier?"

"Scared to death. Now I'm just scared." Andy paused a beat, "But hungry."

A small smile graced the older woman's face. "I accept."

Most elevators made Miranda feel claustrophobic, but Andy's was huge, like their own island. By the time they made it to her living space, the editor was half-way to convincing herself that she needed one for Elias-Clark and wondering how she might convince Irv to put it in the budget.

Then again, Andy had grabbed her hand almost as soon as they'd both exited the vehicle. Perhaps what she really needed was to demand the young woman accompany on all elevator rides.

"Welcome to my humble abode," the Andy said.

Miranda's gaze slid around the open space. She decided that humble was not the exact word, even if rich wasn't either. She might not have instantly known, were it not for the woman by her side, whose home this belonged to. A part of her mind, from long ago, had assigned a mid-western taste to Andy and had forgotten to take the label away, even though the young lady had developed a stronger personal style. Now she realized that the brunette had grown a great deal. From the artworks that were hung, to the thick carpet that adorned a wooden floor, to a couch that could seat four quite comfortably, Miranda gained the sense of a woman who knew herself and was well traveled.

"Do you have guests often?"

Andy's smile was quick, "No. Just you. Nigel stopped by once. Doug a few more times." She followed where Miranda's eyes lingered. "I just like big furniture." The next phrase slipped out, despite herself, "You should see the bed."

The blush was charming and she tried to extricate herself, starting with their handclasp. "I'm sorry, that came out …."

Miranda snagged the hand back, but only held it long enough to make her point. "I am not. I look forward to seeing the bed."

The next blush was even better and caused the older woman's expression to turn smug.

"Food. I should make food." Andy pointed in a direction. "Kitchen?"

"In this case, I will follow where you lead."

Andy's eyes widened and Miranda remembered, not for the first time, how very much she enjoyed teasing the young woman. Though she admitted to herself, it was much, much better now.

Miranda slid onto the high-backed stool and watched as Andy began to concoct a quick meal of fingerfoods. She noted the economy and grace of the young woman, whose expression still remained mostly open. It was perhaps a little less revealing now, but Miranda had familiarity and time on her side.

The brunette stepped back from the small platter and wiped her hands on a towel, then she turned and looked at her companion. "I know this is probably going to sound as if I am just trying to get you out of that gown, but would you like a robe?" Her brows wrinkled adorably in thought, "Or an apron?"

"Perhaps the question is, do you want me out of the gown? If so, I will take the robe and we will do so with an understanding. If not, then I will take the apron and we will hold a different understanding. I can say, if given the choice, I would prefer the robe."

The young woman breathed a sound that was very near a squeak. "If you will excuse me for a moment?"

"As you wish." She supposed that sometimes everyone needed time to compose themselves and she was willing to give Andrea that time. She did, however, feel slightly smug about it.

Perhaps three minutes later, if that long, the brunette returned, padding in on bare feet and dressed, if one might say that, in a silk robe of painted dragons that ended at mid thigh and tied modestly in the middle. She blushed as she extended another such garment toward Miranda and said, "I have two bathrooms. The one off the hallway is somewhat small, has as shower and is just on the side of the guest bedroom. The one in my bedroom is … larger." Miranda did not think one could blush more, but Andrea managed it. "You are welcome to use either."

"Will you undo me?" She took the robe and slid off the tall chair. Miranda briefly wondered if Andy had shimmied out of her dress.

The brunette, who apparently was at the end of her verbalization skills stepped around and close. Careful fingers undid the top clasps of the gown, which held the dress together at the back, and then she felt them just a little higher than the hips and the hidden clasp and zipper were also undone.

Miranda turned, folding the robe over her arm, and looked the other woman in the eyes, searching. She saw trepidation, but she also saw desire, want. She reached with her freer hand and pulled the Andy close, with very little resistance. She realized that, right that moment, in her heels, she was of a height, let her gaze flicker down. Then she leaned forward and was met more than half way.


In that moment, she learned two things; first, she wanted to kiss Andrea always and always. Second, the young woman truly knew the art of kissing, how to share and give and take.

The kiss lengthened, sweetened. Miranda wondered, actually wondered, why the hell they had not done this sooner. It felt … amazingly right and incredibly stirring.

Pulling away was honeyed torture; a necessity, but not one without price.

"Are you still hungry?"

Andy's eyes were closed, but they fluttered open as she tried to process the question. "What?"

Miranda smiled gently, "Do you think we should put away the food, Andrea? I don't think we'll be eating quite yet."

They didn't rush to the room, but neither did they dawdle. Miranda slipped out of the gown while Andy put away the food. She was amused to see the deliberate effort the young woman took to not peek; as if she would not be seeing everything soon anyway.

The older woman had long ago dispensed with false modesty. One could not work in her industry without having gotten naked or close to it several times. Of course, her days of walking a runway were long, long past, but she'd done it for the experience, so she would know - from a professional point of view - what one should and should not expect or demand from such performances.

It did mean learning how to dress and undress quickly. She knew that some of her employees were mystified at her seeming ability to change from one outfit to another in a few short minutes.

It came with practice.

As she draped the robe over her shoulders, she glanced at Andy and felt a grin tug at the edges of her lips, and made a small amendment to the thought; or desperation.

As soon as the robe, this one decorated by white tigers and lotus flowers, was wrapped and and the belt tightened, Andy returned to her side. The young woman liberated the gown, which Miranda was holding oh so carefully. And then extended her palm.

In romance novels, one often read that hungry lovers collided with walls and furniture as they kissed and stroked each other in desperation.

Miranda hungered, but she found she adored the gentle pace and forethought that allowed Andy to simply lead her into the bedroom.

The brunette did not let go of her hand until they were well inside and Miranda was doing her best not to gawk. But she allowed herself to really take it in once Andy "left," to hang the gown safely away. The bed was not just big. It was humongous and decadently arrayed with silk sheets, an expansive comforter and several kinds of pillows. A person could get lost in it, she thought.

Andy returned and stood beside her. Her arms were folded. "You might be wondering why," Andy said. "Or not, but... aside from merely enjoying it, that bed isn't going to go anywhere without some heavy lifting. Before F-f...Paris, Nate left me. He took the bed. It was inconvenient."

Miranda's fist clenched hard and her body stiffened. Her mind raced with anger. Andy reached down and took one of the other woman's hands, fist still folded, into both of her own and just held it. She kept her eyes, however, on the broad expanse of the bed. "He's never been in this bed. No one has. Except for me. And soon, I hope, you."

The older woman's nostrils were still flared, but her hand opened like a flower, crossing Andy's palm gently. "You never mentioned..."

"It wasn't work related and what was there to say? If I'd mentioned, it might have come off as... I don't know... weak. It was personal and bringing it up might have caused unnecessary problems. It was better not to say anything."

Miranda shook her head, knowing she disagreed in spirit, if not essence. If she'd known. If she'd only known...

Andy tugged at her hand, started to move forward. The editor followed, let herself be guided, until they were both sitting on the side of the bed where the sheets and the covers had already been unfurled. The younger woman leaned forward, resting her hand at the tie of Miranda's sash.

"I wish," Miranda started, but Andy's lips were suddenly on hers, blazing a kiss of heat and desire. The editor did not forget, but she did let it go; for the moment.

The sash of the editor's robe was undone and pulled open by nimble fingers. Miranda's breath caught as she felt the younger woman's fingertips glide along the skin of her abdomen. The boldness thrilled her, and she refused to be alone in this.

Andy's robe opened with ridiculous ease and Miranda chuckled appreciatively into the kiss. She sculpted her hand along the younger woman's body, up and over soft skin, brushing against her breast, and then over the shoulder. The robe slid off, as silk does. She realized that everything, all the sensations she was feeling, seem doubled in effect.

The younger woman smiled into the kiss, which sweetened the moment, and finished shrugging out of the soft garment, until she was entirely nude. Miranda thought, maybe she didn't just shimmy out of the dress, maybe she ripped everything off. It was a whimsical idea that turned her on immensely, but she suddenly felt overdressed.

Andy held her close, with one arm, while her free hand explored where it willed. The silver-haired woman's breasts were aching from the way the brunette teased through the fabric of the strapless bra. The way her fingertips brushed against the edges, without quite taking off the cloth was slowly driving the editor to the brink. Action simply had to be taken. "Take it off."

The request was husky, but the demand was clear. Andy acted immediately, but without undue haste. The undergarment was carefully removed, but less carefully discarded as it was dropped without regret upon the floor.

Andy guided Miranda by the shoulders and pushed her back until she was reclining on the bed. Tender lips pressed against the older woman's desire-flushed skin; starting at the center of her collar bone, then lining down her abdomen in quick presses. The editor felt fingertips loop through the slender strap of the delicate thong she wore and then the tug.

Andy's smile was sultry and impish, with the slightest hint of impatience. Miranda, who was in no better state, lifted her hips and was freed from another inhibition. As the Andy carefully slid the paltry amount of cloth over Miranda's feet, her grin expanded. "You do rock the heels."

"Perfect balance helps." Blue eyes flashed with amusement.

"It's not just that, and you know it," Andy chided gently. Then, as if to emphasize the point, one hand took the heel of Miranda's foot and the other gently palmed her calf, lightly skimming. "It's the whole package, the way you move. All grace of the tiger combined with that 'damn the torpedoes' attitude. I still remember you walking away from me, when you were so mad about... Well, when you sent me on that impossible quest for Harry Potter and steak and not in that order. My god. My god. I thought I'd lost everything and it was made all the worse by how damn hot you were were."

"Are you saying I walked away first?" Miranda sat up on her elbows and looked at her lover. Her brow arched dangerously. Her leg now rested on Andy's lap. The young woman's fingernails were lightly trailing in random caresses.

"Hmm?" Andy's attention was elsewhere, on the silky feel of the dark satin against her palm, how strong and sleek and beautiful her leg was; so exactly Miranda. "I may be saying how sexy you are when you're torqued, but I suppose technically, you did. Walk out on me first. Then you let me back. So, then it doesn't qualify as a first any more." She glanced up then, as if she'd had a sudden awareness. "I think that's when I knew I might be a little gone on you ... I mean... it was such a deliberate choice to go back, Miranda. I could have left. I was going to. I even called Nate to say I'd quit. And then..." She shook her head. "Well... a miracle. I... You could smell Christian Thomson?"

"On you. I can always smell you."

The shoe in Andy's hand was carefully removed from Miranda's foot, much more carefully than the underclothes had been. Then it was set beside the bed, also with care.

"Really?" Andy glanced up. "Me too. I mean... for you. Since we're talking." Then she blushed ferociously. "Does that mean, the times I went to visit Nate for lunch..." It wasn't many times, given circumstances, but there were a few chance opportunities that they grabbed. She did try to clean up, but...

"You were always admirably discrete, but yes. I knew."

"I think I may be amazingly turned on by that." Andy blinked and blushed and lifted Miranda's other leg. "No. I know I am. Though... wow. I don't know whether I should apologize..."

"Never. Fresh love smelled exquisite on you. I was envious, but not yet possessive."

"Not yet..."

"Paris realigned my perspective. Among other things." Miranda said, eyes hot. "We can work out the parameters later, I think, if you wish. Permissions are much easier to live with than falsehoods. If Stephen had been truthful, you and I might not be here."

"Then thank god for liars. I've had some dalliances over the last few years, but honestly, my vision has always held you in sight. I just never thought... ever... that..." Andy grinned fiercely. She took off the other shoe. "I can hardly wait until I smell of you."

This time it was Miranda whose flush lit up her skin.

Andy's hands next slid up Miranda's leg, both palms pressing against the satin, until she arrived at the cuff. Her fingertips gently rolled the stocking down, thrilling tiny caresses against soft, smooth skin. She paused to kiss just above Miranda's knee, then the shin. She lifted the foot as she pulled the stocking completely off and kissed the bare skin once it was visible. The stocking went flying away. "I love you in bare feet. I've never mentioned, but it's true."

"The feeling is mutual, I assure you," Miranda husked, as Andy started on the other leg. More kisses, more caresses, and another stocking gone. The younger woman moved then sliding away and finally letting the other woman's leg go. "Going somewhere?"

"Yes," Andy said, as she stood. Then she moved until she was aligned with Miranda. She moved forward, pressing her knee at the point between the other woman's knees. The editor needed no more hint. She moved, sliding back a little, letting her legs part. Andy clasped her by her calves and "helped," until Miranda's feet were planted on the bed, legs akimbo.

She crawled between them, on hands, then knees; until she was crouched over Miranda and their breasts were almost aligned.

The editor grasped her lover's face in her hands, then kissed her warmly and then with much more fire.

Andrea whispered into the kiss, "Everything in me tingles for you."

Miranda pulled back, "Andrea," she breathed and then she laid her lips on the younger woman's cheeks, her chin and finally her lips again. "You might say I feel the same, but there is a proof."

"I better go find it then," the brunette husked. She grazed her lips against Miranda's neck, allowed her teeth to draw tiny nipping trail, slid her tongue along the curve. She supported herself with one hand, while the other caressed, slid teasingly along the skin of the editor's abdomen and up. Her fingertips slid over rounded breasts, along the crinkled rounds of her lover's nipples. She rolled the aching points, loving how they grew even more taut and responsive, until her lips had to join the fun.

Her tongue graced and teased Miranda's breasts, her mouth sucked and pulled, until the other woman groaned with the pleasure of it. The sound alone made Andy's skin rejoice, and sent trilling sensations of delight along her pulse points.

She wanted more.

Miranda's hands and lips were not still either. She had always been a woman of action. She caressed, drew her palms and fingertips over all the skin she could reach. But she had to pause and surrender, when Andy's attention refused to waiver, when she dedicated whole spans of lifetimes to just pleasuring her breasts until she throbbed, here and there and everywhere.

"Andrea, I must taste you. I must feel you ..." So much to do and so far away. That needed to change.

The younger woman pulled back, her expression heated. "Impatient?"

"Yes. You know how I like to be kept waiting."

Andy's lips captured Miranda's again as passion rose inexorably from those words. "You'd wait for me. If I asked nicely."

"Cheeky. Yes. Are you asking?"

"No." Andy shook her head and drew back. "But I have to move again. And so do you."

"You're lucky I'm the agreeable sort."

Andy had the grace not to outright laugh, but she did gently nudge her lover. "Fortunately we have a whole bed in which to prove it."

They managed, between kisses and caresses to get where Andy planned; on their sides, one leg slid under and one looped over. Facing, more or less in proper directions on the bed. The young woman no longer had access to Miranda's breasts, but she had plenty to otherwise entertain herself. Fingers threaded through trimmed and sculpted curls. Even here, nothing out of place. She blew her breath over the skin and tuft, felt a responding pat on her backside.

That was her only warning, before, as Miranda had warned, she was impatiently sought. "Oh my!" The only answer from the editor was a near purr of satisfied gratification. Her hips jolted despite herself, but she managed to hold off from an outright thrust. Until Miranda started doing "that thing" with her tongue. Then again, it was more than a thing. Miranda was utterly skillful and her tender assault nearly made Andy's eyes roll back with pleasure.

She gasped a breath and fought not to be too distracted, not yet. Not yet. But she was clenching in response, feeling the hastening tightness of sweetness overtaking her. She wanted a share in this. She spread Miranda gently, delighted in the texture and the colors, found the points she wanted and then pursued her lover's bliss with hungry abandon.

She tasted wonderful, like Miranda ought to taste, as she had imagined. She drank her up, sipped and licked; found the ripening hub and slid her tongue along it like it was a genie's lamp granting all wishes. Then she suckled it in, pulling it in for a deeper kiss, a tonguing caressful kiss. She hummed into it, let tongue and mouth explore. She found depth and filled it. Her arms wrapped around Miranda's hips to bring her closer, unaware of the near demanding sound she made. She lost herself to it then, lost herself in every way to the delight and wonder of it.

She was not alone. Not the only one supping the great feast, thriving on it. Miranda found her addicting, wanted only more and more. As much as she would give. She explored with fingertips, sliding against silked wetness, finding their home in Andrea. She pressed in with two and then as her need increased, the urge to utterly claim the young woman for her own, inspired three.

Andrea cried out with it, not quite there, but on the edge, so close; so very close. Miranda wanted it. Wanted to hear the young woman's cry of completion. Then she found herself plundered, felt the fair turn about and could not pull away from the summons.

They pressed and pulled each other, kissed in sacred bond against the lovers' jewel, drank each other up. They rose with it, felt the singing pressure of belly and flooded heat. It was no one thing. It was everything. Andy started it. "M-m Miranda! Miranda! Please."

"Yes. Now!" It was as if a switch was throne, as if the missing piece had been collected and plunged into the puzzle. They skyrocketed, erupted, cried out each other's name as if they were divinity incarnate. They were swirled into pleasure's deep abandon.

The intensity shook through them both, left them in wakes of pleasure that sparked through them with every tiny little motion. It took time to recover and they lay, intimately twined, catching their breaths, recovering what parts of their souls they could.

Andy slid away first, but only so she could turn and crawl slowly, leaving a trail of kisses along Miranda's side. By the time she arrived at the pillows, where the other woman rested, one arm under her head, she had manage to spark off several more small quakes in her lover's body. Miranda watched her with settle in, with heavy lidded eyes. "There you are." She lifted her free hand and slid her fingers through Andy's hair, brushing it back. "It seems you finally remembered my name."

Andy's laugh was breathless. She had been caught off guard. "Your name," she said, equally quietly, "is very precious to me and quite unforgettable. I... just have had some difficulty saying it lately."

Miranda's touch trailed to moist lips. Andy's tongue flicked out, a brief tease and taste. Miranda smiled. "Cured?"

"I don't know. We may have to try again and again. It's been years since I could say your name properly."

Miranda leaned forward then, and kissed her lover softly. "Then we will try as often as you need. I really hate pet names. I will accept darling. Try to avoid dear. Honey, if you really must."

The acknowledgment that there would be more, that there was a time foreseeable, overwhelmed the younger woman. Tears did more than threaten, they slid, unannounced and uncontrollable, but not unnoticed. Andy folded in, but Miranda drew her close and held her.

Miranda touched the warm dark wood of the altar, appreciating the smooth finish of the piece. She was dressed, if one could call it that, in the robe again. Andy was re-preparing the finger-foods in the kitchen. She said they needed their strength.

Miranda, until just that moment, had been feeling quite strong. Now she felt, moved. Her hand grazed over the trim wood panel of the photo of Andrea's family, then moved to hover near the other image, one set aside, rather than across from the family photo. The frame was thicker and a touch more ornate, but it was a match for color, and accented the other pieces in place quite nicely. She stared, not a photo of Andrea, as one might think, but at an image of herself.

She did not know how the young woman had acquired it and was half afraid to ask. She supposed Nigel had a hand in it. It seemed like something he would do.

Before she could speculate more, Andrea arrived, carrying a platter and somehow managing two filled glasses at the same time.

Miranda liberated the glasses, preferring to avoid unnecessary catastrophe.

"You found the altar." Andy stepped closer, "It was a gift from my aunt. It's an art piece."

"It's lovely. Nice photos," Miranda said.

Andy smiled and then blinked. "Photos?"

She glanced over Miranda's shoulder and then blinked again. " but..." She glanced at the bookshelf and then back at the altar. "I can explain..." Except, really she couldn't. She had not framed that photo.

Miranda turned, her expression warm. "Nothing to explain. You told me of my worth to you earlier, did you not?"

"Well," Andy paused, and then gave up trying to figure it out. "Yes. Yes I did."

"So. You must love me."

"I really must. And have for a long time."

"And I you."

"Wow." Andy looked at the platter of food, and considered where a kiss that moment might lead. Then she looked at the altar again, trying not to feel spooked. "I think, we might want to go sit down. I have some thing I need to tell you about Aunt Dorene and her gifts."


"Depends on your perspective."

Miranda chewed thoughtfully. She had not said a word during the young woman's explanation. Instead, she had listened and partaken of the platter and sipped her sparkling water. Andy wound down and appeared to be waiting with a touch of dread; as if Miranda would suddenly cut her off and go storming out, because of some possible mysterious influence.

Personally, Miranda was considering if she ought to send a gift in return and what kind. "Do you think she'd like to come to New York?"

Andy blinked. "Maybe. I... Why?"

"I was thinking of a gallery she might like. I am also thinking of my friend Nan. It's high time she found someone again."


"Ah. See, cured. But much too soon. I will have to devastate you with my lovemaking skills so you can be cured again." She popped a grape into her mouth, and smiled a tight-lipped, impish smile.

Andy gaped. "But... don't you see... it's possible this was..."

"Don't be ridiculous. Correlation is not causation. You made choices. As I made choices. It makes for a happy confluence of events. And even if there was a little magical push involved, I am fairly sure it was of the sort that leaves freewill quite active. Otherwise, you would have found yourself married to cook-boy, rather than eating dinner on this bed with me. Which, I might say, is a terrible habit..."

"In bed with you..."

"No. That is a naughty, must happen over and over again habit. I am speaking of eating food in bed."

"Oh. Well. Bedding can be changed out."

"My point, however, is that while I believe this was probably inevitable and possibly inspired, I do not however, come into this blindly. I wanted you far longer than you've had that altar. And, given certain revelations, you've wanted me just as long."

Andy cocked her head and then realized she did not have an answer that would not be the equivalent of shooting herself in the foot. "I think I'll just go with you on this one."

"A wise choice." Miranda reached and clasped Andy's hand. "As I won't let you argue me away, nor will I let you devalue your talents and skills. You will simply have to accept my word for it, if nothing else. I'm not going anywhere, at least, as far as you're concerned. You may as well face it, you're stuck with me." She squeezed lightly, and then kissed her lover.

Miranda was right, but she still thought she might have to thank her Aunt Dorene. After all, her life had changed quite a bit and... well... she had Miranda. Here. Now. And apparently, for always. Well, and that picture. Framed. Inwardly, Andy shrugged. Outwardly, she smiled into the kiss and surrendered.



This is the poem that started me on the trek:


A Poem by Claudia MelGregory


© 2001

Had you told me then,

That you doubted my heart's affection,

I would have poured out the contents

Of that very heart.

I would have told you,

My Love, that you were more

Goddess Than woman to me;

That my heart lie beating in Sacrifice

Upon the altar of your Temple.

I would have told you that i Worship

Your beauty with the ardor of

A disciple.

That I knelt not before you

Peering up at you upon a


But that I was humbled by the

Equanimity of your gaze.

I held you not above reproach

Nor held you high in Perfect


For you laid your failings bare.

Your shortcomings did you

Present naked before my eyes.

And in those Imperfections

I have found Perfection.

In your words of Devotion

I have found Absolution.

In your eyes mercurial,

Ever changing as the seasons,

I have found a constant foundation

In your Temperament, volatile,

Ever swaying as the weather,

I have found an anchor.

So I worship you:

Empress, Goddess of my Domain,

But not at your feet.

I worship at the door of your soul,

Praying each time I knock,

That this door will open.

I make confessions to you

In the confessional of our

Hallowed Love.

You are my Sacred Grace,

My Sweet Benediction.

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