Rating: NC-17 (it was supposed to stay PG-13, but uhm... things sort of worked out this way... I blame Miranda!)
Genre: Romantic comedy with a sprinkle of magic and a crack-ish idea at its core.
Setting: Movie-verse. After the benefit, but before Paris. Andy is still with Nate and Mira is still with Stephen, but not for long... harhar!
Summary: There's nothing like a little spell to bring Miranda and Andy closer together. ^_^
Disclaimer:I don't own anything of the Devil Wears Prada, the book or the movie. I merely borrow the characters and play around with them for a while. I'm not making any profit from this piece of writing unless you consider the warm and fuzzy feelings of happiness! Whee!:-D
Note: This has NOT been beta-read. I apologise for mistakes that might be floating around! It's simply because I don't see them in such a huge amount of text. I will take the time to go over them one by one and update with a better version some time in the near future! ^_^;
A/N: This random craziness was inspired by my love for "His Dark Materials" by Philip Pullman and all Ghibli Studio movies by Hayao Miyazaki. Their depicted interactions between humans and animals/daemons always make me smile. Also, I have two dogs and some of the behaviour described in this story is directly taken from my experience with them. :-)
A/N2:I don't mean for this to be a political statement or to cause any discussions. It's merely meant to be entertainment! :D
A/N3: okay... so maybe the pacing of this story is a bit odd... the end is sort of loooong. That is entirely the fault of our two ladies and the wonderful connection they have built during the main part of the fic, and it felt wrong to not indulge in that intense chemistry. Then again, I'm sure long-windedness is okay when it concerns schnuggles. ^_^ You may see it as a story... and a very loooong epilogue of sorts. Ha! :D
Fur? No Thanks, I'd Rather Go Naked!
Andy Sachs averted her gaze from the group of naked protesters as she hurried past them and entered the revolving glass doors to the Elias-Clark building on Thursday morning. Working in fashion, she had seen her fair share of exposed skin, but sheepishly glancing at the beautiful models of a lingerie photo shoot and staring wide-eyed at completely naked, and not necessarily attractive, PETA protesters were two different things. She strode through the lobby and toward the elevators with the chorus of "Fur? No thanks! We'd rather go naked," still echoing from the street.
She wasn't averse to their cause. She loved animals and she hated that so many cute critters had to suffer in order for humans to bask in the luxury of their fur. However, she had never quite been able to find her place in the debate against fur. Stepping into the elevator cabin she gripped the cardboard tray full of coffee more firmly. She couldn't understand the fanatics that would bare all on the New York streets to draw attention to the brutal fate of a little bunny, but who then still wore Dr. Martens without questioning the origin of the leather.
There was a certain hypocrisy and self-righteousness that had always made Andy wary of PETA members. Especially since many of them seemed to target her boss. The junior assistant of course knew that Miranda liked to wear the occasional fur wrap, but the editor was also fond of animals, if her St. Bernard Patricia and the many wildlife preservation charities she supported were any indication. Fur was part of the world of fashion, and as much as the brunette was disgusted by the farms, part of her appreciated how divine Miranda Priestly looked in a mink coat. She attempted to ignore the investigative journalist inside of her, who screamed that Andy, too, was a hypocrite.
After stepping off the elevator at Runway magazine she strode past the receptionist with her usual, friendly good morning wave and made her way through the maze of corridors to her desk. Emily, Miranda's senior assistant, was already busy printing their boss' itinerary when she acknowledged Andy's presence with a sniff. The redhead, who wasn't known for being particularly fond of Andy, had recently warmed up a little after the junior assistant had saved her ass at the annual benefit ball at the Met. However that didn't stop Emily from showing the occasional sign of disdain to keep up a pretence of hostility.
"Morning Em," the brunette greeted cheerfully as she handed over the other woman's coffee. She then carried Miranda's cup through the double doors and into the editor-in-chief's office to set it carefully down onto the desk. Making sure everything was in order she walked back to the assistants' area and took off her coat.
"Roy just texted. Miranda will be here in two minutes," the redhead mumbled, "I need to get these to the Closet," she held up a couple of Calvin Klein bags, "and then I'm going to Hermès so I won't be back until at least ten."
Andy nodded and tried not to dwell on the fact that running errands around the city used to be the junior assistant's job. For some reason Miranda had delegated all tasks that took the assistants out of the office to Emily, which meant that Andy now spent a large amount of her time tied to the desk, taking calls and rearranging her boss' schedule. The brunette didn't really mind because remaining in the office meant, being around Miranda.
The confident stride of four-inch heels coming from the corridor signalled the editor's arrival, so Andy quickly glanced at the reflective glass of a framed Runway cover from 1994 to put her hair in order, before stepping around her desk to welcome her boss.
Miranda pushed effortlessly through the glass doors, and without making eye contact or uttering a simple greeting, she began rattling off instructions for the day ahead.
"Reschedule my lunch with Irv to Tuesday and make sure the restaurant has an adequate choice of wine this time." The white-haired queen of fashion said in annoyance as she dropped the Book into Andy's waiting arms. "Call my ex-husband and let him know the girls will leave directly from Dalton, pick up Patricia on the way and should be in the Hamptons by eight. Then phone my husband and tell him that I won't make it to dinner tonight." Dropping her grey Marc Jacobs bag on her assistant's desk, she began shrugging out of her coat. "And get security to remove those barbarians outside the building. Is it too much to ask for the streets to be free of this vermin when I arrive in the morning?" The older woman paused to underline the last command with her signature glare and then finished with a customary 'that's all.'
Andy expertly caught the soft blur of Miranda's navy coat and nodded. She tried to not inhale the editor's scent still lingering in the fur in her arms too deeply as she moved to hang it in the closet behind her desk. She needed to get herself under control. Seven months in the older woman's employ and Andy still found herself star-struck. If she didn't know better she'd even say that it was getting worse. A glance into her boss' office confirmed that Miranda was already sitting behind her desk, sipping her skimmed-milk, double-shot latte and browsing through the morning papers.
Clutching the Book to her chest Andy tried to calm her racing heart, and she hurried to get the mock-up of the magazine's upcoming issue, filled with post-it notes of Miranda's comments, to the art department. On her way back she used her mobile phone to rearrange Miranda's schedule and cancel dinner with her husband.
As soon as she entered through the glass doors she heard raised voices coming from Miranda's office.
"What do you think you're doing?"
At her boss' steely tone Andy immediately looked up to see a very peculiar man standing in front of the editor's glass desk. He was wearing a floor-length wool coat that was littered with holes and colourful, patterned patches, and the wide-rimmed hat on his head released his raven hair in a single, thick braid that fell heavily down his back.
"I've come here to make a point," he answered with a surprisingly warm and friendly voice.
"I beg your pardon?" Miranda almost barked as she rose from her chair and elegantly, and not unlike a snow leopard circling its prey, sauntered around her desk.
As the man began to pull his hand out of his coat pocket, time slowed down for Andy. Almost as if in a dream she propelled forward as quickly as her high heels would allow and she flung herself in between her boss and the stranger at the exact moment as the man uttered a few unrecognisable words and a green flash of light zoomed through the air. Miranda looked stunned as she was struck and, in another blinding flash, she disappeared.
Pop. Gone. Just like that.
Andy stared at the collapsing pile of the older woman's clothes and could barely cover the horrified shriek that left her lips as she pressed her hand against her mouth. She spun around and almost screamed at the stranger.
"What have you done! Get her back!" She was hysterical. "Get Miranda back!"
His friendly eyes took Andy by surprise and further words died on her tongue as he gave her a smile that looked almost apologetic.
"Do not worry. Once she has finally made a difference, she will be back to her regular self."
He patted Andy on the shoulder and then cocked his head with a glimmer of curiosity in his gaze. "Hmmm, it appears that part of the spell has touched you as well." He squinted, pulling his copper skin into deep wrinkles around his eyes and forehead, as he fully evaluated the assistant. "Maybe that is for the best."
"For the best... spell... her regular self...?" Andy repeated in a stunned whisper.
"Take good care of her!"
And with that he turned around and walked away. Staring after him in complete and utter shock, the junior assistant tried to wrap her mind around what had just happened. She turned to look at the pile of clothes on the floor, worth easily over two-thousand dollars. She was at a loss of what to do. Should she run after him, or maybe phone 911? Adrenaline was clouding her brain and she bent her knees and sat down on the carpet.
With a bit of hesitation she reached out and ran her fingers over the still warm silk of the dark red blouse Miranda had been wearing just a minute ago. Her mind overrun with worry for the older woman, she couldn't hold back the thick tears that began rolling down her cheeks.
"Miranda... where are you?" She sniffed, wiping her eyes and nose with the back of her hand.
A sudden movement under the heap of designer garments startled her and she jumped up with a yelp.
"Andrea, would you calm yourself down," came the editor's disembodied voice.
Tears halting, Andy looked around the room, eyes wide. Had Miranda become a ghost? Was she invisible?
"Stop stuttering so unattractively and help me!"
Good. If her boss still dished out insults things couldn't be too bad.
"I... I don't know where you are."
"Did that man hit you with a stupid-spell?" Miranda gave a muffled sigh. "I'm right in front of you, Andrea."
Andy looked down at the moving pile of clothes again. Oh god, that man had shrunk the queen of fashion and now she was drowning in her own clothes!
The brunette's heart hammered violently as she carefully shifted through the layers of silk, avoiding to think about the fact that Miranda's underwear was somewhere among the shed garments. Suddenly a white, furry head poked through the slack remains of the Prada skirt and despite Andy's instinct for flight as she spotted the array of tiny, sharp teeth under the cutest button nose, the icy glare of very familiar blue-green eyes froze her on the spot.
She stared dumbly at the weasel-like animal, seeing the truth flashing in bright neon letters in front of her, but refusing to accept it.
"Stop gaping, Andrea. It makes you look like a fish," the weasel spoke and Andy felt herself balance dangerously close to the edge of fainting.
"M-Miranda... is that you?"
The ridiculous image of this white ball of fur sniffing in a very Priestly fashion tethered Andy firmly back to the sturdy ground of consciousness.
"Of course it's me. Who else would it be?"
"Uhm... it's just... you're kind of... a weasel... thing."
"Excuse me?" The small animal spat and wriggled fully out of the pile of clothes with a very human air of arrogance. "This isn't the time for jokes, Andrea."
"Uhm... I'm not joking..." she looked around helplessly until she spotted the octagonal mirror above the editor's desk. "Wait." She pushed off the floor and lifted the heavy, framed object off its wall support. "Here," she continued as she lowered and angled the reflective glass into Miranda's direction. "See for yourself."
Resting the mirror's edge on the carpet she watched as the weasel-being carefully crept closer and studied itself. Its long body twisted to either side as it regarded its appearance quietly, lifting its little head and squinting those vivid eyes at the reflection as if somehow insulted by what it saw.
Andy was jolted from her silent observations at the calmly spoken words.
"Not a weasel... a mink, Andrea. Or neovison vison in Latin. The American variety," mink-Miranda said matter-of-factly as she continued to study herself, using the tiny paws to brush over her fluffy head and licking her tongue over her teeth.
"Oh... okay..." Andy mumbled from where she knelt behind the mirror. "Uhm... but what are we going to do?"
The mink glared up and over the silver frame, straight at the brunette.
"Use your pretty, little head, Andrea."
On a regular day the 'pretty' would have escalated Andy's mood to beyond ecstatic, but today was certainly not a 'regular' day. Far from it. The only thing that convinced the junior assistant that this wasn't, in fact, a dream, were those icy eyes drilling into her. Even her overly creative mind could not reproduce Miranda's glare like this.
"Uhm, okay... I'll get your clothes off the floor and make sure nobody in the office sees you... like this." Andy vaguely waved her hands into Miranda's direction. "Then I will cancel all of your appointments for the rest of the day and... uhm... research mink."
The small animal's look was inscrutable, but after a brief moment of contemplative silence, she nodded her little head and said, "There's the smart girl I hired."
She left out the 'fat', Andy realised. Animal-Miranda was certainly less stingy with compliments than human Miranda.
"Alright," the brunette got off the floor and returned the mirror to its spot on the wall. When she walked back to pick up the clothes mink-Miranda had already managed to hoist herself onto the couch in the far corner of the office, and now sat poised and as regal as a fluffy animal the size of a small terrier could possibly be.
Shock slowly wearing off, Andy couldn't suppress her grin at the image.
"Stop grinning and pick up the clothes before anyone has a chance to see them!" The editor commanded, and Andy quickly gathered up the pile of fabric and the pair of Jimmy Choo heels.
"Do not wrinkle everything! Hang them up properly!"
Andy swallowed against the lump in her throat as she placed everything on the desk and fetched two hangers from the clothing rack by the window. First she carefully shook out the silk blouse and tried really hard to fight a blush when a delicate, La Perla bra slipped out and fell onto the desk. Sheepishly smoothing the fabric of the blouse she hung the silk garment onto the rack and then proceeded to sort out the skirt.
I am not touching Miranda's lingerie, lalala, she chanted inwardly when her shaky hands gathered up the bra and matching briefs that felt entirely too thin against her fingers. Of course she wasn't looking, but instead gazed out of the window at the New York skyline, feigning total ignorance.
It's completely normal that I'm standing here, fingering my boss' underwear while she has turned into a mink and is sitting on the couch, judging me with those tiny eyes...
Rolling up the pantihose she exhaled forcefully. "Where should I put... these?"
"In the bathroom cabinet. Bottom shelf," came mink-Miranda's answer and Andy hurried to get rid of the items that had her pulse racing.
Happy she had finished with this embarrassing task, she strode back into the office where she stopped dead in her tracks and stared at the couch.
"Uhm... Miranda, what are you doing?"
The little creature lifted its head, tongue sticking out from where it had just licked a paw.
"Grooming, of course. What does it look like, Andrea?"
"Uhm... okay... ugh, I'll just..." the assistant mumbled and gestured into the direction of the outer office, "... make those phone calls." She shook her head in disbelief and walked to the open double doors where she briefly turned around to face mink-Miranda once more.
"Please don't run off or let anyone see you! I don't want to have to deal with distraught staff members who have contacted pest control, insisting that a weasel-like creature was attempting to murder them with poisonous glares."
Miranda didn't reply, but gave a small sniff that sounded rather close to a snort.
It took Andy nearly forty-five minutes to cancel and rearrange all of the editor's appointments. People generally worshipped the ground Miranda walked on, but their ass-kissing and fake friendliness never extended to her assistants which made cancellations and last-minute changes even more difficult. The junior assistant sighed and cracked the stiffness from her neck before getting up and checking on her boss. She found the little creature curled up on one of the green chairs, her furry body softly rising and falling as she slept.
Andy was overwhelmed by how adorable the mink looked. Now that its eyes were closed and it didn't talk and flash those sharp, carnivorous teeth, she could pretend that it was simply a cute, slumbering animal. She tiptoed a little closer and the almost inaudible, little snores coming from the creature were utterly endearing. Kneeling next to the chair Andy hesitantly reached out to touch the soft fur and wake Miranda.
"What in the bloody hell are you doing?"
At the sudden voice from the doorway to the outer office Andy quickly pulled her hand back, however it wasn't fast enough. The pain of several sharp teeth sinking into the side of her palm had the brunette reeling, but she managed to suppress a scream. Unlike Emily, though, who began throwing British slang obscenities around and rushed into their boss' office. The redhead quickly reached for one of the magazines on the desk, rolled it up and attempted to beat the mink off her co-worker's hand.
"Emily! Emily, stop it!" Andy commanded in panic. "Don't hurt her, she was just startled, and it's the animal instinct taking over!" The pain was strong, but not enough to overpower her worry for Miranda, and so she picked up the frantic creature with her other hand and cradled it against her chest, shielding it from harm. Thankfully the little jaw released its grasp on her flesh and she grimaced as she flexed her injured hand.
The senior assistant stopped her assault and glared incredulously at Andy and the mink.
"You got to be kidding me. That giant rat belongs to you?"
The brunette rolled her eyes and pressed mink-Miranda a bit tighter to herself.
"She's not a rat, Emily."
"I don't care what it is," the British woman scoffed as she tossed the magazine back on the editor's desk with a loud smack. "If Miranda sees you with it, she will kill both of you!"
"Emily, please bore somebody else with your assumptions," a much calmer Miranda spoke from her secure spot against Andy's breast. "Go make yourself useful."
The redhead continued to glare at Andy.
"Uhm, Emily... didn't you hear her?"
"Hear who? There's nobody here except for us two and that giant rat."
"Are you saying you didn't just hear... someone..." the brunette chose her words carefully, "... telling you to get back to work?"
Emily stemmed her hands on her hips and stared at Andy as if the latter had just grown a second head.
"Are you daft? And why are holding that... thing after it has just bitten your entire hand off?"
"She didn't mean to do that," the junior assistant mumbled, turning her upper body away from Emily and holding the mink firmly in her arms. Miranda took her completely by surprise when her tiny tongue began lapping at the small puncture wounds on Andy's palm. The brunette's resulting gasp stemmed from a combination of pain and utter disbelief.
Wow, for once Miranda is licking the injuries her mouth has inflicted on another person! How totally and utterly bizarre!
"Hey, Sachs!" Emily waved in front of her colleague's face to get her attention. "I'm serious. If Miranda finds out you brought your own personal zoo to work, you're toast."
Andy tore her gaze away from the image of mink-Miranda's tongue sliding over her skin and looked up at the senior assistant.
"Don't worry about that. Miranda... uhm..." She absent-mindedly stroked the back of mink-Miranda's neck. "She called in sick. She won't be coming into the office today. I already took care of her schedule, but I haven't had time to inform Nigel." Andy sighed. "Could you please do that, Emily?"
The Brit studied her for a moment and then rolled her eyes and turned to walk out of the office with a sniff. "Fine. But take care of... that thing," she pointed at Miranda and then stalked off.
"Uhm... okay, that was weird. She couldn't understand you," Andy spoke as she lowered Miranda back to the chair. "Why do you think that is?"
"Maybe I'm just a figment of your imagination," the mink sniffed and planted its little butt on the cushion, staring challengingly at the junior assistant.
"Ha-ha," Andy laughed sarcastically. Her injured hand had begun to throb and she winced as she brought it up for closer inspection. "No, I think you're very real. Ugh. I hope you don't have rabies..."
"I do not have rabies, Andrea. Don't be ridiculous!"
The brunette just grimaced and then exhaled steadily against her bangs to try and concentrate on getting the pain somewhat under control.
"There's a first-aid kit in the bathroom as well as some Tylenol," Miranda spoke a bit more gently. "Get yourself patched up. Then I think we should leave the office before someone calls security."
Andy nodded in agreement and slipped into the private bathroom to tend to her hand. When she had finished she walked back toward the furry creature on the chair, holding up a hand towel.
"Here, I thought if I have to hide you in my bag you might at least be comfortable."
Mink-Miranda made no move to jump into Andy's waiting arms and the brunette sighed in frustration. "Miranda. You're pretty much stuck in this state for god knows how long, and it appears that so far I'm your only ally. So you better get used to me carrying you around."
After another brief moment of defiance, the furry creature finally sat up on its hind legs and allowed the brunette to pick it up.
"Okay," Andy mumbled as she walked to her own desk and retrieved her purse. "Where are we going? Your town house?"
The mink seemed to ponder for a while and the assistant managed to carefully lower the animal into her brown leather bag.
"Yes, it should be empty. Stephen is working and the girls are gone for the weekend."
At that moment Emily returned and eyed Andy sceptically. "Where do you think you're going?"
"Taking care of my little friend," the brunette replied, pointing at her bag as she pulled on her coat. "And then I'm going to the town house. Miranda... wants me to run some errands for her."
"Right," Emily rolled her eyes. "How come you're always the favourite?"
"I'm not her favourite," Andy mumbled sheepishly, fully aware of Miranda listening in on every word.
"Of course you are." The redhead parked her scrawny butt in the desk chair and dramatically flipped her hands in the air. "Whatever. I'm kind of glad I don't have to face a sick Miranda."
"Uhm... okay... well, I'll be going then." Andy slung her bag across her shoulder and gripped it tightly. "If you or Nigel have any questions just phone me and I'll relay your messages to Miranda."
"Yes, Number One," Emily mocked, but then added, "good luck!"
The ride to the town house was uneventful, unless you counted the moment when Roy raised his eyebrows at Andy, because she kept talking to her bag. The brunette, however, spirited the weirdness away with a blinding smile and refrained from further conversation with Miranda until they arrived at their destination.
Standing on the wide stone steps to Miranda's home in the daytime was strange and Andy felt severely out of place.
"What are you waiting for? An invitation?" Mink-Miranda huffed from her cosy, little bag-nest.
The assistant didn't respond but quickly retrieved her spare key and let them into the building. She had trained to cross the wooden floor of the downstairs landing almost silently, since delivering The Book and Miranda's dry-cleaning in the evenings was supposed to happen almost as if by magic. The assistants weren't allowed to make a single noise, but were expected to simply drop off the items and disappear again as if they had never even set foot into the house.
The brunette tiptoed further until she reached the base of the stairs.
"What are you doing, Andrea?" Miranda peeked her head out of the bag and Andy could have sworn she saw the mink roll its tiny eyes.
"Uhm... sorry... it's a habit," her voice didn't rise above a whisper.
The furry creature sighed and there was almost a hint of sadness.
"Am I really that scary?"
"Oh,... no. I just... don't want to disturb you and your family..."
Andy didn't want to add that drawing attention and risking to see Miranda in her slightly more casual home wear elicited rather overwhelming reactions on the brunette's part. Not to mention that the idea of walking in on another fight between her boss and Stephen was something the assistant would rather avoid altogether.
The brunette's question was interrupted by the laughter coming from the second floor.
"What was that? The house is supposed to be empty," Miranda sounded surprised, and Andy began to get a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. Her boss was going to make her investigate.
"Uhm... maybe I should leave... you're save here, right? I mean it's your home..."
Another round of laughter drew their attention upstairs once more.
"Don't be a baby, Andrea, and get up there."
"What if it's a burglar?" Andy whispered, one foot resting hesitantly on the bottom step.
"Then the alarm would have gone off. Use your head, silly girl!"
The assistant grumbled and squared her shoulders. Nothing good could ever come from walking up these stairs. They were cursed where Andy was concerned. Gathering up some courage she clutched the bag a bit tighter and began to ascend toward her doom.
Following the gentle curve of the stairs the voices became more defined and Andy could make out the laughter of at least one man and one woman.
"Stephen," mink-Miranda hissed.
Shit!Andy thought. This wasn't going to end well.
"Miranda, let's leave, please."
"Nonsense. When he spots you, just say you're here to fetch some papers from my office."
The brunette gulped. When he spotted her. She wasn't sure she wanted that to happen at all, but in a way she felt bad for Miranda, and this situation was more or less indicative of a failing marriage, which as sad as it may have been, still for some reason sparked something inside Andy that almost tasted of hope. The assistant grumbled and wrapped a supportive arm around Miranda in the bag.
"Okay, stay hidden. I don't want him to see you, or worse, hurt you."
The mink gave a muffled growl from beneath the towel but settled down and remained still. Glancing at the ceiling and uttering a silent prayer to whomever may be listening, Andy cleared her throat and shouted. "Uhm... hello? Anybody home?"
The voices stopped abruptly and after a few long seconds of silence a door in the far end of the corridor was opened and Stephen stepped out, buttoning his shirt.
"Who are you, and what are you doing in my house?"
"His house!" The brunette heard Miranda sniff angrily from her hiding place.
"Uhm... I'm Miranda's assistant. She sent me to fetch a few things. I'm sorry to interrupt, but she assured me the house would be empty at this time of day." Andy surprised herself at being able to say all that without flinching.
Miranda's husband stepped closer and the brunette could see recognition dawn on his face as he swept his gaze up and down her form. For some reason when Miranda did just that, it never bothered Andy, but now that Stephen was openly checking her out she felt dirty and uncomfortable.
"Oh yeah. I remember you. You have a knack for walking up these stairs at inopportune moments." He gave her a crooked smile and moved even closer
"I'm just gonna go to her office and then I'll be out of your hair," Andy stammered.
He stopped a few feet in front of her and fumbled in his pants pocket. "How about," he pulled out a fifty-dollar-bill, "you forget that you saw me here today?"
Andy glared at the money in disbelief when it was thrust in her direction. Did that jerk honestly believe her loyalty to Miranda could be bought off?
"Take it," came Miranda's whisper, and for a second the brunette was worried that Stephen could hear Miranda as he raised a questioning eyebrow. "Take the money, Andrea. He might as well already start paying now."
With a pained smile she reached for the cash and nodded to Stephen. "Okay, no problem. I understand."
No, actually she didn't understand at all. How could anyone cheat on someone as beautiful and brilliant as Miranda? That thought lay completely beyond the reach of Andy's comprehension.
"So yeah... I'm just gonna go get the stuff I came here for and leave." She gestured vaguely toward random doors, obviously having not the slightest idea where Miranda's office was located.
Stephen gave a sleazy smile and pointed behind her. "It's the third door on the left."
"Thanks," the brunette allowed a smirk so fake, she was afraid her cheeks would fall off.
Most painfully awkward day ever!
She hurried to the indicated room and released a sigh of relief as soon as she was out of Stephen's line of sight. "God, Miranda, I'm so sorry. I don't know what to say..."
"Then say nothing. Wait here." The mink instructed harshly. "I'll be right back."
And before Andy could catch her, Miranda had slithered out of her bag and dashed through the open door.
Goddammit! Andy cursed under her breath and after an indecisive second or two she quickly hurried after the suicidal mink. A blood curdling scream from the direction of where Stephen had been entertaining his lady friend stopped her in her tracks right next the stairs.
"Andrea, get out of the house. Now!" Came Miranda's breathless command a short distance away and before Andy could defy her in order to make sure her small, furry boss was safe, she saw the white blur of Miranda being chased by her husband down the hallway and toward her.
"Hurry!" The editor hissed and the assistant scrambled down the stairs as quickly as she could manage. At the bottom step she turned around just in time to catch Miranda with her uninjured hand, and with a final glance at an incredibly pissed-off Stephen standing at the top of the stairs, she hurried across the carpeted entrance area and swept through the door.
Only once her and Miranda were safely in the Mercedes and Roy had pulled away from the curb did Andy allow her heart to slow down.
"Jesus Christ, what the hell did you do?" She almost shook the fluffy creature to make a point, however to her shock she quickly realised that Miranda was trembling. Her little body was shivering from the terror of being set after and nearly killed by her own husband after having caught him cheating, and the brunette instantly pulled the mink to her chest and began to soothingly stroke her fur.
"Shh... it's okay... we're safe now..."
Roy cleared his throat. "Andy... does Miranda know you have a... a ferret with you?"
The assistant gently cradled the distraught animal and focused her attention on the driver.
"Uhm, yes. She knows, don't worry." Her fingers caressed behind Miranda's little ears and she could feel the editor relaxing. "And she's not a ferret, but a mink. A very special one." She looked down at the slumbering snow-white creature and had to grin. "Naughty, but special."
"Alright then," Roy smiled, no doubt relieved that Andy had not actually become a crazy person who talked to her bag. "Where to?"
"Well..." The brunette considered their options. The office was out of the question, so was the townhouse. "Could you drive me to my apartment? I'll work from home for the rest of the day."
"Sure, no problem."
Andy sunk deeper into the seat and held on to Miranda as if she were the most precious creature on the planet.
Having Miranda in her tiny apartment had always been a nightmare scenario for Andy. It was a dark and crummy place, and the most modern thing in it was probably the three-year-old mould on the bathroom tiles. With a sigh to steel herself for the editor's scathing judgement she set the furry creature down on the floor and allowed Miranda to roam the limited square feet of hers and Nate's humble abode.
After a brief exploration, the mink made her way to the living room couch and jumped onto it with an elegance only Miranda Priestly turned into an animal could possess. Her little paws scratched at the raggedy cushion and with a sniff of complete and utter displeasure, but without releasing the dreaded verbal storm of disapproval, she finally settled down. Eyes drilling into Andy expectantly she waited for the brunette to join her.
"By all means, move at a glacial pace. You know how that thrills me," the furry creature huffed, and this time the assistant couldn't restrain herself any longer. The ridiculous image of the regal little fur ball with Miranda's icy voice was too much for Andy and she burst into laughter.
"I don't see how any of this is funny, Andrea," Miranda huffed and raised her button nose in the air.
"I... I'm sorry, Miranda," the brunette tried to get herself under control. "It's just... everything is... so incredibly bizarre." She walked over, still giggling, and sat down next to the miffed mink.
"I truly am sorry." She said a bit more sincerely. "I know it must be much worse for you."
Miranda growled. "Well, obviously I'm trying my hardest to ignore the fact that I have been turned into... this."
Andy nodded. As cute as her boss was as a furry creature with the softest hair and the most adorable little snout, she did prefer the editor in her human form.
"I still don't understand what that strange man was thinking when he did this to you." Andy shrugged out of her coat and draped it over the back of the couch. "I'm still angry at myself for not running after him and demanding he undo everything immediately."
The mink sniffed. "I doubt that he would have listened. He said I would have to make a difference to break this... spell." She sighed. "God knows why I'm even excepting that such a thing exists."
The assistant looked up, "well you kind of are all the proof you need."
Miranda regarded her intently. "What do you think he meant? 'Make a difference'?"
That was something Andy had been asking herself all morning.
"You are a mink, so I'm assuming it may have something to do with the fur industry. So... uh... stop wearing animal skins?" She shrugged helplessly.
The little fur ball appeared lost in thought when a big yawn swept over her, and Andy was torn between total adoration and slight alarm as she remembered those sharp teeth piercing her skin.
"You go to sleep," the assistant told her boss while flexing her fingers and staring intently at her bandaged palm, "I'll get started on some research so we know what to feed you."
Miranda glared at her as if to say 'I'm not a child who needs to be sent to bed', but her fatigue betrayed her and she curled up in a perfect bagel shape, resting her head on her little paws on top of her bushy tail, and quickly succumbed to slumber. Before sleep completely claimed her she whispered, "I'm sorry about your hand, Andrea."
For a while Andy just stared at the marvellous creature in awe. The urge to reach out and stroke the soft fur was tempting, but if she had learned one thing today, it was to not disturb a sleeping mink. Especially not one that was by its human nature already incredibly defensive.
Poor Miranda. First some lunatic shaman... -person had turned her into a ten-inch fuzzy creature, after which her senior assistant had attempted to beat her with a rival magazine. Then instead of being able to retreat to the safety of her home, she had caught her husband cheating and had to essentially flee for her life when Stephen had caught her sneaking a peek at the woman he was having an affair with.
No wonder the little mink was exhausted.
Suppressing a yawn of her own, the brunette reached for her laptop and began reading up on neovison vison.
At noon Andy found herself in the kitchen in search of caffeine and the sound of the coffee grinder woke Miranda, who stretched her back like a cat would - bum in the air and front claws digging into the fabric of the couch. Andy was actually glad that all of their furniture was second-hand and had been pretty cheap as the mink jumped expertly onto the carpet and joined the brunette by the counter.
"I don't suppose I can have some of that?" The editor sounded annoyed. "The smell is driving me insane."
"No... no coffee for you. Sorry." The assistant murmured as she placed her cup under the machine and pushed the appropriate buttons. "The diet of a mink consists primarily of fish, crustaceans and birds." She gently picked the lithe animal off the floor and placed her on the kitchen table, knowing that the editor loathed being talked down to.
Miranda's little nose wrinkled up in displeasure. "Fish?" Andy confirmed with a nod. "What about steak?"
"Yeah right," the brunette snorted. "Because a mink in the wild could take on a buffalo."
"I could," the editor dead-panned, and Andy wasn't so sure that, if such a confrontation were to ever happen, the buffalo would come out as the winner.
"You're right." She leaned against the counter, looking directly at Miranda. "However, I'm not willing to risk your life or cause your little stomach excruciating cramps, just to appease your fancy-pants palette. So," Andy added creamer to her cup, "we're gonna go and pay a visit to the fish market. Unless you want me to take you down to the Hudson so you can hunt your own lunch."
She was a bit surprised that she had the guts to speak to her boss like that. Then again Miranda being a small animal had roused a protectiveness in Andy that helped her feel more confident when dealing with the usually intimidating fashion maven.
The mink on the kitchen table looked unhappy, but didn't say anything further.
"Okay, it's settled then. The market it is," the assistant stated cheerfully and sipped her coffee. "Oh, by the way, I received a message from Nigel, asking what was going on with you and claiming that you haven't had a sick day since the day the twins were born."
"He is correct," Miranda nonchalantly studied her paws as if working every single weekday for ten years straight was completely normal. "This... is incredibly inconvenient." She sighed. "If the next issue doesn't go to print Sunday night it will be the first time in my twenty-two years as editor-in-chief that I haven't made a deadline."
Andy set down her cup. "Miranda, don't worry, okay? We'll figure something out. Tomorrow we'll go back into the office and if need be, you can give instructions to Nigel through me. He'll probably hate me for a while, but he will listen and do his best."
"Fine," the mink sighed. There wasn't really much else they could do today other than make sure Miranda was cared for, and maybe figure out exactly what they had to do in order to get her back into her human form.
The assistant rinsed her empty cup and then walked back to the coffee table in the living room.
"Here, I found this rebozo in my closet." She tried not to notice the thoughtful stare mink-Miranda was sending her way. "I can wear it like those moms who carry their kid around on their chest. I figured you'd be a lot more comfortable and I can do a better job of protecting you against bump-ins in crowded places."
After pulling on her coat, the assistant tied the shawl around her shoulder and hip and reached for her furry boss. The warmth of the little creature against Andy's chest was oddly soothing, and the mink snuggled contently into the fabric and only allowed her face to peek out.
"Andrea... why are you doing all these things for me?" She spoke softly.
Unsure how to answer Andy stalled for time. "Uhm... what do you mean?"
"You... taking care of me. It's not part of your job description to lug around your boss-turned-mink and make sure she's comfortable and fed." Miranda elaborated carefully. "You could have just left me in the office to fend for myself."
"I could never do that, Miranda!" The brunette protested and then added in almost a whisper, "I wouldn't want anything bad to happen to you." The thought of the little mink getting lost in the plumbing of the Elias-Clark building and starving, or her plunging to her death in the elevator shafts had Andy trembling. "Also... that man... he told me to take good care of you..." she added sheepishly, hoping that the editor would accept this as a sufficient enough reply.
"Yes, but... even before... when he was threatening me, you ran right for us and even threw yourself in front of me." Miranda's voice had become almost inaudible and Andy had to bend her head to catch what she said next. "I may have been in shock after being transformed so suddenly, however, I still heard you cry for me... Andrea."
The brunette swallowed hard and felt a heated blush cover her cheeks. "Uhm..."
How was it even possible that a furry little creature could look this smug? Andy decided that the topic was finished and she determinedly walked to the door, trying very hard to calm her racing heart.
It took more than an hour for the two of them to return and Andy groaned as she dragged herself into the apartment.
"I can't believe you made me buy all this fish!" She whined, dumping the heavy bags on the kitchen table and then placing Miranda on top. "That was easily an entire week's salary."
The editor sniffed, most likely at her assistant's complaints, but maybe also because the contents of the plastic bags seemed to pique her interest. "Don't give yourself a heart attack, Andrea. I will pay you back. How am I supposed to find out which fish I prefer if I don't try them all?"
"Yeah, you'll pay me... if we ever manage to get you back to normal." Andy grumbled. "Unless we can't, and I'm stuck with a very posh and extremely snooty, new pet."
The mink twisted it's long body to glare at the brunette. "Well, just dump me at the local animal shelter then, if I am such a burden."
Andy managed to hold the gaze, but her anger dissipated. She just couldn't stay mad at her adorable, fluffy boss.
"I wouldn't be able to do that, Miranda." She set a plate on the table and pulled out a chair to sit down. "I promised to take good care of you, Miranda. It's just... this isn't necessarily easy for me, either. I'm doing my best, alright?"
The mink acknowledged her with a slight tilt of the head.
Trying to lighten the mood Andy grabbed at one of the bags. "Now... which one would you like to try first?"
Miranda planted her little butt regally in front of the plate and, with a final sniff, asked for the trout with unbelievable normalcy, as if she were simply ordering a bottle of Chardonnay in a restaurant.
"'Okidokie. Trout coming up," the assistant announced cheerfully as she unwrapped the marked, brown paper. She grimaced at the sight of the dead fish, but nonetheless picked it up by the tail and lay it across the plate. "There ya go."
Miranda just glared at her as if Andy had said 'stuff' to describe the newest Prada collection.
"Andrea, I'm not eating this like I'm some kind of wild animal. Current physical appearance notwithstanding."
"What?" The brunette gawked at the mink. "You want me to cut it for you?"
"Fillet, Andrea. Not cut." Miranda narrowed her eyes. "It's bad enough that I'm apparently stuck with eating raw fish. I will not lower myself to the likes of a Gollum. I can still do this in a civilised way."
The reference to one of Andy's all-time favourite books and movies softening her, the assistant allowed a smile and got up to retrieve one of Nate's chef knives. Returning to her seat she took a deep breath for courage and stared down at the lifeless fish.
"You know, I've never done this before. If I cut off my finger, who's going to feed you and carry you around?"
"Oh please. You'll be fine. You have managed perfectly well with an injured hand so far."
Wow... another semi-compliment! Being an animal must be messing with her head, Andy pondered.
"And I thought you lived with a cook? Have you never watched him fillet a fish?"
Suddenly reminded of her boyfriend the brunette began to feel the beginnings of panic. What if he insisted she'd get rid of the mink? She realised she hadn't really thought this through at all.
"Uh... he doesn't cook much at home. Just the bare necessities... you know... PB&J or grilled cheese sandwiches."
Andy had used to like his snack food until she had started to work at Runway and had become more conscious of what exactly she put into her stomach.
"Pfff," that sounded so bizarre coming from the mink. "What kind of chef-in-training is he? You'd think that someone so keen on becoming a big name in gastronomy would take any chance he gets to practice."
How could Miranda possibly know so much about Nate?
"Huh? How would you know what my boyfriend is keen on?"
"One hears things." The editor stared down at her tiny claws as if the conversation was boring her. "Not to imply that I've been eavesdropping in the conversations between my assistants."
Andy's eyes grew wide. Shit.She frantically tried to recall every single thing she had told Emily about her private life during the past seven months.
"Andrea." The stern tone snapped her out of her panic. "The fish."
Carefully weighing the knife in her hand she turned the trout in front of her to a better angle and announced. "Alright. Fasten your seat belt. I'm going in."
Two hours, seven species of fish, and a big giant mess on the table later and Miranda had finally decided that she preferred the salmon. As the mink carefully ate off the plate Andy leaned back in her chair feeling totally exhausted. Somehow the human version of her boss was a lot less work.
Although Miranda was right in front of her, and nothing about her personality seemed to really have changed, Andy found herself missing the older woman. The mink was adorable, and as far as little carnivorous predators went, this one was a rather beautiful specimen. Still, the brunette couldn't help but picture the editor's human face. That pointy chin and how well it complimented the perfectly imperfect nose. The way her lips would draw into a pout or curl into the faintest of smiles. Her hands, that had the habit of playing with earrings, or a necklace, every time Miranda spoke, or the way the older woman would stretch against the tension in her neck and shoulders when she thought nobody would see.
But most importantly, Andy missed those expressive eyes that she had learned to read more or less like an open book. The mink's were of the same shade, and they resembled Miranda well, just, for some reason that wasn't enough.
The assistant sighed deeply and began cleaning up the pieces of fish her boss had refused to eat. What a waste of money and food, she thought as she deposited two full plastic bags into the garbage. At least Miranda had finished half a piece of the salmon they had bought. Andy wrapped up the rest of it and placed the packages in the fridge. After watching the mink finish its meal and then lick its paws clean the brunette used a paper towel and some kitchen disinfectant to scrub the table. She scrunched up her nose at the thought that the apartment would probably smell like fish for weeks. She picked up Miranda and placed her on the carpet before cleaning the last few fishy spots off the wood surface.
"I think we should try poultry tomorrow. There's no way in hell I'm doing this," the assistant waved her hand at the kitchen, "every single day."
The mink didn't answer and simply clawed its way back onto the couch where it proceeded to use its paws to groom its long whiskers. Andy trotted over and sat down next to Miranda with a huff.
"You know... when Nate gets here we will need to show him that you are very well trained. I don't want him to kick us out." The brunette tried not to groan as she realised she had essentially just told her boss to behave.
"Andrea, I will not perform tricks, if that's what you're asking," the editor scoffed, but somewhere between the lines Andy could sense the slightest hint of amusement.
"Of course not, Miranda. I didn't mean anything like that.. Uhm... just... earlier, when you were asleep, I put out Yuki's old litter box in the bathroom."
"Excuse me?" Nope. Definitely no traces of humour in that one.
"Yuki was my cat. He passed away last year, but I still have most of his things. For some reason I couldn't part with them," she explained lamely, knowing full well that Miranda wouldn't care about the origin of the litter box, but rather about the intended purpose of the item itself.
"Andrea, I will not have you clean... my... well..." the mink looked utterly scandalised and Andy thought that if animals could blush as a reaction to emotional state, Miranda would be pink from head to tail.
"You're welcome to balance on the toilet seat. Just don't come crawling when you have slipped and then smell of sewer." The brunette's tone was slightly mocking, but she couldn't help it. Speaking with Miranda about where she should be doing her business was just too surreal. "I didn't think you'd want me to hold you over the bowl..."
"Enough!" The editor sounded almost panicked. "Fine, I'll use the box. Happy?"
Andy nodded brightly and then grabbed her laptop and placed it on the couch between them.
"Are you sure you want to try this yourself? I can type rather well, you know?" She offered while lifting the screen and switching the computer on.
"Not that it should be any of your concern, Andrea," the mink glared at the brunette, "but this more or less my last attempt at having some resemblance of control."
"Alright. But it's not a sign of failure if you can't manage to write emails while in animal form, Miranda. Ask for help, okay? It's not a bad thing. I promise I will never hold it against you."
The assistant still had not gotten used to the image of the mink rolling its eyes, but at least it told her that the editor had basically agreed. Or rather... reluctantly accepted.
Andy was completely at peace. She felt extremely comfortable, and for the first time in months, content. She woke up slowly, sensing the soft pressure on her chest before she even blinked her eyes open. When she finally did look, the sight of Miranda curled up on her stomach and her little head resting on the swell of her assistant's breast filled the brunette with delicious warmth and made it difficult to breathe.
Before she could reach out and carefully brush over the editor's fluffy fur, however, the clearing of a throat forced her to look up.
Nate stood a few feet away, keys still in hand, and a puzzled expression plastered across his scruffy face.
"Uhm, hi Nate," Andy whispered, careful not to wake Miranda as she waved weakly at her boyfriend.
"What's going on, Andy?" He asked and pointed at the white fur ball on her chest. "Did you get a new cat?"
"Shh! Don't wake her," the brunette hissed and frowned at him unhappily. "And it's not a cat, Nate."
"Look, Andy. I don't really care what it is. What's it doing in our apartment?"
"Uhm..." she automatically allowed her head to sink lower between her shoulders in submission to his, no doubt, approaching anger. "I'm watching the twins' pet mink."
"Great. The Dragon Lady again!" He tilted his head back and ran a hand through his curls as he closed his eyes with a sigh. "Why am I not surprised?"
"No, Andy." He sent her an accusative glare.
"Is it not enough that you blew off my birthday party for her? And that you're constantly working late? And that you always take her phone calls on the first ring... even while we're having sex."
"Oh my god, Nate!"
She buried her burning face in her hands and when she peered through the fingers, tiny, curious eyes gazed back at her.
Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god!
"And now," he continued, completely unaware of what was happening on the couch, "she even manages to interfere with the rest of my home life."
Andy was still hiding behind her hands, unable to openly look at Miranda who had obviously been listening the entire time.
"Nate, it will be only temporary," Andy mumbled against her palms.
"Yeah, that's what you said about that job of yours. And now you're practically married to it." He sounded defeated. "And why are you covering your face? Still with the sex-thing?"
The brunette winced.
"Jesus, Andy. It's not like we've done anything in weeks..."
"Nate, would you please stop talking about that!" She almost cried.
"Fine. Whatever. I'm going to bed." He shook his head and flicked his hands in Andy's direction. "Have fun schmoozing up to your boss through her cat... thing." And with that he trotted off into the bedroom and firmly shut the door.
"Oh god," the assistant groaned. "That did not just happen!"
Andy was worried that her boss would take off after having witnessed this disgraceful scene. Waiting a few seconds to pull herself together and attempting to bring the colour of her face back to normal, the assistant risked a glance and to her surprise the mink was sitting perfectly still and simply gazed at her.
There wasn't mockery in those tiny blue eyes and if Andy hadn't known for sure that this was still Miranda she was gawking at, she could have sworn that there was sympathy in the little creature's face.
"Uhm... sorry about that, Miranda. He..." she gulped back the lump in her throat. "He's not usually like that."
"Hmmm," the editor cocked her little head. "I would hope so."
Andy didn't know how to reply to that. In his heart Nate was a good guy, but lately all he did was complain. He had also never really made the effort to understand her new job or the world it belonged to, which wasn't really fair, since Andy had accompanied him to countless gastronomy fairs and speciality markets in the past.
Unable to keep her eyes locked with Miranda, who seemed to look right into her, the brunette sat up and peeked at the wall clock.
"Wow, it's past midnight! How did that happen?"
They had been busy writing emails from Miranda's Runway account to let everyone know that she would be absent for the unforeseeable future and that Andy was to be the go-between. Then, after eating dinner together - Andy had fried up some of the salmon for herself, while Miranda had preferred it raw - they had spent a few hours visiting anti-fur websites and reading up on the few designers who made a habit of only using fake fur in their designs.
"I should probably go back to sleep,... but I'm too worked up now," the brunette mumbled and looked back at the warm ball of fur. "We could continue trying to figure out our 'mission'..."
Miranda gave her another long gaze and then crept over to the other end of the couch, allowing the brunette to sit up and stretch her stiff muscles.
"It may not be as easy as me no longer wearing fur. If that were the case, I doubt I'd still be sitting here as an animal." She sighed in exasperation. "That man's point has been made rather well, I suppose."
Andy began to worry. "Uhm... but... I'm not sure I'm willing to do anything illegal, like freeing thousands of mink... or throwing paint at celebrities."
"Of course we're not going to do anything moronic like that, Andrea," the mink narrowed her eyes at her assistant. "Releasing the domesticated mink from farms into the wild is incredibly stupid and destructive to the local wildlife. Most of Europe's natural mink population has diminished due to the American variety being released from captivity by so called 'animal rights activists'. Their self-righteousness has endangered several indigenous species, but do they stop and use their brains? No, of course not. That would be too much to ask, wouldn't it?"
The editor's white fur rose up at her shudder of annoyance and disgust.
"And those individuals who fling red ink at people who wear fur coats don't seem to grasp that they essentially just make the lives of the animals whose fur was used in the garment completely worthless." She looked up at her assistant, blinking her eyes and wriggling that cute, little nose in a way that made it very hard for Andy not to reach out and cuddle her to death. "The wealthy will always just buy a new coat, ensuring the demise of yet another dozen of mink, silver foxes or hares, and the ruined coat will just end up in the trash. A complete waste."
Andy remembered the way Miranda had looked this morning, waltzing into the office with her signature air of command and that navy fur coat hugging her curves perfectly. What kind of animal had been used to make that coat? A mink? One like Miranda? Tremors of unease rippled through the brunette at the thought of anyone harming Miranda to make a coat out of her.
"Uhm... maybe he meant for you to change the fashion industry's view on fur? I mean... I think you do have that kind of power and..."
The editor interrupted her. "I absolutely refuse to print anything negative about designers simply because they happen to use real fur in their designs, Andrea. Runway is not a platform for activism and I cannot and will not dictate ethics to our readers. Just think of all the advertisers we could lose. Irv would instantly have the board's back-up to get rid of me once and for all."
With a rub to her pounding temples the brunette inhaled deeply against her approaching fatigue. "You're right."
She let her hands drop back to her lap with a slap. "Maybe we could be more subtle... you know... instead of being against fur... we could promote alternatives... and make them seem cool... like a new fashion trend..." The mink's face was assuming a rather mocking expression and Andy rolled her eyes and whined, "what now?"
"We?" The little animal's mouth appeared to nearly curl up into a smirk.
"Uhm... you... I meant you."
After a few moments of Miranda sending Andy that surreal almost-grin, the editor relented.
"You will contact the appropriate editorial departments tomorrow to find a collection of winter coats from known designers that use preferably organic faux fur," The mink succumbed to a big yawn and stretched her little legs. "Now. I may temporarily belong to a nocturnal species, however I think it's time we got some proper sleep."
Unable to fight the contagiousness of the yawn, the brunette stifled one of her own and got up from the couch. "Yes... uhm... I placed Yuki's old basket next to my side of the bed so you can be comfortable, but still nearby in case anything happens." She sheepishly scratched at her elbow and pointed at the seat she had just abandoned. "Unless of course, you wish to sleep on the couch."
"Yes, thank you," came Miranda's court answer and Andy walked toward the bedroom feeling suddenly rather self-conscious. When she placed a hand on the door knob she turned around. "I'll leave the door open, so you can move between rooms." Offering a final, shy smile she added, "Goodnight, Miranda. Wake me, if you need anything."
"Yes." The editor replied softly from her spot on the couch. "I will. Goodnight."
The assistant quietly entered the bedroom, where she began stripping down to her underwear, and then carefully crawled onto the mattress without waking her snoring boyfriend. She snuggled under the blankets with her back to Nate and closed her eyes.
In her dreams Andy found herself wrestling with aggressive PETA protesters who wanted to harm human-Miranda on the side walk in front of Elias Clark, only to be running through an abandoned warehouse a second later, clutching a terrified mink version of her boss to her chest while vicious-looking hunters chased after them.
She felt exhausted and terrified for Miranda's life and no matter how hard she ran, the men behind them seemed to catch up effortlessly. Then suddenly there was a loud yell so close to her ear it was actually painful.
Waking with a start she realised the scream had actually come from Nate who was propelling himself off the bed with a curse.
"Fuck! What the hell!"
Andy blinked against the diffuse morning light and turned around to see her boyfriend's grimace as he studied his hand in disbelief.
"That fucking thing bit me!"
The brunette sleepily rubbed her eyes. "What?"
"That thing!" He pointed accusingly at Andy. "It fucking bit me!"
Puzzled, the assistant looked down as the wrangled covers moved and a little furry head peeked out on her bra-clad chest.
"Now I feel the need to brush my teeth," Miranda dead-panned and if it weren't for the shock and post-sleep disorientation, the brunette would have burst out laughing. Instead she just gazed into those smug, glacial eyes, completely baffled.
"Aren't you gonna discipline it?" Nate asked. "I can't believe you even allowed that monster in our bed!"
"Nate, calm down! It's not like she did it on purpose." Although, something in the way the mink settled down on Andy's chest bone, as if it owned her, indicated otherwise. "It can't be that bad. Look," she wriggled her previously punctured hand. "She got me yesterday, too, and the bite has already begun to heal."
He sighed and shook his head. "That's not the point, Andy." He paced at the foot of the bed. "I can't even touch my own girlfriend without that old bitch somehow, indirectly, still ruining everything."
"Hey, don't call Miranda that!"
"You know what, Andy?" He scratched his stubbly chin and then shook his head, flicking his droopy gaze between the brunette and the mink. "You need to get your priorities straight and figure out if this," he pointed between himself and Andy, "still means something to you."
"Nate..." she tried, but his raised hand stopped her.
"No, Andy. You need to figure out some stuff." He grabbed his jeans and slipped them over his boxers. "It's not normal to be attached to one's boss the way you are to Miranda." Giving her a long, meaningful look he pulled a sweatshirt over his head. "I'm gonna crash at Lily's for a while. Find me when you've made up you mind about who exactly you want to have a relationship with."
Frozen in shock, the brunette watched him grab his keys and leave the apartment. She didn't dare look at Miranda as Nate's words began to sink in. What exactly had he been implying? Surely he couldn't have meant that she was... no way!
Shaken by the sudden flush to her face she pushed the fluffy editor off her and rolled out of bed.
"Andrea," Miranda began gently.
"No... I... I need to be alone for a while..." Dizzy from the onslaught of sudden realisation Andy staggered into the bathroom and closed the door behind her with a soft click. Backing against the cool wood she allowed herself to sink to the floor where she pulled up her knees and hugged them tightly as tears began to roll down her cheeks.
The sense of loss was strong, but it didn't seem to be all about Nate. In fact, she appeared to be a lot more distraught about the sudden loss of her apparent denial and innocence when it came to Miranda, than about the scruffy young man's departure. In her heart she had been aware of the fading feelings for her boyfriend for quite some time, and a confrontation and breakup had been more or less inevitable. Facing what the editor truly meant to her, though, was daunting... and it would change everything.
She wiped her face with the back of her arm and gazed up at the filthy ceiling, as if searching for approval to finally let go. It was true, Miranda meant a lot more to her than a direct employer should. Over the past few months the older woman had become the most important individual in Andy's life and the brunette hadn't even noticed. Andy closed her eyes as she remembered the editor's human face and a reluctant smile stole onto her lips.
Miranda was incredibly attractive and Andy had always known that. However knowing and being aware, where two different things. Intellectually, the brunette had been drawn to the fashion maven almost from the beginning - as soon as the dust of the shocking, first scathing remarks had settled. And in the time she had worked for the editor, Andy had slowly become privy to the gentler, more private side of Miranda. Brief glimpses of the woman behind the ice-cold diva mask had stirred a sense of kinship within the brunette that had motivated her to excel at every task her boss had given.
Taking a deep breath she wiped away the remainder of her tears. Miranda was certainly not stupid and Andy was convinced the editor had perfectly understood what Nate had been saying. It was likely that, once they had succeeded in their quest to 'make a difference', Andy would need to look for a new job. Until then, she decided, she would make the most of her chance to be around the queen fashion. Even if she missed her human form, the mink was very cute and it curled up on those areas of Andy's body where regular Miranda would never deign to touch.
A soft snort coming from behind her and pulled her from her thoughts. She turned around and lowered her head to look at the gap under the door where she saw a tiny button nose sniffing the air.
"Andrea... are you alright?" Miranda asked.
Miranda, who had been turned into a small, fluffy animal and had not complained once about the fact that it was Andy who had decided to take care of her. Miranda, who had licked her junior assistant's injured hand and who had crawled onto Andy's chest to sleep, not once, but twice.
The brunette smiled. Yes, she was alright. Tomorrow things might be different, but today she still had a job to do and furry editors to tend to.
With a determined push off the floor she stood and answered, "yes, I'm okay. I'll just take a shower and then we can eat breakfast before I call Roy."
To Andy's surprise, Miranda had been exceptionally sweet during their shared meal of salmon, fruit and cereal, and as they sat in the Mercedes on their way to work the assistant tried to figure out the reasoning behind it. Was it compassion at the impending separation from her boyfriend? After all, the editor had implied she would divorce Stephen for his infidelity, and that kind of meant that the two women had something significant in common. Or had her boss been disturbed by Nate's rightful insinuations regarding the nature of Andy's feelings for Miranda and now she was trying to appease her assistant until she was human again and would no longer need the brunette?
Lost in thought, Andy absent-mindedly stroked the softness around her neck until she suddenly realised what she was doing and abruptly pulled back her hand as if it had been burned.
"Uhm... sorry," she whispered shyly and tried hard not to notice the heat that radiated off the editor's little body where it was draped across her shoulders.
As comfortable as it might have been for a stroll on the market, Miranda had refused to let Andy carry her around Runway in a shawl. In contrast to the general direction of their mission plan, the editor had instructed her assistant to simply wear her as an accessory. That way she could easily whisper instructions into the brunette's ear and had a perfect view of everything and everyone.
Of course Andy hadn't really minded another opportunity to have Miranda this close, but the image of herself in the mirror right before they had left the apartment, in her borrowed vintage Chanel suit and the beautiful mink lining her jacket, had made her feel slightly uncomfortable. Wasn't that the very image they were trying to change?
When Roy pulled up in front of Elias Clark and the brunette saw the crowd in front of the building, she couldn't suppress a groan. Fate was really making this a day of trials.
"Miranda," she whispered, "maybe you should hide in my bag after all."
"Nonsense," the mink replied. "I'm alive and perfectly happy where I am. Those people have no right to complain."
Andy held on to the warm and fuzzy feeling the editor's admission had caused in her, and she opened the car door and planted her four-inch Louboutin boots onto the curb with new-found confidence.
"Fur is murder!" came the first shout as soon as the activists had caught sight of her. The assistant and her perfectly still pet mink hurried across the pavement toward the entrance, and Andy had already spotted the building's security holding the door open for her when another loud shout made her stop in her tracks. "Hey, rich killer bitch, did you tear that skin off the little fella yourself?"
She knew she should keep walking and get out of their way, but the holler had struck a nerve. She wasn't a killer, nor could she keep her cool at the idea of anyone harming Miranda in that way. Slowly, she turned around to face the activists. To her dismay, a girl with bright blue hair and a collection of piercings stood right in front of her, holding up a small balloon that was most likely filled with the kind of ink that would permanently stain anything it touched.
The terror in her face must have shown, because the blue-haired activist began to sneer and, cheered on by her accomplices, was about to lunge forward, when suddenly the small, colourful crowd stopped in their tracks and stared back at Andy with wide eyes. The assistant felt Miranda's small feet claw painfully into her hair as the mink climbed onto her head. From her high vantage point, the editor then appeared to treat the crowd of PETA members to her finest Priestly glare - if the men and women's falling faces were anything to go by.
Andy could not suppress a grin when she gathered the mink back in her arms and allowed the editor to nuzzle her neck. As far as ass-kicking went, the kind that ended with Miranda-snuggles was definitely the best. Pushing her luck she stroked the soft, white fur and whispered, "Good girl." The ever present New York City street noise almost made her miss the mink's content purr, but she heard it, and it added an extra spring to her step when she turned her back to the activists and walked into the building.
Ignoring the security guard's questioning gaze Andy hurried for the elevators, hoping that nobody else had seen Miranda move around. She joined a cabin that was already occupied by a bunch of clackers and stared up at the sluggishly changing numbers as they neared Runway's main floor. She was buzzing with positive energy, and pretending that this was just another day at the office for Miranda Priestly's lowly assistant was proving rather difficult when all she wanted was to hug the magnificent mink tightly and roll around on the floor, giggling like a teenager.
She bolted through the doors as soon as they slid open and after a passing wave to the receptionist she sped all the way to her desk in record time. Sadly, Emily was already there.
"Jesus, were you perhaps an elephant in a previous life?" The redhead greeted her without looking up. "I could hear you all the way from the elevator." She then looked up and spotted Miranda who, in the safety of her workplace, had decided to move again and had jumped onto Andy's desk. "And what is that doing here? I thought you had taken care of it?"
Nothing seemed to shake Andy's giddiness and she simply grinned and replied, "Uh-huh, I did take good care of her. I fed her a months pay worth of fish and then we cuddled on the couch."
"Ha ha, very funny, Sachs." The Brit rolled her eyes and stood from her chair. "Now tell me what the hell is going on with Miranda and how we are supposed to function without her."
The mink cocked its head at the senior assistant and planted its small, furry butt right in the middle of the table. The junior assistant hung up her coat and then sat down to turn on her computer.
"Miranda won't come into the office for a while so it's up to Nigel to temporarily take over. Any questions he might have I will personally direct to Miranda."
"Why you?" Emily crossed her arms and studied her colleague with scepticism. "I mean, I know you're 'Miss Perfect' and her favourite play thing around the office, but you also have the least amount of experience. It's really not fair."
"I'm sorry, Em. That's just how it is for now, okay? We'll do our best, and once Miranda is back, you'll get your chance."
Andy truly felt bad for the redhead, but she still wouldn't trade places with her for all the money in the world. Being the only one who seemed to be able to understand the editor in mink form was a strange privilege that she more than cherished. Now that she understood how much Miranda truly meant to her it almost felt like this entire situation was meant to be. In a way it would provide her with some of the best memories of her life before everything came crashing down and she ultimately had to leave. This was still far better than finding out about her feelings and making a fool out of herself in front of human Miranda, and then be fired without the memories of exciting adventures and peaceful couch snuggles to cling to.
While the junior assistant opened her email and began composing a message to the art department, her furry boss settled down between the keyboard and the brunette's arms. Andy had to suppress another smirk when her colleague was visibly disturbed by the essentially wild animal in the office.
"I still can't believe you brought that thing back here after what happened yesterday." Emily mumbled.
"It's okay, Em. Miranda knows and she's okay with it."
Andy winced at the dramatic scowl that escaped the senior assistant. "Oh please! Miranda isn't 'okay' with anything."
Running her eyes from her boss' furry tail, over her fuzzy back and the tiny ears all the way to those accusing bead eyes, the brunette had to agree. "You're right, Em. She's not exactly 'okay' with this. It's more like... she has accepted the situation and expects us to make the best of it."
The redhead still looked unconvinced, but resigned herself to shaking her head. "I'm going to the beauty department to drop off the new specifications for the Hilfiger shoot. When I get back I expect to find this office free of blood or severed limbs." She frowned at the mink and waved her index finger in the brunette's direction. "I know she may stand to lose a few pounds, but that's no reason to start chewing on staff members." Ignoring Andy's growl of protest she then spun on her heels and walked off through the glass doors.
"Did Emily just a scold me as if I were a small child?" Miranda said, taken aback.
"At least she didn't call you 'fat'," Andy sighed and turned her attention back to her computer screen. She didn't want to waste time with pointless insecurities. In her head she knew she wasn't anywhere near overweight, she just wasn't 'model-thin'. However, since Miranda was the queen of fashion and emaciated women belonged to her group of closer subjects, a feeling of being inadequate and undesirable nagged at the brunette. She let out a sigh and silently scolded herself for developing feelings for someone with such a critical eye.
"You're not, you know?" A whisper pulled her focus back to the mink.
Miranda was looking at her intently and Andy hoped that the animal's cuteness didn't lull her into a false sense of ease. The editor could still lash out and be vicious, and the brunette needed to force herself to not forget that once all this was over, she would most likely have to clean out her desk and move to Australia.
"Not what?" The brunette asked carefully.
The word hung heavily in the air and taunted Andy with a painful sense of Déjà vu.
"Are you sure about that? Human-you may disagree," she murmured defensively and pretended to busy herself with typing.
"I beg your pardon?" Of course Miranda wouldn't remember each one of the scathing insults she threw around on a daily basis, but to the assistant the dressing down she had received that particular day held a special significance. She regarded the editor with a stare strengthened by renewed hurt.
"Six months ago you called me 'the smart, fat girl'."
"Oh. Well." The mink used one of her paws to nonchalantly scratch behind an ear. "It appears that half a year ago I may have been..." her little eyes landed on Andy's chest seemingly involuntarily, before she raised her gaze back to the brunette's face, "mistaken."
The assistant sniffed sarcastically. "Well yeah, I guess a size-zero model wouldn't make the perfect pillow..."
Miranda sounded almost offended. "Andrea..."
The fashion director's sudden entrance stopped whatever the editor had been about to say. Andy was glad for the interruption. She didn't want to hear how imperfect she was in Miranda's eyes.
"Nigel, good morning," she greeted the bald man and smiled.
"Honey, you need to give me details! I don't believe this Miranda being sick business." He stopped in front of the desk and eyed the ball of fur. "And why is there a mink on your desk?"
"It's a project we... uh, Miranda is working on. She wants us to prepare for a photo shoot with nothing but sustainable fake fur coats. And... I'm taking care of this little lady until Miranda gets back."
"Hmmm," Nigel ran his index finger over his chin. "She's an exceptional specimen."
The mink was almost glowing and Andy saw the fur on the creature's neck stand up at the compliment. Andy snorted. Leave it to Miranda to feel a sense of pride about her animal appearance, even if she hadn't had a say in it at all. When the bespectacled man reached out to stroke her fur, though, the editor immediately arched up her back and hissed.
"Careful, I wouldn't touch her if I were you," the brunette warned.
Nigel grinned. "I see mama-bear is very protective of her cub."
"Oh, no-no. This one can take care of herself just fine and she makes all of her own decisions. I'm not speaking for her, I'm just giving you a friendly warning."
His eyebrows rose almost an inch in amusement and he studied the creature as it regally stretched its neck. "Is that so?"
"Uhuh. Just watch." The assistant rolled back her chair and addressed the mink. "Mir...a," she caught herself in the last second, "Mira, if you do not wish for Nigel to scratch your tummy, jump on my lap!"
With an elegance that should clearly give away who exactly she was, Miranda cocked her head and slithered onto Andy's lap where she rolled herself into the shape of a bagel.
The fashion director snorted. "Neat trick! We should feature you two in Runway. I'm sure a lot of people would welcome a 'faux fur revolution' with you and your furry Miranda-substitute as the poster children.," he chuckled.
Both women's heads jerked up. "Miranda-substitute?" Andy croaked in disbelief.
"Oh come on, Six. The lady dragon is away and there you are, with a little creature you can smother instead, which bears a striking resemblance to said dragon. And you named her 'Mira' of all things."
"Yes... well... s-so?" the brunette stuttered. He couldn't possibly know, could he?
"Sweetie, it's okay to have a crush on your boss," he smiled warmly as he crossed his arms. "Just don't overdo it."
Beet red. That must have been the colour of her face, Andy was sure of it.
"I do not... have a... crush on... Miranda," she managed to hiss through gritted teeth. The mink on her lap had gone rigid and the brunette was convinced the editor was going to bolt any second now.
"Six, it's alright." Nigel reached out and patted her hair. "I won't tell a living soul. I just don't want to see you get hurt. You have a big heart and people are prone to take advantage of that."
She felt the tremor of Miranda's inaudible growl travel up her thighs and couldn't help but wince.
"Anyway. I will see which faux fur creations I can find in the closet. Then I will go and sit in for Miranda at the editorial meeting. Call me if you need me!" With a final, supportive smile he sauntered off.
Andy couldn't move. She felt exposed and on the verge of crying. Whereas Nate's words could have possibly contained more than one meaning, what Nigel had said didn't leave any room for speculation. Especially not coupled with Andy´s almost violent reaction. Now Miranda would know for sure. The weight on her lap shifted and Andy closed her eyes in anticipation of the editor's likely escape or verbal attack. When after a few moments nothing seemed to happen, she dared a look down and her breath caught at the sight of Miranda snuggling tightly against her.
"Andrea..." the ball of fur mumbled against her belly. "I hope you know... that I'm not trying to take advantage of you."
The brunette gulped and only managed a half-hearted nod.
"And I don't see you merely as a 'comfy pillow' either," Miranda continued softly. "I'm glad that you're here with me... in this situation. I'm not sure... uhm" the mink appeared to be searching for words. "I'm not sure I would be able to cope this well without you."
Too speechless to respond with words, the assistant lowered her hands and gently stroked the editor's fur. When the mink purred in delight Andy found herself aching to touch Miranda in her human form. She had a hard time swallowing back a sob at how much she missed the older woman's ethereal presence and she hugged the fur ball more firmly against herself.
Andy was exhausted and her shoulders slumped under the warm fur of the editor as they stood in line at an organic poultry shop to pick out dinner. Their day had been long and stressful, but it had left the brunette with a sense of accomplishment.
The had managed to gather over twenty coats, jackets and wraps that were made from fake fur, to be featured in a last-minute photo shoot the following day. Andy had contacted Annie Leibovitz, who luckily never seemed to decline opportunities to work for Runway and a last-minute call had secured them a group of Miranda-approved models. If all went according to plan they could still include the photos and an accompanying article with the issue that would go to print on Sunday night.
Their deadline was forty-eight hours away, and although Emily had lacked confidence in being able to pull everything off without Miranda around, Nigel had insured her that the editor had managed much tighter time limits in the past, and even delegating through her junior assistant shouldn't prove much of an obstacle.
The lithe, small shape of her boss now balanced expertly on Andy's collar bone to get a better look at fresh quail meat and the brunette had to admit that Miranda possessed an almost inhuman ability to handle every type of situation, no matter how bizarre or impossible, with mind-blowing confidence and skill. There simply didn't appear to be anything the fashion maven could not do, even in the shape of a small, extremely adorable creature with a taste for expensive wild life.
"Well, bye-bye, hard-earned money," the assistant mumbled as she stepped toward the counter for their turn.
"Quit your wining, Andrea. I told you I'd pay you back," the editor hissed as she settled around the brunette's slender neck.
Andy ignored her and offered a friendly smile to the stunned clerk. "Good evening, we'd like two quails..."
"Three!" Came another hiss from around her neck.
"... I mean, three quails, please, and ten ounces of the turkey over there." She pointed at the freshly sliced meat.
The man behind the counter still kept a weary eye on the young woman and the white, furry creature on her shoulders, but moved to fulfil their order.
"Anything else?" He asked once he had wrapped up the meat and divided it up into two plastic bags.
Andy quizzically angled her head at her fluffy companion and Miranda looked around the wares one more time.
"Get eggs for tomorrow's breakfast," she said softly and the brunette could hear the editor lick her little snout.
"Uhm, could you add a dozen quail eggs, please?"
The clerk added a pack of eggs to their bags and then moved to the register. "Is that all?"
Before Miranda could inject with further, financially damaging wishes, Andy quickly nodded her head and retrieved her wallet.
"You know," the man began while he entered the separate prices, "we don't really allow pets in here. It's unhygienic."
"Oh," the assistant pulled an apologetic face. "I'm really sorry. I didn't know that. She's just... really picky, so I had to bring her to look at everything you have..."
He studied them for a bit and then allowed a small grin and winked. "It's alright this one time."
Andy beamed back.
Andy's smile vanished.
"Jesus, Mira..." she caught herself again before she could say the editor's full name. "You're going to bankrupt me with your delicate palate..."
She paid while the mink comfortably dug her claws through the fabric of Andy's jacket and snuggled closer, ignoring the brunette's whining.
"Can you just believe that man," Miranda mumbled once they had stepped outside. "Calling me 'unhygienic'!"
"Well... you are an animal with lots of hair. Pretty hair," Andy boldly stroked over the editor's head and was delighted when the mink leaned into her touch. "But it does still get dirty."
The editor gave a defiant growl, but the brunette smirked and couldn't help the extra bounce in her step.
"When we get home I'll run you a bath. Mink are crazy about water. You can have a swim while I prepare dinner. How does that sound?"
"I guess," the furry creature sighed with feigned disinterest.
Images of preparing a delicious meal while human Miranda relaxed in tub full of foamy goodness after a hard day at work flooded Andy's mind and she swallowed back the wave of tense sadness that threatened to rise from her stomach. Granted, after her boss' speech this morning at the office, about not taking advantage of Andy, the brunette had somewhat regained a bit of confidence that she might not immediately get fired once everything was back to normal. However, her insecurities and the intense longing for human-Miranda, still appeared to strangle whatever happiness Andy felt in her interactions with the mink.
She walked toward her apartment building, the bags of food swinging heavily from one hand as she rummaged in her purse for her keys. No. She had sworn to make the best of the time she was allowed to spend with small, furry Miranda, and so she would. The universe had a strange sense of humour, but this unique situation was more Andy could have ever hoped for. She realised that no matter what hurtful actions her boss would undertake after this... adventure, the time her and the editor had spent together like this was special, and it would connect them forever.
Before she could raise the key to the outside lock, the front door burst open and Nate nearly crashed into them.
"Oh, hey. There you are!" He stepped out onto the side walk and gave her an accusing stare. "I've been trying to phone you all day. I know you can't live without that stupid phone of yours so you must have been screening my calls or something..."
Startled by the sudden appearance of the unkempt young man Andy could only stutter. "N-nate... I'm sorry I..."
Then she realised what must have happened, however how could she possibly explain to her, most likely soon-ex-boyfriend, that she had put her phone on 'silent' in order to fake a large number of calls to Miranda, who in return had simply been answering in that secret whisper which appeared to be inaudible to others. The brunette knew that even the best excuse wouldn't be good enough for Nate, so she decided against trying and simply shrugged her shoulders, mindful of her furry companion.
"I need more time..."
"More time?" He sent an incredulous stare up into the windy evening sky and let his arms fall against his sides with a loud slap. "Actually, it's really simple, Andy." He gave her that pout and goofy expression which might have once softened her heart, but now only managed to annoy the brunette, before declaring, "it's me or her."
"What?" The assistant wasn't sure she had heard correctly.
"Choose. Me or Miranda," he said with a face that revealed he wasn't just serious, no, he also seemed to harbour little hope that Andy would actually pick him. And how could she? Miranda meant the world to her, she had admitted that much to herself already. And regardless of what might happen once the spell was broken, she would still always choose the editor.
Over Nate... over anyone.
Andy tried to convey through her eyes how truly sorry she was and how much she regretted disappointing the person she had once called her best friend and with whom she had set out onto the long road toward adulthood.
Nate lowered his head until his chin hung against his chest, before looking up at his former girlfriend with a sad smile. "Yeah, I thought so."
"No... Andy, I get it. I'm just me. Boring, old Nate," he combed roughly through his curls. "I can't compete with a queen."
Miranda sniffed as if she were agreeing, but the brunette couldn't leave it at that.
"It's not about that, Nate..." she tried to put order to her thoughts and be as honest with him as she dared out on the New York sidewalk. "It's not about you as a person. You're not boring or inadequate... it's just..."
"She's better," he threw out with a defeated, little laugh.
Guilt had a tight grip on Andy and the obvious pain in his face made it hard to say the things she needed to get out if they were really breaking up out here in the open. She swallowed hard against the tears and the nausea that spilled over her from the awareness of Miranda hearing every single word.
"You realise nothing will ever happen between... her and me... and this isn't something I ever planned... or did to... to hurt you, Nate."
He gave her a long, pained look and sighed. "Yeah, I know that... and of course nothing would happen, Andy. You're way too good for her." With a timid laugh that drowned out the mink's protesting growl Nate reached up to cup the brunette's cheek. "You have a big heart, and I've always suspected that it went beyond the boundaries of just us males..."
"I didn't mind, Andy." He continued. "It was cool to comment on the women we saw on TV together and stuff... it never bothered me," he returned his hand to his side and took a step back, "as long as you stayed with me."
He gave her another long look and Andy realised that this was it. This was goodbye to the years they had spent together and the connection they had once shared.
"Now I understand that I need to let you go," he finished with a small grin that, although it was supposed to make Andy feel better, still tore down the last barriers and allowed the brunette's tears to fall freely.
"I will come back for my stuff once I found a new place."
The junior assistant just nodded as tracks of wetness formed across her cheeks and jaw line.
"You go take your time and figure yourself out."
With a final, crooked smirk he turned around and walked away.
Andy was completely stunned and unable to move as she watched him disappear around the corner. Only the cold sensation of the wind blowing against the salty tracks on her face snapped her out of it and she couldn't prevent the shiver, filled with a multitude of emotions, that crawled up and through her. She needed to get out of the freezing air and into the safety of her apartment, where she could attempt to glue back together the pieces of her that had just burst out into all directions of the wind.
She dried her cheeks, pushed through the front door and hurried up the stairs.
So, Nate had apparently sensed that she had a thing for... women. How could he have known, when she herself hadn't even been aware? Well, not exactly. She thought of Miranda's creamy shoulders that had been exposed by the breathtaking Valentino creation during the benefit ball, and the resulting flush to her cheeks didn't as much embarrass her as it was exciting. No body part of Nate's had ever had that effect on her.
Shaking her head, she stepped into the apartment and allowed the mink to jump down, before she placed the bags of fresh meat on the kitchen table. Things were likely going to be very awkward now that she had essentially revealed to her boss that she'd pick her, even over her own boyfriend. The editor might appear harmless as a fluffy ball of fur, but behind the cute button nose and the round, little eyes was still Miranda, unchanged and unrestrained. Most likely, after a short period of brooding would come the nasty insults and the ridicule of what Andy had just laid bare. She deposited the quails, turkey meat and eggs into the fridge and turned back to the mink on the couch.
"Uhm... would you like me to phone the girls before you take your bath? I don't know what their bed time is on non-school nights, but it's past nine and I don't want to risk waking them up."
"Yes, that's... fine." Miranda sounded cautious and the brunette suppressed a cringe.
"Okay." So the evening would consist of walking around on eggshells around each other. Great.
Ever the efficient assistant, Andy had brought the editor's private cell phone and she pushed speed-dial for Cassidy's number.
"Mom!" The phone was picked up after just one ring.
"Uhm... hi there. This isn't your mom, but her assistant."
A second voice come from the background, "Cass, what's wrong?"
"It's not Mom, but an assistant." The twin answered her sister and then turned her attention back to the phone.
"Which one are you? The annoying one who always rolls her eyes at us, or the nice one who got us Harry Potter, even after we pulled a prank on her?"
"I'm the one who got you 'Deathly Hallows'," the brunette said, not without a sense of pride as she freely allowed herself to grin into the phone.
"An-dray-uhhh...cool!" came Caroline's pleased voice from the background but her sister seemed to be more focused on the matter at hand.
"Where's Mom? Why hasn't she called us yesterday?"
Andy sat down on the couch so she was closer to Miranda and then spoke, "Your mom's right here, but she has... lost her voice and can't speak with you. I have you guys on 'speaker' so she can hear you and she's..." the brunette looked down into the stoic, furry face, "she's writing down what I should ask you."
"How did she lose her voice?" Cassidy was clearly the more sceptical of the two.
"She has a... a cold. Nothing bad, though. She had to tell us off for being stupid, incompetent idiots too many times today... and that was a bit much for her throat, I'm afraid." The twins giggled and Miranda rolled her little eyes.
"Uh-oh... now she's rolling her eyes at me, You guys better go ahead and tell her about your time at your dad's..."
Caroline and Cassidy laughed even louder at that, but soon their excitement to share their day's events with their mom won, and they took turns recounting a visit to the zoo and a bribe to behave (consisting of rainbow fudge and strawberry milkshakes), before going into details about the many pranks they had played on their father's new girlfriend in the short time-frame of a single day.
Andy enjoyed watching Miranda's expressions as she listened to the twins' banter, and she gladly relayed the editor's comments and half-hearted scolding back to the girls who seemed happy to hear from their mom, in one way or another.
After a cheerful and oddly comfortable forty-five minutes, they said their goodbyes and Miranda made the assistant promise that they'd phone again the next day, before Andy hung up the phone.
"Wow," the brunette tried to hold on to the light mood. "I feel kind of sorry for Felicity. The girls seemed to have had a blast ruining her day."
The mink sniffed in slight amusement. "Well, they certainly seem to be stepping up their game. They have never liked any of their father's girlfriends." Her left hind leg began to absentmindedly scratch behind one of her little ears. "I see a pattern in their dislike for step parents ... they've also never liked Stephen."
At the mention of her adulterous husband, the editor stared into nothingness for a while, and Andy felt a storm of renewed loathing brew for the idiot who had been stupid enough to cheat on Miranda Priestly. How could a man, who had a wife as magnificent as the queen of fashion, want to try his luck elsewhere? Her rage at Stephen caused Andy's fists to clench to an almost painful extend and she had to quickly get up from the couch to prevent from crying out in frustration.
The editor looked at her puzzled and Andy meekly pointed in the direction of the bathroom and stammered, "I'll... uhm... I'll just go and draw your bath." Before Miranda could say anything in return, the brunette had already made her way across the apartment and was filling the crummy old tub with water.
That night Andy's dreams weren't scary. At least, that depended on what exactly classified simply as 'weird' and what would be considered bordering on 'frightful'.
Morpheus had brought her to a large pool in the middle of a forest and she found herself gently floating in the clear water as mink-Miranda swam elegant circles around her. It was a peaceful place, surrounded by softly swaying oak trees and bird song. The white, little creature shot through the water like a champion, twisting its body and using the slight webbing of its feet to propel itself forward and under the brunette, who watched Miranda's antics with a giggle.
Then suddenly the animal was gone and a warm, decidedly human and rather naked body pressed against her from behind, hugging her firmly as a characteristic nose nuzzled Andy's neck. The human queen of fashion let her palms roam across her junior assistant's body in gentle underwater caresses and the brunette lost herself in the sensation of being worshipped. Her eyes closed and she succumbed to the feelings that nearly drowned her, were it not for the strong arms holding her so tenderly around her middle.
When she opened her eyes again the water was buzzing with activity. Little white and brown flashes shot by under the surface and here and there a tiny, fuzzy head came up for air. A whole army of mink children was surrounding them and the brunette heard their human voices call out.
"Mommy! Mommy, look! I caught my first fish!" A particularly small cub yelled happily around its mouthful of trout and swam eagerly toward Andy. She swept the tiny thing up into her palms and hugged it close to her chest, before staring intently into its brown bead eyes.
"That's fantastic, Darling! I'm so proud of you!" She heard herself say. "Mira, look what a big fish! Our youngest son takes after you!"
Mink-Miranda came and slithered through the water around Andy's waist, her wet fur softly scratching against the brunette's skin. Andy wiggled her body and found that she had all of a sudden turned into a mink herself, and with her chest full of warmth and happiness she curled herself around Miranda's lithe form under the water surface and pressed their little button noses together.
"I'm so proud of our little family," she sighed blissfully and nuzzled the other mink's whiskers.
Blue-green eyes sparkled and Miranda whispered, "lets have more children, Andrea. One can never have enough!"
And has sharp teeth began to nibble at the fur on her neck the noise of at least three dozen, overly excited mink cubs tore through the serene forest and roused a sense of panic in Andy.
The junior assistant woke with a start and her eyes flew open almost instantly. It took a while for her eyes to adjust to the weak morning light, but the soft, regular, little puffs of air against her lips explained the origin of at least one part of her crazy dream. The brunette was curled up on her side with the mink slumbering peacefully right in front of her face. Miranda's surprisingly dry nose was pressed against Andy's and her fluffy body pressed warmly into the assistant's palms.
Her eyes widened, but Andy was too terrified to move. When had Miranda crawled into bed with her? Why had she allowed Andy to touch her? Unless she hadn't, and as soon as the mink would wake up, the brunette's face would become a bloody battlefield. She gulped.
She remembered kneeling on the faded bathroom tiles and watching Miranda swim around in the shallow water. Arms folded on the rim of the tub, she had followed the editor's every move to make sure she didn't drown. A fear that had turned out unfounded, because just like with anything else, the editor had taken to this specific trait of being a mink rather well. After almost an hour of, what had looked suspiciously like a lot of fun, and the occasional awkward grooming that had caused Andy to sheepishly avert her gaze, the assistant had scooped up the drenched but clean queen of fashion into a large towel and had rubbed her dry.
There had been no complaints or protesting and in no time at all the brunette and her boss, whose hair had entered a previously unknown state of ultra-fluffiness, had settled down in the kitchen for their evening meal. Then they had moved to the living room where Miranda had proceeded to go over the book, not without commenting on her assistant's sloppy shorthand while the brunette had written on the multicoloured post-it notes. Andy still could not recall exactly how they had made it to bed, though. Her memory ended with a final, sleepy planning session of today's photo shoot, on the couch.
The mink began to stir and a sudden yawn presented Andy with a very proximate close-up of those sharp, little teeth. She shuddered at the ghosts of those teeth on her her skin where Miranda had accidentally bitten her hand, but then a ripple of a different nature rolled along her spine when she recalled the way the teeth had felt against her own furry neck in the dream.
Closing her jaw, Miranda blinked open her eyes and gazed at her assistant. Andy's hands were still gently cupping the mink's small body and for a second the brunette was convinced that the editor would scratch out her eyes or take a large chomp out of her nose. However, none of that happened and it almost felt as if Miranda were actually snuggling into Andy's touch. Quite likely possessed by the wish to challenge death, Andy found herself stroking softly through the fur on the editor's little, rounded belly.
Instead of scolding her, Miranda released a sound not unlike the purr of a lazy kitten and rolled onto her back and curled her front paws around the brunette's hand to keep it in place. The uncharacteristic move stirred up new panic in Andy. Had Miranda lost part of her humanity and was the animal inside starting to take over? Why else would the 'Snow Queen', the 'Dragon Lady', encourage her junior assistant to scratch her belly? This situation had reached a completely new stage of ridiculous.
Andy attempted to pull back her fingers and whispered, "M-Miranda... are you still in there?"
An annoyed flick of the head back into her direction confirmed the editor's displeased growl. "Of course I'm still 'in here', Andrea. Do you think I can just leave this inconvenient, little body as I please? If that were the case I wouldn't be here at all."
The mink released its grip on her hand and Andy sheepishly removed her arms and rolled out of bed on the opposite side. The alarm clock's red digits announced that it wasn't quite seven-thirty yet, however they had a long, stressful Saturday ahead of them, and if Miranda was going to be this moody Andy needed as much of a head start as she could manage.
"You should go back to sleep. I'll shower and make breakfast, and then we can eat before the trip to the studio."
The editor didn't acknowledge her with as much as a nod and rudely turned her fluffy, white back toward the assistant.
"Right," the brunette sighed and padded into the bathroom. She definitely needed a hot shower. What had possessed her to touch Miranda after everything the editor had heard the previous day? No wonder the mink had snapped at her. The fashion maven had probably been driven by animal instincts to lean into the touch and nothing more.
As Andy stripped down and stepped into the shower she worried about what would happen should they not succeed. The longer Miranda stayed a mink, the more likely she might slowly surrender to the animal's DNA. The brunette's heart nearly skipped a beat. What if she lost the older woman completely? She really didn't want to think about that. The sense of loss was already strong now, but at least the editor's personally was still intact. What if it vanished, too, just like her beautiful human body?
A dull pain pounded through her head when she hit the back of it against the tiled wall under the scorching spray of the shower. She failed miserably to block out the still lingering, dream-induced memory of Miranda's warm skin pressing into her, and with a frustrated groan she turned the thermostat to cold.
Life is not fair,she whined to herself as the freezing water shook her awake, one goose bump at a time.
"Wow, this stuff feels so real," Andy declared while trailing her fingers through, what at a first glance could certainly pass as real fur.
"Yes, Darling. Now remove your grabby claws before you ruin this delicate creation," Nigel said sternly, but not with without a hint of good-natured humour.
The atmosphere at the shoot was surprisingly pleasant. Annie's work usually made things flow easily, however now that Miranda wasn't giving direct, scathing orders, but communicated through the pacified sweetness of her junior assistant, everyone was positively relaxed. Nigel appeared to be rather proud of having prepared the shoot so quickly and the models liked the clothes and seemed intrigued when Andy told them more about the idea behind the spread.
It surprised the brunette that there apparently was a high interest in the development of organic alternatives. Promoting the use of fake fur was one thing, however as Miranda had explained to her earlier, the process of its creation was still damaging to the environment, because of the toxic by-products and the fact that it was nowhere near bio-degradable. Runway's writing staff had been saddled with clear instructions to stress this point and engage the readers to not only wonder about animal friendly fibres, but also actively seek more information on the stagnating research into organic approaches such as cotton.
The investigative journalist inside Andy was tickled awake, and as she watched the skinny women model one coat after another, she was already spinning up the skeletal framework of the possible article. If only she were allowed to write it, but no such luck. She was merely an assistant, recently promoted to pet sitter, and instead of writing a piece that might very well change the way the world viewed fur, she found herself faking phone calls to Miranda and fetching Nigel's coffee.
The latter action sufficiently worsened the editor's mood and she held a long speech about Andy being her assistant, and nobody else's.
"Well, I had nothing else to do," the brunette whispered in defence.
"That is no excuse for my Fashion Director to abuse your good will." Miranda spat angrily. "Wasn't it him who said, only just yesterday if memory serves me well, that you should watch out for people taking advantage of your precious heart?"
"Uhm... I guess..." Andy was a bit taken aback by the editor's rant.
Things between them were still awkward. Granted, Miranda hadn't left the safety of the brunette's shoulders all day, however other than channelling her comments and orders through her assistant the editor had not spoken to Andy directly since they had gotten up that morning. If it weren't for the softness moving against her neck and the occasional model squealing in delight at the adorable creature, Andy could have almost sworn that Miranda wasn't there at all, and that the editor's constant rattle of commands was merely a masochistic manifestation inside the brunette's head.
The shoot was being suspended for a ten-minute break and Andy sneaked off into a small storage room off the main hallway. She sat down on a large, black box of lighting equipment and released a heavy sigh when Miranda glided off and down her arm to get comfortable in a nest of cables.
A heavy silence engulfed them as muffled noises from the bustling activities outside attempted to steal their way into the confined space. The assistant sheepishly rubbed at the silk stockings covering her knees and chanced a glance at the mink. Small, blue-green eyes studied her thoughtfully and Andy finally caved.
"Miranda, please don't be angry with me any more. It's already tough enough when you're displeased as my boss, but now that we're more or less stuck together like this, it's really..." she swallowed and looked down to her lap, "weighing me down."
The furry, white head perked up and Andy saw confusion in the almost anthropomorphised features.
"Angry with you?"
"Uhm... well, yes." The brunette mumbled, knowing full well that Miranda didn't owe her an explanation and that she probably shouldn't have brought this up to begin with. Despite their situation the editor was still her boss and although a pat on the head and an occasional public scratch behind those little protruding ears might have been acceptable for authenticity's sake, trailing her fingers across the mink's exposed belly was something else entirely. It was the difference between shaking someone's hand and fondling their butt.
"You haven't really said anything to me, since this morning..."
"That's not true," Miranda interrupted. "I believe I've done nothing other than talk all day."
Andy raised her eyes back to the slightly flustered creature. "You know what I mean, Miranda. You've been avoiding me. And I'm sorry. I don't know what got into me in bed earlier, but I promise it won't happen again! Just please, talk to me again."
The editor regarded her quietly, assessing her with that typical Priestly scrutiny. If a mink could have chewed on its bottom lip, that's what Miranda would have done right then.
"What makes you so sure that I'm angry?"
The assistant's head jerked up, surprised at the gentle tone.
"Maybe I'm simply... embarrassed?"
A frown crept on the brunette's forehead. "So I embarrassed you?" She grimaced. "That's not any better. I'm sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable..."
The mink smacked its tongue in frustration and rolled its eyes. "Oh for god's sake, Andrea. As unusual as it may sound, not everything is your fault. If you used your head instead of constantly apologising, you'd remember that it was me who rolled over and pinned down your hand." A soft scarlet crawled up under the snowy fur and gave the little creature a pinkish tint. "I'm embarrassed of my ownbehavior, which is something..." she shifted and turned her long neck to the side, "... that I am unaccustomed to."
"Oh..." was all Andy could muster as she found herself strangely torn between cheering about the fact that she wasn't to be blamed, and giving a shriek of delight at how adorable the mink looked at that moment.
"Yes. 'Oh'," Miranda said with a pinch of sarcasm that made her sound more like her confident, usual self again.
"It is most likely the effect of being stuck in this body, but I don't necessarily mind... being touched," she continued.
The brunette softened her gaze and cocked her head to imply that she was listening attentively, all the while her heart was beating more rapidly by the second, drowning out anything but Miranda's voice.
"I..." the editor slowly pressed on. "It's disconcerting how large everything is from my perspective, and I find myself... worried... that someone might squash or trample me. Not to mention that I fear we may fail or misinterpret our mission and I could be stuck... like this... forever... never being able to hold the twins in my arms again..."
Her eyes found Andy's, and the brunette saw how truly upset Miranda was.
"I find myself able to relax... and I feel less... frightened in your presence."
The urge to clutch against the harsh hammering in her chest was strong, but Andy just sat rigidly in her spot, staring at her boss' adorable face.
"Your touch soothes me, Andrea."
Spanning the distance between them like a heavy steel cable, the last sentence fastened the brunette to Miranda's shining eyes and she was unable to look away. The small hairs on the back of her neck rose as the intensity of the moment grabbed a hold of her and threatened to rob her of her courage. However, after what felt like minutes of drowning in each other, it was the editor who had to avert her gaze, the significance of which, did not escape Andy.
There was... something.
The brunette was too cautious to question or ponder what exactly it could be, but this wasn't the first moment they had shared. Actually, when she thought about it, in the past few months there had been gazes, locked maybe a tad longer than was necessary, fingers accidentally brushing more softly than was needed, and she remembered more than a few silences that had stretched between them comfortably - yet also with a certain awkwardness - before Miranda had been turned into a cute, fluffy animal.
Warmth, stemming from something akin to hope, fluttered awake in the assistant and she carefully lifted her hand in the mink's direction.
The uncertainty in Miranda's eyes, when she looked up, made Andy's heart clench, and she offered a warm smile.
"Please, come here," she whispered, not as much pleading for herself as she was offering solace for the woman who had just revealed her fears.
Carefully, the editor crawled back onto Andy's lap, where she balanced on her hind legs and pressed her front paws against the brunette's chest.
"Miranda, I don't mind touching you, either," the assistant spoke quietly. For emphasis she gently used her palm to stroke from the mink's perky head, along the fluffy, white neck, all the way down to its tail, feeling the little creature lean into the touch. Empowered by the knowledge that the editor actually enjoyed this, she pushed up under the furry bum and cradled Miranda in her arms, holding her close and continuing to stroke the soft fur.
"We'll end the spell and you'll be back to normal in no time! I promise. I won't allow anything to come between you and your daughters," she mumbled soothingly, and to her surprise and utter pleasure, the little button nose pressed gently against her own. The editor's tiny puffs of breath ghosted across the brunette's lips as she whispered, "Thank you."
Andy smiled and pulled Miranda closer, allowing the mink to curl up and snuggle below her collar bone.
The suddenly opened door startled them but Andy didn't let go.
"There you are." Nigel poked his head through into the room. He studied the two of them for a moment and an unsettling smile appeared on his lips that indicated an idea was forming in his mind.
"We're ready to continue. You may inform Miranda that I sent the first batch to her via email."
The assistant nodded and made a grab for her phone while still stroking her other hand lightly over the mink's smooth hair. Nigel released a "hmmm" and fully stepped into the room, giving Andy a look that froze the young woman's thumb above the speed dial button.
"You two truly make a magnificent image. I wonder..." He rubbed his chin between a thumb and index finger and looked from the brunette to the mink. "Six, would you mind if we tried something? I'll talk to Annie. I think it could work."
"Uhm..." Andy felt the mink stiffen in her arms, but no advice was forthcoming, so she nodded gingerly, sensing that her day was about to get a whole lot more complicated.
The ride back to her apartment was painfully quiet, and Andy watched the world fly by outside the tinted car window with a permanent blush to her cheeks. The awkwardness between Miranda and her was definitely back, and it had been intensified by Nigel's 'brilliant' idea of having the junior assistant pose in front of the camera in nothing but... her boss. It was supposed to be a slight stab at the "Fur? No thanks! I'd rather go naked" campaign, and of course the fashion director couldn't know what exactly he was getting her into. The brunette had been too stunned, and Miranda's total silence hadn't helped either. Had the editor given even the slightest sign of protest, Andy would have said 'no', and they could have prevented the big chasm of shame that now hung between them.
The mink was curled-up on the leather seat beside her as Roy drove them through the streets of lower Manhattan. Never in a million years had Andy imagined that she would model, let alone in the nude. Well, technically she had been wearing a skin-coloured thong, and Miranda's soft body had been covering her nipples... Oh god...
She fought the urge to groan, not wishing to draw the editor's attention. Nigel had assured her that it would ultimately be Miranda's decision what to do with the images, if they even used them, but the mink had remained silent and the uncertainty wrecked havoc in Andy's head.
Of course she realised that she wasn't fat. In her head she knew that she had a great body, no matter how many of her skeletal colleagues tried to tell her otherwise. Sharing her naked self with the world, however, wasn't exactly what she had envisioned as her path toward fame. Not to mention that the realisation that Miranda had not only seen her almost completely naked, but had also nuzzled against her exposed chest, whiskers tickling her skin, was utterly mortifying.
Deep down Andy knew that the editor would never run any pictures of her against her will and she doubted Miranda would consider displaying a plain and boring girl such as her junior assistant to begin with, but that knowledge did nothing to quench the anxiety in Andy's stomach.
Strangely enough during the shoot she had been in a kind of trance, bravely following the photographer's and Nigel's instructions and actually holding on to the fact that Miranda was with her. The editor's presence had made her feel safe, the furry body not only shielding her physically, but also putting up an invisible barrier between them and the rest of the studio. The mink may have remained quiet, but her eyes had reassured Andy and warmed her against the chill in the former warehouse.
When the car slowed down in her street, the assistant turned around and reached out to gently touch her slumbering boss.
"We're here," she whispered still a bit wary of waking the mink. The small puncture marks on her palm were hardly noticeable now, however the moment when those teeth had sunk into her, still wasn't something she remembered fondly.
Miranda rose, stretched her back with a yawn and then crawled up into waiting arms without a single word. At least Andy now knew that the editor wasn't angry and that the embarrassment was likely mutual. She said goodnight to Roy, and grabbing her bag, she cradled the mink against her chest and walked up to her building.
The trip up the stairs allowed the day's exhaustion to fully manifest itself inside her arms and legs and Andy exhaled sharply against her bangs once they had reached her floor. Several nights of almost no sleep and a lot of emotional drainage had left the assistant weakened, and she pushed through the door to her apartment with a loud sigh. She set the editor down on the carpet to allow her a few minutes of freedom while Andy herself would tackle dinner.
She prepared the left-over turkey, tearing the meat in smaller pieces for her boss and making a sandwich for herself, before dragging herself to the couch and collapsing into the cushion next to Miranda.
"Here you go." She placed a plate in front of the mink and then slipped out of her high heels and tucked her feet underneath herself. The editor eyed her sceptically.
"Really, Andrea. Dior... wrinkled... on this couch... and eating a sandwich? You realise that borrowing clothes from the Closet isn't a right, it's a privilege?"
Too tired to argue, and not entirely convinced by the half-hearted scolding, Andy just shrugged her shoulders and took a big bite from her food. After swallowing, she replied, "I'm too exhausted to change, and besides, you're shedding and this blouse will need to get thoroughly cleaned before I can return it anyway."
Button nose pointing into the air, Miranda sniffed. "Well, it's not like I can help it." She then eyed the turkey and slowly began to eat.
"It's alright, when we're done here I'll brush your fur. I still have Yuki's grooming kit lying around somewhere."
They finished their meal in silence and then Andy got up to change. She was sure her choice of attire would elicit some kind of witty vocal reaction, and she wasn't disappointed when she returned to the living room in her most comfortable and baggy sweatpants and the beloved Northwestern hoodie pulled over her hair.
"I realise you don't live in the best of neighbourhoods, Andrea, but does that mean you have to dress like a thug?"
The brunette snorted and adjusted her walk by slightly sinking through her knees with each step and opening her arms in a rather 'gangsta' way. She pointed the pet brush in Miranda's direction and lowered her voice.
"You talkin' to me, Lady?"
Miranda's sudden laugh took her by surprise. She imagined the editor's human face as the pleasant sound curled itself around her heart, and it knocked all playfulness right out of her. Would she ever get to see the older woman laugh like that again? Even if they managed to break the spell, there was no guarantee that the editor would still seek Andy's presence in a social setting that allowed for unbridled laughter.
She sat down cross-legged on the couch with a heavy sadness pressing against her chest and she gingerly pulled the cotton hood away from her head. Miranda must have noticed her distress, because the mink stopped chuckling and then crawled carefully onto Andy's lap.
"Are you alright?" The editor asked softly, searching her assistant's eyes as her paws sunk into the thin cotton of Andy's pants.
"Yeah... I just..." the brunette faltered and trailed an index finger gently along the furry creature's jaw, fighting against the burning sensation in her eyes.
"I... miss you." The words left the safety of her lips before she could reign them in. Miranda seemed puzzled for a moment, no doubt on the verge of stating that she was right there on Andy's lap, but then realisation seemed to dawn on her and her gaze softened.
"Yes. 'Oh'," the assistant replied, relaying Miranda's earlier response back to her and hoping that the meaning behind what she had just revealed wouldn't further embarrass her boss.
After a few seconds of looking at each other the mink sighed and draped itself across Andy's legs.
"I believe you were about to groom me," she dead-panned and managed to pull a small smile from the brunette's lips with her sassiness.
And so Andy slowly began running the soft brush through Miranda's fur. Before long the mink began to purr contently with each stroke and the assistant almost got lost in the oddly calming, repetitive motion.
"I'm sorry that we didn't get around to speak to the twins today..." she began, hoping that the editor was pacified enough to allow for more personal conversation.
"I hate disappointing them," Miranda said quietly, lost in thought. "I try to make more time,... but it's hard."
A tense sigh escaped the small creature and Andy paused the grooming for a moment to caress encouragingly behind the little ears. Miranda relaxed again and the brunette continued the soothing strokes with the brush.
"It's going to be tough on them... going through another divorce."
The junior assistant blinked. So Miranda was really going to get rid of that jerk Stephen! Andy tried not to squeal in delight.
"The press isn't very kind to me, and although I don't care what anybody writes about me,... the girls..." her furry, little body heaved with another laden sigh, "they're not supposed to read those things, but they do. And it upsets them."
Gentling her movement, Andy gave an unseen nod. "I can understand that."
Miranda lifted her head and fixed her with a questioning gaze, so the brunette elaborated.
"It upsets me, too, all those hideous lies they write about you." Andy stopped and placed the brush on the pillow next to her. "It changed my view on the press... and I'm re-evaluating my future career choices."
The editor looked thoroughly intrigued. "What do you mean?"
Andy's hand found its way back to soft, white fur and she continued to stroke Miranda while she explained.
"Well, I've always dreamed about working at a daily newspaper. I've had this idea that bringing news to the people was something... noble." A cynical snort escaped her. "But now, after more or less glimpsing the other side of it, I'm... questioning that world. I'm thinking about maybe writing for a magazine instead. I like the pace at Runway and I think I'd prefer writing lengthy articles on in-depth subjects... you know, do proper research and really get involved before writing about something..."
A yawn crept up on her and she felt her jaw crack from the force of it.
"You should go to bed, Andrea."
Miranda's features had softened and she nuzzled Andy's palm, trying to hide a yawn of her own, but the other woman saw it and it clutched at her heart.
"Come on, let's go," the brunette offered as she gently picked up the little ball of fur.
The editor snuggled her head into the crook of Andy's neck and they made their way into the bedroom. Torn almost in half my another powerful yawn, the assistant decided against slipping into her pajamas and simply let herself drop backward onto the mattress, taking Miranda with her.
Already half asleep, she managed to drag the sheets up and over them, before she curled up on her side and pressed the mink tightly to herself.
Slumber clawed at her consciousness and she felt the fluffy, little head press against her neck.
"When all this is over and you're you again," she snuggled into the pillow, "please don't send me away."
"Don't be ridiculous, Andrea. Why would I do that?" Was the whispered reply, but Andy was too sleepy to answer. Instead, she wrapped a protective hand around Miranda and allowed fatigue to claim her.
This time Morpheus lured Andy onto spring meadows and she let herself sink into the tall, soft grass. She looked up at the azure sky, where white, puffy clouds in the shape of little mink were chasing across the blue expanse. Wild flowers, reaching into the heavens, framed her view and they waved gently in a breeze that picked up and died down again like waves lovingly brushing against the shore. Sunshine kissed her cheeks and tip of the nose, and Andy felt a wonderful sense of contentment. She was safe and happy.
Her attention was drawn to supple warmth beneath her head, and suddenly a face came into view from above, blocking the sun. Andy realised that she was lying on a lap and the dark silhouette leaning over her slowly materialised into Miranda. The older woman was smiling down on her, white forelock flowing in the wind in sync with the soft swish of the grasses surrounding them, and Andy felt herself reach up and tenderly tuck the unruly strands behind the editor's ear.
Gentle fingers brushed over her cheek in return, and the brunette pushed herself off the ground to sit up and face the other woman. Leaning forward on one arm, she drew closer to Miranda's face and took in her beautiful, pale skin, the faint sprinkle of freckles on her nose and cheek bones, and the reflection of the blue sky in her eyes. An adorable grin hung on the older woman's lips and Andy carefully raised her hand to slide caressing fingers across that kissable mouth.
Miranda's palms were smooth as silk and wonderfully warm when they cupped her cheeks and began pulling her closer. The gentle breeze played with their hair when lips closed upon lips and Andy's world became one big swirl of overwhelming sensation.
Andy didn't want to leave the peaceful spring day.
"One more minute..." she mumbled. "Let me just kiss s'more... M'randa.."
"Andrea, wake up."
With an unhappy grumble she slowly fluttered her eyes open against the dreary grey of an overcast October morning.
She rubbed her eyes and attempted to stretch her way out of the sluggishness that could only come from a long night of deep, restful sleep. Miranda's furry, white shape was perched on the pillow next to her and she regarded the brunette with typical impatience.
"How in the world can a person possibly sleep this long?" The editor sniffed.
Unwilling to be rushed on the one day a week she could more or less relax, Andy sat up slowly and slid her feet over the edge of the bed. Yawning, she thrust her arms straight up into the air and stretched out all the kinks in her shoulders and back, flexing her spine and not caring that her sweatshirt rose up and exposed her midriff.
It's not like Miranda hasn't seen it before, was the thought that came to her unbidden, and suddenly the reality of the previous day hit her full force.
Rapidly blushing cheeks burned into her palms when Andy attempted to hide her face.
"When you're quite done with your morning theatrics I would like to check my email," the editor spoke unfazed and hopped off the bed.
The assistant rubbed her cheeks awake and swung herself onto her feet.
"God, it's Sunday," she whined. "What used to be my Miranda-free day..."
"I thought you said you'd do anything to help me end the spell," the mink said in a perfectly icy Priestly timbre.
Andy knew that tone and she recognised the rather rhetorical question she was still required to answer. "Uhm, yeah... I did. And I meant it..."
"Then quit your whining and get your shapely behind into gear!"
Did she just say 'shapely'...?
The brunette decided to test the waters when the editor continued speaking as if she hadn't said anything unusual.
"I need to go over that article the writing staff hopefully sent last night, and the printing deadline..."
Miranda's suddenly faltering voice got muffled when the assistant pulled the hoodie over her head, exposing her bare back to her boss and dropping the garment to the carpet while arching her neck sideways to rid herself of any remaining stiffness from the night.
"... is in less than twenty hours," the fashion maven finished the sentence with a whisper.
"Alright," Andy spoke nonchalantly over her shoulder. "Let me just shower real quick and get dressed, and then I'll set up the laptop."
Interesting, the brunette thought when she sauntered into the bathroom with an extra sway to her hips. So Miranda doesn't mind my touch, calls my butt 'shapely' and she gets distracted by my naked back...
The assistant closed the door and looked up into the mirror above the sink. Her hair was mussed, and her cheeks were flushed from sleep and the memory of yesterday's embarrassment. Her eyes, however, were clear and bright. She could finally look at herself with total honesty, her true emotions no longer hidden by denial. She loved Miranda. It wasn't a distracting crush, confused hero worship or mere physical attraction; she was in love with the older woman.
As she stared at her reflection, Andy realised that she wasn't scared or appalled. She didn't flinch when that four-letter word played over and over in her mind. An odd sense of everything settling into place engulfed her and she found peace in finally understanding what had been going on inside of her for the past few months.
Her reflection broke into a smile when she welcomed that warm, fuzzy feeling inside her heart. Although she was convinced that Miranda would never love her back in that way, the editor at least didn't hate her. She apparently also did not find her unappealing - a thought which sent Andy's heart into a rather giddy tumble.
Get a grip, Sachs, the rational part of her brain scolded. Nothing will happen, so just get your shapely ass into gear and shower already!
Her sense of reason did not manage to fully dissolve the warm cloud of elation in her chest, though, and the brunette stripped off the rest of her clothes and stepped into the shower happily humming to herself.
"No, I'm sorry. It's Andy again. Your mom's voice isn't back yet, but she's here with me."
The assistant looked across the table were Miranda was licking the yolk from a raw quail egg.
"Oh..." came the disappointed reply from the phone and the editor looked up from her breakfast with a pained expression.
"Are you at our house?" That was most likely Cassidy, the more inquisitive of the twins.
"No," the brunette gazed at her boss. "We're at my apartment, actually."
Miranda cocked her little head in annoyed disbelief that Andy would blurt that out and the brunette quickly covered the speaker with her palm and shrugged her shoulders to whisper, "one shouldn't lie to children."
Of course Cassidy latched onto that bit of information right away.
"What is Mom doing at your place on a Sunday morning?"
Andy smirked, her gaze not leaving the mink. "Kicking my lazy butt into gear, of course."
Caroline giggled in the background and Miranda rolled her eyes. "Andrea!"
"We're working, actually, and we need to go into the office in a bit. Your mom wanted to hear your sweet voices before we get all caught-up by work stuff."
"Uh-oh, she's rolling her eyes at me again."
The twins giggled and Andy could have sworn a tiny smirk tugged at Miranda's lips as well.
"So... is everything alright with you guys?"
Cassidy sighed into the phone. "Yeah, I guess. We can't wait to get home, though."
Her sister continued, "Dad got really mad at us for teasing Felicity, so we didn't have pizza night yesterday. We had to stay in our room the whole evening."
The editor crawled closer to Andy and said, "tell them we'll have pizza together when they get home."
It was rather difficult to picture Miranda and her daughters eating something as pedestrian and carb-laden as pizza in that fancy town house kitchen of theirs, but the idea nonetheless infused the assistant with warmth. She smiled gently as she relayed the message to the girls.
"Oh really? That's great, Mom! Yay!" Caroline shrieked in the background.
"She says, 'only if you behave for the rest of the weekend', though,'" Andy added per Miranda's instruction.
"No problem," the twins answered quickly at the same time, and the brunette's heart ached for the small family at the blatant eagerness of the girls to spend time with their mother; even if it was just a shared evening meal of pizza.
"She said, 'yes, Bobbsey'," Andy repeated back to Cassidy.
"When we come home tomorrow after school, will you be there?"
She had known that Miranda's daughters were exceptionally bright ten-year-olds, but their talent for picking up on every little thing still surprised Andy. She gazed at her boss and a look of hopeless agony passed between them. So much for not lying...
"She's nodding... and I'll do my best to help get her out of the office on time."
The brunette truly meant it, and the conviction in her voice conjured a spark into the mink's saddened eyes. Andy reached out and gently stroked over Miranda's head, before bringing the phone call to a close.
"Alright, girls, we need to go now. She loves the two of you more than anything and can't wait to hold you in her arms again."
"Did she really tell you to say that?" An astounded Caroline asked in a hushed voice.
"No," the brunette trailed her fingers tenderly along the jawline of the editor, whose gaze burned deeply into her soul. "She didn't have to. I can see it in her eyes."
"We love you, too, Mom!"
"Yeah, see you tomorrow, Mom!"
"Bye, Cassidy. Bye Caroline."
The assistant disconnected the phone and smiled encouragingly at Miranda. "Come on." She stood. "Let's go and sort out that article."
As if it had become its second nature, the mink easily crawled up into the brunette's waiting arms and curled up against her chest.
"Andrea?" The editor whispered while Andy gathered the essentials into her purse and grabbed a coat.
Miranda's voice was low and almost inaudible, but her "thank you" still found its way straight to Andy's heart.
(continued in chapter two ... ^_^ off you go... clicker-de-click!)