Disclaimer: Own? Me? Nahhh…
A/N: This would be it, my friends. A nice, tame 'T' chapter to tie up some loose ends. Thank you for your patience, and for your lovely reviews. I have another few projects waiting in the wings, so something new soon. (Soon being a… relative term.)
Though both Miranda and Andy seemed reluctant to lose the delicious new skin-to-skin contact, each of them understood without speaking that there was a fine line between having so much pleasure that it exhausts you, and being too exhausted to enjoy the pleasure. Midday found them curled up together, luxuriating in that state of half-napping, half-dazed peace that came from being exquisitely satisfied.
"Hmmm... Though I hate to break the mood, I think there are a few... work-related things we should discuss," Miranda said, turning in Andy's arms to face the younger woman. "I have a... proposal of sorts, and I would like you to hear it through before you give me your opinion."
Andy nodded slowly, then said, "If we're going to talk Runway, can we maybe do it in the kitchen over some lunch? With some, ah, clothes on? I don't think I can have a serious conversation lying here with you." She ran a hand along Miranda's thigh, over the swell of her hip to settle on her waist, smiling in delight as she saw the trail of goosebumps she left in her wake. "You're far too distracting."
Miranda chuckled. "Perhaps that would be for the best."
She sat up and swung her feet off the far side of the bed. Andy watched unabashed as the editor hunted for her robe, finding it on a chair in the corner. When she turned, she was confronted by Andy's heat-filled gaze, and her body reacted despite being well-satisfied. "Andrea," she growled. "If you keep looking at me like that, we aren't going to get to the kitchen."
Andy blushed slightly, not having realized quite how predatory her stare had been, but she still replied, "On second thought, the kitchen doesn't seem quite so important."
For a moment, Miranda looked ready to drop the robe and return to the bed, but Andy's stomach took that moment to protest. It drew a gentle laugh from Miranda. "Kitchen, lunch, talk, and then we'll see."
Lounging around in one of Miranda's silk bathrobes, watching as the editor was putting together and toasting two tomato-basil-mozzarella sandwiches, Andy was struck by how effortless this moment was. There didn't seem to be any awkwardness between them, no regrets. In fact, Andy found that it felt almost... natural...to sit in the kitchen and watch her boss cook for her. "Anything I can do to help?" she felt inclined to ask.
Miranda had her back to her, flipping the sandwiches in a skillet, but Andy recognized a smile in the curve of her cheek. "Silverware in the drawer below the sink, napkins in the right-hand cabinet below that. I suppose you might as well learn your way around the kitchen."
Andy, who had risen to follow Miranda's instructions, stumbled at the implications of that statement. She caught herself, so Miranda remained unaware of her thoughts, but Andy's face had broken out in an ear-to-ear grin. She really means for this to work out. I'm learning my way around the kitchen. That has to mean I'm going to be here more often...
The lunch was light but delicious, and both women found themselves finished with the meal before any talking had a chance to begin. Finally, Miranda leaned her elbows on the table. She spoke without preamble. "You've got to move on, Andrea."
Andy felt an immediate sense of panic, but Miranda held up a hand. "You've got to move on from this job. Let me explain. While I personally see no reason that the two of us could not act like adults and continue a professional working relationship, you have your future to consider, and I do not believe you want to spend much more of it as a P.A."
Andy was unsure if that was a question, so she remained silent.
"However, I don't believe it would be wise for you to be settling into a new job at the same time that our relationship is being drawn into the public eye. Tomorrow, we will return to work and request permission for our relationship. We will do this properly, so Stephen will be unable to claim that I was having an affair."
Andy's eyes were huge. "Hold on; you want this to be public?" she asked. Despite the fact that Miranda had made it perfectly clear that she wanted this to continue, Andy was still rather shocked that she wasn't going to hide it, at least for a time.
For the first time since they had started talking, Miranda appeared unsure. Her face started to close down as she said, "I see no reason to slink around in the shadows, Andrea, but if you don't want to be seen with—"
"—No! Oh, Miranda, no, I didn't mean it like that. Of course I want to be with you. I would love to do this right. I just... I wasn't sure... with the divorce... that you were ready for any more, ah, press situations." As she spoke, Andy reached across the table to grasp Miranda's wrists where they rested, crossed on the tabletop.
Miranda looked down for a moment, then took Andy's hand in both of hers. When she looked up again, a fierce light shone behind her eyes. "Oh, I'm more than ready for these 'press situations'. If the world wants to scream out that fact that I've captured a lovely young woman instead of a stodgy old money-bags, let it scream. I refuse to be apologetic and secretive about being... in love."
The final words were still hesitant, a slight flush staining her cheeks, but Andy perfectly understood the sentiment. She never thought she could love the woman more, but in that moment, wildly confident about facing the world, yet blushingly worried that Andy wouldn't want it; Andy realized that she could honestly come to love this woman more with every passing day.
"Thank you," she said simply, and she knew Miranda understood.
They moved to the living room, settling together on the sofa, not too close together, but close enough that when Miranda put her feet up, her toes brushed against Andy's thigh. Sitting there, Miranda convinced Andy that it wouldn't be a good idea to rush straight into a new job.
"Stay at Runway until things settle down. I know, people are going to look at you oddly, and Emily will most likely have an aneurism, but it will be better to let the press settle down before starting somewhere else. If you go to a new job straight away, it will look as though I favored and I both know better—I don't do favoritism..." Miranda chuckled guiltily at the look Andy was giving her. "Alright, I don't often do favoritism." She quickly settled into a more professional tone. "Either way, it would also be hard for you to settle in at a new work place while being stalked by reporters and photographers. Once everything has settled down—I would give it two months—I can quietly arrange for you the job I had in mind for the end of your time as my assistant, or, if you would feel that accepting a recommendation from me would be somehow amoral, I'm certain you will be able to find yourself a suitable position without my interference. Don't worry; I wouldn't be insulted."
Andy nodded slowly. "That all... makes sense, actually," she said with a slightly nervous laugh. "I can't exactly just quit because of, um, this." She gestured between the two of them. "But..." she trailed off.
"But...?" Miranda prompted.
Andy blushed. "I know you said we could be professional, but I'm not sure I'll be able to take sitting only an office away from you all day long for two months, having to watch you being, well, you, and keep a professional distance."
Miranda looked rather smug for a moment, but she nodded slowly. "Well then. Hand in your resignation, give me my two weeks, train a competent assistant, and I'll hand you over to the writing department."
It took Andy a moment to catch up with what Miranda meant, and when she did, she could only blink for a long moment. "Wait, writing department? You want me writing for Runway?"
The editor chuckled at the look on her face. "Yes, I do, actually."
Andy caught sight of something in the other woman's face, and it made her suspicious. "Wait. You planned this all out, didn't you?"
Miranda's lips twitched. "Darling," she started, and the way she said that word made Andy very glad she was sitting down. Otherwise, she was certain her knees would have given out. "Did you really think I would go into this without thinking it through?" She slid closer to Andy on the couch, which suddenly seemed much smaller. "When I set my mind on something..." She didn't need to elaborate on that particular phrase. Andy understood perfectly. "And I had to be certain that there wouldn't be any work-related concerns that could cause us problems." Her hand was now resting on Andy's thigh, and the bathrobe provided little protection from the heat of the older woman's palm.
Still, Andy was determined to get something straight. "Miranda, I don't want you giving me a promotion if—"
Miranda quickly cut her off. "You deserve to be writing, Andrea. I've read your work; after all, you did hand me a rather... in-depth resume, including quite a few pieces of your work. I already ran it by our staff editor. In all honestly, your writing is of a higher caliber than truly belongs in a fashion magazine, but I pride myself on having Runway's work be better than the standard. I wouldn't recommend you stay on as a writer here, but as a transition job, it will be a good boost into the journalism world. I'm not offering you a promotion because I'm sleeping with you..." By this time, the hand had slid inside Andy's robe, sketching random figures on the skin of Andy's upper thighs and doing an excellent job of distracting the younger woman from Miranda's words. "...I'm giving you a promotion because you've earned it," she finished, speaking the last words against Andy's lips before engaging in a daring, breathtaking kiss.
Suffice to say, Andy didn't feel the need for any more discussion.
Andy found herself constantly torn between wanting the week to go faster, and wanting it to quit flying by so damned fast. The man who interviewed them to approve their relationship early Wednesday morning looked bored, unkempt, and didn't seem to care either way about the usual concerns. Miranda was preaching to the choir when she carefully described how the imbalance of power wasn't an issue, and that she could maintain professional courtesy. Andy answered a few questions about dating her superior, and they had finished the legal responsibilities before it was even time for work to start. Each of them was rather subdued in the elevator ride up. Most of the day went by fine, each of them carrying out their separate duties with no one the wiser about the change, until the paperwork was delivered from downstairs, and Emily picked it up from the mail stack.
Andy was out when it happened, but she heard about it later from Nigel. Apparently, she had dropped the entire stack of mail, stood frozen for a time, then muttered, "I love my job." Then, quite suddenly, Nigel explained, it looked like a light bulb had gone off over her head. Emily had turned and said, "No, I hate my job." The surprisingly calm-seeming redhead had strode into Miranda's office uninvited and told the editor, in no uncertain terms, that she couldn't deal with "this" any longer, and had proceeded to slap down a letter of resignation on Miranda's desk that appeared to have been written only a few days after the assistant had begun working there.
Miranda had asked no questions, giving her usual brief, cold nod instead, and asked where she wanted to work.
Emily had gone off.
"You're bloody mental. This whole thing is bloody mental. You and... You and... Six! Oh my god. I've been working here for ages and I put up with your every whim and I get half run-over and she sails off to Paris and now you're bloody shagging! I don't bloody care where I work. Hell, I don't even care that you're shagging Andrea bloody Sachs! It's you. You and your goddamned hot-and-cold schizophrenic 'That's' bloody 'all' and I'm just done."
According to Nigel, who had listened to all of this from the outer office, he figured that all of Emily's years of denial had finally caught up with her and that she hadn't even been really aware of what she was saying, because in the next moment, she had stormed out the door, frozen only a step from the office, said, "Oh no..." and fainted.
On Thursday, Miranda had received a letter from her in the hospital. She had apologized profusely, blamed it on her low blood sugar, wished them the best of happiness, and had asked to be placed in the British branch. She fancied some time "at home."
"Overall," Nigel had said, "It went rather well."
His own opinion of their relationship had been limited to, "Good for you, Six, just don't try and talk to me about it. I don't do lady parts."
Andy had laughed, and that had been that.
Of course, in a matter of hours, the news was all over the building, but aside from glares and stares of varying degrees of hatred, indifference, and jealousy, Andy could deal with it. What she couldn't deal with was the fact that, since Tuesday, she hadn't had Miranda alone once.
Miranda wanted to avoid the worst of the paparazzi by not having Andy over until Friday, when she was going to get the girls. Andy had agreed, and it was only that night, lying alone and sleepless in her bed, that she had realized exactly what that meant. After only one day spent in Miranda's arms, she already could hardly bear the empty sheets around her. Every time she was close to falling asleep, she swore she would hear that far-too-sensual voice whispering, "Andrea, darling," and she would be awake all over again. The next night was even worse, as Miranda had been holed up with legal representatives who were going over the finance records once again before Irv's trial, and Andy had only caught sight of her a few times. It was like withdrawal, Andy thought as she tossed and turned.
Friday, the reporters found her apartment. Andy supposed she ought to be grateful that it had taken them this long. There were only eight or nine standing outside her building, but by the time she had gotten past them and out onto the main streets, she felt as though there had been hundreds.
"Could you describe the nature of your relationship with Miranda Priestly, Miss Sachs?" was one of the nicer questions.
"Is it true that you pressured Mrs. Priestly into her divorce?"
"How much is the Dragon Lady paying you to sleep with her?"
"Do the twins call you 'mom'"
God! Andy thought, pushing past a flashing camera. It's hasn't even been three days!
"Is it true that you slept with Irv Ravitz, and now that he can't pay you, you've moved on to new prey?"
Andy nearly tripped when she heard that one. Where do people get these things? she wondered. She thought that, of course, it would be the nastier rags that hunted down her address first.
Luckily, none of the reporters was persistent enough to follow her too far down the street, and she nabbed a cab with relative ease. There were more reporters outside Elias-Clarke, however; more than the day before. The first tabloids had published the information yesterday... Now it was big.
"How long has your relationship with Miranda Priestly been an intimate one?"
"Why is this only coming out now – is this announcement meant to cover up an ongoing affair?"
"If I could have a word—"
"How long has Miranda known she was bisexual – or does she define herself as lesbian?"
"So is she as cold in bed as she is in person?"
Hurrying up the steps, Andy clutched the inside of her sweater pockets as though they were a life saver, chin tucked into her flimsy scarf for whatever small protection it could offer her. When she finally made it to the office, she slammed the door behind her and slumped down against it. With Emily no longer in residence and Miranda not scheduled to arrive until later, she thought she had the entire sector to herself.
She was somewhat surprised at how much the questions had rattled her. It was one thing to talk calmly about going public; it was another entirely to walk through a crowd of camera flashes and sharp-toothed inquiries into a sex life that had only had one day to mature. She groaned aloud, giving in to the urge to smack the wall out of frustration. Leave it to Miranda Priestly to want to do this properly. To want to actually be allowed to date her assistant. What happened to the good old days when bosses slept with their assistants and waited ten years before anyone else knew it was happening? Andy groaned again. She knew she was just tired. The parts of her that weren't feeling exhausted and over-stressed were actually still thrilled that Miranda was serious about her, serious enough to go public before they had even technically started dating. It wasn't Miranda's fault that she was so damn famous – well, maybe it was.
"Andrea? What are you doing on the floor?"
Andy looked up, shock written all over her face. She had been so lost in thought that she hadn't even heard the tell-tale clack of Miranda's heels. "M-Miranda! What..." She scrambled upright. "You aren't supposed to be here yet. I wasn't, I mean..."
Then, much to Andy's shame, she realized she was crying.
Miranda quickly crossed the distance between them, pulling Andy into her arms and letting them slide down the wall together. Andy tried to pull herself together—this was ridiculous! But somehow, it was all so much more real now. Miranda was gently stroking her hair, saying nothing, offering silent comfort.
The first thing Andy blurted out was, "I haven't even told my parents! Now, they're going to see it on TV, or in the newspaper, or..."
Miranda pulled Andy just that much tighter into her side. "It's going to be alright. Your parents aren't going to find out until you tell them. None of the major papers or any TV crews are out there. These people don't matter. These are the first flood, the rude, nosy tabloids that no one reads anyway."
Andy had stopped crying, but she couldn't make herself pull away from the other woman. "I know, I should know that, I understand that no real journalists would ask those sort of questions, I just..."
"I understand," Miranda said, one hand still resting in Andy's hair. "I never wanted to put you through this. I honestly didn't think this many people would care. I wanted..." Miranda trailed off, sounding slightly unsure. "I just wanted to... I felt like I had to prove to you, maybe prove to myself, that I was serious about this. I should have waited, I should have—"
Now it was Andy's turn to run a soothing hand down Miranda's spine. "No," she said, trying to make her voice firm. "You did everything right. I understood that this was going to happen, and I don't regret it. It just kind of... hit me... out there, with all those people determined to make this into something terrible. And it isn't. We can't let them do that."
Miranda smiled at her, eye to eye on the floor of their office, and leant forward to press a soft kiss against Andy's lips. "Have I mentioned lately that I love you?" she asked, pulling apart before the kiss could deepen.
Andy blushed, still absolutely thrilled to hear those words. "Not in the past two days."
Miranda frowned. "That's far too long."
She reached up over the corner of a nearby desk; an oddly awkward move for the floor-bound editor, which brought a smile to Andy's face. She snagged a phone.
"Roy. Side entrance; three minutes. That's all."
She turned back to Andy, still pressed up against her on the floor. "We will be working from home today. From the townhouse."
The commanding tone of voice made Andy almost expect a "That's all" to follow, but the kind smile on her face was the one reserved only for Andy. The one she had only discovered so recently, but which had already become almost necessary for her to feel... complete.
Miranda stood first, smoothing out a few wrinkles from her skirt and extending a hand to help Andy up. It was these little gestures, these little things that only a week ago, she could not have imagined the other woman was capable of, these gestures had made Andy realize that Miranda wasn't nearly as icy as everyone believed. She was brilliant, and she knew how to get the job done. She ruled with just enough of the fear to temper the awe and respect into something she could wield around the office, but she was willing to let that go when she was with someone she loved. Miranda loves me.
At the townhouse, they actually did work. Andy read through the bios she had been sent by human resources, picking out a few people who looked promising to fill both assistant positions, albeit short term, as she was sure that as soon as she was gone, Miranda would be back to cycling through assistants faster that she could cycle through her Hermes scarves. Miranda was fast and furious on the phone and email, battling with her department heads to get the magazine ready, battling with lawyers to keep her involvement in the Irv dilemma to an absolute minimum, and battling with Leslie about all this sudden new publicity. The work was enough, though, because it felt wonderful just to sit with Miranda in her living room, each doing their separate but connected jobs; together.
Andy called her parents. Her dad answered, and she made him put her mom on the line as well. Miranda motioned, asking silently if she wanted privacy, but Andy shook her head.
"Hi, honey," her mom said. "How are you? We haven't heard much from you lately."
It was true. After Paris, Andy had thrown herself almost bodily into her work, and the calls to her hometown had been infrequent at best. "Sorry, mom, I've been pretty busy."
"Why do I get the feeling this isn't just a 'checking in' sort of call?" her dad asked.
"That's because, well, it's not. Mom, dad, I'm seeing someone..."
She paused, unsure how to broach this subject. She wasn't too worried about the 'woman' thing; she had a gay cousin. It was more the 'Miranda' thing.
Her mom cut into the silence. "That's wonderful, dear, but you sound worried, and you don't usually feel the need to tell us whenever you're seeing someone, so it must be getting serious."
"Um, yeah. It is. The thing is, I have to tell you now, because otherwise you may find out, ah, other ways."
"They famous?" her dad asked calmly.
"Have we heard about him before?" her dad added.
"You have… heard about her before."
There was a slight silence, and then Mrs. Sachs said, "Oh honey, we don't mind if you're seeing a woman!"
"No, no, I know, it's not that… It's Miranda."
"What about Miranda?" her dad said slowly.
"It's Miranda, dad. I'm seeing Miranda. I'm dating Miranda."
"Miranda Priestly?" her mom asked, voice gone strangely flat.
Andy winced. "Yes, mom. Please, I know I haven't been exactly, ah, full of praise about her." She studiously avoided looking at Miranda in that moment. "But this is serious, we're serious, and I love her."
For a moment, there was no sound on the other line. Then, her dad said, "This may take a bit of getting used to, and I think your mom and I are going to want to see you in person, but we aren't going to tell you not to do this, right?"
Andy could practically hear her mother's nod. "You know, I'm not actually all that surprised," Mrs. Sachs said.
"What?" Andy blurted.
"Well, you certainly talked about her a lot, and under all that grousing, I picked up a lot of respect. As long as she makes you happy, Andy, that's all that matters to me."
Andy smiled slowly. "She does, mom." She looked at the woman across from her, who was pretending to stare at her computer screen while clearly listening to the conversation. "She really does. Thank you!"
Andy's mom chuckled. "Nothing to thank us for. Now, I'm sure you have places to be, things to do. Don't worry about us – we'll keep away from the tabloids, same as we always have."
"I love you mom, love you dad."
At three thirty, Miranda calmly reminded Andy that she was picking up the twins. Andy tried not to look nervous or worried – she had, in fact, forgotten all about that particular problem. Miranda offered her the use of her car, which Andy had no interest in – she could hardly drive a stick to save her life, and besides, it would look a bit suspicious if Jenny's mom showed up in Miranda's car.
She took a taxi.
The twins were waiting outside their school and spotted Andy leaning against the taxi right away. They insisted that Andy sit sandwiched in between them. It was not the most comfortable position for her long legs, but she complied. Both Caroline and Cassidy were determined to babble at the same time, both impressed with her new haircut, both wondering if their mom would let them cut theirs like that, both wanting to talk about school and hear about work, and neither of them wanting to talk about the same thing at the same time.
Still, the excitable babble distracted Andy from wondering exactly what Miranda planned to tell them once they got home.
They ran into a few spots of traffic, nothing unusual for the city. When they were only three blocks or so from the house, Caroline, sitting to Andy's right, asked, "So did mom tell you yet?"
Andy knew it was Caroline because she had the same pronounced bump in her long, slender nose, which Cassidy did not. "Hmm?" Andy asked. "Tell me what?"
Caroline chuckled and exchanged a look with Cassidy. "She's got a crush on you!"
"W-what?" Andy spluttered, finally giving the girls her full attention.
Caroline looked smug. "She told us ages ago. We asked why she was always talking about you, and she turned all red, so we knew she had a crush. That's what Cassidy always does around Tommy."
"I do not!" Cassidy whined.
"Yes you do. Anyway, we started teasing mom about having a crush on you, she said that she did, but she made us promise not to tell until Stephen was gone. He's gone now, so we can talk about it, right?" Caroline finished, looking slightly uncertain.
Andy didn't know whether to laugh in relief or in wonder that the twins had figured it out before her. Either way, she chuckled. "Yeah, you can talk about it now. She did, um, tell me about her crush."
"Cool," Cassidy said. "Because you're much better than Stephen."
Caroline nodded. "So when are you moving in?"
Andy nearly choked on her own breath. She sometimes forgot how frank children could be. Leave it to them to have an entire situation sorted out in their heads before she had even wrapped her mind around it. "Um... probably not for a while now. You would, ah, have to ask your mom."
They had pulled up in front of the house. Unfortunately, so had some news vans. "Can you pull around the back?" Andy asked the driver. He nodded, unfazed.
The back lot was thankfully empty, and the twins raced inside while Andy tipped the cabbie. When she had stepped inside, she saw two carrot-tops hugging her silver-haired lover, who met Andy's eyes over their heads with a stare filled with gratitude.
"There are my bobbsies! How are you? I missed you when you were at daddy's."
Cassidy said, "We're fine."
Caroline added, "We were getting bored. And we missed you! And Andy. When is she moving in?"
It was Miranda's turn to look almost comically shocked, but she covered it well, shooting Andy an amused, apologetic glance. "Ah... not yet. Your mom has a few things she needs to sort out with Andrea first. But not tonight; come along... I have dinner ready."
As the Priestly family headed for the dining room, Andy wondered if she should leave. She wondered briefly if perhaps this entire situation had been an odd dream, if these three days of almost-normalcy would slip into four, and five, and everything would go back to how it had been before she had slept with Miranda. For a moment, standing awkwardly in the hall, feeling like the on-call assistant, she felt a choking sense of panic, fear of her own need to be close to this woman.
She needn't have worried. The twins had raced into the dining room, but Miranda had turned.
"Aren't you coming, darling?"
Andy laughed, a tinge of hysteria in the soft sound. "Yes, of course."
Somehow, in three days, she had already fitted herself into the livelihood of this home. It hit her, all at once, that Miranda was really, really serious about this. It wasn't about the sex; though that was certainly a perk she wasn't going to mind exploring quite a bit more. No, it was about them. Both of them, and everything about the two women. It was about herself. It was also about Miranda. Miranda wanted someone to understand her, and Andy was desperate to do just that. Even now, though, at the beginning, at the start, it already just... worked. She was about to sit down to dinner with three parts of a family, and though it was soon, though it was new, she felt that she was already fitting herself in with them. And, best of all, they wanted her to fit in with them. The twins already looked up to her in a way she knew they had never done with Stephen.
How did this all happen so fast? Andy wondered.
But in all truth, it hadn't. It had been happening ever so slowly since she had walked into Miranda Priestly's office as the smart, fat girl. Happening slowly since she began chatting with the twins in the darkened stairwells of the Priestly townhouse. It had been happening faster since Paris, faster still since Miranda had decided to make it happen. Then, that day, in the Runway bathroom, Miranda had snipped away the last bits of their self-control as she had snipped with her scissors, and the moments between then and now had only been stolen time. Not wasted time, because the build-up had been half of the journey, but stolen time all the same.
Because this was right. It hadn't been right for some time now. Something in Miranda had been broken since her first failed marriage, and something in Andy had been broken since she had slept with a man she hardly knew in Paris, perhaps even before that, when she was almost ready to settle for Nate. Not settle with Nate, now with someone she was truly ready to be with forever.
This home had been broken as well, torn between a protective father, a desperate mother, and a step-father who should perhaps never have been in the picture at all.
But now it was right.
"Andrea?" Miranda called, sounding slightly impatient, a touch of that Where-Is-My-Assistant tone tempered by love and not a little desperate want.
"I'm right here," Andy whispered.
Because it was all right. Everything was finally going right.
Things had been broken, yes, but there was no need for them to stay that way.
All it takes is a little fix.