Not caring about wet clothes anymore, Andy dropped down on the sofa, shaking from the cold but unable to move. She hugged herself tightly, feeling utterly alone. Everyone wants to be us. Us. The word was mocking her. There was no us. There was only her. Miranda drawing people in, Miranda kicking people out.
She could hear the clicking of the heels behind the door. Miranda was probably getting ready for bed. Miserably, Andy wished for her to come back. She stared intently at the doorknob, willing it to move. Even Miranda cutting at her viciously was better than this nuclear winter.
Unfortunately, there was only silence, for, after some time, even the footsteps halted. A faint click and a strip of light under the bedroom door vanished. Miranda was in there, probably already sleeping serenely, snuggled under the covers, without a care in a world.
Anger - or was it desperation – surged through Andy. To hell with it. If she had to go down, she'll go down in flames. She jumped from the sofa and, in three long steps, burst through the door.
"That's not all, damn it!" For a bewildered second, she stared at the bed. It was empty. "Um."
Miranda was standing in front of the window, still fully dressed, her silver hair shockingly bright against the backdrop of the night sky. She looked startled, then appalled by intrusion.
"Get out," Miranda said grimly.
"No! You will listen to what I have to say!" Andy realized she was, well, almost yelling and consciously tried to lower her voice. Calm, controlled anger, that was the ticket.
"How dare you…" Miranda started, taking a threatening step forward.
"What do I have to lose? We both know you'll do all that you can to ruin me and we both know what you're capable of," Andy blurted in one breath. Miranda stilled for a moment, then leaned back on the window sill, dangerously calm.
"By all means, then." She waved her hand imperiously. Andy recognized the M. O.; Miranda was passing her a silky rope to hang herself. She took a calming breath. It wouldn't do to start screaming unintelligibly.
"Well?" Miranda prompted snidely. "Was that it? Unsurprising, really, you've never had that much to say."
"You say you are impressed by my loyalty…" Ignoring the barb, Andy began slowly. She'll stay calm. She will.
"No, not particularly. Did I say that?" Miranda shot back smoothly, inspecting her nails.
Blood rushed to Andy's face. The woman possessed the infuriating ability to push the wrong buttons. Or the right ones, as it were… Fine then. Andy was sick of being ignored. Sick and tired and seriously pissed off.
"Do you even know the meaning of the word?" Andy asked hotly. Her voice was getting louder, but she couldn't control it anymore. "Damn it, Miranda! You tossed Nigel away like last season shoes."
Miranda's lips pressed together, her eyes narrowed. Two blotches of red appeared on her cheeks. She dropped the pretense of calm and stared at Andy furiously. Truth hurts?, Andy thought, half terrified, half pleased with reaction.
"I do not like your tone, Andrea."
"Couldn't you at least warn him? After everything he did…" Andy said with resentment.
Miranda slapped her hand on the window sill.
"Don't you dare pin your lack of professional ethics to that! Your indignation is nothing but a show of personal weakness. My dealings with Nigel are my problem." Miranda continued vehemently. "And while you have forfeited your right to explanations or judgment this afternoon, I assure you his professional career will not suffer."
Ignoring a thinly veiled threat, Andy snorted derisively. Miranda continued, undeterred,
"In addition, unlike you, he knows how to keep his opinions and personal dislikes to himself."
"Dislikes? Dislikes?" Andy exploded suddenly and Miranda leaned back in shock. Had anyone ever dared yell at Miranda Priestly? Well, it was about time someone did. Andy could feel the tears of hysteria coming and pushed forward while she still could.
"Are you fucking blind? Or is that some perverse game for you? Making people fall for you, showing them tiny cracks in facade, making them feel special and precious, then throwing them away like rubbish? Just because you can."
Judging by the startled look on Miranda's face, they had both realized she was not talking about Nigel anymore. Cards open, then. She swallowed hard and, finally, voiced her worst fear.
"Tell me, Miranda, how long before you dropped me?"
"Before I dropped you?" Miranda narrowed her eyes. "Do I need to remind you what happened this afternoon?"
"Yeah. Call it a preemptive strike. And I couldn't even do that properly, could I?" Andy laughed bitterly. "Before the night was over, I was running back, like a lap dog that I am."
A look of shock briefly passed over Miranda's face, but disappeared quickly beyond the perfectly composed features.
"Swimming, rather, wouldn't you say?" She threw a fleeting, bored look at Andy's wrinkled clothes.
Crossing her arms, Miranda relaxed on the sill, and raised her eyebrows expectantly at Andy as if asking Are we done?
Andy deflated. Staring at Miranda's distant expression, she simply lost the will to fight. Can you even fight with someone who doesn't give a shit?
"This is pointless." She realized, utterly defeated.
"Precisely." Miranda turned back to the window. Andy gazed at the reflection of her unnaturally pale face coming in and out of focus with every car that passed by. Her eyes were closed, perhaps blocking the glare of the lights.
Andy rubbed at her forehead tiredly. "You don't care. You don't see me at all, do you? I'm an idiot…. Forget it."
She closed the door softly, with best intentions of leaving the room and Miranda for good. Not running this time, just… leaving. Cutting her loses, while she still had a piece of sanity to lose.
The first sob escaped her while walking to sofa. The almost physical pain searing through her stomach caught her unaware. She muffled her next sob behind her palm and darted to the bathroom. Damn if she would give Miranda the satisfaction of hearing her fall apart. Urgently, she tore the clothes off and stumbled into shower.
She let the stream of searing water wash over her for a long time, holding onto the cold tiles and sobbing uncontrollably. After a while, the sobs dissipated and the water started to feel uncomfortably hot.
She stumbled out feeling exhausted, completely washed out. Her eyelids felt like sandpaper. She'd sleep for an hour or two, she decided. Let her clothes dry a bit and sneak out before Miranda woke up.
Mechanically, she put on the complimentary bathrobe, staggered out of the bathroom and froze.
Miranda was sitting regally in the middle of the sofa; her legs were crossed decorously, silken pajama pants peaking out under her bathrobe.
Andy swallowed a gasp, and then looked longingly at her own pajamas, lying over the armchair where Miranda had thrown them ages ago. She tightened the bathrobe sash defensively. So, a round three, after all. Or was it four?
She was not in the mood anymore, though. There was nothing more to say, was there? She glanced at the elaborate, and probably not even a fake, antique clock; 4.30 a.m. It was far too late for anything at all. Andy opened her mouth to say so, and abruptly changed her mind. Miranda didn't look much better than her, actually. She appeared tired, almost defeated, her face as pale as the upholstery. She was staring intently at the hands in her lap. She was silent for such a long time, Andy wondered if Miranda had even noticed she was here. Andy was contemplating a polite cough, when Miranda finally spoke.
"Why were you…," she searched for a word and finally gestured with her hand abstractedly, "…frolicking in the fountain?"
"I was searching for my phone," caught off guard, Andy admitted nonsensically. Of all the questions...
At Miranda's inquiring glance, she elaborated, shrugging her shoulders. "I threw it away earlier."
Miranda simply nodded and fell silent again. Andy was nonplussed; she expected at least one scathing remark on responsibility and company property. When none came, she bit her lip considering her options. So typical. Now, when she felt utterly drained, exhausted beyond reason, now Miranda suddenly decided she wanted to talk.
Andy wasn't sure she had any energy left for explanations. She desperately wanted to lie down, close her eyes and, for a couple of blissful hours, forget about her fucked up life. However, with Miranda occupying her bed for the night, it didn't seem an option anymore.
She reluctantly stepped forward. Miranda did not look homicidal at the moment so Andy sat gingerly on the edge of the sofa, as far away from Miranda as possible. Since the woman was perched right in the middle, it wasn't that far at all.
Miranda didn't stir, so Andy continued. "For some reason, I decided I couldn't come back without it." Andy played absently with the sash. "Hell, I was drunk. My brain was pressing the Undo button."
"You can never go back," Miranda said wearily, placing her hands on the seat, as if preparing to push herself up. Andy wondered what she meant. Go back in time like stepping in the same river twice or go back to Runway? In any case, her answer was the same.
"I don't want to go back." Andy whispered brokenly. She was taken aback by apprehensiveness in her own voice. Gird your loins, Six and grow up already. Andy turned decisively to face Miranda, and their fingers inadvertently brushed together. Miranda snatched her hand away as if burned.
"No? What do you want then? A promotion?" Miranda said derisively. To Andy's experienced ears, her voice sounded more defensive than scornful.
"No," Andy stated, outwardly calm, refusing to elaborate. The tiredness was abating, washed away by suddenly erratic beating of her heart.
"A glowing recommendation, perhaps?" Miranda mocked. She rounded in on Andy, one arm clutching the backrest. As if hypnotized, Andy stared at the piercing eyes which were anything but cold now. They were… challenging. It was as if she were goading Andy, trying to piss her off and place the interaction in familiar surroundings.
"No." Andy shook her head, almost in afterthought, fascinated against her will. Was it the ire at Andy's refusal to play the game or was it the fear making her eyes so dark?
"Your little cook, then? Do you want him? Will you go crawling back to him?" Miranda spit out. Her eyes were burning with cold fire, her cheeks were flushed; she looked like Nemesis, the goddess of revenge. God help me, Andy thought, she is devastating.
A small part of Andy's brain was stunned that Miranda even knew about Nate, not to mention their break up. But this was not the time to question that. Right now, there were far more important things to consider. Things like the silver lock of hair over Miranda's smooth forehead, the barely visible crinkles in the corners of her eyes, that patrician, a tad too long nose, beautiful half opened lips… She swallowed and breathed out.
"I want you."
Miranda froze. Her eyes wide, she stared at Andrea's face, as if trying to decode hidden meanings. Andy gazed back boldly, calmly, surprised how good it felt to finally say it. Here it is, she thought defiantly, do with it what you will.
"I -" Miranda's voice broke and she gave up on talking, shaking her head instead. Her eyes darted down to the sofa, back to Andy's face, then to a spot behind her shoulder. With a slightly unsteady hand she moved the lock away from her forehead.
"You don't know what you want, Andrea," she said distantly.
Andy followed the path of the hand, from the forehead back to the sofa seat. She was immediately entranced by the unconscious pattern Miranda's fingers were making on the upholstery.
Miranda's narrow, graceful hand became a sole focus of Andy's attention.
"Oh, yes, I do," she whispered.
As if hypnotized by long fingers, she reached out carefully. She moved her hand closer gradually, giving Miranda plenty of time to react. The fingers picking on the sofa suddenly stilled but did not retreat. Andy made contact cautiously, touching the thin golden wristwatch first, skimming her fingertip over the bend. When not pushed away immediately, she skipped lightly to the soft, warm skin of the wrist. Faintly, she heard Miranda's breath hitching. Forgetting to breathe herself, she ran the tip of her finger down the pale blue vein following its trail over the smooth skin on the back of Miranda's hand, to where it disappeared between the knuckles. Finally, she fluttered tenderly over the elegant digits, rubbing for a second at the faint mark on, now bare, ring finger. Heart thundering, Andy let her fingers fall between Miranda's, pressing at the sensitive deltas at the base of the fingers.
She thought of another sensitive delta, and thick warmth spread through her stomach.
Perhaps having the similar thought, Miranda gasped, and suddenly, her hand was tightly grasping Andy's. Andy took a shuddering breath, want and relief flushing through in a dizzying mix. This is insane, she thought giddily, just touching the woman's hand felt hotter than any kiss she'd ever received. She risked a glance up, trying to meet Miranda's eyes. She really, really wanted a kiss right now.
Miranda's head was lowered, focused as intently on their hands as Andy had been. She was breathing hard. A lock of silver hair fell rebelliously back down her forehead. As million times before, Andy yearned to touch that lock, pull at it gently. Well, she bit her lip, no time like now. She brought her other hand up and, again with tips of her fingers, brushed the lock away. Miranda looked up. She was wide eyed, cheeks flushed, resembling a cornered animal.
Andy tried to smile reassuringly.
Miranda kissed her savagely.
Not hesitantly, nor cautiously; it was a grab-your-head-to-keep-it-in-place-while-I-feed kind of kiss. Miranda's fingers painful in her hair, noses colliding, lips and teeth crushing together. It was pure force, no finesse about it.
Of course, you idiot, Andy thought dizzily, opening her lips to Miranda's tongue, it's not a kitten you're dealing with, but a tiger. She was stunned by the kiss; for a long moment she simply let Miranda take what she wanted, her hands resting uselessly on the sofa. No other parts of her existed but her lips, and teeth, and tongue, and tender hair at her temples Miranda was still insistently pulling at.
Finally remembering her limbs, she slid a hand up Miranda's arm, to the shoulder, then down to her collar , she felt Miranda trying to disengage and, quick as lightning, pulled her forward by the lapel of that fancy robe. Andy kissed her back possessively, hungrily, putting in the kiss all of the frustrations of months of deprivation.
There might have even been some anger in the bite she dealt to Miranda's lower lip. Instantaneously, she was sorry so she licked at it. Miranda moaned. Andy moaned back. After a moment, she became aware of Miranda's fingers pressing rhythmically at her shoulder blades, signaling her pleasure like a big cat. Reassured that Miranda wouldn't withdraw, Andy gentled her touch.
It felt like they have been kissing for ages, when she felt Miranda pushing her gently away.
"Andrea," she groaned against Andy's lips.
Andy pretended not to hear, licking lightly at the corner of Miranda's mouth instead.
"Andrea, stop." Two fingers were suddenly resting against Andy's lips.
Andy retreated reluctantly, fighting the need to suck the fingers in her mouth. When she was reasonably sure she wasn't cross-eyed anymore, Andy opened her eyes.
Miranda was breathing hard, her lips wet and swollen. Her robe was in disarray, wrinkled, half opened. Once again, she was leaning against the backrest with one arm. Only, right then it looked like that elbow was the only thing holding her up. Andy thought she never looked as beautiful as at that moment. Unfortunately, she also looked increasingly embarrassed by her loss of control.
"This is not going to happen tonight." Miranda was obviously trying hard to sound composed.
"Um…No?" Andy gulped much needed air and instead of letting herself feel crushed, focused hard on the "tonight" part.
"I refuse to have sex with someone who is probably still drunk or, at least, in hypothermia," she continued.
Andy was astounded with her ability to form a complete sentence, while Andy was reduced to thinking in most basic terms. Like tongue, and breast, and wet, and oh, fuck.
"I mean it, Andrea. Too many things are in flux. My divorce…" Miranda shook her head, obviously refusing to dwell on that. Her eyes narrowed. "Anyway, what about that fry cook of yours?"
Before Andy could answer, Miranda continued, her eyes flashing. "Besides, you left me at the stairs, for god's sakes!"
"I apologized!" Andy said indignantly.
"You apologized for leaving me like that! What on earth is that supposed to mean? Would it feel right to you if you gave me a box of chocolate before leaving?"
Miranda was working herself in a major snit. She was sitting up, staring at Andy down her nose, her lip raised slightly in a sneer.
"OK, stop it right now!" Andy intervened while she still could. "First of all, Nate left me. Basically, he said he couldn't compete."
"With your fancy job?" Miranda raised her eyebrow, apparently slightly mollified with the news.
"With you," Andy admitted quietly, still feeling like a traitor about it. Miranda said nothing, so after a moment, Andy continued entreatingly.
"As for leaving you… I didn't see any other solution at the moment. It was wrong, it was rash, but, damn it, I was angry and you didn't seem to give a shit."
They were staring at each other as combatants, a huge gulf between them. To anyone else, Miranda would have looked cold, unmoved by Andy's admission, but Andy could detect little signs that pointed otherwise. Miranda, Andy realized, looked more, well, scared than angry. Provoking a fight was probably a natural instinct when dealing with stress. And there was her damned pride, as well. Andy swallowed and, once again, decided to act grown up. Someone had to. At this rate, she thought, we'll be the same age by the time the night is over.
"Hey," she said lightly trying to break the tension.
"Hey," Miranda whispered coarsely, and then cleared her throat. She licked her lips and looked away, visibly trying to collect herself. Oh, no, Andy thought, no, you won't. Refusing to let her go, she tugged lightly at Miranda's fingers, and put her other arm over Miranda's on top of the backrest, effectively holding her down.
"I'm sorry I left," she whispered, leaning closer. She stroked her thumb soothingly over the back of Miranda's hand. Ignoring the sudden tension, she rested her forehead on Miranda's shoulder.
"As you should be. " The grudging answer came somewhere over her head.
For some reason, Andy thought back at that accusation, which now seemed ages ago, about returning to Nate.
"Don't you know by now you are the only person I would crawl to?" She mumbled into her silken bathrobe.
"Or swim, rather," Miranda drawled, unsteadiness in her voice completely ruining the effect of the intended barb. In retaliation, Andy snuggled deeper into Miranda's neck, inhaling the unique scent. She could feel Miranda's erratic pulse on her temple.
"Crawl, swim, and buzz. As long as it leads me back to you." Andy smiled into Miranda's skin. Before Miranda could snort at her mushiness, she placed a tiny kiss on Miranda's neck. Miranda's breath caught, so she kissed her again. Miranda moaned softly.
All of a sudden, Miranda was hugging her tightly, clutching at her shoulders, her fingers pressing into Andy's back.
"Damn you," Miranda whispered harshly. "I'll kill you if you leave me again."
"I won't." Andy promised, squeezing Miranda back in reassurance.
Despite the awkward position on the sofa, they stayed locked together for long minutes, neither willing to let go. Andy felt herself relaxing in the soft body pressed closely to her own, the tension leaving her in waves. Miranda's fingers were drawing nonsensical shapes on her back. Andy closed her eyes and soaked in the attention.
"Andrea," Miranda said and Andy started, shocked to realize she was drifting to sleep.
"We should go to sleep, it is awfully late." Miranda squeezed her once more and disentangled herself.
Before Andy could react, Miranda stood. She straightened up, and sucked a painful breath in, rubbing at her back.
"Yes, I guess so." Andrea sighed unenthusiastically, and slumped down to the cushions. Her eyes forlornly followed Miranda who was already disappearing in direction of the bedroom. She felt bereft, suddenly deprived of Miranda's arms around her. She looked at the sofa balefully.
Reaching the door, Miranda turned and looked at Andy, her eyebrows raised.
"Well? What are you waiting for?"
"Huh?" Andrea said eloquently and cringed. Miranda benevolently ignored her.
"You are not planning to sleep on that dreadful thing, are you?" Miranda massaged her back again. "Come on."
Andy almost scampered in the bedroom, following Miranda like a puppy. At the last moment, she remembered to change into the pajamas. While the mere idea of pressing her naked body to Miranda's made her hyperventilate, she had a hunch that Miranda would want to move a tad slower. If they ever moved anywhere at all, she sighed. Though, that hand play earlier was pure sex. Not to mention the kiss. Andy felt a sudden pressure in her stomach, and resolutely buttoned up her pajamas. Decadently soft, smooth, Miranda's pajamas. Her mind blanked out for a moment.
"Coming," she mumbled hurrying in.
Miranda was in bed already, lying on her back and eying her sharply. Andy turned off the lights and quickly slid under the covers. Before she had a chance to hesitate, Miranda tugged at her arm and she ended up snuggled close, one hand draped over Miranda's stomach. Miranda scratched at Andy's shoulder blades and Andy almost purred with satisfaction. Only now, lying down, she realized how utterly exhausted she was.
"Are you warm?" Miranda whispered in Andrea's ear. Despite exhaustion, Miranda's voice was doing delicious things to Andy's stomach. She pressed closer, pushing her head in soft, fragrant spot between Miranda's neck and shoulder.
"Mhm," Andy mumbled, perfectly content. Miranda scratched some more and Andrea's eyelids dropped.
"I can't believe they just let you sit there, drenched as you were," Miranda said out of the blue, sounding scandalized all over again.
"M'ok." Andy muttered, already half-asleep.
"Well, if you as much as sniff tomorrow, I'm suing France. " Miranda huffed, closing her eyes.