DWP fanfic: The Narcotic Night
by Politic X
Pairing: Andy / Miranda:: Rating: R:: Status: Completed:: Word count: 10,888:: Chapters/web pages: 1
Disclaimer: The Devil Wears Prada is not owned by me; I'm not making money.
Archive: Ask first.:: Posted: April 2012
Begun from a prompt by chilly flame in the Halloween comment ficathon. {Miranda, Andy, a knife}
Beta: the mighty sheknowsnofear What was said to the rose that made it open was said to me here in my chest.
Summary: Andy visits Miranda at a crime scene.
Extra thanks to Sandrine, who kindly put words into Jacqueline's mouth for me.

::: Riding the narcotic night 'til she swerved and smashed into the curb,
Morning spilled from the wreckage and offered prayer without words. -Mary Gauthier :::

Andy's cell goes off just as she exits the subway at Franklin. She grabs it without looking. It's Marks, the new guy, his voice reckless with condescension he has already learned from everyone else: 'Guess she's right after all.'

He goes on to say that another body has been found, and Andy's ears begin ringing, as if she'll faint. She braces herself against a streetlamp, becoming nauseated instead, and she's so focused on notvomiting that it's a full minute later before she realizes that her fingers are freezing and the man is still talking. She hangs up on him, paraphrasing her mentor ("That's enough-") and secures her briefcase over her shoulder, tucking her hands into the pockets of her sable pea coat.

The city is a cold mecca this November morning, and Andy is late already, so she begins trotting the several blocks to the first victim's loft, over the river of asphalt, through the woodland of scaffolding.

The sweep of wind lifts a patch of dead leaves beneath a meeting-spot-tree, heralding her turn onto Hudson. Of course another body has been found. Miranda had known it would happen. Andy knew it would happen as well; she had just hoped for a longer reprieve. She prefers her day to begin in a more ordinary way - in the quiet of Miranda's office. She's grown accustomed to mornings spent listening to the great detective expound on the inadequacies of the NYPD, the government, even Andy's own wardrobe, all of which are delivered with serene indifference, as if Miranda doesn't really care that the local unit accidentally lost evidence from the second crime scene any more than she cares whether or not Andy wears The Gap or Burberry, but why one doesn't strive to get things right on the first pass is beyond me. It's merely life, Miranda would sniff.

It's merely life , Andy thinks bitterly. She's one of the few people Miranda talks to, and she listens hard - she listens to what the detective really says, beneath the frost. But even the most clueless of their co-workers has sense enough to seem ashamed when Miranda utters that particular phrase. Of course, they aren't privy to everything else.

It took a few months before Miranda did more than glance at her with casual disdain, but gradually, Andy became her confidante. She carries this title with honor and gravity, though some days it's like a scarlet letter pinned to her chest.

Miranda still offers obtuse references in the way of explanations for her sometimes outlandish theories and broad leaps in logic. Andy can't help but grin when she does it, every single time. It doesn't matter whom she pisses off by being vague - the fire marshall, the DA, the Director of the FBI - Andy loves it. Because: as if. As if the Great Miranda Priestly is going to explain herself!

And Andy finds it endearing that the famed detective speaks in the code of her great passion. I agree that it's a poor print, Mr. Young, but what exactly were you hoping for with powder and tape? Those who reach for pret-a-porter cannot expect to waltz away with haute couture. Perhaps an upgrade in equipment will make it into next year's budget.

She suddenly misses Miranda with an intensity that's alarming, especially as she saw her just yesterday. But the need is perpetuated by the woman's infernal machine relentlessly ticking. And there's nothing she can do about that, is there?

Andy breaks out of the hurricane crowd and rushes along a side street. The concrete is merciless on her Jimmy Choos, yet she's become adept at such small negotiations: Miranda likes these pumps, so Andy doesn't save them for cocktail parties; she wears them to work.

Unfortunately, no matter how she hurries, today there will be no illuminating wisdom or caustic litanies. Because Miranda will become sullen with the news - another bloodless body discovered - and she'll grow quiet and contemplative. She will look at Andy as if all she sees is a dark shadow.

Andy braces herself for this during her jog to Jacqueline Follet's loft. She finds slight comfort in the shapes made by the shade of the Neo-Grec architecture, the twisted wraiths that the cast iron throws on the cobblestone. The gloomy silhouettes that flit across Tribeca in the mid-morning light are more fitting to her mood than its citizens in their autumnal finery.

Jacqueline's building is graced by pillars bearing Corinthian capitals. The inside is formal as well - similar to what one would see in an old bank - resplendent with a marble lobby and dentil moldings. The elevator is ancient and suffocating as a tomb. Andy's covered in a sheen of sweat when she arrives at the top floor, but that won't earn any points for effort, late as she already is.

The heavy door is unlocked, so she shrugs out of her coat, leaving it and her briefcase in the vestibule. This means her cell phone and gun are left behind when she hurries through the sunlit rooms. Such careless disregard of her possessions is another of Miranda's lavish habits that seem to be rubbing off on her, like the shine of a toy badge or cheap jewelry.

Miranda refuses to be tied to her cell phone; it remains in her purse where she'll retrieve it as she needs it. If you want to reach Madame Priestly, you will have to do so when it's convenient to her, or else call her protégé cum assistant, Andrea Sachs.

And Miranda believes keeping a gun on her person to be a Neanderthal experience. Why would I do that? Do you think I'm a...cop? Using the word 'cop' with scorn and perplexity, as if it's beyond her how she could be mistaken for a police officer. Miranda Priestly is a detective. She'll nod toward her so-called 'wall of fame' - gleaming frames of articles from newspapers across the globe, Miranda headlining each. Like the most recent, from Belfast: "American Detective Solves Cold Case". If the world can remember this, Andrea, why then, can't you?

Andy has her own wall in Miranda's office. There's only a single article written about her so far, but it's a start. The daughter of one of the country's finest detectives - who died in the line of fire - she realizes that she's considered among the best and brightest. She's worked hard to live up to her father's legacy, but there's more to her than what's inherited. While Richard Sachs was painstaking, methodical and deliberate, Andy is quick, sharp and uncannily accurate.

Miranda Priestly is the reigning queen - considered by many to be the greatest living detective. But her impressive talents seem no different on paper than those of other famed detectives, the Sachs' included. What makes the woman unique? Admirers often speculate. Andy realizes, having worked with her for a year, that Miranda is the perfect storm of tremendous skill, perception, work ethic, and genius. She's a systematic and measured woman who formulates offbeat solutions that strike in the dead of night, like unexpected lightning.

She hadn't taken kindly to becoming a teacher in the twilight of her career, but she seems to have changed her mind in that regard. Andy is so grateful for this that she's becoming Miranda's mirror image: a workaholic. She has always been driven, but now she lives and breathes her job. She's done everything from fetching Starbucks to taking the woman's dog to the vet. These days, though, Miranda makes better use of Andy's skills.

Andy leans against the doorframe, shining with sweat. Usually she begins her day with a slow walk to the office, settling into a chair opposite Miranda. And then she braces for hyperthrust as the jolt of caffeine and the crank of her boss ratchet her up to full tilt. It's become a drug over the past year. But there will be no sipping of scalding coffee while listening to Miranda explain the intricacies of case work, or why Donatella Versace would never have risen to superstardom if her brother had not been murdered. Not this morning.

There will be no reserved gazing at Miranda in her finery, lustrous as Adele Bloch-Bauer, haughty as Hygeia, and sensual as Judith I. As if Andy has stepped into a cloistered wing of The Met, one in which all of Gustav Klimt's finest works have been retained for her personal viewing.

Sometimes during their morning blow, Andy is seized by the splendor of the woman's neck. She'll imagine leaning across Miranda's desk, bending to her throat and inhaling, getting a hit, but before she gets very deep in the fantasy, Miranda will look at her. It's a look that sees right into Andy, as if she knows everything.

Not lately, but at one time - before there was any bad news, when Miranda's health was thought to be pristine - the gaze that Miranda returned was warm rather than cool. It seemed to sizzle across Andy's face. Sometimes it scorched over her neck and down to her breasts before flickering up to her eyes again. But when the cancer came, all such visages winked out, and Miranda donned for Andy the face she wears for the rest of the world - the impervious mask.

Tired from a long night and a rushed morning, Andy numbly stares at her mentor, who is crouched beside a stack of cardboard boxes. Miranda is a jewel in the dusty room; she resembles one of Andy's grandmother's brooches, set against a backdrop of ivory and taupe. The very vision of her focuses Andy's most muddled thoughts, like her dad always said a long weekend at Sawmill Creek did for him.

Her eyes catch on Miranda's necklace - a glittering emerald cross floating on a white gold chain - delicate on her slender neck, so small as to be hardly more than a green glint from the doorway - and everything pitches. Miranda is striking as always - hair perfectly coiffed, million dollar shoes, dress, jacket, coat - she could be a finely aged model in Prada and Vionnet. Absurdly, she's holding a pocketknife longer than Andy's hand. Its blade is fat and sharp. Andy wonders, not for the first time, whether the woman has ever pressed it to flesh.

Such recurring thoughts of blood and violence - life and death - cannot be escaped now, not even in sleep. Andy has changed. She's no longer malleable or naïve, happy or carefree. She has cast herself into such dark depths that her egocentric boss occasionally makes pointed comments about the effects of poor sleeping habits on the aging process. Sometimes Miranda offers up a mild witticism to try and startle Andy into a smile. But Andy has become too cumbersome for such lightness, burdened with things she wishes she didn't know.

She's turned to religion for help, but even that can't seem to lift her, no matter how often she prays. The only thing Andy can count on to throw everything into sharp relief is the woman crouching on the floor. The mere sight of her.

Miranda observes Andy before returning to the carton, one of several brought in this week. She's vexed that Marks hadn't examined Jacqueline's storage unit as he was supposed to. The great detective is meticulous; all angles must be explored, no matter how obvious it is that they don't hold clues to the investigation. Andy already knows from her father that being painstaking often entails doing things oneself. One of her favorite things about Miranda is her work ethic. Such a salient thing to have in this business, like her exquisite couture.

Miranda slices the knife neatly along the flaps and lifts them to peer inside disappointedly. "What?" she asks in a petulant voice, annoyed by Andy's silent regard. She turns to the next box and makes a clean, swift cut across the top, careful, as ever, of her clothes. This box contains books, as the other did. She grimaces and slowly stands, stirring dust motes. They swirl and dance around her in the plentiful sunlight that pours through the windows of the loft. It shines down on her head, making a crown, casting her face in shadow, picking up the lighter threads in her splendid yellow coat, the color of a lemon peel.

Despite all that she's learned about Miranda in the past year - irritable, demanding, unapologetic, narcissistic Miranda - the woman is what she has been to Andy since she was a girl on her father's knee, listening to intriguing tales of long-cold cases suddenly solved by this polarizing and condescending detective: a legend.

Andy finds her voice, but she has to press her hands into fists to get it out. "There's been another death."

Miranda's eyes are as cold as Lake Erie. She can freeze a room with a look; she can turn Andy to stone. "Of course there has," she repines, not surprised in the least.

She's the calmest person Andy's ever met, so confident in demeanor that, among their colleagues, her very name has become synonymous with arrogance.

Miranda first dominated the crime scene twenty-five years ago, and since that time, the local cops and detectives have referred to those of haughty disposition as "Miranda", "MP" or "Priestly", as in: "We had a 10-90 last night at The Dakota, see? And the goddamn MP wouldn't fucking let us in; guess we shoulda worn our Gucci, right?" The use of "MP" in this manner has caused problems - outsiders believing NYC's finest to be speaking derogatorily of the military police - but it hasn't stopped people from using it.

Miranda has always triggered the need for definition. People don't understand her, so they try to label her. They think Miranda Priestly some sort of ice queen, a statue of Medusa who'll turn them to dust if they look her in the eye. But Miranda isn't that way at all. She's never so still; she only gives that illusion.

What most people don't realize is that Miranda is a storm beneath the calm. Her internal whirlwind manifests itself outward: she may hold herself perfectly still, but there's always a flurry of action around her. There are at least a dozen cops struggling this very minute to catch up to what she'd claimed several days ago, when she learned that they'd made an arrest: this isn't our suspect. They're careening around the city right now, searching for answers before she renders them idiots once more.

The blade in her hand catches the light. Her question isn't really a query at all, merely a confirmation of a fact she is already certain of: "Exsanguination?"

Andy nods - the victim found this morning had died from a result of blood loss - and finds that she is shivering. If one is to compare Miranda to anything cold, then she is, to Andy, lake-effect snow - powerful and deadly and mesmerizing. She fell under the detective's spell before she ever met her.

Utterly exhausted, Andy knows there will be no reprieve; she's not sure why she held out hope that there would be. Another victim has been found, just when everything was beginning to feel safe again. Miranda gives that illusion as well - things always feel safe with her, because she's so unaffected and, for some reason, certain of the world. Certain, though beleaguered by cancer and bound to die very soon.

Andy wants to save her.

She rages against the night, against the callous universe for casting this disease on the greatest living detective. On the greatest living woman. Andy rages against the night, against the helplessness. She returns each morning to gaze at her - a gold-leaf Klimt in a world of depressing Rembrandts. The experience is subtle though profound: the sight of Miranda calms Andy and clears her head in the way nothing else can; she swears she can feel tectonic plates shifting.

Things feel safe with Miranda, because Andy isn't alone when she's with her. Andy is Miranda's colleague. The woman has said so countless times. She's also referred to Andy as her protégé, her assistant, and her associate. Once, when they were at the office on a rainy night, Miranda took a personal call. Andy sat opposite her, deep in a file, until she felt the room become thick with Miranda's gaze, and she looked up to find the woman staring at her, an odd smirk on her face. Miranda said quietly into the phone, "No darling, I'm here with my compatriot, Andrea. We have important matters to attend." Miranda had proceeded to decline the dinner invitation, but later her twin nieces and their mother brought takeout 'for the two overworked gumshoes.'

Andy is Miranda's compatriot, her associate, assistant, protégé, colleague. She is not her partner. Miranda has never used that term to describe them. Miranda is not married, doesn't live with anyone, and keeps her personal life private. Andy doesn't know if Miranda has a partner of any kind.

Sunshine casts a gilt softness to the loft, and Andy thinks she could just sink to her knees from the weight of everything on her mind. Miranda will solve this; Andy knows it. Knew long before she began working for her that if anyone can solve a case, it's Miranda Priestly. If only she could solve the riddle of lymphoma instead, and cure herself.

The rich purples in her Vionnet - magenta, claret, eggplant - along with her bright yellow wool trench call to mind a whirl of leaves falling from elms and Japanese maples. She's a shimmering autumn, as Klimt would paint her. Her voice is cool. "Why they ever doubted us is beyond me. We told them there would be more deaths, didn't we?"

Andy told no one any such thing. But when Miranda declared to the police that they'd arrested the wrong suspect, it, like most other things the detective says, made her unpopular at the time.

"Who's the victim?" Her chilly gaze is an assessment. She takes in Andy, braced against the doorway for support. "Still in the fashion industry, I'm guessing, since our killer has little imagination. It's a woman, but I doubt she was a model."

Unnerved, Andy nods, shakes her head, then clears her throat. "I mean, she worked for Runway, like Follet," she says, gesturing to the room they're standing in, Jacqueline's living room. "Her name was Lucia Parra; she was one of the editors."

"How old was she?"

"Mid... mid-thirties," Andy says.

Miranda frowns in dissatisfaction. "Younger than the others," she finally utters, toying with the switchblade. "She was found at a church, I presume?"

Andy searches her memory so that she'll relay exactly what Marks told her. "An abandoned synagogue in Brooklyn." Miranda's right as always. She said more victims would be linked to the real killer, but no one believed her but Andy. She just wants to go home. No, not home. She wants to go back to work. She wants to sit with Miranda in her office and drink scalding coffee and pretend this case never landed on the detective's desk - that the past few weeks never happened. She wants to go back in time, before all of this began, when Miranda was still healthy. But she can't. In fact, she should broach the subject she's been avoiding. She squeezes her fists so tightly that her fingernails puncture her palms. "You said... you - you told me that there were..." Andy swallows. "You said a vampire was doing this."

Miranda walks to the bank of windows. They take up most of the far wall and are bare of curtains or blinds. The sills are almost deep enough to sit on, and empty but for a fine layer of dust. The view of Tribeca is glorious.

She basks in the sunlight for a moment. The loft's utilities were cut shortly after Jacqueline was killed several weeks ago, and the November chill has seeped in. "I realize it would be a stretch for most people, but I was certain that you'd make the leap with me." She turns back and levels a small smile Andy's way.

Miranda surely knows that Andy will make any leap with her. All it takes is these seldom smiles. All it takes is Miranda's use of 'we' and 'us', and Andy will leap, even though she's not her partner.

"You're probably the only person in the world who believes in vampires," Andy breathes.

Miranda's smile hasn't budged. It's her double standard smile: self-assured and self-mocking at the same time. She doesn't look sick, only a little thin, only a bit paler than usual. One could almost believe she's as healthy as ever. She told Andy thirty-nine days ago that she had 'about six or eight weeks' to live, though she has refused treatments that could buy time. "Maybe one of a rare few," she admits. "Do you believe in them, Andrea?" She's radiant in the bright room. The knife at her side catches the sunlight.

Andy's chest constricts. She wishes she hadn't brought up the subject. She'd prefer to talk about something mundane: the weather or local politics, or the items in her wardrobe that could use improvement. She would rather try talking Miranda into radiation therapy than this.

Miranda flicks her wrist and the light bounces off the pocketknife and reflects in Andy's eyes. She then leans against the windowsill, her coat falling open to reveal her thin, dark Chloe jacket, the swirling print of her Vionnet dress. She studies Andy's face, the light as it plays across her eyes. She turns the blade in degrees, dragging the light down Andy's cheeks, to her lips, then back up to her eyes.

"What are you doing?" Andy asks hoarsely.

"Do you believe in vampires?" Miranda twitches the knife.

The glare from the blade is so intense that Andy holds her arm up protectively. "Don't," she whispers, frightened.

"Come on," Miranda teases from the windows. "You're not afraid of me."

Her lake eyes are blue-gray and cold; there's no smile in them. Her hair is a snow drift over her brow. Andy was never afraid of Miranda before today. She looks at the bank of windows; they're on the seventeenth floor, the city spreading like a glistening holy land beyond. "Are you going to kill me?"

Miranda laughs mirthlessly. "Am I going to kill you?" She waves the blade. "You're the one with the power. All I have is this knife."

Miranda has a gun, too, but she's prone to keeping it in her purse. Andy's eyes skitter across the room, trying to locate it. An Alaïa bag sits like a giant iridescent beetle on Jacqueline Follet's small desk.

"You see?" Miranda says. "I have no protection against you, only this." She makes a sign of the cross in the air with the blade. "The real question is: Will you kill me?"

"Why...?" Andy closes her eyes for a moment. Maybe this is a bad dream. She's had so many nightmares lately that it's a possibility. Since Miranda told her that she's dying, everything has been surreal. Andy rages against the night, her anger absolute. She wants to punish the world for the woman's cancer. And she wants to subsequently die. She can't imagine her life without Miranda in it.

That Miranda would think she could hurt her, much less kill her is beyond Andy's comprehension. She exhales, but nothing changes when she opens her eyes. The great detective is still across the room, holding the knife between them as if it's a talisman. An icicle of dread shivers down Andy's back. "Why would I do that?"

Miranda's arm drops to her side, the blade still holding the light, like a mirror, but not as brilliant now. Her voice is wistful. "I rather wish you would."

As Miranda said, Andy is the stronger one, even without her Glock, which is in the front room. Andy is physically stronger, but she's emotionally weaker. She would leap over anything for Miranda; she would do anything for her. But kill her? No.

She's stirred by the confession. Miranda is tired; the agony of cancer grows daily, whether she mentions it or not. Miranda sometimes audibly catches her breath, or grimaces, and Andy will glance over at her, ready to grab her should her knees give way as they did last week.

Walking toward her now, dazed, Andy sees that she is trembling in her jacket and coat as if she's cold. Her eyes are bright with pain.

Andy's father taught her truth above all else. "It would never be my intention to kill you," she articulates, with as light a tone as she can muster. She won't be Miranda's Kevorkian if that's what she has in mind.

She's a couple of feet away before Miranda responds. "It wasn't your intention to kill the others, either, was it?"

Andy freezes.

"Why the churches, Andrea? So that they would be closer to God?"

In the way of a stop motion film, everything becomes staccato, slowing down while simultaneously seeming to speed up. Andy's heart races, but she feels numb. Beyond Miranda are the windows, and outside them, the promised land.

"You act genuinely shocked that your latest victim was discovered so quickly. But you're predictable. Why didn't you leave her somewhere else? There's a city full of hiding places at your disposal."

Over the river of streets are buildings like monuments, with shadows like ghosts. Andy imagines leaping through the air and crashing into the asphalt below, falling into a dreamless sleep, away from the nightmare that her life has become. Miranda is dying. There is no reprieve.

"If you'd wanted your victims to be closer to God, you'd never have killed them," the detective continues, puncturing the stillness. "Were you calling yourself to the altar? Asking for forgiveness? Did you go to confessional? Could you stand to be that close to holy water or the crucifix?" Her Erie eyes are cold. "Is it like legend has it? Does light bother you? How about my cross?"

Andy looks at the milky skin peeking from the plunging neckline of Miranda's dress. Her pulse, in her pale, beautiful neck, is rapid. The emeralds of the delicate necklace twinkle on her warm breast. She can feel her tremor from two feet away. She closes the gap between them, grabbing her wrist. "I didn't mean to," she chokes out.

The great detective leans back against the windowsill. The pulse in her wrist, like the pulse in her neck, is furious with terror. But her face remains serene. "Go ahead," she says, eyes glittering.

It should be very simple. Miranda will die soon anyway, and Andy is a murderer. Andy should take her blood, because it will lead to death. It always leads to death. And if Miranda dies, she can't bring her back. She knows; she's tried. She has tried so hard.

"It's what you want to do, Andrea."

No matter how composed Miranda sounds, no matter how placid her wintery gaze, she's not calm in the least. The pulse in her neck flutters wildly. "You're afraid of me," Andy says softly. It's a sad little irony.

Miranda won't concede the point. She has never admitted fear, distress, or defeat during the time that Andy has known her. "I'm the one you wanted all along," she says rather proudly. "Your victims looked like me - they dressed like me."

Her tiny heartbeat throbs in Andy's hand. "It's not what you think." If she closes her eyes, she can see their outfits: the McQueen skirts, the Gucci wraps, the Valentino gowns. She's seen Miranda in McQueen, Gucci and Valentino. "They were dying."

Miranda jerks her wrist away, alarm replaced with genuine curiosity. "Andrea," she says. Her eyes scan Andy's face. "Jacqueline had breast cancer, and Allison was diabetic... but Wilhemina?"

"Cardiomyopathy," Andy tells her after a deliberate exhalation. "Undiagnosed." She feels the ghost of Miranda's pulse through her fingertips.

Miranda's tone turns icy. "Why didn't you turn them into... vampires, if that's what your kind does? Someone turned you into one, did they not? You weren't a vampire when you came to me."

Andy shakes her head, feeling weak once more. Sunlight always drags her down, settles her after the hyper rush of night. Even mornings spent with Miranda, sipping coffee while she goes off on a rant in that indifferent tone of hers, even the mornings when Miranda looks at her as if she actually sees Andy as a sexual being, even those mornings never ratchet up to become the full throttle nights. Nights, with her veins wide open, with her eyes full of women and every one of them a pale imitation of Miranda. Nights when her teeth meet flesh and she can almost taste Miranda's blood, almost hear her cry out in ecstasy. "I... tried. To turn them into vampires, and..." She puts her hand to her forehead. "I couldn't. I can't. I... can't." It would be comical were it not tragic.

There falls a very quiet moment when Andy can only hear the loud beating of her heart and the hushed noise from the street below. Miranda stands perfectly still. Andy brushes past her and leans into the window, rubbing her temples. She knows the famed detective is thinking of a way out of this, thinking of all of her options, every possible end. She will kill Andy or send her to prison, but she will not set her free. Andy has murdered four people. Four people who were dying and for whom she offered more peaceful, less painful, deaths.

When Miranda speaks again, her voice has lost its chill. It contains something resembling awe. "Trying to save me - that's what you've been doing."

Andy nods miserably.

"And your latest? Lucia?"

"Cancer, too."

Andy glances back at her, and sees that Miranda's expression has thawed as much as her tone. She restores some of her regality with a little huff, though. "Well, of course, I knew you were trying to save me," she says haughtily. "I just assumed you were trying to save me from your own dark inclinations when you killed them rather than -"

"It's not like that," Andy mutters.

There's movement across the street. A newspaper takes flight and drifts on the nippy wind, clinging to a flagpole before being dashed against a window at ground level. Pedestrians congregate outside a coffeehouse, chattering like a chorus of winter birds.

A woman Andy recognizes is among them, slender and vivid even in mourning clothes. Emily, Jacqueline's assistant, is staring toward the entrance of the loft seventeen stories below. The sorrow is plain in the woman's posture, hunched, with her hands in her pockets. Emily has been grief stricken since the editor's death. Andy has felt its undercurrents across the city streets, as if a ribbon running through Emily's veins has snaked around her own wrists and pierced her skin and entered her bloodstream. As if they are connected irrevocably through Jacqueline Follet.

She would take it all back if she could! She touches her fingertips to the windowpanes and stares down at the woman in mourning. The ruined choirs brace against the wind. They turn their faces into their cups of coffee and shiver in their autumn coats. They are fewer in number today than they were a month ago. Andy cannot save Miranda. She cannot save anyone.

"'The violent bear it away.'" Miranda's voice is soft and mocking.

She would never understand vampires, even if she didn't have cancer; even if she were perfectly healthy and lived to be a hundred. Even if they continued working together every day. Even if they were partners.

In the distance, Andy sees a church steeple. She begins a silent litany of prayers, her lips moving over the words. Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. She does not, will not, think of impaling herself on the thin spire rising from the steeple. She will not think of the women she has slaughtered. She is killing; Miranda is dying. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work may be holy.

She'll keep trying to defy time and cancer to save her. She'll keep testing her powers of resurrection - the vampire revision, her own maker had called it - until she succeeds and can apply her victory on the great detective. She'll keep trying until she runs out of time.

Unless Miranda chooses to kill her instead. It can be done. The detective could shoot Andy through the heart, through the brain, and she'd die. Perhaps a fall from this window would do it as well. Certainly the church steeple, reaching to the heavens with its ice pick spire.

"What is it like then?" Miranda asks, after a long silence.

"It's like you're meant for something," Andy says, her voice tinged with self-recrimination. "But you're trying so hard not to be that person that you keep screwing it up." She thinks of her father, the hard-working, famed detective. Awarded several times during his life, highly honored posthumously.

Andy had known she was meant to be a detective. She had geared her entire career toward it. Had led a dual life for several years in order to achieve it sooner and better than he: advance placement classes in high school, police training in college. Graduating with double degrees at the age of twenty-two. But then she'd got cold feet at the last minute, and took an internship of sorts at Runway magazine. Clearly, she wasn't meant for Runway, but it was a leg up into journalism, which she'd thought might be her real passion. When her father was killed, she reevaluated. Realized that she had known all along her destiny as a detective. "I think if I just accepted... the situation, who I am..." She doesn't want to say 'vampire', like it's an excuse. Vampires aren't killers, after all - they are, indeed, The Great Resurrectionists. The need to cleanse, to heal, is the greatest of all needs. Andy was never meant to be a savior, though. She was meant to be a detective. "This thing I am, I could do it. I could help you."

Miranda places her hand on Andy's shoulder.

"But you're right," she continues bitterly. "I am trying to protect you from my dark inclinations."

"You will kill me," Miranda orders in that indifferent tone of hers.

Andy shakes her head. "I can't do that, Miranda," she says hoarsely.

The great detective's weakness - fashion - gives her away as she clacks across the floor in stilettos. Andy hears the clink of the heavy knife being set on the glass desk. The purse opens and the gun is drawn.

She doesn't turn. Maybe Miranda means to pursue a homicide-suicide. That's fine; Miranda can kill her. That will be justice. Miranda will die without Andy's interference, and that will be justice. The Resurrectionists, with their many failures, are not doing anyone justice. So many failures that they hide the bodies in the harbor, in tunnels, in graves. So many failures, so few successes. Andy closes her hands into fists, fingernails puncturing her palms once more, and braces for impact.

But Miranda clacks to the windows in measured steps. "Jacqueline..." she begins. There's a pause before she continues. "None of the victims appeared as though they suffered, but Jacqueline had an especially euphoric look on her face. More so than the others. What did you do to her?"

Andy squeezes her hands so tightly that blood drips to the floor.

Miranda presses the gun to her back. "What did you do differently? She was your first. It wasn't hasty. Did you premeditate? You said you didn't work with her at Runway. But you met her in Paris. Was there a spark between the two of you? She was obviously... in the throes of ecstasy during death. We had that discussion, you and I. Jacqueline seemed to her coworkers and friends somewhat lethargic and disoriented the last few days of her life, leaving work earlier than usual, her cheeks flushed as if excitedly meeting someone, though her neighbors reported seeing her in the lobby alone. Did you visit her secretly at night? Did you enter her window, like legend? Was she your lover?"

"Shoot me."

Andy's words seem to startle the great detective and she pulls the gun away. "You'll answer my questions, Andrea."

The sunlight feels good. It's warm, and she's been cold for weeks. There's no easy way to explain that Jacqueline, Runway's editor, reminded her of Miranda more than any of the others did. She had looked and smelled and tasted expensive and confident and beautiful, and Andy had succumbed to the desire to possess her. She hadn't meant to, but the night slipped under her skin, and she lost control.

There is a heavy silence. "Your blood wasn't at the scene. Here or at the church."

The steeple is in the far distance. There is none closer that Andy can see. "I had to clean up, didn't I?"

"There were no traces. We saw nothing -"

"You don't know anything about vampires." Andy keeps a fist balled tightly at her side, with blood dripping to the floor. She places her other palm on the windowpane, the blood squeezing an outline, making a silhouette of her hand. Jacqueline kept a window open at night, delighting in the sounds of the city, so loud. She hadn't been frightened of Andy; none of them had. They had welcomed her with open arms.

Miranda stands behind her, gun hand at her side. Out of the corner of her eye, Andy sees the weapon, and a tremor of realization sends chills across her arms. Miranda is carrying her Heizer DoubleTap, which she has promised never to carry unless there's good reason. The DoubleTap is new to the market, lightweight and innovative. Miranda's model is titanium, and she received it, compliments of the manufacturer, before retailers did.

The great detective is often the subject of jokes for carrying an antique Smith & Wesson snubby. Snub-nosed revolvers are her preference, and she likes the look of those from the 1940s and '50s. The DoubleTap is so off character that Andy freezes in place, her eyes slanted toward it.

The gun remains at Miranda's side, while she touches Andy in the middle of the back with her other hand. "She was dying," the great detective says. Andy can feel every bone in Miranda's palm as it presses against her spine. "It was irreversible. She was weak and sick, and yet she died very peacefully - exultant, even. The expression on her face was clear in that regard. No blood to be found, nary a drop. But the sex stains-"

Andy shoves her hand through the glass, and there's a spray of blood and splintering fragments.

Miranda curses. She grips the barrel of the small gun, using the butt of it to knock away the sharded window from around Andy's slender forearm, slickened bright red.

Vampires are so infused with blood after a night of feeding. They bleed so easily; Miranda has no idea. Andy could lose blood and lose blood and then she'd... She looks at the great detective, her eyes finding the pale neck, the fluttering pulse. With a sigh, her cuspids lengthen, as if unfurling. She barely feels them graze her lips.

Miranda is all business and doesn't notice. "There's no need for this," she mutters and drops the gun to the wood floor with a resounding thud. It's a careless thing to do, even if the gun isn't loaded, but Miranda always carries ready to shoot. She tugs on Andy's elbow and wrist until she's clear of the window.

Andy stares at her gorgeous face. Her fangs seldom extend during daylight hours, but sometimes she has to turn away from Miranda, feeling the heat of arousal, the flush of want, then the slow slide of her canines as they drop down.

As Miranda picks shards of glass from her wrist and blouse, Andy is unexpectedly grateful that the great detective solved the case. If only she had solved the riddle of lymphoma instead, and ended Andy's killing spree.

"Jacqueline was clearly wasting away, but in death she was... beautiful," the detective says, fussing over the glass fragments protruding from Andy's hand. "Her face seemed peaceful."

"Kill me." The burn of the cuts to Andy's hand and arm are slight. She should have jumped through the window. She would be on the asphalt now and in a dreamless sleep. She can't save Miranda. She failed to save four women who were dying. She only hastened their deaths.

Miranda pulls a fragment away. "Is it pointless to fetch a doctor?" she murmurs. "You seem to be unharmed, to be bleeding so profusely, to have so much of that window embedded in your skin."

Shards of glass shimmer like diamonds along the pale skin of her wrist. "Do it, Miranda," Andy insists, staring at the woman's bent head. "I'll sign a confession that I committed the murders, then do it. You can have the biggest catch of your career - a vampire. Nobody even knows we exist but you."

Miranda straightens and Andy sees that the pulse in her throat isn't racing as it was earlier. It's fast, but not with terror. Her gaze rakes up Andy's sparkling arm to her face, and catches on her fangs. "I could never kill you," she says matter-of-factly. She stares at Andy's cuspids with vivid curiosity.

"But you think I could kill you." Andy grimaces. "It's the only stupid thing I've ever heard you say."

A small smile plays on Miranda's lips. "I knew you were a vampire," she says smugly. "I can pinpoint the week the change happened, possibly the day."

"I have no doubt about that."

"It was such a leap. There's no talk of vampires, anywhere. I've done all the research; you're thought to be merely fantasy. No chatter, not one leak anywhere in the world that vampires exist."

Andy has come across very few vampires herself. Those she's found are a lot like her. They are tormented when they realize their ability to heal is unequal to their ability to destroy. Torn by the need to save, repulsed when they cannot, they mostly stay out of sight from the world. All one needs is a little blood periodically, and there are many ways to obtain it without killing.

Andy was never struck with the desire to kill. She could have stayed put at night, stayed at home, but the thought of Miranda dying... and a solution seemingly at her fingertips... She had to try.

But Miranda, though frightened of her, told no one of her discovery. "And you didn't..." She gazes at Miranda in wonder. "You didn't tell anybody." The great detective would have skyrocketed to greater fame than she's ever known.

"Why would I do that?" Miranda looks at her as she once did, the intense gaze. "You're my partner, Andrea. I wasn't going to turn you in." She frowns as if tasting something sour.

Andy reaches her glittering hand to stroke the drift of hair from Miranda's eyes. "What are you going to do?"

There is very little about Miranda that's sentimental. Her tone is clipped. "I want you to kill me. Give me the death that you gave Jacqueline."

Andy shakes her head numbly but it's hard to deny her. She would leap over anything for Miranda. She would do anything for her. Kill innocent women in search of a magic resurrection spell.

"It's what we both want."

"I don't want you to die," Andy whispers. "If I could bring you back..."

"You will give me that death," she says again. "I won't die from cancer, Andrea. You'll kill me or I'll do it myself. I want it to be you. I prefer whatever bliss you gave Jacqueline." Miranda's tone is no-nonsense, but her concentrated gaze is scorching.

"I can't kill you. I can't revive you, Miranda. Don't you get it?"

"I get it. You're the daughter of Richard Sachs. You're the next great thing. I wouldn't waste my time on someone less than a genius - of course you can." Miranda reaches out as if she will mimic Andy and stroke the tangle of dark hair away from her face. Instead, she runs her thumb over Andy's lips and catches on her canine. Her lashes flutter shut. "Even if you can't revive me, this is what I want. Kill me and it will be a much better ending than what lies in store. Kill me and tell me I'll be the last one you kill."

"I can't." Stricken, Andy looks down.

"You've been mourning for me since I gave you the news... I've had a very satisfying life. Don't be sad." Miranda does run her hand through Andy's hair now, and twists her fingers through it, and pulls. "Look. Look at me. Give me a satisfying death." She rakes her fingers through the long strands again. "It will be a gift to me, Andrea. Only you can give it to me." Her blue-gray eyes are lovely, dark and deep. Her breath is a gasp on Andy's lips before they kiss.

Andy loses time, she believes. She doesn't simply lose track of it, but she loses time itself, while she kisses Miranda. She is in the thick woods where nothing resounds louder than Miranda's hitching breath. She seems delicate under Andy's mouth. Her kisses are wet and messy.

She eventually pulls back, bowing her head, her fingers trembling over Andy's cheek. Andy becomes aware of her own breath - she must have been holding it because now it comes - a harsh rasping, gulping air into her lungs.

She realizes that Miranda intends to speak - words are forming on the back of her tongue that will ruin this - so Andy speaks instead. "When I was fourteen, I dreamed that I kissed you."

Miranda looks up, startled. Her lips are especially red now, the lipstick kissed off. There are little marks around her mouth where Andy's fangs nicked her. She didn't break the skin, which is a small miracle; if she sees Miranda's blood, if she smells it, she'll lose her mind.

"My dad was on a case and he consulted you by phone." Andy's fangs protrude only marginally over her lip, but Miranda can't take her eyes from them. "He used to talk about you a lot - how great you were, all that. He'd tell me about your cases, how you solved them when no one could. He showed me newspaper articles, magazine stuff. I saw your picture all the time growing up. I wanted to be just like you. And one night I dreamed I kissed you." She licks her lips. "It wasn't anything like that, though." A blush flashes across her cheeks. "I mean, my dream. It was kind of innocent."

There's a rush of cool air as the wind picks up outside; it whistles through the broken pane. Miranda gazes at her for a moment, then turns, rubbing her arms. She scoops the DoubleTap from the floor and walks toward the other end of the bank of windows, where it's warmer. "And despite what I've said, now you think I wish to be just like you - immortal." She stares at the view and places the gun on the sill absentmindedly. The DoubleTap is almost thin as a cellphone. Its barrels point at the window casing.

"I'm not ... no. I'm not immortal. I can still die. I told you, you should shoot me." Andy follows her. "I can't kill you, Miranda. And I..." She stands beside her. "If you arrest me, I'll escape. So, you have to kill me."

Miranda merely glances at her, as if deep in thought, and shakes her head. She looks genuinely saddened by something, and after a moment swallows. "They'll think this case got the better of me," she murmurs. "The one I couldn't solve." She gazes at Tribeca once more.

The movement is fluid and deceptive, but Andy catches it: Miranda is never so still; she only gives that illusion. She tracks her hands - basilic and cephalic veins snaking over the top of them, tiny gorgeous rivers - one reaches for the gun. The other, meant to be the distraction, sexily and thoughtfully rakes through her snowdrift hair.

Andy stares at the palmed gun. Miranda is correct, as always. Upon her death, those who knew her best will realize that she refused to succumb to cancer, and took matters into her own hands by killing herself, but there are a billion other rumor-mongers who will speculate on something more lurid. The great detective, finally stumped by a case, took her own life, is what they'll say. So much for her reputation as the world's foremost crime solver.

Anger rockets through her like a bullet. There's no way she'll let them say that. If the detective won't arrest her or kill her, then - "I'll do it," she tells her quietly, placing her hand over Miranda's.

Miranda sighs; she lets go of the gun and leans into Andy. The burden of death seems to lift from her when she turns and smiles. "Andrea," she says, and her voice contains so much. "When we leave today... You'll do it then. You'll take me home."

Home. Andy nods, sinking into her eyes again, deep as rivers. She gingerly tilts Miranda's pale chin, her fingers glittering with embedded glass, reddened by blood, and kisses her.

Miranda's smiling, still, her teeth smooth and blunt under Andy's tongue, the way teeth should be. Not the pointed fangs that Andy has, that she's careful of, not wanting to hurt her.

Miranda kisses her with affection, her lips moving to her chin, her cheek, her nose, and back again. Andy feels the kisses through her fingertips, which clutch Miranda's cloaked shoulders. The strong sun slices through the panes and shines on Andy's forehead hotly. She pulls away to tilt her head back, relishing the feeling of clarity and control.

There comes a tickle of Miranda's tongue on her neck, then a gentle biting of teeth. Andy grins. "What are you doing?" but she can't keep the husk from her voice.

Miranda bites harder, sinking her teeth into Andy's carotid artery. Andy jerks away in amused confusion, staring down at her. Miranda's eyes are gray as the coldest winter lake, counter to the mischievous smile playing on her lips. "You're not a vampire," Andy says softly.

There's a spot of blood on Miranda's lips, Andy's own blood. Andy's blood isn't pure as it was a few weeks ago; instead, it's a blend, a Greek fire of strong women rushing through her veins. Jacqueline, Allison, Wilhemina and Lucia. The first three she killed are there in traces, but Lucia's blood is fresh and potent still.

Andy has seen a lot of blood in her lifetime. Seeing it on Miranda's flesh causes something to shift. The charm of the great detective playing vampire snaps off in an instant as a radiant flow surges through her veins.

Andy grabs her neck with her glass hand, nicking her delicate skin. The veins in Andy's wrist begin streaming with blood - blood reaching out to blood. Miranda gasps, her eyes widening in sudden apprehension before Andy leans over and bites.

Miranda's blood is warm and bitter, and it tantalizes Andy's tongue in much the way wine does, even though the taste isn't what's important to her, it's how it feels when it reaches her bloodstream. The liquid, thick in her mouth, turns narcotic when it hits her veins.

Miranda leans against her just as Andy gets the first hit. It's weak - because Miranda's dying - but strong enough to make her a little dizzy. A thousand images assail her - fantasies flashing through her mind - and she begins tripping. Night feeding is hectic. Night pulls her under so quickly she can't think. But this daytime indulgence is slower. Sunlight washes out the intensity of the experience, and she's still sated from Lucia. Some of the woman's blood has been digested, but what's left in Andy's bloodstream is enough to make her heavy and rosy and drowsy. She feels the vampire delirium coming on, yet she's acutely aware of Miranda's response: her quickening breath, racing pulse, heartbeat so strong.

But the woman feigns weakness. She grasps Andy's shoulders with shaking hands, whispering, "Please, I..." She's not being coy; she's simply overwhelmed by the sex, the desire.

The taking of blood itself is the most sensual act Andy has ever performed on anyone. It isn't the mythical erotica of blood being taken, it's her teeth, which can bring a woman to orgasm just by grazing over her skin. Miranda pants against her shoulder, trembling.

She will have that blissful death, if Andy does nothing but take her blood. She'll slip this world in an erotic haze. But exsanguination is never enough for Andy. It's merely the prelude. She courted Jacqueline for days with kisses and nips. They could have gone on like that forever, but the night jumped into Andy's veins, and Jacqueline was begging her 'N'arrête pas', 'C'est si bon', 'Oui, yes - laisse-moi faire' and Andy couldn't stop. She fucked Jacqueline for hours while taking her blood.

Andy roughly pulls Miranda more tightly to her and leans against the windowsill. Blood spills from her lips and she licks it from Miranda's throat.

Miranda whimpers, and then her hands begin tugging Andy's hair. Her legs shift restlessly. When her heel catches the popliteal artery behind Andy's knee, the world goes black for half a second.

There is lost time again, a short period in which she pushes the lemon-yellow trench from Miranda's shoulders, shoving her hands beneath the thin dark Chloe jacket - her good hand, her glass hand - ripping the silk Vionnet.

Miranda's blue-gray eyes are dark as night, wet as rivers. She grips Andy's shoulders and presses against her, and Andy sits down hard on the sill, pulling her more fully onto her lap. Miranda begins a persistent gyration as she tries to find relief, thrusting against Andy's thigh.

Her neck smells of saliva and blood, and Andy brushes her tongue along another spot, at the right carotid artery. Miranda quivers just from this, just from the feeling of Andy's breath and tongue on her skin.

Andy's gentler this time, sinking her teeth in. She pierces the skin slowly, savoring each moment, and as soon as she's inside, Miranda begins losing control. Her hands strike the windowpane before she arches in an orgasm so resplendent that Andy tastes it on her tongue.

Miranda's cries are an 'ah' that drag through the loft. She has arched back in Andy's arms, but vampire teeth are like hooks, they don't let go, and Andy leans over her, taking more and more. Miranda has hardly come down from the orgasm when she begins rippling in another. "Andrea," she cries, and Andy pulls her close, the heat of the sun breaking through the panes.

She wants to make love to her. She wants to remove every article of Miranda's clothing and lavish her with kisses. She sees it in her mind's eye: her lips on Miranda's nipples, her belly, her thighs. But this is good and complete, so she makes love instead, only to her neck. She takes Miranda's blood down her throat like a sword, velvet sweet and bitter, cutting, cutting.

Miranda pants in her ear. She wraps her arms around Andy's neck. "My darling..." she says, trailing off, her voice weak.

Andy murmurs, "Yes," on her neck, her fangs glancing over Miranda's skin as she kisses her collarbone and shoulder. "Yes." When she penetrates her neck again, Miranda sags against her and doesn't make another sound. Sometime later, she stops breathing.

Andy puts her gently on the floor and continues her ministrations. She doesn't think of her failures, of the failure in this very home, but only of Miranda, beautiful as winter, still as snow.

Through the broken windowpane, she hears the city humming like a promised land. She takes the last of Miranda's blood and cradles her in her arms. She rocks in the sunlight, feeling it on her face. Miranda's blood glows warm in her body. "The greatest living detective," she says in the quiet room. "Your body is my body, your blood is my blood." She takes a shard from her wrist and opens her palm, and places her hand at Miranda's lips. "Drink this; it's clean."

Miranda doesn't stir, just as Jacqueline hadn't stirred, nor Wilhemina, nor Allison, nor Lucia.

Andy remains calm. She holds Miranda closely, and nuzzles her neck. "Drink," she says again. She is calm even when a tear slides down her cheek and onto Miranda's neck, cleaning and healing wounds that it tracks over.

It's the same as always. When Andy leaves, Miranda will be spotless and bloodless and dead.

She can't hold Miranda's blood forever. In time, it will be digested, and then only trace amounts will remain in Andy's bloodstream, part of the amalgamation of beautiful women flowing through her veins. She tilts her face into the sunlight and feels the heat on her forehead. "Miranda," she prays, staring at the sky through the windows. The sunshine feels like fire; her body full and glowing with Miranda's cancerous blood, cleansed by the vampire autoclave.

She releases her hold on Miranda and stares at her, opening her wrist and holding it to the woman's mouth. This is what her maker had done; she had seen him even in her own death holding his wrist to her mouth. But Miranda doesn't stir. Andy pries the woman's lips apart and drips blood between them, but it runs right out.

One cannot force a dead person to take blood. The newly dead are not completely gone - the spirit lingers for a few fleeting seconds. She cannot force blood down Miranda's throat; Miranda has to take it herself.

She will jump from the window, she decides. Seventeen stories is high enough; she'll surely die. It should be a heroic death; she did as her mentor requested: she gave her that blissful death. It should be heroic, but Andy cannot imagine her life without Miranda in it. She wants to punish the world but hasn't the energy; she would rather simply die. Her blood trickles over Miranda's lips but is not taken in.

Would jumping be the same as running away? Andy has no right to leave the crime scene. In fact, she should kill herself here. Leave a note so the whole world will know that Miranda caught the killer, and solved her final case. She glances at the gun on the windowsill. Yes, it would be a more appropriate death. She gingerly rests Miranda on the wood floor and stretches until she can reach it.

It's lightweight but still a gun, and feels solid in her hand. Of course, Miranda would never carry anything large on her person, even though her bag is big enough for an Uzi if she wished. But she hadn't been carrying the DoubleTap due to its slender footprint. She had carried it today to kill herself or Andy, or both of them - it is a double barrel revolver, after all. The lightweight design means that Miranda knew she could whip it out and aim it with ease, even if she felt sick.

She sits beside Miranda once more, beneath the window, and angles her head to look up at the sky, but she can't see the church steeple from where she sits. She looks at the gun again, and points it to her heart - places the barrel right on her chest - and closes her eyes for a moment in prayer. She will write a short note and leave it on Jacqueline's desk. Something simple. I am Andrea Sachs, and I have murdered five women. Miranda Priestly was the last; she found me out.

She can hear Miranda clear as day, reprimanding her. "No," she would say in her iciest voice. "That won't do."

Andy smiles and looks at her. Miranda is lying on the floor, legs curled behind her, reminiscent of a snow queen in a fairy tale. But - the great detective's eyes are wide open. Chills sweep over her. Hadn't they been closed? She carefully sets the gun down. "Miranda?"

In slow motion, with grave concentration, she removes a shard from her glass arm and opens a new cut in her wrist, and it fairly gushes now. She grips the wound so as not to drown the detective and leans over her, letting the blood drip quickly between her fingers. It rushes over Miranda's lips and down her cheek, her neck, to the floor.

"Drink it," Andy whispers, her voice shaking, her hands shaking. "Or else I'll kill myself. Drink it, Miranda."

Miranda's eyes move almost imperceptibly. And then her lips part, and she begins swallowing.

Andy gives a cry of relief. Tears stream from her eyes, sizzle down her face, dripping onto Miranda. They heal the bloody wounds at her mouth.

Miranda's lips move as if she's trying to say something. She is exceedingly beautiful, so pale she's almost translucent, the blood on her lips vibrantly red. Andy bends to hear. Miranda reaches a trembling hand up and pulls Andy's head down, as if to speak in her ear. Instead, she clamps onto her carotid artery.

Joy, like angels trumpeting hallelujah in the province, fills her soul. She laughs as Miranda earnestly takes her own blood back and the world begins tilting into its proper place once more.

"God," Andy says, and laughs again, laughs and laughs until Miranda grows stronger and pulls her down on top of her. And then she feels the woman's teeth, her blunt teeth now turned to fangs. They penetrate her neck sensually, more sensual than anything anyone has ever done to Andy. She gasps.

Miranda answers by pulling away for the briefest of moments, long enough to turn them over so that she's on top and Andy is beneath. "Yes," she breathes hotly in her ear. Her tongue traces the punctures she's created, licking the blood away. Then she presses in, opening her mouth on Andy's neck. Miranda penetrates her tender flesh, her hips pressing in, her hands finding Andy's hands and pushing them down, flat on the floor, and then stretched out above her head.

"Oh," Andy cries, and arches.

Miranda keeps her on the brink until she takes her fill of blood, and then she drives her fangs into Andy's neck one last time, pushing her knee between Andy's thighs, and the world goes dim as Andy crashes into an orgasm.

While Andy recovers, Miranda serenely lies atop her, her face in her neck. "The cancer is gone," she says quietly, her voice hoarse as if she's been screaming.

Andy wavers between smiling and crying. She finally does both.

Miranda raises up, hands on the floor, pelvis still firmly pressed against Andy's. "But I'm not immortal?"

Andy shakes her head, no.

Miranda glances at the window, a gleam in her eyes that's been missing for months. She's flushed and breathtaking. "I'm not sure I believe you."

Andy strokes the snowdrift hair from her eyes.

"I feel immortal." Miranda looks down at her, challenging.

"Don't try to prove me wrong, please."

Miranda looks at the window again. She's exultant. "We have to do something," she murmurs. "Come up with a plan..."

"I can't believe you're a vampire," Andy gushes. "Like me."

Miranda casts a cool eye over her face before rising. "I told you, you could do it. Your father would be appalled at the state of your self-esteem. We need to pin the murders on someone. I'm not allowing you to take the rap for this. Who's your maker?"

Andy stands up too, seeing that Miranda's all business, and tells her what little she knows of the man who killed, then resurrected her late one night several weeks ago. He had been shocked at his ability to revive her, and then he had seemed frightened, as if Andy was the one who was powerful, for having come back to life, not he. She doesn't want to pin the murders on him - on any vampire - but she's still breathless and tingling from the sexual charge. She's giddy from the glorious day and can hardly think. "You're a vampire, Miranda," she giggles.

Miranda looks at her, the blazing gaze of days gone by. Her stare is dusky and ancient. "Come," she says. "There's work to be done, is there not?"

Andy nods mutely, but their eyes meet, and neither moves.

Sometime later, the church bell tolls, and Andy realizes that they've done nothing but kiss. She steps back to view Miranda, shimmering like a gold-leaf Klimt in the ivory room, the Vionnet swirling violet against her torso, the lemon-yellow coat pooling at her feet. The great detective sighs as Andy languidly reaches for her again.

Beneath the autumnal finery, her skin is cream.

/the end/