When it Rains
Prompt: Miranda/Andy Rainy Day from mxrolkr on June 13, 2012 as part of the 2nd Poke the Dragon: Wake the Muse DWP Comment Fic-a-thon on LiveJournal
Rating: a tame PG
Thanks to Peetsden, quiethearted, and akasarahsmom (GinStan) for betaing the story so quickly.
Andy looked out the window of the cafe to stare at the courtyard of the Louvre and sighed so forcefully that her bangs fluttered up like a flock of disturbed pigeons. She smiled grimly. Looking into her coffee cup, she contemplated whether to drink the dregs or to order another one. She had been sitting here for the last two hours thinking about all that had occurred over the last twenty-four hours, the last week, the last month, the last nine months. Such a steep learning curve. She had come to New York with hope and optimism, and those feelings had sustained themselves even when she had been unable to get a writing job. Even after her disastrous first day working for Miranda—although truth be told, her positive outlook had become a bit battered, a bit dented that day. She had stuck it out, though. She had learned. And she had finally begun to understand. Or so she had thought.
Turns out she didn't understand anything. She didn't understand why people tried to undercut those who were trying. Didn't understand why she had needed to be broken down to be built up. Didn't understand why those in power were so hell-bent with taking power away from others at any cost. Didn't understand why choices had to be made where people were sacrificed unfairly. Although she wondered whether these bitter pills would be easier to swallow if it were fair, if those sacrificed did deserve it, or if the outcome made the sacrifice acceptable.
Looking up, Andy caught the garcon's eye and lifted her cup with a small smile. Once he nodded, she returned to staring through the window. It was raining. She had wondered when the clouds would shed their burden. People hurried about, not noticing how the rain coated some of Paris's most well-known tourist attractions, casting a sparkly sheen and a new view to those who paused to look. It shifted one's perspective, making everything look different and pure. Andy knew better, though. The rain misrepresented all that it touched. It distorted and fooled others by making them think that what they saw was better, cleaner, newer. She thought about how ironic it was that she now had the time to explore Paris, but she had no interest. Her mind was too occupied with hiding from hard-truths, disappointments, anguish.
She smiled her thanks as her coffee was placed in front of her. Without pause, Andy drank from the cup, ignoring the burn, delighting in the slight pain. She had begun to drink it this way months ago, wondering why Miranda drank coffee piping hot. Although she could not find the answer, she still drank it while steam floated in the air and over her nose, wanting to be closer to the charismatic, enigmatic leader of the fashion world. Irv was a fool for trying to force her out. If he had succeeded, she would have found a way to rise again, and instead of being a mere thorn in her side or a fly buzzing around her ear, he would have become a target Miranda would mercilessly have pursued until destroyed.
Miranda had a great capacity to focus on her goal—it's why she was so successful. Anyone who got in her way was pushed off course. Like Nigel. It terrified Andy to think of how easily Miranda had sacrificed his dreams. Was it for the greater good? Was it fair? Did the outcome warrant what Miranda had done? At the least it had driven home just how far Miranda was willing to go to protect herself.
How could Miranda see a lot of herself in Andy? She would never sacrifice a friend like that. Andy felt anger and confusion burn through her as she remembered Miranda's words, comparing her actions with Andy's decision to go to Paris instead of Emily. That was entirely different—wasn't it?
Staring at the rain, Andy felt anguish burn through her, overflowing onto her cheeks. She didn't bother to wipe her tears, reveling in the release of so many overwhelming emotions. What confounded her, what scared her just as much as the knowledge that Miranda would betray anyone's trust just to remain on top, was how bereft she felt at the thought of never interacting with the driven woman again.
She had feelings for Miranda. Strong, conflicting, compelling feelings that pushed her toward the brink of despair. Yet, she had to leave. She had to. Now that she knew that no matter what she did, she was dispensable. Everyone was. And it angered her that Miranda did not understand after she had just experienced the same feelings only yesterday when Stephen had informed her that he was filing for divorce. She hadn't been important enough to him to warrant waiting until after fashion week or at least telling her in person. He had discarded Miranda as if she meant nothing to him.
And then she had done that to Nigel the very next day. It would have been only a matter of time until Miranda had done the same to Andy, and that was not something she would have been able to recover from.
This was by far the hardest decision she had ever made. Leaving this woman who had become her sole focus—to the exclusion of her family, her friends, and her boyfriend—for so long. The one who sneered at her, looked down on her, ripped her apart, but who later had nodded at her, smirked at her, even smiled at her.
Listening as the rain pounded on the roof and plinked against the window, Andy felt her tears keeping pace. She kept her gaze steady, not caring who saw her. Nothing really mattered now. Her life had fallen apart around her while she had forsaken all for Miranda. And now that she had walked away out of self-preservation, Andy had nothing left. She was certain it was the best decision, though. No doubt she had already been replaced, and Miranda's mind probably had already banished Andy to the discard pile of nameless former assistants.
"Here," Andy heard a soft, velvety voice say. Shifting her eyes, she saw a handkerchief extended toward her. "No more tears." Breathing in deeply, Andy blinked slowly and gasped in surprise as the soft fabric touched her cheeks gently, wiping away the evidence of her heartbreak.
And there she was with tears running down her beautifully expressive face as she stared out the window at the cleansing rain. Rain that washed away veneers and coats of grime, stripping everything of artifice and baring what had been covered. Much like Andrea's tears. They glided over her angst-filled face, creating pathways through foundation and blush, stalling over pale, trembling lips before dripping over a jutting chin.
How she had found Andrea remained a mystery. She had watched as Andrea had defiantly thrown her phone in the fountain and had felt despair sweep through her. Just as Stephen had thrown her away, so had Andrea. No warning.
Although Miranda did have to admit to herself that she had known she was headed toward divorce. Their relationship had broken down long before. She had tried to talk to him, tried to help him understand why she worked so hard every day, why she had no time for him. He would not listen. He did not care. He wanted a wife to return to each night, someone who shared meals with him, and listened to his complaints, and soothed his ruffled feathers. At the beginning of their relationship, she filled that role with the expectation that he would reciprocate. And for a while he had. Her career had been new and exciting to him. He liked the glamour that followed her like a shadow on a bright day. He walked proudly next to her, and their shadows intermingled as they strode forward together.
Then came the overcast days of their marriage. Everything became shrouded with various shades of gray. Nothing was clear-cut, and as constraints on Miranda pulled her away from their home, Stephen refused to bend. He did not fill the gaps, instead widening them by coming home even later than Miranda, as if they were competing in some childish way. It was no longer assumed that they would share most dinners together or that Stephen would accompany Miranda at fashion events. The glitter had faded, and what had been exhilarating became burdensome. Every so often they would discuss what was happening, and they would renew their commitment to each other by talking it through, wanting to save the love they shared. Eventually, though, Stephen realized that these changes were not temporary, and he told Miranda that he could not live his life as Mr. Priestly. Miranda had tried to change to please him. Tried to cut back on the hours. Tried to be more present.
But then Andrea came into the picture, and she no longer wanted to keep Stephen tethered to her. She didn't want to keep compromising. She didn't want to keep explaining, and pleading, and trying.
Andrea with her large, soulful eyes and cupid-bow mouth, luscious chocolate locks and perfectly-curved body. Andrea with untried integrity and black-and-white ethics. Andrea with inexperience and optimism, expectations and a chip on her shoulder the size of the Empire State Building. The only one to get under her skin so quickly, so completely.
She had seen Andrea's struggle to work within the business world. After recognizing that Andrea was intelligent and motivated, Miranda had even helped her to navigate, to master her duties. Miranda had become impressed by Andrea's willingness to do whatever was asked, no matter how hard the task. Miranda had put Andrea through her paces, and she had become increasingly fascinated. Yet, she had seen at odd times the expressions that would flit over that gorgeous face—frustration, pain, bewilderment.
So, the signs had been present all along, if only Miranda had bothered to look.
And now here were the rainy days, washing away what was hidden and revealing the truth. She could not lose this woman. Would not. As if guided by instinct, she had found her in this little cafe, crying out her soul, her eyes dull.
Cautiously, Miranda crouched in front of the shattered woman and wiped away the tears, revealing the beauty that shone through every day, regardless of the makeup that created the professional mask. Miranda smiled gently, remembering how just the night before Andrea had seen her without her mask.
"Andrea," Miranda whispered soothingly. "Come back to the hotel so we can talk this through."
Wet eyes fastened on hers for long moments before Andrea answered in a raw voice. "You, you would let me continue working for you?"
"If you want," Miranda said. "But even if you would rather move on to different employment, I am not ready for you to be absent from my life. You have an authenticity that is a very rare thing. It is—you are—quite beguiling." Standing, Miranda extended a hand. "Come, Andrea."
Even as she rose, Andrea began to object. "But I walked out on you. How can you trust me? I just—" Andrea pushed back her bangs in frustration. "I don't get you."
"But you want to, and I am willing to let you," Miranda said, reaching out to grasp a hand firmly. "If it helps, I get you. I trust you. I am willing to do what I must to earn your trust." Miranda ran her fingers over a sloping cheek. "You are the rain, Andrea. You reveal what is hidden and purify what has become soiled. I want you in my life."
Andrea emitted a sound that was a mixture of a laugh and a sob. "I...I." Miranda watched closely as Andrea closed her eyes and leaned into the caress.
Miranda took the chance to close the distance, kissing the tear tracks on the other cheek before sliding her hand to the back of Andrea's head. Not feeling any resistance, Miranda took her time to worship the soft skin under her lips before sliding over to moist, parted lips. Brushing them softly, slowly, Miranda breathed in deeply. Such a sweet taste. Tilting her head as Andrea did, Miranda pressed more firmly, moving her mouth to suck on Andrea's luscious lower lip. They both moaned, and Miranda wanted so desperately to deepen the kiss, but she did not. Gently, she ended it, pulling back just enough to see Andrea's face.
"We can discuss everything at the hotel." Dropping some money on the table, Miranda guided Andrea out of the cafe and into the idling car. She kept hold of Andrea's hand, tethering them together as the rain curtained off the view of everything outside the car. She looked over at Andrea, finding herself the subject of an intense stare. Miranda raised an eyebrow in question.
"I, I always hated the rain," Andrea said tremulously. "But maybe I was wrong. Maybe it isn't that bad."
"Mmm," Miranda agreed. She smiled. "I love the rain, Andrea." She gazed into those dark eyes she knew so well and watched as knowledge filled them, quickly followed by awe, joy, and love. Squeezing Andrea's hand, Miranda turned back to her window and watched the rain. Soon the sun would break through, revealing to all what had once been hidden, even from Miranda.
She wouldn't lose sight again.