The house was empty.
The scent of Stephen's cologne had long left the guest room. It made sense; he had always been a guest. The twins were gone, their father had summoned them, gently informing them their mother needed some time alone. The maid walked softly and did her work efficiently.
Miranda was a ghost.
Patricia had guarded the house for a week, trusting that Miranda's journey to the faraway land called Paris would be safe in the hands of Andy. She remembered the faint smile, now like a phantom dream, that had played at the edges of Miranda's lips as she folded a silk robe into a suitcase. It was almost a sad smile, but Patricia had sat on the bed, hopeful that her master would return from this grand venture rejuvenated…perhaps with whatever form of doggie treats came from the land of Paris.
Then Miranda came home, and Andy never came back.
A routine emerged in which Miranda would come home from work and take dinner in her office. Patricia often brushed against her leg, trying to ask her what had happened but never getting an answer. At first, blue, watery eyes would turn to her as if the mask she wore throughout her day was finally cracking. Sometimes she got a pat on the head. Now and then, Miranda just sighed, "Oh, Patricia." Once or twice, Miranda had aggressively stood up and walked over to instead indulge in a glass of scotch rather than acknowledge her dog. Now, she did nothing. She continued to work. The mask had hardened. Patricia saw the light leave her master's eyes.
Three months passed. The girls returned home, and they were the only source of the rare smile that graced Miranda's face. The girl with hair like fire again returned to performing the daily nightly ritual of depositing the offering to Miranda on the table.
What had happened in Paris? Where was Andy?
It was as if the whole thing had never happened, and Patricia was almost afraid she had dreamt those lovely walks and the woman that had warmed her master's countenance. Everything simply returned to how it had been many months ago. Patricia waited on the steps, tended to the young humans, and quietly lamented the emptiness in Miranda's eyes.
Patricia finally decided that in order to fully perform her duty as the guardian of the household, that meant protecting Miranda even from a harm that was not physical. That required Andy.
But how to go about it? When the maid let Patricia out into the backyard, she was faced with the Great Wall, a fence much too high for her to jump (and she certainly wasn't a little, agile dog). The front door was impenetrable without the help of human thumbs. Her master practically ignored her now. How could she capture her attention?
Patricia spent all day pondering this problem while she lay beside the banister on the second floor. Well, maybe not all day. There might have been a nap or two.
The twins came home from school and trudged up the stairs with heavy backpacks, petting the dog on the way to their rooms. Patricia could smell the cooking and sizzling of dinner in the kitchen prepared by the woman that watched the two girls until their mother returned home. Still, Patricia had no clue what to do. Maybe dinner would help.
As she bounded down the stairs and started dining at her bowl, the sound of the door opening and closing sent Patricia trotting into the foyer. Thus the usual routine unfolded. Patricia sat down, Miranda nodded, gave her a light pat on the head, the baby sitter was dismissed, the twins each received a kiss, and the mother of the household retreated upstairs to her office.
Patricia just stared as she marched away. She knew her master would only emerge again to retrieve the offering later tonight.
Wait, the offering!
The mystical square Patricia had often heard the humans call "The Book." Miranda spent hours looking at it – this had to be the way to get her attention.
The white and brown mass of fur parked herself right beside the table in the foyer. And she waited. And waited. She felt her eyelids sagging until front door slowly and quietly opened.
The redhead stepped into the threshold and locked eyes with the canine.
Things got awkward very quickly.
It was as if Emily knew the dog was waiting for her and therefore did not trust her position directly beside the table where she was to place the Book. She signed and placed her hand on her hip, looking around the foyer nervously.
Patricia tried to act natural. She began to pant, seemingly innocent.
The woman's eyes narrowed with suspicion. The dog began to worry the human was on to her plan. Nevertheless, her feet clicked as she stepped forward, her hand slowly extended, and the magical Book was deposited on the table. Emily took another moment to stare at the animal sitting and staring at her in return. Patricia continued panting, adding a tail wag for good measure.
With a roll of the eyes and grunt, the assistant left the house.
The dog trotted slowly towards the door and listened, not wanting to begin her delicate work too soon and have the whole operation completely compromised by the assistant's return.
Patricia turned to look at the offering on the table. There it stood, like a shiny chew toy, high on an altar just waiting for the fluffy mass to retrieve it.
She trotted over, stood on her hind legs, and delicately inched her snout around a strange, large cup holding flowers to grab the rectangular object between her teeth.
She placed it on the floor. It had weird pictures of humans on it. Then she did what had to be done.
It didn't exactly taste good. But Patricia knew it had to be done for her master's sake. She would tear the offering to pieces, and Miranda would have to assume that this not-Andy girl was the culprit and bring back the beloved human. She shredded it, her desire to protect Miranda and see the return of the cheerful girl fueling her destructive actions. The offering fell apart easily and ripped into tons of pieces.
She barked proudly at her success and called desperately for Miranda to come see the mess.
Her incessant howling brought the woman into the hallway from the living room, and her gaze turned demonic at the sight before her.
The dog immediately realized that maybe her plan was not so good. Perhaps it had been a bit too obvious she was the one that had torn up the book. She forgot humans don't bite things to break them.
Her master marched into the foyer, glaring at her pet. Miranda opened her mouth most likely to spill the rage that was in her eyes, but, suddenly, her ferocity simply vanished. No words left her mouth. Instead, she slowly looked around the floor.
Her pet just waited for the punishment that was about to befall her.
The woman kneeled on the floor and got very close to her dog.
"Patricia, Andrea is gone. She left us," she explained slowly, each syllable falling heavily and darkly.
But Patricia didn't understand why she had left. She whined and pouted, touching her nose to her master's face.
"Silly girl. It's much better this way, I assure you." But Miranda's own voice broke, and her statement seemed unconvincing.
The animal climbed onto her mother's lap, incredibly sad and crying with grief, so desperate to see the woman that made Miranda happy again.
Arms encircled her and hands stroked her fur while a voice breaking with tears replied, "I know. I wish I could have said goodbye as well."
They sat together for another hour on the floor surrounded by the chaotic abyss of paper that spread through the foyer.
The dog felt lost.
The next night, when the girl brought a new offering to a perfectly clean foyer, the dog's master stood on the stairs and issued a command with a face of stone and a voice of ice.
"Patricia is growing restless. Take her for a walk. That's all."
She disappeared back up the stairs as quickly as she had descended.
Emily sighed dramatically and turned to glare at Patricia. The ball of fur wasn't exactly thrilled to spend time with her either. The woman clicked the leash in place and out the door they went.
The pace was a little too fast for Patricia's enjoyment, but she tried to at least embrace the outdoors as best she could. The exercise was nice and gosh did she have to go to the bathroom. When the reached the end of the street, she started sniffing around for a good spot.
"Can't you hurry up?"
Patricia suddenly decided she didn't like this flower patch and they would have to walk to the next one.
With a huff, Emily pulled out a small device from her purse that Patricia recognized and really hated. They made weird noises sometimes.
The woman touched a few buttons before bringing the device up to her face. After a moment, she said, "I know you'll be incredibly surprised, but I'm going to be later than I thought."
Great, now she was going to be talking the whole time.
"What do you think?" she responded to the mumbling on the other end, "Of course she gave me more to do. I have to walk to the bloody dog."
The dog growled under her breath. She was going to take all night to do her business now.
"Ugh, Andrea, don't give me a sob story about the smelly animal."
The St. Bernard exploded into a series of barks and howls. She needed to talk to Andy! Could Andy hear her?
"Patricia, down. Patricia!" she exclaimed before screeching into the phone, "How do I get it to shut up?"
The barking only grew in hopes of reaching the woman she needed to save her master.
"What? You're where? You think that will work?" Emily yelled in order to be heard over the insane canine whose volume was beginning to attract the displeased looks of passersby.
"We're at the end of her street by that odd statue I think looks a tad too phallic," she explained loudly before removing the device from her face and touching the screen.
Patricia stopped barking and eagerly panted, pacing back and forth around the plants waiting for Andy.
"Oh, now you quiet down," the woman muttered bitterly as the canine relieved herself in order to prepare for her friend's arrival.
This time when the dog growled, she didn't do so quietly. She tugged and tugged on the leash, trying to tell her it was time to bring her to Andy. Patricia continued to excitedly howl and even jumped on the other woman eagerly despite shouts of protest until a familiar voice called out across the street.
Patricia immediately turned around and the lovely scent of the young woman hit her before she could even see her. The dog launched herself at Andy and happily received scratched to the head before licking her face.
"Whatcha doin', girl? Why you all excited, huh? Em, give me the leash."
"Thank you. Thank you, thank you," Emily sang, immediately relaxing her arms that were now free of Patricia's pulling force on the leash.
"What happened?" Andy asked, wrapping her arms around the dog to try and calm her down.
Emily practically screeched, "I have no clue. I was on the mobile with you, and she went mad. I didn't sign up for this. This week has been hell. I just wanted a fucking drink tonight. I don't even like dogs."
Andy looked between the woman and the dog and finally sighed, "I'll take her back."
"Really?" the Brit asked in surprise, aware of what such an offer meant. Patricia whined as she licked Andy's cheek, praying it was true she could bring her home to Miranda.
"Yeah," she responded, her resolve growing with each nod, her grip tightening on the leash, " Go meet Nigel, and I'll show up later."
"Try not to die," Emily drawled, "We only just started having a weekly 'girls' night. I don't want to endure the tale of Nigel's most recent hook up alone again."
"You'll live, Em. Give me the key to the townhouse. If I don't show up in an hour, start planning my funeral."
Once Patricia saw the metal hit Andy's hand, she started jogging home, tugging the woman along behind her.
The canine inspected Andy's clothes and realized the materials didn't smell quite right. Not the kind of stuff Miranda liked to wear anyway. Not that her human friend smelled bad. Her head fur was groomed well. Her master was just picky about that sort of thing.
Andy would have to do as she was.
When they reached the threshold of the townhouse, Andy looked up at the building and sighed, "You're always getting me in trouble, you know that?"
Patricia whined, nuzzling the girl's leg, trying to nudge her towards the front door.
After climbing the stairs, Andy retrieved the key from her pocket, fiddled with the lock, and slowly opened the door.
She peaked her head in and looked around. The coast was clear.
The woman turned back to Patricia and whispered, "Now, you gotta be quiet, okay, girl?"
The dog responded by rushing in through the door and barking loudly to alert her master that she had brought home a present.
"What did I just say?" her human companion mumbled aggressively, immediately dropping to her knees to unhook the leash and attempt a getaway.
However, her actions were in vain as a voice came from the banister, "Could you attempt to do your job without waking up the entire–"
Miranda froze in place once she looked up from her descent down the stairs. Patricia proudly trotted up to the older woman and greeted her warmly while presenting the girl she had fought so hard to find. The woman kneeling on the floor slowly rose as they remained locked in a staring contest.
The awkward pause continued until Andy blurted, "Hi."
Even Patricia felted embarrassed for the ex-assistant's complete failure at initiating conversation.
Miranda stood up straighter as the surprise in her expression gave way to anger. "I see I need to have a conversation with Emily about keeping a better eye on her key."
"She let me borrow it. Patricia was out of control, and she called me."
Miranda's quickly darkening gaze flickered down to the animal, who slowly backed away with the scary realization that she was probably not going to get a treat for this.
"Did you think you would just walk in her, drop off my dog, and then leave again?"
"'Again?"" Andy repeated, something in her voice growing bitter.
"I do not have time to deal with this," the older woman stated firmly, turning to walk back up the steps.
Her response was a growl that Patricia thought was worthy of a true canine. "Don't walk away from me."
Miranda immediately whipped her head around, eyes shimmering evilly. "You come into my home and dare to issue commands?"
That's when Andy snapped.
"Oh, you think you're mad? I'm pissed! I'm furious! Everything was fine until you dragged me off to Paris and just randomly decided to screw me over. I thought I had I figured you out. I thought we were finally on the same page. You actually spoke to me when we walked your dog. Whatever you needed, I had it ready, and you didn't yell at me. I organized everything to the last detail, I made the hotel change the soap in your room when I found out it was orange scented because you'd flip a shit," Andy spat, her hands moving viciously in her explanation while her feet steady and planted, "I wasn't looking for a pat on the head, but you used to at least look at me like I was a human when I did my job to meet your crazy-ass standards. And just when I thought we were having an honest to God moment about Stephen in your hotel room, you tell me to go do my job and send me away. Then to top it all off, you ignore me when I try to help you save your job. You didn't even give a shit. All you cared about was making sure I didn't bring in any freakin' freesias. Which I don't even get. You told me your fucking favorite flower was fucking freesias."
A beat passed. Miranda looked away and stared at her dog sitting on the floor. Patricia pouted. She begged her master silently, pleaded with her eyes to be open and honest.
"In case you haven't noticed," she said softly, "I'm often in the habit of pushing things away that I love."
"Wait, what?" Andy barely breathed.
Miranda's gaze returned sharply to face the woman before, "It was dangerous to have you remain at Runway."
Andy's forehead knotted with confusion, but, when her mouth opened to question the editor's comment, she found the words jammed in her throat.
"This is who I truly am," Miranda stated with absolute firmness, her voice almost issuing a warning to stay away.
"You're lying," Andy exclaimed, taking a step forward and finally moving away from where she had been rooted by the front door, "I know, Miranda. I know all about it. Nigel called me a month later to tell me about his promotion when you guys got back to New York."
Andy crossed the foyer until she was only a pace away from the other woman.
"Why did you let me think you were going to just abandon him?" she muttered sadly.
Patricia was extremely confused, but the whole ordeal was getting pretty exciting. They were getting closer to each other.
"I needed you to leave," came the stone-cold, stiff reply.
"Then why didn't you just fire me?"
"You did exactly what I told you to do. Firing you was not an option. You did your job," Miranda explained, turning to pace to the opposite side of the room.
"You're going around in circles," Andy exclaimed, throwing her hands up, "Just tell me how we ended up here, Miranda."
Another pause. The dog sat perfectly still.
Her master slowly turned to her companion, standing tall, and said resolutely, "We are here, Andrea, because my dog is insane."
Patricia pouted. She wouldn't go as far as 'insane.'
"Those nightly walks started to haunt me. Suddenly, I was no longer safe. Even the office was hazardous. I became too familiar with the sensation of being beside you, our arms brushing. It started happening as we walked to meetings or I allowed you to ride in the elevator with me. One night I would mention my attraction to a certain color, and the next day, you would be happily donning a shirt in that exact hue. You," Miranda's normally strong, authoritative voice finely cracked, and with a quick breath she continued, "You brought freesias into the office. You would stay late at night when I was chained to my desk with edits. You turned one night and oh so innocently asked, 'Shall we go home and walk the dog?'"
Andy replied with a sheepish grin, "It…it just slipped. I was really embarrassed after I said it."
"That small instant crumbled me. I wished for nothing more than to take you home," Miranda explained, turning her head slightly to hide her flushing cheeks, a slight increase of heart rate Patricia could sense.
"Oh," the other woman replied before seemingly doing a double take, "oh!"
"Indeed. You attacked and destroyed everything I had built in order to protect myself."
Andy recovered from her shock and countered, "What could I do? I was silly girl with a crush on her married boss."
"I am an old woman that invests herself in her job. And her children. And her dog. The thought of making room for someone else is quite…" Miranda said as her soft voice trailed off.
Eyebrows flickered upwards and chin defiantly turned up. "Hardly. I'm not afraid of anything."
The dog almost rolled her eyes. The ex-assistant completed the task instead. The foyer stayed quiet as the women seemed to ask themselves where they went from here.
"Why does this have to be such a big deal?" Andy finally questioned with a shrug and a simple smirk, "Miranda, can't we just give this a shot?"
Patricia immediately gave her support with a firm bark before returning to her panting and tail wagging. Andy shot the dog a huge smile.
"See? She thinks it's a good idea."
"Of course she does. She's been anxious to have you back," Miranda murmured, her tone almost suspicious.
"She's the only one, right?" The brunette asked, the sarcasm in her question very apparent.
Patricia watched with anticipation as Miranda tilted her chin regally, her eyes so deeply focused on the other woman.
"Who encouraged you to have this overabundance of confidence?"
Andy's grin practically exploded. "I can do anything, remember?"
What happened next was so subtle, so small, Patricia almost missed it. Her master smiled.
As a dog, Patricia knew the golden rule. Kisses solved all sorts of problems. Sometimes it was a good idea to just smother someone with lots of kisses until they giggled. This is what she did for the girls when they had bad days at school. She also knew that sometimes kisses could be hungry like you've been waiting your whole life for your food bowl to get filled and suddenly it's there and the need makes you devour all of it right away. Let's just say Patricia knew about those kind of kisses because of the charming German Shepard with shiny eyes that lived next-door.
But when Andy shyly stepped forward so that their bodies brushed, gently cupped Miranda's cheek, and gently placed their lips together with the softness of a whisper, Patricia knew this kiss was different. She didn't need Miranda's resulting sigh and tender embrace of the younger woman's waist to tell her that this was special.
In the end, Patricia really didn't fully understand what they had discussed. But she did know that, after Andy left that night, she would be coming back again. And Andy did come back two days later to escort Miranda on a mysterious adventure to something called 'Date.' She knew there would be plenty more kisses and smiles and, finally, love back in the household she was sworn to protect.
She also knew Andy didn't leave until the next morning. But that was none of Patricia's business.
A/N: Surprise! Quite a number of you seemed upset this was only one chapter, so I hope this makes up for it. It feels more done now. Please let me know what you think so I can learn and improve future stories, like the Mirandy AU that I'm working on now. Check it out!