DISCLAIMER: Iíll claim these characters as my own if I want them by god, but since I donít make any money off Ďem, then who cares? Honestly, some people!
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for the dvlwears_prada community's Secret Santa Fic Exchange organized by the wonderful grdnofevrythng.. This story is a follow-up to my Halloween story Masque. If you haven't read it, you just need to know that Andy and Miranda are together and Andy no longer works for Runway. Wait, if you haven't read Masque, why the hell not? Go do it now!
DEDICATION: For eriknannie4evr.. As always, thanks Mercurychkita..
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Five Things Andy Buys For Christmas
By Susan L. Carr
It was the day before Christmas Eve and Andy was still at work. She glanced at the digital clock on her computer screen and picked up the phone.
"Miranda Priestly's office."
"Hi, Emily," Andy said. "It's Andy."
"You haven't been gone that long, Andrea," Emily replied. "I do recognize your voice."
"It's good to know I'm missed," Andy said and could practically hear Emily shaking her head.
"Miranda's not in the office right now," Emily said.
"I was calling for you, not Miranda," Andy replied.
"Me?" Emily said.
"Yeah," Andy said. "Why not? Anyway, Miranda said she's finally letting the new girl deliver the book so I was wondering if I could come by your place tonight and drop off your Christmas gift."
Andy smiled at Emily's pause. She guessed her former co-worker was trying to digest her offer. Sure, Emily had been royally ticked off when she learned about her and Miranda, but after Andy quietly moved on to her junior editorial assistant's job at The Rolling Stone and therefore was no longer a threat to Emily's position, she seemed to ease off a bit and had stopped snarking in derision every time Andy called.
And besides, Nigel had mentioned during drinks the other night that Miranda seemed to be mellower around the office recently and Andy smugly assumed it had something to do with how she made Miranda feel outside the office. Andy was sure that Emily's relaxed attitude had a lot to do with how much easier her job had gotten.
"Well, I suppose that would be all right," Emily said and Andy could hear the fake reluctance in her voice. "But I've moved, so let me give you the new address."
Andy jotted it down in her Moleskine and said, "Great. So, what time's good for you?"
"How about nine?" Emily said.
"Perfect," Andy said. "I'll see you then." She hung up and thought about what she was getting Emily. She had already learned from Miranda that Emily had moved, and Andy had considered giving a housewarming gift, but Miranda didn't know anything about the new place except the neighborhood.
"Tribeca, for god's sake!" Miranda had said as they were relaxing in bed one evening. Andy had been editing an article and Miranda the Book.
"Well, it's Emily," Andy had said not even looking up from her laptop. "You know she has to be trendy and you gotta admit she's got some really cool neighbors."
"Precisely," Miranda had said, also not looking up from the Book. "How the hell can she afford to live there? Especially with what I pay her."
"Then give her a raise," Andy had said. "She certainly deserves it. She's been with you longer than any of your other assistants. She's totally devoted to you. She even took a taxi for you, for crying out loud."
"Do not tell me how to run my office, Andrea," Miranda had said. She'd then glanced over at Andy's computer and frowned. To Andy's annoyance, she had tapped her pen on the screen. "Get rid of that what an appalling turn of phrase. Perhaps you should suggest to your writer he take an 'English as a Second Language' course at the local remedial center for the disadvantaged?"
"Do not tell me how to do my job, Miranda," Andy had glared.
Now, tapping idly at her desk, she smiled at the memory and then headed off to her meeting. By seven o'clock, she managed to finish her work for the day and get a jump start on tomorrow's so she'd only have to work in the morning, leaving her free to have lunch with Nigel and then head straight to Miranda's for the holiday. Andy felt a tingle of anticipation she was so looking forward to it. As she left the offices for the subway, she unconsciously glanced toward the Elias- Clarke building only three blocks away. Andy rather suspected that Miranda had helped her get the job at Rolling Stone simply because of its proximity to Runway so they could often meet for lunch. Andy chuckled at the irony that she was still running to Smith & Wollensky on a regular basis, but at least now she got to share the meal with Miranda.
She grabbed the train to lower Manhattan and detoured for the natural foods market. In the specialty department she made a few selections and then charmed the associate into wrapping them for her. Leaving the store, she hurried the few blocks to Emily's building and gave the doorman her name. He waved her toward the elevator.
When Emily opened her apartment door, Andy was amused to see that she had changed from her usual designer work clothes into a pair of Wrangler's and a long sleeved white cotton button down shirt.
"Whoa, Em!" Andy exclaimed. "You look great. Casual chic. Wear it to Runway and start a trend."
"Ha ha," Emily said and stepped aside so Andy could enter.
Andy's eyebrows lifted in surprise as she entered the richly decorated apartment. "Wow!" she said. "Your last place didn't look like this. What'd you do? Move in with someone?"
Andy glanced over at Emily and smiled broadly when she saw her former co-worker blushing. "You so did!" she gushed. "That's great. Why didn't you tell me? Who is it?"
"Me," a new voice said from the farther end of the apartment. Andy turned to see a woman exiting what she assumed was a bedroom.
"Serena!" Andy cried and happily rushed to hug the tall woman. Serena's return hug was just as warm. "Congratulations, you two."
"Thank you, Andy," Serena said and turned to look at Emily expectantly.
Andy grinned at Emily who finally smiled and moved in for a hug. "Thank you, Andy," she echoed.
"Okay, so Merry Christmas," Andy said as she pulled away and grabbed the large shopping bag that contained her presents. "I'm glad now I got something generic. I wanted to get a housewarming gift but didn't know what kind of place you had. I'm glad I got something that you can both enjoy."
Emily laughed as she took the bag over to the bar that separated the kitchen from the dining area and started pulling out wrapped items. The first two were obviously wine bottles which Serena immediately grabbed to open. Andy perched on one of the bar stools as Emily pulled out several smaller packages.
"What are these?" she asked.
"Open them and find out," Andy said. "I thought gift opening traditions were the same in England as over here."
Serena chuckled as Emily scowled at Andy and then howled as Emily opened the first package to find a wheel of cheese.
"Cheese?" Emily asked as if appalled. "You gave me food?
"Yes," Andy nodded. "Low-carb cheese and not just any cheese either. It's epoisses one of the great cheeses from France. I know how fond you are of all things French you obviously being an exception Serena. Have you had it, Emily?"
"I have," Serena said and grabbed a granny smith from a basket nearby. She pulled a knife from a drawer and started to quickly peel the skin.
Emily removed the outer wrap from the cheese and sniffed. "Oh my god!" she exclaimed, her face scrunched into an expression of abject disgust.
Andy laughed. "Isn't it great?" she said.
"You actually eat this?" Emily asked.
"Sure do," Serena said happily. She cut the skinned apple into slices and broke the orange skin of the cheese with a spoon. Inside was soft ivory-colored cream. She drizzled some of it over an apple slice and held it out to Emily.
"Are you serious?" Emily said. "That thing smells like week-old socks."
"That's the point," Andy said. "Go on Emily try it. Don't wanna be rude and refuse my gift now."
Emily narrowed her eyes at Andy and then looked at Serena who nodded encouragingly. "If I fall over dead, you damn well better explain to Miranda why I'm not at work in the morning."
"I promise," Andy said and grinned as Emily bit off a small piece of the apple Serena was holding. Emily paused and then slowly chewed the piece, finally swallowing. She breathed in and out once in an almost sigh.
"Well?" Andy asked.
"It's not what I expected," she answered and leaned forward to take the rest of the slice from Serena, giving the other woman's fingers a lick as she made sure to get every bit of the creamy cheese. "Mmm," she said.
Andy smiled and cut up the rest of the apple while Serena poured the bottle of chardonnay that Andy had brought.
"To Emily and Serena," Andy toasted and the three of them clinked their glasses together.
"Thank you, Andy," Serena said.
"Yes, Andy," Emily echoed with a warm smile. "Thanks."
Emily opened the rest of the cheese selection and Serena laid them out on a platter. She added some baguette slices, crackers and more fruit and then carried it and the wine into the living room.
"All of that just for me?" Emily asked as they took a comfortable seat.
Andy spread some cheese on bread and sighed happily as she chewed it. "Yep," she finally answered. "I figured if you're only going to eat a cube of cheese then for god's sake at least let it be good. I'd hate to have you starving yourself on Velveeta."
"Well, thank you very much, Andy," Emily said. "I appreciate it."
"Me too," Serena said. "I've been trying to get Emily to go to some cheese and wine tastings with me, but she's been reluctant. Maybe now you will?" she asked, looking at Emily.
Andy was charmed to see Emily smile and blush sweetly. "Hey, maybe the four of us could make a night of it," she said. "Miranda loves tastings."
"What?" Emily exclaimed as her face drained of color. "Are you suggesting Serena and I double date with you and Miranda Priestly? Oh no. No no."
Andy laughed. "Why not?"
"Why not?" Emily scowled. "Oh, I'm sorry Andrea, but I'm not you. I don't fraternize with the boss!"
Andy rolled her eyes. "Attending a social event is not fraternizing, Emily. You go to them all the time with her."
"Yes, as her assistant, not as a a " Emily trailed off helplessly.
"Miranda socializes with Nigel," Serena pointed out.
"Yes, but that's Nigel, for god's sake," Emily said. "I'm just a lowly assistant."
"Just an assistant?" Andy asked with a wry chuckle. "Emily, don't you realize that as Miranda's assistant, you're one of the most important people at Runway? With Miranda's authority, you boss around everyone there just as much as she does, including Nigel. Outside the office, anyone who wants a piece of Miranda Priestly has to go through you first. Believe me Em, you're more important than you think."
"Well regardless of the rest of the world, Miranda doesn't see me like that," Emily pointed out. "To her I'm just pond scum."
"That's not true," Andy chided. "If it were, then you'd have been gone long ago. Yeah, maybe she has some misguided opinions of you, but if you show her that she's wrong, then she'll give you a chance. She is approachable. Believe me, I know."
Emily sniffed. "Still I don't know."
"Look Emily," Andy said. "Yeah, Miranda's your boss and you look at her like she's some kind of superhuman mythological figure, but really she's just like everyone else. When I was younger, I had to interview the state governor and was really nervous about it. My mom gave me a great piece of advice. She told me that he puts his pants on the same way I do, one leg at a time. Sounds dumb I know, but it made me realize that no matter how famous the person, they're still as human as I am."
"Well, you certainly are in a position to know how Miranda puts her pants on," Serena quipped.
"Oh shut up, Serena," Emily said, but she laughed along with them.
Andy sat back and sipped her wine contentedly. She smiled as she imagined Miranda's face when she when she'd tell her they had a future evening engagement with Serena and Emily.
Andy pushed open the door to the Italian restaurant and saw his familiar form sitting by the bar and chatting with the bartender. Despite the noise from the lively lunch crowd, Nigel turned at the sound of her heels on the tiles and his face broke out in a huge smile.
"Hello luscious," Nigel said as she put her packages on the bar and leaned in for a kiss. "My, you look ravishing. Got a hot date tonight?" His smirk made Andy chuckle.
"As a matter of fact, I do," she replied.
"Ummm, you know, come to think of it Miranda herself looked particularly stunning herself today. What a coincidence."
"Yeah, how about that," Andy said with a laugh.
"Come on, let's grab our table," Nigel said and took her arm.
After they had given their orders to the waiter and settled back with some wine, Nigel smiled at her. "Things are going well, I see," he said. "Romance suits you."
"Thanks," she said.
"Don't thank me," he sniffed. "I didn't do anything."
"Sure you did," Andy said. "You gave me a kick in the pants when I needed it and you've been our strongest supporter."
"Hardly that," Nigel said. "Besides, what's good for Miranda is good for Runway. I'm just looking out for my own interests."
"Oh bull!" Andy said. "I saw that letter you wrote to the Times castigating them for that editorial about powerful women emulating powerful men in regard to their mid-life crises."
"And what makes you think that had anything to do with you and Miranda?" he asked. "The op-ed piece never mentioned you by name, it just spoke in generalities."
"All of New York knew who he was talking about," Andy said. "And besides, if it had nothing to do with us, why'd you bother with your rebuttal?"
"All of us middle-age power brokers have to watch out for each other, my dear," he said. "Again just looking out for number one."
"Yeah, okay, whatever," she said and slid the packages she'd brought over to his side of the table. "These are for you."
He pushed his own towards her in exchange. "Merry Christmas, Andy," he said.
"You too, Nige," she answered and tore open the first gift. Inside was a lovely, fully-illustrated book on African calligraphy. "Oooh," she exclaimed as she thumbed through the thick volume.
"Like it?" he said with a small smile. "I remember you telling me about that display at the Smithsonian you wanted to see. This should hold you until you can get there. And let me know when you do plan to go. I know a curator there who can show you the rest of the collection not on display."
"Thanks Nigel," she said and leaned over the table so she could kiss his cheek. "I love it. Now you!"
He smiled in pleasure as he opened up his own gift to find a similar book; only this one was on drawing traditional Japanese tigers. Andy had been delighted when she found out Nigel was fascinated by Japanese sumi-e paintings and even drew his own. "How'd you find this?" he asked. "It's been out of print for a while."
"Frank over at Rizzoli's found it for me," she answered, naming the famous bookstore the two of them loved to explore on their rare free moments. "It took him a while to track it down, but I'm sure it was worth it."
"You bet your sweet bippy it is," he said.
They exchanged a few more gifts and were both amused to see they had gotten each other nearly the same things. Andy speculated that was why they were such good friends they came from such different backgrounds, yet they were so much alike.
Finally, with the table littered with the remains of their lunch and discarded wrappings and bows, Andy pulled a smaller package from her Ferragamo satchel he had given her from the closet and handed it to him. He unwrapped it to reveal a silver-plated photo frame surrounding a photograph of them both arriving at Irv Ravitz's masquerade. The two of them looked ludicrous, but wonderful in their period costumes.
"Oh this is great!" he said. "Where did you find it?"
"One of the archivists at work gave it to me," she said. "She came across it on its way to the morgue and thought I'd like it."
"Marvelous!" he said. "I shall display it with love. I hope you kept a copy for yourself?"
"Of course," she said. "Are you kidding? It's a memento of one of the best nights of my life."
Nigel rolled his eyes and then leaned over to kiss her cheek. "Thank you for everything, darling," he said, sitting down again and putting the photo on his pile of gifts. "This is our first Christmas, and I hope to god there are many, many more."
"There will be," Andy said. Her relationship with Nigel was one of the most precious ones she had ever had. "There will be."
It was the early hours of Christmas morning in the Priestly home and Andy was sitting in a lounge chair near the gorgeous tree reading a novel and occasionally sipping from a mug of hot tea. The gas lit fireplace was giving off a warm glow and Andy snuggled comfortably in her thick robe. Miranda and the girls were still sleeping and she was enjoying the peace. She knew that once the girls were up, there would be precious little quiet for the rest of the day.
She gazed up at the wonderful tree. Miranda had gotten professional decorators to set it up and do the basic lighting and decorating, but Andy had been delighted to discover the Priestlys finished the trimming with their own personal touches, such as ornaments made by the girls or special collectables. Andy had watched in amusement as their traditional ritual consisted of each twin unwrapping a special ornament and explaining its significance to Andy in great detail. The rite finished with both girls placing matching angels with red hair aside each other on the top of the tree.
Miranda also had surprised her by calling Andy's mother in Ohio and asking her for Andy's favorite Christmas trimmings. When Andy spoke with her mother later, she had sounded impressed that Miranda had personally called her instead of an assistant and she was even more impressed by the messenger who showed up at the door not more than ten minutes later to carry off the package she had quickly put together. The girls had laughed at a mistletoe wreath ornament Andy had painted in ceramic class with a photo taped to the back of Andy at age ten who was mugging for the camera. Miranda had commented in her droll way, "Charming at any age, I see."
Andy felt a little sad not to be with her parents this year, but she figured there was no place on Earth she would rather be than in this cozy home on Christmas morning. She had a feeling this was going to be a great Christmas. Smiling happily, she heard a sound coming from the back stairwell and a moment later Caroline walked into the room. She was still dressed in her pajamas.
"Hey, sweetie," Andy said. "Want some tea?"
"Nah," Caroline answered. "What you doing?"
"Just relaxing a bit," Andy said. "I'm always up early on Christmas. Old habit I guess. Where's Cassidy? Still sleeping?"
"Yeah," Caroline said, inching closer. "She'll be up soon though. It's nearly morning."
Andy smiled and patted the ample space of the chair she was sitting in. "Have a seat," she invited. "Sit a spell."
Caroline smiled and hopped on the chair, snuggling closer to Andy. "It snowed last night," Andy continued. "How about later we build a snowman out back. It'll be my first New York snowman."
"Cool," Caroline said. "Maybe Mom will even help out."
Andy smiled at the image of Miranda frolicking in the snow. "That would be great," she chuckled.
"You really like Mom, don't you?" Caroline asked.
"Yes," Andy answered. "I like her a lot."
"When did you start liking her?"
Andy thought a moment about how honestly she should answer. Miranda hadn't set any ground rules on how Andy should behave around her children or what kind of role Andy would play in their lives. Andy was rather nervous about that, but she loved the girls. They were smart, funny and utterly charming when they wanted to be. And even though they were identical twins, they were each unique individuals and Andy delighted in finding out all of the differences.
"Well, I've admired your mom since the day I met her," Andy started. "But I didn't start to like her in a romantic way until after I broke up with my boyfriend."
"So you like boys, too," Caroline asked. "Not just girls?"
Andy paused again in thought. She kind of suspected where this conversation was leading and worried again just how open Miranda would want her to be with the girls. Andy remembered what she was like at their age and how curious she was and how great it was to have someone to talk to especially about confusing things. She decided on the spot that it was time to strengthen her own relationship with the girls that was separate from Miranda.
"Yes," she answered. "I liked Nate and now I like your mom. For me, it's always been the person more than anything else. Your mom is an incredible woman. I'd like her no matter what she looked like. That she's the most beautiful woman I've ever met just makes it all the more fun."
Andy grinned at Caroline who giggled and said, "Ewww."
Andy chuckled and then grew serious again. "Is there a girl you like, Caroline?" she asked, thinking about a conversation at dinner last week when all Caroline seemed to talk about was the new girl in her math class. Miranda hadn't seemed to have noticed anything, but Andy had and it had given her an idea for Caroline's Christmas gift.
Caroline eyed her. "Kind of," she said. "Her name is Missy."
"The new girl in your math class?" Andy said, smiling at Caroline's nod. "You might have mentioned her one or two times at dinner the other night. Well, actually maybe more like twenty times." Caroline poked her in her ribs and Andy chuckled. "Does she like you?"
Caroline shrugged. "We talk before and after class, but that's it," she answered. "I wanted to ask her to eat lunch with me like Cassidy eats lunch with Michael Loyal, but I thought maybe she'd think that was weird that I was weird."
"Cassidy eating lunch with Michael is weird?" Andy asked and when Caroline shook her head no, she continued. "Then why should you and Missy eating lunch be weird? You can eat lunch together and hang out and be friends and if she seems interested in more than friends, then you can maybe ask her over for dinner, or a movie or something. Nothing wrong with that."
"Really?" Caroline asked. "I mean, shouldn't I be like Cassidy and like boys?
"Caroline, it's okay if you like girls and it's okay if Cassidy likes boys," Andy said. "One of the things I like most about the world is how many different kinds of people there are; everyone's unique and therefore special. Some people like both boys and girls, like me "
"And Mom," Caroline interrupted.
Andy grinned, "And then there are other folks who only like one or the other."
"Like Nigel," Caroline added cheekily.
"Like Nigel," Andy agreed, enjoying Caroline's sass. "So again, there's nothing wrong with it, sweetie," she concluded.
Caroline frowned. "But some people think there is," she said. "Mom doesn't like us to, but Cassidy and I sometimes read stuff online and some people say some not very nice things about you and Mom."
Andy sighed. "I know," she said. "But on the other hand there are some people who have said some very nice things about us. No matter what people say about us, good or bad, Miranda and I will still want to be with each other. There are very few people whose opinion we do care about and most of them are under this roof."
Caroline giggled. "So you don't care about those mean people?"
"In a way I do," Andy said. "I feel sorry for them. They're letting their fears and ignorance dictate their hateful words and actions. They think they can stop people from loving each other and really, the world needs all the love it can get. Look at it this way, every day there are more people who say nice things than people who say bad things so hopefully soon there will be so few people who say bad things that there won't be enough of them around for anyone to hear anymore."
"Huh," Caroline said, thoughtfully. "That's kinda cool. Complicated, but cool."
"So you gonna ask Missy to have lunch with you when you guys go back after the break?" Andy asked with a grin.
Caroline blushed. "Maybe," she hedged.
"Well, let me know what she says," Andy said and added with a wink, "and I want full details!"
This time Caroline's eye roll eerily mimicked Miranda's.
"Hey, I got you something special for Christmas," Andy said and squirmed around on the chair until she reached behind it and pulled out a festively decorated gift bag. "I thought I'd give it to you later just in case you didn't want your mom or sister to see it, but you can open it now if you want."
"Cool!" Caroline said. "I get to open the first present. Cassidy will be so jealous."
Andy laughed and watched as Caroline pulled out a couple of books. She pointed to the first one, "This one has different stories about young folks who had a lot of questions about stuff that confused them. Just like you were confused about asking Missy to eat with you. The saddest stories are those where the kids didn't know anyone they could talk to about that stuff. Not like you." Andy felt her heart melting again as the young girl smiled warmly at her. "And this one is a novel about two girls who like each other and live right here in New York. This was one of my favorite books when I was your age."
"Really?" Caroline asked and then grinned. "So was there a girl you asked to eat lunch with you?"
"Uh huh," Andy laughed. "And she said yes, too. So that Missy better watch out because I have a feeling she's gonna be enjoying lunch a lot more from now on."
Both of them turned at the sound of a soft chuckle and Andy saw Miranda leaning against the doorway and looking perfect in her bathrobe despite the early hour. Then she noticed Miranda had a tiny sleep wrinkle running across one cheek and Andy fell in love with her all over again.
"Mom!" Caroline squeaked. Andy could see the girl was worried. "How long have you been standing there?"
"Long enough," Miranda answered. "So I take it this Missy girl might become a subject of our dinner conversation as much as that young Michael has been lately?"
"Uh " Caroline said and glanced at Andy who nodded encouragingly. "Yeah, I guess. Is is that okay?"
"Of course it is darling, don't be silly. However, I will reserve approval on any inamoratas you might have until I can fully judge their fashion taste and that goes equally the same for your sister. I'd hope she has enough sense by now to make sure they pull up their pants before presenting themselves before me," Miranda said and then tilted her head toward the stairwell. "Now go wake up your sister," she added. "I swear every day it takes her longer and longer to get out of bed. By next Christmas we'll be lucky to open our gifts before supper."
Caroline laughed and raced out of the room.
Andy stood up and walked over to Miranda to give her a proper good morning kiss, enjoying the fresh taste of toothpaste on Miranda's lips. Finally she pulled back and said, "That went well," she said with a chuckle. "I'm impressed. You handled your daughter's coming out like a champ."
"How did your mother handle it?" Miranda asked with a raised eyebrow.
Andy laughed. "I announced at dinner one night I had to leave soon because I had a date with Tamara Price from down the street. My mother said, 'that's nice dear, pass the salt.' I thank god every day my parents are as cool as they are. How about your mother?"
"Oh my god!" Miranda chuckled. "She would have been in total denial about us no matter what the press printed about our relationship. I remember one time while watching The Waltons I shared my opinion that the Baldwin sisters weren't sisters at all and were really living in a Boston marriage. No matter how much I tried to explain the concept, my mother could simply not grasp what I was talking about."
Andy laughed. "Well, let me go get some of papa's recipe before the girls come down and start tearing into the presents. I've already got it simmering on the stove."
"If by that you mean the mulled cider, then please do," Miranda said. "And bring me a cup of coffee as well, if you will. Very hot."
Andy rolled her eyes at Miranda. "Yeah, like I really don't know how you take your coffee. Sheesh." She turned around to leave and then suddenly thought of something. "Hey Miranda, I've always meant to ask you how come you never had an espresso machine installed in the kitchen in your office? It's not like Runway can't afford whatever Starbucks has and you'd probably get better and hotter coffee."
Miranda looked at her with an evil smirk. "And miss watching my assistants scramble off to Starbucks at my whim? Really Andrea, where's the fun in that?"
"Oh my god!" Andy grumbled and gave her the mother of eye rolls.
Miranda's chuckle followed her as she left the room. As Andy was ladling cider into the punchbowl, she heard the girls trample down the stairs Caroline at a lively pace, with Cassidy sluggishly following.
Yep, she thought to herself. Best Christmas ever.
Since Andy was the newest member of the Priestly family, she was elected to play Santa Claus and hand out the gifts. Miranda simply sat in her chair and watched in amusement as the twins tore into their presents. Andy tried to pace the gift giving, so for at least every five presents the girls opened, she or Miranda would open one, but even so Caroline and Cassidy soon outpaced them both.
Andy would occasionally glance at Miranda and their eyes would meet. Andy had a nice pile of gifts from the Priestlys resting next to her, but that was not why Andy was so happy. Sure, the books, DVDs, spa sessions, various electronic gadgets and tons of designer clothing and accessories were great Andy really had no idea how she was going to fit everything in her small apartment but this Christmas Andy was basking in the warmth and love that filled this home. And judging from the look in Miranda's eyes, she was too.
"Next!" Caroline cried as she finally put aside the turquoise hoodie from Aeropostale she had been examining. Andy reached under the tree and randomly selected another package. She smiled as she handed it to Cassidy without even glancing at the tag.
"Hey," Cassidy said. "This is from you. I hope it's not just some dumb books."
Miranda raised her eyebrow at her daughter and said with a low growl, "Cassidy."
"I mean, thanks Andy," the girl said with saccharine sweetness and Andy rolled her eyes in amusement.
"You're welcome, Cass," she answered. "And no, it's not dumb books." She shared a glance at Caroline who blushed sweetly.
"Good," Cassidy said and tore open the package. Andy watched and nervously hoped Cassidy liked it because it really did involve something more than just a simple item. Her future relationship with the girl could depend on Cassidy's reaction.
"Wow!" Cassidy yelled and out of the corner of her eye Andy saw Miranda wince. "It's the new NLT album. No one's been able to get this. How'd you get it?"
"I have my ways," Andy replied.
"Andrea is quite adept at pulling off the impossible," Miranda commented.
Andy leaned in closer to Miranda and whispered, "I got you, didn't I?"
"Case in point," Miranda smirked.
"Besides, she works at Rolling Stone, dummy," Caroline pointed out.
"Caroline!" Miranda rebuked.
Cassidy sneered at her sister in triumph and then dug further through the package. "What's this?" she asked.
"Passes to Good Morning America for you and me," Andy said. "NLT's promoting the album on the show next week and " Andy trailed off as Cassidy looked at her expectantly. "I can get us backstage afterwards so you can meet the boys."
"Really?" Cassidy squealed happily. "So we won't be stuck outside on the stupid street like everyone else, but in the studio? How'd you manage that?"
"I'm friends with Diane Sawyer's assistant," Andy explained. "Believe me, every personal assistant in New York knows each other and tries to maintain goodwill. It's how we survive."
Miranda let out an amused snort.
"And I thought later we can do other stuff if you want take in a museum or something, whatever you want," Andy paused and then continued. "That is, if you don't mind hanging out with me for a whole day."
Cassidy looked at her thoughtfully and Andy nearly held her breath. Cassidy had always been the more aloof twin, taking her and Miranda's relationship with a proverbial grain of salt. Andy suspected Cassidy believed it wouldn't last like Miranda's other relationships and probably didn't want to risk getting close to Andy if it didn't. She was just like her mother in her expectations of disappointment. Andy couldn't do anything to convince her otherwise, even though she never intended to let Miranda or the twins go Andy was too deeply and helplessly in love with all of them so all she could do was give Cassidy a chance to know her better and hanging out together seemed like a much better gift than a silly boy band's album.
"Can we have lunch at the Carnegie Deli?" Cassidy finally asked and Andy silently breathed a sigh of relief.
"Hot corned beef covered in melted cheese?" she said with a grin. "I'm totally there. Hey, maybe we can even grab supper at Katz's and do their pastrami?"
"Good lord!" Miranda said with a classic eye roll. "By the time you get home, your arteries will be too stiff to allow any freedom of movement."
Cassidy and Andy laughed, delighted with their shared conspiracy. Despite her protests, Andy could tell that Miranda was pleased that Andy wanted to spend more time with her children. With a grin, Andy pulled another package out from under the tree.
"Next!" Caroline called.
After the gifts and the fun in the snow and the wonderful holiday dinner and laughing around the skating rink under the stars at Rockefeller Center, after all that, Andy was ready for a more intimate love.
Loving Miranda was the easiest thing in the world for Andy although her friends and quite a few strangers in the press accused her of being either a saint or insane for wanting to be with the most notoriously difficult woman in New York City. Andy knew she wasn't a saint and she'd never doubted her sanity; she just knew all those people had simply never seen the true Miranda Priestly.
Andy first glimpsed the woman under the icon that memorable night in Paris when Miranda's husband decided he no longer could deal with her or her children. Stripped bare of makeup and image, Miranda Priestly had unwittingly shown her true face and Andy realized that Miranda was just another woman subject to the cruel vagaries of life as well as the joyous pleasures it could bring. Andy freaked when with that realization came attraction and desire. She freaked enough to run right into the arms of Christian Thompson in one of the most stupid mistakes of her life.
Andy had been shocked and hurt at Miranda's betrayal of Nigel and initially believed Miranda had lashed out at the first available target in anger over Stephen's betrayal. She nearly walked away in her own righteous anger, but then she remembered Miranda's untouched face and her red-rimmed eyes and she reconsidered, thereby avoiding a second stupid mistake in as many days. When they returned to New York, Andy refused to deal with her growing feelings for Miranda. Instead she repaired her friendship with Lily and negotiated a contract for a long-distance relationship with Nate, but as her feelings for Miranda grew, her feelings for Nate waned so that when the end came it went with barely a whimper, much less a bang.
Looking back, Andy had come to realize that things had worked out exactly as they were meant to, that she and Miranda were destined for one another no matter what obstacles they had to face. There had been many so far Andy's family, Miranda's kids, the press but Andy would take on all that again and much more just for the chance to love Miranda.
Andy took a final glance at herself in the bathroom mirror and smoothed down an errant bang. She was wearing a new burgundy silk nightgown that Miranda had given her and she loved the feel of it against her naked skin. Smiling at the eager anticipation in her eyes, she finally turned off the light and left the bathroom.
Miranda was standing near the window looking out at the snowy street. She was wearing a similar sheath, only hers was black. Andy admired Miranda's regal profile and sighed happily. Miranda must have heard the soft sound because she turned toward Andy and her look of appreciation made Andy's heart tumble pleasantly in her chest. She loved that look in her lover's eye.
"You are so beautiful," Miranda whispered.
"So are you," she replied.
"Champagne?" Miranda asked, moving to the ice bucket resting on the side table.
"Please," Andy said and took the glass Miranda handed to her. They clinked glasses and Andy closed her eyes at the delightful taste of the expensive wine. "Umm, that's good."
"Yes," Miranda said.
"I have another gift for you," Andy said with a warm smile as she looked into Miranda's eyes.
Miranda raised an eyebrow in curiosity. "Another?" she asked.
"Yeah," Andy said and pulled a small package out of the table drawer. The metallic blue wrapping was held together by a thin silver ribbon tied into a bow. Miranda took the package after giving Andy a kiss on the cheek.
"This is lovely," Miranda said.
"You haven't even opened it yet," Andy said with a laugh.
"I appreciate beauty in all of its forms, Andrea," Miranda said. "I meant the package is lovely. Did you wrap it yourself?"
"Yeah," Andy answered, gazing fondly at Miranda.
"Then I appreciate it even more for your skill."
"Just open it, Miranda," Andy said with a laugh.
Miranda grinned and pulled the end of the ribbon, untying the knot. The paper fell away to reveal a velvet box. Miranda eyed Andy again and then lifted the lid. Inside was a small, brilliant-cut sapphire flanked by smaller diamonds and set in a plain platinum ring.
Andy watched anxiously as she carefully observed Miranda's face. For once, the extremely self-controlled woman seemed speechless. "Andrea "
"Do you like it?" Andy said. "I mean, I know it's not much it's really tiny, but I like the color, especially since it's the color of your eyes when you're excited and you want me and I really, really love that it's one of my favorite colors, you know. And anyway, I wanted you to "
Miranda stopped her with a kiss that took Andy's breath away. When she pulled away, Andy rasped out, "Oh I guess you do like it."
"I like it," Miranda affirmed and dropped the ring still in its box on the table. She pushed forward until Andy's back was pressed against the wall. "I love it," she whispered. "I love you."
"Oh!" Andy's breath caught in her throat. Although Miranda had shown Andy her love in every way possible, this was the first time she had said it. "I I love you, too."
"I know," Miranda growled and latched on to her favorite spot on Andy's neck.
"Don't don't you want to put it on?" Andy asked, breathlessly.
"Later," Miranda said. "Right now I want to take something off."
Andy chuckled, feeling her desire for Miranda that had been simmering throughout the entire day flare up with an unexpected passion. "All right," she agreed. "I'm totally in agreement with you there, lady."
"Good," Miranda said and pushed the thin straps of Andy's gown off of her shoulders.
"Wait," Andy protested. "Don't tear it you just gave me this."
"Do you honestly think I care?" Miranda leaned back enough to look Andy in the eyes.
Andy laughed at that. "No, I guess not," she said and helped Miranda push it down her torso.
Miranda paused to admire Andy's naked form. "Exquisite," she breathed out, her eyes slowly scanning Andy from top to bottom until Andy began to glow under her gaze. "You are more precious than the most precious gem," Miranda continued. "Everything I own, every gift I have ever gotten, is nothing compared to what you've given me." She looked up and her eyes captured Andy's in a smoldering look.
"Yours," Andy rasped. "Every day for the rest of my life I'm yours."
"Mine " Miranda echoed Andy's tone and then pressed her against the wall in a full-body kiss.
Andy loved this, losing herself in the sensations of Miranda pressed against her, the silk from Miranda's nightgown slickly sliding over her naked skin. Miranda finally released Andy's mouth and left a trail of kisses across her cheek, over her ear and down her neck, causing Andy to shiver in delight. "Don't don't you want bed, now?" Andy finally managed.
"No," Miranda said and bit down none-too-gently on Andy's shoulder. Andy gasped. "I want you here."
"Oh okay," Andy said.
Miranda returned to Andy's mouth again. If it weren't for Miranda's weight pressing against her, Andy knew her legs wouldn't have been able to support her. As it was, she wanted to get even closer to Miranda so she lifted her leg and wrapped it around her lover. Miranda made a noise deep in her throat that Andy took for approval.
"Miranda," Andy said and didn't care about the note of pleading in her voice. "Please Miranda, now I need you now."
"Yes?" Miranda said and Andy could hear the amusement in her voice. "Right now?"
"God, please Miranda," Andy begged. "I want you I need you." Miranda didn't answer. Instead she moved her hand between Andy's legs with expert precision and plunged inside.
Andy was so slick with desire that Miranda moved within her so easily and yet Andy felt every glorious inch of her lover's fingers. "Ohhhh," she breathed. "That's so good."
"Is it?" Miranda asked, her voice low and hoarse. "Tell me, Andrea. Tell me how good it is."
"Very good," Andy drawled, pulling Miranda closer as she arched her hips to allow Miranda deeper access. "When you're inside me like this, I feel so full of your love."
"Yes, Andrea," Miranda agreed. "I love you. So, so much."
"Oh god," Andy responded as Miranda moved against her. Miranda's strength always amazed Andy. For all her femininity, Miranda possessed a power of body that matched her power of mind and will. It was a trait that excited Andy even more and was yet another aspect of herself that Miranda shared only with Andy.
"I love you, too, Miranda," she whispered, wrapping her arms more tightly around Miranda and clutching her even closer.
Miranda pulled back far enough to look into Andy's eyes and Andy felt herself moving quickly toward orgasm under the strength of the gaze. Miranda's eyes matched the color of the stone in the ring and with Miranda so deep inside her, that dark shade of desire filled Andy with everything Miranda was. It could no longer be contained as she felt her body explode.
She didn't know how much time had passed, but when she recovered, she reveled in the pleasure still echoing through her body.
Miranda chuckled. "Are you all right?" she asked.
Andy opened her eyes and sighed happily. "I'm fine," she breathed.
"Then why are you on the floor?" Miranda asked with an amused grin.
"The floor?" Andy asked. "I'm on the floor? I'm on the floor! Well, get me up."
With a hearty laugh, Miranda gave her a hand and pulled Andy to her feet. "That good, hmm?" she asked.
"You have no idea," Andy said and pushed Miranda to the bed. "But you will."
Miranda's look of anticipation was priceless.
Later came Andy's favorite thing. She loved lying cuddled next to her lover. That Miranda also loved to cuddle was yet another facet of the romantic at heart she kept so carefully hidden from the rest of the world.
"I love this," Andy said, feeling the need to share. "I love you."
"Mmm," Miranda said happily. "I love you, too."
"This was a great Christmas," Andy said. "Thank you."
"No, thank you," Miranda repeated. "For the girls and most especially for my lovely ring."
"I'm glad you like it," Andy said.
"I can't help but wonder though " Miranda started and then paused.
"What?" Andy prompted.
"Are you trying to ask me something, Andrea?"
Andy grinned. "Let's wait until the ink is dried on your divorce papers first, okay?" she said. "How about we just consider it a promise of my intentions."
"Your intentions?" Miranda asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Yep," Andy replied. "They include never letting you go and spending my entire life until my last breath loving you."
Miranda was silent. Andy moved up until she was looking into Miranda's eyes. Andy wasn't sure, but thought for a moment they looked a little misty.
"Well," Miranda finally said in a breathy whisper. She moved from Andy's arms long enough to reach for the box lying on the table. She handed it to Andy who removed the ring and placed it on Miranda's long finger.
"There," Andy said with a wide grin, ignoring her own tears running down her face.
"Until my last breath," Miranda began, looking deeply into Andy's eyes, "I shall never take it off."
"Thank you," Andy said and snuggled back in Miranda's arms.
Andy felt herself drifting off to sleep, but then remembered something she wanted to tell Miranda. "Oh, Emily said that next week you've got an evening free so make sure you keep it open."
"Mmm, okay," Miranda said and Andy could tell she was already half- asleep. "Why?" she added in an afterthought.
"We're going on a double date with her and Serena," Andy replied.
"Mmm, okay," Miranda repeated and her breathing began to deepen, but then it paused.
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