DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To brithna[at]gmail.com

Making Changes
By Brithna

 

It's eight o'clock on a Friday night and just before Andy is ready to go home to enjoy an early night off -which are few and far between; the call comes in over the police scanner - gang shooting. The hospital is only a short distance away. She runs and on this particular night the victim and Andy arrive at almost the exact same moment. Flashing a smile and nod to the security guards she knows so well gets Andy the access she wants so long as she stays out of the way – like always. Having been on the crime beat for a year, Andy has taken great pains to cultivate as many helpful relationships as possible. Cops, attorneys, doctors, nurses, transit workers…anyone that could be of use.

So – like always she stands in the waiting-room and watches the scene unfold while waiting for family members and police officers to arrive. From what she can hear, the victim has been shot twice in the chest, once in the leg. Typical gang violence at its finest. Andy keeps a watchful eye on the door – like always, and is probably the first to notice the two young men that burst through the ambulance entrance. Security, of course, is busy clearing the hallway and never sees them until it is too late. Later, Andy will learn that six shots were fired. She tries to listen close and count them one by one but that's a little hard to do when you're seeking better cover than any waiting room chairs can provide.

In no time the two men set on finishing the job they started a few blocks away are tackled to the ground. Against her better judgment Andy is crawling toward the nurses' station, toward the yelling and screaming that is already fading into the back of Andy's mind.

Her favorite charge-nurse Stella Gathery is lying on the floor. Andy's brain tells her right away that Stella is gone but her heart doesn't listen very well. Andy gets busy applying pressure to wounds that will never stop pouring Stella's life out all over the floor around her. One other nurse, Janet Taven – who is fresh out of college, is mere yards away. She is gone too. So is the original victim; Terrance Green.

After being hauled up off the floor by a doctor, a nurse or maybe it was a security guard, Andy doesn't know, she washes her hands and starts making her notes; gathering up as much information as possible. The fact that she is able to block out what has just occurred and do her job is now second nature to Andy. She's seen a lot in the past year. It barely makes her blood run cold any more...which is something she never thought would happen. Not to Andy Sachs. Not to the fun loving, girl next door, who takes every bite of life that's offered to her…not that girl. But it has happened. She's changed and not for the better.

When no more answers can be had at the hospital and they are shutting the E.R. down; Andy makes her way to the nearest police station where the shooters have been taken. On the way there Andy finally realizes her clothes show significant signs of her failed attempt at what she defines as the first good thing she has tried to do in months.

More information is obtained from her cop friends and family members from both sides. It is all over crossing a simple line. It was all for nothing. But then again isn't it always – all for nothing? It doesn't help, of course, that the parents of Kenny Johnson and Tyson Foster think their children are 'good boys' incapable of doing any wrong.

On her way back to The Mirror it registers that she hasn't called or texted Miranda one single time to say that she will be late tonight, to say that she is safe. She looks at her phone. There are three texts, none of which carry an angry tone. Andy wonders how Miranda does it. She never gets angry about the missed dinners, the late nights, the interruptions, or the fact that Andy now works longer hours than she. Maybe it's because Miranda knows what it's like. Maybe it's because Miranda simply knows that eventually Andy will come home and that's all that matters. Even though she knows she should, Andy doesn't text Miranda back yet. She can't have the distraction and the quicker she gets the night over with, the quicker she can go home.

It is one o'clock in the morning when Andy looks up from her article. She hopes it's enough. It better be enough because there really isn't much more to say. What else can be said about a gang shooting, a dying victim, two rivals that race to meet him in the E.R. only to shoot him one more time for good measure; killing two nurses in the process? What else can be said? There's no doubt in her mind that this piece, accompanied by the few pictures she was able to take with the small digital camera she always carries, will not only hit the front page but it will probably win her an award of some kind later on. She already has three staring at her from a shelf in her office: A triple homicide, a gang rape and a drug raid. Andy is not ashamed of this knowledge tonight but she certainly doesn't find pride in it. There is nothing prideful about witnessing three murders in the span of less than thirty seconds….probably less than ten but at the time she really wasn't concerned with her watch.

Once she presses the 'send' button that delivers the final draft and pictures to her boss to be published on the website; there is only one thing that Andy wants. She wants to go home and make love to the woman that she knows is waiting for her just as she always is. Nights when it's been really bad, making love is their routine. It's a routine that started a long time ago. This is how Andy heals herself, reminds herself that Miranda is real, and that there are still good things in the world that she has to hold on to.

No one except Andy has a clue as to how much of an emotional and caring person Miranda Priestly truly is. It took Andy by complete surprise but in a way it all makes perfect sense now. With the right people, her children…Andy, Miranda is full of compassion, love and sensitivity. She is a woman that worries about never doing enough about the present, not to mention the future. She is a woman that loves unconditionally. She is a woman that can wrap you up so tight in a loving embrace that you never want to be anywhere else. Miranda Priestly is a woman with the power to make you whole again…but all these things are only for Andy to know.

When she's finally headed home, Andy will text to say that she's on her way. That's all she writes. No details. Miranda will have investigated that on her own like she does each time. It's her way of preventing the task of having to pry information from her that Andy does not want to give. She never shares the bad things, the things that she can only say through her writing. Andy knows that if Miranda doesn't find out on her own tonight via the television or the internet, then she will find out when her copy of The Mirror greets her at Runway in the morning or at home if she has time for breakfast. Andy knows this is a serious lack of verbal communication but it's just better this way.

Opening the door to the town-house, Andy instantly sees light coming from the living room. If she doesn't get to the laundry room now, Miranda will be up from the couch in a matter of seconds. Throwing her bag on the floor, Andy doesn't bother taking off her shoes, she just hurries. The last thing she wants Miranda to see is the blood on her clothes. That will send her into pure hysterics. In the laundry room Andy thanks God her worn out terry-clothed robe is in the dryer.

She puts her clothes directly into the washing machine, not caring if the shirt is labeled 'dry clean only'. There are old towels stacked on a shelf so Andy makes use of those as she washes up in the large sink. By the time she is done scrubbing the night away she may as well have taken a shower. Andy checks her reflection in the mirrored glass of the back door and doesn't like what she sees. Neither will Miranda. Every minute of tonight is written all over her face.

She hears Miranda stirring in the kitchen and takes the time behind this closed door to get in the deep breaths of air she will need to face the worried woman who is compulsively wiping down counter tops that are already spotless.

Finally Andy knows that she can't put this off any longer and opens the door. She is greeted by the surprised look on Miranda's face. Andy has never run off to the laundry room like this before and it's likely that Miranda will call her on it…and does.

"Darling…" Miranda looks her up and down the way she does Caroline and Cassidy after a long day of endless softball games. It's Miranda's way of making sure they're physically in one safe piece. Miranda stopped checking if Andy's mentally in one safe piece a long time ago…ever since she's been on the crime beat. Since Andy doesn't say anything, Miranda starts again. "You ran off. I wasn't sure where you'd gone to." She holds out her hand beckoning Andy to come closer if she wants. Miranda never asks on nights like these and never approaches first. Miranda does this in off chance that Andy might not need her as much tonight. It's her way of preventing a rejection. A rejection that will never come.

All Andy can say is "I'm sorry. I just wanted to get cleaned up," and goes right to Miranda like she always does. Tonight Miranda holds her tighter, harder, gripping Andy like a vice. She knows what's happened. Of course she does.

The internet is a wondrous thing and Miranda started checking thirty minutes after dinner ended without her Andrea, so yes; she knows. She's heard Andrea mention a woman from the hospital named Stella before and that name was finally released as a victim a few hours into this horrible, violent mess. Miranda knows on pure instinct that if Andrea was anywhere nearby, she was in the middle of it all; getting her next story.

Miranda has been pacing, fighting tears, and fighting anger for hours now and her fears for Andrea's safety are confirmed by her immediate disappearance into the laundry room. Miranda is no fool. There is only one need for that but she will not ask questions. She will just stand here in this kitchen and hang on tightly to what she has.

Andy somehow separates herself from Miranda's grip but only enough to look her in the eye for the first time tonight. Now that she sees Miranda isn't about to question or become visibly upset, Andy knows this is a safe move. Keeping her eyes open Andy leans her forehead against Miranda's and for a solid minute neither of them move. It is a way to reconnect.

"I love you, Miranda." Andy whispers.

"And I love you too, Andrea…" Miranda whispers back and thinks about what she would really like to be saying...again.

Two months ago, while sitting on a bench in Central Park watching the girls practice softball drills, Miranda asked Andrea to quit her job…or at the very least get out of the 'crime industry', as she calls it. When she did this, Miranda stared straight ahead not daring to look Andrea in the face. Miranda always swore she would never make demands, beg, ask…or anything else but there she was asking and on the verge of begging too. Just like now.

Andrea said nothing then and says nothing now even though Miranda doesn't ask the question out loud. She is full of more pride than Miranda can comprehend. From the very beginning Andrea resisted the notion of being taken care of in a financial sense of the word or any other, which drives Miranda crazy. Miranda doesn't want to handle, to manage, to stick Andrea in the house raising children all day. She just wants the sparkle to come back into the eyes she loves so much. It's fading. It's been fading and something has to change quickly. Andrea is not meant to walk among the mire and filth that this city, even at its best times, can conjure up. It's her pride that keeps her at it and her fear of appearing weak. Miranda figured that out a long time ago; but in reality it is not a weakness at all. Changing your situation to retain the best parts of yourself is never weakness…Andrea showed Miranda that three years ago. But now, for some reason, Andrea cannot and will not do that again.

More time passes with them standing still, foreheads touching, breathing in the same air. Without warning Miranda grips Andy tightly again and she starts to wonder if Miranda is about to cry. Andy hopes not because that's something she can't handle tonight. She doesn't so Andy kisses her gently; causing Miranda to loosen her hold a little and things turn more serious. This is what Andy needs right now. What they both need. They break away just long enough for Miranda to say "Take me upstairs, Andrea…I need you to take me upstairs."

They go upstairs, hand-in-hand, only stopping long enough for Andy to peek into each of the girls' rooms. That is a must…another thing Andy needs to make sure is real. Each of them is sound asleep; Caroline with her TV on mute, Cassidy with a copy of Runway on her chest. They're real and safe so Andy takes Miranda's hand again and they continue up one more flight of stairs in silence.

Making love on these nights is a vital part of Miranda's existence now. This is how she makes everything as okay as it can be. It's the only way she knows how and Miranda Priestly always has to have a way to make things work out. Any alternative is unacceptable even at two o'clock in the morning.

The door is closed behind them now so Miranda gives her full attention to the woman that's removing her robe. Andrea always takes her time doing this, slowly, carefully, like the robe could actually break if handled roughly. But then again it's not just the robe she treats this way.

All night long Andy will make love to Miranda slowly, carefully, like she could actually break if touched any other way. Usually neither of them has the slightest ability to stay quiet but when it's like this they do…save for the soft moans and whispered words. For Andy it's the weight of how important this time with Miranda is. The quiet goes along with how she will be slow and gentle to reassure herself – and Miranda too, that they are real, alive and together. For Miranda, the quiet is simply a representation of how serious this is, how much it is needed in order to replace the pain and sadness - so really it's the same thing for them both. They just have a different way of approaching things.

By the time Andy is done she will have touched and kissed every single inch of Miranda's body twice over, maybe more. No matter how tired she is this takes precedence over anything else. Andy needs to touch, to be inside the one thing that holds her together. This makes her feel whole again. The homicides, the abuse, the many, many injustices – even things as simple as a petty robbery are forgotten in seconds once she begins. And Miranda…Miranda opens herself up to anything Andy wants and she is so responsive and giving that it nearly breaks Andy's heart because here again - she never expected to find this version of Miranda. But now Andy has it in her possession and this version of Miranda gives her everything she needs.

A good amount of time has gone by and Andrea is still not done yet and neither is Miranda. She is afraid to let their passion die down and go to sleep so Miranda hangs on tightly as her Andrea is inside once again, filling her up with reassurance. In the dark Miranda can see Andrea's eyes sparkle just like they used to and Miranda wishes those eyes would stay just like that. But-they won't so instead of dwelling on it, Miranda keeps holding on and whispers for slower…deeper.

They both, Andrea for the second – Miranda for the third, come together this time and everything goes still. Andre does not remove herself from her place deep inside and Miranda doesn't loosen her hold. The atmosphere in the room is thick with love, desperation, and even a little bit of fear.

After an un-measureable amount of time, Andy finally releases Miranda but is still held tightly in place. She stays above her and their foreheads are touching again, eyes open, just like in the kitchen. "I love you, Miranda…so much."

Miranda spreads her hands out wide and moves them over Andy's back. "And I love you too…so much. So very much." They stay like this for just a minute longer then Miranda pulls Andy down into her arms and it's now that she finally notices Miranda's tears. They aren't many in number but even one is too much and Andy knows she will have to say something.

"What's wrong?" She asks making sure her words come out softly with no hesitation or worry over what might be said in return.

"Nothing…it's nothing. I'm sorry." Miranda wipes her eyes and curses the creation of tear ducts and how their function is so acutely connected to one's emotions. At this point there is so much that Miranda wants to say. So much that she wants to ask for. While she was ready to beg Andrea in the kitchen to put an end to this type of work, she is almost ready to demand it now. But she can't. There are so many things…so many times that Andrea could have asked the same of Miranda but never did. Somehow Miranda will have to figure out a way to deal with this but she wonders if making love, if just being there for Andrea will always be enough to heal the day's damage. Frustration sets in and the tears stop.

"Don't say 'nothing'. You're crying…or you were. Tell me. Please." Andy can see the wheels turning in Miranda's head and hopes, even though she's afraid of the answer, that Miranda will not build a wall. She rarely does that now and Andy doesn't want her to start again.

"No, really…it's nothing." Miranda brushes a hand across her eyes one more time and turns in their embrace to bury her head in Andrea's neck. This is the absolute worst thing she could do because now the tears come back. All the worry from not just tonight…but every day or night that is so incredibly horrible for Andrea…it all consumes Miranda now and she just can't stop it. Soon Miranda finds that they have traded places in a sense. She is now the one being held tightly, wrapped up in Andrea's arms and legs. No longer worrying about the appearance of tears, Miranda rests her head down on the chest beneath her. She concentrates on listening to the steady heart beat under her ear and feels herself relax just a little.

This is real. Andrea is here with her now and that alone should be comfort enough. But it isn't. She feels like she's losing the person Andrea used to be so how can this be enough? The constant sadness…dark eyes, and a hardness that Miranda has no idea what to do with… The point is that the Andrea she fell in love with is being taken from her by this job…this city, and she hates it. "I'm afraid." That admission of fear comes out before Miranda can stop the words. At least that much is in the open and probably nothing that Andrea doesn't sense already.

"I'm afraid too…" Andy says. She wants to finish with 'and I don't know what to do about it', but doesn't dare. She knows what Miranda will say. Miranda will say that she has the answer all worked out. But Andy can't quit, can't ask to be moved to a different 'department'. That is weak and you can't be a journalist and be weak can you? Andy doesn't see any other answer to that question but a resounding 'no'.

She feels Miranda raise up her head and loosens her grip enough to allow for the movement. Miranda kisses her hard all of the sudden and it nearly takes her breath away. She can feel the desperation in this action and can't deny that she feels desperate too. The kiss is scaled back to a gentler pace and then there is room for words. "I'm sorry I'm hurting you. I feel like I'm hurting you and I just…I don't know, Miranda." Andy pauses for a moment and contemplates the idea that maybe if there was more direct openness…maybe if she didn't leave Miranda in the dark so much about things and force her to turn to the TV or the internet or Andy's own God forsaken newspaper for answers…maybe that would help. "Do you…" Andy starts but stops and brushes the hair back from Miranda's face to meet the eyes that she can see so clearly in the dark. "Do you know? I mean I'm sure you do…what happened tonight?"

Miranda greets her with another surprised look as she waits for an answer. Miranda is probably in shock from hearing this question…hearing Andy open the floor for discussion. She shifts back to Andy's side and they wrap around each other. "I do. Between the internet and the television there is a wealth of information to be had." Andy appreciates the light tone that Miranda tries to use but it's something she sees right through. Miranda is still upset.

"Is there anything…you want to know…to ask?" Now Miranda looks at her like she's crazy. There is no need to say that this is the very first time in a year that Miranda has been given this opportunity.

But-even though this is the first time, Miranda knows exactly what she wants to ask first. "Just how much danger were you in? I know you Andrea Sachs…you were right there weren't you?" There is a three second delay in Andrea's words and that's confirmation enough but Miranda waits to hear the words.

"I was there and I…it happened really fast. I don't know…" her voice shakes a little and Miranda, in a weird way, actually wants to see Andrea cry simply because she never does…not in months. "The two others came in afterwards…it was really fast."

"And Stella?" Miranda hears Andrea suck in a breath and puts a reassuring hand on her chest. This almost feels cruel all of the sudden, these questions, but if she's being allowed to ask them…then she's going to ask them.

"Ah…yeah…Stella…well I'm sure the news said-"

"Yes, the news said…but I want to know…from you." Miranda presses her hand into Andrea's chest just a little more and this seems to spur her on.

"Okay…I don't know exactly how they were…I was more in the waiting room area…it's there but off to the side of the nurses desk…really loud and she was…" Andrea pauses here and Miranda can't decide if this is it, if this is all she's going to get or if Andrea just needs a break – so she waits. Then suddenly, "There was nothing I could do…it would have been great if I could have…but it was just…too much." She stops here again.

Andy isn't sure how much Miranda wants to hear or how much she can say. In all honesty she isn't used to telling these kinds of stories. Personal stories. In a matter of minutes it's painfully clear that telling these kinds of stories is a lot harder than any article she's had to write. And what's worse…telling this, in this way, here in the dark with her arms wrapped around what matters most; makes Andy realize just how numb she is to what she sees every day. Or maybe 'numb' isn't the right word? Whatever the word is…it's not good. It's not normal.

Miranda does not say a word or move an inch so Andy figures she needs to at least make another attempt to get this done with. She takes a deep breath and feels Miranda's hand pressing into her chest again. It's comforting. "Another nurse…Janet…and the guy, uh Terence…they didn't make it either."

"And this is why you went straight into the laundry room? Stella?"

That's the one question she hoped Miranda wouldn't asked. "Yes." Andy knows she can't lie or spin the truth. Lies and spin are two things Miranda Priestly does not deal with very well. While Andy waits for whatever is coming next she draws lazy patterns on the back of Miranda's shoulder with her fingertips.

"And after all that… you just did your job? You just got up, got your questions answered….wrote your article? You just got up and went about your work?" Miranda, obviously, has known for a while that the detachment level here was pretty high…and yes, being able to push forward and do your job is a good quality to have…but she had no idea it was quite like this. This was not something Andrea can continue on with. Not if she is ever going to be the same person again.

"I…yeah, I mean yes I had a job to do." Andrea cleared her throat and Miranda wondered if she actually, even a little bit, knows that she is losing herself. Just when she was about to ask – Andrea's defensive side makes a rare appearance. "I'm good at my job, Miranda…I'm good at this, I have three…awards to show for it. Nearly everything I do…everything big anyway is picked up by other papers…I'm good at this."

As if Miranda didn't know this already. Andrea is well known and not just in New York. Mind you she is not a household name as of yet but that is coming and it will come regardless of this ridiculous crime beat or even The Mirror. She just has to make Andrea see that. "Darling, I know you are. Believe me; I know you are good at this but…you can be good at other things too." Miranda pauses, kisses Andrea's cheek and takes a deep breath. "Andrea your eyes…your eyes don't shine…the way they used to. You used to look at me like anything was possible…I miss that. I miss seeing you happy. I miss the simple idea that you are happy and safe…" Miranda pauses again as another round of quiet tears rise up. She lets the tears fall without hesitation now because there's been enough hiding, being tough; whatever you want to call it…there's been enough of that. "Andrea, you're good at what you do. There is no dispute there. But it's turning you into something else and you need to figure out if awards and the appearance of being weak…is worth what this is doing to you." Until now Miranda has never confronted Andrea like this about anything…ever. But then again there's never really been a need until now. Yet it's a risk because this is more like walking a tightrope than anything else. There's no telling how Andrea will react so Miranda braces herself for whatever impact might occur.

The impact is this: Andy turns her head away from Miranda and refuses to cry like she wants to. When the issue at hand is put to her in this way it's hard to deny that Miranda is right. But what can she do? Since they've gone this far the only thing she can do is ask the one person who theoretically knows what everybody should be doing. Still looking away Andy asks the question, "What do you have in mind? You want me to actually quit my job and sit here? Or what? I mean I don't…"

Miranda cuts her off by turning Andy's face with the tip of her finger, "You know me better than that and I told you this a long, long time ago – I don't want you to sit anywhere. The last thing I want is to dictate…to make you into some housewife or something else equally ridiculous. Why you think that is my goal is beyond me. Andrea, you are full of pride and I admire that about you…but, darling…" Miranda rests her head back down on Andy's shoulder and lightens her tone to almost a whisper, "I love you and I want to take care of you. I mean for God's sake, Andrea, you throw fits over who buys the groceries around here – even after three years. When are you going to realize that we share everything? The word is 'ours' not 'yours' and 'mine'." Miranda realizes she's losing track of this conversation and shakes her head to clear the way. "The point is - money should not and quite frankly, cannot be one of the issues any longer. I've heard all of that that I can stand. If I want you to take the opportunity to do other things…explore other options, then what of it? I want to see you happy again. I want you to get away from all this. I don't care if you have to get a different job…if you freelance…I don't care if you take a six months' vacation right here in this house. I want your eyes and your smile back - that's all." Miranda takes a deep breath after this. She has said her piece. She has finally laid all her wishes out there on the table.

"So I'm weak…that I'm this way or that I can't handle it…means I'm weak. It means I'm…I don't know." Andy runs a hand…the hand that isn't tracing patterns on Miranda's back, through her hair roughly in anger.

"You're not weak…how could you even think that? A change in direction is not weakness. You couldn't survive me or two teenagers if you were weak. You could not do what you do every day if you were weak…Making a change to keep the good things is not weak."

Again the realization that Miranda is right begins to slowly pierce her resolve…isn't she always right? Money should not be an issue. Fighting to keep the good things should not be an issue or something that takes second place. But what if Andy can just get better at handling things? Then she could keep doing what she's doing now. Maybe there are changes she can make without changing too much? Without moving on to something else…but can she make enough changes to make this fun again? It used to be fun…thrilling even. It used to push her harder and made her take her talent to the next level and then some.

But then there is Miranda. Here in this bed, upset and hurting. Which is something Andy never counted on.

Before she can formulate any kind of an answer, she falls asleep. Miranda, who hates any sort of conversation between them to go unfinished once it's started, isn't aggravated by this. She's thankful for it and just hopes that later today they can pick this up where it has been left. It's certainly worth bringing up again.

It's four o'clock in the morning now and Miranda texts Emily and Nigel. She will not be going to work and neither will Andrea. Her next text is to Andrea's boss whom by now Miranda is quite familiar with. He texts Miranda right back and is in total agreement. Once this business is done, Miranda finds herself wrapped up in heavy arms and isn't surprised when she is able to drift quickly off to sleep. It has been a long day, a long night, and many things have been lifted off her shoulders.

Four hours of sleep come and go then Miranda is up. She showers quickly and double checks that Andrea's actually got some pajama's on now; then takes not only her cell phone, but the house phone with her as she makes her way down stairs. Miranda wants there to be only one interruption in Andrea's sleep and that does not involve the phones, it involves the twins.

The first stop in her morning is the twin's bedrooms. Any time Andrea is staying home for the day…which is hardly ever, they demand to be informed. Miranda starts with Caroline since she is easy to wake up and will take care of waking up Cassidy all by herself.

Miranda brushes the covers away from Caroline's face and the girl is instantly awake. "Mom?" She looks at Miranda a little wild eyed, slightly unsure if she is awake or still asleep since Miranda would typical not be here at this hour in the first place. Miranda rests a hand on her cheek to reassure her.

"One of them, yes." She smiles and knows that Caroline will be making a fast run to her and Andrea's room any second now.

Caroline blinks a few times. She is catching on. "Mom's here? For like all day?"

Miranda can't help but smile again. They are both 'Mom'…unless Miranda has been very 'un-cool'…then she is 'Mother' in a very sarcastic teen-ager sort of way. "She's here…for all day and so am I. We'll take you to softball practice this afternoon instead of Meryl." Why their summer league had to have practice in the middle of the day sometimes was beyond anything Miranda could comprehend.

Caroline grins and starts to rip the covers off of her bed but Miranda grabs the girl's arm gently. "Wait…wait just a moment. She has only been asleep for a few hours and…she had a very, very hard night last night. So you know what that means?"

Caroline shakes her head more than once. She knows exactly what that means. "I'll be quiet. We'll both be quiet and we'll go back to sleep, I promise."

Miranda lets the girl go and in thirty seconds she and Cassidy are both headed back to bed in another room. Making the twins beds is Miranda's next task…which means she must be out of her mind because she never does this for them; but it gives her a good feeling this morning so she doesn't shy away from it. Hearing Meryl downstairs, Miranda hopes she's got a very strong pot of coffee making.

As she hoped, Meryl does indeed have a pot of coffee ready and waiting. Their 'good morning' is a silent nod until Miranda finishes her first cup. Meryl has long ago become used to this method. It saves her from getting her head bitten off when Miranda is being even more unpleasant than usual.

The time for silence ends shortly there-after and they fill each other in on the changes for the day, along with the breakfast menu. Mid-way through her second cup of coffee, Meryl brings up the shooting at the hospital. She's read all about it and hands Miranda this morning's copy of The Mirror. She glances at it briefly then surprises Meryl by throwing it into the trash. Miranda is done with news media of any kind today and wants it nowhere near her.

But as much as Miranda would like to, she can't push the shooting completely away since there are still a few issues that need attention. The first of which is laundry. With a trash-bag in hand, Miranda heads into the laundry room with Meryl close on her heels since she professes to have only seen Miranda go in there a total of three times in ten years. Andrea's clothes are promptly found in the washing machine. They're still stained but that hardly matters. They'll be going into the trash regardless right along with the towels and shoes Andrea left on the floor. Everything's clicking into place for Meryl now and she gladly takes this bag off Miranda's hands and tosses it out the back door.

The second and third issues are Stella Gathery and Janet Taven. While Meryl gets busy cooking enough breakfast to feed an army, Miranda goes upstairs and behind a locked study door she quietly instructs Emily to find out all she can because two very large checks are about to anonymously be written to take care of whatever those families need.

Miranda spends a little more time in her study straightening up and sending a few emails but soon there's a knock at the door. It's Cassidy.

"Hey…" She mumbles and comes over to Miranda's chair, giving her a lazy hug.

"Good morning. Did you sleep well? In both places?" Miranda smooth's Cassidy's hair back away from her face. The girl needs a hair-cut in the worst way. "You need a hair-cut."

"Noooo." She whines. "No hair-cut. I'm trying to let my bangs grow out…and yeah, I slept pretty good. Caroline's taking a shower now." Cassidy goes over to the couch across from Miranda's desk and plops down with no amount of graceful elegance whatsoever.

Miranda rolls her eyes and reminds herself that 'graceful elegance' was long ago traded for sliding into home-base. And that is something she is not allowed to complain about. "Well if you are not getting it cut you need to at least be conditioning more, Cassidy. The sun…"

"Yeah, yeah." Cassidy waves a hand and closes her eyes. Any discussions of hair care appear to be over. "When did Mom get home?"

"After one."

"Hm. I'm glad she's here. Today is gonna be so awesome." Her eyes are still closed but the smile on her face is blinding enough.

"Yes, yes it is." Miranda's glad Cassidy doesn't ask any more questions. In fact the girls hardly ever do. Like Miranda…they do their own research. "Is she still asleep?"

"Nope. Tryin' to wake up as we speak. She smelled the waffles but she's having a hard time sitting up."

This gets Miranda's attention and she closes her lap-top. "What's wrong?"

"I donnknow." Cassidy waves a hand toward the door. "Go check on her…I'll go get her a coffee, yeah?"

"Fine."

Cassidy pry's herself off the couch and Miranda follows her out the door. Just before Cassidy turns toward the stairs, Miranda stops her. "Cassidy?"

"Yeah, Mom?"

"Bring a glass of water too…thank-you." The emotional need to just be close to everyone today floods Miranda and she reaches out. Cassidy smiles and comes close. Miranda wraps her up in a hug. "You're a good girl, you know. I love you."

"Love you too, Mom. You okay?" Cassidy looks at her with concern and Miranda sees the adult in her peeking out. Pretty soon their rolls will reverse and the girls will think that Miranda's the one that needs raising and looking after. Perhaps they think that already?

"I'm fine…just fine. Now go. Water and coffee."

"Got it." She turns and heads down stairs while Miranda turns and heads to the bedroom.

She finds Andrea sitting up on the side of the bed, very still with all the lights still off. Miranda's already guessed that Andrea's got a headache so she resists the urge to turn on a lamp. "Darling?" Miranda calls out gently as she makes her way around the bed and kneels down in front of her. "How are you?" She brushes her hair back just as she did Cassidy's. Andrea needs a hair-cut too.

Andy groans but finally gives a verbal answer, "I'm okay…I think. My head. My shoulder hurts too." She rubs her face then her left shoulder. Miranda starts to question her about this but is interrupted by the sound of Cassidy at the door.

"Come in darling, it's fine."

Cassidy comes around and places the water and coffee on the table by the window that's near Miranda. "Need something else?"

"Yes, the Ibuprofen, please." Cassidy comes back from the bathroom a second later with not two but four pills. She knows the routine. "Thank you, darling." Miranda hands them over along with the water and Andrea takes them gladly as Cassidy slips out the door, closing it behind her.

"Thanks…I'm probably gonna need more of that later." Definitely. It's very likely that hitting the ground by those waiting-room chairs has done her shoulder in.

Miranda puts the water back on the table but doesn't hand over the coffee just yet. "What's wrong with your shoulder?" She rubs her hands up and down Andy's arms a few times then sits up on her knees a bit more to reach her shoulders.

"Oh, man…that hurts." Andy groans and rolls her shoulder a bit while Miranda continues to massage it. "The chairs I guess…when I…anyway."

Miranda could tell by her tone that that was all she was going to get. Hopefully this doesn't mean they are back to square one because if they are – then Miranda might very well have to pitch a fit. Miranda's never 'pitched a fit' before but she's up for the challenge. Especially today. But even so – for now she chooses the cowards way out and doesn't press for more. Maybe Andrea just needs to wake up a bit more?

"So where's my phone?" Andy knows where her phone is and she's a little surprised that Miranda would make a move like that. But – considering what they'd talked about last night? It's understandable and for some reason Andy doesn't mind so much after-all.

"It's down-stairs." Miranda doesn't look her in the eye and doesn't stop rubbing her shoulder.

"And I guess I'm not going to work today? Or at least that's what I was told when two girls landed on top of me a while ago."

"Hm…no. No, you're not going to work today. Neither am I." Finally Miranda looks up and takes in a fortifying breath.

"Okay." Andrea wipes the sleep from her eyes and rolls her shoulder again. Miranda can hardly believe that 'okay' is her only response.

She clears her throat and Andy can tell that Miranda's caught off guard by that response but decides not to say anything about it. All she really wants right now is that coffee on the table and a shower. Reading her mind, Miranda turns around and grabs the coffee. "Here." She places it in Andy's hands and it's immediately half emptied.

"Thanks. So I hear there's softball practice at three?"

"Correct. Why they feel the need to practice in the middle of the day…it's aggravating." Miranda gets up and sits down in the chair that's beside the table by the window. "And it's far too hot."

"Ah, come on. You're just pissed because normally you can't go when they're scheduled like that." Andy takes another sip of coffee and enjoys the sight of Miranda like this. In her robe trying to look all regal and aggravated and put-out by something that really doesn't matter.

Miranda taps her fingers on the arms of the chair and glares. "That might be…but the fact remains that it's far too hot. I assume we're going at one-thirty?"

"Yep." When she can be there they always go early to have their own practice time. "I'm a little worried though. It's been a while. They're gonna kick my ass…I'm lying back down for a second. My head…" Andy scoots back into the bed but doesn't get under the covers. Her head is swimming and her shoulder is hurting more than she'd like to let on. Miranda gets up and sits on the side.

"Perhaps you should stay in bed today?"

"Not a chance. We haven't practiced together in a long time. I owe them."

Miranda disagrees but will not argue or complain any further. The heat is about the only thing she's allowed to complain about when it comes to her family's undying love for softball. "Well then just be careful, please. And you might as well know – Caroline's batting stance leaves a lot to be desired these days. Or at least that's what I was told by her coach. You know I wouldn't know good from bad so…do whatever it is you do."

Andy laughed. She will do something about it. It's her job. Even if she isn't around much these days she is their coach. Or their 'First Coach' as the girls liked to say. After all Andy is the reason they play. Besides journalism, softball has always been her passion. Therefore…every scrape or bruise is always Andy's fault and Miranda let's her know that loud and clear. But that's okay because Andy knows that behind all of Miranda's bitching, she really does enjoy it. Otherwise she wouldn't have gone to College World Series with them two years in a row. At least the second year was much better than the first. The first time they went the press got wind of it. Miranda made a bigger splash in the news over that than when they went public with their relationship. Those were fun days…fun times and they didn't happen near as often now.

"I'll fix it. No worries."

Miranda just sighs and holds Andrea's hand, rubbing the top of it with her thumb over and over. "Just take it easy, alright? It's always a competition between the three of you. Which drives me…crazy."

Andrea laughs and touches Miranda's cheek. "Yeah, yeah. Hey…are you okay?"

"Yes, of course." Miranda lies. Suddenly she is not okay. The emotions of wanting to bring everything back up again and wanting to just keep her mouth shut and enjoy the day with her family are not staying in their compartmentalized boxes.

"You're lying."

"Perhaps. You should shower. Meryl has waffles." Miranda gets up and smooth's out her robe and runs a hand through her hair. She heads for the door but just before she makes it through, Andy stops her. There is something she needs to say.

"Miranda?"

"Yes?" Miranda keeps her face to the door and now Andy really is concerned.

She seemed fine a minute ago…or maybe Andy just missed something? Yes, Andy has been missing an awful lot…and not just softball practices. There is something about seeing Miranda like this, with her back turned; the light from the hallway in front of her revealing her bowed shoulders…the grip of her hand on the door frame. It reminds Andy of just how different Miranda is from what the world sees of her. Miranda needs a sense of security in her life just like every other woman out there. She just never shows that to anyone else and for a long time Andy has been giving her anything but security. And then to think of all the changes Miranda made when they got together…well this whole thing really has been a turn in the opposite direction, hasn't it?

Miranda got home every night at a decent hour, stopped going to so many pointless parties, rearranged countless meetings to be wherever she was needed for her family; all the while Andy traded places with her. How could that be right? How could that be good enough? It wasn't. Andy has been wrapped up in her job quite long enough.

With her mind made up, she gets out of bed and makes her way over to Miranda who by now has stiffened her posture in defense of whatever is about to be said because she's afraid of losing what she loves. For the first time in a long time Andy feels tears well up inside her and make their way to the surface. When she reaches out to Miranda, she touches shoulder gently. "Turn around, please."

Miranda turns around but doesn't look her in the eye. She thinks Andrea is about to tell her something she doesn't want to hear. Regrettably it wouldn't be the first time although Miranda would never admit it.

"Miranda, please look at me."

When Miranda looks she sees tears in Andrea's eyes and feels arms wrap around her waist. It all takes her breath away and makes her feel better than it probably should. It's just that it's been so long and now here they are in this doorway, at home, with their children and right now in this second everything feels like it used to.

"I'm sorry." Andrea says just before she kisses Miranda very softly on the mouth then on the forehead. "I'm sorry. I haven't been here for you or the girls…I don't know what happened but it isn't right." There are tears coming that Miranda hasn't seen in months and she brushes them away from Andrea's cheek then can't resist the need to put her arms around her neck and just stay there soaking up the comfort that she needs.

"I miss you…I don't want to miss you, Andrea."

"You won't. Not anymore. I'm making some changes." Andy wraps her arms tighter around Miranda's waist and feels Miranda relax. This is much better than any job or story. It's what they both need. "But I will need your help. Will you help me?" She pulls away and looks at Miranda. Asking for help isn't her specialty but she'll start here and hope for the best. "I might need you to remind me that I'm not a failure while I work my way up the freelance food-chain…"

This makes Miranda laugh because it really is completely ridiculous. "Don't be ridiculous, Andrea. I'll help you but you won't need it. You will be at the top soon enough…but yes. I will help you and I will remind you every single day that you can do anything."

"Well, okay then. Hopefully you're right but for now I'll just trust your judgment. Now…" Andy pauses and kisses Miranda again. This time longer and deeper. This time it's a kiss to make up for all the ones she's neglected. Finally there is need for air so she finishes her thought. "Now, as I was about to say…I'm jumping in the shower while you? You go downstairs and get me some more coffee. Oh, and cut up some strawberries while you're at it. They'll go good with some waffles." She laughs and winks. Miranda just loves being bossed around.

"You're lucky I'm in a good mood now and actually feel like being the domestic goddess that I am truly am." This is a complete joke and they both know it. "I even made the girls beds this morning."

This bit of news makes Andy put a hand to her chest dramatically and the other hand to her forehead in mock disbelief. "Wow thanks! I just got my first story. The National Enquirer is gonna love this!" She laughs while Miranda glares and tries hard to look pissed off. Just before Miranda opens her mouth to say something equally mean, Andy kisses her and quickly heads for the bathroom. Laughing the entire time.

The sound of laughter, not just any laughter but a truly happy one that isn't restrained or faked brings a broad smile to Miranda's face. With that smile still in place, she lets Andrea's dreams of this National Enquirer scoop go and heads down-stairs to get that cup of coffee and to cut up every single strawberry she can find.

The End

A/N: I spent five years working in a very hard environment, among the worst kinds of criminals. Suddenly after putting my family through pure hell I realized one day that a change needed to be made for the better. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Because of that change I now work in a very different, low-key job. It has afforded me the time and ability to work through health issues and lead a much better life even though the money is certainly lacking. A few weeks ago I was offered the opportunity to move in a different direction. It would have brought in more money but it would have also added a great amount of stress. I found myself in the need of some serious counsel so I e-mailed my friend Sara and laid all my fears out on the table. Late into the night after I had gone to bed I received her reply and read it on my cell phone. She turned things around for me and helped me to realize that I already knew the answer and that it made me no less of a person to not except that job. So – that's how this story was born. Thank you, Sara. Thank you for being in my corner. :o)

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