DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is an AU event in my AU series, Life Is a Banquet. By which I mean, it doesn't fit into LIAB as currently outlined, but it does make use of its characters, Miranda Priestly, renowned fashion editor, forty-eight, and Andrea Sachs, an aspiring twenty-eight-year-old chef who lives in the basement apartment in Miranda's home, where she served temporarily as a nanny to Caroline and Cassidy. And there is cooking. And with an apple developed here in Minnesota, which they dubbed the SweeTango unfortunately, instead of the really cool name I've chosen for it.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To medoramacd[at]yahoo.com
Tasting the Possibilities
By Medora MacD
Andy approached the library, took a deep breath, and knocked lightly on the door frame before pushing the door fully open and entering, a tray balanced carefully on her left hand.
"What now?" Miranda sniped, lifting her head and glaring icy daggers at her from her seat on the sofa. "Another banal food analogy? Spring chicken and thousand-year-old eggs or something equally pedestrian? If this 'message' is the same as your earlier ones, you may as well leave. No more need be said on this topic."
A few years earlier a broadside of this sort would have brought Andy to her knees. That was before the tempering of culinary school, however, and the trials by actual fire that working in the pressure cooker that was a top New York restaurant had provided. She schooled her face to remain impassive and forged ahead.
"No, no more 'messages,'" Andy said quietly. "Just dessert." She placed the silver serving tray and its contents a plate of crispy wafers, a decanter of Oban scotch, and a tulip-shaped single malt whisky glass of fine crystal on the coffee table and stepped back. She'd considered offering espresso, but Miranda didn't need anything else to keep her awake tonight, she'd decided.
"As for the rest of the menu," her voice strengthened, "you getting the message was rather the point." She locked her gaze with Miranda's combative one. "I was aiming for clever and convincing, not incomprehensible. I knew if I actually said anything assuming I managed to find the right words and the nerve to speak them aloud you would dismiss it. Words are your forte, not mine. My best bet, I decided, was to try to show you, the best way I could, how good we could be together. Because of the differences between us, not in spite of them. Because I believe that with all my heart. Obviously, you don't. Or you won't."
She paused, giving Miranda the opportunity to jump in if she felt like it. Which she apparently didn't, since she was pouring herself several fingers of the single malt, behaving for all the world as if she were at some society event instead of in the middle of a sensitive chat. The look on her face was distant, unrevealing, but her hand shook slightly as she poured the scotch and a muscle was jumping in her jaw. Her lips parted slightly as if she might speak, but in the next instant they were pressed back together, tighter than before.
"Whatever." There was so much more she could say, but saying it while watching Miranda sit on the sofa and dispassionately sip scotch was more than Andy thought she could handle. She turned to leave, took a single step toward the exit and stopped.
No guts, no glory, she reminded herself. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, clenched her fists, and threw herself off the cliff.
"What would you do, Miranda, if you knew you could not fail?" She steadied her voice, which was threatening to quaver. "What would you do? Would you let yourself love me? Would you dare to appear foolish or inept? To me? To the girls? To the world?"
She heard the clink of crystal. Miranda had set down her glass. That might mean she was getting ready to stalk out, of course, but Andy hoped it meant she was getting through, being heard. She turned back toward the sofa, opened her eyes, and found Miranda staring at her, her expression one of fascination and dread, like a cobra confronted by a mongoose.
"Would you do it, Miranda? Would you risk being called names? Having people question your motives? Risk wounding me? Being wounded? Making mistakes? Having to apologize for them? Atone for them?"
Miranda's hands were gripping her thighs tightly, as if to anchor herself on the sofa, and she was breathing like someone who had just sprinted up a flight of stairs.
"Because I would," Andy said vehemently. "I would risk being called names, risk having people question my motives. Risk falling flat on my face. Risk being hurt beyond my wildest imaginings. I know that could happen, Miranda. Really, I do. And unless it would injure you or the girls, I would do ALL that and more. Because I'm too young and too stupid to know any better, maybe. Or because there's just something about you that speaks to something in me, that has grabbed hold of me and won't let go." She took a deep breath. "Because, despite every reason not to, because you're a royal pain in the ass at least as often as you're the queen of my dreams, I love you. And I love Caroline and Cassidy. And I want to be part of your lives. A big part. A forever part."
She ducked her head and kneaded the back of her neck, afraid of what she might see on Miranda's face now, of what she might hear in reply. "That's what I wanted to say. What I promised myself I'd be brave enough to say if I had the chance even though it might ruin everything. And now I've said it." She felt as if she'd just run a marathon. After a moment, she raised her head again.
"As for what happens next, well, I'm ready to drop from exhaustion. You look like you are too. I'm going to go crawl into bed now, pull the covers over my head, cry a little, and stay there for a year or so. Or until I have to report to work tomorrow morning." She gave a rueful laugh.
"As for us " She waved her hand. "Que sera sera. O-bla-dee, o-bla-dah, life goes on. I'd rather have half a loaf than none. If you will forgive my chutzpah in addressing the issue and forget everything I said that was inconvenient or unwanted, then I will forgive you for being a realist, rather than a romantic."
"Just know this." She shook her head. "I'll forgive, Miranda and I'll never bring the subject up again but I am not going to forget. Because regardless of how things have turned out, the memory of this night is one I'm going to cherish for a long, long time. Thank you." She gave a slight bow and prepared to go.
"No, it is I who must thank you," Miranda said stiffly. She looked resigned, Andy thought. And perhaps a little relieved that things were ending so civilly? "Thank you for a truly fabulous meal. And for for your your regard, which I value greatly, even though I don't, I mean, I can't ..."
She fiddled with the bracelets on her arm, then looked up at Andy and swallowed hard. "I got your message tonight, Andréa. And I salute your courage in putting it out there. You gave me a taste of the possibilities. But the fact that pea soup pairs well with fresh pea shoots does not make the notion of me together with you any more tenable."
"Because we're both women?" Andy asked, forcing the question past the lump in her throat.
"Because you're a child "
The reflexive snarl this provoked from Andy startled both of them, it was fair to say, and caused Miranda to consider what she really had intended to say and reframe it.
"Because you are a young woman and I am a middle-aged one. The fact is that I'm twenty years older than you are. Even if that hasn't been a big deal up to now, it will probably no, not probably it will almost certainly be one when you are forty-eight and I am sixty-eight. And definitely in forty years when you're sixty-eight and I'm long gone or completely gaga."
Realizing perhaps that ceding them forty years together didn't make it sound as if she were particularly convinced by her own argument, she toughened her tone. "And because you deserve something so much better than a life with the 'Queen of Mean,' someone renowned for being callous, inconsiderate, and insensitive to the needs of anyone but herself "
"Bunk?" Miranda stared up at Andy, nonplussed.
"Bunk. Bull. Baloney. You think of yourself as some kind of gorgon, Miranda, a Medusa who blights the life of anyone who gets too close. Trust me. As Cass and Caro's friends say, you're not really 'all that.'" She emphasized her point by making air quotes.
"What?!" Miranda looked perversely offended at being told that Andy didn't regard her as a monster of mythic proportions.
"In fact, to use another of my 'pedestrian' food analogies, you're kind of a cream puff. Which," Andy added hastily in reaction to the scowl that appeared on Miranda's face, "can be difficult to make really well. Almost as hard as Baked Alaska."
The incredulity on Miranda's face might have been laughable if the stakes hadn't been so very high. Andy scrambled for a better comparison.
"Or if you prefer something more elaborate and much more exalted, you're you're a coulibiac. That's a Russian dish that's rated by some as one of the toughest things in the world to make well damn thing is filled with salmon, rice, hard-boiled eggs, mushrooms, and dill, and if your timing is off by a split second the puff pastry turns to mush."
Miranda sniffed. "Really, Andréa? You're comparing me to some sort of fish pie?"
"An extremely complex and delicious one, but yes, essentially."
"You've successfully created one of these masterpieces, I assume?"
"Nope," Andy replied with a grin. "I've never even seen one. But I've wanted to ever since I read the recipe for it in Escoffier's Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery. You would be my first coulibiac ever." Her cheeks heated as she considered the many ways in which she lacked experience for what she was proposing. "My first and only one," she added self-consciously but in a steady voice. "My chef-d'uvre. The venture of a lifetime."
"More like the mistake of a lifetime," Miranda replied, leaning forward. "Like being seen in public wearing Birkenstocks, big woolen socks, and and camouflage cargo shorts." Andy must have looked mystified. "Or to put it in terms you might understand better like pufferfish sashimi that hasn't been prepared properly. The kind that can kill you with a single bite."
"Wow. You're not just the 'Queen of Mean,' but a 'Killer Queen' too?" Andy laughed at the look on Miranda's face. "You know " She cleared her throat and began to sing. "'Gunpowder, gelatine, Dynamite with a laser beam, Guaranteed to blow your mind '?" She gave Miranda a crooked smile. "Doug's a big Freddy Mercury and karaoke fan," she explained.
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained, Miranda. Before today I'd really only made one of the dishes I served tonight. The rest were first-time efforts. Including these chocolate espresso wafers, which I kind of invented on the fly. They turned out well, if I say so myself. Here..." Andy seated herself beside Miranda and held the plate out to her. "Try one."
Apparently too tired to resist, Miranda reflexively picked up a wafer and brought it to her mouth, taking a nibble. "Hmmm," she said, taking a second, larger bite. "Crunchy chocolate and a coffee kick. Good." Andy saw her hand shake as she returned the rest of the wafer to the plate. She was getting nearly as punch-drunk as Andy, it seemed. Groggy enough, in any case, to miss the fact that there was a crumb of wafer clinging to the corner of her mouth. Andy reached out.
"Excuse me. You've got a thing here, a bit of "
Before what she was doing really registered (with either of them), Andy had cupped Miranda's jaw with her hand and with her thumb was gently whisking away the crumb.
Then ghosting the digit across those luscious lips to make sure nothing else had been missed.
Then sliding her hand behind her neck and pulling Miranda forward into a lingering kiss.
It should have been as awkward as most first kisses usually are, but for all its thrilling unfamiliarity it felt to Andy like something they'd been doing for a thousand years and should do for a thousand more. Judging by the gobsmacked look on Miranda's face, it had felt much the same to her.
"My god, Miranda. That was " She leaned in for another taste. And another. "So sweet. So so much more than I ever ... So "
"So NOT going to happen again!" said Miranda, driven to tween-speak in her frantic effort to distance herself from Andy's touch. She wrenched her head to the side, out of reach, and put up a restraining hand, freezing Andy in place. When she spoke again, it was in the ultra-calm, wintry voice with which she ruled Runway and with it most of the fashion world.
"What you're proposing is absurd, Andréa. Insane. There is no way it can work. To even consider it is is as quixotic as asking me to try to cook that coulibiac. You'll do it someday and with someone who deserves it more than I do. I simply " Her voice wavered. "I can't. I'm simply not capable of that. Ask anyone."
Her voice, which held equal parts of resolution and regret, was underlaid by another emotion, one that made Andy's heart ache even as it gave her hope that her cause was not yet lost a neediness so profound that Miranda could not entirely suppress it.
"I am not capable of doing what you're asking," Miranda repeated stoically. "Of being what you need. You deserve better. Much better. When it comes to " she hesitated, then forged ahead. "When it comes to matters of the heart, to love, everything I touch turns to so much glop."
"You deserve better too, Miranda. Don't be so hard on yourself. You didn't have the right ingredients on hand before, the right personnel. Now you do." Andy gave Miranda an easy, confident smile. "That's the secret to creating a culinary masterpiece, a feast for the ages. The right ingredients, the right cooks. You can do this. We can."
Miranda looked up. "How do you know that? What makes you so sure?"
"We work, Miranda. It's just that simple. We have from the beginning when you were being all high and mighty and trying to run my life and I was doing my damnedest to piss you off by wearing that lime-green polyester track suit. Even when we wanted to strangle each other, there was always something there. Much more than chemistry, though God knows we've got that too. A connection that feels bone deep. Soul deep. You feel it too. I know you do. I've never felt that with anyone else. Have you?"
She held her breath, praying she'd asked the right question, the one that would tip the balance.
Shit. Miranda was getting up. Putting distance between them. She watched with trepidation as she moved to one of the room's windows and stared blankly out into the night.
Andy stood too, painfully aware that she needed to be careful not to tilt things the wrong direction, but unwilling to let Miranda get too far away, physically or emotionally. She walked quietly up behind her, standing far enough away to keep from encroaching on her personal space, but close enough to see the images being reflected back to them in the darkened glass. Her body behind Miranda's, her arms aching to encircle her. The exasperating hopefulness on her own face. The conflict raging on Miranda's.
"No." Her heart sank. Miranda had closed her eyes and was shaking her head. "No," she said again, looking up this time and locking her gaze with Andy's in the reflection in front of them. She'd come to a decision, it was clear. A difficult one. "No," she said once more. Then, "I haven't felt that with anyone else. Not even close."
She sighed, bringing her hands to her face and rubbing it repeatedly before looking up again and catching Andy's eyes in the reflection. She bobbed her head, giving up her struggle. "And to ignore that, to not give it a chance despite everything against it, would be unpardonable. A sin, in fact. So yes."
"Oh my god," Andy heard herself squeal. "Oh my god, oh my god! Thank you!" She wrapped her arms around Miranda, pulling her tight to her and burying her face in her neck, savoring the scents of jasmine, orange, and sandalwood she found there. Miranda tensed briefly, then leaned back into the embrace.
"We can do this, Miranda. It will be tough. Tougher than I probably understand. But it'll be worth the risk, I promise." She pushed back tears of joy and relief. It wouldn't do to blubber all over Miranda now and make her regret her decision.
"You're sure, Andréa?" Miranda loosened the arms Andy had wrapped around her torso and pivoted in her embrace. Taking a step back, she searched Andy's face. "You won't quit when the going gets tough? When I turn out to be every bit as impossible as they say? You promise? You want to do this? You want to do ?" She circled a hand between their bodies.
Andy threw back her head and laughed aloud. "Do I want to do you, Miranda Priestly? Good God, yes, I do. That too. And if we weren't both extra crispy at the moment, I'd attempt to prove it. Over and over and over."
Miranda's face reddened as the double entendre registered, self-consciousness giving way in short order to wry amusement.
"At the moment, though, I'm so beat and so unbelievably relieved that I'm about to collapse. If I don't sit down, I'm going to fall down." Andy grasped Miranda's hand softly and ushered her back to the sofa. She seated herself beside her, wrapped an arm around her shoulders and slowly drew her close, tenderly guiding her head to her shoulder. Miranda relaxed into her, molding herself to Andy's side. With anyone else, that might not have meant much. She knew with Miranda, though with a woman who was habitually touched by nobody but her daughters it was monumental.
Andy gave Miranda a light squeeze. It wasn't going to be easy, but she now felt confident well, more confident that each of them was committed to going down this road. That was enough for now. More than enough. It was time to turn down the heat, give them each time to process what was happening.
"You're going to be my magnum opus," she said quietly, nuzzling her face in Miranda's hair again. "My pièce de résistance. Make that pièces de résistance, if that's the right phrase. Because after I master Coulibiac a la Miranda, I'm going to do Miranda Marengo. Then Miranda Melba. Baked Miranda. Confit of Miranda."
She leaned back, looked down, smiled at Miranda and waggled her eyebrows. "Oooh! Not to mention Rack of Miranda. Because one of the first things I noticed when we met was that you've got a VERY nice rack. I've been dreaming about getting my hands on it for months." She held her breath.
"Really, Andréa!" Miranda tsked, tsked under her breath and shot her a reproving look. Which was followed in short order by a roguish grin.
Not too soon, then. Whew! Andy draped her free arm around Miranda's waist and snuggled deeper into the sofa cushions with her, her exhausted mind drowsily exploring this new theme. "Mmm," she sighed contentedly.
"Miranda En Papillote."
"Slow Cooked Miranda." That one earned her a poke in the ribs.
"Ooh, and Miranda Flambé!"
Miranda moved her hand to Andy's thigh, smoothing out the wrinkles in the silk crepe there and putting a very effective stop to her rambling. "What about me?" she queried. "I get a turn too, don't I?"
"T-turn?" Andy said, her voice cracking a little as Miranda gave her leg a gentle stroke.
"Mmmmhmmmm," Miranda purred. "We are going to take turns, aren't we?"
"I'm no great shakes in the kitchen," Miranda continued. "But I've spent a great deal of time in fine restaurants over the years and there are a few techniques that I'd be interested in trying out."
"Such as ?"
"It depends on what you have an appetite for, of course," came the smoky reply. "So What do you think about Buttered Andréa on a Bed of Baby Greens? Roasted Wild Andréa? Marinated Breast of Andréa?"
Andy nodded, her mouth watering at the images some of the dishes conjured in her mind.
"Or, if you're up for something more exotic, how about Free-range Andréa with a Spicy Cajun Rub? And for dessert, Cherries Andréa with Dark Chocolate Gelato?"
Andy swallowed hard.
"Then again," Miranda continued, not looking at Andy, a devilish smile playing on her lips, "It's hard to go wrong with the classics "
"The c-classics ?" Andy managed to choke out.
"You know, simple fare? Say Andréa Sashimi with Wasabi Dip?" Andy nodded slowly.
"Unadorned? Andréa in the Raw? Natural? Andréa al Fresco, perhaps? No need to gild such an amazing lily, after all." She stroked slowly down the bare arm wrapped around her waist and back up, her hand leaving goosebumps in its wake.
"Andréa Over Easy maybe? Or " She looked up at Andy and licked her lips.
"What about just plain Andréa au Jus?"
"Erk!" Andy hid her face behind her hand, covering her eyes and what she knew must be a blush to rival the color of the beets she'd served earlier. Miranda tipped back her head and enjoyed a full-throated chuckle and then, relenting, drew Andy's hand down from her face and back to her waist, snuggling in again.
Damn, thought Andy. She should have known better than to try to bandy wits with anyone as bright and imaginative as this incredible woman. She shook her head. Life with Miranda was going to be a banquet of epic proportions a feast that would continue, she devoutly hoped, for decades to come.
And she was going to savor every freaking bite of it.
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