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

A Valentine's Day Story
By Brithna

 

Part One

Miranda has always felt that the number thirteen is appalling, unlucky no matter what the occasion. It shouldn't exist at all, banished from every language, eradicated from history, period. No exceptions. But here it is, at two o'clock in the morning, popping off Miranda's way too bright laptop screen. What's worse is that everything associated with it, in this article, is completely true.

Next time she has lunch with Arianna Huffington, Miranda just might shoot her and then pull all the plugs to all the servers that hold all the idiotic articles in her idiotic blog. Well, alright. She won't go so far as to shoot precious Arianna. Miranda has two daughters who would not be impressed by the idea of visiting their mother in prison. But what she will do is delete the idiotic app from her phone, and her account on this idiotic website. And she's definitely going to chew Arianna out for keeping her up this late. Miranda should have been asleep hours ago but instead, she's sitting in the middle of her enormous bed wide awake.

And it's all Andrea's fault. Wait… No, no. Arianna's fault. Because God, what did Andrea have to do with this? Nothing. She has nothing to do with this article. She did not write it. Thank heavens; it's deplorable, barely an article to begin with, full of pictures and mindless captions. Andrea would never write such drivel. Then again, when is the last time Andrea has written anything? Miranda doesn't have the slightest clue but thinking about her Assistant has been keeping her awake for much longer than Arianna and her idiotic blog that is filled with nothing useful whatsoever.

It's all drivel, starting with: 13 Signs You're A Full-Blown Coffee Addict. What kind of title is that? Really? And the fact they put the word 'PHOTOS' right behind it, makes the whole thing ludicrous. And these thirteen signs? Well, like she has already admitted, they're true.

One Cup Is NEVER Enough -- Of course that's true. In what universe would it not be?

It's The ONLY Reason You Get Out Of Bed In The Morning -- There is one word for this: Obviously.

A Bottomless Cup Of Coffee Renews Your Faith In Humanity -- This makes Miranda laugh. It is true that a bottomless cup renews something inside her, but what it renews has no name. But at two o'clock in the morning, in a dark bedroom where she is all alone, it's easy to admit Andrea is likely to be the true source of this renewal. Yes, perhaps it is that, because if Andrea is out doing a thousand things and Emily or some other unlucky minion brings her a cup of coffee, Miranda is never renewed. Never. But when Andrea comes through her door or meets her at the elevator, she is renewed in some way. In Andrea's presence, Miranda is renewed and in this dark bedroom at two o'clock in the morning, it's an easy thing to admit.

You Would Rather Drink A Bad Cup Of Coffee Than NO COFFEE AT ALL -- She hates this, and wants no one to know, but it is true; she will take whatever she can get if there is no other choice. Miranda tries like hell, though, to never be out of range of a Starbucks and if she is, she makes sure everyone pays the price. Which brings her to number five.

You Keep Instant Coffee Stocked – Well, Miranda hasn't always, but when her beloved Starbucks got on this particular bandwagon, she did too. There is a stash in her desk and she tries to remember to bring some on trips so everyone has to pay a little less for something that truly isn't their fault. And Andrea remembers. In fact, Miranda hasn't done without a decent cup of coffee in about two years. Andrea always remembers. She remembers everything. And Miranda is always renewed.

By 4pm, You've Lost Track Of How Many Cups Of Coffee You've Had -- Noon would be closer to truth here, but what right does Miranda have to argue with Arianna Huffington and her idiotic blog?

This Is How You Feel Every Second Of Every Day = We're Gonna Need More Coffee -- Just as with number two, there is one word for this: Obviously.

You've Seriously Considered Brewing Your Coffee With Coffee -- Miranda has not only considered this, she's done it. How could anyone have expected her to be up at all hours of the night with two babies and still produce the greatest magazine that has ever been published? In Miranda's mind at least, it is the greatest. Of course it is. But all that aside—and even if it had been an incredibly weird accident—the coffee done up with even more coffee is quite good. Stout, and a little bitter, but good.

Clearly, though, that is not the only time she's resorted to this somewhat accidental grasp for sanity. A few months ago both the girls came down with sinus infections and everyone was miserable, and everything was upside down. Caroline and Cassidy are sick so rarely; but to tip the scale—this happened at the same time the last changes to the January issue could be made.

Andrea had been there for her and Miranda's daughters, and she's never forgotten that. She's never forgotten making some flippant comment about the coffee done up with more coffee that week, and how it appeared in front of her late one night at the office when Miranda was at her worst. Andrea delivered it with an almost hysterical laugh and outright refused to try it when Miranda told her to. She's never forgotten that, Andrea's laughter, the way her eyes sparkled, the instant feeling of being renewed.

Miranda hasn't forgotten what happened the next night either when she returned to the townhouse, unable to get out of an endless dinner meeting, only to find Andrea there with Caroline and Cassidy in a pile of blankets, in front of the television, with a thousand Kleenexes. There was food too, spread out all over the coffee table; Chinese takeout boxes and bowls of hot and sour soup. She started to get up to leave but Miranda held her there. Not literally. She did not hold Andrea in her arms. Miranda just held out a hand and said one word, "Stay." Andrea stayed and Miranda came to find out; hot and sour soup is great for clearing up sinus infections.

If You Don't Have Coffee Before Noon You Get A Headache Of Epic Proportions -- This has never happened so how would Miranda know? But now that she does know headaches are a possible outcome of such a thing, she will be even more diligent in her addiction from here on. Who would ever want to purposefully have a headache?

You Have More Than One Way To Brew Coffee -- This must be a joke of some kind. Who doesn't have more than one way to brew coffee? Miranda's current favorite method—which she only uses on the weekends because it takes so much time—is her Siphon Pot. It's like a science experiment right there in Miranda's own kitchen and since her father was a chemistry teacher, the joy in it is twofold. Spending a little time alone on Saturday mornings, thinking about her father or even her mother—who she can hardly stand—is never a waste. The sad thing, or not, is that when Miranda sits there watching her coffee slowly come to fruition, she doesn't just think about her parents. She thinks about Andrea, who like Miranda's father and even her mother—who she can hardly stand—is quite brilliant.

You've Tried To Quit Coffee Before, And It Was The Worst 24 Hours Of Your Life -- This has to be some kind of joke too. Why in the world would Miranda ever do this? To even think of it is madness.

You've Made Coffee Ice Cubes -- She detests cold coffee, obviously, but has in fact done this. A few years ago Miranda had some torturous dental work done and hot foods or liquids were forbidden. She needed her fix though and a little dental work was not going to stop her. The girls had a small snow cone maker and being very eager to see their mother very happy, made her the first snow cone she'd had since childhood. Now, in the summer it is a regular occurrence.

Without Coffee You Pretty Much Turn Into A Monster -- Miranda will never be able to deny this. She does become a monster. It's a fact, but in all reality, this almost never happens; she's never without it for long. Just as things are about to reach that stage, Andrea comes through Miranda's door and she is renewed. Funny thing? It doesn't matter if Andrea has coffee in her hand or a file folder full of work for Miranda to do, she is renewed and that monster goes back into hiding regardless.

At some point Miranda is able to forget all about Arianna's idiotic blog and go to sleep. It's a wonder she doesn't do so right on her laptop but thankfully manages to push it over in time. Her glasses aren't so lucky and when she wakes up, they're bent all to hell. Between refereeing a fight about which twin would wear which purple sweater and making a large pot of coffee, all time for bitching and crying over her glasses is used up.

Mornings like this make Miranda wish the girls' father was still around or Stephen, but those thoughts never last long. What would be the point? It's not as if either of them was ever good at these kinds of things. A year later and Miranda is still trying to figure out why Stephen supposedly made for a good father-figure. He didn't, but Miranda had hoped like always. And like always, Miranda's hope had been wasted. Thank God it is never wasted on Andrea. She is reliable. She is constant. She knows the perfect cure for sinus infections and come to think of it, she'll probably be able to fix Miranda's glasses.

Right before Miranda starts to make not so idle threats about forcing the girls to go live with Nigel and his newest boyfriend if they don't hurry up; they come running out of the kitchen, and not just with their backpacks.

Caroline and Cassidy both have what looks like Chinese takeout boxes in their hands, made of pink and red card-stock with silver hearts glued all over. Their faces are eager and happy and they look incredibly proud of themselves, which means she can't say anything nasty about whatever is going on here. After all, Miranda has been trying to do less of that. It's not as if she is ever nasty to her children. But there's no denying she's guilty of treating them as if they ought to act like adults instead of the twelve year olds they really are. So if they are eager, happy and proud about these little boxes, it's important that Miranda is too.

With a completely honest and tender look on her face, Miranda asks, "And what do we have here?"

What they've got are boxes of candy for Andrea because tomorrow is Valentine's Day. Right. Today is the thirteenth, which means tomorrow is the fourteenth. February the fourteenth. Valentine's Day. And Caroline and Cassidy want Miranda to give them to Andrea as a kind of 'thank you' for spending the evening with them when they were sick. Miranda remembers the takeout boxes and realizes the theme. Of course. Right. Valentine's Day.

Panic hits her right in the stomach and it's almost more than she can handle. How is she supposed to give these boxes of candy to Andrea? How could Caroline and Cassidy possibly think this would ever be acceptable workplace behavior for her?

She's their mother, that's how they think it's possible. To them she is not Editor and Chief. To them she is 'Mom' and nothing else. And 'Mom' allowed Andrea to stay… So of course it's okay, right? Of course they don't know Miranda cannot do this. The Editor cannot do this. But 'Mom' can, can't she?

Quickly, Miranda explains that they can give their little boxes of candy to Andrea themselves later today if they come to the office after school, or even tonight when Andrea brings the Book. Caroline and Cassidy quickly remind her that they can't. They can't because they've got a study group after school today. They can't give them to her later tonight because "Remember, Mom? Andy only brings the Book on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday." And they can't tomorrow because they've got a Valentine's Day party then a sleepover at their friend Amber's house. Miranda can't figure out what else to say; arguing with these two is sometimes like trying to argue with a team of lawyers.

While they ride to Dalton, Miranda holds those little boxes in a little white bag on her lap and contemplates her options. She could toss them out and just say she gave them to Andrea. She could make Roy do something with them. She could also get caught in the ridiculous lie later on when the twins slip downstairs to see Andrea on Monday night like Miranda just knows they'll do. And there would be hell to pay. A worse kind of hell than Miranda has ever made anybody pay for anything. By the time she reaches Elias-Clarke, Miranda knows that price is not something she will ever be willing to suffer if she can help it.

During the elevator ride Miranda grips her handbag tightly and that little white bag even tighter. At least they're in bag. At least no one will know what she's doing. That the Editor and Chief of Runway is giving two little pink and red boxes of candy to Andrea for Valentine's Day. Well, the Editor isn't, and frankly, Miranda isn't either because Caroline and Cassidy are giving these to Andrea. Not Miranda. This has nothing to do with Miranda.

The easiest thing would be to hand the little white bag over to Andrea as soon as the elevator door opens but she can't do that out here, out here in the lobby of Runway. Even if no one knows what's in the bag, Miranda cannot let go of it out here.

But that's not the only thing Miranda can't do. She can't stop staring. At Andrea. There is always that little morning 'once over', of course, but this is more than just a quick 'once over' because Miranda can't even force herself to look away.

For February, Andrea is definitely wearing something that's not going to be warm at all if she ventures outside. And she will. Of course she will. Miranda hopes the girl—well, she can hardly call Andrea a girl when she looks like this—has a good coat to go with a dress that is revealing things which cause Miranda's brain to burn inside her skull. This shouldn't bother her. It never has before. In two years this has not bothered Miranda. But it's bothering her now and everything is starting to point toward the fact that even though today is not a Friday, Thursday the thirteenth can be as bad or worse.

Or is 'bothered' even the right term for what is causing her brain to fry? It only takes Miranda a second more of staring to realize that no, 'bothered' is not the right term at all.

Taking that into account, she can't go though her usual morning list of instructions either. In fact, Miranda can barely think clearly enough to walk in a straight line—which is dangerous. The main floor of Runway has been going through a bit of construction these past few weeks and the place is not only a mess, but a maze. Well, it's always been a maze, hasn't it? But now it is ten times more horrible and Miranda's got to take the long way around to her office. If she can get there without falling down.

Perhaps this entire thing does have something to do with Miranda. And maybe staying up all night thinking about that idiotic blog post does have something to do with Andrea because ever since Miranda came home to find her curled up on the couch with Caroline and Cassidy, she's been taking up the bulk of Miranda's emotional energy. And now this. This dress. Or lack thereof… And here she is, the Editor and Chief of Runway, about to give Andrea Sachs, her assistant who just happens to look like the very picture of sin today, candy for Valentine's Day.

Miranda is barely listening to Andrea as she goes on and on about changes that have already been made to the schedule as they go through the maze, but her attention is finally caught with the mention of her lunch date with…Arianna Huffington. Christ, no. Not today.

Miranda comes to an immediate stop. "No," she shakes her head. "Absolutely not. Cancel it. I don't care what excuse you make. Just cancel it and don't bother to reschedule. I don't fancy myself finding time for her in the near or distant future."

"Okay," Andrea says as she scratches that item off the list. "I'll order from Smith & Wollensky's then?"

"Fine," Miranda answers, still standing right there in the middle of the hallway. People are rushing past and she knows this is odd, worse than odd, for her to be standing here but right now she can't move. These two little boxes in this little white bag weigh about fifty pounds. In fact, everything feels heavy. "And get the crab cake instead. I can't handle steak today."

Andrea stares at Miranda and writes this down all at the same time. God, is it written all over her face? Is this thing about candy and Valentine's Day and the fact Miranda cannot move or stop staring at Andrea's breasts, written all over her face? Apparently not because Andrea makes no mention of it. Instead she goes back to Arianna.

"You know she wanted to talk to you about the Third Metric conference."

"I have no interest in that," Miranda says, forcing herself to focus on the current topic. "Hasn't she got Mika? That's her sort of thing anyway. Those two," Miranda finally starts to walk but only because Andrea has taken off slightly ahead, "love to tell everyone how they ought to change their lives for the better. Personally, if women need that sort of guidance, they've got bigger problems than they're aware of. I know how to live my life, thank you. And Arianna and her blog. I've had enough. That thing kept me up all ni--"

Miranda shuts up. What is she doing running off at the mouth like this? Well, at least she's not staring at Andrea's breasts anymore. So there's a plus. But now that she's thought about it again, Miranda can't help herself. This is beyond worrisome.

"So you don't like good ol' HuffPost?" Andrea asks with a faint laugh.

"No," Miranda answers her, glad for the distraction again even if it means talking about something she can barely comprehend right now because her brain is taking some kind of demonic turn for the worse. "I do not," she continues as they walk through more of the maze. To be honest, this is starting to feel like one of those infamous West Wing walk-and-talks. "If what I read last night is an example of what Arianna finds as acceptable advice, then her Third Metric talk, really is just talk."

"Must have been a good post if it kept you up all night."

"It wasn't." They stop for a moment to allow a group of people hauling a desk to pass by, then someone with a ladder. "Coffee," Miranda continues as their path clears, giving this conversation all her attention to avoid staring at anything in particular. "Coffee addiction. Thirteen signs. As if the general public is ignorant of such things. And pictures—" Miranda is cut off momentarily by another man wandering around with a ladder then they're able to continue on once more. Will this maze ever end? Perhaps this is hell instead of one of those West Wing ordeals. "The entire thing was more like a picture book than an article…post. Whichever." Miranda waves a hand in the air or tries.

"Oh, I read that!" Andrea points her pencil at Miranda and smiles. Miranda is barely able to cover the fact she only missed walking into a wall by a few inches. "It was pretty horrible but you have to admit, it was spot on. You've got all thirteen points."

"Yes, well…" They're stopped again by a throng of people with paint buckets. Both of them press themselves against the wall and Miranda can even hear Andrea gasp, no doubt fearful of something getting on her absolutely sinful dress.

"Number eight had me cracking up," Andrea says as they continue to wait for the hallway to clear out. "And I'm sorry but that has got to be disgusting."

Miranda rolls her eyes and instead of saying something cutting and rude, she says something playful with an equally playful tone. It's obvious the fourteenth, hell, March cannot come fast enough. "You'll never know since you refused to try it," Miranda says as they start to walk again.

"I could smell it. That was enough, thanks. But, anyway, I understand your thing about the posts…articles, whichever."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. All these numbered lists and pictures. A lot of its useless. There are some that I can't help liking, though."

Miranda has no idea what they're doing now. Making small-talk it seems, but that's not something Miranda ever does. But it's better than staring at Andrea's breasts, isn't it? That could get her sued, right? In serious trouble, right?

Since she doesn't want to get sued, Miranda keeps walking and manages to participate in more of this foreign method of conversation. "Such as?" she asks, unable to believe anything on Arianna's blog is acceptable after what she saw last night.

"Oh, I saw a pretty funny list of reasons to date a bookworm after I read the coffee addiction post and I--"

Before Andrea can say more, they are stopped yet again and then pushed right into a conference room to wait while a crew finishes doing something to the ceiling tiles above them. Miranda wants to do nothing more than bitch, protest and fire people because the prospect of being stuck in a room with Andrea isn't what she needs right now. Never mind the inconvenience of the whole thing. But this is the only path to her office now—meaning Miranda cannot bitch, protest or fire anybody. Instead, she stands there in the conference room with Andrea and waits to hear more about this bookworm business.

"Well, this is a big waste of time." Andrea looks about as fed up with the construction as Miranda is. "I will be so glad when this constriction crap is over with. I can't even hear myself think."

"Shut the door then."

What? Shut the door? Miranda has to almost physically restrain her own eyes from widening at her own statement. Shut the door? That is the worst thing that could happen right now. Besides staring at Andrea's breasts again—which is the first thing Miranda does as soon as Andrea turns from closing the door without a single objection. Odd. She didn't object. Which means Andrea has no problem being locked inside a room with Miranda. But of course she doesn't. Andrea is alone with Miranda all the time. The car. The elevator. Places like that. But all of a sudden this is entirely different from all of those places.

"So anyway. The bookworm thing?" Andrea says.

Miranda can only nod her head.

"It was a list. Eleven reasons. Pretty funny." Andrea leans against the door, leisurely folding her arms in front of her, causing more of what Miranda should not be looking at to become the focus of her attention. "All of them were spot on," she continues. "Like your list. But number two and six were the best."

Miranda can only raise an eyebrow.

"Number two was something like 'We won't smother you. We like our personal time. If our E-reader is on, it means you need to be silent.' And that's totally true. Give me a book and I'm pretty self-sufficient." The noises on the other side of the door get closer and louder and Andrea steps forward. Miranda isn't paying a bit of attention to the words coming out of Andrea's mouth and swallows hard as she grips that little white bag tighter to keep her hands from doing something stupid. "Number six was pretty much the same thing 'We're not needy. Stick a book under our nose, and oh! We forgot you were still here!'"

Miranda must have been doing something seriously inappropriate with her eyes at this point because Andrea shuts her mouth and her face turns red. The look in her own eyes tells Miranda she has been caught; it couldn't have any other meaning. She's been caught. Staring at Andrea's breasts.

Before Miranda can do something to play her behavior off as nothing, Andrea turns around and opens the door. The ceiling tile business is finished and now Miranda can get out of this conference room and hopefully not be sued.

Silently, they make their way to Miranda's office without any further delays and Miranda's eyes are on their best behavior. Her brain cools off a little too because this is so awful. How can she give Andrea the candy when she's made the girl feel incredibly uncomfortable? Because she is. Andrea is uncomfortable. Her posture screams it. Her red face screams it even louder. And it's Miranda's fault, not the fact that it's the thirteenth. She'd like nothing more than to be able to blame this on some stupid number but she knows that's impossible. This is all on Miranda. This is all her fault.

When they get there, Miranda tosses her handbag onto Emily's desk and manages to somehow get out of her coat without putting the bag of candy down. Saying nothing to Emily and definitely nothing to Andrea, Miranda retreats to her office and wastes no time gulping down most of the coffee that is waiting there for her while standing at the window behind her desk.

She is screwed and in spite of how stupid and unforgivably inappropriate she has already been this morning, Miranda knows she's got to get rid of that little white bag right now. Right NOW. It cannot wait because if she waits, it just… Well, who knows what would happen? Either way, if Miranda does it now or waits, who knows? But between the panic, the guilt and the fire that is burning in her head all over again, Miranda's got no choice. If Andrea confronts her about the thing in the conference room, well she'll have to stand there and take it because she's guilty. Period.

"Andrea." Miranda calls out and drops her now empty Starbucks cup into the trash. It's now or never.

Andrea comes right in, like she always does. She's still a little red in the face, and it's obvious by the way Andrea looks around the room that she is trying to act like everything is as normal as it always is. And of course she's got her pencil and notepad. Miranda takes a deep breath and begins.

Pointing at the little white bag that's resting on the corner of the desk, Miranda says, "That is for you. From Caroline and Cassidy. They made them for you."

Andrea comes up to the desk and pulls the bag open further to look inside. Even though she's looking down, the smile on her lips is visible. It makes Miranda's stomach do a complete flip inside and instantly she knows she'll have to skip breakfast.

"What is this for?" Andrea asks, still smiling. Miranda's stomach does that flip thing one more time and for some insane reason she's glad her daughters made these boxes and even happier they came down with those nasty sinus infections. Andrea's smile is worth this whole mess of a morning.

Miranda's judgment, God, her entire sense of reasoning is so clouded now that she blurts out, "It's for Valentine's Day, of courses." Feelings of inappropriateness don't even exist. "The girls wanted to thank you for spending the evening with them a few months ago."

"Oh, it was nothing, really." Andrea is still smiling.

"Well, to them it wasn't 'nothing'."

Andrea's smile fades and immediately, panic of a new variety settles inside Miranda. "Tell them I said thank you." Andrea says, at a whisper. "Tell them I'd do it again. Anytime."

Before Miranda can say something stupid like 'If I had it my way, Caroline and Cassidy would have sinus infections on a regular basis.' Andrea picks up that little white bag with those little takeout boxes full of candy and goes back to her desk.

 

Part Two

Miranda skips breakfast and fixes her glasses all by herself. Andrea puts on a cardigan that hardly matches her dress—but definitely covers what the Editor and Chief of Runway should not be staring at—and does not look Miranda in the eye when she brings the second and third cups of coffee before noon. And the usual feeling of renewal is completely missing.

She's not going to get sued, Miranda can sense that much at least. But it doesn't negate the fact that something is wrong here. Something else besides Miranda's inappropriate behavior and those little boxes of candy—is wrong. In some way, Andrea seems hurt, saddened.

There are too many things, too many emotions going on inside Miranda's head for her to work out the puzzle. And for God's sake, part of her can't believe this is happening to begin with. Part of her can't believe she feels all these things because frankly, Miranda isn't used to feeling. Period.

She's used to work. Work, work, work and her children. Her ex-husbands can testify to that before the Supreme Court. Well, they can testify to it but perhaps it's going a little too far to say that Miranda feels nothing at all. There's anger toward laziness, distrust toward a hundred different people for a hundred different reasons, hatred for things that bore her, annoyance for things that are from more than a season ago, exasperation for uncoordinated models… The list is a mile long but there is a common theme. All those feelings are connected with work. This means, as she well knows, that Miranda has nothing in the way of personal feelings for anything or anyone.

But a lot Miranda's emotional energy has been spent on Andrea—which means she is capable. The Editor isn't. But Miranda is and does have feelings. And even though Miranda cannot seem to stop looking at Andrea's breasts—in spite of the fact that they are covered up now—doesn't mean that's all there is. There is far more than lust, isn't there?

It takes only a second more of staring out her office door, watching Andrea at her computer, typing away, biting her bottom lip as she concentrates or at how Andrea blows her bangs out of her face when she is frustrated about something, for Miranda to figure out she truly feels a lot more than lust. Simply knowing how her heart reacts to just watching Andrea, tells Miranda everything she needs to know.

By the time Miranda's crab cake appears for lunch, she doesn't want it and forces Emily to eat it because the girl can't live on cubes of cheese forever. Of course, after Emily is done, Miranda hears her inform Andrea that she'll run all the afternoon errands to walk off the calories. That will be the last time Miranda forces her to eat something.

As Emily leaves and Andrea bites her lip again when she's on the phone with someone who is no doubt testing her patience, the notion that Miranda might want that feeling in her life permanently—combined with the fact she hasn't ingested anything today but caffeine—makes her sick. Locking herself in her bathroom makes the notion of vomiting dissipate, though. Perhaps Miranda needed the space? Time to regroup? Whatever the case may be, she's better soon and unlocks the door.

Miranda opens it only half way then nearly closes it all the way again, only leaving enough room to hear the voices of Nigel and Andrea. They are in the middle of quite a lively conversation.

"Seriously. Take that cardigan off now, Six." Miranda has no problem visualizing Nigel waving a dramatic hand in the air. "It might as well be a bag," he continues. "You don't wear a dress like that then put a bag over it. Have I taught you nothing? I'm insulted."

"Will you shut up!" Andrea hisses at him and sounds an awful lot like Emily as she does it. "I told you. I'm freezing."

"You weren't when you got here."

"Shut up."

"Will not. Did you have that dream again?"

Miranda's perks up at the word 'dream'.

"No." Andrea says, sounding like she's close to hitting him. If she does, Miranda will be sorry she didn't see it. "I had the other one," she continues, instantly sounding less pissed off. Miranda is more than a little surprised. "You know. The one where we're living happily ever after and all that bullshit."

"Oh…"

"Yeah. Oh. So anyway I woke up in a weird and happy mood and the dress just happened. Leave me alone."

"Okay…" Nigel clears his throat. "Moving on… Where'd the candy come from? You know you can't afford to eat that. Fat, sugar and carbs. Oh, my!"

"Stop! You're giving me a headache, Nigel. They're from… Well, they're from Caroline and Cassidy. They made the boxes themselves."

Miranda can hardly believe Andrea has told him. She can also hardly believe the boxes are right there on her desk displayed for everyone to see that cares to look. Like she's showing them off. Like she's proud of them.

"Caroline and Cassidy?" Nigel says with a squeak at the end.

"Yeah, you know." Andrea's almost whispering. "The time I went over with the Chinese food. Remember?"

"Ah! Yes, I remember." Miranda can tell he's bouncing in place at this news. He will forever be a gossip whore. "So they brought them by this morning? How did I miss those two hell—"

"Don't call them that," Andrea interrupts him and Miranda is thankful because she is the only one who gets to call her own daughters anything but by their names. And she's got several she uses on a sometimes frequent basis. Especially on Sundays when they don't let Miranda sleep late. "And no. They didn't come by," she finishes with another whisper that makes Miranda's chest tighten and her stomach flip again.

Nigel is silent for one beat too many, but then he opens his mouth and Miranda holds her breath. "So who? Wait. Don't tell me…"

"Yep. You guessed it. Miranda."

Finally, Miranda lets out a breath and holds in another as she waits to hear what else Nigel's got to say.

"That… Well. I… God, Miranda gave you candy for Valentine's Day."

"No, she didn't. The girls did."

"She did."

"No. She. Didn't. Leave me alone."

"Can I ask you a qu—"

"Nope. Ya, can't."

"But I want to," Nigel whines and Miranda thinks about dying because she seriously wants to hear this. She needs to hear it. "I mean come on, Andy."

"I wish you wouldn't."

"Too bad," is Nigel's answer. He has never been able to take 'no' for an answer. Miranda is all too familiar with this side of him. "Just tell me—has this thing seriously gotten past the 'She's too goddamned hot for her own fucking good' stage?"

Too hot? For her own good? Stage? Fucking? Miranda's brain is officially back on fire.

"Will you shut the fuck up!" Andrea says rather loudly. "She is right there! In the bathroom!"

"Calm down. Goodness. There's a thing called a wall between us but with you screaming like that…"

"I'm not screaming!" Andrea screams.

"You are. Calm down. And I guess that answers my question. This isn't just an infatuation, honey."

"Don't you think I know that? God, Nigel… Can you just go away. I can't take this right now. I mean…shit. I can't believe I'm going to say this but Nigel, this morning from the elevator to this office, she did nothing but stare at my chest, okay!"

Miranda doesn't even hear Nigel breathe. She doesn't even hear herself breathe for that matter.

"So that's what this bag business is about?" Nigel says.

"Yes. It is. Now, please…"

"Alright, I'm going. I'm going. But are you going to be okay? You're not…"

"What? Uncomfortable?"

"I suppose."

"No," Andrea says hesitantly and guilt comes crashing down on Miranda all over again. "It just… I shouldn't have worn this stupid thing. It's probably nothing. I probably just fucked up and made her uncomfortable. That's all it is. Now go. I'm begging you, Nigel."

And Nigel goes. He vanishes and Miranda hears Andrea push her chair back hard, but she doesn't get up. She just sits there and Miranda stays right where she is. Afraid to even blink because Andrea thinks she's 'too goddamned hot for her own good' and apparently there are dreams that involve 'living happily ever after'.


After Miranda finally comes out of the bathroom, the day progresses rapidly. Things go wrong as they often do and there are a million tiny pieces of her magazine that need to be fixed. The good thing? Miranda might still feel utterly shameful for her inappropriate behavior this morning, and she knows that sooner or later she's got to apologize for it, but most of all she feels hopeful and that's what gets her through the day. And she feels renewed. Somehow, even though Andrea is less than her usual self, Miranda is renewed.

The day progressing rapidly, though, only means the night comes quickly too. Caroline, Cassidy and Cara are waiting for her to get home but for some reason, Miranda can't leave. The office is quiet. Emily is gone on some late errand. The office is quiet…

No other thought crosses Miranda's mind as she gets up and walks out of her office, only to see Andrea is nowhere in sight. But then she hears water running in the executive kitchen. Coming around Andrea's desk, Miranda looks on as Andrea washes the plate from lunch and a few glasses. Her cardigan is on the counter clear across the room.

It's an odd thing, considering all the evil deeds Miranda has done in her lifetime, but God has always answered her prayers. Before stepping into the kitchen she simply prays her hope will not be wasted. Miranda asks for no more and no less than that.

At the first sound of her heel touching the kitchen floor, Andrea turns her head slightly. "Hey, Emily, I can't believe you're ba—"

"It's just me," Miranda says as she goes over to the counter where that cardigan is. The sound of a dropped glass hitting the bottom of the sink barely reaches Miranda's ears.

"Oh," Andrea fiddles with the glass and sets it on the drying board. When she turns around her face is red again, like this morning and turns even redder when Miranda looks not at her breasts this time, but into her eyes. "Hi…I. Did you need something?" The tone of her voice is filled with embarrassment.

Miranda shakes her head even though it's a lie. She needs so many things right now there's no way to count them. Honestly, Miranda has no clear idea of what half those things even are. They're just all the things she's been missing for way too long. Right now, it is easy to see all of them are right here in front of her, but before she can even do anything about it, Miranda knows she has to apologize. She's not big on that sort of thing, obviously, but for Christ's sake, her eyes have caused a lot of problems today. And frankly, Andrea is worth the effort of making an apology.

Miranda takes the cardigan in her hand and holds it out a little. "You were cold today?" And that's got to be the weirdest question Miranda has ever asked anybody.

Andrea's face gets redder. There isn't a name for its shade at this point. "Yes," she shakes her head rather violently. "I was. Really cold."

Instead of playing some kind of game that could go on forever about whether Andrea had been cold, Miranda gets to the point. Anxiety is already beginning to set in and her hope is suffering for it. "You weren't cold, Andrea." Miranda says, looking down at what she holds because even though she wants to apologize, she's not used to it. Especially not under these circumstances. Especially not when so much is on the line. "I made you very uncomfortable today. And I apologize."

"What?" Andrea asks. She's trying to sound shocked and oblivious but fails as soon as the word leaves her mouth. "No… You didn't, Miranda." She chokes out a laugh and waves and hand. "It was just…nothing."

"Oh, but it's not 'nothing', Andrea." Miranda walks across the kitchen but before she can get close, Andrea turns around and starts drying dishes that are already dry. Behind her, Miranda smiles and even shakes her head. Andrea isn't going to get away from this. Not today. "Put that down, please." Miranda asks and Andrea slowly complies, all the while Miranda is moving closer and closer until she's close enough to put a hand in the center of Andrea's back. A shiver runs up her spine. "Your feelings are not 'nothing', Andrea." Miranda is practically whispering in her ear. "Allow me to apologize. And before you say it, no, your dress did not make me uncomfortable. You… in that dress… makes me uncomfortable, and it caused inappropriate things to occur here in this building."

Andrea turns around so fast it's a wonder she didn't fall over. There is no way to hold back the smirk that spreads across Miranda's face as Andrea's facial expression morphs into something devoid of sadness and embarrassment. Her smirk disappears a split second later though when Andrea shockingly turns the tables. "So if we weren't in this building, you staring at my breasts would be okay?" She looks Miranda right in the eye when she says this too and not only does her smirk disappear but Miranda nearly swallows her own tongue. Clearly this girl is not to be toyed with and Miranda hopes Andrea is going to be able to handle what she's about to get.

"Well," she says, tossing that cardigan onto the counter, "Outside might not be the best place for it either. But I'm more than confident that staring at your breasts in a more private venue could be considered appropriate and in all probability… even appreciated."

Both of Andrea's eyebrows raise and a few seconds pass by. Andrea does not speak though, but she does do something that causes Miranda's brain to resemble an inferno. In fact, Miranda's brain is so far gone that she doesn't even realize what's happened until it has happened. Andrea is holding her hand. And Miranda's hand is cupping Andrea's breast.

In the executive kitchen, Miranda is running her thumb across the fabric of a dress that is more sinful looking now than it has been all day. In the executive kitchen, Andrea is moving into her touch just a little as her nipple tightens, begging for more.

When Andrea drops her own hand away from Miranda's, Miranda does not let go. She does anything but let go, rolling that tighten nipple between two fingers, making Andrea arch into it and moan ever so quietly.

Her soft moan doesn't burn Miranda's brain up any further because it's already a pile of ash. It burns everything else though, and what is inappropriate for the Editor and Chief of Runway is lost for good.


It's a gigantic miracle they don't get caught by Emily. Only the fact that she is so prone to huffing and puffing when she comes back inside the office saves them.

As soon as their lips touched Andrea pushed Miranda against the small butcher-block counter in the middle of the kitchen and for twenty minutes they nearly suffocate each other. And make no mistake; Miranda's hands were busy the entire time, doing exactly what they'd been waiting to do all damn day.

Quiet sighs, moans and whimpers filled the kitchen until Emily burst through the outer office door. In what had to be warp speed Andrea turned back around and started washing dishes all over again. Meanwhile, Miranda stuck her head into the refrigerator to not only find something to drink but to cool off and straighten her blouse.

By the time Miranda emerges from her bathroom a little while later, where she'd gone to repair her makeup and down an entire bottle of Pellegrino in just a few swallows, Andrea is gone. This didn't necessarily worry Miranda because if Andrea had stuck around any longer, since Emily had returned, it would have appeared out character. Today is Thursday. Meaning Andrea doesn't have to wait for the Book. Meaning Andrea would normally leave any other time, so of course, she had to leave today. Meaning that they had absolutely no chance to talk about what has happened, ultimately leaving Miranda to start thinking about how inappropriate this entire day and evening has been. And how much she doesn't care anymore. Needless to say, Miranda no longer feels apologetic.

As she's busy not caring and gathering up the things she wants to take home, Miranda finds a hastily written note tucked inside a folder.

'You can say you weren't uncomfortable about the dress, but I am sorry. I put you in an awkward position, and that wasn't what I was trying to do. Well—I don't know what I was trying to do so never mind. Maybe I was trying to get your attention? Call me if you can. There's something else in the boxes besides candy. I hadn't planned on saying anything at all, but now you need to know.'

Miranda has no trouble believing Andrea had not intentionally meant to destroy Miranda's brain. She heard her tell Nigel that much and more. But this business about the boxes of candy throws Miranda for a loop. It reminds her of whenever the house becomes deadly silent. That is never a good thing and always means her children are probably doing something that will bring on a war once Miranda finds out about it. Like the time she caught them in her study—climbing the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Nobody was the same for a month after that and the girls still, to this day, run past her study when they go down the hall. But, really—how much damage can two little girls cause with a box of candy? There is only one way to find out. As soon as the elevator door opens out into the main lobby, Miranda dials Andrea's number.

"Hi," Miranda says, like a school girl calling somebody she has a crush on.

"Hi," Andrea says and it sounds the exact same way. "I was hoping you would call."

"Well, you asked me to."

"Right. I did."

"So?" Miranda asks as she slides into the waiting car, immediately raising the privacy screen.

"I seriously don't know how to tell you this."

Miranda rolls her eyes. "Just tell me. This can't be any worse than climbing my bookshelves."

"Climbing your bookshelves?"

"Yes. Don't ask. It still makes me incredibly angry."

"Okay… Okay," she says then pauses to clear her throat. "There was a note." Miranda purses her lips. A note? Maybe this could be as bad as the bookshelf thing? "It says—and this is verbatim—'In case Mom gets sick while we're gone on Friday here's some money. Don't tell anybody but she likes shrimp with some kind of spicy stuff the best and crab puffs. Lots of crab puffs. Like really, a lot of crab puffs. P.S. Happy Valentine's Day.' So are you planning on becoming ill tomorrow? Some kind of virus that's on a time-release? "

Miranda is speechless. Completely and totally speechless. And this isn't as bad as the bookshelf thing because it isn't even in the same category! This is far beyond climbing bookshelves or sliding down banisters or sneaking downstairs to play video-games in the middle of the night.

"Hello? Did you just die on me?"

"No." Miranda leans her head against the door of the car and closes her eyes. "If I didn't die this morning or in the kitchen, I'm safe for at least the rest of the night. I think."

"Okay. Good. I'm glad."

"I'm sure you are." Miranda opens her eyes then closes them again. The passing car lights are making her incredibly dizzy. "How much money did they give you?" She asks because knowing Caroline and Cassidy, there is at least a hundred dollars mixed in with all that candy.

"Oh, just a hundred dollars," Andrea answers playfully then laughs. "I'll give it back to you tomor—"

"Wait." Miranda interrupts her then starts digging around in her handbag. In seconds she realizes she's been robbed. They've robbed her. Her children. "Why those evil little… I've been robbed."

"Oh, boy. Well, you'll get it back tomorrow so no harm, right?"

"No, keep it. I feel ill as we speak." Miranda inhales deeply through her nose. "And the harmful aspect has yet to be decided."

"Yeah," Andrea says softly and Miranda can tell she's taking the 'harmful aspect' to mean something else.

"I meant what I said, Andrea. Keep the money. By the time I get home tomorrow night, I might have the measles or something… And I do like crab puffs. And the shrimp with spicy garlic sauce." Miranda hears an immediate sigh of relief on the other end of the phone.

"Call me then, if you end up with the measles. But there's a chance I might forget the food…"

The pile of ash that is Miranda's brain ignites again. Andrea can forget all about the food. Miranda wouldn't give a damn. And since she couldn't care less, Miranda says, "I doubt I'd notice."

"I doubt you would either. But you'd have plenty to stare at at least."

"Yes," Miranda almost chokes then crosses her legs without even realizing it. Pretty soon her phone is going to melt. She's sure of it. "And the townhouse would certainly be a more appropriate venue for such things."

"True… I can't believe we're talking about this on the phone."

"Well, we are and as I recall, you said you couldn't stop thinking about me." That's just one of the many things Miranda was told while they were making out in the kitchen. "And I must say—no one has ever told me that before."

"Okay, we have to stop. My phone is melting."

"No more than mine."

"I don't want to argue about whose phone is melting the fastest right now."

Miranda shifts around in her seat and swallows hard. "What do you want to do?"

"If I tell you now, my phone really will melt."

"Pity."

"You can say that again," Andrea says, sounding completely flustered and moves on, turning their conversation toward something much more appropriate and definitely more important because truly, Caroline and Cassidy are more important than the issue of their phones melting. "The girls are trying to set us up."

Nodding to no one but herself, Miranda agrees. "I know. I'd say it's obvious."

"And how do you feel about that?"

"I feel… I feel…" Well, how did she feel? Even though it was hard to focus on anything besides the prospect being allowed to stare at Andrea's breasts—while suffering from the measles—and a lot of other things, Miranda knew she had to take this seriously. She wanted to take this seriously. She wanted this. All these feelings, she wanted them. She needed them. "Andrea, I can't stop thinking about you. That's how I feel. I can't stop thinking about you and I don't want to stop thinking about you. Between the girls and you, I care less and less for what is appropriate." Miranda breathed a heavy sigh as a truth she'd been denying for years, broke through. "Andrea, I will only be the Editor and Chief of Runway for so long. It's foolish to think otherwise or live my life as if that's all there will ever be… Because that's not true. I've just never been able to admit it." Miranda pursed her lips because this was as hard as trying to apologize for something. "Or even think it," she continues. "But I need more than the life I've built for myself. It's not enough. But I think that you could be."

"We need to slow down," Andrea says right away. This isn't at all what Miranda wants or expects to hear but that thought vanishes in the next second. "Tomorrow night," Andrea continues in a tone that Miranda has never heard before, "when you are sitting at home with the measles, I don't want to come over and act like an idiot. I can do that later… But tomorrow night I want to take my time. I want us to take our time with each other because Miranda, I don't just think it. I already know that you are more than enough for me. I already know… And if I had my way, Caroline and Cassidy would have sinus infections for the rest of their lives."

 

Part Three

Miranda reactivates her account and spends the night reading more of Arianna Huffington's idiotic blog, making snide remarks about all the articles in the comment sections. Thank God for user-names that don't have to make any sense because there are more than enough useless things in here to keep her occupied. And Caroline is here too, taking up more than half the bed due to a nightmare about who knows what. Miranda cannot remember; so many other things have a tight grip on her mind.

She isn't sure how in the hell she's supposed to go to work tomorrow, knowing what their plans are. Andrea is coming over. Without food. And Miranda won't be suffering from the measles. She won't be suffering from anything but an aching desire to touch the person she will not be able to touch all day long. There's no telling what exactly they will do when Andrea arrives. No specific plans were made but whatever happens, it will happen slowly and Miranda won't be surprised at all if Andrea ends up dictating the order of events for the entire night.

Andrea sounded so serious on the phone. She already knows what she wants and who. Sadly, this is hard for Miranda to believe. When has Miranda ever been enough for someone? How is she supposed to believe Andrea? The answer still eludes Miranda as she sits here in the dark with her laptop and her daughter who has just figured out a way to kick her clear across this king size bed that is growing smaller by the second. She will probably end up on the floor before the night is over. It wouldn't be the first time this has happened. Depending on what book they've read or movie they've watched, Miranda is kicked out of her bed on a regular basis by her children. For a split second she wonders if Andrea would mind experiencing that, then immediately goes back to wondering how she could ever be enough.

How is Miranda enough? Really, it makes no sense and she even told Andrea that. Which was probably a bad idea, but she couldn't help it. Instead of being offended though, Andrea simply repeated herself and sounded as if she had expected Miranda to be disbelieving. She had expected Miranda to have a low opinion of her own value to someone else personally. The truth of it almost hurts, that Andrea knows her so well. Somehow she has figured Miranda out, or for the most part. There are naturally always going to be things to learn about someone as time goes by, but Andrea has outdone herself. She's solved quite a few puzzles without Miranda even knowing she'd presented them to Andrea in the first place.

Realizing this scares Miranda half to death because to believe that she is in fact enough—means she will have to trust Andrea. And trusting Andrea means there won't be any room for lies. Miranda won't be able to skirt around issues, make excuses, and use the cover of being a royal bitch to hide the fact that she is sometimes hurt or angry about things that have absolutely nothing to do with work. Things that she normally would never bring up out of fear and embarrassment. Trusting Andrea means that Miranda will have to be open and that is something Miranda has never tried before.

Before she can look for posts on how to trust someone on Arianna's idiotic blog, Caroline rolls over once, twice and is then plastered to Miranda's side. She takes this as her cue and carefully leans over, laying the laptop on the floor, and this time—Miranda remembers to take off her glasses.

Caroline scoots around until she is comfortable, giving no thought at all to the fact that the blood flow to Miranda's left arm will probably never be the same after this. Miranda simply gives into it, knowing that if she moves, Caroline will just follow her.

Sleep almost claims Miranda. Thinking of putting her arms around Andrea at the end of tomorrow eases some of her panic and makes it possible. But, of course, her child pulls her from the possibility of sleep seconds later.

"Mom?"

Miranda can instantly tell that Caroline is miles away and probably has no idea what she is saying. "Yes, Caroline?" She answers her daughter in a tired way, hoping she'll fall back to sleep soon.

"Happy Valentine's Day." Caroline says. Her words are barely audible.

Sighing, Miranda pushes away the fact that her children are thieves and trouble makers. She never did confront them about the money or the note when she came home. And they didn't ask her a single time if she actually gave the candy to Andrea. How smart of them.

"Happy Valentine's Day, darling."

"Love you."

"I love you too, Caroline."

"You gave the candy to her, right?" Caroline asks, suddenly sounding very, very awake.

Sighing again, Miranda says, "Yes. Yes, I did."

"She liked it?"

"She did and said to tell you thank you."

"Cool. Are you feeling sick? You feel warm."

Instead of sighing Miranda starts laughing because, no, she isn't warm. She's actually freezing because she forgot to turn the heater up before getting into bed. This, coming from her daughter, is just too much. And it is certainly too much to run from at two o'clock in the morning. "I feel fine, Caroline. No measles here."

"Huh?" Caroline starts to sit up but Miranda keeps her in place with her half-dead left arm.

"Nothing…nothing. It was a joke. But if it makes you feel any better, Andrea is coming over tomorrow after work." Caroline freezes, no doubt afraid of having to live with Nigel because she's a thief. "Yes, I found out about the note. And the money. But you and your sister are not in trouble."

Caroline lets out the biggest sigh Miranda has ever heard. "Oh, good."

"Yes, I thought you might say that."

Minutes pass and Miranda begins to think Caroline might be drifting off again but she can tell by the girls breathing that she's still wide awake. Since they've come this far, she decides to ask a question that truly does need to be answered at some point. There's no time like the present.

"Caroline?"

"Hm?"

"Why?" Miranda asks no more than that because Caroline has more than proved she is anything but stupid.

Since Caroline is not stupid, Miranda receives an answer that will render good ol' HuffPost completely useless when it comes to looking for some numbered list on what exactly Miranda should be doing with her life or some other nonsense.

"Because, Mom." Caroline whispers in Miranda's ear. "You asked Andy to stay. You didn't ask Daddy to stay. You didn't ask Stephen to stay. But you asked Andy to stay. And she stayed. So we just figured… You know?"

Stay. Her daughters see more in one word than Miranda could have ever imagined and they are, without a doubt, correct in their assumption. Everything is connected to one word. Stay. That night, when Miranda came into her house to see Andrea sitting there, that one word was all she could think of. It was the only thing her mouth would allow her to say. The one thing she'd never asked of anyone before.

Logically speaking, if Miranda can do that, then she can trust. She can learn. But what if she fails? What then? Her daughters will just lose another person in their lives; Miranda will have failed them yet again.

Without thinking first, Miranda says, "But what if I can't do this?"

Caroline apparently has already dozed off again but wakes up just enough to answer her mother. Her answer is to fling her arm upward and what is supposed to be a pat on the head, ends up being more like a slap in the eye. Luckily, Miranda has plenty experience at being beaten up by her children in the middle of the night and just brushes Caroline's hand away without a word.

Not to be held back, Caroline finds the top of Miranda's head eventually and manages, thankfully, to pat it gently. "You can. You're the best, Mom. Besides, you like her lots. It'll be okay. Can I go back to sleep now? I have a party later…"

Miranda wants to laugh again but a sense of renewal that is stronger than anything she has ever felt before pushes through her and keeps her still. All Miranda can manage is to kiss Caroline on the head and allow her daughter—who is a genius—to go back to sleep.


The next morning, Miranda hears not another word about Andrea from Caroline; she is too invested in packing up all her Valentine's Day gifts for her classmates. That's definitely Caroline's specialty: gift giving. She'll probably grow up to be a professional shopper for millionaires all over New York City one day. Her ideas are almost always perfect…and expensive. Either that or she'll end up as one of those girls on QVC who do nothing all day but talk about perfect and expensive things that no one should be without.

Cassidy on the other hand does have time to say something, but not to Miranda's face. Even though she's just twelve, Cassidy's preferred method of communication is through emails, especially when it comes to stating her opinion about something. They are, at times, quite lengthy and a little repetitive, but Miranda reads each one and replies immediately. And to be honest, the letters are more like little public relations campaigns than anything else. She'll either grow up to take Leslie's job or worse, become a campaign manager for some poor fool that wants to run for President. None of these career paths are what Miranda ever wished for her daughters, but it is what it is. So long as they are happy and don't become lawyers, who is she to argue?

On the way to Elias-Clarke Miranda reads through the email.

Mom,

I made the boxes and I wrote the note, but I did not buy the candy or steal the money out of your bag. I repeat – I did not take the money. Seriously, I didn't. In fact, I don't even know anything about it. It was all Caroline's idea therefore I am an innocent bystander who should not be punished, yelled at, threaten with death or a possible change in living arrangements. Even though you won't let me paint my room neon green—I do like living here. The following is a list of things that you should really think about NOT doing and a few that you SHOULD do. Please read over them carefully.

Do not be mean to Andy today. That will blow up in your face. Just be mean to Emily instead. Make her eat something. She'll go totally nuts and you'll feel better.

Do not eat too many crab puffs in front of Andy if you have Chinese food later. It might scare her. She's probably never seen you eat. How would I know?

Do not play with your phone. It will make her feel like you're still working instead of hanging out.

Do not talk about work. Andy already knows what you do. And you already know what she does because you tell her what to do.

Do not boss her around. You're not at work.

Do not dress like you're going to work.

Do not ask about her old boyfriend. He is stupid. That's all you need to know.

Do not talk about Daddy or Stephen because she already knows that Daddy and Stephen are stupid.

Do not get mad because I said Daddy is stupid.

Say funny stuff. She likes to laugh. A lot.

She likes to read. A lot. So talking about books is okay.

This should be at the top of the list: Open the door for her. She is not working. She's coming over to hang out and it would really suck if you make her use the stupid key.

Okay, I don't have anything else to say besides—don't eat too many crab puffs. You tend to overdo it but don't worry. Your secret is safe with me but I might think about telling the entire world soon if you don't get my room painted. Seriously. Neon green. This is not a joke.

Cassidy,

Your favorite and perfect child.

P.S. Happy Valentine's Day

Miranda's only reply is that she will do her best to follow all of her daughter's instructions but she doesn't say a word about the paint. That is not happening.

She reads Cassidy's email three more times on the way and knows she'll really have to give some thought to her wardrobe. That had not occurred to her at all. What does one wear when they are 'hanging out'? Because that's apparently what Cassidy thinks they are going to be doing, hanging out. Maybe they will. Maybe they wouldn't. And opening the door. That had not occurred to her either. But by far, the hardest thing on the list will probably be the job of making Andrea laugh. Miranda never tries to make people laugh. Whenever it happens it's more than likely an accident because her sense of humor is either dry or nonexistent.

It's clear this list is going to take some serious work and today is definitely going to be a long day. Miranda is sure of it.

Being met in the lobby of Elias-Clarke by Andrea, surprises her. She'd not expected that and prays to God her face has a somewhat neutral expression on it. And thank God there's a far more conservative dress today. If there hadn't been Miranda might have died right here and almost does anyway because of stopping right in the middle of a hundred people rushing about, trying to get to their jobs. Finally she is able to move though.

Together they enter the elevator. There is obviously no need to take separate ones today…or ever again. When the door closes Miranda says, "Good morning," and looks straight ahead, determined that her eyes will be on their best behavior, no matter if Andrea has dressed more conservatively or not.

"Morning," Andrea presses the button since Miranda has completely forgotten to. "You okay? You didn't kill them, did you?"

"No. I did not. But I did ask Caroline why… At two o'clock in the morning."

Andrea turns to look at her. "Why what? And why at two in the morning?"

"Nightmares. She had a nightmare." Miranda feels like she's close to skipping around in a thousand different directions as the numbers ding off one by one. For some reason she can't focus. It's probably because she wants to kiss Andrea and that really isn't a good idea. Not here. "Caroline said it was because I asked you to stay." Miranda can feel her chest burning. "To stay that night. She said I'd never done that before. Not just with you…but anyone else." She's quick to stop herself from saying the names Greg or Stephen because Cassidy told her that was a bad idea. "And apparently they thought it meant something."

Andrea shrugs and smiles weakly. "I was surprised. It made me a little hopeful, I guess. But then I felt stupid and figured it just meant not--"

"I'm quickly realizing," Miranda stops her. "That I do not like it at all when you believe your feelings or emotions are stupid or nothing, Andrea. I wish you wouldn't, because they do mean a great deal me." Miranda breathes in deep and nods to her like this is something she should already know.

And the truth is, Andrea probably does know it—even in this very short amount of time—but might have just as much trouble believing anyone could feel that way about her as Miranda does. That thought is a little startling and now Miranda knows she's got something else to work on besides Cassidy's list of advice. She's got to get Andrea to trust her.

"I'll work on that, okay?" Andrea frowns and that's the last thing Miranda wants to see so she changes the subject.

"What time are you coming over?"

Andrea smiles again right away and Miranda's stomach flips. "That really depends on when you go home sick with the measles or something," she laughs.

"Having actually experienced that as a child, I don't plan on going through it again—so I'll leave at six. Spot free."

"I have a hard time imagining you with spots," she laughs again and Miranda feels like reporting back to Cassidy that she has succeeded twice thus far in making Andrea laugh, and it's not even nine o'clock yet.

To cover her excitement over such a silly thing, Miranda says, "Don't bother. I was miserable."

"And there was no Chinese food, was there?"

"None." Miranda glances at the numbers. They are almost to their destination and she decides to change the subject again. "I'll have breakfast today. And lunch. That salad I like from Novrosky's, but tell them to put the dressing on the side. If it's left up to them, they're liable to drown it."

"Got it. What about dinner? I can bring food, you know."

Now it's Miranda that turns bright red. In all reality they should eat. Andrea said she wanted to slow down, didn't she? Then she could act like an idiot later, didn't she? And Miranda knows exactly what kind of an idiot Andrea was referring to… But really, she wants nothing more than to act like a complete fool and jump right into bed with this girl as soon as she comes into house. Which is awful and shameful and a million other things. But it's important to Andrea that they slow down, so Miranda better slow down.

"Fine. Yes. Bring food. I… Yes, that's fine."

"Hey, Miranda?" Andrea's voice is so soft Miranda can't help but look at her. "Everything is going to be okay. No matter what happens, it'll be enough for me. I just wanted you to know…I don't want to make you uncomfortable tonight. Or even today."

Miranda's heart and stomach are just a mess and everything else hurts too because she's not allowed to make a single move. The doors are about to open. She is thirty seconds away from having to be Editor and Chief of Runway. But this doesn't mean the entire thirty seconds has to be wasted. Miranda can, at the very least, open her mouth.

With a completely honest and tender look on her face, she says, "I know that Andrea. And you do not make me uncomfortable. Feeling the way I do, in this elevator, in this building, and not being able to do a single thing about it—makes me uncomfortable. As for tonight…" Miranda reaches out and touches Andrea's arm. It is burning up. "I can't even imagine feeling anything that remotely resembles the word."


There's hardly a way to describe how the day goes other than to say that Miranda's eyes behave, she is nice to Andrea, and Emily is forced to eat a steak for lunch and suck down two very fattening Frappuccino's from Starbucks afterwards.

That's not to say Miranda's brain isn't working overtime though, thinking about tonight and what would or would not happen. Andrea's words keep repeating in her head over and over. 'No matter what happens, it'll be enough for me.' Meaning they can essentially play a game of Scrabble and Andrea will be satisfied? Miranda supposes so. That's certainly how she made it sound, like it didn't matter. Like nothing mattered but that they spend time together.

Though part of Miranda has a really, really good feeling that they probably will not end the evening playing Scrabble and falling asleep on the couch, this does make her panic a little. But seriously, hasn't Miranda been panicking since those little boxes of candy were handed to her? So perhaps this is more like a fearful anticipation than panic—if there is such a thing.

In Miranda's prior relationships everything was built around an idea, a plan, and a lot of expectations…a goal of some kind. Andrea really doesn't seem to have any of those things accept to just spend time together. Which is a little peculiar and—Miranda can't believe she is about to acknowledge this—a little romantic. People do not normally want to spend time with her, and Miranda normally doesn't want to spend time with anyone either. But time is exactly what Andrea wants. In whatever way it comes, Andrea only wants time. Time that is not uncomfortable. Time that is not spent making Miranda feel as though is she under any pressure of any kind. Time is simply enough. And who is Miranda to refuse? If Andrea wants to eat Chinese food and play Scrabble, then that is exactly what Miranda will do. That is if they still have Scrabble. The girls might have lost all the letters by now or Patricia might have chewed her way through half the board. Oh, well. She'll just have to go home and find out. If all else fails, there's always the Wii.

By four-thirty a change is evident in Andrea. All day long she has acted as if today is just any other day but not now. Something is wrong now. Well that's a poor choice in words. Something isn't wrong. It's that something needs to be said that cannot be said here. Miranda can tell just by watching her type away at her desk; Andrea is having some kind of internal fit over words she can't say.

A short time later Miranda is locked inside a conference room with a table full of people and she couldn't care less about what they have to say. And it's not just because everything they've got to say is boring and the same old same old. This conference room lacks the presence of what Miranda really cares about and it's practically eating a hole in her gut.

It's a good thing this room is made of nothing but glass because Andrea happens to walk by about the time Miranda starts to think about firing everyone simply because they are keeping her here for no good reason.

Andrea probably doesn't make it two steps past the conferences room before Miranda ends the meeting. It's not as if anything was being accomplished anyway. She has better things to do with her time and so does everyone else or the April issue will be completely empty. Of course, their mouths are all hanging open as Miranda simply says, "We're done here. That's all," and gets up to leave.

The only problem is that Miranda hasn't a clue as to where Andrea went but it doesn't matter. Miranda will find her one way or other and it doesn't take her long. Another problem arises though because it just so happens that she is in Nigel's office and it is yet another room with glass walls. Who thought glass, glass and more glass was ever a good idea? Oh. That's right. Miranda. About fifteen years ago. She wanted to be able to see what everyone was up too. How stupid.

Standing in Nigel's doorway, she hears them trying to coordinate things for an upcoming shoot so there are no conflicting meetings or events to muck things up. At least this is a conversation Miranda can hear without having her brain catch fire.

"Nigel," she says still standing in the doorway. Miranda knows if she goes inside she might very well get distract by all the choices for the next cover that are spread out on Nigel's wall. There isn't time for that today.

Andrea and Nigel both jump to attention with wide eyes because Miranda should still be in a meeting for about thirty more minutes.

"Uh, yes Miranda?" He replies, still looking perplexed.

"I'm going through the Closet to select a few things for the run-through on Monday." And this has got to be the weirdest thing Miranda has every said to him. "Andrea, come along. I need you to take notes." After that she just leaves, not giving either of them the chance to look at her like she's crazy.

They make their way silently to the Closet and by some miracle, are not stopped a million times by people with desks, ladders, or paint buckets. Without a single care in the world about how odd this is going to be, she kicks everyone out and closes the door. And Miranda knows they won't be interrupted. Enough people saw her close the door and nobody ever follows Miranda Priestly through a closed door.

Before she even turns around, Miranda says, "What's the matter?"

"Nothing." Andrea says, and is obviously telling the biggest lie imaginable.

"Don't say that." Miranda turns finally and they stare at one another, about mile apart, in the middle of a bunch of couture that on any other day would have Miranda's full attention. Now someone else has her full attention and it's scary and thrilling all at the same time. "I can see that something is," she says.

"It's nothing. Really." Andrea shakes her head and Miranda is reminded that they're both alike in this. Both insecure. Just because Andrea knows what she wants and who is enough for her, does not mean she's all that confident about receiving it.

Instead of going in a circle, Miranda comes to a decision. She will not wait until the end of the day to hold this woman in her arms. There's no point in it. The funny thing is that when she starts to step forward, Andrea steps back. Being offended by such a move doesn't stop her. Miranda will get what she wants and does finally after taking two more steps to catch up. Still saying nothing, she simply wraps an arm around Andrea's neck and one around her waist. Instantly she feels Andrea let out a sigh and the tension Miranda could sense in her a few seconds ago, disappears.

Tightening her hold, Miranda just waits and wonders at the realization that this is easier than she thought it would be, because just like making people laugh, Miranda doesn't hug anyone unless they are named Caroline and Cassidy.

"I know I said I wanted to slow down." Andrea says quietly and Miranda's heart starts to race, knowing there is a 'but' in whatever Andrea is about to say next. "And that I didn't want to make you feel uncomfortable and or anything like that but I just…"

It's highly likely that Andrea has no idea she isn't talking anymore. Miranda shut her up about three seconds ago. Soon Miranda will have to learn to be a better listener but for the time being, she's pretty horrible at it and doesn't mind a bit. The way Andrea's fingers dig into her back, tells Miranda that it doesn't matter anyway.

"I'm still not uncomfortable," Miranda murmurs against Andrea's lips as they come up for a little air.

Andrea doesn't let her say anything and Miranda's brain catches fire again because this is unbelievable. Kissing her. Like this. Being capable of having such tremendous focus toward someone in this way is just unbelievable. It's never been like this before. Getting lost. Miranda's never been lost in someone else, but she is now. And the more they kiss, the deeper they go and the tighter they hold one another, the less likely it is that Miranda will ever be found again. Or at least the Miranda that was before this. Before kissing Andrea.

The sighs, moans and quiet little whimpers that Miranda is able to pull from Andrea, cause her to stop thinking about being lost and to start thinking about wanting more. She wants Andrea. She desperately wants to turn those little whimpers into… Something. Something loud. A sound full of emotion. A sound that fills every square inch of Miranda's house and her soul.

Miranda's hand finds Andrea's breast and she runs her thumb over just the right spot. Andrea gasps and pulls her mouth away to lean her forehead against Miranda's. She doesn't stop, Miranda is not stupid. It took her very little time yesterday to realize this is a sure way to drive Andrea crazy. And she can't wait to try it with the absence of fabric. And pinching…and pulling…and using her tongue to feel and taste Andrea's soft skin...anything really that involves Andrea's breasts, Miranda wants to try it all.

Breathing in and out heavily through her nose, Andrea gasps. "Stop." She pulls her head away. "Please…it's too much. Here. It's too much."

Miranda stops immediately and goes back to just holding her. She refuses to misbehave and instead asks a question. "If I'm still not uncomfortable, what are you afraid of?"

"I just… Miranda, please don't misunderstand me. I don't care what happens tonight. But I..." Andrea stops herself from saying what she wants but Miranda waits. She will not ask again or become a bitch about it. She has to trust that Andrea will finally tell her. And eventually, she does. "I want to stay with you tonight. No matter what, I want to stay with you tonight."

Well this is too funny. "Andrea," Miranda looks at her and is completely confused. "I thought you were." The thought of her not staying the night had never been something Miranda bothered to imagine. "No matter the circumstances, I was under the impression that you would…"

"Oh!" Andrea's grin and now red face is close to blinding. "You did?"

"You didn't? You hadn't planned on it? Our phones nearly melted last night." Miranda points out. "And if time with me is enough…"

Andrea kisses her on the mouth over and over. "It is. It is," she says in between kisses. "I just didn't want you to be freaked out because I wanted to stay."

"I'm not. And I want you to stay, Andrea." Miranda smiles and feels renewed. "I want you to say."

 

Part Four

By the time Miranda gets home it is nearly seven-thirty. Leaving work at six did not happen exactly as planned and then there was traffic, always traffic. And maybe it was just her but Roy seemed to drive at a more than glacial pace. Never mind that things were bumper to bumper most of the way. What difference did that make in anything?

And she can't find Cassidy's email. Somehow her phone has eaten it which means Miranda's got to take up precious time logging onto her laptop to see if she can find it in the trash, because hell if she can figure out how to do that on her phone.

Patricia meets her at the door and Miranda can tell right away that her dog knows something is up. There is no time to pat her head or rub her belly or ask her how her day went, because yes, Miranda normally does those things. She talks to Patricia like she's a human; a very lazy human who contributes absolutely nothing to the household, and costs a fortune to feed and pamper. But there is no time for chitchat right now.

Tossing her coat into the closet, not even caring if it actually stays on the hanger once she shoves it in, Miranda runs upstairs to her study to figure out where that email went. She needs it desperately because she's already forgotten most of what was on it. And she's got to find the Scrabble game because what if in some bizarre plot twist—Andrea really does wants to play Scrabble and it's not readily available? How horrifying would that be?

"Oh, thank you God," Miranda sighs and lays her head on her desk for a second. The email has survived. Quickly she prints it off then heads downstairs towards the living room. Meanwhile, Patricia follows her every move, still waiting to be acknowledged. And it's a long wait since the cabinet where all the board games are held is anything but organized.

The Scrabble game is finally located but unlike Cassidy's email—it has not survived. Aren't there supposed to be more than three A's? "Did you eat them?" Miranda looks at Patricia who is beside her on the floor still waiting. There is no answer so Miranda asks again. "I'm serious. Did you eat them?" There is still no answer and Miranda swears Patricia rolls her eyes. "Fine then," Miranda gets up and carries the game to the kitchen to throw it away. "Don't come crying to me the next time you need to go to the vet for an x-ray because you've eaten something you shouldn't have. I don't want to hear about it." At that, Patricia has the nerve to bark then follows Miranda around some more while she straightens up the living room because it is a mess.

Evidence of Caroline's rush to wrap and pack all her little gifts is everywhere and of course Cara was given the day off since the twins were going directly to a party, then Amber's house. But it's not as if Andrea has not seen this room before, so what is the problem? This is where Miranda found her wrapped up on the couch with two sick little girls and a bunch of empty takeout boxes. Andrea knows that the downstairs portion of the house doesn't resemble a museum anymore these days. She's probably guessed that since there is no one else to complain about it, Miranda and her daughters have turned the place into something more comfortable. Lived in—is the popular phrase, isn't it? So what is the problem?

The problem is that Miranda is searching for a distraction and this really isn't cutting it. The house is clean because someone else does it—never mind Caroline's mess—so that right there tells Miranda she is just plain desperate for time to go by. Andrea will be here in about an hour and there is nothing to do but get dressed.

Well now there's a problem. Getting dressed.

Miranda rushes back upstairs to her study and goes over Cassidy's list. 'Do not dress like you're going to work.' Oh, boy. Miranda and Patricia go down the hall to Miranda's bedroom and neither of them has any idea of what to do, even though this isn't that hard at all. It's just changing clothes and considering what profession Miranda is in, she should be able to do that without help for God's sake.

But Andrea won't have had time to change… So should Miranda even bother? Cassidy should have given clearer instructions. "I am going crazy," she mumbles to herself only to have Patricia bark at her again. "Your opinion was not requested," Miranda tells her and finally gives in and allows time for the good-for-nothing dog to get her belly rubbed and to have their usual evening chat.

Come to find out—Patricia didn't do a thing today except sleep and watch MSNCB, which is exactly what Miranda expected. She tries to tell Patricia about her day but when she gets to the part about the Closet, Miranda figures it's not necessarily something Patricia would care to hear about, so she drops it.

Eventually Miranda does in fact change. It's simple, what she would normally wear on a weekend that isn't cluttered with work she can't accomplish at home. In fact, Andrea has seen her in just this kind of thing once before. Of course it's not the same sweater, but its close. The slacks are nearly the same too. Both are some of Miranda's favorite items, being very forgiving and definitely not clingy. Maybe Cassidy was really on to something here because instantly Miranda feels better, calmer, especially after she brushes all the hairspray out of her hair. Really, she needs to cut down on that. Left on its own, her hair, after all these years, knows what to do without the help of hairspray or much else. That should have probably been obvious to Miranda a long time ago.

The calm doesn't last. The more time Miranda spends in her bedroom, the more she starts to think about other things. Things that could get her eyes and hands into trouble before it's time. Even though she shouldn't be thinking about that right now, it's no surprise to Miranda that she is thinking—period. Thinking about something that is not Runway or even her children. She's been doing that a lot lately, hasn't she? Right here in this room when the lights are off, and its two o'clock in the morning, the last thing on Miranda's mind is Runway and Arianna Huffington's blog has just been an excuse.

Now the lights are on; it's hardly two in the morning, and good ol' HuffPost is nowhere in sight. Yet, Runway is still missing. It has no place in this room or this house. Finally, a distraction has been found that is reliable, constant and the perfect cure. And she thinks that Miranda is enough. Finally, Miranda is enough.

And speaking of being a distraction, sitting here just thinking about Andrea gets Miranda into trouble anyway because someone—that isn't Miranda or Patricia—is downstairs. "Well, shit." Miranda sighs and internalizes a scream because Cassidy is probably getting her room painted now. She's failed at what was the most important thing on the list: opening the door.

Patricia takes off ahead of her, but Miranda forces herself to go slow since she's not quite done beating herself up about it. "You had one job, Miranda. One job…" Before she can continue on about being such a failure, Andrea's voice catches her by surprise because it's pretty obvious now that Miranda isn't the only one that talks to herself around here.

"Oh, my God…" Andrea says, head first in the coat closet. Her handbag, the food and what looks like an overnight bag is on the floor. Miranda really has no idea what is going on besides the fact that her chest is burning, but when Andrea stands up straight and Miranda can finally see what's in her hands, she smiles. Her coat, Miranda's coat that was no doubt on the floor, Andrea is hanging it back up. "She can't even hang up a coat by herself. No wonder…" Andrea keeps mumbling about how hopeless Miranda is and Miranda keeps watching her from the third step. Once she's gotten Miranda's coat properly put away, Andrea takes off her own and hangs it up and of course it doesn't fall off the hanger when she closes the door. And of course, somehow Andrea found the time to change clothes and looks about as comfortable as Miranda does. The only difference is that while her pants aren't too clingy, it's obvious that her top is, and even though Andrea still hasn't turned around yet, Miranda's brain starts to burn inside her skull.

"First you say I'm too goddamned hot for my own fucking good, and now I'm hopeless?" How Miranda manages to say that with a straight face is unexplainable.

Andrea turns around so fast it's a wonder she does fall right over. "You heard that!"

"That I'm hopeless?" Miranda smirks and tries to walk down the last few steps without falling down because just as she'd suspected, Andrea's top is certainly revealing some very nice things indeed.

Andrea smirks back but not in a funny way. "No. The other thing. You heard?"

"Obviously."

"This is just embarrassing…"

"It's not." Miranda forces herself to look up instead of at Andrea's breasts but doesn't hesitate to put her arms around her when she gets close. "It's just another thing no one has ever told me."

"Technically, I haven't yet." Andrea kisses her on the cheek then the mouth softly, just barely allowing Miranda to kiss her back before she pulls away. "But yes, you are hot and hopeless all at the same time."

"I suppose I should be honored."

"That I think you're hopeless?"

"No." Miranda shakes her head at this girl that is making her much too happy with ridiculous chatter. "That you think I'm hot. Which, by the way, isn't the truth at all. I'm far from it."

"I don't want to argue about how hot you are, Miranda." Andrea laughs and Miranda marks it down on the mental scorecard she's been keeping in her head all day. "But," she looks at Miranda seriously. "I would like to go back outside so you can open the door. Otherwise, Cassidy will kill me. I forgot to ring the doorbell."

Well this is too funny. "Oh, so I can blame it on you and I don't have to paint her room? This is the best news. I'm thrilled."

"You got an email too?" Andrea asks as they go back toward the door.

"First thing this morning." Miranda opens the door; Andrea goes through and shuts it. The bell rings immediately and Miranda opens it right back up again. "Hello," she says, hardly believing they're doing this, but thankful for it anyway because there is no way anybody is getting neon green walls in this house if she can help it.

"Hi. That really was horrible of me, to just use the key." Andrea kisses her again after shutting the door again. "I'm sorry."

"It's not as if I didn't know you were coming, Andrea." Miranda stops there because she's not supposed to talk about work, and the key Andrea possesses is specifically tied to just that—work. "What else did she say?"

"Basically that I shouldn't play with my phone, talk about work, talk about certain individuals, or be afraid if you eat ten crab puffs in front of me."

Miranda sighs and takes Andrea by the arm as they carry the bags of takeout to the kitchen. "I guess I'll only have three crab puffs then, instead of ten. She is so mean."

"I know, right? Takes the fun out of everything, doesn't she?"

"She does. Here, set the food on the bar I suppose… We don't really use the dining room."

"Good. I had a scary picture of us in my mind, sitting at some enormous table a hundred feet apart."

"That's doubtful." Miranda brings plates and glasses over then takes Andrea by the arm again to stop her from all the unpacking. "I haven't really been able to handle distance today."

"No, you haven't." Andrea wraps her arms around Miranda's neck. "Let's see… You chased me down, made me go take notes in the closet…"

"I don't recall," Miranda kisses her neck, "that you actually took any notes though."

Moving a hand into Miranda's hair, she says, "Miranda, even when I don't have a pen and paper, I'm taking notes. A lot of notes."

"Such as?"

"Lately, notes on your facial expressions."

"I thought you'd have gotten all those down a long time ago." Miranda rolls her eyes.

Andrea kisses her then and this time it's just as soft, but not over nearly as quick. This time it lasts and creates a slow burning fire in Miranda's head that feels absolutely incredible. But in spite of how incredible everything feels, she tries to behave, truly she does. She tries, while doing all sorts of things with her mouth that make Andrea moan and especially whimper, Miranda tries to make her hands behave but ultimately she fails. And ultimately, it's not long before Andrea pulls away from her. Without saying a single word in protest, Miranda opens a bottle of wine then sits down at the bar, refusing to go any further or faster than she is allowed.

And then out of nowhere, Andrea says, "You're mad."

For a moment Miranda doesn't know what to say because she doesn't even know what Andrea means… Mad? "What are you talking about?" Miranda asks finally, trying to sound like she's not scared out of her mind

"That I pulled away," Andrea sighs as she sits down on a bar stool across from Miranda.

Grabbing a set of chopsticks, she starts to dig into a container of sesame chicken, not caring about plates and it doesn't take Miranda but a few seconds to remember that Andrea is the one scared out of her mind. She remembers that Andrea is the constant and reliable one. Andrea knows what and who she wants. But none of those things mean that Andrea trusts. None of those things mean Andrea doesn't suspect that the slightest thing could ruin all of what has barely started.

"Did you get that from my facial expression?" Miranda asks as she goes for the container of spicy shrimp and a bag of crab puffs. "Because if you did," she points at Andrea with a chopstick, "you got it wrong. You have done nothing. I, on the other hand, cannot seem to…control myself."

"But it's not that I mind," a blush slowly develops from Andrea neck all the way to her cheeks and Miranda's stomach tightens just from the sight of it. "It's just that I…" Again, Andrea stops herself from saying whatever it is that she wants to say.

Miranda reaches across the table for Andrea's hand and she receives it with a reluctance that saddens her but strengthens her resolve at the same time. And it's certainly not lost on Miranda that she has never had this kind of conversation with anyone before. Nevertheless, she is up for the challenge. Andrea is worth it.

"Andrea, perhaps you need to be told that it doesn't matter what happens tonight. It truly doesn't. You're so intent on making sure that I am not uncomfortable or feel pressured, yet I've made no mention of the fact that I don't wish you to experience those feelings either. I'll even go so far as to say that if you wanted nothing more than to play Scrabble all night, that would be enough. It would be enough, Andrea. The level of my satisfaction is not dependent upon the activities of the evening. It is dependent upon the fact that you are simply here to begin with. And that you'll stay. That's all."

Even though they're sitting across from one another, with a bar and food between them, Miranda feels more tension evaporate. Not all of it, but some of it. And that is enough. Though she wishes the circumstances were different, they are not and trust must be won.

There is no way in hell she can ever be offended by knowing this really will take more work on her part than on Andrea's. It's likely that in her head, Andrea has seen a thousand versions of how this could last and also end. But the fact remains—none of those versions will be correct. Even if a lot of them are completely believable, their road is not predetermined.

Andrea doesn't know that though, and she's obviously been thinking about this on various levels for a long time, Miranda can sense that, so she's got a lot to lose if Miranda doesn't handle herself correctly. Never mind what Miranda has to lose. She can't even let herself think about that because in all reality—it might as well be the same thing. They have a lot to lose and Miranda has a lot of work to do.

"I know that you don't completely trust me, Andrea," Miranda continues, after giving all this some carful thought. There's not a reason in the world why she just can't put this out here and get it over with. At least this way, Andrea will know Miranda knows what has to be done and what is at stake. "I don't expect you to."

"You don't?" Andrea looks more than a little stunned and it's hard not to laugh. Did she really think Miranda thought otherwise?

"How can I expect such a thing? I did nothing but stare at your breasts all day yesterday," Miranda lets go of Andrea's hand and definitely has to pause to clear her throat and definitely doesn't miss an evil grin spread across Andrea's face. "As I was saying," Miranda manages to start again. "That is hardly something relative to gaining trust."

"Miranda, I trust you a lot more than you think I do. I'm just scared."

Ah, so Andrea can admit it? "Well, I am too… And I hate to say this now, but we don't have Scrabble. I checked earlier when I came home."

Andrea leans across the bar and reaches into the container of spicy shrimp. "Lucky for you, tonight I think Scrabble is pretty boring."


Dinner takes hours. Seriously, it really does. Not only do they eat every single thing—including all crab puffs—but they talk, talk, and talk some more. In fact, Miranda's pretty sure that she's never talked so much to one person in her life.

The thing that makes this even better is that Miranda can make Andrea laugh. Without even trying she can make her laugh, and in some ways, it feels like one of the most remarkable accomplishments Miranda has ever achieved. Cassidy will be pleased.

The topics they discuss go by in a whirlwind but two things are very clear. Andrea loves to read. And Andrea does find the time, somehow, to write. And what does she write about? Well she writes about reading. It's the most brilliant thing Miranda has ever heard of and she can't wait to read every bit of it…because guess what? Andrea Sachs has a blog. And it's got a perfect name too, Reader's Remorse. How could that not be perfect? Honestly, Miranda isn't quite sure when she turned into such a love sick fool, but whatever the cause may be, it has Miranda tightly by the throat and who is she to resist?

"You weren't paying attention to me yesterday when I was telling you about the bookworm article, were you?"

"Book what?" Miranda blinks and tries to see through a picture in her head of pushing Andrea down onto the living room floor and kissing her senseless. "I'm sorry, what?" she says again.

Grinning, Andrea tosses the last empty carton into the trash. "Never mind," she says, pulling Miranda by the hand. "You'll just have to read it for yourself. It's just one of those dumb list things, but you'll learn a lot."

Miranda slips off the stool willingly, "On that stupid thing of Arianna's?"

"Yes. And you know it's not all that bad, Miranda. Once you get past the lists and pictures, some of it's actually pretty good."

"I've yet to see whatever you define as 'pretty good', but I don't want to argue about Arianna Huffington's blog."

"Well, what do you want to do?"

"You don't want to know…"

Andrea laughs and hard too as they go into the living room. "I think I have a pretty good idea."

"Oh, you think so?" Miranda teases her and then…the front door opens.

Considering that it is basically a straight line from the front door down the hall to the living room, and then on into the kitchen, if they keep standing where they are, they will be seen. Together. By Emily.

Each of them takes in a deep breath and steps apart, and then another step until they're out of Emily's line of sight. Miranda never takes her eyes off Andrea and Andrea's eyes seem to be equally glued to her. Honestly, it takes Miranda's breath away to watch the transformation that goes on in front of her. Quite a bit of the confidence and trust that was gained in the kitchen is slipping down into something else. Something that is once again breakable.

When Andrea blows her hair out of her face—because it seems to be taking Emily forever—Miranda smiles at her. She will not allow anything to get in their way tonight. Emily, Runway and anybody else that doesn't like the fact that Miranda is in love, can go to hell. And she is not breaking any laws; Elias-Clarke will not crash to the ground because of this. And Miranda's job won't be in jeopardy either because for one: the only kinds of relationships seriously frowned upon within the company are of those in opposing magazines; and two: Irv has just gotten remarried—to his secretary from two years back. So there!

The door closes but neither of them moves. Mainly, Miranda is just standing still to see what Andrea will do, but finally it is clear that she will have to be the one. Taking a step forward, Miranda holds out her hand and says, "Come upstairs. Take a bath with me, Andrea." Andrea is stunned by Miranda's request; it is written all over her face. For a fraction of a second Miranda thinks she might have said the wrong thing, especially since she voiced not one word about Emily. "Don't be afraid of this, Andrea." Miranda takes another step and thank God, Andrea comes forward and into her arms. "Don't be afraid to tell me what you want, what you're thinking. Don't be afraid of…me." Miranda shrugs at the end because that's a real possibility. That Andrea is afraid of her. Of being hurt by her.

"I'm not afraid of you, Miranda." She smiles and Miranda's stomach flips. "Just don't get my hair wet, okay?"

Miranda tries her best to look serious all the while, thinking of nothing but Andrea's skin against hers. "I won't. I promise."


It takes forever to fill the tub with water. And believe it or not but it's been ages since Miranda has had time for a soak, so she has no idea where any of her things are for it. All there is at the moment are three different kinds of neon colored bubble bath, a bunch of tie-dyed soap bars and cups of every size known to man. And nail polish. Who in the hell is painting their nails in Miranda's bathtub? There's no time for furious phone calls, but it's apparent that the tub is getting plenty of use after all. Just not the right kind of use.

While the tub continues to fill with a million gallons water, Miranda throws the twin's bath time paraphilia under the sink and subsequently finds a bottle of something that couldn't be more perfect. It's called Relax—and that's exactly what they need to do so Miranda drops in a ton of it.

The tub is instantly filled with white foam and everything becomes a mess pretty quickly. But that's fitting since Miranda is clearly a mess herself. It's one thing to suggest jumping into a bathtub with someone, then another to actually do it. But in a weird way it helps to know that Andrea is just as nervous because she disappeared twenty minutes ago into one of the guest bathrooms and hasn't been seen since.

They'd come upstairs with Andrea's bag, then made the mistake of kissing. It was a mistake because soaking in a tub started to get less and less appealing. It ended as soon as Miranda found herself flat on her back, though. On the bed. With Andrea on top of her. As soon as that happened, Andrea jumped up, grabbed Miranda's robe that happened to be hanging on the back of the door and went across the hall, promising to be right back.

Well, she isn't back yet and Miranda doesn't know what else to do but to either go find the girl, or get into the tub and wait. So, Miranda turns all the lights down and gets into the tub, deciding to make this into a lesson on patience. Once she gets settled into the practically boiling water, the lesson is short.

She left the door cracked open so there is no need to knock. With an embarrassed smile, Andrea comes in and it's all Miranda can do to stay in the tub. She knows this is ridiculous, but Andrea is absolutely beautiful in her old gray bathrobe.

"That's not fair. You started without me." Andrea says then begins to untie the robe.

Miranda can only nod her head and watch as everything in her starts to tighten and burn.

"I did take forever though, I'm sorry. I couldn't decide what to wear..."

By now the robe is untied…and open…and Miranda's brain is a pile of ash once again…and for a minute or two she can't even hear anything. Andrea is still talking. Miranda can see her lips move, but she has absolutely no idea what is being said. It feels like with every bit of skin that is slowly revealed, Miranda just gets lost and once all the curves, lines and edges of Andrea's body are on display for Miranda's eyes to map out…well, she can hardly breathe.

Eventually Miranda is able to lift a hand to help Andrea into the tub. Right now they're about neck deep in water; Andrea's back is pressed firmly to Miranda's front and Miranda's arms are wrapped so tightly around the girl that it probably hurts. But Miranda cannot let go and Andrea does not ask her to. She simply relaxes against Miranda and more of that tension slips away.

There is nothing but silence for a long time and for the most part they stay perfectly still. Miranda is afraid to move. The more her senses return, the more she wants to touch and caress but the last thing she wants to do is scare Andrea. She didn't scare her by eating three crab puffs instead of ten but this is…

"Miranda?"

Swallowing down her thoughts, Miranda answers her. "Yes?"

"You can move your hands, you know." She whispers the words but they echo loudly off the bathroom walls. "It's okay."

"I…" Miranda can't say anything else. The part of her brain that is responsible for forming words has burnt up again.

Instead of worrying about it though, Miranda simply allows her hands to move. She does have at least enough willpower left to not go straight for touching Andrea's breasts though, thank God. Leaving that for later, Miranda slides her hands up Andrea's arms and glides them across her shoulders and up her neck. There is an immediate sigh so Miranda stays there for a bit, paying close attention to the knots she finds just under the surface. It's obvious that working for Miranda Priestly is stressful.

When Miranda's thumb digs into what has got to be a painful area, Andrea drops her head forward a little and groans. Though Miranda is sure it's not meant to cause such a reaction, the sound makes her thighs clinch, which Andrea feels right away, of course, since she is sitting right there. She doesn't say anything about it though, but her hands that have been just resting on Miranda's knees, do start to move up and down her legs.

Before long they've slid further down into the tub—if that is even possible. Andrea's head is tipped back against Miranda's shoulder; her lips are resting on the skin of Miranda's neck and her hands are still moving, lazily tracing patterns over Miranda's legs and around her knee caps. Miranda really isn't sure how she is still alive. Her entire body is burning, aching…everything, all at once.

The temptation to kiss her, any part of her, is too great. Miranda bends her head just enough to be able to kiss Andrea's forehead—which is all she can really reach from the way Andrea is resting against her. To have her move wasn't Miranda's intention but as soon as Miranda kisses her, Andrea lifts her head and the water goes from warm to boiling in no time.

Ever since Andrea got into the tub, Miranda has been trying like hell to deny there is an actual pulsing sensation happening inside her that is getting stronger and stronger. But when Andrea's tongue slides into her mouth, her body reacts on its own, arching against Andrea's backside. It's embarrassing or would be if they had time for it. But they don't.

Andrea simply kisses her harder and before Miranda realizes it, she's taken both of Miranda's hands in her own and… Yes, without anything in the way, this is much better. Much, much better. Her skin, the feeling of her nipples becoming instantly tight, feeling the water glide off her body as she moves into Miranda's touch… Yes, this is much better.

Apparently, when you combine all the sensations, it's too much. Andrea rips her mouth away to allow for breathing and drops her hands to grip the sides of the tub. Her head falls back in a way that gives Miranda better access to her neck so she takes it, kissing and sucking on one soft spot that seems to be approved of greatly, judging by the sigh and then the soft whimper.

Those sighs and whimpers just about drive Miranda right out of her mind. While in the Closet earlier, she'd wanted nothing more than to turn them into something louder but right now they're turning her on at an incredible rate just as they are. What would it be like, she wonders, to have Andrea completely melt away into nothing but sighs and whimpers under Miranda's touch?

Seconds later, Miranda gets to find out.

She's still kissing Andrea's neck over and over again but then the words come, or almost. "Miranda," Andrea's gasp barely makes sense. "I need…" and again, she stops herself from telling Miranda what she wants and even under all this haze, Miranda can feel a change in her body.

"Don't," Miranda leaves Andrea's glorious breasts alone and wraps her arms back around her tightly. "Don't, be afraid. I know you don't believe me yet, but I am not going to hurt you, Andrea. Let me give you want you need."

No more is said about fear and the possibility of pain after that.

Breathing hard, Andrea buries her face into the side of Miranda's neck and whispers against her skin, "I need you to touch me…. Just don't let go of me, please. Please, don't let go."

"I'm not," Miranda said tightening her grip with her left arm. "I won't…"

"Good," Andrea's voice trembles. "I just…it's just that I…"

Miranda lowers her right hand into the water and lets her fingers tease the inside of Andrea's thigh. "I know, Andrea." At this point Miranda knows a lot. Between the words 'Don't let go' and that little trimmer in her voice, Andrea has told Miranda a mile long list of things. But that can all be dealt with in time. "Put your hand on top of mine." Andrea rests her hand on top of Miranda's where it is still teasing the inside of her thigh.

This continues on, just a slow movement through the water. Andrea's breathing has slowed but her heart is pounding as Miranda slides her left hand upward from Andrea's stomach to the center of her chest. Without having to be told, Andrea puts her left hand there also and their fingers intertwine.

In a sense, with their hands this way, Andrea has control of what happens here and it is actually Andrea that dictates when and if anybody lets go. She may not realize it in the middle of all this, but Miranda hopes for it anyway. She hopes that it won't be too long before Andrea believes that Miranda will stay.

 

Part Five

Saying that Miranda Priestly is blessed with a vivid imagination is both a waste of breath and time; her livelihood depends upon it. Saying that Miranda has never been with a woman before is basically a waste of breath and time too, so it's a given that in many ways, she has no idea what to expect or even do other than act on instinct and Andrea's instruction.

She doesn't have to be instructed though. From the first touch, Miranda knows what to do. She knows her hand, moving slowly and gently, sometimes with only the very tips of her fingers, will give Andrea exactly what she needs.

Even though they are in a tub full of warm water, the place where Andrea needs Miranda's touch this most is hot, slick with arousal and hard. And there is a definite change in the rest of Andrea's body. Tension… Not the kind that is associated with hesitation or dread, but a tension made from… Well, Miranda isn't sure if that's right word or not. Tension might not even be what this is.

In her mind, as Miranda's hand continues to move and Andrea continues to trust, all the energy in the room is pulled inward. Miranda can literally see currents of energy, brightly colored, being pulled into the center of them, of what they are, together in this bathtub. The quiet moans and slight whimpers that escape the woman in her arms are echoing throughout the electrical current, only to bounce off the walls and come right back. Everything is being pulled inside and Andrea's body is storing it all, waiting for a release that is slowly coming. In the absence of shame, Miranda spreads her legs wider to gain more contact; her own release is not very far away. With Andrea pressed against her so tightly, not much more is needed.

It's barely noticeable but Miranda feels pressure applied to her hand. Her brain is in a million pieces but she is able to comply. A desperate gasp for air and the faintest cry from Andrea's lips is all that is heard, yet the intensity of it is profound; more energy is created and bound up inside. Miranda can see it in the air and feel it in the woman she holds. Kissing Andrea's cheek, then along her ear, Miranda whispers, "This is so beautiful. You are so beautiful, Andrea." She moves her hand down just a little then and back up quickly.

The sob stuck inside Andrea's throat is easily located. Miranda kisses the side of her neck and bites down gently, right where it ought to be…and she is right. Andrea opens her mouth and finally, the cry is released and with it, Miranda's hands. She is now trusted, in this at least, to give Andrea what she needs.

But, with her left hand free to wander, Miranda's own desires start to make her forget about what Andrea needs. Or so she thinks. When she begins to touch and tease the breasts that have been torturing her for two straight days—probably longer than that—Andrea's nails dig into the skin of Miranda's thighs and she guesses that their desires are in sync after all.

Andrea hastily adds her mouth into the equation, kissing whatever parts of Miranda she can reach with her head tipped back…and then, with an arm thrown back around Miranda's neck Andrea pulls her in. Her eyes are closed when they kiss but Miranda can still see the electrical currents, flowing through the room and building up inside Andrea. She can see everything.

Miranda isn't sure how Andrea has held back this long but finally, her body starts to move ever so slightly against Miranda's hand. Just as a few moments ago, Miranda slides her fingers down then quickly back up, producing that same gasp and sob, which is no longer muted but fully given to Miranda in another deep kiss. Since it seems to be an approved action, Miranda keeps on, never entering but moving down far enough for the anticipation of it to be present, then slowly upward in a swirling motion. If Andrea is close…then Miranda is even more so.

Taking that into consideration, it is no shock to her that she begins to lose herself in the movement of Andrea's body. Even though they're still kissing and Miranda's eyes are still closed, she becomes a quick study on how to make Andrea move in just the right way. Every time Miranda allows the fingers of her right hand to slip down just so…and the fingers of her left to tease and pinch Andrea's breasts…she moves in just the right way. And the sounds she makes… Miranda can't hold on any longer, and amazingly enough, Andrea knows it.

Ripping her mouth away, Andrea tells Miranda exactly what she wants her to do. "Come," she says, taking Miranda's left hand up again, holding it there where it has been teasing and playing with her breasts for who knows how long. "I know you want to," she whispers in Miranda's ear. The feeling of her breath on Miranda's skin and gentle movement of Andrea's hips is more than enough.

Miranda isn't quiet at all and if she had the brainpower left to comprehend anything, it would scare her. This has never happened before. This incredibly loud expression—most of which makes no sense—has never happened before. In fact, she can barely hear Andrea, who is still whispering words of encouragement that aren't really needed, but sound so seductive.

Trying to catch her breath on the other side is a wasted effort. Andrea's right hand has rejoined hers under the water and the movement is quicker now, forceful even. And she is so wet, full of electricity; her release is so close. But something is keeping her from it. Miranda can sense it and automatically knows words of seduction aren't what are needed. Maybe later. But not this time.

"I won't let go of you, Andrea." Miranda tells her, trying to sound as serious as possible—which is a little hard since she can't breathe. "I'm staying right here with you. I'm staying…"

Those are the words that bring release.

Everything in the room is pulled in as Andrea lets out the softest whimper. This soft sound is breathtaking but what happens next is even more so. That sound is still hanging in the air but it is quickly taken back and returned as a scream. The kind of scream Miranda had been thinking about earlier today, wondering if she could cause it…

All the electricity stored up in Andrea's body is released along with it, and to Miranda it appears as a shockwave, rippling out with such a tremendous force that everything around them is left shattered and broken. She fully expects the tub to crack, right along with the marble flooring.

The wave continues on. Miranda does not stop, even though Andrea's hands have let her go, in favor of clutching the sides of the tub, Miranda does not stop. She stays right where she is, sliding her fingers up and down so quickly, adding more pressure at the end of each wave, just so another one can be created.

Finally, when the woman in her arms has all but ceased to breathe, Miranda wraps both arms around Andrea's waist and buries her face in her neck. It is a long time before either of them speaks. No words are even spoken when Andrea regains the strength required to scoot around—sloshing water everywhere in the process—until she is sitting sideways with her legs draped over Miranda's thighs. The tub is certainly large enough for it. And of course, Miranda still has not let go of her. They both stay and ironically, that's the topic Andrea chooses to finally speak about first. Out of everything else that could be said about what has just happened…that is what she chooses.

"You didn't let go," she says, kissing Miranda's left shoulder several times in the process.

Miranda can't think of anything else to say besides, "I told you I wouldn't."

"I know…"

"But?" Miranda asks because it's only natural that a 'but' be in here somewhere. Hopefully it is one she can negotiate around quickly.

"You could…you know." Andrea's voice sounds small and untrusting. "You could send me away now. You could say this was a mistake."

Miranda takes a deep breath. In fact, she takes several. This girl is like a yo-yo. But of course she is… And Miranda's held the string for a very, very long time, causing all sorts of damage along the way. She just never noticed how much damage until now.

"I did not let go of you because I couldn't, Andrea." Miranda pulls Andrea firmly to her to prove the point. "I cannot send you away or tell you this is a mistake, either. I simply can't. Even if you wanted me too…I can't let go. All I can do is ask you to stay."

"But you don't ask anyone to stay."

Miranda can't help but smile, remembering Caroline's words and the look on Andrea's face when she repeated them in the elevator. No, Miranda never asks anyone to stay.

"But you," Miranda kisses her softly, "are not just anyone, Andrea. I asked you to stay that night because the thought of you leaving wasn't something I could tolerate. And you stayed," Miranda continues. "Since then… I haven't been right." Andrea looks at her, clearly puzzled so Miranda goes on to clarify things. "You're all I can think about. I can't sleep. I read that stupid blog so I can blame it on anything else but you. But it is you, darling. You are what keeps me awake at night. Not Arianna Huffington."

Andrea immediately laughs, "All of me?" She laughs some more. "Or just my breasts?"

Glaring hard to keep from laughing too, Miranda says, "All of you."

"Oh, well that's nice," she says, smiling sweetly, turning the 'innocence' factor on high.

It's hard to resist but Miranda does her best by huffing and puffing a little, and rolling her eyes of course. Andrea takes care of that right away though by running her wet hands through Miranda's hair. She can't help but sigh. "I like that," she sighs again.

"I do too. Sometimes… I barely stop myself in time."

"From?" Miranda tries to raise an eyebrow but forgets how as soon as Andrea's hands are in her hair again.

"Touching your hair. At work. Touching any part of you."

A frown instantly appears on Miranda's face. They aren't supposed to talk about work. Cassidy said so.

"I know," Andrea says, reading Miranda's mind. "We're not supposed to talk about work. Cassidy said so."

"Right." That's all Miranda can say.

Andrea leans in and rests her head against Miranda. "But it's inevitable. Don't you think?"

"Well, yes." Miranda closes her eyes and leans her head against the tile, unwilling to contemplate that Andrea just might falter when they start talking about this topic. There's no way Miranda can bare that right now. "She probably just wanted us to get through…tonight."

"She's very smart," Andrea says and it is clear she is being serious. "They both are."

"Too smart." Miranda replies.

"But with good intentions."

Miranda begins to chuckle but her breath catches in her throat when Andrea's hand comes to rest on her sternum. For a moment they stare at each other in complete silence. Everything is so quiet and still; you can hear water dripping from the faucet. Miranda's never noticed that before. The faucet dripping. Then again she hardly has time for baths. But the girls do. With neon bubble bath and nail polish and…

Suddenly, Miranda can only think of one thing she'd like to say. And it's dumb. Truly it is the dumbest thing and she honestly can't remember the last time she has said this to anyone that isn't her child. But she just can't help herself.

"Happy Valentine's Day," Miranda says, ending the silence.

"It's probably passed midnight by now." Andrea states matter-of-factly, but with a warm smile on her lips. "Who cares, though, right?" That warm smile turns into a full-blown grin. "Happy Valentine's Day, Miranda."

Miranda tries to say something else, what it is, she doesn't even know because Andrea is kissing her and her hands are moving to all kinds of places that Miranda needs her to touch. Until this moment, Andrea's hands have been far better behaved than Miranda's…but now they are decadently not behaving. Even though she's sitting in a tub, her knees go weak when Andrea's hands roam over her breasts, down her sides and back up again. The way she traces over Miranda's nipples with her thumbnail as she teases her relentlessly is enough to flip some sort of unknown about switch inside Miranda's head.

"Come here," she growls and pulls at Andrea's hips until the girl is straddling her lap. More water goes over the side, but isn't that what towels are for?

It wasn't her intention but turning her around like this means all thoughts of Andrea's hands on her are pretty much blown right out the window. In the blink of an eye, Andrea's hands aren't so important anymore. With one look Andrea seems to know what Miranda wants now and brings a hand to the back of her neck, pulling her forward as she sits up a little straighter.

Miranda's brain is absolutely nowhere to be found as she holds Andrea firmly by the hips and flicks her tongue out lightly to tease and taste Andrea's breasts…her mouth is dying to taste Andrea's skin. Andrea, however, is apparently not in the mood for teasing. She threads her fingers through Miranda's hair again and directs her.

"I need your mouth, Miranda," she's panting already. "Please..."

Miranda would like very much to state that there is absolutely no need to ever make the request once, much less beg for it, but forgets to as Andrea pulls at her again, clearly in need. Who is Miranda to refuse? She is in just as much need.

If staring at and touching Andrea's breasts turns Miranda into a burnt up mess, then finally putting her mouth there causes even more brain damage. And the sounds Andrea makes... In this, she is very vocal in her praise, which only serves to turn Miranda into some kind of crazed animal. Suddenly, she is hungry in a way she never thought possible.

While Andrea rocks against her and holds her head, guiding Miranda, all she can focus on are the different textures, tastes and sounds. And like so many other things, fear of going too far, becoming overzealous, or handling Andrea too roughly, are unwarranted now. It is apparent Miranda has been given the freedom to do whatever she wants.

There will definitely be physical evidence in the morning of all the things Miranda is finally getting to try out. It's even likely that there will be handprints on Andrea's hips since Miranda can't seem to let go. There will probably be handprints on Miranda's shoulders too—maybe even one on the back of her neck—since Andrea can't seem to let go either. She can't imagine complaining about it in the morning though. Whenever morning comes. They might miss it all together.

In the middle of all this mind-blowing fun, Miranda's is unexpectedly pulled back. Not in admonishment, but to be kissed hard and deep. And so much for not getting Andrea's hair wet. Miranda has no trouble undoing it and Andrea's luxurious, long, dark hair spills down her back and into the water. From there, Miranda's hands return to Andrea's breasts and then it happens. Without a single touch, Andrea comes. The whimper and scream that follow are muffled by their kiss but still, it shatters everything around them as the waves of electricity make their escape. And this time, water escapes the bathtub as well.

At this point, Miranda probably doesn't have enough towels to take care of it but couldn't care less. At this point, water could flow into the bedroom, down the stairs and out the front door, and Miranda wouldn't care. Having to possibly rip out miles of soaked carpet is nothing.

When the waves—both figuratively and literally—finally cease, Andrea isn't able to do anything but lay heavily against Miranda. She is all that is holding Andrea together and Andrea is all that is keeping Miranda from sliding straight down into the water. They stay like this for a while, catching their breath, allowing their hearts the chance to remember how to beat regularly.

One thing is clear. Miranda will never forget this night. She will never forget that busy week, the sinus infections; being robbed months later, then given the most precious thing in return—two colorful boxes of candy. It is the best money Miranda has ever lost.

Eventually the woman in her arms stirs but Miranda is in some other place; lightly running her hands up and down Andrea's back has put her under a spell. Kisses across her face bring Miranda to the surface though, and she can't help but smile.

"You're awake," Andrea says.

"Of course I'm awake." Miranda opens her eyes and for a second her mind goes blank. Andrea has never looked more beautiful. Before she can say so, Andrea takes the words right out of her mouth.

"You have no idea how beautiful you are; do you?"

Miranda rolls her eyes. "It's all in your head." Because she is not. Just as Miranda has never been enough, she is not beautiful either. People tell her that to kiss her ass. Not because it is true.

"People would never guess how little you think of yourself." Andrea says as she puts her hands on either side of Miranda's face.

This, of course, prevents Miranda from looking away. It prevents her from even frowning, rolling her eyes or saying something awful to deflect what is happening. Yet again, it is obvious that Andrea has solved far more puzzles than Miranda could have ever expected.

"I'll just have to show you how much you're worth. Just like you'll have to show me how my feelings aren't nothing."

Miranda manages to shake her head in agreement. It's as if a deal has been struck and she imagines that they will teach each other many things. Mainly—how to be better to themselves. Because let's face it; Miranda treats herself worst of all and until now, no one has caught on. This has never happened before. No one has ever pinned her down, correctly labeling all the pieces. Not until Andrea came along.

Somewhere close by there is a tear just waiting to escape. To push it away, Miranda says the first thing that comes to mind.

"I'm sorry I got your hair wet."

"That's okay." Andrea smirks and surprise, surprise—it turns Miranda on like crazy and that tear is the last thing on her mind.

"Let's get out of here," Miranda says with a smirk of her own as she kisses Andrea's palm.


A year goes by.

Not all of it plays out smoothly and refusing to let go certainly helps when the Press eventually finds out about Miranda and a woman that is half her age. Ironically enough, it's not the fact that Andrea is a former employee—having moved on several months after their first date in a bathtub—or that she is even a woman that they chose to focus on. It is the age difference. The reason this is so ironic? Well, in all the months of conversation that happen over take-out, or late at night in bed, they've discussed just about every facet of their relationship except this—the age difference. There always seemed to be more important things to discuss than their ages. It's not as if either of them can do anything about it so why discuss it?

Andrea moves in while the media has their fun…and their parents flip out. That in its self is pretty weird for Miranda. Her parents. Flipping out. Especially her father, whom she loves so much… It feels like she is a teenager all over again; skipping school and making bad grades. He is angry and disappointed. And of course it's just as bad for Andrea.

According to both sets of parents, the world is coming to an end and Hell is only a short distance away.

But Miranda and Andrea manage to hold on through all the scrutiny and so do Caroline and Cassidy. After all, the whole damn thing is their fault anyway, right? In fact, sometimes it is Caroline and Cassidy themselves—and those two boxes made of pink and red card-stock with silver hearts glued all over—that keep them from letting go.

It was decided early in their relationship to display the boxes on the table where the Book goes, so Miranda and Andrea would always see them. That turns out to be one of the best ideas ever because it constantly reminds them of what they stand to lose and how they got here in the first place. Above all else, two little redheads are counting on them to stay. So they stay.

Months later, their parents feelings on the matter aren't improving as fast as either of them hoped for. Miranda's father and Andrea's mother have lightened up a bit but things are still rocky. Cassidy says not to worry though because being a lesbian is becoming more and more popular every day. Caroline's only contribution to the issue is to buy everyone in her class a gift to celebrate gay pride when the time comes around for it.

But frankly, today Miranda couldn't care less what either set of parents thinks of them because she's too busy being a parent herself. And hey, it's her anniversary, too. Which isn't going at all like she thought it would.

A year ago, they agreed that every Valentine's Day would be spent exactly the same way as their first. In the bathtub. But, Miranda has a pretty good feeling that that is not going to happen and she is absolutely correct.

Since it falls on a weekend this year, Caroline and Cassidy are supposed to be with their father. Yet, at two o'clock on Friday morning, two very sick girls wake them, crawling into their bed burning up with fever. Today, Valentine's Day, is no better and Miranda calls the doctor. Thirty minutes after his arrival, it is evident that sinus infections seem to be making a visit yet again. This makes the third one in a year.

The doctor is still there when Andrea comes up behind Miranda, who is sitting on the couch with the girls while Dr. Russell continues his assessment. She leans down and kisses the top of Miranda's head then whispers, "I'll be back. Chinese food. Perfect cure."

Miranda turns her head quickly, searching Andrea's face for the disappointment that will surely be there since plans are obviously changing. Disappointment is the last thing she finds though. All there is an affectionate smile.

"Be careful," Miranda finally says while Cassidy, as sick as she is, informs Dr. Russell that his tie is outdated and so are his business cards. And Caroline, as sick as she is, begins to tell Dr. Russell exactly where he can find a better tie and better business cards. "Don't forget the crab puffs."

"Oh, I won't." Andrea winks at her then turns to go.

Not long after that, Dr. Russell leaves with notes on ties and business cards.

Miranda prepares the living room for a feast of movies, drugs and food while both girls apologize endlessly for ruining their anniversary. But even though Miranda is initially a little disappointed herself, she can't think of a better way they should be spending this time now. She can take a bath any night she wants to and does, having banned the girls from the master bathroom a year ago. Not only that, but since there is a beautiful woman to share the tub with—Miranda mysteriously finds herself with all sorts of time for such things now.

Once the girls are settled and a movie has been fought over, Miranda takes up residence at the front window. Finally spotting Andrea coming down the street with two heavy bags, Miranda goes out to meet her.

"Not gonna give me a chance to ring the doorbell this year?" Andrea says, leaning in to kiss Miranda in the open air as she takes a bag. They quit caring about the paparazzi a long time ago. There is no use in hiding; it gets them nowhere.

"Why bother?" Miranda sighs then smiles. "Cassidy's already got her neon walls, so it doesn't make a bit of difference. This is much nicer; don't you think? Meeting you out here?"

"Yes, much nicer. I still don't know how she figured out we fucked that up, though."

"Neither do I," Miranda sighs again as she opens the front door and tries hard not to think about what a sucker she is.

They sit the bags down on the floor once they're inside so Miranda can help Andrea out of her coat. Andrea is the one that hangs it up in the closet though, because Miranda has yet to learn how such tasks are completed without many failures in between very few successes. Mainly, it's just because she enjoys hearing Andrea bitch under her breath about how hopeless she is whenever the coats fall.

After closing the closet door, Andrea turns and wraps her arms around Miranda's neck. Nothing is said as they stare. This kind of silent 'hello' is odd but clearly a custom they are used to. They figured out a long time ago that in some things, words are seldom needed. Patricia, however, highly disagrees and begins to bark since Andrea has yet to acknowledge her.

Andrea barely turns her head enough to look down. "Will you shut up, please," she says playfully. "You'll get your turn in a minute."

"It's rude to keep her waiting," Miranda teases.

"I don't care."

"I really don't either."

There is more silence but it's only because they're kissing and not letting go. But as usual, when the girls are near, all good things must come to an end. Or at least good things of this nature.

"Mom!" Cassidy yells from the living room, sounding like death. "Stop kissing and hurry up! I want soup!"

They let out big breaths of air simultaneously and head toward the kitchen with the food. Duty calls but in reality, Valentine's Day is just beginning. Miranda is hopeful that once everyone is medicated, fed and tired out from a movie—they'll still get to celebrate as planned.

But even if they don't, even if they end up playing Scrabble all night and fall asleep on the couch later…it will be enough. Their level of happiness is not dependent upon the activities of the day or even the night. It is dependent upon the fact that they are simply here to begin with. And that they're both staying. That's all.

The End

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