Title: The Devil Stripped Bare
Fandom: The Devil Wears Prada
Rating: NC 17
Disclaimer: Characters are property of the film and their distributors. I do not claim to own them.
Summary: Miranda has an Artist's eye and her favorite medium is photography. One celebrated portrait photographer is a friend of hers and she recalls a particular image of his in the moments leading up to an important conversation with Andy regarding their relationship.
Author's Notes: This has a happy ending, I promise. As always, for my dear ubiquitousmixie .
Author's Notes 2: This entire fic was rooted in the photographs bellow. Henry Clarke and Erwin Blumenfeld are two of my all time favorite photographers and as I was looking through their collections, I got the idea for this. I hope you all enjoy it.
I don't want the love I didn't feel or see;
I want love unborn, love not yet conceived.
There is a distant sound as Andy sleeps.
But it is hazy enough for her to ignore, so she does, nestling deeper against the covers until a soft thump sounds against her eardrums and she wonders...
It is undoubtedly, the sound of a Christian Louboutin black platform pump hit the carpet.
She opens her eyes slowly and as her vision adjusts to the very late/very early time, her suspicions are proven correct.
Miranda Priestly is standing only a foot or two away, picking up the shoe she's just dropped. She's only half dressed, in a black, silk cami and a pair of black lace briefs that peak out from underneath.
Andy smiles and her voice is gruff when she speaks, "Miranda Priestly and the walk of shame. I never thought I'd see the day."
The older woman looks up as she straightens, lips slightly parted, hair fallen over her face and she says in a near whisper, as if she would wake someone else up, "I have to go. Go back to sleep."
She never stays the night. That's part of the arrangement. No sleep-overs. They never actually talk about it, but it was official the first time, when Miranda left without an explanation as soon as it was over and then came back a few days later the same way she had left.
"Mmmm..." Andy hums. Her gaze roams appreciatively over the other woman's body as she moves around the room, gathering up whatever clothes she can find. So much skin. There's so much skin, "--you're so beautiful," She says before she can stop herself. She's still groggy and it sounds like she's mumbling but when Miranda glances her way again, the brunette smiles and hugs the duvet closer to her body, adding invitingly, "Get back here."
"I can't do that. I have to get home--" is Miranda's reply as she slips on a delicate, black tulle, short sleeve blouse by Chanel. It is completely see through, it is singed at the waist and she wears it with three buttons undone. Four would be too much.
It's completely unbuttoned now and Andy wishes Miranda would just stop putting clothes on and return to her bed. She lifts her weight onto her elbows as she continues to watch her move with too much grace for someone who not long ago was drilling her into her mattress.
Andy bites her bottom lip as Miranda begins to button up, fingers gliding expertly over carefully designed buttons. Her hips shift involuntarily against the bed as she thinks back on where those fingers have been, "Come here," She beckons softly.
Miranda stops short of fastening the last button and she doesn't look at Andy as she says bluntly, "We have to stop." She holds her breath.
"Fine," Andy pouts, sighs heavily and brushes her hair out of her face. It's an awkward shift, as her arms are still immovable with her elbows pinned the way they are.
"I meant, stop altogether." Miranda clarifies, her tone cool and clear. More so than she expected it to be when she started the sentence. She feels Andy's eyes on her then, and she resumes buttoning up.
Andy watches, partly in fascination and partly in fear, that the beautiful silver haired woman might bolt right out of her apartment without another word. But the assessment has to be right. There needs to be something she can say that will be amazing, because she knows that once Miranda has made up her mind, that is that.
The brunette snatches the tee shirt she had intended to wear to bed before Miranda had shown up on her doorstep and slips it on under the covers. She sits up straight, heavily aware of what is happening.
"Okay, um--" She shakes her head, trying desperately to shake the remainder of sleep out of her body, "--we should--we need--we have to talk--about this, Miranda. What--what's wrong?"
Miranda sighs, looks about the room and spots a silk stocking flung carelessly over the couch, a short distance to her right. She stalks toward it as she answers, "Nothing is wrong, it is time that we stop. It's gone on long enough."
Andy shuts her eyes and manages a couple of breaths before asking evenly, "Miranda, please come in here and talk to me."
Miranda pauses for a moment and turns in the direction of Andy's voice, heading back through the small doorway separating the bedroom area from the rest of the small apartment. She quickly spots her skirt on the foot of the bed and reaches for it, staying in the security of the doorway as she drops her shoes on the floor to slip on the garment. She's made up her mind. She can offer a meek explanation as to why, but that will be it. She gave herself three months. An accurate three months before it would become anything more than what it should be, and she is two weeks past her deadline. Unacceptable.
"There is nothing wrong," She says plainly as she pulls the skirt up, over her hips, "We are just done."
"Why?" Andy asks from where she sits on the bed, heavy duvet weighing down on her lap as she tries to let the scene sink in. It hasn't yet.
Miranda looks around for something simple. Something that will make sense and will not hurt Andy's feelings. Because while she has never been one to sugar coat anything for the sake of anyone, she figures Andrea Sachs shouldn't be scarred anymore than necessary by her. So she looks straight at the young girl, their eyes locking as she answers politely, "You don't have a door."
Andy's brow furrows in confusion and in true blurting fashion, she asks commandingly, "WHAT?"
Miranda clears her throat as she spots a second stalking near the bedside table and she walks towards it, leaning over swiftly to collect the garment before zipping up her skirt.
It's here that Andy realizes they've been speaking in darkness. She reaches over to switch on the nearest lamp, pulling at the tiny silver chain with more force than necessary, causing the heavy lamp to shift against the table. "Hello..." She waves her hand in Miranda's direction.
"You--live in a closet with a bathroom--" Miranda explains, pausing to pick up her earrings from the same table the newly lit lamp sits on, "--I have children and--" She slips one diamond stud on, "--a career. I'm stable," and the other, "--while you, Andrea--" She pulls the tail of her blouse out of the skirt, which got caught in the process of zipping, and flattens her palms over the delicate material to even out any kinks, "--you are still looking to settle." She reaches out, switches the light off and turns back towards the living room with an almost professional resolve. This conversation is over, as far as she's concerned.
Andy feels as if she's just been hit upside the head with a bat. Thankfully, she's wearing her underwear when she kicks the sheets off and doesn't have to stop to put on another piece of clothing to save some of her dignity. Although, she's not sure she has much of it left as she trails hurriedly behind Miranda, "Are you serious right now!"
Miranda winces and grabs her coat off one of the kitchen chairs, "Andrea, please do not shout."
"Hey--" Andy calls, hating the way Miranda is slipping on her stocking, slowly, like she has all the time in the world. All the time in the world to leave her. If she wasn't so pissed off, she would stop to consider how sexy the simple action is. She strides forward and catches Miranda's wrist in a tight grasp, drawing a sharp gasp in return as their eyes lock, "--you want to end this before we even get started, you sit down and talk to me like a human being. I am not one of your minions, Miranda, not anymore."
Miranda glances down at her own wrist, trapped between Andy's long, lithe fingers. She shivers. This was not supposed to take this long. She should have been out the door by now. She looks back up and meets Andy's questioning, hardened gaze, "Let go of me," She says slowly.
Andy's hold tightens.
Miranda's gaze softens, "Let go. I'll stay and talk. Let go."
Hesitantly, Andy releases Miranda, searching her eyes for validation before, satisfied, she turns towards the couch.
She looks at it for a second, considering sitting, but opting to pace instead. At reaching the end of the coffee table, she turns around to see Miranda gently place the second stocking on the couch's armrest.
"What--" Andy starts and dissolves into a heavy exhale, "--what happened? Did I do something?"
"Then what? From one day to the other you decide it's over?"
"No, Andrea. Please sit down." She tells her. She doesn't ask. She tells her, gesturing towards the couch as she places her hands on her hips and merges quickly into Dictator mode.
As Andy sinks into the cushioned seat, she hates the way only Miranda can make her feel like a guest in her own home.
"I had decided when this would end the second it began," Miranda stated calmly, her posture rigid, her demeanor solid. She could be addressing a conference room full of employees on the importance of floral prints for the Summer issue of the magazine, "This was never going to go anywhere, and I apologize if I ever made you feel that it would. But you and I both know it is impossible. So..."
"So, you've decided to end this without even consulting with me about it? You decided to nip in the bud before I go tripping all over myself--poor sick in love Andy. How thoughtful." She gets up because she cannot stand being looked down at like she's somehow inferior. She refuses to be inferior. Not in her own home.
"There is nothing thoughtful about it, I can assure you." Miranda has never been the type to fidget. And she's not entirely sure her movements are considered fidgeting, but she would have definitely recognized the swift brushing of her hand over her hair as a definite uneasiness, were she on the receiving end, "I am not fooling myself into believing otherwise," she replies, releasing a slow and steady breath. Like Andy refuses to see the light in this, she refuses to allow herself to be upset. She refuses to care.
Andy doesn't hear her. She does hear a distant sound like the one she heard in her sleep earlier. A bothersome noise that seems to stem from a large distance, through the filter of a long, dark tunnel. only it sounds like Miranda. But she doesn't and she won't listen. She is too angry. She's hurt and she feels like some one's pulled the rug out from under her feet. She continues to pace around the small room and she hates how quickly she runs out of floor before she hits a piece of furniture and has to turn around. "Are you--" she starts, hating herself, almost as much as she hates her dingy apartment, for bringing it up, but it's been the big neon colored elephant in the room the past three and a half months, so she asks anyway, "--is this because of the age difference?"
"It is an important aspect of it, yes." Miranda replies honestly, shifting her weight from one bare foot to the other.
"It doesn't matter to me," Andy retorts honestly. It doesn't. She's lived her entire life wondering what the acceptable age difference between she and her boyfriends would be. Is five years older too old? Is two years younger too young? For the first time, she doesn't care and she knows this should mean something, so she repeats herself with more assertiveness, "Miranda, I don't CARE."
"I do--" Miranda nods faintly, "--I do care."
Andy steps back, a bitter taste in her mouth evident in her demeanor. Her gaze averts and says quietly in disgust, "Wow."
"You're twenty five--"
"--and I'm an embarrassment."
"You're twenty five--" Miranda repeats firmly, "--and I'm fifty two." She lifts her chin as she continues her evaluation once it looks as though Andy might finally be listening, "I'm fairly certain I'm around your mother's age, am I correct?"
Oh. This is where it's going, "No. My mom is older," Andy lies. She doesn't know why it matters, but it does. Right now, it matters to lie and she will do it if it means Miranda will stay. She won't look at her, though. She can't.
"Hmm--" Miranda nods, "You're a horrible liar." Something resembling a smirk forms on her lips before she continues, "When you are forty years old, I will be sixty-seven. Do you understand that?"
"I don't care," Andy mumbles at the floor, sounding a lot like a pouting child. Except, her feelings are very much grown up and Miranda's words are very much sinking in.
"You do." Miranda states, "You will. When I'm...older, you'll be just getting into the swing of things and--"
"No, you know what? Stop." Andy cuts in, holding her hand up, finally meeting Miranda's decisive stare, "Don't tell me what's going to happen. If I wanted to know the future, I'd talk to a psychic--" Okay, not the best counter argument, but it shuts Miranda up, so she continues, "--what I know is that we work. Whatever it is that makes our differences compliant to one another--it works. And I like when things work in my life. There are a hell of a lot more things that most definitely do not work and I like the few that do. I want to keep them that way. I may not be a fashion mogul or--or a money tycoon, but I know I've had plenty of fucked up relationships in the past and this is the only one that feels right and I like it. I like us, so don't tell me what's going to happen." She realizes she's breathing heavily now, and further more, tears are threatening to fall. She points at Miranda and says almost accusingly, "You like this too. You like us. That's why you're running away, you're scared."
"Andrea, please--" Miranda states discardingly.
"You think I'm going to leave you when things change. Things change in every relationship. It's what happens. But people work through them. We--we evolve, we suck it up and move along. So you'll get older, so what? So will I."
Miranda notes the way Andy's hands move animatedly, her arms flail with her every expression. She wonders briefly, if she's of Italian descent, “I will die considerably sooner than you will."
"Shut up," Andy says in a tone she doesn't recognize in her voice. It's full of spite and anger and she just wants Miranda to shut up already. To her surprise, she does. When she looks at her again, she's stoic. She's standing up straight and stern and serious and perfectly content with her decision. And Andy wants her to stop and feel for a second, feel what she's suggesting. Feel that if she leaves, that will be that.
Andy is crying now. Quietly, she brushes tears away, breathing in a couple of times before she's able to speak again, "There is nothing wrong with us!" She exclaims, because there's no way she can speak at a moderate level right now, "There is nothing wrong with living day to day, why can't we just do that!"
Miranda watches her.
She waits until she's regained her strength, trying with all her might to push away everything in her body that cares about Andrea Sachs. She swallows the knot in her throat and licks her lips, breathing slowly in and out until the young woman in front of her is seemingly calm.
Miranda takes a deep breath and says calmly, "If it's any consolation, I found it very difficult to climb out of your bed this evening." She doesn't know why she's just said that. She has no recollection of even allowing the sentence to fully process and filter in her mind before she uttered the words.
Andy's head raises sharply and she looks at her with fresh tears, her shoulders falling forward, her body instantly feeling weak at the most romantic sentence Miranda Priestly has ever said to her in the entire time she's known her.
And then they're kissing. It's desperate and sloppy, and Miranda tastes Andy's tears against her tongue. She grunts when her back hits the front door and only then does she realized they have been moving. Andy's hands are unforgiving. They're grabbing and groping and molding her breasts harshly against her palms like they're punishing her.
Miranda moans and whimpers against her mouth but arches into her touch, reaching with her own arms to circle Andy's waist and grab two handfuls of her backside, pulling her to grind against her body. The younger woman is pushed so tightly against her, she can hardly breathe in the small confinement between the warm body and the hard surface of the door. Still, she can't get enough.
As Andy's hands glide over Miranda's blouse, she fully expects buttons to go flying. She wants her to rip her shirt off, but also would hate it if she did because she would be forced to leave wearing but a silk piece of lingerie. Miranda's chest fills with what she can only associate as tenderness when Andy's eager fingers undo one button at a time instead, quickly but carefully and Miranda knows she's being considerate. This makes her feel guilty and in turn, her body seems to melt against her lover's.
Andy pulls at Miranda's skirt once the blouse has been discarded. The skirt is of a stronger material and so she pulls hard, wasting no time in slipping her hand inside the expensive black panties and finding Miranda already wet. Andy wants to swallow her hole.
Miranda's thigh finds its way between both of Andy's in an almost customary fashion. She grips her hip and urges her forward. Their lips part and gasp in unison and their kiss breaks, but not completely as their lips still graze. Andy's hand moves slowly, one single digit inside Miranda while her thumb draws, firm, but gentle orbs around the swollen clit.
Miranda is physically overwhelmed. Her nipples are hard and grazing Andy's, her hips are gyrating against her hand and she can feel her young lover's arousal, slick against her thigh. She's panting, nearly hyperventilating as the steady, slow pace continues.
Andy's tongue peaks out and teasingly licks Miranda's top lip, stealing a brief kiss before pulling away again. Miranda's neck arches just briefly and this is enough to make Andy plunge a second finger into the other woman, thrusting once with a little more force than before, hence pushing her harder against the door.
Miranda lifts the hand that isn't grabbing onto Andy's hip for dear life and cradles the back of her head instead, forcing her mouth back against her own as her body shudders and she whimpers. She gasps and pants, pleasurable waves taking their time to travel throughout her body until she can feel a slight pressure in her ears and she tosses her head back against the door. She can vaguely make out Andy's own rocking hips against her thigh as she shuts her eyes and everything goes white.
Andy is definitely short of breath herself. Miranda's is hot on her shoulder and she's pretty sure they might be permanently stuck together. She wouldn't mind that in the least.
Her theory is proven wrong, however, when Miranda pushes gently at her body. She obliges, slowly pulling away until it's awkward and embarrassing enough. The sudden loss of contact makes it so.
"Make some coffee--" Miranda says, softly pressing her cooling hands against her cheeks to ward off the blush as she steps around the younger woman, "--we uh--let's talk."
Still struggling to catch her breath, Andy nods and starts to move towards the kitchen, when she suddenly remembers, "Oh, I'm out. I'll uh--" She looks over and reads the red numbers on the microwave. 5:30. "I'll go get some Starbucks."
"No--" Miranda starts, "--no, it's fine."
"It' fine. I think I need it at this point. I'll be right back."
As Andy disappears momentarily, Miranda glances down and rolls her eyes at the one stocking she managed to get on before, ultimately, ruining it. Quickly, she pulls it off, regarding the two tracks threatening to pull the silk apart. Looking around for a second, for a trash bin or anything to dispose of the tethered material, she finally tosses it in her purse, which is resting promptly on the floor.
She looks at the couch, wonders if she should sit, but isn't really sure that's the best course of action. She doesn't think she can rest. So she roams into the kitchen area, leaning comfortably against the sink as a tell-tail signs of a headache creep in and she reaches up to pinch the ridge of her nose, applying just enough pressure to ward off the familiar demon.
Andy comes through the bedroom doorway and stops there as she zips up her jeans. She wonders how it is exactly that Miranda manages to be the picture of perfection even in her cluttered, broken down sorry excuse of a kitchen. Her head is inclined forward as she presses her fingers to her forehead, she's got and arm draped loosely over her midsection and her bare legs are crossed at the ankles, perfectly pedicure feet placed firmly against the cracked floor. Well, at least, it's clean. Her shoulders are bare against the camisole. She's breathtaking.
"You look so good amongst my things," Andy says softly as she buttons up her pea coat, smiling shyly as Miranda looks up and stares back wordlessly. Before another awful moment passes, she moves towards the door and grabs her keys off the coffee table on the way, "I'll uh--I'll be right back."
She doesn't know why, but she stops after pulling the door open and looks over her shoulder at Miranda.
Their eyes lock for a moment and Miranda smiles faintly, "I'll be here."
Andy's gaze lowers and she leaves her apartment in search of coffee.
It's darker than expected outside. She frowns as she skips down the front steps of her building, looking around the empty street. She stops once on the sidewalk, and looks around, a very small but very present, eerie, Twilight Zone-like sensation covers her skin in goose bumps, until she thinks to pull her cell phone out and reads the time. It's actually an hour earlier than she thought and then it dawns on her. The clock on her microwave is incorrect and has been incorrect for two years. She chuckles to herself and rolls her eyes, proceeding up the street towards the nearest Starbucks. She walks about half a block before stopping in mid stride and realizes that Starbucks is not open this early in the morning.
She looks back towards her apartment, bottom lip caught between her teeth, then back up the street. And then she remembers the small Diner with the awesome coffee around the corner that is thankfully open twenty-four hours a day.
Her knee high, low heel riding boots pound lightly against the concrete. She looks up at the darkened sky and breathes in cold air. it fills her lungs and she tucks her hands into her pant pockets, her mind wandering over to Miranda. Miranda sitting in her apartment, waiting for Andy to bring her coffee. She smiles at that. She wouldn't mind bringing Miranda's coffee for the rest of her life.
She shakes her head of the thought quickly. She can't bring herself to accept these delusions. Because as far as she's concerned at the moment, Miranda doesn't want that. Miranda doesn't want forever. But, maybe, she's afraid they won't have forever.
The future is, after all, the most uncertain subject to try to inspect too closely. Only a year ago, Andy thought she would spend the rest of her life with Nate. Only a year ago, Miranda thought she'd spend the rest of her life with Stephen. The future is always uncertain and that is the most frightening aspect of the definition in itself. It is unknown and unexpectedly interchangeable. But then again, so is love. And love isn't interchangeable.
Miranda is still standing long after Andy has gone. She is not lost in thought, she isn't even thinking about work. At this point, all her mind is doing is looping around the same conclusion. This cannot continue. This cannot and will not continue. No matter what happens after Andrea walks through that door, carrying scorching hot coffee, possibly smiling, possibly running her mouth a mile a minute. This will not continue past today.
She sighs heavily and looks about the tiny egg Andy calls an apartment. There is a an old couch that outlines the circumference of the living room. A small armchair sits on the other side, cornering the small rectangular area around a television, a DVD player, a moderate collection of DVD's and a red shelf above the television, bolted to the wall, packed to the rim with CD's and a small collection of Vinyl records.
The seemingly only free wall to the right, by the door, is adorned with a tall bookshelf. This, too, is filled.
This draws Miranda's attention and she feels as if this is the first time she's seeing Andy's apartment. And it very well might be. She's not so sure she's seen anything over than her bedroom since they started this thing. Her eyes scan the collection curiously. Plays, novels, biographies, even a couple of pulp fiction works.
A particularly worn out copy mandates her attention and her eyes dart up to the top shelf. Standing the tips of her toes momentarily, she grabs the small, blue book and pulls it off the shelf. It's one of those pocket sized books that Miranda loathes. She doesn't understand how anyone can get gratification from reading off of these tiny pages. Her own collection of first editions would prove that she is a snob in every aspect of her life.
She thumbs past the crinkled front cover and can't help but grin at the neat handwriting inside just bellow the title. The House of Mirth, and then, 'Property of Andrea Sachs'. All signs point to it being possibly Andy's favorite book. Miranda guesses, anyway. She's never asked. But there is writing inside, highlighted passages and scribbled little notes in the corner of pages. Certain chapters seem to open up almost automatically as if they've been read countless times before. Miranda thinks about giving Andy her own first edition copy as a gift. She would like that, she presumes. And then she remembers. There will be no more gifts. There will be no more Andrea. She rapidly puts the book back in its former slot on the top shelf and she turns her back to it as if she were turning away from Andy herself. She wipes her hands against her sides as if wiping away the residue of the initial thought.
"This will not do, this will not do..." She says to herself in a desperate whisper as she moves back into the kitchen and sits in a chair, laying her hands flat on the hard surface. She wonders, if only for a moment, what it would be like to allow herself the luxury of thinking. Thinking about a future with Andy. If it existed. Her daughters would have questions. She had not' t been in a relationship with a woman during their existence in the world. Stephen had seemed like the right candidate after the divorce from their father. And then suddenly, he wasn't. Andy is young and definitely not thinking about being any one's stepmother. Especially not to two ambiguously clever twelve year olds, who are always testing buttons and seeing how far they can push them.
And then there is the persona she will have no choice but to adapt to. The little wife to Miranda Priestly, the ice queen. Miranda Priestly's little plaything. Her face will be plastered all over Page 6 every time she steps out the door. it will be her shadow throughout an otherwise promising career in journalism.
And children. Miranda has them. She is done, as far as she is concerned. Andy possibly doesn't think about children at this point in her life, but Miranda wonders if she wants them. Her blood runs cold at the mere thought of caring for another infant. Until her mind counters with a brief image of Andy, holding a child in her arms and it warms Miranda's heart, making her think, maybe it wouldn't be such a horrible idea. But her daughters return. They are the sole reason in her life. The blood in her veins, the beat in her heart. She can't imagine disappointing them again. She's done more than enough of that in their short lives. No. No lover is worth risking that again.
Tears well up in her eyes and she shuts them, breathing slowly in and out until she is sure the momentary lapse has passed and she's suddenly back. Although, possibly, not as sure as she was a minute ago. Now, she is not sure she will be able to leave this apartment.
There are a couple of customers scattered around the Diner when Andy walks through the door. It's warm in there and it smells like French toast and scrambled eggs. And coffee. She smiles at that.
A nice, older woman takes her order and offers her a tired smile as she informs her it will be a minute for the next batch. As a gaggle of police officers were there only minutes before and sucked her dry of caffeine.
Andy nods and offers a polite "thank you" as she takes a seat at the counter, turning over a few times in the rotating seat. On the third round, she spots a familiar figure walking by the Diner. her eyes narrow to get a clear look and the dark figure does a double take at recognizing her through the large window.
"Doug?" She says subconsciously.
The door swings open, a tiny telling bell sounds off and sure enough, Doug himself walks through, bright, but tired smile beaming in her direction. There's a bulge against his chest and for a second Andy wonders what it is.
"Andy!" He greets her animatedly, but his tone is hushed. It is then that Andy recognizes the bulge against his chest as a small infant.
He must notice the immediate surprise on her face, because he briefly acknowledges the sleeping child before embracing her in a warm hug, careful not to disturb the baby.
"How--did--how--how are you?" Andy finally gets out, a laugh ending her question. She can't keep her eyes off the tiny head peaking out against Doug's chest, "It's been a while--"
"A little over a year," He nods.
She is instantly filled with guilt. She has lost contact with the few good friends in her life and it saddens her sincerely. She wishes she and Doug were still close. So she could analyze and talk about this whole thing with Miranda. She sucks it up instead, "Is this---"
"Yes. This is my son. This is Michael," He tells her, turning to the side a little so she can get a better view.
He is a gorgeous, chubby cheeked little thing and she can't help but reach out and caress his cheek with her finger, "He is the cutest thing I have ever seen in my life."
"Thank you," Doug says, and he seems so proud when he adds, "He's pretty amazing."
"So, he's your son--you're--"
"Yes. His name is William."
"I thought you said his name is Michael?"
"No," Doug laughed, "My boyfriend's name is William--husband. My husband. Still not used to saying 'husband', but yes. I'm married."
"Oh, wow. Congratulations," She says with a hint of nostalgia, reaching out to rub his arm affectionately. She would have liked to have been there.
"I wish you would have been there," He says as if reading her thoughts.
She smiles, "This little guy is going to be the best boyfriend ever, huh?"
"Are you kidding? Two gay dads? This kid is going to get so much tail..."
She laughs again.
"You should come around sometime," He adds soon after, "I live four blocks down. Literally four blocks down that way. Corner building, apartment four-oh-five. I'm a stay at home Dad for the next six months or so, so--come by. Any time."
She smiles and touches the baby's cheek again, "I will. This big boy might need an actual female in his life to teach him what women really like."
"Hey! I know what women like!"
"We don't all like Bette Midler and Liza Minelli, Doug."
"Fine. Maybe you can baby-sit while you're at it some time."
"I would love to baby-sit. What are you doing walking around in the dark anyway?"
"Oh--" He sighs, "--he always wakes up around this time and nothing gets him to sleep like a long walk around the neighborhood. I've tried everything. This is the only thing that works."
A few minutes pass and they talk easily back and forth. It feels like old times. All the while, Andy wonders if Miranda would hate very much to deal with sleepless nights and spit up and bottles and--babies. Her stomach knots immediately in fear that she might actually hate the idea.
Andy walks with Doug on her way back home and when they part ways, Andy thinks about Miranda again. And about herself. And about that future that won't let itself show. She thinks about the near future and what will happen when she steps through her front door. She wonders how she's going to make it so that she gets to keep Miranda.
When she opens the door, Miranda is sitting promptly at the kitchen table. She looks up and over at her from her seat. She's got the best posture this side of town (or any side) and it looks like she's been sitting there this whole time. Not moving, not breathing. Just, waiting for Andy.
"Coffee delivery," She says with a smile. A smile that is returned in kind.
It's quiet as she sets the small tray for two cups down on the table and then shrugs off her jacket. She's fully dressed and Miranda's still sitting in just her skirt and the black camisole, no shoes and no hose. Andy is pretty sure that this has never happened before and she's not sure she likes it. Because now that she's sitting up close to the other woman, she sees the reddened rims around Miranda's eyes, which look a pale blue and, not necessarily tired, but saddened. Somewhere behind that ready for battle glare, is sadness and it has Andy's name written all over it.
The brunette swallows guiltily and sits at the other end of the table as she hands Miranda her cup, "Starbucks was closed--" She explains, "--but the diner down the street makes better coffee anyway."
Miranda nods and presses her lips to the rim of the cup.
"I ran into Doug--" Andy tells her. She feels like sharing.
Miranda looks at her.
"Doug is--was--is an old friend. I hadn't seen him in a while. He's married now and has a brand new baby. He looks so happy." The look in Miranda's eye shifts to something else and Andy has to look down at the able, her smile faltering just a bit, "I'm uh--I'm happy that he's happy. He looks good. I'd missed him. I hadn't realized how much I'd missed him--"
"--we made plans to meet up--"
"Andrea--" Miranda tries again with slightly more force.
"--he actually lives just up the street and I had no idea, isn't that crazy?"
"Andrea, look at me."
Andy stops talking but waits another moment before actually lifting her gaze up to meet the piercing blue that look back so sadly. When she does, all she can say is, "I don't care how old you are or how old you get or how I old I get. I want to be with you. And I'm not--I can't--I am not ready to let you go. This isn't something I want to leave behind. I want to take you with me everywhere."
Miranda was not expecting that. She was not expecting Andy to actually have a coherent thought. She's looking right at her, looking straight through her and she gasps unwillingly at the sudden feeling it causes. She is not used to feeling that. She's used to the world wanting a piece of her, but she is definitely not accustomed to feeling like she is the world to someone else.
There is a long moment of silence between them, where they drink from their respective cups of coffee, once in a while meet each other's eyes, then shy away for lack of something to say.
"Mark Seliger gave me an Erwin Blumenfeld portrait as a birthday gift once--" Miranda finally states, stopping to look at Andy, "--do you know who that is?"
Andy nods briefly and licks a droplet of coffee off her bottom lip, searching her memory at light speed for the exact reference of that name, "Yes, a uh--fashion photographer, right?"
Miranda nods before proceeding, "A visionary. Beautiful portrait photographer as well. We have lunch every year on my birthday, Mark and I, but I forbid him any gifts. This particular year, however, he went against my wishes and handed me this beautiful, ten-by-sixteen framed print called "Eyes of Youth" from the late thirties. And I said 'oh, a fashion related gift for the Editor in Chief of Runway magazine? Groundbreaking'. And he said to me, 'Miranda, give me a little credit. I saw your Henry Clarke and thought this was a better fit--'"
She saw the confusion in Andy's eyes and stopped again to explain, "--Henry Clarke was another Fashion photographer. In the fifties. My ex-husband gave me a print of his when I first became Editor in Chief. It is of Bettina--very famous, very beautiful model-- She was mostly associated with Gyvenchy. Anyway, she's dressed in black, head to toe, everything about her is structured and poised and feminine. My ex-husband seemed to think this photograph in particular embodied...me."
Andy had seen said photograph in Miranda's office. She, herself had always identified the particular image with her as well. The way the model's silhouette stood out against the white backdrop, one hand braced on a cane--or an umbrella, she wasn't sure--and the other was out delicately angled but yes, almost structured. Her hip out in a sensual pose. It was Miranda personified.
"--this portrait that Mark gave me, is a close up of a woman, taken from above. Her hands or positioned over her face and all you really see are these beautiful, wide, expressive eyes. This wonderfully smooth, skin and beautiful hands," She gets lost in thought for a moment, thinking about the simple, black frame cornered in her home office, on the far wall where only she can see it, "--sometimes, she seems sad, sometimes, defiant. Depending on the mood I'm in," As if pulling herself from the reverie, she shakes her head a little and sits up straighter than she already is, "--Mark said the other portrait was inaccurate and the person who gave it to me must have not known me very well," She chuckles sardonically, "--he said this other portrait was me. He said 'I don't need to see what you're wearing to know how beautiful you are'." She clears her throat and waves a dismissive hand in the air, "The frame is cracked. When Patricia was a puppy, she ran in there and wrecked havoc on my office and dropped the frame on the floor. It didn't break apart completely, but there's a long crack running from top to bottom. Anyway, it reminds me of you sometimes. You're soft and--sweet, sometimes unnervingly so, but you can hold your own very well. I'm not afraid to hurt you as long as I don't have to hold you. Do you know what I'm saying?"
Andy's mouth has run dry and she struggles to find her voice in reply, "I--I think so."
Miranda's heart hammers in her chest as she makes the biggest exception of her life and explains herself, "You're precious to me," She says coolly, "Like that photograph. I see myself in that photograph and I see myself in you, because I feel as though you see me, Andrea. And the reason why I haven't had the frame repaired or changed, is the same reason I won't allow you to continue this affair with me. Because, while I am aware of your strength and your ability to take a few changes without faltering, I don't want to risk breaking you." She lifts her cup to her lips and sips delicately before adding firmly, "I would much rather leave you where you are. Where at least, I know you're safe. behind the cracked glass, the image is still beautiful and untouched and untainted."
Any, while touched, is still wrecked with anger-borderline confusion as she tries to figure out if this was some sort of vague love declaration.
She licks her lips again and shakes her head, "I don't need you to take care of me. I can take care of myself, I can...repair myself or whatever," she's become agitated now and her words are hard,"--you don't dictate what I want or what I choose. You don't tell me what I need or what I don't need. I'm a big girl I can handle myself. What do you know about what I need? What do you know about me?" She's almost spiteful and her chest is heaving when she's done speaking.
Miranda has rolled her shoulders back and is looking at her like she looks at work colleagues in the middle of a disagreement. She's getting ready to strike.
Andy braces herself and waits for the tongue lashing that never comes.
Miranda is, instead, silent. Completely silent and Andy has no idea what's coming next.
Andy's words hurt. Miranda cannot deny that. But they are also honest and they are truthful. She can't take that from her with a counter argument. So she bites her tongue. Longer than necessary, but the silence is soothing.
Eventually, she clears her throat and replies firmly, "You are correct. I do not know you. I do not know you outside of your bedroom. You are right."
Andy winces. Shit. This was not the plan, "No, Miranda, wait a minute. That was not what I meant."
"No. It is what you meant. I am glad that you said it. I do not know you as a person. And you do not know me. So, how can this possibly work? I ask, honestly. I would like you to give me an answer, because I don't know."
"I know you."
"You do not," Miranda cuts in quickly.
"I do," Andy asserts, with a nod. Now, it's her turn to raise her chin and square her shoulders as she continued, "I know a lot more about you than you'd care to admit. Which is more than I can say about you--"
To drown out the hurtful sentence, Miranda speaks up in a volume that is louder than her usual even mannered tone, "Did you know that I had an abortion when I was nineteen?" She winces to herself, never having disclosed such private information. Not even to Stephen or for the benefit of their marriage, "Did you know that--I fractured my back in a car accident when I was twenty-five and I was in a wheel chair for the better part of a year? My first husband didn't make it out of the car." She pauses and thinks about the man she hasn't mentioned in decades. Her heart aches but she continues, dryly as ever, "I've been married three times, not two. The first time, no one cares about because I wasn't--where I am now. So--" She nods and arches her back uncomfortably, "--did you know I am--afraid of medication? I don't take pills. The girls' birth was natural, even when it felt like I was going to die from the pain. I will endure the discomfort of daily headaches and will not resort to painkillers unless I am doubled over in excruciating agony. And I don't pray. Never. I loathe when others do it and I will let them know so. Did you know these things about me?"
Andy is rendered silent at this, and she's not sure what to say. Or what to feel. Except the head spinning sensation she felt in school when she learned something amazing that truly grabbed at her. She wants more now. But where they stand is so unclear that she doesn't know how to ask.
Before she can figure it out, however, Miranda speaks again.
"And what do I know about you?" Miranda asks, except it's not really question. It sounds like an accusation, "I know you live to write. I know you are passionate and take no prisoners. I know you are kind. And--emotional. You have enough emotions for the whole world, Andrea. And I believe that to be endearing." She pauses, hears herself swallow her anger and finally resumes, "It may not be a lot, but I believe these things I do know about you are an important aspect of who you are. And who you are, is someone who expects a lot from a partner. A lot of--shown emotion and affection, which I can provide--in very small portions. Affection I have no problem with, but my emotions are my own." She drinks from her coffee again and feels instantly revitalized as the caffeine washes over her taste buds, "Oh, and your favorite book is The House of Mirth. It is also one of mine."
Andy swallows hard, her hand wrapped securely around the warm cup of coffee, her palm sweaty against the heat. She wants to cry. She wants to scream and laugh all at once. She's frustrated and wants to know what to say so desperately.
"I want to know all these things about you," She says, her voice small, "I do. I want to know why you don't pray. I want to know--your daughters more. I want to know everything." She nods, holding Miranda's gaze, "And I do know some things. I know how you take your coffee and I know that you hate grilled onions. I know that you like your space when you sleep but find your way against me anyway at some point during the night," She smiles and Miranda looks away, "Before you wake up and leave anyway. I also know you shiver when I kiss you behind your ear. And I know you smile at me and everything feels better." She bites her cheek briefly and adds, "You LOOK at me and everything feels better. And I also know that there is so much time to get to know the rest." She leans forward, both palms against the table top as she seems to search for Miranda's averted gaze, "I love you--Miranda. And I don't know what that means to you, but to me, it means--it means this is good. You know?"
Miranda inhales deeply and asks, before Andy's confession takes the better of her, "Do you want children in the future?"
Andy thinks about Doug and his baby and she smiles to herself, suddenly feeling more optimistic. She shrugs, "I don't know. Maybe. Maybe not."
"Andrea, now is not the time for word games," Miranda snaps, uneasy with the sudden light turn the conversation has taken without her permission. It feels like losing.
"I'm not playing word games, Miranda," Andy responds and can't help the chuckle that escapes her, "I like babies. I LOVE babies. But, I don't want them now. I don't know if I'll want them later. Maybe I'll just like baby sitting for my friends and be cool Aunt Andy. Maybe I'll want a bunch of my own someday."
Miranda is now, visibly, uncomfortable when she replies, "I don't know that I want any more children."
"Then we won't have any."
"We?" Miranda looks up then, "You seem so certain that there is a 'WE'." Andy smiles and for some reason, this aggravates the older woman.
"You're still sitting in my kitchen, aren't you?"
Miranda shifts in her seat and sets her cup down, stating pointedly, "This is hardly a kitchen."
"I can cook up a feast in here. Stop hating on my apartment. You don't have a door, hardly a kitchen. Come on, Miranda. Look at my paycheck.
Miranda looks at her closely and then replies, "You're making a joke."
Andy laughs this time. It's refreshing, "Yes."
"Just like that. You would give up kids for my benefit."
"For OUR benefit." She clarifies, "I told you. This is what I want. And I'm going to do whatever it takes. The kids thing isn't a big deal. We can have dogs. Loads of them."
"I wouldn't be opposed to that, I suppose."
Andy's heart leaps, "Good."
"But there is still the question of our age difference."
"Yeah, you're going to have to get over that." Andy says, picking up her coffee and swallowing a large, satisfying gulp, "The only one questioning it is you."
"Well, because it needs to be addressed."
"Mmm..." Andy shakes her head, "...no, it doesn't."
"Look, if you're worried about the sex thing, I will bend you over your walker when you're a hundred and I'm seventy-five. There's no way you're getting away from me, I don't care how old you are."
Miranda blushes but quickly presses her lips together in a hard line as she glares at the young brunette, "I don't like the way you make me second guess myself. I don't do that."
Andy's smile softens into something else. Something warm. She thinks maybe she shouldn't say what she wants to say, but now is the time for confessions, it seems, "That means you love me."
Miranda looks away and shifts back against the wooden backrest of her chair.
"I'm not asking you to say it," Andy assures her, "I'm just trying to make you see--you need to see that there is nothing wrong with this."
Miranda stares at the cracked kitchen floor, studies it while she wrecks her mind trying to convince herself that she hasn't just been convinced against her better judgment. Finally, she turns towards Andy, who is still smiling, bright eyed and hopeful, "This needs to be a slow progression."
"Okay," Andy nods, trying desperately to not jump for joy.
"And I mean slow. I will not be proposing marriage to you next week because we're suddenly in a relationship."
"And public appearances will have to wait."
"At least for a little while," She adds, softer this time.
Andy smiles wider, "Okay."
"And my daughters--" Here is the subject that she needs to address carefully.
"Later," Andy finishes for her, "We can tell them much later."
"Fine." Miranda sighs gratefully, searching Andy's eyes for any doubt or a flinching change of heart. There is none. "You will continue your career as a journalist and will not think about children until you are sought after and respected. You will write day and night--you will write brilliant articles about--children in Africa or blood diamonds, or whatever the cause of the week is, and I will not hear otherwise. I refuse to be involved with an individual of a lesser status."
Andy chuckles and shakes her head, "You have a funny way of saying you think I'm amazing."
"I said nothing of the sort."
"Come here, Miranda," Andy replies, pushing her chair out and reaching her hand out.
"I have to be at work in a couple of hours--"
"Come. Here." Andy repeats, mimicking Miranda's no nonsense tone.
Miranda doesn't appreciate the demand, but she begrudgingly gets up anyway, walking over and fighting a smile Andy seems to be bringing on without her consent.
Andy has to literally pull at her hips to get her onto her lap and she laughs against the slight resistance. She wraps her arms tightly around Miranda's waist and props her chin on her shoulder, glancing up at the woman's profile, "You are now Andy Sach's girlfriend."
Miranda cringes, "Oh god, I am too old to be someone's girl--" Her words are swallowed by Andy's lips as she kisses her softly. It is gentle and slow and Miranda shivers.
"If you ever bring up your age again, I will tie you to my bed and you will never see Runway again."
Miranda smiles and kisses Andy's cheek before standing, "As tempting as that sounds--" She quickly spots her shoes and casually steps into them, "--I really should go."
"We should try that sometime," Andy suggests, locking her knees together at the thought of Miranda tied to her headboard.
As she buttons up her blouse, Miranda shrugs, "I wouldn't be opposed to the idea."
Andy takes a deep breath and hungrily watches Miranda, who seems to read her thoughts exactly as she slowly breaks into a smile that reaches all the way up to her blue eyes and she shakes her head with a chuckle.
"I'm not doing anything," Andy says innocently, "If my mind happens to drift, I can't do anything about it."
"Mmm-hmm," Miranda replies, unconvinced, slipping on a white Armani jacket. She fights the overwhelming urge to call in sick to work. She has not called in for any reason in years and she is not about to start now, so she forces her body to move for the door, when she does reach it, Andy calls from the kitchen table and she stops.
"Come over tomorrow night," Andy says, then adds sweetly, "I'll make you dinner."
"Are you going to court me, Andrea?"
Andy shrugs, feeling very happy about the tiniest hint of a blush creeping up on Miranda's cheeks, "Maybe."
"I have the girls tomorrow," Miranda replies regrettably, "But Saturday night, they're off to their father's. You may cook for me then."
"Deal," Andy beams.
"Very well," Miranda replies, pulling the door open, then holding her breath when she stops again and turns expectantly. She stares back at the brunette watching her intently and she rolls her eyes at the juvenile thought, but acts on it anyway.
She walks briskly across the floor, cradles her cheek and lowers her head to press her lips to Andy's. It's a chaste kiss. But it makes her feel better. More relaxed. And she sighs as she lingers close enough for their noses to graze.
She leaves without another word and Andy makes it her mission to make the best dinner ever. She also makes it her mission to buy some pretty scarves to tie Miranda Priestly to her bed later in the week.