chainofclovers: (dvl)
[personal profile] chainofclovers
Title: Clean Rooms and Dirty Light
Fandom: The Devil Wears Prada (film)
Pairing: Miranda/Andy
Rating: M
Disclaimer: I have no rights whatsoever to The Devil Wears Prada.
Summary: Oh, you know. They're mad at each other; they love each other. They're smart women but kind of dumb when it comes to this.
Author's Note: Many, many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] sporkmetender, beta extraordinaire. She was a fantastic help to me. The chronology I used in the storytelling (alternating between present events and history) was inspired by several stories by [livejournal.com profile] somniesperus.



In December, about a month after she and Miranda started sleeping together, Andy spent a whole night fixated on how much she loved Miranda’s body. It was strange how a body could be both like and unlike the person to which it belonged. Miranda’s was stunning, proud, and—at least in this moment—got what it wanted, which was Andy’s mouth pressed between its legs. At the same time, it was responsive in a way that defied Miranda’s personality. It got wet and dry and itched and ached and craved and was fulfilled.

After she brought Miranda to orgasm she kissed the insides of her thighs and murmured, “This is so good.”

Startled, Miranda laughed. “No. This isn’t good.” She tried to explain when she saw Andy’s stricken face. “I don’t mean good as in delicious; I mean good as in right. I don’t—” She pressed her fingers to her temples.

Andy stared at her. They’d made the bed into a throne of pillows and Miranda seemed far away. She was reigning, whether she wanted to or not. Andy was crouched before her and really, really didn’t want to cry. Her face was already a mess, and she’d been so happy only a few seconds ago. There was no way to respond, so she pulled herself up until she was sitting between Miranda’s legs, her own legs folded underneath her. “I have to go wash my face,” she said a moment later, and left Miranda lying there, still and spread out but closed to communication.

Even alone in the bathroom with the faucet running, Andy didn’t cry. She took a shaky breath, stared at herself in the mirror, and thought:
Until it’s out of our fucking systems. Maybe that would be soon. She washed her face and brushed her teeth before heading back to the bedroom with a sort of directionless resolve. Miranda hadn’t turned on a light in the time Andy was gone. The only change in the room was that she had closed her legs and folded her arms across her chest.

The next day, Miranda left even more quickly than she did on their first morning. Andy got dressed and went into the office shortly after, knowing she would drive herself crazy if she stayed at home and pretended to work. By the time she got to her desk, there was an email from Miranda in her inbox. It said:

What do you think of this article?

MP

Linked was a piece from the
New York Times on the general elections in Iraq. Andy wondered what in the world Miranda wanted: Andy’s take on the political situation itself, a critique of the journalist’s writing style, recognition of a particular bias? She ended up reading the article three and a half times before figuring out exactly why she was intrigued by the content but didn’t enjoy the reading experience. The article was surprisingly dry in tone, trying for an edgy skepticism and not quite getting there. She said as much in her response email, and held her breath as she wrote two unrelated lines at the end of the message:

I can’t help it that Friday night made me happy. Next time I’m going to pay a lot of attention to that shivery spot at the nape of your neck, and maybe you’ll be happy, too.

AS

Miranda didn’t respond to the part about her neck, and certainly not to any allegations about her supposed happiness or unhappiness. But she did agree that “edgy skepticism” done badly was a truly miserable thing. Her next email, about mice injected with stem cells for the purpose of studying human neurological disorders, was much longer than the first. She was of two minds about the entire process, and the fact that Miranda Priestly had a—hypocritical, yes, but endearing—soft spot for mice made Andy all the more eager to write a postscript about her wrists and hair and the surprising warmth of her body in December.

As the weeks went on, Miranda’s emails became increasingly analytical, and Andy’s increasingly erotic. They didn’t talk about them in person, but their writing was there in the room with them every time they had sex. Miranda didn’t explain her beliefs to many people, and desired feedback even less often. That she expressed both to Andy made Andy feel interesting and informed and worth…she didn’t know what exactly, but the correspondence was gratifying. She liked to think that her emails did something similar to Miranda, who was fawned over all the time but rarely told she was truly beautiful. Quite frankly, there wasn’t anyone in the world in the same position as Andy—close enough to create detailed assessments of Miranda’s sexual strengths and brave enough to let Miranda read them.

Andy often let herself think of strange, lovely things when she touched Miranda: things she
wasn’t brave enough to send to her. She thought of floury hands working pastry dough, or of taking a petal between thumb and forefinger and stroking it gently, relishing the texture. When Miranda’s breathing started to get loud against the dark, Andy imagined an indoor windstorm, or the ocean rushing the apartment. Later, whenever she noticed that many of her recollections of pleasure with Miranda were bound up in organics, she explained to herself that she had to keep her writer’s mind about her. She couldn’t let her creative senses succumb to atrophy, even in this, even about things she couldn’t bring herself to write down.

She told herself it would have been easy to hold Miranda, even to have her naked and begging, and think nothing but “Oh my God,
Miranda is here with me.” Miranda’s world was full of people who worshipped her or needed her to think that they did, but when she really thought about it, Andy had to admit that she’d never been in either category. Even when Andy worked for Miranda, blind prostration was missing from her professional approach. At first ignorance was to blame, then indignation, and now there was no way she could give a name to the whys and hows of her refusal to humble herself at the altar of Miranda Priestly.

Though Miranda would never say so, it was clear that this quality had always been one of her favorite things about Andy. The words for a proper explanation didn’t exist. She couldn’t say, “Andrea, the way you refuse to deify me is so refreshing” when there was so much they weren’t speaking about already.

Anyway, worship wouldn’t have worked for long in this scenario; it would have burned out in weeks, and they made it to the beginning of March without slowing down. So, flour. Rainstorms. Their bed a tangled garden. Anything for Andy to keep their flesh earthbound, a little bit less than sacred, since it obviously wasn’t sacred to Miranda. Miranda, who saw nothing good in this, and probably didn’t see any gardens either.

One night they’d been asleep (in Andy’s case) and quiet and still (in Miranda’s) for well over an hour when Miranda nudged Andy awake. “Listen to that,” she said, her voice a little ragged from the late hour and the silence, and Andy’s ears took in actual howling wind, pellets of rain driving against the big old windows.

“In like a lion?” Andy said with a grin.

“I always forget how much I love the first rainstorms.”

Apparently, weather talk wasn’t small talk if you were naked and it was the middle of the night. “Me too,” Andy replied. “It’s going to be warm soon.” She felt a fluttering in her stomach, not exactly sexual, but like something wonderful was happening. A massive shift, seasonal in scale, fabulously scary. She let her hand creep toward Miranda’s bare shoulder where it peeked out from under the sheets, and swirled her fingers against the smooth skin there. After a few moments she felt Miranda’s fingers encircle her wrist and drag her hand down under the covers to Miranda’s left breast.

“You want to get going again?” The sound of Andy’s voice was dampened by the storm.

“No,” Miranda’s voice was even quieter. “I have to sleep—I haven’t yet. If you could just—” She hesitated, and let go of Andy’s wrist. “If you could just touch?”

“Sure,” Andy murmured sleepily, thinking of how glad she was that some nights they didn’t bother dressing for bed. “I’ll touch you so gently.” She sounded like one of her emails. She left the covers as they were, so they were both buried under the sheets and comforter and the extra blanket they needed in the winter but wouldn’t need much longer. She let her fingers trace lazy circles around one breast and then the other, noticing when Miranda’s nipples started to respond but treating the response as secondary to the task of relaxing her, getting her to sleep. Miranda’s breathing started to slow down after only a minute or so, and Andy figured she was asleep or very close to it when she pressed a kiss to Miranda’s shoulder. But Miranda gasped and tensed up, and her eyes popped open.

“Sorry,” Andy whispered.

Miranda turned away so she was laying on her side, her back to Andy. Andy’s arms felt lost, but she retreated into her own space.

“Goodnight,” Andy said to Miranda’s back. She didn’t get a response.

Sleep faded the tension, apparently, and the next morning they returned quickly enough to their original position: lying side by side, shoulders pressed together, Andy cupping the underside of Miranda’s breast in a gesture she told herself was purely designed to elicit mutual sexual pleasure. Nothing soothing about it. This wasn’t like the time they absent-mindedly fell asleep holding hands and woke up hours later with aching wrists and stiff fingers. They weren’t stupid; they learned from at least a few of their mistakes.

Andy let herself marvel—silently, with her fingers—at Miranda’s soft warm flesh, at one point intertwining her fingers with Miranda’s so they could both feel the pebbling of her nipples. They spent a good twenty minutes awake in bed that morning, which would have been unimaginable in November.

The next time Miranda came over, neither of them could get to sleep for a long time.

“Miranda?” Andy whispered.

“Yes?”

“Not having anyone know about this is getting really hard.” Andy knew Miranda probably wasn’t the best person to talk to about this sort of thing, but that was the whole issue: there wasn’t anybody else, not so long as they were keeping their “arrangement” a secret.

“Logistically, you mean? Your friends are wondering about your schedule?”

“No,” Andy said, though she wished the answer was “yes,” that it was something that simple. “The schedule issue is easy enough to work around. It’s just, um, a little overwhelming to have to—to compartmentalize this. I feel weird that no one knows.”

Andy steeled herself for Miranda to question the wisdom of continuing to meet. To imply, maybe not in so many words, that Andy could take what she could get or take nothing at all. She certainly wasn’t expecting to hear Miranda say, “Tell someone, then. The right person.”

“You’d be okay with that?”

“If you tell the right person there won’t be any problems, will there?”

“No. I guess not.”

“Then tell one person. See what it feels like.”

“I think I’m going to tell my best friend, Lily, maybe you’ve heard me mention her—”

“I don’t need to know who. It isn’t really my business, is it?”

“Not exactly,” Andy conceded, though it felt very much like Miranda’s business. “Are you going to tell someone?”

Their bodies weren’t touching, but Andy could feel Miranda stiffen. “I’m not sure.”

“That’s cool,” Andy said quickly. “I was just wondering.”

A week later, while she was putting in a few extra hours at the
Mirror, two emails arrived within a minute of each other: one from Miranda, and one from Nate, who had apparently decided to fulfill the last promise he made before Boston. She spent a stupid minute trying to decide which to open first before settling on Nate’s because she looked forward to it less. Nate was “with someone new” but was thinking of her often and hoped she was well—all in a few sentences. For once, Miranda’s email was short, too: she’d finally gotten around to seeing “The Compulsive Line: Etching 1900 to Now” exhibit at MOMA, and wanted Andy to see it too so they could discuss it. With bitterness, Andy thought about how visiting an exhibit Miranda had seen would be like going on a date but at separate times, and about all the conventional dates Nate was probably going on with the “someone new” in his life. She burst into tears before she knew she was sad.

Jennifer, the woman who liked to exhibit a lot of her own edgy skepticism about Andy’s career, made an inquisitive noise in her direction. “You okay?”

“Yes,” Andy sniffed. She looked Jennifer right in the eye and said, “My mom just sent me a really touching E-Card, all right? Shouldn’t have opened it at work.”

It was definitely time to talk to Lily.


---

Andy and Miranda regarded each other with some amusement as they got into bed that night. It occurred to Andy that it was strange that this should feel strange—it was really incredibly ordinary to reach the end of the day, feel tired, and decide to fall asleep next to someone who had reached the end of her day and felt the same. They’d slept in the same bed—this bed—quite a few times, but the absence of post-coital stupor made tonight’s circumstances feel sharply different. There was nothing sweaty or out of breath or calm-muscled about this moment. Their days were simply finishing in close proximity—that was all it was.

Or not quite all. Without asking, Andy scooted down the bed until her head was level with Miranda’s midsection. She leaned over, pushed Miranda’s camisole up a little bit, and kissed her abdomen. “Hey there, Miranda Priestly’s crazy uterus? Thank you for a lovely day,” she said softly, pressing the words against the warm skin. Andy knew then, as she had known and re-known a hundred times, that she was the crazy one, the one with a death wish.

Miranda cringed, but she didn’t look mad when Andy peered up at her face. “And it’s usually so under-appreciated.”

“An unsung hero,” Andy agreed, matching the dryness of Miranda’s tone. Another kiss. “How’re you feeling?”

Miranda shrugged. “I’m fine. I feel fine.” The words sounded far away, and a little wet.

They stayed like that for awhile, Andy curled up against Miranda’s torso while Miranda worked her fingers through Andy’s hair. Andy sank deep into the moment, resting her head gently on the surface she’d just kissed, so deep she was startled when she heard Miranda sniff a little and looked up to see tears rolling down her cheeks.

“Miranda, are—”

Miranda shook her head, opened her mouth to speak, closed it, and opened it again. “What you were saying just then—it somehow reminded me of a moment…I think of it far more often than I should.”

“Tell me.”

“When I was pregnant with Caroline and Cassidy, I talked to them on a regular basis. Little things about my day, how excited I was to meet them, what our lives were going to be like. I wasn’t muttering to them on the subway like an insane person—just at home, in private. Can you picture someone doing that? Of course you can, you were just talking to my—anyway, one evening John came home early, but I didn’t hear him coming toward the bedroom. He made fun of me as soon as he realized what I was doing.”

Trouble, clearly. Andy had long believed that Miranda was better at handling blatant hatred than teasing. Miranda continued, “I’m sure he just thought it was amusing and wasn’t actually trying to mock me. But that day I started shutting him out of a lot of the planning for the twins. When they came I wanted to do everything for them and he never got into the habit of helping, and after a while I started to resent him. I stopped giving him a chance. It was unfair, but I knew he wasn’t the right person for me. I didn’t realize how wrong until—” She took a shaky breath, trying to stave off actual crying. Andy moved back up the bed, placing her hand on Miranda’s abdomen and laying her head next to Miranda’s on her pillow.

“Until what?” Andy asked gently.

“Sometimes when we’re together I can’t help but think about what it could have been like back then, if we were the right ages and everything had lined up more...properly. If I’d been with you instead.”

“Oh…” Andy breathed, her head spinning. She had no idea how to respond.

“I’m sorry,” Miranda said, crying in earnest despite her best efforts. “I thought—if we slept together enough times—it would go away—” She sobbed. “I thought—I’d realize I was wrong about you, too. But it isn’t—going away.”

If Andy forced herself to be honest, she’d known for months that their physical desire for each other wasn’t going to wane anytime soon. Still, she hadn’t let herself hope that the affection she definitely, without a doubt felt for Miranda could be returned in any workable capacity. Apparently, that affection was there for her too, but loving Andy—if that was how this wish of Miranda’s could be defined---was something Miranda wanted to rid herself of, because the timing was bad. Andy felt a creaking in her chest, reminding her that her heart wasn’t broken but that it could be, that it wouldn’t take much. A little more of this would do it.

“Oh,” Andy said again. “Miranda, feeling this way about me makes you sad?”

Miranda grasped some of the bedsheet into her fist and yanked at the fabric a little. “It’s knowing I did everything wrong—that I can’t go back—”

“But you didn’t do everything wrong.” Andy forced herself to smile. “Look, aren’t you glad that your daughters are exactly who they are?” Miranda nodded. “Even if it had been you, me, and a turkey baster in 1995, or if we were both, like, in our early thirties or something, or if I was some male version of myself and got you pregnant, Caroline and Cassidy would be totally different people. Maybe they wouldn’t even be twins. And maybe we’d stop getting along, or we wouldn’t be attracted to each other, or any number of things we have no way of knowing.”

“I wouldn’t want a male version of you.”

“Well, good, since you’re not getting one. I feel the same way. And I wouldn’t want you younger, any more than I want to be older. I’m glad neither of us can start over.”

“A turkey baster?” If Andy could make a joke in an incredibly fraught moment, Miranda could deflect emotion with the best of them.

“Yeah, you know, for the sperm. Even lesbian mommies need it. If they want a biological kid, that is.”

“Ah.” Miranda smiled through her tears. “Of course.”

“So, um. That’s probably not going to happen for us. A change that big. But maybe we do need to take stock of this, figure out something that’s going to make us both feel better about where things are going.”

Miranda didn’t respond. She was looking straight ahead, still crying, though silently. In her second miraculous flash of understanding that day, Andy read in her face that Miranda was picturing every possibility at once, cataloguing them, finding them all beyond her famed ability to plan and control and influence. Andy saw in pieces a terrible movie of Miranda’s imagined future: being expected to date Andy and dine with her and coming up short on time. The relationship breaking to the press, further complicating her divorce and shocking both their families. Coming out to her daughters, to her co-workers, to the friend or two she still had, and meeting their disapproval and disgust. Getting bored with a more conventional relationship, or worse, getting more and more enthralled but finding that Andy was bored. The sex getting awkward, or uninspired. Andy realizing she wanted a boyfriend after all, or maybe a female partner who was actually a nice, adorable, friendly person. Her children losing yet another adult they’d come to trust and depend upon. It was a film of worst case scenarios, years of failures that to Miranda seemed inevitable.

Andy stroked Miranda’s skin and murmured in her ear. “Hey, I know you’re smart enough to worry about a lot of things at once, but it’s a lot healthier not to.”

“I’m not good at healthy things.” Andy could hear in Miranda’s voice that she said it to be contrary but that it was also true.

“Neither am I, as it turns out. I’m not asking you to change. I really love what we do together. And I don’t actually think it’s all that unhealthy.” She forced her tone softer, sweeter, and braced herself for Miranda’s reaction to what she was going to say next. “But maybe it wouldn’t kill us if we went and got coffee sometime, or if I met your daughters, just to hang out. Re-met, rather.” Miranda’s eyebrows raised at this, which Andy ignored. This wasn’t the time for Andy to regale Miranda with the story of her first meeting with the twins. “Or maybe we could talk about work, or, or…Paris. So gradually we wouldn’t even realize it was happening,” she added, trying not to sound desperate and failing miserably.

“Today was good,” Miranda said.

“Yeah. It was. So will you think about what I said?”

“Yes.” The reply was immediate. Tired but eager.

“Don’t make me any promises. I’m not going to make you any either.” Marriage was a promise, and it was stressful to watch Miranda and Stephen extract themselves from it, even though Miranda never talked about the divorce.

Miranda shut her eyes, Andy turned off the bedside lamp, and they both stopped talking. The silence was like a promise not to promise anything, and neither of them had to shift position or take their hands away from each other in order to fall asleep.

---

Andy had come to look forward to Fridays and Mondays very much. Even the Friday nights she spent without Miranda were nice: sometimes she went out for a drink with friends or co-workers, and other times she stayed home and read or cooked or cleaned the apartment. Now that she lived alone, she took more pride than she ever had in keeping her home clean and taking good care of herself. If there was a mess in the kitchen or if she ate Chinese take-out three nights a week, she was the only person around to blame. Surprisingly, doing chores and household tasks on a Friday night was a lot less embarrassingly dull than she might have imagined back in college. Besides, the other Friday nights were exciting enough to make up for them. Those other Fridays were her favorites, but all Fridays had their perks.

Her appreciation of Mondays was a stranger thing. Andy often worked at least one weekend shift; still, Mondays dragged with the weight of a new work week. But after Nate left for Boston, she and Lily started meeting for drinks after work nearly every Monday night. It gave them something to look forward to after the weekend was over, and there were lots of good happy hour specials. Doug came along when he could manage it, but more often than not it was just the two of them. Secretly, they liked that. Their closeness had taken a beating in New York, but once Lily admitted that Andy wasn’t the only one who had been changed by life in the city, and once Andy admitted that she needed to make their relationship a bigger priority, they’d managed to successfully navigate a more adult friendship.

By the time the break-up was a few weeks old, they spent comparatively little time discussing Nate’s departure. Lily’s work at the gallery and Andy’s work at the paper were far more absorbing topics. They hardly ever talked about dating or relationships—or, obviously, sexual arrangements with former bosses. Lily hadn’t dated anyone for a while and frequently got defensive when anyone broached the subject, and she tended not to ask Andy any questions either, presumably out of sensitivity for her status as newly single. Monday evenings were starting to read like a slightly tipsy celebration of working too much and ignoring men altogether. Andy wondered where that kind of energy had been when she started at
Runway, and her guilt that Lily didn’t know about Miranda swelled ever larger. Mentioning how she felt to Miranda had helped a little—Miranda’s words had helped her grasp the fact that those Friday nights in bed together did exist in reality even if they were thus far carried out in secret.

The week after Andy got “permission” from Miranda to kiss and tell, Lily practically set up the conversation for her. Settling into a small corner table at a bar that was way too pricy on the weekends but just right on a Monday night, she handed Andy a drink and said abruptly, “You look like you have news. You’re dating someone, aren’t you? I know you’re not moping over Nate anymore. I mean…you kinda stopped before you started. Almost.”

Andy swallowed. “I’m not dating anyone, but…”

“But?”

“You really aren’t going to believe this.”

Lily did believe it. She was shocked, but she believed it. Mostly, she had lots of questions, and it was when Andy realized all the answers seemed obvious to her that she understood how fully she had been living and operating in a world where she and Miranda were a given. Indefinable and endlessly confounding, but a given. Lily wanted to know if Miranda really “liked women,” and if Andy actually found Miranda attractive and wasn’t just along for the ride, so to speak. If anything had happened between them while Andy was still at Runway. (“Of course,” “of course,” and a milder “of course not.”)

“You’re not totally whipped,” Lily said incredulously. “You’re not at her beck and call 24/7. I seriously had no idea any of this was going on. Do you realize how omnipresent she was when you worked for her? You would have already gotten two calls since the time we got to the bar.”

“I know,” Andy said. “That’s part of why I was afraid to tell you. I figured you’d remember how things were and assume this was the same kind of situation. It isn’t. At all. And we’re being really discreet. We have to be.” Silently, she admitted that they would be discreet even if both of them were free as birds.

Lily’s face was solemn. “Oh my God. Her divorce isn’t final yet. I read about that in a magazine for crying out loud. Well, I won’t tell anyone.”

“Thanks. It’s not like there’s much to tell anyway.”

Lily looked skeptical, so Andy tried to clarify. “I mean—this isn’t like, like dating or something. There’s no commitment.”

“Wow,” Lily sighed. “Remember in high school, when we were guessing which one of us would have sex first and you said you would never sleep with anyone you didn’t love?”

“Yeah,” Andy said slowly, like drawing out the syllable was going to buy her time. She realized Lily had no idea about Christian, either, and sleeping with him had been the real aberration.

A light went on. “Oh. Oh my God. Andy, you only see her once every two weeks. Does she even know?” As usual, Lily knew how to get to the point.

“I don’t want to ask for any more time,” Andy said quietly.

“Isn’t it strange, though? Don’t you feel disconnected—just seeing this person twice a month and doing something—” She’d been talking quietly already, but lowered her voice considerably. “—so intimate?”

“Well, we keep in touch,” Andy said, glad to be back on marginally more solid conversational territory.

“Phone?”

“Nah, she’s pretty terrible with the phone. I send her dirty emails.”

Lily said “Oh my God” for what felt like the hundredth time that night.

Andy blushed, but she wanted to continue. She felt light-headed and nonsensically happy. “I just write about what I want to do to her, and what I want her to do to me. And my favorite things about her.”

“Does she respond?”

“She writes me about stuff she reads in the
Times. And The Nation, which I’m pretty sure she started reading because I told her how much I like it. A lot of times I get emails from her in the mornings, when I know she reads the paper. But sometimes they come at really weird times, like three a.m. She’s a good writer. And she always wants my feedback—what I think of the articles and what she says about them and everything.”

“Andy, you’re beaming.”

She knew it and couldn’t help it. “Really?”

“You’re absolutely beaming. You are in for it. You’re—you’re writing smut for a fifty-year-old woman.”

“Um…she’s not quite fifty yet. But her birthday’s soon.”

“What are you going to do to celebrate?”

“We’re not going out, Lily. I mean—we don’t go out. At all. We stay in. Besides, her birthday’s on a Tuesday this year.” She didn’t explain what that meant, why it mattered that it didn’t land on a Friday—the right kind of Friday, at that.

“Well, are you going to get her something?”

“I was thinking sex.”

Lily laughed. “This is so crazy, Andy.”

“I know. I’m kind of really happy and really miserable all at the same time. Thanks for not freaking out.”

Lily patted her hand. “No problem. I mean, I’m not your mother…or Nate…or paparazzi…or…”

“Stop it!”

“I’m just saying, give me a little credit.”


---

In the morning Andy lay in bed, listening to Miranda get ready for her day. She felt, if not completely relaxed, more calm than she had in a long time. Then, through the half-open bathroom door, she saw Miranda reach into her toiletries bag for an orange plastic pill bottle, pop open the cap, place a pill on her tongue, and fill a Dixie cup with water. All of a sudden, there was a sinking in her stomach, like finding out a family secret, like witnessing a private harm. She’d never seen Miranda take a pill before, and although she knew quite well that people took pills all the time, for all sorts of reasons, in the second she saw it there was no question of politeness or restraint.

“What is that?” she asked in a shaking voice, making it to the door just as Miranda swallowed.

Their eyes met in the small, plastic-framed bathroom mirror. “Anti-depressant,” Miranda said, sighing. When Andy didn’t say anything, she went on. “Don’t look at me like that. It’s my prescription. I take the proper dosage. You’re acting like you just caught me with stolen OxyContin.”

“Sorry,” Andy said. She felt retroactive guilt for her depressant/stimulant joke the night before, even though she was pretty sure Miranda hadn’t registered it at all. “I just—I didn’t know, and--”

“I think we established last night that there’s quite a lot we don’t know about each other.”

“Well, now I know this.” Andy stepped a little closer, until she was standing next to Miranda. She pressed her hand to the small of Miranda’s back. “Do you mind my asking if they, ah, work? If they’re doing what they’re supposed to?”

Miranda shrugged. “It’s only been a couple of months, but I suppose so. I suppose they work.” She mirrored Andy’s touch, then slid her hand down to give Andy’s rear a gentle pat. “Not as well as this,” she added, looking meaningfully at the placement of her hand.

“Is my ass your anti-drug, Miranda?”

“Mm. More like a supplement.”

“I can handle that.”

“Good.”

“My therapist thinks this is a bad idea.” The admission was conversational, almost chatty.

“What is?”

Miranda shook her head briefly, and clarified. “Us sleeping together.”

Andy harrumphed her dismissal of this opinion, but her face soon broke into a smile. “So you did tell someone!”

“Doesn’t count. She’s confidential, I pay her, and I only mentioned it once. I might stop seeing her, actually.”

“It counts for something.”

Apparently Miranda, for all her poise and stubborn rejection of the healthy and infinite confidence as arbiter of fashion, saw something painful in herself—in who she was, or in how she felt—and was working to change it. With help. Andy realized that this wasn’t the right moment to do what she wanted to do, which was to hug Miranda from behind, look at both of their faces in the mirror, touch her and kiss her everywhere she could reach. Miranda didn’t seem ashamed about the pill, but she would misinterpret that physical sweetness as pity, or as Andy scrambling far too quickly toward normalcy, slipping along the way. She opted for a quick kiss to Miranda’s cheek, and was nearly out the bathroom door before she said casually, “So, I’m making breakfast and more mediocre coffee. You should stay if you have time.”

Apparently, Miranda had a little time to spare.

---

Later in the week, Lily and Doug came over for dinner and a movie. “Wow,” Doug said as he walked through the door. “Your apartment’s really neat. Actually, it’s been really neat for a while now.”

“The godforsaken lease is up soon—they might start showing the place.” This was true, but even truer was the strength of Miranda’s obsession with cleanliness.

“You didn’t tell me you were looking for a new place.”

Andy shrugged. “Money. I’m not looking very hard yet, but I should be.”

“Well, the apartment looks awesome. Oh—not to change the subject, but I keep forgetting to tell you that there’s this amazing film playing at the Sunshine on Friday.”

Lily giggled. “Andy has plans that night.”

“Oh, um, actually those plans are a little earlier than I thought, but I don’t know if I’d be able to—” Andy cut herself off abruptly, but not before earning a quizzical look from Doug.

“I do have plans,” she amended. It was simpler this way. “I’ll explain later, Doug. I promise.” She’d decided that much since Monday.

She hardly watched the movie, distracted by the little thrills of nervous excitement that kept shooting through her stomach.


---

They didn’t have to wait two weeks to see each other again. Partway through the week, John decided he wanted to trade custody weekends with Miranda and take the girls to see his parents in Connecticut on Saturday. Miranda sounded nervous over the phone, offering to come over after dinner and to spend the night.

On Saturday evening, in lieu of saying hello, Andy stretched out her arms, and Miranda went into them, and added her own arms, and for a moment all they did was stand wrapped in each other. Miranda quickly turned the affection into something else, kissing Andy’s neck, biting down a little. They made it as far as the sofa before their clothes were off.

The love was all the better for their unplanned weeks of abstention. They managed somehow to sit in each other’s laps on the floor in front of the sofa, so they were locked together and every sensation, each movement, pulsed through both their bodies. The first time Andy came, she saw Miranda even through her shut eyelids. The second time, she saw dark purple, something she couldn’t remember happening before. Miranda hadn’t come yet, but she was close, and Andy pressed her shoulders against the couch and let her lay her head back against the seat cushion.

“I’ve got you,” she murmured into her neck before shifting all of her focus to her fingers entering Miranda steady and hard, filling her and pushing her nearly past return, and to hearing Miranda speak her name almost reverently, like the moment was holy. Miranda lifted her head, and they stared at each other as she rose up and came back down, their mouths slightly parted. The days were getting longer, and there was light enough to see each other sharply.

“Oh,” Miranda said. She might not have realized she was saying anything. “Oh.” Andy hummed in pleasure.

The previous week notwithstanding, they’d never gotten together so early in the evening, and when they too worn out to keep going it was only nine. Even the thought of sleep was far off, so they dressed slowly, taking their time picking up their strewn-about clothes. Andy noticed happily that in the rush to get started, neither of them had been particularly careful with their outfits.

The expanse of hours ahead of them didn’t scare Andy quite so much tonight. There had been some really excellent emails between them in the last eight days, including a couple that made her realize with a start that she hadn’t felt this good about herself in years, maybe since she was a senior at Northwestern. Feeling good about her writing made it easier to feel good about everything else.

After they’d had some water and washed their hands and faces, Andy suggested they walk down the street to the café she liked. “I have to put on make-up first,” Miranda said.

“No, you don’t.”

“I am going out in public.”

There was no point in arguing, so Andy shrugged and said, “You’re lovely.” Miranda went into the bathroom and did her make-up, but she didn’t put on much.

The night was windy but warm, and it was a pleasant change to spend the afterglow outdoors instead of falling asleep or lying in bed. “I guarantee that you are going to enjoy this coffee,” Andy said confidently, and Miranda laughed. Their shoulders brushed together as they walked.

The barista was rude to Andy, rolling her eyes when she took a long time deciding what to order, and this made Miranda laugh too, once they were settled at a table. “She hated you,” Miranda said cheerfully, her smile radiant. Andy wasn’t offended; she and Miranda weren’t exactly walking joke books, and she’d decided they should take their joy where they could get it.

“How’s work?” Andy asked. Hang the caboose, and her half-hearted belief that it might re-connect to the train. Hang a long and happy life. Still, before she could stop herself, she added, “You don’t have to answer that.”

“Work is fine,” Miranda said slowly, as if she couldn’t tell whether Andy was kidding about pushing boundaries or was actually taking (another) boundary and stretching it to the limit. She went on to provide several anecdotes that didn’t sound at all fine to Andy, who heard every detail with the ears of an assistant. It occurred to her that maybe Miranda felt “fine” about Runway far more often than Andy had believed when she was in the thick of second-assistant-crisis-mode. Looking back, it was pretty apparent that this mode of operation was expected, and was the product of some rather effective motivational tools on Miranda’s part, but had only rarely indicated actual crisis. Listening to Miranda talk about Runway gave Andy a pang of missing Nigel and how he’d always calmed her panic; he hadn’t been mentioned, but hearing anything about that office reminded her of him. She’d been too mortified to call after quitting in Paris, but thought she might try to reconnect with him soon.

“How is your work?” Miranda asked, her tone indicating that she expected an answer, considering she had been cooperative enough to provide one.

“Good but completely crazy,” Andy said honestly. “I won’t bore you with the details, but—”

“No, bore me,” Miranda said. “Please.”

They left after an hour, and when they reached the front door of the apartment building, Andy fumbled with the door knob with one hand and took Miranda’s hand in the other. Their hands had just been hanging there, practically touching of their own accord, on the entire walk back, and it seemed right.

Once they were halfway up the stairs, Miranda paused. Andy realized this stairwell, with its musty smell and stained carpeting, was the ugliest place she’d seen her. “You should come to my house next time. We could cook dinner first, or order some food. What would you think of that?” She started walking again as soon as the words were out.

“That sounds great,” Andy said, keeping up. “Really great.” It occurred to her then that in a way, this was a contest: a competition to see who was going to be the most comfortable with “dating”—the most flexible and casual and open to change. Of course, Miranda had suggested cooking dinner first—meaning that she was inviting Andy over for sex, meaning she wasn’t breaking the original rules completely. Naturally, she’d also managed first in another sense, as neither of them had provided the other with an explicit dinner invitation before. Andy thought she might like this contest a lot more than the last one, the one where they each tried to be the best at feigning emotional detachment from sex. They hadn’t been cut out for that race at all. She stroked Miranda’s palm with her thumb, and grinned at the tiny sigh the touch provoked.

When Miranda pounced on her before she’d completely shut the apartment door, kissing her and slipping her hands beneath her collar and saying “Can I? Can I?” about everything at once, it was Andy’s turn to laugh. She was tipsy with caffeine and adrenaline, desperate to make up for lost time, and suspected Miranda was operating under similar motivations.

The next morning, Miranda waited until breakfast was over and she’d gathered up her belongings before pulling a silky, eggplant-colored skirt out of a garment bag and handing it to Andy without saying a word. Andy was silent for a moment, running her fingers over the familiar material. She felt tears spring into her eyes and finally said, “Oh my God. You made this. You must be so sleep-deprived.”

Right there in the kitchen, she took off her pants and put on the skirt, which was knee length and embellished with a beautiful, velvety button at one side of the waistband. Fully zipped, it was a snug fit but not restrictive, and even without a mirror she could tell that her ass looked absolutely fantastic. “I love it,” she said, not caring that her enthusiasm was obviously embarrassing Miranda. “How’d you get the dimensions right?”

Miranda cleared her throat. “I am…relatively familiar with your proportions by this point, but when I wasn’t sure I asked Nigel. He has a lot of experience dressing you.”

Andy’s mouth dropped open. This weekend was like the sexiest episode of The Twilight Zone ever. “Nigel knows?”

“Nigel knows that I sewed you a skirt. He may surmise what he will.” She chuckled and said wryly, “You can imagine the constant battle I wage with myself not to spill the graphic details.”

“I love the skirt, Miranda.” Andy’s tone was serious. “Thank you.”

Miranda might have left without saying anything in response, without even a proper goodbye, if Andy hadn’t grabbed her at the door and held her still for a kiss. The small moan that left Miranda’s throat when their lips parted was going to tide Andy over until their “dinner date” at the townhouse.

Miranda slipped out the door as soon as the kiss was over, and Andy thought about how it seemed that whatever they did, they were going to keep leaving each other in myriad ways. But there were considerable arrivals too, filling up her inbox, doorframe, the other side of her bed. On Monday, she was going to show up for work wearing a purple skirt, and resist the urge on Tuesday to wear it again.

THE END
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