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The Return of the Elves

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It had been a year of immense happiness for the Priestly-Sachs. A year of growth, of compromise and deepening love.

Andy had left Runway in January, leaving an efficient young woman, Jessica in her place, and she was making a name for herself as a freelance journalist between her job as a junior reporter for the New York Mirror.

Miranda continued to make Runway the number one fashion magazine in the world, beating Vogue sales every month with ease and reaping the benefits of another year of growth as profits rose yet again.

The twins remained their puckish selves, but they were happy with their life, and it showed. Their school grades had picked up, they had almost stopped disrupting their classes and neither Andy or Miranda had to see the Head of Dalton almost weekly anymore.

Everyone close to the family commented on their clear happiness and when asked, Miranda and the twins all put it down to the presence of Andy in their lives. She made them laugh, cried with them and loved them unrestrainedly. But most of all, she was present.

As Paris Fashion Week ended and Thanksgiving was celebrated, she contemplated if it was worthwhile bringing Buddy and Coco back to the townhouse in the run-up to Christmas. She worried herself silly that the twins were too old now, at the ripe old age of eleven, to enjoy the elfsploits of the year before. Being a second parent for two boisterous pre-teens had been a steep learning curve, but she handled it like she handled everything else that was thrown her way, with inner panic hidden by outward calmness.

It was Miranda who broached the subject on the final night of November as they were cuddled up in their large bed after sharing a relaxing bath. "Will Buddy and Coco be joining us again this year?" Miranda's fingers trailed along her collarbone making her hum as the fine hair on her arms stood to attention.

"Don't you think the twins are a little old for Elf on a Shelf?" Andy hoisted herself up onto her elbow to gaze at the older woman.

Miranda turned her face to look up at her. "I do not believe the Priestly-Sachs family Christmas would be the same without them jollying us along." She frowned. "I hate the idea that they are growing up so quickly. They have outgrown Santa now and how long will it be until it is a battle to get them to spend the day with us? To have our usual pizza and movies on Christmas Eve?"

Andy smiled at the remembrance from the previous year when she had spent her first official day as Miranda's girlfriend after the night before saw them admitting their feelings. They had sent Buddy and Coco on their way after fixing coco's broken leg and settled in for a day of movies, board games and junk food. It had been a wonderful day, filled with fun, laughter and occasional sneaky kissing as she and Miranda struggled to keep their hands and lips off one another.

Sighing, Andy knew she would need to grab Coco and Buddy from their hidey-hole at the apartment she rarely stayed in. After almost a fortnight spent at the townhouse with Miranda and the twins, she hated the idea of going back to the empty apartment and seeing the gathering dust and tatty furniture. She had grown quite used to the luxury of the townhouse. This was home now. "I'll go to the apartment tomorrow and get them organised. They may be a little late, but I'll think of a reason." Andy settled back onto the pillow and closed her eyes.

She felt Miranda's warm breath before her lips were snared into a gentle kiss that she returned wholeheartedly. "You should pack the last of your things and bring them home." The whispered words after Miranda broke their kiss had Andy's eyes snapping open and she saw Miranda chewing her lip nervously.

"Are you asking me to move in?" Andy didn't want to get her hopes up but felt it fluttering in her chest.

Miranda shrugged, affecting an air of nonchalance. "I do not see why you insist on paying the exorbitant rent on a place you do not stay at. You are here eighty per cent of the time. it is only Douglas insists on spending quality 'girl' time with you, that you deign to go there. And I am willing for you to spend your time with Douglas here. He is not objectionable."

Andy grinned as a surge of happiness unfolded within her. "Wow, high praise indeed." She teased. "Just wait 'til I tell him he's not objectionable."

Miranda sat up quickly. "You would not dare!" She sputtered.

"A dare too?" Andy hit back her laughter as Miranda's eyes widened. She'd learned over the last year how Andy would never back down from a dare. Unable to stop her giggle, she tried to feign seriousness. "If I don't tell him, how will you make it worth my while?" She teased.

Miranda recognising the playfulness of her words bent to kiss her, her tongue brushing against Andy's bottom lip. As their kiss deepened, Miranda's hand slid over her breast and tweaked a nipple.

Andy broke the kiss, her breathing ragged. "Nice." She husked. "But not quite as persuasive as I know you can be." She grinned at Miranda's frown. "Come here, my love. I will show you exactly what it will take."

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Miranda was pleased when she arrived home that evening. to find empty boxes stacked in the foyer of her home. it could only mean one thing, that Andréa was going to stay, for good if she had her way.

Miranda had sworn to herself, almost a year before, that she would give the younger woman all the time she needed to ensure this was what she wanted and with that in mind had tried to hold off from pushing her to move in with them permanently.

Miranda was well aware that she was not the easiest person to contend with, plus she had baggage in the form of her daughters and her work. She certainly wasn't someone many would take on willingly as her failed marriages indicated. Both of her husband's insisted she was not just cold, but frigid too.

She shuddered as she thought of her ex-husband, Stephen. In the early days of their relationship, Miranda had believed he was willing to be her partner in all ways, a father figure to her beautiful girls. Instead, within months of their marriage, she soon became aware that it was the trappings brought by her name and position that interested him the most.

Andréa was different in all ways to either of her ex-husbands and not just because she was a woman. Despite her daughter's pranks and her behaviour towards Andréa at the beginning of their professional relationship, she somehow found much to love in them all. She had shown Miranda how warm and loving she could be, when with the right person.

Andréa's love showed in the simplest of ways, from colourfully bound manuscripts set in her daughter's favourite colours, from the gentle smiles she provided when producing a searing hot latte or when completing one of her impossible tasks and from simply taking the time to ask if there was anything she could do for them.

It wasn't Andréa's job to make her life easier, but she did. She reminded her to take care of herself, to ensure she remained a part of her daughter's life for as long as possible. At almost 50 years old, Miranda had her daughters late, so late she never even thought it was a possibility, and now she was the wrong side of middle age to be chasing after her two energetic little girls. She now took, often with gentle reminders from Andréa, daily medication for high blood pressure. She watched her diet and exercised more. Due to her happy home life, she relaxed more and where possible took more time to be present for her family. She tried to be home for dinner most nights.

Sometimes she failed at this, but she was never made to feel deficient. It was a welcome change to have someone who supported her entirely and who picked up the slack, with ease, when her work life got in the way of her home life.

Stepping into the warm kitchen, her stomach rumbled as she inhaled the scent of the dinner warming in the oven, waiting for her. She knew she was far too late to see her daughters awake, but they had reassured her that they were happy to help Andréa unpack her few belongings. Cassidy had whispered sadly that their Andy didn't have much and how much they both wanted to help, hold8ng the belief if she unpacked, she would stay.

Turning away from the kitchen, she collided with Andréa and found herself wrapped up in a warm embrace.

Looking up, she saw Andréa was smiling down at her. She pulled back and stepping onto her tiptoes, pulled the younger woman's face down to kiss her hello. "Hello, my beautiful darling." She whispered.

Andréa's smile blossomed even further if that was possible, and it, as it always did, took her breath away. Unable to stop herself, she snared those full lips into another searing kiss, coaxing the lips open with the tip of her tongue. It was intoxicating.

Her stomach rumbling had them pulling apart and Miranda blushed as Andréa giggled in delight. She often claimed that Miranda wouldn't ever deign to admit she had such human weaknesses as a grumbling tummy.

Miranda got her quasi embarrassment under control as Andréa took her hand and pulled her back into the kitchen. Pushing her down into a seat at the kitchen island, Miranda watched as Andréa grabbed an oven mitt and took the time to re-plate the large square of lasagna. "Have the elves arrived from the North Pole?" Miranda asked.

"Coco is due to arrive in the morning, via EPS," Andréa stated.

Miranda frowned. EPS was certainly not a parcel service she had heard of. She arched one of her eyebrows.

Andréa smiled as she set the plate down in front of her. "Elf Parcel Service." She clarified. "I hired a messenger to help and he's due to arrive before the school run."

"Will Buddy also be making an appearance?" Miranda asked, using the edge of her fork to cut into the lasagna.

Andréa gestured behind her and grinned. Miranda let out an inelegant snort of laughter. "As you can he's taped to the window."

Miranda got herself under control and blew on the forkful of pasta. "So I see." She glanced once again at the elf and realised he was wearing a red puffa jacket trimmed in white fur. She saw he was holding a sign stating, "I'm back!"

She looked forward to seeing her Bobbsey's reaction to the return of the elves, knowing how much they had enjoyed the antics the year before. Swallowing the mouthful of food, Miranda sipped the glass of wine Andréa had pushed towards her and sighed. "I have one or two ideas for the elves, should you need assistance." She offered.

"Bring it on, Priestly." Andréa grinned brightly. "This is gonna be great."

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Andy was surprised by Miranda's willingness to help her with Buddy and Coco. On the day after the elves arrival, which had delighted Cassidy and Caroline, Miranda had hidden Coco in the cupboard with the breakfast items so when Cassidy and Caroline opened it to get their cereal, she was right there waiting for them. Once breakfast was over the twins went on a search and found Buddy in the entertainment room, having zip-lined across the room only to crash land face-first into the TV.

The third morning had Buddy bungee jumping from the curtain rod above the kitchen window while Coco was sat next to the kettle, leaning against a jar of marshmallow's holding hot cocoa packets. Miranda allowed them to enjoy the sweet treat before school.

The days passed quickly with the elves being put in various scenarios, from building Lego forts, to having mini-skates and letting them roll along the marble floors of the foyer. When Andy had to leave town overnight, she left detailed instructions for Miranda to follow. That morning, upon waking up, Miranda set Buddy rolling down the stairs in a toilet paper roll. She took a photo and sent it to Andy, who had claimed that she didn't believe the editor would do what she planned.

Andy's return home had her setting up both Buddy and Coco while Miranda attended a pre-Christmas publishing event. Andy bought some Army action figures, duct-taped Coco to the fireplace and had the army-men surrounding Buddy who was caught red-handed with the silver tape.

When Miranda returned home later that night, Andy heard her in the living room and when she walked into their bedroom a few minutes later, she moved directly to the bed and straddled Andy's thighs. "My turn tomorrow night." Miranda kissed her and Andy hummed her agreement.

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Miranda was happy to take turns with the elves as required. December was always a busy month for her, and her late nights gave her ample opportunity to set the scene for the following morning. The weather had turned unseasonably cold and the reports indicated there may be a smattering of early snow in the following days.

With the change of weather, they made use of the open wood fire in the family room while spending time in there as a family. Andréa often banked the fire before heading to bed and this gave her a fresh idea. She set Buddy and Coco up as if they were roasting marshmallow snowmen over the fireplace.

Cassidy and Caroline were enjoying the elves random adventures around the townhouse even when it meant the mischievous elves ate the twin's Advent Calendars. The most laughter had been caused by some toilet humour, with Buddy sat in a bed of peas with "I Pea'd My Elf" spelled out in the small, round green balls while Coco pooped on some small cookies. Each morning found them taking the time, after breakfast, to search for the duo. They took photos, which they shared with friends, who they claimed were jealous of Coco and Buddy.

And then it was Andréa's turn once again, and to say she was initially displeased upon walking downstairs and finding her family portraits covered in what looked like permanent marker, was an epic understatement. Cassidy had a goatee and Caroline a moustache. Her image held horns and a forked tail while Andréa had a halo.

It was only after taking in the sight of Buddy the elf and noticing the pen held in its hand, that her anger disappeared. The doodling had been done with dry erase marker, and would, thankfully, be easily removed.

Searching the house, she found Coco having a marshmallow bubble bath. When the twins finally arrived downstairs, they seemed shocked at what they found, but then Cassidy laughed upon spotting Coco and claimed she wished she could do the same. A bath of fluffy pink marshmallows seemed like the perfect way to relax to her imaginative younger daughter.

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When it came to setting up the Christmas decorations, Andy was left in charge and she decided to use the elves to her advantage. She wrapped Buddy up messily within the string of lights she wrapped around the bannister leading from the first floor to the foyer.

When Cassidy and Caroline saw him the following morning, they untangled the lights, thus freeing the mischievous elf, and careful not to touch him and spoil his magic, they left him on the stairs and wound the lights back around the bannister properly. When they returned to the stairs after breakfast, on their search for Coco, they found her on the bottom step with her arms wrapped around Buddy as if comforting him.

Two days later, with Miranda having taken her turn by having the elves playing a rousing game of Scrabble against Cassidy and Caroline's favourite stuffed animals, Andy decided once again she would mess with the family photos.

Creeping downstairs early, she added Rudolph-style noses onto both elves and using another dry-erase marker and adding the same to the photos of herself with the Priestly's. Once she was done, she tiptoed back upstairs and crept into the twin's rooms and painted red dots on their noses using washable craft paint. She knew, in their sleepy state, the twins would be slow to notice the change.

When Cassidy and Caroline saw the elves and the photos, they gasped and rushed into the kitchen to tell Miranda and when the editor saw them, her laughter was doubt heard in Times Square. Raising her head, her eyes streaming with tears of laughter, Miranda gestured for her purse and when it was handed to her, she removed her compact, flipped the lid and gestured the twins over. Their twin squeals rang out through the room and they rushed upstairs to remove the paint.

When they returned, looking like their usual selves, Andy handed them a card from Coco and Buddy which told them it was Rudolph the red-nose Reindeer day and handed them both a blinking red nose no grinned as they sat them on their faces and laughed.

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She extracted promises from Andréa, by teasing her until she ached with desire, that no more of their family photos would be used in their elfsploits and the brunette had agreed, albeit reluctantly and somewhat breathlessly. She loved the effect she still had on Andréa.

Clicking through the house she decided to use a happy memory from the summer when she and Andréa had attended the Dalton Sports Day. She and Caroline had won the three-legged race while Andréa had fallen flat on her face pulling Cassidy down with her. There was much laughter from those watching the family take part in the activities. The day had been filled with happiness with the twins coming joint first in the sack race.

Setting various stuffed bears and both the elves up in brown paper bags, she created a colourful finish line. She set Buddy face down with Coco using his back as a springboard to win the sack race.

The following evening had both her and Andréa sat stringing Fruit Loops onto long pieces of string ready for Coco and Buddy to hang them on the Christmas tree.

The following night saw Miranda taking Caroline's iPad and composing an email from Coco to Santa with updates on their behaviour. Even if they no longer believed in the jolly fat man, the fact was the elves came on Santa's behalf, to sometimes cause mischief and to watch over the family in the run-up to the Christmas festivities. Buddy was put into the laundry basket with a note. "This laundry isn't going to fold itself. I'm the only thing magic around here."

Their next elfsploit had Andréa organising a scavenger hunt. As it was the weekend, with the twins home, it was a guaranteed way to entertain the twins as they were given ten minutes to find ten Candy Canes hidden around the ground floor. Caroline found six to Cassidy's four and gloated momentarily until she saw her sister's chin wobble precariously as she fought tears. Unable to see her twin in tears, Caroline handed her one of the candy canes, declaring she would always share and was treated to a wide smile and a hug.

Miranda was warmed by this gesture and knew this act of unselfishness was purely down to Andréa's influence on her children. She was grateful to the brunette once again for completing their family and being a positive role model for her darling Bobbsey's.

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As their lives turned busy, and the need to attend events took Miranda away from the house on many evenings, Andy found herself left alone with the twins. Their displeasure over the lack of Miranda's presence had them both acting out and Andy had frankly had enough. Caroline and Cassidy's attitude about it grated on her nerves and hearing Caroline bagging out her mom, with claims that parties were more important than their family, while Cassidy stated her mom was embarrassed by her relationship with Andy, made her furious.

Sick and tired of the muttered complaints and suggestions that Miranda didn't care, Andy excused herself and curling up on her side of the bed, closed her eyes and willed herself not to cry.

The fact was, although they had been together for almost a year, they rarely went out together. Within the publishing world, Andy was well-known for her writing but was seen as a little reclusive as she never willingly attended events. She had her close friends, who she kept close, from her time at Runway, and she could be seen often enjoying a night of drinks and dancing with them, sometimes Miranda was present, other times not.

Their relationship was the most widely-known secret in the publishing world and yet neither of them had deemed it necessary to change things, to throw themselves into the public eye. Their relationship, for the most part, worked. But at the twin's words, the doubts crept in. She wondered if she had been hasty in giving up her apartment. Maybe Miranda just wanted a built-in-babysitter for her daughters.

She couldn't stop the tears and sobbing silently, soon fell asleep, not even waking when Miranda climbed into bed next to her.

The next morning she woke to the twins prodding her and whispering to her that neither Buddy or Coco had moved from the previous day.

Andy realised she had forgotten to move the elves the morning before and with putting herself to bed and falling asleep, had not set up the elfsploit that had been planned. She found herself muttering the only excuse she could think of. "I'm sure they would rather not report bad behaviour to Santa. They must have heard what you said yesterday, and are giving you time to correct your attitude." She closed her eyes, instantly feeling bad as the twins ran from the room. "Oh fuck!"

"What did I miss?" Miranda muttered sleepily.

"Oh you know, apparently you don't give a fuck about spending time your family and are too embarrassed to be seen in public with me," Andy muttered.

"Is that what you think?" Miranda was wide awake now and seemed hurt by the implication.

"No, that is what your daughters think, Miranda," Andy told her as she slipped from the bed and slammed her way into the ensuite.

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Miranda spent her morning at Runway deep in thought. She had to admit she had not been blind to the tear stains on Andréa's face the night before when she finally slipped into bed beside the younger woman, but she had not wanted to wake her and demand answers. Upon reflection, perhaps she should have. She knew she had been relying on Andréa to keep things ticking at home, to smoothe things over, and it was clear the younger woman had been unsuccessful.

She was hurt by her daughter's words to Andréa and hoped they did not truly believe them. But Andréa had been unwilling to listen to her and had run out of the townhouse quickly that morning as if she did. After dressing and making her way downstairs, breakfast with her Bobbsey's had been a silent and sullen affair. No amount of coaxing could get either of them talking.

It didn't matter to her daughters that she had taken the time to have Coco and Buddy ride around on toy dinosaurs, fish for cookies or hide in their silverware drawer. They wanted her presence at home with them. They wanted their mom, their Andy and their beloved Patricia. The family they had grown to love, beyond everything else.

Miranda hated that her evenings were not her own as events took precedence, but her job was once again at risk as Irving made moves to have her replaced. She could not take it lying down, she had to be at her most charming.

She considered the family life she had built over the last year and asked herself if it worth losing, just to keep Runway. The answer rang in her mind resolutely.

No.

She thought back and realised she had just three days until the first anniversary of when her life had changed for the better. From the moment Andréa had held her close and then kissed her forehead, closed eyelids, the bridge of her nose and finally her lips in an act of worship that had stunned her. It was the moment her love for the brunette had been cemented. Miranda knew Andréa loved them all, it was obvious in every way. She could not lose what they had built and it was time to stop hiding.

Taking her cell, Miranda hit the speed dial and was surprised when it was answered immediately. She heard the shuddering breath and the low thrum of music, chatter and glassware and understood Andréa was likely holed up in one of the obscure coffee houses she preferred. "Are you leaving me, Andréa?" She asked hesitantly, turning her chair to face the New York skyline.

A small sob broke through the line and Miranda closed her eyes against the sound. "No," Andréa's response had her shoulders sagging in relief.

"Oh, thank God," Miranda whispered. "I realise I have not been present, and for that, I am truly sorry," She spoke quietly but from the heart. "I have depended on you, without even asking, to keep our family happy, but I promise...: She thought of Andréa's words on that first night they spent together. "...I will move mountains to continue to be worthy of you. To make you as happy as you have made me this last year."

Andréa sniffed and Miranda sensed she was swiping at her tears. "Okay." Her voice was hoarse. "I'm on my way to Dalton to pick up the twins for the noon dismissal. I just stopped for coffee."

"I'll meet you at the school," Miranda stated softly before disconnecting the call. "Coat, bag. Cancel the rest of my day and my evening. Tell the board that my family need me at home." She stepped into the outer office and saw Jessica at work on her schedule as the newest second assistant rushed to call Roy and get her coat and bag. She grabbed them when they were held out towards her. "Have the book sent electronically and see to it I am not disturbed this weekend. That's all."

As she stalked to the elevator, she saw the doors open and Irving stepped from the metal box. "Aha, Miranda..." He gave her a smug smirk.

"Not now, Irving. I have zero tolerance for your shit today." Miranda stated firmly, skirting past him into the elevator and pressing the button for the ground floor.

The last thing she saw was the slimy toads bulging eyes and expression of stunned disbelief.

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Andy shuffled from foot to foot, waiting outside the main doors of Dalton, it was just five minutes until school broke up for the year and she wanted to take the twins to celebrate.

It had just started to snow when Roy pulled up at the curb and Miranda didn't wait for him to open her door but slid from the car gracefully and removing her shades, squinted in her direction.

She stepped towards the beautiful older woman, unable to resist her, and was surprised when Miranda pulled her into her arms and held her gently. "Miranda. what..."

"I am not embarrassed to be seen with you or to be loved by you. I am the luckiest person in the world to have you." Miranda told her. "And if I lose Runway, but keep you, I will still be content."

Andy was stunned. "Irv?" She queried.

"Mm, yes," Miranda admitted.

Andy was not surprised. She'd heard of his grumblings but thought they were of no concern, but she had planned for this moment anyway. "We'll speak of you keeping this from me later." She told the editor as the last bell of the day shrieked out.

Children of all ages swarmed from the building around them and it had Miranda pressing closer against her, and Andy wrapped a protective arm around the woman.

She caught sight of Cassidy and Caroline in the crowd easily as they glanced around looking for their car. Cassidy spotted them first and her smile was bright as she nudged Caroline, who gaped at the sight of them. They rushed forward and pushed themselves into the embrace.

"Why are you..." Cassidy started.

"...both here..." Caroline finished.

"To celebrate school being out." Andy smiled softly, hoping her words from that morning would be forgiven. "I thought we could take a walk and have hot chocolate. But that was before it started snowing." Andy could feel the small flakes making their home in her hair and Cassidy and Caroline also had a smattering of white flakes in their hair as they stood looking up at her.

Miranda pulled back and smiled at them, her eyes blazing in satisfaction as the twins wound themselves around Andy, seeking her warmth. "Perhaps we can drive to wherever you wish to go?" She offered.

"I thought La Maison du Chocolat or Sant Ambroeus." Andy grinned as the twins whooped in delight.

"Come along then, my darlings." Miranda murmured holding her hand out to Andy. The twins took a hand each as they stepped towards the waiting car.

"Shotgun," Cassidy yelled triumphantly pulling herself free from Andy.

Caroline rolled her eyes. "Well that's fine, I'll have the moms all to myself then." She smirked.

Cassidy deflated. "Switch on the way home?" She asked softly.

Caroline grinned, a hint of devilment lighting up her eyes. "No, I don't think so, Cassi."

Andy saw the fire flash in Cassidy's eyes and before the youngest Priestly could retaliate and throw a tantrum worthy of her fiery red hair, she slung her arm around the young girl's shoulders. "Of course we'll switch, munchkin." She let go of Miranda's hand and released Cassidy to skip forward before spinning around and offering them a bright, teasing smile. "I'm calling shotgun on the next trip."

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Miranda was pleased by how well she had navigated things with her daughters and Andréa. She had somehow managed to turn things around for the better and was forgiven for her absences over the past week. The time they spent together at La Maison du Chocolat Madison had been filled with laughter and nonsense and she found herself revelling in the comfort that came from being with her three favourite people.

The afternoon and evening passed quickly with them settled in the family room to watch The Christmas Chronicles while they enjoyed hot buttered popcorn and then ordered Thai for their dinner. Once the twins had dragged themselves to bed, it left her alone with Andréa and she was suddenly nervous. She knew they had things to discuss before they could conclude their evening by climbing into their bed and settling in into one another's warmth.

When Andréa returned with two glasses of wine and placed on down on the side table beside her, Miranda sat quietly, simply waiting for the influx of questions that were sure to come from the brunette.

"Why didn't you tell me what was going on, Miranda?" The initial question was not at all surprising.

Miranda picked up the glass of wine and toyed with it. "I thought I could handle it on my own."

Andréa shook her head in disbelief. "You are not alone now, Miranda." She chided. "And we miss you when you aren't here." The clear chastisement continued but was well deserved. "And if I'd have known, I could have helped sooner."

"How?" Miranda breathed. "You are not in a position to change the mind of the Elias Clarke Board of Directors."

"Aren't I?" Andréa asked. "I have multiple publications wanting to publish a particular story, one many know I have been investigating since I left Runway." She smiled softly. "If it's published though, a certain Chairman of the Board could be removed from his position due to malfeasance and moral turpitude."

"Such big words, anyone would think you are a writer, my darling," Miranda smirked. "What proof do you have of Irving's wrongdoings?"

"Did you know Irv and the editor-in-chief of Auto Universe were second cousins?" Andréa shook her head, she had no idea. "The man in question has no real qualifications to hold the position and my investigations have also found that Irv has raised the Auto Universe budget multiple times while cutting other's budget's, even though the magazine is unprofitable every quarter. He also writes off any personal items placed on the company expense account by the editor."

Miranda was furious, she had recently had her budget cut, for the third time that year. "And you have proof?"

"I do," Andréa stated. "I also have proof that Irving is having an affair with Jacqueline Follet, who, as you probably know, maintains a nasty little coke habit. It is one of the things they have in common. I also know Irv's contract has a clause that enables termination given clear evidence of moral turpitude and although these types of clauses are rarely invoked, he may not be in the right mind to resign. The fallout may be fierce and it could affect the stock prices."

"How soon can you run with this?" Miranda asked.

"January," Andréa whispered. "Before the next board meeting."

Miranda stood and moved quickly to where Andréa sat. Straddling her thighs, she ran her hands through the shoulder-length brunette locks. "I love you, my Andréa."

Andréa's smile was blinding. "I love you too. Now, will you help me gift wrap the twin's bathroom?"

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They were coiled around each other on the sofa and Andy was experiencing sensory overload as Miranda's hands snaked over her bare skin under her clothes. She was so close to succumbing to the older woman's touch, knowing once again, they would spend the night loving one another thoroughly as their passion took over.

Andy pulled back and smirked as Miranda huffed. "The elves..." She explained breathlessly.

"Can wait." Miranda pushed closer once again but Andy anticipated the move and jumped up of the sofa they were sharing. "Andréa..." Miranda pouted.

"Hold that thought," Andy whispered. "If you go on up to our bed and get ready for me, I'll be there before you know it." She rushed out and made her way to the kitchen. She had the perfect thing for them that night.

Grabbing a pair of scissors, she cut the leprechaun face out of the box of Lucky Charms Cara had bought earlier that week. She stuck Buddy into the top and jimmied his face into the opening she had provided before placing the cereal back into the cupboard. Picking Coco up, she checked her over ensuring the velcro on her hands were secure. She sat her on Patricia's wide back, attaching her hands to the collar. Patricia didn't even move a muscle.

Happy with her work, she flicked off the lights as she moved through the house. She checked on the twins and smiled down at them as they slept. Bending over Caroline, her lips brushed the young girl's forehead. "I love you, Caro." She did the same to Cassidy, making an extra promise. "I'll never leave you guys."

Moving silently from the room, he headed up the next flight of stairs and entered the bedroom she shared with Miranda. The room was suffused in low lamplight and Andy's eyes landed on the woman lying in the centre of the California king.

Miranda wore nothing but a pleased smirk and as her eyes roamed over the beautiful older woman, she knew she was the luckiest person alive. She had somehow captured this woman's heart and they had created a life together that would stand the test of time.

Stalking forward, Andy pulled her sweater up and over her head, tossing it to one side. Hearing Miranda's breath catch, she smirked as she flipped the button of her jeans undone and pushed them down over her ass, kicking them off. Her panties followed suit leaving her in her bra. Miranda crooked her finger, gesturing her forward. Crawling up onto the bed, Andy moved on her knees until she was sat on her heels between Miranda's thighs.

Miranda leaned forward and unhooked her bra, pulling it down her arms. "You won't be needing this." She whispered, tossing it aside. She pulled Andy down on top of her so they were breast to breast. "Make love to me, my darling."

"Gladly," Andy whispered, dipping her head to snare Miranda's lips in a passionate kiss.

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The previous two nights had seen them working together once again to come up with perfect elfsploits to amuse her Bobbsey's.

The elves held a small Christmas bake-off and Coco was found the following morning sat against a plate of Patricia's biscuits with a note that read, "Worst Cookies ever. Don't leave out for Santa." Buddy had been placed into a balloon, that Andréa's had then filled with helium and tied before writing "HELP ME!" on it and let it soar to the ceiling. The next night, they had attached googly eyes to every item in the fridge, leaving Buddy and Coco in there holding a sign. "We're still watching you," Miranda stated the effect was quite creepy, which had Andréa giggling.

Andréa had come up with the idea, having seen online, for their final elfsploit of the year on the night before Christmas Eve. Miranda adored the idea but wanted to put her twist on things. She suggested some minor changes which had been agreed to.

They would have Buddy frozen by what would look like an Elsa doll, while Coco climbed the doors using Christmas Bows.

Calling Douglas for assistance, they were provided with a loan of what they needed to complete their last elfsploit, a celebrity doll, done up in her likeness.

She had known these dolls were a thing, for certain collectors, but she had not known of anyone who owned such a thing until she mentioned having Emily source one, only to be told of Douglas's collection.

It amused her when Douglas arrived at Runway and gingerly handed her the doll, almost begging her to be gentle with the pride and joy of his collection.

She caught his squeak when she had restyled the doll's hair to more closely match her own and then stripped the doll of its fur-trimmed jacket, white blouse and black pants. She left the chunky necklace and hooped earrings and glasses. She tugged a flowing blue dress over the doll and positioned her, arms outstretched, in perfect replication of the Disney Princess, Elsa.

It was perfect.

Looking at Douglas, she smiled softly. "Your Miranda will be returned to you as good as new tomorrow."

Now, it was time to go home and prepare for their evening, which included a wonderful meal out at Benihana with Andréa and her Bobbsey's to celebrate their first anniversary.

Then she would have three wonderful days at home with her girlfriend as it was her Bobbsey's turn to spend the holiday with their father.

Tugging at her blazer, she felt the small, square jewellery box in the pocket and smirked.

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Andy woke up early and started preparing for the day by sifting together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl. making a well in the centre of the mixture, she poured in milk, egg and melted butter and mixed the contents until they were smooth. She was using her grandma's pancake recipe, which the twins had loved since the year before.

Finishing her pancake prep, she started to chop fruit into the manageable bite-sized pieces Miranda preferred and put the Jura on for her coffee. Knowing she had just a few moments before the twin's and Miranda's arrival, she pulled a small bucket out of the deep freeze and using a knife, freed the block of ice holding her elf, Buddy. She threw the bucket into the cupboard under the sink, hiding it from view.

Miranda had organised the Miranda/Elsa doll's position and Coco the night before. Coco was now climbing up the glass panels of the back door while the celebrity Miranda doll had her hands outstretched waiting for the block of ice surrounding Buddy.

The clatter of two pairs of small feet on the stairs had Andy making Buddy's final adjustments quickly and stepping away from the breakfast bar towards the stove, where a skillet waited over medium-high heat. Pouring four scoops of her batter onto the pan, she started to brown the rounds of batter on both sides ready to serve hot to the waiting twins who were whispering furiously.

"Andy, what's that?" Cassidy asked.

Andy flipped the pancakes before turning and watching the little girl gesturing towards Buddy. "Well, it looks like the ice queen has frozen Buddy, no doubt to stop him causing mischief." She smiled serenely.

"How can you be so calm?" Caroline asked, fighting her giggles. "Mom's going to take one look at that doll and freak." She laughed.

"I don't think so." Andy chuckled. "I think your mom may just be a little jealous she can't do that in real life to stop the incompetence." Caroline continued to giggle as Cassidy's eyes widened as she caught the click of Miranda's heels descending the stairs.

As the editor swept in the room, the twins waited with bated breath for her to notice the doll and unleash her displeasure. She sat down with Patricia at her feet and smiled happily as she looked around the room.

Andy turned and poured a cup of coffee for the other woman and set it down in front of her before walking back to the stove and removing the four pancakes, stacking them two high on the two plates, and carrying them to the kitchen island.

Putting the plates down, she grinned at the twins and ran her finger lightly through the Miranda dolls hair, flicking the forelock away from her face, she then stepped beside Miranda and sat down and did the same to the older woman before leaning in to kiss her forehead.

Miranda caught her left hand and the twins gasped as she kissed her knuckles near the ring that was sitting proudly on Andy's finger.

"Mom?" Caroline queried.

"Yes, Bobbsey?" Miranda smiled warmly up at Andy.

"Why is Andy wearing a diamond ring?" Cassidy asked.

"Because we have made promises to one another for the future." Miranda brushed her lips along Andy's knuckles again before looking across at her daughters. "Andréa has agreed to be my wife."

The happiness in Miranda's voice was clear and had the twins jumping from their places, pancakes and elves forgotten, to embrace the pair of them.

"It has to be a December wedding," Caroline stated firmly.

"And Buddy and Coco have to be present," Cassidy explained.

"After all..." Caroline trailed off.

Cassidy continued the thought. "...they are the reason you are together now..."

"...and part of our family." Caroline finished.

Cassidy hugged Miranda tightly as Caroline nuzzled into Andy's neck as they sat in their awkward four-way hug.

Andy sighed, her happiness complete. She had Miranda, the twins, the big lumbering fur-ball at their feet and many more years of trying to find age-appropriate elf of the shelf shenanigans.

Or perhaps, if she was lucky, the twins would take over the chore in the coming years.

fin