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Andy was having what she would call a terrible, rotten, no good day. Miranda’s massage therapist had cancelled at the last minute because, of all things, a headache. The art department intern had called Andy in tears about a lost thumb drive, Irv had moved up the budget meeting, sending Miranda on an even bigger rampage, and Nigel - well, Nigel was taking every chance he could to very gleefully remind her about her slip up at the bar. Accidentally mixing up the name of the extremely sexy bartender she’d been flirting with all night was totally fine. It made sense that she’d accidentally call a woman with short, white hair and piercing blue eyes, Miranda, didn’t it?

Andy was snapped out of her thoughts when her cell phone started buzzing on her desk, ringing with Caroline’s signature death march ringtone.

"Hello?" Andy answered her phone, unsure as to why Caroline would be calling her in the middle of the school day when she should be in, Andy glanced at her watch, indigenous studies.

"Cass is about to call you. Andy, please - please, play along."

Andy didn’t get a chance to answer before the line went dead. Andy shook her head staring down at the screen with a small chuckle. Caroline got more like her mother every single day, and Andy wasn’t sure if she admired that or was terrified of it. Before she could decide which it was and turn back to Miranda's disaster of a schedule, her phone rang again. This time, the Caller ID said, "DALTON SCH." Andy quickly answered it.

"Hello, Andrea Sachs."

"Ms. Sachs, this is Jessica Erso, the Dean at Dalton?"

Andy furrowed her brow as she shot a glance into Miranda's empty office. Her boss was two hours into a meeting with Irv about the budget and wasn't to be interrupted for anything other than the building being on fire. Andy spotted Miranda’s cellphone sitting face down on her desk, clearly forgotten in Miranda’s ire at the budget meeting being moved up suddenly.

"Dean Erso, yes. How can I help you today?"

"I have Cassidy here with me. Unfortunately, there's been an incident, and she has been suspended for the next three days. She asked that we call you instead of her mother and, because you're listed as Miranda's partner and an emergency contact -"

Andy's head was swimming with too much information all at once. Cassidy had been suspended? Emergency contact? Partner? Suddenly, Caroline's brief phone call made more sense. Clearing her throat, Andy glanced at Miranda's schedule again.

"Dean Erso, I'm sure there's been some mistake. Cassidy is not one to speak out of turn, let alone do something to warrant a suspension."

There was an awkward pause. Andy’s eyes flew across Miranda’s afternoon appointments as she heard the Dean ask Cassidy if she'd like to explain to Andy what had happened. With a few clicks, Andy moved both Miranda’s run through and her meeting with Nigel to later in the week and sent a quick note to both departments to let them know. Suddenly, Cassidy's voice came over the receiver.

"I punched Jackson Luce and broke his nose, Andy. Do you think you could come pick me up from school?"

Andy’s breath caught in her throat. Miranda was going to be absolutely apoplectic. “Cassidy…” Andy took a deep breath to stop herself from tearing into the young woman. She scanned her desk, starting to collect her things. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

After confirming with the principal that Andy was on her way, and a quick call to Roy to have him meet her at the front entrance, Andy let out a puff of air, looking across the aisle at the new her. “I need to leave,” she told her. “Do not leave your desk. Do not miss a single phone call. Miranda will be back from her meeting with Irv in...” Andy glanced at the simple yet stunning Omega watch Miranda had casually gifted her for her birthday the week before. “Forty-five minutes.” Andy scanned her desk for anything she may have missed. Confident that she’d collected everything she needed, she stood up. “Send a clacker to get her coffee and have it waiting for her.” The blonde woman nodded, still eager to please Andy even after seven months in her position.

“You got it, boss! What should I tell Miranda about where you’ve gone?”

Andy let out a frustrated groan. “Don’t tell her anything, Bethany. I’ll call her from the car.” Andy grabbed her bag and phone, pausing in front of her old desk. “I need you to call her 4pm appointment and reschedule. No appointments after she’s finished with Irv. You can tell the boys at Gucci to call me if they have any questions, but you and I both know that it’ll just be their ego that’s hurt, so if you could just… pet it a bit and soothe them over. Send Nigel to cover her 4:30 with the advertisers and send Emily and Serena to her 5pm appointment. It’ll be a charming double date for them with James and Jacqueline.” Andy held back a snarl at the thought of the French woman who’d been sniffing around Miranda’s job since before Andy had started. Bethany caught it though and jolted something down in her notebook. “I’ll text Nigel and Serena to give them a heads up that you’ll be calling.”

“Got it, Andy. I’ll take care of it.”

Surprisingly, Andy trusted that Bethany did have it. She’d made a point when Bethany had started to train the other woman and ensure that she was capable in ways that Emily had never taken the time to do for her. Where Emily’s jealousy and obsession with Miranda had been her downfall, Andy’s care and dedication elevated the office to new levels of proficiency. Andy glanced at her watch, noting that Roy should be waiting out front for her. She did another quick mental run through to ensure she hadn’t forgotten anything.

With a sharp nod to Bethany, and a quick thank you, Andy turned and sped to the elevators.

 


 

Andy’s call went straight to voicemail. She hit her head against the leather seat while Miranda’s signature voicemail message played, groaning at the thought of relaying the fact that the editor’s daughter had been suspended via a voicemail message. She’d left calling Miranda for last. Dealing with the hurt pride of the Gucci boys and giving Nigel a heads up about his change in schedule had been much more appealing then the call she was currently making.

“Miranda, I don’t even think you check these messages - Honestly, I feel like that’s actually supposed to be part of my first assistant job? I’m rambling. Sorry. Fuck- Sorry! I’m on my way to Dalton - nothing is wrong! I mean. Something is wrong, but the twins are both physically okay. That’s not to say their mental health isn’t! Oh god. I’m just going to text you. Please forget this message if you ever actually listen to it. Bye.”

Andy hung up the phone and let out a long groan. From the front seat, she could hear Roy chuckling. Andy dropped her head into her hands, bemoaning the day that she’d accepted the job as Miranda’s second assistant and further, the day she’d started talking to the twins and actually started to like them.

“Come on, Andy. It’ll be fine,” Roy said from the front seat. “Miranda likes you better than all the rest; you gotta know that by now. Just text her what’s up. There’s gotta be a reason the school called you anyway, Mom.” Roy made a left hand turn, ignoring a taxi driver who flipped him off. “We’ll be there in two minutes. Time to put your game face on.”

Andy sighed, her fingers flying over the keyboard as she tapped out a quick message.

Twins’ school called. Cassidy suspended. Picking her up now - will update you when I know more.

Andy hit send, then without overthinking it, sent a second text.

Assuming you didn’t make me their alt. emergency contact?

Andy tucked her phone away into her pocket, stepping out of the car as Roy opened the door for her. He gave her a small nod and smile.

“Go get em’, Mama Bear,” he whispered to Andy, wiggling his eyebrows.

Andy rolled her eyes at him, giving him a light swat to his shoulder. He grinned at her, closing the door and leaning against the car as he followed Andy’s eyeline to the school and let out a low whistle.

“Don’t let them scare ya, Andy. Just walk into that building like you own it.” Roy chuckled. “If they’re rude to you, all you have to do is tell Miranda. She just might buy it for you.”

Andy swatted him harder this time. Roy was one of the only people who knew about Andy’s long repressed feelings for her boss, and he took any and every opportunity to tease her about them. It felt like having a big brother that she knew would always take care of her, but it was at the cost of her sanity.

“I’m serious, Andy. If these people think that they’re getting Miranda Priestly’s partner, well - I’d suggest that’s exactly what you give them.”

Andy shot Roy a grateful look before turning towards the large brick building, rolling her shoulders back and assuming her best Miranda impression. He was right. If they thought she was part of the Priestly family, she’d give them exactly that. Cassidy was in there, and she needed Andy.

She made her way in the front door, the click of her heels echoing down the hall as she followed the signs to the front office. She walked to the desk and was met by a gorgeous woman sitting behind it, typing away at her keyboard with long manicured fingernails that clacked with every keystroke. It was her bold hair, half white and half light brown that caught Andy’s attention though. Where Jacqueline looked like a skunk with her dual hair colour, this woman pulled it off with a fierceness that many of the clackers at Runway would kill for.

Andy watched as her fingers flew across the keyboard while she chatted to someone on the other end of the phone that was trapped between her ear and her shoulder.

“That’s all fine and dandy, Tim, but Jackson needs to be here when Cassidy’s guardian shows up, so that he and his mother can sit down with Erso and sort this all out.” She paused as the other person spoke. “Yes, well, perhaps we should be doing a little less assuming and start asking ourselves what the lunchroom supervising staff were doing while two students got into an altercation, hmm? Now, I know I have the supervision schedule here somewhere…” She started flipping through a folder beside her. The person on the other side of the line began speaking rapidly.

Andy tilted her head, watching this dual colour haired woman as she nodded her head.

“That’s what I thought. Let Jackson know that his mother is already in the office. Thanks, Tim.” She hung up the phone, finally looking up at Andy.

“You must be Ms. Sachs. Can I tell you what a pleasure your step-daughters are? All this nasty business will get sorted out, I’m sure.” Andy choked at the mention of her step-daughters, fighting to keep the blank look on her face as she grappled with the idea of being married to Miranda. The secretary carried on, oblivious to the internal hurricane of emotions she’d just set off in Andy. “I’m Connie, by the way. You let Cassidy know that I’ll email over all of her assignments by the end of today. I know she’s worried about falling behind.”

Andy nodded, dazed at the large personality in front of her. She glanced towards the sound of an opening door further inside the office. A tall woman with a terrible haircut stepped out. Andy’s eyes quickly scanned her suit, noting it was ill fitted at best and a full pursed lip look from Miranda at worst. Andy knew that whatever circumstances had brought her here, it had saved the woman a sharp undressing from Miranda’s eyes.

“You must be Ms. Sachs. Please, come in.” The woman shot Connie a stern look which the receptionist just rolled her eyes at. Dean Erso turned back into her office, and Andy started to follow her in. A hand caught her wrist though, and she turned to look at Connie.

“Don’t let em’ walk all over you, sweetheart. From what I understand, Cassidy was standing up for her sister.”

Connie gave Andy an encouraging smile that Andy returned,but she felt more like a shark than the moment before. If Cassidy had actually punched a boy in the face, Andy knew it was for good reason, and there was no chance she was letting someone suggest otherwise. The door behind Andy opened, and a large boy with two black eyes and an icepack pressed against his nose walked through the door. Connie’s eyes hardened, and she pointed towards the open door.

“You know the way, Mr. Luce. Your mother is already here.”

Andy let the boy go ahead of her, following him into the increasingly crowded office. Andy stepped in front of Cassidy, resting her hands lightly on the girl’s shoulders before crouching down to get eye level with her.

“You okay, kiddo?”

Cassidy nodded, tears in her eyes. She held her hand up, showing Andy the bruising on her knuckles. Andy glanced into her lap, noticing the lack of an ice pack. Her eyes narrowed into a glare as she looked at Dean Erso.

“Is there a reason my daughter was not given ice for her hand?” Andy’s voice was deadly.

The Dean’s eyes widened. She pressed a button on her desk, asking for an ice pack to be brought into her office. A tense silence fell over the office as Andy glared at the woman and, in turn, she did everything she could to avoid meeting Andy’s eyes. Neither of them noticed Cassidy pressing her speed dial 1 and tucking her phone back into her lap, face down. Connie appeared at the door a minute later, handing the ice pack over to Andy who’d sprung up to meet her at the door. As the brunette stood beside the younger girl’s chair and applied the cold pack gingerly to Cassidy’s hand, the Dean glared at Connie.

“May I ask why Ms. Priestly was not given ice when she came to the office?” The Dean’s voice sounded slightly panicked.

“Well, Dean Erso, I was about to, but I clearly remember you telling me to ‘get back to my job and let you take care of it.’“ Connie shrugged her shoulders. “Then, you sent Jackson here to cool down with his coach, so I’m guessing that’s where he got his ice.”

The Dean's face progressively went through three different shades of red before she bit out a dismissal. Connie gave Cassidy and Andy a soft smile before turning to leave the office. The Dean cleared her throat, sitting heavily in her chair and shuffling the papers before her. Finally after a moment, she looked up.

“I’ve already discussed with Ms. Priestly our zero tolerance policy around violence and bullying here at Dalton. I’m letting her off easily with a three day suspension and -”

“Dean, what I would like to know is why exactly Cassidy felt the need to punch this young man who is clearly almost a foot taller than her and, I’m guessing, at least a year older.”

“Three years older,” Cassidy supplied helpfully, wincing as she pressed the ice harder against her knuckles. Andy paused, processing that information for a minute. She knew for a fact that Dalton had a pretty strict schedule, so she couldn’t imagine when the girls would ever cross paths with a senior as two freshmen.

“Three years older.” Andy practically spat the age difference at the Dean. “Up until now, Cassidy has never been aggressive ,or felt the need to use force to solve her issues. So, before we proceed with how gracious you’re being by only suspending her for three days, I’d like to hear the full story.” Andy squeezed Cassidy’s shoulders lightly from her position behind her chair, letting the girl know that she had her support. For the first time, Jackson’s mother spoke up.

“I, too, would enjoy hearing what prompted this young lady to give my son two black eyes.” She made eye contact with Andy. “Jackson was very reluctant to tell me the full story when he called me, which leads me to believe he’s not the innocent victim he’s claiming to be.”

Andy raised an eyebrow. The last thing she’d expected was to find a supportive second party in a Dalton mother. She gave the smaller blonde a nod, reaching her hand out to the other woman with a warm smile.

“Andy Sachs.”

“Melinda Baker.”

Andy turned back to the Dean, her warm smile quickly replaced with an icy mask as she observed the woman sinking deeper into her chair. Andy crossed her arms over her chest, tilting her head in a move she’d watched Miranda make to the art department more than once during a disaster run through. She understood the power of it as she watched the Dean begin to squirm.

“As I’ve said before - we have a zero- “

“A zero tolerance policy for bullying and violence, we know,” Andy interrupted. “Cassidy, what happened that made you punch Mr. Luce hard enough that he has two black eyes and what looks like it could be a broken nose?”

Cassidy blinked twice at Andy’s commanding tone before quickly glancing at the Dean. “Jackson asked Caroline out last week at the football game and she said no.” She glared at the older boy who was hanging his head, avoiding eye contact with his mother.

“Then, he started leaving notes in her locker telling her that she was making a mistake and she’d regret it. I told him on Friday to lay off, and I told Caro to tell a teacher.” Cassidy rolled her eyes. “When she told Mr. Jordan, he told her that she was overreacting and that Jackson was a good kid with a bright future. The star of the baseball team.” Cassidy glanced at the phone in her lap, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth as she considered her next words.

“I should have told mom, but I thought after I told him to leave Caro alone on Friday he would back off.” Cassidy paused, pressing the ice harder against her bruised hand. She hesitated, biting her bottom lip.

“Go on, sweetheart. I’m here. I believe you.” Andy encouraged, shooting a glare at the silent Dean.

“Well, Jackson came up to Caroline today in the caf and told her this was her last chance to say yes. She turned him down again, and he said ‘not like I wanted to date an ugly bitch like you anyway.’ Then, he pulled her bra strap and snapped it so hard she started to cry.” Cassidy’s brow furrowed and a dark look came over her face as she glared at the boy sitting across the room from her, looking like she was about to lunge and start whaling on him again. “I got so mad, it was like I saw red. I didn’t realize what I’d done till he was already bleeding and my hand was throbbing.”

She held up the swollen hand as proof that she’d done what she said.

The room was silent for a moment as everyone digested what Cassidy had told them. Then, all hell broke loose.

“You said what to that girl!” Melinda shrieked at her son, grabbing the back of his shirt and lifting him out of his chair to his feet. “You’re damn lucky all you have is a broken nose and a pair of black eyes, Jackson.”

“Melinda.” Andy’s voice was cold and scarily calm. “I’m sure that you’ll agree with me when I say that if Cassidy is to be suspended, Jackson should be suspended, too, for his actions.”

The boy’s head shot up, and his eyes widened. “I can’t get suspended! We leave for National’s tomorrow, and I won’t be allowed to go!” His eyes darted between the Dean and his mom. “Dad will kill me.”

Melinda’s hand gripped her son’s arm. “That’s called a consequence. You should have thought about that before you decided it was acceptable behavior to harass two freshmen.” Melinda glanced at Andy who stood with her arms crossed over her chest, face blank. “It’s my request, Dean, that this young woman not be punished at all. She clearly was just protecting her sister.”

“I-”

“I agree, Melinda. That is the only appropriate course of action moving forward,” Andy cut off the Dean with a glare. “I will, however, be taking Cassidy and Caroline both out of school for the rest of the afternoon. I’m sure Miranda will have some questions for you when she’s finished with her meeting. I would expect a call.” Andy touched Cassidy’s shoulder lightly and watched as the Dean’s face paled dramatically while she fought to keep a fake smile on her face. If there was one thing you didn’t want, it was a pissed off Miranda Priestly on the other end of the phone.

“If there’s nothing else, Dean, we’ll leave the three of you to sort out Mr. Luce’s consequences. Miranda and I will be in touch later on today about how we will move forward from this incident.”

Andy’s smile was sharp as she watched Dean Erso’s fake smile drop. She turned and let her eyes linger on the tall boy as Cassidy stood. She didn’t see the younger girl glance at her phone with a small smile before pocketing it. She wrapped a protective arm around the teenager’s shoulder before leading her out of the office.

 


 

Cassidy and Caroline quietly followed Andy out of the school, their bags slung over their shoulders. Andy nodded to Roy as he held the door open for them, sliding into the backseat. The girls scrambled in and quietly buckled their seatbelts.

“Andy-” Cassidy started as Roy slid into the front seat. Andy held up a single finger to her, leaning forwards to Roy.

“Hey Roy, can you drop us at Emack and Bolio’s?”

The twins exchanged quick wide eyed glances.

“Sure thing, Andy,” Roy responded with a grin. He raised the privacy screen, shaking his head with a small chuckle as he pulled into traffic. He hoped that maybe this would be the tipping point for his friend and his employer.

“Isn’t that an ice cream shop?” Caroline asked cautiously, her eyes flitting from Cassidy to Andy nervously.

Andy relaxed back into the leather seat, letting out a puff of air that blew her bangs out of her face.

“I’m sure your mom will have a lot to say about today, but I’m proud of your sister for standing up for you. So, ice cream and then we’ll go home to face the dragon and talk about using violence to solve our problems. Unless y’all would rather just go home…”

The twins scrambled to disagree and beg to get ice cream. Andy laughed and reached over, messing up both of their hair. The girls squawked at the attack, pulling away and trying to fix their hair as only two fourteen year olds could. Andy settled back into her seat with a deep breath.

“Do either of you want to explain why I’m listed as your mom’s partner and an emergency contact for you two?”

Both girls froze. Andy could tell they were doing the weird twin back and forth they did to decide who needed to answer the question. She waited patiently.

“Well, dad is in Europe for the year, and we knew that you’d always answer the phone, even if mom couldn’t,” Cassidy said firmly.

“And we know that you care about us, and you’d do anything for mom, so, it just kinda made the most sense,” Caroline added, shrugging. “Don’t be weird about it. There was no ‘assistant of our mom’s who we think is cool’ option on the form, so we just checked ‘partner’.”

Andy just nodded slowly, tears in her eyes. The girls rolled their eyes in scary synch before turning back to their conversation. Andy tried to quietly wipe her tears away as she listened to the two of them chatter about the classes they were missing. After a few minutes of listening to them talk, Andy’s ears perked up at the mention of the ecentric secretary she’d met.

“I’m telling you, Cass! They have to be dating. The two of them drove in together this morning and, as they were walking in, Ms. E told me my Jean jacket was ‘deadly’ while she held the door for Connie.” Caroline held her hand out. “Pay up.”

Cassidy rolled her eyes and reached over, slapping her sister's hand in a high five. “First of all, I did not punch Jackson Luce just to be told I owe you five dollars for a bet that you can’t produce solid evidence that you even won.”

“Girls,” Andy warned them, her voice sharp, “you did not bet on that lovely woman’s sexuality.”

Both girls shook their heads, their hands up to defend themselves, their words stumbling over each other’s.

“No, no, no-“

“We’re betting on if she’s dating Ms. E - the hot Australian Indigenous Culture teacher or-“

“Mr. Malik, the new gym teacher!”

“Connie is very open about her bisexuality and talks about it during our Pride month assembly every year-”

“To break down the stigma of bisexuality!”

“And we just want her to be happy.”

“And we know both of those teachers adore her.”

Andy held her hands up, letting out a soft huff. “Girls. Regardless, that woman doesn’t need you betting on her love life!” The girls had the decency to look at least a little ashamed of themselves. “And Cassidy, I would suggest you seem a bit more ashamed of punching that boy in the face when you speak to your mother.”

Cassidy nodded silently, tears filling her eyes.

“Mom’s gonna be so mad,” she said quietly as the tears started to fall into her lap. She wiped furiously at her eyes with the back of her hands for a second. Andy reached out, gently taking both of Cassidy’s hands in hers as she turned her full body in her seat to face both girls.

“Your mom is going to be a little upset that you punched someone, but at the end of the day? She’ll be proud that you stood up for your sister.” Andy reached out a hand to Caroline. Squeezing both girls' hands, she gave them a brilliant smile. “There’s nothing in this world that your mom loves more than you two. Not Runway, not her clothes, not even her Prada heels. At the end of the day, you guys are her sun and moon. Will she be upset? Maybe a bit. But she won’t stop loving you, okay?”

The girls both nodded, squeezing Andy’s hands. The car slowed down and Andy grinned at the sight of her favourite ice cream parlour. A soft tap on the privacy screen sounded, and the girls grinned, too, as they all climbed out of the car together. Roy touched Andy’s elbow lightly, leaning in to whisper in her ear. Andy’s eyes went wide and she nodded, thanking the man before following the girls into the parlour as the car pulled back into traffic.

 


 

The girls were chatting in their form of twin shorthand while they ate their ice cream. Cassidy’s phone sat on the table, face down, and Caroline was scrolling through hers, showing Cassidy pictures as they spoke. Andy was working on her cone while catching up on her emails and missed texts. There was suspiciously nothing from Miranda, who’d been out of her budget meeting for at least an hour now. Andy knew it hadn’t run over because she got a text from Bethany telling her Miranda had returned, and she had a read receipt from the editor.

Andy caught a drip of ice cream that was running down the back of her hand with her tongue. As she licked it off, the bell over the front door rang. Andy looked up and made direct eye contact with Miranda, who looked deadly in her black Bill Blass pant suit with a sharp white blouse. She had a single earbud in, headphones attached to the phone in her hand.

Andy’s cheeks flushed red, and she fumbled her ice cream, dropping it face down on the table. She let out a groan, scooping it up with her napkin and pushing herself out of the booth. “Game faces, everyone,” Andy said quietly, ignoring the twins' confused looks. She tossed her ice cream in the garbage and made her way to Miranda as she ended whatever call she’d been on and wrapped her headphones around her phone, dropping it into her bag.

“‘Game faces’, really, Andrea?” Miranda said, quietly chuckling. Andy’s brow furrowed as she looked back at their table on the other side of the ice cream parlour and back to Miranda. The pieces all fell into place at once as Andy dropped her face into her hands and let out a groan.

“How long?”

Miranda patted a light hand against Andy’s forearm, smiling softly, looking at her first assistant with curious eyes.

“Since the ice pack,” Miranda murmured, leading Andy back to the table.

She only let Andy’s arm go to lean in and kiss both of her daughters on the top of their heads before ushering Andy back into the booth and sitting down beside her, their thighs pressing against each other. Miranda reached across the table, plucking Cassidy’s mint chocolate chip cone out of her hand and taking a few licks of it. Cassidy started to complain, but Miranda simply held a hand up, cutting her off.

“Boxers in this family share their ice cream cones. No matter how noble their cause.”

Caroline let out a peal of laughter, wrapping her arm around Caroline’s shoulder and offering her the chocolate scoop she’d been working on. “Here, you can share mine for being my hero today.”

Cassidy gave her sister a messy kiss on the cheek, declaring that she was Caroline’s hero every single day. Caroline responded by wiping the kiss off and sticking her tongue out at her sister. Miranda just rolled her eyes and continued to work on her stolen ice cream cone, bumping her knee against Andy’s.

“Somehow, everyone but me has an ice cream cone,” Andy joked, hyper aware of Miranda’s thigh pressed against hers. The older woman tilted her hand, offering Andy the mint chip on her cone. Andy’s eyes widened a fraction before she decided to throw caution to the wind. She leaned in taking a few licks of the ice cream while Caroline and Cassidy continued to argue with one another. Miranda’s eyes were trained on her as she pulled away.

A soft thumb surprised Andy as it wiped a small bit of ice cream away from the corner of Andy’s lip. Her eyes locked on Miranda’s hand as she raised it to her lips, sucking the dribble off her thumb. Andy bit back a moan, flustered as she felt her cheeks flushed a deep red. Miranda just raised an eyebrow before turning back to the girls.

“Shall we walk home and discuss how Cassidy decided to join the WBA, my darlings?”

Cassidy’s cheeks pinked at the joke as she slid out of the booth. Caroline followed behind her, and Miranda brought up the rear. Andy waited for the three women to go ahead before pulling out her phone to quickly google WBA.

World Boxing Association. Got it.

Andy followed the three women out the front door, shoulders shaking with laughter.

 


 

Andy and Miranda walked side by side as the group made their way through Central Park. Their hands brushing against each other more often than not. The twins were walking backwards, telling the two women about the upcoming soccer tryouts at school.

“You two would be killer as a striker combo,” Andy said thoughtfully. Miranda looked at her with a furrowed brow and concerned eyes. “Those are the people who score the goals, mostly. The offense.” Andy thought for a second. “It would be like… you and Nigel. Spearheading the ideas and bringing the important things to fruition. Just instead of trying to land advertisers, they’re trying to score goals”

Miranda gave a slight nod to signal she understood.

“Actually…” Cassidy said, drawing the word out. “I wanna try out to be a Keeper.” She bumped her sister’s shoulder. “And Caro’s interested in playing sweep or full back.”

Andy’s eyes lit up.

“Did you two know Andrea was the Goalkeeper for Northwestern’s women’s team?” Miranda asked with a smirk.

Andy’s head whipped around and she let out a squawk of disbelief. “How did you know that?” she asked, laughing.

“Honestly, Andrea. It was on your resume.” Miranda winked at Andy as she popped the last bite out of the waffle cone into her mouth. Andy didn’t know why anything this woman did shocked her anymore. She just laughed and enjoyed walking through the park while the girls grilled her on her time on the Northwestern team.

“Were you any good?”

“I don’t know... Do three national titles and taking the starting spot as a freshman three games into my career count as being good?”

“What was your save percentage?”

“.98 across my five years on the team.”

“Can you teach us?”

Andy paused, looking at Miranda curiously. The other woman’s face was suspiciously blank as she watched Andy’s exchange with the twins. Andy stopped short, stepping off the path to let the joggers pass their group. She stood, taking in two sets of puppy dog eyes while she crossed her arms over her chest and thought about the question, ignoring the puppy dog eyes.

“I guess that depends on how serious you are about it.” Andy tilted her head to the side like she was considering it. “I work pretty crazy hours for your mom, so if I’m going to give up some of my free time to coach you, it needs to be something you’re dedicated to, not a passing fancy, like say, boogie boarding.”

Andy vividly remembered trying to juggle boogie boards, Patricia, coffees and bags of scarves while navigating down 48th her first month as an assistant. It was scarred into her brain - just like finding out a week later the twins had tried once and declared it ‘too hard’ and moved on to the next thing.

The girls turned their puppy dog eyes to their mother who simply raised an eyebrow at them with a slight head tilt.

“I believe Andrea has asked you both a question.”

Andy nodded at Miranda backing her up instead of giving in. She leaned forward, ruffling both girls' hair.

“Sleep on it. You both have my number if you decide you want to do it.”

The twin nodded slowly, falling into step behind Andy and Miranda as they started back along the path towards the townhouse.

“Such a strict step mother,” Miranda murmured quietly so only Andy could hear. Andy threw her head back and let her laughter ring out to the clouds.

 


 

Andy was happily digging into her order of orange chicken. If someone had told her that morning that she’d be eating Chinese takeout with the Priestly women around a small wooden table in Miranda’s sunroom, she’d have told them to head straight to the ER to be assessed for a concussion. Andy let her eyes wander around the beautiful space. Apart from the plain - by Miranda’s standards - wooden table the four of them sat around, the sun room was a beautiful collection of soft lighting, greenery and comfortable seating. There was a small bookshelf tucked in the corner of the room Andy hadn’t gotten to explore before they’d sat down to dinner, but she was determined to find out what kind of books Miranda deemed worthy of a room like this.

Miranda set her fork down, resting her chin on her bridged hands as she observed the table. They’d quickly gotten the discussion about using means other than physical force to deal with problems out of the way at the beginning of dinner. Andy appreciated how delicately Miranda had navigated the conversation, leaving both girls feeling like their mother understood the action but also that they had new avenues to deal with the problem should it arise again. Andy watched as Miranda bit the inside of her cheek before softly clearing her throat, drawing the attention of the younger Priestly’s.

“So should we discuss which one of you thought it was a good idea to put Andrea down as my partner for your contact forms?”

Andy didn’t miss the flash of mischief that went through Miranda’s eyes, but it didn’t stop the full body shiver she felt at hearing Miranda’s icy tone. Andy watched as both girls froze in their seats, clearly unwilling to take responsibility for the changes on their emergency contact forms.

Miranda’s eyes didn’t drift from Caroline, clearly knowing the answer to her own question. Andy watched as the teenager squirmed in her seat before finally letting out a long sigh.

“In our defense, Andy’s been a better fake step-mom today than dad has been a real parent since he met Izzy.”

Andy noted the disdain with which Caroline said what she assumed was her actual step mother’s name.

“Plus,” Cassidy added, “we knew if the school couldn’t get ahold of you, Andy totally could. You always answer her calls, no matter what.”

Andy tilted her head, filing this away to think about later. It was true, she couldn’t remember the last time, bar today from the car where she knew Miranda didn’t have her phone, that Miranda had let her calls go to voicemail.

“I don’t know what you’re suggesting, Cassidy Anne…”

“Nothing, mom!” Cassidy held her hands up in defense. “I’m just saying that we noticed. You’ll hop up in the middle of a movie if it’s Andy, or when we were at the aquarium the other weekend and your phone was on silent, but Andy’s call still rang…”

Andy bit back a smile at the growing blush on Miranda’s face. To anyone else, it may not seem like much, but Andy could tell that she was flustered at Cassidy’s words. A memory of Nate flashed through her mind.

“The person whose calls you always take? That’s the relationship you’re in. I hope you two are very happy together.”

The sound of Miranda clearing her throat snapped Andy’s focus back to the dinner table. She grinned at the very obvious way Miranda refused to meet her eyes as she flicked her wrists towards the girls.

“I’m sure the two of you have homework to do somewhere that is not here.”

“Sure mom.”

“We will go elsewhere.”

The girls both cleared their spaces and kissed Miranda on the cheeks as the older woman hugged an arm around each of their waists. Andy felt herself melt a little watching Miranda kiss the side of each of the girls heads.

“I love you both very much. I’m thankful that the two of you have grown into the beautiful witty young women that you’ve become. Now ,if we could teach you to stop trying to be Muhammad Ali…”

“Float like a butterfly.”

“Sting like a bee.”

Andy laughed alongside the twins at their impression of the famous boxer. They gave their mom a squeeze and then descended on Andy giving her a tight hug each. Cassidy lingered for a minute as Caroline left the room with her dishes.

“Thanks for being my fake step-mom today,” Cassidy said softly, kicking the ground.

Andy ruffled the teenager's bangs, waiting until she met Andy’s eyes. “Anytime, Cass. I’m glad you two are okay.”

Cass gave Andy a smile before following after her sister. Andy turned back to the table to catch Miranda watching her thoughtfully as she slowly swirled the wine in her glass. Andy lifted her own glass in a soft salute before taking a sip as Miranda’s voice floated across the table.

“I appreciate the lengths you went to to protect my daughters today, Andrea.”

Andy smiled at the rare ‘thank you’ falling from the editor’s lips. She filed it away in her growing folder of things that made her heart skip a beat when she was around the white haired woman.

“Yeah, well, they’re good kids, Miranda. I care about them.”

“If only I could find a step-parent for them who felt the same way,” Miranda sighed, leaning back in her chair and crossing her leg. Andy would bet money that the other woman was dangling her heel under the table, the way she often did when she was deep in thought. Andy took a slow sip of her wine, watching the older woman watch her. She felt herself start to speak before fully thinking it through.

“I mean, I make a pretty good step-mom. No need to replace me while I’m sitting right here.”

Andy’s cheeks flushed red as she realized what she’d implied. Miranda’s lips pulled up into a dangerous smile, sending a chill down Andy’s spine. This was the moment, she knew, she’d be kicked out for overstepping. Andy was so concerned about her slip, she almost missed the words that Miranda quietly said.

“I should be so lucky.”

Andy’s breath caught in her throat. She set her wine glass down, leaning forward as her eyes searched the other woman’s face.

“Miranda?”

The editor pushed back from the table, standing up and brushing her torso down as if her clothes would dare wrinkle on her.

“I think that’s quite enough wine for me tonight. I’ll just -“

Andy scrambled out of her chair putting herself between Miranda and the door. She’d moved so quickly the editor had bumped into her, nearly falling. Andy’s hand on her elbow held the other woman upright while her other hand grabbed the door frame, keeping herself in place. She pulled Miranda towards her, realizing too late that this put the two of them practically nose to nose.

“Andrea…” Miranda murmured, her breathing shallow.

Andy leaned in, her lips just barely brushing Miranda’s. She felt Miranda starting to sway towards her as she raised a hand to cup the soft cheek in front of her, leaning in to press their lips together softly. Andy’s brain felt like fireworks were going off as she wrapped her arm more firmly around Miranda’s waist, pulling her closer.

When the two of them finally pulled away for air, Andy couldn’t stop the evil grin that formed on her face.

“What?” Miranda asked softly, smiling back at Andy.

“I just hope the twins know I’m the kind of step-mom that expects them to do chores.”

The sound of Miranda’s laughter was something that Andy knew that she’d do anything to hear again. It was a sound that she didn’t think she’d ever get tired of. She made a mental note to buy Cassidy a killer pair of boxing gloves for her birthday.

Fin.