Andy never felt completely comfortable in the Runway offices of Elias-Clark. At first, she was an outsider and blasphemer, walking hallowed halls that housed a mission of fashion she did not practice. Even after her transformation at Nigel’s hands, she could not find ease and still cursed her nerves as she acted out her part on stage with her new costume. Even when the acting seemed to become real, the pretending was gone, and “those” clothes suddenly became “her” clothes, she felt some tiny pricking, some slight chill that constantly reminded her that to relax would mean her undoing.
This was especially true when she was at the office at night.
There was a kind of guilty joy in it. She was often alone, waiting for the Book, catching up on work she was unable to complete during the day. Occasionally she would see security making rounds and strike up a quick conversation. She could prepare for the next day so everything would run smoothly.
However, she felt deeply aware of how uncomfortable and unwelcome her presence in the office was on the nights when her boss also had to stay late.
It happened every once in awhile. The new issue needed to be perfected before it was sent to print. The proofs from the photo shoot that day would need to be critically perused. Budget crisis. Important conference call with important people that happened to be in another time zone. Andy secretly marveled at what Miranda did for the sake of Runway. Everyone knew the dragon that patrolled her castle sizzling with wrath and fire. Who ever saw the solitary queen of ice slowly, patiently chipping away in the lonesome cold to create monuments of art and beauty?
Just as Andy was chosen to bring the Book to the Priestly household, she was also chosen to stand watch and aid the woman steadily working by the light of a lamp; Miranda said the main lights gave her a headache and would not be used. Andy brought her tea or coffee when it was demanded, and she was often sent running to different departments to gather images and reports.
Therefore, she immediately jumped to action when she heard, “Andrea.”
She launched herself out of her chair and quickly presented herself in front of Miranda’s desk, the back of her boss’s head greeting her.
As the older woman gazed out the window, Andy desperately scanned the desk in hopes of ascertaining what it was she needed. She had already refilled Miranda’s coffee and gotten her a bottle of water. The mock up was sitting right there. What could she need?
She was startled when Miranda simply said, “A cigarette.”
Andy’s eyes went wide with shock and confusion. Did she want one? Now? In the office? Miranda didn’t even smoke.
“Now,” was the stern command that shoved the assistant out of the office now burdened with the task of finding a cigarette when she herself did not smoke.
Andy briefly considered that she was not paid enough before narrowing her gaze towards Emily’s desk. Emily did not smoke. Andy knew she didn’t have enough time to leave and run to the store with Miranda simmering. Nigel hated the habit. But Andy remembered the smell in this very office. Emily. After her lunch break.
Emily smelled faintly of smoke after her lunch breaks with Selena.
The brunette jogged to the beauty department and easily ignored the ounce of guilt she felt searching through another person’s personal belongings. Did it really count if it was a drawer in a public office space? Once she found the opened box and walked back to the office holding the cancerous little stick and the lighter that was found beside it, that small dash of guilt bloomed into an almost evil pleasure. Miranda would be satisfied she had attained it fairly quickly without running to the store. And there was something delicious about this tiny secret. Smoking was one of those dirty little things people did when they had a moment of weakness, right? It wasn’t stylish anymore. Commercials played all the time demanding now was the time to quit something so unhealthy.
And so, after months of thinking she knew absolutely everything there was to know about Miranda Priestly, Andy stepped back into the office and presented her boss with the prize, still half-expecting her to do something other than smoke it.
Miranda slowly turned her chair and focused her gaze on the offering in Andy’s outstretched hand. Her assistant saw then how tired she was. Miranda was as alive and thriving and powerful as the streets of New York that glittered in the window behind her. The glamor, the reputation, the stunning lights. But late nights like this, Andy could see the little cracks in the sidewalk. The faint and creeping tiredness that leaked into Miranda’s eyes.
The very eyes that were now sliding upwards to Andy’s own. The assistant held her breath.
Without breaking their eye contact, Miranda gently took the cigarette and placed it with great care between her lips, and the young woman helplessly watched her mouth practically kiss the filter. Then, she tilted her head, and her eyebrow flickered with silent annoyance.
Andy leaned forward with the lighter, summoning all her self-control to maintain a steady hand. The second the cigarette was lit, Miranda’s body lost all its rigidity and regally tight grandeur.
She tossed her head back, flipping her forelock out of her face, and slumped into her chair. Her eyes fluttered shut. She sighed. Her fingers hugged and caressed this new gift between her lips, and, when she pulled it away briefly, she sighed again, sending out a small puff of smoke.
Andy assumed her task was done, and, almost blushing from Miranda’s practically intimate response, she decided it best to retreat and leave the woman to her moment of peace.
But the other woman’s airy, chilling voice calmly commanded, “Sit.”
Andy slowly turned around from the door and looked back at her boss, almost hoping that, for once, she would explain why this was necessary and be reasonable. Miranda loved to give her long lists of something to do. She loved rapidly firing off copious tasks that Andy struggled to catch during the day. And now she just wanted her to sit?
Miranda leisurely inhaled, appearing to ignore Andy’s hesitation, and she released her grey breath as the other woman sat down. Andy mustered a countenance of the extremely talented assistant that had Miranda’s life running perfectly for months and buried her confusion somewhere out of her mind. She waited for Miranda to say something, but nothing came.
Andy watched Miranda as she smoked, Miranda inspected her, or so Andy thought. She became anxious, wondering what it was the other woman seemed to notice.
She suddenly remembered she wasn’t wearing shoes. Her heels sat forgotten under her desk where she had removed them in order to stretch the achy muscles that still rejected the couture shoved upon them. No wonder it had felt so easy to run across the office.
But Miranda didn’t look at her stocking-covered feet. She looked at her face. Her dress. She stared as the seconds ticked away in the form of her shrinking cigarette. Andy resisted the urge to fidget or glance away. The old Andy would have awkwardly fumbled or mumbled away. But she knew better. Her make up was her war paint. Her tight, black dress was her armor. Nate clearing out his things from their apartment last month left her battle-hardened.
She knew she was damn good at her job. Whatever game this was, she would play. She leaned back in the chair, crossed her legs, and matched Miranda’s glossy gaze with one that was steady and firm.
They remained like this until Miranda removed the stub, dropped it into the now cold cup of coffee, and said, “That’s all.”
She was dismissed. Another word on the matter was never spoken. Andy quietly purchased a pack of cigarettes the next morning and kept them in her desk drawer, just in case, like any prepared assistant would do. Life went on. Andy was with her boss almost the entirety of the day every single day and yet there was never a single sign that Miranda smoked or had the desire to smoke. There were still busy days and late nights for the both of them. Nothing.
Therefore, when Andy answered the call of “Andrea” one evening a few weeks later, she assumed it was for another cup of tea, and promptly grabbed the still steaming pot from the kitchen and carried it into the office.
When she entered, she was met with a bowed head of white and matching white knuckles of balled fists. As her boss’s head sluggishly rose and she saw the dark circles and pursed lips, Andy just nodded.
“Right away, Miranda.”
This time she was much faster in her work. She hastily grabbed what she needed from her own desk drawer, handed Miranda a single cigarette, and lit it as it rested between Miranda’s lips. The effect was instantaneous, and the tension in her shoulders seemed to leak away from her body and escaped through the thin trail of grey leaving her mouth. Eyes again fluttered shut. Two fingers immediately surrounded the thin, white cylinder and eagerly tugged away to free those full lips, allowing them to produce a sigh.
Andy admired her boss’s profile and pose, recalling old photographs of movie stars from decades ago, black and white with hazy smiles. Her regal, beautiful face, the square shoulders of her blazer, the red lips, the wisps of hair that fell near her eyes, these were all things Andy knew and noticed about Miranda Priestly. She knew the queen with cold eyes and the strength and wrath of a true leader. But she also knew the softness and vulnerability of a woman that simply wished to be good at her art form, a wish that came at a high price.
It was during this contemplation of Miranda’s lovely face when the very woman’s eyes lazily slid open.
Andy immediately turned away and walked to the other side of the desk. She smoothed the back of her skirt, sat down, crossed her legs, and folded her hands on her lap, still holding the cigarette pack and the lighter. She could focus. She could sit there and let Miranda smoke. Andy was a practical girl and recognized her growing attraction when it began months ago. She was perfectly capable of doing her job in silence and burying all personal matters into the deepest recesses of her imagination.
Or so Andy thought as Miranda again blazed her perusal across the young woman’s body. Previously she assumed it was a type of test, an inspection of sorts. Maybe even the smallest request for simple human contact while she smoked. But the assistant dared to suspect something further, and she found herself enjoying the opportunity to relax and inspect her boss in the stillness and the silence.
However, Andy’s calm was immediately replaced with panic when Miranda’s voice sliced through the quiet as she airily instructed, “Say something.”
Andy instinctually quipped, “How are you?”
The older woman rolled her eyes and continued to puff away in silence. Andy sighed, leaned back, and glanced to the flower vase sitting on Miranda’s desk, trying to think about her day.
She muttered the first thing that came to her mind. “I think Emily’s got a new boyfriend because she actually smiles sometimes now.”
“Smiling? At work? I certainly don’t recall allowing that,” Miranda drawled sarcastically, admiring her little cloud of smoke.
“I’m sure it’s to hide her incredible fear and stress working for such a demanding boss,” Andy replied with a smirk, just as sarcastically.
“Acceptable,” the other woman mused before turning to look at her assistant, “And yourself? You smile much too frequently.”
She held Miranda’s eyes, as if answering an unspoken challenge. “I take pleasure in aiding you with instilling fear in others.”
“Not hiding your stress?” Another inhale, another hazy exhale.
“Everyone has stress.”
“Do you know no fear?” Miranda murmured sinisterly. Almost seductively.
“I can do anything,” Andy responded with a resolute calmness that even made her wonder where this daring woman inside her had come from. Her words echoed Miranda’s own from that fateful day.
Miranda’s look turned dark. Not the usual sort of dark that meant she was angry or severely displeased; Andy had seen that look plenty of times before. No, this was that creeping sensation that stirred in Miranda’s eyes the day Andy’s plopped the Harry Potter manuscript on her desk with a devilish grin.
Miranda looked as if she would devour her.
Truly, that was all. There was not another late night at Runway for either Andy or Miranda for two whole weeks before the assistant began to relax. And to miss that precious time alone.
The next time Andy smelled smoke, it was of her own doing. She opened her purse and delicately removed the small box. Her fingers lightly traced the edges. After the last incident in the office, she made sure to upgrade the package to what she considered emergency supplies, and now she always carried the carton with her in the event Miranda required it.
Andy gingerly pushed away the top flap and looked inside, finding the vessel full except for the one that had burned away between Miranda’s lips that always looked so soft even if they said things so sharply. So delicate and so full…
The young woman immediately snatched a cigarette from the sheath, dumped the box back into her bag, and aggressively hunted for the lighter at the bottom of it all. Brandishing the piece of plastic, she hastily clicked until the small flame sparked and licked the tip of the thin tube that now hung between her own lips.
She inhaled. And sighed.
She hadn’t done this since college. Tried it, didn’t like it, that was the end of it.
But the smell reminded her of sitting in Miranda’s office, staring into the swirling steel of her boss’s eyes. The burning filled her lungs almost seemed to distract her from the warmth spreading throughout the rest of her body. Carrying the new treasure to her bed, she reclined and relaxed into the pile of pillows resting against the wall her bed touched. Andy closed her eyes and allowed the smoke to carry her back to Miranda. Her authoritative demeanor that oozed confidence. Her suggestive charm and poise. Her rare vulnerability and tempting secrecy. The power of her stride in clicking heels. The perfectly tailored cut of her clothes that simultaneously revealed too much and not enough. The swift toss of her head when her hair fell across her eyes. Her face. Her mouth. Her lips. Her tongue…
Andy’s eyes flashed open as if waking from a dream. Cold reality washed over her as she ashamedly looked down at her legs tightly crossed, desperately trying to suppress a growing hunger. She hastily snuffed the cigarette on a plate left forgotten from dinner sitting on her nightstand. Even alone in the safety of her home, her thoughts contained something too forbidden even for the sake of imagination.
Dreamy phantoms of Miranda began to haunt her, cursing her with a yearning she knew could never be quenched. It followed her like a shadow around the office. It whispered delicious things in her ear when she shared a terribly small elevator with her boss. It echoed down her spine when Miranda would glance at her tiredly during a meeting, as if sharing a quick secret, before the woman turned viciously on an incompetent employee.
It tempted her in the confined space of the town car after a certain charity banquet.
She rolled up the patrician to ensure they would be alone immediately knowing the command before it was spoken.
The cigarette didn’t have its usual affect on the older woman. In fact, quite the opposite. She didn’t slump into her seat with relief or purr with pleasure. No blissful sighs. Instead it seemed to make her more anxious, as if it wasn’t enough to soothe her like usual. Her foot, still clad in its Louis Vuitton, twitched on the car carpet. She clicked at the window switch on the door, and the glass lowered an inch, allowing the smoke to escape. Her fingers tapped at the armrest.
“Well?” Miranda asked, not attempting to hide her frustration as she glared out the window.
Andy observed the scene out of the corner of eye and debated what she should say to calm the dragon down.
She safely remarked, “Some party.”
“Hardly,” her boss scoffed, taking another drag.
As galas went, this particular one ranked poorly compared to its predecessors. Almost every guest that approached Miranda had innocently asked why Stephen was unable to attend, as if they hadn’t read about the separation plastered on the front page of the papers for weeks.
“At least the drinks were good,” the brunette said more firmly, turning to look fully at the other woman, “It was better than that gala last month with the champagne that tasted like bubble bath.”
Miranda eyes slowly slid towards hers.
“You’re supposed to be working,” she replied sternly, but her words held significantly less bite.
Andy batted her eyes and responded with syrupy sweetness, “Please let me know what you felt was done incorrectly so I can improve my quality of work.”
Miranda huffed at the sarcasm, but Andy noticed the smirk she tried to hide by turning towards the window.
At the comment, the assistant turned towards her own window to hide her smile.
“When I was an assistant for the Editor of Vogue,” Miranda’s calm voice filled the car, “we were always sure to establish an understanding with the bartender. Much easier to sneak a shot behind the bar or in the kitchen and quickly return to your post.”
“If you ever caught me doing that, I’d be fired.”
“Don’t get caught,” Miranda murmured, smoke pouring from her lips.
Andy finally felt her the azure eyes upon her. On the slit of her dress where her crossed legs peaked. On her exposed shoulders. On the sweetheart neckline of the bodice that Nigel had plucked from the closet just for her and the assets it showed off. The smell of the smoke that she now associated with the Miranda that kissed her skin in her dreams.
Andy met her gaze. How often now had she allowed Miranda to openly look at her? The young woman succumbed to the raging temptation and mirrored the other’s actions. She too looked and stared and admired a couture-clad body she could not touch.
“I have nothing to hide,” Andy stated slowly, her voice deep with and her lids heavy with the intense heat coursing throughout her body.
Their eyes met once more. Miranda licked her lips. With delicate and deliberate leisureliness, she brought her fingers to lips and took a long, deep drag.
Then she flung the remaining fragment out the window, never turning her head away from the glass.
The rest of the ride was silent.
Andy turned to her own window and tried to clear her lungs and her head from the smoke and the perfume and the lust. Her boss. Her boss! Her boss that navigated the elite of the rich and powerful, a woman with everything to lose and everything to hide. A woman who never lost control long enough to enjoy herself while hiding behind a smokescreen.
All of New York would freak out if they knew the queen of sophistication and class had such a dirty little habit when she was stressed. But they’d really lose it if they knew she admired a woman’s legs while she did it.
Andy smirked. It was her duty to ensure all of her bosses needs were met.
After all, who could keep both secrets better than Miranda’s own assistant?
Don’t get caught. She could do that.
Next time, Andy brought the pack and lighter without prompting. She simply knew. Miranda sat in her throne, her office chair, facing away from the door and staring out the large window into the twinkling world of the city, just like the first night the secret ritual began.
She shut the office door behind her, and walked towards the woman that ruled her thoughts. However, instead of placing the cigarette in the other woman’s hand, Andy slipped it between her own lips, clicked the lighter, and inhaled as Miranda’s eyes slyly glanced at her. Her eyebrow hitched upward at what Andy could only assumed was this unknown boldness. She didn’t even know where it came from. But now it fueled her, and there was no turning back.
She sat on the desk beside Miranda’s chair, looking out the same window that previously held Miranda’s attention.
“Why do you watch me while you smoke?”
A beat passed.
“It is popular opinion one should not smoke,” Miranda answered slowly, her voice airy and calm like it was when she was hiding something. Her assistant knew better.
Andy took another long drag before finally passing the stick to Miranda.
“But you do it anyway.”
“Legally, I can. It relieves stress.”
The young woman crossed her legs, practically purring when Miranda’s eyes darted towards them.
“Do I relieve stress?” she innocently asked.
“On the contrary. You cause it” was the growled response.
“It’s my job to help with that.”
“In this particular case, no,” Miranda stated sternly, “I choose to fulfill one desire to alleviate and subdue the other.”
She paused, bringing the cigarette Andy put between her fingers to her mouth. Her breath was so long, it felt more like a labored sigh. Her gaze returned to the window.
She left it dangling between her lips as she muttered, “When time burns out and expires, they are locked away once more.”
The woman sitting beside her inclined forward, placing a hand on the armrest of Miranda’s chair.
“It looks like we don’t have a lot of time left then.”
Andy plucked the cigarette from Miranda’s mouth, snuffed it on the editor’s glass desk, and placed her lips where it previously dangled from Miranda’s own.
The effect was as instantaneous.
Miranda eased into her chair, releasing her typical strained and stressed control that she exhibited constantly in the daylight. Her eyes closed. She sighed. All the same results smoking had given her, and a kiss gave them to her a hundred-fold. Andy too finally felt release, allowing every hope and dream and wish to freely emerge from the dark place where she buried them in the quiet of her bedroom. The anxiety and fear vanished, and, in its place, a growing hunger was unleashed. Andy’s lips moved eagerly against Miranda’s as she leaned down from her position on the desk. Her hands excitedly found Miranda’s shoulders, nudged her closer, touched her neck, and tilted her chin to easily reach more and more.
The older woman did more than simply inch towards her. She rapidly stood from her chair, firmly kissed Andy, and then dragged her off the desk.
Miranda refused to have her on the desk, as if doing so would seal their actions as inappropriate, that their relationship rooted itself in the office. Their desire was not a festering curiosity for the freedom to do something wrong and sinful. She led her to the couch tucked away in the corner. She laid her down gently, cupping the back of her head with her hand to ensure her comfort as Andy eased back upon the cushions. Her kisses were slower, softer, and ignorant of the extinguished flame on the desk as she gingerly lowered herself against the brunette. No game of power inspired her lust, and she told the young woman this truth through sighs, gasps, and brushed lips. Andy’s hands cupped her cheeks, stroking her face as she delicately peppered kisses on the corner of Miranda’s mouth. There was a silent agreement that passed through mingling breaths that this was not wrong. This was completely right.
The only words that graced the room, much to Andy’s surprise, came from Miranda as she briefly separated their bodies and peered into richly dark eyes.
It was the first time Miranda had every asked a question, and it was done with such tenderness, Andy could barely whisper her response.
Consent was granted. Hands slid across thighs, bringing skirt fabric up with them.
Lazy and foggy like smoke, they undressed each other. More kisses covered new skin as it was freshly revealed. Andy delicately traced Miranda’s collarbone with her tongue as she unbuttoned her collared shirt only to find herself whimpering moments later as Miranda nibbled at her shoulders, sliding off her bra strap. She gasped and tilted her chin to surrender her neck to whatever Miranda’s elegant mouth could offer her.
Fingers buried in white hair. Fingers glided against hips. Torso. Nipples. They unzipped slacks and tugged. They pulled at stockings. Fingers laced with fingers as legs weaved together. Miranda gently rocked against the beautiful woman, and she was intimately embraced in return. There was no begging. There were no demands. Andy merely said her new lover’s name, sweetly moaning each syllable. Miranda’s hand acted quickly to ensure the melodious sound did not stop.
The tip of her finger took a solitary journey down a long, pale torso. Andy remembered those long fingers gingerly holding the filter of each cigarette before Miranda made love to it with mouth, and, as Miranda’s lips followed the southward path peppering kisses, she squirmed with the pleasurable knowledge that this would be her fate as well.
She was not disappointed. Miranda’s tongue with each stroke unleashed a blast of fire that scorched through Andy’s veins that made her hips jerk, her toes curl, and her voice sing. The image of that iconic queen’s hair placed so securely between her thighs would have been enough on its own. The eyes of sapphire were her complete undoing.
The small stub lying forgotten had long grown cold in its own ash on the desk.
Miranda was hoisted on her arms, hovering above the spent woman, pecking her neck as she waited for Andy’s excited breathing to return to normal. She hazily stared, as if intoxicated, her own breath ragged clearly signaling that, while the brunette was calming down, her own desire was on the verge of exploding.
While a smile and a small kiss to her partner’s chin, Andy’s hand dove between their two bodies to happily reward the dedication and patience she had received.
Miranda’s gasp was instantaneous.
As her name filled the room with growing levels of euphoria, the assistant beamed contently knowing full well her name would never be called again for a cigarette.