It was nearly six-thirty when Miranda brought her empty plate back into the kitchen. She smiled at the young woman and complimented her. "Delicious, Andrea, thank you." Rinsing her plate she placed it in the dishwasher. "I'm going to make sure the girls are up and getting ready for school. Roy will be here to get them soon."

"Wow," Andy's eyes opened wide as she watched Miranda climb the stairs and she looked at the clock. "I didn't realize what time it was." Running her fingers through her hair, she laughed at herself. "I was going to go for an early run, now I guess I'll go for a late one!"

"When did you start running?" Dorothy asked. "I don't recall you doing all that many exercises when you were home."

"I started in college actually, but I wasn't all that faithful about it… one or two days a week with some friends." She shrugged. "I'd stopped for a while, but then, after Nate left I picked it up again. I realized that I hadn't been taking care of myself as much as I should have been, and it helped me take my mind off…other things."

This was one of the things about Andrea that Dorothy did know, even when Andy didn't say the woman's name, when the young woman used that tone of voice, she was talking about… "Miranda."

"Yeah." Andy nodded. "I missed her…"

"So, even then…"

"Yes." Andy confirmed, "But I didn't do anything about it, not until the brunette issue of Runway was published. I couldn't stay away then."

"It took three months of drugs but I finally confessed how I felt." Miranda smiled at her partner as she descended the stairs. "The girls will be down momentarily."

Nodding, Andy rose from her seat and gathered the ingredients for the girl's breakfasts. Milk and orange juice from the fridge, cereal from the cabinet, two glasses, bowls and spoons set on the table in their usual places. Thunderous footsteps heralded the arrival of the children. "Good morning girls…"

The twins laughed and hugged Andy. "Good morning, Andy."

Caroline sat first and poured her cereal. "There are eight trucks out front today. It's the biggest crowd yet."

Andy glanced at Miranda and nodded at the girls. "It'll be okay. Jo will be here soon with the uni's to escort you to the car."

Dorothy frowned. "Jo?"

Andy poured juice for the girls. "Yeah, a friend of mine on the police force, a detective. She comes over when it's time for the girls to walk to the car. Just to make sure they aren't hassled by the reporters."

"Would they do that? Hassle children?" Dorothy was appalled.

"Tabloid reporters are decidedly disgusting creatures and will do anything in order to get a glimmer of a quote to make a story about." Miranda's nostrils flared. "Even hassle children."

"I'm certainly glad you qualified that statement with 'tabloid'." Andy's eyes twinkled at her partner.

"Of course." Miranda's eyes were twinkling now too. "You, Andrea, are the exact opposite of disgusting."

Cassidy rolled her eyes. "Save the mush, please. Can't you see there are children trying to eat here?"

All the adults chuckled at the child's plea.

The kitchen remained quiet for some time as the girls ate their breakfast in peace. Then the doorbell rang. Andy stood. "That'll be Jo." She went to let her friend inside and after quickly introducing her to Dorothy, Andy ran her fingers through her hair. "It's pandemonium outside!"

Jo handed a rolled up newspaper to Andy. "I think this is why." She looked at the girls. "I brought six guys to walk you today."

Their eyes widened then they swallowed the last of their breakfast. "Okay, we'll go finish getting ready." They exited quickly, stomping feet allowing the adults to follow their progress all the way to the third floor.

"We really need to reinforce those stairs, Miranda." Andy laughed. "They're gonna collapse one of these days!"

Miranda sighed. "They are reinforced."

Andy's laughter faded as she began reading the paper Jo had given her. "That son of a…" She glanced at her mother then turned to Jo. "This is total bullshit!"

The detective nodded. "I know."

"Andrea?" Miranda held out her hand for the paper, knowing instinctively who they were talking about. "Let me see what he's spewing now."

Dorothy didn't have a clue who they were talking about and asked. "Who?"

"Stephen," Andy spat.

"My ex," Miranda explained. "My most recent ex…" She ground her teeth as she read the comments he made to the press. "I cannot believe he has the nerve to say anything about the girls. Not fit to care for them indeed… He can't even tell them apart!"

Andy spoke quietly. "They printed it, Miranda…"

"So I see." She berated herself again for being so stupid at the press conference. She had just been so angry at the thought of the girls being hassled… even now she could feel the emotion taking hold.

Glancing at her Mom and Jo, Andy moved to wrap her arms around the shaking woman and spoke quieter still. "I'll take care of it."

Miranda leaned into the embrace and whispered. "Thank you, Andrea."

Andy held the older woman tightly and reminded her. "Nobody messes with my girls."

Dorothy had gotten the paper and was reading the article. "This man says you two were having an affair when he was still married to you." She looked at Miranda with narrowed eyes. "Why would he say that?"

Andy answered quickly. "Because he's a dick!"

The twins chose that moment to return to the kitchen. Cassidy spoke with a bit of a snotty tone in her voice. "What?" She shifted the weight of her backpack and looked up at the women. "What did Stephen do now?"

"Cassidy!" Miranda berated her daughter. "Manners!" She glared at Andrea for a brief moment then answered Dorothy's question. "It's because he's bitter, and annoyingly whiny. He has always tried to find someone other than himself to blame for his problems. He doesn't like to think of himself as a failure, and blaming our marriage's dissolution on me eases the responsibility of that event off his shoulders." She sat at her customary place at the table. "I can assure you that Andrea and I were not in a physical relationship at that time."

Andy snorted. "Physical? No way. You barely even spoke to me back then! If looks could kill though, I got a few face-melting glares." She grinned. "The first time I delivered the Book and someone…" She dragged the word out and narrowed her eyes at the twins, "…told me that 'Emily brings it upstairs all the time'…"

Miranda spoke quietly. "Andrea nearly lost her job because of that." She looked at the girls and wondered why they would do such a thing. "Do you understand what would have happened if I had fired her?"

Gasping, Cassidy realized that if Andy had been fired, so many things would be different. They wouldn't be together for one thing. Her heart beat faster; they'd almost ruined everything with a stupid prank. Their Mom would have been miserable for the rest of her life.

"I would be living in Boston." Andy shuddered. "With an utterly boring guy."

"Living with him?" Dorothy spoke up. "Don't you think you'd be married by now?"

Shaking her head, Andy smiled sadly at her mother. "I never wanted to marry Nate, Ma."

"But he seemed so nice, and cute." Dorothy persisted. "And you seemed to get along so well."

"Ma! You only met him once." Andy pointed out. "You've spent far more time with Miranda than you ever did with Nate." She almost smiled at her mother's shock at that statement. "You know how he always talked about cooking when you visited?"

Dorothy nodded. "Yes." It had gotten on her nerves somewhat, near the end of her time in Chicago.

"That wasn't just because he was nervous meeting you or anything… I don't think he ever got nervous about anything… he just talked about cooking… all the time."

Dorothy spoke, almost to herself. "I always thought he loved you."

"He didn't, we didn't love each other." She swallowed hard and glanced at Miranda and the older woman's tense jawline. Andy knew this conversation had to end, soon. "When I went to Paris, for my job. He went to Boston and interviewed for a job there. His stuff was gone when I got back, and he stayed with Doug for two weeks until it was time for him to start. When we talked the last time, he had gotten the job and never once asked me to come with him. He just said that he was the new sous chef and asked me what I was going to do now." There had been a vague reference of her being in Boston too, but it wasn't anything clear. "I had no clue, but, I never once thought of going with him." She smiled at Miranda and blushed a little. "It was far too late by then. I couldn't have left New York." I couldn't have left Miranda, not again.

Andy's phone buzzed and she grabbed the device scooting around the table. "Text message," she said. "Car's here."

Jo smiled at the girls. "That's our cue." She waited for the children to hug their Mom, and Andy… and raised her eyebrows when they even gave Andy's Mom a quick hug bye. She escorted them to the door and watched from the stoop as the uni's surrounded the girls and walked them, through the sea of yelling reporters, to the car. She ordered the uniformed police officers to go on back to the station. She had her own car today, and something else to talk to Miranda and Andy about. Returning to the kitchen, she smiled at the couple. "Off to school, safe and sound."

"Thank you, Detective." Miranda leaned into Andy for a long moment. "I'm very grateful for all your diligence."

Jo nodded. "Where'd your Ma go, Andy?"

Andy laughed. "Upstairs to get dressed, she freaked out a little when she realized she was still in her night gown while you were here."

Jo grinned. "Ah, no worries about that." She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. It was actually good news, but the legalities of it were concerning. "Um… speaking of diligence. I wanted to let you know, someone along the chain kinda dropped the ball on the evidence, we still have a lot of it, and the D.A. thinks we still have enough for an open and shut case, but some of the evidence has been tampered with."

"Tampered with?" Andy didn't understand she glanced at Miranda, who was remaining very still and silent.

"Yeah." Jo pressed her lips together for a moment and then told them. "The surveillance recordings Judy made of you in your apartment… have been, destroyed."

"What?!" Andy's eyes widened considerably, then she shook her head, carefully not looking at Miranda, not in the presence of a police officer. "How?"

"We aren't sure, but somewhere along the line the drives were destroyed."

Again Andy asked. "How?"

Jo shrugged. "Someone found the time to take a drill to them. They are unusable in court now. The only thing left are the drives with the dates labeled on them, they are unreadable. It won't affect the attempted murder charges. I doubt it will affect anything, but I wanted to let you know, none of that footage exists now." There may be the insidious charge that the other evidence had been tampered with as well, so that could cause a problem. They'd worry about that later. For now she smiled as her friend began to realize what that meant.

"I don't have to worry about being on YouTube anymore… I don't have to worry about the tabloids getting grainy photos off the recordings to put in their gross publications…" Andy smiled. "That's great!" Her forehead furrowed at Jo's expression. "What's wrong?"

"Well, we don't know how or when it happened. We think it happened on the Fed's watch, which delights my Chief's little heart. There's an investigation going…" She turned to Miranda. "You are the prime suspect."

"Me?" Miranda laughed. "I wouldn't know the first thing about how to do something like that."

"Mmm…" Jo ran her tongue over her teeth. "Of course not…" She didn't sound convinced. "Nevertheless, the investigation will find the culprit."

"Good!" Miranda looked directly at Jo. "When you find them, let me know so I can properly reward them."

Chuckling, Jo shook her head. "Lady, you are somethin' else." She grinned. "One of these days I'm gonna have to introduce you to Blair."

Miranda tilted her head, thoughtfully. "Why don't… you two come to the charity event on Friday night?" Miranda's eyes twinkled. "I'll courier two tickets to your wife's office."

Jo groaned. "Damn, I hate those things…" she sighed, "…but Blair loves them. I'm sure we'll be there."

"Good!" She smiled at the detective and gestured with her head at Andy. "Now Andrea will have someone to talk to."

"Ohhh…" Andy grinned at her friend. "We can find a cozy corner and whisper our conversation, that oughta stir up some kind of scandal." A scoffing kind of laugh came from the stairway.

"Ha!" Dorothy heard the part about causing a scandal and continued into the kitchen, now fully dressed and ready for the day. She grinned at her daughter. "Pava was right about you… trouble!"

"Ma." Andy grinned, unrepentantly at the woman. "Gram is rarely wrong, about anything."

"Mmmm…" Dorothy wasn't convinced of that. Her mother-in-law seemed to be acting very strange lately.

"Okay then," Jo smiled at the women. "I've got to get to work." She turned to Andy's Mom and bowed slightly. "Pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Sachs."

"Likewise." She smiled at the woman and couldn't help thinking that Chad and the detective would probably hit it off.

Andy saw the look in her mother's eyes and knew, almost exactly what the woman was thinking. She decided to head it off at the pass, hoping Miranda would be okay with it. "Jo, why don't you and Blair come here first, before the event. We can have drinks, and introduce Blair to Miranda in private."

"That sounds like a wonderful idea, Andrea." Miranda nodded at Jo. "Would that be acceptable, Detective?"

"Yes, thank you." She laughed. "It's already Wednesday though, so I better tell Blair soon, she'll be in a nervous panic until Friday night, looking for the 'perfect dress', the 'perfect' jewelry… blah blah…" She waved and chuckled to herself all the way down the hall and out the door.

Dorothy watched the woman leave and stuttered. "S…s, she's… um…"

Andy chuckled. "Yeah Ma, she's most definitely… um."

"And she's your friend?" Dorothy faced her daughter. "Did you and she…"

"Nooooo…" Andy held up her hands in defense from the question. "I never even thought about it, and neither has she… she's totally devoted to her wife, Blair." and I'd never be with anyone other than Miranda. She shook her head at her mother's skeptical look. "She and Blair have been friends for twenty years, they've been more than friends for fifteen or so. They were among the first couples to be married, as soon as it was legal." She tweaked Miranda a little and pretended to think about it. "Jo is older than I am…"

"Andrea…" Miranda's voice was low and growling, but slightly amused.

Andy grinned. "…but she is so not my type." Chuckling, Andy decided she'd dug herself into a deep enough hole. "And with that… I'm going for a run!" She grabbed Patricia's leash out of the drawer and headed toward the kitchen's back door. Miranda's voice brought her to a halt.

"Andrea," Miranda moved to embrace the young woman. She reached up and caressed the brunette's soft cheek. "Be careful."

Andy turned her head, kissed the palm of the hand touching her and winked. "You bet I will."



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