Disclaimer: See Part 1
Alone on the balcony Jo nearly growled. “What the hell is wrong with you?” She reprimanded her friend in an intense whisper. “This is not the time for you two to be fighting.”
“Jo! She practically accused me of conspiring with Lisa to humiliate her in front of the press.” If she thinks I could do that, then she could think I did what the defense attorney laid out this morning. Andy couldn't imagine why Jo didn't understand that. “That question, that subject is one that she totally rants about at home. We had a discussion about that very thing just the other day and I promised her I'd take care of it for next year.”
“So…” Jo held up her hands to try to calm Andy. “Wait… take a deep breath and tell me exactly what happened, slowly, every single thing.”
Clenching her teeth together, Andy ran her tongue over her teeth and then did as she was told. When she was finished relating the events she couldn't believe the incredulous look on Jo's face. “What?”
Raising her eyebrows as high as they could possibly go, Jo almost laughed. “What?” She ran her fingers through her hair. “You have got some major damage control to do and you better do it fast. I can't imagine the old lady is in there by herself just letting this slide.”
“ I? I have damage control to do!?”
“Damn right.” Jo shook her head. “Andy, she didn't accuse you of anything…”
“No.” Jo shook her head. “She didn't. Did you see the look on her face before I dragged you out here? She is totally confused as to why you are acting this way.” Jo now grabbed both Andy's arms and shook the upset woman for emphasis. “You cannot act this way, not tonight, not in front of the press, not in front of her peers. First impressions are everything.” Releasing her startled friend, Jo sighed. “Stay out here for a moment if you need to, but as soon as possible you need to get back in there and apologize.”
“She's the one…”
“No, she isn't.” Jo looked a little sad. “I thought you loved her more than this.” The detective sighed as she turned to walk back inside. “I'll bet she thought so too.”
As Jo opened the balcony door, Andy got a glimpse of Miranda sitting, alone, at the head table. The fake smile on the woman's face said it all as far as Andy was concerned. Her hands flew to her mouth, too late to stifle the gasp.
“Oh God, what have I done?”
“Everything okay?” Blair wrapped her arms around her wife's waist. “She seemed pretty upset.”
Jo nodded. “She was.” Sighing, she shook her head, wrapping her arms around Blair's shoulders they began to sway slightly to the music being played. “Problem is, I don't know why. I hope I got through to her, maybe she and the old lady can work it out.”
“Jo!” Blair was outraged. “Don't ever call Miranda that again!” It had been one thing to say it in the privacy of Miranda's home, but here in public Blair had to say something.
Chuckling, Jo's eyes twinkled. “She's okay with it.” Losing herself in deep brown eyes, Jo almost whispered. “Princess?”
“Dance with me?”
Blair laughed quietly. “Honey, I think we already are…” She indicated their position and the motion they were sharing.
“Mmm…I love your laugh.” Twirling her partner quickly, Jo danced them to the space reserved for such activities, causing Blair to laugh again; louder this time. Pulling the blonde close, Jo found her ear and whispered, “I love you .”
“I know.” Blair smiled and raised her eyebrows. “What's not to love?”
Laughing at that, Jo smiled and continued to dance. Glancing once at the head table, she saw Andy had indeed gone to speak to Miranda. Damn I hope she listened to me. She felt Blair's hands slide up her back and was glad she'd given in to Blair's paranoia just this once, certain that her wife's sensitive fingers would have detected the gun holster had she been wearing it. The blonde head rested on her shoulder and the Princess' soft words were enough to drive thoughts of Andy's drama or her own stubbornness about carrying a firearm out of her mind.
“I love you too.”
Andy approached the table slowly, the butterflies in her stomach mutated into something much larger the closer she got. “May I… um… sit?” Her heart sank as Miranda made a quick hand gesture indicating she could sit, or not, either option seemed equally tiresome to Miranda. Andy knew now that she was in real trouble and couldn't keep the tremor out of her voice as she sank to the seat next to the upset woman. “Please, Miranda, talk to me.”
“I can't.” The Editor looked around. “Not here.”
Holding out her hand, Andy pressed her lips together and stood. “Come with me.” For an endless second she thought Miranda was going to refuse. “Please…”
Nostrils flared and her jaw clenched, but Miranda took the hand, silently. She followed Andrea across the room and out the balcony doors, gratified when the space was empty. When Andy placed a chair in front of the doors, Miranda knew the young woman was preparing for a serious discussion. “Andrea, we don't have time for this.”
“Yes, we do.” Moving back to hold the older woman's hand, Andy nearly wept when Miranda tangled their fingers together. “I want to explain, minimally, we can talk about it more when we get home.”
Thinking that sounded reasonable, Miranda nodded. “Very well.”
Letting out a breath of relief, Andy nodded. “First, I want to say I'm sorry. I over reacted to a comment that you made. I know you weren't accusing me of anything.”
“Why?” Miranda still didn't understand. “Why would you think that I was?”
“I'm getting to that.” Andy shivered as a cool breeze hit them. “I've been doing some research for an article. It's about spousal abuse… not just physical, but verbal and mental as well… it's amazing, Miranda, the things people will put up with in the name of love.”
Blue eyes widened. “You think I abuse you?”
“ No! ” Andy moved closer. “I never once thought you would or could ever…” She shook her head. “… never.” Pressing her lips together, Andy continued. “I found out that the behavior often carries down through the family… if the father is an abuser, often the son is also… if the mother tolerates abuse, often the daughter does as well…”
“Andrea, what has any of this got to do with your reaction tonight?”
Andy swallowed hard. “When Ma was here we talked, quite a bit. She told me that… Dad is very… controlling and that she tolerates it ‘because she loves him'. I've been looking back at our relationship… and… I don't want to be like that. Miranda, I don't want to become my father.” She lowered her eyes to the tiled floor. “I don't want you to tolerate things that I do only to resent them, me, later. And I don't want to be like Ma either, tolerating things you do or say just because I love you.”
“Andrea.” Miranda stepped closer and long elegant fingers gently raised the young woman's face to meet her own. “That is what a relationship is , tolerating the things we don't care for about a person, because of the things we love about them. The good always has to outweigh the bad, or else it's not worth the effort.” Loving blue eyes searched Andy's face, willing her to believe the next statements. “You are not, and will never be like your father… or your Mother. You are your own unique person, smart, loving, creative, beautiful, that is why you are, and will always be, worth the effort. I love you, and will love you…” She brushed their lips together. “…always.”
“I'm so scared of messing things up… I'm messing things up! I know we talked about it, but aside from all the issues I have with my mother and father's relationship, it scared me.” She knew that wasn't the real reason for her over-reaction. The real reason scared her beyond reasonable thought. “Because if you could think I would conspire against you with Lisa, the next step is believing that I could do what the defense is claiming.”
“Andrea, I never believed that moronic story.” Miranda shook her head. “Not for a second.”
“I'm sorry.” Andy wound her arms around Miranda's waist. “I've already caused a lot of talk I'm sure…” She moved closer, touching their foreheads together, swaying slightly to the music filtering through the doors. “…how can I fix it?”
“Dance with me.” Miranda said.
Andy chuckled and indicated their position. “I think that's what we're doing now.”
“Ah,” Miranda nodded and led Andy in sweeping motions around the balcony, “but no one can see us out here.”
Pulling Miranda closer, Andy grinned. “No one?”
“There may be a few thousand cameras trained on us at the moment…” Miranda warned. “They continually improve their telephoto lenses.”
“Mmmm…” Andy followed Miranda's lead as they danced smoothly and gracefully, together. “Shall we give them a front page photo?”
“We haven't already?” Miranda pressed her lips against Andy's more firmly than before. “I'd rather go inside and dance.” She twirled the young woman around then pulled her back into their embrace. “I want this event to end.”
“So we can go home?”
So we can go to bed?”
“No, Andrea.” Miranda tangled her fingers in Andy's wavy dark hair, pulling the young woman close for a long deep kiss. To hell with the lipstick and the photographers , she thought and continued kissing her fiancée until the choice became continue or pass out from lack of air. “Definitely not to sleep.”
Andy tilted her head and smiled. “I'm going to marry you.”
Miranda nodded, her thumb gently wiping a smudge of her lipstick from Andy's mouth.
“And I you.”
Jo saw Andy and Miranda walking toward the dance floor and smiled. “Check it out, Princess.” She turned them so Blair could see the couple, now swaying together in the space that had been instantly created for them. “Seems like they worked things out.”
“Oh good…” Blair didn't know Andy as well as Jo did, but she knew that Andy loved Miranda with all her heart. “Thank you for coming with me tonight, I know you don't like these things.”
Chuckling at the understatement, Jo touched noses with her wife and shrugged. “Well it hasn't been too bad, so far.”
“Mmmm…” Jo twirled Blair around and savored the feel of their bodies moving together. “There is still the dinner, and the ‘award' to get through. Promise to let me know if I start drooling in my sleep.”
“You will not,” Blair's finger poked Jo's breastbone for emphasis. “I repeat, not , fall asleep!”
“Yes, ma'am.” Saluting the blonde, then rubbing the spot where Blair had poked her, Jo smiled. “I'll do my best.”
As they walked through the ballroom, Miranda wondered about Andrea's explanation for her behavior. Her father is controlling? She thought back to their visits, evaluating both Richard and Dorothy's actions. I can see that. It was the other issue that bothered Miranda. Does Andrea really think I would believe the moron defense attorney's story? She ignored the stares and was amused at the large space people created for them when they reached the dance floor. Sweeping Andrea into her arms, they began swaying to the music and Miranda was oblivious to anything that wasn't less than an inch away from her; that excluded everything except the woman she loved.
Andy thought this was probably Heaven. She had assumed she would feel awkward being close to Miranda in public like this, but all she had to do was look in those blue eyes and everything was okay. Resting her head against Miranda's soft hair, she closed her eyes and concentrated on the feeling dancing with the love of her life gave her. Cassidy is going to kill me. She thought and shifted to lightly brush her lips over Miranda's. Blood pounded in her ears as Miranda's shocked blue eyes bore into her, her heart hammered in her chest as the shock gave way to amusement and the woman returned the light pressure.
They both only vaguely heard the scream.
The gunshot, however, got everyone's attention. The music stopped and everyone turned toward the angry, sarcastic voice to see a fairly well dressed man holding a gun.
“Sorry to disrupt your evening, if you will all just cooperate no one will get hurt.” He jumped up on the raised dais that held the head table, tossed a cloth sack to the person closest to him and issued his instructions. “Everyone move to the dance floor, put all your jewelry and wallets in the bag, cell phones too.” He motioned with the gun and glanced at his watch. “Pass it around and be quick about it!”
Jo's head whipped around as soon as she heard the scream. She began to release her hold on Blair, until the gunshot sounded; that tightened it somewhat. Glancing at her watch, she sighed. So much for the police getting here quickly.
When Blair heard her wife's sigh, she knew what Jo was going to do. “No.”
The blonde whispered intensely and held on tighter. “No. The police will be here soon, a big event like this… it won't take them long.”
“Blair, the police are already here,” Jo spoke quietly as she calmly pulled her badge wallet from her pocket, opened it and hung it on the waistband of her slacks so that the shield was clearly visible. “Stay here.”
“Jo, no!” True terror showed in her eyes. “He's got a gun!”
“Exactly,” The detective flashed her wife a little smile. “I can't let anyone get hurt.” She leaned down and kissed her Princess. “Especially you.” She repeated her instruction, “Stay… Here.”
“Jo…” Blair held on as Jo tried to move away.
“Blair, it's my job.”
Shaking her head, Blair forced her trembling hands to release their hold. “Please, be careful.”
Nodding, Jo winked. “I'll do my best.”
Blair swallowed hard and covered her mouth with her hands as she watched her wife move through the crowd, toward the gunman.
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