Title: On a Tractor
Pairing: Miranda and Andy
Summary: A few years after Paris, finds Andy with an inherited farm and Miranda trying to find a promising new photographer.
Words: 24000 +/-
Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction, which pretty well guarantees that “ownership,” of the characters belongs to others (Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox) and that this work is entirely based on affection. This is not-for-profit, but for praise or at least enjoyment.
Beta Readers: Thank yous go to - Melanacious, LadyDragonstorm and Bonnie - my extraordinary friends.
A/N - This is a one shot, “get ‘em together,” short story.
A/N - This fiction likely draws from several TDWP sources for inspiration - it mostly follows movie canon as a starting point, however.
A/N - This story has maybe hints of angst, but it ends well.
A/N - This story was inspired by a tongue-in-cheek conversation, after On a Train, with Melanacious about all the stories that could be written using the “On A...” template. Then she sent me a link to a particular song and I just had to write the story. Because... had to.
LJ Tags: all: fiction, user: bearblue, rating: nc-17, pairing: andy/miranda, status: completed, genre: romance
Andy went home. After a year and a half at the Mirror, she’d realized that journalism did not hold the same attraction it had when she was in college. Well, that’s what she told herself, but really, it was more a case of the Mirror was not where she longed to be; which was a vast surprise no matter how she thought about it. Either way, when she’d finally earned enough vacation time to matter, Andy took it and flew back to Ohio to see if it would give her some perspective.
She was just in time for a funeral; her Uncle Jack’s. The reading of the will left her flabbergasted, but it was her mother’s words, which left her in shock. “I know it puts a crimp in your plans, honey, but please consider doing it. The Will is so specific, the property has been in the family for years, and he left it all to you. You know how valuable farmland is these days and Ohio’s been losing it left and right to new construction. Please consider staying; at least for a year or two. Then, if it’s not for you, well by then we might be able to hire someone or,” and now her mother sobbed, “We’ll be ready to let it go.”
Andy reached out and touched her Mom’s shoulder. “I can’t make a promise like that. I’m... going to have to see it first.”
The property was larger, more expansive, but just as pretty as Andy remembered. Everything was so pastoral; rolling hills, with flat, green valleys, trees and tall grass, animals that moved with surprising grace, a clear deep creek that meandered through. There were storage sheds and two barns; one for equipment and one for the creatures that called the property home. The tall, broad house was white, but the fences were wood and wire, depending on where they were located.
Andy had grown up on a smaller farm. It was a matter of scale. She looked around, considering. New York had become home, but she had grown up where it was green and spread out and it wasn’t the city that she missed, nor was it really that far. If she wanted to go back to visit with Lily or Doug, or to sneak a peek at old haunts, it was a road trip and an overnight. “I can do this,” she said out loud, with laughing surprise. “I could really do this.”
Time passed, speeding through solstices. Summer was green and then a little brown. Fall glowed. Winter was white and thick. Spring was like being in a sea of flowers. Two calves, and a passel of bunnies were born and traded for a gangly colt of unknown parentage. The vegetable patch was expanded and the Farmer’s Market became a habit. She updated, bringing in satellite and investing in some green power. Despite most farmers’ bleak fiscal outlook, her Uncle had not been poor, merely frugal. He had invested in other things besides farming. So she had enough to hire help when she needed, but she mostly had it in hand; mainly because she kept it simple and some because she and the neighbors, who lived a ways up the road, got along. She decided to take a course or two in agriculture and conservation, to shore up what knowledge she didn’t have.
It turned out there were loads of classes, some short, some long; all of them actually interesting. It did help her make a decision about whether or not to go for a huge cash crop and she realized that wasn’t the type of thing she wanted to do with the property; not with the urgent need for more wildlands. So she went for smaller crops and more natural grasses.
The more she learned, the more interesting it was to her, and the more she wanted to share the experience. Andy took pictures and wrote about what she was doing when she wasn’t bailing hay, taking care of the animals, shoring up wildlife food plots and buffer zones, mending something or doing whatever else needed doing. She went by Andy S. or A. S. and posted and published in farm friendly zones. It was peaceful and she felt like she was contributing, and aside from once mentioning the type of overalls she wore, it was as far from fashion as she could possibly get.
More time passed. She visited New York once or thrice; spent time with her friends and lurked at a familiar Starbucks for awhile and paused on the way to the subway on the other side of the street from Elias-Clark. No one she knew came out; not that she expected them to or that they would have recognized her. The memories were something she valued, but it ached her to be in the city, so she was glad to go home. Her mother forgot to ask if she needed help or wanted to leave at the end of the second year. Andy forgot to say something about it at all.
Nigel learned long ago that despite all the brainstorming meetings in the world, real inspiration came from other sources; objects or people of beauty, great articles, food, wine, walking. He didn’t necessarily expect to find it in a doctor’s office, however. Then again, as he waited, he was always amazed at the sheer variety of old magazines to be found and those could be a rich vein, even if they were not fashion related. He knew they were usually donated, simply because some of them still had part of the original sent-to labels on them, with names and addresses haphazardly blacked. Because he was yet another anonymous face at a medical center, he rarely felt as obligated to be as condescending as elsewhere. Then again, sneering was also not out of place. He could just absorb and respond naturally. Personally, in some ways, he found waiting for a medical appointment liberating. The time was a mini-vacation in a life that was filled with things to do. He scooped up a random handful and settled in for some perusal.
How a conservation magazine from Ohio ended up in a waiting room, he would never know, but the glossy cover with a simple bright image of wildlife caught his eye. He set the other magazines to his side and opened it, not sure what to expect; but looking forward to it anyway.
Miranda’s time was heavily booked, but she had learned from certain mistakes to make time for those who were important to her; especially when she was abruptly confronted with the fact that she could count her real friends on the fingertips of one hand. So when Nigel invited her to his housewarming, she accepted graciously and had her assistant enter it in as a fixed appointment. She had also arrived bearing a gift she had chosen herself, one she knew he would appreciate. She and Nigel had worked hard after Paris to repair the damage, and, like a bone that had healed from a break, their friendship had grown stronger.
Before arriving she put on her party face and she kept it there, until she had circulated through the intimate crowd once and then through the dinner. Once finished, though she knew she would be leaving earlier than most, she realized she also wanted a closer look at Nigel’s abode. After all, it was why she had been invited. So, she wandered and peeked at rooms and eventually found an exquisitely decorated space; one that drew her in, like an inviting fire at a hearth.
It was a room of warmth and comfort, with more browns than she would have expected of her friend, but also rich greens and golds. The sofa, she suspected, also served duty as a guest bed, but it was thick and inviting. A desk and a drawing table were aligned at the far wall and one wall was actually a long bookshelf and held more texts than she realized Nigel had owned. The other wall, held large, framed images, all very carefully arranged; photos that were richly vibrant and pristine in their composition. Their nature’s theme, drew the whole of the room together and she instantly saw the pattern and wondered if Nigel had decorated to the images or if they had come after.
But she had to pause then, and where on another day she might have looked at the books, she was captured by beauty.
“I can’t tell you what I do not know, Miranda,” Nigel said gently. He offered her a flute of wine, which she took. “All I can tell you is that the editor of the magazine was kind enough to get the pictures for me, for a price. They wouldn’t tell me who took the photos, other than the initials, which had been with the images to begin with; Policy.”
“Policy.” Sometimes the bane of her existence. Still, there were ways around most, if one took the right measures. She took a sip and then said, “I can’t help, but notice you avoided saying the actual name of the magazine.”
“Hmm. Yes. I have. Even I must have my secrets.” He smiled pleasantly and drifted away.
Miranda’s gaze narrowed and she pondered whether terrifying her friend would be worth the effort. It was too bad he wasn’t her employee anymore. Then a smile crossed her eyes as she spotted Nigel’s friend. Fortunately, she always had other ways to get what she needed.
Miranda looked at the worn glossy in her hands and then returned her stare to Nigel’s friend. “Ohio Wildlife?” she said with disbelief.
He shrugged, “Surprising, isn’t it? He said that he takes inspiration wherever it comes from. I suppose I see his point.” She started to hand the magazine back and he waved it off. “I’m pretty sure you can keep it. He has those now.” He pointed at the pictures on the wall. “And if he says something, I can blame the housekeeper.”
Miranda smirked. “I think I like you.”
The morning early summer sun had already warmed the day considerably by nine a.m. It hinted at even higher temperatures in the afternoon. The green John Deere tractor grumbled powerfully at its max speed as she drove it down the road, heading back toward her house. It was really just a short ways and the paved road was a smoother ride than the gravel, though that wasn’t a problem for her tractor either.
Andy was glad she’d chosen to work early that day and wasn’t wearing all that much in honor of the season. Her overalls were cut-offs, and she wore a simple white wife-beater. Her hat was a traditional straw, beat-up affair. It covered her eyes, kept her hair up, and protected her scalp from the sun, and that was all she really needed. Her farmer’s tan happened to go a long ways down, past the traditional neck and sleeves. The all around tan was actually more due to skinny-dips at the creek in the summer afternoons than to working in the buff. She was smarter than that, knowing that tough work clothes made the difference between random scratches and protected from other sundry annoyances from happening. She wore steel toed boots and the right kind of stockings for them and workgloves when she needed them. She’d grown muscular and lean. Her body was firm and flexible from all the lifting and carrying and fixing and working. And, according to her mom, it seemed like she’d hit a final growth spurt, but Andy suspected that she was just standing taller these days. The years of slouching were quite over.
The road she was on was a double lane, one side going one direction and the other side going the opposite. On straight shoots, it had the alternating stripes that let drivers who might find themselves behind farming vehicles, which were always much slower, pass; so long as they were paying attention to what might be coming down the line. Every now and then, traffic might get slowed some, when one side’s had more vehicles running on it than the other.
That was the case at that moment. It wasn’t that it was a hugely busy day. It was just one of those random events. Andy did have a rear-view mirror in her cab, and she could see that there were a couple of vehicles behind her, but there was not much she could do except try to slide to the side when traffic opened up a bit; until she found her road home that is.
She had her headphones on, small buds that were pushed into her ears. With the windows open, it helped muffled the lion’s roar of the tractor, while at the same time delivering the tunes she enjoyed. Her hands were on the steering wheel, but her body moved to the rhythm of the African samba that was playing. The international flare only added to her enjoyment of the ride.
She felt a vibration against her chest, heard the ringtone vaguely. Not for the first time, she inwardly praised the outdoor setting. Pulling the buds out of her ear, she then pulled the phone from her front pocket, the one over her chest, and put the phone to her ear. “Yep?”
“You driving and talkin’?”
“Am right now. Can’t pull over. Hi Tim.”
“Hiya. Well, I’d make you hang up, but I got a hurry on this one. Got someone looking for A. S. and wanting badly to speak to them or see them or … you get my drift.”
“You know my policy, Tim.”
“Well, I get ya. I do, but this is an unusual request. They want access to some of the sites you’ve taken photos at, something about settings. As I know nothing about it, I told them they’d have to talk to you; if you were available.”
“Look, can I call you back? I’m coming up on my turn and want to have both hands on the wheel. People are desperate for me to get out of the way.”
He laughed and said, “Yeah. Alright, but do call back.”
What were the odds, really? Andy stared at the number Tim had given her and even blinking her eyes dozens of times hadn’t made it go away or change. So now she sat in the cab of her tractor, contemplating the prospect of a discussion she’d never thought she might have.
The only saving grace was that it was an art department number, which meant, given the turnover rate, she had at least a fifty percent chance of not talking to anyone she actually knew.
That is, if she made the return call. Then again, she knew how things were. If she didn’t call back, it put someone in jeopardy.
She might have to say no, but she couldn’t not call.
She didn’t look at the number when she dialed. She didn’t need it.
Miranda gazed over the rim of her reading glasses at the nervous art editor. Inwardly she sighed, once again missing Nigel and also wondering why they hadn’t sent Serena, who had the knack for letting things roll off her back. The beautiful woman was one of the few who could stand up to Miranda in her den without quaking. Unlike this new person, who shivered under her baleful stare. “Well?”
The art editor cleared their throat. “I spoke with A. S. You know, that photographer you were interested in.”
“Ah. Progress. How fortunate for you.” Miranda turned more fully now, hoping for, if not expecting, good news.
“They politely declined.” Miranda’s brows went up slightly, and the other editor hastened their explanation. “I explained what the project was and what our magazine was. She said we could go to any farm for that kind of shoot, or even just set up a stage for what I was describing, get any number of photographers to shoot it and do it better, and then she said, thanks for the offer and hung up before I could even get a word in.”
Miranda slid her glasses off and laid them on her desk and kept her voice very even. “Anything else?”
“Well, yes.” The editor extended a hand forward and white sheet of paper dropped onto Miranda’s desk. “I know how important this shoot is. I took the liberty of calling other farms in the state, to see if anyone would be interested or the options interesting. I have the most willing prospects emailing me pictures of their farms.”
Miranda’s lips flattened, but did not purse, as she gathered the paper in to examine the list of potentials. The art editor had just saved his job. “That’s all.”
Some time later, the editor-in-chief, examined the carefully compiled folders of information, flipping through image after image, in search of a particular look or feel. Some of the images were fine, some even very nice, some were horrendous. None of them, however, were right. They weren’t what she was looking for, not what she wanted, nor what she needed.
Those qualities, which she sought, were contained in the growing portfolio she had her assistants gather of the mysterious A. S.; who was remaining obstinately uncooperative and furtive. And while Miranda wielded a great deal of power in the publishing industry, there just wasn’t much she could do to an author and photographer who was being published by farming and conservation magazines; many of which were government subsidized.
She exhaled and dropped the potentials back on her desk in frustration, turning her chair toward the window so she could contemplate options. She could drop the shoot, as there was still time, but then the whole theme of the edition would have to be rethought and green fashion was something quite important, though it was needing a fresh angle. She could choose the best of the pile and attempt to compensate, but the knowledge that it wasn’t the “real” place would nag at her until long after the edition was published. She already knew that about herself. The photographer, well, that was a loss, but she respected artistic integrity; understood it and had other photographers that could do the job if the place and the scene were right.
Artistic integrity, which was what Runway was always about, was a banner that she waved constantly, so she couldn’t begrudge the artist. But there had to be a way to get the site.
She thought of the beginnings of her quest, the nature of the magazine itself, and then, as if a lightbulb flicked on, realized what she had to do. It was so simple she wondered why she had not thought of it in the first place; except there was always progression in the steps one took to accomplish one’s goals and one hoped one’s lackeys could accomplish the simpler missions.
Not that getting her way in this particular matter had turned out to be simple; until now. She reminded herself of two things; when all else fails, take it to the top and money talks.
A slow grin of brilliant expectation warmed her expression briefly, then she wiped it from her face, turned around and called in her assistant. “Contact my accountant. I wish to make a donation.”
Really. What were the odds?
Miranda traced the initials on the portfolio, which, through one phone call, had been illuminated with an associated name at last; though the person who had finally given her the information she sought, after an effusive and long winded expression of gratitude, had insisted on calling the artist in question “him” or even “he.” Miranda had not corrected the misconception.
Now she had answers, which included the valuable locations, but also cleared the mystery to some questions she had not even been aware that she had held. Or rather, she’d known she’d had them. She simply chose to ignore them in favor of keeping sanity and dignity.
For instance, when Andrea’s small by-line had disappeared from the Mirror, Miranda had refused to let herself ask the question of why. Nor had she, when the young woman had finally ceased the near constant weekly appearances outside of Elias-Clarke, allowed herself to mindfully pursue anything about possible reasons or meanings. She had refused to allow herself to indulge contemplations of fate or folly in regards to one Andrea Sachs. She had deliberately separated herself from any and all thoughts regarding “the Assistant who Left.”
But now... now she had new conundrums. She had to make a decision about what was important - distance from Andrea Sachs, which should have been more blissful than it actually was, or access to the site that would enhance Runway.
Worse, she had to consider the fact that “A. S.” already refused phone calls; and was, apparently, quite adept at telling Miranda Priestly, “No.” At least, when not face to face.
Which made the answer to her dilemma patently clear; if she chose to pursue it.
Maddening. That was what Andrea Sachs was and had been; efficiently and beautifully so.
Weeks later, on an even hotter morning and with a scorcher of an afternoon ahead, Andy was now down to her hat, worn blue overall-cut offs with her gloves tucked into a back pocket, a wide, brown, loaded tool-belt, nothing for a shirt, and her socks and boots. One arm strap was completely undone and went unheeded while she hammered at the porch she’d rebuilt. The new planks gave the porch an unfinished look, but they were solid and she’d be painting them soon enough to match. Now, at least, she no longer had to worry about falling through loose floorboard.
The hammering covered the sound of a vehicle approaching and Andy only heard the tail end, as she finished securing the last piece and as gravel crunched under tires brought to heel.
She paused to wonder if she’d been expecting anyone and couldn’t recall any calls made recently. As the sound had come from behind her, she rolled up from the crouch to her knees, drawing the tool to her side, and planting it like a tiny Thor's hammer - head to the ground. She pivoted at the waist and looked behind her, cocking her head slightly. She had, for just that moment, quite forgotten that she was only partially dressed. Not even the soft heated breeze reminded her that half of the top portion of her overalls was undone, leaving honeyed breast and a good portion of her tawny, muscular body exposed during the shift.
She contemplated the very sleek, very modern, silver sport vehicle, which was now parked behind her black four-wheel drive truck. She couldn’t quite see the driver, though she realized they might have a good view of her. That was when she remembered she wasn’t dressed for company.
On the other hand, the driver wasn’t exactly rushing out to chastise her about it either.
Andy rolled up to her feet then, turning more fully as she did so. She dropped her hammer into its loop and then reached back casually to grasp her overall’s strap and hook it back up so she offered a little less of a free show. Then, adjusting her hat slightly, for the sun, she began walking toward the stranger’s car, taking her time to do so.
Andy paused, leaving a respectful distance between herself and the car. Whoever it was, she thought, could meet her halfway.
The door to the vehicle swung out and open.
A well manicured hand grasped the top edge of the door. Then, like a goddess rising from hidden depths, the driver rose. Andy observed first, the halo of hair, soft and bright as silver moonlight, and then the side view of a well known face, eyes hidden by sunglasses, and the rest of her; glorious in form and fashion.
The young woman forced herself not to whisper the name, not to hint at even a wisp of interest beyond curiosity, even as she felt a frisson of elemental awareness of presence. She stayed where she was, watching as the other woman took stock and shut the door to the car. She wondered briefly if Miranda had at least worn sensible shoes, and then discarded the notion almost instantly, as she watched the editor turn toward her.
Closing her eyes very briefly against what she knew she was going to do, she let go of trying to control outcomes in favor of insuring that the other woman did not break her legs or some other valuable part of herself.
She strode forward, at ease in her own skin, if not her mind, until she was in front of Miranda. Then, wordlessly, because, frankly, she couldn’t think of any words to say and even ‘Hi,’ seemed brutally complicated, she extended her hand, palm up. She was unconscious of how imperious she looked, how grimly determined.
She was aware of Miranda looking at her and then her hand, and then back again. She waited. Then, like a small miracle, Miranda reached out, taking her hand in a strong clasp. The act of trust was almost as thrilling as the touch itself.
Andrea moved closer then, drawing Miranda’s hand up until it was secured by her elbow. In careful steps, she led the other woman to the house and up the stairs to the shaded porch. Once there, she let her grip go, instantly missing the contact, but needing the distance even more intensely.
She opened the screen door, held it wide, and then opened the inner door. Moving her free hand as an act of invitation, she made the silent offer. Miranda accepted, stepping as regally as a queen into Andrea’s home.