Author's Chapter Notes:
A/N: To head off any potential confusion, you may have heard the word halfer before -- it's slang for someone who's half-Japanese. I'm using it to mean something different just because it's an awesome sounding word.
Official Disclaimer: Still not mine.
Andy Sachs and the Cleverly Worded Plot Device
by: Hayseed (email@example.com)
Chapter One: ...and the Intimidating New Job
(several years earlier)
“Holy fucking shit, Andy, did you have to bring everything at once?” Lily exclaimed, her expression verging on horrified.
“Well, what else do you expect me to do?” Andy snarled back, dropping a box full of computer parts and missing her own left foot by mere inches. “Just bring it to you piece by piece as it goes bad? Boy, I bet the Obs would love that.”
“Hey, you’re the one trying to go off and be a halfer,” Lily retorted, prodding at the monitor thoughtfully. “I’m just helping a buddy out.”
Rolling her eyes, Andy pulled the keyboard out of the box and started fiddling with the USB cord. “I offered to pay, you know.”
“And notice how I didn’t refuse,” she said. “You owe me dinner. The menu’s on the table; I’ve already circled what I want.”
Andy dropped the cord and picked up the menu in question. “But I hate Thai,” she moaned. “It’s all... weird stuff.”
With a loud snort, Lily finished taking the monitor apart and shook her head at the mess of wires in front of her. “I’m not even going to touch that one, Andy-who-loves-lutefisk.”
“If you would just try it...” Andy said good-naturedly, flipping through the menu.
“I don’t have to try it, dear heart. It’s fish dropped in soap.”
“It is not. My grandmother--“
Carefully, Lily tapped several seemingly random wires; the whole contraption went ‘ping.’ “Your grandmother, my left ass-cheek. Andy, I know your family, remember? Your grandmother has never touched that stuff in her entire life -- neither of them have, actually. You can defend your precious lutefisk all you want; we all know it’s fish dropped in soap.”
“All right!” she said in a loud voice. “I’ll order your stupid Thai food. Will you please shut up about lutefisk?”
Slotting the back of the monitor in place, Lily whirled a single finger in the air and smiled as the anchor screws lifted themselves obediently into their holes and spun into place. “I effing love that one. Do you have any idea how much of a pain in the ass it is to get those screws back in by hand?”
In reply, Andy just rolled her eyes.
“Oh, yeah,” Lily said, answering her own question. “That’s right -- you bring all your Muggle shit to me to fix. You don’t need to know hardware spells.”
“Please,” Andy groaned, “don’t say that word.”
“What the hell else do you want me to say? Non-magical? Created by persons who generally have no idea about the existence of the wizarding community? For Christ’s sake, Andy, the word is Muggle. Get over yourself.” Lily turned her attention to the tower and started disassembling it.
She fiddled with the Thai menu, crumpling it in her hands. “I just--“
“Andy, one more word about how much you hate the Harry fucking Potter books, and I’ll throw you out and let the Obs deal with you when all your techno shit goes ker-flooey,” Lily threatened. “Just be a good girl, order me some Thai, and sit back and watch your bestest bud work her magic. Figuratively and literally.”
After the Thai was safely ordered and Lily rescinded her threat to kick Andy (and her stuff) out, Andy offered her friend a hesitant smile. “I really do appreciate you doing this for me, you know.”
“Oh, I know,” Lily replied with a wide grin. “It would cost a small fortune to have a professional charm this stuff for you. You’re just lucky I took that class in college on electronics spells.”
“I always wondered about that,” Andy said, sorting through her purse to find some cash for the delivery guy. “I mean, why aren’t you working as, like, a charms specialist or something? You’ve always been good at it.”
She shrugged and plucked the new Runway-issue cell phone out of its box. “I could do that, I guess, but I like art, and the people are fun, and you can’t really imagine the joy I feel every time my mother is forced to tell people that her daughter is an artist in New York.” Lily put on a mocking expression of horror as she imitated her mother’s usual prim tone of voice. “If I worked in the wizarding sector, she would feel free to fabricate a... respectable profession. Anyway, what about you and your shiny DADA degree? I would think the New York Aurory would be knocking your damn door down.”
With a wry chuckle, Andy pulled a twenty out of her wallet. After a moment’s consideration, she added a five. “Your mother would be horrified at pretty much everything you do that isn’t married-mother-of-three, but my parents would love for me to come back to the wizarding world. At least, as long as I was doing something that didn’t involve risking life and limb. My dad keeps trying to get me to go and interview at some bookstore over in Chinatown, and--“
“And you would rather pull out your own fingernails with rusty pliers,” Lily said, nodding sagely. “I get it. But why not the Aurory? Or a curse-breaking job somewhere? I mean, you were always good at that shit, even back when we were at good old BHH. You even sent old McMinamin flying with some of your hexes.”
Andy sighed. “What the hell is wrong with trying something different, huh? I want to be a reporter, so I’m--“
“A glorified secretary at a fashion magazine?”
“Shut up or your goong-sam-rod is mine,” Andy threatened, picking one of Lily’s choices more or less at random.
In reply, Lily just rolled her eyes. “Oh, please. You don’t even like shrimp. Much less pineapple. Anyway, I have a better threat: answer my question or go to work tomorrow morning and explain to the apparently famous Miranda Preacher why your cell phone has magically learned to talk.”
“Her last name is Priestly,” Andy grumbled. “And you can’t make a phone sentient.”
“Just try me.”
It was probably best to give in. Old Dr. McMinamin’d had a talking pet dragon he kept on his desk. The dragon was named Sandy, and he was a little toy whittled out of a piece of cedar -- McMinamin had to refresh his paint job every now and again, and Sandy would tell anyone who would listen how much that damned paintbrush tickled.
Which meant that while having a pet cell phone might be kind of cool in one way, it would definitely mean a visit from the Obs.
“I just... you’ve always been a halfer,” Andy said disconsolately. “You don’t know what it feels like to grow up watching a world without being able to touch it. To always have to be on your guard against Muggles.”
“Really, Muggle-borns and halfers aren’t anywhere near the same thing,” Lily pointed out in the snotty tone she used when she wanted Andy to think she was being rational. “I didn’t know wizards and witches existed until I was ten years old, when you set my hair on fire.”
“That was totally an accident!” Andy protested. “And my dad grew your hair back for you.”
“Yeah, I know,” Lily said, “but that’s not the point. The point is, you can babble all you want about your Lifetime-movie-childhood of watching the Muggles as you grew up, poor little wizard girl, but you weren’t the one whose life got totally flipped upside down and who had to basically relearn how to be a human being all over again.”
Andy watched Lily put a protection charm on the cell phone with tight little stabbing wand motions. “Lily... I didn’t mean to start a fight.”
“I didn’t either,” Lily said after a long pause. “And I guess it’s not fair for me to get all bitchy when I was pushing you to answer in the first place.”
It was best to let that slide. “I didn’t mean to play ‘my life is harder than yours,’” she said. “But I guess I didn’t want to take the easy road. The wizarding world isn’t exactly an up-and-coming place, if you catch my drift.”
“What, you don’t want to wear wacky tie-dye dresses and work for a kook with a Chinatown cover to run his wizarding bookshop?” Lily asked nastily. But almost immediately, she looked ashamed. “Sorry... that came out wrong.”
Tilting her head, Andy gave her a sort of half-shrug. “But you’re kind of right. Just because my mom and dad chose to be wizards doesn’t mean I have to, except that I don’t really know anything else. And now...”
“Muggle city, Muggle boyfriend, and Muggle job,” Lily interjected, nodding. “I get it. But, Andy, are you sure this is a good idea?”
She picked up the freshly-charmed cell phone, turning it this way and that as she switched it on, making sure it wasn’t emitting sparks or anything. Muggle technology didn’t like magic, and if she was going to pull this off, it was important for all of her stuff to work properly. “What do you mean?”
“Andy, you’ve never lived as a Muggle, and now you’re kind of quitting the wizarding world cold turkey. You haven’t even gone without your wand since you were six years old,” Lily said seriously.
“I got through college, didn’t I?” Andy smiled, shooting for charming.
Shaking her head, Lily started to take apart the pencil sharpener next. “Northwestern was half-wizard and you know it, Halfer Girl. You had Defense classes as an outlet. What do you have now?”
Fortunately, Andy was saved from having to bluff her way through an answer by a knock at the door. As they sorted through their takeout and squabbled good-naturedly over the quality of Lily’s charm-work, their conversation moved on to safer topics.
“Jesus Christ, Sachs, it’s like you didn’t even graduate.”
She rolled her eyes. “Shut up, Luke.”
“I mean, my four-year-old nephew is better at controlling his temper tantrums.”
“Luke, I swear to everything you hold sacred that if you don’t shut your mouth right now...”
“Don’t you have some fancy-ass college degree or something? I thought you were going to be a big bad Auror, kicking ass and taking names. At least, that’s what you used to say in old McMinamin’s class all the time.” Luke’s grin was wide and more disarming than she remembered when they were kids, but it didn’t make her want to smack him any less.
“Clearly, Lucas,” she said through gritted teeth, “this was an accident.”
Threading his thumbs through the belt loops on his jeans, Luke let out a long, low whistle. “Hell of an accident, Sack-of-Shit. I’m thinking you have a little bit of an anger management problem. I mean, what did that poor coffeemaker ever do to you?”
Exist, Andy thought viciously to herself.
Every fucking morning, she had to drag herself out of bed at six AM, leaving Nate and Bucky to fend for themselves (never a good idea), just so she could slog through the morning crowd at Starbucks for Miranda’s morning latte. No foam, non-fat, center-of-the-Sun hot.
And she’d told herself she could live with it. Part of the job, right? A year as Miranda Priestly’s assistant, and then she could just sit back and watch the doors swing open.
A year of phone calls, designer heels that gave her blisters, coffee runs, and just in general pretending that the sun shone out of Miranda’s Prada-clad ass.
Which was all okay.
Until she saw the two-thousand dollar espresso machine, complete with all the attachments, and as brand-shiny-new as if Nigel had just taken it out of the box yesterday. There it was, sitting untouched in the Runway breakroom, mocking her.
And Serena, Emily’s bitchy clacker friend, standing beside the machine, drinking water bottled in paradise (probably by starving children who were paid less than a dollar a day) and sneering. “Can you imagine?” Serena had asked with a wide smirk. “Brewing coffee in the office like... blue-collar construction workers?”
Six fucking AM flashed through her head, and then something went bang!
Andy was really only aware that the bang wasn’t imaginary and she’d managed to blow up the coffee machine when a milk steamer went flying past her head to embed itself in the nearby wall.
Serena’s law had dropped, and Emily had come flying in from Miranda’s office to see what all the fuss was about. Even Madame High-Horse Priestly herself had come sauntering over to sniff disapprovingly at everyone.
But now, the three of them were just standing there, blank-eyed and slack-jawed. The Obs had arrived.
Well, four of them had. And they weren’t nearly as scary as she’d thought they would be. It helped, of course, that one of them was stupid old Luke Stephenson, one of the guys who she’d known at BHH and whose ass she’d routinely kicked in McMinamin’s Advanced Defense classes.
“Seriously, Sachs,” Luke said, sounding more professional than she’d ever imagined possible. “What am I doing here? I never thought you of all people would need an Obliviate Squad to come clean up after her.”
“It’s not like I meant to,” she said, hating how panicked she felt. What did Obs do to wizards who screwed up like this? Blowing up a coffeemaker wasn’t exactly low-profile magic. This couldn’t go well, especially with Luke grinning at her like that. Was he the type that held grudges? “It just... this is only my second week on the job, Luke, and I need this. More than anything, I need to do this.”
After the longest thirty-second silence she ever experienced in her entire life (complete with flashbacks of her childhood and horrific visions of a possible future), Luke just shook his head. “Relax, Sack-of-Shit, I’m not going to tattle on you. We Obs aren’t really the total evil bastards we’re made out to be.”
“So what’s going to happen?” As much as she’d hated the panic, the relief was worse. It felt... cowardly.
Luke smirked. “My buddies over there are going to make sure your delightful co-workers have no memory of you going all magical on their coffee machine, and I’m going to reassemble the damn thing. You are going to go home and calm the fuck down.”
“Thinks you’re off running errands or whatever it is you do for her,” Luke interrupted, waving his hand at the disturbingly blank Miranda. “Don’t worry about it, Sack-of-Shit. We’re professionals, remember?”
“I really hate it when you call me that,” she said, but she was picking up her purse and coat as she said it. “Lucas.”
He flicked his fingers at her, covering her coat in pink glitter. It was an old trick they’d learned back when they were kids. “You know,” he said thoughtfully, “I don’t mind you calling me Lucas like I used to. There’s something kind of sexy about it. Lu-ucas-s-s...” He chuckled. “It sounds like something you’d moan in bed.”
“In your effing nightmares, Stephenson,” she shot back, twirling her fingers to clean the glitter off her coat.
She was almost out of the office when she heard him calling her name. “Hey, Andy!”
Her heels skidded a little as she spun around, and it took a lot of self-control not to land flat on her ass. “What?”
“You remember Goldeneye?”
“You mean that stupid video game you and Nick were so nuts about? Mostly I remember the time Nick and Lily had a big project due in Transfigurations and Lily damn near drowned him in the toilet when he showed up without his stuff done because he’d stayed up all night playing Goldeneye instead,” she said, wondering where the hell he was going with this.
“Okay...” He sounded impatient. “But one of the best parts about Goldeneye was that you got new lives as much as you needed them. So you could blow yourself up over and over, but you came back to life every time.”
She sighed and resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “As fun as this stroll down Memory Lane is, Luke...”
“Living as a halfer isn’t as much like Goldeneye as it is like baseball,” he said.
“Baseball?” He was making zero sense by this point.
“Yeah,” Luke replied. “Three strikes and you’re out.”
Bucky always knew when her day sucked. She’d long ago given up trying to figure out exactly how Bucky knew, but whenever she came home with aching feet or after a bad phone call from her parents (or after an Obs Squad showed up at work to cover up her idiocy), Bucky was right there, waiting at the door to rub her head against Andy’s knee and purr up a storm.
“How was your day, Bucks?” Andy asked with a soft smile, scratching her ears. “Catch any mice?”
The answering ear-flick was a dismissive no, which Andy already knew. Bucky didn’t really do mice.
“You’re probably pissed that we’re not out west any more, huh? There’s not really anything for you to stalk around here.”
Bucky’s whiskers twitched a couple of times. There was too much cat food to be eaten to have to resort to pouncing on New York vermin, those whiskers seemed to be saying.
“Well, come on. Let’s see what’s laying around in the fridge, girl.” Andy scooped Bucky up into her arms and ambled into the kitchen.
“There’s food in the bowl,” she told Bucky, looking down into her dish. “So Nate remembered to put some out before he went into work.”
This ear-flick was somehow even more dismissive.
“Now, Bucks, don’t be like that,” Andy admonished. “It was nice of him to remember to feed you.”
Bucky looked up into Andy’s eyes, giving her a hard stare followed by a slow blink. Remember, nothin’.
“Damn it, Bucky, tell me you didn’t scratch him again,” Andy groaned, giving Bucky’s tail a little tug.
Another slow blink.
“It would serve you right if you only got dry food tonight,” she scolded. “Nate’s never been anything but nice to you, and you’re awful to him.”
She could have sworn Bucky actually looked satisfied as she jumped out of Andy’s arms and landed on the kitchen floor with a soft thud.
“I’m such a sucker,” Andy sighed, pulling the peanut butter out of a cabinet and starting to smear a generous portion on a piece of bread. “Why did Mom and Dad think I needed a cat, again? I mean, I could have had a dog, or a goldfish, or even an owl. At least owls are useful. What do you do, Bucky? Other than scratch the everliving hell out of Nate whenever you feel like it?”
Her tail twitched and she started to wash her face with an unconcerned paw. Everything about her body language screamed, Whatever it is, I look good doing it.
“You know,” she said pensively, putting the peanut butter sandwich on the floor next to the food dish and watching Bucky tuck in, “Nate bitches up and down about where all the peanut butter goes. He can’t figure out how I can eat a whole thing of it almost every week and not be big as a house.”
Bucky licked a dab of peanut butter off her nose and kept eating.
“Why do you have to be such a weird cat, anyway? Are you a Kneazle or something? I don’t think you are, because Mom or Dad would have said something, but how many twenty-year-old cats eat a peanut butter sandwich every day and spend the rest of their time figuring out how to torture a grown man?”
She wasn’t really expecting an answer, and she didn’t really get one, unless you wanted to count the little snorting sounds Bucky always made as she ate.
Bucky was just cleaning the last of the peanut butter off her whiskers when the front door opened and closed, signaling Nate’s return. “Honey, I’m home,” he called goofily.
“I’ll be ready with your martini and slippers soon,” Andy replied with an equally goofy grin. “Just as soon as I’m done at the feminist rally.”
“Only if you promise to let me watch you burn your bra,” he flirted as he walked into the kitchen to give her a quick kiss. “On a scale of one to ten, your day was...”
“Negative three,” she said with a shrug. “I was actually getting ready to open a bottle of wine, so the martini-thing wasn’t as much of a joke as it could be.”
“You should quit that job,” Nate told her seriously, disappearing into the bedroom and emerging wearing jeans and a t-shirt. “Anyone can see how much you hate it.”
The wine Andy pulled out of the fridge was a screw-top, and she twisted it as hard as she could, envisioning Miranda Priestly’s neck in place of the cap. “It’s a stepping-stone,” she said neutrally. “Besides, it gives me an excuse to drink.”
“Still...” But he left it alone and accepted a glass of wine, which was all she could expect for now. “I guess if you’re not going to tell me about your day, I could always ask Bucky about it.” He leaned down to hold his hand out to the cat. “Hey, girl; you gonna let me pet you?”
Andy blinked and suddenly Nate was on one side of the kitchen, nursing a bloody hand, and Bucky was on the other, tail a fluffy bottlebrush of hatred and hissing as if her life depended on it.
“Let me see,” Andy sighed, taking his hand and examining it. “It’s not that bad, you big baby. And it’s your own fault for trying to pet her. You know you have to let her come to you.”
He scowled at Bucky over Andy’s shoulder. “I can see why you named her after that psychotic little cat in the comic strips. She’s crazy.”
“I’ve had Bucky since I was four years old, Nate,” she reminded him. “There’s no way she’s named after that comic.”
“I don’t believe you,” he said, sticking his hand under the faucet and wincing at the cold water washing over his wound. “Old cats aren’t that full of piss and vinegar, and yours is a damn sadist.”
Andy just bent down and made little clucking noises at Bucky until she came out of her corner with a plaintive meow. “Maybe if you didn’t insult her all the time, she wouldn’t be so mean to you.”
Nate rolled his eyes. “Come on, Andy, it’s a cat. She knows two words -- her name and supper.”
“Yeah, yeah,” she said, not agreeing but hoping against hope he’d change the subject. “Anyway, what’d you bring for dinner?”
“Isn’t it your turn?” he asked blankly. “I was expecting a home-cooked meal followed by a long foot-rub as I watch wrestling.”
“So you hit your head at work, then,” she retorted sweetly. “Should I call a doctor?”
“How about a pizza guy?”
In that moment, life wasn’t so bad. She had the boyfriend, the job, and it was all in the city she’d dreamed of living in since she was ten years old. So what if the Obs had to come to the office once? It was like Luke said -- she had three whole strikes. And she was determined not to need them.