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Somewhere Progressive

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SIX MONTHS LATER

Andy wasn't sure what woke her. She lay on the luxurious king-sized bed for a moment, listening for the sound of Miranda's relaxed, deep breathing. She heard nothing but the slight snuffling of their latest addition to the family: Mansfield Frederick Priestly, a jet-black cat with piercing green eyes and little white socks on two of its paws - a feature Cassidy and Caroline both loved.

The beautiful animal had all the indifferent attitude of Miranda, along with her sleek, panther-like grace - entering rooms with its tail high and haughty, so Andy, of course, adored him at first sight.

So did Miranda, although she liked to pretend otherwise. She didn't fool Andy for a minute, and more than once she'd spied the fashion maven cuddling the cat in her lap, softly stroking his ears absently while she read a book.

Right now Mansfield had taken Miranda's place in the bed, drawn to her vacated warm spot no doubt. Andy peered at the cat.

"You aren't supposed to be on the bed,'' she told him seriously. "It's a house rule, as you well know. And where is your other mommy anyway? The usual place, I suppose?"

The cat closed his eyes in complete indifference and buried his small nose into a black tail curled around his body, settling down to go back to sleep.

"Yeah, that's what I figured," Andy said and glanced at the bedside clock. Just after six. It was still mostly dark out but the first fingers of dawn had just begun creeping in between the thick bedroom curtains.

She yawned and debated whether to join Mansfield in a rather satisfying sleep-in or find her lover. She looked at the bed longingly but instead flung back the covers and rose. She tossed on a robe and shuffled sleepily over to the windows where she drew open the curtains.

The sight before her never ceased to take her breath away.

She and Miranda had fallen in love with the house the moment they'd looked out the bedroom window and saw the rich blues of the ocean in front and far below.

Andy smiled as she stared at the glorious sight. The fiery early rays of dawn were making a glistening red path across the sea, and she could make out faint white chops on the top of the distant swells, whipped up by the wind.

The same peacefulness returned that she'd felt the first time she'd stood here gazing out, Miranda's arm curled around the small of her back.

They'd heard the real estate agent enter behind them, some blonde, overly hair-sprayed creature picking her way about on outlandishly high platform shoes, chirping on about features like a heated swimming pool, tennis court, wine cellar and stunning manicured gardens.

But all Andy took in was the heady scent of the woman beside her, from that expensive skin cream she loved, the warmth of her body heat, the thudding of her own heart and, most significantly, the way the fashion icon's arm did not shift an inch when the other woman had entered the room. In fact it had tightened possessively around her waist.

Miranda moved even closer and leaned into her ear, her ice cool gaze fixed on the grand estate below. "So, does this count as 'somewhere progressive'?" she husked in that low voice that never ceased to make Andy's guts clench. She dropped a tiny kiss on the shell of her ear.

For a moment Andy didn't know whether she meant the house or the fact Miranda had probably just outed them both to the startled realtor with the most unexpected PDA. A realtor who suddenly seemed fascinated by the ceiling cornices on the far side of the room. Which, while intricate, were not that spectacular.

Andy grinned and nodded mutely. The place had everything they'd dreamed of – right down to the friendly neighbourhood, adorable shops (many with little rainbow flag stickers in their windows), and a to-die-for weekend organic market that did those weird green shakes Miranda favored.

And just like that, the stunning beach estate far from the madding crowd - complete with perfect orange sunrises - became theirs.

Andy stepped back from her bedroom window, shaking herself out of her daydream. She resumed her quest to track down her lover of six months although, as she'd already explained to Mansfield, she had a pretty good idea of where to find her.

Had it really only been six months? Andy shook her head in amazement as she padded out the bedroom and down the stairs. Life had been such a whirlwind from the first moment they'd landed on American soil. She'd unbuckled her seatbelt and turned slowly, looking Miranda dead in the eye and said solemnly: "I quit."

Miranda's lips had twitched once and she closed her eyes, leaning back against her seat.

"I know."


MONTH ONE

They'd climbed off Donatella's jet to see Emily and Nigel watching them with wide, expectant eyes.

The art director rushed forward in his absurd eggplant-coloured suit, with a bold yellow tie, giving both women engulfing, albeit careful, hugs. He suddenly began to ramble in a shaky voice that he'd been remiss to have not told them both how much they'd mattered to him before it was too late.

"That was my mistake," he said, choking up. "Especially you," he said, eyeing his unreadable boss through moist eyes. "You ... you ... are my dearest friend."

The snowy-haired editor had merely lifted an eyebrow at him when he finally let go of her.

No one ever touched Miranda Priestly. Emily was watching the scene with saucer-wide eyes.

"Why Nigel," Miranda purred, her eyes half lidded, "I never realised you were so sentimental."

Andy laughed and hugged Nigel again warmly. As she did so, she caught Miranda discreetly wiping moisture from her eye, and grinned at her. Her lover narrowed her ice-blue eyes in warning.

Oh Please. Hard-ass Miranda was such a fraud at times.

A blur of legs and excited squeals caught everyone's attention and Miranda then spent the next twenty minutes wrapped in twin hugs and delighted chatter. Andy stepped back to give the reunited family its space. She saw Greg hanging back in the shadows, relief etched on his face, along with a hint of guilt. Andy cocked her head curiously, wondering what on earth he had to feel guilty about. Because he was barely even in Miranda's life, right?

Emily had also assumed a low profile off to one side, where she simply stared at Miranda and Andy, tears streaking silently down her pale cheeks while stoically pretending she wasn't crying, flicking the wet trails away with the frequency of windshield wipers.

Andy regarded her affectionately. Nigel had already regaled her, between gasps of laughter, with a hilarious (and much-quoted, apparently) comment that his frosty assistant had provided to Andy's hometown newspaper after Andy's funeral.

She ambled over and nudged the pursed-lipped redhead with her elbow: "I hear you think I wear ugly shoes," she grinned.

Emily blinked at her uncertainly. "I beg your pardon?!"

"But they're big shoes to fill," Andy continued, teasing. "Why, Em, I never knew you cared."

"Honestly,'' Emily sniffed and glowered at Andy, folding her arms, but denying nothing. She paused and lowered her voice. "Just don't let it go to your head."

"Perish the thought," Andy grinned, noting the warmth leaking traitorously out of Emily's eyes.

She smirked. Emily was another fraud. Runway was clearly drowning in them.


Miranda announced Andy was coming home with her to recover somewhere they both would have access 24/7 "to the finest medical staff money can buy''.

Nigel and Emily had nodded blandly at the pronouncement. A little too blandly, Andy thought suspiciously. Almost as if they'd expected it.

The twins looked impassively from Miranda to Andy and back again. Only Greg seemed outwardly confused.

"You want your assistant to live in your home?" he'd blurted before he thought better of it. His face faintly reddened as all eyes swung to him.

"Yes, Gregory," Miranda said, turning slowly to stare at him, hard. "Not that it's any of your business."

He lifted his hands in surrender. "Sorry," he muttered, "It's not, I mean … it's just I know how much you like your privacy. I was… I'm surprised." He mumbled and tried to hold her challenging glare. He gave up and glanced down at his feet.

The twins fixed their mother with an even longer stare that said, quite plainly, they agreed with their father. It was odd.

"I, uh, don't have to stay with … um, at your house," Andy said awkwardly. "It's a very generous offer but I can stay … um… with..." She waved her hand about and realised she had no clue how to finish that sentence.

Where would she stay? She really did need ongoing medical attention. The nurse fussing over her on the plane home had tsked often enough at her readings that Andy couldn't fail to get the hint.

Nate had left her over a year ago. Doug, maybe, but he worked long hours… Not Lilly, that's for sure.

Miranda tilted her head and looked at her with the "Are you a complete fool?" expression Andy had become very used to seeing over the past two years as her assistant.

"Where?" Miranda asked silkily. "Back to Ohio? With your mother? Or with the friends you don't see anymore?"

Ouch. Nigel and Emily suddenly looked ridiculously uncomfortable and Andy shifted anxiously from foot to foot, flushing hotly. "I.. um… I just don't want to impose."

"Bobbsies," Miranda said instantly, looking at her daughters, her tone all business. "Would you find it an imposition if Andrea stayed in one of our guest bedrooms as she recovers? I expect that she is properly house trained. For the most part." Her eyes sparkled with amusement and Andy shot her a faux outraged glare. She could tell Miranda was a hair's breadth away from laughing outright.

Where the hell had Miranda's sense of humor come from? She tried to think back to any other time when Miranda had ever teased anyone like this and came up a blank. Nigel and Emily both appeared equally startled.

Caroline and Cassidy exchanged glances – some unspoken twin-conversation taking place – and then nodded in unison. "We don't care," Caroline said. At least Andy was fairly sure it was her, although both girls seemed to have grown a bit in the past month. But no, the extra freckles on the bridge of her nose were a clear giveaway.

"We like Andy," Cassidy added. "She can help us with our homework."

At Andy's askance expression, Caroline interjected hastily, "Only when you're better, of course."

"Well then," Miranda smirked as though that settled it. She looked at Andy, her eyebrows raised questioningly, daring her to object.

Andy just rolled her eyes at this fait accompli. As if she could deny a Priestly female anything - let alone three of them looking at her so expectantly. And, frankly, she could think of nothing better than being in Miranda's home, close to her – it's just they hadn't exactly discussed their plans beforehand. Most of the flight from Tokyo had been spent sleeping and trying to get – and keep - more liquid nourishment down, in between the nurse poking and prodding her.

Easier said than done.

"Fine," Andy said with a grin and her heart did a happy flip at how pleased the fashion editor seemed at her decision.

They gazed at each other for a moment before Emily cleared her throat. Andy distantly absorbed something vague about arrangements being made, the townhouse set up for medical care. Nurses on standby. Or some such thing. Her mind was elsewhere.

Miranda had edged closer to her, her fingers brushing against Andy's and her eyes locked with hers.

Her heart fluttered. God. That stare.

Before she knew it, she found herself in a car heading for Miranda's townhouse, Greg following them in his car with the twins, to give them space "to stretch out" as he'd put it, given they were still healing.

Andy's head had fallen onto the white-haired editor's shoulder. She knew Roy in the driver's seat had glanced back more than once, and she tried to care. Tried to make it not quite so obvious. But her heart wasn't in it. Especially the way Miranda's hand occasionally drifted up to pet her hair.

She never wanted to move again.

Roy's eyes met hers briefly in the rear-vision mirror. He'd already told them both how pleased he was they were alive. But now she saw a knowingness there as he took in Andy's position, virtually clinging to her boss. Ex-boss? Andy had resigned – she supposed she was technically now serving out her two weeks' notice.

He gave them a small, understanding grin and his eyes returned to the road. Andy let out a breath she didn't know she was holding and closed her eyes.

She had been so tired lately. So weary that all the sleep on the flight from Tokyo still hadn't seemed to touch the sides. But given she was such a physical wreck she shouldn't be too shocked.

She had glanced into the full-length mirror in the bathroom on Donatella's jet and recoiled with a grimace. Scrawny wasn't even the start of it. She was emaciated. Dark shadows ringed her eyes, her cheeks were sunken, her collar bones and hips jutted out, arms and legs were spindly. Her face bright red from sunburn. Lips badly chapped.

While Miranda was equally sunburnt and thin, for some reason she carried the effects of their ordeal better, a fact Andy was profoundly glad about. Her daughters had been through enough trauma lately without freaking out from the sight of their mother looking like a crispy ghost.


The early days passed largely in a blur, with a lot of sleeping and healing, and being woken for meals and medication by a tag team of two nurses, both efficient and discreet. Once a week a trainer came in to help them with basic exercises to get their muscles working again, a regime Andy found utterly exhausting. It quickly became apparent she was by far the weaker of the pair, which did not seem fair at all to the 25-year-old given their age gap.

Trust Miranda to be as good at healing as she was everything else.

The hospital in Japan had done a thorough job of cleaning out and properly attending to Andy's stomach wound. It was knitting slowly, turning into a slightly jagged, very faint, long scar above her belly button.

Miranda's head injury had proved to be only a mild concussion, although the pronounced jagged teeth marks across her collar bone and shoulder remained. Her stitches had already come out.

She'd been offered a surgery to help hide the scarring by a top plastic surgeon. Miranda had declined immediately. She seemed almost proud that she had visible proof to show the world that even sharks could not defeat the indomitable Miranda Priestly.

Andy was in two minds about this. She didn't like the reminder of how close she'd come to losing the woman she loved. She still shuddered at the memory of the black, cold eyes of the hungry predator as it scraped its razor-sharp teeth across Miranda's flesh. She would never, ever forget that. To this day she often saw its eyes in the most mundane things: A smooth black pebble. A polished set of heels. The hood of a shiny limousine.

But she understood what a badge of honor Miranda saw it as. The fashion icon would stand taller as she stared at the multiple parallel lines of scars in the mirror, a tiny grim smile twitching at the corner of her lips. Proud she had won in the end, and fuck everything else, no doubt.

Andy got that. She did. Not that they'd discussed it. They hadn't had a huge amount of time alone yet, what with being stuck in their respective beds, recuperating with the excitable twin tornadoes whirling in and out chattering up a storm, or nurses checking on their medication and feeding them, while shooing out the girls.

As the weeks drew on, there still wasn't much of Andy. Unlike Miranda, who seemed to bounce back to her old weight relatively quickly, for whatever reason Andy's body was being stubborn. It didn't help she'd found it very hard to keep any solid food down.

Her dreams of steak and tacos and pizza and chicken nuggets had all died when her stomach refused them all. Or sometimes her lack of appetite did the job when her stomach was settled.

Miranda watched her with a closed look as Andy emerged from the bathroom bearing a stricken expression, wiping her mouth, time and again after a meal.

"I-I it's just not staying down yet," she'd tell her in embarrassment. But the older woman would merely nod as if to say, "I know you're trying your best".

Often little treats that she used to love would appear by Andy's bed. One night it might be a Hershey's Kiss. Or a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Once, even a cheese cube appeared - a joke at Emily's expense. Andy had laughed heartily at that.

She knew Miranda was trying to subtly renew her interest in food. It was so thoughtful, Andy was incredibly touched. How Miranda knew what she loved to eat most was a mystery, though. But then so much about Miranda was.

Because that was the other thing they hadn't discussed in so many words - them. Together. The dream - to move somewhere progressive and live openly as a couple, with just the twins and Patricia and a cat called Mansfield, and not be afraid anymore. To just be themselves.

Andy wished she could spend a week, a day, or even an hour discussing their plans but their life had become insane the moment the media had learned that the impossible had occurred.

After all it's not every day a dead icon gets resurrected.

Andy grinned. Well, as if anything so mundane as death could keep Miranda Priestly down.

The Japanese media had gotten wind of it first. The YouTube clip which no one could quite dismiss as a hoax had been followed up by a reported sighting by a security guard at an electronics shop across from the US embassy in Tokyo.

Mr Akio Tanaka swore black and blue that the famous dead American fashion diva who had been on all the news channels had come to his store in the early hours one morning and traded the promise of Prada accessories and a Runway subscription for his wife for a new state-of-the-art cell phone. Yes, he'd said fervently to all who asked, Miranda Priestly had been very much alive.

Store security footage subsequently confirmed his incredible story. Grainy black and white video of a bandaged, terrifyingly thin white-haired woman – uncannily looking like the ice queen – leaving the store clutching a phone were beamed around Japanese news feeds, before being picked up internationally.

Some 24 hours later, Runway issued a statement confirming their leader was indeed alive.

And then the world's media went into thermonuclear meltdown.


Everyone wanted a piece of them. Everywhere they turned, when they went to the hospital or to see specialists, there were now flashbulbs and a flurry of questions.

After weeks of this Andy had had enough and agreed to write their story for Time to take the heat off. She agonised over what to include for days before finally deciding there was no point in pretending she hadn't fought off a shark and eaten raw fish and been moments from death more than once. So she'd put it all out there. Miranda saving her life. Miranda operating on her with a jagged chunk of plane. Them eating leaves. Praying for rain. Watching the island wash away beneath their feet. Virtually every last horrifying detail.

With her heart in her mouth, Andy gave a print-out to Miranda to read before she submitted it to Time's features editor.

The fashion editor had merely corrected her spelling and handed it back with a tight grimace.

Andy swallowed anxiously and began second-guessing herself. Should she just spike it now? Was it that bad? Miranda seemed to read her mind and said: "It's beautifully written, but it brings back certain memories. But you should publish it. Let them know your story."

If Andy found it odd Miranda had referred to it as her story, not their story, she didn't say anything. Later she considered how little she really knew about Miranda's time spent on the island while Andy was drifting in and out of consciousness.

Miranda, typically, said nothing at all on the topic. Not. One. Word. She would only murmur grimly whenever Andy pushed her: "It's better that you don't share my nightmares."

Because, yeah, Miranda had had a lot of those. She would often wake, trembling and terrified, in a sweat, and cry out. Andy, in the guest room right across from hers, would wake instantly and race into her room, usually shooing away the night nurse she intercepted on a similar mission. She would then climb into bed with her and wrap her arms around her. Miranda would cling wordlessly to Andy for a few minutes before fully waking and pulling away abruptly, burying her face back into her pillow, as if ashamed of her lapse into weakness.

She would give Andy her "that's all" dismissive wave, and wait until Andy left the bed. She never wanted Andy to stay afterwards. It hurt a little but the brunette thought she understood. It was as if it was too much for Miranda having a witness when putting herself back together after falling completely apart. She felt too vulnerable.

Miranda never wanted to discuss it in the morning and her only contribution to the topic had ever been a dark frown. Fortunately the nightmares were lessening in frequency as the days wore on.

Once Andy's (almost) tell-all feature article had hit the news stands, against her predictions the frenzy was stoked anew. There was no escaping the global celebrity status both women had now achieved.

Experts were on news shows enthusiastically discussing shark stalking behavioral traits. Talkshow hosts made jokes about the ocean predators "spitting the devil in Prada back". Droning talking heads went on and on about how exceptionally brave (read: stupid) Andy had been to use herself as bait in an ocean full of frenzied feeding sharks.

Everyone had an opinion. Everywhere they turned, Andy and Miranda the tastiest garnish the media had fed on for years.

Back at the townhouse, it was all Andy could do after braving the photo-snapping hordes and gawkers not to crawl back into bed, draw the covers over her head and try to sleep for a month.

Being a world-famous "shark hero" was totally overrated.

Once, though, when she was feeling exceptionally wrung out, she'd felt the bed dip as familiar arms closed around her and pulled her into a comforting hug.

Her eyes flickered open and she'd found Miranda's intense blue gaze regarding her warmly. "How's our shark hero doing?" she asked with a smirk.

"Not a hero," Andy had grumbled and nestle closer. "Just a very tired, annoyingly weak stick insect."

"Mmm," Miranda murmured. "Stick Insect Hero doesn't have quite the same ring." And she'd kissed her temple and held her until she drifted off to sleep.

It was Andy's absolute favorite memory of that hazy first month.


MONTH TWO

The media had finally cottoned on to Andy's living arrangements. If it had been interested in them when they were merely shark-duelling death buddies, now they were in a frothing lather of barely veiled innuendos, as they outdid each other speculating just how close the "world's most fashionable castaways" had become.

If only they knew.

Andy kept waiting for Miranda to blow a gasket. To threaten her usual volley of lawsuits on the intemperate press. To call in Leslie and issue a string of PR instructions. To deny it. To deny them.

But nothing happened.

Although, truthfully, there wasn't much to deny right at that moment. Yes, they were sharing a home. But Andy and Miranda hadn't been intimate since they'd been plucked from the sea. Except for the occasional hugs or kisses to her temple or cheek or forehead – which, to be fair, she also shared with her two girls. So, Andy wondered, often at night in the dark, alone, what it all meant.

Which made it all the more awkward when her mother rung and asked about the headlines point blank.

Andy had sucked in a breath. "It's true," she whispered, "Miranda and I … we're involved."

The silence was long and Andy bit her lip. Then her mother said something that profoundly shocked her.

"But she never said. In her call. Although I should have realised, all things considered."

Andy had blinked rapidly. "Your …. what? What call?"

A beat passed.

"Well she rung me a little while back saying it was of vital importance to know what chocolate and treats you liked. I thought it was odd, but she said you'd lost your appetite and she hoped that tempting you with your old favorites might help bring it back."

"She… she…"

"Yes," Ellen confirmed. "She did. We thought it best I not tell you because we didn't want you to feel any pressure about your eating."

"I.. oh."

"She was so worried about you. I could hear it, in her voice, she got a little emotional..."

"Emotional..." Andy repeated numbly, feeling like she'd entered the Twilight Zone. Miranda Priestly emotional?

"And she did call me herself – not just get one of her little assistants to. I suppose I should have guessed then. Besides, what boss takes their assistant home with them? Well of course she loves you."

Her mother made it sound so matter of fact.

"I… ah…" Andy's brain short circuited. Love? How did they get to that? Even Miranda had never said that to her.

And then she remembered who she was talking to and her brain did a second little flail. "How do you feel about this? Her and me? I mean she's … older and ... a mother," Andy began and then bit her lip anxiously. "And, um, well obviously, a woman."

"Yes dear," her mother said, amused, "I do have eyes."

"And? So…?"

"Andrea Elizabeth Sachs. Do you really have to ask?"

"I… Y-yes?"

Her mother sighed. "Whatever I thought of her before, Miranda calling me for advice and saving your life repeatedly tells me everything I need to know about the woman."

"But…"

"Everything. I wouldn't have you today if it wasn't for her. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have some reservations but these are nothing compared with how I felt when I almost lost you. When I thought you were gone."

"Oh… Mom, I'm so sorry." Andy still felt guilty for the trauma her mother had been through. She rubbed her eyes. She wondered if the guilt would ever go away. Even on their brief visit together, when her mother had flown to New York, she could see the lines and grey hair she'd added to her mother's features.

"So the only question is – does she make you happy?" Ellen asked.

"Oh God yes," Andy exhaled, not even thinking. "Yes. So much."

"Well then," Ellen smiled, and there was a faint admonishing tone, "Why do you care what I or anybody thinks then?"

"Mom, come on, you and I both know it's not that simple. I wish it was."

There was a pause and then, "It is."

In the weighted silence that followed, Andy wondered if her mother had just imparted the secret to the universe.

Really, Andy wondered, was it just that simple?


At about the six-week mark, the specialists felt Andy and Miranda should start doing considerably more exercise, especially outdoors in the sunlight, because too much time spent in bed was not only risking atrophying their muscles but depriving the women of vital vitamin D.

And so Miranda, Patricia, Andy and the girls made a trek to Central Park together. Andy was wobblier on her legs than she would have liked and was pleased that Miranda had slowed her formidable fast clip to keep her company as the girls skipped on ahead.

She still felt self conscious about how she looked. She was now out of the 'death camp survivor' looking category and into 'too-skinny shock-horror catwalk model' territory. She also hated how slowly she was progressing. Miranda on the other hand...

Andy found herself yet again admiring the soft curves of the other woman, in tailored navy blue pants and a silk white blouse. Miranda's chin tilted slightly up as she soaked up the the fresh air and sunlight, her stride unhurried and graceful.

Andy didn't think Miranda had noticed her perusal but then she felt soft, long fingers close around hers and take her hand. She'd heard near her ear, "Come along, Andrea," delivered far too seductively to be in any way condescending.

Andy gulped, eyes darting about for some skulking photographers to leap out of the bushes and catch them in the scandalous act of hand-holding in public. She did however 'come along'. Miranda gave a low, throaty snicker at Andy's sudden spring in her step.

They arrived all too soon at the park and, with reluctance, Andy let go of Miranda's hand and found the nearest park bench to rest weakly on. She watched fondly as Caroline and Miranda became distracted by Patricia racing off after someone's errant Frisbee.

She noticed Cassidy eyeing her thoughtfully. The little girl then plopped herself beside Andy on the park bench and stared at her closely.

"You want to ask me something?" she asked the ten-year-old, fixing her gaze on small, intelligent eyes.

"You and mom?" Cassidy ventured, tilting her head in the way her mother would. It was eerie.

Andy considered that. She squinted at Miranda and Caroline patting Patricia and trying to wrest a stranger's orange Frisbee from her teeth.

Andy could deny it, so easily. Because, really, they had done absolutely nothing sexual since they'd been back. So, really, not a lie to deny everything. Or she could ask what Cassidy meant by that. Or, or ... a bunch of other things. But for some reason she thought Cassidy would see right through her. And, really, Andy wasn't ashamed. So….

"Would it bother you?" Andy answered casually.

"Maybe before," Cassidy said with typical blunt honesty. "We hate the press being mean to Mom. And you being with her would only make it way worse. But now..." she shrugged. "We're just so glad she's alive, we don't care what she does."

"Oh," Andy muttered. "So you're saying I'm just one step up from you two having no mom? Not exactly the best endorsement I've ever heard." She grinned to take out the sting. But it kinda hurt.

Cassidy's face colored. "Well I didn't mean it like THAT. We do like you," she said, offering her best "duh" face. "We already said so. And you make Mom laugh. She teases with us more now, and she never really used to. And you did save her from a shark. Which makes you, like, I guess, automatically cool. Right? We just didn't know Mom was gay. Or whatever she is - we haven't asked her yet. But we have eyes. Caroline noticed it first - she says Mom looks at you like a really juicy steak."

Andy laughed at that. "No higher praise than that, I guess," she smirked.

Cassidy rolled her eyes. "Anyway, we think you're better than Stephen. And you're way better than icky Monica. Who wears fishnet stockings to a funeral?! And all the freesias? That was mean. Did you know Emily thinks she did it on purpose? So does Mom. Just - gag. Hey is it true Mom got Monica a new job?"

Andy blinked trying to follow the conversation shift. "Uh, yep, sort of. She found out about all the, um, extra touches Monica did at her funeral and decided to reward her accordingly."

Cassidy shot her a disbelieving glare and Andy snickered.

Miranda had been livid at the attendant horrors of the tacky celebrity-centric funeral, which some of the media had taken to calling "The casting call for America's Next Top Model", given how many starlets and aspiring models had used the cathedral steps to pause dramatically and strike photogenic poses as they exited the service.

Miranda had seen to it that Greg's opportunistic ex-girlfriend had returned to the reality TV world from whence she'd first been spat out. But not just returned. Oh heavens no. Sunk might be a better word.

"I believe she knew some people who knew some people who got Monica immediately cast on Celebrity Temptation Island," Andy said, her lips twitching as she held back a smile.

Cassidy screwed up her face. "My friend Bethany says Celebrity Temptation Island is where all the Z-list skanks and hoes go to commit career suicide."

"Language, Cass," Andy immediately said, trying very hard not to laugh.

Miranda had said something very similar to her, between muttering about freesias and gospel choirs and how Greg's "fame-hungry piece of fluff on the make" would never work in this town again. Monica's party planner days were over the moment Miranda put the word out about how displeased she'd been about her funeral and that "only the tasteless" would ever consider planning any event with That Woman.

And by the time the trashy TV show Monica was filming actually went to air, she'd have drunk at a chalice so befouled with poison no one would want to touch her ever again. Her stocks were now utterly worthless, even if she was too dim to realise it yet. Andy thought it was an apt ending for someone who'd used the death of a mother and the grieving of two miserable little girls to get ahead.

"Anyway," Cassidy shrugged. "Like I say - you're better than any of the other losers. And who cares what Mom does now as long as she's alive, right?"

"Right," Andy nodded with a grin. "But for what it's worth, I do like you two. So maybe as we get to know each other we can improve a whole bunch on me just being better than having no mom?"

Cassidy tilted her head amenably as though she hadn't thought that far ahead and gave a shrug. Then suddenly she jumped up to play with her sister. She glanced back and gave Andy an apologetic wave, then ran off. Andy grinned broadly at her and waved back before she realised Miranda was watching her, hands on hips, an affectionate smile dancing around her lips.

Miranda turned to pick up, between disdainful, pincer-like fingers, the Frisbee that Patricia had finally relinquished. She bent over, her firm ass giving Andy a lovely view. Andy sucked in an impressed breath and shut her eyes.

Mercy.


MONTH THREE

Andy Sachs was dying of celibacy. She was sure this was an actual thing. They had waited long enough, she wailed silently at the uncaring universe.

The media had backed off weeks ago - thanks to a family-values politician caught with a cheap hooker and a pair of pink fluffy handcuffs - and no actual new evidence coming to light about the two castaways being lovers.

Oh how Andy wished all the media's salacious conjecture actually had a foundation of truth, because she was starting to climb the walls of the town house.

Yes, she knew they needed to heal first. Well she had to heal; Miranda had been given a clean bill of health a fortnight ago and was already getting ready to go back to work.

But Andy, under doctor's orders to "rest, relax and do nothing strenuous", was craving Miranda's touch like air and starting to wonder if she'd imagined all those soft, passionate kisses and that achingly talented tongue when they were lost at sea.

Well, one thing she knew was she wasn't imagining the sexual tension between them. It was almost palpable. Their eyes would often lock, in the hallway, in passing, in the kitchen, then they'd brush past entirely too close to be socially polite, and Miranda would give her a small secret smile reserved only for her, that promised much more. A smile that said soon.

But "soon" never seemed to come and Andy was going thoroughly crazy. Her strength had returned now, as had her appetite. She'd been ploughing merrily through steaks and tacos and chicken nuggets for days now - as her hips and thighs and breasts could attest. And she'd hoped Miranda would see that, and realise she was ready to be ravished.

Oh so so ready.

She'd been dropping enough hints, too embarrassed at her neediness to just come right out and say it. Not to mention she was running out of buttons to unbutton for added cleavage when leaning provocatively across the table at lunch time. Miranda would merely glance at her, vastly amused, and return to her newspaper. Sometimes with a snicker. Or a knowing gleam. Always though, with that same look in her eye: Soon.

Soon?!

Soon she'd be an old, dry dessicated corpse if Miranda kept this up. She wondered if her doctor would consider the act of pinning a fashion editor against her bedroom wall and fucking her gorgeous brains out for a few days as "strenuous behavior"?

She sulked.

Probably.

Even if it wasn't strenuous, she pictured Miranda picking up The Book casually while Andy was fumbling about with her panties, and glancing down at her, saying, "Not now, Andrea. Soon."

Andy was getting very used to taking cold showers.

Fortunately "soon" arrived one night, exactly three months after their return. Miranda simply turned up in her room and invited her into her bed. Well, without actually saying it of course. Miranda still was a woman of few words.

Some things never changed.

The white-haired woman had leaned against the door frame of the guest room and eyed Andy. Miranda's ice blue eyes had lingered on Andy's short silk shorts and long legs before sliding casually up to examine her tight white tank top.

"I have dismissed the medical staff," she whispered in a low voice that sounded like pure sex.

"Oh, right, good," Andy said, and swallowed under the scrutiny. "It's getting late and it's not like I need anyone around the clock to check on me at night anymore, right?"

"I meant, Andrea, that I have dismissed them permanently now we no longer need them. The doctor told me you had to heal and be observed by a nurse for three months. It has now been exactly three months."

She licked her lips and Andy suddenly saw exactly what Caroline meant about Miranda looking at her like a tasty steak. A flush dusted Miranda's cheeks. She continued.

"The good doctor also said that I wasn't allowed to lay one finger on you for three months. I've been very patient haven't I? Especially in light of your ... numerous provocations."

She almost pouted and Andy's eyes fell out of her head.

"Y-you told Dr Michaela? About us?"

Miranda pursed her lips. "Well yes. I needed to know," she said with faint indignation. "This was important information to have. Don't you agree?"

"I… uh…"

"Well don't sprain your brain," Miranda purred and waved a hand dismissively. "And in case it escaped your notice, the girls are with their father for the weekend. We are finally alone."

Miranda's eyes burned.

"A-alone?" Andy repeated in confusion for a moment, processing everything.

It'd been a very long time since she'd found herself alone. And judging by the hungry look on Miranda's face at that moment, Andy realised the fashion boss had been as tightly wound as she'd been. Miranda was just much better at hiding it. Now, though, she was hiding nothing at all. The fire in her eyes said it all.

Andy's heart seized in excitement and began thumping furiously. She blushed hard and noted Miranda's satisfied gleam of approval.

"Well," the fashion maven said with amusement, a finger toying with the tie on her grey dressing gown. "I take it you approve? Of our being alone."

Andy nodded hard and swallowed and climbed shakily from the bed to her feet. "I definitely do."

She leaned in close to Miranda, taking in her scent - that expensive skin cream she'd come to associate with the imposing woman. It was damned alluring. She let her nose drift just under her ear and placed a soft kiss as she whispered: "I've missed you. Us."

She heard Miranda's breath hitch. Her mouth worked, but she didn't speak as Andy trailed kisses along her jaw. Her skin was so soft. "I was starting to worry you'd changed your mind," Andy continued, sneaking a kiss on her chin.

She lifted her hands to Miranda's hair and let her fingers sink into the white strands that haunted her thoughts and dreams. It was silky, no product in it tonight, and Andy reveled in the sensation of playing with the iconic 'do. She felt Miranda's hands come to rest on her waist.

Andy sighed happily and heard Miranda murmur: "I meant every word I said about us when we... back then. Every word," she added fiercely and then tilted her head, capturing Andy's lips in a powerful kiss.

Andy groaned into her mouth, her fingers still trailing through her hair, as she felt a hand behind her neck and one snaking through her hair. She felt Miranda's full breasts and belly pressing into hers. A blast of arousal shot through her and her knees wobbled.

"My room, now," Miranda hissed and suddenly there was air between them.

Andy blinked and stared after the retreating form. Hot damn.

"Well?" came a voice from down the hallway. "You know how I love to be kept waiting." There was enough amusement in the haughty tone to make Andy shake her head, helpless with laughter as she padded after her.

She found a robe in a puddle on the floor and Miranda splayed out on the bed wearing only a stunning Marjolaine pale blue and silver chemise, eyes heated. Candles around the room were burning, casting a beautiful warm glow around the room.

"Finally," Miranda drawled to Andy. "I was beginning to think you'd gone on some ridiculous round trip by way of the kitchen or something."

"Was that a fat joke?" Andy asked with a mock pout. "Because we both know I need more flab not less."

A sadness flashed across Miranda's face and she looked at Andy intensely. "It was certainly not a fat joke," she said quietly. "Come here."

Andy allowed herself to be enfolded in the older woman's arms. While she had accidentally achieved what Emily would doubtlessly call the "perfect" size 2, Andy knew she was still too lean to be healthy. Or attractive, for that matter. At least to her own pitiless eyes.

It was the last point that made her self-conscious. She didn't look at Miranda but felt her stroking her ribcage.

"I thought you were beautiful before," Miranda said quietly as if reading her mind. "And I think you are beautiful now. Your attractiveness to me is far more than just skin deep. And I always thought you understood this?" Her tone was faintly censorious.

Only Miranda could turn a compliment into a vague insult about her intelligence. Andy's lips curled up in amusement.

"Ah but you used to think I was fat. You called me the smart fat girl," she challenged, eyes dancing.

Miranda snorted. "I'd rather hoped you'd forgotten that. Finding people's weak spots happens to be one of the skills I'm best at - and also least proud of," she admitted quietly.

It was probably the closest thing to an apology she'd ever get from her, Andy mused. "So," she said, tracing a finger down Miranda's arm. "You meant 'every word'. About us."

She felt the chuckle deep in the fashion editor's chest. Miranda didn't deign to respond to something so obvious.

"Because," Andy whispered, "That's quite a coincidence. See - I also want the dream. Our amazing new life, somewhere progressive. The cat called Mansfield ..."

"Or Frederick ..." Miranda inserted."Frederick is better."

"Only if you want all the cat bullies to beat him up," Andy retorted. "But the best part of the dream is I get to be with you."

She saw the fierceness return to Miranda's eyes. Her agreement came in the form of a kiss, hard and possessive, and so powerfully erotic Andy felt her body stir instantly. Moisture was already gathering between her legs.

She felt long soft fingers dust along her ribs and then slip underneath her tank top, rubbing against her pebbling nipple.

She groaned. Before she knew it her tank-top was off and Miranda's dangerous, dancing tongue was licking her breasts, her teeth chewing on her nipples and causing her to make noises she didn't know she was capable of.

Her shorts had somehow disappeared off her legs.

How did that even happen, she wondered briefly as she felt a hand teasing along her thighs. It didn't immediately seek out her center, and instead she felt fingers dusting up and down until she was being slowly driven mad, silently begging Miranda to stop torturing her.

This playing with her was the big surprise for Andy. She'd secretly expected Miranda to be a goal-oriented lover, homing in on her core with a singular focus. Instead she was a most attentive, artful meanderer, who loved nothing more than spending long moments with her fingers and tongue showing Andy just how much she enjoyed every single part of her.

For the next hour all she knew was Miranda's lips and tongue and fingers exploring every crevice, eliciting from her guttural groans she had never uttered before. By the time she witnessed the sight of a snowy-haired head bobbing up and down between her legs, hands pushing her thighs further and further apart, she thought she'd pass out from the incredible sight.

At the first touch of a tongue slicing up and down her slit, pausing to dip inside, then lifting to her clit, Andy keened in delight. Miranda buried herself in the task, rubbing her nose against Andy's clit, her lips devouring the flesh beneath and murmuring a delighted hmmm, as she went. Fingers entered her and twisted, and she cried out. Andy thought she had to be in heaven.

But heaven came later. When she was thrusting three fingers inside Miranda and suckling and lapping at her erect pearl, watching her face fluttering with incredulity and delight, her full bare breasts swaying rhythmically, before her neck snapped back and she growled out a low, deep, primal moan.

It was the hottest thing Andy had ever seen. She made it her mission to make Miranda repeat those intoxicating noises. She nibbled and bit her, mouthing her breasts, her thighs, her stomach, her back, her buttocks and that glorious sweet spot along her neck until Miranda was offering gasping little moans and undignified squeaks that Andy thought were too arousing for words.

At one point Andy urged Miranda to sit on her face, and she began sliding her tongue inside her, her fingers expertly flicking her clit, until the gasping woman above, thighs quaking as she began to come yet again, stared down at her in astonishment.

"Andreaaaa," she cried out as she gave in with a low growl, tweaking her own nipples. The sight of Miranda touching herself as she came undone hit Andy straight between her legs.

When she peaked this time, Miranda hid nothing.

Nothing.

Andy watched in wonder as she saw all her love, her pain, her fears and her joy written across her face.

She loves me.

Andy stared at her, swallowing the unexpected swell of love she felt in return, her heart thudding.

The body beneath hers slowly came to rest. Still their eyes locked as Miranda looked down at her, into her, eyes blazing.

She loves me.

Andy smiled, a blinding smile, half against those still-twitching thighs. Miranda shifted back a bit and gazed affectionately down at her.

"I do, too," Andy told her earnestly, willing her to see the truth of the heartfelt declaration, still stroking her thighs with her fingers, unaware she was answering a statement her lover hadn't even uttered.

"Yes," Miranda said softly, and her eyes fluttered closed in relief. "Yes. Good. Me too, of course."

Of course.

Andy grinned happily.


MONTH FIVE

The opportunity to indulge herself in making love to Miranda had become more common.

The fashion boss might have gone back to work but her hours were far shorter for reasons she had not shared. And she was up to something. When wasn't she? But Andy knew a big scheme was being cooked when she smelt it.

All her pleas for Miranda to spill, even when she was busily kissing and licking her way down the fashion queen's squirming spine, were met with a low chuckle and a promise "It'll be better if it's a surprise. Please, darling, let me surprise you."

As if Andy could ever say no to a huskily whispered "please". Or "darling".

That didn't mean Andy wasn't averse to her own investigations. To that end, she and an equally curious Nigel had headed out for a night on the town, ostensibly to compare intel.

"She's training me," he admitted to her, after slamming down his second scotch with a satisfied grimace. "Properly this time. For her job. She says I've earned it. But I can't imagine her retiring. It's just so crazy. Runway without Miranda Priestly? Please, if that was true we'd have seen Irv doing handsprings down the hallway."

Andy shuddered at the visual image. "I don't think she's leaving. She loves fashion too much." She downed her cocktail – all pink and sugary and sweetly burning and god knows what else but oh how she'd missed her sugar trips - and tilted her empty glass towards the bar tender, silently requesting another.

Nigel eyed her curiously. "I've noticed since she's been back, her indulgent streak is wider."

"Huh?" Andy asked. "What do you mean?"

"Well, when she wants to spend time with the girls now, she just does it. You must have noticed her underfoot a lot more."

Andy frowned. Well that explained it. Miranda was often turning up randomly at home these days.

"That's not a bad thing – she should spend more time with the girls," Andy said a little defensively. "The hours she used to work were ridiculous."

"I know, I know," Nigel said and glanced around the bar, as if checking there were no eavesdroppers. "And she's taken to sending the rest of us home at a decent hour. I don't know what epiphanies she had while out there dodging sharks with you but my old friend is now a new woman. Less La Priestly, more ... La Human."

At Andy's intrigued look, Nigel expanded. "She doesn't even sack an assistant a month anymore. The other day Bess spilled coffee on her desk, it ran all over the photo shoot proofs I'd just put down. And she just stared at it, then at Bess, and said 'Well, I assume you're going to clean that up sometime before I retire?' And then she told me flatly to get her new copies of the prints."

Andy's eyes widened. "No shit."

"Yes shit," Nigel said placidly. "Does that sound like the La Priestly we all know and fear? But interesting choice of words, don't you think? 'Before I retire'?"

"Could be just a saying," Andy said dismissively. "Who knows the mysterious mind of Miranda?" She gave him a grin.

"Well I should think if anyone does, Six, it'd be you." He looked at her pointedly.

"Come on Nigel," Andy began, helplessly. "Not again."

"No, kiddo, you come on. I've been to your funeral so I earn the right as one of your nearest and dearest to say this: Everyone knows about you two. Everyone. Emily and I knew before anyone else, before you were a salacious headline."

"I don't…" Andy blushed. "We... Nigel, please…"

"I'm just saying, Six, I'm happy for you both. And if I didn't know you I'd say good luck ever being allowed to even peek out of her tiny little closet. But I do know you. And I know her. I see how much she's changed. And based on all this, I think it won't be long now before she cracks."

"Cracks?" Andy asked in alarm.

"Nothing so dramatic as you're imagining. Miranda is an impatient woman and while she has more time for human errors these days – like Bess's butter fingers – she has less time for the human race's stupidity and ignorance. Things like hiding who she is. She will not tolerate it much longer. She will out herself within the month, I think. Maybe less."

"Nigel you're mad. And you don't know anything."

"Am I? Please. If you two could only see how you look at each other. Always brushing fingers, leaning into each other's spaces, whispering little private jokes into each other's ears. If I didn't love you both so much it'd make me sick with jealousy. I have the love life of a garden gnome these days. Poor uptight Emily has to keep a supply of paper bags to hyperventilate into each time she sees you both get all intense."

"I… had no idea…"

"Well," Nigel shrugged, "people in love never do. So is it true you're both house hunting? Somewhere off the beaten track? And you've put an offer in? Ooh, did you try the East Hamptons? It has a verrry 'friendly' beach there, if you know what I mean?" His eyebrows did a waggle and Andy giggled.

"Nigel, honestly."

"Well if you won't talk real estate, tell me what you're doing these days to amuse yourself? I know you can afford to be a lady of leisure now."

Andy's face dropped. Yeah. The payout.

KLM's affiliate Kevo Senang Airways had settled with her and Miranda in a pair of multi-million-dollar payouts, with smaller settlements for the families of the victims. Miranda's lawyers had been utterly ruthless in tearing them apart and it had bankrupted the small airline. This gave Andy a certain grim satisfaction, given, due to its appalling safety record, no one else would ever have to go through what the passengers on Flight 2142 had.

Nigel was right. Andy was a very rich woman indeed now. But she'd have handed it all back in an instant if it would bring back 187 other passengers and crew.

As it was, Miranda had signed her own payout immediately over to the family of the dead air steward, Derrick, who'd died on the beach beside her on that first day. She had, as was her habit, said absolutely nothing about her reasons to Andy. Nothing about the time together on the beach at all.

Of course. Miranda, true to her word, still insisted on shielding Andy from her nightmares. Andy wondered if one day she could ever get her to open up about it.

Probably not.

Having lots of zeroes in her bank account did not change Andy's outlook on life. She still worked hard - just now as a freelancer, throwing herself into whatever feature article moved her. Initially she was getting published by magazines who wanted her for the name recognition value. "The shark hero" writing for them.

As time went on, and the quality of her writing shone, she began to get work for serious titles, in spite of who she was, not because of it. Miranda had told her she could not be prouder, which warmed Andy from the tips of her toes.

But, as Nigel pointed out so bluntly, she didn't actually have to work again if she didn't want to.

The main advantage of her wealth as she saw it was that she and Miranda could jointly put an offer in on the beach estate they'd looked at on the weekend. And the thought of having financial equality with her lover cheered Andy immensely.

She eyed Nigel as she sipped her fruity drink, her nose bumping into the ludicrous umbrella, and realised she hadn't answered him. "Still freelancing," she said as she put her glass down. "I'm thinking my next piece might be an exposé on the shocking treatment of assistants in the fashion magazine world. What do you think? Does it have legs?"

"Oh ha ha," Nigel snorted, "I'm just picturing Miranda's face when that one lands in Time or Vanity Fair. I think you'd be sleeping on the couch for a month." He snuck a knowing look at her.

"Nice try, Nigel," Andy retorted. Her sleeping arrangements had never been confirmed, however close to the mark Nigel usually hit on fishing expeditions during their nights out.

She sighed inwardly. It seemed ridiculous not being open to one of their dearest friends, especially when he pretty much knew everything anyway. But until Miranda finished whatever Machiavellian scheme she was cooking up at Runway, Andy guessed it was best to neither confirm nor deny anything. And, to his credit, Nigel seemed to understand and didn't mind. The unspoken agreement they had was she'd be upfront with him as soon as Miranda's deal went down.

She glanced at her watch. "Nige, I have to go. But if it helps with all your theories, Miranda told me tomorrow is D-Day. There'll be a press conference, the whole bit. So, I guess we'll both know what's happening then."

His face lit up with delight as he stood to give her a goodbye air kiss on each cheek. "OK, Six. I'll have you on speed dial if it's particularly salacious. And by the way, can I say you're looking especially well these days? The extra weight agrees with you."

"Don't let Emily hear you say that," Andy laughed. "She'd call you a traitor."

"Mmph," Nigel waved his hand. "You do actually carry off a size four beautifully. A few months back, though, you were looking too …"

"Shark foddery?" Andy offered with a grin.

"That too," Nigel said regretfully. "Look I'm just glad you bounced back. You had Miranda very worried there for a bit. Me too."

"But not Emily?" Andy teased.

"Please, she was green with envy. I'm half convinced she's this close to flinging herself out to sea on a raft for a month. The ultimate can't-fail diet."

Andy burst out laughing. "God, that woman, she needs more cheese in her life."

She gave Nigel a quick friendly hug and a wave and left.


The live televised press conference was a full-house in one of Runway's largest meeting rooms. Andy had decided to watch it with Doug who had been hankering to catch up more often since she'd returned to New York (and from the dead). They were at the bar around the corner from his work - he was on his lunch break - and they were glued to the wall TV.

Ordinarily Miranda Priestly making an announcement would be newsworthy anyway. But the fact the former castaway, back from the dead, was making her first press conference since being lost at sea, well, the media pack was almost panting with excitement.

"She looks so gorgeous in that Donna Karan," Doug sighed wistfully. "Don't you think?"

"Mmm mm," Andy concurred. "Blue in that shade always suited her. Matches her eyes."

He shot her a knowing look – a mirror of the one Nigel gave her yesterday, and she smirked at him. "Oh come on, I'm just saying. Look at her!"

He didn't disagree. They went back to watching as Miranda swept into the room, made her introductions, straightened her back, looked down the camera barrel and announced she was stepping down as Editor in Chief of Runway to spend more time with her family.

Her life priorities had shifted, she explained, and life was too short to waste.

Andy and Doug gasped in unison.

"Did you…" Doug began.

"I had no idea," Andy whispered. "I always thought they'd have to take her out still clinging to her desk."

And then came the next bombshell.

"Which is why," Miranda continued after the babble of the shocked and excited media in front of her died down, "I have agreed to take the position of CEO of Elias-Clarke and Chairman of the Board, taking over from Irv Ravitz, effective immediately. The enormously talented Nigel Kipling will be my replacement as Runway's new editor."

The gasps were almost comical.

"What happened to Irv!" came the first shout from a man in an ill-fitting suit and a five o'clock shadow.

"Mr Ravitz has decided to retire. If you check your inboxes the media e-release should be landing promptly."

"Holy…" Andy began.

"Shit," Doug concluded.

"She's boss of them all now," Andy said. "I see what she meant by the surprise would be worth it."

"You really didn't know? Even though you and she are…" He faded out. "Never mind. I don't wanna intrude Andy. But for what it's worth I think you're a great couple."

Before Andy could reply, another reporter was on his feet, asking a question with a smug expression. "Is it true Irv Ravitz wanted you gone when he found out you were screwing your assistant, Andy Sachs, who you are scandalously living with, I might add, so you took him down first? This was a pre-emptive strike?"

"Oh hell," Andy muttered.

"Oh fuck," Doug agreed. "He's about two seconds away from losing his balls."

Andy felt her heart leap into her throat.

Miranda's face had changed from placid to thunderous. She turned to stare at the journalist and gave him a glare that promised he and all his spawn would die a thousand painful deaths.

"That is not true," she said with a brittle, chipped tone. "And that was two questions. To answer your first, it's no secret Mr Ravitz and I have had our professional disagreements but I wish him and his wife Laura well personally in their new life together in retirement."

Her voice dropped to a lower chill.

"Your second question is about my, to quote, 'scandalously living with my assistant'. That is also not accurate."

Andy swallowed, her eyes wide. Doug peered at the screen in confusion. "She's going to deny it? But everyone knows! There's photos of you guys leaving the house together and stuff."

Andy stared at the screen. "Wait," she whispered. "There's always more."

"…I might be living with Andrea but there is no scandal involved. There is nothing shameful about living with the beautiful person I intend to spend the rest of my life with. The only scandal is that you and your colleagues seem to think there is one. That you want to make this into something shameful and tawdry. Don't be so ridiculous and crass. Get your puny, filthy minds out of the gutter.

"None of you know what we went through. I am not about to tell you – something you should thank me profoundly for because the nightmares would chill you to the bone. But I was changed. It made me reassess what truly matters and …" she glared at the man, "who and what does not. I do not have to explain myself to anyone but those I love. The only shame and scandal in this room comes from anyone who would debase themselves by asking such a disgraceful question. The shame is yours. Not mine. That's all."

She stalked off the stage, head held high, a deathly silence in her wake. The looks on the faces of the reporters made Andy's jaw drop. They all stared at the floor like guilty, whipped puppies. Miranda Priestly had actually somehow shamed a room full of journalists.

Andy and Doug locked eyes in amazement.

"Look at them," he whispered. "And that douchebag who asked the question is actually flushing. And getting dirty looks from the rest!"

"Serves him right."

Andy's cell phone leapt into life as texts and calls slammed it across the bar.

"Hell Andy," Doug whispered, still staring at the TV. "You are one lucky woman," he grinned, turning and beaming at her. "Did you see her face? Like she'd cut them all to the quick if they dared slur her woman. Who, and I quote, she wants to 'spend the rest of her life with'."

"Holy shit," Andy repeated slowly. "She did say that. To the whole world! Oh my God."

She glanced at her phone, her eyes widening. Twelve messages and counting – including her mother and Nigel.

"I guess Nigel was right," she said softly. "She was pretty sick of hiding."

Doug grinned at her. "Really happy for you, sweetie."

Andy grinned stupidly back at him. "Wow. Just wow."


MONTH SIX

Andy reached the ground floor in her ongoing search for Miranda, although she had a pretty good idea where to find her. Where once she might have looked for her in her home office, crouched over The Book, those days were long past. Ever since Miranda got her new job there had been a lot more time to take it easy. And pre-dawn or late-evening Book perusals were a thing of the past.

Andy had not been filled in entirely on the minutiae that had taken place to unseat Irv but she knew why it happened.

Miranda had been furious when Nigel told her one night over dinner that it had been within the man's means to launch a professional air search for them but he had chosen not to "for budgetary reasons".

Miranda had growled, through gritted teeth, that she would never EVER forgive the man for almost making her twins motherless, and for almost robbing Andy of her life.

Less than a fortnight later, Miranda Priestly had eased herself into the man's executive leather seat with a satisfied sigh and decreed it had all worked out the way it was meant to be.

Nigel had well and truly earned Miranda's old job, she said. Emily now had Nigel's art director job, and to Andy's considerable surprise, had taken to it like a fish to water. Apparently the only thing that had ever truly held her back was a paralyzing fear of disappointing the superiors she worshipped. Now that she was her own department boss, she was thriving.

Meanwhile, Miranda reigned supreme above them all. If she missed the cut and thrust of the day-to-day Runway operations she gave no sign of it, seemingly content to spend more time at home, with her girls, or sleeping in with Andy and staring out at their magnificent ocean view. She particularly loved taking walks on the beach with her family.

Some days Andy couldn't believe she lived where she did. It was a $20 million estate, for god's sake. Her mother's face had mirrored her own feelings when she'd finally ventured up for her first visit.

The day she'd shown her mother around her new home, Ellen had clutched her arm tightly, eyes wide at the heated swimming pool, tennis court, six bedrooms and stunning views and mumbled "Good lord'' over and over.

Yeah, Andy sure knew that feeling.

But when the tour had eventually wound past Andy's and Miranda's (clearly shared) bedroom, photos of the pair of them adorning the wall, her mother's eyes grew speculative and then something else flickered in their brown depths.

Her mother patted her hand. "I'm glad you decided to follow your heart, dear, and if it's with Miranda, so be it. I'm at peace with that now. Life's too short to do any less. And I do quite like my two new grandchildren."

Andy grinned at her occasionally conservative mother and shook her head. The world never ceased to amaze her.

Sometime later, much later, Miranda had revealed that during her visit, Ellen had cornered Runway's imposing new CEO somewhere between the swimming pool and tennis court. She'd taken Miranda's hands in hers and, eyes brimming with tears, had thanked her over and over for saving her daughter's life. There had been actual cheek cupping, sobbing, an entire meltdown, much to Miranda's acute discomfort and dismay.

Andy still smirked at the thought of Miranda caught in her effusive mother's avalanche of gratitude.

Well, she deserved it. She was a hero after all. A small fact she'd gone to great pains to point out to Miranda's daughters who oohed and ahhed with wide eyes every time Andy mentioned it.

Miranda would always merely roll her eyes and suggest her "easily impressed girls" do "something productive with their time instead of indulging in tall tales". Which made Andy beam with delight, because Miranda had referred to all three of them as 'her girls'.

The fondness she felt when she thought about how great life was burned in her chest every day.


Andy found Miranda exactly where she expected to. In the front room, stretched out on the couch, curtains pulled wide open to take in the glorious panorama that was a sunrise in this impressive house. The front room, with its glass triple french doors, caught all the light and would fill up brightly each morning.

Andy leaned against the door of the lounge and watched Miranda curled up on the couch watching the dawn light filling the room with color. Miranda did so love her colors.

"I know you're there," Miranda said softly. "Come join me?"

Andy smiled. She crawled onto the couch and let herself be wrapped into the older woman's arms.

"It's going to be a beautiful one today," Miranda whispered. "Rustic pinks I suspect. Yesterday's was more burnt ochre."

"Mmm," Andy murmured against the silk pajama top and buried her head there. "Sounds great."

She felt the low chuckle reverberate through Miranda's chest. "You're not even looking at nature's beauty."

Andy lifted her head slightly off her lover's chest and peered at the firm swells beneath her nose. "I beg to differ."

She felt a warm hand stroke her hair. "Ah, my mistake."

Andy grinned and dropped her head back against the pale skin in the vee of the silk. She felt her eyes droop.

"You're missing it," Miranda said, still softly petting her hair.

"On the contrary," Andy mumbled. "I'm making the most of absolutely everything that truly matters." Her grip tightened around Miranda and she nuzzled her chest.

She felt the tender kiss against her temple which dusted down to her lips. She smiled happily as sleep overtook her.

God it was good to be alive.

THE END