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The Proposal

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Miranda sat on her beach towel, a small smile playing on her lips. The afternoon sun shone down warmly, and she felt a slight breeze moving through her hair. The four of them had decided to use their last full day in Sicily to simply relax. Much like every other area of her life, Miranda usually preferred a bit more structure on her vacations. However, Andréa had managed to lure the girls into the idea with promises of sand castles and sea shell hunting.

Her book lay abandoned in the sand next to her as she watched Andréa and Caroline swim nearby. Or rather, as Caroline attempted to swim and Andréa waded nearby offering encouragement.

Miranda had hired countless swimming coaches over the years, had even attempted teaching her daughter herself, but there was nothing for it. Caroline was terrified of the water. She always had been. Until now, apparently. Miranda had no idea what the younger woman had told Caroline to talk her into finally giving it a go in the Mediterranean Sea, of all places, but she knew better than to question it.

She turned to her left to see her other daughter spread out on her own towel, engrossed in a book as usual. Apparently, Andréa had brought with her a few selections she thought the twins would particularly enjoy. Both of her children loved to read; however, Cassidy was undoubtedly the more bookish of the two. A quick glance told Miranda that today’s pick was Tuck Everlasting.

Miranda listened to the quiet sound of the waves lapping against the sand, and considered what a success the last few days had been. Inviting Andréa along had been a relatively last-minute decision, albeit one she had been considering for quite some time.

Miranda knew that she desperately needed to relax this week; a feat which was difficult for her even at the best of times. But she also knew that, with Andréa an ocean away, her mind would never be fully at ease. Ever since that fateful day in November—the day she tried so hard to forget—being separated from her assistant for more than a few days was nothing short of unbearable.

She had almost lost Andréa that day. And of all the many days that had passed since then, not a single one went by when Miranda did not think of her. Dream of her. Worry for her wellbeing. For her happiness, of all things. It was exceptionally irksome.

And so Miranda invited her along on the trip. She told herself it was only to ease her anxiety, and told everyone else that it was only business. Both of these were only half-truths, however. For the real truth was that somehow, without even trying, Andréa had managed to do what so many before her had failed to; she had wriggled her way into the depths of Miranda Priestly’s heart. She made herself at home in each crack, in every little crevice. Without even meaning to Andréa poured herself into Miranda’s very core, and made her feel whole in a way that she hadn’t in quite some time.

Miranda felt a hand brushing gently through her hair, and opened her eyes to see the woman in question kneeling next to her. Though Andréa had never once touched her this way before, Miranda didn’t stop to question it. It felt far too lovely for that. Much the same way, she didn’t question the way that Andréa quite literally glowed. The sky around them had darkened, and the other woman shone brighter than even the moon.

Andréa, turned silvery by the light of her own glow, held out her hand. Miranda grasped onto it immediately, and she was struck by how very warm it felt, how very right.

They were walking now, and Miranda realized that she was being led towards a sandcastle. It was several stories tall—Miranda had to crane her neck to see it properly. The castle, though made of sand, was the most magnificent Miranda had ever seen. Every inch, from the tallest tower to the smallest brick, contained intricate designs filled with swirls of color. Much like its maker, the castle shone against the darkness of the night.

Miranda paused as a thought occurred to her. “The girls,” She asked, “Where are they?”

Andréa smiled, quelling all fear as she led them through the portcullis. Apparently, the answer to her question lay within.

~

Miranda was jarred awake by the sound of her phone ringing. Like every day, her alarm this morning was set for 5:30 am. She never worried about putting her phone on silent because usually, others calling before she awakened wasn’t an issue.

Who in god’s name is calling me this early?

Her dreams quickly faded into nothing, and with them any sense of ease they brought. Not even bothering to open her eyes, she grasped blindly on her nightstand in search of the offending noise. Finally, she found it.

What?” She snapped.

“Good morning, sunshine,” Came Nigel’s voice over the line, “Aren’t we chipper this morning?”

“Nigel.” Miranda’s voice was gravelly with sleep as she spoke, “Make no mistake. Just because I no longer have the power to fire you does not mean that I can’t still make your life hell.”

“Ah, how I’ve missed our little chats.” The man sounded downright cheery, “I’d almost forgotten how sweet you can be before you’ve been caffeinated.”

“May I ask why you are calling me at—” She grudgingly opened one eye to peek at the clock and resisted the urge to groan. “—4:47 in the morning?”

“I’m not sure Miranda,” Nigel said lightly, “May I ask when you were planning to tell me that you’re marrying our dear Andy?”

“Ah.” Well, now she was certainly awake.

Miranda sat up, rubbing her eyes. She doubted that she’d managed even three hours of sleep the whole night, and she could feel the ache of exhaustion in her bones.

 “I’m a little surprised it took you so long to find out, honestly,” She admitted, stifling a yawn. “I told Irv nearly twenty-four hours ago. It seems you’ve lost your touch.”

She paused, tapping her lip in thought. “Who told you?”

“I’ll never tell,” He replied smoothly. “But I will tell you that both Danielle and Emily owe me a very handsome sum.”

“What are you talking about?” It’s entirely too early for this, she thought.

“We had a wager, you see. Emily was absolutely convinced that you and Six were merely fucking.” Miranda’s eyes widened, barely resisting the urge to gasp in shock. She wasn’t sure she would ever get used to how incredibly blunt her friend could be about these things when it suited him.

“Obviously, I knew better than that.” Nigel carried on casually, “Any idiot could see you’re head over heels for the girl. Well, not any idiot, apparently.”

Miranda was stunned into silence, but Nigel didn’t seem to notice.

“Dani, though. Smart girl, that one. She knew as well as I did that there was something between you two. She’s around the two of you too much not to, really,” He admitted.

“But she didn’t think you two would come clean about your relationship until at least the new year.” Nigel sounded entirely too pleased with himself, “She doesn’t know you like I do, though.”

“Nigel,” Miranda found her voice again, and worked to make it frosty as possible. Not too difficult a task, considering how resentful she was to being awake at this hour. “Am I to understand that you were taking bets on my love life? With my employees, of all people?”

“C’mon, Miranda,” Nigel’s good spirits were apparently not to be dampened this morning, “Live a little. You just earned me $200. What do you say I take you out for drinks to celebrate?”

“Yes, well, as lovely as that sounds,” Miranda quipped, “Unfortunately a flight to London and back simply won’t fit in my schedule today. Perhaps if you start swimming now, you can make it across the Atlantic in time for a late lunch.”

“Did no one tell you?” He asked, “We’ll be in town all next week. Kevin and I are popping by my family in Providence just long enough to say that we went, and we’ll be spending the rest of the week in Manhattan.”

Miranda didn’t even bother resisting a groan this time. “Of course. The first time you come home in nearly a year, and I’ll be in Cincinnati, of all places.” She all but spat the word.

“It would have been so nice to catch up with you.” She continued with sincerity, “And Kevin. God, I don’t think I’ve seen him since your wedding.”

“Miranda, I’m touched.” Nigel’s voice softened.

The two of them had been friends for nearly a quarter of a century at this point—he was one of the precious few people that Miranda genuinely enjoyed spending time with. Rarer still, Nigel was someone around whom Miranda was entirely comfortable. Or as comfortable as she ever was, anyhow.

He knew Miranda when she was still just Miranda, rather than Miranda Priestly: Ice Queen, Editor-In-Chief, and Dragon Lady Extraordinaire. He knew things about her that no one else did, and never once had he attempted to use that as leverage against her. In short, Nigel was her best friend.

“So Six roped you into meeting the family then, did she?” He asked.

“Yes. And we’re apparently going camping. Camping, Nigel.” Miranda’s voice came dangerously close to whining.

“Camping? As in, sleeping outside? In nature? Where dirt lives?” Nigel was clearly amused.

“Stop that.” She snapped.

He mock-gasped, “And spiders? I’ve heard that spiders live there, too, Miranda.”

She rolled her eyes. “Has anyone ever told you how unbearable you are?”

Nigel roared with laughter, and Miranda very seriously considered hanging up.

“You’re serious, aren’t you?” Nigel’s voice still shook with laughter, “She’s truly forcing you to go camping? Has she ever even met you?”

Miranda didn’t deign to respond, choosing instead to study the striped pattern of her azure and cream comforter.

“And what do the girls think about this development?” He asked more seriously.

She sighed. “I’ll let you know when I do.”

There was a hum of acknowledgement from the other line. “Good luck with that one. Do they suspect?”

“Of course not,” She snapped. “I do know how to be subtle, Nigel.”

Nigel laughed again. “Subtle? You’re joking, right?”

“I don’t see why I would joke about something like this.” She scoffed.

“Miranda, you light up like a Christmas tree every time the woman walks into a room.” He said seriously, “You let her ride in the elevator with you. The two of you can barely keep your eyes off each other—and let me tell you, it can get incredibly uncomfortable being a third wheel with you two. The tension there…”

He paused, “There’s nothing subtle about it, my friend. I’d been wondering for ages, but after that awful day last November, when Andy had to get her appendix removed? I knew. Absolutely no doubt about it, you were a goner.”

Miranda winced. She remembered that day well, though she tried not to. It had been one of the most terrifying of her life. Andréa’s appendix burst while she was sitting at her desk, and the stubborn girl waited so long to seek medical attention that she had very nearly died. Miranda had been an absolute mess.

“That was when I knew, as well.” She admitted.

Miranda had gone with Andréa to the hospital, stayed waiting for hours until her surgery was complete, until the doctors were absolutely certain that she would be alright. That she would live.

Miranda said quietly, “That day changed much.”

She remembered trying to distract herself by checking emails, or going through the virtual copy of the Book, but failing miserably. Instead, she spent her time pacing the dingy little waiting room and concentrating on breathing, trying desperately to think of nothing at all. Her mind just kept flashing back to the agonized look on Andréa’s face as they rushed to the emergency room in the back of the town car, and Miranda felt like her chest was caving in with the pain of it.

It was on that day that Miranda had learned for certain: She no longer had any interest in a world that did not have Andréa Sachs in it.

Miranda had no doubt she could survive without the girl—after all, she’d managed well enough for 48 years before meeting her. Even the darkest night seemed bright enough for one who had never seen the sun. But Miranda had seen dawn break in the brightness of Andréa’s smile, and knew that she would never again take comfort in the dark.

She shook her head, attempting to clear it of her overly sentimental thoughts. Coffee. I need coffee.

Nigel, apparently feeling sentimental himself, broke the silence. “We’ve done pretty well for ourselves, haven’t we, Miranda?” She could hear his smile even over the phone.

She felt a twinge of guilt for lying to her friend, but there was nothing for it. The man hadn’t given her a chance to confess even if she’d wanted to, and she wasn’t so sure that she did. “Yes, I suppose we have.”

“I remember years ago, after your ex left. What was her name? Karen? Kelly?”

Miranda pursed her lips. Things had not ended well with that particular ex (As if things ever ended well with any of them, she thought bitterly), and she preferred to avoid dwelling on it whenever possible.

“Kathleen,” She said tightly.

“Ah, yes. Kathy. How could I forget?” Nigel continued.

“I remember after Kathy left, when you decided to go back into the closet. You wilted that day. It was terrible to watch. I understand why you did it, don’t get me wrong. But still… terrible.” The man sounded downright wistful. “These last two years, though? You’ve been positively blooming, Miranda.”

Now it was apparently Miranda’s turn to feel touched. She felt her eyes prickle with tears at his words, and was grateful that this conversation was occurring over the phone. She wasn’t sure what was making her more emotional: That Nigel was right or that he was also so, so wrong.

Miranda was momentarily spared from the need to respond by the shrieking of the alarm next to her. Reaching to turn it off, she did her best to pull herself together.

“Thank you, Nigel. Really. I need to be going now, but how long will you be in the city next week? Perhaps we can see each other before you run away again.”

“We’ll arrive in New York on Wednesday morning, and have a flight back to London for late Sunday night. Don’t worry, we’ll figure something out,” He assured her. “A trip home wouldn’t be complete without getting to see you and the new Mrs. Priestly.”

She rolled her eyes yet again, feeling thoroughly unamused. “Goodbye, Nigel.” She really did hang up on him this time.

 ----------------- 

Andy stepped into the office Thursday morning to see the all too familiar sight of Serena and Emily chatting with Danielle. Upon spotting Andy, Emily hopped down from where she had been perched atop the second assistant’s desk to march over to her.

“Andy.” Her voice was full of false sweetness, “I got a very interesting call this morning from Nigel. He said he had news, and he was apparently so excited to share that he couldn’t wait to call until after 6:00 o’clock in the morning like a decent bloody human. Would you like to know what he told me?”

She was pretty sure she knew where this was going. Sitting at her desk, Andy just nodded. She’d learned through years of trial and error that it was usually best to just let Emily get it out of her system.

“He told me that you and Miranda are engaged. Engaged, Andy.” Emily was glaring at her accusingly.

“Of course, I thought to myself: ‘No, Emily, that can’t be true. Don’t be ridiculous. After all, Andy would have had the decency to at least mention it to one of us if she were shacking up with our sodding boss,’” She gesticulated wildly, “So imagine my surprise when I check the facts and, what do you know? Nigel was right.”

Emily crossed her arms, apparently waiting for a response.

“When were you going to tell us, Andy?” Came Danielle’s gentle southern lilt from where she still sat at her desk, “I mean, you have to have been together for at least a few months by now. I understand wanting to keep it quiet, but why not tell us? You know we’d never tell a soul.”

Andy looked at her face and was surprised by the hurt she saw there. Dani could generally be counted upon to be damn near unflappable.

Andy winced. “I’m really sorry, guys. I am. I just…” She thought quickly, “It wasn’t really my secret to tell, you know? Miranda wasn’t ready to come out of the closet yet. I wasn’t going to force her.”

As if anyone could force Miranda to do anything, Andy thought bitterly.

Serena, who until now had been listening silently, spoke up. “So… it wasn’t because you were worried about your job? You weren’t worried about us telling someone?” She gave Andy a searching look, concern written on her features.

Andy breathed a sigh of relief. “No. No, I wasn’t worried about that at all. I mean—obviously people finding out could’ve put my job in jeopardy— but I knew you guys wouldn’t do that to me.” She shook her head, “I just wanted to respect Miranda’s privacy, that’s all. I’ve been outed before, and it’s terrible. I’d never do that to someone.” Andy was impressed. Usually her lying skills were god awful at best.

Andy watched their faces as the other three women considered her words for a moment.

As usual, Emily was the first to speak up. “Well now I feel like a right bloody bitch. Thanks, Andy.”

The look of hurt on Danielle’s face had been replaced with one of contemplation. She scratched at her short brown afro as she spoke, “Well, I guess that if you’re going to keep something so important from us for so long… then that’s a pretty good reason.”

“It’s okay, guys. Really,” Andy reassured them. It did little to remove the unhappy looks from Emily and Danielle’s faces, though.

She honestly hadn’t even considered how her friends would feel about her supposedly hiding something so huge from them. Obviously Andy wasn’t glad to have hurt their feelings, but… regardless, she felt her heart warmed by their concern.

Serena chuckled, and they all turned to face her in surprise. “Don’t worry, Andy,” She said, still leaning against Danielle’s desk, “We’re all very happy for you. These two are just annoyed because they were stupid enough to make a bet with Nigel, and now they’re both broke.”

The dirty looks shot at Serena by the other two women only confirmed her statement.

Andy snorted ungracefully, “What?

“So tell us, Andy,” Danielle cut in quickly, “Which one of you proposed? You’ve got to tell us the story. And where’s your ring?”

Before Andy could call her friend out for her transparent attempt at a distraction, she saw Miranda walking through the doors. The other women saw this as well and quickly righted themselves: hopping off of desks, straightening their postures, patting down any flyaway hairs.

Hardly bothering to look up as she made her way across the office, Miranda tossed her things onto Danielle’s desk before turning to survey the room. She pursed her lips.

“Is there some sort of last minute meeting I wasn’t informed of, Danielle?” She asked in that quiet way of hers.

The second assistant cleared her throat. “No, Miranda.”

“Well.” Miranda cocked her head, “Then I fail to see why you’ve all flocked in here like a group of hens. Especially you, Emily,” She turned her icy gaze toward the redhead, “When your department has still failed to show me even one decent color palette for the January issue. I suppose you’ve become desperate enough to seek advice from my assistants, now?”

Emily turned bright red. “No, Miranda. Sorry, Miranda. I’ll go work on that right now.” She turned to flee, but Miranda held up a hand. She stopped in her tracks.

“I’m only going to say this once,” Miranda started. She looked at Danielle, Serena, and Emily in turn.

“I understand that the three of you are… close with Andréa.” She said, “And I know that Andréa and I are… well, that she’s my—” Miranda flapped a hand wordlessly, clearly unsure how to say what she was thinking.

“Fiancée?” Andy provided helpfully. She did her best not to smirk and how clearly uncomfortable this conversation was making the older woman.

“Yes. That.” Miranda huffed, “Just because Andréa is my fiancée does not mean that you should hope to receive any sort of special treatment. My expectations have not changed.”

It was getting harder not to smirk, because Andy was pretty sure that getting ‘special treatment’ from Miranda Priestly was the absolute last thing that any of her friends would ever have expected. The looks of shocked confusion on their faces confirmed this fact, and Andy had to bite her lip in her effort to keep a poker face.

“That’s all.” Miranda retreated into her office before any of them could think up a response, and closed the door behind her. It looked like it would be yet another day of Miranda awkwardly ignoring Andy’s existence. From the way she’d been behaving since their return to Runway yesterday afternoon, you would think it had been Andy who’d forced the engagement upon her.

Andy watched while Serena and Emily fled the premises, and looked over to see Dani working determinedly at one task or another. She paused to enjoy the fleeting moment of peace before sighing and returning to her work.