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More Than Just Baggage

Chapter Text

Something had happened.

Andy knew that something must have happened; knew it from the way Miranda suddenly seemed to deflate as she answered the call. Her pursed lips had nothing to do with the beautiful rosé gown Zac was showing. Nigel was practically vibrating with fervour in his seat, but Miranda suddenly stood and walked from the room.

As quickly as everything stopped, Andy waved them on, leaving Nigel to watch the last half while she tried to work out what had happened to their illustrious leader. She found Miranda, stood before a window, listening intently into the phone with one arm wrapped around her middle.

Checking the corridor for people, Andy walked quietly up to her side and touched her arm, just briefly so she would know she was there. Miranda hardly looked up, but reached out with her arm and took Andy's other hand as she spoke quietly, softly.

Six months ago, Andy would have baulked at the continued hand-clasp Miranda had on her, but now she'd come to yearn for it. A lot had happened since she'd come crawling back after leaving Miranda in Paris. She'd left her with the intention of returning to the States and finding a 'real' job, but as she logged onto the net to purchase her plane ticket home, she couldn't bring herself to do it. She'd marched to Miranda's room, knocked once before barging in, and practically demanded that Miranda take her back.

She'd blushed later when she'd returned to her room; her behaviour had been atrocious but the message had been received. When Miranda rang her later, she demanded something totally accessible in a thinly-veiled attempt to have Andy talk to her for a moment. It became a pattern. Before a big event or function, Miranda would pull Andy aside and wait. It took Andy ten minutes the first time to realise that Miranda was waiting for her, and so she'd started rattling off the arrangements for the evening but had barely started when Miranda shook her head.

"Tell me something else," she'd said quietly.

Andy had looked confused for a moment before taking in the barely-there twitch Miranda had in the corner of her left eye and realised Miranda needed to take her mind off the speech she was about to make. So she'd talked about her childhood cat of all things. By the time she was finished, Andy's hands were shaking, but Miranda didn't seem to notice; taking Andy's hand in her own and squeezing it gently.

"Thank you," she'd said, disappearing into the crowd and up to her seat where she gave her speech without so much of a stumble.

Everything had changed after that night. The quiet conversations that were originally reserved for speech-making had bled into their everyday lives, taking over some of their car and elevator rides together, and even some of the late nights when Andy delivered The Book.

And so it didn't surprise Andy that much when Miranda touched her hand, but it did rather startle her when she held on for dear life. Scenarios of doom and gloom ran through Andy's head in an instant and she desperately hoped that the twins were alright. She stayed by her boss for another five minutes before Miranda hung up the phone and looked out of the window once more, remaining silent, still clinging to Andy's hand.

"Alec and his wife were in an accident. They're dead," she said three minutes later.

Andy frowned, wondering which Alec they were talking about until it hit her between the eyes.

"Your ex-husband?"

"Hmm," she said quietly, refusing to look up.

"I'm so sorry Miranda," Andy whispered, squeezing the smaller hand in hers.

"They had three children," Miranda scoffed, finally looking away from the vista and dropping Andy's hand. "Three children and do you know who they named as guardian? Me."

"You?" Andy repeated dumbly, looking at the way Miranda rolled her eyes, though without the malice she usually had.

"Can you believe it? I haven't seen Alec for nearly six years and in that time he's had time to spawn three children, but not find a suitable guardian for them. It's ridiculous of course, I won't be taking them, but it is so like him."

"What? Miranda, I -"

"I don't wish to talk about this anymore. Thank you for your comfort Andréa. Excuse me."

Andy watched as Miranda stalked back into Zac's showroom, leaving her in the corridor with her head reeling. She would make some phone calls back at the office for there was nothing that she could do now, but she desperately hoped that Miranda had simply been too stressed to deal with the information for the time being. God knows anything was better than abandoning three children who had just lost both their parents.

Andy knew how that felt. Intimately.

-0-

The rest of the day had gone much the same way. Miranda had soldiered on, as though the news of her ex-husband's death had not phased her, but Andy knew better. She could see the tension building in Miranda's head and shoulders, and before Miranda could send out for coffee again - her fifth of the day - Andy had brewed her a chamomile tea and poured it into a spare Starbucks cup that she had on hand for that very purpose.

She smirked as she left Miranda's office, hearing the tiny sigh as she took her first sip. Crisis averted.

"Hiya Six," Nigel said, sitting on the edge of her desk as he always did when he gossip to share, or a new date for her to go on.

"Afternoon Nigel," she sighed, with a barely concealed smile.

"So I know this guy -"

"No," Andy said, cutting him off as she sat down behind her desk.

"But -"

"No," she said again, getting up to go to the printer to fetch the schedule for tomorrow. "I don't need you to set me up, I'm perfectly happy as I am. Besides which, if he's anything like Jean-Pierre was, then quite frankly, you suck as my fairy-godfather."

"He's not like Jean, I promise," Nigel chuckled.

"I can't believe you'd think I'd listen to anything you have to say after you sent me on a date with a man who picked up more numbers from guys than I did," Andy growled.

"Yes that was a little unfortunate," Nigel agreed with a snigger.

"Andréa!"

Andy tapped Nigel's chin so his mouth shut as Miranda called out for her, interrupting them and summoning her into the lion's den.

"Yes Miranda?"

"Has he not given up yet?" she asked, leaning back in her chair with a hint of amusement dancing in her eyes.

"No, he hasn't," Andy smiled, happy that Miranda's mood seemed to have evaporated with her tea.

"Are you bringing the book tonight? The girls would like you to look at their English assignments. Why they won't let me go through them first I can't imagine, but they have asked for you, and as such, I am also asking you."

Andy smiled. The girls were, as they had always been since Andy had first met them, royal terrors. They did, however, grow on you once you got past the scary twin thing. Since Andy had started trying to win them over after that fateful day at the house delivering The Book, they had become firm friends and often regaled Andy with tales of their day as Miranda watched on.

"They just don't want their Mom looking at their homework," Andy soothed gently.

Miranda hummed, glaring a little at Andy's cheekiness.

"I think it's something to do with wanting to strike out on their own," she added.

"They're 13!" Miranda deadpanned.

"Yes, but they're going on 23," Andy chuckled. "I'll help them, don't worry."

"Would you -" Miranda paused and shook her head. "No, never mind."

"No, it's okay," Andy nodded. "Go on."

"I was wondering if you would like to join us for dinner tonight. Perhaps help the girls with their homework, and then Roy can drive you back to pick up The Book?"

"I," Andy stopped, looking at Miranda with some interest.

They had so far not blurred the lines between work and social. Not completely anyway. The talks and the hand-holding were signs of comfort for two very lonely women, and although Andy wasn't completely immune to the effect's Miranda's touch had on her, she reconciled the thought with herself that she was just going that little bit further as an assistant.

"I would love to," she answered quickly before she, or Miranda, could second-guess herself.

"Alright, if you would wait until whats-her-name has finished then join us at the townhouse, we'd be delighted to have you."

Andy simply smiled and nodded as she left the room, forgetting that Nigel had been there the whole time.

"That was interesting," he said absently.

"Not really," she said, pressing a kiss to his cheek to take the sting out of her next words. "Goodbye Nigel."

"Yeah, 'night Six," he said, shaking his head as he exited the outer office.

Andy sat down and rearranged the keyboard a little before looking over at Melody. Miranda knew her name perfectly well, but Andy couldn't help but smile at all the things she called her instead of her actual name. Emily had been promoted shortly after they had returned from Paris, and was now working under Nigel. They'd developed a sort of friendship now that she wasn't grovelling at Miranda's feet, but Andy had an inkling it was the subtle gentleness of Serena that was rubbing off on her. So to speak.

As soon as the clock hit 17:26 Andy stood up to retrieve Miranda's coat and bag. It was actually the job of the second assistant to gather Miranda's things, but Andy couldn't bring herself to tell Melody this. There was something so gallant about getting out Miranda's coat and waiting with it, before helping her slip it on and up over her shoulders, smoothing the collar slightly before pressing the purse into her hand.

"Goodnight Miranda," Andy said quietly as she did the very thing she was just thinking about.

"And to you Andréa," Miranda whispered. "I'll send Roy back."

"No, you don't have to -"

"Andréa?" she said, turning slightly to meet Andy's eyes. "I'll send Roy back."

Andy grinned then, realising that although the tone had been gentle it had not been a request.

"Yes, Miranda."

"Good."

The iconic woman nodded once, checked that she had her phone in her purse and strode towards the elevator. Andy stood there like an idiot watching as the doors closed, before letting out a breath she didn't know she was holding.

"Oh dear," she sighed.

Chapter Text

Andy stood at the door, looking at the key in her hand. It felt strange to let herself into Miranda's house when she wasn't there for work, and yet, the more she looked down at the little silver key the more she thought maybe Miranda would want her to let herself in, so she wouldn't be disturbed.

"I believe the answer is 42."

Andy jumped, literally off the ground and landed with her heels just slightly off the top step.

"Crap," she groaned as she felt herself toppling backwards.

"Andréa!"

She was floating. Andy was sure of it, because she scrunched up her eyes, expecting the impact, except it hadn't happened yet. She cracked open her eyes to find Miranda's hand gripping tightly onto her coat sleeve.

"Andréa, I don't have all night."

Blushing violently, Andy got her feet back under control and stood, blushing even more as she saw the little smirk turning up the corners of Miranda's mouth.

"I thought you'd finally learnt to live in heels."

"You can't expect a girl to not fall at your feet every time you appear in front of them."

It was only after Miranda took her coat, did she realise how that sounded. She shook her head as she followed Miranda into the downstairs sitting room.

She sat down in what she had come to think of as 'her' chair. They always occupied the same space no matter what they were doing. Andy would perch on the end of the sofa, and Miranda would have the armchair. Andy had no qualms about settling into the comfortable lounge and was soon smiling as Miranda handed her a mug of tea.

"The girls are just finishing up their other homework and then they'll join us. By the way, don't think I didn't know what you were doing earlier," Miranda said as she too sat down.

Andy suddenly felt very sick. She had no idea what she had been doing today, so how could Miranda know.

"The tea," she quipped and Andy let out another breath.

"Oh, yeah. You looked like you could use it. What did you mean before, about the answer?" she asked, trying to divert attention away from her clammy palms and her beating heart.

"The answer to the question of the universe," she said off hand. "What is wrong with you today?" Miranda said, getting up and joining Andy on the sofa. "You've been off since we returned from Zac's. Are you ill? Did he say something to you? Something untoward? You need to tell me Andréa, I'll sort it out."

"No, no, nothing happened, just a long day I guess," Andy said with a sigh. Despite whatever this 'thing' was that they were doing, Andy couldn't help but think of those three small children, probably still hanging about in a hospital after learning that their parents had died. "I just, it doesn't matter." Andy shook her head and busied herself with her laptop bag. "Do you know what the girls are doing their assignments on?"

"I have no idea, what is the matter?"

"Nothing," she tried again. "I totally would never have picked you for a Douglas Adams fan."

"Andréa, do not brush me off. I would like you to tell me as there is obviously something going on in that head of yours."

"Well, I can't, can I?" Andy snapped, closing her eyes the minute she said anything.

"Why not?" Miranda asked, looking genuinely perplexed. "Is it something with work? Would you like me to fire Nigel for talking about personal affairs while you are trying to work?"

"God, will you just stop?" Andy spat, getting up and putting a little space between them. "It's nothing to do with work, or Zac, or anything alright?"

"You are angry at me," Miranda said, tilting her head to the side like she did when she was trying to determine which of Patrick's shots were the more useful. "Why are you angry at me?"

"I told you, I don't want to talk about it!"

As luck would have it, two whirlwinds entered the sitting room at the very next moment, saving Andy from having to explain herself. Miranda frowned over the top of the twin's heads, but said nothing further, quietly excusing herself from the room while the girls, and Andy, worked.

"Hey Andy?" Caroline asked as they put the finishing touches on their assignments.

"Hey Caroline?" Andy replied in fashion, making the twin grin.

"Are you and Mom like, friends?"

Andy sighed.

"Yeah I guess. I mean, I'm one of your Mom's friends."

"She doesn't have any," Cassidy said, frowning as she rewrote a paragraph. "You're her only one. And she talks about you all the time."

"Well, it's better to have one awesome friend than ten not so awesome ones, right?"

"I guess. I have Katie and Cass has Michael," Caroline nodded. "You have Mom and Mom has you."

"Something like that," Andy muttered as Miranda breezed back in.

"Girls, it's nearly dinnertime. Go up and wash your hands and Andréa and I will meet you in the kitchen."

"Yes Mom," they said in stereo, escaping from the room and leaving Miranda and Andy staring awkwardly at anything but each other.

"Would you still like to stay for dinner?" Miranda asked quietly.

"I already told the girls I would," Andy said with a shrug. "If it's still alright with you?"

"I invited you in the first place Andréa," Miranda huffed.

"Yes, and now things are not as they were."

"Are they not?" Miranda called over her shoulder, leaving Andy alone in the sitting room. How was she ever supposed to win against the most impossible woman on the planet?

-0-

Dinner was tense, but the twins carried it marvellously. Between their entertaining anecdotes about their classmates and Miranda's occasional droll comment about a parent or teacher, they managed to get away with not talking to each other until everyone had taken their plates to the dishwasher.

Cara had gone home before dinner, so Andy loaded the last few things and wiped down the counters.

"Right, up to bed, brush your teeth and I'll be up soon to tuck you in," Miranda said, kissing both of her girls on the head.

"We don't need you to Mom," Caroline whined, making Miranda's face fall a little.

"Yeah, we're not babies anymore," Cassidy agreed, before catching Miranda's face and seeing Andy's subtle shake of the head. "Oh, but um, maybe just this once."

"What? Why -ow!"

Andy grinned into her laptop bag when Cassidy kicked Caroline in the shins but nodded proudly as she caught on and proclaimed one more night wouldn't hurt them.

"Thank you," Miranda said, once they'd disappeared. "I cannot tell them I want to keep them as children all their lives, but you understood."

"I remember wishing even when I was older than they are now that I could have a hug from someone before bed, but I had never had touchy-feely parents, and besides which, it was 'way uncool'," Andy grinned but then her face fell. "Thanks for dinner but I best be going now and leave you to your evening. I'll be back with The Book later."

"I would actually like you to stay a little longer. I have something I would like to discuss with you."

Knowing it was fruitless to argue, Andy sat back down, bouncing her leg up and down while she waited.

"I know why you are angry at me," Miranda said as she took her normal seat, "and it is not at all fair."

Andy rolled her eyes.

"Life isn't fair, and you can't guarantee you know why I'm angry at you," she paused. "If it is that I'm angry at you. I don't know that I am."

"You are, and it is because I refuse to open my home to those children, is it not? I will not put myself out for the ex-husband and the floozy he ran off with, not even for three children."

"Look, it's nothing to do with me -" Andy started, before being waved off by Miranda's hand.

"No no, I was not asking you to comment. That is why you are angry with me, and I think it is highly unfair of you to blame me for not taking them."

"How old are they?" Andy asked, wondering if Miranda could hear how stuck up she sounded.

"Oh, I have no idea. They can only be five or six if she got pregnant as soon as the divorce was finalised."

"Yeah well, do you remember when the girls were six Miranda? Younger than six? Do you remember what it was like; remember soothing their nightmares and holding them as they cried?"

"Stop it," Miranda spat as she got up and started to pace.

"No," Andy refused. "Do you remember how small a six-year-old is Miranda, how easily they fit in your arms? Except for their legs of course; usually, they're all gangly and long and even though they're a 'big girl', they still love your cuddles."

"STOP!" Miranda shouted, startling herself just as much as Andy at the volume. She took a few deep breaths, before turning to look at Andy. "I apologise for raising my voice but they are Alec's children, and I refuse to get involved."

"Do you know what it's like to live in a foster home?" Andy asked quietly, looking up at Miranda and waiting for her to meet her eyes before continuing. "Do you know what it's like living in an orphanage?"

"No, but then neither do you," Miranda sneered.

"And how would you know that?" Andy said, getting up and slinging her bag over her shoulder. "Did you ever ask me? Did you ever ask me why I was so sorry that I couldn't get you a flight out of Miami in the middle of a hurricane to watch your children? I knew how important that was for you because I know how important it would have been for me and for my parents to have seen me in a school play. Do you know what I was doing that night? I was meeting my father. My real father, a man I see, at best, once every year. The man who didn't even know I existed until I was fifteen when he tracked down my deadbeat mother again, finding her drugged up to her eyeballs at some dive motel. The woman who gave me up when I was three." Andy had gained some speed and refused to take in Miranda's shocked expression.

"Did you think the only awful thing that ever happened to me was falling out of a tree house when I was six? I know what it's like to be abandoned, Miranda. And you, you here in your million dollar house, with your thousand dollar purses and shoes tell me you 'simply can't' take in three children because it would ruin your perfect life?" Andy shook her head. "I thought I knew you, I thought this thing we were doing was giving me an insight into the real you, but there you go, making me realise that you're just another over-privileged woman who's too busy painting her nails than to take in one little girl."

"Mom?"

"Andréa, wait!" Miranda said, ignoring Cassidy's shocked face that appeared at the top of the staircase and instead attempted to grab Andy before she could get out of the door.

Andy, however, didn't stop and raced out of the front door before anyone could say anything else, breathing deeply as she hid around the corner.

"Stupid idiot." She stood against the cold bricks, ignoring how they would snag on her top, gently knocking her head against the wall. "Stupid!"

"Andréa?"

She spun around, gaping at Miranda who had pulled on what looked like a pair of Ugg boots and a very comfortable, but very unfashionable over-sized sweat jacket.

"Miranda?"

"Come back inside please," she asked quietly.

Andy had not quite worked out how to say no to Miranda yet, even with all their blurring lines, so she simply picked up her bag and walked back to the townhouse, ignoring Miranda completely. It was only when she'd taken her shoes off again that she turned around to see Miranda looking very small, standing awkwardly by her own front door.

"I think we should talk," Miranda said gently, waiting for a moment before Andy nodded.

"Possibly," Andy shrugged.

"For real this time, not as a favour to me, and not to stop me from thinking about making a speech. Talk Andréa."

Andy just nodded, and led the way to the sitting room, stopping as Miranda placed her hand on Andy's arm.

"Upstairs," she said purposefully.

"I -"

"Just go upstairs Andréa," Miranda said, moving away to set the alarm before following in Andy's footsteps.

Chapter Text

The sitting room upstairs wasn't all that different to the one downstairs, except it was perhaps a little more personal. There were photos on the wall, mainly of the girls, but also some of Miranda when she was younger, with twin babies in her arms, or with her arms around people that looked old enough to be her parents.

"Have a seat anywhere," Miranda said, joining her in the room and interrupting her perusal. Andy took the sofa again, and as before, Miranda sat next to her.

They didn't speak for a good ten minutes, Andy staring straight ahead, figuring that Miranda was the one that wanted to talk, but not wanting to look at the older woman. A part of her was horribly embarrassed at her behaviour, and her slip at the end of her rant. She hoped Miranda hadn't caught that.

"You're adopted?" Miranda finally said, almost conversationally.

"Yep," she replied, refusing to elaborate.

"When?"

"I was four when someone first took me in. I had a lot going for me then," Andy said sadly, shaking her head at the few memories she did have. "You hear horror stories you know, about kids who are taken from orphanages at a later age. A few good ones as well, but nothing really bad happened to me, except the couple who took me, they didn't really want a child. They wanted a pet, something to parade in front of people at parties and take out when they needed to drum up some support for something or other. I wasn't treated badly. In fact, if I'm being truthful, it was alright; lonely, but alright. And then, when I turned nine they handed me back. Told me I couldn't take anything from my time there. I, of course, had been sent to a private school, which I loved, but I had to leave. I couldn't go back there after returning to the orphanage." Andy shook her head. "Why do you even care?"

"Because Andréa, we," she paused, "there is something between us, isn't there?" she said, finally catching Andy's eye and keeping it as she continued. "I am not blind you know. And I know you are not either. Whatever this is, it's something that I don't think we can ignore anymore."

"Miranda -"

"No no," she said, with a barely concealed smirk on her face, "that wasn't a question."

Miranda's quip did as it was supposed to, making Andy chuckle and relax against the back of the sofa.

"God, I don't know Miranda, what are we doing?"

"Damned if I know," Miranda answered, matching Andy's position beside her.

They sat quietly for a moment. When Patricia wandered in and lay down lazily at their feet, it seemed the catalyst to start Andy talking again.

"I am sorry for insulting you," Andy said quietly, staring at Miranda's left hand that seemed to be stroking the side of Andy's own with her pinky.

"It was nothing I didn't deserve," Miranda shrugged. "Perhaps it was time to hear a few hard truths. My parents would be horrified." She shook her head.

"Tell me about them?" Andy asked, turning on her side a little and resting her head on her arm. Miranda, to Andy's surprise, did as she asked. 

Miranda was an only child but had lived with many cousins and family friends that had always had a place in the Princhek home. They had taken in wandering kids from the darker parts of East London whenever they could, always giving whatever they could.

"They were all well loved, as I was, but I yearned for something more," Miranda said with a sigh. "They're both dead now."

"I'm sorry," Andy repeated.

"Nonsense. When you get to my age, you lose people along the way. It's to be expected."

"You're not old," Andy scoffed. "Older than me perhaps, but you're as strong as an ox and I don't believe for a second that you think of yourself as old."

"I imagine you would be surprised what goes on in my head Andréa," Miranda whispered. "I'll take them."

Andy sat for a moment before realising what she'd said.

"What?"

"I said I'll take them. You were right, there is absolutely no reason for me not to, except my own petty inconvenience. I can give them a good education and a good home, even if I'm not here very often."

"You're not doing this because I had a go at you, surely?" Andy said, trying to figure out what was going on.

"A moment ago, you were disgusted with me for not taking them, now it sounds as though you're trying to put me off," Miranda pointed out, surprise colouring her features. "Make up your mind."

"Miranda -"

Andy didn't know what to say, it was against everything she knew about Miranda. Not the change of mind, that happened often enough, but Andy couldn't shake the feeling that this was about Miranda doing something she thought Andy would want her to do. Which brought her back to the swirling thoughts in the deep recesses of her mind over what Miranda had said earlier.

"You said there was something going on," Andy said quietly, "between us?"

"One revelation is enough for one night, don't you think?" Miranda said absently, stopping the somewhat distracting motion with her finger on Andy's hand. "I think I'll turn in. I will leave The Book for tonight and perhaps shock Nigel tomorrow and have him look at it for me. We're far enough away from the print deadline that it won't matter. You'll stay of course. The guest bedroom is already made up. I think you will have to help me tomorrow with the arrangements. I will only just have enough room for them all."

"Miranda -" Andy tried again as Miranda stood at the doorway.

"Goodnight Andréa," she said with finality, leaving Andy to herself in the softly lit loungeroom.

-0-

"Is she dead?"

"No dummy, she's asleep."

"Was asleep, no thanks to you two," Andy groaned, rolling over and hiding her face in the sinfully plush pillows.

"Mom said to see if you were awake for breakfast. She's cooking omelettes."

"I'll be down in a moment girls," Andy said, waiting until they were out of the room before she slumped back onto the bed and sighed.

Last night had been by far the most confusing, revealing and overwhelming night of her entire life. And now, she had to go downstairs and pretend that nothing had happened. She closed her eyes at the realisation that Miranda didn't just have herself to worry about. She had the twins as well.

"Good one Andy," she whispered, before hauling herself out of bed and into the adjoining bathroom, hoping that a good hot shower would do more for her than her tumultuous thoughts.

-0-

"Good morning Andréa," Miranda said without turning around. "Take a seat, I have an omelette for you here."

"You didn't have to do that Miranda," Andy said politely. "I would have just grabbed something on the way to the office."

"We're not going to the office today," Miranda replied, sliding what looked to be a perfectly fluffy omelette onto her plate.

"Is there anything you can't do?" Andy blurted, blushing violently when the twins giggled.

"She can't juggle," Caroline said, still chuckling.

"And how do you know that?" Miranda asked, turning and brandishing a spatula at her daughter.

"Whatever Mom, you can't juggle."

"Andréa? Hand me those peaches," Miranda demanded, nodding at the fruit bowl in the middle of the table.

"Huh?"

"Three of them, quickly," she said, holding out her hand.

Andy passed them over, watching, like the girls, with a look of astonishment as Miranda juggled the three pieces of fruit perfectly.

"I can't, are you real?" Andy said, poking Miranda's shoulder as she reached to put them back.

The girls dissolved into hysterical laughter calling for an encore.

"I'm sorry girls, the eggs will burn and juggling I'm afraid is something I only do very infrequently."

"That was way cool Mom!" Cassidy said, putting her plate in the dishwasher and kissing her mother's cheek.

"Thank you darling," Miranda said, smiling proudly as the girl walked from the room.

"Cass said you two were fighting last night," Caroline said quietly, stopping both Miranda and Andy in their tracks.

"I got a little hot headed Caroline, it's my fault, but I apologised to your Mom, and now we're fine," Andy said quickly, but truthfully. "I wouldn't have stayed over if she was mad at me."

"Are you gonna stay over a lot?" Caroline asked, still picking at the crumbs on her plate.

Andy noticed Miranda concentrating very hard on the pan in front of her, as if waiting for Andy's input.

"I guess it depends on what's going on. I imagine you'd get bored of me if I stayed here all the time. Special occasions perhaps."

"Okay," Caroline said, putting her own plate in the dishwasher and kissing Miranda before joining Cassidy by the door.

"Bye Andy," Cassidy called. Caroline echoed the sentiments before the door slammed, leaving the two women alone again.

"I have already called Nigel. He will handle anything that may crop up today while you and I go out to Philadelphia."

"Sorry?" Andy said, looking confused.

"The children Andréa, they're in Philadelphia."

"Look, what I said last night, I didn't think. You have Caroline and Cassidy to think about, and I was just -"

"Stop," Miranda said, sitting down with her plate and glass of water. "You were right. I did as you said and thought of the girls when they were that age. I would not want someone to disregard them as nothing, should anything ever happen to me."

"Miranda -"

"No, it's fine. The appropriate phone calls have already been made."

Andy sighed but nodded. She felt terrible.

"Relax Andréa. I'm not doing this completely because you told me to. My entire reputation would be ruined."

Andy snorted into her orange juice, coughing as some went down the wrong pipe.

"Careful," Miranda laughed, passing her a napkin. "If I have to take you to the ER people would think I'm trying to kill you." She smiled faintly as she took another bite of her breakfast. "Although," she chuckled thoughtfully, "whatever damage you've already done to my fierce reputation would be immediately reversed. Imagine the headlines: 'Ice Queen Takes Orders, Then Tries to Kill Assistant'."

"Who are you, and what have you done with Miranda Priestly?" Andy said seriously as she looked at the woman before her.

"What makes you think I'm not always like this at home, and you have just been invited to see it now?" Miranda suggested, concentrating more on her plate than she needed.

"Now? Why now?"

"I have not forgotten what I said last night, nor your face when I said it. But I cannot deal with that at the moment, not with everything else that is currently going on. Know, however, that I will not forget the words, nor the feelings I have."

"For me?" Andy asked quietly.

"For you. As I hope, you have for me?"

Andy nodded but realised the truth of Miranda's words. She was about to take custody of three children that had never met her and were not used to her.

"I will need -" Miranda stopped, shaking her head. "No, I would like it if you would accompany me today Andréa, as my friend, not my assistant."

"Just your friend?" Andy asked, afraid of the answer.

"For now," Miranda acquiesced with a small smile.

Andy nodded, realising that wasn't going to cut it with Miranda.

"I'd love to join you." Miranda nodded, taking Andy's hand in hers and squeezing. "What have you told the girls?"

"I," Miranda frowned, "Nothing yet, but I will talk with them tonight."

"Won't that be a little late?"

"Andréa," Miranda groaned.

"No, I'm sorry, I'll just -" Andy got up, setting her plate in the dishwasher as the girls did and ran for the door.

"Wait, wait Andréa, don't leave again. Please," Miranda said, catching her sleeve. "Please?"

Andy looked down at Miranda, who was staring at the floor rather than at her.

"I'm not sure I like this side of you. It's a bit desperate."

"Well, I'm about to take on three children under the age of six because you told me I was an over-privileged bitch. I've been that woman for so long, I'm not sure how to be anything else. I need your help."

"I never called you a bitch," Andy grimaced.

"You implied it. Now come and sit down."

Following orders was something Andy had come to do without thinking, so before she knew it, she was sitting back down at the well-loved table, watching Miranda also return to her chair, taking a multivitamin with her first cup of coffee of the day.

"I know I should have told them, but I am afraid of them loving the idea, or conversely, hating it."

"I understand," Andy said. "I, I just think they're old enough to think they should have some say in the matter, which means that even if you have the last decision you should maybe include them."

"Perhaps," Miranda sighed, "perhaps we will stop in at Dalton on the way, explain to them what is happening. I have Cara picking them up after she fetches Patricia from the groomers. I didn't know how long we would be."

"That sounds like a good idea and they'll enjoy seeing Patricia straight from school," Andy nodded.

"Good. Let me get my things and we'll go. Roy should be arriving any minute with the SUV. Leave your things here Andréa, we'll be back later."

Picking up her purse and her phone, Andy stood by the front door watching the road for a few minutes, waiting for Roy to appear.

"All ready?" Miranda asked, making Andy turn and gasp at her appearance.

The fashion editor looked stunning in a pair of blue jeans - designer of course - with a pair of Christian Louboutin pumps on her feet. She also had a button down shirt on, plum, with a big silver, buckled belt at her middle.

"I, wow!" Andy said, rolling her eyes at herself as Miranda swept past her.

"Your facial expression said as much Andréa," she chuckled as she opened the door. "I was not sure what constituted as 'Mom-wear', so I hope this is suitable?"

"Miranda, I -"

Andy noticed the smirk on Miranda's face as she put on her sunglasses and walked to the car, leaving Andy in charge of the alarm and the front door.

"I have no idea what I'm getting myself into," Andy muttered as she joined Miranda in the car. Somehow the casual sway of her hips as she walked made everything look just that little bit better, and Andy's mind couldn't help but replay it on a loop as she put on her seatbelt. "I'm doomed," she told herself, nodding to Roy and settling in for a trip out of town.

Chapter Text

Miranda and Andréa were driven as far as the Elias Clark building by Roy where the Ice Queen dropped off The Book, leaving instructions with Nigel, before taking the wheel and comfortably navigating them to Dalton. It was the first time Andy had seen her actually driving, but she found it suited her, sitting there behind the wheel of a powerful SUV.

"Are you coming in?" Miranda asked as she gracefully slid out of the car after they'd pulled into the school.

"Don't you think it would be better coming from you?" Andy asked, even as she made a move to get out.

"I think my daughters are enamoured with you," she blushed a little, "as am I, and would love you there to support us all while I tell them I'm about to stir up their perfect lives."

"Miranda -"

"Will you just come with me?" Miranda said exasperatedly. "Please?"

"Did I mention I don't like desperate you?" Andy said as she got out of the car.

"Well I dislike this cautiousness you seem to have developed," Miranda said in turn. "What happened to the confidence you seem to exude as my assistant?"

"Hey, you're the one that keeps moving the goalposts here. I'm here as your friend, not your assistant, which means I have to act differently."

"You are correct," Miranda said, stopping outside of the door. "I apologise."

"I'm not sure I like you apologising either."

"Andréa," she groaned, buzzing them into the school. "I do not apologise for myself in the business world. If people cannot deal with my decisions, then that is on them, not on me."

"I understand that," Andy said as she followed Miranda down the hall, "but you have to give me some leeway. Up until last night, I was only privy to you in the business world."

"Which is why I am trying very hard not to order you about," Miranda smirked, finally turning to greet the woman at the desk. "I need to speak with Caroline and Cassidy Priestly."

Andy smirked as the woman did as she was ordered and in no time at all, considering the size of the school, Caroline and Cassidy were trotting down the corridor to greet their mother with a hug.

"Mom, not that we don't love you, but we only just said goodbye to you like an hour ago."

"I know Bobbsey's, but Andréa made me realise that I should talk to you about a decision I have made, as it affects both of you as well."

"Are you two getting married?" Cassidy asked, grabbing Andy's hand and twirling under it with a grin.

"Cassidy!" Miranda coughed, covering both her mouth and what looked to Andy like a giant grin.

"No Cass, your Mom and I are not getting married," Andy said, glaring at Miranda.

"Then what is it?" Caroline asked, sitting on Miranda's knee.

"Do you both remember Alec?"

"Was he your husband after Dad?" Cassidy said, tilting her head just like her mother did.

"He was, you were still very small when we were married, but you might remember him before we divorced."

"He had sandy hair right? And wore horrendous shoes."

It was Andy's turn to choke, but she didn't do it with quite the aplomb that Miranda had and ended up giggling for a full two minutes.

"Sorry," she said, biting her lip.

"Hmm, as I was saying. Darlings, Alec and his wife were both killed in an auto accident yesterday."

"Whoa!" Cassidy said, plonking herself on Andy's knee as Caroline sat on Miranda's. "Are you okay Mom?"

"I am fine Cassidy. Alec and I hardly parted as friends, though I wished him no harm. While his death is tragic, there is something even more pressing that involves the both of you."

"Us?" Caroline asked, turning to look at her mother over her shoulder.

"Indeed. It seems that after divorcing me, Alec and his wife had three children. They, mercifully, were not in the car when they crashed, but it seems that Alec never updated his will."

"But what has that got to do with you?" Cassidy said, clamping her mouth shut as Andy shushed her.

"I, according to his last will and testament, have been named as the guardian of these children." She looked at both of her children. "And I intend to carry out my duty to them."

Andy stared at the back of Cassidy's school jumper as the tension mounted in the room. There was no telling which way this was going to go, and it wasn't long before Andy could keep herself from looking up. Miranda was sitting with Caroline still on her knee, but Cassidy was staring intently at her sister, and Andy realised they were communicating with each other without speaking. It amazed her to watch it; she'd heard of it before, heard Miranda speak of it, but this was her first time seeing it. It was, in a word, magical.

"Okay," Caroline started. "So we have a few questions."

"I am all ears darlings," Miranda said, apparently quite used to waiting for their silent conversations to end.

"Do we have to give up our rooms?"

"No," Miranda said. "I'm sure we'll have enough room for them in the guest quarters upstairs. You and Cassidy can keep your rooms unless you stipulate otherwise before Andréa and I leave here to pick up the children."

"How old are they?"

"They cannot be more than six years old as I am quite sure Alec's," she grimaced, "partner was not pregnant at the time of our divorce," Miranda stated. "But I am unsure of their exact ages."

"What are their names? Are they girls or boys? Will they be babies?"

Andy chuckled as Miranda held up her hands for silence.

"Girls, at this point, I know as much as you. I do not know how old they are, or indeed if one is a baby. I hadn't thought of that." She glared a little at Andy, who hadn't thought of that either. "I do not know whether they are boys or girls but we will all find out in due course."

"Do you think they like dogs?" Cassidy asked. "What if they don't like Patricia, does that mean she'll have to go to the pound? Do you know what they do to dogs there?"

"Relax munchkin. You're creating problems before there are any," Andy said soothingly. "Your Mom wanted both of you to know what was going on before you got back from school to find three new kids in your house. The fact of the matter is, your Mom is an awesome Mom - right?"

"Right," they said in stereo.

"Right, so three more children that get to have her as their Mom are super lucky."

"Yeah, sorry Mom, I'm just excited. I've never had a brother or sister."

"Neither of us have dummy and Mom knows that, she's kinda gotta be the one to give us them!"

"Girls, please. Caroline, please try not to call your sister a dummy, and do start using proper English words. 'Gotta' is not something I ever want to hear come out of your mouth again. I am raising two ladies, not two hooligans." Cassidy giggled until Caroline did as well.

"Yes Mom, sorry Mom."

"Good, now Andréa and I are off to Philadelphia to see about these children, and I want you both to be good for Cara tonight. Please make sure you help her with Patricia."

"How about you also help to make sure the guest rooms are alright for three kids, okay?" Andy asked, ignoring the look she got from Miranda.

"Oh cool, yeah okay Andy." Cassidy got up and hugged Andy around the neck. "See you later," she whispered. "Bye Mom," she said, hugging her too. "I have math and I can't miss it."

"Alright darling, have a good day."

Caroline had not moved from Miranda's knee, and although she had taken the lead when asking questions earlier, it seemed as though Caroline was the slightly less sure twin.

"Mom?" she asked quietly, leaning back and playing with Miranda's bangle.

"Yes, my darling girl?" Miranda replied, just as quietly.

"If we have more kids in the house, will you have to be home more?"

Andy closed her eyes against seeing the pain in Miranda's face. She could already imagine what it would look like, and it wasn't something she wanted to see.

"I -" Andy looked up to see a stricken Miranda grasping for words. Deciding she could no longer stay quiet, Andy sat forward a little bit.

"Caroline, you know that if your Mom could, she'd be there every minute of the day with you."

"Yeah, I know," she said forlornly. "But if there are little kids, you'll have to be there more right?" she tried again.

"Caroline -" Miranda sighed.

"I tell you what," Andy said, taking Caroline's hand in her own. "You know as your Mom's assistant, I get to control what time she goes home. How about from now on, at least two nights a week, I make sure she can get out of work in time to eat dinner with you guys?"

"Really?" Caroline said, turning around to look at Miranda.

"If Andréa says she can do it, then I will do it," Miranda said, looking past her daughter and staring into Andy's eyes. "Andréa can do anything."

"Awesome. Thanks Mom, thanks Andy," she said, kissing both their cheeks and disappearing from the room.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to -"

"You did mean to, but I am not upset. If you can find a way for me to be out of the office two nights a week for dinner, then I will be very grateful."

Andy nodded, already re-arranging run-throughs and meetings in her head.

"But not right now," Miranda said, slipping her hand into Andy's. "Now I need you to be my friend and not my assistant. I realise Miranda Priestly does not often get nervous, but Miranda the mother is terrified of what we're going to find when we get there."

"Then I'll be there the whole time to hold your hand," Andy said quietly as they got back in the car.

The drive was silent and, aside from the odd moment stuck in traffic, went rather well. Neither of them spoke until Andy remembered something Miranda had said to her at the school.

"You said you don't get nervous, so what was all that about before the speeches?"

"I said not often," Miranda quipped, smirking, but keeping her eyes on the road. "After Paris, I realised my every move was being scrutinised, so every speech, every event, I had to perform better than I ever had. That much pressure would make anyone nervous."

"What about last week, at the dinner? You didn't come to me beforehand," Andy asked, frowning at the memory. She had dearly missed that quiet moment together at the time.

"I may not need you to assuage my fears quite so regularly anymore," Miranda grinned. "As one friend to another, and not as your boss, I can tell you Irving is leaving at the end of next month."

"What?" Andy screeched. "That's fantastic! Why?"

"He has been pushed out by certain board members who have been secretly discussing his manoeuvres in Paris. That is why you are in charge of the organising the next board meeting. It will be his last, and I would like it to be perfect."

"It will be," Andy said confidently, making a few mental notes about things she needed to change in order for it to run smoother than she had originally planned.

"Good. Now, no more talk of work. We are nearly here."

-0-

They spoke of things that required very little thinking, such as the girls and the latest fads and trends they were following. Andy stayed well clear of what she had promised Caroline, and Miranda commented no further on it. They finally arrived in front of a non-descript building that the GPS insisted was the correct location.

"I suppose we should just go in," Miranda said, locking the car and stopping at the bottom of the steps to wait for Andy.

"This is definitely an orphanage," Andy said uselessly, shivering slightly as she said it. "You can smell the despair."

"Well, this particular over-privileged woman is not going to leave you here. I might actually make you take them back and I stay here, depending on what they are like."

"Don't joke about that," Andy said quietly, accepting the small squeeze of her hand as an apology.

"Come along Andréa," she said, in a tone that was more like Miranda Priestly, rather than this relaxed version of Miranda.

It spurred Andy on, allowing her to relax into being a sort of assistant, rather than an ex-orphan from an orphanage that smelled just as this one did; of bleach and broken souls.

"Miranda Priestly to see Annabelle Williams."

Andy stood back, completely alright with Miranda handling most of the interacting. She had no desire to talk to anyone remotely connected with running a place such as this, and she desperately wished she hadn't agreed to come.

"Andréa."

She snapped her gaze away from a little girl brushing a nearly-bald doll's head and back to Miranda.

"Come along."

She nodded, not looking back at the little girl that she still felt like sometimes.

Loneliness had been a part of her life for many years. Her adoptive parents were amazing people, but they had very little time for her nowadays. After adopting Andy, there had been what amounted to a miracle, and her new mother had fallen pregnant with her own child. To their credit, they hadn't sent Andy back and for that, she would be forever grateful to them, but with the arrival of a new baby, and one that was their own flesh and blood, Andy had fallen by the wayside. Not out of malice, or ill-content, but simply because the people who were her parents had got something they'd always wanted. And that wasn't Andy.

"I believe you're here to take custody of the three Walker children, is that correct?"

"Yes it is," Miranda said, transitioning seamlessly into her Editor-in-Chief personality. "The law firm I have on retainer should have faxed all the necessary documents."

"Yes, I had a phone call from them earlier," Ms WIlliams said. "I'm afraid one of the children had to be sedated when she got here. We've confined her to her room so that she doesn't disturb the other children."

"You did what?" Andy asked with a touch of venom, slamming back into the moment and leaving her thoughts for another time.

"I'm afraid she was being difficult," Ms Williams said, glancing between Andy and Miranda, who sat back letting Andy take the lead.

"I want to see her, right now," Andy said getting up, ignoring the frown on Miranda's features. "Take me to her now."

"Miss -"

"Take me to her!"

"I suggest you do as Miss Sachs says, Ms Williams," Miranda said coolly. "She is not the kind of woman to be trifled with."

A small part of Andy's mind was startled by Miranda's confidence in her, and also in the warning that Miranda spoke, even as she allowed Andy to take command.

They walked down the long corridor, following the woman who was grating on Andy's nerves, even though she said nothing. She stopped in front of a closed door and drew a giant ring of keys from inside a pocket and Andy was suddenly transported back to when that noise usually heralded something she didn't want.

"She's in there."

Andy rolled her eyes and walked around the woman who was blocking the view of the room. It was a mess. Everything had been thrown everywhere, and there was no noise.

She walked slowly and carefully into the room, shaking her head at Miranda, making sure she didn't follow.

She found the little girl, curled up in a corner with her head buried in her knees and her shoulders quaking.

"Hey," Andy said quietly, crouching down a little way away.

The girl startled, and as she lifted her head, it was clear that she'd been crying for a while.

"Go away!" she screamed, looking around for something to throw.

"No, no it's okay. I don't work here, I'm here to take you home."

"No!" the girl said. "I don't got a home, I'm not going home. I want my brothers. Where are my brothers?"

Andy glanced back at Miranda, who looked more upset with the state of the little girl than the thought of taking home two boys as well.

"We're taking them too; all of you are coming to another home," Andy said gently. "And we won't ever be bringing you back here. I promise you that."

"Andréa," Miranda said quietly, but Andy heard the chastisement.

She didn't care though, Andy was determined. If Miranda couldn't keep this little girl and her brothers, then Andy would take them. She had no idea how, but she would never let this girl come back here. No matter what.

"Come on, let's get out of here and find your brothers," Andy said, staying exactly where she was, but offering her hand to the girl. She had to be the one to come to her, not the other way around, and they had to wait for a few moments before the girl, who could not be any older than seven, slipped her hand into Andy's.

As they walked from the room, the girl pressed herself into Andy's side, refusing to even look at Ms Williams and only glancing minimally at Miranda.

"What's your name sweetheart?" Andy asked quietly as they walked down the hallway.

"Olivia," she whispered.

"Hi Olivia, I'm Andy, and this is Miranda. She's going to be the one looking after you, okay?"

"Not you?" Olivia said, stopping dead in her tracks and looking bereft.

"Andréa will be there as well," Miranda said gently, in a tone Andy knew was reserved for the twins, and now, perhaps these children as well.

"Miranda's really nice," Andy whispered, winking conspiratorially. "She has two daughters already, twins named Caroline and Cassidy who are thirteen and a huge dog named Patricia. You'll love her, she's really cuddly."

"Mommy and Daddy are angels now," Olivia said quietly, still stopped in the middle of the hallway.

"I know baby," Andy soothed, "but we're going to take good care of you, I promise."

"Andréa," Miranda said, nodding to where Ms Williams was waiting at the door.

"Come on princess," Andy said, tugging her along.

The little one didn't move but held up her arms. Andy knew that she was probably too old to be carried really, but she couldn't and wouldn't withhold any comfort she could give and so did as Olivia asked and scooped her up into her arms.

"Are you alright?" Miranda muttered as they walked, her hand burning pleasantly against the small of Andy's back.

"I'll be better when I get them out of here," Andy said. "I'm sorry if I -"

"Don't." Miranda waved her off. "I am glad you were here."

Miranda followed Ms Williams into the room, leaving Andy stood in the doorway, marvelling at the comment.

"How about that?" she said to herself, only remembering she had a child in her arms some moments later.

"Come on, let's go find your brothers."

Chapter Text

The reunion between the siblings was beautiful to watch, but it was a bit of a struggle not to drop Olivia as two similar-looking boys suddenly caught sight of them all.

"Livvy, Livvy!" the littlest one screamed, seeing his sister.

Olivia was just as excited to see them and Andy watched with barely restrained tears as they all hugged each other.

"Someone's here to take us away," Olivia said. "This's Andy and that's M'anda."

Andy bit her lip to stop the smile from appearing, but as she glanced at Miranda, she couldn't help it.

"Not a word," the older woman hissed, causing Andy to want to laugh for the first time since she set foot in the building.

"What are your brothers' names, Olivia?" Miranda asked, crouching down so she could look them all in the eyes.

"This is Nicholas, he's this many," she held up five fingers, "and Sam is three."

"Three," Miranda said, glancing back at Andy. "My, my and how old are you?" Olivia chewed her lip for a moment before speaking.

"Six," she shrugged. Miranda nodded.

"Well, Olivia, I think it's time for you three to come with me now."

"Is Andy coming too?" she asked quietly, glancing up to meet Andy's eyes.

"Yes, Andréa is also coming with us. Now, is there anything that you have to bring with you?"

"Bop," Sam said, holding out both hands, palms up like he'd lost something. "Bop."

"Bop's his rabbit," Olivia said sadly. "They took it off him when we got here."

"We'll get it back, little one," Miranda said, holding out her hand for Sam to take.

The youngest didn't seem interested in holding hands, however, and instead bypassed the offered hand and slammed his little body into Miranda's side, nearly toppling her over. Andy stepped forward and grabbed her shoulders just in time, letting her lean against her leg while she got Sam situated on her hip.

"Sorry," Olivia winced as she saw what happened.

"Not to worry darling," Miranda said. "What about you Nicholas, would you like to hold my hand?"

"He hasn't spoken since they were brought in," Ms Williams said, startling Andy who'd forgotten she was there.

"I'm not surprised," Andy glowered, moving alongside Miranda while silently offering to carry the eldest boy out.

"Can I hold your hand?" Olivia asked.

"You most certainly may," Miranda smiled, using Andy's offered hand to stand first, before offering Olivia her free one. "Ms Williams, whatever paperwork you have for me, you can send it to my lawyers. In the meantime, have everything that came in with these children ready to go by the door in three minutes." She glared at the woman who was still hovering by the door. "That's all."

"Yeah," Sam said, giggling madly into Miranda's neck.

Andy chuckled, rubbing Nicholas' back as they walked from the room.

-0-

Getting the three children out of the door was not difficult. They all took a deep breath as they gathered on the footpath, happy to be clear of the place.

"Where we go now?" Sam asked, holding out one hand this time, as the other was occupied with clutching a rather well-loved stuffed rabbit.

"Now children, we are going to my home," Miranda said, looking at the car. "Damn," she muttered, before turning to Andy. "Andréa we do not have car seats."

"We can go right now and pick some up," Andy said, already searching her phone. "There's a Toy's 'R' Us three blocks from here."

"There is so much I didn't think of," Miranda said, shaking her head. "Andréa, I'm not sure I -"

"Don't finish that sentence Priestly!" Andy warned, waving her hand as she opened the rear door. "I think," she glanced from the empty back seats to the three children standing on the street, "I think one of us has to stay here, and one has to go and get the car seats. Sam is too young to go in the back seat, and they'd need properly fitting."

"Andréa -"

"Miranda, it's important."

"I know it is, I just don't want to get stuck in the middle of this," she turned up her nose, "place with no means of getting home."

"Miranda, think of who you are. I'm sure Roy could be here in an hour should I magically disappear."

"What makes you think you're going to get them?" she asked, one eyebrow climbing up her forehead.

"Because let's face it, you had people who did this sort of thing for you," Andy chuckled, ruffling Nicholas' hair.

"Fine. Charge it to my account and make sure you get the best ones, I will not skimp on their safety Andréa."

"I know. In the meantime there's a Starbucks on the corner, I can see it from here and I imagine you need a coffee by now," Andy smiled, ignoring Miranda's huff and letting Nicholas slide to the ground, before crouching down in front of him. "I've gotta go and get something from the store, can you stay with Miranda and keep an eye on her for me? You'll have to hold Livvy's hand, but I think Miranda will buy you an apple juice or something." Nicholas just looked at her, but then moved off to take his sister's hand, making both women smile as he glanced up at Miranda.

"Spies Andréa? Whatever will you do next?"

Andy chuckled, but took the keys from Miranda's purse as well as her black Amex card and went to get in the car.

"Hurry back please," Miranda said, as Andy waved goodbye and sped down the road.

-0-

The store was easy to find, and Andy managed to find a park quite close to the door. Feeling a sliver of doubt unfurl in her brain, she shook it off and walked confidently into the store.

"I'm going to need someone to help me with child restraint seats," she said to the first person she saw. She knew mentioning Miranda's name would probably get her about a dozen workers waiting on her hand and foot, but she also wanted to keep it out of the press for as long as possible.

The choice was overwhelming, and in the end, after standing in front of a wall of car seats, Andy had finally come to the end of her tether.

"Look. I just need three car seats, with a good safety rating. The kids are three, five and six, I don't care how much they are, but they all have to fit in the back of an SUV."

The woman helping her finally understood what Andy wanted; service and no fuss. She showed her three different brands, all fairly expensive, but with good ratings. She discounted one immediately. There was no way Miranda was going to want leopard print in the car, and Andy figured the boys wouldn't be too keen on them either. She finally selected one that would do for all three children, depending on the settings. She waved Miranda's card and the seats were processed, paid for and fitted in an extraordinarily short amount of time.

As she was about to leave the store, she spied a couple of displays by the door of various toys and wondered whether the twins had any of their own toys still in the house. The way Miranda went through the closet every month, she highly doubted it, so she picked up a couple of packets of matchbox cars, a few colouring books and some building blocks that would be suitable for any of them. Anything else Miranda could get later, but they'd have enough to get on with, in the meantime. Finally done with the store, Andy left with a grin on her face.

She pulled up outside the Starbucks, hoping the Mercedes badge would be enough to deter any tickets. She raced around the car, waving to the odd car that had to go around her.

"Hey, you ready?" Andy asked, coming upon the little family and noticing with relief that nobody had killed each other yet.

"I believe we are. Nicholas would you like to take your cookie with you?" Miranda asked gently, recognising that the boy needed soft, not Editor-in-Chief.

He didn't nod or smile, or really make any indication that he'd heard, but he grabbed the chocolate cookie in his hand tightly.

"Let's get a bag for you, alright?" Andy said, noting the twitch of Miranda's eyebrow at the thought of him taking it in his hand in her car.

Cookie safely deposited in a bag and back in Nicholas' hand, Andy helped Olivia and Nicholas out of the door, while Miranda fought with Sam, trying to keep his chocolate covered hands from her beautiful plum blouse.

"There's some wipes in the car," Andy said, remembering when she'd stashed them in the glove compartment ages ago, before Miranda had driven out to the Hamptons with the girls.

"Okay, princess?" Andy asked, drawing the little girl's attention back to her, instead of watching Sam with a worried expression. "I thought you could sit behind me, and Nicholas, you can sit behind Miranda, and Sam -?"

The little boy stopped squirming and stared straight at Andy at the mention of his name.

"Tham go too?" he asked.

"Yes," Miranda sighed, finally wiping away the last of the chocolate on his face, "you can, but I must clean your hands before you get in."

"Well, either way, you're in the middle, little man," Andy said, taking him from Miranda and helping him in, climbing onto the front seat to help belt him in. "Olivia? Can you do your own belt?"

"Yep," she said happily, already sitting strapped into her seat.

Andy looked over at Miranda as she turned to gently pick Nicholas up and place him ever so carefully into his seat.

"Is that alright?" she asked, looking directly at him.

And then it happened.

Just barely, his head moved, and Miranda smiled. Andy fell in love. She reasoned she was probably already in love, but as Miranda smiled at that little boy Andy herself had persuaded her to house, Andy knew she'd never love another person as much as she loved Miranda.

"Andréa?"

She blinked, coming back to the moment and looking at the three children staring at her, before realising Miranda was sitting in the driver's seat, waiting for her to turn around.

"Sorry," Andy shook her head, trying to get her emotions under control.

"Are you alright?" Miranda asked, half her concentration still on Andy as she pulled out into traffic.

"Yeah, yes." She shook herself again. "Just realised something, that's all."

"Will we need to stop at your apartment for clothes and things?" Miranda asked.

Andy started, then realised Miranda wasn't kidding about her being there, at least in the beginning.

"Um, yeah, yes. But I can go later, I can take the subway."

"Andréa," Miranda sighed. "We will go past your apartment where you will pack up some of the things that you will need in the foreseeable future." Miranda glanced at her and lowered her voice. "I don't know what I'm doing Andréa."

"I don't know either. At least you've had the twins, all I've ever had was a little sister who wanted nothing to do with me until I left home."

She frowned. She did not mean to reveal that, and she certainly didn't want to snap at Miranda, especially in front of the children.

"I'm sorry."

"No, it's, it's alright, don't apologise. I am relying on you too much, and I must be the one to apologise. I'll drop you off at your apartment and then you can have the weekend."

"No, Miranda, don't," Andy said shaking her head. "I want to be there. I do, really."

The didn't speak again until they pulled up outside Andy's apartment.

"Well, at least I won't get carjacked waiting for you," Miranda said, causing Andy to frown. "I, I'm tired," Miranda sighed. "I'm sorry, the sooner we get home, the better. Hurry? Please?"

Andy nodded, choosing to ignore the barb for now and do as she was told. She raced up the stairs, knowing that the elevator would take ages for it to get all the way down to the lobby, then all the way back up to the fourth floor. She ran through her apartment, wondering what the hell she'd need to stay at Miranda's and how long she would be there for. She decided to pack for longer than the weekend, just in case. She packed fashionable clothes she knew Miranda
approved of, as well as some lazy-day clothes and a few practical outfits. Ones she knew she could run around in the park wearing, because she just couldn't see Miranda doing so.

She looked around the apartment, making sure she hadn't forgotten anything she'd miss for a few days. She shrugged, effectively giving up before double and triple checking she'd locked everything up before leaving.

She skipped down the stairs and out of the door, smiling as Miranda looked up in relief. That woman needed a good dose of reality and she thought perhaps these kids would possibly do that for her.

"Have you everything? I don't particularly fancy coming back here," Miranda said, ignoring Andy's eye roll.

"Yes, you can go, before you catch the plague."

"Andy?" Olivia said from the back, startling them both; they'd thought all three children were asleep.

"Yes princess?" Andy replied, catching the little grin Oliva had because of her new nickname.

"I need the bathroom." Andy's eye widened comically.

"Um, I think we'll be back soon munchkin. Can you wait a little?"

"Yeah, I guess," Olivia shrugged. "Can we play when we get home?" she asked, looking with barely concealed excitement at the Toys-'R'-Us bag at Nicholas' feet.

"We shall see Olivia," Miranda said, her voice brokering no arguments from the little girl. "We are a little later than I had anticipated, and we have missed lunch."

"Tham hung'y," Sam suddenly yawned, waking up at the voice of his sister.

"Soon Samuel," Miranda said, glancing in the mirror at the three children in the back. Nicholas was still asleep, and Andy smiled when they turned onto Miranda's street.

"And we're home," Miranda said, putting the car into park. "If you would please carry Nicholas in and place him on the sofa in the sitting room upstairs, I'll sort the other two and their bags out."

"You got it boss," Andy smiled, winking as she hefted her own bag over her shoulder, along with her laptop and purse, only faltering when she realised she had too many things in her arms to carry the boy as well.

Chapter Text

"Mom!"

The twins came rushing down the front steps of the house, peering in the car windows with barely restrained excitement.

"Girls, stop leering like you are at the zoo. Wait on the sidewalk where the children can see you, and not feel like they're part of an exhibit."

"Oops, sorry Mom," Cassidy said, pulling Caroline back. "I guess we're just a bit excited."

"And I understand that Cassidy, but we must go very slowly and gently," Miranda said as she cupped Caroline and Cassidy's cheeks. "Be gentle with them Bobbsey's, they're very small and very frightened."

The twins nodded as Andy struggled with her bags.

"I'll help Andy," Caroline volunteered, noticing her struggle.

"What a fantastic idea. Cassidy, if you could get the others and meet us, quietly, in the sitting room downstairs."

The girls did as they were told, carrying Andy's bag in between them along with all the others leaving Miranda to unbuckle Olivia and Sam; carrying him to the steps and holding the little girl's hand. The three of them waited on the sidewalk for Andy to manoeuvre Nicholas into her arms.

"I can carry him Andy. I can do it," Olivia said, looking worried that all the trouble Andy and Miranda were going to would, in turn, get her into trouble.

"No darling, it's alright," Miranda said, stroking Olivia's hair back behind her ears. "Andréa is more than capable and I promise she won't drop him. Let the adults take care of it."

"Us size six girls are good for something after all," she chuckled cheekily as she carried Nicholas past Miranda.

"I should not have made that remark Andréa," Miranda called after her, making her stop on the steps, despite her precious cargo.

"Huh?"

"The comment on your size at the beginning of your tenure," Miranda clarified as she patiently waited for Sam to clamber up the steps beside her. "You are not fat, and that comment did not reflect my professional or my personal thoughts regarding you."

"I'm not sure if that makes it better or worse," Andy muttered, continuing without prompt. "That means you were just trying to hurt me."

Miranda didn't say anything, but Andy had already turned away and started up the stairs, nodding to Cara as she did and smiling at the twins, who were practically vibrating in place at the prospect of the new kids.

"Mama!" Nicholas sighed in his sleep, clearing up any qualms about his actual ability to talk. She sat on the sofa, intent on moving him from her arms and onto the cushions, but unable to do so when he gripped her shirt tightly in his hands.

"Easy munchkin," she soothed, stroking his back. "You're alright."

She tried again but to no avail. Deciding that it didn't matter if he was asleep, she returned downstairs. He would no doubt panic if he woke up in a strange room anyway.

"I thought -"

"He won't go down, and we should wake him anyway," Andy said. "He needs to know where he's sleeping so he doesn't panic when he wakes up." Andy shivered. "That's no fun."

Miranda reached out her hand, but thought better of it at the last minute and retracted it.

"Excuse me Miranda, I made stew for dinner. I thought something hardy would be good for them and it's just warming on the stove," Cara said, smiling at Sam, who precociously went over to introduce himself.

"Thank you, you may go for the day, I apologise for the late notice, but if you are free tomorrow?" Miranda said absently.

"See you tomorrow," Cara smiled, leaving with a wave.

Andy leaned back in her seat next to Miranda on the sofa, watching Olivia clutch Sam's shirt in her hand so he couldn't run around.

"Olivia, he's quite alright," Miranda sighed, rubbing her head.

"Just don't want him gettin' naughty," she said, blushing to the roots of her blonde hair.

"We'll sort him out," Miranda said, taking a deep breath. "I think a late lunch, or rather a light supper and early to bed; baths will have to wait until morning I'm afraid."

Andy smiled as Sam stopped what he was doing and rubbed his tummy.

"Tham hung'y."

"Mom?"

Miranda jerked a little and looked at her girls.

"Sorry Bobbsey's. Cassidy, Caroline," she said, pointing to the correct twin, "this is Olivia, Nicholas in Andréa's arms, and this little monster is Samuel."

"Hi!" they said enthusiastically.

Olivia shrank back, standing against Andy's legs.

"It's alright princess, they're awesome," she said, winking at the girls.

"Perhaps you can set the dining table girls?" Miranda asked, getting up with only a little effort. "Places for everyone, and some water and milk on the table."

"Yes Mom," they said in stereo.

"I'm exhausted," Miranda revealed, even though Andy could already see that she was.

"It's been a long day for everyone," Andy remarked, glancing down at the boy in her arms.

A squeal disturbed the tired silence and Andy almost laughed as Sam threw himself onto Miranda's knee, scrabbling up her body until he was tightly gripping her torso.

"Gonna eats me!" he yelled into her ear, making her wince.

"I assure you Samuel, Patricia will not eat you."

Miranda held out her hand for her St. Bernard to sit quietly at her behest, waiting for the next command.

"Patricia, I would like you to meet Samuel. Samuel, meet Patricia," Miranda said cordially, holding out her hand for Olivia to join her, "and this is Olivia. They're here to stay, so I would like you to make them feel welcome."

Andy smiled as the big dog leaned forward and huffed against his fingers. The boy giggled and withdrew his fingers even as Olivia leaned forward and let Patricia lick her arm.

"Haha, she's funny," Olivia giggled, wrapping her arms around a very patient Patricia, sinking her fingers into her fur.

"Well, that went well," Miranda said, leaning back in her chair with Sam still wrapped around her contentedly.

"I guess there's just Nick when he finally wakes up," Andy said quietly. "Why don't you go and get everyone a seat, and I'll serve up the stew?" Andy suggested, feeling as tired as Miranda looked.

"What about Nicholas?" Miranda asked, looking down at the boy still clutching Andy's shirt.

"I'll wake him and he can come and help me," Andy shrugged.

Miranda nodded and helped Olivia and Sam from the room with Patricia following behind, leaving Andy on her own, absently stroking her hand through Nicholas' hair. He twitched, alerting Andy to his open eyes.

"Hey you, how long have you been awake?" she asked, getting nothing in return.

"Alright, well it's time for dinner, so if you want to go to the bathroom or anything, you let me know, otherwise we have to go and get dinner ready for everyone."

He nodded slowly, refusing to meet her eye, so she took him to the bathroom, standing outside while he did his business before checking to see if his hands were washed. They made their way into the kitchen, where Cassidy and Caroline were already plating up.

"Oh hi Andy," Caroline said, waving happily at Nicholas, who shrunk behind Andy's leg.

"Don't mind him," she said happily, placing her hand on his head automatically. "I was just coming to do this."

"We thought we'd get a head start, seeing as there's so many of us now," Cassidy chimed in, scooping the stew into seven smaller bowls.

"Let me take two of those and once Nicholas is settled, I'll come back and help."

"Okay Andy, but we've pretty much got it," they said, going back to their task.

Andy did as she promised, depositing Nicholas in the dining room and going back to help the girls. Once they were all seated they dug in, silence reigning over the little family. The emotional toll that the orphanage had on Andy was exhausting, and she couldn't wait until she could just fall into bed and sleep.

-0-

Sam had basically fallen asleep in his chair, and it was only Cassidy's quick hands that saved him from toppling onto the floor. Miranda looked dead on her feet, but Andy felt a second wind now that she had some food. She realised belatedly as she picked Sam up that she hadn't eaten anything at all since leaving that morning. It was a wonder that they'd even managed to make it home in one piece.

She ignored the little query her brain made about calling Miranda's townhouse 'home', but she ignored it in favour of climbing up two sets of stairs to the top floor where she followed Miranda's tired instructions and put Sam down in one of the single beds in the guest room.

"Hmm," Miranda said as she looked around the top floor.

She moved forward without commenting further, helping Andy with Sam's clothing and leaving him in just his underwear, which were in dire need of a wash.

"They'll have to manage tonight," Miranda grimaced.

"Mom?"

They turned to see Caroline standing with a pile of clothing in her hands. "Cass and I wondered if they had anything to wear. It's just t-shirts from that bag we meant to throw out," she shrugged. "They're too small for us, but they might fit them."

"Thank you Bobbsey," Miranda smiled, holding out her hand for the pile.

They selected a blue shirt for Sam and rolled up the sleeves a little, chuckling as it fell past his knees.

"It will have to do," Miranda said. "I cannot even be bothered to call Melody for new clothing."

"We'll do it tomorrow," Andy suggested while offering her hand to Nicholas, who had been watching the whole time from the corner. "Hey munchkin, how about you pick something to wear to bed and then we can get you ready too?"

He stared awkwardly at the pile of shirts for longer than Miranda's patience could last for, and she left to deal with Olivia. Andy waited and waited before Nicholas leaned forward cautiously and poked at the green tank.

"An excellent choice Nick. Do you prefer to be called Nick or Nicholas?" she asked, wondering if that would generate a response.

All she got was another shrug.

"Well, alright then, you'll have to be munchkin for now. Miranda will no doubt call you Nicholas, but I'm more into nicknames."

He nodded and lifted his arms for her to pull off his jumper. He got dressed silently, pulling away when she was done.

"Alright, come with me and I'll show you where everything is." She paused at the door, looking for Miranda, realising somewhat stupidly that she had no idea where everything was.

"Ah, Nicholas, this will be your room and right next door is Olivia's," Miranda said, coming to Andy's rescue. "The bathroom is in between Olivia's room and mine."

Olivia stood holding the same bunny Sam had been clutching earlier and Andy bent down to take a closer look.

"It was his from when he was a baby," Olivia said, pierced with a yawn. "He don't sleep without it."

"Why don't you take it to him princess?" Andy whispered, stroking her cheek. "I'm sure he'll sleep better with his bunny and a kiss from his big sister."

Andy and Miranda watched as she did just that, tucking the rabbit into his arms like she'd done it a thousand times. Of the three of them, she was taking it all the best, like she understood she was safe, but Nicholas still looked wary.

"You can go to the bathroom anytime you want, okay buddy?" Andy explained, remembering the times at the orphanage when they were limited to bathroom breaks. "And if you need anything at all, you can come and find one of us. Miranda will be right in there," she said, pointing to the door she assumed was Miranda's room.

He nodded, accepting a hug from his sister before following Andy back into his room and plonking himself down in the bed.

"You're safe here buddy," Andy whispered as she kissed his forehead.

He sighed a little and fell to sleep almost instantly before Andy had even crossed the room to turn down the lights. She smiled as she watched the boys for a moment before a soft touch on her arm broke her from her thoughts. Miranda smiled gently at the sight.

"They're beautiful," she whispered, leading Andy from the room and pulling the door not quite to. After Andy had poked her head into Olivia's room to say a quick goodnight, they walked together to Miranda's door and Andy smiled, intending to leave Miranda there and find a room to sleep in just as soon as she'd made sure everything was alright downstairs.

"I made an error," Miranda said with a wince. "I assumed we would have enough room for all of us tonight, however, we do not. I had forgotten that I converted the third guest room into a study for Stephen."

Andy realised what she was saying. There was nowhere for her to sleep.

"Ah," she said, running her hand through her hair. "Okay, well I'll just sleep on the sofa."

"No, Andréa, no you, you should sleep with me." Miranda looked stricken for a moment. "In my bed, sleep in the bed I mean, with me."

"Stop, God before you burst a blood vessel!" Andy said, waving her hands as she tried to process what she was hearing. "You want me to sleep in the same bed as you?"

"It is a big bed. There is every chance you won't even notice I'm there," Miranda replied.

"Yeah, right," Andy said without thinking, blushing as Miranda looked a little pleased with herself. "And I can't sleep on the sofa?"

"No."

"I guess I'm with you then. You don't snore, do you?"

Miranda snorted but didn't answer. Andy assumed that was a no, but her hands were clammy at the thought of finding out for sure.

"I'll get my bags," she said tiredly.

"And I shall check on the girls, I imagine we'll both be asleep before they're even close to going to bed," Miranda nodded, walking down the stairs with her.

Andy left Miranda talking quietly to the girls on the middle level, heading down the stairs again to get her bags and check that they'd put everything away. She wiped over the table and refilled the water container and placed it back in the fridge. She stood by the sink, running her hands over the cool stainless steel, trying to figure out if it was possible to innocently share a bed with Miranda in light of her realisation earlier.

What if she somehow, during the night, cuddled up to Miranda? What then? She shook her head and splashed some water on her face. Her life had been weird before, but this took the cake. Realising she'd been down there too long, she brushed her hair back and prayed to a god she didn't believe in to help her through the night.

She started up the stairs, calling goodnight to the girls through their open doors before continuing up to Miranda's room. The door was closed and she dithered for a moment before knocking.

"Come in," Miranda answered, closing the door again. "I'll open it again before we turn in, but not until we are changed."

Andy nodded but didn't comment as Miranda went about her nightly routine. She spent some time in front of the bathroom mirror, removing her makeup and Andy blinked a little when she turned down the lights before joining her in the bedroom.

"Why did you do that?" Andy asked, already having an idea.

"Hm? Oh, I'm ready to sleep, hurry up Andréa."

"No, no, no," Andy shook her head, turning the lights back on. "Don't start that now, not after we've talked about the last two days."

"Andréa -"

"Miranda?" Andy said, standing in front of the now make-up free woman and cupping her cheeks. She swallowed as she realised what she'd just done, but she pressed on.

"I have seen you without makeup before," she whispered.

"Andréa," Miranda whined, making Andy smile a little.

"Miranda Priestly, you are the most beautiful woman on the planet," she said, smiling as Miranda seemed to stand a little straighter. "Whoever made you feel less than so, needs to be dealt with."

Miranda chuckled, holding Andy's hands against her face and turning her head slightly to press a tiny kiss to the bone of her wrist.

"Thank you," she whispered.

"You're welcome. Do you mind if I take a shower?"

"No," Miranda said. "I should check my emails, Lord knows how anyone does anything without me."

Andy nodded, happy in the knowledge that she wouldn't be keeping Miranda up. A nice long shower would do her the world of good.

-0-

When Andy emerged from the bathroom she stopped dead in her tracks as she caught sight of Miranda, glasses perched on the end of her nose and the nightgown she was wearing riding up her thigh.

Andy closed her eyes. She felt like she needed another shower, preferably ice cold.

"Are you alright?" Miranda asked, peering over her glasses at Andy.

"I'd be better if you didn't do that," Andy muttered to herself, moving to her bag and shoving her dirty clothing to the bottom.

"If you would like Cara to wash anything, simply place it in that basket and she shall sort everything out tomorrow."

"It's okay," Andy shrugged, pulling a little on her sleep tank.

"You are uncomfortable," Miranda said, putting down The Book.

"Yes," Andy said. "A little."

"You have nothing to fear, this is not classed as work unless you wish for it to be." Miranda paled, and Andy wondered if this was the first time Miranda had thought of the repercussions. "I should not have asked you, I apologise, I thought perhaps -"

"Stop," Andy said, holding up her hand. "You have to stop putting words in my mouth. I am uncomfortable because, because -" she sighed. "Because you are Miranda Priestly, and I'm," she shrugged, "I'm just Andy."

"Just?" Miranda repeated quietly, taking off her glasses. "You don't realise, do you?" she chuckled, rolling her eyes. "You don't realise that you are the most enchanting creature I've ever seen," Miranda whispered, her eyes only briefly glancing at Andy as she went on. "The way you handled the children today, the children that I should have handled, and the way you took care of me all day, even though it wasn't part of your job. You are amazing Andréa Sachs."

Andy stared at Miranda, waiting for the punchline, and was genuinely confused when she saw that Miranda seemed to mean it.

"But I'm -"

"But nothing," Miranda said, getting under the covers and moving her sinfully gorgeous legs out of Andy's view. "Come to bed and stop worrying."

Andy didn't move for a moment, watching as Miranda rolled onto her side facing Andy, waiting for her to do something. Andy eventually did as she was told, joining Miranda in the giant bed.

"I hope you don't feel that I'm forcing you into anything," Miranda said, sitting up suddenly. "I, I am not entirely sure what we're doing, but I would never force you, or want you to somehow feel like I have. As much as I would absolutely hate it, you are free to go at any time, truly Andréa."

"Miranda?" Andy said, settling in beside her. "Just stop. I was there as your friend today, and I'm here now as your friend. Just, let's concentrate on that, and let me worry about going back to work on Monday and not being your friend."

"I -"

"It's fine, really," Andy said, feeling the exhaustion taking over. "I think it's just time to sleep, we've had a long day. 'Night Miranda," she finished, rolling over and taking a deep breath, filling her lungs with Miranda's perfect scent.

"Goodnight, my Andréa," Miranda whispered after a time, obviously thinking Andy was already asleep.

This revelation warred with the weariness until she could no longer keep her eyes open. Andy drifted off, dreaming that Miranda was curled up behind her, with her arms wrapped tightly around her body, keeping her grounded. Keeping her safe.

Chapter Text

Andy was cosy and warm, and smiling in her sleep when something poked her in the arm repeatedly. She was dreaming that Miranda was blowing on the back of her neck and giving her goosebumps, but the poking was annoying her and she groaned in her sleep as she tried to pull herself away from dream-Miranda. She felt something pull at the covers, untucking them with some difficulty before it got into bed with her.

For one irrational moment, Andy supposed it was Patricia but couldn't make any sense of that thought in the half-wakeful state she was in.

"Andréa?" Miranda mumbled, nuzzling her neck with a cold nose.

Andy wasn't sure if it was the sensation or her name that finally brought her out of sleep, but she cracked open an eyelid and immediately noticed two things: firstly there was a little boy in her arms, breathing deeply against her chest, and secondly Miranda's arms were now wrapped around her, cradling her gently so that she was leant against Miranda's body.

"Oh," she said, frowning as she tried to understand what she was seeing.

"Go to sleep darling," Miranda whispered, sounding half asleep herself.

Ever one to do as she was told, Andy mentally shrugged and pressed back into Miranda's body, pulling Sam even closer into her arms and falling back to sleep.

-0-

"Um, Mom?"

Andy blinked as she woke up, wondering who was calling her Mom, and why they were in her apartment. Slowly coming to she glanced down, remembering vaguely that Sam had joined her in the night, and then remembering that she wasn't in her apartment but in Miranda's house, in her room, in her bed.

The mumble against the back of her neck confirmed that all the worries she'd had about snuggling up to Miranda were moot, as it seemed the woman in question was very much a cuddler and was plastered against Andy's back with not a care in the world.

"Girls?" Andy said, trying to look around at where they were.

"Um, hi Andy," they both said awkwardly. "Mom's cuddling you," Cassidy stated, tilting her head to the side.

"Yeah," Andy whispered. "I caught that."

"Um, and Olivia and Nicholas are in bed with you too," she pointed, but Andy couldn't be bothered to turn. "We came in to tell you they weren't in their beds when we went to look in on them," Caroline said, blushing a little as Andy grinned, "but we still can't find Sam."

"He's here," Andy reassured them, tucking the covers under his shoulders so he could still breathe.

"Oh, okay," Cassidy said, looking a little putout.

"Are you not getting in too?" Andy asked, chuckling when the light reappeared in Cassidy's eyes. "Just don't wake anyone up when you hop in, I don't know when the other two came in, but I bet they're exhausted," she said, shifting again into Miranda's body and suppressing a moan as she felt Miranda's breast against her back.

Caroline disappeared out of view, but Cassidy gently lay down next to Andy, gripping her hand to make sure she didn't fall out. Miranda's bed was huge by Andy's reckoning, but there was now seven people in it, and it was feeling a little crowded.

"Andy?" Cassidy asked quietly.

"What's up munchkin?" Andy urged, smiling as Sam wriggled around until he woke up and clambered over Andy and in between her and Miranda. Andy wasn't sure whether she was happy or sad about the development until she realised Cassidy was still waiting for her.

"Sorry," Andy said, shifting a little closer.

"Are you and Mom, like, girlfriends or something?" she asked, refusing to meet Andy's eye.

"Cassidy, Andréa and I are whatever we are," Miranda said suddenly. "I admit that this particular situation is not something you are used to seeing, but we had a trying day yesterday, and nowhere for Andréa to sleep."

"But you're like, cuddling," Cassidy said, ignoring Miranda's stern tone. "You never cuddle anyone but us."

"Cass, I think what your Mom means is that we're not sure what we are. Right now, I'm your Mom's friend, but when - or if - something changes, you and Caroline will be the first to know."

Andy felt Miranda's thumb stroke her hip before she retracted her arm completely, leaving Andy colder than she should have been wrapped up in the million thread count sheets.

"Fine," Cassidy said. "But I wish you were going out."

Andy's heart thumped painfully in her chest. Someone wanted her, someone other than the people that should have wanted her. It was the fears of her childhood still coming through, a part of her she thought she'd overcome, but she couldn't help it. She leaned forward and kissed Cassidy's forehead.

"Thanks munchkin."

"Mom?" Caroline said from behind them.

"Yes Bobbsey?"

"Can we make pancakes with Cara?"

"Is Cara here already? Well, I don't see why not, as long as she doesn't mind," Miranda sighed. "Is it something you wish to do on your own, or would you mind Olivia tagging along?"

"We don't mind," Cassidy said, peering over Andy at her mother. "Can we wake her up?"

"Best not to," Andy said immediately. "I'd let them rest, they wouldn't necessarily have had much sleep the last few days."

"As Andréa said, Bobbsey's. You two go and have your showers and get dressed. When Olivia wakes and has showered as well, we'll be down to help you."

"What about pancakes though?" Caroline said, the frown she was no doubt wearing coming through in her voice.

"What about asking Cara to make some of those cupcakes you were both raving about so much, then when the children are awake, we can have breakfast together."

"Okay Mom," they said in unison. Cassidy pressed a kiss to Andy's cheek and she heard Caroline do the same for Miranda, before slipping out of bed and leaving the two women alone, with three sleeping children.

"I manhandled you during the night," Miranda said after a while. "I apologise."

"Don't," Andy whispered. "I'm not sorry."

"No?" Miranda asked, a tentative hand brushing Andy's ribs.

"No," Andy repeated, her breath shaking when Miranda's hand started moving along her side, down past her hip to her thigh, and slowly back up to the sides of her breasts where she had to close her eyes at the careful caress. "Miranda?"

"I apologise again. Now is not the time," Miranda whispered, sounding as sorry as Andy was at the thought of not continuing, rather than her actions.

"Perhaps," Andy swallowed thickly, "perhaps later?"

"Definitely," Miranda said.

Andy couldn't be sure, but she thought she felt a tiny kiss to her shoulder and that alone was something that she was going to treasure until they could revisit the conversation their two bodies definitely wanted them to have.

"Did you hear the other two come in last night?" Andy asked.

"Olivia apparently found Nicholas wandering around the hall looking for her. She brought him in here and I persuaded her to stay; she looked exhausted."

"I'm not surprised," Andy whispered, rolling a little to look at the two kids clinging to Miranda's back. "She's so strong."

"Indeed," Miranda hummed, smirking just a little as Sam mewled, stretching his arms above him as he blinked owlishly.

"Hey," Sam said suddenly, sitting up. "Where is we?"

"Where are we, darling," Miranda said.

Andy smiled as she saw his beaming face, clearly happy to be in such a huge bed, and no longer in the orphanage.

"I knows you!" he giggled, laying back down between the two of them and playing with Miranda's fingers where they rested on his stomach. "Is you's home?"

"Yes sweetheart," Miranda said sadly. "We are home now, for you and your brother and sister."

"'kay," he said with a shrug.

He lay for a while before he got bored, kicking his legs in the air so that the cover would rise before dropping on them and laughing madly at the whoosh of air that washed over him. Olivia was next to rise, tumbling out of bed and running around to stand in front of Andy.

"Sam, don't!" she hissed, looking a little worried.

"Hey, don't panic sweetie," Andy said gently, offering the little girl her hand. "He's okay. Miranda would have asked him to stop if he was doing something wrong."

"I don't want him to be naughty. I don't wanna go back," she admitted worriedly.

"Olivia, come here," Miranda said, resting her arm on Andy's side and holding out her hand.

Andy wrapped an arm around her as she knelt on the side of the bed, her head down and her hands clenched.

"I am not in the habit of saying something I don't mean," Miranda said gently, but firmly. "I will tell Samuel if he does something I do not approve of. In the meantime, I would like for you to do something." Olivia perked up a little and she nodded so hard, Andy was sure her little head was going to fall off. "I would love it if you would go with Andréa and have a shower before helping Caroline and Cassidy make some pancakes?"

"What about the boys?" Olivia looked down at Sam, who was now wriggling down under the covers and playing peek-a-boo with Miranda.

"The boys will be fine with me, I assure you," Miranda soothed. "Now would you go and check on my girls for me?"

"I guess," Olivia said, biting her lip and looking over at Nicholas, who was yet to stir.

"Alright," Andy said, rubbing her hands together. "Let's go and get showered and I'll find you something to wear."

"Ah, I shall get whats-her-name to bring over some clothing."

"Miranda!" Andy scoffed, although chuckled at the thought.

"She is paid to assist me, and right now, unless you wish to go to the store on your own, I need some assistance."

"Well, when you put it like that," Andy snickered.

"That's what I thought. Would you help Olivia while I sort it out?"

"Of course," Andy said.

"Wait! Tham go too!" Sam called, throwing himself out of bed and almost landing on his head, before toddling after Andy, who waited for him at the door before supervising Olivia in the shower and Sam's time on the toilet.

"You done yet princess?" Andy called, smiling at the happy little girl. "Would you like some help washing your hair?"

"Um, yes," she said, blushing. "Um, please."

"It's okay," Andy said, keeping one eye on Sam and another on what she was doing. Olivia's hair was like spun silk and it didn't take much to wash the tangles out of it.

"I finished!" Sam called, swinging his legs happily. It occurred to Andy that perhaps Sam was still young enough to be in diapers. As she cleaned him up, she asked Olivia about it.

"Um, he does yeah. Usually only at night though," she grimaced. "He wets the bed."

"Ah," Andy said, his escape into Miranda's room making a little more sense. She made a mental note to check on his bed when he was safely re-dressed, though in what she didn't know. She walked them both into Olivia's room, perusing the pile of clothes the girls had left them last night, trying to work out if there was something suitable.

"You-know-who will be here within the hour," Miranda said from the doorway, her cream nightgown now covered in a short, blood-red kimono, cinched at the waist and showing her bare legs.

"Um, right," Andy said, unable to tear her eyes away from those thighs.

"Andréa?"

Blinking she looked up, blushing at the smug look on Miranda's face.

"Thank you for the compliment," she grinned, "but I was simply coming to tell you that I will also shower if you can find something for them to wear."

"Sure. Oh and Sam needs night diapers," she commented.

"Ah, another thing I had not thought about. Why would that woman not give us some? The incompetence of people, I'm surprised -"

"Miranda?" Andy interrupted, stopping her mid-rant. "Not here," she said, nodding to the kids sitting on the bed waiting for her.

"Yes, my apologies. I shall call whats-her-name and tell her to include some."

"Alright. We'll go downstairs in a minute. What about Nicholas?"

"He seems to still be asleep. I'll check on him again after my shower."

Andy nodded and went back to the task of trying to find something for the two children to wear. Finally fashioning something akin to a pair of shorts onto Sam and helping Olivia into a t-shirt that was more like a dress, they walked with her downstairs, both a little clingy as they moved into the kitchen.

"Hey!" Caroline said, spinning around holding a cup of flour in her hand.

"No! Caroline put the flour down before you go anywhere," Cara reprimanded, rescuing the cup and everyone else from wearing it all day.

"Oops, sorry," she said, brushing her hands on her apron. "I'm Caroline just in case you didn't know."

"You the same!" Sam said, pointing to the twins with an open mouth.

"Not quite," Andy said, winking at Cassidy. "So princess, we thought maybe you'd like to help Cass and Caro with the cupcakes and then help Cara make some pancakes? If you don't want to, it's no big deal, we just thought it might be fun."

"Yes please," she said, turning her face into Andy's hand.

"Hey, you can wear Mom's apron," Cassidy suggested, getting a lonely apron from the hook behind the door and slipping it over Olivia's head. "She only uses it now and then."

"Are you alright with this?" Andy asked Cara.

"Of course," she said easily. "Those two are terrors in the kitchen; she'll probably be more help than either of them."

"Hey!" the girls protested, laughing with Cara as she stared at them. "So we already dropped an egg and stole some icing. We're just making sure it's fit for human consumption."

"You two are terrible," Cara said, nodding them back around and kneeling down in front of Olivia. "Hi Olivia, I'm Cara. I'm the nanny."

"Wha's that?" Olivia asked, looking up at Andy.

"It's someone who looks after the kids when the moms can't," Cassidy explained. "Cara's awesome, you'll love her."

"Thank you girls," Cara chuckled. "Shall I help you up?"

Andy left Olivia in Cara's capable hands, intending to perhaps sit and watch TV with Sam until Melody arrived with some clothes for them all, but was interrupted by the most terrified scream coming from upstairs.

Chapter Text

Andy left Sam with Cara and raced up the stairs two at a time, bursting into Miranda's room to see Nicholas sobbing on her knee as she rocked him back and forth.

"There, there darling," she said sadly. "It's alright, you're alright."

"Is he okay?" Andy asked, frowning at the heart-wrenching sobs Nicholas was making.

"I think he had reached the end of his capacity to hold onto things," Miranda said gently, pressing a kiss to his temple. "It's alright Nicholas, you're safe. We're going to take care of you."

"Mommy!" he cried, in such a heartbreaking way that Andy had to blink back her own tears.

She had nearly managed to control them when Miranda shifted back on the bed, taking Nicholas with her. The scene alone made Andy's heart beat erratically, but as Miranda rocked him, she started singing a lullaby. Not that Andy would have expected anything less, but Miranda's voice was beautiful.

Andy stood mesmerised, wondering how someone who had seen this side of Miranda would ever let her go. She couldn't believe that the twins' father, Stephen, or even Alec could leave this woman. This, what she was watching, was enough to make all of the memories of Miranda's ill temper disappear.

"Oh wow, she hasn't sung that since we were little," Cassidy whispered, appearing at Andy's side.

"What is it?" Andy asked.

"It's an old Irish tune; Mom's grandmother was from there, or something," Cassidy whispered unhelpfully.

Andy blinked again, realising that perhaps it would be best if they all left Miranda to calm Nicholas down instead of imposing on them both.

"Come on," Andy said, easing Cassidy from the room and shutting the door behind them and doing her best to smile. "I'm starving, is breakfast ready?"

"Is Nicky okay?" Olivia asked, appearing behind them.

"Nicky?" Andy asked, smiling as Olivia nodded. "Yeah princess, he's fine. He just needed a cuddle, that's all."

"I needs cuddles!" Sam screeched, running out of Caroline's grasp and latching onto Andy's knees.

"Whoa there little man, I know you need cuddles," Andy said, picking him up and cuddling him tightly. "But I bet there's something you need more."

"Wha'?" he asked, tilting his head to the side like he'd no doubt seen Cassidy, or Miranda, do.

"Pancakes."

"Yey!" he squealed, pumping his fists in the air and making them all laugh.

"Come on then pancake monster, let's go get something to eat."

Clutching Olivia's hand and trying not to drop Sam as she made her way down the stairs, Andy suddenly wondered how empty her life would feel without these children, the twins included, around. She had a terrible sinking feeling in her stomach that when Miranda went back to work, when she went back to work, everything would go back to the way it was. The problem was now that she'd experienced it this way, Andy wasn't sure she could survive that.

-0-

Melody came and went, dropping off clothing, diapers and other sundry items Miranda had requested, all in a daze of confusion, especially when she bumped into Andy running around downstairs with a very naked Samuel clinging to her back like a monkey. She'd managed to get him into the shower finally, after discovering that he had indeed wet the bed. Thankfully, Cara had taken care of it, along with the shirt he had borrowed, which had managed to escape for the most part.

Andy had only just managed to stop the poor woman from fainting on the spot at the sight and as she waved her out of the front door, she knew it would be only a matter of time before she had a phone call from Nigel or Emily. Or both.

She ignored the problem, for now, happy that her phone was upstairs charging by her bed - by Miranda's bed - and wondered whether Nicholas was feeling any better. Everyone had eaten their fill of pancakes, then spent a messy hour icing the cupcakes. Sam had ended up with more icing on his face than on any of his cakes, but he had lots of fun and loved the thought of the new clothes he could wear after washing it all off. Caroline and Cassidy were doting on little Olivia, and had so far declared their rooms a 'girls only zone' and proceeded to put her hair up in a braid, matching theirs, and taught her how to sing into a hairbrush.

Andy was content watching Sam play with the blocks she had bought at the store yesterday. He would make a tower, then knock it down, pretending to do it by accident, before rolling on the floor giggling and holding his sides. She couldn't help but smile with him as she watched, thankful that his spark hadn't been put out by that awful place or thoughts of his parents.

"Andréa?"

Andy looked up, beaming as she saw Nicholas standing beside Miranda, holding her hand and dressed in his smart new clothes.

"Hey buddy, are you feeling a little better?" she asked. He nodded but didn't say anything, so Andy turned her attention back to Miranda. "Can I get you a coffee?"

Miranda sighed, nodding thankfully and lead Nicholas into the room, motioning for him to go and play with the blocks and cars with his brother while she rejoined Andy at the door.

"Are you alright?" Andy asked, seeing the little creases at the corner of Miranda's eyes.

"He is inconsolable, and there's only so long you can listen to his sobbing before you succumb yourself."

"Hey -" Andy said, moving without thinking and wrapping Miranda up in a hug.

"Thank you," Miranda sighed, resting her head on Andy's shoulder and closing her eyes. "I might be too old for this."

"Nah, you're just out of practice. By the way, Melody caught Sam and I playing horsey, so you may get a phone call from Nigel demanding to know whose children you have acquired."

Miranda snorted but didn't move from her place in Andy's arms.

"Let him. I shall have to talk to him about this week anyway. I am not sure how everything is going to go with the three of them here."

"Well, we can play it by ear," Andy said with a smile. "Even though I know you don't like doing that."

"Do you mean that?" Miranda asked, finally lifting her head and looking straight into Andy's eyes. "Do you really?"

"What?" Andy said, feeling confused.

"We?"

Andy's frown deepened, but then she understood what she'd said. Knowing Miranda would rather the truth than a knee-jerk reaction, Andy took a moment to think about it. She thought back to the moment of terror she'd felt on the stairs that morning, how going back to her empty, lonely apartment now felt so terrifyingly sad she wasn't sure she could do it.

"I would be more than happy to stay here Miranda," she replied quietly, letting her feelings take over for a moment and gently running her nose along Miranda's hairline. "I would love to stay, with you."

"Good," Miranda breathed, smiling gently as she looked up at Andy. "Because I'm not sure I could let you go."

Andy grinned as Miranda stood on her toes, pressing a chaste, but heartfelt, kiss on Andy's cheek. With her heart about to beat out of her chest, Andy wrapped her arms around Miranda's waist, keeping her on her toes and leaning down to kiss her lips, wishing she didn't have to pull away so soon.

"Do we need to talk about this?" Miranda asked, resting her arms on Andy's shoulders and playing with the hair in her ponytail.

"Only if you want to," Andy shrugged. "If there's anything we need to talk about, I figure we'll get to it. We should probably tell the girls though."

"All the children," Miranda sighed, dropping back and leaning against Andy, letting her sway them both to music only they could hear.

"M'anda?" Sam said, tugging on her shirt.

"Yes Samuel," she said, without pulling away.

"You give good huggles? Nicky says you gives good huggles. Tham has huggles too?"

"She gives the best huggles kiddo," Andy grinned, finally letting Miranda go and picking up the young man. She passed him over to Miranda and left them playing while she went downstairs to the kitchen. She was barely able to restrain a whoop of joy at the knowledge that she wouldn't have to leave at the end of the weekend.

-0-

"Hey buddy," Andy groaned as she sat down on the floor and folded her legs up. "You feeling a little better?"

Nicholas nodded, flashing Andy a small smile before going back to building what looked like a house from just the red blocks.

"Are you hungry for anything? Toast? I could make you some pancakes if you like?" Nicholas shook his head without even turning around, making Andy frown a little. "Well, when you get hungry, you let me know alright?"

She sighed as he kept on playing, wondering if there was something they were missing, or whether the trauma of losing both his parents and then being stuck in that God-awful place had done this much damage to him. She didn't have the energy to think about it.

She realised that they should probably get a hold of someone who knew the kids, and she left Nicholas, after explaining to him she would be right back and grabbed her cell. She rang a few numbers before hitting the jackpot on her fourth call. The lawyer's office that had handled the will reading had the number for the nursery they had all attended. Andy rang the after-hours number and spoke to the woman in charge. She spoke at length about all three children, though Sam she knew the least about. Nicholas had been a beautifully well-rounded child, full of joy and happiness and usually, you couldn't get a word in edgeways. It seemed, to Andy, that this ordeal had crushed his very soul.

She watched him as she spoke to the woman, noticing the way he seemed to be watching her as well. Not obviously, but every now and then he'd look up, and Andy couldn't decide whether he was checking she was still there, or just keeping an eye on everything she was doing. Andy decided it didn't matter, and thanked the woman profusely, telling her they'd be in touch if they needed anything else.

For now, they were in a holding pattern. Andy made all the necessary calls, but until Monday came, they could not get a key to the kids' old house, and could therefore not pack up their things. That meant, for now, they were stuck playing in Miranda's not very kid-friendly home with a bag of blocks, a handful of toy cars and a few colouring books.

"There you are, I was wondering if you had the number for -" Miranda came sauntering in but paused when she saw Nicholas and smiled when he met her gaze, "- the number for the lawyer that contacted you; I need to get in touch with someone who knew the children."

Andy smiled and drew Miranda from the room, making sure Nicholas could see them, even if he couldn't hear them.

"I already spoke to him, and he gave me a number for Olivia's kindergarten teacher. The same woman that Nicholas had."

"Whatever did I do before you came into my life?" Miranda mused, smirking a little when Andy blushed.

"Um, well, she said Nicholas, or Nicky, was a beautiful little boy, who usually talks a dime a dozen and you could hardly ever get a word in edgeways."

They both looked back through the door to where Nicholas was perusing the shelves full of books. Andy hadn't even had time to look at them other than in passing, but she could not wait to get a spare moment to scope out those shelves. She was salivating at the thought.

"You are the literary master here," Miranda said, pushing her back towards the room. "Go and read him a story. It had gone entirely too quiet upstairs where I left Samuel with the girls and I really hope they're not painting his nails."

Andy snorted and went back in the room, startling Nicholas, who dropped back onto the floor and picked up a block, feigning disinterest in the books he had just been studying.

"There are heaps of books in here, isn't there?" Andy said, going over and looking at the spines.

Some were first editions, Andy could tell by the binding on them, but most looked well loved. There were so many that Andy was a little overwhelmed at the choice. She felt rather than saw Nicholas join her by the shelves and she smiled when his arm slipped around her leg, but she couldn't take her eyes off the shelves.

There were sections of books that Andy wasn't surprised to see; the usual fashion books and autobiographies of notable women. There were books on art, history and culture but Andy knew Miranda was the kind of woman who had a thirst for knowledge, who liked to be informed about any situation she got herself into. It was Nicholas who pointed her to the section that made her smile the most. It seemed that as unsentimental as Miranda appeared, books were something she felt strongly about. Filling just over a third of the shelves were children's books, all well worn and loved.

"Wow!" Andy said, kneeling next to Nicholas so she could look with him. "What about we pick one and I'll read it to you?" Andy asked. "Would you like that?"

Nicholas' mouth curled just barely and he nodded. Andy bit her lip as she looked at the choices. There were some that were obviously the girls' books. Pippy Longstockings and a beautiful, but well-worn, copy of The Bobbsey Twins, as well as what seemed like all of the classics including The Wind in the Willows and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. They all seemed a bit involved for Nicholas' age, especially not knowing where he was in his learning and understanding. She saw him twitch out of the corner of her eye and turned as he ran his fingers over a set of books that Andy knew about but had never read. She was past the age of people reading books to her by the time she'd found a family who would, so she'd missed out mostly. It was why she suddenly felt very excited.

"Would you like me to read Peter Rabbit?" Andy asked gently, moving forward to take a few of the books from the shelf. "Do you already have a favourite? Or shall we just work our way through?"

He cautiously stopped her hand from taking one of the books from the middle, instead, moving her hand to the end of the row, starting at the beginning. He tugged on his shirt sleeves as Andy wrapped her arms around his middle and pulled him with her to the corner of the sofa, all cuddled up together with him on her knee. She took a deep breath as he let out a sigh and relaxed against her chest.

"The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher."

By the third story, Andy was enjoying herself just as much as Nicholas was. He wasn't paying attention all that much to the story, although he did smile now and then as she read the more amusing bits, but mainly his fingers would stop hers and stroke the pages, enthralled by the beautiful pictures.

"Andy?"

Nicholas and Andy both looked up to see Caroline smiling at the door.

"Mom wants to know whether you guys want to go to the park. Sam is a bit bored I think, and we even put his hair in pigtails!"

Andy giggled, tickling Nicholas gently on the ribs.

"What do you say munchkin, do you want to go to the park with your brother and sister?"

He nodded, and Andy desperately wanted to sing at the small step he seemed to have made in the time it had taken for her to read three short books.

"Alright my little prince, how about we go upstairs and find Miranda and see where she's put your shoes? Then we can all go to the park."

Chapter Text

Andy's experience with children only extended as far as her sister, who was ten years younger than her. They hadn't been especially close growing up, but Andy had sometimes taken her to the park or the mall when they were waiting on their parents. Having three young children, as well as two over-excitable pre-teens turned out to be rather more complicated.

They assembled on the front steps, and as Miranda turned on the alarm, Cassidy declared she had to go back and get her camera. Then when they were half way down the road from Miranda's house, Sam realised he'd forgotten Bop - the rabbit he desperately needed wherever they went. Miranda rolled her eyes so hard, Andy was worried they were going to roll out of her head. She gave her bag to Cassidy, took Sam and Nicholas' hands from Miranda's and then sent the Ice Queen back, giving her time to decompress again before rejoining them.

"Andy?"

"Yes Caroline?" Andy sighed, her neck beginning to ache trying to watch all five children at her side like a hawk.

"Do you think that Mom will let you go home if you asked?"

Andy looked up sharply, forgetting the boys for a moment as she gaped at Caroline.

"Do you not want me here?"

"Oh, no, that's not what I meant, sorry Andy," she said quickly, shaking her head. "I just, I don't know, I wondered whether you'd live with us forever now." She glanced down at Olivia, who seemed to be watching every move everyone made. "I liked it this morning, with us all together. Mom's usually too busy, or too grumpy."

"Oh Caroline," Andy sighed again, taking a moment to smile down at Sam as they continued walking at an incredibly slow pace so that Miranda could catch up. "I think you need to start seeing your Mom in a different way."

"How do you mean?" Cassidy asked, her interest piqued by the topic of conversation.

"Well, she has to be the leader of the pack. The one with all the answers. Now I'm not saying that your Mom shouldn't let someone else, like Nigel or Emily handle a few more things to ease her load, but that magazine is responsible for millions of dollars in pay cheques and job security. All the while she's fighting to make it the best it can be, there are people around her that constantly try to get in her way. She has to remain strong and true, like a knight, not a dragon, so when she gets home, when she sees her two babies," Cassidy rolled her eyes, but Caroline smiled, "whom she knows love her completely and utterly no matter what, she can let go of all that armour and just be herself. But," she said conspiratorially, even making Nicholas lean in a little as they all listened to Andy's story, "if you've been so strong and wearing armour for so long, you're going to need to expand a little afterwards; like a sponge when you squeeze it, it goes back to it's original form. That's your Mom, going back to being your Mom after battling ogres and villains."

"Is M'anda really a knight?" Olivia asked, looking wide-eyed.

"Sort of. People say she's a dragon, but I know she's not. Her armour is all the pretty clothes, the makeup and the hair, and her sword is her sharp tongue. But you," she looked at the boys, smiling at Nicholas, "all of you are her babies now. She's going to protect you with all that she has, so that you're safe and warm and cared for."

"And I'm a princess!" Olivia said happily.

"Yes you are," Andy chuckled, "and Nicky is the little prince."

"Wha' 'bout me?" Sam yelled, looking distraught at the thought of missing out.

"You're a little prince as well," Andy said quickly. "We can have more than one prince."

"Wha' 'bout a monkey? Can I be's a monkey?" Sam asked, looking worried he'd forego that honour too if he was a prince.

"You most certainly can. Are you a monkey?"

"Yep!" he said happily, making a few monkey noises before going back to his dancing as they finally got in sight of the park.

"I've never thought about it like that," Cassidy admitted. "It makes sense when you put it that way. Thanks, Andy."

"Why are we thanking Andréa?" Miranda said, finally rejoining them with a grubby rabbit in tow.

"BOP!" Sam yelled, grabbing it and sticking the ear in his mouth immediately.

"Samuel, I would prefer you not do that," Miranda said sternly.

He took no notice and pulled out of Andy's hand to run into the sandpit where a few other toddlers were making castles.

"I guess we'll work up to that," Andy shrugged. "I might go and rescue Bop before we lose him. That would be a disaster." She looked down at Nicholas, who seemed to have no intention of letting her go. "Are you going to play?"

He shook his head, moving closer to Andy as he stared at the fairly busy play gym. It was a warm Saturday afternoon, and as such, there were no free seats available for Miranda to sit on. Andy chewed on her lip for a moment before deciding.

"Can you keep Miranda company for a moment while I go and rescue Bop?" she asked him, giving his little hand over to Miranda and rescuing said bunny. She moved to a spot in the shade of a tree that had a good vantage point of both the play gym and the sandpit so they could keep an eye on both Sam and Olivia - although she was playing with the twins. She slid out of her coat, thankful that it wasn't one from the closet she'd put on to impress Miranda, and spread it on the ground.

"I just thought you'd prefer to sit on that, rather than get grass stains on your slacks," Andy shrugged when Miranda raised an eyebrow at her.

"That is very courteous of you Andréa," Miranda said with a hint of surprise in her voice. "Thank you."

"You're most welcome," Andy smiled, helping Miranda sit down on the coat before dropping down on the floor herself, leaning back against the tree and watching as Olivia played with the twins.

"I am beginning to think that this is even more than we, together, can cope with," Miranda said, looking uncharacteristically nervous as she watched Sam.

Andy glanced at Nicholas, who was picking at the grass rather than watching the children.

"I think that suddenly having three small children after having such grown-up ones for a very long time is going to be something," she paused, "we are going to have to get used to." Miranda hummed but didn't comment. "What is really bothering you?" Andy asked, feeling freer than she ever had before; she could ask Miranda Priestly questions now.

"So many things Andréa. That I'm too old. That Nicholas will never talk again, that Samuel will never learn to sleep in his own bed. That Caroline and Cassidy will think we've forgotten them, that you will realise I'm a cranky old woman with too many children and resent me for making you stay."

"Whoa there," Andy said quietly, sliding her hand into the small gap between them, linking their little fingers together. Even on such a 'normal' day she was still very conscious of the public setting they were in. "You haven't made me stay. I stay out of my own choosing." Andy smiled as Sam waved to them from the sandpit. "I was telling the kids earlier, Caroline asked me if I could stay forever - admittedly it led to another discussion that I won't tell you about, because it was something that the kids needed to hear - but they want me here, and you, you want me here too and I've never had that," Andy faltered as Nicholas lay back, resting his head on her thigh. Andy let that sink into Miranda's brain before continuing. She ran her fingers through Nicholas' hair as she spoke. "You'll have to be a bit patient with me, because I truly have never had anyone ever want me before. I'm doing my best, but I'm going to freak out every now and then, until I realise you're not playing with my emotions."

"Oh Andréa," Miranda said sadly, squeezing her little finger gently.

"No, it's fine, it's something I know about myself, I just need you to be aware of that. And it's not like I've never seen your moods before. I'm probably exactly what you want and need Priestly," Andy chuckled. "I know you as well as you know yourself."

"More so, I shouldn't wonder," Miranda sighed, barely leaning against Andy's shoulder. "I have to call Leslie when we get home, and then I think we should all of us sit down and talk about what we need and what they want, and then maybe call in my builder and have him adjust the rooms accordingly. I think if we knock a hole in the wall through to the -"

"Miranda!" Andy said, laughing at the putout look on Miranda's face. "Let's watch the kids first, talk details later. Just relax. You have your sunglasses, close your eyes if you like."

"I could never do that," Miranda said, looking scandalised. "I've always been too focussed on the children."

"Alright," said Andy, knowing better than to argue, "but relax okay? Just enjoy it."

Andy hadn't expected her to, but Miranda did as she was told. Andy was in heaven, enjoying the sunshine on her legs, Nicholas' affection as he lay over their thighs and Miranda's little finger, still entwined with hers.

"M'anda, M'anda!"

Andy looked up to see Olivia running towards them, looking so happy. The thought of what these kids had lost caught her breath in her throat and she had to breathe very deeply to stop herself from tearing up.

"Olivia, if you must call me something, try Miranda," Miranda said gently, but firmly.

"M'anda?" she said innocently, making the twins giggle.

"I can't -"

"What's up princess?" Andy said, heading off any arguments before they happened.

"Can we get ice cream?"

Andy looked around and saw the ice cream cart just down the pathway. Knowing that no matter how good an idea she thought it was, Miranda would get the last say in this. She looked at the woman she was slowly getting to know and saw the tiniest smirk appear on her lips.

"I suppose you're all going to turn those eyes on me now, aren't you?" she huffed, looking down at Nicholas who looked slightly more enthusiastic about getting an ice cream. "I believe I am outnumbered. Bobbseys, will one of you go and retrieve Samuel from the sandpit and then we shall discuss what we each want."

Both twins scampered off, leaving Miranda to deal with an excited Olivia and Andy cuddling with Nicholas on her knee.

"What about you little prince?" she asked, smoothing back his hair. Miranda would no doubt have it cut after the weekend, but for now, it was quite similar to Andy's. "Are you up for an ice cream?"

Nicholas nodded shyly and Andy smiled at him. She didn't doubt any of this show of bravado from Olivia would soon crack, and she'd be mourning her parents too. She supposed, without knowing her well, that it was just Olivia's way to be the leader; the strong one. Not unlike the woman beside her. Nicholas was more like Andy; quiet but sharp. She knew he was following everything that was going on, all that was around him. Being silent in such a noisy world meant that you noticed more, saw more and once he started talking again, Andy knew he'd be just as precocious as the twins were.

"Why I have to come back?" Sam asked glumly as Caroline placed him on the grass in front of them.

"Well, once you've had a big drink of water," Andy said, helping him drink from a bottle, "Miranda has something she wants to ask you."

"M'anda mad?" he asked, looking weary. "I no be monkey anymore."

"Monkey?" Miranda asked, looking sternly at Andy.

"It's an inside joke," Andy said quickly. "Aren't you going to tell him?"

"Tell Tham, p'ease M'anda!" Sam said, getting on his knees and leaning on her slacks with sandy hands.

"I suppose that was inevitable," she sighed, wiping the sand from his forehead and cheeks. "Would you like some ice cream, Samuel?"

"YEAH! Ice cream!"

They all chuckled as he started dancing, wiggling his hips and waving his arms around while chanting ice cream. Andy looked over to see Miranda smiling softly at her, and she mirrored it, squeezing the little finger still clinging to her own.

"Alright, what is everyone getting?" Andy asked, looking at the twins first.

After much arguing and vetoing of choices - on Miranda's part at least - Andy had a sort of understanding of what everyone wanted. After a semi-tantrum, that upset not only Sam but Olivia as well, Miranda gave in with an almighty sigh and let him have the Spiderman one. Miranda shook off Andy's suggestion that she too should have one, so Andy went off, with Cassidy in tow to buy them all what they wanted.

"Do you think Mom's mad we made Olivia ask you guys for ice cream?" Cassidy said, biting her lip.

"No," Andy smiled, bopping Cassidy on the chin. "I think she's just a little overwhelmed at looking after all of you."

'You're not though?"

"I am, but I'm also far more laid back than your Mom, Cass. And I'm nobody special. Your Mom is the one they'll put in the paper tomorrow."

"You are special Andy. To all of us."

Andy could have been knocked over by a feather as those words pierced her heart. She knew it was stupid, but the love and care and just, well… She pulled Cassidy back into her body and kissed her head, even as she was mid-sentence with the man about to hand over his ice creams.

"Thanks Cass," she whispered, but quickly stood up straight and nodded to the guy.

They got the right ones eventually and wandered back to the group, passing out all of the treats and handing Nicholas' to Miranda.

"Is this the one you wanted Nicholas?" Miranda asked gently. "Olivia tried to guess."

He nodded and smiled brightly at Miranda, but still didn't say thank you. It was one of the only times Andy had seen Miranda give up gracefully and she sat back down with a groan.

"You better not make any wise crack about you getting old Andréa," Miranda said cheekily.

"Wouldn't dream of it," Andy replied, giggling a little as she felt Miranda's finger find her own once more.

"Hey Mom, can we go to the National History Museum?" Caroline asked suddenly. Andy noticed the other kids perked up as she said it, and she looked sympathetically at Miranda, who shook her head.

"That is unfair Caroline," Miranda said, chastising her gently.

"It's just a question, sorry," Caroline said, not sounding the least bit sorry at all.

"Going to the museum is not as simple anymore Caroline, we have other people to think of now."

"Yeah, but they'll love it too. We always did."

"And what if Samuel gets tired, are you going to carry him when he falls asleep?"

"Well, no, but you probably won't either," Caroline said, making Andy's eyes go wide.

She wanted to jump in, to tell Caroline to lay off and to insist she didn't want to be a part of this argument, but she bit her lip as Cassidy had done earlier and accepted both boys on her knee as the two Priestly women glared at each other.

"Caro, Mom's right, we're not on our own anymore. It takes more planning," Cassidy said, tugging on her sister's sleeve. "Just leave it, we'll go another day."

Andy could already see Miranda's face as she no doubt did exactly as Andy was doing - thinking forward to find another day where they could go to the museum. After having Friday off, and with the luncheon next Saturday, Andy couldn't see Miranda having any time to do so until the weekend after next.

"Girls, enough," Miranda sighed, taking off her sunglasses and looking them squarely in the eye. "Caroline, I am unhappy with your behaviour and I shall talk to you about it later, however," she paused and looked sideways. Andy smiled at her and nodded her consent, knowing exactly what Miranda was thinking before Miranda said it, "however, I do not envision being able to do many things next weekend, so I shall agree to go to the museum tomorrow."

"Yey!" Olivia yelled, throwing her sticky hands around Miranda's neck. "Thanks M'anda."

Caroline looked suitably cowed, but Miranda accepted Sam onto her knee as well, agreeing that perhaps there was time for just a little more play before all of them went home to sit down and talk.

"Sam walk with M'anda!" he yelled, before anyone else could say anything.

Andy bit her cheek to stop herself from laughing as Sam's red sticky hands extended outwards towards Miranda's. And Miranda's face was a picture of horror as she saw what was coming.

"Whoa there monkey," she said, making him giggle. "You need to wipe your hands first before you hold onto Miranda. You wouldn't want her to get sticky hands too, now would you?"

"She hold'a sword betterer," Sam shrugged but held out his hands anyway.

It was the second time he'd alluded to the conversation Andy didn't want to have with Miranda. She had no idea the opinion Miranda would have of her, once she realised the type of chat she'd had with Miranda's own children.

"What on earth is he talking about?"

"Oh yeah Mom," Cassidy said, all ready to go with Andy's bag on her back and Olivia's hand in hers. "Andy explained why you work so much. She said you were a knight, not a dragon. And that you had to be strong for everyone, and that your armour squeezes so tightly that sometimes you have to just squash back out again."

"Like a sponge!" Olivia giggled.

Andy could feel Miranda's stare and how her own ears were burning, no doubt matching the rest of her face as she busied herself with cleaning Sam's hands.

"And we are all princesses," Olivia said happily, "but Nicky's a prince and Sam's a prince, 'cept he wanted to be a monkey."

"Yey!" Sam yelled, rushing back to Miranda and slipping his hand into hers. "I ready."

Andy finally looked up to see Miranda staring at her, as if she'd never seen her before.

"Sorry," she shrugged.

"Do not apologise," Miranda said, clearing her throat as she struggled to get the words out. "I am not angry or upset. I am in awe of you Andréa Sachs. In awe."

She turned and walked away, with the twins, Olivia and Sam following and it wasn't until Nicholas tugged on Andy's hand that she realised they'd been left behind.

"Sorry little prince," she said, shaking herself and rushing to catch up with the others.

She had no idea what she was doing, but she wanted Miranda to speak to her with that tone of voice, and the look in her eyes all the time. She wanted that for the rest of her life and she was going to do anything to get it.

Chapter Text

They trudged home, the tension that was growing between Caroline and Miranda only serving to push everyone else into silence. The had managed to get most of the way back with only a block to go before Sam gave up on trying to decipher what was wrong and stopped dead in his tracks, looking warily at Miranda and holding out his arms to Andy.

Andy wanted to pick him up, desperately wanted to in fact, but her common sense told her that she was not always going to be around. Miranda had to be the one that he turned to, the one he needed the most. She shook her head, making him pout until Miranda crouched before the little boy looking contrite.

"Am I being ill-tempered?" she asked adorably, making Andy smile as she pretended to look across the street.

"You be grumpy," Sam said nodding seriously.

"Hmm, perhaps I should carry you to make amends?"

"Yup," he said, jumping into her arms and wrapping his arms and legs around her body and clinging on tightly.

"Well alright then," she said quietly, thanking Andy with a nod before they were on their way again.

By the time they'd returned to the townhouse, unpacked all their things, washed hands and faces and finally eaten, Sam was soon fast asleep on the sofa. As they all reconvened in Miranda's office, Andy carried him upstairs to bed.

"Is he asleep?" Miranda asked when Andy returned.

"Out like a light," Andy said, perching herself on the end of the sofa, away from where all the children were sitting quietly, waiting for Miranda.

"Okay," she said, sitting forward and mirroring Andy. "Olivia, Nicholas, do you understand that you are going to live here from now on?" Andy watched as the two kids nodded, their faces a little sad. "I would like you both to feel as comfortable while living here as you did at your home, and that means I need to know a few things about you both. What is your favourite colour Olivia?"

"Um, yellow," she said, looking a little uncomfortable at being in the spotlight so suddenly.

"And is the bedroom you are in suitable? Do you need anything?"

"Miranda?" Andy interjected, noticing Olivia's confused face. "Liv's probably alright with what she's got, or at least what she will have, but if we do as we plan on Monday, then it might help to understand what else she needs," Andy said pointedly, without wanting to say outright that they were going to the children's former home.

"Of course," Miranda looked at the twins. "Is there anything either of you need for this change to become permanent?"

"No ma'am," Caroline said quietly.

Andy knew so many of Miranda's different facial expressions, and the one she wore now was one she so often wore around the twins. A look of sadness, one that screamed disappointment not in the twins, but in herself. Miranda had once again bore the brunt of a teenage mood and thought it to be her own fault.

"Caroline, I think your mom would prefer you to be honest with her, rather than just saying what you think she wants to hear."

Miranda looked shocked at the comment and turned back to Caroline.

"Bobbsey? Whatever is the matter?"

Caroline shook her head and Andy wondered what had made her so shy suddenly. Making an executive decision, Andy offered her hand to Nicholas and Olivia and nodded her head to Cassidy before walking from the room. Cass followed a little while later, no doubt after double checking her twin was alright with her leaving.

"Andy?" Cassidy asked as she helped Olivia climb the stairs. "Do you know what's eating Caro up?"

Andy sighed as she sat on Olivia's bed, letting the two younger kids play with the meagre toys they had on offer while she patted the bed for Cassidy to join her.

"I have no idea Cass. Don't you know?"

Cassidy shook her head and leaned into Andy, accepting the arm around her shoulders as they sat watching the two little ones playing.

"Hi."

Andy looked over to see a sleepy Sam standing in the doorway. He was carrying Bop by the ear, dragging it along the floor as he shuffled up to them and tried to clamber on Andy's knee.

"Good afternoon little monkey," Andy said, cuddling him. "Did you have a good sleep?"

"Yup," he yawned, sitting quietly with the rest of them for a moment before going to join his siblings. Andy was happy to simply sit back along the wall with Cassidy, wondering what Caroline had a problem with, and hoping that it wasn't her.

-0-

Much, much later once the three siblings were fast asleep and the twins had retreated to their room, Andy and Miranda sat in silence, each sipping a glass of wine. Andy couldn't be sure of what Miranda was thinking at that point, but her own palms were sweating and she kept rubbing them on her jeans as they sat there.

"Please stop that," Miranda said quietly.

Andy squeaked but did as she was told, putting down her wine and clasping her hands in her lap.

"Caroline has expressed a wish to have you here," Miranda said suddenly, emptying her wineglass in a rather uncouth gulp and moving over to the bar with purpose.

"A wish to have me he-" Andy frowned. "Sorry, I'm not sure what you mean."

"She is insisting I keep away from you so that I don't make you leave," Miranda whispered, looking at the scotch in her hand.

"What?" Andy said, rushing to her side and stilling her hand. "She said that?"

"She said that you were the best thing that happened to all of us, but that I would ruin it; like I always do."

Andy's heart broke as Miranda's voice cracked at the end, just barely, but enough for Andy to pull the glass from the woman's hand and pull her closer.

"Do you know what I love about your girls?" she asked in hushed tones, brushing her lips against Miranda's ear. "I love that they're so smart and mature. But do you know what I love more? That they're still kids. They have no real concept of adult decisions and lives and love." Andy explained gently, wishing for Miranda to see where she was coming from while trying not to insult the girls. "Caroline has obviously been hurt in the past Miranda." She leaned back a little and tentatively ran a hand through Miranda's hair. "But so have you. Kids don't have that concept, they don't understand that adults hurt too."

It was like someone had removed the rigid bindings holding Miranda still and she sagged against Andy's solid form.

"Caroline doesn't have the experience to understand the concept of adulthood yet, let alone the experience to comment on any relationship you have with someone else. I have already discussed staying here with her and the others, but I think she was wrong anyway. I think what we have is very hard to ruin, I mean, there's just as much chance that I will be the one to ruin it," Andy whispered. "But just in case I can't persuade you, I'm going to do something you might not like."

"Andréa, what -"

Andy cupped Miranda's cheek and pressed her lips together with Miranda's. She let out a breathy moan as Miranda froze for a moment, before reaching up and grabbing the back of her neck, making sure she couldn't pull away.

"I can't say that I disliked that, even a little," Miranda confessed, a little out of breath.

"This won't go wrong," Andy said as she kissed along Miranda's jaw. "I could never walk away from you."

"You did once," Miranda whispered, even as she gasped from the sensation of Andy nibbling on her neck.

"And I ran straight back to you," Andy said. "I've never regretted anything more than leaving you on those steps in Paris. When I sat down to book a plane ticket home I cried, uncontrollably, at the thought of not seeing you again."

"I was more upset that you had left than I was at Stephen," Miranda muttered as her hand started stroking from Andy's ear down to her collarbone.

"I'm going to say it, if only to minimise your fears," Andy revealed, touching Miranda's chin lightly so she would look at her. "I've fallen in love with you Miranda, and I don't mind if you haven't, or you can't talk about it yet. I need you to know. I need you to know I won't leave you. I've seen you at your worst, I can pick your mood from across the room and I always know what you need."

"You can do the impossible."

"Someone did tell me that, yeah," Andy smiled, cupping Miranda's cheek. "Let me love you Miranda."

"I'll try," Miranda said, a tear forming in the corner of her eye. "My God Andréa, I'll try."

"Good," Andy said, leaning in for another kiss.

They stood there, Andy's hip resting against the bar, her arms wrapped around Miranda's waist stroking gently up and down with Miranda's hands in her hair. They kissed deeply and slowly until they both reluctantly pulled away, out of breath and searching each other's eyes.

"Stay, always stay Andréa," Miranda begged. "Move in here, get out of that horrid little apartment and we'll just be here, together. I need you here, I need you more than I've ever needed anyone, and I," she paused, "I am unsure of what that means for me. I just know that my feelings for you are far greater than anything I have ever experienced with a paramour and the children are far smaller than I've had to deal with in such a long time, but more than that, aside from that, I finally have you here, in my arms. I -" She pulled away, wrapping her arms around herself and making Andy's heart ache at how vulnerable she looked. "I'm not ready to," she blushed to her ears, "engage in intercourse, but I would like you next to me, if you are amenable. I slept very well last night."

"Intercourse?" Andy grinned, taking a tiny bit of pleasure in Miranda's awkwardness.

"I pour my heart and soul out to you, and that's all you get from it," Miranda said, affronted.

"No, no," Andy said, grabbing Miranda's hips as she turned to leave the room. "Don't go, I'm sorry. Just please don't ever say that again. It's so clinical. What we have isn't clinical Miranda," Andy said, not feeling nearly as brave as she sounded. "We can, when we're both ready, when we reconcile what we have here, and what we have at work as well. And when we do, I think I'd prefer to make love, rather than have sex, or intercourse. I believe there really is a difference."

Miranda snorted and nuzzled Andy's neck, breathing out in relief against her skin.

"You make everything better," she mumbled around a yawn.

"And you need to sleep. You're losing it, Priestly."

They turned off the lights and moved upstairs, looking in on the girls and both of them kissing Cassidy, before Andy met Miranda at Caroline's door.

"You go," Andy said. "I'll talk to her tomorrow if that's alright?"

"Of course," Miranda said quickly. "I've asked you to move in Andréa and as far as I'm concerned, since you have agreed, we are co-parenting from now on; there is no need to ask permission."

Andy blushed but didn't argue, going upstairs to wait for Miranda while she said goodnight to Caroline. She dropped by the kids' rooms then changed for bed, snuggling under the million thread count sheets, and sighed. Today had been a big day but Andy didn't regret any minute of it. As she felt Miranda slip in behind her and wrap her arms around her, she knew it had been one of the best days she'd ever had.

The little kiss behind her ear helped her to close her eyes and in minutes, she was asleep.

-0-

Andy woke in the opposite position to the one she'd fallen asleep in. She stared down in awe at the woman snoring gently in her arms, and she beamed, unable to keep it in any longer.

"I can hear you smiling," Miranda grumbled, without opening her eyes.

"How can you hear a person smiling?" Andy asked, frowning as Miranda chuckled. "I didn't mean to wake you."

"You didn't," Miranda sighed, rolling over and snuggling deeper into Andy's chest.

"I would never have picked you for a snuggler," Andy whispered as she skimmed her fingers from Miranda's shoulder to her wrist.

"That tickles," Miranda mumbled, capturing Andy's hand and pulling it around her.

"We're crazy," Andy muttered, shaking her head as she pulled Miranda even closer.

"Not so much," Miranda said with a sigh, rolling a little so she could look at Andy even as she lay in her arms. "We both know this has been building for months."

"What about work?" Andy asked quietly. "I, I'm not sure I should continue to work for you."

"I have had a thought about that," Miranda said, waking up a little more as the conversation progressed. "Your year ends at the beginning of next month. I'm going to recommend you take the position that will be made available for you in the Features department."

"You," Andy let go and scooted back, peering suspiciously at Miranda. "You want me to write for Runway?"

"I know it's not exactly what you wanted, but -"

"It may not have been when I moved here, but my God Miranda! I'd be honoured, as long as I did this on my own merit, not as a solution for what we're doing."

"Andréa, when have you ever seen me make a business decision that was affected by anything other than business?"

Andy bit her lip, feeling chastised as she thought about her answer.

"Never."

"That's right. I imagine you think I haven't read your work. I have, I read it that first day you appeared before me in that God-awful skirt."

Andy blushed and buried her head in Miranda's neck.

"Don't remind me. I am so embarrassed," Andy chuckled. "I can't believe how green I was."

"Yes, well. As long as you don't still have that skirt or that hideous jumper, we should get along fine."

Andy smiled against Miranda's skin, kissing it gently before moving back.

"Are you sure you want me in Features? I mean I'd love to, but I can look elsewhere if you -"

"Andréa."

The word that usually brought shivers to Andy's spine rang out as the warning it was, and she graciously let it go.

"I would be honoured to write for you Miranda Priestly."

"That's better," Miranda said nonchalantly, though Andy could tell she was pleased. "As long as your skills as a writer have not wasted away under the monotony of working for me, I'm sure you'll be fine."

"Miranda," Andy replied, rolling on top of Miranda before she realised what she was doing. She paused, looking down at her, ploughing on in a fit of bravado. "Working for you is many things, monotonous is not one of them."

Miranda smirked again and Andy couldn't help herself, she propped herself up on her elbows, bringing her closer to Miranda's body, and leant down, kissing the smirk off Miranda's face.

"I could get used to this," Andy whispered as she peppered kisses all over Miranda's jaw and neck.

"It is strange to me," Miranda said, turning her face away awkwardly. "I've," she cleared her throat, and Andy stopped pushing and let her think, stroking her thumb across Miranda's cheek, "I've never had this. Even with my first husband, when we were young and stupid. Alec tried, I suppose, but by then I was too busy with the girls and Runway that I never just -"

"Never let yourself enjoy it?" Andy asked, feeling so privileged to be allowed to see this side of Miranda.

"They were not like you," Miranda smirked. "They loved the Editor, not the woman."

"I admit, I might have fallen in lust with the Editor, but it wasn't long before I started seeing the woman," Andy admitted. "There was no contest after that."

"The Editor is untouchable, which is perhaps why they did not succeed where you are. I am definitely enjoying your touch Andréa."

"Well then," Andy said cheekily, running her hand down Miranda's side, over her hip and down to her knee.

"I do not want to -" Miranda gasped, looking panicked.

"Shh, I'm not," Andy said gently, rubbing her thumb over Miranda's hip bone. "I'm sorry, I was just marvelling at how gorgeous you are."

"I am not," Miranda shook her head, and it occurred to Andy than Miranda Priestly was as reticent about her body as any other woman.

"Hey, I know you may not believe me, or it might not change how you feel about yourself, especially here in this situation, but I think you're the most beautiful woman on the planet."

"Many people do," Miranda whispered, still refusing to look at Andy, "at least when I am in couture, make-up and my Louboutins."

Andy smiled, cupping Miranda's chin and turning her face back towards her own.

"You are hot when you wear work clothes, but it's a uniform. Something you need to wear to do what you do. I was actually talking about you, here, lying here like this with me, exploring your feelings, and mine. Nothing between us but pyjamas."

"Nonsense Andréa, I don't even have any make-up on."

"I know, it's beautiful."

"Andréa, do not mock me."

"I'm not," Andy protested, making sure Miranda knew she was serious. "Just like nobody can't tell you what to do at work, consider this is your warning Miranda. Don't dismiss my opinions, whether they're about you, or politics or the weather. They're mine Miranda, and I went a long time without having any, so now I have them, I intend to keep them. I think you are the prettiest, most beautiful woman when you're lying here in my arms. You may feel differently, but quite frankly, I'm the only one that matters when it comes to this particular opinion. I think you're perfect when you're here, with me. I wouldn't change it for anything, anything at all."

Miranda said nothing, but Andy felt her heart pumping quickly and she knew Miranda had heard her.

"Thank you," the older woman whispered, pulling Andy down and kissing her.

Seeing as Miranda had initiated things this time, Andy was more than happy to be led through the most sensual, most heartfelt kiss she'd ever received.

"Please don't ever lose that," Miranda said when she pulled back a little, rubbing noses gently.

"What?"

"The honesty you show to me. So many people are dishonest with me even if they mean well, but you aren't, you never were." Miranda sighed, letting her head drop on the pillow and pulling Andy down to rest on her chest. "Don't ever stop being honest with me, even when you know I will get angry."

"I'll try," Andy whispered, feeling sleepy again as she listened to the thumping beat under her ear.

"Hi."

Andy nearly jumped out of her skin as she looked around for the voice that had just disturbed them.

"Good morning Samuel," Miranda said, smirking as Andy fought to get her breathing under control. "Did you sleep well?"

"Yup," he said simply.

Andy finally found him, standing at the end of Miranda's bed with the bunny over his shoulder and a thumb in his mouth.

"Morning little monkey."

"Hi," he said, waving again.

Before either of them could ask him anything more, he threw Bop onto the bed and heaved himself up. Andy bit her lip to stop herself from laughing at the sight of his little legs kicking at the covers. Eventually, he made it, and he huffed as he crawled up and dropped down between them, catching Andy's arm in the process.

"Ow!"

"Samuel, please do not do that again," Miranda said sternly, before opening her arms. "However, you are always welcome to come for a cuddle in the mornings. Are your Pull-ups alright?"

"Yey," he grinned, ignoring the question and kicking the covers down so he could get under them instead.

Andy just chuckled as he rolled on top of Miranda, in a slightly different position to the one she was in not so long ago. His thumb went back in his mouth and he sighed as his head rested on Miranda's chest.

"Well then," Miranda said, looking amused. "I would have put money on you being the cuddler in our new family."

Andy didn't mean for tears to run down her face as she heard the words, but they did, and she immediately felt very stupid.

"Andréa?"

"I'm sorry," she said, trying to keep herself from sobbing outright and waking the dozy little boy.

"Andréa, come here," Miranda said kindly, holding out her hand.

"No, it's alright, I'll get it together, I just -"

"Andréa."

One word, that was all it took from Miranda to make Andy do whatever she wanted. So, rolling her eyes at herself, and pressing on her eyelids to try and stop the tears, she rolled back into bed and allowed Miranda to pull her closer. Andy desperately tried not to sniff as Miranda brought her arm around her and Sam, making it impossible to stop the tears from running down her face.

"You are part of our family Andréa," she whispered, brushing away Andy's bangs as best she could. "You have been part of our family for longer than you realise."

"It's just nice, you know?"

"I understand," Miranda said, kissing Andy's forehead tenderly. "Let's sleep a little longer, before the rest of them find us."

Andy chuckled, but nodded, falling asleep almost instantly with her forehead resting against the love of her life and a little hand stroking her arm.

Chapter Text

"Mom?"

Andy twitched, waking up at the new voice in the bedroom. She almost sat up, but Miranda's quiet voice made her stay where she was lying.

"Shh Bobbsey, Andréa is still sleeping," Miranda said quietly, to whichever twin it was. Miranda could no doubt tell, even in the fluffiness of sleep, but Andy wasn't so sure. It sounded like Cassidy, making her wonder whether Caroline was still annoyed at Miranda.

"Um, does this mean that, like, you're really a lesbian? I mean I know what you said yesterday, but I just -"

Andy couldn't help but chuckle against Miranda's cheek as she heard Cassidy sigh. Surreptitiously pressing a kiss against her lover's shoulder, she rolled over slightly, grinning at Cassidy.

"Hey Cass."

"Hi Andy," she said, kneeling on the bed and kissing her cheek without a word of warning.

"How would you feel about that?" Miranda asked, dodging the question quite nicely.

"It's cool. Ellen's totally hot right now, hey, does that mean you and Ellen can, like, be friends now?"

Andy laughed again and patted the bed next to her for Cassidy to join them as Miranda laced her fingers with Andy's, nodding for her to take the lead.

"Cass, your Mom and I decided yesterday that we might like to be a family together. What that makes us, is together. I don't know about your Mom, but I don't really like labels. I think love should be with whomever you feel love for."

"Oh," Cassidy said, looking a little crestfallen. "So like, you won't go and meet Ellen?"

Andy laughed again, but Miranda grimaced.

"What is this new obsession with the word 'like'?" she asked.

"Um, well everyone at school says it, it's just," Cassidy shrugged. "Like, you say something and it's there."

"No," Miranda said looking fierce.

"What?" Cassidy asked, frowning as she looked at her mother.

"I said no. I do not want to hear it come out of your mouth again in that circumstance. If you wish to convey those feelings you must find other words for it. It is common, pedestrian Cassidy. And you are anything but those things."

"Oh," Cassidy said, nodding. "Okay. Sorry, Mom."

"Thank you, but no more," Miranda said graciously.

"Are we making breakfast or shall I just get cereals?" Cassidy asked, playing with Andy's fingers.

Andy watched, feeling something blossoming in her chest at how easily this little girl that had been hurt so badly before accepted her into her life, into her mother's bed without a word of argument. Not only that, but she had accepted her so completely that she was comfortable playing and seeking comfort from her. It was a novel feeling for Andy and she wasn't sure she'd ever get used to it.

"I think we will come and make breakfast. While we eat, we shall talk about going to the museum today."

"Oh sweet, I'd forgotten!" Cassidy said, bouncing off the bed. "I'll go and tell Caro."

"Nicknames," Miranda muttered, looking unimpressed. "You have given my children nicknames, and it has stuck."

"Um, oops?" Andy said, recognising the tiny little sparkle in Miranda's eyes as mirth, rather than evil dragon-rage.

"I am doomed," Miranda mused, rubbing Sam's back as he blinked owlishly.

"M'anda," he said with a bright smile.

"Hello Samuel," Miranda replied with more patience than Andy had ever seen.

"I hung'y."

"We were all just discussing that," Miranda said, helping him roll off her without pressing his knee into her stomach. "What would you like?"

"Sketti!" he yelled, throwing Bop into the air and laughing as it landed on Andy's head.

Miranda groaned, dropping gracefully back into bed. Andy smiled and leaned over her, desperately wanting to kiss her, but not wanting Sam to get confused. She merely patted her shoulder and moved to get up.

"Don't do that," Miranda said quietly. "They must learn."

Andy was a bit bewildered until Miranda sat up again, and pulled Andy back gently, placing a chaste kiss on her lips.

"Don't be afraid of them."

"I just didn't know if it was appropriate."

"It is, at home," Miranda said, in a tone that meant no arguing. Andy grinned and nodded, but didn't say anything else as she got up using the time she had to check on the others. She took Sam with her so Miranda could start her morning with a little peace and quiet.

-0-

As it turned out, there wasn't any sketti. Something Andy immediately promised to rectify for tomorrow. What was the point of breakfast if one couldn't have sketti on toast? Instead, they had eggs and wheat toast and some turkey bacon Andy found in the bottom of the fridge.

"I done," Sam said, clambering down from his chair.

"Samuel, the rest of us are not finished yet," Miranda said, looking pointedly at his chair. "You may not get down from the table until we all are."

"Wha'?" he said, looking aghast. "But i's boring."

"It may be, but it is good manners. Sit back at the table please."

"No!" Sam said, stomping his foot.

"Sam," Olivia hissed, pointed at his chair.

"It's alright," Andy whispered in her ear. "Let Miranda deal with him."

"But I don't want her to get mad and have to go away," she whispered back.

Andy smiled and smoothed back her bed hair.

"Listen to me princess -" she waited until Olivia had returned her focus from the little tantrum Sam was building up to, back to Andy. "We're not going to send you back. That I can promise you now. No matter how many tantrums Sam, or Nick or even you throw. You're here now, you're going to be part of our family and we're keeping you forever."

The little girl smiled and Andy wondered how many times they'd each have to explain that to her before she really understood that they were never going back, that they had a home here. Andy couldn't even guess though she knew how it felt, but as she turned back to see Sam stomping on the floor, she knew it didn't matter, not really. They would repeat it for the rest of their lives if these kids needed it.

"Samuel, you will sit at this table until we are finished eating, or you will not be going to the Museum today to see the dinosaurs."

"Dinosaur?" Sam said, stopping his mini tantrum immediately and looking hard at Miranda. "Are you tricking?"

"I am not, you may ask Cassidy or Caroline. I assure you there are dinosaurs at the museum."

"Pinky promise Sam," Cassidy laughed, holding out her little finger and shaking it with him.

"Coo'," he said, getting happily back in his chair. "When we goin'?"

"We must first finish breakfast, and then put our dishes in the dishwasher. I will book the tickets and then we can go."

"That'll take ages," he said, looking astonished. "Why we can't go now?"

"Because you don't have a ticket."

"Why?"

"Andy can I please have the orange juice?" Caroline asked, breaking in before Sam could really build up a head of steam.

And just like that, the gentle hush of breakfast returned. Andy kept an eye on Nicholas, who seemed content munching on his breakfast and ignoring most of what was going on.

"Is that good?"

As they had come to accept, he didn't reply vocally but he did nod, so Andy considered it a small step forward. She figured that if he hated it, he wouldn't have eaten any of it, but she made a mental note to keep an eye on him during meal times to make sure that never happened.

-0-

Miranda insisted on buying full memberships for all three kids, and Andy as well. Andy had half-heartedly protested, but Miranda had simply raised her eyebrow and the matter was done with.

When they all gathered in the hallway by the front door, Miranda and Andy suddenly realised that they weren't all going to fit in the SUV, or in any of the Runway cars, owing to the car seats the children were required, by law, to sit in.

"Well, we'll just have to walk," Miranda said, the airy tone belaying the irritation Andy saw in her eyes.

"Well, I suppose we could. Why don't you take Sam and maybe Nick in the car and the girls can come with me through the park? That way we can call you before we get there, and you don't have to go straight away."

The irritation eased slightly and Miranda's lips lifted just a little at the corners.

"Alright, change of plan girls, you shall go with Andréa; Olivia, you as well. Nicholas and Samuel, you are both staying with me for a short while before we take the car over. Is that satisfactory to everyone?"

Andy had to hand it to the kids, even Sam, who looked like he was going to protest for a moment, but Caroline quickly tapped his shoulder and he closed his mouth. Andy was quickly realising that home was not that much different from work; whatever Miranda wanted, she got.

"Alright then, girls, grab your coats and we'll get going," Andy said, helping Olivia into her threadbare coat the home had given her.

"Andy?" she said quietly, looking sideways at Miranda, who was standing watching.

"Yes princess?"

"Can we go home soon?"

Everything stopped, including Andy's heart as she looked at the little green eyes looking up at her.

"Um, Olivia, I thought we'd talked about this," Andy said gently, kneeling before her and untucking the collar. "You're going to stay here with us."

"I know," Olivia said, unaware of the tension that had risen in the somewhat cramped entrance way. "But I want my own coat. It's red and has gold buttons. I got it for my birthday."

Andy was sure she heard Miranda sigh in relief as Olivia kept talking. Andy couldn't help but close her eyes and press a kiss to the little girl's forehead.

"Miranda and I are going to sort that out tomorrow, okay? You guys are going to stay here and keep Cara company while Miranda goes to work and I go and organise your things. Maybe tonight you can make a list of all the things you want straight away and I'll do my best to bring them home with me."

"Okay," she smiled, before skipping over to Caroline and taking her hand. "I'm ready now."

Andy stood and looked at Miranda, who looked back with such emotion in her eyes that Andy knew she'd made the right decision in convincing Miranda to take the kids on. For a moment, she was about to walk away, but Miranda took a step forward and reached for her hand, glancing at the twins by the door.

"I'll see you soon," Miranda said, squeezing Andy's hand as she leaned in.

It was another kiss that Andy had never experienced. A kiss that tasted of hope and love and affection. Her goodbye kisses with Nate were often rushed and chaste, and nothing like this one. She fell into it like she had no other choice. It was only when she heard the kids giggling that she pulled away.

"See-ya," Andy said shyly.

"Way to go Mom," Cassidy said before they left, making Miranda blush and gently push her out of the door.

"I'll wait for your text to call Roy, so please make sure to leave us some time to get around the park."

"No worries," Andy said, waving as they walked off.

"Olivia, hold Andréa's hand."

"I am M'anda," Olivia giggled, waving goodbye.

Andy grinned at the twins as they all turned around and waved, chuckling as Miranda waved back before realising what she was doing.

"She's different around you," Cassidy said after Miranda had gone back inside. "She's more like a Mom. I think sometimes she forgets she's supposed to be our Mom all the time, not Miranda Priestly."

"Yeah, it's tough on her," Andy said, swinging her hand with Olivia's. "But she'll get there Cass."

"Andy? Is Mom nice to you?" Caroline suddenly asked as they turned the corner and entered Central Park.

"What? Of course she is," Andy said, looking at her sideways. "Why do you ask?"

"Just checking I guess. Is it true? What Cassidy told me this morning? Did you sleep over in Mom's bed again?"

Andy felt her heart speed up and her breath shorten as she contemplated having this conversation with the twins without Miranda present. She kept walking, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other until she remembered what Miranda had said earlier, about it being appropriate for them to show the children their relationship; to not hide it because it's different.

"It is," she said, suddenly feeling completely at ease with those words. "Your Mom and I have decided that we'd like to have a relationship, and, we're discussing me moving in with you guys at the townhouse."

"Really?" Cassidy said, practically vibrating with the excitement she was exuding.

"Yup. Maybe not right away - well actually I don't really know. You know your Mom; when she gets an idea in her head, it usually happens straight away."

"But you want to be with her, right? You're not just doing this because," Caroline paused and looked guiltily at Olivia, "because of what happened."

"No, I'm not. I want to be with your Mom, Caro. Your Mom has already said this, and once she did I realised how true it was; she and I have been dancing around our feelings for weeks, months even. Ever since we went to Paris really. And now, with all you kids, it was just a way for us to be open with each other. I'm not staying because she's making me," Andy grabbed Caroline's hand, causing the girl to look up at her. "Alright?"

"Okay," she said with a sigh, looking as if the weight of the world had lifted off her shoulders.

"Does that mean you'll give her a break?" Andy asked, trying not to sound judgemental. "No disrespect to your Dad, or," she glanced at Olivia swinging their joined hands, "any of her husbands, but she's never had someone that knows her as well as I do."

"Someone who loves her," Caroline whispered.

"Yeah Caro," Andy smiled. "It's all very new to her, she's trying okay?"

"Okay," Caroline nodded.

"Andy?" Olivia said, breaking Andy's thoughts.

"Yes Princess?"

"Is that it?" she said, pointing to the museum. "Do we have to ring M'anda now?"

"Oh, yeah I almost forgot," Andy laughed, doing just that as they ambled.

It only took one ring.

"Do you realise that your ridiculous nickname for Samuel has caused him to decide that he is only two evolutionary steps away from being a fully-fledged primate?" Andy bit her lip, trying not to laugh out loud as Miranda mumbled into the phone. "That is three bookcases in the half hour you've been gone. I walked into the reading room and found him clambering up to the top shelf. Heavens knows what would have happened if I hadn't insisted the builders fix the shelves in. He could have died."

"Oh, well - um?" Andy said, wondering what it was Miranda wanted her to say. "If it makes you feel any better we're nearly there."

"Thank God. Boys, downstairs, it's time to go."

Andy listened to her shepherding the boys to the front door, instructing them to put on their coats. "Yes, good morning Roy. That's right boys, in the car, please. Roy, would you -" Andy smiled, impressed with the manners Miranda had for both the boys and Roy.

"You sound stressed," Andy grinned into the phone.

"You're mocking me," Miranda replied, her voice going a little frosty.

"No, not mocking," Andy said gently, smiling as the twins skipped down the path with Olivia between them. "Teasing perhaps but never mocking.

"Hmm," Miranda said before absently thanking Roy, probably for strapping the boys in while she was occupied. "I suppose as my -" she paused, "paramore?" she offered.

"I like partner better," Andy whispered, catching up with the girls and taking Olivia's hand as Cassidy pushed the crossing button.

"As do I, my darling," Miranda said quietly. "As my, partner, should I resign myself to your teasing?"

"Oh definitely," Andy said. "I can't wait to introduce you to all these pedestrian things you have never dreamed of as well."

"I can hardly wait," Miranda drawled, sounding as amused as Andy knew she would - that was to say, very little.

"Okay, we're about to cross, meet you on the steps?"

"Indeed. I -" Miranda stopped talking, making Andy's steps falter slightly as they started walking, "I find myself without a proper way of ending this conversation without my usual departure; something Cassidy has expressly forbidden me from saying to you while we are not at work."

"Oh she did, did she?" Andy said, looking at Cassidy, who was teaching Olivia some sort of game as they hung out near to the crossing. "You could just say 'I'll see you soon', or 'I'll talk to you later'?" Andy said tentatively. "Perhaps later on in our," she glanced again at the girls, "relationship, we could say other words that would mean more. I know I have said it once, and you should believe that I was saying exactly as I meant it, but I'm not sure we are ready for fully fledged revelations."

"I concur," Miranda said, sounding relieved. "Therefore, I will see you soon, my darling."

Andy hung up, smiling like a loon as she joined the girls and waited excitedly for their mother to arrive.

-0-

The black town car pulled up to the curb, and Andy smiled as Miranda's perfectly clad leg exited the vehicle, followed by the rest of her. The traffic around them honked and hollered as Roy got out as well, waiting for a break in the traffic before opening the outer door and leaning in. Andy made sure that the girls were with her as she went to help get the boys out of the car.

"Hi," Andy said breathlessly as she touched Miranda's arm lightly, leaning past her to unbuckle Nick. She helped him out as Roy carried Sam around the car and onto the sidewalk.

"Hey Andy!" he yelled as Roy put him down. "Dinosaurs!"

"I know buddy," she said, taking his hand before he ran off. "Stick with me, okay?"

"Yup. Can we go in now?"

Andy smiled and patted his hand as they all gathered on the sidewalk.

"In a minute monkey," she said gently. "We have to wait for Miranda to talk to Roy and then we'll go in."

"I like Mr Roy," Sam said swinging his other arm in Cassidy's grip.

"I like Roy too," Andy said, checking everyone was with them as they all walked up to the entrance.

Getting into the museum turned out to be a breeze, with full access cards doled out to match Miranda's and the girls, and with that, they were in.

"Whoa!"

The museum turned out to be the best idea they'd had since the kids joined them. Andy and Miranda walked almost hand in hand, stopping when any one of them wanted to look closer at one of the exhibits. Andy held Nicholas' hand as they walked, and she tried her hardest to get him to interact with them. She had all but given up when they were in the butterfly exhibit. Watching Olivia giggle with Miranda made Andy want to scoop them both up and kiss them all over. Sam was safely ensconced between the twins pointing at all the different butterflies which were beautiful to behold. Andy let Nicholas lead her out of the aviary but he stopped mid-stride, pointing to a poster beside the door.

"Mysteries of the Unseen World," Andy said out loud, looking down to see Nick looking longingly at the poster. "Would you liked to go and see that?" He nodded desperately and she crouched down in front of him. "Will you give me a cuddle then?"

Nick jumped into her arms and she picked him up, letting him cling to her as she turned to see Miranda laughing as she walked out of the butterfly conservatory with the twins, Olivia and Samuel in tow.

"Nick wants to go and see that. I imagine it's not your scene," she grinned as Miranda rolled her eyes, "so I'll take him in if you like, there's a showing in ten minutes. Anyone else want to come along?"

"I'll come," Cassidy said, smiling as she stepped forward.

"Alright then, Nick do you want to stay with Cass for a moment while I speak to Miranda?"

He nodded and held Cassidy's hand as Andy drew Miranda aside.

"I realise you're the most capable woman I've ever met, but are you going to be alright with the rest of them if we go in there for a while?"

"Andréa, you are right, I am perfectly capable. I believe another wander through the dinosaur exhibit might be in order if the girls are amenable. It will keep Samuel busy until you are all back."

"Alright," Andy said, wanting desperately to lean forward and kiss her. "I'll keep my phone on in case you need me."

"You are always ready, aren't you?" Miranda said quietly, glancing behind Andy suddenly. "Samuel, don't you dare!"

Andy spun around to find Sam clambering over a railing to get into an exhibit. He quickly slid back to the ground and Andy blushed under the light glare Miranda gave her.

"Your fault," she muttered as she swept past, taking Sam's hand and leading him away.

"Alright guys," Andy said, grabbing Nick and winking at Cassidy. "Let's go see the Unseen World."

-0-

"Mom!"

Andy let Cassidy run up to Miranda and start regaling her with tales of some of the amazing things they'd seen in the show.

"Did you like that munchkin?" Andy asked, glancing down at Nick.

He nodded but Andy wasn't as worried. His facial expressions were enough to assuage her fears while they were watching the somewhat disturbing film. It certainly was interesting but in truth freaked her out a little. She dreaded returning to see Patricia now that she knew just how many bugs lived on her skin, in her fur and in her mouth.

"Are you with us Andréa?" Miranda asked, sliding up beside her.

"Contemplating burning the world to rid us of germs," she quipped.

"Ah, well I would advise against it," Miranda said, squeezing Andy's hand gently. "As we would not be able to enjoy ourselves and our future now, would we."

Andy smiled as Miranda continued talking about their future, and she watched Cassidy and Caroline corral the smaller children.

"I wouldn't want to be anywhere but here with you," Andy whispered, suddenly realising how true those words were. "Truly."

"Quite," Miranda said, a faint blush colouring her cheeks. She stepped forward to retrieve the children, but Andy held her back.

"Let them enjoy some time together," Andy whispered. "They need to."

"And we shall do what?" Miranda asked, amusement lacing her tone.

"We shall, what is the turn of phrase they use in Jane Austin novels? We shall take a turn about the boards?"

"And there is your charming sense of humour," Miranda chuckled quietly. "I always had you pegged as a romantic."

They walked in a slow arc, both of them close, but not touching, keeping one eye on the children at all times.

"Can I ask you something?" Andy asked suddenly. "Were you in love with any of them, their own stupidity withstanding?"

Miranda sighed, glancing at her watch. Without speaking, she moved forward to where the children were taking in the exhibits and asked them gently to join them in another walk through the butterfly house.

"But what about the dinosaurs?" Sam asked.

"The dinosaurs will be here on the next visit," Miranda said gently. "We will come back."

"Fine," he huffed, slipping his hand into hers easily.

Andy simply watched on, giving up her question as unanswered.

"I will answer your questions when we are home, away from long range microphones and telephoto lenses. Not that it is anything terrible, I would just be more comfortable talking in my -" she paused, looking a little smug, "our home."

"Then I shall wait until we are home then."

They smiled gently, even with the reminder that they were not within the safety of their own four walls and enjoyed one last rotation through the museum, making sure to stop at all the favourite exhibits before making their way back to the townhouse.

Chapter Text

The afternoon saw all five children crashing in the cosy den. Caroline and Cassidy lay curled up on a bed of cushions reading their books while Andy and Miranda sat quietly, sipping on hot coffee.

"I believe they are all exhausted," Miranda said quietly, glancing over at the twins, who were slowly losing the battle with sleep.

"A good day out then," Andy smiled, tapping her mug against Miranda's.

"Indeed," Miranda smiled, lifting her legs up and curling them under herself.

Andy grinned as Miranda leaned into her and she rearranged her arm slightly so Miranda was leaning against her chest, curled up under her arm.

"I was in love with each of them," Miranda said suddenly. "In my own way at least. I loved Stuart and Alec, even Steven though he was more of a calculated decision. A mutual one I thought, until he started to become possessive and clingy."

"Sorry," Andy said quietly. "I shouldn't pry."

She tried to pull away, but Miranda placed her mug down and practically sat in her lap.

"I am not someone whose relationship history is worth following unless you are Rupert Murdoch. I read somewhere that should we wish to be in a committed relationship with each other, we should be both open and honest. You, for example, have given me quite an insight into your past and you should not feel as though you cannot ask me about my own. I have already shared with you more than I have ever shared with anyone else. And I can assure you, I am as human as any other Andréa. I have a great many faults, a great many shortcomings and I fear that one day they will drive you from my side."

"I told you," Andy said gently, pressing a kiss to Miranda's head. "I'm not leaving you. I know you; I just need to work on remembering you are just Miranda here, and not Miranda Priestly, my boss."

"An apt explanation," Miranda said, her hand slipping under Andy's top to rub the somewhat-defined abs slowly.

"You're not playing very fairly," Andy whispered, retaliating by stroking Miranda's side slowly. "Not just because I know the children are here, but because I know we're not ready yet."

"You should know I don't play fair Andréa."

"I should, shouldn't I?" Andy grinned, digging her fingers into Miranda's ribs.

The most adorable squeal came from Miranda's mouth, making Andy laugh as well.

"I have just learnt something extremely valuable about you," Andy said, ignoring the glare to kiss her gently.

"God I love being here with you," Miranda muttered, obviously realising too late that she'd said it out loud. She blushed darkly and concentrated on her coffee.

"Don't hide that from me," Andy whispered. "Don't hide anything from me."

"I will endeavour to always -"

Whatever else Miranda was going to say was interrupted by an almighty scream coming from the sofa. Andy leapt up, being careful not to throw Miranda onto the floor as she did, and raced over to Nicholas, who was still screaming his little lungs out and kicking his legs, trying to get away from something.

"Shh, Nicholas, you're safe, it's okay," Andy muttered, recalling her own nightmares from her childhood.

"Mommy, I want Mommy! I don't want to go in there, don't make me go in the dark!"

"We won't put you in the dark sweetheart," Andy whispered over and over, trying to break through the terrifying sobs that were coming from his body. "It's alright sweetie, you're okay."

Miranda accepted both Samuel and Olivia on her knee as the girls also joined her, hugging them all as Nicholas sobbed.

It wasn't long until Samuel, who was still so tired from his epic morning and an interrupted nap, started crying as well. Miranda held him tightly, rocking him as Andy copied her movements with Nicholas, who had stopped sobbing at least, but not shaking. Olivia succumbed next and before long, Miranda and Andy were looking at each other helplessly as all three children wept.

"Mom? What do we do?" Caroline asked, looking as if she was about to succumb as well.

"It's alright Bobbseys," Miranda assured them. "They're not hurt, just upset."

Caroline ran out of the room and reappeared barely ten minutes later, standing by the doorway. Andy vaguely heard the front door open and she looked to Miranda for any clues as to who it was.

"Miranda, shall I -"

"Cara! Thank God."

Andy smiled, even as a tear rolled down her own cheek as Cara appeared in the room, clearly summoned to their aid by a quick-thinking Caroline. At Miranda's behest, she offered Olivia her knee and sat with her, running her fingers through her hair. Andy winked at Caroline as she continued to rock gently, watching Cara soothe Olivia as both boys continued to sob.

Olivia stopped first, leaning tiredly against Cara's shoulder and looking sadly at Nicholas.

"How about you and the girls come with me and we'll make everyone grilled cheese and tomato soup?" Cara suggested.

"Uhuh," she hiccupped, sliding off the nanny's knee and walking over to where Andy had Nick.

"Don't cry Nicky, we're going to be okay," she whispered, wrapping her arms around Andy and Nick for a moment before taking Cara's hand and following her and the girls down to the kitchen.

"I think he's gone again," Miranda said after a time, peering down at Sam.

The rocking was hypnotic and Andy had lost track of time quite a while ago. The twins had not reappeared from their tasks downstairs, so it couldn't have been as long as it seemed, but Andy was still wrung out.

"I might go and put him to bed," Miranda muttered, rearranging Samuel in her arms and kicking her heels off.

Andy smiled at the scene despite herself and Miranda returned it.

"I may live my whole life in heels, but it will be a cold day in hell before they are the reason I drop him, or worse still, take a tumble down the stairs with him."

"It's adorable, and I'm just teasing again," Andy said quietly, reaching out to brush Miranda's hip as she went by.

"I know," Miranda whispered before leaving the room.

Andy sighed, leaning her head against Nick's and continued to rock him until he finally lifted his head from her chest.

"Hey munchkin. How are you feeling?"

He didn't say a word, much to Andy's disappointment, but shook his head and wrapped his arms around Andy's shoulders.

"It's going to be okay baby," Andy said quietly, kissing his forehead. "I promise you that Miranda, Cara, Caroline, Cassidy, Olivia and I are all going to take care of you, okay?"

She got a nod and figured it was the best they were going to do. Hearing the girls coming up the stairs, Andy gave him one last hug and walked downstairs with him, meeting Miranda on the landing before joining their new family for some well-earned comfort food.

-0-

"Liv? Where are you Princess?" Andy called, having not seen the little girl since lunch.

"Here Andy," she called, coming out of Caroline's bedroom with bright green nails and two outrageously high pigtails in her hair.

"My my," Andy chuckled. "Fashion icon Caroline strikes again."

"Hey!" Caroline called, racing down the stairs to join them. "Cass is just finishing her homework for tomorrow; she always does it last minute."

"Okay." Andy turned to Olivia. "Miranda's waiting in the living room princess, she wanted to know what you want us to bring from your house tomorrow, before everything gets packed up."

"Yuhuh, but Andy what do you think of my nails? Do you like them?"

"They're pretty something," Andy chuckled.

"Ah, Olivia darling, there you are. Come and sit, can you make me a list of the things you would like here tomorrow? And then help me with a list for Nicholas and Samuel?"

"Okay M'anda," Olivia smiled, plonking herself down on the floor and picking up a yellow crayon.

"Make sure that yellow isn't too hard to read Princess," Andy said, winking at the little girl. "You wouldn't want me to bring home a boat, instead of your coat would you?" Olivia giggled, and Miranda indulged the bad joke with an affectionate eye roll.

"So, I believe that we should talk about how tomorrow will work Andréa," Miranda said, looking down at her planner.

Andy was impressed, and only a little putout. The hours that she, Emily, and then Melody had put into keeping a planner up to date for Miranda were clearly not as well spent as she had once assumed.

"Don't pout," Miranda said with a smirk. "This is my personal planner. I usually consult it before Monday each week to ensure I have not missed anything. It has the girl's commitments and such on it. I imagine it is going to be rather well used from now on. I can get you a copy; it's the same program that you use at work."

"I wasn't really pouting," Andy tried, blushing under the raised eyebrow she got for her trouble. "Alright, I was. If I could get a copy, that would be great. So, what have we got?"

"The girls start school at 07:30, Roy picks them up at a quarter to. He takes them, then comes back for me. It gives me a little time to ensure I am ready for my day and eat breakfast after they are gone. Tomorrow will be no different. The girls know exactly when to be ready and are usually self-sufficient. I have not had to wake them for quite a while."

"Don't you interact with them in the mornings?" Andy asked, genuinely interested, remembering how often her Mom or Dad had hung out with them before school when they could.

"I am usually otherwise occupied," Miranda sniffed.

Andy cringed, having stumbled onto shaky ground but she nodded and let it go. She knew that there would be things that were different between them now they were together, and this was just the first discovery of many. Sam brought her a wooden block to hold for him while he got the others and she smiled as Nick continued playing, in his own little world.

"I have instructed Cara to be here by seven to ensure that we are both able to get ready for our day while she supervises the rest of the children. We will then both go to Elias Clark to work through the morning until I receive word from my lawyer. Then, Roy will go with you to Alec's residence where you will collect up the things you have to and ensure that the removalists know who they are working for."

The difference between the Miranda she had spent the weekend with and the newly returned boss was incredible. Andy wasn't sure what to make of it as she watched Miranda's business face make a reappearance.

"And then I'll come home, here I mean?"

"No, Andréa, you'll get back to work. There will no doubt be a messy line up of meetings from Friday that will need to be rearranged."

"Miranda, I'm not sure that will work. The kids aren't ready for us both to be gone all day, I mean; they've only just got here."

"Andréa I want no more said on the matter, this is the way it is going to go. I cannot be expected to function on a Monday without two assistants."

Andy sat for a long moment just staring at Miranda, wondering how far to push her to see that she was making a mistake. The twitch in Miranda's left eye told her to let it go and work on it later.

"Right, so that is how it's going to go," Andy said as happily as she could, already making contingency plans for tomorrow when one of them will no doubt be summoned back to the townhouse to deal with three crying children. "I might go and make some last minute phone calls."

"Andréa?" Miranda called, still scrolling through her planner. "Should you perhaps tell someone you are living here with us if this is to become a permanent arrangement?"

The question threw her a little, until she realised it was Miranda covering her bases and trying to be helpful.

"I'm due to ring my Dad in two weeks, my biological father I mean - he works on an oil rig but my adoptive parents are happy to let me get on with life," Andy shrugged. "I'm not really moved in yet you know?"

"Well, that should be something you should see to as well. That's all."

Andy stared at the back of Miranda's head, wondering if the woman had even noticed she'd dismissed her like that. She shook her head, realising that Miranda had gone into work mode, and she wondered if she'd come out of it before next weekend.

"Hey Andy, have you seen Mom?" Caroline asked, coming from the kitchen.

"I have, why were you in there?"

Caroline grinned mischievously and offered Andy a cupcake from the day before.

"Sneaky," Andy nodded, rather impressed. "I like it."

"Thanks, is Mom in the sitting room?'

"She is, but I believe she is in work mode," Andy shrugged. "Can I help?"

"You're really good at this you know," Caroline said, avoiding the question.

"What?"

"This whole parenting thing. I like it," Caroline grinned. "I have a paper due tomorrow and usually if I catch Mom early enough I can get her to check it. I guess, could you maybe do it?"

"Sure sweetheart, what about Cassidy?"

"Nah, she's pretty good at this sort of thing, I just don't read it properly. I know what I've written and I don't wanna go back and reread it."

"Don't let your Mom hear you say 'wanna' Caroline," Andy chuckled. "But sure, I'll be up in a minute. First I have to get my phone and make a few calls about tomorrow."

"Okay, but like soon, yeah?"

"Your mother would be so mad if she heard you speaking like that."

"I only speak like that when I'm with you Andy! Duh, I don't have a death wish."

Caroline scampered up the stairs and Andy just shook her head, going to retrieve her phone from her bedside table where it had mostly sat untouched for the majority of the weekend. There was a couple of missed calls from Nigel and one from Emily, but she didn't ring back. Andy figured the only person she wanted to speak to was the woman she was slowly becoming an item with, so anyone else could wait.

-0-

After calls to the moving company, Miranda's lawyers and Melody were completed and contingency plans made and enacted, Andy went to find Caroline and her paper. She leaned her head around the door to find no one in her bedroom, so she nipped across the hall to Cassidy's room, rapping on the frame with her knuckles.

"Hey kids," she said with a smile.

"Hi," Cassidy waved, still bent over her computer. Caroline waved languidly from her bed, reading a copy of Rolling Stone.

"Does your mother know you have that?" Andy asked, looking pointedly. "If you have to read it, try not to do it in front of me, I'd prefer plausible deniability."

"Um, yeah okay," Caroline said, glancing at Cassidy and slipping it under the pillow she was leaning on.

"I'm not trying to be a wicked step-mom or whatever, I just -" she shrugged. "I know how growing up in a tense household can be and I don't want this to be like that. I'm not going to change for you guys. I am who I am, but I also want to support your Mom, so that means from time to time I might ground you or whatever if you're stinkers. Of course, that's not necessarily what I want to be doing. I want to respect you and I'd like you to respect me. If I'm getting too into it, you can tell me, nicely, and I'll do better the next time. Having said that, if I do punish you, then you wear it, and later, when we've all calmed down, we can discuss it."

"It's just a magazine Andy," Cassidy said, biting her lip.

"I know Cass and that's not really what I'm talking about, although in my opinion it's a bit old for you and I think if your Mom found out she'd agree. I guess I just want you guys to know I'm not here to take over from your Mom, but I am here, so..." She shrugged. "I just feel like if we talk about it now, we all know where we are. Mutual respect, okay?"

"Sure," Caroline nodded.

"Totally," Cassidy said, getting up and hugging Andy's middle. "Thanks."

"You're welcome," Andy said, hoping that the conversation would not be forgotten the very first time she tried to discipline either of them. "Now Caroline, let's take a look at this paper."

Chapter Text

Bedtime that night had not gone as smoothly as it had done the previous nights. The long daytime nap, coupled with the change of energy within the house as everyone got ready for the working week was no doubt to blame.

Sam had been up and down for two full hours before passing out, Bop's ear in his mouth, on the steps outside the den where Miranda and Andy were busy going over what was needed for the next day. Andy carried him to bed, only to find Nicholas wide awake, staring at the ceiling. She sat with him for a while, but she stayed for so long that Miranda came looking for her, and then it was song after song from her to try and get him to sleep.

It took them far longer than it should have to remember his words from earlier; that it was his fear of the dark keeping him awake. Miranda rummaged through a cupboard somewhere and came back with a beautiful nightlight, no doubt a hand-me-down from the twins which did the trick. Nick was out before they could blink.

They had collapsed into bed, forgoing the kisses and whispered words they had enjoyed previously. Andy didn't know about Miranda, but she needed the small space between them to try and get her head around the fact that come tomorrow morning, she might not see Miranda as she had done this weekend until the following one, and how she was going to deal with that.

-0-

"Andy?"

The young woman rolled her eyes and looked at the ceiling, hoping for some guidance from any deity that was listening. So much for self-reliant twins; clearly Miranda either let them forget their school things or had Cara deal with it because she clearly had no idea that they were so disorganised.

"Yes Cassidy?" Andy called, sighing as Sam clung tiredly to her leg.

"Have you seen my science book?"

"I saw it in the den yesterday, but I haven't seen it since. Will you tell Caroline that I have your breakfasts ready? Grab what you can and we'll have another look after you've eaten."

"Andréa, where is that piece of paper I had in my hand yesterday?"

Andy rolled her eyes once more.

"No idea," she said absently while dishing up some breakfast for the girls and Sam. Olivia and Nick were yet to surface, but she made a plate for the both of them to enjoy with Cara once she arrived in a few moments.

"Andréa, what do you mean you have no idea where it is, I need it today. How do you expect me to function if you cannot do your job?"

"Okay, STOP!" Andy said without thinking, slapping the spatula down on the bench. "Everyone stop what they're doing and be quiet. Cassidy, you're going to need to start packing your school bag the night before; I have no clue where your book is and I do not have time to find it. Caroline, if you are ready, why don't you help your sister, or me, or your Mom. Miranda," she paused, refusing to look at her as she continued, "I'm only telling you this once: if I'm going to live here, you're going to have to learn that when I am here with you, outside of work hours, I am not your assistant. I don't know where you put the piece of paper, I'm too busy trying to feed all the kids. If you wish to swap with me, I will gladly go and search for it while you supervise Sam with his spaghetti."

Andy turned around and finished what she was doing in complete silence. She closed her eyes against the tears that threatened to run down her face just as a hand on the small of her back startled her out of her thoughts.

"Andréa, I -" She heard Miranda sigh. "I am sorry, you are correct. You are busy, and I am placing too many demands on you."

"No, I - Look, I don't mind you asking. It's stupid to think that you could, or should completely stop talking about work with me, but ask me and then accept my answer when I say that in the middle of trying to get Sam's breakfast ready, I have no idea where anything is, except him and the plate."

Miranda snorted but nodded.

"Okay," she nodded.

Andy wasn't sure, but she thought she heard one of the twins whistle quietly as Miranda accepted the chastisement and Andy didn't need to wonder why. Miranda had not only been told off quite summarily by her but had accepted and acknowledged her in her feelings. That was new.

"I shall take over supervising Samuel, while you go and get dressed," Miranda said, looking dubiously at the little boy at the table shovelling tinned spaghetti into his mouth. "On second thoughts, I shall stand well back until Cara gets here then I shall see if I can find the paper myself. I was quite wrong to expect you to do everything." Miranda looked at the three children around the table, the twins looking as if she'd grown another head as she spoke apologetically. "Thank you," she said quietly, "for being honest with me."

Andy smiled, remembering the whispered conversation they'd had in the dead of night, hands and legs jumbled together. She nodded and slipped from the room to get herself ready.

-0-

As it turned out the piece of paper was in Miranda's bedside drawer, Cassidy's science book had fallen down the side of the sofa and by the time Nicholas woke up, the girls had already departed and the two women were ready to go.

"Alright kiddos," Andy said, kneeling a little awkwardly in her couture before the three small children. "You guys are going to stay with Cara while Miranda and I go to work, okay?"

"I don't want you to go!" Samuel whined, on the verge of a tear-jerking tantrum as he clung to Andy.

Olivia seemed to be coping the best, but Miranda and Andy had already discussed how rarely she allowed herself to appear less than stoic - the similarities to another person in the house were something Andy took great delight in teasing Miranda with.

"I promise you that you will have so much fun you won't even notice we're gone," Andy said, poking his tummy. "Cara's going to keep all of you entertained, and maybe, if you're lucky, she'll teach you how to make cookies."

"Wi'v sp'winkles?" he said, his big eyes looking up at the nanny in awe.

"I bet there are some somewhere in this house," Andy said conspiratorially.

"Cool! Bye Andy, Bye M'anda."

Miranda waved absently as Sam pulled Cara through to the kitchen, the woman calling goodbye before she disappeared through the door. Olivia stood watching them for a moment, biting her lip before stepping forward and wrapping her arms around Miranda's waist, then Andy's.

"Bye," she said quietly, before running after her little brother.

"What about you sweetheart?" Andy asked Nick, who just shrugged. "Would you like a cuddle before we go?"

He nodded sadly and Andy scooped him up and held him tightly before passing him off, very carefully, to Miranda, who nuzzled his cheek but didn't kiss him owing to the perfectly applied lipstick she already had on.

"Try and have fun today," Miranda said quietly, making Nick shrug again. "Cara knows to ring us if you need us."

She let him go, and he toddled off to the kitchen as well, leaving the two women in the doorway.

"Roy's here," Andy said quietly, helping Miranda into her coat.

"Darling," Miranda said, capturing Andy's hand and pulling her close. "We will not be able to do this until later."

Andy was swept up in a kiss, and before long, the perfect lipstick was no doubt now applied to Andy's lips, rather than Miranda's own. Even as she reeled in delight, Andy made a mental note to make sure that if Miranda was willing to ruin it on her lips, she could put a little kiss on the kid's cheeks as well.

-0-

By the time they got to Elias Clarke, Miranda was in full dragon mode and Andy had spent the time she was being ignored making phone calls and getting a head start on the day. As they pulled up, Roy got out and opened the door for Miranda, who swept imperiously across the sidewalk and into the building, leaving Andy and Roy watching her leave.

"She's really something," Roy said quietly as he came back around the car.

"Yeah," Andy sighed. "She really is. Thanks Roy, for all your help this weekend. I never got a chance to tell you."

"No problem Andy," he said tipping his hat with a grin. "So, is this a permanent fixture then?"

Andy sighed and wondered how much to tell him.

"As long as it doesn't go past your ears right now, I can answer yes. Miranda trusts you, Roy, otherwise, we would have made it through the weekend without you."

"I've been working for Miranda for a long time Andy, no need to worry about me."

"I know," she smiled, patting his arm.

"So you and the boss lady 'ey?"

She laughed, shaking her head and left to get the coffee - her blush revealing the answer to the question without her saying a word.

The morning at work started as any other did; Melody getting on with her job, even if she was unable to look Andy in the eye. It wasn't until a messenger walked in with a package for Miranda that everything changed. Inside was all the paperwork for the adoption and anything else Miranda's lawyer had no doubt slaved over, and consequently thought was relevant at that moment. Miranda placed all the paperwork in her purse and passed a single sheet of paper to Andy, along with the keys to Alec's house.

"Andréa, if you would."

She nodded, taking the keys from Miranda's hand and brushing her fingers against Miranda's palm as they parted.

"Drinks tonight? I feel you have something to tell me," Nigel asked, appearing through the doors as she walked back to her desk.

"Um, I can't," Andy said, glancing into Miranda's office. "I'm pretty busy."

"Nigel. Andréa."

Andy grimaced a little but followed Nigel back into the office. "Shut the door." Andy leant against it as Miranda met her eyes for a moment. Reading the look she was giving her she nodded her consent. "Nigel, Andrea's circumstances have changed quite significantly, as have mine."

Andy smiled as she looked at the back of Nigel's jacket as they let the news sink in.

"You two?" he squeaked, turning to stare at Andy. "I knew something was going on after Melody's phone call, but you are both -"

"Indeed," Miranda smiled. "It is still very early, but needs must and to have a," she paused, "a friend in our corner would be an advantage."

Andy grinned at the purposefully obtuse comment and went round to stand with her hand on Miranda's shoulder while Nigel polished his glasses on his cravat.

"I think I'm missing something. Needs must? Andy, are you sure? Miranda, don't take this the wrong way, I mean, Andy's like a kid sister, I just -"

"Alec and his wife died in a car accident last week," Miranda said. Andy squeezed her shoulder gently and Miranda reached up and squeezed her hand in return.

"What?" he said, his eyes widening. "What do you mean?"

"Exactly as I've said," Miranda shrugged. "The point is, he had, has three children. For some unfathomable reason, they named me as guardian."

Andy had since moved back around the desk and had the presence of mind to push one of the visitor's chairs under Nigel as his knees gave out.

"You're kidding! I mean, I know you're not, but oh my God, Miranda. You just don't think something like that would happen. And you as their guardian? How are they? What are they like? Melody couldn't' tell me much about them."

Andy took over, pulling out her phone and showing him a picture she had snapped the night before.

"This is Olivia, the littlest is Sam and the middle, Nick. He doesn't talk, but Sam is a little firecracker. Olivia's, well she and Miranda get on extremely well. They're a little alike." Nigel peered at the screen.

"Do they understand?"

"Samuel is too young, Olivia does and we believe Nicholas does as well, as he seems to be suffering rather acutely," Miranda explained. "Hence the not talking."

"Poor mites," Nigel said. "What's the plan? How can I help? I'm a terrible babysitter, but anything I can do, I will."

"Andréa is on her way to supervise the movers in packing up their house. Personal possessions will go into storage but the house and furniture will be sold off, the money will be more than enough for them all to go to college by the time they are old enough."

"When did you get them?" Nigel asked.

"They've been with us," Miranda smiled at Andy making her heart thump loudly in her chest, "since Friday. The conditions they were in were deplorable."

"Wow," he said. "Just wow. And you two as well."

"I would welcome your thoughts, Nigel, as my - our friend."

He sat for a moment, obviously taking in everything but Andy stayed calm, looking into Miranda's eyes while they waited. A lot had happened since Paris between Nigel and Miranda, the most significant being Miranda coming good on the assumption Nigel had made - that she would somehow make up for ruining his dream job at James Holt.

"Firstly, if you are both planning on working together, someone not totally on your side should be told. Someone in HR. I'd hate for Irv to get wind of this and use it to get rid of you. Secondly, are you sure you can both work together if you're also seeing each other?"

"I have already told Andréa that she is taking the position in Features when Anton leaves next month. It gives her time to train a replacement, and retrain whats-her-name," Miranda said with a sniff, feigning disinterest when Nigel choked. "And it's living together, not just seeing each other."

"Living together?"

"Well," Andy replied, scratching the back of her neck as she blushed. "We're thinking about it."

"Andréa. We spoke about this. You are moving in."

"Um, right, well okay," Nigel said, looking warily at the two women. "If you truly want my opinion, I think as much as Emily can be - well, how she is - I think she also needs to know. If you are both here together, what happens when one, or God forbid more than one of the children are sick or in need of you? You can't cover for each other indefinitely."

"I hadn't thought of that," Miranda mused. "Thank you Nigel. Yes, I believe I will tell Emily if only to inform her of our change in circumstances. If she wishes to stay on as your assistant, then she may and if she wishes to move on then we will find somewhere she can go. Andréa, I believe you are now late to meet with the removalists."

"Oh, shoot," Andy said, checking her watch. "I'll see you later."

"Andréa?" Miranda called as she lay her hand on the door.

"Yeah?"

"You've forgotten something." Andy looked at her blankly, watching bemusedly as Miranda crooked her finger.

"Oh," Andy said, charmed by the little gesture.

"Goodbye darling," Miranda purred when she leaned over to kiss her gently.

"See-ya."

Andy scurried from the office, beaming as she gathered her things, trying to ignore the somewhat surprised outburst from Nigel and the cat-that-got-the-canary grin that she could feel Miranda wearing. She had things to do and there was no way she was going to be distracted.

-0-

It was only when they were nearly onto the freeway that Andy realised she'd forgotten the kids' lists of things they wanted at the townhouse. She apologised profusely to Roy, who just shrugged and turned around, well used to last minute changes of plans. Andy made a quick phone call to the movers, then another to Cara, telling her what was happening while also checking in.

"Miranda just called me," Cara said, though Andy could hear the smile in her voice. "They're all fine, Olivia is sitting colouring and the boys are both napping. They've played hard this morning."

"You're amazing Cara," Andy said appreciatively. "Could you grab the list off the kitchen bench? I left it there this morning, and the kids will be devastated if I don't get all the things they wanted."

"It's already on the table waiting for you Andy," Cara said happily. "Try not to make too much noise though, if they see you, you'll never get away."

"Thanks for the heads up," Andy said genuinely. "I'm not sure when we'll all be home, but if you need me, just ring. I hadn't planned on being at the house for too long; I thought they'd still be a bit wary of being left on their own."

"They are a bit timid," Cara agreed. "No doubt Miranda thought they'd be fine."

Andy didn't say anything, but Cara understood her agreement.

"I'll call you if anything happens, but I've been doing this a long time Andy. Hopefully, they'll be fine. If anything it'll be when they wake up from their naps, or when they go for a bath."

"Okay, let me know," Andy said. "We're pulling up now, I'll talk to you later."

She slid out of the car before it had come to a complete stop and ran up the steps, stealing into the house and back out without a sound. List firmly in hand and everything triple checked, she nodded for Roy to continue to the home that held all of the memories of the three little children's parents.

Chapter Text

The movers were lounging against their truck smoking when Andy finally rolled up. Channelling Miranda's fiercest mood, she slid out of the car with a little help from Roy and immediately went to work.

Once the men were working, probably harder than they ever had in their lives, Andy took a moment to walk through the house. There were photos everywhere, and Andy drew the comparison between those and the ones in the townhouse. The guest areas at the townhouse had a few professional shots of the girls and even fewer of Miranda but this house breathed children from the first step. Three tiny sets of boots and coats were hanging on little hooks on the wall and Andy immediately spotted the requested red coat of Olivia's. She grabbed them and handed them to Roy, who had been sequestered to help her for the afternoon. Finding the children's rooms with little problem, she smiled at the brightly painted doors, wondering how long it would be before the kids asked Miranda for the same. She giggled as she peered into the boys' room, astounded at just how much stuff they had.

"Oh boy," she groaned, looking at the toys.

"Whoa," Roy chuckled. "Hope your woman doesn't mind clutter," he quipped darkly.

"You and I both know; she's going to flip."

Shrugging, Andy got to work, smiling thankfully when Roy joined in, explaining that Miranda had told him explicitly not to return unless he had Andy with him. She rifled through the clothes, deciding just to bag them all for the kids to go through with them. She could only imagine the fallout if there were favourite shirts hidden in the copious Target and Walmart labels. No doubt Miranda would try her best to get rid of most of them, but they were little kids; they would need a few play outfits.

"Andy, what do you want to do about these toys?" Roy asked, looking so different with his crisp white shirt sleeves rolled up, his jacket and cap hanging on the end of Olivia's old bed.

"I don't know," she said exasperatedly. "There's so many and Miranda or the kids for that matter might not want all of them. I guess we bag them all. Miranda," she paused, thinking of how likely that would be, "I will have to go through it with them."

"Okay," Roy said, getting to work, placing all the toys into as many bags as would fit. "These aren't all going to fit in the car. I'll talk to the movers and get them to drop them at the house before they take the rest."

"Thanks Roy," she called, concentrating on her tasks. She was elbow deep in blue shirts - apparently Nicholas' favourite colour - when her phone rang.

"Andréa, I need twelve skirts from Calvin and the brooch I looked at last week when you return. Make sure it's before 14:00."

She couldn't help it, she burst out laughing. It was a little while before she could pull herself together and by that time Miranda had definitely hung up on her. She didn't mind, she'd been a little rude, but as she dialled back, she shook her head as the line clicked but Miranda didn't say anything.

"I'm sorry I laughed, but you're not here," she said with a smile on her face. "I won't be back at two. I'll be lucky if I get out of here before five."

"Unacceptable, I have a run-through at four. Delegate Andréa."

Miranda hung up again and Andy just shook her head. Maybe Roy was right; she was a brave woman. Only a crazy person would fall so completely in love with a mercurial, maniacal woman who took a daily power trip. But she had, and she didn't really care what anyone said. She loved Miranda, she'd just have to learn to live with it.

"Okay, I've got most of the little ones' things downstairs. They're calling a smaller truck over so they don't have to go twice as far."

"Thanks Roy," Andy groaned."I owe you big time. Next time we do drinks, you'll have to come along."

"I'm not quite up to Runway snuff Andy," he joked, but Andy heard the kernel of fear in his voice.

"Nonsense. You've driven Miranda for longer than anyone, save Nigel, has ever worked for her. You'll fit right in. Emily usually spends ten minutes bemoaning her, but then we rejoice at having lived to tell the tale."

He chuckled and pretended to tip his hat.

"You're the boss, Andy."

"Whatever," she groaned, rolling her eyes when the phone rang again.

Without looking at the display, Andy answered, launching straight into all the reasons she wouldn't be back by two to pick up twelve skirts.

"Um, that's great Andy, but it's Cara," the woman said. "I, I put it off for as long as I could in case I could head it off, but -" There was a particularly loud scream in the background. "Sam won't settle. I'm not sure whether he had a nightmare, or what, but he's crying and won't stop and it's just upsetting the others."

"No problem Cara, we're pretty much done here. I'll be there asap."

Andy hung up without thinking about saying goodbye and went to update Roy on the situation. They sorted out everything that needed to be discussed with the movers, instructing them just to bag everything in the three children's rooms and taking it to the townhouse. She would sort through it later.

The traffic was mercifully light and they were on the freeway before she had a chance to ring Miranda and update her.

"Are you back yet?"

"No," Andy said. "Cara just called. Sam is inconsolable. I'm on my way there now." Andy contemplated saying that she had told her so but realised her life was worth more than an offhanded comment while the editor was stressed.

"Out, everyone out!" Miranda instructed, and Andy mentally went through the list of appointments she had today to see who she'd just turfed out. She gulped loudly when she realised it was Derek Lam's team. They'd flown in specially for the meeting and now Miranda had thrown them out in favour of killing Andy over the phone. "I miss you."

"What?" Andy said before she could stop herself. "What did you say?"

"I miss seeing you at your desk. I keep thinking you've left and you're not coming back. I am completely unaccustomed to feeling like this and it is interfering with my day."

"I'm sorry," Andy said, wondering what on earth she could say to that. "I told you though, I'm not leaving you Miranda. To have this chance with you is something I could never dream of. I want this, I want this family that we're building together. I'm not going anywhere. Next month I won't be at that desk at all."

"I know, believe me I know. I trust you Andréa, more than anyone else I've ever been with. I don't think I ever really trusted them, not with my children, nor my home, nor my heart. I have given you everything Andréa."

"And I will guard them with my last breath," she replied quietly, a little overwhelmed at how vehement Miranda sounded.

"I know you will," Miranda soothed, apparently recognising the tightness in Andy's voice. "Soothe Samuel, don't bother coming back here. I will be home as early as I can, after the run-through if they are at all competent today. Did you get everything done at the house?"

"No, but Roy and I sorted most of it; they're bringing everything to the townhouse to be sorted at a later date."

"Oh," Miranda grumbled.

"It had to be this way, I don't know what shirt Sam considered lucky, or which pair of pyjamas Nick can't live without."

"Hmm, just make sure it goes in the basement; somewhere I don't have to see it," Miranda said, sounding tired. "Did you know that Cassidy once wore the same pair of yellow shorts for three weeks. She refused to take them off, even to be washed - she bathed in them Andréa."

She laughed, loudly, as she imagined a small Cassidy pouting, and Miranda being powerless to say no to her.

"Don't worry, we'll make sure that no item of clothing can be worn more than three times in a week."

"Three!"

"I'm going to go," Andy giggled, glancing out of the window. "We're nearly here and I don't want to give you an aneurysm."

"Hmm," Miranda muttered. "If it is that I cannot make it home in time for dinner, don't wait for me. The children need to be fed at an appropriate time."

"Don't worry, I'll give you a call before we sit down if you're on your way we'll wait for you."

"Thank you darling," Miranda whispered. "I had also better go, Derek's team is looking decidedly ill."

"They've just been thrown out of a meeting with Miranda Priestly, I'm not surprised."

"They'll be fine when I offer them their twelve-page spread."

"I imagine so. I'll see you later," Andy said, wondering if Miranda would remember their conversation from before the trip to the museum.

"And I will talk to you soon, my darling."

Andy beamed, hanging up the phone and leaning back in the leather seat, totally awestruck by the overwhelming feeling of love that she had for that woman, and the children that they were coming to share.

-0-

She raced up the steps and had barely taken her coat off before Nicholas ran up to her and wrapped his arms around her legs.

"Hey sweetheart, is Sam upset?"

He nodded, and she picked him up, carrying him to where the sound was coming from.

"Hi there little monkey. What's up bud?"

As soon as Sam saw the familiar face, he threw himself into Andy's arms and gripped her shoulders tightly. She winced a little and urged Nick to go to Cara while Sam hiccupped into her neck.

"There now little man, it's okay."

He wasn't making any discernible words as he cried, so Andy just held him and rubbed his back.

"It's alright monkey," she said, coaxing his face out of her shoulder. "What's got you so upset?"

"You're gone," he moaned piteously.

Andy had to try very hard not to smile as the sentiment that Miranda had previously issued was mirrored in Sam's sob. It was such a different feeling to have people that wanted her around.

"Well, I'm here now. And I told you that Cara was here and that she gives the best hugs."

He shrugged but sighed tiredly as he lay his head back down on her shoulder. Having barely had time to drop her bag, Cara helped her shuck her coat and she sat down on the sofa, rearranging Sam's little legs around her torso and accepting Nick under one arm.

"Did you boys have fun before you went down for your naps?" she asked, leaning down to press a kiss to Nick's head.

Sam didn't answer, but Nick gave a half-nod, prompting Andy to push him just a little harder.

"Did you make those cookies?"

Nick smiled and held up three fingers. She tried desperately not to react, but she pulled him closer, kissing his hair as she clarified his answer.

"You ate three?" she said, looking at him suspiciously. "Did you save any for me?"

Before she could blink, Nick had slipped from the sofa and run out of the room. Andy wanted to follow him to ask what was wrong, but Sam was heavier than he looked and she was basically stuck on the sofa. She sat thinking about what could have caused Nick to run away like that when she was interrupted by Olivia's giggle. Nick scurried in after Olivia, followed by Cara who just missed nabbing him, before he smiled sweetly, passing Andy a rather mangled cookie. The sprinkles had fallen off, no doubt on the stairs behind him, and the few chocolate chips in it had melted to his hand, which he then wiped on his pants. Andy bit her lip in an effort to stop herself from laughing and accepted the cookie, making a big show of nibbling on it and proclaiming it delicious.

"That was awesome guys," she said, waving off Cara, but accepting the cloth she'd brought. "Have we had a snack yet?" Cara shook her head and Andy decided that a nice little afternoon snack was on the cards. "How about we all go downstairs and have a little snack before the girls come home?"

"Will they be home soon?" Olivia asked.

"Very soon Princess," Andy answered, glancing at the clock. "You see that clock? When the long hand reaches the bottom and the little one is pointed to the four, do you know which that is?" Olivia nodded, making Andy smile. "Well, when the clock looks like that, they should walk straight through that door."

Once settled into the kitchen, the promise of cookies and milk prompted Sam to perk up a little and he ate one cookie, a PB&J and a glass of milk, mirroring the other two. Nicholas hummed in delight as he ate his sandwich and Andy made a mental note. It would be good to know which foods he adored for times of crisis.

Olivia chatted away to Andy about all that she'd helped Cara with, and what they'd played with. Andy, in turn, told them about what she'd brought home with her and promised that when they'd finished their snack, and the girls had finished theirs when they were home they could start going through their things in the sitting room.

Cara muttered that she would go and sort it out before they started, knowing how much Miranda would want to come home to it all done. Andy shrugged. Things had changed, and that meant some of her more ridiculous demands would have to bend. She would have to put up with a little mess now and again if she wanted a more stable future.

It's just that Andy wasn't looking forward to having to tell her that.

Chapter Text

The girls ended up being five minutes later than Andy thought they'd be, but they came in like a pair of whirling dervishes.

"Cara?"

"We're all in the kitchen girls," Andy called, giggling with Sam at the excited cries that followed.

"You're home?" Caroline said, smiling as Olivia hugged her.

"I am, Sam needed me to come home early."

"So Mom didn't come home too?" Caroline asked, with a tone that Andy didn't like.

"What did I say about giving your Mom a break? I came home because I was already out, and I had to drop some things back here. Your Mom said that she would try to get here for dinner, but," she stared at Caroline, who looked suitably mollified. "As I took the rest of the day off, she's now an assistant down."

There was an awkward silence before Cassidy stepped in for her twin, poking Sam's belly and finding cookie crumbs.

"Oh no fair, how come they got cookies?" she wailed.

"There's plenty for everyone," Cara said, breezing into the room. "Go and change, take your bags upstairs and I'll make you both a plate."

"Wear something you are comfortable in. We have some work to do afterwards," Andy called.

"I'm not sure how much you'll get out of them," Cara warned. "They're -" she sighed, choosing not to finish her thought.

"Yeah I know, we'll have to see how we do. When it was just them and Miranda, that was fine, but it's not anymore. Everyone has to make adjustments, you most of all it seems."

"Oh, I love it," Cara shrugged. "Those two were little terrors as kids, so these three are angels by comparison," she smiled at Olivia. "And I have a super helper when I need it."

Andy grinned as Olivia preened under the praise and wondered absently what their lives were like before the accident. Did Olivia help with Sam when he was a baby? Or did she look after Nicholas while their mother looked after Sam? Did she help with the washing, or did she and her father learn how to ride her bike instead? She sighed as Olivia sat swinging her legs on the chair, glancing at the door every now and then for signs of the twins.

They all heard them before they saw them, careering down the hallways and the staircases until they skidded to a halt in the kitchen, grinning from ear to ear.

"Is this alright Andy?" Cassidy asked, picking at her shirt, which was probably the worst thing Cassidy owned. A bright yellow polo that looked like it had been through about four million washes. Glancing at Caroline's slightly more fashionable ensemble, but noting it looked easy to move in, she nodded.

"It's perfect you guys."

Olivia chatted with them both now they were all ears at the table, re-telling all she'd done with Cara during the day. They nodded and commented as they went and Andy was more than a little proud of them. She'd thought maybe Miranda should have a chat with them about being role models now, but it looked as though they'd be alright. It was, however, only the third day of them being there, and the first day of some sort of routine. Time would tell how it went after the twins got over the novelty and the kids settled into their new home.

After snacks had been consumed, Andy led them all into the 'guest' sitting room. Caroline explained that nobody ever went in there, not unless they had visitors; which they never had. Andy looked around the room and saw why. It was half the size of the den and was not as comfortable as the media room or the upstairs sitting room. She wondered about converting it into something more useful, but then reasoned that perhaps with more of them there, they would now have visitors. Andy wasn't sure what the policy was on her meeting her friends - what was left of them - and chalked up another item to discuss with Miranda later on.

Her eyes widened at the progress Cara had made, sorting the bags into piles. There was a corner for Olivia, a corner for Sam and a corner for Nick. The woman had mercifully kept all of the toys Andy had brought back with her in a bag behind the sofa. It wouldn't do for the kids to get into that and not do what they needed to before Miranda came home.

"Alright kiddos," Andy began, letting Nick go with Cara, and nodding to Cassidy to go with Olivia. "We're going to go through all the things that I've brought here, and we're going to be really good okay? Anything that we don't want, or doesn't fit goes into these bags which we can then take to the thrift shops."

"Caroline and Cassidy, you can help Olivia," she said, smiling as Olivia slipped her hand into Caroline's. "Remember girls, your Mom will probably get a heap of stuff for them anyway, so keep your choices to sensible play clothes that Olivia can get dirty in, and wear around the house okay? Olivia? Nick? If there are any things you absolutely positively have to keep put them in a different pile and I'll go through them with you afterwards."

"Got it Andy," Cassidy said, already sitting down beside the small pile of clothes that was only a portion of what had been in Olivia's closet.

There were a few grumblings as the afternoon wore on, but Andy wasn't worried. They'd got nearly all of it done by the time the rest of the items arrived. Andy was so pleased with their progress she decided that they'd had enough for one day, and helped the three younger kids carry their things upstairs. Andy double checked them as she put them away, putting a few aside for Miranda's veto while the twins retreated to do some homework and Cara went to start on dinner.

"Alright sweethearts, who's first for baths?"

Olivia shrugged so Andy decided it was best for the two boys to go first. She left Olivia playing and went to run the bath, getting changed before collecting the boys .

She was kneeling on the bathroom floor, trying to wrestle Sam's socks off his feet when Nicholas walked up to her and draped himself over her back, wrapping his arms around her as best he could. She let Sam run around in nothing but his socks for a while so that she could turn and pull Nick into her arms.

"Are you feeling better little prince?" she asked as she kissed his hair. He nodded and Andy felt all her exhaustion just melt away. "Alright then little man, how about a nice bath with your brother, then you can have a play with your toys while I help your sister? Once everyone's had baths then we'll give Miranda a call before dinner, does that sound like a plan?"

He nodded and went to stand by the bath, watching until Sam was finally ready to get in.

"Come on then boys, let's get you all squeaky clean."

Andy was extremely happy that she'd changed because they'd managed to get water everywhere after Sam discovered he could create waves big enough to splash his brother with. Nick had valiantly ignored him at first, but Andy could see that his patience was fast running out.

"Let's get you out little prince, then your brother can have his fun."

Nicholas was wrapped up like a snuggle bug when Cara appeared at the doorway.

"Lasagne is in the oven, I thought it would be easier with so many."

"You're a lifesaver Cara, thank you. When are you scheduled to go home?"

"I usually wait until Miranda gets home so there's time yet. Would you like me to get him dressed so you can sort Sam out?"

A thankful smile was all she got in reply, except for a wave for Nick as he was carried out, still wrapped up tightly.

"Alright Sam, we need to wash your hair and put away your toys so that you can go and play with Nick."

"Why?" Sam asked, not even waiting for an answer before he lay back in the bath, dunking his head under.

-0-

Baths sorted and the nearly-done lasagne making tummies rumble throughout the house, Andy placed the call to Miranda.

"Yes?"

Andy bit her lip, but forged on anyway, ignoring the imperious tone at the other end of the phone.

"Um, hey, it's just me. Dinner is fifteen minutes away, shall we wait?"

"Darling! I am just walking out, perhaps you could wait? I will instruct Roy to be as speedy as possible; I realise that seven o'clock is rather late for the little ones."

Andy smiled at the change of tone, her heart beating painfully at the thought of her being the one to cause that in the usually stern woman.

"They're okay, they had a snack when I got home - back - when I got back, so they're not ravenous."

"Home," Miranda said quietly. "I would prefer it to feel like your home. Whatever we need to change to make it so, we will do."

"You're pretty sweet, do you know that?" she said rhetorically. "We can talk about it later, okay? Just get back here so we can all have dinner together."

"I have something I will need to show you later, but it is nothing to be worried about. After the children are in bed."

"Um, okay?" Andy said, half expecting the talk to happen now. She wasn't wrong.

"We were photographed on the weekend, both in the park and at the museum. It is nothing Andréa, but we should discuss it before someone gets the wrong idea. I will not have your reputation impugned."

"Wouldn't it be the right idea?" Andy teased. "And it wouldn't be hard to impugn my honour, I am sleeping with the boss."

There was a pause as Andy bit her lip, the double entendre making her nervous.

"Well, yes, I suppose you are," Miranda said wickedly, and Andy knew from her tone that she was smiling. "But we should discuss it anyway."

"Yes Miranda," Andy replied, grinning to herself.

"Yes, well. I will be back soon."

Andy hung up just as Olivia came to sit with her, Patricia following and flopping down at their feet. The big dog had taken to the little girl like a shadow and followed her around constantly. Andy thought it was sweet, but she suspected Miranda was a bit put out that Miranda's dog had taken to the child so quickly. Instead of keeping Miranda's feet warm as she worked on The Book, or stayed up reading, Patricia would sleep at the foot of Olivia's bed. Andy found it amusing and resolved to keep Miranda warm at night, or at least persuade her to sleep more - right next to her.

"I'm hungry," Olivia said apologetically.

"I know sweetheart. Miranda is on her way home now and then we're all going to have dinner together, okay? Do you guys like lasagne?"

"Sam loves it," Olivia said with a smile.

"What about you?"

"I like meatballs better, but it's still yummy. Will there be garlic bread?"

"Indeed there will be little one," Cara said as she poked her head around the door frame. "Andy, the lasagne is cooling on a board - Miranda messaged me. I'll be off. See you tomorrow Livvy."

"Bye Cara!" Olivia waved but didn't get up from snuggling into Andy's side.

After a few shouted goodbyes and an exuberant sounding farewell from Sam, the front door closed and Andy was left alone with the children for the first time.

"Is everyone ready for dinner?"

"M'anda!"

Andy was as shocked as Miranda looked as Olivia leapt from the sofa and ran to wrap her arms around her hips, Miranda's shorter height enabling the little girl to bury her head in the woman's stomach.

"Oh," Miranda said, looking charmed at the display. "Why hello little one, how was your day?"

Andy sat back and watched as Olivia talked quickly and elaborately and Miranda listened to every word, sitting on the sofa and even allowing Olivia to get up on her knee, in her work clothes.

"Oh hey Mom," Cassidy said as she walked past the door. She detoured and pressed a kiss to her mother's cheek. "Can we eat now?"

"You see?" Miranda said with a smirk. "The things I have to put up with from my own children."

Andy laughed, but hauled herself off the sofa and followed Miranda into the hallway.

"Hi," she said awkwardly as the rest of the kids rounded the corner.

"Hello," Miranda replied, stepping forward and kissing her gently. "I missed you this afternoon."

Andy blushed when Caroline nudged her as she walked past, giving her a thumbs up for good measure before helping Sam navigate the stairs.

"She's changed her tune," Miranda commented offhandedly.

"I think she's realised I'm not going to disappear on her."

"You had better not," Miranda whispered fiercely, almost to herself.

"Hey!" Andy took Miranda in her arms and took advantage of the moment of silence to hold her tightly. "I told you, I'm not going anywhere."

Miranda sighed into her shoulder and Andy knew it was the beginning of the unwind from a busy day.

"Let's go and eat with the kids," Andy murmured, pressing a kiss to Miranda's temple.

"Our kids," Miranda said, leaning back a little to look at Andy. "Ours."

"Yeah," Andy said, leaning in for another kiss.

"MOM!"

They jumped away from each other, despite their conscious decision not to do so in front of the children, but when a crash came from the kitchen, they knew the moment was ruined.

"Later," Miranda promised, reaching for Andy's arm and locking their hands together.

"You better believe it," Andy said cheekily, following her lady down the stairs and back to their family.

-0-

Dinner was remarkable, as far as Andy was concerned. Everyone talked about their days, even Miranda, and they discussed things they'd learnt or seen during their time with Cara. Sam explained that his blue car was faster than his red car because they'd both raced each other down the stairs. Andy had to grab Miranda's hand quickly before she rang Cara for an explanation, nodding back to the kids and thankfully, heading off the impending storm.

The twins were on dish duty, rinsing and putting them in the dishwasher and Olivia stayed to help, leaving Andy and Miranda to inspect the items that had been sorted to stay at the house. The boys followed them like puppies, Sam pulling Miranda this way and that, first showing her his favourite green t-shirt and then his blue one. Andy had to bite her lip when Miranda started telling Sam about the different shades they were and she remembered with some consternation her Cerulean Blue lecture from the beginning of her tenure.

"Oh!" Sam said, grabbing their attention at the strange tone.

Andy frowned as she watched Sam pull something from his pile.

"Mommy?" he called, looking around with a smile. "MOMMY! You home!"

He took off like a shot before anyone could do anything, racing around the house calling for his mother. Andy ran after him, leaving Miranda to follow more slowly with Nick, until she found Sam at the front door, clutching a scarf and looking around hopefully.

"Mommy?"

Andy's heart broke for the tot, who looked up at her with such trust in his eyes. She felt Miranda's hand on her back and she watched as Miranda knelt on her wooden floor, still in her work outfit and hold Sam in her arms.

"Darling, Mommy and Daddy have gone to heaven," Miranda said, ever so gently. "Do you understand what that means?"

Sam started sobbing in earnest and the other children came out to see what was going on. When Olivia saw what Sam was holding she went very still, and Andy wished she would come closer so she could hold Nick and her together, but she was shuffling further and further away as Sam continued to cry.

"I want Mommy!" he wailed.

"I know sweetheart," Miranda said, her own vivid blue eyes awash with tears. "I know you do, and I'm so sorry I can't bring them back."

Olivia ran off, pushing past Cassidy and racing up the stairs. Miranda watched sadly, holding Sam to her chest. She opened one arm to Nick, who shyly but resolutely moved into her embrace, leaving Andy to go and find Olivia. There was a thump from inside her room and Andy knocked on the door before opening it, catching Olivia mid-throw, about to throw the twin to the shoe she had already thrown, leaving a small dent in the wall.

"Oh honey," Andy started, moving forward.

"No! No, don't touch me!" Olivia screamed. "They left me. They left me and they're not coming back!"

"I know baby," Andy said, taking a few solid kicks to the thighs as she picked her up.

She sat down on the bed, where Olivia immediately shied away, moving up the mattress and curling into the corner.

"Listen princess. I know it's horrid, sad and awful but you can't go taking your anger out on me, or the house okay? It is totally okay to be angry at your parents for leaving you - that's a part of grieving; missing them, but it's not alright to take it out on people or things," Andy explained gently, letting her have her space. "One day you won't be angry with them, and if you accidentally break something that reminds you of them, then you'll have nothing at the end. The best way is to come up here to your room, or somewhere else quiet and cry if you need to, or come to Miranda or I and cry with us. You can even have a cuddle if you like." Andy smiled sadly as Olivia tucked herself up tighter into a ball. "Alright sweetheart, we'll be downstairs if you need any of us."

She tried to kiss her forehead, but Olivia tucked her face into her pillow so Andy left her to it, hoping that she'd make a reappearance later.

-0-

The mood was pretty sombre in the media room downstairs. They'd put the film 'Madagascar' on in the hope it would cheer Sam and Nick up, but they sat clinging to either Andy or Miranda even during the dance scenes. The twins also kept close, their moods just as melancholic. They sat quietly, subdued as well until the end of the film.

"M'anda?"

Olivia appeared at the door, her face a red, blotchy mess that showed them exactly what she'd spent the last hour or so doing. Nick had moved away to pick up his book now that the movie had finished and spying an empty lap, Olivia rushed to Andy, clambering up onto her and crying into her neck. It wasn't long before Sam, who had been dozing, realised that his sister was upset and started crying again, his little hands making fists in Miranda's incredibly expensive silk shirt.

Andy rocked the little girl back and forth, whispering that they would be alright and that it was okay to let it all out. Nick looked between his two siblings, ensconced on both the adults' knees and his face fell. The tell-tale bottom lip quivering prompted Caroline to pat her knee and she helped him sit up against her, leaning into Miranda's chest. Cassidy's arms went around Olivia and Andy as Miranda looked over her children's heads to meet Andy's eyes. It was the most lugubrious evening, but as Miranda awkwardly reached around and cupped Nick's cheek, kissing his nose, Andy knew it would be alright.

-0-

"We should have checked the things before giving them to the children," Miranda growled much later, once all the children - even the twins - were asleep.

"You mean me?" Andy challenged, gratified to see the horror in Miranda's face.

"No, no I truly didn't Andréa. I just meant that the things should have been checked before giving them to the children."

"Which is the same thing," Andy said, meeting her in the doorway to Miranda's room. "How would we have known which is theirs and which is their Mom's?"

Miranda didn't say anything but she growled in frustration.

"I don't ever want them to have to go through that again though," Andy finally gave in, letting Miranda off the hook.

She moved forward a few steps, meeting Miranda's lips with hers, amazed at how good a kisser Miranda really was.

"I feel the same way," Miranda said as she pulled away. "We cannot shelter them forever though, and now is the best time for them to come to terms with it."

They were silent for a moment before Miranda sighed, lulled as Andy rocked them both gently as they stood.

"Wanna dance, Priestly?" she asked, sliding her hands down Miranda's back.

"You couldn't keep up," Miranda smirked, gasping a little as Andy took up her hand, secured it on Miranda's back and proceeded to dance her around the room.

"Where on earth did you learn to dance this well?" Miranda asked, graciously allowing Andy to lead. "And why did I not know about it?"

"You never asked," Andy replied cheekily. "I'm sure there's plenty I don't know about you. My first foster parents trained me or bought me lessons, whatever. They wanted a debutant, but they gave me back before I could make them proud." Andy paused, shaking her head at her self-deprecating tone. "I kept the knowledge although I'm a bit rusty."

"No," Miranda whispered, resting her head on Andy's shoulder. "You are not. You're a wonderful dancer."

"Thanks," Andy smiled, her fingers tightening around Miranda's. "They'll be alright, won't they?" she asked after a while.

"They will," Miranda reassured, her fingers creeping up Andy's neck and tangling in the hair at the base of her neck. "With your heart and my iron fist, they'll be fine."

Andy smiled and pirouetted Miranda round twice, bowing gallantly as Miranda bobbed into a curtsey.

"I'm beginning to see that maybe it's your heart," Andy said, brushing her lips against Miranda's before pushing her towards the bathroom. "Now come to bed, before I get old waiting for you."

Miranda chuckled but did as she was told, leaving Andy reeling as she dropped down onto the bed with a euphoric smile on her face. There was nothing for it now; she was going to have to stay with Miranda forever. The woman meant more to her than anything ever had before. The only problem now was navigating the future, but as Miranda slipped back into bed, freshly showered and smelling of toothpaste, Andy smiled. They'd navigate that future together.

Chapter Text

After four continuous days of Cara calling during nap time to let her know how upset and unsettled Sam was, Miranda finally had to face the truth about their new life.

"Andréa, this cannot continue," Miranda sighed as she sat on the bed that Thursday night.

Andy went very still and felt the first tendrils of inevitability seeping back into her. She'd thought Miranda would be forever, and that small part of her that she never allowed herself to listen to had become louder as they'd navigated the first inklings of family life. But now, it was all coming crashing back down.

"Right," she whispered. "I understand. I guess it wasn't ever more than a dream."

Without waiting for the actual words that would cement someone once again discarding her, Andy fled to the bathroom where she got in the shower, fully dressed in her pyjamas, and sat on the cold tiles, allowing her tears to flow with the water.

"Andréa? Andréa whatever is the matter?"

She wasn't sure how long she'd been there, but she was exhausted. She wasn't sure how long she'd been crying for, probably the whole time she'd been in the shower, and that had long since run cold. She felt Miranda's soft hands under her arms, her voice in her ear, but she didn't really hear her. Miranda didn't care. She was too much work, too much bother to compete with all her other facets of life.

"Andréa?"

She blinked as Miranda's face swum before her own.

"What is it darling? What's wrong? Tell me where it hurts."

"Nobody wants me," Andy said, her voice cracking under the truth. "Nobody ever wants me."

She was cold and wet, but it matched her melancholy perfectly and it wasn't until Miranda's warm body joined hers in bed that she realised what was happening.

"What are you doing?" Andy asked, looking around in shock, wondering where her pyjamas had gone. "Don't," she pushed at Miranda. "Don't prolong the inevitable."

"Darling? I don't know what you're talking about?"

It was like a dream. A terrible dream she couldn't wake up from. She could hear Miranda's voice, her beautiful voice soft and warm against her skin.

"You don't want me!" she wept.

"Where on earth did that idea come from?" Miranda said sounding scandalised.

"This cannot continue? Don't lie to me Miranda, I'm a big girl; I'm used to people deciding I'm not worth the effort. I'll just go."

She went to get out of the bed she didn't remember getting into but found Miranda clinging to her desperately, her arms around her shoulder and her legs around her hips.

"You will not leave me." Miranda hissed. "You said to me, promised even, that you would never leave me Andréa."

"But you said -"

"Whatever I said, there has been an obvious miscommunication. If you think for one moment I would send you away Andréa, like a scrap of cloth I would discard, you are so wholly mistaken I am ashamed at myself for allowing you to think so - even incorrectly."

Andy allowed Miranda to roll her over and she was suddenly cradling Miranda's smaller body with her own, the warm feeling creeping from her outer limbs to other parts of her that just couldn't help but react when she realised that both of them had nothing but their lingerie on.

"I should have told you from the start. I should have made you realise, when you first told me, that those feelings you had were reciprocated. That what you said about me not being ready, or not feeling it is okay? I should have shut you up and told you how desperately I loved you, how desperately I love you."

Andy's heart thumped painfully in her chest.

"You do?"

"I do, and I cannot possibly imagine my life without you. When I said that this wasn't working, I was so caught up in my thoughts I forgot for a moment that no matter how in tune you are with me you actually cannot read my mind. I was thinking about how we cannot both remain working as we are, not with Samuel still so unsettled. I was mulling over possible solutions when I said that. I was not, would never send you away Andréa, never."

"You won't?"

"I won't darling, ever. Even after such a short time of living here with you, I cannot imagine my life without you."

"You don't want me to leave?"

"No," Miranda said gently, brushing Andy's fringe away. "No, I don't want you to leave."

"I didn't want to go, but I would have if you had told me to," Andy admitted quietly. "I would do anything for you."

"Then I shall have to make sure that I only ask you for exactly what I want," Miranda smirked.

Andy grinned, exhausted but happy as Miranda leaned down and kissed her gently. They kissed for a while before Andy pulled away and yawned.

"Sorry," she muttered trying to stay awake.

"Never mind darling, close your eyes."

"Will you still be here?" Andy asked, not caring if she sounded childish.

"I'll be here all night. Right here with you."

With that reassurance echoing around her brain, Andy closed her eyes. She was asleep before she had a chance to misinterpret anything else.

-0-

Andy woke up blearily wondering what was happening as someone kneed her in the stomach.

"Ouch," she groaned, rubbing the sleep from her eyes as she looked around for the perpetrator.

"Wha'is't?" Miranda muttered tiredly.

It was only when Andy lay still for a moment that she realised all was not as it should be.

"Did you spill something?" Andy asked as she tried to make her brain function.

"What?" Miranda muttered. "What are you talking about?"

"I'm wet."

"Darling," Miranda muttered darkly, her hand slipping over Andy's ribs. "I thought we weren't going to do this until we were ready."

Andy gasped as a hand brushed her breast, sliding down her front until it stopped over her stomach.

"You're wet!"

Miranda's hand disappeared, leaving Andy feeling utterly confused until the light came on, blinding her temporarily.

"Oh Samuel!"

Andy felt slightly uncomfortable as her brain finally caught up. She lifted herself up, groaning at how exhausted she felt and sighing as she saw what was hiding underneath the covers. Samuel was curled up in a ball, sleeping like nothing was wrong, wearing pyjamas that he had found in the pile of things they had sorted. Andy could see the discolouration on them indicating that the poor boy had wet the bed and his pull-ups had leaked, quite spectacularly if the damp feeling Andy had was any indication.

"Come on sweetheart. Let's get you into the shower," Miranda groaned, standing up and pulling on her tired old grey robe. Andy smiled at the visual, knowing how the routine would go after just under a week in her home.

Miranda scooped Samuel up, taking him into her - their - bathroom to shower him. Andy would be in charge of changing his sheets and then apparently their own. It was part of the reason they were so tired. On top of all the change they had to cope with and adapt to, they were yet to have a full night's sleep since the children arrived. If it wasn't Samuel wetting the bed, even with the pull-ups, which usually prevented Andy having to change the beds, it was Nicholas screaming in his sleep about being shut inside dark places and missing his Mummy. And if it wasn't them, it was Olivia, waking them up to check they were real. It was a heartbreaking cycle the couldn't seem to compete with.

Once Andy had successfully changed the bed in the boy's room, stopping to press a gentle kiss to Nick's forehead, she returned to Miranda's room, meeting both Miranda and Sam coming out of the bathroom in new pyjamas. Sam was practically sleepwalking and it meant that Andy was able to steer him back to his room and into his own bed, tucking him in before returning to fall back into theirs, sleeping again without effort.

-0-

"Andy?" Someone shook her, but she groaned in protest. It was too early for her to care. "Andy! Cara wants to know what's going on."

Finally unable to ignore the voice any more, Andy cracked open her eyes, seeing one of the twins standing next to the bed biting her thumbnail. She peered closer, realising it was Caroline that was asking for her attention.

"Morning Caro," Andy muttered, sighing that it was all going to start again.

"Um, hey. Everyone is downstairs, except you and Mom."

Andy frowned, rolling over to see Miranda snoring softly in her sleep. The mewling noise she made when she breathed in made Andy's heart melt and she leant over to kiss her softly. Deciding to let her sleep, Andy picked up her phone and stumbled out of bed, kissing Caroline's hair before nipping into the bathroom, before meeting the girl on the landing and getting caught up on the morning's events.

"Um, it's nearly time for us to go to school and neither of you were awake. Cara said you probably had a bad night?"

"Yeah, I had a little freakout and then Sam came in. We had to change his bed, and ours."

"What do you mean?" Caroline asked, looking confused.

"He wet the bed," Andy said, pausing on the stairs when Caroline grabbed her arm.

"I mean about you," she insisted, making Andy smile at the worry.

"Your Mom said something that I misunderstood. It was nothing."

"She made you upset?" Caroline bristled.

"No," Andy reassured her. "No, she said something that I misunderstood. Your Mom was really good about it."

"So, it wasn't her fault?" Caroline asked, sounded dubious.

"I promise."

Apparently satisfied, Andy led Caroline down to the kitchen where she was met with a tight hug from Sam.

"Morning!" she said cheerily.

"Good morning," Cara smiled, handing her a cup of coffee. "I was a little worried about you both."

"Long night," Andy chuckled, taking a big sip of scalding coffee.

"Are you staying home?" Olivia asked, hope shining from her eyes.

"I think a sick day might well be on the cards," came a well-loved voice from the hallway. Andy looked around, smiling at the regal pose Miranda struck even when wearing her robe, with her hair a little unkempt and no makeup on. She raised an eyebrow in surprise, smirking when it garnered a small blush on Miranda's cheeks. "Well, perhaps I will work from home. There is only the run through that cannot be postponed, so perhaps we will invite Nigel and the others here this afternoon in the hope that they will bring me something worthy."

Andy grinned, reaching for her phone now she had finished her coffee and letting Miranda sit in her seat.

"I'd best warn them then," Andy chuckled. "If I let Nigel know now, he may have come to by the time you need to see him."

Miranda's laugh followed her from the kitchen and into the guest sitting room until she shut the door and sat down tiredly on the sofa.

"Andy? What's up? She can't be this early can she? Can you stall her, I'm not even there yet."

"Relax Nigel, Miranda's working from home today."

"From home?" he repeated. "What do you mean? Is she alright? What's wrong with her, have you called the doctor? Where are the twins? Oh God, and the other children as well? I'll call Emily and tell her -"

"NIGEL!"

"What?" he asked, pausing for a moment and allowing Andy to speak.

"Nothing is wrong with her. We had a long night is all Sam wouldn't settle, so she's decided to work from home. It's a slow enough day that we can manage everything from here."

"Oh," he said.

"Nige'?"

"She's never taken a day to work at home before, not since Cassidy broke her arm, and she did that at exactly 4 pm on a Friday. So technically she was working at home on a Saturday."

"I guess we're both exhausted," Andy shrugged. "I am at least. So, I think she wants you, Emily and Serena to come over later for a brief run-through."

"Jocelyn too," Miranda said, her hand resting on Andy's shoulder as she leaned down to press a kiss to Andy's head. "It's time she took on some responsibility if she wishes to succeed in her post. And call Anton, I want you to have a meeting with him soon so he can go through the assignments coming up. Your job will be much easier if you have some sort of clue as to what is expected of you before you start it."

"Yes Miranda," Andy quipped, shaking her head as the woman sashayed from the room. She relayed the information to Nigel.

"You're something else kid, do you know that?"

"I love her," Andy whispered, not sure what to expect.

"Yeah kid," he said kindly. "I know."

Andy hung up the phone and sat for a moment, taking it all in. She certainly couldn't say she wasn't enjoying life right now.

-0-

Happy in the knowledge that she wouldn't be ridiculed by the only friends she had left, Andy left Nigel to break the news to the rest of the team and went back to the kitchen where Caroline and Cassidy were bemoaning the fact that they had to go to school.

"But you never have a day off work on a school day, and the others get to stay home! Why can't we?"

"Because your education comes first Bobbsey. I will not be lounging around all day; I intend to work just as much as I would have, had I gone to work this morning. Today it will just happen in my office at home, rather than at Elias Clarke."

"I feel sick," Caroline said, looking desperately at Andy. "I do, I might throw up."

"Don't you dare," Andy said, ruffling her hair. "What do you say boss, can they have a day off? I think Caroline's eager to watch the run through with you."

"Please Mom, please Mom, please?"

Miranda's face was almost comical as she was faced with both her precious twin's faces turned up towards her with the most adorable pouts on them. Andy and Olivia, who had climbed up on her knee, tried valiantly to copy the twin's expressions and soon enough even Nick had tried his best to look as adorable as possible.

"How is one supposed to win against an entire family full of urchins?" Miranda sniffed, looking down her nose in disdain. "I suppose I shall have to call the school then."

The twins cheered, mobbing Miranda with hugs and kisses that was quickly copied by Olivia and it wasn't long before Miranda was accepting all of them on her person - Olivia and Cassidy on her knee with Caroline wrapped around her shoulders - an indulgent smile on her face.

"Can we watch a movie?" Caroline asked, snuggling into Miranda's neck.

"I suppose we can," Miranda agreed. "As long as you don't mind me working while we watch?"

"Nope!" Caroline said. "As long as you're home I don't care what we do. It's like Christmas."

The twins ran off with Olivia in tow, leaving Miranda, Andy and the boys at the table in tense silence. Cara disappeared quickly while Miranda sat nursing her coffee.

"They're excited," Andy said unhelpfully.

Miranda didn't say anything and Andy couldn't think of a way to help. Nick placed his spoon quietly in his empty bowl and stood up, looking awkward for a while. Andy watched with a bemused frown as the boy twitched on the spot before going over to Miranda's side and tugging on the sleeve of her robe. The warmth that enveloped Andy's chest was almost overwhelming as Miranda allowed her arm to be pulled away from her. Nicholas clambered up onto her knee and once he was settled, grabbed her arm once more and wrapped it around his tummy, sighing as he leant back on her shoulder.

"Good morning darling," Miranda said with an easy smile. Nick craned his neck, reaching up and pecking Miranda's cheek quickly before going back to playing with the rings on her right hand. The tension that Caroline had inadvertently instilled in their morning floated away.

"Are they significant?" Andy asked after a time, finally asking a question she'd wanted to for months. Miranda wore those particular rings every day, the only jewellery that did not change on a daily basis and it piqued the interest of all her employees, even Emily. Nigel knew, Andy was sure he did, but he remained mute on the matter proclaiming it personal.

"Indeed they are," Miranda said kissing Nick's head. "I had these made on the day the girls were born. Their birthstones are set in platinum and inscribed on the inside is their time of birth, weight and length. They are two separate rings that fit together making them a whole like they are in my heart."

"That is about the most beautiful thing I've ever heard," Andy grinned, trying to take the seriousness out of the situation. She could see Miranda visibly relax and mentally patted herself on the back; crisis averted. "You really are a softy."

"Yes, well don't spread it around."

Andy sat back with a satisfied smile and began absently playing with Sam who was enjoying the togetherness they usually only shared at dinnertime and a little before bed.

"Mom?" Cassidy yelled from two floors up. "The movie is ready, can we have popcorn?"

Miranda winced at the shouting through the house and from the slightly pursed lips Andy saw she refused to shout back to them. Sam, lured by the promise of popcorn, raced up the stairs squealing happily.

"All. Your. Fault." Miranda growled, leading Nicholas by the hand to a cupboard and where she reached behind a large bowl to grab something.

She stalked from the room, throwing whatever she had retrieved back at Andy before winking and leaving the room with Nicholas in tow. Andy watched her go, constantly amazed at the capacity to be surprised by this woman, and by just how much love she had for her boss.

She looked down, finding a 'pedestrian' brand of popcorn and burst out laughing.

"God, I love you woman," she whispered.

Chapter Text

(STILL FRIDAY)

The day wasted away, Miranda quietly working in the living room with Andy occasionally helping while everyone else lounged around playing or reading.

"Andy?"

"Yes Cassidy?" Andy said, pausing in the book she was reading to Nick and Sam.

"Can you read this one afterwards?"

Andy chuckled as she was handed one of the girls' favourites and nodded, accepting a quick kiss on the cheek as thanks.

"Sweet. You finish that one, I'm going to get the girls," Cassidy paused by the door, drawing Miranda's interest as well when she spoke again. "It's weird, calling them the girls. For so long it was Caro and I that were the girls."

"I trust it's not a bother?" Miranda said ,the only indication that she was worried was how the pen paused over the page she was working on.

"No, just weird," Cassidy reassured her, running off without another word.

"You have good kids Priestly," Andy said.

"I do indeed," Miranda said proudly. "And a few more to be proud of as well," she said, accepting Sam on her knee even as she worked.

Andy watched her continue, occasionally pressing a kiss to Sam's hair, or moving his hand out of the way so she could mark something on the page. Sam had been thoroughly put out at the start of the day when he was told that he could not draw all over the pages of pretty ladies but Miranda had firmly explained to him that when she was working she was not to be disturbed. Sam had whined, but eventually, his need for Miranda's comfort won out and he had learned very quickly how to sit and accept love without disturbing her. Andy was convinced that she could practically hear him purring from across the room. She knew from the times she'd fallen asleep while Miranda was going through The Book this week that Miranda fidgeted when she was editing; running her fingers through Andy's hair, or tugging on her fingernails gently. Sam had obviously realised how precious this makes a person feel and Andy couldn't blame him; she loved it too.

"The others will be here soon," Miranda said quietly, breaking into her thoughts. "I suggest you finish that book and call the girls so you can read the next, then it will almost be time for us to move into the study."

Andy nodded and carried on reading, apologising to Nick for stopping with a quick squeeze around his middle, but he didn't seem to mind. Nick loved this one-on-one time as much as Sam liked his with Miranda. Nick adored the moments when it was just him and Andy, curled up in an armchair in what Andy had termed 'their room'. Whenever they got a chance together they would sit in the library reading the Peter Rabbit books, Nick laid out on top of Andy as she read, following the stories via the pictures or dozing on her chest.

Nick pulled on her fingers and she realised that she'd fallen back into her thoughts. She had to up her game if she was going to be any use to Miranda by the time the others arrived.

-0-

"MOM!"

Andy chuckled as Miranda put down her pen, looking pained.

"If I had the money you had, I'd have probably invested in an intercom system," Andy said absently.

"What do you mean if you had the money," Miranda said, looking perplexed. "We do have the money. Look into viable options and I shall have whichever you deem necessary installed immediately."

"Miranda, I don't want your money!" Andy said, unable to work out what was happening. "I just mean -"

"May we continue this conversation later?" Miranda said, shocking Andy with how apologetic she sounded.

"Hey," Andy stood up, kissing Nick and letting him keep the millionth book they had been reading. She met Miranda behind the sofa and wrapped her arms around her before she could escape. "Remember me?" she said teasingly. "I'm your assistant, I look after your schedule, and realised quite early on that you rather enjoy working."

"Yes I understand that Andréa, however -" Andy kissed her, effectively stopping anything else from being said for a good three minutes, including ignoring the doorbell.

"Let's go to work boss."

Miranda's chuckle resounded through the house, following Andy down the stairs to where Sam was trying to release Cassidy's grip on his shirt so he could open the door. The bell went for the third time and Andy was sure they were about to have a heart attack.

"I'm coming," she called, stopping to kneel down before Sam. "Sweetie, I know you're a super big boy, but I never, ever want you opening this door without Miranda or me with you. Alright?"

"Yep!" he yelled, tugging on her arm. "You here now, let's go!"

Andy smiled up at Cassidy and had her release him, wondering what Emily was going to make of this little whirlwind.

"HI!" he screamed as he opened the door.

"Okay, well we'll have to work on that," Andy chuckled, pulling Sam away from the step so that Nigel, Emily, Serena and Jocelyn could enter along with the twenty or so garment bags they had in tow.

"CARO! They're here!" Cassidy called, moving forward to help Serena and Jocelyn.

"Cass, you know how much your Mother loves you doing that," Andy winced.

"I know, but she also hates people dawdling, and Caroline really wants to watch."

Giving up, Andy stepped out of the way, grabbing Sam as well before he could run out of the door to help carry things from the car.

"Whoa buddy, slow down. How about you take this to Miranda and tell her that we will all be up there in about five minutes?" She grinned at his puffed out chest. "Can you do that?"

"Yep," he called running up the stairs as fast as his little legs could carry him.

"What on earth was that?" Emily whispered, looking much paler than usual, backed into a corner in the front hall.

"I thought you were going to talk to her?" Andy said, looking incredulously at Nigel. The man shrugged and Andy realised that with Miranda and her away, he obviously hadn't had the time.

"Right. Em, Serena, yeah Joss you too, come in here a minute." Andy led them into the guest sitting room. "Okay Em, sit, Serena you'd best hang onto her." Serena grinned and took Emily's hand. "So, last week Miranda got a call; her second husband Alec, and his wife, were killed in a car accident. They had three kids, and Miranda was, for whatever reason, named as their guardian.

"Merda!" Serena swore, sitting back and unconsciously wrapping her arm around Emily's shoulder. Andy smiled at the scene, envisioning nights at Serena's place with Emily freaking out about some innocuous detail and Serena calmly chilling, gently reassuring the woman who was her girlfriend in everything but official title.

"So, we have Sam - that's the whirlwind you just saw a moment ago - and Nick, he doesn't speak right now, and then there's -"

"Andy!" Olivia whined, appearing at the door. "M'anda wants to know what's taking so long, hurry up!"

Andy laughed, but ushered everyone upstairs.

"And that would be Olivia. She's about as close to being Miranda's mini-me as Caroline is."

"I don't, I can't -"

"Relax querida," Serena whispered. "It's still Miranda."

"But, but what are you doing here?" Emily asked finally getting a hold of herself.

"Um, well Miranda and I are -" she shrugged.

"Oh wow," Joss whispered. "You're together? Wow!" she chuckled. "Brave woman."

"Not really," Andy winked. "She's different at home."

"You're living here!" Emily squeaked.

"Um, yeah semi-officially." Andy glanced at the doorway where Cassidy was motioning. "We'd better go."

"We need drinks. Sunday. I need more information. Don't think you're getting off this lightly Andrea Sachs."

Andy chuckled at the 'Miranda tone' coming from Emily. She wasn't half as scary now she lived with the original. She could do with an afternoon of catch up though, so she just nodded and ushered them in for the production meeting.

"I trust you are all caught up on my personal life," Miranda growled, though her eyes were sparkling.

"Be nice Miranda," Andy whispered in her ear as she walked past.

Miranda glared a little at Andy's forwardness, but let it slide.

"Shall we get to work?

Andy grinned from the doorway; the scene would have been far more fearsome had Sam not been draped over her knee like a floppy ragdoll and Nick hadn't been trying to touch the garments reverently.

"Guys, come on, let's leave Miranda to her work."

"Andréa, there is no reason for them to leave, I am extremely interested in what my staff have to offer me, but I am not holding out much hope of them being here long. Shall we start with you Emily?"

"Oh oh," Sam giggled. "M'anda gonna be's a dragon."

Andy chuckled and lifted him off Miranda's knee. He squirmed for a moment but by the time she'd snagged Nick as well, they both sat down nicely, watching Miranda go all 'dragony' while she explained that she had to be dragony to be a good boss.

"Can I sit with the pretty lady?" Sam asked, not so quietly.

Emily's eyes widened comically glancing at Serena, but it was Jocelyn that Sam gravitated towards, hefting himself up onto her knee like he'd done it a thousand times.

"Samuel, I need Jocelyn to do some work, so please do not get in her way," Miranda ordered gently, but firmly.

"Yes M'anda. I be a good boy."

"I know you will darling, now, tell me about the Meisel shoot," Miranda ordered, leaning forward to receive the prints Serena passed her.

"We're thinking that in order to better showcase the trains on the gowns that we need stairs, perhaps the AMNH."

"We been there!" Sam said helpfully. "They got lo's'a dinosaurs."

"I know," Jocelyn whispered. "I like the Tyrannosaurus Rex, so does Robby."

"Who's W-obby?" Sam asked, whispering conspiratorially while Miranda discussed options with Nigel.

"My son," she winked.

"I didn't know you had a kid Joss?" Andy said, joining them with Nick at the table.

"He's four next month," she said proudly.

"That's great," Andy said looking down at Nick. "That's something we're going to have to work out isn't it, when everyone's birthdays are."

"Jocelyn, Andréa, if you've finished socialising, perhaps you would share with us the ideas for next month."

"Yes Miranda, of course," Jocelyn replied, looking a little flustered with Sam on her knee. Andy glanced at Miranda who was watching with thinly veiled interest as the woman took a deep breath, then delivered a markedly different presentation to the one she usually did.

"Jocelyn, I cannot say that I am displeased," Miranda said, looking awkward. "You may run with it."

Andy watched as Jocelyn let out a small sigh and hugged Sam a little as she sat back.

"Nice work," Andy winked, turning to write something on her ever-present notepad as Miranda was talking.

"Andréa?"

"Yes Miranda?" she said, without looking up.

"Where are the models?"

"Oh," Andy checked her watch. "You're done earlier than I thought, Gerry was emailing me photos so they didn't have to come to the house, they should be here by now -" She was interrupted by a ping on her phone. "I think that will probably be them." She handed her cell over and returned to her place while Miranda studied the shots.

"Are you two hungry?" Andy asked the boys. "Do you want a snack?"

Nick barely bobbed his head but Sam nodded so hard he headbutted Jocelyn in the chin. After a quiet apology, Andy led them downstairs so that she could organise some snacks for the kids and perhaps a few for the adults as well. Once the meeting was over, Andy hoped that everyone would stay and socialise a little.

"How's it going up there?" Cara asked, already putting together a plate of fruit and peanut butter dip.

"Oh, it's going," Andy said. "It's going better than I thought actually. Miranda may have more days off if all of them are like this."

"Well, we can only wait and see," Cara said diplomatically. "Will you two be requiring dinner tomorrow before the benefit, or shall I just make it for the kids?"

Andy had completely forgotten about the benefit the following evening. She and Miranda were meeting Melody inside, but Andy would be arriving with Miranda, something that was not unusual after the last six months but this time had a connotation to it that Andy was petrified of.

"I think we'll be alright without," Andy said. "Miranda doesn't usually eat beforehand and I'm always so afraid I'll drop something on my gown. I am extremely clumsy."

It wasn't long before Cassidy showed up, Olivia in tow.

"Run through all finished?" Andy asked, pushing the plate closer to them as they joined them at the table.

"Yeah, Caro is just asking why Mom chose this belt instead of that one," Cassidy shrugged. "They looked the same to me."

Andy couldn't help it, she laughed and laughed at the thought of Miranda giving 'the belt lesson' to Caroline. She could almost guarantee that it wouldn't be in the same tone as the lesson that Miranda had deigned to give to her at the beginning of her tenure. She explained half-heartedly to the girls, who didn't get why she found it so funny, so she started poking Nick, hoping to get a reaction from him.

She got nothing, until Caroline came down to tell them that they'd finished. He was off like a shot, thankfully with clean hands, running into the study and climbing on Miranda's knee before Sam could even get a look in. Thankfully their youngest seemed content to return to Jocelyn's knee, leaving Andy free to ask everyone about refreshments.

"By all means, stay," Miranda said to her staff.

Andy chuckled and quickly translated to everyone that Miranda was being serious and they really should stay for a coffee.

"We made cookies yesterday," Olivia said, "I'll get some."

The little girl was off downstairs before Andy could catch her, organising a plate of cookies for their guests with such aplomb that Andy let her. In no time at all, she was carrying a full plate back upstairs with Andy's help, and offering everyone a cookie.

Andy looked on sympathetically as nobody took one, and Olivia's face fell.

"I hope all of you will appreciate Olivia's generosity," Miranda's voice barked out a warning, making sure everyone suddenly sat forward and took a cookie, holding it in their hands like a loaded bomb. "I for one quite enjoy them."

Miranda nibbled on hers and Andy had to hand Serena a glass of water as Emily started swaying.

"One cookie won't kill you Emily," Miranda said quietly. "I do not like to disappoint my children and Olivia worked so hard on these cookies, I hope you will not refuse her gracious hospitality in sharing one with you."

"No Miranda," she said shakily. "I mean, yes Miranda."

Andy felt so sorry for Emily, she went to sit next to her, mindful not to encroach on Serena's space, but close enough to take half the cookie from her quietly. She looked over gratefully, but was still left with half a cookie too much according to the look of horror on her face, even with Miranda nearly three-quarters of the way through hers.

"Do you like it?" Olivia asked, appearing before them.

Serena covered for her girlfriend admirably, and to Emily's credit, the stick-thin woman took a bite, moaning a little at the forbidden taste. Andy wondered idly how long it had been since she'd had sugar in any form.

"Hey, you got a chocolate one!" Sam said, slipping off Jocelyn's knee. "Can I has some?"

Emily held out the cookie and his crumb covered fingers took most of what she had remaining, leaving her with barely two bites. Andy looked over at Miranda, and saw the frown on her face. Not one born of anger, but one born of concern for one of her favourite past assistants. Emily would not be dieting for much longer Andy surmised.

-0-

"Mom can we watch another movie before dinner?" Cassidy asked after a whispered conversation between her and Olivia.

"You may, as long as you remember to keep it age appropriate," Miranda reminded her, wincing when the rest of the kids vacated the room noisily. There had nearly been a dust-up earlier when Miranda reached the media room to find the third Harry Potter playing and it was quickly switched off while Miranda explained the finer points about classifications and why Olivia, at six, might find the Dementors terrifying.

Andy sat back as Miranda seemed to shake off most of her boss persona, joining her on the sofa instead of sitting alone in the chair.

"Would you like us to go Miranda?" Nigel asked, looking as though he was prepared to leave as soon as Miranda nodded her head.

"No, no you might as well stay," Miranda said, taking off her glasses and throwing them onto her desk. "I suppose I should offer you refreshments, but I'm sure you probably have questions that will be more pertinent at the moment."

"No," Nigel said, shaking his head. "No way."

"Oh come on Nigel, live a little!" she said, sliding one hand into Andy's and the other around her shoulder. "I dare you."

Emily squeaked, but it was Jocelyn who broke first. She laughed and nudged Nigel with her shoulder.

"I think it's great," Jocelyn said bravely. "And Sam is just darling."

"Did you know Jocelyn had a son?" Andy asked, leaning against Miranda tentatively. She figured she was amongst friends so she bravely decided to act as she had been doing all along.

"I did," Miranda said, surprising them all and pulling Andy closer. "He is, five now?"

"Four," Jocelyn corrected, appearing completely charmed by the fact that Miranda knew.

"Just between our boys," Miranda grinned, making Andy laugh.

"Yeah," she said, patting Emily's knee as she stood. "I'm just going to check on them, but then I'm going to get some drinks, anyone?"

"It's probably a little early for wine. Coffees all round I think," Miranda said, looking at everyone for their agreement.

"Green tea for me please," Joss said. "I'm trying to cut back on caffeine."

Andy nodded and dropped into the kitchen to ask Cara to start on coffees, before she walked up to the media room, peeking in and stopping to take it all in. Olivia was curled up with her head on Caroline's knee, while the boys were piled up on Cassidy's favourite beanbag with her sitting beside them, reading a book. She clearly wasn't as into the not-yet-released Planes as the other kids were, but she sat there just the same. Andy caught her eye, but shook her head when Cassidy went to speak. Andy blew her a kiss and left before Cassidy could make anything of it. By the time she returned, Cara had blessedly almost finished and Andy thanked her profusely, carrying the tray up herself.

"I thought you had gone out for the beans," Miranda said, making Nigel laugh.

"Anything for you," Andy said with a shrug, handing her the hottest coffee on the tray.

"How long have you two been together? Surely not all this time," Nigel finally asked after they'd all sat quietly with their coffees for a while.

Andy turned to Miranda, raising an eyebrow. The woman nodded and Andy turned back to the group, feeling Miranda's hand slip into hers.

"Um, a week."

"Is that all?" Emily said, clapping a hand over her mouth as soon as she'd said it.

"Oh will you relax," Miranda huffed. "Yes, we have only been together properly for a week," she paused and Andy smiled as she looked into her eyes. "But I think we've been on that road for quite some time."

"Bela," Serena said with a smile. "A beautiful story just beginning I think."

"As yours is?" Miranda asked gently.

"Me?" Emily said, looking caught. "Um, no, we. I mean, yes I -"

"Emily, please, you have not been my assistant for nearly a year. You are surely not scared of me still?"

"No, of course not," she said, sounding totally insincere.

The quiet chatter went on for a while, everyone gradually relaxing to this never-before-seen Miranda.

"I hope you don't think me rude Miranda," Jocelyn said after draining her mug. "But I really must go. I have to pick Robby up from my mother's; my husband is on night shift tonight."

"Nonsense, of course, you must go. Andréa will see you out," Miranda didn't rise, but did nod her goodbye. "I hope you have a good weekend. Perhaps at a later date, once the boys are settled you would bring Robert around for a play date."

"I would love to," Jocelyn said happily. "Have a good evening."

"Serena, Nigel, perhaps you might go with them while I speak to Emily for a moment."

Andy frowned at the request and looked over at Emily, who really looked as though she was about to vomit all over Miranda's coffee table.

"Please do not worry Emily, I simply want to have a quiet word with you." Miranda turned to Serena. "I assure you I will be perfectly civil."

Serena paused, but did as she was asked, leaving her girlfriend in the jaws of the lion.

"She'll be fine," Andy said, linking her arm with Serena's. "I'm pretty sure she's worried about her. It shocked her, Miranda I mean, about the cookie."

"She's getting better," Serena sighed, running a hand through her hair. "I just hope this doesn't push her too far back."

"Miranda only wants to help," Andy assured her.

"I have to hand it to you Six," Nigel said as they waved Jocelyn off. "You've done a number on that woman."

"Nah, she was like this before, just nobody saw it," she grinned. "I'm simply along for the ride."

They hung around downstairs after Jocelyn had gone until Serena could stand it no longer.

"I have to see if she's alright, I cannot stand this any longer."

They returned upstairs and found Emily sitting next to Miranda, holding her hand. The young woman was crying silently, but Miranda was talking to her gently. Andy recognised the voice she was using as the one she often used to talk Nicholas out of his nightmares, so she held Serena back until Miranda looked up and nodded to allow them entry. Emily clung to Serena and cried into her shoulder while Miranda placed her hand on Emily's back until she had pulled herself together.

"Terribly sorry," Emily sniffed, trying to remove the evidence. "I'm a sight, um, you don't have a bathroom do you?"

"We have many," Miranda chuckled, "but you may use the one just down the hall to the right."

"Ta," Emily said quickly, leaving with Serena's hand clasped in hers.

"What on earth did you say to her?" Nigel asked, watching her go.

"That is between myself and Emily," she paused. "And probably Serena, but that can't be helped."

"You are such a softy," Andy grinned, cuddling up to her side.

"I told you not to spread it around," Miranda smirked, wrapping an arm around Andy's shoulder once more.

"You're happy, aren't you?" Nigel said, almost redundantly in Andy's opinion.

"Ridiculously so," Miranda smiled, kissing Andy's hair and sitting back.

Considering they had only admitted their mutual interest in each other a week ago, Andy was astounded at how far they'd come. Their previous relationship before the revelation helped them navigate the new territory together and Andy couldn't help but agree with Miranda's observation - they were both ridiculously happy.

Chapter Text

Their Friday had ended quietly, serenely with the two women lounging on their bed talking quietly until they fell asleep without even trying. Andy woke up cold and reached beside her to find Miranda. For a woman that held the moniker of Ice Queen, she was like a hot brick in bed. It helped Andy sleep more deeply than she'd ever done before. Or maybe it was holding someone and being held in return, but that didn't matter right now. The other side of the bed was empty and cold, meaning that Miranda hadn't been in there for quite a while.

She blinked as she looked around. There was no light under the bathroom door, so she was not in there. There was the soft light coming from the dimmed staircase but that was on every night, in case the kids got up. She got out of bed, grumbling a little as her bare legs tingled in the cool night air. She grabbed the only robe in the room; Miranda's grey one that was at least two sizes too small if the sleeves were any indication. Pulling it around her she went in search, not having to venture far when she saw a flash of white hair standing at the door of the boys' room.

"Miranda?"

"Shh," Miranda whispered, beckoning her closer. "He's talking."

Like a new parent, Andy rushed to her side, gripping her cool arm as they stood listening.

"Where are you Mummy? I don't want to be in the dark again... Why do I have to be in the dark? No Mummy, I don't want to! I want to stay with M'anda and Andy, they nice. M'anda gives good hugs Mummy."

"Oh my God!" Andy squeaked, grabbing Miranda's arm.

"He's been talking for an hour or so," Miranda whispered. "The same sorts of things. He has a beautiful temperament. He is, however, petrified of the dark."

"Mummy? Mummy where'd you go? Mummy! Mummy don't leave me!"

Nick started thrashing around and Miranda shrugged off Andy's arms and went to sit with him, pulling him into her arms and waking him gently.

"Hello sweetheart, you're alright. It's okay."

"M'anda," he muttered, wrapping his arms around Miranda's neck and hanging on while he cried quietly.

"Come on little love," she said, trying to stand but falling back with the added weight. Andy's heart exploded with love and moved forward to help her, pulling her up and holding them both for a moment before Miranda cupped her cheek and kissed her gently. "Will you check on the others?"

"Meet you in the middle in a minute," Andy whispered, squeezing her hand and turning to kiss Sam while Miranda went to settle Nick in their bed.

Olivia was fast asleep and so was Cassidy, but Caroline was stirring when Andy popped her head in.

"Andy?" she muttered sleepily.

"Hey kiddo, you okay?" Andy whispered, sitting beside her and smoothing her hair back.

"Yeah, weird dream," she sighed, still half asleep. "You're not having a baby are you?"

Andy baulked, choking a little at the random question, but quickly soothed Caroline's worried brow.

"No sweetie, no babies for me right now."

"Mom would like that," she muttered, rolling into Andy's body. "Twins, like us. They'd be super cute too." Andy smiled, completely bemused as Caroline fell back to sleep. Chuckling, she tucked the girl back in and returned upstairs.

"Are you alright?" Miranda asked, looking worried as Andy slipped under the covers.

"Yeah, Caroline had a weird dream, asked me if I was pregnant."

Miranda sat up, almost disturbing Nick in the process.

"You're not, are you?"

"No, don't be silly. As if I've slept with anyone but you for -" Andy grimaced, "well, actually a hell of a long time. Not since Paris."

"But me," Miranda smirked, reaching over and tracing Andy's face with her finger.

"You'd better believe it," Andy said, kissing her palm and snuggling closer to Nick. "Let's get some sleep. The kids loved today, I bet they'll play hard tomorrow."

Miranda hummed, but didn't say anything, also scooting closer and managing to wrap both Nick and Andy up in her arms.

"Goodnight darlings," she said, making Andy smile as she fell asleep.

-0-

"Mm, thanks," Andy hummed appreciatively as Miranda passed her a second cup of coffee for the day.

"You are welcome," Miranda smiled, brushing her hand across Andy's shoulder.

She watched as Miranda sat regally on her favourite chair in the media room, immediately allowing Olivia into the tiniest gap beside her, wrapping an arm around her as the little girl showed Miranda her latest picture. For that moment nothing else in the world mattered to Miranda, except Olivia and that picture. It always amazed Andy at the depth of the woman she was slowly getting to know. Miranda's gaze found her suddenly and Andy became quite flustered, caught out in her perusal of the woman. She smiled, then shrugged and went back to her laptop where she was double and triple checking the details for the benefit that night.

"Andréa?"

"Yes Miranda?" Andy said automatically, pen poised in her hand, ready to work.

"Put that down," she said affectionately, joining her on the sofa. "I never got to speak to you properly about a number of things yesterday."

"What things?" Andy asked quickly, worried that she was once again going to be sent away.

"Photographs for one, and the conversation we postponed yesterday about money."

Andy sighed in relief and Miranda squeezed her hand.

"Sorry, it's just me I guess. I expect everyone to throw me out at a moment's notice."

"I am not everyone," Miranda muttered, kissing Andy's hand.

"No, guess not," Andy said shakily.

"What is bothering you?"

"That I'm not good enough for you," Andy said without editing herself.

"Oh Andréa," Miranda said, her voice so sad it hurt Andy that she had made it so. "You will always be better than I am! I will forever be trying to prove to you how much I love you, and you won't ever have to do that, because I can see it in your eyes, every time I look at you." Andy blushed under the scrutiny, but Miranda drew her attention back up to her face."You are too good for me, and I don't ever want you to forget that, because I certainly won't."

"I've ruined your talk again," Andy said, uncomfortable with the attention. Thankfully Miranda acknowledged it and moved on, standing to get something from her purse.

"These appeared in Monday's Post."

"'Devil calls reinforcements as brood multiplies!' What rubbish, why is that even newsworthy?" Andy raged, skimming over the column. "At least they know who I am. That would be awkward if they thought I was the new nanny, then when we're ready to," she paused, "come out I guess, you won't be a cliché."

"For some reason, people find me newsworthy, and therefore by extension, my life. I am only grateful that they did not concentrate on the children. And as far as clichés go darling, I believe it will be enough that I have fallen for my much younger, gorgeous personal assistant," Miranda chuckled. "They have not, thankfully, worked out who the children are, but they will Andréa and that will be a ridiculous storm in a teacup."

"But, they've lost -" Andy dropped their voice when she realised they weren't alone. "They can't do that, surely?"

"They will," Miranda said sadly. "And we must be prepared for that when it happens. I am going to start making enquiries into Olivia starting school at Dalton. And perhaps Nicholas, if he thinks he can. They have an award-winning preschool and they have an excellent record of keeping most of the press away from the children."

"Good," Andy nodded. "It'll do them good to get back into a routine, and make some friends."

"I hope so," she sniffed. "You must also be prepared; tabloid reporters will say the most horrible things to get a rise out of you, but you must ignore them Andréa."

"I will do my best," Andy sighed honestly. "Did you try and talk to Nick this morning?"

"I had no luck, you?"

"The same," Andy sighed. "I just want him to start talking, you know? Just to say 'Andy can I have a PB&J?'"

"Well, he would ask for something as pedestrian as that," Miranda smirked, letting Andy hit her thigh gently for the dig.

"What do the others say?" Andy said, looking over at the little pile of newspaper cuttings.

"Much of the same. My long-suffering assistant dragged to the park for a spot of child-minding."

"I can't say I'm suffering," Andy said, sliding her hand along Miranda's stomach.

"Okay guys, gross."

"Oh, Cassidy, sorry I -"

"Andréa, sit down. Cassidy, please watch your tone when speaking to us, or you may find yourself grounded for a time."

Cassidy gulped and dropped her head.

"Yes Mom, sorry Mom." She glanced at Andy. "Sorry Andy."

"What is it you wanted to say to us?" Miranda asked, pulling Andy back into her body.

"Um, I was just wondering if we could go to the park again? I know it's been raining, but it's stopped now and I'm kind of sick of staying indoors and so is Sam."

"Andréa and I have an engagement to go to tonight, so we do not have the time to go to the park Bobbsey," Miranda said, sighing when she saw the disappointment in Cassidy's face. "We do, however, have time for a walk, perhaps to the market that sells the frozen yoghurt you liked so much."

"Whoa, really?" Cassidy said, her face breaking into a smile.

"Indeed, I think Andréa ought to know where it is if she ever wishes to bribe you."

Cassidy sprinted away, leaving Andy chuckling into Miranda's shoulder.

"I suppose I'll find their boots then," Andy offered, getting up.

"We should finish going through their things as well," Miranda sighed, also getting up with a groan. "I'm never having a day off again. I'm exhausted."

"Well, you were up in the night listening to the sweetest noise around."

They both looked at Nick. He was sitting playing with some blocks until he felt their eyes on him. Slowly he turned around and dropped the block.

"It's okay little prince," Andy said affectionately. "We were just thinking how amazing you are."

Nick looked like he thought they were tricking him, before he smiled widely and went back to playing. Miranda and Andy went their separate ways, one to find the children's boots and the other to change into clothes that were deemed suitable for a public outing.

-0-

"Look M'anda!" Sam squealed. "Puddles!"

Andy winced as the cold water splashed up her legs, seeping through her jeans.

"Alright monkey," Andy said, trying to distract him. "How about we catch up to the others, we don't want to miss out on frozen yoghurt!"

They raced each other down the street, huffing and panting comically when they finally reached the others. Sam crashed into Miranda's legs, nearly knocking her flying if Cassidy hadn't caught her, while Andy flung her arms around Caroline to slow herself down.

"You're crazy," Caroline said with a smile, letting Andy's arms stay wrapped around her as they walked.

"Yes," Andy agreed, "yes I am."

Olivia and Caroline giggled walking in a line with Andy, while Miranda was listening intently to Sam as he squeezed in between Miranda and Cassidy, holding his new big sister's hand.

"Do you get nervous when you go to balls and stuff?" Caroline asked, out of the blue.

"Sometimes,"Andy shrugged. 'I used to, before I learnt to read your Mom so well. I used to have nightmares the evening before a big gala, I'd be terrified of forgetting the name of the Mayor, or the CEO of our biggest benefactor. It was intense."

"So, not anymore?"

"Nah," Andy grinned. "I know your Mom pretty well now, and the people we see at the benefits are people I know as well." Andy leaned closer. "I know for a fact that Miranda doesn't need her assistants to tell her who all the people are that she meets, only the odd one or two. I think she likes to challenge her assistants, so that they know who the people are that they have to work with over the year or two they're employed."

"Oh," Caroline said, looking at Miranda's back. Andy could tell from the tilt of her head that Miranda was listening to both Sam and their conversation. She smiled at the thought that Miranda knew she was onto her and wished she could kiss her. "That's actually pretty cool," Caroline said quietly, interrupting Andy's dreams.

"I know she's your Mom and kids aren't supposed to think of their Moms as cool, but personally I think your Mom's the coolest."

Andy was gratified to see the tiniest bit of added sway in Miranda's walk and she went back to walking behind her boss, best friend and lover, enjoying every minute of it.

-0-

The doorbell went at half past four that afternoon and Andy opened the door to find Serena standing there with a smile.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, letting her in all the same.

"I'm here to do your makeup, aren't I?"

"Are you?"

"She is," Miranda said, joining them in the hallway. "Good afternoon Serena, I trust I am not interrupting your own preparation time?"

"No," she replied. "We were just having a late lunch. I apologise for my tardiness though, I wanted to make sure that I stayed with Em until she had eaten a sufficient amount."

Miranda hummed and led Serena upstairs to their room, pointing her to a dresser next to where their dresses were both hanging, ready for later.

"I trust she is listening to the advice she was given?"

"She is," Serena sighed. "But even with your words and my love, it is a powerful affliction to have hold of her."

Miranda nodded and left Andy with Serena when Olivia's voice called out. The kids were busy in their rooms, having quiet playtime before an early dinner so they could wave Miranda and her goodbye.

"Is she alright?" Andy asked, settling in front of the dresser while Serena started on her makeup.

"She will be," Serena shrugged. "She knows she needs to eat more, it's just a case of letting her body catch up with her mind."

"High protein smoothies may help," Miranda said as she returned. She stood watching Serena work. "Perhaps a touch heavier on the eyes."

Serena stopped what she was doing and cast a glance over Andy's face. Andy tried to let her, but the uncomfortable feeling was a little intense.

"Yes, I see."

Apparently satisfied, Miranda retreated into the bathroom, coming out three minutes later in a robe. Andy had no idea if Serena was a usual guest in Miranda's home before an event, but she seemed relaxed and extremely capable.

"Holy crap!" Andy said when she saw herself in the mirror. "I look awesome."

"Indeed you do," Miranda smirked, sitting before the mirror and letting Serena work her magic.

"Do you usually do Miranda's makeup?" Andy asked, watching as Serena added a dab here, or a flick of a brush there, highlighting Miranda's natural features.

"Most times," Serena smiled. "But we're usually in the suite above the venue."

"That's weird that I never knew that," Andy bit her lip.

"You're going to ruin your lipstick."

"Sorry," Andy squeaked, the worry lingering.

"It is not commonly known, even to my assistants," Miranda said as Serena finished and concentrated on packing up her things. "The only reason Serena is here, not there, is because I plan on walking the carpet tonight."

"Ah."

Inside Andy was screaming. She wasn't ready to be followed by paparazzi. She wasn't ready for her face to be plastered over the gossip magazines. She wasn't ready for the hurtful things people would say about her, and about Miranda. And the more the press looked, the bigger the story would get.

"Easy," Miranda said, her hands warm on Andy's shoulders. "Tonight is not that night. You will be there as my assistant, a position you've held for long enough for them to recognise you as such. The game will not be afoot until they realise you've been promoted and we are still being seen together."

"Yeah, yes. Sorry," Andy said, rubbing her hands together to stop them shaking. "Just got a bit ahead of myself." She looked around. "Where's Serena?"

"She was really only here to do our makeup, she has gone back to get ready for the gala herself."

"Oh," Andy nodded. "Right."

"Andréa," Miranda said gently, sitting beside her on the bed. Andy felt her chin wobble and Miranda's arms wrapped around her tightly. "Don't cry, I can't guarantee that mascara won't run and I don't really want to have to call Serena back here."

"No, no you're right. I just," she sighed. "Just had a moment."

"I love you Andréa."

Andy chuckled, blinking desperately and trying to focus on something to stop the tears from appearing.

"You're just as likely to make me cry by saying that," Andy laughed, resting her head against Miranda's. "It's an honour to be loved by you."

"Nonsense," Miranda huffed. "You've never been loved by you."

"Stop!" Andy laughed, finally getting herself under control. "People's heads would spin if they knew how utterly beautiful and kind and gentle you are."

"See that they don't then," Miranda warned, pressing a very chaste kiss on Andy's lips. "Will you help me with my gown?"

"I," Andy swallowed hard. "Yeah," she grunted.

Miranda smirked and crooked her finger, backing into the closet where their gowns were hanging.

They had never progressed as far as to undress before each other, even in the dark. Previously they had only changed out of each other's eyeline, albeit with the doors open occasionally so their conversations could continue.

"This is intense," Andy said, her hands shaking again.

"You do not have to help me Andréa," Miranda said almost awkwardly. "I am not forcing you."

"No, no I know that," Andy sighed. "I'm just a little overwhelmed. You're a beautiful woman."

"I am an old woman darling," Miranda whispered. "I have had twins, I breastfed them, I try very hard to prevent gravity from making it worse, but I -" she sighed. "My body is not perfect."

"Oh Miranda," Andy said, her hands resting on the woman's hips. "You are beautiful. Truly beautiful and I know I will never compare to you. I am just overwhelmed."

"You don't understand darling. I," Miranda huffed and threw off her robe suddenly, standing before Andy in nothing but her matching lingerie. "You see, I have, I have -"

Andy frowned, looking at what she knew to be a perfect specimen of a woman before her. Miranda waved her hands over her hips, stomach and thighs but Andy failed to see what the problem was. Miranda was gorgeous and she could do nothing but stare.

"Andrea," Miranda whispered, suddenly breaking Andy's vision.

"Sorry, sorry," Andy smiled, seeing Miranda's uneasiness. "I just, you are the most beautiful woman I've ever seen." Andy interrupted whatever Miranda was going to say by stepping forward and cupping her face. "Remember me telling you that I worked really hard for my own opinions?"

Miranda nodded mutely, as Andy ran her hands from Miranda's bare hips to run around the bottom of Miranda's bra. Miranda took a deep breath, shaking as Andy continued mapping Miranda's oh-so-soft skin.

"I have never seen anything as beautiful," Andy whispered, her fingers dancing over the areas that Miranda had identified. Her hand smoothed over the barest paunch of her stomach, paying particular attention to the long-healed scar that had borne her the twins.

"This gave you two beautiful children," Andy stepped closer, her hand running down Miranda's hip. "These carry you so regally through your life." Miranda blinked hard, so Andy let the intensity go. "I love you. Every part of you, every day."

She caught Miranda's escaping tear with her little finger, managing to prevent any major damage to the perfectly applied makeup.

"I love you, so desperately Andréa," Miranda whispered, resting her head against Andy's.

"As I love you."

The moment dragged on, not uncomfortably, but prolonged in their silence. Finally, Andy stood up, smoothed back Miranda's beautiful hair and smiled.

"Let's get you dressed," Andy said simply, drawing Miranda forward and standing her up in front of the mirrors.

Carefully and reverently Andy drew the gown up over Miranda's body, zipping it up and nudging Miranda's neck with her nose, in lieu of a kiss.

"My turn," Miranda smirked, finally back on her equilibrium. "Then we will walk out of that door and we will dazzle them Andréa. You and I together. Showing them just how little they know, all the while laughing at their expense."

Andy smiled, dropping her own robe and trying not to melt into a puddle.

Chapter Text

"Are you sure you're going to be alright here on your own?"

"Andréa, we'll be fine."

Andy knew she was being silly, but she kissed Miranda again.

"You're sure?"

"Andréa, if you don't leave this very instance, I shall be exceedingly displeased. Cara is here and the boys are asleep for goodness sake, what could ummf -"

"Please don't ever say what you were going to say," Andy whispered, her hand easing from Miranda's mouth. "Because you know that it is at that precise time when everything will."

Miranda rolled her eyes and kissed Andy, so deeply her toes curled.

"Now go," Miranda chuckled pushing her towards the door. "This club has very good reviews and perhaps, at a later date, if the reviews are on par, we could visit. I used to enjoy Jazz bars."

"Alright, I'm going," Andy chuckled. "Bye kids!"

There was a chorus of goodbyes and Andy stepped through the door, keeping her eyes on Miranda until it closed behind her. She set down the road, nearly missing her phone ringing.

"Hey, slow down," Roy said with a laugh. "I'm behind you."

Andy rolled her eyes and blew a kiss in the direction of the townhouse, before sliding in the front of the car.

"Your girlfriend said that I should pick you up, seeing as I was joining you."

Andy laughed again but was glad of the lift. She was a bit nervous to see the rest of them, and the subway from Miranda's house was downright awkward. Quite often, she would get out along the way to Elias Clarke and take the subway the rest of the way, because it would take just as long to get to the closest station.

"Ever been to this place?" Andy asked conversationally as they pulled into the nearest parking lot.

"No, you?"

"No," Andy muttered as he manoeuvred into a park. "I think they're going to grill me."

"Ah," he muttered, tidying up his hair. "Let them. You know it's real, Miranda knows it's real. I know it's real."

Andy grinned and kissed his cheek.

"You're a good guy Roy."

"Remember to tell your girlfriend that when it's bonus time," he chuckled.

It was a joke and Andy knew it. She had not, and would never discuss how much Miranda paid Roy to drive her, but it had to be more than enough. Miranda valued loyalty above all else, and Andy was sure that Roy had been the most loyal man in Miranda's life.

"You look very dashing by the way," Andy said as they walked in together.

"And you look gorgeous," Roy grinned. "Your pick or the Lady's?"

"The Lady's," Andy snorted. "Who else!"

Nigel was already nursing a cocktail at an empty table and they joined him with hugs and handshakes.

"I take it our magnanimous leader is not joining us."

"As if," Andy said. "Someone has to stay home and look after the children."

"And that, my dear," Nigel said, polishing his glasses, "is how far you've got under her skin."

"Don't be like that," Andy frowned.

"No, I didn't mean it maliciously kid. I mean, back when she had the twins, they were with a Nanny for longer than they were with her. Even on a weekend. She's mellowing, maybe, or you're just really good." He wiggled his eyebrows.

"NIGEL!" she squealed, laughing and blushing at the same time. "I am not discussing that with you either."

"Oh come on, just a juicy morsel? A tasty tidbit?"

"Yeah?" Andy said, looking around. She could tease Nigel like this, but she figured that when Emily arrived it would be a different atmosphere. "Alright, come closer."

He leaned in and presented his ear. Roy gave Andy a little look, but she ignored him. She leaned in and took a breath.

"In your dreams Nigel," she whispered darkly, leaving him to laugh this time and pat her thigh.

"You're alright kid."

Andy ordered them another round of drinks and they sat talking quietly about other things until Emily and Serena arrived.

"God, would you believe it, no phone calls today," she groaned as she slumped into her seat. "It's almost worse, I keep expecting them."

"She's with the kids," Andy muttered quietly. "No phone calls today at all. I promise."

"That is weird," Emily said, looking at her sideways. "But bizarrely, understandable. You both were always odd around each other."

"We were not," Andy laughed, looking around. Her laughter trailed off as she saw them all nodding.

"Were we really?"

"She touched you," Serena said. "I don't know if you noticed, but she was always touching you, or letting her hand linger on your arm. I said to Emily that something was going on, but she didn't believe me. God forbid Miranda should have sex."

It was Serena's way to be blunt and to the point, it was why Miranda let her quit modelling and join her magazine, but it still made most of them choke and spill their drinks.

"Serena!" Emily gasped.

"What?" Serena said. "The woman has two children, how do you think babies are made?"

"I don't particularly want to talk about it," Andy muttered. "And I'm not talking about anything like that."

"Sorry Andy, I didn't mean it like that," Serena assured her. "My querida still has love for Miranda that is perhaps a little too persistent."

"I love you, idiot," Emily hissed, blushing from the roots of her hair to the ends of her hands when she said it. Everyone did their best not to say anything, knowing how volatile Emily could be, but Serena was not everyone. She leaned forward and captured Emily's lips, kissing her sweetly, but with fire.

"As I love you." Andy heard her mutter.

She grinned around her bottle. Hearing those words reminded her of Miranda, and she wondered if they would be as sickly cute as Em and Serena were when they were 'out'.

"So," Nigel said, turning to Roy. "Got any good goss?"

"I -" he glanced at Andy, and she rescued him with a chuckle.

"He means about everyone other than Miranda," she explained. "Of course, you have to be the one to work out whether you're going to get fired, or worse, if you tell us and then word gets around because Nigel cannot keep any sort of secret to himself."

"I can too!" Nigel said. "I've kept yours."

"Keeping a secret for Miranda and keeping a secret about Lawrence in Accounting are two very different things," Andy laughed.

It was like something had loosened in her, listening to the stories Roy told of his life as a driver and the stories of Emily, Nigel and Serena. Before Miranda, and the children, she would have lapped this up, obsessed over it and wanted it to go on forever, but now? Now she felt balanced. Complete. She felt as though this interaction with her friends was merely the icing on the cake. Miranda had made more of a difference in her life than she'd thought. She looked around, checking the bar out as Nigel rehashed his story about nearly walking in on Michael from Auto-Universe and Doris, Irv's assistant in the conference room. Andy smiled during the funny parts, but she'd heard it before. The club was one Miranda would definitely like. It was dark enough to remain inconspicuous, but light enough and quiet enough even with the live jazz, that you wouldn't have to shout.

The thought of bringing Miranda here on a date warmed Andy's body just a fraction. She imagined them sharing a booth, a bit further away from where they were sitting now, sequestered in the dark, drinking good cocktails, or perhaps something else. The world that Miranda was a part of was a world that Andy could have never imagined herself in, and yet, she was already there. Roy drove her part of the way to work, she had clothing brought home for her and even placed in a closet like it had been there the whole time.

She'd rung Nigel about it the first time, panicking when a Closet piece had appeared in her own, personal, not-the-Runway closet and he'd laughed and said that they hadn't even optioned that for the magazine and that Miranda had taken it with her immediately. She'd confronted Miranda, but the woman had waved her off.

I'm the Head of Runway darling, she'd said. It's my prerogative and it will look so beautiful with your colouring.

And that had been the end of it. Things occasionally appeared in Andy's closet and Miranda would pretend they hadn't. Today, however, Miranda had made a point to casually, or not-so-casually, ask what Andy was planning on wearing. Andy had contemplated shrugging and saying that she'd find something, but a spark in Miranda's eyes made her stop. There was a look there, tentative, but fierce. It wasn't challenging, Andy knew that look well, this was more hopeful. Andy figured that whenever she had given advice to her husbands, they'd taken it as being ordered. And perhaps she had ordered them. But Andy wasn't them, and she recognised that Miranda wanted to dress her. And so she let her.

"Andy!"

"What?" she jumped, looking around the table to find her friends staring at her. "Sorry, what did you say?"

"Oh, you're gone," Serena said with a chuckle. "Hopelessly in love with the woman."

"Shut up!" Andy laughed, pushing her a little. "It's not like you aren't."

"No," Serena conceded. "But I wasn't sitting daydreaming about her kisses."

"I wasn't," Andy said, catching the disbelieving looks. "Really! I wasn't, I was just thinking about how life has changed."

"Too right," Emily said, knocking back her drink. "It's weird."

"You're not wrong," Nigel said. "It is odd to see our fierce leader reduced to a pile of mush whenever her phone rings."

"She does not!" Andy said, laughing at the thought.

"Yeah Andy," Roy said quietly. "She really does."

Andy sat back, looking at her friends and shaking her head.

"We're all going to get over this," Andy said quietly. "Because I really like you guys and I'd hate to lose you. It's bad enough the others left, I'm not sure I can survive any more friends leaving me."

"We'll work it out," Serena said quietly, squeezing her hand. "Just give us a bit of time."

"I'm still not sure of everything," Andy chuckled morosely. "So you guys can have all the time in the world."

"Well, I for one am proud of you," Nigel said. "You go get your dreams kid. Enjoy your family and your woman and be happy."

"Amen," Roy said in his quiet way.

"I'll drink to that I suppose," Emily grinned, slugging back the last of her cocktail. "You would be the odd one of us all."

Andy chuckled, and it was as if the umbrella hanging over them had been put away, and their laughter and chatter went back to normal as if things weren't happening behind the scenes. As if Miranda and Andy weren't living together, as if Emily didn't have an eating disorder and as if Andy didn't know that Miranda was changing, even for the better.

-0-

"Hi sweetie," Andy said, accepting a hug from Cassidy as she walked in the door.

"Hey, did you eat? Mom cooked."

"No, but even if I had, for your mother's cooking, I'd pretend I hadn't."

"I know," Cassidy said gleefully. "You'll die when you have some stew. It's so great. Mom says it's the only thing that Dad gave her, except us, that was worth anything."

Andy chuckled, entering the kitchen and delighting at the smell.

"Hello gorgeous," Andy said cheekily.

"It went well," Miranda said, but not as a question. "Good."

"It was good," Andy nodded. "It was really good."

"Did you sufficiently berate me?" Miranda smiled, accepting Andy's arms around her.

"No," Andy said kissing her shoulder. "It was more about how much of a mushball you are."

"Great," Miranda rolled her eyes. "Just what I needed."

Andy leaned forward, using her height to her advantage and accepted a mouthful of stew that Miranda offered.

"Oh my God!" Andy groaned. "Why didn't I know you could make this?"

"'Cos Mom only makes it for a treat," Caroline said, hugging them from the side.

"Indeed," Miranda said. "Would you get the bread and the butter and place it on the table, and get the others from upstairs please?"

"I'll get the others," Andy said, kissing Miranda and moving away. "I'll get changed as well."

Andy raced up the stairs, feeling refreshed and able to conquer whatever life threw at her.

-0-

"Oh my gosh, I'm stuffed," Andy said, dropping onto the sofa much later, after clearing up the dinner plates.

"Three bowls will do that for you," Miranda grinned, patting Andy's round stomach.

"Did you put some in your shoes Andy?" Olivia asked, clambering up onto her knee.

"I think it's all in my tummy baby. Might be a bit in my legs, but it's mostly in my tummy."

"Well," Miranda smiled. "You do have such lovely long legs."

"Nice one Mom," Caroline giggled, looking up from the floor where she was reading, resting against Miranda's leg.

Andy just blushed, smiling as Olivia got down again and Nicholas hopped up.

"Hey little prince, is it time for bed yet?"

"NO!" Sam called, hiding under a beanbag.

"Sam? Sam! Where are you?" Andy called, winking at Nick as she passed him off to Miranda and crawled onto the floor. "Sam? Where are you Sam?"

A little giggle floated up and she skirted around where the beanbag was shaking next to her.

"Ooh, what's this?" she said, poking Sam's leg. "This doesn't look like a beanbag!"

She could hear Miranda chuckling, and the girls were laughing, but Andy was too caught up in playing. She eventually prized Samuel out from under the beanbag and rolled around on the floor tickling him mercilessly.

"Alright alright children," Miranda said, getting up when Nicholas stood on the sofa and allowed him to wrap his arms around her neck. "Ooh darling, careful," she said, catching him just as he was about to fall off. Andy lay back and let Sam rest on her chest as Nicholas scrambled up into Miranda's arms. "Right, up to bed everyone, let's go."

There was a few mumblings and groanings from the girls, but Miranda simply gave them a look and they scurried up the stairs. Andy rolled Sam onto the floor, his little eyes already drooping before she got up and let him into her arms as well.

Bedtime was easy, the late night and full belly helping to send them straight off, leaving Andy and Miranda to retire to their room relatively quickly.

"You're pretty amazing," Andy said as they lay beside each other.

"If I was a house-wife I would be a disappointment."

"But you aren't," Andy said, her hand rubbing Miranda's stomach. "You are the premier name in fashion, responsible for surviving, outlasting and besting all other men in the same industry. You cannot do everything, not even you. Tonight was special, but you had the time and the inclination."

"You can cook, can't you?" Miranda mused, looking over her glasses.

"Well, yes, but I've not cooked since I've moved in, so," she shrugged. "Maybe we should start thinking about adding that into our routine," she chuckled. "Or maybe try and make a routine."

"Oh?"

"Well, I don't mean let's go wild. Neither of our jobs is very consistent in terms of home time, but it might help the kids, especially once the little two start school."

"As always your ideas have merit, but right now, I'm not going to look at The Book and you are not going to think of routines. We're going to lay here and be sappy."

"We are?" Andy smiled.

"We are," Miranda confirmed, taking off her glasses. "Now come here."

Andy grinned and rolled into her arms, breathing in deeply as she was surrounded by Miranda's scent.

"You have such wonderful ideas," she muttered as Miranda captured her lips.

Chapter Text

It was harder than Andy thought to eke out some time with Miranda, some peace and quiet to discuss an issue that had been plaguing her mind. She finally got the opportunity to do so in the dark hours of Monday evening, after sleepy children had been put to bed and The Book had been postponed until the following morning. She was laying in Miranda's arms, despite usually waking up in the opposite position, listening to the woman breathing quietly.

"We need to talk. Properly I mean, about me moving in here," Andy said quietly.

"No we don't," Miranda said in her usual Miranda way. "We have discussed it already."

"You mean you ordered me to?"

There was a pause while Miranda went very still until she pulled Andy back so she could look at her properly.

"Did I really?"

"You did," Andy smiled, letting her know that it was already forgiven. "But that is why I would like to discuss it with you now."

"You're right," Miranda said, sitting up against the bedhead. "I'm all ears, darling."

Andy grumbled a little at the change in position, but sat up as well, wrapping her arms around her knees in an effort to feel a little more comfortable.

"Okay. I know you want me to move in, but have you really thought about that?" she asked, looking for an answer in Miranda's eyes. "Have you thought of how that will work?"

"Well," Miranda shrugged. "I assume you'll pack up your things and move them here, where you can live with us."

"My things?" Andy prompted. "So, my books and my knick-knacks, my vintage collection of Barbie dolls -" She held up her hands as Miranda's mouth opened in horror. "It's a joke, just a joke. I don't have any Barbie dolls. But think; I'll need an office, especially if you do want me to work in Features?"

"Want you to?" Miranda said with a frown. "You already have the position!"

"Well, okay, but what are your thoughts on my being here? Do I get my things, or shall I pretend they don't exist?" Andy closed her hand and grabbed Miranda's hand as it started to move off her thigh. "Sorry, I'm sorry. I'm just -" She sighed again. "I'm uncomfortable."

"I," Miranda paused. "Will you think less of me if I say that I haven't thought of those things?" she frowned. "When I was, I mean, my husbands all kept to one room. I mean God, Stephen only joined me in my own room when we used to -"

"STOP!" Andy nearly yelled. "Stop, I don't need to think about that."

"Well I," Miranda turned to look at her properly. "We need to think about this. We might even need to consider some building works. Stephen didn't need an office in the house, he used to do most of his work at a small table in his room."

"Okay," Andy nodded. "Do you have thoughts on that?"

"I admit, I have been thinking about it, more so in relation to the children, but yes. I do have thoughts," Miranda said, making Andy smile. "But before I say, what is it you need from the house?"

"Space for me, I guess. I'm not stupid. My things are a bit battered, I mean, not furniture. Most of that will go to Goodwill, but other things -"

"Andréa, I may be a snob, but I also know how you operate. Your desk is covered with knick-knacks. In a way, I am quite surprised that my," she grinned, "our house isn't as well, at least just yet."

"It's hardly my house," Andy muttered.

"But that is the point, darling. If you are to move in -" she shook her head. "When you move in, this house will be yours, as it will be Olivia's and Nicholas' and Samuel's."

"Why are we so different to the others?" Andy whispered.

"Because I love you," Miranda said simply. "I love you and the children and I love my house. I don't want to move, even with our family filling the gaps to the brim. Because I want this to work Andréa. I'm done being something I'm not."

Andy looked at her, really looked and smiled at the somewhat vulnerable expression Miranda had on her face. She didn't really need to look, she'd heard the sentiment in Miranda's voice, but it helped, seeing it there. It made it real. It made it deeper somehow.

"I'll need an office," she said, cupping Miranda's cheek but holding off on kissing her. "It doesn't have to be big, but I have - as you said - knick-knacks I've picked up along the way. My books, well I suppose they can," she swallowed at how permanent she sounded, "go in the library? We'll have to work that out when we get there."

"That's all?" Miranda asked, chewing on her glasses while she made notes on her tablet.

"I guess space in the closet?"

"You already have space," Miranda sniffed. "You are being so strange about unpacking your bag that you haven't had a chance to see it yet."

"It's a habit," Andy muttered. "Admittedly a bad one I suppose."

Miranda looked at her expectantly so Andy sighed deeply.

"An unpacked bag means I'm staying."

Miranda looked at her and opened her arms. Andy fell into them, snuggling up to her woman with a contentment she had never felt so keenly.

"I think that we talk to the boys," Miranda said quietly. Andy nuzzled Miranda's chest, enjoying the vibrations of her voice in her ear. "We should split their rooms. Perhaps put a door in there, should they wish to. Also, my office is next to Olivia's room. We could always share? Or split it I suppose? I hardly ever use it anyway."

"I'm messy, I eat over my keyboard," Andy chuckled. "I type loudly and I like to listen to music while I'm working."

"Ah," Miranda said with a smirk. "Perhaps we shall not share then!"

They lay in silence, the small lamp the only illumination.

"Hmm," Miranda hummed.

"What?" Andy asked. "What have you thought?"

"We expand the den into the library - we need more sitting room anyway. We make the old library smaller and turn a small portion of it into your office, or mine - if you'd prefer to be up here instead?"

"Isn't that a big job?" Andy asked.

"It's not a small one," Miranda mused. "But it's better than moving a bathroom or something like that. All we are doing is knocking down a few walls and adding a few others really."

"So the den would become the library?"

"It would yes, but it would also be bigger in a way. Perhaps big enough for two seating areas. You said yourself that you have your books. Perhaps we could split off a portion of the room with some low shelving. And add shelving to the den portion of the room as well." Her eyebrow crept up her forehead. "Attached to the wall so your little monkey will not hurt himself."

"My little monkey?" Andy chuckled. "Why is he my little monkey?"

"It's obviously your fault," Miranda grinned, a teasing lilt in her voice.

"Whatever," Andy grinned, kissing a patch of bare skin. "I love watching your brain work, it's beautiful."

"Well, I would still like to sketch it out, so we can see a visual of it. Perhaps tomorrow evening though, I do not want to move right now."

"What about money?" Andy asked quietly.

"What about it?"

"If," she shrugged. "When I stop paying my lease, what am I paying for here?"

"Well," Miranda said, looking perplexed. "I have enough money to cope with all the running costs of the house, even with seven of us living here. Honestly, I'd just as well prefer you to keep it."

"No way! I can pay my own way! I don't want to be seen as a freeloader!"

"Who would see?" Miranda challenged her.

"I don't know," Andy conceded. "But I'd feel awkward."

"Darling, I have a fantastic finance manager. He makes me more money every single day, more so when I sleep. Please believe me when I say that I don't want any of your money."

"Well, then I guess you'll have to always make sure that we never fight over it. You can't say that I can't contribute to something and then use it against me later. I know you, when you're angry and frustrated, you fight to maim."

"I never use money in fights Andréa, because it simply has never been an issue for me."

"Look, I feel, I'd feel much better if we could set up a joint account or something and I can put a percentage in?"

"I had planned on adding you to my current accounts anyway."

"I don't want your money Miranda," Andy rolled her eyes.

Miranda looked down at Andy and brushed back her hair.

"This is a big deal for you isn't it?"

"Yeah," Andy whispered.

"Darling, even if we placed a percentage of our earnings into this account - well, I'm not being amusing, but I don't pay you nearly as well as Elias Clarke pays me."

"I know that," Andy scoffed. "But at least I'd be doing something."

"Alright," Miranda shrugged. "If that's what you need, then that's what we will do - although I'd prefer to use my existing accounts. And I will be adding you to them as well; I shall give you a credit card and you will use it when you need to. There is no arguing there Andréa."

"Fine," Andy smiled.

"Good, I shall have Bartholomew make the necessary arrangements."

"Your financial guy is called Bartholomew?" Andy giggled. "That is awesome."

Miranda smiled and Andy knew the woman could feel her tension easing.

"Is that all we need to discuss?" Miranda asked. "I will not be speaking to him until tomorrow of course, but unless there's anything more pressing -"

"Just one more thing," Andy said, her fingers already running through Miranda's hair. "Are you going to be checking my copy before I give it in?"

"Like homework?" Miranda mused. "God no. Camilla can deal with that, even though I know your work will be acceptable."

"Okay," Andy smiled.

"Now can I kiss you?" Miranda asked as if she'd been denied for frivolous reasons.

"Heck yes," Andy grinned, pulling Miranda's down. "Lay it on me, Priestly."

Chapter Text

Nearly a month after the gala and their eventful weekend, Andy was settling into her new position as features writer and life was travelling at a pace that sometimes spun all their heads.

The renovations had been mostly pain-free and now Andy had a brand new office she couldn't wait to fill with her old things and some new things along with her 'stuff' that was arriving from storage in a number of days. Her landlord had been rather haughty about the whole thing until Miranda showed up at her building and laid down the law.

He was pretty forgiving after that.

All of them loved the new den/library. It had become their favourite hangout and though in a way, they had lost space in both rooms, it seemed more open somehow. Andy's books had been integrated into the general population and Miranda had splurged on some sinfully comfortable armchairs that reclined. Andy was sure that it was simply so that she and Nicholas could lay back on them - something that Miranda had admitted to her that she loved to see.

The children were settling in and that meant, was that the tantrums that had only started to appear infrequently started to appear more frequently. The week had been long and Andy was exhausted, and tired, and upset that she'd missed dinner with Miranda and the children.

"Hey," Andy grunted, finally climbing into bed without undressing. "Sorry I missed dinner."

"Nonsense," Miranda said, looking over the top of her glasses. "You had work to do, and you very rarely miss dinner. The children understood."

"I said goodnight to the girls, kissed the others," Andy sighed, smiling into her pillow as she heard Miranda put down The Book and rolled on top of her slightly, holding her close. "Did they have a good day?"

"They did," Miranda said quietly, her hand stroking Andy's head. "They love you," she said redundantly.

"And I love them," she rolled over, shuffling higher against the bedhead and making sure to keep Miranda close. "Like I love you."

"Mm," Miranda kissed her, humming her reply. "As I love you also."

"I missed you today," Andy said with a sigh. "It was weird. I was walking down a road, minding my own business after my interview and bam, I missed you."

"I miss you every time I look up and see the new girl sitting in your seat."

"Anna is perfectly capable Miranda."

"That fact that her name is that makes me hate her," Andy laughed.

"You admire Anna, you just hate her magazine."

"Well," Miranda smirked, but kissed Andy again before she could comment.

"I've been thinking," Andy said, resting her head back.

"Oh?" Miranda quipped playfully. "Did that hurt?"

Andy scoffed but soldiered on.

"With five kids now, I wondered what you thought about getting a bigger car? We can't drive in limos all the time, especially with three of them in car seats. What happens if we want to go somewhere together?"

"A minivan?" Miranda's face was priceless and Andy couldn't help but laugh.

"No, no God no, I would never make you drive around in a minivan. But what about an SUV, or a 4 by 4?"

Andy waited as she watched Miranda mulling it over.

"Another Mercedes perhaps?"

"If they do one that big, those high-end companies don't really cater for big families." Andy chuckled.

"Well, we'll call someone, make it happen."

"Well, I thought maybe," she paused, suddenly feeling very foolish and childlike.

"What is it you wanted Andréa?" Miranda asked kindly, rubbing Andy's cheek with her thumb.

"I wondered if you would go car shopping with me on the weekend? The twins are at their Dad's and Cara said she'd come over Saturday afternoon if we needed. We can't do it next week because you have that thing -"

"Thing?"

"You know what I mean, but I was also thinking that maybe the kids, now that they're more settled and we're talking to Dalton, might want to get into some sport."

"Sport?" Miranda baulked.

"I played sports!" Andy huffed. "The girls and I were talking about soccer the other day. They asked me to 'work on you' so they could try out this semester. They're old enough to be on the junior team now."

"You want my daughters to play soccer!" Miranda said, sitting up. For a moment Andy thought she was joking until she saw the serious frown developing on her forehead.

"Whoa, just relax," Andy said, sitting up with her and holding her hand. "The girls expressed an interest and I am conveying it to you. They would like to play sports. There's nothing wrong with sports Miranda, it keeps them fit and healthy, gives them an outlet, teaches them teamwork and responsibility. Plus, if they're good it'll help them with colleges."

"Andréa stop talking."

Andy bit her lip and really looked at her partner. Miranda looked broken and Andy immediately regretted dumping all of this on her now.

"Hey, I'm sorry. Forget about the car and the sport okay? Come to bed and we'll sleep on it and later, maybe, we'll see how you feel."

"They're growing up," Miranda whispered, gripping Andy's hand as she tried to move away. "They're so grown up already."

"Miranda," Andy sighed.

"You're right," she chuckled morosely. "You're always right." She looked up and Andy was caught in her stare, smiling gently as Miranda cupped her cheek. "My girls are growing up and I had missed that. I was too busy when they were little and I've missed so much."

"You know you want Emily to take over eventually," Andy said carefully. "How about you reduce your hours on the weekends, give Em that responsibility, have her cover for you and spend some time with the kids and me. They're not so grown up they don't still enjoy the company of their Mom. And, when you're ready for sports talk, they'd love to talk to you about it. And maybe watch some games."

"A soccer mom?" Miranda looked as disgusted by that thought as she had when the sport was mentioned.

"Well yeah, they'd love it, and I suspect you would too. I can see you now, storming the pitch and telling the referee off when they miss a call."

"Oh god, I would," Miranda groaned. "They'd hate me."

"They'd be embarrassed, but they wouldn't hate you. Just let them find their way. There are still three little kids that have a whole heap of growing to do and I know that they need you as much as you need them."

"I don't need anyone," she sniffed.

"Oh you don't huh," Andy grinned, getting up. "I might sleep in the study then."

"Don't you dare!"

Miranda was up and standing in front of Andy before she knew what was happening. Andy giggled and wrapped her arms around Miranda's torso tucking the woman into her neck.

"I need you," Miranda whispered, pressing kisses up her neck. "I'll always need you."

"And you'll always have me," Andy grinned. "Now let's go to bed. We'll sleep in tomorrow morning and then I'll do some research on cars."

"Alright," Miranda agreed, getting back into bed and grinning wickedly, watching as Andy pulled off her clothes. "By all means, move at a glacial pace, you know how it thrills me."

Andy grinned cheekily and stripped for her woman even slower, only stopping when she was stood before Miranda in her matching underwear. The tension between them was intense, and Andy found herself losing her breath a little. The want broadcasting from Miranda's eyes made her falter, but she smiled demurely, backing out of the room and into the bathroom before she did something. They hadn't spoken of moving forward and making love for a while and both of them were too caught up with life to even think of it - but Andy knew they were close. Miranda was getting more and more comfortable with Andy being around her, especially seeing her body partially clothed and Andy was feeling more and more like her equal at home. Soon; Andy grinned, it would definitely be soon.

-0-

She'd been serious when she'd suggested the children play sports and as such, they needed a car that they could all fit in. When Andy woke up extremely early the next morning - despite her exhaustion, she slipped out of bed and made her way to Miranda's study, booting up the computer and logging in.

By the time Miranda stumbled into the study looking for her Andy had printed out a great many features lists on cars she thought Miranda would deign to drive.

"What are you doing? I thought we were sleeping in?" Miranda mumbled, flicking on the light.

"I woke up," Andy said, blinking in the harsh light. "Just wanted to get a start on all this."

"Andréa. The cars will still be there when the rest of the world wakes up. Please, come back to bed."

Andy reluctantly stood, stretching her back out and letting Miranda take her hand and draw her back to bed.

"Don't tell me," Miranda muttered against Andy's neck. "I don't want to know yet. I don't want to know until we officially get up and that will not happen until I say so."

Andy smiled, settling back down. Miranda's scent engulfed her. Her soft, warm body pushed up against her and the soft mewling breaths that Miranda took helped Andy fall asleep in no time at all.

-0-

"Ow," someone said, rocking the bed and making a ruckus.

Andy groaned, rolling into Miranda and pressing her face into Miranda's ample chest to try and drown out the sound.

"Samuel, please try and be a little quieter," Miranda's voice rumbled in her chest.

"Nicky won't let me go," he wailed. "LET GO."

"Please boys, stop," Andy said, rolling over and spying Nicholas holding the back of Sam's pyjama shirt so he couldn't get onto the bed. "It's alright Little Prince. He can come up here."

Nick let Sam go and bit his lip as Andy continued to look at him.

"Well?" she asked, holding out her hand. "Are you going to come and cuddle me."

He grinned and hopped up onto the bed, sinking into Andy's arms with an enormous sigh.

"You're my little protector aren't you," Andy muttered, kissing his hair. "Love you sweetheart."

While she was cuddling, Andy heard Miranda echoing the same sentiment to Samuel next to them. They had discussed telling the children that they loved them a few weeks ago. Miranda had been reading another self-help book - something Andy would have never believed had she not seen it herself - but it had told her that adopted children did not always do well when presented with declarations of great affection. Andy had shot her down immediately and they'd had a small but intense argument about it. Eventually though, much to Andy's surprise, Miranda had backed down and asked Andy to explain her reasoning. She'd told Miranda about how unloved she often felt before she'd met her, about how she'd never believed anyone that had told her that they loved her, until Miranda. And that she never, ever wanted any of their children to feel that way, no matter who their parents were, and who they had been raised by. Something had happened that day, and Andy had not seen Miranda with another self-help book since, something Andy was secretly thankful for. As she'd told Miranda - they could muddle through it themselves.

"Andréa? Are you alright?"

Andy blinked, finding three sets of eyes on her and she smiled, kissing Sam's nose when he leaned within reach of her.

"Fine," she smiled. "Just thinking about how much I love you all. You," She kissed Nick's forehead. "You," she kissed Sam's. "And you," she kissed Miranda's lips, letting them linger for a moment before Sam declared they were 'eww' and that she was getting girls germs.

"Can't get girl germs," Andy countered, snatching him from Miranda's arms and kissing him over and over. The sound of his giggles was like music to her ears and it wasn't long before Olivia shuffled in with a dark look on her face.

"Hello Olivia," Miranda said, holding out her arms.

"'m sleepy," she mumbled snuggling into Miranda's body and closing her eyes.

"Well, I thought we would have a nice morning together. I shall cook you all some breakfast and then Cara's going to come over and play with you for a few hours while Andréa and I go out, but we shall be back before you know it and then we will all have a nice evening."

"Can we watch Frozen?" Olivia piped up, sleep forgotten.

"I'm sure we can," Miranda winced. "But there will be time to decide that. Now, who wants waffles?"

"ME!" Sam squealed.

Andy laughed as he practically vibrated with the excitement. Miranda didn't often make breakfast, but when she did - she excelled, as she did with most things. Andy had learnt a lot about the woman behind the editor since moving in, and not for the first time, she pondered on how stupid her ex-husbands must have been to let go of such an amazing, accomplished woman.

The children ran out of the room, following Miranda's orders to dress and brush their teeth. It wasn't until Miranda's hand wound its way around Andy's waist that she realised she was daydreaming.

"Sorry," she smiled.

"What were you thinking?" Miranda asked, tracing Andy's face with her hand as if she was the most delicate of flowers.

"Actually how utterly stupid your ex-husbands must have been to let you go."

Miranda just looked at her, her face unreadable and for a moment, Andy wondered if she'd said the wrong thing. She needn't have worried. Miranda's face broke out into a smile that rivalled Andy's best.

"That is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me," Miranda said quietly. "But I cannot blame them all completely. I was as much to blame just as often as they were."

"Well, this time we're onto a winner."

Miranda chuckled and spent the next few minutes kissing Andy to let her know she felt the same. When they heard the children coming closer, Miranda slipped out of bed and went through her morning ritual. Andy relaxed back on the bed, hands behind her head, wondering at her good fortune.

-0-

"This has been a most disappointing afternoon," Miranda sighed, getting back into the town car with Andy. She wasn't wrong. Every high-end dealership they'd been to so far hadn't got a model big enough for their needs or had one that was ugly. Andy had thought for sure they would have found one by now, but all the dealers had succeeded in doing was annoying Miranda and ignoring Andy.

"I guess this is a bust," Andy sighed, resting her head against the seats. "We should probably forget about it and just call someone as you suggested."

"What? You would give up so easily?" Miranda gasped. "What on earth has happened to you since you've started working as a writer. You've lost your spark."

Andy shrugged, feeling disheartened.

"How about we, how do you young people say it, switch things up a bit," Miranda said with a grin. "Roy? What do you know about cars?"

Andy watched as Roy straightened his tie and glanced in the rearview mirror.

"Uh, cars ma'am?"

"Don't ma'am me, Roy, you've been driving me nearly longer than Andréa has been alive. We need a car that will suit our needs. In fact, find somewhere where we can all have coffee, somewhere quiet."

Roy glanced in the mirror and Andy smiled.

"Hey we're near 9th Avenue right?"

"Sure?" Roy said, sounding dubious.

"Can we go to 132? There's a great place I want to take Miranda."

Roy nodded and swung around at his earliest convenience, after a short while, they pulled up outside a small shop that had Miranda pursing her lips.

"Ah ah ah," Andy grinned. "No judging before you've been inside."

"Andréa, you should know by now not to mess with my coffee."

"Seriously, just trust me," Andy batted her eyelids. "Please."

Miranda never agreed, but she did tut and roll her eyes. Andy pulled her gently from the car, checking the street before she actually got out. Being photographed at the park was very different from escorting Miranda into a little-known place like a secret speakeasy bar.

"Andréa, I am waiting for the big finale -"

"Welcome to Stone Street Coffee Compan -" the attendant swallowed when she looked up and saw Miranda. "Whoa. Um, right this way ma'am," she said immediately.

The woman led Miranda and Andy through a door and into a dimly lit room full of plush chairs and a long bar.

"Well," Miranda said, cracking just a hint of a smile. "I am not unimpressed."

Andy laughed and sat on a seat big enough to accommodate both of them, patting the seat beside them.

"If you can show our friend in when he comes back, you can't miss him; big guy, dark suit."

"Um, yeah, right," the girl nodded, disappearing before they could order. She came back three minutes later, rather pink with a notepad and pen. "Sorry, would you like to order something?"

"We'd like coffee's please," Andy said, soothing Miranda with a hand on her thigh. "A caramel latte for me and a no foam, super hot latte for Miranda. Our guest will order when he arrives. And we would also like your discretion."

"Of course, that goes without saying," the girl nodded, waiting a beat before disappearing.

"People are ridiculous," Miranda hissed.

"I know, and I love you for staying with me. Just go with it," Andy whispered.

"I am Miranda Priestly. I do not just go with it," she huffed.

"I know," Andy grinned, pressing a quick kiss on Miranda's cheek. "The coffee is worth it, I promise."

"I will hold you to that, and we can come back here in the evening. I'm interested to know what the bar is like," Miranda muttered, getting out her phone. "I am sending a message to Cara, to check on the children, you are far too immature to bother with right now."

"You can punish me later," Andy whispered darkly in her ear.

"You are rather cheeky aren't you," Miranda grinned, still looking at her phone.

"I try my hardest."

The door opened and Roy walked in, looking suitably impressed.

"This place is amazing," he grinned. "Thanks so much for this."

"Roy, you look like you know things about cars," Miranda said immediately. "Tell me what you know."

"What is it you're looking for?" Roy asked, glancing at Andy.

"A car big enough for all of us. Seven seats, leg room. The children's seats must fit."

"We need eight," Andy said.

"No we do not, there is only seven of us."

"Well, there's Roy," Andy nodded towards Roy with a smile. They paused as the waitress brought their coffees then left them alone again. "In case he needs to take us all somewhere, but we actually need eight spaces because we have eight family members Miranda."

Miranda gaped at Andy and glanced down at her abdomen. Andy blushed and grabbed Miranda by the lapel of her coat, apologising to Roy before dragging Miranda to the bathroom.

"You think I'm pregnant?" she said, rounding on her and glaring in anger.

"No, no, I don't really," Miranda said, her tone placating Andy just a little. "It was a reaction. I merely do not understand why you insist there are eight of us."

"Patricia!" Andy said, waving her arms, perhaps a little dramatically. "Do you seriously think I would be sleeping around behind your back?"

Miranda blushed, even in the low light and squeezed Andy's hand.

"No," Miranda assured me. "No, I don't think you were, I don't think you would ever. And you're right," she snorted. "You're absolutely right, Patricia will need space when we travel."

Suitably cowed, Miranda apologised once again with a gentle kiss on Andy's lips. Andy stared at her for a moment before kissing her hard.

"Try not to forget you're the love of my life, alright?"

"I shall endeavour to do my best," Miranda grinned.

They walked back to the table and sat down as if nothing had happened. Andy grinned at Roy, who just shook his head and started their conversation once again.

"Um, right. Well, I guess you want luggage room as well as enough seating for everyone."

"The girls have expressed an interest in soccer," Miranda griped.

"My girls play soccer," Roy said with a grin. "Only in the park; it's a community league, but they love it."

Andy noticed Miranda looked a little surprised at the information. She wondered if this was the most Roy had spoken in his entire tenure.

"How many kids do you have?" Andy said.

"Four," he grinned. "We have a Lincoln Navigator, I guess we know already that Mercedes and BMW aren't going to help. What about a top of the line midrange car.

"I do not want anything pedestrian."

"Miranda," Andy said chastising the woman for her rudeness.

"Andréa, if we have the money, we might as well use it," she said, sipping her latte. "This coffee is not terrible by the way, which is lucky because I'm becoming less and less impressed with the both of you."

"What if you had it customised?"

Andy felt Miranda go very still and it occurred to Andy how silly they'd been.

"Why didn't we think about that?" Andy said, leaning against Miranda. "That would solve all our problems."

"We'd still need a car big enough to do so though," Miranda said. "Tell me about this Navigator you own."

"Well, I'm not being funny, but it's probably too large for either of you. What you probably want to look at maybe a Jeep, or a Lexus."

"Isn't a Lexus just a more expensive Toyota?" Andy grinned and Roy chuckled, nodding his agreement.

"Well, we can certainly take a look at them, but we must now rethink our end game. We need a car that will suit the modification process."

"I know a guy," Roy started, wincing when Miranda frowned. "My buddy; we served together."

"Can he be trusted?" Miranda asked, ignoring Andy's warning squeeze on her thigh again.

"I trust him with my life," Roy said simply, a hint of a growl in his voice.

"Good," Miranda smirked. "I know that you would not steer us wrong. It is not just Andréa and I that will be riding in this car. It will be everything that we hold dear."

"I understand. He won't let you down Miranda."

They traversed the miles of car yards once more, searching for the ever elusive car to fit their needs. They searched at Nissan and Jeep. Miranda liked the look of the new Jeep Discovery, but Andy quickly showed her how impractical the third row of seat was. The lack of room in the trunk was also a factor.

"I'd like one that's good for the environment too," Andy said absently when they were back in the car. "I think we should set an example. Protect the environment for our children."

"Our children," Miranda smiled, pulling Andy across the seat and into her arms.

"Ours," Andy gloated. "All of them."

"That makes it sound like you want more of them. Do you not think we have enough?"

"For now," Andy grinned, pecking Miranda's cheek and letting that information sink in.

"You're a tease," Miranda shook her head. "Roy?"

"Yes Miranda?"

"Take us to the Toyota yards please, if I am right in thinking that Lexus is overpriced?"

"You are," Roy grinned. "It'll take us maybe half an hour," Roy said. "I'll let you know when we're close."

Roy raised the privacy screen without Miranda commenting, leaving the two women secluded together in silence.

"My employees seem to have forgotten who I am," Miranda griped.

"Nah," Andy grinned, sliding closer. "They've seen the woman behind the mask. And they are as taken with her as I am. They would do anything for you, for the woman. They fear the editor, but they love you."

"As much as you do?" Miranda teased lightly.

"No," Andy said, cupping her chin. "Nobody can love you as much as I can. Now, he said he'd let us know when we're close. Wanna make out?"

Chapter Text

When Roy tapped on the privacy screen, Andy was halfway to heaven. Miranda was an outstanding kisser and Andy was gasping for breath when they finally pulled apart.

She sat back practically comatose, trying to get herself under control until Miranda tilted her head back to face her. Andy blinked as Miranda fixed her makeup and Andy's eyes finally focussed.

"You enjoy making me lose my mind don't you?" Andy asked as Miranda smoothed her lipstick.

"I can't say it's torturous," she smirked wickedly, "for me."

Andy laughed and picked up her things as she felt the car slowing.

"You're beautiful," Andy sighed. "Thank you for doing this."

"Honestly?" Miranda said quietly. "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else." Andy's eyebrow crept up. "Well, you know what I mean."

"I do," Andy pecked her lips once more and exited the vehicle, turning around to help Miranda out.

-0-

"Good morning ladies, I'm Matt, I'm here to assist you in whatever way possible today, please follow me."

Andy glanced at Miranda, gauging her reaction before smiling at the man, who seemed genuinely nice, if a little eager, as he spotted Miranda.

"They're all in love with you," Andy sighed, in a pained way.

Miranda snorted but allowed Matt to show them into the dealership, sitting them down and then taking a seat before them.

"Tell me what you're looking for in a vehicle."

The question floored Andy. Nowhere else today had they been asked that question. Instead, they'd been given the sales pitch for every car in the lot that they'd glanced at, and it was a wonder that Miranda had stuck with it for so long.

"Well, we need a car with room for 8 people," Andy started carefully.

"Please be assured that your privacy will be maintained with me," Matt smiled kindly. "It was hard enough to come out to my parents, I can't imagine what it would be like to have the whole world suddenly know."

Miranda twitched in her seat, staring hard at the young man.

"Thank you Matthew, for your candour," she said quietly. "Though I am alarmed that you would see right through us in the five minutes you've known us."

"I, um, I'm a big fan," he shrugged. "I've followed you all my life and you've never looked at anyone the way you look at," he frowned, "it's Andy isn't it?"

For a tiny moment, Andy felt a little uncomfortable, but Miranda's slowly relaxing posture and Matt's easy smile eased the tension and allowed her to relax a little as well.

"Yeah," she said holding out her hand. "Andy Sachs."

Miranda hadn't moved and was staring blankly at her joined hands.

"Miranda?"

"I am fine," she said quietly. "Matthew, we have had a very trying day, but you seem at least halfway competent. We are after an SUV or larger, stylish, but practical, with eight seats, one of which will fold down to accommodate a large dog. We'd prefer something either of us can drive in the city, something comfortable for us to sit in as we watch the children play sports and we would like to be able to customise it. I would also like not to be treated as a fool."

"Wow," he said with a grin. "That was amazing."

Andy squeezed Miranda's hand as she realised what Miranda had said about sports but before she could say anything, Matthew surprised her once more.

"Okay, so what have you looked at so far?"

"Everything," Miranda growled.

"Yeah, vehicles like that can be pretty hard to come by," Matthew chewed on a pen he pulled from his inside pocket, making a note on a pad of paper. "Eight seats?" He looked up, shrugging as he continued. "I can't help but read the gossip papers, how many car seats?"

"Three," Andy said before Miranda could speak.

"Hmm," there was a tense minute of silence before he looked up with a grin. "Right, if you'd follow me."

Andy stood, waiting for Miranda before following the young man in silence.

"Sorry," Andy grimaced.

"You apologise for the strangest things," Miranda muttered. "I was actually thinking about why, if a boy like that can see that I love you with all my heart, have Page Six not run with it yet."

Andy stopped dead, looking at her lover in shock.

"I can't kiss you here can I?" she asked when Miranda turned to look at her.

"No," Miranda said quietly, sadly. "No, you can't. But I appreciate the sentiment."

"I'll show you sentiment when we get home," Andy growled suggestively leaving Miranda to ponder that while she went in search of Matthew.

"I didn't upset her did I?"

"No," Andy assured him. "Just the opposite."

"Ah, there you are," Miranda joined them. "Let us see what you recommend."

Matthew started talking, and Andy couldn't help but get involved. He had a way about him that made you want to talk to him; want to help him figure it out for you. Miranda spoke more than she had in all the other car yards put together. After half an hour or so, they had it narrowed down to two SUVs and a four-wheel-drive. Andy could see Miranda was uncomfortable standing around the cars any longer and suggested they go back inside and discuss their options.

"So," Matt said when they were sat in the air conditioning. "What are your thoughts so far."

"I'm not displeased. The cars that you showcased are definitely the best suited to our needs that we've seen so far."

"Thank you," Matt nodded.

"I guess the question is, what do we do now?" Andy asked, leaning back in contemplation.

"I think the Landcruiser would be the best option," Miranda mused. She looked over at Andy. "Though I know you would prefer the 4Runner."

"I think that's bad-ass," Andy grinned. "And hybrid. But I agree that, even though the rear seats in the Landcruiser don't really lend themselves to our situation, it works better as a whole."

"Would you like to take it for a spin?"

"Yes," Andy grinned before Miranda could speak.

The older woman chuckled and waved her hand, watching as Matt left to get everything organised.

"You're enjoying yourself," Andy said, leaning closer, but keeping enough of a distance.

"I am," Miranda said, her poker face intact. "Who knew it would be so enjoyable."

"I think it mostly has to do with the guy selling it though."

"It certainly helps."

"Alright, if you both just sign here, you can go for a drive and get a feel for the vehicle."

Miranda scrawled her signature and Andy then did the same, accepting the keys with a grin.

"Thanks," she smiled.

They were led to a car, seeming a little bigger to Andy as she clutched the keys in her hand.

"Shall I start?" Miranda said quietly.

"Um, yeah. Thanks," Andy grinned, feeling her face going a little pink.

As soon as they were on the road, Andy was smiling, and Miranda reached over and took her hand.

"This is it isn't it," Andy asked, already knowing the answer.

"Yes, I think so. I'd like you to drive it though."

"I'm not," Andy paused. "I haven't driven for a while."

"It will be fine," Miranda smiled. "I trust you."

Andy nodded, rolling her eyes. Miranda pulled up and slid out, trailing her fingers down Andy's arm as they met in front of the car.

"Okay, I can do this."

"How did you drive the Mercedes?" Miranda asked, leaning sideways on the seat as she watched Andy.

"Badly," Andy grimaced.

"Relax Andréa. It is just me in the car, and I love you, completely."

Andy heard the words, felt them wash over her and she did relax. She pulled out into traffic and after a tense moment, they were driving comfortably through the suburbs.

"This is nice.," Andy said quietly, not wanting to disturb Miranda from a quiet moment if she needed one.

"It is," Miranda said, her hands resting on Andy's thigh. "And you really have nothing to worry about, you're a very good driver."

"Can I tell you something that I don't want you to get upset with?" Andy asked, her hand covering Miranda's hand.

"You can try," Miranda smirked, squeezing Andy's thigh.

"I like you giving compliments."

"I give compliments," Miranda frowned.

"No, you give vaguely hinted not-quite-insults," Andy said, hanging onto her hand as she took it back. "Which works, as Miranda Priestly the Editor, but I like you, my woman, my partner, giving me compliments."

"I -"

Andy didn't push when Miranda went quiet, but Miranda's thumb started rubbing along the seam of her jeans. She smiled as she pulled into the dealer again, and they sat for a moment, having been noticed by Matt, but allowed the privacy.

"I love you," Andy said quietly. "All parts of you, you know that don't you?"

"I do," Miranda smiled, finally looking into Andy's eyes. "I do with all my heart. I feel it every day Andréa and I promise you, I want this and I will do everything in my power to make sure that you know that. I will pay you compliments, I promise."

Andy closed her eyes against the desperation in Miranda's voice.

"No," Andy said, turning to take Miranda's hand. "No, I don't want you to superficially, I just," Andy sighed. "What I meant was it was nice, to be complemented by the most amazing woman in the world as far as I'm concerned. I don't want you giving them out willy-nilly and I certainly don't want you to become something you're not. I love you."

"You are an incredibly special person Andréa, do you understand that?"

"If I am, it's because of you."

The shared a moment before Miranda winked at her and got out of the car.

"I think young Matthew has waited long enough. I believe it's time for him to earn his commision."

All Andy wanted to do was tangle her hand in Miranda's hand and lean against her, but they were still playing cool. Andy resolved to take Miranda somewhere where they could do that, but she would have to get creative.

-0-

"Did you get it, did you get it?"

"Bobbseys, let us get inside," Miranda said tiredly.

Andy had realised on the way home that Miranda had put up with a hell of a lot for her, and she was definitely going to be doing something special for her lovely woman that night.

"Alright kids, where are we up to?"

"Cara's putting dinner in the oven, it's chicken pie."

"Caroline's favourite."

"Yep," the girl in question said as she appeared. "I can't wait. Hey Mom, hey Andy."

"Hi sweetie," Andy said, accepting the hug. "Where are the kids?"

"Sam and Olivia are colouring but Nick is looking at books again. I asked if I could read him one, but he shook his head."

"That's okay kiddo," Andy said with a smile. "Sometimes he prefers to have a bit of alone time."

"Or he just loves you reading to him," Cassidy laughed.

"Yes, well that too," Andy looked up at Miranda's worn out face. "Coffee love?"

"Yes," she groaned. "I'll be upstairs hugging the children."

Andy nipped into the kitchen, greeting Cara and preparing Miranda a cup of coffee. She rummaged around in the cupboard until she found the cookies that Miranda liked and rarely partook of, taking one for her and one for Miranda. The children, Cara told her, had polished off a snacks plate not that long ago.

She carried two coffees and two coffees up to the den and sat down with a groan.

"Don't you start groaning at your age," Miranda mused. "Only I am allowed to groan when I sit."

"Whatever Mom," Cassidy said, squashing next to her Mom. "You're like fitter than my sports teacher.

"I am not," she chuckled, moaning in pleasure as she took a sip. "But thank you for the compliment."

"M'anda?"

"Yes Samuel?"

"M'anda can you cuddle me?"

"Of course I can," she said, putting down her coffee. "As long as you don't mind Cassidy sharing me."

"I guess," Sam shrugged, getting up and looking seriously at Cassidy. "You get one half of M'anda and I can keep da o'va okay Cassy?"

Andy shook her head at Cass when she went to laugh and she schooled her face and nodded.

"Okay Sam, I have one half of Mom and you have the other."

"Good," Sam said, wrapping his arms around Miranda's neck. "You can have the legs o'tay?"

Miranda broke first and chuckled, moving Sam to her right and wrapping her right arm around Cassidy.

"I think I'd prefer to be split down the middle," she muttered, kissing Sam's head, then Cassidy's. "There is more than enough of me to go around."

"What about me?" Olivia asked, looking at Miranda with a frown.

"Well, I have a knee," Andy said, patting one knee gently. "You could come and cuddle me."

Like lightning, Nick was up off the floor where he'd surrounded himself with his Peter Rabbit books, over Caroline and around Andy's neck.

"Goodness me," Miranda chuckled. "You are a little sportsman!"

"Don't fret little Princess," Andy said, wrapping her arm around Caroline. "I have longer arms than Miranda I can cuddle you both at the same time."

There was a tiny pout appearing on Olivia's lips, but it soon disappeared when she saw Andy was telling the truth. She settled down, happy in Caroline's arms as well as Andy's and they, nearly all of them sighed.

"Love you guys," Cassidy whispered, sounding a little afraid of the words.

"And we love you Bobbsey, all of you, each and every one of you."

Patricia wined and landed on Andy's feet, making her groan, but understanding the sentiment. They were together. It was enough.

Chapter Text

"ANDY! ANDY!"

Andy blinked awake, wondering why someone was screaming her name so forcefully.

"What the hell is that?" Miranda grumbled in her ear. "Turn it off."

"ANDY PLEASE!"

Andy's eyes snapped open a little quicker at the desperation in the tone.

"Was that Cassidy?"

"MAMA!"

Andy was off and running down the stairs towards the noise, which seemed to be coming from the kitchen.

"Cassidy? Where are you?"

"Hurry!"

Andy slid into the room to find Olivia looking down at her hand with wide, white eyes as blood dripped steadily from the seemingly huge gash in her hand.

"Oh baby, it's okay," Andy said, nearly slipping in the blood that had already pooled at Olivia's feet. "Cassidy, get me a towel, a sheet or something," she looked at the girl. "Anything Cass."

She looked at Olivia and noticed her face was going a bit grey and she'd started to sway as she stood there. Andy knew they were in trouble and she held Olivia's arm above her head.

"Liv? Livvy baby, look at me please," she said forcefully.

"Andy?" she whispered.

"I'm here Princess," Andy smiled, taking tea towel Cassidy passed her. "This might hurt okay? If you want to cry you go ahead."

"Andréa? Oh, God -"

"Babe?" Andy said, cutting through whatever else Miranda was going to say with the unfamiliar name. "Relax, breathe," she looked back at Olivia. "Show Miranda how we breathe baby, in and out, that's right," she said, kneeling beside her and pulling Olivia into her lap.

Miranda mercifully remained silent, watching from the door, as Andy used the long-ago first aid training to wrap the hand in the towel.

"Do you have a first aid kit?"

"Cassidy? Bathroom," Miranda said, finally taking a step into the room. Andy looked up at her as she pressed a kiss to Olivia's head, whispering how well she was doing and how they were going to be alright. The silent conversation they had in their eyes revealed all they needed to know about what was going to happen next; Andy could not be seen to take Miranda's child to the hospital.

"Got it Andy."

"Okay, Liv, I want you to sit on Miranda's knee, can you do that?"

Andy nodded for Miranda to take a seat and sat Olivia down. The bleeding was tapering off, but by the looks of it, the cut was quite a bit worse than she had originally thought.

"Okay, be brave baby," Andy whispered, waiting for Miranda to wrap her arms around Olivia's middle and grip her bad arm to keep it elevated.

The towel stuck a little and as Andy gently pulled it away, that was when Olivia started crying.

"I know baby, I know. I'm going to be quick, it's okay."

"Mom?"

"Caroline, not now, go upstairs and take the boys into the media room. Call Cara and ask her if she can be here early."

"Yes Mom."

Andy bandaged the hand up so that they could travel and then let Olivia go so she could sob into Miranda's chest.

"I'll go get you some clothes," Andy whispered.

"No! Wait, Andréa don't move, Cassidy, go and get me a pair of jeans and my green polo, and bring the pile of clothes on the dresser please."

Andy watched in confusion as an ashen-faced Cassidy ran away upstairs.

"You need to wash," Miranda said gently.

Andy looked down at herself and saw the blood coating her legs, arms and hands.

"Oh," Andy frowned. "That's -"

She swallowed thickly and tried to breathe deeply. She had no problem with blood, none whatsoever, but this blood had come from their baby, their little Livvy and that was causing her problems.

"Andréa, go and have a shower, there's one in the bathroom we never use," she pointed down the corridor. "Take your pants off, leave them there," Andy did as she was told, tiptoeing through the corridor to the bathroom and closing the door on the world. She stood in front of the mirror, trying not to throw up before remembering who she was and who she was with. Miranda needed her to be all there, to be composed and reliable, even as her partner.

She had a quick shower and found a pile of clothing on the counter. Obviously, someone had come in while she was under the spray.

"Okay, what's happening?" Andy asked, finding them in the guest sitting room.

"I have called Roy, he'll be two minutes. He's going to take us," she paused and looked down at Olivia, "out and then I thought you could take the children out for breakfast - I'd forgotten Cara couldn't be here early. Go and have breakfast, take their minds off things and if it's not too bad we'll meet you, or, something -"

Miranda sounded uncharacteristically fragile, and Andy sat down and wrapped her arms around both of them, taking care not to hurt Olivia accidentally.

"It'll be alright," she whispered, though she didn't know who to. "It's going to be alright."

"Roy's here."

Miranda stood with the help of Andy, rearranging Olivia on her hip.

"I'll call ahead," Andy said, pressing a kiss to both of their heads before the door was opened. "And I'll let you know what we're doing."

She opened the door for Miranda and watched as Roy bundled them inside and drove off with two of her most precious people.

-0-

"Is she okay?" Caroline asked as Andy entered the den.

Her phone calls had been made, the appropriate people having been told, Andy collapsed on the sofa, her arm over her eyes. She couldn't answer Caroline's question because she didn't know herself. She wondered if this was why Miranda wanted her to take the children out, but with all they'd done in the last hour, she gave herself two minutes to recoup.

"Where's Livvy?" Sam asked, clambering onto her stomach.

"Livvy had a little accident," Andy said finally, lifting her head and smoothing back his hair. "She's fine, she just cut her hand. She'd got to go to the doctors to get it all stitched up."

"When is Mom ringing?" Cassidy asked from the door. The experience had troubled her greatly by the look of it, and Andy made a mental note to keep an eye on her through the day. "Should we get ready for school?"

Andy looked at her, remembering the day and sighed. Miranda wouldn't be going to work and neither would she. The kids would all be staying home today.

"No, no school. Everyone go and get showered and ready to go out and I'll take you to breakfast."

They disappeared upstairs, the girls helping to corral the boys and she was left sitting on the sofa, thinking about their morning. Olivia and Nick had been successfully enrolled into Dalton, but on Dalton's advice, would not start for another month when the term started again after the holidays. Andy agreed with that, to give the kids more time to get settled and work out all the kinks in the family dynamic. The downside was that both of them were bored, even with Cara tutoring them when she could. Olivia was increasingly adventurous in search of new things to occupy her obviously intelligent mind.

Andy supposed that is what she was doing in the kitchen. Cooking, no doubt - her favourite new skill. They'd have to think about that afterwards, but for now, she sat with her head in her hands, hoping that Liv had not damaged her hand permanently.

Her phone started ringing and she scrambled around trying to find it.

"Yes?"

"Andréa," Miranda sighed, sounding so helpless.

"Hey," she smiled down the phone, trying to help her partner out. "Hey, how is she?"

"They've given her something for the pain, so she's woozy, but they are talking tendon damage and repair, Andréa I -"

"Shh," Andy whispered down the phone, wishing she could take Miranda in her arms and hold her tight. "Breathe babe, just breathe for a while."

Miranda did so, loud enough that Andy could still hear the hiccups in her throat and she sat on the line in silence.

"They're going to take her for exploratory surgery. She has to," she gulped, "to have a general anaesthetic."

"It's going to be alright Miranda, they do this every day, you have the head of Surgery in your personal address book, he's going to look after you and Liv, okay?"

"Andy -"

"Miranda, I'm right here with you," smiling at the name. "I'm right here, and she's going to be alright. She's going to be alright, even if they find something, if she has to wear a cast for a while, if she has to," Andy was the one to swallow hard this time, "if they have to repair tendons, or whatever, she will be alright, because she's Olivia, and she's our baby."

A ragged breath came through the phone, and Andy knew she was close to losing it. It was something she'd have never believed Miranda capable of before spending their nights quietly discussing her fears. She covered the speaker and motioned for Caroline to come closer.

"Call Roy," she whispered, "I need to talk to him."

Caroline did as she was asked while Andy was talking quietly down the phone.

"Where is she now?"

"She's asleep, I had to be out in the corridor to use the phone, but she, she didn't look good. They say it bled a lot."

Andy nearly said that they knew that already, but Caroline had passed her the phone in time to cut her off.

"Roy?"

"Andy, is the little one alright?"

"She's got to have surgery. Can you," she sighed. "I know it's a big ask, but can you go in and sit with Miranda?"

"I, are you sure?"

"I am," Andy said. "I can't be there, but she needs someone to just be steady. I'm going to come over as soon as Cara gets here."

"Alright Andy, alright."

"I owe you."

"Nah," he said quietly and Andy could imagine him taking his jacket off, and his tie and leaving his hat behind in an attempt to appear more casual. "I'd do it for her anyway."

She hung up on him and went back to Miranda.

"Babe? Roy's going to come and sit with you. Let him be there for you while I'm not. As soon as Cara gets here, I'll come and sit with you."

"Andréa -"

"I know," Andy sighed. "But it's the best I can do. Trust him, I told you, he loves you."

"I will try."

"Good, let me know what they say," Andy said, hearing the kids descending the stairs. "I have to go, I love you."

"And I love you."

"Give Livvy a kiss for me."

"I will," Miranda whispered, hanging up without another word.

-0-

Andy walked with Sam and Nicholas' hands in hers, the twins walking in front, off to Central Park for breakfast.

"We're in your capable hands girls," Andy said, following them along the pathways.

"We thought we'd go to the Boathouse," Caroline said, pointing ahead. "They have the best pancakes."

"Alrighty, let's step it out! Cara's going to meet us there and take you guys home while I go and check on Livvy."

The arrived in good time and while they stood in line, Andy spent some time with each boy, pointing out dishes and discussing their options.

"Do you guys know what you're having?" Andy asked when it was nearly their turn to order.

"Pancakes with bacon please," Caroline said. "Cassidy wants the same."

"Alright sweetie, can you go and find us a table?"

"Yeah, come on Cass."

Andy held the boy's hands tightly and smiled at the woman taking their order. She had to interrupt their ordering to pick Sam up and swap Nicholas' hand, but eventually she managed to get everything right. She paid with her own money, remembering that Miranda and she had never talked about her contributing to the running costs.

They made their way over to the girls, and Andy caught them cuddled up together with Cassidy rubbing her eyes.

"Oh baby," Andy said quietly. "Sam, can you be a big boy and sit there with Caroline while I talk to Cassy?"

"Okay," he said, clambering up onto Caroline.

Andy got out a book for Nicholas to look at while they sat, and passed Sam his cars and then pulled Cassidy into her arms.

"Don't be sad little one," Andy said. "It's not your fault."

"There was so much blood," she whimpered.

"I know," Andy said, rocking her gently. She'd had enough all over her to know this very well.

Cassidy went quiet but stayed where she was wrapped around Andy, even though she had her attention on the boys. She kept their attention from drifting to Olivia by playing i-spy and a few counting games that Cara had taught them. One of them even Nick could play.

Chapter Text

Cara had joined them in the park and once she was sure the kids would be okay, Andy ran from the Boathouse and caught a cab to the hospital. She sent Miranda and Roy a text, asking them for their location, but only Roy replied. Andy bypassed the life and took the stairs three at a time. She swung around the corner on the floor she needed and wondered if it was possible to have a heart attack at her age.

"Hi," she wheezed. "Sorry, I'm looking for Olivia Walker, she came in not too long ago with Miranda Priestly?"

The nurse looked at her sceptically and Andy's brain raced.

"I'm her assistant, I need her to sign the release for the Givenchy shoot or I'm toast."

She wondered if it was the desperation or the wild look in her eyes that finally convinced the woman to give her the room number. In another situation, Andy would have laid into her for giving it up so easily, but for now, she had to find her girls.

"Room 12," the nurse said. "She has a personal suite. They're just waiting for theatre to clear."

"Thanks," Andy called, already moving.

She raced down the corridor, finding the room without any trouble. She looked in through the window and her heart melted. Miranda was on the bed, bare feet, and mussed up hair, cradling Olivia in her arms while Roy stood beside her, holding Olivia's hand. He wasn't touching Miranda, but he could see that Miranda was sitting very close to him. She knocked and went in.

"Hey loves," she whispered, not wanting to disturb the peace.

Miranda had been crying, so Andy moved in to envelop them both in her long arms.

"She's in pain," Miranda whimpered as if the thought brought her pain as well. "There was an accident somewhere. She was being prepped for surgery, but now they've had to delay."

"That's okay," Andy muttered, kissing them both. "Those people are in greater need."

"But they're not," Miranda said desperately.

Roy squeezes Liv's hand and left without another word, standing by the door in the corridor. Andy shifted into a better position where she could pull them both closer.

"Would you love her less if she never moves those fingers again?" Andy whispered.

"No!" Miranda hissed. "What do you take me for?"

"I know you wouldn't, I know that, but that means we can, and will, wait for the people who are less fortunate than we are."

It took Miranda every second in the next minute to come to terms with that, but then she relaxed back against Andy's chest.

"Roy was good," Miranda muttered. "Olivia loves him, and," she looked sheepish. "He kept me steady.

Andy nodded, already planning a massive thank you. She kissed Miranda's temple then Olivia's hair.

"And how are you Little Princess?" Andy asked quietly.

"Hand hurts," she mumbled. "M'anda gives good cuggles though."

"She does, doesn't she," And grinned. "Has she been cuddling you this whole time?"

"Uhuh," Live mumbled against Miranda's chest.

"You're so lucky Livvy."

"Yep," Olivia grinned, her eyes rolling a little with the effects of the drugs.

"Have you been sitting the whole time?" Andy asked, directing her comment to Miranda.

"Since I phoned you. They produced needles. She dislikes them immensely."

"Oh sweetie."

And sat back against the pillows, moving her long legs to either side of the bed and pulled Miranda back into her body very carefully. Miranda groaned as she started to get feeling back in her legs, and more so when Andy started rubbing them.

"She's so small," Miranda said absently, brushing Olivia's hair back. "It was so long ago that the twins were this small."

"And we've got two more even smaller," Andy chuckled. "I have no doubt that they'll both end up in here in time, but we'll worry about that then."

"We are childproofing the whole house," Miranda growled. "She should never have been able to reach those knives."

"Okay," Andy agreed, hoping the blame game wasn't going to come next.

"What if Samuel had found the bleach, or, or -"

"Hey," Andy soothed. "Hey, it's okay. She's okay, we're okay and all the kids at home are okay. You're stressed, tired and worried, but we're all okay.

"Miranda?"

They both looked up and saw a man in green scrubs standing at the door. Andy felt Miranda pause for a moment, then slide into being Miranda Priestly with ease, despite their position on the bed.

"Ah, Maxwell, I would say it is a pleasure to see you again, but as it happens -" she shrugged.

"Likewise," he smiled. "I understand I have an appointment with your nearest and dearest?"

"This is Olivia, she is my," she paused. "Our daughter. She was placed in my custody after her parents - my ex-husband Alec and his wife - passed away. They are as dear to me as my own."

"Okay," he said. "I am afraid I haven't had the pleasure," he said, looking over Miranda's shoulder and extending his arm. "Maxwell Smart and yes, I've heard all the jokes."

"Andy Sachs," Andy chuckled. She would have said more, but Miranda beat her to it.

"She is my partner, life partner," she corrected quickly. "Nothing is official, you understand. The press -"

"Say no more," he said. "My staff and I, as always, will be the very model of discretion."

"Good," Miranda kissed Olivia's hair. "Good."

"Well, we're ready for the little one. If you give her a kiss and get her comfortable in bed, I'll be back with my team in a few minutes to take her in."

They waited until he was gone to move, Andy shifted first, sliding out from behind Miranda and easing Olivia out of her arms.

"My arms are shaking," Miranda said quietly."

"Let's get her ready, we'll be okay," Andy said.

Olivia made a few token grizzles when Andy put her down, but Miranda and Andy's faces hovering above her made her relax again.

"Miranda's friend is going to fix your hand baby," Andy explained. "We'll be waiting for you. It won't hurt a bit."

"Am I going to die? Like Mommy and Daddy?"

"No," Andy said quickly, catching Miranda when her knees gave out. "No baby, not at all. You're going to go with the nice people and they're going to make you very sleepy and then you're going to wake up and come back out here with Miranda and me to eat Jello."

"Red Jello?" she asked a little more alert at the thought.

"All the red Jello Andy and I can find," Miranda promised, bending to kiss Olivia's forehead, her cheeks and finally her lips. "We love you Olivia."

"Love you too M'anda," she muttered, already woozy again.

"I love you too Little Princess Livvy. See you soon."

"Wiv Jello?"

"With Jello cutey pie," Andy chuckled.

She stood, holding Miranda as the nurses wheeled Olivia into the theatre. Maxwell nodded to them both, pausing at the door.

"Once we get started, we'll have more of an idea about how long the whole operation will take," he explained. "You're welcome to stay here, but there's a nurse's lounge on the floor above with decent coffee. We have your number and we'll update you as we go."

"Okay," Andy nodded. "Thanks."

They walked to the door with him and watched from the safety and privacy of the room. As the theatre doors closed, Andy felt Miranda trembling and remembered her comment about her arms.

"Are you in pain?" she asked, guiding Miranda to a chair.

"Just exhausted," Miranda whispered, sitting with her hands resting palm up on her thighs trembling slightly. "She is so small, I couldn't let go. I just couldn't and I thought if I -"

Andy knelt before Miranda and took her hands, leaning forward to press a kiss to Miranda's lips.

"It's okay, I understand," Andy whispered, her thumbs making tight circles on Miranda's palms. Miranda let her, and soon Andy was massaging up Miranda's arms and then onto her shoulders as well.

"I think we should hang out here to wait for her update, and we can ring the kids. Once we know more, we'll go for a little walk, and get coffee. What do you say?"

"I say that I had one hundred and one things to do today, but when I saw that blood I didn't even know what day it was. I couldn't think beyond it. I had to trust everyone to take care of it for me."

"That's good," Andy said gently, smoothing Miranda's brow with her thumb. "Don't look at me like that. You can trust Emily and Nigel. Between them, they'll take care of it, you know they will."

"I do not like the feeling of being out of control."

"I know," Andy whispered. "I know you don't."

A knock at the door separated them and Andy watched Miranda clawed back her resolve.

"Enter," she barked without checking that Andy was ready as well. "Yes?"

"Your daughter's surgery, at this stage, looks uncomplicated. Dr Smart will obviously be doing extensive exploration, but he requested I can tell you that he won't be less than an hour. He's going to send me out with another update later."

"Very well," Miranda said, moving to the bed.

"Thanks," Andy said with a smile. "We'll be in the nurse's lounge upstairs if we're not here."

"She's okay," Andy breathed once the nurse had gone.

"No, no she is not. She is in surgery. She did not actually update us on the situation."

"Do you trust this Maxwell guy?"

"You know I rarely trust anyone."

"Well, he must be good, otherwise you wouldn't come to him. How'd you meet him?"

"At a benefit," Miranda explained. "Then a number of months later, Cassidy broke her arm."

"Well, he fixed that, I take it?"

"Yes, she was able to go about her life as normal after the surgery healed."

"So," Andy said gently. "Trust him with Livvy too."

Miranda was cracking, Andy could see it. She walked up behind the woman and wrapped her arms around Miranda's middle.

"I need you to hang on," Andy said. "I'm freaking out here; I've never done this."

"Sorry," Miranda muttered, sighing and leaning back against Andy's body. "She will be fine. I had not anticipated such a level of feeling."

"I understand," Andy said, kissing Miranda's neck. "Come, let me buy you a coffee and we'll ring the babies."

"Yes," Miranda said, patting Andy's hands where they rested on her stomach. "Let's do that."

Andy was thrilled when Miranda pecked her lips over her shoulder, but they walked from the room without touching. Andy even made sure to walk half a pace behind, knowing that while the hospital staff might know not to alert the press, the patrons were not so scrupulous.

"I'll bring it to you," And muttered, nodding to a set of easy chairs by the window. "Do you want something to eat?"

"No," Miranda whispered.

Andy made coffee, even knowing it wasn't Miranda's usual fare and messaged Roy to thank him for standing by while she couldn't, and to ask him to find the nearest Starbucks.

"Here we go," Andy said. "I have Roy on his way to Starbucks, but if you can manage a sip or two, it would probably help."

Miranda did as she was told, knocking back nearly half the mug before discarding it.

"Not your best work Andréa," Miranda smirked after a while.

"Hey, I just said I've got it covered." Andy smiled and reached across to squeeze Miranda's hand. "Feel better?"

"Marginally," Miranda admitted. "Thank you."

Andy sat smiling at her, trying to convey her feelings with looks alone and Miranda nodded and winked.

"I think we ought to call home before we get into trouble."

Grinning cheekily, and giggling when Miranda rolled her eyes, Andy pulled out her phone and pushed the speed dial for home.

"Andy? Andy! Is Olivia okay? What's happening? Nick's crying and Cara can't make him stop and I'm scared."

"Easy sweetheart," Andy said breaking into her speech mid-breath. "Relax and breathe. Everything is fine."

"Is Mommy there?"

Seeing the break room was currently unoccupied, Andy got up and went to sit on the arm of Miranda's chair. She smiled when she was made to wiggle forward a bit to accommodate Miranda's arms around her hips and she tangled her fingers with her lover's and wrapped her other arm around Miranda's shoulders, locking them together.

"We should be more careful," Miranda uttered, away from the phone. "But," she looked up at Andy with the strangest look in her eye. "I am so glad you're here with me."

Andy died a little inside over how beautiful Miranda was, and what a privilege it was to be allowed to see her like this.

"I love you," And muttered kissing that crown of white.

"Apologies Caroline," Miranda said gently. "I'm right here."

"I'm scared," the girl said again, reminding Andy of just how young they were.

She rubbed her thumb over Miranda's shoulder as she sat and watched the mother in Miranda at work. It was a sight to behold.

"Are you okay Mommy?" Caroline asked after being given the down low on Olivia.

"Oh Bobbsey, I am fine," Miranda said, a little unconvincingly in Andy's opinion.

"Cara asked if you could talk to Nicky?"

"Alright sweetheart, put him on."

Andy kissed Miranda's hair as Caroline went off to find Nick.

"You okay?" Andy whispered. "Roy will probably be here soon and we're due another update."

"Miranda this is Cara? Nick is a bit upset, I'm not sure what is wrong, he's not talking of course."

"That is alright," Miranda said smoothly. "Andréa is here, that will help."

And smiled at the compliment as they waited for Cara to pass the phone to their crying boy. Her heart broke as they heard a few sobs and Cara's prompting him to take the phone.

"Hey there Little Prince," Andy said gently, wishing she could hold him. Andy looked to Miranda, who shook her head and motioned for Andy to continue. "I know you're scared baby, but it's okay. Miranda and I are here with Livvy and hopefully, we'll all be back for dinner, okay? And then we can read Benjamin Bunny before bed."

The little sobs and hiccups tapered off and Miranda reached up to tangle her free hand with Andy's, leaning more into her.

"Nicholas? I promise that even if Olivia is required to remain, one of us will be home to tuck you into bed tonight."

There was a brief pause before Cara came back on the line.

"Miranda? Andy? He seems a bit happier," she paused. "He's gone to get his book," Cara chuckled. "Is Olivia alright?"

"Admittedly, we have not heard much," Miranda said. "They have said that it will take no less than an hour, but we are planning on returning to her room soon for another update."

"Well, let us know what you find out," Cara said kindly. "We all miss her."

"I understand," Miranda said. "We will let you know."

"Alright, I'll speak to you soon then. No doubt you're eager to be back. The kids are fine; Sam and Cassidy are watching a film while Caroline reads. Nick is helping me, or shadowing me rather."

"Is Cass alright?" Andy blushed, glancing at Miranda. "She was a little upset about Liv."

"She's quiet, but seems fine," Cara said. "I can talk to her if you'd like?"

"We will do so when we return," Miranda said. "For now, we must go. Thank you Cara."

They hung up and Andy texted Roy for his whereabouts and to tell him they were going back to Olivia's room. When they returned, it was still empty, but Miranda stood at the bed, smoothing the covers until they were interrupted.

"Hey," Roy said, popping his head around the door. "I come bearing coffee." He brandished the Starbucks cups and stepped in the room. "And I know she'll only be here for a little while, but I dropped into the Townhouse and got her some clothes, books, that sort of thing."

Miranda took a shaky breath when she saw what was resting on top of the bag that he placed on the bed.

"Oh, yeah and that," Roy smiled. "Cassidy insisted."

"Oh God," Miranda breathed, grabbing the floppy, dog-eared, patchy, fluffy elephant and clutching it to her chest.

"I can't do this here," she growled, turning and slamming the bathroom door in Andy's face.

"Miranda?" Andy knocked. "Miranda, open the door." She could hear the water running, but Andy knew that trick too. She'd used it many a time to drown out her sobs. "Miranda open this door right now."

The lock eventually clicked and Andy left a note, seeing that Roy had disappeared, on the bed before going in. Miranda was on the floor, apparently having landed there somehow, clutching the stuffed elephant to her chest.

"I can't always be the strong one," she muttered. "I can't, not even I can do that."

"I know," Andy said. "That's the beauty of having a lover," she remembered Miranda's words from earlier. "A life partner. They get to be there for you when you're not. And I'm here Miranda. I'm right here."

Eventually, Andy coaxed Miranda off the bathroom floor and lead her to the chair, sitting down first and pulling Miranda down into her lap.

"Cassidy got this from Jeremy's grandmother, her great-grandmother when she was two. Since then, she has rarely let it out of her sight. Even now it must go everywhere with her, including their last school trip."

"Aw," Andy chuckled. "That's pretty cute."

"I have looked everywhere for a replacement, for years I've looked but knowing Saskia, she had it made, she has honestly never spent a night without it."

"Until now," Andy said.

Miranda hummed and leant back with a sigh.

"I abhor waiting," Miranda groaned.

"I know," Andy said, passing over the coffee. "Won't be that hot anymore though."

"I will suffer through it," Miranda grumbled.

The initial hour passed and then another forty-five minutes before they saw any movement in the hall.

"I think that's us," Andy said, patting Miranda's thigh.

They stood, moving to the side of the room as they wheeled her in, Andy gripped Miranda's hand tightly and she pulled Miranda into her body when she heard the little squeak Miranda made when she saw Olivia hooked up to so many wires and machines.

"Miranda, Andy, everything went well. She came through the surgery perfectly and we've repaired everything we could. At this stage, we're going to wait for her to wake up and have a bit of cuddle time before we come back and see what we have. If she has all the movement we need, there's a good chance she'll be able to go home tonight."

"That would be preferable," Miranda said. "The children at home would prefer us to be with them before bedtime."

"I know what that is like," he said kindly. "That was quite a while ago."

"How old are your children?" Andy asked, her curiosity getting the better of her.

"Seventeen and twenty-two," he smiled.

"It has been an adjustment to go from having twin pre-teens to having babies again," Miranda sighed.

"I imagine so," Maxwell muttered. "You seem to be doing an admirable job Miranda, if I may say so. In fact, if you ever get a night off, Lauren and I would love your company for dinner."

The nurse made the final checks and Miranda rushed to Olivia's side without answering.

"We'd love to," Andy said with a smile. She pulled a card from her pocket. "Give us a call and we'll set something up."

"Of course," he said. "She'll be coming around any minute, I'll leave you to it. I'll be back later after she's had a bite to eat."

"Oh," Andy said, smacking her forehead. "We promised her red Jello."

Maxwell laughed and patted her shoulder.

"Good luck," he chuckled. "I'm sure the nurse would accommodate you."

"Thanks."

He left them alone and Andy moved to Miranda's side, her hand coming to rest on the small of Miranda back as she checked on their little girl.

"Beautiful," Miranda muttered.

Andy had to agree.

Chapter Text

By the time twilight had settled over New York City, Olivia had woken up once, but not completely. Not much progress had made much beyond that, but while Andy was hopeful, Miranda was less so. Dr Smart had assured her four times that there was nothing underlying and that some children responded differently to anaesthetic. It hadn't helped much. He explained that while he was almost positive Olivia would be right as rain by the morning, but that she had to remain overnight so that she could be monitored. It had been a blow to their plans and Andy had chewed her thumbnail to the quick trying to decide what to do.

"You should go home, you need it," Andy tried for the third time.

"I do," Miranda agreed. "But Nicholas will no doubt prefer you to be by his side when he is tucked into bed, or he will do nothing but cry."

"You could stop him."

"Yes, but I do not have the energy, nor the patience to do so," Miranda sighed, tangling her fingers with Andy's. "Honestly Andréa, they will provide a cot for me to sleep on, and I shall try to at least get a few hours. She will be asleep most of the night providing the pain is not too much."

Andy finally conceded defeat and wrapped her arms around Miranda's waist.

"Fine," Andy sighed, nuzzling Miranda's neck with her nose. "But then tomorrow you're spending the day resting, in bed. Cara and I can take the kids out or whatever."

"Darling, what about your work?"

"I emailed. I have some holiday time and I'm going to take it. I'm up to date with all of my assignments from last week. If," she paused. "If you wanted you could bring home my assignments? Or I'll just go in the day after tomorrow and get what I need."

"Oh," Miranda said, her eyes widening. "Of course, I shall do that."

"I'll get Roy to bring you back a bag. The bathroom here isn't too bad, you should be able to shower so that you feel a bit better," Andy ran her hand through her hair. "I should have thought of that before, I'm sorry."

"Don't," Miranda sighed, leaning into Andy's arms. "I'm just glad you're here."

"Not how we'd planned our week going," Andy chuckled morosely.

"No," Miranda muttered, smoothing a frown from Olivia's forehead.

"It can only get better," Andy shrugged. "Are you sure?"

"Have you ever known me to say something I don't mean?"

"Well no, but I thought I'd try one final time."

Miranda hummed and turned up her face so she could kiss Andy. Taking the moment as it came, Andy deepened the kiss and wrapped her up tighter in her arms.

"I love you, Miranda," Andy said as they pulled apart.

"As I love you, my Andréa."

After kissing Olivia, taking care not to wake her while she was sleeping, Andy slipped out of the room, meeting Roy in the hallway.

"Ready to go, boss?"

"I'm not your boss," Andy laughed but linked arms with him. "But yeah, I'm ready to go see the other babies."

"I'm going to go and pick up the bag Nigel put together for Miranda, I'll bring it back here, then I'm going to park up in case you need me overnight."

"Oh, no I promise, it'll be okay. Miranda's staying and Cara will have to go home for a while anyway. Truly. Go home, rest. It'll be another big day tomorrow." He looked conflicted for a moment before she squeezed his arm. "Really."

"Alright," he nodded.

He led her to the parking lot where the town car was parked. Thankfully, nobody seemed to have noticed, and there was no press outside the hospital, further reinforcing what Dr Smart had assured her. The hospital staff was the model of discretion.

Walking up the steps to the townhouse was like the weight of the world had plonked itself down on Andy's shoulders. The strain of the day had finally caught up with her and she paused with her key in the door, suddenly caught by how different her life had suddenly become.

"MAMA!"

The door swung away from her and a very precocious Sam was screaming at the top of his lungs.

She glanced up the street but couldn't see anyone, not wanting the press to intrude on their lives any more than they would anyway, she picked him up and slipped inside, locking the door and putting on the lock, preventing him from opening the door to anyone else.

"What have I told you about the door?" she asked gently, but sternly.

"I'm here Andy, I saw you," Cara called, sitting on the bottom step of the stairs. She had her arm around Cassidy, who was looking no less forlorn than she did that morning.

"Oh sweetie."

"We're okay," Cara assured her. "It comes and goes I think. Everyone's been fed and watered," she tickled Cassidy's ribs a little. "And Nicky and Sam are ready for bed."

"I is not," Sam growled.

"I beg your pardon," Andy said, her eyebrows shooting up.

"I's ready for cuggles!"

Cara laughed under her breath and got up, pulling Cassidy with her.

"Nicky and Caroline are upstairs. She found a box of lego that they had stashed away somewhere. He's enjoying the one on one time I think."

"Thank you so much, Cara, I'm so sorry today didn't work out."

"Oh, don't worry," she said, waving it off like dropping everything on her morning off was nothing. "It's not unusual that one of us gets some time off and something happens. Will you be alright from here? Do you want me to fix you a plate?"

"No, thank you. Please don't trouble yourself. We'll get these little monkeys to bed and then I'll grab something light."

"If you're sure," Cara smiled, kissing Cassidy's forehead. "I'll be back tomorrow morning at 8."

"Thanks," Cassidy managed, before moving under Andy's free arm.

"No worries kiddo," she said gently. "Tell Andy, she'll tell you what I told you."

"Okay," Cassidy nodded but didn't elaborate.

They waved goodbye to Cara. Andy was so pleased that the woman hadn't baulked when they had added to her number of charges. Miranda had informed her that Cara was probably the best-paid nanny in New York, but that she was worth every cent that Miranda had insisted on her taking. Andy was beginning to see why Miranda had never let her go.

"Come on munchkins," Andy said gently, squeezing Cassidy a little. "Let's go see the others and get ready for bed."

"I want to sleep wiv' yous."

Andy sighed. Honestly, she and Miranda had discussed this very issue that Andy was sure she would have to face. Two of their family was missing and it had left a big hole where they would usually be. She peeked in on Nicky and Caroline, not wanting to disturb them, but the distraction was complete when Nicky saw she was home. He got up, scattering the tower they had made and ran to her, slamming into her legs and hanging on tight, his thumb in his mouth.

"Hey baby," she said, running her hand through his hair. She sighed as Caroline's tired eyes reached hers. "Come on," she grinned. "Sleepover in our bed."

"Sweet!" Caroline grinned, getting up and joining the group hug.

It took the three of them; Andy, Caroline and a still subdued Cassidy a long time to get the boys settled. They read and read and read until finally, Andy told them that it was time to close their eyes. She kissed them both on the head and let them snuggle up together in their California King.

"Sleep tight my little babies," she whispered, slipping her hand into Cassidy's and drawing the girls out of the room with her.

"Midnight snack at," she glanced at the clock and laughed. "Seven?"

"Absolutely."

They wandered down to the kitchen and Andy made some Nutella toast for them to snack on. She sliced them into fingers and put some fruit on top, joining the girls on the breakfast bar.

"So," she said, looking at Cassidy. "You know it's not your fault, don't you."

She was correct in thinking that she was going to hit the nail on the head. It was inevitable that Cassidy, who had been with Olivia at the time of the accident, would feel responsible for the whole thing and Andy was going to nip it in the bud.

"I wish I could have been home to tell you this earlier, but your Mom needed me. But I am telling you, that both I and your mom know it wasn't your fault, and we don't blame you, and Livvy is very much looking forward to cooking with you again."

She burst into tears and slid off her stool to be wrapped up in Andy's arms. Andy could tell she'd been stewing on it all day and even as Caroline rolled her eyes, the spitting image of her mother, she too got up and hugged Cassidy.

"I told you they wouldn't blame you. It wasn't your fault you dummy."

"Caro," Andy shook her head. "But the message is the same. Let it go, sweetie. I look forward to many more breakfasts cooked by you and Liv. Although, just know that we're hiding the knives and any other sharp implement that might hurt one of you guys okay?"

"Okay," Cassidy hiccupped.

"Alright. I don't know about you two, but I'm beat. Do you wanna stay with me tonight?"

"Can we?" Caroline asked in a voice that was much smaller than Andy was used to.

Caroline was the leader of the two. The voice. And it shocked her that Caroline, indeed both of them, felt that they wouldn't be welcome.

"I said it was a sleepover night didn't I?" Andy asked, tipping their chins so they'd meet her eyes. "That means all our kids."

She'd been right about that worry too it seemed. She had mentioned it in passing the other night to Miranda, about making sure that the girls didn't feel like they were being replaced, even if the worries were unfounded. She pulled them both in and kissed their hair.

"Go wash up and meet me in bed. It's possible I might have to move the boys, so I'll just run the dishwasher and I'll be up in a mo."

"We love you, Andy."

She looked at them and kissed their hair again.

"I love the both of you, so very much."

-0-

Andy was awake long before she wanted to be. The night had not been idyllic. The twins were well versed in sleeping in bed with Miranda, but the boys had no such training. About an hour after she closed her eyes, she awoke with a foot in her face, and after dealing with that, she woke at least three times with feet in her back and poking her kidneys. By the time Cara arrived to cook breakfast for them, Andy was on her third cup of coffee.

"Oh you look like you had a good night," she chuckled, turning the newspaper the right way while Andy was trying to read it. "I think Miranda probably slept better than you."

"God I hope so," she groaned, rubbing her face. "I really do, because I'm going to need a holiday after last night."

"Are you going straight there?"

"I thought I'd wait until the boys were up, then go and swap with Miranda. No doubt she'll want to head to the office for a while."

"That sounds great. I'll get started on breakfast and do a load of washing."

"You really are a lifesaver Cara, do you know that?"

Cara didn't say anything, but Andy was gratified to see her smile. She rubbed her face one more time and made a face when she realised her coffee was cold.

"Time to move I think," she muttered to herself, heading back up to take a shower. She texted Miranda beforehand to get an update and enjoyed the 9 jets pressuring her skin from all directions. The concept of marrying for money had never crossed her mind, but it didn't come without its perks.

She heard her phone go off and she stepped out, wrapping her hair and her body in the sinfully fluffy towels. She shook her head at herself. How funny life was that she would end up in the position she was in.

Dr. says he will release her after breakfast at approximately 9:30 am. Will you be joining us?

Andy chuckled at the message and sent off a reply that was much less formal. The day had started and she heard Sam calling for her. She pulled on a robe and tucked the phone into her pocket and joined her little family on the bed.

"Hey little Monkey," she grinned, accepting the sloppy kiss on her cheek.

"We see M'anda today?"

"We do indeed. And Livvy is coming home very soon, but you need to be gentle with her Sam, she's got a very sore hand."

"She get an owie?" Andy smiled and scruffed his hair.

"Yeah baby, she got an owie."

She was in the middle of running her hands through Nicky's hair to wake him up when her phone started ringing.

She didn't think too much of it and picked up on the fourth ring.

"H'lo?" she was too busy paying attention to Nick than whoever it was on the phone.

"Miss Sachs, I'm calling to confirm your relationship with Miranda Priestly?"

She dropped the phone, looking down at it like it had bitten her. Nicholas was blinking up at her and he passed her the phone back, and she took it carefully, ending the call and trying to smile at him.

"Andy?!"

Caroline ran into the room with wild eyes.

"I know," Andy said quietly, biting her lip. "Turn the TV off okay? Please. I'm about to ring your Mom. Can you get Cass to come and help Nick and Sam to get down for breakfast?"

"Yep."

She was off like a shot, well versed in how to deal with the fallout that was no doubt about to hit like a storm. She blinked again as Nick got down and shuffled into the bathroom, and she stared at the home screen on her phone before it started ringing again.

"What the bloody hell is going on?"

Emily's voice calmed her somewhat and she remembered that she was not without skills.

"God Em, I don't know what the hell is going on. They rang my phone for fuck's sake, how did they even get my number?" she scrubbed her face and realised that it was inevitable really, they were lucky, as Miranda had said, that they'd got away with it for this long.

"What's the line?" Emily asked.

"What's the line always?"

"I'm on it," Emily said quietly and she paused and Andy wondered if she was going to hang up. "How's Olivia?" Andy smiled.

"She's coming home this morning, thank you. Miranda was going to come in later I think, I'll let you know when she's on her way."

"Lifesaver," Emily said without thinking and it must have shocked her sufficiently that she put down the phone without another word. Andy chuckled and rang her love.

"Andréa, they're not releasing her until Maxwell has been to see her, and he insisted that she would be first at 9:30."

"No, I know," she sighed. "The papers got us, I don't know how but they did."

"I -" there was a pause and Andy knew Miranda was as shocked as she had been. "Oh, well, we shall deal with it as well as we do anything else."

"I'm so glad you got some sleep," Andy chuckled.

"You didn't."

"I have bruised kidneys I think," Andy said morosely and waited for Miranda to talk to Olivia before she continued.

"We will face this head-on. We are not in the wrong, everything's in order. You are my lover, my partner. You will be the big news, and for that, I can only apologise a hundred times. The children too, tell the girls to turn the TVs off and not to bring in the newspapers."

"I did," Andy sighed. "I guess this is it then?"

"Yes my darling, it is."

"Well, okay then. HR knows?"

"They do," and she could hear Miranda smile. "We have nothing to worry about my darling. If they ask you something you think deserves an answer, then you answer them, if they ask you something that you think goes over the line, you tell me and I will deal with it. We are not powerless Andréa. We have friends in high places."

"I remember," Andy chuckled and smiled as Nick appeared at the door and clambered onto her knee. "I'm going to get the kids settled then I'll come over. Oh," she bit her lip, trying not to worry in front of Nicholas. "Should I?"

"My darling? The press will come and go, we cannot and shall not stop living. We will continue on as nothing has changed, clear?"

"Yes Miranda."

"That's my Andréa," Miranda said quietly and Andy's heart squelched happily at the love in her tone.

"You're going in later?"

"I must," Miranda said, a touch apologetic.

"Please don't think like that. I was just gauging the day. You have to work, and you should never, ever feel guilty for that you know."

"Thank you my darling. Now come over and get us, we'd both like to go home."

"Yes Miranda."

"I will see you soon my darling," Miranda said quietly, hanging up as she said it, leaving Andy with a soppy grin on her face.

"I love her," she told Nicky unnecessarily.

He sighed dramatically and leaned back on her chest. Picking him up, she settled on what she could do this morning. Make sure the kids were okay, then go and pick Miranda and Olivia up from the hospital. Everything would be okay.

Probably up to the point when she had to open the front door.

Chapter Text

 

"ANDY! ANDY! Can you tell us about your relationship with Miranda Priestly?"

"Has the Ice Queen melted? Andy?"

"Andy what's it like sleeping with the boss? What's it like living with the Devil in Prada?" Andy rolled her eyes.

"Where did she get the kids?"

She paused at that one and looked around to see who had said it before sliding into the car. The young man who had called out paled under her glare but she continued to say nothing as she slid into the car. Hopefully, they got the message. Say what they wanted about Miranda and her, but the kids were off limits.

Roy pulled out from the curb smoothly, having to slow down for a few zealous photographers, but they were on their way in no time. Thankfully, none of them had realised she was on her way to the hospital, or they would have followed. Roy pulled into the lot so he could park, she cast a wary glance around the structure.

"Looks clear Andy, want me to come up with you?" he asked, turning slightly.

"Nah, I'll be okay. Thanks. I'll text you when we're on our way."

"You got it, boss!"

Andy chuckled as she slid from the car and moved towards the elevators. She knew the way to go without looking now, but she still had her head on a swivel. God knows what crap they'd come up with if they saw her going into the hospital.

"Hey guys," she said happily as she joined Livvy and Miranda in the room.

"ANDY!"

"Careful Princess," Andy said with a grimace as Livvy threw herself into her arms. "Don't want to break anything, you're nearly home!"

"She's quite ready to go I think, as soon as Maxwell arrives, I wish to go."

"We're all ready when she is," Andy smiled, reaching out and touching Miranda's hand.  The touch did wonders, bringing Miranda back into 'family mode'. She looked up at Andy with such big eyes that Andy couldn't help but giggle a little.

"Good morning darling," Miranda said genuinely.

"Hi."

Andy ran her hand down Miranda's forearm and tangled her fingers together.

"Did you sleep, really?" she asked Miranda, taking note of the small creases at the edge of her eyes.

"I did, though any good mood I had garnered from it has since evaporated in this morning's papers. Have you seen some of this trash," she glowered at a crumpled Page Six lying on the table.

"I haven't," Andy said honestly. "I contemplated reading them all, every single one of them," she paused. "Then I realised it doesn't matter what they say about us. It doesn't matter what they say about me or any of that. All that matters is the truth. And I know what the truth is, and so do all the people around us that are important. The truth is all that matters."

"Reputation is important Andréa."

"Yes," Andy nodded. "But is my boss going to fire me for sleeping with his boss? No. Especially as his boss is all bad a -" she bit her lip and looked at Livvy, amusing herself on the bed with some crayons. "Especially when you take into account who his boss is."

"It will make it harder for you," Miranda suddenly said. "You will be ostracised for it. They work for me, but they do not like me."

"I don't care," Andy shrugged, only partly honest. "I love you and I'm not leaving. If you want the absolute truth, most of them already do. Except for Serena and Nigel and begrudgingly Emily, most leave me to myself. If that means I do one painful year at Runway in Features, then move on, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it."

"I worry," Miranda muttered, looking out of the window, her arm hugged around her middle. Were they at Runway it would have been playing with her necklace. Today, Andy noted, it was carding through Olivia's hair.

"I know," Andy said finally, walking up behind her and wrapping her arms around Miranda's waist. "You worry more than anyone else I've ever known, but you always get through it. You see what must be done. But in this case Miranda? Nothing needs to be done.  We have expected this moment for weeks. None of us is really surprised that they have a story. And, you said it yourself earlier - we will go on living. If they think that our lives are exciting enough to comment on," Andy laughed. "Then they need to get out more," she glanced at Olivia. "Or take care of five kids."

Miranda snorted and leaned her head back, smiling gently when Olivia stood up on the bed and used the opportunity to join their hug.

"Can we go home please?" she sighed.

"As soon as Dr Smart comes in and says you can, okay?" Andy said, nuzzling her hair.

"Fine," she grumbled and Andy couldn't help but laugh.

"You looked just like Caroline when you did that."

"And guess who Caroline got that off," Miranda muttered, patting their joined hands.

-0-

"Andy, are you the nanny now?"

"Is Miss Sachs the next Mrs Priestly?"

"Miranda, are you having a midlife crisis? Miranda?"

Miranda snorted as she opened the front door, blazing over the threshold immediately and guiding Samuel away from the doorway. Andy followed, her hand on the back of Olivia's head, protecting her face from the flashes. When they were in, she kicked the door closed and leaned against it with a groan.

"They're ridiculous," Miranda said, bending to take Sam into her arms. "Hello darling, did you have a good sleepover?"

"Yep," he sighed happily, leaning his head on her shoulder and sucking his thumb. He didn't do it often, so they left it alone for the time being. "Missed you M'anda."

"I missed you too little one," she said, turning to embrace her twins at the same time. "And how are my girls?"

"Good," they replied happily. "Andy said we could wait and see you before we went to school. Dad wanted us to remind you that it's his cousin's wedding this weekend and that you said we could go," Cassidy paused and looked at Caroline. Andy watched as they seemed to have a silent conversation. "If you don't want us to go, we'll tell Dad we have too much school work."

"Yeah," said Caroline. "If you need us to stay home, we can. Felicity's Mom is like super mean."

"Oh darlings," she said, cupping Cassidy's cheek, then Caroline's. "We will be fine. Go and enjoy Felicity's wedding, as planned. All will be well here."

"Are you sure? Cos -"

"Because," Miranda corrected.

"Because they don't have anywhere to hide from the vultures outside."

"I know, but we will deal with that one day at a time."

"Okay. We're going to school then."

"Have a lovely day my dears. I will be home a little later than dinner tonight."

"We know," Caroline said before Cassidy took over. "Andy already told us. Love you guys."

They kissed their mom's cheek, one on each side, and Cassidy ruffled Sam's hair. Caroline opted to hug Sam and Miranda before both of them arrived in front of Andy.

"See you two squirts later," Andy grinned, accepting the stereo hugs. "Thanks for being great big sisters."

The girls preened a little under the compliment and took a step back looking expectantly. Andy smiled and let Olivia down from her arms. She watched as Caroline gave her a quick hug and whispered something in her ear.

"Do you have to go to school?" Olivia asked Cassidy, looking at her toes as she scuffed them on the tiles.

"Yeah I really do," Cassidy shrugged, not really looking at Olivia either.

"Can we make pancakes tomorrow then?"

Olivia looked up at Cassidy with big eyes and Cassidy's whole body seemed to sag. Andy realised that despite everyone telling her so, Cassidy had not believed that Olivia had no hard feelings until that very moment.

"We'll see what Mom says okay? One day soon, I promise."

"'Kay," Olivia said happily, wrapping her arms around Cassidy. "See ya later Cassy."

The name charmed Cassidy and she hugged the little girl back fiercely.

"See ya later Sissy."

And then they were gone and Andy and Miranda were left in a quiet foyer with Olivia leaning against Andy's legs and Sam curled up on Miranda's shoulder.

"Hey little monkey," Andy grinned at Sam. "M'anda and Andy are tired, wanna go with us to make some coffee?"

"Yep," he sighed.

"Are you going to say hi to Livvy?"

"Hi Livvy," he said unenthusiastically.

It was a strange thing that they had both noticed especially int he last three weeks. The kids had been fiercely protective of each other before, at the beginning. Now, they were happy to let one of the adults handle it. It was another small way that let Andy know they were settling in. It was music to their ears.

"Come on then Princess. You can help me measure."

"My hand hurts," she said sadly, cradling her bandaged hand.

"Does it?" Andy said with a grimace, noticing Miranda had already gone into the kitchen. "Let's go see what we can do about that." She poked her head around the door.

"Um, does Livvy have some medication she can take?"

Miranda rolled her eyes and it took Andy a moment to realise Miranda was annoyed with herself, not Andy.

"Of course, but I neglected to mention it to you. She was given a dose an hour before the discharged her. The prescription is in my purse. I will have whats-her-name fill it."

"If you want? Might take longer for her to come here, then go there, then come back. I could go. There's a pharmacy just around the corner. I can take Nick? Get him out of the house for a little while?"

"The press?"

"Will either follow us, or they won't." she shrugged. "They can't come inside with us, so I guess we'll just wing it."

"This one's dangerous," Cara said quietly as she put down the coffee in front of them both.

If it surprised Miranda that Cara had spoken during their discussion, she didn't show it. Instead, Miranda smirked behind her mug and raised that rather expressive eyebrow.

"I am well aware," she muttered, making Cara laugh.

"So I'll go then?"

Miranda nodded but sipped her coffee. Samuel well ensconced on her person now and it was unlikely he'd let her go until she was ready to begin her day. Nick had still not made an appearance and it was making Andy a bit nervous. She kissed Livvy's hair, letting Cara sit her down and feed her some toast. Racing up the stairs, she found Nick in his room, playing with some plastic animals.

"Didn't you hear us come in?" she asked him as she sat on his bed. He clearly hadn't. He abandoned his farm and scrambled up onto her knee for a cuddle.

"Livvy's home too baby," she smiled happily. "You and I are going to do a job but then we're staying home to play all day!"

As he often did, he sighed happily but then turned and squeezed her a little. That was new and she logged it in the special place in her heart where she kept the sound of his voice and the way he played with her fingers while she read to him.

Miranda was settling Olivia into bed with Cara while Andy got Nick ready to go the pharmacy.

"There's going to be some shouty people outside, but it's okay. They're not going to hurt, they're just going to make a whole lot of noise and they have big cameras that flash, okay? Just keep your eyes closed."

His eyes widened and she took a deep breath, checking that they were both dressed appropriately to be photographed by the paparazzi. Nick's new coat was a D&G exclusive from Stefano himself. He'd charmed Miranda with new coats for the three small children and two new purses for the girls. Olivia, however, still preferred her red coat.

"Ready?" she asked, taking his hand in hers.

He nodded and she opened the front door, pausing while he was still behind it. She waited, wincing a little at the multitude of flashes that blinded her. When they realised she wasn't moving, they stopped and waited.

"I'm about to go for a short walk with one of the kids. I need you all to back right off," she glared as none of them moved. "Now!"

The reporters all looked at each other before taking 2 steps back.

"I understand you all have paychecks to earn, and that for some reason, our boring lives make money, but they're kids. So have some respect."

There was a murmur of something that ran through the throng before she opened the door wider. She hoisted Nick into her arms and was gratified to only hear a  few camera shutters.

"I urge you to consider who you're photographing and make sure that those photos are worth betting your careers against."

She carried Nick through the crowd and could almost hear the tension cracking in the air. She'd possibly given more away than she'd meant to, but Nick was her priority and once they were far enough away, she popped him down, onto the sidewalk. Nick loved walking and he trotted along happily, hanging onto her hand or swinging it back and forth with a grin.

As they rounded the corner for home, she saw Roy pull up and pulled him in front of her to pick him up. If Roy was here, Miranda was ready to leave.

"Come on little Prince," she said happily. "Best not keep our M'anda waiting."

Chapter Text

Miranda was waiting at the bottom of the stairs when Andréa and Nick walked in.

"Ready?" Andy said, hanging up her, and Nicky's coat.

"Olivia is finally asleep," Miranda said without preamble. Andy nodded as Cara took Nicky into the kitchen.

"Okay," Andy said, taking stock. "I got Livvy's meds. I'll explain them to you later. What time did she have the last lot?"

"Nine," Miranda said, pausing as she picked up her purse.

"You ready boss?"  Andy smiled and rubbed Miranda's arm.

"We'll be fine."

"I'll be home as expediently as possible."

"Please don't," Andy said, pulling Miranda carefully into her arms. "I just mean, if it's going to take 16 hours, get what you can done in 10, then catch up tomorrow. We're okay here, and we'll be okay tonight too. Remember though, that you have to eat too. I get it, and the kids will too. You've had some time off to take care of this crazy family, and now you have to make it up somehow."

"How did I managed to find someone that loves me and is so understanding."

"Well, obviously, you had to fall in love with your assistant." Miranda snorted and pressed a gentle kiss to Andy's lips, taking care not to smudge her lipstick.

"I will see you as soon as possible."

"Yes you will," Andy smiled. "Text me if you need anything, or if you want to kill one of them."

"Really Andréa," Miranda said quietly. "I cannot be texting you every minute now, can I."

Andy laughed as Miranda squared her shoulders and held her head up high. She watched in awe as the woman pulled open the door and slid her sunglasses on against the camera flashes.

Damn, that woman was something else.

-0-

It hadn't taken Miranda 16 hours to get Runway in order, but it was close. Andy felt the bed dip as Miranda joined her in the early hours of the morning.

"Hey," Andy murmured, rolling over and pulling Miranda in close.

"I loathe getting in this late."

"I know," Andy whispered. "But the kids are okay, I'm okay. All is well in your world Miranda."

"I adore you," Miranda whispered, snuggling into Andy's arms.

"I adore you," Andy sighed, throwing her leg over Miranda's thigh with a sigh.

"Mama?" Andy blinked and looked over Miranda's snowy white hair to see Sam blinking owlishly and sucking on Bop's ear.

"What's up monkey?"

"Livvy's hand's hurting. Nicky's cuddling her, but she keeps crying."

Andy clicked her tongue and looked down to see Miranda fast asleep. It didn't surprise her, she was exhausted after such a long day. Andy gently disentangled herself from Miranda's body and nodded for Sam to take her place. The replacement worked and Miranda sighed happily as Sam snuggled into her.  If Nick's favourite was Andy, Sam's was definitely Miranda.

Andy kissed Sam's hair and left him cuddling to sooth Livvy.

"Hey lovely Livvy," Andy said gently, brushing Nicky's hair back as he scooted to the bottom of the bed so she could sit.

"My hand hurts," Livvy said with a wobble. The tear tracks were well set in.

"We're going to fix that right now," Andy assured her. "Nicky love, hop back into bed for me." He frowned and pouted until she rolled her eyes.

"Alright, alright. Come on then," Andy chuckled, poking him in the tummy. She scooped up Olivia and assumed Nicky was following.

The kitchen was dark and quiet and she popped Olivia on the counter while she got together some toast and juice. They'd learned the hard way that the tablets didn't go down all that well when she took them with water.

"Here we go sweety," Andy said, putting two plates of toast before the littles. "Have a few bites before you take your tablets okay?"

"Yes Mama," Olivia sniffled.

Andy tried not the panic as she watched Livvy chewing on the toast and shook her head at herself. That name was beginning to appear more prevalently in her life and it was throwing her just a little.

"How about we make this a bit easier." Andy reached behind the oatmeal for a stashed jar of Nutella.

"This will help won't it," she grinned as Nicky's eyes lit up. "Don't tell Miranda, okay?"

"Oh, I think we should all have some now that the cat's out of the bag, don't you think?"

Andy jumped and nearly threw the Nutella through the window.

"JESUS! Miranda!"

Sam giggled from Miranda's arms as Andy leant against the counter.

"Sorry," Miranda said airily, but Andy knew she wasn't. Despite the soft smile, Andy could see how exhausted she was.

"Uhuh," Andy grinned. "Guess we'll get more bread later."

"Indeed, I'm not going in before 10," she said kissing Andy. "So Nutella toast all 'round I should think."

"Right you are boss," Andy chuckled. "Can you help Livvy with hers?"

"Of course." She sat Sam in his chair and picked Olivia up and settled her on her knee. "A few more bites and we can take the tablets."

"M'kay," Olivia shrugged. Miranda held her gently as they all ate in silence.

"You're having a party and nobody invited us?" Andy looked up to see the twins standing in the doorway. Andy saw the thinly veiled smirk on Miranda's face and nodded them in. It was early, but it wasn't too early for them to be up. Miranda would, or should, probably go back to sleep before going into Runway later.

"You could go up you know," Andy whispered.

"I'll be fine," Miranda smiled, kissing Olivia's hair.

"Mom," Cassidy said with a tone of one much older than she was. "You have to take care of yourself. There's only one of you, you know!"

"Oh Cassidy," Miranda reached over and cupped Cassidy's cheek. "I do. You all help me to do that."

"Andy too," Caroline grinned.

"Ha!" Miranda smiled, leaning into Andy's lanky arms as they wrapped around Miranda and Olivia. "I think if our Andréa wasn't here, we'd all be torn asunder."

"Under wha-?" Sam said, sliding under the table.

"No darling," Miranda smiled., nodding him back into his chair "Asunder. We'd be lost without Mama."

"Yep!" he grinned, doing as he was told with a chocolatey grin.

"Well, that's what families do," Andy said, ruffling his hair.

"We love you Andy," Caroline said happily as she buttered her own toast.

"That's the end of the bread."

"But you didn't get any!" Cassidy said, looking around.

"That's what Mamas have to do sometimes," Miranda said gently.

"But it's okay," Andy grinned. "'Cos I had some of Sam's."

Sam protested as the others laughed. Andy looked across the table at Miranda, seeing her already staring. It was the second time Miranda had said that particular word since they'd been down in the kitchen and it dislodged something in Andy's chest. Deciding that they'd have to discuss that later, Andy pulled Nick on her knee. There was a tired lull for a while before Caroline launched into an inane conversation about a school project.

Olivia had fallen asleep in Miranda's arms, the tablets making her sleepy, and Sam looked to be on his way. Andy kissed Nick's hair and went to Sam's side before he fell off his chair.

"Let's get this pair back to bed. Girls, you okay with Nicky?"

She made sure to look at Cassidy until the little girl met her eyes. Olivia's accident had knocked some of the confidence from her, and asking her to stay in the kitchen with Nick was, Andy hoped, enough to show her that neither Miranda, not herself, held any hard feelings.

"We got it, Andy," she nodded with a grim smile.

Andy followed Miranda up the stairs, splitting off to tuck Sam back into bed as Miranda did the same for Olivia.

"You are so good with them," Miranda said as she joined Andy at the top of the stairs.

"You're delirious with exhaustion," Andy chuckled.

"No Andréa," Miranda stopped Andy for a moment. "I mean it. You have changed all our lives for the better. I don't think I will ever accurately tell you that in a way that equals what I feel for you."

"Miranda," Andy chuckled and pulled her into a deep, soulful kiss. "I love you, and that's what families do."

"It's not that simple," Miranda said, cupping Andy's cheek. "And you know it."

"I do know it, but we make it work, and it does. And you don't have to call me that," Andy said quietly. "I don't mind just being Andy."

"You mistook my labelling you for something I chose," Miranda said quietly, cupping Andy's cheek. "Both Olivia and Sam have called you that more than once to me, and if I am not mistaken, it is what Cassidy called you when Olivia hurt herself?"

"Close," Andy shrugged. "But I'm just -"

"You are not just anything my darling," Miranda said definitely. "You are their Mama."

"But -"

"But nothing," Miranda said, pecking her lips, then pecking them again and lingering. They kissed for a few moments before Miranda pulled away, leaving Andy frowning. "Andréa, I -" Miranda paused, moving away and wrapping her arms around her middle. "I can't help but think we are missing things that other couples don't."

"You mean sex."

It wasn't a question, and Miranda threw her arms out desperately.

"I mean," she sighed. "I mean dates, wining and dining, and yes. Okay," Miranda paused. "Sex."

She breathed the word like she was afraid of it. Andy understood. The thought of taking Miranda to bed, properly to bed was a bit more than overwhelming. Even though they'd been sleeping in the same bed for all this time, she shivered at the thought of Miranda naked, underneath her.

"You see!" Miranda squeaked. "You're thinking the same thoughts.

"Of course I am," Andy grinned. "Who wouldn't. Have you seen you?"

"Well," Miranda said. There was a smirk on her face that made Andy laugh out loud. She wrapped Miranda up in her arms and ran her nose along the beautifully soft skin.

"We are both very grown up," Andy whispered. "I do not need sex to love you. I do not need to sleep with you to love you. I do not need more than what we already have, to continue to love you." Andy leant back, rocking them gently like they were dancing. "Right now, you and I are second to those beautiful babies. Livvy will be at school soon. Nicky too. Our lives will settle and we'll settle and then you and I can make up for lost time."

"What on earth did I do to deserve you, my darling girl."

"You trusted me," Andy shrugged. "Let's go join the girls for a while before they have to get ready and you have to go back to sleep."

"I love you," Miranda smiled. "Utterly and completely."

Chapter Text

Andy looked up in time to see Nigel jerk his head in the direction of the conference room. She rolled her eyes, saved her work and went to meet him.

"Are you alright Six?" he asked as soon as she closed the door behind her.

"Do I have to talk about it?" she asked sullenly.

"No," he stroked him chin and the little bit of stubble he'd taken to wearing. "But it might help."

"They're ridiculous," she conceded, slumping down in a chair. "It's not like anything has changed. I haven't changed."

"Oh, but honey, you have," Nigel replied ruefully. "But there's an element of jealousy as well."

"They can have my life," Andy grumbled. "It's not as if it's an easy one."

"Really?" he asked with a wry grin.

"No."

"Come on Six. You've bagged the Queen," he chuckled. "You're gonna catch some jealousy, and people are going to talk. Did she not tell you that?"

"Oh, she did," Andy shrugged. "I just wish she had been wrong." She sighed and leaned back with a groan. "And, realistically, I can't talk to her about it. I don't want her to fire people, it's," she shrugged again. "Normal I guess."

"It is," he smiled kindly, sitting on the conference table and taking her hand. "Find a way to talk to her honey. She might surprise you."

"You're a good fairy god uncle you know," she chuckled. "Maybe once I've talked to her about all," she waved her hand in a move that was only a little reminiscent of Miranda, "we can have dinner at the house."

"I'd like that," he said. "I don't see my nephews nearly often enough, so I'd like that a lot."

"Excellent," she smiled, getting up and hugging him. "Our five will be lucky to have you. Thanks for the pep talk Nig."

"You're most welcome."

Andy left the conference room with more of a spring in her step. It didn't surprise her that Nigel had found out about the whispers, or the not quite whispers that she'd been putting up with. The irony was that she didn't want to be different than anybody else. She wanted to be the same, but deep down, she knew that was impossible. She was Miranda's -

She paused here. With the exception of once, very early on in their relationship, they had never really spoken about what they were to each other. Andy didn't like the term girlfriend. It didn't fit Miranda, she wasn't a girlfriend. And it definitely wasn't a moniker that Andy wanted - any term that further showed the age difference between the two was something she wanted to stay far away from.

She'd decided, not long after that discussion, that it didn't really matter. They were simply together and it was okay if there wasn't a name for that relationship.

After a long day, straining over the keyboard, she heard the door to the office close in the next room over and looked up.

"Hey," Anton said awkwardly. Andy sighed.

"I don't tell Miranda anything about my day," Andy called after him as he turned. "I can't really, so I don't. So I'm asking you as Andy, not as Miranda's partner. Stop treating me with kid gloves. I can take it, and I want to work here. I understand if that can't happen but I want this. And I'm good, I know you think so."

He turned and looked at her for a beat before looking apologetic.

"I'm sorry Andy, I know I need to do better," he grimaced. "It's hard, you know."

"I do," she laughed. "Boy, do I know. But," she chewed her lip. "Look, if it's too hard. Tell me now and I'll look for something else."

"But Miranda -"

"Forget Miranda," Andy said harshly. "You're talking to me, about me. I can choose my life, and I don't work for Miranda, I work for you."

There was a tense pause as Andy watched him consider her words before coming to a decision.

"You're right," Anton nodded. "You do and I'll try to remember that. I'm sorry Andy."

"It's okay," Andy said, standing and packing up. "I knew there would be a steep learning curve and I'm prepared to traverse it if you are."

"I'm glad," Anton said. "You are right. You do good work and we're lucky to have you on staff."

"Thanks," she grinned, sliding her messenger bag onto her shoulder. "I," she paused. "I know I've been a bit flighty because of the situation at home, but I promise it'll get better."

"It's okay," Anton said. "We always have someone out of office. You've got your assignments and you get them done on time. We're in the 21st century Andy. If you need to work at home, just email me."

"Thanks."

"'Night Andy."

"Goodnight."

She watched him go, waiting for him to catch the next elevator before she made a move. She considered packing up and walking down to see Miranda before she set off home, but decided against it. Switching the light off, she walked to the door and waited for it to snick closed behind her.

"What is a nice looking girl like you, doing in a place like this?"

"JESUS!" Andy jumped and spun around in shock to see Miranda leaning smugly against the conference room window. "Why do you keep doing that?"

"Because it's fun," Miranda chuckled, holding out her hand. "And because I love the shade of pink that brushes your cheek."

"Whatever," Andy said, poking out her tongue. "Shall we?"

"Let's," Miranda said, her eyebrow quirking a little as Andy wrapped her arm around Miranda's. "I have spoken with Cara. Dinner is nearly ready and the babies are bathed."

"I am soooo glad you have Cara," Andy said tiredly.

"We darling," Miranda said, allowing her to push the button. "We have Cara." Andy shrugged. "I trust whatever was eating you up during the production meeting earlier has been resolved?"

"I -" the elevator opened and they stepped in. "Can we talk at home?"

"Of course," Miranda said, pressing a kiss to Andy's cheek once they were inside the elevator. "As long as you are alright?"

"I think so."

"Hmm," Miranda hummed, looking at Andy sideways. "I see it is not completely resolved."

"Mostly. I just need to talk to you about it."

"As you wish," Miranda nodded demurely.

Andy was quiet on the way home and went about getting changed on autopilot. It wasn't until she was interrupted by a quiet knock that she realised she'd walked upstairs without even saying hello.

"Ca' I come in Mama?"

"Course you can sweetie," she said, pulling her t-shirt down and turning to catch Sam in her arms.

"You grumpy?"

"No," Andy smiled gently. "Just tired. Were you good for Cara today?"

"Yep," he said, leaning back and looking at her. "We changed Livvy's bandageges and it was icky," he scrunched up his nose.

"It was?"

A tendril of worry made its way down her spine at the thought of Olivia's finally healing fingers becoming infected. They did not need that, especially when she was due to start school in about three weeks.

"Car-wa said it was fine but I fought it was icky."

"Let's go see shall we?"

He nodded happily and rode in her arms as they walked downstairs. He enjoyed the one on one attention he got from either woman, but he never relaxed in Andy's arms like he did in Miranda's.

"Found her!" he called they entered the kitchen. It was crowded with all of them and Cara there.

Miranda looked up barely but kept talking to Cara. Andy figured they'd hang by the door until dinner was ready.

"And you're sure it was fine?" Miranda asked, running her hands through Olivia's hair.

"Absolutely," Cara nodded, winking at Olivia. "I checked it thoroughly and made sure to clean it like the Dr showed us. "It's healing nicely, I think."

"Good. Thank you Cara, if Andréa is indeed here now, you may go when you are ready."

"Thank you Miranda," Cara nodded.

"Later!"

"I'll see you tomorrow, terrors," Cara chuckled as she hugged the girls. "Bye Livvy."

"Bye Cara," Olivia called, already lost in whatever it was they she and Nick looked to be engrossed in. Andy stepped forward and put Sam down on a chair while she nodded to Cara and turned to Miranda for instructions.

"I will be four minutes," she said, without disappointing Andy. "Then we shall eat. Are we all hungry?"

There was a chorus of bored yeses and Andy bit her lip to stop herself from grinning.

"You'd be a great kindergarten teacher," she quipped as Miranda walked out the door.

The twins laughed as she jumped, thanks to the soft swat on her behind for her cheek.

"How was your day kids?" Andy said, sitting down and getting a closer looked at what the littles were doing.

"Math was soooooo boring," Caroline huffed. "But art was awesome. We're doing photography and we got to watch a film being developed."

"Yeah?" Andy said, impressed at the range of educational experiences the twins often got.

"Yeah and next week we're going to learn about light and shade and all those other awesome things that you need to know."

"That sounds awesome!" Andy said, and meant it. "What about you Cass?"

"Meh," she said, coming around and leaning on Andy until the older woman put her arm around her.

"Huh," Andy said quietly, watched as the three little ones busied themselves in their game and Caroline joined in. "You okay?" she asked quietly.

"Yeah," Cassidy said, wrapping her own arm around Andy's shoulders. "People are buttheads though, you know?"

Andy laughed and nodded, her day clearly mirroring Cassidy's.

"Yeah baby," she chuckled, giving the girl a squeeze. "I know exactly what you mean. Did you get it sorted out though?"

"I think so," Cassidy shrugged. "If they can't handle it, I'll just stop being their friend."

The little girl looked so like her mother in that moment, Andy couldn't help but smile.

"You looked just like your Mom when you said that."

"Yeah?" there was hope shining in her eyes as she asked for confirmation.

"Yeah," Andy nodded.

"Cool."

"What about you little munchkins," Andy said, turning to the three around the table. "How was your day?"

"Sam helped clean my hand!" Livvy said, beaming at Andy. "And we made ice cream."

"You made ice cream?" Andy said, looking at the girl in excitement. "How did you do that?"

"Cara put the stuff in and turned it on. Then we ate it all up!"

"All of it!" The surprise in Andy's voice wasn't entirely put on. Some ice cream for dessert would really go down a treat after the day she'd had.

"Cara saved some for you my darling," Miranda smirked from the doorway. "Right. Everyone wash hands please. Girls, help your brothers. Olivia, seeing as your hands are already washed a quick wipe will do. There's some -"

"I got it M'anda," Livvy replied getting down from her seat and moving to the drawer where she pulled out a packet of antibacterial wipes.

"You have them so well trained," Andy quipped, slapping Miranda's ass this time as she left the room to do as she was told.

Dinner was lively, and happy and Andy felt herself relaxing. Sam had become much better at sitting at the table until everyone had finished and all in all, it passed pleasantly.

"Can Mama read to us before bed?" Livvy asked as they cleared the last of the plates away.

"That is up to Mama, but I'm sure she can."

"Sure sweetheart," Andy said, cupping her cheek. "Whatever you want."

"Cool."

Story read, teeth brushed, pyjamas on and babies in bed, Andy retired to the sitting room where Miranda was curled up on one end of the sofa with the book on her knee.

"I love seeing you like this," Andy said quietly. "I always did."

"Human?" Miranda said, with a smirk.

"Relaxed," Andy corrected gently.

"Well, I was only amusing myself until you came along darling," Miranda said, putting aside the book. "How about you tell me what it is that is bothering you so?"

"There was an incident today, someone said something and nobody stood up for me," Andy shook her head. "They should have, and they didn't and it hurt a little and made me question whether I can continue to write for Runway."

"What are their names? I shall fire them," Miranda said, her tone clipped and clinical. "Then next time, perhaps you should talk to your direct supervisor. It is not in my habit to become part of the office politics ordinarily, but I will not stand for them to take this out on you."

Andy groaned and got up to pace back and forth.

"That was not the answer you were looking for?" Miranda asked, sounding genuine her eyes following back and forth.

"I just -" Andy grabbed her hair in frustration. "I'm not telling you because I want you to fix it," Andy said finally, feeling a sense of calm return to her. "I'm just, I guess I'm just decompressing, you know?"  Andy wondered if Miranda did know. "Like, I've been coming home and not telling you about my day, because of this. But I want to," she said sadly, looking sadly at Miranda. "I want to come home and tell you about my day so that you know how my day went, not so you could fix it for me," Andy softened and joined Miranda' on the sofa. "Can you maybe just listen as my lover, rather than the boss of Runway?"

"Are they not one in the same?" Miranda asked, throwing her glasses on the side table.

"Well, they can be, I suppose," Andy shrugged. She turned to look at Miranda, leaning against the back of the sofa with a small smile. "I fell in love with Miranda, not La Priestly. She is not welcome in our bed," she checked Miranda was following and it was interesting to watch her consider what Andy was saying. "Don't get me wrong," Andy said quickly. "I love La Priestly; she's a part of the Miranda that I love, but I don't ever want to make love to her. Do you think you could maybe just be my Miranda?"

"Yours?" Miranda asked imperiously.

"Yeah," Andy grinned mischievously, leaning forward.

"Mm, for kisses I would do a lot of things," Miranda smiled, cupping Andy's cheek.

"I'd do anything for your kisses," Andy admitted, kissing Miranda again, deepening it. "Would you," she cleared her throat. "Would you like to join me in bed?"

"Only if I get to keep on kissing you," Miranda whispered, sounding almost afraid of what that meant.

"Well," Andy said, standing up and tugging on her sleeves. "Let's go and find out."

Chapter Text

A breath tickled the back of her neck as she eased into wakefulness. She rolled her hips a little and blushed at what she found.

"Mm," Miranda hummed, her hand twitching and letting Andy know exactly how they'd fallen asleep last night. "Wha' time is it?" she mumbled, her lips caressing Andy's shoulder.

"Early," Andy smiled. "What dya have in mind?"

Miranda chuckled and pulled Andy closer, running her thumb across Andy's hardened nipple.

"I was thinking about how lucky we were to not be disturbed last night," Miranda muttered. "And about how disappointed I am that we must put on some nightwear."

"Yeah," Andy grinned, turning in Miranda's arms. "That's a damn shame."

She kissed Miranda, teasing with her tongue. Her hands began to wander and before she knew it, Andy was laying on top of Miranda kissing her soundly. Miranda's legs wrapped around Andy's hips and Andy tilted her hips a little, making Miranda moan into Andy's mouth.

"We don't have time," Miranda panted, glancing at the door, even as her nails clawed at Andy's shoulder. "I," Miranda whined. "I can't -"

"Shh," Andy whispered, easing back a bit. "It's okay."

"I'm sorry."

Andy dropped her weight onto her elbows and looked at the apologetic sadness on Miranda's face.

"Don't," Andy said, kissing a lone tear on Miranda's face. "Don't cry. I don't want to force you."

"I am," Miranda swallowed. "I am unaccustomed to feeling so nervous. I want," she breathed a big shaky breath. "I want this. I have never wanted something more, I just -"

"I know," Andy smiled. "And I will wait for you. For as long as it takes."

"I feel like I have cheated you somehow," she broke off their eye contact. "You are so patient and so kind and -"

"Hey," Andy said, kissing Miranda so she couldn't speak anymore. "I know I said to maybe leave La Priestly at the door, but I didn't know Miranda was so unsure."

"I am not longer sure of anything," Miranda whispered. "You have," she sighed. "You have turned my world upside down."

"I didn't mean to make you so unsure," Andy said sadly.

"No," Miranda said, bringing Andy's head to her shoulder and running her hands up and down the bare skin on Andy's back. "You misunderstand me. I do not know how to do this. I have never had this. This is," she chuckled. "This is something completely different to what I have had before."

"When you are ready Miranda, I am ready. There's no rush. I think," Andy ran her hand down Miranda's thigh and patted her bottom. "I think we took a good step last night. And I'd like to do it again so you see I'm not just some horny juvenile."

The peals of laughter that rolled around the room warmed Andy's heart. She smiled down as Miranda laughed and carded her fingers through Andy's hair.

"Oh darling," Miranda said, giggling still as she tried to speak. "You are many things, but horny juvenile, you are not."

"Well, you know what I mean," Andy grinned, pecking Miranda's cheek. "Wanna coffee?"

"Always," Miranda said, but her arms tightened around Andy's body. The uncomfortableness of being naked around each other had fallen away overnight. Andy was so very comfortable nestled in Miranda's arms, her head resting on the gentle swell of her breast. "In a moment."

-0-

Down in the kitchen, Andy smiled into her first cup of coffee. Last night was beautiful and gentle and what some would describe as heavy petting. Andy turned her nose up. She hated that phrase.

She got lost for a moment remembering the feel of Miranda's skin under her hands while they kissed and kissed and kissed.

"Geez Ma, what's got you all happy."

"JESUS!" Andy said, spilling her coffee down her shirt. "What is it with you Priestly women!"

"I only said good morning," Caroline smirked. "Not my fault you were in La La Land."

Andy rolled her eyes and kissed Caroline's head.

"Get some breakfast you little brat," Andy laughed. "Why are you up so early?"

"Dunno," Caroline shrugged. "Sometimes I wake up early. Cassy doesn't," she laughed. "I think that's probably the one thing that's different."

"Oh I think you're pretty different in a lot of ways," Andy said kindly, watching the coffee brew for Miranda.

"You do?"

"Sure," Andy smiled, running her hand over Caroline's hair. "You might look similar, but you aren't the same. Not at all."

Caroline smiled and sighed.

"You catching some trouble at school?" Andy asked cautiously. "About us?"

"No," Caroline shook her head. "Well, some of Cass' so-called friends reckons it's all evil and like totally losing their minds. Cass told them to get over it."

"I'm sorry," Andy said, biting her lip.

"It's not your fault Andy," Caroline patted her arm. "Not your fault that she's got weirdos for friends."

Andy laughed and they lapsed into silence.

"I'm really glad you're here," Caroline whispered just loud enough for Andy to hear.

"Oh baby," Andy said, leaving the coffee and wrapping her arms around Caroline. "I am so glad to be here too."

"Please don't leave."

Andy's heart broke at how lost Caroline sounded.

"What's eating you up little one?" she asked. "What's got you so down?"

"I," her lip trembled. "I -"

"Come 'ere."

Andy picked Caroline up and sat her on her knee, rocking her back and forth. She had no idea what was going on, but Caroline's hands gripped her shoulders tightly.

"I like a girl."

Andy almost laughed at how quickly all the terrible calamities evaporated from her mind. Caroline's confession was so not what she was expecting and it was a relief, almost, to hear that nothing bad had happened.

"Oh my darling girl," Andy said gently, pulling back a little so Caroline would look at her. "That is totally okay. Did you think that we'd be upset or something?"

"No," Caroline hiccuped. "It's just," she hiccuped again. "It's scary."

"Yeah it is," Andy chuckled, wiping away Caroline's tears. "When I realised that I loved your Mom, I was so very terrified."

"She is pretty scary," Caroline giggled.

"She can be," Andy agreed. "And feeling all that love for someone is absolutely terrifying. Not knowing what to do, or what to say. Not knowing how to act," Andy shook her head. "Scary. What's her name?"

"Elise."

"Has anything happened, or -"

"She asked if we wanted to play soccer," Caroline shrugged. "Cass said she'd play if I wanted her to. But I really kinda just want to do it on my own. But that's why we asked ages ago."

"Well if that's something you want, then I think your Mom will be okay with it," Andy pondered for a moment and Caroline waited. "It would be good if you could maybe examine how you feel and whether you want to play soccer for you, or for Elise."

"I have thought about it," Caroline nodded. "I really would like to play."

"Well, providing I can talk your mother into it, let's get it done."

"Awesome."

The toaster popped with Caroline's breakfast and Andy realised she'd been gone a while longer than Miranda was probably expecting. She kissed Caroline's cheek and looked into her eyes.

"I love you Caroline. Really." Andy smiled. "You are so very smart and I'm so proud of you for handling this like you have."

"Thanks," Caroline sighed, hugging her tightly before sliding off her lap. "Are you gonna tell Mom?"

"I can," Andy shrugged, realising she'd have to microwave Miranda's coffee now. "But I think she'd prefer it if you told her."

"I thought you'd say that," Caroline nodded. "Do you think maybe I should tell her now? Or like, on the weekend?"

"It's up to you love," Andy smiled, stirring in a dash of cream. "I think she will only tell you that she loves you, and ask you if she can help with anything. Really you could have just brought Elise home for dinner or whatever, but I get it."

"Yeah," Caroline said, staring at her toast. "I guess I want to tell Mom today," she bit her lip. "As long as you think she'll say the same thing you will?"

"Honey, we love you. Knowing your Mom, she'll ask you if you're sure, and if you're happy, but otherwise, we'll just go on as normal. Let me go take her her coffee, and then once you've finished your breakfast, come on up and I'll get the kids ready while you talk."

"M'kay," Caroline said, grinning cheekily.

"Cheeky," Andy laughed.

"Thanks," Caroline said again.

"Always love," Andy said, winking as she carried the coffee up to Miranda.

Chapter Text

Miranda had been stewing for two days after her discussion with Caroline. Andy had made herself, and the other kids, scarce and since then Miranda had barely uttered more than a few words together.

It came to a head that night, two days later, when Sam suddenly burst into tears.

"Tham make you sad," he wailed, his lip trembling, snot pouring down his face and his heartbreaking. "M'anda sad cos of Tham."

"Oh darling," Miranda said exasperatedly. "Come here."

Andy watched as Caroline's eyes widened and she went a funny grey colour. Andy reached over and took her hand under the table. She was pretty sure that Miranda wasn't about to out her to the kids, but Andy also wasn't all that sure whether Caroline had even told Cassidy yet. Miranda smiled kindly at Caroline while she soothed Sam's tears.

"I am only feeling a little out of sorts darling," Miranda muttered. "I am more than alright. And you have not upset me at all. None of you have."

She looked straight at Caroline who took a shaky breath. If Cassidy had noticed something was different, the twins weren't talking about it. Andy sighed and accepted a cuddly Nick on her knee as well.

"Well, how about a movie and some popcorn?" she asked, looking at Miranda. "Perhaps M'anda can bring The Book and look it over while she sits with us."

"Can you M'anda?" Sam asked quietly.

"Of course little one. Let's finish our dinner and then we'll move upstairs."

"Yey," Livvy said happily, picking up her spoon again. Her hand was healing well and it would be soon that she would have to begin rehab soon. They had a Dr's appointment in a number of days to check her progress and find a start date. Andy was looking forward to the little girl getting her hand back. She and perhaps Nick would start school in three weeks and Andy was looking forward to the settling that she expected to take place once they were there. Sam could get some one-on-one time with Cara and start progressing a little faster, and Olivia and Nick could get some socialisation in.

The twins had another week of school before the two weeks holiday. The rush to get through the end of the term was exhausting them all. There was a shoot coming up that was stressing Miranda, and on top of the revelation from Caroline that was clearly giving her pause, Andy knew they needed some downtime.

-0-

"You knew," Miranda said finally as Andy tumbled into bed that night. "You knew and you didn't tell me."

"She told me about 1 piece of toast before you. And she asked me not to tell you; that she wanted to tell you."

"You could have warned me."

Andy flicked off the light and rolled over to look at Miranda looking imperiously down at the book. Her glasses were perched low on her nose and she was glaring at the pages.

"I couldn't have. What would you have had me tell you?"

"Anything."

"Miranda -"

"Are you not afraid?"

That pulled Andy up short. The change of pace threw her and she really looked at Miranda now.

"You are," Andy said quietly.

"You are so young," Miranda shook her head and threw the book.

"Hey!" Andy said, sitting up. "Don't dismiss me like that."

To be fair, Miranda looked slightly apologetic as she threw down her glasses in disgust.

"I did not mean to," Miranda said quietly. Andy figured it was as close to an apology as she'd get. "I just meant that you were not even alive during the troubles in the 60s and 70s. So many people," Miranda swallowed. "Treated so -"

"We are in very different times Miranda," Andy mollified gently. "Caroline is arguably in the best position and the best time to be safe in who she is."

"But -"

"I know," Andy smiled gently.

"I worry about them far more than I would ever admit."

"You can always admit it to me Miranda," Andy whispered.

"Hence our conversation," Miranda finally smiled at Andy, snuggling closer.

Andy wrapped her arms around Miranda's body and pulled her even closer.

"I love you, ya know," Andy whispered into Miranda's hair.

"As I love you my darling."

-0-

"Good afternoon ladies."

Andy and Livvy both greeted the new doctor and even Miranda nodded a greeting. He rolled up on his stool in front of Olivia, who was pressing herself into Andy's side.

"It's alright sweetheart," he smiled kindly. "I'll be really gentle."

Andy smiled down at Livvy and put her arm around her as Livvy bravely stuck out her hand for the doctor to inspect. He worked quietly and quickly, evidently having been warned of Miranda and how she expected things to happen.

"Oh that's looking good," he muttered, smiling at Andy. "The edges are nice and clean."

Andy peered down at the hand and was delighted to see the nice pink edges of fresh skin growing over the wound.

"I'd say that's probably okay to start some gentle movements," he said gently. "I think her file said she's got an appoint with Dr Swari?"

"That's right," Andy said. She'd made the appointment herself.

"Annie is great. She'll get everything back on track in no time at all. It's my job to start the process off and her job to refine it."

"Okay."

"I've got a flyer with the range of movements I'd like you to begin doing with her. Every day if you can - it will only help this one's hand get better faster."

Andy liked him, he was kind and gentle and wasn't too cutesy like some paediatric doctors. Miranda was standing behind them watching quietly.

"At this stage do you foresee there being any issues with her future use?" Miranda asked quietly.

"I couldn't tell you in the definitive, I apologise. Dr Swari will have a much better idea of that after a week of gentle movements and their first session together."

"Acceptable," Miranda nodded and fell silent again.

"Okay. I think it's best if we leave off a lot of the bandages and allow it to dry out more," he looked at Andy. "As it dries further it will begin to itch. It's imperative she not scratch it. It will increase the likelihood of the scar being wider or taking longer to heal."

Andy nodded and smiled at Olivia.

"You hear that love? No scratching."

"Yes Mama."

Andy kissed her hair and waited for the Doctor to leave the room before turning to Miranda.

"You alright?" she asked quietly.

"I am," Miranda said. "I am glad I came with you."

"Me too," Olivia said, holding out her hand to Miranda.

Miranda walked over to her and kissed the hand offered to her. Miranda allowed Olivia to hand onto her while the nurse came in and redressed the room.

"Alright, now we've got that sorted, here's the paperwork for Dr Swari, and the sheet of exercises that Olivia needs to do. Call back if you need any further information or with any other problem.

"Of course," Andy said, shaking his hand. "Thank you."

"Take care Miss Olivia," he said kindly. "If Mama agrees, perhaps you'd like a sucker?"

"I think that will be alright, won't it?"

"Yes."

Olivia got to choose her sucker and they walked out of the surgery turning their eyes against a few camera flashes. The press had backed off a touch as they soon realised how truly boring Miranda and Andy's life was, but there was always an odd one waiting to catch them unawares.

"How come they do that?" Olivia asked, peering through the tinted windows.

"They believe Mama's life is exciting enough to report on," Miranda said, catching Andy's eye and grinning just a little.

"You're so silly," Andy laughed.

"She is silly," Olivia said, sighing as she leant against Miranda's side with a sigh. "But she loves us."

"Of that," Miranda said, leaning down to kiss Olivia's hair. "You can be assured."

Life was not normal, but it was certainly getting there.

-0-

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!"

Andy blinked as her ears were assaulted by volume.

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!"

She realised she wasn't dreaming and she groaned as someone bounced on her ribs.

"Samuel, be gentle darling."

"Oh!"

It was her birthday! She'd completely forgotten. She'd not received her father's card yet, but that was not unusual. Mail wasn't a constant out on the rigs but she didn't really talk to anybody else anymore, so she hadn't got any cards in the mail to signify the big day.

As she opened her eyes and found all 5 kids kneeling on the bed, Caroline holding a tray with coffee and croissants and Cassidy holding a cupcake with a solitary candle in it, she felt tears come to her eyes. This was a birthday she'd dreamt about when she was a child. Filled with love, and candles and presents.

"Oh, this wasn't necessary," she said, biting back the extreme excitement at having this small thing.

"Well," Miranda said, smiling down as Sam turned around to hug her. "We thought it was. Happy Birthday my darling."

"Thank you," she said, matching Miranda's eyes and trying to convey exactly how she felt about it.

"We brought you breakfast in bed," Olivia explained. "Cassy and I made the cakes with M'anda."

"You did" Andy squealed. "Is there enough for everyone?"

"There is," Miranda said, looking uncomfortable. "Although I had planned that perhaps avoiding us all eating in our bed."

"Oh Miranda," Andy laughed. "Come and share this with me?" she poked out her bottom lip and made her eyes look sad. "Please?"

"Fine," Miranda rolled her eyes. "Samuel, go and keep my spot warm, Nicholas, move slowly so you don't knock into Caroline and Olivia perhaps if you help me with the rest?"

Andy watched as they all moved to Miranda's orders. She loved watching them hang on every word that Miranda uttered. It was magical. Nick cuddled up on her lap, knowing that if he didn't get there first, Olivia or even Sam might usurp his favourite spot. She settled herself back against the headboard and sighed as he leant back on her chest and reached up to play with her hair. It was probably getting a bit long, but Miranda liked it long and Nick loved tangling his fingers in the ends and hanging on.

"Can you take this Andy?" Caroline asked, trying to figure out how to get off the bed, without spilling everything.

"Sure sweetie," she said, reaching for the tray. "Nicky keep really still for Mama, okay?" He didn't say anything but he stilled as she arranged their breakfast on their knee. "Don't touch love, it'll really burn you."

Cassidy had valiantly hung onto the cupcake but Andy saw that the candle was beginning to drip.

"You all left before Mama blew out her candle!" Cassidy called, sounded as exasperated as Miranda could at times.

"Oh sorry Cassy!" Livvy yelled as she ran back in the room, even though Andy could hear Miranda calling her back from the hallway.

"Liv! Calm down love. Cass, blow out the candle for me and we'll light it again in a minute, it'll be alright. Liv, sweetie, I think you left Miranda outside."

"Doh!"

Little Oliva ran back to Miranda before making her way carefully, heaving a bag that was almost as big as she was.

"Miranda!"

"Darling, they're not all from me," Miranda shrugged. "Some are from people who know me and wish to convey to you how beautiful you are."

"Geez Mom, that's pretty romantic," Caroline snorted.

"I can be romantic," Miranda shot back, waiting until Caroline looked at her before poking her tongue out at the girl.

"Yeah right," Caroline laughed, settling in on the end of the bed in a more comfortable position. "This is fun."

"Yeah!" Sam called, doing his best to help Olivia lift the bag onto the bed.

"Lordy," Andy chuckled, leaning out of the bed to help her.

"Can Andy blow out her candle now?"

"Yes," Miranda said, leaning over with a surprisingly normal Bic lighter.

Andy smiled as she remembered the conversation she'd had with Miranda the first time she'd used something so pedestrian. Namely. Another Bic lighter.

There's no point lighting birthday candles once a year with a thousand dollar Caran d'Ache Andréa.

She'd looked it up later and baulked at the price tag. Miranda had only smirked when Andy had cornered her and asked her if she had one. She'd been looking for it ever since but had so far, come up empty.

"Now," Miranda said gently, drawing her from her thoughts. "Shall we sing?"

"I'd," she looked at the kid's face. "I'd prefer you didn't, but I'm okay if I get outvoted."

"How about just the last bit?" Cassidy said, smiling.

"Sure," Andy said, feeling more and more out of her depth at the love being shown to her.

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!"

Andy grinned and blew out her cupcake, taking care not to spill any wax on the bed. There was being at ease in the Townhouse, and then there was spilling things in the bed.

"Open mine Mama!"

Sam jumped from the bed and rummaged in the bag for his gift.

"Here!"

The other's, well used to Sam's rambunctiousness, waited for him to do his thing before they even spoke. Andy chuckled as he clumsily clambered back up to the bed and squeezed between the two woman, passing over his present.

"I picked it."

"You did?"

"Yep." He smiled proudly. "M'anda helped me wiv the monies."

"Whatever it is, I'm going to love it," she said, kissing his head.

She slid her finger under the end of the paper, pulling at it. It was a testament to the nature of their new lives that these gifts were - mostly - not professionally wrapped. It seemed as though each child had wrapped their own gifts, and Andy was touched.

"I puts two on, so you didn't cheat."

Any chuckled as she pulled one set of paper on, only to find another. Miranda made a noise in her throat, but Andy was charmed.

Eventually, she pulled off the final layer of paper, to reveal a small book. On closer inspection, Andy decided that it had to have been hand-made. The cover out of metal, and leather, the pages seemed to be made of pulp.

"IT'S ELEPHANT POOP!" he giggled.

"It's what?"

"He insisted," Miranda said, biting back a smile. "As soon as he heard Cassidy say the words, that is what he wanted to get you."

"The paper, it's made from poop."

"No. Way!"

"Yes way Mama!" Sam giggled. "Do you likes it?"

"I love it! It's almost too pretty to use."

"No, you gotsta," Sam said with a frown. "What did M'anda said? Taking notes wiv?"

"Then, I'll do just that," Andy said, pulling him into her arms and kissing him soundly. "Thank you, sweet boy."

"Me next?" Olivia asked, looking between them.

"Yes, you can go next sweetheart."

She clambered over Caroline, and reached into the bag, giggling as Caroline gripped her legs to stop her tumbling onto the floor.

"Honestly," Miranda muttered, but Andy's kiss soothed her worries.

"Here!"

Olivia present was passed over and Andy opened it a little quicker this time, with only one piece of wrapping paper to contend with. She was charmed by what she saw inside.

"Oh Livvy!"

It was a pair of gold earrings, with small leaves clustered on medium hoops. They were beautiful, and on closer inspection, seemingly handmade.

"M'anda knew someone who could make things," Olivia said happily, "I drew what I wanted and she made it!"

"Livvy, they're perfect," Andy said, pulling her onto her knee. "Will you help me put them on?"

"Yeah," Olivia said, kneeling on Andy's thighs and hanging onto one, while Andy put the other in.

"Are they straight?"

"Yeah," Livvy smiled. "They're really pretty."

"Perfect," Miranda said with a smile.

"Hey Liv, when it's my birthday, make sure you do something like this for me, okay?" Cassidy laughed.

"M'kay Cassie."

"Ours next," the twins said. Caroline hopped out and passed over a heavy, flat box. Andy glanced at the girls, and then to Miranda, who arched an eyebrow as if to challenge the words about to leave Andy's mouth.

"Girls," she said, almost pained by the guess at what was in the box.

"Just open it Mama," Cassidy said. "It's not like we can't afford it."

"Oh," Andy said, all the air rushing from her lungs at once. "You did."

A top of the line laptop stared at her like it was expecting her to give it away. It was a massively big deal for her, but the expectant look on the girls' faces were enough to make her swallow her pride.

"They made sure to okay it with me," Miranda said quietly. "I said that if that is what they thought you would want, then they should get it for you."

"I'm," Andy wasn't quite sure what to do. "I'm blown away girls. This is a big deal."

"I promise Andy. We went halves in it. We don't really buy stuff. We get most of what we have on our birthdays and Christmas."

"Girls, I really am thankful," she said, kissing Cassidy and squeezing Caroline's hand "This is," she shook her head. "This is more than I ever could have imagined!"

"Wait til you see what Mom got you," Caroline giggled.

"Caroline," Miranda warned quietly.

Andy glared at her, but she did her best to look like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. Instead of calling her on it, Andy let it go graciously.

"I can't wait to play on it," Andy said finally, cupping Caroline's chin. "Nicholas, would you like to give Mama her present??"

Nicky nodded with a small smiled and he hopped off the bed to get his gift, passing her a precisely wrapped present. It was the most amazing leather cuff she'd ever seen. It was intricately punched and riveted and exactly her style.

"Nicky, this is amazing!" she said. "Did M'anda help you pick it out?"

"Nicholas saw one in a magazine," Miranda explained. "I tracked down the craftsman and we had one made."

"Not your magazine?" Andy asked, genuinely interested.

"No," Miranda pursed her lips, surprising Andy. "Not my magazine."

"Oh. My. God," Andy said, her mouth hanging open. "Where did he find a copy of that?"

"What?" Livvy asked.

"Yeah, I don't get it?" Cassidy said.

"Anna's," Andy said. "Nicky saw it in Vogue."

Miranda's eyes were as hard and cold as steel, but her lips were twitching between pursed and smirking. The silence held for a while longer before Caroline cracked first. Snorting, she was unable to hang onto her laughter any more.

Cassidy, Caroline and Andy laughed until there were tears running down their cheeks, and the little ones smiled along with them, even though the did not really understand the gravity of what Miranda had done.

"You," Andy said, cupping Miranda's cheek. "Are something else lady."

"Nicholas wanted to get you that specific thing," Miranda said, her nose in the air. "So that is what we did."

"You guys," she looked at all of the kids together. "You don't know how much this means to me. Thank you."

"We asked Mom if we could have the day off, but not even she's taking the day off, so we're going to go to school. But," Cassidy poked Nicky in the belly. "She said we could go somewhere fun on the weekend."

"I thought this weekend was your first game?" Andy said, confused.

"It is," Caroline said quietly. "But if you want to go out, we can do that instead."

"What?" Andy said, wrapping her arm around Miranda to cup Caroline's face. "You're kidding me. There are two days in a weekend. I wanna watch you play."

"Well, okay," Caroline shrugged, though she looked pleased. "If you want to."

"Well, that ties in part with what else I have to give Andréa," Miranda said quietly. She reaching into her bedside cabinet and pulled out a box. She passed it to Andréa and sat quietly, as she had done for most of the morning.

"Is this something silly?" Andy said quietly.

"No," Miranda said. "I would not get you something," she pursed her lips. "Silly."

"You're right," Andy chuckled, kissing her cheek.

Andy opened the box and looked confused. Inside was a key fob for a car.

"You didn't get me a car?" Andy said, looking horrified.

"No," Miranda said, with a chuckled. "But we now have a car that we all fit in."

"Oh my god!" Andy said, suddenly, grasping the keys. "I didn't think it would be back this soon!"

"Roy's friend worked day and night apparently," Miranda said, waving her hand. "It's ready to be picked up today."

"That is awesome!" Andy smiled. "But," she looked down at the keys. "It's not just mine, right? I mean. I don't want you to give me a car."

"Well," Miranda said, looking a little caught out. "I had planned on doing so," she waved her hand again. "It is not a problem Andréa. We can afford more than one car."

"But I can't -"

"Andréa -"

"We're going to get dressed. Can we maybe have breakfast together before we go?"

"Of course darling," Miranda said, kissing Caroline's forehead. "Go on now, we'll meet you in the kitchen. "Cassidy darling, Caroline, could you take your brothers and sister with you."

"Sure Mom," Cassidy said, rolling off the bed and letting Sam clamber up on her back with a grunt. He wasn't heavy, but the girls had inherited Miranda's slight frame. "Come on munchkins!"

Miranda sat still until the door closed behind them, then turned to Andy, studying her in that way that made Andy feel really small.

"I have money," Miranda said, waving off the protest that was about to issue from Andy's mouth. "I know that you feel like you haven't, and that, even now it makes you feel uncomfortable, but I need to impart on you something of great importance," she fixed Andy with a stare that would make anyone else run screaming from the room. "Get over it. If you wish to continue to be a part of this family, something I sincerely hope that you do, you need to get over whatever this stubborn prideful streak you have and start functioning like an adult. If it is your wish that we be equals in every single thing, then I suggest you work out how much of a," she paused, looking for the word. "Dealbreaker that is, because I can guarantee you, I'll be long dead before you make as much as I do. And that is the inescapable truth."

Andy was speechless. It had been so long since she had been party to full force Priestly, and it shocked her how much it still got to her. She scrubbed at her eyes angrily.

"Knowing that you probably had never had a 'family' birthday party, the children and I thought it would be well received." Miranda sounded angry now. "If you could at least put your tantrum away long enough to join the children in the kitchen, you can do what you like afterwards."

As Miranda stalked away, something inside Andy snapped.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" she asked, though she wasn't sure how her voice hadn't wobbled.

"What the he-," Miranda took a deep breath. "I understand the awkwardness of being in a situation for the first time, and I can, intellectually, of course, understand feeling out of your depth. But I have money Andréa. I have a lot of it, and if you cannot come to terms with that, you cannot come to terms with being with me. By rejecting every cent you have on offer to you, you wear cheap clothes and you use cheap pens and you use, frankly, appalling shoes, you are spitting on what we have to offer. I don't really understand what it is you want from me? I give to charity, I don't spend frivolously, my children," she huffed. "Our children are well taken care of and I -"

Andy was shocked at the sudden stop and knelt up on the bed.

"All of my husbands punished me for earning more than they did," Miranda whispered. "For feeling like they were being 'kept'." She spat the word in a way that made Andy flinch. "They wanted me to be Mrs Whatever, and they did not want to be a new Mr Priestly."

"I'm not punishing you," Andy said, though it sounded pathetic, even to her ears.

"No?" Miranda said her eyebrow arching. "Well, it certainly feels like it."

"That was not my intention," Andy said, her voice getting stronger with every second. "I don't," she grappled with her feeling. "I don't want to be kept. I want to earn my living."

"Are you not?" Miranda asked, cutting her off. "Are you using our money," she glared. "And it is our money, to get surgery, or to buy expensive things that are both frivolous and ridiculous?"

"No!"

"No!" Miranda repeated back to her. "But you are likewise not spending it on anything else either! Andréa, I need you to get over this. In order for us to be equals you have to stop putting me above you."

Apparently finished with the conversation, Miranda stalked into the bathroom, leaving Andy feeling bereft on the bed. She fell back against the pillows with a sigh and looked around at the presents and cupcake crumbs on the bed.

Picking up the crumbs and folding the pretty paper, she realised that Miranda was right. The twins were richer than she was, and it had rankled her. She realised, so belatedly, that feeling like that had hurt the twins, who had obviously put a lot of time and effort into picking out their present - whether it cost upwards of two grand or not. Each present had been perfectly picked for her, for Andy. And all she had been thinking about was how much Miranda had spent on her.

It came to her in brilliant clarity.

Nodding to herself, and glancing at the time, she realised she might just be able to fix the mess that she'd made.

She ran into the bathroom, slipping inside the door while Miranda was in the shower. Shucking her pyjamas, she yanked open the door and stepped inside. She gathered Miranda into her arms and kissed her deeply. The water was almost too hot, but she closed her eyes and enjoyed toying with Miranda's tongue, instead of wincing at the heat.

"I'm sorry," she whispered against her lips. "I can't guarantee it won't happen again, but I will try to be more aware of it. And," she smiled. "Well, I promise to try."

"Andréa, you either do, or you do not. Trying achieves nothing."

"You did not just quote Yoda while we are naked in the shower?"

"I could neither confirm or deny," Miranda said, though her lips twitched.

Andy pressed her lips against Miranda's once more and they kissed leisurely until Andy felt her stomach rumble.

"I'll wash your back if you wash mine?" she smirked.

"Deal."

Chapter Text

"Mama?"

Andy cracked open her eyes, wondering what was going on as Olivia poked her in the arm for the second time that night.

"Livvy, what's wrong?" she mumbled, cracking open her eye.

"Is it time yet?"

Andy groaned.

"No baby, it's -" she looked over at the offensively bright alarm clock on her nightstand. "It's only an hour after you last asked," Andy sighed.

"Olivia?" Miranda said gently, with one of the sleep that Andy had. "Slide into bed with Mama. We will wake you when it is time to get up."

"Promise?" Olivia said, looking longingly at Andy.

"Promise," Andy smiled, lifting the covers and scooting back a little, further moulding herself to the front of Miranda.

Miranda hummed in delight and pressed a much against Andy as she could, while wrapping her arms around the two of them. Andy sighed, but frowned when she realised she probably wasn't going to sleep for a little while.

She could hear Miranda already snoring softly. Chuffing, she liked to call it. Like a tiger did, and that so fit her beautiful woman. It wasn't often that she couldn't sleep, but if she had interrupted sleep, like she had tonight, it got more and more difficult to get back to it.

She sighed and rolled a little, Livvy following her and laying over her, gripping Miranda's pyjama's. It made Andy smile that someone, especially a small someone could find such comfort in her.

She was always maudlin when she couldn't sleep. Going back over all of the decisions she'd made in her entire life, and letting them fester under her skin. It was something she had always done, since been ripped from her life and dropped back into the orphanage with only the clothes on her back.

Those years had been dark, though not as they could have been. She'd heard, and seen much worse situations, but it still hurt. And now, here she was, wrapped up with the most beautiful woman on the planet, with children filling up the house. She had no right to feel maudlin anymore. Her life was perfect.

And then there had been the car. The car that they had so lovingly designed and fitted out, only to be given to her, like it was hers . She didn't want it to be hers, she wanted something that was theirs . She'd tried to explain it to Miranda, later, when they'd curled up in bed on the evening of her birthday, but they'd been distracted by each other's bodies.

But now, in the quiet of the Townhouse, she could hear all those thoughts come to the forefront. She took a deep breath.

Once she'd started at Northwestern and the stress had really put her on edge, the counsellor had taught her a technique that sometimes worked. Instead of obsessing over the small things, switch it up, and look at the bigger picture. At the things she was most grateful about.

That was easier nowadays. She was grateful for Miranda. For the woman being alive, but mostly for the woman being hers. She was grateful that all 5 kids were healthy and relatively happy. She was grateful that Nicky looked to be settling in better at home, and while she hoped he'd eventually have the courage to speak, she was grateful that he could communicate at all. She was grateful for Caroline's bravery. The whole family had attended the soccer match, and the car had been a godsend. It had fit them fairly comfortably, and with the touch of a button, she seats all slid forward, giving them a brilliant seating area to watch the game in the park at Dalton. It had been like exploring a magical cave of wonder finding what all the buttons and panels had behind them.

Nicky's eyes had been as wide as saucers as things slid out of the walls, and three different TV's dropped down from the ceiling. Paw Patrol was quickly taking over their lives.

Andy found herself smiling.

"That's better," Miranda whispered, nosing the back of her ear. Andy jumped, but chuckled as Miranda smoothed her hand over her hip. "You seemed lost for a while."

"I was," Andy whispered, stroking Livvy's hair back. "I was struggling with a few things, but-" she blushed. "I was a bit uncomfortable with everything, I've been trying to work through it."

"You should have told me," Miranda said gently, though Andy could hear a beat of chastisement in it.

"I didn't want to bother you with it. It's my issue, and after what you said that morning of my birthday, you were right," she chuckled as Miranda grinned. "As usual."

"You have had a very different life to the one I have been blessed with," Miranda said gently, stroking Andy's face. "I too have been thinking about what I said on your birthday. I feel I overreacted."

"You didn't," Andy said, with a smile. "It's what I needed to hear."

"Well," Miranda murmured.

"It's okay. My college counsellor taught me how to do this thing. Basically, you list all the things that you're grateful for."

"That is a good idea," Miranda said, snuggling closer and sighing into Andy's neck. "We have plenty to be grateful for."

"That was my conclusion too," Andy sighed.

They fell silent for a while, listening to the quiet breathing from Olivia.

"Do you think we're doing the right thing?"

"With what?" Andy asked.

"Sending them to school?"

"Yes," Andy smiled. "They needed some time to recovered. Then they need normal. School is normal, and we already know that Dalton will take care of them. I," she frowned. "I don't know what they're going to do with Nicky."

"They have an excellent program," Miranda said, with an almost haughty air. "He will get by until he is ready. They offered him speech therapy, but I declined. He can talk -"

"He just chooses not to."

"After what they have been through, I don't blame him," Miranda mused.

Andy glanced over at the alarm clock and yawned, finally feeling at ease enough to try and close her eyes.

"Wanna get some sleep boss?" she asked cheekily.

"With you? Always," Miranda whispered.

Sighing they pulled Olivia in close and closed their eyes.

-0-

"CASSIDY!"

"I'm coming! I can't find my other shoe!"

"Cass, come on!"

"Stop," Cassidy said, throwing clothes and magazines and cushions across her bedroom. "I'm trying."

"Why didn't you do this yesterday?" Andy asked. "You knew this would be a difficult morning!"

"I know!" Cassidy whined. "I tried, I -"

"You were watching YouTube," Caroline snarked from behind Andy's elbow.

"Caroline, downstairs," Andy ordered, already hearing Miranda moving into the hall. "Cass, where did you last see it?"

"Andy, I swear, it was right here."

"Cassidy."

Andy sighed and pinched her nose. The morning had not gone brilliantly, though, if they could find Cassidy's shoe in the next two minutes it would be mostly back on track.

"Mama, I really tried."

"No baby, you really didn't. We've talked about this before, and I won't talk about it again. If you cannot find your shoe, put on a pair of others and face the consequences, okay? There's nothing I can say to you that will make you learn that in our family, now that it's as big as it is, you gotta be more organised. So, I'll leave it to school okay? But we're leaving in," she glanced at her watch. "Well, actually, now. So throw a pair on and hope for the best."

"Please."

"Cass, I don't know what to tell you. I cannot magic your shoe into existence."

She nodded, toeing off her one shoe and slipping on her trainers.

"Will you get a detention or something?"

"Maybe," Cassidy said sullenly.

"Well, it's a tough lesson, but one that has to be learnt okay."

"Whatever."

They joined Miranda and all of the kids in the hallway, which was much too small with so many bodies in it.

"Gracious, are we ready?"

"Yes, we can go," Andy said, patting Nicky's cheek. "Ready sweet boy?" He nodded, pulling at his neck. The tie was a bit of a new experience for him, but he was absolutely darling in it. "Good job."

"Cassidy, no screens for the next three days. At that point, if you can show that you can be more organised than you have been this morning, I shall consider lifting the ban."

"What!"

Andy winced at Cassidy's shriek.

"Do not," Miranda said, dangerously. "This is not your morning. We can discuss it further tonight, for now, that is your punishment."

"Fine," Cassidy snapped. "Can we go?"

A horn outside beeped just at the right time and Andy squeezed past Miranda, patting her hip, and opened the door. Roy was parked on the kerb in their new-ish car. He waved good morning as he got out to help.

"Hey, ready?" he asked, jogging up the steps. "There's traffic, we need to get going. Hey small ones!"

"WOY!"

Samuel was past Miranda and into Roy's arms before they could blink. Happily, the man caught him in a big bear hug and swung him around.

"Hey little man, what's cracking?"

"Nuffink."

"That's the way. I think you're staying here with Cara aren't you?"

"Aw, really?"

"Yep," Andy said, prizing Sam from Roy's arms. "But you're going to have so much fun, you won't miss us at all."

"Promise?" he said.

"I promise," Andy grinned. "Give M'anda a kiss, k?"

"M'kay," he sighed. "Bye Woy."

"See-ya kid. Ready Miranda?"

"I believe we are," Miranda said with a sigh.

Roy stepped forward and took two rather heavy school bags from the doorstep, and jogged to put them in the trunk.

"Come on Cass," Caroline sighed, shrugging when Cassidy just walked past her.

"It'll be alright love," Andy said quietly as Caroline walked out of the door.

"You don't have to stick with her all day," Caroline said, just as quietly, rolling her eyes.

"It's going well," Andy said exasperatedly as she turned back to look at Miranda.

"It will get better," she said placatingly, ushering Livvy out of the door and to Roy's side.

"Come on little," Andy said, taking Nicky's hand. "Let's go."

"Bye Mama!" Sam yelled, waving. "Bye Nicky."

Nicky waved as they finally got out of the door, leaving Miranda to take stock and kiss Sam one more time.

"I'm sitting up front," Cassidy huffed, slamming the door behind her.

"I think you've got a wild one," Roy whispered to Andy as he helped Olivia into the car.

"Lost shoes, no screens. Uniform infringement at school."

"Ouch," Roy said, looking sympathetic. "Want me to talk to her?"

"Only if you dare," Andy grinned, breaking away from him as Miranda joined them. "You ready?"

"Yes. We're ready. Off we go."

"Yey!" Livvy called, from the back row.

"Alright then," Andy said. "After you my love."

Andy watched Miranda into the car and shut the door behind her, running around the back to get in the other side. As she strapped herself in, she glanced over at Miranda and was once again so very thankful for her life. She wasn't sure what she'd done to deserve it, but she wasn't let it go anytime soon.

-0-

Andy had been to The Dalton School many times before, both as Miranda's assistant, and then as Miranda's partner, and therefore carer to the Twins. But it felt different this time. It was more real somehow.

She wondered what that meant about how she felt about the twins. No, that was wrong. She loved the twin, with all of her heart, just as she did the other children, but perhaps. Perhaps the three youngest felt like theirs .

"Alright, this is Elizabeth Catterin. Elizabeth, this is Olivia Walker, Miranda Priestly's daughter."

"Miranda! It's lovely to see you again."

"And you Elizabeth."

The confused looks that the Admissions woman and Andy were giving them prompted Elizabeth to speak up.

"I was Cassidy's 2nd-grade teacher."

"But not Caroline's?" Andy asked, glancing at Miranda.

"I believe Cassidy's best friend forever, as it were, was moved into my class and she said that seeing as she saw Caroline every day at home, that she should definitely be with her best friend."

Andy chuckled but nodded.

"Hear that Liv?" Andy said, crouching down before her. "Mrs -"

"Miss," the woman interjected.

"Sorry," Andy said. "Miss Catterin is your new teacher, and she was Cassidy's teacher too!"

"Cool," Olivia said quietly.

There had been a remarkable change in the little girl once they'd been let out of the car in the school grounds. Andy had felt Miranda's anxiety ramp up as Olivia had clung tightly to the Bill Blass pants she was wearing as the walked up the steps to the school. Nicky had no such problems. He'd almost straightened when they arrived. They'd taken him to class first, riding the wave of excitement he was obviously feeling and left him playing with a few boys and girls that were earlier than the rest. They were assured that they would get an update on him when they broke for lunch.

But Olivia, for all her excitement during the night, seemed to have flagged.

"I don't wanna."

It was the most whiney Andy had ever heard her be.

"Hey," she said gently. "Remember how excited you were last night! This is going to be amazing. Caroline and Cassidy will be around, and Nicky is just down the hall. And if there are any problems, Miss Catterin will take care of you, okay?"

"M'anda, do I have to stay?" she asked, her bottom lip poking out a little. "My hand hurts."

Andy sighed and watched a bevvy of emotions flit across Miranda's face. In a move Andy had seen perhaps only once or twice, Miranda, dressed for work, crouched down beside Andy, leaning heavily on her to stop from falling.

"Does your hand really hurt? Do we need to take you back to Dr Swari?"

"No," Livvy said pathetically. "I'm just scared."

"I promise you," Miranda said, touching the little girl's chin affectionately. "There is absolutely nothing to be scared of. Miss Catterin remains one of Cassidy's favourite teachers."

"What if Sam's naughty?" Olivia whispered, breaking Andy's heart.

They didn't often have this issue anymore, but occasionally, when Olivia was feeling insecure, it always came back to the idea that they would be sent away, or sent back.

"Liv?" Andy asked, waiting for Olivia to meet her eyes. "What do families do?"

"Stick together," Olivia replied immediately.

"And what do families look like?"

"Like love," Olivia said, the corners of her lips turning up a bit.

"And what are we?"

"Family," Olivia sighed, almost drooping as the tension left her body.

"So you think you can try this out? This our family school. This is where all our family goes. This is where Sam will go next year."

"Cassy's just up there?" Olivia said, glancing out of the open door and into the corridor.

"Just up there," Miss Catterin assured her. "IF you want, I can have Caroline and Cassidy come down at lunch to say hi? Although they won't be able to stay, they have their own lunch to go to."

"Yes," Olivia nodded eagerly.

Miranda cleared her throat.

"Sorry," Livvy said quickly. "Yes please."

"Alright," Andy said, opening her arms. "Have the best day baby. It's going to be so much fun."

"You'll be here to pick me up?"

"We both will," Miranda said, shocking Andy a little. "Emily will make sure of it."

"M'kay," she grinned, throwing herself into Miranda's arms. "I love you guys," she whispered.

"We love you munchkin. See you later."

Olivia waved once and took Miss Catterin's hand, as she lead her over to a table where two boys and another girl were sitting. They watched from outside the room as the teacher introduced Olivia and the boys poured over the hand brace she was still wearing. A stern word from the teacher made them back off a bit, but Olivia stood firm and explained in great detail what had happened. Andy chuckled.

"She gets that from you," Andy said, nodding to the straight back and stuck out chin.

"Hmm," Miranda said, her own lips turning up at the corner.

"She gets that from you too," Andy said, touching the outside of Miranda's hand with her own in subtle question.

"This school has an excellent LGBT support program Andréa," Miranda said, sliding their hands together. "And what better way to encourage it."

"Excellent."

-0-

"Andy Sachs."

"Miranda for you."

Andy rolled her eyes at the assistant's clipped tone. By now, surely the woman knew who they were to each other.

"Hey," she said, discarding the annoyance with the assistant, before reconsidering. "She's a bit short," she offered conversationally.

"Is she?" Miranda said, obliviously.

"Anyway. You okay?"

"Of course, I was just wondering if you'd heard anything?"

"It's only 10," Andy smiled into the phone. "Lunch isn't for another couple of hours."

"I know. And no news is good news I suppose."

"I think so."

"What do you want for dinner?"

"Did Veronic not turn up?"

"What?"

"Etro. Did she not turn up?"

"No, I sent her outside while I spoke to you," Miranda said, sounding confused.

"Oh," Andy said, a little tickled, but also a tad concerned with how out of sorts Miranda sounded. "Hey. I promise that if someone calls me, I'll come over and have them call me back okay?"

"I suppose," Miranda said, feigning disinterest.

"I promise."

"Fine. I cannot concentrate. I need to know they're okay."

"I know. But we have to trust this. They need this, and so do we. With them at school, we'll have a bit more of a routine, maybe we can start going out?"

"Hence my question before?"

"Before what?"

"Are you deliberately being obtuse?" Miranda asked waspishly.

"What? No. I was in the middle of my article when you rang at 10 am asking what I wanted for dinner!"

There was a suffering sigh on the other end and the line went quiet.

"Andréa I would like to go out for dinner tonight. All of us."

"Can we go out Friday? I don't think they'll be up for dinner tonight. New routines are exhausting."

"I would like to go out for dinner on Friday too, but I was hoping it would just be the two of us."

"Oh!"

The thought warmed Andy's heart a little. And other places.

"Am I to assume you are free Friday?"

"I," Andy glanced at her calendar. "Am."

"Excellent. Well breakfast on the weekend then," Miranda said. "Be a darling and put it on the calendar will you?"

"Planning my own date now?" Andy asked, smiling into the phone.

"Cheeky."

Miranda hung up without another word and without letting Andy answer back. It left Andy smiling and struggling to get back into her article.

-0-

"Andy Sachs."

It was as if everybody was conspiring to interrupt her today. It was past 1230 and Andy had had no less than four phone calls from Miranda personally, two from the new assistant, two from prospective article leads and one, finally, from the school.

"Miss Sachs? It's Mary Hughes from Dalton, I was requested to give you a call after lunch to let you know how the two little ones were doing?"

"Yes!" Andy said, standing hurriedly. She knew Miranda had a one o'clock and if she hurried, she'd make it just before then. "Can you hold for a moment while I join Miranda?"

"Of course," the woman said cordially.

Andy hit the hold button and raced out of the office. By the time she managed to avoid the three clackers, Jocelyn and a frazzled looking Nigel, Andy had lost three minutes.

"You can't go in there."

Andy whirled around and looked at the new assistant with such a glare that the woman sat back down. Standing in front of the closed door, Andy took a deep breath and knocked. She entered, peeking her head around the door.

"Sorry to interrupt but that phone call you were waiting on has just come through," Andy said, with a smile.

"Ah," Miranda said, looking around the table at Derek Lam's people. "If you'll excuse me a moment."

"Hiya Andy, good to see you," one of them said in passing as they left.

Andy nodded hello and once they were out, reconnected the call again.

"Hello?"

"Hi, Miranda? Miss Sachs?" they answered accordingly and Mary Hughes continued. "I'm pleased to say that both of them are doing fine. Elizabeth Catterin had Cassidy and Caroline join Olivia for a while over their lunchtime, and Nicholas, by all reports has been in his element. Both are happy, and doing just fine."

"Thank you, Mary, for that update. It is greatly appreciated."

"You're welcome. Have a lovely afternoon."

"You too," Andy said, hanging up and slumping back on one of Miranda's chairs.

"Phew," Andy said. "All that for a two-minute conversation that we knew already."

"I admit to being," she paused, doing that thing with her glasses that Andy loved. "Relieved."

"Really?" Andy said, staring at her mouth. "I might need some convincing."

"Andréa," Miranda growled.

"Fine!" she said with a grin. "Think you will be able to concentrate better now?"

Miranda blustered for about 30 seconds before she finally conceded with a smirk.

"Yes, most likely."

"Good, cos we have to be out of here by 2 if we want to pick them up and get them home before you need to be back here by 4."

"Yes, yes," Miranda said, waving her away, before grabbing her hand as she turned to go. "Wait."

Andy turned around and felt Miranda's lips against her own. She sighed, and touched the sides of Miranda's neck, where she knew she wouldn't damage the makeup, or leave a mark.

"I love you," Miranda said quietly.

"As I love you," Andy whispered.

Her heart melted any time Miranda uttered those words and she knew exactly how lucky she was to have the love of such a woman.

"Come and pick me up?" Miranda asked as Andy really did leave this time.

"See you then," Andy said in reply, smiling at a few of Derek's people before making her way back to the writer's room.

"Andy, you got a minute?"

A frisson of fear went through her as Anton called her into his office. They had been friendly enough after their discussion, what felt like a hundred years ago, but he was still her boss. And solely in charge of her continued employment here.

"Relax," he laughed as he pointed to the chair opposite him. "Nothing bad."

"Phew," she said with an uneasy laugh.

"Just wanted to check how you're doing with the workload and whether you've got room to add another?"

"Yes, of course," Andy said, feeling the excitement winning over fear.

"You sure? If you've got too much on your plate, this will save. It's for the October edition, so there's time to catch up with something else later?"

"No, it's okay, I want it."

"Alright, I was hoping you'd say that. This is what Camile started," Anton said, passing her a file. "She's been moved onto this month's."

"Of course, no worries."

Andy opened the file and checked out what the project was. It would be tough, it required a lot of man-hours, but she already had an outline in her head by the time she nodded her goodbyes to Anton and returned to her desk.

"Lunch?" Nigel said an hour later.

"I -" Andy looked at the time and grimaced. "I've got 20 minutes until I'm supposed to 'collect' Miranda and get the kids."

"Oh, of course, Olivia and Nicholas' first day at school. Any trouble?" he asked, leaning against her desk.

"A little," Andy shrugged. "But nothing that wasn't associated with 1st-day nerves. Miranda's been more anxious than I have."

"No," he said, grinning when she looked up.

"I'm done here anyway," she groaned. "Sure, let's have lunch."

She sent a message to Miranda to let her know as they wandered towards the elevator. Nigel had just pushed the button when Andy grabbed Nigel's arm, looking at him with wide eyes.

"Don't panic," was all she said, before turning to see Miranda stalking down the hall.

"Miranda," Nigel said, looking between them.

"I can't possibly do any more work and Andréa said you were going to lunch. I wonder if I might tag along, as it were."

There was a beat of silence before Andy pinched Nigel's arm and he squeaked before agreeing.

"Of course, we're," he winced. "We were going to go to the Deli on the corner a block over?"

"Then, by all means, proceed."

The elevator arrived, and Nigel, even though he had known Miranda for much longer than Andy, hung back, squeaking again when Andy pulled him in with her.

"Do relax Nigel," Miranda sighed, pinching her nose. "I won't embarrass you."

Andy broke the tension by laughing as Nigel spluttered and wrapped an arm around his shoulders.

"See, she's really quite funny when she's not being bossy."

They wandered down to the Deli and ordered a few things to share. Miranda had her eye on a bowl of soup that went by, so Andy made sure to order two of them. She saw a tiny smirk appear as the food was put on the counter. It seemed that in this Deli, they couldn't care less who Miranda Priestly was.

"So," Nigel said awkwardly as Miranda hummed around the plastic spoon she was eating soup off. "How's everything?"

"Everything is -" Andy paused as Miranda squeezed her thigh gently.

"Life is wonderful Nigel. Just," Miranda gave a rare smile. "I did not expect this, what we have."

"That's," Nigel glanced at Andy. "That's really great."

"It is," Miranda said. "Taking in those children has been," she shook her head. "More than I could have imagined."

"How are they coping?"

"They're doing really well," Andy said, pushing the soup closer to Miranda to make sure she ate. "Sam is so precocious and Nick is kind and gentle. Olivia's still the wildcard. One minute, she's sitting reading a book with Caroline and the next, planning an all-out sock war with Cassidy and commanding the troops like it's nobody's business but her own," Andy smirked at Miranda. "I can't imagine where she picked that up from."

"And you Andy," he swallowed. "If you don't mind me asking?"

"Of course she doesn't mind," Miranda said quietly. "You are our friend Nigel. One that I have sorely missed while I have been navigating this new thing."

"Well," he said, shining his glasses on his cravat. "You as well."

"I'm loving it. I love being a," she paused. "Mother, I guess. They call me Mama anyway. Even the girls sometimes. And I love being Miranda's. That's pretty amazing too."

"I can't imagine, but I am happy for you, for both, all of you. It seems as if you've found it," he said, looking at Miranda.

She paused, looking at him in such a way that Andy was suddenly wary.

"I think I may have," she said, to him and him alone. "I very well may have."

"Then I applaud you," he said happily.

"And you?" she asked.

Andy could have been feeling left out at this point, but she decided that this was something that the two of them needed to do. She wasn't sure what it was, but it seemed important. Miranda squeezed her thigh again gently, and it was all the reassurance she needed to keep eating her lunch.

"I had a few opportunities, but they never worked out."

"Would you take some advice off an old woman Nigel?" Miranda asked, ignoring Andy's snort.

"I'll take advice from you," he said, smirking at Andy.

"Don't hesitate. I did, and it was nearly disastrous. And be brave. I've never met anyone as brave as Andréa and without that, I might not have anything at all."

Andy only now had an inkling of what was going on, and she preened under the compliment. It wasn't often she got to talk or be talked about in a social setting with people she loved and trusted. In fact, this small, quiet and rather short lunch would be the first time they'd socialised with anyone but the kids. It made Andy remember that once upon a time, she had dinner parties and drinking parties and Bachelor night parties. Okay, they were Doug and Lily's idea, but she had friends, that were at ease with her inside her own home.

She wondered if she could have that again.

"Why don't you come round for dinner next week?" she heard herself say, almost baulking at Nigel's wide eyes. She glanced at Miranda and couldn't find any warning in her face, so forged on. "I miss having people over and talking. We don't often talk to people our own age," she chuckled.

This made Miranda chuckle too, and it was only after a beat that Andy realised what was so funny.

"That's not what I meant and you know it," she said, poking Miranda's arm with her finger.

"I know darling, but it is funny."

"Fine. But please. Come over?" Andy asked, turning her puppy dog eyes on to Nigel.

"How do you stop her from asking for the world with those eyes," he said to Miranda, pulling on the neck of his shirt.

"I don't, and that's how you know it's real," she said, in all seriousness. "She wouldn't ask for the world. That's when you know, my friend."

"Huh," he said, scratching his chin. "I see what you mean."

"So will you join us? I could invite my friend Doug over if you like? He's only been to dinner once before and that was when Miranda was at a benefit. He hung out with the kids and me."

"I, of course I will," he said, nodding at the both of them. "Pick a night. I'll be there. I'll bring wine."

"Brilliant," Andy said, glancing at Miranda. "What do you think boss," she thought about it. "Wednesday? Caroline has soccer, but the rest of them are home. I can always nip out and get her?"

"Yes, I think so. We have the shoot Monday Tuesday, and I have a meeting with Jacob Thursday."

Andy had been out of the loop for long enough that she wasn't even concerned about who Jacob was and why he was important. What she did do was make a mental note to have some early dinner sent over to them on Thursday.

Andy jumped out of her thoughts when her phone beeped and she remembered they had places to be.

"Damn, sorry Nige, we have to pick up the kids."

"No, that's fine," he said, waving happily. "Go, be free."

"Good. I'll be back after they're settled," Miranda said to him. "Bring the layouts if you want."

Andy's face matched Nigel's as Miranda stood. She'd just offered, rather than ordered. And that was really something.

"Of course," he said, flashing Andy a look that said that she had better answer her phone later.

She grinned and kissed his cheek as she called Roy to pick them up from the corner.

"You're cute, you know that?" Andy said as they relaxed in the back seat of the car.

"I am not," Miranda bristled. "But he is my friend, and I have been remiss in cultivating that friendship. Thank you for inviting him to dinner."

"I hoped you'd be okay with it. I realised as we were sitting there, I don't really socialise with anyone but you guys, which is fine, but," she shrugged. "It's sometimes nice to see people, you know?"

"I do," Miranda said kindly, reaching over and taking her hand. "I see a great deal more people than you do, so I do not feel like that, but I do understand. I have thought this before, but it appears I was also remiss in telling you - the Townhouse is your home too. Invite whoever you want into it."

"I would always let you know first," Andy said, placating the little slip of fear in Miranda's eyes. "And it would only be people I trust with my life. Lily, for instance, is not on that list at the moment, but Doug is, and Em and Serena, although it might be better to go out with them, rather than invite them home."

Miranda waved her hand.

"Invite them, they'll need to get used to it at some point. I only hope they can stop dancing around each other long enough to pay attention to you!"

Andy chuckled and peered out of the window as they slowed.

"Wow. Pick up time is hectic," Andy said, glancing at Miranda. "I guess it's time to face them."

"Them Andréa?" Miranda said, her nose turned up just slightly in the safety of the car.

"The great unwashed?"

Miranda laughed before she could stop it, which made Andy laugh too. These moments were her greatest achievements. The times she made Miranda laugh, or smile, or really anything that she didn't normally do. She lived for them.

Andy got out of the car first and made her way around just as Roy was opening the door, holding out her hand to help Miranda down the step.

"People are going to think I'm your mother if you keep helping me out of that car," Miranda said quietly.

"No they won't," Andy said, entwining their hands. "Not when I look at you like this, they won't."

Miranda hummed in agreement, and stalked forward, making sure to move fast enough make it clear that she would not be stopping to talk to anybody, but slow enough that Andy could keep in time. It was divine.

"I sometimes miss being your assistant," Andy sighed as they made their way down the corridor to Nicky's classroom.

"Why on earth would you say that?" Miranda asked, looking sideways at her.

"Oh," Andy said, dropping Miranda's hand and assuming the "Miranda's Assistant Distance". "Cos I was always just a little behind you," she caught up and took Miranda's hand back. "And your behind is lovely."

"Andréa."

Andy grinned triumphantly. It wasn't quite a chastisement, but rather an embarrassed protest. She stayed quiet as they reached the classroom, finding Nick playing with some blocks on the floor while his teacher, Mr Nick Travers, cleaned the board.

"Ah, Miranda, Miss Sachs. Lovely to see you."

Nick looked up, his face breaking into a smile as he got up and ran towards them. Andy had her arms outstretched to catch him as he threw himself into them.

"Oof," Andy grunted. "Hey kid.'

She kissed his hair and gave him a big squeeze, before leaning over and letting Miranda paint a perfect pair of lipstick lips on his cheek, chuckling as she wiped it away.

"Was everything alright?" Miranda said, turning towards the teacher.

"Absolutely," Mr Travers said. "Nick had a great day, made a few new friends and did really well in his maths and spelling. We're going to have to figure out what to do about the reading, but it's early days yet. You might find there'll be a few tears tonight or tomorrow as it all catches up with him. He's had a big day."

"I bet you have," Andy said, shifting him onto her hip. "Did you have fun?"

He nodded and buried his face in Andy's neck with a sigh.

"His favourite place in the world," Miranda explained, though Andy knew she didn't have to. The school knew well enough who she was and what she was like. But she did it for Nick and that was beautiful.

"I'll see you tomorrow Nick," Mr Travers said, waving as Nick waved back.

Miranda slid his lunchbox into the schoolbag and slid it onto her arm.

"Want me to take that?"

"No," Miranda said. "You have enough to carry. I had two of them once, remember," she chuckled as they made their way to Olivia's room.

"M'anda!"

"Oof, hello Olivia," Miranda said, kneeling carefully and accepting a hug. "Have you had a good day?"

"It was sooo good. We did some reading and writing and I can do milti, no. Malted. No -"

"Multiplication?" Andy supplied helpfully.

"Yes! That! And Cassy came and ate lunch with me," she leaned closer. "Even though she wasn't supposed to, Miss Catterin let her, cos she said Cassy's her favourite. Am I your favourite M'anda?"

The pace was exhausting, and Andy laughed and Miranda merely nodded while she let all the words catch up to her. Olivia seemed nonplussed by the non-answer, but she ran around the classroom, saying goodbye to the few people that hadn't left yet and thanking her teacher for the best day ever.

"She'll crash soon," Elizabeth said with a knowing smile. "I'd recommend an early dinner and bedtime I think."

"Oh yea," Andy said, hitching Nicky back onto her hip. "You ready Princess?"

Livvy raced to get her back and stuffed her lunchbox into it haphazardly, slinging it on her back and knocking over a chair in the process.

"Alright, steady now," Andy said, running her hand over her head.

"Hey Ma," Carolie said, coming in the door and wrapping an arm around Andy. "Hey Nicky."

Nick waved and Andy dropped a kiss to Caroline's head, a little pleased at the salutation.

"Where's Cassy?" Olivia asked, hanging onto Miranda's hand, but peering around her at the same time.

"She went to the car. She's had kinda a rough day."

"Oh?"

"Detention for her shoes and she forget her theatre homework too."

"Did she?" Miranda said dangerously.

"Come on kids," Andy said, interrupting Miranda before she could start plotting Cassidy's demise. "Hometime. Dinnertime. I bet Sam's aching to see us all."

"Oh," Miranda said suddenly.

"I spoke with Cara earlier. I'm sorry, I should have said. He's had a great day. Spent a good time glueing blue pasta on a card or something? He said it would look good in your office."

"Oh boy," Caroline giggled, looking up at her mother.

"Hmm," Miranda said, glancing at Andy's confused look. "James saw a painting of Caroline's in my office and did an entire collection in that colour. I was less than amused."

"Oh boy," Andy chuckled, making Olvia laugh.

They made it to the car, where Cassidy was once again in the front seat and seemed to be deep in discussion with Roy. He glanced over as they arrived and Andy waved him off. God knows Cass needed someone to talk to that wasn't one of them, so it may as well be Roy.

"Come on munchkins," Andy said. "Caro, can you strap them in?"

Andy waited for Miranda to hop in and she closed the door behind her. She walked around the front of the car and opened the front car door instead of her own.

"Hey, just wanted to say hi, and that we love you," Andy said, kissing Cassidy's cheek loudly.

Before she could reply, Andy shut the door and clambered in herself, leaning forward and squeezing Cassidy's shoulder. If she was lucky, she'd head Miranda off before she laid into Cassidy to see what was going on. Something was happening, by all accounts, she was a little forgetful, but it was a bit unusual. Hopefully, they could get it all sorted out, so they could get it under control and back to normal.

Either way, they were in for a long night. Two tired littles, one that had been on his own with Cara all day and a twin that was grumpy and obviously having issues. Thank God Caroline seemed to be okay. If Miranda was headed back to work, she'd need all the help she could get.

"Alright Roy," Andy said quietly. "Let's go home."

Chapter Text

 

"M'anda!"

"Sam wait!"

Andy's eyes widened as Sam came rushing down the hallways, his hands covered in sticky flour. In a move, Andy knew must have come from necessity many years ago, Miranda sidestepped the young lad and grabbed his arms, swinging him off his feet a little and making him whoop.

There was a generally muted moment of horror while everyone watched as Cara stepped forward and captured his hands.

"That was," Andy frowned. She wasn't sure what that was. "That was -"

"That was wicked," Caroline said, leaning against Cassidy with an impressed smirk on her face.

"Thank you darlings," Miranda said with a matching smirk. "I learnt that the hard way with the two of you!"

"You'd better be careful," Andy chuckled, pushing Nick further into the house so they could get off the front steps. "Now he knows you can do that, he'll insist, and you'll be helpless against his big blue eyes."

Miranda didn't reply, but Andy could see that she'd just had that thought as well. She laughed as she hung up her coat, and Caroline's blazer, as it was handed to her.

"Thanks Ma," Caroline said, slinging her bag, and Olivia's onto her shoulder and running up the stairs with the girl in tow.

"Cass, come with me?" Andy asked, nodding into the other room. "Miranda, don't leave, we'll be done in a minute."

"What," Cassidy said with a groan.

"Hey," Andy said, cupping her cheek. "Lose the 'tude. I'm trying to help."

"Sorry," Cassidy said, slumping into the wingback chair Andy thought wasn't all that comfortable. "Bad day."

"I know kid, but like I said. I wanna help, so help me help you," Andy said, taking her hand. "What do you need? What's going on?"

"I just," she shrugged. "I don't know. I forget things. I didn't think it was a big deal."

"Okay, when it was you and Caroline, maybe it wasn't a big deal," And smiled sadly. "But it's not just you and Caro anymore, so how do we make sure that doesn't happen. I know I don't want to do this morning over and over again, do you?"

"No," Cassidy whispered.

"No," Andy said, now crouching in front of the chair. "So let's think. What do you need? A reminder? An alarm? Maybe an alarm every school night? Remind you to get your stuff together? That way you've got time to find something if it's not where you expected it to be?"

"I guess," Cassidy said, looking at Andy with the most pathetic look on her face. "I really didn't mean unorganised this morning."

"I know," Andy said. "It happens. When I first started working for Mom, I was a mess. I never had anything ready, until I couldn't put it off anymore. I needed to be organised enough to do everything I needed to do, and some. So I'll help okay? Can't do anything about your punishments, cos we did remind you last night, and you didn't do anything about it, but I'll help you from now, okay?"

"Okay," Cassidy said, sitting forward and wrapping her arms around Andy's neck. They rarely hugged her, the twins, but Andy sighed into the girl's hair.

"I love you," Cassidy said quietly. "Thank you."

"Always my darling," Andy whispered. "Now, let's go find some food, I bet you're all starving. I'm hoping for cookies."

"I think marshmallow treats," Cassidy grinned, standing, but waiting for Andy to join her before she left.

"Andréa," Miranda said, beckoning her over with a nod. "I have to get back," she pressed a kiss to Andy's lips. "Thank you my darling, for Cassidy. She needed that, and not me punishing her."

"I remember being that age. It's rough."

"One up on me," Miranda chuckled, patting Andy's cheek affectionately.

"Whatever," Andy said, nudging her with her hip. "You were born fully formed, I'm sure of it."

"You are incorrigible," Miranda said. "You will be fine with them tonight?"

"Of course," Andy said, scoffing a little. "Treats, baths, and a movie for the littles. I think they'll be out before it's over. Sam will be the wildcard. I think he'll be ready for his M'anda time when you get home."

"It won't be late," Miranda said. "I've already cleared most of my evening."

"Good. I'll wait and have supper with you. We only just ate anyway."

"You could order something if you like?" Miranda said, kissing her again as a horn sounded outside. "Surprise me?"

"Sure," Have a good afternoon," Andy said, kissing her properly before she could escape."I love you. GUYS!"

"Andréa," Miranda rolled her eyes. "You're as bad as the girls."

"I'm worse," Andy chuckled. "More practice cheering on football teams."

"Heathen," Miranda said, as she was careened into by two small children while I third gripped Andy's hand and waved enthusiastically. "Goodbye darling, be good for Mama."

"Love you M'anda," Olivia said, taking a deep breath while she hugged her middle tightly.

"I love you my little ones," Miranda said, running her hand over Olivia's hair, then Samuel's. "And my big ones," she winked at the twins, who had joined them at the bottom of the stairs. "I won't be late, I promise," she made sure to catch the twin's eyes. "I promise."

"'Kay Mom," Caroline said, glancing at Cassidy, who nodded with a small smile.

"You guys are going to eat early, but I'll be home for supper. Talk to Andréa," Miranda said, picking up her bag. "Have a good afternoon sweethearts."

"Bye!" Sam yelled, content to let Andy wrap an arm around him so he didn't follow.

-0-

She wasn't late, but she wasn't as early as she thought she would be. She winced as she dropped her keys into the bowl and Andy couldn't help but chuckle as she leaned on the doorframe of the kitchen.

"Busted," Andy said with an easy smile. She could see the awkwardness in Miranda's face and knew that all the times she'd been late in the past were colouring this time. "You're exactly," Andy looked at her watch. "20 minutes later than I thought you would be. The littles are all sleeping, although I expect Sam might be back up in a while, but we'll see. Cassidy and Caroline said they'd like you to look in on them, but we made sketti for dinner, so they're stuffed and content to go to bed early too. Cassidy has packed her bag and has both shoes," Andy paused. "It was under the laundry that she never took down.."

"You are too good to me," Miranda whispered, her forehead leaning against Andy's.

"Nah," Andy smiled, kissing her gently. "Just love you, unendingly."

"Too good," Miranda whispered again. "Is there leftovers?"

"There is," Andy said, surprise affecting her tone. "You want some sketti?"

"Is there garlic bread?" Miranda asked, blushing.

"There is," Andy chuckled. "I can't say I'm upset, I was planning on snagging some for work tomorrow if I didn't get to eat any tonight."

"Open some wine?" Miranda asked. "A Chianti."

"Ooh, you're feeling playful. Which one?"

"Any," Miranda groaned. "No, wait," she pulled Andy back and kissed her gently. "The Colonia."

"I'm sure I'll find it," Andy said, heading a little further down the hall to where the wine cellar was. They'd had it moved from the end of the kitchen when the other renovations had been done, to make way for a bigger informal dining area. Now they could all sit around the table without being squashed.

She made it back in time to watch Miranda plating up the spaghetti, heavy on the sauce.

"You okay?" she asked, quizzically.

"Yes," Miranda said, placing the plates on the table and reaching around Andy, who was reaching up for the corkscrew, for two forks. "Weird day. Long day."

"No arguments from me," Andy grinned, pouring the wine and sitting down with a groan. "Throw me the lighter?"

Miranda did one better and handed it to her with a smirk before joining her at the table as Andy lit the candles that Miranda and Andy usually ate supper by on nights like this one. They sighed as they looked at each other, the weight of the world finally falling off their shoulders.

"What a day," Miranda muttered, groaning a little as the first forkful of pasta went past her lips.

"You shouldn't really do that if you want nice gentle dinner," Andy said, her face trying to decide whether it wanted to grin or stare lecherously.

"Pasta is not usually my fare, but sometimes," she sighed. "Sometimes carbs are exactly what one needs."

"One should remember that this one needs you not to groan like that if one wants to eat the rest of dinner."

"It's not an altogether terrible prospect," Miranda said, sipping her wine. "Although, I take your point. Eat, don't sit there staring!"

"How could I not," Andy said but spinning her fork in the pasta. "You're beautiful."

"I'm tired."

"Those two are not mutually exclusive," Andy clarified, reaching out and taking Miranda's free hand. "Times like these are my favourites."

"When I'm too tired to bandy words with you?"

"When you're just mine," Andy said, ignoring the self-deprecation.

"I'm always yours," Miranda said quietly. "I meant what I said to Nigel. He and I have been having that conversation for nearly forty years. I'm glad I came to lunch, if only to remind him of that."

"I thought as much," Andy chuckled. "You're really very sweet to me."

"I love you," Miranda shrugged, uncharacteristically. "What I said was the truth."

"Well," Andy said leaning over and kissing her cheek gently. "It was beautiful."

"Over soup with a plastic spoon?"

"The best moments involve plastic cutlery," Andy chuckled.

They fell silent and ate the rest of the dinner the same. By the time Andy sat back, Miranda had stopped eating with some left on the plate and nibbled on a little garlic bread while Andy mopped up the sauce.

"Life is awesome," Andy said, looking over.

"It is," Miranda said, picking up the plates and rinsing them, loading them in the dishwasher and turning it on. "Come along Andréa."

"No Book tonight?"

"That was why I was late," Miranda sighed. "No Book tonight, and possibly tomorrow too. A catastrophic printing issue. I left before I fired the entire department."

"Well, I can't say I'm displeased," Andy chuckled. "I get you all to myself? I'm definitely the winner here."

"A fact Nigel reminded me of," Miranda chuckled. "Bed. The children will be up early tomorrow, and I can imagine they'll want feeding. Why they can't just cope without sustenance is beyond me."

Andy followed Miranda's very pretty backside up the stairs, laughing the whole way.

-0-

"Andy Sachs?"

"Darling, can we postpone Friday's date? I know it's not what you want to hear, but Barbara is in town for a single night.

"Barbara?"

"Potts, from Saks Potts."

"Who?"

"Honestly, how is it you're still employed in my magazine?" Miranda huffed, but Andy could hear the smile in her voice.

"Look, if we need to postpone date night, we can. It's not a big deal. Either way, I win."

"I don't understand darling," Miranda said.

"Well, if I get to take you out, then I get to spend some time with you, and it will be divine and you'll be dressed up," she pondered that. "Or not, if plastic cutlery is involved, or alternatively, you could go out with the Barbara woman, and I could still see you dressed up," she grinned. "But then I get to help you take off whatever beautiful thing it is that you will be wearing when you get home." She let Miranda ponder that for a moment before she chuckled. "And, after either of those scenarios, I get to take you to bed, so. Win, win."

There was a very long pause between Andy's cheeky flourish and the clearing of Miranda's throat.

"Well."

'I thought you'd like that," Andy said quietly. "I'm not them. If you have to work, then you should always work, unless you can do the same work at a time that is more convenient for the family."

"I am not always good at that though," Miranda said.

"That's why you have me," Andy said gently, allowing her off the hook. "Go out with this person, come home. Spend the weekend with us. Happy wife, happy family."

"I'm not sure that's how the saying goes, but I do like it better than the other."

"Me too," Andy smiled into the phone. "You could have told me this later you know," Andy reminded her.

"Ah," Miranda said, making Andy look at the ceiling and take a big breath.

"Hmm?"

"Have you perchance noticed the date lately?"

"In terms of what?"

"In terms of Paris."

"Ooh," Andy looked at her calendar, a feature that was always on top of her screen. "Well fuck."

"ANDRÉA!"

"Sorry. I hadn't exactly forgotten, but I'm working on the articles for after, so yeah okay. I'd forgotten." Andy blew out a big breath. "Wow."

"Indeed. In a month, I shall be leaving for Paris. And there's nothing I can do about that."

"No," Andy said gently. "I know," she looked up as Camille knocked quietly on her door and pointed to the conference room. They had an editorial meeting, "Hey, how late will you be?"

"Maybe 9? I have a budget meeting at 6, and James wants to go over his designs."

"Isn't that what she's for?"

"Well yes, but I'm arranging a coup."

"Miranda," Andy sighed.

"I jest," Miranda said quietly. "But it will be late."

"I'll wait up."

"You're exhausted."

"I am, and so are you, but I have a meeting now, and we still need to talk about this."

"I had thought that if I just -"

"Hang on, don't do all the thinking on your own, remember," Andy reminded her gently. "Talk it over with me, even if we end up doing exactly as you want, you gotta share Miranda."

"I am not a child," Miranda said dangerously.

"I know, but I'm not your assistant either. Tell me later, at home, I gotta go. I love you."

She hung up with a sigh and gathered her things. She'd be late, and Anton would frown, but she was ahead of the game anyway, so it would be alright. A week without Miranda sounded hellish though. And she really wasn't looking forward to the fallout from the phone call either. But it would keep. Andy pushed it from her mind and concentrated. Now that she'd realised it was a month to Paris, she'd have to be on her game.

-0-

Someone forgot to remind Andy that the second day of school was worse than the first. By that evening, even Sam was over it, and Andy found herself hiding in the bathroom just to get a moment's peace. Once Cara had left, there was not enough of Andy to go round, and between helping the twins with their homework, and Sam's unusual clinginess, Andy was over it by the time dinner was over.

"Right, baths, then bed."

"Maaaaaama," Sam wined, his eyes filling with tears.

"No, tonight everyone is very tired, including me."

"I'll help Livvy in the bath, if you like?" Cassidy asked helpfully.

"Great. I'll take the boys, and Caro, do you mind doing the table? Just put the dishes in the sink and I'll get to the later."

"Ma, I'm perfectly capable of loading a dishwasher," Caroline snorted as she got up.

"Of course you're," Andy smiled, realising that she must really look like she was having a hard time if both twins had decided on helping.

Usually, Cassidy and Olivia gravitated to each other by the end of the night. Olivia would lay on Cassidy's stomach while the two watched videos about who knew what, or, if Andy was paying attention, she'd get Cass to read a book or something. But by the time she did, it was usually too late to start one.

"Hey Ma?"

"Yes?" she turned, seeing Cassidy hover. "What's up chuck?"

Cassidy turned her nose up at the nickname, but continued.

"Do I have to do anything special with her hand?"

"Um," Andy thought about it. "Actually, let's give it a good soak for tonight. Livvy, come here baby."

Andy captured her hand and kissed her cheek while she leant on her. She made quick work on unwrapping the dressing they'd put on to keep it covered. She wore a brace over it when she was at school, but once she was home, it came off to give the rest of her hand a rest. Dr Swari's appointment was in two days time, and Andy hoped Miranda had remembered to ask the snooty one to put it on the calendar.

"Are you doing your exercises Livvy baby?"

"I," there was a pause. "I didn't do them yesterday, and I," she frowned. "I didn't really do them today."

"Well," Andy said, inspecting the hand. "Guess what?"

"What?" Liv asked, her head tipping a little like Miranda's did.

"Today isn't over yet! Can you do them for me in the bath with Cassy? Show her how you do them okay?"

"Yep," Livvy nodded. She ran off, taking Cassidy's hand with her good one and trying to pull her up the stairs.

"I don't need to do anything?"

"No, just keep her from scratching," Andy smiled gently at the young woman. "A good soak will help it heal. And make sure she shows you her exercises. I'll check on it before she sleeps. We'll probably leave it uncovered tonight so it doesn't go gooey," Andy winked and Cassidy allowed the little girl to pull her up the stairs.

"Alright munchkins," Andy said, turning to the boys. "Bath together? Or separate tonight?"

Nick looked at Sam, who looked dead on his feet and held up two fingers, making Andy smile.

"Anytime you want to say something, you go ahead okay? We won't make you say anything at all, but if it's easier sometimes, you can."

He shook his head and looked sad, and Andy pulled him into her arms.

"It's okay baby. You're in charge here," Andy kisses his hair and held out her arms to Sam. "Come on trouble, let's get you in the bath. Do I need to ask Cara what she's doing with you all day! Why are you so tired?"

"I itchy," Sam said forlornly.

"You are?" Andy said with a frown. "Where are you itchy?"

"Here," he said sadly, pointing at his eyes. "An' my ears."

"A bath will help, baby," Andy said, hefting him up in her arms with a groan. "What on earth is Cara feeding you! You're such a big boy."

"Can I comes to work wiv you tomorrow?" Sam said quietly, playing with Andy's hair. "I don't wanna stay home."

She sighed. One the one hand, Sam was the youngest of three, and now, the youngest of 5. He was only now figuring out how to be on his own. On the other hand, she remembered exactly how alone she'd felt for so much of her life. To have that security that you thought you had, torn asunder from one day to the next was tough. And she was older than Sam was.

"Let's get  you in the bath, and we'll think of something okay?"

"M'kay," he whispered.

Andy ended up bent over the bath, helping him lay back in the water as he started crying. Not histrionic crying, but sad, deep sobs. It broke her heart.

"It's okay baby," Andy whispered as she rinsed his body. "It'll be alright."

"I want you mama," he hiccuped.

"Let's get your hair washed, then we'll get out and cuddle okay?"

She wasn't sure what she was going to do about Nicky's bath, but she'd figure it out once she got Sam to stop sobbing.

"I want Mummy."

"Oh sweetheart," she whispered, making quick work of his hair, pulling him out and wrapping him up in his dinosaur poncho towel and in her arms.  "I've got you, it's okay to miss Mummy."

He sobbed and sobbed and sobbed until Andy's legs were numb from kneeling on the bathroom floor, and her clothes were soaked. She didn't care. Her baby was hurting in the worst way. In a way, she couldn't help, and all she could do was hold him, and rock him until he passed out, tears staining his cheeks and his breath coming in this gasps.

"Ma?" Caroline whispered from the door. "I bathed Nicky in Mo- your bath. That okay?"

"You're a superstar Caroline Priestly," she whispered back.

"Mom just walked in. I'll go get her. I don't think I could take Sam off you."

"Okay," Andy smiled, hoping Miranda understood the somewhat urgent nature of how long she'd been on the floor.

"Oh Andréa."

"My legs are seriously numb. Can you take him?"

Miranda rushed forward, her shoes staying at the door and she grunted as she picked him up in her arms, cradling him as he pushed his face into her chest with a sigh.

"Shit," Andy groaned, pulling her legs from under her and leaning against the bath.

"You alright Ma?"

Caroline and Cassidy both poked their heads in the door and smiled at the picture Miranda was making, humming softly to her littlest favourite.

"Girls, can you help me up?" Andy winced. "I need to be up by the time the pins and needles come in."

"Ouch," Cassidy said, wincing. "I got them all the time when we were about 8. Nightmare."

"I didn't," Caroline said. "Although sometimes my arm goes dead when I'm reading. It tickles when it comes back."

"This isn't going to tickle," Andy groaned as it started.

"Andréa, come and sit down," Miranda said from the hallway, nodding towards the wingback chair that Andy had never understood. Why was it at the top of the stairs anyway. The best she'd come up with is dead space, but she was too distracted to even consider it now. Her thighs were screaming.

"Oh shit," she whispered, trying to remain very still. "Nobody touch okay? It'll go off, I just can move."

Sam started stirring again and Miranda went back to rocking and singing until he went back to sleep.

"Shall I put him down?"

"I think so," Andy groaned. "He'll sleep better if we get him down now."

Miranda disappeared into the boy's bedroom, and Andy could hear her quietly asking if Nick was alright and whether he needed. Andy was ready to scream.

"Here Ma," Cassidy said, looking like she could feel what Andy could feel. "Take my hand."

"Thanks Cass."

The pins and needles seemed to go on forever, but eventually, she felt Miranda's hands on the tops of her thighs rubbing forcefully. It helped distract her, but also, disrupt what was now going on in her feet.

"Oh," Andy said finally. "God, I haven't had that happen is a long time. Sorry."

"Don't," Miranda said, pressing a kiss to her forehead. "Are you alright now?"

"I will be in another 5 minutes," she looked gratefully over to Cassidy. "Thanks honey."

"No worries. I already packed my bag and my shoes are at the door with yours."

"Well done," Andy said pulling her closer and kissing her temple. "Homework done and in your bag?"

"Yeah," Cassidy said quietly. "I'm ready."

"Great. Caro's got soccer tomorrow so can you round up the other two and meet Roy out front?"

"Sure," she said with a smile. She stood up taller when she did and kissed her mom before heading off to her room.

"Are you really alright?" Miranda said, crouching at her feet.

"Yeah," Andy sighed, leaning back and taking Miranda's offered hand. "Long long night."

"Have supper with me? I'm famished," Miranda asked, tugging on Andy's hand a little. "Just tea and toast I think."

"Yep," Andy sighed. "Give me 5 minutes to get out of these things. They're a damp."

"I'll help," Miranda whispered.

Miranda walked Andy to the closet and had her stand still while she undressed her. Andy smiled with closed eyes as Miranda's fingers wandered over the growing expanse of skin on show. She shivered a little and Miranda's hand stilled.

"Fascinating," she muttered.

Andy opened her eyes and smiled as Miranda was watching her skin got goosebumps.

"You are extraordinarily beautiful," Miranda whispered.

"You are," Andy said, trying to deflect.

"Perhaps," Miranda whispered, finally looking into Andy's eye. "I adore you Andréa. I've had a lot of thought about what I said and did earlier and you were, are, right. I'm sorry."

"It's okay," Andy said with a smile. "Really. With Paris coming up, something I'd forgotten about, I know it's only going to get more stressful."

"I wish," Miranda sighed, but didn't continue.

"You wish?"

"I had thought that I meant I wish I didn't have to go," Miranda said, stepping forward and moulding her front to Andy's. "But that is incorrect. I adore Paris Fashion Week for so many reasons. But," she pressed a kiss to Andy's bare shoulder. "I wish that you could come with me."

"You will have the best time," Andy sighed, finally wrapping her arms around Miranda.

"M'anda?"

They turned, looking at Sam, tears on his face, rubbing his eyes.

"Come here little love," Miranda said, only taking the time to press a gentle kiss to Andy's lips.

Andy threw on a pair of sweats and a singlet, taking advantage of his distraction.

"Want me to hold him while you change?"

Sam clung to Andy while they waited for Miranda to change, emerging in something similar to Andy, but a little more class. As usual. Not that Andy minded. Silk pyjama bottoms had a way of making Miranda's bottom look just that bit nicer.

"You're staring," Miranda muttered as they walked downstairs.

"I am," Andy grinned, catching up to Miranda's side. "Can't help it. You're beautiful. Sit, I'll make."

Miranda groaned as she sat at the table, Samuel once again asleep in her arms.

"He's too big for this really," Miranda said quietly.

"There's something going on," Andy said in reply, leaving the kettle boiling and joining Miranda, wrapping her arms around both. "He said he was itchy earlier actually?" Andy said, remembering. "I thought maybe it was just whatever he did with Cara."

"Did you ask her?"

"Honestly, no. I didn't think of it. Didn't get around to it."

Without being asked, Andy fetched Miranda's phone from the hallways where she'd left it in her hurry to get up the stairs and went about slathering butter on the toast.

"There's some jelly in the refrigerator."

"Ooh, it was a long day for you," Andy grinned.

"I confess I had a bit of yours the other morning. I've been thinking about it ever since."

"One or two pieces of toast and jelly a few times a year isn't going to cause Valentino to let out your frocks Miranda," Andy said cheekily, giggling when she was goosed on the backside for her trouble.

"Cara said that they went to the park for a while, they took Patricia. I'm hoping it's allergies as that is a relatively easy fix."

"What would it be if it wasn't?"

"Chickenpox?"

"Oh shit," Andy paled, sitting down with a thump.

"I'm sure it's allergies."

"We can't get chicken pox now. That would be a disaster."

"The girls have already had it, so they are immune. We can contact their physician in Philadelphia to see if the older two have had it."

"I haven't, I don't think," Andy winced.

"I had it about seven hundred years ago," Miranda said, her face totally neutral until Andy heard it and looked up sharply. "Relax. We'll be fine."

"You think you're really funny," Andy smirked, holding out a piece of toast. "The rub is, you're really hilarious."

"Only at home love," Miranda said, around her mouthful.

"The best place to be funny," Andy sighed.

They ate in amicable silence until Miranda groaned.

"He's heavy," she complained, trying to shift him into a position that worked for her.

"Let's go to bed. I'll carry him, you bring the tea. Is the Book coming?"

"No. Nigel is staying to look at it electronically. The server is not yet set up for looking over it electronically."

"Poor Nige," Andy said.

"He is well paid," Miranda said, a touch of "work Miranda" in her tone.

"I know," Andy said placatingly. "I just meant it'll be a long night for him too. Come here little one," she said, arranging Sam on her shoulder. "You okay to bring the tea?"

"Yes. Do you need water?"

"Please," Andy called over her shoulder.

She headed upstairs, intent on putting Sam to bed, but when she got there, as soon as he was out of her arms, he woke up crying and rubbing his eyes.

"Alright sweetie. Come on," Andy sighed, picking him back up and putting him in the middle of their bed, sitting next to him and brushing her fingers through his golden curls.

"I was wondering whether he'd go down," she said quietly as she brought in a tray of tea and water plastic box. "Peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In case he gets hungry in the night. Cassidy had allergies early on," Miranda explained. "She'd wake in the night and I soon realised that when they are feeling stuffy, they don't always feel like eating, and of course when the allergy eases when they're asleep, they wake up hungry."

"I think you're super mom, did you know that?" Andy said.

"I am decidedly not that," Miranda muttered as she headed into the bathroom. "I'll be a moment."

"Don't rush," Andy said.

She sat there, contemplating life in general as she tugged on Sam's curls. They fascinated her. She wondered where he got them from, seeing as she was fairly sure Alec's hair was straight and boring. It was odd that she had thoughts often about the kid's parents. She wondered whether Miranda often thought about them too. And whether her thoughts were coloured by her knowledge of Alec, or whether it was more coloured by their relationship to the children they loved like their own.

"Do you ever think about Alec?"

Miranda popped her head out of the bathroom, toothbrush in her mouth and shock on her face. Andy couldn't help it, she laughed, shaking her head.

"Sorry, carry on. I'll explain in a minute."

Miranda disappeared again for a few moments before joining Andy on the bed, and taking off her makeup with some removal wipes she favoured on days when she was home late.

"I mean, do you think of him in the abstract. Or at all, I guess," she said, thinking about it. "I'm realising I'm thinking about him, and his wife, but I don't have a name or a face to go with her. In terms of the kids, I mean. Has it improved your thoughts of him?"

"I had very few thoughts about him, to begin with," Miranda started but paused as she took off her mascara. "But now that you mention it, yes. In my head, there are two Alec's, almost. One was the arsehole that I caught," she looked down at Sam. "In flagrante delicto with one of the models that were supposed to be on my set, in the back room of a hall we were in. He'd brought me flowers."

"Shit, that's," Andy winced. "That's fucked up."

"Hmm," Miranda said, no longer so shocked at Andy's occasional swear word. "But the children are," she pondered, her hands going still. "They are well rounded and polite and beautiful. So he must have done something right. He wasn't the one for me, and now," she coloured a little. "Now I know what the right one feels like, I understand his unwillingness to try."

"I," Andy's eyeballs nearly popped out of her head. "Wow."

"Did you doubt it?" Miranda asked. "Do you," she swallowed. "Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"You're saying that I'm your one and done?" Andy asked, leaning forward and cupping a makeup-free cheek. "Just like you are my one and done?"

"Yes," Miranda said decisively, before blinking and looking up at Andy with equally wide eyes. "Yes?"

"I love you, Miranda Priestly. I cannot imagine anyone else ever holding my heart like you hold it. I wouldn't want anyone else to hold my heart like you do. You're mine, and I'm not giving you up."

"The feeling is mutual," Miranda said, smiling serenely.

"Great. Think you can hang here while I get ready. I'll be quick."

"Don't rush," Miranda parroted as they swapped positions and Andy added just a little more sway in her walk as she entered the bathroom, throwing a wink over her shoulder before she closed the door.

Andy was true to her word and before long, they were settled down, tea gone, lights out, with Samuel sandwiched between them. They would have liked the evening to kiss and cuddle and perhaps go further, but as Sam mumbled unhappily in his sleep, the want evaporated as they sought to protect their youngest from his troubles. Miranda pulled him on almost on top of her, wrapping her arms around him as he snuggled under her chin while Andy squashed up to her side, wrapping an arm around both of them.

The kids would always come first.

Chapter Text

 

 

Andy paced in the hall while she waited for the secretary to bring Olivia to the front desk. They'd send her to school, even though she had an appointment at 11. And now, Andy needed to pick her up in time for Roy to get them to Runway and then to Dr Swari's office. As usual, it was Andy that was running around chasing her tail, not that she minded. She'd asked Anton for the morning, and he'd told her off for asking.

Apparently, she needed to consider herself a free-lance with a desk. She would, from now on. It would certainly help her deal with life a little better.

"Mama!"

"Hey Munchin!" Andy said, hugging Livvy as she careened into her. "Ready?"

"Yeah, Ms Ashwin told me I won't need my bag?"

"No baby, we're going to come back."

"M'kay," she said happily, slipping her hand into Andy's and swinging them back and forth while Andy signed her out.

"Hey Roy," Livvy said as they approached the car.

"Hello little Miss!" he said happily. "Let's get you and your Mama to Miranda, then it's off to the doctors?"

"Yep. Dr," she turned to Andy as she strapped her in. "Where we going Mama?"

"Dr Swari," Andy said gently.

"Yeah. And we going to get my hand sorted."

"That's great Liv!" Roy said happily, winking at Andy. "Are you still doing your rehab?"

"Wha's rehab?"

"Your exercises honey."

"Oh! Yeah Cassy helps me. I love Cassy, you know."

"I know you do," Roy replied with a smile. "She's pretty great isn't she."

"Yeah."

"Mama, I'm hungry," Livvy said quietly as the slowed in front of Runway.

"We'll get something afterwards okay?" Andy said gently, her eyes transfixed on the doors to Elias Clarke. "Just in case."

"M'kay," Liv sighed. "Where's M'anda."

At that point, Andy spotted her, stalking across the lobby and to the doors. It still, after all these months, took her breath away. Security opened the doors for her, and she passed through them without even a pause. Sunglasses on, footsteps sure and true. She was magnificent.

"I got it Roy," she muttered before he could get out.

"Yes ma'am," he said, but she wasn't listening.

She got out, staring at her woman as she beelined for the car, grinning a little as Miranda got closer.

"Shit you're sexy," Andy whispered as Miranda pressed a kiss to her cheek.

"Mm," Miranda smirked. "Thank you my darling."

"No Miranda," Andy whispered. "Thank you ."

"Come along Andréa."

"Yes Miranda."

Olivia talked quietly to Miranda, who hummed absently as they travelled to the Dr's. Olivia got quieter and quieter.

"You alright munchkin?"

"Yeah," she said quietly.

"You nervous?"

"Yeah."

"You're going to be just fine," Miranda said gently, without looking up from her phone. "There is nothing to worry about."

"What if it hurts?" Liv said quietly.

"I will hold your hand," Miranda said gently. "There is nothing to fear."

"M'kay," Olivia whispered.

By the time they were seen, Olivia was holding tightly onto Miranda's hand. Andy smiled as Miranda stroked her thumb over Olivia's.

"Olivia Walker?"

Andy got up first, waiting patiently as Miranda helped Olivia from her chair. They walked in silence, following the nurse to a room, where they were seated.

"This is all a bit quiet isn't it," Andy said quietly, poking Olivia in the belly. "We need Sam to sing us a song."

Olivia laughed and leaned against Miranda, stroking her arm.

"Do you sing M'anda?"

"I try not to darling," Miranda said quietly.

"Miranda sings beautifully," Andy pretended to whisper. "She sang to Nicky when he first came home. Remember when he was really upset?"

"Oh yeah!"

"Hmm," Miranda said, smirking at Andy. "Thank you Andréa."

"You're welcome Miranda!"

"Good morning," Dr Swari said as she walked in. "How are we all today?"

"We're fine thank you," Andy said with a smile. "I'm Andy Sachs, this is Miranda Priestly, and this," she said, running her hand over Olivia's head. "Is Olivia."

"Well hello there Olivia," Dr Swari said with a kind smile. "How are you?"

Olivia had a moment where she squeezed Miranda's hand and looked up at Miranda. Miranda nodded once, and Olivia sighed.

"I'm okay," Olivia said.

"Olivia," Miranda said gently. "Use your manners please."

"I'm okay thank you," Olivia said in a hurry.

Dr Swari smiled at Andy and rolled forward on her chair.

"Now," she said. "I have it here in my letter that you cut your hand a while ago, is that right?"

"Yeah." Olivia said. "I was helping Cassy cook."

"Her big sister," Andy said helpfully. "They were trying to cook breakfast for us."

"That's really helpful," Dr Swari said, taking Olivia's hand gently in her own. "And I hear Dr Sanders looked after it for you while it was healing?"

"Is he the doctor with the suckers?" Olivia whispered to Andy.

"He has the best candy," Dr Swari said. "I always make sure to ask for one when I go and see him."

"I got a grape one last time. But the time before that, I got a raspberry one, cos Cassy's favourite is raspberry."

Ady could tell Miranda was a little uncomfortable with the way that Olivia was speaking, but she didn't comment. If anything she twitched a little, meaning that she thought Dr Swari was taking too long.

Andy reached around Olivia and touched the back of Miranda's arm, squeezing a little in comfort. The tension eased, but only a little.

"Right," Dr Swari said finally. "Let's have a look and see what's going on okay?"

Olivia dutifully stuck out her hand and let Dr Swari take off the bandages.

"That looks great Olivia!" she exclaimed when she saw it. "I think you've been taking great care of this."

"I did my exercises too!"

"Fantastic. Can you show them to me?"

Andy couldn't help but smile proudly as Olivia curled her hand into a ball, then straightened it out again, then touched her fingers to her thumb, one after another. She winced a little as her index finger touched, but she beamed happily, first at Andy, then at Miranda, who smiled back, finally taking off her sunglasses.

"Well done," Miranda said quietly.

"Can you tell me," Dr Swari asked. "Does it hurt when you curl up your hand like this?"

"No, only when I do this finger and thins finger," Olivia said, sticking them both up. "Hey it's like peace!"

Andy but her tongue to stop herself from laughing at Olivia's non-stop prattle. She was amazed that Miranda had lasted as long as she had. It was very impressive.

"Okay," she looked up. "Moms, when was this last x-ray taken?"

Andy's eye twitched at the term, but she opened her mouth to answer.

"It was taken at our last appointment two weeks ago," Miranda said instead. "The physician said that the progress looked good?"

There was a touch of steel in it, and Andy watched Dr Swari take a deep breath and nod.

"There is good progress. The exercises have really helped too, Olivia," the Dr said before turning back to Miranda. "But the fact that it still hurts a little when she moves means that something isn't quite working for her. That either means that something is healing wrong or," she said, holding up her hand as Miranda opened her mouth. "Or her body is ready to be beyond this stage and is ready to start being used again. Sometimes the worst pain comes from our body to tell us that it's ready to start being used properly again. The difficult part for me is," she tweaked Olivia's nose. "Making sure I know which is which."

"Of course," Miranda said, looking suitably impressed with her.

Andy wondered how many doctors had stood up to her like that, but was content to watch this one, seeing as Miranda seemed to have it in hand.

-0-

"M'anda? Can we have Ol' Macdonalds?"

"McDonald's?" Miranda said as they set off towards Runway. "I," she winced. "Yes, if you must. Though perhaps once I have been safely dropped off at Runway."

"'Kay," Olivia said happily.

Andy ran her hand over Olivia's hair, watching as she wiggled her fingers like she'd been told to. Dr Swari had decided that it was very unlikely, after perusing the x-rays, that the wound was healing badly and had declared it time to start using her hand again. She also pronounced it as not being as bad as she thought it would be after reading the report, and was pleased with the progress. Andy watched about a hundred pounds of tension ease from Miranda's shoulders.

From now on, there would be no more brace, and only a larger Band-Aid over the cut to keep it protected. It was hoped that with all the freedom it gave her, Olivia would be back to using it properly in no time.

"Will you send Melody for some marbles?" Andy asked, brushing back the lock of hair over Miranda's eye.

"I will," Miranda said, turning to look. "Hello Andréa."

"Hi," Andy said kindly. "You were worried."

"I was," Miranda took a deep breath. "Concerned."

"And now?"

"I feel much less so," Miranda smiled. "But I am ready to go back to work. It will be a long day. Will you be alright with them again?"

"Let's make a deal okay?" Andy said, in lieu of answering. "Let's not ask each other whether we'll be alright with them, and instead promise each other that if we won't be, we'll tell."

"I like that," Miranda said. "It doesn't feel like I'm abandoning them every night."

"You're not. You have to work, and your work is more intense than mine. It's a total and logical division of labour. Like you said. You earn the big bucks, which come with the long hours. I earn the small, but am fairly flexible," she chuckled, taking Miranda's hand. "Anton told me off for asking for this morning off. He practically threw me out of the office and told me that I'm basically a freelancer with a desk."

"You are not to repeat this," Miranda said, looking stern. "But I like him. He is going to go far. Not much flair for writing, but he could run an editorial magazine or some such. I imagine he will realise it soon."

"You'll be out a department head," Andy said, looking concerned.

"Not for long. And it's nothing to worry about. You could apply if you wished, but it is a lot more work. You could," Miranda said quietly. "Apply anywhere you want to."

"I don't want to," Andy said quietly. "I," she bit her lip. "I admit for a while I did look. When I was having those few issues back at the beginning. I looked and decided that I didn't want to be away from Runway. Not because I didn't necessarily want to spread my wings, but because life is wonderful at Runway. I get to be near you, I get to write, I get to learn. And i get the understanding that perhaps other workplaces wouldn't give me. I don't want to start at the bottom of the totem pole again."

"I admit that while I would be fine with you working anywhere at all, that was my thought also."

"Miranda, we're coming up on Runway," Roy said quietly.

"Thank you Roy. I believe Andréa and Olivia will be heading to McDonald's afterwards. Feel free to get something, if you haven't had lunch. I will need you this afternoon, probably for a long while."

"That's no problem Miranda," he said, tipping his hat and glancing at Andy. "And I'd love to, thank you."

Olivia gave Miranda a careful but heartfelt kiss on the lips before she left, giggling as Miranda wiped the barely there trace of lipstick, before giving Andy a proper kiss.

"I love you," Andy called as Miranda was helped out of the car by Roy.

Andy was surprised as Miranda bent back down again, looking Andy in the eye.

"I love you."

Andy wore a smile for a long time after that.

-0-

"Hey Mom?" Andy looked up but didn't stop packing the bag that they were taking to Caroline's soccer match. "Can I stay here, instead of going to the game?"

This made Andy stop as she looked between Cassidy and her mother. Miranda had a very strange look on her face as she inspected her eldest child.

"Why?" she asked carefully, her eyes fixed on Cassidy's.

"I," Cassidy sighed and frowned, looking back down the hallway to where Caroline was trying to teach Nicky how to tie his shoes. "This is her thing. I'm not really interested."

There was a big pause and Miranda turned, looking at Andy with an odd look in her eyes.

"I was home alone by the time I was 12," Andy said carefully. "Cass is more mature than I was. But," she said, turning to Cassidy. "We haven't ever talked about it, or considered it, and we're not really set up to figure it out now." Miranda had a look of relief in her eyes as Andy continued. "Cass, how about you come with us this time. We were going to go out for brunch afterwards anyway. But, now that we know that this is what you want, we'll talk about it okay?"

"I guess," Cassidy said, looking disappointed.

"We are not saying no," Miranda said gently. "I understand and recognise what you're saying but we were already going to surprise everyone with brunch because of how well everyone had done this week so," she cupped Cassidy's cheek. "We will talk about it, I promise."

"Alright. That's fair, I guess."

"Thanks Cass. Next time you want something like this, make sure you ask us before we're trying to walk out the door, okay? With this many people to figure out, we need a bit of advanced warning."

"Yeah, sorry. I kinda didn't know I didn't want to go until now."

"Bring your headphones if you like? You don't have to cheer your sister in, although," Andy looked at her carefully. "It is the nice thing to do."

"Yeah, I know," she said with a sigh. "Thanks."

She left and Miranda turned to look at Andy with a wild expression.

"Something has happened," Miranda mumbled, her arms crossed and her toe tapping. "I don't know if they've had a fight or -?"

"Yeah," Andy nodded slowly. "Or, she just wants to do her own thing? She's gone from half of a twin pair, that had the best of everything, to the eldest of 5 in a really short period of time. And yes, clearly she's struggling with something," Andy muttered. "That would explain the problems getting ready, and at school," she shrugged. "But it'll be fine. We'll figure it out, okay?"

"Okay," Miranda sighed.

"Mom, we need to go, I'm going to be late."

"Yes, sorry Caroline, we're coming."

Andy bundled the rest of the snacks into the cooler and placed it on the floor while she took a head count.

"Where's Sam?"

"I here Mama," Sam said, hopping down the last step. "I fordot Bop."

"Ah, good. Can't leave home without him." Andy sighed. "Where's your coat? It might be chilly."

"Caro's dot it."

"Great. Everyone ready?"

"Where's Nicky?"

Andy rolled her eyes and gave the cooler to Cassidy.

"Girls, help your Mom get the two in the car and I'll be there asap."

Andy ran up the stairs and into the boys' room. Except there was nobody there. She checked Olivia's room, the girl's rooms, even their room and finding nobody there, her heart started beating a little faster.

"Nicholas, where are you sweetheart?"

There was no reply of course, but Andy's heart was really thumping now.

"Nicky?"

She ran down the stairs and checked out the living room, the library and even her study. She'd found him in there one day playing with a few of her knick-knacks. Not that she minded. In fact, at this point, she'd be happy to see him playing with her memorabilia.

"NICK?!

She waited, straining to hear a noise before she heard it.

"Mama."

She'd heard that voice before, not often, and usually not when he was awake, but it was definitely him, and it was definitely downstairs.

"Andréa?" Miranda said as she stalked back in through the door.

"Shh," Andy said. "Nicky, one more time baby."

"Mama."

Andy spun, looking at Miranda as she looked beside her at the coat closet.

"Oh," Andy said, rushing forward. She opened up the infamous closet by the door and dropped to her knees. "I'm so sorry baby," she said, pulling him into her arms and holding him tightly.

Miranda held them both, before helping Andy off the floor, still holding him in her arms.

"Why didn't you bang on the door baby?" Andy said.

Nick pointed, and Andy looked, not seeing anything until Nick wriggled down from her arms and went back inside the closet and pointed at the wall. There, much to Miranda's surprise, was a wall full of glow in the dark stickers.

"You weren't scared because they were glowing?" Andy said, watching as he nodded.

"I'm glad you weren't scared," Miranda mumbled. "Your big sisters have only narrowly avoided a punishment."

"Thank you for calling out to me," Andy said gently. "That was really really helpful."

"MOM!"

Miranda rolled her eyes and held out her hand for Nick to take, leading him down to the car, while Andy locked up. She made a mental note to book someone in to add a handle on the inside lower down in case anything like this happened again. She dreaded to think what would have happened if Olivia had been trapped in there. Although Olivia would have screamed down the house, she supposed.

As she ran towards the car, she noted that Miranda was sitting in the back with Caroline and Cassidy was once again in the front. She made no mention of it but made another mental note to check why Miranda had agreed.

"Alright. Everyone ready?"

"Please," Caroline wined.

"Calm down Caro," Andy said, looking in the mirror. "We're fine. You'll still be early."

"Yeah but -"

She stopped and Andy glanced at Miranda, putting her hand on top of Caroline's and looking at her carefully. Caroline bit her lip and nodded, staying quiet while Andy pulled out into traffic.

They made it to the park well in time for the warm-ups and Andy and Miranda got the kids unpacked and sorted. Sam was content to run around with another little brother under the watchful eye of Miranda, and Nick and Olivia opened the watermelon and the goldfish, munching on them happily.

"So," Andy said, getting back in the front seat and turning to Cassidy. "Spill little."

"I'm fine," Cassidy said, not looking up from her book.

"Uhuh. And I'm Imelda Marcos," Andy said happily. "Did you have a fight with Caroline?"

"No," Cassidy said, looking up just a little too quickly. "Why would you think that?"

"Because right now Caroline's getting a ton of attention and you're really not," Andy said, seeing through the whole thing. She'd figured it out on the way to the game, and it looked like Miranda had also, wishing Caroline a good game as she ran off, but turning to press a kiss to Cassidy's hair before going with Sam.

"I'm not a bitch," Cassidy said, though she sounded very unsure. "I'm not."

"I never said you were sweetheart," Andy said, reaching out and taking her hand. "You have to talk to us sweetheart, otherwise we won't know. There's a lot going on in our lives, and I know that might not seem fair that you have to be the one to point it out to us, but you're old enough to know that telling us is really important."

"I know," Cassidy said. "I don't know how to say it though."

She blushed up to her hairline, piquing Andy's interest as to what was really at the bottom of this conversation.

"Cass, do you know how much I love you?"

"Yeah," she shrugged. "I guess."

"No, don't guess. Do you know?"

"Yeah," Cassidy said quietly.

"Nothing you can say can make us hate you."

"Nothing?"

"Nothing," Andy confirmed, touching her cheek gently.

There was a frisson of fear running down Andy's back now at the thought of what was to come. She really didn't know how she would handle something like I'm pregnant , or I'm taking Ritalin , or -

"I'm not gay."

"I'm sorry?" Andy said, blinking as her brain tried to catch up.

"I'm not gay," Cassidy said sadly.

There was dead silence in the car as Andy's brain struggled to come up with an appropriate response. It failed.

"Sweetie, I," Andy shook her head. "That's okay," she laughed in relief. "That's more than okay. That's just as normal as being gay is. There's really no difference."

"I know," Cassidy said, just a little of her mother coming through in her tone. "But Caroline gets all these special things cos she is. And I just can't even pretend to be. I don't like girls."

"You don't have to like anyone right now honey," Andy said, biting back another bout of laughing. "To be honest, I'm relieved. I had all the visions of you saying something much more difficult to deal with."

"I'm not an idiot," Cassidy said, clearly thinking andy was.

"Hey," Andy said, realising she was losing control of the situation. "Watch your tone okay? Now. Caroline isn't playing soccer in the park because she's gay."

"They why would you let her?" Cassidy said. "I've been asking to do Taekwondo for years and Mom won't even entertain the idea."

"You have?"

"Since I was 8."

"Oh honey," Andy said, rubbing her forehead. "Caroline isn't allowed to play soccer because she's gay. She's allowed to play because she asked us to, and I helped your Mom see that it wasn't a big deal. Now that I know that is what you want, I can show her it isn't a big deal either."

"But," Cassidy looked astounded. "You just made Mom agree?"

"No," Andy said, shaking her head. "When have you ever heard of anyone making your mother do anything she didn't want to."

"Never," Cassidy said. "Which is why it didn't make sense."

"I gave her the pros and the cons. I explained to her that I used to play soccer in Junior High and that it really helped me learn a few things that were useful in life. She doesn't not want you to do anything," Andy explained. "She just doesn't want to see you get hurt. And to be honest, Taekwondo is a big sell. It's way more dangerous than soccer."

"No," Cassidy said, sitting up and leaning forward. "It's really not. It's all about defence. It's like," she thought about it for a moment and as Andy watched on, it was as if Cassidy had been electrocuted. Her eyes were wide and bright and she was smiling as she spoke. "It's like the saying, don't start the fight, but make sure you can end it. It's like that, only you end it fairly and without hurting anyone. It's about peace."

"This means a lot to you," Andy said redundantly.

"Since I was 8."

"Right," Andy conceded. "And this is the big thing you're struggling with. You're not," she waved her hand airily. "I dunno, taking Ritalin or anything."

"Geez Ma, what the hell."

"Cassidy!"

They both went very still as Miranda rounded the open car door and glared at Cassidy even as she was holding Sam.

"It's okay. That was deserved," Andy said quickly, taking Cassidy's hand. "It's okay."

"Well," Miranda said, looking hard at Cassidy. "Remember that no matter how much you are dealing with, the people that love you are the ones that will be there for you no matter what. It would be best to start remembering that."

"Yes Mom."

"Come and sit with us while we watch," Miranda said, making Andy think that she'd heard far more than she'd let on.

"Alright," Cassidy said, glancing at Andy.

She waved her on and waited for Miranda to come around to her side of the car.

"You heard everything?" Andy said.

"I heard enough," Miranda said quietly. "I should have noticed."

"We both should have," Andy said quietly. "Let's watch the game and worry about it later okay?"

"Deal," Miranda said, taking Andy's hand and helping her from the car. She kissed the back of it as they walked and Andy sighed in peace.

Life wasn't remotely close to perfect, but it perfectly imperfect and that was alright in Andy's world.

Chapter Text

Sam did not contract chicken pox. What he did get though, was terrible hives after an afternoon playing outside with Cara. They did not have much of a garden, in fact, it was barely more than a postage stamp of a thing, but there was a little communal garden that they shared with the rest of the block. It seemed that having been mowed, Sam decided that he wanted to roll in it, getting covered in grass, but after his shower, also covered in big angry welts.

"Shit," Andy sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. "Do I need to come home?"

"No, not unless you want to," Cara said, soothing Sam's whines. "I have some antihistamine cream, I'm lathering on him - I have bad allergies myself and make sure I've always got some on me, but I just wanted to let you know."

"Alright," Andy sighed. "I'll let Miranda know and text you if the plan changes."

"No problem Andy, do you want to talk to him?"

"Of course," Andy smiled as Cara handed the phone to Sam.

The great wobbly breath told her that his crying was nearly through.

"Hey sweetheart," Andy said gently. "I hear you're having a rough day."

"I itchy Mama."

"I know baby, but Cara's gonna put some cream on you and make it better okay?"

"Everyfink is itchy!"

"Try not to scratch it, alright? Maybe you and Cara can cuddle in front of Paw Patrol for a while until it stops itching, how about that?"

"M'kay," he said.

There was a noise on the other end before Cara came back on the phone.

"Whatever you said to him, you fixed it," Cara chuckled.

"Well," Andy winced. "Don't thank me yet, I told him that maybe you might cuddle on the sofa and watch some Paw Patrol."

"Ha!" Cara chuckled. "No worries. See you later."

"Thanks Cara."

She dropped her phone on her desk and looked at Miranda's calendar that was shared with her. She was currently in a meeting, so Andy made a note to let her know later.

-0-

"Andréa?"

"Hmm?" Andy moaned, blinking at the light invading her corneas.

"Andréa?"

"What?" she groaned, rolling over. "Oh!" she smiled, sitting up and kissing Miranda. "Hi."

"I'm sorry I was late darling."

"You've said that, so you don't need to do it again," Andy said gently. "We're okay, remember?"

"Yes," Miranda sighed, sitting back with a look on her face that Andy couldn't interpret.

Andy sighed, sitting up properly and turning to face Miranda, crossing her legs. It looked like a bigger conversation that she wanted to have at, she glanced at the clock, three in the morning.

"Spill."

"I do not spill ," Miranda said, halfheartedly.

"Geez," Andy frowned. "It's a doozy. What's going on?"

"I don't want to go to Paris," Miranda whispered.

"What?" Andy said, sitting forward and straining. Miranda's whispers were legendary, but Andy was well out of practice.

"I do not want to go to Paris."

Andy knew the shock was showing on her face, but she couldn't help it. She looked at Miranda, really looked and saw the truth in her eyes.

"You do, you just don't want to leave us behind," Andy correctly surmised.

"Why now," Miranda said, waving her hands. "Why do I suddenly feel this now. Why weren't my girls enough to feel this. Why did I always go off and ab -"

"Stop," Andy said gently, taking Miranda's hands. "Stop right there. Life now is very different to life was when the girls were small. I have no doubt at all that despite your thoughts, you probably didn't want to go and leave them when they were little. You just had no choice. Well," Andy coloured remembering that whole conversation on choices that they'd once had.

"Yes," Miranda whispered. "Exactly."

"Look," Andy sighed. "It's 5 days. You're so busy on those 5 days that you barely sleep. Imagine adding 5 kids to that mix."

Miranda didn't say anything, and Andy didn't know how to follow on from that.

"Let's sleep okay?" Andy sighed. "We'll worry about this tomorrow," she glanced at the clock again. "Today. Are you going in early?"

"I must. I have a meeting at 8."

"Oh darling," Andy said, snuggling down and opening her arms.

Miranda looked down at Andy, and stroked her face before turning out the light and settling into those open arms.

"I've never done that before you," Miranda whispered.

"What?"

"Admitted my fears. Discussed them. Admitted them."

"Here's to a healthy relationship that lasts forever," Andy whispered, kissing the Miranda's crown.

They fell asleep clinging to one another, thankful for the steadiness each provided the other.

-0-

"Alright guys, time to come and give M'anda big hugs and kisses."

"Why M'anda going?" Sam asked, Bop and his thumb firmly lodged in his mouth.

"Cos that's what M'anda needs to do for work sweetie," Andy said gently. "It's only for a little while and she's coming right back here to us afterwards."

The twins seemed just as forlorn as the little ones as Miranda stood in the hallway. The bags were already in the car, and everyone was sitting on the steps looking at her.

"Guys," Andy said looking at the twins. "Help me out here."

"We'll see you when you get back Mom," Caroline said, getting up and giving Miranda a hug. "We love you."

"I love you," Miranda smiled, cupping Caroline's cheeks and kissing her forehead. "And you, my darling heart."

She did the same to Cassidy, then opened her arms. Nicky was the first one to succumb and raced into her arms, hugging her tightly. He'd not said another word since being locked in the cupboard under the stairs, but Andy and Miranda had both heaved a sigh of relief that he was still progressing in a forward motion.

Sam was next, demanding that she pick him up and hold him. He sighed into her neck and held onto her jacket lapel until Andy took him off her.

"Are you going to say goodbye Miss Olivia?" Miranda asked, crouching down next to her small carry-on bag.

"Not if it means you gotta go," Livvy said, looking up at her with sad eyes.

"I will be coming right back," Miranda smiled. "I will Skype you all every night. Even though that means I have to be awake much earlier than I need to be, because I love you all and I don't want to go away for this little while anymore than you want me to."

Andy watched the twin's faces turn to shock as they heard that admission. They looked between each other, then at Andy. Andy shrugged, shaking her head a little and making sure they knew to keep it low key. The last thing she wanted them to do was make a big deal out of it.

"I love you," Livvy said, throwing herself into Miranda's arms.

"I love you sweetheart," Miranda whispered back. "Now I must go. Roy is waiting for me."

"Hey," Andy said, shifting Sam into the other arm. "You forgot about me."

"I could never," Miranda whispered, closing the gap and giving Andy a kiss that she was sure was the very best kiss she'd ever had in all her life.

She blinked, trying hard to hold onto that feeling, and not listen to the giggles and cat-calls from their children as Miranda walked backwards out of the door.

"Goodbye my darlings, I'll be home soon. I love you all."

And then, she was gone.

-0-

Bath time had not gone smoothly. Samuel had slipped over and hurt his head. Nick had dropped his tablet in the water, despite Andy repeating more than thrice the instruction that they were not to have their tablets in the bath. And Olivia had cried since dinnertime. Cara, bless her heart, had shown up unannounced thirty minutes after Miranda had left, while they were all sitting around looking glum. She'd taken the boys and started on dinner, leaving Andy to hold Olivia and the twins lolling on the sofa. But then she'd left and Andy was left trying to cope with everything, and by the time the younger three were in bed, she wanted to cry.

She had no idea why on this night, of all nights, everything was so hard. She'd done this a hundred times by now, and as she dropped back on their bed, she took a deep breath, breathing in the rich scent that was Miranda.

It took the twins thirty minutes to abandon whatever they were doing and knock on the door.

"Hey," Andy sighed, nodding them in.

"Why does it feel like this?" Cassidy whispered as they all lay looking at the ceiling. "I know we're usually at Dad's, so that's already weird, but why does it feel," she paused and Andy rolled over, pushing the hair out of her face.

"Empty," Caroline whispered, finishing Cassidy's thought. "It feels empty."

"Mama?"

Sam joined them, snuggling into Caroline's arms, and before long, Nicky and Olivia also joined them, and after another hour, all five were tucked up in their bed, sleeping soundly, leaving Andy looking down at them and trying to figure out what to do.

It took her four hours. She sat bolt upright in bed, grabbed her tablet, and started working. It was perfect. Everything was set, and it didn't really hit her until it came time to put her credit card information in. She gulped, looking at the information, staring back at her. It wasn't going to be cheap. She thought back to Miranda's words on the morning on her birthday and hit purchase before she could chicken out.

She sent a few text messages and a few emails, and snuggled back down, accepting Sam on top of her and Cassidy at her side. She fell asleep smiling, knowing she'd done the right thing.

-0-

Andy only got another two hours sleep before she got up again and sighed, thinking about how much work she needed to do. She started in Olivia's room, knowing that the twins would likely not appreciate her rooting around in their wardrobes. She herself, went in search of some luggage, having seen it somewhere, she just couldn't remember where.

She finally found it in the cupboard under the stairs, of all places. She smiled to herself as she opened them up on the floor in the "guest sitting room". The twins could put their stuff in when it was ready, and she carted the little one's stuff in before going back upstairs and standing in the doorway of their room, watching as a few of them blinked awake.

"Mama?" Livvy asked.

"Hey kiddo. You hungry?" She shrugged. "Alright, why don't you go to the bathroom, and come lay back in bed until everyone's awake."

"'Kay."

"Wha's'goin'on?" Caroline asked, sitting up suddenly and disturbing Nick, who growled at Caroline. Properly growled.

"Wow," Andy giggled. "Good noise Nicky. We're waking up," Andy said gently. "But don't go anywhere cos I have some exciting news for everyone."

It took another 20 minutes for everyone to wake up, and that was mainly because Sam poked Cassidy until she opened her eyes.

"Okay Cass, I'm sorry, but we're on a time limit here," Andy said, sitting on the bed and rubbing her leg until she nodded.

"So, last night, I realised something," Andy explained. "Last night, I realised that Cass and Caro were right. Without M'anda here," she sighed. "It's empty. So," she took a deep breath. "I did something crazy, that I hope you'll all be alright with. Cos it's a big deal."

"We're following Mom aren't we," Cassidy grinned, glancing at Caroline.

"We are," Andy said. "Will that be alright, you just taking off for a week?"

"Yeah, we'll get them to email our work if there's anything important," Caroline grinned. "When are we leaving."

"Roy's coming in about two hours, which isn't long, so I want you can Cass to get showered and pack some things. We're not going to have any," she made air quotes, "fashion clothes, but we all have nice stuff, so let's make sure you pack some okay? I'm sure your Mom can organise some things for us when we get there."

"Yes Mama," Caroline squealed, bouncing off the bed.

"Yes Mama," Cassidy followed right behind.

"Oh, hey," Andy called. "Do I have to let your Dad know?"

"We'll call him," Cassidy said, running down the stairs to follow her twin. "He won't care."

"Alright loves," Andy said, accepting Sam on her knee. "Do you understand what's happening?"

Liv nodded, but Nicky just shrugged, so Andy made it simpler.

"You know how M'anda went on a big plane?"

They nodded.

"We're going to go on an even bigger plane so we can go and be with M'anda okay?"

"Yeah," Sam said, throwing Bop up in the air as he always did when he was excited.

"Great. What I want you to do, Liv, Nicky. Get your tablets and your chargers," she frowned. "I forgot Nick, you'rs is out. Okay. You can play on mine. Let's do this. Livvy, I want you to put on some clothes. Make sure they're super comfortable okay? Soft pants and a shirt. Get the twins to help you if you get stuck. Then I want you to get your tablet, and Sam's and both chargers, okay?" Livvy nodded. "Put them by the big case at the front door okay? Then get two toys and one book okay?"

"Yes Mama," Livvy said, skipping happily out of the room.

"Nicky, I want you to do the same, think you can do that?"

He nodded silently and also left.

"That just leaves you and me kiddo," Andy smiled, kissing Sam's hair. "First things first. Let's get you dressed and eating, then we'll figure it out okay?"

"M'kay Mama," Sam said absently, happy to be carted off to his room, and set up for the day.

-0-

"Mama, come on we need to go!" Caroline said, her worry, ramping up the tension they were all already feeling.

"Caroline, calm down," Andy said, counting children, then bags, and making sure she had her own.  They'd already left it behind once, now it was strapped to her back like it was never coming off. "We've got plenty of time."

"I know, I'm just excited," Caroline grinned. "Sorry."

"It's okay. Help me, it'll be quicker alright? You take Nick, make sure he's got his jacket and his bag. Cass, you stick to Liv. Liv, you right baby?"

"Yes Mama," she said, smiling up at her.

"Good. I'll keep Sam and his stuff is now in my bag. And we're off."

In hindsight, Andy couldn't have realised what a tremendously audacious idea it would be to just pack up 5 children and go to Paris, during Fashion Week. But it felt right, and the kids were excited, and dammit she was too. There had been a hell of a lot of water under the bridge since that fateful Paris, and she and Miranda had been back again since then. But not with 5 kids in tow.

She just really, really hoped Miranda liked her surprise.-

She presented passports when they got to the gate and got a funny look as she did so. Thankfully, before the questions had started, she presented the adoption paperwork for the three Walker children, and the legal paperwork that named her as all 5 kids' guardian. Miranda had insisted that there be something official tying Andy to the children for such an occasion. She'd never been happier to be proven wrong in all her life. She'd called it ridiculous at the time. Now, she would definitely be eating her words.

Finally sat down, and buckled in, Andy beathed a deep sigh. Sam was in her row in the window seat with Andy in the middle and Nicky on her other side. The twins were with Olivia in front, where she could see them, Olivia peering out of the window with aw.

"Look Mama!" Sam yelled, making Andy wince. "It's so big!"

"I know baby," Andy chuckled. "Keep your inside voice on okay?"

As the plane started taxi-ing, she could see the tension ramp up in Olivia's shoulders. She leaned forward and squeezed her arm, telling her to hold Cassy's hand as hard as she wanted to.

"We go fast Mama?"

"Yes baby, and it's noisy, okay?"

"M'kay."

She felt the familiar roar of the engines and wrapped her arm around Sam as he panicked. They'd obviously never been on a plane before, but they did okay. Sam gripped her arm really hard, no doubt leaving nail marks, but Nick giggled and kicked his feet. She just hoped Olivia was alright too.

Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has turned off the fasten seatbelt sign and you may now move about the cabin. In just a moment, our team will bring some breakfast and refreshments around.

Andy had never been more thankful for aeroplane food in her life, as a hostess bought round three kids breakfasts and three orange juices. Andy set Sam and Nicky up with theirs and watched as Cassidy helped Olvia with hers. By the time they got theirs, Andy was starving, and after swapping her eggs for Cassidy's sausages, was now sufficiently fuelled for the rest of the nearly 8 hour flight. Nick was listening to an audiobook with his cute crocodile headphones on, and Sam was playing with some lego, Bop tucked under his arm. She felt like closing her eyes, but she couldn't. She knew she couldn't and so she sat back with one of her own book and joined in the quiet.

It was nice, but she couldn't help but smile, the excitement building.

They'd be with Miranda in no time at all.

Chapter Text

 

 

Landing at Charles De Gaulle was harder than leaving from JFK. Andy had to work twice as hard to get all of them to the same place at the same time. She couldn't have done it without the twins. They held tightly onto Liv and Nick's hands while she carried Sam through the packed airport. Fashion week had obviously only just started, and many people were still arriving. In fact, Cassidy pointed out a few people that they would no doubt meet again throughout the week as they stood in line for passport control.

There was definitely something to be said for travelling with Miranda. Andy remembered with fondness as they just stormed through the airport. The third time they'd travelled to Paris, Andy had hummed the Darth Vader theme tune in tune with Miranda's heels, causing a number of the accompanying staff members to blanch. By then though, she and Miranda had come to terms with what had happened the in the previous years and Andy only got an eye roll instead of a severance package.

This time, it was like herding cats.

Blind cats.

Blind and deaf cats.

Andy had failed to take into account so many aspects of travelling to Paris. They'd packed very few clothes, and had therefore managed with a small suitcase each and a backpack each, knowing that during the premier fashion event of the year, Miranda would have clothes sent over for them. In the moments when Miranda had to work, they would get by just fine.

But, Andy realised ruefully, she had no way of getting to Miranda's hotel. The thought of a cab made her turn up her nose, and there were too many of them anyway. And the thought of catching the Metro made her queasy. She realised as they stood there on the busy sidewalk, that they'd have to call someone to send them the limo.

Andy ushered them back inside, unimpressed by the facilities in Charles De Gaulle for anyone who wasn't being picked up right away. She managed to buy a few snacks for the kids, and they all sat on the floor by one of the big windows where the little ones could see the planes taking off while she found a payphone within sight.

"Oui, Allo?"

"Nige? It's Andy, are you with Miranda right now?"

"Six? No, I'm in my room, we're going to reconvene in about ten minutes. Honey, maybe you should call her, she's been a bear this whole time. We've barely managed to get a word out of her without her biting our heads off."

"So," Andy said, checking on the kids. "I've done one better. We're here. In Paris."

"You're what?!"

"Yeah, for better or for worse, right?"

"Where are you? Are you all okay? Did you bring Cara?"

"Um, no, just me."

"Six!"

"Yeah, I was doing pretty well until I realised I can't really call a cab, and I'm not taking the Metro. Can you get a limo to come and pick us up?"

"Of course cher'," he said. "I'll call you right back okay?"

"My phone doesn't work here yet," Andy groaned. "I never switched it. I had this idea about 10 hours ago. And we pretty much woke up and travelled."

"Andy you never do things by half do you," he chuckled.

"No, not really," she admitted. "I'm going to go buy a sim card now, so I'll text you my number once I've got it running."

"No worries. I'll send someone to you. Be careful. God forbid something happens to you."

"We'll be fine," Andy smiled, thankful for his love. "What's her schedule like tonight?"

"Dinner with the French team, then nightcap with Donatella."

"Maybe we'll crash dinner then," Andy smiled. "Donatella's been asking about them all forever. Miranda keeps putting it off. She's the safest bet I think."

"I'll be there too, so there'll be enough hands."

"Thanks Nige. Love you," she said quickly.

"Love you too kid."

She sighed, hanging up the phone and going back to the kids.

"Uncle Nigel's sending us a limo okay?"

"We see M'anda now?"

"We're going to go to the hotel, while M'anda works for a while, then we're going to have some snacks and go to dinner with Uncle Nigel and M'anda and Aunty Tella."

"Oh boy," the twins chuckled. "That's going to be fun."

"Shh," Andy grinned. "It's going to be awesome."

"Who's Aunty Tella?"

"She works with Mom," Caroline explained, offering Liv more crackers. "She's really cool. She makes us cool clothes every year."

"M'kay," Liv shrugged, not really understanding.

It occurred to Andy as she sat with them for a while that the little ones had never really seen Miranda as Miranda. Sam spent as often as he could tucked up on her knee watching her scribble in the book, but in general, they only ever saw "Home Miranda".

"Hey guys," she said, addressing the smallest three. "Remember way back when you first came home, and I was talking to Caroline about how sometimes M'anda needs to be a knight, but sometimes that she sounds like a dragon?"

"Can I be's a dragon?" Sam asked, clambering onto her knee.

"You can be anything you set your mind to," Andy chuckled, kissing his wild hair. "But, what I mean is, M'anda has to be a bit bossy when she's at work, and she sounds really mad sometimes, but she's not mad with you okay? She's never mad with you guys."

"I guess they've never been to Runway have they," Cassidy mused. "We used to go all the time, so we grew up hearing it, but then she and Dad fought a lot too, so it wasn't really anything. She's not talked like that at home for ages."

"Pretty cool, huh," Andy smiled.

"You've made her really happy Andy," Caroline said, hugging Nick enthusiastically.

"We all did sweetheart," Andy smiled, tugging on her ear. "Now, I have to track down a sim card for my phone."

"Here, I can turn on your roaming," Cassidy held out her hand.

"That'll cost a fortune," Andy grimaced.

"Nah, Runway picks up the tab every year. Mom already had me switch hers for her, and I switched Caro's and mine when we landed. It's one less number you have to remember."

"Thanks Cass."

As Cassidy fiddled, the phone buzzed a few times, and Cassidy winced, looking at the screen.

"Mom called, like three times."

"Oops," Andy grimaced. "Let's check Uncle Nige got the car sorted, then I'll ring her back." She scrolled through her messages and found an expected arrival time for the limo and checked the time. "He'll be here in ten minutes, let's go wait outside."

The all trudged out of the airport and back onto the busy passenger pick up area. She tucked them all into a corner and rang Miranda, knowing that as she was on her way out, she wouldn't have long to chat.

"Oui?"

"Hey," she smiled into the phone. The excitement of knowing they'd see her in a few hours was almost too much.

"I have been calling and calling and you did not pick up, I was about to call out the National Guard!"

"I know, I'm sorry. We had a busy morning, then I left my phone at home. But it's okay. We're all fine."

"It's noisy, where are you?"

"Ur," Andy grimaced. "Well Roy's stuck in traffic, so I'm going on the subway to meet him. I can't talk long, I just wanted to let you know we're all okay and we'll call you properly a bit later on."

"I have a dinner," Miranda muttered. "It will be late."

"That's okay," Andy said, letting the love shine through her voice. "We'll be there. I love you."

"I love you my darling," Miranda sighed. "I'm so glad you're okay, I've been worried."

"I'm sorry, I've been flying all day -" Cassidy snorted, slapping her hand over her mouth to muffle the sound. "But we'll be right here waiting for you when you get back, okay?"

"Alright, I must dash my love. Tell them all I love them and I miss them," Miranda said sadly.

"I will," Andy sighed. "I love you."

"Au Revoir."

Andy hung up and she and the twins burst into laughter.

"This is the best," Caroline grinned happily, snagging Nick's backpack before he could wander off. "She's going to be so happy."

"Hey," Andy nodded to a driver getting out of a black limo.

"Priestly-Sachs?"

"Oui," Andy said, beckoning the children. "Come on, let's go."

They piled in and soon they were speeding down the motorway and into the city itself.

"Wow, I haven't been back forever," Cassidy said, looking out of the window. "Check it out Sam, there's a museum for aeroplanes!"

"I'd forgotten you speak French," Andy quipped, leaning over to watch as they went by. "Can you ask the driver how long we'll be?"

"Sure," Cassidy said, sitting up straighter. "Um." She leaned over and whispered in Caroline's ear, who nodded. "Excusez moi? Quand allons-nous arriver?"

"Quarante minutes," the driver said, his face showing some shock at the question. "Tu parle français?"

Cassidy winced.

"Un peu," she said.

"C'est bon, bien fait," he said, an easy smile on his face.

"Merci," Cassidy blushed.

He cleared his throat, apparently now okay with talking.

"I," he thought about it. "Do not speak so well, but will try, if you try Fracais?"

"Oui," Cassidy smiled, finally. Andy noted that the man was not dissimilar to Roy in his mannerisms.

"Why you speaking funny?" Sam asked, pulling Cassidy's face towards his.

"It's French baby," Andy said. "People in France speak French like we speak English."

"We lives in English?"

Caroline laughed.

'No silly. It's a different language. Like when the driver says Bonjour ."

"What does that mean?" Livvy asked, perking up and joining in.

"It means hello," Andy explained. "When we meet someone new, we say hello, but people here say bonjour, which means we should try to say it to new people."

"Oh," Livvy said, thinking. She turned to face the front. "Bon-dior driver."

Thankfully the driver laughed even as Andy did.

"We will work on them no?"

"Oui," Andy smiled, cupping Liv's cheek. "Absolument."

"Are you here," he changed lanes. "How you say, holiday?"

"Sort of," Andy said in English. "We're surprising someone. They're here for fashion week."

"Oui? Maybe I drive them before?"

"Oh, probably," Andy muttered, looking at the twins. They shrugged and she decided she didn't care. "With your discrétion?"

"Oui bien sûr," he said.

"Miranda Priestly?"

"Non," he said, looking shocked. "Le Grande Dame?"

"Yeah," Caroline piped up. "She's our Mom."

"Une femme formidable," he said, looking at Andy in the mirror.

"No kidding," she said with a soft smile.

"Ah," he said, nodding. "L'amour."

"Bien sûr," Andy parroted.

"She will be pleased them, to have her famille all together."

"I sure hope so," Andy said, the closer they got, the more nervous she felt.

"Bonjour," Sam called out, breaking the tension and making them all laugh.

"I never asked your name," Andy said after a moment.

"Enzo," he said, touching his hat.

"I'm Andy, this is Caroline, and Cassidy and Olivia, Nicholas and Samuel."

"Bonjour," Sam called again.

"I think we'll definitely work on that," Andy chuckled.

Enzo left them to their thoughts as they travelled on. 45 minutes really wasn't long, but with traffic, and five children, it felt longer than ever for Andy.

"Madame?" Enzo said, after a time, breaking into her thoughts.

"Um, yes?" Andy said, smacking Cassidy's leg gently as she laughed at the title.

"We could make a small detour to see Le tour Eiffel?"

"Ooh," Caroline said, digging out her camera. "Please Mama? I wanna take some pictures."

"Alright," she sighed. "But we'll go on another day and have a proper look okay?"

"Okay," Caroline said.

"Just a look please Enzo, we won't be getting out."

He nodded, getting off the highway and joining the busy streets of the city.

-0-

By the time they arrived at the hotel, Nigel had messaged twice to keep her updated on what Miranda was doing. Andy could feel the day's stress catching up with her, and could only imagine what would happen once the jet lag started. She knew the children would be up for a while longer yet, and would probably be awake most of the night, but if she could help it, she would prefer them to sleep on Paris' schedule.

"Come on munchkins, let's go."

She walked up to the desk and asked for the room key to Nigel's suite. The desk had been properly briefed, as they passed it right over without question. She followed the man carting their luggage to the elevator and kept a firm grip on Sam's hand as they all piled in.

Nigel's room was much smaller than she knew Miranda's would be, but it was functional for their immediate purpose. Ushering them all inside, she checked the time. There was about an hour of free time before she knew they needed to think about getting ready. Instructing the girls that they were in charge and forbidding them from leaving the room, Andy lay on the bed and closed her eyes.

-0-

"Mama?"

Andy blinked, yawning as she opened her eyes to see 5 pairs of eyes staring back at her.

"Oh, sorry loves, I dozed off," she said, sitting up. "You alright?"

"Your alarm went off," Cassidy said. "I'm sorry, but I didn't want to miss Mom."

"No, that's fine," she said, kissing everyone's forehead one after the other. "Let's start on showers, who's going first, you or Caro?"

"I'll go," Caro said quickly, grinning when Cassidy punched her arm.

"Alright. Don't be too long. You can have a proper one tomorrow, just one to get us ready, okay?"

As Caroline locked the bathroom door, there was a knock at the door, confusing Andy. She went to the peephole and looked out. A woman who looked overworked and underpaid was tapping her foot, holding a garment rack full of clothes.

"Are you looking for Nigel?" she said, as she opened the door.

"Non," the woman said, raising her eyebrow at Andy's shredded jeans and a plain shirt. She looked down at the note. "Andréa Sachs?"

"That's me," Andy said, opening the door.

The woman handed her the note and turned and walked away, leaving the garment rack in the hallway.

"Hey," Sam said, peering out from behind her. "Are they for us?"

It was then Andy realised what she was seeing. Nigel had obviously arranged to have some clothes brought over, and she smiled, thanking him again in her head, letting Sam rearrange the shoes so he could sit at the bottom while she wheeled it in.

"Alright," she said. "You three did pretty well, so we're going to skip showers for you, but these are very special clothes," she explained, mostly to Olivia and Nick. "We have to make sure we keep them nice and clean okay?"

"M'kay mama," Olivia said happily, running her hand over the long dark blue of a dress that Andy didn't want to even consider yet.

"Okay," she looked through the garments. "Nick, this looks like you. Let's get you sorted first, then you can listen to your book again okay?"

He nodded and held up his hands so she could help him with his shirt.

After some help from Cassidy, Andy stepped back and smiled. A white shirt, sleeve rolled up, and bright blue stretch jeans along with a gorgeous bowtie with dinosaurs on had him grinning happily. He looked adorable, and Andy couldn't help but pick him up and swing him around, kissing him soundly.

"You look very dapper young man."

"Nicky don't wear diapers?" Sam said, looking confused.

"No, dapper. It means looking good," Andy smiled. "Very very smart and handsome."

"Wha'a about me?!" Sam squealed. "I's diaper!"

"Dapper," Cassidy laughed. "Not diaper silly. Livvy next?"

"Is that for me?" Olivia asked, looking up in wonder at the bright, sunshine yellow dress Cassidy was holding.

"Yep, Uncle Nigel picked it, do you like it?"

"I love it!" Olivia squealed. "Can I wear it always?"

"No," Andy said. "Not always, but when we go out this week, we'll make sure Mo-," she glanced at Cassidy. "M'anda and Uncle Nige get you some yellow."

None of them seemed to notice the slip, and Andy wasn't really sure why she'd said it either. Well. That wasn't true. Miranda was very, very genuine about how beautiful she found them all calling Andy Mama , but Andy couldn't help but notice just a tiny hint of sadness in her eyes when they called her M'anda. It was always with love, to be sure, but it was odd that it would pop into her psyche at that moment.

"Alright, Cassy, you wanna do Liv's hair?"

"Um, I'm not great at hair, I'll leave it to Caro."

Caroline poked her head around the door at the mention of her name.

"Oh Nicky, you look awesome!"

He grinned, pulling on his bowtie.

"I love it," Caroline smiled. "Mama, can you hand me my dress?"

"Which one?"

"Blue," Cassidy said, handing Caro the dress. "Caro is always blue and I am always purple. Same, but different. Uncle Nige has always done that."

"That's kinda awesome," Andy said.

"He's always loved us."

"That is true," Andy smiled. "Come on then Miss Olivia, let's get you sorted."

Finally, just as a final text from Nigel came through, Andy stepped back and looked at them all. She'd decided to put Sam in his clothes last, just in case, but was met with a very grumpy three-year-old when she finally got around to him.

"You's leave me to last," he huffed.

"I thought you'd feel funny in them," Andy explained gently. "Once you put them on, you have to stay in them, and you have to take care of them."

"I knows," he grumped. "I wear it for M'anda. LIke in da book."

It suddenly occurred to her, that of all of them, he would actually have more of an inkling at what they were doing than the others. Nicky wasn't really interested in being on Miranda's knee while she edited The Book, instead preferred when she was ready a normal book, which admittedly wasn't often. And Olivia sometimes drew at the desk beside her. Sam was the only one that watched as she made notes and scribbled things out and it occurred to Andy that Miranda always spoke to Sam about what she was doing.

"You're right," Andy said, crouching down beside their youngest. "I'm sorry honey, I was trying to help."

"M'anda always says you gots to look the best."

"She does, doesn't she," Andy grinned. "Give me two minutes, while I fix my make-up, then we'll go downstairs okay?"

"Yes Mama," they chorused, already engrossed in the television.

She stood before the mirror in the bathroom, her make-up didn't really need fixing, but she needed just a moment to contemplate what they were doing. Miranda didn't love surprises, but Andy was sure she'd like this one. She just hoped that she'd understand why she'd done what she'd done and not feel like Andy thought her weak.

"Ready Mama?" Caroline called softly.

"Yes," Andy nodded to herself. "We're ready."

-0-

"We go now Mama?" Sam half whispered from behind the curtain.

"Not yet," Andy soothed.

They'd made it to the restaurant first. Andy wasn't surprised, Miranda had a bit of schmoozing to do before she could leave, but they watched as Donatella arrived and settled down. Everyone waited for Miranda Priestly.

"She's here," Andy said, without looking up.

"How can you tell?" Caroline asked quietly, her hand firmly on Nick's shoulder.

"Feel it?" Andy asked. "The quiet? The stillness? It's like a wave."

"Oh," Caroline said. "That's Mom? I never realised."

"Duh," Cassidy said, rolling her eyes.

"Shut up."

"M'ANDA!"

It was not exactly how Andy had envisioned surprising Miranda as she had arrived, but Samuel, much smarter than he sometimes acted, had seized the moment she was distracted by the twins to wriggle off her knee and race out from behind the curtain at Miranda's legs.

The woman gaped and had it been less public, Andy would have laughed.

"Go on, before she panics," Andy smiled, as the others watched on in shock.

Livvy and Nicky ran forward, hand in hand, with Cassidy and Caroline walking a little slower behind them. Miranda looked from one to the other and then finally, her eyes came up, searching.

Andy stepped out from behind the curtain and stood there smiling. The love shining from Miranda's eyes was enough to keep Andy going for eternity, as Sam talked and talked, alternating hugging her and kissing her cheek. Miranda struggled to wrap her arms around all of them, but kissed them all, wiping lipstick from Cassidy's cheek with a smile.

"I'm so glad you're all here," she sighed.

"Miranda, you've never looked more radiant," Donatella said, standing and kissing Miranda on both cheeks, chuckling as Sam reached forward and kissed both her cheeks. "Oh, the first proper gentleman I have met in years," she said, poking his stomach.

"How long have you been here?" Miranda asked as Andy approached them.

"Few hours," Andy smiled. "Hi."

"Hi," Miranda muttered, kissing Andy gently. "Thank you my darling."

"My pleasure," Andy grinned. "Surprise."

"What a wonderful surprise," Miranda looked then, at all of their children. "Your clothes," she glanced up at Andy, who nodded at Nigel, standing just off to the left.

"Thank you, my friend," Miranda said, reaching out and holding his hand. "Now, I don't know about you, but I am starving. Tella, are we eating?"

"Whatever you need chéri,"

Miranda turned to the server that was hovering just a little away and reeled off a stream of French, before kissing Sam again and ushering them all to the table that Donatella had previously occupied.

"He's bringing another table to join this one," she explained. "Samuel darling, you can't sit on my knee, but you can sit right next to me."

"Don't wants to get winkles!"

Nigel chuckled.

"You outdid yourself, as usual, Uncle Nige," Andy said, linking her arm with his as they stood with the twins waiting.

"I had a lovely canvas to work with," he muttered, smiling and patting her arm.

"Finally joining us for dinner," Andy laughed.

"Finally," Nigel agreed.

"Come, sit," Miranda said, holding court with her own children. Sam and Olivia were both trying to outdo each other when Andy intervened.

"Darlings, one at a time. Miranda can only hear one of you at a time. Sam, let Livvy speak okay?"

"I tolds you," Sam grumped. "You's have that half," pointing at Miranda's legs.

Donatella laughed and patted the little boy's hand.

"You'll go far little man."

They ordered some food, Miranda in perfect French with Sam throwing in the occasional bonjour when he felt like it. Andy's stomach rumbled, and she realised she'd not had anything since breakfast.

"You alright?" Nigel asked. "You're quiet?"

"Hungry," Andy chuckled. "And letting them have some time. She'll be busy tomorrow, so we'll have to find something to do while she works."

"You could come to a few shows?" Miranda said, overhearing.

"Oh yes, do. There are so many wanting to meet the woman who ensnared Miranda's heart," Donatella said genuinely. "It is lovely to see you again Andy."

"And you Donatella," Andy smiled.

The woman wasn't someone she would ordinarily have socialised with, but she'd joined Miranda for drinks from time to time when Donatella was in town and found the woman to be far more than she appeared.

Conversation ebbed and flowed around them until they were the last ones in the restaurant. Donatella was regaling Andy with tales of a wayward model, while Nigel was chatting with the girls about what they had been up to, while Miranda sat happily, holding Sam on her knee as he slept.

Andy suddenly realised the time.

"Goodness," she said, checking again. "It's past midnight. We need to get everyone home to bed, you included," she nodded to the two woman. "Busy day tomorrow."

"We live for fashion darling," Donatella said airily. "It alone will sustain us."

Nigel snorted in his scotch and Miranda also chuckled as Donatella finished her wine.

"But I suppose the children must be taken care of. I shall see you tomorrow chéri," she said leaning over to press the customary double kiss on Miranda's cheeks. She paused as she moved away, taking Miranda's hand. "Love looks very good on you my friend."

"Thank you," Miranda whispered as Sam murmured in his sleep.

"I'll see you all tomorrow," Donatell said, sweeping from the restaurant.

"Right," Andy sighed, looking at Nick where he'd fallen asleep on the seat. "Cass, Caro, can you make sure Olivia makes it to the car, Nige," she glanced at Miranda. "You might have to take Sam for a while so Miranda can get out, and I'll figure out how to get Nick."

"Teamwork," Nigel said with a smile. "We can do that."

Andy shook Nicky a little and he blinked up at her.

"Mama?" he sighed.

"Yeah baby," she smiled, unable to help the thrill it gave her when he spoke. "I'm right here."

She managed to sit him up a little and get him to wrap his arms and legs around her, feeling Miranda's strong arms holding her steady.

"Thank god I had a pair of 2-inch heels in my bag," she chuckled, turning to meet Miranda's gaze.

"I love you," Miranda said quietly, cupping her cheek. "Thank you for this."

"You're welcome," Andy shrugged. "It was as much for us as it was for you."

"We were empty wivout you M'anda," Livvy said around a yawn. "Empty in here."

She tapped her chest where her heart would be and they all smiled.

"I was empty without you all with me," Miranda said, opening her arms and catching Oliva as she jumped into them. "Let's go."

Both limos were waiting on the curb as the exited, a few paparazzi were waiting, but they didn't seem as interested as they would usually be. They took a few shots, before wishing them a good night, and leaving them to arrange their transportation back to the hotel.

"Nigel, will you take the girls?"

"Of course," he smiled. "Come on troubles."

"You haven't called us that in forever Uncle Nigel," Cassidy protested. "We haven't pranked anyone in ages."

The car door shut out Nigel's reply as Andy waited for Olivia to slid in, Miranda having retrieved Sam from Nigel.

Before long, they were on their way, and Miranda sat back with a sigh, letting Livvy lean against her with a yawn.

"I truly don't know what I would do without you," Miranda muttered quietly, drawing Andy's attention from the city lights.

"You'd be okay," Andy shrugged. "But life is definitely better together."

"Undoubtedly," Miranda whispered.

She leaned over and ran her nose along Andy's cheek, making the younger woman smile. She turned and they kissed, properly, for the first time in two days. Andy sighed against Miranda's skin as they felt the car slow.

"You look divine," Miranda muttered. "It's been torture sitting so far away from you."

"Speak for yourself," Andy grinned. "You look beautiful. Paris brings out the best in you."

"No, Andréa," Miranda said as the door opened. "You do."

-0-

Bedtime had been as easy as stripping each child of their couture and sliding them under the covers. They'd figure out more beds in the morning, but for tonight, the girls were sharing the pull out in the living room, and the little ones were in the far bedroom. Andy groaned and threw herself on the bed, ignoring Miranda's tut.

"You cannot just flop into bed wearing an Elie Saab gown Andréa," Miranda muttered, her own dress having been hung up while Andy had tucked in the kids.

"Tell Elie when you see him next, that he needs to make one that I can," Andy said into the pillow.

Her eyes bugged out as she felt Miranda slowly drawing the zip down her back. Swallowing hard, she leaned up a little and allowed the dress to remain on the bed. Miranda's fingers tickled the base of her spine as she slid off the shoes and moved back to Andy's head, holding out her hands.

"My darling," Miranda whispered as Andy sat up, sans dress. "You are divine, in and out of it."

"I feel it, with you," Andy muttered, her eyes never leaving Miranda's.

She stood and the gown pooled at her feet. It was like she was dreaming as Miranda's eyes roamed her nearly bare body.

"Glorious," Miranda muttered, reaching out hesitantly. "Absolutely glorious."

"Miranda?" Andy whispered, realising that Miranda was bare as well, under that same grey robe that had so many memories attached to it.

"Yes, my love?"

"Make love with me?" Andy whispered, biting her lip.

"Forever," Miranda said, meeting her gaze. "Forever Andréa."

Their lips pressed against each other with an urgency that had not yet felt. It was as if every moment had lead to this one. The moan that Miranda uttered echoed Andy's as their bodies pressed against one another. They kissed and kissed and kissed. Until Andy pulled away breathing hard.

They didn't speak but moved in sync. Well, mostly in sync. Miranda knelt on the bed, leaning too far into Andy and they tumbled back, making them both laugh. Andy didn't mind. She rolled them, letting her hair fall down in waves as their bodies pressed together.

"Oh, Andréa," Miranda whispered, her hands roaming her body, every part she could reach.

Andy pressed kiss after kiss down the column of Miranda's throat, stopping to bite gently whenever Miranda's hips would twitch. The way Miranda moved under her was like nothing she'd ever felt. Her lips followed the movements, the noises that called to her, made her want everything and nothing all at the same time.

She pressed kissed every inch of Miranda's chest, pausing over her heart, listening, and trying not to cry as her emotions overflowed.

"I love you so much," Andy whispered.

Miranda only moaned as Andy took a nipple between her teeth, gently biting it, before sucking it deep into her mouth.

"Andréa," Miranda whispered, her fingers grabbing Andy's hair and holding on.

Andy didn't mind.

She could hear nothing but her heart beating as she sucked and bit, and licked and scraped her way down Miranda's body until she paused, face to face with a thin but visible scar.

"Don't," Miranda whispered, the first word she'd managed to speak.

"It's the mark of the beginning," Andy said gently, running her tongue along it. "The beginning of our family. There is nothing about you that is ugly, or frumpy. There is not an inch of you that is not the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," she thought back to how reticent Miranda had been before, and she moved back up Miranda's body to kiss her deeply.

"We don't have to do this," Andy whispered, brushing Miranda's hair back. "We can just lay here like this."

"I want you," Miranda moaned. "And I need you."

"Here then," Andy said, rolling to the side and pulling Miranda's leg over her hip. "Like this?"

"Mm," Miranda said, opening her eyes and meeting Andy's. "Perfect."

Andy kissed Miranda while her hand meandered back down her body. She could feel Miranda shaking, and decided that she wouldn't take too much longer. She ran her fingers through the wetness that she found, her eyes widening at just how much there was.

"Wow," she whispered, smiling as Miranda cracked one eye open. "I love you, Miranda Priestly. All of you."

"Andréa -"

She didn't get a chance to speak again, instead moaning deeply, sending Andy's own body into meltdown as she slid her fingers inside. The feeling of loving this woman was so profound, Andy just stopped for a moment, revelling in the tight, hot wetness that was Miranda.

"Please," Miranda whispered, moving her hips, making Andy move.

She slid her fingers out, and then back in again, cataloguing the sounds that Miranda made, and the sounds she didn't make. She curled her fingers and nearly broke her hand when Miranda pulled her closer with a gasp. She did it again, this time prepared for the reaction and met Miranda's mouth with her own. She knew now, how to love her, and love her she did. She pressed, over and over until Miranda couldn't even kiss her properly. The noises Miranda made, even quiet, were going to send Andy over the edge first if she didn't calm down. She wanted Miranda to sail into the stratosphere, to see what love really was. She rolled them, so she was on top, and she bit down on Miranda's throat, making her jerk again.

"Please, please, please," Miranda hissed, like a mantra.

Andy used her knee to pry open her legs, moving deeper within and pressing harder and faster.

Miranda keened, as Andy felt it. A flutter. A pull. A tightening.

She sat back, not letting up, but holding Miranda's hand and watching with bright eyes. She was glorious. Her hair was slick, her face red, her chest heaving and she'd never looked so beautiful.

And then.

Her back bowed, and her fingers tightened in Andy's, along with other places too. Andy kept moving and leaned over to meet Miranda's lips. She pressed forward and Miranda wailed again, her arms and legs wrapping around Andy's tightly as she sobbed into her shoulder. Andy kept moving, seeking more, until Miranda dropped back to the bed, sucking in as much air as she could.

"No more, please," she croaked. "No more."

"Shh," Andy said gently, stilling her hand. "I have you. You are so beautiful."

"I don't," she buried her face in Andy's neck. "I can't even -"

"You don't have to," Andy whispered, kissing whatever part of Miranda she could reach. "Just feel it, my love."

Andy wasn't sure how long they lay there, their heartbeats thumping together against their chests. She was pretty sure Miranda had passed out, but her hand was cramping and she really needed to move. She tried to shift, and Miranda' opened her eyes and pulled her closer.

"It's okay, I just have to move my hand."

"Oh," Miranda said, looking anywhere but at Andy.

"Don't go shy on me now," Andy said with a small grin as she pulled her fingers from Miranda with a tiny moan. "You've just rocked my entire universe."

"I believe it was you who rocked mine," Miranda said, peering out from beneath the arm she'd draped over her eyes.

"Well," Andy said, feeling a bit smug. "I do like to please you."

Miranda laughed. Not a fake laugh, not even a laugh she often shared with the children, but a deep and ultimately happy laugh. She pulled Andy in and kissed her deeply and slowly.

"I," Miranda blushed. "Is it terrible of me to want to reciprocate, but instead perhaps tomorrow? I," she sighed. "I am too old to function on no sleep at all."

"Not at all love," Andy said, already knowing this would be the case. "Thank you for allowing me to love you."

"My darling, I do not know why I was so afraid," Miranda sighed and rolled Andy back on top of her. "Are you comfy? Because I find myself the comfiest I've ever been outside our own bed."

"Yeah," Andy said, resting her head against Miranda's heart. "I'm perfect."

"Tomorrow Andréa."

"Yes Miranda."

"Mmm," Miranda said, bucking her hips up into Andy's a little. "Cheeky."

Chapter Text

 

Andy murmured as her pillow moved under her.

"Andréa?"

She whined, her eyes burning as she blinked.

"Darling, I have to get up."

"No," Andy moaned. "They'll wait for you. You're Miranda Priestly."

Miranda laughed and Andy felt her lips on her forehead.

"Be that as it may, I have a lot to do today, and I want to finish early enough to spend some time with the children."

"Urgh," Andy groaned, finally cracking open her eyes and looking at Miranda. "I suppose that's okay then."

"Thank you my darling," Miranda smirked.

"Coffee?"

"Would be divine love," Miranda muttered, kissing Andy's crown and slipping into the bathroom.

Andy rolled out of bed, yawning so widely her jaw cracked. She slipped on a robe and tiptoed through the living room to check on the little kids, and kiss Cassidy and Caroline's hair before slipping back into their bedroom. She rang down for some coffee and breakfast to be sent up for Le Grande Dame. She heard the shower and grinned mischievously.

Knowing that it would be a while before room service arrived, even for Miranda, Andy slipped off her robe and joined her lover in the shower.

-0-

"Mama?"

Andy was just kissing Miranda goodbye at the door when the little voice startled them.

"M'anda, you going?"

"Yes, my darling. I have to work now, but I am hoping that I can be home tonight so we can have dinner together."

"Can I goes wiv you?" Sam asked, sucking his thumb.

"Come 'ere you," Andy said, scooping him up and perching him on her hip. "You know M'anda has to work."

"Actually darling," Miranda said, smiling at them both. "Perhaps he can. This morning, I have a breakfast meeting, little love, but later," she kissed his nose gently. "Perhaps you could to the shows with me?"

"See the pretty dresses?"

"Yes my darling, would you like that?"

"Yes please!"

"Good. Andréa, darling, can you get him ready for ten o'clock?"

"Sure," Andy said, jostling him a little. "Won't the girls be upset?"

"No," Miranda smiled. "They got bored with that after their first showing. Sam would like to see I think."

"Sure," Andy smiled. "We'll all figure out what to do with ourselves until you're done okay?"

"That sounds lovely," Minerva smiled cupping Sam's cheek. "Now, I really do have to go."

She kissed Sam gently and then kissed Andy just a little more passionately.

"Take advantage of breakfast."

"We will, he'll be fuelled up and ready to go. We'll find something to do without him for a while, but let me know if you want us to pick him up earlier, we can."

"I think we'll be alright," Minerva smiled. "Now, goodbye my loves. I'll keep in touch."

Sam snuggled on Andy's shoulder as she closed the door.

"You hungry little monkey?" she asked quietly.

"No."

"Just want some snuggle time?" she asked, chuckling.

"Yeah," he sighed.

She carried him back to their room, sighing deeply as she caught Miranda's signature perfume still lingering in the air. She flicked on the TV and sat against the bedhead, waiting for the others to wake up.

-0-

"Mama? Can we have pizza?"

"Pizza?" Andy chuckled. "In Paris?"

She swung her joined hand in Olivia's and tickled her ribs. "Princess, if that is what you would like, then that is what we shall have. But let's wait and we'll have it for dinner, okay? I think some nice sandwiches would be better for now."

Making sure Caroline and Cassidy were within reaching distance, she picked out a table at the closest deli and helped Livvy into a chair. She turned and helped Nick as well, before winking at the girls.

"What do you want to eat loves? Cass, you want to translate?"

"Sure," she shrugged.

"Caro, you got Liv?"

"Yep, we're good Andy."

"Excellent, come on Nicky, let's find you something to eat."

The sandwiches were just what they needed, and Andy sat back in her chair sipping her coffee while the kids played eye-spy. Eventually, Nick got bored and clambered up on her knee, sighing as she wrapped her arms around him.

"Anyone up for the museum? Or are we all tired enough to want to go back to the hotel and hang out for a while?"

"Let's go to the museum," Cassidy said, her eye lighting up.

"Liv? Any objections?"

"Nope."

"Nicky?" she asked, leaning round to look at his face. "Wanna go to the museum?"

He nodded and when she glanced at Caroline, she already had a map pulled up on her phone.

"The Louvre it is," Andy grinned.

They ambled down winding streets, following Caroline's directions until they arrived on the River Seine.

"Hey, cool!" Caroline said, pointing to a guy who was doing portraits. "Can I get one Mama?"

"At some point, I'm sure you can, but I don't want to wait around for you to be drawn today. We're here for a whole week, we can come by again. Maybe just you and me if we get the chance?"

"Cool," Caroline grinned. She glanced down at her phone. "That's the river right?"

"Mhmm," Andy said, knowing where they were going, but content to let Caroline do the directing. "So, that's Notre Dame?"

She pointed down river and Andy smiled, turning her around and nodding to the giant cathedral that she'd missed.

"Ah," Caroline said, tilting her head and looking at the map. "Oh, I see, I'm backwards. Then," she frowned. "It's like a gazillion miles that way."

"Not quite that far," Andy grinned. "But a little ways, yeah. We can walk, it's a long walk but we're not in a rush, or we can hop on the bus. What do you think? We can even take the bus around the sights for a while before getting off at the Louvre, what does everyone want?"

"I'd like to take the bus," Caroline muttered, getting out her camera and taking a few pictures as they stood.

"Liv? Cass?"

Cassidy bent down and whispered in Olivia's ear, and Andy smirked.

"Bus please!" Olivia yelled, grinning at Cassidy.

She looked around for the nearest stop and ushered them over to it, bringing up the tickets she'd already purchased on her phone, ready for when they hopped on.

-0-

The bus had been a huge success. As soon as they'd seen it coming around the corner, the kids had yelled with excitement, and they'd gone the sights two times on the open top bus.

After walking through only a tiny part of the Louvre, she noticed the two little ones sagging, and called it a day, reminding the older girls they'd bought week-long tickets, so they would come back again and again if they needed to.

And now, Andy was laying on the sofa, her head perched on a cushion while the others lay on the floor in a fort of pillows they'd had brought up to the room.

She'd arrived back after her shower to see what possibly could have been all the pillows in the hotel surrounding her children and she had just rolled her eyes and joined them. Who didn't love a pillow fort.

Nick hadn't stayed with the girls long, preferring to take a nap on Andy's belly, and she'd read and stroked his hair while he dozed. She'd asked more than once if they wanted to do something different, but they were exhausted. Andy frowned as she thought about how tired Sam must be.

She nudged Cassidy's foot with her book and nodded towards her phone, sending a quick text off to Miranda she lay back again, smiling at how brilliant her life had become.

The lock on the door beeped and Andy was surprised to see Miranda carrying Sam into the room with a serene smile on her face.

"Hello loves," she said quietly, kissing the twins, then Olivia. "I see your boy has succumbed to the same fate as mine."

"You can leave him here if you like?" Andy nodded to the sofa.

"I'll put him in our room, that way we won't disturb him while we talk."

"In that case, I'll join you with Nick."

It took a bit of doing, but eventually, Andy was able to scoop their biggest boy up and carried him to the bedroom as well, tucking him in alongside his brother.

"You're home early," Andy mused as they closed the door softly behind them.

"I left Emily in my stead," Miranda grinned. "She was quite put out, but I think she will rise to the occasion. Sam needed to be here, and I couldn't carry him any longer."

"You could have called."

"I wasn't sure what you were doing."

"I'm sorry," Andy chuckled. "I didn't want to disturb you!"

Miranda laughed and wrapped Andy up in her arms. Andy sighed. This was her happy place. Secure in Miranda's arms, where she knew she was loved, and safe, and sound.

"Can I have a hug please M'anda?"

Andy pulled away to see Olivia looking up at them expectantly.

"Oh my darling girl," Miranda said, scooping her up with a groan. "You never need to ask. My loves, I have 45 minutes until my next show. Come and tell me about your morning."

Andy rang down for some fresh coffee and a plate of hors-d'oeuvres. They arrived not fifteen minutes later, and she passed them to Miranda with a small smile.

"What did I ever do without you my darling,"

Andy didn't like to ponder that statement while they were in Paris, so she just smiled and joined most of her little family on the sofa while Cassidy, Caroline and Olivia played tag with the story of their morning. Before long, she noticed Miranda checking her watch and knew it was time.

"I think it's time for Miranda to go now little loves," she smiled sadly as Olivia's face fell.

"Don't be like that little one," Miranda said gently, cupping her cheek. "I will be home before you know it, and then we shall go for dinner somewhere magical. Perhaps Mama could even be persuaded to take us out for ice cream."

"Can we Mama?" Olivia asked, perking up.

"I suppose that could be arranged," Andy smiled, rubbing Miranda's shoulder. "Everyone give kisses, and we'll let you get back to your work."

"I hate to leave you all like this," she muttered as the made their way to the door.

"I knew what this week would be like, and I and the children came here anyway. We decided that even if we were in the hotel room for a week, we'd be okay with that because we'd see you every night and every morning."

"I don't know what I did to deserve you darling," Miranda said, resting her forehead against Andy's. "But I am so very grateful that you are in my life."

"I'm pretty happy too," Andy smirked, kissing her gently so that she wouldn't have to re-apply her makeup.

"I'll text when we're on our way back. Perhaps we could go for a walk down to the gardens. I'll need some time before dinner to let go of my day. And the boys will need to burn off some energy."

"That's a great idea," Andy smiled. "Have fun."

"Paris is always fun," Miranda smirked. "But, it is infinitely better with you here."

"You're so mushy Mom," Caroline called from the sofa.

"The squishiest dragon around," Cassidy nodded sagely.

"And don't you forget it," Andy called, kissing Miranda gently. "Liv wants pizza for dinner. Know anywhere? I'll ring and book."

"Don't. I know just the place, and we won't need a booking."

"Mmm," Andy grinned. "Secretive, I like that." Miranda phone beeped and Andy chuckled. "Go, before they report you missing."

"Word of warning. The end of Fashion Week parties will begin soon. I will attend of course, but wondered if you wanted to attend a few with me?"

"I'd," Andy sighed. "I would love to," she bit her lip and looked up through her lashes. "Though I have nothing to wear." Miranda's eyes flashed as she glanced down at Andy's body.

"Do you have a preference or will you put yourself to my mercy?"

"I am always at your mercy Miranda."

"I'm leaving," Miranda quipped, kissing Andy once more. "Cheeky. 

"Love you," Andy laughed as she shut the door.

"It's pretty great, you know," Cass said as Andy flopped back down on the sofa.

"What is darling?" Andy asked, tipping her head back and looking at their eldest.

"How chill you make Mom," Caroline muttered. "Like, it takes her three weeks to go back to normal after fashion week usually, and she's like, already normal."

"I don't think I'm the only one doing that darlings," Andy smiled. "But i am glad that I can help her."

"That was what was different about her!" Cassidy said, whacking Caroline on the thigh.

Caroline looked at her twin and then her eyes got big.

"We're idiots."

"Caroline!"

"Sorry Ma, I just meant," she glanced at Liv. "Yeah, sorry. But, we could never work it out what it was about you that was different from Emily and all the others. You care. About Mom. You always did. It was like, you weren't there for the job, you were there for her !"

"Well, yeah," Andy shrugged. "She's a force of nature isn't she."

"Yeah, but so many others were there to get ahead. How come you never wanted to get ahead?"

Andy smiled and rolled over, looking at the twins and Olivia, who clearly didn't know what they were talking about, but was interested anyway.

"Did I ever tell you about the day I first met your Mom?"

"No!" Caroline said, grinned. "What did you do?"

"Hey!" Andy scoffed. "How do you know I did something?"

"Cos it's you Ma," Cass giggled. "And we know you."

Andy smiled as Liv scooted off the sofa and clambered onto Andy's knee.

"I dressed atrociously."

"Cerulean sweater," the twins chorused, glancing at each other.

"Yes," Andy rolled her eyes. "That one. And then I," she blushed. "I honestly didn't know how to spell Gabbana. And then there was a belt incident."

"What do you mean?"

"I thought two belts were the same," Andy bit her lip. "And I still maintain that they were, and actually, I bet Miranda doesn't even remember them, but I snorted when someone said how different they were and your Mom tore strips off me. And Uncle Nig made me realise that I was acting like I was above fashion, and the industry. And it made me realise that I was kinda being a bit of a," she cleared her throat, glancing down at Olivia. "Dummy. And he taught me that the industry is actually a big deal. And," she shrugged. "I realised then, that I was wrong to think about the industry as though it was beneath me. But I still wasn't super interested in it, so I focussed on Miranda. And," she shrugged. "I guess even then thought she was pretty special."

"Urgh," Caroline said, leaning against Cass. "You've got like the perfect love story. How are we ever going to better that."

Andy laughed and pulled both girls closer so she could hug them, taking care not to squash Liv.

"Your love stories will be epic, and I can't wait to see them," she kissed Caroline's hair. "But there's no rush to grow up okay? Plenty of time to go slow."

The girls smiled and someone huffed behind them.

Sam was frowning at them from the doorway to the bedroom.

"Where's M'anda?"

"She had to go back to the show little love," Andy said, kissing Liv and getting up to get him. "But we'll see her again later."

"She left me."

"You fell asleep kiddo," Andy smiled kindly. "She thought it would be better for you to wake up here and be all ready to go get pizza later."

"Pizza?" he asked shrewdly.

"Yes," Andy smiled. "Pizza."

"When's M'anda getting back? I want pizza now!"

"Grumpy little thing aren't you," Andy chuckled, scooping him up and tickling him gently. "Come on. Pizza for dinner. Are you hungry? I have some yoghurt and apples and crackers. Will that please the little monster in your belly that's making you growl?"

"Yes." Sam huffed, crossing his arms. "Mr Val'ntino said I was very clever."

"You are," Andy reminded him gently.

"And I need to help M'anda sort out the whole fashion world."

"Good. You can do that once you eat some lunch and watch some cartoons, how about that."

"Fine."

Caroline giggled as he snuggled up to her side, chewing happily on his crackers.

Andy stepped out of the room the check on Nick, who was laying away in the bed, watching a pattern of sunlight on the ceiling.

"Hey little prince," she said gently, not wanting to disturb him. "Were you going to come out here and say hi?"

He shrugged but opened his arms for her. She got onto the bed beside him and pulled him into her arms.

"You okay? Hungry?"

He shook his head, and Andy frowned, wondering if he was just thinking or whether something was wrong.

"Can I get you something? Are you okay?"

He smiled, patting her cheek and snuggled into her chest, sighing happily when she squeezed her arms around his little body. There were so many things that she didn't know about Nick and so many things she worried about, but for now, they'd be still and when Miranda got home, they'd find some pizza to feed the masses. Maybe Nigel, Em and Serena could join them.

She sent off a quick text to Miranda and smiled at the emoji that was returned. It was the only one Miranda used. The eye-roll emoji. But it made Andy smile and she had a good idea that it was the only reason Miranda continued to use it. Dropping her phone back on the bed, she turned her attention back to Nick and ran her fingers through his hair. Life was perfect in that moment.

 

Chapter Text

The second time the pillow nearly knocked the TV off the wall, Andy knew that they needed to do something to get rid of everyone's energy. She had them put up all the mess that they'd made, and wracked her brain for something short term for them to do before Miranda was done at the shows. Apparently she had dinner under control, but if Andy couldn't control the kids, it would be a nightmare.

"Alright you little terrors, let's get changed and go up to the pool. I know there's one here somewhere. Let's go on an adventure."

"Sweet!" Caroline cried, grabbing Liv's hand and running into their room.

"I swim too?"

She smiled down at Sam and opened her arms, allowing him to jump into them.

"All of us, my darling," she smiled, holding out her hand for Nick to join her too. "Let's go get your swimmers."

She tried to corral them as they raced down the corridor of the hotel to the elevator. She had to warn Cassidy fairly sharply not to push the button until they were all beside her, but otherwise the adventure up to the roof went smoothly. She held to two boy's hands as they stepped outside the elevator into a glass corridor, open to the Parisian weather. The days were beginning to get shorter, but the sunshine still lingered throughout the day. She wondered if she'd ever get some time to explore the city with Miranda.

Maybe next year.

"Look Mama!"

She smiled at Olivia's excitement as she pointed through the glass door. Andy gave Caroline the key card to swipe and held the door open for the kids. It was deserted, which was great. Andy didn't have to worry about the kids splashing anyone, or god forbid, pushing someone in!

"Excellent. Alright guys, dump your stuff here on this chair. Cassidy, Caroline, do not let go of Liv's hand, do you understand me?"

"Yes Mama," they nodded, Olivia's hands holding on to each of theirs. "Come on Liv, let's go jump in."

Andy only caught the second movement out of the corner of her eye and reached down to scoop Samuel up in her arm before he could run and jump in fearlessly with them.

"And just where do you think you are going, little monkey?"

"I swim," he said, matter-of-factly.

"You are going to swim, yes, but not until you get your inflatables on."

He rolled his eyes in a remarkably good impression of Miranda and held out his arm. She shook her head, but put them on him, blowing them up once they were situated.

"There," she said with a flourish. "Now, I want you to stay with me until we're in the water, alright?"

"Yes Mama."

Nick looked a little apprehensive so Andy picked him up and carried him to the shallow end where she could sit on the side.

"Alright Sam, go wild," she said, making sure to point out the area in which he could go wild. He whooped loudly and the next thing Andy knew, she was covered in water.

"You're a little monkey," Andy glared gently.

Nick seemed thoroughly unimpressed by the sudden deluge they'd had, and scowled at Sam as he doggy paddled his way back to the side.

"Wanna go in my little love?" Andy asked, wrapping an arm around him. "I can keep hold of you, if you like?"

NIck clambered onto her knee and wrapped his arms and legs around her. It wasn't the perfect position to try and slide into the water, but she made do. His legs got tighter and she could feel the tension in him.

"Easy little love," she whispered, turning them quickly as Sam cannon-balled into the water again. "Just ignore him, you and I can hang out here."

She spent some time cupping water in her hands and letting it run down his back. He giggled when it tickled, and after a few moments, turned around in her arms and icked his legs lazily while Andy was holding him.

"Wanna learn to float?" she asked him, glancing over at the girls, who seemed to be trying to teach Olivia how to do a somersault underwater. "I've got you under here, all you have to do is push your tummy out of the water and let me hold you okay?"

He smiled as she pushed him away from her body a little and held him under his back.

"That's it little Prince," she grinned. "Push that tummy."

It took him a few goes and a few stern words to Sam when he nearly drowned him by jumping right next to him, but eventually, aided by his armbands, Nick was floating like a little bobbin.

"Now you," Andy growled, sweeping Sam out of the water. "Listen here little monkey, no jumping on people okay?"

"I was jus' splashin'!"

"Well, you jus' splash somewhere else okay?" Andy said, giving him an Eskimo kiss. "Not on top of your brother."

"Mom?"

In her swiveling supervision of all five kids, Andy had completely missed the door sliding open and a figure standing in the way.

"I think Mama is quite brilliant for bringing you all here, wouldn't you say?" Miranda smiled, genuinely as Samuel yelled in happiness.

"No running Samuel," Andy called, watching him screech to a halt and walk very fast, giggling when Miranda scooped him up, even though he was soaking.

"Won't that ruin your shirt Mom?" Cassidy asked, wearing a frown.

"Not so much Bobbsey," she smiled, stepping in and allowing them all see her. "It is the perfect over shirt for wearing bathers under."

"You're coming in?!" Caroline exclaimed, nearly allowing Olivia to go under the water as she momentarily forgot to hang onto her.

"I thought I might," she smiled, dropping a towel on one of the loungers and taking off the shirt.

Andy nearly swallowed her tongue as inch by perfect inch was revealed, encased in a stunning black bathing suit.

"Jump in wiv me M'anda!"

"Oh my darling," Miranda chuckled. "My days of jumping in are long behind me, but I will catch you if you like?"

"Me too!" Olivia yelled, coughing as she swallowed some water.

"Don't rush kids," Andy called. "There's enough time for everyone to play with Miranda."

"Good evening my darling," Miranda whispered as she slid into the water.

"It is definitely good," Andy smiled, allowing Miranda's arms to go around her.

"Yes," Miranda answered with a matching grin, capturing Andy's lips for a long and slow kiss.

"Grown-ups kiss a lot," Liv said quietly to Cassidy just behind Andy, making her smile into the kiss.

"Tis love little sis," Caroline drawled, swimming up and draping herself over Andy's shoulders. "Can we have our Mom now Mama?"

"Yes, Andy smiled. "Off you go. Tag, you're it Miranda."

"Well," Miranda smiled. "Do your worst."

That turned out to be about right. Sam had drenched her entirely in about ten minutes and everyone wanted something at once.

-0-

"Darling," Miranda said gently after they had done baths for the kids some two hours later. "I do not know how you do it, AND work. I feel like maybe we should up Cara's hours."

"They're just excited about spending time with you," Andy said, purposefully trying to keep it light.

"Implying that I don't spend enough time with them," Miranda said quietly.

"No," Andy said, stopping Miranda's retreat and turning her to face her. "Meaning they love you and love spending what time you can with them."

"I feel like I've been saying 'wait until Paris is over' for a hundred years."

"And they'll wait for you. There's a bunch of stuff the girls want to do with you, they have a list and everything. Nick would be happy to sit and watch a movie with you now and then and Sam spends the most time with you, and he adores it. Miranda," Andy cupped the older woman's face. "You're doing fine."

"When did you get so good at this," Miranda smiled, kissing her sweetly.

"It's a very quick learning curve," Andy grinned, nibbling on Miranda's lip.

"I seem to remember making an appointment with you for tonight that I neglected to complete this morning. I shall not forget again Andréa."

"I can't wait Priestly."

Leaving her woman to finish getting ready, Andy went into the bedroom and smiled at what was laid out for her. Smirking, she pulled on the underwear and walked back to the bathroom.

"You did have big plans for tonight now, didn't you," she said, trying her best to look a little sultry as she leaned against the doorjamb.

Miranda stopped stock sill and stared in the mirror at the black La Perla perfectly encasing Andy's assets.

"I maintain that nothing I have ever put in my magazine has looked as good as you did in this moment."

"Miranda," Andy scoffed, turning, only to be spun back around and kissed deeply.

"I do not wax lyrical about things in my magazine my Andréa," Miranda whispered as she bit down gently on Andy's pulse point, making it thumb quicker. "And I certainly do not say anything I don't mean when I'm talking about how perfect you look."

Andy didn't know what to say, so kissed Miranda again, deeply until they were both panting.

"How I wish I had not agreed to pizza tonight," Miranda mused, pulling back and nuzzling Andy's cheek.

"Oh, I wouldn't worry," Andy husked, her excitement getting the better of her. "My body is going to be on fire all night at this rate."

"I look forward to putting that fire out my love."

Miranda let her head rest against Andréa's and they breathed quietly as they let things cool off.

"Come on love, I know everyone waits for Miranda Priestly, but you've got an entourage tonight, and that entourage is probably hungry enough to eat the couch."

"I'll be 15 minutes."

"I'll see you out there."

Andy turned to walk away, slipping the sheer dress up over her legs and sliding into her Blahniks.

"Andréa," Miranda called, mascara in hand at the bathroom door. "I love you."

Andy's face broke into a grin and she crossed the room and kissed Miranda once more.

"I love you."

-0-

"Pierre, ça va?"

Andy smiled as she tried to keep the kids all together as Miranda let forth a perfect stream of french. She could see Cassidy listening intently, trying to follow them. She watched as Cassidy's face lit up and turned to look further into the restaurant.

"Ah, oui bien sûr."

"It seems as though Nigel, Emily and Serena are here, along with a number of our friends from the various fashion houses," Miranda said, a twitch above her right eye the only thing that let Andy know how much it stressed her to still be on duty.

"Who," Andy asked quietly, taking her hand and letting her capture Sam's before he ran off.

"Valentino, Donatella and," she swallowed, looking around. "Anna."

"Anna is here?"

"Apparently she was supposed to dine with Valentino, and when he heard Donatella was coming here after Nigel spilled the beans, everyone just decided to come with."

"Don't panic. The kids are good kids, and they're here for the pizza. And they're all in couture."

"Andréa."

"Breathe. I know you wanted a night off, but I already have plan for that."

"You do?"

"Mhmm," Andy smiled, pulling Miranda closer and nodding for the girls to go first.

"Ah, Miranda."

"El Maestro," she said, smiling genuinely at the old man. "You look well."

"As do you," he said, his eyes widening as he saw all of the children. "Bei bambini," he smiled kindly at the little ones. "And dressed so magnificently."

"That is down to my beautiful Andréa, you do remember her, don't you?"

"Certamente," he smiled, reaching forward and kissing both of Andy's cheeks. "Not Miranda's assistant anymore I see?"

"Life partners Maestro," Miranda smiled serenely. "Hello Donatella," she turned, locking eyes with their third guest. "Anna, lovely to see you."

The tension ramped up in the room until Sam stepped forward and, to Andy's horror opened his arms to Anna and scrambled up onto her lap, assuming she was just another Emily, Serena or Nigel.

"We need pizza soon, you now," he said to her, patting her hands as they held onto him to stop him falling. "Everyone so skinny."

The tension evapourated as Andy laughed, stepping forward. "Lovely to see you again Anna, do you want me to take him?"

"I think he and I shall be quite fine were we are Andréa," she said, reaching over and shaking Andy's hand. "But it is lovely to see you too," she glanced at Miranda, smiling and extending out her hand as well. "And you Miranda."

-0-

Dinner was a hoot. Between Samuel entertaining their guests and Andy running her foot up the back of Miranda's calf whenever she could, they had a marvelous night. Even Emily and Serena had managed to join in as much as possible. The table groaned under the weight of so many bespoke pizzas that Andy thought she was in heaven, helping herself to a healthy, but respectable portion.

Andy could tell Miranda was pleased at Emily's involvement especially. She debated the best tea with Anna and discussed Vivienne Westwood's latest with Donatella and above all held her own. She could feel the pride rolling off Miranda's skin.

Nigel just kept grinning at her. Everyone kept everything light and it wasn't until Anna stopped mid-sentence, glancing at Andy's left hand, where the leather cuff that Nick had picked out of Anna's magazine was wrapped around her wrist. She frowned and looked up at the two of them, and Andy felt Miranda stiffen at the unspoken implication.

"Nicky got me this for my birthday," smiling at the boy and simultaneously implying that she should tread very carefully. "It's amazing isn't it! Just my style. He found it," she grinned cheekily. "In a magazine I think."

"Bloody hell," Emily muttered from across the table as Nigel sniggered. Donatella caught his attention with a frown and he leaned over and whispered in her ear.

It didn't take long for Chinease whispers to go around the whole table and soon, even Miranda was chuckling.

"What can I say Anna. You certainly won that round."

Caroline and Cassidy giggled and asked if they could get some ice cream for dessert. It was the perfect stopping point for the evening and Miranda agreed readily.

"Woo!" Sam yelled, throwing his arms back and nearly elbowing Anna Wintour in the nose.

"Samuel," Andy said, sternly, offering her arms. "Steady there kid, we can not go around clobbering the other editor-in chief-s of New York City. that would be very impolite."

Anna chuckled and gathered up her clutch, standing while Valentino insisted on kissing everyone one of the kids on the hair and grasping Miranda's hand and staring at her.

"This is the happiest I have seen you in a long time il mio Bell'amico."

"I am happy," she said gently, leaning forward and kissing his cheeks, once, twice, three times, lingering at the end.

Andy knew why. He seemed to have aged in the last year, and was moving slow as Anna escorted him from the restaurant.

"It's okay," Andy said gently. "It's late. We'd all feel like that if we had half the energy he has."

"Still," Miranda said quietly. "He seems to have aged ten years in the last six months."

"Yet," Donatella smiled sadly as she took Miranda's hands in hers. "He would design you the most beautiful gown at a moments notice if you asked him mio caro."

"I worry."

"About so many things caro," Donatella laughed. "Go, enjoy the evening with your family. We overran your family dinner, we shall not overrun your ice cream too."

"Caoi," Miranda smiled as her friends sashayed out of the restaurant.

"Come on munchkins, Miranda wants to tell Aunty Em how impressed she was tonight."

"Andréa!"

"Cow!"

Nigel chuckled as he took Nick's hand and walked them out of the restaurant.

"Don't think I didn't see what was going on over there young lady," he said quietly. "And don't think I didn't notice how very chipper her majesty was this morning."

"Boil your head Nigel," Andy grinned, but blushed just the same.

"Mhmm," Nigel said, nudging her gently. "Love looks good on you both."

He let it drop and as Miranda exited, she sighed, smiling as Olivia immediately claimed a hand before Sam could.

"Hey, no fair!"

"You went with M'anda to the shows, I'm holding her hand."

"Samuel, as I always say, there is plenty of me to go around, and Olivia, one must refrain from gloating when we win things, okay? Take the victory with dignity."

"Mhmm," Nigel chuckled.

"Samuel, you can hold uncle Nigel's hand, unless he has somewhere else to be tonight?"

"No Miranda," he smiled at his friend. "Nowhere I'd rather be in the world."

-0-

The energy was different as they strolled down the Rue, in search of some ice cream. Caroline had her phone out as was giving out directions, with Andy looking over her shoulder now and again, making sure they were going the right way. Ice cream found and demolished, a good portion ending up on Sam's trousers, Miranda declared it home time, smiling serenely as she was surrounded by a chorus of complaints.

"No my darlings, today was a big day for me, and tomorrow the gatherings begin, which means Uncle Nigel, Mama and myself will be in attendance and you will have to behave for Aunty Serena and Aunty Jocelyn."

"She bring her boy?" Sam asked, his ears perking up as he remembered the name.

"No darling, but I don't doubt you'll all get up to lots of trouble with the two of them, but Uncle Nigel needs his beauty sleep."

They hailed a cab, and did as they had the night before, Nigel escorting the girls home, and Andy and Miranda snuggling the little ones in another. Sam and Nick had both fallen asleep by the time they got back and with the twin's help managed to get them all upstairs and into bed in record timing. After kisses and cuddles and tucking ins, Andy left for their room, dropping her dress at the door for Miranda to find when she followed moments later.

Chapter Text

A/N: I really hope you all like this. I seem to have found my writing brain again. The downside to that is, I've written about 15 different HP beginnings and all of them, I really like, so my brain is very Minerva right now. I've also written Minerva instead of Miranda about 12,000 times.

Forgive me.

Anyway. Here we are. I'm sending them home soon, maybe they won't explore Paris. Maybe we'll just hear about in show and tell or whatever. I'm happy to move them forward though. Did I say I got my writing brain back? Wish me luck.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author of this story. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any previously copyrighted material. No copyright infringement is intended.

-0-

"All done for toni-"

Andy smiled into the pillow as Miranda stopped mid sentence. She had prepared for exactly this moment by laying face down on the bed, naked as the day she was born.

"Darling, you," Andy giggled as she felt a tiny kiss on her ankle. "Are." A kiss on her thigh. "Divine."

She nearly choked as Miranda's body landed next to hers, bare skin rubbing against bare skin. She looked up and saw the love shining out of Miranda's eyes and couldn't help it. She swooped in for a kiss and before long was tangled up in a knot of legs and arms and beating hearts.

"You are so utterly beautiful," Miranda whispered, pulling back and tracing her face. "I do not know why I have waited so long to hold you like this."

"We were busy," Andy smiled, and meant it. "And we had other, more important things to take care of. 5 important things to take care of. "

"But -"

"No buts," Andy smiled, running her hand down Miranda's back and to her ass. "Okay, maybe some butt. But no," Miranda's rolled her eyes. "I know it's felt like forever, but do you know, we've only be together properly since," she thought about it. "Nearly five months?" she whispered, her eyes going wide. "Is that all?"

"Is that all?" Miranda chuckled. "Feel like a million years Andréa?"

"Yes," Andy smiled, wrapping her leg around Miranda's thigh to keep her with her. "But hear me out. It feels like I've always been yours. Like I've always been with you. Like we've always had these children. I feel -"

"Whole," Miranda whispered, resting her head on her hands above Andy's heart. "You make me feel whole Andréa."

"And you," Andy sighed. "You make me feel so many things."

"Yes?" Miranda asked, her fingers walking a trail down Andy's sternum. "Like this?" She wiggled her fingers in Andy's belly button and sent Andy's head back laughing loudly.

"Shh," Miranda chuckled. "Please don't wake the babies now I have time to spend some time loving you."

Andy paused, brushing that lock of hair from her face.

"I love you Miranda."

Miranda didn't reply, instead, she swooped down and pressed her lips against Andy's. Andy moaned as her tongue ran gently along the edges of her mouth. The skin tingled as she allowed Miranda's tongue to tease her own. She tasted of coffee and mint ice cream and Andy grinned at the thought.

"It was remiss of me to leave you here, unsatiated the last time," Miranda muttered, her mouth kissing wet kisses down her neck. "A rare mistake on my behalf. Because," she followed her mouth down and sucked gently on Andy's nipple. "I spent the hours following," she clarified. "Every hour after imagining what it would be like. Do you like being bitten?" Miranda bit down gently, on Andy's side. The groan Andy gave was hopefully enough to let Miranda know the answer without having to form words. She felt Miranda smile against her skin and rolled her hips against the knee between them. "Do you prefer a softer touch?" Andy groaned as Miranda's tongue wound it's way over her hip. "Do you prefer my nails," her short nails raked Andy's thigh. "Or my gently fingers."

"Please!" Andy whispered. Her body felt like it was being electrocuted under Miranda's ministrations.

"Anyone would think you were eager Andréa," Miranda muttered in her ear, her fingers making nonsensical patterns on her belly.

"Miranda," Andy said, gripping her arms. "Miranda I have waited for so long. Please don't make we wait any longer."

"Shh," Miranda smiled, pressing tiny kisses from her chin to her ear and then back again, her tongue meeting Andy's again without hesitation. Andy had never been kissed so completely in her life and she hung on for dear life as Miranda's hand started travelling from her knee, up her thigh.

"I'm going to love you, exactly as you deserve," Miranda muttered, nuzzling Andy's neck. "With every shred of my being."

Andy about came right then. She tried to concentrate on the way Miranda's tongue was sliding against hers. And she tried to concentrate on the hand in her hair, directing her head so Miranda could bite down on the pulse that was throbbing in her neck. She tried desperately to concentrate on the fingers currently rolling over and over on her clit.

"MIRANDA!"

Her body had never been so very ready to come apart. Her entire being seemed to break apart, and right as she thought it was happening, Miranda slid her fingers inside and Andy forgot her own name. Her body was out of her control as Miranda pushed and pulled, giving all that she had until Andy screamed into Miranda's mouth, her fingernails raking down Miranda's shoulders in an effort to hang on to something in this universe.

She passed outside of time and space as Miranda, pressed kissed down her body, stopping to pay homage to her nipples and then moving further down until her tongue was sliding between Andy's lips, like Miranda had been loving her all her life.

Andy's hands ran through Miranda's hair as the most powerful woman in the Fashion world made love to her body with nothing but her tongue. That slashing tongue that at one time had in her tears, now had in tears again.

"Oh god, Miranda."

She looked down, her eyes widening as she met those bright sapphires staring back at her. They were endless, Miranda's eyes. Endless pools of love and devotion and she had all of it staring at her in this moment.

She broke. Her pussy clenched around Miranda's tongue and she breathed her name in devotion to the woman. Her whole body was shaking when Miranda gathered her into her arms and kissed her deeply.

"Andréa I love you so fully," Miranda muttered against Andy's damp hair. "I have never loved another as I love you."

Andy couldn't reply, but she used her hand in Miranda's beautiful hair to pull her down and kiss her fully. She could taste herself on Miranda's tongue and she pulled her down on top of her.

"Andréa I don't -"

"Let me take care of you."

Andy kissed her, wishing she could give back as much as Miranda had given her.

"Come here," she whispered, pulling her thigh across her belly.

Andy sat up a little and came face to face with Miranda's perfect breasts. She engulfed one nipple between her lips and sucked as she sunk her fingers into Miranda's pussy without ceremony.

"Fuck."

It was the single sexiest thing she'd ever heard and she wasted no time in curling her fingers.

"Yes! Yes!"

Andy fucked her, hard. Miranda's hands were in her hair, pulling her lips to her other nipple while she bucked and hissed her way to an orgasm Andy was proud to give her.

"Darling, I -"

Miranda brought her head forward, and Andy saw she had tears in her eyes. They laughed gently, their tears matching and Andy lowered them back down to the bed, sliding her arm under Miranda's neck and pulling her in close.

"I know we don't know the future," Andy whispered, running her nose along Miranda's as she came down from her high. "But I know for a fact I will never love anyone but you."

"And I, Andréa," Miranda whispered, brushing a stray lock of hair away. "Have been waiting my whole life for you, to love. Thank you," she said, looking into Andy's eyes. "For being brave my darling. For loving me. For loving," she gave her a watery smile. "Our children."

Andy spent a little while kissing Miranda sweetly before she sighed, nuzzling the woman's face.

"We have to get dressed, because you know they're going to be in here before long."

"It isn't nearly morning?" Miranda asked, looking around.

"It's 3."

"Well," Miranda smiled. "I guess we have no shows to go tomorrow until lunch. Perhaps you will indulge me in a lie-in."

"I'd love to," Andy smiled.

They got up and got ready for bed, meeting with soft, sweet words of love in the middle of the bed not half an hour later, curling up around each other in sleep.

-0-

Something was poking Andy in the face, and she moved away from in an effort to stave off the wakefulness she was not interested in seeing.

"M'randa?" she muttered, curling up tighter. "Make it stop."

"Mama?"

She sighed deeply, her brain immediately switching to go as she looked through one eye at the tiny culprit standing by the bed. Olivia had one pigtail still in, and one not, and her thumb was lodged firmly in her mouth. Andy frowned.

"Liv? Wha's wrong?"

"I has a poorly tummy."

"Andr -" Andy felt Miranda stir but she couldn't make her tired brain work. "Olivia, darling, why are you out of bed."

"I was sick."

That got Andy's attention and she sat up.

"In bed?"

"Uhuh," Olivia mumbled, her lower lip trembling.

"Oh baby, it's okay." Andy said, slipping out of bed "Just relax, do you feel like you might be more sick?"

"Uhuh."

Andy met Miranda's eyes and found just a hint of amusement in them. A challenge to perhaps say are you so sure you want this with me? And winked back and pressed a kiss to Olivia's hair, wincing as she caught the smell.

"Right, you need a bath and one of us," she cocked an eyebrow at Miranda. "Needs to go clean up."

"I have had more than enough experience," Miranda said quickly, grabbing Olivia at arm's length and carrying her into the bathroom. "You should clean up, I will bathe Olivia."

Andy threw a pillow at them as they left, but nodded, steeling herself for the mess.

And it was. Olivia had managed to throw up over her bed, and Sam's as well beside her. The only one that managed to escape was Nick, who lay perfectly still watching her.

"What are you doing up baby?" she asked, soothing his hair. "Did your sister wake you up?"

He shrugged, but sat up and squeezed his little arms around her middle. She indulged him for a moment before kissing his hair and getting down to business.

"Will you go get in Mama and M'anda's bed please love? I'm going to bring your brother through in a moment."

He toddled off and Andy watched him go. She wished he felt comfortable enough and wondered whether it was time to put him in some counselling. The smell permeating the room was enough to get her attention.

"Bloody hell," she whispered, shaking her head.

Managing not to step in it, or slip in it, she maneuvered herself around Sam's bed and slid her arms under him.

"Mummy?"

"Just Mama little monkey," Andy whispered. "I have you."

She carried him into their room, and tucked him in beside Nick.

She knew they'd be exhausted at the Gala's but she struggled to care. After making love for hours, even this little interruption of sleep didn't feel like a big deal.

"Do you need help?" Miranda's voice at the door made her smile. That Miranda would pretend to help her clean their children's vomit from the hotel floor was indication enough that she was loved.

"No," Andy chuckled. "I opened the windows and I've done the best I can. I'll have housekeeping do a deep clean tomorrow while they're with Serena and Joc."

"Come to bed then Andréa," Miranda smiled tiredly.

"I'm right behind you."

She tidied up the last few things and followed her little family to bed. Miranda was already tucked under the covers with Olvia secured in her arms, Nick was still wide awake in the middle and Sam was sulking.

"Are you a sad little monkey," Andy whispered, pushing him gently out of the way and getting in.

"Livvy took my M'anda"

Andy smiled, brushing his hair out of his face. He could do will a haircut soon.

"Well," Andy smiled. "I know I'm not M'anda, but maybe you can keep me company tonight?"

"You always hug Nicky."

"Nicky is doing his own thing right now, and I really need a cuddle."

"You do?"

Andy nodded and chuckled when Sam flew into her arms, almost colliding with her chin.

"I promise I'll make sure there's room in my arms for little monkey sized Sam's from now on, okay?"

"Yeah," he said, snuggling down on top of her.

"You okay baby?" she looked at Nick. He nodded happily and she noticed Mirada's hand on his belly, rubbing gently with her thumb. She looked up and met Miranda's eyes in the dimmed bathroom light.

They didn't need words.

Chapter Text

They slept until 9:30. The twins were up at six, but they happily managed to squeeze in the big bed either side of Miranda and Andy and settled in for a lie-in as well. Liv had managed to remain vomit free for the rest of the night, so when Miranda's phone rang at quarter to, Andy was already blinking awake.

"Yes?"

Andy watched Miranda wield her power on the phone while Olivia was tucked up on her chest. She stroked her hand through Liv's curls absently as she listened.

"Andréa and I will be down at 11:20. Have Nigel bring the gowns to our room and call the maid service, Olivia was ill last night. I will, of course, pay for the inconvenience, Jocelyn and Serena should be here by 11:15" she glanced over and caught Andy's eye. "That's all."

"Good morning," Andy smiled indulgently, wishing there weren't two and a half children between them.

"Good morning," Miranda replied, her blue eyes sparkling with mirth.

"Hey," Cassidy muttered, sitting up suddenly and leaning on Andy tiredly. "I'm super glad we got to come and see you Mom, but I'm beat."

"I know sweetheart," Miranda said, leaning over to brush away her fringe. "We shall be back in New York tomorrow evening. And then, Tuesday, you have your first Taekwondo lesson."

"Hey!" Cassidy grinned. "You remembered!"

"Of course I did," Miranda said haughtily. "And we shall obviously all be there!"

"Oh," she swallowed, looking a little unsure. "Okay. That's a lot of people on my first day, but," she grinned. "I'm really looking forward to it. Thank you for letting me." She fell quiet for a while and Andy watched Miranda wait for her to continue. "It's pretty cool, you know," Cassidy said. "Like, you're super chill lately."

"I have never been chill in all my life Cassidy," Miranda chuckled. "But I am very relaxed. Everyone is happy and healthy and I think we have settled into a relatively stable routine."

"Hi," Caroline whispered, sidling up to Miranda's shoulder.

"Don't wake Olivia," Miranda whispered gently, extracting her arm. "But come here, darling."

Caroline beamed as she snuggled up to Miranda's side and sighed, resting her head on her chest.

"Remember when we used to come and get in with you on Sunday mornings?" Caroline whispered. Andy smiled watching as Miranda traced her nose gently.

"And then I would cook you pancakes and play video games with you?"

"I kinda wish we could still do that. I know you're super busy but -"

"Caroline?" Miranda said, smiling gently. "If that's what you wish, then we shall endeavour to achieve it. Because we can do anything."

"Maybe I can take the littles to some sort of sporting thing on Sundays," Andy offered. "Give you guys some Mom time."

"It's not that we don't love them," Cassidy said quietly.

"We just miss Mom sometimes."

"I'm sorry sweethearts."

"It's okay," Cassidy said, grinning cheekily. "We're just not used to this competition. And I'm pretty sure they're cuter than we are, so we're on the back foot."

Andy chuckled and poked Cassidy's middle where it was resting on her.

"What's happening Mama?" Sam's precocious voice interrupted their quiet time.

"Nothing at all little monkey. We were just talking to the girls."

"Cassy, come cuggle me."

Andy chuckled and switched places, letting Sam cuddle on Cassidy until he was bored of that.

"Why Liv gots to cuggle you so much," he frowned, sitting up. "You's my M'anda."

"There is plenty of me to go around Samuel," Miranda said gently as Andy slid out of bed and pulled on a dressing gown. "There are five of you and one of me. Olivia was unwell last night, so she gets the priority today. You," she tapped his nose. "Little love, must learn some patience sweetheart."

"I don't got patience."

"The best people don't," Andy grinned, kissing Cassidy and Sam's hair. "Coffee?"

"Yes," Miranda smiled. "And some breakfast for the ravenous hordes."

"I come?"

"Course you can," Andy smiled, turning around. "Hop on, Monkey."

He jumped onto her back and she carried him out into the living room, using the phone to ring down for room service.

"You want to watch cartoons for a while?" He nodded. "Alrighty," she said, pulling the twin's bedding closer. "We gotta do this right, you know. There's only one way to watch cartoons in the morning."

"Wha' tis it?"

She grabbed him and kissed him riotously before dropping him on the bed.

"You gotta be a human burrito!"

"No!" Sam giggled. "I don't wants to!"

"You don't?" she laughed, trying to roll him up in the covers. "No Sam-urito?"

"Noooo!" Sam yelled. "M'anda!"

"Unhand my son," Miranda said dangerously, her eyebrow making Andy back off a little before she realised Miranda wasn't the boss of her anymore.

"You totally got me there," she said with a wry grin as Sam giggled as he jumped into her arms.

"Glad I've still got it," Miranda said catching him deftly. The doorbell went and she put Samuel back in front of the television, where he was soon joined by Caroline.

"Monkey, do you want jelly toast this morning?"

"Yes!" he hissed.

"Please," Miranda said, her eyebrow going up.

"Peas!"

Andy bit back a smile and spread some strawberry jelly on two pieces and poured him a glass of milk, taking it to the table.

"Come up here sunshine," she said gently. "You can still watch from here, but let's make sure we don't get jelly on the sofa."

"Fine!" he huffed and Andy laughed.

"Gosh, you sounded like Aunty Emily then. Aunty Serena's going to have a field day today."

"Speaking of, the gowns are coming in ten minutes. We are scheduled to leave at 11:20."

"Ooh," Andy frowned. "Now that feels weird. It's usually me telling you your schedule," she grinned lopsidedly. "Not the other way around!" She passed Miranda her coffee and fixed herself one. "Is Nicky not awake?"

"No," Miranda mused, rubbing her bottom lip.

"I wonder if maybe he's not sleeping well," Andy muttered. "He was awake when I went in last night."

"Perhaps your suggesting of putting them into something that will tire him out is a good one."

"I have plenty of good ideas," Andy said, feigning hurt.

"I know you do darling," Miranda murmured, kissing her sweetly. "I just meant it will be good to wear them out."

"Sport's useful isn't it," Andy grinned, remembering the conversation they'd had earlier in the year.

"Mhmm," Miranda grinned. "I do remember someone mentioning it, yes."

Andy grinned and finished her coffee. "I'm going to hop in the shower."

"Alright," Miranda smiled, leaning in for a kiss and resting her forehead against Andy's. "Do you know, for the first time in my whole life as Editor, I am ready to go home."

"I'm sorry," Andy frowned, taking a step back. "We added to the stress of this week."

"No my darling, no," Miranda said, pulling Andy back into her arms. "You have made my week even more special. I have loved our time here and I think, next time we find ourselves with a spare week, I am looking forward to travelling to places with our children. Seeing somewhere through the wonder of a child's eyes has been magical to me," she ran her finger over Andy's cheek. "I had forgotten."

"I think we'd love that," Andy whispered. "We all love spending time with you."

"I worry, Andréa," Miranda said, stepping back a little. "That your life has been put on hold to take care of these babies."

"I admit I have been thinking very hard about how our lives have panned out," she smiled, blushing a little at how often Miranda hit the nail on the head of whatever thought was stewing in her mind. "But I've decided that I'm not sure I care anymore. I," she bit her lip. "Hear me out before you comment on this, okay?"

"Alright," Miranda said carefully.

"I'm not doing my best work," she admitted. "I'm rushing. And then when I'm done, I spend a good portion of my time with the kids, wondering whether I've done my best work. Anton lets me work how I like because of," she shrugged. "You, basically. So," she took a deep breath. "I've decided that I might take six months off."

"What?" Miranda's eyes nearly bugged out of her head.

"I feel like they're missing out on us," she whispered. "Sam said something about it last night, and the girls commented today. I don't want to stop working forever. Not even for a long time, but I think," she shrugged. "I think they need this."

"And thus, the trap that all women fall into," Miranda mused sadly. "The expectation that women will work like they don't have children and raise children as if they don't work."

"I'm not sad about it," Andy said, cupping Miranda's cheek. "I'm kinda hoping that when, in like a million years, you retire," she chuckled. "You'll take over and I'll get to go to work all hours while you're taking care of the masses of teenagers we'll have by then."

"I see," Miranda rolled her eyes. "Very clever my darling."

"Is it a terrible idea?"

"No," Miranda said quietly, cupping her face. "I hear what you are saying and I think that if that is what you need to do, you should. I worry that you will not go back though. I do not want you to become another statistic Andréa. The world should not be deprived of your voice."

"I will," Andy smiled sadly. "Because I have something else other women don't."

"What?" Miranda said, a tiny frown appearing between her eyebrows.

"You," Andy grinned, tracing that slightly crooked nose. "You've single-handedly changed this industry into what it is. If anyone can give me ideas and pointers and tips on how to get back into it, you can, even if you can't technically give me a reference."

"I will do everything in my power," she kissed Andy gently as she went to speak. "Within the parameters of your needs."

"You know my needs," Andy whispered, kissing her hard.

"Ew, way TMI," Cassidy laughed as she walked out, carrying Nick on her back. "This one woke up."

"Hello honey," Andy said, clapping her hands and taking him from Cassidy's back. "Hungry?"

He nodded and Andy smiled, poking his belly gently.

"Good, give M'anda a kiss then she's going for a shower."

"I thought you were," Miranda smirked.

"Yeah, then the hordes woke up and need feeding, so I'll do that while you get prettied up. No one is going to take photos of me."

"Oh my darling," Miranda sighed, cupping her cheek. "Everyone wants photos of you."

She left, kissing Nick sweetly on the nose. Andy watched her go, grinning as she swayed her ass just a little.

"What a woman, ey," she said, hefting Nick up on her hip and chuckling when he rolled his eyes. He may not be talking, but he was definitely communicating.

-0-

Andy was just sliding off her dressing gown after Nigel dropped off the dresses when Miranda's voice called her name with an air of urgency.

"ANDRÉA!"

Andy pulled the robe back on as she rushed into the bathroom.

"What? What's happened?" Miranda stared at her and Andy held out her hands. "Miranda, what?"

"Look at my back."

Andy frowned and glanced in the mirror, her eyes widening as she saw the problem.

"Holy shit," Andy said, her eyes widening and her hand covering her mouth. "Fuck!"

"Hmm," Miranda said, glancing over her shoulder at the eight lines marring her otherwise pristine shoulders. "I can't say I'm not impressed by them," she grinned evilly back at Andy. "Perhaps I will wear our love on my shoulders later tonight."

"You're not going out there without covering them?" Andy's eyes widened. "Are you?"

"Why not?" Miranda smirked. "I think it will be a fantastic piece de resistance to this year's amazing week."

"Oh my god," Andy groaned. "I'm never going to live this down."

"Why would you want to darling," Miranda whispered with an evil gleam in her eye. "Why on earth would you want to."

Chapter Text

 

"Hey Tiger," Nigel greeted her from the door to her office.

He'd started calling her that after Miranda went out without covering up those now-infamous nail marks on her back during the finale gala of Paris Fashion week only days ago. The headlines had been amusing but rather muted, no doubt in fear of their professional careers.

"Oh god," she groaned, letting her head bang on the desk. "I told her I was never going to live it down."

"She owned that shit," Nigel chuckled. "But yes, you will never live it down. I think Emily still hasn't recovered."

Andy grinned, remembering Emily nearly swallowing her tongue as she fell into step with the rest of the entourage. It was so bad it was a good half an hour before Emily managed to get her voice to work again.

"Darling, are you ready to go?"

"Sorry Miranda," Nigel smiled. "I hadn't got around to warning her yet."

"Warning me about what?" Andy's eyes widened.

"Nothing, let's go," Miranda smirked, winking as she turned. "Assume you're leaving now."

"I am? I haven't said goodbye to Anton," she blinked as she realised what Miranda had said. "Oh god, what have you done?"

"Come along Andréa."

Andy was powerless to resist and got up, grabbing her purse and followed her love out of the door. They rode together, down to the lobby, Andy desperately trying to get Nigel to reveal where they were going. He remained mute, however, slipping into the limo behind him and Miranda with a sigh.

"So a surprise," she asked, unimpressed with the secrecy.

"Possibly?" Nigel smiled. 

"Oh god," Andy groaned, her head in her hands.

Miranda chuckled and slid her hand into one of those hands and held on. Andy figured that if Miranda was fine with it, it wouldn't be that bad.

-0-

It wasn't. 

They pulled up at The Grill, a restaurant Andy remembered mentioning weeks ago to Miranda in the quiet of their bedroom. Her eyes lit up and she threw herself at Miranda and kissed her hard.

She heard Nigel chuckling in the background but didn't care. Miranda kissed her back and cupped her cheek.

"Ready for your little soiree?" she asked quietly.

"You didn't need to do this," she whispered as Nigel got out of the car.

"I wanted to," she smiled. "You deserve it. You've changed my life Andréa. And you're now putting it on hold for our children's best interests."

"You've changed mine in so many ways too."

Miranda pecked her on the lips again and nodded towards the open door where Roy was waiting to help her. He allowed Andy to help Miranda and tipped his hat as Andy wrapped her arm in Miranda's.

"My lady," he quipped, letting her hit him on the arm. 

"Thanks, Roy."

"You're welcome," he chuckled, looking to Miranda. "I'll be around, message me when you're done."

"Thank you, Roy," Miranda echoed nodding to him as they moved into the restaurant.

"Andy!"

"Doug?"

"What are you doing here?"

"Emily invited me," he grinned, hugging her tightly. "Well, Miranda did, through Emily. She remembered you saying we needed to have dinner, but between us, we've never got it together," he grinned at Andy's lover. "Clearly it takes a master to organise our stuff."

"Stuff Douglas?" Miranda mused though she was smirking at them, as they stood there with an arm wrapped around each other. 

"Sorry Miranda," he said, paling a little.

"Ignore her," Andy whispered. "She's joking."

"Hmm," Miranda arched an eyebrow. "Lunch, I have blocked two hours, but Ayah Tabari is in town and I must speak with her."

"I forget your roll with the big dogs now girl," Doug chuckled, nudging Andy with his hip. "Come on then, let's eat."

"Andy, darling. Introduce me to this fine specimen."

Andy laughed.

"Nige, this is Douglas. Doug, Nigel Kipling."

"Hello," Nigel said, holding onto Doug's hand for just a beat too long.

"Geez guys, it's my party, alright?" she quipped, slipping her hand into Miranda's and following her to the head of the table.

Emily and Serena were waiting and Serena greeted Andy with a tight hug.

"I am unsure that my Emily will be able to cope without you around to -" she grinned at Miranda. "Tame the dragon."

"Serena," Emily groaned, blushing considerably under her pale skin.

"I have had that thought myself," Miranda quipped as she sat and waved over a hovering waitstaff member. "Poor Melody."

It was a divine experience, socialising with adults, no children. Not that she didn't love them, but she remembered the plans they'd made and had to cancel so many times. She sighed as she looked around at her extended family. It was such a mind-fuck. She was a nothing. A nobody with nobody to love her, and nobody to care. And now, she had more family than she could count on her two hands and it filled her with warmth.

She glanced at Miranda watched Emily chew daintily at a piece of fish and nodded as the woman caught her eye. She was amazed at how long ago it felt that Miranda was carefully but sternly instructing Emily to take better care of herself, and it was showing. She was still skinny, but she had a glow about her that honestly, was mostly down to Serena, but she looked healthier than Andy had ever seen her.

Doug and Nigel were thick as thieves down the other end of the table and she squeezed Miranda's knee gently, nodding surreptitiously towards them. Miranda smirked into her wineglass, letting Andy know that she had already seen it. 

The bill came and Andy caught how much it was. She blanched, looking at her sideways. Miranda had footed the whole table and she bit her lip thinking about the extravagance.

"Don't worry darling," Miranda said quietly, as the rest of the table talked between themselves. "We can afford it, and it was worth it to see your smiling face. I will not forget to call Bartholemew tonight either. Do not let me forget. I cannot believe I have been remiss in getting this sorted."

"We've been busy," Andy groaned, squeezing the woman's thigh under the table. "I just," she sighed. "It wasn't as good as I thought it would be, especially not for that," she grinned. "Although it was a great show. And we're managing fine. I've got you AMEX if I need it. I'm still not contributing, so," she shrugged. "I'm fine."

"My thoughts exactly on the meal," she muttered, entwining their hands under the table. "We will not be back to this establishment, though I am glad you have enjoyed yourself."

"You have to go."

"Yes," Miranda smiled. "And you must leave to pick up the children."

"I'm looking forward to it actually. Will you be home for dinner?"

"No, but I will try to be home before bed," she smiled, giving in and cupping Andy's cheek. "And then we will talk. I know I have been busy. I fell like I haven't seen you since we landed. I will call Bartholemew from the car. I'll have him make up a portfolio for you, and perhaps we can talk about it after Caroline's game?"

"It's alright," Andy smiled. "I know how it goes. There's time. And we have the whole weekend."

"In the interest of making all things known while I have my full attention to give to you; please make sure you get Cassidy's mouthguard fitted appropriately sometime this week."

"Miranda," Andy scoffed, grinned as she caught Emily watching them. "I have it covered, remember."

"I do," Miranda sighed. "It is a stretch, me going to watch this. It," she bit her lip and let Andy see just a little fear in her eyes. "Concerns me."

"Talk to Cassidy," Andy whispered, leaning over and kissing Miranda's cheek gently. "Listen to her talk and watch her eyes light up like yours do when you see a beautiful piece of clothing. And then you'll feel much better about it." 

"What would I do without you, my love."

Andy didn't answer, content just to look at her for a moment before kissing the back of her hand and letting go.

"I'd just like to say something," she said louder, interrupting everyone. "I have loved this and I've enjoyed, more than you know, working with you. You're my dearest friends and I love you all. Wish me luck."

Miranda raised her glass, and the others followed, draining them with a cheer at the end. 

"Now, I am leaving, Emily, you are accompanying me, Melody will meet us there. Nigel and Serena, I'm sure you can find your way back with Andréa? Douglas, you are welcome to join Andréa, of course. She can drop you off on her way to pick up our children."

"I took the day off," Doug clarified with an easy smile. "But thank you for the offer."

"You can come and hang out if you like, let the kids meet their honorary Uncle?" Andy said without thinking. She blinked, glancing at Miranda, who wore a completely neutral face so she nodded reassuringly at her best friend.

"I'd love to," he grinned.

"Good," Miranda said, nodding once. "That's all," she muttered as the server took the bill and bowed a little, moving away from the table so they could leave."

"Miranda I -"

"Don't," she said gently, cupping Andy's cheek. "We have been busy, so you have never acted on it, but the Townhouse is your home. You are welcome to invite whomever you wish into it and he is a good candidate for honorary Uncle," she smirked, pecking her lips gently. "I love you."

"I love you," Andy grinned. "Have fun."

Miranda didn't answer but sashayed away, Emily falling in behind her leaving the four of them to watch.

"What a woman, ey," Nigel grinned at Doug.

"She's," Doug shrugged. "Amazing."

"And all mine," Andy grinned, nudging Serena's hip. "Em looks good," she grinned, leaving Serena to take that however she wished. "And I never got a chance to thank you for looking after the kids. They loved the little fashion parade you guys did."

Andy and Miranda had come home after the last gala of the evening to a cleared out living room in their suite with improvised lighting and speakers dotting the room. And as soon as Miranda had shut the door behind her, the music had started, leading to a beautiful, fun, fashion show featuring none other than all five of their kids wearing couture, to daywear to a downright ridiculous mish-mash of things that made Andy hoot with laughter. Serena had even thought to have Patrick's assistant on hand to take some shots for them. She was looking forward to getting them sometime this week.

"That was all Jocelyn's idea. I just helped out."

"I doubt that," Andy grinned. "Thank you, either way."

"They are beautiful children. I really did enjoy hanging out with them."

"They are," Andy smiled. "And I'm going to be late to school if I don't get a move on."

"How are you getting there?"

"I think someone should have brought the car," Andy muttered. "If not, we can call an uber I guess?"

"Holy shit Andy!"

She laughed as Doug's mouth dropped open and she accepted a key from a valet. It wasn't an out-of-the-ordinary looking car, but once you looked closer, you could tell it was a bit special.

"Yeah, Roy's friend did it up for us so we could all fit, without it being too big. It's crowded on soccer mornings, but it's super comfy."

"Soccer mornings," Nigel scoffed. "I bet it's like herding cats all by yourself."

"Oh no," Andy grinned, doing her belt up and looking back at Nigel int he mirror. "She's there too."

"What?"

"Miranda is a soccer mom now," Andy giggled. "She'll be a taekwondo Mom too after this weekend."

"You're one of a kind kid," Nigel grinned. "The girls have wanted to do sports since," he shook his head. "Forever."

"Well, they're pretty happy either way," she said, carefully pulling out into the traffic. "The girls have expressed a wish for a bit more Mom-time, so I've got to find something to do with the littles one morning on the weekends."

"I think Jocelyn said something about her boy doing gymnastics?" Serena said helpfully. Andy grinned and made a mental note to call Joc later in the day. 

"I think Sam would love that," Andy chuckled. "Maybe they all would," she grinned. "Alright Runway crew, thank you for flying Andy air."

Nigel chuckled and Andy watched in the mirror as he passed Doug a card quietly and looked pointedly at him before getting out of the car. 

"Nige?"

"Yeah?"

"Tell Anton I'll come and see him before the end of the week?"

"He'll be fine," Nigel said easily. "He's a good guy."

"Which is why I want to say thanks to him," Andy smiled as Doug got in the front seat. "Have a good afternoon!"

"Alright," Andy said as they watched Serena and Nigel walk back into the building. "You ready to meet the crowd?"

"I am," Doug smiled. "It's," he looked at her as she pulled back into traffic. "You're different. Happier. Softer."

"You have to be when you're in love with Miranda Priestly and have five kids between you."

"I don't doubt that," Doug chuckled. "How's it going?"

"Really well. We're busier than you can believe. I," she sighed, signalling to turn. "It's been a really, really big learning curve. She has," she shrugged. "A lot of money and I'm not paying for anything and I want to, but we've been so busy, I just haven't."

"Maybe take it as a sign," Doug smiled. "Save your money for something. Pay your Uni debts off."

"I am," Andy shrugged. "It's amazing how much money you can save when you're not paying for anything except coffee and the occasional lunch every day. Although Cara cooks for a literal army so I always have leftovers."

Doug laughed and they lapsed into an easy silence.

"I'm sorry I wasn't a better friend," Andy said quietly. "I let us drift apart."

"No," Doug said gently. "You didn't. We both did. Between Nate, and Lily. I don't know, it was just," she sighed. "Too hard to navigate. But, I want to be your friend again. I want to know the new you."

"I want that too," she whispered, squeezing his hand. "I've missed you. I've missed adult conversations with people other than Miranda and Cara. The girls are really mature but there's nobody to shoot the shit with, you know?"

He laughed and nodded as they pulled up to the school. She waved at the security guard and parked the car.

"You wanna come in? Or wait in the car?"

"I would love to come in, will they let me?"

"Yeah," she grinned. "I'm Miranda's girl. We get carte blanche."

"That's awesome," he laughed, sliding out of the car.

She locked the car and they followed a few of the parents into the junior school, nodding to a few of them as she did.

Chapter Text

Miranda sighed as she slid into the backseat of the towncar, waving Roy off in an effort to get home faster.

"Long day," he said quietly, allowing her the option of remaining quiet if she wished. She sighed again, deciding that the man was really becoming an extension of their family at this point.

"Extremely," she muttered, watching as the night rolled by. "A whole week of long days."

"Do you need me this weekend?"

"What does your wife think about the hours you keep?" she asked in lieu of an answer, considering Andréa's insistence that there was no guilt to her working late.

"Miranda," he sighed gently. "You have single-handedly provided us with the means to own our own home. Our children are in great schools, we are practically debt-free and my kids all have college funds. I think there's nothing that you could do that would make Molly dislike you in any way."

She chuckled, meeting his eye in the mirror.

"It is down to you that you have all that, not me."

"I know who pays my salary, Miranda," he smiled. "Which is why I'm around if you need me. I'm your driver, not Runway's."

"Well," she sniffed, not sure whether to be pleased or embarrassed. She decided on the former and they fell quiet for a while before she looked up at him while they were at a light. He was watching her and she sighed. He could read her like a book after all this time.

"I don't know how to navigate Andréa not working," she whispered. "The guilt is -"

"Molly doesn't work," Roy muttered after she trailed off. "Because I work a lot. My hours match yours. I may not know Andy like you do, but I do know her. She wouldn't really do something she was against, not even for you. She dances between raindrops, that woman. She'd find another way. If it helps, I can tell you what Molly told me back when she stopped working?" Miranda nodded, enough for him to see, but not enough to look eager. "She told me that our kids deserve to feel safe and secure. You and me, Miranda, we provide the security. We put food on the table, a roof over their heads. That's hard, it requires sacrifice, especially in this city. And their Mama's? They provide the safety. The band-aids on the skinned knees and the discipline when needed. It's a team effort. But both roles are valid and necessary."

"She sounds like a very intelligent woman," Miranda smiled genuinely.

"She is," Roy returned her smile in the mirror.

"At the risk of further blurring our work relationship Roy, would you consider a playdate in the park? Perhaps one Sunday afternoon? We will take your family for dinner, or lunch, whatever you would prefer, but I trust you, I would like to meet your wife and I would dearly like for our children to meet."

"I would like that very much Miranda," Roy said quietly. "Thank you."

"Andréa has been trying to tell me for weeks that the people that I work with; you, Nigel, Emily, are not merely employees anymore. As our family grew, it grew exponentially as those around us helped us navigate. I hadn't even considered. You came with us to the hospital when Olivia hurt her hand, you sat with me so I wouldn't be alone. Serena, and even Jocelyn looked after our children when we couldn't," she shook her head in amazement. "I seem to have more family now than I ever have."

"Love is grand, Miranda," Roy said, pulling up to the kerb and running around to open her door. "You command the respect of everyone around you, but we love you for it. All those people, they love you. Not like your girl does, but we love you in our own way."

"I -," she swallowed back what she was going to say, as she stepped out. "Thank you for your friendship, trust and loyalty, Roy. It won't ever be forgotten."

"I'll always be here for your family, Miranda," he said, being brave and squeezing her hand. "Go see them. Take some time to hold them and it will look better in the morning."

"We'll go in late I think. Go home. Do the same. I'm not even considering leaving the house before ten. I may not go in at all. So I'll let you know."

"Yes ma'am," he grinned cheekily. "You have a lovely night."

"I shall," she nodded and walked up into the house. The printing fiasco was fixed, but the catch-up was brutal and she just wanted to settle down on the sofa with a -

"M'ANDA!"

She managed to drop her keys into the bowl just in time to prevent Sam from bowling them over.

"Oof, Samuel, careful little love," she said gently, tugging on his riotous hair, he'd need it cutting soon. "You don't want me to fall over."

"Unc'a Dougie's making us cross aunts!"

"He's doing what?" Miranda asked, spying Andréa's beautiful face shining around the doorframe.

"Come back and watch sweetie or you're going to miss it and Unc'a Dougie's going home in a minute."

"Awww!" Sam pouted, his hand firmly gripping the bottom of Miranda's jacket. "I don't want him to go home."

"Go on, little love," Miranda said, pushing him gently. "I'll come and join you in a moment."

Andréa sauntered down the hall, patting their littlest on the bottom as he passed. Miranda held her breath for barely a second before those beautiful lips pressed against hers and she was lost. She had missed her, even though they'd seen each other at lunch.

"Oh, you're so beautiful," Andréa smiled into their kiss. "I'll never tire of kissing you, Miranda."

"Nor I, you," she muttered, nipping at Andréa's bottom lip.

"Mm," the younger woman grinned, pulling back a little. "Can't wait for the kiddos to go to bed," she chuckled. "Here," she slid her hands over Miranda's belly and up to her shoulders. It made Miranda's breath catch. "Let me help you let go of your day."

"Is Douglas -"

"Doug is the new Super-Uncle," Andréa chuckled. "He's successfully charmed the kids so they're pretty much eating out of the palm of his hand. He's like a Disney prince as far as they're concerned. He's fine."

"You're sure?"

"I wouldn't have left him there if I wasn't," Andréa said gently, but firmly.

She knew, of course, that she was being over-cautious. Douglas was Andréa's best friend, but she was so tired.

"Come on love," Andréa whispered against her ear. "Let's get you some food and a cup of tea and then we'll put them to bed and I'll give you a back rub."

Miranda bit back a groan at the thought and followed Andréa into the kitchen. Douglas smiled gently his arm around Nicholas and Samuel as they stood on a chair and grappled with what looked to be pastry.

"Yeah, this one made croissants from scratch. Pastry and everything."

"Gracious Douglas, if that is true, you will need to be a more permanent fixture in our lives," Miranda muttered. "Seeing as you are Andréa's best friend, I do not mind telling you that there is not much I won't do for a fresh croissant."

"Luckily for you, there's a fresh batch about to come out of the oven," Douglas smiled. "Then Andy can supervise these and I'll get out of your hair. It's been a long day."

"It has, but you are more than welcome, anytime."

"Thank you," he said genuinely.

She could see why he and Andréa had become such good friends. He was steady. And kind. She could see why the children liked him too. He squeezed Caroline's shoulders as she showed him her attempt and fist-bumped Cassidy. Even he could see that they were different; that they needed different things. It reminded her that she needed to speak to their father. They'd not seen him in more than a month and while they had not said anything, she wasn't sure why he hadn't said anything either. There was so much in her head.

Nicholas tugged on Douglas' shirt and pointed, receiving a high-five for his efforts and smiled, patting the man's cheek in thanks. Miranda chuckled at the tiny flour handprint Nick left on Douglas' cheek and watched as their eldest boy plopped down onto his bottom and took the opportunity to sneak across the kitchen to where she sat.

"Hello beautiful boy," she muttered, wiping his hands and accepting him on her knee. He squirmed for a while before he slid off and opened his arms for her again and she picked him up, letting him wrap his arms and legs around her. He didn't often settle for her and she took the gift for what it was, pressing kisses to his temple and rubbing his back.

It was serene. The children mirrored Douglas in his steadiness and even when Samuel saw that his usual place was taken by his brother, he didn't complain. He glared a little, and she bit back a smile, seeing much of herself in him. But then Douglas redirected his eyes and everything went back as it was.

"See," Andréa whispered, as she placed a cup of tea before her. "He's a wizard."

She smiled, genuinely and leaned up for a kiss. She didn't really have the energy to talk, and where months ago, she perhaps would have been angry at the intrusion to their kitchen, now it felt right. Andréa was right. Their lives had changed beyond the three children. They had grown outwards, somehow. She thought of Nigel and she studied Douglas as he pulled a tray of fresh croissants out of the oven. They would be good together. Nigel needed the steadiness. She didn't know Douglas well enough to know if he would like Nigel, but she hoped so. Nigel deserved someone to make him as happy as Andréa made her.

She recalled the day he had asked her the question he'd always asked her when she met someone new. If their behaviour earlier was any indication, it would be her turn to ask him soon. She hadn't asked him since they were much, much younger than they were now and she lamented that. Nigel had had many beaux's over the year but she had let their friendship shift somehow, out of friendship and into something else.

"My lady," Douglas said with a sweeping bow, interrupting her thoughts as he placed a plate before her.

She'd eaten more carbs with Andréa in the house than she probably had the last ten years combined, but she couldn't find it in herself to care. And she wasn't lying. Croissants were a particular weakness of hers. She took a deep breath and groaned, making he and Andréa chuckle. She tore off the corner and her eyes widened as the pastry passed her lips.

"Where on earth did you learn to do that?"

"My grandmother was French. Well," he clarified. "My grandmother's mother was French, Nanna didn't speak a word of it, but she could cook. My father learnt, then I learnt. I imagine my nephew will learn it too when he's old enough to hold a whisk. All the women since Nanna are terrible cooks. My aunt nearly burnt her house down cooking instant ramen.

Miranda smiled, charmed by this gentle man.

"Well, I thank you for this. It is exactly what I needed."

"You're welcome. Andy was telling me that Cass has Taekwondo on Friday?"

"She does," Miranda glanced at her eldest by twelve minutes. "I am excited for her."

"Did you know Doug is a 1st kup red belt Mom?"

"I don't even know what that is Cassidy," Miranda said gently.

"He's one test away from a black belt. In Taekwondo!"

"Really?"

"Yeah," he blushed a little. "I," he looked at the kids. "Had a hard childhood."

"I'm sorry," Miranda said, genuinely.

"I started Taekwondo to fight, but I learned so much more than that. It isn't about fighting. It's about peace, somehow. It's a way of life."

"I knew he did some form of martial arts, I just didn't know which one," Andréa said, sitting next to her at their well-loved table and taking a piece of croissant from between Miranda's fingers. "Otherwise we would have called you Dougie."

"You're fine," Doug smiled. "I know the place Cassidy is going and it's a good Dojang. They have a great kid's program too."

"Oh!" Andréa said, her eyes shining. "Now that is a good idea."

"I will," Miranda rubbed her cheek against Nicholas' hair. "Take it under advisement once I have seen Cassidy's lesson. Although teaching trouble over there," she nodded towards Samuel, who was currently trying to wipe flour on Caroline's nose. "How to take someone's knees out might not be in our best interests."

"As it should be," Douglas laughed. "I'll get out of your hair. Thank you for having me," he said mainly to her, grinning at Andréa.

"As I said, Douglas," Miranda said gently but firmly. "You are most welcome here, at any time."

Andréa ordered him an Uber and walked him out, leaving Miranda to chew on her pastry thoughtfully.

"You okay Mom?" Caroline asked gently, drying her clean hands on a towel and wrapping them around her shoulders.

"I am extraordinarily tired, darling," she smiled gently, watching Cassidy play with Samuel and Olivia.

"Do you have another long day tomorrow?"

"No, I'm going in late tomorrow. Honestly, I may not go in at all."

"Good," Caroline whispered. "Maybe we can take care of you, instead of the other way around. I have training tomorrow and Cassy will bring the little ones home. Andy will be here. It'll be okay Mommy. We'll get it all sorted."

"Oh my darling, I know," she smiled, her heart squeezing painfully at how much love she felt in this room. "I do not have any worries at all."

"Well that's what I like to hear on a Tuesday evening," Andréa grinned. "My love, I'm running you a bath. Sam needs one too, but he can have one tomorrow. Liv baby, let me see that hand, then maybe your sisters can go supervise you in the shower?"

"We got it Ma," Cassidy grinned, leaning against Andréa's hip. One thing was abundantly clear, Roy was right. She might provide the security but Andréa was their Mama, through and through.

She thought about that for a moment; the feeling she'd got when her twins had first called her Mommy. It made her smile even now, but she had missed that somehow with their three little ones. They called her what they wanted to, but she had to admit, even after these long months, that it still niggled at her. Not that she wanted to replace their mother, it just -

"Hey," Andréa's sweet voice brought her from her maudlin thoughts. She realised Nicholas had fallen asleep in her arm and she looked up at her love. "I think I lost you for a moment," Andréa whispered, letting her forehead lean against hers. "You okay?"

"I am plagued with maudlin thoughts."

"Luckily for you, I've started the bath, opened the wine and I'm waiting to wash your back when you're ready; if you're ready?"

"What did I do to deserve you," she whispered, blinking quickly. "I -"

"Hey!" Andréa whispered, crouching before her. "Hey, you weren't kidding! We're fine Miranda. We have everything we need!"

"I," Miranda swallowed. "I want to be their safety too."

"Babe, I don't know what that means!"

Miranda laughed, looking up at the ceiling while she tried to will the tears that were gathering at the corners of their eyes.

"Roy," she cleared her throat. "Roy and I were talking on the way home. I," she blushed. "I asked him what I am supposed to do about the guilt of you not working and the guilt of working late and he said that we, he and I provide our families with the security, and their Mama's provide the safety."

"He's a beautiful man, our Roy," Andréa said gently. Miranda blinked hard again as her love wiped a thumb under her eye. "Being the security blanket of our family doesn't mean they feel less safe with you love, or that you mean less to them. It means right now, it's your job to make sure that we can give them the best we can. And you do. You are."

"I do not know why I am so maudlin."

"Ah," Andréa smiled awkwardly, a beautiful shade of pink appeared along her cheekbones. "I think that might be my hormones? Maybe? I was feeling particularly weepy earlier and I've just made note of the date."

"Bloody hell Andréa," Miranda smiled, even though she was still crying.

"If I could avoid it, you know I would," Andréa chuckled, kissing her gently. "What about you and I go and have a bath, you can tuck the kids in, then I'll make good on that promise of a back rub. I heard a little birdy mention you were taking the morning off?"

"I am," she nodded, smiling as she cupped Andréa's cheek. "I would like maybe if we went out for breakfast before school? Together? No rushing, just," she shrugged. "I don't want to go back to being alone."

"Oh love," Andréa whispered, her forehead resting on Miranda's. "Never alone. Not for a second. Do you really think all of us could make you feel alone? Next time you have to work late, and you know about it early, let me know and I'll bring them for a visit, okay? It won't always be helpful to you, but the moment you need us, we'll be there."

"Thank you, my beautiful Andréa."

"As for breakfast?" Andréa considered it. Miranda did so love watching the woman think. "Sure, we can do that. We'll have to be up early? Sarabeth's is supposed to be good? It's only around the corner?"

"That is where the girls will decide to take us should we ask them," Miranda sighed. "I think they'll be alright with it," Miranda shrugged. "They are up early most days. Oh," she shook her head at herself. "I gave Roy the morning off too, so we'll have to take them?"

"Any excuse to hang out with their M'anda for a while longer," Andréa said so gently, Miranda blinked hard again. "And I bet they'll love that." A tear rolled down to Miranda's chin. "Goodness babe, I'm so sorry," the woman chuckled, wrapping her long arms around her.

"Let's go up, I'm done crying for now. Damn your nubile hormones."

Andréa threw her head back and laughed, disturbing Nicholas a little, but he glared and pushed his face back into her neck, his little fingers gripping her collar and rubbing the skin on her collarbone.

"I think I have a growth for the night."

"I will take him, you are having a bath, which if you don't hurry up and get it, it will only be an excessively hot temperature, instead of centre-of-the-sun."

Miranda pulled her closer and kissed her properly, sighing against her lips.

"I am all over the place," she said, knowing that Andréa knew this, but needed to repeat it. "If I am at all -"

"Hey," Andréa said kindly. "This is kinda my fault. You can be as grumpy as you like until I get past it."

Miranda smiled, something she found herself doing more and more. She let Andréa help her up and they tangled their fingers together as they caught up to Sam, who was running away from Cassidy, wearing nothing but a cheeky smile.

"Let's have the young man, while I wrangle this monkey into his clothes and I'll be in a minute."

Miranda let her take Nick and watched as Samuel obeyed immediately, knowing it was time to get ready for bed and spied Cassidy looking a bit put out as she watched him comply immediately.

"Cassidy, darling, come here."

She watched as her eldest walked towards her cautiously, but she smiled, one more, and yanked her into her arms, breathing deeply against her hair.

"I love you," she whispered. "So much. Thank you for taking care of us. Thank you for stepping up."

"Are you sick?" Cassidy said, leaning back and looked at her.

"No," Miranda chuckled, tracing her eyebrow. "Just feeling grateful. Tomorrow you're going to take us to breakfast."

"Sarabeth's?" her eyes widened. "Before school?"

"Think you can get up early enough?"

"Can we ever. Wait til' Caro finds out! This is awesome," she sobered suddenly and looked up. "I love you too Mom. You really are the best," she coloured. "Not just cos we're going to breakfast."

"I'll come and tuck you in after I have bathed, unless you're too old for that now?"

"No way," Cassidy grinned. "We may never get too old for that Mommy."

She chuckled, kissing her baby's nose.

"I can't say I'm upset to hear that," she kissed her once more. "Right. Showers and bed then?"

"I have a bit more homework, Andy said I could do it later cos Doug was here."

"Off you go then."

She closed the door to her, she shook her head, their bedroom. Andréa was everywhere in their home and contrary to how it felt with Stephen, Alec and even the girl's father, it was such a relief to see evidence of her everywhere. A book, open on the bedside table, most of it unread. Socks tucked just under the end of the bed where she'd no doubt toed them off after she got home. A t-shirt Miranda would never be seen dead in, but that fitted her lover like a second skin, poking out from under the covers. She sighed and dropped her own clothes, sinking into the bath with a groan and closed her eyes. At least she wasn't losing her mind. Monthly hormones lived vicariously, she could deal with. For now.

Chapter Text

 

Andy Sachs decided that her single greatest pleasure was waking up with Miranda laying on her chest, breathing against her neck. It didn't happen often. Only when Miranda was truly exhausted, did she get cuddly. But Andy cherished those moments. As she took a deep breath, inhaling all of Miranda's scent - the scent that nobody else knew but their children - she sent thanks to whatever deity was listening for putting them together to enjoy this life together.

She trailed her fingers down Miranda's back. Over those shoulders that millions of people lusted over, but only she got to kiss. She watched, in the low light of morning, as the goosebumps appeared over the pristine skin she wanted to mark so badly. She'd been teased mercilessly by Nigel mostly, and a few other brave souls, about the lines on her back. But deep down, Andy was okay with it. She liked the ownership; the label on her lover's skin that broadcasted that Miranda was hers. It was a little primal and a touch embarrassing, but the heart wants what the heart wants. And she wanted her woman calling out her name.

She ran her cheek over Miranda's temple and ran her fingers down her spine, with purpose now. Miranda twitched a little, her thigh slipping between Andy's and she captured it with her own, trapping her lover right where she wanted her.

She gently lifted Miranda's thigh higher and slipped her hand between them, breathing out shakily as Miranda's centre brushed her fingers.

"Oh," she whispered, gently running her fingers over the bundle of nerves that she could feel beneath her fingers.

"Andréa," Miranda whispered in her ear.

"I love you," Andy whispered back, craning her neck to check whether Miranda was awake yet.

"Andréa?" Andy grinned, feeling Miranda getting wetter the more she explored.

"I have you."

"Andréa!"

The moment she knew Miranda was awake, she slid her finger inside, feeling Miranda's hands squeezing her shoulders as her head came up and their eyes met.

"I have you," Andy said again, leaning up for a kiss as she began loving her woman.

They made love to with barely a sound. Their breathing filled the silence of the house and Andy found her own body clenching in sympathy as Miranda pushed herself up on her hands and sank further onto Andy's hand.

"Please!" she whined. "Please!"

"Easy love."

"Andréa!"

She felt it right as Miranda did, that moment before the precipice. Miranda's breath caught and she threw her head back for just a second before her body exploded on top of Andy's and she lost control of her hips as they pushed into Andy's hand over and over.

Andy could feel the muscles in Miranda's thighs trembling but could do nothing but let Miranda take the lead. The angle was terrible and she couldn't help but smile as Miranda took her pleasure to the end, collapsing on top of her as she lost the strength to stay on her hands.

"Oh," Miranda whimpered. "Oh, darling."

"Good morning," Andy smiled, sliding her hand out before she cramped. 

"Oh darling," Miranda panted, slipping her leg between them. "Darling."

"Are you alright?" Andy chuckled.

"So smug," Miranda huffed, her breath warm on Andy's throat. 

"I do like to please," she replied, finally seeing Miranda's face as she regained enough strength to sit up and smile down at her. 

"You are amazing and I love you."

"I love you," Andy smiled. "I was in two minds to wake you. It's early, but not too early."

"We're going to breakfast," Miranda smirked, her fingers tickling the hairs on the back of Andy's neck. "So we must be expedient."

"Expedient? With what?"

"Returned affections," she muttered, kissing Andy until they had to pull away panting. "Stay here," Miranda muttered, her body shimmering down until she was nestled between Andy's thighs.

"Oh god, Miranda," Andy whispered, her eyes widening as that nose nudged against her clit and took her breath away. "Fuck!"

"Shh," Miranda warned, her fingers making maddening patterns on the sensitive skin on Andy's thigh. "Please do not wake anyone, my love."

"Miranda," Andy whined. "I'm so ready. You're so sexy. When you come in my hands, you're so very very sexy."

Miranda's tongue wound its way inside and Andy was a goner. Her body was a slave to whatever Mrinada's tongue wanted her to do and she couldn't help but roll her hips as Miranda pleasured her so perfectly. In an embarrassingly short period, Andy's thighs tightened around Miranda's ears and her hand gripped the soft white hair, directing her to stay exactly where she was as she fell over the edge and into oblivion.

"Shit, you are so good at that," Andy panted as Miranda's messy hair appeared from under the sheets.

"If you are going to do something darling, you must make sure you are the best at it," Miranda chuckled, wiping her mouth and pressing a quick kiss to Andy's lips. "Shower with me? Before they wake up?"

"I would love to," Andy whispered, running her hands through Miranda's hair.

"I must look a fright," she chuckled, blushing a little under Andy's loving gaze.

"You look beautiful. Every moment of every day. With bed hair and sleep in your eyes. Food on your chin, lipstick on your teeth. Beautiful."

"Andréa," Miranda blushed deeper. "I will have to check my teeth obsessively today," she grinned. "I'll start the water."

"I'll be there in a moment."

She lay back thinking about how amazing her life was. The good definitely outweighed the less-good. They needed to find a way to slow down this crazy runaway train that was their life, but in the moments where the pace was not as obvious, it was perfect.

Miranda opened the door to the bathroom and Andy got up, locking it behind her in case the kids got up earlier than expected. She slipped inside the shower and wrapped her arms around Miranda's very naked, very glorious body and sighed.

"I love you."

"I love you," Miranda murmured, letting her head rest against Andy's shoulder. They held each other for a long while before Miranda spoke again. "We need to try and control this pace. It feels so out of control sometimes."

Andy laughed and kissed a path from Miranda's chin to her temple. 

"It's like you can read my thoughts," she muttered. "I was just thinking before that while life is amazing, a slightly less fast-paced life would be even more amazing."

"I'm not sure how."

"We'll think of something," Andy chuckled, pushing Miranda up against the tiles, grinning as she hissed at the cold. "In the meantime, I can make time slow down for you right now."

Miranda opened her mouth, no doubt to complain at Andy's terrible jokes but only a moan escaped as Andy's tongue wound its way between her thighs.

-0-

"Mama?"

"Yes baby?" Andy said as she wiped Samuel's mouth to save the syrup from going everywhere.

"I go wi'v M'anda?"

"I," Andy glanced at Miranda, leaning down to talk to Olivia while she ate a smoothie bowl. "I don't know yet baby. We'll talk to her and see what she says, okay?"

"M'kay," he grinned, Nutella staining his teeth.

It was as serene as it could get in the busy restaurant. There were full tables all around and a wait time that was rather long for a weekday morning. Not that it had mattered to Miranda of course, she'd swanned in, and the staff had cleared a table. It was that easy. She wasn't with Miranda for the perks, but they certainly were nice.

"Hey Mom?" Cassidy asked as she scooped up the last of her pecan waffles. "Can we walk to school?"

Miranda's eyebrows went up and she looked across at Andy.

"Not today Cass," Andy smiled. "We've got the car here, remember?"

"Oh," she slumped in her chair and pouted a little. 

"We can maybe see about walking another day?"

"Okay," she shrugged. "I've enjoyed spending this time with you Mom."

"I have enjoyed it too darling. I -" she paused, frowning a little and Andy knew she'd stopped herself from saying I promise. "We're going to take steps to try and make sure that life slows down a little. I know it's been frantic."

"It's okay, as long as you don't miss my class tonight?"

"Nothing could keep me away, my darling."

-0-

"Look, Mama, da snappers are back."

Andy had seen them, and now Miranda frowned as she saw them too.

"I wonder why?" Andy muttered. "Anything going on?"

"Not that I know of," Miranda said, her hand resting on Andy's thigh as they pulled into their garage. "I will call Melody."

Miranda did just that, sliding out of the car without another word and leaving Andy to get Sam. she unstrapped the little body and let him jump down, smiling as he saw Cara folding laundry in the kitchen.

"CAR-WA!"

"Hey little man," she greeted him happily. "Did you have a good morning?"

Andy left them chatting and went to find Miranda, who was pacing in her office, tension rolling off her in waves.

"Yes," she snapped. "Fine. Call Lesley, have her issue a-" she faltered. "I cannot believe this. That disgusting little bastard."

Andy's eyes bugged out and she stopped at the doorway.

"Yes. That's all."

Miranda hadn't seen her yet and Andy watched in horror as she picked up the vase of flowers and flung it at the nearest wall.

"HEY!"

Andy rushed forward and caught a collapsing Miranda, utterly sobbing in despair. Her heart was thumping faster than she'd ever felt it before as she gathered her love into her arms. She managed to get them onto the sofa and she rocked Miranda back and forth while she sobbed, her fingers gripping Andy's biceps to the point of pain.

"What's happened?" Andy whispered as Miranda calmed down.

She didn't answer, instead, passed Andy her phone, the front page of a newspaper pulled up on the screen. She looked at the screenshot of the latest headlines from the New York Times and her stomach rolled. Splashed across the cover was Irving Ravitz. His face covered with a jacket, but there was no escaping who it was. It was the headline that made her go cold and her arms tightened around Miranda. 

Former CEO Arrested On Alleged Child Pornography Charges.

"I," Andy swallowed. "I can't -"

"I have to go in," Miranda whispered. "I have to -"

"You don't have to do shit. You," Andy swallowed hard. "That's -"

"If I find one single being in that building who even had an inkling about it, I will rip them apart with my bare hands. I will -"

"I know," Andy whispered, her eyes closing as she held her lover tightly. How differently their day had turned out. "I know."

-0-

When Andy picked the kids up, the older two were rather subdued and it was clear that they'd heard the news.

"Mama? Is it true? Is -"

"Not here baby," Andy smiled, cupping Caroline's cheek. "Later. When we're home. Cara's going to keep the kids quiet while we talk."

"Is Mom going to miss my class?"

"I -" 

Andy's heart sank. It was more than likely that yes, Miranda would miss the class but she would give it some more time before she said so officially.

"I don't know yet love, this is," she sighed, blowing up her bangs. "This is a big deal."

"I know," Cassidy said, her face falling.

"I'll call her. We'll do our best."

"'Kay," Cassidy whispered.

"Livvy? Nicky?" Andy said, turning in the seat once they were all in. "There are some snappers at the house, so what do we say?"

"NO COMMENT!" Liv shouted, oblivious to the tension in the air. 

Nick rolled his eyes and zipped his lips shut. Andy's eyes widened and, despite it all, smiled. That was new.

-0-

The phone rang once before Miranda's voice filled her head.

"I have waves of nausea rolling through me."

"I know," Andy whispered, pinching the bridge of her nose. "I spoke with the girls."

"I," Miranda faltered. "I did not mean to leave that to you, I apologise."

"Don't," Andy murmured. "They'd already heard."

"Alexi has me doing the interviews with floors ten through fifteen. I've called the police on two people so far and I've only spoken to the people on fifteen."

"I'm so sorry."

"So am I," Miranda muttered. "Lesley is running interference, but it's hard not to feel utterly disgusting for even being remotely associated. How did we not know? How did we not realise Andréa? "

"Don't," Andy whispered, sitting on the arm of the chair in the hall. "Don't take this on. You didn't know, because people like that are very good at hiding. You wouldn't have had any idea, or you would have already dealt with it."

"What if he -"

"He didn't," Andy muttered, not wanting to hear the worry out loud. "Cos I asked them."

"Andréa -"

"I don't mean to add to your woes, and I know this is a massive deal. But," she sighed and said a little prayer. "You need to come and watch Cassidy's lesson."

"I cannot possibly. I don't have -"

"Miranda, baby?" Andy said, over the top of her. "I'm telling you. You need to do this. I, I think if you miss this, she might not forgive you for a very long time. And we're already stressed as it is. Please don't add to it."

"Andréa, I do not have time for your emotional blackmail. That's all."

The phone hung up and Andy's eyes widened. Her mouth dropped open and a searing bolt of white-hot anger shot through her. She called back, her heart thrumming in her chest and growled, audibly when the call went to voicemail. She missed the days when you could slam the receiver back on the telephone, but she could do one better. She dialled a different number, her foot tapping while she waited.

"Yo."

"I need you to come and pick me up. Right now."

"On my way."

She took the stairs two at a time.

"Cara?"

"Yeah?"

"I'm going out. I'll be back soon."

"Are," she frowned as she looked at her. "You okay Andy?"

"No," she growled, pulling on her jacket. "I am not okay."

Roy didn't even have time to get out of the car before she was running out of the door and into the backseat.

"Hey stranger," he said, before faltering at the look on her face. "Ah. Right. I'll get you there asap Andy."

"Thank you," she managed.

He pulled up in front of Elias Clarke, and again, didn't have a chance to even unbuckle his belt before she was stalking off into the building.

"Move," she growled as a crowd went to step into the elevator. Her face was terrifying enough that they all paused and stared wildly as the doors slid closed.

She tried to take a couple of deep breaths. She really did, but when the light pinged on for floor seventeen, she could only hear her heartbeat in her ears.

She marched past Melody, ignoring her warnings and flung open the door, glaring at the people sitting at the table.

"Get. Out," she hissed, only marginally surprised when they did.

She waited for a beat, slamming the door closed and rounded on her lover.

"If you ever do that to me again, you can book a hotel and stay there. INDEFINITELY. Don't you dare treat me like an employee. Don't you dare speak to me like that again. As usual, you do whatever the fuck you want. But if you EVER do that to me again, and you can fuck right off. I will take our children to Cassidy's Taekwondo lesson that she has been looking forward to for her whole life. ALONE."

She hadn't meant for her voice to get so loud, but Miranda hadn't moved and it only pissed her off further.

"If you want to ruin what we've built, you go right ahead. I'll carry it. Like I always do. You want to ruin your relationship with your kids? FINE. I'll pick up the fucking pieces afterwards, and soothe their broken hearts."

She watched a single tear roll down Miranda's alabaster cheek and all the anger evaporated away. She sighed, rubbing her forehead and, finally, met Miranda's eyes.

"He has ruined countless people's lives. He has," she swallowed the bile rising in her throat. "He has destroyed so much, Miranda. Please don't let him destroy us. Don't let him destroy our family too. Don't go back to that person. She was so unhappy and so lonely and I can't," she covered her mouth. "I don't want to do this without you."

"Andréa."

It was barely a whisper, but it pierced Andy's heart with such force, she took two strides and fell to her knees. Miranda let herself be pulled into her arms, and they fell to the ground. As gracefully as possible the managed to make it to the sofa, sitting on the floor, leaning on the arm. Andy sat, cradling Miranda as she sobbed into her neck, all the disgust and tension and horror she'd held so tightly being forced out of her. It was Miranda's flailing hands that caught her attention and she blinked as Miranda rushed out of her arms towards the bathroom, barely making it there before her body rebelled.

"Hey," Andy soothed as she threw up. "Hey, it's okay. It's going to be okay." She ran one corner of the towel under the water, and placed it against the back of Miranda's neck, rubbing her back in firm but gentle circles. "It's okay."

"None of this is okay. I treated you -"

"It is okay. It," Andy chuckled darkly. "It's nothing I haven't heard before."

"All the more reason to be disgusted in myself."

Andy didn't reply, instead, using the wet towel to wipe Miranda's face. She waited as Miranda brushed her teeth and rinsed her mouth, before turning and leaning on the counter. 

"Come 'ere," Andy said, moving into Miranda's space and sliding her hands around her thighs. She lifted her and sat her on the counter, ignoring her squeak of indignation, before stepping between her thighs and wrapping her arms around her.

"I love you."

"Don't make me cry again," Miranda whispered against her neck. Her legs crossed behind Andy's butt and they stayed that way until there was a gentle knock at the door.

Andy pulled back and looked at Miranda's tear-stained face.

"I'm coming home," Miranda said quietly. "I can't deal with this. Let them do an internal investigation with trained investigators. I do not know why Alexi is making us do it. We are not equipped."

"There she is," Andy smiled, kissing her gently. "He's new, and it's his position that is in the Newspapers. Call him, tell him, and we'll go home. There's still time."

"Thank you my darling, for reminding me of what matters most."

"You matter most," Andy whispered, running her nose alongside Miranda's.

"That's amusing," Miranda whispered. "I would have said that it was you that matters the most."

Chapter Text

"Can I go with Cassy?"

Miranda just managed to grab Olivia's hand before she darted after the twins.

"You will stay with me," she muttered, squeezing the little hand in hers. "Cassidy has things to do before we go and watch. Have patience darling."

"M'and! I wanna go!"

"Olivia, enough," Miranda said gently, but firmly. "I do not want you to go to bed early tonight."

"Are we ready?" Andréa asked, coming around the car with Samuel safely in her arms and Nicholas holding her hand.

"Yes, Caroline?"

"I'm here," she grinned, slipping her hand into Nicholas'.

"Good. Onward then."

"Good afternoon," a young woman wearing similar clothing to Cassidy's. "It's my honour to greet you today. Before you enter, it is custom to bow to the flag, paying it a mark of respect, before removing your shoes and making your way to the corner where you can watch."

Miranda pursed her lips, looking down her nose, but Andréa's hand on the small of her back made her huff. She did as she was told, smiling as Olivia copied. Nicholas watched and then did the same thing, matching the girl's hand positioning. He would benefit from this more than the others, she thought, as she toed off her two-inch pumps. She was just glad she had changed from her Bill Blass slacks and into a slightly less form-fitting suit.

"I sit with M'anda," Olivia said, wrapping her arms around her thigh.

"Alright little love," Miranda said, her hand resting on her hair. "That is fine."

They made their way over to the corner of the room and made themselves comfortable on the floor. One of the older students explained that it was not usual to have spectators, but they would make an exception. Andréa snorted quietly and Miranda pinched her thigh in retaliation, flashing her a smirk.

It was almost normal. 

In the back of her mind though, she could see the headlines splashed across the pages of New York. 

"Hey," Andréa said gently. "Come back to us Miranda."

"Sorry," she muttered, shaking her head. "What's happening?"

"They're just getting situated. You haven't missed anything."

"I wanna go!"

"You'll stay here," Andréa said sternly. "This is Cassy's time. Not yours. Let her be."

Cassidy glanced over her shoulder and beamed, making everything seem a little less terrible and she smiled back as the instructor explained, for Cassidy, what they were doing.

"Take your position on the mat, and sit, cross your legs. Clear your mind of your problems and your thoughts. Taekwondo is about balance. Peace. You cannot master the art if your mind is not clear."

Miranda thought that was sound advice.

"Here," Andréa said, sitting Samuel on the mat and helping him cross his legs. "Nick, you too," she whispered, nodding towards Cassidy. "Now close your eyes and sit quietly. Think about all the happy things."

"Like you and M'anda?" Samuel asked, making her smile gently.

"Yeah, like Mama and M'anda and you sissys and your brother."

"And Carwa? And Patricia? And Mr Woy?"

"Yeah," Andréa whispered. "But do it quietly okay?"

"I whisper."

"Good boy," Andréa smiled, nodding towards Nicholas. 

She looked and watched as he cracked open an eye and watched, taking a deep breath when the man at the front of the room did. She smiled and nudged Olivia, crossing her legs as well and letting her mind go. She decided that perhaps a half hour's meditation every morning might do her the world of good. Perhaps if they converted the space in -

"You're supposed to clear your mind, not solve world hunger," Andréa's silky smooth voice echoed around her brain. Miranda smiled and nodded. Taking a deep breath and trying to still her thoughts. It worked, for about a minute, before she remembered that she hadn't emailed Tom Ford's people back about their advertising space.

"It will wait," Andréa whispered again and she cracked an eye open to see her lover watching her. "Just breathe. Work is over. No thinking of work this weekend. We're going to go home, pull the blinds and pretend we're in an Alaskan forest with no one around us for miles. We can even turn the thermostat down if you're interested."

Miranda bit back a smile and pinched the woman's thigh again, getting a beautiful smile in response. Something more was happening and she watched as the class started reciting a benediction, in Korean. She had no clue what it was about, or what they were saying, but Cassidy had clearly learned it somewhere because she managed to get a few sentences in.

Miranda ran her hands through Olivia's hair as they watched them transition into a standing position and the moving part of the lesson started. Caroline leaned, just a little, into her side. They'd suffered a blow as a family today and a weekend seconded away would do them good. Then perhaps, in a week or two, a vacation. Like she'd considered. Outside the city. Outside the State. Somewhere where the papers wouldn't have pictures, and the children could play and she could just be home-Miranda.

-0-

Cassidy was practically shouting by the time the class had broken up and crossed the road back to the car.

"And did you see what Master Lee did to that board! It was amazing!"

"Alright Cass," Andréa chuckled. "Relax sweetheart. We were all there."

"Oh but Ma, it was so good."

Miranda smiled and glanced down at her phone as it rang obnoxiously loud after the quiet of the Dojang. She frowned, seeing the name and passed Olivia's hand to Caroline and answered the call.

"Yes?"

"I heard about Irv."

"And?"

"I'm concerned about our daughters." 

She bristled. Andréa's hand slipped into hers and she waved her off, moving away from the car to hiss down the line.

"You think I would ever let anybody hurt my daughters? That I would let that, that -" 

This was all she needed. Maxwell overwhelming her with all the emotions she had been made to feel in the last 24 hours.

"They're my daughter's too!" 

"And where the hell have you been?"

"I -" He paused long enough that she removed the phone from her ear and checked to see if he'd hung up.

"My doctor said I should have told you and the girls."

"Doctor?" she frowned. "Maxwell, what are you -"

"Cancer," he said quietly. "Early, and relatively easy to treat, but I'm in chemo so -"

"Max, I -" she swallowed. "No matter what has come between us, I would never wish -"

"I know," he said kindly. "I, I was concerned when I saw the headline, I just," he sighed. "Maybe it was the universe's way of getting me to talk to you, finally."

"I," she glanced behind her and saw her family waiting. "Will you wait a moment Max, I know we need to talk about this, just -"

"Do you want me to call back?"

"We are not at home. Will you call back in twenty minutes?"

"Yeah. I saw some photos of you and that Andréa in the papers. You look so happy Miranda. I'm glad."

"I," she blinked the tears away. "I am happy. Happier than I have ever been."

"I'd," he cleared his throat. "I'd like to know this new you, if you'd let me. I know cancer is kinda a big thing and I'm not using it to erase our sins, but I," his breath wobbled. "It puts things in perspective, you know? You were my friend once, before all this."

"I do, and we will. I'll," she glanced at her eldest girls as she neared the car. "I will wait until I speak to you again before mentioning anything. But let us get home and then," she swallowed. "I will call you back."

"Alright," he said, doing a good job of hiding the surprise in his voice. "I'll be here."

"Thank you."

He hung up and she looked at the phone and then met Andréa's eyes, who were laced with worry.

"Come on my darlings," she sighed feigning a smile and fiddling with her bracelet to prevent them from seeing her hands shaking. "Let's go home. Then, I must make one more phone call and I am all yours for the whole weekend."

"Yey!" Sam yelled, throwing his arms in the air. "M'anda's all MINE!"

"All ours," Liv grumped, making Andréa chuckled.

"Alright little'ns, in you get. Samuel, we have to share M'anda but I'm sure she'll make sure you get lots of cuddles."

"Yesss," he hissed, scrambling into his seat.

Miranda smiled, despite it all and slid into the passenger seat, gripping her hands tightly.

Andréa's hands topped hers and she glanced at her, shaking her head just barely.

They drove home listening to the kids chattering and Andréa's voice called out to get their things and take them up to their rooms. Cara directed traffic as they all clamoured to get inside.

"What?"

"Max," Miranda whispered, not making a move to exit the car. "He has cancer."

"He," Andréa blinked. "Really? That's why he's not been around?"

"Yes."

"I -" she swallowed again. "Do you need to go to him or -"

"No," Miranda said, perplexed. "No, he is not my husband anymore Andréa. You are my partner. I am," she frowned. "Sad, for him. His choices led him where our relationship is, but I," she blinked away a tear. "I loved him at one point," she smiled and cupped Andréa's cheek. "Before I knew what love really was."

"What do we need to do?"

"I'm going to call him back and discuss moving forward and telling the girls. I, I find myself not wanting him to go through it alone, but I likewise cannot send the girls there to deal with this."

"I am okay with all of this, if you need to go to him?"

"I wondered if," she cleared her throat. "If we shouldn't, all of us, do more to, incorporate him into our," she sucked her bottom lip. "Family."

Andréa beamed at her and leaned across the centre console to kiss her deeply.

"I think that's a great idea."

"You do?"

"I do. I think the girls are a part of our family, but that he is a part of theirs. I will never be one to say no to more family."

"I know," Miranda whispered. 

"And I think, honestly, it might do the littles good to get to know him too. To stop it from feeling too 'other'."

"You always know the right thing to say," Miranda whispered.

"I know you, and I love you."

"I know that," Miranda smiled, feeling it in her soul. "And I am so thankful Andréa, for you and for everything."

"I love you, Miranda Priestly," Andréa grinned. "Go and call him back. Cara and I will get dinner on and we'll go from there. You could even invite him, if you needed to? Might be better if the news comes from both of you?"

She watched as Andréa walked away before calling her name, watching with an overwhelming feeling of completeness as she turned to smile at her.

"I love you. Endlessly."

"Here's to forever, yeah?"

"Forever, my darling," Miranda muttered, watching her go until she entered the kitchen.

She stood, in the relative cool of the garage, playing with her necklace, before realising she had no more excuse to avoid calling him back.

"Max," she said gently as he picked up.

"God, you know it's serious when you call me Max," he chuckled, making her feel better. 

"How would you feel about joining us for dinner. Here, at the Townhouse?"

"Really?" he asked and she could tell that she had shocked him. "Won't Andréa be -" he didn't finish the sentence.

"It was her suggestion actually."

"Ha," he said quietly. "THat's how you know it's real then, I suppose?"

"What?"

"You discuss things. We just used to," she imagined him shrugging. "Tell each other how it was going to go."

She considered it and nodded, forgetting he couldn't see her.

"This way," she continued, not able to concentrate on any other revelations. "You can meet the little ones and then we can tell the girls together?"

"I -"

"I realise it seems unorthodox, but we, Andréa and I, have discovered along this journey that family is," she nodded, forgetting he couldn't see her. "Rather a case of build-your-own. And, you are the girls' family."

"I would like that, Miranda," he said, his voice wobbling again. "I don't," he cleared his throat as his voice cracked. "I would like that."

"Good. Shall I pick you up, or can you join us here?"

"I can still drive Miranda, I'm not bedridden," he chastised gently.

"Of course, I'm sorry."

"She's done a number on you," he chuckled. "You've apologised more to me in this phone call than ever before."

"Maxwell."

"Shutting up now," he laughed and she let him. He certainly wasn't wrong.

"Is there anything you require? Dietary needs etc?"

"No, I'm between treatment protocols now, so I am fine. I need to put a bit more weight on actually, it," he paused. "It takes a lot out of you."

"I'm -" she stopped as he chuckled. "Make your way here. Dinner is at 7."

"Yes Miranda," he said teasingly. "See you soon."

"Mom?" She looked up, finding Cassidy on the step, looking at her shrewdly. "What's going on?"

"Nothing, I," she warred with herself over what to say. "Your father is coming here," she said all of a sudden. "For dinner."

"He's what?"

"He's coming here for dinner."

"We figured it was time to get to know him," Andréa said, appearing behind Cassidy in the hall. "So the littles weren't too worried about you guys going away."

"He hasn't called for months, why all of a sudden?" Cassidy said, looking between them as Andréa joined her.

"Have you put your gi away?"

"It's a dobok, god Ma," Cassidy rolled her eyes. Miranda glared at her, even though she knew Andréa had done that on purpose to redirect her attention. "Sorry, no, I haven't."

"Cassidy, while I understand that I perhaps didn't get that right, you have no right to speak to me like that," Andréa said sternly, shocking Miranda a little. It wasn't often that she disciplined the girls. It wasn't often that she needed to.

"Yes Ma, sorry Ma."

"Off you go. Get whatever it is that you need to do so that you have your evening free, alright?"

"Yeah," she whispered, looking sadly between them.

"Come 'ere," Andréa sighed, pulling her eldest into a hug. "Just watch your tone alright? We love you."

"Love you too," she muttered, before running up the stairs.

"Sorry, I -"

"Don't apologise. She was out of line and you are her -" Miranda chuckled. "Ma," she said, finally entering the house with a long and pained sigh. "I was naive to assume they wouldn't have realised something was wrong when I told them."

"Look, new things are scary. I get that, intimately," she laughed, wrapping her arms around Miranda and pulling her close. "They'll figure it out. Although if we can stop them from taking on too much, that would be better. They need to also be themselves, you know?"

"Exactly," Miranda sighed, smiling as she heard a little giggle. She'd know that giggle out of a hundred other children. Because it was one they heard the least often.

"Come here Nicholas," she muttered, stepping away from Andréa and catching him as he jumped at her. "Oof, you are getting so big. But I do so love hearing you."

"Two of my favourite people, all snuggled into one," Andréa muttered, kissing both their heads. "Nicky, you gonna take M'anda upstairs and let her read to you?"

"You will need help getting dinner," Miranda said, looking torn.

"Cara and I have it. She's staying until it's ready. It's alright. Go have some downtime with our boy."

"Fine," she smiled, nuzzling Nicholas where he lay with his head on her shoulder. "Call me if you need me."
"I will, but we won't. I'll call you for dinner at 7."

She carried Nicholas up the stairs and settled into the chair that he usually occupied with Andréa, sighing sadly as he passed her the book they were reading and snuggled up against her neck. She considered what she would do if anything were to happen to any of them, then pushed those thoughts away with a shudder. 

She would not be imagining those scenarios, not for anything. She would concentrate on what was in front of her, and for now, it was Nicholas and his steady breathing, and his fingers that were playing with the hairs on her neck.

-0-

 Two slamming doors were all Miranda needed for the pounding that had begun behind her eyes. She'd had the worst day she could have imagined and it was only set to get worse.

Both twins had decided that in light of their father's revelation that Miranda had known and had been keeping it from them. She hadn't had a chance to rebuke it before they stormed off.

"I'll talk to them," Max said quietly, touching her hand. "If, can I -"

"Yes," she waved him upstairs. "Same rooms."

"It'll be alright."

"Aren't I supposed to be saying that to you?" Miranda said, getting up and walking to the bar.

"No," he said quietly. "You certainly don't have to."

"It will be," Miranda said decisively, offering him a glass. "All these things can't have piled on top of my day for it to end badly. I can only cope with so much."

"I did not mean to make this already difficult day harder. I don't really even know why I called."

"It was time," she nodded. "I'm glad you did, even despite it all."

"You have changed more than I realised," he smiled as he accepted the drink. "You would never have told me that, not even when we were married."

"Life has changed somewhat since then," she chuckled. She sat back down and toasted him silently, savouring the burn as she swallowed. A mop of curly blond hair appeared by the door and she smiled as Sam's face followed.

"Can I has you?"

"You can, little one," she said, putting her drink on the table and letting him clamber up on her knee.

"Who dat?"

"This is Max, he is the twin's Daddy."

"Cassy and Caro?"

"That's right," Max smiled. "Are you Sam or Nick?"

"I Tham!"

"Hi Sam," he said, offering his hand and grinned when Sam gave him a high-five. "It's great to meet you."

"You take my sissies away?"

"No sweetheart," Miranda soothed gently. He was such a wildman. "They're going to come back."

"M'kay." he said, getting comfortable in her arms.

"God, it's like you're a new person," he said, running his hand through his hair. "And to think I -"

"Don't," she warned. "Don't you dare. I invited you here to -"

"No," he said, holding up his hand. "No, I know. It's," he sighed. "Just funny how life turns out somehow isn't it."

"It is," she smiled indulgently as Olivia also popped her head around the door.

"Aw," she said with a frown. "No fair."

"Come here sweet one," she chuckled. "I have an arm free."

"Have you got -" Andréa laughed as she poked her head around the room. "I should have known. They're drawn to her like moths." Max looked between them. Miranda bit back a smile at the perplexing look on his face. "Max, did you get enough to eat? I can make you some leftovers to take home if that'll help?"

"I," he looked at her carefully. "Yes actually, that would be nice, thank you."

"Good," she nodded. "Want me to take them or -"

"I believe Max was going to talk to the girls, so I'm fine."

And she was. Olivia was tucked under one arm and Samuel tucked under her chin. She wasn't going to be going anywhere for a while. In fact, they would just as likely fall asleep in that position if she let them.

Chapter Text

 

Later that night Andy lay listening to Miranda sleeping. Just as her eyes began to close, she heard another noise that made her sit up a little. She glanced over at Miranda, not willing to wake her after the day they'd had. She kissed her forehead gently and slid out from under the covers, pulling on her robe and padding out of the room.

Patricia had also heard the noise and the big dog joined her in the hallway. She gave her a good scratch behind the ears. They needed to get life under control. Life was so busy, she was afraid that even Patricia was getting left behind.

"Come on girl, let's go check on 'em."

Patricia followed, listening to Andy a whole lot more now she was family than she did as an assistant.

She assumed that Olivia was alright, considering Patricia had left her side at all during the night. She grinned, patting the dog's side. Andy was fairly sure Miranda still hadn't really forgiven the big lug for abandoning her for Olivia. 

She checked on the boys, chuckling as she lifted Sam back onto the bed, instead of hanging half out of it, and pulled Nick's covers up to his chin. They'd worried about them sharing a room at the beginning, but it was working perfectly. Nicky's gentle calm helping Sam wind down in an evening, and Sam's demand for 100% of someone's attention, bringing Nicky out of his shell at times. She was pretty sure Nick was talking to Sam. Not all the time, but some times. Sam often couldn't really work out what was secret and what was not and sometimes made it sound like Nick had told him something.

She couldn't wait for the day he told them something.

She made her way to the girls' bedrooms on the floor below. She'd known it was them but wanted to give them a chance to deal with it on their own for a while. She found the twins curled up together in Cassidy's bed. The eldest taking the role of protector, as usual. But, shocking Andy a little, it was Cassidy that was sobbing into her pillow while Caroline slept, no doubt exhausted by her own crying earlier int he night.

"Come here sweetheart," Andy whispered, touching her shoulder. 

She was glad she'd planted her feet as Cassidy scrambled up out of bed and threw herself in her arms. Andy smiled sadly and wrapped her arms around her, holding her there while she cried. 

"It's alright. It's okay to feel like this."

"I don't want him to die," she hiccuped.

"I know baby," Andy soothed gently. "But people much smarter and better trained than us have said he's doing well. In this case, we just have to trust that it's going to be okay."

"Why does it always happen? Why do people die? I don't," she took a great shuddering breath. "What if Mom, or you, or  -"

"Hey," Andy said, stopping her. "Hey, none of that. We're all fine and we're doing okay. Your Mom and I are in fine health," she wasn't lying, but it did remind her that she needed to work out what was going on with her health insurance. She'd assumed Miranda had just put her on theirs but so much had happened, she'd never actually checked.

It didn't really stop Cassidy from sobbing and Andy clicked her tongue, asking Patricia to stay with Caroline in case she woke up and carried Cassidy back up the stairs to their bed.

"Oh baby," Miranda muttered sleepily as Andy tucked Cassidy in beside her. "Come here. We have you, my little warrior."

Andy smiled, Miranda was so squishy when she was sleepy. All the hard edges and the pointy angles disappeared and were replaced with much softer and lighter Miranda. It reminded Andy of the time Emily had told her to get in bed and demand a bedtime story, early on in their working relationship. She smiled as she checked once more on the little ones and got back into bed. Miranda was still half-awake as she lay cradling Cassidy while she cried.

"Mama and I are both here now Cassidy," she said, telling Andy that Cassidy had asked for her. That warmed her heart a bit. "Sleep baby. Everything will look better tomorrow."

Andy shuffled forward and Cassidy's arm shot out and pulled her impossibly closer. Seeing what she was trying to do, Andy pulled Cass on top of her, letting her rest against her side so she could still be near her Mom and wrapped her arms around both her girls. 

"Are you not sleeping tonight my love?" Miranda asked, her fingers tangling in those that were tracing little patterns on her side where her pyjamas had ridden up.

"Not so far," Andy smiled. "I'm fine though."

"I'm having nightmares," Miranda whispered, as Cassidy yawned so widely it cracked her jaw.

"I know, I've been keeping an eye on you," Andy muttered, kissing both Priestly heads beneath her chin. "And I will again. Close your eyes, and don't worry. Everyone is fine"

"Our hero," Miranda said, wiping away a few tears from Cassidy's face and giving her an Eskimo kiss. "Sleep now, Cassidy."

She sniffled for a while longer before she finally dozed off. Miranda stayed awake for a while beyond that before she too dropped off and left Andy to her thoughts. 

The consequences of Irv's behaviour could be far-reaching, but hopefully, they would avoid the brunt of it. The adoption process for the little ones was ironclad, thank-god. Nothing could touch that. It was something they'd both been thankful for when the lawyers first informed them. Alec had outlaid good money for the best lawyers in town to draw up his will, something that had shocked them both when their own lawyer had said so. Initially, they'd both assumed Alec had simply forgotten to change something, but the lawyer who drew up the will had been adamant. Alec had meant to make Miranda the legal parent of the children, having no other family between them to speak of. It had been a turning point in the relationship Miranda had with the children. She'd stopped worrying so much and started treating them like her own.

As she felt, finally, the first beginnings of sleep calling to her, she sighed and settled into the pillows and pulled her girls closer. Cassidy whimpered in her sleep and she soothed that and then Miranda's kicking feet just after. Before finally succumbing to sleep she desperately sent up a prayer that bad things did not come in threes.

-0-

Andy spent most of the next day keeping the little ones entertained to give their big girls some time to themselves. Miranda had swapped with her, on an off and eventually, the lazy Saturday culminated in a Disney marathon in the media room, with everyone curled up on the floor. Even, Andy was chuffed to see, Miranda.

They made a bed out of the couch cushions and Andy brought her lady a glass of wine and she spent a good portion of the first movie - Moana - watching with interest while she ran her fingers through Samuel's curls. The action sent him to sleep and Andy very carefully carried him up to bed, changing him and tucking him in with no fuss at all. During the next movie, Nick had moved onto Andy's knee and Olivia had curled up with her head on Miranda's thighs. Cassidy had curled up behind her, her arms around her little sister and her head resting on Miranda's belly while Caroline snuggled up to Miranda's other side with her head tucked under her chin.

Nick was content to sit with Andy, grinning as she tickled him gently. He didn't look tired at all and it reminded Andy that she'd said she would take the little ones out on Sunday so Miranda and the girls could have some time together.

"I'm going to take these three out tomorrow morning. We're going to go on an adventure of some sort while you guys have a Priestly Pampering day."

Miranda rolled her eyes but smiled, tangling her hand in Andy's as they watched the rest of Finding Dory with Olivia and Cassidy snoring quietly.

"Cass isn't okay," Caroline said as the credits rolled.

"I know," Miranda said, kissing her forehead gently. "But she will be. Being strong all the time is exhausting."

"Am I like Dad?" she said suddenly, looking up at her mother. Andy was interested to know the answer as well, considering Cassidy was almost Miranda's replica sometimes.

"You are," Miranda smiled, cupping Caroline's cheek. "But you are also like me, in a way. Those parts of me that I don't usually show. It is remarkable sometimes how much you remind me of myself, when I was about your age."

"Really?" Caroline smiled, completely charmed by that idea.

"Really," Miranda chuckled. "But you also, in some ways, remind me of Andréa. You are kind and genuine and you have a beautiful heart that will do anything for anybody with no thought to how much it might put you out. It is one of Andréa's best qualities."

She'd whispered it like Andy couldn't hear, but she felt her cheeks flaming as she took the compliment for what it was. Caroline looked over her shoulder and grinned at her, giving her a fistbump for her troubles.

"You're pretty mushy Momma bear," Andy said, without thinking. 

Miranda chuckled and kissed Caroline once more and ran her hand over Olivia and Cassidy's hair.

"I vote that we make our way up to bed," Miranda said, stifling a yawn. "I think we should leave these two here."

"Can I stay here too?" Caroline asked.

"Of course you can," Miranda smiled. "Though I would like for you to brush your teeth first. These two will have to miss out tonight, but you," she tapped Caroline's nose. "Are not so lucky."

"I love you, Mommy," Caroline said, her voice sounding very young all of a sudden. "I really love you."

"And I really love you, my Bobbsey."

They cuddled for a while longer before Caroline went to get ready for bed, leaving Nicholas and Andy and Miranda watching the two girls sleep.

"I guess I'd better help you up," Andy grinned. "Or you'll be stuck here forever."

Nick giggled, something he'd been doing a bit more lately and Miranda beamed at him, accepting his little body in his arms where she cradled him like a baby, avoiding his long legs kicking the girls' heads.

Andy managed to slide her hands under Olivia's head, grinned when Miranda arched an eyebrow at where her hands were going. She shook her head and let Miranda slide her legs out, before she did the same with Cassidy, placing their heads on a pillow and laying a blanket over them gently.

"'Night 'night you two," she whispered, kissing their heads. 

The three of them made their way up to their bedroom, Nick hanging onto Miranda happily. She dropped him on the bed and tickled his belly as he bounced, making him giggle again. She kissed his face over and over and over until he pushed her away, beaming happily. 

"I love you, little Nicholas," Miranda whispered, as Andy come up beside her, now changed and ready for bed. "But you don't look a bit tired, do you?"

He shrugged and Andy laughed, tapping Miranda's bottom with a smirk and swapping with her.

"Come on then you," she sighed, catching his feet. "Scoot up the bed and we'll read for a while, alright?"

He scrambled up and snuggled under the covers on Miranda's side, his nose just peeking out from under the covers. Andy laughed and followed him, pulling him out of Miranda's place and rolling him onto her belly. They read while Miranda got ready, Nick's little fingers tracing the pictures on the page as he followed along. Eventually, Miranda slid in beside them and Nick put his hands over the words to stop her.

"Are you done for tonight?" Andy asked, looking down at him. 

He sat up a little and pulled the book out of Andy's hands, passing it to Miranda with the most adorable puppy-dog eyes Andy had ever seen.

"Well," she said, looking over her glasses. "When you put it like that," she smiled, making Andy laugh.

She snuggled down with him and scooted closer where Miranda could reach both of them. As she read, Miranda's fingernails scratched over Andy's head for a while, and then NIck's until Andy couldn't keep her eyes open. She fell asleep, curled around their boy as Miranda really did read her a bedtime story.

-0-

Andy woke bright and early the next day, having finally gotten a whole night's sleep. She found Nick staring back at her, content to lay between them until one of them woke up. She kissed his nose and slid out of bed, leaving him where he was for the moment. When she was done in the bathroom, she beckoned him out and watched as he kissed Miranda's lips gently and slid from the bed, his hand going to Andy's sleep shirt and holding on tightly.

"Good morning, little Prince," she said, kneeling in front of him and kissing him again. "We're going on an adventure today. Can you get dressed for me? Then we'll have some breakfast?"

She checked on Sam and decided to let him sleep before going down and checking on Liv, who was sitting playing while her older sisters slept.

"Hi Mama," she said happily.

"Hey baby," Andy flashed her a bemused smile. "You could have come back upstairs you know?"

"I know, Cassy was having bad dreams so I stayed."

"Looking out for your big sister huh?" Andy grinned, leaning down and kissing her cheek soundly. "Thank you, sweetheart."

"You're welcome," she grinned. "Can I have french toast for breakfast?"

"Um, maybe, how about you have cereal for your first breakfast and then you, me, Nicky and Sam are going on an adventure while Cassy and Caroline spend some time with M'anda."

"I wanna spend time with M'anda!" Olivia said, her face a picture of unfairness.

"I know," Andy smiled. "And you will, because when we get back, you can ask her to play with you for as long as she can stand, alright?"

"Do you think she'll play hairdressers with me?"

"I bet she will baby," Andy replied, suppressing a tiny evil chuckle at the thought.

"Alright," Olivia shrugged, getting up and following Andy from the room. 

They ate their breakfast, by which time, Sam had joined them. He had an innate ability to be able to tell whenever someone was cooking or eating and he shuffled into the kitchen, yawning and dragging Bop along the floor. He slumped down on the floor and laid his head on Patricia, sucking his thumb.

Andy winced a little, though she knew Patricia was a very clean dog and managed to snap a picture quickly before he woke up properly.

"Can I has toast peas?"

"Toast peas?"

"No," he frowned. "Pweas?"

"Of course you can baby," Andy chuckled, smoothing his frown lines "I was just teasing, I'm sorry."

"Mummy said you shouldn't tease people," Olivia said suddenly, frowning into her milk. "Mama?"

Andy took a deep breath and turned, trying to smile. 

"Yeah baby."

"Can we get some pictures of Mummy and Daddy? Like the snappers took?"

"You want photos of your Mum and Dad? Yeah, sweetheart, we can do that. Maybe," she glanced at Sam who, mercifully had put his headphones on while he listened to his tablet. Something they didn't really encourage at the breakfast table, but for once, Andy didn't mind. "If you ever want something or need something to do with Mummy and Daddy, ask me or Miranda away from Sam okay? He is still very little and I don't want to confuse him."

"Okay, sorry Mama," she said easily. 

"It's okay Princess," she said, sliding in the bench seat where Olivia was perched. "It's okay to want those things. You just tell us whenever you need something alright?"

"M'kay," she grinned, her milk moustache making Andy smile.

"You've got a mo!"

"I like milk."

"Good," Andy said, nodding her head. "I like you!"

"To drink?" Liv asked, her tiny nose scrunching.

"No silly," Andy smiled. "To eat of course."

She pulled the little girl onto her knee and pretending to munch on her while she giggled happily and kicked her legs. Only when she kicked the table and nearly knocked Sam's tablet flying, did Andy finally stop.

"Sorry sweetie," Andy said gently, pulling off his earphones. "Let's get you some breakfast, alright?"

"Can I has sketti?"

"Yes you may. With toast or by itself?"

"Toast peas," he said again.

"Alrighty then," Andy nodded, getting to work.

-0-

They spent the day discovering Central Park. Andy was aware that as a trial run, they needed to be relatively close to home, but it worked out spectacularly. It was cold, but not oppressively so and the children had fun running around the playgrounds that they found, and watching the model boats sailing on the lake. They'd even managed to squeeze a little trip to the zoo before Miranda rang.

"Darling, I do so love my girls and we have enjoyed our time, but it is not quite the same without you all here. Cassidy and Caroline had decided that it would be best if we perhaps all do some adventuring on the weekend. Together. And then, if they need some time alone with me, they will let us know."

Andy grinned. She'd thought the girls might say that when faced with the quiet house. 

"We'll be home in twenty minutes baby," she muttered, keeping an eye on Olivia as she climbed on the structures at the park closer to home. "They're ready to be back in the warmth I think. I found a flyer for rock climbing too. Maybe we can check it out this week?"

"Yes, now come home my darling, I'm making french toast for lunch."

"You are?" Andy grinned as Sam chugged down some water. "Well, then we'll run."

"There will be time. We are only now getting dressed, although admittedly into our weekend clothes, as you'd call them."

"Good," Andy grinned, imagining Miranda in a pair of her sweatpants with the bottoms rolled up. "We'll see you in a bit then."

"I love you."

Andy grinned. 

"I love you."

She rounded up the children and they made their way home, waving to the paparazzi as they passed.

"She's not coming out today ladies and gentlemen," she said, watching as they all thought long and hard about snapping some pictures of the kids.

"Liv, take Nick and Sam inside, please. Make sure you take your coats and boots off."

"Yes Mama."

She watched as they did as they were told and turned back to face them.

"I'm asking you to drop this. This," she waved at their home. "Isn't news. She isn't news."
"What about Irv Ravitz. Word is they fought all the time."

"Miranda doesn't fight with people," Andy shook her head as the few more seasoned paparazzi chuckled. "She leads people. Other people, who have no respect, don't get that. I cannot speak for Miranda, but I can say that the only instance I came upon him was as the CEO of Runway and as such, I'm bound by an NDA. So," she shrugged. "You have nothing and you're wasting your time. You know what Miranda's going to say."

"What do you think about it?" someone asked.

"What do I think about it?" she gaped at him. "What the hell do you think about it? Because if you aren't disgusted by the allegations then you maybe need to take some time off to get your head looked at. We have five children and I cannot imagine the horrors that -" she bit her lip. "We're horrified by the allegations and hope that the full weight of the law is used to investigate, and if necessary prosecute, these allegations. They all fell silent as Andy tried to get her emotions under control.

"When is she going to put a ring on it?" someone called, taking the opportunity to be cheeky.

"Shit, that's a bit of a U-turn isn't it?" Andy chuckled, wiping her eye and trying to clear her thoughts so she didn't put her foot in it. "And it's really none of your business."

There was a general lull in the questions and she grinned.

"See," she shrugged. "We're really boring people, raising our kids in this crazy city. There's no news here guys."

As she was speaking, she saw a car pull up down the road and smiled as a familiar figure got out.

"Who's that?"

"Just a friend, leave him alone," she muttered, nodding to the door and waiting for Doug to join her. "Have a good day guys. I'd be careful of the waterbombs. It's mighty cold out."

They all took three steps backward and she chuckled as she wrapped her arm around Doug and walked with him up the stairs.

"I didn't mean to turn up unannounced," Doug said, looking worried.

"What's up?"

"I want to talk to you about something," he said, looking up at the stairs warily. "I saw the paper. I know it's a terrible weekend, but -" Andy held up her hand as she heard the gentle footfall of the love of her life.

"Andréa?"

"Hey," she smiled encouragingly. "Doug is here."

Miranda paused, looking between them with wide eyes, before looking back down at herself.

"Stop," Andy said, stepping forward and taking her hands. "You can trust Doug. Please don't panic."

"Oh," Doug said, finally lifting his eyes off the floor. "Yes, please don't worry. I'm intruding without invitation, don't mind me. Or, I can come back?"

Miranda pulled the robe around her a little tighter and Andy watched as she warred with herself before rolling her eyes and letting go.

"Fine," she said, more to Andy. "Looks like you're family now Douglas," she quipped, making Andy laugh. "I'm making French toast Douglas, are you interested?"

"Yes please," he breathed as she swanned past them, pausing and turning back to kiss Andy gently before slipping into the kitchen.

"She is -"

"Mine," Andy quipped, making Doug snort.

"Yeah yeah," he grinned. 

"Do you wanna talk now or can I go and change? You can hang out down here with Miranda if you like? Or the kids will all be upstairs by now."

"I might," he swallowed. "Go and help. If I'm here unannounced, I might as well do something useful."

"Well if the kids realise you're here, you'll get no peace, so yeah maybe that's a good idea. Can I hazard a guess it's to do with Nigel?"

His eyes widened and he took a deep breath.

"Yeah," he whispered, running his hand through his hair.

"Well, I know Nigel fairly well, but he's been Miranda's friend since they were in their 20s."

"Oh," he said, looking apprehensively at the kitchen door.

"She'll be gentle," Andy soothed. "Just be chill with her. It's her weekend off. It's been a really fucked up week."

"Alright," he nodded, wiping his hands on his pants and walking into the kitchen as Andy picked up three coats and straightened 9 tiny shoes in a row. They'd need a bigger closet at this rate.

"Mama!"

"Hey," she grinned as Cassidy wrapped her arms around her and held on tight. "Hey," she said again gently, pulling her head back and looking at her.

"You knew we'd miss you all, didn't you."

"I wasn't sure," Andy grinned. "But I wondered if it would be that way."

"I'm glad you're home."

"Me too," she said, pressing her cold nose against Cassidy's cheek. "It's freezing outside."

Cassidy squealed and tried to move away but Andy nuzzled her nose into her neck and couldn't help but smile at the laughter. Eventually, she stopped and let Cassidy hang onto her as they stood rocking gently in the hall.

"You alright Karate Kid?"

"Ha, more like Taekwondo kid," Cassidy giggled. "Yeah. Just," she shrugged. "Thinking about stuff, you know?"

"I do."

"Is Mr Ravitz going to jail?"

"God, if what they're saying is true, I really hope so baby," Andy said, shivering at the thought and the cold damp around her calves. "Come with me, I need to change."

"Alright," Cassidy said, walking with her arm around Andy up to their bedroom. Cassidy jumped on the bed and sighed as Andy went into the closet and changed into sweats and a t-shirt, pulling on a hoody and a pair of fuzzy socks until she warmed up.

"Now," Andy said, dropping beside her. "Talk."

"I just," Cassidy sighed. "It all seems so much. Dad and Mr Ravitz and," she shook her head. "It's a lot."

"Oh baby, I know it."

"Do you ever feel like everything is pushing down on you?"

"Every day at the moment," Andy chuckled, tapping her nose. "And I know your Mom does as well. My plan today is plonk you lot down in front of the TV while she and I figure out how to make it all a bit easier."

"Can we see Dad this week?"

"Yes," Andy shrugged. "Whenever you want to."

"That was easy," Cassidy snorted.

"He's you Dad baby," Andy said gently. "And he loves you. Neither your Mom or I were trying to keep you from him, even before this."

"I know. He was different when he was here. He," she frowned. "He was listening, you know?"

"Being sick gives you a very stark reality check. It's easy to forget what is important in this life. Mortality is a really good way of kicking you in the shins."

"Andy?" she said quietly, looking into her eyes.

"Yeah."

"Why do the kids not call Mom," she bit her lip. "Mom, I guess?"

Andy sighed. She smiled gently and pulled Cassidy into her arms, kissing her forehead.

"Because for all of their lives, they had a Mommy. And then she died. I feel a lot of guilt that I got a name and she really didn't."

"I think it hurts her."

"I know," Andy sighed. "But we can't make them call anyone anything they don't want to. It's possible that as they grow older, it'll be easier to just call her Mom, but for now, she's their M'anda and that means as much to them as calling her Mommy. And your Mom knows that, even though she secretly wishes it was different."

"Hey Mama?" Cassidy whispered. "I'm really glad you came into our lives," she snuggled until Andy's chin. "You taught Mom how to get us, you know?"

"Nah," Andy smiled. "Your Mom just needed to know that she had someone in her corner to give her the courage to be herself. She's had to be perfect all her professional life. I just gave her some room to wear my hoodies on the weekend and snuggle with her babies. She's not on duty when she's home, she couldn't have that before."

Cassidy giggled again and rolled away, sitting up on her arm.

"Thanks for loving us, Mama."

"Oh baby," Andy grinned, kissing her forehead soundly. "You all make it so easy. It is my greatest joy."

"Alright. I'm done being mushy now. I'm going down to see if Mom needs help."

"I left you a surprise in the kitchen," Andy grinned, knowing she'd be happy to see Doug.

"Sweet. Love you."

"Love you too sweety."

She took a moment to feel the joy and sat up, grabbing her laptop and taking down the stairs with her. It felt like the first moment in a long time that they could all just breathe for a while. And she was determined to enjoy it while it lasted.

Chapter Text

Miranda had started whisking the eggs when a quiet throat clearing made her pause.

"Um, Andy went to get changed and she said I could come and help," he paused as she looked up. "If you need it?"

"Come in Douglas, I promise I'll behave."

"I'm trying to be cool, but you're a formidable woman and Andy's not here for back-up."

"Come now," she teased. "Be brave." He laughed nervously. "Douglas, I promise that I am only formidable when I'm working, these days," she smiled. "One cannot be formidable and let one's 5-year-old put Lion King barrettes in one's hair." He laughed and she congratulated herself for putting him at ease. "Can you cut in a straight line?"

"Yeah, ahem, yes?" he frowned.

"Good. The brioche was not sliced, despite me asking for it to be so, therefore it will need doing. 16 slices."

"I can do that."

They fell into an easy silence, concentrating on their jobs until Miranda finished adding the vanilla and cinnamon and started soaking the bread.

"I believe you were here to discuss something?"

"I," he cleared his throat, looking intently at the loaf. "Wondered if you could tell me a bit about Nigel? Andy said that you were, have been friends for," he paused. "A while."

"A long time," Miranda chuckled, continuing with the cooking. "What would you like to know?"

"Is he a nice man? I," he sighed. "Have had a run of relationships that were nothing close to nice and I'd, I'm," he paused. "He has indicated that he's interested, but I'm a little hesitant to commit to something, let's say."

"I understand that," Miranda smiled. "More than most," she chuckled at her own expense. "If I were to tell you all I know about Nigel, there would hardly anything for you to learn yourself. I will say, that if you wanted to know the most important thing about him, I would tell you that he is the kindest, sassiest, loveliest man I've ever met. And honestly one of only two men I have ever held in high regard "

"Who's the other?" Doug asked, making her smirk.

"Cheeky," she grinned. "Roy, my driver. A veteran of the army who works as long and as hard as I do, in his own way. Both men are two I call friend."

"Cool," he nodded. "I just," he sighed much too deeply for one so young. "I feel like I should just settle down and get a cat or something. Swear off relationships forever. I've been hurt too many times to get tangled up in something like this. But then he sent me a text and it was lovely and kind and nice, you know?" She nodded. Nigel fell hard for beautiful men. Unfortunately for Nigel, most of the men he'd fallen for were also vapid, insecure assholes. "And then he sent flowers, which honestly were beautiful and I could tell they were really special, but they made me sneeze so I had to give them to my neighbour." She bit back a grin. "And then! He sent me the most amazing ensemble from Banana Republic, which I am grateful for and that I adore, but I can never reciprocate. I can barely afford to live in the apartment I have, there's no way I could give him back even a fraction of what he's given me in the last week. I work sixty, sometimes seventy hours some weeks just to keep the lights on!"

"As one who now understands both sides of that situation, I can talk to him, if you like?"

"I don't want to have to make you do that. You're busy and I don't - I just," he sighed again. "I don't know him, you know? I know Andy loves him and if he's your friend then he must be a good guy, but -"

"It is hard to see a life with someone based on other people's opinions of them."

"Yeah," he groaned. "Everyone thought my last boyfriend was nice too, then he threw a chair at me and I had to lock myself in the bathroom until he passed out."

"I'm sorry," Miranda paused her cooking and looked at him carefully. "Are you free of him now?"

"Oh yeah, he woke up, cried when he realised what he'd done, packed up and left. I think he moved to LA, honestly"

"Good," she nodded. "Could you pass me that plate please?"

"DOUG!"

"Hey squirt!"

"Must everyone give my children nicknames," Miranda grumbled good-naturedly, winking at Douglas' worried face. Cassidy giggled and wrapped her arms around him.

"Hi."

"How are you doing little one? Your Mom's just making us breakfast."

"She's pretty great isn't she," Cassidy giggled, wrapping her arms around her mother from the back.

"Yeah, she is," Dough smiled.

"Well, when you're done pontificating my brilliance, the coulis needs making?"

"Ooh, I can do that," Douglas smiled. "You wanna help Squirt."

"Sure."

Miranda busied herself with the rest of the French toast, smiling indulgently as Douglas talked Cassidy though the process. She put together 8 plates and dusted a little powdered sugar on seven of them (missing her own) and sent a text to Andréa to round up the rest of their brood. It was nice, the downtime. She had learned to love letting go of Runway. It hadn't been easy, and she definitely slipped up on occasion, but she had learned that in order to be present for their children, she needed to be present. And so, she put work down as soon as she could on a Friday night and did not pick it up until Monday. She could do anything, after all. These days, she tried not to even think about it until she woke up on Monday morning, although she knew Andréa had designs on her attention later that afternoon so they could restart their routine of going through the schedule. Life was too busy to avoid it any longer.

With that in mind, she started some coffee and smiled as she heard what could only be a herd of stampeding wildebeest coming down her staircase.

"Walk," she said in a louder voice than she liked using. "We are not herd animals outrunning predators. Please try to have a little decorum."

"M'anda?" Sam said, saying at the door, his thumb almost creeping into his mouth. "What's core-um?"

"It doesn't matter, Samuel," she sighed, pulling that hand and bending to kiss his fingers to distract him. "Go and sit down please."

"Dougie!"

She rolled her eyes as their youngest bypassed his seat and crashed into the legs of the young man spooning the berries onto everyone's plates under the watchful eye of Cassidy. They manage to encourage Samuel back to his seat while they continued, missing Olivia's plate, owing to her slight sensitivity to strawberries and instead, Cassidy fetched the peanut butter from the cupboard and scooped some out onto the side of the plate.

"Thank you, Cassy," Olivia beamed as she was presented with her plate.

"Welcome Sissy," Cassidy said, kissing Olivia's temple, like she'd seen Andréa do before.

It was a curious thing, watching two humans that grew inside of her take on so many character traits of the woman she loved. It would stand them in good stead for the future and she couldn't help but be proud of the way they had turned out.

"Hey."

Andréa's long arms wrapped around her middle and she sighed, leaning back in her arms for just a moment before she patted the hands that were joined on her stomach. 

"It's getting cold, let's eat."

It was a jolly affair. Douglas was impeccably good company. He was at home with the children as much as he was with Andréa and her. When he suggested the children put on warmer clothes and go outside to play soccer, they jumped at the chance and Andréa squeezed his hand gently as he left them sitting at the table surrounded by dirty plates.

"Leave it," Miranda muttered, looking lovingly at her woman. "We'll do it in a while. For now, I wondered if you would accompany me upstairs so I can kiss you finally with impunity."

Andréa grabbed her hand and pulled her up the stairs, laughing as they landed on their bed. They spent more than a short moment languidly kissing until Andréa rolled off her panting.

"If we start something, I won't want to stop and while Doug is good, I can't guarantee he can hold them forever," she muttered, her hand rubbing Miranda's stomach absently.

"Mmm," Miranda agreed, her heart loud in her ears. "I suppose you're correct. In that case," she rolled, pulling open the bedside drawer and presenting Andréa with a leather binder that had been delivered to her on Friday. Inside she'd find new bank cards to the accounts with her own name on them, an additional credit card and a simple, but comprehensive, breakdown on Miranda's financials.

"Oh," Andréa whispered, looking at the totals on the bottom of the page. "That's," she swallowed. "A lot."

"It is," Miranda said gently, rolling and resting her head in Andréa's lap. "Which is why I keep telling you not to worry. As you can see, most of it is in stocks and bonds, but we are not even remotely middle-class darling. Warren Buffet I am not, but we are definitely," she rolled her eyes. "More than 'okay'." Andréa's hand went to her hair absently and Miranda luxuriated in the felling of Andréa's nails on her scalp. "I have an exceptional financial planner. One I'd like to introduce to you when you feel you're ready."

"I don't -"

"When you are ready," Miranda said gently, interrupting her. "And if you still are not comfortable with the split of wealth, I will lend you the capital and you may pay me back once you've made enough to feel more comfortable. Although," she reached up and cupped Andréa's jaw. "What is mine, is yours. And while that may seem to you that it is very one-sided, you have given me so much more than I could ever give you, my darling. Money is nothing. Helpful," she headed off Andréa's arguments. "Yes, but nothing. While I have become accustomed to the life I have, I would be just as happy being with you and our children as poor as I was as a child. Because between us, we would be alright," she chuckled. "More exhausted, perhaps. Hungrier, but no less happy."

"I," Andréa faltered, her fingers playing with the edges of her new Chase Sapphire Reserve card. "This is a big deal and I'm working through it. I've never had money, Miranda. And I've been trying. I even put something on the AMEX the other day."

"I know darling," Miranda said gently. "Not that I was checking up on you. My conversation with Douglas earlier only reminded me of," she chuckled morosely. "Oh, how young you both are. I have had a lot more time to get my finances in order, as has Nigel."

"You also don't have any student debt. That whole system is utterly ridiculous."

"Ah," Miranda said, feeling a wave of anxiety overtake her as she sat up "While I understand you may not appreciate me over-reaching -" she slipped her hand back into the drawer and brought out a flat while, nondescript envelope. "I wanted to. And I have the means to do so."

She watched with bated breath as Andréa frowned and opened the envelope. As her eyes ran down the page, she burst into tears. Miranda shuffled forward and pulled her into her arms and held her tightly. 

"I have no care for money, other than to make our lives easier, my darling. I don't care if you wish to donate all of what I would like you to consider yours, although I already do plenty of that. There are many, many people who need it. But this, I wanted to do for you, so you can finally let go of it, and start building. I love you, I hope you are not angry with me."

"Angry?" Andréa said, through hiccuping sobs. "Angry Miranda? How can I be angry with you? You," she sniffed. "You paid off my student loans. You've freed me. Entirely. And you, you -"

"Come here," Miranda chuckled, wiping away the tears and kissing her gently. "I did what I could to help you feel less like an outsider in our family. I talked it over with Bartholemew and he counselled me that to go from crippling debt to a bottom line like mine can be overwhelming, but that student debt is the single biggest credit injury a person can have. For someone who has one, it's everything, but for me, for us," she shook her head and cupped Andréa's cheek to make her eyes meet hers. "To our family, that is nothing. It seemed like everything to you, but it's now nothing. I didn't really know how to help you feel less 'other', except to make sure that you could at least start fairly. I'm only sorry it took us six months to have this conversation. "

"I," Andréa stared at the paper. "Thank you. Thank you so much."

"As I said, my beautiful, darling love. What is mine, is yours. From these walls to the money in the bank, to the children in my heart. I love you Andréa. Ever so much more than I think you realise."

Andréa pulled her closer and Miranda straddled her thighs at her silent insistence, letting Andréa nuzzle into her chest. For a while, they simply sat. Miranda ran her hands through Andréa's glorious hair as Andréa's breathing came in fits and bursts until she finally relaxed.

"I love you so much Miranda," Andréa said, looking up at her with such devotion in her eyes it squeezed Miranda's heart. "Not for the money. We could be penniless for all I care, but I love you -" Miranda sighed as those plump lips dropped kisses on her sternum. "I love your big, beautiful heart. And I love your wicked brain and your perfect smile. I love you with all of me Miranda. And honestly, that is all I will ever truly have. But it is everything. And it is yours."

"I know love," Miranda whispered, into Andréa's hair. "I know."

They sat, gaining strength from each other until Andréa let her head fall back and Miranda took to opportunity to place a gentle kiss to her lips.

"My darling, there are a few more things I'd like to talk to you about?"

"Hmm?" Andréa said, her nose nudging Miranda's breast as her lips tickled her cleavage. 

"Andréa," she smirked.

"Mm, I'm just giving you time to get used to the idea that tonight your body is mine."

"And I very much look forward to it darling, but in the meantime," she gripped Andréa's chin and kissed her. "There is more to talk about and I do not think we shall have much more time."

"Fine," Andréa grinned, sitting back and pulling her down with her. 

"I want us to find some time to see Bartholemew this week, so he can teach you how to use these," she waved her hand in the general direction of the cards. "There is a trick to getting the most out of them, and increasing your credit score. For example; most of our household expenses are put on this card," she held up the AMEX. "Any personal travel expenses and meals out on this -" the Sapphire. 

"Really?"

"Half of the country would be so much better off if the game wasn't so hard to play, my darling."

"Huh," Andy frowned. "It's geared up to keep people poor."

"Correct," Miranda muttered. "But it is the way it is played and we are in a position to play it and do the most good with it. You already know of the charities I support. I am not opposed to adding more, perhaps a family one that we all choose? We can even set one up if you like. The little ones are quite wealthy in their own right, though they will not come into it until they are older. I have Bartholemew looking at and managing that too."

"This is a lot," Andréa said again.

"I know, and it is not the time to go over it all. And there are times when you are going to buy ridiculous, frivolous things and that is alright. You can even buy one of those ridiculous lighters you seem fascinated by, if you like?" Andréa laughed, making Miranda smile. "You will get buyers remorse and you will give away too much, but in the end, eventually, it will right itself. I am not worried, my darling and will keep an eye on you if you wish, though I do not think I need to," she kissed her gently. "I haven't, so far."

"I," Andréa swallowed. "Perhaps every now and then. I," she sighed. "Would like to speak to," she smirked. "Can I call him Barty or something? Bartholemew is such a pompous name."

"He prefers Jack, honestly," Miranda smirked. "But when I first met him, he was introduced to me as Bartholemew, so it stuck. He suffers through it."

Andréa laughed again. That glorious laugh that always made Miranda's insides squirm; the one that filled her with happiness and joy. She revelled in it for a while, unable to stop the smile from crossing her face.

"MAMA!"

Miranda slid off Andréa's thighs in time to catch Samuel's still coat and booted body hurtling towards them.

"SAMUEL WALKER," she said sternly, stopping him in his tracks. "Are you still wearing your boots? In the house?"

"Oops," he said, his face ruddy with a runny nose and bright eyes. He had a twig in his hair and dirt across his cheek. "I fordot."

"Take them off please," Miranda said gently, but in a way that he complied immediately. "Alright, thank you. Now," she smiled. "Let me wipe your nose first, then I'll help you with your coat and we'll wash your face. You've brought some of the garden in with you."

"Mom!"

"Caroline?"

"I'm sorry, he ran off while I was helping Nicky. Liv got her hair stuck in her button so Doug and Cassy are helping her."

"It's quite alright darling. Is it very muddy outside?"

"Nah, it's pretty dry out. Just chilly," she said, her nose matching Sam's red cheeks.

"Alright you lot, I'm thinking hot chocolates all round, whatdayasay?"

"Andréa," Miranda rolled her eyes. "Annunciate one's words my darling. I fell in love with a wordsmith, not a hooligan."

"Oh," Andréa said, kneeling on the bed and letting their foreheads rest against each other for a while. "There's plenty of hooligan in me. I've just been saving it for Caro's grand final matches."

"Terrific," Miranda snorted, kissing her gently. "Fine. Off we go. Is Douglas still here?"

"Yeah," Caroline smiled. "He's really nice, Andy."

"That's why he's my best friend Caro," Andréa smiled, wrapping an arm around her as they went downstairs.

"M'anda?"

"Yes my darling," Miranda answered patiently as she wiped Samuel's nose and carried him to the bathroom where she rinsed a facecloth with warm water.

"Does I has a Daddy?"

Her hand paused for a moment on its way to his face and she sighed as she cleaned him off.

"Why, my darling?"

"Sissies has a Daddy, but he not my Daddy."

"You are correct. The twins' Daddy is called Max, he was here yesterday, remember?"

"Uhuh."

"You," she paused, wondering how best to word it. "Did have a Daddy. Remember? You had a Daddy and a Mummy that loved you so very much. But now they live in heaven my darling. And you get to be loved by Mama, and me."

"They not coming back?"

"No sweetheart, they are not."

He frowned, his bottom lip poking out and Miranda did her best not to interfere. They had decided very early on that they would take the kid's cues on this. But it was so hard to see his tiny heart hurting.

"Do you fink my Sissies' Daddy would be my Daddy?"

"I -" she sighed, crouching in front of him. "Not all families have a Daddy, little one. Some families have two Mommies, like ours. Some have two Daddies. Some have one Mommy or one Daddy. Some don't have either."

"But I wants to play likkle league. Daddy says I could. So can Sissies' Daddy take me?"

"I -" She felt like someone  could have knocked her over with a feather. She was so confused.  "Can we not take you?"

"Daddy said it was for Daddy's and little boys," he frowned  "Not Mommies."

"Ah." Typical Alec. She growled at him inside her head.

"Can I?"

"Well, let us go downstairs and have a hot chocolate and I will talk to Mama about it later, once little boys like you are in bed. But," she said gently, carefully wiping away the dirt and whatever else he had on him. "Even if we decide that you may ask him," she paused wondering what to call her children's father. "Uncle Max," she soothed his frown. "May not have the time to do so. We must ask him nicely, next time we see him and accept whatever answer he gives you."

"M'Kay. Lub you M'anda," he grinned, as she threw the cloth in the sink and kissed his nose.

"I love you, my wild child. Now, will you escort me to the kitchen?"

"I s'pose I have to," he sighed, making her chuckled. He hopped down off the bathroom counter and held out his hand.

It wasn't how she'd expected the day to go, but more and more she found herself returning to work on Monday with a tired but contented smile.

Chapter Text

It was as if they blinked and two weeks had gone by. 

She'd met with Jack (Bartholemew, to Miranda) the previous week and they'd hit it off to the point where Miranda often had to remind them that she was still in the room. He'd made sure to keep in touch since then and give her tips for moving forward. She'd learned that he'd come from nothing and taught himself everything he could iso he would be the best. Miranda wasn't the only thoroughbred in his stable, as it were, and it showed as he broke down all the important things Andy needed to know, and a few she didn't and she left feeling MUCH better than she'd felt about money in such a long time.

The girls had spent the weekend prior at their Dad's, he'd requested dinner with them and then they'd stayed the night. Similar to the weekend when she took the smaller children out during the morning, they'd all found it very weird to be without two of their number. But, after Max delivered them home on Sunday, he'd brought take-out with him and in a rare show of indifference, Miranda insisted that they drag some blankets into the sitting room and ate on the low table while sitting on the floor, Max included.

Otherwise, Andy was in a constant state of flux and often felt like she was losing her mind. Some days were so mind-numbingly boring that she felt like tearing her hair out. Other days, she was run ragged by one or more of the children. Between her and Cara, whom Andy had never appreciated more, they'd just managed to keep everything under control. 

Alexi, the new CEO of Elias Clarke and Irv's replacement, was being a little over-zealous and as such, Miranda had been late no less than five times in the last two weeks. It had grated on her as much as it had the rest of their family. Between the fall-out from Irv and the chaos of the new position he had assumed, he was running meetings back-to-back for days at a time. There was a general reshuffling, something Miranda had been suggesting for years, but it was so much, Miranda was often exhausted and bad-tempered when she finally came home. 

By the time Friday afternoon rolled around, Andy wasn't doing much better.

Just as she sat down with her third cup of coffee for the day, on Friday afternoon, looking forward to having their little tribe home for another whole weekend, the phone rang. The woman on the phone identified herself as the receptionist from Dalton. She apologised profusely and informed her that Nicholas had fallen off the monkey bars and hit his head on the platform. Andy rushed over to the school and spent the following three hours at Mt Sinai waiting on an MRI before being sent home with some kid's Tylenol and some pointers for keeping an eye on him for signs of concussion. She got home, thanking Roy for the lift, muttered hello to everyone and slumped on the sofa in the living room, closing her eyes while Nick sucked his thumb and gripped her shirt tightly.

"Andy?" Cara called gently from the door.

"Hmm?"

"I'm going to take Sam, Caroline and Olivia to the store. Do you want me to get anything else?"

Andy thought about it but her head just felt woolly. She wanted to cry she was so exhausted.

"No," she shrugged. "I don't know. A new bottle of Tylenol maybe?"

"It's alright, I'll handle it," Cara smiled. "It'll get better, I promise."

Andy didn't laugh and Cara pulled the door closed as she left, leaving them in relative darkness. Andy sat soothing her little boy in the peace and quiet, but they didn't have peace for very long.

"Ma?" Cassidy yelled.

"Cassidy!" she snapped, looking up sharply as she stood in the doorway. "Why are you shouting? You know Nick isn't well." She looked closer and saw that Cassidy was wearing her dobok and Andy nearly punched herself for being so stupid. "Cass, I'm sorry. I'm in the middle of -"

"This is my thing," she hissed. "We go all over the place for Mom's things and Caroline's things but MY thing always gets -"

"Cassidy."

"No!" she said, her fists tight by her sides. "I'm going. I'm going if I have to walk there."

"Cass -" Andy groaned as the door slammed, disturbing Nick and making him cry. "It's okay baby. It's alright. I know it hurts."

She tried Miranda twice before she gave up, seeing another number on the recently called screen that gave her an idea.

She quickly sent a text message to Cassidy to inform her that if she set one foot outside the door without an adult with her she'd be grounded for a month which would include her taekwondo lessons, before sending a text to Doug.

"Hey you," he said.

"I'm sorry to have to ask this," she said. "But are you free right now?"

"I -" he paused. "Yeah, I can be, whatsup?"

"Nick fell off the monkey bars earlier. I got home from Mt Sinai about half an hour ago, Cara is out with the other kids and Cassidy has taekwondo."

"I'll be there in 15, is that enough time?"

"Yeah," Andy chuckled morosely. "She's threatening to walk if someone won't take her."

"I'll be there. Do you need anything?"

"Nah, thank you, Doug. Really. I'd have sent her with Roy, but he's just arrived at Runway and I don't know when Miranda will be done. I'll give you some money when you get back unless you need some now?"

"We're fine, you don't have to. An uber or two isn't going to kill me. I got you Andybaby."

She grinned at the old nickname and sent another message to Cassidy, informing her of the change of schedule. She didn't get a reply so she sent another one insisting that she acknowledge the message, frowning at the single letter reply that she eventually did get. She groaned again and rubbed Nicks back, trying to soothe his little sobs as he cried pathetically.

Without realising, she fell asleep and had no idea about it until someone brushed the hair from her face.

"Hey," she frowned, blinking up at the shape. "What's happening?"

"Cara has just left for the day," Miranda smiled gently, moving into the light. "The others are playing video games and I am told that Douglas is taking Cassidy out for a slice of pizza. Not my idea but she seemed -"

"She's pissed," Andy shrugged, glancing at Nick. "She thinks we forgot her, which we did," she considered it. "I did. So I'm going to just wear it. Before I forget, can you give Doug some money when he gets here? I think I pulled him out of work and he's had to Uber the whole way."

"I already sent him some," Miranda soothed gently. "How is our little Nicholas? Cara has been in to check on you both every half hour, by the way," she chuckled. "She said you were very tired."

"I had no idea," Andy sighed. "He's got a mild concussion. Nothing too serious, but he hurts and he's delicate. I waited for three hours for them to do an MRI, and that was after I told them who you were."

Miranda smirked and kissed their heads gently.

"Which is why I always go to Presbyterian, unless the emergency personnel override me. I donate yearly. They nearly always make an exception for me."

"I need to ask you about health insurance too."

"I know," Miranda chuckled, tilting Nick's head sideways gently so she could see the bruise. It was dark and purpling, she winced. "I meant to tell you last weekend. I added you to my policy, provided by Runway and paid out of my salary. You're covered. Do you need to see a doctor?"

"I probably need a physical at some point," Andy groaned and let her head drop back onto the sofa. "I haven't been able to afford one since University. But no, not right now, it just reminded me when I had to deal with this."

They lapsed into silence and Miranda turned in the lamp behind them and turned off the one in front of them. And smiled tiredly at her.

"I tried to call."

"I saw," Miranda said quietly. "Alexi has adopted a 'no phone during board meetings' policy," she paused. "Which I'm not terribly upset about. It certainly prevents the Auto Universe editor from playing videos under the table while we're talking. But you could have called Melody, she would have interrupted."

"I could have called a lot of people but I was stressed and overwhelmed and tired."

"I know," Miranda nodded. "This month's issue is now done and at the printers and I have spoken to Alexi privately. I have news that will wait, but more importantly, I'm taking three weeks off in exactly four weeks; after the next issue is finalised. We're going to go away, for a week? Two? I don't care. But we're going to do like we said we wanted to, and take some time just to be. The seven of us, and maybe Cara. I'm going to send Roy and his family away as well." She grinned. "I'd ask him to come along with us, that would certainly provide us with some childcare, but I think that might be going too far, even for me."

"You are such a softy," Andy chuckled. "You've not taken a holiday for -"

"Nearly eight years," Miranda chuckled. "Since the girls were little enough to appreciate it and I was young enough to run around after them. But I think we need one, don't you?"

"I really do," Andy groaned. "It'll be nice to get away."

"Good," she said nodding. "Right. Let me have our little man and you can go and have a bath or whatever you need to get comfy so we can enjoy this night."

"I love you, you know," Andy smiled, finally feeling a little better than she had all week.

"I love you," Miranda muttered, resting her head on Andy's. "I promise that I will not be late next week. These last two weeks have been interminable. The printers are now fully operational again and they do not foresee any new problems. I may even leave in time to pick up the children with Roy next week so you do not have to. It's a dream I have, and it may not work out but I will not be late."

"I'm not worried," Andy sighed. "It has been interminable, but I know you. If you could have left earlier, you would have."

"You do," Miranda chuckled. "Know me, I mean. Better than anyone else, I shouldn't wonder."

"Mama," Nick whispered, blinking as he woke up from his nap. He saw Miranda over his shoulder and opened his arms for her, snuggling into her shoulder when she picked him up with a groan. 

"Of you go Andréa," she smiled. "I am home now. You are off duty for a while."

Andy got up and kissed them both gently before going up the stairs and straight into the shower, leaving a trail of clothing in her wake. She stood under the water, breathing deeply and letting it rain down on her until she felt like she was becoming waterlogged. By the time she was towelling her hair dry, she was feeling a little more human again. Miranda had been in a tidied up, leaving her favourite pair of track pants on the counter along with an oversized t-shirt and a rather too sexy pair of panties that made her chuckle. As she pulled on her underwear, she thought about the holiday they would take and started making plans in her head. Two sets of plans. One for the daytime and one for the time when the children would all be in bed for the night. She grinned at her reflection and had just managed to pull and shirt over her head when the door opened and a riotous mess of blond curly hair appeared around it.

"Excuse me little one," she said firmly. "This is our bathroom and you need to knock if you want to open the door."

"Sowwy Mama," he said, his thumb in his mouth, but otherwise not moving. "I miss you. M'anda won't stop cuggling Nicky."

They were long since past being embarrassed when one of the youngsters walked in on them half-dressed. Only the other day Sam had had a tantrum while Miranda was in nothing but a skirt and her bra. Andy had tried to take him, but all he wanted was his M'anda and he screamed while clinging to her leg as she tried to put on her shirt. In the end, and to stop the rest of them crying, Miranda gave in and picked him up, rocking him gently against her chest. When she'd told Cara later, the woman had laughed but nodded and told her that kids don't see it the same as adults do, which made sense. She recalled that Olivia would quite often sit by the bathroom sink while Miranda put on her makeup in the morning wearing nothing but a robe and her underwear. She realised that this was just how life was going to go from now on.

"You're going to have to be a bit patient with Nick, sweetheart. He's got a big owie on his head and he hurts a lot. Can I have my leg back so I can put on my pants little one?" she grinned down at Sam who had wrapped himself around one of them. "Then I'll cuggle you all you like.

He rolled his eyes and let go, waiting for her to finish before wrapping his arms around her again.

"Right," she sighed, picking him up. "Let's go and find something to eat, shall we?"

"Unkie Dougie bought us pizzas!"

"He did!"

She carried him down the stairs and smiled as she caught sight of her friend at the bottom of the stairs.

"Hey," Doug grinned. "Rough day huh?"

"You have no idea," she laughed, hugging him as best she could with Samuel taking up most of her torso. "Was she alright?"

"She was feeling left out, but I gotchu. We talked. She's cool. She'll probably be sore tomorrow. She did close to a hundred push-ups!"

"She did?" Andy exclaimed. "Wow. Thank you, Uncle Doug," she smiled, kissing his cheek.

"You're welcome. Hey, um," he went a little pink. "I'm seeing Nigel tomorrow."

"That's great," Andy smiled genuinely, soothing Sam's twitching by rubbing his back gently.

"I think Miranda talked to him because he asked me to let him know when and where to meet him and he's not sent anything except short, sweet texts. I told him to meet at my place for dinner and maybe a movie. Is that lame? I'm going to order in or whatever."

"No," Andy grinned. "I think that's awesome. And I think he'll enjoy that. And if he offers to pay, let him okay. If Miranda spoke to him, he'll understand. I'm going to call you maybe Sunday? Get the goss and give you some of mine?"

"Okay," Doug nodded, seemingly coming to a decision and smiling at her. "Okay."

"This doesn't have to be anything, you know that right?"

"I do," Doug nodded again. "I just. I had a lot of fun talking to him, on the day we went out. And I enjoy messaging him. He's funny and," he shrugged. "I really enjoyed his company but it was still pretty superficial. I think I just want to get to know him, you know?"

"I really do," Andy smiled, hugging him again. "Just keep it real. Nigel will appreciate that."

"Alright," he grinned punching her self-consciously on the bicep, gently. "Thanks, Yoda."

Andy saw him out and made her way back into the kitchen, Sam still attached to her stubbornly.

"Holy shnikeys! That is a metric ton of pizza!" Andy said, her eyes going wide. "You better have saved me some!"

"I commandeered a plate for you darling, and there's another whole pizza in the fridge for tomorrow," Miranda grinned, cutting up a slice into small portions and feeding them to slowly to Nick. "It's on the bench there. Samuel's is next to it."

"Yum," she grinned, handing Sam his plate carefully and sliding onto the bench seat beside Cassidy. 

"Hey you," she said quietly, nudging the girl gently. "I'm sorry. I am not going to give you an excuse, except that Nick needed all of my energy and I did, honestly, forget about your practice. And," she shrugged, pausing as Sam spun around and started on his pizza. "For that, I am sorry, but I truly didn't mean to."

"It's okay," she said, not lifting her head. "I," she swallowed. "I'm sorry too. I know Nicky was hurt, I just -"

"I get it," Andy said softly, kissing her hair. "So," she leaned down and caught Cassidy's eye. "We okay?"

"Yeah," Cassidy nodded, smiling bashfully. 

"Good," Andy whispered, wrapping her arm around her and smiling as Cassidy leaned into her. "I promise I'll try to make sure that never happens again, okay?"

"M'kay," Cassidy nodded.

"Now," Miranda said gently, drawing everyone's attention. "Caroline, tell me about your day sweetheart."

Andy grinned and took a big bite of her pizza, and only just holding back a moan. They talked quietly about each other's day, hearing about Caroline's pottery class and Olivia's best friend's Aunt, who came into the class for show and tell because she was a police officer. Miranda told them all about how Jocelyn had created the perfect spread for accessories and it reminded Andy to schedule a playdate with Robbie. Then ebb and flow of their family moved in time with her breathing and to Andy, it was heavenly.

-0-

Saturday morning was lazy. Miranda and Andy had taken it in turns to check on Nicky through the night, eventually deciding to just bring him into their bed for the remainder. They woke up to all the other bodies in their household sprawled out under blankets at the foot of the bed and Andy smiled, seeing Patricia being used as a pillow for both Sam and Olivia.

"Hi M'anda," Olivia said, smiling when she cracked open her eyes. 

Andy smiled as she felt Miranda smile against her skin. Nick had been up for a while now and they shifted accordingly so that Olivia could come between them and snuggle back in.

"Did you sleep well my darling?" Miranda asked quietly.

"Yeah. Cassy came and got in wiv me so she could make sure Nicky was okay. She's a good sissy."

"She's the best," Andy smiled, seeing the redhead's eyes barely blinking awake. 

After a while all of them were laying quietly under the covers, cuddling each other where they could. Caroline was tracing Nicky's ear gently, like she did often when he was sleepy. Eventually, he shuffled forward, off Andy's body and down to Caroline, where she lay with her arms around her little brother grinning up at Andy. It wasn't often that the little ones gravitated towards Caroline, often going to Cassidy just because she was the more boisterous of the two, but Nick had developed a beautiful little thing with Caroline and Andy adored seeing it.

"What do we want to do today, little lovebugs?"

"Wanna play likkle league," Sam frowned. 

It had been a point of contention every day since the first time he'd mentioned it. Andy rolled her eyes and tapped his nose gently. 

"I told you, when Uncle Max is free next week, we will ask him. He's away until next week, but Little League doesn't start until March, which isn't until after Santa Clause comes, and then the Easter Bunny. So," she said gently. "At some point this weekend, I will take you outside and throw the ball with you."

"I want a Daddy."

"Sam, we don't have a Daddy. We only have Mommies. Don't be mean!"

"Leave it Liv," Andy sighed. "It's okay."

The whole Daddy thing had become a bigger issue than it needed to be. They'd talked about it between them, and Miranda had even called up a therapist friend of hers to discuss it and they'd all come to the same conclusion. Sam didn't want a Daddy, in the sense that he wanted one. He wanted someone to take him to do something that his Daddy had told him he could only do with a Daddy. But it was no less grating on their nerves at this point.

"I thought we should organise our closets this weekend," Miranda said carefully. "And decide what it is we want to wear for our trip."

Every little ear perked up at that. Andy grinned as Caroline's head sat up on her shoulder and even Nick looked a little less sad. After the kids had gone to bed, they'd stayed up, wrapped around each other looking at hotels and AirBnBs until they'd shortlisted three of them. They weren't yet sure which particular spot they were going to go, but Andy had had fun looking at it all with Miranda anyway. 

She'd made sure to show Miranda how much fun she'd had too.

"Are we going away?" Cassidy asked, disturbing Andy's thoughts.

"We are," Miranda said slowly as Cassidy sat up and leaned against Miranda's hip. "Andréa and I thought that you all might like to go to the beach for a week or so?"

"Miami?" Caroline asked.

"Nope," Andy grinned. "Either Hawaii or Turks and Caicos."

"What!" Cassidy yelled, beaming at them.

Nick, so startled by the noise and still a little wobbly, busy into tears, making Cassidy's face fall.

"It's alright," Andy sighed, pulling him back into her arms. "He's just got a sore head. Don't worry Cass, just try to keep it kinda normal range okay?"

"Yeah but Hawaii?" she grinned. "That is awesome! Can we learn to surf?"

"Possibly, although we have not settled on Hawaii," Miranda shrugged. 

"Where's the other place?" Caroline asked.

"In the Caribbean," Andy said with a smile. Either place was going to be awesome. 

"We're thinking about renting a house. If Cara is free, we'd like her to come too."

"Cool," Caroline said, nuzzling Nick's tearstained face. "Well have to get our work from school."

"I will help you with that," Andy said gently. "We're going to wait for the next issue to be completed so Mr Alexi can get sorted, but this time next month, we'll be getting up to go on our plane trip!"

"That's so cool!"

"So, girls, not yet," she said grabbing Cassidy's hand before she vibrated if the bed with excitement. "Slow down Bobbsey. I want you, over the next two days, to find your swimming costumes and then see if you can help Olivia find hers. We'll need clothes for 9 or so days but some of them have to be suitable for going out in and we'll need three pairs of shoes. One for the beach, one for playing, their school shoes will do, and one for going out."

"We can do that," Cassidy grinned.

"Once we've worked that out, we can see what we still need and make a list for everyone, then we'll be able to go to the mall a few times over the next few weeks."

"Oh," Andy blinked remembering something she'd seen on social media a few days ago. "There's a Farmer's market, harvest festival thing tomorrow at a park over the river? I thought that might be fun?" she glanced at Miranda. "If you're not interested, I can take them?"

"Nonsense," she smirked. "We shall all go."

"Awesome. So today is organizing clothes and the festival."

"I wanna play," Sam grumped.

"I know, wild man," Miranda groaned, making Andy grin. "But your just going to have to be a bit patient."

"But I wanna -"

"Sam, stop. You're being mean," Liv said dangerously.

"Olivia, my little love," Miranda said, looking at her shrewdly. "Who are the Mamas here?" She poked Olivia's belly making the little girl giggle.

"You and Mama."

"Mhmm," Miranda said, smirking at her. "So who tells Samuel when he is out of line? Hmm?"

"Me," she said, unable to control her giggles at all.

"You?" Miranda said, feigning shock. "You!"

Andy adored watching Miranda play. For a long time, she had been a watered-down version of Runway Miranda. One with less acerbic commentary and more gentleness. As they had all grown into each other, Miranda's inner kid has begun to peek through on occasion, like now, as she tickled Olivia and pressed kisses all over her face. 

"Right," Andy said, avoiding a hand to her face as Olivia squirmed. "Breakfast before M'anda ends up breaking our little Livvy?"

Olivia's little body crashed into them again and Andy was nothing but shocked as Nick balled his fists and let fly.

"Hey hey hey," she said, just managing to intercept them at the last minute. "Hey," she growled, making him wince and look up at her wide-eyed. "I don't care how much you hurt, little love, you do not hit your sister, do you understand?"

He stared at her for a good second or two and burst into tears again, wiggling out of Andy's arms and into Olivia's. The little girl looked between them and then wrapped her arms around her little brother tightly. 

"Don't cry, Nicky," she said happily. "It'll stop hurting soon."

Andy left them to it and met Miranda for a kiss before they started on their day.

"I forgot before now, but Olivia wanted some photos of her Mom and Dad. I think there's probably some somewhere, but I wanted to run it by you first.

"Of course they may have all the photos they wish," Miranda muttered, her eyes on the two still cuddling in bed. "I had thought that we need some of all of us. There are so few of us all together."

"We'll put that on the list then," Andy smiled, nuzzling her neck.

"Mm," Miranda smiled. "I'd say let's take a shower, but I do not think we can afford to leave them all alone for too long."

"Right," Andy smiled. "I'll just keep making plans for our trip in my head."

"Oh?"

"Wait and see, my beautiful lady," Andy grinned happily. "Wait and see."

Chapter Text

After watching the harvest festival from the car window, Miranda managed to find a park and sighed as she looked out of the windshield.

"There are a lot of people here," she muttered.

"It'll be alright. There will be a great coffee bar somewhere?"

"Redeeming qualities," Miranda mused, leaning over to peck Andy's lips quickly.

"Mama!" Sam yelled as he hopped out of the car and almost running across the lot. "I want a punkin!"

Andy just managed to grab him before he could get very far and she hauled him into her arms.

"What have I told you about waiting for me? Hmm?"

"But da punkins!"

"Slow down wild man," Andy chuckled. "We'll get there."

Nicholas poked his head out of the car with a scowl on his face as he saw Sam in her arms. She smiled at him and chuckled as Miranda rolled her eyes and took Samuel from her.

"Honestly, why anyone would think he is difficult to communicate with, I do not know," she nodded as Sam happily went to her.

"Come on then, my little Prince," Andy smiled, scooping Nick into her arms. 

They made it to what they deemed to be the nearest entrance to the park, after having to stop to pet more dogs than Andy could even count.

"Maybe we could bring Patricia next year Mom?"

"I'm sure we can Caroline," Miranda said absently as Sam wriggled down her body in an effort to walk on his own. "Samuel, how many times do I have to ask you to simply communicate with me?"

"I get down pease?"

Miranda rolled her eyes and let him down, keeping a hold of his hand as they wandered around the park.

It was a lovely morning, despite Miranda's earlier misgivings. After wandering around for a while, eating a piece of pecan pie that even Miranda stole a little off, all five kids designed and carved a pumpkin while Andy and Miranda sat on a spare hay bale sipping rather good coffee. They talked amicably about Runway and the last issue and as Andy looked up to check on them, Miranda muttered something that made Andy still.

"Say again?" Andy asked.

"Alexi intimated that he was interested in a new Art Director for the whole company. I told him that if he hired someone that wasn't me, I'd walk. And that I wanted a significant raise."

Andy gaped.

"You did what?"

"I told him -"

"No," she said carefully. "I heard you the first time, I was just wondering whether you were going to discuss it with me before you decide to do something that will affect us all? I could have just stopped working, but I spoke to you about it first, remember that?"

"Andréa."

"No," Andy sighed, finishing her coffee. "I know there's a big difference between the two of us, but you still should have spoken to me."

They sat in silence, until Miranda, in a rare show of public affection, slid her hand into Andy's.

"You are right and I apologise."

"I know you know what you're doing, I guess," Andy sighed, rubbing her head. "I wish you'd discussed it," she nudged Miranda's shoulder gently. "But I guess I can forgive you."

"I was truly only thinking of us all. We are not short of money, not at all, but more is always helpful and doing this, for the whole of Elias Clarke, will pave the way for me to move up and Emily to move up too. It might be a bit hectic for a while, but it also enables me to make decisions that will benefit the company on a whole. And when Elias Clarke is doing well, we are doing even better."

"Yeah," Andy nodded. "Has he accepted yet?"

"I get a copy of the contract on Monday. I'll," she hesitated. "Call you once I get it."

"That would be a good idea, once you read through it and see what you think. If it needs a redo, you can tell me about it after work? I don't need a blow-by-blow if you don't think it's right. Just call me if you're signing."

"I," she sighed. "Am still not used to having a true partner, honestly. I keep expecting the other shoe to drop."

"You do alright," Andy said, lifting their joined hands to press a kiss on the inside of her wrist. "We all know how I am doing, especially with the money and family thing," she said gently. "You're doing just fine."

"M'anda! Look!"

They looked up to find Sam lugging a pumpkin that was bigger than his head towards them.

Andy managed to rescue it just in time before they both took a tumble and he leaned happily again Miranda knees while she spoke quietly to him. 

Andy left them to it and wandered off to see whether the others would soon be finished. She snapped a few pictures of them surreptitiously watching as Caroline worked with Nick and Cassidy and Liv giggled together at Cassidy's effort.

She saw they were nearly finished and turned back to see Miranda and Sam, their foreheads touching while Miranda said something to him. She quickly snapped a run of photos, smiling at the results and vowing to get them printed and on the wall asap.

She quickly sent a message to Nigel about exactly who they used to print photos and slid her phone back into her pocket as she rejoined her love and their youngest.

"Can we get hot chocolate?"

Miranda opened her mouth to decline, Andy thought, but then her eyes widened. Andy followed her gaze and found herself staring as Nigel and Doug stood looking at them awkwardly.

"Unkie Dougie! Unkie Nigel!"

Sam raced forwards and Doug caught him with ease, groaning as he picked him up. 

"You're getting big little man."

"It's my birfday soon."

Andy paused at that, consulting her mental calendar and almost hurting herself.

"Shit, so it is," she muttered. "Can't forget."

"I will remind you," Miranda smirked, getting up and greeting their friends.

"Hello dear," she said gently as Nigel blushed under the scrutiny. "It is good to see you."

He accepted her air-kisses, looking horrified she'd caught him here if all places.

"Miranda, I -" 

"I'm here, aren't I?" She smirked, cutting him off. He paused while his brain caught up with them and then he chuckled as another little buddy crashed into his legs. 

"Oof. Hello, little Nicholas!"

And glanced back at the table and touched Miranda's hand before going to help her girls pack up their pumpkins. They lugged them over to where they're left Sam's and greeted their two favourite uncles.

"Children, it is time to go," Miranda said gently after a time, looking at her best friend. "Say goodbye to your uncles."

"I wanna stay wiv Unckie Dougie."

"You'll see Douglas again, very soon Samuel," Miranda said gently but firmly. "Let us not disturb their Sunday any longer than is necessary."

They said their goodbyes and the kids and Andy waited while Miranda hugged Nigel and whispered in his ear, waiting a beat and watching him nod with a bashful smile on his face. She kissed his cheek properly, then winked at Doug before carrying Sam's pumpkin and walking back to the car with them.

"Starbucks?" Andy asked before they got in.

"Lunch, I think," Miranda said with a shrug. "I'm starving."

"Alright, where to? Cos you know where the littles will choose."

Miranda smirked and nodded.

"Head back towards home and I'll make a decision before we get there," she muttered.

"You got it, boss," Andy smiled, Sterling up into the car. "Everyone belted?" 

She wanted for the chorus of yesses before getting underway.

-0-

Miranda sat in the library, hours later, working on the book when the door opened slowly and a tiny sleepy face peered around it.

"Nicholas," she said softly. "You are supposed to be in bed."

He pushed the door open and stood looking at her, his thumb creeping into his mouth.

"Ah-ah," she smiled. "No thumbs. Come here, darling."

He shuffled over to her side and leaned on her legs while she scratched through a passage in the main editorial.

"Now," she said, marking her place and putting it on the arm of the side-table."Come here, my darling."

She pulled him onto her knee and wrapped her arms around him, smiling gently as he sighed into her neck. She rocked him gently and kissed his hair. She remembered doing this for hours when the girls were small and she chuckled at the thought. She'd had to time it back then, ten minutes with Caroline and ten minutes with Cassidy. Eventually, they'd worked out that they could have longer if they stopped fighting over her, but it had taken a few years.

"Now," she muttered. "What's got you up at this hour?"

She waited for a little while, a little hope remaining that he would just come out and say whatever was bothering him. He did not.

"Did you have a bad dream?"

He shook his head and snuggled closer, making Miranda think that it was probable that he did.

"Should I try and guess? Or would you prefer to just sit here?"

He reached up without looking and covered her mouth and she kissed the little fingers.

"Alright little love," she whispered. "You settle in. I have to complete the book and then we shall go up to bed, where the rest of our family currently sleeps."

He smiled and pushed his head against her chest before sighing again.

She worked until she was satisfied with her progress before putting it down for the night. She sat still for a while, taking solace in the calm of the house when most of its residents were slumbering. 

She tried to remember a time before they had the children in her life and smiled when she couldn't. Nicholas hummed in his sleep and she sighed. She had thought her family complete when she was handed her two precious Bobbsey's. And now, she could not imagine living without them.

"Mommy?"

"Mommy's here, baby," Miranda whispered, her heart squeezing painfully. 

She didn't begrudge them the name they called her. Andréa had come to the term she had naturally thanks to the girls, but the little ones already had a mother and she absolutely would never want to come between that in an effort to make herself feel better.

She sat for a while longer, but Nicholas didn't speak again. She sighed and got up, cradling him in her arms. She was looking forward to their time away. The idea of waking up in a secluded villa to the sounds of the ocean was enough to make her groan at the prospect. She had already decided that should Cara be free, they would take her along. She tried to remember whether Cara had a significant other and decided that she'd have to eat humble pie and ask in the morning.

"Hey," Andréa whispered, startling her as she was making her way to the boy's bedroom.

"Oh, Andréa," she sighed. "I'm alright. Nicholas came down for a cuddle and I was just returning him."

"It's okay," Andréa smiled, that smile that made Miranda's heart stutter. "You don't have to explain, you know."

"I'm sorry," Miranda smiled. "I'm tired."

Andréa slid her hands between hers and took Nicholas from Miranda's arms and nodded to the door.

"Come on Momma bear. Let's tuck the boy in."

She wondered if it was the universe testing her resolve. She knew Andréa didn't even realise what she'd said and she followed her in.

They tucked both the boys in and Andréa took her hands and pulled her into the bedroom, kissing her over and over again.

"Darling, not that I don't want to, but my body is so tired."

"Shh," Andréa smiled. "Don't worry my love," she whispered. "I'm going to take care of you."

Miranda's breath caught as Andréa unbuttoned her shirt and slacks, pulling them from her body gently and leaving her sitting on the bed in nothing but her underwear. She stifled a yawn and smiled as Andréa brought her a make-up wipe to remove most of what she was wearing. Job done, Miranda smiled as Andréa pushed her backwards.

"Roll, my beautiful woman," Andréa whispered.

She frowned, trying to figure out what Andréa wanted and groaned as Andréa's hands helped her. Those long, muscular arms, culminating in those long fingers Miranda loved so much started massaging her back.

"Oh, god, Andréa," she moaned.

"Hmm," Andréa chuckled. "You like that? Apparently, you carry the tension in your back."

Miranda couldn't answer and groaned again as Andréa leaned on her gently and felt a few vertebrae crack. She massaged for a while longer, and Miranda's whole body was singing beneath Andréa's hands. Miranda stilled as a kiss was pressed on the back of her neck.

"Andréa," she moaned. "If you start this, I will not be awake to reciprocate."

"Who says you have to?" Andréa chuckled. "Just relax and let me make you feel good."

"You make me feel good everyday darling," Miranda hummed, her brain stuttering to a halt.

Andréa's lips kissed every vertebra on her way down. Miranda hissed as there was a firm bite on her hip and she jerked uncontrollably when Andréa's hands slid around her hip and beneath her.

"Hmm," Andréa whispered. "You do like that."

"You," Miranda hissed as Andréa rolled her clit over and over, each time more infuriatingly gentle than the last. "You are what I like."

For someone who had previously thought her body was on it's way to death, Miranda was constantly surprised when it came alive as Andréa whispered words of love in her ear and slid her fingers through Miranda's embarrassingly wet centre.

"Andréa," she moaned. "Please don't wait."

"No?" Andréa whispered. "You don't want to wait, Miranda? But you're so patient usually."

She groaned loudly as Andréa moved away altogether.

"I'm coming back lover, give me one second."

There was a rustling and Andréa was back, draped over the top of her body now naked, if the hard nipples on her back were any indication.

"Lift up," she whispered and Miranda was powerless to resist. 

She did as she was told and only had a moment's hesitation until Andréa's body draped over the top of her again and her fingers found her channel.

"Fuck," she groaned as Andréa sunk her fingers up to her knuckles. "Andréa -"

"Shh," she chuckled. "If you wake them we won't be able to finish this."

It was agonisingly slow. Every time she thought they were getting close, Andréa would move away, or change the angle so that the impending flutters went away.

"Andréa, for the love of God," she hissed as she heard a little chuckle. "Please, my love. Please, just fucking fuck me!"

"Oh, you know how to give an order," Andréa groaned and sunk back into Mrinada's pussy with a triumphant moan. 

The younger woman did as she was told and in an embarrassingly short amount of time, Miranda could feel it coming.

"Andréa. Andréa!"

"Come for me, Miranda."

Despite her not being one to do as she was ordered, Miranda did. Her body clenching and clenching and clenching on Andréa's fingers until the other woman groaned as well, draping herself bonelessly across Miranda's back. Her whole body was shaking as Andréa caught her breath and helped her lay down again.

"God, you are the sexiest, most delicious thing I've ever seen in all my life," Andréa whispered, kissing her gently. "I think, if ever you decide that you are done with me, I would die."

"How could I decide that I would be done with you, my darling," Miranda managed to say after a while. "When you are my whole world?"

She felt the warmth of Andréa and the smile on her face. She allowed Andréa to pull her close and revelled in the way their legs tangled together.

"I love you, you know," Andréa whispered. "More than I thought a person could love."

"I know," Miranda whispered, a smile permanently attached to her face. "And I love you more than I thought was possible. More than anything in my life." She paused for a moment as her brain tried to come to terms with that, but Andréa kept talking.

"I know, my love," Andréa whispered. "I can't wait to make love to you with the ocean as our backdrop. Not that I don't love this room, but -"

Whatever else Andréa had planned on telling her fell on deaf ears. Miranda simply couldn't keep her eyes open any longer and fell asleep imagining the sounds of the waves rushing onto the shore and Andréa's naked body splayed out under the moonlight on a deserted beach.

Chapter Text

Things had changed, somehow, since that night in bed. Andy had noticed it, Cara had even mentioned something in passing too but neither of them could work out what it was. It simmered underneath their frantic efforts to make it to the day their plane left. Andy was exhausted, Cara was exhausted and Miranda felt different.

It wasn't until the morning of Sam's birthday that Andy realised what it was. Miranda felt distant. They had barely spoken all week. She'd texted and emailed and had replied back, but they'd only been short and clipped and, as she opened her eyes to find Sam's beaming face in her vision she simultaneously realised that she was in bed alone.

"MAMA!"

"Happy Birthday, my little monkey," she grinned, letting him throw himself into her arms.

"Where's M'anda?"

"I don't know baby, why don't you go and check to see if she's in her office?"

"M'kay," he grinned, planting a sloppy kiss on her cheek.

Andy had a very icky feeling in the pit of her stomach and it was confirmed when he came back not long later with a confused look on his face.

"She not there!"

Andy's icky feeling got stronger.

"Well, let's get up and get dressed and have some breakfast then we'll go from there."

She was very careful not to promise anything that she could not fulfil and he nodded happily and ran off to get dressed.

She checked her phone and found no messages and decided to give Miranda the benefit of the doubt. She'd been extraordinarily busy in the last week or so. They were facing more and more pressure from Alexi and then they'd lost an entire shoot's worth of photos, leaving them scrambling. Andy knew what it was like, but they were due to leave on Monday and that feeling wasn't going away.

They played happily, with Andy fielding Sam's desperate questions about when his party was going to start. Every half-hour he'd drape himself over and ask her when it was time.

Eventually, she showed him the clock and drew the correct time when he could come back and ask her. It was a tense but peaceful existence for a few hours while she paced in the kitchen.

"She'll be here," Cara muttered as she iced the cupcakes.

"I'm not so sure," Andy whispered.

She sent one text message, gently and carefully reminding her that Sam's party would start soon and she would need to come home. It remained unanswered and when her phone rang forty-five minutes before the party was due to start.

"Andy, it's Joc," Andy blinked, expecting Miranda.

"Hey?"

"My husband's going to bring Robbie around, seeing as she's just called us all in."

"Oh," Andy said, going cold all over. "Right."

"Did," Jocelyn paused. "Did you know she was -"

"No," Andy whispered. "I didn't know."

They stayed quiet and she heard Jocelyn paying for a cab and getting out.

"Do you want me to say something?"

"No," Andy whispered. "Don't make waves. I'll handle it. Sam," her voice broke. "Sam will miss you."

"I sent him his own card," she said sadly. "I'm sorry Andy."

"Don't worry about it. Thanks for letting me know."

She hung up and immediately rang the love of her life, growling as it went to voicemail. She hung up and stared at Cara.

"She's just called them in," Andy whispered, meeting Cara's eyes. "She's not coming."

Cara's eyes widened as they heard Sam making his way down the stairs.

She quickly called Miranda again.

No answer. 

And again.

No answer. This time, she left a message.

"If you don't get your arse home right now, you can forget everything you've ever said to us about putting us first. This will not fly. It is his first birthday with us and there's literally nobody else in the world he would rather spend it with than you." The anger evaporated. "Please don't do this to him."

She put on a brave face as Sam ran in.

"IS IT TIME!"

"It is nearly time," Andy smiled, trying to make herself believe that it would still be alright. "Robbie's Daddy is going to bring him around so why don't you go and change into your birthday shirt and ask," she grabbed his hand. "Ask your brothers and sisters to get ready."

Her kids made their way down the stairs half an hour later as she opened the door to Jocelyn's husband.

They made polite talk while Sam greeted his little friend and ran back upstairs with him to play with his cars.

"I," he frowned. "Sorry Joc couldn't be here."

"It's really okay," Andy smiled. "We'll have fun without them, I think."

"Five okay to pick him up? I go on duty at six."

"Of course, or we can take him home, or wherever he's going?"

"Would you?"

"Of course! Cara can stay while I'm out."

"Thank you so much," he smiled, waving goodbye and jogging down the Townhouse steps. He was a good looking guy and she was going to enjoy ribbing Jocelyn about it at a later date.

She let the kids play for a short time, trying to get Miranda on the phone. The desk phone rang out three times and it was becoming quickly apparent that she was being avoided. She rang Melody's phone and it was answered on the second ring.

"I'm sorry," the woman said before Andy could speak. "I've tried to tell her three times but she's ignoring every comment I've made."

"It's Sam's birthday!"

"I know," the woman said quietly. "I'm sorry I have to go."

"Wait!"

She hung up. Andy stared at it as Sam came into the room looking worried.

"Where's M'anda?"

"Um," she swallowed, looking at Cara. "Darling, M'anda is," Carolie and Cassidy appeared at the door with concerned looks on their faces. "M'anda's working baby, she'll try and be here but, she's super busy trying to make sure we're ready to go on Monday."

"Why would she miss my birfday?"

"She didn't mean to, love. She'd just really stressed."

Cassidy had a dark look on her face and quickly pulled her own phone out. She watched as Cassidy listened and opened her mouth to speak and then stop. She looked horrified up at Andy.

"She picked up, then she hung up."

Sam burst into tears. Andréa's heart broke for him and she picked him up and held him close.

"Alright loves, not to worry. Let's go up into the den and we can eat cupcakes and watch some movies for a while. Then we've got some games to play and some things to make and it's going to be a great day."

Caroline opened her mouth, no doubt to remind Andy that Miranda doesn't let them eat in the den, but Andy glared. She got the message and nodded, sliding her hand into her sister's.

"Can you gather up the others? We're going to have a 'Sam's choice' movie and then we'll do candles and open some presents."

She let the twins figure out that part and shifted Sam up onto her hip and walked to the front door. She knew it was petty, but she locked the door, knowing that Miranda didn't carry keys. She went upstairs, staring pointedly at Cara and inviting her up as well. She was well and truly livid and she didn't care an iota what Miranda thought of what she was doing. They would enjoy their time and they would do their best to make sure Sam enjoyed it as much as he could.

"Phones in here," Andy said, holding out a basket. "I don't care what you've got going on. In here. We're putting them away."

"But Mo -"

"Has she indicated she wishes to be here Caroline?" Andy asked gently but firmly.

"No," Caroline whispered, her eyes filling with tears. "I don't get why she can't -"
'I don't either love," she whispered, kissing Caroline's hair. "But we're going to make Sam's party special for him nevertheless."

They watched a film and then another. Andy steadfastly ignored the pounding on the door that she could hear in the distance about halfway through the second one. She has no doubt that someone would have a key and that Miranda could just order them to come and open the door but she wondered how long it would take her to realise.

"Who wants to play pass the parcel?"

She'd arranged a whole host of little games for them to play. She tried to remember that had Sam been in a better mood, he would have enjoyed playing a lot more. 

They played endlessly, keeping him busy, eventually getting Sam to play his cars with Robbie while Andy went downstairs to see if Miranda had managed to get in the house.

She was sitting in the dark kitchen nursing a glass.

"An -"

"You don't get to speak," she hissed. She was sure she'd never been as angry as she was. "You don't get to speak to me or your children again. What the actual FUCK did you think? That they'd just wait for you?"

"Andréa I -"

"Nothing," Andy spat. "Nothing is more important than this day to him and you fucked up so badly, I'll be surprised if he even looks at you."

"There is work -"

"There will always be work to do Miranda, always. Cos that's who you are. But your son is 4. He doesn't care what work you had. You told him you'd be there and you broke your promise. Just like all the other promises you broke before. Fuck you for breaking his heart. You can be the biggest, most monumental bitch sometimes. You are so unbelievably selfish at times. I cannot -"

All the anger dropped out of her sails as she watched Miranda watching her, seemingly without emotion.

"I'm not them," Andy whispered sadly. "I won't leave you over this. I've never been angrier, but I will not leave. Your children, however," she nodded resolutely, making her decision. "That's on you. I'll make up for the love you've crushed today like I always will. But your relationship with them is between you and them. I'm done trying to run interference for you. You are their Mom."

"Am I?" Miranda hissed and Andy stepped back at the force of the glare.

"Is that what this is about?" 

She was horrified. 

Miranda had missed Samuel's birthday over a label?

"You," her heart was in her mouth and she was sure she was going to throw up. "I don't understand you sometimes, which is so disheartening because you can be the sweetest, kindest, most gentle woman and then you do something so utterly stupid that you ruin everything you've built. So," she shrugged, feeling her heart turning to dust. "Sure Miranda. If you want to work, you go ahead. The kids and I are going on holiday. We'll have as much fun as we can without you. I'll miss you, they will too, but if that's the choice you made then I'll stand by you," she smiled tremulously. "Like I said I would. But they'll miss you, even while I'm trying to keep them busy, cos you're their Mommy, Miranda. You always have been. It's not in a name, it's not in a label. It's in the feelings. It's in the cuddles they give you and the way they cry for you. You are the stupidest, most ignorant person I've ever met and I have never been more disappointed in you than in this moment."

Long after the party broke up and Robbie went home, Andy let them eat ice cream in front of two different movies, both Sam's choice and then sadly, all went to bed. Andy stood looking at her bedroom door for a while before deciding that she would rather sleep with the boys, curling up around Sam and going to sleep, breathing his scent and wishing for a do-over.

Chapter Text

Andy woke up with Sam wrapped tightly around her. She didn't want to get up and face the day, she wasn't interested in feeling anything. They were due to go away on Monday and that was less than 36 hours away. She wasn't sure what had happened in Miranda's brain to turn it all upside down but she couldn't really fathom a way out of it.

Cassidy poked her head in and waved.

"What do I do?"

"Whatever you want to sweetheart," Andy sighed. "I'm not going to tell you how to feel or what to do. I can't. I don't," she sighed, running her hand through Sam's riotous curls. "I don't know what to do here honey. I'm as lost as I could be."

"We're still going away?"

"Yeah, even if your Mom doesn't want to come, we'll go," she smiled.

"But," Cassidy's face fell.

"I'm not saying I don't want her to come, actually the opposite, but I'm not going to," she winced. "Protect you guys from her anymore. She's on her own. And that might seem harsh but," she shook her head and kissed Sam's. "I'm very angry right now, so maybe I should just be quiet."

"You don't have to be Mama," Cass whispered, coming in and snuggling against her side. "I've been Mom's kid for a long time, you know."

"Yeah but I'm the adult here," Andy chuckled sadly. "And it's really fair for you to listen to me complain about how angry I am with your Mom."

"Is Cara coming with us?"

"I thought she was, but now I don't know. I have no idea whether your Mom asked her to, or not."

"Want me to call her?"

"Yes please," Andy smiled. "Thank you, sweetheart."

"Love you Mama."

"Mama?"

"Hello my little monkey!" Andy said bravely as Sam woke. "How's my big five-year-old boy doing this morning?"

"Is M'anda home?"

"She is!" Andy said with a smile, trying not to let him see how she was feeling as well. "Shall we go and find her?"

"No," he said, his lip wobbling. "Don't wanna."

"Okay," she nodded. "Well, you tell me when you're ready, okay? I love you little wildman. We're going to have so much fun on the beach!"

"We go swimmin'?" He perked right up.

"Yep! In the ocean! With the waves and the fishies!"

"I get ready -"

And he was down and emptying his drawers, crawling underneath his bed to get his favourite baseball.

She let him, until a figure darkened the door and she watched as Miranda watched Samuel.

"Happy birthday, little darling," she smiled.

Sam, in a move that broke Andy's heart, stood up and stared at her. She watched in slow motion as Sam took one step towards her, then turned around and wrapped his arms around her instead.

She closed her eyes and when she opened them again, Miranda was gone.

"Hey," Caroline said, frowning. "Okay?"

"Um," Andy decided against involving everyone. "Yeah, just feeling clingy."

"No wonder," she said sadly. "Cassidy called Cara. She said that Mom did tell her, but she doesn't know the details. She has a girlfriend though, did you know that?"

Andy grinned, seeing the wonder in her eyes.

"I totally didn't! Tell Cass to tell Cara to invite her. We won't need Cara all the time, that way she can have a holiday too. I'll call and add another ticket."

"Thanks Mama."

Andy heard Sam's tummy rumble and she carried him downstairs, getting his favourite spaghetti and toast ready with one hand seeing as he refused to let go of her neck.

He ate about three bites and burst into tears. She cradled him and nibbled on the toast a little, sighing into his hair.

-0-

They existed in a holding pattern. Miranda came out of their room for meals and coffee and made all the right noises when she did, but the kids knew something was up and she'd so far refused to even look at Andy. 

Their flight was due to leave at midday on Monday which meant everyone had to be ready well before 9 to beat the traffic. The boys were easy and Andy managed to get them by the door with their bags, locked with keys only she had. She'd already had to repack Sam's back after he'd emptied it to check that his baseball was in it, only to find it in his carry-on. Thankfully, Caroline was self-sufficient and Cassidy helped Olivia as well. When she went back up the stairs to get her own bags, she stared at the woman curled up on the wing-back chair in the corner.

"Why aren't you ready?"

"I understood my presence was not welcome."

"You -" Andy couldn't breathe. "What?"

"You made it quite clear that my presence was not welcome on this trip. You spoke your mind. I am not willing to subject myself to that again."

"You're pouting?" Andy gaped. "You? Seriously?"

"I most certainly am not!"

"You are! You've made no attempt to apologise to him, or to Cassidy for that matter. You've made zero effort to talk to about anything and now you're going to turn into a five-year-old. That's really mature, Miranda. Really."

"Andréa -"

"No, no no, it's fine. You sit here and feel sorry for yourself, on your own. I'm taking our children on holiday, like we as their parents, promised them. If you love any of us at all, you'll join us. I love you," she met the woman's eyes. "I love you. I just don't understand you right now. I thought you were with us but, I just don't know anymore Miranda. I don't know why this sudden change and I don't know what to tell you to make you snap out of it. I don't want to lose you to this," she shrugged. "Monster that seems to have taken hold of you."

She dropped to her knees in front of Miranda, taking her hands and waiting until those icy blue eyes met her.

"Please. Please fight for your family, my love. For our family. For us. We have such plans, you and I. Such plans for our babies. I don't want to lose that, but I cannot carry us all forever. I love you -" she realised Miranda wasn't going to budge and stood kissing her head gently. "And I hope to see you on the beach as soon as possible."

The kids evidently had assumed that Miranda was coming with them but when Andy pulled the door closed behind them, their faces fell.

"Everyone belted?" Roy asked carefully.

Andy checked them, cupping Nick's cheek and tweaking Olivia's nose.

"Yes thank you Roy," she said quietly, watching the front door. "You can go."

She whispered the final part, in the hope that he didn't hear. To his credit, he waited for another minute before pulling into traffic. Cara and her girlfriend Mel were meeting then at the airport and right before they turned the corner into the main road, Andy was still hoping that she'd see Miranda running down the steps, her bag in hand.

Alas, there was no movement at the house and Andy's heart broke. She was more than terrified that she'd just lost the love of her life. She was more than terrified that Miranda was going to pull away completely again like she had been before Olivia and Nick and Sam had joined them. She let Olivia snuggle under her arm and peered out of the window. She thought back to those first tentative moments. A whole slew of memories played through her mind like a film she didn't want to see.

She wanted to scream at the unfairness of it all and she wanted to shake Miranda until she saw sense but instead, she kissed Olivia's head and held Sam's hand until they got to the airport.

Cara and Mel were waiting and wrangling the children to the gate was much easier with 2 extra pairs of hands than it was the last time she did this.

After a little argument at the desk, they had their tickets and they were ready to go.

Andy hadn't realised but the same hope that burned in her seemed to be burning in everyone else as well. Once the doors were locked and the plane started taxying, Caroline burst into tears.

"I thought she'd come!"

"I know baby," Andy muttered as they took off. "I thought so too."

Chapter Text

Miranda hadn't moved from her chair since Andréa had fallen to her knees and begged her to be someone that she was not. The futility of it all was startling. In order to be the best, she could not afford to take time off for silly children's parties! She needed to be at Runway, creating perfection. In order for Runway to remain the best, she needed to be the best.

A snide little voice in her ear asked if she would have missed Cassidy and Caroline's party and she tamped down on it quickly. She tried to think of an instance where she hadn't dropped everything for them and was just on her way to explaining to herself that this was different this time, when a distant knocking disturbed her solitude. 

She checked the cameras and found Nigel on the stoop. She was tempted to not answer so she hesitated and watched as he knocked again. It was clear he wasn't going away. Huffing, she went to open the door.

"You are a dickhead," he hissed in lieu of greeting as he barged his way past her.

"I beg your -"

"You are an absolute moron."

"Nigel!"

"You told me you'd found that one thing. That happiness that we'd heard whispers of all our lives. That happiness that sets our souls on fire, that makes us smile whenever we think about it. You told me that I should find that too, that yours was so perfect that you couldn't believe there was such happiness on Earth. So, I did and I am loving it, Miranda. And then," he stared at her. "Then, Jocelyn tells me you chose Runway over Samuel. Over that little boy." She couldn't meet his eyes. "Who thinks the sun shines out of your ass." She hugged her stomach, trying to keep from vomiting as he kept going. "What's worse is, he doesn't understand. He doesn't understand adults get scared and run away sometimes. He's a baby. And you have damaged him." She blinked at him and felt the truth squeezing her heart. "What the fuck happened, Miranda?"

"I," she couldn't really breathe. "Let my -"

"You got scared."

She nodded mutely.

"I was shallow. I let a label come between me and my family. And my fears. For the future."

"A label?"

"They don't call me Mommy," she whispered. It sounded stupid out loud. "It hurts sometimes."

"Tell me honestly, why that matters to you? Because I've known you nearly all your life and I can't think of a single moment where it meant that much to you. You've been labelled all of your life. You hate labels. And the babies who love you so unconditionally call you by the one label you, yourself, chose? Miranda, do you hear how crazy that is? I don't know much about kids, my friend, but I'm pretty sure none of them know the significance of a label, cos labels shouldn't matter! They love you. As their M'anda."

She saw the truth in it but clung to the hurt. She didn't want to feel anything else. She would make do with this hurt. But Nigel hadn't finished.

"You need to go. Get on a plane and go and mend your family, before you lose them. And you can't lose this Miranda, not now. They're your world. Tell me honestly that you wouldn't give Runway up tomorrow for them."

She blinked at him, feeling a great gnawing pit in her stomach opening up.

"Oh," he deflated. "Oh, Miranda."

"I don't want to give up Runway for these people."

"These-" Nigel gaped at her. "You don't have to!" he yelled, frightening her. "God, Miranda, nobody is asking you to! These people are your family! The fact that you would give it up is right! They are your babies! You spent all of our youth talking about the passel of children you had planned and when you had the twins I saw that dream disappear and your heart break every day they grew and no more babies came. And then, they came into your life. Those people. Like a fucking miracle, Miranda. And you. Came. Alive." The wind dropped out of his sails. "You came alive because those children were exactly what you had always wanted at a time in your life where you were on top of the world. And then Andy. Dear, sweet, put-upon Andy, who loves you like I've never seen love. Who forgives your sins before you make them, who provides you with whatever you need before you even know you need it. Who cares for you, who grounds you, who LOVES you. You've been happier than I have ever seen over this last year. Please," he took her hands. "Please don't let this slip. I understood, with the others, keeping them at arm's length. Avoiding them like you did. I get it. You were a prize. A shiny new car they got to show off to their misogynistic, asshole friends. But Andy loves you, Miranda. She's always loved you. Don't throw that away now," he pleaded.

He stood looking at her, and in a show of how discombobulated she felt, she let him.

"If you can't mend this, you'll regret it forever," he whispered. "I know nobody can tell you anything, but you're my best friend and I would be a terrible person if I didn't say all of this to you," she looked at him. "Don't let your fears ruin your one chance at a lifetime of happiness."

She watched absently as he left, standing in her hallway like she was a stranger in her own home. And yet, all around her was evidence of a family. 

Her family .

The photographs on the wall, many of which made her smile as she studied them. She looked at them all, touching them here and there. She laughed at a few, not because they were especially amusing to look at but because she knew there were corresponding funny ones, that Andréa had insisted on taking, on the wall upstairs in the den.

Photos where Miranda was not smirking like she usually did, but outright laughing. Happiness on her face, tears in her eyes. Ones that were for their viewing only. 

One, her favourite on her bedside table, where she held Samuel in her arms with the most gentle look on her face that she'd ever seen and all the love she'd ever felt for her children shining out of her eyes as she looked at him, snuggled against her chest. She'd kissed Testino when he'd shown her the print. 

A tear found its way down her cheek as she took stock of her life. 

The shoes by the door, never in the cupboard under the stairs where she'd have preferred them. And always an odd number, for reasons that she and Andréa could never fathom. 

A scarf and a hat tucked just behind the wall in the guest sitting room where someone had thrown them for convenience, instead of putting them in their correct place. 

Her house had finally become a home.

Their home.

There were little monuments to family everywhere. 

A Nerf dart in the corner of the bottom step.

What looked like Barbie's hair, poking out of the bottom of the cupboard at the end of the hall.

She followed the detritus into the kitchen and looked around.

Two matchbox cars lined up to race each other at the door.

Andréa's favourite coffee mug on the drainer, half-full and forgotten. A testament to how much she did for their family and how much she had given up, right down to her morning coffee.

The fridge, once a gleaming monolith of spotless stainless steel that she barely glanced at except to retrieve the cream for her coffee, was now the centre of their house. Instead of sparkling, it was covered in fingerprints and haphazard artwork from the school, held up with gaudy magnets that she definitely had never authorised. She smiled absently as she admired the work of the little ones that had brightened her life. She'd seen most of them before. They almost lined up in the evening, when she came home, with papers in hand and they would sit and take her through their thoughts and feelings on that particular project. 

Well, Olivia did. 

Nick often held out his picture, just out of her reach and as she leaned forward to get it, he wrapped his arms around her neck and giggled quietly in her ear when she pretended she was surprised.

She would talk to him quietly about his composition and his colour and she had often noticed evidence of his understanding in the subsequent pictures. They had found that people had a tendency to think him less intelligent because he was so quiet but she and Andréa had quickly realised that his intelligence far surpassed anyone else's understanding. He would be a great thinker, in time.

She wondered if he had understood just how much it had simultaneously filled her with happiness and crushed her when he'd murmured that word in her ear the other night. It had been the catalyst to the feelings that were bubbling away in her gut. She wasn't sure whether he was calling her Mommy or muttering about his real mother. It was a feeling of hope and guilt and wishfulness all at the same time. And it burned her. She wanted so desperately to be their Mommy, to hear that called when she got home but at the same time, as she always had, she got it. She understood that they'd had a Mommy once. And she had left them. 

Just like Miranda had done now.

And that, coupled with the realisation that she could see a life without Runway, for the first time in all of her life?

No wonder she felt like she had been imprisoned in her own mind.

A picture she'd never seen before caught her eye, tucked under the corner of another. This one did not come from the school and she had never seen it before. 

This was clearly Samuel's work.

She broke finally, letting a sob go as she looked at it.

All right of them, Patricia included, were in his family portrait. And there, above what could only be her on account of the silver mop on top of that stick-figure's head, was not her name. Not even the name that he called her.

Mommy.

She dropped to the floor, clutching his masterpiece and curling up around herself sobbing. Every feeling of inadequacy, every feeling of detachment that she'd felt recently disappeared like smoke. Her family was all she had, she realised that now. Her babies, all 5 of them and her love. The love of her life. 

Her absolute soulmate.

She wiped away her tears and stood. She ran - ran - up the stairs and threw whatever she could reach into a bag. She picked up her phone and dialled Roy, who answered immediately to say he was outside waiting for her. She could have cried again. At the last moment after searching for her phone charger for what seemed like hours, she gave up and went to Cassidy's closet. She pulled down a box that they stored on the top shelf. It was full of bedsheets that they never used, but she wasn't after those. She dug through it, making a noise of triumph as she found what she was looking for. 

She stared at it, trying to will her hands to stop shaking.

She'd ordered it only about three weeks into their relationship. She'd known then that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with the woman that held her heart and she felt like an idiot for nearly destroying that. 

Because of her own fears. Her own terror.

She tucked it in the bottom of her purse and went down the stairs. Roy was waiting with a grin on his face.

"Em's booked your ticket. It'll be at the desk when you get there. Flight's in an hour, it was the earliest she could get."

"Thank you," she whispered, squeezing his hand. "Take a holiday, anywhere. I don't care."

"Don't worry, we'll get you there."

"I should have -"

"Look," Roy said, interrupting her and getting in the car. He pulled into traffic and met her eyes in the mirror, briefly, before continuing. "Take it from someone who nearly lost everything because he couldn't get his shit together. It will get better. The fear will always be there, Miranda, but you'll get better at dealing with it. This is your life and I don't think you want to be anywhere else but here."

She closed her eyes and squeezed them shut to prevent more tears from leaking.

"Thank you."

"We all have to hit the bottom to figure out where it is, Miranda. You know now. I know that you won't hit it again."

They drove the rest of the way in silence. She opened the door herself and when he met her with her bag she stopped him and kissed his cheek, wiping off the lipstick she left.

"You are one of the best men I have ever had the privilege of knowing. And I am not joking. Take your family away, give your wife's supervisor my number of you have to. I'm extending my holiday by at least a week, if not more. Fuck Alexi. Go anywhere for as long as you want. If Emily is making herself available as my personal travel assistant, have her put it on my personal account."

"Mir -"

"Trust me. Take some time. I won't need you or want to see you until I'm back. And I don't plan on being back for a little while. I have a lot of making up to do."

"You're a good woman, Miranda Priestly," he grinned, tipping his hat to her. "Don't let anyone, including yourself, make you think otherwise."

She pursed her lips, hiding her grin as she stalked off to the gate, giving off an air that reminded her of something that made her smile properly. 

She could almost hear Andréa humming that silly Darth Vader song as she walked.

Chapter Text

Life on holiday for the rest of the Priestly-Sachs-Walker clan was not as fun as Andy would have liked, even in the first few hours. 

They'd managed to all get on the same flight, but it had been a close call at the desk when she'd tried to transfer Miranda's ticket into Cara's girlfriend Mel's name. It was only when she flashed the card that Miranda gave her that the desk agent finally understood who they were talking to.

The villa was spectacular, right off the beach, with a pool house for Cara and Mel to stay in. The pool itself was exquisite with a sandy walk-in and countless loungers around the edge where they could relax while the kids played. 

They dumped their bags, vying for rooms while Andy wandered around with the crowd as they whooped in delight at all the features. The big beds, the glorious, uninterrupted views of both the ocean and the island. Andy paused as she looked over the master-bathroom. A hot-tub stood by the window, underneath a picture window that looked out at the Pacific. Sam hadn't let Andy go and she just held him close, staring out over the beach that was supposed to be her and Miranda's getaway. Their recovery. She heard Cara gathering everyone into their bathers and did so herself, sitting with Sam on her knee while the rest played in the water.

Cassidy and Caroline were the first to bounce back. Andy had a terrible feeling in her soul that it was because they'd been disappointed by their mother before. The little ones were not as resilient.

Mel, as it turned out, was an avid fitness nut and also incredibly good with kids. She insisted that all the kids, minus Sam who had actually growled when Mel had tried to take him, play with her in the water. Andy grinned at Cara, who smiled demurely as her girlfriend threw the Priestly-Sachs-Walker children up in the air and laughed just as loudly as they did when they came splashing back down. Andy got up from where she sat and joined their friend, slash nanny, slash sounding board on the loungers just in the shade.

"You scored," Andy chuckled, nudging her shoulder. The woman blushed but didn't look unhappy. "You could have said something you know. If you'd have wanted to?"

"I know," Cara shrugged. "But, I mean, I've been their Nanny for a long time. And it's only recently that we kinda moved beyond that, you know? And honestly, we've only been together," she thought about it. "Actually, just a bit longer than you have."

"I understand," Andy sighed, noting that Sam had fallen asleep in her arms. 

"You okay?"

"I dunno," Andy said honestly. "How can you love someone with all your being and hate them a little bit as well."

"I don't know," Cara sighed. "I should have realised. I'm sorry I didn't."

"God Cara, don't," she snorted. " I should have realised. Better yet, we shouldn't have had to realise at all. She should have talked to me, or you, or fucking Roy, anyone . But she didn't, cos she doesn't."

"A year ago I would have warned you, having worked for her for so long, that she's not ever going to change, but then she did." Cara paused. "For you."

"Not for me," Andy whispered. "For him," she nodded to Sam, brushing the blond curls off his face. "For them. As it should be. I don't ever want her to be resentful of us all but I don't know how to navigate this and," she accepted the bottle of water Cara passed to her. "I'm tired."

"Let's enjoy our time away from the dreary rain and the noisy city and we'll sort everything else out when we get home," she said gently. "Once we've had a rest."

"Yeah, I just thought she'd be here, you know?"

"I do know," Cara chuckled. "She may yet surprise you. She's been surprising me all my professional life, so don't lose hope yet."

Andy smiled, thinking back to that moment in Paris before it all began. 

"I live on hope," she whispered.

Cara smiled and they fell into a comfortable silence, chuckling at the antics of the kids all vying for another go.

"Hey," she grinned, suddenly remembering. "I called and got you a table at the restaurant at the Four Seasons. Just the two of you. You can take i