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The Fix

Chapter Text

It all started when Andy agreed to babysit Lily's sister's step-niece. The sister begged Lily, and Lily begged off, which meant handing Andy's precious Sunday evening into the hands of a spoiled seven-year-old. Andy, desperate to keep at least a semblance her once-close friendship with Lily, had agreed to sacrifice her one entirely job-free night. Miranda was watching the twins' dance recital, and this was the one time during which Andy was certain she would not be receiving any sudden phone calls demanding a performance of superhuman timing and precision.

If it were up to Andy, she would most likely be at home, lying face-down on the couch in an attempt to keep herself away from the refrigerator. Despite the shocking amount of things Nate had taken with him when he moved out of their apartment, he seemed to have left behind his entire culinary stock, and Andy couldn't bring herself to throw away such a large quantity of expensive—fattening —cheeses, meats, breads, and deserts. She kept telling herself that people would come over, people who still ate food, but she knew it wasn't going to happen. If she was being honest with herself, she didn't have a social life any longer. She could pretend that Doug and Lily might still decide to host a small party in her apartment, but if this were even to happen, she wouldn't be there. She could see it now; setting up all of Nate's old food around the house, putting in some music, and then dashing out of the house before anyone had even arrived to rush a steaming cup of Starbucks into Elias-Clarke, no matter the ungodly hour. The worst part was, Andy doubted her friends would even notice her absence. She was no longer a staple figure in her group. She had become the one who received the hugs and the side-eyed judging exclamations of, "It's been too long!"

And so she found herself driving halfway across the district to the home of a woman she barely knew. Andy chuckled to herself at the irony. In her frantic attempt at keeping some normalcy in her life, she was doing something incredibly out-of-the-ordinary and she didn't even have a particular fondness for kids. If only she had a night or two a week, she could be keeping up with Doug and Lily by going out for drinks, even if only for a half-hour, but she had discovered that not showing up at all was better than the scathing looks she received when she had to answer her phone and run in the middle of their evenings.

Ever since Paris, it had gotten worse. More late-night demands, more evening hours behind the desk, more mornings in-office. She knew Miranda had every right to punish her for running off, in fact, she knew she was lucky to even still have the job. After tossing her cell phone into the fountain in her dramatic, childlike fit of temper, she had paced only around one block before finding herself back where she had started, at the foot of the steps still flooded with the crowds of paparazzi which had swallowed up Miranda Priestly. In that one block, her walk had gone from one of anger, to one a freedom, and then quickly to one of shame and defeat. She knew, in that moment, that she couldn't leave. It wasn't that she was afraid for her career; no, it wasn't that. It was that dammed woman. Somehow, her vulnerability had gotten under Andy's skin the night before, and she couldn't just walk off. So she waited in the throng of reporters and camera-folk until the familiar head of silver hair appeared, sunglasses perched firmly upon that aristocratic nose. Taking a shaky breath and briefly contemplating if her next move would prove her clinically insane, she slid into step beside Miranda. If she had not been so attuned to the signature stride so unique to the older woman, Andy doubted she would have noticed the slight catch in her step, but she did notice it, more by feel than by sight, and knew that Miranda was startled. Andy also noted the slightest hint of an arched eyebrow as it raised above the rim of the glasses, but Miranda did not complain as she slid into the backseat of the car with her. In fact, she said nothing—complaint or otherwise—until they had arrived back at the hotel. Clacking their way across the marble flooring by the front desk, Miranda began listing off her usual vague line-up of duties for Andy to complete before the next day. Andy was startled and somewhat relieved to get off without a verbal reprimand, and tried to decide whether this unspoken agreement to pretend her abandonment had never happened was a good thing or not. She had hardly a moment to consider, though, because she had to scramble to piece together what Miranda had said while she was distracted. Apparently, Miranda could see her distress because she removed her sunglasses with a sigh.

"Andrea. You look as though you will fall over at any moment. I have no use for an assistant who is lying on the ground. Go up to your rooms; I expect you well-rested and properly attired for this evening's gala. That's all."

Leaving behind an Andy who did indeed look as like to collapse as not, she strode into the elevator.

After that, everything returned to the way it had been, but everything had clearly changed. Andy was still second assistant, was still responsible for delivering the Book, and was still in charge of answering to Miranda's every beck and call. Some of the changes were dramatic, such as the clear extension of Andy's hours. Others were more subtle, and Andy wasn't sure what to think of them. For one thing, the nature of her jobs had changed. As soon as Emily was up and walking again, Miranda took to sending her off for out-of-office tasks. Andy now only fetched her coffee on the way up in the mornings. If Miranda needed a mid-day scorcher, Emily was sent to Starbucks. If Miranda needed clothing the closet could not supply, Emily was sent down the street. If Patricia needed walking, Emily was sent to the dog. Andy found herself doing all of the scheduling, following Miranda to every shoot and run-through, and answering the majority of the phone calls. It was almost as though she had taken on the first assistant job without the bonus in her paycheck. Andy figured it was Miranda's way of keeping an eye on her and punishing her at the same time, but in all truth Andy didn't mind the change. She adored watching the Dragon Lady in action, as long as she could observe from the sidelines and not be in the center of attention. Since Paris, her deep appreciation for Miranda's work ethic and deftly controlled empire—as well as her icily-kept façade of perfection—had only increased. She knew Miranda was dealing with a hectic divorce on the side of her usual business, but her control never slipped in front of her employees. Being around her constantly, however, had offered Andy a few glimpses of the woman she had seen that night in Paris.

Recently, after a particularly grueling day of failing shoots and reshoots, followed by what had clearly been an unpleasant dinner with Stephen, Andy had walked into Miranda's office to find her resting her head on her forearms, letting out a deep sigh of discontent. Knowing Miranda would not appreciate having her moment of weakness witnessed, she had backed out without speaking. Miranda did not see her, thanks to months of practice entering and exiting the Priestly townhouse on silent heels. Turns out there was a use for that after all. After a brief but fierce internal debate, Andy had gone out on a limb and brought Miranda a coffee-mug filled with chamomile tea, setting it on the corner of her desk and walking out before Miranda had a chance to respond. Miranda never acknowledged the gesture, but she drank all of the tea and cleaned the mug herself.

That had been Friday, and now it was Sunday, and all Andy wanted to do was sleep for years to get rid of the stress that had built up all throughout her body and mind. Inside, however, Andy knew a few hours alone in her dreary apartment wouldn't help in the slightest. It would simply give her time to dwell on thoughts of Miranda that she was barely able to keep from her consciousness while at work. Thoughts of gently taking Miranda's hand as it trembled slightly in anger around the phone when Stephen was on the other line. Thoughts of taking that very hand and bringing it to her lips, placing a slight kiss upon the ageless skin.

Andy groaned.

Here she was, miles away from work, and still, she couldn't escape from the steely gaze of her employer.

And in all truth, she hardly wanted to.

At the very least, this babysitting job should provide a few hours of distraction. If there was one thing she knew about children, it was how good they were at draining every ounce of energy one could put out into their hands.

The girl turned out to be well-behaved and not difficult to be around. Charlotte was just old enough to be past the point of demanding piggy-back rides and games involving too much physicality, but not old enough to be sullen about having someone to look after her. Instead, she seemed to be content to talk avidly about her elementary school for as long as Andy was willing to listen. When Andy mentioned her fashion-related work, she immediately perked up and began asking if Andy had met anyone famous, seeming to think fashion was another word for Disney Channel.

Andy used the best of her culinary skills to make heart-shaped grilled cheeses for dinner, and knew by the look on Charlotte's face that she had been sufficiently impressed. In another hour, she went off by herself to get ready for bed, leaving Andy to lie back on a slightly dog-haired couch for a quick TV-nap before the parents got home. All in all, she decided it hadn't been the worst way she could have spent the evening, and decided she would tell Lily to ask her again if it came up. More tired than she had supposed, that was the last thought that passed through her head before she dropped off into sleep.

When she woke, she did so slowly, feeling sunlight on the backs of her eyelids and that delicious lethargy in her limbs that meant she was well rested. She stretched and yawned, feeling a warm blanket slide off of her arms. A moment later, she jolted upright, realizing what this meant. "Shit!" she hissed, not only because something had obviously gone wrong and she had slept through the entire night, but because of a jolt of pain that ripped through her scalp as her hair tried viciously to remain attached to the couch. "What the…?"

"Morning!"

Charlotte's face had appeared around the open door-frame leading into the kitchen. "You looked tired, and you didn't wake up when I poked you, so Mom said you could sleep over." Charlotte was smiling sweetly, so it was impossible for Andy to be upset with her. However, she absolutely had to leave. She was already late for work, she wasn't even near Elias-Clarke, and she didn't have a change of clothes with her. She couldn't arrive in the sweat-wear she had donned for this babysitting. There was a more pressing problem, though.

"Oh, no." Charlotte said. She seemed to have noticed that Andy couldn't move her head any farther than it was. Her face paled, and she fled into the kitchen, calling, "Mommy!"

A moment later, Joanne, the women Andy had met the previous night as Lily's sister's husband's step-sister—if she got that right—walked around the doorway. "Good morning. I hope you don't mind that we let you sleep; you just looked too exhausted."

Andy gritted her teeth. "Thank you, that was very kind, but I really need to get to work now. And, um, I seem to be stuck to your sofa…"

Joanne's eyebrows rose, then she winced in sympathy. "Ah. That explains why Charlotte looked so afraid. "Charlotte!" she called. "Get in here!"

Charlotte peered around the door. "I'm sorry! Jonathan was playing with daddy's tool-box yesterday and he spilled something and I told him to tell you but he didn't want to get in trouble and he left right before Andy came over and I didn't want you to be mad and not let him come over anymore and…"

"It's alright sweetie, just tell me next time! Remember, it's okay to make messes, as long as…?"

Charlotte looked sufficiently sorry, "…you make sure they get cleaned up."

"Right. Now, do you know what spilled?"

Charlotte nodded. "I put the jar in the recycle bin." Then she fled the room.

Joanne hustled out and returned a moment later. "I'm so sorry."

"How bad?" Andy asked, wincing as she tried yet again to tug her hair from the side-cushion. The entire lower part of the left side of her head wouldn't budge, and from the corner of her eye she could see something brown and flaky peeling around the edges.

"It's rubber cement. My husband is an artisan carpenter, and this is the stuff he uses for his birdhouses. It's slow-dry for adjustments, and it must had dried while you were sleeping. Waterproof as well, since it's for the outdoors. I don't know how to apologize enough! I'll include enough money for a haircut with your check…"

Andy felt surprisingly calm, and wondered if the knowledge that this day was going to be the worst she could remember having in a lifetime had sent her into a state of shock. "Really, it's alright, you couldn't have known. If I wasn't so tired…"

Joanne gave a weak smile, obviously relieved she wasn't going to be on the receiving end of a fit of anger. "I can get you some scissors… Or maybe I should just help cut you out myself," she added on as an afterthought, seeing how little Andy could move her head.

Five minutes, a few curses, and a significantly lighter head later, Andy was back in her car, speeding towards her apartment. She hadn't taken the time to even make the hair one length all around, so her head felt lopsided. She was determined to get home, change, put the hair in as artful a ponytail as she could manage, and rush to work. She could get a haircut later that night. She had no idea how she would look with short hair, and was determined not to dwell on in. Glancing at the clock on her dash, Andy let out a small sigh of relief. It was only six-thirty, so if she hurried, she could home before seven and at the office before half past. Technically, she wouldn't be late, but she knew she may as well be. She couldn't decide if she was relieved that her cell hadn't been charged the night before, because though it meant she had an excuse for not answering any of the calls she was certain Miranda had sent her, it was also going to be just one more thing she could be reprimanded for.

Dashing through a shower in record time, she was almost grateful for the shortened hair, since it made drying much faster. She got dressed slightly more sloppily than she knew she should, but she wanted the extra minutes for her hair. Finally looking in a mirror, she nearly screamed.

"Fuck," she hissed, the expletive slipping past clenched teeth as she took in the ragged hair just covering the top of her left ear. She had known it was bad, but bad had just become disastrous. There was no way that tiny fringe of hair would fit into any sort of respectable up-do. If she put it up, it would look like a fringed carpet hanging down the side of her face. The cutting hadn't even been in a straight line, in fact, it seemed Joanne had cut each piece individually to a different length. Though she hardly ever cussed, Andy whispered, "Fuck," again, just for good measure. At least her bangs were intact.

After a few minutes in which she allowed herself to wallow in a small bit of self-pity, she realized staring in the mirror wasn't going to regrow her hair. In a moment of desperate brilliance, she put the long half up in a messy bun, slicked back the short parts with a ridiculous amount of hairspray, and hunted for a hat. She had nothing appropriate for the warm spring day, and though she had a few hats from last winter's season that were at least somewhat fashionable, none covered the mess on her head. The best she could do was an old crocheted beanie, and she could only pray Miranda had gone blind. Looking back in the mirror, she thought she looked at least presentable and not as though her head had been fed through a paper shredder. Scooping up her phone from the charger, she juggled her purse and keys as she hailed a taxi and tried to replay her voicemail all in one motion.

Thankfully, Miranda had not called directly, but there were three messages from Emily. The first had been from the night before, warning her that Miranda was expecting her early. Andy winced. The second was from this morning, in which Emily sounded distinctly pissed, asking why she had not answered her phone and making sure she would be in early, since the first run-through of the day had been moved up. The third was from a half-hour ago, and Emily sounded frantic.

"You're late! My god you're actually late. And you still aren't picking up this dammed phone. Miranda is on a rampage and if you don't show up in the next five minutes with coffee hotter than hell I don't doubt I will be training a new assistant. Oh, what is it Nigel can't you see I'm busy? Bloody hell can't you see that's what I'm trying to find out?"

At this point, Nigel stole the phone.

"Six? You chose the wrong day to sleep in. Stephen showed up here, the ass, and I couldn't tell if he was drunk, hung-over, or both. Miranda is going to strangle someone, and I'd really prefer it be you than me."

He handed it to Emily, who seemed to be in the middle of her, "I love my job, I love my job…" mantra. "Just get in here. I don't care if you're in Redondo Beach, California, you will be here or I'll strangle you myself."

Through her panic, Andy was actually somewhat flattered that Emily had deigned to admit needing her. Still, of all the days to be late, this seemed to have been a bad one. Andy knew that if Stephen was there, Miranda was going to be an absolute nightmare for the rest of the day. Andy felt terrible for her. Despite her reputation and the trashing she was being served daily in the papers over the divorce, Andy knew it was Stephen that was the real monster in the relationship. She had seen him drunk, and she had seen him sober. The only difference between the two was that drunk, his insults were louder.

She dialed the Starbucks downstairs when she was three minutes away so that when she arrived, she could race through and snag the boiling beverage and dash straight into the elevators. As the metal doors slid shut, her cell rang, and as she picked it up, she was met with Emily's voice yet again. "Oh thank god you're actually alive. Please tell me you're less than five minutes away?"

"I'm in the elevator, and I'm so sorry I'm late…"

"I don't care. Just get your overweight arse in here now."

"Does this mean I still have a job?" Andy asked cautiously.

"By some miracle," Emily hissed, "Miranda hasn't asked me to contact HR. But I wouldn't count on anything. She may just want to dismiss you in person. Or flay you alive."

The doors slid open, and Andy hung up, realizing how stupid she looked with the phone on her ear and the other line sitting mere feet away from her.

Emily's eyes zeroed in first on the coffee. "Set that on her desk—she'll be back in minutes. She only just managed to drag Stephen out of the run-through before he could—Did you walk through an unnaturally large spider-web this morning?"

"What?" Andy asked, blinking at the sudden change of topic.

"What is on your head? Take it off this instant!" Emily looked panicked. "And here I thought we were actually making some progress with you…" Emily muttered under her breath.

"Can't," Andy called over her shoulder as she hurriedly set the coffee on the edge of Miranda's desk.

"What do you mean, can't?"

"Long story."

"Make it short."

"I don't have any hair on half of my head."

Emily's mouth dropped open in a highly unsophisticated manner. Before Andy could be subjected to any further inquisition or scathing remark, the phone rang. Andy could hear Nigel's trademark, "Gird your loins!" through the line. "She's out for blood," he added, and Andy could see Emily visibly swallow.

"Is it really that much worse than usual?" Andy asked.

Emily's only reply was a curt nod. Andy gulped. The elevator opened. Andy only had time to half-fall into her desk chair before Miranda whirled in.

Nigel was right. It was clearly the wrong day for Andy to be late. Miranda's lips were fixed in the purse of extreme displeasure and the clack of her heals echoed with more force than usual. Still, even in her anger she was stunning. The deep-emerald skirt clung just enough to her thighs and ended just above the knee, paired with a summery, sleeveless silk blouse in a delicate cream color covered by a matching emerald sweater. Her golden heals caught the light as she walked and, as usual, they were precariously high. She slung her bag onto Emily's desk, not sparing Andy a glance, and stormed into her office. A moment later her voice drifted out.

"Emily. Andrea."

They both scuttled as quickly as humanly possible into the office. She seemed calmer now as she held the coffee mug and took a sip, the harsh set of her jaw loosening slightly as the searing latte passed her lips. "Emily, contact my lawyer. Tell her I wish to discuss what we spoke of before in more detail. Also, make sure the twins will stay with their father for another week. Make it clear they are only to return to the city at my discretion. Then cancel my facial and my lunch with Donatella. Have Nigel send me the pictures from the one I hadn't been sure about, and bring in my new laptop when it arrives. Was anything else scheduled for this morning?"

"Since you moved up the run-through, Irv wanted to see you at ten for brunch. Also your preview for the new line of summer scarves is at eleven."

"Cancel the preview and tell Irv I am unavailable."

Emily nodded. Miranda then turned her eyes to Andy. Instead of her usual lingering once-over, her gaze immediately caught on the hat. Her lips pursed once again. "Andrea, what would possibly encourage you to wear that offending scrap of fabric on your head? Remove it immediately, and see that it is disposed of."

Andy grimaced. "I, um, would really rather not," she said, trying to sound apologetic and not like she was arguing. One simply did not argue with Miranda.

Miranda was clearly not having it. "Andrea…" she said, the warning clear in her tone.

"I promise, if I take it off, you're going to wish I had left it on," she said.

Miranda arched an eyebrow. "Oh?" Andy had the sudden, near-uncontrollable urge to bite her nail and fidget under Miranda's harsh scrutiny. "And why is that?"

She didn't really want to explain. Though she hadn't said anything, Andy could already tell that Miranda was angered at her late arrival, and was getting more so at her refusal to remove the—admittedly ugly—hat. She also knew it would be worse when she explained her lack of hair, but she spoke anyway, wanting to avoid any further comments about her glacial pace.

"I'm missing quite a bit of my hair," she finally said. She resisted the urge to explain herself. Miranda hated when someone used what she deemed an unnecessary amount of words. It was all about economy with that one. However, it would appear this was to be an exception.

"Explain," she said flatly, leaning back slightly in her seat.

Emily was practically twitching beside Andy, as she had not been given a clear dismissal. Miranda finally seemed to notice her presence and snapped, "Emily! Have I not already given you tasks to take care of?"

Emily flushed and Andy winced in sympathy. "Yes, Miranda," she said, hurrying away.

Andy watched her retreating back in an attempt to avoid Miranda's prying glare.

"Andrea. Sit. Explain," Miranda said, clearly exasperated at the need to repeat herself.

Despite the annoyance in her tone, Andy still noticed that there was something…different… in the way Miranda said her name when there were no others in the room. Maybe it was simply that Andy's reaction was different when she was alone with Miranda, as though her name was a direct line to the thoughts Andy was so careful to keep under locks when at work. Either way, there was no disobeying. Andy sat in the chair across from Miranda, and explained.

"I was babysitting for a friend last night," she started. "Across town. Charlotte—that's who I was watching—had gone to sleep, and I was just going to take a quick nap before her parents got home, but I fell asleep, and apparently I looked tired because when Joanne got home she decided to let me sleep over at their house and not wake me up."

Miranda interrupted. "I did not ask why you were late this morning, Andrea. I asked what happened to your hair."

Andy tried not to get annoyed. It did no good getting angry at Miranda. "What happened to my hair is why I was late. I can't explain one without the other."

If it had been anyone else, Andy would have said the expression on Miranda's face would have been an eye-roll, but Miranda simply did not roll her eyes. Instead, she gave a long-suffering sigh and said, "Very well, continue."

"Well I woke up with sun on my face, and I knew something had gone wrong, so I sat up, but my head was attached to the back of the couch." Andy almost thought Miranda was going to make some comment about sleeping on a couch, but she seemed to restrain herself. "It turned out that a friend of Charlotte's had spilled slow-drying rubber cement on the couch earlier in the day, and they didn't tell anyone, so I had the bad luck to sleep in it. I couldn't even move my head, so Joanne had to cut me off the cushion. I rushed straight home and I didn't even realize how much hair I'd lost until I looked after my shower…" Andy realized she was definitely going into more detail than she needed to, but she was stressed, and she couldn't help it. "I thought I could just pin it up or something, but it isn't even longer than my ear on the left side. I thought a hat would be more presentable than what I did to keep it up. I can… get something better from the closet to cover it with…"

There was a strange look on Miranda's face. It was almost as though she was trying not to laugh. After a moment, she said, "Unacceptable. You cannot walk around all day in a hat. Let me see the damage."

Andy swallowed thickly. "I could go get it cut now?" she squeaked.

Miranda leveled her with a glare. "Do not make me repeat myself."

Andy turned her head away, but complied. She pulled out the five or six bobby pins she had used to secure the hat and pulled it away from her scalp. She thought she heard Miranda gasp slightly, but as she was not looking at her, she couldn't be sure.

"Take it down as well," she ordered.

After talking out the hair tie and more bobby pins, she tried to smooth it out, with limited success. Miranda was silent. When she could take the drawn-out pause no longer, Andy raised her eyes once more to Miranda's face. Miranda looked livid. For once out of only a handful of times, Andy could see an actual emotion on Miranda's face, and she flinched away from the force of it.

"Such a waste…" Miranda whispered, and Andy was unsure if she was talking about her hair or the time wasted by Andrea's tardiness.

"Sorry?" Andy said. She knew apologizing was usually a bad idea around the boss, but she didn't know how else to respond.

"Oh don't be ridiculous, Andrea," Miranda said, finally snapping out of her strange stare. "This was hardly your fault."

Andy had to keep herself from gaping. Since when did Miranda care whose fault it was? She certainly hadn't hesitated to blame a hurricane on Andy.

Miranda leaned forward, sliding her reading glasses down the bridge of her nose as she studied Andy's hair. "Hmm. Stand," she ordered. Andy stood. "Turn." Andy turned, wondering what was going on, but unwilling to ask. "Hmmm," Miranda hummed again when Andy was facing her once more. "It is... salvageable."

She stood up, setting the reading glasses down on the desk as she moved around it, and strode into the doorway of her private bathroom facilities. Andy was uncertain what to do. A moment later, Miranda's head reappeared. "Come along, Andrea."

Andy slowly followed. "Um…"

In the spacious restroom, Miranda pointed to the edge of a large bathtub. "Sit down, stop idling."

"Miranda, what…?"

This time, Miranda actually did roll her eyes. She bent down and began rummaging around in a cabinet. Despite Andy state of near-panic, she was still able to appreciate the view. "Andrea. I cannot allow you to walk around all day with that mess on your head, nor is it appropriate for you to wear a hat inside all day." She stood, now holding an abnormally large bowl. She slid it into the sink and allowed it to begin filling with water as she slid open a drawer. "You will sit, and I will fix this."

Andy suddenly thought she knew what was happening, but didn't quite believe it. "F-fix this?"

Miranda's hand emerged from the drawer holding a hairbrush and scissors. "Yes, Andrea. Fix this."

Chapter Text

Only an editor of a fashion magazine—no, not   an editor, rather, the editor—could manage to find a reason to include such a well-furbished bathroom in her workplace, Andy found herself thinking as she perched awkwardly on the rim of the tub. If Andy had been able to find any words to express the strangeness of the situation she was in, she was sure she would be protesting, but sometime between when Miranda had stepped into the tub behind her and when she had wrapped a decadently soft towel around her shoulders, rational thought seemed to have failed her. Instead, she sat, rigid with tension, as Miranda casually ran a hand through her hair.

Andy felt her breath hitch as her skin shivered under the feather-light touch, and knew this was a bad idea.

"Miranda, I—"

As though hearing the protest before it could reach her lips, Miranda interrupted, "—Andrea. I suppose you have no reason to trust my abilities in this particular area, but really. Could it possibly become worse than it already is? Shall we just skip the griping?"

"But, Miranda—"

"—Indulge me," she quipped, a note of humor in her voice adding to the ever-pleasant timbre.

How could Andy say no to that?

Miranda began sifting through the damaged portion of her hair. Though she was quite gentle, Andy could still feel the awkward tugging because the strands were so stiff with hairspray. Miranda appeared to notice as well, because she muttered, "This is hopeless. I will not be able to tell how short this will need to be unless this… gunk is removed. Lean your head back."

Out of habit, Andy obeyed without question. A moment later, a handful of lukewarm water was poured over her hairline. Though it wasn't too cold, Andy still shivered at the unexpected sensation. More water followed until her hair was mostly covered, and two hands chased the moisture into the remaining strands, softly smoothing down Andy's scalp and the hair below. Andy fought to remain tense rather than relax into the touch, but it was nearly impossible to equate these gentle hands with the commanding presence of her boss.

Andy shivered again as a colder substance dripped onto her head, and the light floral smell told her it was shampoo. Miranda's fingers began to work it into her hair, kneading her scalp as she did so. Miranda is washing my hair. Oh god. Miranda is actually washing my hair. As the belated thought crossed her mind, Andy could not help her eyes fluttering closed. Her spine relaxed as well, perhaps for the first time in months, as the cool hands continued their ministrations. Miranda seemed determined to massage the shampoo into each individual strand by carefully lifting one lock at a time, starting at the roots and tugging downward. As the hands returned to her head with a more forceful touch, Andy could not contain a small sound of pleasure. She knew Miranda had heard, because the sure strokes faltered for a moment, but Miranda did not stop, despite the flush Andy was certain had colored her neck and cheeks.

After a few more wonderful, torturous seconds, the hands pulled back. She could hear as Miranda scooped up more water and one hand gently pressed to her forehead, tilting her face back just a bit more before the water was poured at her hairline. With sure, competent motions, she began a systematic process to wash out the foam, working from roots to ends without letting a single drip out of line. Andy vaguely realized that she wouldn't even need to fix her makeup when Miranda had finished.

Once every bit of shampoo had been cleansed away, Miranda began to repeat the experience with a similarly scented conditioner. It was not the same smell Andy had come to associate with Miranda, which told her that the silver-haired woman was not of a habit to shower in her office.

She worked even more slowly with the conditioner; seeming to linger over each sensitive bit of skin she could possibly touch. Andy knew she was trembling slightly, and she tried to tense up again. Just as she regained a semblance of control over her body, Miranda's perfectly rounded nails raked down her scalp. She reacted with a visible shudder, an audible breath taken in. A slow-smoldering heat that had been simmering under her skin since the beginning of this occurrence seemed to drip lower, pulsing through her blood. "My apologies," Miranda said softly. Andy knew it was most likely her libido talking, but she thought Miranda sounded anything but sorry. This thought was pushed aside, however, because it was such a rare occurrence to hear a word of apology from Miranda at all.

When Miranda finally finished with the conditioner, Andy felt her body was ready to tear itself apart, torn between the ultimate state of relaxation brought on by the gentle touches, and the ever-present arousal that refused to obey Andy's orders whenever Miranda was in a room. Let alone touching her. Come to think of it, this was one of the first times Miranda had physically interacted with her for any extended period. She tried with limited success to rein in her more erotic thoughts, determined to enjoy what was surely a beyond-rare experience of kindness—if it was even that, and not just annoyance that led Miranda to attempt a repair of Andy's nightmare hair day—and not ruin any moment of this peculiar gift.

Andy understood the practicality of waiting with the conditioner in her hair to let the formula do its job. However, at the moment, she didn't know if she could take it, because Miranda continued to run her fingers through Andy's hair, drifting as though unconsciously. Andy had always enjoyed having her hair played with, but with Miranda's fingers running through it, it was taking enjoyed to a whole new level. Finally, the rinse process began again. The water in the bowl had cooled much more by now, and the chill was enough to take the edge off of Andy's arousal. She knew that this was not the reaction she should be having to a practical, albeit unconventional haircut, but months of being nearly always only steps away from the older woman had begun to wear on Andy. She was perfectly willing to admit she had a crush, but the past weeks had given her this tiny window into the private life of the fashion icon, and no matter how much she tried to deny it, crush simply wasn't a strong enough word.

The harsh schnipp! of scissors startled Andy out of her musings. She must have jumped, because Miranda placed a steady hand between her shoulder blades. "Relax, Andrea. I'm not going to stab you," she said dryly. Andy chuckled weakly.

With each deft pinch of fingers, the scissors closed, pulling away with them a lock of hair. Miranda started on the right, swiftly and efficiently removing years' worth of dark, thick hair. Andy found herself better able to relax now, because Miranda had gone into business mode, although with less harshness than her usual fare. She cut with speed and precision, and Andy could see in the mirror as her hair became short all around, though not yet styled. She tried to bite her tongue, but Andy somehow let a question past her lips. "Where did you learn to cut hair?"

She wished she could take it back the minute it slid from her mouth, knowing how Miranda despised being questioned. She could see the hesitation clearly in Miranda's face, but after a moment, she spoke. "There was a time when I was younger when I did not have quite the resources I do now." A comb began working through the tousled strands of shortened hair. "I was allowed to dress window displays in a boutique across the street from my home. I learned to cut hair in order to turn cheap wigs into what I deemed respectable hairstyles for the mannequins. Once I learned, I would often earn myself a bit of pocket money by styling for friends and relatives."

Andy was beyond startled by this veritable wealth of knowledge she had just been given about Miranda's childhood. Miranda did not share stories with her employees, of this Andy was certain. She could see Miranda bracing herself, face going blank in the mirror again. Andy thought for a moment that perhaps she was worried about her opinion, but that would be silly. The only opinion that mattered to Miranda was her own. Andy mentally shook her head. That wasn't true, nor was it fair. Miranda may have been top bitch, but she was still a person outside of Runway, with a past clearly much different from what many must have expected. So Andy was careful as she shaped her short, sincere reply.

"Well, I am impressed, and grateful."

It was true. As she had spoken, and as Andy had sat in silent deliberation, she had finished her styling. In truth, it was short enough to be boy-cut, but Miranda had managed to pull off a strange oxymoron of chic disarray with a distinctly feminine twist. Filled with seemingly random layers, it was just long enough to hide her fingers as she ran them through it, and the layers fell back into place once her hand had passed. She laughed, immediately understanding the attraction of short hair; it could be sent through a wind tunnel, and with a few quick shakes could be back into place.

She caught a glimpse of a smile as it quirked Miranda's lips, and saw a strange warmth in her eyes, but as quickly as it had come, it was gone.

"Don't expect me to make a habit of it," Miranda said, slipping on her professional mask, but with perhaps a bit of humor still present. "And I trust there will be no hunting for rubber cement in the future, either."

Andy smiled. "Of course not, Miranda. I believe babysitting is more hazardous to the health than I knew."

Andy thought perhaps Miranda had smiled at that, but couldn't be sure, because at the same time she had pulled the towel from around Andy's shoulders and ran it briskly over her hair, toweling out the worst of the stray hairs from the cutting. As Miranda was tossing it into a laundry pail in the corner, Andy stood, stretching her legs from the slightly cramped positions they had been stuck in on the edge of the bathtub.

Miranda walked over to her and placed a finger under her chin, immediately stilling Andy's motion. She tilted the younger woman's head from side to side, studying the cut in a critical manner. When she finished, she gave a quick nod and lowered her hand, brushing her finger against Andy's neck as she did so. Andy's breath hitched, but Miranda had already taken a step back. With the hat out of the way, Miranda proceeded to give Andy the usual once-over that had gone unfinished in the morning. She said nothing, but Andy could practically hear the word, "Acceptable," scrolling through her mind. She quelled the urge to grin or fidget, but she knew she still looked unnaturally happy.

Miranda turned to the door, opening it and gesturing Andy through ahead of her. It appeared she was about to speak, but then she caught sight of something over Andy's shoulder, and her face went immediately icy. "Irv. Did Emily not inform you I was unavailable today?"

Andy's eyes widened in shock as they landed on the figure of a clearly impatient Irv Ravitz pacing the far window of Miranda's office.

"She did, but what I have to say to you will not wait while you carry out business with your assistant in the bathroom," Irv's face was ruddy with annoyance, and it was clear from the leer in his tone just what he thought of Miranda's business with Andy.

Miranda did not bat an eye. "If you cannot conduct whatever conversation seems so urgent to you without being unpleasant, I am sure Andrea would be willing to escort you out."

Irv's face darkened further. "Miranda, you are beginning to take this power trip of yours too far. If you put one more toe out of line…"

Miranda yawned. Andy had the sudden urge to cheer. "Irv. You know very well the board has not been thrilled with your performance lately. Kindly bore someone else with tales of your incompetence. Emily!"

Emily's head popped around the doorway as though she had been standing just outside. "Yes, Miranda?"

"See Mr. Ravitz out of my office. If he makes a fuss, call security. Irv, whatever you wished to discuss with me may be said over the phone if you cannot wait until our appointed lunch this week."

Irv spluttered for a moment, but he was a rather spineless man, and brushed past Emily in an attempt at a dignified exit. Andy almost thought Emily was about to trip him, but the gleam in her eye passed and he made it to the elevator unhindered.

"Miranda, Carlos was wondering if the evening run-through might be moved up. Someone from the Times wanted to do an interview and…"

"Fine," Miranda said. "It seems everyone is determined to disrupt this day. Has my laptop arrived?"

"It's sitting on your desk."

"Very well. That's all."

Emily exited and Andy made to follow.

"Andrea."

She turned back. "Yes, Miranda?"

For a moment, Miranda did not reply, looking peculiarly uncertain as to what she had intended to say. Finally, she muttered, "Take this with you and dispose of it properly." She gestured at the old hat. "And make sure the book is ready early tonight. That's all."

Chapter Text

The rest of Andy's day passed in a haze of faces, fashion, and compliments on her new style. Nigel had been the biggest fan of her boy-cut, exclaiming, "Six! I knew the new-and-improved fashionista I'd been working on was missing something, and I do believe you've found it. My work here is officially done."

Emily's eyes had widened when she first saw it, but even she couldn't completely insult Miranda's work. Instead, she had sniffed, "Without that mop on your head you must have dropped at least five pounds." She grudgingly added, "Anyway, your face looks enviously thin."

Andy couldn't hold in her grin at the comment.

After spending nearly an hour harassing the overworked staff to get the book together an hour and a half before schedule, she hopped in a taxi and headed off for the townhouse. Though she was tempted to relax in the back of the cab, she resisted because she knew as soon as she closed her eyes she would start dwelling on the events of the day, and until she was home in the safety of her apartment, that would not be a good idea. Once she started thinking about the haircut, Andy knew she would be over-analyzing every moment.

It had become second nature to carefully think over her days with Miranda, because she needed to be certain she was ready for the next day's work. However, she had gotten to a point where she could anticipate Miranda's needs with little effort, and instead her thoughts would focus on Miranda herself. It was one thing to dwell on Miranda as a woman when she was alone, but if she started thinking that way before she was done for the night, she knew from experience that every moment would turn into one of blushing, stammering embarrassment, no better than her first day on the job. It had happened a few times after Paris, when she was still attempting to deny her affections as anything but admiration, and since then she had come to an agreement with herself: I admit to myself that I have feelings for my boss, so long as I only do so after hours. It was working so far, but today's strange events had sorely tested her resolve.

Traffic was good, for the city, and too soon Andy found herself tipping the cabbie and slipping up the steps to the "Dragon's lair." Holding the hangers of the dry-cleaning between her teeth as she extracted the key from her purse, she chuckled slightly at what Miranda might say if she caught Andy chewing on her stuff. This, of course, led to another stifled giggle, knowing just how much Miranda would resent her clothing being addressed as "stuff," even if only in Andy's head.

She twisted the key in the lock and turned the knob. The door didn't open. For a moment, Andy felt an unnaturally strong sense of panic wash over her at the thought that Miranda had changed her locks without giving her a new key, but she realized that she had heard the click of the lock catching. She turned the key again, and realized Miranda had, in fact, left the door unlocked. She couldn't imagine her doing it on accident, but it was equally impossible to imagine her leaving it open for Andy.

Once inside, Andy could carry out the nightly routine with her eyes closed. Tiptoe to the closet, open the door, hang the dry-cleaning, tiptoe to the flower-table, set down the book, pause for a moment just in case Miranda wanted it brought to her in the study, tiptoe back out. Tonight, she was interrupted before she could even close the closet door on the dry cleaning. Miranda had approached while her head was in the closet, and she jumped when she found her standing just behind the door.

"Andrea. Set the book on the table and join me in the lounge for a minute." She headed into the other room, knowing Andy would follow. Feeling nervous, Andy scurried to place the book on its usual table before going after her. Miranda was sitting on the larger of the two sofas in the living room. "Please, sit, you don't need to look so dreadfully surprised. I have some business of a more… personal nature I would like to discuss with you. Wine?"

Not wanting to sit awkwardly far away in one of the chairs, Andy sat with Miranda on the sofa at what she considered a safe but not uncomfortable distance away. Already feeling slightly out-of-sorts from sitting on Miranda's couch talking about "personal business," she decided wine might not be the best idea. "No thank you," she replied.

Miranda poured two glasses anyway. Oh well. I'll probably need it.

"I need to explain to you a few things about Irv Ravitz. The situation with him today in my office is becoming a common one; in fact, it has been escalating since the divorce. I usually have no trouble dealing with spoiled men, but Irv is getting out of control. I am going to speak plainly, and I am trusting you to use your discretion and let this information go no further." Miranda sighed. "I suppose I feel like I owe you an explanation for any further arguments you may be seeing that are somewhat… not my style."

Andy had in fact thought that Miranda had dealt with Irv strangely harshly and with a bit less tact than usual. In the past, she would speak with him for a few minutes, coldly polite, until Emily or herself would call her away for some, "urgent business." It was well known amongst Miranda's staff that she did not want to be left to deal with Irv for any span of time, but this had been the first time Andy could remember seeing Miranda be so outright rude to the man. Of course, she fully supported knocking him down a few notches, but she wondered at the intelligence behind it. "Of course I'll be discrete, but you don't owe me an explanation, Miranda. If this is personal…"

Miranda cut her off with a wave of her hand. "Perhaps 'owe' was the wrong word." She paused for a moment. "Andrea, I suppose I… want… to explain this to you," she added thoughtfully.

Andy blinked. Want to? She wants me to hear this? Miranda hates explaining herself!

"For quite some time now, Irv has garnered some sort of perverted pleasure from this game he has made of getting into my pants," Miranda said frankly.

Luckily, Andy had just finished swallowing her first sip of wine, or she was certain it would have been spewed across the room. As it was, she only coughed slightly. Miranda had obviously been expecting this sort of reaction, and continued.

"It began with barely disguised innuendos and progressed to outright offers, but since the second divorce began, he has become rather insistent. He has been making thinly veiled threats to disrupt the divorce process if I do not agree to engage in… unfavorable sexual activity with him. Were it just empty threats, I could continue to ignore him as I have done for years. However, he could now throw a wrench in my court proceedings. You may remember the argument I had with Stephen in my office a week or so ago?"

Andy nodded automatically, still slightly shocked and very angry that Irv had been sexually harassing Miranda for months, possibly years. She did remember the argument clearly, though, because it was the only time she had ever heard Miranda raise her voice, and it was in defense of the children.

"He bribed a member of the Elias-Clarke security team—who I can assure you no longer works for us—to give him the security footage of my office that particular day. He now has a recording in which I threaten, in no uncertain terms, to kill my ex-husband. If it were heard in context, anyone could see I was responding to his threats towards my children, but I do not believe Irv is above fabricating or tampering with evidence."

"My god, Miranda. I can't believe he… He really… That bastard!"

Miranda looked somewhat amused by Andy's reaction. "Really, Andrea, is it that difficult to believe our CEO want's to sleep with me?"

"No! I mean, of course he would, I mean, that's not what I meant, I mean…" Andy blushed, trailing off when Miranda actually laughed.

"Relax, Andrea, I was joking."

Andy was sure her face was as red her wine, and her brain was threatening to short-circuit at hearing Miranda laugh freely and make a joke.

Her face grew serious again, and she added, "I'm not really looking for your opinion on these matters, as such. I do, however, require your help for a few things. I already said I trust your discretion, and I may need you to… cover for me, should I be involved with meetings of a delicate legal nature. Irv is clearly of no small influence within this company, and I will be treading carefully to have him removed without my apparent involvement. Should I need to make a select few calls, I may also require your phone."

Though it was phrased as a statement, Andy thought Miranda might have been asking for her permission. Perhaps not, but she answered all the same. "Of course, Miranda. You didn't need to tell me all of this; I wouldn't have asked why if you wanted me to cover for you, or borrow your phone."

Miranda sighed. "I know." She hesitated for a moment. "You trust too easily, Andrea, and I have done nothing to earn that trust. Usually, this wouldn't bother me, but—"

Miranda's cell rang. She sighed again. "This will be the twins; I have to get it."

"Of course. Should I step out—?"

"No," Miranda said as she picked up the phone. So Andy sat somewhat awkwardly beside Miranda as she began the call. Andy could just make out the other side of the conversation, and though she felt somewhat bad, she couldn't help but listen. It was the twins' father, and Miranda seemed surprised to hear from him.

"Where are the girls?" Miranda snapped.

"They're out at a bonfire, Miranda, having fun. Since they don't have to drive back in the morning, I'm letting them stay out. They won't be in until late, so I just called to tell you you wouldn't be hearing from them today."

"I don't mind if it's late, just have them call me when they come in. I want to talk to them."

Andy could hear an aggravated sigh. "Look, Miranda, I was trying to be polite. Truth is, I don't want them talking to you right now. They're young, and they want to know why they're staying with me longer than the usual weekend, and if I let them talk to you, you'll tell them about Stephen's problems as though they were adults. They're ten, Miranda, and I don't want them involved in your shit right now. I can't fight you for custody, so you can talk to them when they're at your place, but if you're going to leave them here while you shovel Stephen's crap around, they're here, and I want that time to be mine. You need to get yourself together. It'll do them good to have this time away from you and all your drama, Miranda. Honestly? They don't want to talk to you in the first place. You aren't around for them anymore. Don't try calling back. And don't do anything… crazy. I—Have a good evening."

Andy could hear the line cut. He had hung up on her. When Miranda finally set the phone down, she wouldn't meet Andy's eyes. In the many months she had known Miranda, this was the first time Andy had seen her making no attempt to put on her professional face, the one that said, "I'm-fine-and-you-soon-won't-be-if-you-keep-looking-at-me." Instead, she was letting the exhaustion of the divorce and family tensions show on the surface. A soul-deep sigh rattled from her lips, and Andy couldn't do the smart thing. She couldn't listen to her rational mind, as it told her she had tried this before and been shoved away. It didn't matter. In that moment, Andy realized how far gone she truly was. She would keep reaching out to this woman, this insufferable, brilliant, beautiful woman. She would take every rejection and scathing remark and come crawling back for more, because some time in the midst of work, fashion, insults, people, hair, and general insanity she had been calling life lately, Andy had fallen in love with her boss.

So she ignored the survival instinct, reached out, and took Miranda's just-shaking hand between both of hers.

"Miranda, please, if there's anything, anything I can do…"

To Andy's shock, Miranda did not pull her hand back. Instead, she said, voice barely above a whisper, "You shouldn't be here. I'm exhausted, that wasn't my first glass of wine, and if I don't have another, I'm probably going to cry. You've seen it once before, and I'm sure you don't want to see it again."

She's talking about Paris.   In a rare moment of true insight, Andy realized something. Miranda hadn't pushed her away that night in Paris because she disliked her, or because she was being cold-hearted, no, quite the opposite. She had pushed Andy away because she didn't want anyone to see her after she had just finished crying. She didn't want anyone to see her weak. Her weakness was her girls, and that night, she had known her girls were going to go through hell a second time, and of course, she blamed herself. Now, she had just been told something entirely heartbreaking for a mother to hear in the midst of an all-out war of a divorce, but this time, she was too tired, perhaps even a little bit drunk, and she couldn't just tell Andy to "do her job." She didn't want Andy to see her weak, but at the same time, she needed someone. Looking down at that soft, strangely vulnerable-looking hand between hers, she realized that Miranda needed her today, and even if she would never say it, never thank her for it, she needed her, and just that would be enough for Andy to ignore her words, and stay.

Miranda's eyes seemed fixed on their joined hands, perhaps to avoid looking Andy in the eye. Andy slid closer to the exhausted woman, not close enough for their legs to touch, but so she could reach to the table beside them. She kept one hand on Miranda's while refilling both of their wine glasses with the other.

"Here," she said, handing Miranda one glass. "Your daughters love you."

Miranda looked up sharply, but Andy didn't allow her to speak. "I know you aren't looking for pity or false reassurances; that's not what I'm saying. I'm not saying they're not annoyed with you right now, because they most likely are. What I am saying is, they want to know what's happening in your life. They're annoyed because you aren't there, and they want you to be. Most children would be pleased at the little bit of extra freedom this is giving them, but not Caroline and Cassidy. They just want it over so they can have their mother back. I've met your girls more than once, remember? Despite their habit of pranking your unassuming assistants, they're well-mannered, genuinely nice children. If I get here with the book and you're late at the office or at your lawyers' place, they come down and ask when you'll be home. They just want to see more of you. Once this mess with Stephen, with Irv, is finished, it will only take a bit of time spent with them and they'll be happy with you again."

Miranda had finished her glass during Andy's speech. For a long moment, she was silent, still staring at Andy's hand in hers. Andy was sure, for a moment, that that was it, she had overstepped far beyond anything she had done before, and she started to pull away, but Miranda's fingers clenched around hers, stilling her motion.

"My girls talk to you?" she finally asked.

Of all the things she could pick to say at that moment, it seemed an odd choice, but Andy answered anyway. "Yeah. Since the Harry Potter… um… incident. I know I'm not supposed to linger when I drop off the book, but when you aren't here, they seem a bit lonely and—"

"Thank you," Miranda said, looking directly into Andy's eyes. "Now, please, stop talking."

Andy stopped talking. Miranda reclaimed her hand to refill Andy's glass, which Andy had not even noticed finishing. There was something about sitting with Miranda that kept Andy from feeling buzzed, as though she didn't want to waste a moment of this strange evening under the influence of alcohol.

Miranda got up and went into the kitchen. A moment later she returned, her wine glass now filled with water. Clearly, she thought she had had enough to drink. Andy hadn't moved while she had been gone, and Miranda sat back in her corner of the couch. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes for a moment, looking thoroughly relaxed for the first time in months. Andy couldn't take her eyes off of the older woman. So she indulged herself, drinking in that eternally elegant neckline, the sculpted cheekbones, and the silver hair of the fashion icon in a way she doubted many saw. Her chest seemed to tighten as she watched Miranda sitting there. There were no words, but there was a degree of trust in Miranda's motion that Andy never thought she would witness. She sipped her wine slowly, yet somehow when Miranda finally opened her eyes once again, Andy was startled to find her glass empty once more. Was that my third? Or my fourth?

Either way, she couldn't seem to pull her eyes away from Miranda. Miranda wasn't focused on her, so she didn't have to. Instead, Miranda sipped her water in silence. When the glass was empty, she let out a small sigh. Andy had heard quite a range of Miranda's sighs. She had heard the sighs of exasperation, the sighs of annoyance, the sighs of the long-suffering fashion queen. She had also heard the sighs of exhaustion, of carefully-hidden sorrow. This sigh, however, was the first sigh of contentment she had ever heard slip past Miranda's lips. And Andy felt certain that, for once, she completely agreed. There was something about this still, quiet moment that made Andy feel, not so much happy, but right. As though there had been so much hectic energy rushing around and through her lately, and this, sitting here with Miranda, felt like a strange, probably never to be repeated, moment of peace.

Without meeting Andy's gaze, Miranda stretched a hand across the space between them, and it was her turn to take one of Andy's hands in hers. She held it with one hand, cradling it, spreading the fingers. With the other, she slowly stroked from the veins at Andy's wrist, across the palm, the fingers, until she paused, hesitating with each of her fingertips aligned just touching Andy's own. When she finally pulled back, releasing Andy's hand, Andy let out a shaky breath she hadn't realized she was holding.

Then, she yawned. It wasn't big, or loud, but Miranda caught it all the same. She looked up, finally meeting Andy's eyes. "You look nearly as tired as I feel," she said quietly, almost kindly. "It wouldn't be right of me to send you home in a taxi after you've been drinking, and its Roy's evening off."

Andy blinked. When she spoke, her voice sounded a bit hoarse, as though it had been hours of silence, not minutes. "I'll be fine in a taxi, or on the metro," she said.

Miranda shook her head. "There are all sorts of unpleasant people in New York's night life. Besides, we both have work tomorrow, and you deserve a real night's sleep. I have two guest rooms, Andrea, you will stay."

"You don't have to—"

"—Indulge me," she said, smiling.

Andy shivered, remembering those words spoken this morning before her strangely… intimate haircut. She covered her reaction with a light laugh and said, "Last time you said that, I ended up short a few pounds of hair."

Miranda chuckled as well. "Can you complain?"

Andy sighed. "Fine, no I can't."

"Exactly. Now come on, before you fall asleep on the couch."

She followed Miranda up a flight of stairs to a bedroom she had not seen. By this point, the wine seemed to be taking affect. She had always been a drowsy-drinker, and though she did notice the room was tastefully modern, done in shades of cream and brown, she wasn't able to take in much more than that. Miranda pointed out the bathroom, reminding her to take at least a rinse, since she would otherwise be itchy from her haircut.

"Go ahead. I'll leave you something to sleep in while you are in the shower. My room is across the hall, the door on the right, if you need anything."

Andy couldn't believe she was going to do this. When she had gotten up that morning, getting a haircut and sleeping in the home of Miranda Priestly had been the farthest things from her mind. "Thank you. Really, thank you so much," she said.

Miranda appeared slightly awkward accepting her thanks, but she nodded, adding, "Of course. After all, we can't have anyone letting you sleep in and be late for work; someone at least half-competent needs to bring me my coffee." With that, she left Andy alone in the nicest bedroom she had ever slept in, alone with her thoughts.

Andy was surprised Miranda had even listened to her when she had explained why she was late this morning, let alone made a joke about it. Trying to keep from dwelling on anything relating to Miranda while knowing she was sleeping only a hall away, she took a quick but thorough shower, feeling irrationally regretful, as though by washing her hair she was washing away Miranda's touch from that morning. She was amazed that running a towel through it five or six times dried it as well as twenty minutes of hair-drying before, and twice as perfectly. Looking at her reflection in the mirror, she noticed how unusually bright her tired eyes looked, and how her lips threatened to twitch into a smile no matter how intently she tried to straighten them. Have I got it bad or what, she thought. She wondered if Miranda could see it in her eyes, this irrational, out-of-the-blue, stupid, stupid love she had for the woman, but she immediately dismissed the thought. If Miranda knew even half of what I think of her, I certainly wouldn't be staying here tonight, let alone have a job.

There was indeed nightwear on the bed: some designer nightgown Andy was too tired to recognize. She did, however, notice how delectably soft it was, and how it wasn't quite a fit for her. She wondered briefly if she was sleeping in Miranda's pajama's, and fell asleep with that stupid, stupid smile still fixed on her face.

Chapter Text

"Andrea."

Andy stirred slightly, rolling over and smiling at Miranda's voice entering her vague dreams.

"Andrea."

This time, there was more force behind the word, and Andy grumbled, rolling again while pulling a pillow partway over her face. Apparently, it was to be one of the dreams where Miranda was impatient or angry—basically a nightmare—rather than one of the more… pleasant varieties. Either way, she was not about to be wakened by a dream-Miranda. She was far too comfortable, warm, and drowsy.

She heard a resigned sigh and felt someone give her shoulder a gentle shake. "Andrea. Wake up."

At this, despite how dozy and dopey she felt, Andy was awake, unwilling even in her half-sleep to ignore a direct command from Miranda. "What—oh!"

Miranda, the real one, not some figment of her imagination, stood beside the bed, a hand on Andy's shoulder and an impatient quirk to her lips. Andy blushed, hurriedly tugging down her nightgown which had ridden up to the top of her thighs. She wasn't entirely sure what had happened to the covers, except that they were no longer on her. Miranda's eyes followed the motion of Andy's hand as she adjusted her clothing, looking suddenly amused. As Andy sat up, Miranda said, "Good. I was beginning to worry that some cold water might be in order to get you out of bed. There's clothing in the closet there; something along the left side, close to the door, ought to fit. Cosmetics are in the cabinet above the sink. Roy will be along in twenty minutes, and I expect you to be ready by then."

After Miranda had left the room, shutting the door behind her, Andy wasted at least three of her precious twenty minutes just sitting on the bed, staring at the door. Her head was vaguely sore, but not terribly considering the amount of alcohol she had consumed. Her brain was still trying to run back through the night before to make sense of her current situation. Right. I slept here. The Irv mess. Miranda loaned me pajamas. The twins. My haircut. Stephen. Everything's a mess. And I slept here. Andy laughed at her own disjointed thoughts. She most certainly wasn't a morning person. The last thought to run through her head was, Twenty minutes!

She jumped out of the bed, nearly stubbing her toe on a dresser and coming dangerously close to letting out a loud curse. If she were in her own home, she would most likely have not only stubbed her toe, but spent at least an entire minute cursing her pain, her feet, her job, Miranda Priestly, the hour of the morning, and anything else she could think of. She had always found that, in order to be an optimistic person in public, it helped to get out all the negative energy in a good cuss-fest—when alone, of course. Thankfully, her survival instinct kept her on the right track, which led her to the closet.

Pulling one of the dark-stained doors towards her, a light blinked on, and Andy's jaw dropped. Knowing this was Miranda's guestroom and this therefore wasn't even her everyday closet made her head hurt even more. Only Miranda would feel the need to keep more clothing in her spare closet than Andy would own in a lifetime. Noticing some of the things were in bags on the ground, Andy realized these were most likely the samples designers liked to send to her. Designers felt the need to send Miranda gifts—poorly disguised bribes—and it annoyed the fashion maven to no end. It didn't matter to her how many pieces of clothing they wasted their time designing just for her, if their line didn't meet her standards, they were shown no favoritism. Andy understood the awkward position this put her in, as she couldn't exactly give away the clothing: each piece was a unique design, and it would create an entire market for Miranda's castoffs. Instead, she had a closet full of samples, gifts, and other miscellaneous clothing which she may or may not someday wear.

Today, Andy would wear it. Miranda was right, the samples closest to the door were around her size, and she quickly slid into a matching pair of navy La Perla briefs and bra. An untagged skirt and blouse followed; topped by a long, flimsy sweater and the same heels she had worn the night before, unwilling to borrow shoes as well. Using the floor-length mirror, she finger-combed her hair into presentable disarray before heading to the bathroom for her usual morning makeup. When she was ready, she was shocked to see how little time it had taken her. Without the usual mess of blow-drying and/or straightening and/or styling her hair, she saved more than ten minutes from her traditional routine.

She met Miranda in the kitchen and was immediately caught by that piercing blue stare. She paused, allowing Miranda a moment to complete the usual check of her attire. This morning, Miranda appeared to be taking her time. Her eyes lingered on the hair, a slight tilt to one corner of her mouth that could have almost been a smile. The gaze travelled slowly down her neck, torso, and legs. She never lingered in one place, yet the perusal felt different to Andy. Perhaps it was the fact that she was standing in the woman's kitchen, but whatever caused it, her body seemed determined to react as though it were a hand caressing her body, not just a look. She knew she was blushing, her chest tightening, abdomen trembling slightly. Andy bit her lip, trying to snap out of it. Miranda's eyes finally returned to hers once more, and now she did give a light smile. "Well. It would appear these clothes are finally being put to good use." She glanced above Andy's head at the clock. "I heard Roy pull up. We may actually be early today."

Unsure how to respond to any of that, Andy was glad that Miranda had turned and headed for the door. If Roy was surprised to find Andy at Miranda's home this early in the morning, he gave no sign. They rode in silence, the way it always was when Miranda didn't have a specific task for her, but again, it wasn't how it always was, because something had shifted between the two women, and Andy didn't know whether to be afraid of the change, or thrilled.

When the Elias-Clarke building came into view, Miranda said, "Drop us off in front of Starbucks." At this request, Andy caught a flash of surprise reflected in Roy's eyes, but he nodded, pulling up in front of the busy café.

As Roy pulled away, Andy followed Miranda inside, unsure of exactly what was going on. To her astonishment, Miranda actually deigned to explain. "We're early. I don't need to give my staff a heart attack, nor do I want there to be any excuse for Irv to claim even a minute of my spare time."

A cashier suddenly appeared beside them, looking nervous, asking to take their order. Apparently, even Starbucks would wait on Miranda Priestly. Miranda ordered two coffees, and a moment later, they appeared, both steaming hot. Andy headed for the door, expecting Miranda to take her coffee with her, but no. Miranda seemed determined to make this entire morning different from her usual routine, and it was making Andy edgy and anxious.

"Andrea, where do you think you're going? Sit down for a moment, or I might think you wanted to rush into work. We have twenty minutes to kill."

And so they sat, Miranda sipping her coffee, staring out the window, while Andy tried to blow on hers nonchalantly. She couldn't drink it a hot as Miranda. The silence stretched on, Andy unwilling to push her luck with small talk. Instead, she took the moment to observe Miranda. It was something she had done so many times, but hardly ever with the intent to simply look. It was dangerous, after all, because the longer she traced the line of that flawlessly imperfect nose, searched out the just-visible dusting of wrinkles around her eyes, her mouth… Each moment she looked she was tempted, oh so tempted, to outline each distinct feature with her fingertips, with her lips…

It was Miranda that broke the silence, turning to face Andy who tried not to look guiltily as though she had been staring. The fact that she had been was beside the point. "Tell me, Andrea, do you still live in the same apartment?"

Andy supposed even Miranda made small talk sometimes, but she was still surprised at the question. "Yup, er… yes," she corrected, shocked that her mouth had even produced the word, "yup," in Miranda's presence. Rather than looking annoyed, Miranda merely appeared amused. She retreated into her silence once again, which left Andy squirming. She was a naturally talkative person, and those three syllables could hardly tide her over if she was expected to remain sitting here. She wondered yet again why she was here, sitting in the café, occupying the spare time of Miranda Priestly for the second time in as many days. She wished, in some ways, that she could leave, leave everything, salvage what was left of her emotional connection to the rest of the world by severing it from this woman, but she knew already how well that worked. She had tried. And failed. So instead, in other, surer ways, she wished she could sit here every morning and take in every possible moment with this woman.

Less than three sips of her now-drinkable coffee later, the weight of the silence got to her, and she blurted, "I'm probably going to move out soon, find a new place."

Miranda appeared unfazed by Andy's sudden outburst and merely nodded, as though there had never been a pause in the flow of conversation. "And is your… hmm… personal chef aware of this?"

"What?" Andy asked, thoroughly confused.

Miranda waved a hand dismissively. "The boy," she said. "The one who's birthday had you so distracted at my benefit."

"Oh! Nate." Andy was quite surprised that Miranda even knew of her ex-boyfriend's existence, and couldn't help but give a slight laugh at the title of personal chef. "No, I mean, he doesn't need to know. He... erm... isn't in the picture anymore."

Miranda arched an eyebrow. "I see," she said.

With that, she drained the last of her coffee and stood, leaving Andy to take a hurried last gulp and dash after her to the strangely wonderful sound of, "Come along, Andrea."

Throughout the day, it was apparent nothing had changed. Miranda had fired three lesser employees by noon, Emily appeared torn between pulling out her own hair or pulling out what was left of Andy's, and everything about the magazine was all wrong for the rapidly approaching deadline. In other words, it was an entirely normal day at Runway. Andy spent most of her day behind the desk answering phone calls. Irv called twice but she managed to reroute his attentions both times, keeping him from disturbing Miranda. After the second call, Miranda summoned Andy into her office.

"Shut the door."

Andy did. Once it had clicked into place, Miranda allowed a wry smile to flash across her lips. "Andrea, as much as I appreciate your concern, you cannot solve my problem by keeping Irv out of this office. I cannot be, 'presently engaged elsewhere' every time he calls. Next time, send him through to my line."

"Yes, Miranda," Andy answered reluctantly. As much as she wanted to keep every part of Irv away from her boss, Andy knew she was being irrational.

Again, Miranda's lips quirked. It wasn't quite a smile, as Andy was certain she had earned more than her allowance today, but is was amusement none the less. "I must say, I'm flattered by how… determined you are. I will need your phone at four thirty, and the book will be finished before I leave today, so you may as well go home as soon as I return your phone."

Though Andy wanted to argue that she could still get work done, she was too shocked by the offer of an early day to put a sentence together. Before she could protest, Miranda finished with, "That's all."

When four thirty rolled around, Andy gingerly reentered Miranda's office. The editor was hunched over a spread of photos, engrossed. As Andy waited, not wanting to disturb her, she pulled her reading glasses from the bridge of her nose. She slowly slid one end back and forth against her lips, contemplating two of the images with a slow sigh. Andy loved watching her in these moments, when she was creating her masterpiece in that way no one else could hope to live up to. As she held a photo up to the light from the window, she caught sight of Andrea.

"Well don't just stand there," she snapped, setting the glasses down on her desk. "Close the door and sit." She gestured at the seat across from her.

Andy obeyed, pulling her slightly-abused phone from her pocket and handing it to Miranda. Miranda took it between two fingers as though it smelled. "Really, Andrea," she said, taking in the scratched and dimpled surface. "Do I not pay you enough to afford anything but a fossil?"

As a matter of fact, no, Andy thought, but she said nothing aloud. She knew her phone was, to put it nicely, a piece of crap, but she was used to it, and besides, she had thrown her work-phone in a fountain and couldn't afford to replace it without explaining exactly what happened to the old one.

Miranda sniffed, apparently taking her silence as answer enough. "Have Emily add you to the company list before tomorrow."

Andy nodded. She was waiting for a, "that's all," or some other customary dismissal, but instead, Miranda began to speak.

"I want to conduct a legal procedure without going through any of my usual lawyers or publicists. Right now, they are all overloaded handling the divorce and I cannot afford for any of them to let slip information regarding Irv. Usually, Leslie takes care of publicity, but she had been disappointing lately, and not everyone in her company is as close-mouthed as they should be. I found a company willing to work with me behind-the-scenes, as such, but I need to be sure they are as legally savvy as they claim, and that I am not involving myself with some… nest of terrorists, or other undesirables."

Andy nodded slowly, following so far, but uncertain as to why she was being told any of this.

"You took pre-law classes at your school, did you not?"

"Yes…" Andy answered with reluctance. She had wanted to placate her father, and so had added a minimum of legal studies to her already loaded schedule.

"As I'm sure you know I fired my legal advisor last weekend."

Andy gulped. She knew indeed. Miranda hadn't fired him as such; rather she had told Andy to fire him. It had been a bit of a traumatic experience for her because the posh, dignified, somewhat elderly gentleman had actually begun to cry a bit. That, however, wasn't what caused her throat to go suddenly dry. That was entirely because she had an idea where Miranda was going, and she didn't like it. Not to mention how strange it was for Miranda to beat around the bush. If she wanted Andy to—

"You will be… standing in for him until this business with Irv has been cleared up."

And there it is.

So she did. For the next hour, she sat silently across Miranda, acting out the job she had been so carefully avoiding. At first, Andy was hesitant, not sure how to tell Miranda that her first company was definitely not operating entirely on the friendly side of the law, but when they surreptitiously offered a "home search effort," Andy had finally reached over and slammed a finger down on the disconnect button. Though Miranda had looked slightly shocked by her audacity, she still offered a nod of approval, and Andy wondered if that wasn't perhaps some sort of test, seeing how Miranda had a second company ready to call as well. After that, Andy went into lawyer-mode, something she hadn't done since she had last sat on jury duty, but she was determined to make this as efficient and professional as possible. And also legal. Legal would definitely be good. She would not have Miranda getting herself into any more of a situation than she was already in.

Though there were a few places where the second company began to stray into legally-grey territory, Andy would catch Miranda's eye with a shake of her head, and Miranda would chastise the representative until he gave her another option. By the time the hour was up, they had worked out an entirely legal investigation into what Miranda was certain could have Irv in jail: his spending policies regarding the company budget. Though Miranda would rather have him arrested for the sexual harassment she had witnessed him conduct towards some of the models as well as herself, unless she was willing to testify, she was going to have to live with embezzlement charges. When they were off of the line, Andy said, "You do know your finances will probably be looked into as well."

Miranda gave Andy a sharp look. "Are you accusing me of hypocrisy, Andrea? Do you think I am stealing money as well?"

Andy quickly backtracked. "Of course not, Miranda. I was just worried about publicity. I know you were trying to avoid it but..."

Miranda sighed. "Did you not notice the time they estimated for Irv to first be called into court? That's next week. The divorce should be finalized by this Friday, next Monday at the latest. Leslie will be able to handle any press I could possibly attract by then. Besides; I, unlike our esteemed CEO, have nothing to hide in my financial dealings with Elias-Clarke."

A strange look came over Miranda's face in that moment and she leaned fully back in her chair, suddenly relaxed. It gave Andrea a feeling of déjà vu, remembering that peaceful moment in her townhouse the night before. Miranda sighed again, but this time with a little laugh at the end. She looked up once more, eyes burning directly into Andy's.

"I never thought I would see the day, Andrea, but I do believe that for once, everything is going absolutely right."

Andy was sure her skepticism was clearly written all over her expression. Going right? She was having her CEO fired, she was divorcing her husband, she had been practically forced into trusting her assistant with private information, and she thought things were going right?

But something must have been going on that Andy didn't understand, because Miranda was certainly in the best mood Andy had ever witnessed. In fact, she openly laughed at the look on Andy's face. Though restrained, the laugh was clearly real, as it filled Miranda's entire face with a lively glow. Watching Miranda laugh, Andy wondered how it was possible to fall for the woman any more than she already had, but god, that laugh, if she could watch it every day, bring it out of her sometimes, Andy thought she just might be the happiest person alive.

The laugh lasted only a moment before it turned into that look again, the one Andrea couldn't quite understand, with that small, devious quirk to her lips. "You must think me mad," Miranda said. "But just you wait, Andrea..." She trailed off, and as quickly as the mirth had come, it was gone, replaced by a solemn, almost pained look. "...Just you wait," she echoed herself. "One week," she finally muttered as though thinking aloud. There was a moment of silence in the office, each woman staring at a different patch of blank wall, lost in entirely separate thoughts.

Then Emily barged in, calling, "Irv said he was in the elevator and if he couldn't be put through to you now he would get off at this floor rather than the budget meeting."

Instantly, Miranda's face had completely closed off. "Put him through." Emily exited and Miranda picked up her phone before it could ring. "Really, Irv, there is no need for the melodrama..."

Andy couldn't suppress a light snort, and Miranda shot her a look. Appearing to ignore whatever Irv was blathering about on the line, she handed Andy her phone. Putting a hand over the mouthpiece, Miranda briskly said, "Go home. Be here early tomorrow, in the Starbucks at the same time as today. That's all."

As she gathered her things, Emily snapped from across the room, "Where do you think you're going? Don't tell me you've managed to get yourself fired after all this time."

Andy smiled. Despite her near-constant state of sarcastic bitchiness, Andy genuinely liked the fiery redhead. "Not yet!" she called over her shoulder as she headed for the elevator. "Maybe tomorrow."

As the doors slid shut, she just caught Emily's exaggerated eye-roll, and it made her smile. All in all, her day had been a helluva strange one, but it had been... good.

And so passed a week. Each morning, Andy found herself once more having coffee with Miranda. Each time, Miranda mildly startled Andy with a bit of small talk, a few personal questions. Andy managed to reply with a limited amount of stammering, and by Wednesday, she had even built up the courage to ask Miranda one in reply. By Friday, there was an easy enough banter flowing between them, and Miranda walked away looking as though she had been pleasantly surprised. Andy cherished each one of these times unquestioningly. She didn't dare wonder at Miranda's reasoning behind them for fear they would come to a sudden end. Instead, she took every opportunity to learn some tidbit of what went on in the mind of her unfathomable, exquisite boss.

Each morning, Runway ran much as it always had. Andy worked the desk and the very occasional errand, Emily ran around frantically, Nigel did whatever it exactly was that he was always doing, and Miranda, well, Miranda-ed. The only difference at all for Andy was that she had taken to running her fingers through her hair whenever she did, well, anything. Get on the phone with an annoying patron? Mess with hair. Get off the phone with said annoying patron? Sigh and mess with hair. Coming in from outside? Mess with hair. Getting out of a car? Mess with hair. It was an addicting habit for Andy, because it gave her something to fidget with that she couldn't do any damage to. Her old habit had been in dismantling pens and putting them back together, but she often lost some small, key part like the spring and would be left with a perfect looking pen that didn't actually function. Messing with hair that always sprang back into place was the perfect solution for her, but it was driving Emily mad.

"For god's sake, would you stop scratching like some sort of flea-ridden mutt?" she once demanded. Another time it was, "Really, must you pet yourself every five minutes?" But her absolute favorite was, "Keep rubbing like that and your head will go as bald as a Buddha's belly," which Andy actually found rather clever.

Each time, Andy apologized sweetly for distracting her, and it wasn't like she was doing it on purpose, but she couldn't seem to drop the habit. Every time she caught sight of her hair in a mirror, she was reminded of the gentle touch of Miranda's skilled hands, and warmth would fill her chest. She never dwelled on it for long, though, or the heat would begin sinking lower, making for an uncomfortable rest of the day.

Then it would be afternoon, and Andy would find herself holed up in Miranda's office for increasing lengths of time as the week went on. There were phone calls to be conducted, channels to go through, people to steer in the right direction as they steered their people in the right direction. By Friday, everything was sorted out. The company Miranda had been working with proved competent and efficient. They contacted the right people in the finance world, prompting them to notice the suspicious activity in the Elias-Clarke budgeting without actually saying a word about Elias-Clarke, Miranda, Irv, or Runway. They then steered those people into contacting the NYPD investigative branch, and from then on it was simply a matter of sitting back and watching the show. A final call Friday afternoon put Leslie on the alert for bad publicity in the coming week. When the last phone line was disconnected, Andy watched Miranda relax once more, that pleased smile gracing her lips. Internally, Andy mused, Yes, revenge really is sweet, sometimes, but she didn't speak it aloud.

Miranda handed back Andy's phone for what she suspected would be the final time, and Andy stood, ready to leave as she had every other day. Miranda said nothing until Andy was at the door, but when Andy faced her a last time, those piercing pale-blue eyes were waiting. For the first time since that almost ethereal Monday, Andy watched Miranda consciously let go of the walls she kept up in the office. She allowed a look of gratitude to show in her eyes, and even whispered, "Thank you."

Andy could see an internal struggle happening just behind those eyes, and she wasn't sure why, but she knew she needed to go. She gave Miranda a nod to acknowledge the rare thanks, and she was sure she meant to say, "You're welcome," but what actually came out of her mouth was, "Anything."

She didn't wait for the dismissal; she simply turned and left, wondering what Monday would bring.

Saturday, Andy slept in ridiculously late. Usually, even when she tried, she could only sleep till nine before the sun would pry through her eyelids, or the phone would ring and she'd find herself doing something for Miranda despite the weekend. Somehow, she had fallen asleep with her face in a pillow, though, and she instinctively knew Miranda wouldn't be calling, so she didn't wake until eleven thirty. She ate breakfast at lunch time, splurging slightly with a single, huge, homemade raspberry pancake topped with Greek yogurt and pear slices. It was heaven. The afternoon passed in that daze that always happens after sleeping half the day away, but Lily and Doug convinced her into going out for drinks that night.

She had fun for the first hour or so, sitting in a patchy booth in the best-lit corner of a small karaoke bar, everyone exclaiming over her new haircut. She laughed, watching Doug and Lily do an entertaining little routine to some duet from the musical RENT, clearly written for two female voices, but Doug valiantly pushed through it, leaving Andy doubled over in tears of laughter by the end. Lily tried to drag her up afterward, but Andy was far too tired and far from drunk enough to start singing, so she managed to pull away.

"Maybe later," she agreed when Doug gave her his best awkward puppy eyes, and Lily gave a little cheer. "The key word being maybe," Andy quickly added.

Then, Nate showed up, and everything got a whole lot more awkward.

"Hey guys!" he called, spotting their table. He didn't look at all surprised to see Andy there, though Doug looked as surprised as Andy to see him. Lily looked guilty.

"Sorry Andy," Lily whispered in her ear. "He asked if we were going out, and I couldn't lie. I told him you were coming because I guess I thought he wouldn't show, but, well..."

Andy sighed as Nate tried to give her a hug, but seeing how she was sitting down in a booth seat, it had to be one of the most awkward hugs she had ever endured. "You're looking great, Andy," he said as he slid in across from her. Andy gave a halfhearted smile and a noncommittal sound of agreement. She wondered why he was here. He was the one who ended it, after all, and the one who didn't even want to try being friends again for a while. And now here he was, sitting across from her and grinning that boyish, flirty smile she used to find so cute. Now, it just gave her a headache.

For a bit longer, it was okay, everyone talking about neutral topics and making little jokes. Then, Nate asked, "So what made you go for short hair? It looks good and all, but it doesn't really seem like something you would do..."

Andy bristled. Who was Nate to act like he knew her so well? Maybe once, but he didn't have that right any more. Andy didn't want to look rude, so she decided to tell the morning story in the hopes of getting a few laughs to lighten the mood. Lily groaned in sympathy and apology when she got to the rubber cement part, but Andy waved off her, "Wow, I'm so sorry!" with a quick reassurance that she actually had a good time. She told of her mad dash home in the morning and realizing how bad it looked. By the time she had brought up getting ready for work, she realized her mistake. Still, Nate didn't look put-off by the Runway mention, and Lily begged, "Oh come on, did you actually go to work like that?"

"Yeah. I put on this absolutely hideous hat and went in. I made it just before Miranda did."

"Oh my god, what did she say?" Doug asked. By now, Nate was starting to look uncomfortable. Just the mention of Miranda's name appeared to set him on edge, but Andy felt a sudden need to be a bit... well, mean. She decided, Hey, honesty is the best policy, right?

"She immediately demanded that I get rid of the hat, except I think she called it an, 'offending scrap of fabric.'"

Doug and Lily laughed, as though it were just like the good old days when they would make fun of Andy's demon-boss together, back before Andy had started defending her.

"I told her that wasn't a good idea, but she made me do it anyway, and she looked pretty annoyed when she saw my hair. She was all, 'What a waste.' Then, she practically dragged me into her bathroom and said she was going to fix it."

"No way," Lily said, eyes wide with laughter. "You're making this up."

Andy gave a slightly strained laugh and shook her head. "Nope. I'm completely serious. She gave me this haircut. And I mean—" She quickly ran a hand through it. "—didn't she do a good job?"

Lily was shaking her head in disbelief. "Wow, Andy. I have to admit it, she really did. I can't get over it that your boss gave you a haircut."

Doug nodded, and Andy wasn't sure if he was agreeing with the disbelief or the good haircut.

Nate, however, looked positively livid. "Jesus, Andy, you let her hack off all your hair?"

Andy sighed in annoyance. "No, Nate, she didn't 'hack off' my hair; she fixed a disaster of a day for me, and I'm extremely grateful for it."

Nate rolled his eyes. "I can't believe it. I thought by now you might have realized that you weren't getting anything out of this stupid job, but instead that woman still has you wrapped around her finger. Can't you see she's just using you?"

Andy didn't want to have this conversation. She had had it before, and she knew it wasn't going to go any differently this time. "She's my boss, Nate, can't you see that? She's supposed to use me. I'm an assistant—it's my job to do everything for her. I may not have realized that back when I first started, but I understand my job now, and I do it well. It really is an opportunity. Now, please, I don't want to do this again. I was actually having a fun night, but I'm going to leave now so we don't end it with some huge argument, okay?"

Lily and Doug gave her sheepish nods, and Nate looked ready to say something, but Doug not-so-subtly kicked him under the table. "Well see you around, Andy," Doug added. She gave Lily a quick hug and left, hopping into a cab and heading home.

Sunday, Andy woke early and went for a jog. She actually took some time around lunch to have a cup of coffee and read the paper, where she found a small box on page six announcing the finalization of the "Third Priestly Divorce." There were a few bitter words below the headline, but compared to a drunken celebrity cat-fight, it was hardly news. Turning two more pages, she was immediately confronted with a red-faced, spluttering Irv Ravitz; the half-page photo of his arrest. He was cuffed, being escorted none-too-gently into a police car. Andy couldn't help but grin and laugh as she read the article.

CEO OF ELIAS-CLARKE'S ENTIRELY UNFASHIONABLE ARREST

Irv Ravitz, head of the company most well-known for its successful line of fashion magazines, was arrested late Saturday evening for embezzlement charges. The officer heading what had been a live investigation into E-C's finances, Detective Cohen, reported at the scene of arrest, "For month's now, there's been an odd increase in the budget for one of the magazines... Runway, I believe, but the spending didn't line up, so it caught the attention of one of our senior finance correspondents. Sure enough, there were some odd accounts drinking up the cash, with nothing coming back." As of now, Irv will be released on bail until his trial in two weeks, but his position has already been filled by Andrew Phillips, a rookie business major with a promising, if short, career.

Though minor investigations were made into the finances of other important staff members, it is apparent that Mr. Ravitz was alone in his deceit. Miranda Priestly, editor-in-chief of Runway, when asked her opinion of the money being stolen from her magazine, did not provide a comment.

An undisclosed source has hinted that there may be charges of sexual harassment forthcoming at Irv's hearing, but as of now, no one has come forward with anything other than hearsay. This case may well be one to follow in the upcoming days.

Andy set down the paper with a smile. Miranda had certainly won this time, and perhaps someone was actually willing to talk about Irv's tendencies towards sexual impropriety. She wondered if Miranda had known that the money was being taken directly from her budget. She remembered when Miranda had requested Irv add on to her quarterly budget. She felt Runway had earned it because her profits had risen sharply since the last issue, but he had refused. Now it would appear he had been living like a parasite off of their earnings. Somehow, Andy didn't think Miranda had known, or Irv would have likely been arrested with some sort of… incidental injury.

The phone rang.

Andy reached over blindly, still sipping her coffee, and pressed talk without checking the caller ID. She was expecting a call from Lily. "Hello?"

"I presume you saw the articles?"

Andy spluttered, spraying an undignified amount of coffee across the newspaper. Typical Miranda, no greeting, right to the point.

"I, yes, I did."

The line was silent.

"And I suppose congratulations are in order. Irv's gone."

She could practically hear Miranda's self-satisfied smile through the line. "That he is."

Andy was hesitant to ask, but she genuinely wanted to know, and besides, it was Sunday. She somehow didn't think Miranda would fire her for asking a personal question when Miranda was the one who had called in the first place. "I saw... that the divorce is finished. Does that mean the twins will be coming home?"

For a long moment, Miranda said nothing, leaving Andy squirming on the other side, hoping she hadn't completely overstepped. Finally, Miranda answered.

"Not for another two weeks." She heard that soul-rattling sigh as it crackled through the speaker. "I had asked... their father to watch them during what should have been my time, and the next two weeks are rightfully his. I... I was in a hurry. I didn't want them around while Stephen... Stephen was getting himself into trouble. I should have gone and had our weeks switched, but I didn't want... any more... stress." She spoke the word as though admitting that she felt pressured was some great crime. As though she wasn't allowed to be stressed. Andy wished she was there. She wished she could reach out and take her hand again. "But I didn't, so I cannot claim these next weeks as mine." Andy knew how much that must be torturing her. Miranda hated when things were not under her control. Andy had realized that during the hurricane—the more impossible it was to do anything about a situation, the more it riled her, no matter how pointless. Of course, this was about the twins as well, so it would be even worse. "I suppose I just want to see them. It will be better to leave them with their father, to let everything blow over, but he..." Miranda paused, clearly not wanting to admit something.

Andy chanced a guess. "He's still keeping them from calling you, isn't he?"

Miranda didn't say anything, and Andy knew she was right.

Andy couldn't help it. She let out an angered sigh. "That's wrong, Miranda. There is so much that's wrong about that. You're their mother, for god's sake. Hang on," she said, setting down her cell. She knew instinctively that it was a bad idea, but she wanted to, no, had to do this.

She pulled down her house phone and dialed the number listed as Twins at Dad's which she had scrawled on her list of quick-find numbers for Miranda. The voice she remembered from the overheard conversation on Monday said, "Hello? Who is this?"

She put on her best friendly-soccer-mom voice, one she had learned from her own mother. "Hi, it's Sarah! My daughter Jenny does dance with your twins, and she was wondering if they could have a sleepover next weekend."

Oh god, if this goes wrong... Andy thought, already regretting her spur-of-the-moment idea. She knew that there really was girl named Jenny at dance that the twins were friends with, because she had been over once when Andy had dropped off the book. Fingers crossed, she heard the phone turned aside.

"Caroline, Cassidy! Do you want to sleep over with Jenny this Friday?"

"Jenny from dance?"

"Or Jenny from school?" the twins replied.

"Dance."

"Okay!" one twin said, while the other said, "Can I talk to her?" Andy blanched.

"I'll ask." He returned to the phone. "Sarah?"

"Hmm?" Andy replied.

"They would love to sleep over… Friday night, if that works? And could you put Jenny on? I think they want to talk to her."

"Oh sure, just pass the phone over," Andy said. She thought it best if the girls knew what was going on. After all, if they really didn't want to see their mom, this could go terribly wrong.

She heard the phone passed over, then two sets of feet dashing upstairs. Speakerphone was clicked on, and she heard one of the twins say, "Okay, who is this?"

"Yeah. Jenny's mom's name is Irene, not Sarah."

Andy breathed a sigh of relief. The twins had already known something was up, but they were so naturally curious that they hadn't said anything. "This is Andy Sachs, your mom's assistant."

"Oh! Hi Andy, we know who you are!" a twin replied. Andy thought it was Cassidy. "What do you want?"

She decided to get straight to the point. "Your mom misses you guys, and she wants to see you."

She heard a snort. "No way," they both said.

"It's true. Don't tell her I said this, but she called me up today, and she's really sad. Your dad isn't letting her call or anything."

She heard whispers, but she couldn't tell what they were saying to each other. "Mom's been trying to call? Dad didn't tell us!"

Andy couldn't believe it. He had been lying to the twins. What they must have thought! That their mom couldn't even take the time to call after leaving them there for an extra few weeks. "She has. Now, she doesn't know I'm doing this, but she really wants to see you. I was thinking I could pick you up on Friday, and you could spend a day or two with her. I'll tell her, of course."

More whispers. Finally, "Okay, as long as you come pick us up. Not Emily."

Andy laughed. "It's a deal. Could you put your dad back on for a minute?"

Andy finalized the plan and hung up, breathing a huge sigh of relief that that had worked. She dashed back to her cell, certain Miranda would have hung up by now, but she hadn't.

"Miranda?"

For a long, excruciating moment, the line remained silent, the Miranda said slowly, "I could hear you."

"...Thank you. You have no idea how much this means to me." Miranda's voice was barely above a whisper, and it sounded harsh, raspy, as though unused to expressing any true sentiments. "I need to go, but I will see you in Starbucks on Monday, yes?"

Andy couldn't believe Miranda was asking. It made such a difference. It changed an obligatory meeting into something special... closer to a cup of coffee with a, well, perhaps not a friend, but not only with a boss. "Of course, Miranda," Andy said, and the line went dead.

Chapter Text

Andy woke early Monday morning, though she had set no alarm. She knew, without a doubt, that if there were ever a day for something to finally, visibly change, it would be this day.

Skipping breakfast had become her norm, though she knew it wasn't the wisest choice. As it was, today she simply felt too nervous to eat anything. With an outfit already picked out from the closet on Friday, nothing to eat, and nothing to do, she found herself pulling up to the Starbucks almost forty minutes early. Stepping from the taxi, she was greeted by the shocking sight of Miranda stepping out of the car at the same time, signature shades hiding her eyes. When she caught sight of Andy, she didn't look surprised in the slightest.

Andy reached the door first and she held it open, allowing Miranda to step through. Miranda slid off the sunglasses and gave Andy a nod.

Neither of them spoke until well after they were seated in their usual corner. Miranda seemed distracted and distant, and Andy was focusing as best she could on the fake potted plant beside them, because what Miranda was wearing was enough to thoroughly test Andy's restraint if she started to let her eyes wander. It was sort of a classic for her; the white blouse and the black, hip-hugging pencil skirt, but this blouse seemed to be just one or two finger-lengths lower in the neckline than usual, revealing just that tantalizing glimpse of breast every time she shifted. Also, this particular skirt had four-inch slits in the side, and Andy was almost certain she had caught a glimpse of the lacy tops of Miranda's thigh-highs when she had taken her seat. Her throat had gone dry, and it was then that she decided the plastic green leaves by her head were suddenly very fascinating.

It was busy in the coffee shop, but the silence that surrounded the two women seemed to wrap them in a warm cocoon that no other person could disturb. Occasionally, the jingle of the bell above the door would register to Andy's ears, but otherwise she was quite content to sit beside her wonderful enigma of a boss having a strange, almost non-verbal conversation with her. These mornings were the only times Andy could ever remember not feeling awkward or tense in a long silence, but she had found herself missing the routine over the weekend, and felt much more... relaxed, now that she was back.

Miranda was the first to speak. "Caroline and Cassidy called after we talked yesterday. They 'borrowed' their father's cell and called me while he was out looking for it at a friend's." Miranda's face showed her slightly guilty pride, and Andy chuckled at the girls' ingenuity. Miranda paused, allowing her lips to quirk up for a moment. Then she added, "It was interesting to hear their impression of you."

Andy tensed for a moment, but Miranda chuckled as she continued, "They've become rather... infatuated with you. When they realized I already knew you had been talking to them, they felt the need to share every slightly witty thing you have ever said to them. They seem to have decided that you are their new role model, and I really can't complain—it is quite the improvement over some pop star they used to idolize."

As was lately becoming the norm, Andy was completely unsure what to say to that. Keeping it light, she replied, "I'm flattered. I hadn't realized they took that much notice of me."

Miranda smiled wryly. "Those two take notice of absolutely everything, I can assure you, and—trashy teen icons aside—they are a good judge of... character."

Andy felt herself blushing. It wasn't often one found herself sitting down to lunch with Miranda and being on the end of half-disguised compliments rather than thinly veiled insults. "They get it from their mother," Andy said quietly.

Miranda blinked twice, looking as though she had been caught off guard by Andy's response. Andy could tell her own face looked surprised as well—the words had slipped past her lips without Andy even thinking about them. To Andy's shock, Miranda didn't try to school her features. Instead, she allowed a warm smile to wrap itself around her lips. For a moment, Andy allowed herself to be drawn in, her eyes drinking up every slight laugh-line that was revealed when she smiled. As though being coaxed out by Andy's gaze, the smile changed. Andy had been around the woman long enough to know every variation of the perfunctory smile, the one she could whip out on cue when faced with an important figure of society. She had also seen the rare, true smiles that were brought out by the twins over the phone, or the ones of wry amusement she or Nigel could occasionally draw from her when she wasn't expecting them. But this smile was none of these. This smile was something else, something she had never before seen of Miranda's face, and it made Andy's breath hitch, her whole body feel warm, a flush creep across her chest and up along her neck. For an instant, Miranda's eyes latched onto the line of her throat, slipping downward to the line of her blouse, and Andy was almost certain Miranda could count the beats of her pulse by the slight trembling above her heart.

After an almost indecently long pause, Miranda's eyes raised to hers once again. She picked up her coffee cup, eyes never leaving Andy's, and took a slow, deep swallow. Miranda's eyes slipped to half-mast as a small murmur of pleasure slipped from her lips. When a flash of tongue darted out to catch the last drips of the mocha liquid, Andy felt her pulse speed once again, and the flush that had been heating her neck suddenly surged downwards, slipping teasingly through her breasts before settling between her legs. Andy quickly averted her eyes back to the friendly plastic plant, fighting the urge to squirm, knowing Miranda's eyes were still on her. She felt more than saw Miranda stand up and rose on tottering legs to follow her out. As Miranda easily parted the morning Starbucks mob, Andy heard a dark, predatory chuckle, but convinced herself that it had been the sleazy-looking businessman in the dirt-colored trench coat that stood nearby rather than Miranda. After all, if that sound had been her boss, there was no way she was going to be able to sit through the rest of the day in her presence.

By late afternoon, Andy was a mess. The morning had been packed full with three back-to-back previews, and Andy found herself seated directly beside Miranda in each one. Though this wasn't strictly unusual, Andy had also found herself seated rather... closer to her boss than was the norm. For the entirety of the five hours spent beside the mock-runways, Miranda's thigh had been pressed to hers, and often their feet touched as well. When Miranda had first taken her seat, Andy had tried to scoot away, but had found her only other option would be crawling into the lap of the almost frighteningly obese man beside her. She expected Miranda to move, perhaps with a glare as though reprimanding her for daring to have a giant beside her, but her boss said nothing, nor gave any indication that she even noticed how they were touching. Perhaps if Miranda had been keeping still, Andy could have ignored the entire situation, but Miranda seemed unnaturally fidgety, crossing and uncrossing her legs while brushing one Prada-cased foot along Andy's calf with each motion, or fixing some invisible crease in her skirt while her knuckles traced up Andy's thigh. Andy struggled to focus on Miranda's words, to take her usual notes, but Miranda hardly spoke a word, leaving Andy nothing to do but try her best to keep her squirming to a minimum, and to keep from letting any breathy noises past her lips.

Finally, it was her lunch break, and though Andy usually just stayed in the office with a salad or simple sandwich from the cafeteria, today she needed some air. Just as she finished slipping on her sweater, Miranda's voice called her into the inner office. "Andrea..."

Andy winced, this was bad. By this point, just the sound of that voice was making her thighs clench together. Shit. Andy thought as she stepped inside. Miranda gave her an apologetic look as she slid a file across her glass-topped desk into Andy's waiting hands. "I do know this is your lunch break," Miranda started. "And I wouldn't ask if this were not important, but I have a few final loose ends to tie up with this whole... Irv business, and now is the only time Emily will be out of the office."

Despite Andy's desperate need for this forty-five minute break, how could she possibly deny it when Miranda had practically apologized for taking this time from her? "Of course, Miranda."

And so she found herself sitting beside the editor, both chairs on Miranda's side of the desk, pouring over the last of the legal documents. Though Andy did her best to slip on her lawyer attitude, it was impossible, pressed up as she was beside Miranda, breathing in the light scent she always wore. Miranda was constantly reaching across Andy's body to flip a page, or point out a line of text, and when they came across a small error, Miranda took hold of Andy's hand, moving it off the page and down into her lap so that she could see the words more clearly. When Miranda did not immediately release her hand, Andy found herself holding her breath, completely unaware of anything Miranda was saying and focused only on Miranda's hand as it absentmindedly played with hers, lacing and unlacing their fingers, tracing unconscious patterns in Andy's palm, pulling slightly against her thumb. By the time Emily reentered the outer offices, Andy's breath was shallow, her face was flushed, and she didn't even know if they had finished going over the file.

They must have, though, because Miranda let it flip shut. As Andy started so stand, Miranda suddenly pinched down on the fleshy bit of skin between Andy's thumb and forefinger, drawing a strangled squeak from Andy that was much breathier than she would have liked. Miranda had released her hand, and Andy made herself not lift it to her face to feel how flushed she was. Miranda reclined in her seat, that same dangerous smile upon her face. "Very well, Andrea, I believe we are done here."

Andy nodded.

Miranda seemed to flip some internal switch, instantly retreating to her work mode. "Return the chair and tell Emily I need the prints Nigel talked about."

Andy nodded again.

"Then call Carinthia at the Africa shoot and fix the setback with the diamonds."

Andy nodded yet again, feeling a bit like a drunken bobble-head.

"Emily will be running errands, so I expect you will be at the desks. I'm expecting a few calls. Field any important messages regarding Irv or Stephen to Leslie. You know what to do with pesky reporters."

"Yes, Miranda." Andy said, awaiting her dismissal.

"I will be leaving early, but I expect you to wait for the book. That's all."

Andy turned to go. "Oh, and Andrea?"

Andy froze. When Miranda said nothing, Andy turned back to find the editor looking at her with a thoughtful expression on her face. "Yes, Miranda?"

Miranda seemed to jump slightly. "Ah... never mind." She looked startled and almost embarrassed by her own comment. It was an endearingly human expression, and it made Andy smile.

"Yes Miranda," she said again, though this time with a cheeky grin to offset the words.

Miranda's lips twitched, clearly fighting another smile. The smile won, flitting out for a moment before being replaced by a pseudo-annoyed phrase: "I said, that's all."

Andy left.

Miranda did indeed go home early, only two hours after their peculiar lunchtime meeting, which left Andy to her own devices. The day was surprisingly empty, not that that was any relief to Andy. Aside from the welcome distraction of a few semi-important phone calls, she spent the entirety of the second half of her work time thinking about and daydreaming about her boss. It was as though her mind no longer had control of its own thoughts. It was okay if she was just thinking about her as the wonderful woman she kept getting glimpses of—the smiles, the laughter, the way she was around her children—but as soon as she dropped her guard, her mind's eye would turn that happy, almost startled smile into that other smile she had seen, the heated one, meant for bedroom eyes, and Andy's imagination was only too pleased to elaborate upon that bedroom scene, as hard as Andy tried not to. By the time the book arrived, it was already quarter to midnight, and Andy was well past her tolerance level of patience and arousal.

Of course, this would be the day that she couldn't hail a cab. The first was stolen from her by someone getting in the other side, the second put up her "off hours" sign, and the third nearly ran her over, bringing a near-hysterical laugh from Andy as she imagined Miranda's reaction should she be forced to tell her she had met the same fate as Emily. Thankfully, the close-call-cab came back after a loop around the block and picked her up.

"Sorry, Lady," the cabbie said when she entered. "Didn't see ya there the firs' time. I'll give ya the firs' five miles free, alrigh'?"

Andy smiled and nodded her thanks. By some spark of good fortune, she must have been nearly hit by the only taxi driver in New York with a conscience and some manners.

There was some sort of demonstration going on outside one of the many skyscrapers housing a law firm, so it took twice as long as it should have to reach her destination. She paid the cabbie and got out, only remembering to ask him to wait after his taillights had disappeared around the corner. "Shit," Andy muttered. Guess I'll be taking the subway. How often do the late-night lines run again?

The door had been left unlocked for the second time. Memories from the other evening flooded her mind, and Andy hesitated with her hand on the doorknob, trying to collect herself. Dry-cleaning to the closet, book to the table, and leave.

The closet had barely clicked shut with the dry-cleaning inside when Miranda's voice called to her from the lounge. "Andrea, bring me the book."

Andy froze. She couldn't do it. Her legs were shaking, her pulse was racing, and she felt lightheaded. She could not face Miranda after the day she had had. Still, her feet carried her into the dimly lit room. Miranda was still wearing her work outfit, but she was sitting in a chair with her feet tucked up under her, skirt riding up, blouse riding down. Andy knew she made a strangled sound when she caught sight of her, but she tried not to do anything else stupid as she placed the book in Miranda's outstretched hand.

Miranda took it and slid on her reading glasses, putting Andy through another internal struggle, because she found the glasses to be a devastating combination of adorable and sexy.

"Sit for a moment, Andrea; I need a rundown of the day."

Andy sat—or, rather, nearly fell—on the sofa and tried to keep her voice from shaking as she hurried through a summary of the important moments of the afternoon.

"Nigel finished the coordination with the Africa staff, Emily said to tell you that she finished, and I quote, 'the list,' and Leslie wants to talk to you tomorrow. Says Times wants a few words with you, and that you need to at least talk to them if you want to avoid the worst of the speculation. Also, Serena says she wants a word with you. She believes she knows a model that will speak out against Irv, but wouldn't share the name with me."

Miranda nodded slowly. "Do you have your phone on you?"

Andy tugged it out of her pocked and stood to hand it to Miranda. She didn't even bother protesting the fact that it was now past one in the morning—any employee of Runway slept with their phones beside the bed or even under the pillow.

"Serena—who?"

Andy couldn't quite make out Serena's words, though she did hear a rather dramatic yawn, which triggered a less-than dainty one of her own. She saw Miranda's eyes dart to her face, skimming across it for a moment and clearly seeing Andy's levels of stress and exhaustion. "Yes, yes, I understand this is delicate. What will it take for her to do it?"

Andy saw a strange set of emotions cross Miranda's face. "Why France? ...Fine. If she testifies against Irv I will personally arrange her transfer to work under Jacqueline. Yes, yes, let her know tonight. No I do not want to talk to her. That's all."

Miranda handed Andy back her phone. Andy thought she heard the gist of the conversation and understood Miranda's reluctance to send one of her models to the French branch, but this was perfect; the perfect last straw in putting Irv away for good.

Andy managed to keep from yawning again, but only just. Miranda arched her neck to look at the clock above Andy's head.

"It's late. Do you have a taxi waiting?"

Andy couldn't lie. "No..."

"Good. I was going to tell you to send it home anyway. You could use a full night's sleep, and you certainly won't be getting that if you still need to gallivant across half the city."

Miranda rose, stepping around the center table and joining Andy on the couch.

Andy's voice shook as she said, "Really, I can just take the metro..."

Miranda stared straight into Andy's eyes. "No." She picked up Andy's hand, never dropping her gaze from Andy's. She gave her hand a gentle squeeze as she said, "You will stay here tonight."

All of Andy's protests died in her throat when Miranda's thumb swiped across the pulse point at her wrist. Miranda stood, dropping Andy's hand and gesturing her towards the stairs. "You know where your room is. There is some suitable nightwear on the bed. I'll be finishing up with the book here, so get some sleep. I will see you in the morning."

Andy knew that was her cue to go, but her legs didn't seem to be working until Miranda gave her a gentle push towards the stairs, a smile on her lips. Andy went, raising her foot towards the first step, but she turned back for a moment. "Goodnight, Miranda," she said almost timidly.

Miranda was facing away from her, but Andy still saw a slow shiver run up her spine before she replied, "Goodnight, Andrea."

Andy took a chilly shower, half to keep her awake, half to tone down the effects of the day with her all-too-attractive boss. After a quick towel-dry of her hair, she found the nightclothes Miranda had left for her. Slipping into the lacy, deep-blue, front-clasp bra and matching briefs, she counted from one to twenty so as not to imagine Miranda setting out the undergarments for her. Pulling the button-up nightgown over her head, she tried not to wonder why Miranda had already left the clothes out anyway, and she tried not to dwell on the way Miranda had said, "your room," but it didn't really work. As she settled into the far-too-comfortable bed, she supposed it was a good thing she was tired, or she would really be screwed.

Andy dreamt, a strange, work-induced dream not unlike some she had had before. She was in the office, sitting at her desk, and for some peculiar reason there were at least twenty cups of Starbucks coffee sitting with her. Somehow, she knew Miranda was coming up, so she reached for one of the cups to bring into the office. Two steps from her desk, she realized it wasn't warm; in fact, it was icy cold, as though she clenched an icicle between her hands. Feeling the cold burn on her fingertips, she dropped the cup, and it shattered upon the tiles in a thousand shards of mocha-and-cream coffee-ice. Andy felt that choking panic so common to dreamworlds creeping up on her, and she dropped to her knees, hastily scooping up the nearest slivers of ice, but they began to melt in her hands, and melt on the floor, forming a rapidly spreading stain of coffee that could not possibly have all fit into that one simple cup. For a moment, Andy continued to work at her futile motions, attempting to scoop up a lake of coffee with her bare hands. She vaguely noticed the coffee growing warmer, the leapt back with a hiss: now it was steaming, as hot as it should have been upon delivery to Miranda. But the heat did not stop there. Soon, the spill had spread across every inch of floor space, Andy was standing on top of her desk, and the entire sea of coffee was literally boiling. Even the steam rising off of its surface was too hot to touch. Just when Andy thought she would be steam-roasted alive, the floor gave way, spilling desks, papers, coffee mugs, and a highly bedraggled Andy into the floor below.

Except it was not the usual level below the Runway floor. Instead, Andy found herself sprawled in Miranda's driveway. Without even knowing she had stood or moved, she was inside the house, then upstairs, and then in the bedroom she knew she should still be asleep in. Miranda was leaning against the wall, dressed in a thin, flimsy black robe, the sash barely holding it closed. "Well go on, Andrea, I told you to find something appropriate to wear to the gala tonight." Miranda said, gesturing to the spare closet. Andy moved with dreamy slowness towards the doors. Once inside, she began tugging things off the rack, looking for something to fit her for this unknown event. Everything looked exactly the same as it had on her real-world visit, but he tags were all wrong. Zero... Double Zero... One... Zero... Zero... Zero... One... Double Zero...

Andy's motions became more and more frantic, hurling clothes onto the floor with barely a glance at their label and style. Finally, in the far back corner, she scanned a tag that read Four. When she took a look at the garment, however, she found a neon-pink, furry, floor-length nightgown with purple bunnies printed in random patterns across it. She staggered back into the bedroom, knowing—in that uncertain, still nightmare-ish way—that this was a dream, but the panic of disappointing Miranda felt as real as ever, and she only prayed she could wake up. She ignored Miranda's presence on the far wall, hurrying over the bed and slumping onto the decadently soft sheets, curling up into a fetal position. She felt the bed dip beside her, but continued to ignore dream-Miranda's presence, dreading the scolding that was sure to come. Instead, she felt a warm, very realistic-feeling body curling itself around her spine.

"Andrea," Miranda whispered, just above her ear. Her voice sounded almost double, as though there were a slight echo. "Andrea..." This time, there was only one voice.

Andy felt the gentle touch of fingers running through her hair, tracing down her cheek, lingering just under her chin. Andy took it all in swing, eyes closed, arching her neck to give those wondrous hands more room. After all, this would not be the first time a dream of an office nightmare had turned to one of the more pleasant sort. The hand continued its journey, ghosting over the pulse at her throat before slipping between the buttons at the front of her nightgown and cupping a breast. Andy felt a slow moan leave her lips. Wait, nightgown? Wasn't I in the office just a minute ago...? Her mind still hazed with sleep, she couldn't focus beyond the touch of Miranda's fingertips as they carelessly flicked open the front-catch of her bra. The feeling of slightly chilled fingers on her bare skin drew a gasp from her, and she felt more than heard a slow chuckle from behind her as a leg began to coax its way between hers. Andy uncurled herself just that needed bit more to allow Miranda's thigh to press against her center.

"Miranda," Andy gasped out as she felt the leg between hers flex.

Suddenly, a pair of warm lips was pressed to that spot just behind her ear. As Andy trembled, the lips lifted until Miranda's breath was tickling her hairline. Mouth still barely a hairs-breadth away from Andy's skin, the older woman whispered, "Andrea, you're not dreaming."

As Andy struggled to make sense of the words, a thumb swiped over her nipple, teasing the peak which had already firmed under just the barest touch of Miranda's hand. Not... not dreaming...

Suddenly, Andy was wide awake, eyes jerking open to face the sun just cresting over the windowsill. She stiffened, pulling forward, trying to clear her mind and make sense of the fact that Miranda, not a dream, was in bed behind her, lips against her pulse point, a hand inside her nightgown, thigh pressed into her heat. But Miranda didn't let her pull away. Instead, the hand on her chest gave a sudden pull on her nipple, and the thigh added just enough pressure to her sex to cause Andy's head to fall back against Miranda's neck in pleasure.

"Miranda, w-what...?" Andy gasped out, making a halfhearted attempt at speech.

One hand moved up to tease in her hair, and the other abandoned her chest to slide down her body. A fingertip played for a moment in her navel, causing Andy's entire lower body to clench in need. Then Miranda's hand slipped down to her thighs and raised up the nightgown just enough to slide her palm down the front of Andy's underwear. A single finger traced her slit, and Andy could hear a deep, husky chuckle from behind her as the woman felt just how aroused Andy was. Miranda pulled back her hand, returning to Andy's breasts before the whimper of desire could even pass Andy's lips. Miranda's mouth latched on to her pulse point, fingers pressing, pulling, teasing and twisting with devastating skill. Andy knew she should be asking something, demanding an explanation, but with the object of her fantasies curled so intimately around her, she could do nothing but gasp and shudder, taking every ounce of pleasure the silver-haired woman was willing to give.

When Andy's breasts were thoroughly ravished, sore to the point of being just this side of pleasure, those talented fingers finally returned to where Andy needed them the most. By this point, Andy was grinding shamelessly against the strong thigh between her legs, but Miranda was careful to give her only enough pressure to keep her sane, not enough to distract from her ministrations above. Now, with no hesitation, two slender fingers slid inside her, pausing for a moment to allow Andy to feel her own walls clench around the welcome intrusion. With leisurely slowness, the tips of the fingers curled, drawing a long moan from Andy's throat.

"Oh, god, Miranda."

The fingers began to withdraw, achingly slow. Without warning, Miranda brought her thigh up, pressing the fingers back inside, deeper than before. Andy's gasp was nearly a scream. The pace Miranda set was deep, slow, and thorough, and Andy could only cling on, fisting the sheets and wondering if her body could take as much pleasure as Miranda seemed determined to provide. Pulsing in, a quick flex to press into just the right places within her, and an agonizingly slow withdrawal, all made easy by Andy's drenched skin.

Lips that had been teasing up and down her throat suddenly latched onto Andy's pulse once more with a quick, hard suction, then released, tilting up to tongue behind Andy's ear, never faltering in her fingers' pace.

"I don't do heart-to-hearts, Andrea," the older woman whispered, lips brushing the shell of Andy's ear with every inflection. "Perhaps in time my thoughts regarding all of… this… will become clear, but for now, I believe all that needs to be said is that, yes, there will be just that: time. This cannot and will not be a single event, and I flatly refuse to become associated with some sordid, secret affair."

If Miranda had paused for a moment in her motions, perhaps Andy would have had time to respond in kind, but as it was, all she could do was gasp out a breathless, "Yes…"

She could feel her thighs clenching, spine arching as she began to fight Miranda's rhythm, needing more. Miranda understood, pausing for a fraction of a second to slip in a third finger, speeding her thrusts, and flexing up with her thigh for that last bit of needed pressure.

Andy's every breath was now a gasp or moan, shuddering with every motion. Her body was tense with pleasure, she just needed... just needed...

Miranda's teeth sank into her neck, and not gently either. It was a forceful, possessive bite, and it threw Andy over the edge. Her climax was entirely silent, as not even air could pass her lips with the intensity of her body's clenching and flexing. Miranda's fingers stilled inside of her, but she continued to press upward with her thigh, helping Andy ride out every possible moment of the pleasure. This wasn't an orgasm as Andy had ever known it. No other climax had filled her entire body like this, had left no room for thought or even a sound. It drew upon a connection somewhere within her that she had never imagined sharing with anyone, but she did, and only with this woman. And it just kept going, every slight swivel of Miranda's hips drawing out a stunningly electric aftershock.

Finally, Miranda relaxed the pressure on Andy's center, and she drew in a strangled breath, gasping in the air she couldn't seem to find only moments before. She wanted to see Miranda's face, but she felt limp, spent, and gloriously so. She flinched slightly when Miranda's teeth finally left her neck—she hadn't even felt them after the initial bite. A tongue swiped quickly over what was most certainly a visible mark, soothing the teeth-shaped bruises. Slowly, Miranda's fingers withdrew from within her, prompting another shudder and a slight whimper.

Before Andy could so much as catch her breath, she felt herself rolled over gently. Miranda straddled her, running one hand through Andy's hair. She was quite the vision, wearing only a half-parted robe of a deep blue. Andy took in the flushed cheeks, tousled hair, and just-parted lips of the editor's face. Her eyes were shining, bright with a self-satisfied pleasure yet dark with a still-present desire. "Beautiful," Miranda murmured, echoing Andy's unvoiced thoughts. Slowly, she traced one hand up Andy's side, pulling the tangled mess of a nightgown up with it and tugging it over Andy's head in one careful motion. As the cloth passed in front of Andy's face, their eye-contact was broken, and when Andy could look into the other woman's face again, she saw those eyes focused intently on her chest. Almost reverently, Miranda's palms came to cup the sides of each breast.

"M-Miranda," Andy gasped out. "I… I—"

"Shh, darling," Miranda whispered, leaning down to finally press her lips against Andy's. Compared to the force of passion she had just been through, this kiss was gentle, a tender brush of lips that affirmed to Andy that this did mean something to Miranda, something more than just sex on a whim. Miranda made this kiss so soft, it was barely even a touch, yet it was perfect, just the way a first kiss should be. After a moment, Miranda deepened the kiss, finally allowing Andy to feel the emotion and passion still fueling the older woman's actions. Miranda's mouth parted and an insistent tongue swept across Andy's bottom lip. Though Andy didn't think her still-limp body could possibly take any more of Miranda's energy, she responded anyway, opening to allow Miranda's heat to fill her mouth. She whimpered slightly in the back of her throat as Miranda claimed her mouth, too spent to even try to win any form of control. This seemed to please Miranda, as Andy could feel her smile into the kiss.

Though Andy would have been quite content to kiss Miranda for another hour, another day, as soon as Andy needed to breathe, Miranda pulled away. She began moving down Andy's body, pausing only briefly at her already-marked neck before moving her lips to her chest. As Andy felt hot breath ghost across a still-hard nipple, she tried to speak once again.

"Miranda, p-please, I'm too sen-sensitive... I can't... I can't—ohhh."

Miranda's lips had closed over her nipple, tongue gliding slowly across the taut bud. As long as that perfect, warm mouth was upon her skin, Andy couldn't form words. Miranda kept her motions gentle, all soft lips and stroking tongue, soothing the flesh that was still lightly-abused from her previous, somewhat harsher ministrations. Finally, her teeth sank slowly but firmly into the skin just outside her nipple, drawing a strangled cry from Andy's lips as her head pressed back into the pillow, hands fisting once more in the sheets.

Releasing the flesh with a final damp caress, Miranda rested her chin between Andy's breasts, waiting until Andy's eyes met hers before speaking. "Andrea," she murmured, voice low and heavy, a devious smirk on her lips. "I assure you, you can."

Andy had almost forgotten her previous protests, but she still opened her mouth, trying to say that she couldn't possibly take any more, that she had only ever been a one-orgasm sort of girl, but Miranda wouldn't have it. She raised one hand to Andy's lips in a shushing motion. As she spoke, she slowly slid her finger between Andy's slightly-parted lips and into her mouth, running her fingertip along the sensitive skin just behind her lower teeth. "You can, Andrea, and you will." She carefully withdrew the finger, pulling out Andy's bottom lip along with it. Andy felt her breath hitch; it was one of the simplest, most erotic things she had ever felt. "Don't worry," she continued, mouth beginning to lower towards Andy's other breast. "I'll go slowly."

"Oh god," Andy groaned, half from the feeling of Miranda's lips closing around her nipple, and half from the fear of exactly how slowly she imagined Miranda could go, and of how her body could possibly take that much pleasure.

Again, Miranda worked first to soothe the skin she had ravished so thoroughly before. The feeling of that glorious mouth lavishing its complete attentions on her breast soon had Andy's body trembling, small whimpers of pleasure escaping between gasps. As Miranda began gently sucking on that oh-so-sensitive skin, she brought one hand up to circle the other breast, starting from the base, tracing ever-shrinking rings until she could press a single finger into the very peak. Andy felt her spine bow upwards, arching helplessly into Miranda's skilled fingers and lips. Miranda pressed her back down with a hand upon her stomach, nipping lightly at her breast in warning.

She rose up to press a brief kiss upon Andy's trembling lips. Speaking directly into Andy's mouth, Miranda said, "If you keep squirming—" Miranda's palms traced a careful path from her ribs down to her hips. "—I won't be held responsible for my... actions."

She began again, pressing open-mouthed kisses down the exposed column of Andy's throat. She gave a self-satisfied hum of pleasure when she was confronted once again by the mark she had left on Andy's skin. By the time her lips had reached her chest, Andy knew that Miranda was right. She not only could do this again, she wanted, hell, needed to. A part of her was still desperately afraid of what exactly this meant, of why now, why at all, but she quelled her fears by dragging Miranda into another kiss, finally becoming a truly active participant in their lovemaking. Miranda allowed Andy to work her mouth almost desperately for a few moments before she withdrew from the kiss, a pleasantly surprised smirk on her lips. "There's the Andrea I was expecting. I knew I hadn't taken nearly all the fight out of you yet."

Before she could decide if she ought to respond to that comment with indignation, Andy was distracted by a tongue suddenly tracing the tender line of flesh between each side of her ribcage. Her hands reached blindly downward, wanting some sort of contact, wanting to touch the vision below her, but Miranda brushed her questing fingers aside, chuckling softly. "You'll have your turn, darling. This time is mine."

Though Andy desperately wanted to see and touch the older woman, preferably without that robe in the way, she couldn't find the words or strength to argue with Miranda's breath tickling across her navel. Then, with no warning, Miranda pulled back, sliding down to the end of the bed and taking one of Andy's feet in her hands. As she began massaging the tender arches with her thumbs, Andy jerked herself upright. Miranda met Andy's shocked gaze with a devious smile. "When I said slow, Andrea..."

She didn't even need to finish the sentence. Andy slumped backwards, groaning at the pulsing throb of her unattended center. But she wouldn't rush this, wouldn't beg, because this slow, tender massage was special and pleasurable in its own right. Miranda's hands seemed to have an intimate knowledge of her feet, of exactly where knots of tension and tenderness had built up from her time in high-heels. Soon, her libido had taken the backseat to the wonderful feeling of perfect relaxation in her foot. Miranda placed a single kiss to her instep before moving her hands up to wrap around her ankle, rolling it slowly and pressing gently around the bony joints. By the time Miranda had reached her calf, Andy was humming in pleasure, eyes closed to fully appreciate just how good Miranda was at this.

As Miranda traced a single finger up the back of her knee, arousal suddenly flared back to life as though it had never been tempered. Miranda could clearly see the reaction, as she repeated the motion with three fingers, and just the slightest scratch of perfectly manicured nails.

"Shit," Andy gasped out. Miranda merely chuckled, bending over and placing a kiss where her fingers had just been, sucking gently at the odd little erogenous zone before running the flat of her tongue across it and up the side of her thigh. Andy couldn't help squirming, lifting her hips, searching for some kind of contact where she so desperately needed it. Instead, she found only air, and Miranda's hands returned to the end of the bed, where they began the entire process again with the other leg.

By the time Miranda finally reached Andy's other thigh, Andy had forgotten why she wasn't going to beg.

"Oh god, Miranda, please... just... please!"

Miranda hummed into the skin at the inner-top of her thigh. "Very well..."

Miranda placed a feather-light kiss over Andy's trembling clit, drawing a startled mewl from Andy. Wait, she's going to... oh god, she's actually going to...

Miranda spread Andy's legs more fully, using her hands to steer Andy's legs up and over her shoulders. Andy could only stare in heavy-lidded shock as that iconic forelock dipped down over her center and a sure, hot tongue slid slowly across her clenching core.

Andy knew she cried out, but she was beyond caring what sounds came from her mouth. Nate had never been interested in any kind of sex that didn't involve his ever-precious dick; it had all been too fast in Paris, and the only guy who had offered this before she had turned down. If she had known it would feel like this... well... but, then again, she doubted it would feel like this with anyone other than Miranda.

Andy tried to keep her eyes open, not wanting to miss a moment of the stunning sight of the proud, icy editor half-buried in her core, but the sensation was too powerful, to wonderful, and her head pressed back on its own, her spine was arching, and she was using every last bit of her self-control not to thrust up into Miranda's waiting mouth.

Even here, she took her time, seeming to savor every slow, damp caress; never going inside, and never going high enough to hit Andy's almost-too-tender clit. As Andy began to lose control, hips jerking, breath coming in quick, strained pants, she pulled back. For a moment, Andy had no control, her hips moving in a desperate search for contact, thighs trying to clench together, but Miranda calmly held them apart, keeping her from tipping over the brink just yet.

"Patience, darling," she murmured when Andy's eyes finally flickered open. Andy moaned, watching Miranda's tongue slip out and lick sensually across her upper lip. "You taste divine."

Andy whimpered helplessly, completely enraptured by the look in Miranda's eyes.

Keeping the eye-contact, Miranda lowered her head once more, neck arched to allow her to continue meeting Andy's half-lidded, heated gaze. Andy knew she was holding her breath; knew she needed to breathe, but she couldn't remember how. Every nerve in her body was buzzing and awake, awaiting any touch Miranda would deign to give.

Slowly, those magical lips wrapped themselves around Andy's tightest bundle of nerves. Andy froze completely, not moving a muscle, just staring down into those glorious eyes in the most intimate of moments she had ever been a part of. Miranda's mouth hollowed out in one sure pull, and Andy came undone. This time, incoherent cries were pulled from her throat, interspersed with Miranda's name. Part of her wanted to throw her head back, let her eyes be slammed shut with the force of her orgasm, but she couldn't; Miranda's eyes trapped hers, the desire she saw in them only added to her moment. Just as the pleasure began so lower in intensity, Miranda broke the gaze and plunged her tongue inside Andy's still clenching walls.

This time, Andy's eyes did close, her spine bowed, her thighs gripped Miranda's shoulders like a vice, and she came again, with only the slightest flicks of the editor's tongue to coax her there and hold her in her pleasure.

As Miranda finally let go of Andy's legs, she could feel herself fading into that haze of the afterglow, and knew, in that moment, she could never lay with another. Using the last of her strength, she drew Miranda up to her lips, shuddering as she tasted herself in the other woman's mouth. As she took her time gently exploring Miranda's mouth with a leisure she couldn't have been patient enough for only moments ago, she slid her shaky hand carefully between their bodies and tugged apart the tie of Miranda's robe.

With a gasp, Miranda pulled back. "A-Andrea, you don't have too—" Miranda started, sounding breathless, but Andy cut her off.

"No. Please, I need to see you, I have to touch you." Andy was amazed at how strong she managed to make her voice. For a moment, she was afraid Miranda would deny her, but instead, she slowly let the robe slide from her shoulders. Andy's gaze couldn't decide where to focus first. She took in the strong lines of her neck, the pulse fluttering wildly at the base of her throat. Her proud shoulders, the bend of her elbow as it held her weight. She paused for only a moment to appreciate the lacy lingerie before reaching up to slide the straps down her arms and sitting up to embrace her and unhook it from behind. Finally, she could see the glorious chest that had driven her to distraction so many times in the office.

As she pulled back to fully take in the expanse of pristine skin, she caught sight of a look in Miranda's eyes that surprised her. She looked vulnerable, almost afraid. When Andy met her gaze, she said haltingly, "I... I'm not exactly the perfect specimen of feminine beauty any longer..."

Andy's mouth dropped open in complete shock. How could Miranda think she would care that her breasts weren't perfectly perky, or that there were slight stretch marks around her stomach, and a line that stood testament to the birth of her children? She knew she wasn't lying with someone young, and she had no desire to. Still, she knew that this was not the moment for such words; so instead, she pushed aside her lingering lethargy and kissed Miranda with every ounce of passion and desire she had.

Miranda pushed back, gasping under the onslaught of Andy's lips, tongue, and teeth. With no surprise, Andy realized she wanted this just as much as Miranda. She needed this, needed to prove to Miranda just how much she had wanted this. She needed Miranda to feel the same soul-wrenching pleasure she had just been through, and she needed it now.

As Andy slid one leg up between Miranda's, she could feel by the soaked silk of Miranda's panties that this was no time for a slow, thorough exploration. Miranda needed this—badly—and Andy was determined to give it to her. Keeping one hand locked in Miranda's exquisitely soft hair, she slid the other down her body, pausing only briefly to tweak a pebbled nipple before dipping straight under the waistband of Miranda's underwear and into her slick, silky heat.

With Andy's first touch, her head flew back, ripping her mouth from the younger woman's and causing Andy's nails to rake down her scalp. She didn't even let Andy tease for a moment, sitting up and using her own hand to guide three of Andy's fingers inside her dripping center.

"Oh..." they gasped out together, Miranda in clear pleasure, Andy in wondering surprise at the feeling of smooth walls clenching and pulling at her fingers, as though trying to draw them completely inside of her body and never let them go.

"Andrea... Andrea... yes..."

Miranda was surprisingly vocal, and it was all Andy could do to try and take in every moment as her silver-haired boss, crush, lover, was coming undone above her. She managed to capture a nipple gently between her teeth as Miranda continued to ride her hand, and it drew another ragged sound from the editor. Working her breasts as best she could from her angle, she led her free hand wander down Miranda's spine and cup the swell of her butt. She gave a slow, possessive squeeze, digging in her nails just that slightest bit, and it prompted a low growl from Miranda.

Soon, Miranda was unable to keep the steady rhythm, hand and body unable to agree upon the most pleasurable action, but it didn't matter. All it took was a brief, hard grind of Andy's palm on the older woman's clit and a bruising kiss to bring her crashing down, inner walls clenching frantically about Andy's fingers, head thrown back in a ragged, piercing gasp.

When Miranda went limp, Andy started to remove her fingers, but Miranda's hand gripped hers. "Wait," she whispered, and Andy was more than happy to remain, luxuriating in the feel of tender walls made slick with the proof of her pleasure.

Miranda reached out with a trembling hand to trace the contours of Andy's face, lingering first on the lips, then the cheekbones, eyebrows, the swell of an ear. Finally, she raised herself off of Andy's hand, shuddering visibly as each knuckle slid from her entrance.

She clasped Andy's hand in both of hers and slid down beside her younger lover. Tracing languid circles on the back of Andy's hand, she whispered softly, voice rough with pure sex, "That was... beyond... I have no words."

Not knowing if Miranda could even see her, Andy nodded.

Moments passed in silence, neither woman willing to shatter the moment. Each knowing that there were things that absolutely had to be said. Still they lingered, basking in the feel of absolute satisfaction and the delicious scent of sex on the air.

"Mmmm," Miranda hummed thoughtfully. She was still lying somewhat limply beside Andy, idly playing footsie under the sheets. "I've realized something. I would actually like to explain myself," she said slowly.

Andy propped herself up on an elbow so she could see the other woman's face. She said nothing, though, wanting to give Miranda time to say whatever it was she felt needed saying.

Miranda sat up slowly as well and used a finger to press Andy back onto the bed, though lying on her stomach this time. Andy rested her head on the backs of her hands and let her head rest sideways, facing Miranda. As she began to speak, the editor traced idle patterns over Andy's still-bare back.

"I've wanted you for quite some time now. It isn't a feeling I had ever before encountered, wanting something and being entirely unsure that I could ever have it. I thought it was merely an attraction, some moment of mid-life dalliance. I let myself enjoy your presence, your skill at everything you put your mind to. I thought I could let myself take you for granted, taking and taking and holding some vague hope that you would come forward and give me everything, and then I wouldn't need you any longer. Because that's what it was, by Paris, a need."

Andy stiffened at the mention of that time, but Miranda ran her palm up and down her back in distracted, soothing strokes.

"I needed you. I needed you beside me, being the perfect assistant, the one I could speak any words too and they would be taken up inside of you, my perfect sounding board. But then, I suppose I startled myself, handing you my emotions that day in my hotel room; handing you my insecurities just as I had handed you all of my tasks. But I had to take it back, couldn't let myself give anything real, because if I gave you something, I might never get it back."

Andy tried to roll over, wanted to tell Miranda that she understood, knew what she was saying, but Miranda planted her hand firmly in the small of Andy's back, and continued to speak.

"But you already had it. Somehow, when you walked away that day, I felt a panic I had never known before. I felt as though, for the first time since I came to this country, my control was slipping, I was losing something that was mine. I didn't see or hear one thing, Andrea, until you stepped back in beside me. I tried to feel anger, tried to feel that usual disdain that would let me fire you, let me send you out of my life, but it simply wasn't there. But you were. You had taken some of my control, and though you were back, you still had it. And I didn't want it back. I wanted you to have it, and I... well... I only wanted you."

Andy felt the gentlest press of lips between her shoulder blades.

"From Paris, I knew you felt it, too. I knew you wanted this just as much as I, and I suppose you must know the rest by now. I rushed the divorce as best I could, because I refuse to drag you into anything more than necessary to be with me. There were so many times, so many moments when you would do something so damn perfect, or wear something so stunning, and I just wanted to pull you into the nearest room and never let either of us out again. I couldn't stand being near you, but it was worse when I sent you away, so I'm afraid I took it out on our dear, abused Emily."

"She needs a raise," Andy blurted.

Miranda chuckled. "That... yes. Especially for this past week... this past week was torture for me. When you spent the night... I came so close to waking you up in the same manner as today, but I held back, telling myself that I could hold out for just another week... It became my mantra, just this last week... just one more week... just wait, Miranda. Just one more week. I suppose I ought to have let the dust settle a bit, but I couldn't. And I shouldn't have to either. People will judge, but people always judge, and quite frankly, I don't care about very many people."

A slightly embarrassed smile appeared on her face. "I suppose I came on a bit... strong tonight, but I was afraid, if I gave you time to think about, if you realized exactly who was in your bed, you wouldn't have said yes. I should have known better... I've seen in in your eyes for months but... there was still that lingering bit of doubt."

Andy had kept nearly silent throughout the entire monologue, but now she was almost trembling with emotion. She wanted to say so many things, but she knew it was entirely the wrong moment, so instead, she flipped herself over and used Miranda's still outstretched arm to roll over her wonderful, aggravating lover. She took a good minute to just stare, committing Miranda's open, beautiful, beautifulbeautifulbeautiful face to memory, before placing the gentlest kiss possible upon those sex-ripened lips.

"Yes," she said against her mouth. She trailed her lips slowly up her jawline, across a cheekbone, up that exquisitely crooked nose, punctuating each press of her mouth with a whispered, "Yes."

Ending her path with a kiss to each eyelid which had fluttered closed under her ghostly caresses, she finally said, "Miranda, I once told you that I would do anything for you. I meant it, I mean it, and you just gave me back every bit of anything I could ever ask for."

Andy knew there were tears in her eyes, because she felt one spill over and begin to slide down her cheek. Miranda raised one gently trembling hand to brush it away, then let her hand fall back to her own face, covering her mouth and she took a shaky breath. "Dammit, Andrea," she murmured, fingers still hiding her lips. Andy took hold of her hand and dragged it to her own instead, pressing a kiss to Miranda's palm. "Dammit, Andrea," she said again, slightly louder. "I've fallen in love with you."

Andy smiled into the older woman's palm, then pressed it to the side of her face instead, freeing her lips to say, "I know." And it was true. She leaned in for one more lingering kiss. "And I'm sure you know it as well."

"Say it," Miranda gasped out, her throat thick with months' worth of emotion and pent-up desire.

"Miranda Priestly... most aggravating, beautiful, wonderful woman in my life, I love you."

Now there was another silence, and there was still much that could be said, but there was no longer any need, any urgency. Everything that mattered in that moment was out on the table, and all that remained were two incredibly satisfied women, in body, mind, and soul.

"Oh!" Andy suddenly said. "I really hope you weren't planning on going in to work today..."

Miranda burst into laughter; ripe, full-bodied laughter that lit up every inch of her face. "God, no. We've both taken a sick day."

Andy relaxed once more. As the words sunk in, she slowly rolled over, perching above her tousle-haired lover. "A whole day?"

Miranda licked her lips and nodded.

"Good," Andy said, leaning down and capturing those far-too-attractive lips.

Chapter Text

Though both Miranda and Andy seemed reluctant to lose the delicious new skin-to-skin contact, each of them understood without speaking that there was a fine line between having so much pleasure that it exhausts you, and being too exhausted to enjoy the pleasure. Midday found them curled up together, luxuriating in that state of half-napping, half-dazed peace that came from being exquisitely satisfied.

"Hmmm... Though I hate to break the mood, I think there are a few... work-related things we should discuss," Miranda said, turning in Andy's arms to face the younger woman. "I have a... proposal of sorts, and I would like you to hear it through before you give me your opinion."

Andy nodded slowly, then asked, "If we're going to talk Runway, can we maybe do it in the kitchen over some lunch? With some, ah, clothes on? I don't think I can have a serious conversation lying here with you." She ran a hand along Miranda's thigh, over the swell of her hip to settle on her waist, smiling in delight as she saw the trail of goosebumps she left in her wake. "You're far too distracting."

Miranda chuckled. "Perhaps that would be for the best."

She sat up and swung her feet off the far side of the bed. Andy watched unabashed as the editor hunted for her robe, finding it on a chair in the corner. When she turned, she was confronted by Andy's heat-filled gaze, and her body reacted despite being well-satisfied. "Andrea," she growled. "If you keep looking at me like that, we aren't going to get to the kitchen."

Andy blushed slightly, not having realized quite how predatory her stare had been, but she still replied, "On second thought, the kitchen doesn't seem quite so important."

For a moment, Miranda looked ready to drop the robe and return to the bed, but Andy's stomach took that moment to protest. It drew a gentle laugh from Miranda. "Kitchen, lunch, talk, and then we'll see."

Lounging around in one of Miranda's silk bathrobes, watching as the editor was putting together and toasting two tomato-basil-mozzarella sandwiches, Andy was struck by how effortless this moment was. There didn't seem to be any awkwardness between them, no regrets. In fact, Andy found that it felt almost... natural...to sit in the kitchen and watch her boss cook for her. "Anything I can do to help?" she felt inclined to ask.

Miranda had her back to her, flipping the sandwiches in a skillet, but Andy recognized a smile in the curve of her cheek. "Silverware in the drawer below the sink, napkins in the right-hand cabinet below that. I suppose you might as well learn your way around the kitchen."

Andy, who had risen to follow Miranda's instructions, stumbled at the implications of that statement. She caught herself, so Miranda remained unaware of her thoughts, but Andy's face had broken out in an ear-to-ear grin. She really means for this to work out. I'm learning my way around the kitchen. That has to mean I'm going to be here more often...

The lunch was light but delicious, and both women found themselves finished with the meal before any talking had a chance to begin. Finally, Miranda leaned her elbows on the table. She spoke without preamble. "You've got to move on, Andrea."

Andy felt an immediate sense of panic, but Miranda held up a hand. "You've got to move on from this job. Let me explain. While I personally see no reason that the two of us could not act like adults and continue a professional working relationship, you have your future to consider, and I do not believe you want to spend much more of it as a P.A."

Andy was unsure if that was a question, so she remained silent.

"However, I don't believe it would be wise for you to be settling into a new job at the same time that our relationship is being drawn into the public eye. Tomorrow, we will return to work and request permission for our relationship. We will do this properly, so Stephen will be unable to claim that I was having an affair."

Andy's eyes were huge. "Hold on; you want this to be public?" she asked. Despite the fact that Miranda had made it perfectly clear that she wanted this to continue, Andy was still rather shocked that she wasn't going to hide it, at least for a time.

For the first time since they had started talking, Miranda appeared unsure. Her face started to close down as she said, "I see no reason to slink around in the shadows, Andrea, but if you don't want to be seen with—"

"—No! Oh, Miranda, no, I didn't mean it like that. Of course I want to be with you. I would love to do this right. I just... I wasn't sure... with the divorce... that you were ready for any more, ah, press situations." As she spoke, Andy reached across the table to grasp Miranda's wrists where they rested, crossed on the tabletop.

Miranda looked down for a moment, then took Andy's hand in both of hers. When she looked up again, a fierce light shone behind her eyes. "Oh, I'm more than ready for these 'press situations'. If the world wants to scream out that fact that I've captured a lovely young woman instead of a stodgy old money-bags, let it scream. I refuse to be apologetic and secretive about being... in love."

The final words were still hesitant, a slight flush staining her cheeks, but Andy perfectly understood the sentiment. She never thought she could love the woman more, but in that moment, wildly confident about facing the world, yet blushingly worried that Andy wouldn't want it; Andy realized that she could honestly come to love this woman more with every passing day.

"Thank you," she said simply, and she knew Miranda understood.

They moved to the living room, settling together on the sofa, not too close together, but close enough that when Miranda put her feet up, her toes brushed against Andy's thigh. Sitting there, Miranda convinced Andy that it wouldn't be a good idea to rush straight into a new job.

"Stay at Runway until things settle down. I know, people are going to look at you oddly, and Emily will most likely have an aneurism, but it will be better to let the press settle down before starting somewhere else. If you go to a new job straight away, it will look as though I favored you, even if you and I both know better—I don't do favoritism..." Miranda chuckled guiltily at the look Andy was giving her. "Alright, I don't often do favoritism." She quickly settled into a more professional tone. "Either way, it would also be hard for you to settle in at a new work place while being stalked by reporters and photographers. Once everything has settled down—I would give it two months—I can quietly arrange for you the job I had in mind for the end of your time as my assistant, or, if you would feel that accepting a recommendation from me would be somehow amoral, I'm certain you will be able to find yourself a suitable position without my interference. Don't worry; I wouldn't be insulted."

Andy nodded slowly. "That all... makes sense, actually," she said with a slightly nervous laugh. "I can't exactly just quit because of, um, this." She gestured between the two of them. "But..." she trailed off.

"But...?" Miranda prompted.

Andy blushed. "I know you said we could be professional, but I'm not sure I'll be able to take sitting only an office away from you all day long for two months, having to watch you being, well, you, and keep a professional distance."

Miranda looked rather smug for a moment, but she nodded slowly. "Well then. Hand in your resignation, give me my two weeks, train a competent assistant, and I'll hand you over to the writing department."

It took Andy a moment to catch up with what Miranda meant, and when she did, she could only blink for a long moment. "Wait, writing department? You want me writing for Runway?"

The editor chuckled at the look on her face. "Yes, I do, actually."

Andy caught sight of something in the other woman's face, and it made her suspicious. "Wait. You planned this all out, didn't you?"

Miranda's lips twitched. "Darling," she started, and the way she said that word made Andy very glad she was sitting down. Otherwise, she was certain her knees would have given out. "Did you really think I would go into this without thinking it through?" She slid closer to Andy on the couch, which suddenly seemed much smaller. "When I set my mind on something..." She didn't need to elaborate on that particular phrase. Andy understood perfectly. "And I had to be certain that there wouldn't be any work-related concerns that could cause us problems." Her hand was now resting on Andy's thigh, and the bathrobe provided little protection from the heat of the older woman's palm.

Still, Andy was determined to get something straight. "Miranda, I don't want you giving me a promotion if—"

Miranda quickly cut her off. "You deserve to be writing, Andrea. I've read your work; after all, you did hand me a rather... in-depth resume, including quite a few pieces you’d written. I already ran it by our staff editor. In all honestly, your writing is of a higher caliber than truly belongs in a fashion magazine, but I pride myself on having Runway's work be better than the standard. I wouldn't recommend you stay on as a writer here, but as a transition job, it will be a good boost into the journalism world. I'm not offering you a promotion because I'm sleeping with you..." By this time, the hand had slid inside Andy's robe, sketching random figures on the skin of Andy's upper thighs and doing an excellent job of distracting the younger woman from Miranda's words. "...I'm giving you a promotion because you've earned it," she finished, speaking the last words against Andy's lips before engaging in a daring, breathtaking kiss.

Sufficed to say, Andy didn't feel the need for any more discussion.

Andy found herself constantly torn between wanting the week to go faster, and wanting it to quit flying by so damned fast. The man who interviewed them to approve their relationship early Wednesday morning looked bored, unkempt, and didn't seem to care either way about the usual concerns. Miranda was preaching to the choir when she carefully described how the imbalance of power wasn't an issue, and that she could maintain professional courtesy. Andy answered a few questions about dating her superior, and they had finished the legal responsibilities before it was even time for work to start. Each of them was rather subdued in the elevator ride up. Most of the day went by fine, each of them carrying out their separate duties with no one the wiser about the change, until the paperwork was delivered from downstairs, and Emily picked it up from the mail stack.

Andy was out when it happened, but she heard about it later from Nigel. Apparently, she had dropped the entire stack of mail, stood frozen for a time, and finally muttered, "I love my job." Then, quite suddenly, Nigel explained, it looked like a light bulb had gone off over her head. Emily had turned and said, "No, I hate my job." The surprisingly calm-seeming redhead had strode into Miranda's office uninvited and told the editor, in no uncertain terms, that she couldn't deal with "this" any longer, and had proceeded to slap down a letter of resignation on Miranda's desk that appeared to have been written only a few days after the assistant had begun working there.

Miranda had asked no questions, giving her usual brief, cold nod instead, and asked where she wanted to work.

Emily had gone off.

"You're bloody mental. This whole thing is bloody mental. You and... You and... Six! Oh my god. I've been working here for ages and I put up with your every whim and I get half run-over and she sails off to Paris and now you're bloody shagging! I don't bloody care where I work. Hell, I don't even care that you're shagging Andrea bloody Sachs! It's you. You and your goddamned hot-and-cold schizophrenic 'That's' bloody 'all' and I'm just done."

According to Nigel, who had listened to all of this from the outer office, he figured that all of Emily's years of denial had finally caught up with her and that she hadn't even been really aware of what she was saying, because in the next moment, she had stormed out the door, frozen only a step from the office, said, "Oh no..." and fainted.

On Thursday, Miranda had received a letter from her in the hospital. She had apologized profusely, blamed it on her low blood sugar, wished them the best of happiness, and had asked to be placed in the British branch. She fancied some time "at home."

"Overall," Nigel had said, "It went rather well."

His own opinion of their relationship had been limited to, "Good for you, Six, just don't try and talk to me about it. I don't do lady parts."

Andy had laughed, and that had been that.

Of course, in a matter of hours, the news was all over the building, but aside from glares and stares of varying degrees of hatred, indifference, and jealousy, Andy could deal with it. What she couldn't deal with was the fact that, since Tuesday, she hadn't had Miranda alone once.

Miranda wanted to avoid the worst of the paparazzi by not having Andy over until Friday, when she was going to get the girls. Andy had agreed, and it was only that night, lying alone and sleepless in her bed, that she had realized exactly what that meant. After only one day spent in Miranda's arms, she already could hardly bear the empty sheets around her. Every time she was close to falling asleep, she swore she would hear that far-too-sensual voice whispering, "Andrea, darling," and she would be awake all over again. The next night was even worse, as Miranda had been holed up with legal representatives who were going over the finance records once again before Irv's trial, and Andy had only caught sight of her a few times. It was like withdrawal, Andy thought as she tossed and turned.

Friday, the reporters found her apartment. Andy supposed she ought to be grateful that it had taken them this long. There were only eight or nine standing outside her building, but by the time she had gotten past them and out onto the main streets, she felt as though there had been hundreds.

"Could you describe the nature of your relationship with Miranda Priestly, Miss Sachs?" was one of the nicer questions.

"Is it true that you pressured Mrs. Priestly into her divorce?"

"How much is the Dragon Lady paying you to sleep with her?"

"Do the twins call you 'mom'"

God! Andy thought, pushing past a flashing camera. It's hasn't even been three days!

"Is it true that you slept with Irv Ravitz, and now that he can't pay you, you've moved on to new prey?"

Andy nearly tripped when she heard that one. Where do people get these things? she wondered. She thought that, of course, it would be the nastier rags that hunted down her address first.

Luckily, none of the reporters was persistent enough to follow her too far down the street, and she nabbed a cab with relative ease. There were more reporters outside Elias-Clarke, however; more than the day before. The first tabloids had published the information yesterday... Now it was big.

"How long has your relationship with Miranda Priestly been an intimate one?"

"Why is this only coming out now – is this announcement meant to cover up an ongoing affair?"

"If I could have a word—"

"How long has Miranda known she was bisexual – or does she define herself as lesbian?"

"So is she as cold in bed as she is in person?"

Hurrying up the steps, Andy clutched the inside of her sweater pockets as though they were a life saver, chin tucked into her flimsy scarf for whatever scant protection it could offer. When she finally made it to the office, she slammed the door behind her and slumped down against it. With Emily no longer in residence and Miranda not scheduled to arrive until later, she thought she had the entire sector to herself.

She was somewhat surprised at how much the questions had rattled her. It was one thing to talk calmly about going public; it was another entirely to walk through a crowd of camera flashes and sharp-toothed inquiries into a sex life that had only had one day to mature. She groaned aloud, giving in to the urge to smack the wall out of frustration. Leave it to Miranda Priestly to want to do this properly. To want to actually be allowed to date her assistant. What happened to the good old days when bosses slept with their assistants and waited ten years before anyone else knew it was happening? Andy groaned again. She knew she was just tired. The parts of her that weren't feeling exhausted and over-stressed were actually still thrilled that Miranda was serious about her, serious enough to go public before they had even technically started dating. It wasn't Miranda's fault that she was so damn famous – well, maybe it was.

"Andrea? What are you doing on the floor?"

Andy looked up, shock written all over her face. She had been so lost in thought that she hadn't even heard the tell-tale clack of Miranda's heels. "M-Miranda! What..." She scrambled upright. "You aren't supposed to be here yet. I wasn't, I mean..."

Then, much to Andy's shame, she realized she was crying.

Miranda quickly crossed the distance between them, pulling Andy into her arms and letting them slide down the wall together. Andy tried to pull herself together—this was ridiculous! But somehow, it was all so much more real now. Miranda was gently stroking her hair, saying nothing, offering silent comfort.

The first thing Andy blurted out was, "I haven't even told my parents! Now, they're going to see it on TV, or in the newspaper, or..."

Miranda pulled Andy just that much tighter into her side. "It's going to be alright. Your parents aren't going to find out until you tell them. None of the major papers or any TV crews are out there. These people don't matter. These are the first flood, the rude, nosy tabloids that no one reads anyway."

Andy had stopped crying, but she couldn't make herself pull away from the other woman. "I know, I should know that, I understand that no real journalists would ask those sort of questions, I just..."

"I understand," Miranda said, one hand still resting in Andy's hair. "I never wanted to put you through this. I honestly didn't think this many people would care. I wanted..." Miranda trailed off, sounding slightly unsure. "I just wanted to... I felt like I had to prove to you, maybe prove to myself, that I was serious about this. I should have waited, I should have—"

Now it was Andy's turn to run a soothing hand down Miranda's spine. "No," she said, trying to make her voice firm. "You did everything right. I understood that this was going to happen, and I don't regret it. It just kind of... hit me... out there, with all those people determined to make this into something terrible. And it isn't. We can't let them do that."

Miranda smiled at her, eye to eye on the floor of their office, and leant forward to press a soft kiss against Andy's lips. "Have I mentioned lately that I love you?" she asked, pulling apart before the kiss could deepen.

Andy blushed, still absolutely thrilled to hear those words. "Not in the past two days."

Miranda frowned. "That's far too long."

She reached up over the corner of a nearby desk; an oddly awkward move for the floor-bound editor, which brought a smile to Andy's face. She snagged a phone.

"Roy. Side entrance; three minutes. That's all."

She turned back to Andy, still pressed up against her on the floor. "We will be working from home today. From the townhouse."

The commanding tone of voice made Andy almost expect a "That's all" to follow, but the kind smile on her face was the one reserved only for Andy. The one she had only discovered so recently, but which had already become almost necessary for her to feel... complete.

Miranda stood first, smoothing out a few wrinkles from her skirt and extending a hand to help Andy up. It was these little gestures, these little things that only a week ago, she could not have imagined the other woman was capable of; these gestures had made Andy realize that Miranda wasn't nearly as icy as everyone believed. She was brilliant, and she knew how to get the job done. She ruled with just enough of the fear to temper the awe and respect into something she could wield around the office, but she was willing to let that go when she was with someone she loved. Miranda loves me.

At the townhouse, they actually did work. Andy read through the bios she had been sent by human resources, picking out a few people who looked promising to fill both assistant positions, albeit short term, as she was sure that as soon as she was gone, Miranda would be back to cycling through assistants faster that she could cycle through her Hermes scarves. Miranda was fast and furious on the phone and email, battling with her department heads to get the magazine ready, battling with lawyers to keep her involvement in the Irv dilemma to an absolute minimum, and battling with Leslie about all this sudden new publicity. The work was enough, though, because it felt wonderful just to sit with Miranda in her living room, each doing their separate but connected jobs; together.

Andy called her parents. Her dad answered, and she made him put her mom on the line as well. Miranda motioned, asking silently if she wanted privacy, but Andy shook her head.

"Hi, honey," her mom said. "How are you? We haven't heard much from you lately."

It was true. After Paris, Andy had thrown herself almost bodily into her work, and the calls to her hometown had been infrequent at best. "Sorry, mom, I've been pretty busy."

"Why do I get the feeling this isn't just a 'checking in' sort of call?" her dad asked.

"That's because, well, it's not. Mom, dad, I'm seeing someone..."

She paused, unsure how to broach this subject. She wasn't too worried about the 'woman' thing; she had a gay cousin. It was more the 'Miranda' thing.

Her mom cut into the silence. "That's wonderful, dear, but you sound worried, and you don't usually feel the need to tell us whenever you're seeing someone, so it must be getting serious."

"Um, yeah. It is. The thing is, I have to tell you now, because otherwise you may find out, ah, other ways."

"They famous?" her dad asked calmly.

"Well... yes."

"Have we heard about him before?" her dad added.

"You have… heard about her before."

There was a slight silence, and then Mrs. Sachs said, "Oh honey, we don't mind if you're seeing a woman!"

"No, no, I know, it's not that… It's Miranda."

"What about Miranda?" her dad said slowly.

"It's Miranda, dad. I'm seeing Miranda. I'm dating Miranda."

"Miranda Priestly?" her mom asked, voice gone strangely flat.

Andy winced. "Yes, mom. Please, I know I haven't been exactly, ah, full of praise about her." She studiously avoided looking at Miranda in that moment. "But this is serious, we're serious, and I love her."

For a moment, there was no sound on the other line. Then, her dad said, "This may take a bit of getting used to, and I think your mom and I are going to want to see you in person, but we aren't going to tell you not to do this, right?"

Andy could practically hear her mother's nod. "You know, I'm not actually all that surprised," Mrs. Sachs said.

"What?" Andy blurted.

"Well, you certainly talked about her a lot, and under all that grousing, I picked up a lot of respect. As long as she makes you happy, Andy, that's all that matters to me."

Andy smiled slowly. "She does, mom." She looked at the woman across from her, who was pretending to stare at her computer screen while clearly listening to the conversation. "She really does. Thank you!"

Andy's mom chuckled. "Nothing to thank us for. Now, I'm sure you have places to be, things to do. Don't worry about us – we'll keep away from the tabloids, same as we always have."

"I love you mom, love you dad."

At three thirty, Miranda calmly reminded Andy that she was picking up the twins. Andy tried not to look nervous or worried – she had, in fact, forgotten all about that particular problem. Miranda offered her the use of her car, which Andy had no interest in – she could hardly drive a stick to save her life, and besides, it would look a bit suspicious if Jenny's mom showed up in Miranda's car.

She took a taxi.

The twins were waiting outside their school and spotted Andy leaning against the taxi right away. They insisted that Andy sit sandwiched in between them. It was not the most comfortable position for her long legs, but she complied. Both Caroline and Cassidy were determined to babble at the same time, both impressed with her new haircut, both wondering if their mom would let them cut theirs like that, both wanting to talk about school and hear about work, and neither of them wanting to talk about the same thing at the same time.

Still, the excitable babble distracted Andy from wondering exactly what Miranda planned to tell them once they got home.

They ran into a few spots of traffic, nothing unusual for the city. When they were only three blocks or so from the house, Caroline, sitting to Andy's right, asked, "So did mom tell you yet?"

Andy knew it was Caroline because she had the same pronounced bump in her long, slender nose, which Cassidy did not. "Hmm?" Andy asked. "Tell me what?"

Caroline chuckled and exchanged a look with Cassidy. "She's got a crush on you!"

"W-what?" Andy spluttered, finally giving the girls her full attention.

Caroline looked smug. "She told us ages ago. We asked why she was always talking about you, and she turned all red, so we knew she had a crush. That's what Cassidy always does around Tommy."

"I do not!" Cassidy whined.
"Yes you do. Anyway, we started teasing mom about having a crush on you, she said that she did, but she made us promise not to tell until Stephen was gone. He's gone now, so we can talk about it, right?" Caroline finished, looking slightly uncertain.

Andy didn't know whether to laugh in relief or in wonder that the twins had figured it out before her. Either way, she chuckled. "Yeah, you can talk about it now. She did, um, tell me about her crush."

"Cool," Cassidy said. "Because you're much better than Stephen."

Caroline nodded. "So when are you moving in?"

Andy nearly choked on her own breath. She sometimes forgot how frank children could be. Leave it to them to have an entire situation sorted out in their heads before she had even wrapped her mind around it. "Um... probably not for a while now. You would, ah, have to ask your mom."

They had pulled up in front of the house. Unfortunately, so had some news vans. "Can you pull around the back?" Andy asked the driver. He nodded, unfazed.

The back lot was thankfully empty, and the twins raced inside while Andy tipped the cabbie. When she had stepped inside, she saw two carrot-tops hugging her silver-haired lover, who met Andy's eyes over their heads with a stare filled with gratitude.

"There are my bobbsies! How are you? I missed you when you were at daddy's."

Cassidy said, "We're fine."

Caroline added, "We were getting bored. And we missed you! And Andy. When is she moving in?"

It was Miranda's turn to look almost comically shocked, but she covered it well, shooting Andy an amused, apologetic glance. "Ah... not yet. Your mom has a few things she needs to sort out with Andrea first. But not tonight; come along... I have dinner ready."

As the Priestly family headed for the dining room, Andy felt an odd unease settle over her, and she wondered vaguely if she should leave. She speculated that perhaps this entire situation had been an odd dream, that these three days of almost-normalcy would slip into four, and five, and everything would go back to how it had been before she had slept with Miranda. For a moment, standing awkwardly in the hall, feeling like the on-call assistant, she felt a choking sense of panic, fear of her own need to be close to this woman.

She needn't have worried. The twins had raced into the dining room, but Miranda had turned.

"Aren't you coming, darling?"

Andy laughed, a tinge of hysteria in the soft sound. "Yes, of course."

Somehow, in three days, she had already fit herself into the livelihood of this home. It hit her, all at once, that Miranda was really, really serious about this. It wasn't about the sex; though that was certainly a perk she wasn't going to mind exploring quite a bit more. No, it was about them. Both of them, and everything about the two women. It was about herself. It was also about Miranda. Miranda wanted someone to understand her, and Andy was desperate to do just that. Even now, though, at the beginning, at the start, it already just... worked. She was about to sit down to dinner with three parts of a family, and though it was soon, though it was new, she felt that she was already fitting herself in with them. And, best of all, they wanted her to fit in with them. The twins already looked up to her in a way she knew they had never done with Stephen.

How did this all happen so fast? Andy wondered.

But in all truth, it hadn't. It had been happening ever so slowly since she had walked into Miranda Priestly's office as the smart, fat girl. Happening slowly since she began chatting with the twins in the darkened stairwells of the Priestly townhouse. It had been happening faster since Paris, faster still since Miranda had decided to make it happen. Then, that day, in the Runway bathroom, Miranda had snipped away the last bits of their self-control as she had snipped away with her scissors, and the moments between then and now had only been stolen time. Not wasted time, because the build-up had been half of the journey, but stolen time all the same.

Because this was right. It hadn't been right for some time now. Something in Miranda had been broken since her first failed marriage, and something in Andy had been broken since she had slept with a man she hardly knew in Paris, perhaps even before that, when she was almost ready to settle for Nate. Not settle with Nate, not with someone she was truly ready to be with forever.

This home had been broken as well, torn between a protective father, a desperate mother, and a step-father who should perhaps never have been in the picture at all.

But now it was right.

"Andrea?" Miranda called, sounding slightly impatient, a touch of that Where-Is-My-Assistant tone tempered by love and not a little desperate want.

"I'm right here," Andy whispered.

Because it was all right. Everything was finally going right.

Things had been broken, yes, but there was no need for them to stay that way.

All it would take was a simple fix.

~finis