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 How dare she.

The door slammed in Serena's face but Miranda couldn't give a damn. Andréa had left her and she was on the warpath. Nobody left Miranda and got away with it. Nobody.

She threw her one-of-a-kind Marc Jacobs clutch on the chaise and stalked to the phone in her room, her whole body twitching like a snake about to strike. 

"Where is Andréa?"

"Excusez-moi?"

Miranda rolled her eyes and launched into a tirade of perfect French ordering the concierge to find and detain Andréa until she was ready to deal with her.

"Ah, pardon Miranda, Mademoiselle Sachs has not yet checked out. She suggested that her flight is not until ze morning."

Miranda hung up without another word. Andréa was still in the hotel and she would be sorry that she left her on the steps of that show, sorry that she left her.

Miranda practically ripped off her one-of-a-kind Vera Wang and threw it on the bed to deal with later. Pulling on her comfiest pantsuit, she stormed from the room and down the hall to where she knew Andréa was.

It was only because she didn't have a key that she knocked. If she had had her way, she would have burst in there without another thought.

"Go away Nigel."

Miranda knocked again, harder.

"Nigel, please. I don't want to talk about it."

She pounded her fist on the door like a madwoman.

"For fuck's sake Nig-"

Andréa stood there in all her beautiful glory, in the most god-awful sweatshirt Miranda had ever seen (which was saying something considering their first meeting), and a pair of - she turned up her nose - Haines tracksuit pants.

Miranda blinked as the door came towards her and she stuck her foot out quickly to stop the door from slamming into her face.

"Andréa!"

"Go away Miranda, I'm not going to have it out with you tonight."

"Andréa."

"What?!" Andréa yelled, leaving her to open the door. "What can you possibly want to exact from me now? How else have I failed you, Miranda? How else can you bring me down?"

The rejoinder hurt Miranda. She realised, quite starkly, that Andréa really was like her. Her barbed defences were designed to hurt, and they did. But Miranda knew better. She knew Andréa, and this was not Andréa.

"Andréa, please. I am not here to scold you."

"Really?" Andréa frowned, all the wind going out of her sails. "Then what on earth can you possibly want from me now?"

"I," she sighed and looked up and down the corridor. "Could I possibly come in?"

"You're asking?"

"I am."

Andréa waved her in and walked away, throwing the shirt she had been clutching in her hands into an open suitcase on the bed. She turned and fixed Miranda with an unreadable look, her hand on her hip.

"I," Miranda faltered, Andréa's look flustered her more than she was willing to admit. Andréa did that to her, and she'd never understood it. "I misspoke earlier," she said quietly, not meeting Andréa's eyes. "In the car. I had," she sighed. "I was trying to compliment you," she felt a little queasy at the thought. "I realise in the wake of what you had just seen me do, that was not how it was perceived."

"Miranda," Andréa sighed and slumped on the bed. "Being compared to you is so -"

"Unwanted?" Miranda offered.

"No," Andréa sighed again, rubbing her face with her hands. "That's the ridiculous thing. It's such a double-edged sword. You can be such a bitch," she was going to argue, but Andréa's face stopped her. "But you're also so brilliant and so clever and hilariously funny, though you never let anyone see that.  I'm not ashamed to be seen to be like you, but," she shook her head. "You were so wrong earlier. Nobody would want to be us. Not if they knew. It is toxic. It's -"

"Don't leave." 

She hadn't meant to say it out loud. She'd meant to start slow and talk Andréa around to it, but there it was, hanging in the middle of this subpar hotel room like the ghost of all her terrible decisions.

"Miranda."

She had this way of saying her name that made her heart jump, even when she was upset, or exasperated. Miranda did not want to be without it. She never wanted to stop hearing her name being said like that

"I," she decided on mostly-truthfulness. "I did not mean to say that, but I do mean it. Please do not leave. Finish out your year and I will get you a position at any publication you want."

"You are so infuriating."

Miranda frowned. She did not understand.

"You're asking me for yet another favour Miranda, do you not see?" Andréa said, now pacing her way in front of the sofa that Miranda was regally perched on. "You're asking me to change my life, again, and put up with this shit in the hope that you will give me something later, providing I do exactly as you say until you say stop."

"I," Miranda's frown deepened. "But that is what I have always done Andréa. That is how our industry works. That is how life works."

And there, it seemed, was the crux of the matter. Andréa stopped pacing and stared hard, before slumping on the other end of the sofa.

"Maybe I'm not cut out for New York," Andréa whispered. "Maybe I don't want to do that," she closed her eyes. "Maybe I don't want to be that."

"Andréa," Miranda started, before trying something different. "Andy -"

"NO! Oh god Miranda, no," she chuckled. "It sounds like you're going to vomit. Andréa is fine. You're the only one that says it like that."

"Well." 

She wasn't actually sure what to say to that.

"Look, I don't want to leave," she said, breaking into Miranda's thoughts. "I don't love this job, the pay is awful for how much we do, and the hours are utterly ridiculous, but to be honest, I do like taking care of you  And I know I'm good at it. I want to stay, but I cannot handle the deceit and the competition and the awful awful cut-throat bullshit that everyone deals with and deals out every day. It is too much, and I don't really care if that makes me naive, or a hick, or whatever. I'm proud of what I've done and how far I've come. I just," she frowned. "I don't know if I can do it," she looked up as if she were begging Miranda to understand.

"You can do anything you put your mind to," Miranda said gently, recognising that the next few moments could make or break what Andréa did next. "I would like it if you stayed Andréa. To whatever end. You are," she cleared her throat, wanting to bite back what she was saying, but ploughing full steam ahead. "You are by far the most competent assistant I have ever had, and I would be loath to let that walk away." She saw a frown appearing on Andréa's face. "To let you walk away. Especially at this time. At any time." She could see she was winning, though she still wasn't sure why she was fighting. "I need you Andréa."

Chapter Text

"I need you Andréa."

There it was, Andy thought. The reason she hadn't left on the red-eye. The reason she hadn't even hit the "Pay" button on the flights yet. She knew Miranda needed her, and she knew finding another assistant that was even half as competent would be a mission she would not succeed in. Especially with Emily's leg, and the divorce and the almost-dethronement. She had known it the moment she'd thrown the phone in the fountain. She'd felt it deep in her gut.

She realised Miranda was looking at her, in an almost fearful way.

"I'm not leaving," she said finally, getting up and grabbing a bottle of wine she'd chilled earlier. She groaned as she slumped back on the sofa. "But we can't keep doing this. I'm choosing not to be afraid of you anymore Miranda, so I'm going to tell you like it is."

For the first time since they'd left New York, Miranda smiled, just barely.

"I would expect no less," Miranda said gently.

"And I'm not moving up in the company. I'm gonna be your assistant. Do what you like with Em, but I don't want to be an editor, or a writer, or a," she groaned. "A fucking journalist."

"But -"

"That industry has hurt you, which hurts me," Andy said, blushing a little at the look Miranda was giving her. "I don't want to be a part of that right now, so I'm sticking with you, alright? And we're going to go forward differently. Because I know you need me, but I don't want to hold that over you, or for you to hold it over me. I want us to be the best we can be and there's so much shit that gets lost on the way because we're not being the best. None of this would have happened if we'd have been more organised," she fixed Miranda with a stare. "If you'd shared your thoughts with someone instead of trying to fight the world on your own."

"I," Miranda looked shocked. "I concur. It is a consistent worry of mine. I," she frowned. "I have never had anyone trustworthy to tell before."

"Well," Andy said, sitting up. "You do now. Let's start simple. What are you planning on offering Thakoon?" she thought about it for a second. "And what do you expect to give them?"

Miranda looked, wide-eyed at Andy, clearly forgetting she was meeting the design team.

"No worries, I'll push them to breakfast if you are amenable?"

"Yes, that's fine," Miranda smiled. "And I will leave you a list, I suppose?"

"Fine," Andy shrugged. "It doesn't have to be immediate, we can work into it if you like. I don't want to add more work to this week."

"I will get you a list Andréa."

"Fine," she nodded. "Did you have anything else you want to do? I'm about done for the day, and I'm about to put on a shitty French-dubbed movie and get stupidly drunk."

"Andréa!"

Andy laughed and patted the cushion on the sofa beside her.

"Come on Priestly, join me for some crappy wine."

"I," Andy watched as a flurry of responses were considered and put aside. "Fine," she said, her pursed lips hiding a grin. "Although it feels like I'm playing hooky."

"You are," Andy smiled, pouring then passing a glass of wine. "I won't tell if you don't, but tomorrow you'll meet Thakoon and then you'll apologise to Nigel. Face to face. Properly. Because that was all sorts of fucked-up."

"I agree," Miranda said, staring into the glass. "There was no time -"

"No," Andy said looking at her. "This is the beginning of what I just told you. Don't start that bullshit with me," Andy mumbled. "You make time for your friends. Only you and one other person knew what was happening, and besides that," Andy fixed her with a glare. "You're Miranda-Fucking-Priestly, they would have waited for you."

She took a sip of her wine and Andy watched as Miranda realised what she'd said was true. She wondered if Miranda had truly loved Stephen and whether it was him that had sent her into a spin that nearly made her miss the power-grab. The unsettlement had started earlier than their current problems. Andy considered this. She realised with clarity that Stephen and Miranda had always had problems. The first time she delivered the book came to mind. So no, she thought, it wasn't Stephen that had thrown her off her game. Maybe something else, before her? It was obvious Miranda had known much, much earlier. She had time to shore up her alliances and write The List. It was a conundrum she might never solve, but as long as it was fixed now, Andy would deal.

"Do you always put on a movie and then not watch it?"

Miranda's voice startled her and she managed to save the wine at the last minute.

"Um," she considered. "Yeah sometimes," she laughed. "Depends on the movie. And what's in my head. I use them for background noise a lot."

"Well," Miranda said, pouring another glass of wine. Andy wondered whether Miranda had finished it quickly, or whether she'd been woolgathering for that long. "I happen to like this one a lot."

"You can also understand French," Andy smiled. "Though god-forbid anyone except the poor hotel staff realises."

"One must always keep the other people on their toes," Miranda sighed, leaning back and slouching on the sofa. Andy smiled at how endearing it made her look. "One cannot have all the answers if one does not have all the information."

"That is eerily similar to how my life works, you know."

"Hence," Miranda swirled the wine. "My earlier comment."

Andy watched as she swallowed a mouthful a little indelicately and then turned to face her.

"I know I am not easy to work for Andréa. I am single-minded. And a work-a-holic. But I am also a mother and a woman and I," she swallowed. "I recognise what you have had to do, what you have had to give up in order to do this job as well as you have."

"Nigel said to me once," Andy smiled, allowing the comment to sit for a moment. "That when your personal life was burning down around your ears, it was finally time for a promotion. I think we're both entitled to one right now, don't you."

Miranda laughed and Andy was charmed by the sound. She'd not heard Miranda laugh very often, choosing instead to laugh in a perfunctory way that had no feeling.

"You should laugh properly more often," she said without thinking. "I think things would seem less huge if you laughed at a few of them."

"I feel like I might have a bit more opportunity to do so after today," Miranda smiled, making Andy smile too. "To the future," she said, offering Andy a toast.

"I'll drink to that," Andy grinned.

Chapter Text

"Mother fucker," Andy groaned, blinking wildly as she rose from what felt like, the dead. "Mother-mother-effer."

"What the hell is that noise?"

Andy's eyes nearly popped out of her head as Miranda sat up on the sofa opposite her glaring darkly at her.

"Remind me never to get you drunk again," Andy huffed, reaching for the screaming phone. "That is the alarm I set on your phone so I can get up and make sure you go see Thakoon's team in," she winced at the brightness. "An hour."

"Cheap wine is not the way you get drunk Andréa," Miranda grumbled, rubbing her temples. "Remind me to teach you that for next time."

Andy felt too crap to laugh, or even consider the statement, but she grinned as her eyes met Miranda's.

"I'll get a new phone while you meet with them. I backed the last one up. Everything is on the cloud anyway. Nothing was lost except the hardware."

"God, I'm glad you're efficient."

"Yeah well. Remember you said that."

"I will never forget anything we discussed last night, Andréa," she paused in front of Andy and fixed her with a stare. "It is perhaps too early to consider this, but if you really do want to stay, I'll promote Emily and I will not hire another one."

"Fine," Andy smiled. "We don't need another one. We need an efficient and proficient assistant and I can do that."

"I'll double the pay."

"Slow down there," Andy chuckled. "I think you're still drunk."

"If I'm only paying one of you, I don't have to split the budget," Miranda smirked. "Do I?"

"That is why you are the boss and I fetch the coffee," Andy smiled. "Go, I'll call for some breakfast. God forbid you meet them on an empty stomach."

"What do you mean I," Miranda grinned again. She seemed to have done that a lot in the last twelve hours as far as Andy could remember. "If you're staying, that means we, darling, we."

Andy gaped at her as she sashayed out of the room until she realised what Miranda had said. She ran to the door and stuck her head out of the door.

"Seriously?"

"Yes," Miranda called over her shoulder. "45 minutes. By the elevator."

"Urgh," Andy groaned. "Yes, Miranda."

"That, Andréa, is exactly how it should be," Miranda called, going into her room and leaving Andy in the corridor. 

"Pay bump. New position. What the fuck?"

She slammed the door and raced to get ready, stopping to make the calls from the hotel phone that she needed before she hopped in the shower. She took just a few minutes longer under the water, trying to start her brain a little better but knew she was still on a time limit. She stepped out of the shower and was towelling her hair when the door buzzed. She frowned, pulling on a robe and went to open it. A messenger was at the door, looking bored and holding a box.

"Ça va?"

"Fine," she said with a frown. "Who's it for?"

"Andréa Sachs?"

"Huh, yeah, that's me."

She signed for it and he handed it over, leaving her at the door looking at the box. She dropped it on the table and finished dressing, figuring she'd open it before she put her make-up on. Having done so, she found a pair of scissors in her make-up bag and split the box, gaping at what she found. A brand new iPhone, all the branded accessories she could possibly need including one or two she wouldn't, along with the latest iPad and Apple pencil.

She looked through all the boxes trying to find a label or really anything to explain how this had come about until the phone box beeped. 

She frowned, pulling the top off and seeing the phone lit up. She laughed at the background, a picture of last month's cover, and smiled as she saw the message waiting for her. She should have known.

Andréa

Please make sure this one stays with you, instead of going for a swim. I have it under good authority that it IS waterproof, but I do not wish to call Tim a second time and have another delivered.
Don't be late.

M

It took her a few moments to realise which Tim Miranda was talking about. Considering the last two days in the scant seconds that she had, Andy didn't even know where to begin, or how to feel. She wanted to scream in both terror and excitement. All she could do was beam. This would work. This she knew. 

And she couldn't bloody wait.

Chapter Text

 

She was 30 seconds in front of Miranda and had just passed the door when it opened.

"Good morning Miranda," Andy smiled, screeching to a halt. Okay, she beamed. "Thank you."

"I have no clue as to what you mean," Miranda said behind a smirk. "Are you prepared to take notes?"

"I am," Andy smiled, showing Miranda the messenger bag she'd slid the iPad into. "It's amazing what this thing can do, did you know?"

"All I know, Andréa," Miranda drawled. "Is that my children play noisy, obnoxious, flashing games on them. It's totally beyond me."

They waited for the elevator and Andy hung back for half a second before Miranda rolled her eyes and she stepped inside.

"You're so full of shit," Andy muttered as they stood shoulder to shoulder. "Thank you, for my gift. Because I recognise it is one."

"Yes well," Miranda muttered, looking at her nails. "Consider it a bonus for the work you have done so far."

"From you."

"That's what I said wasn't it?" Miranda said, her eyebrow conveying her amusement.

"Yes Miranda," Andy smiled.

The doors opened and Andy spied the team waiting for Miranda in the lobby.

"I'll get coffee," Andy whispered, peeling off and into the dining room while Miranda occupied the conference room.

While she was organising the drinks, she saw Nigel out of the corner of her eye. He looked awful and her heart tugged a little. She approached him carefully, her hand touching his arm briefly.

"You look terrible," she muttered.

"Thanks kid," Nigel grumbled. It looked as though he'd fallen asleep at the bar.

"I have it under good authority she's going to meet with you this morning. You might wanna change."

"I'm not meeting with her," Nigel growled.

"Yes you are," Andy said, a little steel in her voice. "Nige?" He stared at her. "Meet with her okay?"

He stared at her, taking his glasses off and put them back on again.

"Good god Andy, what the hell have you done?"

"I gave her some perspective. She'll probably tell you, but I'm it for a while. Em's moving up. I'm moving sideways. I'm staying. We're going to do better."

"Andy."

"Look, I know," Andy smiled, taking his hand. "I told her that she was out of line. Weirdly, it worked. There was a whole thing I'm not going to get into but," she nodded. "She's going to explain. To you. Why. And she's going to make it up to you, I promise."

"I," it seemed to galvanise him as she said it. "Me?"

"Yes," Andy grinned. "Which is why you need a shower and a change of clothes."

"Shit. When?"

"Dunno, I'll text you. Assume she'll give Thakoon forty minutes and I'll push it off for an hour, so," she looked at the new phone. "10:30?"

"I," he stared hard at her through glassy eyes. "Have so many questions."

"And I'll give you all the answers on the flight back okay? Lots going on. Lots to do. It's going to be okay."

The phone beeped and Miranda's name flashed up with an emoji of all things. A little man cocking an eyebrow.

"Gotta go. Get changed. I'll let you know."

She raced back to the conference room and was shocked to see all eyes on her as she stepped through the doors.

"Ah," Miranda said with a smile. "Now we may start."

Andy stared at her and she nodded to the seat beside her. Apparently, Miranda wasn't going to be doing anything without her anymore. It would have been better to have known that from the start, but she could work with that as well.

She worked like a demon, making notes on the new iPad - she loved the pencil function - and making sketches and sharing it to the Art and Make-up department instantly. She didn't have to type anything up later and it was all saved remotely. She grinned when Thakoon's team finally left.

"This is so easy," Andy grinned. "It's going to be awesome."

"I do feel a certain sense of satisfaction at how smooth that seemed," Miranda mused, taking off her glasses and throwing them on the folio of sketches they'd left. "You saw Nigel?"

"Trust you to be able to see through walls," Andy chuckled. "Yeah, I told him 10:30?"

"Fine," Miranda nodded. Andy sensed she had more to say. "Is he -"

"Sad? Angry?" Andy shrugged. "Yeah. But he's also your best friend so he has the right to be."

"Andréa."

"I'm serious. You got some pretty big grovelling to do."

"They're not going to approve Men's Runway for another two years," Miranda sighed, swirling the last of her coffee, then deciding the better of it drinking it. "Which means it will be a long term apology."

"Then tell him that," Andy said, offering her more. "Tell him as much as he needs to understand."

"You really aren't scared of me anymore are you?"

"No," Andy smiled. "That dopey grin you were wearing last night while you watched the end of French-dubbed-Tangled helped."

Miranda fixed her with a glare but Andy just smiled.

"What else do I have today?"

"Nigel at 10:30, Armani at noon, then Burberry, Jasmin O'Hara and/or Versace at 2."

"Well, I'm not talking to Donatella so no," Miranda mused. "Who is Jasmin O'Hara?"

"Up and comer. Em saw some of her work online about six months ago. I kept tabs on her and thought you might want a look? Em's vision is usually solid."

"Fine," Miranda waved.

"Then tonight, dinner with -"

"Nigel, and you?"

"Well, I was going to say Vera Wang but fine, if that's what you want?"

"I will meet Vera for lunch or breakfast. She is not due to appear for a while, it was merely a social visit. I feel it is more important to spend time with Nigel," she glanced up at her. "And you."

"You don't need to include me in that," Andy said quietly. "We're good."

"Are we?" Miranda whispered. "Because I need to know that all of this," she waved her hand absently. "Is done and out of the air. I don't want you running off anymore if I'm going to put my entire stock in you."

"I," Andy sighed. "Slept with Christian Thompson last night," Andy said swallowing thickly. "He got me drunk and I wasn't thinking straight. I cheated on my boyfriend, kinda, and when I woke up, I knew what a monumental idiot I'd been and saw a mock-up of Runway in his bag. He explained everything. And I vomited into his shoes."

Miranda didn't say anything, but she was watching Andy intensely.

"I ran, through Paris to get to you, to tell you what was going on and you," she shrugged. "Already knew. You had it covered and I felt even more stupid. How much of an idiot had I been not to notice the vultures circling? How much of an idiot had I been to do what I did, to get caught up in it? And then you destroyed Nigel, without telling him? Miranda, I was a mess. I was," Andy shrugged, shaking her head. "Overwhelmed. Jaded. Angry with you. Angry at Christian. Angry at fucking Jacqueline, but most of all, angry with me. How dare I believe myself to be above," she made air quotes. "All this fashion stuff. This is people's livelihoods. A good number of people's livelihoods. And I deigned to believe I was better than it. I was an idiot."

Andy sat back, beet red as she realised she'd let her mouth run completely away from her unchecked. She hadn't meant to tell Miranda she'd slept with Christian, but there was no backing down now.

"See how easy this explaining thing is," Andy quipped, shrugging off the embarrassment.

Miranda snorted, then chuckled and looked up at Andy with a look Andy couldn't decipher.

"We did things badly."

"We did, but we'll do better next time. Me and you."

Miranda glared at her but Andy just flashed her a grin.

"I'm immune to those remember. Got my inoculation yesterday."

"Bloody hell," Miranda muttered.

"Thought you'd like that," Andy chuckled. "Um, right so tomorrow?" Miranda nodded. "Vera at breakfast, McQueen or Westwood to finish the morning and 1130," she peered closer. "Lunch with Valentino," she frowned. "At his place?"

"El Maestro is unwell," Miranda said quietly. "He is convalescing."

"Is that code for something? How unwell is he?" Andy asked, pausing.

"Unwell enough to worry me," she whispered.

Andy sighed and reached for Miranda's hand without thinking.

"He'd have the best-of-the-best taking care of him, wouldn't he?"

"He does," Miranda nodded, squeezing her hand then letting go. "But he is old."

"That explains the dress for the finale?"

"Yes. He offered, I counter-offered with a visit to him at home."

"Okay. Well, we always block out more time than you ever need so if you're late or want to stay longer, you can."

She brought up the map, examining the timings.

"If you want to be at the wrap party you customary 15 minutes late, you'll need to leave no later than 4:30 providing there are no traffic problems. I have a list of road closures that your driver will have by this afternoon so he can plan accordingly. If not, I suppose we can fly you out in a helicopter, though I doubt Irv will like that," she considered that. "Although Irv can probably shove it, so yeah, that's your schedule."

She looked up and found Miranda's eyes studying her carefully.

"What?"

"Where was this Andréa three months ago?"

"Scared out of her mind?" Andy shrugged. "Fighting with her friends and boyfriend. Struggling to sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time?"

"I like brave Andréa best, just to be clear. I'm not sure you've ever said as many words to me at one time, ever."

"Well, it's a new day," Andy smiled. "Did you eat?"

"I did," Miranda smirked. "I also took a multivitamin and did a short yoga program. Do you require me to inform you when I brush my teeth?"

"Sure," Andy laughed. "Any information helps."

"You are a bizarre human being," Miranda grumbled, rolling her eyes. "Did you eat?"

"Well, you're stuck with me now, so it's definitely going to be interesting, and no, I didn't. But I will once we're done here," Andy sighed. "Now, Nigel is in 45 minutes. Want me to push him up or," she checked the iPad. "If you get whatever you were planning on doing later, I can make sure to remind you to call the girls? The time difference isn't great now, but by the time you're done with Nige, it should be perfect?"

"Thank you," Miranda said suddenly, startling Andy a little. "For staying. For caring. For that. Nobody else would have suggested that."

"This is how it's going to be from now," Andy smiled. "Every minute is going to be used wisely so you can go home to your babies. And when you just can't, I've got some ideas about that too. Trust me okay?"

Andy gathered up the folders and the cups, tidying up and smiling as she went to leave Miranda to herself when the older woman's voice stopped her.

"I do," Miranda said loud enough for her to hear. "Trust you."

She nodded and left, closing the doors behind her. She needed to eat and get sorted and call Nigel. This was going to work.

Chapter Text

 

Paris had ended far better than it had begun, and they were on the plane home to New York. Andy sat quietly, whispering to Nigel about what she and Miranda had spoken about the night it had all gone wrong, while Miranda was sitting quietly on her phone two rows in front.

Andy grinned as Nigel stared at her, and glanced at her own phone as it buzzed.

"I gotta go, but I swear it's all true," she grinned. "It's going to be the best year ever, I promise. She's going to make it up to you."

"Kid," Nigel shook his head as she got up. "I know she said that, but I -"

"You know her better than I Nig," Andy said gently. "So I can only tell you what I believe. If she says she's going to do something, she will. She," Andy shrugged. "Something was bothering her, before Stephen. It threw her off her game. She missed it, or," Andy grimaced. "Nearly missed it. I had to," she grimaced properly. "Well, I found out the hard way."

"Six, you're something else, do you know that?"

"Nah," she grinned, winking cheekily. "I'm just the gatekeeper. But it will be great, you'll see."

She slid into the seat next to Miranda with a sigh.

"Alright?" she asked the woman.

Miranda nodded and Andy looked at her.

"How is Nigel?"

"Healing," Andy smiled gently. "It was a big deal, he was excited, but whatever you said to him helped," she held up her hand as Miranda opened her mouth. "He didn't tell me. Even after our dinner together."

"He could have, I told him exactly what you found out through other means, and why I did what I did. He was horrified that he didn't know," she smirked. "And then a little more horrified that I explained."

"I get that," Andy chuckled before sobering. "We should have known."

"I did not think it was your concern."

"You are Runway, Miranda," Andy said gently. "Without you, it would be nothing. We'd all have to go and beg Anna for a job, cos we sure as hell won't be working for Jacqueline." Miranda snorted as Andy grinned at her. 

"I know you spoke briefly about it at dinner, but will you tell me about your friends?" Miranda asked quietly. "When you started, I," she blushed. "My desk is not so far away from yours. You and your boyfriend and your friends seemed close?"

"We were," Andy shrugged. "We grew apart."

"Because of me," Miranda whispered.

"No," Andy said, touching her hand and pulling back immediately when she realised. "Partly because of the job, but more so because we all grew up and started valuing different things," she shrugged. "Lily manages a gallery and it was totally alright for her to be late, or to miss our gatherings but not me? Doug works on Wall Street, so his hours were a bit more 'average', but he never spoke up to defend me even though I know he thought it was unfair."

"And your boyfriend?"

"He's a chef. For some reason, he expected everyone to work around the stupid hours he worked but wasn't willing to allow me the same courtesy."

"I did not treat you very well."

"To be fair, you treated me like you treated all of your assistants at the time," Andy smiled. "But you were stressed, I was stressed," she snorted. "Emily is always stressed."

Miranda snorted too and leaned back against the headrest.

"How did we end up here Andréa?" Miranda sighed.

"We let people get in front of us," Andy said kindly. "And we're not going to do that again."

"You cannot be my assistant forever."

"Why not?" Andy asked. "Maybe being your assistant is my life's calling."

"Andréa, I," she shook head. "I have read your articles -"

"What?" Andy said, her eyes betraying her feelings. "When? Why?"

"After that little makeover Nigel gave you," Miranda smirked. "I wanted to know who you were, beyond that terrible visage you presented me initially."

"And?"

"You are good," Miranda said genuinely, making Andy's heart beat faster. "Raw, but your voice is genuine and you have a way of writing that draws the reader in."

"I," she frowned. "Are you -" she glanced at Miranda. "Of course you are, you're Miranda Priestly," she laughed.

"You came to New York to write."

"Journalism isn't the only writing available," she muttered, almost defensively. 

"Andréa -"

"Look," Andy sighed. "This isn't a conversation we're going to have any time soon. I'm sticking around until I'm ready alright? No year, no doing my time. I don't want to hear it. I'm staying."

"Andréa, I will not be responsible for your stagnation."

"I promise it won't come to that, just leave it," she whispered. "It's alright. You won't be," she looked hard at Miranda who seemed to be studying her intently.

"We're not done here," Miranda acquiesced. "But I shall leave it for now."

"Good," Andy smiled. "Why don't you sleep," she offered. "I'll sit here."

"Andréa -"

"If you sleep now, you'll be awake enough to have dinner with the twins, instead of leaving them at their Dad's until tomorrow."

"Stephen -"

"Is already out of the townhouse, Roy has the new keys and the alarm code."

"What?"

"Roy's been keeping an eye on him since he sent the papers. His belongings left yesterday and Roy made sure that Stephen knew he was there so there was nothing funny going on. He said it went well and Stephen even handed him his key when they were done. Which was useless as he called the locksmith as soon as the movers had left, but it was a nice touch. Maybe he'll leave you alone."

"Andréa -"

"Face it, we're unstoppable now," Andy grinned. "Which is why you should put whatever you're doing down and catch some sleep. A nap won't kill you, you know."

"I'm never going to be able to finish a sentence again, without your annoyingly pleasant voice providing me with the answer, am I?" Miranda quipped, though not unkindly. "What will you be doing while I will be napping?"

"I've got a date with a ridiculously difficult level of Candy Crush planned. Don't worry."

"I don't know whether I like this new bossier Andréa."

"Yeah you do," Andy grinned conspiratorially. "It takes the pressure off you for a while. You can go back to bossing me around again when you wake up, I promise."

"Andréa," Miranda smirked, putting away her phone. "Shut up."

"Yes boss."

The woman rolled her eyes and Andy smiled as Miranda pulled out a well-loved but stylish blanket and pulled it up to her shoulders. Andy smiled and tucked it down the side of the arms, making sure to not touch Miranda's thigh at all. The woman smiled and closed her eyes, leaving Andy to it.

And she wasn't joking when she told Miranda she had a date with Candy Crush. She had so little time to do nothing that she revelled in the idea that she could. She pushed the seatback, thankful that they'd snagged a mostly empty plane. Next year she'd organise a private plane for Miranda, maybe she'd be speaking to Donatella by then. Grinning to herself, she settled down and turned her attention to those stupid little gems.

Chapter Text

 

Roy was waiting for them when they arrived at the airport, along with about a thousand hungry reporters all clamouring for a comment about Paris but more alarmingly, the divorce. Miranda nodded to Andy as she caught sight of him amongst the fray.

"I have no idea how they found out Miranda," Andy frowned, looking around at the flashing lights. "Only we knew."

"Oh, I don't doubt Stephen leaked it," Miranda waved it away. "I am unconcerned. Bring Nigel, Roy can take him home after he drops you unless he is opposed to riding with us. I'm not ordering him."

"On it," she smiled, leaving her little case with Roy. "Nige," Andy said, wrapping her arm around his shoulders. "Wanna lift?"

"With -"

"Yep."

"Emily is going to have a field day."

"She's getting a promotion, she'll be fine," Andy whispered, making sure Serena couldn't hear her. "Come on."

Nigel followed along, the airport security doing their best to contain the surge of people, but instead of sliding in the back of the town car, got in the front, thanking Miranda quietly for the lift.

"Home, Roy," Miranda muttered, looking at the city. 

Andy smiled, despite the scrum they'd just fought through. Miranda loved New York. There was plenty not to love, but Andy was sure that if Runway headquarters had been in any other city, Miranda would have had it moved.

"Where are the girls now?"

"Cara has them," Andy said quietly. "Their Dad dropped them twenty minutes ago. I have it under good authority that they're making pizzas. There are a few photographers at the house, but only at the front. Your car is in the shop, so Roy's going to pull into the garage."

Miranda allowed her to see a soft smile and Andy watched as the woman opened her mouth, then closed it again, glancing at Nigel. Andy shrugged mentally and sat watching the city speed by until her phone buzzed. She looked down and looked back at her boss immediately, who was doing her level best to ignore her completely.

There, on Andy's screen was an offer to join Miranda and the twins for dinner. In Miranda's home. Andy looked at the woman carefully, before looking back at her phone. 

Don't you want some time with the twins? I don't want to impose?

Miranda glanced at her phone and rolled her eyes, making Andy chuckle.

They are teenagers Andréa. They will say hello, eat too much pizza then go to their rooms and play video games until I have to threaten to cut the power cords.

Andy laughed at that as it came through and met Miranda's eyes and nodded, typing out one final message.

I'll go and get a shower and change and come back once Roy's dropped Nigel off.

Nonsense, shower at the Townhouse if you must. Nigel can do as he pleases. 

Andy gulped but recognised the set of Miranda's shoulders and knew to drop it. She nodded again and settled back for the ride, not looking forward to the stare she'd get from her friend as she got out of the car at the Townhouse.

They pulled up, waiting for the garage door to close behind them and Roy came round to open the door for Miranda, holding her hand as she got out. Andy watched, knowing it was unusual for Miranda to accept his help on a day-to-day basis. The woman squeezed his hand and talked quietly for a moment. Roy tipped his hat to her and grinned. Andy knew she'd thanked him for making sure Stephen was gone and she knew Roy well enough to have known his answer. It was the same one she'd give as well: Just doing my job.

She smiled as Roy helped her out too. 

"I'll catch a cab back," she muttered as Miranda walked into the house. "You're off duty."

"I'll take Mr Nigel home, then I have to wash the car, so if you need me before then, I'll be around."

"Thanks Roy," she grinned, taking Miranda's two bags and her own.

"Hey," Nigel asked, looking between her and the door.

"Call you tomorrow?" Andy asked carefully.

"I don't get it, Andy."

"I know," Andy shrugged. "Me neither, but it's cool. I keep telling you. If you can't trust anyone else, trust me."

"Tomorrow."

"Alright," Andy smiled, waving as Roy got back in the car.

"Are you coming in Andy?"

She smiled at the doorway where Cassidy was standing waiting for her.

"Hey you, make yourself useful will you?" She greeted the kid happily, handing her one of Miranda's bags. "I'm just making sure your Mom can put work away for tonight. You cool with me muscling in on pizza night?"

"Yeah we made like four extra, just for you," Cassidy laughed, nudging Andy with her elbow as she walked through the door.

"Cassidy!"

"It's alright," Andy said quickly, seeing the lightning storm in Miranda's eyes. "It's alright, she's teasing. She and I tease each other a lot. We don't mean anything by it. Really." Miranda looked at her, a frown appearing between her eyebrows as she looked between the two. "It wasn't like it sounded. Cass and I became friends after the whole Harry Potter thing. Caroline does her own thing, but Cass and I like the same things. We text a lot."

"Did you know Andy went to Northwestern, Mom?" Cassidy said, perhaps missing the tiny frisson of tension in the air, or even more likely; ignoring it. "They have a really good English program, don't they? And it's not even that far away!"

"They," Miranda glanced between them. "Do. But I really can't be thinking about you leaving for college right after Paris. I'm sure Andréa can tell you all about it at another time. Where is your sister?"

"Reading," Cassidy nodded up the stairs. "She had a fight with Dad."

"What about?" Miranda asked, taking her case from Andy. Most of the couture had gone to Runway.

"Megan," Caroline said, appearing at the top of the stairs. "Hey Mom."

"Hello sweetheart. Why is your father commenting on your friends?"

"'cos Megan just got her nose pierced and dyed her hair green?" Cassidy supplied helpfully, making Andy bite her lip. It was fascinating watching Miranda be a Mom. She saw snippets of it now and then, but it was certainly helping her plan for future late-night disasters.

"I'm sorry?" Miranda asked, looking up at Caroline and making it clear she was not sorry.

"Why does it matter?"

"It -" Miranda's eyebrow twitched and Andy threw herself under the bus.

"I dyed my hair bright purple one year. It looked great for about two weeks until it faded and when I went to the stylist about a year later, they put blonde highlights in for my cousin's wedding and when they washed it out, my hair was like this weird dirty pink colour. They had to bleach it all out. It was a nightmare."

"Huh, guess you don't think about that do you," Cassidy said, missing the intrusion for what it was and looking at her Mom. "Will you be long? Cos we're starving. Cara has already put the pizza in."

"No Bobbsey, not long. Andréa, if you would like to shower, Cassidy can show you to the guest room."

"Do I have to wait for you to shower first? In my building, if someone so much as leaves a faucet dripping, there's really no point."

"No," Miranda said, looking imperious and making Cassidy snigger. "There is hot water enough for everyone and the water pressure is excellent."

"Great, just checking," Andy grinned at her, making her roll her eyes. "Lead on McDuff," she ordered, her hands on Cassidy's shoulders as she walked up the stairs.

She'd been at the Townhouse before, on the few nights Miranda was at a function and Cara could not stay late, she'd watch the girls - and by that, she meant she'd sit in the kitchen while they amused themselves upstairs. Only twice had she actually gone up the stairs. Once, she didn't like to think about, but the second time when Miranda had ordered her to follow her to her home office when the girls were both home from school ill with fevers. Something about following Cassidy made it easier.

"That's from Shakespeare isn't it?" Caroline asked quietly, as Andy passed by.

"Tis indeed Milady," Andy bowed comically. "Maybe when I get back you'll let me see what you're working on?"

"Maybe," Caroline grumbled, glaring at her sister. "Although it was supposed to be a secret, Cassidy."

"It's Andy," Cassidy shrugged. "Don't worry about it."

Andy smiled as they climbed to the second floor and Cassidy showed her into the guest room. 

"Please don't take too long, I really am starving."

"Are you still playing tennis?"

"Nah," Cassidy shrugged. "I wasn't good enough to make the team, but I've been playing soccer for a while."

"That explains the appetite," Andy smiled, wrapping her arm around her in a sideways hug. "And the sudden growth spurt!" Cassidy grinned. "I won't be long okay? Go say a proper hello to your Mom. She's missed you both. And tell Caroline I'm not going to push. You need to be careful of keeping her secrets, Cass. Secrets are important and trust is," she sighed. "Hard to recover."

"But she's so good and she feels like she isn't. I just want her to see that!"

"Everyone who feels like that at some point of their lives Cass, I bet even your Mom feels like that sometimes, though she's really good at hiding it."

"She seems quiet," Cassidy mused. "Mom, I mean."

"Paris was," Andy sighed, shaking her head. "A cluster, to be honest. It finished okay, but the middle was a disaster."

"Stephen?"

"Among other things. But I've got her back, you know that."

"Yeah," Cassidy grinned. "Alright, hurry up slowpoke."

She shut the door and Andy heard her run up the next flight of stairs after her mother. Cassidy was by far the more chill of the twins. Caroline was much more like her mother. A tough exterior but a softer interior that was prone to be hurt, resulting in tremendously acerbic bouts of self-defence. Andy had already cracked through Miranda she figured it wouldn't be long until she worked out Caroline as well. Life would be way easier if she could.

Chapter Text

Dinner was excellent and they all talked happily about what the twins had done at their father's while Miranda and Andy had been in Paris. 

"Andy said that Paris wasn't as good this year Mom," Cassidy said, making Andy close her eyes. Cassidy was laid back, for sure, but she was not subtle by any definition of the word.

"It was -" Miranda chewed her third piece of pizza thoughtfully. Andy had grinned when she had reached for it, it was like being able to peer around the curtain in Oz. "There were moments of brightness, but there were a lot of behind-the-scenes issues this year that pulled my attention. I felt like I hardly saw any shows at all."

"Was it Stephen?"

"That certainly didn't help," Miranda nodded. "But that should all be over soon. I have heard he has found someone else already so I do not think he will fight."

"Do you," Caroline glanced at Andy. "Are you sad Mom?"

"No," she smiled gently. "Not about him. Mr Valentino is ill and I had to," Andy cleared her throat, looking pointedly at her. "I hurt my friend by doing something underhanded. I should not have done it and I should have known better. But what's done is done. I have apologised and we will move one from here."

"Not Andy?" Cassidy asked, looking between them. "Wait, you apologised?"

"Cass," Andy muttered, giving her a look, before realising she'd just disciplined Miranda's child in front of her. She glanced up at the amused expression Miranda was wearing and sat back, doing her best to not open her mouth again.

"Of course not Andy, dummy," Caroline said. "As if she'd be here for dinner if Mom had been mean to her."

"Caroline, please try to refrain yourself from being mean to your sister," Miranda looked at her to make sure she got the message. "But, Cassidy, no. Not to Andréa."

"Phew. I don't know what we'd do if Andy left, Mom."

Andy swallowed, nearly choking as the pizza turned to ash in her mouth and she met Miranda's eyes across the table.

"No Bobbsey," Miranda whispered thoughtfully but locking eyes with Andy. "I'm not sure what we would do either."

-0-

"Scotch?"

"I can't say I've ever had it before," Andy mused, letting Miranda decide for herself. 

"Then yes," Miranda nodded. "Most people would believe me to have a hundred-year-old bottle caked in dust, but," she pulled out a nondescript bottle from behind the bar in the library. "The fifteen-year is more than enough."

"Ooh," Andy said, taking her first sip. "That's -"

"Do you taste the apple?"

"Yeah," Andy said, looking in the glass. "Weirdly."

"Good," Miranda smirked, sitting down on the sofa. "Ah," she sighed, falling quiet. "I have not let you go home," Miranda said after a time. "I was just considering how good it is to be home, at last, all while keeping you from doing the same."

"You've not imprisoned me," Andy quipped. "Not yet anyway." She grinned as Miranda snorted. "Home isn't such a big deal for me. I'm expecting to be left with no furniture. Doug, my friend?"

"Works in the finance district?" Miranda asked quietly.

"Yeah him," Andy said, charmed that the woman had remembered. "He messaged me earlier, Nate, my boyfriend, moved out while I was gone. Apparently, he's trialling a job in Boston. Most of the furniture was mine, but he'll probably have taken it with him. As long as he's left me with the sentimental stuff, I'm okay with losing it as long as he's gone and doesn't come back."

"Men are useless."

"I won't argue," Andy snickered. 

"I suppose we should talk about what you should expect?"

"Me?"

"I'm giving you a pay rise and added responsibility. Andréa," Miranda looked at her. "It was not hyperbole when I said I was doubling your salary."

"I," Andy's eyes widened as she did the math. "Really?"

"Yes. I have it in the budget and it isn't like you won't be doing the work to earn it. No doubt HR will be so pleased that they no longer have to have a revolving door of sycophants that they'll sign anything I ask them to."

"Miranda, that's -"

"Yes. You'll be paid in line with most of the team leaders, coincidentally."

"Definitely didn't need to know that," Andy grumbled. "I," she shook her head. "I don't even know what that would look like. Thank you."

She waved it away.

"As I said, you'll be doing the work. It's not a favour," she smirked. "I know how you feel about those." Andy chuckled, her cheeks feeling a little warm. "Regardless," Miranda continued. "It won't be immediate. I have to promote Emily and move her to Nigel's department. She has the drive to go all the way, I need to keep her with me," Miranda looked at Andy with a look in her eye that she couldn't place. "She will take my job one day."

"Seriously?"

"Yes. If she can cope with the stress and get her body into adequate shape, she could do it. Not that I'm ready for that, and she has a lot of growing to do. But she will, I don't doubt."

"That's awesome."

Miranda hummed and took another sip. 

"Will you stay where you currently live if you are being paid more? I understand it to be a rather long commute?"

"It's not terrible," Andy shrugged. "It's about 20 minutes on the subway and a long way in a cab. But most places I could afford, even with a pay rise, will be about the same. It's not like I'm moving into the Upper Eastside and could catch a ride with you," she laughed. "I honestly haven't thought about it," she shook her head at herself. "I only just realised you were serious," Andy shrugged. "It's not a total sh -" she blushed. "It's not the worst apartment, but the rent in this city is stupid and it was all we could afford. I don't know if I can afford to stay there with no roommate but I'll be alright for a while. I can look for someone to share."

"Well, I'm sure you will figure it out."

They sat quietly for a long time before Miranda finished off her scotch and got up to pour herself another.

"Will you tell me why you don't want to be a journalist?"

Andy sighed, looking at the woman before nodding and putting her drink down.

"I," she considered, leaning on the back of the sofa with her knee bent. "This will sound stupid, but I don't want to put in the work to be pipped at the post by someone who has a better recommendation."

"There is no better than my recommendation Andréa."

"I know," she said soothingly. "I know that, but," she chewed on her lip. "Maybe that's not what I mean, then. I think," she considered, getting her thoughts in order. "I don't like the system. I don't like that it's even possible to be passed over despite being the better writer because somebody who makes more money than you said so. I want to make a difference in the world and I still want to write, I do. I just don't think I want to be part of that scrum. It's not that I don't appreciate the ladder. As you said, that's the way life works, but when the ladder is taller for men with closer rungs on it? I can do better."

"There are many ways of writing that change the world Andréa and you are correct in thinking that not all of them involve being a journalist."

"Exactly," Andy agreed. "I wanted to be an author in my childhood. I wrote stories about animals and ponies and fairies, as you do when you're nine, but I could see myself writing a book someday."

"Then you must, when you are ready. I trust you will keep me informed?"

"Miranda, no offence, but I doubt I'm going to have time to write while I'm doing both assistant jobs."

"You will because it is important Andréa. And when things are important you must make time for them."

"I'm agreeing because you're you," Andy said quietly, before yawning quite suddenly. "Oh, sorry!"

"Don't be," Miranda said quietly, chuckling when she also yawned. "As I said, I have kept you from going home. Although if you are serious about not being bothered about that, you can stay in the guest room. It's late and we're not going in tomorrow. You can go back at your own pace and assess the damage."

"I'll take you up on that, only because after that night on the sofa in Paris, my back is killing me and I really don't want to have to sleep on my lumpy sofa, or god-forbid the floor."

"Good. I'll bid you goodnight. And I will see you in the morning," Miranda said, taking the empty glasses to the bar and pausing in the doorway as Andy followed. "I realise, belatedly, that it was unconventional to offer my guest room to you."

"I'm not looking too closely at anything right now," Andy said gently, joining Miranda in the hallway. "If you want, I can leave before you're all up tomorrow?"

"What?" Miranda said, looking at her like she was an idiot. "Don't be silly. The day after Paris is typically the twins' day with me, at their behest. They are in charge of my schedule, so you really should go about your day how you see fit. I will not bother you."

"You don't bother me, Miranda," Andy said, waving Miranda's argument away. "I know what you meant, but I need you to know that too. I figured that maybe I'd tell the girls too, if they ever need anything, to ask me?" she chewed her lip. "If it's alright with you, of course. And not in place of you, or their Dad, but it makes sense that they can come to their mother's assistant when they need to. Cass already does, so I guess I'm talking about Caroline."

"That is a good idea," Miranda said gently, smiling gently. "And thank you, for taking care of Cassidy. She is a force of nature, but she is still a child. She can be a loner sometimes."

"She reminds me a bit of me," Andy chuckled. "I can only warn you to be brave when it's time for college. She might end up doing a Gap year in Tibet or something like that."

"Nonsense," Miranda said imperiously, but with mirth in her eyes. "If you insist on being my assistant forever, you will be dealing with all of that, not me."

Andy laughed, shaking her head as they neared the guest room. 

"You are clearly delirious," Miranda smirked. "Goodnight, Andréa."

"'night Miranda. Sweet dreams."

She slipped into the guest bedroom and rolled her eyes. She was an idiot. Who tells their boss to have sweet dreams. Putting it down to the exhaustion and the scotch, Andy managed to change into a pair of shorts and an old t-shirt, letting herself fall into bed and into oblivion.

Chapter Text

Miranda woke refreshed the next morning, with a smile on her face. They'd avoided one crisis after another and if she really thought about it, she wasn't sure which was the biggest one - Irv's little power move or Andréa nearly leaving. She didn't have too long to ponder that as the door opened quietly and one half of her dynamic duo popped her head around the door.

"You may come in Cassidy."

"Hey," the girl smiled. "Can I get in for a while?"

"Of course," Miranda smiled, watching as her youngest ambled around the bed and slipped in beside her, snuggling into her arms. "Hello, little love."

"Missed you," Cassidy said quietly.

"Oh Bobbsey, I missed you too."

"Andy looked like she'd had a really big week. Was she the right choice? I know you kinda wanted Emily to go with you?"

"Andréa was exactly where she needed to be when I needed her to be there," Miranda said cryptically, making Cassidy huff. 

"And you promise you're not upset about Stephen?"

"I am not. There is no love lost there. In the end, I think we both made a mistake in getting married."

"Mom?"

"Yes, sweetheart?" she said indulgently as Cassidy leaned up, on her chest.

"Why did you marry him? Dad said it was cos you were lonely."

"Your father needs to keep his opinions to himself," Miranda huffed, but soothed Cassidy's worry lines. "I married him because when we first met, he made me laugh. Not many people do."

"You didn't love him though, did you?"

"Not really no. Though I hadn't realised it at the time. Stephen was genuine. And funny and," she sighed. "Honestly I thought perhaps you needed a more stable father figure in your life."

"Mom," Cassidy groaned. "That's kinda dumb. He didn't really like us and we didn't like him either."

"Well," Miranda said, cocking her eyebrow. "I shan't argue with your opinion and he's gone now, so you don't have to worry anymore."

"I'm really glad you're home," Cassidy said, pushing her face into Mrinada's neck and breathing deeply. "I missed you. And I missed Andy too," she laughed. 

"You didn't tell me you and Andréa were friends?"

"I didn't want you to think I was getting in the way. She's awesome," Cassidy sighed. "She helps me out when I need it, you know? Caroline has a bunch of friends, but they're not my friends, I don't even like some of them, they're kinda mean. Most people don't get me and I'm not sad about it, it just means apart from Caroline, I don't really have anyone to talk to sometimes. People think I'm weird cos I'm not pretty and girly like Caro."

"You are perfect," Miranda said sternly.

"Yeah yeah," Cassidy grinned, pecking her mother's cheek. "But kids don't really think like that Mom."

"What has Andréa been helping you with?" Miranda said, feeling just a tiny bit hurt that her baby didn't think she could come to her. 

"Oh, it wasn't anything too important," Cassidy smiled. "You're still my number one go-to for all things," Miranda blushed and rolled her eyes as Cassidy grinned at her. "But just, checking in with me, you know? When I was playing tennis and she knew Caroline was already home, she'd bring me a snack if she was out and about. Didn't happen often, but she came when she could, she didn't always have time to stay and watch, but she made the effort, you know? You kinda have to take care of me, you're my Mom but Andy doesn't - Emily wouldn't unless you told her to. I'm just her boss' annoying kid. But Andy is kind to me. Did you know Caro has been writing comics? Or," Cassidy rolled her eyes. "She'd tell me off for saying that. It's Manga, like Japanese comics I guess," she shrugged. "She's really good but she won't let anyone see. I told Andy about it, which," she shrugged. "I maybe shouldn't have, but all Andy said when she found out was to make sure that Caro knows she could show her any time she wanted, or not at all, but that it sounded like an awesome idea and would be first in line to buy a copy when she was ready. Caro nearly cried, but she still won't show her. Emily would never have said that."

"Well," Miranda grinned. "Emily has a long way to go, but she might, one day."

"No," Cassidy shook her head. "Emily doesn't really like us, but I think maybe she just doesn't like kids. But," she sighed. "I mean, all the other people who work with you, except maybe Uncle Nigel, just treat us like extensions of you. But we're not," Miranda watched as Cassidy fixed her with a stare. "We're teenagers, you know. We have very weird feelings about self-esteem."

"Cassidy, my darling, please don't remind me that you are," she tapped Cassidy's nose. "Nearly a teenager. I was lamenting that fact only yesterday when I saw that you'd grown three feet while I'd been gone."

"Andy reckons it's the soccer," she grinned. "You didn't tell her to bring me snacks, did you?"

"Darling, up until that moment in the hall yesterday, I didn't even know she knew you beyond bringing The Book."

"Dad didn't even know I was playing. He thought I'd been home the whole time. He was really surprised when I came home late on the first day."

"Yes, well," Miranda muttered darkly but didn't elaborate. "Anyway. Suffice as to say that while we were in Paris, we came up with a new plan. We're going to simplify life a little and Andréa is going to handle everything."

"Really?"

"Yes, Emily will move to Uncle Nigel's department and I will not hire another assistant. Andréa is going to do all of it."

"That's a lot," Cassidy said quietly. "Can she do all of that?"

"It is a lot, but there are things that we do badly now, that I don't doubt she will perfect, given the time. That alone should make other things easier and as we work together more she will identify and anticipate my needs even more so than she does now. It seems as though I no longer scare her."

"It's probably me telling her about your bunny slippers."

"Cassidy Marie Priestly," Miranda said imperiously, tickling her baby gently.

"NO!" she squealed. "No, Mom please!"

"Giving away my secrets means punishment."

"Hey!"

The moment was broken as Caroline stood at the door frowning. Miranda smiled at her and patted the other side of her, wishing that more people could see what she could see when she looked at her girls.

"You could have woken me up," Caroline hissed as she got into bed and sighed as Miranda's arm wrapped around her. 

"Caroline, modify your tone."

"Sorry," she said, though it didn't sound very genuine. "She could have come and got me, though. It's not as though I haven't missed you too."

"She could have, but as l am home now, you could merely thank her for letting you sleep a little longer."

They heard someone go past the door and down the stairs and Cassidy grinned. "I'm going downstairs. I'll help Andy make your coffee if you like?"

"Thank you, but not just yet Bobbsey," she smiled, kissing Cassidy's forehead. "I'll be down in a while. Help Andréa with whatever she wants."

"You got it, Mom."

Cassidy ran from the room leaving Caroline lying quietly in Miranda's arms. While Cassidy was the more boisterous of the two, Caroline - for all her friends and her mercurial moods - was the quiet one.

"How is my little love?" Miranda cooed softly.

"I missed you," Caroline frowned. "I wanted to call but Daddy said you'd be busy."

"My darling, what have I told you about calling me?"

"I can do it anytime I need to?"

"Anytime you want to. Exactly," Miranda soothed. "Irrespective of your father's opinion, I will take a call from you whenever I see your name on my screen. And if you cannot get me on the phone, call Andréa. She will interrupt whatever I am doing for either of you."

"That's what Cassy said," Caroline pouted. Miranda bit back a smirk; Caroline did so hate it when Cassidy got one up on her.

"I have found," Miranda said carefully, dealing with this half of her dynamic duo very differently to how she dealt with Cassidy. "That while you may not like it, Cassidy is usually right in her estimation of most situations. She may not have as many friends as you, or deal with stress as well as you, or do as well in her lessons as you, but some things, my darling, she does very well and that is one of them."

"I guess," Caroline huffed, pulling herself closer. Miranda grinned as she let her little one rest on her chest. "She told Andy a secret. I didn't want anyone to know."

"And what did Andréa do with that information?" Miranda asked knowingly.

"Nothing," Caroline grumped. "She was really nice about it."

"I was just telling Cassidy that Andréa and I are trialling a new system. She is going to be the only assistant I have for the foreseeable future, providing what we have planned works. So I want you to know that you can go to her if you need anything. Can you do that?"

"Yeah," Caroline sighed. "Do you think Andy is kind Mom?"

"Kind?" Miranda asked, peering at her child. "Bobbsey, I think Andy is the kindest, most genuine woman I have ever met," Miranda chuckled. "Something I nearly lost sight of while we were in Paris."

"So something did happen then."

"She nearly left me," Miranda whispered, feeling that feeling she'd had on the steps of the hotel when Andréa had walked away. "She is the best assistant I've ever had and I almost lost her."

"Why?"

"Stress? Hubris."

"What's that?"

"Ego. I thought myself to be something great when really I am just a figurehead for a team of great people."

"Are you sure you're alright?" Caroline said, leaning on her hand. "You don't usually say things like that."

"Andréa told me to," she sniffed. "Get over myself, as it were. So I did. I may be the one making the decisions and granted some of the ideas on the way to greatness might be terrible, but a team of people put together a spread. I merely polish it."

"So, you don't she'd be mean if I showed her something," she glanced at Miranda. "Special?" 

The sadness in her eyes jerked Miranda back to the conversation she'd been having prior to losing herself in her own thoughts.

"I do not think Andréa could be mean if she tried Caroline," Miranda smiled. "If you also wanted to show me, I would tell you the truth, but I would not be mean about it either."

"Cassidy told you didn't she," Caroline grumbled.

"She did," Miranda smiled. "But it is up to you who you show, and who you do not. It will not hurt my feelings if you show Andréa and not me. I know my reputation is rather fierce. Andréa is a good starting point. She knows what she is doing, but she knows me too. She'll listen to whatever it is you need to say and offer you advice if you want it or silence if that is what you'd prefer."

"You really like Andy don't you Mom?"

"Andréa is one of the closest things I've ever had to a true friend Bobbsey," Miranda smiled. "I like her very much."

"Good," Caroline grinned, her melancholy disappearing. "I'm going to show her and then I'll ask her what she thinks you'll think of it."

"Alright darling. Are you going downstairs?"

"Yeah, that okay?"

"Definitely, I will shower and join you in a moment."

"I love you Mom," Caroline said, wrapping her arms around her and kissing her cheek soundly.

"I love you, my darling," Miranda sighed into Caroline's hair. She watched as her daughter disappeared and rolled out of bed with a groan. Thank God she had the day off today. She was looking forward to spending some time with her girls and preparing for the upcoming week.

Chapter Text

They'd been back in New York for three weeks. Andy slumped into her chair one morning with a sigh. Nate had moved and he had also taken most of the furniture with him. To that end, Andy had been scrimping and saving up to pay the rent, seeing as she was now on her own. While she was thankful he was finally gone, she was less thankful for the lumpy old sofa and the single income she had to somehow pay rent with this month on top of the fact that the mains water was off in the building and she'd had to come to work extra early just to shower.

The good news was that Emily was due to move to the Art department today and that meant her pay rise would start the following week. But Andy had so much on her plate, it was beginning to bother her.

"Andréa."

She blinked. She hadn't realised Miranda was already there, and she poked her head around the door, blinking again when she saw Miranda sitting at her desk drinking her coffee that Andy definitely hadn't had a chance to get yet.

"Was I already here this morning?" she quipped.

"Sit down," Miranda rolled her eyes. Andy did as she was told and sat, pulling out her phone. "You won't need that. When we embarked on this little adventure, you assured me that you would be comfortable with doing this."

"I did," Andy said with a frown, putting her phone down. "I am."

"And yet yesterday you looked like a little black raincloud."

"Wait," Andy frowned. "Winnie the Pooh?"

Miranda snorted and rolled her eyes, sitting back and taking a sip of her coffee, shocking Andy completely when she pointed to the second Starbucks cup on the desk.

"For me?" Andy gaped. "Are you alright?"

"I do have children Andréa," Miranda commented quietly. "But you didn't respond to my observation. This morning, you do not look much better."

"I am a little stressed," Andy shrugged. "But not because of work, there was a water leak in my building. I've had no water for three days."

"You," Miranda frowned. "How. What?"

Andy chuckled.

"Have you never been camping? I bet you've never even lost power have you, the universe wouldn't dare."

"Andréa -"

She waved her apologies and checked on the messages appearing on her phone for a second. 

"There's a gym on the fourth floor, I'm showering here."

"Andréa," Miranda groaned, pinching the bridge of her nose. "I was under the impression that when you insisted that I tell you everything that went on in my life, you would be doing the same?"

"Miranda, I know you're really funny underneath it all, but that's hilarious. You're way too busy to be bothered by the steaming pile of crap that is currently my life."

"Andréa."

"You're saying my name like that a lot you know," Andy quipped, feeling a little uncomfortable.

"Then perhaps you should stop frustrating me," Miranda grumbled. "Let us rewrite these rules just a little. In return for me putting my entire personality aside in order to tell you when I brush my teeth," she paused as Andy snorted. "You will tell me if there is something you need, or if there is something that is causing you stress or upset. Where you help me, I will do what I can to help you."

"I -"

"This will only work if we are a team," Miranda said gently, parroting Andy's argument from the beginning of their new venture. 

Andy stared at her for a moment, and in a rare show of openness, Miranda let her. 

"I know I said that it would be a different way of doing things, but I never considered it would go the other way," Andy explained quietly. "There's no need for me to burden your day with my issues. They're exactly that - mine. I'm trying to make your life easier, not harder."

"Andréa, when I look outside my door, I often expect your smiling face to be working expediently on whatever it is that I need doing. I am a visual person. I enjoy visually pleasing things. Your grumpy face is not as pleasing as your smiling face." Andy blushed and tried not to, biting her lip when Miranda smirked at her. "And," she said, drawing Andy back into the conversation. "I need you to be the best because that is what you demanded I expect of you. And to do that, we must work together. When are you moving from that dingy apartment and into something more befitting of your new pay rise."

"Miranda, I haven't even got it yet," Andy groaned. "It's been a long time since you've been poor isn't it."

Miranda chuckled and rolled her eyes.

"Find somewhere nice Andréa, anywhere you like, and move into it. Whatever you need, I will help you with and if you refuse to accept it, I'll simply do it behind your back, so it would be better all around for you to simply involve me in this process. Also," she said as Andy stood. "Roy will take you home tonight after me, I am not taking the book. Find out how long it will take to fix the water leak and pack a bag accordingly. He can bring it to the Townhouse while you go out with the rabble. You will stay at The Townhouse until the water leak is fixed."

"Miranda," Andy groaned again.

"I believe this is going to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship Andréa," Miranda said, ignoring her. "Leave the door open on the way out so I can torment Emily on her final day."

Andy walked out, taking her coffee with her and pausing for a moment before slumping down at her desk, reeling from all that they'd talked about. Emily looked at her sideways and quirked an eyebrow but Andy waved it off.

They worked diligently until Andy returned from lunch and found their calendar relatively clear.

"Where are we going after work?" she asked instead, smiling as Emily sniffed as if it was beneath her to even contemplate such a thing. Except Andy already knew Serena was organising something, she just hadn't got the details yet.

"We might be going to that new place in SoHo, Bar Hugo," Emily said, glancing at the open door. "Serena is organising it."

"I know," Andy grinned. "I just wondered if she'd managed to keep it a secret or not. Are you two dating yet?"

"What? Andy, I -"

There was a snort from the office that had Emily gaping.

"Emily, if you can't figure it out in the next 24 hours, I'm going to demote you back to my assistant."

"Yes Miranda," she said, her eyes wide as they looked at Andy.

"Trust me Em," Andy grinned. "It's going to be fine."

"I love my job," Emily whispered, staring blankly at her keyboard.

"Did I break her?" Miranda asked, coming out with folder in her hands. "Take those to Accounting. On your way back, stop in and ask Nigel where the proofs are from Jasm -"

"Em's got the proofs, she was just organising them for you," Andy said, snapping Emily out of her stupor.

"Um, yes," Emily said, her hands shaking a little. "Here they are Miranda."

"Emily," Miranda said quietly but not unkindly, waiting until the trembling woman looked at her. "As of now, you are no longer my assistant. Bring me the proofs in ten minutes. I wish to know what made you look at this woman twice."

"Yes Miranda," Emily said, nodding excessively.

As Miranda glanced at Andy, nodding towards Emily before walking back into her office, Andy stood and walked over to Emily's side of the office.

"Em?" Andy said firmly, sitting on the edge of the desk. "Get your shit together. This is the big leagues baby. You gotta go in there and act like Nigel, not like her assistant."

"I -"

"Em," Andy said, tapping gently on the cast she still wore. "Get it together. Why Jasmin?"

"She, um -"

"No," Andy said. "Not going to fly. Why Jasmin?"

"I -"

"EMILY!"

"FUCK!"

"That's better," Miranda smirked from the doorway, surprising them both. "I will be back in twenty minutes, I want a coffee and get Emily something to eat so her brain works, will you?"

"Absolutely," Andy smiled. 

"What the bloody hell is going on!" Emily squealed once the door had snicked closed. "I've sat here for three weeks not knowing what the hell is going on and holding my tongue, but this is ridiculous."

"This is the new Miranda. We're done with the old one. She demanded perfection from us and I demanded just a little bit of give from her. And she has given it."

"Andy that's -"

"I know," Andy shrugged. "Massive risk, but I was on my way out the door anyway. It was that or nothing."

Emily fell quiet for a while before looking up at Andy beseechingly.

"I don't know if I can go from being her assistant to working in the Art Department."

"You can," Andy smiled. "Because that's what you do. You were born for this. You know what's happening sometimes even before she does. It's what you're good at. And moving you under Nigel will teach you to handle all the things you're not good at. So I want you to take a deep breath, eat a little something and go in there and show her why she was right to promote you. Because she could have sent you to Italy Em, and she didn't, cos she wants you here."

"With her," Emily whispered, her eyes going wide.

"Exactly. Can you do it?"

"Yes."

"Good, there are protein bars, a banana, a yoghurt or any combination of the three. They're all healthy and they don't have many carbs in them. I figure you won't want to eat something in front of her? "

"No," Emily whispered, her eyes wide at the prospect.

"That's okay, I'll head out too then and get these to accounting. Take your time, get your thoughts together and eat something. Take notes if you need to, she won't care as long as you know what you're talking about. But eat. More than half okay? And maybe think about getting this under control eventually okay? It's gonna get bigger and you're going need every edge you can get. But you can do it. She believes it, and so do I."

Emily nodded slowly and looked up at her.

"You're special aren't you," she whispered. "You always bloody were."

"Nah," Andy grinned and shrugged. "Just lucky I guess."

Chapter Text

Andy hummed and hawed outside Miranda's office, now two months after their return from Paris. They'd gradually settled into a rhythm, sans Emily, but now there was a problem and Andy wasn't sure how to broach it.

"Andréa, is there a reason you are darkening my door?"

"Um, no?" Andy squeaked, frowning at her own voice. "Maybe?"

"Come in," she ordered. "Sit," Miranda said, throwing her glasses down and capping her pen. "Talk. Though if you're going to tell me your pregnant, I will unleash hell on both you and whoever provided the genetic material."

"What?" Andy gaped. "I'm not," she frowned, seeing the amusement in the woman's eyes. "Miranda!"

"A poor attempt at humour Andréa," Miranda rolled her eyes. "Relax. What is wrong?"

"I," she sighed. "I'm being evicted tomorrow."

She sat forward.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Nate told me that he had paid the rent - he owed me about that much anyway from where I'd covered for him. Like an idiot, I didn't double-check. He lied. I still can't fathom why, but I was three months behind and apparently, the landlord wants to re-lease the apartment anyway so I'm out. I had to pay the balance off, or it would go on my rental history, which has seriously depleted all the cash I'd managed to hang on to since my payrise and I have less than 24 hours to find somewhere and," she shrugged. "I can't do this and that, so I," she opened her hands in surrender. "You told me to tell you about my problems. This is a big fucking problem."

"Don't panic. It is solvable," Miranda said quietly. "Send me an email with your budget. A," she looked pointedly at her. "Realistic budget. I have an acquaintance who will help. I won't even look at if you don't want to."

"Miranda -"

"I told you to accept my help or deal with me going behind your back. Consider this as doing both," Miranda smirked. "He's very reputable, and reliable. He will find you somewhere that you can afford, even if I have to help you get started."

"You're not going to listen if I tell you I don't need your help, are you?" Miranda shook her head, an amused smirk on her face. "Alright," Andy said, standing. "Do you want another coffee?"

"Yes, send me the email first so we can start the proceedings."

"'kay," Andy nodded, doing as she was told but pausing at the door. "Thank you," she said quietly.

"You're welcome," Miranda mused. 

Andy spent a few moments composing the email and sent it to Miranda, shaking her head at her paltry numbers. She was disgusted with herself for trusting Nate. He'd asked her to lunch recently while he'd been back in the city and the day she was supposed to meet him, the Super had caught up with her and told her she was seriously behind. She'd been horrified, but he was a New Yorker. He likely had hundreds of people waiting for the apartment who were willing to pay more than she was and he was unsympathetic to the story she told. As a compromise, he told her that if she left of her own accord, he wouldn't put in for official eviction. He'd treat it like a no-penalty lease break. It was an upside to the shitty situation, but Andy just felt angry. She'd trusted Nate, dammit.

After she'd handed over all of her savings to pay the back-dated rent, she had met Nate for lunch. She'd torn him a new asshole without even sitting down. He'd moped, explaining that it was an attempt to get her to pay attention. It had taken everything in her to not throw his coffee at him. She'd told him summarily to fuck off and never call her again, and then she'd gone home and packed what she could. And cried.

She'd mostly cried.

Sighing, she got into the elevator to run to Starbucks. Her phone beeped as a message came through from Miranda.

Have you eaten?

I'm fine.

Andréa, that was not the question I asked you.

No.

It rang this time. Andy didn't greet her.

"Andréa, get something to eat and get me one of those salads I like from that place that you like. No croutons. Don't hurry back, I'm meeting with Nigel. Leave the coffee, bring one back after you've eaten."

"Miranda -"

"That's all."

The line went dead and she grumbled for a moment before a new message came through and she saw her Apple wallet balance increased by $150 thank to user MPriestly. 

She cried. 

After a few moments, she got herself under control and wiped her face, taking a deep breath before the elevator doors opened. She looked up, shocked to find herself on the 5th floor and not the ground floor. What was worse, was the man waiting to get in. Irv looked at her warily and she considered getting out, but he was already stepping in. It was 5 floors to the lobby, how bad could it be?

"Quite a coup for you, wouldn't you say?"

Ok, so it would be worse than she had thought. She desperately didn't want to answer, but he turned, the look on his face making it clear he expected her to. He was Miranda's boss, after all.

"I don't know what you mean Mr Ravitz," she managed to say quite evenly.

 "Oh really?" he said pleasantly. "Your exaggerated salary?"

"I don't have any say in how much I get paid, sir."

"Oh, I'd say you used whatever you had to make sure she had no other choice. I hear from Mr Thompson that you aren't anything special, so I can't think why. Maybe she really is that desperate."

The horror roiling in her gut had her biting her lip so hard, she could taste blood. The doors opened and she stepped quickly out into the foyer, only just managing to keep her head enough to join a group of clackers as they exited the building.

"Andy!"

Roy's voice had never sounded sweeter and she dived into the car, yanking the door out of his hands and locking it behind her. She couldn't breathe. Her brain was swirling faster and faster and she needed it to stop. Her vision started to blur and she tried to hang onto Roy's voice as he asked her if she was okay, but she was too far gone. Her breath wouldn't slow down and she could no longer see properly.

"Andréa."

Now she was hallucinating.

"Andréa."

Something cool touched her face and she leaned into it.

"Andréa, look at me."

She blinked and looked, finding the most amazing blue eyes staring back at her.

"Breathe."

She tried to comply but it just wouldn't work. She tried. She desperately wanted to follow those instructions, but her body would not comply.

"Breathe Andréa."

Miranda. Her body screeched to a halt and she blinked as she took a big breath and held it. 

"That's it. Slow down."

She let it out slowly, feeling like she was trembling. 

"Home, Roy."

She couldn't believe what had happened and what was happening.  Her breathing picked back up, but a cool hand on the back of neck stopped her short.

"Breathe slowly. It will be alright."

She felt the car slow and she blinked up at her boss, fearing what she found. 

"Don't worry Andréa. It happens to the best of us. Come along."

She said it flippantly, but Miranda was the one holding her arm, not Roy, as she ascended the Townhouse steps. She watched warily as Miranda slipped her coat off and called out.

"Cara?"

"Miranda, are you alright? Is it the girls? I haven't heard anything?"

"They're fine," Miranda said, waving away her worries. "Andréa needs something to eat and I think I shall join her."

"Of course, something," Andy felt Cara's eyes on her. "Light?"

"Please," Miranda said quietly. "We'll be in the den."

Andy felt her arm being taken again and watched, almost out of her body, as Miranda led her up the stairs. 

"Sit," Miranda said gently, dropping her off at the sofa and turning to get a bottle of water from the bar. "Drink."

"Shit," Andy sighed as she downed half the bottle and finally calmed down. "Miranda I -"

"Don't apologise. As I said, it happens to the best of us."

"I -" she frowned. "You've had panic attacks?"

"Several times," she murmured, waving any follow-up questions away. "Now, what happened? Because me telling you to get some lunch would not have sent even the most flighty person into a panic attack. Something happened between then."

"You sent-"

"I made sure you could get something to eat. You're useless when you're hungry."

"Thank you," Andy whispered, seeing that Miranda didn't want to acknowledge what she'd done.

"Well? What happened?"

"I," she swallowed, feeling her skin crawl. "I took the elevator. And I wasn't paying attention. It stopped on the 5th floor."

"So?" Miranda looked confused. 

"Irv got in."

Miranda went very still.

"Were you on your own?"

"Yes."

"Did he -"

Andy studied Miranda for a moment, her eyes were like diamonds. Hard and blue and ready to flay someone alive.

"He didn't touch me if that's what you're asking, but he," her breath wobbled. "Implied that my pay rise was for something other than the work I'm doing. And," her chin wobbled. "He said he'd talked to Christan and that he'd said I wasn't very," she shook her head. "Implied I was bad in bed and assumed it was because you were so desperate that I got the rise."

"He said that to you?"

"Roughly. He wasn't explicit, but that was definitely what he meant. By the time he finished, all I could hear was the blood rushing."

"Quite," Miranda mused, sitting with a sigh.

"Are you mad at me?"

"At you?" Miranda said, looking up sharply. "Why would I be upset with you?"

"Because I didn't defend you?"

"Oh," Miranda waved her hand. "He would, no doubt, have found a way to twist that too. If you said nothing, you did the right thing. He's wounded, I outsmarted him and it hurt."

"But -"

"I've heard worse Andréa," Miranda said gently. 

"Well, I haven't."

Cara brought them a salad and an assortment of dressings, smiling as Andy eyed them with a frown.

"Miranda's favourite," she grinned, pointing to the Raspberry vinegarette as Miranda huffed. "Don't tell her I told you that."

"Thank you," Andy said genuinely, reaching for a bowl as her stomach rumbled.

They lapsed into silence as they ate. Andy was consumed with so many thoughts she felt dizzy.

"I don't have time for all of this."

Miranda chuckled. 

"That's how I feel most days," she smiled genuinely. "But you do, and there is."

"I have to get my stuff out of my apartment and put it somewhere."

"Put it in the basement for now. You can stay in the guestroom for a while until we can find you a place."

"Miranda!"

"I'm serious."

"Irv -"

"If you ever tell anyone I said this, I will deny it vehemently, but Irv can fuck himself. I will not kowtow to him and neither should you. We won the battle and we'll win the war, but that doesn't mean he won't get a few good hits in. They're designed to hurt but are ultimately useless. He is done. He cannot derail our brilliance, Andréa."

"Miranda -"

"Trust me Andréa?"

She sighed, putting her empty bowl on the tray and sat back with a sigh.

"I do, you know that."

"I do, but I wanted to remind you of it," Miranda smirked, eating her last bite. "Feel any better?"

"Yeah," she nodded. "He's a prick."

"He is," Miranda said with a chuckle. "I sent your email to Mark. I told him to make you his priority. I suggested that he send me the list so I can pass it on to you?"

"Fine," Andy sighed, rubbing her temples. "What a clusterfuck. I'm sorry."

"I'm not," Miranda shrugged. "Cara wasn't lying, it is my favourite and I'm glad we ate. It frees the rest of the day."

"But your meeting with Nigel?"

"Was a ruse to make sure you ate properly," Miranda quirked an eyebrow. "You really aren't okay; he's on the shoot in Queens."

"Shit."

"Did you sleep last night?"

"I -"

"Andréa?"

"Not really," she sighed. "I was packing," she made a face. "Panicking."

"Here," Miranda said, getting up and tossing her a throw. "Close your eyes. I'll wake you in an hour."

"I don't have time to sleep!"

"Yes, you do. You work for me. Consider this an order."

"Bloody hell."

Miranda chuckled and dimmed the lights. 

"Sweet dreams Andréa."

Andy only barely heard her, because as her head hit the cushion, she was already asleep.

Chapter Text

Miranda sat in the den, sipping coffee while she worked on the proofs she'd brought with her. Andréa had been sleeping for 45 minutes and so far she'd been peaceful enough. She thought about Irving and his insidious comments and nearly scratched through the photo. Capping her pen she considered how best to serve her revenge.

"Miranda?" Cara whispered. "I'm going to get Caroline, Cassidy has soccer until 5."

"Fine," Miranda nodded. "It is possible I will collect Cassidy myself for a change," she shrugged. "I have not decided yet. We have to arrange to get Andréa's things."

"I'll be back before then," Cara smiled. "The guestroom is ready for her and I've got lasagne in. There's salmon for you if you'd prefer?"

"Lasagne is fine," Miranda mused, glancing up at her housekeeper/nanny/sounding board. "Do you know what I'm doing Cara?" she asked quietly.

"No," Cara chuckled. "But it seems to be working for you," she counselled. "And for her, and for the girls. They're settled and you're home most nights."

"That is true," Miranda mused. "Thank you, Cara, I know I am not the easiest person to work for."

"I'm sure I'm used to you by now," the woman quipped. 

Miranda arched an eyebrow and they paused for a moment before they both chuckled. 

"I'll be on my way. Let me know if you need anything."

Miranda nodded and started at the doorway until her phone started buzzing. She left the room and stepped into the hallway, settling on one of the chairs she rarely used.

"Mark, what have you found?"

"Miranda," Mark said kindly. "Unusual request. Honestly, it doesn't look great. She doesn't qualify for rent control, based on her salary, but she can't afford to live anywhere except out of the city with the numbers you gave me."

"Unacceptable. She does not yet have enough capital to invest, otherwise, I'd be having this conversation with Sadiq."

"Well," Mark said haltingly. "I do have an idea."

"I'm listening."

"Well, Sadiq and I were talking about the best way to diversify your portfolio."

"Do you and your husband often discuss my finances outside of office hours?" she said barely holding back her smirk. Sadiq was her investment broker and he'd introduced Mark after a time when she was looking at a Hamptons house many, many years prior.

"Sometimes," he said and she could hear the smile in his voice. "But it's a perfect segue. You buy an apartment. Have her pay you whatever you want. You'd take a loss for a short while, but once she's got some weight in her portfolio, you can get some serious return. You can afford it and she seems," he paused and she frowned. "Close."

"She is my assistant."

"Ah," he said quietly, clearly wanting to say more. 

Miranda pinched the bridge of her nose.

"She is also my -" she almost didn't say it. "- friend."

"Well then if that is something that is amenable to you, it would be a good idea. Otherwise, I could maybe find her somewhere in the Meatpacking District. She could possibly afford to split the rent with one or two other people. She doesn't have a significant other?"

"No, it is his fault she is in this mess."

"No friends?"

"Not that I know of that could move."

"Ah."

"Mark," she warned.

"Shall I send you a list of potential properties Miranda?" he asked, though she knew had she checked her email, it would already be there.

"I take it you already have?"

"Of course," he chuckled. "There are a few bargains. A few long-shots that might work out if you apply the right pressure. If you want to look at any of them, let me now. It would be my suggestion to look for something that will get you a good return, even if it seems a bit much for her right at this moment."

"Fine," she acquiesced. "I assume I can afford to just buy an apartment in New York City."

"Miranda!" Sadiq said, making her chuckle. She'd known he was there. "I'm offended."

"I was merely baiting you, my friend," she grinned. "Fine. I'll look at the list and let you know. Always a pleasure, gentlemen."

"Lovely to talk to you Miranda."

The line went dead and she chuckled to herself. She hadn't set out to become friends with her investment manager but she had, and his then-boyfriend had charmed her no end. They were two men she could genuinely call her friends. She wondered whether Nigel would enjoy their company.

"Hey," Andréa was standing at the door, looking at her quizzically with her hair all over the place. "What'd'I'miss?"

"Andréa," she said gently, biting back a smile. "Feel better?"

"Um, yeah I guess," she shrugged, blinking owlishly. "I was fine for about a second before I remembered I have to be out of my apartment by midnight."

"Well, call a moving company, we'll go over there now."

"What?"

"I have found this day to be a complete waste. I am seemingly at the mercy of your organisation Andréa. When you are not organising my day, I do not have a day to bother with. So we shall do whatever is necessary for you to be settled and then we shall get on with what we are doing."

"I didn't mean for it to be like this," Andréa said, her eyes filling with tears. "I didn't -"

"It is not your fault Andréa," Miranda said quickly. "I know that. You said we'd work together. This is working together, but if you need something more to wrap your brain around it, consider it my thanks for taking care of my children."

"I," she looked at Miranda carefully before nodding. "Thank you, and you're welcome."

"Good," she nodded. "Now. You have a moving company to organise. Have them send me the invoice."

"Miranda -"

"Can you afford a mover Andréa?"

"No," she hissed. "But -"

"When I was young," Miranda said, wondering why she was still talking. "Someone gave me a thousand dollars. It was nothing to them and everything to me, and without that thousand dollars, I would not be where I am now. That person is long since dead and I have long paid it forward, but never with the same meaning. Let me help you." She met Andréa's eyes for a long moment. "Please."

She held Andréa's gaze for another prolonged moment until the younger woman sighed.

"I don't have a choice."

"You do," Miranda said, tamping down on the little sliver of hurt she felt.

"I didn't mean it like that," Andréa whispered. She could read Miranda so well. "I am proud," Andréa explained. "It's a fault of mine, I think, as I get older I see that. My parents warned me and warned me I wouldn't make it here and I just," she frowned. "Wanted to prove them wrong."

"You are making it Andréa," Miranda said without thinking, stepped forward and took the younger woman's hand. "You're making good money, you are invaluable as my assistant and you need a little help. The best of us do."

For a few moments they just stood in the doorway, Miranda didn't let go, but then neither did Andréa. Eventually, Andréa squeezed Miranda's hand gently and chuckled.

"Invaluable hey," she grinned, making Miranda roll her eyes.

"Clearly your nap has damaged your psyche."

"I heard you, but I'll drop it," Andréa grinned. "Guess I'll get on the phone and get it done."

"Good, Cara should be back with Caroline in a few moments and Cassidy has soccer until 5. I said I would perhaps pick her up myself, but I have since had a better idea."

"Oh?"

"I thought, if you aren't opposed, that Caroline and I would come and help you."

"What?"

Miranda could have laughed at the look Andréa was giving her. To be honest, the thought had come to her barely a moment prior, but it was a good one. Divide and conquer. It was something her father had said when she was a child, but she didn't want to think about that right now."

"We will come and help you. Well," she smirked. "I'll supervise. Caroline's young. She can carry a few things."

"Hell, Miranda. I don't know. It's a mess," she considered. "I was panic packing."

"I have seen messy apartments Andréa. I promise that I will hold my tongue. I am also known for my exceptional organisation."

She saw Andréa bite back a smile and arched an eyebrow.

"I'm not really going to have a say in this am I?"

"No," Miranda said airily. "You are not."

"Fine. I'll call Roy after the movers."

"Good. Then once Cassidy is home perhaps you will join us for dinner, which you are welcome to do, at any time, for the entirety of your stay here."

"I," Andréa blinked. "Sure."

"Good. That's all."

Miranda watched as her assistant blinked and nodded, before getting to work. As it should be.

Chapter Text

"What are we doing here?" Caroline asked as they pulled up to Andy's shabby building.

They'd bought the SUV with them in case there was anything that needed transporting gently.

"We're here to help Andréa pack her things. Andréa, lead the way."

Andy swallowed thickly and lead them to the elevator, biting her lip in embarrassment as it squealed its way to the ground floor. 

"Sorry," Andy winced as she yanked open the grate.

"It is quite alright Andréa," Miranda said, nudging Caroline inside. "As long as you promise that it will not fall and kill us all."

"So far, so good," Andy quipped.

"Are you poor Andy?"

"I," Andy chuckled and ran her hand through her hair, waving off Miranda's now embarrassed look. "Am not rich, to be sure. Rent in New York City is a bit crazy. You can pay a whole lot of money for barely a place to put your things. So, where someone lives in this city isn't really a great thing to base your poor vs. rich judgement on. Unless you live in a beautiful place like you and your Mom have."

"Why?"

"Well," Andy shrugged. "I am paid really well, I have great insurance and a great boss," she leaned down to mock-whisper in Caroline's ear. "Don't tell my boss. But I still couldn't really afford to live in this apartment on my own."

"That's stupid."

"Caroline -"

"No," Andy said, touching Miranda's arm gently. "It really is. I know someone living with four other people in a two-bedroom place. And they still struggle every month."

"Wow."

"Yeah, which is why I'm really," she glanced at Miranda. "Really looked forward to staying in your spare room. I," she shook her head. "It's going to be a lifesaver."

"Well," Miranda shrugged. "Needs must. We will enjoy having you there, no doubt."

"Can you cook pancakes?"

"I certainly can. Can you?" Andy asked as they neared her door.

"No," Caroline bit her lip. "Do you," she glanced at her mother. "Can you maybe teach me?"

"I certainly can," Andy smiled. "Maybe we'll do that this weekend while Cass is training? We might even persuade your Mom to try one."

"Oh," Caroline said, looking puzzled. "Don't you want Cassidy there too?"

"If you do, but you're two different people aren't you? Cassidy doesn't seem like the cooking type?"

"Um," Caroline frowned. "No, she hates cooking."

"Awesome. Well, if that's what you want, let me know and we'll do that."

She unlocked the door and pushed it open, inviting Caroline inside.

"Thank you," Miranda whispered, squeezing Andréa's hand as she entered. Andy smiled and surveyed the mess that was her living room.

"Andréa, have you been living here without anything but a sofa?"

"Yeah," she blushed. "Um, well I knew I was moving and then," she chuckled morosely. "Well, it seems stupid now, but it seemed to make sense at the time."

"We shan't need a moving company," Miranda said, looking around. "Call and cancel them. We can fit this in the SUV. Even if we make two trips."

"Are you sure?"

"Andréa," Miranda huffed.

"Right, sorry."

They worked quietly, Caroline giggling at a few of Andy's stuffed toys that went in a box along with a couch cushion that had a swear-word on it that only appeared when someone drew their hands over the sequins.

"Don't tell your mother," Andy grinned as Caroline's eyes nearly popped out of her head.

"He's cute," Caroline said, pointing at a bunny with threadbare ears.

"That's Thumper," she laughed, hugging it gently. "Or it was. I've had him since I was a baby. I wasn't going to leave him at my parent's place now, was I!"

"Cassidy still has her bear from when she was a baby. I don't though," Caroline's face fell, but Miranda's soft clearing throat behind them made them turn. 

"I do," she smiled gently, running her hand over her daughter's hair. "When you declared you were too old to sleep with Midnight, I liberated him. He's in a box in my closet with your baby book and your first pair of shoes."

"Really?"

"Your Mom's such a big softy," Andy said, tickling her middle.

"Thanks, Mom," Caroline smiled.

"You're welcome. Now, Roy has managed to round up a few strong-looking men who are going to come and carry this to the car."

"He has?"

"Indeed," Miranda shrugged. "He mentioned something about buddies, but I have no idea what that means."

"Hey, Andy."

"Hey Roy," Andy smiled as he knocked on the open door.

"This is Steve," he introduced her to the man standing behind him. "And Alex and Carter are taking the stairs. Are these ready to go?"

"Um, yeah," Andy nodded, pointing to where they'd piled the boxes up.

"Miranda, Steve's got his truck here, so, if Andy's alright with it, he'll load it up too."

"Yeah, that's fine," she smiled. "There's not a whole lot more. Clothes and whatever."

"No problem," Steve said, lifting one of the boxes. "We'll take care of it."

Andy watched as the four men loaded up and carried the boxes out of the apartment.

"He just found his buddies hanging around to help me pack up my apartment?" Andy asked, looking pointedly at Miranda.

"I may have mentioned contributing to a fishing weekend I heard mentioned a few months ago. I believe they're going while I'm in Milan."

Andy laughed and shook her head as Caroline looked between them.

"Big softy."

"Andréa, perhaps you should start on your clothes, that way once they are done with these, we will only have clothing to do."

"Good thinking. That's why you get paid the big bucks."

She left them to it in the living room and started packing and folding clothing. She still had a dresser which the Super could trash it for all she cared. She dumped the bags she'd set aside and opened them all, dropping her clothes in as quickly as she could. It had gone surprisingly well. Miranda had raided the kitchen, liberating a few mugs that Andy said were special to her, but otherwise leaving what little remained. Andy had taken home leftovers from her lunches most days since Nate's departure and Miranda had huffed at it but said nothing.

It had surprised her, how agreeable Miranda had actually been. She'd been quiet and she'd listened and she'd even packed a few boxes of books, nodding at a few of the titles. She could hear Caroline asking questions in the living room as she packed her final few dresses. Most of the couture she'd already stored in the Closet at Runway after the water leak. She zipped up the bags and rolled them into the living room as Roy and his buddies were picking up the last few boxes. 

"We've got plenty of room left Andy," he said happily. "They'll fit no problems."

"Okay," she nodded, taking a deep breath and looking around.

"Well," she shrugged. "It wasn't much, but it was my first adult apartment."

"Quite," Miranda muttered. 

Andy noticed the set of her shoulders and nodded. It was time to go.

"Alright," she said, nodding them out. "I'll just do one more check then I'm right behind you."

"I noticed a quaint little coffee-shop downstairs across the street," Miranda said, inspecting her nails. "I shall get us coffee."

"That'd be great," Andy smiled. "Thanks."

"Take your time," Miranda muttered.

Andy didn't really need to. She'd come to terms with leaving already and it really was a final check through before wheeling her suitcases into the hall.

"Look. Andy," the Super said as he saw her coming out of the elevator.

"Don't worry about it. I get it. I'm not mad. Nate's an asshole, but that isn't your fault. Gotta do what you gotta do, right?"

"Yeah," he nodded. "Look, if you ever want to grab a drink or whatever -"

"Andréa?"

Andy turned, her eyes going wide as Miranda's darkened the doorway. Liam was a good guy on the whole. But something about Miranda walking in while she was being asked out for a drink horrified her.

"Yes Miranda," she whispered, nodding to Liam and leaving, struggling to kick open the door and wheel her cases. She managed it eventually and slipped into the front seat where a steaming hot coffee was waiting for her.

"Thank you," she muttered.

There was a strange energy in the car and even Caroline remained quiet. They pulled up at Miranda's townhouse behind a shiny black F-250 and all got out, looking expectantly at Miranda.

"The basement entrance is down there," she pointed. "You may store the boxes in there, providing they are in some sort of order.."

She didn't say another word, stalking into the house and closing the door behind her. Andy was distraught. It wasn't her fault Liam had cornered her like that and besides which, she wasn't even really sure why it mattered. Roy cleared his throat and he nodded to the truck, making Andy shake her head. They formed a human chain and before long, Andy breathed out, blowing her fringe up and smiling thankfully at the men.

"Thanks, guys," she smiled. 

"No worries, good to meet you," one of them smiled. She shook a few hands and waved as they pulled away, leaving Roy and Andy on the walkway.

"Alright?" he asked quietly.

"Yeah. It's a lot, you know?"

"She's good people," Roy said quietly. "Don't hurt her."

"Hurt her," Andy laughed, rather too loudly even for her own ears. "Roy."

"I'm serious. As whatever you guys are. Just take it easy on her."

"Roy -"

"ANDY!"

She took a step back as a small red-head slammed into her, all arms and legs.

"Oof, hi Cass."

"Hi," she grinned. "Hey, Roy."

"Hello little one," he chuckled, ruffling her hair. "Good game?"

"Just training today," she smiled. "Cara brought me a smoothie."

"Nice," he grinned, fist-bumping her. "Alright ladies, I'm gonna go. Andy, let me know if she needs me."

"Take it easy," she smiled. "Thanks again."

Cassidy wrapped her arm around her and they walked into the Townhouse. Andy took a second to consider what had happened at her place and quickly pushed it out of her mind, figuring that she'd just busy herself unpacking what she needed and getting ready for the morning. 

"Will you come and play Xbox with me?" Cassidy asked.

"I'm going to get a shower and get changed, but then maybe for a while okay?"

"Sure," she grinned.

"You have any homework?"

"Just a bit."

"Well, do that first, then we won't have to stop, alright?"

"Alright. Want me to help?"

"Sure, grab that little one will ya?"

They lugged Andy's clothes up the stairs to the guest room. She had no idea where Miranda was, but she realised, most days she probably wouldn't. She needed to figure out how to navigate what they were doing. Cassidy dropped her off and Andy sat on the bed looking at her meagre existence. She marvelled, for a moment, at how quickly a day could change. This morning, she'd woken up after barely an hour's sleep and took solace at work until Irv had said what he'd said. Then Miranda had swooped in and made everything alright, except now, it seems like it wasn't alright. 

She groaned, dropping back onto the bed. Her life was a clusterfuck. It had looked so bright for just a moment, and now she didn't know what the hell she was doing here.

Chapter Text

"Andy! Dinner!"

She looked up from her iPad as Cassidy hovered at her door. Apparently, her homework had taken longer than she'd thought it would because Andy had yet to be invited to play Xbox.

"Can I wear this to dinner?" she asked, looking down at her yoga pants and clean, but very casual, shirt.

"Yeah," Cassidy shrugged. "Mom usually doesn't care."

"I doubt that very much," Andy muttered, looking down at herself once more and in a fit of defiance, went to dinner anyway.

She was sat with the twins, waiting for Miranda who was yet to show. Cara brought out a beautiful lasagne that made Andy's mouth water, even more so when she saw the garlic bread.

"You're going to make me fat Cara," Andy chuckled.

"I doubt that," Cara smiled. "Weren't you telling Cassidy you run every morning?"

"In College maybe," she chuckled. "Not lately."

"Hey, maybe you and me can go in the mornings!"

Andy opened her mouth to speak when Miranda's shadow, once again, darkened the doorway. She'd obviously changed at some point, now wearing slacks and that off-the-shoulder-thing that she'd been wearing when she dashed Emily's dreams that time. It made Andy's hands shake and she quickly smoothed her napkin on her lap to hide that.

"Girls, Andréa," she said with a slight nod.

"Hey, Mom. Did you get your work done?"

"I did," she breathed. "Thank you, Cara. You may go."

"Thanks," Cara said genuinely. "Have a great night everyone."

"Bye Cara," the girls said in unison.

"Alright," Miranda waved at the table. "Dig in."

Andy smiled as she took her first bite. It was as delicious as it looked. She hummed a little and scrunched up her nose at Cassidy who giggled at her reaction.

"Caro said that you went to Andy's today!" Cassidy said, once again wading into waters unknown with barely a hint of subtlety. "That's so unfair. How come you couldn't wait until I was home!"

"Andréa needed to be out of her apartment Bobbsey," Miranda said airily. "You were busy."

"Still not fair."

"It's fine," Andy said, glancing at her boss. "It wasn't that exciting anyway, right Caroline?"

"It was kinda cool," Caroline grinned, looking sideways at Cassidy as she huffed. 

"Well, we only packed up the apartment and now all my st-" she caught herself at the last moment. "Things are down in your basement."

"Well, I wanna go running with you."

"Girls," Miranda said quietly. "Andréa is not a plaything. You will not invite yourself upon her."

"It's okay," Andy smiled. "If you're fine with Cass coming with me, I'm more than happy to take her. I might have to train up a bit to keep up with her, but it would be okay?"

"FIne," Miranda said shortly.

Andy closed her mouth after that, eating quietly. There was a strange tension held over from before and Andy wasn't sure how to navigate it. The idea of staying somewhere that would cost her nothing and enable her to save was a good idea. Miranda had offered and in fact, had insisted, but now she was here it seemed to be the opposite of what she wanted.

The girls finished their meals and excused themselves from the table and left Andréa avoiding Miranda's eye.

"Did I do something wrong?" Andy said, remembering their conversations from the beginning of their venture.

"Why would you say that?" Miranda said airily, fiddling with the stem of her wine glass.

"Because you're acting strangely and I'm getting a weird vibe from you and have done since Liam ambushed me in the lobby."

"I had not realised the practicality of you living here," Miranda whispered.

"Firstly, as I said, he ambushed me. I've met him three times in my entire stay, once when I moved in, once when he told me I was being evicted and today," she chuckled. "Secondly, Miranda," she made sure the woman was listening. "You know I would never, in a million years, bring anyone here, don't you."

"I -"

"I would never betray your trust. Not ever."

"I know," Miranda sighed. "I, I realised how young you were suddenly. You're closer to my daughter's age than my own."

"We young'ns make the best assistant," Andy grinned. "We live on caffeine and bad choices."

Miranda chuckled, nearly spilling her wine and shook her head.

"If they get too much for you, tell me?"

"I will," Andy smiled, feeling the tension leaving. "But I don't think it will. You and Caroline are a little less energetic than your third. If you really are alright with it, I really don't mind taking her running?"

"If you are okay with it Andréa, I would appreciate it."

"Good," Andy smiled. "And you're going to have to be okay with weird-shaped pancakes on Saturday mornings," she chuckled. "Cos I think Caroline was kinda looking forward to that."

Miranda pursed her lips but in a way that Andy saw was to hide a smile. Andy sat back and sighed.

"What a weird day," she muttered. "How do you want to do this? I usually get to work about 8 so I can always go with the kids and then on to Runway? I don't want to get in the way of your morning?"

"That would be a waste of resources. You get in at 8 because that's what the second assistant needed to do in order to get my desk organised and fetch my coffee. Unless there's something else you need to do that I don't know about, we can just go in together?"

"Sure," Andy smiled. "What time?"

"We will leave here at 8:15."

"On the dot, or do you mean Miranda-time," Andy chuckled. 

"On the dot, cheeky."

"Good," Andy grinned. "Do you mind if I turn in? I'm exhausted, even after my nap. I might just go to bed."

"Of course," Miranda waved her hand. "You don't have to ask permission. This is your home for the time being. Please don't stand on ceremony. If you are hungry or thirsty, eat. If you want to watch the television, Cassidy will show you how. Don't," she sighed. "Don't skulk."

"I promise I won't," Andy smiled. 

Their eyes met for a long moment and Andy smiled, standing and squeezing Miranda's hand. "Thank you, for this. I don't know if you realise how big of a deal it is. But this really is going to life-changing for me. Even if it was for three weeks. The money I can save is -"

"Don't worry about that," Miranda muttered. "I have a plan."

"Oh-oh," Andy chuckled. "I can't wait to hear it. I'll load the dishwasher, are you finished?"

"Yes," Miranda smiled. "Don't think you have to."

"It's fine. I don't mind. Plus, I might box up the left-overs?"

"Cara usually takes them, but anything you want, there are labels in the drawer to the right of the sink."

"I might have to fight her for this lasagne," Andy smiled as she piled the plates carefully.

"Hence my own plate," Miranda smirked. "I'm going to work on the book. The girls might be noisy until I tell them off at about 9."

"It's fine," Andy shrugged. "The house is so quiet. It's very different to apartment living in New York."

"Quite," Miranda said, getting up. "Goodnight, Andréa."

"'Night, Miranda," Andy smiled. "Can I -"

"Alright," Miranda rolled her eyes but chuckled as Andy gave her a quick hug.

"You really are a softy. Thank you."

"Don't spread it around, they'll commit you."

"Sweet dreams, Miranda."

She watched as the Lady of the House went up the stairs quietly and Andy sighed. She closed her eyes and thanked every deity she'd ever heard about. Shaking her head at the difference one tiny second decision could make, she loaded the dishwasher, finding the tablets under the sink - the universal place for them apparently. She boxed up the leftovers, one labelled with her name, one with Cara's and one with a weirdly drawn rock/paper/scissors on it. Hopefully, Cara would understand.

She got herself a glass of water, deciding to order a water bottle next week. Nate had even taken that with him and she'd missed it since. But, for now, she'd do her best to keep a low profile. And once she was settled, she'd figure out a running schedule with Cass and get Caro to open up a bit. Cassidy would be easy. Caroline would be harder to talk around, but if they shared one thing, at least, it would make her future a little easier to navigate.

Chapter Text

She woke early. The silence in the Townhouse was startling. Even her bedroom at her parent's house hadn't been this quiet and she revelled in it for a moment before getting up. She'd not ever been the type of person to lay in bed for any length of time, instead, she surveyed her cases that she hadn't unpacked and decided just to do it. She spent the time checking out the closet and the shelves. She unpacked everything she could and stored what she knew she wouldn't need. She'd retrieve some of the couture from The Closet on a day to day basis but for now, she made her bed, laid out her outfit and went for a shower. 

There were sinfully soft towels laid out and she luxuriated in the insanely hot water and the phenomenal water pressure that no doubt every single person in New York would actually murder someone for. By the time she got out, she could hear people moving about upstairs. She tied her hair up in a messy bun and went down to the kitchen for a coffee.

"Morning!"

"Hey Cara," she smiled. "Good morning."

"I see I have to fight you for the leftovers?" she chuckled. 

"Well, I definitely don't want it all to go to waste, but if you can spare me a portion?"

"It's fine," she chuckled. "I'll make sure there's extra if you want?"

"Only if it doesn't make a difference to your day," Andy smiled. "It's totally fine."

"Coffee?"

"Yes," Andy groaned, wanting to hug her. "This is a mean-looking machine!"

"It is," Cara laughed. "When they had it put in I had to do a training course with a rep to get it working."

Andy laughed and watched closely as Cara went through the steps.

"ANDY!"

"Oof," Andy groaned as Cassidy hugged her tightly. "Hey kiddo, what's going on?"

"Nuthink," Cassidy shrugged. "When can we go running?"

"Well, not this week," she said gently, ruffling the girl's hair. "Maybe next week okay? This week's nearly over and it'll give me time to get used to you ruffians and settle in. Cool?"

"Totally cool," Cassidy grinned. "Hey, Cara."

"Yeah yeah, thanks for remembering me," Cara laughed, poking Cassidy and making her giggle. "Where your sister?"

"Drawing," Cassidy shrugged. "Want me to get her?"

"Only if she's not down in twenty minutes," Cara instructed. 

Andy was quite happy watching from the sidelines. She had her arm around Cassidy and it seemed to be all the girl needed. Cara presented Andy with a cup of coffee, showing her where the additives were, but Andy just dropped a little milk in it and groaned when she tasted it. 

"Oh. My. God! Does your mother get pygmy elves to pick these beans by the light of the stars while Saturn's eleventh moon is in Pluto's left quadrant?"

"Seventh moon Andréa, not the eleventh," Miranda smirked from the doorway as Cassidy giggled. "I find those quite sour, I'm glad you like them."

"This is the best coffee I've ever had. I can't believe you drink the swill they serve you at Starbucks."

"Well perhaps I'll get one of these put in my office and you can make me coffee instead of getting it."

Andy stared at her.

"That would actually be much more practical, but I shall leave those big decisions to you."

Miranda smirked and thanked Cara for her own coffee, winking as she poured a little organic vanilla coconut and almond milk creamer in.

"Only in the mornings," she smirked.

"I tell you, it's like being behind the curtain in Oz."

"Are you Dorothy, Andréa?"

"I feel very like Toto right now actually," Andy quipped, making Cara laugh.

"Right, Cassidy, breakfast."

"I'm gonna have cereal I think."

"Andy?"

"Oh, I'm good, thank you."

"You are eating," Miranda said gently, but firmly. "I think omelettes."

"Fine," Andy said with a smile. "Thank you, Cara."

"Geez, you sure told Mom, Andy," Cassidy laughed.

"Listen, you little hooligan, when's your next match?"

"Sunday, wanna come?"

"Yes," Andy smiled. "What time?"

"Two I think. I'll check today. Are you coming too, Mom?"

Andy realised she may have overstepped and she looked up to find Miranda watching her with a barely concealed smirk.

"Yes darling, I will be there. Is your father coming as well?"

"Pfft," Cassidy snorted. "No, he and Melanie are in the Bahamas."

"Ah," Miranda said, looking at Andy with a look Andy couldn't quite decipher. "Pity."

"You can say you're pleased," Cassidy muttered around a mouthful of Lucky Charms. "These are awful by the way. I'm glad he won't be there too."

"Cassidy, far be it from insinuating anything around you," Miranda said gently, cupping her daughter's cheek. "Also, I did try to tell you, but I'm glad you have worked it out on your own."

"I guess that means there'll be more for me then," Andy quipped, snagging a bowl from the dishwasher and making herself some.

"You are a bizarre human being Andy Sachs," Cassidy said as she took a spoonful. "I can't believe you're as skinny as you are. Cara's cooking you an omelette!"

"And I will eat it," she grinned. "It's down to stress that I'm thin right now," Andy chuckled. "I wouldn't try it, there are many side effects. But once we start running, I'll be less stressed, I shouldn't wonder."

"Cass, if you're done, you need to get dressed and get your sister please," Cara said as she plated up Miranda's omelette.

Andy grinned, eating the last few bites of her small bowl of Lucky Charms and putting Cassidy's bowl in the dishwasher.

"Thank you," Miranda said gently as she turned back, grinning as Cara offered her a plate.

Andy thanked Cara and sat beside Miranda looking at her for a moment.

"For what?"

Miranda chewed for a moment, allowing Andy to groan at how good Cara's cooking was.

"Being," Miranda considered  "I do not mean this to be offensive, but normal."

Andy smiled nudging Miranda gently.

"That's like thanking you for being fabulous, you know."

"You know what I mean," Miranda said, blushing a little. "Cassidy needs that. I fear for Caroline sometimes because she gets so caught up in her friends, who are all from families like her own. On the other hand, Cassidy is always left out because she is so real and they do not know how to take that. I'm not sure how that happened," she mused. "But thank you for being a good example for her."

"You're welcome," Andy shrugged, not knowing how to respond and took another bite. "They're both good kids," Andy said eventually. "They have the best of everything but they're not very spoilt and they're not monsters," she grinned as Cara gave her a look as she left the kitchen. "Ya did good Mama."

"I think Cara probably deserves as much praise as I do," Miranda mused. "But thank you."

"Cara might wrangle the horde, but you are the one they look to," Andy said gently. "You're their Mommy and you taught them their values. Cos I know you. You'd want to make sure of that."

Miranda smiled properly and finished her omelette, sitting back with her coffee.

"Thank you," she whispered. 

"You have a Board Meeting next Wednesday. Cass will be at training. What do you think about me hanging out with Caroline for a while? I vaguely remember seeing a comic shop down near Bryant Park. I could check it out and take her there if you like?"

"You're in danger of becoming indispensable, Andréa Sachs," Miranda whispered as Caroline stomped down the stairs. "If she would like to, I would be very appreciative."

"No worries," Andy grinned.

"Hey," Caroline mumbled.

"What up Chuck?"

"Why are you so happy?"

"Cos your Mama has great coffee and Cara made me a delicious omelette."

"Aw! No fair."

"Here," Andy said, standing and vacating her seat beside Miranda. "Let me get a clean knife and you can have the rest of mine. Unless you're squicked out. I promise I don't have cooties."

"Andréa!"

"No, Andy, I -"

"Do you want some?" Andy asked, smiling at Caroline as she nodded shyly. "Come on then, sit here, by your Mom. Cut that bit off," she trimmed the bits she'd touched, sliding it onto a smaller plate. "I also had a small bowl of Lucky Charms," Andy explained. "If I hadn't, I'd totally eat it all and not feel bad at all."

"Thanks, Andy," Caroline whispered.

"You're totally fine kiddo," Andy whispered by her ear. "Keep Saturday morning free okay? We're gonna make the awesome-est pancakes you've ever had."

"'kay," she nodded.

Andy winked at Miranda and ran up the stairs, pulling her hair out as she went. She would need to get ready quickly, but she wasn't upset with how the morning had gone. Caroline, she'd realised suddenly, was like Miranda. And Miranda, she could handle.

Chapter Text

"Do you have siblings?" Miranda asked once they were on the way to the office.

"Um, no?" Andy said. "Where did that come from?"

"How you treat my children. Emily," Miranda shook her head. "Well, Emily is not a good example. Not many other people would have done what you just did for Caroline."

"Ah," Andy smiled. "I realised quite suddenly that Cas must be quite like their Dad? Cos Caroline? She's your mini-me."

"Explain."

"Caroline is your twin. She is laser-focused, to the point where she'd forget to eat if she wasn't disturbed. She craves order and perfection and is easily frustrated when she cannot have it."

"I -"

"I realised I just have to treat her like I do you."

"It is truly a little alarming how well you can read me," Miranda mused. "And you were right earlier."

"About what?"

"Coffee. Get Cara to get you the number of the man and we'll put one in the office. In my office. On my budget."

"Yes," Andy hissed, making Miranda chuckle.

"Don't ever change, Andréa," Miranda said as the car slowed. "Don't ever change."

Andy sat, knowing that Miranda would want some sub-par coffee, and watched as the woman stalked across the plaza. 

Miranda confused her sometimes. Sometimes, Andy thought that maybe Miranda might be the best friend she'd had ever had. Then, sometimes, she'd be reminded that the woman was her boss and a formidable one at that. It was confusing, to say the least.

"Alright?" Roy asked as he got back in. 

"You've been driving Miranda forever, right?"

"Yup," he grinned. "I carried those babies out of the hospital for her. Talk about terrifying. I'd only been on the job a week."

"Wow," Andy smiled. "Were they tiny?"

"Tiniest little things I've ever seen. My kids were like tiny Sumo wrestlers. The girls were like little china dolls."

"I'm teaching Caroline to cook pancakes this weekend and I'm taking her on an adventure on Wednesday while the Boss Lady is at the board meeting. What's her favourite place to eat, do you know?"

"Caroline? I honestly have no clue. Cass kinda runs the show when they're together. She's got her own thoughts on things but I'm not sure that she ever really gets a word in."

"Alright. Thanks, Roy. I guess I'll see you at 2?"

"Yep," he tipped his hat. "I'll be here at 1:30,"

"Thanks, man," she first-bumped him and got out, running across the road and grinning when the Barista presented her with a tray of coffee and she passed him $30. She'd learnt to tip well for good service from Miranda. 

She took the elevator up and marched right in to find Miranda seething on the phone.

"I do not care what you want, James. This will be the third time this month. Why bother at all if you are not going to make an effort?"

There was a pause and Andy dithered for a moment until she realised the coffee would be cold of she stood much longer. She placed it on Miranda's desk, taking her own out and touching the woman's shoulder briefly to meet her eyes. Miranda looked up at her and rolled her eyes, muting the call.

"He's going to Cancun while I am scheduled to be in Milan, despite him already going somewhere this week, as Cassidy mentioned."

"Seriously?" Andy said, unimpressed.

"Hmm," she growled, unmuting it again. "No, do you know what James, don't bother. And no, I'm not telling them. You tell them. From this moment forth, I will not be doing your dirty work for you. If you wish to abandon then once again, in favour of your latest floozy, then you call them and tell them. I will not be. Go to hell."

She threw her phone and Andy caught it one-handed as it slid off the desk.

"I'd hate to have to call Tim for a replacement," she quipped.

Miranda snorted, then laughed as she took her coffee.

"Don't stop me from being mad at him."

"Oh I'm not," Andy said. "I'm pissed at him as well and I don't even have a right to be. Want me to take a hit out on him or something?"

"God," Miranda groaned, pinching the bridge of her nose. "Don't tempt me. Between the fight with Caroline and now this, he'll be lucky if they ever want to see him again. Cassidy is so very protective of Caroline."

"I've noticed," Andy grinned. "Well, we'll think of something."

"I've already given Cara the time off."

"Ah," Andy chewed on her lip. "Leave it with me?"

"Yes. Go and do some work or whatever it is you do. Send Nigel in when you get hold of him."

"On it boss."

The day passed uneventfully after that. Miranda ordering a reshoot, Accounting complaining about the budget. Andy redoing the budget and then Miranda leaving for the Marc Jacobs showing.

Miranda suggested, at about midday, that Andy was not required at such a frequent customer so she finished up what she needed and took her lunch, pondering what to do with the Twins while they were scheduled to be in Milan.

The obvious choice would be to take them with them but Andy knew it wasn't a great idea. Milan fashion week was not as long as Paris, more like an extended weekend. And Miranda was usually in and out. 

Another idea came to her but she wasn't sure whether it was good or not. She made a note to go through it with Miranda later and warned up her lunch, humming happily when she took her first mouthful.

She sent a text to Cara extolling her virtues and went back to her desk. She hadn't been there long when the door opened and Irv walked in.

Andy was immediately on her feet, leaving her lunch. 

"Mr Ravitz, I'm afraid Miranda isn't in right now."

"I thought you'd have gone with her."

That worried Andy.

"Well," she said pleasantly. "Somebody had to hold down the fort!"

She texted Serena subtly, knowing she was still around and did her best to stay between him and Miranda's office but also well out of his reach.

"So we're once again alone," he said taking a step forward.

"Was there something you needed?" She took a step back, towards Miranda's office.

"Just here to check on our esteemed colleague," he said airily.

He'd just taken another step towards her when the door opened and Serena strode in.

"What-up, querida?"

"Serena! Hi, thanks for coming, I just need to get your input on the figures for the next shoot. Mr Ravitz was just leaving."

Serena, bless her heart, came and stood by her. Irv looked between then both and left without another word. Andy let out a breath.

"Fuck! Thanks, Serena."

"It's no problem," she shrugged. "Is he causing trouble?"

"He made some distasteful remarks to me in the elevator the other day," she sighed. "When I told Miranda, she asked if he touched me, which," she made a face. "And then when I told him Miranda wasn't here, he said he thought I'd be with her."

"So he's snooping!"

"Yes, I think so." Andy worried her lip. "But he was getting pretty fresh as well, without saying anything."

"Tell Miranda, she'll sort it out."

"I don't wanna add to her worries," Andy shrugged. "And nothing really happened."

"Look, if he comes back, call me again. But I would tell her, she'd want to know."

"Thanks, Serena," Andy smiled. "Are we doing drinks Friday?"

"Yes, new place up on the Eastside."

"Sweet. Text me the address."

"Will do." 

She waved and left, leaving Andy biting her lip. On the one hand, Serena was right. Miranda should know about this. But on the other, the woman already had so much in her plate that Any didn't want to add to it over what was essentially nothing. Deciding to just keep it to herself, Andy went back to her desk, lamenting her cold lasagne.

-0-

It was later that night when there was a soft knock at Andy's door. She pulled her well worn Northwestern jersey over her think singlet and opened the door. Miranda was standing, looking as regal as ever, holding two mugs in her hands.

"Far be it from me to discuss work while you are off the clock, but I would like a word with you and I will bribe you with my favourite tea."

"You don't have to bribe me," Andy chuckled. "But welcome."

Miranda glanced around the room.

"You can unpack, you know," she smirked, even though she could see that Andy mostly had. "And if you wish to do something different with the room you may do so as well."

"I thought about maybe getting a little TV so I wouldn't encroach on family time," Andy shrugged.

"Andréa," Miranda said gently, but firmly. "Encroach."

Andy chuckled. 

"Yes, Miranda."

"That's more like it," she smirked, sitting in one of the wingback chairs in the corner. "Now," she said, nodding to the chair. "Irving."

"What about him?"

"Don't be coy. Serena knew you wouldn't tell me so she did so. You should have."

"He didn't do anything. Like you said, he's lashing out."

"He intimidated you enough to call Serena," Miranda whispered, sipping her tea. "That is not nothing, Andréa."

"Look," she sipped her tea. "Oh, Miranda!" She coughed as the sour hibiscus assaulted her senses. "What the heck!"

"I thought you'd like it," Miranda smiled.

"Holy moly, you say I'm a dark horse," she said, blinking. "Anyway. What concerned me more is what he said before I called Serena. That he expected me to have gone with you."

"Ah," Miranda said thoughtfully, thinking for a moment. "I'm no longer comfortable with leaving you on your own, so you'll accompany me wherever we go. Even if you're not needed. You can get some lunch or," she waved her hand and Andy smiled. "Whatever, as Cassidy would say. But when we do go, we must ensure all documents are locked away, either in the safe or in our desks."

"I'll change the passwords on the computer tomorrow too. I've downloaded a password keeper, I'll sync it to your phone."

"I also want to ensure the security footage is adequate. I want no blindspots. Will you call Security in the morning?"

"Yep," Andy smiled as Miranda nodded to herself. "You done with work now?"

"I am." Miranda arched her eyebrow.

"What do you do for fun. Cass plays sport. Caroline draws. What does Miranda Priestly do when no one has tickets on her time?"

"Honestly? I don't know," Miranda mused. "I'm not sure I've ever had a moment of spare time."

"Do you read?"

"Sometimes," Miranda smiled. "I'd like to read more, but by the time I finish The Book, it is late enough that all I want to do is sleep."

"I think you need a hobby."

"Quilting perhaps?" Miranda said.

Andy looked at her for a long time while she struggled to keep a straight face. Before either could say anything else, both of them burst out laughing and Andy had to concentrate to prevent herself from spilling the tea.

"That wasn't quite what I meant," Andy chuckled as she got herself under control. "In another life, what would you have done?"

"Your journalist is showing, darling."

Andy paused for a second, hearing it but not quite believing it. She decided that Miranda was tired and she'd move on, ignoring it.

"Sorry, not sorry," Andy grinned. "Enquiring minds would like to know."

"I don't think anyone has ever asked me that before," Miranda muttered. "And I don't think I've ever considered it before. I swam, in my youth, but I am not interested in putting in a pool."

"Well, I guess we'll figure it out. I plan on having you home by 5 most nights so it's not like you won't have the time anymore!"

"I'm not sure I'll ever be able to let you go if you do that," Miranda whispered.

"I told you," Andy smiled. "I'm it. We're going to be the dream team. People are going to try and poach me. Maybe for millions, and I'll always turn them down."

"Andréa if someone offers you millions, you let me know." 

"Miranda," Andy scoffed.

"Don't joke, Andréa. A great assistant is worth their weight in gold. Which I will always pay." Miranda looked at her sternly. "If you are insistent, I will take you up on it."

Andy shook her head and sat back. Every time she thought she had Miranda figured out, she shifted her form and remained an enigma.

"In the interest of encroaching, wanna watch a movie?" Andy asked. "I'm not sleepy yet."

"Only if you let me pick."

"As always, I bow to your superior knowledge."

Miranda grinned and Andy was once again struck by how relaxed she was at home. Andy's brain ignited with ideas on how to shorten her days so she'd be home more often. She could see the girls benefiting immensely from it but if Miranda was so relaxed as well, it would only be great for all of them. All three of them, Andy reminded herself. Despite the comfort she'd found almost immediately in the Priestly household, Andy was not part of it. 

That hurt her a little and she stopped on the stairs as she realised.

"Alright?" Miranda asked, nodding into the media room.

"Yeah, just lost in my head for a while."

"If you look on the third row, right-hand side, you will find my favourite film."

Andy handed her the mug she had been carrying and did as she was told. She laughed when she found it, setting it up with a smile.

"This happens to be one of my favourites as well," Andy grinned as Miranda joined her.

"Good," Miranda nodded. "I can definitely trust you then."

Andy chuckled as the opening strains of The Sound of Music began and she curled up on the sofa, watching until her eyes closed against her will and she fell asleep to the Captain serenading Maria in the summer house.

Chapter Text

Miranda knew Andréa had fallen asleep just over halfway through the film. She got up and put a blanket over the young woman, looking at her for a moment before going back to her chair, committing herself to stay for the rest of the film before she went to bed.

By the time the credits rolled, however, her mind was occupied with thoughts of the young woman sleeping peacefully on her sofa. The idea that Andréa, of all people, would somehow become her saviour was laughable. After so many instances where she'd made irrefutable errors, or been obnoxiously rude, she remained. Not only that, she had excelled where others had failed.

And yet.

There was something about this woman that fascinated Miranda. People interested her in general, she loved seeing what made someone tick and what their boundaries were, but this woman was something else. She wanted to nurture this woman to greatness. She was intelligent, funny and something else that Miranda had not believed existed anymore. Andréa was genuinely kind and gentle. Even in this city, that seemed to break almost everyone who lived here, she remained so. Andrea seemed to care deeply about all three Priestly women. She seemed to adore them as no one ever had, perhaps outside of Cara and Roy - two people she paid exceptionally well to do so.

What confused Miranda was that Andréa was paid as well. But it felt so different and that did not make any sense. Andréa being her assistant should have felt the same as it felt with Cara or Roy but if she thought about it truthfully, it wasn't. It wasn't anything close to the relationship her family had with Cara and Roy. Cara had been as close a friend as Miranda had ever had. She had helped her through some of the hardest parts of her life, from the birth of her twins, the breakdown of her marriage. The death of her mother. She'd been there for every instance of their lives. Loyal and true and Miranda genuinely enjoyed talking to her. She was a sensible woman who didn't take any of Miranda's shit, at all. 

But again, Andréa felt different. 

Perhaps Andréa was right about them being made to bring each other to greatness. Andréa could certainly read Miranda like a book. She seemed to know what Miranda was thinking before Miranda herself even thought about it. It was, she sighed, beautiful. Freeing. She could suddenly trust someone to be there and do what they said they were going to do without worrying about them suddenly leaving her or disappearing, or breaking their promise. 

But, it was also terrifying. 

She knew that at some point, Andréa would realise how much greatness she could have, how much power. And Miranda dreaded that day, even now, at the beginning of their partnership.

"Stop thinking so hard," Andréa muttered, rolling over on the sofa.

It was almost comical that Andréa could even read her in darkness. She had left the lights off in order to prevent Andréa from waking, but it seemed she had done that herself. She wasn't too upset though. In darkness, it was easier to say what was needed to say.

"I get paid to think of all the possible outcomes," she whispered. "That is all I am doing."

"You're worrying," Andréa mumbled, curling into the cushions. "Trust me to take care of you."

"Trust is a big thing to give. Especially for someone who trusted so freely at one point and has been punished for it every time."

She couldn't believe she'd said that.

"It is," Andréa sighed, rolling back onto her back. "But you have to remember that I am not them. I am not anything like them, whoever they are. I'm with you and only you. And you need to trust me to stick around. I made you a promise and I'm going to keep it."

"Andréa," Miranda sighed. "At some point, someone will come along and make you an offer that you simply cannot refuse. I doubt it would be a monetary one as you don't seem particularly motivated by that, but it will be something that you crave and you will take it. Because I will make you. You cannot be my assistant forever."

"You also can't be the Runway Editor forever," Andréa whispered, making Miranda strain to hear it. "They'll come at you again and again but you'll weather it until you're ready. And when you're ready, I will be too. There is no point being your assistant when you don't really need one."

"Andréa. You are so young."

"I'm not naive," Andréa said, sitting up suddenly. Miranda almost regretted waking her. "Miranda, I'm not. I'm not going to pretend you're not way more experienced in the world of business. But I'm stubborn and there's no better editor to learn from, than you. I wouldn't ever want your job, I don't live and breathe fashion like you, I wouldn't be able to do what you do at Runway. But," she said insistently. "I can learn more from you than anyone else in this city. I'm not playing down, Miranda, I'm watching, I'm learning. I'm shadowing you and listening to you. This is as much for me as it is for you. You are training Emily up to take your job? Well, I'm there too. Only I'm not going to take your job, I'm sure as hell gonna be taking someone else's."

Miranda considered that and she realised how truly symbiotic this was and she laughed.

"You are a dark horse, Andréa Sachs," she smiled. 

"I'm not sitting around on my hands," Andréa muttered and Miranda could just make out the shrug. "Trust me." 

"Never hide from me Andréa," Miranda whispered. "Don't frighten me and don't surprise me. I," she chewed on her lip, something she'd not done for a long time. "Please."

"I won't," Andréa said and Miranda could hear the smile. "I promise."

"Alright," Miranda sighed. They fell silent for a moment before she realised Andréa was watching her. "Go to bed will you?"

Andréa laughed.

"Yes, Miranda."

"I'm beginning to like that even more," Miranda quipped, making Andréa laugh again.

She watched the silhouette of Andréa stand and hesitate for a moment. She saw her look at the door, then down at her hands.

"Does anyone ever hug you, Miranda?"

"No," Miranda said contemplatively.

"Can I?" She hesitated. "Again? As a thank you for doing this for me. And as a thank you for trusting me?"

"You," she hesitated. "May," Miranda said, also standing. 

Unlike the last quick hug Andréa had given her, this one was something different. Her arms were much longer than they looked and they wrapped around her tightly. Securely. She stood for a little while, feeling lost until she remembered that hugs were two-way things. She wrapped her arms around the woman's body, surprised at how thin she was. Andréa's scent was gentle, subtle, but everywhere and she couldn't bite back a sigh as Andréa rubbed her back gently.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome," Miranda said absently as Andréa pulled away. "Thank you for the hug."

"Any time," Andréa quipped. "I'm a hugger, so there's always one if you want one."

"I will remember."

"Alright, g'night, Miranda Priestly."

"Good night to you, Andréa Sachs."

She watched as Andréa left the room and she contemplated sitting for a while longer and drinking some scotch but she opted against that, knowing what it would do to her already maudlin thoughts. Instead, she headed up the stairs as well. She heard Andréa showering and opted to take hers in the morning.

She took her makeup off, staring at herself in the mirror. There was no denying that life had been harsh, but that she had been lucky it did not show too much on her skin. She'd long worried that the stress would lead to the deep-seated crows-feet her mother had. Thankfully, the only thing that had suffered had been her rich auburn hair and even that had turned out to be a blessing. She flicked away that lock that hung over her eye and really looked at herself. 

She had started to feel old. She'd felt it creeping up on her slowly in the last year. Paris had culminated in that feeling being overwhelming when she'd received that fax, the young man on the desk stammering in poor English as he tried to explain to her what it was. That moment that Andréa took one look at her, behind the curtain, and fled as all the others had.

The door along the hall closed and Miranda paused. 

Not like all the others had. 

Not like any of them. Andréa had taken the day, got her shit together and put Miranda in her place. She'd taken all the things that she'd learnt from Emily and she'd bettered them. And then she'd learnt a few things from Nigel and she'd bettered them too. Miranda had no doubts that if Andréa really was shadowing Miranda, like she said she was, Andréa would make a formidable editor someday in the future. She took a moment to close her eyes and consider the City run by two of her most loyal subjects.

It made her smile.

She brushed her teeth and slid under her covers. She realised as she settled, that Andréa gave her something she'd not ever had before. Comfort. Cara gave her friendship, not that she'd ever labelled it as such, but she realised, having seen how Andréa was with her, that it really was that. But Andréa was different. Andréa gave her silence, something she craved. Gave her peace. And Miranda didn't ever want to be without it. She wasn't sure how to be a proper friend to someone, she'd never really had them, even as a child. But she'd figure it out because she could. 

She was, after all, Miranda Priestly.

Chapter Text

The week ended sedately. Andy had Miranda in the car and home to the girls by 5:30 and she arrived on the door at 9 pm, after a few after-work drinks with the Runway crew, to the most delicious smell she'd ever smelt.

"ANDY!"

"Cassidy, must you roar like a banshee? You are a lady, ladies generally do not raise their voice above a whisper."

"I'm not a lady Mom," Cassidy shrugged, waiting as Andy took off her coat and put down the bags.

"You could be if you wanted to be," Andy chuckled, smiling as Cassidy wrapped her arms around her middle. "Hiya kid."

"Mom made her super-famous all-you-can-eat stew. Are you hungry?"

"Your Mom did?" Andy said, looking up at Miranda.

"Uhuh," Cassidy grinned. "And there's like an ocean of it waiting for you"

"Well let me get my goggles, cos you know I'm going in!"

"You two are bizarrely similar and it is truly frightening," Miranda quipped as Andy pushed Cassidy ahead of her and into the kitchen.

"It's why we get on so well," Andy grinned, tapping Cassidy's nose. "We're definitely an endangered species though. I think we probably need protecting."

"Yeah Mom, we need a charity set up to make sure we don't go extinct."

"My dears," Miranda said, kissing Cassidy on the hair. Andy was directed into a chair with a nod. "I doubt the two of you could ever go extinct and the moment I feel like you might, I will absolutely set up that charity."

"Hey Andy, do you reckon we can get those really sad looking soft-toys of us made?"

"Ha!" Andy laughed as Miranda placed a bowl of stew down in front of her with a bashful smile.

"Bon appetit."

"Thank you," Andy smiled. "You didn't have to."

"I wanted to," Miranda smiled back.

"You do that a lot now, you know," Cassidy said, making Andy wince a little. 

"What?"

"Smile. You never smiled before, when Stephen was around. You smile more now."

"I have more to smile about," Miranda said, kissing Cassidy's forehead, seeing as she was kneeling on the chair. "And please for the last time, stop growing! I will not be outgrown by my own daughter."

"She'll be in basketball before you know it," Andy smiled, taking a bite. "Ohhhhhh," she groaned. "Miranda! This is amazing!"

"See! I told ya!"

"Your annunciation has also gone to the dogs I see," Miranda quipped, letting Cassidy hang on her shoulders. Andy was charmed to watch them interact. "And yes, it is rather isn't it."

"Did you slow roast this meat? Is this," she stared at her bowl, then back up at Miranda. "I could search high and low for stew in the world and never find one as good as this! You need to teach me. Like, yesterday. This is delicious. Thank you."

"You are welcome," Miranda nodded. "It just takes a little effort. But there's plenty and it freezes well."

Andy grinned. She was already looking forward to eating it again and again.

"Have you eaten?"

"I had a small bowl earlier."

"Have more," Andy said, pointing to the table with her spoon. "It's criminal to enjoy this on my own. Join me? Please?"

"Fine," Miranda said. It surprised Andy a little that she gave in so easily. She'd been prepared to fight a bit harder if necessary.

"You too Cass, grab a bowl."

"Caro is at her friend's," she explained when no one else joined them. Her little nose crinkled when she turned it up. "She's not real nice, I'm not exactly sure why Caroline is friends with them."

Andy considered this for a moment and looked at Miranda for permission. The woman shrugged, chewing thoughtfully.

"I think sometimes the wish to fit in overrides common sense," Andy said gently. "That's not to say that Caro is dense or is making the wrong decision. I'm explaining it to you in the simplest form I can. Do you see the difference?"

"I think so?"

"I don't have a whole lot of experience with people in your Mom's tax bracket, but I know that every school, no matter public or private, there's always a clique that thinks they're better than everyone else. And sometimes, some of them are okay. And sometimes you have to be friendly with them to make sure you stay on their good side. Does that make sense?"

"Yah," Cassidy said thoughtfully. "They're pretty mean though."

"Caroline -"

"Oh," Cassidy said quickly. "Not Caro, Mom. But the girl, Sadie, can be a bit of a," she winced. "Bitch."

"Cassidy," Miranda said, though there was no real malice in it.

"I know," she said, leaning against her mother. "I just want to convey that she really is not a nice person."

They ate quietly for a while before Cassidy scraped her plate.

"Geez, I thought I was doing well," Andy grinned, taking the last spoonful of her own.

"I only had a little bit," Cassidy smiled. "Gotta be ready for training tomorrow."

"Do you train at school?"

"Nah, there's a gym close by. We usually run laps on their track. One of the dads runs it so we get to train on the weights and stuff as well."

"Nice," Andy smiled. "Oh, hey is Caroline coming back tonight?"

"Think so, why?"

"She and I have a breakfast date."

"What!"

Andy chuckled as Cassidy looked at her like she'd been betrayed.

"Hey, cool your jets! I'm teaching her how to make pancakes. Don't panic."

"I wanna learn too!"

"Really?" Andy said, arching an eyebrow.

"Well, no," Cassidy whined. Miranda laughed as she rinsed three bowls. "But you're my buddy."

"I can be Caro's too kiddo. Your Mom does alright doesn't she?"

Andy realised at the last second that it may have been a bad example. Miranda herself had said that she hadn't always been there for the girls and Andy crossed her fingers and toes that Cassidy - still working on the social cues - would not hurt the woman, even unintentionally.

"True," Cassidy nodded, grinning at her mother. "Hey! Does this mean I get Mom all to myself tonight?"

"I -"

Andy knew what Miranda was going to say. The book was particularly raw tonight, with two new shoots, but as Cassidy seemed to deflate before her eyes, Miranda rescued herself at the last moment.

"Yes Cassidy, I am all yours," the girl beamed. "What do you propose?"

"Before you say anything, I'm going to bed. It's been a big week and I'm beat. You guys have fun though, k?"

She played up the tiredness just a little and caught the grateful look in Miranda's eyes as she ruffled Cassidy's hair.

"Night mini-me," Andy chuckled.

"Night Andy," Cassidy said hugging Andy tightly and holding on while she was hugged back. 

And smiled over the girl's head and Miranda took them both back to the Gala at the beginning of Andy's tenure by mouthing a thank you where Cassidy couldn't see. Andy winked, squeezing the woman's hand in a farewell and left them to it. She wasn't remotely tired but she had seen the opportunity for Cassidy to get some time in with her Mom. She knew they wouldn't have minded had she stayed but she felt the need to retreat.

On the way to her room, she stopped by the library, picking a book she'd been meaning to read for ages. She decided that she'd take a bath, and have a night of relaxation and pampering before the weekend.

She glanced at her phone, her face a picture of surprise as a message popped up on-screen.

"Yo!" she said, putting Doug on speaker while she tied up her hair. "Long time no speak!"

"Yeah, that's my bad," Doug sighed. "You mad?"

"Dougie, when have I ever been mad at you?"

"When I stole your My Little Pony pencil in third grade."

"Have you stolen my pencil again Dougie?" Andy smiled indulgently.

"No," he said with a groan. "But I've been a shitty friend."

"I haven't exactly been stellar either," she muttered, turning off the water and dropping onto her bed. "The whole Nate thing wasn't a huge highlight of my life." 

"You were busy. I should have seen that and stuck up for you but I was so busy getting my ass kicked by corporate America that I couldn't see my fucking hand in front of my face."

"Don't worry about it," she shrugged again. "Honestly, things couldn't have turned out better."

"How so?"

"God, where to start."

She told him about Paris, the terrible parts, and then the better bits. She explained about Cassidy in passing and then about her new role. The pay rise, the trouble with Irv and finally, the living arrangements.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Doug yelled, making her yank her head away from the speaker. "You're living with Miranda Priestly!"

"Just for a little while. She said she had the room and insisted. Nate didn't pay the rent he owed but also didn't bother telling me. I had to pay it to avoid it going on my record and Miranda provided an out for me. It was that or Ohio, really."

"Holy shit Andy!"

"It's not a big deal," she muttered.

"Andy, it's huge. This is huge. Miranda Priestly!" Andy didn't say anything and Doug hesitated. 

"Look, I can't explain it," Andy muttered. "We've changed. She relies on me now that it's just me. And she," Andy sighed. "Also changed. Like when I told her she didn't bat an eye, she just jumped into helping me. She went to my apartment, Dougie."

"That's special, Andy," Doug whispered.

"I know," Andy grinned. "But I'm loving being here, they're a cute family. And Miranda has a guy that is looking for an apartment for me so it's not forever. Just for a while."

"Alright," he said gently. "I think I understand. It sounds great, you're really lucky."

"I am, I know."

"Alright, I gotta go, um. Call me, we can go for drinks or whatever."

She said goodbye and hung up the phone and decided to carry on with her bath anyway. After a short while (the water pressure here was truly excellent) she relaxed into it with a sigh.

Doug's tone of voice at the end of the phone call bothered her. Something about it wasn't right and she hoped she hadn't weirded him out. It definitely meant he couldn't hang out at her place anymore, but once she got her place, it would be easier.

She thought about that. And then forced herself to stop. She'd been at Miranda's less than a week. It felt good and it felt nice to be around them but it was only temporary and she had to remember that. Tomorrow she was gonna make pancakes with Caroline and then on Sunday go to Cassidy's game but, she argued with herself, she probably would have done those things anyway.

It was the moments between those moments that she'd come to love, even in the four or five days. The little family moments that were so sweet. The relaxed moments she got to see with Miranda. 

She wasn't sure why she was so introspective but it was throwing off the good week she'd had so she pushed away her thoughts and opened her book, wishing she'd thought to buy a bottle of wine on the way home.

Chapter Text

"Andy!"

"Yo," she said, poking her head out of the door.

"Mom said are you gonna ride with her? If so you've got fifteen minutes to get your butt by the door."

"Cassidy Priestly, your mother does not say butt," Miranda blushed as Andy grinned at her. "Usually."

"I just heard you do it, Mom," Cassidy grinned. "I'm going. Love you both."

Andy was charmed and looked over at Miranda to gauge her response.

"Andréa, even though you have only been here for a very short time, you should already know that I have very little control over my wayward child." She looked at Andy pointedly. "So stop worrying."

Andy chuckled.

"I'll be two minutes."

Miranda nodded and Andy went back inside, pulling on her jacket and socks, bringing her moto-style boots with her.

"I did not mean for you to rush," Miranda chuckled as Andy sat on the stairs, lacing up her boots.

"I know, I got it."

Miranda watched as she pulled them tight, shrugging on her jacket.

"This look is acceptable," Miranda said quietly. "It's," she paused. "You."

"Thank you," Andy smiled. "I was a tad worried until I saw what you were wearing."

"I was instructed to wear jeans. I must," she made air quotes. "Look normal."

"Miranda Priestly isn't normal," Andy scoffed. "The little heathen."

"I understand her sentiment," Miranda said with a barely concealed smile. "Hence," she shrugged. "Jeans."

"Well, you rock them. I reckon casual Fridays will be a big hit."

"Andréa," Miranda said, slapping her shoulder.

"Aren't you supposed to like, not hit people?" Caroline asked, carrying a small case with her.

"It was warranted," Andy grinned, waving off Miranda's attempted apology. "You look cool?"

"I always look cool," Caroline sniffed.

"Spoken like a true Priestly," Andy grinned, nudging her gently.

"Are we ready?" Miranda asked.

Miranda brought the SUV round to the front of the house and Andy got into the back with Caroline. Their breakfast date the morning before had gone well and Andy could see more of Miranda in Caroline than she could in Cassidy. She'd smiled at the huff of frustration when the eggshell dropped in the batter and grinned at the glow in her face when her mother praised her efforts. It was so obvious once you got to know them.

"This is my folio," Caroline said quietly, disturbing her memories. "I already told Mom that I'm gonna show you first, then you can tell me what you think Mom will say."

"You don't have to show me," Andy said gently. "You know that, don't you?"

"Yeah," Caroline smiled. "But Mom said you were maybe the kindest person in New York, so I figured, you'd be honest and stuff."

"She did, did she," Andy grinned, watching the back of Miranda's neck go pink. "Well, I will tell you what I think about them, but I will always tell you why. Okay? I can separate not liking something from seeing skill and depth in it." 

"'Kay," Caroline said, handing over the folio. 

Andy looked through it, slowly and carefully. Andy had seen enough of Miranda's small drawings in the margins of note pages the know that Caroline had definitely inherited the skill from her. She was good. 

She was very good.

Miranda pulled up at the grounds and got out without saying anything and Andy looked up for a moment, cataloguing where she was going, before focussing back on the folio.

"Caroline, I need you to hear me when I say this," she said gently. "These are amazing."

"What?" Caroline gaped at her.

"These are truly awesome. The depth you've captured using the negative spaces is amazing. The lines, the forms, are amazing. You have absolute, true talent and I think your Mom is going to love seeing this, even if she doesn't know anything about the subject."

"Really?"

"Really really," Andy grinned, looking up at her. "Truth talk. Really. I don't love this one," she turned to a page nearer the front. "But it's just cos that's not my scene," she shrugged. "There's a context I don't understand, but the fact remains that it's well-drawn and well nuanced. I think you have some serious talent. And I know nothing about art at all."

"You really reckon Mom will like it?"

"I really do," Andy grinned. "And it's given me a great idea for Wednesday. How about coming to hang out with me, your Mom's at a board meeting all afternoon so I'm free. Wanna come to Runway then go on an adventure?"

"Won't Cassidy be upset?"

"Do you think she will?"

"I dunno," Caroline said quietly. "She likes you."

"I like her too. But we do our things together. I'd like to get to know you a bit more. Cass is easy. I can take her to a ball game and she'll be happy. And she already knows that if she calls, I'll be there, no matter what. I figured it might be nice if you see that you get that too?"

"Did Mom tell you to do that?"

"No," Andy grinned. "She doesn't even know I've asked you yet."

"Can we get fast food?"

"If that's what you want," Andy grinned. "You got a hankering for a Big Mac Caroline?"

"I kinda wanted to go to Chick-Fil-A."

"Ooh," Andy winced. "I guess once would be okay."

"You don't like them?"

"They have a pretty terrible track record when it comes to giving money to people who do harm to others, but we can talk about that later. Let's go watch your sister's game so that we don't miss her scoring like Ronaldo, or whoever that guy is."

Caroline snorted a little indelicately and got out of the car, waiting while Andy did the same. She smiled bashfully as Andy put her arm around her shoulders.

"Thanks, Andy."

"You are most welcome, kiddo," Andy grinned, nudging Miranda as they stood beside her. She was practically vibrating with annoyance

"What's happening? Did they score? Is there blood?"

"Are you teasing me, Andréa Sachs?"

"I very well may be," Andy grinned, while Caroline laughed. "Just a little."

"No score as yet. That hooligan has just bumped into Cassidy quite hard and I tried to have her sent off, but it seems I was outvoted."

"Oh boy," Andy chuckled. "Have you ever seen a game of soccer Miranda?"

"Yes," she huffed. "Once."

"Oh dear," Andy grinned. "Did you think it was non-contact or -"

"Andréa," she said darkly.

"Shutting up now, Miranda," Andy laughed. "But do come and sit down so Cass can concentrate on the game, rather on keeping you from killing someone."

They watched, Andy occasionally cheering loudly and making Cassidy's face match her hair. At other times, Andy had to grab Miranda's arm to stop her from vaulting the fence and storming the pitch.

"Mom?" Cassidy said at half time. "I really need you to chill. It's embarrassing. Andy, can you -"

She didn't get a chance to instruct Andy on what she wanted as the whistle blew, but Andy did hang onto Miranda's sleeve for most of the rest of the game. At one point Cassidy was definitively fouled and Andy was on her feet yelling to the referee.

"And they say I'm the problem here."

Andy laughed and sat back down, properly chastised.

"To be fair, that was a card, for sure."

"Did you play Andy?" Caroline asked.

"My brother did. I was more a lacrosse kind of gal."

"Another terribly violent sport," Miranda huffed.

"I can't argue with that, There was plenty of blood in my final year."

"Why she insists on playing these games -"

"Think of it this way, sport is really good for getting into college. And," she grinned. "Keeping wayward children out of trouble."

"Thus, the only redeeming feature of this whole wretched experience."

Andy chuckled and they applauded both teams as the game finished up a draw.

"Urgh," Cassidy groaned as she got in the car. "That sucked."

"Nah," Andy said, nudging her. She was sitting in the back with Cassidy while Caroline was sitting at the front with Miranda. "You did well. They had a great goalie."

"She plays for the NYU junior team," Cassidy grimaced. "She shouldn't be allowed to play in the school league too."

"I agree," Andy frowned. "You'll get them next time."

"Hey Mom, can we get crepes?"

"If you like," she shrugged. "Though Cassidy, you must change and I am hardly dressed for an outing."

"Aw Mom, I just meant on the way home," Cassidy huffed. "Everyone else goes to McDonald's and we have to go home just so we look pretty."

"Cassidy," Miranda said dangerously. "Modify your tone."

"Andy -"

"Don't," Andy said gently, but firmly. "That's not okay. You talk to your Mom properly and don't bring me into it. I'm not for you or against your Mom and I'm not for your Mom and against you. That's not how this works kiddo."

Cassidy grumbled, and Andy met Miranda's eye in the mirror. There was a look of gratitude there, along with something else as well, she couldn't quite pick out.

"We will go for crepes," Miranda muttered. "But not because you were rude. Because I recognise that being my child has certain difficulties attached to it that I do not like any more than you do, Cassidy."

"Aw man," Cassidy said sadly. "I didn't mean to make you sad Mom, I just wanted crepes."

Miranda didn't reply and Cassidy looked beseechingly up at Andy.

"Maybe you ought to just ask nicely next time and if the answer is something you don't like, ask the follow-up question, rather than pout like a little kid."

"Fine," Cassidy huffed. "But being a little kid was way easier."

The tension evaporated as Miranda's laugh rang out through the car.

"Wait until you reach adulthood, my darling," Miranda sighed. "You'll remember this moment with fondness."

"What are you doing this weekend Andy? Mom said you have friends. Who are they? Will they come over? What do you do when Mom isn't ordering you about?"

"Whoa Cass, slow down a little, yeah?" Andy chuckled. "Firstly, your Mom doesn't order me about, secondly yes I do have some friends, though not as many as I did have. My friend Doug called me this week so maybe I'll go and hang out with him for a while if you want to get rid of me?"

"Cassidy has all the subtlety of a small water buffalo," Miranda glared as she parked the car. "She was not telling you you need to leave the house, Andréa. I think she was merely inquiring whether you would be her sidekick for the weekend."

"I don't want you to go," Cassidy said, looking horrified. "I just didn't want to get in trouble for hogging you."

"Cass?" Andy smiled as Miranda and Caroline got out of the car. "You wouldn't get in trouble and you should always ask me. If I'm busy, I'll tell you and if I am, I'll make sure we do something else okay?"

"I like hanging out with you. You get me."

"I think your Mom and your sister get you too if you'd let them," Andy smiled as she watched Miranda tuck Caroline's hair behind her ear. "More than you realise. You should maybe try doing something that they want to do. And listening when they talk."

"Should I have gone home and showered?"

"Probably," Andy grinned. "But it's too late now, so just do better next time. Let's go!"

By the time they got home an hour and a half later, Andy was beat. She smiled tiredly as Miranda offered to hang up her jacket and she chuckled as it went in the cupboard under the stairs along with everyone else's. Feeling a little overwhelmed at how much fun she'd had she hesitantly offered a hug to Miranda who took it graciously.

"Thank you for allowing me to be there today. I had fun."

"I did also," Miranda said as Andy stepped back. 

"I'm going to get out of your hair for a while, so everyone can do their thing. I wondered if you wanted me to make dinner or something?"

"Sunday is typically a day for ordering in, but if you wish to cook, Andréa, you may," she looked at Andy shrewdly. "Are you alright?"

"Just," Andy shrugged. "I've not had a day that good in a long while. And I appreciate you letting me in on it."

"It was just soccer, Andréa," Miranda chuckled.

"It was more than that and you know it," Andy whispered. "Thank you for letting me into your family for a while."

"Well, you are most welcome. A little birdy tells me you have big plans for Wednesday?"

"She seemed to like the idea of an adventure and asked if we could sneak in some junk food?"

"Woebetide me to stop you both," Miranda chuckled. 

"And," Andy said, remembering suddenly. "You need to see her folio. It's," she looked at Miranda. "You can draw. I've seen those little cartoons you draw when your meetings are boring. And the sketches you do when you're trying to explain something," Miranda blushed. "Caroline has undoubtedly inherited your talent."

"I did always like drawing," Miranda smiled. "I used to draw comic strips when I was a child," she chuckled. "I'd forgotten that."

"Maybe you should start again!"

"Perhaps I will," Miranda smiled. "Thank you, for your help with Cassidy, again."

"I remember that age and I remember coming off the pitch feeling like I was made of a hundred thousand bees."

Miranda pulled a face and laughed again. 

"I've never heard it put like that, but you are correct, that is exactly how it is."

"Well," Andy smiled. "I'll be in the kitchen probably around 6? If I don't feel like cooking, I'll let you know. And if I do, I'll let you know."

"Alright," Miranda smiled gently. "Get some rest. You've had a busy weekend and we do not have a slow week."

"I'm on it," Andy winked.

Chapter Text

"Andréa?"

"Yes Miranda?" she asked absently, walking into the room. "Oh! Sorry, yes, Miranda?"

She glanced at the gaping faces from accounting currently taking a meeting in Miranda's office.

"Accounting is saying that we are 13% over budget. Is that correct?"

"Yes," Andréa nodded, her palms a little sweaty as the room looked at her. Miranda had told her that they would quibble over it. She remembered Miranda's words about the last accounting meeting and squared her shoulders. "But," she continued, not quite interrupting the editor. "That is 70% closer than we have been for the last five months. It takes into account the rain delay and the incident at the park that we had to wait for the NYPD to clear. If we hadn't taken the steps we did, to minimise the damage, it would have been closer to 45% over. We also made good use of the spaces we rented this month as well. We planned all the shoots over three days and got them done under budget. It was extremely difficult and stressful, but had we not had a total of four days delay, we should have been under."

"Thank you Andréa," Miranda said, sitting back with a smug smile and sipping coffee from her glass mug - she'd had the coffee machine installed Monday afternoon. "You see?" she gesticulated to the room. "I see no issue with the numbers this month. Acts of God are not in my wheelhouse, no matter how much I wish it to be so."

Andy bit her tongue and looked away to stop herself from snorting.

"So I would bid you good day as I have to get to the Board Meeting, where I've no doubt our erstwhile CEO will also be grilling me on the numbers, but I maintain the view that had Runway not pulled in half a million dollars of advertising this year, to date," she paused ominously. "We would be in a very different position, but as it is, we are currently sitting at -" she looked up at Andy.

"475.32 million," Andy swallowed. "Projected to be above five hundred and fifty by year's end."

"I see no reason to be worried. Any questions?"

The room was dead quiet and Miranda's terror driving whisper broke the silence.

"That's all."

Andy bit back a smile as the majority of the Accounting team ran from the room, leaving her watching Miranda purse her lips.

"You love it and you know it," Andy chuckled.

"I cannot say that I don't," Miranda muttered. "But they are not wrong to worry. Vogue recorded a loss this quarter of nearly 4%, which doesn't sound like a lot when you put it that way, but 4% on our revenue would be -"

"Nearly 2 million I think?" Miranda gaped. "I did Academic Decathlons," Andy chuckled. "You'd be surprised at how quickly you can learn to do big sums with the right formula."

"You are like a wisp of smoke that I cannot grasp, Andréa Sachs. I thought I told you not to surprise me?"

"Well, to be fair, I didn't mean to," Andy chuckled. "What time is your sproglet getting here?"

"Andréa," Miranda groaned. "Must you inflict these nicknames upon me!"

"I must, Miranda. It's in the rulebook. To be the best-assistant-ever, one must inflict nicknames on the tiny ones. It's like number four hundred and twenty-three."

"Out," Miranda ordered, barely holding back her smirk. "Out and make yourself useful. Caroline will be here at 3:25 and I will be at the board meeting at 4."

"You going to hang out with her for a bit?"

"Unless there's anything urgent?"

"Not anymore," Andy grinned, already moving the meeting she had scheduled to another time.

"Hmm," Miranda smirked. "Very well. Go, do something Andréa, that I may sit here and contemplate someone else's doom."

"I shall stay out of your way," Andy quipped, backing out of the room and pushing the door-to.

By the time Caroline arrived, the office was ordered and quiet. Everyone knew about the Board Meeting and had not bothered Miranda since the accounting meeting.

"Mom!"

Andy smiled as Caroline pushed open the outer door, dropped her bags and ran into her mother's office.

"Hello Bobbsey," Miranda said with a smile in her voice. "How was your day?"

"Am I interrupting anything?"

"You are not," Miranda muttered and Andy glanced over to see Caroline draped over her knee. "I wondered if you wanted to show me some of your drawings?"

Andy tuned them out, picking up Caroline's things and putting them behind her own desk and sent an email to the staff reminding them that Miranda would be out of the office and so would she. She packed her purse with a spare bottle of water just in case and played Candy Crush until Miranda appeared before her like a ninja.

"Holy sh-" she glanced at Caroline who was giggling. "Nikies! Hi! You ready?"

Miranda smirked a little and kissed Caroline's hair.

"Please do not get into trouble," she said gently. "I'll call when we're done but if you are ready to go home before me, call Roy?"

"I thought we'd take the subway, to be honest," Andy grinned as Caroline nodded eagerly.

"Oh heavens," Miranda groaned. "Well, I'm looking forward to hearing about it at dinner," she smiled gently at Caroline. "Or supper. Go to the bathroom and make sure you are ready to go. You may store your bag in the car with Roy before you leave."

Caroline ran off to use her mother's bathroom and Andy looked up expectantly at her boss.

"This is where you threaten to kill me if something happens to her?"

Miranda snorted.

"No, it's where I tell you that this," she handed over a credit card. "Is my personal card and I expect you to use it for whatever you want."

"What!"

"Andréa," she said gently. "Of all the people on this Earth, there is none I trust more than you. Use it for your food and, if Caroline wants drawing supplies or," she shrugged. "Whatever she wants, she may have it. They rarely get presents that cost me money and they rarely ask for things, but you were right, her talent is commendable and I plan on encouraging it at every turn. You, on the other hand, are doing me a great favour," she waved her hand to stop Andy interrupting. "Outside of work. You will not be paying for anything, not even your own food."

"I don't know how to be okay with this," Andy grimaced. "It's already a big deal -"

"She will teach you," Miranda said gently. "I will teach you. It will not always be like this, Andréa," she muttered. "I have a plan. By the year's end, you'll be on the way to financially stable, if not there already, I promise."

"I -" Andy looked up at her carefully. "That is the second time you've said that to me in so many words and it's beginning to scare me."

"Don't let it. I'm going to help you. You're helping me, so it's a straight swap."

"I'm not -" 

"Oh, Andréa," Miranda said, sitting on the edge of the desk. "You should know by now that when I say something I mean it. Your help as my assistant is tangible, which is why the company -" she looked pointedly at Andy. "- not me - though I would if I thought you'd take it - pays you accordingly." She glanced at the door. "As my," she paused but Andy kept her gaze. "Friend, your help and your presence is more invaluable to me than all the money in the world. The only way I can give you something in return is to pay you in kind. With valuable knowledge and skills you would otherwise not receive."

"I am concerned," Andy muttered, glancing into Miranda's office as they heard Caroline coming back. "But I do trust you."

"That," Miranda said patting her hand. "Is how it should be."

Andy smiled as Caroline hugged her mother and grinned as she whispered in her ear. She nodded at whatever Miranda said and Andy passed her the folio with all the documents she would need.

"If they do not drain the life out of me, I will explain later," she said quietly.

Andy nodded and she and Caroline watched her go. 

"She's kinda amazing," Caroline sighed.

"Yeah, she is," Andy muttered before shaking herself. "Right. Let me get this squared away and then we'll be off on our adventure!"

"I googled what you said about Chik-Fil-A," Caroline said, following her into Miranda's office. Andy tidied away all the papers into the safe and shut down the laptop. She locked the desk drawers and double checked there was nothing for anyone to find, then did the same at her desk. She even emptied the shredding into the locked shredding disposal bin. Irv may well have been going to the same meeting, but she didn't put it past him to send a lackey in his stead.

"And?" Andy smiled as Caroline frowned.

"Why do they do it?"

Andy shrugged.

"It's a tough one, to be sure. Some people believe something so strongly that they let it get in the way of common sense," Andy explained gently. "Some people get scared and react in anger. Some people," she sighed. "Just want to watch the world burn. There's no one reason for it. There's no good reason for it either, though."

"Religion is stupid," Caroline mumbled.

"It can be," Andy said, cupping the girl's cheek. "But it also provides comfort and support to people who need it. And some people do really great work for people in need. It's all so convoluted."

"Does McDonald's?"

"They don't do what Chick-Fil-A does, but," she shrugged. "They're not perfect either, but whatever you want, is fine by me."

"Have you ever eaten off a food cart?"

"I have!"

"Is it safe?"

"As can be," Andy chuckled. "If you know the right one."

"Do you?"

"Why do I get the feeling that if your mother finds out I'm going to be hung, drawn and quartered?" Andy chuckled. "Bring your bag, we'll drop it with Roy."

Chapter Text

Caroline, Andy discovered, was a much more on-the-ball child than Cassidy. Where Cassidy was sometimes laser focussed on a single thing, she could also be quite flighty otherwise. Caroline noticed everything, just like her mother and Andy couldn't help but chuckle at times.

"You looked just like your mom when you did that," she muttered.

"Really?" Caroline grinned. "Cool."

They walked down the block to 5th and went in a few stores. Contrary to what Andy had imagined, Caroline asked for nothing and she wondered why.

"I have your mom's card, you know. If you want something -"

"I know," Caroline smiled easily. "She told me. I just haven't found anything I want enough, yet."

Andy was charmed and wrapped an arm around Caroline as they walked.

"So," Andy grinned as the girl looked up at her. "What do you like doing, other than drawing?"

"I dunno," Caroline shrugged. "I'm not really into sport, that's Cass' deal but," she shrugged. "I kinda always wanted to try rock-climbing."

"No way!" Andy grinned. "That's awesome, I've always wanted to do that too!" She thought about it for a moment. "Hey, do you reckon we could get your Mom to try it?"

Caroline laughed and laughed, leaning against Andy.

"She's so afraid of heights. Like, the reason she takes elevators alone is cos she like," Caroline rolled her eyes affectionately. "Totally freaks out sometimes. She'd kinda used to the Runway ones, but the small ones, like at Mr Holt's building? They really worry her."

"See, where were you when I needed you!" Andy grinned, grabbing Caroline and tickling her a little. "I wish I'd known that when I started working for her."

"It's her best-kept secret."

"Yeah it is, no wonder she likes to ride alone. Guess I'll have to keep an eye on her.'

"You really like Mom, huh," Caroline asked, looking in the window of H&M. She turned her nose up at the selection and they kept walking.

"I do," Andy smiled. "She's a good friend."

"Mom doesn't really have friends usually. And you work for her," Caroline blushed. "And you said you don't have as many friends as you used to. And I kinda already know that's cos of Mom, so," she trailed off. "I don't get it."

"Is this about me or this Sadie chick who is supposedly not so great."

"She's not terrible," Caroline muttered.

"Really?"

"No, ok," she sighed. "She can be super mean sometimes."

"You know," Andy said gently. "If you know about something bad and you don't do anything about it, you're -"

Her breath caught as she remembered Paris and her hands shook as she tried to finish her sentence.

"You okay?" Caroline asked, her hand sliding into Andy's.

"Yeah," she smiled. "Yeah, sorry. I just meant to say that if someone does something bad and you know about it but don't do anything then you can be as bad as the person doing the thing."

"You just thought something weird cos your face is a weird colour."

"Something happened in Paris and I just kinda had a flashback. But it's ok, it worked out in the end."

"You mean Uncle Nigel? Mom told me," she sighed. "She didn't mean to hurt his feelings, she feels bad about it."

"I know," Andy sighed. "I gave your Mom a hard time about it at the time but," she groaned. "I was just as bad cos I knew before she said anything and I didn't do anything either. I should have told him."

"Just say you're sorry and don't do it again," Caroline grinned easily, pointing across the street. "Can we go to Barnes and Noble?"

"We can but I planned on taking you somewhere like Barnes and Noble, but better. Wanna go in here first or get where we're going and come back if you want to?"

"Where?"

"It's a surprise," Andy grinned.

"I wanna go there first."

They wandered down 5th avenue to Bryant Park.

"A food truck?" Carole looked at her sideways.

"Nope, although we can get something later if you like. This place we're going is even better."

They made their way between the people to 6th and Andy pointed across the road.

"What is that?"

"I'll show you, come on," Andy grinned, crossing the road carefully.

"Oh. My. God!" Andy laughed as Caroline's face lit up! "Andy!" She squealed and threw herself into Andy's arms with a giggle. "This is totally amazing! How did you find this!"

"Just did a bit of smart googling," Andy chuckled. "Go wild, want me to wander around with you or you got this?"

"I can go on my own?"

"Sure," she bit her tongue trying not to imagine Miranda's face when she found out Caroline wandered the store almost alone. "I think there are three floors and I'll come with you to each floor, don't go without me," she ruffled Caroline's fringe a little. "Otherwise go crazy!"

"I love you, this is amazing."

Andy chuckled and found a cute little chair to sit on. She dealt with a few emails and returned a call, smiling as Caroline brought her a book to hold. She flipped through it as she listened to the designer's secretary complain about the unfair demands Miranda was putting on her until Andy put a stop to it and told her in no uncertain terms would Andy be not be recommending the designer again if they didn't get on with providing the samples required.

As the woman put down the phone, she heard the bitch and laughed. She'd learnt a lot from Miranda already and knew not to let it bother her.

She sent the woman on her mind a text, sending her location and a rundown of how excited Caroline has been. She wasn't worried if Miranda didn't reply, but she laughed as she got a picture back.

There, on her screen was a cartoon drawing of Irv, surrounded by up ticking graphs, having a tantrum and crying.

Wish you were here.

And chuckled and replied.

Wish you were here! There'll be a gyro with your name on it if you can get here by 6?

She didn't get another reply and played a game or two on her phone before she decided that she very well could be here for a long time. She went for a wander down the shelves, looking at a few of the books with interest.

"Hey! This is so cool, thank you so much for bringing me, Andy!"

"You are most welcome kiddo," Andy smiled, liberating another book and a DVD from her hands. "You know these are backwards, right?"

Caroline laughed and leaned against Andy.

"Yeah, in Japan, they read from the back. Even when they publish in English, they keep it authentic."

"I totally didn't know that," Andy exclaimed, flicking through a few properly.

"They're really cool. My English teacher reckons they're not real books but if we could read them, I reckon more people would read for fun! They're like reading a movie!"

"Look, I like lots of words but I'd never tell you something you enjoyed didn't count. "

"Exactly!" Caroline huffed. "Jordan, a guy in my math class, told me about these, he's," she bit her lip. "He has that thing where he can't read things? They like squish together?"

"Dyslexic?"

"Yes!" Caroline said. "He reads these cos there are not quite as many words but the story is just as good!"

"He sounds like a smart guy," Andy grinned as the tips of Caroline's ears went pink. "You hang out with him a lot?"

"Um," Caroline swallowed. "Not really."

"How come?"

"Um," she looked sad and Andy realised immediately.

"Sadie?"

"Yeah," Caroline whispered.

"Do you know what?" Andy said gently. "I think Jordan would be a way better friend to have than Sadie would be. Does Sadie do stuff you want to do?"

"No," Caroline frowned. "And I bet Jordan would love this place."

"How about next week you spend some time hanging out with him instead of this queen bitch and see if you like it better," Andy smiled. "If you like. I'm not telling you, but it might be nicer."

"Thank you," Caroline whispered. "Cass is really big, you know? Nobody really remembers me when she's around, which is totally cool," she shrugged. "She's my twin, but -"

"Your mom does, sweetie, and I do too. Any time you feel like that, let me know and I'll take Cass for a run or something and let you get some mom time in."

She grinned lopsidedly and leaned against Andy's side.

"Can we go look at the drawing stuff downstairs?"

"Definitely. While you're looking, you gotta help me pick out some stuff for your Mom."

"She doesn't draw," Caroline frowned. "Does she?"

Andy pulled up her messages and showed her Miranda's little doodle.

"That's so funny! Why didn't I know that?"

"I don't know if she has too much time at the moment. When I see them, I grab them, but she doesn't do it too often. Maybe you can help me put them all into a book one day."

"She's so," Caroline sighed. "Mysterious. Like, I didn't know that she drew and she never cooks but she cooked the other night!"

"She did," Andy remembered with a grin. "I think she wouldn't be as awesome if she wasn't a little mysterious."

"That's true," she sighed. "Okay, I'm going to look at those," she said, pointing to a stack of notebooks. I reckon Mom needs some pencils, like proper graphite ones. And a new book."

"I am in your capable hands, Little Bit!"

"I like that," she giggled. "Does Mom tell you off for giving us nicknames?"

"She does a little, but not too much," Andy grinned. "I think secretly she likes them."

"You're delusional," Caroline giggled. 

They picked out some stuff for Miranda and made their way to the counter, paying for it and bagging it up. The girl on the register had black and bright-blue hair and Caroline couldn't stop grinning. 

As they went back outside, the usual after-work rush was on and Andy looked at the lines for the better food trucks and sighed. They'd be a good while in the line but they clearly weren't in a rush. Miranda still hadn't texted so Andy assumed they were in the meeting for the long-haul.

"How hungry are you?" she asked. "It's busy, so it'll be a wait and there's no way a Food Truck is gonna do the whole Miranda Priestly thing," she chuckled. "We'll have to wait like every other schmuck here."

"I can wait," Caroline said easily. "We're not brats you know."

"I know that, Little," Andy smiled, wrapping her arm around her as they crossed over to the park. "I just don't want you fainting and me having to carry you home. That would suck in this heat."

"You so silly," Caroline smiled, leaning on her as they got in line.

Chapter Text

The board meeting ran long, as she expected it was going to do, and by the time it was over Miranda was exhausted.

"Home, Roy," she muttered.

"I won't spare the horses, Ma'am," he said in a rather acceptable English accent considering he was a full-blood New Yorker.

"Did my underlings call you for a ride? I was invited to join them for," she winced. "Cart food, but I regrettably could not make it."

"I didn't take them home," he chuckled. "But they sounded in good spirits when Andy called. They took the subway. Their bags are in the trunk though."

"Gracious, I wonder what sort of diseases they picked up."

Roy laughed and she congratulated herself on the little joke.

"Indulge me for a moment, Roy, are you married?"

"I am," he smiled. "19 years this spring."

"You must tell me your secret," she deadpanned and he grinned.

She was acting out of character but she was exhausted and frankly so sick of pontification she just needed something to take her mind off the abysmal sycophantic nonsense that had filled her afternoon. Roy was game, but he wasn't stupid. He smirked at her in the mirror and remained silent.

"Yes alright, not marrying arseholes would be a good first step."

He laughed again and she found that she rather liked making people laugh.

"I think listening to yourself is important," he said carefully. "And marrying for the right reasons." She squinted at him and he swallowed before carrying on. He was braver than she'd thought. "I know why you married them. Both of them. They were good reasons. Admirable, but not," he winced. "Truthful. To yourself."

He pulled up at the kerb and she stared at him in the mirror.

"You are rather astute," she chuckled at her own expense. "But, I rather think it's time to give up on love."

She watched as Cassidy opened the door and the Twins ran down the steps, leaving Andréa watching from the top of the steps, a soft smile on her face. She matched it as her twin terrors flung open the doors.

"Not just yet, Miranda," Roy whispered. 

She didn't have time to examine the words as he got out and her babies got in.

"MOMMY!"

"Gracious," she chuckled. "What are you doing! Let me out, let me out," she chuckled, kissing their cheeks happily. 

"We made you dinner, come see!"

"Come and see, my darling little heathen," she winked at Cassidy. "Caroline, get your bags from Roy and then I will be able to get out of the car without being swarmed by my children."

The flurry of chaos as they called goodbye to Roy finally fell away as the girls ran upstairs to stow Caroline's schoolbag and pack Cassidy's soccer bag for the next day.

"Hey," Andy smiled gently. The lights were off, with only a lamp in the useless sitting room they never used. It spilt gentle light into the foyer and she sighed.

"Thank you," Miranda whispered. "For keeping them entertained and for not turning on the lights."

"I know how your eyes get after a long day," Andy muttered, helping her with her coat. "I," she hesitated. "Hope I didn't overstep but I told Cara she could go? We may have cooked some spaghetti?"

"Oh," she sighed. "That sounds heavenly, to be honest."

"Really?"

"Yes," Miranda smiled. "There is a selection of decent reds in the wine cellar," she pointed down the long corridor to the back of the house. "Last door to the right. Any of the Pinot Noir on the left of the door as you walk in."

"Coming right up."

"I'm sorry," Miranda sighed, rubbing her head. Andréa didn't move.

"What for? Don't be," the woman smiled. "It was a very long meeting. The girls stayed up long enough to say goodnight but Cassidy has been flagging for a good half an hour."

"There is much to discuss tomorrow. Block us some time, I need to go over the -"

"Hey," Andréa said gently, stopping Mrinada's train of thought. "I will take care of all of that tomorrow. You need some downtime. Frankly, you look exhausted."

"I am," she admitted. "I," she felt her face heat. "I just want to curl up and watch a film. I don't want the book and I don't," she shook her head. "I'm tired, Andréa."

"I know," she said softly. "Come and eat. It's okay. The girls will be down in a minute to say goodnight and then I'll put on a film and you can chill for a while? That acceptable?"

"Yes," Miranda sighed. 

She let Andréa direct her to the kitchen table where she was presented with a small plate of spaghetti and two moderately sized meatballs on top. She chuckled as Andréa appeared with a tea-towel over her shoulder and a block of parmesan in her hands.

"Do you know how to use that thing?"

"I'll have you know, Priestly, that I spent a summer in Florence. Just after my second year of college. It was utterly glorious."

"Oh, I adore Florence," Miranda smiled. "I've only been once, but like you found it truly mesmerising."

"Well," Andréa said with a smile. "We'll have to go one day."

"That is an excellent idea."

They smiled before the noise of a hundred buffalo running down the stairs disturbed the gentle peace.

"Mom!"

"Easy," Andréa said, catching Cassidy as she raced forward and tripped on the chair. "Easy does it. Your Mom's been at work for like a billion hours. Go slow."

Miranda snorted a little indelicately and opened her arms to her babies.

"I'm sorry I missed dinner," she muttered against Caroline's hair. "I was so looking forward to hearing about your afternoon."

"S'ok," Caroline said, snuggling under her chin. "I'll tell you about it tomorrow. Andy promised she wouldn't tell you."

"I won't ask then," she murmured, kissing Caroline's temple and giving her an extra squeeze. Cassidy, as always, was just waiting until Caroline had her time and fell upon her as soon as Caroline stood up again. "Hello, little one."

"I'm taller than you Mom."

"Not yet," she muttered, wiggling her fingers against Cassidy's ribs. "You'll always be my little one."

"I'm not even the littlest," she grumbled. It was an argument they went over day in, day out but Miranda always won. "Andy takes good care of us," Cassidy whispered in her ear as she wrapped her arms around Miranda's shoulders.

"Yes she does," Miranda agreed. She kissed her eldest again and patted her bottom to stand. "It is now bedtime, Bobbsies. Say goodnight to Andréa and I will be up to tuck you in as soon as I have finished my dinner."

Andréa had poured the wine. She'd left it by Miranda's bowl on the table while the girls were saying their goodnights and she noticed a smaller measure in the glass, placed across from her. Andréa was nowhere to be found though and she realised, suddenly, that the woman often left Miranda alone with the girls when she could. She smiled, cupping her babies' cheeks.

"Off to bed, my darlings."

"Love you, Mom," Cassidy said, wrapping an arm around her sister. 

Miranda watched them go, stopping by the stairs, talking quietly. She heard the quiet mutterings of Andréa's voice and sighed as she took her first bite. It was delicious.

"You have outdone yourself," she remarked quietly when Andréa joined her at the table once the girls had gone upstairs. "And don't think I don't notice you making yourself scarce whenever the girls are here."

"I don't imagine you miss much, Miranda," she said. It was dark, but Miranda could hear the smile in her voice. "I'm just giving you some space."

"It is unnecessary," she said quietly. "But appreciated."

"Noted," Andréa chuckled. "Do you need anything?"

"No," Miranda sighed. "This is divine."

"Good," Andréa nodded. "Don't mind me. I never liked drinking alone but I can't imagine you want to hear someone else talking so I'm just going to hang out."

Miranda smiled around her fork and enjoyed the silence. She could hear the girls upstairs. Cassidy would shower now and Caroline in the morning. As it had been since their fifth birthday. She almost missed those simpler times when she could come home and find them in the bath with intricate bubble-bath hairstyles. She chuckled to herself at the memory and looked up, forgetting for a moment that Andréa had remained. She smiled across the table at Miranda and went back to her phone. The woman clearly had an unhealthy obsession with that silly Candy Crush game and she covered up a smirk with a purse of her lips.

"Oh-oh," Andréa said quietly. "What did I do?"

"Nothing," Miranda chuckled. "Just thinking how addictive video games are."

"Ha!" Andréa laughed, turning her screen around. "I was actually doing some research."

"At this hour? What on earth for?"

"Caroline said she'd always wanted to do rock-climbing, I thought she and I could go check out a gym."

"Rock -" Miranda swallowed. "Climbing."

"She told me about your fear," Anndrea said gently. "And it's okay. I won't ever let her get hurt."

She breathed and closed her eyes. Andréa was right. There was no one, not even their father, that she trusted more with the girls. She nodded. 

"Thank you," she whispered. "I," she let out a shaky breath. "I have no doubt she has never asked because she knows how I feel."

"I'll make sure the place is reputable before we go galivanting up any walls. I promise."

Miranda nodded and pushed her plate away, realising belatedly how rude that was.

"No," she said, starting to get up. "I'm sorry, I didn't -"

"Easy," Andréa said gently, her hand on Miranda's shoulder. "Don't worry about it. I know how it goes. Relax. This wine is good, but I'm going to make a cup of tea. Do you want one?"

She swirled the Pinot around in her glass and swallowed the rest.

"I'd love one. Cork it, we'll have it tomorrow."

Andréa busied herself, preparing tea and Miranda sat back. Her belly was full and her brain sufficiently melty. Pinot always did that to her. She sighed and looked at her assistant, watching her lithe movements. The worry from the mood at the Board Meeting was hanging around and she just wanted it all to go away for a while. 

She didn't often get like that; in need of some peace. When she did, it was usually around this time, when others were talking of losses and cuts in spending. Miranda had never cared for those mercurial warnings, she'd been Runway Editor for a long time. She'd seen it come and go. This time, however, she wasn't sure how she was going to achieve what she needed to. People were buying fewer magazines and no longer seemed capable of reading long and informative articles. She wondered whether, in ten years, she would be able to say that she witnessed the collapse of the print industry.

"I can't wait to hear all about it tomorrow," Andréa said quietly, startling her a little by how close she was. Warm hands on her shoulder calmed her. "But for now, I queued up my favourite movie in the Den. Want to join me?"

Miranda nodded and picked up her tea, toeing off her heels at the bottom of the stairs and leaving them there. She smiled when she saw the scene paused on the television. Andréa was a fan of the classics.

"Your favourite film is The Scarlet Pimpernel?"

She couldn't keep the disbelief from her voice and Andy chuckled.

"It truly is," she grinned. 

Miranda shook her head and settled on the sofa. She didn't say another thing as Andréa pressed play, tucked the throw around her and went back to Miranda's usual chair. After only about the first twenty minutes she closed her eyes and went to sleep.

Chapter Text

Miranda woke on the sofa and noticed a cup of steaming coffee and the book. She blinked, rubbing sleep from her eyes and remembering vaguely that she hadn't taken her makeup off the night before. That was almost as unusual as her falling asleep for the whole night on the sofa.

"Morning," Andréa said gently. "There's this," she put down a packet of the makeup wipes Miranda favoured. "Coffee. Book. Go wild. Cass is up so she and I are going for a run. I told Caroline you're in here but Cara is here in ten so there shouldn't be any need to disturb you."

Miranda didn't reply but just as Andréa turned to leave, she gripped her hand and squeezed just a little.

"Don't worry. You'll figure it out."

That was the thing, wasn't it? Ultimately, no matter how good Andréa was at her job, Miranda had to be good at her job to get them through this. Everything fell heavily on her shoulders and she slumped down, sighing into her mug as the cup of heavenly liquid scorched her throat. Andréa had taken to making her coffee most days and it was divine. She somehow managed to get it right every single time. 

She was sure it was magic.

She worked on the book, getting lost in her thoughts as she scored through the pages. Everything looked dull. In everything she looked at, she saw dollars instead of fashion and she had vowed should she ever get like that she'd resign.

She was just pondering that thought when Andréa sat down gently beside her.

"We going in boss?"

"We need to start diversifying," she muttered, putting plans of retirement on hold for a moment.

"I know," she said easily. "I have a list."

"You," Miranda frowned, her brain making a rather comical screeching noise like in one of Cassidy's cartoons. "What?"

"This isn't the end of print publishing, Miranda. We just need a few more modernised avenues to draw readers. Youtube videos, social media etc."

"How did you -"

"Educated guess? And I glimpsed some of Accounting's talking points when Peter stopped to chat the other day."

"Tell me."

"Well," Andréa chewed her lip thoughtfully but Miranda just wanted to shake her so she'd go faster. "My initial thought was to break down the articles into smaller chunks but," she winced and Miranda felt that in her soul. "That would break Runway into something else. And Runway is," she shrugged. "Runway. I think, leave it exactly as it is. Be the one that refuses to bow to the masses. But," Andréa touched her hand before she could interrupt. "Show them a different side. Behind the curtain, as it were. What about filming a run-through? No explanations, not commentary. Just an unedited version of how you go from -" she laughed. "A belt, to a whole four-page spread."

Miranda was gobsmacked. Truly and utterly without words.

"I mean, it's just an idea that I -"

"Are you ever going to stop surprising me, Andréa Sachs?"

"God, I hope not," she chuckled, looking relieved and offering her hand. Miranda took it and squeezed gently. "I told you. We're a team. Let's get on with ruling the world, yeah?"

Miranda nodded.

"Will you -"

"I've already sent a list of points to Alex and Patrizio. They'll have options on the desk by tonight.

Miranda felt her equilibrium returning and she stared at the woman beside her for a long while. She had no idea just how good she was going to be. Leaving it for now, she patted the knee where their joined hands were resting and went upstairs, appearing half an hour later, dressed to kill.

"That's my Miranda," Andréa said gently as she helped her into her coat. "Don't let 'em kill you, boss. They aren't you. They don't know you. You're better than all of them."

"I'm not sure they know you either, Andréa," she smirked, trying desperately to hide it with a twitch of her lips. 

"I'll take care of you like you're taking care of me." Andy nodded. She chuckled and held up her little finger. "Pinky promise."

Miranda scoffed and immediately shook on it.

"You will go far in this world Andréa Sachs," she said quietly. "I simply cannot wait to see just how far."

-0-

The wobbly moment Andy had witnessed the week prior had galvanised her need to do better. She was absolutely on top of everything she could be as Irv Ravitz came in the door. Miranda was supposed to be at a meeting with Thom Ford but unbeknownst to anyone, Thom had stomach flu. They had quietly stayed at the office, enjoying an uninterrupted hour of silence. 

Irv did not look happy to find that out.

"Irving," Miranda said quietly as she stood and walked around the desk. "To what do we owe this unexpected pleasure?"

"Um, nothing, Miranda. Just wondering if you had those new budget reports?"

"Unusual for you to come down and get them yourself, isn't it?" she practically whispered. Andy wanted to look away, but the vitriol they were both staring at each other made it hard to look away.

"Enjoying your new," he smirked at her. "Position Andrea?"

She swallowed and looked straight at him, not wanting to look at Miranda in case he got the wrong idea.

"I am enjoying the greater responsibilities a lot, Mr Ravitz," she said evenly. "Though it is sometimes difficult to keep the pointless interruptions from Miranda's door. You'd think she was making as much money for the company as Auto Universe some days, instead of the half a billion dollars she is," she kept her breathing steady but she could feel Miranda's eyes burning her. "It's amazing where they find the budget that they do, don't you think? I was talking to Max only yesterday, you know the free-lance photographer they were using before he went solo? They broke even, or just about, last month and got an increased budget this month! Accounting must be brilliant to come up with so much for them, considering their return, no?"

"I'll have those reports now," he growled.

"Oh, well there's probably another hour until they're done. Do you want what I've got now, or the completed set in an hour?"

"Later is fine."

He left without saying anything else and Andy sighed, pinching her nose with shaking fingers.

"Sorry," she mumbled when the door finally closed.

"Were you being truthful?"

"Yeah, about Max? He's got a gallery showing next week. He actually bumped into a friend of mine, it was how we met. He was telling me about Auto Universe yesterday. He's worked all over and he couldn't believe it."

"The editor is Irv's wife's cousin," Miranda said quietly. "Not another word," she said quietly. "It's not enough to get him gone, but it is a good start."

"Should I have -"

"You did fine," Miranda smiled. "He deserved it after, once more, making derogatory marks about your character."

"What about your character?"

Miranda snorted and winked as she went back to her desk. Andy thought about it and knew that with all that was moving and changing at Runway that Miranda would have no chance to gather more dirt on Irv. She'd missed the signs before Paris, she wasn't going to miss again. Andy made a note to spend some time visiting the other floors and seeing what she could find out. Most knew her as Miranda's assistant, but a few more knew her as the put-upon waif that was at Miranda's beck and call every moment. 

That would be the advantage she would have over everyone else.

Chapter Text

"Andréa?"

"Y-ello?"

"Must you do that?" Miranda groaned, only half-seriously.

"I must," her lips twitched. "But only very rarely and only when no one else is here, especially if you ask me to come in here while I'm trying to wrangle your monumental budget back in the black and figure out why the city permits are taking twice as long as they should be?"

The girl was infuriatingly amusing and she looked away to stop herself from chuckling.

"That is very fair. Proceed."

"Nope," Andrea grinned sitting cheekily on the corner of her desk. "You called me in here, hit me with it."

She raised an eyebrow at Andrea sitting on her desk and was pleased to see her blush and move to a chair.

"Still got it," she quipped, making Andrea laugh.

For all their joking, Miranda knew she had to tread carefully so Andréa wouldn't suspect her actual motive, but she could only be so cagey. It was both a blessing and a curse that Andréa read her so well.

"How would you like to help me buy a condo?"

There was surprise but nothing else in her features and Miranda felt a little hope blossoming.

"For what?"

"An investment."

Sort of.

"Um," Andréa's eyebrow quirked. "Did I miss the part where you were in the market for one?"

"I don't tell you everything, you know." It had the desired outcome and the intrigue fell from Andréa's face. "Sadiq, my financier, who is eagerly anticipating a meeting with you, has suggested that now is a good time to buy and diversify my portfolio."

As it was, Sadiq had asked her two weeks ago whether she was going to buy something because there were more than a few around the Upper Eastside that looked good and were a reasonable price. She'd looked at the list he'd sent and stuck a dead end. She had no clue what Andréa liked. She didn't know what she would want in a home and it had taken her this long to figure out how to keep Runway from joining all the other print magazines in the doldrums of yesteryear before she could give a second thought to it. She'd sent an email to both men and received one back to suggest that the delay had actually worked in her favour as there was now a slew of properties on the market wherever she might want.

"Oh," Andréa shrugged, drawing her back to the present. "Sure. Why me?"

"What a question," she scoffed. "You are my right-hand-man, as it were. Also, if I'm going to invest somewhere, the likelihood is that my tenants will be young people. I need someone young to help, don't I?"

"You're so full of shit," Andréa grinned. Miranda couldn't help but laugh. "You're young enough. But sure," she smiled. "It'll be fun to see how the other half live."

"Andréa," Miranda groaned.

"I jest!" Andréa chuckled. "Besides which, I can't very well comment can I - can't even get my own place -"

"Andréa," Miranda said gently, hearing the frustration.

She'd seen this on the woman's face last week after she'd avoided telling Nigel that she was staying with them. Thankfully Nigel hadn't pushed but she'd seen the dishonesty worrying Andréa's otherwise sunny disposition. Not that Miranda, nor the girls, minded Andrea's presence - quite the opposite, in fact. But, Miranda could see the situation wearing on Andréa and she could imagine how difficult it would be, staying in Miranda Priestly's life 24 hours a day. It was also so very selfish of her to wish that Andréa didn't have to go, but she was nothing if not magnanimous.

In small, but meaningful, doses.

"You will," she said, disturbing the small silence that had fallen. "You're saving money, you're doing well and we don't mind having you in the interim!"

"I just don't want to put you out. I bet you can't wait to have your home back." She tried not to let anything show on her face, but she wasn't sure she was successful. "Anyway. Sure. When?"

"Perhaps this weekend when the girls are with their father?"

"Sure," she shrugged like it was so easy to give up one's weekend for Miranda Priestly as well as their whole life. 

God, she was so maudlin lately.

"Good," Miranda nodded. "Now go and do some work."

"Yes Boss," Andréa smiled. "Want lunch?"

"No," she mumbled, rubbing the arm of her glasses on her lip. "Actually. Get that done and then we'll go out."

"Where?"

"Surprise me," she challenged, feeling a little bit of her equilibrium return as she saw the amusement in Andréa's eyes.

Andréa laughed properly and Miranda realised after a few moments that she may not understand that Miranda genuinely wanted to go somewhere other than where she usually went for lunch.

"Andréa?"

"Yah?"

"Surprise me. I don't want a steak."

Their eyes met and for a long time, they stared until Andréa grinned that grin she often got when she was conspiring with Cassidy and nodded once, dropping back into her chair and getting back to work. Miranda had no idea what was in store, but she realised that it didn't matter. Not because she didn't care, but because she knew Andréa did. 

That was enough.

-0-

She regretted telling Andréa to surprise her as soon as Roy pulled up alongside a rather busy food-truck.

"Don't say a word. I'm getting out, Roy's going to drive you around for a while and then come and pick me up. It's fine. Unless you 100% aren't interested, in which case there's a nice little restaurant around the corner we can go to. They sell normal, everyday things that I know you'll like."

"Andréa, get out of the car. We're holding up traffic."

"I promise I won't poison you."

The words hung in the air as she glanced at Roy watching her from the front seat.

"Don't look at me like that," she smirked. "Go."

"Yes Ma'am."

She didn't mind driving around the city, even when it was busy. The air-conditioned car was comfortable and she could watch the millions of people rushing about their existences unhindered. She saw people milling and people rushing and for each of them, she tried to guess what they did and who they were. Lately, she'd been wondering how many of them were happy. 

And whether it really mattered.

Pushing it from her mind, she turned to her driver. She hadn't hated the conversation the other night and decided that perhaps she wasn't the bitch people said she was.

"Do you have children Roy?"

"Two," he nodded. "Boy and a girl. Peyton, my daughter is fifteen this year. Kobi is nine."

She smiled, remembering not too long ago when the girls were nine.

"I liked nine," she said absently. "They're a little independent but still affectionate."

He chuckled. 

"Fifteen is a hoot," he said drolly. "Everything is a big drama. Boys, girls, cheerleading, football. Everything is a crisis."

"Maybe I ought to employ a few and see how they do?"

He laughed and she sat back with a sigh.

"Forgive me for saying, but everything seems pretty copacetic now?"

"Yes," Miranda said with a genuine smile. "There haven't been many things we haven't handled well."

"That's good!"

"More than you know. The girls are as settled as I have ever seen them, the magazine is within budget," she scoffed. "Can you believe that? I thought I would never see the day."

"She's good, our Andy. Couple that with you and," he shrugged as he looked in the mirror now they'd stopped at the light. "Well, it's the dream team isn't it!"

Miranda smiled and didn't disagree. 

"Am I going to die eating this swill?"

He laughed and pulled up beside Andréa, waiting on the side of the road.

"Just think of it as an exciting adventure, Miranda."

She rolled her eyes and accepted the bag from Andréa as she got into the car. 

"Wanna play hookey for a while? I just cancelled your meeting with Irv. He's incensed."

"Andréa!"

"I'm joking, gosh," she laughed. "I cancelled Nigel and told him you would look in on him when you got back. He wasn't phased."

"Fine," Miranda almost shrieked. The girl had a way of making her entire head spin. "Let us play," she sneered just a little. "Hookey."

"Roy, can you take us to 51st and 2nd?"

"No problem Andy."

Miranda quirked an eyebrow at her assistant, who just smiled and nudged her with her shoulder.

"This is going to change your life. You'll be begging me to get you more."

"I do not beg," Miranda drawled.

Andréa giggled wickedly and due to most people moving back to the main streets after taking their lunch, their drive was relatively short.

"Andréa -"

"I promise, you're going to love it. Come on. Up 51st Roy."

"I got you, I know where we're going now."

Miranda looked between them, but Andréa just smiled.

"I promised I wouldn't steer you wrong."

Miranda rolled her eyes and got out of the car, following Andréa, who mercifully had thought to put the food in a paper bag, rather than those awful plastic ones. She stalked onto the sidewalk and waited as Andy spoke to Roy and then offered her arm to Miranda who looked at her and then took it with an eye roll.

She glanced up and down the street. It was relatively not-descript. Restaurants, two synagogues. She couldn't possibly imagine eating lunch at any one of those places.

Andréa led them forward and through a little archway partially hidden by creeping ivy. Her jaw dropped.

"What on -"

"Told you," Andréa smirked, looking so full of herself. "Come on now, one of the best meals you can buy? In front of a waterfall? In New York City? Am I not the best assistant ever?"

"Andréa," Miranda was going to say something but she couldn't. She smiled and squeezed the arm looped in hers and sat on a terribly small table, suddenly feeling as though they were alone in an oasis. 

There were a few people about, some sat drawing in front of the water, but everyone seemed to acknowledge the sacred space and nobody even spared her a look.

She passed her eye over the food choices and decided that Andréa was right. She had not ever steered her wrong, so she took a little of everything, unable to stop the moan as she took a bite of the lamb gyro.

"Have you ever been to Greece?" Andréa grinned cheekily.

"Shut up," she said, wiping a little tzatziki sauce from the corner of her mouth. "No, I haven't. I have wished to, though. Perhaps when I am old and the girls have flown the nest I will make my way around to all those places that I have always wished to go and never had the time."

"That'll be fun," Andréa chuckled. "Maybe I'll be a millionaire, best-selling author and can come with you."

"There'll be no maybe about it, if you put your mind to it, you'll do it. And you will always be welcome."

"Alright, alright," Andréa said sardonically. "Stepped right into that one, didn't I."

Miranda smirked and scooped some of the chicken and rice onto a plate that Andréa had borrowed from the local cafe. She'd ordered them some drinks to sweeten the deal and Miranda sat back, chewing thoughtfully.

"How did you find this place?"

"Ha," she said. "Funny story. The second time I came down here for your lunch? You called before I could get there and Roy had to drop me off early and give me directions but I turned down the wrong road. Ended up finding this place. After he'd dropped you wherever you just had to be, he managed to find me and take me to Smith and Wollensky and back in time for you to eat. But this was a good find. I've been back a few times if I feel the need."

"You were so forthright back then," Miranda smirked, giving her a look. "Though you honestly had no right to be."

"God, I know," Andréa laughed. "Don't remind me. I was an asshole."

"No," Miranda mused. "I was though."

"You were stressed. I know how you get."

"I was stressed. And there was this thing ," she smirked, waving her hand like she was painting an imaginary person. "Standing at my doorway, blustering about how good she was," she remembered something in that moment. "I," she swallowed. "I said something to you, early on. After you, oh, after you came up the stairs. I shouldn't have. I didn't mean it and I'm sorry."

"Golly, Miranda," Andréa sighed. "I know. It hurt, I won't lie, but I know now, why you were doing that. I embarrassed you. I stepped into a vulnerable moment. I'm sorry."

"Why did you?"

"Ha!" Andréa smiled. She really did have a beautiful smile. "Did they never tell you?"

"Who?"

"The girls? I asked them which table I was supposed to leave the book and they pointed to the one at the top of the stairs. And," she chuckled. "Well, that was fun."

"I'm so -"

"Don't," she said gently. "I get why they did that. They're rotters, to be sure, but they probably just wanted to stop the fighting."

"I feel like I have failed them in so many ways."

"How can you possibly say that," Andréa said gently, pushing what was left of the rice towards her. She looked at it for a while then ate it from the container. She didn't miss Andréa's grin. "They are two of the most well-adjusted children I've ever met. They're not bratty, even though I like to tease them about it. They're not rude? They're well mannered and they're kind and loving and gentle?" Miranda looked up at her. "They're great kids, Miranda." She smirked and Miranda prepared herself next comment. "You done good, Mama."

"Of for the love of -"

"I'm serious!" She laughed, and Miranda smiled anyway. It was nice to hear, at least. "Cassidy talks while she runs. I can't quite answer her yet," Miranda laughed. "But she talks about how much she loves being at home with you, especially when Caroline is not. But how much she loves just hanging out. I don't think she'd realised how much you understood her. Not because you did a bad job," she said quickly, though Miranda knew that was part of it. "But because she's 13 and 13 year-olds are stupid. Even yours."

She snorted and sipped her wine. 

"She is far more tactile in expressing her love than Caroline," she muttered. "I found it," she hummed. "Difficult to cope with initially. She wanted me all the time. Wanted to be in my arms. I wish now I had indulged that more."

"She's still a cuddle monster," Andy grinned. "And you don't mind the odd hug anymore. either"

She felt her face heat and she grinned.

"That is very true."

They fell silent, letting the sound of the waterfall fill their thoughts.

"Hey," Andréa said suddenly, jolting Miranda out of her thoughts. "Have you used your new book yet?"

"I have not," Miranda muttered. "I should."

"When you're ready," Andréa smiled. "Forced writing is never any good, I imagine it's the same with art."

Had the chairs been more comfortable, Miranda may have sat for a long time in that space, but it wasn't long before she was ready to go.

"You know," Andréa said gently. "When you're ready, you can say so?"

"Why would I do that?" Miranda smirked as Andréa came back from throwing away the detritus. "When you so accurately read my mind."

"Hopeless, Miranda," Andréa laughed, offering her arm again. "Utterly hopeless."

Chapter Text

"Well well well," Andy looked up with a smile at the new voice. "Look what kind of riff-raff you can find around here if you look hard enough."

"Em!"

"Alright?" she grinned, accepting the hug.

"Absolutely, you? I haven't seen you for ages!"

"Quite," she smiled. 

"I hear Serena and you finally worked it out. Only took you -"

"Yeah, alright, alright," she grinned, schooling her face quickly and sniffing airily. "It's not terrible, I suppose."

"Uhuh, I'll be sure to mention that to her, next time I see her."

"Alright, it's fabulous but if you ever mention that I said that Andrea Sachs, I'll kill you."

"Emily, when you are quite finished?"

"Yes Miranda," she gulped.

"Andréa, make a note," she flashed a wicked grin. "Emily is still scared of me."

Andy laughed loudly as the door snicked closed and did just that, copying it to Emily as well as Miranda. She got up to make two coffees and just as she was about to carry them in, she noticed Irv lurking at the end of the corridor. She had left the budget notes on her desk and couldn't retrieve them without making it obvious that she knew he was up to something. Thankfully, as always now, she had already taken photos of all of them and had uploaded them to the private server. One that they'd had IT set up which had two authorised users: Andy and Miranda. 

She quickly flicked on her video and recorded Irv talking to someone from editing. The man listened and then nodded, coming her way. She abandoned the coffee, dumping it in the catch-all and starting on another with her back to the door, leaving her phone in prime position to record the office. She knew the security cameras covered every inch, but she wasn't taking any chances.

"Hey," he said, confidently striding in. "I'm supposed to pick up some prints?"

"Sure," Andy turned, smiling. "Which ones?"

He was clearly not bright. All of the editing department had the pictures sent digitally. Which he would have known if he was good at his job.

"Um, that guy Nigel asked me to get them."

He really was a moron.

"Oh yeah, no problem."

She got up and went to the filing cabinet. It moved him out of her sight for barely a minute but he looked mightily guilty when she returned. She passed him copies of the prints she'd already sent to Nigel and smiled.

"Was there anything else?"

"No, that's it. Oh, hey, do you wanna maybe go for a drink sometime?"

She heard the door to Miranda's office open and answered.

"Nah. You're not my type," she shrugged.

"You gotta try, you know?"

He must have realised Miranda was there and scarpered from the room.

"Is there some reason my coffee isn't here yet?"

"A very good one," Andy mused. "Go, finish your meeting, I'll make new coffee."

"Andréa -" 

"I'm pretty sure he took something off my desk. He doesn't know I know but I recorded him the whole time. Right from the minute he spoke to Irv before coming in here."

"What?" Emily's confused face looked between them. Miranda nodded and Andy explained.

"Irv's been causing trouble," Andy said to Emily. "Appearing unannounced when we're not supposed to be here, etc. Making underhanded remarks both to my face and in front of Miranda. He's doing shady shit on the other floors, though this is bold of him."

"What did he take?"

She took a look on her desk and nodded. 

"At least one of the budget notes pages."

"Did you -"

"Of course," Andy scoffed. "What do you take me for?"

"Don't say anything. Make the budget with your digital notes but try and make it look like you're having trouble. If I know Irv, he'll put it back with an altered bottom line or something, so that my silly assistant will do the budget wrong and embarrass me."

"As if Andy would do that."

"Quite," Miranda chuckled. "We shall turn it on its head. Emily, if you would, keep an eye out. Obviously, he has a hold over some of my staff that I did not anticipate. Andréa, I want the name of that man. If nothing else I shall fire him for being an idiot."

Emily snorted and nodded.

"Go," Any said, nodding to the office. "Back to your meeting, I'll make coffee and get Security to send me the files from just now as well."

"Good plan," Miranda nodded. "Come, Emily. I'm ready for you to dazzle me."

Emily gulped again and Miranda not only smirked, but she also giggled quietly as well. As she followed Miranda into her office, Emily turned and stared at Andy, mouthing the words WHAT THE FUCK? Which just made Andy laugh harder. She gathered up her notes and left them in a little neater condition, close by if she needed to shove them in a drawer post-haste and made their coffees.

"Thanks, Andy," Emily said as she accepted the cup.

"I see you have finally figured out how to be the best at what you do," Miranda smiled. "I am glad."

"I," she blushed a deep red that clashed with her Westwood shirt. "May have had someone talk to me about it, yes."

"No more cheese?"

"I can't give up cheese, And-reya. I just now eat a small but robust diet of mostly vegetables as well."

"Good," Miranda hummed. "One cannot rule the world on an empty stomach."

Emily snorted but sipped her coffee. Any left them to it again and made her own, wondering at what the world would look like in ten or twenty years. Emily at the helm of Runway, Nigel at the helm of Men's Runway and Andy on Time's Best Seller's for the third month in a row. She grinned to herself and got back to the budget. Time was what they needed. Time to work on the Youtube channel, time to gather evidence of Irv's machinations. Time for Andy to make some serious headway into her future-proofing. She figured the best way to do that was to make sure of what she had currently so she put her head down and worked like she always did. 

-0-

Friday afternoon swung around in a flurry of text messages from people she'd dropped small hints to about keeping their eye on Irv. 

She'd made a spreadsheet on their private server, and showed Miranda, telling her she should add to it when she could. It was password protected and scrambled if you didn't have the right key, but it was going to be his downfall once they'd compiled all the evidence that he was not doing right by Elias Clarke. Miranda knew enough of the investors that Irv's time as CEO would not be for much longer.

Miranda had gone home at four to see the girls off, leaving Andy time to update the spreadsheet quietly on her phone and finish off a few tasks she'd been meaning to do all week. Miranda had also sent her a list of properties and had asked her to narrow the list down to between three and five. Considering there were over fifteen on the list, it was not an easy task.

By the time she looked up again, it was dark. She'd already locked up for the weekend and as Joey, the guy from printing, arrived with The Book, she was ready to be done. She texted Miranda that she was on her way and left, flicking off the lights and locking the doors.

"Andy!"

She blinked, stopping mid-stride on the sidewalk and turning to see Roy waving at her from the curb.

"What are you doing here?"

"She sent me back to get you, dummy. Get in the car."

She laughed and did as she was told, sliding into the front seat and not the back while being secretly thankful that she didn't have to take the subway.

"So," he said carefully. "How are you?"

"I'm fine," she smiled. "Doing my thing, you know."

"Mhmm," he said with a wry smile.

"Don't tease me," she whispered. "You know I can't control her any better than you can."

"Hey," he shrugged. "Ain't nothing to do with controlling her. You do what she says and I get it."

"I don't know what she's doing."

"No?" 

She looked at him with a frown and the smile he was wearing turned comforting.

"Don't worry about it Andy, it'll make sense one day, I shouldn't wonder. It's all okay. You know I'm not going to say anything."

"I know Roy, I just wish I could understand what she was doing."

"Nah, just roll with it. Like I said to her the other day when you got lunch, it's all just a big adventure."

"I'll take your word for it, Roy," she laughed when she felt the car slowing. 

"That's the way. If in doubt, listen to Roy. That's everyone's motto ain't it?"

"Goodnight Roy," she said gently as she got out of the car.

"G'night ma'am," he said, tipping his hat with a grin.

"Fuck off," she said without malice.

"Enjoy your weekend!"

She was still shaking her head when she opened the door to find Miranda coming out of the kitchen to join her.

"Good evening," she said with an arched eyebrow.

"Hey," Andy sighed. "Not that I don't appreciate these clothes, and I really do these days," she watched the amusement grow in Miranda's eyes. "But I'm ready to put my PJs on."

Miranda chuckled and nodded to the kitchen.

"Well once you've done so, dinner is ready for you when you are. The girls and I ate already, I'm sorry."

"Don't worry about me!" Andy said, shaking her head.

"And if I just want to?"

"Then I'll be five minutes," she smiled.

"Good. Bring that list of apartments with you."

"Oh, yep. Be back in a minute."

She changed and took the stairs two at a time back to the kitchen where Miranda was pouring two small glasses of wine.

"I have had enough really, but as you said. It is not proper to drink alone."

"I'm impressed you remember," Andy said, feeling chuffed. "You weren't really in a great frame of mind."

"I was not," she chuckled. "We had salmon, I hope that's alright?"

"Miranda, I'd be happy with toast."

"Well," she huffed. "I can certainly do better than toast."

She brandished a plate from the oven, complete with salmon and couscous and some sort of potato something.

"You ate potatoes?"

"Well," Miranda smiled. "No. But the girls enjoy them. I thought you might."

"Come, sit," Andy nodded to the chair. "Unless you have places to be?"

"You tell me?" she said with a smirk.

"Sittdown, willya?"

"A passable New York accent at best," Miranda chuckled. "You are getting better though. Don't think I couldn't hear you on the phone to the printers the other day."

Andy coloured as she took her first bite and closed her eyes.

"You're selling the world short by being the best magazine publisher on the planet. You should be cooking."

"I don't have a love for it," Miranda shrugged. "I'm good at it, as I am at everything I do -" Andy laughed. "But no, publishing is where my heart lies."

"That makes sense, I'll just consider myself extremely lucky and not say another word about it."

"Good," Miranda nodded.

"How was your day?"

"Andréa!"

"I'm serious! I can see what you did in a day, not how it went!"

"Yes you can," Miranda rolled her eyes. "It was," she paused. "Excellent, if you must know."

"Good," Andy grinned at her. "I'm glad."

"Yes yes," she swatted Andy's arm with a tea towel. "Alright, you are quite brilliant, is that what you wanted me to say?"

"What?" Andy said, feigning shock. "Me? Come now."

They laughed as Miranda drained her glass and stood to make some tea.

"I'm going to cue up a film. Join me when you're done. I have your tea."

"Yes Miranda," she sing-songed as the woman walked upstairs.

She shook her head at herself and considered how close they'd become. If someone asked her to answer truthfully, she'd say that Miranda was becoming her best friend and though she wasn't sure how or why that had happened, she wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Eventually, she'd move out. She knew that deep down and she'd sort of, almost, come to terms with that. She had no doubt that in the darkness of her room, she'd cry when it finally happened because this family had come to mean so much to her. She felt so loved and cherished that she just couldn't imagine going back to living on her own, or god-forbid, with someone. 

These were her people and as she'd said to Miranda over and over, she was sticking with them, whether she was staying with them or not.

Chapter Text

"I am not a child," Andréa snapped as soon as the realtor closed the door behind her.

It had all been going so well. 

She had known, around the time they walked through the door of the second property that Andréa was catching on. She had tried to be rather careful in her wording, but Andréa was so very intelligent, she was truly surprised she got away with it as long as she did.

"I never implied that you were," she said steadily, sitting daintily on the window seat. 

"What the hell are you doing? This is," Andréa looked around, her eyes wide like a frightened deer. "This is ridiculous."

"Nothing I do is ridiculous."

"Miranda -"

She held up her hand because, yes, of course, she knew most things she did were ridiculous. She just didn't need to hear Andréa say that they were.

"I fully expect you to pay me back. But not today. Not soon."

"Miranda."

"Andréa, say thank you and be done with it. You're lucky I'm going to let you pay anything at all. I did warn you."

"You are infuriating!"

"Surely you were aware of this before now?" Miranda smirked. 

"I do not need your charity!"

"Well, how about my help," Miranda called as Andréa turned to leave. "Surely you wouldn't begrudge me helping the one person in my life that has changed it for the better? Look around Andréa. I do not have anything else to give you. I have nothing of use to you at this stage of your life, except this."

"Don't be st-"

"I don't," she said honestly. "I have a dog, and I have two children," she smirked. "Now, you're always welcome to take those off my hands, but otherwise," she shrugged. "Knowledge, Andréa. And knowledge is power."

Andréa snorted and walked back to sit on the window seat beside her.

"How do I explain this," she whispered. "To anyone."

"You don't," Miranda said more gently than she felt comfortable with. "It is nobody's business but our own. You are a chronic oversharer, Andréa. You should try to," she considered it. "Do so sparingly. It is who you are, I have gathered that. But some things are definitely better kept quiet, in both your personal and business life."

"Why are you -"

"Because you are my greatest friend," Miranda whispered. "And you are going to be a true icon if only someone like me can help you get there."

"I'm your -"

"I will deny it with my last breath. Something about oversharing. It shan't be repeated."

Andréa looked pensive again.

"I can't ever-"

"How much of your salary have you saved, truly, in these last months?"

"I -"

"Andréa?"

"Not as much as I could," she said sullenly, before continuing quickly. "But only because I have student loans and you were -"

"I know," Miranda said gently. And she did. She'd spied Andréa paying the bill only the other day while they were in the Den together. "I wasn't chastising you, I was trying to help you understand my motives. You don't have your whole life to achieve this goal of global domination. Women, in this city especially, seem to have a shelf-life. At least, they do when they're starting out - however unfair that is. There is only a small window of opportunity before people start labelling you as too old and don't give you a second look. Once you are established, that changes somewhat but I fully expect it to be you that fully breaks us out of that mould. Until then, however, we are stuck with the patriarchy and all the bullshit that comes with it." 

"But there's only so much money I can put away. And I could never afford the rent on this place. Not in a million years."

"Which is why you'll be responsible for the utilities only, for the first year or so."

She didn't mention that water and the other utilities, which would be in her name. And she definitely didn't mention the HOA fees, which weren't exorbitant but certainly above Andréa's price range. But, Miranda considered it a trade-off, knowing there was a full-time doorman and a slew of other great amenities for the young woman to enjoy. In reality, Andréa would pay an electric bill and the cable/Wi-Fi, though she wasn't sure she would need it, given that the phone and iPad were on the company plan.

"A year!" she jumped, having got lost in her thoughts. "Miranda be serious."

"Quiet," she said a little sharper than necessary to get Andréa to listen. "A year. Or, until you finish paying off your loans. The utilities will not be unsubstantial as it is a big space, but I will help you find the best plan for the space and I think you should be able to afford it." Andréa was staring at her and Miranda rolled her eyes. "I assume you won't let me help you with your loans?"

"What? Are you insane? No!"

"Didn't think so," Miranda smirked. "After the year is up I will have negotiated a higher salary, God willing Irving will be gone and then, you will start paying the insurance and a percentage of the HOA fees. If the insurance quotes on this apartment are unsatisfactory under your own name, you can simply pay me the portion of my bill that will cover this place."

"This is ridiculous."

"No," she said with a gentle smile. "This is New York."

"How the fuck am I suppose to achieve anything on my own."

"You think I did?" Miranda said, watching Andréa pace fitfully. "You think I just suddenly started making money?"

"Yes!"

"Oh my dear," she chuckled morosely. "How blind you are."

"Don't patronise me."

"I got my money laying on my back," she snorted. "Just like everyone said I did."

"Don't be crass."

"I'm not. I married my start-up money, Andrea. I was, admittedly, in love with him at the beginning," she sneered. "Not so much at the end. He gave me the Townhouse so I couldn't touch the rest of his Daddy's oil money."

"But -"

"I got it for free," Miranda shrugged. "The townhouse. Well. It was payment for the emotional turmoil he put me through. Do you know how much it is worth? Even then, it was substantial. And, aside from considering the girls, it was no skin off my nose that he left in the end. He left, I stayed and I was happier for it. By then I was well on my way to being who I am today and with that came status. And with status, came more money. And do you know what makes money, Andréa?"

"Hard work?"

"Naivety," Miranda said gently, chastising her. "You are better than that." The younger woman shrugged, standing again and pacing, slower this time. "Money, Andréa. Money is the only thing that makes money. Status helps but that only gets you the door. You need money to make money. Oh, it is wrong," she said, chasing away the interruption she saw coming. "But it is the truth. And to do well, properly, in this city, you need some capital backing you."

She watched as Andréa continued pacing and finally stopped, dropping to the floor and hugging her knees.

"Why am I your project?"

"I take offence at that," Miranda said gently but with a modicum of genuine hurt. "You are not a project. I am not improving you. I am trying to teach you how to succeed in a very small pool of very large sharks."

"Why? You're not doing this for Emily!"

"Emily has time to learn. Her path is set, should she wish to walk it. I am doing this because yours is less of a straight line and more of a meandering goat track." Andréa snorted. "And because there is something about you that makes me want to build you up and send you out into the world to thrive. You are going to achieve greatness, because I was right, in Paris."

She saw Andréa swallow and she, herself, felt a little light-headed at how easily she had said the word. They had never really discussed it beyond their quiet conversation that night when so many things had changed.

"So much of my drive and passion, I see in you. And I am glad of it. But I am not naive. You will move on to bigger and better things and I will be glad of that too." Andréa looked up at her with big brown eyes, tears causing them to shimmer. "Not yet though," she said with a barely concealed smirk. "I don't know how you expect me to function without you now that you've made yourself indispensable."

Andy snorted and then buried her head in her hands, wiping away tears.

"You promise that," she swallowed. "This isn't as big a deal to you as it is to me. Like -"

"I'm not going hungry to buy this," Miranda said gently. "We upper-echelon get rather a great deal on mortgages." Andréa laughed again and Miranda remembered that she liked making Andréa laugh. "No, it is not a," she made air quotes. "Big deal. If you'd meet Sadiq, you would understand. He's very good at what he does."

"I don't have anything to discuss with him yet," Andy whispered. "And I would never discuss your finances with him."

"Andréa, ten dollars can make money, just like ten million can. It takes longer, but it is the same principle. And there is plenty he can advise you on, even before you make any real money. I can lead the horse to water, I cannot force you to meet him." They looked at each other until Andréa laughed. Let's face it. She absolutely could make Andréa meet him. But she wouldn't. "When you're ready. He will be glad to meet with you."

She nodded and sighed, looking around. Miranda saw the moment she realised that this would be her home and she smiled some more. Miranda couldn't help but smile as well. She gave millions to charities and none of that had ever made her feel quite as happy and fulfilled as this did. Not that Andréa was charity. And in a few years, once Andrea got some capital in her portfolio and a job in a reputable publishing house, Miranda would sign the place over to her, in exchange for some cash no doubt, but not much.

She hadn't told Sadiq. 

She no doubt wouldn't for a while yet.

If ever. 

Perhaps he'd forget.

As so often happened lately, she sat examining why she felt the need to protect this special woman. She still wasn't sure. Something about her light made Miranda want to lock her away and never let her be buffeted by the wind. But she knew that was not how life worked. She had lived through it herself. But Andréa would be just as good, if not better than she was because Andréa was kind and she was harsh. She'd never considered herself to be unkind especially, though she didn't doubt that if she was to ask someone else, they would say she was. Rather, Miranda Priestly demanded things. Andréa had a way of making you want to achieve all of the greatness for her.

It was refreshing.

"I," Andréa shook her head and stalked forward to Miranda, pulling her up and wrapping her arms around her. "Thank you."

"You are most welcome," Miranda whispered, taking solace in the hug. "The twins and I will bear your absence in our lives as best we can."

She had meant it as a joke but Andréa's face reflected the twist in her gut that she felt as she said it.

"Do you," Andréa faltered and their eyes met. "I mean. You're not just going to dump me right?"

"What?"

"This is a huge space and," she held out her hands. "There's just me. After living with you guys, I'll need some, like, noise or something. So, everyone's going to visit. Right?"

"I had thought you would want your own space?"

"I do," Andréa nodded. "Kinda. I've -" There was a tension in the air that Miranda couldn't quite understand. "I've grown to really enjoy being around you three, four of you, including Patty."

Miranda snorted. 

"I'm sure we would love to."

"Promise?" 

Miranda nodded seriously. She was not lying. She could see them all sequestering themselves on the weekend with Andréa cooking spaghetti while she reclined by the big windows overlooking the city. 

"Maybe, on nights and dinners when you don't need me, the girls can come over? Maybe stay?"

Miranda beamed.

"They would love that," she nodded.

"Good, cos I've already decided I want the smaller bedroom, so I'm going to put two beds in the bigger one. That way, if they ever wanna stay -"

"Andréa -"

"I'm just," she shrugged. "I like what we have. I don't want to lose that in the wake of you doing this for me."

"You won't. Besides which, if you think Cassidy is going to let you off going running with her in the mornings, I think you're sorely mistaken. I certainly am not taking up the task."

Andréa laughed and sighed, laughing again. She still held Miranda tightly. Neither of them moved away.

"She's a good kid," Andréa whispered. "She really is like me, you're going to have a hell of a time keeping her from bouncing off the walls."

"That is what you are for darling," Miranda smirked, stepping away. "Come, we need to return."

"Hey," Andréa said, gripping her arm before she left. "Will you help me, like, make it look good?"

"You think I'd let you live here with a second-hand sofa and a milk-crate, Andréa? Come along."

The woman's laughter followed her down the hall as she locked up the place and stood looking at the door. Miranda thought back to that mousy, frumpy looking thing she'd been at the beginning of her tenure and smiled at her reflection in the elevator doors as she waited for Andréa to join her. There was no trace of that woman left, instead, a beautiful flower, still in its infancy with the first curl of the petals starting to open. The full force of that bloom would be magnificent, she was sure of it.

Chapter Text

The girls had come home Sunday night and life had gone back to normal while the paperwork was finalised. After a month and a half and many additions by her lawyers, Miranda signed the papers and received the keys. As soon as they dropped into her hand, she immediately passed them over to Andréa with a shrug.

"Might as well," she said with a smirk.

It was another weekend that the twins were with their father and passed by quietly. Andy was lost in her own world and Miranda let her be so. Until Sunday afternoon when she was summoned to the kitchen.

"Andréa?"

"Hmm?"

"I've decided that the flooring must go."

"Okay?" Andy frowned. "It's your place, I mean -"

"No. It is yours."

"Miranda," she growled.

"Andréa, humour me. What do you like best about the apartment?"

Andy looked at her for a long while before she rolled her eyes and joined her boss at the kitchen bench, not before making a coffee for them both. Miranda had a photocopy of the floorplan and a red pencil in her hand.

"I agree. About the floor," Andy started. "I hate it. Why do people have parquet flooring these days anyway."

Miranda snorted but Andy continued.

"I like how open it is? I don't know. I don't know much about architecture."

"Well, then we shall wait and see what we think."

Andy nodded and as they finished their coffee together in comfortable silence. It didn't last too long as the front door slammed open and four feet clattered on the hall floor.

"MOM!"

"We're in here, Caroline," Miranda sighed, rolling her eyes as Andy took the mugs.

They ran in and hugged each of them, swapping over after a little while.

"How was your time with your father?"

"Boring," Cassidy whined, draping herself over her mother as she liked to do. "He's got another new girlfriend and she likes to tan. So they spent the whole weekend by the pool."

"Where were you?"

"I had soccer on Saturday. I had to catch a lift with a team-mate and Caro came with me. We hung out with them until Dad noticed. He came and got us and we told him he had to take us out for dinner or we'd just go home. He worked it out after that."

Miranda smirked over Cassidy's head at Andy who grinned back. They were monsters, for sure.

"So," Andy said gently. "Got some news for you!"

"What's wrong Andy?" Caroline asked, shuffling back under her arm.

"Your Mom and I have found me somewhere to live. I'm going to be moving out soon!"

She smiled but saw both littler faces fall immediately. Miranda chuckled as Cassidy gaped at her and then they were both assaulted by twin whines about how unfair that was.

"You can't leave! Who's going to take me running!"

"And I thought you liked us!"

"I do," Andy argued as Miranda also started.

"Girls, stop. Calm down."

It was a much bigger reaction than either of them were expecting and Andy looked at Miranda with wide eyes as a door slammed down the hall where Caroline had stormed off.

"Blimey," she said, blinking at Cassidy who was trying valiantly not to cry. "I'm really glad to be wanted, that's for sure. Come on munchkin," Andy nodded Cassidy to the door. Miranda seemed to understand where they were going and followed her into the hall. Andy grabbed her new keys off the table by the front door and slipped on her shoes.

"Caro, let's go. We're going out."

"No!"

"Caro, I need you to come with me. I promise it will make more sense in a minute."

Begrudgingly, Caroline followed Andy and Cassidy to the door where Miranda kissed the twin's heads and Andy had felt her eyes watching them as they walked down the block. When she stopped in front of the building, the girl's looked around with a weird look on their faces before Andy flashed her keys.

"Wait," Cassidy said, looking up and down the street. "You're moving here!"

"Yep," she grinned. "Wanna go see?"

"YES!"

Caroline had jumped on her in the elevator and she'd hugged her tightly as it came to a stop.

"You didn't really think I'm letting you all go, did you?"

"No!" Cassidy shrieked. "That's why I couldn't believe it."

"Well, remember it's not just you here, ok? There are other people here."

"Oh, sorry," Cassidy said, immediately moderating her tone. "Which one are you?"

"Eleven."

They made their way to the door and Andy grinned as she let Caroline open it. It was a different experience with the girls in tow. It was, if anything, more exciting, especially now she'd had time to get used to the idea. They slipped off their shoes and ran into the living room, sliding on that horrendous Parquet floor.

"No offence, but this floor is ugly," Caroline sniffed.

"That's pretty much what your mother said," Andy chuckled. "She's right and so are you. Your mom is getting someone in to rip it up, I think?"

"Also you should fix the kitchen," Caroline said thoughtfully. "If you make it more open, then it won't be so dark. And you need an office. And a laundry probably."

"There's a laundry in the building, but," she nudged Caroline's hip with her own. "You like this stuff huh?"

"She builds houses on the Sims and Minecraft," Cassidy said, coming out of the master. "It's pretty big. You can fit like two of mom's bed in there."

Andy wasn't sure why she blushed but she cleared her throat.

"I'm actually gonna take that room," she pointed at the smaller.

"How come?"

"So I can fit two beds in that room," Andy nodded to it. "That way you guys have a place to stay if you ever need or want one?"

Caroline burst into tears and Cassidy nearly tipped them both over when she jumped on them. She cuddled them for a while before there was a knock at the door.

"Huh," Andy said, drying Caroline's tears and getting up. "What's your Mom doing here, I wonder?"

She opened it and beamed at the visitor, sweeping her hand towards the apartment and letting Miranda in.

"I thought we'd celebrate."

She passed Andy a small cooler and took two large pizza boxes from a young guy who'd clearly followed her up on pain of death. Miranda tipped him a fifty and he nearly choked.

"Don't worry about it," Andy grinned. "Thanks."

He touched his forehead like he was tipping his cap to the two of them and scampered away.

"Honestly, you'd think I'd never tipped before."

"I think people aren't used to the generosity," Andy smiled. "I'm really glad you're here."

"It is abominably quiet at home. You are all so noisy I just cannot cope."

Andy took the pizza boxes and they sat demurely on the floor, on top of the lovely picnic rug that Miranda has packed, along with plates, cutlery and a bottle of wine.

"Might as well christen the place," she shrugged.

Andy grinned and popped the cork, pouring two glasses and grinning sideways at Miranda as she poured the can of Sprite into Cassidy and Caroline's glasses.

"To your new home."

"Nuh-uh," she said stopping Miranda before she could drink. "To you guys. You've been more my family than any family I could possibly ever need."

"Ride or die, right?" Cassidy grinned.

"For life," Andy laughed, fist-bumping her, then clearing her throat as Miranda's eyebrow hitched. "I mean. You guys are the best family a girl could have. Thank you for letting me in."

"To your new home," Miranda said with an amused smile. "And to our family as well then."

They drank their wine and ate pizza and afterwards, Cassidy lay with her head on Andy's belly while Caroline told Miranda about what she would do with the apartment. By the time night had fallen, the girls were sleepy and Andy could see that Miranda was getting antsy.

"Come on, let's get you guys home."

Andy ended up carrying Caroline home and Miranda practically frog-marched Cassidy up the stairs. She stood back while Miranda tucked them in and was about to go when Cassidy asked for her.

"Love you," Cass said in her ear as she knelt beside the bed and hugged her.

"Love you too." 

She did the same for Caroline and got a kiss on the cheek instead. She backed out of the room and met Miranda on the landing.

"I understand why I have to go, but I really will miss you guys."

"I have no doubt we shall miss you as well," Miranda said gently. "Are you," she looked away. "I need to go over the book, but I would not begrudge a film while doing so?"

Andy grinned and nodded. 

"Your choice this time."

"Bring me the book and I'll find something for us to watch."

"On it boss."

Miranda was on the sofa when she brought the book with a movie she'd never seen queued up on the screen. She went to sit in the seat she'd take last time when Miranda reached out and tugged on her sleeve.

"Sit, tell me what you would do with the Miu Miu."

Andy gave her a look and took the book from Miranda flipping to the correct page while Miranda started the film. Andy glanced and Miranda who smirked back, clearly expecting the reticence. Andy rolled her eyes.

She looked for a long time, trying to see what Miranda saw. She shook her head and offered it back.

"I'm not you."

"No," Miranda agreed. "You are not, which is why you must look as yourself. And not as me."

"You big cheater," Andy groaned, taking The Book back. "Fine."

She looked more sceptically now, seeing things she liked and things she didn't. After about ten minutes she looked up. Miranda wasn't watching the film but was sitting sideways, watching her instead. 

"I don't like the blue sash. It draws the focus to the clothes but then gets the reader lost between them. And the backdrop is good but the lighting is better in this picture than this one. And her moles are gone?"

"A succinct evaluation," Miranda smiled. "And I concur that the editing department was perhaps a little overzealous with the healing tool. I will have them revert it tomorrow."

Andy handed back the book and watched Miranda as she pretended not to notice.

"Why did you do that?"

"To show you that you can be anything you put your mind to. Now. Not in a year, or six months. Now."

"Maybe I just want to be the greatest assistant known to mankind."

Miranda rolled her eyes.

"You are so stubborn."

"I just know what I want. And right now, I want to help you be the best."

"Andréa -"

"Leave it," she whispered. "Please?"

They stared at each other for a long time until Miranda rolled her eyes, leaning away and turning off the main lights, leaving the lamp behind her and the tv the only light on the room. 

"One day, Andréa," she said after a time. "I fear you will come to resent me for this."

"How could I resent you," Andy said quietly. "You're the best friend I've ever had."

Andy dropped her gaze to her hands and sighed, but it wasn't long until Miranda's smaller one covered them. 

"And you are mine," Miranda said quietly. "Which is why I am fearful of your -" Andy studied their joined hands. "Reticence to be the best you can be."

"I am the best I can be," Andy said sadly. "I wish you'd see that."

"I do," Miranda said quickly, moving closer. "I am very much older than you -"

"Bullshit, Miranda, I -"

"Ah ah," Andy was forced to stop when Miranda's finger was placed on her lips. "Older. I have seen and felt things with time that you have not."

"You're making yourself sound ancient. I would argue you are in your prime."

"You are infuriatingly sweet. Here I am trying to tell you to seize the day as your youth demands and you are stroking my ego."

" You are infuriating. You seem to think I don't know my own mind? That my -" she paused, trying to find the right word. "Respect for you is clouding my judgement?" She couldn't see Miranda's face in the darkness with the light behind her head but she felt the screaming tension through their joined hands.

"I -"

"No, I'm speaking now," she said firmly. She wasn't sure where this was coming from but she wanted to put it right, now. "I, more than anyone in this city, am the least likely person to get star struck by Miranda Priestly. I have witnessed her in all her glory. But I've also seen her in her pyjamas with sleep-mussed hair and fed her carbs and sat with her while she napped. I've seen her at her lowest, too, when she was so angry she couldn't look at me and when she was so heartbroken she nearly couldn't function. I've seen so far behind the curtain that I get to tuck her kids in." Andy looked up and as the light from the film flashed, found Miranda's eyes boring into her. "I'm not awestruck by you, Miranda. I mean, I am, but not in a way that I'm gonna give up my entire future just to bask in the glow that you give off. I respect you better than that. I wish you'd trust me that I know what I'm doing."

They sat quietly, almost simultaneously turning to watch the film. Neither would have been able to tell anyone what they had watched but Andy was keenly aware that Miranda hadn't let go of her hand and was playing with it absently while she was lost in thought. Perhaps it would all make sense someday, but it wasn't tonight. Tonight, Andy's mind was going a mile a minute trying to figure it out and Miranda remained, quietly tugging on Andy's nails, while they hid from each other in the dark.

Chapter Text

Miranda didn't bring it up again. Andy was thrown into turmoil as she realised that she had to do her job, try to save more money than she was and deck out a new, ridiculously square-footed place in not much time at all.

She scoured the classifieds for estate sales and the like and she perused them when she got a chance. She needed a lot of the big items and had decided to go steady with them. She needed a bed for her and the girls. She needed a sofa and a few bar stools for the new kitchen bench and a table and chairs. 

It would look a bit empty for a while, but it would be best to move slowly while she paid off her loans.

Although if in doubt, there was always Ikea.

Happily, she'd made it through college with less debt than her peers, through scholarships that she'd earned and used wisely. She'd won a few competitions too, where the prize money had been a nice chunk of change. Miranda was right in that she would likely be paid off after this year was through, or a little after if she had to buy furniture as well. It was exciting, seeing that endpoint on the horizon.

Andy had, obviously, been put in charge of the contractors working on the apartment. She hadn't had too much trouble; most of them knew who was footing the bill and did their jobs quickly and efficiently. The hardest part had been choosing the flooring, but Miranda had helped her do that too. They'd chosen a beautiful oak floorboard and a continuation of the dark slate tile in the expanded kitchen, which she loved the most. It had transformed the space. She could see what Caroline had meant now.

No more than a month later she'd shaken hands with the final contractor and her new apartment was ready.

They'd not put a film on since the weird night where Andy had pretty much told Miranda to stop worrying about her. Then, embarrassingly, she'd fallen asleep on Miranda's shoulder. They hadn't discussed it but she'd woken up cuddled against Miranda's side. Thankfully she'd woken before the other woman and had beaten a path from the room at haste. Since then they'd been too busy to think.

Even Irv had been too busy to do anything but it didn't mean that Andy wasn't still looking when she could.

She glanced down at her keys and wondered why she felt suddenly sad and dialled the number from memory.

"Yes?"

"It's me," she said quietly. "They're finished."

"Good. Meet me on the third floor in twenty minutes."

"The third -"

"That's all."

Her eyes widened as she heard the familiar whisper. She had no idea what she'd done but it was bad. She locked up the apartment and raced out into the street, hailing a cab as she did. She was not panting by the time she got there but it was a close thing. She'd managed to compose herself in the elevator and as she stepped off, she was mostly recovered.

"Come," Miranda said, waving her forward. Andy had never been to the third floor before and she was shocked to find one half of the floor looked not unlike a storage unit place and Miranda directed her to open three bays.

"Pick what you like."

She gaped. 

"Wait -"

"Andréa, I don't have time to -"

"Oh my God, are we fighting?"

"What?"

"You have been snippy with me for a week! What did I do?"

"Nothing," Miranda said a little too quickly. "There is nothing wrong."

"What did I do?"

"Nothing," she said, this time brokering no argument. "Choose the pieces you would like and have Fredrick deliver them to your apartment when it is ready to be furnished."

"Wait -"

She turned and stalked off, leaving Andy standing bewildered in a sea of furniture. They'd clearly used to for shoots and the like, on occasion, but they'd also sat here for a while too. She chose a few, keeping a few separated in case Miranda insisted she take more. A small but beautiful sofa, a few end tables and a lovely dining table that looked as though it might expand to fit more people. That means she only needed beds and chairs. 

Shaking her head at the bizarre turn of events, she sent a message to Fred about getting the pieces delivered and returned to the office.

Miranda wasn't there and there was nothing on the calendar and Andy felt bereft. She allowed herself five minutes to feel sorry for herself before she pulled her socks up and did her job. Even as she was making the necessary budget alterations, she hoped upon hope that whatever it was that had Miranda in knots wasn't going to ruin the best thing she'd ever had.

-0-

It was days later when Andy realised what was going on.

"You are going to miss me," she smirked as Miranda sipped the newly made coffee. Andy had delivered it without invitation as an excuse to sit in the chair across from her. "That's why you're being -" she smirked as Miranda raised her eyebrow. "Snippy."

"I do not know what you are -"

"Don't do that," Andy whispered, sobering. "Don't shut me out. And don't push me away in the hope it will hurt less."

Miranda put her cup down and threw her glasses onto her desk.

"I may not enjoy change," she mumbled.

"No shit," Andy laughed. "This past week has been the most miserable one I've had for a while. Just," she shrugged. "You know you're always welcome, don't you?"

"Obviously I will have to pick the girls up at some point."

"God, you're hopeless," Andy chuckled. "I thought we talked about this? The invitation extends to you, you know. You are welcome to come and visit me any time you like. No matter what or when. With or without the Twins. I was kinda expecting you to."

"Oh," Miranda made a face Andy couldn't read. "Thank you."

"You're such a panicker!"

"Oh," Miranda huffed. "Go and do some work."

Andy laughed as she left, and did as she was told. A great weight lifted from her shoulders as she started in the notes for the planning meeting. She was due to move in over the weekend. The girls had demanded that they be allowed to help, otherwise, she would have moved during the week, but they'd been at their father's for the majority of the week and so, she waited.

-0-

By the time the weekend rolled around, she almost wished she hadn't. Cassidy was a help, that was for sure. But Caroline and Miranda took so long and went so slow that in the end Andy and Cassidy were so exhausted that they didn't even have the energy to be excited when Miranda ordered them Smith and Wolensky for dinner.

"Come along," she said gently, ushering them both to Andy's new dining table. 

Andy didn't know whether it was because she had realised they'd worked so hard, or because they both looked so utterly exhausted that she knew they were dead on their feet. 

"You must eat," she insisted, plating up four dishes with aplomb and presenting them proudly. "I slaved over this delivery."

Andy laughed and smiled tiredly at her boss and friend, looking back at the dish with a grin. 

"Thank you, for dinner."

"Well," Miranda said with a sniff. "I realise that my talents were better spent than lugging boxes across the street. Although I still don't know why you didn't hire movers."

"It's literally a hundred feet Mom," Cassidy snorted, almost inhaling her dinner.

"Do try to eat with a little more grace, my darling," Miranda sighed, sounding pained.

All in all, it was a lovely evening. Caroline had organised Andy's cabinets with food that Andy didn't remember buying. There had been a few tense moments when three burly men turned up at the door, but Miranda had ushered them in, shown them the bedroom that Andy was taking and they'd nodded understandingly and left again. 

Andy had nearly had a fit when she saw them reappear again with what looked remarkably like a bed in their arms. She chuckled, thinking of it now.

"What the hell are they carrying Miranda Priestly?"

"Hmm?" she had said, in that way that she did.

"Miranda!"

"Consider it a housewarming gift."

"MIRANDA!"

"Must you be so loud? Your neighbours will be quite upset with you Andréa."

"Look," she had said, grabbing the woman by the shoulders. "A housewarming gift is," she shrugged. "A toaster. A DVD player. Not a," she glanced at the door where the three men had drills and the like spread all over the carpet. "A bed?"

"Andréa, I am many things, but I am not a savage. I told you I was not going to let you live in this beautiful apartment with a second-hand sofa and a milk-crate. You should have known I meant that you weren't going to sleep on a ratty old mattress on the floor as well. Give me strength."

Andy chuckled, thinking of it as she flopped down on the sofa. Miranda and the girls had left nearly an hour ago, leaving her on her own in her apartment for the first time. It was deathly quiet and she got up and turned the Bose sound system that Cassidy had gifted her - It's old and I got a better one for Christmas - linking her phone to it and playing a quiet mix of the latest pop songs.

As she looked around, taking in all the things she had now she felt little comfort in their presence. She realised she hadn't even seen the bed properly, having left the delivery men to it under Miranda's obviously superior supervision. As she walked into her room she gaped and ordered Siri to dial Miranda's number immediately.

"Yes?"

"What the hell is this!"

"I assume you're talking about -"

"I have a whole bedroom. I have a fucking -"

"Andréa -"

"Miranda! I have a bedroom. Bed. Side-tables. Pillows! What the hell did you do?"

"Surely you know me well enough by now?"

"I -"

"I told you I would not allow you to sleep on a ratty mattress on the floor. And I knew you would argue so I compromised."

"You compromised?"

"Indeed. I bought you a bed that is nearly on the floor."

She pulled the phone away from her ear and looked at the ceiling.

"Miranda," she said with a tone. "How much did my very expensive-looking room cost?"

"Sorry darling, you're breaking up. I missed that last part, what did you say?"

Andy glared at her new bed. She adored it.

"I said," she took a deep breath. "Thank you."

"That's better," Miranda mused. "But I do not know what you are talking about. I was doing them a favour, it was the last one."

"Miranda -" she sat down. "Fuck, this is a new mattress isn't it."

"One day your lumbar region will thank me."

"You can leave my lumbar out of this, if you don't mind," Andy groaned, pinching the bridge of her nose. "Miranda?"

"Yes."

"Thank you."

"Well -"

"No. Thank you."

"You're welcome," she said quietly. They fell into a silence that Andy wasn't sure she wanted to fill until Miranda spoke. "Caroline was bereft at bedtime."

"Maybe I can come round and tuck them in."

"It will get better," Miranda said, although Andy could hear the hope in her voice in the quiet silence that followed. "I need to return to the book. Enjoy your evening Andréa. I will see you tomorr-," she faltered. "Monday."

"Tomorrow?" Andy asked quietly.

"Brunch is at ten. I think we shall stay at home"

"Thanks," Andy grinned. "'Night."

"Goodnight."

It was only after she hung up the phone that she realised Cassidy's Bose system was probably brand-new too. And of course, Miranda brought her groceries and - she groaned and dropped down onto the bed, groaning again as it caught her gently.

"Bloody hell," she grinned. "Hopeless. All of them."

-0-

Chapter Text

Andy had just finished watching the first new Star Trek episode when there was a pounding on her door. Horrified, she dumped her bowl of ice cream on the coffee table and ran to it, peering through the peephole.

"Caroline?"

The little girl slammed into her middle, wrapping her arms around her and sobbing into her stomach.

"Caro, what's wrong?"

Her heart was beating loudly enough in her ears that she didn't quite catch what the little girl was saying.

"Whoa," she said gently, trying to take charge of the situation. "Easy kid. Slow down. Wait, just a moment." She locked and bolted the door and sat on the closest bench by the closet and pulled Caroline onto her knee.

"Now, go slowly but answer me a question first. Are your mother and sister okay?"

"Yes," Caroline sobbed, wrapping her arms around Andy's neck. "But she hates me."

"Who hates you?"

"Mom."

"Why?"

"I," she took a big wobbly breath.

"Easy," Andy soothed, rubbing her back. "Go slow. What happened?"

"I hit Sadie."

"You did what?" Andy stared at her. "Caroline Priestly, you hit someone?"

"She was picking on Jordan. She called him a," she swallowed. "A," she shuddered. "An r-word. But he's not. He just gets the numbers and the letters all around the wrong way. That doesn't make him," Andy's eyebrow hiked. "That."

"Well," Andy sighed, considering how worried Miranda must be. "That's true but what happened at home."

"She got a phone call from the school. Then Sadie's mom. And," she sobbed. "She took my phone and my laptop and I'm grounded for a month. Jordan and I were going to go to Kinokuniya tomorrow!"

"Stop," Andy said gently, but firmly. "Stop. I already told you, I'm not going to argue or approve or disapprove of the way your Mom disciplines you."

"But you could talk -"

"No, I really couldn't," Andy said gently. "Because I agree with her."

"WHAT!"

Caroline stood and her little fists were tight as she glared at her. Andy bit back the tiny laugh at how much she looked like a tiny, angry version of Miranda.

"Before you go off at me, slow down and listen. First, I'm going to call your mother and tell her you're here and make sure everything is okay. Then, you and I are going to talk about how hitting someone, even the most insane of bitches, is never okay." It did exactly what it was supposed to and Caroline snorted, loudly, the tips of her ears going pink as she sniffed and wiped her tears. "Then we're going to get some rest and deal with it all in the morning. Okay?"

"Fine," Caroline said quietly. 

"Alright. Go and get changed and ready for bed, you can stay here for the night and tomorrow we'll make a new plan."

Caroline's chin wobbled dangerously but she nodded and wrapped her arms around Andy's middle as she stood.

"It's alright," Andy soothed her gently. "I don't ever, ever want to hear about you striking another human being ever, but I understand it. What Sadie said was incredibly hurtful."

"You were right, you all were. She's a bi-"

"Ah ah," Andy chuckled. "Go and get ready for bed. I got you both new toothbrushes like you asked, they're in the bathroom. There's towels and stuff if you want to shower, but take your time while I call your Mom, okay?"

"Thanks, Andy," Caroline whispered.

"You're welcome, sweetheart. Off you go."

She waited until Caroline had closed the bathroom door and smiled as her phone screen lit up.

"Please tell me she is with you."

"She is."

"Cassidy, she's with Andréa, it's alright. Tell Cara she does not need to come." There was a pause. "Sorry," Miranda sighed. 

"Must have been a rough night for you to apologise for that."

"Bite me, Andréa."

Andy snorted and pulled the phone away from her ear for a few moments as she heard the shower start.

"So she socked someone, hey," she asked gently.

"I have had three phone calls. One threatening to sue for the wasted years of orthodontic dentistry work."

"Oh hell," Andy chuckled. "So what's the plan?"

"She's suspended for a week. That's a blanket policy. She is required to write an apology to this whatever-her-name-is and send it with Cassidy, before she may return to school."

"That's a bummer."

"She struck another human being, Andréa!"

"Yeah, but did she tell you why?"

There was a long pause on the other end of the line that made Andy smile.

"Stop smiling, it's obnoxious."

Andy laughed as she heard Miranda groan. She imagined her dropping down into her chair in the den.

"Tell me?"

"That bitch called her friend with dyslexia the r-word."

"Oh for the love of -" Miranda grumbled. "Where do these children get this sort of language? I would never have done that, I do not understand the  -"

"It's a learned thing, I shouldn't wonder," Andy said, laying down on her bed with a sigh. It still made her smile even after two weeks. 

"After speaking to her mother, I cannot say I am surprised. But Caroline! Andréa, I always thought it would be Cassidy if I'm honest with you."

"Well, there's definitely time for Cass to get in on it -"

"Andréa!"

"Caro and I have been chatting about Jordan - that's the boy who is her friend with dyslexia - and about how she needed to decide what she wanted from a friendship. Whether she wanted to be doing things that didn't sit right with her, in order to be cool or -"

"Once again, I am indebted to you," Miranda whispered. "For being there for my children when I am not."

"You were there plenty, Miranda," Andy soothed. "I just don't think she told you the specifics. She told you about what happened in that Civics class, didn't she?"

"She did, you are correct. I hadn't put two and two together."

"I told you, I'm not taking your job, lady. Any of them."

Miranda snorted and they fell into a comfortable silence. 

"I'm glad she has someone where she can go and feel safe. And where I won't worry about her."

"Well, I'm glad you feel that way," Andy smiled. "Why don't you put a movie on with Cassidy? Spend some time hanging out."

"I have the book and I -"

"It could wait," Andy whispered.

"Goodnight, Andréa," Miranda sighed, though Andy could hear the tiny smirk in her voice.

"'Night Boss," Andy grinned, hanging up and smiling at the ceiling for a while before remembering what had brought her in here in the first place.

Caroline was wrapped up in her new unicorn onesie that they'd both insisted they needed to have so they could leave it at Andy's. She had shrugged bemusedly and waved them in, shrugging to Miranda when they raced back out and hugged her. That had been two days after she moved in but today would be the first time one of them had stayed overnight.

"Alright kiddo?"

"Yah," Caroline whispered. "Just weird I s'pose."

"Come here," Andy sighed, nodding towards the sofa. "Seen any Picard yet?"

"No?" Caroline said, with a look on her face that made Andy chuckle. "What is it?"

"Oh Caro," Andy grinned. "Just you wait and see."

They watched two episodes before Caroline gave up being curled around herself in the armchair and came to lay on the sofa with Andy. Not that Andy minded at all. In fact, she pulled the devilishly soft throw that had just 'appeared' on the back one day over the two of them and wrapped her arms around Caroline, seeing the exhaustion pulling at the corners of her eyes like it did her mother's.

Before she felt her own eyes closing, she sent a selfie of them together on the sofa and beamed when she got the corresponding one back. Sighing into Caroline's hair, she let her head drop down onto the arm and closed her eyes.

-0-

She was just stepping out of the shower when there was a knock at the door. Rolling her eyes, she pulled on her robe, wrapped a towel around her hair and opened it, finding Cara standing there with a wry smile.

"Good morning?"

"Isn't it," Cara smiled awkwardly. "I've been sent over here to look after Caroline."

"Have you?" Andy grinned. "How fortuitous for me." 

Andy waved her in.

"Don't suppose anyone thought to check with me, or anything like that?"

"I shall say nothing," Cara smiled.

"Which is probably why you are the single person in her employ that has lasted so long."

"It definitely has something to do with it," Cara chuckled. "I don't mean to impose -"

"Geez woman, come on. It's not like I don't know. Stay as long as you like, or as long as she likes. My house is yours, is theirs, I suppose," Andy shrugged. "As long as you don't mind if I -"

"No, go, she said she'd be another 20 minutes," Cara called. "Breakfast meeting or something."

"Uhuh, which obviously means I have 15."

Any didn't waste any more time, rushing through getting ready and groaning when she realised she wouldn't have time to finish drying her hair at this rate.

Another knock on the door had Caroline calling that she would answer. Andy stopped the dryer and peered out of her door to watch. Honestly, there were only so many people that knew where she lived. Nigel knew that she'd moved but she'd so far avoided having a housewarming party simply so she didn't have to answer any of his probing questions.

"Oh," Caroline said quietly, stepping back. "Hi."

"Good morning," Miranda said, looking at Caroline carefully. Cassidy slipped passed her and hugged Andy on the way to the kitchen, but Andy watched, smiling when Miranda glanced up at her. "I wish you hadn't run away from me last night," she said in that tone she reserved for the twins. "But, I understand why you did and I'm sorry that I did not listen to you."

"S'okay," she mumbled, sitting on the bench. "I know it's bad to hit."

"It is," Miranda sighed, sitting beside her carefully. "But it makes it a little less bad that you were sticking up for your friend. Which is why I have brought you these."

Andy downright grinned when Miranda pulled out Caroline's technology and handed it over. She watched as Caroline threw her arms around Miranda and Miranda caught her, even with a laptop and phone in her hands. Andy stepped forward and took them off her, winking as she put it on the shelves next to them and went back into to do her hair.

She argued with it for a while before she decided on a high ponytail and was just on her way to finding a band to put it in when Miranda knocked on her bathroom door. 

"Do you mind?"

"Um -"

Miranda nodded for her to sit on the edge of the bath and started the dryer again, teasing out long waves that hung down over her back like a waterfall. Andy looked at her sideways, finding that little smirk she liked to see and laughed.

"Of course you know how to do that."

"I fail to see why you keep insisting that it is surprising that I know how to blow dry hair, Andréa. How pedestrian you must think me."

"Whatever," Andy rolled her eyes, touching up her makeup. "As if Miranda Priestly has ever been anything but fabulous in all that she does."

"Andréa, do be careful, you're drooling."

"Oi!"

"Come along, we're going to be late and then my whole day will be thrown off and then we shall all be late for dinner at your place tonight."

"Oh, will we now?"

"We will," Miranda smiled. "Cara has insisted we be here."

"Don't blame Cara!" Andy said, joining them in the kitchen to a perfectly toasted bagel with cream cheese. "Oh," she said with love. "Definitely don't blame Cara."

"Fine," Miranda teased. "But nevertheless, we shall, all of us, be back here for dinner by six. Then I shall take my wayward warrior home with me."

"Aw, how come I don't get to stay, do I have to punch someone too?"

"CASSIDY!"

Andy nearly spat her bagel across the room as they all dissolved into laughter before her phone pinged, signalling the cars. She sent a quick message to Roy to tell him to come to her place before picking up her bag. 

"You are trouble," Andy whispered in her ear. "Maybe on the weekend, you can come stay, yeah?"

"Yeah," Cassidy smiled. 

"Waiting on you, Boss."

"Do you see the level of abuse I must deal with on a daily basis?" Miranda quipped to her children as they grinned at her from Andy's breakfast bar. "Be good, my darlings. Cassidy, enjoy your day at school. Caroline, make sure you do what is required of you. Be good for Cara please."

"Yes, Mom," they said in stereo.

"No rearranging my DVD cabinet."

"Yes, Andy."

Andy rolled her eyes and opened the door for Miranda who swept out of there with a small smirk and her sunglasses in place. Andy still had no clue what she had done to deserve this, but it was something to cherish and she was loving every moment.

Chapter Text

Dinner had been a lively affair and Andy had managed to cajole the girls and Miranda into playing a few rounds of Jenga with her before they left. It had tickled them all, no end, when they'd realised that Miranda; the monopoly queen, was rather quite crap at Jenga.

The following day, in true form, Caroline had written the most backhanded apology, disguised as an actual apology and sent it into the school with Cassidy. Miranda had sent a picture of it to Andy that night after Caroline's English teacher had sent it to her and Andy had laughed into her wine glass while she dialled up Miranda's number.

"She is more and more like you every day," Andy chuckled as the phone was picked up.

Miranda hummed but Andy could feel the smugness through the phone line.

"I cannot say I am displeased," Miranda mused.

"I bet you're not," Andy grinned. "Did you watch that show yet?"

"Andréa, when I am going to have time to watch a series." 

She'd said it like she'd found it under her Louboutins and Andy chuckled as she settled lethargically on her bed. 

"One show a night! They're only an hour."

"I'm far too busy."

"Says the woman whose calendar I run."

"Cheeky," Miranda muttered. "What have we got on, tomorrow evening? James called and offered to take them to a movie premiere. I'm not even sure of the movie but they seemed keen."

"I bet they were," Andy rolled her eyes. "And quick segue?"

"Mmm?"

"Leave them here with me, when you're in Milan next month. If he's away and Cara already has time off, no sense rocking the boat?"

"Andréa -"

"Just a thought," she shrugged. "We can hang out, shop, go to the movies, whatever."

There was a long, protracted silence on the other end of the phone and Andy actually took her ear off the phone to check Miranda hadn't hung up.

"Unless," she drew it out carefully. "You hate the idea?"

"Andrea," she whispered. "If you continue to make yourself indispensable, I will never be able to let you leave."

"Ah," Andy said dramatically. "You haz foiled my dastardly plan. Mon Dieu!"

"Did you take dramatic arts in school?"

"I confess, I did," Andy laughed. "Wasn't very good at it."

"Hmm, no comment," Miranda chuckled, so quietly, she obviously was trying not to. "Andréa. Having the twins over for a sleepover is one thing. Taking them to a Japanese art shop is another. Staying with them, in your own space for eight days is," there was a slow sigh on the other end. "Quite another thing entirely."

"Not really," Andy shrugged again. "I know them. They know me. We know where we stand. I know what you expect. I know who to call in case of an emergency."

"Ah," Miranda muttered. "I have been meaning to mention that."

"What?"

"I made you their secondary medical contact."

"Me?"

"Yes," Miranda said awkwardly. "With James acting as he is, I could not take the risk that nobody would answer a call." She paused again and Andy smiled, feeling a little ball of happiness in her belly. "I know you would, Andréa."

"You are not wrong."

"Good. Good."

"You could have told me," Andy whispered. "It would have been okay."

"Well, it's done now. I -"

"When did you do that?"

"When?" she asked again as if she hadn't heard the question over the din of whisper-quiet HVAC units in her Townhouse. "Um. Well."

"Miranda," Andy teased. 

"Maybe the weekend after we returned from Paris."

"What!"

"It was eye-opening to learn that you already knew Cassidy and you were making plans to get to know Caroline. James had been fighting with them about their friends. It seemed," Andy imagined Miranda shrugging nonchalantly. "Logical."

"You, Miranda Priestly, are the dark horse, not me."

"I do try to be," she chuckled. 

"You never answered me about the Twins?"

"Of course they may stay with you. I would prefer it over any other solution I have come up with, except I know them. You will receive their family manners, I shouldn't wonder, and I -"

"Miranda?" Andy said gently. "I've been on the receiving end of the family manners for quite some time."

"True," Miranda chuckled. Only yesterday, after dinner, Cassidy had snapped at Andy for insisting she cleared her plate from the table and put it in the dishwasher. Andy, in a lesson she'd learnt from Cassidy's own mother, had arched her eyebrow and stared. Cassidy had huffed until she saw Andy's face, then apologised rather quickly and not only loaded her own rushes, but that of Miranda's as well.

"So, back to your calendar. Dinner with Donatella."

"Oh, that's right," Miranda mused. "Perfect. He can take them for the evening."

"What time?"

"He said five, but it will most likely be earlier. He thinks he's exerting his dominance by catching me off guard."

"Well, you'll be at Philipe's so that won't matter. And we can't put it off anymore, we've rescheduled on him twice."

"Bother."

Andy smiled into the phone and heard Miranda's soft snort.

"Stop smiling."

"Yes boss," she said as sternly as she could. "Right away."

"You're incorrigible."

"I have been told that, yes," Andy grinned. "So. Imma go."

"Andréa -" Miranda huffed, making Andy's smile wider.

"And I shall see you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning."

"Fine," Miranda huffed. "And you will undoubtedly be bright-eyed, won't you. How annoying."

"I'll be extra sparkly tomorrow," Andy teased. "Just for you."

"Brilliant," Miranda huffed. "Goodnight, Andréa."

"'Night Miranda."

-0-

The day went off without a hitch. Andy continued collecting dirt on Irv and making coffee and organising schedules and all the other things she needed to do in a day before she was summoned into the office at about three.

"Yesss?"

"You are so cavalier," Miranda frowned.

"Want me to do it again?"

The frown deepened and Andy held out her hands.

"I surrender. What can I do for you?"

"The twins have requested your presence before they leave with their father. Apparently there is something so urgent it cannot possibly wait until the morning.

"Sure," Andy shrugged. "Want me to see them off?"

"Would you?" Miranda asked. "I know that Cara is perfectly satisfactory, however, I would feel a little better if you were there."

"Then that is where I shall be. I'll reroute the phones etc, but otherwise, you may have to deal with your own visitors."

"If you make sure to lock all your effects away, it shall not be as stressful an occasion."

"Well, alright then."

Andy did what she had to do, locking her desk, shredding what needed to be done and reminding Miranda to do the same when she left. The look she gave made her wince and she exited the building at a quick clip.

-0-

"ANDY!"

"Oof," Andy grunted as two gangly teens slammed into her middle.

"Girls," Cara said from the kitchen door. "Be careful."

Andy waved her off with a smile and looked down at the twin terrors.

"What was so urgent that you couldn't possibly have told me when you got back?"

"We wanted to say goodbye!"

"Why, are you leaving forever?"

"No," Caroline rolled her eyes. "We said goodbye to Mom already, but we didn't see you, so," she shrugged. "Bye."

"You silly things," she chuckled, hugging them tightly. "You're only going for one night!"

'Yeah, but we haven't been gone for a while, so," Cassidy blushed. "Just wanted to, I guess."

"Well, thank you," Andy smiled. "Did your Mom tell you about Milan?"

"YES!" Cassidy yelled, almost colliding with Andy's chin! "She said you were going to take us shopping? And to the movies and -"

"Whoa whoa whoa," Andy chuckled, smiling as Caroline leaned into her side quietly. "Slow your roll, little'n." Even Caroline laughed. "We will get to do all of those things, but you're also at school so we'll have to plan around that."

"We get out at lunch on Wednesdays, though!"

"I know you do," Andy chuckled, charmed at how excited they were. "And we'll figure out what we're doing closer to, alright?"

"But it's so close now!"

"I know," Andy soothed Cassidy's excitement. "But you're on your way out and it's not the time to get into it."

The doorbell rang and Cara answered it, calling to the girls that their Dad was here.

"He's always early," Caroline rolled her eyes.

"Maybe he just wants to see you?"

"No," she huffed. "He just wants to shout at Mom."

"Well," Andy whispered as Cassidy greeted him in the hall. "She's not here, is she." She winked and made Caroline smile, walking with her out of the door.

"Oh," James said with a sneer. "She's not here, of course."

"Sorry?" Andy asked, making it clear that she was not at all. She absently remembered a time when Miranda had used that same expression.

"She's off working, then? Typical. Can't even say goodbye to her own children."

"Dad -" Cassidy started.

"Leave it," Andy smiled at her. "It doesn't matter."

"I'll thank you not to talk to my children like that?"

Andy stared at him, one part perplexed and another borderline annoyed at the vitriol he had bubbling just under the surface. She stood for a long time staring at him before she decided that he was the girl's father above all else and she'd be civil enough to him, providing he didn't cross any lines.

So, she would ignore him.

"You two all set?"

"Why do you have to be such a butt?"

"Caro -" Andy sighed. "Let it go, it's alright."

"Who the hell do you think you are?"

"I'm Miranda's assistant."

"Oh, you're the assistant. The one who dodges my calls."

"I don't dodge anything, sir," she said, overly polite. "Every call you make, I put through."

"Well, you -"

"STOP!" 

Caroline's shout stopped everything and Andy turned around to find her eyes filling with tears.

"Why do you hate her so much? She's our Mom! I'm not going with you."

"Caroline, get in the car."

"NO!"

"Cass," Andy said gently. "Why don't you and your Dad wait in the car and Caroline will be along in a moment."

"I beg your -"

"Come on Dad."

"I -"

"Just, stop. It's not cool."

Cassidy's calm and no-nonsense demeanour threw him on the back-foot and he followed her as she pulled him away. Andy had to chuckle at how wrong she'd been initially about Cassidy. She was more like Miranda than she'd initially thought.

"Now," Andy said gently, kneeling in front of Caroline. "Deep breath."

"I hate him."

"No you don't. You're allowed to be annoyed or angry, but you don't hate him. He's your Dad. I get it," she said gently. "And if I was someone that mattered, I'd tell him to maybe keep that stuff away from you, but I'm not, so I'll just tell you that what goes on in grown-up life is sometimes really complicated. And I'm sorry you had to hear that, but you were so looking forward to this earlier, so why don't you go, so you don't miss out and tomorrow you can talk to your Mom about it. Okay?"

Caroline stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Andy's shoulders, hugging her tightly. It wasn't very usual for that to happen and Andy smiled against Caroline's hair as she hugged her back.

"You do matter," Caroline whispered. "To us. More than Dad."

"Go on," Andy muttered, not really sure what to make of that. "Off you go. Ignore him if he starts talking about your Mom and if you don't feel like saying anything, you don't have to. Go have fun with your sister, at the very least."

"Love you," she whispered, before running out of the door.

Cara closed it behind her and looked at Andy for a while before they burst out laughing.

"Holy hell, is he always like that?"

"He really is," Cara grumbled. "He's not yet realised that his disparaging comments hurt him and the girls as much as anyone else."

Cara helped her off the floor and they sat in the kitchen for a while, sipping coffee. There was soup bubbling on the stove, which told Andy that Cara would be here until it was done.

"Was he always an asshole?"

"I can answer that for you," Miranda muttered, joining them. "Yes. What happened?"

"He was an asshole," Andy shrugged, making Cara snort quietly. Miranda arched an eyebrow and looked at them.

"About me?"

"And about Andy," Cara said pointedly.

"It's fine. It's no bother. The girls heard though, so they weren't impressed. Caroline nearly didn't go."

"He is an idiot," Miranda hissed, squeezing Andy's arm. "Thank you. I will talk to them all."

Andy shrugged and the three women sat drinking coffee in the quiet kitchen until Cara declared the soup done and started ladling it out into portions.

"I suppose you're taking some of this?" she asked with a grin, looking over her shoulder at Andy.

"I'm -"

"Yes."

"Um," Andy looked between them. "Sure. Thank you."

Cara winked at her and Andy rolled her eyes, smiling at Miranda's arched eyebrow. 

"You need to get ready."

"Andréa."

"I'm just saying," she grinned. "You'll be late."

"When has Donatella ever been on time?"

"Good point," Andy shrugged. "Sure you don't need me?"

"No," Miranda smiled. "Donatella wishes to introduce me to her new pet."

"That sounds -" Andy blushed and received a tea-towel to the face for her trouble.

"Andréa, get your mind out of the gutter. I am talking about a designer."

"Ah," Andy grinned. She knew that, of course. "Just checking. She seems -"

"Donatella is one of my oldest friends. Something about sharing the comradery of being a woman in a field dominated by men." She walked out of the kitchen, but Andy stayed put, accepting a small bowl of soup that made her groan appreciatively. 

"If I could afford you, I'd steal you," Andy quipped as Cara laughed.

"You know I'd never leave them."

"That's fair," Andy shrugged. "Gotta try."

"Are you poaching my staff, Andréa?"

"I will always try," she grinned. "You look wonderful."

"I know," Miranda drawled, making Andy and Cara laugh. Andy followed Miranda out into the hall after dropping the bowl in the dishwasher. 

"I've changed my mind," Miranda said as Andy joined her at the bottom of the stairs. "Come with me."

"Miranda," Andy rolled her eyes. "I'm not dressed and, as you said, she's your oldest friend."

"Nonsense. Wear what you are wearing. Actually," Miranda disappeared into the hall closet. "There. Wear that too."

She handed Andréa a coat that was beautifully soft. 

"This is -"

"Nonsense, it's nothing."

"I -"

"Are we going, or not."

"Yes," Andy groaned. "Give me a moment and I'll fix my makeup."

"Do it in the car."

Andy rolled her eyes and followed.

"Yes, Miranda."

-0-

Dinner, as it turned out, was lovely. It wasn't often that Miranda turned on the charm anymore, but it was blinding as she wined and dined the new designer. Andy watched, knowing that was exactly why she was brought along before the table said goodbye to the new designer, leaving Miranda and Donatella Versace facing her.

"Donatella was just saying how well I look, Andréa," Miranda smirked. "I told her it was down to your magical powers."

Andy choked on her water and gave Miranda a look before turning to see Donatella smirking at her.

"I'm not sure that's quite how I would put it but yes. The office is working very well at the moment, we are doing great work and you," Andy said with a wry grin at her boss. "Know that."

"I do," Miranda said, squeezing Andy's hand. Apparently they'd had more champagne than Andy had thought."

They chatted for hours, Andy detailing her previous journalistic endeavours and her thoughts on where the print industry was going. Donatella, in turn, discussed her take on fashion and how the new concept of using sustainable materials was admirable, but there would never be a place for it in Haute-couture. Andy had bristled a little, but Miranda had taken her hand under the table and squeezed gently. She remembered at the last moment that this was Donatella Versace and she adjusted accordingly. The discussion went around and around for a while longer, with Miranda even putting her two cents in, before she called it an evening.

"Donatella, I'm afraid we will need to depart. We have a very busy day tomorrow in the lead up to Milan, I'm sure you understand."

"Of course," Donatella answered gratefully. "And thank you, Andréa, for being so gracious in listening to my antiquated views on fashion."

"I -" she frowned. "What?"

Miranda chuckled beside her.

"She was looking for a rise, darling," Miranda soothed her. "'Tella has been one of the loudest voices at Versace for moving towards sustainables."

"I -" Andy frowned. "Apologise."

"Don't," Donatella smiled. "It was fun. And I was cruel. You are an admirable opponent, Andréa. I have enjoyed our talk."

"I, as well," Andy said, still reeling. "Um. Good evening."

"Good evening," Donatella grinned. "And to you, darling."

Miranda and Donatella shared double air kisses and Miranda led them from the restaurant and to the waiting car that Andy had just called.

"Don't take her too seriously," Miranda said, once they were ensconced in the Towncar. "She likes to play with her food."

"Food?"

"You know what I mean," Miranda smirked. "You did do well though. I thought you were going to start debating the science of global warming at one point."

"She played me!"

"She did," Miranda smiled gently. "As I knew she would. Don't take it personally and learn from it."

"You did that on purpose, didn't you."

"I did," Mirana nodded. "Are you very upset with me?"

"Yes."

It was petulant and Miranda gave it the laughter it deserved.

"Too upset to invite me over to watch a film?"

"No."

Miranda laughed again and asked Roy to drop them at Andy's.

"Well," Miranda smirked as they got out of the car. "To make up for it, I'll allow you to pick the film."

"Thanks." Andy rolled her eyes. "We're watching one with guns in it."

Miranda's laughter echoed down the hallway as they arrived at Andy's door and she couldn't help but smile as Miranda moved inside like she lived there. Her bag went by the front door and her coat into the closet. She made use of the twin's bathroom, stealing some of Andy's make-up wipes to remove what she was wearing and settled on the sofa under the soft throw.

"Does it at least have some semblance of plot?" she quipped as Andy queued it up.

"Just watch the film," Andy grumbled, falling onto the sofa beside her and putting her feet up. It wasn't long before both of them yawned, even with the explosions rumbling in the background and Andy, in the last throes of consciousness, leant her head against Miranda's, already sleeping on her shoulder, and closed her eyes.

Chapter Text

Andy had spent the morning fussing over Miranda's luggage on the morning she was set to leave for Milan. While she fussed, Andy pretended not to notice Miranda's smirk as she watched while she fielded questions from her twin terrors.

"Are you going to take the Elias Clarke jet?"

"No darling," Miranda answered, making Andy glance at them. Caroline was tucked under Miranda's arm while Cassidy was kneeling on a chair with her elbows on the table. Miranda had long since given up telling her to sit properly. They talked quietly amongst themselves, while Andy checked Miranda's passport in her purse before nodding finally. Miranda was ready to leave, right as a horn sounded outside the Townhouse for the girl's ride to school.

"I really wish he wouldn't do that. He is not a cab driver."

"I'll talk to him," Andy muttered, making a note of it in her phone.

"Don't bother," Cassidy called as she pulled on her shoes and picked up her bags. "We asked him to. It's quicker."

"But darling I -"

"Don't worry Mom," Caroline muttered. "I'll tell him."

"Ah ah," Miranda muttered, stopping Cassidy at the door. "Come and kiss me before you go please."

Cassidy dropped her things and ran back, engulfing Miranda in her arms and pressing a wet kiss on her cheek.

"Cassidy," she chuckled. "I love you. Behave for Andréa, I do not wish to hear that you did not."

"We will Mom, I promise. And we can Facetime you every night."

"Yes, my loves," Miranda smiled, cupping Caroline's cheek. "Andréa will make sure."

"Bye Mommy."

"Goodbye my little one," Miranda smiled. "I love you both."

"Bye Mom!"

They rushed out of the door, leaving Miranda and Andy standing in the foyer with wry grins on their face.

"Are you sure you will cope?"

"Of course I will," Andy grinned. "I'm more worried about you!"

"I have done this before, you know. Without you."

"I know," Andy grumbled. "Just making sure I don't get any haughty phone calls."

"Haughty," Miranda scoffed, flicking the hair out of her face. "I am never haughty."

"Whatever," Andy rolled her eyes once more then grinned. "You'll miss me, don't try to lie."

"Of course I will. I shall have to fetch my own coffee," Miranda teased as she walked towards the closet beneath the stairs.

"Hey!" Miranda laughed as she pulled out her coat and wrapped a scarf around her neck. "Look," Andy said with a shrug. "Just be careful. And," she shrugged. "Whatever. Have fun."

"Andréa," Miranda said gently. "One might think that you will miss me?"

Andy gave her a look and tried to come up with a better excuse. She failed and grinned bashfully.

"Nah, alright. You caught me. I'll miss you, alright?"

"I'm not sure I've ever had someone other than my girls miss me, Andréa? Are you sure you're quite well?"

Andy's phone buzzed in her hand and she shook her head.

"You're hopeless and Roy is here."

"Saved by the bell," Miranda muttered. "Very well. I will away. I shall expect daily updates and -"

"I know," Andy chuckled. "Nightly Facetime with the girls."

"I was going to say something else, but I expect nightly Facetime with you as well," Miranda clarified, sliding on her sunglasses. "However will I cope being away for six whole days if I do not know what is going on here?"

"Excellent point," Andy laughed. "I'll get your bags. What were you going to say?"

"Hmm?"

"Before I interrupted?"

"I was going to say that I set up a meeting with Sadiq. Tuesday, at Noon."

"Miranda."

"It's time you took charge of your finances Andréa. And yes," she interrupted Andy's spluttering. "I have sprung you on this when you have no reason to deny it. You are not working for a whole week. Do something constructive." Andy growled. "Andréa? The time is now. You have been working long enough that even with the added expense of paying the utilities here."

"You haven't charged me anything," Andy practically squealed.

"Mm," Miranda smirked. "Remind me to do that when I get back."

"You are -"

"Yes?"

"Going to be late."

"Thank you," Miranda muttered, picking up her purse and checking she had everything, though Andy had only done it a moment before. "Oh, Andréa?"

"Yes?"

Miranda leaned in and wrapped her arms around Andy tightly. She stiffened for barely a moment but then let go of the bag and reciprocated. Andy hugged Miranda for a little while before Miranda started pulling away. She let go immediately, but Miranda didn't. She held Andy's shoulders for a little while, looking at her carefully before she leaned in and pressed a soft kiss to her cheek.

"Thank you. For always taking care of us. Allow me to take care of you, just a little, now and then?"

"I -" Andy's heart was doing bizarre things in her chest, but she rallied and shrugged like it was nothing. "I'm happy to. Thank you for," she floundered. "Letting me, I suppose. And you don't need to. I'm a big girl. We've been through this."

"Very well," Miranda muttered, rubbing that cheek where Andy was sure there would be just a hint of lipstick. "Be safe. All of you. I will see you when I return," she paused. "Please feel free to ground my wayward children, if need be. Until they're twenty, if need be."

Andy chuckled and carried the bags out to the car, letting Roy take them when he saw her. She watched Miranda check her bag once more before stepping one foot in the car.

"Your passport is exactly where it has been the last four times, you know," she teased gently.

Miranda pursed her lips and Andy vaguely remembered a time when that scared her.

"You would know," Miranda shot back. "You've checked twice as many times as I have."

Andy laughed as Roy got in and started the car, but Miranda stayed where she was looking into the car and then back at Andy.

"I will miss you, Andréa."

Andy's brain was trying to form a reply as Miranda disappeared into the Towncar and closed the door. She just managed to wave absently as she watched the car pull away from the curb.

-0-

By the time Andy got a notification from the Twin's driver that they were on their way, Andy had cleaned the apartment from top to bottom and was pacing in the kitchen while she decided what to make them for dinner.

"ANDY ANDY!"

She rolled her eyes at herself for missing the key in the lock as she was almost bowled over by two rambunctious teens.

"Oof," she groaned. "Steady," she chuckled. "Remember there are neighbours downstairs and beside us."

"We took off our shoes," Cassidy quipped.

"They'll get used to us eventually," Caroline added helpfully.

Andy laughed and smoothed their hair back, taking a good look at them.

"Are you guys hungry?"

"Always," Cassidy groaned, making Andy tweak her nose.

"What about you Caro?"

"A little," she shrugged.

"Alright," Andy nodded. "Grilled cheese, I think?"

"Mmm," Caroline smiled. "Yes please."

Andy instructed them to change out of their school clothes and got to making their snack. She joined them at the bar, smiling into her coffee mug as they prattled on about their friends and how their day had been.

"What can we do tonight Andy?" Cassidy asked as she sucked the butter off her fingers.

"Use a napkin, you animal," Andy said, throwing one at her.

They chuckled but the expectation on both their faces let Andy know the question would not be put off.

"What would you like to do?"

"Go out for dinner?"

"Yeah right," Andy chuckled. "You have school tomorrow. I figured we'd go out for dinner on Wednesday after we do something in the afternoon."

"Can we go to the Zoo?"

"The Zoo?" Andy chuckled.

"The Bronx Zoo," Cassidy clarified.

"We won't have long, Yeah, if you want to?"

"Yes please," Caroline smiled.

"We won't have a lot of time, we might not be able to see everything?"

"It's the biggest zoo in the whole of the US, Andy!" Cassidy exclaimed. "Of course we won't, but we'll have fun! And it's way better than shopping or whatever."

"Alright," she chuckled. "I bought your bags over from your Mom's. I figured we'd maybe may pasta later?"

"YES," they hissed together.

"Can we play video games?"

"Have you got any homework?"

"No?"

"Liars," she grinned, tweaking both of their noses. "Bring it out here and we can do it together."

"You have homework? Geez, is Mom paying you to do homework?" Cassidy scoffed.

"It's not for your Mom, it's for me, silly," she swatted Cassidy's behind as she turned. "Go get your books."

"I honestly don't have any," Caroline whispered.

"No?" Andy smiled, running her hand over Caroline's hair. "You're pretty good at this school thing, hey."

"I just like getting it all done while I'm at school."

"Fair enough. Have you got a novel with you?"

"No," she winced. "I can get one out at the library tomorrow."

"I'll do you one better," Andy smiled. "Come 'ere."

Andy led Caroline over to her own bookshelf and perused the spines while she wrapped her arms around Caroline in front of her.

"How about this one," she muttered, pulling one off the shelf. "Do you like fantasy stuff?"

"Yeah," Caroline nodded. "Will Mom be okay with it?"

"It's a young-adult book," Andy winked. "I kept all my favourites."

"Cool," Caroline nodded. "What's it about?"

"It's about a young woman who has weird mutant powers that seem to be less cool than everyone else's, but it turns out she's the key to a prophecy that stretches over seven books."

"Cool," Caroline said. "Like X-men?"

"No," Andy smiled. "But I think you'll like it. Give it a try and if you like it, brilliant. If you don't," Andy shrugged. "No harm done, you can get another at school."

"Thanks," Caroline said, hugging Andy sideways.

"You are most welcome."

"Hey!" Cassidy almost yelled. "Where's my hug!"

"Right here, you goober," Andy shook her head. "Now, what have you got?"

"Um," Cassidy rifled through her bag. "Maths, Biology and," she frowned. "A bit of Social Studies."

"Alright, you and me at the bar, Caro, you're free to pick a spot."

"Can I sit in the window?" she asked, looking wistfully at the window ledge looking out above the road."

"Of course," Andy nodded, then turned back to Cassidy. "Come on then, kid."

They worked in comfortable silence until Cassidy groaned and threw down her pencil.

"Finally," she groaned. "I thought it would never end."

"Mm," Andy muttered. "That's about where I am at too," she chuckled. "But I'm done for now."

"Andy?" Caroline's quiet voice called.

"Yeah, sweetie?"

"When do we call Mom?"

Andy checked the time and saw that it was probably alright to give it a try.

"Right now, as a matter of fact," she smiled. "Come on."

They sat together on the sofa and Andy got the iPad and dialled Miranda.

There was a pause and Miranda's soft voice came through the phone.

"Give me two minutes, my darlings. I'm just changing."

Miranda left the phone connected and they could hear the swish of fabric through the line as they waited. Andy decided that Miranda's greeting meant that she had expected the girls and not her so she left them to it and started on dinner.

It was copacetic. And though Andy knew it was late in Milan, Miranda stayed on with the girls for a long time before they brought her the tablet.

"Well hello there," Andy smiled, looking Miranda over as she reclined on the sofa. "You're tired."

"I am," Miranda sighed. "Though I do not wish to sleep just yet."

"Put a film on in your room?"

"It's not quite the same, is it?"

Andy smiled and set the iPad on the little stand she had by the stove.

"What are you cooking?"

"Carbs."

"Andréa." Miranda chuckled.

"Pasta," Andy grinned. "Spaghetti bolognese, to be precise."

"Oh," Miranda sighed.

"Miranda?" Andy asked, turning the sauce down and giving her boss her full attention.

"Andréa."

"Have you eaten?"

There was a long pause that made the corners of Andy's mouth turn up just a little.

"Shut up, Andréa," Miranda chuckled.

"Call for some room service. Or," Andy said. "Better yet," she grinned. "Don't go away."

She reached for her phone and brought up the app she'd downloaded days earlier. After making a few selections, she put it down and grinned.

"What have you done."

"You're welcome, when you get it,"

"Andréa."

"You surprised me with the meeting tomorrow. I'm surprising you now. Put a movie on and enjoy," she glanced down at the screen. "You have about thirteen minutes to decide what you're watching."

"You're hopeless."

Andy winked.

"I'm going to go and feed your ruffians. Take it easy. You have a whole week without me at your beck and call. You gotta remember to eat."

"Gotta?" Miranda winced. "Must you?"

"I must," Andy smirked. "You now have," she glanced down again. "Eight minutes until they knock on your door. And remember to thank me when you get it."

"Goodnight, Andréa."

"'Night, Miranda," she smiled.

She watched the screen go dark and turned back to the sauce, rescuing it at the last second before it burnt on the bottom of the pan. Declaring everything done, she saw the 'Delivered' notification pop up on her screen and chuckled as she dished up three sizable portions of food.

"Girls, dinner's ready."

"Whoa," Cassidy grinned. "Thanks, Andy."

"You're welcome," she laughed. "Can you get the drinks?"

"Mhmm."

"Caro?"

"Sorry," she grinned. "This book is really good."

"Good. Put it away now, we're going to eat. Can you get the cutlery?"

She busied herself putting the garlic bread on the table. No matter how Miranda felt about it, garlic bread was an essential part of pasta nights as far as she was concerned. By the time she sat down, there were two messages from Miranda. Andy chuckled and before she opened them, told the twins what she had done.

"You bought her a pizza?" Caroline said in awe.

"I did," Andy chuckled. "A proper Italian pizza with tons of mozzarella and sinfully delicious sauce. Reckon I'm fired?"

"Pfft." Cassidy scoffed. "She can't fire you. She can't ever fire you now. You're basically stuck together."

Andy chuckled and opened the phone. One message consisted of Miranda's favourite emoji; that little yellow face with the arched eyebrow. The second, sent ten minutes later, was a single word. One that made Andy smile brightly.

Acceptable.

Chapter Text

Miranda had been in Milan for only a little more than twenty-four hours and Andy was bored out of her mind. She'd spend the time with Cassidy the night before getting together her finances and the next morning as well. Later that morning, at half-past eleven, her hands began to sweat as she caught a cab to the address Sadiq's secretary had sent over.

She tried not to wipe her hands on her slacks but she wasn't sure she could hold her folder and her phone at the same time as she contemplated getting in there and the guy laughing at her. Being Miranda's assistant and, dare she say, friend, had opened her eyes to how the other half lived and it was nice. It was really nice. But she wasn't stupid and she had always been a realist. No matter how Miranda helped, she knew for certain that she would never reach a level of wealth that Miranda kept talking about. To be honest, Andy was certain that Miranda was a little out of touch with the real world and that was fine. Andy knew that she was. But just the same, she knew it was just never going to happen.

She jumped as her phone rang and she picked it up without thinking.

"Yes?"

"You're nervous."

Andy's brain screeched to a halt as she heard that voice echoing in her head.

"Miranda?"

"Sadiq is the best at what he does. Do you believe I would have kept him around for long if he was not?"

"Wait. What are you doing? What time is it?"

"Andréa?"

"Miranda, aren't you supposed to be at -"

"Yes." Andy clamped her mouth together tightly to prevent herself from asking any more questions. "Sadiq knows where you are on your journey. He saw the initial budget I sent to my property advisor when I enlisted his help to search for an apartment for you."

"He -"

"They're married. It's a group effort."

"Oh," Andy said quietly. "Okay."

"He's not expecting anything but you, as you are, Andréa. Be honest with him and let him help you. Pride is only useful when you're ahead. And you're not quite there yet, darling."

Andy smiled tremulously and nodded even though Miranda couldn't see her.

"How did you know?" Andy asked, quietly. 

"You think you could know me as you do," Miranda said gently. "And I would not come to know you just as well after this time?"

"Oh," Andy whispered. "Good point."

"Now," Miranda said sternly. "Head up, Andréa. This is the first day of the rest of your life."

"Miranda -"

"Yes?"

"Thank you," she whispered.

"You are most welcome," Miranda said just as quietly. "Go and meet him. You'll like him. He is very good at what he does. You'll be amazed at how much money he can make from next to nothing."

"Hey," Andy said, shaking her head of the clouds that had gathered in it.

"Good to have you back," Miranda chuckled. "I must go. I will expect an update this evening."

"Alright. Thank you. We're pulling up now."

Miranda didn't say goodbye, but Andy wasn't particularly surprised. The cab pulled up and she got out with a deep sigh, looking up at the skyscraper.

"Alright," she shrugged. "I guess this is it."

Pulling herself up to her full height, she tried to channel Miranda as she strode forward into the building. A very very small part of her was interested, but a much bigger part of her was scared out of her mind. Tamping down on that, she nodded her hello to the doorman and checked in at the front desk. It was a long way to the fifteenth floor but she tried to imagine how Miranda felt when she was ascending the Runway building and by the time the doors opened, she was feeling much better.

-0-

Andy was preoccupied all afternoon with thoughts from her meeting. When Cassidy got home at five, she had just enough time to have a quick shower and to cuddle up with her sister on the sofa and wait for Miranda to call. By the time Cassidy passed Andy the iPad, Andy had managed to put together some grilled fish and a simple salad and left them to it while she went in her room to speak to her.

"Hi," she said quietly.

"Ah," Miranda said, settling onto her bed with a sigh. "How are you?"

Andy looked at Miranda and couldn't help but smile. Even after the woman had had a full day of meetings and shows, she was curled up in her hotel room, wearing that same robe Andy had first seen her in, tears streaming down her face, giving her her full attention.

"He made it sound really easy."

"You're welcome," Miranda quipped. 

Andy laughed, then burst into tears.

"Come now, Andréa. My jokes are bad, I grant you. But I didn't think they were that bad."

"Stop," Andy chuckled, wiping away the tears. "Stop, let me cry."

"Alright," Miranda smirked. "But I'm two-thirds of a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc in. And it always puts me to sleep."

Andy groaned and went and wiped her face, coming back to the bed with a fresh face.

"Now," Miranda said gently. "Speak."

"He said I'm in a really great position to build on my capital. We spoke about what I do for you and my prospective pathway into other things and he suggested that if I'm truly invested that I should buy stocks."

Miranda smirked but Andy ignored her.

"He's also suggested that taking out a low-interest loan and paying off my high-interest student loans will save me some money and has a list of those to choose from. It's about saving money on the interest, the payments will be slightly lower and it will go on longer but it won't be such a high percentage."

"I have an idea about that, but continue," Miranda said, sipping on that last third of the bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

"I have a list of credit cards that I need to read through and when I've picked two - one for business and one for non-business expenses, although he did say he'd help with that too - he's going to teach me to use them to its full advantage and then put me in touch with a CPA that will help me file the right taxes and get the most out of my returns."

She finally looked up at Miranda who was smiling gently at her.

"Shut up," Andy sulked. "Do you want me to say you told me so or is the knowledge enough satisfaction."

Miranda laughed musically and put down her glass.

"Andréa. There is only so much I can tell you. Sometimes you have to be the one to experience these things. And I'm glad that it went well. And that you are relieved now. And that perhaps, you can see a little bit of light in the future."

"He never told me he'd invoice me."

"That is because he will not."

"Miranda -"

"Ah," she said nonchalantly. "He's not invoicing me either. He's doing this Pro Bono."

"Like a charity case."

"Oh Andréa," Miranda huffed. "Why do you have so little an opinion of yourself? No. Not like a charity case. Like he's doing a favour to me as a friend."

"I'm nothing."

"You are rather infuriating, sometimes."

"I am?" Andy snapped, the day finally catching up with her. "I am infuriating?"

"I'm going to hang up now before we say things that cannot be taken back. Goodnight."

Andy stared at the blank screen and stared some more until a knock at the door disturbed her

"Um, so," Cassidy winced. "We're going to bed."

"Hmm?" she asked, blinking herself out of her stupor. "What? Sorry, Cass?"

"We're going to bed."

"Oh," she said, glancing back at the screen again. "Um. Sure. Lemme -"

"It's fine," Cassidy said, kneeling beside her and wrapping her arms around her. Andy sighed into her shoulder and pulled her down onto her knee. "You should totally call her back though."

"Cassidy -" Andy groaned. "How much did you hear?"

"All of it, not that it was anything. She's definitely had worse fights with people. But," she shrugged. "You should anyway."

"I know," Andy groaned. "Is Caro -"

"She's already in bed. She's reading that book."

"Oh good," Andy smiled, though she was more and more anxious to call Miranda back. "Alright then, 'night sweetie."

"'Night." Cassidy grinned. "Oh, um. Caro is -" she frowned. "She wants to invite Jordan tomorrow. To the Zoo, I mean. But I'm not sure she's going to ask. But I think she'd like it."

"What did I tell you about sharing her secrets?" Andy said gently.

"Yeah but," Cassidy shrugged. "It worked out okay last time. And, I'm still her big sister."

"Well, what do you think?" Andy chuckled. "Oh, oldest-one-by how many minutes again?"

"Like 3," Cassidy grinned.

"Ha!" Andy chuckled. "Well, I don't mind either way."

"He's cool and she likes him. He's a way better friend than the other people."

"Then you can tell her she can with no worries from me. I'm looking forward to meeting him. Your Mom is paying for the tickets so I'll tell her beforehand."

"She won't care," Cassidy chuckled. "Alright, 'night Andy."

"Sleep well, little'n."

Needing just a little extra space between what had happened and what she needed to do, Andy locked up, started the dishwasher and changed into her pyjamas. She turned off the lights, feeling safer in the dark sent a single question mark to Miranda's phone. Then, she lay in the dark, chewing on her thumbnail.

She picked up after the first ring.

The lights were off in Miranda's hotel room as well and Andy smiled at the similarities.

"I'm sorry," Andy whispered before anything was said. "That was uncalled for. And rude. And so unfair. I was overwhelmed and I felt cheated at how simple this is and how more people should know about it. And I'm a little resentful at my parents for not knowing and I might even be a little resentful at the upper-echelon as you call it for not making it more available. And I'm terrible at receiving help and you've helped me so much and -" she sighed. "I'm sorry."

"Apology accepted," Miranda whispered back. "I'm not heartless Andréa," there was a pause. "Andy."

Andy chuckled through her nose. Occasionally, Miranda would try to say it and all of the time so far Andy had decided she preferred it the 'Miranda way'.

"You are getting better at saying it so it doesn't sound like you're throwing up a little in your mouth."

"Honestly," Miranda huffed, though Andy could hear the amusement in her voice.

"I know you're not heartless," Andy sighed. "And you're not infuriating. Well," she shrugged. "Look, sometimes you are, but like you said to me about being prideful. You are at a point where you can be. I guess I'm still learning."

"I'm going to remind you of this conversation when I'm retired in a few years and you're complaining about finding a decent assistant in that God-forsaken city."

Andy laughed properly and got more comfortable. She propped up the phone on another pillow and rolled over to watch the dark screen.

"You need to sleep."

"Always reading me, even in the dark," Miranda muttered. "I am sleeping." There was a rustling of covers as Miranda got comfortable. "Stay?"

"Sure," Andy smiled. "We're going to the Zoo tomorrow. Apparently Caroline wants to bring Jordan so I said she could."

"Good," Miranda mumbled. "I'll call just after they finish at noon. It'll take -" She yawned. "A while to get there, you are calling the car, aren't you?"

"Yeah."

"Well, it will interrupt the dinner but I find myself untroubled by that notion."

"They'll wait for you," Andy smiled. "People will always wait for you."

"I live in hope," Miranda whispered.

Andy frowned but could hear, even through Facetime, Miranda's breathing change and knew she was asleep. She watched for a moment before she realised what she was doing and ended the call, falling asleep with a smile on her face.

-0-

Andy walked them down to the car the next morning to make sure the driver knew the particulars of their excursion. He was a quiet guy and she found herself missing Roy. It was one thing that she hadn't banked on, while Miranda was away; the loneliness. Being Miranda's assistant was sort of lonely anyway but she could always rely on a text from Nigel or a wave from Serena now and then to bridge that gap between her desk and the rest of the Runway staff. If she needed it. With Miranda and the girls so entrenched in her life, she didn't often feel like she needed even that.

Now though, while the girls were at school and Miranda away, Andy realised she didn't really have much else in her life. For a long time, during that morning, she sat contemplating whether she was unhappy with that. After her second cup of coffee, she decided that she wasn't. She cleaned up what little mess there was leftover from getting the twins out of the door in a rush after Caroline slept in and sat down with her notes from the meeting with Sadiq. By the time her alarm went off to get ready, she had narrowed down her credit card options and sent them and a few follow up questions to him, before shutting down the MacBook and going to change.

She decided on a sensible shirt that Miranda would have approved of and her favourite pair of jeans. She packed a cooler with bottles of water and a snack for three teenagers, knowing that if it sat in the car until they were picked up it wouldn't be a bad thing.

She stepped out onto the street just as the car pulled up and she waved to the driver to stay and she got in. As before, he didn't speak much so she played Candy Crush until they pulled up at the pick-up zone. 

She'd been to Dalton a few times to pick up the girls but she was always amazed at how many students finished at Noon on Wednesdays. It seemed like half the school sometimes. When she saw Cassidy rolling her eyes at a group that was standing near the door, she got out of the car and stood watching. Feeling her eyes on them, the group left and Cassidy huffed her way to the car.

"You alright?" Andy asked.

"Yeah, they're just buttheads."

"Alright," Andy chuckled. "You sure?"

"Yah."

"There's snacks and water in the car if you want. Your Mom said she'd ring soon. You can text her if you like."

"Hi," Cassidy said with a grin, wrapping her arms around Andy's middle.

"Hey," Andy chuckled. "D'ya have a good day?"

"It was alright," Cassidy shrugged. "It's better now though."

"ANDY!"

She winked at Cassidy and turned to find herself face to face with a pleasant-looking woman, standing awkwardly beside Caroline and a young boy who had a wide smile and bright eyes.

"Hi," Andy said cordially, holding out her hand. "Andy Sachs."

"Alice Broussard. Um -"

"I guess you have questions and concerns?" Andy chuckled. "I would have called you but Caroline was running late this morning so we didn't quite get around to it."

"Are you their -"

"Oh," Andy chuckled, shaking her head. "No. I'm just looking after them while their Mom's away. So our plan is, I'm going to take them to the Bronx Zoo, and we'll spend the afternoon there and after that, I was going to take them out to dinner unless Jordan needs to be back at a certain time?"

"No," she smiled. "No, that's fine. I don't," she frowned. "He doesn't have any -"

She didn't finish her sentence and Andy remembered her own mother saying something similar when she'd gone off with friends.

"Don't worry," Andy smiled. "Miranda's taking care of it all. So we have to go so that we can be there and still have enough time before it closes, but here's my card anyway. And," she pulled out her phone. "Why don't you put your number in and I'll call you so you have mine."

"Thank you," Alice said quietly.

"Caro, why don't you and Jordan go and get in. Cass is already back there. She might be on the phone to your Mom. She said she'd call."

Jordan hugged his Mom quickly and followed Caroline into the car, leaving her with Alice.

"He's not -" she sighed. "He's on a scholarship. Their support program is second to none."

"It's alright," Andy smiled. "He'll be fine with us."

"I know Caroline has got into a bit of trouble lately -"

"She did," Andy chuckled. "But she said it was worth it, so," Andy shrugged. "They have to make their own choices, right?"

The woman smiled and nodded. 

"It was lovely to meet you."

"And you," Andy smiled. "I'll have Jordan check in a few times and we'll keep you updated about what time he'll be home. Is there anything he's allergic to?"

"No," Alice nodded. "Have a good time."

Andy nodded again and slid into the front seat, glancing behind her to see Caroline and Cassidy introducing Miranda to Jordan while they chatted on FaceTime. She settled into the front seat and listened to them talking for a while.

After a good fifteen minutes, Cassidy told her that Miranda was going to call Andy on her cell and that she should answer. Chuckling, Andy did as she was told and smiled as Miranda greeted her abruptly.

"I am so sick of the sycophants."

"I'm sorry," Andy said gently but genuinely, knowing that Miranda wasn't really looking for feedback.

"Why must they fawn? Honestly, they might as well bow and scrape."

"You're an icon. It goes with the territory, I'm told."

"You don't," Miranda muttered petulantly.

"That's 'cos I've seen you asleep on the sofa with your hair all over the place and your mascara smudged all over your face."

There was a snort on the other end of the phone and Andy smiled, congratulating herself. 

"The Italians are so much more effusive than the French," she muttered. "I always forget."

"They love you because you're the best," Andy counselled. "I did tell you I should have come with you."

"Don't remind me," Miranda grumbled.

"Bad day?"

"No," Miranda huffed. "Frustrating. I had expected big things from the two designers I had planned on giving five-page spreads to and they were lacklustre. What am I supposed to do with that?"

"Are there any shows tomorrow?"

"Well of course but they are all -"

Andy grinned as Miranda understood what she meant. Tomorrow would be the designers that were just starting out. The newcomers that would benefit from a guiding hand from the Queen of Fashion.

"Stop smiling."

"Yes, Miranda," Andy grinned, trying not to. "We're nearly here. Want to speak to the girls again?"

"No," Miranda sighed. "Buy them a year-long pass. I have no doubt that you will need to go again."

"I will need to?" Andy laughed, then hesitated. "Perhaps we -"

"Perhaps," Miranda said, somewhat indulgently. "Have a good time, Andréa. Thank you, for taking care of them."

"You're welcome," Andy smiled. "Bye."

Miranda hung up without calling off and Andy sat there with a grin on her face until the driver cleared his throat. She shook herself out of her thoughts and looked back at the kids who were talking quietly with their heads together. She was looking forward to the little trip and dinner afterwards.

And, more importantly, it would only be another four days until Miranda came home.

Chapter Text

On Friday afternoon, Andy's leg was bouncing uncontrollably as she sat at her desk. Nigel, who returned early, laughed at her when he saw and mumbled something about puppies, but Andy didn't care. She beamed when she heard the clicking heels coming down the corridor and stood happily as her Miranda strode into view. As usual, the woman did not have a hair out of place after the 10-hour flight from Milan. 

She was talking quietly to Serena, who had stayed to help with the final clear-out, but as soon as she caught sight of Andy, Miranda dismissed Serena and nodded towards her office.

"Hey Andy," Serena waved as she left.

"Hey," Andy nodded back, already rounding the desk with a grin.

"We're going for drinks later?"

"I'll let you know," Andy called absently.

As she stepped through the doors and closed them behind her, she observed the tenseness of Miranda's shoulders and swallowed.

"How is it," the woman said frostily. "That I have been in this role for almost as long as you have been alive and it is this," she waved her hand absently in Andy's direction. "That makes me feel better than all the cappuccinos in Milan?"

Andy bit her lip as Miranda glared at her. She recalled a time when that would definitely mean that she was fired, but instead, she let a little bit of a smile appear.

"I guess that's just really bad luck?" Andy quipped gently.

"Shut up," Miranda huffed, her lips twitching at the corners like they did when she was trying not to smile.

"How are you?"

"You asked me that an hour ago."

"I know," Andy said gently. "That was before JFK."

Miranda snorted and nodded.

"I'm tried. But I'm fine. We have a lot to do."

"And we will do it, better than anyone. How was Max and his impromptu live Instagram."

"I nearly fired him when he suggested it, but I hear it was well received."

"It was," Andy smiled. "We watched it."

"Good."

Miranda's eyes softened and Andy knew she was thinking of the girls.

"They can't wait to see you. It's all they could talk about yesterday."

"Andréa, I have never been as relieved as I was knowing they were with you."

"Thank you," Andy whispered. "That means a lot."

"Good," Miranda nodded. "Now. Where are we with," she looked at Andy pointedly. "Our special project."

"It's been quiet this week," Andy grimaced. "I had hoped something would make itself known but," she shrugged. "Nothing."

Miranda rubbed her lips with the arm of her glasses while she stared into space. 

"You read people," she muttered. 

"Sorry?" Andy asked, sitting forward. "What do you mean?"

"I mean you are good at reading people. Spread the word, you're doing a piece for the monthly newsletter on the CEO in all his glory."

"I am?"

"You are," she smirked. "Once people realise it's you, I don't doubt you'll have a few that will open up to you."

"Alright," Andy shrugged. "Sure."

"Good. Now go away and do something so we can go out for dinner once we've picked the girls up."

"Ooh. Nice," Andy chuckled. "I'll get right on that."

"Good."

"Miranda?" Andy said quietly. The other woman looked up, meeting Andy's eyes. "I'm really glad you're home."

"As am I," Miranda muttered as Andy left.

-0-

They went together to pick up the girls and Andy grinned mischievously as she waited outside the car.

"Andy!" Cassidy yelled as she hugged her. "What happened? I thought Mom would be here."

"Don't yell," Andy grumbled. "Where's your sister."

"There," Cassidy pointed. 

They waited for Caroline to join them and Andy opened the car door for them.

"MOM!"

She laughed as they threw themselves into the car, dropping their bags for her to put in the trunk. They were talking over each other excitedly by the time she got in herself.

"We went to the Zoo!"

"I heard," Miranda said gently. 

"Andy let me read these great books Mom, from when she was a kid. How cool is that? And there's an orange cat and he's so grumpy. He's a bit like Crookshanks but she can talk to him. Can we get an orange cat?"

"No darling, we cannot."

"Oh and Mom -"

"Guys," Andy chuckled gently. "Let your Mom breathe."

"I'm so glad you're home," Caroline whispered, snuggling into Miranda's side.

"It is lovely to be wanted," Miranda chuckled, pressing matching kisses to both girls heads. "Now. Where would you like to go for dinner?"

"Can we get pasta?"

Andy laughed as Miranda groaned.

"Milan is in Italy, littles," she laughed. "Let's choose somewhere else so your Mom doesn't turn into a ravioli or something."

Caroline chuckled and sighed happily as Cassidy put on her thinking face.

"Can we get Mexican? It's Heritage Month at school."

"There is plenty more to Mexico than tacos, Cassidy," Miranda said, her eyebrow telling Cassidy more than Andy ever could.

"I know, but we were talking about tacos earlier and now I want some."

"Andréa? Join us for tacos?"

"Only if that's -" she caught Miranda's eyebrow doing its thing again and swallowed her words. "I'd love to, thank you."

"Shall we go now? I cannot find it in me to go back to the office today. If we go to dinner now, we can have an easy night before Cassidy's incredibly stressful game tomorrow."

"It's only stressful trying to keep you from storming the pitch and hitting the other team, mom," Cassidy rolled her eyes. There was a pause before everyone, even Roy, chuckled at Miranda's expense. Andy smiled happily when the woman took it, rather than argue. She met Miranda's eyes in the mirror and acknowledge the soft smile with one of her own. 

"Now," Miranda chuckled. "Andréa, I assume you know somewhere to go?"

"Yeah," Andy grinned, already programming the SatNav. 

"Bobbseys, tell me - slowly - about your week."

Andy listened as the twins recounted their week at her place. Caroline, Andy was already very aware, had loved the book Andy leant her and the one after that. She already had plans to buy the whole series as soon a possible, so Andy made a mental note to take her to Barnes and Noble over the weekend.

Cassidy was eagerly retelling their adventure at the zoo and the corresponding burger and ice cream joint. The twins weren't to know but Andy had gained permission to take them to the small pub with bottomless ice cream desserts before Andy had even mentioned it to them. She'd also put a soft limit on the ice cream. She didn't want to receive a call from Jordan's mom and she certainly didn't want to spend the evening cleaning up after two vomiting pre-teens.

"It sounds as though you both had a fantastic week with Andréa?"

"We did," Cassidy grinned. "Can we go stay with Andy all the time?"

"Can we go stay?" Miranda winced. "What has happened to your vocabulary!"

"I lost it," Cassidy grinned. "But it was so much more fun than going to Dad's."

"Cass," Andy groaned.

"You cannot substitute your father for Andréa, no, cheeky," Miranda grinned. There was a look in Miranda's eyes that made Andy blush as Roy muttered that they were nearly there.

"Excellent. I am hungry. Where are we Andréa?"

"Just across the river," Andy explained. "Casa Enrique. Their tacos are spectacular but they also have great entrees."

"We are, as always, in your capable hands."

Roy pulled up and they all got out. They were greeted merrily by the hostess in the well-decorated, easy-going restaurant. Miranda was relaxed as they were seated by a window and the staff were attentive but not star-struck. Miranda commented at how pleasant it was and Andy patted herself on her back mentally. It wasn't often Miranda could go somewhere like that and she wanted to make sure that there were more opportunities for that. 

"What are you eating, Andréa?"

"Hmm," she smiled, looking over the menu. "I think I'm going to go with the Carne Asada."

"What else," Miranda asked, making it clear that two tacos for dinner wasn't going to cut it.

"Miranda -"

"Andréa, dinner requires you to eat food. Eat," she smirked. "The tab is on us."

The waitress came over to take their order and Andy waited for the other three to order before making her own.

"And we'll have two margaritas," Miranda said, closing her menu. "The La Tentadora and the Chimbombo."

"You're so bossy," Andy sassed as Miranda smirked at her.

"As I should be," Miranda shot back. "Now. How was your week?"

"It was great fun. If you ever need me to take these ruffians off your hands, I'd be glad to."

"I did tell you, once upon a time, that I was just a woman with two children and a dog, didn't I?"

"Well, next time maybe we'll add Patricia to the mix and see how we go."

"Yesssss," the girls cheered.

"And although we discussed it briefly, how was your meeting with Sadiq?"

"Good," Andy conceded. "And I'm feeling better about it the more I think about it."

"Excellent. Leave me a five-star review on Yelp for my fantastic thinking."

Andy tried to stop the snort, she really did, but she couldn't and dissolved into laughter.

"If people only knew, Miranda. If people knew."

"I'll thank you to make sure they do not!"

"My lips are sealed."

The margaritas arrived and Andy beamed as she tasted hers, matching her tastes perfectly. Miranda nodded and took a sip of hers, smacking her lips uncharacteristically.

"Taste this," she said, nodding to her glass. "Tell me what you think."

"I'm not -"

"Oh, just take a sip will you?"

Andy rolled her eyes and sipped, blinking at the spice.

"Not my favourite," Andy hedged.

"It is mine," Miranda shrugged. "This is one of the best margaritas I've ever had."

"They might even get a smile out of you," Andy chuckled.

"Calm down Andréa, they're not Thom Ford."

Andy sat back, watching as Caroline drew Miranda's attention. For a moment, Andy tried to recall a time when she wasn't so entrenched in this little family, but she found she either couldn't or didn't want to.

She remembered that she'd promised to do better at keeping in touch with Doug and she hadn't. She made a note quickly and put her phone away, looking up to catch Miranda's eye. She waved away the tiny sliver of concern and paid more attention as the girls discussed their week's social studies classes.

"And how is Jordan?" Miranda asked gently.

"Good," Caroline shrugged. "He enjoyed the zoo. I told him next time we went he could come too, is," she blushed. "Is that okay?"

"Of course," Miranda soothed. "And your friendship with," she shrugged. "The snooty girl?"

"We're not friends anymore."

"I am pleased to hear it."

"I have to go into the city tomorrow, after Cass' game," Andy said cautiously. "And I know you wanted those books. If you don't have plans, I could take you to Barns and Noble and then Kinokuniya? You could even text Jordan and have him meet us at the game?"

"Can we Mom!" she almost squealed. "Please!"

"Perhaps we could all go?"

"Absolutely," Andy smiled, seeing Miranda had seen through her tiny white lie. There was no reason that she could think of to go into the city, other than to take one of the twins for a while.

"I'm down," Cassidy said but anything else she was going to suggest was overtaken by the food arriving.

As Miranda took the first bite and her eyes closed in supplication, Andy smiled into her drink.

-0-

She was curled up on her sofa much later when someone knocked on the door. It was late and Andy smiled, shrugging to herself at her pyjamas.

"Hey," she said gently, letting a tired-looking Miranda in.

"Jet lag?"

"Bad dreams," Miranda mumbled.

"The girls?"

"Fine," she muttered. "The cameras are on and I left a note."

"Wine?"

"No," Miranda shook her head. "Movie?"

"Sure. Anything in particular?"

"No."

"Here," Andy said gently, wrapping the soft throw around her shoulders and guiding her to the sofa. She queued up a film that she knew Miranda liked and sat beside her. After ten minutes, Miranda had huffed and laid down, her head in Andy's lap. Andy sat very still for a little while, before giving in and brushing the hair from Miranda's face so it didn't wake her.

They sat for a long while until Andy was sure Miranda was asleep and she slid from underneath. She grabbed her jacket, turned off the notifications on Miranda's phone and left.

Letting herself into the Townhouse, she found both girls asleep with Patricia asleep in Cassidy's room. 

"Hey Patty," she greeted happily when the big dog picked up her head warily. "Just me, we're going to mine, okay?"

She gently woke the girls, Caroline grumbling as she always did when she was woken prematurely and got them bundled up ready to go. Cassidy, as usual, was fine and strapped Patricia's leash on. She followed Andy, who had to carry Caroline, to the other place and unclipped Patricia's leash as soon as they were in the door. They trudged into their beds and Andy smiled as Patricia curled up between their beds.

Going back to the sofa, Andy crouched in front and touched Miranda's hand gently. Those brilliant blue eyes cracked open unhappily and she smiled gently.

"Come on," Andy whispered to Miranda. "The sofa isn't very comfortable to sleep on."

"No. I would have to take one of the twin's beds."

"The twins are here. I went and got them. You can take mine."

"The bed is ridiculously large," Miranda grumbled. "We'll share."

"I -"

She didn't have time to say anything else as Miranda rolled off the sofa and shuffled to Andy's bedroom.

"Just get in," Miranda groaned as she sat down on the far side.

"Fine," Andy groaned. 

"Good. Don't wake me. But don't go without me."

"We won't," Andy whispered.

There was a pause before Miranda spoke again. 

"You're not their nanny."

"I know," Andy said easily. "I enjoy spending time with them. I love them. It's not hard," she chuckled. "And it gives one of them time with you that they otherwise wouldn't have."

There was a long sigh, but Andy couldn't tell whether it was a happy or annoyed one. The answer came after Miranda settled onto her stomach, face turned towards Andy. A slender finger gently wrapped around Andy's little one.

"I'm glad we have you, Andréa. I missed you."

Andy fell asleep with a smile.

Chapter Text

Andy, as she so often did, snapped awake at 6 am. She immediately knew something was wrong and looked around. She sighed in relief when she saw Miranda sleeping peacefully in the same position she'd been in when they fell asleep.

She watched the sleeping woman for a moment, once again thanking her lucky stars for allowing her this access. Miranda was as much a goddess as she was an enigma and Andy went a bit giddy when she thought about what a blessing it as to have Miranda as her best friend.

She slid out of bed and used the bathroom as quietly as she could. She pulled on her running gear and crept out of the room, gratified to hear the happy sigh as Miranda stirred, then fell right back to sleep.

"Hey Munchkin," Andy grinned, seeing Cassidy making her breakfast at the stove. "Egg-white omelette with cheese and spinach?"

"You shouldn't mess with perfection," Cassidy laughed, sobering as she flipped the top of her omelette. "Andy?" Andy smiled gently. "Is Mom ok?"

"Yeah. I don't really know whether it was jet lag or what but," she shrugged. "She's okay. I figured you'd forgive me for waking you and bringing you here, rather than waking up to a note."

"That's why you're the best, Andy."

Andy chuckled, squeezing Cassidy's shoulders before she got herself a bowl of cereal. They were a luxury of empty carbs and a bit of sugar, but between the running around for Miranda - even at the reduced rate it now was - and running most mornings with Cassidy, she was now a very toned, very slender 4, bordering on 3. Nigel had been very impressed.

They lounged in front of the TV for a while until their food was sufficiently digested before Andy asked if Cassidy wanted to use the gym. They left a note and headed down the stairs.

"Carefully," Andy cautioned. "Don't hurt anything. Light repetition, use your bodyweight."

They did a light training session, Andy kept an eye on Cassidy to make sure she didn't pull anything before her phone alerted her to a new message.

Where are you?

She grinned and typed a response before getting Cassidy's attention.

"Last set kiddo."

They finished up their work-out and made their way back upstairs.

"I -"

"Here," Andy smiled, picking the note up not two feet from where an irate Miranda was standing. "It says we were at the gym and would be back by 8."

"Yes," Miranda sniffed. "Well."

"We won't ever go without you, you know," Andy smirked.

" Shut up Andréa, " Cassidy chuckled, mimicking her mother very well.

"I -" Miranda gaped for a moment before coming to her senses. " Shut up Cassidy ," Miranda chuckled. "Cheeky monster. How was your gym session?"

"Great. Hey, Coach said there were going to be scouts there today for one of the Universities, so it's a big game."

"I am excessively glad you have found something you enjoy so much."

"Hmm," Andy muttered as she brewed coffee. "Sports 'ey."

"Andréa -"

Andy made a zipping motion with her hand and chuckled as she presented a cup and started pulling out ingredients for Caroline's breakfast.

"I think brunch for us?" Miranda asked, looking nonplussed. "After the game?"

"Can we have waffles?"

"I'm game," Andy chuckled. 

"Waffles it is," Miranda smirked. "May I shower?"

"Of course," Andy chuckled. "I don't have anything close to what you use?"

"No matter," she shrugged. 

Andy watched her go and then looked at the girls.

"She's hella chill these days," Cassidy said pensively. "You're not drugging her coffee are you?"

Andy actually spat her own out, down her work-out top.

"CASSIDY!"

"I'm just saying!" Cassidy giggled. "I mean, two years ago, could you have imagined this?"

Andy smiled and shook her head.

"I didn't even know your Mom two years ago, Cass."

"She wasn't happy," Caroline said quietly. "I'm not sure she's ever been happy. Not with Dad. Not with Stephen. Maybe in between?" she considered it. "And now."

"Things are getting easier at work, and life is pretty great, right? She's just happy things are going so well."

"Yeah," Caroline considered. "I guess."

"Anyway. You," Andy ordered. "Cass, eat. I'll run you home to get your things."

"Alright."

-0-

The game was a good one and Andy almost screamed herself hoarse as Cassidy's team edged out the other team two goals to one. Even Miranda had cheered when Cassidy had curled a free-kick into the box and onto an attacker's head to win the game. 

"She was so good!" Andy yelled over the roar. 

The excitement was palpable as the coach called them into a huddle and they screamed out a triumphant cheer. There was respectful applause by the crowd as the players shook hands. It really was an amazing game and Andy was gratified to see that all of them had had as much fun as it seemed Cassidy had. It was only as the impromptu celebration in the centre circle had dispersed that Andy finally noticed two men with clipboards heading towards the group. Cassidy had come over for a cuddle but was now grinning proudly as she was cajoled by her teammates back in the circle. Her coach called her over and she stood up a little straighter. The four talked for a while before Cassidy pointed their way.

"What's the plan boss," Andy asked quietly.

"Andréa, I would give my children the world. I am not so obnoxious that I cannot see that this is a magnificent achievement. Especially considering she has been playing for such a short amount of time. I confess to being a little torn as she does not need a scholarship, but I will not take that away from her after how hard she has worked."

"That's why you're a good Mama," Andy smiled, squeezing the woman's hand. "Caro, how 'bout you and head back to the car while your Mom talks shop."

"Sure," she nodded.

"Andréa -"

Andy didn't get a chance to ask Miranda why she was looking at her like she was before Cassidy called out to her and Miranda turned to greet the scouts with a charming smile and a firm hand-shake each.

"You ok with all this?" Andy asked as they wandered back to the car. "Did you have plans for university?"

"Yeah, I'm okay," Caroline chuckled. "I don't have plans yet," she sighed. "I don't really even know what I like. Hey," she said suddenly. "We never did go rock-climbing though."

"Oh shoot," Andy groaned, slapping her forehead. "You're right. Are you free next weekend?"

"Uhuh," Caroline grinned. "Especially seeing as soccer is over."

"Awesome."

Andy unlocked the SUV and groaned as she slumped onto the backseat with Caroline beside her. They lay in silence and Andy smiled as Caroline played with Andy's hair.

"Hey, Andy?" 

"Yeah, kiddo?"

"You had a boyfriend once, right?"

"A while ago," Andy smiled. "It didn't work out." 

"How come you don't have another one?"

"Who needs all that, when I have you guys?" Andy chuckled. "Besides, boyfriends are complicated. And I'm not sure I even want another one."

"Have you ever had a girlfriend?"

"No," Andy shrugged. "Though I wouldn't be opposed. Why?" she asked, looking up at her. "You like someone, a girl?"

"No," she shook her head. "No reason," Caroline smiled. "What waffles are you getting."

They talked together for nearly half an hour until Andy glanced up to see a beaming Cassidy walking with Miranda, the woman's warm wrapped around Cassidy's shoulder.

"Andy!"

Cassidy ran at her and she just planted her feet in time to catch the gangly teenager and spin her around.

"They want me to give me a scholarship! Can you believe that?"

"I can," Andy whooped. "Because," she said, dropping Cassidy back to the ground. "You worked for what you wanted and you didn't let anything get in the way of your dreams."

"You ran with me," Cassidy whispered as she held on around Andy's neck. "And you kicked the ball with me when I asked."

"Well," Andy grinned, tapping Cassidy's nose and glancing at Miranda, who has just joined then. "Prada's aren't really built for soccer are they?"

Miranda's lips twitched and Andy was reminded they were still in public.

"Let's go get some brunch and you can tell me all about it."

-0-

Brunch was a hoot and Andy was still chuckling about it later as Miranda locked up the car and handed Andy the keys in the Runway parking lot.

"If I'm going to leave my bag, then you might as well take care of the important things," Miranda chuckled. 

"I can carry it if you'd prefer?"

"We will not need it," Miranda shrugged. "And there is some time to kill before Jordan arrives?"

"Yeah, he's due to arrive at two."

"Excellent," Miranda nodded. "Come along girls."

They rode the elevator up to the Runway floor and the girls disappeared to the left to raid the closet, as they did every time they came to Runway.

"Leave the ones on the racks, darlings."

"We know Mom," Caroline rolled her eyes, before hugging her impetuously. "Love you."

"I love you," Miranda whispered, kissing her hair. "Remember to be back here before Jordan arrives."

"I have my phone," Caroline nodded.

"Come along Andréa."

Andy followed her mercurial boss into their office and immediately split off to her own desk to read the notes left in her inbox. She was about to boot up her computer when Miranda called her in.

"Hmm?"

"Someone has been in the safe," she muttered, standing with a hand on her hip.

"Are you sure?"

"I am," Miranda muttered. "I remembered an old trick Cassidy used to use on her bedroom door when she was young," she scoffed, shaking her head. "Look."

Andy peered into the safe and chuckled when she saw the fine white hair taped to the door. 

"Sneaky," Andy chuckled as she looked up at Miranda. "Did they take anything?"

"No," Miranda waved the idea away. "And I really don't keep anything in here worth him taking. It is more personal. Everything is secure on the Cloud, no?"

"Yep," Andy nodded. "And Pete's got instructions to message us both if anything is untoward."

"Hmm."

"He's getting desperate. But I don't get why?"

"I'm wondering if he knows that we are onto him. He cannot be that dense. He's not risen to that position with no intelligence at all. He just fails to use it appropriately."

"What do you want to do?"

"Do we still have those cameras in?"

"Oh!" Andy said, her eyes widening as she remembered. "Yes!"

"Can you pull them up?"

"Yep. Two minutes."

She pulled out her phone and made a phone call to the IT department and their inside man. After a few quiet words, her phone pinged and she moved closer to Miranda to watch with her.

The video was not as clear as Andy would have liked, but small mercies, it was clearly Irv who had come in after hours, in the dark.

"That isn't suspicious at all?"

Miranda snorted and pulled Andy's arm closer so she could see better.

"I'm beginning to regret my decision to not allow you to put cameras in my office."

"No," Andy shrugged. "I think it's okay. I mean. This is shady as -"

"Andréa," Miranda muttered.

"Sorry. But he clearly lets himself into your locked office and comes out again twenty minutes later."

"I," Miranda swallowed. "Get a cleaning crew in here, will you?" she asked, looking a little uncomfortable. "I can't imagine what he was doing and I"m not interested in finding out."

"Ew," Andy groaned. "Ew ew ew."

"I wouldn't put it past him. I think he's been sleeping with someone from HR for a long while."

"No way!"

"Hmm."

"Mom?"

"In here loves," Miranda called. "Actually. We'll come out there. Stay there."

"Ew," Andy repeated, taking the small slap to her arm. 

"Jordan's nearly here. Can we meet him so his Mom doesn't have to park?"

"Yes, although if they want to pull into the parking lot, they may. I'm not sure they'll have to pay for parking if I validate their pass."

"Good point," Cassidy giggled. "Are you okay?"

"Yes," Miranda nodded. "There is some funny business afoot and Andréa and I were just discussing our defence."

"Mr Ravitz again?"

"Shh," Andy whispered. "Not too loud."

"Yes," Miranda nodded. "But it is nothing to worry about. Andréa and I have it in hand. Now. If Jordan is on his way, perhaps I will lock this in Nigel's office, instead of mine and we shall be off."

"I'll go if you like?"

Miranda pulled out her credit card and ID, handing them to Andy with a grin, then handing over the bag. 

"You are my assistant."

"Bloody cheeky," Andy rolled her eyes.

She did what she had to, double-checking Nigel's door as she left and joined the Priestleys at the elevator.

"Ready?"

"Jordan's Mom is just parking," Caroline said as they entered the elevator. "You'll be kind, won't you Mom?" Caroline asked quietly.

"Do you think I wouldn't be?"

"No," Caroline said. "It's just important to me."

"I will behave," Miranda smiled, waiting for Caroline to look up at her. "I promise."

"And you'll come with us to Kinokuniya."

"I am even looking forward to it," Miranda chuckled. "Try not to worry, darling."

"Andy said she'd take me rock-climbing next weekend too."

"No way!" Cassidy said and Andy saw Carolie's face drop.

"Just me a Caro, munchkin," Andy said airily. "I figured she can show me how it works and then once we get a handle on it, we'll invite you guys?"

Caroline leaned against her in relief and Miranda met Andy's eyes over her head. Normally quite privy to Miranda's thoughts, something flashed across them that Andy couldn't read but the gentle smile was enough for her to let it go.

"I for one am quite alright with that," Miranda smiled. "Lord knows I will have to take some valium in order to join you both."

"It's not that high, Mom," Caroline giggled, looking much recovered.

"Anything that is higher than my highest pair of shoes is high, my darling. But we are here now, so no more talk of it."

Cassidy and Caroline laughed as they exited the elevator and Andy held the door for Miranda.

"Such chivalry."

Andy smiled and followed as Miranda, ever the consummate professional met Jordan's mother, who Andy waved to from the side, and they set off for a day out in Downtown Manhattan.

-0-

Very much later, as was their custom, Andy was reading an article about cybersecurity when her phone rang.

"Hey," she put her finger between the pages.

"Do you think she should accept the scholarship?"

"No small-talk, right," Andy chuckled. "I don't know. I imagine she doesn't need one, on account of your impressive bottom line. But," she lay back on her bed. "She's also earned her spot."

"My thoughts exactly. I know nothing of universities, but I know a little."

"I know they're expensive," Andy chuckled. "My parents paid a little. And co-signed one of the loans. But -" She got lost thinking about what a burden that had been on all of them. "Well. It's my loan, so."

"I understand," Miranda mused. "On the one hand, I have in mind that perhaps they should learn a little about being," she paused.

"Poor?"

"Hmm. Careful."

"They are pretty careful anyway. I mean you have to practically force Caroline to buy those pens today."

"She is quite amusing at times," Miranda chuckled. 

"Did she say anything to you about Jordan?"

"No, but I fear it is her that is going to get the first 'talk', as it were."

"Hmm. She asked me why I didn't get another boyfriend earlier," Andy chuckled.

There was silence on the other end, where Andy had expected a laugh and she frowned.

"You there?"

"Why have you not found someone else to share your life with?" Miranda asked quietly.

"As if I have time for a boyfriend," Andy chuckled. "Also, it may have escaped your notice, but I'm pretty happy on my own. Plus, I know you. I get the privilege of being your friend. I don't imagine that I could persuade you to let a perfect stranger join us."

"I do not want to stand in the way of your happiness," Miranda said tersely.

Andy frowned.

"I'm not saying that."

"I think I should -"

"No," Andy groaned. "Don't. I'm not sure what just happened, but you're not listening."

"I was simply -"

"You're not simply anything. You three are more important to me than any man could ever be, alright? Why don't you know that?"

There was more silence on the other end of the phone and Andy let it sit for as long as she could stand it.

"Miranda?"

"I'm here."

"Wanna watch a movie with me?"

"Yes," Miranda whispered. "I left a copy of Charade on your DVD cabinet."

Andy chuckled and got up to put it on. 

"Ready?"

"Mmm," she muttered. "OK."

They watched quietly until Andy heard the soft snores of Miranda on the phone.

"Good night Miranda," she whispered, hanging up the phone. 

She watched the rest of the film before turning it off and sitting in the dark. She couldn't help but think that there was something she was missing, but even in the quiet of her beautiful apartment, it just would not come to the front of her mind. Giving up on thinking, Andy curled around one of the cushions on the sofa and lay back down, putting Planet Earth on Netflix and watching it absently as she slowly fell asleep.

Chapter Text

Since Cassidy's triumphant soccer success, the attention had turned to Caroline. Every Saturday, Andy would let herself into the Townhouse, make sure Caroline had eaten something and departed the Townhouse and make their way to the closest Subway station to go climbing.

Had Andy never started working for Miranda, she would have described climbing as one of the hardest things she'd ever had to do. However, as she had, it was only the second hardest thing she'd ever had to do and she took great delight in telling Miranda that as often as possible.

As time wore on, Caroline and Andy eased into the different movements and the different strength required to complete the somewhat complicated climbs. Andy had found a reputable gym not too far away from their street and Miranda had paid for a few private lessons for both of them. It had surprised Andy how quickly she and Caroline took to it. And after five or so lessons, they knew how to climb properly and efficiently.

As a rule, they stuck to the gym they had taken their lessons in. Sometimes, though, they went to different gyms throughout the city for a change of scene. Even if they had a great time on the new walls, they always returned to the original. Andy was nothing if not thorough and it was, hands down, the best climbing gym in New York. Very occasionally, Miranda and Cassidy joined them. Cassidy had even had a few turns, but had declared that she much preferred to be on the ground with a ball at her feet than fifty feet in the air.

Andy had seen Caroline smile brighter than ever on that day.

It was on such a Saturday, while Miranda was sipping a coffee quietly on a rickety-looking table that the gym brought out especially for her, that Andy heard her phone ring. She frowned, looking down from where she was, clinging to three holds with fingers and toes as Miranda turned over the screen and frowned.

It was unusual for her phone to ring on the weekend, and it usually only ever happened when she wasn't with Miranda.

"Andy, you okay?" Caroline asked from just a little below her, on the wall beside her.

"Yep," she called, looking a little longer at Miranda before deciding something serious was happening and she had to get down.

"I'm coming down," she called to her belay partner.

They'd tried to have Caroline hang onto the rope but Andy had been just a little too heavy for her to cope with. They'd made friends with another pair that climbed usually at the same time they did and they often swapped partners while Andy was climbing.

"Are you okay Andy?" Nick asked her as she unclipped her rope.

"Yeah, sorry. Just work," she smiled. "Caroline, once you're done, let Nick and Sandy climb on their own, yeah?"

"She's fine," Nick waved her off. "Go."

She walked over to where Miranda was practically spitting acid down the phone line.

"What happened?"

Cassidy looked worried but she shrugged. It wasn't until Miranda hung up the phone with an incomprehensible noise that Andy knew how serious that it really was.

"Who was that?"

"Nigel."

"What? Why is Nigel calling me?"

"You spoke to Uncle Nigel like that?" Cassidy asked, getting a glare from both Miranda and Andy.

"Go stick with your sister," Andy muttered, patting her on the backside to get her moving.

"Someone," Miranda hissed. "Has sabotaged this week's issue and all the pictures have been swapped out for pictures of animals."

"What?" Andy asked, incredulously. "I mean," she stared. "WHAT? But that's -" She shook her head. "That's almost impossible!"

"Evidently not, Andréa."

"But that," her brain kicked into gear as she worked the problem through her mind. "That means there's someone here and in the printers undermining us. Because that's been at the printers for -"

"Yes," Miranda seethed.

"Holy shit," Andy muttered.

Miranda had suddenly gone a very funny colour and Andy knew that this was the angriest she'd ever seen the woman. No amount of annoyance at Irv, or Stephen or Jacqueline Folet could match the anger she was exuding from every pore.

Making an executive decision, she glanced at the Twins, one of whom was still climbing and the other was being strapped in by Nick to take a turn while they were waiting, she held out her hand to Miranda.

"Come with me," she muttered. Miranda glared at her hand for a long while and then took it, allowing Andy to pull her up and through the gym to the back. Deciding against the public toilets, Andy pulled her inside the equipment room and locked the door behind them. "Talk. Before you explode."

"How DARE he," she almost yelled, shocking Andy more than anything ever had. "How dare he go after the magazine. I can almost understand him fighting me for this, but the magazine? The one successful magazine that the company has? I -"

She carried on hissing wildly as Andy tried to remember that the vitriol being spewed was nothing to do with her.

"You are not listening."

"I am," Andy muttered. "I'm just trying to remember that it's not me you're talking about."

Miranda recoiled, looking hurt. Her hands were shaking.

"Not that I thought you were," Andy said quickly, taking one of those hands and soothing it gently. "But you get very angry and when you get angry you get very mean. I guess," she said quietly. "I have hang-ups about that."

"I -" Miranda took a deep breath. "Am sorry."

"No, I am, that's unfair for me to bring you in here and then panic."

"I will do better."

"You don't have to," Andy said apologetically.

"I will," Miranda smiled. She turned her hand over in Andy's and squeezed it gently. "Thank you for letting me vent. I cannot say that I feel better but I feel less likely to murder the next person to speak to me."

"Very glad to hear it," Andy chuckled, making Miranda smile. They fell silent for a moment. "So. What's the plan?"

Miranda's eyes grew dark and they met Andy's.

"We're going to crush them."

-0-

Andy and Miranda emerged from the equipment room ready to go to war. Caroline and Cassidy had finished climbing and they had packed everything up and were sitting at the little table, ready to go. In a quiet discussion with Andy, both decided that they would go with them to Runway so Miranda decided just to head there immediately.

The lobby at Elias Clarke was mostly empty except the echoing noise from Miranda's heels as she stormed across the floor. Security was holding an elevator for them and Andy ushered the girls inside and pushed the button.

"Girls, I want you to stay near Andréa's desk for the time being, until we figure out what has occurred and what we are going to do about it."

They nodded and Caroline leant against Andy's side as they rode silently. Andy took the time to consider that they'd come straight from the climbing gym and to the office and she was currently wearing nothing but a pair of Ultracor leggings - a personal present from Miranda to match Caroline's pair - and an oversized t-shirt over a sports bra.

"I should have changed," she muttered to herself.

"Nonsense," Miranda muttered. "You're off the clock."

"You look really good Andy," Cassidy said helpfully. "Like. Super hot."

"Cassidy!" Caroline squealed, right as Andy did.

Andy closed her eyes in embarrassment and shook her head. But, as the elevator slowed, she heard a small chuckle from her friend and boss.

"She is not wrong," Miranda smirked as Andy looked up. "You have worked hard and you are reaping the benefits. It is not an unpleasant sight to behold."

Andy gaped as the elevator stopped and Miranda stalked out of there like there was nothing at all untoward about what she said.

"Did she just -"

"Yup," Caroline said airily. "Let's go, Andy."

Andy shook herself and blinked as she tried to grab what was left of her mind and her dignity and own her own look in the lair of the most beautiful women in the world.

"Six!" Nigel cried when he saw her. "I like this look. Very boho chic workout feel."

"Nigel," she growled.

"Where is her Majesty? Hello little ones," he smiled, ruffling Cassidy's hair and cupping Caroline's cheek.

"She's in her office as far as I know. I," she shrugged. "What's going. What do you need?"

"We need a full reprint," he muttered. "Also, I'm sorry, I just can't -"

He grabbed her arm and turned her.

"Woman, you are looking svelte."

"Svelte? Nigel, come on."

"I'm serious. You have dropped safely down into a three. Maybe I need to call you Half-a."

"Fuck off," she muttered, remembering at last minute that the girls were with her. They giggled at her slip and she tugged on Cassidy's ponytail. "We are going to my desk, where we will remain and you should go and see Miranda about what we need to do."

"Yes boss," he quipped, making her roll her eyes. She steered the girls to her desk and set them up with a granola bar each while they got sorted.

The day was immediately chaotic. Luckily Andy had, sometime in the last six months, started keeping backup copies of the spreads. For a multi-million dollar magazine, why Miranda's assistants hadn't started doing that, she would never know, but she did and as such, it wasn't a total hassle to find them again.

The printers, however, was another story.

Miranda flatly refused to use them again. Ever. On pain of death. It took the back-up printers quite a long time to reset their machines and the budget got a massive hit as Runway was made to pay the price for the last minute requests.

By six, Andy was rolling her neck to ease the tension, her stomach was rumbled, almost constantly and the girls had gone home with Cara a few hours prior. Honestly, she was glad of it. After complaining one too many times, Andy had finally lost the ability to do two things at once and had them call Cara but now, Andy was beginning to wish she'd gone with them.

Miranda, however, seemed to live on the drama and worked tirelessly through the moments that it went dark outside her window.

"Andréa?"

"Yes Miranda?" she asked, stepping into the dark office.

"I -" she muttered. "Oh -" she stood, looking around.

"I'm here," Andy said, turning on the lamp and trying to keep the exhaustion from her voice.

"I -" she glanced outside. "Lost track of the time."

"It's okay. I was just debating whether to come and tell you."

"I," she blinked. "Would you like to go for dinner?"

"Um," Andy was charmed. "Sure," Andy nodded happily. "Although, I'm not exactly -"

"Take something from the closet, there is some new True Religion that just came in. Have Nigel pair it with something."

"Yes, Miranda."

She wandered out of the office while Miranda started wrapping up. The halls were dark and empty and she took stock of her surroundings. It wasn't how she'd imagined her weekend going, but honestly and despite her discomfort, it wasn't something she was upset about. She craved the silent moments she spent working with Miranda. Even with Nigel flitting in and out, and before the girls went, their quiet muttering. It was peaceful, despite the reason they were there in the first place.

"Hey kid," Nigel smiled as she knocked on the doorframe.

"I've been informed I need to change. There are some True Religion somewhere. And Nigel has to pair something with it."

He chuckled and nodded, leading the way to The Closet and passing her an outfit.

"Try that and then we'll see."

She nipped behind the curtain, well versed in changing in The Closet after so long. She pulled on her jeans and shook her head at Nigel's cheek. There were rips up and down the legs and she opened her mouth to complain when a La Perla bra was thrown over the rail.

"I doubt you're wearing something appropriate."

"We were climbing!" she complained, taking it anyway.

"Hmm," he said, making her look around the curtain.

"What?"

"Nothing," he said, shaking his head. He had a look on his face that she couldn't read but he shook his head and smiled. "Come on, come on. Get on with it. Time waits for no man and Miranda waits for fewer."

She rolled her eyes again and ducked back behind the curtain.

"Miranda was saying that you have a lovely view of the Park from your place," he said suddenly, making her stop. She swallowed, her arms half in her bra as she tried to think on her feet.

"Um, yeah," she said, trying to figure out why on earth Miranda would say that to Nigel.

"And..." he said slowly.

"And what," she sighed. "What do you want, Nigel?"

"Nothing," he said gently as she pulled on the cropped jacket and yanked back the curtains. "Andy," he said gently, stopping her hands from pulling too hard on the bespoke jacket. "Nothing. I just thought it strange that our enigmatic leader had been to your place for long enough to see the view, that's all. I don't even know where you live."

"It's," she frowned. "She got me the place, okay? She's helping me."

"Sorry," Nigel said slowly. "Miranda Priestly is -"

"Yes. She's my landlord."

Nigel's face was a picture of shock as he struggled to comprehend the information.

"We're friends," she said, quieter still.

"I -"

Nigel cleaned his glasses, which Andy now knew was to give him time to consider his answer.

"Don't do that," she muttered. "Just say it."

"Say what, Doll?" he asked gently. "I think it's great. It certainly explains," he made a face. "Every single question I've had about why you don't come out for drinks anymore, or why Miranda has been in a perpetual good mood for, ooh," he chuckled. "Longer than I've ever seen!"

"Nigel," she huffed.

"I'm serious," he shrugged. "If you have both found a," he hesitated. "Friendship with each other that ticks all the boxes then, what do I care? I am a little hurt that neither of you told me, but," he considered it again. "I also understand."

"Nate left, after Paris."

"Okay."

"I, we had a," she made air quotes. "Come-to-Jesus moment, which you know. The day before she met you and explained." He nodded along. "I laid it out for her. What I needed, what I needed from her. What we, collectively, needed to do and," she shrugged. "She agreed. And more than that, she agreed to work with me to achieve it."

She recounted her friendship with Miranda back to him, giving him all the details and yet sharing very little. She had learned a lot from Miranda's lessons in reducing the 'oversharing' as she called it and when she finished, Nigel was polishing his glasses again.

"That's really something, kid."

"Nig -"

"No, I mean it! I really am glad. And," he said gently. "Now I know, I do truly understand why you wouldn't want to tell anyone. I see what you go through," he said gently. "What they say. Well, maybe now I know, I can come over for a drink and see this famed view."

"Sure," she smiled. "I'd like that."

"Andréa?" Miranda said gently from the door. "Are you ready?"

Andy turned and Miranda's eyes wandered down her body to her bare feet. A tiny smirk appeared and she cocked an eyebrow as their eyes met again.

"Nigel, perhaps you can find some shoes for our Andréa, while I call the elevator."

She turned and walked away and Andy chuckled.

"Um," Nigel said gently. "What -"

"Hmm?" Andy asked, expectantly.

There was a moment where they looked at each other and Nigel wore a look on his face that she just could not work out.

"Never mind," he smiled gently. "Let me get you the shoes. These will be perfect."

He rummaged through the closet and pulled down a pair of six-inch, low cut boots and let her hold his shoulder while she pulled them on.

"How do I look."

"Beautiful," he smiled. "Really. Now, you need this," he said, handing her a bag. "And," he turned and produced a beautiful, sparkling necklace that hung low between her breasts. He slid in two dangling earrings and stepped back. "Have a good night, yes?"

"Are you coming down?"

"I have a few more things to take care of, and then I'm going home to a nice bottle of Merlot."

They walked to the elevator together, arm in arm until they met Miranda, standing with her hand in front of the doors.

"Ah," she smiled. "There you are. Nigel, thank you for your help today. I," Miranda glanced at Andy. "Thank you."

"You," Nigel said carefully. "Are most welcome. Enjoy your evening, ladies," he said, stepping back and watching them enter the elevator. As the doors closed, Nigel's face turned into a smirk and something passed between Miranda and him that Andy didn't understand.

"Oh," Miranda sighed eventually, as the car started moving. "What a day."

"Is there anything else for us to do tomorrow?"

"No. I am assured by the Printers that they will have the copies in the stacks by Monday. They are going to run a double crew, which," she bit her lip. "Will cost us more than not, but," she shrugged. "We can do nothing about that. We will recoup the cost with the next issue, no doubt, but that does not mean he will not make us squirm until then."

"I hate him," Andy growled.

"Hate is a strong word, Andréa," Miranda soothed, her arm curling around Andy's as the elevator came to a stop. "One that should be reserved for ex-husbands and pitiful parents. Not one that should be wasted on insignificant, jumped-up dwarves."

Andy laughed as they walked leisurely through the lobby. Roy was waiting, as patiently as ever, and he greeted them happily as they stepped towards the car.

"Ladies," he touched his hat. "You do look lovely tonight -" Miranda chuckled. "Where are we off to tonight?"

"Oh, I think somewhere nice," Miranda said conversationally. "Perhaps the MOMA?"

"Miranda, I'm not dressed for that!"

"Nonsense," Miranda waved her off. "You look beautiful."

"Wait," Andy frowned. "I do?"

Miranda looked caught for a moment before rolling her eyes.

"You do. I will not repeat it. Nigel has promoted your best assets, which is to say, you are perfectly dressed for any occasion that you join me for. So," she offered Andy her own lipstick from her purse. "Do not worry so much."

Andy held the lipstick in her hand for a moment before shrugging and putting some on. As they pulled up to the MOMA, Miranda glanced at her and Andy stayed very still as she reached out and ran a thumb under Andy's bottom lip.

"There," she said gently. "Perfect."

Andy was still reeling when they got out of the car and were seated immediately.

After ordering drinks and a starter, Miranda sat back, fiddling with her bracelet and staring at everything except Andy.

"Ok, what is going on?"

"Hmm?"

"Why aren't we talking?"

"I," Miranda shrugged. "Have nothing to say at present."

"But you're being weird."

"No I am not," Miranda huffed.

"Oh yes you are," Andy laughed. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing."

"Miranda."

"I had a good day today," she said, though Andy knew that was not what was on her mind. "From the moment we arrived at that terrifying gym, throughout the painful nature of today, I had a good day. And yet," she sighed. "Someone sought to derail this -" She waited while the sommelier poured the wine. "Someone sought to usurp all of our hard work and that, Andréa, is unforgivable."

"We'll get him," Andy smiled. "I'm sure we will."

"We must," Miranda huffed. "It is imperative. I will not have him destroying the magazine."

"Miranda," Andy chuckled, sitting back with her glass of wine. "We'll get him."

"Hmm," she nodded. "How is the wine?"

"Delicious," Andy smiled. "Are you planning on eating something other than steak?"

"I eat other things," Miranda pouted. "As you well know."

Andy chuckled and after a moment, Miranda smiled.

"Cheeky," she muttered. "The Beef Wellington is delicious here. It is what I often have."

"So steak, but wrapped in carbs?"

"Oh be quiet," Miranda teased as the server joined them.

They ordered their food, both getting the Wellington in the end, and were left alone again.

"Tell me something I don't know?"

"Andréa," Miranda muttered. "You know everything about me, I am sure."

"No I don't," she chuckled. "Everything about you since I met you, not much about you before?"

"What would you like to know?"

"Do you have siblings?"

"I do not," Miranda said, looking amused. "Do you?"

"Yes. One sister, we're not as close as I'd like. She is older than me and takes after my mother."

"Are you still not on speaking terms?"

"No," Andy shook her head. "No, we've not spoken since," she swallowed "Paris."

"Come now," Miranda muttered. "Surely you are not still on edge about that? That moment changed our lives," she sipped her wine greedily. "For the better."

"I know," Andy nodded. "But it was," she thought about it. "A moment that literally changed my existence. You did that."

"No, Andréa," Miranda sat forward. "You did that. I was just swept along in your wake."

"Miranda -"

"I'm serious," she smirked. "I told you, I am nothing. A woman with two children and a dog. You are the one with the world at her feet. You are the shining light to which all are drawn. It is a pleasure to watch you succeed, Andréa."

"You're crazy," she chuckled, sitting back with a huff.

"I am," Miranda chuckled. "I have been told many times."

"I didn't -"

"I know," Miranda nodded. "I did not think that you were serious."

"Well," Andy shook herself. "This turned bizarre."

"Indeed. Let us talk of something less fraught. I was reading an article yesterday about -"

They talked until the staff asked them, rather haltingly, to leave. The girls had called earlier to say goodnight and they'd followed up their delicious dinner with coffee and a small bowl of creme brulee that they shared and they had talked excitedly about everything from the social constructs that women were placed under, all the way to the perpetuating unfairness of sports scholarships in universities. But now, it was time to go and Andy helped Miranda with her jacket, dropping her own over her arm.

They walked leisurely out of the exit and Andy laughed as Roy stood, throwing his paper into the car and stepping forward to get the door.

"This man needs a raise."

"Andréa!" Miranda said scandalously.

"Sorry Roy," she chuckled. "The wine was pretty strong," she giggled.

"You are not drunk," Miranda smirked.

"No, but I'm on the way," Andy grinned, feeling the world spinning slowly.

"Hopeless," Miranda scoffed. "Roy, do you need a raise?"

"I -" he stared at her. "No, Miranda."

"Nevertheless, I'll pay you from my own pocket for tonight. I've kept you much longer than I should have. Perhaps we will do that from now on?"

"Miranda, I -"

"Send me an invoice," she waved her hand airily as Andy grabbed it and helped her into the car. "Lord, I haven't drunk this much in a long time."

"Since Paris," Andy giggled when she got in, slumping against Miranda's side. "That was so funny."

"I'll thank you not to repeat it," Miranda muttered, sliding her arm under Andy's and settling down. "How long Roy?"

"'Bout ten minutes."

"Andréa," Miranda muttered.

"I'm sleepy," she sighed, the wine having loosened her senses. "You smell good."

"Thank you," Miranda whispered.

Andy felt a soft touch to her cheek and she sighed once more, pressing her face into Miranda's arm.

"Don't get comfortable," she mused. "It is time for you to go home."

Andy blinked as she felt the car slow, even as she was sure she only just got in. She sat up, rubbing her eyes.

"Ah," Miranda said, taking her hands. "Andréa, surely you have learned by now that you cannot just rub your eyes."

"There are so many rules," she whined.

There was a quiet chuckle from Miranda as she tried to bring her mind back to normality.

"I'm never drinking with you again," she murmured. "I already said that once."

"We have fun," Miranda said. Andy heard her smile in her tone.

"Oh be quiet."

Andy shook her head and looked sideways at Miranda as they pulled up to her building.

"I've really enjoyed this."

"As have I. We will do it again."

"Promise?"

"I do," Miranda nodded, smiling gently. "Now," she sat forward and pulled Andy's jacket over her shoulders. "Hang this up when you get home. And wash your face."

"I'm not a kid," Andy said with a frown.

"I know," Miranda whispered. "But you are quite drunk and lord knows you may not even make it to your door."

"Hey!" Andy said, coming out of her comfortable haze to protest.

"That's better. I shall not feel quite so bad letting you go on your own."

"You," Andy said, taking Miranda's hand. "Are like nobody I've ever met. And I'm really glad to be your friend."

"As am I," Miranda nodded, using the hand Andy was holding and pulling Andy's close to her face. "Goodnight, Andréa."

"'Night," Andy smiled as Minrada pulled her in for a hug. "Sleep well."

"And you," Miranda whispered.

She pulled away and got out of the car. The brisk air sobered her a little and she bent back down to look at Miranda.

"Thank you," she said genuinely.

"Thank you, Andréa," Miranda answered. "I will wait here until you are inside."

"'Kay," she nodded. "'night Roy."

"Goodnight Andy," he chuckled.

She made her way into the building and turned at the last minute to wave. Miranda had the window down and as Roy pulled away, their eyes met and Andy took a deep breath.

It was so nice to have such a good friend.

Chapter Text

A week after the 'animal issue' as she'd taken to calling it, Andy was sitting behind her desk, doing the budgets and trying to account for the excess printing costs without making a meal of it. It was going to be a palaver either way they sold it, so Andy decided that they'd just be upfront about it. Accounting seemed to prefer it like that. The good news was that the printing had been done on time and the issue had gone out on time and the projections were that they'd managed to marginally increase last month's totals.

That, in itself, was cause for celebration.

Their dinner hadn't been mentioned at all in the following days. It was both a relief for Andy but also a constant strain. Honestly, she'd been living in perpetual embarrassment for getting drunk. It had been so long since she'd had a night out. And then, she'd embarrassed Miranda like that. 

She hit the spacebar particularly hard. 

She was pathetic.

Other than that, things seemed to have returned to normal. Or, she shook her head, their new normal. They had to be twice as careful as they were already being about leaving things out and keeping paper copies. The budget report that Irv had tried to screw with had been an amusing litmus test of his patience, and owing to the safe break-in and the 'incident' Andy was sure that his patience was about to run out.

She just hoped that didn't mean that something big was coming that they could not just fix and get on with.

"Andréa?"

She looked up, surprised to see Miranda standing at her door, looking at her quizzically.

"Yes, Miranda?"

"Have," she paused. "Is there something wrong?"

"Um, no?" Andy frowned. "Why?"

She glanced at the closed door.

"You seem to be abusing your keyboard particularly hard today and," she shrugged nonchalantly. "You have not been your usual, obnoxiously chirpy self?"

"Obnoxiously chirpy," Andy chuckled. "Really?"

"It is an odd day that I do not get to see your annoyingly bright smile. I find myself," she paused again. "Missing it."

"I," Andy blushed. "Embarrassed you, at dinner, I mean."

"Embarrassed," Miranda mused. "I, no, Andréa. You did not."

"I got drunk."

"After a long day, with very little food and less sleep? I was not embarrassed, Andréa. You were," she chuckled. "Adorable."

"Adorable?"

"Yes," Miranda laughed. "Did you know you sigh a lot when you are drunk?"

"Urgh," she groaned, giving in and laughing a little as she got up. "Well. I am still sorry."

"Don't be," Miranda shrugged. "I had a lovely evening, leave it at that."

"Are," Andy bit her lip as she rounded her desk. "Are you sure?"

"I am," Miranda said quietly, in that voice she seemed to only use around Andy and the twins. "Make us coffee and join me?"

Andy nodded and did as she was told, settling into the chair across the desk afterwards. The first sip elicited a thankful hum which was echoed not two minutes later from Miranda.

"You have all the greatest ideas," she muttered, making Andy laugh. "Now, how is the editorial on our erstwhile CEO coming along?" 

Andy snorted and didn't mean to, but the tiny upturned corners of Miranda's mouth made it worth it.

"Um, not going as well as I'd hoped although I've put feelers out for those people that I don't necessarily have much contact with. I roped Serena into helping. She's doing the rounds, as it were."

"Good. Keep on it. He's getting desperate," she muttered.

"I thought the same thing," Andy nodded. "I'll touch base with her today and see what she thinks."

"Good," Miranda nodded. "Good."

"Are," Andy glanced at the calendar and noticed a small pink block at the top of the day that she'd completely missed. "Ah. When did they go?"

"This morning," Miranda sighed, sitting back. "They slept in, which is why they did not come to see you beforehand."

"That's okay," Andy chuckled. "They'll be back."

"I have no doubt they will call you tonight," Miranda said gently. "Probably before they call me." She sighed. "Why do they keep giving him a chance. I have never understood it."

"He's their dad," Andy shrugged. "Despite everything that happened to me, even at my age, I'd probably give my Dad another chance."

"What did happen?"

"Oh, I complained about my life one too many times. Then I broke up with the guy they were convinced I was going to marry and have babies with. As far as they were concerned I was alone and destitute in the big, evil city. One step away from selling my body to the next bidder."

"That's melodramatic," Miranda chuckled. "Even if you had left I would have given you a reference."

"Really?"

Miranda just lifted an eyebrow and Andy bit her lip.

"Do you want children, Andrea?"

"I've never really had the urge, no," she chuckled. "I like kids, but I like handing them back better," she chuckled. "I figure at this point, I'd just share yours."

"You're welcome to them," she smiled. "You will miss your regular climbing session this weekend."

"Oh, that's true," she nodded. "I can't persuade you to join me?" The horror in Miranda's face made Andy giggle. "No, didn't think so. Never mind, it feels wrong going on my own, so, maybe," she paused. "Let me take you out for brunch or something? As an apology for dinner?"

"I do not need an apology," Miranda said gently.

"OK, so brunch?"

"Yes," Miranda nodded. "Now get back to work."

Andy laughed and went back to her desk, feeling lighter than she had in days. 

-0-

"Miranda Priestly's office?"

"Andy? It's Serena. I need to," she paused. "Want to go for coffee? Somewhere," another pause. "Outside?"

Andy frowned, checking it really was Make-up on the phone and glanced at Miranda through the open door. 

"Sure," she said slowly. 

"It's about your extracurricular work."

"Oh," Andy exclaimed. "Yes. Absolutely."

"Ten minutes?"

"Lemme clear it, but yes. Meet you by the elevators."

Andy hung up and got her coat and bag, waiting at Miranda's door until she looked up.

"Serena has some information. I'm going out for coffee. Should I -"

"Yes. Leave the phones, I'll get them. Come back with something good, Andréa."

"I'll let you know."

She nodded and Andy fled the office and met Serena just as she pushed the button for the elevator.

"Hey Querida," she muttered as they stood waiting.

"You okay?"

"Angry," Serena growled. 

Andy nodded and they got in the elevator together, neither speaking while they waited for the car to reach the lobby. They strode out of the building and finally, Andy felt they could talk. 

"Do you want to go here, or 46th?"

"Let's not go here," she muttered. "It would be better if nobody overhears."

"Then I have a better idea," Andy nodded. She pulled out her phone and shot off a text and nodded towards the closest Starbucks. "Get what you want, then we'll go for a drive."

Her phone rang and she gave her order to Serena to get while she ducked outside to take the call.

"Yes?"

"Are you due anywhere in the next hour?"

"No, as you well know."

"I'm going to take Serena for a drive so we're not overheard. Want us to conference you in?"

"No," she muttered. "It's too risky that someone will walk in. Give me the cliff-notes later and we'll handle it. You don't think she -"

"No," Andy sighed. "She's angry, not hurt. Someone else I think, though I don't know how serious."

"There have been rumours for years," Miranda muttered. "And I have not done enough about it."

"Don't go putting the weight of this on your shoulders," Andy said, watching as Serena picked up the drinks. "This isn't your fault. You're fixing it."

"Not soon enough."

"It will be alright," Andy said gently.

"Hmm."

"I gotta go, see you later."

She hung up and took her coffee right as Roy pulled up across the road.

"We're going for a drive," she smiled.

"Perfect," Serena nodded.

They got into the car, said their hello's to Roy and waited as the privacy screen lifted. It wasn't that she didn't trust Roy. quite the contrary in fact, but this required a little delicacy and she decided Serena would probably appreciate that.

"Someone in Make-up is being blackmailed."

"Come again?" she said, nearly dribbling her coffee.

"Someone in  -"

"No," Andy said, waving her off. "Sorry. Turn of phrase. How, why?"

"She had an affair."

"Oh no," Andy whispered.

"With Mr Ravitz."

"Oh god," Andy winced. "Why?"

"He gave her things. She was single, young, eager to climb the ladder? I do not think she knew any better."

"So he used her."

"Yes," Serena said. "She admitted to making the odd make-up mistakes that have been happening. The missing palettes, the brushes being trimmed. The colours being wrong. He was instructing her to make things difficult and as much as she liked the presents and the," she made a face. "Other things. She could not do anything too serious seeing as she was not anybody important."

"That sounds like she called it off?"

"He did, three months ago."

"Ok."

"She thinks it is possible that his wife had found some texts. That's what she thought was going on anyway."

"And you said she was being," she frowned. "Blackmailed?"

"She received this," Serena said, passing Andy a picture. "A week after they stopped. And then one every week since then."

"Oh my god," Andy nearly shouted as she turned it over. "Could have warned me."

"Well," Serena chuckled. "The impact was better this way."

"Cruel," Andy winced. "Oh," she said with a frown. "I know her, I can't remember -"

"Mindy."

"That's the one," Andy nodded, wincing again at the photo.

"So, does she think it's Ravitz?"

"Oh," Serena muttered. "I hadn't considered that. We assumed it was someone who had accidentally found out."

"Are they demanding anything?"

"No?"

"Huh," Andy said, turning the photo face down and sitting back. "Blackmailers usually want something in return. This is more like a fear campaign."

"What do you mean?"

"Showing Mindy that they have these so she can see the consequences if it ever got out. Which makes more sense for it to be Irv than anyone else. A random guy in the security office would either want money or," she winced. "Her."

"I see the difference," Serena nodded. "But would he be so stupid?"

"He certainly isn't an extreme intellect. It would be just like him to have whoever he has in Security pull the tapes." She thought about it for a while and then made a face. "Oh," she whispered. "Oh no. I bet he has the tapes of it happening. And his Security guy probably does too."

"If it is him," Serena shuddered. "I mean, even if it isn't -"

"This is what we need," Andy nodded. "If I can find who he has in Security then I can get them to tell me everything and there's my witness."

"I sent her home, told her to lay low."

"She knows you told me?"

"Yes."

"I think Miranda may want to speak to her," Andy mused. "Does she have the other photos that were sent?"

"Yes, I believe so."

"Good. I wonder if I can CSI the photo paper. It's not like these can be printed at CVS."

"Andy? How are you?"

Andy laughed. 

"I'm fine, how are you?"

"Good," Serena nodded. "And Miranda?"

"Also fine," Andy smiled. "The twins have gone to their Dad's for a week and she's missing them but otherwise, all is well."

"You've done wonders, you know," Serena smiled gently. "You were everything that she needed."

"I'm just good at what I do."

"It's more than that," Serena smiled. "Even Emily thinks so."

Andy smiled. 

"Emily was a great assistant, and it meant more to her to be at Runway than it's ever meant to me."

"Which is why it's worked," Serena nodded. "You were there for Miranda. Emily, as much as I love her, was there for Runway."

"Both are valid," Andy said, a little defensively.

"Oh," Serena said quickly. "Of course they were. That's what I mean. That's why it worked."

They fell silent as Andy felt the car pulling up to Runway again.

"I didn't mean anything by that," Serena said quietly.

"Oh, I know," Andy smiled. "I'm just thinking about what we have to do next."

"Well, whatever you have to do, you'll get it done. That's obvious," Serena nodded. "Thanks, Andy. Maybe you should come for drinks one Friday?"

"I'll try," Andy smiled. "Maybe once Irv's gone."

"Ok," Serena shrugged. "Take it easy."

She got out of the car, but Andy did not. She sat for a little while going through everything in her head until she noticed Roy had dropped the privacy screen and was now watching her in the mirror.

"You alright Andy?"

"Yeah," she chuckled. "About to put a world of hurt on someone."

"Well," he said sagely. "You be careful. And remember if you need help, my buddies and I are only a phone call away."

"I remember," she smiled. "Thanks, Roy."

"No problem."

She got out and strutted back into Runway, already considering when Miranda would have time to meet this woman and what the hell they were going to do with the information, now that they had it.

-0-

The conversation with Miranda had not gone down very well. Not only was she horrified that an affair between the CEO and one of her own Make-up staff had gone on under her nose, but that Mindy was stupid enough to do so in full view of the cameras, at work, was enough to make her growl audibly.

"Don't get angry with her," Andy said quietly. "She's young. She didn't know any better."

"She is not more than a year younger than you," Miranda said, suddenly pausing. She frowned and stopped pacing beside her desk and looked sideways at Andy. Not really knowing what was going through Miranda's head, Andy met her gaze and held it.

"Some of us have less sense than years," Andy smiled after a while. 

"Exactly," Miranda said, shaking herself. "Exactly."

She sat back down behind her desk and yanked her glasses off, throwing them on the desk. In an incredibly rare show of exhaustion, she rubbed her eyes.

"Ah," Andy said, trying to bite back a smile. "Don't rub your eyes."

"Oh, shut up," Miranda chuckled. " So many rules ."

Andy laughed and handed over the packet of makeup wipes she had on her at all times for such an occasion. 

"You're sickening efficient."

"Thank you," Andy gloated.

"Keep talking," she said, getting up and going into the bathroom.

"We probably need to meet her on neutral territory," Andy called. 

"What?" Miranda called.

"Neutral territory."

"Oh," Miranda growled, pulling open the door and jerking her head. "This is ridiculous. Get in here."

Andy grinned and joined Miranda in the bathroom, sitting on the uncomfortable chair in the corner of the room.

"Do you entertain here often?" she asked, looking around.

"I am trying to refrain from telling you to shut up again," Miranda smirked, wiping the rest of her makeup off.

"Hmm," Andy grinned. "How's that going again?"

Miranda glowered, her anger only negated by the tiny little hitch in her eyebrow.

"Shutting up now," Andy nodded. "Got it."

"I'm not angry at her," Miranda said, shaking a bottle of foundation. "I'm angry at the injustice of all of it. I'm angry that it happens. That a married man can exert his power over a woman who's paid pennies in comparison to him and then," she scoffed. "Blackmail her to keep her quiet. How dare he."

"We know he's an asshole," Andy sighed. "We just have to pin something on him hard enough that there's nowhere for it to go."

Miranda hummed as she started putting foundation on.

"Your skin is flawless," Andy said, realising suddenly what she'd said. "I mean," she scoffed, deciding that she'd already blurted out whatever it was that was on her mind. "I just mean," she said, shaking her head at herself. "That even though you wear makeup every day, your skin is great. Mine struggles."

"I'll get you some of the moisturiser I use," Miranda muttered. "It's the only thing I've ever found that's worked."

"Oh, no, I didn't -"

"Andréa," Miranda smiled. "I'll get you some."

"Thank you."

"You are welcome," Miranda grinned.

Andy knew she should really have left at that point. They could talk about anything else outside, but this side of Miranda was one of the few she had never seen. She watched in rapt attention as she smoothed a hint of blush under her cheekbones and added just a touch of eyeshadow. She was fascinated as Miranda took her surprisingly delicate eyelashes and smoothed mascara along them, teasing them into a length that Andy was used to.

"You look like you're studying an organism under a microscope," Miranda muttered, not taking her eyes off her task.

"It's fascinating watching you go through the whole process. I've seen bits and pieces but never the whole thing."

"Surely after all this time -"

"Really," Andy smiled. "Most of the time I have been there, someone else has done it for you."

"Well," Miranda said, stepping back and looking at herself. "It has taken many years to perfect."

"It is though," Andy smiled. "Perfect, I mean."

Miranda hummed and Andy took it as her cue to leave.

"I'll go and finish the reports and make sure accounting has them by end of day."

"Invite this Mindy to your place. Tonight, if possible. Send Roy if you need to."

"Sure," Andy nodded. "Would you," she swallowed. "I had planned on doing a small roast tonight. Would you," she shrugged. "Unless you have -"

"Andréa?" Miranda interrupted her. "I would like that."

"Good," Andy sighed. "I just thought seeing as the twins were gone -" She rolled her eyes at herself. "Sorry," she said genuinely.

Miranda waved her off and took one more look at herself.

"Good. Set it up. I will join you at five? The least I can do is," she swallowed. "Peel potatoes."

Andy laughed all the way back to her desk.

Chapter Text

The roast had been nice, as far as Andy could tell. Miranda seemed to enjoy the meal, though she passed on a good number of the carbs. Andy packaged it all up and placed it in the fridge as Miranda relaxed on the sofa. Despite the offer of peeling potatoes, Andy had insisted that Miranda relax while she cleaned up what was left of the dishes.

Mindy's presence had been requested at eight, so there was time to relax before they had to go back on the clock.

"I'm exhausted," Miranda muttered as Andy sat beside her.

"Close your eyes for a while," she suggested. "I won't tell."

Miranda snorted and took another sip of wine instead. 

"Being at the top is exhausting, don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise."

"Wanna watch something?"

"Why can you no longer annunciate?"

"The fear is gone," Andy smiled as she shrugged. "Has been for a while."

"I shall have to rectify that, post-haste." Andy giggled and sipped her glass of diet coke. "How can you drink that swill?"

"Because last time I had wine with you, I got drunk. And the time before that, I got drunk. And I don't think today, considering what we still have to do, is the day for a repeat performance."

Miranda smiled and leant back on the sofa. 

"Tell me something, Andréa."

"Like what?"

"Anything."

"I," Andy shrugged. "Don't know," she chuckled. "What are you interested in?"

"I feel we've had this conversation before," Miranda huffed.

"We did," Andy nodded. "But you weren't sure back then what you were interested in. Any new ideas?"

"No," Miranda huffed. "What are you interested in?"

"Me?"

"Yes," Miranda smirked.

Andy peered at Miranda, less than excited about the sudden reversal of subject.

"I," she thought about it. "I don't know. Normal things, I guess. I like running, I like climbing," she chuckled as Miranda shivered. "I'm not as creative as you. I can't draw or write fiction. Well. I'm okay at fiction, but it's not my passion. I'm not sure I have one yet," she considered it. "Has fashion always been your," she considered rhyming it. "Thing?"

"Andréa," Miranda groaned around a laugh. "Yes, mostly. When I was younger it was drawing. I wanted to be an artist. But," she sighed ruefully. "I find it difficult to capture faces as I wish to," she chuckled. "I have never been able to, so I drew clothes on faceless bodies. Then, as I honed my skills, I wanted to be a designer, until I realised that I had no patience for that. Leaving my future up to others?" She scoffed. "No. I worked hard. I learned everything I could about every aspect of design and fashion and decided that I'd much prefer to be the woman who decided what someone should design, rather than being beholden to that person."

"Of course you did," Andy nodded. "You never had aspirations to do anything else?"

"I wanted to be a doctor when I was six, I think."

"I can't imagine you at six," Andy chuckled. "I can't even imagine you as a doctor."

"I was a rather precocious child."

"Hmm, I wondered where the twins got it," Andy smirked.

"And you?" Miranda said, ignoring the playful dig.

"At six?" Andy said, trying to remember. "Um. I think I wanted to be a unicorn."

Miranda snorted and nearly tipped her wine over.

"Shit," Andy laughed. "Hang on." She rescued the glass and double-checked none had spilt on Miranda before she sat back, shoulder to shoulder, laughing quietly. "I never said I was a sensible six-year-old."

They fell quiet and Andy couldn't bring herself to break the quiet. It was peaceful in her apartment, despite living so close to the neighbours - most of which she'd never met. Miranda huffed and readjusted so she was leaning against Andy's shoulder and Andy felt her get heavier on her arm. Peering over the snow-white hair, she watched Miranda fall asleep. She set an alarm for plenty of time to be ready for Mindy's appearance and closed her eyes as well, falling asleep engulfed in everything Miranda.

-0-

The alarm made her jump and clung to whatever was clinging to her. She blinked, looking down and finding Miranda blinking slowly into wakefulness as well. She silenced the alarm and yawned, pointing her toes and hearing the resounding clunk that her ankles and knees made 

"Okay?" she asked quietly.

"Yes," Miranda muttered. "I should not have slept."

"I'll make coffee."

"Tea," Miranda muttered. "Coffee will give me a headache now."

"'Kay," Andy nodded, getting up and doing just that. By the time she placed the mugs down, it was nearly time for Mindy to make an appearance. "Alright, what's the plan? Good Cop, Bad Cop? We could switch it up, you can be Good Cop this time? I've watched a lot of SVU."

"You are utterly insensible." Andy laughed at the scandalised look she received. "We will ask her what she knows and she will tell us."

"Right," Andy smirked ruefully. "That's exactly how it's going to go."

"Did you tell her to bring all the evidence?"

"Yes," Andy smiled, repeating the answer to the question Miranda had asked her four times since they left Runway. "Mindy will be the first person except you and the girls to come here," she muttered, looking around. "Huh. Maybe I should invite Nigel over."

"Why would you do that?" Miranda asked, a tight tone in her voice.

"Because someone mentioned something to him and he asked."

"He," she frowned. "Oh." There was a pause. "What did he say?"

Andy peered at her boss and couldn't quite work out why she looked so uncomfortable.

"Just that you'd said how good the view is from my apartment. He wondered why you had known. I told him we were friends."

"Oh," she sighed. "Good."

"I was thinking of inviting him over on Sunday. Seeing as the girls are away. You could come over too if you wanted?"

"I will be busy," she muttered.

Before Andy could ask what she meant, her phone announced Roy's presence outside the building and Andy and Miranda stood.

"Ready?" Andy asked.

"Yes. This is the beginning of the end, Andréa. I can feel it."

-0-

It was not the beginning of the end.

What it was, was some sort of mashed-up middle. One that Andy could only surmise had made sense to Miranda in a way that it did not make sense to her.

Mindy had been questioned in the most amazing show of interrogation technique Andy had ever seen. Having seen most of the procedural cop dramas on TV, she thought she, herself, would be pretty good at it, but once Miranda started talking, Andy realised that she knew nothing at all. She briefly wondered if it was worth her life asking Miranda if she had been through a civilian CIA program or something. She looked over at the woman and decided against it. Miranda was currently sitting in the armchair in Andy's living room stroking her glasses along her bottom lip, thinking deeply. 

Truthfully, it hadn't taken much to get Mindy to start talking, but Miranda had been incredibly adept at keeping her on topic and getting her to expound on things that were necessary for their success.

It had turned out that Mindy had been working late one evening when Irv had come in, no doubt looking to cause trouble (though neither of them had mentioned that), and had struck up a conversation with the young woman toiling away after hours. Mindy had stressed how he had tried to get her to bad-mouth Miranda and when she had refrained from doing so, he had asked her if she was interested in a partnership of sorts. 

She had neither agreed, nor disagreed, feeling a little uncomfortable at the way it was worded, but then, the presents had started arriving. He'd bought her diamonds, shoes, dresses and then the quiet evenings had also started. First at a hotel, then at a small apartment, he had rented for her. They discussed Mindy's future over dinner, Irv insisting he had an 'in' with the HR Department between promises of divorce from Mrs Ravitz. 

Like a fool, Mindy had believed him.

After seeing the look on Miranda's face when Mindy had said that, Andy knew that promise to be a false one. Now though, she would have to wait for a full explanation. After hearing all about their torrid affair (much more than Andy needed to know) Mindy had handed over all the photographs that she had been sent, along with a good number of the presents she had received as well. In a show of contrition, before Andy offered to walk Mindy back to the car, Mindy offered her letter of resignation to Miranda. Andy watched, fascinated, as Miranda stared at the woman for a long time before speaking one final time.

"What have you learned in all of this?"

"Um,"

"It is not a trick question," Miranda said quietly, in that terrifying voice she often used during run-throughs. "What have you learned?"

"I," she hesitated. "Have learned to have more respect for myself."

"Keep that," Miranda nodded to the resignation letter. "But if you put another foot wrong, you will not need it ever again, do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, Miranda."

Miranda had waved her hand, like a queen of old, and Andy had walked the poor contrite woman down to where Roy was waiting for her.

"Goodnight, Andy. Thank you."

"You're welcome. Take care," she said, nodding to Roy.

She watched them turn the corner at the end of the street before going back upstairs to where Miranda was still contemplating whatever it was she was contemplating.

Deciding to make herself useful, Andy made another cup of tea for them both and left it beside Miranda without expecting, or receiving, an acknowledgement that it was there. She sat, sipping her tea quietly while she waited.

"Laura has the money, not Irving," Miranda said finally. "He would not have divorced her come hell or high water."

"Ah," Andy nodded. "That makes sense. Why would he chance losing that?"

"Because, Andréa," she said haughtily, blinking as she found the cup of tea. "Men are idiots."

Andy snorted into her mug but didn't comment.

"This is not enough to topple him, but it is enough to start looking closer. I am going to hire a private investigator to follow him and I want to catalogue all the evidence we have. And I want you to find out who it is in Security that is under his thumb."

"I can do that," Andy nodded. 

"Good," Miranda sighed. "Not the smoking gun I hoped. More the smoking bullets."

"We'll get him," Andy said gently.

Miranda didn't reply.

-0-

When Andy woke up on Saturday, she remembered suddenly that she said invited Miranda to brunch. Groaning after the week they'd had, she rolled out of bed and checked her phone.

I cannot join you this morning.

Andy frowned and checked her emails for any new appointments. She found nothing and after a few moments of chewing her lip, she pulled on her yoga pants and a jumper and locked the door behind her. She rolled her neck as she jogged down the stairs and out of the door. She dashed across the road and knocked on the door.

Andy knocked and waited, stepping back off the step for a long while before she decided that something was really wrong.

She tried the door and found it open, poking her head around the jamb.

"Miranda?"

There was no answer and despite all they shared, Andy was more than a little uncomfortable about just wandering into her home when she wasn't expected. Despite that, something was wrong.

"MIRANDA?"

"What on -" Miranda came around the corner, her hand going to her chest when she saw Andy standing in her hallway. "I," she frowned. "Andréa?"

"Um, did I -" Andy cleared her throat. "I got your message."

"And that implied what?" Miranda asked, incredulously. "That I wanted to see you?"

"Okay, that was rude," Andy scoffed. "What the hell happened?"

"What do you mean, what happened? Nothing. I cannot make brunch."

"Why?"

"I am not beholden to you, Andréa."

"You aren't what?" Andy stared at her. "We were just at work. I went to bed, thinking you'd be meeting me for brunch and I get here this morning and we've gone back to Miranda, circa Paris 2006."

Miranda stared at her and sighed.

"I -"

"What?" Andy whispered, stepping forward. "What's wrong?"

"My," Miranda turned a rather pink colour and turned away, wrapping her arms around her middle. "I -"

"Wait," Andy frowned. "I -" She looked carefully at Miranda, taking care to note the way she was bent slightly over her arm and wearing clothes that she'd never have seen before and Andy realised. "Oh, you," Andy bit her lip. "No problem," she smiled. "It happens to the best of us, you know."

"It is not usually so," Miranda swallowed. "Uncomfortable."

"Come on," Andy said gently. "I'll make you some coffee and order us some waffles." 

Miranda made a noise that made Andy smirk as she offered Miranda her arm.

"Don't tease me," she whispered. "I'm not emotionally capable of coping with that."

"I'm not," Andy whispered, her hand rubbing Minrada's forearm. "Just glad to see you have feet of clay."

"Give me strength," Miranda groaned. 

Andy deposited the enigmatic woman on her sofa and left the room to get all the things she needed. From her time with the family that there was a wheat pillow in the bathroom on the third floor and she detoured there before going back down to the kitchen. She rang for waffles, making sure the employee knew whose food it was. The promise of Belgian waffles for breakfast made her smile and she got to work making a cup of tea and a cup of coffee. She didn't care which one Miranda chose, she'd have the other. She found a serving tray, warmed the pillow and took the lot up to the second floor where Miranda had curled up at one end of the sofa with a cushion.

"Here," she said gently. "Put this where you need it."

Miranda did so, groaning at the relief it provided.

"Thank you," she whispered. She took the mug of coffee from Andy's hands and touched her hand. "Really."

"Don't worry about it."

Miranda nodded and sipped her coffee, sighing tiredly as she sat back. The silence, as usual, was gentle and comfortable and Andy enjoyed the tea as they waited for the food. 

"What did you order?" Miranda asked.

"Belgian waffles," Andy grinned. "You'll thank me once you've eaten them."

Miranda's eyebrow went up in challenge, but Andy just smirked.

"I take it you don't often get inconvenienced by all this?" she asked, one part interested in the answer.

"Not particularly," Miranda shrugged. "I recognise the good luck involved."

"I'll say," she laughed. "I'm glad though, for your sake."

Miranda toasted her with her coffee as the doorbell sounded.

Andy paid for the waffles herself and sorted out some plates and cutlery. She carried them up and smiled at the little table Miranda had set up for them. 

"I told you we were having brunch together," Andy grinned as she put the plates down.

"You are cheeky for someone who trespassed in my house to make me eat carbs ."

"You bring out the best in me," Andy grinned.

Miranda hummed but did not stand on ceremony and dug into her waffles.

"Oh," she groaned. "How did you know?"

"I was going to take you there anyway," Andy chuckled. "I found them the other day. Thought we'd give it a try."

"All manner of culinary experiences you are exposing me to."

Andy grinned around her fork and they ate they waffles until both plates were wiped clean.

"Andréa?" Miranda said as she piled them up on the corner. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Andy grinned. "Can I stay or should I -"

"Stay," Miranda nodded. "I'd like that."

"Do you want to talk about work? Or are we leaving that to Monday?"

"I don't want to talk about anything."

"Then I'll sit here and read while you nap, or whatever. And I'll see you when you wake."

"Acceptable," Miranda whispered, snuggling under the throw from the back of the sofa and settling down.

Andy picked one of the books and settled into a chair, watching the woman on the sofa, rather than the book for a long while. When she had first stared at Runway, she had not understood the woman at all. Now though? Now Miranda was arguably the best friend she'd ever had. And it meant the world to her that she could say that.

Chapter Text

When Monday rolled around, Andréa got into the Towncar with two cups of coffee she'd already picked up from the local Starbucks. Miranda's eyebrow asked a question she clearly couldn't orate and Andy smiled and passed one over.

"One centre-of-the-sun latte and," she smiled, holding up a paper bag. "One low-fat blueberry muffin, and don't tell me you don't like blueberries cos I'll know you're lying." Miranda glared for a moment before she snatched the bag and reached in. "I even got you a fork," Andy smirked obnoxiously, holding the article up.

"Why are you still employed?" 

Andy chuckled and nudged Miranda gently as she laughed. She sat back, used to what Miranda needed in the morning. The soft blanket of quiet that she needed to pull La Priestly into being. Andy flicked through her emails and paused, peering closer at the sender.

"I -"

"What?" Miranda asked, a little shortly. 

"Um, Ann Shankley wants to meet for lunch."

"What?" Miranda's eyes widened and she leaned over and read the email as well. "Oh."

She sat back and went quiet. Andy waited. A personal email from the only woman on the Board of Directors was a big deal, even for Miranda Priestly and it required a careful response. 

"Tell her I will meet her in the lobby at 11:30," Miranda muttered. 

Andy nodded and tapped out an email before she put the phone away and looked up.

"I don't know," Miranda muttered before she could ask. "I've no idea. I think I've spoken to her three times since she was appointed."

"What's she like?" Andy asked, wondering if everyone who attained power was like Miranda.

"Confident," Miranda shrugged. "Driven, but kind. She listens when others would not."

"Huh."

"Not all of us are Dragons, Andréa," Miranda whispered.

"I happen to like dragons, Miranda," Andy smirked. 

Miranda snorted and rolled her eyes as the car came to a slow.

"I'd introduce you, but -"

"I understand."

"Here," Miranda said, passing over her detritus. "Pretend that's yours, will you?"

Andy chuckled and took care of it, getting out of the car herself as Roy helped Miranda. They walked into Elias Clarke together, side by side, their heels clicking on the floor as they marched across the lobby. She remembered back in the day when she would cower like the rest of them, but today she was standing shoulder to shoulder with one of the most powerful women in the city.

It was heady.

"Miranda," Jack said respectfully as he held open the elevator door for them. "Miss Andy," he grinned.

"Hey Jack," Andy grinned. "How's the family."

"Well thank you," he smiled, taking his hand off the door as Miranda shifted. "Have a good day."

Andy nodded and stepped back. She smirked for a while and laughed when Miranda tutted quietly. 

"How do you think I'm going to get the information we need?" Andy clarified without asking.

"You go in there and demand it," Miranda argued. 

"And you'll get a version," Andy said sagely. "My way has less bloodshed."

"Ridiculous," Miranda rolled her eyes.

"I've put some Tylenol in your bag," Andy said quietly, after a moment. "And there's tea in your desk. Let me know if you want a cup."

"I'm not an invalid," Miranda almost snapped. She took a deep breath and looked up; Andy was just a fraction taller in her heels. "I'm sorry."

"Don't worry about it," Andy shrugged.

"I am," Miranda muttered as the elevator slowed. Andy was about to step forward but Miranda squeezed her hand. "I apologise."

"I accept," Andy whispered, squeezing back and stepping away to hold the door. "Let's get it, Priestly."

Miranda snorted and stepped out, stalking into her office without another word. Andy decided she had better get on with rearranging the calendar. Lunch would come around much faster because they were both worried about it. She cleared the morning so there would be no delays and Miranda swung her sceptre like she always did; cutting swathes through the Art Department and leaving few alive. 

"What the hell is going on?" Nigel muttered as he barely escaped with his life.

"Ann Shankley has requested lunch."

"That didn't warrant an email," Nigel groaned.

"No time," Andy smiled, getting up and joining Miranda as she called her name. "I'll fill you in later though."

She stepped inside and Miranda waved her hand at her.

"Shut the door."

"Talk to me?" Andy asked, sitting.

"I'm worried."

"About Ann?"

"No about the price of tea in China," she snapped, pinching the bridge of her nose immediately. "I -"

"May I offer a suggestion?" Andy said, ignoring the barb.

"Please wow me, Andréa," Miranda said testily.

"It's not a meeting with the board, it's a meeting with Ann. On her own. At a restaurant. There are two possibilities. One, she wants to get in your pants -"

Miranda had taken a sip of Pellegrino and it splattered against the desk as she choked.

"Sorry," Andy laughed. "Sorry."

She took the glass and wiped up the water and offered a tissue to Miranda to mop up her chin. Miranda glared at her and Andy laughed again. 

"I'm just going to say that that was karma for the bitchy comments you've been throwing at me all morning and leave it at that."

Miranda paused and wiped her chin. She sighed and threw the tissue in the trash and picked up her mirror. Andy watched as she wiped a smudge and reapplied her lipstick. She took another moment before putting away her compact mirror and looked up. 

"I am not apologising again."

"Fine," Andy smirked. "I won't tease you again."

"Fine," Miranda nodded. "Now," she said matter-of-factly. "I shall assume the reasons for Ann's meeting is not reason one. What is reason number two? Me, being summarily dismissed from my magazine?"

Andy shook her head.

"No," she said gently. "No, this is personal. She wants to speak to you alone, out of the building. So, stop worrying and please try not to fire anyone else?"

Miranda glared at her and then threw her glasses on the desk.

"Fine," she groaned. "This is most inconvenient timing."

"Take the Tylenol, don't be a martyr," Andy soothed. "And stop panicking."

"Fine," Miranda rolled her eyes. "Ma -" she paused. "Would you make me a cup of tea?" Their eyes met. "Please?"

"Yes," Andy smiled. "Of course I will."

The pep talk worked and nobody else was called in for a last-minute meeting where they were cut off at the knees. Andy spent the time catching up on the Accounting reports while they waited for eleven o'clock. When it rolled around, Andy was eyeballs deep in the budget for the latest shoot and when she realised Miranda was standing at her desk, she jumped.

"Jee-sus! How long have you been there," she asked.

"Not long," she smirked. "You seemed busy."

"I wish I could share your amusement for your budget, Miranda, but I just can't."

Miranda chuckled and nodded for her coat. Andy gave her a look and she got up and helped Miranda into it. She felt the tight shoulders and squeezed them gently.

"This is what you do," Andy whispered as she smoothed the collar down. "She might be higher on the ladder, but she's not better. Go kick her ass."

Miranda smirked and pulled out her sunglasses. 

"There she is," Andy grinned. "I'll see you when you get back."

"I've locked up," Miranda nodded, her hands fiddling for a moment before she took a deep breath and nodded once. She turned and fled, leaving Andy to watch her go. 

-0-

Truth be told, Andy had come to enjoy the moments that Miranda was out. Not because she didn't like Miranda being in her office. On the contrary, she loved sitting at her desk working just within earshot of Miranda's muttering. Not many people would know that she spoke to herself while she was creating. Andy rather enjoyed listening to her babbling uncontrollably while she swapped colours or struck lines through a particularly woeful bit of editorial. 

But there was a different energy when she was there alone. For one, nobody visited. And for another, Andy could take off her shoes, hiding them beneath the desk and walking barefoot on the carpet. 

She'd just sat down after a quick rummage through the invoices in the cabinet when the phone rang.

"Miranda Priestly's office?"

"Andréa, we are at Le Bernardin. Join us."

"Sorry?"

"You heard me. Roy is waiting."

She didn't get a chance to ask any more questions as the phone was hung up and she stared at it.

Miranda. Wanted her to go to Le Bernardin. With Ann Shankley?

Shaking herself from her stupor, she quickly went through the routine of locking down the office, taking care to make sure it was done correctly, even though she was in a rush. There was very little that hadn't been turned into digital copies but what there was, was hidden in a folder between the stacks of magazines in the lockbox in her bottom drawer. She took one more look around, checked the lock on Miranda's door and then shut her computer down and left the office.

She messaged Nigel and Roy, telling Nigel they were both out and making sure Roy really was waiting. She got a flurry of text messages from Nigel asking questions, but she let him wait while she confirmed with Roy.

"Hey," she said as she slid into the front seat. "Do you know what's going on?"

"No," he muttered. "But she was serious when she went in. And then she called me and told me to come and get you."

"Huh," Andy nodded, sending a short reply to Nigel finally. "Weird."

"You don't know?"

"No."

"Reckon it's bad?"

"No," she said with a wince. "But it's not necessarily good."

"You'll get it straightened out," Roy chuckled as they pulled up. "You always do."

"One day we're going to stop using you for two block trips. I can't imagine how much we'd save in fuel costs alone."

"And then, you'd ruin those pretty clothes," Roy chuckled as she got out. "I doubt she'll go for that."

"That's why they pay you the big bucks, Roy," she smiled. "Thanks."

"I'll be around," he nodded before she closed the door. 

She checked her reflection in the mirror momentarily and decided that she was Miranda's right-hand woman. She had every right to be at that table. Channelling their energy from this morning, she strode in and was shown to a table before she'd even opened her mouth.

"Ah," Miranda smiled, genuinely. "Here you are."

"Miranda," she said respectfully. "Ms Shankley."

"Ann," she said, standing up and offering her hand. Andy took it and they shook. Something passed between them that she couldn't name and she watched carefully as Ann chuckled and patted their joined hands.

"I'm not here to cause trouble," she said with a soft smile. "You may rest easy."

Andy frowned and looked at Miranda with a question in her eyes.

"Ann has just been telling me about the cameras she's had placed in the Elias Clarke building."

"Cameras?" Andy said, pausing half-way into her seat.

"Sit, Andréa. We've already ordered."

"I -" she glanced at Miranda and tried to catch up. Miranda was smirking into her wine glass but Ann was more forthcoming.

"I invited Miranda to lunch as an apology," she explained. "For believing she was part of something I have had my eye on for some time."

Andy didn't say anything, but she turned away from Miranda and gave Ann her full attention. She was less worried after noting that Miranda looked like a cat that had just eaten someone's prize canary.

"It had come to our attention that there were," she chose her words carefully. "Some unanswered questions, that seemed to be originating from the office of the CEO. We monitored those questions until we got a few answers. But," she shrugged. "Naturally they offered only more questions."

Andy still didn't speak, and Ann smiled.

"I like you," she said with a smile. "You listen and you wait before offering."

"I," Andy hesitated. "Learned from the best."

"Yes," Ann smiled. "You have. We tracked some of the questions and they found a home in one of the accountants inboxes. Along with some questionable reports that didn't match what we had on our own files, we discovered that the questions we had seemed woefully inadequate. There were reports from Runway and AutoUniverse and some of the ancillary staff salaries as well. Obviously, we take this seriously."

Andy nodded, her brain buzzing with the information.

"We placed cameras in areas where there have never been cameras before. Not secret," she clarified carefully. "But, new," she shrugged. "When we came to installing them in the Runway offices, your office and Miranda's required a key that our general maintenance team did not have. I had to get it in writing that the security team would not be fired for opening the door from every board member before we were allowed in." Andy smirked and glanced at Miranda before she turned back to Ann. "When we went to install our own equipment, we found yours."

"I -"

"It's fine," Miranda muttered, sitting forward. "Keep listening."

Andy glanced at her and she nodded, still looking smug.

"Obviously," Ann continued. "We weren't aware of any new installations and instead of disturbing them, I ordered copies of the tapes. I was told that they were unavailable without prior consent." Andy chuckled. While nobody had told her that one of the Board Members had come looking for copies, they also hadn't given them up either. The key to the offices was one thing. The tapes were apparently quite different. She made a note to buy Jimmy season tickets for the Knicks.

"I assume," she said, redirecting her focus to Ann. "That requesting Miranda's presence means you've found something? An apology could have occurred at any point after whatever it is, blows over."

"You are correct," Ann nodded, taking a sip of her wine.

They paused while the waiter brought out their food. Andy glanced again at Miranda and got a small twitch of the lips as her food arrived.

"We ordered the tasting menu," Miranda said conversationally. "My treat."

Andy didn't dispute anything, but she realised suddenly that they were eating a three hundred dollar menu.

"Thank you," she said quietly. 

"I had them swap your first course with the scallops," Miranda muttered, nodding to the different dish. "Ours has Foie Gras. I know you don't like that."

She tried not to blush as she smiled at Miranda.

"Thank you," she said earnestly. 

"You are most welcome. Enjoy," she nodded. 

Fish had not been her favourite at any point in her life, but she ate what she was given happily. She knew the importance of this meeting and the importance of the menu and she ate her scallops happily once she'd tasted them.

"This is delicious," she said, a little surprised.

"Sashimi gets a bad rap," Ann chuckled. "But it is delicious if it is done right."

"I find Eric to be a magnificent chef," Miranda smiled. "I think you will enjoy this experience, Andréa."

They spoke of other things while they ate, Ann asked after the twins and before long had Andy joining in as well. By the time dessert rolled around, Andy was sufficiently relaxed.

Their plates were cleared and a round of coffees ordered as Ann sat forward.

"I won't beat around the bush any longer. You have been very patient with me," she chuckled, smiling at Andy.

Andy just shrugged. She didn't mention she had the patience of a saint after working for Miranda for so long.

"We have evidence of embezzlement."

Andy's mouth dropped open.

"You're kidding. Ir -" she swallowed the name. "The CEO?"

"Yes. I received word from our forensic accountant this morning, hence my email. I am interested to know what you have."

She looked over at Miranda who looked as if every Christmas had come all at once.

"Tell her," she said happily.

"Um," Andy shook her head trying to dispel the shock. "So we have video evidence he broke into Miranda's office and safe. I also have video of someone switching out my budget reports with phoney ones. I have no hard evidence that it was him, but I watched him give the instructions." Andy laid out all the evidence, starting with the videos and ending with Mindy and her photos. As she came to a close, Ann sat back.

"You have been busy," she said, clearly impressed.

"We work well under pressure," Andy chuckled, forgetting herself just a little. "We know he has someone in HR and Security for one, the stills Mindy was sent are from a video."

Ann nodded and was about to speak again when her phone beeped. She tapped out a reply and nodded to them both.

"Well, ladies," she said finally. "I apologise, but my time is at a close. I would ask you both to let me handle this now. Given the already caustic relationship you have with him, Miranda, it would not do to have this blow up in our faces."

"Andréa will hand all of our evidence over to you and I will gladly wash my hands of it."

"Excellent, Andrea -"

"Andy," she said quickly. "Please."

"Very well, Andy, have you met my secretary?"

"Only in passing, but I know her number."

"Il leave you to get in touch then. Thank you, Miranda, for the lovely meal. Perhaps we should do this again. Soon. My treat next time."

"It's been a pleasure, Ann. Thank you."

Andy felt her eyebrows twitch but she rallied and shook hands before Ann stepped away putting Bose buds in her ears and calling up her car.

She sat back in her seat and looked at Miranda in shock.

"This is the beginning of a most fantastic week, Andréa," Miranda muttered, oblivious to the fact that a beautifully serene smile graced her face.

Andy blinked until she felt dizzy, trying to wrap her head around it until she realised she could not.

"I," she shrugged. "Am in shock apparently," she laughed. "This is excellent!"

"Yes," Miranda agreed. "I'm almost tempted just to go home."

"Ooh," Andy said, crashing back down to earth. "Can't do that, sorry. You have Philip Lam's people at 4."

"And so," Miranda smirked."There is no rest for the wicked."

Andy laughed as Miranda stood and she followed helping her with her coat again.

"I told you to kick her ass, didn't I," she quipped as they stepped away from the table.

With that, twenty other patrons were lucky enough to witness Miranda Priestly, The Devil in Prada, laugh as most people had never heard before.

Chapter Text

"Andy!" She looked up to find Nigel returning for the samples from that morning's run-through and she smiled. "You were shirking your duties this morning. I didn't see you?"

"Nige," she scoffed. "I had to scan in some reports for a thing."

"Some reports for a thing, ey," he said, his eyebrow quirking enough to make her chuckle.

"It is a thing and I will tell you about it, but not now."

"Ah, one of those things," he chuckled. 

Andy shrugged but Nigel didn't seem to be in a hurry. Miranda had stepped out to meet with Gucci's people but Andy had begged off so she could finish compiling the information for Ann Shankley's secretary.

"I want to apologise," Nigel said contritely.

"What for?"

"Not coming over on the weekend."

"Oh," Andy shrugged again, but she cringed inside. She'd forgotten he was supposed to meet her for dinner. "No biggie."

"I," he frowned. "Sebastian left me."

"Oh, Nigel!"

Andy didn't hesitate to get up and wrap her arms around him. They hugged for a long time before she drew away. He pulled out his pocket square and dabbed his eyes.

"What must you think of me?"

Andy, in fact, had never seen Nigel like this and she smiled gently, taking his hand. 

"That you're human, and you loved him?"

"I did," he nodded, looking so sad. "I, he wasn't," he took a deep breath. "Wasn't ready to be tied down, he said. Apparently, I used to be fun."

"What he means by that is that you're now in charge of the whole Art Department and instead of getting drunk every night, you have to actually be a bit responsible, seeing as you're now responsible for the lives of, like, thirty people?"

He chuckled and nodded.

"Remember what I said, at the beginning. About your life going up in flames? I think I had it wrong."

"I think you had it right, for then," Andy said gently. "But not anymore. Perhaps," she winced. "If he isn't man enough to stick around for the rough times then maybe he's not right for you?"

"He seemed right," Nigel sighed.

"I am sorry."

"So," he said, standing tall and sniffing delicately. "I would love it if you invited me a second time. This coming weekend, perhaps. I couldn't," he sighed. "It's been a rough week, but I would love to see the new place?"

"I'd love to show it to you," she smiled. She rummaged through the diary in her head. The twins had a sleep-over and Miranda had dinner. "Saturday night?"

"Sure," he grinned. "I'll bring wine."

"I have some," she chuckled. "But you can."

He grinned and nudged her with her hip.

"Tequila then," he smirked.

"No," she growled. "Absolutely not."

"You used to be fun," he quipped, making her laugh.

She could have clapped back, but she refrained, knowing that despite his teasing, he was obviously hurt. She gathered up the papers and smiled as she noticed him reading the cover sheet.

"Friends in high places, I see?"

"Remember that thing we had going on. A while back. You know. Paris a while back? And everything after it?" He stared at her and she smirked. "Turnabout is fair play, no?"

"Seriously?" he asked, leaning closer to finish reading.

"Ah-ah," she said, closing the folder and sealing it. "I think," she said quietly. "That in not very much time at all, we might actually be able to breathe around here without checking if it's in the budget."

"Was this what Serena was doing with that little waif from Make-Up?"

"Oh," she laughed. "Oh, that's not even the icing on the cake. That's only an ingredient in the base of the cake."

"Of course you would make a cake analogy," he groaned. Andy punched him in the arm. "You hit like a 5th-grade boy," he laughed. "I expect a full run-down on Saturday. I am bringing wine, you can't cope with wine, I'm going to get all the details."

"It's been a while, Nigel," she laughed. "I think I'll be alright."

"Alright, you dark horse," he muttered, spying someone at his door. "I still expect all the gossip."

She took the reports back to her desk and freshened up her lipstick before leaving for the elevators. She made her way up to the executive floor and waved at a few of the secretaries she knew and knocked on the one she knew was Ann Shankely's suite.

"Andrea," the secretary smiled. "I'd been told to expect you."

"I have these," Andy said, showing her the cover sheet. "And two drives of information. Most of it is pretty organised but there are a lot of things to go through."

"You've all been pretty busy down there," she smirked.

"Well," Andy shrugged. "Hopefully it'll be worth it."

"From your lips," she said airily, pointing to the ceiling.

Andy nodded and tapped the reports before she made her way back to Runway. She had just pushed the button for the elevator when someone came up to stand next to her. She glanced beside her and her blood went cold as she saw the smirking face of Irv Ravitz. She swallowed and tried not to panic. After the last time she'd been stuck in an elevator with him, the thought of being alone with him brought back all those feelings of panic she'd had the first time.

"Andy!"

She turned just as the elevator signalled its arrival and she turned to see Ann Shankley smiling easily. 

"Are you on your way down?" she asked conversationally. 

"Um, yeah," Andy managed. "Yes."

"I'll join you," Ann smiled. "Hello, Irving. How are you?"

Andy didn't know what was happening as Ann stepped into the elevator, her arm steadying Andy's gait. She stood between them both and they rode in silence down to the fifteenth floor.

Andy got out, once again with Ann Shankley's hand in her elbow. They stood in front of the elevators while the door closed and Irving Ravitz was carried to a different floor.

"Are you alright?"

Andy breathed out harshly and closed her eyes. A wave of emotion washed over her but she couldn't speak it into existence.

"Andréa?"

Miranda's voice brought with it all the peace she needed and she felt an arm around her middle as Ann and Miranda spoke quietly.

"Thank you, Ann," Miranda muttered.

"You are most welcome," she said gently. "Take care, Andy."

She couldn't speak as she was manoeuvred into the office. She heard Miranda's glass door shut behind them and Miranda pushed her gently onto the sofa.

"Breathe," Miranda said gently, sitting beside her. "Just breathe, Andréa."

She did, closing her eyes.

"Andréa, keep your eyes open, look. We're perfectly safe. It is just you and me."

She did and she looked around trying to breathe calmly as she calmed down.

"I'm so -"

"It's alright," Miranda said gently. "Ann took care of it."

"Oh," she looked, horrified at Miranda. "I -"

"I told her," Miranda said gently. "When we were at lunch. She knew."

Andy put her head in her hands and realised her hands were shaking.

"Andréa?" Miranda pulled her hands away and took them between her own. "It's alright to be scared of that odious little troll. It's okay."

"It's not, I just nearly lost my shit in front of one of the board members!"

"One of the Board members that is well aware of the kind of man you have trouble with. If it were up to me, he'd have had his genitals removed by now, but it is not and that is perhaps for the best."

Andy snorted and then sat back with a laugh.

"Nobody would believe me if I told them how funny you are."

"That's good," Miranda smirked. "My reputation will remain intact." Andy laughed again and felt the last of her anxiety leave her. "That's better," Miranda smiled. 

"Can I go for coffee?" Andy asked, needing something to do that was outside the building.

"Yes," Miranda nodded. "In fact," she glanced at her desk. "You may take me for coffee. How is that?" 

"Great," Andy smiled. 

"Good. Give me ten minutes and I'll meet you at your desk."

Andy locked up her desk and shut the computer down. It wasn't late enough that they definitely wouldn't come back, but Miranda had been a lot less stringent about being in the office lately. Most of the work she needed to oversee was done online anyway so it wasn't such an imposition to do some of it at home. It occurred to her suddenly that Miranda was joining her so she didn't have to ride the elevator on her own and her heart thumped happily. 

"Ready?" Miranda asked as she strode up.

"You're a giant mushball," Andy grinned. "You don't want me riding the elevators on my own."

"I don't know what you're talking about." Miranda's eyebrow quirked. "Are you quite sure you didn't smack your pretty head somewhere?"

"You're hopeless, Miranda Priestly."

"If you say it is so, Andréa, then it is. Now take me for coffee."

Andy giggled and offered her arm gallantly. Miranda rolled her eyes good-naturedly and took it. With every passing moment that Andy was beside Miranda, she felt better so she decided just to enjoy it and she pushed the button and laughed at the unimpressed look Miranda gave her in return for her smile.

-0-

The working week passed quickly, after that, and before Andy knew it she was answering the door to a cheerful knock from Nigel. He arrived, looking resplendent in a suit jacket that was clearly bespoke and she let him in and gave him the tour. He made no comment about the girl's room but he did make a noise of amazement when he saw the furniture.

"Miranda," Andy shrugged. "It was a joke."

"A joke?" he asked, clearing his glasses and peering closer.

"Yeah," she chuckled. "I'd been sleeping on a mattress on the floor before this. Well, before all this. And she said that she wouldn't let me sleep on a mattress on the floor again, so she got me the next best thing."

"Is that right," Nigel hummed, still looking at it carefully. "Well, doll, I think it's beautiful."

"Yeah," Andy smiled. "It's pretty awesome. And it's massive too."

"I noticed," he muttered but the stove timer went off and she went to rescue the lamb chops she'd cooked.

"Take a seat," she said. 

He sat at the bar. He'd already uncorked the wine and though he did get up at one point to poke around in the cupboard, he sat waiting patiently until she plated their dinner up and presented it to him.

"Bon appetit!"

"Andy, I know I joke a lot, but I'm serious when I tell you that this is a beautiful place."

"It is," Andy smiled looking around. "I'm so lucky."

"I have to ask -" He stopped as he took the first bite. "Oh, Andy, where have you been hiding these skills!"

She laughed and sat beside him.

"I did live with a chef for a long time, you know."

"Well yeah, but did he leave because you were the better cook?"

She laughed, only managing to save the wine from tipping over as she struggled to remain upright.

"Nigel."

"I'm just saying it's delicious."

"Well, thank you."

They ate quietly for a while, savouring the flavours before he stopped and looked at her.

"I am going to ask, I've tried not to, but I'm your friend and I need to know. How are you affording this?"

"Oh, um," Andy shrugged. "I have a bit of help, but also Miranda introduced me to her finance manager? He's helped me pay off a few debts and save some money. It's," she considered telling him and remembered Miranda's warning at the beginning of their agreement. How she was an over-sharer. "It's subsidised, of course." She didn't tell him how. "It's not like I can afford all this at the market-rate, can I?"

She wasn't sure that he didn't have follow up questions but she took a bite to stall him from asking. She nearly choked as the front door slammed open and little footsteps announced the surprise arrival of the Priestly twins.

"ANDY!"

"Oh!"

She glanced at Nigel, who was looking at her sideways.

"Girls, shoes -"

Andy blushed, though she wasn't sure why, as Miranda's tired voice called out.

"But Mom!"

"Now."

"So -"

"Um."

"Andy!"

"Hiya munchkins," she said, getting up and accepting their hug. 

"Uncle Nigel?"

A thump sounded near to the front door and Andy sighed, rubbing her head. She decided immediately that everyone currently in the apartment was her friend and she'd quite like it if they all stayed. She left the twins with Nigel and went to the door. She smiled, despite Miranda's frown.

"I was unaware you had company," Miranda muttered, looking lost.

"It's only Nigel," Andy smiled but Miranda didn't look impressed. "Don't go," Andy said quickly, as Miranda glanced at the single shoe she'd managed to take off. "I made lamb chops. You'll like them, I promise."

"Andréa, it's -"

"Please," she said. "You and he are friends. We're all friends."

"I shouldn't have come here without asking."

"You should have," Andy argued softly. "I told you that you could. I want you to."

"You could have had company. You do have company."

They could hear the girls talking to Nigel in the kitchen but Miranda didn't move.

"What happened?"

"The other girl has appendicitis."

"Ouch," Andy winced. "Guess dinner was cancelled?"

"I met with them first. Then I had to cut it short to pick the girls up."

"Did you eat?"

"I didn't but -"

"Please?" Andy smiled.

She saw the moment Miranda gave in and she rolled her eyes, stepping out of her second shoe and into the apartment.

The girls were already browsing the pantry and she smiled apologetically at Nigel.

"Good evening," he muttered, getting up and kissing Miranda's cheek.

"Hello," she said carefully.

"Please relax, both of you. You're in my home. You're friends. Nige?" He looked at her. "Pour more wine, Miranda, change, if you want your dry cleaning is in the closet. Girls?"

They turned and looked at her.

"There are leftovers from yesterday."

They made a face.

"Chicken hotpot."

"Oh!" Cassidy grinned. "Thanks, Andy."

Caroline moved to hug her while Cassidy rummaged in the fridge.

"I missed you," she muttered as Andy hugged her back. 

"I missed you too," Andy whispered. "We'll go climbing tomorrow, okay?"

Eventually, with the leftovers heated and Miranda changed into something less formal, Andy sat them all at the dinner table and raised her glass.

"To family?"

Miranda rolled her eyes affectionately and tipped her glass to Nigel, who stared at her for a long moment then tapped her's with his own. 

"Family," he smiled.

"I'm glad we're back," Cassidy grinned, tapping the bottom of the glass against Caroline's a little too forcefully. "Whoops."

"Yeah," Andy poked Cassidy's middle as she offered her a napkin. "Me too."

Chapter Text

After their impromptu family dinner, Andy's weeks had started to blur together. Their work was just as stressful as it had always been. However, at times, it was even more stressful than at the beginning of her tenure. Irv had started taking great delight in turning the screws on the budget, on the locations, on anything that might inconvenience Runway as a whole. Small inconveniences initially, ones that Miranda growled at but never engaged with, until it all came to a head when Andy went to check in the team for their flights to Washington the following day and she found them all cancelled without cause. After hours on the phone to the airline's customer service, the call ended with a quiet explanation from one of the supervisors that someone had called and cancelled them, citing misuse of funds.

Andy was utterly ropable and her hands shook when she stood in front of Miranda and told her. Far from the reaction Andy had expected, Miranda had merely taken a deep breath, nodded and they'd hashed out a plan for an alternative. Central Park had been chosen, permits had been booked quietly and without interference and Andy's anger had slowed to a simmer.

Then Andy had returned to her desk, not days later, to find their new budget light 100k. Andy stormed through the glass doors into Miranda's office and paced in front of the desk. After finishing the phone call she was on, Miranda threw her glasses onto her desk and gave Andy her full attention.

"Why aren't you livid," Andy said petulantly. "You should be murdering him. I want to murder him and I'm against that sort of thing. Have you seen the budget?"

"Of course I have. But I look awful in orange," she drawled.

Andy looked at her and then the penny dropped and she laughed, surprising herself with the ferocity of it. 

"Unbelievable," Andy chuckled as she calmed. She dropped into the visitor's seat. "What do I do?"

"An animal is most dangerous when it is cornered," Miranda counselled gently. "Even if he is unaware of the true terror that awaits him, there is an energy of doom in the air."

Andy grinned as she watched Miranda's eyes glint. She shook her head.

"So fucking poetic."

"Andréa!"

"Am I wrong?"

"Well," Miranda smirked. "No," she chuckled. "But one should conduct themselves with better deportment." 

"I probably won't ever do that," Andy grinned. 

"Heathen," Miranda chuckled. "We will do our best to work around it. If we show weakness, he will think he has won and though I take great delight in knowing that we have already won, I wish to never provide him with the satisfaction."

Andy grinned. 

"See," she grinned. "Poetry."

"Don't you have work to do?"

"Yes," Andy sighed, but didn't move.

"What," Miranda asked, giving her more time than she really had time to give.

"Have you spoken to Nigel recently? Since we had dinner?"

"Of course I have."

"No," Andy said as the squelching feeling in her gut made itself known. "I don't mean it like that."

In truth, it had been on her mind for the last week or so. Their dinner had been lovely and Nigel had ended up staying well into the morning and then sleeping on the sofa. They'd awoken to him gone with a lovely note that really only said that he'd had fun and that he'd see them at work, but every time she'd talked to him he seemed reserved. She knew it was a bit weird and that he'd been surprised by the gathering, but surely Nigel - the man who had been Miranda's second for as long as Andy had probably been alive - would not be too uncomfortable with having dinner with the woman? She had thought about whether he was uncomfortable with Cassidy and Caroline, but that hadn't made any sense either. So she'd figured it must be her that had made him uncomfortable.

"Andréa?"

"Sorry," she frowned. "He hasn't spoken to me properly since that night. He says hello and whatever, but," she sighed. "Something changed."

Miranda stared at her for a long time and sat back, letting the chair lay back as well. 

"I will speak to him."

"No, I don't mean for you to do that," Andy said quickly. "I just mean -"

"Andréa," Miranda said, more gently now, in that tone she used that made Andy smile.

"Yes, Miranda," she said, doing just that as she got up. "I need to take the new files to Ann. I'm going to take the stairs."

"Andréa," Miranda chuckled. "Call her assistant and tell her you're coming. Then take the elevator. And if he gets in, you get out. Don't let him win."

Andy rolled her eyes and in a flash of childishness poked out her tongue and left the woman laughing as she loaded the files onto the USB. She locked up her desk and nodded as she left, wondering whether the prickling on the back of her neck was from general anxiety and why she felt like someone was watching her. 

She pushed the button and made it to Ann Shankley's office without incident.

"Andy," Sarah said with a smile. "Come in, Ann just stepped out."

"No, it's fine," Andy shrugged. "I just wanted you to have these. There's a report on the last week or so as well. Anecdotal but," she sighed. "In detail."

"I'll let her know. Would you like a seat?" she said carefully.

"Um," Andy looked at her and Sarah flashed her eyes towards the door. Andy felt her skin crawl without even needing to look. "Sure," she nodded. "That'd be great."

"I'll show you that new program we're going to use while you're here," she said, getting up from behind her desk and closing the door. Her small round belly made Andy smile.

"Congratulations," Andy smiled as she sat back down. "I didn't know."

"No," Sarah chuckled. "You wouldn't. We keep everything quite private. You'd know how that goes, right?"

Andy nodded, but the smile Sarah wore hinted that Andy had missed some important secret. They chatted for a while, about working for important women and Andy found she quite liked chatting to Sarah. She was open and funny and kind as she hid in her office until Irv had made himself scarce.

"I think that was him leaving, let me go and see."

"No," Andy said, getting up. "That's ridiculous, you don't need to. I can go. If he's there, I'll take the stairs. At least for a few floors until I figure it's been enough time. Why don't I -"

The door opened and Ann came in carrying a pedestrian, plastic bag of takeaway boxes and a tray of drinks. She stopped, midstep when she saw her secretary had company, before rallying quickly.

"Oh," she blinked. "Andy," she glanced at Sarah. "Good to see you."

"Hi Ann," she smiled genuinely. "I'm just leaving. Sarah let me hide in her office for a while, to," she shrugged. "Avoid certain -" she shrugged and Ann nodded knowingly. 

"Then I am glad," she said. Where Miranda's voice was programmed in Andy's mind to be the most powerful one she'd ever heard, there was a quiet, gentle assurance in Ann Shankley that made her as powerful as she was. "Obviously, it's my duty to feed the hungry hordes," she chuckled. For some reason, Ann blushed and Andy caught Sarah's subtle shift and decided it was time for her to go. She wasn't paid enough to be concerned about whatever mystery was going on here.

"Well, it was great to see you both. Sarah, thank you for letting me keep you company."

"You're welcome," Sarah said gently but didn't stand.

Andy didn't think twice about it. She stood at the elevator doors and for reasons she couldn't identify, at the last moment, she turned around to look back to the office where she'd been. Through the crack in the still-open door, she watched as Ann Shankley, Board Member of Elias Clarke and powerhouse extraordinaire, ran her hand across Sarah's shoulder and leaned over to kiss her hair as she passed over her lunch. Andy spun back around as her breath stilled. She stared at the doors until the elevator dinged its arrival and she scrambled into it, jamming her finger onto the "Close Door" button until it did her bidding. At the last moment, she glanced up again but the door was closed and Andy's heart thumped loudly in her ears. She went back to her desk in a haze as she tried to come to terms with what she had seen.

"Andréa?" She heard Miranda's call but couldn't find it in herself to answer. "Andréa?" She felt two hands take hers and was led into Miranda's office again. In the haze, she heard the door snick shut and she blinked. "Andréa? Speak to me. What did he do?"

"Who?" she blinked, finally finding her mind quiet.

"Irving. What did he do?"

"Irv? No, I didn't see him. I -"

"What?" She stared at Miranda. She wondered what the implications of Ann being with her secretary were. And what she needed to do now that she knew. She realised that Sarah had said something about it, at the beginning of their meeting. "Andréa?"

That was a tone Andy hadn't heard in a while and she blinked up at her boss.

"Have you ever met Ann's secretary?"

"I haven't," Miranda said, the frown between her eyes deepening. "I hear she is a," she paused. "Lovely woman." There was a carefulness to her tone that Andy didn't like, but she knew she couldn't say anything at all. Ann had done so much for them and Andy would protect her from any untowardness. It was one thing for a lowly PA to know about their relationship, if that was indeed what it was. It was another for one of the Editors to know. She didn't want to put Miranda in any sort of impossible situation.

"She is," Andy nodded. "She really is."

"Good?"

"Yes, sorry. I think," she shook herself and tried to stop her heart from thumping quite so fast. "I think I might just need some water."

"Are," Miranda looked at her carefully. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah," Andy blinked, realising she'd made a fool of herself. Again. "Yeah, I'm fine. Sorry."

"Nonsense," Miranda muttered, getting up from where she was crouched at Andy's knees. "Why don't you go to that bakery you like so much and get us some lunch?"

"It's early?" Andy checked her watch, swiping away a few notifications as she looked. "Oh, and I need to call the vet for Patricia's check-up."

"Do that, then go to the bakery. We are off to Central Park this afternoon."

"Oh," Andy chuckled. "I remember. Sorry. Maybe I do need to eat."

"Good," Miranda nodded again. "The chicken soup for me, I think?"

"'Kay." 

Andy grabbed her purse and left without another word, her mind occupied with what she'd seen. She had only seen such a tiny glimpse of something that for a moment, she didn't believe her own thoughts, but nobody treated their secretary that way, if they were not in a relationship? Also, what kind of board member ate their lunch with their secretary. She was quite sure Irv had never eaten lunch with the long-suffering woman on his front desk. She shook her head and took a deep breath, wishing the elevators of Elias Clarke smelled a little less stale.

"Andy!" She spun around and smiled as Roy waved to her from the curb. "I've been summoned to take you to wherever it is you're going."

"There's no understanding her some days," Andy chuckled, sliding into the front seat. "How are the kids."

"Great," he smiled. "Doing well at school. Happy and healthy. It's all we ever want for them, right?"

"I'm so glad," she chuckled. 

"How are the twins? I feel like I haven't seen them for ages."

"There was some discussion about how much time they were spending with their Dad so Miranda let them go a few times during the week to see how their schedule worked. I think she's secretly pleased because that way, she can have them for longer over the summer."

"Smart woman," he chuckled.

"The smartest," she grinned.

"Alright, you ready?"

"Yeah, I got it. See you in a bit, I guess. I'll text you when I'm ready."

"I got you."

She got out and placed her order at the deli counter of the little delicatessen. It was a little out of the way and a little more expensive than some of the ones that were closer but it was Andy's favourite. She'd made Miranda try some of their soup and sandwiches and after that, it had become Miranda's secret favourite as well. Their pastrami on rye was arguably one of the best in the city.

Knowing it would take them a while, she sat at one of the little tables and sipped on a glass of water she'd ordered. Her mind was still in turmoil and she sought to understand exactly why it was so muddled. Emily and Serena were together and nothing that they did ever shocked her anymore. It had in the beginning and she'd realised that her midwestern tendencies had made it all the way to New York intact, but she'd untangled herself from them as soon as she could. And if she had done that all that time ago, why did that simple, gentle action send her into such a spin. She chewed on it and mulled it around in her head, replaying the action over and over again until she was dizzy. Just as she was about to groan out loud, her name was called and she sent a quick message to Roy with her watch and picked up the bag. She slid into the car, in the back seat this time on account of the traffic and sat chewing her thumbnail as they rode back in silence.

"You alright?" Roy asked as he helped her out.

"Me?" she said, blinking. "Oh, yeah, sorry. Lots on my mind."

"Alright, Andy. I'll be here to take you guys to the park. Todd's already setting up as far as I know."

"Perfect," she nodded. "Thanks, Roy."

She wandered back up to Runway and joined Miranda in her office for lunch. Miranda was on the phone arguing with one of the designers - one of Donatella's lot, if the Italian was anything to go by - and set up their lunch on the desk, putting away the papers that she wouldn't need and smiling supportively as Miranda winked at her in thanks.

"There's something wrong, isn't there," Miranda said once she'd hung up on the little primadonna and turned to sip her soup.

"No," Andy said quickly. "Well, yes. But it's not my secret to tell. I figured something out and it's not," she sighed. "It's not any of my business and I wasn't supposed to see, I don't think."

"Andréa that doesn't make any sense."

"It does," she argued. "I'm keeping the confidence of someone who doesn't know that I know. You might have a duty to report something like that."

"Like what?"

Andy shook her head.

"Nothing, just something that I saw earlier. I wasn't meant to."

"Andréa, if someone is being taken advantage of -"

"No," Andy almost squealed. "No, why would I keep that silent. Do you really think -"

"Andréa."

"Ann Shankley," she said petulantly. "And Sarah."

"You -" Miranda stared at her, hard, putting down her sandwich and wiping her hands. "You didn't know?"

"What?"

"They've been married for years. They're having a baby."

"Why would I have known that?" Andy squealed. "And why didn't you tell me!"

"I thought you knew."

"Miranda!"

She'd shouted the last bit and there was a thump outside that made Andy roll her eyes skyward.

"You know what, I'm going out there. I'm going to eat my lunch and make sure everyone's ready to go to the Park. I have no idea who that is, but they're going to come in here, no doubt and we can just get on with our day."

"I don't understand why you're -"

"Save it," Andy muttered, pushing open the door and almost smacking into Nigel. "Brilliant," she sighed. "Hi Nige. Great to see you."

"Hi," he said carefully.

"Right," she nodded, more than a little hurt at his new attitude. "Great. Have fun together then, I suppose."

"What?"

She stormed out of the office, no idea why she felt so discombobulated and walked down to the cafeteria, somewhere she hardly ever went anymore and sat in the corner wondering whether she'd just had the worst onslaught of PMS she'd ever had or whether there was something brewing that she did not understand.

Chapter Text

Andy's bad mood hadn't lasted more than a few days and both of them played it off as if it had never happened. Despite Andy being unable to shake it initially, Miranda had given her the time and space to work through whatever it was. In fact, Miranda even grinned sardonically when Andy had entered the office a few days later smiling happily.

"Thank God you're back," Miranda groaned. "I was beginning to think I was going to have to do something pedestrian."

"What?" Andy chuckled, fighting the blush on her cheeks. "What are you talking about?"

"You haven't smiled in days. I had this awful thought that I'd have to take you to that museum you wanted to go to," she smirked.

"What museum?"

"The glass one."

Andy blinked.

"How did you -"

"Cassidy told me," Miranda chuckled. "And because I was so afraid that I'd have to take you," she grinned, looking a little like a shark. "I procured you tickets."

"To the -"

"Yes," she chuckled as Andy gaped at her. "Don't ever say I don't do anything for you."

Andy took a step back and stared.

"I would never -"

"It's just a saying, Andréa, just a saying."

"Will you come with me?"

"Me?" Miranda said, apparently surprised at the request. "I can. It is not my favourite medium, but I can."

"Please?"

"You'd best put it on my schedule," she smirked. "And get me Patrick, call ahead to the animal people and get an update on the zebras and then call the florist and make sure they have what they need for the shoot tomorrow."

"You know I've done all that, don't you."

"Well," Miranda said, her hand going to her hip. "Do something else then."

"Yes, Miranda," Andy laughed.

And just like that, it had passed without comment. They'd settled back into the routine of Miranda doing her job and Andy reading her mind and it was copacetic. She'd spoken to Sarah two more times. Apparently, there was some actual Board work to be done so Irv had more than enough on his plate, but they'd chuckled quietly in her office when Andy had visited about nothing and everything. She'd hadn't mentioned seeing what she'd seen the last time she was there but after speaking with her for a while, Andy decided she wanted to do something nice for the two women who would essentially make her life, and Miranda's, a whole lot easier.

"I want to do something for Ann and Sarah," Andy muttered in the car on the way home that night.

"Oh?" Miranda blinked, looking up from her phone. "I was under the impression that -"

"Yeah, I dunno what that was," she frowned. "Maybe I was just PMSing."

"Andréa," Miranda snorted.

"Well it wasn't normal, was it?"

"I shall submit no comment about it," Miranda muttered, going back to her phone. Andy watched as she tried valiantly not to smirk.

"You're hopeless."

"I am," Miranda demurred. "What do you have in mind?"

"I dunno -"

"Can you please -" Miranda started. The long-suffering sigh that followed made Andy giggle.

"I'll try," Andy agreed apologetically. "At this stage, I do not know what to get them. Ann obviously has money -"

"They're married, Andréa. They have money."

"Semantics," Andy nudged her with her shoulder.

"No," Miranda said, looking particularly troubled. "What's Ann's is Sarah's. We spoke a lot on this subject, Ann and I. Sarah has been her PA for years. Since the beginning. They fell in love. Sarah stays for the love of what she does, not because of the meagre pittance that Elias Clarke pays her."

"That's kinda sweet."

"Hmm," Miranda said quietly.

"Anyway," Andy shook her head. "What about a nice little wardrobe or something for the baby."

"That's boring," Miranda chuckled. "We can do better."

"We?"

"Yes," Miranda snorted. "We."

"Well, what do you suggest?"

"I loath shopping, Andréa, but I happen to know there is a delightful little boutique not far from your glass museum. We should go there beforehand and then take in the collection."

"Okay," Andy smiled. "Great!"

-0-

Friday rolled around and Andy was looking forward to their outing. With the girls going to their Dad's more, she and Miranda often ended up just working later on those days. They'd eat something light before leaving the office and then wake up and do it all again the next night. Tonight, however, Andy was bouncing on her toes as the end of the day drew nearer. 

"For goodness sake," Miranda sighed, throwing her glasses on the desk with a huff. "Fine, lock up for the evening."

Andy grinned and did as she was told, waiting for Miranda at her desk and using her excitement to scroll through her emails.

"Put that away," Miranda scolded gently. "We do not need to be answering work emails on the weekend."

"Say the most work-a-holic work-a-holic I've ever met," Andy snorted, finishing the last one. "But," she smiled, slipping it into her purse. "I'll put it away anyway."

"Good," Miranda smiled. "Off we go to this place then."

"Can I take you to dinner first?"

"I don't know, can you?"

"Ooh," Andy winced. "I hate that. May I?"

"You may," Miranda smirked. "Where to?"

"Um," Andy considered it. "I don't really know."

"Good, there's a restaurant about two blocks from where we're going."

"You'd planned it all out, haven't you."

"Somebody must, Andréa," Miranda sighed as she walked away.

"Hey!"

-0-

Dinner had been wonderful, and they'd had enough time to stop at the very up-market boutique close to the venue and peruse something for Ann and Sarah. In the end, Miranda had decided that while it was boring, they would procure a wardrobe with some fun and useful pieces from some of their friends, but they also bought the couple some practical gifts that Miranda insisted that they would need.

"I did not have one of these until the twins were about three months old and I honestly did not know how I coped without it."

Andy had shrugged and they'd indicated which items they'd like and the cashier had procured them all from the back and wrapped them neatly. 

"Oh," Andy grinned. "Wait," she grinned, picking up a chocolate brown teddy bear and showing it to Miranda. "Can we -"

"Yes," Miranda chuckled, good-naturedly. "Alright." They stood quietly while the cashier rang them up. "Shall I pay for this and you pay for dinner?" Miranda asked, smirking as Andy glimpsed the total.

"Yep," Andy nodded. 

Even though she knew the credit card would take a hit, she still smiled in thanks as she took the bags from the woman across the counter. Miranda had been doing that a little more, lately, negotiating to pay the bigger expense of an evening. When they were out. Andy still didn't have many expenses, and she was saving large chunks of cash after Sadiq had scored her a great deal on a very low-interest loan. She still wasn't sure how he'd done it, but her student loans were gone, her savings were fat and healthy, she had a low repayment every month that was astronomically low compared to her student repayments. She had already decided to bring up paying Miranda rent when she got the next paycheck through.

"Are you alright?" Miranda asked quietly, once they'd stowed the purchases in the trunk of the car. Roy had been told to go and hide out somewhere, and that they'd walk to the restaurant - it was warm enough.

"I'm fine," Andy smiled, linking her arm with Miranda. "I was just thinking about how lucky I am, with you as my best friend."

"Best friends?" Miranda chuckled. "Is that what this is?"

"Yeah," Andy smiled, though she noted that Miranda's smile didn't quite go all the way to her eyes. "Unless you're not -"

"No," Miranda chuckled, taking Andy's hand before she could withdraw it. "Andréa, you are undoubtedly my very best friend. I've never had a friend quite like you." 

"Me neither," Andy smiled, spying the restaurant. "So when we go in here, just order soup and salad or something, alright?"

Miranda laughed properly this time and Andy opened the door for her, thinking nothing of the way she escorted Miranda inside and gave their names for the reservation. 

Dinner was lovely and though she'd been joking with Miranda when they'd arrived when she'd gone to pay the bill, she'd taken a leaf out of Miranda's book and not even looked.

"You're getting better at that," Miranda smiled, draining her wine. 

"I have had a good teacher."

Despite Miranda's protests that glass was not her favourite medium, Andy watched her as much as she watched the glass-blowing demonstrations. She was drawn, particularly, to the fascinating shapes and hues of the more extravagant pieces. Andy, however, loved all of it. She adored the way you can make something so beautiful from something as pedestrian as sand. As they stopped at the complimentary bar and Miranda bullied the bartender into making them some proper drinks, she said as much to Andy. Andy realised that as much as she'd been watching Miranda, it turned out Miranda was watching her too.

"It fascinates me," Andy shrugged, sipping her G&T. It wasn't her favourite, but it was a very good one, despite the protestations of the barman. "The way heat and newspaper and breath can form," she gestured to one of the pieces that reminded her a little of an upside-down octopus. "That."

"Well don't tell Caroline we were here, otherwise I will have to deck out the basement with a glass-blowing studio for the two of you."

Andy laughed and nearly spilt her drink as someone bumped into her.

"Oof," she grumbled

"Andréa!"

"I'm alright," she shrugged. "No harm."

"He was -"

"Really," she smiled, capturing Miranda's hands where she was holding Andy's forearm. "I'm alright."

"Well," Miranda muttered. "Good."

"Would you like to go and watch a demonstration?"

"Yes," Miranda said, swallowing the last of her scotch. "Lead the way."

"I'll do you one better," Andy grinned, offering her arm.

Miranda rolled her eyes with a smile, whatever emptiness she'd had earlier had disappeared and Andy was glad of it. Her blue eyes sparkled in the light of the fires and they sat enraptured as they watched a piece take shape through fire and sweat and constant chatter.

"You see," Miranda said, leaning in a little so Andy could hear her. "The amount of talking alone would drive me up the wall."

Andy grinned and nudged her gently with her shoulder. A hush came over the few people that were watching and one of the glassblowers not involved explained that this part was the most dangerous in any piece. Where they would transfer the piece from one punty to the other.

Andy didn't realise but she was holding Miranda's hand tightly as the glassblowers worked in silence and as it rolled over and over and one of them tapped on the punty it fell away and Andy closed her eyes.

"Open your eyes, look," Miranda whispered.

It had made it and Andy heaved a great sigh of relief. 

"It is amazing what happens when we put our faith in something, isn't it," Miranda mused as a few of the other audience members clapped in relief.

"Sometimes things are out of our control though," Andy breathed, letting go of Miranda's hand quickly. "I mean, if that had fallen -"

"Then the glassblower would have simply tried again, Andréa."

"But -"

"Come," Miranda said gently. "Let us take one more walk around and then you should take me home before I turn into a pumpkin. I have brunch with Donatella tomorrow."

"Oh," Andy blushed. "I forgot."

"I know," Miranda said easily. "It is of no concern. I am enjoying myself."

"You are?"

"I am."

Mollified, Andy took her arm again and they wandered around again, stopping to look at their favourite pieces. While they were picking up their coats, Andy nipped to the bathroom and came back in time to see Miranda shaking hands with a well-dressed man by the door, before she turned to catch Andy's eye. 

"Shall we?"

"Who was that?"

"Oh, some sycophant," Miranda muttered. "We were doing so well."

She wasn't sure how she made it home, she was so tired on her feet, but she did and she fell into bed and into a deep sleep that she didn't wake up from until well in the morning.

-0-

The next week, on a Wednesday, Nigel appeared before her.

"Six!"

"Nigel," Andy said warily. "How are you?"

"Apologetic. I have been a bear and I apologise."

Andy stared at him for a long time and then remembered that between all this he was dealing with the break-up of a relationship that had lasted much longer than Nate and she had. She sighed.

"It's alright. I'm glad you're back though."

"Me too," he grinned. "Any chance of drinks tonight?"

"Tonight? Sure," Andy shrugged. Miranda had a dinner meeting with some investors and the twins were, once again, at their Dad's. "Any particular time? I won't be home until six? Or we could ride together? I'm catching a cab?"

"Sure," he smiled. "I best see her majesty, but I'll see you later, Doll."

"I heard that," Miranda called. Nigel chuckled as he went into the office and shut the door. 

Andy sat back at her desk and considered her crazy, crazy life for a while before she shook herself and carried on with her work. If she wanted to be out of the office before six, she'd have to hustle.

The next time she looked up, Miranda was smirking at her from in front of her desk. 

"You do so concentrate."

"You move like a ninja," Andy protested.

"Mhmm, help me with my coat?"

"Of course," Andy smiled, getting up. She slid Miranda's coat up onto her small frame and smoothed the collar down at her nape. She wasn't sure why they still did this, but she liked it enough to never question it. It felt good to do something small for Miranda that she seemed to like. She certainly wasn't against it.

"Now," Miranda said gently. "I will see you in the morning. Ann and Sarah should get their gifts by tomorrow so I anticipate a walk-in meeting at some point, but otherwise, Andréa, the evening is your own."

"Awesome. Have a great dinner."

"Hmm. I have no doubt it will be boring and perfunctory. But I will endeavour to do my best. You," she said gently. "Should remember that tomorrow is Thursday and to not drink quite so much as Nigel."

"I won't," Andy laughed. "Plus, I'm pretty sure being with you has upped my tolerance."

"Not that much," Miranda said affectionately. "Have a good night."

"Thanks, see-ya tomorrow."

Miranda stopped at the door as she almost bumped into Nigel. Andy had already started locking up, so couldn't hear what was being said over the paper shredder, but she did notice Nigel's hand on Miranda's arm and the soft squeeze he gave her. Thinking nothing of it, she finished what she was doing and grinned as he planted two bottles of wine on her desk.

"I came prepared."

"I'm so glad I ordered plenty of pizza already."

"San Matteo's?"

"Of course," she chuckled. "Would I order anything else?"

"Oh, Andy, I could kiss you."

"Maybe later, come on."

Their evening passed unremarkably, even after their tense relationship of late. They talked and talked about Sebastian and how Nigel didn't need a man-child hanging off his coat-tails anyway and about Irv. Andy gave him every detail, in chronological order and his eyes bugged out when she got to the part about Ann Shankley.

"Rubbing shoulders with the big-wigs, huh!"

"It seems like it, but she's super relaxed." She laughed. "Kinda the opposite of Miranda."

There was a tension that fell over the room and Andy frowned. 

"What?"

"What?"

"Nige -" He didn't speak, but she could tell, even with the wine, that there was something he wanted to say. "What?"

"I hadn't understood," he said gently. "When you first told me. What you guys were doing."

"What are we doing?"

"The way you guys have gelled, I mean," he said with a shrug. "It's nice. You are my friend, Andy, but she has been my friend for much, much longer. It's lovely to see her find someone she can finally relax with. I've never seen her like she was when I was here for dinner."

"Is that why you stopped talking to me?" Andy asked. The wine was making her tongue a little less careful.

"Yes, in part," he sighed. "Honestly, I was a little jealous. I have never had that with her. And I was hurting from Sebastian. I didn't know where to put all of that, so I didn't. Was I an asshole?"

"No," Andy grinned, patting his hand. "I just missed you. I get lonely, ya know. Chained to that desk."

"You'd never get lonely ten feet from the Queen, Ahndrayah," he exaggerated, making them both giggle. "One day, you'll figure it out."

"Figure what out," she chuckled. "I'm set for life, I'm going to be her PA forever."

"Hmm," he chuckled into his wine. 

She was about to ask what he meant when there was a knock at the door.

"Is that her?"

"No," she chuckled. "She's still at dinner and the girls are away. I've no idea who that is."

"Do you have a bat?"

"What?"

"A bat, I mean, I can stand there -"

"Nige," Andy chuckled. "There's security in the building, you know."

"Oh," he grumbled. "Right."

She pulled open the door and a tired-looking UPS guy was holding out a clipboard. She signed it after checking it was for her and shrugged when he left without saying a word.

"What is it?"

"I don't know," she muttered, looking at the label. "God, it's heavy."

"I can't possibly help you. I've just had my nails done."

"Thanks, Nigel," Andy laughed as she picked up the box with a groan. It was really heavy and had Fragile stickers all over it. She wondered what she'd ordered while she'd been half asleep.

"God, I hope this isn't a sex toy."

"NIGEL!"

"What," he laughed. "A girl has needs."

"No more wine for you, I'm cutting you off."

"Fine. Here," he muttered, plucking a paring knife from the knife block and handing it to her. "Crack'er open!"

She did as she was told and lost her breath as she saw what was poking out from beneath the copious amounts of rolled-up paper and packing peanuts. 

"Oh. My. God," she whispered, her fingers delicately tracing one of the tendrils that seemed to be reaching to the sky. "I -"

"What is it?"

"It's a piece of glass, art," she muttered, pulling a wad of paper out. As she dismantled the packing, she blinked as it was revealed. It was her favourite from their night out. And she couldn't believe that Miranda had noticed that it had been her favourite, and then purchased it for her.

"She -"

"What?"

"She bought it for me."

There was a heavy silence, but Andy paid it no mind. Her brain was whirling from seeing the piece so close up that she had tears in her eyes.

"Right," Nigel muttered. "I'm leaving before this wine gets me into trouble. Thanks for having me, doll. See you tomorrow."

Andy broke out of her trance and looked over at him, taking in his tired eyes.

"I'll persuade her not to look for you before ten."

"You do that," he smirked, giggling to himself for a reason Andy didn't have the brain-power to understand. "I love ya kid."

"I love you Nige," she smiled, hugging him tightly. "Don't be a stranger."

"Look, when all that Irv business blows over, we're - all of us - going out and getting drunk, alright?"

"I'll let you tell her that," Andy grinned. "Night."

"Night," he winked, waving to her as he got in the elevator. 

She knew there'd be a taxi waiting for him downstairs, so she shut the door and went back to the dining table where her most prized possession awaited her. Without even looking, she hit the speed dial on her phone and only had to wait for 2 rings before it was answered.

"You -"

"Happy Birthday."

Andy frowned.

"It's not my birthday. That was last month."

"I didn't get you anything."

"You are a liar, you got me that DVD."

"Andréa. I'm just a woman with two children, a large dog and an even larger bank account. Happy Birthday."

Andy swallowed and tried not to cry.

"Thank you," she whispered.

"You are welcome. Did I -"

"You know you did," Andy chuckled, letting the tears fall. "I've never had a nicer gift. Not even the pony party my Mom threw me when I was six. When I wanted to be a unicorn?"

"I remember," Miranda said gently, hearing the levity for what it was - a distraction so that Andy could try and get herself under control.

"I -"

"I know," Miranda said and Andy could hear the smile in her voice. "Now, if it were me, I would put it in the window where it will pick up the light."

"I don't know how to -"

"You do, Andréa," Miranda said softly. "Every day."

"Well," Andy sniffed. "I'm going to go and put it by the window where it will catch the light."

"Good," Miranda breathed. "Then get some sleep. Drinking with Nigel until midnight is never good for one's morning routine."

"You would know?"

"Oh I know," Miranda chuckled. 

"We should do it again," Andy mumbled, the wine and tiredness creeping up on her.

"Andréa?" Miranda said, with a hint of order in her voice.

"Yes, Miranda?"

"Leave the piece where it is and go and get some sleep."

"But -"

"I want you to appreciate it in the morning when you have all your faculties firing."

"Always looking out for me," she muttered.

"Always," Miranda mumbled. "Now go to bed."

"Yes, Miranda."

She shuffled into her bedroom and managed to pull most of her clothes off before falling into bed. She fiddled for a while before she managed to find her phone again and was amazed that Miranda was still there even at such an hour.

"You waited."

"I will always wait for you, Andréa," came the soft reply.

Andy smiled and pulled a pillow into her chest.

"Night, Miranda."

"Goodnight, darling."

Chapter Text

The next morning, Andy shuffled into the kitchen with a yawn and a wicked hangover. She was just about to hit the bottom for a coffee when she stopped and blinked. She turned back to the table and stared. She breathed a wobbly breath out and remembered receiving the package the night before and then, the quiet discussion on the phone afterwards.

"Whoa," she whispered, abandoning the coffee. Her fingers gently touched the top of the beautiful tendrils of blown glass while her brain spluttered to life, trying to find an explanation.

Forgoing everything else, she broke down the box and swept up the packing peanuts before sitting in front of the piece and just staring. She couldn't believe it was hers. She'd never owned anything as beautiful and it was only when she heard the door open and close that she looked up.

"Hey," she breathed.

"I wondered if you'd remember," Miranda chuckled, passing Andy a Starbuck cup and a bottle of Advil. 

"You bought me coffee?"

"I am capable of ordering my own coffee, you know. I do not, because why would I."

"Wow," Andy laughed as she shook the pills into her hand. "I'll remember that."

"You do that," Miranda smirked, taking a sip. "Now, may I?"

"Please," Andy chuckled nervously. "I haven't dared move it. In the state I'm in, I'll as likely trip and break it."

"Nonsense," Miranda muttered, though she picked it up carefully. "It matters, therefore you won't."

"Do you remember what I was like in heels?"

"That was a long time ago," Miranda soothed, twisting it this way and that before stepping back with a nod. "There. Perfect."

It was. The position she'd chosen caught the light so beautifully and Andy knew from sitting in the window reading in the evening that it would catch the sun for most of the day. 

"I -"

"We've been over this," Miranda muttered, going over to rummage in Andy's pantry. "You thanked me last night."

"Did you plan on buying it?"

"No," Miranda mused, pulling out what looked like ingredients for an omelette. "I saw the way you looked at it, and I decided that you must have it. It is the very least I can do."

"The very -"

Andy turned in her chair. 

"Do you realise how much you do for me?"

"Andréa?" Miranda said softly, but with a tone that brokered no arguments. "If I were to list all the things you do for me, every day, we would be here long after we both died."

"Miranda," Andy groaned.

"Let an old woman spend her money how she likes."

"Old woman, my ass. You're bloody hopeless, you know that, don't you?"

"I believe Emily muttered something to that effect last week, yes," Miranda chuckled. "Now come and chop some peppers. You need some food after last night."

"We weren't totally reckless, you know."

"Mmm," Miranda smiled. "I know."

Andy's poor brain, bolstered by the Advil supplied her with a reason for Miranda's insistence on their breakfast together.

"Did you forget to pick up your groceries last night?"

"I can neither confirm nor deny, Ms Sachs," Miranda deferred. 

"Miranda?"

"Yes, Andréa?"

"Thank you."

"You are most welcome. I am glad that you like it."

"I love it."

"Well," Miranda swallowed and smiled, though it looked a little sad. She was quick to rally, however, and literally threw a pepper across the kitchen that Andy only just caught. "Chop this, will you."

Andy's laughter was what started their day together and though she'd meant to bring up paying rent, the moment passed and instead they got to work making breakfast and setting themselves up for the day.

-0-

"Andy!"

"Ann," she smiled. "You're free to go in."

"I believe you are responsible for my wife's happy tears this morning?"

"Oh," Andy winced. "Sorry, even if they were happy."

Ann waves her off and sat on the corner of the desk like she owned the place. 

"Nonsense, Sarah wished to convey my thanks. She had me get 4-show passes to this season's Broadway shows," she smiled as Andy gaped. 

"Seriously?"

"Yes," Ann chuckled, handing her an envelope. "They're just instructions for the app," she chuckled. "Everything is digital these days," she leaned forward conspiratorially. "There are 4 Sets of tickets, Andy, just in case you had other people to invite." 

Ann Shankley stood with a grin as Andy stared.

"Thank you," she managed.

"You're welcome. In all the things we've purchased for the baby, we quite forgot about a teddy bear. Your gift was beautiful. I think Sarah's already called it Andy."

That made Andy, the real Andy, laugh as Ann disappeared into Miranda's office and the door snicked closed. She glanced at the envelope and slipped it in her bag so she wouldn't lose it and got back to work. She'd cleared most of Miranda's morning and lunch as well in case they decided to go out. She was glad Miranda finally had an ally in her corner - another woman, no less - and she would do anything to make sure nothing came between that.

-0-

And quietly, life went on. Irv was suspiciously absent from their lives, except for the constant sideswipes at the budget. Andy took her cue from Miranda and simply allowed it to roll off her. 

"They're getting close," Miranda muttered one afternoon after a particularly vicious cut has sent Andy into her office with a scowl. "There's some sort of legal tape they have to walk through, but they're close, Andréa. We just have to hold on a little longer."

"It cannot come soon enough," she sighed, tiredly. "Even Accounting are getting angry with me. Clearly, they're not in 'the club' as it were."

Miranda snorted. 

"I'll call them later. I'm sure they've missed talking to me. Maybe it's time for a reminder."

Andy snigged and went back to her desk. They'd been so busy lately as the summer issue drew nearer. Thankfully, because of the procedures they'd implemented already, it wasn't as bad as it had been the previous year, but Andy hadn't seen the girls for weeks and she found she missed the little rascals. 

"Hey," she called.

"Must you shout?" Miranda asked, loud enough for Andy to hear her. Andy laughed and got back up and went back into Miranda's office. 

"What are you and the girls doing this weekend?"

"Oh, um," she shrugged in a very un-Miranda-like way. "Nothing, as far as I know."

"Wanna do something? Or can I take them somewhere? Between the birthday parties and not wanting to intrude on your time with them, I miss them."

"We can do something," Miranda said easily. "There's a farmer's market that Cassidy is apparently dying to see?"

"Awesome. Can't wait."

"Good," Miranda chuckled. "They miss you too. Never imagine that you're intruding on my time, Andréa. You know this."

"Yeah but now they're going to their Dads, you get less time with them. I don't want to -"

"Andréa," Miranda said gently. "Don't."

Andy blushed.

"Okay," she grinned, bashfully. "Sorry."

"Don't be sorry. Dinner then? Tomorrow? When they get home?"

"Yep."

"Good, now go and do some work. Surely there's something you haven't automated."

Andy chuckled and went back to her desk. She wasn't sure why, but something good was coming. She could just feel it.

-0-

The girls had fairly leapt into her arms when she'd walked into the Townhouse the next evening. Cassidy had grown a full inch since she'd last seen her and Caroline, who squeezed Andy extra tightly once Cassidy had moved, was catching up.

"I think you're a foot taller," Andy joked as she rocked them gently 

"No, I'm not," Caroline grinned. "Maybe you're just shrinking."

"That's entirely possible," Andy poked her arm. "I miss going climbing with you. I think I'll have to start booking you in advance."

Caroline blushed and let Andy wrap her arm around her middle. 

"I've been so busy, I didn't want to -"

"Hey," Andy said gently. "I'm only teasing. I'll be here. There are no worries from me. I'm glad you worked out that whole friend thing."

"Did I tell you? Sadie got transferred."

"No!" Andy gasped as they settled down at the table. Cassidy was helping Miranda with the dinner, letting Andy fully concentrate on Caroline for a while. The young woman was talking nonstop but as Miranda set the glasses on the table, Andy caught her eye. 

She looked peaceful and as she stood back up, she glanced at Caroline, then winked at Andy, before going back to plating up the food. It was peaceful. 

Dinner was lovely and they'd just started on dessert; a lovely warm, homemade Cara-special blueberry pie with healthy dollops of whipped cream. Caroline was arguing good-naturedly with Miranda about whether swimming was considered a feminine sport when Andy's phone started ringing. 

"That's weird," she muttered, wiping her mouth. "It automatically goes to Do Not Disturb after six. The only calls I should get are from the office and you guys. Excuse me for a minute."

Miranda shrugged and went back to debating whether wider shoulders were still considered feminine enough when her phone started ringing as well.

"Can you -"

"Yep," Andy called, picking up her phone and then Miranda's and looking at the callers.

"Hey Nige, why are you -"

"Andy? Why do you have Mir -" A pause. "No, never mind. Put the TV on."

"What?"

"Turn the TV on. Now. Any channel."

"Um."

"Six!"

"Alright, hang on."

She jogged up the stairs to the den and pulled open the doors that usually hid the television. She flicked on the channel and dropped Miranda's phone on the floor, disregarding Nigel's protests over the line. It landed with a thump as she watched the ticker tape roll along the bottom of the screen and blinked at the endless flashes on the television.

"Andréa?"

"Get up here!"

"I beg your pardon."

"Seriously," she managed to say. "You'll want to see this."

Somewhere in the distance, the house phone started ringing and Andy just had the presence of mind to catch Miranda when she stumbled against her after catching a glimpse of the screen while shouting to the twins to pull the cord from the wall.

"What's going on?" Cassidy said, running into the room. "Oh, no way. CARO! Get up here!"

"I had to - Oh damn."

"Turn it up!"

"Did you get a call from Ann?"

"No, did you?"

"I've been with you, how was I supposed to -"

Andy rolled her eyes and picked up her phone and Miranda's again. Nigel had hung up. She scrolled through the numerous texts and missed calls looking for one she'd missed.

"No, she never called."

Miranda was watching the screen, chewing on her lip with a teeny tiny twitch in the corner of her mouth.

"Andréa?" she said quietly. "In the bottom of the fridge, there is a bottle of champagne. Would you bring it up here with four glasses?"

"Four?"

"This is a very special occasion."

Andy chuckled and did as she asked, rummaging in the back of the bottom shelf for the Veuve Clicquot. She managed to hang four flutes between her fingers and went back upstairs to the Den.

"Yes, no I understand. Of course. Our NDA's are ironclad there's no way any of us will be saying anything. Yes. Definitely. I will try to meet with you on Monday. Alright. Thank you. And you."

Andy looked at Miranda expectantly as she sat back with a beatific smile.

"That was Ann. The FBI surprised them and jumped the gun."

"The FBI?"

"Hmm," she chuckled. "Elias Clarke received a rather handsome float in the new year. In the national interest, I believe they told us. When the US Government is involved, it becomes an issue for the FBI."

"Wow," Cassidy chuckled. They all sat quietly for a while.

"Did he deserve it, Mom?"

Miranda looked at Caroline and smiled gently, opening her arm to her youngest. Andy smiled and let Cassidy lean on her as they watched Miranda brush Caroline's hair back and kiss her forehead.

"The severity of his crimes are more than just annoying me, Bobbsey," she said gently. "He committed actual crimes. Against many, many people. He stole money from Elias Clarke. Money that should have been put back into the business. Money that is used to pay people's wages. So he didn't only steal from the company he stole from us, from Andréa. Uncle Nigel. He also did some questionable things with some people in positions that were advantageous to him."

"Like, gross things?"

"Well, I think they're gross," Andy quipped, trying to lighten the conversation. It worked as Cassidy giggled, but Miranda merely smiled and squeezed Caroline's hands. 

"He will be treated fairly by the judicial system. If anything he might be treated too kindly, for all the things he's done, but it is out of our hands. For now," she smiled at her daughters and then at Andy. Andy smiled back. "For now, we will simply celebrate the end of Andréa's tireless work of keeping track of every speck of paper for the last eight months. How about that."

"I can get behind that," Cassidy chuckled.

"Good," Andy grinned. "Me too. Want a sip, Caro?"

"Sure," she grinned. "I guess so."

Miranda popped the cork, a little excitedly so and poured two healthy glasses and two with barely a mouthful.

"To," Miranda looked at the three of them and smiled one of her precious smiles. "To hard work. And overcoming adversity. And tenacity. And above all, my strong suit," she smirked and Andy could already see what was coming. "Patience."

Andy and the girls laughed with Miranda as they all tapped the glasses together. 

"Urgh," Cassidy shuddered as she took a sip. "No thanks."

"Yeah not for me either," Caroline winced. "Thanks though, Mom."

"You're welcome Bobbsey." 

"We're going to go upstairs and do our homework. Love you guys."

They disappeared without waiting for an answer, leaving the two women in the quiet with the repeated scenes flashing on the television.

"Who knew this is what it felt like, Andréa," she whispered sitting back, beside Andy.

Andy couldn't help but notice the fire dancing in Miranda's eyes as she watched Irv being dragged through a gang of reporters. It was heady, knowing that a good portion of the evidence that would be levelled at the odious man had been collected by her hard work. Andy laughed quietly and toasted Miranda again before taking a sip.

"Dunno about you, but I reckon this calls for some ice cream on our blueberry pies."

"Mm," Miranda hummed. "I believe you're right. Call for some to be brought here, I can't imagine we'll be leaving the house any time soon."

"You think they're already here?" Andy asked. "They work quickly."

"Hmm," Miranda chuckled. "Right. The news never sleeps, Andréa. Shall we find a movie then?"

"I'm down," she smiled.

Miranda got up and rummaged in the DVD cabinet and settled in for the night.

"We're quite a team," Andy whispered as Miranda got comfortable against her shoulder, as was custom.

"Yes, we are," Miranda whispered.

-0-

The atmosphere in the office on Monday morning was rather tense in the wake of the fallout. Irv had been questioned all weekend and according to the tabloids, had been released with a brand new ankle accessory, sometime Sunday afternoon. Miranda had heard a rumour that he was currently staying in a Holiday Inn after his wife had kicked him to the kerb. 

Since she and Miranda had arrived that morning, however, he had been upstairs, in a Board meeting and according to Jack (Andy's friend in Security) he'd been escorted up there by two very burly-looking men in suits.

Even though the Summer edition was looming, not a lot of work was being done when a revolving schedule of employees were poking their head around the door for more news. Serena had just left empty-handed when Andy's phone rang and she picked it up quickly when she saw the number, greeting the other person and trying to sound as relaxed as possible.

The woman on the other end spoke in clipped, hushed tones and Andy listened with wide eyes. When the line went dead, Andy just stared at the receiver, overwhelmed by what she'd just heard.

"Miranda!"

The raised voice brought Miranda out of her office quickly and she stood at her doorway looking expectantly as Andy met her eyes.

"He's gone."

"Gone?"

"Gone," she breathed, looking up at her. "Done."

"You're sure?"

"Sarah just called," Miranda's blank face forced her to elaborate. "She's at home, but Ann is texting her. He's gone, effective immediately. No handshake, no pension. Pending investigation, he may even have to pay some of it back. The interim will be decided by the end of the day."

Miranda's face broke into a beautiful smile and she looked skywards for a moment before locking eyes again with Andréa. 

"Thank you."

Andy beamed and glanced at the door, where she knew quite many other people were waiting for the news.

"Go on then," Miranda chuckled. "I'm sure you will all wish to celebrate this evening."

"You could come?"

"No, Andréa, I don't think so," she said quietly.

"I'd like it if you did. And it would only be Nigel, Emily, Serena and me?"

There was a long pause while Miranda looked at her carefully.

"Perhaps."

"Thank you," Andy grinned. "Be right back."

She felt Miranda's eyes on her as she left, and she turned back around before she got to the door and warped her arms around her boss tightly.

"We did it," she breathed.

"We did," Miranda agreed, her arms tightening for just a moment around Andy's waist. Andy stepped back and grinned. 

"This is the best day ever," she chuckled.

She left again. She was so excited that she knocked on Serena's office as she swept past it without even waving hello to anyone else. She knew the woman would follow as she swept into Nigel's office and grinned at him, interrupting Emily, who was peering into a lightbox with a frown.

"Has it happened?" Serena asked as she joined them.

"He's gone," she grinned. "Completely. Effective immediately."

"Bloody hell," Emily groaned, looking relieved.

"Wonderful!" Nigel exclaimed. "How is she?"

"Relieved, I think," she grinned. "I," she winced. "Well, she said that we would no doubt want to go out and celebrate and I," she glanced at Emily. "Kinda invited her."

"ANDY!"

"Em," Serena soothed. "Relax, querida."

"Sorry."

Emily looked at her for a long time and then rolled her eyes.

"It's her victory, I suppose. Fine. If Miranda is coming, where are we going?"

"Same place as always," Nigel shrugged. "She and I have had a drink there before."

"It's not exactly upmarket," Emily worried.

"She won't care," Andy shrugged. "She'll probably only stay for one drink."

"Fine. Normal time then. What a day."

"This is going to be awesome," Andy grinned. "Thanks, guys."

"You did all the work, Andy," Serena chuckled, hugging her gently. "You deserve the thanks."

Andy grinned and went back to her desk. She shared a small smile with Miranda as she met Andy's eyes for a moment before going back to work. Andy took a moment to think about what Serena had said. It wasn't just her hard work. Miranda had put in just as many hours, double and triple-checking things that ordinarily wouldn't need to and making sure her actions were 100% transparent, against her usual modus operandi. 

They'd worked together to put Irv in front of the Board of Directors with enough evidence of indiscretions personal and professional that they'd offered no other solution except for him to go. Even better, however, was that the FBI had completely removed all of the backlash from any of them. Andy had been so thankful when Ann had taken it on herself so that nothing could blow back and damage Miranda in the process. Now she was equally pleased that the FBI had removed it from Ann's plate too. After getting to know them as closely as she had, Andy didn't want them to have to deal with it either.

And now that Irv was gone, Andy felt a kind of peace descend over the office and she smiled to herself, looking forward to drinks with all of her friends after work.

-0-

She arrived before anyone else, having a quiet word to the barman before taking up a large table in a dark corner where she knew Miranda would be more comfortable. She'd also ordered a bottle of the Veuve Clicquot to pop once Miranda had joined them, using her own money. Sadiq would be pleased that she was finally getting used to charging extravagant things as business expenses.

She'd come to terms with the money. The ability to make money without worry. She had so much to be thankful for and she often spent a few moments thinking about how lucky she was to have Miranda in her life.

"Six!"

She grinned, letting go of it for now as she stood and hugged Nigel hello.

"Darling, I didn't want to say anything at work, but goodness, you're an angel."

"What?" she laughed. "Have you started early?"

"No darling," he smiled gently. "Remember, when your entire life goes up in smoke, then it's time for a promotion." She frowned, wondering where he was going with that thought. "I was so wrong," he said happily. "You keep her happy, she is happy. Perhaps for the first time since I've met her, I think she is truly happy."

"Nige -"

"No, listen," he said, turning serious. "I think you might need to know. I think you haven't realised. And I've gone back and forth on this, but," he bussed her cheek. "This is important. She'll never tell you, so it's up to me to do so."

"What?" she said, looking at him sideways. "Know what? Tell me what?"

"She'd give you everything, if you asked it of her, Andy."

"Nigel," she half-groaned. "I'm just the best assistant she's ever had. I mean, she told me that herself. And she's my friend. And," she sighed. "She's already done so much for me. She helped me get a new place and helped me learn how to get control of my life and," she hesitated. "I mean, she cares. I know that, but -"

"No, darling. I," he sighed, rubbing his forehead. "Look, I wasn't going to say anything, but, it's time. Irv has gone and it's time for you to at least think about it." Andy met his eyes. "She more than cares, Six. She -"

"Thank God we're finally here. Is it still Happy Hour? I need a Rum Punch."

"I -" Nigel frowned, looking at Emily and squeezing Andy's hand instead. "Come on Em, God forbid you pass out before we get anywhere." He left Andy where she was, standing beside the table, puzzled by his words until her phone buzzed in her hand. 

She glanced down and saw that Miranda would join them momentarily. Her mind was still spinning as she considered the hidden meaning behind Nigel's words and couldn't seem to focus on anything, so she allowed Serena to lead her to the table and accepted the drink Nigel had bought. She took a swig, gradually allowing the alcohol to warm her and loosen her tongue just a little. Before long, she felt like herself again and all thoughts of Nigel's mysterious message were pushed to the back of her mind. They were here to celebrate Irv's demise, not deconstruct hidden clues. She'd had enough of that over the last eight months or so. For now, she simply smiled as Miranda swept into the bar, pressing genuine kisses on everybody's cheek and smiling gratefully at Andy when she saw the champagne.

"As usual, Andréa has excelled," she chuckled, uncaging the cork herself. There was a small cheer when the cork popped and she poured out five glasses with aplomb.

"To my colleagues," she smiled at them all. "My friends. Thank you for being patient and giving us the latitude we needed to get this done. In particular, spare a thought for Andréa who has barely done anything except collect evidence on the matter all while fighting to keep us going. To Andréa."

Andy blinked up at her and let everyone squeeze her shoulder while they clinked their glasses together. 

"Now," Miranda nodded, licking her top lip a little. "Emily, Serena. How are things?"

Andy tuned out as Nigel's eyes met hers and he looked at her pointedly. Shrugging it off, Andy made it a point to enjoy her evening and not worry about Nigel's cryptic clues about something she didn't understand.

Chapter Text

Despite her best efforts, the week or so following Irv's departure was rough. That was the only word Andy could think of to describe it. Nigel's words seemed to have created an echo chamber in her head that rolled itself around and around until it made her dizzy.

She more than cares.

It wasn't until she'd set two coffees down on Miranda's desk for another impromptu meeting with Ann Shankley that Andy realised she'd pulled away from their friendship. The words were exhausting, though, and they echoed and echoed, over and over. She was almost in tears when Miranda's quiet, assertive, voice filled her senses and she paused after putting Ann's coffee beside her quietly.

She'd placed Ann's down first, but such was her discombobulation, that when she placed Miranda's down, on the customary left-hand side, for some reason she'd gone around the desk instead of staying across from it, standing beside Ann. To that end, she'd had to reach a little, over the back of Miranda's chair and in doing so, leant just a little on Miranda's shoulder. As she put the coffee down, Miranda had reached up and squeezed her hand gently and instead of simply leaving, Andy had squeezed her shoulder in response and for some explicable reason, her thumb had run along the tendons on Miranda's bare neck. A bolt of electricity seemed to shoot up into her thumb. It made her stop what she was doing and stare at her hand, and at the pale neck beneath it. Flashes of understanding that had been shrouded suddenly revealed themselves in startling clarity and Andy could do nothing about the onslaught of moments that crowded her every inch.

Everything suddenly made so much sense.

The scene she had witnessed through Sarah's open door. Ann's gentle hand on Sarah's shoulder. The soft kiss to her hair. The confusion and almost anger that had followed that hadn't made sense but had been so visceral. She could hear Miranda's voice asking if she was alright but she simply nodded and left the room without saying anything. She stared at her desk for the longest time before dropping her phone on the pile of papers waiting to be filed and disappeared into the restroom down the hall. She rushed in and locked the door behind her and, without really even knowing why, she sobbed. She sank down onto the floor, clutching her knees to her chest and she sobbed into them. Someone knocked on the door, but she didn't answer them. She had no idea how long she'd been there, but she guessed it might have been an hour or, just as easily, 2 minutes. She was exhausted and reeling and she didn't know whether she could cope with seeing Miranda at that moment. So she did the only thing she could.

She ran.

She didn't even go back for her phone, she simply ran from the building. She knew Roy wasn't doing anything at the moment, but she didn't want to bother him, so she hailed a cab and sank into the overly-incensed seats with a sigh. Her hands hadn't stopped shaking since she'd dropped her phone and she clenched them together on her knee to stop it being so obvious. 

As the cabbie pulled up, she realised she'd left everything at the office and she gaped in horror.

"Um, I haven't -" she blinked, looking up at the doorman. "Oh," she said as he opened the door. "Mike."

"Miss Andy? Everything okay?"

"Have you got twenty bucks I could borrow? I left my wallet at work."

For the amount of terror that was coursing through her veins, her voice was unbelievably even.

"Sure," he smiled. "Just get me back later."

"Thanks, Mike," she muttered, already planning on doing so as soon as possible.

Perhaps, as soon as she could think without wanting to throw up. She grabbed the spare key from the desk man and raced up to her home.

The home that Miranda was paying for. 

That Miranda -

She made it to the bathroom with seconds to spare as her stomach rebelled and she collapsed in a heap in front of the toilet. 

She didn't know what to do. 

She just had no idea what to do.

-0-

Hours later, after the sun had dropped just below the horizon and the reflections from her glass sculpture had stopped dancing on the walls, someone knocked on the door. Andy sighed into her wine glass and ignored it. There were two possibilities; a courier, delivering her things, or the alternative. The pause after the knock told her it was the latter and, if possible, made her even less interested in opening the door. 

"Andréa?"

Andy rolled her eyes at her naivete.

Miranda used her key and stepped inside. Judging by the quiet noises Andy could just about hear, she took off her coat and hung it in the closet. She heard Miranda chuckle at the outlandish things the girls had brought for her recently to put up on the shelves she'd had installed by the front door. A garish lime green hippopotamus that held her keys in its mouth and a Smokey Bear that was holding a welcome sign bought specially for her after Caroline found out that Andy donated to the National Parks every month.

Her heart thumped as she heard the bare feet coming closer and she forced herself not to look as she heard a wine glass being removed from the frame hanging above the sink. A soft pour and a sigh as she took a sip.

Not a quick visit, then.

"Now," Miranda said quietly, settling, rather surprisingly, on the coffee table in front of her. "Speak to me."

"Why," she said a little too quickly. "I mean, I don't -" Again, not her finest work. Miranda's eyebrow showed her displeasure. "I don't know what you're talking about," Andy muttered, drinking the rest of her wine to avoid looking at her any longer.

"Really."

"Really," Andy said with a tone that she wasn't proud of. 

"That's interesting." Miranda took a sip of her wine, humming at the choice. "I thought that perhaps I had done something and fallen from grace? I have spent the last eight days wracking my brain for a reason. For something I had done. I even considered asking Nigel," she hummed. "I was desperate to know what I have done to make you feel that I really am the bitch everyone else thinks I am."

"That's not -"

"No?" Miranda said, a little bit of hurt in her tone. "Then what is it? You draw me in, make yourself indispensable, befriend me?" She stood and started pacing between the coffee table and Andy's bent knees. "And then?" Miranda laughed but it wasn't a happy sound. "And then, you leave me. Again. Like you did before. Worse though, you didn't even have the courage to just go, until today," Miranda stepped away. "You stayed, but you weren't there. You refused to look at me, refused to speak to me, beyond perfunctory words? You twist the knife every single time you dodge my calls or my texts or my looks? We haven't spoken outside the office for eight days, Andréa, did you know that?" Andy's heart squashed as she tried not to listen. It was impossible though. Miranda was her world and she heard everything loud and clear. She would have, even if Miranda had been whispering. "I should have known," Miranda muttered. "I should have known that nobody would want this. That I couldn't afford to give my shield away to anyone, that I -" 

Andy's eyes closed as the truth rolled around her head over and over. 

"Don't," she choked, getting up and moving away to stand in front of the window, wrapping her arms around her middle but Miranda wasn't finished.

"I thought it was different this time. I thought -"

"I've fallen in love with you."

The wineglass in Miranda's hand fell to the floor and tears started rolling down Andy's face despite her eyes being shut tightly. She knew what was coming. The same sort of rejection she'd imagined a hundred times since her realisation, only with a slightly more pathetic excuse. She didn't want to hear it.

She couldn't.

"I -"

"I don't want to hear it," she muttered, putting her own glass down. "No harm, no foul. I'll turn in my resignation and I'll -"

"The wine glass was dramatic, I grant you, but I promise you, nothing you are about to say is making sense."

"I fucked up," Andy almost yelled, spinning around to glare at Miranda. To her credit, the woman didn't flinch, instead, her eyes blazed with something Andy could not name. "I didn't mean to. I didn't set out to fall in love. Not with you, not with anyone. I didn't even know I was. And what's worse, now that I know? I am in so deep and there's no chance, no way to take this back. I can't hide it any longer, not now I know, but I also can't live with it either. It's better if I go."

"I was wrong," Miranda huffed. "You are more dramatic than my wine glass."

"Miranda -"

"You think you can read me so well," Miranda said softly with more than a little teasing. The change in tone was startling. It seemed to quiet the babble inside Andy's head. "That you see all of me when you look?" Andy swallowed and turned back to face the dark city. Her eyes fell on the glasswork and her heart thumped heavily. She was so stupid. She had ruined everything by letting her heart rule her head and there was no way back now. She wasn't enough. She would never be enough for a woman like Miranda. No matter what Nigel said. Miranda had befriended her, is all. Nothing more. "You don't think I have anything else I can hide from you?" That same soft voice made Andy's thoughts still and she looked up at the window, seeing Miranda's reflection, staring right at her. "You don't think that I could possibly entertain the idea that a thirty-something woman might fall in love with me?" Andy's heart thumped loudly. "Or, more importantly," their eyes met in that reflection. "That I could fall in love with her?" Andy's heart stopped. "And that she just might be the right person to make me happy for the rest of my life?"

That made Andy spin back around. She stared as Miranda considered her. Andy realised that the woman was surrounded by broken glass, lying where it fell but it didn't seem to phase Miranda at all. She kept speaking.

"You don't think that I could possibly entertain the idea that all the things you do for me, beyond that which you are paid to do, is love? That it is all just a job? Andréa," she said it so gently, Andy couldn't help the little sob she made. "I have known -" She made a face. "I had hoped, Andréa, for so long that you might have felt something. And I have known for so long that one day, if I was correct, that you would realise. I sought to teach you all that I knew so that when you did realise, and you ran, that you would go on to be greater than anyone I've ever known. That people in this city would whisper your name and not mine."

"What?" Andy gaped, her voice cracking under the strain. "Why? Why would you do that?"

"Because you matter, Andréa. And, I know you, I know your soul by now, my darling. I knew you would run when you realised. You have such a low opinion of yourself and I am not unaware of my reputation even though, as you so rightly say, you have seen behind the curtain. I can be caustic. I am quick to anger and I forget birthdays and anniversaries and I am not romantic in the slightest. But the thing is, at the time, in the beginning, when I first realised? I was fine with you running. I was prepared for it, even. I was ready ." She sighed deeply. "My life is complicated enough. I don't need a significant other, especially not a woman, especially not a woman your age. And yet," she chuckled but it wasn't what Andy would label as happy. "What I failed to realise," their eyes met. "You beautiful, intelligent, sensual creature, is that in trying to make sure that I had set you up to be the best you could be, and seeing your capacity for love and seeing your intelligence and seeing how you parented my daughters better than the useless waste of space that is my ex-husband," she took a deep breath and Andy saw that same fire in her eyes she'd glimpsed on and off in recent times. "Well, I quite fell in love with you too."

Andy's eyes nearly fell out of her head as the most vulnerable Miranda she'd ever seen, looking up at her in earnest.

"You -"

"I'm in love with you, Andréa. I'm not certain I know exactly when it started. I don't even know when I knew it, only that it seems as though it has always been there. Always. Warming my cold heart."

"Don't," Andy shook her head. "Don't you dare joke about this, I -"

"Andréa?"

Andy's heart skipped and beat and she pressed hard on her chest.

"Miranda, I can't. Don't play with me."

"Oh my darling girl," Miranda whispered, crossing the room in what seemed like a single bound. In reality, Andy stepped forward to help her step up and then off the sofa where she'd clambered out of the glass. Once they were standing before each other, well away from where they'd started, Miranda continued. "How careless I was to make you imagine that I would toy with you in this way. Do you not see, Andréa?" 

She blinked. Then shook her head. She wasn't sure she could see anything at all.

"My whole world is you. Every moment of my entire existence is you. You moved in with us, when you lost your apartment and such peace descended on us that I was terrified that I might never find it again when you left. I thought, perhaps, that it was at that moment, all the way back then before I moved you over here. But I no longer think that is true. I wanted to capture you then, keep you, selfishly, for the good you had brought into my life. And then this place, moving you here so that you would never be too far away. But it turned out to be just close enough to torture me. To know you are here every night, alone, in the quiet and that I was over there, alone, in the quiet. The peace remained, but my need for it changed. I no longer wanted to possess it," she whispered. "I wanted to share it with you. I wanted to sip from it like the finest wine. Later, when I knew, I figured that you would be far enough away that I would have a degree of separation to protect me when it was time to move you along. Why do you think I pushed you so much in the beginning? I was prepared to lose you in order to nurture your future. It is imperative to my soul that you achieve everything you wish to, and more." Her forehead rested against Andy's and Andy stared into the endless blue oceans that were Miranda's eyes. "But I am weak, my dearest love. My children," she sighed. "My children could not live without you. They were a convenient excuse to hide the truth."

"What truth?" Andy whispered, her hand coming up to touch Miranda's cheek gently. "What truth, Miranda?"

"That I could not bear to live without you either."

Andy captured Miranda's lips without thought, her arms wrapping around the small, solid body tightly. Miranda's lips were so soft and she tasted of wine and coffee and something else she didn't have a name for. She felt tears spilling onto her cheeks but she could not tell if they were her's or Miranda's but she held on for dear life, desperation pushing her on until she had to pull away, breathing hard.

"I love you Andréa," Miranda breathed. "Ever so much more than I thought possible."

"I love you," Andy choked, her hands mapping Miranda's face, running through her hair, tracing down her neck. "I love you so much. I don't," she shook her head and stepped away, wiping away her tears. "I don't want to leave you."

"Leave me?"

"I can't be," she shuddered. "I can't be your assistant if I'm -"

"Who says?"

"It's not -"

"Darling, I thought we'd moved past that? With Ann and Sarah?" She chuckled. "I honestly thought that was the moment you had realised?"

"No," Andy blushed. "I didn't realise then. Today," she almost choked. "Though," she snorted. "That clued me in. I touched your shoulder," she ran her thumb along the tendon that had led her heart to the truth. "You squeezed my hand." Miranda did so. "And I rubbed your neck. I realised that it was the same. That I'm always touching you. When you are," she brushed Miranda's beautiful white hair back. "To so many, untouchable."

"Darling," Miranda smiled gently. "All roads lead here, I'm not concerned with when, or why. Only with the now. And do not worry about work. Many, many assistants have been wives and lovers. I just join a long and distinguished line of people, mostly men, who fell for the woman that kept their every waking moment accounted for," she snorted. "I think," she smirked. "If we're honest with ourselves, we've perhaps been doing this for a long time, no? Maybe I'm not so different after all."

"The press -"

"Hang the press. I don't care one bit."

"The girls -"

Miranda made a noise and smiled at her. That little smile she only ever gave to Andy.

"You think they would be upset," Miranda said gently. "About this?"

"I don't know." Andy swallowed. "I'm not sure I know anything anymore."

"They love you, Andréa. They have loved you from the start. You support and nourish and nurture their little souls and I am so very happy to know that I have finally found someone worthy of their love."

"Miranda, this is insane. You're -" Miranda's eyebrow arched. "And I'm -"

"Oh, my darling," Miranda despaired quietly. "I do wish you'd have more self-esteem," she said gently. "And would listen to me when I tell you that without you, I am nothing," she shrugged. "Nothing, Andréa. We've been through this, remember? Single mother with two children, a dog and endless piles of money. Nothing more. Nothing less."

"I don't -"

"With you, though, I am Queen. Because you make it so. I cannot live without you in my life. All of my life. I do not ever wish to. I want you. I have for some time."

"You -" Andy swallowed. 

"Watching films with you became one of my favourite pastimes. It enabled me to sit so close to you and rest against you," she blushed. "Fall asleep on you." Andy laughed, a touch of hysteria raising the pitch. "It didn't start that way, but it ended up being only about that. I didn't care what we watched as long as we sat together. And existed, outside of," she waved her hand. "All of this. Seeing the world through your eyes has made me a better person, Andréa. Not just a better editor, a better human."

"Can I," Andy took a big breath. "Can I just clarify something?"

Miranda nodded.

"You love me?"

"With all of my heart," she smiled indulgently.

"And you," Andy's hands were shaking and she rubbed them on her yoga pants. "Have known that I was, I am, in love with you for -"

"A while, yes."

"I didn't know," Andy gaped. "And you never said anything?"

"I couldn't," Miranda muttered. "You had to be the one to come to that conclusion. To be the one with courage, my love. If it was going to be anybody, it had to be you. Do you see that?"

She thought about it and realised Miranda was right. If Miranda had broken first, she would have been seen as a position of power, exerting that power over her assistant. If Andy broke first, it was different.

"Miranda? How long have you known I might have loved you?"

"I have long thought about this, myself," she mused, tracing Andy's cheek. "I think I had a small idea that something was behind your eyes from the moment you took me for lunch by that waterfall?" Andy gaped. "You looked at me, just before we left and," she smiled. "I have seen and felt many people's eyes on me Andréa, but none so deep as yours. They shine when they look at me. When they meet my own, I feel as though I am anchored in even the most powerful storm."

"I had no idea. I mean -" She thought about it. "I didn't know that's what it was."

"I know. Is that what this last week has been about?"

"Nigel," she whispered. "At the bar after the Irv thing. He told me that you would give me everything," she sighed. "We were interrupted, and I didn't understand, but he pushed hard enough that I started thinking, and watching. You watch me."

"I do love watching you," Miranda whispered.

"I realised, as I was watching you, that I was always watching you. I needed you, craved you, but I've never really known why." She half-sobbed with a laugh. "I was so oblivious."

"You were," Miranda chuckled, cupping her cheek. "But that made it all the purer."

"So -" Andy's brain was spinning so fast she was only just remaining on her feet. "We're in love?"

"It seems so," Miranda beamed. "It is a fortuitous day. I do love Thursdays."

"Are you even -"

"I don't believe in labels, my darling. I am in love with you and I believe that is enough for me."

Andy snorted happily and took the two steps forward she'd just taken back. She scooped Miranda up in her arms again and pressed deep and endless kisses against Miranda's mouth.

"God, I didn't know that I have wanted to do that for so long," she muttered against those luscious lips.

"It has been tortuous, Andréa," Miranda whispered between kisses. "Having you so close, seeing you so often. Proceeding at such a glacial pace."

"You wish me to thrill you, Miranda?"

She wasn't sure where the bravery was coming from, except that Miranda seemed to like it. She threw her head back and laughed in that way that made Andy's heart thump pleasurably.

"God, I love making you laugh."

"You do so, quite a lot more than you realise."

"Will you," she swallowed as Miranda looked at her. "Stay? Properly. I, we don't have to -"

"Yes," Miranda cupped her cheek and pressed a sweet kiss to her lips. "I'd love to."

Andy pushed Miranda gently towards the kitchen counter, sighing happily as she picked Miranda up and dropped her on top of it.

"If you think this is happening in your kitchen, you have another thing coming."

"So many buttons," Andy mumbled, concentrating on unbuttoning Miranda's shirt. "So little time."

"Honestly," Miranda growled as Andy grumbled at the last few buttons that her shaking fingers could not undo.

"Fucking fuck."

Miranda laughed and stilled Andréa's fingers, pulling them to her mouth and kissing them gently.

"Slow down. We have all night. The rest of our lives, hopefully?"

Andy nodded almost comically, then blushed.

"I just said we don't have to do," she swallowed. "That, and then I -"

"Hush, love," Miranda said gently. "As I said. I'm not sure we haven't been together all this time and just haven't realised. All those dates? All those moments of quiet love?"

"Oh," Andy grinned bashfully. "Oh yeah."

"Mmm," Miranda laughed as Andy's eyes got impossibly wider. "Have you eaten?"

Andy nodded.

"So, I'll meet you on my side of the bed?"

Miranda hopped down off the counter and sauntered towards Andy's room.

"Wait, what?" she called, suddenly realising what she'd said. "You infuriating -"

For all of her life, after that moment, Andy would never forget the girly squeal that Miranda released as Andy pulled her into her arms and dropped her onto the bed. She followed shortly afterwards with a laugh that her soul was a part of.

"I love you Andréa."

"I love you," Andy smiled. "May I?"

"You very much may," Miranda whispered.

Chapter Text

Andy dropped down beside Miranda on the bed and was utterly arrested by the sight of her; totally relaxed and, dare she say, happy.

"What?" Miranda asked quietly, her hand reaching out to tuck Andy's hair behind her ear.

"You're happy," Andy whispered, feeling the heat rise on her neck.

"I am," Miranda sighed. "I've been fighting myself for so long. The relief is," she shrugged. "Lovely."

"I"m -"

"Don't," Miranda smiled, pressing her finger gently on Andy's lips. "Don't apologise. I was prepared to wait forever."

"You're such a mushball."

"As I have said, my darling. Don't tell anyone."

Andy grinned and shuffled up beside her love and nudged Miranda's cheek gently with her nose. She pressed soft kisses along her jaw and down her neck, sucking gently on the tendon.

"Oh, Andréa."

Andy realised that this woman was with her. Together. She realised that Miranda wanted her. And that made her hands shake a little.

"We do not have to do anything," Miranda muttered, her blue eyes flashing with concern. "We can just -"

"I want to," Andy whispered. "I'm just," she breathed out slowly. "It's a lot."

"Oh, darling, I know."

Andy chuckled and slid her hand over Miranda's stomach, staring at the way the woman's lip got trapped between her teeth. She took another deep breath and explored with her hand, cataloguing which areas made Miranda's eyelashes flutter and which made her suck in a quick breath. As she touched all the places she never knew she wanted to, she found that she couldn't stop herself from wanting more. She shifted closer, disturbing Miranda for barely a moment before she slid her hand underneath the one-of-a-kind Marc Jacobs blouse and touched the softest skin she'd ever felt. She moaned, just barely and Miranda's hand shot out and wrapped itself in Andy's hair.

"Kiss me?" she asked quietly. "Please."

Andy smiled and did as she was told. Miranda's lips were so soft and gentle and so intoxicating. Andy ran her tongue along the bottom one, marvelling at the way Miranda's hand tightened in her hair. She felt her stomach flip over. She'd always enjoyed having her hair pulled a little.

"Miranda," Andy muttered as she shifted away from that perfect mouth and pressed kisses along Miranda's cheek and up to her temple. "God, you're so beautiful."

"I'm not," she muttered. 

Andy looked at her, watching carefully as she tried valiantly to hide the concern that had just flashed across her face.

"You are," Andy reassured her. "I think you're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen."

"I -"

Miranda grabbed Andy's hand and held it against her stomach for a moment and Andy couldn't help but feel it trembling underneath her.

"Hey, the same applies to you, you know. If you don't want to -"

"I'm not perfect, Andréa. People," she sighed. "I am very good at projecting an air of perfection, but I am not. My body is not -"

"Hey," Andy interrupted. "Who told you that you weren't perfect just as you are?" An awkward look came across Miranda's face and it dawned on Andy. "Huh," she muttered, unbuttoning a few of the bottom buttons on Miranda's blouse. "Well I knew they were idiots but I didn't know they were certifiable." Miranda laughed, making Andy smile in the process. "Well, I have no idea what shitty drugs they were smoking, Miranda, but you are perfect to me."

"I have had children, my -"

"I've met them," Andy interrupted again. "They're beautiful and totally worth whatever they left behind for you to deal with."

Miranda snorted and Andy left her midsection and cupped her face instead.

"Do you think I am beautiful, Miranda?"

She sobered up quickly.

"I think you are the most beautiful woman in all the world, Andréa. Everything about you is magical."

"You called me fat once, do you remember?"

She blushed but Andy soothed it with a kiss.

"I'm saying that because even Miranda Priestly can be wrong sometimes. Maybe she's wrong about this too."

Miranda looked at her carefully and then allowed herself a soft smile.

"Touche, my love. Touche."

"I hope I can touchy."

"Andréa !"

Andy giggled as she kissed Miranda again and again and went back to unbuttoning her blouse. She grumbled a little as she got to the last button and sat up triumphantly as it came undone.

"Ah hah!"

Miranda groaned and covered her face with her arm, and Andy let her. She was arrested by all of Miranda's beautifully soft, pale skin, laid out before her. 

It wasn't quite the time for it, but she realised that maybe she had always loved the idea of a woman's torso, long slender neck or calves that were shapely and muscular from the high heels. The gentle sloping lines of a feminine neck, the soft swell just below her belly button. And then above, encased in a deep purple La Perla bra, Andy's heart sped up.

"God, you're so beautiful."

Miranda peeked out from under her arm and stared at Andy as she stared at Miranda. 

"May I?"

"Please?" Miranda whispered.

"I've always loved it when you say please."

Miranda bit her lip as Andy, once again, reached out and traced her finger along Miranda's skin. She ran one finger along the top of her waistband before sliding her whole palm over Miranda's stomach and up to her bra.

"Andréa," she whispered as Andy cupped Miranda's breast. "It's a front clasp. Will you -"

"I most certainly will," Andy muttered, kneeling up and fiddling with the bra. 

The noise she made as it fell open wasn't all that sexy but she stared at the pristine skin. She smiled and took Miranda's hand in hers, kissing her palm and holding onto it as she bent slightly and licked gently around one nipple.

"ANDRÉA!"

"I have you," Andy whispered against impossibly soft skin. 

She realised quickly that Miranda was beyond ready and she resolved to stop messing about. Instead, she slid a knee between Miranda's thighs and rested over the top of her, allowing her hair to fall to one side.

"I love you," she whispered, making Miranda's eyes snap open and meet hers. "I love you."

"I love you, Andréa," she whispered. "Please."

"I have you," she whispered.

She kissed Miranda again, feeling the desperation in the woman's movements as her teeth nibbled on her lip. She wasn't exactly sure what she was doing, but she knew what she liked, so she resolved to just work it out when she needed to.

She sat up suddenly, pulling her shirt over her head and unclasping her bra. Miranda's eyes were almost midnight blue and she stared at Andy in a way that was both hungry and in awe.

"I'm not that amazing," Andy chuckled.

"I would beg to differ," Miranda muttered, following Andy by sitting up. "And I'm Miranda Priestly, so I do have a modicum of understanding."

Andy kissed her to stop her talking and felt eight perfect nails dig into her back. 

"You like this?" Andy asked, unsure about whether Miranda

"You have no idea," she muttered as she tangled her hand on Andy's hair again.

"If you don't like something, tell me?"

"Andréa?" Miranda said seriously.

"Yes Miranda."

"Will you stop talking, and fuck me," Miranda blushed deeply. "Please?"

Andy laughed and let her weight rest on Miranda's body, making just a hint of a groan escape the woman's lips. Andy dragged her teeth down Miranda's neck and captured an earlobe between her teeth.

"Yes Miranda. "

She explored every inch she could reach with her mouth and her hands. She held Miranda's breasts in her hands and wondered if she had died and gone to heaven as she sucked on a perfect coral nipple. Miranda's hand hadn't strayed from the back of Andy's head and the woman used it to direct Andy's trajectory, further down her body.

"Oh," Andy breathed as she slid off Miranda's slacks. A matching pair of panties, evidence of just how ready she was showing clearly as Andy slid her body between Miranda's knees. 

There was a moment of awkwardness as they both took the rest of their clothes off, but Andy's hands were back to shaking as she contemplated what she was about to do.

"I'm just a woman," Miranda whispered as they settled back down together.

"You are not just anything," Andy whispered. "But you are mine."

"Yes," Miranda whispered, smiling gently as Andy traced the back of her arm with her fingers. "As you are mine."

It started so slowly that Andy didn't really even realise what she was doing. A kiss, a breath and a soft gasp as she slid forward and their bodies touched, properly, for the first time. Miranda's hands massaged the back of Andy's neck and back as they kissed and Andy was lost.

She lost all thought as she pressed Miranda back gently and slid her thigh back between her knees and pressed gently upwards.

"Andréa!"

Her thigh was quickly wet with Miranda's desire and she groaned herself, knowing it was her that had done that.

"Okay?" she asked as she slid her hand through wiry curls. 

"I will be," Miranda gasped as Andy started stroking her finger through the slick folds. 

"God, you are so beautiful."

"Kiss me."

Andy did as she was told, rolling Miranda's clit over and over with the pads of her fingers.

"Go inside, please. Please darling. Pl -"

She slid a finger inside, losing her breath.

"More," Miranda pleaded. "More."

Andy complied and slid one more as she sunk deeper again.

"And-"

Andy didn't need more direction and she slid a third in as she built up a rhythm. Miranda's hips told her everything she needed to know as she slid her arm beneath Miranda's neck and used her knee to spread her legs wider.

"I love you, Miranda. So much."

It started as a whisper, a heralding of something more as Miranda's body pulled at her fingers. Her thighs pushed against Andy's knee, begging to close against her hand but Andy wouldn't let her. Miranda keened, her nails scoring paths along Andy's ribs as her back bowed.

"And- réa!"

Watching Miranda Priestly lose herself to pleasure, caused by her own hand, made Andy jerk onto her and her clit pressed against Miranda's thigh, sending her into her own bliss.

"Miranda!"

She felt Miranda's hands tighten again and she remembered what she was doing.

"Again," Andy muttered, even as her entire body shook. "Please. Again."

Miranda made a noise of protest, but Andy curled her fingers slightly and stroked long and hard against the tight walls.

"Oh," Miranda hissed. "Oh -"

It took a little longer, and Andy shared tired but deep kisses with her lover and before long, Miranda's hand was back in her hair, gripping it tightly and pressing Andy's face into her shoulder.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck!"

Andy let her weight rest a little heavier as she felt Miranda tremble and didn't let you as she felt Miranda's body start to thrum.

"Andy!"

Andy got to her elbow and watched as this perfect woman fell apart beneath her. There was sweat on her top lip, her pristine white hair was plastered to her forehead and she was gasping indelicately as tears rolled down her face but Andy had never seen anything as incredible.

"Oh," she whispered, kissing Miranda softly. "You are so perfect. So so perfect."

"Darling, I -"

Miranda's eyes blinked open, revealing beautiful stormy irises and Andy smiled softly.

"It's okay."

"I've wanted -"

Andy withdrew slowly and gently and gathered Miranda up in her arms. 

"I'm sorry."

"No," Miranda said, her voice cracking slightly. "No. Don't apologise. I'm just so glad, Andréa," she looked up and cupped Andy's cheek. "So glad."

"Me too," Andy whispered. "Just relax for a while. I've got you."

"But you -"

"I'll still be ready when you are," Andy grinned. "I promise. But it's okay."

"I don't think I've ever cried in my whole life," Miranda grumbled, wiping away a stray tear. "Not after -"

"Well," Andy smiled, nuzzling her cheek. "Glad to be the first I guess."

Miranda chuckled and pressed as much of herself as she could against Andy's body and pressed her face into Andy's neck.

"I love you."

"I love you," Andy whispered. "Just relax. We have all the time in the world."

-0-

After a short nap, they made love through the night. They stopped occasionally, to eat or to sleep, but as they lay beside each other, in Andy's monstrously large bed, one of them would shift; a trail of fingers across a hip or a fluttering of lips against skin and it would begin all over again. As soon as she had calmed down enough to think, Miranda became insatiable. The way she wielded everything from her voice to her hands had made Andy scream at one point, and shake more often than not. 

Sometime early in the morning, as the sun had just started to peek over the horizon, they'd finally fallen into an exhausted heap. Miranda lay across Andy's back where she's been moments before tracing exhausted patterns on Andy's ribs.

"Get my assistant to cancel my day, will you?" Miranda mumbled, kissing one of the bruises she'd made on Andy's shoulder.

Andy snorted and reached behind her to pinch Miranda's thigh.

"If I wasn't too tired to throw you down again, I would do so."

"We'll have to take a raincheck, darling," Miranda mumbled. "I think you have broken me."

"Rubbish," Andy whispered. "Lemme up?"

Miranda mumbled but allowed Andy to slide out from under her and grab her phone. She sent an email to Nigel, left the redirect in place, and then put the phone on mute for another few hours. She crawled back to the middle of the bed and opened her arms, smiling happily as Miranda sank into them.

"Imagine if I hadn't had this bed," Andy mused quietly.

"It was one of my more brilliant ideas," Miranda mused. "Quite the long game, however."

"Even then?" Andy asked, not wanting to start the conversation back up again, but equally desperate to know.

"I think I have always loved you, my darling," Miranda said around a yawn. Andy watched Miranda lose her battle with sleep and pulled her close. After pulling the covers over them both, she joined her lover in slumber.

-0-

The front door slamming shocked them both awake.

"Mom? Andy?"

"Oh shit," Andy groaned as one head of red hair poked its way around the door frame.

"No. Way."

"Miranda -" Andy hissed, shaking her lover a little to try and wake her.

"Caro! Get in here!"

"Cass!"

"Holy shit!" Caroline said as she jerked to a stop. "Is that -"

"We're not in a petting zoo, children," Miranda huffed, though she didn't move from where she was wrapped around Andy's chest and quite coincidentally, protecting her modesty. "Go and put your things away and we'll be out in a moment."

"Uncle Nigel owes me twenty bucks," Cassidy said as they walked away.

Miranda's quiet snort made Andy frown and she looked down at her.

"Is that," she glanced back to the door. "I mean -"

"Darling?" Miranda said gently. "They love you. They have for a long time. If anything, like Cassidy had implied, they've known longer than we have, seeing as they are on the outside of it, as it were."

"Longer than I have, you mean?"

"I mean," Miranda suckled gently on an already forming bruise where Andy's neck joined her shoulder. "That you have been as much their parent as I am. And they love you. Whatever apprehension you have in your mind, is truly only that." She tapped Andy's temple. "In your mind."

"Okay then, smarty pants." Miranda snorted again. "What do we do now?"

"Well my vote would get vetoed on account of the company, so my second choice would be to go out there and have some," she glanced over at the store table where her phone was charging. "Lunch with our children." Andy's heart thumped audibly and Miranda smiled. "Alright?" Andy nodded, but couldn't speak. "I'll go and take a shower, if you like. Take a moment."

"Miranda," Andy managed, though only barely.

"We love you, my darling. All four of us," she chuckled as a whine came from the bottom of the bed.

"You had better not get on this bed Patty," Andy grumbled, wiping tears from her eyes.

Miranda slipped from the bed, naked and glowing, kneeling beside the bed to cuddle her dog.

"What do you say," Andy muttered as she rolled over and put her head on her hand. "When I love you doesn't seem enough."

"Just that," Miranda sighed, getting up and leaning over to kiss her gently. "I'd ask you to join me, but -"

"Yeah," Andy chuckled. "I don't think I'd be able to behave either."

Miranda's laughter echoed as the door closed and Andy lay back with a sigh. She heard the shower start and the quiet mutterings of the girls in their rooms or the living area. She pinched her stomach just to check she hadn't had some sort of medical episode and was dreaming, but she winced instead.

The bed shook as Patricia leapt up onto it and she groaned as the big head came to rest on top of her. Despite her earlier complaints, Andy didn't really mind.

"Hey girl."

She tickled Patricia's ears while she let her thoughts wander. The idea that they were a family, all of them, was something she'd considered before, perhaps, but never seriously. Up until Nigel's revelation, she hadn't even realised what she was doing. And now she felt, in part, like a complete idiot. Shaking her head at herself, she ran her hand through her hair and straightened it out before reaching over to get her phone.

She had messages from Nigel and a few from the office as well. She cleared the office ones, emailing those she needed to before opening the one from Nigel. She laughed as his message popped up and tapped out a reply, sending it just as a phone call came through. She frowned at the name.

"Hello?"

"Andy," Ann Shankley's warm voice greeted her. "How are you?"

"I'm very well," Andy said with a swallow, feeling even more naked than she actually was. 

"I'm glad. We haven't notified Elias Clarke yet, but I wanted to let you and Miranda know that Sarah went into labour last night."

"Oh!" Andy said, sitting up and disturbing the dog. "Are you alright? What do you need? Is Sarah okay? The baby?"

"Andy," Ann chuckled. "We're fine. We don't need anything at all, but our families have been notified so we thought it prudent to let our friends know before we let Elias Clarke know too."

"Oh," Andy blushed. "Well thank you. Congratulations!"

"Thank you," Ann said effusively. "We're both blissfully happy and everything went perfectly well. Sarah's taking a nap so I thought I'd best use the time wisely."

"I bet," Andy nodded. "Well if there's anything I can do, Ann, I'd be happy to."

"Thank you," she said genuinely. "Um, Andy -" Ann paused and Andy felt the tension through the phone. "I, I've been going back and forth about whether to say anything -"

"About Miranda and me?" Andy chuckled. "Yeah, we, well I, figured that out. Um," she blushed again. "Yesterday actually."

"Oh!" Ann chuckled. "Good. Do I need to -"

"No," Andy grinned as Miranda came out of the bathroom wearing Andy's robe. "She's here, I'll tell her."

"Good," she said and Andy imagined her nodding. "Well, I'm very much looking forward to dinner at some point to hear about it all," Ann said happily. "I have to go, Andy, I'm so glad you found your way together. If you need anything at all, please let me know."

"If I need anything? I'll make do," Andy countered. "You go and concentrate on your wife and baby. Let me know if you need anything."

"It is surreal, that is for sure."

"Congratulations again, Ann. I'm so happy for you both."

"I'll let you know when we are home if you'd like to come and visit?" Miranda's loving eyes met hers.

"We'd love to. Thank you. Take care."

Ann hung up and Miranda knelt on the bed and tucked Andy's hair behind her ear. 

"Ann?"

"Yes. Sarah had their baby."

"Name?"

"Um," Andy thought back. "Actually -"

Two identical noises disturbed them as a text message came through on their phones. Within was a picture of Ann Shankley holding a tiny bundle of blue blankets and a message below.

We were told we were having a girl. As you can see, that's not quite how things turned out. As such, we hadn't even considered names, but as soon as we had some time with him, we came up with the perfect one. Please meet William Andrew Shankley. William after my father, and Andy after someone who is as kind and gentle as we would wish our son to be. Ann & Sarah (And William) x

Chapter Text

By the time she'd showered, Andy was almost floating. The endorphin high had hit, someone had named their child after her and it was a Friday. Added to that, her new lover was sitting at her kitchen bar, reading the news on her iPad, looking delicious in Andy's overly large off-the-shoulder t-shirt. Added to that, she had the whole day off to do with as she pleased with that same woman and her two mischievous children.

"Good morning, munchkins."

"Morning Andy," the girls said in stereo with twin glints in their eyes.

"Shut up," she groused, messing Cassidy's hair and kissing Caroline's.

"Hey!" Cassidy squeaked as Andy kissed her head as well.

She went over to the coffee machine and stopped, midway to hitting the button when a throat cleared behind her. She turned and found Miranda peering over her reading glasses.

"I don't warrant a kiss as well?"

Andy blushed and almost skipped back around the island and kissed Miranda softly.

"Good morning," she whispered as they parted.

"It really is, my darling."

Andy chuckled.

"Want a coffee?"

"I would love one. I've ordered breakfast."

"You have?"

"Hmm," Miranda muttered, swiping her iPad with aplomb. "There is this marvellous little app -"

Andy laughed as she saw the equivalent app she'd ordered Miranda's pizza on and kissed her again.

"What are we having?"

"Waffles," Cassidy squealed happily.

"Your favourite," Andy smiled. 

She went back into the kitchen and made both of them a coffee, dropping it at Miranda's side and kissing her softly again before joining the twins on the sofa. 

"What's been happening, Munchkins? I feel like I haven't seen you in forever! How's your Dad?"

"Lame," Caroline muttered.

They heard Miranda snort, but nobody said anything and Andy nudged Caroline with her shoulder.

"Why?"

"He's boring. And he doesn't listen and, like, remember when he hated my friends?"

"I do," Andy smiled. She thought back to that beginning where she wanted to be everything the three of them needed and realised just how blind she'd been. 

"Well, now he thinks I shouldn't be hanging around with Jordan."

"Have you tried talking to him?"

"Yes," she groaned. "He doesn't listen. I had to tell Jordan that he can't come over when I'm with Dad."

"Well, maybe that's for the best," Andy frowned. "And maybe we can go back to the zoo sometime soon so you can hang out."

"Can we, Mom?"

"What are you asking me for," she smirked as she came around the sofa to join them. "Andréa is running this show."

"Yeah but, you'll come with us this time, right?"

"I'd love to," she said quietly as she snuggled beside Cassidy.

"This is nice," Cassidy whispered. "Finally. I know we were teasing you Andy but -"

"I know kiddo," Andy whispered back as Miranda's hand slipped into her's. "I know."

-0-

Her phone rang while they were in the middle of watching a movie and Andy stepped into her room to answer it.

"Hey, Nige,"

"Soooooooooo."

"I don't kiss and tell."

"Oh, come on Six. Just a morsel. A taste."

"A taste?"

"You're right," he said quickly. "Poor choice of words."

She snorted and sat on the bed. 

"It's," she sighed. "Why couldn't I see?"

"Because you were so in love with her it blinded you."

"You knew."

"Of course I did," he chuckled. "As soon as she walked barefoot into your kitchen."

"Did you -"

"She and I spoke about it. Not long after that, I realised you had no idea."

Andy thought about how lonely Miranda must have felt at that moment. 

"Thank you."

"Pfft," he chuckled. "She and I might work together but she's as close to a BFF as I have, besides you. So now that you're happy in love. Know any delicious morsels I can meet this weekend?"

Andy laughed and lay back and then realised that she actually did.

"I'll send you his number," she chuckled. "After I talk to him."

"Are you ready for when it breaks?" Nigel asked seriously after a while.

"I dunno if it will. How is it going to look any different than it already does?"

"That's an excellent point," he laughed. "Anyway. Is her majesty coming in at all?"

"Nah, we've all taken the day off."

"I imagine you're both very tired."

"Bite me, Nigel," Andy grinned, refusing to dispute the statement.

"Mmhmm. Well, when she feels like doing some work, can you tell her to look at page 27. I don't like the lighting, but otherwise, the pictures are perfect. So, I'm wondering if we can alter the page to offset."

"I shall make a note," Andy nodded, already doing that.

"Good. Have a great day Doll."

"You too Nige."

"Don't forget to send me that hunk's phone number."

Andy hung up before he could say anything else and sent a message to Doug before she got up. Their friendship wasn't what it used to be and she wondered if it was perhaps her fault for that at this stage. They'd reconnected when she was living in Miranda's house but since then they'd talked now and then and gone for a coffee one or two Saturday afternoons that the girls were with their Dad but she'd been reluctant to bring him round. She understood why, now.

"Everything alright?"

"Oh," she smiled as Miranda kneeled on the bed and carefully let her weight rest on Andy's body. "Yes, I am."

"Mmm," Miranda muttered, stealing a kiss before sliding off resting her head on Andy's shoulder.

"That was Nigel. Something work-related, a bit of us related. Then I got to thinking about my friend Doug. I haven't wanted to bring him over to see the place. I hadn't really understood why until now."

"You can," Miranda shrugged. "It's your home."

"What are we going to do about that," Andy muttered. "Shall I -"

"I -" Miranda sighed and sat up. 

Andy followed, chasing Miranda's eyes as she looked away.

"Hey -"

"I, I did something a few months ago. I perhaps shouldn't have. But I did."

"Oh?"

"I may have signed this over to you."

"I beg your pardon?" Andy said, her heart beating loudly in her ears.

"I -"

"No, actually I heard you. When, why and how did you do that?" Her voice had gone up a few octaves and she was struggling to remain calm.

"Um."

"Miranda."

"I lied," Miranda whispered. "When we first started this. I knew I wanted you to have it. You. It is of no use to me but it is everything to you. This will open your options so wide. You own real estate in New York City."

"I -"

"It's all legitimate. Sadiq is handling it."

"What do you mean Sadiq is handling it. I spoke to him three days ago."

"I know. I forbade him from telling you."

Andy stood up and started pacing and Miranda let her.

"What about -"

"I paid the fees."

"Of course you did," she muttered, going back to pacing. "What about -"

"The rent you're paying has gone into an escrow account that is now paying the building's fees. Your investment interest as well. Sadiq assures me it's solvent at this point."

"At this -"

"You'll get a pay rise in the new year."

"But -"

"Sarah and Ann make it work, Andréa. Please don't tell me we can't. We went over this."

"Miranda," she groaned, sitting back down on the bed. "You are," she shook her head. "I don't know but you are."

"Do you want to move out? I'm not saying you should. Or that you must."

"I don't know," Andy shrugged. "I want to be where you are. And the Townhouse is as much home to me as here is. Why?"

"Because I want you with me," Miranda muttered.

"What was that?" Andy grinned.

"Because," Miranda grabbed Andy's collar and drew her closer. "I want you. With me. Always."

"Mushball," Andy accused right before their lips met.

They kissed languidly for a long time until one of the twins knocked on the door.

"I'm sorry," Caroline said quietly. "But we're kinda hungry again and Andy has no food."

"Don't be sorry," Andy grinned, opening one arm and letting Caroline bounce on the bed and join them for a cuddle. "Wanna go out to lunch?" she asked Miranda.

"Why not," she smiled, pressing a kiss to Andy's jaw. "Do you have my -"

"You keep as many clothes here as you do at home," Andy chuckled. "I really should have known."

"Let me change and I'll join you."

"Want me to -"

"I want you to wear whatever you like," Miranda said seriously, smoothing Andy's collar where she'd ruffled it. "There are no prerequisites to this, except at benefits and the like."

"I will try not to embarrass you."

"You couldn't," she whispered, kissing Andy again before going into the closet.

"She's pretty amazing," Andy sighed, blushing as Caroline grinned at her.

"Do you think she'll be mad if I don't like girls," Caroline said suddenly and without preamble.

"What? No," Andy said, swallowing her shock. "Not at all. I think as long as whoever it is you fall in love with treats you right and loves you, it won't matter one iota."

"What Andréa says is true, Bobbsey," Miranda said, kneeling back on the bed and kissing Caroline's cheek. "As long as they love you for who you are and in a way that you deserve I shall have no issue with it."

"Even if they work at Vogue."

The temperature dropped in the room and Miranda's face went pale.

"I would cope, but they should not expect an invite to Thanksgiving."

Andy and Caroline both laughed as Miranda disappeared back into the bathroom with a sway of her hips.

-0-

Doug picked up after three rings.

"Hey Dougy."

She pulled the phone away as a very loud squeal came through the phone.

"Andy, are you alright?"

"Yeah?" She glanced down at her phone at his weird tone. "Dougy, are," her frown deepened as she heard sirens. "Are you alright?"

"Honestly?" he said, as the noise in the background faded. "No. There's been a fire in my building. I don't know if it was on my floor or what but the," his voice broke. "I -"

"Dougy, where are you?"

"Essex and Grand."

"I'll be there in," she glanced at the time. "Shit, it'll probably take me half an hour. Is there somewhere you can go?"

"There's a Subway. We can go there."

"We?"

"Um, my neighbour. Amira. And her little boy."

"Gotcha. Do you have any of your things with you?" She considered her options as she messaged Miranda, who'd gone home for a few hours to catch up on her emails. Andy had been headed there anyway.

"Amira was home. She managed to grab some things for Malik, but otherwise no. Just what I had at work. Gym bag etc."

"At least you have that," she said, trying to remain upbeat. "I'll be there as soon as I can. Keep me updated."

"Andy -"

"It's alright Dougy. I'll be there."

She hung up and ran out of the apartment and down the stairs, choosing not to wait for the elevator. Miranda was on the kerb outside in the Mercedes.

"What are you -"

"How long has it been since you've driven?"

Andy chuckled and got in.

"Thank you," she whispered.

"This is your friend and they are in trouble. I know you, my darling. What is your plan?"

"I don't know."

"Yes you do," Miranda smirked. "I had the same thought when your message came through."

"My bed -"

"It can go in the spare room," Miranda shrugged. "You can furnish it how you like or he can. You know it makes sense."

"You didn't orchestrate this did you," Andy quipped. Miranda pinched her thigh. 

"I'm not the actual Devil in Prada, you know." 

Andy soothed any potential hurt by leaning over and kissing Miranda's cheek.

"I know," she whispered.

"Well," Miranda said, swallowing and brushing an invisible piece of lint from her trousers. "If you were looking for a sign, darling, I'd say this is it."

"Doug's neighbour is with him. Amira, I think he said. She has a child? Baby? I don't know." Andy put her head in her hands. "Miranda -"

"Darling, it will work out. They may not want to move so far away. Let us go and rescue them, as you are wont to do, and then we shall see."

"I love you," Andy whispered, somewhat afraid of just offering up those words like that.

"I know," Miranda smiled. "I love you."

"I know."

"Good," Miranda smiled. "You can navigate."

"Where are the girls?" Andy said, suddenly realising.

"We wouldn't have had enough room, so I allowed them to stay at home on their own."

"Big step," Andy smiled.

"I trust them."

"Me too," Andy grinned. She reached over and lay her hand on Miranda's thigh. "If they do agree to stay, are you sure -"

"Andréa," Miranda groaned. "Don't make me repeat myself."

"Yes Miranda."

"As it should be," Miranda muttered, smoothly pulling onto the FDR.

-0-

They'd picked Doug, his neighbour Amira and her son Malik in not much time at all, in the end. Miranda had weaved in and out of the traffic like a rally driver and had pulled over outside the subway, waving away the honking cabs and other drivers at the inconvenience. Andy had loaded their precious cargo into the backseat and they'd driven home in silence. Miranda dropped them at her place and left to go to her's while Andy got them settled.

"Andy, I -"

"I know," she smiled as she let them inside. "It's alright. Please," she nodded them in.

Amira was quiet and honestly looked exhausted so Andy pointed her in the direction of the twin's room and dropped Doug's bag by the sofa while she poured them all water and rummaged through the pantry for snacks.

"You alright?" she asked as she sat down beside him.

"I'm covered in smoke, I shouldn't be -"

"Wanna shower?" she asked. "Here." She took him into her room and pointed him at the shower, passing him a pair of sweats she'd stolen from Nate which might just about fit him and one of her shirts. "Take your time," she said gently. "I'm going to go and check on Amira."

"K," he nodded. 

She realised he was probably in shock but she left him to it.

"Hey," she said as Amira opened the door. "I'm Andy, by the way. I'm sorry about all the circumstances but it's nice to meet you."

"And you," she said sadly. "I," she looked around. "Don't know how to thank you. Your children -"

"Don't worry. I'll explain everything in a while when you're both settled. What do you need?"

"I have a few things," she explained. "What I could carry. But with Malik, I -"

"It's okay. I have some clothes that will fit you," she smiled. "Does he need anything?"

"Not right now. I have enough for maybe tonight."

"Okay. We'll tackle tomorrow, tomorrow. My," she paused. "Partner will be back in a while, probably with some clothes and things, I shouldn't wonder," she chuckled. "She's like that."

"I know who she is," Amira said quietly. "Doug explained."

"She's extremely kind out of office hours," Andy chuckled. "Don't worry. Do you want me to watch Malik while you shower? Or," she shrugged. "Really, anything I can do?"

"He's sleeping but if he wakes and I'm not out -"

"I'll keep an ear open," Andy smiled. "Don't rush. There's plenty of water."

She nodded and pushed the door closed and Andy slumped down on the sofa with a sigh. She wondered how she'd feel if it had happened to her, but she couldn't even imagine. She heard the door open and a few moments later, Miranda sat beside her with much more elegance.

"Nigel is putting together a wardrobe for them both and I have ordered groceries. I thought you could make spaghetti for them. That way it'll be there when they can eat."

"Miranda -"

"Just because I am an antisocial monster most days does not mean that you must also be," she chuckled. "Douglas is your friend, one which you've avoided seeing to placate my needs. I can bend, darling. I know it does not seem like it, but I can."

"You always bend for me."

"Hmm," Miranda mused, tangling their fingers together. "Don't you ever think otherwise."

Andy kissed her softly but not intensely and they sat together in the quiet for a while until Doug came out of her room.

"Your sweats were four inches too long," he chuckled as he sat down. "These are clean. I always keep a spare pair in my bag."

"I have the same problem, Douglas."

"Miranda," he swallowed and offered his hand. "It's nice to meet you, finally."

"And you," she smiled as she shook his hand. "Please don't stand on ceremony. This is Andréa's home, not mine, though you are welcome in it whenever you wish."

"I don't know what is going on," he sighed.

"We're together," Andy shrugged. "And now you are here."

"Wait, you weren't together back when -"

"No," Miranda chuckled. "It's very recent."

"I thought," he sighed and ran his hand through his wet hair. "I honestly thought you'd been together this whole time and we're avoiding me because you thought," he shrugged. "I dunno, that I would disapprove or something."

"I'll tell you all about it," Andy laughed. "But no, really really new."

"I dunno what to do," he suddenly said quietly. "I don't know how to -"

"I will help," Miranda muttered. "You were insured?"

"Yeah," he nodded. "And I'm ok, Amira is studying at NYU but," he sighed. "Honestly I just looked out for them. I don't know them, know them."

"It's ok," Andy assured him as she reached over and squeezed his hand. "We'll figure it out "

He nodded and they all sat quietly until the groceries arrived along with Nigel and three tote bags full of clothes for them all. Andy introduced them, but he didn't stay, leaving with Miranda to see the girls.

Andy made them all dinner but Amira didn't come back out. Doug shrugged and Andy decided to leave a note on the counter instead.

"I'll stay tonight," she said, wrapping her arm around his shoulders. "Then tomorrow I'll get sorted and stay with Miranda. It's only a block away."

"What happened, Andy," he asked. "Why did we drift apart?"

Andy took a deep breath and decided just to be honest. She recounted the talk she'd had with Miranda after the Paris incident and what had followed. She explained their delicate friendship and that of the twins. She told him all about Irv and how that had come about, and Ann and Sarah and the baby. She recounted the whole, incredible tail until she sat back, her voice hoarse from talking.

"I," he shook his head. "You're kidding."

"I'm not," she chuckled. "I really am that dense."

"That's pretty beautiful, ya know," he smiled.

"Pretty dense."

"Nah," he nudged her shoulder. "I can't wait to get to know her."

"I can't wait for you to get to know her either," Andy smiled. "If you only knew, Doug."

"Well, I might need to borrow your couch for a while."

"I have a plan for that but we'll get there. This is a futon so we'll set it up whenever you're ready."

"I'm pretty ready now, to be honest."

"Then let's do that," she nodded. 

She set up the sofa bed and found a spare set of linens that she gave to him and insisted that he think of the place as his own. She left him to it and went to her room where she fell onto the bed and immediately called Miranda.

"This wasn't how I'd envisioned our first 24 hours," she quipped in lieu of a greeting.

"No, though I am not surprised," she mused. "We do seem to do things the more complicated way, sometimes."

"Do you think they'll be okay?"

"Yes. With time. Insurance will take care of everything it can. Tomorrow is a new day, my darling. Get some sleep and then perhaps tomorrow, we can fall asleep together in my bed."

"Our bed?" Andy quipped.

"Yes," Miranda said seriously, surprising Andy with the vehemence. "Ours."

"Well then, how can a girl refuse?"

"She cannot. I am a bastion of charm." Andy laughed as she was meant to. "I shall be over for breakfast. I've already told Caroline that you will not be climbing this weekend."

"Aw," Andy frowned. "I think we'll go anyway. I'll see how they're going here but then I'll take her. I don't want to disappoint her."

"There you go, making yourself indispensable again," Miranda chuckled. "Andréa, I love you. I love the way you love my children, and I love the way you love me and I love," she sighed. "You."

"I love the way you love me," Andy whispered, a little overwhelmed. "And the way you love those you care about. Quietly. Understated. You are," she was the one to sigh this time. "Inimitable."

"I will see you tomorrow, my darling. Sleep well."

"You as well," Andy smiled. "I love you."

"And I, you."

Chapter Text

Andy lazed in her room until she heard Doug pottering in the kitchen and she rolled out and made her way into the living room.

"Andy, hey," Amira smiled as Andy slipped past Doug, who was still sleeping. She hadn't expected it to be Amira. "My parents are coming to pick me up," she smiled. "They were helping me pay for the apartment but they couldn't get a flight out until this morning. I gave them your address, I hope that's alright."

"Of course," Andy shrugged. "Whatever you need."

"Doug's been kind to me," she said quietly as the man stirred. "When Ali died, I didn't know what we were going to do, my parents helped but Doug made sure we always had whatever we needed."

"He's a good man," Andy nodded. "I'm sorry about your partner."

"It happened just before Mali was born. Car accident."

"Gosh. And now this. You've been through it!"

"Yes," she frowned. "And now I must ask my parents to find another place. I don't want to stop going to school."

"What are you studying?"

"Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering."

"Wow!" Andy blinked. "I think you'd get on well with Cassidy, Miranda's eldest. She loves space. Always has."

"Maybe once we're all settled again, we can visit?"

"We'd love that," Andy smiled. 

Amira's phone pinged and she tapped out a reply before looking back up at Andy. 

"My parents are here."

"I'll wake Doug," Andy smiled. "Let me know if you need any help?"

"I'll be fine. I don't have much."

Andy watched her go and went and sat beside Doug on the futon.

"Hey," she said as he blinked awake. "Amira's leaving. Her parents are here."

"Oh, shit. Hang on."

"I'm sorry Doug," Amira whispered as he sat up.

"Why," he shrugged, typing to smooth his hair. "I mean, as long as you're okay."

"We'll be fine. We'll keep in touch."

"Definitely, you have my number," he smiled. "Take care. See you around Malik!"

The baby gurgled as Doug poked his little belly and then in a flurry of movement, they were gone.

"Is she okay?"

"She's been through a lot," Doug shrugged. "Like I said, I looked out for them, but I don't know them."

"I get it."

They sat quietly until he yawned widely.

"You got any coffee in this swanky place?"

"Do I have coffee," she snorted. "Do you think I could be in love with Miranda Priestly and not have coffee?"

"Love, ey," Doug grinned as he got up.

"Yeah Dougy, love," she shrugged, picked at the back of the sofa. "It wasn't that I didn't think you'd approve. It was just -"

"You were oblivious and craved the time you had with her even though you didn't know why?" Doug laughed, nudging her a little. "Yeah, I can totally see that."

Andy punched him gently in the arm and made them both a coffee while Doug sat at the breakfast bar. 

"So when do I meet the kids?"

"You can meet them today if you like? I promised Caroline I'd go climbing with her - we do that on the weekends while soccer is in the offseason. Cassidy is the soccer queen. She got offered a scholarship to Georgetown."

"No way! That's epic."

"Yeah," Andy chuckled. "Kinda proud of her."

"You love them as much as you love Miranda, don't you?" he asked gently.

She paused, though she found she didn't need to think too hard about it.

"I really do," she blushed. "It started out as trying to give Miranda time with them. Together, or one on one. She didn't have a lot of time, you see, so I tried to give her time where there was none before. And then," she shrugged. "It just became us. The four of us. We went places together, we did things together. She even sat in the climbing gym while we scaled the walls." She shook her head at herself. "I should have known."

"Well now you definitely do," Doug smiled. "And I don't want to even think about yesterday so why don't you take me climbing, boo?"

"You're hopeless" She ruffled his hair as she'd always done and he growled in the way he'd always done too. They talked about nothing and everything while they finished their coffees and then Andy's phone pinged with a text from Miranda.

"You're twitterpated." Andy snorted but didn't look up. "Yup, that confirms it."

"I'm just updating her, dummy," Andy finally looked at him. "She also reminded me that I told Nigel I'd give him your number."

"Who's Nigel?"

"Nigel Kipling? Art Director of Runway Magazine?" She grinned as his mouth dropped open. "The guy who bought your clothes."

"What? That was Nigel Kipling?"

"Uhuh," Andy grinned as she watched his eyes light up. "I'll give him your number, then?"

"He's easy to look at, isn't he?"

"Not compared to my gal, no," Andy quipped, getting a guffaw from her friend in turn. "You're such a hound dog."

"Am not! But sure," he grinned. "Give him my number!" Andy immediately did so and grinned as she got a cheeky reply. 

"I imagine you'll have a drinks invitation this week sometime."

"Well as long as it doesn't involve fire, I'll be alright," he groaned. "What am I going to wear!"

"Dougy," she laughed. "He made you a wardrobe. And there's probably more where that came from, if you need." Doug looked up at her with glee.

"Oh yeah! Well, what are you waiting for, come on Andy-Pandy? Let's go!"

-0-

Doug spent a week and a half in the bedroom Andy had designated for the twins before she finally got around to saying something. They were eating dinner in the Townhouse when she finally built up the courage.

"So." She glanced at Miranda who was sipping a glass of wine nonchalantly, then back at Doug. Evidently, she'd be making this announcement on her own, then.

"I already know what you're going to say," Doug nodded as he wiped his mouth. "You need me out."

"No," Andy chuckled, reaching across and squeezing his hand. "Quite the opposite, in fact."

"What?"

"Well," Andy shrugged. "For," she took a deep breath. "Whatever reason, the apartment belongs to me." Doug's eyes widened and looked at Miranda for a beat then back at her. "And I'd like to offer you a lease?"

"Andy, what?"

"Next year's fees are all up to date and," she shrugged. "I'll only charge you what it takes to upkeep the place for a year and otherwise everything else is taken care of. It'll still be a bit of an increase from what you were paying and it's further away but," she shrugged. "I mean, you can leave it as furnished or not as you like, except for my room, that stuff's coming with me, but otherwise -" She realised she was holding her breath. "What do you think?"

"I -" he glanced at Miranda. "As a finance guy, I need to ask you if that is even financially sound?"

"It is," Miranda muttered.

"I -"

"Andréa and I have a rather brilliant personal finance manager. I shall introduce him to you. He did say he'd like to take a step back soon, so perhaps things will naturally fall into place."

"Miranda -"

"This is how the world works, Douglas. Surely you know that by now."

"Well yes of course, but I -"

"I have in mind that you're having dinner with Nigel again, tomorrow?" she asked, in that way of hers that made Andy's stomach flip-flop around.

"How did you -" he swallowed. Andy grinned when he looked sideways at her. "Yes?"

"Why don't you discuss it with him? I happen to know that he is less than happy at his residence and that his lease will be up in a few months. Perhaps it will be serendipitous all around."

"Miranda."

"Douglas." When Miranda finally gave up the attitude and sat forward, Andy could only watch. Whatever was happening seemed to be happening without her and she was fine with that as long as it was what Doug wanted. "If it doesn't work out, then he is, by far, the one in the better position to simply get another place. The insurance will cover what little furniture you have to buy, though we will help if you wish -"

"No!"

Miranda held up her hands in surrender and poured herself a glass of water.

"Then what is the problem?"

"I -" His mouth opened and closed like a fish before he sat back. "I can see why she fell in love with you. You're impossible to deny."

Miranda sat up straighter.

"That's not why, at all."

Andy realised Doug had accidentally stumbled into danger and pulled Miranda back against her and kissed her cheek. 

"He didn't mean it like that," she whispered.

"No," he sighed, having overheard. "I didn't. Not at all. I'm sorry."

Miranda hummed and finished off her water. She stood and turned to Andy. "I'm going to look at The Book," she kissed Andy's head and, as she walked behind him, squeezed Doug's shoulder as she went by. Despite the misstep, the two had become tentative friends in a short period of time. Doug's easy-going nature had won all three Priestly women over, four if you included Patricia who was currently asleep on his feet.

"Sorry," he winced.

"Don't be. You handled it fine. That was her apology. She likes you."

He snorted and finished off his beer and sat back.

"Andy, are you sure?" he asked.

"Are you?" Andy grinned. "Think you can take care of my place for a whole year without me needing to evict you?"

Doug snorted. 

"What about Nigel?" he asked, quietly.

"You said yourself," Andy said gently. "For hours and hours after your first meeting, which turned into drinks, which turned into dinner, which turned into a whole-ass Broadway show." Doug laughed. "He is everything you've ever wanted. And you won't meet a nicer guy. He's loyal, kind, gentle, and fun. You'll not meet a more honest man; he won't string you along, Doug. If he wasn't interested, he'd tell you. And she said his lease isn't up for a while so see how it goes and float the idea in a while or," she shrugged. "Whenever. Or, don't," she reached over and squeezed his hand again. "You'll be able to afford the rent," she blushed. "Even though I haven't figured out what it actually is yet."

"I'll pay what I need to, you're right, I can afford it," he frowned. "Andy," Doug looked at her for a long time before he let a grin spread across his face. "You're playing in the big leagues baby! I mean, this is huge!"

"What do you mean I," she sniffed, remembering how effective the move was when Miranda used it. "She just got you an introduction with a finance manager in charge of millionaires."

"Oh shit," he gaped. "She was -"

"Oh yeah," Andy laughed. "She was definitely serious. You, um, might wanna get your resume sparkling."

"Oh my god."

Andy got up and pulled him out of his chair to hug him properly.

"Shall I walk you home?"

"Me? No, I'm going to call -" he stopped and looked guiltily up at her. She laughed and remembered something, absently.

"Nate said to me once, back," she frowned. "Way back. The calls you always take? That's who you're with." She glanced at him, feeling her face heating up. "He was wrong about a lot of things, but he was right about that."

Doug laughed and kissed her cheek, calling goodnight to the girls, who raced down the stairs to stereo hug their new favourite Uncle.

"Cass, we'll go biking this weekend, k? After we go climbing again."

"You betcha," she quipped, wrapping her arms around Doug and then accidentally backed into Andy as she let go. "Oof, Sorry Andy."

"Yeah yeah."

They waved goodbye and Andy walked with Caroline back up to the living room where Miranda was ensconced in her throne, wielding her red pen and Cassidy was busy tapping on her iPad. 

"Darling, did you confirm with Jesse's people?"

"I did," Andy smiled. "And bought extra tickets to the zoo for Jordan, Doug and Nigel. Who doesn't know he's going to the zoo yet, but he will."

"Yes," Cassidy grinned. "Thanks Mom, thanks Andy."

"You're most welcome," Andy smiled. 

"I'm gonna go play online with my friends. See ya tomorrow. Love you."

Cassidy ran off upstairs to join in on her friend's game, leaving Caroline curled up in Andy's arms.

"Not playing tonight, kiddo?"

"Nah," she muttered around a yawn.

"Are you alright?"

"Mhmm," she smiled, snuggling deeper into Andy's middle. "Just like it here."

"Me too," Andy smiled, looking up and catching Miranda's eyes. They flashed deep blue and Andy winked. "Me too."

-0-

That deep blue spark only got darker as they'd sat in the den, Caroline cuddled up on Andy's knee and Miranda's red pen shedding blood across the page. Despite the gentle evening, it culminated with Miranda peeling off her clothes as soon as she'd managed to shut the bedroom door behind them.

"I want you," Miranda muttered as she bit down on Andy's shoulder. "I cannot concentrate. I cannot think about anything without visions of you coming undone under my mouth. You torment me with that smile and the way you look at me."

"The way I look at you?" Andy giggled, though it turned into a gasp as Miranda slid her hand beneath the waistband of the jeans she was wearing. "Oh."

"The way you look at me, at every moment. With those big brown eyes."

Andy winced as Miranda got caught at an awkward angle and there was a touch of frustration in her movements as she ripped open the button.

"I can't help the way I look at you," Andy tried, not necessarily looking to derail what was happening only wanting to find an explanation for it.

"It's not that," Miranda said, yanking down the jeans and Andy's panties with them. "It's that I know what they look like as they roll back into your head." They did just that as Miranda pushed open her legs. "That I know what they look like when my tongue is in your quim."

"Jesus, fuck, Miranda" Andy gasped as Miranda did as she was threatened and slid her tongue over the length of Andy's sex. 

"It's that I always want you here, beneath my fingers and my mouth. Nowhere else."

"I'm yours," Andy gasped as Miranda rolled her thumb around and around. "Miranda, I'm yours.

There was no more discussion about Andy's eyes as Miranda made love to her like a woman possessed. At first, she was stern, instructive even. And then, after Andy had come three times in ridiculously quick succession, Andy had managed to gather enough strength to turn the tables entirely.

In a long-forgotten TaeKwondo move, she managed to flip them over and sat astride Miranda's stomach, where she rocked slowly against her skin.

"I crave you at every moment of the day," Andy whispered, not as comfortable with sharing her deepest inner thoughts. "I want to scream it on every rooftop in New York that I am in love with Miranda Priestly," she looked down at her lover and saw those same blue eyes, so dark she might fall into them and never escape. "And that she is in love with me." Miranda groaned and reached up to cup Andy's breasts. Andy's rhythm faltered as her nipples were flicked but Miranda's hand moving to her ass helped find it again.

"Tell me," Miranda whispered, sensing Andy's need for quiet. "Tell me."

"I see you," she gasped as Miranda slid her perfect fingernails down her back. "I see you ruling your empire, in your pretty clothes." She blinked as she realised how hard Miranda's fingers were gripping her hip. Her words were working on Miranda, just as Miranda's had worked on her. "Those clothes that help you wield your power. And yet -" Andy moved between Mriadna's thighs and pressed their centers together. They groaned in sync. "And yet I know what you look like beneath them. I know what happens when I touch you. When I kiss you, when I press up against you. I see your blush and your skin quivering. I see you."

"Andréa -"

"I love you."

They made love, possessed, for hours until Miranda finally called a halt after Andy got a cramp in her hip and Miranda had almost fallen off the bed. Andy had been a bit nervous about asking to stop, but Miranda had seen the pain in her eyes almost immediately and in her rush to move, she missed the edge of the bed.

"God, I'm so sorry," Andy chuckled, pulling Miranda closer. She'd managed to grab her love at the last moment before she'd gone tumbling onto the floor. Miranda snorted and buried her face deeper into Andy's neck as their skin cooled in the night air. "Do you want to tell me what brought that on?"

"No," Miranda muttered, nipping Andy's neck.

"How am I going to repeat it if I don't know what I did," she asked cheekily.

Miranda leant up on her elbow and looked down at her. At one stage in their life, Andy would have felt like a bug, under a microscope, but this felt more like a flower, under the sunshine.

"You repeat it every single moment of our lives, Andréa. You and Caroline cuddling on the sofa tonight, while I worked and we listened to Cassidy playing with her friends. You, getting ready for bed and then, despite knowing that I burn for you, going to say goodnight to the children so that they know they are loved before they sleep." Andy blushed but didn't interrupt as Miranda started speaking again. "You, offering to give your place to your friends when you could play it safe and keep that option open."

"I don't need -"

"You moved around my kitchen like you've always been here, your hand on my back, or trailing across my shoulders. You touch me Andréa, from my skin to my soul and I," she sighed and dropped her head onto Andy's shoulder. "I have not had that in my life. And I crave it, like I need the air we breathe. It sets my soul alight."

"I will always touch you, Miranda. I always did break the rules."

Miranda snorted again and curled around Andy's longer frame with a sigh.

"What do you think the future will hold?" Andy whispered. "If the present is so utterly perfect."

She felt Miranda's smile on her skin, but she knew Miranda wouldn't answer. They'd get to the future, in the future, no doubt.

Chapter Text

Life, in all its glory, evened out quite spectacularly. Miranda Priestly, who at one time, had been a tower of solitude was suddenly surrounded by people. Not insipid, vapid people, but genuinely lovely people who seemed to care about her and her family.

With the ousting of Irving Ravitz came a small power struggle between a longtime member of the Board and, of all people, Ann Shankley. Though it was dicey for a moment, Ann had been promoted to Elias Clarke CEO and Miranda had taken her place. She kept an overseeing eye on Runway but now had a say in the direction of the parent company as well.

Andréa had automated and streamlined so many things that she now had so much time to spare, she could write for The New Yorker, the New York Times, and on occasion, even Runway.

Life had turned out even better than she had first imagined it might.

"Darling," Nigel said as he sidled up to her with a whisky in hand. "Can you believe it?"

"No," Miranda chuckled as she toasted him. "I cannot." 

She didn't have to ask, she knew what he was talking about. Andréa's latest birthday party was a small and intimate affair filled with laughter and happiness and friendship. They'd opened up the dining room in the Townhouse as was tradition now and invited everyone they cared about to an informal dinner. Emily and Serena. Ann, Sarah, and William, along with their newest little one, Lachlan. Douglas and Nigel were there, along with Sadiq and Mark and their daughter Olivia. Their weird little extended New York family that just worked. Miranda had never felt so at peace.

"When are you going to tell her?" Nigel smiled into his drink.

"Soon," she chuckled. "I'm trying to give her time to realise herself."

"For such an intelligent creature, she is incredibly dense sometimes," Nigel grinned as they watched Andy rub her stomach. "If I can tell, surely -"

"She is busy looking after all of us," Miranda smiled. "And we have been trying for a little while," she revealed, waving off his concerns. 

"I hadn't realised."

"She didn't want children, initially," Miranda mused. "Until she did. I believe Sarah had a lot to do with that. Perhaps once we are in the Bahamas she will understand."

"Ooh, that's right, your dirty weekend!" He took the glare she gave him and allowed the change in subject. "More like two weeks, I suppose."

"Nigel, darling," Miranda snorted, draining the last of her whisky. "My entire life is a dirty weekend these days," she quipped, leaving him to laugh as she went to the love of her life.

"Hey," Andréa grinned as she wrapped her arm around her waist. 

Miranda smiled in greeting and kissed her gently, winking at Cassidy who was now as tall as she was. 

"Hello family. Are you enjoying yourselves?"

"Of course," Cassidy grinned. "I was just telling Mama I'm going out. Still cool?"

"Cassidy," Miranda sighed. "All that elocution down the drain. Yes, it is fine. As always I'd like you home before two."

"No worries, Mom," she grinned, grabbing her jacket and kissing Andy on the cheek. "Shannon's going to bring me home. Happy Birthday, Mama. Have a good trip if I don't see you tomorrow."

"You will see me, cos we're not leaving without saying goodbye," Andy chuckled. "Be good. Call if you need."

"I will." 

She kissed Miranda as well, then left, calling goodbye to her favourite Uncles and swinging young William around and nearly clipping the vase on the sideboard.

"How she inherited your clumsiness, I shall never know," Miranda shook her head as Ann joined them.

"Ladies," she smiled.

"How are you?" Andréa asked as she hugged the diminutive woman.

"I'm very well," she smiled. "Are you all set for your trip?"

"Absolutely," Andréa gushed. Miranda shared a knowing smile with Ann and listened to the love of her life gushing about the beachside villa they would be staying at. It was their first trip to Turks and Caicos and if they liked it enough, they would probably end up buying a place there. They could do that now, after all.

"Thank you for agreeing to keep an eye on the girls." Miranda managed to say between Andréa's gushing. "Please don't hesitate to call if anything untoward happens."

"Mom," Caroline groaned as she joined them, hand-in-hand with Jordan. "We're perfect angels, don't you know."

"Hmm," she smirked. "I'll believe that when I see it."

Andréa moved off to speak to Douglas and Emily, who were in cahoots at the dining table discussing the latest trends in shoes, no doubt.

"How are you?" Ann asked genuinely once they were alone.

"Personal or professionally?" Miranda smiled, something she did much more freely these days. "Because for once in my life, I almost feel as though everything is perfectly copacetic."

"It's funny when that happens," Ann smiled. "Does she know?"

"No," Miranda snorted. "Not yet. I'm hoping our time away will help her. I'd hate to take that away from her." They watched Andréa for a moment. She and Ann had become firm friends over their entwined lives together and Miranda knew Ann had a soft spot for her love.

"I have a proposal for you," Ann said suddenly, startling Miranda out of her musing. "When you get back. Not an immediate one, but I'd appreciate some feedback from someone with your understanding."

"Are you starting a line of poorly constructed shirts, Ann?" Ann laughed.

"No. I leave that up to the professionals, however, I happen to know that Alec is planning on resigning his seat. He'd prefer it go to someone who is going to remain faithful to the brand."

"Ann, it may have perhaps escaped your notice, but I am already on the board."

"Not you," Ann smiled. Miranda stared for a short while then blinked and looked over at her love. "She's a powerhouse on her own right now. Property mogul? Published columnist? Extraordinary PA?"

Miranda snorted. Ann wasn't wrong. While they hadn't completely combined assets due to Andréa insisting that she wasn't in it for the money, they'd had Saddiq finagle his way to finding enough capital for Andréa to invest in a tower development, which returned quite handsomely once the tenants were in. Andréa had quickly decided that she quite liked the property market and that was where she now made the bulk of her money. Miranda didn't have the head, nor the time, to devote to it. She simply agreed whenever Saddiq told her what Andréa was proposing and apparently she'd made money off their decisions as well.

"I," Miranda considered the implications of Andréa being on the board of Elias Clarke. "Oh!"

"Hmm," she chuckled. "Can you imagine her at the helm? Eventually?"

They looked over as Andréa picked Lachlan up out of his carrier and cradled him gently in her arms. 

"I don't know if she would enjoy it, but I could float it?"

"Please don't assume I didn't want -"

Miranda waved her off.

"My heart will always be Runway, Ann, we both know that. I would not wish to be CEO of the whole company and I imagine even fewer people would want that too. Andréa has the wherewithal to be something great though." She sighed and smiled. "That was what started," she shrugged and waved her hand around. "All of this. I saw in her something more than what I saw in me. I knew one day they'd whisper her name and not mine and I sought to mold her into it." She blushed under Ann's grin. "I quite fell in love with her doing it."

"I can see why," Ann soothed. "How is Emily fairing?"

"She is doing better. I believe a trip home was just the ticket to her figuring out what she wanted. Eating was only the first step, now she must put in the work."

"Can she?"

"I'm not ready to hang up the red pen yet, Ann," Miranda demurred.

Ann laughed, well used to her nature by now.

"Well. I, for one, have no concerns about the future if this," she nodded towards their little family. "Is who is in charge of it."

At that moment the front door slammed open and Cassidy came barrelling into the room and picked up her phone from the table. 

"Sorry Mom. Thanks Mom, bye Auntie Ann. Love you, family!"

The door slammed again and Miranda turned to Ann, whose own eyes were twinkling with unshared laughter.

"Oh yes, Ann, I'm not worried. At all."