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Model Misfit

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"Andrea."

Andy rolled her eyes and continued speaking into the phone.

"Yes, of course... If you will just hold for a moment I will let her know you are available. And thank you again."

She placed the call on hold and gently lowered the phone into its cradle before grabbing a large folder and her notebook. She took just a moment to breathe before walking into Miranda's inner sanctum. It felt like the first full breath she had taken all day.

This was her fourth summons in the last hour, and each one was becoming increasingly ridiculous. To anyone else who was not so attuned to Miranda, it would appear that she was just simply being controlling. Andy wasn't everyone else, though. She knew her boss's increased need to micromanage was stemming from her growing nervousness about the Mexico shoot.

Miranda had checked and rechecked each painstaking detail over the last week. The run-through alone had been brutal, taking the departments six tries to put together a collection Miranda finally approved of, even if her version of approval seemed more like an acquiescence than anything else. The featured collection was stunning, though Oscar de la Renta rarely disappointed.

This was the first big project following Irv's failed ousting in Paris. While she may have left Europe victorious, Irv had yet to let it go. Two months later, the budget had already been cut twice. With the board looming over Miranda like a dark cloud, she knew her every action would be viewed harshly under a microscope. Every dollar would be reviewed to see if she was spending extravagantly when unnecessary. Miranda knew this shoot would spike an increase in sales if done properly. Every part of this shoot had to be perfect, regardless of their limited resources.

Andy steeled herself and walked into the office with a reassuring smile on her face. After Paris, Andy had retained her position as first assistant. Miranda had been less than thrilled with Emily's performance prior to fashion week, and Andy had earned the promotion. Since their return, Andy had proven herself worthy and valuable, and Miranda seemed impressed enough. The two women's working relationship had improved vastly since Andy had almost walked away. It had served as a a wake up call to all parties involved. Andy had not seen Miranda in a mood like this since that day. Miranda had been nervous then, standing on the steps surrounded by flashing cameras searching for her assistant, but she was even more so now. While Andy was prepared for most of Miranda's mood swings and could handle the majority of them, nervousness made Miranda almost impossible to deal with. She would rather face an angry Miranda as opposed to a nervous Miranda.

"Yes, Miranda?"

"Remind Nigel that we need one of every outfit in a size four to compensate for Janelle's....predicament. Even one hint of a baby bump and this shoot will be ruined. Call Donatella and confirm her jet for tomorrow. It needs to be fueled and ready to go no later than seven a.m. I have hired that new photographer to cut costs. Nikki something. Get her here in the next twenty minutes. I would like to actually meet her in person before we fly out, and I would like to see her portfolio again before she gets here. Have the book delivered electronically tonight. I'll make adjustments on the flight. Grab anything you need from the Closet on your way out. Dress appropriately. As soon as you're finished, go home.  Meet me at the townhouse no later than 5:30 in the morning to go over the schedule before going to the airport. With coffee. Get me Patrick before you leave."

Miranda finished her list of instructions without looking up, causing Andy's smile to grow wider. She was proud of herself for once again being able to anticipate Miranda's needs before Miranda herself could.

"Donatella's jet is already waiting at the airport—filled up and ready for takeoff whenever we are. I have personally packed Janelle's outfits, including a one-piece and two-piece swimsuit for you to choose from on site. Nigel has all the other model's clothing packed. All clothing has been messengered to the airport and loaded onto the jet already." Miranda finally looked up, Andrea handed her the thick folder as she continued without missing a beat. "Nikki Woods's entire portfolio, complete with the notes I made upon your initial review. The Book is being scanned currently and will be delivered to your tablet within the hour. I have pulled all my selections from the Closet. They are hanging in the outer office awaiting your approval if you wish to see them. Roy picked Nikki up thirty minutes ago. They ran into slight traffic, but he will have her here any minute. Starbucks is set to deliver to the townhouse at 5:15 tomorrow morning, and I will meet them there. I am staying with Nigel tonight to make the commute to the townhouse shorter should you need me any earlier. Patrick is holding for you when you are ready. He has assured me multiple times that he is ready to swoop in and save the shoot at a moment's notice should we need him, though the price he is insisting upon may be steeper than we wish to pay. Anything else, Miranda?"

Miranda looked Andrea from head to toe as if she had never seen her before—her eyes widened slightly and her jaw dropped barely open. It gave Andy a sense of déjá vu. She had impressed Miranda several times since the famous Harry Potter caper, but nothing had surpassed it. If Andy was a betting woman, she would bet she just had. Miranda shook her head and gave Andy a small, pleased smile before picking up her phone.

"I'll be out to peruse your clothing selections momentarily, then you may leave for Nigel's. That's all."

Andy turned on her heel with a satisfied smirk. She felt good about impressing Miranda. While Miranda lived on hope, Andy lived on her boss's approval. She would never admit it, but the majority of her day was spent doing anything and everything to make Miranda's life a little more manageable without her knowing about it. She felt a sense of duty and responsibility beyond her job requirement after almost walking away in Paris. She would do whatever she could to rectify that egregious misstep. Now that everyone in her life had abandoned her, she had all the time in the world to devote herself fully to her job. And to Miranda, mainly Miranda. And Andy wouldn't have it any other way.

She had just sat down when she heard the new photographer stomp into the outer office like a herd of elephants. Andy looked up to see a rather striking woman staring at her unabashedly. She tried to smile, but it faltered under the photographer's heated gaze. Andy suddenly felt very put off by her presence.

"You must be Miss Woods. I'm Andy, Miranda's assistant. Miranda is currently on an important call. It shouldn't take long. Can I get you anything while you wait?"

"Well, Andy, I already have a magnificent view. What more could you offer me?"

Andy was stunned by Nikki's overt flirtation. Just as she opened her mouth to reply, a throat cleared behind them. Andy froze, unable to turn around. She felt a blush creep up her neck, feeling like she had just gotten caught doing something inappropriate even though she was innocent.

"You must be the photographer, I assume. If you're quite done harassing my assistant, I would appreciate a moment of your time."

Nikki didn't even flinch. She directed her attention back to Andy, giving her a a smirk as she replied.

"You'll have to excuse my behavior, Ms. Priestly. As an artist I simply cannot help myself around such beautiful things."

Andy fought the urge to roll her eyes. She was surprised to hear something akin to a growl coming from Miranda's direction. Poor Nikki had no clue who she was dealing with. Miranda would eat her alive for such impudence. She had fired many for lesser crimes.

"Andrea is not an object, Miss Woods. She is a human and should be treated as such. Now, do you plan on keeping me waiting all night, or can we get down to business sometime before the New Year?"

"Call me Nikki, please. I'd be happy to get to work." Nikki turned back to Andy before stepping into the Dragon's lair. "And as soon as I'm finished here, I would love to take your beautiful assistant out if she'll have me."

Andy shook her head. "Sorry, Miss Woods. I'm married to the job. No time for such frivolities. No matter how enticing the offer may be." She channeled her inner Miranda and said it with as much sarcasm and disdain as she could muster. She had evaded the woman's pursuit for now, but something in Nikki's eyes made her think this was not over yet. Andy was suddenly dreading spending the next few days in the Yucatán, which she had been looking forward to only moments before.

"Now that that's settled. Andrea, I expect you in here in ten minutes to let me look at your Closet selections."

Andy smirked at her boss, not even glancing at the pushy photographer next to her. Clearly Miranda was already looking for any reason to cut her meeting with the photographer short. Andy nodded in understanding and sat down to finish going through her emails to bide the time. If Miranda had any say in the matter, Nikki Woods would not have been getting on that jet tomorrow. However, as a lesser known photographer, her rates were far more in line with the decreased budget than any of Runway's usual photographers. Andy hoped like hell this would be the last time she had to work with this woman. If she made more than a meager salary, she would pay Patrick's extravagant fee herself to save them all the trouble. Andy could only hope one of the models caught the photographer's eye tomorrow.

Exactly nine minutes and thirty-five seconds later, Andy picked up the heavy garment bags from her desk and strode into Miranda's office. Miranda waved dismissively to Nikki, who had a hard time understanding her cue to leave. She eyed Andy closely as she handed the garment bags over to her boss.

"I understand your marriage to work, Andy, and I find it commendable. There aren't many who would give up any hopes of a social life and happiness for their career. But everyone needs to have a little fun every now and then. I would really love to get you in front of my camera sometime." Nikki fished a plain business card out of her off-the-rack slacks and handed it to her. "If you ever want a session, or decide you might need a mistress, call me sometime. My personal cell is on the back. I do hope we can chat a little more on the plane tomorrow."

Miranda's signature 'that's all' interrupted Andy before she could give that woman a piece of her mind. Nikki smirked once more before showing herself out, leaving an equally fuming Miranda and Andy alone in the office.

"The nerve of that woman. I will kill Irving for forcing me to seek out a cheap, bottom-feeding photographer."

Andy laughed quietly at her boss's words before turning to look at her. "Thank you, Miranda. I honestly don't know what I would have done to her if you hadn't interrupted. I do not suffer those who cannot understand the word "no" lightly, and I would have hated to have left us in the lurch after strangling our only photographer the day before the shoot."

"Yes, well, I do believe I would have taken the photos myself in that case. We would be better off without her presence. I do fear for your safety having her on this trip."

Miranda turned her focus to the garment bags, observing each piece of clothing in painstaking detail before giving a nod of approval. Andy found it impossible to focus on anything other than Miranda's concerned words. She felt her heart swell a little at the older woman's protectiveness. She felt a shiver run down the length of her spine as she remembered the fire in her boss's eyes as she defended her. She almost missed Miranda's words as she got so caught up in her thoughts.

"Acceptable. Do you have everything else you need ready?"

"Yes, Miranda. I just have to pack these in my bag outside and I will be ready."

"Good. Text Roy and tell him we are ready to leave. I will not allow you to walk alone in case that volatile woman is waiting on you. You will stay in my guest room tonight. Inform Nigel his hospitality, while appreciated, is unnecessary."

Andy's mouth fell open at Miranda's words. "Oh, no, Miranda. I will be fine. You really don't have to-"

Miranda scoffed and rolled her eyes.

"Andrea, I do not have to do anything. But I do not recall asking you. You will come with me. Besides, it will be all the easier to already have you there and ready in the morning. I do say Roy will be quite pleased to not have to make the extra trip in the morning to fetch you. Pack your things and come along. Order our dinner from that new restaurant I like and have it delivered to the townhouse. I will be ready to leave in fifteen minutes. Do not keep me waiting. That's all."

Stunned, Andy scooped up the garment bags and hurried back to her desk. She was overcome with nerves. She quickly searched new restaurants looking for any names that sounded familiar while simultaneously shoving the fine couture gracelessly into her Louis Vuitton bag. Finding what she hoped to be the right restaurant, she quickly ordered take out before grabbing her leather bound journal and throwing it in her purse. She grabbed her coat and put it on before grabbing Miranda's coat and bag. She moved to Miranda's office door to alert her of Roy's arrival and pass along her belongings. Andy wasn't sure what strange universe she had landed in in the last few minutes, but she was not going to complain about the turn of events, no matter how odd. She silently pleaded with her nerves to calm down as she attempted to steel herself for the night to come.

Traffic was unusually light, much to Andy's chagrin. She tried to busy herself by texting Nigel, but it didn’t take her as long as she hoped. There was very little remaining for her to do to distract from her nerves. Okay As soon as Roy pulled away from the curb, she would be left alone with her beautiful boss in her home for the night. Andy felt equal parts dread and excitement at the prospect of being in such close proximity to Miranda for a prolonged period of time. As Roy sat Andy's bag in the foyer, she met paid for the takeout and slipped inside. Miranda was waiting inside to take their food to the kitchen while Andy hung their coats in the closet. Leaving her bag by the stairs, Andy quickly followed the path Miranda had taken to the spacious kitchen. She had been in the kitchen several times in the last several months, helping the twins with various homework assignments and projects, but it was different tonight. The twins were spending the next two weeks with their father before returning home for Christmas with their mother. Andy had personally escorted the girls, Patricia, and their nanny to the train station this morning. Now that she was alone with Miranda without them here to serve as a welcome distraction, Andy wasn't sure what to do with herself.

"I can feel your nerves from the other side of the kitchen. Do try to relax." Miranda chuckled as she looked at the petrified girl across from her. "Tell me, Andrea. Do I frighten you?"

"N-no, Miranda. It's just odd being here without the girls. I miss the little monsters. It's so quiet without them."

Miranda sighed as she set out their food. She went to pour the wine before Andy beat her to it.

"It's never the same when the girls are away. I will never get used to how quiet it is without them here. But I have a feeling it will not be as quiet tonight. You do rather like to talk. So tell me something, Andrea. Anything."

Andy thought about her next words carefully. What could she tell Miranda that would actually be of any interest to a woman as intriguing as her? Andy was a simple Midwestern girl who led a very boring life outside of her job. There was nothing special about her. She instantly felt inadequate next to someone so extraordinary.

"I am taking some extra courses at NYU in my spare time. Fashion mainly, but I'm thinking about picking up a business course or two after Christmas. I may still be completely inept in the world of fashion, but after working for you this long, I have to say I am falling in love." Andy gasped as she realized what she had just said. Seeing the smirk on Miranda's lips instantly made her heart race. "With fashion, I mean. I am falling in love with fashion." She stumbled to correct herself, but Miranda's smirk only grew. Andy grabbed her wine glass and took a few large gulps. She tried to hide her embarrassment behind her glass.

"Well, I am rather impressed. And quite honored to have inspired such love from a woman who didn't know who I was, or anything about fashion, just a few months ago." Andy choked on her wine. "And I daresay you have come a long way from that atrocious cerulean sweater. That in itself is quite the accomplishment."

Finding her courage as she recovered, Andy took advantage of this open communication.

"Ah, you've got jokes. Laugh during a run-through once, and you're doomed for life."

"Despite my reputation, I do have a sense of humor. However, I wasn't joking about that monstrosity of a sweater. It still gives me nightmares. I do hope you have since burned the offensive thing." The playful twinkle in Miranda's eyes detracted from the seriousness of her expression.

"Never. I love that sweater more than anything now." Miranda rolled her eyes, but Andy could see the small smile playing on her lips. Andy was feeling her courage grow by the minute. She had seen this Miranda a few times since returning from Paris. Sometimes in the office when they worked late into the night. Sometimes in this kitchen when Andy and the girls were giggling during breaks from their homework. She liked this Miranda. She, of course, liked all of Miranda, but this side was quickly becoming her favorite. "Your turn. Tell me something, Miranda. Anything."

"Hmm. Cerulean happens to be my favorite color."

Miranda smiled in earnest this time and it took Andy's breath away. She couldn't stop herself from laughing, which made the editor laugh as well.

"Oh god. No wonder you hate that sweater so much. I'm sorry to have tainted your favorite color with such an atrocity. But I do believe I love it even more now."

Andy blushed again and averted her gaze. She would never admit to Miranda that she wore that sweater when she needed comfort. She would never be able to get rid of it. It reminded her of the fire in those blue eyes as she was lecturing Andy over the importance of fashion and color. It reminded Andy of the reason she was now taking classes in fashion. It reminded Andy of how far she had come in the last nine months and how much farther she still had to go. But most importantly, it reminded her of twinkling blue eyes and beautiful white hair. Every time she wore that sweater, now only when she was alone, she could feel the older woman's presence. Even in the depths of her own mind, Andy was embarrassed by how often she wore it.

Andy wasn't sure how long they had sat in silence, but it was starting to become uncomfortable. She could feel Miranda looking at her, but all her previous courage had left her. She was too afraid to meet those beautiful blue eyes.

"What's going on in that head of yours? You seem to be a thousand miles away."

"Oh, I was just going through all the details for the shoot again. I feel like I'm forgetting something, and I do not wish to be the one responsible if something goes wrong."

Coward. Just like that it would be back to business as usual. Whatever strange moment they had been having since the arrival of that arrogant photographer now shattered and reality settled back in.

"Did you pack that awful sweater?"

Andy's head shot up in time to see the shake of Miranda's shoulders and the smirk on her face. Maybe the moment wasn't over. Andy looked at her boss with a smirk of her own, despite the blush she could feel creeping up her neck.

"Of course I did, Miranda. I know you secretly love it, and I wouldn't want to disappoint."

Miranda didn't have to know that she had in fact packed that sweater. It was hidden in the depths of her Louis Vuitton luggage and would only be brought out in the safety of her hotel room. Andy kept her head down, refusing to look up and meet Miranda's eyes for fear of what Miranda would be able to see in her own. She missed the blush that spread across Miranda's cheeks. 

"Yes, well, I'm sure you have forgotten nothing then. You have went over every detail relentlessly the past few days more closely than myself, even. Relax tonight. We have an early morning and a long week ahead of us. Unfortunately, this will be the last chance either of us has at relaxation. I do believe it is time to turn in. I expect you up and ready to go no later than 5 am. Third floor, second door on the left.  Should you need anything, my room is right next door. Good night."

With that the editor was gone. Only after Andy heard the sound of heels clicking on the stairs did she utter, "Sweet dreams, Miranda."

Andy gave Miranda a few minutes head start before heading up herself. Even though she was an invited guest, more or less, she still felt like an intruder. She had been up the stairs very few times since her first time delivering the book. She was no less nervous now than she had been that night. When Andy reached the third floor, she was overcome by the strong scent that was wholly Miranda. Even the beautiful guest room smelled like her boss. Andy stripped herself quickly, leaving the clothes where they landed, before stepping into the rather large en-suite. She was so busy replaying the evening in her mind that she didn't notice how luxurious the space truly was. She showered quickly before heading to her bag. Deciding she needed the little extra comfort tonight, she pulled on a pair of silky black sleep shorts and her favorite cerulean sweater. She fell into the oversized comfortable bed. Her thoughts drifted back to her boss, who was lying in her own bed just a room away. Andy felt Miranda's presence around her, almost overwhelmingly. It didn't take long for her to drift off into pleasant dreams of her white-haired editor.