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Under Her Skin

Chapter Text

Andy cried out as she woke, her body covered in sweat as the pain of a new tattoo formed under her skin. Most, she knew, stopped getting them as frequently when they found their soulmate. She'd read enough to know that it was posited that a person's fated partner made them so happy that they no longer wanted for things and her own experience had seemed to mirror that. Andy had thought Nate was her true love. Once she'd hit puberty and she'd got her first tattoo, they seemed to just keep coming. Once she met Nate, though, they had stopped for months and months. She'd found her soulmate and they were going to live happily ever after.

Now, though...

Now, she wasn't too sure. There was no doubt that she loved Nate. She did. They'd had a whirlwind romance, as kindred spirits that wanted to take on the world together. They spent hours and hours making plans for the future and as soon as Andy had finished her degree in journalism they had packed up and moved to New York. It had been difficult, at times, but it was what they had always wanted. What they'd dreamed about. So much so, that the New York skyline had appeared on Andy's thigh, wrapped around it in silhouette. It had surprised her when it came in, she'd not had one appear for so long but it was one of her favourites now. And so, taking it as a sign, they'd packed up and moved.

Once they'd found a place to live, Nate had quickly found a job as a line cook at a local restaurant, his sights set on a Head Chef position in a restaurant Andy couldn't remember the name of. Andy though? She had struggled. 

She applied for job after job, using her college experience and her scholarships like a shield. Day after day, she was dismissed from editor's offices until she finally couldn't take it any longer. She took a day off just to mope. She fell asleep around two and woke up in agony at around four with a new piece of ink. An old-fashioned pen, writing an old-fashioned newspaper column. She didn't need to think about what it meant. She was desperate to be a journalist, she'd wanted to be one for the majority of her life. It didn't take her long to figure out that achieving her dream wasn't going to be as easy as she'd first thought and with their meagre savings dwindling, Andy Sachs settled. 

She took an assistant's job at Runway magazine.

That was when her problems really started. Nate was busy, working nights and mornings and barely even coming home to sleep. He seemed to have found his niche. It was easy for him and because it was easy, he turned disdainful of her new job.

Initially, Andy had shared that attitude. The clackers and the airheads and the perpetuating unrealistic body images were bad enough, then Miranda had dressed her down so spectacularly that she nearly walked away. Nigel, Miranda's Art Director, had clued her in to the real world, though, and she'd spent the following two days sulking. On the third day, however, Andy realised what she needed to do. If she wanted to succeed in the industry, she'd need two things: a way in, and a teacher. Nigel had offered his help a second time - and Andréa Sachs took her full form.

She could not deny that the new clothing, the new hair, the make-up had made her feel like a princess and that night when Nate had been snoring loudly by her ear, her ankle had burned with a pretty little outline of a princess in a tower. She had looked at it for barely a minute as she put the last of her ointment on it, to soothe the burn. She hadn't wanted to give in to this life, but it seemed, at least for now, she was destined to do so.

It had been a turning point in her life, but perhaps not in Nate's. She remembered her grandmother saying something about tattoos coming at major points in a person's life and figured the princess ink was just that; a major turning point that would signify her rise to journalism. She tried not to think of the symbolism of Rapunzel locked in her tower.

It was not long after, that she and Nate had started fighting properly. He had a long laundry list of issues. He thought she put too much of herself into Runway. That she was unhappy with their life together, that her tattoos proved it. 

She asked him when he'd become her keeper, explaining that the new tattoo he'd noticed on her ankle had come in weeks ago and that if he had a problem with it, perhaps he should have been paying better attention to her. It went on and on, spilling over days sometimes. He was gone more than he was home and they fought and argued their way through the times they were home together. Despite all this, as their lives together seemed to be getting further and further apart, her professional life only seemed to improve.

But then, she'd misstepped again, just as she'd been getting into the rhythm of things. She'd been allowed to take The Book to Miranda's Townhouse in the evenings and accidentally walked in on a fight between Miranda and her husband after some machinations from Miranda's twin children. 

She knew she had made a terrible mistake and had placed the book down carefully where she was and left at a run. She waited for the hammer to toll all night, brushing off Nate's grumblings when he came home late and complained about her still being up. 

The irony was not lost on her.

No phone call had come, though, and the following morning, she'd been punished with an impossible task that required her to call on a new friend she'd met connected to publishing. Christian Thompson was a lothario and she knew what he would want as payment in advance, but she agreed anyway, knowing it was that or her job. Despite her initial reservations about the job, she certainly didn't want to lose it now. 

And so she'd presented the unpublished Harry Potter manuscript to those two little girls before they'd boarded the train and she'd dropped a third copy on Miranda's desk with a smug look and sashayed away. It had begun a begrudging relationship of respect. Miranda slowly relied on her more and more and Andy slowly realised that the best use of her time was pre-empting Miranda's every move. 

And so she did. And it worked. And she and Miranda grew closer.

As she paid more attention, she started to notice Miranda. Her sense of humour, her attention to detail. The way she seemed to enjoy terrorising certain employees. The subtle smirks she hid behind the occasional pursed lips. It was a given that Andy noticed just how beautiful Miranda Priestly was, but beyond the powerhouse and the facade she wore, Andy started noticing the woman as well. She noticed the small frown that appeared at about 6 pm when she got hungry and wanted to go home and couldn't. And the gleam in her eye when she saw a piece of fabric, or a piece of fashion, or a pair of earrings that she liked. Andy noticed the way that Miranda looked pained when her children called her and frustrated when her husband called and quite beyond anything, Andy felt like they had a begrudgingly respectful friendship developing.

That friendship grew to include Miranda deciding to take Andy to Paris, over Emily - something that had gutted Andy as soon as the words had left Miranda's mouth. She wanted to go, she knew that she'd have to be an idiot to not want to go to Paris, but this was Emily's dream. The thing that had made all the hard times worth it for Emily. 

The issue had been taken out of her hands after an unfortunate incident with a cab, but Andy carried the weight of it with her, even while she worked tirelessly to try and get everything ready. Life travelled at a break-necked pace until it just burst, two days before they were scheduled to fly out. Nate left her, telling her she was an idiot for caring so much about Runway and the magazine. Telling her she was putting too much of herself into a job that didn't care one bit about her. 

She knew differently though. Miranda needed her, more so now than ever. And so she held her head high and refused to meet his demands. She countered with the offer of a sous chef position in Boston that she'd found on his computer. He hadn't denied it. Instead, he'd gaped at her and screeched about how she'd been snooping in his life. They'd walked away from each other and perhaps in a show of just how far they'd fallen, she didn't even ask him where he was going. She went home, surprised to find his stuff already gone and sunk into bed, alone. Instead of feeling lonely, Andy - for the first time in a long time - relaxed in her own home, despite the turmoil of their lives swirling around her.

The first tattoo she'd had since she started at Runway had appeared the next morning. A small bird leaving a cage. She laughed as she saw it and nodded to herself. Paris could not come soon enough.

It was time for this bird to spread her wings.

-0-

As it happened, Paris hadn't quite gone according to plan either. She'd managed well enough the first few days and then she'd stumbled into, once again, shark-infested waters. Miranda Priestly's marriage was over and though she knew Miranda wouldn't miss her husband, she wept for the pain that Miranda felt for her girls and the loss of yet another father figure. Andy didn't think Stephen was particularly good at being a father figure but she hurt for her boss and their tentative friendship that seemed to shatter under the weight of it all. 

That very human show of emotions did something inside Andy's chest. She wanted to wrap Miranda up in her arms and show her that she wasn't alone but as she'd offered an olive branch to her enigmatic boss, she'd been rebuked. Harshly. 

And then things only got worse. 

Instead of consoling her boss, Andy went to dinner with Christian Thompson, and despite her not really being interested, she let him have the payment for his help as well. He'd remarked on her tattoos but strangely didn't seem to have any on his own body. A blessing, he'd said, though Andy wasn't sure she agreed.

What was a person without hopes and dreams? 

The morning came and as he'd showered, Andy discovered the mock-up of a new Runway Magazine run by Jacqueline Follet and not Miranda Priestly. 

She'd seen red. She'd screamed and railed and left at a run all the way back to the Hotel where she knew Miranda was, in the hope she could warn her before the Luncheon where it would be announced. The following two hours had passed her by without resolution. Miranda had dismissed her without listening and they'd attended show after show, the tension building as she'd rubbed elbows with the shining glitterati of fashion. When she'd finally found her seat, Andy bit her nails to the quick as Miranda announced that Jacqueline and not Nigel would be taking a job at James Holt. Nigel's heart was broken and so was her's. How could Miranda have done that to her friend, to their friend?

She listened quietly as Miranda explained her movements and showed Andy all of her cards. She listened as Miranda itemised her decisions and looked, fully looked, across at her from the other seat in the car.

"What if I don't want this," Andy whispered as Miranda explained how alike they were. "What if I don't want to be like this?"

"Don't be silly, Andréa," Miranda mused. "Everybody wants to be us."

All of the moments, all of the quiet thoughts that Andy had had and ignored. All of the fleeting whispers that her brain had supplied and that Andy had ignored. All the looks Nigel had given her and that Andy had ignored. 

All of those things had brought her to this moment.

This moment she was in, right now.

She could have followed Miranda into the show. She should have followed her. Instead, she'd exited the car and saw the fountain. She hadn't meant to, but she'd walked over there and watched the water absently while her brain whirled. Her phone rang and without thinking about it, she dropped it in the water and stood at the edge of that Fontaine de la Concorde and watched as her phone fell to the bottom. It was almost mesmerising as it sank with Miranda's name blinking on the screen. It flashed twice as it came to rest, then went black. At that precise moment, a deeper pain than she'd ever felt before gripped her whole arm and most of her shoulder.

She'd never had a tattoo come through during the day and never somewhere where anyone else could see it. 

Panicking at the thought of this new tattoo being on show to everyone around her, she fled. Running back to the Hotel Athene, at a pace even she didn't believe herself capable of in high heels, she managed to make it there without being run over or collapsing. As soon as she was in her room, she hit the button for the TV for some background noise to drown out the cries she knew she couldn't help but utter as her skin tore apart. She couldn't look at it. She didn't have the strength after such a trying week. Instead, she managed to pull most of her clothing off, slam the water on in the shower and sit under it hoping that the cold would at least help the interminable burning. Eventually, she started crying as it continued to almost writhe under her skin. Utterly exhausted and out of energy to spare, she curled up in a ball under the water and fell unconscious.

-0-

She woke up, shivering from the cold water and the pain from her wrist to her spine. It burned like she'd plunged those parts of herself in acid. On very shaky legs Andy managed to make her way out of the shower. The pain was making her eyesight blur but she managed to find a robe. She cried as she pulled it on but eventually, she made it over to the bed where she pulled a pillow onto the floor and curled around it, wishing only for the end of the pain.

Chapter Text

Miranda's thoughts reflected the maelstrom around her as she watched Andréa standing at the fountain. She was so torn. She had meant to compliment her, meant to tell Andréa how impressed she was with the loyalty and the drive for excellence and the protectiveness. She had meant to tell Andréa how much she valued her, how thankful she was for her presence in her life. She had meant to tell Andréa how much she needed her. 

But it had all come out wrong. 

Her thoughts had been jumbled. She was discombobulated. She was angry at being put in the position she had been. She was equally unhappy with how she'd handled it; Nigel had deserved a warning, a note. 

Something.

She'd taken the coward's way out and she hated herself for it. What was worse, was that she knew that she'd taken it out on Andréa. She'd backhanded her by comparing them and reminding her of the way she'd supplanted Emily. And she'd been obnoxious about it too. To Andréa. To the woman who had changed every part of herself to be the best assistant that Miranda had ever had. And had paid the price for that at almost every turn. And then, Miranda had walked up the steps trying to fight her way through the reporters, desperately wanting to reach back and pull Andréa to her.

To protect her from the chaos.

And then she was just gone. Miranda knew before she'd turned, knew what had happened when she'd looked down, where she'd expected Andréa to be, only to find the security guard looking stupidly up at her. She'd looked back, through the crowd, desperate to find those sunburst eyes, catching instead the shock of brown hair over the heads and the camera flashes. She despaired. She would never have Andréa Sachs beside her again. All of the carefully laid out plans were wasted. The pain and suffering she had gone through, that had culminated in the fracturing of nearly her entire family, all of those hopes and dreams were gone. 

She turned and stormed inside and sat and watched the show like she was supposed to do, but if anyone had asked her which pieces had been exhibited, she could not have answered correctly. The chairs were uncomfortable on her hip and thigh and she shifted constantly to avoid the pressure. Even her state-of-the-art ointment didn't tame all of the prickling. By the time the show wrapped, she nodded to Serena, assuming she'd realise what Miranda meant for her to do and disappeared out of the side door where she met her driver and escaped from under prying eyes.

The trip back to the hotel was long and plagued with traffic, but before long, she was storming into the hotel with only the click of her five-inch heels to keep her company. She mashed the button on the elevator and just managed to stop herself from tapping her toe while she waited. She was so pleased with herself as she fished inside her purse for the key to Andréa's room. It wasn't strictly hotel policy to have her personal assistant's room key, but she'd smiled and flirted her way to a copy the first night they'd been there. She flashed it in front of the sensor now and let herself in.

Miranda let go of a breath she didn't know she was holding when she saw that the television was on and there were still plenty of Andréa's things strewn across the room. She frowned a little at the mess, especially when she realised that one of the things crumpled by the bedroom door was a piece from the closet, but all that left her as she rounded the door and found Andréa on the floor beside the bed. 

A noise escaped her throat as she rushed forward and checked on her assistant. Andréa was curled up in a ball beside the bed, clutching a pillow to her chest wearing nothing but a robe. There was a deep frown marring her pale face and her hair was soaking wet. Miranda shook Andréa gently, in two minds about whether she wanted to face the woman. The pained squeal she received when she gripped Andréa's shoulder, though, was enough to make her recoil. Frowning, Miranda reached forward and gently pulled the robe down.

Her eyes widened as she caught sight of what was brewing on Andréa's shoulder. As carefully as possible, she tried to catalogue the size of it and discovered it ran the length of her arm. Shaking her head at the misfortune and knowing the pain of such a big piece, Miranda considered her options. She didn't want to pry too much, but she was now at a crossroads. Andréa had left because of her words; because of her actions. But she hadn't gone yet. Not because she didn't want to, because she couldn't. And Miranda wasn't sure what that meant. She brushed back the hair from Andréa's face and sighed at herself.

Perhaps this was exactly what Miranda had wanted. A chance beyond what she had squandered. Just that. 

A chance.

To explain. To reveal.

She sighed again and cupped Andreas cheek, closing her eyes at how soft it was. Resolving herself to what was going to happen next, Miranda dropped her shoulders and spoke.

"Andréa?"

She made a noise but didn't wake.

"Andréa?" she said a little louder. Those starburst eyes that Miranda would not readily admit to falling for, blinked open and locked onto hers. "It's alright," she soothed before Andréa could protest. "I'm here to help. Can you stand?"

Andréa was far enough out of it that she could only blink once or twice and nod groggily. She sat up and then groaned, cradling her arm. Miranda tried valiantly not to look at the gaping robe and instead, concentrate on helping Andréa up from the floor.

"I have something to help," Miranda whispered, taking her hand. "It's alright. Let me help."

They managed to get Andréa up onto the bed and Miranda let Andréa squeeze her hand as another wave of pain took over her senses.

Miranda soothed her gently and had her lie down.

"Andréa?"

"Mir -"

"May I look? I have some ointment. It will help with the pain?"

"I -"

She watched as Andréa fought against the pain and a modicum of consciousness came back to her eyes.

"Never had one this big," she ground out. "Hurts."

"I know," Miranda nodded. And she did. The ointment on her thigh and her hip was beginning to wear off.

"Haven't looked at it," Andréa whispered. "Couldn't -"

"Do you want to?"

"Want it to stop," she said tearfully. "Hurts so much."

"Let me have this," Miranda said, plucking at her robe. 

She helped Andréa sit up and waited as patiently as she could for the robe to be untied. She slid it over Andréa's arms and paled as she saw the sheer size of Andréa's new ink. It seemed to cover every inch of skin, starting at the shoulder blade and wrapping over her shoulder and down her arm.

"Oh Andréa," she muttered. "This will likely take all night." Andréa whimpered but Miranda squeezed her other hand without thinking. "I have something that will help."

She went to her bag, which she'd left by the door to the suite, and procured her tub of ointment. With the gentlest of touches, she started applying it. She followed it down to Andréa's elbow, but the skin below that was red-raw and she could see the ink swirling beneath the skin.

"It will be alright, but there is more to come."

"I didn't mean to -"

"Shh," Miranda said softly, using the voice she so often used with her girls, though Andréa held a different kind of place in her heart. "Later."

"You hurt him," Andréa managed to say. Trust her to be thinking of someone else while her skin was on fire.

"I know," Miranda mused, trying to focus on the arm and not the big brown eyes judging her.

"Apologise," Andréa whispered. "To him."

"And what about you?"

"You said later," she hissed as her skin began moving again.

"I will do as you ask," Miranda whispered, wincing as Andréa gripped her hand. "But only if you rest. I will continue to apply the ointment. It is the best you can buy."

"Is it bad?" she hissed.

"No," Miranda soothed. "It will be quite beautiful once it settles down."

"Bet you don't have any," Andy mumbled. 

"No hopes and dreams, Andréa?" Miranda mused, knowing that at another time she might well have been offended. "Come now, you already know that I live on hope."

Andréa smiled, finally, and it eased the worries Miranda had for their future. She watched Andréa's eyes slip closed and despite herself, she ran her thumb over the back of Andréa's hand until the younger woman fell into an uneasy sleep. It would be a long night, but she would sit beside this young woman because that is what her heart insisted she do.

-0-

It was an extremely long night. Andréa's cries, at times, were like a knife through her heart. She had even cried herself at the lowest point when most of Andréa's arm was involved and the pain felt like it would never end. She had gripped Andréa's hand and whispered words of support all while wishing she could take it from her. It was not supposed to be this way. It was not supposed to hurt so much. But as Andréa's pain grew, so too did her's. With no other clothes to wear and her dress irritating the raw skin on her thigh, she had been forced to find another robe. She lathered the ointment on her own self while Andréa slept and for the first time since it came in, she studied it, wondering what had prompted its creation.

As soon as she'd turned on the main lights in the bathroom, however, it had all become clear. In fact, it had become so clear that she took two steps closer to the mirror to check that she was really seeing what she was seeing.

Having applied ointment to Andréa's arm, she was becoming well acquainted with its design. Her own, now she was studying it, mirrored it somewhat. Where Andréa's seemed to be punctuated with winter themes; ice, snowdrops, and falling snow, Miranda's seemed to be full summer. Giant bursts of sunshine and beautiful flowers entwined in circles that flowed on an invisible wind. 

And then it hit Miranda in her chest, where her heart was beating faster and faster. Their tattoos did not seem to mirror each other. They did mirror each other. She looked at herself and imagined Andréa standing beside her and though Andréa's lower forearm and wrist were still bare, she somehow just knew it would transition into the top of her own. 

It was utterly beautiful but terrifyingly clear.

Her feelings, which she'd hidden so meticulously, were now on show. 

On her skin.

She sighed as Andréa cried out again and pulled the robe back on. They would consider the implications in the morning.

Chapter Text

Andy blinked awake and realised the pain that had hurt her so sharply through the night had finally ebbed to a throbbing ache.  She lay as still as possible, taking note of how badly it hurt. Somewhat surprisingly, it didn't hurt as much as some of her smaller ones had hurt and she could only assume it was from the wonder-ointment that Miranda had -

Miranda.

She blinked and looked around the room and gasped as she saw what she was sure was the most beautiful sight she'd ever seen. Miranda Priestly had fallen asleep on her hand, curled up in an armchair. Her legs were bare, and her hair was sticking up a little where she'd obviously run her hands through it during the night. Andy sighed and then sighed again. Steeling herself for the vision, she turned her head and took in the raw skin on her arm.

"Oh," she gasped. 

It was utterly beautiful. She would need a mirror to see it properly, but from what she could see, it was winter-themed with perhaps a snake or some sort of reptile wound around her arm. Dotted between its coils were shimmering icicles and snowflakes and little white flowers that seemed to move on the breeze. She gasped again as she turned her arm over carefully and saw the head of the animal that had wrapped itself around her. A beautiful dragon, blending perfectly between the flowers and the ice and the snow. It had the same shimmer and piercing blue eyes where its head rested on the back of her wrist, a bored and expectant look on its face. 

She'd seen that look so many times and she glanced over to the woman who had so often worn the same look.

She was met with shining blue eyes peering back at her.

They stared for a long time before Andy realised that Miranda had stayed with her, all night, and taken care of her.

"Hey," she said finally.

"Good morning," Miranda said quietly and more carefully than Andy had ever heard her.

"Thank you," Andy said, before anything else. "For taking care of me."

"It was -"

"Don't," Andy frowned. "Don't lie. That wasn't nothing."

Miranda sighed and pulled her leg up onto the chair. As the robe fell down, Andy caught sight of a massive tattoo climbing up Miranda's thigh and she blinked, looking up at Miranda and then back down again.

"I -"

"And you thought I had no hopes and dreams in my life," Miranda mused, though she did not move from the position she was in. 

Andy took in the small feet and the smooth skin, the mole on the back of her calf and then the beautiful colours that spread across her skin.

"May," Andy swallowed her fears. "May I see it?"

"You may," Miranda mused, getting up with a small grunt.

She walked around the bed and stood before Andy like she was waiting for an axe to fall. Instead, Andy sat herself up, without the use of her left arm and waited as Miranda considered her.

"You had better close your eyes for a moment."

Andy frowned, but did what she asked and listened to the soft shift of fabric. There was a pause and then Miranda's voice caressed her ears.

"You may look."

Andy opened her eyes and blinked as she took in the sight before her. Miranda had tucked one corner of her robe under her arm and pulled the other around her to cover enough of the most pertinent parts of her body. Andy, though, was arrested by the vision of Miranda's beautiful leg, laid bare before her. Tendrils of leafy vines wrapped around sunflowers and sunbeams and as the art went further up over her hip, Andy saw that the vines had turned into a small dragon, sitting atop Miranda's hip, where she would usually rest her hand when she was considering a layout or an outfit. 

"Oh," she blinked, glancing down at her arm. "I -"

"Hmm," Miranda muttered, pulling the robe back around her and tying it. "I had that thought as well."

"What does that mean," Andy whispered, looking up into Miranda's blue eyes.

"Do you need me to spell it out for you?"

"No," Andy almost whined, before she realised that actually, that might be preferable. "Yes?"

"Andréa," Miranda whispered, sitting beside her. 

She took hold of Andy's hand and caressed it softly while Andy lost her breath.

"I," Andy shrugged. "Can't work for you."

"No," Miranda sighed. "You cannot. But then, I am quite sure you tended your resignation today, no?"

"I don't know," Andy almost wept, tears creeping into the corners of her eyes.

"None of that," Miranda whispered, cupping Andy's cheek. "It is alright. I have apologised to Nigel." Andy's eyes opened wide. "And, believe it or not, I have even explained to him what happened. How about that?"

"I, why?"

"Because you asked," Miranda muttered, refusing to look up at her.

Andy watched Miranda valiantly avoiding her eyes but she needed more from her.

"Miranda?"

"Andréa, I don't know -"

"Miranda?"

"What?" she almost snapped, finally looking up. 

Their eyes met and Andy felt all those feelings that she'd been squashing down into the pit of her stomach explode up into her chest. The reasons she'd fought so hard against Nate's complaints, against the complaints of her friends. The reason she'd run through Paris to warn Miranda of the impending doom.

"I apologise," Miranda whispered. "For what I said in the car. I," she shook her head. "It came out wrong. It was all wrong, I didn't -"

"It's okay."

"No," Miranda shook her head. "It isn't. It's -"

"Miranda?" Andy said gently, reaching back over and taking her hand. "It really is okay."

Instead of arguing further, Miranda nodded and felt quiet. She spent an inordinate amount of time looking at their joined hands before she met Andy's eyes again

"It is important to me that you understand that if you do not want this, you are not bound to it. The ink should not demand your destiny, I know that you have a -"

"He's long gone."

"What?" Miranda looked up sharply. 

"He told me that the person whose calls I always take is the one I'm with," Andy chuckled. "Just before I took your call."

"I didn't -"

"I think I hid it well," Andy half-asked. 

"Very," Miranda nodded. "Did I -"

"Yes," Andy chuckled. "Mostly."

"Mostly?"

"You let me ride in the elevator," Andy shrugged. "That's pretty special."

"Oh darling," Miranda sighed, shifting closer. "You haven't seen special yet. I am going to show you things you cannot imagine in your wildest dreams."

"I'm already pretty far into my wildest dreams," she grinned. "How are you going to top that?"

"Top it?" Miranda husked, cupping Andy's cheek. "Let me show you."

Chapter Text

Andréa's lips were utterly addictive. As she leaned forward and pressed her own against them, she realised that railing against fate had been a fool's folly. She had loved her husband - her first husband; the twin's father, but their relationship had never been like this. Never as intense, never filled with such need. 

She moaned as Andréa shifted and she felt a soft, tentative touch to her lips by the younger woman's tongue.

"Oh," she whispered, meeting it with her own and sliding her hand into Andréa's messy hair.

They kissed until Andréa cried out and Miranda realised she was gripping Andréa's shoulders.

"Oh, darling, I'm so sorry."

"S'ok," she winced, shifting away from the sheets. "It's fine."

"No," she whispered. "Let me put more ointment on."

"Miranda, no, I -"

Miranda stopped and turned to frown at Andréa's pathetic refusals and realised what was wrong.

"We will continue, in a moment," she smiled, genuinely. She hadn't felt like smiling at another adult in so long. "But I will not see you in pain."

"I'm not in -" She winced, partway through her sentence and Miranda chuckled and knelt on the bed to lean forward and kiss her again.

"Stay here, I'll be right back. I left it in the bathroom while I was putting it on my thigh."

Andréa smiled and nodded and Miranda was quick to return.

"Wait, your's -"

"Came in last night, just after you left."

"I should have stayed."

"I wish I had had the bravery to ask you to," Miranda frowned, knowing exactly what Andréa had done instead. "Why did you -"

She didn't want to demand a reason, but she needed to know why Andréa had warmed Christian Thompson's bed that night and whether she needed to give in gracefully.

"I owed him," Andréa smiled. "He helped me get the Harry Potter manuscript. I knew what I was agreeing to. I did not go in blindly." She shrugged. "Sex is pathetic, really isn't it."

"I have found it to be," Miranda mused, trying not to feel jealous that Christan Thompson had been with Andréa."

"It meant nothing," Andréa soothed, reaching forward and taking Miranda's hand. "Genuinely." Miranda nodded. "Stephen?"

Miranda almost recoiled in disgust.

"He has not been in my bed for a long time."

"Really?" Andréa asked, her big eyes peering into Miranda's soul. "Um, I mean -"

"When I realised," Miranda swallowed, feeling like a bug under a microscope. "I could not bear to."

She could feel Andréa's eyes boring into her but she concentrated on forcing her hands to stop shaking at such a revelation.

"Hey," Andréa whispered, her hand cupping Miranda's cheek. "Look at me?" She didn't want to. She wanted to hide away from those eyes that demanded the truth at every turn. "Please?" She was helpless against it and looked up to meet those beautiful eyes. "When?"

"I do not know," Miranda admitted. "I would not be so crass to recall an outfit or a moment but after Harry Potter, I paid more attention." She held Andréa's hand against her cheek. "I saw you, saw you doing more for me than any other assistant had ever done. The way you did your best to give me time with the girls or to keep the peace at home. You weren't to know that even on those days you had me home in time for dinner that I still did not attend. I just could not stand to, once I realised that when I closed my eyes, all I saw was you."

"Miranda," Andréa sighed, leaning up and kissing her softly. "I have so many questions, but I need -"

"Oh," Miranda shook herself. "Of course."

She blinked as she realised Andréa was clutching a sheet to her chest and blushed. Instead, she went to the bathroom and came back with the ointment. 

"I don't have much left," Miranda muttered. "Between us, we have used most of it."

"Is it okay to use so much?"

"Oh, yes," Miranda waved her off. "It draws and soothes, that is all. Not like the flek they sell over the counter. I shall get us some more once we are back in the States."

She couldn't quite keep the quiver from her hands as she reached for Andréa's hand and set it on her knee. As gently as she could, now she had Andréa's eyes watching her every move, she started massaging the ointment into Andréa's skin, taking in the intricate design properly in the daylight. She hissed a little at the sensation but did not cry out.

"It's beautiful," Andréa whispered.

"It is," Miranda agreed. "I adore this," she muttered, rubbing her thumb over the snowdrops lining her inner arm. "I used to pick snowdrops as a child."

"You did?" Andréa smiled, making her heart beat faster. 

"Yes," she blushed.

"You'll have to tell me about it one day."

"I will tell you everything," Miranda promised. "In time."

They sat quietly while Miranda massaged her arm, and moved up onto her shoulder and back. As she pulled away, Andréa caught her hand and reached out to touch her knee.

"May I?"

"I," Miranda blushed but nodded.

The request required a change of position, so Miranda walked around the bed and lay beside her new love with a shaky breath.

"You are beautiful."

"Andréa -"

"Just hush," Andréa smiled. "Let me?"

"I am yours to command," Miranda shrugged.

"Ooh," Andréa smiled, shifting closer. "I would like to revisit that statement, soon?"

"I mean what I say, my darling," Miranda whispered.

Andréa smiled but concentrated on the skin she could already see as she pulled Miranda's robe up above her hip.

"Okay?"

Miranda's voice had left her and she couldn't make a single sound as Andréa's fingers traced over her hip.

She sighed as the ointment started taking the edge of the discomfort and sighed again as Andréa's lips started caressing her lowest rib while she pressed herself against her side.

"Come here," she muttered.

Andréa had never disobeyed one of her requests and she did not do so this time either. Before Miranda could blink, their lips had resumed their kiss but this time, Andréa's hand was in her hair and perhaps even more importantly, Andréa's body was pressed against her.

"Oh," she whispered, feeling her body come alive. "Andréa."

"When we are both feeling our best, I'm going to love you like nobody else has loved you, Miranda Priestly."

She couldn't breathe as Andréa kissed her deeply, intensely until she pulled away, gasping for breath. She pressed back against her younger lover and it was Andréa who growled deep in her throat now.

"Will you let me see you?" Andréa asked, gallantly.

"As long as I may see you?"

Andréa knelt up on the bed and Miranda lost her breath as the sheet pooled on atop her thighs. She made a noise of amazement as she took in all the small, but beautiful artworks dotted across her skin. 

"Yeah," Andréa laughed. "I look like someone's doodle pad."

"No," Miranda whispered, sitting up so she could see better. She didn't want to draw attention to the fact that she would really prefer to get her glasses. Instead, she sat forward and pressed a kiss to Andréa's beautifully soft skin, beneath her breasts across her sternum. "They are -"

She shook her head and reached forward slowly. Andréa didn't stop her, so she dragged her fingers over the ink that she could tell was the oldest.

"My first," Andréa shrugged. "I wanted a pony. I'm glad it didn't look like the ponies I drew in the margin of my math book."

Miranda chuckled and took a deep breath.

"You don't have to," Andréa said helpfully. 

Ordinarily, she would take it for what it was and withdraw, but something about Andréa's trusting eyes allowed her to undo her robe and throw off the covers. She leaned forward and showed Andréa the little star on her sixth rib.

"Oh that's so cute," Andréa chuckled. "How old were you?"

"Twelve," Miranda smiled. "My grandmother had just died and she told me that I would always follow the North Star."

Andréa leaned forward and pressed a kiss to the skin beside it. 

"You really did."

"I did," Miranda blushed. "Your next one?"

"Um, I got quite a few in high school," Andréa explained. "And they're all over."

"Then I shall look forward to finding them," Miranda's smile twitched.

Andréa indulged her and reached forward to kiss her again and Miranda, unable to help herself, cupped Andréa's breasts. 

"Oh, that's not fair."

Miranda chuckled and realised that while Andréa was hampered by her arm, she had no such issues. She held them in her hands, feeling the weight of them and rubbing her thumbs over rapidly hardening nipples. Andrea's stomach was quivering as she knelt on the bed and allowed Miranda all of the access to one of the most beautiful bodies that Miranda had ever seen.

"I once insulted you," Miranda muttered, getting to her knees as well. "I was wrong and I apologise for that. I have never seen anything as beautiful."

Andréa groaned and Miranda leaned forward and took a nipple between her teeth. The noises that Andréa made seemed to be directly connected to the building arousal. 

"Is this real?" Andréa whispered as Miranda switched to the left side.

"This is real," Miranda muttered, pinching Andréa's side and making her giggle. It made her smile as she sucked a small bruise above a small tattoo of a bird leaving its cage.

"I will never cage you, my darling," Miranda promised. "I will only ever set you free."

"I am chained to you forever," Andréa gasped as Miranda used her teeth to worry the same nipple she was sucking rhythmically on. "I never want to be without you."

"You won't," Miranda promised both of them. "You won't."

Chapter Text

Miranda's lips on her skin were sending her into a meltdown. She gripped Miranda's shoulder as hard as she dared while trying not to hurt her as Miranda turned those dangerous lips towards her pleasure.

The noises she made weren't any that she'd made before but she knew she would be powerless to stop her. She didn't want to.

"Will you allow me to love you, Andréa. I understand, if you do not -"

"Miranda," Andy groaned, pulling her close again. "Please."

She saw Miranda blink and she almost laughed but then Miranda slid her hand around her side and drew her back against her mouth.

"Come here," she ordered and as usual, Andy went when the woman called. 

She straddled Miranda's middle to a deep groan by the woman beneath her as she realised Andy was completely unclothed.

Miranda soothed any misgivings Andy had about giving herself to Miranda, but in honesty, Andréa was still reeling from having Miranda, beside her, beneath her, in her bed.

"Jesus," Andy hissed as gentle, questing fingers explored her center.

"This is mine," Miranda whispered, almost to herself.

"Yours," Andy whined. "All yours."

She didn't get a chance to ask if Miranda had ever slept with a woman before, or explain to Miranda that aside from a fumbling experiment during college, she hadn't either. She didn't air the fact that she might not be able to reciprocate with only one arm and instead, she gave a deep groan as Miranda's beautiful fingers slid inside her.

"Miranda," she hissed. "Oh fuck."

"Did I hurt you?"

"No," she sighed. "Please."

Miranda's movements were cautious but Andy quickly demanded more. 

"Harder," she hissed. "Deeper. Please."

Miranda was a fast learner. After a tentative start, Miranda realised what Andy needed and started moving with purpose. Andy got lost in the rhythm until Miranda's lips wrapped around a sensitive nipple and Andréa broke with a yell. She heard Miranda's echo and realised that her breaking apart had sent Miranda into her own orgasm and Andy kept rocking and felt herself building again. 

"Just a little more," she pleaded. "A little -"

"I love you." Her vision went white and she cried out, her body quaking as she almost collapsed on top of Miranda. "I have you," Miranda whispered. "I have you." She cried into Miranda's neck and held on as tightly as she could. "It's alright," Miranda soothed. "It's alright."

"I have loved you for so long," Andy whispered. "So long."

"As I you, my darling," Miranda hushed. "And now, rest. We have our whole life."

Andy snuggled into her new lover properly and kissed Miranda softly while she came down. She felt Miranda's fingers trailing up and down her back and fell asleep, listening to the joint beat of their hearts.

-0-

A phone woke her the next time and she blinked owlishly at the sunlight streaming between the curtains. Miranda was laying almost underneath her, snoring softly and Andy moved off her as carefully as she could. The woman had spent the whole night tending to her, she'd be damned if she woke her before time. She slipped into the bathroom, taking her time to put up her hair and brush her teeth and finally, stand before the mirror and look at her new sleeve.

It was truly beautiful. She couldn't help but smile as she took in all of the details. It was so intricate, she knew she might not find things in it until it had healed properly. For now, though, it was one half of a whole. Like she was.

The smile on her face was luminous and she giggled against the sweater she pulled on to ward off the chill. She crept from the bedroom, leaving Miranda sleeping and found her phone. There was call after call for her, notably from Nigel and Serena and even Christian Thompson. She deleted that without listening to the voicemail, but she called Nigel as soon as she'd done so.

"Andy, what the hell is going on? Where is she?"

"Um -"

"Well, look. I'm at Lance's show and Serena said she'd deal with Lagerfeld but she's going to have to make an appearance. She is alright isn't she?"

"She is," Andy said, keeping things simple. "She needed the time."

"I know she had a rough night. She called me and explained, can you believe that? Did you know? I think she was drunk."

"No," Andy lied, her fingers crossed behind her back. "No, I had no idea."

"I can't wait to compare notes."

"Nigel, I only know what she told me. And what Christian -"

Andy's voice caught as she looked up to find Miranda standing proudly in the doorway to the bedroom wearing nothing at all. Andy's eyes roamed from her toes as they scrunched a little on the soft carpet, up her strong legs, muscular legs. Her gaze lingered on Miranda's thigh before she moved higher and higher, past soft, gentle breasts to that beautiful face. She wore nothing but that smirk that made Andy grin and she passed the phone to her instead of listening to Nigel any longer.

"Nigel." Andy grinned evilly as she heard Nigel's squeak on the other end. Instead of paying too much attention to what was said, Andy traced her fingers along the small tattoos that littered Miranda's skin. If Andy had thought she'd received a number of them, she was amazed to count that Miranda must have roughly the same amount. As she traced a pair of small hands clutching a finger and thumb, Miranda caught her hand and kissed the palm of it. She blinked up at her lover as she wrapped up with Nigel. "Thank you for taking my place at the show. We will join you for the next one. That's all."

She hung up the phone and pulled Andy into her arms and kissed her hard.

"I had in mind that I would not have to wake up without you in my bed," she mused, brushing Andy's hair back.

"I didn't want to wake you," Andy explained. "You took such good care of me last night, I wanted to let you sleep as long as you could."

"Well, I am awake now, but we do not have long."

"I need to finish out the week with you," Andy sighed. "I won't leave you in the lurch, not after what happened."

"I admit I would prefer you to stay until we get home?"

"What about -"

"I don't care," Miranda shrugged. "I don't care one bit."

"It's funny," Andy chuckled. "How much everything pales in comparison, isn't it." Miranda's gaze said it all and Andy rewarded her with a kiss. "I'll call for breakfast, you take a shower. I'll run to your room to pick up your outfit."

"Whatever am I going to do without by my side," Miranda frowned.

"I'll always be by your side," Andy shrugged, finding it just as simple as it sounded. "I just won't be on the payroll."

"That makes up for it, I suppose," Miranda whispered, punctuating her thoughts with a kiss. "Fine. I will let you go, though I do not want you to go. Hurry back?"

"You know I will."

"I will go to Vera's after lunch and perhaps Elie Saab. I owe him for his loyalty. You must come along with me though. I spied something in his collection that I wish you to have."

"Miranda -"

"Just stay with me, Andréa? Please?"

"You know I will," she chuckled. "What will we tell everyone?"

She wasn't sure whether she was asking what they would tell their friends or what they would tell the world.

"Nothing, my darling. It is none of their business what goes on beneath our skin. We will simply resume our positions within the industry. And live our lives."

"What about -"

"What?" Miranda asked gently, cupping her cheek.

"Home?"

"I want all of the things immediately," she chuckled. "But I recognise that asking you to move in and simply be mine forever is -"

"Yes," Andy shrugged, chuckling at Miradan's slack-jaw. 

"What?"

"Yes. To all of that. To being with you. To waking up with you, to the girls and the dog and whatever else you'd like to throw at me, I don't -"

"You wouldn't need -"

"All I need is you, as long as you -"

"Yes," Miranda ordered, mollifying Andy's look with her own apologetic smile. She softened. "Yes."

They shared another fierce kiss before Miranda stalked away, oblivious to her naked back and the way Andy's eyes caressed every inch of it. She stopped at the doorway and looked back over her shoulder. Andy just laughed and blew her lover a kiss. Whatever would happen, they would face it together and Andy, truly, couldn't wait.

-0-

Their flight home had been quiet and restful. Miranda had given everyone the weekend off once they returned and Andy had only stopped at her place long enough to grab more clothes and then, she went home with Miranda. The press from a leak by Stephen about their divorce had been brutal. It had built to a fever pitch once they had realised that Andy had arrived after Fashion Week and had so far, not left.

They printed cruel and horrible stories about nepotism and sexual harassment but they existed outside of it all. Instead, they laid low at the Townhouse, enjoying their time together with the girls. In less than a week, Andy had given her notice to vacate and moved her things. They'd set up a separate office in a guest bedroom and integrated their libraries and in an afternoon, after work, Andy would come home to find her three girls waiting for her with open arms. The twins, from the first moment, had thrown themselves into Andy's arms with no reservations. The dark thoughts she'd had about being a stepmother quickly evaporated when she found she could only love them with all of her being. They weren't at all evil, but they were playful and many a time she'd had to explain to her lover why there were nerf darts stuck to the door of the microwave or how Caroline had bumped her head riding down the bannister.

She'd had fun explaining that one. 

Miranda had looked at the three of them sternly before breaking out into a grin and rolling her eyes. It had become one of Andy's treasured memories.

A week after their return, Andy left Runway and took a job at the New York Mirror. She worked her way up the ranks before going freelance to spend more time with the girls and with Miranda who no longer spent all of her time working either. Their lives were rich with love and laughter and then every night, after they'd tucked the girls into their beds, Miranda and Andy met in the middle of their bed and reaffirm their love for each other over and over until all they could do was wrap themselves around each other and fall into slumber while their dragons rested beside each other on their skin.