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A Flawed Fragility

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I think I got most of my thoughts out in the previous chapter's author's note. To those who missed, the highlights pertaining to this story are that apparently even a drowning man (or woman) can lift his hand and his heart to write, and that I will finish this tale. There are thousands of words already written down that my brain simply has to order and orchestrate into something comprensible.

Stay with me, let me know your thoughts as they mean more than ever at the moment.

God Bless, Holly

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The look in Miranda's eyes promised total conflagration. Everyone knows that blue flame burns the hottest, and there were none surer of that fact than the employees of American Runway. Irv would be nothing but a scorch mark by the time Miranda was through with him. However, a sick feeling not unlike the morning sickness that had plagued her for so many months settled in her stomach as doubts crept into her mind as to how she would actually pull it off, and not hurt anyone in the process but Irv.

Meanwhile, back in the NICU, Andy addressed the baby who was now wide awake and staring at the brunette.

"Hi princess. Look at you, you've been out for an hour now and you're still breathing so well." Andy's heart squeezed with a familiar hurt as she looked down at the wide eyes in the little face that looked up at her with such rapt interest. "And you give such good cuddles. Exactly what mama needs." Andy kissed the baby on the forehead making her blink. "I think mummy could use some cuddles," Andy whispered to the baby conspiratorially as she placed her back down in the bassinet. "Whaddya think, snugglebug?"

"We'll probably end up sending you home with supplemental oxygen for Cora that you can use if her breathing deteriorates as a first option before bringing her back to hospital." Dr. Jansen commented as she came over to observe Cora's breathing and listen to the little chest to make sure her lungs were working properly. "She's doing extremely well, but I'd like to take her now for some additional testing that will let us know if she's actually ready to come home. I tried to delay it so Miranda could nurse her one last time – she seems to vastly prefer that to the bottle."

Andy chuckled and brushed a finger across the round, little cheek that showed promise of her mother's high cheekbones. "Spoiled girl. You have both your mommies wrapped around your tiny little finger." Cora just continued to look up at her innocently and Andy couldn't resist the lure of the big eyes, piercingly familiar and familiarly piercing at the same time, the round cheeks and a nose with an almost unnoticeable crook in it and she snuck in a last kiss, making the baby blink and Andy chuckle.

Dr. Jansen had moved away to arrange the additional testing for Cora and Andy found it hard to leave the little girl, even though she had a feeling Miranda needed her more at the moment.

"You're going to hear a lot of things about your mommy. There are a lot of people out there who like to say nasty things and tell stories. And sometimes they're going to be true, and sometimes, a lot of the time, they're not. She loves you so much, babies." Andy included Christopher in their conversation with a look over at the specialized bassinet.

"There isn't anything she wouldn't do for you. And it's been so hard for her, seeing you sick and hurting because she feels like it's her fault for not growing you properly. So now you've gotta keep growing big and strong and prove her wrong okay guys? Because that's the other thing you've got to know about your mummy, she's almost always right. But she's fought so hard for you, and she still is; we both are. You are so loved and so wanted and we can't wait 'till we get to hold both of you in our arms again and bring you home."

As soft as her features had been when interacting with the babies, a measure of steel returned to her face and her jawline tensed as she exited the NICU. Miranda might be the one on the frontlines, but this was her war too. Anything that threatened Miranda was a threat to her. If Andy had had any measure of control of the dangers and pain that had faced the older woman over the last 9 months, she would have taken all of it upon herself. Watching Miranda suffer had been intolerable to the younger woman who once had met her every need. But those were two different worlds and she had had to face the knowledge that she couldn't take the older woman's pain away or lessen the threat to the babies. But now, in this fight, she could feel a flicker of the old Andy returning as she realized she could, in fact, help this time, with this foe that was no comparison to the fight her family had just been through. She hadn't let the girls lose their mother when she delivered twins at 50, and she wouldn't let the four of her children lose their mother now. Because she knew, Andy thought grimly, that in losing Runway, now, under these circumstances would result in the loss of the woman they knew. The woman she so desperately loved…that would be nearly out of the building in less than a minute and a half and that she was lagging behind as she brooded. Crap. She glanced at her watch and realized she might still be able to catch up with Miranda. At the older woman's usual pace that would never be a possibility, but for the moment, Andy's long legs and determination to reach the editor before she left the hospital at a slower pace due to her weakened state were enough for her to catch up just as she saw an elegant leg disappear into the vehicle.

Not wanting to yell Miranda's name in public, Andy instead opted to shout, albeit as quietly as she could, at the older man who was now closing the door. Roy paused discreetly, keeping the door open and giving Andy time to catch up. She could just begin to hear Miranda's voice comment acerbically on Roy's tardiness, her 'armour' having already been donned. But the older woman was cut off as Andy literally leapt in the car to avoid notice, and seeing Miranda's shocked features in front of her, took advantage and kissed her squarely on the lips. This was the only 'alone time' they had together since the babies' arrival, and Andy would love nothing more than to take advantage of that time, and that woman sitting next to her, but she knew now was not the time and she drew back, telling herself as she looked into Miranda's startlingly blue gaze that they would have forever. Even after death, Andy had no plans to leave this woman. If there was a God, as she believed there had to be, then she would have this life and the next to show Miranda the depth of her feelings.

"Andrea – what, what are you doing here? You're supposed to be with –"

Andy cut her off with another kiss. "They're fine. They're perfect. And they're fed, and asleep thank God."

Miranda's mind immediately switched tacks. "I can't appear in front of them like this, but there's no time."

Miranda looked fine, awful for Miranda, but still better than fine for an average person. But still Andy could understand the necessity of the older woman entering the room in full 'battle regalia'.

Out of sheer muscle memory, Andy had pulled out her phone and dialed a number without her eyes ever leaving Miranda's face.

"Nige – has Emily told you what's happening? She has? Okay good. Now listen, Miranda needs…"

But Miranda spoke over her, "Nigel, it's imperative that I appear in that meeting as the undisputed head of Runway."

"As if anyone could dispute that," Andy could hear Nigel scoff on the other end of the line.

Andy was gratified to see the shadow of a smirk cross Miranda's face. "Well that's precisely the situation we find ourselves in. I need you to pull some things from the Closet. I'm afraid I've been away from the office so long I no longer know what is physically currently in the Closet I'm ashamed to say. The dilemma also presents itself that many of the items in the Closet may not fit me at the present moment, or would, at the very least, be extremely unflattering given the changes to my figure."

"Hey, I happen to appreciate that figure!"

"The rest of the Elias Clarke board may not be as appreciative as you, Andrea."

"They should see you naked."

"Yes, well I think we can all agree that's not going to happen."

"Good."

Miranda arched an eyebrow at the younger woman, expecting a qualification to her response, which came along with a wicked grin spreading across pink lips that brushed against her ear, the warm air of her breath causing Miranda to shiver.

"I don't share."

Miranda rolled her eyes heavenward, but Andy didn't miss the small smirk quirking up the corner of her mouth that was the closest she had come to smiling in the last 14 hours.

But of course, Andy had to continue babbling. "I mean, unless it's with the babies, and even then I'm still a little jealous of the amount of time they get to spend with your breasts."

A poorly muffled snicker could be heard coming across the phone and Miranda simply sighed, shooting Andy a fierce look that appeared as though Nigel could sense from the other end of the line as the snickering stopped immediately.

"I'm surrounded by infants," Miranda murmured under her breath before reassuming her Dragon persona

"Now, I think in light of the seriousness of the situation we find ourselves in the colour should be-"

"Black," Nigel and Miranda said in unison.

"Precisely," Miranda continued.

Nigel and Miranda continued to scheme for the duration of the car ride to Elias-Clarke, and Andy sat back, easily taking up her position as Assistant to the EIC once more and coordinating with Emily to rearrange and optimize her schedule between the necessary meetings she would need to take at the Elias Clarke building and the time she needed to spend at the hospital. Nevertheless, the girls' schedule which would be affected as well, poor things.

"Mmmm, I estimate we have at least another minute and half before we get to Runway." Andy raised an eyebrow suggestively making Miranda chuckle despite the immense burden of worry today had brought. "Now, this is a good luck kiss although I know you don't need it. I just wanted an excuse to kiss you."

Miranda rolled her eyes at the younger woman, but when their eyes met again Andy could see a fire in the piercing blue that she couldn't recall seeing since before the miscarriage scare at 7 months that had started such a cycle of fear in the older woman that was felt even now.

"For that, you never need an excuse and no matter how terrible I am being, should never warrant an apology."

She shook her head as she pulled out a cosmetics bag from her purse and pulled out an iconic silver stamped tube. "You know I'm going through lipstick at something like 8x what I was during either of my previous marriages because I find I'm being kissed so often?"

"Is that a complaint? Well, while Rupert Murdoch cuts you a cheque, I'll collect mine from the stockholders at Dior."

Miranda merely rolled her eyes and tipped her chin forward for a light kiss that quickly turned into something much deeper as it almost always did.

Within 45 minutes of arriving at the Runway offices, Serena pulled off some sort of magic. Andy thought Miranda was always beautiful, truly and with everything she was, but even she could see the change in Miranda as Serena brought colour back into her cheeks and made them look healthy and contoured rather than grey and slightly sunken like her eyes which even through the makeup Miranda had expertly applied still appeared slightly swollen and red-rimmed with deep purple bruising beneath them. Now Miranda's eyes were bright and clear and a vibrant, determined blue framed by thick black lashes that had also been naturally altered by the pregnancy, and like her hair were thick and glossy from the excess of hormones. Her skin was pale as always, but utterly lovely as such and seemed, for the first time, as though it was sporting the glow of new motherhood which seemed to radiate from her, the pale skin in perfect contrast to the strong message of the dark black suit she was wearing that hugged every new lush curve perfectly and creating the perfect angle with an asymmetrical origami fold jacket to skim over Miranda's stomach, making it look like the fabric stood out because of the design rather than the small but still somewhat prominent bump that Miranda was so self-conscious of.

Andy almost wondered if showing a glimpse of that vulnerability was the way to approach the Board, but she knew instantly that the thought was blasphemous and Miranda would never go for it in a million years. She knew not to even mention it.

Serena tapped her brush against her lips thoughtfully. "What do we think for the lip?"

The ice white hair, clear skin and crystal bright eyes when combined with a red lip framing what everyone knew to be a dangerous mouth was a deadly combination. Very few knew that Miranda consciously chose not to wear a strong lip very often because of the frustrations it presented when working with people as they often seemed to lose the ability to speak full and coherent sentences when in her presence, which she very much needed them to do at the very top level of their ability if she was to run a successful magazine.

Andy shivered as a memory came to her of the last time she remembered the older woman wearing a red lip and what had occurred after the editor had undressed as the brunette had watched from her place working on the bed. Miranda with a red lip and the new lacy black lingerie that accommodated a figure made much more voluptuous in its expectant state at nearly 20 weeks.

Andy had thought she had contracted some terrible disease when she woke up the next morning and found her sex completely reddened and the hue not changing even after washing herself. However, realization of what happened dawned when marks on her shoulders and breasts as well as the smear on her mouth and chin were also very similar in hue to Guerlain 24hr EverWear Crème Stain #3 that was Miranda's signature shade whenever she did choose to accentuate with a red lip.

" I see only one way to fix that," Miranda drawled suggestively. "I'll simply have to wash it off of you…the same way it was put on." Without much warning, Miranda's mouth revisited the area in question and Andy's eyes rolled back in her head almost instantly as she held onto the sheets for dear life and tried to refrain from bucking her hips upwards into Miranda's mouth. The deep chuckle vibrating against the folds of her labia and directly into her clit sent her into stratosphere and kept her there as Miranda lapped her clean with an incredibly thorough and skilled tongue.

" Better?" Miranda all but purred as she held her body over Andrea's.

" God yes," groaned Andy between breaths as she tried to catch her breath. "I'm going to use all your cosmetics on my vagina if that's the outcome."

At that, Miranda actually threw her head back and laughed raucously only to turn into a gasp as Andrea skillfully used her body weight to gently switch positions with Miranda and flip the older woman so that Andy was now on top…and in charge.

Nipping over to Miranda's vanity for a moment, Andy soon returned and a moment later Miranda felt something cool and hard slip between her heated folds only for something torturously soft to brush against her clitoris, stealing all breath from her lungs and curling her body around the dizzying sensation.

Now it was Andy's turn to chuckle as she teased the stiff nub with the makeup brush, playing with position and pressure as she swept the bristle gently over the glistening offering between Miranda's legs which splayed wider and wider as Miranda lost herself in the sensation, which was incredibly powerful even as the brunette was being so gentle.

Andy grinned at her handiwork before placing her tools aside and pulling Miranda's knees apart further so she could admire her creation. Very, very slowly Andy ran her tongue from the very back of Miranda's sex, over the glittering folds that had been carefully painted on the outside with a gold shadow from Tom Ford's cosmetic collection. Miranda had been ready for her and trembled at the first touch of the brunette's tongue to the puckered hole at the back, knowing she was embarrassingly wet already. Now Andy's tongue teasingly and languorously licked the engorged bud on the other end, causing tremors all over her body in anticipation, never really letting up as the brunette never truly removed her tongue and continued to slowly massage her centre lovingly with her tongue, her low chuckle causing every hair on Miranda's body to stand on end as she shuddered at the vibration.

Miranda felt Andy's tongue leave her and mourned before the brunette began to speak.

" Are you ready, Miranda?"

Now Miranda herself felt unable to speak, and could barely choke out a single word.

" Y-yes"

Without warning, Miranda saw the dark head between her knees duck back down and then saw nothing else as her vision went black as the younger woman's mouth immediately went down on her and sucked strongly. Miranda's hips bucked but the younger woman brought them down again, gently pushing them apart so that her tongue could gain deeper access. Any air that had remained in Miranda's chest was instantly exhaled as the brunette used her tongue to lave her clitoris, stimulating it to almost painful levels as she pushed and flexed her tongue and ran it over and over the bud almost mercilessly. Miranda could feel the muscles at the base of her stomach contract and release as Andy forced orgasm after orgasm from her with no rest in between. All she could do was grip the back of her thighs and pull her legs wider, lifting them from the bed, still needing the brunette deeper inside her. Finally, when Andy slowly and carefully licked the older woman clean, she lifted her head to see a look of pain and pleasure still on the older woman's features as her eyes were closed and her mouth open as she drew long drags of air through her lungs. The white hair, usually impeccably coiffed hung limp and sweat soaked over her forehead and cheeks.

The brunette dipped her head once again, not touching the older woman, but blowing on the open, glistening folds that were still exposed to the air.

The white haired woman's eyes flew open and her hand reached down to the base of her belly where contractions could still be seen spasming beneath her skin.

" N-no. Enough. Oh God, enough, please." She begged, even though her hips still moved greedily in time with the orgasm.

Andy chuckled and replaced Miranda's hand with her own, rubbing with the intent to soothe rather than incite.

" Shh, just breathe." She leaned over and kissed the older woman, except the taste of herself on Andrea's lips was too much and Miranda's body seized again. The hormones she swore weren't going to kick in, did so with remarkable force and she was appalled to find herself reaching up to palm and pinch her breasts, drawing out the pleasure that at this point was almost painful in nature, although her body continued to crave it.

" Oh ho. Greedy, huh?" the brunette chuckled.

" I can't…I need-"

Miranda was so worked up and tense, that all the brunette had to do was press low on her belly to send her back into wave after wave of orgasm, still mindful of the fact that deep penetration wasn't advised for Miranda at this stage in her pregnancy. Miranda kept palming her breasts as Andy did this. One hand gently cupping her swollen sex was the final nail in the coffin and Miranda's back arched violently off the bed as her hips pumped and she wept. Andy was amazed as fresh juices wet her hand, that the older woman had the stamina to keep going.

" Shhh, it's alright. I'm here. However you need me Miranda, whenever you need me. I'm right here."

Nonsensical murmurs of comfort accompanied Andy's hand as it stroked down her body now with no intent to stimulate, only calm the fever that seemed to have taken over the older woman.

Miranda's hands came down to cup her belly, still moving in time with her breath, and she held the bump as she tried to catch her breath, really and truly trying now to calm down as she felt the excited movements under her fingertips.

Now the brown eyes looked more concerned than triumphant. "I'm sorry, was that too much?"

" No, I wanted it, I wanted more, but, I suppose my body wasn't in agreement with m-my mind."

" Well, I liked where your mind was going, but the last thing I ever want to do is hurt you."

With a speed and agility that Miranda envied now at this point in her pregnancy, Andy jumped up and disappeared into the bathroom for a moment, coming out with a facecloth to finish cleaning Miranda up instead of her tongue to avoid the extra stimulation.

" Oh!" Miranda cried out and Andy felt her sex tremble beneath her palm and the folded cloth.

" See? It's these…damn hormones. Even a cold washcloth is going to…ah! Prove stimulating. Even that damn chair."

" Chair?" Andy's eyebrow quirked upwards.

" At Runway, my desk. The other day I called the senior members of the Art Department into my office and naturally, I moved in my chair to face them, and that movement was enough I think they took my silence for dismissal and left, but after they did I, I had to go to the bathroom and try to…relieve myself."

" And not in the typical way one relieves themselves in the bathroom." Andy smirked, biting her lip and trying to stifle her grin.

Miranda glared. "I suppose you think this is funny? I cannot do my JOB, Andrea, if I can't even stand the friction of my own thighs without orgasming in front of my staff."

Both women fell into a deeply satisfied slumber, but upon waking, Andy's thoughts continued exactly where they had left off last night

Andy's gaze drifted downwards to the creamy, pale thighs in question admiringly and slid a hand between them. "You know if I took my old position back, you wouldn't need to worry about that. I'd be right here to help you with your…problem. Assist you – unless you'd prefer Emily do it as the First Assistant?" Andy raised an eyebrow teasingly.

" I thought you were going to be useful." Miranda rolled out of her grasp with some difficulty and began getting ready for the day.

A satisfied smirk from the brunette. "I think the lovely, pink flush all over this body means I believe I just was."

Miranda scowled. "A means to an end perhaps, but I wouldn't call you useful at the moment. Now h-hands off," Miranda stuttered slightly as she stifled the gasp that came from Andrea's fingers skimming over her overheated skin.

" You mean I can't even do this?"

Andy slipped out of bed with a much greater ease than Miranda had, walking over to the older woman and reaching out to lazily rub Miranda's belly, feeling it tighten after a moment.

At Andy's touch, Miranda gasped and clutched the table behind her as her knees weakened.

" Andrea," she growled, before her eyes softened and she placed a hand over Andy's where it rested on her stomach.

" Andrea, this would never happen with anyone but you. The urges for sexual satiation, maybe, but they could never…satisfy me, have never satisfied me as you do."

" Sweet talker. Make sure and think about me all day today."

Blue eyes, whose darkened pupils gave away her desire, narrowed. "You know I could satisfy these urges myself." Miranda threatened.

" Only if I can watch."

Miranda shivered and Andy chuckled as her nipples stuck out in sharp relief against the silk of her blouse, through the thin lace of the La Perla she still insisted on wearing although soon she would have no choice but to begin using a maternity bra.

" I'll take that as a raincheck. Have a good day at work, sweetheart." And with that, the brunette left for work with an extra sway in her step that did not go unnoticed by the editor.

Andy didn't hear from the older woman at all that day, and when she finally gave up and texted Emily for Miranda's location, the redhead told her she had left around four. Although Emily had insisted the older woman had seemed fine, just a bit distracted, Andy clicked save on the draft of the article she was working on and immediately headed home.

The house was empty when she got home, and a quick text to Cara reassured her that she and the girls were out at the park and would be back for dinner just before 6, which was already in the oven.

She flew up the stairs only for her heart rate to increase further as she heard little gasps and moans coming from the direction of their bedroom. Immediately her mind turned to thoughts of Miranda, having cramps or bleeding, unable to call for help and in an empty house.

But her fears were eased as her desires were sharply aroused at the sight in front of her.

Miranda was already on the bed, completely naked, with her legs apart, her fingers dragging in and out of her wetness. Her head was thrown back and her chest moved up and down with her breath, as did her small protruding belly rounding between her hips.

Possessiveness flared in Andy as she watched the older woman's fingers pump through the dripping folds. The sounds coming out of Miranda's mouth intensified and Andy started forward but two words from Miranda stopped her in her tracks.

" Not yet."

Miranda's fingers moved faster and her hips began to move in time to the thrusts of her fingers. Andy watched helplessly, feeling herself flood as she heard Miranda's moan. The older woman rubbed her belly and Andy bit back a moan of her own. The editor's thumb joined her three fingers, finding the engorged nub and applying enough pressure so that her back arched dramatically off the bed and her body shuddered violently at the orgasm that consumed it.

As soon as her hips returned to the bed, Miranda resumed her actions, the fantasies she'd endured all day of the younger woman overwhelming her, causing her to forget the sore and sensitive skin and the soft ache between her thighs.

But much as she tried, because of her changed figure, Miranda couldn't quite get the angle right to achieve another orgasm this way.

" Andrea…"

Andy recognized the familiar sound of Miranda calling her, in that tone, and she was across the room in two steps.

" I'm right here." Andy practically vaulted onto the bed, already straddling one of the older woman's legs. Miranda felt Andrea's fingers join hers, the incredible wetness allowing the two hands to stretch her more and fill her deeper than any had before although she remained incredibly gentle, keeping her touches light. Miranda's second orgasm came only seconds after she was joined by Andy and the brunette flushed as the woman in her arms arched beneath her and cried out her name.

Andy had backed off just enough to watch as Miranda climaxed, before her body returned to the bed and she began the process again, before she had even caught her breath. This time Miranda pinched her nipples, rolling them between her fingers, moaning softly as her hips rolled gently. Her moans grew louder and her movements more restless before she gasped once deeply, her hands flying down to press against her belly, one staying there while the other disappeared between her legs, working herself feverishly before her body froze, once more gracefully arcing above the bed.

Andy actually wanted to weep as Miranda reached between her legs again, stimulating a third orgasm. Andy couldn't begin to imagine how sensitive and swollen the delicate flesh between her legs must be by now. But there was still need in the older woman's eyes.

" Are you ready for me now?" Andy whispered, and Miranda could taste herself on the younger woman's lips. Miranda could feel her hand cover her belly, which was still tight from the orgasm, firm and warm but so tender as it moved back and forth, soothing her until the muscle was soft and round again.

Miranda's eyelids fluttered as Andy bent her head and took one, raw, swollen nipple in her teeth. Using her tongue more than her teeth Andy teased one breast with her mouth while her other hand kneaded and massaged the other breast until Miranda's entire body had tensed again and she was covered in both goosebumps and sweat from arousal. Andy pressed her palm to Miranda's burning sex and the older woman gasped, all air suddenly absent from her lungs. Andy rubbed Miranda lightly before increasing the pressure until she was rubbing her harder and harder, but not letting her climax.

" Do you want to come, Miranda?

Andy suddenly released her, but her mouth was still hot and wet against Miranda's ear.

" Come for me, Miranda." Andy moved her hand away completely.

The older woman was completely undone, tears streaming down her face, lungs screaming for air as her fingers broached the entrance of her body for the fifth time tonight.

This time, it was not graceful or teasing, Miranda spread her legs as wide as they would go, her whole hand greedily slipping into her sex she was so wet, and twisting inside her body, forgetting any warnings the doctor had given her. This still wasn't enough for her. She needed more, so she increased the pressure and friction from the outside as well, rubbing herself until her hips bucked off the bed.

Andy watched, never taking her eyes off the older woman, only rubbing her shin lightly to let her know she was still there as Miranda was beyond seeing now, beyond hearing. A final exclamation between a scream and a sob was torn from her chest before the pale body fell back against the bed, limp and breathless.

The cool washcloth on her sex actually stung slightly, she was so raw, but despite her soreness her legs opened automatically for Andy, who chuckled and just continued to gently clean each limb until Miranda was at least comfortable enough again.

The younger woman sat back on her heels and drank in the sight in front of her. "I love you,"

" And I you,'

Several moments passed before Andy broke the sated silence again.

" That…was the hottest thing I think I have ever seen."

Miranda chuckled before her expression grew serious. "I could never have done that with any of my other partners. I never wanted to do it. But for you, Andrea, I find more and more that I am willing to do anything to keep you."

" As long as you never feel as if you HAVE to do anything for me. But I will say, when you DO, I am VERY appreciative and I understand the honor it is and the privilege I have in being able to love you."

She leaned in close again, "And you wanna know something? I have had more orgasms with you in the last months, including any bedrest, than I ever had in 4 years with Nate."

" Acceptable."

Andy pushed herself up on one elbow and began gently pressing her lips to the curve of Miranda's belly, gentle, delicate, innocent kisses that made Miranda's heart squeeze as the younger woman freely showed her

Miranda allowed herself to indulge in a moment of un-skeptical sentimentality. Her heart was as full as it had ever been, her girls, happy and healthy, moreso than they perhaps had ever been, and a partner who adored her children and thought of them as her own with no thought to genetics, who was at this very moment sweetly greeting the two little lives growing within her.

" In as little as ten or twelve weeks they could be here."

" Unlike my girls, I pray their birth will be uncomplicated, but that may be too big a wish, especially given the circumstances under which they will be born."

" No matter what happens, I will be with you for every single moment of their birth, whether that takes place by holding your hand for every moment of that C-section or over the course of a few hours where my hands will be on you every minute to help with the toll of bringing our babies into the world."

" I just want it to be just us, alone, no one but you putting their hands on my body or our children, only your hands Andrea."

" As much as is possible, my love while still letting the doctors do their work."

" I don't want them there. I won't be able to relax. My muscles will stay too tight, and any pushing will be fruitless, and only serve to tire myself and distress the babies." Miranda began to fret, winding herself up.

" That may have happened with your first delivery, Miranda, but I will be there to advocate for you every step of the way. Nothing is going to happen without your consent or without consulting you unless it has to do with saving your life. And then when the doctor says to, you're going to push, and I'm going to be holding you in my arms for every second telling you how amazing, and powerful and beautiful you are. And you are gonna gather all your strength for the last push and then we'll hear thsose sweet, sweet cries that we've been yearning to hear all these months and see those precious little faces we've imagined so many times in our head."

Miranda's eyes were closed, still lost in the fantasy, but she shook her head. "You can't know how badly I want that, Andrea. How much I need to believe that will happen as you say."

" I have many, many doubts, many fears and uncertainties over what will happen with the babies and with you during the birth, but your strength and your capability is something I have never nor will ever question."

" You will never know how much of that strength is attributed to your presence, Andrea."

" No," Andy shook her head, her eyes kind but serious. "You have always had that strength, Miranda Priestly. Even long before you were Miranda Priestly."

Returning from her memories, Miranda kept the younger woman's words close to mind and remembered everything she had to fight for. But now, instead of feeling exhausted and defeated, a spark of the old Miranda Priestly had returned, made even brighter by the extra reasons she had to fight in Andrea and the babies. She had not let Stephen break her, and she would be damned if her children would lose a mother and Andrea a fiancée because of the 5 feet and 6 inches that made up the ghastly spectre of Irving Ravitz, a spectre she refused to let haunt her any longer. She wasn't yet sure of how she would do it, but Andrea's belief in her fueled her own belief so that she had no doubt she would.

Cooling her gaze and raising her chin almost imperceptibly, Miranda pushed open the door to the meeting room where the 10 Board members and Irv sat waiting.

Emily was already present and standing in the corner to take notes when Miranda arrived and she nodded at the editor as she came in and took her place at the table.

"Glad to see you could join us, Miranda. It's been awhile since you've graced Elias Clarke with your presence."

"As I only received notification two hours ago while with my son who was undergoing a serious medical procedure, I would say my presence suggests the opposite of what you are insinuating, Irving."

"Are you sure it didn't simply slip your mind, Miranda? I've heard becoming a new mother can cause one to lose their focus…" Irv suggested.

Miranda saw red at the implication that her identity as a mother would interfere with the degree of capability she showed in her career.

Emily was equally incensed, and while she was supposed to be a silent observer and note taker, spoek up on Miranda's behalf. "Seeing as I'm her assistant, the invitation would have to come through me and there was no such thing."

"I spoke with Miranda directly." Which was a lie, Miranda thought to herself. "However, with all that's going on at the moment it's understandable if she forgot or had other things on her mind she saw as more important. In any case, as chairman of the Board it is within my rights NOT to consult with the assistants of those in my employ."

"I am not, nor have I ever been or ever will be in your employ, Irving."

Irv just grinned a sickly grin. "You may not be my employee, Miranda, but I am still your superior."

"The only thing in which you are superior, Irv, is in your capacity for stupidity which seems to grow every time you open your mouth."

"Let's keep this meeting civil." One of the Board members quickly jumped on the end of Miranda's sentence.

One of the Heads spoke up. "It's true you do not work for Irv directly, Miranda, however indirectly it is still your role to consult him on all matters of the budget and decisions concerning the general operation of Runway involving financial and fiduciary matters."

"As I always have." Miranda's voice was quiet, but there was an underlying fury that Andy or Nigel or Emily or anyone who worked with Miranda would instantly recognize.

Fear, that she refused to show externally, manifested itself tenfold internally in the form of stomach cramps that were highly distracting from the present situation. With everything she had gone through over the last 9 months, both with the complications from the pregnancy and the relative trauma of the birth, these cramps while painful, weren't the worst pain she had ever felt. And yet, Miranda froze, and a cold sweat started prickling on her skin. These pains now, here, in this room where she had nearly lost her children, reminded her of that date and the utter loss of control she felt and the dread of knowing the loss of something that would be all but unimaginable to lose. And this time she didn't have Andrea to burst in and save her. God, when did she start needing to be saved? Was it the night Andrea had burst in to find her on the floor, beaten. Or truly, did it start long before that, only she hadn't known it until she'd met the young woman who had irrevocably changed the course of her life with one lumpy blue sweater. She swallowed back the bile that threatened to rise in her throat for a second time that day and addressed the Board.

"What exactly are the accusations being brought forth by Mr. Ravitz at this time?" Miranda asked coolly, her expression showing nothing.

"Irv has brought to our attention, and it has also not escaped our notice that for the last three quarters, American Runway has been slipping from its position as premier fashion magazine. This incidentally has coincided with the time you took off for …family matters."

Miranda wanted to roll her eyes. The man couldn't even say the word 'pregnancy'. Typical…

"You've recently welcomed two new additions. Would it be best, Miranda, for you to step down NOW and spend time with them? It would be an opportunity to step away at a high point where your departure or retirement would seem fitting given recent events."

She could understand the ratings not increasing during the time she was pregnant and the criminal proceedings against Stephen were underway, but she had looked at everything that had gone into the magazine. True, none of it had the breath of genius American Runway was known for, but she maintained as she did at the time, that they were passable. Surely her standards hadn't become too low? Had she truly slipped?

It was then she noticed something she had missed in the ratings. She had been right, the 'pregnancy' issues overseen by Nigel and Emily had produced passable sales and similar numbers to what the average issue of Runway would, if not their best. But, they HAD come in second. This explained why they had been speaking in terms of 'American' Runway when typically, it was shortened to one word. French Runway's numbers for the last 6 or so issues were hugely inflated compared to what they typically were in competition to Runway.

"Jacqueline has been doing a wonderful job with French Runway after returning from her venture with James Holt."

Failed venture, Miranda thought to herself, but remained silent, her features impassive.

"I thought she could come in for the interim while Miranda is on maternity leave, bring in fresh ideas. Assuming she is successful at the end of Miranda's maternity leave we may even consider keeping her on and transferring Miranda to French Runway, where the pace is slightly…slower.

Before Miranda could say something she would regret."Irv, that was never agreed upon, nor is it yours to introduce to discussion at this time. This meeting is a review, not a sentencing."

"My apologies, Mr. Edwards."

Miranda recognized the older gentleman who spoke as Mr. Edwards, a longstanding member of the Board who even predated she. He was getting on in years now, she thought she'd heard somewhere that he had just celebrated 50 years with Elias Clarke to coincide with his 84th birthday, and didn't typically say much or get in the way of the modernization of Runway that Miranda had proposed those thirty years ago, save for some sage financial advice at the beginning of her career that had set her on the path to make millions not only for Runway, but herself. Over the years, he had occasionally spoken to veto a suggestion, usually for the better Miranda had found, but otherwise left the ideas to 'the young people' as he called the Runway employees, even though at the beginning of her career at 30 Miranda had already begun to go white. Always serious, always solemn, always brusque and always well spoken and practical, he was one of the Board members Miranda would actually pay attention to when they spoke.

Miranda took this break from Irv's rampantly putrid dialogue about the inadequacies of American Runway to enter into play her own combat strategy that was quickly coming together in her head as more and more details were coming to light that directly incriminated Irv. She couldn't make any accusations now, however, not without concrete proof he was deliberately sabotaging American Runway to bring Jacqueline Follet on as editor-in-chief, but she suspected the twist in her gut she attributed to nerves was trying to tell her something else as well.

The slight relief Miranda had felt when Mr. Edwards had spoke on her behalf dissolved instantly, the bubble in her chest she might have called hope becoming lead and dropping to the pit of her stomach.

"My apologies, Miranda. Please sit down, those shoes look a right bugger to be standing on.

Still nearly too shocked to move, Miranda managed to make her way to the chair the elderly gentleman had pulled out and sit, finding herself actually chuckling at the derision a man who sat on the Board of a fashion magazine showed for her footwear.

He wasn't wrong though, her feet still swollen from pregnancy, she was beginning to think these shoes might be the end of her or require amputation to remove. She hadn't worn heels this high since she was four and a half months pregnant and had nearly toppled down the stairs, stopping Andrea's heart for a moment. No, she couldn't think of hearts stopping at the moment, she couldn't afford to think of her son when she needed her head and her emotions clear to face the issue at hand. An issue with which she hoped Mr. Edwards would assist.

"Drink?"

"I..." Miranda was about to refuse, knowing she was breastfeeding, but she realized she wouldn't be able to feed the babies for the next eighteen hours or so anyways. Also, after that meeting, she desperately needed a drink, lest she give in to the unraveling feeling beginning inside her head.

"Yes actually, thank you."

As a mark of respect, Miranda thought, he poured her a full gentleman's measure of scotch instead of the half measure men always seemed to pour women when offering spirits. He noticed her pause and chuckled, "My Jeannie was as fiery as the scotch you're drinking, and she would always take offence to being cheated out of a drink, even if she was a lady. My kind of woman, God bless her soul."

His eyes sparkled at the memory, although his voice was tinged with sadness at what Miranda presumed was her passing. If she thought back long enough, she could just remember a vibrant older woman on Mr. Edward's arm, her somewhat boisterous laugh had caught Miranda's attention, but instead of the usual purse of disapproval that her lips would have formed, she smirked slightly at the brazenness of the older woman to not give in the pressures of higher society and the elegant sobriety of being a wife of a Senior member of the Board. Her irreverence, which in anyone else might have irked her, had charmed her. Actually, she realized with a start, much like her Andrea.

They clinked glasses silently and drank, Mr. Edwards the next to speak as he made an observation.

"Now Irv. Man understands money at times, but not people. To run a magazine, even if the people don't understand her," He used the female pronoun with a quick, but knowing glance at Miranda, "As someone who dictates what the masses will read, an editor-in-chief must understand people at their core. To look past what they WANT and give them what they NEED. And isn't that exactly what you do, girlie?"

Miranda startled because she herself had said something eerily similar to Andrea when she was still working as her assistant, when she had compared themselves and made the girl choose between her career and Emily. Now, never once in her life, had Miranda Priestly EVER been called girlie. But the older gentleman's faint Irish brogue softened any potential condescension it carried to the point where Miranda wasn't at all insulted, in fact of the very few faint memories she had of her maternal grandfather, she recognized many of the same traits and mannerisms as the brusque and yet kindly Irish gentleman who stood before her, pouring her another full measure of scotch and switching topics.

"Now to congratulate ye on your two new little ones. I just became a great grandad myself. Little girl, not quite a year old, Molly. She was in the hospital for a few weeks before we brought her home too. I don't suppose you'd have pictures? I'll show ye mine first."

In a sweet and gently humourous contrast to the modern smartphone Miranda had pulled out to show him pictures, Mr. Edwards pulled out his wallet and showed Miranda the tiny Polaroid picture card whose edges were frayed making her think Mr. Edwards took every opportunity he could to show off his great granddaughter.

Miranda scrolled through several photos, of the girls with the babies and she and Andrea with both Christopher and Cora.

"That's precious, that, Miranda." Mr. Edwards said seriously now. "And not worth losing over this magazine. That being said, I wondered if you had any thoughts about, well let's not use the word retaliation, let's say 'counteraction' to the effects of Irving Ravitz. I'd not like to see either you or this magazine hurt."

Miranda was touched, but didn't pull back on her next words.

"Mr. Edwards, if I'm not incorrect, you lived through the Great Wars, yes?"

"Army, 1940-1945, Master Sergeant. They'd take an immigrant in those days, even if just from Ireland."

"Then Mr. Edwards, I presume you understand what it takes to go to war."

Miranda held out her tumbler to the older man, who after a short moment of contemplation met her tumbler with his own and raised his glass to her.

"War it is."