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Red Threads

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After Thanksgiving, Stacie expected things to revert to normal with Aubrey. She expected ridiculous demands and orders to pour in from the phone at all business hours while she and Chloe scrambled to complete each task. To her surprise, however, Stacie found her workdays becoming almost bearable? Admittedly she saw Chloe running around regularly, but her own schedule seemed to clear up. 

 

While, yes, she was still picking up hundreds of Gucci packages and setting up Aubrey’s lunch and dinner when it arrived, the blonde no longer dropped her coat on Stacie’s desk without a word. Instead, she’d find the coat already hung up or coffee waiting on her desk. The brunette was completely flabbergasted, but she wasn’t about to complain, especially since her day had just gotten infinitely easier. 

 

“I don’t get it,” Cynthia Rose remarked during lunch one day. 

 

“What?” Stacie said in confusion. She turned to her new friend, who was watching Aubrey from afar. The blonde was sitting at a table with Luke and another older man. Gerald Elias, Luke’s father, was a broad-shouldered man with the beginnings of a gut that he hid well in his navy pinstripe suit. They were in the midst of a lunch meeting, something that the employees of Elias-Posen were subtly trying to eavesdrop on. 

 

“You and Aubrey, what’s up with that? I’ve never seen her be so nice to an assistant before,” Cynthia Rose explained. Stacie chanced a look at the table where the two executive heirs sat, Aubrey was facing Gerald, but Luke caught her eye and gave her a wink. 

 

“Nice? She made me bathe her dog three weeks ago;’ Stacie spluttered, but even she knew she was lying. Three weeks ago, Thanksgiving wasn’t even a fever dream. Three weeks ago, she hadn’t almost kissed her boss in the middle of City Hall Park’s fountain. Cynthia Rose wasn’t buying it either if the look she gave Stacie was anything to go by. “I saw the coffee on your desk before you made it in. You got in late, too; Aubrey was already in the office. I’ve seen her fire a girl for turning up a minute after seven; you didn’t get in for a full ten minutes.”

 

“I had an early dentist appointment; I mentioned I needed a cleaning to her, so she got me the earliest appointment possible so I could get to work before eight,” Stacie shrugged. Just saying it was enough to make her self-conscious. It really was obvious that she was getting special treatment. 

 

“She booked your appointment for you?” Cynthia Rose sputtered. Stacie could feel her cheeks flushing. “Well, I-” 

 

“Hey, are you Stacie?” Stacie turned to see an irate short brunette girl standing in front of her. The girl was wearing ripped black jeans, a flannel, and headphones around her neck. She also wore an engagement ring that looked vaguely familiar; actually, if Stacie thought long and hard about it, the girl looked familiar as well. 

 

“Do I know you?” Stacie said with utter perplexity. 

 

“I’m Beca, the fiancee of the girl whose job you took,” the girl, Beca, growled. 

 

Stacie reared back, startled. “What? I didn’t take anyone’s job, I-”

 

“Really? Then why is my girlfriend doing all the tasks you’re supposed to be doing? She told me all about how she has to get coffee for you and Aubrey now. How you’re the one handling Aubrey’s important meetings, and how you get the extra time to come in. Chloe’s senior assistant, not you, so why don’t you stop sleeping with your boss and actually do your fucking job.” Beca’s rant had risen to a high enough volume that everyone in the dining hall had stopped all activity to listen. Aubrey sat some distance away, eyes alight with rage, while Luke flashed Stacie an awkward smile. She was so fucked. 

 

“Beca,” Chloe’s voice came from somewhere behind the girl as the ginger ran to her girlfriend. “What are you doing here?” Chloe hissed, the redhead cast a furtive glance in the direction of Aubrey’s table, but she was nowhere to be seen. 

 

“Chloe, if you’re here, who’s with the phones?” Stacie exclaimed as she rose to her full height, which she was happy to notice: towered over the minuscule Beca. 

 

“Shouldn’t it be you? You’re the junior assistant, after all,” Beca snarled. Chloe put a placating hand on her fiance’s shoulder and tugged the girl back. “It’s fine, Bec’s, it’s not Stacie’s fault; she didn’t even know I was getting her the coffee.” 

 

“Chloe, who’s with the phones? Oh my god, someone needs to get to the-” Stacie didn’t finish her sentence because the harsh clearing off a familiar throat sounded behind her. Stacie’s eyes widened before she spun around. 

 

“Hello, ladies. Is there a reason that both my assistants are here in the dining hall and not attending to the phones on their desks?” Aubrey’s words sounded eerily calm, belying the rage that the blonde held in her eyes. Chloe and Stacie automatically took a step away from their boss’s gaze; every muscle in their bodies told them to make a break for it. Cynthia Rose, who had seen the blonde coming, became very interested in her steak. Beca was the only one to meet the Fashion Editor’s eyes where a silent war started to take place. 

 

“Chloe deserves better than to play second to some girl who’s been with you for less than a year.” Beca snapped; Stacie really had to admire the girl’s bravery. Or was it stupidity? Either way, Aubrey was not amused. 

 

“Beca, yes, I would love to hear more about how to treat my assistants. I’m sure you have so much experience in the matter as an intern at Residual Heat.” Aubrey’s response caused the shorter woman to take a threatening step forward, but Beca was promptly yanked back by an anxious Chloe. “Chloe, I would appreciate it if you returned to your post at your desk; I’m sure Stacie was just finishing up her lunch so you can take your lunch break after,” Aubrey said, almost reasonably, but Beca didn’t have it. 

 

“She's a senior assistant; shouldn’t she get the first lunch break? Or did you forget that fact while you were screwing her?” Beca punctuated her sentence with a perfunctory finger pointed at Stacie. “Y’know, Chloe always sang your praises, hell, she worshipped you half the time. The genius fashion editor that would show her the world. But it turns out you’re just like any other slimy executive with all the money in the world. You were always awful and spoiled, ungrateful and rude, but I always thought you at least had some form of integrity. Apparently not.”

 

“Bumper!” Aubrey shouted; the security guard shuffled in awkwardly, head down. 

 

“Yes, Ma’am, I mean Miss, I mean Aubrey,” Bumper stammered. 

 

“Escort Ms. Mitchell from the building and inform the rest of the security staff that she is no longer allowed on the premises. If she comes back, have her booked for trespassing. Chloe, you have the next three minutes to get back to your desk, or I will find a new senior assistant, then Stacie really will take your job as the hobbit here just claimed.” 

 

“Aubrey,” Stacie began, but the blonde ignored her. 

 

“I want Ms. Mitchell removed from any plus one lists, and I will no longer be attending your wedding; yes, I got the invitation. In fact, I intended to appear at the event, but I cannot say that I would enjoy the event considering the decorum of the other bride;” Aubrey threw Beca a venomous look at the last word that only caused the brunette to narrow her eyes in return. Chloe looked to be close to tears. 

 

“I will also be returning the wedding gift I bought you; I’ll add it to your itinerary. I’m sure this is just a taste of how Ms. Mitchell, here, will destroy everything you have ever built. I’ll be sure to inform Khaled about his employee’s behavior; I’m positive he won’t appreciate anyone with her particular attitude representing his label.” 

 

Beca finally paled at the blonde’s words; the shock was written clearly on her face. “What?” The tiny brunette croaked. “Aubrey, you can’t be serious. Sure, Beca’s a little headstrong, but her talent with music is amazing; you can’t just get her fired from her job. She’s not even on the clock right now,” Chloe exclaimed in defense of her future bride. 

 

Stacie noticed the pair clasping each other’s hands, desperate to hold onto one another in that stressful moment. She had no idea that it was Chloe that had been delivering the coffee. In Stacie’s mind, she had always figured that the blonde was getting the drinks herself. It would have been extremely out of character, but she thought it was a gesture. A bit of work Aubrey put forth herself instead of having it served to her on a silver platter. The fact that it was Chloe the entire time put a foul taste in her mouth. No wonder the redhead looked so worn down all the time; she wasn’t just doing her job; she was doing Stacie’s. 

 

“Aubrey, stop this,” Stacie implored. She settled a hand on the blonde’s shoulder out of reflex; she felt the other woman tense for a moment before relaxing just a little. Aubrey pursed her lips and considered Beca once more. “Fine, Mitchell, this has been a warning. I don’t want to see you in this building again, Chloe; get back to your desk.” Her words were an obvious dismissal, one that was immediately heeded by the couple. Beca sped out of the room, tears still stuck in her eyes, while Chloe rushed off back to her desk. Stacie noticed that the couple gave each other a quick squeeze of the hand before their speedy departure. 

 

“Stacie, I’m sure your lunch break is almost over; you should head up soon,” Aubrey told her warily. The woman’s voice was softer, but Stacie was far from appeased, but she gave the other woman a nod and high-tailed it out of the dining hall. She made a mental note to talk to Aubrey privately later. 

 

 

Stacie stepped into the office moments after the cafeteria debacle, tired and mind-boggled. She was still annoyed with herself for believing that Aubrey had made any of those kind gestures herself. Chloe was sitting at her desk, phone in her hands and whispering into the line. Stacie could only assume she was speaking to Beca. Stacie cleared her throat politely and approached Chloe’s desk; the redhead studied Stacie suspiciously for a moment. The wary expression was enough to send a tinge of remorse through Stacie’s being. 

 

“Can I talk to you?” She requested softly. 

 

Chloe looked at the phone anxiously for a moment. “You can keep Beca on the line. I would want her to hear this too,” Stacie added. Chloe whispered something to Beca, and a feint couple of words came out of the receiver that Stacie couldn’t hear. “Okay,” Chloe finally sighed. Stacie waited as the other girl put the phone on speaker. 

 

“I want you guys to know that I had no clue she was having you do my job. I didn’t know about the coffee or the dry cleaning; I thought maybe she was doing it all herself. I had no idea that you were going out of the way to do those things for her; I’m sorry. Also, I know you have no reason to believe me since I honestly should have known better, but I’m not sleeping with her. I swear, I’m not. Especially now that I know, nothing she’s done has been on her own. Lesson learned, and I’m planning on talking to her about all the coffees. She shouldn’t be making you do all the work, no matter what her personal feelings are. It’s unprofessional, and I’ll try to pick up the slack. Do you think you could forgive me for being a little stupid and thinking Aubrey did it herself?” 

 

Chloe and Beca were silent for a moment, somehow telepathically communicating through the phone. “Yeah, alright,” Beca griped, her voice sounded distant, but Stacie heard it all the same. “I’m sorry I yelled at you; it’s not your fault your boss is crazy.” Stacie snorted and leaned back against her desk. 

 

“You really thought that anal-retentive bitch cared enough that she would get you coffee herself?” Beca chortled. 

 

“Beca, shhh, she might hear you,” Chloe chastised her fiance. 

 

Stacie shrugged, “No, she’s right. I should have known better. Aubrey was raised with a silver spoon in her mouth. I know her Mom died, but it’s no reason for her to treat others the way she does.”

 

“I heard her Mom was head bitch too,” Beca sneered. “I wonder if being awful runs in the bloodline.”

 

“I wouldn’t know; I just know her father didn’t even invite her for Thanksgiving;” as soon as Stacie said it, she regretted it. She shouldn’t have told anyone that; she didn’t know if Aubrey would want her family drama out in the open, even if it were shared with only Chloe and Beca.

 

Stacie immediately rushed to correct herself. “Aubrey’s family must be super busy all the time; they are a multi-billion dollar media corporation after all.”

 

“That’s no excuse to act like such a megalomaniacal bitch, though,” Beca scoffed. “She’s nuts, and she runs Chloe ragged looking for so many stupid things. It’s crazy; it’s just fashion, no offense Chlo, she’s making you guys treat every small request like it’s a bomb threat or something.” Beca sighed, “All I can say is, I have no clue how you guys deal with her. She seems like the boss from hell.” 

 

“She is,” Stacie admitted. “She can be cruel and manipulative. She has heaps of control issues, and I really think she has no idea what the real world is like outside of her sterling silver spoon life, but I don’t think that’s all there is to her.”

 

“Well, whatever you think she has inside her, I’ll bet you fifty bucks it's a load of bullshit. She’s mean to the bone, and the only reason anyone puts up with her is that they want something from her. Maybe that’s why her family doesn’t want to put up with her because whatever she could give them, they already have,” Beca grumbled. A sound came from the doorway, causing the redhead and brunette to jump. Chloe flashed a worried glance at the hallway but didn’t see anything. “We really shouldn’t be talking like this at work,” Chloe exclaimed, “Becs, I’ll see you at home. Let me know if Aubrey makes good on her threats; I’ll see what I can do, okay?” 

 

 

Aubrey arrived back in the office five minutes later. When Stacie asked to speak to her privately, the blonde brushed her off and locked herself in her office. Stacie stole glances at Aubrey through the glass doors, but she was never able to catch the CEO’s eye. When the day came to a close, Stacie was too busy with phone calls to stop Aubrey from leaving. The only instructions she received were from Chloe, who informed her that Benji handed the Book to Aubrey earlier that day. 

 

The next morning, Stacie was treated to a call from Aubrey, who, in a very clipped tone, informed her that she was expected to be at the office by seven with the morning’s coffee. “And Anastacia, make sure you put your own coffee on your own card; Bella shouldn’t be funding your caffeine addiction,” Aubrey snapped before hanging up. Stacie stared at her phone in utter confusion for a moment but thought better than to argue, it definitely saved her an awkward conversation later.

 

Figuring that Aubrey was doing her a favor by ceasing all obvious coffee flirtation, Stacie ordered the Starbucks as usual and arrived at the office as quickly as possible. When she arrived at Bella, she entered Aubrey’s office to drop the coffee off, only to find the Editor in the spinning chair, staring at her computer. “You’re late,” Aubrey snapped. 

 

Stacie checked her watch with a frown. “It’s 7:01,” She exclaimed. 

 

“Which is later than seven, don’t let it happen again, Anastacia,” Aubrey chastised Stacie, her perfectly plucked eyebrows furrowed over accusatory green eyes. 

 

“I’m late by one minute Aubrey,” Stacie sighed, “and suddenly I’m Anastacia again? Really?” 

 

“I don’t appreciate your tone Anastacia,” Aubrey stated, “I’ll admit that I may have grown comfortable in your presence recently, but that was my mistake. Clearly, whatever relationship we have is supposed to remain professional. I have strayed from that; as your employer, it is my job to correct our error. You will resume working for me, the ‘cruel and manipulative boss from hell’ as you may have put it, more professionally. Failure to do so will result in termination.” Aubrey met Stacie’s shocked expression unflinchingly; an emptiness Stacie had never before seen laid deep in the blonde’s eyes. 

 

“Au-” Stacie started, but Aubrey’s phone rang loudly, interrupting the moment. “Anastacia, get me the skirt order and alert Benji that I expect a run through. Tell Jessica and Ashley that they’re expected to come to the office for my fitting, Oscar is arriving soon, and I expect him to be shown to my office immediately. Tell Chloe to start preparing my Paris itinerary, and I expect you to complete the Christmas Gala seating chart by five today. I want a run-through and full approval done by six.” Aubrey said all of this quickly before picking up the phone and placing her ear on the receiver. Stacie sat frozen in her seat until Aubrey paused her conversation, “Anastacia, get out. You have things to do.” Stacie rose from her seat and stumbled out of the room. Aubrey had heard her conversation with Beca. 

 

Stacie approached her desk to find Chloe working furiously at her computer across the room. Aubrey’s coat and bag were lying haphazardly on Stacie’s desktop; she had missed it when she ran in to give Aubrey her coffee order. “Welcome back,” Chloe whispered to her sympathetically. Stacie forced a small smile and shrug as her heart clenched with guilt and something else that almost felt like heartbreak.