Saturday, August 25, 2012

Trouble With Coffee (part 1) - DWP Slash Fic

If the "Two Demented Muses" ask me to remove this story, I will. But I've had half a dozen requests for it, so I decided to post it.

I did NOT write this story.

Disclaimer:  We don’t own them, we’re just playing with them for awhile.  No harm or infringement is intended.
Rating: M
Fandom: The Devil Wears Prada 
AN:  Please do not archive or publish this story anywhere else on the web without our consent.  The story spawned out of a what if scenario, after the movie ended.  We did however take liberties with movie canon.  Movie facts are mixed with book facts as we saw fit.  This story is homosexual in nature and gasp, there is girl on girl sex.  If you have a problem with that, it is probably not for you.  Otherwise please read and hopefully enjoy.   

The Trouble with Coffee 

A small laugh carried through the phone.  Andrea Sachs rushed down the busy Manhattan street as unaware of those around her as someone on a lonely stretch of country highway.  New York City, the busiest most isolated city in the world.  You could walk down the street and never see the same person twice in your lifetime or so it seemed.  Today of all days she was grateful for the anonymity.  From the first early morning call she'd received from the Mirror saying they had an assignment at 5am on a Saturday morning, she'd known she should have ignored the call from work, rolled over and gone back to sleep.  She would have if not for a the demanding whine of her editor's assistant.   

Her direct supervisor she could have said no to but since leaving Miranda at Runway, the world's premiere fashion magazine, she'd held a soft spot for assistants or at least what they had to go through when they returned to their boss with an unappreciated answer.  By seven she'd been ready to hide in a dark corner and by 9am she'd began scoping out dark corners that might be good spots from which to throw rocks at people.  The story shouldn't have been difficult but no one seemed to appreciate her Saturday morning intrusion.  The life of a 'respectable' journalist had taught her one thing:  Miranda seemed almost sane, sometimes.  

She dove into Starbucks as the door opened, brushing past the exiting people.  Being polite and saying please and thank you she reserved for weekdays or so she told herself.  The enticing smell of coffee made her mouth water.  Her heart rate picked up in anticipation.  On instinct she reached for her cell phone to try and do a little work while waiting.  Reason 122 of why the day sucked greeted her.  She'd lost her cell somewhere on the Upper West Side hours ago.  Andy sighed heavily, resigning herself to being the only person standing in line not doing something and looked up and around.  

A flash of silver white hair three people up nearly knocked her back several steps.  Blinking stupidly didn't change the vision.  Discretely, she tilted her head out to the side, wanting confirmation while the very fiber of her being said she was being absurd.  Miranda Priestly did not get her own coffee.   Not in New York and not even in hell.  She couldn't quite see the woman's face but when the man ahead moved, Andy had a clear shot of the back of the her head.  Miranda Priestly was getting her own coffee.  Grinding the heel of her shoe into her arch didn't change the vision.  It did cause a small hiss of pain that no one bothered to notice.   

Well.  Damn.  Andy's hand immediately went to her hair, smoothing down the back and patting the sides.  Like everything else, it had stopped cooperating hours ago.  Little sprigs stuck in her palm, no longer in their confines.  She'd taken to wearing the sides up, held in clips chosen to match whatever she had on.  It was a good look so long as you'd not been running around New York for hours and were now exactly two people behind Miranda.  Eyes cutting to the sides she checked to make sure no one was watching her then licked her palm and used it to try to smooth down the unruly strands.  Disgusting rated below running into Miranda anywhere with her hair sticking out like a demented troll doll.  

It didn't once occur to her to leave the store, unseen and unjudged.  Instead she glanced down and began trying to smooth out wrinkles that now acted as if part of the fabric itself.  Worse than the wrinkles were the clothes themselves.  They were stylish enough for a journalist.  One lasting effect of her time at Runway. But they were nowhere near what she would have worn had she known that running into her was on the agenda.  Andy ripped her coat off then hastily untucked her shirt.  Three buttons were nearly ripped off the top of her shirt in her attempt to undo them.  Hopping on one foot, she brushed the dust off the toes of her shoes not that they mattered anyway.  They never mattered to Miranda unless the designer was obvious.   

A nameless stranger shot her a look that screamed he thought she was better suited to Bellevue than a Starbucks in Manhattan.  Yesterday she would have shot him a sheepish smile.  Today she glared and unrolled her sleeves.  Another pat down and she felt slightly better until she glanced up at that white hair again.  Andy vowed then and there she would choose to be a witch if given the choice just to have the ability to melt when necessary and this was a necessary time if she'd ever seen one.  A quick application of lip gloss and she exhaled in a huff.  Miranda, who loved Starbucks but wouldn't be caught dead in one wasn't really in a place to judge anyone.  That would have made Andy feel better if it weren't Miranda who judged everyone as if she were God's right hand fashion consultant.  Running into her at Starbucks, reasons 123-153 of why this day well and truly sucked.   

It was nine AM on Saturday morning and Miranda Priestly had already clocked precisely ninety minutes in at her office. Her twin girls, Cassidy and Caroline were spending the weekend with their father in the Hamptons. At two o'clock there was a private luncheon with Anne Klein to review the sketches of her fall lineup, followed by an 8:45 at New York's finest, Per Se, for a late dinner with Irv Ravitz and company. He'd complain about cost overruns and she would make him see the light.  Expenses were a negligible detail when it came to producing the best of the best, scrimping on the production of the bible of the fashion industry was not something she tolerated well.  

And so, how was it Miranda Priestly decked out in a pair of crocodile Manolo's that retailed for two grand, a vintage Chanel jacket, a set of diamond crusted Harry Winston earrings, that could finance a small country, and the most perfectly coiffed hair since Jackie O found herself waiting in line like all the other lowly dregs of society? Simple. Eventually all fashion trickled down from its most majestic start in couture to wind up on the backs of the little people of no discernible taste and she liked to remind herself from time to time just how far the great creations could fall and how much worse off the world would be if defining fashion ever fell to the less worthy.   

Distressed and disgusted the Fashionista without equal stopped looking around.  She'd seen enough of those people to realize that for the lower echelons a dress code needed to be legislated and fashion crimes severely punished. A shudder trilled the column of her ramrod spine. The horrors were unspeakable.  

A young pony-tailed blond nearly split her face in an adoring toothy smile.  She'd heard tales about the mythical Miranda Priestly having entered their store before and today somebody manning the big barista in the sky loved her. A piercing squeal rose above the din of conversation. "Oh my god. Miranda Priestly, I know you."  

Sharp blue eyes peered out from under the heavy gold frames of Fendi glasses. They appeared to peel away from her face as Miranda attempted to get a better look at the being that dared make such a claim in this of all places. The peon was treated to a slow dissecting look that started at her waist and ended with a piercing look square into her green eyes.  A bug rated higher on the food chain in Miranda’s estimation.  Fool girl squirmed under the scrutiny but didn’t turn to ash.  Nor did she set about getting Miranda her order. Incompetence was epidemic. She whispered, "A latte."  

"Umm," suddenly hit by a case of nerves and wanting to dive under the counter the girl sputtered "Whole or skim? Size? Shots?" all the while fighting the urge to reach out and touch the woman's shocking head of chromatically white hair.  

Miranda's head cocked just a little as her expression turned to one of grave pain. "I do not understand why you waste my time.  Did you not just announce to half of Manhattan that you know me? Stop boring me with questions and get my drink." Her cell phone attached to her ear as the young girl stood agog. The maven's lips pursed. "Emily. Get me Howard Schultz. Before you die. He runs the coffee shop I’m at. For today pretend you are not a simpleton. I must address the atrocious state of the rags these hapless beings are forced to wear."  A wave of her hand clearly told the girl there would be no further discussion.  

From her spot as a observer Andy cringed for the girl while being simultaneously amused and exasperated by Miranda.  The six months since she'd last run into her had changed nothing not that she really expected it to.  People in line exchanged looks without having the moxy to interfere.  Andy shook her head then began a silent lecture on why she was not going to say a word.  Sure she might have kept loose tabs on the woman and might now buy and even read Runway cover to cover but she was not going to help the woman, no she was not. So it was a mystery to her when she felt her mouth opening after a minute of uncomfortable silence.  

And she knew in that moment she was indeed going to help out though not for Miranda but the girl behind the counter who looked like tears were seconds away.  Her last thought was a reminder not to hem, haw or be inarticulate which of course was the exact thing she then did.  "Um a skim, non fat latte," she spoke up from around the man, "and um, an extra shot of espresso.  Hot, scalding hot."  When people stared at her like she'd broken some cardinal room and was jumping ahead of them she quickly added, "uh, that's her order."  

The order taker didn't care if it was correct or not - anything to get her out from under the glare that threatened to burn her skin off. She didn't bother ringing up the drink after hissing it at the barista. There was no way she was asking the dragon lady to actually pay.  God only knew what horrific thing she might do then.  

Miranda was in the middle of a scathing albeit quietly spoken tirade to Schultz about the travesty of the absolutely uninspired, might-as-well-be-burlap-sacks uniforms he had so erroneously selected. The man was out and out apologizing for the error of his ways when she heard the voice. "That's all." she dismissed him and closed her phone.   

Her two and half inch heel dug into the floor as she pivoted.  Usually they were four but it was the weekend and she'd dressed down. Her already chilled eyes turned glacier when they came to rest on Andy.  Miranda's gaze was withering as it traversed the younger woman not missing the minutest detail nor forgiving any wrinkle. A grave disappointment.  The girl had lost almost every remnant of fashion sense she'd gained during her tenure at Runway. Though her hair looked marginally improved.  

"Even Judas has his uses," she said just loud enough that people seemed to lean towards her to catch what she said.  Mingling with these people was a bad idea that she wouldn't repeat. They were simply too stupid to deserve consideration. Let them wear polyester.  

Andy tried for a smile that came out looking more like grimace.  Of course Miranda would hold a grudge.  Why oh why couldn't she have signed up for that witch class instead of taking an assignment this morning?  Her clothes really weren't that bad. They were in season and suitable to her job. The mind knew that.  The body tugged at her shirt self consciously.  In the middle of Starbucks while being stared at like a bug to the point others were staring too, Andy began to debate whether or not it was better or worse when Miranda stared with her sunglasses on.  Either way she wished the woman had them on now and maybe, just maybe while she put them on she could look a little less put together and a lot less beautiful.  Just once.  It wasn't too much to ask was it?   

"Hi," the younger woman groaned as she said it.  Here she was, an articulate journalist, who wrote whole inspiring, thoughtful articles, reduced to dithering hi's with a woman who found common human pleasantries vapid.   

"Here's your latte." The girl put it on the counter and pushed it towards Miranda. "Enjoy it."  

"Any chance I had of enjoying it ceased fifteen minutes ago." She plucked the drink off the counter, stared at the girl with absolute disdain and then turned to make her way out. The other patrons parted like the Red Sea in front of her.  Her sunglasses were pushed back into place. "Emily," she acknowledged as she breezed by.  One lingering glance brought back that awful moment in Paris when she'd looked behind her and the girl with all the potential had just vanished, abandoning her.   

Being dubbed Emily, yet again, was a bigger kick in the stomach than usual.  All hopes of a smile faded away.  The desire for coffee went with it.  Stricken, Andy mumbled an excuse me to the person behind her and hastily exited the store.  Six months later and 'over it' wasn't in the dictionary.  Despite what she told herself, her eyes fixed themselves to Miranda's back.  An unknown, rushed man bumped into and knocked her to the side but at least his rudeness jump started her feet.  The story could find another writer.  She'd call in sick, make up some excuse and retreat to her small apartment to lick her affordable shoes in private.   

For months in the fleeting moments she found time to have a life, she'd wondered what would happen if she came face to face with Miranda.  There were some people that never seeing twice rule in this city didn't apply to.  Runway's editor was one such person.  After all, Manhattan wasn't that big when you worked mere blocks from your former employer.  She headed straight to the subway, blind to the world around her.  New York had long ceased to hold the wonder that it once had.  Loving it no longer meant gawking at it.  To Andy, Miranda was New York from the way she carried herself to the status and the clothes she wore.  She was the inescapable embodiment of the city.  

Why care what Miranda thought?  She'd asked herself that question a million times.  On the days she was honest she could admit she still thought about her more than she cared to admit.  Far more than she thought about Nate, somewhere in Boston, who she'd not spoken to in months.  Lily had been forsaken long before he was.  They never quite found a way around what had happened at the art show.  And really, once she returned to New York she no longer cared.  Miranda hadn't been the only one she'd walked out on.  Fresh eyes had viewed her world once she got off the plane.  The remains of her friendships and lover she had no interest in putting back together.  She certainly didn't qualify as a great friend but neither did they.  

When they'd stopped making any pretense of calling there had been relief instead of sadness.  In the ruins of that she'd realized one thing she truly appreciated about Miranda, at least she was honest.  Time had lessened the shock of the backstabbing of Nigel.  What had happened still left a bad taste but really, she shouldn't have been so surprised.  Miranda was who she was without apology.  Tossing her coat over the back of the chair, Andy locked the apartment door, grabbed a beer out of the fridge and flopped down on the small couch.  Back to the place she'd started at; the same apartment in the same city where life had started.  Except for that one glaring difference.  The changes in her life and attitude had brought another reason and the answer to why she cared.   

She was in love with Miranda Priestly.   

Nate's comments about who she was in the relationship were dead on and at the time, she'd wanted to be.  The very things she'd damned the woman for she'd later come to realize she quite loved.  Even Miranda's demands no longer seemed so impossible.  They'd taken on a new light not a month after she'd begun work at theMirror when she realized her life as a journalist was even less her own than it had been as Miranda's assistant.  The people in her new world might actually be worse because they knew they could impact change.  They might not cure cancer but they could do an article that would give exposure and funding to one that could cure cancer and in that they were nastier than the fashion industry could ever hope to be.  Her colleagues had to be, or so it appeared, if they wanted to get anywhere.   

The difference between the two worlds were definitely the perks.  She missed them horribly, every single one.  From the cars to take her wherever her heart desired to the clothes that she'd come to love so much they were a sin.  She missed it all.  The most seductive longing of all remained to the power of her old job.  She wasn't okay with missing or wanting it but she'd come as close as she ever would to accepting it.  Picking up the phone and being able to get anything or anyone could seduce anyone, even the earnest girl Midwest girl who still missed life outside of New York like one missed a favorite pair of old jeans.   

Sometimes she even missed the job, not that she'd ever tell Miranda that - or get the chance to.  More importantly she loved the aspects of the job that didn't include being her boss's 'fetch' girl. Before she'd lost her and before she'd let so called friends influence her opinion she'd truly started to enjoy herself.  Clothes might not cure diseases but they could and did make people happy.  The two no longer seemed so imbalanced or different.   

Now, she just wanted to figure out what to do next.  And if she said a small prayer that next time she'd be better prepared with some sort of plan, who could blame her?  


Two weeks later Andy glanced around then entered the same Starbucks.  It was a frequent pit stop when work demanded she run around half crazed.  There was a store closer to her work but when she was headed to other parts anyway what did it matter?  Besides, she knew the weekday crew here and more importantly they knew her.  As a result a mouth watering macchiato stood tall and proud, never knowing how much she lusted after it, by the time she ever got to the counter.  That alone made it worth risking running into the real Emily and whatever their relationship was or wasn't.  Mostly it wasn't but oddly it had ended better than it began.  They weren't friends but at least on the occasions they did run into one another Emily's sneer lacked the real intent it once had.

Pulling out a new Blackberry she settled into checking email as a distraction.  The day had gone well in comparison to that Saturday.  Her assignment was coming together nicely, the rent was paid, she had a new cell phone and most importantly she looked good.  Not that that was important, except that it had become more important once again.  She had the dry cleaning bill that went along with wearing more upscale clothes to prove it.

Miranda’s morning was progressing smoothly.  It had bent so perfectly to her will that as Roy was driving her back to 57th street twenty minutes ahead of schedule she paused long enough to smell the new leather of her recently upgraded town car and to glance out the window. Her eyes brushed over the bustling New Yorkers. In the span of five minutes two chicly clad, leggy females managed to garner a longer look from her as she disassembled their outfits with approval. She scribbled several lines on a post it, folded it in half and tucked it in her hand bag. A familiar gait had Miranda craning her neck just a little. And there it was, that chirpy little Judas smile disappearing into... "Stop the car Roy."

Having survived as her personal driver for over a decade, Roy didn't question or hesitate he simply applied the brakes, pulled the brim of his cap down low on his forehead and ignored the rude gesticulating from the plethora of taxis that were jamming their horns as they drove out around him.  She eased out of the car and weaved amidst the insane traffic as though she was strolling the red carpet.

As soon as Roy determined where she was headed he texted Emily who ran to the window in a panic and gasped in abject horror as she watched Miranda about to enter the Starbuck's across the street. Damage control. She dialed her bosses number. "Miranda, just a reminder that you have an eleven o'clock with Versace."

"You may be suffering the onset of dementia, I am not. Tell me you have a valid reason for interrupting me," she replied as she put one gloved hand carefully on the door, pushed and let herself into the busy coffeehouse.

"The Gucci bags arrived," Emily clamored, straining to see the mane of white hair as it disappeared inside. Doom, this spelled doom and somehow it would fall on her head.

"Have them displayed according to color."

"Right. Where are you?"  The question just blurted out there in the face of imminent disaster.


"You're getting coffee?” she squeaked. "You can't do that."

Miranda cut through the line of people, ignoring the looks.  "Will your desk be cleaned out after the Gucci's are arranged?"

Shit.  "That's Emily's job. The coffee. You..."

"Fire her. My coffee had foam this morning, I despise it. A simple coffee to my taste to start the day off right is not too much to ask is it?"

Emily assured her boss it indeed was not and set off to fire the other 'Emily'.

The cell phone disappeared into Miranda's pocket as she looked around without looking around until she found her mark almost to the front of the line. Serendipity. A small trill of pleasure hit her. The girl had stopped stealing clothes from the Goodwill. That was something.

Oblivious to the entrance, Andy continued finishing her message while moving forward.  Pausing long enough to hand money over, she shot the girl a smile and returned to the keypad.  Several seconds later a new scent mixed with the dark brew.  Her nose twitched.  She'd never quite identified what it was Miranda wore.  In all likelihood she preferred unique perfumes made especially for her.  But the bergamot scent was one distinctive ingredient she started recognizing in the perfume after a particularly horrific incident with a bottle of Lagerfeld's new perfume right after she started working at Runway.  Whatever Miranda wore, bergamot was in it.  It made the scent distinctive enough, to her nose, to identify the woman from several feet. And now it even cut through the thick scent of coffee, a near impossibility.

The younger woman twitched and instinctively stood straighter. A stern lecture followed the movement.  She was being ridiculous.  Miranda had not magically appeared behind her. This was nothing more than a bad, left over Runway nightmare.  The young guy behind the counter handed her cup over with a smile that she returned.  Cup halfway to her mouth she realized there was one thing wrong with the way he looked at her.  He wasn't looking at her so much as behind her and his smile was more frozen in place than genuine.  No, no, no.  She'd just stand here the rest of the day then.  Better that than to turn around and look stupid when it wasn't Miranda or worse, having Miranda actually behind her.

A good plan in theory. It didn't quite pan out when the clerk began moving to the side in a clear, not so subtle hint for her to move.  Side stepping became a last minute stroke of genius that she intended to go with all the way to the napkin bar.  The people in the way between here and there could just move or die, their choice.

"Andrea." Her naturally whispered voice made the name sound like an elongated purr.

"Shit," slipped out as hot coffee sloshed through the sippie hole onto her hand.  Sucking on a protesting finger, Andy froze, eyes widening.  Why she'd tripped penetrated the fog of pain.  Miranda was behind her.  Speaking in that voice. Saying her name in that way she had where every syllable sounded as if it had been rolled and caressed.  In Starbucks. Buying coffee.  Like a normal person.  Except she wasn't normal by a long stretch and she didn't buy her own coffee.  She had people like, her, to do that.  Finger still in her mouth, she pivoted slowly in place, head down, and peeked out from under her hat to confirm what the mind said.  Crap.  "Miranda," she eeped around her finger then yanked it out of her mouth in  horror.

The bucket hat on the journalist’s head was a nice touch and did a decent job of hiding that unflattering mop from the light of day. A slight flick of her hand between Andy and the barista made Miranda’s intentions clear. Andy was the designated order placer.

The memo of her place had gotten lost in the bustle.  Andy stared like Miranda had donned clothing from Wal-Mart then glanced at the clerk.  Oh no she was not. This was...Emily's job.  Wanting to see Miranda ended three steps before being a lackey again.  The confidence she'd found warred with the smallness her esteem tended to slide into around the woman.  Being called Emily last time decided which side won the war.  "Do you need help ordering?"

A small huffed sigh punctuated her displeasure. "Competence is in short supply today. Why is it such a challenge to secure a decent coffee?"

"It helps if you remember your drink preference."  Where the bravado was coming from she didn't know but made a mental note to buy more.  Feeling bold, she did give the barista the order while digging around in her handbag.  Not daring to think about what she was doing or to whom, she hastily wrote down Miranda's drink of choice on the back of her business card, flipped it over, underlined her first name then passed it not to the barista but to the clerk along with money and directions.  Miranda wasn't likely to take it but being friendly with the staff had its perks.  They'd tuck it under the wrap of the editor’s cup.  "Emily ill?"

Miranda blinked slowly once. Journalism did not agree with the girl, she was getting soft in the head. Karma it seemed.  "Beyond terminal idiocy what her maladjustment is, is a mystery." One that she had no interest in.  "Are they crawling to Brazil to harvest the beans?"  She put a hand up to silence Andy's reply. "Rhetorical question.  Then again you've got your ace reporter's hat on. Do an expose.  Whatever it takes to get the coffee before the next millennium." She remembered why the peons got the coffee. Their time was given meaning by her. How had she ended up here again?

Full sentences, however derogatory were a lot better than the dismissive bug glances and being ignored.  Two new items were added to her agenda for the day:  buying a lottery ticket and writing up that expose to send to Miranda, where she exposed just how much time it took people to do things in the real world.  Giving the barista a sympathetic smile, she retrieved the drink, double checked that the card was there then passed it over.  Better to stay busy than stare at the woman's lips while contemplating color and softness.  Again, she wondered why Miranda was getting her own coffee.  "Should I include a summary so you don't have to actually read it?"  Of course she wouldn't any more than she'd ever remember exactly what to order at Starbucks but the tease slipped out anyway no matter how unnatural.

The rich smell of coffee wafted and tantalized but she ignored it to respond to Andy with a look that seemed to scan every visible pore.  She had intelligent eyes, but no doubt Brutus had as well. Still, without fully realizing it she gave the girl a half nod. The outfit suited her.  It wasn't as tailored as it should be, and the attempt at makeup had been a misstep and that goo she had on her lips needed to be wiped off.

Bravado slipped away in the face of awkward.  Watching for the woman in the news, avidly reading whatever tidbits were dropped nowhere near compared to living color. Andy fidgeted, feeling a bout of stammering coming on and helpless to stop it.  "I job.  An assignment.  Uh, work, the, thank you."

Miranda's mood took a most unpleasant hit at the reminder of Andrea's new job.  "If you write as proficiently as you speak they'll suffer the sting of disappointing potential.  I hate being wrong Andrea. My error was in misjudging your strength of character.  It's there, all there in you but you are too much of a coward to step forward and claim it. Curdled cream that sinks to the bottom instead of rising to the top. That's all." Why was the urge to throttle the girl so high?

"You," she stopped.  The backs of her eyes burned with unshed tears.  In the months since she’d quit she'd been doing just fine, calm, cool and mostly collected.  Good at her job with new friends to boot.  All was well until she'd stopped watching Miranda from afar and ran into the real thing.  Far too many nights had been spent considering all the things she wanted to say to the woman. It had become a nightly bedtime ritual for awhile.  And then there were all the things she wished she'd said under Miranda’s barrage of verbal abuse.  She wanted to cry and she wanted to tell her to go to hell.

Instead Andy lifted her chin, stared her in the eye and managed a sad low blow, all the things she wanted to say forgotten, "Isn't that outfit a little young for you?"  Her feet took over, all but running out the door to the world beyond where Miranda hadn't judged and found her unworthy, again.

Miranda walked out of the coffee shop and across the street carrying herself with the grace and aplomb of the well-bred, quintessential aristocrat.  The only tell that Andy's last comments had indeed penetrated her consciousness was in the call she made to Emily. "Have a new outfit assembled. Make it black." Four inch stilettos bit angrily into the marble as she entered her building coffee still in her hand.


Three days later, beer in hand and the apartment in need of cleaning, Andy sat curled up in a chair as she plucked away at her computer.   Two articles sat waiting to be written yet she'd become obsessed with a meaningless The World of Coffee and Time article for Miranda.  That she continued to stew over the woman's parting shot and the inadequacy of hers added fuel to her determinations.

"Wanna play editor?"  She asked, sending a pleading glance Jace's way.  He'd read over the article twice so far this evening but what was the point of having friends if they couldn't help out once in awhile?  So far he'd proven useless beyond bringing dinner and listening to her vent so surely it wasn't too much to ask for him to have a stroke of genius when reading over it?  About her age, he had a quick wit and an easy smile that she'd warmed up to instantly.  A long night commiserating over an article turned sour led to him becoming her first real friend since Runway.  That she listened to his endless woman problems, the problem being he had too many, provided an endless source of endearing amusement on the days she might otherwise feel a twinge of loneliness.

Jace looked mournfully at his empty bottle and ran a hand across his scruffy chin and shrugged. "It's nine o'clock on a Friday night in New York city. Can't think of one thing I'd rather do more. Except maybe crawl out of this little cave, meet some cute girls, go dancing, get laid, pretend we aren't well on our way to a retirement home standing in line for Depends and green Jell-O." His gray eyes twinkled as he walked over. "Move your ass and I'll make you sound brilliant."

"Just edit and offer advice pretty boy.  I've seen your writing.  If she sees it she'll think I really am that challenged."  Despite her teasing, she slid over to make room for him and held the PowerBook out.  The story was good though she wasn't sure it would be worth doing even if a Pulitzer would be awarded to it.  "Remember, she's...not exactly up on time management beyond her own.  To her mind when she wants bread, she should say bread and it should be there insto-presto.  Never mind someone having to bake it or any of those 'trivial' little details."

He snatched the computer up and settled into the seat. "It's punchier." He muttered through the pencil that was always stuck in his mouth when he edited.  "Does she even know how to read anything that isn't illustrated with dresses scarves and half naked, skinny women? Speaking of, I think you should go back to work for her."

She smirked and tapped the screen.  "So you can have access to the models?  I don't think so.  And yes, she does.  I think.  Granted I never saw her read anything that wasn't in Runway or having to do with it or fashion but she must.  Or used to.  She's too intelligent not to.  She reads Page 6 anyway."

He left new marks on the pencil with his teeth as he re-read one section then moved the sentence around until the flow was restored. "I think she sounds a bit like an idiot savant. I mean what fifty year old woman can't order her own coffee?" He beat the pencil on the desk developing a rhythm as he kept reading. Once he snorted. "For a preppy chick from Cincinnati you have a surprising sense of humor. It's good stuff.  Perhaps you should dress the coffee beans up in couture string bikinis though and play to your audience." He cracked a wide grin.

"Now you sound like Nate."  A tip of her head said it all and he knew her well enough to know that wasn't a compliment.  "I know it's freaky that she doesn't but if you didn't have to would you?  If you could sit around all day and have a bevy of beautiful women cater to your every need and whim including bringing you all the information needed for your articles, would you ever do anything for yourself?  I'm not saying that's why she doesn't.  That's just...her and her whacked out insanely busy schedule.  And the control freak in her."

"Are you shitting me? I want to be Miranda Priestly. Well you know as long as I keep my dick and all my other boy parts. " He leaned back in the chair, a teasing playful grin mocking her. "You know, maybe I should work for her. I'm brilliant, easy on the eyes and ... I do get it, well not entirely.  I can't imagine overseeing theTimes and she micromanages everything. Where does she have the time to order her own coffee?" He said the last part with a strong note of sincerity.

Everybody wants to be us.  Andy shook her head, stretched out her legs and sighed.  "She said that once.  Everybody wants to be us.  Right before I left.  At the time I was disgusted with all of it.  But you're certainly a ringing endorsement of her being right.  For that, get out and you can cook next time instead of buying dinner."

"Get out?"

"Heh.  A bad imitation of her 'die cretin' look."  Pleased with herself, she tipped her bottle up.  No help was needed to point out the ways Miranda had been right.

"Course, you'd never just throw me out. I knew that.  It's a dream Andy to be a hanger on with the rich and the beautiful. And…well... I've never met her but I was in a room with The Donald once and I swear the air around him just buzzes with energy.  You miss it don't you?"

Andy closed her eyes, mind automatically drifting off to that night at the benefit. "Buzzes is an understatement.  Around her its breathless. But no I don't miss it exactly.  Her demanding, tyrannical, abusive ways, no.  And yes.  Well not her ways exactly."

"Give the woman a whip and you've got yourself a dominatrix. I bet she keeps those outfits stashed at the office."

Beer squirted through both nostrils.  Groaning, she slapped a hand over her nose and tried out another death glare, unsuccessfully.  "Remember, I spent a lot of time there so I have to disappoint you.  Plus she really doesn't strike me as the type.  And why bother?  Who needs a whip to inflict pain when you can do it with a word or a look and still get people to cry out, whimper or shed tears."

"S'ok, it's a bit of a damaging image for me anyway. She could be my mother, you know, if God had liked me a bit more." He finished the article and got up to fetch more beer. "Want another?"

"Now that's an image I didn't need.  Sure.  Think it's done?"  She dove back into the article rather than to chance thinking of Miranda as his mother.

"It's done." He flipped the caps off both bottles and handed one over before flopping back on the sofa.  "What do you miss and why are your putting so damn much effort into an article that she might not even read?"

"For me actually.  She made this flip comment about me doing an expose and the idea struck.  It took permanent hold when she said what a disappointment I was.  Only we're talking Miranda.  It wasn't even close to being as nice as just calling me a disappointment. The clothes, power and maybe the industry are a tossup for first on any given day.  I didn't realize then that if you really want to get somewhere in all public, people oriented jobs you are going to do things that might make you cringe.  It's depressing."

"Let me get this straight. You've spent hours writing an article for free, invested a Friday night into thankless research to write an article for yourself that you are going to hand over for her criticism because she called you a disappointment. What is the encore to that Ace?"

A pillow thumped against his head.  Jace had missed the entire point.  "I'm not looking for her criticism or praise."  Though praise was like gold from her.  "We were in line and she made a flip comment about me doing an expose.  She didn't care about it, she just wanted her coffee.  An instant idea formed.  An article explaining coffee but more importantly the time it took, on a lark.  A trump to her casual throwaway.  Her manner turned nasty and I in a stroke of articulate brilliance returned fire with a pedantic comment about her outfit being too young for her.
I promptly ran out of the store.  It was not my shining moment.  But you know what, I'm not that person from two years ago.  The idea of the joke preceded her nasty and I'm not going to let her make me turn tail and run.  Making sense?  The article was for me.  My first grand attempt at staunching that 'she makes me feel like a kid' affect.  The article is my encore I suppose.  Now go ahead and tell me I've turned into a brilliant adult."

"You have, you are a brilliant adult Ace. But your marbles were banging hard that day. You told Miranda fucking Priestly that her outfit was too young?" He grabbed the pillow and held it over his head. "This is the part where you start tunneling out of the city."

A kid with her hand caught in the cookie jar, Andy's face contorted.  "She called me curdled cream that had sunk to the bottom.  In front of everyone.  I don't care if she was talking in that quiet voice it was humiliating and you've still not given me one plausible reason why she was at Starbucks.  Again."

"That is weird. Her being there not once but twice. Maybe she's stalking you." He snickered and took a long haul off his beer.

"That's it, you're cut off.  You've clearly had too much to drink.  Seriously though, it was weird.  Weird even for Miranda weird.  Back to the what I miss.  Do you think Greg would let me take some of the style articles under a pseudonym?  It's not in our area but since I already have no life what would it hurt if I got dumped with the articles no one wants in that area too?"

"I think Greg will bow down and kiss your Keds." Jace went to the kitchen and scrounged through her fridge. "That's it we're hitting the street for food, real food."

"Fine but you're not leaving me standing around while you chase a new girl like last time."  Before she could reconsider, Andy hit send then stood and stretched.  Greg would be on her hit list first thing Monday.  "And I haven't worn Keds since I was in junior high.  Even my fashion challenged ways have their limits."

He kicked his feet into the air, displaying his green graphite Keds. "Hey, I love these shoes."

"What were you saying about wanting me to work at Runway?  Keds will not get you on the doable guy list, I assure you.  Since you mentioned my encore, what do you suggest for the second encore?  This from afar was killing me and now so is the up close and personal."  And god help everyone if Miranda showed up in Starbucks one more time.  The employees still hadn't recovered especially the poor barista who'd stopped getting her coffee when she showed and instead began looking around in fear.  Miranda had been permanently linked to her in his mind - to the detriment of her coffee fix.

Gray eyes narrowed and he sniffed the air theatrically. "You really want to get back in her orbit? To what end?"

"You're such a pain.  I don't know to what end.  Can't you just pretend you have all the necessary information and answer the question as it stands?"  This was the problem with having journalists as friends.  Everything boiled down to wanting all the gory details out of curiosity as much as necessity.

"An-dee. It's all in the details.  I mean if all you want to accomplish is to carry on an intelligent conversation when you run into her at Starbucks we take a different approach than if you want her to invite you to her bedroom to playing a rousing round of the Dragon Lady and the French maid."

In the middle of locking the front door Andy choked, sputtered and then turned fifteen shades of the most brilliant shades of red.  Mortified, entire inches seemed to melt off her frame. "Jace!" She hissed, wide eyes darting around the hallway.  Thank god they were alone.  "I don't...  That's not...  That's horrible!  Miranda Priestly doesn't play that with anyone!"

He'd said it on a lark being a smartass but something about her response had his eyes ballooning. "Oh. My. God. You want to get really up close and personal." Never one to be thrown for long he ran a hand through his hair slicking it back as he put his arm around his friend's shoulder. "The seduction of Miranda Priestly.  That's one hell of an encore Andy."

"Um."  All thoughts of protesting fell to the lack of voice or oxygen.  Andy's face shifted into the most remarkable shade of eggplant.  Scrubbing a hand over it didn't help.

The idea of his friend seducing the top dog of the fashion world seemed like a really wild pipe dream.  But he couldn't quite bring himself to be the naysayer; they waited on every corner. If she wanted to try, what the hell, he'd stand by with his shoulder to cry on and a bottle of champagne, just in case. "I've never heard that Miranda played for the home team. I guess you'd know though since you were privy to her personal life for all those months."

Forget melting, a lightning strike, that was the ticket.  Face twisting like a sheet in the wind she struggled to find something, anything to say.  Running off, screaming into the night only worked when you didn't have to return.  "'s.  Not like that.  I just.. And uh, she doesn't.  Married.  Twice.  She's uh, I'm...I'mjustgonnagodienowk, thanks."

"Don't be like that." He hauled her onto the sidewalk and they started out towards his favorite street vendor. "So I was off the mark with the whole seduction idea? Too bad, she's hot in her way."

"No, not conventional just drop dead, make your toe nails sweat, gorgeous in her way,"  she muttered, giving in to having just outed her crush on Miranda at the very least.

"Can I quote you? Sweating toe nails. That's new."

Jace was never quite going to let her live it down.  "Uh, no.  She's just.  When you get past the wanting to puke part, the hard as nails edges, there is a lot going on there, you know?"

He leaned in an kissed her cheek. "Dinner's on me.  What's your plan?" She had no plan he was pretty certain of that but maybe if she talked it out one would come to him.

"Um, plan?  I thought I've been doing pretty good with oh look, she's in the paper today, let's see what she's up to."  That part had worked perfectly until the real thing popped up.  Now just talking about it seemed a gargantuan undertaking.

The poor girl was hopeless. "Okay first thing... call up what's her name? Emily. Meet her for lunch or something, get a little inside juice and plan your steps from there."

Deciding to grow a third foot out of nowhere, Andy nearly took a nosedive into the sidewalk before a desperate grab at his arm saved her.  Go to Emily.  Oh, he had a perverse sense of humor.  "First, one piece of cheese, which is what her last diet consisted of, is hardly enough time to find out anything.  Second, she sort of, kind of maybe liked me at the end but we weren't exactly friends. Third and most importantly, she'd rather wear clothes from the homeless shelter than give me any piece of information that might remotely be helpful when it comes to Miranda.  Good idea, bad, bad, bad in implementation."

The spicy smells guided the path he took through Manhattan. "Emily is a no go. Well is there anyone else there you could do lunch with? Network?"

"Well, there is one.  Nigel.  I think he's still there but if she ever found out, I would be dead.  No, no, not just dead. Living back in Cinci with my parents, watching daytime soaps in sweatpants, dead."  And that might be optimistic.  Andy let him lead, trusting his innate sense of all things sold on the street while her mind drifted off to more horrific daydreams.  Yes, that was being optimistic.

"You know what, forget work. You have all the little details Andy, you just need to find the one that gets you..closer.  You've walked her dog, done the kids homework, delivered her underwear, catered to her whims. In some ways you know what Miranda Priestly likes more than she does. There has to be something you can use."

"Active daydreams don't count?"  If they didn't she'd wasted a lot of time.

Jace sniffed and his mouth watered, his decision for the night was made. On 54th street they turned and headed towards Fifth Ave; the Hallo Berlin cart. "Hope you're hungry."

"A little but more importantly, I've not had a beep from email.  If you'd hurry we might actually have time to change and go out for a few before work calls."  The prospect of getting out, away from the reveals she'd just made held more appeal by the second.  That there wasn't a chance in hell Miranda would be around to make her shy and stuttery made the prospect of clubbing sound like the height of fun.

"Wait here." Jace returned a few minutes later carrying two tinfoil dishes.  Each contained two bratwursts topped with fried potatoes, red cabbage, sauerkraut meatballs and a choice of homemade mustard. He looked like he'd just won the Pulitzer. "You want to go out? Wash that woman right out of your hair?" He smirked then stuffed a chunk of the sausage doused in mustard into his mouth.

Andy groaned and flipped a piece of red cabbage at him.  New friends were in order.  Besides, he really couldn't be expected to live much longer if he kept eating at the rate he did. "You have a better idea?"

He shook his head and scarfed down more food. "I'll need a few days. This is a delicate undertaking."

"Just remember to keep me out of jail in all your scheming."  While still mortified, Andy was also grateful and not a little relieved to have someone to talk to.  The open, bubbly smile returned.

There were some things just too much fun to resist and Jace's threshold for resisting was below sea level. "You never know how handcuffs and shackles and those prison jumpsuits might get her motor running. Vroom vroom." He ducked while laughing himself sick.

"Oh really?  I'll take the bottom three stories next week if you dare to say that to her.  Come on big boy, put up or shut up."  Coming out of her mood, Andy popped a piece of sausage in her mouth then smirked while imagining how his bravado would fade if he ever said it to Miranda in person.

"Lure her to your lair and you are on." He winked.

Later, she'd swear the sausages were laced with some drug or another that made her call his bluff and say, "Let's up the ante.  You wanted me to see Nigel and you want to glimpse the models.  It might take a little doing but I bet I could get us in.  I'll go see him and you can go see Miranda.  Say tomorrow?  There might not be a full staff there but the magazine rarely stops for Saturdays.  Monday if you're chicken."

"Just like that? Sign me up."

"And you're going to say it to her face?"  Suspicious, Andy stopped moving to eye him up and down.  Flaws in the plan appeared.  There was no way she was going to be around for him saying that to Miranda.  A blessing, right until it was a curse.  If you dared someone to doing something so suicidal you should at least plan it so you could see the fallout.

"If you can get me within speaking distance, yes."

"Alright."  Her mouth formed the words but her mind was already praying for a weekend full of work.  On the other hand, maybe she could catch the woman at Starbucks.  He could have his shot, she could give into her very real horror and revel in his losing all bravado from a stare.  Win, win.  The looks Miranda gave could be sort of fun to witness so long as they weren't being directed at you.

Full, he tossed the remains of his meal into a trash receptacle. "You serious about going out?"

A place to play dress up.  Those opportunities were rare of late.  "Absolutely.  I feel like getting lost."

Little wonder and she needed it to if her mind was filled with visions of the Dragon lady.  Going out would be good for her, getting drunk would be better. "Let’s stop by my place on the way to yours. I'll change and then we'll go wherever you'd like. Lady's choice."

"Sounds good. I've been dying to go to the Dark Room and I know exactly what to wear."  All but bouncing in place, she snagged a piece of her sausage and popped it in his mouth.  Hurrying the eating thing up meant sacrifices must be made.

He chomped down on the offering and picked up the pace. "Excellent choice."  When they arrived at his place, which was only a block from hers he waved her off. "You're going to take forever getting ready tonight. Go, I'll meet you at your place in half an hour."

A wide, toothy grin appeared.  Andy kissed his cheek and darted off without another word.  A good friend, dancing and a little drinking was just what the doctor ordered.  Flying up the stairs, she hurled into her apartment and dashed straight to the shower.  Ten minutes later she was scrambling around the apartment in a towel when she nudged her laptop. The screensaver disappeared to reveal her inbox.  Turning, she went exactly two steps before she spun back around and gawked at the screen.

There, at the top of the list in black, bolded unread type was Miranda's name.  Instead of going forward she pitched ass over teakettle onto the couch, limbs flying everywhere.  Minor catastrophe mostly averted she peeked first one, then the other eye at the screen.  The message hadn't disappeared. The time stamp revealed it had been sent scant minutes before. She covered her eyes then reached out and tapped on the touchpad.

Slowly, like trying to pull the wrapper off candy on a hot day, she pried her fingers apart, one at a time, in order to peer through them.  Two simple words in the reply made her lips quirk.

How droll. 

Well shit.  She'd at least glanced at it...and sent something back.  An undignified, small squeal escaped her lips.  Because she was in her own apartment, alone, Andy let her feet do a small kick in the air before she clamped the hand back over her eyes.  Only then, when she couldn't see what she was doing, did she type:  

Five years, a Pulitzer.  You can say you knew me when.  Who knows, I might even let you bow and kiss my ring after. 

Andy laughed at herself and reached up to hit delete only to have her wrist tap the left mouse button and off the email went.  Terror stricken, she stared at the screen then bolted upright and tried in vain to get the computer gods to give it back.  They laughed.  On the verge of hyperventilating, she ran around her apartment in small circles.  Hands flailing she gave in to the fit of panic-driven temper until she fell back onto the bed, exhausted.  Damn, damn and triple damn.  Date with Jace forgotten, she yanked the covers over her head.  All systems said hide and play dead was the best course of action.

Miranda's reading glasses were poised near the tip of her nose.  The day was finally winding down and she found herself reading through the ridiculous, albeit mildly entertaining, article that Andrea had sent.  She'd read far worse.  Cheeky girl. At least her former assistant could string a sentence together on paper unlike in person where she cast severe doubt on the value of a degree from North Western every time she opened her mouth and sounded like a blathering fool.

The outfit was too young? That still rankled. Perfectly manicured nails flew over the keyboard.

'It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is then to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.-Sagan'  Her index finger snapped the left mouse button and the message was sent.

The chime signaling new email crept under the covers like an old friend intent on ignoring her decision to hide.  Andy remained under for several seconds then grasped the edge of the comforter and pulled it down to the top of her nose.  Wary eyes darted around the apartment.  No bombs had gone off.  That had to be a good sign, right?  Climbing out of bed, she wrapped up in the cover and shuffled over to the computer.  Some five feet away she identified the sender.  Miranda again.  Email returned.  The apocalypse was surely upon them.  She should be out right now reporting it.

Instead, she threw on the blanket, got a paper bag from the kitchen and flopped on the couch.  Her hand shook as she opened and brought it to her lips.  Once hyperventilating was staved off, she reached out with her free hand and clicked on the email.  Several read throughs had her blinking rapidly.  Now she remembered the downside of Miranda.  As captivating as she could be she had the singular gift of making the most happy-go-lucky people want to dump her off the Empire State Building.  Hmph.  Muttering to herself in between quick breaths, Andy began pecking out a one-handed message.

I had hope. My God. I live on it. - Miranda Priestly.
Feeling utterly pleased with herself, she hit send then stood.  Take that.  The bag went with her as she marched off to change, spurred out of her stupor and beratement.  The night was back on.

Miranda muttered to the computer as though it were the silly girl sitting in her very presence. She dared. There was a sneer as the new words formed.

"You killed my hope in you before delusion had time to take  root.  As disappointing as that experience was at least you failed me so completely in months as opposed to years. Enjoy your delusions of adequacy. That's all."
There was no feeling of triumph as the note was sent.  The office lamp was clicked off and she sat in darkness save for the glow of her laptop, disgust and something else gnawing at her as she pondered the wasted potential. She spoke to the shadows on the wall. "No, no, Andrea there will be no Pulitzer in your future because that silly girl would require guts."

Five minutes later, Andy sat with the computer in her lap, hair and makeup half done, dress laid carefully over the bed waiting.  She'd seen it when it had arrived.  The hurt had welled up again, a deep strangling emotion she hated.  Anger had rolled and rational thought flew out the window.  For five minutes she stewed, paced, ranted and lamented.  Countless replies had been considered and tossed.  On their heels were dozens of questions.  Miranda had countless people leave her through the years.  More than she could possibly count if Andy were to guess and try as she might she couldn't fathom their leaving causing this much of a blip on the woman's radar.

New bodies filled the place of the fallen in hours if not minutes.  Nor could she quite bring herself to believe that Miranda had become emotionally invested in any of them, including her, which was required to feel disappointment.  Much had changed since she left, some good, some bad but that kool-aid she was no longer drinking.  Miranda used disappointment as a tool more often than not but this felt different.  Maybe she wanted it to she conceded as her fingers sat hovering above the keys.  First the Starbucks encounters and now this odd email exchange.  Why, why, why?  Jace needed to hurry up.  He had to have a clue because she certainly didn't.

Andy exhaled in a huff, closed her eyes and let her index finger tap the key several times while she considered then began typing:  

No, Miranda, my leaving was for the best.  Had I stayed, I wouldn't just have disappointed you but one day I would have done to you exactly what you did to Nigel.  Maybe you're okay with that.  That's fine.  I have enough distaste for it for us both.  I'm not sorry I left.  I do apologize for how I left.  That was my moment, two roads diverge and all that.  You did what you had to do.  I've come to understand that.  And then I did the same.  I had to for dozens of reasons including but not limited to that I had forgotten who you were.  I started to view the icon.  I was turning into Emily and that I couldn't abide.  Neither could you.   

I'll go after the Pulitzer with the same zeal that I eventually put into being your assistant.  And I'll get it just the same.  Because I want it.  Not because you tell me I can't have it or a friend says I should.  Because I'll have earned it.  It's what I want, just like you wanted Runway.  Your dismissals feel half-hearted.  Or maybe I no longer wish to hear them.  I'm not your lackey, I'm not even your friend.  But I am still here.  I will be tomorrow and the next day.  How many other 'disappointments' can say the same?  I'm taking a friend to Runway tomorrow.  Have passes waiting for me at the door.  He has a question for you and I should at least see Nigel if he's there.    

Send was depressed before she could give it another thought.  Palms sweaty and fingers trembling, Andy took a moment to wonder who the hell she was then ran to the bathroom to at least try to finish her make-up before Jace arrived.  


Miranda, out of amusement or irritation or on a whim, had approved the requested passes on Saturday.  She hadn't however deemed to be in the building and neither had Nigel.  Andy took the opportunity for what it was and showed Jace around the office stopping short of Miranda's.  To take him there without the woman herself in felt like a violation.  There had been no reply to the last email.  None had really been expected.  Hoped for yes but expected no.  As the weekend passed in a haze of work Andy found she felt different.  Unable to pinpoint the reason she'd accepted it late Sunday afternoon.  Jace was right.  Watching from afar and letting the woman get under her skin to the point of tears was ridiculous.

She might not have experience in going after anyone, much less someone like Miranda, but she wasn't going to allow herself to be forgotten either.  Dismissed?  The woman had another thing coming.  And so she'd gotten up not three hours after going to bed, took extra time with her appearance and now was lurking in Starbucks on a Monday morning, barista sufficiently bribed and waiting.  She in turn awaited Miranda's arrival which, a pleading favor to Roy said, would be in the next two minutes.

Miranda was wired. The weekend had passed in a flurry of activity centering around the twins.  They were such bright girls and time spent with them renewed her in ways nothing else could. In spite of or maybe because of their conniving and wildly tempestuous natures, she celebrated them but also rejoiced at the return to her rigid schedule come Monday morning. A new week lay ahead with designers waiting to be tamed and tailored to show their very best in the glossy pages ofRunway.  It was as close to a good mood as she ever got.

Metallic beige Fendi's were donned, swallowing the top half of her face, just as her door was opened. With punctuated grace she slid across the leather seat and into the open air of New York city.  Her heels clicked their approval on the sidewalk as she made her way towards the confines of her second home.

Through careful watching and according to plan, Andy dodged the last taxi then exited the street to the sidewalk.  Long strides ate up the distance between them.  Coffee in hand, she slipped smoothly beside Miranda then passed just enough in front of her to force her to stop.  While the woman was recovering from shock she boldly placed the coffee cup in her hand.

"Because I wanted to."  A brilliant smile lit her face as she winked, pulled her sunglasses down then set off down the sidewalk toward work like the encounter had been the most natural in thing in the world. Yes, it was a good day, quivering insides and all.

There had been little opportunity to do more than register that chirpy smile before it was gone and a coffee had materialized in her hand. A coffee so hot the heat scalded through her gloves. Brilliant. As the doors to Elias-Clarke opened and welcomed her, she took a sip. The smallest sigh of pleasure escaped her. Not a sign of foam and it was strong.  The perfect cup of coffee.

The ride to her office in the quiet elevator savoring the drink elevated her mood further. Why had Emily never thought of this? Because she was Emily and Miranda suspected that she rode the subway. One ding and the elevator doors opened.  A single glance around showed the minions were all in their directed places and so began another day at Runway


Perched in her second home at Starbucks, Andy leaned back against the window and filed through the numbers until she got to Jace's.  Every other day for a week she'd repeated the delivery for god only knew why.  She'd emailed the woman, sort of told her off and now got her coffee for no good reason.  But it was a chance to see her, a chance to catch her off guard for a few moments.  Best of all, she was beginning to feel a little less shaky and a lot more her normal self.  Calling Jace wasn't necessary but then neither was Miranda late that often.  A traffic jam according to Roy who she felt sorry for.  His boss wouldn't believe that it wasn’t his fault for a second.

The line connected on the third ring.  "Interested in coffee?"

His ears perked up as he rubbed his bleary eyes. "I've been here since four. It was a busy night." His was the homicide beat and sleep always was the first victim of New York's worst. "Why do you sound so perky?  It's wrong and please I'd trade my soul for caffeine right now."

"Can't a girl be in a good mood?  Give me fifteen.  I have to make another delivery first then I'll be there.  Think you can make time for lunch later?"  Knowing Roy would text first didn't stop her from leaning out to look down the street.  Plenty of cars were moving just not the one she wanted.  "I think I'm chasing Miranda," she blurted out then glanced around for eavesdroppers and set her coffee down.  Blurting was a definite sign of too much caffeine.

"Shit," he howled out as the end of the pencil he'd been chewing slipped and drove into his lip.  "You can't just say stuff like that without a lead-in, Andy, a warning. Ugh my lip is bleeding." He grabbed a Kleenex and dabbed his lip. "Back to Miranda chasing. Details, spare none."

"Consider this a lead-in warning.  I have no idea what I'm doing.  What I do know is that pining isn't working for me.  What's the worst she can do?  I get a permanent assignment in Siberia.  Burly men can be sexy, right?  I've decided they must be and going with that, every other day I've been bringing her coffee before she gets into the office.  Today I think I've decided to do something more forward.  Hence the lunch first. I think I need a buzz."  Yup, way too much caffeine.  Andy pushed the coffee away and leaned back against the wall.  Hopefully Jace would know what that 'forward' should be.

He leaned back in his chair, grinning at her moxy.  "Coffee. You are stalking the DL with coffee? And there are no warrants out for your arrest? Brilliant Andy. Did I not tell you in my infinite wisdom to dig deep and you'd find your in, in the minutia of her life." Of course And didn't know what she was doing because if she did she wouldn't be doing it.  "More forward?   And that is where I come in?  My mission is to get you drunk first and help you plot out 'more forward'?"  Poor Andy, she was so harebrained, but he kind of loved that about her and besides it was good clean fun.

She tossed her hands up and muttered at no one in particular.  He somehow managed to be right on track yet on the wrong line.  "Great so now I'm the minutia that delivers coffee.  Your mission is to find me the best unknown street food cart within three blocks.  I mean the best.  It has to be exquisite.  5 star.  And if it makes her sick I'm going to feed you to her.  I have a very small window of opportunity to get lunch to her.  Fifteen minutes.  Her driver informed me earlier; who by the way I'm going to be in hock to until the day I die.  Do you think I can write it off my taxes?"

Jace started skulking around the office until he found what he was looking for, a box of Krispy Kremes donuts. He sniped two and got back to his conversation.  "Didn't you tell me the lady in Prada's only eats steak that moos for lunch?"

"She eats food beside steak pretty boy.  What she doesn't do is eat it from any old place.  Come on, there has to be somewhere that you'd sell your soul to eat at."  He had to know a place.  Everything had been going so smoothly.  She refused to believe it wouldn't work this time.

"Well there is one place. But I don't know. I don't give this one away to just anyone and you'll be waiting at least forty minutes. But it's worth your soul and liver."

"Perfect.  I'll buy you lunch if you stand in line for me." Voice oozing charm Andy straightened the files on the table then shrugged as the barista caught her eye.  This was going to put her behind enough.  A forty minute wait wasn't possible if she also wanted to make her deadline.  "Please.  I'll even stop by the cop shop for you on the way in."

He groaned. Then again taking an hour break from the sweatshop was in order. "Sure, anything for my good friend and you're buying the Krispy Kremes tomorrow.  Ah Andy, if you want her to actually eat lunch you need to consider presentation. Real plate, silverware, it'll taste five star your job is to also make it look it."

"Way ahead of you.  I begged that hot little bistro near work to give me a bag to put it in.  That's the hard part.  The rest Emily will be forced to take care of. You don't think she'd eat off of tin foil do you?"  A tiny glimmer of amusement over Emily's horror from lunch arriving without her ordering it then having to plate it, whether she knew it was from Andy or not, bloomed.  The buzzing of the phone made her jump.  A quick wave and look set the coffee to going as she bobbled the phone.  "Gotta go.  She's almost here.  I'll fill you in at work.  15 mins."

"Send Nora to go fetch Caroline from school.  My poor girl has a fever." And no it had nothing to do with the English test her daughter was scheduled to write in twenty minutes. "Call the pediatrician and have him check her out at the house at ten fifteen. Cancel my seven o'clock dinner with Clive move it to Thursday, cocktails before Patrice." Miranda clutched the book under her arm. Her skin all but glowed from the facial she'd received thirty minutes earlier.

An unbidden smile curled Andy's lips as she stepped into the sidewalk.  It vanished a second later under nerves doing the samba.  This wouldn't be Jace's idea of forward and it wasn't exactly.  It fell under the knowing Miranda and what peaked her interest category.  Eyes on the woman she exhaled to steady herself, memorized the editor’s outfit for good measure then stepped beside and in front of her in what had become familiar.  She pressed the cup into her hand then offered a rather shaky smile.  Unlike all the times before she held her breath and slipped a file in front of the book and a flat box in the crook of the woman's other arm.  Unseen by Miranda, her ears turned red.  "Lunch will be delivered at 11:45."

Before she could rethink what she'd done she stepped to the side and headed down the sidewalk.  Miranda's face came to mind as she picked up the pace.  The file was a gamble of gargantuan proportions.  Inside lay photos of a hastily done photo shoot of modeled clothes put together by people whose names she couldn't remember.  They weren't on par with what the magazine could do but they were good, very good.  Created by a group of young up and coming artists they really couldn't have gotten any better in her opinion.   The idea had spawned over a long night at the hospital while waiting for an interview.

She had no idea how to get Miranda's attention but she did know what her interests were.  From there she'd racked her brain until she remembered an article she'd read in the magazine two months previous.  Although it lamented the lack of new break out designers it had taken all week for Andy to get up the nerve to pass on the information of a young woman she'd met through the paper.  Clarice hadn't attended the best schools or a fashion school at all, yet she had a gift.  She'd trained herself through her grandmother, sporadic sewing classes and an absolute obsession with all things related to the fashion industry.  Her designs were a cross between Halston and Hussein Chalayan.

Most importantly she was unknown and didn't have a backer. If Miranda liked her designs she was ripe for the picking to be cultured and molded into possible greatness.  Clarice would benefit beyond her wildest dreams and Miranda would get the credit for finding her.  A win for both of them.  Unless, Miranda couldn't stand her designs and then she'd probably have a restraining order issued.  That one little worry had kept Andy up half the night.  The piece de resistance, she hoped, was the hand woven azure scarf that Clarice had done.  A sample of sorts that would match Miranda's eyes, look beautiful against her white hair and was to Andy's eyes barely a step below the Hermes scarves the woman preferred.

The further she got from Elias-Clarke the more nervous she became.  Andy knew Clarice was good, could feel it her gut but that didn't mean Miranda would.  Turning green around the gills she hurried into the Starbucks beside the Mirror.  Sending Jace to deliver the food might be a good idea.

As the elevator took her up and she indulged in the enjoyment of the perfect cup of coffee, Miranda glared at the file that had appeared like the coffee into her hands.  You are delusional Andrea if you think I will give you your old job no matter how excellent the coffee.  Her Chanel wrap and Gucci bag were tossed unceremoniously on Emily's desk.  When she dropped the bible unto her own desk the file fluttered to the floor dumping out the handmade scarf. One eyebrow raised before she called for Emily.  "What color is that?"  She pointed to the fallen scarf.

Emily peered.  "Azure?" She left it there not wanting to guess was object lesson was about to be sprung on her.

"It's littering my floor."

Emily snatched it up, balling it and made it disappear from sight.

"You took an extra stupid pill this morning." Miranda planted both hands on her desk and leaned towards her assistant. Her look withered.

Bollocks, bollocks, bollocks. Emily's finger's unfurled the scarf, put it on her bosses desk and madly set about smoothing out the fabric.

"Azure. It's an exceptionally interesting, clearly hand-woven piece. That is art. I needed it yesterday for the run-through. Get the designer here for one fifteen." She shooed the younger woman off. "That's all."   Miranda vanished heading off to consult with Nigel.  

Emily carefully retrieved the oh so azure scarf and looked for an identifying marker.  She wanted to scream when it was absent.  Asking Miranda who the designer was would get her head glazed with honey on a platter. No, no, no this was not the way her day was supposed to start and where the hell was Miranda getting her coffee. Tomorrow she was sending a spy into the streets to solve that mystery. 


Three hours after her coffee delivery Andy had a bag of food in hand.  Jace walked beside her, a result of pleading and threats.  He'd didn't know it yet but he was going to be leaving the bag at the desk. And he was going to be the one to tell them to call up and report the delivery.  It was best not to tempt fate or the devil into arresting you.  What Miranda had thought of the addition remained a painful mystery.  Hoping to redirect her nervousness, she smiled good-naturedly at her companion, having filled him in on what she'd done earlier.  "You work the police beat.  I have to be notified of a restraining order being issued, right?"

“You'll be notified." He grinned and took custody of the bag. "Friends in high places and all that. Where do I leave it?"

Surprised, she glanced his way.  Why was he...?  "Women.  You're being nice in hopes of getting a date. I should have known.  You leave it at the desk. Tell them it's a delivery for Miranda Priestly.  And be careful.  There are a lot of hungry women around.  They might shoe you to death if they smell it."

His eyes were already wandering in the direction of the females entering and leaving the building.  A quick hair smooth and he darted off on his mission, a bundle of cocky confidence. He returned a few minutes later trying very hard to swallow a grin. "The deed is done."

She checked him over, looking for what she didn't know.  "You're in one piece."  No snipers, no police waiting.  "That's has to be a good sign."

Unable to contain himself a second longer he waved a business card under her nose. "You're off the hook for Krispy Kremes. We're square."

"So women do rank above food.  I've wondered.  Congrats."  Grinning, she glanced up at the building then tugged him further along.  The window suddenly being covered with food would do nasty things to her stomach which had just begun to settle.  For good and bad she'd done it.  Done what though, she hadn't a clue.

Jace spared a glance upwards.  "Always. I'd give up food for the right woman. For at least an hour." He grinned and then squeezed her shoulder supportively.  She looked like she might hurl at moment.

"Come on.  I have a gangster to interview and you have your woman to pine after.  Tell me all about her.  I could use the distraction."  


Like a five year old after being fed limitless sugar at a county fair, Emily buzzed from office to office sticking the scarf under people's noses.  A few had given guesses that a quick phone call proved to be wrong.  One guy had even claimed that yes, it was his.  She'd had a moment of relief that was shattered seconds later when he mentioned that the accessory was red.  Almost as distressing as the designer identification had been was when the downstairs desk had tracked her down to tell of Miranda's lunch arriving.

For several fleeting moments she'd held onto the hope that Smith and Wollensky had suddenly started delivering.  Never mind they wouldn't have opened for another fifteen minutes.  Miranda was one of their best customers.  They should have been delivering to her for years.  Hope had turned to horrific despair when she'd picked up the bag.  The ragged delivery boy in atrocious green shoes was just exiting according to the guard.  She'd stared at his back then at the bag.  Miranda only ever ate steak at the magazine.  Anything else she went out for.  The delivery was much worse than her getting her own coffee.  Had she called and ordered it herself?  Ha, fat chance.

If Miranda could have gotten someone else to go to the bathroom for her she would have.  Emily had considered throwing it in the trash without a mention. With anyone but Miranda she would have.  Instead she'd trudged upstairs before it could get cold and transferred it all to a plate and the tray.  Twice she'd resisted poking it.  Chicken in some sort of sauce over rice.  What the bloody hell?   Having fully expected to end up wearing the food she'd entered the office, quickly set the tray down, poured a water as quickly as possible then bolted from the room. The 'screaming' of her name had never come not that she'd stuck around long enough to give her much of a chance.  The scarf returned to its top priority spot.

Her last ten minutes had been a mad dash all over Runway until the meeting loomed a mere hour on the horizon.  Nigel had been her last best hope and he too was stumped.  Emily stared in abject misery then pivoted on her heel and left his office to return to her own.  Shit, shit, shit.  Miranda was going to have her head for lunch.  Multiple chants to calm down only ramped her up more.  Fidgeting at her desk, she glared at the new Emily.  The girl was hopeless.  Maybe Miranda would take her fury out on her.

Another firing wouldn't really matter.  So she'd have a little more work to do but she'd still be delivering the book late at night and getting up at the crack of dawn just as she did now.  Later she'd call to see about having a catheter put in.  Having the bladder constantly emptied might even let her drop a pound or two.  Emily paused in her hyper state to mull over the idea.  If she gave blood away every day too she might even be into a size zero at the end of the week.  How much did blood weigh anyway?

The sound of the phone ringing snapped her out of her musings.  "Are you waiting for it to answer itself.  Get it."

Snapping at the stupid girl made her feel better.  Staring at the scarf did not.  There was no hope.  Either Miranda's one o'clock would be with air or she had to tell the woman she'd failed to recognize the designer.  Sure, no problem.  Miranda wouldn't mind.  She'd just fire her or bust her back to second Emily and she'd be stuck under that mentally challenged cow.  Resigning herself to her fate, Emily tried to school herself into calmness and headed into Miranda's office.  Bollocks she needed a piece of cheese.  "Miranda, there is problem with the designer of that scarf."

Miranda's lunch sat on her desk half eaten.  She didn't look up from the article she was reading.  "They can't make it for one fifteen because they are in the city morgue? Place an order of this... and have it delivered to the townhouse at precisely six twenty for the girl's dinner." It had been a simple but tasty dish and was something her often picky children would enjoy. "Have them put the sauce on the side for Caroline. Patricia needs to be picked up from her pedicure and dropped off to her playgroup. Have the next two DVDs on the twins list delivered by seven, popcorn, drinks by seven fifteen, order extra. They are each having a friend. Call their father and tell him the costumes they left are needed for dress rehearsal tomorrow night by five."

Emily jotted it all down on a pad then tried to remember the name on the bag.  Chicken in sauce over rice. Oh sure that would be no problem to get them to recreate - unless they served chicken primarily.  Oh god.  That place, whatever it was had better know what the hell she was talking about.   Fear scurried across her face when she finally managed to respond with, "I couldn't get them.  No one knows who they are.  Not even Nigel," she quickly added, hoping beyond hope that the way he tended to get his way with Miranda would offer her a bit of luck.

"Boring me with the details of your incompetence is hardly ingratiating." A pained sigh and she looked up. "Call Andrea."  Having dismissed the white noise Miranda's attention went back to the article she was reviewing as her mind started formulating the shots that would accompany it.

"Bu..."  Andrea.  What company did she work for?  Better not to do anything but disappear.  Emily retreated from the office, mind trying to figure out who to call first to find out who this Andrea was.  She'd make a few calls and failing that she'd ask around the office.  Thirty minutes later with a mere forty-five left before her death she was just desperate enough to think of Andy.  Emily flopped at her desk, ignoring the new Emily's question and tried to decide if she was desperate enough to contact Andy.  One glance at Miranda's office made the decision for her. Now who did she work for again?  Well it wasn't the Times that was for sure.  The Sunwas too good for her too.  The Mirror yes, that was it.  Chastising herself for being an utter fool, she located the phone then placed the call.

"Andy Sachs," the young woman answered in a distracted voice as she poured over her article.  At this rate she'd just make her deadline or just miss it.

The cow dared to sound so perky when her life was in the very real danger of ending horrifically in forty-three moments. To make matters worse Emily just bet she was stuffing her face with carbs, God. She tried for pleasant but it sounded pinched, pained and wanting to be put out of its misery. "Andy, yes. I'll only have one question.  Who made the scarf and please tell me he or she is living and breathing in New York City."

Andy's pencil snapped in half.  Head jerking up, the article was forgotten and so was the critical act of breathing.  Several seconds later she sucked in a breath then threw the pencil across to desks to hit Jace.  Hands waving wildly when he looked up, she motioned to the phone and mouthed the calls purpose.  "She is.  Clarice Bachev.  Miranda has her information in a folder."

Miranda had a folder?  Lovely.  Emily look towards her bosses office.  Her stomach clenched, the craving for cheese instantly exterminated. "I see. But you have Clarice's number right?  Do me this huge favor and maybe I'll live until six. Hell has ignited all around us and I just need her number. She has an appointment with Miranda in forty-two minutes and thirteen seconds."

"Does she know?  Of course not.  The terrorist is striking again isn't she?  Hold on,"  Muttering, Andy scrambled for her Blackberry.  Of course Miranda would have looked at the scarf and not the file.  She could be so difficult.  Keeping Jace apprised through gestures, she located the number and rattled it off.  Clarice was going to freak.  "Um, tell her I gave you the number. If not...she'll kind of think you're playing a practical joke."

Emily could have reached through the phone and hugged the girl if she were a hugger, which she most certainly was not, but hanging onto her head for another hour was a pleasant feeling.  "I owe you one. Thanks." The call was ended and Emily spent the next five minutes trying to convince the designer, Clarice, that she was indeed not a twelve year old home from school placing crank calls. When Emily told her the meeting with Miranda was in less than forty minutes the phone went dead. Well if the woman didn't show up on time with scarves in tow Emily sincerely hoped she'd just dropped dead of a coronary. All that mattered was that the call had been made. She crossed her fingers and toes in hopes something about the day might go according to plan. She sat back at her desk and tried hard not to watch the damnable clock.

And so it was, how Andy ended up back in the office of Runway, on a working day, beside Clarice with Jace in tow looking like a kid in a candy store.  She left him at the front desk since he'd tagged along whether she'd asked him to or not.  By the time they left he'd probably have his date calendar full for a month, ugly green shoes or not.  Andy pulled Clarice into a small, empty alcove and sagged against the wall.  Which one of them was more nervous she couldn't determine.  What she did know was that this was so not part of her plan when she'd relayed Clarice's work.

But how did you say no when your phone rang with a near hysterical young woman on the other end.  She might have been able to do it if it hadn't been her fault or if Clarice had had any idea what she was going to do.  But no, she'd assumed Andy was working on an article when she'd called her up and instructed her to put a layout together.  Andy had let her.  It had been easier than getting the woman's hopes up when it came to Miranda.  She also didn't want the pressure in case she'd chickened out.  Clarice had insisted, no demanded, she accompany her.

Andy eyed the woman up and down, trying to see her as Miranda would.  Tall and slender in clothes of her own making, she looked good.  First generation American, her voice held hints of her parent’s accents not that Miranda would be able to tell.  No, Andy wasn't yet convinced that Clarice wouldn't faint on the spot from meeting "the Goddess of fashion."  God help them both if Miranda wasn't in a good mood.  Clarice wouldn't survive it.  And it would be all her fault.  "You look great.  As I said before, Emily wouldn't have called if Miranda didn't like it.  Believe me."

Clarice's pale blue eyes all but popped out of her head.  "Believe you?  You did this Andy!  It's all your fault."

"Trueee," she drew the word out while trying to think of something to say to make it better.  Clarice sounded slightly panicked but really that was better than the hysterical, furious Bulgarian she'd been spitting out nonstop thirty minutes ago. What she said remained unclear.  The implication and curses though, those came through loud and clear in tone. "She's just a woman Clarice and this could be great for you."

"Just a woman," came out in a whispered, squealing, hiss.  She'd liked Andy up until now.  That had been before she realized the woman was a psycho.  "She's a God, Andy.  An icon.  And her word is law.  You've ruined me!  I'm finished before I ever got started."

Oh boy.  Clarice was giving into her dramatic streak.  Unsure of what else to do, Andy glanced at her watch and offered what she hoped was a supportive smile.  "You're not finished. I'd wear your clothes anywhere in New York, Paris or Milan, including in here.  She's a tyrant but she's not blind."  Except that tiny part of Andy that still prayed Miranda wouldn't hold her against Clarice. Best not to mention that now.

"A Tyrant?!"

Oops.  Not the time to babble Andy, she chided herself. A hysterical Clarice and Miranda on the horizon...  Okay, it's official. This was a bad, bad plan. "Um, just...she knows what's good and what's not, okay?  You've got to calm down though because we have to go.  Remember to breathe, speak in English and most importantly, I promise, your clothes really are that good.  Fashion school doesn't matter."

Eyes bugging once more, Clarice wondered what karmatic wrong doing she'd done.  Fashion school didn't matter.  Ha.  Andy must have been an assistant very low on the pole not to know that it did matter.  "Mmm."

Sighing, Andy grasped her arm and pulled her out of the alcove.  She should have added remember to speak period in there.  If she passed out in Miranda's office that would be the end of her. Oh lord.  With Clarice's nails digging into her arm for support, she led them down the hallway until they reached the outer office.  Andy's own nerves hit along with a large wave of nausea that rolled along her stomach. Bad, bad, horrific plan.  "Emily, this is Clarice Bachev for Miranda."

The woman was bedecked with overflowing bags.  Emily's feet did a little unseen dance. Her pretty little neck was saved right until she noted how the woman was clutching at Andy's arm. Oh good God you would think she was a fashion student about ready to meet Miranda Priestly in person.  Bollocks!  Technically Miranda had only asked for scarves and from what she could see at least one of those bags  and garment bags held scarves, all was not lost.  "Hello Ms. Bachev. Miranda will see you in three minutes." She led her to a room beside their office with tables on wheels, mannequins and racks of clothes. If you'd like to lay your things out before the meeting that would be most helpful." When she noticed Andy was stuck to the woman like a burr she tugged at her arm. "A word."

Bruises were already forming on Andy's arm.  At Emily's clear desire to get her alone, Clarice dug her nails in harder.  Wincing, Andy gently squeezed the woman's arm and muttered, "It will be okay.  I'll be right there."  Pointing to a spot not 10 feet away didn't make the vice disappear.  "One minute Clarice.  I swear, I'll just be a minute."

Clarice glared so hard that Andy should have gone up in smoke then reluctantly pried her fingers off and hissed, "One."

"Right.  Just lay them out you would when one of us was trying to get an idea of what we wanted.  You know your stuff best."  Certain the young woman was going to deck her any second, Andy stepped away and moved to the exact spot she'd pointed out.

"What are you doing here? You can't be here. Runway is not the place to play number one fangirl. Go, go before Miranda sees you and kills us all."

As if she didn't already know that.  Clearly Emily thought she wanted to be here.  Death sounded preferable to being here.  Having gotten Clarice into this, she'd stay.  "I am here Emily. Miranda is going to have to deal.  We all are.  If I go, she'll go, which means we all might as well go jump off a cliff now - you included."

"Miranda is going to have to..." She couldn't even sputter the word out as her tongue went into hiding. "For God's sake put on a hat maybe she won't recognize you. Play mannequin even, anything." Emily's eyes darted to the space she shared with the other Emily.  Good she was keeping her chair warm which meant Emily could beg off to the ladies room and wait there until the worst of the carnage was over. "Thirty seconds." She stood resolutely and held the glass door open. "Miranda, Clarice Bachev."

"Where?" All Miranda saw was Emily blocking the doorway. "I do hope she is more than your imaginary friend. Show her in then call Valentino's people.  The proofs they sent are abysmal. My girls could do better with a disposable camera."

Andy said a prayer of thanks that she'd chosen one of the few outfits she'd not given to Emily, this morning and nodded to Clarice.  Her own chin lifted automatically lending strength to her soon-to-be-former friend.

Clarice took a shuddering breath, noticed Emily's hurry gesture then copied Andy's confident stance.  Though she longed to grab onto the woman's arm, she grabbed the cart instead.  Another breath and she barely had time to notice that underneath the appearance Andy didn't seem as confident.  They moved forward knocking thoughts of Andy out of her head.  Miranda came into view, stealing her breath as her knuckles turned white around the bar of the cart.  If she survived she was going to kill that damned journalist.  "Mrs. Priestly."

Perfunctory and to the point if more accented and in awe than it her voice normally was, Andy shot her a glance that said she'd done good then shrugged slightly at Nigel.  Her friend was gaping and she couldn't blame him.  Who the hell could?  She wasn't supposed to be here dammit.  The other people in the office weren't doing much better.  Best to stay quiet then, oh yes.

Nails on a chalkboard sounded off in Miranda's head. "Clarice. I'm confused. We're meeting to review your scarf collection.  You did bring scarves didn't you?" She asked ignoring the cart when her eyes didn't fall upon the pieces she'd wanted.

Thunderstruck and wanting to disappear into the carpet, Clarice couldn't find the words to speak.  She hadn't known what to bring so she'd brought some of everything.  Grandmother's voice ringing in her head, she erased all thoughts of crying and sent Andy a pleading glance.

The entire room fell into silence.  Silence that Miranda would abhor and surely comment on any second.  Hundreds of options came and went until Andy was frustrated with everyone in the room including herself.  Of course Miranda hadn't read the paper.  No that would have been too normal.  The file she'd sent along sat unopened on the desk.  A step forward, five back and by god if Miranda made the young woman cry she wouldn't be responsible for her actions.  Clarice was good dammit.  Unusual confidence asserted itself as she stepped forward, walked to Miranda's desk and picked up the folder.  Only then did she notice Miranda's gaze was devouring the skirt her friend was wearing.  Well, well, maybe, just maybe.

The liquor Jace had given her just before they arrived thrummed through her blood until she turned into the person she was when chasing a story.  Cool confidence placed what she thought to be the two best photos in Miranda's hands.  The paper with Clarice's information she laid on top of one after a minute.  Shock permeated the room then reached a new high when she said, "She doesn't have a collection per se.  What's with her, that's it."  In a fit of insanity, she lowered her voice and spoke so only Miranda could hear just as she had a thousand times before when she was out with the woman, "Unknown, raw talent, untrained, no backers, hand sewn and designed by her."  The high points.  The points that were most likely to suck the powerful woman in when gazing at what Clarice had presented.

Each word registered and was filed. Finally someone with useful information. She despised it when they all stood around her, sycophant mouths moving like guppies out of water. Her eyes were on the designer at the center of the room. The full nod she received was for the outfit.  Clarice was wearing the skirt made Miranda's mouth go dry and salivate at the same time. It was something, something special. Classical in the way of Halston, but unhinged, surprising like Chalyan except not, it has its own unique edge.

She walked over and touched the fabric of the woman's skirt, absorbing every detail. "Yours?" she posed to the designer, best to clarify that now; the leap from the exquisite scarf to the heart-stopping skirt was a big one.

"Slashes of Viviane Westwood," Nigel piped up, jarred out of his shock into joining Miranda by the girl.  He thought nothing of picking at her like she was a mannequin.  The young woman and even Andy's unexpected arrival were forgotten in the face of new, captivating clothing.  "Haute couture."

"Yes." Clarice answered first in Bulgarian then English.  Her brows pinched together then smoothed as she looked between the two people picking at her.  Suddenly she knew what a scarecrow felt like yet this was Miranda Priestly and if she wanted to pick at her bones she sure as hell wasn't going to tell her no.

Andy went silent while watching.  Her own nervousness had been temporarily forgotten in the air of observing what she knew would be life changing for her friend.  Good for her.  The clothes she'd brought would be more than enough and that was a blessing.  Clarice's clothes were wonderful but she didn't have that many for show.  She scrimped and saved everything for the money for material or yarn for one item.  Funding most often came from friends asking her to make something and paying for the material.  Five of the things she'd brought with her Clarice had nicked from the spot in their closet where they'd been waiting to be claimed by their owners.

The set of Miranda's mouth relaxed.  Her eyes were animated as she spun the girl around and looked at the piece from every discernible angle. She could find no fault and that had her brows jerking upward. "It's fresh." Miranda didn't look at the rest of the cart, there was no reason to spoil the perfect moment. "Nigel take Clarice. Illustrate how to dress a model. Tomorrow at four fifteen I want to see how these pieces speak. That's all."

Overwhelmed, Clarice stared, unblinking at the woman until Nigel gently grabbed her arm, the cart and started to lead her out.  She went meekly, too dumbstruck not to.  The others scurried out behind them until Andy realized she was alone.  With Miranda.  In her office.  And Miranda had given Nigel to Clarice for help. That was as good if not better than a smile. Delight for her friend eased the tension that had been trying to creep into her shoulders.  "Hand woven by her," she said, certain Miranda had noted that whether she knew who had done it or not.

The khaki, Pablo Lafont glasses she wore slid down the bridge of her nose until she was peering over them at the cockroach still scuttling around her office. "Andrea, do I need to have you escorted from the premises? I'm certain I do not have a meeting with you. I'm still unsure how you slithered your way into my office. I will not re-hire you."

All the excitement for Clarice drained out of Andy like the plug being yanked in a tub full of water.  She hadn't expected anything to change between them exactly but had hoped that somewhere Miranda might find that tiny bit of humanity that sometimes made her almost nice.  Almost.  Certain emotion transformed her face and unable to do anything about it, she tipped her head in defeat ever so slightly.  "I haven't been after my job."

Humiliation drove her out of the office though did not hang her head.  She needed to wait for Clarice.  There were other places for that.  Practically yanking Jace from his spot where he was chatting up the receptionist, she drug him to the elevator and jammed the button several times.  Who knew what silliness had taken root in her to ever make her chase Miranda Priestly.  "Clarice is a success.  Me, I'm done.  Let's go."

Tonight they'd stay in and he'd make her some comfort food, or more aptly he'd run out and pick her up something from her favorite vendor. "Done with the Dragon Lady?"  Bitch, he didn't care what company she headed, she was a cunt and Andy looked like she was just holding back the tears. "Let's finish up those articles and get you home.  I'll bring the tequila."

"Yeah.  It...I..stupid."  She barely made it outside before the facade of acting like all was fine faded.  Andy leaned into him, shaken.  She'd been so careful not to push, not to think she'd get anywhere or so she thought.  Now she felt worse than when reality set in after returning from Paris.  The gut shot Miranda had delivered continued to ache.  At least this delusions had ended, one way or another.  What did willingly getting the woman coffee mean anyway when she had people she could, and did, order to get it.  Miranda could probably even order people to desire to want to be around her just because they wanted it.  Andy simply couldn't trump that, not when the woman so thoroughly loathed her.  She’d return for Clarice in a little while, after she had time to regain her composure. 

Miranda stood at her window and watched the two figures huddled making their way down the street. The boyfriend, she supposed.  She flipped through the file when they'd finally gone from sight.  The designer had talent, a lot of talent.  Miranda had no doubt she would be an up and comer to watch once she propelled her with one picture in Runway. Brought to her by Andrea, the girl who didn't give a damn about fashion.   Her choice could have been chalked up to a lucky guess, beginner's luck except Miranda knew better, there was no guesswork, Andy had an eye and the intelligence to back it up and that made the burn of Paris all the hotter.

There was more than a tinge of something that she would never name regret bothering her as she recalled Andy's face when she'd left moments earlier.  Didn't want her job back? Impossible. 


The run-through had been a dream.  Clarice felt more than a little lost at times.  The moments were thankfully short lived or she wasn't sure how she would have survived another meeting.  Andy had gotten her through the first. This one she'd managed, somehow, on her own.  Miranda Priestly in living color had left her gob smacked in the original meeting and just as awed in this one.  Yet for every moment of awe there was a churning anger in her gut that turned her pale blue eyes a much deeper, murky color.  Being surrounded by people had helped to keep her fiery temper under control.  Being alone, as they were now, left it snapping at the edges.

Nice had been the rule of the meeting, Clarice's rule.  Beneath it always lurked an unusual edge.  Miranda might be a God but she was pissed off beyond belief with her.  As it was she congratulated herself for making it through the afternoon without snapping.  These people scurried around at just a look, hemming, hawing and bowing to some unspoken set of rules she remained oblivious to.  Her desire to kill the journalist had long since passed.  If she were guessing it ceased the moment she stepped out of Elias-Clarke to find them waiting yet subdued.  They'd celebrated with her until it had become clear that Andy was withdrawn.  Her own excitement faded and no matter whether it had gone well or been a flop she couldn't hold it against Andy.  Judging by the looks Jace gave their friend she'd risked a hell of a lot to get her a shot.

Clarice answered Miranda's question then dug her nails into her palm to keep from throttling the fashion mogul.  How dare she act as if nothing had gone wrong after she left yesterday.  Her tongue burned with unspoken damnations that she knew she couldn't hold back much longer.  Miranda could toss her out and that was okay.  Being the it girl wasn't something she'd planned for anyway.  At least not for many years.  If she lost an early shot then it wasn't meant to be anyway.  Miranda's response drifted in and out of her ears until she walked over and shut the woman's doors.

The Emily person, both 1 & 2 as she'd dubbed them, stared at her like an alien.  Who cared what their little rulebook said.  She wasn't them.  Spinning on her heels, she felt the anger boil to the surface.  It changed her stride from fluid and graceful to thunderous.  Being grateful for all the older woman had taught her that day had its limits.  The distance from Miranda dwindled from ten feet to two.  Clarice remained blissfully unaware that there were certain things you did and did not say to Miranda Priestly.  "What is wrong with you?"

"I beg your pardon? You cannot possibly be speaking to me." Miranda replied, most pleased with how the showing had gone. There had been an entire outfit which would be featured in the November issue that had stopped her cold for nearly a minute. The skirt had looked like a rag in comparison.  The girl was gold and just needed to be polished.

"I appreciate you taking the time to look at everything, for what you've taught me today and for all those years you gave me a perfect book I'd save all month to buy that sparked my imagination for as long as I can remember.  I say that for me and for my grandmother who would have my head otherwise.  You could be, are, a God."  Clarice stopped speaking aloud while the silent, much harsher ranting, continued on in her head.

When she was under some semblance of control, she spoke again.  "But what you did to Andy yesterday wasn't cool.  She really likes you.  Jace spent half the night telling her she was too good for you anyway and she mumbled agreements but I saw her eyes.  She still likes you.  She brought you coffee because she wanted to.  You have all these people that jump because its required.  She came to see you because she wanted to.  Except for yesterday that is.  I kind of drug her along because I hadn't known she gave any of that to you."

Miranda blinked three times. She was speaking of Andrea, why was she doing that?  Speaking of Andrea was career suicide. How did this marvelously talented girl not know this?  How disappointing.

Andrea liked her, how absurd and unlikely. Who was Jace? It sounded like something you would call a hamster.   Andrea seemed the type to have a hamster.  "Talent and loyalty, a rare combination.  You may be aware Andrea once worked for me, she doesn't now.  We won't discuss her again.  There is a benefit hosted by Requiem on Saturday night.  You should attend, in one of your designs.  See Emily on your way out she'll get you the tickets."  The nerves of the young woman could be off putting, Miranda considered that issue. "Bring a friend if it will help with the twitching."

"Mmm," Clarice murmured, barely paying attention anymore, temper and all else forgotten.  Neck still pink from the flush of the compliment, the young designer had tuned out Miranda as Miranda did to others. While the older woman was still speaking, she'd picked up her sketch pad and began furiously drawing.  Not once did her eyes leave Miranda as she trusted her fingers to draw out the dress that had suddenly flashed in her mind.  It had always been like this for her.  When she had a flash of inspiration it demanded to be drawn right then or the world would explode.

"Don't move!"  She barked when Miranda dared began to alter positions.  Loyalty to Andy or anyone else fell in second behind inspiration.  Licking her lips, she began to draw faster, afraid the image would disappear before she could get it all down.  Because she hadn't really heard Miranda's command, she said in a distant voice, "She enjoys her work now.  I think she misses you though.  I got that impression anyway.  Her voice slurs badly when she's drinking."

Nigel opened the doors and breezed in, the current layout he was working on splayed across his hands.  Dropping the book on Miranda's desk, he opened his mouth to speak then noticed the one, Clarice, was drawing like a fiend.  Curious, he straightened and walked over to peer over her shoulder.  Both eyebrows shot up.  "Color?"

"Green," the young woman mumbled, used to her grandmother asking such questions.

Nigel disappeared out of the office and returned a moment later, green colored pencil in hand.  He handed it to the young woman then shrugged at Miranda as if to say the devil had made him do it then mouthed, "Can we keep her?"

Better to be talking about green than the fact that Andrea talked about her while drunk. "She can be the new Nigel." The rare tease made her eyes look like warm water of the tropics. She stayed still because her curiosity, which was so rarely engaged of late, demanded it. "You have two minutes Clarice." Her attention turned back to Nigel. "Ideas for the girls birthday gifts?"

The sting of Paris long forgotten, he tapped a pencil against his chin.  "That would make her Nigella.  Have you seen girl's named Nigella, Miranda?  They've not met a dinner they didn't like." He cringed in mock horror then tipped his head at Clarice.  "I think your idea is in front of you.  An unnamed designer that's about to be the talk of the world after this month's edition.  It will be six months, minimum before anything she does hits the stores and other lines and yet you have the apple right in front of you.  Perfectly capable of designing something exclusive, just for them.  They'll be the envy of all their friends and you know how they love that."

"That works.  Their father is taking them to Australia. It's difficult to compete with the koalas and kangaroos. Irv will be on my doorstep by eight when he hears about the changes, all three hundred and fifty thousand worth. What is his favorite scotch again?"

Nigel waved a dismissive hand at the whole idea.  "Please.  The man won't need Viagra for a month when he finds out that you've found her.  You and Runway will get all the credit.  He might even go out and get a new mistress."

Oblivious to the conversation, Clarice popped the pencil between her teeth and walked over to the window.  Back to Miranda, she stood with her pad in full sunlight and began to add the finishing touches.  The dress was a dichotomy of conflicting messages that swirled together to be stunning.  At first glance it commanded attention and would almost draw eyes away from the wearer.  Severe from another direction the line of it cut higher than expected across the chest and then dipped in a point to the cleavage line.  A slash at the hip that curled up and over would be done in a different material then dyed into a matching shade of green.

A mock hint of a sleeve curved around the wearers bicep until the piece drew attention in its entirety.  All together it mixed aristocratic bearing with the birth of Venus.  Command turned into wearable sensuous femininity that had a sex appeal all its own and would add to that of whoever wore it.  On the wrong person it would dominate.  Miranda, however, would wear the dress instead of it wearing her.

The only reason the Dragon Lady didn't let herself go, laugh and offer her own scathing retort about Irv was because of the girl, who was at least being quiet, but her presence was still very much noted.  She glanced the clock. "Twenty seconds." She called for Emily and did not stop dictating her new list of orders until the time was expired. Before heading out the door she made a bee-line for Clarice. "And?"

"Huh?"  Clarice looked up with a scowl that turned into confusion.  Why were they standing there staring at her like a street magician?  Runway people might be God's but they were freaks too.  Pressing down on her pencil, she finished darkening the three areas that would be a different color then handed the pad over before Miranda yanked it from her which looked like it was about to happen any second.  Being nervous was forgotten the moment the design had begun to form.  Clothes were a comfort zone.

Nigel moved in close enough to see then released a small hiss of surprise.

To her cohort Miranda said, "We can keep her." She cleared her throat, supremely pleased with the sketch for reasons she couldn't qualify. "A bit sharper taper here." She tapped on the hips. "Sunday at three-thirty my driver will pick you up and bring you to the townhouse. You'll meet my daughters. They are simply horrid little creatures and will make the sitting... hell." There was a huge infusion of pride in her voice as she shared the facts. "Their birthdays are on the twenty second of next month."  With that the whirlwind that was the Editor-in-Chief slipped into the coat Emily had waiting, tucked her Gucci bag under her arm and headed out for the girl’s dress rehearsal. 


Voices mingled with strains of music.  Andy stood in the darkest corner of the bar she could find, cloaked in shadows.  Her finger traced the rim of her glass as she gazed out over the room beyond until she found Clarice.  She appeared to be having a good time, thankfully.  Why she'd been drug along she didn't know but Clarice had calmly informed her she was owed for Andy not telling her about giving away her designs.  Wanting the woman to do well meant she could hardly argue or beg off.  But she wanted too, oh how she wanted too.  Miranda was too close. The recent heartbreak so fresh that every time she glimpsed her it hurt all over again.

The upside was that Clarice had finally felt comfortable enough to mingle amongst the room on her own.  Andy couldn't remember the last time she'd been so grateful.  On another night she would have enjoyed listening to the conversations while perusing the latest fashions.  Tonight none of it held her interest beyond a vague application of torture.  Getting good and drunk sounded like a good idea.  Her binge earlier in the week nixed it entirely.  The remembered hangover the next day hadn’t yet faded enough away to be forgotten.  Clarice's success stayed foremost in her mind, a necessity that helped her pass the miserable time.

Two hours in and Miranda was ready to make her exit.  It had been a successful evening, but she was tired and was ready to kick off the Jimmy Choos.  First, the perfect coffee had stopped arriving setting her days just a little off kilter. She'd been tempted to have Emily deliver her coffee on the sidewalk but had realized that would have begat a hundred questions that she would not answer and something would still inevitably be wrong with it. And now tonight, Andrea, who had taken admirably to working a room, had hidden like some sort of wallflower.  

When she approached the bar the bartender broke into a sweat but offered her a forced smile when he handed over two fingers of Chivas, neat in a beautiful cut crystal glass. She tilted her head towards Andy and he sat a cup of coffee at her elbow. "From the lady." He grunted then moved off to serve other patrons.

Miranda approached her, the small butterflies invisible to all.  "Becoming choice." She commented, struck not for the first time by the girl's quiet beauty.  "Your reasons are your own.  Clarice is a rarity, you saw that and now her future is without limit.  I'm not ungracious."  A gilded ivory envelope was set down on the bar. The woman still had not looked up at her. Miranda acknowledged her disappointment at the fact but she'd done what she came over to do. The Chivas disappeared in two lusty swallows, the glass was set down and she turned towards the door and opened up her phone to call Roy. "I'm ready." It would take him at least ten minutes to maneuver in and be waiting at the front door, he informed her before she hung up.

Andy fingered the coffee cup like it had all the answers.  She hadn't expected Miranda to come over, much less say all that, and if she were honest she didn't know if she was happy about it.  Humiliations and being embarrassed over her chasing had kept her in the corner more than anything else.  The heartache was as much a product of the new situation as anything else.  She hadn't expected it but Miranda kicking her senseless at work had turned out to be a very different animal than to what was, to Andy, a very personal situation.  Being called fat could be passed off as a work thing.  That's part of how she'd survived as long as she did.  The day with Clarice though, she couldn't justify or explain away.

One wary eyeball slid Miranda's way, her very real fear of being pummeled emotionally, a tangible entity as she said in a quiet voice, "Clarice, I did for her and because I thought it would excite, and really interest you."

Good God why did she looked like someone had just strangled her hamster? Wasn't giving someone a gift considered a nicety? "She does, her unexpected talent is a breath of very pure air. Thank you, Andrea."

Everything suddenly made sense.  She was dreaming.  An almost good dream but a dream nonetheless.  Andy flashed back to a time in a similar gathering where Miranda had thanked her.  Weird...  A large sip of hot coffee that nearly made her choke nixed the dream idea.  Dream coffee didn't burn.  But Miranda was still acting odd enough to make her ask what she had had no intention of asking.  "Why are you being nice to me?"

Miranda had an urge to shush the girl now. Being accused of being nice at a party, where people could hear was libelous. The worst part of it was that Andrea looked so pathetic Miranda nearly patted her on the head.  "You're drunk.  Would you like Roy to drive you home?"

"I am not."  Wait, wait.  Roy, home.  Yes that's what she'd heard.  No Andy, we aren't getting hopes up again. That last kick hurt more than the breakup with Nate.  Andy glanced around.  The darkness seemed fuller than it had been. Having absolutely nothing left to lose she turned around and stared.  What was left when you found yourself grasping at nothing?   Another check showed even the bartender was occupied.  What she did was unthinkable yet she couldn't stop her hand from reaching out or her index finger from tracing Miranda's lip.

Andy's mind kicked into overdrive memorizing the texture.  Not once had she allowed herself to think about more than kissing the woman because to do so meant more torturous images to keep her up at nights.  But now, regardless of whether the woman slapped her or not she had the decadently soft texture to add into that fantasy if it ever came again.

Miranda's mouth went the texture of the Sahara and the sand filling her throat was the obvious excuse of why she couldn't speak.  Her lip tingled and quivered imperceptibly under the touch.  Did she have an uncomely crumb on her lip?  Why was Andrea invading her personal space and why wasn't she slapping the intruding hand away with a lethal look?  That's what she should do, Miranda tried but all that materialized was that her chilled blue eyes widened and her lips parted just a little.  Chivas on an empty stomach was a bad idea, it even caused hallucinations.  Further thought of moving halted when she locked gazes with bright, burnt chocolate eyes that were pooling with emotion. They were not ones Miranda recognized and for that she was thankful. "Andrea?"

"Uh, are you hungry?  I know this little place..."  She'd just gotten her hand to drop after some serious convincing when she heard that pop out of her mouth.  The earth needed to open up, now.

She'd later blame her serious case of being flummoxed for her answer. "I'm exhausted. It's been a very long week. Clarice is taken care of, there is a driver for her when she wants to leave.  Roy's waiting to take me home, he can drop you off on the way."

"Alright."  She agreed because it wasn't like Miranda admitted to being exhausted, ever.  Nerves returned full force.  What the hell had she just done?  No, no need to panic. Her hand was still attached.  Being awakened by police with that restraining order in the morning, then she'd panic.  Turning, she scribbled a note for her friend then asked the bartender to deliver it.  Her mind turned toward a desire to kiss the woman until she clamped it down.  "Need anything?"

"A clone. Short of that a peaceful night's sleep."  Clearly the Chivas was messing with her brain to tongue wiring. Relief warmed her when she noticed Roy and started for the doors.

"Let me know if you find out how to do that.  I've not..."  Andy stopped midsentence, grabbed the unopened envelope and turned her concentration to following silently. New goal of the night:  get home in one piece, hope her body wasn't dumped in an unmarked field and most important of all, no babbling.  Miranda hated menial details at the best of times. Hearing about her sleeping habits or lack thereof, would send the woman over the edge.

It didn't strike the maven until she was in the safety of her car exactly what she'd done.  It was akin to asking someone to share an elevator.  The girl didn't work for her any longer though so that changed something, even if she didn't know what that was.  "Roy you remember Andrea, detour to her place first."  Driving around New York city at night was one of her secret pleasures.

"Um,"  All the old feelings of impending failure came flooding back.  Turning her eyes to Roy was far, far safer than daring to look at Miranda.  Who knew what she thought right now. "If you could drop me by the Mirror instead I would appreciate it.  I really should be getting back to work.  Please?"

"Dressed like that?" Miranda quipped.  Andrea looked particularly attractive and was way overdressed for the annals of a newspaper office.  "Roy can drive by your home first if you'd like to change."

Blood began rushing toward her face under the scrutiny.   Andy squirmed once and rested a hand against her stomach.  Material in ocean blue, Emily had proclaimed it hideous and left it behind.  Against all orders not to, she chanced a quick glanced at Miranda then promptly shut down on the thoughts of how she looked and the remembered feel of her lips.  "I dressed at work.  Failing that, I keep a bag there with a change of clothes."

"That's industrious of you.  Are you liking it or is Clarice an indication that you are contemplating another career move?"  To her surprise Miranda discovered she was interested in the answer.

Unable to resist, Andy turned to look at her, part memorizing her look for later pining and part gauging her interest.  Mood continuing to lighten, a small smile appeared.  "My old boss demanded industrious.  It stuck.  I do like it though.  It's challenging.  Never the same thing twice.  Clarice, I met by chance when I was doing a story on young up and comers in the city.  I was there to see a friend she happened to be visiting at the time.  She had on this top that was a shade I'd never seen before.  The same for the design.  Turns out she was more interesting then he was.  We struck up a conversation and ...she's not quite a friend or wasn't.  Now that she's forgiven me for springing you on her that's changed.  But there of...Runway, that I miss. Not enough to work there again but parts."

"She's very loyal for a not-quite friend."  The musings were not meant to be spoken aloud but then she usually travelled alone.  The shoes got kicked off and she leaned back into the soft supple leather, her suit jacket was unbuttoned and she looked out the window at her city. "What parts do you miss?  Your current employment is a hundred and eighty degree change."

Andy straightened her dress out of the need to fidget then sat back. This was perfectly normal.  Happened all the time. Miranda, a soccer mom on the way to the grocery store.  Snorting inwardly at the absurd image, her eyes dropped once to the bare feet then back up.  That was new.  Oh boy. "The perks of course.  I'd gotten used to the clothes.  Parts of the industry.  An element or two."  You.  "Do you know Emily Jrs name yet?"

"Are you ill?" Andrea kept clutching her stomach and fidgeting.  Tired blue eyes came to life; a wicked little smirk played at the corners of her mouth.  "Next time you go scouting or let the genie out of the bottle send a competent assistant my way."  In the almost year since Andrea had left the Emily turnover had skyrocketed.

"But then you'd have no reason to miss me."  Eyes fluttering shut, she willed herself to melt into the seat.

"The chirpy smile."

"I know this place that delivers a great cup of coffee.  They're open tomorrow, interested?"  Before she could over think it and figuring it was her last night on earth anyway, Andy let her hand fall between the seats.  The same finger that had had the pleasure of touching Miranda's lips stretched out to trace the outside of her hand.  Silky smooth skin.  Exactly what she'd expected.  A hot ball of want welled up only to be tamped down.

Tired lids dropped, awareness of the touch flitted around the edges. Coffee did perk her hearing though.  "No foam and hot?"

"Of course. Time?"  Andy tilted her head to look out the window up at the sky.  No lightning.  The touch firmed.  Miranda hadn't yanked away.  She didn't want to leave the car yet she could hardly wait to get out so she could process and enjoy what had happened.

"I'm going to work from home tomorrow.  The girls are with their father. Eight-forty five."  Why was Andrea touching her again? It was unmistakable now not just a ghostly brush of fabric but a thumb stroking. The car was slowing down, it was easier to ignore the touch than to bring it up and risk discussing it. Whatever it might be.

"I'll see what I can do.  Sleep well Miranda.  Night Roy."  Andy glanced around once then slid out of the car.  During the night she'd figure out if she was chasing again, shooting for friendship or who knew what.  Miranda hadn't responded to any of it exactly but that was okay. Neither had she pulled away.  In the scheme of things that rated higher.  Feeling better, and confused as hell, she headed into the building with a small smile on her face.  


8:45 didn't roll around quickly enough for Andy.  She'd torn through the necessary articles during the night and yet felt like she'd hardly gotten anything done.  The one thing she hadn't done was figure out what she was doing.  Since Jace had been getting a rare night of sleep he'd been unavailable.  Winging it was the best she could do. Exhaustion had set in, combining with the good mood Miranda had caused, to create a sort of giddiness that made people stare at her like a drunk that had just sidled up to the counter.  The streets were already busy for a Saturday so she didn't stop until Miranda's door lay in front of her.

The one concern that dominated was the fear she'd blurt something stupid out.  That she might do something stupid had been banished for fear of jinxing herself.  Hours had already been spent thinking of the unusual compliment, the way Miranda allowed her to touch and then there was the envelope.  Unable to help herself Andy bounced on the step like a kid at Christmas.  Inside had been a ticket to a dinner function with Dan Rather as the host.  Emily had probably purchased it.  Who cared?  Miranda still would have had to think of her and tell the woman.  Glancing down at the two cups, she rolled her neck to work the kinks out then knocked on the door.  Sleep could wait a few more minutes.

The twins were gone and the housekeeper had the weekend off.  Miranda enjoyed the quiet, the freedom to be in her home unobserved.  The knocking at her front door was something she was tempted to ignore.  It was probably those underprivileged little girls in those ugly little uniforms selling something in a cardboard box. She trudged barefoot down the stairs.  Her gait picked up when she recalled that Andrea had mentioned something about arranging to have good coffee delivered at eight forty-five. She pulled the door open in anticipation and nearly closed it just as quickly when she realized it was Andrea standing on the other side. Instead she exhaled a breathy sounding. "Andrea."

"Good morning. Coffee?"  She held up the cups as if to offer a demonstration, eyes raking over her former boss.  Dressed down in khaki slacks and a multi-colored v neck sweater, the outfit instantly made the number one spot of all the favorite outfits she'd ever seen Miranda in.  It was so private, personal, that Andy could admit that she adored it.  Senses went into happy overload as she stepped in without an invite.  Nudging the door shut, she dipped her head in.  No warning, no second guessing.

Lips softer than she had imagined, Andy brushed them once, twice, three times, utterly lost in the feeling and taste of her.  Miranda could kill her now and she just wouldn't care.  The smell of her shampoo rampaged through Andy's senses. Forever seared, coffee held out to the side, the younger woman stopped even breathing.  The kiss, brief and light was perfection. Miranda more than she could have imagined.  Light and dark existed in the faint taste of her.  Coming back to herself, Andy took a large step back and turned the color of deep eggplant.  Face burning, she held the tray up and side stepped toward the table.  The new plan of put the tray down and get the hell out, commenced.  All daring had been used up in the kiss.

Miranda looked around the rabbit hole expecting the Mad Hatter to pop up with Nigel's face. The tip of her tongue darted out over her lips, they were damp and tasted different. Andrea had just kissed her. On. The. Lips.   Cincinnati instantly hit her list of places never to visit. Not that Andrea's kiss was bad, just unexpected.  But the idea of people randomly stepping up and kissing her on the lips was horrifying.   Odd, odd people.

Andrea had brought the coffee in person.  She couldn't then just push her out the door again could she? No, she could only do that to employees. What then? And why was the girl turning that unattractive plum color? "Cute hat."  Miranda feared she was veering towards a babbling sycophant moment. "I was reading the paper on the terrace. Do you have time to join me?”  There, that hadn't been impossible.  

"Uh, yeah, I mean um, sure." Andy glanced left then right then up to the cadet style cap she wore.  She was alive.  Miranda had asked her to stay.  But no mention of the kiss, just like there had been no mention of the night before.  What the hell did that mean?  She should have drug Jace out of bed and brought him with her.  An interpreter would be welcome.  Not quite able to meet those piercing blue eyes, she passed Miranda's coffee over then practically dug into her own.  Terrace, right.  Perfect.  She'd sit down and wake Jace's ass up with a text message.  He'd get over it.

"Are you on your way into work?" She opened the door to the terrace and ushered Andy through it before taking up her seat on one of the handcrafted loungers.

The mention brought on a yawn.  Andy popped the plastic sippie top off and stood, frozen.  This was ridiculous.  Taking out her Blackberry she began plucking out letters with one hand.  The critical details of the last 12 hours were relayed in abbreviated form.  "I just got off.  You look...relaxed. It's good."

The compliment should have left her unaffected she heard a hundred of them every week.  She'd been without a significant other too long clearly if now all it took was a simple compliment to unsettle her. "You worked all night?"  And the first place Andrea had come after such a grueling shift was to her front door bearing coffee? Why? Something was amiss.  The girl looked dead on her feet.

"A hazard of the job.  But hey, this way I have mornings off to deliver coffee.  Pay sucks.  Decent perks."  No she was not flirting by god.  She was exhausted to the point of getting a buzz from the caffeine, that was all.  Finger tapping impatiently on the screen of the Blackberry, she double checked the signal and battery power.  Both were full.  Jace was just being slow to wake then.  Wonderful.

On the lower Eastside Jace groaned as his Blackberry squawked at him. He batted at it then dug his fist into his eyes to clear his vision.  He whistled once he put the message together.  Holy hell Ace you're giving me whiplash, he muttered before he started picking away at the letters. "It means she isn't repulsed by you.  I think you need to get busy and do a serious mack on her because she may be Miranda Priestly but I think she's a bit, no, a whole lot clueless. She may rule the Fashionistas but you need to be out there. Do something she can't ignore." He hit send while applauding his friend.

"You didn't have to do this." Miranda tapped her coffee.  "Sit before you fall down."

The commanding entreaty came at the same time Jace's message set her phone to vibrating.  A quick reread led to a double take followed by a look of disbelief.  One did not mack on Miranda Priestly.  The man had lost his mind.  Andy sat in the opposite chair, posture wooden.  Miranda, clueless.  The idea didn't fit.  Things with Nate had been easy and started when she was too young to know what was what.  Miranda though, night and day.  She tossed the Blackberry beside her and slowly looked up.  "I wanted too.  And what I miss most about Runway is you."  There, that at least felt like it had a semblance of class and best of all it wasn't automatically going to send Andy off the deep end trying to figure out what was going on.

This was why Miranda didn't do personal conversations because they got weirdly personal.  "I made your life hell. How is it you miss what you never wanted to become?"
"My first day at the paper do you know what they told me?  That I had the shit jobs no one wanted and would have them until Amy either got promoted or I took her job by being better.  Her being promoted first would mean I sucked.  She wasn't a friend, I wouldn't want to be put in that position with a friend but some things in the job I take appear to be unavoidable.  I still don't like it but neither does it keep me up nights."  Andy took a sip of coffee to give herself a moment.   Another dividing road presented itself.  Take a chance or walk away.  Ultimately that's all there was.

"As for work, I don't.  Not work, exactly.  You.  The you that peeked out at the benefit.  The moment of horror and a little shame when your husband appeared, drunk.  The you that would sometimes let your guard down and unexpectedly begin explaining a layout or the intricacies of a shoot while we were en route somewhere.  The you that let me in that night at the hotel, just a little.  They're parts of the whole. I like work you when you're not terrorizing me.  But there is more to you than work despite what everyone, including me, thought.  Hell, that's the reason I found myself in the position of starting to see the icon. It wasn't the decisions you made or the way you changed the world but the woman behind them."

Sure she might run the most influential fashion magazine on the planet but that offered no pass in dealing with people that wanted something. Beyond Miranda Priestly editor-in-chief, were three failed marriages and a dozen friends she'd lost touch with, attested to the fact, you couldn't be good at everything, something eventually had to give. "Do you know why I don't make a habit of revealing all the parts of myself Andrea?"

Too tired for prevarications, Andy tilted her head and stared over the rim of her cup.  Really staring for the first time in months, she allowed herself a moment to indulge in Miranda's beauty before answering.  "I think there are more reasons than I could list.  It's easier for starters, it doesn't invite people to get close.  It doesn't allow them to see weakness they can use against you.  And honestly somewhat self protective.  No one dares ask you a question much less dares to think they have some misplaced purchase on you and your life that might later get them something or somewhere.  Worse, what if they find you lacking."

Any other time the girl's assessment would rankle and raise her hackles, today she found herself in that mood where she simply didn't care.  "Short answer is it gives them the excuse they need to leave."

"And then sometimes they show up at your door years later offering a cup of coffee just because they want to."  She could almost feel Jace's horror.  A kiss would have been infinitely simpler.  But damn if she wasn't tired of being nervous, upset and hopeful.  It was or it wasn't there.  "My previous answer stands."

"The coffee is wonderful." And it was.  "I can only assume you did that because you are a masochist and an infinitely odd little creature. They leave Andrea because once I dare let the other side show it becomes expected and they wake up one morning expecting someone else.  At first they enjoy the perks...  it goes downhill once they realize I have no desire to change who or what I am. And that other side that is glimpsed, is but a small piece of the whole."  Her candor was shocking. She needed to up her trips to the psychiatrist, clearly. She could pay someone a disgusting amount of money to listen and the urge to talk to someone would just disappear when she wrote the check.

Andy was having the most surreal conversation.  Yesterday morning she'd been beyond moping and now she was sitting on Miranda's terrace listening to what sounded an awful lot like a warning.  The answer that formed in her mind was too weird to be believed much less spoken.  Kicking her shoes off, she curled up in the chair and laid her head back then said it all anyway.  "I expect you to be late four nights a week minimum.  To have a party to attend to on the fifth.  I doubt I'd ever see you pick up a pot to cook.  Knowing where the dishwasher was would be a small miracle.   

I expect that Runway and the girls would come first.  And you'd stay up to all hours on the book.  You'd miss dinners, forget to call sometimes, forget major events if an Emily wasn't tracking it.  I'd expect you to be too tired to climb the stairs some nights.  A continued obsession with fashion and micromanaging your world.  But that's just me.  If the person you're with doesn't expect all that then they're a fool."

It sounded nice but Andrea had proven before she had a way with words and often knew the right things to say, and still, Miranda decided to take it in the spirit which she thought it was being delivered. Kindly.  "Perhaps you could coach the next Mister Priestly on all those pointers and save me from another disaster."

Laughter filled the terrace.  Either extreme exhaustion made her suck at this conversation thing or Miranda was clueless to the point of it being a detraction.  The chair lulled her into extreme comfort.  "I don't think that would be a good idea.  Telling him to sleep on the couch, keep his hands to himself and if he dared marry you I'd have to do something drastic might not get you what you wanted."

The slow blink returned.  Andrea had a lovely laugh it was loud and uninhibited.  The shift in the air was palatable as Miranda shifted the lens on the conversation.  Andrea Sachs, liked her.  Not as a friend, or a mentor, but, oh dear God, the girl was suffering a crush. They were back to that pursuing thing, she was serious. "What drastic thing?"

"The East River. That's what people do around here right?  I wouldn't even be charged with his death.  The pollutants in the water would do him in and for god's sake stop looking at me like that.  I don't have a crush on you Miranda, I'm quite gone on you and have been for some time.  I've not had a crush since high school.  Geez."  Lips pursing, Andy wondered if it wouldn't have been better to leave it at as a perceived crush.  Oh well, into the fire.

The dragon lady would come in handy right about now Priestly, because it's out there and you cannot pretend it isn't. She bit her lip to keep from laughing outrageously at the image conjured of Andrea dragging some unsuspecting sap off to the East river to dispense with them. "How should I look at you?" She was scrambling and she hated it. "You cannot be gone on me. You brought me coffee, you have a boyfriend..." and suddenly the kiss downstairs could not be brushed off as a Cincinnati thing, well maybe. "Tell me the kiss was some odd little ritual your clan does in Cincinnati."

"Now who's drunk?  I don't kiss anyone like that."  One eye opened fully.  If this did turn out to be a dream she had to do something about Miranda next time.  The woman was a bit slow in this one.  "I've not had a boyfriend since before Paris when I chose you, and my job, over him. And I am gone on you.  I've spent over six months trying to be ungone.  I failed, obviously.  And I know I've done this right.  Slowly sure but it's not as if I've ever pursued anyone.  Jace's advice has been rather spotty.  You're still giving me that look.  Stop it.  Look at me like a bug if you must.  It's better than that."

"You're  a woman." And practically a child in comparison but her own vanity would not allow her to ever give voice to that thought. It was half past time to spike the coffee.  Her lips still buzzed from the kiss earlier. Wait a minute.  That was how the girl kissed when she was pursuing someone?  She had a lot to learn.

Miranda extracted herself from the comfort of her lounger and padded off to the kitchen then returned with a bottle of high proof Irish creme. She was liberal in the amount she'd added to her coffee.  "Jace, your hamster was giving you advice?"  Warning signs Priestly, it might be best if you asked her to go.

"Jace, my colleague and green Keds wearing non-hamster friend.  He's usually so good with women but he's flunked in giving advice about you."  She was a woman?  Of course she was.  Wait was that a protest?  "Woman, check.  A problem?  The journalist in me demands that I point out that you noticing my sex would indicate you're giving it thought.  Although if it makes you feel any better, you being a woman is why it took me so long to figure out that I liked you more than was normal."

Miranda took to chugging her coffee. "You associate and take advice from boys wearing green Keds therefore the fact that you are a woman is mooted."  The high voltage arc of heat in crystalline blue eyes hinted strongly that she was or had been giving it more than a passing thought.

"Did you like your lunch?"  Andy asked, missing the look because she was staring at Miranda's lips instead.

Realizing where Andy’s line of vision ended Miranda purposely wet her lips, letting her tongue do a long lazy trace.  "It was a little short on aesthetics but it more than made up for it in taste."

"He picked it."  Andy's voice took on that faraway sound.  Her breath picked up a hair, eyes narrowing with want.  "You haven't kicked me out yet."

"The twins enjoyed it. Both of them. Thank him for me."  New, unabashed looks were given to Andy's denim clad legs. "You should leave now."

Leaving flew right out of her ears under the force of panic that had struck.  A deer in headlights, she scooted further down in the chair and groaned.  She'd poisoned the brats.  Inexperience didn't keep her from knowing that that was a sure fire way to get tossed away permanently.  "Miranda," she hissed, the pleasurable haze on hold.  "What did you feed them?  If they're poisoned it's not my fault.  It was street fare from this really good place that I knew you wouldn't have ever gone to.  I put it in the bistro bag after a lot of begging.  You would have thrown it away without trying it otherwise.  God only knows what they ate.  I don't even know what that place really has.  Why would you do this?  You're trying to kill me aren't you?  No bus tossing this time just make me toss myself in front of a bus."

"What am I the test monkey? The girls were fine and have asked for it since. You're babbling." A trait that bugged the hell out of her, except at this moment. Now that she understood the new game Andy's discomfort was a bonus.  "You dress better than you pursue."

No, no, no.  Miranda had completely missed the point.  What were those kids eating?  "Again, I've never pursued anyone but that's not the point.  Let me try again.  I have no earthly idea what they've been eating.  Because.  They have not been eating what you ate.  No one knew where it really came from except Jace and me.  No one called me.  I disguised it as being from the bistro.  It was not."

"Emily would never feed the girls off a street cart so I'm sure it is quite safe.  You, you fed me counterfeit bistro food?  Is that a hint in Pursuing for Dummies?'  Her stoic facade cracked and she chuckled.

Wind and energy sucked out of her Andy fell backward and gave up. Seconds later her head jerked back up.  "You want me to leave?" Wait.  Miranda kept bringing up the pursued point.  And she had laughed.  A wonderful, rich sound that left her senses sputtering.  Using the need for sleep to throw caution to the wind she said, "How should I pursue you?"

"Andrea." The way it rolled off her tongue and over her lips rendered the name pornographic art. "Come here."

Andy could no sooner have refused than she could have gotten her brain to work.  The editor had the most melodious voice at the worst of times.  That though, that was something different entirely.  Unfurling, she stood and closed the distance.  Still the voice played in her head until she glanced down through half-lids.  "Mmm?"

The editor straightened and moved her legs off the lounger. "Sit."

Sitting as if it would break, Andy was excruciatingly aware of the woman's body heat.  Tendrils of scents curled around her nose.   Shampoo and soap, clean and simple.  Captivating.  A strand of white hair had fallen forward.  If she listened she could almost hear it begging to be brushed back. Her fingers twitched, eyes flickered over the woman's face.  "Um, if you're not interested I really should go before I do something, uh, very stupid."

"Before you go Andrea.  Kiss me the way you've been thinking of kissing me."

What?  Andy stared, face blank.  None of her plans and thoughts had covered this.  Put up or shut up and she almost lost her nerve before her body decided to do what it wanted to with or without her consent.  Fingers brushing that stray lock back, she ran it through her fingers twice.  Satin on silk.  Miranda rarely added hairspray.  It had been one of the first thing's she'd noticed.  A good haircut and money was all it took.  Her hand dropped slowly, the backs of her fingers caressing a smooth cheek just as she leaned forward.  The feel was exactly as she remembered.  A fine wine in front of a roaring fire.  They were more yielding this time, softer, giving as her tongue lightly slid over the bottom.

Andy breathed out then went on instinct.  The mouth under hers parted slightly. Enough, just enough to deepen the kiss until her ears were buzzing from madly pumping blood.  One pull, a tender swipe and it became a two way kiss that drew an uninhibited moan from somewhere deep inside her.  Cupping the older woman's face she got lost in the taste then fell headlong down the well when it moved from lazy exploration to a more passionate consumption that held a hint of intoxication that had nothing to do with the spiked coffee.  Imaginings hadn't come close.  Miranda was kissing her, the world be damned.

The kiss ignited a smile Andy would never see.  Aside from yielding to the kiss and then participating in it she felt a flash of intense pride. Andrea had guts. She tasted of coffee, but under that there was a nearly sweet freshness. Her lips were soft and pliable but not too yielding.  The moan she'd released trembled against Miranda's lips before traveling down her spine and settling deep in the small of her back.  Her tongue swirled against Andy's reciting a dozen sensual textures. She mewed appreciatively completely absorbed in the young woman's growing, blatant passion.  It fed something in her that had been too long dormant.  It was a call she answered in kind, but only to a point.  Andy would not know for a very long time just how reluctant she was to break the kiss.  The thundering in her head rendered the rest of the world silent. She loathed to let that go and yet, she did, withdrawing slowly.

Small whimpers told the story.  Confused, Andy blinked open glazed and dilated eyes then stared, sightless. Her heartbeat pounded in her ears.  Distinctly aroused, her neck flushed as she kept blinking, searching for clarity beyond how wonderful that had felt or how much she'd underestimated what kissing Miranda would be like.  Ice at the office apparently ended there.  Unable to speak, she reached up, touched her own lips and simply stared.  The memory of the kiss replayed on an endless, perfect loop.

Her eyes remained closed until she found something close to her center.  When Miranda opened them she was greeted by Andy's stare the unadulterated want unmistakable.  The intensity had her wanting to look away but she accepted it for the gift that it was.

The long day and unexpected pleasure mixed together to create a haze all its own.  She'd forgotten all nervousness.  "You have a magnificent voice."

"It's trained. I took voice lessons as a child.  Now you look ready to collapse.  You need to go home Andrea and sleep. I'll have Roy take you."

"Nah, let him have the day off.  I can get home."  Against all desires, she stood and stretched.  The morning hadn't lasted long enough.

"I'll call a cab." Miranda asserted. The younger woman had dark circles under her eyes and didn't seem steady on her feet.

Clipping the cell phone back on, she turned back around a drunk smile on her face.  "The subway isn't that bad."

Miranda winced. The subway was full of vagrants and people in need of showers. Unlike Andrea who smelled intoxicating.  She'd be a magnet for the unsavory types. "Yes it is."

"Ah but if I wait, I'll end up curled up in front of your door asleep."  As enticing as Miranda was, her appeal ended at sleeping on her hard floors.

Miranda walked her to the front door, opened up a closet and removed a small cylinder that she handed it over. Pepper spray. "It works."

Touched in a way she couldn't explain, Andy went with the laughter that had bubbled up.  "You're"  Stopping just before opening the door another kiss, much like the first fluttered over the editor's lips.  She didn't trust herself to stop if more was attempted.  "Enjoy your day."

"I will." 


Miranda Priestly, reigning, undisputed Queen of the upper echelons of the fashion world looked deceptively like an ordinary woman enjoying the luxurious indulgence of a quiet day. Curled up on her sofa in front of a gas fireplace, wrapped in an old quilt that her grandmother had given her, donning reading glasses, she sipped intermittently off a glass of red wine while she read.  Her selection for the weekend, Memoirs of a Geisha.  She was enthralled, if distracted. The distraction niggled at her and kept her from immersing as deeply into the story as she would have liked.

A second glass of fragrant, spicy merlot had not erased the taste that lingered on her lips. Andrea. Silly girl and her crush.  The words on the page blurred together. What did that mean anyway? “Gone on you.” It sounded horrid, plebeian really. The girl had no clue what she was doing.  The question then became why had she encouraged her?  Clearly it had been a momentary lapse.  No, she was much too controlled for that sort of error. It had been deliberate.  She might even chalk it up as a test; a challenge to see if the girl had any balls at all. Bad analogy.  

She rolled her eyes at herself.  Still the kiss had been... her finger brushed over her well drawn bottom lip, nice.  Reserved, veering towards tentative, but if she were being kind she would call it honest with the hint that something else just might lurk beneath the surface.  She'd determined not to hazard a guess as to what that something might be. Expectation, especially when not met would ruin what had otherwise been an unexpected delight.

Miranda glanced back at her book.  The words were still blurred. An aggrieved sigh proceeded its closing. Her bookmark fell into her lap. It was a business card. Andrea Sach's business card if you were being particular.  Several hours had passed since the young woman had departed.  Miranda hit speed dial seventeen; she'd never gotten around to having Andrea's home number erased from her phone.

The ringing of the phone intruded upon the most wonderful dream.  Andy muttered and pulled a pillow over her head.  She'd been on Miranda's terrace, talking and having coffee with her like a normal person and by god the phone wouldn't shut up.  Hand snaking out from under the pillow she patted blindly around for the cordless.


She'd made it home via the subway and was alive.  The reason for the call, accomplished. She could hang up.  Miranda hit the end call button.

"Mir..."  What the?  The pillow went flying off as she sat up and looked around.  A check of her Blackberry confirmed the date.  Saturday.  5:14.  Andy dropped the phone and scrubbed her face.  The world didn't make sense.  Backtracking to what she last remembered brought a flush of pleasure that had her stretching like a cat in the sun.  The kiss hadn't been one sided.  Happy and too tired to think, she burrowed back down into the bed.  Twenty seconds later both eyes popped open.  Miranda had called.  And Miranda had hung up.  Typical Miranda or not she snatched the phone up, punched in the numbers she couldn't have forgotten if she wanted to and flopped back in bed.

Miranda accepted the call but said nothing.

"You hung up on me."  If she sounded affronted it's because she was.  No one expected the editor to adhere to social pleasantries but that was just wrong.  Still in the process of trying to wake up, she yanked the covers back over her head and popped off with,  "I'll forgive you this time.  Only because dream you was being very nice."

"You mistakenly thought I called to speak with you. The call was to ensure you'd made it home." She stretched and wiggled down so her feet could bask in the heat from the fire.

Andy couldn't have been more thankful they were on the phone instead of real life.  Hiding the flinch and the way her face fell would have been impossible.  She began to wake up. Alertness brought doubts and questions she'd rather not face.  Earlier exhaustion had loosened the bonds of what should ever be said.  Through concentrated effort she replayed the words and tried to take note of Miranda's tone. There was none.  The words were biting but they had none of her usual sneer within them.  Miranda was Miranda even now.  Clinging to that she steadied herself to plow forward, the remembered kiss lending fuel to feed off of.  "I did, thank you.  The mace remains intact.  There was this threatening looking toddler but then he went back to playing with his hammer.  The Ferré layout you did a couple of months ago was stunning."  There.  Surely there would be something the woman could latch onto in that.

The girl was very slow on picking up clues. Perhaps she was vitamin deficient.  Did she think the kiss had opened the golden gates to incessant chatter?  "Anecdotes from the subway, how charming."  Tone crept into the comment but then she found her own lips kept moving much to her chagrin.  "You saw the Ferré piece? Where, in your dentist's office?"

Ouch. She almost, almost, gave up on the conversation.  A limitless stubborn streak kicked in before the hang-up came. Miranda was Miranda, she repeated to herself then felt her neck blush. The Runway cat had slipped out of the bag.  That's what she got for trying to find some subject that would keep Miranda on the phone for even one more minute.  "Yeah, my dentist is a big believer that any old blue attire or accessory will speed the Novocain along."  She paused, lips quirking.  "I saw it from the privacy of my own home.  Stunning."

A melodious laugh carried through the phone.  In someone else she might have found the retort obnoxious, not so with Andrea she was discovering. "I was pleased with the spread.  What about it did you find most appealing?"

"The camera work and layout as much as the designs.  Shooting in a desert location gave the clothes depth.  It's hard to dwarf beautiful landscape yet the models being right up the nose of the camera did just that.  You saw the barren landscape and in the distance the appearance of the snowcapped tops.  Like something you'd see in National Geographic.  Then you were hit by his brilliant colors that carried the eyes over to the designs.  The models were perfectly arranged, light to crisp and bright until suddenly that gasp worthy shot of natural beauty became breath stealing work.  That the accessories were understated punctuated that.  The clothes eclipsed all else and that's probably more than you wanted to know. Hushing now."  Miranda's laugh had shocked her into answering in detail.   Making her laugh in the future became an undertaking she immediately put on her schedule.

An invitation rested on her tongue and then was swallowed in abject horror. Talking to Andrea was one thing.  A kiss for the sheer curiosity of it, acceptable. Calling to ensure she hadn't become another subway statistic was shaky and veering towards gray. A dinner invitation, oh hell no. The girl would end up thinking they were engaged or something equally as horrifying.  "Not bad for the girl who made a career out of convincing me she forgot more than she remembered. Not bad at all. Irv had a coronary at the price tag. The palpitations magically disappeared when he started listening to all the buzz it got.  That is how clothes should be showcased."

She'd said the right thing and now Miranda spoke with a measure of ease.  Score.  "The memory has temporary lapses when under extreme scrutiny or at least mine did.  Irv should be grateful it wasn't more.  You had to have saved him a bundle with the minimalistic background.  Anything more, even a focal point in the background would have meant one of those shoots that spanned for days to get the light just right.  Besides, he got off easy with the Gaultier piece the month before.  In fact I'd almost think you didn't like his latest designs.  The layout was beautiful but it didn't have the same captivating power as Gianfranco's."

"The enfant terrible has tamed him and his collection reflects that. Blissful domesticity may appeal to him but it robbed his collection of inspiration.  The camera doesn't lie."

"No, it doesn't.  His designs reminded me a lot of his collection from five years ago.  Nigel showed it to me once.  It's odd though.  Many artists tend to get better after they've had a child, to the point of detraction.  Everything focuses on them and all inspiration comes from them.  It works until it doesn't.  Are you sure he's been robbed so much as he's not putting the time in because he'd rather be with them?"  Andy's mouth formed a perfect 'O'.  She dove back under the pillow, taking the phone with her as if the pillow would somehow shield her from a falling sky.

"I prefer to think his muse has abandoned him as opposed to him squandering his talent."  Miranda finished off the wine and wondered over the detail of still conversing. She hated the phone. It was a necessary evil for her job but outside of work, unless the girls called, she avoided it.

Andy slowly lowered the pillow then looked around.  Fingers, toes and all limbs were checked and found, with no small amount of surprise, to be intact.  Miranda hadn't hung up or lopped her head off for questioning her deductions.  The young journalist felt faint with relief.  A new bubble of happiness formed.  "He definitely got a lip purse from you then.  Have you eaten?  I know this great little place that delivers and this time I don't mean me."

"Have you always been this preoccupied with food?" Coffee, lunch, now yet another offer for a delivery. "Or is the fixation a leftover from the boyfriend who was a chef? You left him for Paris. And left Paris for the moral high ground. Was it worth it?"

"Neither.  I learned to pay more attention to you and food.  When you've not eaten all day you tend to go hunting for kitten's necks to snap.  When you have eaten you just hunt them down and toss them in the stocks."  Rolling out of bed, she headed to the kitchen for something to drink.  Perhaps she was being dramatic but whatever did or didn't happen in the future felt like it hinged on her answer.  "Yes and no.  I wouldn't do it again in the same way but I would make the same choice in the long run.  It's easy to get lost in it all.  I did.  I learned a lot yet there were things I couldn't learn at Runway.  It's consuming.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still an optimist but I'm no longer naive and blind.  Then I let my friends influence a lot of my decisions.  They were supposed to be my friends you know?  Have my best interests at heart and all that.  I had to leave before realizing that they didn't, couldn't, because their own biases colored what they thought.  And now I know that my measuring stick is all that matters.  It sounds cold but ultimately you have to support and believe in yourself, everyone else be damned."

Andy was still naive and her world was still shaded through rose colored glasses, but less so, and perhaps enough so that it wasn't wholly unattractive.  "Only while you kept being who they imagined and needed you to be, once that changed... I don't need to tell you what then. If your measuring stick exceeds everyone else's then it stands alone.  There is no arguing with perfection."

"No, I guess not.  I'm not sure if this will make sense but I ended up being more disappointed in them than I was myself.  Or maybe I'm disappointed in my judgment.  Although they were all friends from college and before so what you think when you meet them versus a few years down the line changes. Working for you was okay so long as they were getting something out of it, perk castoffs.  Once the joys of that faded, bam, so did their opinion.  I think that's why Jace and I became friends.  He's laid back and easy.  He can be ferocious about getting what he wants but he knows how to turn that off too."  Sipping off the water she had to wonder where all this was coming from.  More important, however, was that Miranda was actually listening and responding.

"Laid back and easy, is that an attempt to make lazy and unmotivated palatable?" One last stretch and Miranda vacated the couch and located her day planner. A manicured nail flipped the pages. Her plans for the evening were now set. The wine and the lazy afternoon had left her mellow and feeling somewhat congenial. "Do you attend the cinema?"

The phone bobbled and almost hit the floor before it was caught.  Andy rolled her eyes at herself then let the laughter over the question on Jace bubble up.  The editor was asking a random question that had nothing to do with actually wanting to go with her.  "Whenever I get the chance.  You?  And no, Jace is anything but that.  He works as much if not more than I do and still makes time to go on dates all through the week.  Laid back and easy means...if you planned to have lunch with him then couldn't, he'd show up at your office, drop lunch off, give a smile and a wave then leave, no harm, no foul.  Decide you wanted to date Bill Blass?  He'd remind you that it would be difficult since he's dead then try to find a way to help you pull it off."

Why were they speaking about the Hamster boy person?  "Why aren't you dating him? What was the last movie you saw at the cinema?"

"Date Jace?  Jace?"  A full bodied laugh came up as she tried to imagine such a thing.  "He's a playboy for one. Two, and this is a biggie, I've never been interested.  Something about having a thing for you.  The Queen.  Helen Mirren made me a fan girl with that movie."

"Andrea, that is not cinema. That is trying to pass off- the-rack for couture." Now she had to invite the girl. Otherwise she was in danger of living an entire life in her current state of ignorance. "Meet me at the Clearview-Chelsea at sixty-forty sharp. Tonight." This time she let a few polite seconds pass before hanging up.

Frozen in place, she stared at the phone that now lay on the floor.  Miranda had just asked her on a date?  No that couldn't be right, except...  Slowly, Andy's eyes began to rove around the apartment in a sweep for hidden cameras.  Nope, it wasn't a joke.  There were hundreds if not thousands of cinemas in the city.  New ones popped up as old ones closed creating an ever churning cycle that she was largely uninterested in.  Except now that had to change.  The journalist literally dove for her laptop to look the cinema up.  The website listing depicted a lot of old classics and just as many unknowns as well as five different locations and two in Chelsea alone.  Shit.  A call to Roy while standing in front of the subway was in order - and leaving extra early to allot for train schedules.

There hadn't yet been time to think about the changes that had taken place in the last twelve hours or the successes.  The ‘date’ meant that wasn't about to change.  Date, rang in her head.  Unable to resist, Andy squealed like a girl then twirled around once.  Panic flooded her seconds later.  Eyes wide she turned into a small tornado that destroyed the apartment in the quest for the perfect outfit.  No less than a dozen pieces littered the floor before she was halfway through deciding what to wear.

This was an unforeseen problem she'd begun running into weeks ago.  One did not chase or date Miranda Priestly in outlet store clothing.  Shoes she could manage.  That collection had grown quite large while at Runway.  Every pair had been kept.  Clothing was another matter.  Most had either been seen, was out of season or....

Andy threw herself onto the bed, half dressed and whimpered.  The clock ticked on.  The dilemma of women everywhere settled on her shoulders.  More precious minutes slipped by.  She didn't make all that much money.  Enough to keep her fed, a roof over her head, the occasional splurge and other necessities were taken care of.  But for weeks she'd been visiting consignments shops, desperately trying to meet an expectation that could never be met on her salary.  Worse, all the money in the world couldn't have met it.  Unless everything you purchased was from someone unknown like Clarice, and haute couture, Miranda had seen it all.  Hell she'd put the majority of it together.

The realization brought a measure of calm.  Others could and would be impressed by a well chosen outfit from a top designer.  Miranda, at best, would appreciate something that looked good on a specific person.  That she could do.  And besides the woman had asked her, something Andy hadn't even dared to think of as a possibility not a day earlier.  Instead of new and envy worthy she went for classic elegance with a bold flair that would have made Nigel proud.  Simple, black Armani pants complimented the Azria Moroccan burnout tunic in shades of dark and light gray and black.  It hung beautifully on her frame and worked to perfection with the black Chanel low cut boots she'd already decided on.

A few understated silver and lapis accessories were added.  Andy didn't bother to look over her appearance until her hair was pulled up on the sides, left long and flowing in the back and a hint of makeup meant to appear natural was donned.  Then and only then did she appraise herself.  It wasn't the latest and greatest but it was perfect for her she decided.  A dab of perfume, a glance at the clock and she turned into a whirlwind that practically flew out the door and down the steps.  Twenty-five minutes later she was standing in front of the Chelsea West cinema, early and trying to calm the butterflies that had sprung up.  It wouldn't do to greet Miranda looking like a bunny rabbit hopped up on speed.

"Andrea."  Miranda had had Roy drop her off thirty minutes early and she'd taken the time to stroll around the neighborhood. The air had a pleasant chill, that combined with the brisk walk, had brushed her cheeks with a faint glow.

Andy froze again though her eyes didn't quite get in on the act.  They zoomed up and down then repeated the process again at a slower pace.  Wearing a derby gray cashmere sweater with a ballerina neckline, black slacks with flints of gray to match the sweater and white boots whose toe was patent leather black, Miranda couldn't have sent Andy into a bigger tailspin if she tried.  Gone was the woman who'd managed to get past nerves and second guessing to carry on not one but two conversations.  Discrete glances were for other times and other people.  Blinking rapidly, Andy's mouth worked sans words.  Topped with that head of hair that could be silver or white depending on the light, Andy couldn't have looked away or been appropriate if she'd wanted to.  Unabashed want settled in her eyes before she wrestled it under control.  "Um hi. You uh, look um, amazing."

What on earth was wrong with the girl? Yes, her outfit was becoming, they always were but it was not stutter worthy.  "Stop that gaping. I'm not the emperor and I'm wearing clothes." Though she did look down just in case she'd lost all her buttons or her pants had fallen off. She reached into her pocket and handed two items over to Andy. A hand-stitched snow white
hanky and a tube of lipstick.

When she looked at Andrea in a different light, the person, not the ex-assistant she could admit the woman was attractive, quite attractive actually. Why she continued to assault and insult those lovely lips with goop Miranda could not fathom. She hustled Andy in through a side door casually taking notice of her outfit. The flash of bare skin at the shoulders held her attention a little too long.  She berated herself and moved them straight to the concession area which was empty save for the employees.  Patronage had its perks. "That outfit suits you."

Miranda's voice settled around her like a pleasant fog.  What she'd said, unfortunately, turned into white noise.  The order to stop gaping had been affective only so far as physical appearance went.  Months of pining met real life and crashed together in a screeching mix of metal on metal.  Andy had been doing so well in but for some reason seeing Miranda took the kiss and conversations from the land of surreal to the land of reality.  Her mind spun like a top as it struggled to process all the changes.  By some small miracle, her voice recovered first.  "You look beautiful.  I've seen all the models, the ideals of beauty that you yourself perpetuate. Yours has...depth.  Striking clashes that don't fit definition yet enhance to make you truly unique.  Models, the perfect faces, all run together."  Gaining composure didn’t mean she could stop the stream until it was too late.  Mortification set on.  "Sorry.  Drink?"

Words truly were the young woman’s forte.  How did she string out a compliment like that and sell it?  It was absurd in its pretentiousness and yet the only compliments that ever sounded that sincere came from her daughters. Two streaks of crimson burned high on her cheekbones, she was not blushing by God, it was simply the change in air temperatures. She had no idea how to respond to that so she didn't. "They have my order standing by.  Make your choices.  The popcorn, real butter. A must."

Andy had just been gaining control when that registered.  Back to square one, she stared, agog.  Miranda blushing?  And. Mrs. hire the smart, fat girl was suggesting she eat popcorn with real butter.  An explosive exhale could have been heard in Mexico.  Okay Andy, enough of this.  She's half pod person and that's okay.  No more turning into an idiot savant.  An order for diet coke and the recommended buttered popcorn were placed before a teasing eye slid to the editor.  "One fat comment later and I'll replace your shoes with plain loafers.  What are we seeing?"

"They'll deliver the order. Through here." She led the way into the semi dark smaller side theatre. It like the concession area was empty.  "Dead Ringer with Bette Davis circa 1964, and Straight Jacket, Joan Crawford, same year."  Miranda moved straight to her seat.  Four rows down from the back, dead center.

Where were the people?  Better not to ask. Yet those names were familiar.  Andy paused until she remembered why and where she'd heard them before then hesitantly took the seat next to Miranda.  Since the movie hadn't started yet she couldn't hold in the question.  "Um, Miranda, these movies.  A murderous theme.  You're not planning to murder me in the darkened theater as some sort of payback are you?  I bleed. A lot.  You'd mess up your shoes."

"Yes. Smart girl. Not for payback but so I can have your popcorn," she deadpanned, lips not so much as twitching.

"So that's why you asked me along.  Double the popcorn.  One of them guilt free since it isn't actually yours.  Crafty."  It made as much sense as anything else did.

"The cobwebs are clearing."  Miranda looked up when an usher entered, delivered their tray and told her the film would start in three minutes.

The coke sat winking at her from within a crystal glass.  Andy glanced at her companion then shook her head.  Of course it did.  It would be silly to put a coke in a unbreakable cup in the middle of a darkened theater.  Who in the world would do such a thing?  "They are.  This glass?  The reason I fed you fake bistro food.  You're a snob."

"I enjoy it." She returned without a hint of contriteness.

The wicked little smirk on Miranda's face ranked right up there with hearing her laugh.  "I promise not to scandalize you.  Tonight."

Miranda nearly did the very uncouth and unthinkable of snorting coke through her nose.  The screen lit up for which she was most thankful.

The next few hours passed in a haze of early cinematic gore.  Not one word was spoken between them.  Instinct told Andy if she'd dared break the silence she'd never be asked again.  She'd even managed to restrain the desire to jump during Joan Crawford's crazy sprees.  New York continued to thrum with activity when they rejoined the world.  Uncertain what to do or if they were parting ways now, she racked her brain for something, anything, to extend the evening then returned to the one thing that seemed to work so far.  "Coffee?"

"Where?"  Getting coffee in New York at night was not something she did, but given that the woman had been the perfect movie companion, it seemed a fair trade-off.

Little did Miranda know how hard Andy had worked to be the perfect companion.  Had they been in private she would have scurried behind a chair ten minutes into the movie and remained there, peeking out around the side, for the entire film.  Being terrified was forgotten in favor of more time.  "There is a coffee bar two blocks from here.  It's quiet, private and on Saturday nights they usually have a decent, unobtrusive, piano player.  Thank you for the movie.  I enjoyed it."

She motioned to Roy. "You're shaking."

"Adrenalin?"  She offered while glancing down.  Huh, that was new.

They slipped in the car and Miranda waited expectantly.

Andy glanced at the sidewalk then at Roy.  There was something inherently wrong about driving two blocks in New York City.  Walking would have been easier.  At least then she wouldn't have thoughts of straddling the woman.  Life pre-kiss when she hadn't let fantasizes get out of hand had been a lot easier.  She put away her musings and gave him the address.  Breaking the silence around Roy, her current cohort whom she owed big time, felt wrong.

"Must you make us idle here a target for the criminals?  Please spill the directions to your secret coffee shop before dawn breaks."

"Um?"  Eyes cutting between the two, she saw Roy shrug then pull out into traffic.  How had Miranda, who missed so little unless they were the details she didn't want to hear, miss that?  "I already did.  Crawford still chasing you?"

That elicited a smile.  "I adore her. Comparatively, the dragon lady is Mother Theresa. That woman scares the shit out of me."

Tension broken, the journalist released a bark of laughter.   Laughter, she decided, was certainly better than having to collect her head from the floorboard.  For all the times Miranda had screamed her name, she'd never heard one single swear.  "You only jumped a couple of times.  Me on the other hand...  I had a constant chant going in my hand:  Hiding under the seat to watch does not make a good impression."

"Andrea." Her voice dropped to a bit deeper range. "Did you sit through that movie with your eyes closed?"  Not that she could blame her.  The first three times she'd seen it there had been many moments when she'd only peeked at the screen through squinted eyes.

Miranda's voice was like tossing back an aged scotch.  It slivered through the bloodstream, setting the roots of hair to tingling then zipped down to do the same to toes.  Andy couldn't have lied if she wanted to.  "Not exactly.  I watched through my eyelashes."

"That is the brilliance of real cinema.  Special effects aren't use to distract  the viewer from the talentless, pretty faces on screen." Miranda paused to stare at Andy, specifically her eyelashes.  Ebony, thick, they brashly accented her eyes, drawing the attention where it deserved to be.  "Millions of girls would kill for those lashes."

"Thank you,"  The young woman dearly hoped the car was dark enough to hide her blush.  The heat from it alone made it feel like it ran from her eyelashes to the arches of her feet.  That was perhaps one of the nicest things Miranda had ever said when it came to her looks.  "There are a few talents today.  Unfortunately they don't often get the good parts because they're too old or too young or not pretty enough.  And in one bizarre case, too pretty.  Betty and Joan might not have been able to get work if they'd wanted to.  By today's standards they'd be considered cows and quite possibly, merely okay to look at."

The car slowed. "What bizarre case was that?"

"Halle Berry.  Did you see Monster’s Ball?  She had to fight tooth and nail for that role.  They made her as ugly as possible in the makeup department.  If the industry had their way she'd still be playing Barbie.  Charlize Theron had the same issue in Monster and they then made her hideous."   Andy made a note.  The editor clearly paid no real attention to the modern movie industry beyond knowing who was hot for the magazine.

Miranda's brain screeched as a new tirade formed.  Berry took a pretty picture, Theron a more interesting one but to discuss them in the same context as Bette and Joan was an outrage. As her opening statement formed, she stopped.  There was the little detail of Andrea's age - there were a few areas in which it bought her a pass.  "And so their talent transcended the handicap of their beauty?"

The tone said it all.  Andy glanced at Roy for help, found none, then tried to keep the nasty little barbs that often followed that tone, at bay.  "More like they begged, pleaded and possibly bribed.  Yes, they had the acting chops in the end.  I'm not comparing them with the greats.  They are merely an example.  However, if you've not seen Monster's Ball then you really can't judge her acting talent.  It would be like trying to judge the sum of Valentino's contribution and talent on his very first collection alone."  Shit.  That was supposed to remain a silent addendum.

"Catwoman." she replied with marked disdain. "Is this the place?"

"You saw Catwoman?" Andy asked, head whipping around to stare.

"Bond girl.  The creature in those X-men horrors.  Now you disparage Valentino. Quick Andrea jump into that hole you are excavating."  The prospect of quiet music kept Miranda from telling Roy to gun it and take them somewhere nice. "Cassidy wants to be Berry when she grows up." This bit was revealed through a clenched jaw and grinding teeth.

"She could want to be Brittany Spears."  Andy quickly got out of the car before Miranda could change her mind about going.  Deciding between the line of getting another date and being a mindless stooge was getting more difficult by the second.  What she did know was that it probably wasn't a good idea to point out that Miranda, of all people, shouldn't have anything against someone serving as a pretty face and little else.  "Bond she took after winning the Oscar, saying she wanted to do something fun.  Has she done something to peeve you off before?"

"Pay attention Andrea. Catwoman, Cassidy has played it several dozen times." As they were walking away from the car but before they got to the coffee shack she gave her companion the twice over.  "Did you enjoy the movie at all?"

Huh?  How did she jump to that?  "I did.  It made me want to crawl out of my skin a couple of times but that's not all bad either.  My point wasn't that I didn't like it or them.  I'm sorry if it came across that way. Truthfully, I can't recall when I had such a good time."

"Odd odd newspaper girl. You need to get out more." Miranda's eyes said she was supremely pleased. "You are a good movie companion."

"Likewise."  The compliment caused a smile that stayed in place as she led them through the smattering of people to the back area.  Picking out a set of comfy chairs in the corner that had a wall of plants separating it from the next similar area, she crossed her fingers that it would at least be acceptable.  "I'll go get us coffee."

Miranda slipped into the alcove without ceremony, thankful that she'd remained unnoticed.  The decor was appalling so she turned to attention to discreetly watching Andrea.

Three minutes later Andy returned.  The piano player picked up where he'd left off for his break  Terrified of spilling it and desperate to give the hot cup away, she handed the large, wide mouthed bowl over to Miranda with exquisite slowness.  "Careful.  Scalding."

A deep inhale had Andy being treated to a grateful look as Miranda molested the large cup. "The heat kills germs."

"They're..."  Oh.  So that was her obsession with it.  Andy took up the other chair before commenting.  "Doesn't your tongue threaten revolt?"

To answer the question Miranda took a healthy drink. "Quite strong but it's good."

"My tongue whimpers in empathy.  Have you ever considered leaving a large mug or two at Starbucks?  As frequently as you buy, I can't see the manager having a problem with it."

The editor wondered if Andrea had taken complete leave of her senses. "No. Beyond whether it's hot, strong and free of foam I don't consider coffee."

"I see my attempts to educate you failed.  I'll take that as a tradeoff to today."  She chanced a shy look then settled back to listen to the piano.

"Your article was entertaining."  The day had been relaxing, but the danger of getting rejuvenated was that Miranda's brain took off and sitting still became a challenge as a new energy surged through her.  Her office beckoned.  It was closing in on midnight.

The gleam in Miranda's eyes did not go unnoticed.  On the job survival at Runway had required she notice every tick.  "We can go you know.  You have that look in your eye.  You're here but the urge to pop up and start doing something else is starting.  I don't mind."

Oh thank God, no wounded looks.  "Home or the Mirror?"

"Mmm tough decision.  I think home.  I can work from there."  And after sleeping all day she would.  Better to work than spend the night reliving what had come before it.  Andy quickly finished off her mocha and stood.  "Thank you for inviting me."

Miranda nodded and set her cup aside, rising and heading for the door. "Home it is and you're welcome."

"Do you have time for coffee Monday morning?  Say 8:45 in front of your office?"  The question was perfunctory.  Short of Miranda saying she wasn't interested, she'd be there.

"No. Not Monday. Tuesday, yes."

"How about Wednesday instead?  I have to go upstate Monday and won't be back until Tuesday afternoon."

"Wednesday is fine." She slid into the car and waited for Andy to join her.

Well that hadn't been too painful to find a mutual time.  God knew it saved a call to Roy.  The journalist slid in then found her breath caught.  Miranda, in a feat of never before, was sitting more in the middle.  Just a woman, became a reminder she repeated again and again.  "I can do Wednesday."  One careful, steadying breath for courage and Andy let her hand drop down to rest on the side of the editor's leg.  Heat branded a new tattoo on her flesh.  Just a woman like hell.

The older woman became instantly aware of her error in not moving all the way over. She rarely shared a car and when she did it was with the twins who clamored wherever they felt like being.  Heat radiated against her leg and set off a series of thoughts that then turned into images that had Miranda shooting herself the death glare. A replay of the kiss earlier that day started on a loop. She had the urge to squirm in her seat and move away but that would mean that Andrea had got to her and that simply was not the case. She'd stay precisely where she was and if that hand dared move another inch she'd bite it. Or at least turn it into a withered stump by giving it the look.

The hand stayed exactly where it fell the rest of the ride.  Andy wasn't sure she could have moved it if she wanted to.  All senses zeroed in on the feel Miranda pressed close.  The fantasies of kissing would never be just that again.  Instead flashes of skin and taut flesh seemed intent on driving her mad.  Her hand didn't slide away until she spotted her building.  No kiss or whispered word would be uttered so long as Roy sat so close, aware of everything.  "Enjoy your day off tomorrow."

"I'm off to LA in the morning. I'll be taking the red eye tomorrow night. " Why she offered up those details she didn't know.  "Get some sleep. Sliced potatoes under the eyes for fifteen minutes will do wonders."

"That's a rather bleak Sunday.  Sunday's are meant for books, watching old movies, gardening, hobbies and other personal pursuits."  A wink and she got out of the car when it stopped.  That was all that could be said for now but when she got upstairs she'd send Miranda an email.  Words demanded their venue one way or another:  A night of seeing behind the mask.  Missing you remains.  Nodding to herself, she didn't dare look back as she entered her building.  Once the email was off she'd get down to work - right after calling Jace.


Picking at her food, Andy pushed another piece of egg around then gave up the pretense of hunger.  Good intentions and real life had not agreed to meet.  An early breakfast, Thursday morning was the first time she'd had a chance to talk to much less see Jace.  The dash and run coffee delivery to Miranda had been all too brief.  She wanted more yet knew she wasn't willing to sacrifice anything to get it.  It was unlikely Miranda was either.  A standstill insisted on forming around them and they hadn't even gotten started.  On the other hand what did it matter if the kisses were few and far between so long as there was another in her future.

"Right, so.  I woke up to the ringing of the phone.  After a hang up and a little conversation she invited me to the 'cinema.'  Two movies, a quick coffee later, bing bang boom home.  I sent her an email that night, another one on Tuesday that relayed a similar message. Coffee yesterday, wink wink, nudge nudge, hi bye and that's that.  She said my pursuing skills were lacking yet they got somewhere.  Is the ball now in my court or hers?"

"Damn Andy you've done good." He shoveled a large bite of triple cheese omelet into his mouth and chased it with a gulp of chocolate milkshake, stunned that his friend was making progress with Miranda fucking Priestly. "Your pursuing skills will become legendary if you bag that one. I didn't mean that quite as crude as it came out.  What I mean is - on the surface they might seem below par but who cares, it's working.  Technically she asked you out.  Which has to be a good sign.  She didn't take a phone call and have to go visit her sick Aunt mid-way through.  That’s an even better sign. What happened in the movie theatre?" His voice dropped conspiratorially.

A glare that wouldn't heat the eggs bore into him.  "The movie.  I got the impression as soon as we sat down that if I spoke there wouldn't be a return trip in my future. Once the movie got going I didn't care anyway.  I was too freaked in parts to speak.  I keep trying to remember what Nate did but we were in college.  Back then it was, wanna go out?  Flowers were given on special occasions.  A crappy expensive restaurant on the anniversary.  None of it transitions well. There is Christian after but that pursuing was creepy when I look back on it.  Not the sort of vibe I want to give off."

"See, I think it is best if you make a move. You've been the good date and sent her an email after.  She hasn't had you arrested for stalking her with coffee but what you need is alone time.  Last time you got her alone she asked you out... to a double feature.  I'm really impressed about that by the way not to mention a little jealous.  When is that really cool thing I hate you a little for, with Dan coming up?  She wants something from you... ie: to see you again, to do the wild turkey naked tango, something or after the kiss she would have backed off, not asked you out.  But she can't exactly let that out in public.  It's counter to who she is.  Maybe, you could do the old fashioned thing and call. Emails are nice but phones calls are personal."

"Shit Jace!  I've still not told her thank you for the tickets.  For a week I've meant to but then I get caught up in something else.  Work or her.  She won't say a word but somewhere in her head she's wondering.  I can't believe I did that."  A cad, she dropped her head beside her plate and let it thunk against the Formica several times.  That little faux pas had to remedied ASAP.  "I'm better now, moving right along.  First on the list is figuring out a suitable thank you thing because you should hate me. It's a gift beyond words.  Then you have the email versus phone calls.  I do want to call her but I got the distinct impression that she does not normally talk, correction, chat or have personal conversations, on the phone.  Once I hit on fashion she mellowed into the conversation but prior to that it was a little tricky."

"Well you are the suckiest of the sucky girlfriends. You didn't thank her for that? Give it to me. Twenty five tickets Andy Sachs and they are impossible to get. I'll thank the woman properly."  More eggs disappeared.  "Call her.  If it's not her norm and she does it with you, it means something.  You can always mellow her out with a little phone sex."  His devilish grin appeared and his eyes twinkled.

"OW!"  Eeked out from behind both hands.  Coffee shooting through the nose was not an experience to be tried out.  It meant something and she was a sucky...person.  Great.  Crossing her arms over her chest, Andy sat back and began sorting through options.  Gifts were out.  Miranda wouldn't do the sort of gifts her bank account could afford.  The thought counted right until it was forgotten.  That left getting creative like she'd done with the coffee.  Her plate was pushed over to his side.  An idea slowly formed, absurd, impossible and equally unshakable.  "Who do we know from sources, contacts, and everyone in between that is competent, intelligent, well educated, hard working, at least peripherally aware of fashion, a size four or less, sane, creative, good natured, thick skinned and is not a friend?

"My cousin Elise. Why?" He swiped a piece of her bacon and chewed while flipping through the paper.  

Damn. Then again, one little question wouldn't hurt would it?  Hope laced her voice, "You're not close are you?  Even better if you don't like her or her you."  

"I like her well enough. Why?"  

A balloon deflating, Andy sagged back against the booth.  "She's no good then.  Miranda made this half joke about me finding her a better assistant than Emily Jr.  I was searching for ideas for a thank you and that popped up.  Only you're my friend.  And Elise might never speak to you again which means you'd hold it against me.  It can be a good job but working for Miranda...challenging is an understatement, tyrant is being nice on some days yet Hitler is too strong.  Perhaps a cross between a crazy nagging mother and that old teacher we all had in school that made you afraid to breathe.  To be fair though, if you know what you're doing her bite lessens dramatically."  

"Are you shitting me?  She did an internship with Martha Stewart and raged for a month when she didn't get a job as junior assistant to the assistant. She went to Brown on a scholarship. Has a business degree. She's bright.  Pours over fashion magazines, though a lot of them are Bridal ones. She's been planning her wedding since she popped out of the womb.  Elise loves details to the point I'm always bugging her that she should have been a bean counter.  I'd tell you she's hot but she's my cousin and I'm not supposed to notice."  

"She survived Martha?"  Hope bloomed again.  The girl might not even be bleeding by the end of the day.  Adrenalin rushed through her blood stream.  Andy sat up and shoved a piece of bacon in his mouth.  "You have two minutes to finish that.  Then, call her and we're going for a visit.  She needs to be there in time for a mid-morning coffee and I need to pump a lot of information into her head in a very short period of time.  And yes, I'll feed you lunch."   

Jace hooted. "Excellent, I'd sacrifice anyone for a decent lunch. Present company excluded of course. Nah, she is great Ace. I’ll call her."  Jace placed the call and one minute in he was holding the phone out a good foot from his ear, that was ringing from the girly squeals.  "She's not always this excitable."  

"I hope not.  Miranda will cut out her voice box otherwise.  Tell her to get dressed now. That way I can double-check what she's wearing."  Standing, she tossed a handful of ones on the table then tried to hurry him along.  Elise sounded almost too good to be true except Jace wouldn't feed her to the devil if she wasn't everything he said.  "Oh and tell her to wear heels for god's sake."  

Jace passed along the message then looked mournfully at Andy as he stuffed another pile of eggs in his mouth and followed her out the door. "She'll be there."  

"Excellent.  Let operation a new Emily commence."  Lacing her arm through his, she practically skipped out the door and forced him to do the same.    


At precisely 11:15, Elise walked through the outer doors of Runway, a venti latte in one hand, her attaché case in the other Per Andy's instruction she ignored the receptionist entirely and continued on like she belonged there.  With luck and a lot of coaching she just might.  A trill of excitement wormed through her stomach.  Blond hair falling just below her shoulders, as she looked around, she realized she did belong as much as anyone in the office.  Being the baby girl in the family had its advantages.  Her closet was already comprised of designer labels and the latest fashions, an indulgence of her father.  Game face on and ready to tackle the world and the Devil herself, she entered the inner sanctum, glanced between the desks then decided on the woman that Andy had said would be the actual Emily.  She had no appointment.  Her cousin's friend hadn't explained how or why this would work.

But she hadn't come this far to fail.  Emily was staring, agape.  Her voice was cultured and confident when she stared Emily down and said, "Elise to see Miranda.  Tell her Halle Berry sent me, please."  

"And I call the Cat in the Hat daddy. The exit is that way. Scoot before I call security."  Crazy number nineteen for the month.  Someone's head at the front desk would bloody well roll for this one.  

"How wonderful for you.  What, however, are you going to call her when she eats you for lunch because you kept me standing here instead of informing her I was here?"  She would not be denied by that arrogant Brit.  Elise's normally sunny disposition was shelved as per Andy's instructions which had come after the journalist had taken one look at her and said to put it away or she'd be stuck in this very spot.  Later she'd make it up to the woman.  

Bloody well great. This crazy had enough brashness that she sounded almost believable.  "She's not expecting you.  There is nothing in my book and if you aren't in the book you don't enter the pearly gates.  Perhaps you can have Ms. Berry book your appointment next time." As if.  

Elise switched from confrontational to understanding.  A warm smile lit her eyes.  "Emily isn't it?  If you walk in there and tell her I'm here, she'll see me.  Your life will then become a lot easier.  If you don't we'll both regret it."   

"They took the last person who let in an unscheduled appointment away on a stretcher. Oh bloody blazes. Fine. I'll speak to her but if I end up maimed I'll sue you straight to jolly old England and back again and you won't be able to afford noodles."  Reciting a short prayer Emily walked into Miranda's office. "Miranda, Elise is waiting to see you. She's the girl Halle Berry sent over." Oh dear god that was a new look from her boss.  Death was imminent and would be painful, excruciatingly so. She should have had a Big Mac for lunch.  

"Emily go take your're," Halle Berry. Sculpted eyebrows lifted.  She wouldn't have. "And on your way out send her in. Go before you end up escargot."  

Elise entered the door Emily had vacated seconds later.  One look at Miranda and her knees knocked together then steadied.  The woman lived up to her reputation in a glance.  The corner of her lips lifted as she set the coffee in front of the editor, glad to be rid of the scalding brew.  From the attaché she pulled her resume and set it beside the coffee.  Andy's instructions on addressing Miranda were explicit.  "Halle sent me for the job of the new Emily if I meet with your approval."  

For the first time on record Miranda Priestly sat in her office and laughed. "Sit."  She tasted the coffee.  It confirmed the Halle story.  The resume was scanned for two minutes.  "Where did she find you and how much did she pay you to show up here today?"  

"Through Jace, my cousin and not a cent.  I'm admittedly still bitter over losing the full time position with Martha after my internship.  I jumped at the chance to work for you.  So much so that I already know your habits, general schedule, the numbers of everyone from contacts to designers, how you prefer your steak, your preference for riding either alone or in complete silence and a number of other details she stuffed into my head with or without my consent.  Insofar as they were accurate then, of course.  The rest I will learn as quickly as possible."    

The girl was dressed respectably. "If your knowledge of fashion exceeds what can fit in a thimble you're hired."  

"I've followed Runway since I was nine.  Fashion since the moment I was allowed to dress myself.  My personal preference is Michael Kors.  His clothes are fresh and appealing.  Would you like me to fire the new Emily when I leave?  I assume you'd prefer me to start immediately."  Elise curled her toes into her shoes to refrain from squealing.  It wasn't that she was a squealer but sometimes, and in some cases, like when Miranda Priestly appeared to be about to hire you, these things happened.  Although the woman was sporting the oddest expression, almost as if a tutu wearing pony had waltzed in.  

Miranda brushed her lip with her thumb.  The few seconds of being gob smacked passed and then things returned to normal. "If you want a desk then you need to fire that maudlin creature taking up space out there. Get Andrea on the line. That's all."  

Having been schooled not to bother with agreements, she nodded once, stood and strolled out of the office.  Later she needed to buy a lottery ticket. Her luck was too good not to.  Ignoring Emily for a moment, she turned to the woman she was about to replace.  "You're fired.  Effective immediately.  Hurry up, you're in my chair." 

Cold perhaps but she was too excited to care about an idiot former employee.  The woman had her chance and blew it.  Turning to the actual Emily, she smiled and sat her attaché on the desk the woman was hurriedly cleaning out.  "I'm sorry about before.  I had strict instructions you see.  My name is Elise and I am the new you I suppose.  Don't worry, I'm already up on the general parts of Miranda's schedule, her habits, likes and dislikes as well as yours.  I have most of the numbers to the designers, photographers, stores and the like.  And my watch says it's about time for your lunch.  Why don't you go ahead and take it now.  Take thirty, if you'd like.  I can handle the phones."  

Emily nodded along in a daze.  Bloody hell maybe she did have a fairy godmother. At this point she didn't care if the new her had just walked out of the nearest psychiatric hospital. She sounded more competent than anyone had in months and she'd just fired the Stump. "I would kiss you new Emily if I didn't have to pee so bloody badly." With that she grabbed her handbag and flew out the door saying many prayers of thanks to anyone who might be listening.  

The woman she was replacing was gone by the time Elise dove for the phone. A mad dial to avoid Miranda's wrath and she called out, "I have her."  Announcing who felt wrong.  Although Andy couldn't hear it she whispered a thank you and an apology for not bothering to say hello before she put her on hold.    

Miranda swung her chair around so that she was looking out her window. "Presumptuous, cheeky, bold with a strong dash of insolence and I'm not talking about the latest run-through."
All breath holding in anticipation was forgotten for a brilliant smile.  Miranda had hired her.  If she hadn't what she did have to say would have been a lot harsher.  "You were sounding harried when you made that joke about me getting you a new Emily.  And today I realized I'd made a horrible oversight.  I haven't said thank you for Dan.  That...a dream.  So thank you, Miranda.  It means a lot.  I hoped Elise would make up for my bad manners."  

Aha so the gift had made an impression, good. Nice trade-off. "You could join me for a late dinner at the townhouse, say nine thirty. If you are finished work by then of course."  

"There's no place I'd rather be," though she'd have to get a serious amount of work done between now and then. Andy sat back at her desk then echoed the words aloud that had become a staple between them since the kiss.  "I've missed you."  

The sentiment left her looking puzzled.  Odd little newspaper girl. " Later is fine if you get busy. I'll be up."  

"And have your lips pursing over punctuality?  Nah, besides, I'm saving having to cancel or be late for another week, minimum."  Today she'd rather pluck out the hair on her head, one by one, than be late.  

"Bring your notepad. I'll see you at 9:30."  With that Miranda ended the call and set about terrorizing her new Emily.  



After a brisk knock on the door Andy stepped back from it to wait.  Her briefcase, a gift from the parents once she'd quit Runway, was stuffed full to overflowing.  A white card, blank except for an address was cradled in her free hand.  Seeing or dating Miranda required creativity.  Being too poor to afford new couture clothing extended to bringing a nice bottle of wine to dinner.  Flowers she'd considered briefly then tossed out in the same garbage bin for ideas as chocolate.  Miranda loved flowers but the sort of flowers she preferred were not in the budget if the journalist wanted to continue being able to buy her coffee and manage other little extras.

Still, she didn't particularly mind.  There was little doubt that being creative had been what brought her this far.  If Miranda wanted flowers she had a hundred other people that would, and did, send them to her in an attempt to gain favor or her eye.  Best not to be lumped in with them anyway.  An exceedingly good mood had carried her through the night and evening though she only had two hours max, before the need to return to work would rear its intrusive head.  Miranda had seemed so happy over Elise.  Working through the night to make up for not getting her work done in the morning was a fair trade off.  Yet, while Elise was deemed acceptable, Andy was cognizant of the line between helping Miranda and going too far.  They each had and needed their own worlds - the journalist almost more so than the woman she pursued.

Miranda opened the door at 9:28.  Her face betrayed nothing as she ushered Andy inside. "You're early." She looked every inch the earnest journalist and carried it off, nicely. "You know where the coat closet is." She was doing the Miranda stare but if Andy took notice it had nothing at all to do with the clothes and everything to do with the editor questioning the soundness of her own mind. The truth was she was starting to re-evaluate Andrea. The young woman was clever and resourceful and now it seemed whenever she saw her there was some little detail she'd overlooked before that made Andrea more attractive, desirable even, on the occasions she let her mind go there.

She'd been amused when the young journalist had copped to her crush and the ridiculous notion that she was going to pursue her former boss.  As time passed though and the brief contacts had become a fixture Miranda found herself questioning what indeed was so ridiculous about it.  Furthermore, she'd realized at some point during her first filleting of the new Emily, she quite liked Andrea's version of pursuing. It was creative, unique and effective.  Flattering, in a positive way, nearly an impossible feat in a world where flattery had become a dirty word.

"I thought you might like this.  I know it's not the requisite bottle of wine but it is the address of the art house where Clarice and those that did the photos frequent.  The place is a mini mad house.  Photographs showings in one corner, a dress in another, a sculpture in yet another.  Interesting place.  Some great talent and some that are deluded.  Anyway."  Andy shrugged.  A hello kiss was out.  The twins might be in bed but there was just as much of a chance that they weren't.

Once her coat was hung up, she picked her briefcase back up then allowed herself the indulgence of an admiring glance or two.  Their relationship, whatever it was, was slow going and that suited Andy just fine.  The more she got to know of Miranda in private, the harder she fell.  Although if the editor could look a little less put together and desirable once in awhile Andy wouldn't mind.  Denied want was quickly becoming a staple of life.  She passed the card off, helpless to resist letting her fingers brush over Mirada’s a little longer than might be considered appropriate.

Fingers wrapped around the ones lingering on hers.  Weeks, months, she'd lost count of how much time had passed since that Saturday on the terrace and Miranda decided there was something she wanted, that look. The one she remembered but often thought she'd imagined.  There was no hesitation as her mouth closed on Andy's as though it were the most natural thing in the world.  It wasn't, nor was the jolt that shocked her on contact as her lips first brushed across Andy's then settled in place, melding then directing. Hands that trembled just a little were locked together behind the younger woman's neck.  

She no longer wielded the intensity but it her as her tongue pressed between supple, soft lips in startling, uninhibited exploration.   Miranda was aware that Andrea was yielding and responsive and right there in the moment with her and then just as suddenly as it had started Miranda drew back, cognizant that that move more than any other signaled that come what may, the pursuit was desired. She cleared her throat, thoughts a bit fuzzy and retrieved the card that had fallen from her fingers to the floor. "Chef will serve dinner in twenty minutes. Would you like a drink?"

Andy swayed slightly in place.  The kiss was most unexpected.  That it ended was the cruelest of fates. Her mouth tasted of Miranda to the point she no longer wanted to have dinner at all.  Food would take over the exotic, almost spicy taste of her. Slowly managing to pry her eyes open, she stared with unrestrained want and more that Miranda wouldn't recognize.  Love.  The editor's question couldn't be recalled for the life of her.  The low thrum of desire that seemed constant around Miranda barely allowed itself to be wrestled down.  "Huh?"

The expression got to Miranda like little else could. Her thumb reached out to trace Andrea's bottom lip. There was a subtle hint of color there and shine but it was as smooth as the finest silk. Her resistance was low so she bent her head and kissed Andy again, a softer more chaste kiss. It was getting hard to tear herself away and she was not going to be caught making out like hormonal teenager in her foyer by the chef. Her voice was deeper, huskier, much to her chagrin. "About that drink."

"Mmm.  Okay."  Andy agreed because she hated to say huh again but she had no more idea of what was said then she had the last time.  Instead she existed in a thick early morning fog created by the kiss and fed by the timbre of Miranda's voice. She would have agreed to anything including skinning puppies.  The front of her body burned with the loss.  A flush had spread along her neck, of heat and then slight embarrassment over responding so unabashedly.  She was quite certain she'd moaned sometime during.  More embarrassing still was the way both nipples now stood erect, begging to wave, say hello and perhaps experience another of the editor's kisses.  One thing became clear.  Andy was doing the pursuing but Miranda was dictating their course.

Miranda's eyes dropped and honed in on Andrea's body's delightful and markedly visual response. "Nice." she murmured. "Up the stairs down the hall, second door on the left." She indicated that Andy should go first.  There was no crime in enjoying the attractive curve of her ass as she ascended the stairs. She was an icon, not a ice cut figurine.

"Second door.  Got it."  Almost. Maybe.  What door again?  Andy shook her head, desperately trying to clear it then picked up her bag that had dropped at some point.  The stairs might as well have been an obstacle course that she weaved up instead of walking in a straight line.  "Did Elise survive you terrorizing her?  On purpose if I were guessing."

Miranda let her eyes roam at will until they hit the top of the stairs. "Today yes. But there is always tomorrow."

"I'm not going to dare bet on either of you.  One bet against you and the look will begin."  The fog began to clear leaving behind the distinct impression of her ass being watched.  The idea of it made up for all those times when Miranda seemed untouchable.

Miranda veered off to the kitchen to confer with the chef. A quiet, clipped conversation followed before she rejoined her guest.  "I'm down another Chef.  I did save us from palate ruination though." His rack of lamb belonged buried in a dumpster somewhere, rat food. "My apologies." She could run the magazine but couldn't manage to feed one guest. Her silver hair nearly stood on end from the static. "Which means we can order in or I can make you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich."

"Peanut butter and jelly sounds great."  Or maybe it was the idea of watching Miranda make a sandwich.  The idea just seemed to clash with who the editor was.  This was however, she had to admit a serious deficiency if they continued on.  One of them simply had to learn to cook some basic dishes.  Her own knowledge of mac & cheese wouldn't get them very far.  And her Rolodex of known people didn't include chefs.  "The better question is will you eat PB&J?  If not, we should order something."

Her challenge monster rose up to full height.  "Yes."  Miranda rolled up her silk sleeves and ventured back to the kitchen.  Ten minutes later she had everything set out. Gourmet, soft white bread that was delivered every morning by six forty-five.  Homemade, creamy peanut butter specially blended to her girl's tastes.  The jelly was Smuckers.  Caroline insisted that nothing homemade could touch it. A small metal ruler was laid against the bread and Miranda scored the loaf every two thirds of an inch. Once that was completed she carefully sliced off pieces, laid them down and removed all crusts.   

Each slice was then smeared with a thin layer of unsalted butter, followed by the painstaking application of peanut butter to both slices, spread in one direction only.  The jelly was tested for temperature then applied to one slice only. The slices were put together, inspected for leakage and then carefully scored into four triangles and transferred to a plate where she then set out four perfectly cut chunks of a granny smith apple.  The process was repeated and then both plates were set on the table. "Beverage?"

"Water?"  Andy squeaked while staring at the sandwich and Miranda.  What the blazes was that?  "Beautiful sandwich."  Totally true. But what was that...almost thirty minutes had passed.  To make a PB&J.  Now she didn't know how to cook but she knew how to put a PB&J together in a minute, two tops.  The reason, the only reason that could be smacked her between the eyes.  "Caroline, Cassidy or both?"

"Caroline's specifications. She usually helps. But they both will eat it."  The chilled bottled water was poured and set out on the table.  Miranda had no qualms whatsoever of feeding her guests such fare.  If it was good enough for her girls then it was good enough for anyone. Besides, she had given Andrea the choice.

The twins while adorable were little beasts.  What else besides a beast requested a sandwich made like that.  Miranda would and they surely picked it up from her but on them it was even more horrifying than it was on their mother at times.  Andy would never tell the editor such a thing so she sat down and again shared that it looked perfect.  "No one can ever say you do the expected."

"I would have been washed up and forgotten long ago if I did." She took an appreciative bite of her sandwich. "The dinner next week with Dan. Take along an extensive list of questions."

Andy paused mid-bite.  One question made sense.  He might allow one but extensive ones?  No one did that. Fashion wasn't that far removed from the world that Miranda would think differently.  Was it?  "I thought I'd work on one good one.  But, no offense, I can't see him fielding many questions."

"Prepare only one if you'd like to sit across from him, alone for an hour looking, umming and awwwing.  Your imitation of a post will not impress him. But by all means cast a taint on your ilk and prepare but one good question."

"What?"  One perfectly prepared sandwich quarter fell back onto the plate.  Elation had no chance to take hold.  Inadequacy beat it to the punch.  Who the hell was she to ask him questions for an hour?  A glance at Miranda made refusing out of the question.  Andy could only imagine the favors she'd called into arrange it.  An hour of questions though was an hour of private questions.  "Miranda, he's Dan Rather."

There now she had Andrea's attention.  "Yes, and?"

"And I'm..."  Just a wannabe journalist from Cincinnati.  Dan Rather was to her what Miranda was to women at Runway and around the world.

"Andrea Sachs..." Her lips twitched upward to form a grin. "Pursuer, relentless pursuer. A necessary quality for success. He is to news what I am to fashion and as I recall not an hour ago you didn't give it a second thought as you were moaning into my mouth. "

Miranda had a valid point.  Unfortunately it would have been more effective if Andy hadn't forgotten the point of it as her face turned bright red.  The thought to tell the editor how long she'd pined away first disappeared as did reminding Miranda what a stumbling idiot she could turn into when rattled.  "Um, moaning into his mouth, uh...not the best impression left.  He's married."

"You're right, I'll call and cancel that part." As if. The girl would be putting in that appearance if she had to drag her by the hair.

Wide-eyed, Andy looked up from her plate to gauge whether or not Miranda was serious.  She wanted to do it but interviewing him required work, serious work.  Off the cuff and stupid questions would be a sin.  "You waited until now to tell me?  Less than a week Miranda!  I could research for a month and still not be ready."

"You could research for a lifetime and never be ready.  He's just a man under the icon.   Don't pick that lesson to be the slow girl in class about."

One glance around then a longer stare at Miranda was all the reminder needed.  The work she had tonight loomed when every second was needed to prepare for Dan.  Decisions, decisions.  To stay or to go?  The clock grew louder until a compromise finally appeared with great relief.  "The book should be here soon.  I want to see you, very much, but I too have a ton of work to do tonight for the Mirror so tomorrow I can work on Dan.  Would it bug you if I worked here for awhile?"

Miranda considered the question.  She didn't really understand why the girl wanted to stay and work at the same time, but she liked her presence so she nodded an consent. "You can stay. Remember this Andrea, you're easier to talk to when you're enjoying yourself."

Excitement hit like fireworks.  It fed into her confidence until Andy stood, walked around the table and pulled Miranda's chair back.  Feeling like she owned the world, she straddled the woman's lap and leaned in.  The feel of the woman nearly pushed her off the proverbial cliff.  The first brush was of thanks, the seconds of undiluted desire.  One hand quickly tangled itself in the editor's hair.  Passion freed itself of its tight constraints.  Small, needy moans betrayed just how much Miranda was wanted. Her mouth said things she couldn't find words for, exploring and giving until she felt herself dangerously close to not being able to pull back.

Body screaming in protest, she gently broke off the kiss, stood on wobbly legs then walked backwards until the wall got in the way.  "Thank you," Andy said anyway, voice a croak.  The gift had nothing to do with how alive she suddenly felt and the editor everything to do with the deep seeded ache that threatened to engulf the room.

In that moment Miranda was poised to stalk her down and seek a much more satisfying end. The intent was written clearly in her eyes as she vacated her chair.  The sound of the door opening in the foyer ramped the desire back to simmer. The intrusion broke the moment, the reason for it brought a reality check.  She would not keep Andrea from getting her work accomplished.  "My office is at the end of the hallway." There were two desks outfitting her spacious office. A large one and a smaller one she'd had installed for the girls to use when they wanted to be near to do their homework or whatever.

Office's had desks.  Big wooden or glass desks that supported weight and bodies.  Screwing her eyes shut, Andy pinched the bridge of her nose and purposefully tried to overwhelm herself with thoughts of Dan.  It worked enough to allow for walking.  Out of habit she picked up their plates, found and loaded the dishwasher then retrieved her bag.  Good intentions remained but she did allow for one deviation.  Brushing by Miranda, she threw something new out.  "Add want to miss."  As calmly as her racing heart allowed she located Miranda's office and purposefully stayed far away from either desk.  The floor became her workspace.

Simple words that set Miranda's brain to buzzing.  Her entire body flooded with sensations that had been missing since before Stephen had left.  Her hand held onto the banister as she descended the stairs and collected the book.

On the way to her office she got a phone call from her ex, Cassidy was having difficulty sleeping and wanted to speak to her.  In her efforts to calm her daughter down she started reciting the child's favorite story from memory.  Forgetting that Andy was in her office when she entered, she took a seat in the over-sized, leather office chair at her desk and finished the story. "Feeling better now sweetheart? No baby, I can't come and get you, we've talked about that.  Your dad will drop you off tomorrow night at six. Yes, I will be here." God how she loathed custody agreements, more so now that her ex had decided to move back to the city and wanted the girls with him at least two weeknights. Worse still that one daughter couldn't wait to go and the other blamed Miranda for sending her away.  

"Shhh, don't be silly Cassidy of course I love you.  Sleep well. I'll see you tomorrow."  The phone stayed at her ear for several minutes after it had obviously been disconnected.

Andy had been totally absorbed in her work until she happened to glance up and catch a pained expression.  The whys were easy enough to put together.  There were things worse than Miranda being a tyrant.  Namely when she hurt.  Pen tucked behind her ear she considered for but a moment pretending like she hadn't seen anything then tossed it out as unacceptable.  Unfolding from her spot, she moved around the desk then wrapped her arms around Miranda from behind, making the hold as non confining as possible.  She didn't know how to be unsupportive or keep the distance of Paris.  Neither did she want to make the editor uncomfortable.  "I have a few cop friends now.  They could keep him busy with extra parking tickets or something."

Miranda leaned back into the embrace, a small chuckle escaping despite herself.  "He's a good father just a lousy ex." That's all she would say, but even that bled off some the tension the call had brought.  In a flash the hold was shrugged off and the editor-in-chief returned as she reached for the book. "Work."

"Absolutely."  Hand drifting over Miranda's shoulder, she returned to her spot on the floor.  Andy let work take over for several minutes then, without once glancing up or breaking from her scribbling said as if talking to herself, "I'm afraid I don't have anyone to send him for that.  The lousy ex thing.  The best I could manage is someone to help him embrace his inner drag queen' but I fear that would cause more problems than it would solve."

Miranda didn't not appear to hear what had been said.  The flying red pen however struck with unnerving accuracy at the back of Andy's head even though she didn't appear to have ever looked up from the book.

The grin was impossible to control as Andy laid back on the floor, paper above her head.  Life really wasn't all that bad. Pursuing the Devil turned out better every day. 


The computer chirped, signaling a new message.  Andy paused in making notes for her article, waved Jace into silence then switched trains of thought and readied herself for the latest round.  At ten o'clock at night only the lowbies like them were left in the office.  A Nerf basketball game was going on in one corner.  On another night she would have joined it for a tension reliever.  But one did not go to Miranda for help then do anything other than sit by the computer.  She'd hesitated to do it at first.  It didn't feel quite right asking Miranda to read over the questions she'd come up with for the dinner the next night.  Hesitation was quickly trumped by qualifications and there was none better than Miranda, hater of most questions, to pick out the ones she'd hate, the ones that would be considered trivial, too personal or ridiculous.

Miranda had said yes, to her pleasant surprise.  So she'd begun sending questions, ten at a time to Miranda through email.  Extra time for personal visits had been out since their late night dinner.  To Andy's even greater surprise the editor only tended to dismiss five or so question out of each batch and all in all her comments were rather nice.  The younger woman had winced once or twice but in comparison to the way Jace now couldn't read through anything other than his fingers she figured she was handling the criticisms well.  It hadn't hurt that she could see where Miranda was trying to guide her or that she'd heard a lot worse.  Her dear friend though, she began to worry he was going to hide whenever it came time to meet the editor.

Steeling herself, Andy clicked on the email.  Six fell to the axe.  Ouch.  Andy rubbed her forehead then called up her WordPad.  The order of questions she was sending quickly got changed around in what to her mind was a better set.  Or at least it might not be deemed as bad as the previous set.  "So we have an acceptable, good, well thought out and an interesting.  Scratch of 3, 4, 6, 7, 9 and 10 please."

Leaving Jace, who'd agreed to help also, to kill those, she read over them once more and decided no, this time, there really weren't any she felt like fighting for.  Copying in the new questions Andy then typed a brief reply to the Fashionista.  "I can't argue any of those.  Reeks of an incompetent hack?  Why don't you just call me Emily next time - yes, I am joking.  Mostly."

Miranda had set the book aside fifteen minutes previous and focused all her attention on the list of questions Andrea was fretting over. She did a line through for only three questions on this round, combined two and put 'personalize' in italics beside two others.  One question was underscored and a note added beside it: 'Put this one in your top three, it's good.  Incompetent hack? I don't assist hacks."

The compliment got a wide smile out of Andy.  The question was immediately rewritten on another pad, instead of handing it off to Jace.  A glance at her screen and she bit the bullet.  There was one seemingly benign question about his early days that she knew Miranda was going to want gone and she very much wanted it to stay.  And then there were the others she was likely to key in on.  Editor by day, heat seeking missile by night.  She closed one eye and pasted them in.  "I want number four.  I know it's more personal.  I know it's based on rumor and speculation.  But if it's true it was a huge turning point in his career."  Pausing, she dropped down several lines before adding, "True.  Next time, if there is one and time allots, get another ticket please.  Join me."

"Tread carefully with number four. Find the angle that doesn't steer him to the defensive."  She typed out as Patricia sauntered into the office and put her paws up on Miranda's knees. She paused in her reply to pay the big hairy beast some attention. "Down Patty, take your boo and go lay in the corner. Scoot." The dog gave her a baleful look and went to her designated corner.  "Seven, eight and nine are just variations of previous questions, choose."  Her French manicured nails tapped on the desk. "Call me when you get home tomorrow night."

"Count on it."  Andy replied then forced herself to pay attention to the rest of the email.  Variations her eye.  The wording changed the context which changed the answer and oh to hell with it. Getting one good answer was better than getting two diluted ones.  Wholly absorbed now that the replies were coming faster, she forgot her article for work and pasted the next set.  "I figured I'd call you as soon as I left.  You'll have to suffer through my excited babble just this once.  I don't suppose you'd want to help me figure out what to wear?"

Miranda's eye became more critical with each pass and her comments lessened until she got to the more personal comments. "If you must be a babbling fool this is the one occasion the right choice is with me. " Miranda expelled a gasp that was only heard by Patricia. "You don't have your outfit selected?"

No stranger to reading tone into the printed word, Andy winced then typed a reply.  "Sort of?"  Hopefully Miranda would help with the clothing dilemma.  Every outfit she'd put together came out looking wrong.  And besides, if you were seeing the editor of Runway, you might as well ask.

Miranda had placed a call to her backup driver while awaiting Andrea's reply. "There are no sort ofs. Do not go soft in the head now. Need I remind you...Dan Rather." She was smiling as she hit send then took a package down to the foyer for Roy to deliver to the Mirror.

"I've arranged every piece in my closet a hundred times.  Every time I think I've found the right combo I find something I don't like about it.  It's getting ridiculous."  No, it was beyond ridiculous.  Life before fashion had been so much easier.  Andy hit send then luxuriated in a long stretch.

"You have a delivery. Just this once pretend you aren't an ice cap and trot down there pronto."

Delivery?  What was she...  Out of habit, Andy glanced around then hopped up and headed for the door.  Even if Miranda was messing with her it was better to find out by going downstairs.  The brisk fall air held the distinct smell of snow.  Having forgotten her jacket, she waved foolishly at the security guard then huddled up against the building to wait.

Roy appeared what felt like hours later instead of minutes and handed off a garment bag before hurrying off, anxious to get back to the ball game he'd been watching.

Mouth hanging open and wide-eyed Andy stared at his back.  Miranda.  Had delivered clothing.  The cold air finally forced her into moving or freezing and she reentered the building.  Desire to look did battle with trepidation for undefined reasons.  Laying the bag over an empty chair, she picked up the phone and dialed the editor's number.

The phone was allowed to ring three times. "And?"

"I'm scared to look."  She winced as she said it.  Admitting fear to Miranda never came out all that well.

"Grow a spine and get dressed." Miranda gawked at the phone unable to believe the girl wasn't dressed already.

"You do know how to charm a girl."  Taking a page from the editor's book, she hung up.  Dressing, right.  She'd not seen Miranda in a week and now she'd sent over clothes or an item of some sort.  No, there was no reason to be surprised at all.  This was perfectly normal.  Ten minutes later she stared at a figment of herself in the mirror.  The requisite little black dress clung to her frame, only one more suited to a serious evening. Chanel.  In a size four.  It was daring in form yet seemed sedated enough to meet the President.  Oh boy.  Unable to help herself, she slipped into the included black and silver Prada shoes and waited until her sea-legs hit.  They were the pretty.  The underwear that remained in the bag, waiting to be donned tomorrow night, that one she'd have to make sure not to think about.  It wouldn't due to turn red in front of Dan.  The bra on the other hand she could live in.

Deciding it was time to see if she still remembered how to walk in the heels while in such a dress, she exited the bathroom.  The unusual clacking of her heels alerted Jace before she ever reached him.  "Well, it's not the discount bin."

He issued a catcall. "Damn you wash up purty."  Jace circled her several times.  "I'm impressed.  It's criminal how perfectly that fits."

"It's criminal how good it feels on.  Give me a minute."  Appropriating a nearby phone, she redialed the editor.  "A sin."

Miranda had changed into nightwear and slipped between the sheets of her king size bed which seemed ridiculously massive when she was alone. "All the best things are."

"Like you?"  Andy blinked at herself and glanced around for a cause to attribute the way that had rolled out.  It was the dress talking, it had to be the dress.

There were times Miranda decided that the phone was preferable to speaking in person.  She was unaccustomed to teasing, people simply did not tease Miranda Priestly.  It was a holy writ or something that only Nigel dared break on rare occasions.  Her cheeks colored just a little. "The eighth deadly sin."

"Nine and ten too."  Whoa.  Bold, brash and flirtatious.  Note for the file:  Black Chanel dresses loosen the tongue.  "The dress is affecting my brain I think.  The next couple of weekends are hell for me but the weekend after I promised to put in an appearance at a gallery in SoHo.  Join me?  If we put a beanie hat on your head no one would even recognize you."

"I can't. Irv has just booked me for five days in Milan." There was an edge to her voice that usually she filtered out, but not tonight. "It fits? The shoes?"

Damn.  And she'd have the girls the weekend after getting back. "They fit to perfection.  Thank you Miranda.  You didn't have to but thank you."

"You're welcome. It's late. Andrea, enjoy yourself. Goodnight."

"I miss you," she said just before the click came.  More than just sentiment, it felt especially true while standing in a fairytale dress that she would be meeting Dan Rather in tomorrow.  Alone.  Their schedules were what they were and neither were willing to change that.  But tomorrow she'd start looking for a way to work in their goals and have some private time too.  Andy released a small sigh then turned back to Jace.  "Feel like a cup of coffee before the late night calls hit?"

"You buying pretty woman?"

"Don't I always buy our midnight runs?  Just let me change real quick."  She winked and returned to the bathroom.  If the dress had been for anything else but the following night, she would have slept in it later just to be a little closer to Miranda.


New York City sped by in a stream of headlights and honking horns.  People bustled along the sidewalks, hurrying home to get out of the cold air.  Mother's barked at children to stay close.  The early twenties crowd moved against them.  The night had just begun for them.  There were restaurants to visit, friends to laugh with.  A thousand things they wanted to see lay waiting for the taking.  Another two thousand sat waiting to be plucked and added to the list. More sprung up every day.  On the fifth floor of an old tenement building, Andy was not among them.  She'd adjusted to the sounds of New York so much that the city had become a pleasant white noise.  A musical composition unto itself, one either acquired a taste for it or hated it with little in between.

The young journalist who'd been so skittish of the overwhelming masses when she'd first arrived couldn't imagine living anywhere else.  Forgotten were the days when she'd had to drive for 10 minutes or more to go to dinner or browse the latest CDs.  The wait seemed unimaginable.  Stravinsky played on a small stereo in the corner, an acquisition earlier in the week from a shop a block and a half away.  Under normal circumstances she could pick up or leave classical like she changed clothes.  A love affair with it had yet to develop.  Until that was, she found herself trying to connect to Miranda.  The little things soothed the aches from what was heading into month long separation.

Stravinsky got her through those little passing moments between work and friends that she couldn't quite fill enough to keep missing the editor from settling into her bones.  In a corner of the living room on a nail where an art print had been hung the dress she'd been given for her night with Dan.  The night had been a lifelong dream, far better than anything her imagination could have created.  As much as the dress would always hold memories of talking to him it hung there as if to fill the space Miranda's absence had left.  It made no difference that the editor had never set foot in the apartment.  Longing for her wasn't limited to the places she'd physically been in.

After Andy met the acclaimed newsman she'd been an excitable ball of energy that had returned home to call Miranda.  Every detail had been recounted in a tolerated gush.  The sincerest words of thanks came in between great heaves of words that made it seem as if the editor had been there.  Whether the change had come from that call or was a natural progression she hadn't given anymore thought to than she did trying to define what they were or weren't.  She made a point to email or call Miranda once a day when face time was impossible and the editor seemed to make time to call even from Milan.  Andy happily worked thirds through the week just to make certain she was up when the woman called in the middle of the night.  Although the conversations were often short they almost made the separation and hellish week bearable.

Almost.  Miranda's voice however, caused concern in all the hours in between.  She sounded exhausted and irritable.  Irv had left her no choice but to go and the longer she was there the more certain of the editor's desire not to be there Andy had become.  It felt like far more than Miranda's simple dislike of being away fromRunway.  The editor had even agreed, though not in those exact words.  Yet each time Miranda called the annoyance had one center of focus, Irv.  It came through in the silence as much as it did in the spoken words.

What their conversations had no effect on were those days the journalist normally would have delivered coffee.  Those mornings when her feet had naturally detoured by the Starbucks across from Elias-Clarke nothing could stem off the ache that welled up.  Their relationship wasn't conventional any more than it was peppered with dozens of outings, dinners and dates.  But even the unconventional had its habits.  Those quick flyby coffees, a quietly spoken word of hello or quick morsel of expressed happiness had become as sustaining as the usual cornerstones of dating ever could have.  No, Andy corrected in her mind, research forgotten for the moment, they meant more.

She made the effort to stave off sleep after a long nights work or took great care to try and schedule appointments and meetings after the habitual coffee time and Miranda, whether by design or luck, tried to arrange it to get into the office at precisely 8:45.  Andy had never asked which it was while suspecting the former.  There were unavoidable alterations in their chaotic routine.  They wouldn't have been them if that weren't true but when that happened, the next day or break was quickly latched on to.  Poor Emily was close to a breakdown over all the unexplained changes in Miranda's routine.

First there was the coffee.  The assistant never knew the days Miranda would arrive ahead of schedule with it in hand.  Their days weren't that set.  If they had been Emily would have caught on to the who months prior.  Desk clerks and guards either weren't talking or knew nothing despite her best attempts to ferret out the cause of the change.  The editor alone knew that thanks to a discrete mention of them having watchers by Elise, who had miraculously and mysteriously survived all Miranda's attempts to sabotage the girl.  The new Emily had been a find that she and Andy hadn't once discussed since.  And then there were the mysterious lunches that arrived without rhyme or reason.  Sometimes they would appear once a week for two weeks in a row.  At other times they were biweekly.  Jace played delivery boy each and every time and never failed to leave without a new number of some girl that had turned his head.

If asked directly, Andy couldn't have given the criteria she used to send over lunches anymore than she could have an early mid-morning coffee.  There were no set parameters.  Miranda's mood was sometimes the cause, a small break in her schedule or just to say hi at other times.  The journalist put it in a bag from the same Bistro every time.  Miranda never failed to try it and on those occasions she found it to be excellent poor Emily had been given the chore of ordering it for the girls.  The task had quickly been passed off to Elise who, having a little more insider information called Jace to get the necessary information.  That she'd figured on her own that discretion was critical remained the sole reason she hadn't been fired for having any idea at all.  She asked no questions, not even of her cousin.

In appreciation for the woman's continued silence, Andy would text message her anytime she became aware of a last minute change in schedule that Miranda had decided on while away from the office.  Half a dozen times Emily bombarded the new her with questions.  There was a puzzle she couldn't stand not solving, especially when it came down to possibly losing her head because she didn't have an inside scoop.  Elise kept silent but had enough sense to appease the Brit by keeping the woman up-to-date on what she knew, when she knew it.  As a trade, she passed off Miranda's schedule to Roy who in turn kept Andy in the know.  Since it was clear to him Miranda was more than a little receptive to the woman the trading of information had become normal instead of favors owed.

So much went into the little things that had kept their relationship going that this particular absence made Andy keenly aware of all the things that were off.  The journalist sighed and glanced at the clock then put on a new pot of coffee.  Her friends were late.  They'd planned a night of drinking and bemoaning work barring anything unforeseen coming up at work.  She usually enjoyed their biweekly gatherings but tonight she just wasn't in the mood.  The lack of a phone call from Miranda the night before had thrown her day off.  Attempts to call the editor's room had been fruitless.  Given that she was with Irv, Andy held off calling her cell lest she put Miranda in the bad position of receiving the call around him.  The editor wouldn't let it go to voicemail because that would raise almost as many questions as answering would.

The journalist stared at the dress then at the framed photos of a couple of Runway shoots that hung between prints of Van Gogh, Edward Hopper, Le-lind and most recently a few real paintings given to her by artist friends she'd met on the job or through other friends.  An eclectic mix to most eyes, it made the small apartment feel like home.  The apartment showed no signs of Nate's former presence.  Through a friend of a friend, she'd managed to pick up cheap pieces of furniture to replace what he had taken.  Other friends of friends redid or restored them for nothing more than the cost of materials.  Life on a small budget in New York really wasn't all that bad so long as you understood the one basic fundamental of the city:  who you knew was more important than what you knew.

She'd even taken to befriending as many street vendors as possible.  They were good people, often some of the best sources since they saw so much and now more than ever, the discount they offered on their food was a great help when you were buying your lunch as well as the occasional lunch for Miranda.  Picking up a Style section article or two, per week, was a nice break from the often somber pieces she otherwise found herself assigned to do.  The extra boost in her paycheck didn't hurt either.  Shaking her head, Andy tried to refocus on the mountain of work in front of her.  She was one article away from having an in with the owner of one of New York City’s handful of three star, Michelin rated restaurants.

That would make working in the hot, sweaty kitchens for three days, trying to understand how the restaurant worked, all worth it.  The article was already half written.  Submitting it meant being able to take Miranda to one of the most desirable restaurants in the city, for free.  The thought brought a thrill of excitement that ran up and down her spine.  Jace had asked, not all that long ago, how she knew things were any different than they had been months ago.  His honest curiosity got him a truthful answer that she doubted he really understood.  The difference between now and then was in the little things.  The conversations with Miranda hadn't just become more frequent, they'd gotten longer.

And now as opposed to then, she was quite certain the editor would say yes to dinner even if it had been at one of those horrid little fake bistro places that she now ate from every so often.  For further evidence of the change she only had to look toward Milan where Miranda had begun reading her articles via email, before they were printed.  She read for critiques and more importantly she read them just to read the journalists work.  Bolstered by the memories Andy redirected her musings away from Miranda and their relationship to the tasks at hand.

Far away from Italy, Miranda Priestly did the unthinkable and took a taxi from the airport into the city.  Four days into a five day excursion and she'd left Milan in a rage. She considered it self preservation. Irv wouldn't, but she'd deal with that fallout later.  Perhaps cooler heads would prevail when he cut back on the Viagra.

A quick call to the Mirror en route to her home and she was informed that Andrea wasn't working that shift.  She gave serious consideration to calling the girl’s father and picking them up early but wasn't up to one of his tirades about how she juggled the children around at her whim without any consideration of anyone else's schedule.  It wasn't the entire truth, but neither was she in the mood to play nice, not now, not today, not after Cassidy's email.

She reached up and a long gloved finger swiped a silver strand back into place.  She wasn't tired, just frayed.  All the way into the city she debated with herself.  She'd not spent any time with her pursuer in a month.  She rolled her eyes at herself and muttered, 'modern day romance' then chided herself, two, three kisses did not make a romance. And besides what the hell was she doing even dabbling with the idea.

Because, her mind scolded, Andrea walking away had been for the best.  It had.  She'd lost an assistant with enough potential that she would have left anyway and she'd gained; what had she gained?  The lights of the city flashed by in a blur as Miranda opened her handbag and searched until she found the card she carried.  She squinted to read her own script then read out the address for the driver not adding any barb about his abysmal driving skills or the stench of his vehicle.

She'd gained an unexpected someone whom she enjoyed talking to.  Most would consider that a friend, but then there was that sticky little issue of Andrea being 'gone on her'.  That had yet to be defined. Lust, curiosity? And then there were her own feelings which were wildly volatile on any given day.  Considering getting involved with the journalist in any capacity beyond friendship was foolishness.

Foolish or not, she exited the cab and looked up at the building while refusing to look too closely.  The names of the occupants were listed beside little dirty buttons.  Her finger was about to tap the one labeled Sachs when the door opened and two young boisterous people exited.  She caught the door and left herself in, refusing to breathe through her nose as she mounted the stairs.

Cliché, she'd be as big of a cliché as Irv if she let things get out of hand with Andrea. She stood in front of the door; there was no brass knocker so she sighed and rapped with her knuckles.

Andy's head whipped up.  A quick look at the clock and she hurriedly moved her stuff aside.  So much for not wanting to deal with friends.  A half-hearted attempt at a smile plastered itself to her face just before she swung open the door.   "You're la.... Miranda?"  A flood of emotion rooted her in place for a split second and then Andy's entire demeanor changed.  The long separation faded.  The journalist went from moody to a child on Christmas morning. An undignified little squeak escaped her throat.  Large eyes radiated pleasure.  Joy wafted off her like a fine perfume as she all but pounced the other woman.  The tackle would have done a linebacker proud while shaming many octopi.  The journalist wrapped around Miranda in a fierce hug that spoke volumes about how happy the return made her.

The editor feared for her ribs as her appendages went numb.  And yet even the Dragon lady was not immune to such unadulterated, unrestrained happiness.  Tension drained with each passing second that she let herself be held, her own arms seemed pinned at her side or she would have tried to at least return the embrace. "May La Miranda actually come in so she doesn't end up on Page Six for being accosted by a linebacker?"

"Oh.  Oh!"  Andy didn't quite let go as she tugged the woman inside then bolted the door behind her.  The editor might disappear if left alone.  Thoughts of her small apartment or what Miranda might think of it couldn't have penetrated the delighted fog that surrounded Andy if they'd tried.  Those would come later.  One hand remaining on the editor, she took her bags, set them by the door then drug the woman out of her coat and along behind her by hook or by crook.  Next came the soft push the propelled Miranda onto the couch.  Andy didn't think as she sat down in the corner of the couch and stretched her legs across the woman.  Slender arms threaded around the editor's neck.  A soft, contented sigh echoed against her cheek from the spot Andy had chosen to nuzzle.  "You're back."

That level enthusiasm and genuine affection was not something Miranda had experienced from another adult ever.  It was a good, if unsettling, feeling.  Her fingers rested lightly on Andy's shoulders.  "You're home."

"I've missed you so much."  Nuzzling turned to the lightest of kisses.  The faint scent of Miranda's perfume seeped into her skin filling all those places that hadn't felt the same for a week.

Andy's warmth and nearness bled off the vestiges of the jetlag. A shiver danced down her spine at the brief touch of silken lips.  "It's wonderful to see you."

"And you.  I wasn't expecting you until tomorrow, obviously and then with the weekend...  Would you like something?  I put on fresh coffee a few minutes ago."   She'd move only if she had to, otherwise, as far as the journalist was concerned Miranda would be lucky if she didn't wake up in the same spot.

"I left early. No coffee. No moving. You, I want you."  Great, now she could add babbling idiot to fool and cliché. Which might be important if she gave half a damn. "Hello Andrea."

Tilting her head back just a little, Andy fingered the lock of hair that had fallen over one blue eye.  "I love when it does that."  Fingers dropping to trace a cheekbone, she leaned up and placed a soft, lingering kiss on the editor's full lips.  The air had gotten lighter with Miranda's statement.  "I hope so.  I'm here for as long as you want.  And not as a silly girl with a crush but as someone that gets a little more lost in you, each day."

At a loss of what she was supposed to say, Miranda let the tips of her fingers tangle in the ends of Andy's dark, nutmeg locks and breathed deeply.  She smelled so...real. "I came by taxi."

"A taxi?  Is he still out there?"  More importantly Miranda and the cabbie survived the taxi ride.  A new grin appeared, unrestrained and happy.  Miranda rode in a taxi to come see her.  No Roy, Runway or the woman the world expected then.  Discretion for both their sakes was imperative but this felt the most private they'd engaged in.

There was a tug on the hair locked around her fingers. "Yes. Those things should be outlawed. Big, ugly, yellow, noxious, death traps. I dismissed him and he sped off in a cloud of stench." Her eyes roamed over Andrea's face looking for changes. There were none but there was something.

"One brought you here so I'll pay homage to them for a month - from the sidewalk.  Are you alright?  I've been worried about you.  Your voice has sounded off.  Hold that thought one second."  Andy leaned back and stretched out left leg until her toe rested on the Blackberry.  Three attempts at pulling it closer and she had it in hand.  Resting her forehead against Miranda's cheek she typed a quick message to Jace and hit send.  The night was off and if they came she'd throw them all down the stairs.  "Sorry about that.  All yours now."
"If I ever need a bodyguard I know your number."  Miranda claimed the lips that were so close and driving her half mad in a short but heated kiss. "You had plans?"

A warm glow turned Andy's skin a light pink as she leaned in and nibbled the editor's bottom lip before answering.  "The usual bi-weekly get together.  I wasn't in the mood but didn't have a good reason to get out of it.  They can go elsewhere.  You're here and if I have my way you'll stay until morning.  Um, I mean...sleep here.  Uh, just sleep.  No pressure or expectations.  I um, just, uh, well I've missed you."

"I see." Her hand splayed and ran down the center of Andy's back before she leaned over and shifted their positions. Andy found herself staring up at her as she swooped in for a kiss that made the proper reintroductions.  She tasted sweet; Miranda hummed as she took possession of the mouth she'd been wanting to revisit for far too long. Her blood thickened and she didn't try to stop the lusty little moan when her tongue engaged Andy's.

The moan set off a corresponding one in the journalist.  Andy responded with all of her.  Longing moans painted a picture of her desire at the same time her tongue did.  The same spicy taste she'd dreamed about overwhelmed tightly held control until her hands were running aimlessly up and down Miranda's back.  She tugged once, making sure all the woman's weight pressed her into the couch.  Acutely aware of every touch, she couldn't help but to muss the silver locks when her fingers tangled in them.  Neither could she help the small arch of her back.  Natural instinct overruled thought, wanting and seeking more.

Miranda's breathing was strained when she parted their lips and just stared at Andy. Surely those orgasm inducing moans had not come from those innocent lips.

"Miranda."  Arching up, Andy traced her tongue over swollen lips then slowly lowered back down with a bone racking shudder.  Guarded walls to shield her thoughts and feelings were a concept she'd not yet had any reason to learn when alone.  Miranda wasn't one of her models but her beauty was her own and it called to Andy far more than others ever could.  "Don't move.  Please."

Gleaming teeth nipped at Andy's tongue then held it hostage. Her body settled into Andy's, every plane of contact between them realized as her blood jumped to a full boil.  Pliable, willing and wanting was shuddering beneath her, luring, seducing.  Heavy lids dropped hiding half of her sharp, hungry eyes. Her lips closed on Andy's once again but stopped as she whispered against them. "No moving?"

"Off, no moving off."  The cheerful voice was gone, replaced with a lower version of itself that sounded like it belonged in a smoky, dimly lit bar.  Miranda was tantalizingly soft yet firm and hard in all the right places.  Andy arched again while initiating a kiss that left her head spinning.  The kisses of before suddenly seemed innocent and lacking.  Breath quickening, she broke away from those intoxicating lips to zero in on a sinfully soft neck. "I want you."

It was Miranda's turn to arch. Her neck was an erogenous zone that sent wet flashes of heat between thighs that were pressed hard into Andy.  A sharp gasp marked her appreciation. "An-dre-a."

A gentle bite landed as a reward.  Andy's tongue traced the area, soothing.  Then she went back to repeating exactly what she'd done to cause Miranda to say her name that way.  All thoughts of going slow had disappeared when she pressed down against the smoothly muscled thigh.  Everything said go, demanded more in a tight hot ball that settled in her stomach and spread outward.  Hard nipples pressed against the editor while clamping thighs tried to claim the woman's leg for her own.  One hand strayed down until it was tracing the curve of Miranda's ass.  Andy's own moan spoke volumes.  "Miranda.  Stay."

A panted breath heated Andy's earlobe.  "Do you have a bed?" Dear God she hoped so, putting her back out on the couch would be a bitch in the morning. Her lips found Andy's pulse point and sucked vigorously. "Mmm." It would mark.

"There."  A hand lifted long enough to wave in the general direction of the windowed wall.  The rest of her pressed Miranda's head close and squirmed.  Their clothing set off a scratching friction that was becoming painful.  She breathed hard in the editor's ear, warm pants painting the skin.  "Bed. Now.  Yes."

Moving was the last thing any of her cells wanted to do, but three failed attempts at loosing any of Andy's clothing had Miranda huffing in frustration and partially sitting up in order to move to the mythical bed. Her head dipped again locking her lips with Andrea's as she pulled the younger woman up with her. "An-dre-a.  Wouldn't you rather I spend my time disrobing you than playing find the bed?"

Huh?  The nicest fog surrounded them.  Or it had until Miranda broke the cardinal rule and moved.  "That was rude."  And damned if she wasn't cold now.  And turned on to the point of humping a wall.  "Very, very Devil-like of you," she said against her soon to be lover's lips.  Threading their hands together, she stepped back, putting some distance between them yet remaining linked.  Nothing existed but the smoky depths of those blue eyes.  On wobbly legs she led them through the door then reluctantly dropped her hands.  Another step back and the bed was at her knees.  Andy made a show of tracing the buttons of her shirt and an even bigger one of undoing the first three.  Here in her own home with Miranda she felt confident and safe enough to leave the stammering young girl behind.  "Coming?"

Gaze fixed on nimble fingers now discarding buttons Miranda slipped out of her Jimmy Choos.  "Not yet."

"Mmm.  That's because you're way over there."  Free of its buttons, the shirt fell open to reveal a tantalizing stretch of milky white skin.  Goosebumps appeared, further visible proof of Andy's desire.  The brief make-out session on the couch had answered all Andy's questions.  The intricacies of sex with a woman might be different but the fundamentals remained.  Missing the closeness of the editor, she slowly slipped out of her shirt then tossed it at the woman's feet.  "Please."

A siren's call from the face of innocence. Miranda’s walk was slower, the sway of her hips intentional.  Her body rippled with haughty sensuality.  The back of her hand trailed over the swell of Andy's breast in an excruciatingly slow trace around the lace of her black bra.  Soft, taut, heat.  "Gorgeous."

"God."  Miranda was nothing short of captivating.  For all her good intentions Andy forgot the role of seducing after one simple touch.  Dark hair swayed against her white back, head having dropped back as she arched into the touch.  Comfortable fitting jeans felt painfully tight. Drunken flashes of rising need had her hand curling in the material covering the editor's stomach and pulling her forward.  "Killing me."

Her nails bit in just enough to leave light impressions as the editor's hands ran down Andy's sides.  She cleared her throat.  A thumb reached out and pressed into one prominent nipple.  "You've never looked more alive to me."

A husky, private laugh wrapped around them.  Within it was a long moan.  Andy shivered, every cell in overdrive.  Boldly, she slid her jeans off and kicked them away then wormed her fingers under the editor's shirt to stroke up her sides.  One touch of the hot skin and her eyes fluttered shut.  "Perfection.  Come to bed."

Had Andy been luring her to a hay filled mattress teaming with dancing mice it would be the only time Miranda would not have noticed. Entranced, she finally had an inkling of what 'gone' meant.  Andy's back hit the mattress before she had time to register it.  Hands went from languorous exploration to frenzied.  Need quickly superseded all else.  The editor’s knees pressed into slender hips and she leaned down and dispensed with the bra.  Miranda rolled diamond hard nipples between her fingers intently watching her lover's face.

The journalist didn't disappoint.  Her face twisted to almost pain filled only to then contort into the face of one dangerously close to seeing God. "Mirrandaaa,"  she breathed out, back curling up so hard it should have snapped in two.  Andy reached blindly for her lover with one hand while the other clenched in the sheet.  By some miracle the shirt the editor was wearing stopped barring her from the skin underneath.  The time spent pursuing combined with months of being alone.  Slow and loving were for some other time in another place.  One where her thighs weren't wet and she wasn't almost shaking with pent-up want.  "More. Inside."

The plea set off an inferno and Miranda's hesitation and inhibitions vanished as Andy's panties fell prey to her fingers. "Do you want me here?" Her lips drew her lover into a searing kiss as her fingers dipped then stroked through the slippery vale between swollen folds and circled twice before sinking inside, first to the knuckle and then deeper as Miranda adjusted to the sensation of tight slick walls bearing down on her. "Or here?" she huffed with her own excitement and pulled back just enough to watch Andy's undoing.

"Both," the journalist demanded in between digging her heels into the bed to push up and yanking Miranda closer.  Fantasy didn't come close to reality.  Gone was the bookish, innocent young woman that had first walked into Runway.  The private side of her emerged, wild and unrestrained.  The smell of Miranda was everywhere.  It fed the ache that clenched tight around the woman's fingers, desperate for more.  Andy ripped her mouth away from the kiss then opened her eyes.  Nose to nose, she heaved a large breath, stared into the swirling midnight depths, licked Miranda's lips and said, "There. More.  Baise-moi."

Miranda’s other hand had moved to clench Andy's ass, three fingers curled around her thigh while a forth stroked the wet path to the hood of her clit and then circled it in tight strokes until her finger was pressed hard against the throbbing stiff peak.  Finesse could be perfected at another time.  Andrea wanted to be fucked and she would oblige. Miranda positioned her thigh between her lover's legs and used it as leverage as she drove her fingers in harder and deeper with each pass.  She groaned without restraint at the delicious friction her lover's walls inflicted against her fingers.  Humid pants fell against Andy's lips and neck alternatively.  "Beautiful Andrea." She grunted, her long hard strokes getting impossibly harder.  "God, you are exquisitely tight. I could stay buried in you forever."

Miranda's voice was gasoline on a fire that was already lapping at the forest.  Infinite moments in life became finite until they boiled down to one.  Andy held on, planting random kisses that abruptly stopped when she arched off the bed, taking Miranda with her, and screamed her lover's name in a breathless garble.  A year of waiting could have built their coupling up so much that the real thing was a letdown.  Instead they were incomparable.  Arms wrapping tight around the editor she continued whispering her name in what sounded like a sacred prayer.

Watching the climax hit her lover's eyes and then feeling the powerful shudders lancing through her stroked Miranda's own desire with a phantom finger. She hissed loudly as each contraction swept over the younger woman and then seemed to ripple into her through Andy's vice of an embrace. "Oh, Andrea, so very alive. Beautiful."

"Mmm."  The sentiment sunk in if the words did not.  Andy didn't move other than to pull the editor closer.  Her head remained buried in Miranda's neck as she began the slow crawl back toward sanity.  Caught between worlds she memorized every detail until a slow awareness sunk in.  The encounter had been at once hot and cool, passionate and teasingly restrained.  Later she would stop to consider that.  In the moment Miranda still wore far too many clothes.  One stretch and the body pronounced itself recovered.  Clenching her walls on purpose, she rolled them over with one fluid motion, her lover held tight inside.   

A gentle finger stroked the editor's cheek.  And then a wolfish smile appeared as she glanced down and allowed herself her first long look, clothes or not.  "Exquisite.  I miss you so much and you are perfection though you're wearing far too much."

Miranda found she enjoyed the look.  The words however had her eyes fluttering shut just for a moment as she let herself bask in the sentiment.  She started unbuttoning her own clothes, impatient now to feel her lover's overheated skin against her own, finally. She turned and captured the finger on her cheek between her lips the contact, intoxicating. "Touch me Andrea.  It's been too long."


Three hours later all the lights had been turned off except for a single low light on the nightstand.  The clock ticked toward midnight.  As far as Andy was concerned it could have been 8am and it could have been 3am.  Equal parts exhausted and wide awake she lay tucked against the woman she was pretty sure she'd caught.  Idle fingers played over the sensitive skin of Miranda's hip.  Passionate exploration had gotten better with every touch.  Moments of awkwardness had found another apartment to occupy.  Best of all, her good mood seemed mirrored in Miranda who hadn't rolled away or made as if to get up.  "I have all these things I've wanted to tell you.  Funny, I can't think of a one right now."

Hair in a wild disarray, she laid there uncovered as the air started to chill her exerted body. It felt glorious and her buoyant mood was reflected in her deep, throaty chuckle. Her head was face down in the pillow. When she turned her head a little line appeared between her brows.  One arm reached out and pulled Andy close.  Kissing the back of her hand, Miranda let out a contented little sigh. "I'll go first then.  Do you always scream like that? And are your walls soundproof or do your neighbors stay in on Friday nights for the cheap entertainment"  Blue eyes flickered in absolute amusement. "I like your scream."

Blushing should have been the last thing that either did after that.  The journalist's body had unfortunately missed that memo.  She moved closer yet, half laying on top of the woman, half beside her.  Laying her head on Miranda's arm she tried for cavalier.  The red deepened.  "On rare occasion.  Never multiple times in a row before and no I don't think they are.  No one's had reason to complain for over a year though.  They owe me.  I prefer that long raspy moan you do.  Almost as much as I like your hair like this."

Miranda shuddered to consider her hair.  Naked, drenched in sex and sweat was fine.  She was surprisingly at ease with the after but she purposely never thought about the hair.  "You're blushing now? I think that train pulled out a couple hours ago."

"One would think.  Your turn.  Do you always enjoy marking like that?  Not that I'm complaining."  Absolutely content, she brushed her lips over Miranda's shoulder.

Miranda's thumb reached out and circled the smooth concave of her lover's stomach.  "If I'm enjoying myself. And I did. More than that."

"Then by all means, don't ever hesitate to do so."  Time to invest in new concealer.  Andy didn't bother to question whether that worked both ways or not.  The editor might like to mark but would not appreciate being marked by anything other than the occasional accident.  "I like you this way.  Relaxed.  Happy looking.  Much better than when you came in.  Do you know you've lost several pounds since I last saw you?"

Comfortable and sated loosened her censors.  Miranda couldn't recall the last time she'd felt so at ease, it was a rare gift. "Happy looking? Is that your way of saying after an orgasm or several I look punch drunk?" She looked almost guilty when she chanced a glance at the marks. She traced several then shrugged her slim shoulder. "Oops."

"I like them."  Seeing was out but she could still feel the light pull of them when she moved or stretched a certain way.  Andy rubbed her cheek against the editor's arm.  "No, I'm saying you look happy.  It's the look under the veil of Miranda Priestly when everything goes exactly as you want it to, topped with being pleasantly surprised."

It was another of those perfect moments with the exception that she wasn't giving any consideration to the fact it might be ruined. "I left Milan early.  It was an abysmal waste of my time.  I accomplished nothing of value and instead played nanny to Irv's latest mistress.  Ce-les-tine." The name was enunciated and shredded.  "All the Emily's, brain surgeons in comparison. If she wasn't fawning over him like a cheap whore she was speaking. Which was worse." Miranda then changed her voice to a teeth grinding near squeal and imitated the woman. "But Irvy that would look so much better in purple. It's boring, it needs something...sparkles Irvy, tell them to add some sparkles. Gucci, Armani, Ferragamo, it was an insidious insult to have to endure.  I had a choice. Leave or wind up in an Italian prison for murder most foul."

As far as their conversations had come the honest, detailed response still came as a surprise of the pleasing variety.  Unsure of the exact spots that would keep the editor calm, Andy began running her fingers here and there until a tiny sigh was released when she ran meandering paths over smooth skin of her back.  "Sounds horrible.  We could bury her in the closet.  With the right accessories piled on no one would notice.  I always hated that one pair of Gucci shoes.  The garish pink ones with sequins and beads.  Little wonder they've never been swiped. By the sounds of her they'd be right up her ally.  You'd be doing her a favor even - not to mention the rest of the world."

Miranda's eyes sparked and she pulled Andy close for a ravishing kiss.  "Brilliant.  I do have amends to make. I might have told Irv that his insipid, crass, should not be allowed to gaze on haute couture, bimbo belonged in daycare not the fashion houses of Milan. Those shoes and a few other dogs that Nigel has kept for their sheer ‘what were they freebasing' value and Irv will stop looking at me like I kicked his sick puppy."

"Keep kissing me like that and I'll give you all sorts of ideas, some great, some trash.  Speaking of, to avoid him being an injured bear for awhile why not have some of those horrible pieces gathered and sent over to him for her.  You don't have to say a thing.  His ego will just assume it's your way of playing nice.  He'd never guess you were trying to unload it. It has the added bonus of possibly keeping him quiet this month too."  It wasn't that Miranda needed to make amends so much as when she did blow with Irv, which was extremely rare, the editor tended to make it unforgettable.  No harm no foul in another job perhaps but in Miranda's it meant having to deal with him questioning her every move more than he normally did.

"Like this?" she whispered as she captured her lover's lips for a longer, slower exploration. After they parted she sighed. "Prudent move considering how large the overruns will be next month."

Andy nodded and licked her lips, eyes taking on a dreamy glaze.  Coherent thought took second place to one more kiss.  "I can see how someone turns stupid.  25 IQ points gone with a kiss."  Blinking rapidly, she rubbed her forehead against Miranda's skin then took a moment to refocus.  "I had another idea but it would be more trouble than it's worth.  Someone like her just might show up expecting to hang around at the magazine.  I like my neck attached too much to chance it.

On a similar note, I know it's none of my business and you can tell me to shut up but have you ever considered offering him a carrot for the next month, as he's hit with an extremely overrun budget for the month before?  You couldn't do it this time but you could have someone take a look at some of the up and coming photographers and crew.  Keep them back as your ace.  Then as a counter one month showcase them against a proven talented designer or even a newbie.  Either way you'd cut your costs in half if not more and if it turned out well you'd be credited with being bold and daring."

"I'm quite taken with your neck too." Appreciative fingers lightly grazed the length of it. "I give him Runway. I have no time for carrots. And what is a newbie? The problem with that Andrea is say I do pull off a fabulous shoot and maybe even several successful layouts with these cheap photographers, being bold will be lauded for that week, and then the cost savings becomes an expectation and so I've just hacked the heel off my Choos. Unless I then decide to outfox the miserly bastard and then I'm up for ten to twenty on accounting fraud....or some such absurdity that none the less ends up being more trouble than it was worth.  I don't want to cut costs. Runway is worth every penny."

Explanations made all the difference in the world not that Andy thought she could ever convince the editor of that.  "I see what you're saying and yes it is worth that.  He irritates me.  To everyone else he's all 'she makes the best decisions' then behind closed doors, yap yap yap my poor wallet.  It makes me want to write an article on the miserly ways of the owner's of magazines.  Illustrate how the up and coming ones put themselves into hock to put out the best they can and then those with money would like to put it all in hock, cheapen their magazines and sit on their little Midias piles."  The tangent had everything to do with the distaste left in her mouth from the memory of watching Miranda dismissed by him.  "Oh and a newbie.  It means new to the business or area."

"My job is to keep Runway far and away the best.  Never hearing another diatribe on the overruns, yes that would be lovely but the effort it would require from me would distract from Runway, and simply put it's one I cannot afford."  Skin now cooled Miranda pulled a sheet up then rolled over so that Andy was sprawled on top of her.  "I've been outmaneuvering him for years; part of the job description. Though..." Her index finger brushed across her lip as a twist on Andy's idea formed. "If you do decide to do that article and come across a standout talent. Irv has handful of other publications. One in particular is struggling....their costs are bloated, the layout is solid and it's poised to be a breakout but it's too generic.  They need more of an edge. Two birds, one stone and no fingerprints on Runway. You're adorable."

"What kind of talent?"  Andy kissed the tip of the editor's finger then finally reached down and pulled the comforter up over them.  Who knew where the adorable comment came from but it felt like one of those times she didn't want to know.  "I've thought about sending one or two people your way but I wasn't sure how receptive you'd be.  Once can be unexpected and nice.  Twice has the potential to rankle feathers.  But I'll admit, I like seeing that spark you get in your eyes over the unexpected.  Runway causes it too but it's different.  The day to day frustrations..."

Her breathing was so lazy it hardly felt like breathing at all.  Her fingertips tingled and she was disappointed when Andy moved her lips away. "Nothing polished or slick.  Talent that you can't look away from. Clarice but with a camera, I only need one. I would read that article. Why is Chanel hanging in the middle of your room?"

Nothing polished or slick but with undeniable talent. Sure those lurked on every street corner.  Real talent, the kind Miranda wanted appeared infrequently.  And even if it was everywhere there was their relationship to consider.  A person here and there, the editor seemed like she'd take well.  More than once every few months however and that dangerous line would be miles behind before either realized it or could go back.  To some degree sending people her way would be easier as friends than lovers not that Andy would exchange the latter for the former.

Tomorrow she'd start a list on the occasion she met someone that really caught the eye.  Then on those occasions Miranda seemed to need or want one, right down to a new Emily, she'd at least have a point to work from since the prior two finds had been in large part fluke and pure chance.  Drawn back to the present, she leaned close and indulged in a lengthy kiss that had her skin burning. "I'll keep my eye out.  If I find someone however, they go to you.  You can then decide what you want to do with them whether it's to keep them, tell me I had a cold when I saw them or send them over to Irv.  Your job, after, would be to scare them into keeping their mouths shut.  If anyone ever let slip that I'd sent them to you...I don't want those looks like I'm a steak, you know?  Clarice was a friend so she's not said a word but I can't imagine others would be.  As for the article I'll see what I can do.  The Chanel...put you here.  The sense of you."

"Best we keep it to names and address. I do like to leave the office on occasion. It's easier to get a sense..." Miranda paused and looked around the space they shared. "of someone, how they work, how they think, how they create in their own space. It also avoids, issues."  Languid hands cupped Andy's ass and squeezed just enough to make their presence known. "If, when you send a name.  I'll examine it."

Much relieved, Andy sank into her lover.  Hesitancy melted away.  Miranda's trust meant the world. "That works well for me.  I'm gone on you and yes, I want you so much that it aches inside at times.  So long as we're doing this I'll be proud to be your lover.  But...I've seen how people look at you.  When they think no one is looking, sometimes it's...all about what you can do for them.  I enjoy trying to make things easier for you or making your mind spin.  But I don't want to see that look directed at me in regards to you.  Being used would hurt, being used to get to you would hurt and make me furious, regardless of what we are or aren't."

Sometimes? "Not sometimes Andrea. Always."  She caught herself when Andy's gaze turned to her. "Almost always.  Don't put on rose tinted glasses around me. I do the exact thing if it is to my advantage, survival is lovely but thriving is living.  Trust your instincts and know that at least ninety percent of the time... the ones you think could never, will." More really in her estimation, but Andrea took more time with people.  "Be more concerned about being used to get to you Ms. Sachs," she winked but there was an edge.

"I don't work like that.  I can be completely absorbed in my work I've found out and I can be a really craptastic lover.  But it will never be me I'm concerned about in that way.  And you know, there are no rose glasses though they'd look fabulous on me with my skin color."  Grinning, Andy rolled over until she was laying on Miranda in a satisfying tangle of limbs and heated skin.  "I know you've perfected being a bitch, no offense.  You're freaking aces at it.  You'll no doubt make me wince in the future or have to remain silent in order to keep from stepping in something I should not.  But sometime after leaving...I'm gone on that side of you too, whether I like it or not.  I wouldn't have pursued you otherwise."

The look was one of a knowing arrogance. "Now tell me something I don't know Andrea."

"That side is not without its appeal."  A one way ticket to hell, that's what she was earning.  It had to be a sin to find the woman so sexy when she'd willing snap the necks of some poor baby animal if she felt it necessary.  Andy kissed the woman to keep her from speaking.  An idle part of her brain noted how much more talkative Miranda was after sex.  The journalist could work with that.  "I'd planned to mention this earlier...well before this happened but do you remember that conversation on your terrace where I mentioned what I'd expect from you?"

"You were wearing jeans, they flattered your ass. That day on the terrace."

"Took you an awfully long time to pay attention though.  Basically I said I expected you to be late all the time, to work too hard, to forget dates, dinners and phone calls.  That remains true.  This week has shown me I want more too. Neither of us have time at a glance but the night I worked in your office meant the difference in being with you for any amount of time and none at all.  The past few weeks have royally sucked.  It's kind of ridiculous.  I guess...I want a little more.  I want that.  I want to know that if you're working I can drop by and work too, just to see you for a few.  Or that we'll find time to fit in a working dinner.  I like it when you call for two minutes.

The morning coffees I wouldn't give up for anything.  I know who we are.  I know the time demands and trying to work it all in.  But those little moments, even when we're working, make the rest of the impossibilities seem miniscule.  I don't know if that makes sense or even what you want but I thought it fair to tell you what I want."  Andy kept her stare steady, tone quiet.  She was prepared, as much as she could be for Miranda to say no or even stop calling.  But going on like this with everything in the unknown department would wear her down quicker than a simple no ever could.

Miranda went still, her lips parted but for a long time nothing came out.  "Rupert, the twin’s father has decided his move back to New York is permanent.  It has consequences on our current custody arrangement. I hate it, but my options were limited and putting the girls through another nasty court battle, I won't do it.  It goes from alternative weekends to that plus alternative weeks. I suppose it is less disruptive than him having them two nights a week... but a week is a long time."

Was that an agreement?  Hard to say.  Yet not quite as hard as figuring out what to say to that.  Poignant loss hung heavy around them.  Andy leaned up and brushed her lips.  She couldn't understand what it felt like and didn't pretend to.  She did understand the way Miranda preferred to deal with things.  The journalist reluctantly sat up then lifted her hands in front of her face.  Both fisted and dropped just below her nose.  The thumb on her right finger stuck up in a hitchhiker's thumb.  Andy bobbed her head, sniffed and brushed her thumb against her nose.  Imitating an old boxer, she punched air then thumbed her nose again.  "Want me to get him?  Hmm? Bam, bam.  No fuss, no muss."  One more bob and she altered her voice to a poor imitation of Muhammad Ali.  "I'm a baddd man."

Miranda's lips pursed, her eyes popped and the laughter she expelled was raucous.  It struck in racking waves that threatened to send Andy flying off the bed. "I'm in bed with a lunatic. A baddd one." She squeezed her eyes shut and hiccupped as the next round of laughter hit her until tears were rolling down her cheeks.  "My point was, I hate change. But I'll adapt and if I'm honest I think it will be good for Cassidy and Caroline.  He is much stricter with them and I'm not blind to the fact that they need that."  But who wanted to spend those few precious hours with the kids everyday being the heavy?  It was a flaw she knew but one she preferred to live with.  "As to the other... let's try it on the weeks they are with Rupert. See how it goes."

"So long as it makes you laugh like that I'll take that label any day."  A groan accompanied the stretching of muscles as Andy laid back down.  That had been a yes.  Yes and an uninhibited laugh together; Christmas and a birthday.  "I'd hate change too if that's what it meant.  And, as to the other, that sounds more than acceptable to me.  I'd like to take you to dinner - all that's needed is a date.  Public yeah but I'm pretty sure I can finagle it so we'll be in private.  I won't even request you wear jeans."

The refusal was nearly out there before she stopped herself.  It wasn't being seen in public with Andrea that she had an issue with, no one would think a thing of it.  It was the taking to dinner.  Would she need to bring her own cutlery? She cleared her throat. Back lots were private. Dear God Priestly, I do believe you painted the wrong woman with the label lunatic she berated herself, then gave Andy a half smile. "Sounds... lovely."

"You mean it sounds like you'll end up eating off the ground with beggars.  Or so your tone says.  Don't worry, I'm saving that for next month.  You'll want to dress...up."   Not even she, in her fashion oblivion would have dared dress down.

An arch followed a stretch and then deciding it was prudent to change positions to keep from needing a trip to the chiropractor Miranda pulled Andy down beside her, rolled onto her side and sprawled a leg over her.  "You have alarming dining habits."

This she could get used to.  "You've liked everything I sent you.  Okay except for that one dish but it wasn't my fault.  The phone rang, the stand was asking questions.  I still don't know how they got add raisins out of what I said.  This time I was thinking more, you have a menu, I have a menu.  A wine glass or two.  Maître de.  The sort of things that don't make you get that run! expression."

"I don't enjoy gasto-intestinal complications. That expression is merely... run fast." She jabbed Andy in the side.

"With am 'and for your life' added to the end.  It will mean you doing the unthinkable.  You'll want to leave work around 6."  Out of sight, Andy crossed her fingers that nothing would come up.

There was a self satisfied little snort. "I often leave by six."  She then went home, spent time with the girls and went back to work at home for several more hours but it counted.

Not when going home to an empty house she didn't. A particular detail it felt best to left unsaid.  "Well, you did find your way here so I suppose I'll have to trust you."

"You trust me to show up and I trust you not to get me stricken with food poisoning. Interesting trade-off."

"Has Per Se ever poisoned you before?"  Twining her arms around the editor's neck, Andy released a blissful sigh.  Times like this could quickly become an addiction.

"Mmm, no their food and ambiance is very impressive but there is no need for you to impress me."

As if.  Miranda had the oddest ideas.  "If I were trying to impress I'd do something very different.  Even if I wanted to impress you like that I couldn't. Per Se is a wee bit out of my price range.  Long story short, while you were away I ended up working there for research.  I was promised dinner, after.  And instant seating any other time.  It's a nice offer if one I probably won't be able to use for years."

"It must have been a very favorable review.  I've not read that article." She pulled the blankets tighter and Andy closer.

"I'm going to give you a favorable assumption and assume you mean they looked upon me favorably and not that what I wrote was essentially bought and paid for."  There, that was as non reactive as she could get.  "You've not seen it yet because it's only half written.  And it's not about Per se...per se.  It's about working in a kitchen and what it takes to run a restaurant.  No one else wanted it.  I ended up doing two days at their restaurant and two days at one that had just opened that I hope to never hear of again.  The differences were dramatic despite the latter aspiring to be one of the elites."

Miranda bit back a smile, but there was a telltale gleam in her eyes.  The statement had been terse enough for her to know she'd inadvertently hit a nerve. "It had not occurred to me that they paid you off before the article.  I simply assumed they were pleased and impressed with what you wrote afterwards. A fair assumption. You worked at Per Se? Doing what?" She not heard about that little adventure.

"Oh.  Um, mostly I hit it off with the staff and then later the owner.  They had me doing some of everything.  Twelve hours a day.  I had some idea of what went on in the kitchen.  Hard to date a chef and not but it is not something I ever care to repeat.  Twice I had my hands deep inside squid.  I knew the first time my fingers slid inside that yes indeed, my chosen profession was for me.  God did not intend for me to those things  That first day when I finally got home I took a bath in vinegar, just trying to get the stench off. Hell, I'd rather be the new Emily again and screw up what to do with the book every night.  It was an experience but good god it was wrong."  Her face contorted with memories she was quite convinced would haunt her for years.

A disgusted little whimper and Miranda wiggling away from Andrea, the squid girl.  "Take notes...bad, bad, bad pillow talk."

"That was so girly."  Amused, the journalist waved her hand from side to side then wiggled her fingers - her version of a squid imitation.  Andy pulled her close again then said, "my reaction was a lot worse.  As I recall I squealed, jumped up and down and then experimented to see if I could clean them with my eyes closed."

"Stop. Don't make me cut you off." She shuddered. Touching squid rated worse than touching 100% polyester.

"Be careful Mrs. Priestly or one day you'll find your coffee turned decaf, flavored and full of foam."  Playful eyes narrowed as her fingers gently stroked Miranda's side.

"And people accuse me of inhumane acts of cruelty. Ha." She arched into the touch and lightly kissed Andy's lips.  "Did you work anywhere else for your research?"

The journalist took a moment to marvel in this Miranda versus the Miranda presented to the world.  It was no contest which she preferred.  "Abstract.  It's about three months old.  Between you and me, don't even let Irv eat there.  The pace was chaotic.  It reflected in everything and the owner was nothing short of a bastard.  That's why the article is only half done. I've had a hard time keeping perspective. It's not about either restaurant, chef or owner.  It's not any particular restaurant for that matter. But my experience there is still trying to creep in and color the article."

Miranda's senses were on alert, for all Andy was sharing she was also holding back.  "What brand of bastard exactly?"

"The brand that calls the right people and nearly gets me fired. But I'm here so..."  The journalist moved closer, not an inch of skin untouched.  Between Miranda's absence and all the fun surrounding Abstract she would have quite happily erased the entire week.

"Because you couldn't be bought?"  She said it casually, but if Andy's job had been in jeopardy it was as good a guess as any.

A tiny sigh stirred the editor's hair.  "Not exactly.  At Per Se, I had a locker for my personal belongings.  The same was true at Abstract.  Simply put, I screwed up but anyway...  I was there to learn and I of course took notes at both places.  When I wasn't busy I stored them in my locked locker.  Marco and company didn't even make an attempt to look like they weren't going through them when I passed through.  I hadn't written down any great Per Se secrets.  There wasn't any need.  But it's a small industry for one so large.  They wanted my notes.  Funny thing is there wasn't anything they could have used.  No great secret ingredient.  Honestly, if I had it to do again I might just let them have it.  The after would have been a lot easier."

Miranda frowned. "They wanted your notes on Per Se? "

"Oh yeah.  That's half of why Per Se offered me a free meal I think.  Thomas had an oh so major reaction over that.  But neither do I blame him.  You would have fired me on the spot had you gotten the call but I'm getting ahead of myself.  He received a call from Marco to inform him that he should be aware I'd taken explicit notes and had offered to show them to him, for a price.  The Mirror got a similar phone call.  To Abstract's credit it was really quite perfect of them.  I'd said some things I shouldn't have when I saw what they were doing.  Note, never lose your temper until you've gotten out of the range of possible damage.  The catch is, was, they had seen just enough to quote some of what was in there.  That lent weight to their claim.

A lot of weight, which was further helped by me being new and them being known.  I worked there Saturday and Sunday.  I spent early Monday morning until just this afternoon scrambling to try and defend myself.  But how do you defend he said, she said when they have the reputation and pretty damning evidence and you don't?  I think I owe half the city now."  A wan smile appeared, Andy's poor attempt at trying to believe everything was okay.  That belief was imperative to not crying.  "I'm not sure if Marco eventually believing I was telling the truth worked toward me keeping my job or if the job keeping me influenced him."

"You'll never get that Pulitzer without making grandiose mistakes first. I would have fired you, yes. Not for the accusations, but for allowing them access. Due diligence. Lesson learned and you'll be better for it." And Abstract would not make it to it's one year anniversary, but Andrea need never know that.

"I had a lock on it.  My fault, yes but neither were they just sitting around."  Equally relieved not to have experienced another condemnation and automatically defensive after a week of doing nothing but, Andy burrowed into the bed.  "And the best part is, I've still not found a way to keep it from happening in the future.  I need my notes.  They're rather critical.  I could have left the notes on my time at Per Se home but I actually had a mini-chart going where I was able to look at my experience there then note the difference.  I'm sure that didn't help  to deter what Marco did either.  They were my notes...and honest.  Read, not very kind. I could use my a digital recorder I suppose but that will double my time.  That's the one future glitch I've not yet figured out."

"Can't you password protect your notes?"

The journalist bit her lip not to laugh.  Miranda might rule the fashion world but she was semi-clueless as to how her fiefdom worked.  "My notes were in longhand. I use my pc at home to type things up.  The laptop is convenient but it's not convenient when I'm out hunting down information or quotes.  Think...ever make notes on the book in the car?  Even if you wanted to, flipping pages then leaning over to type or leaning to flip and read and type wouldn't be feasible.  It's the same for my notes.  I was jotting them down as things popped up. They do have tablet PCs and even tablets that are hand held which can be password protected. can write on them with a stylus which is pen like but neither, much less both, are in my price range."

"How inconvenient." Then again once in her possession the book never left it until she was home or in the office.  Of course she wasn't exactly plunging her hands in squid simultaneously either. It did present a challenge.

"Exactly.  Anyway, it was just a long week.  The big thing that still bugs me is the why.  Wanting my notes They didn't need them even if I had recipes.  Any good chef can figure out what's in any dish according to Thomas.  Jace seems to think they thought I was going to make them look bad but I'd said from the start they'd get no publicity from it.  I don't know but I hate not knowing why someone did something."  Of course, that concept might be as foreign to her listener as talking about styluses was.  Miranda didn't exactly go around asking people why they did anything anymore than Thomas, Per Se's head chef and owner, wondered if his sous chefs knew how to make any particular dish. He just assumed they would.

The warmth, the low thrum still circulating through her blood and the lateness of the hour had finally collided to make her drowsy. "Greed. The root of all success stories."

"I..."  Couldn't deny that was a possibility.  The journalist ran her fingers through Miranda's hair.  Half wild was a good look for her.  "I really dislike that, accurate or not.  Ready to sleep?"

"Yes but if you understand it, it can be a very useful tool." The pillow, or a mass of lumps in this case, was moved under Miranda's neck. "Goodnight Andrea."

"Goodnight Miranda.  I'm really glad you're here."  At first uncertain about what the editor would find acceptable, Andy decided after a few moments she didn't care.  Miranda would let her know if she found something perturbing.  Going with that, the journalist set her alarm, guessing at what time her lover would want to get up, then pulled her close.  A trick created out of necessity would allow Andy to fall asleep in seconds.  Less with the warm, comforting presence of the editor.  


"Em-il-eeee."  Miranda cast her voice into the outer office as she was reviewing the book. A classic black Chanel dress had brought Andy to mind and reminded her of a few little details she must have seen to.  "I don't understand how a snail could make it to my office faster. Would a wheelchair help?"

Snails.  Right.  A herd of them had just flown by.  Emily glanced at Elise in frustration, hand gesturing to the phone call she was on.  She barely took time to transfer it to the other line before flying into the editor's office, pad in hand.  The woman was driving her crazy today.  Anytime Miranda didn't adhere strictly to her schedule and expected moods it drove her crazy.  "Y-yes Miranda?"

"Change my three o'clock to two thirty. Call my guy have him setup at the townhouse for eight thirty. Tell him to expect two. The car has a blinking red light.  Have that fixed.  Get me a tablet with a password. And Emily?  Do you dislike working for me?  It's the only explanation I have for why this morning when I went to put my coat on and reached for my scarf there weren't any, not one.  Did Hermes run out of white silk? "

"Um," No scarves?  Since when.  She always kept those stocked and Miranda hadn't told her to order new ones.  Neither did her schedule say she could need...  A tablet with a password?  Oh god.  "No, Miranda.  I'm sorry Miranda.  I'll fix that right away."  Feet that longed to get away stayed rooted just in case Miranda wasn't done.

"I'm leaving for the De la Renta appointment in eight minutes. Do you know what I want Emily?"

Bollocks.  Satan himself couldn't have guessed what Miranda wanted.  "Coffee when you get back?"

An aggrieved sigh and Miranda fixed Emily with a look that should have turned her to ash. "My scarf. And if I don't have it you had best be staking out soup kitchens. That's all."

"I'll get it right now."   In eight minutes.  An Hermes trip would take ten round trip.  God.  Emily spun around, mind already scrambling to figure out a way to shave off two minutes.

Elise's eyes flared expressively at Emily as she came walking in with the lunch tray.  Kebabs and naan.  Not even she could pretend she wasn't surprised by contents of the delivery.  Even if she hadn't known the truth she wouldn't have believed it came from the bistro this time.  

A tiny whimper sounded in Emily's throat followed by a minute shake of her head.  Miranda would not eat that...god what was it?  Then again Miranda wouldn't have eaten randomly delivered lunches who's sender she kept mum either.  Scarves, right.  Elise was on her own. If she ended up wearing it so be it and then when she got back from Hermes, she'd quiz the woman. Again.

When her associate bolted from the office she stepped forward and set the food on the side of the desk.  Whoever had the idea for this lunch she'd have to pummel later.  The lunches usually weren't that bad but neither did they normally have explicit instructions on a nondescript note accompanying them.  One moment of consideration was all it took to decide she so wasn't telling the woman which sauce to try and which to be careful of.  No way, not even for Andy because while she might get away with it, somehow, her assistant would not.  Elise exited, grabbed the note off her desk then returned and placed it beside the plate before making a hasty exit.  She dove to her desk and held her breath, hoping beyond hope she didn't hear her name called.

One look at the plate placed so precisely on her desk and Miranda's whisper seemed to sink into every pore of the building. "Em-ily. There is a rodent on a stick staring at me from a plate. Why? Get me green ked boy. Before rigor mortis sets in."

Elise screwed her eyes shut.  Great, she'd been busted back to Emily status.  The dear cousin didn't rate high enough to spare him.  In fact, she intended to make him hurt as much as possible.  Quickly dialing the number, she told him to hold then called out, "I have him."  Into the phone she whispered, "Your old baseball glove that got left out in the rain?  That was my fault. Miranda for you.  Have fun."

Miranda had taken a seat and rolled her chair as far from the offending rodent as possible. She didn't notice that her nose was twitching from the warm spicy smell wafting from the hot food.  She would have called Andy direct but that was a no no.  "Why is there a rodent with a stick through it on my plate?"

Jace nearly tripped as they walked back to work.  The dragon lady on his phone; it would be bad form to ask her for a quote wouldn't it? Dammit it all.  "It's tasty shit. Try it."  His eyes nearly rolled out of his head as he realized what he'd said to whom. He might as well pack up his desk now...wait a damn minute he'd been delivering the woman food for months without incident.  "It's spicy beef and chicken. They only use rodent after midnight when everyone is too drunk to notice."  He mouthed to Andy. "You talk to her."

The phone changed hands only because he'd left Andy, who'd been covering her eyes, no choice when he thrust it into her hand.  The kebabs were a gamble she'd debated on for weeks before finally deciding it was time.  Walking along the busy streets of New York City, she tried for the easy route first.  "You'll love it if you try it.  I promise.

A light smile hit her lips despite herself.  She liked hearing Andrea's voice even if they were discussing distasteful things like meat on a stick. "It's skewered.  I have no desire to re-enact the stone age.  Are you irritated with me?"

"That's how kebabs are normally presented sweetheart.  They're fabulous and no, I'm not irritated at all.  Am I going to have to bribe you?"  As it had begun to once in awhile, the endearment slipped out without her having realized it.  Miranda could be a trial over food.

Miranda's chair inched closer.  One eye stayed on the food as though it was going to suddenly sprout legs and charge her. The endearment had been heard and thankfully for both of them Miranda didn't realize it had caused the color in her cheeks to heighten. "You can't bribe me."

Oh but she could.  If Miranda didn't eat it and like it she'd eye every lunch that was sent in from here on, with suspicion.  Beyond desperate, Andy resigned herself to using one of the few items in her arsenal.  "If you eat it I'll ask around and see if I can find out who that new fashion reporter is.  The one you accuse of slightingRunway.  The one whose name you suspect one of your enemies is hiding behind."

The little piece of paper accompanying the food came into Miranda's line of vision. "There are directions. Stick food with directions."  The elongated Andrea was implied but not spoken at the office.

"So you know which sauce is for what.  That's all.  It's unnecessary when you’re familiar with their food.  If there is a next time you won't need another note.  The red wine and peppercorn sauce is for the steak kebabs but be careful with it.  Don't add to much or it will be too spicy.  The white sauce is their house special, so to speak.  I'm not sure what all is in it but it's orgasmic."  Ignoring the looks Jace was giving her, she half turned to the side.  Failure to come up with a name she’d all but promised was a foregone conclusion.

Miranda picked up the empty skewer and poked the food. It's didn't move that was a good sign.  She sniffed again, it did smell tempting. "How hard can it be to find out who the fashion reporter is? " The growling in her stomach was winning the battle.

"Hard enough that you trying it is a fair trade."  A nice diplomatic answer that didn't point out Miranda's previous attempts or demands of her staff that had come up short.  The sole reason she'd not fired Emily or Elise for Andy's duplicitous fashion reporting was because she'd not once spoken badly of Runway.  That had turned out to be half the problem though.  In her attempt to not to cross some unseen line with Miranda she'd stayed clear of reporting anything having to do with the magazine.  Who could have guessed that her innocent little articles would get noticed or that the editor would find her lack of sufficient Runway reporting to be almost as bad as if she'd trashed the magazine.

Carefully she poured a bit of the sauce onto the beef, took a deep breath and then closed her eyes and took a bite.  Nothing squirmed in her mouth.  As her taste buds woke up she all but purred. "I now know how the test monkey feels."

"I never give you anything that I've not tried myself you know."  Which had already been pointed out a hundred times or more.  "Acceptable?"

"Mmm." she managed through another bite.  "If you can make it by eight thirty tonight, do. It'll be worth it."

"I'll be off by eight, one way or another.  I miss you." 

"Scare green ked boy. I expect details." With that Miranda ended the call and turned her attention back to lunch.

Elise saw the light go off and slumped back in her chair.  The editor was now quite late.  Between Miranda and Emily, it was even odds which one would have the biggest coronary.  To remind or not to remind?  Door number one, two and three seemed to have the same option:  loss of a head.  Hers.  A subtle reminder, that was the ticket.  The blond woman stood and walked to the doorway.  "I called Roy and De La Renta and pushed back the corresponding times by ten minutes each."  One giant step back and she pivoted then got the hell out of dodge or as far away from it as she could get with less than thirty feet to run.

Silence was so difficult to come by that Miranda settled into the rare moment and finished her lunch unhurried. Eight minutes later she was poised to exit her office. "Send flowers will you Elise, it seems Emily has expired." She touched her neck in disbelief when she still found it bare.

Utterly miserable and in need of coffee of her own, Emily heard the comment just before she wheeled around the corner, boxes piled well above her head.  Out of Hermes scarves.  A tragedy in her work life.  Quickly setting the boxes down, she grabbed one, opened the box then held it out.  "I'll have the rest delivered to your home."

Miranda swiped the scarf and then wrapped it around her neck. "Leave the tablets on my desk.  Then Emily you need to move your things to the other desk and hire a new you. Emily, clean out your desk, you're done here."

"Wh-at?"  Accent thickening, Emily simultaneously gawked and looked like she wanted to cry.

Flabbergasted right alongside Emily, Elise stood rooted in place.  One minute there were flowers to send.  In the next her friend was being....fired?  And she had to find a new her.  Oh god.  Green ked boy, as she would call him so long as he was at fault, had poisoned Miranda.  But one couldn't mention that now.  "Human resources will want to know what to put in her file."

"Emily you've endured in spite of your incompetence.  You excel at motivating others to do your job which is why you belong in the art department, as assistant manager."  Miranda stepped back into her office and retrieved a bag and a file. "Your evaluation." The gift bag she handed over.  Inside an outfit she'd had designed specifically for Emily by the young woman’s favored designer. "Thank you Emily. I expect the proofs from your department on my desk at eight forty-five. You are inheriting sloths, fix them. And Emily."

"Y-yes Miranda?"  The wide eyed worshipping girl of her youth was back.  Emily let her have reign, unable to put a coherent thought together much less attempt put together adult.

"Go eat a cheeseburger. That's all." Miranda headed for the elevator expecting Elise to smooth it all over with De la Renata before she ever arrived.

Since she'd already informed them Miranda was going to be late, Elise put thoughts of work aside and grasped Emily's shoulders.  Her poor friend was going to hurt herself if she didn't breathe soon.  Elation for Emily would later turn to relief.  Both Miranda and Emily in the same office had proven to be seriously high maintenance.  "Em?  You have to remember to breathe or you'll have survived all this only to die the day you get the promotion.  Come on, snap out of it or I'll take the bag for myself and taunt you with whatever it is at your funeral."

"Assistant manager of the art department. Posh." Emily opened the bag.  Her eyes rolled back in her head and because Miranda had disappeared into the elevator minutes before she let out an ungodly squeal and twirled around her desk. "She likes me, she really does."

Elise winced then peeked in the bag.  Damn, she did like her.  "I should have let you keel over.  God how can anyone like you that much?!  Oh Em it's fabulous.  The whole bit. You'll be wonderful at it."

"Yes, I will be wonderful."  Emily grabbed Elise whom she'd grown fond of just because the girl was competent and had saved her several beheadings. "I feel like I'm passing on the torch. If you start dieting now you'll be perfect by Paris in the Spring. It makes all the rest of it, worth it. My best advice...finding the new you now. It's make or break.  Trying to survive both their inadequacies and her intolerance combined is all but impossible. Before you my life was the ninth level of hell. Choose well Elise or just go out and throw yourself under a garbage truck."  

"Em, I adore you.  But I am not trying one of your diets.  Unless I get fat of course, then maybe.  Wait right here, I've been saving something for one of your freak out fits.  Then you can tell me all about how the hell I'm supposed to find a new me that she won't toss out the window."  Over three months at Runway had made certain the horror stories of Miranda and assistants were printed on her mind like bad tattoo's.  From a locked bottom drawer of her desk, Elise pulled the new black Gucci Dahlia high heeled platform boots that Emily had lusted after then mourned when someone had taken them first.  Keeping Emily happy was as important as keeping Miranda happy.   

Although in Emily's case she'd taken to finding out what she desperately wanted from the new items they were sent.  One of those items was always pulled and kept hidden.  Emily Xanax as she called it.  Whatever was sending the woman around the bin, when she looked ready to pop like a vibrating harp string, clothes and shoes distracted her to the point of bringing a much needed calm.  Elise held them out with a smile.  "I believe you wanted these."  

When she eyed the boots she swayed just a little before nearly falling into a dead faint.  "Oh my god. Those boots. The boots.  For me?"  She snatched them up to make sure they weren't a figment of her imagination. "I could weep."  

"You deserve them but save the tears for tonight over your first bite of cheeseburger."  Dear god how the girl needed to eat a dozen of them.  "Call your mom woman.  This will shut her up for years.  And then we can dish."  

"I wouldn't really weep. The horrors that would do to my makeup. Silly girl." She gave Elise an impulsive hug then dialed her mother as she trailed off towards Miranda's office with a bunch of bags. "'ll never believe it..."  

Elise watched her go while rubbing her temples.  A replacement.  Hey, that meant she'd gotten a promotion of her own.  Her laughter drew more looks from outside the doors then a scream would have.  Andy's instructions had been critical to her survival.  The journalist had somehow found time.  With Emily gone, there was no way she'd have the extra time to put into anyone much less give applicants a critical once over.  It was going to be a long month.  Still rubbing her temples, she picked up the phone to call human resources.  They might as well send over the best of their applications now.  A replacement in a matter of hours.  No problem.  Right.  She could that.   

Emily returned looking even more buoyant.  "My work here is done. Elise, the new Emily, expect her to get tossed out the window, just don't get tossed with her."  

"Easier said than done."  Elise murmured as she hung up the phone.  "They're going to fax me some aps to look over now.  Before you run for this great new job, Ms. Done, what's this about a tablet?"  

"Miranda asked for a tablet with passwords. I went to the electronics shop. Basically I came back with a small medium and large. You can blame me if that wasn’t what she wanted."
"A tablet with a password?  What on earth for?  Oh never mind, as if she'd tell either of us.  And before you say it, yes, I know she's acting oddly."  Or at least to Emily she was. 
Emily glanced around.  They were still alone she all but tiptoed over to Elise. "She is acting very peculiar. It all started with the coffee. I think she's getting some and I don’t mean an extra shot of espresso."  

"There has been nothing in the papers.  You know they'd be all over it and her if she was seeing someone," Elise replied in a quiet voice.  She loathed these conversations.  It seemed Emily's goal in life was to eventually get what she knew out of her.  The woman would never believe that she really didn't know all that much.  Suspicions she didn't dare ever give voice to didn't count.   

"Lunches. Coffee. The lunches that sometimes look like vomit that she has been eating. In the years before you arrived not once did she vary the steak if she were eating in.  I've caught a glimpse you know, of the man that delivers them. Young stud. Bad dresser.  You don't suppose...  I think Miranda has gone and gotten herself a boy toy. Jolly good for her. I don’t want to be you when they split."  

Oh no. Jace.  Knowing Emily knew about him and knowing it were two different things.  Warning Miranda would mean instant firing.  And then she might change things with Andy which in turn would mean Miranda might turn into a raging, injured bear.  A lose, lose situation all the way around.  Elise sighed internally.  Somehow she'd have to find a way to change up their routines without seeming to do so.  "I don't know Em, maybe she's having an early midlife crisis.  That can cause people to do things differently.  The divorce might have made her reevaluate."  

Emily giggled. "You're right of course. The idea of Miranda with someone like that is ludicrous. I hope she never catches sight of him, he's quite an eye-full but if she ever saw those shoes she'd fire him.  It is odd though that she hasn't been in the paper. She must be dating someone. Miranda doesn't have a midlife crises she gives everyone else daily life crisis’s. There is something up. You mark my words."  

"Perhaps yet her attitude hasn't changed nor has her nightlife schedule.  How could she date without us knowing?"  A headache throbbed at her temples as it always did during such conversations.  Lying she had less problem with than the fear of Miranda walking in during one of these conversations.   

"She did order up a masseuse for two tonight. I must run before she gets back and...before she gets back."  

"A ma...  No, I don't want to know.  Quick, take your promotion and run before you get us both fired."  That image had to be flushed immediately.  

Miranda waltzed back in only seconds after Emily vacated. A sheet of paper was placed carefully on Elise's new desk. "Read it over. Sign it or leave. In summary it's a gag order. Anything about me professionally or privately that you may be privy to remains unspoken. There will be no tell all books or sellouts to tabloids. Think about it even and I own you in a most unpleasant manner.  You're still here Elise because you've proved surprisingly competent. But talk out of turn and it won't matter if Irv had hand delivered you. I know what they say about me hurling people from the window. Absurd, it’s far too quick. Don't disappoint me."  

The unexpected appearance wasn't a surprise despite Miranda's schedule having her out for another hour.  Elise fingered the paper.  The outright threat was but a momentary blip on her radar.  She reached out, grabbed a pen and signed it while staring directly at the editor.  Not one line was read.  "I won't say a word.  I do however ask one thing.  Summary control over how things come in amongst other things.  It is easier to maintain your anonymity when I'm able to filter the necessary elements."  

"Stop speaking Latin, out with it."  

The assistant opened her mouth to speak then instead glanced around.  Out of loyalty, friendship and even family ties she would not chance Miranda's privacy by speaking without checking.  Everyone appeared hard at work yet she still lowered her voice.  "I ask for the discretion to protect green Ked boy, her and you however I see fit, as necessary.  No offense Miranda, but it's not you I fear though there is some of that.  It's her.  If talk got out because of deliveries, when I could avoid that.  Green Ked boy wouldn't be able to hide me."
Miranda picked up the sheet of paper, folded it and it disappeared into a folder. "Perfect. Keep in touch with Emily. Loose lips are necessary on occasion."  

"Consider it done.  But don't worry, she knows nothing.  My running explanation is that you're having a life crisis after him."  Better not to say midlife even if early did preceded it.  A minute gleam appeared in Elise's eye when she handed over the latest set of prints from the Laugerfeld shoot.  "These came in a little while ago."  

Miranda swiped the file. "Come up with a better explanation.  That makes me sound like a pining simpering ex."  

"You ate the kabobs," Elise pointed out, again checking to make sure they were alone.  "I'll try a touch of hysteria if there is a next time.  The photos in that file would be enough to send anyone over the edge.  Oh and as your assistant I strongly advise having me sign that again in front of a notary."  

"Are those ribbons?" Miranda had not heard a word her assistant said once she'd opened the folder and glimpsed the proofs of the shoot. "No no, don’t answer. Get me Julio, he's not fit to be the next Emily, forget operating a camera."   

"He's gone strangely out of reach.  But I called Patrick.  He's flying in tonight and will be on location to do a reshoot in the morning if you have no objections.  No ribbons and that leaves your schedule free for the next hour."  

Miranda was blinking while questioning why she hadn't moved Emily out months ago. "An hour." Something Andy had said months before tickled her brain. "The tablets on my desk, pick which one she and green Ked boy would find useful.  Freebies, make sure they get them."  That was even better than her original plan.  

"I'll have it done by Monday.  They're sitting down at Jace's favorite cafe, The Elm, not working.  A Friday afternoon hideout.  Your four o'clock could be done elsewhere.  I could arrange a few other meetings for you this afternoon if you'd like to get outside.  I'm afraid they'd take up the next few hours however.  There would be little point in returning here after."  Elise tapped on her screen.  It was a chance for Miranda to do the unthinkable and take off a little early without anyone being the wiser.  

"Which appointments will I be enduring?" Not that she, Miranda Priestly would ever consider dropping in to their cafe. Except for when she imagined Andy's absolute shock then she gave it hard consideration.  

"Your four o'clock is to go over the new ad layouts.  You often work better on those after you've had time to consider them.  I could deliver them with the book.  And then with a little rescheduling you could visit Clarice's new flat and Julio's to take him in hand.  With afternoon traffic that's all you'll be able to fit in."   

A coy gaze was leveled on Elise.  She quite appreciated how the girl's mind worked. "Forward the pictures to Nigel, have him consult with Martin and Patrick. Saturday matinee tickets, three, to Caroline's favorite play same on Sunday for Cassidy's, make that four." Andrea might be able to make one or both.  

"Four, right.  That's to..."  Elise waved the question off.  From the bottom drawer of her desk she pulled a large binder.  Two clicks on her computer opened Excel – a necessity since she’d yet to get around to creating an index for the binder.  Furious typing in the find feature referenced a page.  New information was quickly input before Elise then returned to the book and flipped to the page the computer indicated.  Spreadsheet after spreadsheet mixed with graphs and flow charts went by until she got to page 42.  It was her own version of the book, gathered from every resource she could get her hands on.   

Unlike the one for Runway the information focused entirely on Miranda and the parts of her life including the girls.  "Mary Poppins and The Lion King.  Since it's for them I'll go with their favorite time instead of yours.  And...yes, that's right.  I'll arrange for their preferred snacks to be there during intermission.  Cassidy indicated she wanted to meet the actors next time.  I'll arrange that if you have time.  I'll do the same for Caroline so there aren't any jealousy issues.  Expect to go to the 4 o'clock on Saturday and the 3:30 on Sunday."  

Miranda took off her glasses and did a double take. "I have time. What is that thing?"  She gestured towards the book. 

A hint of color rose to Elise's tanned cheeks.  Slight embarrassment did not lead to being contrite however.  No sense wasting an opportunity.  Spinning the book around, she flipped to a new section dedicated to Miranda's habits.  "My book for you.  I find it extremely helpful.  Andy's way while good is not mine.  I've gone back through receipts to pinpoint your habits and preferences.  Idle chatter picked up around the office also proved helpful.  That does remind me.  As of this afternoon I am going to have your scarves delivered to your home when the housekeeper is there.  You go through an average of 25 every 26.3 days.  Delivery will eliminate the need for outages or last minute dashes for them.  I'll keep another ten here in case of emergency.  

If there are no objections I'd like to give Roy a raise then assign him to you permanently.  He'll be at your beck and call when you're here. Having him wait right outside eliminates the need for you to wait for him to arrive.  On Monday I'll see about getting him a proper signed statement allowing him to park in front without the need to move or be harassed by cops in bad moods.  Detailing the Porsche we'll change to regular Friday early morning appointments. That way it will be clean for the weekends.  If you ever need it then you'll need to let me know.  We'll put Patricia on a once a month grooming schedule.  Let me know if you have a preference as to beginning, middle or end.  And uh, there are other changes I plan to make.  I'll fill you in Monday minus the mundane details."   

Now Elise's cheeks burned hotly.  It wasn't that she'd been planning to oust Emily but she had been paying attention.  The extremely chaotic events that took place because of lack of organization had become the most painful part of her job.  Many hours had been spent watching without cringing while dreaming up all the efficient changes that could be made.  Yet making those changes previously had been out of the question.  Emily, however friendly they were, tended to panic and think her job was being threatened.  Never mind that the two women simply thought in very different ways.   

"Mundane is annoying static noise. Unpleasant to my ears." Her fingers danced in the air to illustrate. "Do what needs doing.  If you must have that book...have it permanently attached. That's all." The details would never impress Miranda.  Not until her life ran more smoothly and she wasn't constantly repeating the mundane would she ever take note that Elise had found a way to make her life run more smoothly.  

"I'm penciling in the appointments I spoke of.  I'll call you if anything comes up but you really should go.  I'd hate for you to be late."  Elise's fingers eased from their death grip on the book.  The editor hadn't insisted it disappear.   

As the red numbers dropped from the elevator’s decent, Miranda's mood rose.  The girls were coming home the following day for their week and both she and Andrea had free time over the coming weekend and she realized just how much she was looking forward to it.  The twins seemed to like Andy and were accustomed to having her around though she'd yet to have any sort of discussion with them on the nature of her relationship with the journalist.  It just had not seemed necessary. Eventually, if they lasted that long.  Her heels gave a satisfying click as she hit the sidewalk. The air was crisp and the sun warmed her face and she took ten seconds to just look around. It was a good day.  


Andy unclipped her hair and shook it out then picked her beer bottle back up.  One long stretch led to another.  As usual, Friday afternoon had brought about a bone tired state that collided with contentment.  The scheduled dinner later would hold off the need for sleep.  It would be the first planned dinner she hadn't had to cancel in the last few weeks.  Even Miranda's understanding nature didn't keep guilt from creeping in.  She glanced around at their usual haunt with its dark wood and leather booths.  Cafe was a generous title for what was little more than a bar that served food.  It looked and felt like an old gentleman's club.  The old feel had quickly made it their favorite hideout.  A necessity when you didn't want to end up with last minute articles.   

They happened anyway but the cafe often meant the difference between working every minute of the weekend and just part of it.  She clinked her bottle against Jace's then put her feet up on one of the empty side chairs.  "Any word on the metro desk position?  Informing you that you have it has to be a mere formality.  Sarah couldn't write her way out of a box."
"Unofficially it's mine. But not until the twenty eighth."  Jace guzzled half the bottle.  It had been a hellish week but he'd come out the other side and seemed surprisingly unaffected by the darker side of humanity that he spent so much time chronicling.  "Speaking of, I've heard excellent buzz on your fashion feature Unseen Eyes.  What did the indomitable Ms. M think? How are things with that two of you?  I haven't heard you gushing about all things M in a couple weeks."  

"That's because I was trying to cut down on the amount of grief you give me.  Seriously, they're going well not that we've had a lot of time the past couple of weeks.  I've cancelled on her twice.  Arrived late another time.  My fault though.  I ended up paying a bill twice which left me short on the rent.  Taking the extra work meant avoiding eviction.  Kind of important."  A long pull from the bottle was followed by a wince from his other question.  "A horrible, unnecessary column she said.  Let me quote 'any column that deliberately sets out to ignore the contributions of Runway, isn't worth the paper it's printed on'.  Metro desk is the perfect step up.  You'll be great at it.  You already have your police contacts and you finally get to choose your articles.  I'm jealous."  

"You should be. There is nothing like being called at three am to get the privilege of seeing them drag a bloated body out of the harbor." He grinned. As ghastly as it could be, he gave the victims a face and hoped he made them a little less forgettable. "What's this about avoiding eviction?"  

"I'll pass.  The street kids piece last week continues to haunt me as it is.  Bloated bodies?  I'd never sleep.  You know about eviction as well as I do.  The price we pay to live close to work - paycheck to paycheck living.  Isn't that why you pick up extra articles?  That's my reasoning anyway.  I've thought about moving but no one would rent to me unless Dad signed as a guarantor again which I do not want to do.  One of these days I'm going to write an article on the absurdity of requiring tenants to make 50 times what the rent is per year."  Each often frequent consideration of moving fell to the impossible pile.  Asking dear old Dad was out.  

"Scouch is moving out at the end of the month. I need a new roommate. You'd even get your own bedroom, with walls." He grinned at his friend. He'd been in the workforce a few more years than her and had a decent three bedroom apartment at what was by New York standards a steal of a deal.  

"Tempting, very tempting. What about your women though?  Then again, a rent controlled apartment in New York.  Tell you what, write out a will real quick, leave it to me and then..."  A devilish grin appeared.  Miranda popped into her head changing the grin to a smile.  Moving in with Jace would mean less hours, fewer missed dates and less bartering for lunches.   

For as easy as his nature was he did have a quirk when it came to the women he dated. "I never bring them home Ace. Bad mojo. My home is my castle and I don't need the drama there.  Take it Andy you won't get a better deal."  

"Ye... No.  Maybe.  Let me think about it this weekend okay?  Maybe talk to Miranda, get her opinion.  I can't see why she would mind but it seems like one of those topics I should get her opinion on.  Who knows, after I might even find a way to tell her about that reporter she despises."  Why she couldn't say exactly but neither did she have the desire to make the same mistakes she had with Nate.  The lack of communication had been just one of their issues.   

Jace motioned the bartender and ordered up two double whiskies. "Three hundred a month." He winked. He had the good fortune of the apartment and half the fun of that was being able to give his friends a break and Andy could use. "And the office room has tons of space for another desk, just sayin'. Honestly it would help me out. I'm not there half the time and I need someone who isn't going to trash the place when I'm gone for a week."  He and his current roommate were parting ways because of that issue.

"Are you trying to kill me?  That's three times less than what I'm paying now."  Seeing each other at work, at play and living together too would have worried her if it had been anyone other than Jace who she already saw more than she saw her lover.  Andy whimpered and polished of her beer.  "A tentative yes.  I do need to talk to her first.  It's just, sometimes she gets this little look in her eye.  Like she wants to say something yet holds back because I've already decided.  It's not there but it is.  We're a long way from where we were when we started.

I hate to screw that up with something as simple as not giving her a heads up prior to be doing something.  You should have seen the look she gave me when I took that homeless piece article.  And not just because of the people I worked with either.  My decision to spend a night walking the streets for interviews?  She barely contained her response and that was a work decision."

"She has turned out to be a much cooler customer than I would have guessed." Jace wasn't sure that was an entirely good thing but he didn't bother voicing that. "No hurry." He tossed back the whiskey and nearly choked. "Andy am I drunk?"

"Huh?  No.  Why?"  The man could hold his liquor.  A drunk for him was as rare as cheap New York apartments.

"I must be drunk because I could swear Runway's numero uno just strutted through the door."

Andy blinked dumbly then sat up a little to check his eyes.  "You look sober but you're right.  You're drunk. Miranda wouldn't be caught dead..."  Miranda might though. She had eaten the kabobs earlier.  Certain he was drunk she turned around to face the room.  The bottle she'd been toying with fell through lifeless fingers.  It clattered loudly then rolled off the table.  Shock slowly transformed into a face splitting smile of delight.  Standing automatically, she breathed more than spoke, "Miranda."

Jace just slapped himself on the forehead.  His friend had lit up like the Christmas tree in central park. He looked at the table and with the sleeve of his shirt made the ring marks disappear and brushed the peanut shells onto the floor then pulled out a chair. "Come join us."

"Andrea, Green Keds. " She tried to look nonchalant as she took the chair all the while wondering how many snags her suit would be sporting when she left.  "Next time if you could just release a thousand white doves to announce my arrival that would be a little more discreet."  Her eyes softened noticeably when they locked with Andy's, it had been a long week.  She looked good enough to devour. A look that Jace read and then loudly set the other whiskey in front of Miranda.

"Next round is on you." He teased.

Andy tossed a napkin at him without glancing away from Miranda.  Unexpected pleasure stirred in her belly like a glass of wine by the fireplace.  A week of hit and miss calls and visits melted away.  The editor's gentle admonishment slowly penetrated.  On its heels was a light blush.  Andy cleared her throat, overly appreciative of the way she was being looked.  One slight squirm and she waved her hand at the table.  "Miranda, Jace, Jace, Miranda Priestly.  You got off early."  Happy wonderment colored the comment.

"Mmm." she hummed while giving Jace the introductory dissection.  He was an exceptionally good looking young man, well put together despite the appalling shoes. His unassuming appearance stopped at his eyes which seemed a smoky gray to her and drew you in before you realized it.  What was she doing here? The whiskey disappeared leaving a heated trail down her throat.

Jace's composure gave out and he had the urge to slide under the table.  The Donald had never given him the bug under the microscope look. "I've never touched her, promise. Never will. Swear to God," he blurted out in a hush that left him feeling like an idiot but unable to stop his tongue.

Miranda laughed. "Smart."  She beckoned the bartender, ordered a round then turned to Andy. "I like him.  I just had a meeting with Clarice in her new studio. It's only a couple of blocks away."

"Don't scare him too badly."  The moment of insecurity caused by her appearance versus Jace's faded.  On her worst days she hadn't reacted quite like he had.  Andy's hand twitched, longing to touch.  "How's the new place?  I've not had time to see it yet but she squealed for two weeks over it."

The second double whiskey on an empty stomach surged through Miranda's veins, her normal inhibitions and standards taking a hit in its wake. The heat in her blood was directed in one look at her lover. Runaway desire given their current locale was laughable and yet.  "The new studio is sparse but functional, her next showing is shaping up with a lot of promise."

Jace just sat very quietly all the while hoping the Editor would get bombed enough that she would forget meeting him.

"That's good.  What time do you have to be back?"  A smoky quality altered Andy's voice in instinctive response to her lover.  Leaving Jace on their normal time was something she wouldn't usually do if the interruption had been by anyone else.  But Miranda never left early much less walked, curiously, into where she was.  If she didn't have to go back then there were days away to make up for.  An idea her body had already jumped on board with if the tingling of her skin was any indication.  Jace would just have to understand.

"I'm done for the day." She whispered, framing it as nothing but an open invitation.

An early start to the weekend.  Before the girl's got home from school.  Andy smiled apologetically at Jace then pushed her untouched whiskey in front of him.  "My friend, I'm sorry to cut and run but extra time is precious.  Forgive me?"

"Go before you get us all arrested."

"Thanks Jace.  The models at Runway will leave at 4:45 today if you're interested."  A quick kiss was planted on his cheek before she all but pulled Miranda up.  The way the woman stared could melt clothes off.  For every moment it was directed at Andy the less inhibited she became and the more she wanted her lover.  Seeing that look in private was one thing.  Here, out and about, it could have turned her into a full time exhibitionist

Jace waved them off, content to stay at his table for a few minutes more. He had a new appreciation for Andy's fixation with the fashion maven.  She had presence that grabbed you by the throat and robbed all good sense. It would take him two more drinks to stop the silver hair is sexy chant.

"You're certainly in a hurry." Miranda noted with approval as she followed Andrea out of the bar. "You should walk in front. I like those jeans."

Andy smirked and shoved her hands into her pockets.  One more moment out and about and she couldn't be responsible for her actions.  "I'm sorry, did you want to stay?  I would have thought you weren't into christening bathrooms.  Keep looking at me like that and that's exactly what we would have done."  Voice quiet, meant for her lover alone, she moved ahead of Miranda the moment she was done speaking.  Now she knew what she hadn't noticed at Runway.  Miranda often stared at her ass whether the editor realized it yet or not.  The knowledge sent her confidence soaring.

Miranda lengthened her steps so her voice was at Andy's ear. "You've stood me up twice this week. I'd christen the Statue of Liberty at this point. Roy's on the corner."

"Don't tease Mira."  The shortened name rolled off her tongue like a lover's kiss.  Andy couldn't have said why she'd started using it but when they were alone and desire ran rampant it seemed to pop out.  "Home.  Either home.  Or Roy and half of New York are going to get a show."

"I haven't even started," she purred before getting into the waiting car and sending Roy to her home because it was closer.  The space between them was not nearly enough.  She cleared her throat several times leading Roy to ask if she were coming down with something.

The journalist squirmed.  Blood beat through her clit, arousal set to high.  As it always did, Miranda's voice made it worse to the point she felt drunk.  A glance at Roy, another around and she captured her lover's hand.  One discrete pull and the hand was almost exactly where she wanted it.  Eyes drooping, Andy's breath caught, the heel pressing directly into her clit.  "Missed that memo.  Very much started."

A look, a touch was all it took and Andrea was ready to go.  It was something Miranda had yet to get accustomed to but she found the level of her lover's responsiveness a heady trip of itself. Her need for Andy and the depth of it might had disturbed her if it had just stopped at that, it didn't, it was more, how much more she couldn't say, but it deserved it's due attention. She pushed her hand snuggly between Andy's jean clag legs answering the primal call. Her voice was low enough that only Andy could hear it, even if it sounded like a shouted proclamation. "Andrea, I desire you more than anything."

The blue in her eyes vanished to the narrowest of rings, the black obsidian pools of unharnessed want, the tethers of which she'd only just released. "Roy?" She tried to keep the heavy lusty tones from her voice.

He waited while weaving in and out of the harried Friday afternoon traffic.

"The windows are tinted correct?"

"Yes Ma'am."

"Park the car in the garage at the townhouse Roy and then see yourself out. Take the weekend off."

If he was surprised he didn't voice it, he just discreetly flipped his review mirror and turned up the radio. In his lifetime as a driver there was very little he'd not seen take place in the back of one of his cars.

"The windows are tinted." She whispered against the earlobe that was now a prisoner of her teeth.

"Mi-ran-d-a."  Elongating the name Andy tilted her head closer.  Several shots of whiskey entered the bloodstream at once.  Passion held untamable and controlled that first night simmered over as it had every time since.  The journalist's back arched at the same moment her hips pressed forward.  The feeling was distinctly Miranda.  Exactly what you wanted, needed and never quite enough.  Seam pressing inward Andy's breath picked up.  One hand found the curve of a breast while the other tangled into silver hair.  Miranda's spicy scent filled her nostrils.  Roy was forgotten for the pliable flesh in her fingers and the hot body pressed close.  And more than anything she wanted her lover as gone as she was.  "Have a scarf on?"

Miranda's mind blanked for an instant in a searing flash that struck straight at her core. Responsive was one thing, when coupled with a white Hermes in just the right way though it was a guaranteed hat trick of orgasms. Her hand moved only long enough to undo and wiggle their way down the front of Andy's jeans.  She groaned her approval as her fingers greeted the slick proof of Andy's own lust that was teetering close to the edge of uncontrolled. "Yes I do."

"Mmm."  An agreement of some sort.  Andy couldn't say to what to.  Feet braced against the floorboard, what she did know was moving closer to those teasing fingers.  Again there were too many clothes on.  Nipples aching in time with her clit, her head turned.  Teeth sought and found the sensitive skin of the editor's neck.  One or both moaned.  Her mind registered one word to describe the indescribable taste of her.  Racy.  Tongue tracing upward, Andy again pressed upward, seeking relief from the pounding blood settling into her clit.  Up once more in an almost kiss then down again.  The perfectly snow white Hermes scarf was in her teeth when she pulled back.

"Want," Andy said around the material, one hand fisting in the material of her lover's shirt and yanking, searching for silken skin like a woman obsessed with the Holy Grail.  Then, delicately, she found a way to run her tongue over Miranda's lips, scarf still perfectly in place.

Straddling Andy solved two immediate problems. It effectively blocked Roy's view in case he got curious and it brought Miranda much closer to the woman she was intent on ravishing. She bit down on Andy's bottom lip.  Her own tongue then anxiously traced it before seeking out it's mate.  The constant brush of the silk startling in its softness while seducing her further. Her free hand reached down and yanked at the zipper of Andy’s jeans until they relented and parted to her will.  Much more mobile fingers danced along the inside of Andy's swollen folds while Miranda took to unbuttoning and divesting the younger woman of her shirt, starting at the bottom.  Eyes on Andy's she spoke against the lips pressed to hers. "It needs to be tied."  

Desperate for a breath she arched back. "I could..." Miranda wiggled her fingers, keeping them just out of touch of her lover's clit as her other finally dispensed with the shirt and honed in on one erect nipple to start a long slow pluck.

Miranda might as well have asked her to translate the Iliad in its original Greek.  Somewhere, far off in her mind the journalist heard what could have been a car door slam.  The sound was quickly absorbed with her heart beat pounding against her ears.  Held in place by an unseen anchor Andy had stopped breathing or moving.  Brown eyes narrowed to fractions of degrees, the scarf dangling from her mouth, hands clenching at the soft curve of her lover's ass, she held until the sensations reached their peak.  When the moment passed she surged upward.  White hair was captured and held in a kiss that was as soft tongue and hard teeth as it was silky material.

Andy's moan said it all.  The ripping of the beautiful Chanel top Miranda had been wearing told a different tale.  The kiss broke and then in deliberate fashion with bumbling fingers she managed to tie off the scarf.  Miranda's quirk, as strong as her fetishes got.  The perfect unrestrictive binds of a scarf.  Wet, desperately wanting, and skin aching, her words muffled around it.  "You will.  Please.  Let me feel you."

The fact that her three thousand dollar shirt was now a useless rag didn't even register as Miranda's glazed eyes fixed on the near perfect picture of her half naked gagged lover.  Two fingers took small seductive strokes forward.  She groaned wantonly when they finally encountered the stiff peak of Andy's clit just as her pinky slipped inside.  Not nearly enough for her lover, but she couldn't help her own gasp at the engulfing heat. Her lips found a spot just behind Andy's ears and attached ferociously.

"Jesus Mira."  Andy groaned and bucked.  The blinding heat of arousal made her dizzy. Idle thoughts stirred deep in her mind until she was simultaneously tilting her head for better access and tormenting the skin of Miranda's neck.  "Tease," she hissed a split second before her hand slipped between the editor's thigh.  The need to orgasm battled with the need to watch the editor watching her.  "We're stopped.  Could take care of you. Dressed just like this."

The hand wrapped around Andy's right breast that had been squeezing dropped away as Miranda reached behind her and batted at a button until the back of the front seat directly behind her dropped forward. She raised up on her knees and leaned into Andy.  Fingers pressing together she pinched the journalist’s clit as she hastily undid her own pants.  Her hips swayed in a sensual motion as she eased them down over her hips. "You must," she huffed, brain functions ceasing as she ignited from the inside out.

"You're beautiful."  The journalist murmured as she worked the rest of the shredded shirt off until Miranda's chest was bared.  Short nails lightly scratched from the line of the editor's breast to her belly.  A slow dip down and the traced the line of her panties.  Lust oozed from her eyes.  Full lips began teasing the small, dark nipple begging for attention.  Scarf quickly growing wet, she used it as the perfect tease between her tongue and the erect flesh.  The teasing finger continued to roam.  New desire rose up.  One for Miranda that simply fed her own.  "This?"  Her fingers dipped lower, tracing the band around Miranda's thigh.  "Or...?"

She couldn't take her eyes off Andrea; it was becoming a greater problem of late. Her thumb reached out and rubbed over damp lips under the silk. "Or definitely or." Manicured nails dove and tangled into Andy's hair as she claimed a kiss that stole all vestiges of remaining sanity as her tongue roamed at will, teasing taunting and enjoying. Her fingers rolled Andy's clit; it had a beat all its own.

"Miranda," became the only word she knew for a minute. Andy wrapped around the woman's torso and hugged her fiercely.  Hot breath blew over damp skin as small shudders racked the journalist.  Orgasm loomed like her best friend in the world. She ached so badly that she squeezed her thighs shut around the torturing hand then exhaled in a ragged breath.  One more touch like that and fulfilling Miranda's desires would be out.  Slowly releasing her, Andy kissed each nipple.  They'd been neglected poor things and there wasn't time to make it up to them.  Yet.  A small bite landed the editor's rib cage and then the real maneuvering began.

The seats creaked and limbs thunked against solid padding. Miranda's grunt from being moved and divested of her panties echoed a similar thought but when she was done the fingers teasing her were gone and somehow.  Somehow.  She'd ended up half in the floorboard with her legs spread up on either side of the front seat.  Andy hissed from cold metal on the bottom of the forward seat hitting her ass.  One more squiggle and her arms wrapped around Miranda's thighs and her eyes popped open.  She'd damn sure pay for the contortion later but that was then.  Andy stared with unabashed lust.  A slow swipe of her tongue, from under the scarf, along the crease of Miranda's leg caused a whimper of want.

The effects of the whiskey kept Miranda from considering anything about their current coupling except how it felt. The first swipe of Andrea's tongue left her boneless and panting hard. "An-drrrrrrea. More darling, oh god, more, now, please."

I love you came dangerously close to coming out.  Andy bit it back.  First declarations of love during sex would change it.  Cheapen it.  A more intimate swipe drew a loud moan of pleasure from the journalist.  Miranda tasted just like her skin.  Exotic and unforgettable.  Understanding kept her eyes locked despite the way they wanted to close.  Head tilting up to slowly draw her tongue up through soaked folds, the journalist stopped just before the swollen clit and circled it, always from behind the scarf, wanting to draw this out regardless of the demands her own body was making.  "More?"

Miranda mewed her assent loudly. "An-drea-a!" It was one of those rare times her voice rose above a whisper.

A grin spread behind the material.  There it was, Miranda's pissed off tone.  The journalist adored it.  The proud back had the most feminine arch to it, pushing her nipples forward and adding the most sinuous line to her chest.  "Miraaaa," she growled against the woman's clit.  Andy squirmed until she found a way to stay balanced then did several things simultaneously:  A finger pressed inside scalding heat.  A single moan preceded her lips wrapping gently around the swollen flesh.  Not able to quite suck fully, she held it there and gently flickered her tongue out.

Inner walls grabbed at the finger, clamping and pulling it in, the editor's hips jerked towards Andy and her back curved into a tighter bow as she strained towards what she needed and wanted desperately. Her fingers buried in long dark chestnut locks in search of an anchor when every cell seemed determine to split apart.  The soft flickering tongue kept her on the razor's edge, while the finger inside beckoned her to the precipice. And neither one held a candle to the power of Andrea's eyes that remained fixed on her. She bit down on her lips as the sweet intensity danced behind her eyes but just beyond her reach. "Oh, just a little mo-re. Mmm." Her thighs flexed and pulled Andy's head in tighter. "Please Andrea, I need you now."

Miranda had the ability to resist such pleas.  Andy did not.  Every word was like lightning to her center.  The feel of her lover continued to keep her needs under control.  Merely watching would have been more than enough.  Glistening peaches and cream skin begged to be licked, caressed and revered.  "Miranda. I've missed you," she whispered against hot skin. In the next moment two fingers spiraled in.  The slightest of pauses as Andy watched, mesmerized by her lover, and her tongue joined in the fray adding more pressure to what became a mix of fluttering tongue and long intense circles.

Control evaporated as every nerve at her center fired; her eyes slammed shut. Andrea's name was chanted until her orgasm crested.  Her skin shimmered with a heavy sheen.  Eventually the erratic gyrations ceased leaving Miranda sagging against the door and panting until she could move and reach down for Andy - Desire for her not remotely slackened. When Andrea didn't move her way Miranda forced her eyes open. "You are both magnificent and gorgeous, now come here Andrea I must touch you."

"I want to."  Andy couldn't remember the last time she'd spoken a more true statement.  Feeling her lover set off sensations like nothing else.  But.  All the good intentions and desire in the world couldn't change one fundamental problem.  The journalist stroked Miranda's leg then sighed and glanced around.  Now that the moment had passed the discomfort of the position set in like a newly broken bone.  "I'm...stuck.  Close to Charlie horses.  And completely stuck Mira."

The desire to laugh was quelled by the sad little look on her lover's face. Miranda moved her legs then tried to sit upright.  It took a supreme effort given how her drenched back had fused to the leather. Once freed she scooted further into the front of the vehicle and reached for Andy's hands. "I'll pull. Ready?"

"No way. This is going to hurt."  Feeling better for having issued the muffled protest, she held her hands out and squeezed her eyes shut.  Both legs were deadened.  A blessing by Andy's estimation.

"Huh." Miranda didn't even hear herself use the forbidden utterance as she just stared at Andy. Unable to resist she reached down and untied the scarf before kissing her. "You're stuck. Really stuck. Hold on."  She scrambled across the seat and let herself out the driver's side door then came around and opened the passenger one in the back. She slid in behind Andy and put an arm under each underarm. "Now."

Andy bit down on her lip, inhaled deeply then pressed into and up on the back seat until the wedge holding her in its grip gave.  The resulting haphazard splay against Miranda, with her feet still resting on either side of the seat left her blinking against shock and thudding pain.  "Ow."  A turn of her head and her lips brushed over her lover's.  The press of bare flesh from behind made it all worth it. Again.  "Thank you.  Give me just a second to get feeling back and I'll get off of you."

Miranda's hands dropped from shoulders to just below Andy's breasts where they splayed to hold her there. Finally she let the contained laughter out.  Her mouth closed warmly on her lover's neck. "At least I didn't have to call Roy back."

"Oh dear god."  The skin under Miranda's mouth turned the color of a vine ripe tomato in the middle of July.  Andy groaned and buried her head in her hands.  Mortification won out over the soft mouth doing all the things she adored.  Giggling laughter came out in short bursts, echoing the editor's with a dose of laugh or die blended in.  "Possible to get him a car with a divider?"

"I think that is a must," she replied, realizing how buoyed she felt. "You giggle.  It's oddly endearing."  Long fingers raked through the soft shiny dark locks of hair, the slight scent from Andrea's perfume a known and favored fragrance.

"When really happy.  And stuck.  And busted by a driver."  Andy nuzzled the woman's neck having no particular desire to move.  So much time had passed of being in love with the editor that it became harder not to say it.  Every instinct said that timing was critical.  It would be the difference between having her feelings accepted and the editor drawing away.  "Still gone on you."  She murmured against skin that tasted faintly of sweat then sighed and began the process of moving.  Several tries later she was able to stand on her own, mostly.

When she exited the car Miranda stood behind Andy arms linking together around her waist. "Still?" she teased. "There is something to be said for staying power." She lightly smacked the bare ass presented to her. "Let's get you in the house before you kink up again. Will you stay the night?"

"Still.  Full stop.  Has increased I'm afraid.  And I'd love to.  I have to work for a little while tomorrow afternoon. Otherwise I'm all yours."   The journalist leaned back into her lover, making no pretense of hiding how much she loved the position.  Broad shouldered yet slight, Miranda made her feel safe.  Her arms dropped to cover those surrounding her waist, holding them there, forcing Miranda to make the same awkward waddle toward the door.  "You make me lose my mind."

"Carpe diem, seize the day, or in this case the next eighteen hours. No work for you, none for me. I am decreeing it so. We need to celebrate." Uncaring of how they looked trudging off balance and naked through her garage Miranda just pulled Andy closer and tapped in her pass code for the door. They stumbled inside and she slammed it behind them.

The decree was unexpected and entirely welcome.  If need be she'd use her credit card for a few bills this month.  Whatever was necessary to extend their time for as long as Miranda was in this mood.  Andy turned slowly, staying within the circle of her lover's arms then twined her arms around Miranda's neck.  Explosive desire returned. "Miranda."  A whisper of a kiss turned deeper until her entire body seemed to be undulating against the editor's.  "I need you. Desperately."

Swift footwork had them spun around and Andy's back pressed hard into the wall.  Lips brushed across the smooth plane of her collar bone, nipping teeth left a pink trail. "Andrea, darling, I will make you lose your mind until you forget about finding it again." Each word rated a new deadly sin as it slithered off her lips.  One leg pressed between Andy's to part them and then fingers ready to do the work of the devil and fulfill her whispered promise found their throbbing wet mark. "How desperately?" she whispered as time stopped and it became just them, only them.

Andy moaned a long, approving and needy moan.  A thud sounded from her head hitting the door when she arched.  Blunt nails dug into Miranda's ass in an attempt to pull her closer.  She pressed down, against the corded thigh muscle, searching for relief.  Head spinning, comprehension proved a challenge.  "I can think or breathe.  That desperately.  So desperate I'd give up Chanel, forever.  Mira please."

Miranda should have been wearing seven veils for the dance she performed as she shimmed down the naked torso pressed into hers. "Everything you want and more..." Her eyes flashed and held Andy's gaze, her smile broad, enticing lips turned upward as she licked them. She only gave a second thought to whether or not Andy's legs had recovered before one was fit over her shoulder as her mouth descended on her lover's clit which was out and out beckoning her. 


"Why do you have a gas fireplace?"  Andy asked.  The question had stirred on her tongue for months.  It made no sense.  Sure it could make it crackle but it wasn't the same at all.  The lack of appealing smoke smell for instance.  Shaking her head Andy passed over the refilled coffee cup then returned to the other end of the couch.  The editor's feet were pulled into her lap as her head dropped back against the furniture.  Mid-morning quiet time with Miranda, coffee and a fake fire.  She felt content if anxious.  The night alone together had been wonderful to the point she didn't want it to end.  So far, in the time since they left the car she'd found every excuse in the world to put off possibly altering their remaining time.  Soon she promised herself again and again.  Soon.

"I like it. Fires give off an ambiance central heat never achieves."  Wrapped in a midnight blue robe, slightly bleary eyed, Miranda wore the long night well. A small stretch and her limbs moved towards the fire's heat.

She couldn't argue that but neither did her opinion of gas versus wood fires change.  Her fingers began digging into the soles of the editor's feet and calves.  Jace's offer crept into the back of her mind.  Suddenly she was hesitant about bringing that up too.  "I'm always surprised by how still you can become sometimes.  Good surprised."

"I thrive in chaos. I plan in silence and it requires stillness," she shared as her foot arched against the massage.

"I like it and you like this."  Yet she didn't favor one side of Miranda more.  Both intrigued equally.  Without one the other would be too much or not enough.  Andy wished she'd thought to spike her coffee as she set it aside and spent a minute just massaging.  Courage.  Right, she had that.  Or at least having it meant not living under the cloud that loomed on the horizon.  "Miranda, the journalist for Unseen Eyes and the others is me."

"You?"  Facial expressions had vanished as the editor churned the reveal.

Andy stared into her coffee cup and nodded.  Looking up took a great deal of effort.  She managed it slowly, eyes raking over the now composed face.  While she didn't feel she'd done anything wrong, exactly, the idea had dawned that Miranda might.  "It know when.  I did miss the fashion world and asked if I could pick up some of the articles.  A pseudonym seemed best for a variety of reasons.  I never did it to hurt you or Runway.  Honestly I've not been trying to slight either of you.  But Runway is yours.  In my effort not to cross a line and step into your territory more than I have...  I didn't foresee you taking it as a slight."

She stared at the flames not quite trusting herself to look at Andy until she got a handle on how the confession made her feel. "You pulled it off beautifully? The pseudonym worked as desired.  You changed your style just enough. By all accounts a near flawless presentation. Why tell me now?"

Because I love you and now I think you could love me too.  The journalist kept the reply to herself.  By the skin of her teeth Andy managed to keep the gripping fear of losing Miranda at bay.  "I wasn't trying to pull it off from you so much as I didn't want me as Andy to be linked to it.  That's why the Mirror held the who so tightly.  I enjoyed the world. Your world. This was my way of still getting to enjoy some of it.  I'm sorry if I've hurt you.  Whether you believe me or not that was never my intent.  As for now...because things, we, feel different than we did then.  Before it seemed harmless.  Now it feels very harmful.  And because my anonymity isn't worth losing you over."

"I knew you missed it." There was an arrogant, ‘I was so right’ tilt to Miranda's head. "It's a good column Andrea..a little heavy handed by times but you're young. I appreciate you telling me, now. Whatever are you going to use to bribe me with now?"

The reaction caught her off guard to the point Andy stared blankly.  The mind was slow to catch up.  Miranda had known all along.  The journalist stood and walked on wooden legs to the window.  Arms crossing protectively over her chest, she closed her eyes.  A small, shuddering breath fogged the cold window.  Terror began to release its icy tentacles leaving a cold sweat behind.  "Kabobs," she said quietly, unshed and unseen tears shimmering.

"Andrea?" Her body language spoke volumes, Miranda rose and joined her at the window. "I do feel different now. You trusted your instincts and I believe they've served you well."

Still feeling the remnants of fear and relived beyond words Andy spun around.  One step forward and she wrapped around Miranda, clinging.  Always being the one to chase had amounted to accepting uncertain ground.  Continuing on happily had kept all the fears of what they were or weren't to the editor at bay - Until she knew it was time to tell the truth.  Miranda's reaction could have been okay or it could have been the end the bullet that killed them.  Andy buried her head in the woman's neck unable to keep her feelings back, timing be damned.  "I love you," she whispered loud enough to be heard, quiet enough to be ignored.

Knowing it because Andy still had the knack of visibly wearing her emotions, and actually hearing the woman say it were two entirely different beasts.  "You shouldn't," she replied while tilting Andy's chin so she could see her face.

"I do."  The journalist replied just as quietly.  Her one concession to fear was that she stared at Miranda without actually seeing her.  The one protection she could take against being hurt.

There was not one cell in Miranda's body that doubted Andy's words. She sighed. "Not one, but three ex husbands would tell you, your feelings are misplaced and will never be returned properly."

"I've met two. Both asses but that is their opinion.  Fine.  Not mine.  Joan and Bette were married four times.  Each."  What that had to do with anything she wouldn't be able to say a dozen lifetimes from now.  Andy's hands clutched at the editor's back, keeping her in place.

The cheeky addition earned her two kisses that threatened to render them both DOA from lack of oxygen. "Thank you for knowing that Andrea."  How often did the unexpected beget unexpected?  "As for me, if asked. I'd have to say I rescind my earlier assessment of your pursuit skills." Her eyes snapped shut and her cheeks colored before her eyes managed to reappear.   Hurling herself from her office window would be easier.

Andy hugged her again then held on.  The ground wasn't solid yet but it felt a hell of a lot sturdier than it had.  A flash of deep caring, maybe even love had been in those blue eyes when she dared to look.  The color in the editor’s cheeks spoke volumes.  It was enough.  When Miranda felt safe that her love wasn't going to be judged lacking then maybe the words would come.  They hadn't come this far for impatience to rule.  Most importantly, she hadn't found herself tossed out on the sidewalk.  "Misplaced, probably not.  But it takes two to make or break a relationship."

"If we are going to make a relationship Andrea it needs time. More time than we have given it. I am willing to make certain adjustments to give us a chance. Will you?"

The question was so unexpected as to be a smack between the eyes.  Andy slowly pulled back enough to see the editor's face, searching for intent.  The ground leveled a little more.  An instant yes was there, no questions or debating.  Behind it came adult responsibilities such as bills and eating.  Jace's offer came to mind.  Saying yes meant she could afford to make adjustments.  Pride and finally being seen kept her from sharing that she couldn't afford to maintain and adjust that easily even though now more than ever she needed to.  "I wouldn't have chased this long if I wasn't.  What do you have in mind?"

When she started to reveal what she had in mind there was no denying the fact of how much time she'd put into thinking it through time and again.  The decision had been made, the offer would be put out and then it would be up to Andrea.  "Come with me." She tightened the tie on her robe ignoring the fact that her lover might simply run for the nearest cab within the next five minutes.

"Lead the way."  Not yet ready to break the connection Andy slipped her arm around the editor's waist, mind struggling not to careen out of control.

"Time is an issue for obvious reasons." Miranda took Andy up to the sixth floor of her home. "Work. And while I love having you come here to work it is an inconvenience for you having half your things here and the half you need at your place. Then if you do come to spend a few hours I have to send you home in the wee hours across the city, which I might point out is much further from your work than here.  And then and most importantly are my girls. A relationship with me includes one with them.  Although they are at their most peaceful it is a challenge to get to know them after eleven at night.  I'd like you to move in."

Ever the eloquent journalist "Huh?" became Andy's choice of comments. Fifteen minutes ago she hadn't been entirely sure that Miranda wasn't with her because she was convenient and had been caught at a vulnerable time.  Careening became the rule of the moment as Andy sunk against a nearby wall.  "Mira, I can't...afford...this."

"We moved in here with the expectations of having a live in housekeeper. I hated it, she's gone." Miranda reached out and grabbed Andy's hand and walked her out onto a balcony. "Stephen had a rather elaborate office put in. It's a fully self contained living space. Separate entry. You’d keep your privacy. It does however give us proximity and it would give the girls a chance to get to know you on their time and yours.  On the weeks the girls are here I am usually home no later than five thirty. I know for now you are only scheduled in every other Thursday morning and I'd be willing to go in later those mornings you are off.  I will always have social obligations but I don't have to attend them all..." Truth be told in the last several years she attended more to avoid being home.  "We are both always going to be busy, but it would be a start."

"A start?  Miranda Priestly you've been thinking about this for...I don't know how long.  But you have.  While I've still spent some days wondering if it was okay to call you, unscheduled."  Andy pinched the bridge of her nose, furious without being angry and perplexed to the point of incredulous laughter.  In between waves of it, she added, "And good plan.  One teensy flaw.  The separate space would be for show alone.  Not once have either of us slept apart when in the same vicinity and sometimes we should have. There have been nights you should have gone home for your own sake or that I should have.  And that's after a matter of weeks of sleeping together.  That little habit is only going to get worse especially if your within shouting distance.  Sneaking out of my room or bed will drive you crazy by the second time."

Miranda gave her an 'is that all' look. "I've had time to think about things since you declared your intentions. In those long cold cab drives between your place and here. It's a practical solution if not perfect." The back of her hand stroked the curve of Andy's neck. "There are worse things than sneaking from your bed. Getting mugged while running to the cab. Getting asphyxiated in said cabs. And having to say fifteen hail Mary's on the ride home just to live through the night.  Sleeping with me is a habit?"

"A need.  You're exaggerating,"  Andy responded distractedly while leaning into the welcome touch.  The edge of her thumb fell victim to chewing.  Practical was good but.  The journalist shook her head and looked up.  "I don't want to be here because it's practical.  I want to be wanted Mira.  Do you want me here?  With you and them?  Not because it's practical and easiest."

Of course she wanted her there, had Andrea gone daft?  "I want you here Andrea, for me, for us. I can carry around all the feelings in the world for you but it won't mean much at the end of month or year if we don't make the time to build something more.  What I want is to at least have the chance to see if we can build something more...if we can work towards a time where our places in each other’s lives are not up for question.  It's not perfect.  I couldn't come up with one solution that was.  But like you said earlier it takes two...I'm listening."

"I want to be with you Miranda.  These days apart make me miserable.  Never knowing when the next time I'm going to see you.  I've been in love with you since before I started chasing you.  Since before that run-in at Starbucks.  I've tried to let you set a pace you're comfortable at.  But I have my insecurities too.  Have had.  I just didn't allow myself to look at them.  I work so much for two reasons.  Stories I like and money.  Jace asked me to move in with him yesterday.  Because as much as I wish it did work just doesn't pay enough.  I can afford to live with him.

I want to live with you.  Being able to afford to do so is a different matter.   And in ten years I doubt that will have changed."  Somewhere in the middle of speaking Andy slid down the wall taking Miranda's hand with her.  Stubborn pride could be a downfall.  Her father had been sure to teach her that.  Yet he'd been just as bad.  Where was the line between stubborn pride and pride for the right reasons?  A mad scramble to find it didn't miraculously provide answers.

"Would it help if I told you this place doesn't cost me a penny? My divorce lawyer is a superstar."  She tried not to make light of it and understood to a point…and then it just seemed like a damned ridiculous reason. "If it would make it easier whatever you are considering paying Green ked boy for rent you could pay me.  I'm not going to press the issue Andrea.  It was my way of showing my intent. If it doesn't work for you, that's fine. We'll try something else."  

"It's not that Miranda.  I want to be with you.  Please believe that.  I'm just...trying to find the line between making us work and my pride.  Pride sounds stupid in comparison.  Until I then go but what us is there if I don't have some pride?  I guess...yeah paying would help.  I can't just live off you sweetheart.  It's - I want to be your equal.  Not someone for you to take care of like that."  

Miranda's ire rose but she held it at bay.  "What does that mean? My equal? "  

"Some you talk to when you've had a crap day or about work.  Or just whatever is in your head.  Equal in my opinions and status.  That you're not always the one who does everything.  Mutual, a two way street and you know what that means.  You have to."  Then again she might not given that tone of voice.  One Andy remembered all too well.  Her own frustration rose.   

"To status. Do you have three ex husbands and two children stashed that I am unaware of?"  

Agh.  She'd almost dub the woman as trying to be difficult.  Except Miranda could be difficult without trying.  "You know I don't but neither do I see what that has to do with anything.  They're a part of you.  That makes them important to me.  Beyond that..."  

"They are much more a part of me than the money or my address.  Why does accepting them make you less of an equal? I've got twenty years on you Andrea. There are things we will never be equal in, so what?  I call.  I very much like talking to you about my day and if it's been difficult telling you about it makes it better. I value your opinion and how you present it.  You've done most of the work for this relationship to date. A two way street can mean many things.  You take care of me in ways no one else has ever thought of.  I don't know what makes it so offensive to allow me to do the same."  

"That is a false dichotomy if I've ever heard one."  Andy pushed off the floor to stand.  Apples and oranges arguments.  "Equal in ways you're talking, no.  I'm referring to our relationship.  I consider that to be people that contribute equally to the relationship whether that's everyday life stuff to standing to respect.  No, we can't weigh one thing versus another.  There is no way for anyone to do that. Dating or living together we have to do what works for us.  But.  I don't want to wake up in two months, two years or twenty and find that I've lost your respect.  That you think of me as more your child, someone you have to look after, than your lover."  

"Pity you hadn't worked this all out before you decided to pursue me and cause me to fall for you. I don't think we are equal or ever will be.  You're more giving by nature. It's why we are here to begin with."  Miranda was well aware what an issue the inequality could be.  It was the root of three divorces.  Fragile egos that grew tired of the competition real or imagined. "I don't know how to allay your fears on this. I don't want to wake up in six months with you expecting someone younger, nicer and less driven. What I do want is to wake up beside you, as a partner Andrea.  You."  

All the fiery heat in hell wouldn't have been enough to keep color in Andy's cheeks.  Stricken, she took a step back, stoically refusing not to cry under any circumstances.  The sentiment at the end came too late.  Damage had already been done.  Carefully controlled, the journalist spoke in precisely chosen words, each weighed and measured through a strained voice.  "I left open as much as possible.  The danger in pursuing anyone is boxing yourself into the idea of them.  I have chosen not to think.  Not to second guess and ponder how it would all work out.  I've taken it one step at a time and I'm sorry if."  

Andy shook her head then scrubbed her face.  It would be easy to go there, to hurt when hurt.  The words were right there sitting like vinegar on her tongue.  But they could not be taken back  And Miranda for all her hard exterior, in ways that defied all logic, could be more vulnerable than she'd ever let on.  I don't think we are equal or ever will be, continued to ricochet in her ear drums.  "I wanted to know you.  I do know you.  Idealizing what it could be would have been trouble.  And it would have been unfair to you.  But you Miranda have no equals.  Irv you handle more often than not.  He is a boss in name only.  I want to do things for you.  I enjoy doing the little things.  I also do them because I can't take you to a fancy dinner.  As much as it's just because I want to take care of you it is also my way of equalizing us.  I don't want to be a work person.   

I want your respect in work and more importantly between us.  I will never be on your level as far as society is concerned.  I'm quite aware of that.  Between you and I, I honestly thought I could be.  You make me feel safe, whole, understood.  A thousand other things.  Neither am I stupid.  I can't afford the groceries here, your cook or probably even your housekeeper.  I've made my peace with that.  But there comes a line between knowing that and just sitting back and becoming the pool girl who tries to make you happy because I owe you something.  Because you're in charge because you're you and everything between us is yours.  I do not know how else to make you understand."  

Both her hands went to Andy's shoulders. "I'm sorry that was a terrible thing for me to say.   Andrea, I feel as though it is me who needs to play catch-up to you.  I do respect your work, I respect your career choices.  Your intelligence, your dedication, your absolute love for what you do.  You aren't cutting the corners to sell yourself or your readers short and it would be easy to do given how woefully they underpay you. I know about that.  Everyone pays their dues. You’re honest Andrea and real in a world that rarely is either.  Equals no? You are fundamentally better than me. Do I want to embark on a relationship the intent of it being fifty-fifty? Yes. I don't want being with me to make you something less.  That was part of the draw, you didn't seem to let it matter before, who or what I was. You didn't ask for anything in return.   

You gave me Clarice, then Elise who have benefited my life in ways I've yet to calculate...speaking of handling..." she cleared her throat. "I've seen some of the notes in Elise's book.  They came from you. Cues. You have to draw your lines Andrea, I've been tempted to return the favors but I too am very cognizant of 'tainting' your career.  I care about you, deeply.  Yes wanting you here is completely selfish. But I don’t quite understand why my wanting to help you is any different than how you've helped me. But they are your lines and I'll respect them. If moving in with Jace is what it takes to keep us on equal footing then..." Oh hell no she was not going to finish that statement.  

The journalist sighed and sunk into the warm body.  There were objections and very real obstacles but to what end?  Andy didn't move, hardly daring to breathe, until the hurt eased.  This principle, if adhered to, had the unexpected potential to harm Miranda.  She already watched what she did from what she'd said.  The point of it all could make that worse.  Once that happened would it still be worth it?  "I'd rather move in with you.  It's not fair to use 'it didn't matter before'.  Nor does it matter exactly.  Not in who you are or me wanting to be with you.  I'll move in, no rent.  But the first time you ever say to me the words 'my money' in any form I'll burn your Prada's, Miranda Priestly, and I'll use your scarves as the starter."  

Andy paused long enough to dip her head back in order to make eye contact.  "Clarice.  I wanted to be able to imagine that spark of interest in your eyes.  The intrigue.  We both know the lines of too far though.  That doesn't however mean you have to worry so much.  You could never taint me.  Thank you for the concern but I'm a big girl.  I'd rather you do what you want and be happy then want to do something, not do it because of some line and then regret not doing it.  That's what I meant about being equal.  I'll want that now and I’ll still want that twenty years down the line.  Not someone younger or less dedicated or work obsessed.  I didn't fall in love with Martha Stewart, thank god for that.  I fell in love with you, Dragon Lady and all, and I know exactly what that means."  

Andy might be overstating the fact that she knew exactly what it meant but Miranda would concede she already knew more than any of her predecessors. "Even when I snack on puppies?" Her fingers linked as she reveled in the weight of woman in her arms.  

"As long as you floss after.  A charitable contribution to a puppy shelter now and again wouldn't hurt either."  The backs of her fingers made slow circles on the editor's neck.  High emotions began to settle.   

Never one to let grass grow Miranda turned her head and kissed the side of Andy's hand before posing. "When's moving day?"  

"You're so indecisively decisive."  More to the point the editor apparently weighed her decisions to the point of being ludicrous.  Then out of nowhere she decided.  In that instant everything became full speed ahead.  Andy rested her forehead against Miranda's cheek while considering her schedule.  "I just paid rent not that I guess it matters.  What about next weekend when the girl's are away?  Unless they'll feel it's behind their backs.  Then, I guess Wednesday or so since I have time off."  

"The weekend works well. Believe me you don't want them underfoot. They can be terrors." Miranda's eyes lit up the way they always did when she talked about her girls. "I've already talked to them about the possibility of you moving in. " And had received their approval along with a hundred and one questions but it had gone well.  

She had?  Of course she had.  It wasn't in the editor's make up not to include the girls or get their input.  Trepidation crawled across Andy's face.  "They're okay with it?  I guess they are or we wouldn't be discussing this.  And yes, I know they can be terrors.  Sweet and fun too but absolute terrors.  They almost got me fired once."  

"They weren't quite sure what to make of it but another body to terrorize is always great fun."  Miranda chuckled. "I also talked to their father in a little more detail.  After the initial barrage of snipes it went well.  Although I suspect half of his benevolent attitude could be attributed to the fact that given you are a woman... suddenly he felt he was off the hook for any problems in our failed marriage. Those who will have occasion to be here won't be under the false impression that you are the housekeeper."  

"Good.  I hate the thought of us causing problems for you.  Although being the housekeeper isn't all bad.  That I can do.  Being the cook, that would be an issue."  Snipes brought to mind old friends, past lovers and her family.  None of them had been told.  Part of it was she didn't tell some of them anything.  This especially felt like none of their business.  The family though would not agree yet for all they talked she wasn't in the habit of filling them in on her personal decisions.  Even with Nate they'd always seemed like they didn't exactly want to know.  They wanted her with someone and happy but for all that had hardly ever spoken of him.  "I've not gone out of my way to tell anyone.  My friends now know.  A few ask the usual friend questions.  Jace being the exception to that."  

"You'll be living here. I want you to make this place yours." She would never admit it but she'd come to enjoy spending time in Andy's apartment because it was her in a very calming way. "It might make it easier for your friends at first that this space is yours. And I do mean that. I've made it very clear to the girls that your place is by invite only. I expect them to respect that and for you to let me know if they don't. "  

Ha.  Miranda said that now but in a few weeks she'd be doing her usual little affronted huffs over a piece of artwork or the hanging of a suit or dress.  She wouldn't be Miranda if she didn't.  "It's not the girl's I worry about but their mother who I know good and well moves that Runway piece I have framed every time she's over.  I simply do not buy that it gets up and moves over three nails or that the painting that had hung there magically falls down."  

"You have a wild imagination Andrea. Let's direct it towards more pleasurable pursuits." As if she'd get up in the wee hours of the morning and move said picture to a place on the wall where it actually belonged.  That was just ridiculous.  

"Do you have something in mind Mrs. Priestly?  Convince me."  Andy leaned in for a languid kiss that made promises she had every intention of keeping.  

Her voice sounded like polished gravel. "Your new office has a very large desk. Need I say more?"  

"Mmm.  I can think of a lot of things you can say.  During."  Miranda's voice had an instant effect.  The journalists eyes drooped as she tugged the woman forward.  There would be plenty of time to discuss details later.   

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