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A week after she leaves Paris, Andy realises that freedom does nothing to unbind her from whatever spell Miranda has weaved. Her mind still reels with visions of silver, flashes of cerulean, slashes of red. A colour palette which stalks her from day to night, haunting her even as she seeks solace in slumber.

That Miranda still exerts any power over her three months later is a secret she hides from everyone. She never refers to her former boss, barely mentions Runway, and reverts to a sense of fashion guaranteed to elicit disdain from the ‘clackers’.

Naturally she tells no one of the fantasies she continues to have about Miranda. Fantasies that started a month before Paris and have altered in only one way. Along with confessions of love and mind-blowing sex, now they always begin with mutual apologies. In many ways, that's the most important part.

She fucks the men Lily offers up in the naive belief that Andy's occasional melancholy is Nate-related. As a distraction they serve a purpose. As a remedy they’re completely useless. To her profound relief they have no real interest in anything permanent so no one gets hurt.

Nine months after abandoning Miranda in Paris she goes to bed with a woman who bares no resemblance to her former boss. The look is hippie, the smell is all lavender, orange and patchouli and the end result is unfulfilling. She is an idiot to have expected anything else.

A year after leaving Miranda, Andy waits on the street outside the Elias-Clarke building. It annoys her that now it's her turn to live on hope. The hope that the other woman also measures her life according to Paris time.

When she spies the editor striding towards her town car, phone in hand, she finds she cannot move. The woman looks as formidable and unapproachable as always. This is the real Miranda, not the one she recklessly conjures up on a nightly basis. It strikes her that she is now one of Miranda's silly girls. Certainly the plan to ambush her former boss is not the work of anyone smart.

Her instinct for self preservation declares itself and she turns to leave. Now she hopes her presence remains undetected until she blends into the city crowd. Andy walks away and no one calls out her name in a tone both calm and commanding. The weight of disappointment is almost too much to bear.

**********

She sits in the car watching Andrea walk away from her again. It's been a year since she waited on a flight of stairs, surrounded by paparazzi, searching in confusion for her assistant. The feeling of loss is as strong as the first time, which is both vexing and unsurprising.

Being deserted in Paris is a memory that Miranda constantly relives against her will. The fear of abandonment her lifelong Achilles heel. It amuses her in a completely dark and morbid way how Andrea's disappearance, not the departure of her husband, broke her.

At work she embraces her reputation for being unpredictable and aloof. She's all sharp edges and cutting remarks and no one notices anything amiss. The magazine and her staff are as challenging as always, her pursuit for perfection constantly threatened by the forces of incompetence and mediocrity.

Fashion and charity events are still attended with tedious regularity, her appearances ranging from brief cameos to starring roles as circumstances dictate. Sometimes there's a handsome escort, more often there is not. Few men can handle taking a back seat in her presence and, quite frankly, she no longer has the patience to placate their egos.

Three months ago she finally went to bed with someone new. He was entirely appropriate - tall and attractive, impeccable manners, a stylish dresser with quiet confidence. In bed he worshipped her, but the hard muscular lines of his body never quite fit with hers in the way she craved. It's not his fault that what was once so right is now so very wrong.

Miranda contemplates sleeping with a woman. The young models flitting through the doors of Runway certainly offer a veritable array of opportunities. But none of them tempt or interest her. She has never been a woman to settle for imposters and this is not the time to start. That this decision leaves her alone and out of options she thinks is her penance.

The sound of Roy clearing his throat startles her.

“Yes, go,” she responds in a bored and imperious tone. Her sunglasses, firmly in place, hide the telltale signs of her musings.

As the car glides out into the late afternoon traffic, she convinces herself that a world without Andrea is infinitely easier. The emotional debris she left in her wake is now just part of a landscape Miranda knows how to navigate. Letting her back in, only to have her leave again, is not a risk Miranda is prepared to take.

 

**********

Andy spends weeks berating herself for walking away without speaking to Miranda. While rejection and scorn were the likely outcomes of the encounter, at least it would have been an actual ending. Though they haven't spoken in over a year, she cannot shake the idea that their story is not yet complete.

After her recent failure, she spurns the notion of staking out her former workplace on the off chance she might once again spot Miranda. The idea of emailing her is dismissed as well - too impersonal, and likely to be ignored by the editor. Left with little choice, she calls the Runway office.

“Miranda is in a meeting and cannot be disturbed,” comes the haughty response the first time she tries. Only the lack of a British accent distinguishes the assistant from Emily.

“Miranda is out of town and will not return until Monday. Would you like to leave a message?” This voice is confident and kind and Andy wonders how long its owner will last in the job a million girls want.

The tenth time she calls, her determination is waning. Despite leaving messages, there’s been no response from the other woman. For someone who proclaims to be a quick learner Andy is being willfully obtuse. On this occasion she is greeted with an impatient sigh and a terse, “Yes?”

“Miranda?”

“Oh, it's you. What could you possibly want Andrea?”

If she wasn't fluent in Miranda-speak she'd be intimidated by the obvious disdain. Instead she detects the spark of interest skillfully buried beneath the barb.

“I'd like to see you,” she blurts out before she can change her mind.

She hears Miranda clear her throat before delivering a withering retort. “I'm a busy woman, Andrea. What makes you think I have the time or desire to see you?”

The way Miranda says her name is the sign she didn't even realise she was seeking. Instead of it tripping off her tongue in a calm and silky meter, she launches it like a weapon. This is a woman who is hurt; a woman who cares.

Andy ignores the question and instead utters the words she's practised for more than twelve months.

“I'm sorry, Miranda.”

A tired sigh is the only response for what seems like several minutes.

“Are you still there?”

“Yes.”

“I'm sorry I left you like that in Paris. It's not a moment I'm proud of.”

“I see. And how do you expect me to respond to this long overdue apology?”

Andy snorts at Miranda's lofty tone.

“Honestly, I never expected the conversation to go on this long. Since you ignored my previous calls, I'm amazed you didn't hang up once you knew it was me.”

“Your previous calls?”

“Miranda, this is the tenth time I've called.”

There's a sharp intake of breath on the other end of the line, followed by several moments of silence.

“I received only one message. Three weeks ago, after I returned from the Hamptons.”

“Oh.”

“All things considered, I thought it best not to respond.”

She spots an opening and strikes before Miranda is distracted by the incompetence of at least one of her assistants. “And what were these things you considered?”

“Andrea, you are well aware of how I feel about unnecessary questions.”

“Yes, Miranda. I'm also quite familiar with your tactic of dodging particularly tough questions.”

“Well, you always were too perceptive for you own good,” is the airy response.

“So, can we catch up sometime?”

“Yes, I suppose that would be acceptable. Now, I really must go Andrea. I have an incompetent assistant to fire.”

This time a shiver runs down her spine at the sound of her name.

 

***********

Miranda quietly curses as Roy drives her to the Starbucks near Andrea’s workplace.

Somehow, after one conversation and a sincere apology, she's not only opened a door for Andrea, but laid out the welcome mat as well. For someone who never doubts herself, she is consumed with anxiety. Exposing herself to an unwitting archer is not the way to avoid immeasurable pain.

The car pulls up and she exits in a hurry. Miranda tells herself she just wants to get the ordeal over and done with.

Walking into the cafe, she spots Andrea sitting at a table towards the back. The woman looks nervous, perhaps expecting to be stood up. When her presence is finally noticed, Miranda is privy to a bewitching transformation. A blinding smile is reserved only for her. Eyes, bright with anticipation, carefully track her movements as she strides across the room.

“Fuck,” she mutters. No one but Andrea is ever this pleased to see her and the effect is as intoxicating as always.

As she sits across from her former assistant, Miranda murmurs a greeting. Once she places her Prada handbag on the chair beside her, Andrea launches straight into a conversation.

“I'm so glad you came, Miranda. I wasn't sure you would. I know you're busy with the magazine. How are things going? Oh, and what about Caroline and Cassidy? I’m sorry, I forgot to ask the other day.”

“Andrea, you're babbling.”

The other woman smiles slightly, a fetching blush appearing on her cheeks.

“The magazine is fine, though my employees are trying my patience as usual. And I'm down one assistant after an unforgivable act of incompetence.” She stops and smiles for a moment before continuing. “As for my daughters, they are wonderful. Except for one glaring fault.”

Andrea cocks her head to the side, seemingly waiting for an explanation.

“Their perfection is marred by an incessant habit of asking after your welfare.”

The other woman laughs loudly, a sound that draws the attention of surrounding customers.

“I'm serious, Andrea. You have no idea how much it…” She stops just before revealing the humiliating truth.

“How much it what, Miranda?” The words are quiet and caring and God, she's always found it hard to resist this woman's sincerity.

“How much it hurt to admit I had no idea how you were.”

“You could have called, Miranda. One call. That's all it would have taken.”

“Perhaps. But you made it perfectly clear you wanted nothing to do with me or my life. I didn’t think you'd take my call.”

“Well, I would have. If only to thank you for the reference. Actually, that's something I've always wondered about. Why didn't you blacklist me?”

Miranda clears her throat and looks around the room.

“Shouldn't we order coffee?”

A warm hand cover hers, stilling the unconscious drumming of her fingers. It's an unexpected gesture, but completely welcome.

“Miranda, why didn't you backlist me? You've punished people for much less.”

“Those rumours are an exaggeration.”

“And you're avoiding the question.”

“You're a smart woman. Why do you think you escaped the blacklist?”

Miranda is surprised to see a flash of pain pass through Andrea’s eyes. She feels the loss of comfort as the other woman suddenly removes her hand.

“The smart, fat girl as I recall.”

The mortification hits her hard.  Her words, always careful chosen, can in fact be far too poisonous.

“I'm sorry, Andrea.”

“Are you? I thought Miranda Priestly never apologised.”

“It's true I'm rarely wrong,” she replies with arrogant certainty.

The other woman crosses her arms and glares. “Christ, Miranda.”

“But on that occasion I was wrong. It was never my intention to make you feel you were not good enough as a person. I just felt you were capable of so much more and did the only thing I could think of to motivate you.”

“Well it worked. Of course there was a time when I hated you for it.”

Miranda sighs. “I can only imagine.”

She picks up her handbag and reaches inside for her phone. This time she is determined to be the one who walks away.

“You're going?”

“Well we've reached the point where you've admitted your intense displeasure with me. It seems like an opportune time to depart.”

“Hated, Miranda. Past tense.”

“Yes I was paying attention, Andrea. But if you've hated me before, you can easily hate me again."

“That's very unlikely.”

Miranda slides her handbag to the side of the table, placing her phone beside it.

“And what makes you so sure?”

Andrea gives a nonchalant shrug.

“It's simple, really.” She pauses until Miranda meets her gaze. “I've loved you far longer than I ever hated you.”

“Oh.” To say she's stunned is an understatement.

“You still haven't answered my question.”

Miranda is genuinely puzzled, which Andrea clearly detects.

“Why didn't you blacklist me?”

“Oh, that.” She waves a hand dismissively.

“Yes, that,” Andrea persists in a truly irritating manner. “I was your biggest disappointment and yet you wrote a reference guaranteed to get me a job. Why?”

Miranda rolls her eyes in exasperation.

“You were my biggest disappointment because you left before I was ready for you to leave.”

“And?”

“And I didn't blacklist you because, despite my reputation, I am not completely petty.”

“Is that it?”

“So many unnecessary questions, Andrea.”

“Miranda.”

She huffs, her discomfort having risen to an almost painful level.

“Well, if you must know, I didn't blacklist you because I love you.”

A broad smile brightens the younger woman's face.

“I suspected as much. Now, do you want to grab that coffee?”

Miranda picks up her phone and dials.“No, Andrea. I most certainly do not want to drink coffee with you.”

“But, Miranda.”

She holds up a hand for silence.

“Roy, be outside in five minutes.”

Miranda ends the call and picks up her handbag. She rises from the chair, her usual elegance on display. Reaching for Andrea’s hand, she waits until the other woman is standing before she continues.

“No, after all that drama Andrea, I want a stiff drink.”

They make their way outside and wait for Roy to arrive.

Inside the town car, they sit close to each other, the privacy screen firmly in place.

“Really, Andrea. That smirk is most unbecoming.”

“Is that right?”

Miranda leans across and traces a finger over the other woman's lips.

“Yes, and I can think of far more interesting things you could be doing with that mouth.”

“Care to demonstrate?”

Miranda smiles. It's an invitation she's more than happy to accept.