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After Runway

Chapter Text


 

What if this storm ends
and leaves us nothing
except a memory
a distant echo

- Snow Patrol, "The Lightning Strike"


 

Prologue

 

There is an endless stream of calls, mostly made to Miranda's lawyers. Some are about the divorce, but most are about business; the terms of Miranda's contract, her shares in Elias-Clarke. The avenues of recourse she has available to her now that - now that - now that -

Andy's mind seems to stutter, unable to process the facts in evidence. Switches tasks of its own accord and begins changing their flights, getting them back to New York and the hell out of Paris first thing in the morning.

She dials and talks, dials and talks, dials and talks. But eventually there is no one left to call, and the remainder of the evening slows down and speeds up. Becomes a blurred set of images. Snapshots of the world askew, things come undone. A soft pink Dior lipstick left uncapped on a marble sink. A single Prada heel lying beside Miranda's unmade bed. The dark red Marchesa dress Miranda had yet to wear, now slipped off its hanger and lying on the floor;  a crimson stain of fabric, garish and violent against the soft cream of the suite's plush carpet.

Miranda hides behind her sunglasses, barricades herself behind closed doors. Addresses Andy with as few words as possible. Allows her continued proximity, or maybe just ignores it. Wipes her makeup off, even the concealer, and then sits in front of a room service tray she doesn't eat.

"What can I do?" Andy pleads, when there is nothing left to be done.

"Flee," Miranda tells her and looks at her as if she's obtuse. As if Andy persists in being slow and useless; a continued to disappointment, no matter how far she's come. "Find someone else to serve."

It's the last thing Miranda says to her. Ignores Andy entirely after that. Punishes her loyalty with silence and then disappears into the privacy of her car outside of JFK. Leaves Andy standing there alone, watching her pull away. The silver Mercedes merging into a long line of similar cars; an unremarkable silhouette that recedes from Andy's view.

 

Chapter Text


 

Right round like a record, baby
Right, round, round, round

- Dead Or Alive, "You Spin Me Round"


 

 

“Damn it,” Andy yelps. Holds her now coffee-stained blouse away from her already burning skin. Whips around to glare at the guy who walked right into her and then kept going. “So important on your fucking phone!” she yells at his retreating back. “Douche .”

The nice thing about New York is that a person can lose her shit in the middle of the street and no one will bat an eye at it, let alone stare at her like she’s crazy. Of course, the only reason Andy is doing so in the first place is because people here don’t think to ever apologize when they literally collide with her in a crowded path they all have to share. But this last part she chooses not to dwell on given that the city is now her home.

“Whoa, what happened to you?” Keith asks when she gets into the bullpen.

“Stained and burned is the new fashion trend,” she snaps. Pats uselessly at her blouse with a wet paper towel. “What do you think happened?”

“Hey there,” Keith says. Holds his hands up in mock surrender.

“Sorry,” Andy offers. Closes her eyes and wishes she could start this day again. “Sorry… I shouldn’t have yelled. This has just been the worst morning and it’s barely eight o’clock.”

“I’m sorry,” Keith offers. Sounds so very kind that Andy feels even worse for snapping at him.

“I have an extra dress shirt you can use. I assume you can figure out how to make a men’s shirt look fashionable, knowing you.”

“Thank you,” Andy replies and sits down heavily behind her desk. “But I have an extra blouse on hand for just such occasions.”

Keith gives her another sympathetic look and Andy tells herself to get it together. Yes, people can be assholes. But she has a job she likes (well, mostly likes) in the field she wants to be in, and with co-workers who care about her. Life could be worse. In fact, it had definitely been worse only a year ago.

“Linda said to invite you for dinner this week,” Keith says now. “We both promise not to talk too much about potty training, though I personally make no promises about how many Miranda Priestly questions Linda asks.”

“I think prefer to talk about potty training,” Andy sighs. Opens the drawer where she has two spare blouses stashed. Wishes one of them went went better with her skirt.  “Besides, the newspapers are a better source for Priestly gossip than I am. I’ve told you both that before.”

“And not even I believe that lie,” Keith laughs.

“I’ve already worked here longer than at Runway ,” Andy shrugs. Makes a big production of sounding disinterested in Miranda Priestly and everything associated with her. “I didn’t even make it a year before Miranda was ousted.”

Keith gives a knowing look that Andy pointedly ignores, then goes to the bathroom to change.

The new blouse doesn’t clash, Andy decides in the mirror. It just doesn’t compliment the rest of what she’s wearing. The cut is all wrong and even then the white should be a true white, not an eggshell.

If would be easier if she didn’t know this. Which is why Andy sometimes wishes she was still blissfully ignorant of fashion. There was less to pick herself apart about back then, in the days when she didn’t look at herself in a mirror and wonder if Miranda would frown at her choices. Cut Andy to the quick with a handful of softly spoken words.

Andy tears herself away from the mirror. Goes back to work. Spends the entirety of the day fact-checking and generally being a gopher for other reporters at the Mirror . Gives herself twenty minutes for lunch, and even then just unwraps the sandwich she brought with her, eats it at her desk.

She goes home tired, but like most days feels wrung out rather than exhausted. Drags home to the new apartment she shares with two roommates. Cleans up the mess one of them left in the kitchen and then goes about making herself some dinner.

“Drinks?” Jen asks her. Comes out of her bedroom dressed up in a knock of Prada dress and some fuck-me boots. “I’m meeting up with Jesus and a couple guys at that new whiskey bar.”

“No thanks,” Andy shakes her head. Is already in her pajama pants and has no desire to change that, let alone commune with other humans in a noisy bar.

A few months ago Jen would have tried harder. Spent a few minutes extolling the venue or the attractiveness of one of her new coworkers who just happens to be coming. But by now Jen only shrugs one shoulder and says, “k.” Grabs her keys and heads right out the door.

It’s Friday night, which means Andy doesn’t have to be up early the next morning. So she watches an hour of various news shows, clicking back and forth. Reads a few chapters of the book her mom gave her last Christmas but that she never gets around to finishing.

It’s an easy life now. No five in the morning emergencies regarding overpriced scarves or lattes specified to precision. No more pretending that mocked up images of ten-thousand-dollar accessories are the stuff of life and death.

It’s a better life this way, Andy has decided. Washes her face with an expressionless woman looking back at her in the mirror.

 

. . .

 

“Word on the street is that Miranda Priestly is launching another magazine,” Doug tells Andy over brunch.

Andy skews her face and tries not to choke on her mimosa. It would be truly tragic if she passed out before she’d even gotten a bite of the heavenly looking omelette she just ordered.

“Word on what street, exactly?” Andy asks. Sounds as dismissive as possible.

“Well,” Doug cocks his head. Licks the salt from his bloody mary. “Not so much the ‘street’ as my gym. Some finance guy in the locker room.”

“Oh, well there you have it,” Andy drawls. “Call the Times .”

“Don’t you care?” Doug asks. But then they both pause in holy silence as their meals arrive, smelling of heavenly pig fat and various cheeses. “Well,” Doug prods again, once they’ve both tucked in. “Aren’t you interested in the new affairs of La Priestly?”

As Doug clearly knows, Andy is very interested. But she doesn’t want to admit it to him. Or herself. And even if she did, she wouldn’t go trusting some locker room talk from Wall Street bros sweaty from their totally killer round of racquetball.

“I’m sure she has something going,” Andy allows. “She wouldn’t be who she is if she wasn’t driven even after a setback. Now will you hand me a bite of that sausage you’re hoarding?”

“That’s it?” Doug gapes. Keeps the sausage from her because apparently he’s forgotten how seriously Andy takes breakfast meats. “This from the woman who would stay up at night googling ‘Miranda Priestly’ when she lived on my couch?”

“Low blow,” Andy warns and yanks the side plate of sausage right out of Doug’s hands. Dumps the rest of it unceremoniously onto her plate. “Those were very dark weeks for me.”

“They were,” Doug placates. Probably just wants some of the sausage back, but too fucking bad because Andy is keeping it all now.

“I came back from Paris without a job,” Andy reminds him and stabs a link onto her fork. “ And without a relationship. And with a lease I had to pay to break because I couldn’t afford to keep my apartment alone. “

“It was bad,” Doug agrees. “I know, honey.”

“So  sure, it was easier to concentrate on what Miranda was doing rather than worrying about my own life,” Andy defends. Shovels another piece of sausage into her mouth. “Unhealthy, yeah. But I got past it.”

Got passed it by allowing herself only a once per week google search of Miranda, Andy means. And avoiding all discussions of Miranda or Runway no matter what now. That part really helps.

“You did,” Doug agrees. Sounds sincere enough that Andy relaxes. “May I have some of that sausage back now?”

“You may not,” Andy declines and narrows her eyes.

“Harsh but fair,” Doug sighs. “Anyway, I’m sure if you actually got curious you could just ask your friend Nigel.”

“Nigel?” Andy repeats with a full mouth.

“Wasn’t that the name of the guy you were friends with at Runway ?” Doug continues, despite his grossed out expression. “The one would pulled the whole Pygmalion routine with you?”

“Yeah, Nigel,” Andy says softly. Wipes her mouth.

“Well I assume you two are still chummy, given that he gave you that glowing recommendation for the Mirror .”

Andy gives her trademark embarrassed expression and Doug gapes, then looks at her with something akin to paternal judgment.

“You haven’t talked to him at all?” Doug demands.

“I sent him a very nice email,” Andy weakly defends. “Thanking him for… “

“The outlandishly kind recommendation, which got you your present job,” Doug reminds.

“Yeah,” Andy cringes.

“Andy,” Doug says sternly.

“I know,” Andy shakes her head. Feels truly awful because she loves Nigel. It’s just that he was a part of Runway , and that memory all seems so painful now.

“Do you?” Doug demands. Sounds truly disappointed.

“I’m an asshole,” Andy admits.

“Not overall,” Doug begins. “But in this specific area yes, absolutely. And give me some of that sausage back, you little ingrate.”

Andy watches as Doug loads his plate. She gives a sad little sigh that her friend haughtily ignores.

 

. . .

 

Andy calls Nigel’s office at James Holt the next day. Assumes she’ll have to leave a message with an assistant, maybe if she’s lucky get Nigel's personal voicemail. But instead she’s put right on through.

“Six?” Nigel says, and Andy is much relieved to be alone in her bedroom because she actually tears up at hearing that jaunty voice of his.

“That’s me,” she says and tries to sound chipper. “Though still a size four, if you must know.”

“It’s good to hear from you,” Nigel says. “So what’s shakin’? Need another reference?”

“What?” Andy trips over the word.

“I assume the Mirror might be having layoffs soon,” Nigel explains, sounding saddened. “So I assume you need another reference?”

It’s entirely possible that the Mirror might be having layoffs - no secret that the whole of print news continues to take a nosedive. Still, Andy hasn’t considered it more than academically. Even now that Andy is considering it for the first time, she only feels worried about Keith with his two kids.

“No reference,” Andy manages finally. “I just wanted to call.”

“Oh,” Nigel says before he pauses for a moment. “I’m sorry, Andy. I just assumed.”

Assumed that after months silence Andy was only calling now because she needed something from him. Nigel is kind enough not to spell it out but Andy still feels like total scum.

“I’m sorry it’s been so long,” Andy begins. “But I was hoping maybe I could take you to dinner as a very belated thank you. Do a little catching up.”

“I would love that,” Nigel replies. “But my schedule is kind of a nightmare these days.”

Andy assumes she’s getting a brush off, which she totally understands given how rude she’s been. But then she hears the clicking of a computer keyboard, Nigel’s muffled voice talking to someone else.

“Can you do this Friday or next Tuesday?” Nigel asks when he comes back on the line.

“Tuesday works for me,” she says. She’s free both evenings, but she doesn’t get paid until Monday and she knows she needs to take Nigel somewhere nice.

“Perfect. Send me a text in a few days and we’ll narrow down the time.”

“Okay,” Andy beams. “I can’t wait to see you, Nige.”

“Ditto, honey,” Nigel assures. Makes Andy feel right as rain.

 

. . .

 

The next morning Andy picks out her outfit with a newfound purpose. She isn’t seeing Nigel today, but merely talking to him for a few minutes fills her with a kind of pep - a kind of zeal - that maybe she’s been missing.

She looks longingly at her Chanel boots, but alas they aren’t appropriate. Decides instead on a wrap-effect Prada dress that she got at a consignment store months ago, its flattering bodice and swishy skirt having been too beautiful to pass up. The pale pink is a little tricky for this late in summer, but she pairs it with a cream jacket that adds some structure to the softness. Adds a few delicate gold necklaces that just barely catch the eye.

It’s still early when she finishes her hair and makeup, but she decides to head on in anyway. Might as well use some of her new energy to tackle her workload.

It’s fun to see her sleek, straightened hair bouncing behind her in the windows. Nice to hear the solid click that only an expensive pair of heels can give you. She ignores the cat calls and unsavory looks. Crosses block after block with a spring in her step.

It isn’t until she arrives at the Mirror that she questions whether she really wants to walk in this early. Add another forty-five minutes to her trudge of a workday.

Maybe a Starbucks run, Andy debates. Keith is forever bringing her coffee back on days when she’s especially whiny, so she kind of owes him anyway. Two birds, one stone really.

She’s turned around, about to cross the street when a car very nearly runs her over.

“Hey,” she says and bangs her fist on the silver hood. So fucking typical that she’s having a good morning and still - still she almost get run down in the street.

“God, I’m sorry, Andy. Are you okay?” the driver asks.

“I’m fine, Roy,” Andy waves him off angrily. Then spins around. “ Roy ?”

“At what point did you interpret my directions to wait for Andrea as incentive to maim her?” asks a deadly voice.

Andy can’t see her, Miranda is still in the car. But her voice carries remarkably clearly from the window she’s apparently rolled down on the side closest to Roy.

“We were waiting for you,” Roy supplies. “I’m sorry again. I honestly didn’t see you start to step out into the street.”

“Waiting for me,” Andy repeats. Because everything Roy says after this just doesn’t process. Miranda is actually here, in the car directly to Andy’s left, and apparently she’s has been waiting for her.

“It would be a lot easier if you just got in the car now,” Roy whispers, once Miranda has apparently rolled up her window again.

The man isn’t begging but he’s pretty close. Andy would feel sympathy if she could feel anything at all right now.

“Right,” Andy says, and gathers herself. “Okay.” At which point Roy walks around to the other side of the car and opens a door for Andy, and Andy slides right in like this isn’t all bat shit crazy.

“Miranda,” Andy greets once she’s settled in the car. Manages not to sound strangled or shrieky or - God help her - too eager.

“Are you unharmed?” Miranda asks. Sounds genuinely concerned, which is a trip for Andy in and of itself.

“Just a little test of the old reflexes,” Andy dismisses. “It was my fault anyway for crossing against the light.”  It wasn’t and she didn’t, but lord knows Roy needs all the help he can get right now.

“Mm,” Miranda says, and then settles into her characteristic silence. Which Andy has actually missed, come to think of it, and so takes the time to look at the bracelets stacked neatly on Miranda’s thin wrist, the burgundy polish on her neatly manicured nails. An onyx necklace sits just so on Miranda's collarbone, a second necklace disappearing beneath her white silk blouse.

“So,” Andy prompts. “You wanted to see me?”

But Miranda’s only answer is cold silence, the likes of which Andy no longer enjoys because it now feels like a punishment. And for what, exactly? She isn’t Miranda’s employee anymore. Miranda's opinion shouldn’t matter as much as it does to Andy, and even then Andy has already had her fill of being one of Miranda's disappointments. 

“Great talk, Miranda,” Andy rolls her eyes.Goes with her gut and does the foolish thing of getting out of the car before Miranda can say anything else. Opens the car door and then closes it with the same confidence. Goes into work because she’s now forgotten all about Starbucks and her coffee debt to Keith.

“You look really nice,” Keith smiles at her. “What’s up?”

“Just felt like making an effort,” Andy says. “But it’s been a really weird morning.”

“Like, pervert on the subway weird?”

“Weirder.”

“Ouch,” Keith says. “Well you just stay over there, lest your weird rub off on me.”

Andy takes the mature route. Stings her tongue out at him.

 

. . .

 

Andy comes out of her office building to find Roy loitering on the sidewalk.

“This is beneath you,” Andy tells him and slips on her sunglasses. “And where’s the car?”

“Two blocks over,” Roy nods his head to the side. “She didn’t want to spook you this time.”

“Running me over and spooking me aren’t the same thing,” Andy huffs. “Tell her I’m too busy for whatever game of torture the ex-assistant she’s decided to play.”

“Andy, please. Just talk to her.”

“I tried. She did one of her classic Priestly power moves. So tell her it was nice to see her but no thanks.”

The funny thing is, it was more than nice to see Miranda. Actual descriptions could more accurately be found under the heading of ‘blinding relief’ or perhaps ‘thrilling’. But the things is, Andy now keenly remembers that last day in Paris. Remembers that painful, punishing silence. Andy’s personal reward for being the last man standing in the fallen Priestly kingdom.

Just thinking about it now makes Andy want to cry all over again, so no, she doesn’t want to get back in a car with a woman she once broke her back to please, only to be rewarded with more wordless judgement.

“Andy,” Roy tries again. Sounds terrified now.

“I’m sorry. I really am. Good luck with her though.”

Andy doesn’t feel like walking all the way to subway after that so she stops into a bar two blocks down. Orders a whiskey neat and calls her roommate.

“Yo,” Jen says. Sounds like she’s rummaging around in something. Probably her closet.

“You feel like going out tonight?” Andy asks. Slams half of her whiskey down as the bartender watches her with a wary look.

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, seriously.”

“There’s a new club opening,” Jen tells her. Sounds a little hesitant. “It’s probably going to be too loud and crowded for you though.”

“Perfect,” Andy says. Finishes her whiskey and then motions for another.

. . .

 

Andy decides she’s never drinking again after the second time she throws up. An episode not to be confused with her third round of barfing, which happens somewhere on 42nd Street (into a trash can), or else her fourth, which happens in the women’s room directly adjacent to her desk.

“Dude,” Keith says with disdain.

“I know,” Andy waves him off. “I’m too old to be this much of an idiot. Trust me. I know.”

“You look like shit,” Keith tells her.

“Thanks,” Andy scowls. Turns on her computer.

“I say it with love.”

It’s not like Andy can blame anyone but herself. She’s hung over, barely slept, and came in wearing pants purchased in the leisure section of not-a-store-she-admits-to-shopping-in.

“You should go home,” Keith says at lunchtime.

“I can’t,” Andy groans. “I’ve gotta finish the day at least.”

“Please don’t. I’ve had to smell your bourbon breath long enough.”

It’s not like she’s been super productive today anyway, right?

Andy gets all the way home, only to find Miranda’s silver Mercedes parked in front of her building.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” Andy whines. Stomps straight over to the car because there’s no use avoiding it anymore.

“Bad night?” Roy asks her when he gets out of the car.

“Can it,” Andy barks. Opens the car door herself and slams it behind her.

“You look horrid,” Miranda pronounces. Doesn’t look up from whatever it is she’s reading in order to insult Andy.

“I feel as great too, so why don’t you just cut to the chase and tell me why you keep haunting me?”

“What happened between today and yesterday?” Miranda asks. Predictably ignores Andy’s question but at least slips her glasses off and gives Andy her direction attention. “You looked passably attractive yesterday and today you appear in public as though you have entirely lost the will to live.”

Because you happened , Andy wants to scream. But doesn’t. Knows not to give Miranda that much power.

“What is it you want?” Andy asks again. Sounds deflated now. Like one of those big parade balloons that someone’s downed, then stomped all the air out of.

“I’ve begun a new enterprise,” Miranda finally answers. Touches her glasses to her lips in that way that Andy has always found mesmerizing. “I’m here to offer you a position.”

“As what, your assistant?” If Miranda’s surprised with how disinterested Andy sounds, she doesn’t show it.

“Of sorts,” Miranda confirms. “But you’ll have more editorial duties than you did as my assistant at Runway .”  

“Send me an offer in writing,” Andy crosses her arms.

“The nature of this enterprise is still sensitive,” Miranda hedges, but Andy shakes her head to interrupt.

“Attach whatever legal rider you want to about the information contained in the offer. But I want an offer in writing, plus time to think it over.”

“I’ve already wasted enough time,” Miranda counters, clearly vexed now. “Chasing you all over this city.”

“You only chased me in the first place because you know my skills. And my dedication. Which is why you can afford to give me a few days.”

“Journalism has made you foolish and reckless,” Miranda accuses.

No, journalism has made her boring and maybe a little depressed, Andy realizes now. It’s hurt and anger that have made her reckless.

“You don’t have to give me an offer at all,” Andy points out. “You can go out and find someone else. Another smart, fat girl with better qualifications than I ever had.”

But not my loyalty , Andy thinks. Knows it’s the whole reason Miranda is sitting here, listening to Andy to talk to her like this.

“Three days,” Miranda allows. Practically hisses it. “Three days and then my offer evaporates.”

“Clock starts as soon as I get it in my hand,” Andy says. Salutes her, just to be a jerk.

Roy gets out of the car even though Andy is already out, having closed the door behind her.

“How did she even know I was leaving work early?”Andy asks him. Feels both curious and kind of disturbed.

“She tried to catch you this morning but we ran out of time because you were late. She caught sight of you going in and… well.”  Determined Andy had just crawled out of a bottle and probably wouldn’t be finishing her workday, Roy doesn’t say. Simply shifts uncomfortably on his feet.

“I made her angry,” Andy warns. “Again. So have fun.”

Roy gets back in the car with an expressionless face and Andy watches the car pull out. Tells herself that nothing is worth the stress and humiliation of working for Miranda again, no matter her interest in whatever it is the ex-editor is now getting off the ground.

“Still bad?” Jen asks, as she’s inexplicably home during the day most of the time. Sees Andy trudge in now only to deposit herself heavily on the couch.

“So bad,” Andy groans.

“Wants some eggs?”

The thought turns Andy’s stomach.

“Maybe just death,” Andy whimpers. Plants her forehead into the armrest.

. . .

 

 

Chapter Text

 


I must've lived a thousand times
But every day begins the same
'Cause there's a small town in my mind
How can I leave without
hurting everyone that made me?

- Regina Spektor, “Small Town Moon”


 

 

Andy wakes up at five in the morning because she went to bed at eight. Well, passed out on the couch for four hours and then went to bed, but she’s in no state to go splitting hairs.

She peels her cheek away from her pillow with a grimace, checks her clock and groans when she sees the time. Her first alarm won’t go off for another hour but it’s no use going back to sleep, she’ll only end up more miserable. It isn’t until she’s in the shower that yesterday’s events settle over her. She’s washing her hair, shampoo bubbles running down her legs and back, when her mind snaps to attention.

She has a job offer from Miranda, whom she thoroughly sassed yesterday while she was busy roaming around unshowered and wearing ten-dollar pants. She's lucky she isn’t dead. Miranda has surely killed people for less, and body disposal would have been a breeze since she was already in Miranda’s car. She remembers her demands about getting something in writing. God, she must have still been drunk. Scrambles out of the shower now, a film of shampoo still clinging to the nape of her neck as she rummages for her laptop with wet fingers.

She opens both her private and work email accountants but there’s nothing out of the ordinary in either, just the usual work stuff in the latter and ads for eHarmony in the former. It’s been less than a day, Andy reminds herself. Ignores the voice inside her head tsking that Priestly time is exponentially faster than real time.

There’s no reason for Miranda to be lurking around today, but Andy won’t take any (more) chances. Picks out a black tailored suit combo, adding a lavender camisole and a funky geometric necklace after a bit of back and forth. It isn’t trendy. It’s kind of impossible to be trendy with Andy’s budget, at least now that she seems constitutionally allergic to knockoffs. But she does look polished. Classic even. Pins her hair back carefully and fixes her bangs so they swoop across her forehead.

Miranda’s car isn’t lingering outside of Andy’s apartment or else the Mirror  Of course it isn’t, Andy tells herself. Chides the part of her that feels let down by its absence.

Everyone comments on her appearance except Keith, who just watches her with a kind of curiosity she can’t pin down. She’s relieved he doesn’t strike up a conversation this morning because when she looks at him now she hears Nigel’s voice talking about layoffs, feels worry and a creeping unease that she tries bury under the day’s work.

She’s distracted all day, hopes she hasn’t any obvious mistakes because her head really isn’t in the game. When someone mentions Starbucks, she offers to go. Maybe rack up some office brownie points and get a little breather all in one.

It isn’t a challenge to carry six coffees and three pastries. Andy snickers to herself that a lot of her Runway skills have proven valuable in life, even if they can’t ever be put down on a CV.

“Double caramel frap,” Andy announces and foists the last beverage off on its recipient.

"Is that even coffee anymore?” Keith asks, when Amir from accounting is out earshot. Sounds more philosophical than judgmental.

“Thirteen-year-old me would have said yes,” Andy muses.

“Good burn,” Keith nods. Keeps on working.

Andy jumps when a courier shows up in the newsroom. But of course the woman heads in the direction of one of the features editors, which happens about ten times a day.

“Do you have a new fear of couriers?” Keith asks casually. “Or you should I assume you’re expecting something? That’s the fifth time a delivery’s made you jump.”

“Not expecting anything,” Andy lies. She hates that she can’t just tell the truth, but honestly what would she say?

“I’m happy you’re interviewing,” Keith tells her. Sounds soft and kind, and gosh now Andy feels even worse for the lie. “I don’t want you to be here when the axe finally falls.”

“Are you interviewing?” Andy asks. Doesn’t correct his assumption because, well, he’s closer to right than wrong.

“I should be,” Keith hedges, shakes his head. “It’s just depressing to think about.”

“I don’t want you to be here either when the axe falls,” Andy echoes back to him. Returns the slow, affectionate smile Keith gives her when he looks up from his computer.

Andy gets home later to find exactly zero deliveries waiting for her and no emails from Miranda in her inbox.

“Did I get any deliveries this afternoon?” Andy asks Farrah. Her roommate is busy running around their living room, fighting with a hoop earring as she throws things haphazardly into the small suitcase she has open on the couch.

“Haven’t seen anything,” Farrah says absently. Throws a few more things into her bag and then zips it up.

“I thought you just got back,” Andy frowns in confusion. Farrah travels a lot of work. So much that it mostly feels like Andy and Jen live alone, which was the selling point that made Andy consider two roommates to begin with.

“I did,” Farrah groans as she picks the suitcase up. “Busy, busy.”

“Did I get anything delivered today?” Andy asks Jen, who appears from her bedroom right after Farrah lumbers out with her suitcase dangling from one arm.

“Where is she going?” Jen asks instead. Totally ignores Andy, which makes Andy angrier than it should.

“Work thing,” Andy shrugs. “Did you hear me ask if I got mail?”

“Work,” Jen snorts. “Please. If by ‘work’ you mean that married guy in Syracuse she’s boffing, then yeah. Loads and loads of work.”

“Ew,” Andy cringes. She hopes Jen is wrong, but honestly that kind of makes sense. No one wears dresses that short to travel in, even if they are in sales.

“Mail call,” Jen shouts. Shuffles through a pile of envelopes on their counter and then plucks one out. Throws it at Andy, who rushes to catch it with greedy hands.

Whatever hope swells within her comes crashing down when she sees that it’s only a letter from her Nana.

“Shit,” Andy sighs. Feels a little guilty to consider Nana a disappointment, but she can’t help it. She really thought Miranda came through.

“What’s wrong?” Jen asks. Rips open a bag of chips and starts chomping away. “Expecting something else?”

“A work thing,” Andy replies. Decides it’s the only true thing she can say right now.

“A work thing,” Jen repeats and waggles her eyebrows. “Does he also live in Syracuse?”

“You’re ridiculous,” Andy shakes her head. Laughs even though she’s starting to feel really sad now.

Jen goes out, like always, and Andy’s left alone to think about all the things she said to Miranda yesterday. Miranda, who never waits for anyone and who hired Andy the first time when she had zero experience in fashion.

Okay, so Miranda can be kind of brutal. And maybe she didn’t appreciate anything Andy tried to do for her in Paris. But less than a week ago Andy gave Doug an earful about how rough that time period was, having lost Nate, her job, and most of her New York life in one gulp. And hadn’t the same thing happened to Miranda in Paris, only exponentially worse? Years and years of work taken away from her, right after Stephen said he was leaving? What kind of hypocrite is Andy anyway,  not understanding that Miranda had a right to be a little self-centered?

A little self-centered . She hears that phrase in her head and snorts into the pint of cherry Garcia she’s destroying. On Miranda’s best day she’s self-absorbed enough to forget that other people even exist. And on her worst day -

Andy tosses the empty pint into the trash can loud enough to make the metal rattle. Grabs a book off her shelf and limps into her bedroom. Sprawls across her rumpled bed.

She’s managed to get halfway engrossed in her reading when her phone buzzes beside her.

Still on for Tuesday? It takes Andy a minute to realize that it must be Nigel, texting from a number she doesn’t have saved.

Absolutely, Andy replies. Tries to summon some of the enthusiasm she felt a couple of days ago. Reminds herself that Nigel’s been great to her and it isn’t his fault that Andy’s had a screwed up week courtesy their old boss.

They decide on a time and a place, and Andy frets about her budget because the place Nigel wants to go sounds really pricey. Oh well, Andy decides. Not like she has to spend the money on clothes like she used to.

“Whatcha doing?” Doug asks when Andy calls him.

“Putzing,” Andy sighs. Brooding, she means. “What are you doing?”

“Watching House Hunters International,” Doug replies. Sounds like he’s munching on something.

“I thought we broke up with those shows. They always make the women look demanding and unrealistic.”

“You’re right,” Doug laments. “I know you’re right. But it’s high quality domestic porn and I can’t kick my addiction.”

“Downtown living versus outdoor space?” Andy guesses. These shows are so formulaic they shouldn’t work, but even Andy gets sucked in.

“House in Europe for a family of six with like no budget,” Doug laughs. Makes a game show buzzer sound. “Please show our lovely contestants what they’ve won. Oh look - it’s a one-way ticket back to Wisconsin.”

Andy dissolves into giggles because it’s really impossible to stay in a bad mood whenever she talks to Doug.

“Where are they, London?” Andy laughs.

“Uhhh,” Doug says and Andy waits on the other side of the line. “Paris.”

Of course. Andy flops back down, spread eagle with the phone still pressed to her ear.

“It’s a pretty city,” Andy sighs eventually. “Not that I got to see a lot of it.

“You okay?” Doug asks. Sounds like he’s probably debating whether he should come over with movies and more junk food.

“I’m having dinner with Nigel on Tuesday.”

“That’s good, isn’t it?”

“It is,” Andy agrees. “I missed him. Didn’t realize how much.”

“So why so blue, Andyroo?”

She doesn’t even know where to begin. Thinks about why, exactly, she went from being such a bitch to Miranda yesterday to feeling bereft today. Puzzles at why she felt so ready to leap at Miranda’s offer this morning when she practically threw it back at Miranda in her car.

“I think I need to make a change,” Andy decides. “I feel like my life has gotten kinda… flat.”

Doug makes a sad sound into the phone, and Andy stares up at the ceiling fan. Thinks about how everything at Runway was too fast, too hard, too much. Wonders if anything will ever feel just right.

“So tell me more about this Paris episode,” Andy yawns. “Do they hate all the bathrooms and complain about why they don’t have outlets in them?”

“Not quite,” Doug chuckles. “But the husband didn’t even come on the show. Just made his wife and daughter go through the ritual humiliation.”

“That’s awful,” Andy says. “Tell me everything.”

 

. . .

 

Andy gets through the rest of the week, no offer from Miranda ever appearing. Easy come, easy go, Andy tells herself. Makes herself work despite the sense of loss. Gets up on Saturday morning and goes for a run, then meets Keith and his wife for lunch in a park. Chases around their two grubby fingered kids as they both shriek with tiny laughter, their faces smeared with ice cream.

She cleans her apartment from top to bottom that night. Finds three different pairs of men’s underwear while she’s cleaning the living room (and marvels for a minute, because they’re all different styles and sizes). Tosses them on Jen’s bed with a smirky little post-it message. Sits down on the couch afterward, feeling like maybe everything’s going to be fine.

The next morning Andy goes to her favorite farmers’ market. Buys a massive container of blackberries she digs into on the way home.

“Andrea Sachs?” a guy asks outside her apartment. Surprises her so much that she almost maces him, her berry stained fingers clutching her neon pink self-defense spray as the courier shields his face with the brown envelope he’s holding. “Delivery!”

“Jesus, how did you even get buzzed up here?” Andy demands. “I almost maced you.”

“Delivery,” he says again, as if this explains everything. Thrusts the envelope at her and asks her to sign something.

“Have a good day, I guess,” Andy calls after him. Tears open the very official looking package.

It’s her job offer from Miranda. Which makes total sense because she felt like she was almost on an even keel today. Of course the universe had to step in and screw that up.

It’s a lengthy document, so Andy takes it to her bedroom. Locks the door behind her, feeling extra paranoid.

There’s a lot of legalese. Boring stuff about all the bad things that will fall down on Andy’s head if she decides to make photocopies of this and pass them out in Midtown. Or even just tell Doug, Andy realizes as she turns another page.

It still isn’t clear to Andy what the new company is, but apparently it’s called 'Charcoal'. She assumes it’s a new magazine given that her enumerated duties refer in passing publication deadlines, editorial content. Miranda had made a comment to that effect in the car, Andy remembers, and notes that her title would be ‘executive assistant’. No surprise there, obviously, but it drives home the fact she will once again be fetching things twenty-four seven. If she even takes the job, Andy reminds herself. Doesn’t want to let herself rush into a decision because Miranda knew to keep her waiting.

It’s funny, but the last thing Andy really pays attention to is the salary. Notes with interest now that it’s a significant bump from what she’s making at the Mirror . About what she would make if she managed to get promoted two times over, an improbability given the economy.

Granted, when Andy factors in the hours she’ll work, the money isn’t fantastic. Not so much a salary bump as hazard pay, really.

Her phone rings while she’s rereading everything. A familiar number with no name pops up on the screen and Andy worries that it’s Nigel again. Maybe she forgot to program his new work cell into her phone?

“Hello,” Andy answers. Highlights a certain section of her contract with an orange pen.

“Did you receive it?” Miranda asks her, and Andy actually drops her phone. It hits her knee and goes skidding across the floor, Andy swearing as she scampers after it. Hopes to God she didn’t accidentally disconnect the call.

“I got it,” Andy confirms. Tries to sound nonchalant after the long, eventful pause.

“There was a mixup with your address. The personal assistant I’ve employed part-time is… relatively useless. She sent the relevant documents to your previous address and, in her monumental stupidity, failed to realize her error until today.”

Andy’s about to make a snarky remark but stops herself because Miranda is actually explaining something. More importantly, she’s telling Andy that the delay in moving things along wasn’t deliberate - wasn’t just another mindfuck.

“I have questions,” Andy tells her.

“Of course you do,” Miranda replies. Sounds much put upon.

“Would you like to discuss them now, or would you prefer another time?”

“Now is acceptable. I loathe the idea of meeting you elsewhere only to have my vision accosted by another one of your bargain bin outfits.”

“You caught me on an off day,” Andy rolls her eyes.

“So I gathered. What are these questions you cited earlier?”

“What is Charcoal, exactly?” Andy asks, and hears Miranda huff. Apparently thinks the question is so stupid as not to merit an answer. “Is it an online magazine?” Andy presses. “A more traditional print one?”

“I fail to understand why such details matter to your decision,” Miranda dismisses. And Andy balks, because only this woman would imply a person doesn’t need to know this kind of thing before they take a job.

“Because,” Andy says instead, “the nature of the publication is very much at the heart of what I’ll be doing. The future I can help the company grow toward.” Because print is dying and an online presence is key, Andy mentally finishes. Doesn’t say it out loud because it feels like a slap in the face to everything Miranda built at Runway, no matter that she no longer helms it.

“Charcoal will be a fashion-centered magazine, with content covering politics, lifestyle, and current affairs. It will...” Miranda trails off and then clears her throat. “It will have a limited print presence with great emphasis online content.”

“Cool,” Andy says. Makes a note in the margin of her contract.

“Is there anything else?” Miranda demands. Sounds pretty peeved now, which makes what Andy’s about to say a little scarier to get out.

“I want a clothing allowance,” Andy says. Just gets it out there quickly, like ripping off a bandaid.

“A what?”

“It’s expensive to dress in a way that doesn’t embarrass you,” Andy defends. “And I’m not going to have access to an established company closet, with seasons of backlog to borrow from.”

The was tough to get out. The last thing Andy wants to do is remind Miranda that she’s starting over from scratch, but there’s no tiptoeing around this. It’s expensive to dress to Priestly standards and the bigger salary means nothing if Andy has to spend it all on clothing.

“Did you have a number in mind?” Miranda asks after a long silence, and Andy breathes a sigh of relief. She kind of expected Miranda to just hang up after that.

“Send me your best number,” Andy hedges, because she hadn’t actually thought that far. Only considered this logistical angle a few minutes ago, staring at her new salary. “But I want better medical benefits too.”

The ones at Runway were garbage - only useful in the event she got hit by bus. (Which, come to think of it, means they weren’t really garbage in Emily’s case. But still.)

“Are you quite through?” Miranda asks, in that lethal slither of a voice that Andy still has nightmares about.

“That covers it,” Andy manages, trying very hard not to squeak.

Miranda hangs up after that, which means Andy isn’t sure where things stand. Did she just accept?

She’s sure she’ll figure it out when Miranda shows up and starts telling her how useless she is. Decides, on that note, she needs a glass of wine.

 

. . .

 

The car will pick you up at seven am, Miranda texts Andy in the morning.

Andy’s just toweling off her hair when she gets the message. Decides it’s completely freaky to be getting direct communiques from La Priestly's number rather than instructions funneled through Emily or someone else. And didn’t Miranda say she has a personal assistant?

I have work, Andy texts back. Stops what she’s doing when the phone rings with a phone call from Miranda.

“Obviously,” Miranda sniffs. “Is there a reason you’re stating the obvious?”

“No,” Andy says and dances her way into a pair of panties, the towel and phone both in her hand. “I mean I have work at the Mirror . I’m not leaving without notice.”

“You aren’t serious.”

“W-w,” Andy stutters. “Well, yes. I am. It’s the right thing.”

“They’ll replace you in five minutes.”

True but rude, Andy thinks. Muffles the phone as she brushes her teeth.

“It’s principle,” Andy says after she spits. Wonders how many times Miranda is going to let her push back on things like this before she just fires Andy before she’s even started this new job.

“If you insist on wasting your time at the dying publication,” Miranda begins (and Andy hangs in this moment, thinking maybe this is the end of line for this weird experiment),  “you may do so, but know that your work with me still begins today.”

What does that even mean ? Andy has exactly ten minutes to think about it, plus finish her hair and makeup.

It isn’t until she walks out and sees Roy waiting that Andy realizes this is happening. She’s really working for Miranda again. This is not going away.

“I need a new personal assistant,” Miranda says as soon as Andy’s ass has touched the car seat. “Still part-time but perhaps this time with a brain in her head.”

“Got it,” Andy says, but only after the short pause in which she processes that her job starts this second.

“We need reservations for Paris in October, but none of the hotels at which I've usually stayed. I’ve compiled bids from contractors on renovations to the office building, though apparently all of them assume I’ll change my mind about my distaste for exposed brick. Please find at least one capable of understanding the most basic of instructions.”

“Anything else?” Andy asks. Really wishes she’d bought a coffee with her as she types notes furiously into her phone.

“Get yourself a new phone. And fix your hair, it’s shapeless.”

The car stops in front of the Mirror and Andy’s relieved. She thought maybe Miranda was going to spirit her away to do her bidding, Andy’s wishes about a two-weeks notice be dammed.

She gets to work early again, a benefit of skipping the subway. Takes advantage of the time to get some notes together, look at the documents Miranda foisted on her as she got out of the car. Slips into a bathroom and backcombs her hair because, yeah, it looks a little lifeless.

She can do this, Andy tells herself in the elevator. She can do Miranda’s bidding and not blow off her work at the Mirror . She’ll just make calls on her lunch break, do stuff for Miranda in the lulls she used to pass surfing the internet.

Around eleven a courier arrives with a package from Andy. She tries to open it quietly, but Keith is looking over at her desk, watching Andy as she tries to act like nothing is going on and this delivery is, like, so not a big thing.

Inside the brown envelope is a smaller white one and inside that is a platinum Am Ex business card with Andy’s name on it. Thank God, Andy thinks, because this makes about a million things so much easier, and there was no way Andy was going to ask.

She calls contractors on her lunch break. She’s skimmed through the documents Miranda handed her, surprised to see the office building is in the Meatpacking district. A few of Andy’s favorite bars are in that area, along with an apartment building she once drooled over but couldn’t afford. It’s just weird for Miranda choose a place that’s long been considered trendy by the masses, let alone one that gets so much foot traffic from tourists spilling out of Chelsea Market and the High Line.

“I’m not speaking German,” Andy says to the fifth contractor. She gave up playing it sweet and nice after the third guy, who called her ‘hon’ and  asked if her boss was around. “Either listen to the words coming out of my mouth and revise what you’ve given us, or lose any hope in hell of landing this job.”

She still doesn’t like being mean to people. Andy thinks it’s the thing that will forever separate her from the Emily’s and Miranda’s of the world - the fact that she only falls back on being a bitch when her kindness will absolutely be used against her. So maybe she sometimes curses at people on the street, says insulting things to rude, misogynistic assholes. That doesn’t change who she is. A good girl from Ohio whose parents raised her to look people in the eye whenever she shakes their hand.

“Is there anyone there with a brain?” Andy sighs at someone else. “Maybe a colleague of yours who doesn’t drag his knuckles when he walks?”

She wraps up the last call, realizing she should probably get back to the bullpen. Looks at her watch and cringes when she realizes she’s been gone to lunch for more than two hours.

“Phoning it in now?” Keith teases, and Andy flushes with guilt. Realizes she hasn’t even told their boss she’s quitting yet.

“Really trying not to,” Andy says, desperate to tell some part of the truth. Feels like a bowling ball shoved into a Fendi clutch right now, she’s so stuffed with thoughts and worries.

And she’d rather go give her two weeks notice right now, but she can see from her desk that Bill is on the phone, gesticulating wildly like he’s mid-rant about something that’s going to take him a while to wrap up. So she sends an email instead, asking for ten minutes when he has it. Tells herself that Bill and the Mirror have earned the courtesy of an actual conversation and not some shitty email resignation.

“Buy you a beer after work?” Keith offers. “You kinda look like you need it.”

“I do and I wish I could,” Andy groans. “But I have so much stuff to do, it’s not even funny.”

“It’s not the Times, right?” Keith asks out of no where. “Because I’ve been supportive of your whole mysterious routine so far. But so help me, if it’s the Times I’m gonna scream out of envy. Maybe have a crisis and grow my hair back out.”

“I like your bald head,” Andy smiles, and Keith runs a hand comically over the shiny, brown skin in question. “And no, it’s not the Times .”

“Good,” Keith says. Mutters something that sounds like, “the last thing they need over there is more white kids anyway.”

The rest of Andy’s day is blur of trying to get work done. Miranda’s stuff has put her desperately behind, and every time she almost catches up a contractor or an employment agency calls and then Andy has to take the call outside. By the end of the day, she’s exhausted and has accomplished very little of what the Mirror is paying her to do.

Tomorrow will be better, she tells herself. Knocks off at her usual time because she still has hours of work to do for Miranda and would like to do from the comfort of her apartment. Preferably with her bra off, maybe even without pants.

She’s utterly crestfallen when exits into the sticky July heat to find Miranda’s Mercedes double parked outside, Roy standing beside it, nervously checking his watch.

“Thank God,” he says. Is probably worried one of those cab drivers would shoot him if he stayed there any longer. “You ready to go?”

“I don’t suppose you’re here to drive me home?” Andy asks tiredly.

“Ha,” Roy says and opens the door for her. “You’re funny.”

Traffic is going to be absolutely awful, so Andy decides she’s going to take a nap while Roy fights his way to the Meatpacking district. If this is the only reprieve from Miranda she’s going to get this evening, she might as well make good use of it.

“Wake me up when get there?” she yawns.

“Sure thing.”

She doesn’t so much go to sleep as close her eyes and listen to the white noise of the engine, the chorus of blaring horns. The feel and smell of the car is familiar, oddly comforting in a way, so she just clears her mind. Lets her body go boneless while she attempts to think about absolutely nothing.

“Rise and shine,” Roy’s deep voice announces, and Andy sits up, blinks and blinks, then looks around.

“Are you sure I’m not supposed to go to the office?” Andy asks. She sits up with a start when she realizes they’re in front of Miranda’s townhouse.

“The whole thing is mid-demo,” Roys tells her. He seems surprised she didn’t know, but then again she kind of did. “Meet your temporary headquarters.”

“Fuck,” Andy says, and fixes her bangs. She was going to have to deal with Miranda one way or another, but at least in office she would know the rules of engagement. This is something entirely different.

“Good luck with her,” Roys smiles at her, and Andy abruptly remembers those couple of days when she probably made Roy’s life hell, walking out on Miranda mid-conversation and then giving her a bunch more attitude when a goodly fraction of her body fluid came straight out of a bourbon bottle.

Fair’s fair, she supposes. Decides to meet her fate head on, walking up the townhouse stairs at a brisk clip.

“Hi, I’m Mackenzie,” the bubbly brunette who answers the door announces. “You’re Randy?

“Andy,” she corrects. Wipes her feet on the mat because she remembers that Miranda is very particular about her floors.

“Miranda’s on the phone upstairs,” Mackenzie tells her. “She said to tell you she’d be done in a few minutes.”

“Good,” Andy says. “Because I need to talk you.”

Andy doesn’t mean to sound stern or mean, but apparently fatigue has blunted her filter because Mackenzie looks terrified.

“I can’get fired,” Mackenzie blurts. “The agency told me they wouldn’t send me out on any more jobs if Miranda complained.”

She looks like she’s about to burst into tears at any moment, so Andy takes sympathy on her. Tries to put aside the thought that she almost didn’t get Miranda’s job offer because Mackenzie screwed up her address.

“Look, you’re a temp, right?” Andy asks. Has Mackenzie sit down.

“Yeah,” she says as the first tears fall.

“Okay, so you’re not going to get fired. I’m just going to thank the agency for sending you out and tell them our needs have changed. Then I’m going to go through another agency to find someone new, but I’m not going to trash you to your boss, okay?”

“She’s just so awful,” Mackenzie sobs. Part of Andy gets it, obviously, but another part of her wants to tell Mackenzie that Miranda has high standards for a reason. It isn’t Miranda’s fault that Mackenzie’s employer sent her out on a job she was clearly ill equipped to perform.

“Alright,” Andy says while fishing tissues from her purse. “So for the remainder of the time you work for her, I’m going to help you. I’m going to tell you the things she doesn’t like and the things she absolutely hates, and if you have questions about an instruction she gives you, you’re not gonna ask her. You’re going to ask me and only me, okay?”

“You’re really nice,” Mackenzie exhales. Gives Andy a weak, faltering smile.

“Yeah,” Andy replies. Motions for Mackenzie to clean herself up when they hear Miranda’s heels clicking down the stairs.

“Oh. You’re still here,” Miranda says in Mackenzie’s direction. Gives the girl a passing, disdainful glance, the likes of which one usually affords to things on the street one wants to avoid stepping in.

“Did you need anything else from her this evening?" Andy asks. Makes herself sound bright and helpful, the way she used to at Runway. It’s startling how fast the muscle memory kicks in.

“No,” Miranda practically spits. Makes a vague shooing motion and then turns around, at which point Andy nods her head pointedly toward the door. Mackenzie gathers her things at light speed, refrains from saying goodnight because she’s probably already learned that lesson the hard way.

“Did you meet all two of her brain cells?” Miranda asks, once the door’s closed.

“I’ll have someone new in place within a week,” Andy promises.

“A week ,” Miranda repeats. “This isn’t rocket science. They needn’t be versed in quantum mechanics, simply have a variably functioning brain in their head.”

Sure, a functioning brain - and a tolerance for abuse, ability to read minds, keen fashion sense, strong multi-tasking skills, teleportation capabilities not required but highly preferred.

“It will take a week to do my own background check,” Andy replies evenly. “Unless you would like me to take the agency’s word for it when it comes to vetting?”

Andy poses the question without obvious sarcasm, which is a minor miracle in itself. Miranda gives a pointed look but says nothing further. It's as much of a victory as Andy will ever get.

“So where do I start?” Andy asks, ignoring the first rule that Emily ever instilled in her. “Where is everyone else, upstairs?”

“Everyone?” Miranda repeats. “Caroline and Cassidy are upstairs, no doubt wasting their time with video games. If you wish to catch up with my staff, I believe Alina is somewhere dusting or folding laundry.”

It takes a minute for Andy to process the implications of this, but then her mind spits back out the very obvious thesis that she is here to work alone with Miranda and she suddenly wishes she hadn’t wasted all of those tissues on Mackenzie.

“So just us,” Andy says and tries not wheeze. “Where do we start?”

She follows Miranda down the hall, into the study where Miranda told her she was bumping Emily to go to Paris. It’s both cozier and scarier than Andy remembers. Tries to summon some that courage she had last week and finds it impossible when she’s here, so squarely on Miranda’s turf.

The funny thing is, it doesn’t end up being all that different. Sure, it’s pretty weird for Miranda to be across from her, softly dictating orders, rather than handing them off to Emily or else giving them from within the glass palace of her erstwhile office. But everything else is the same. Andy makes the Paris reservations (which she forgot about earlier), thinking to book them under a fake name. She’ll give the hotel a head’s up later - allow them enough time to upgrade Miranda with all the things they’ll throw around for free in the vain hope of impressing her - but such a logistic can wait until further down the line.

“You aren’t so appalling nice anymore,” Miranda notes, after they’ve been working for three hours with zero extraneous conversation. Miranda’s lost the baby blue cashmere drape she had on earlier, which Andy kind of mourns now. That color has always done such fantastic things for Miranda's eyes.

“I didn’t think the person on the phone had an appreciation for manners,” Andy replies. Tries not to sound as defensive as she feels because, really, Andy is still nice . Most of the time. When the situation allows it.

“It’s difficult, isn’t it?” Miranda asks her. “Getting things done when others insist on being incompetent?”

That isn’t the way Andy sees the world. It isn’t . But yes, Andy has gained a greater appreciation of why people (especially women) feel like being too nice is a professional liability.

“I’ve never been a doormat,” Andy sighs, still reading a CV that looks halfway promising. “Although I guess these days I maybe take better care to communicate that to people in my dealings.”

Andy looks up a minute later to Miranda staring at her. She wears a contemplative expression the likes of which Andy can’t readily identify. It makes her stomach start to hurt.

. . .

Chapter Text

 

 


 Put an ocean and a river between everybody else
between everything, yourself and home

- The National, "England"


 

 

 

Andy gets into the Mercedes in the morning to find Miranda isn’t in the car this time, meaning that Andy gets to ride to the Mirror free of incessant demands. Which is why it’s peculiar that when Roy opens the door to reveal a backseat devoid of company, Andy feels something akin to disappointment.

But that can’t be right, because feeling anything other than over-the-flipping-moon in the face of a reprieve from Miranda’s frigid brand of one-sided conversation would make Andy certifiably insane. And Andy isn’t crazy, right?

She just wanted Miranda to see her hair and makeup while it’s fresh, Andy tells herself. Tries to fold that strange feeling neatly up and then cram it away, to the very back of her mind.

“I would have driven you last night,” Roy says, when they pull out into traffic.

“A cab was fine,” Andy yawns. Feels so tired she’s actually imagining the smell of coffee right now.  “No sense in both of us missing sleep.”

“Look down,” Roy tells her, at which point Andy notices the Starbucks cup nestled in the far right cupholder.

“You're a saint,” Andy tells him solemnly. Grabs the cup and greedily gulps at the latte, ignoring that it’s a bit too hot for her liking. She doesn’t so much mind the burn after a couple sips.

“How long are you pulling double duty?”

“My whole two weeks notice.”

Roy whistles long and low, and Andy quietly questions how on earth she’s going to get through nine more work days of this.

Not that last night was entirely awful or anything. Working with Miranda is routine for Andy, even though it’s been a while. She still enters this kind of mental slipstream, especially when things are hectic. Plus there was the surreal moment when Miranda announced that she needed to have dinner with the girls, and Andy assumed she would just be left alone to keep working (and clearly starve, because she hadn’t even eaten at lunch). But instead Miranda got up, pointedly waiting for Andy to follow.

“The girls have gotten big,” Andy says as much to herself as Roy. Cassidy and Caroline have shot up a couple of inches since she last saw them. 

They’d initially circled around her last night, Andy feeling like a rodent that'd accidentally tunneled its way right into a tiger enclosure. But then they chattered away about video games and television, and Andy had silently chided herself because they’re just kids. Kids who’ve obviously had a pretty rough year, given Stephen’s leaving and the ensuing media coverage.

“Miranda made sure I was paid for the months she was in Europe,” Roy says now, apropos of nothing. Traffic is a little better than usual and Andy’s noticed that Roy gets chatty whenever that happens. “I know what everyone says about her. The newspapers and gossip sites. But I wasn’t driving her anywhere for those six months, and she made sure I still got a paycheck.”

The coverage of Miranda was brutal last fall, between the stories about Stephen and the stuff leaking out about Runway . But then, right before Christmas, all the Miranda sightings stopped. She just dropped off the New York radar entirely, not that her absence put an end to stories being run about her.

Andy had already assumed she’d left the country long before Roy’s confirmation. Sometimes felt a deep, aching despair last winter, walking down icy streets and wondering if Miranda might have chosen to relocate permanently. Maybe London, since she had a flat there already.

“I worried she wouldn’t come back,” Andy admits. Doesn’t understand why the words feel so private, like she’s telling Roy an important secret.

“Nah,” Roy shakes his head. “She’s New York, through and through.”

“Thanks for the lift,” Andy says when the car pulls up to her office. She takes her empty Starbucks cup with her because she doesn’t like to leave trash in the car.

“See you at five-thirty.”

“I’ll be the super chipper one,” Andy drawls. Squares her shoulders against another long day and barrels into it head-on.

 

. . .

 

“I have those ten minutes if you still need them,” her boss tells her.

Joe’s standing by her desk, reading something in a manila folder, a few crumbs from his bagel still stuck in his beard.

“Okay,” Andy says. Realizes that, yeah, Joe never got around to her yesterday, so  she still hasn’t technically quit.

They go into Joe’s office, a small beige space that feels more like a cubicle with walls and a door.

“It will only take a couple minutes,” Andy promises. She doesn’t know whether to close the door or not, so just awkwardly stands in front of it.

“Shoot, kid. Whatever you need.”

“Well… I actually… Um, I’ve accepted a position outside of the Mirror and I’ll be resigning at the end of next week.”

“Oh,” Joe says. He doesn’t seem upset, maybe a little surprised is all. “Okay, well I’ll try to have someone lined up in a couple days. And I’ll need your letter of resignation.”

“Of course,” Andy nods.

“And good luck,” Joe adds. “In whatever it is that you’re doing…”

Andy sees the hanging sentence for the question it is, but she isn’t going to bite. She just smiles sweetly and thanks Joe for his time, gets out of his office before he can get up the interest to ask her anything directly.

“So I assume it’s official now,”  Keith says when she sits back down. “Or were just in there telling Joe how well that onion bagel goes with the red in his beard?”

“It’s official,” Andy confirms. Barely stifles her chortle.

“Are you going to tell me about the new job now?” Keith digs.

“Still have to cloak and dagger about it,” Andy laments. “But I promise to tell you everything the moment I can.”

“You better,” Keith points a finger at her. Smiles and adds, “‘Cause if you do, I’ll tell you all about my interview at the Times .”

“Seriously?” Andy practically shouts, and Keith immediately shushes her.

“Seriously,” he replies, and Andy gives him a long distance fist bump from behind her desk.

The day goes by in another blur, and Andy does way more of her Miranda work than real work. Which isn’t to say that her Miranda work isn’t real, because God knows she’s already earning her pay for that woman. Has lined up two interviews for the personal assistant position and gotten three new bids from contractors willing to listen to Miranda’s very precise vision for the Charcoal office space. Plus fielded calls from would-be contributors that Miranda is now apparently routing to Andy, even though Andy has no idea who the Charcoal editors are, or else what they and Miranda are presently looking for. (Not that it wasn’t kind of a kick to tell Christiane Amanpour’s rep that she’d have to contact her again later, after they’ve considered her client’s pitch. Because it totally was.)

She decides to knock off early. Feels sort of bad about it, but it’s only fifteen minutes before she normally she leaves anyway and she really needs another coffee before she clocks those hours with Miranda.

She hits up a coffee cart because it’s there and sometimes way better than Starbucks, but only ends up disappointed when her latte tastes kind of tepid. It’s hot enough outside today that it feels silly to raise a stink about a beverage not being warm enough. So she sips her lukewarm caffeine and waves at Roy, who apparently had to park on the other side of street.

“Sorry,” he says and opens the door.

“No worries,” she tells him. Tosses him the chocolate chip cookies she picked him up from that cart. He inhales one of them before he’s even seated behind the wheel.

It’s tempting to take a nap like she did yesterday, but Andy decides to plow through instead. Fields a few calls she couldn’t make earlier in the day. Sends a long email to Patrick that Miranda basically dictated to her by text message earlier. Something about a photo shoot in Maine next month and concerns about the probability of rain the week in question. A shoot for what, Andy doesn’t know, though she hopes at some point she’ll get filled in on the many details she needs to do her job.

It’s not as terrifying to go into the townhouse this time. Miranda is upstairs again on a phone call, and again Mackenzie is on the verge of tears because she’s made several blunders, most of which Miranda doesn’t know about and Andy can rather easily fix. Probably. She hopes.

She takes the initiative to dismiss Mackenzie for the day. Maybe Miranda will be annoyed with Andy’s presumption, but Andy guesses she’ll just be relieved to come back and find her gone.

“Tell Patrick I have no interest in an indoor setting for the photo shoot,” Miranda begins, the second she descends the stairs. Doesn’t say 'hello' to Andy or else acknowledge that Andy has arrived rather than appearing out of thin air, but hey, this is to be expected. “I fail to understand why he thinks I would suffer the expense of shooting on location if not to gain inspiring vistas. What does he suggest, a cottage theme?”

The derision with which that last phrase was spoken will be… difficult to capture in an email. Andy makes a note to call Patrick's people tonight, explain it in a medium that can’t easily be forwarded on to others.

“Is she gone?” Miranda asks suddenly, looking around.

“I sent Mackenzie home,” Andy replies. Crosses her fingers and hopes for the best.

“Good,” Miranda says and slips her glasses off. “The only task that creature does with any efficiency is render oxygen into carbon.”

Andy barely hides her snort, turning it into a cough that Miranda sees fit to ignore.

There’s a long list of things besides Patrick that Miranda wants Andy to attend to, and they settle in the den like the previous evening. Today Miranda’s wearing cream colored linen pants and a reddish colored cotton top (too muted to be called rust, Andy decides, and wishes she could name the exact hue). She looks far from slouchy, obviously, but it’s also an outfit Miranda would have never worn to the office.

‘Priestly casual’, Andy deems it and then wishes the chair she's chosen to perch in was a tad less comfy. She’s going on about three hours of sleep and it’s verboten to so much as yawn in front of present company..

“Regretting your decision to honor your commitments to your previous employment?” Miranda asks knowingly.

“Nope,” Andy lies. She can’t believe it’s only Tuesday and she has another -

Wait. It’s Tuesday .

“Shit shit shit,” Andy mutters and digs in her bag for a phone. “I can’t believe I forgot about him.”

“If you insist on making some pathetic, placating call to a boyfriend,” Miranda chides, looking supremely pissed. “Do so on your own time.”

“No boyfriend,” Andy whines. Suffers Miranda’s anger because it’s close to seven and God, she feels horrible about cancelling this late on Nigel. “I was supposed to have dinner with Nigel tonight and I forgot to cancel.”

“Nigel Kipling? Miranda asks. No longer sounds like she wants to strangle Andy with an Hermes scarf.

No, Nigel Barker , Andy almost sasses but stops herself right before the words fly off her tongue. No need to poke the dragon further, and besides she would totally have dinner with Nigel Barker. That dude is super hot.

“The one and only,” Andy says instead. Frantically scrolls through her contacts for Nigel’s new work cell. “We made plans more than a week ago and I just got so busy -”

“Hang up,” Miranda orders her, as the call begins to ring.

For first time Andy really regrets taking this job because it’s so like Miranda to not even let Andy cancel with a simple freaking phone call that would take five like seconds. But Andy does as she’s told. Hangs up, knowing that Nigel will end up waiting alone for her at that restaurant. She feels horrible and angry, and God she can’t even look at Miranda right now.

“Keep your engagement with Nigel,” Miranda says, and Andy takes a moment to process that because she’s sure she must have heard that wrong. “Have you told him of your new employment?”

“N- no. I haven’t talked to him in more than a week.”

“As I expected,” Miranda says. Narrows her eyes the way she does when she’s decided on something. Typically something that will make someone else fairly miserable. “It will be… helpful for Nigel to know of my little venture. So yes, by all means. Go to dinner with Nigel.”

“But the nondisclosure agreement... “ Andy puzzles.

“Is still in play, of course.”

“So what - what exactly am I supposed to tell him?”

“You’re a smart girl. I’m sure she’ll figure that out.”

She gives Andy a particularly mean smile, the likes of which Andy remembers from the morning of the Harry Potter goose chase. Andy’s done a decent job of blocking most of that day from her memory, but that smile - that punishing smile and those cruel eyes, Andy clearly remembers. Doesn’t know how she’s supposed to eat dinner now, because she feels the very real urge to vomit.

“Roy will take you,” Miranda instructs and waves her off with a small, dismissive gesture. “Do not linger any longer than necessary.”

Andy calls Roy, who was supposed to be off the hook for the rest of the evening.

“Sorry,” she tells him when he picks her up.

“It’s fine,” Roy says. Closes her door maybe a little harder than normal. “Any idea when you’re going to be done?”

“Oh, I can take a cab,” Andy says quickly. “No need to worry about that.”

She never takes cabs two days in a row. With her budget, she rarely takes cabs at all. But if she’s going to have two jobs temporarily, she figures she can afford some splurges for the sake of expedience. Maybe in this case for diplomacy.

“Have a nice meal,” Roy tells her, looking more like his usual affable self now.

“Thanks,” Andy smiles. Hurries into the restaurant because she’s two minutes from being late.

“Reservation for Kipling,” Andy says to a man who looks at her with polite ambivalence.

“You’re the first to arrive,” he tells her. “Henry will show you to your table.”

Andy picks up the menu for a moment, terrified to see some of the prices. She has an emergency credit card she can use if the bill is really painful, but she’d rather not do it. Two paychecks, she reminds herself and takes a steadying breath. Orders a whiskey neat because it’s probably cheaper than any glass of wine this place sells.

She’s halfway through with her drink and still no sign of Nigel, so she scrolls through her texts to make sure she didn’t miss a message from him. She didn’t, she confirms, and ends up doing work for Miranda because she doesn’t have anything else to keep her busy aside from worrying.

“Six!” Nigel greets her, and Andy almost jumps out of her chair because she was mid-email to Patrick’s assistant. “Look at you, in that fun little Dsquared dress. Lovely.”

Nigel hugs her, gives her a (real) kiss on the cheek. He coos a little bit more about how Andy looks, and between the compliments and her whiskey she feels warm, fuzzy, and happy.

“Your suit is stunning,” Andy says when she remembers her manners. The jacket is a standard notch lapel with a two-button front, but the gray fabric is positively sumptuous. Plus it looks like it was designed specifically for Nigel, which it probably was given that it’s James Holt. 

“I’m sorry to keep you waiting,” Nigel says when  they sit. “Meeting ran long and I couldn’t get out, but my, could I use some carbs now.”

“Me too,” Andy says. Wonders what the very cheapest appetizer is and whether she can beg off as full when it comes time to order entrees. 

Their server reappears as Nigel ponders the wine list.

“A bottle of this, please,” Nigel smiles. “And we’d like to start with some oysters. Do you like oysters?” he asks Andy, and Andy shrugs. She didn’t when she was younger but it’s been a long time since she’s tried them. “Six of the Plymouth then, and some of the lobster crostini as well.”

Andy tries not to cringe when she hears the word ‘lobster’. Shuts off the part of her mind that’s tabulating the bill as Nigel orders.

“It’s a sin to not drink wine when you come here,” Nigel tells her with a pointed look at Andy’s mostly empty highball.

“Always been a dilettante I guess,” Andy replies and smiles weakly. Watches Nigel watching her.

“You look happy,” Nigel tells her, saying it like he’s surprised. “I wasn’t sure what to expect upon seeing you tonight. I think I was worried ‘happy’ would not be what I found.”

“Why not?” Andy asks and feels a little offended, probably sounds it, too.

“Because you were so obviously crushed in Paris,” Nigel breezes. “Doting on Miranda when she was intent on punishing everyone around her for what happened. You seemed to take it personally that your queen had been dethroned.”

Your. The singular form of the possessive adjective isn’t lost on Andy.

“What happened was horrible,” Andy says, deciding on the words very carefully before she says them aloud. “I wanted to believe the world was still mostly about merit. And Miranda… However difficult Miranda is, she’s the best at what she does. So yes, I found what happened in Paris to be painful.”

“You threw your company phone in a fountain,” Nigel reminds her, and Andy grimaces because she didn’t think anyone knew about that. Such a stupid thing to do - all those contacts lost. She could really use some of them now.

“I had less experience then,” Andy says, and hopes it doesn’t sound too defensive. “I’d like to think I wouldn’t behave that way now.”

“You mean not so breathtakingly loyal to Miranda?” Nigel smiles, just as the server arrives with their bottle of wine. “It’s fine, thanks,” Nigel says and waves the lingering man away. Wine in nice restaurants still involves a series of rituals Andy doesn’t quite understand.

“You left, too,” Andy snipes back, once the server is out of earshot. Feels her cheeks getting hot, her hands fidgety. “It’s not like you stayed around to hold hands and gossip with Follet.”

“I already had another job offer,” Nigel shrugs. “Leaving cost me nothing. In fact, it probably spared me a great deal of pain and suffering, given the veritable shit show that’s evidently happened at Runway since. But I’m not up on all the details, except some of the numbers. For the rest you’d have to ask someone like Emily.”

“Why Emily?”

“She’s in the makeup department now. Jacqueline didn’t keep her as an assistant, naturally. Shuffled her over first thing, the day she started as Editor.”

“Emily stayed !” Andy exclaims, far too loudly for the relative quiet of the restaurant. A few people to turn look at her. One particularly well heeled woman pointedly glares, which makes Andy sink down in her chair.

“You’re really surprised?” Nigel asks as their appetizers come, and Andy decides just from looking at them that nope, she still doesn’t like oysters. But the crostini look pretty good, so she dives right in. Forgets to be elegant or dainty in her selections because she’s thoroughly pissed off now.

“Emily worshiped Miranda,” Andy says a few moments later, after she’s shoved one whole toast point in her mouth and managed to finally swallow. “I mean, Emily was the one who put the fear of God into me about not screwing up in my job and how important Miranda was - is .” 

“You mean she worshiped the position,” Nigel says, a little softer now. Gazes at Andy like she’s a child to whom he’s trying to explain something painful. Maybe to him she is.

Their server reappears, bringing about a pause in their conversation that Andy very much needs.

“I’ll have the scallops,” Nigel says, as Andy continues angrily stuffing toast points into her mouth.

“Another order of these,” she says as she jabs an index finger at the nearly empty plate.

“You should try some of their seafood,” Nigel nudges. “It’s what they’re known for.” Andy sticks with her pouty, defiant silence, and the server bears the long wait, appearing remarkably calm. “We’ll have the duck risotto too,” Nigel tells him and hands off both of their menus.

Andy finishes of the crostini, plus half a glass of wine before she decides that she needs to be an adult; she shouldn’t punish Nigel for telling her how the rest of the world apparently works.

“Maybe I’m always going to be naive,” Andy begins. She plays with the napkin in her lap and doesn’t meet Nigel’s eyes. “I just think loyalty should still matter for something.”

“It’s certainly something that Miranda was banking on,” Nigel tells her. Sounds contemplative now as he takes off his glasses and polishes them on the soft material of his tie. “She gave Irv a list of people - designers, photographers, stylists - who’d promised to work only with her. Irv called her bluff on it, though I don’t think Miranda thought it was a bluff at the time. Most of the names on that list still work with Runway now, and I don’t think that’s something Miranda ever saw coming.”

How awful, Andy thinks. Tries to imagine how alone Miranda must have felt when she realized the many talents she’d nurtured along were deserting her. 

“But enough about all of that,” Nigel says, even though it’s all Andy can think about now.

He starts talking about his new job, how well he works with James Holt. It’s stuff Andy theoretically wants to hear about, but she still tunes out, thinking instead about that last day in Paris all over again. How bereft Miranda must have been. God, and then how Miranda must have felt whenever she picked up an issue of Runway and saw all the names of people who swore their loyalty only to turn their backs on her.

Andy wills herself not to tear up.

“So what about you,” Nigel redirects, and Andy barely catches the words. “You still dating that cook you were living with?””

“Nate, no,” Andy rolls her eyes. Remembers how awful it was when Nate and Lily expected her to be thrilled that Miranda had gotten the axe. Those were some really ugly fights. “No, he moved to Boston and we haven’t spoken since.”

“I’m sorry,” Nigel offers. “Anybody new on the horizon?”

“No,” Andy laughs. She hasn’t been on a date in months, and anyway dating seems like a foreign concept now. “No time, not that I even have the interest.”

“Newspaper keeping you that busy?”

It’s as wide an opening to come clean as Andy is going to get, but Andy doesn’t take it. She says vague, uninteresting things about the nature of her work at the Mirror and how she should probably move on soon professionally.

“If you feel really suicidal you could go work for Miranda again,” Nigel teases glibly. “Rumor has it she’s starting a new magazine.”

Andy chokes on her wine, coughing and sputtering just as their food arrives. Nigel is so completely taken with his plate that he barely seems to notice.

“This smells good,” Andy says over her risotto. She isn’t really hungry anymore because she’s more sad than angry now; doesn’t so much want to put food on her feelings as maybe sit in a quiet room for a week, not talk to a single human being.

“I reserve the right to steal a bite,” Nigel tells her. Generously shares one of his shrimp with her, which Andy pretends to be enthused about.

Everything is good. Delicious even, despite that Andy is in no mood to enjoy any of it now.

“More?” Nigel holds up the wine bottle, and Andy covers her glass to ward him off. She’s had a glass already, plus her cocktail, and she’s still expected back at the townhouse after this.

“Early morning,” she says by way of explanation. Not exactly a lie.

“I make my own hours now,” Nigel says and smiles smugly. Pops up a piece of prosciutto into his mouth for punctuation.

“So you go in at what, seven?” Andy guesses, because Nigel isn’t fooling her for an instant.

“Sometimes seven-thirty," Nigel mutters and averts his eyes. Steals a bite of Andy’s risotto.

Conversation shifts to safer topics, like fashion trends and Nigel’s hunt for a brownstone. The check eventually comes and Andy promptly reaches for it, deciding it’s just one more painful thing about this evening.

“Don’t even think about it,” Nigel says and snatches it right out of her hand. “Especially since you barely drank the wine.”

“I told you I was taking you out,” Andy reminds him. “This was supposed to be on me.”

“And you’re a sweet thing for sticking to that after I picked this place, but no way are you paying for this. Maybe next time.”

Andy feels guilty and relieved in different measure. Then Nigel goes to sign the slip, Andy getting a glimpse of the total, and hey, that guilt pretty much evaporates. But it’s pretty cool to know that Nigel tips like a Rockefeller. She shouldn’t have expected anything less.

“I really do love this dress on you,” Nigel says when they stand, and Andy perks up at that. It’s a funky samurai print that felt too risky for her when she first bought it. She decided to pair it with a chunky belt and a killer pair of pumps, hoping confidence would carry it.

“Trying not to play it safe,” Andy smiles. Hugs Nigel like she means it because it’s been good to see him, even if dinner wasn’t exactly lighthearted.

“Call me for lunch,” Nigel tells her. “Don’t disappear on me again.”

“I won’t,” Andy says. Hopes she can keep the promise.

She lets him have the first cab, a move that proves fortuitous because as soon as he’s gone, Roy pulls out from the spot he’s been parked in.

“Boss’s order,” Roy shrugs in response to Andy’s confusion.

“I’m so sorry,” Andy tells him. “I really planned to take a cab.”

The drive is pretty quiet after that, so Andy keeps on thinking about all the things Nigel told her. Emily. Miranda’s list. How many people basically walked out Miranda, in a very short span of time.

She reenters the townhouse with soft steps and a heavy heart. Returns to the study to find Miranda seated and working, giving every appearance that she’s been in the same spot since Andy left. Probably not the case though, as Miranda likely paused for dinner with the twins.

“Contact the printer in the morning,” Miranda says, about ten seconds after Andy enters the room. “Send them these.”

It’s the first of a long series of tasks, like always, but in place of cheery replies, Andy merely nods. Dives back into the work and tries not to stare at the woman across from her; no way she could keep the sympathy off her face if she did.

“What did you say to Nigel?” Miranda asks, breaking the silence that’s reigned for the last hour.

“He’s already heard that you’re starting a new magazine,” Andy tells her. Feels remarkably free of guilt, tattling on Nigel like this. “I didn’t see an advantage in telling him anything else.”

Miranda considers her here, staring at her in the exactly the way she did yesterday evening. Only it doesn’t scare Andy this time. Not when she's so mentally tired - feels stretched out and wrong now, like cheap fabric that’s been washed too many times.

“Where was your dinner?” Miranda asks, and Andy freezes in place now. Fails to find any interpretation of this other than an attempt to make polite conversation, which is entirely too weird for Andy to even wrap her head around.

“Marea,” Andy replies, before the silence can stretch and Miranda inevitably gets pissed off at Andy’s inability to answer a simple question.

“Their wine list is acceptable,” Miranda notes, and goes back to whatever she’s working on.

“I liked my risotto,” Andy says. “And the lobster crostini we began with.”

Miranda doesn’t say anything else, so Andy promptly shuts up. Hopes she didn’t say too much or too little, but then Miranda’s not sniping or pursing her lips. So that’s a good sign.

“You never considered staying, did you?” Miranda asks sometime later, and Andy looks up from what she’s doing, not following the line of thought. Staying longer at dinner despite that Miranda told her not to linger? “At Runway, ” Miranda supplies. Makes the name sound violent and ugly.

It’s one of the many times that Andy thinks Miranda can read minds, as this whole time Andy’s been sitting here, thinking about just that. Granted, she didn’t even realize staying at Runway was a possibility, having assumed she was collateral damage when her boss was shown the exit. It’s weird to think the Elias-Clarke records likely show Andy as having walked out on her job rather than being terminated.

Still, she tries to picture Irv Ravitz himself having asked her to stay. All she sees is herself shoving that old Nokia Sidekick right up his ass.

“No,” Andy answers easily. “I never considered staying.”

“Such loyalty,” Miranda tsks. Sounds like a pricklier, colder version of the speech Nigel gave her at dinner. “And from someone who only deigned to work for me in the first place.”

“I think we can both agree I’ve grown beyond that shortsighted young woman,” Andy sighs. Knew better than to expect some kind of bonding moment with Miranda, but had hoped to not be kicked in the shin for her trouble. At least Nigel beat Miranda to this particularly punch, so Andy doesn’t feel as hurt as she otherwise would.

“You have,” Miranda concedes. “But not so far as to realize loyalty is a liability.”

“Only time will tell,” Andy says. Punctuates the reply with a cold smile, the likes of which makes Miranda’s eyes crinkle.

On another person, Miranda's expression might even pass for bemused.

. . .