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Too Big to Fail

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Special Thanks to my betas, firebird93, quiethearted, and peetsden for cleaning up my story enough that it makes sense. Also, thanks must go to Gin akasarahsmom, who was a great sounding board. They make my stories presentable. You should be thanking them!

Disclaimer: I do not own The Devil Wear Prada or its characters. I am not profiting from this story (except through your positive comments). This story is protected through the fair use doctrine exception to Section 107 of the United States Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S. Code §107)  or some such pish-posh.


Part 1

Drumming her fingers against her desk, Andy Sachs, ace reporter for the New York Mirror, wonders how the hell she's gotten into this mess. In self-defense, how could she have known that the stars would align as she investigated the process of obtaining a home loan from beginning to end and reveal some very powerful players in the real estate industry leading the way toward bankrupting consumers while living in the lap of luxury? How could she have anticipated that she would recognize one person's name in particular even though she only had met him twice, and certainly not in a pleasant, "Andrea, may I introduce you to my husband," type of way? Not that he's her husband anymore. Well, technically he is, but once they get through the divorce...

Realizing where her thoughts have wandered, Andy shakes her head and releases them. She doesn't have time. She has to come up with a plan, a way to deal with this new development.

For the last two years the real estate industry has taken off, equity rising and consumers obtaining home loans even when they did not have adequate credit. The government pushed the whole everyone-should-own-a-home mentality, and banks eagerly have given money away left and right, often without properly determining whether borrowers are able to pay back the loans.

It has become commonplace for first-time homeowners to receive two loans instead of one, called 80/20 loans. The junior lien, usually a HELOC or equity line, acts as the down payment for the twenty percent that's needed when using a conventional loan to purchase a property. Those junior liens are usually variable rates, but fixed from one to five years. What no one seems to care about is that once the fixed rate becomes variable, a good chance exists that the monthly payments will become too high, and the borrowers will default on their loans. No one tells them that when they are buying their homes, though. They are filled with confidence by those granting the loans, mortgage brokers and subprime lenders whose sole goal is to make money. Only people within the industry or those who are financially savvy can see the writing on the wall.

Or nosey reporters who ask too many questions while writing a fluff piece on the American dream of owning a home. That dream seems so quaint and uncomplicated, and Andy scoffed when assigned the piece, meant to coincide with Independence Day. Greg told her that the article should stir feelings of loyalty and thankfulness in their readers, reminding them of just how many liberties the American people enjoy. She thought the American dream—hell, everyone's dream—is to fall in love and live life with that person. What does she know, though?

Planning to write a paragraph or two about the process of buying a home to give readers an idea of where to start, Andy found so much conflicting information that she began to research how people actually obtain loans.

Her first idea was to apply for a loan, but she could not justify lying on a loan application. She has no intention of buying a home any time soon, and fraud is fraud, even if her intentions are to gather information. Instead, she talked to Lily, who wants to buy a small house in the Bronx. With her fiancé. Nate.

And what a fucked up situation that is. Nate had left two years ago to become a sous-chef in Boston. Although she apologized for her part in their break up, she had not wanted to reconcile, and he accepted her decision with puppy-dog eyes and a sad smile. He still insisted that they remain friends, though, and Andy was glad to hold on to their friendship. He visited every month, and they, along with Doug and Lily, went out to bars or made dinner in one of their apartments, falling into the easy camaraderie they had developed over the years. He stayed with Lily in her open-space loft above the art gallery where she works in Noho. As the months passed, a shift occurred between Nate and Lily, and Andy realized with chagrin that she was watching them fall in love. Evidently, Doug noticed, too, and one night when they met for dinner, Doug brought up the subject.

"Andy, have you noticed how chummy our two best buds are?" Doug asked, fingers fiddling with a straw paper wrapper.

Shrugging, Andy said, "Yeah, well, he always stays with her. It makes sense that they would have some private jokes and, I don't know, shared experiences that we don't know about."

"True, true," Doug agreed, fingers ripping the wrapper into small strips. "But the way they interact, it just reminds me, in a way, of how he and, um," his eyes flicked up at Andy, who was watching his progress of destroying the wrapper methodically, before continuing, "you were around each other before it all went south."

Taking in what he said, Andy had to agree, and she found herself nodding. "Yeah, I, I know. I've noticed, too, but Lily hasn't said anything, and I have no right to confront her."

"No right? She's supposed to be your best friend, and she's broken the best friend code: no dating the ex," Doug said.

"Hey, if they're happy, then good for them. I have no claim on him," Andy muttered before taking a large swig of her beer, done with the subject. Totally done. Because even though she might believe every word she was espousing, it still hurt to watch them fall in love. It still hurt that she hadn't been good enough for him. It still hurt that after all the vitriol everyone had spewed about Andy placing her job over her friends and over Nate, they had figured out that even with demanding jobs, they could navigate a relationship when it was important enough.

The truth is that she knew this, even while their relationship was breaking apart. Andy had chosen to not save their relationship, preferring to spend time doing things for Miranda, hoping to impress her. And not only due to some professional pride—she had wanted to make Miranda notice her, to make a difference, to be memorable. It was worth losing Nate if it meant Miranda would need her.

Of course, Miranda had proved just how little she did need Andy. She could take care of herself. Miranda had known of Irv's plans to replace her with Jacqueline Follet as Runway's Editor-in-Chief. And for some reason Andy had felt like a fool. Her decisions had been made based on emotion. She had wanted to save Miranda. But she was just an employee meant to assist in work-related matters, same as all the others. So, she had left, knowing that there were a million girls ready to step into her role.     

And that was the bitterest pill. She could see clearly now that she had made the choice not to invest the necessary time and effort in her relationship with Nate. She had invested all her emotions, all her dedication and effort to doing her job. A job she had quit when it had become too tough. To her everlasting shame, she had quit merely a day after Miranda had directed her unequivocally to do her job. Miranda, who had been crying over the end of her marriage. It had been Andy's chance to prove how indispensible she was. But she had not done her job. And she had not made a difference.

Surprisingly, she had received a favorable recommendation from Miranda for her application as a reporter at the New York Mirror, and Andy finally admitted to herself that she was lazy. Lazy with her relationships. Lazy with her ethics. Lazy with her expectations for herself and those in her life. Life is not black and white, but Andy had rebelliously acted like an impudent girl, refusing to grow up and accept the complexities of life, love, and friendship.

After that talk with Doug, Andy had brought the subject up without pretext at their next outing, teasing the new couple lightheartedly and in her own way letting them know that she was okay with it, that they didn't need to hide their evolving relationship. Smiles abounded, and Andy takes great pleasure in harassing them, as any good friend should, each time they spend time together. Three months ago, they announced their engagement and Nate's new job at an up-and-coming restaurant in the theater district. He moved back to New York with little fanfare last month, and the Four Musketeers continue to meet regularly at least once a week.

Lily mentioned last month that they were tossing around the idea of buying a home in the Bronx. Although they love living in the middle of everything, they also miss the type of houses they grew up in, with a backyard, no one living above or below them, and more privacy.

Of course, Andy wondered how they could afford a home, but it turns out that they qualified for an FHA loan with a minimal down payment of three and a half percent, and the down payment is to be paid through a first-time homebuyers' grant program. In effect, they only will have to pay a nominal amount to become homeowners.

It all sounded too good to be true, and Andy had learned the hard way that naively believing that everything would work out in life purely because she had hoped for the best is a wasted endeavor. Since Lily and Nate do not make a lot of money or have pristine credit, it does not make sense that they are being offered so much money without having to prove that they will be able to pay it back.

So, she's been asking questions. Using her contacts. Finding out who the big players in town are. Mortgage brokers, lenders, attorneys, insurance companies. And as she's studied the information and pieced together the various components that make up real estate transactions, names have begun to stand out.

Like Stephen Tomlinson, soon to be ex-husband of Miranda Priestly.

Andy doesn't know much about the man except that he's an attorney and has self-esteem issues. Evidently, he'd been called Mr. Priestly one time too many. She finds it hard to feel sympathy for the guy. He knew whom he was marrying, how many hours she works. He is someone who kept trying to change Miranda into what he wanted. He never accepted her for who she is, just as Nate never accepted Andy.

Staring at various documents in front of her, Andy makes the decision to contact Miranda. She has not seen the editor since the day she got her job at the newspaper and waved to her from across the Elias-Clarke building, thoroughly embarrassed by her unprofessional behavior on the day she quit and determined to work hard and become worthy of the chance Miranda gave her through the recommendation. Andy knows she didn't deserve it. But just as Miranda had hired her on a whim, taking a chance on the smart, fat girl, she once more provided Andy with an opportunity. And Andy has no intention of failing at this shot to excel.

More than that, though, Andy owes Miranda. Giving Miranda advance warning for the shit-storm that's on the horizon is the least she can do. Once the article hits the stands, people will automatically pull Miranda into the spotlight. Andy plans to publish just how Stephen has duped the public for years, taking their money and using it to benefit himself. Thank God he and Miranda have always maintained separate bank accounts and individual financial portfolios. It will be easy to verify that she received no benefit from his illegal activities.

Lily asked her last night why she wants to warn Miranda.

"Miranda's a big girl. You don't owe her anything. You can just print the article without giving her a head's up. She'll probably thank you for helping her get that slimy guy out of her life via an all-expense paid trip to the local prison," Lily says.

"Yeah, but I just want to let her know so she can warn her PR firm. No one wants to be ambushed by the paparazzi," Andy sighs, running a hand through her hair.

"Oh, yes, I must agree," Lily replies in a snooty voice that is reminiscent of Emily's demeanor, much to Andy's amusement. "Just last week I left Saks, and they simply would not leave me be. It was such a nuisance."

They look at each other before bursting into laughter.

 Wiping her eyes as she chuckles, Andy shakes her head at her friend's antics.

"Well, I think it's only right to warn her. I just have to figure out how."

Knowing Miranda as she does, Andy figures her best shot at getting to Miranda will be outside of her home. Chewing on her lower lip, she wonders whether this could be construed as stalkerish behavior. Her intentions are pure, though. So, tonight's the night. Her article is finished, and it will be the main feature in Sunday's edition, front-page news. Warning her will give Miranda a few days to use the information as she needs to. Andy and her editor-in-chief will be handing over the damning evidence to the DA tomorrow morning. And then, let the chips fall where they may. She is ready to play.