Actions

Work Header

Even

Chapter Text

The night Miranda told Andy she’d be going to Paris instead of Emily, Andy barely slept.

She kept hearing the sound of Miranda’s voice as she spoke the words. Watched the cirrus fall of her hair, so much softer under the lamp’s dim glow than it was among the bright white walls of her office. Saw the way the rust sweater fell across her shoulder, pale and smooth. Bare.

When Nate asked her to come to bed she did, but she stared at the ceiling till she couldn’t stand it anymore. Padding silently to the couch, she settled on the uncomfortable cushions. At least alone she could breathe more easily. The heat of Nate next to her, his sleepy sounds, even the scent of him had been suffocating. Not because she no longer cared for him, but because she cared… well… less. His complaints, delivered in that strange whine that had crept into his voice nearly anytime they spoke, were making her doubt the depth of the relationship that had been central to her life for nearly five years.

This job was making her question everything in her universe. The people she’d met, the challenges she’d overcome, the knowledge she’d gained--all of it was opening her up in a way that felt like a pain and pleasure tied together. Nate gave himself permission to work late, but he was annoyed when she did. He disappeared and hung out with friends whenever he felt like it, but he gave her a hangdog look if she had a work event. And that birthday pout because she missed his party... the memory of it bothered her. He was an aspiring chef, a job that required as many late nights or more than her own. What was so terrible about wanting to do well in her profession, no matter what it might be? What if Andy had never wanted to be a journalist in the first place? What if the study of fashion had been the reason she’d come to New York? Would he have liked her as much, or loved her at all? Did he only care about her because he liked having her on his arm? “This is my girlfriend, Andy. She’s going to be a prize-winning journalist.” He clearly didn’t like saying, “This is my girlfriend, Andy. She’s working for a vapid magazine about a subject I actively hate.” He didn’t even mention Runway when he introduced her to someone new; she had to do it herself. He still just called her a writer. Maybe he was ashamed, or embarrassed, or angry, depending on the day.

Sometime around 4 she dozed till her alarm went off at 5:45. She rolled off the couch and went to the tiny bedroom closet, where she’d already put together her outfits for the week. She pulled the one for the day out and had a thought: what the hell was she going to bring to Paris? And what was she going to bring it in? Back in college she’d borrowed her folks’ large suitcases and sent them home at Parents’ Weekend, repeating the same experience every year. She had shipped most of her things home after she’d studied abroad for a semester in Ireland. When she’d moved to the city with Nate they’d boxed everything and packed a U-Haul. Even when she went to Cincinnati she packed light and did laundry at home. Hell, before Runway, she’d barely had many clothes to begin with.

She quietly rummaged in the back of the closet to pull out the battered carry-on her mother had given her for her 18th birthday. Staring down at it, she realized she’d have to get something new; this would never do, not for a representative of Runway. Maybe she could expense a couple of bags, but she couldn’t ask Emily about that now. She’d have to check with Nigel, who would probably laugh in her face. But luggage was expensive and she was barely breaking even.

“What are you doing?” Nate asked.

Andy was startled. She hadn’t even noticed he’d turned on the light.

“Oh, nothing,” she said, looking at the empty, worn suitcase. “Just thinking.”

“You going somewhere?”

“Yeah,” Andy said, sighing in exhaustion. She didn’t have time to battle it out after almost no sleep. She wasn’t up for much of anything right now, but better to rip the bandaid off than wait. “I’m going to Paris.”

There was a long pause before Nate laughed. “You’re kidding.”

“Nope.”

“I thought Paris was a big deal for Emily.”

“It was, but things changed, so now I’m going.”

“What are you talking about? You can’t just drop everything and go to Paris because Miranda tells you to.”

Andy turned to him. “Yes I can.” She had no intention of apologizing. Nate was an adult. He could take care of himself, and if he couldn’t, then this thing between them was probably going to end sooner than later. “I want to go, so I’m going.”

He sat up in bed and ran a hand through his hair. “Andy, somehow this job, these people, they’re brainwashing you. You’re not this girl.”

She closed her eyes and tried not to scream. “I am who I am, Nate. This is my choice. If you don’t like it, we should probably have a serious conversation, but I can’t do this right now. I have to get ready--”

“Do this? What kind of conversation are you planning to have with me?” He watched her with disbelieving eyes. “I don’t even know who the hell you are. We barely talk, probably because we have literally nothing in common anymore. We’re here together but we’re living separate lives. If we’re gonna end it, let’s just end it.”

“Nate, it’s not even six in the morning, let’s--” The shrill sound of her phone’s ring interrupted not just her words but her entire thought process. It was like an electric shock through her body; one word sang in her mind: Miranda. Miranda, Miranda, Miranda. She headed for the other side of the bed. “I have to take this--”

He snorted with derision. “You know, you’re right, go ahead and answer it.” Andy paused to glance at him as she unplugged the phone from its charger. “The person whose calls you always take? That’s the relationship you’re in. I hope you two will be very happy together.” He got out of bed and stepped into the bathroom, swinging the door shut with a bang.

She blinked once, twice, then answered. “Morning, Miranda. What can I do for you?”

Mechanically, she took notes as Miranda rattled off the latest demands: flowers for Donatella, who was apparently arguing with at least half the fashion world; a specific change to the menu for the flight to Charles de Gaulle; a plumber to come to the townhouse to fix the faucet that one of the twins had prised off the wall the night before. Finally, Miranda asked Andy to visit Hermès to pick up the scarves that Emily had forgotten the day before.

“And remember to tell Emily about Paris,” she added, just enough vehemence in her tone for Andy to realize that she would have to be swift with the knife. Miranda would not be patient--perhaps even less so in this case. “Today. We need to focus on the preparations and I don’t want time wasted by either of you on unnecessary dramatics. Is that clear?”

“Mm,” Andy said, thinking about Hermès scarves but watching the closed bathroom door. It was sinking in now; she and Nate had just broken up. After all the anguish her latest arguments had caused over the past few months, it was a relief. She dreaded the conversation with Emily more than any future conversations with Nate over how they would extract one another from their respective lives.

“What’s the matter with you?” Miranda demanded. “Are you listening to me?”

Exhaustion flowed over Andy in a wave. “I always listen to you, Miranda. I always take your calls,” she added in a daze. “No matter how busy I am, I always answer when I know it’s you.”

Only then did it occur to Andy that those words might sound a little odd when delivered directly into the ear of one’s boss. They may have sounded odd to Miranda too, who did not respond right away. For perhaps the first time, Miranda sounded as though she actually heard Andy when she asked, “Are you well, Andrea?”

The softness of her tone was so surprising Andy felt tears spring to her eyes. “I’m fine. I’ll be in shortly. I’ll have the scarves for you and a plumber will be at the townhouse this morning. Anything else?”

A few seconds ticked by. “No. That’s all.”

“Got it. See you in a bit.” When there was nothing else forthcoming, Andy clicked off. Miranda never said goodbye when she hung up so Andy had started to do the same.

---

At Hermès, Martine was more than happy to open up early, so Andy had the scarves in hand by 7:15. She was about to cross the street when her phone rang; it was Emily. “Andrea, I might be a few minutes late today, I need to run over to Hermès to pick up--”

“Em, you don’t need to--” Andy started, pausing before stepping into the street. A taxi was barrelling toward the intersection, and she’d fortunately looked before crossing against the light. It swooped by her, and when the flashing light turned in her favor she started into the crosswalk. “I’ve got them and I’m heading in.”

“Wait, you’re at Hermès?”

“No, I’ve just left. I’ll be at the office in ten--” Andy turned and saw another cab flying toward her; in the split second before she ended up rolling on the windshield as the scarves flew in the air, she had only two thoughts: I’m going to be late for work, and This asshole had better not keep me from going to Paris.

---

Turns out, she was not late for work; she did not go to work at all. Her arm was broken. Her back was bruised. She wasn’t concussed, but she peered down at the splint and knew that Paris was no longer an option. “Fuck my life,” she whispered.

She’d had an x-ray, a CT scan, and an IV, and the doctor said the transverse fracture to the mid-humerus (her left, thank goodness) would likely not have further complications. She would need the splint for a week before getting fitted for a brace, which she’d wear for a couple of months if everything went smoothly. The doctor said her youth and general health would speed her process, and with PT her recovery would be about three months. “Believe me, it could have been much worse,” she’d said. “A single break with no concussion after getting hit by a taxi? You’re lucky. I mean, obviously better luck would have been to avoid the accident altogether, but things happen. You’re fit. It will be over in the blink of an eye.”

Andy stared down at her phone and texted Nate. At Lenox Hill, had a run in with a cab but am mostly fine. Can you pack my toothbrush and some sweats and run them over here sometime today? Thanks. She did not remind him of the fact that they’d broken up. Maybe if he didn’t respond she could ping Lily or Doug, but Lily had the opening tonight and Doug would be at work. She could wait, though. They weren’t going to discharge her till tomorrow in case she had symptoms present after the fact.

It had been a couple of hours since she’d arrived and she hadn’t communicated much with Emily since then. All Emily knew was that she’d been hit by a car and was at the hospital, but more importantly that a plumber was going to be at Miranda’s house at exactly 9:15am. She’d better be there to let him in, otherwise there was going to be hell to pay.

She wished she had her laptop on her, but then realized that was probably a good thing. It would surely have been damaged in the accident, so maybe Emily--who was now going to Paris in her place and would never know she’d been passed over--could bring it by. She’d have to get the scarves again, since the ones she’d picked up for Miranda had ended up all over the street. The ambulance driver did not respond to her request to search them out, rolling his eyes as he’d loaded her into the back of the van. She figured a bunch of passers-by had scored very nicely today, indeed.

At ten, Nate texted that he was on his way, and was she badly injured? She reassured him and settled in to wait. He arrived half an hour later, brow furrowed in concern as he entered the room. “Oh my god, Andy, I can’t believe it. Are you okay?”

Andy shrugged. “Been better.”

He sat down at the side of the bed and took her right hand as he gazed at the left. “This--I--what happened?”

She told him, and he was appropriately sympathetic. “I’m so sorry--especially after, you know, this morning.” He swallowed. “When we argued.”

She stared at him. “You mean when we broke up.”

He shook his head. “We didn’t break up. We had a fight.”

Andy was incredulous. “You said we should end it. I didn’t lose my memory, Nate. I remember every single thing you said this morning.” I hope you’ll be very happy together. “You broke up with me. I’m fine with that. I--” she looked down at her arm. “I can’t move out now, with this. If you can’t find a new place right away, maybe you could leave your stuff for a while and--”

“Wait a second. What the hell? You’re already thinking about how I’m gonna move out?”

“Nate, we’re done and we both know it. A broken arm doesn’t change that. It doesn’t change me.”

He exhaled. “Well you can’t work. Miranda’s gonna fire you if you can’t do your job.”

The thought of Miranda firing her because of her injury was so stunning in the moment that Andy gasped in horror. It hadn’t even occurred to her that she could lose her job after breaking a limb on the clock. Could that happen? Was it even legal? She was familiar with worker’s compensation from her limited experience researching it, but this was different. Her position was as far from union as possible, and she’d heard Miranda once fired an assistant who’d cut herself with a letter opener and nothing had ever come of that. Her mind reeled and she leaned back on the pillow. The devastation at the thought of being tossed out like trash by Miranda was worse than anything; worse than the pain, worse than missing Paris, worse than being dumped by Nate. “I’m not going to get fired. I can’t haul the drycleaning around but I’m not a total invalid. My brain still works, I’m perfectly capable of running things with one hand--”

“Andy, you don’t need this job. Get something else, something better for you, for us. You’ll be able to stop obsessing over your boss. You don’t have to be this person.”

Gazing into Nate’s handsome face, his wide, lovely eyes, Andy found herself unable to find any remnant of familiar pleasure in it. Instead, her mind drifted back to the annoyances of the relationship that had grown too large to ignore. The incessant towels on the floor, the dirty dishes on the counter from the nights with friends that she’d missed. Worse still, the grocery lists he left for her on Sunday mornings while he slept late after getting home from post-work drinks at 3am. Andy had put up with being the one doing the heavy lifting of managing both their lives. That had officially come to an end.

Her hands curled into fists, nails digging into her palms. “I am already this person. I may be different but I’m still me. We grew apart, Nate. Find someone who’s going to work 9 to 5 and won’t complain when you get home late, who can run your errands and pick up after you. That’s not me. It was never me. I did those things for you and didn’t complain because I’m good at being organized and making people happy. And you know what’s funny? I get paid to organize Miranda’s life. I don’t get paid to organize yours.”

He seemed shocked at the turn their conversation had taken. She softened her tone for a moment, recognizing that the pain in her arm and her back were making her lash out at a man she’d loved for years. “I’m sorry, Nate. I am really, really sorry it didn’t work out. But we both know this has been coming for a long time.”

His eyes sharpened. “Since Miranda.”

Andy swallowed. “Miranda is not the reason this happened, Nate.”

“You’re wrong. If you hadn’t gotten that fucking job, we’d still be fine.”

Maybe Auto Universe would have been the easier gig. But it wouldn’t have been the right one. “Too late now,” she said, reaching out and taking his hand. Her anger receded. Whatever her future might turn out to be with Runway, with Miranda, she would accept the consequences.

“Who’s gonna take care of you? Your arm--”

“I’ll take care of myself.” She grinned as well as she could, feeling sadness descend as she came to grips with the end of the life she’d hoped to have with Nate. More than that, she grieved the end of a future she had once wanted more than anything. “I always do.”

“Andy--”

“Nate, go home. We don’t have to decide logistics now. They’re keeping me here overnight. Tomorrow, we’ll talk. Okay?”

He nodded, shell-shocked enough to respond well to direction. Later, there would be more arguments, more vitriol and bitterness. Today she would benefit from his silence. “Okay.”

He left without hugging her.

Not even two minutes later, there was a knock on the half-opened door. She figured it would be Emily. It wasn’t.

---

Andy knew that Miranda was not a fan of germs. (Honestly, who was?) Her boss was not phobic from what she could tell, but she had avoided hospital visits to friends whenever possible in the months that Andy had known her. But somehow, Miranda Priestly had deigned to show up at Lenox Hill to Andy’s semi-private, other-half-as-yet-unoccupied room. Andy frowned, not understanding exactly what was happening. Miranda looked specifically like she did not belong within these very drab four walls, surrounded by terrible antiseptic smells. The white board with the name of Andy’s nurse scrawled on it in red marker hung behind her head, making Miranda look even more out of place.

“Uh, hi.” Andy cringed, wishing she’d known Miranda was coming so she could have at least checked her makeup. Or lack thereof. “Sorry.”

Miranda removed her coat and tossed it on the foot of the bed. “If you truly didn’t want to take Emily’s place there were better ways to avoid it than getting hit by a car, thank you very much.”

It sounded like Miranda had just made a joke, but was she really joking? Andy could never tell. Miranda was actually pretty funny once you got to know her, but this didn’t seem like quite the time to laugh, especially with Nate’s suggestion still on her mind. She did not want to be fired for getting in an accident. “I’m uh, I think you know that’s not what happened. I was on my way in when--”

“I know, I know, Emily has relayed the story to me repeatedly, and gossip has traveled around the office that you’re approaching your deathbed.” One perfectly groomed eyebrow lifted as she assessed Andy’s condition. “That does not appear to be the case.”

“No. Just bruises and a broken humerus. My doctor says I was lucky. I beg to differ.”

“As do I,” Miranda said, taking a seat next to the bed and gazing over at the window. “This is very inconvenient, Andrea. I am extremely disappointed.”

“You can’t possibly be as disappointed as I am. I’ve never been to Paris!” Shifting in her bed, she looked down as the pain radiated out well beyond the break. “Not to mention the fact that I’m in like, mildly excruciating pain.” And I just re-broke up with my boyfriend for a second time today.

“Hmm,” Miranda sighed. “I needed you to be there, Andrea. There will be many things I was no longer worried about that now I need to expend much more of my own energy on.” She turned to Andy and glared. “Energy I do not have to spare. You must realize I will blame you every second I am forced to put up with Emily in your absence.”

Andy felt a curious bloom of affection for Miranda at that moment. This is a first, Andy thought. Feeling flattered by the insulting tone… Maybe it was the drugs. “Is there anything I can help you with in advance? I mean, there are still a few days before we--uh, you leave. There’s got to be something. Emily is bringing my laptop to me this afternoon, I can start as soon as it gets here.”

There was a protracted silence between them. Andy held her tongue as thoughts flew across Miranda’s face; it was clear she was wrestling with something important, although how serious was anyone’s guess. Finally, Miranda met her eyes. “You and Nigel are very close,” she said, out of the blue. It was a flat statement, but Andy heard the question in it nonetheless.

She bobbed her head once. “We are.” As Miranda nodded, Andy surprised herself by adding, “But you come first.”

Miranda appeared as surprised by the words as Andy was in saying them. She opened her mouth, but nothing came out of it. Eventually she suggested, “Because I pay your salary.”

“That’s not why,” Andy said right away, with utter conviction.

“Then why?”

Andy searched her thoughts, but could not articulate them. “You just do.”

Miranda frowned. With a great sigh, she began, “Nigel believes something is going to happen in Paris that will make him very happy. He hasn’t received confirmation, but when he does, I need to undo it. I will have to tell him the truth and it will--” Miranda took a breath. “It will hurt him very badly.”

That was a long string of words that told Andy almost nothing at all except that Nigel and Miranda seemed as though they were both in for a world of pain. “That sounds like it’s going to be really hard, Miranda.” Andy felt her heart squeeze in sympathy for the two of them. “I know how much--” Andy almost said you care for him, and instead said, “he means to the magazine.”

Miranda’s gaze was sharp when she met Andy’s eyes again. “Yes,” she said. “That’s true.”

“Can you tell him in advance, instead of waiting?” Andy asked.

With a harsh shake of her head, Miranda replied, “No. It would tip my hand.”

“But don’t you trust him?”

“Of course I… I trust him.” Miranda blinked quickly; Andy hadn’t seen that expression very often. It was uncertainty. It made Andy feel uncertain herself.

“Maybe he can help you. Be on your side. I can’t be there for you, but he could be. Has he given you reason to doubt his loyalty?”

“Not… not recently.”

“So, think about it. It’s hard for me to really, uh, give you advice, not that you’d ever ask for advice from me, of all people, so maybe… maybe I should just keep quiet. Sorry. It’s probably the meds. I’m on some nice painkillers at the moment.” But Miranda was still frowning in thought. “He might surprise you.”

“He might go after my job if I’m not careful.”

“Not a chance,” Andy laughed. “No one can do what you do.”

Miranda turned to her once more, the blue of her eyes very beautiful in the light of the sun streaming through the windows. “Well, that’s a compliment I never thought I’d hear from you.”

With a wry grin, Andy slouched back gingerly against the pillows. “Today is full of surprises. That’s just the latest in a very long line. And it’s not even 11 o’clock.” Adjusting her position, she hissed as her back throbbed. She couldn’t imagine how bad it would look tomorrow once the bruises started to show up. “Fuck,” she breathed, “I mean, sorry.”

Miranda was gazing at her in concern. “Your arm? Do I need to call someone?”

“No, it’s my back. I sort of rolled up the windshield. That’s how my arm got broken too.”

“Oh my god,” Miranda said with a sharp exhalation. “Are you joking?”

Andy realized she probably shouldn’t have said anything; Miranda looked a bit green around the gills. “It wasn’t so bad,” she lied. She’d have PTSD about cabs, and cars, and crossing the street for a while. “I’ll be okay. The doctor said in a few months I’d be back to my old self.” Miranda’s eyes widened further. “Oh, I’ll still be able to work, you know, just maybe not, um, coffee runs for a while. I--I hope that’s okay. I mean, I can be your assistant, even if I can’t type quite as fast. Right?” Andy asked, hoping it didn’t sound like she was begging to keep her job.

Miranda had figured out what she was really asking. She briefly pursed her lips. “Yes, Andrea, you will remain at the desk in New York, if only to remind Emily of all the things she forgets on a daily basis. Everyone of consequence will be in Paris for the week but there will still be plenty to manage. Unexpected tasks always come up.” Miranda stood and retrieved her sunglasses from her bag, sliding them on. “When will you be home from the hospital?”

Andy was so busy sighing in relief over still having gainful employment that she could barely focus on the question. “Tomorrow.”

“Then I don’t expect to see you in the office before we leave. When you’re released, have Roy come and collect you.”

Andy tried hard not to gape. Forcing a total lack of expression, she simply said, “Okay. Thank you.”

Leaning over to grab her coat, Miranda swung it over one shoulder and swept from the room without another word. After a few seconds, Andy broke out in laughter, already missing the scent of the perfume to which she’d grown weirdly attached. But once she settled back into the pillows, she couldn’t help but frown. The incredible compliment underlying Miranda’s visit left behind a strange void; the room seemed dimmer and her energy deflated. She had nothing to worry about when it came to job security. She wouldn’t even have to panic about the thousand details involved in seeing Miranda off to Paris. But the longer she sat alone in the hospital room, the more morose she felt. Was it the thought of the crisis Miranda and Nigel seemed to have in front of them? She couldn’t tell. She wanted to be there to help them, to do all the things that made Miranda’s life easier. And as much as Miranda may have complained about her impending absence, Andy wasn’t really necessary. She was just a lowly assistant, a nothing in Miranda’s life. Someone replaceable.

She closed her eyes miserably and hoped the drugs would wear off soon.

---

Chapter Text

The next day, the pain truly set in. Andy was intensely grateful Miranda had offered Roy’s services. Earlier she thought maybe she wouldn’t need it, but when she awoke she knew she would be calling.

He delivered her to the apartment, double parking to help her climb the stairs and unlock her door. Everything hurt and the swelling in her arm was pretty significant. It suddenly made sense why they would not fit her custom brace until more time had passed.

Unable to concentrate on much of anything, Andy slept. A lot. For the first two days, she checked her email every few hours but unless there was a little exclamation point next to the subject line, she ignored it.

On Thursday morning, Nate arrived with two friends from the restaurant to collect as much as he could haul in a rental van. She tried to ignore the sound of his packing, but it was nearly impossible considering how small their apartment really was. He took the free-standing butcher’s block Andy had never used, most of the cooking supplies, and weirdly, three sets of plastic bathroom storage drawers that would be easily replaceable. The couch, bed, kitchen table, and two chairs were all hers. They would negotiate the rest later, but there wasn’t much left to divide.

As they shared an awkward goodbye at the door, Andy felt tears close to the surface but managed to hold them back. They both were startled at the horn sounding twice from the street. “That’s my ride,” he said. “See you?” The plaintive, mournful sound in his voice hurt more than any raging argument could have.

“Yeah,” she replied. “For sure.”

She couldn’t bring herself to say more. For the rest of the day, she zoned out watching a fortunately timed marathon of SVU with the cable subscription she would cancel as soon as her first solo rent check was paid.

On Friday night, Emily brought over her laptop and crowed effusively about how glad she was that Andy had been the one injured and not herself. However would Miranda have managed with Andrea as first assistant if Emily had been hit by that taxi? It was simply ridiculous to even imagine it.

Andy held her tongue. Roy had texted earlier that morning that once Miranda’s plane departed for Paris, he would be driving her to and from work. She wondered if Emily would have been granted such special treatment if she’d been left behind. She doubted it.

---

On Sunday morning, Miranda and the team left for Paris, which meant when Andy made it into the office on Monday, it was relatively quiet. Although more than ninety percent of the staff remained stateside, the energy of the place was entirely different without Nigel, Miranda, and even Emily around. Andy was very happy to also learn that the closest Starbucks would deliver whatever order she liked. The baristas were apparently big fans since she was a significant improvement over the previous clackers. For one thing she never looked down her nose at any of the employees, plus she always left a good tip from her own wallet. With delivery now an option, that went double to whatever lucky barista spent an extra few minutes running over a couple of cardboard carafes for the grateful staff (plus a caramel frapp with an extra shot for Andy). She should have asked about the service months before.

By mid-week Andy felt like she was getting the hang of one-handed typing and covering the phones on her own. Since by the time she woke up Miranda and Emily had already attended breakfasts and lunches and showings, Andy was able to visit with people she rarely saw. Every day she got to enjoy lunch with a different team, from design to beauty to editorial. She could actually see herself hanging out with one of the assistant editors for more than a minute; usually all they had time for were brief hallway chats when Miranda was gone. Andy was happy when the young woman, Leilani, asked to get together for coffee on a Sunday afternoon next month. She hoped it didn’t seem too obvious that she’d be fishing for more details on what her day to day was really like.

On Wednesday upon her return from a full hour and fifteen minutes out at lunch, a messenger arrived at Andy's desk. He held a manila envelope addressed to Miranda care of Andy herself, which she signed for post haste. She opened the envelope right away, only to nearly drop all the papers with her good hand.

“Oh shit. Shit, shit, shit.”

It was a gut punch from the first sentence: they were divorce proceedings from Stephen, who was covering all his bases. This set was marked as a copy for Miranda’s assistant, since the originals had to be signed and returned to the court to prove receipt. They were likely being served right now.

Tonight was the dinner with the team from Versace; tomorrow was the luncheon with CFG where Miranda was speaking. They’d spent weeks planning every single detail. Andy decided then and there, for the sanity of Miranda and everyone else in Paris, that the papers had to wait. She would not let Stephen ruin this night for Miranda, and damn the consequences.

She called Emily once, twice, and a third time, until she finally picked up.

“Good lord, what on earth could be so important--”

“Em, I need you to get to Miranda’s suite right away and intercept a delivery. Like, now. Like, ten minutes ago.”

“Andrea, I am extremely busy right now. I do not have time to--”

“Stephen is having Miranda served with divorce papers,” she whispered into the phone. “She might already have them in hand, I just got a copy messengered to the office. Get over there. Now.”

Silence met her declaration. “Fucking bollocks, what a prat. I’m going.”

“Okay, good.” Andy assumed that Stephen would undoubtedly have someone hand-deliver the papers to Miranda to cause maximum injury. He had been due to arrive the next morning to spend the few remaining days in Paris with her, and instead, she would learn that he wanted out of their relationship. It was exactly the kind of move Andy would have expected from a dickhead like Stephen. Whatever happened, Emily would need to replace the papers with something innocuous and Miranda could learn the news after their big event tomorrow. “So there’s a set of designs from Zanotti that you can print from an email I sent about an hour ago--if the envelope isn’t labeled, switch the paperwork. If the envelope is labeled--”

“Just hold on, for Christ’s sake,” Emily mumbled.

Andy waited and held her breath. The minute was very long.

“Someone’s at the door. Just--I’ll call you back.”

“What--no!” But there was silence on the line--Emily had hung up.

Andy’s heart was pounding. It wouldn’t be the worst thing ever if Miranda read the papers; at least she would know what the rest of them did about her miserable excuse for a spouse. But if she didn’t, it would be easier to handle whatever stressful thing she’d alluded to about Nigel.

She waited, and waited. And waited.

Twelve endless minutes later, the phone rang. Andy gasped and grabbed it. “Hello?”

“I’ve got them. If she hadn’t signed for the damned things herself I’d have just shoved the whole envelope under the couch till later. Now of course I have to make up an explanation as to why someone would messenger something they already emailed, but--oh hell, I just realized I’m supposed to be at the airport at 10 to fetch the wanker.” She paused for breath before groaning. “You don’t think he’ll show up just to rub her face in it, do you?”

Andy knew they didn’t have to worry about that, having just canceled the ticket since she’d made the original arrangements herself. “I know for sure he won’t be there. Um, don’t say anything for now. We can fake it till the morning--tell her the flight was late or canceled. Miranda probably isn’t thinking about him at all, much less emailing or texting him. Put the papers in your room till things settle down a bit. Miranda’s under a lot of pressure--”

“As if I don’t know that!” Emily hissed. “She’s been an absolute monster the entire trip. I haven’t even walked along the Champs-Élysées and we’ve been here for days!” Emily scoffed, almost as though reminding herself that being in Paris was what she wanted. “I mean, of course the shows have been beyond belief; I met Signore Garavani again on the red carpet, and he complimented me on my dress. I simply love Valentino.”

Andy bit her lip. Emily hadn’t worn Valentino for as long as Andy had known her, but if she was happy, it was good for them both. “Wow, I am so jealous,” Andy breathed, putting her all into it.

“Hmm, well, perhaps next year. If you can make it that long. I’m sure I’ll be promoted by then, or even working at whatever design house I please. I’ve--I’ve heard Vivienne could be looking for someone in the style department, and of course I know everyone there.”

“That sounds like it would be perfect for you, Em. How long do you have till you think you can move up?”

“My second year is over in two months. I’m sure Miranda already has big plans for me.”

The sound of her enthusiasm was heart-breaking to Andy. “I’m sure she does. I’m so glad you got to go to Paris with Miranda, Emily. Even if you’re busy every second, it just goes to show how important you are to the magazine.”

“Well, obviously. I’ve collected the most amazing clothes already, and we still have three more days. I’ll have a wardrobe for the entire year, at this rate.”

“That’s awesome.”

“God, you’re ridiculous. I’ve got to get these back to my room, and tomorrow we’ll come up with the next steps. I’m not sure exactly what to do…”

“I’ll think of something. I have time.”

“It has to be before she hears it from Stephen himself--”

“I know, Em. Let me mull it over. You go have fun tonight.”

“Fun?” Emily’s exuberant chuckle rang down the line loudly enough to startle Andy. “Don’t be idiotic. I’ve got too much to do to plan for tomorrow’s luncheon. We have to go over the seating chart, then I’m going to accompany Miranda to her dinner with Allegra and Donatella.”

In that moment, Andy felt a surprisingly hot stab of authentic jealousy. Andy deserved to be the one at Miranda’s side tonight. She was the one who made Miranda’s life run smoothly even from afar, but instead Emily was there in her place, in Miranda’s suite. They would be in a quiet hotel room together, and Miranda’s marriage, despite her lack of knowledge, was no longer part of the equation. Andy’s face flushed with heat. “Okay. Uh, have a nice night then.”

“Right.” Unsurprisingly, Emily hung up on her.

Andy swallowed and gazed down at the divorce papers on the desk. Miranda was her (sort of) married boss. She’d made Andy’s life difficult for months. She was, for all intents and purposes, impossible. But she was incredibly beautiful and smart and made Andy crazy with… something. It was more than just admiration; Andy had learned the difference between wanting to be like another woman and wanting to be with another woman years ago. Her attraction to Miranda and her particular charisma had grown stronger instead of weaker over the past few months. And she missed her now much more than she’d expected to.

What the hell was she thinking?

---

Andy slept through three overnight texts from Emily. She blamed the painkillers, but it was probably the exhaustion of trying to cover the desk from multiple time zones.

What do I tell her? Oh my god, she’s asking.

You’re a useless sodding cow. I’ll come up with something.

Said flight was rescheduled. I’ll have to tell her tonight.

Andy sighed. She texted back. I’ll tell her. It’s my fault you’re having to deal in the first place.

No response came right away, so Andy guessed they were still at the luncheon.

She dragged herself to the bathroom and got herself ready for the day. As promised, Roy kindly picked her up; he was officially her favorite person. Once at the office, Andy received a reply. Luncheon weird. Jaq Follet taking big spot at James Holt Int. M hates her! Left the papers on banquette at the back of the suite. Can’t believe I’m saying this but good luck. Better you than me.

Andy was stuck on the first part of the text, scowling into her phone screen. She didn’t know much about Jacqueline Follet, but Emily was right. She wondered what Nigel would have to say about the news. He was very friendly with James and would probably have the dirt. The rest she tried not to think about, because every time she did, her heart pounded in dread.

She answered email after email all morning long, queuing up a series of approvals for the upcoming issue that she could run through with Miranda in less than twenty minutes if she was lucky. But first, she had to personally destroy the central adult relationship in Miranda’s life.

Just as Andy sat down with a salad and soup courtesy of a very generous Leilani, she realized she couldn’t eat it--she was too anxious. At that moment, her cell phone rang. One quick glance told her it was Miranda. Andy took a deep breath and shut her eyes. She could do this. She would do this, no matter what. She picked up and scuttled into Miranda’s office, closing the door.

“Hi, Miranda. How are you?”

“Well. The luncheon was a great success. The announcement for James Holt International went off without a hitch. And…” Andy held her breath as she waited for Miranda to continue. “A few days ago, I spoke to Nigel about what we discussed last week. I believe it was the right decision.”

For a moment, Andy had no idea what she was talking about; she had been laser-focused on the divorce. Then it came back: the visit to the hospital, the vague conversation related to Nigel that had so troubled Miranda. Andy smiled, briefly feeling a flush spread across her chest. “That is… I’m so glad to hear that, Miranda. I really am. I’m still not sure what happened--”

“Nigel will fill you in upon his return, no doubt.”

Andy inhaled. “Right. So, we have a bunch of things to go over, but there’s something really important I need to talk with you about.” Her heart pounded in her chest; her palms were sweating. “Are you at the hotel?”

“I’ve just returned to change. I don’t have time for dawdling so get to it.”

“Okay.” She’s an adult, she’ll survive. “There should be an envelope on the banquette at the back of your room. Do you see it?” she asked.

There was a pause as Miranda hmmed into the phone for a few seconds. “I have it.”

“Okay. So, I need to tell you that Stephen isn’t coming to Paris. His plane wasn’t late.”

The silence that met her ears was electric and lengthy. “Andrea.” Miranda’s voice was firm and emotionless. “I received this envelope yesterday. It contained the spring Zanotti designs I asked for last week.”

Andy had trouble finding her voice. “It didn’t. I asked Emily to remove the original documents so you could get through the luncheon without having too much on your mind. I will understand if you’re angry. I’ll understand if you can’t forgive me for invading your privacy like this, but it was an accident. A copy of what’s in that envelope was delivered to the office yesterday, and I had no idea what it was till I opened it.” Her voice wobbled as she added, “I’m so sorry, Miranda.”

More than a minute went by as Andy pictured Miranda opening the paperwork, reading the language, realizing that her husband was leaving her. Knowing that he had intended to deliberately not just punish her but abandon her during the most important and stressful week of her year. Andy heard the exhalation of shock. Tears filled her own eyes, but she kept from interrupting the quiet with gibberish.

“Well,” Miranda sighed. “That’s that.”

Andy sniffled, embarrassed at the tears that slipped down her cheeks.

“Everything else can wait. I’ll ring you later.” And Miranda was gone.

---

Shortly after the big reveal, Andy’s text to Emily was short.

Done.

Emily responded immediately with a single letter--K.

An hour later, Emily added, seems alright.

Nothing more was said about the subject. So far Emily wasn’t fired, Andy wasn’t fired, and Stephen was on his way out of the picture. First herself, now her boss; Andy wondered how many other people were getting dumped this week.

She wrapped up all of Emily’s various email requests and called the townhouse to make sure everything was fine with the twins. Then she texted Roy and got herself into the elevator without falling over as the workday came to an end.

In the car, she thought about Miranda, who usually sat in this seat, heading home to see her husband and children late every night. Stephen couldn’t have been surprised about her dedication to her profession, could he? She’d met the guy three times (only exchanging words with him once) and he seemed intelligent enough. But he liked his liquor, which she’d learned at the Gala. He was handsome in that manicured, moneyed way that made her wonder if he had a little something on the side. She could imagine some bright young thing luring his eye away from the woman whose beauty Andy had grown to appreciate more each day. She shivered in disgust. Why she was thinking about Stephen in the first place was beyond her. At some point, Andy wondered if she would need to get the locks changed on the townhouse. Legally, that was probably a bad idea. Emotionally, she thought it would be a nice touch.

She wondered how much Miranda really cared for him, how they’d fallen in love in the first place. There were dozens of images of them together on Google covering the six months before their surprise wedding at Miranda’s Hamptons vacation home five years before. They’d carried on a very public sort of partnership at various benefits, premieres, and fancy dinners. But there was never an image of them holding hands or looking lovingly at one another or kissing, even on the cheek, for the cameras. That was no surprise, really, because Miranda was certainly not one for public displays of affection. But it still seemed sad. Miranda deserved more. She deserved to be romanced, so much so that everyone would recognize how alluring, how desirable she really was. What man in his right mind would be able to keep his eyes off--

Andy’s brain skidded to a halt. She shook her head for a moment. This path was the wrong one to go down. Her emotions were getting mixed up around a woman who was really fucking good at her job and equally reviled by the press. Andy reminded herself how tired she was. She had a broken arm and a sore back. She was on drugs. And she was newly single. So was her boss.

She closed the door on thoughts of Miranda, or romance, or desire.

But she spent the last twelve minutes in the car unable to dislodge the memory of Miranda’s ivory collarbones, so beautifully displayed by that bolero jacket at the Gala.

Fuck.

---

After a weekend of moping around her half-empty apartment and deliberately not thinking of Miranda (or her collarbones), Andy’s back had improved and she’d weaned herself off the high doses of ibuprofen for the pain. On Sunday morning, the Runway staff returned to New York without incident, while Emily handled the heavy lifting of getting Miranda home safely. Once the weekend was over, Andy’s time of semi-calm recovery would come to an end. At some point on Monday she needed to get to the doctor to be fitted for her brace, but she wasn’t sure how she’d manage with so much up in the air. She couldn’t imagine the state Miranda would be in when she returned to a house without the husband she’d had when she’d left, so her job would most likely involve a lot more than scheduling run-throughs and meetings for a while.

She’d miss Roy’s daily pick ups and drop offs; they had been beyond nice. By now she had figured out a way to get to work by condensing her stuff to one bag on her good shoulder. Since their latest conversation she’d had zero phone contact with Miranda, only emailing sporadically and exchanging a handful of texts. Emily remained her main point of contact, and from what she could tell, things had gone relatively well for her in Paris. Andy had helped her out of a few jams but overall she was glad the whole thing was over.

Monday morning she exited her building at 7 only to find a silver Mercedes idling near the fire hydrant in front of her building. The front side passenger window descended.

“Roy, hi! What are you doing here?”

“Picking you up. We’ll get Miranda on the way.”

“Uh, okay? I’m not sure--”

“She asked me to, Andy. We’re fine.”

Andy slid into the car and carefully pulled on her seat belt. “All right. All right,” she repeated to herself. “Thanks, um, for the ride.”

Roy ignored her but chuckled. He was probably sick of hearing her appreciation by now.

They were silent on the way uptown so Andy checked emails and tried not to freak out. As much as she enjoyed the lack of terrified adrenaline bursts she usually had on a daily basis, she felt an almost desperate anticipation to see Miranda.

“Roy, mind if we stop at the Starbucks at 66th? I’d love to not have to argue with Emily about who’s going to pick up coffee when we get to the office. I can do a carrier with one arm.”

“No problem.”

“Want anything?” she asked.

He held up what looked like a stainless thermal carafe. “I’m appropriately caffeinated, but thanks anyway.”

Andy found the number and called, placing her order and paying for it in advance of their arrival. It was only a few minutes’ drive between there and Miranda’s, so the coffee would be scalding, as required. Once they got there, Roy double-parked, and to her surprise, hopped out of the car to get everything himself. She cringed, waiting for the angry horns to honk, but at this time of the morning traffic was just picking up. When he got back, he set the carrier on the back seat floor at Andy’s feet. “Took a lot less time for me than it would for you,” he said.

“You’ve got that right. You’re a life-saver.”

She had an iced toffee nut latte for herself but left it in the carrier, afraid to risk a spill in traffic. When they got to Miranda’s house, she took a nervous deep breath. Chewing her lip, she watched the door open and exhaled in pleasure at the view. Andy had always known that Miranda was elegant and well-dressed and brilliant, despite the caustic language that often flowed from her mouth like water. But today, after not seeing her for more than a week, Andy’s heart thudded in excitement. As she descended lightly down the steps, Andy wondered at the refined beauty that appeared so effortless. Had her legs always looked so good in heels? She knew that beneath that calm facade was undoubtedly a roiling devastation due to Stephen’s departure, but she could see none of that in the few moments before she entered the car.

When she slid inside, Miranda barely glanced at Andrea until she’d fastened her seat belt and they moved back into traffic. “I imagine one of those is mine?” she finally asked, eyebrow raised.

“Two of them are.” Andy leaned down, but Miranda brushed her aside and took the carrier on her own lap.

Miranda removed one and inhaled the scent of it, taking a sip. “Mm,” she hummed. “Quite nice to have it now.”

“Great,” Andy said, relieved. “I hope you’re not too jet lagged.”

“Not at all. But I do want to discuss something--” Miranda looked at the back of Roy’s neck in the front seat. The car today was just a sedan, so no privacy screen. Her lips twisted in dismay. “It will wait. Tell me the schedule for today, in any case.”

Andy rattled off the list of meetings, including a forty-five minute lunch with her lawyer sandwiched between them all. Stephen could not have selected a worse possible time to have thrown this at his soon-to-be ex. “And dinner with Nigel.” Andy smiled at that. She didn’t often make note of a dinner on the calendar between the two of them. Often they would meet when they were both in the office late, but this felt different. “You have a reservation for 8 o’clock at Daniel.”

Miranda nodded, appearing to Andy deep in thought. Perhaps she was tired, or unhappy, or simply needed some quiet time, but she did not speak. Once it looked like their conversation had ended, Andy leaned back in her seat and sighed. She felt a streak of pain up into her shoulder for a moment and gasped. It was odd how the smallest movement could spark agony, but it receded just as quickly. She looked over at Miranda, who watched her with something resembling concern. “It’s okay. I’m good.”

Gazing at the splint, Miranda huffed. “Good is not what I would call it. How is your back?”

Andy masked her surprise at the question. “Much better.”

With a typically irritated roll of the eyes, Miranda added, “Details, please.”

This time, Andy couldn’t quite control the drop of her mouth at Miranda’s inquiry. “Um, it’s still uncomfortable now and then, but it doesn’t hurt as much.”

“The bruising?”

“Fading. A bit.” That much was true; now it was just an angry, mottled green and purple instead of a swath of near-black.

“Is your arm still swollen?”

“No, it’s mostly back to normal. It’s really okay, Miranda.”

“I hope you’re taking the appropriate pain medication and icing when necessary. Have you scheduled physical therapy?”

Now Andy really was gob-smacked. “Yes, all taken care of. That reminds me, I’m supposed to get my brace today. I can get it at my lunch break, but I’ll be gone longer than--”

“Take whatever time you need,” Miranda said, turning toward the window as she delivered this remarkably generous statement. “And for now Emily will do everything out of the office. That includes coffee runs and delivering the book.”

Blinking quickly, Andy nodded in astonishment. After a moment of realization, her disappointment at missing evening visits to Miranda’s home, not to mention catching a ride with Roy, was palpable. “Of course. Thank you, Miranda.”

The day went by in a flurry of the million expected phone calls. Andy stole away at 12:15 for her fitting, ignoring Emily’s weaker than usual glare. Her partner in crime had said literally nothing of the trip, or Miranda, or their successful heist of divorce papers. She hoped at some point Em would give her at least a few details about the shows and all the clothing she’d brought home.

The appointment was quick, and with her brace firmly fastened around her broken limb, she devoured a falafel pita in a cab on the way back from the doctor’s office while Miranda was still with her lawyer. When Miranda herself returned from lunch, she looked drained. Andy noticed an atypical red tinge around her eyelids, and it made her stomach feel hollow to know that Miranda was suffering.

By 7:30, Andy ached all over and was practically counting the seconds until Miranda’s departure for dinner with Nigel. Fortunately after only a few more minutes, she heard the telltale shuffle of papers and the snap of the laptop lip that meant she was nearly off the hook. “Andrea, come along,” Miranda said. Emily’s eyes snapped toward hers, and they briefly stared at one another in silence.

“Of course, Miranda.” Andy put her computer to sleep and snagged her coat from the back of her chair. Carefully she slipped her phone and notebook into her bag and slung it over her good arm. Emily flashed wide, accusatory eyes at her. Andy just shrugged in confusion.

“See you tomorrow, Miranda,” Emily said as Miranda breezed past them both, flinging her jacket over one shoulder.

“Yes,” Miranda answered.

Andy hurried after her. At the elevator, Andy paused, only to rush forward when Miranda jerked her head in impatience. This was the second time she’d been in the elevator with Miranda in one day. Into the lobby and out onto the sidewalk, Andy followed her boss, eyeing the swing of Miranda’s hips in her skirt. By now Andy should be able to identify the designer, but if it wasn’t Chanel or marked with an identifiable logo, she still had trouble. At the door, Andy was stunned when Miranda rounded the car and entered from the street side. Roy was there moments later, taking Andy’s bag and setting it on the floor as he had that morning with the coffee. Andy was nearly sweating when she got her belt fastened, only to hear a snort from next to her.

Miranda was almost… smiling at her.

“Sorry,” Andy said, mostly because she couldn’t think of anything else to say.

Roy retook his seat and they were off. Andy wondered exactly what was going on, but she couldn’t bring herself to ask. Fortunately, she had to wait only a minute before she had her answer.

“Roy, when you’re through dropping Andrea off, you’re free for the night.”

“Yes, Miranda,” Roy said, and Andy sank back into the smooth leather in relief. For a split second she’d wondered if she was going to end up at dinner with Nigel and Miranda, but as much as she found herself wanting to know Miranda on a more personal level, this would have been too weird. Andy couldn’t imagine being at a restaurant with the two of them. If they all spent more than five minutes together, Nigel would probably be able to tell that the torch she’d started carrying was flaring up a little higher these days.

“Tomorrow first thing, I need you to review expenses for Nigel, Emily, and me. Emily should have the reports completed but I’m not signing anything till you check it. Every single line item needs to be confirmed before it goes to accounting. Understood?”

“Yes, Miranda. Not a problem.”

“The last thing we need is some lackey triggering an audit because Emily’s too distracted by her new shoes to get the reports right.” She turned to Andy, nearly pouting. “Your broken arm was very inconvenient to me in Paris. I would have preferred you to be at my side. You missed many excellent events. You could have met Mr. Garavani at his show.”

Andy chuckled. “Way to rub it in.” She glanced down at her arm, which was in a different state of discomfort after switching out the splint for a brace. She still caught herself trying to use it and paid the price in aches and pains. “Wish I’d never thought to go to Hermès that day.”

“Indeed. I believe you would have also appreciated the look on Irv’s face at the luncheon once he realized he had absolutely no chance to remove me from my post at Runway.”

Andy gasped. Remove Miranda? From Runway? “What?”

The car rolled to a stop. Andy realized they’d arrived at Daniel, but she couldn’t stop herself from actually asking Miranda a question. No, not asking; demanding. “What are you talking about?”

Smirking, Miranda gathered her bag and replied, “Wouldn’t you like to know?” She dropped a parting shot on her way out of the car. “You’ll have to wait till tomorrow. Roy will be at your apartment at 6:45.” Then she slammed the door in Andy’s face.

Chapter Text

Andy was up early the next morning, putting more care into her mascara than usual with her good arm. She had already been itching to hear the truncated “something” Miranda had begun to share in the car the previous morning, but she doubted Miranda would remember to tell it. Now knowing that Irv had plotted against Miranda and she had somehow outmaneuvered him made her want to murder that cabbie who’d run the red light. And Irv. Maybe both at the same time.

In the silver Mercedes, they took the same route as the day before, stopping at Starbucks with Roy serving as delivery man once again. Andy organized the emails she needed to run by Miranda and wondered at how very pleasant it was to have the time to focus on her work in the quiet car. The buzz of anticipation at seeing Miranda was stronger than ever, tinged with far less anxiety than usual.

When they got to the townhouse, Andy looked up at the door as Miranda made her way out. She was glad the windows were tinted so darkly, because her mouth dropped open at the figure her boss cut today. The coat was new, surely, since Andy had seen them all during the course of the year. Black leather and tailored within an inch of its life, it did more than just suggest sex. The stilettos were new too, edged with silver and sporting a shiny metal heel. “Wow,” Andy breathed, exhaling in relief that Roy had already left the car to open the door.

Miranda slid in next to her in a cloud of perfume. Andy held out one of the coffees, the heat almost burning her fingers through the cardboard protector. Miranda took it with eager eyes and barely got her belt fastened before she sipped it. “Thank you,” Miranda said softly.

Andy swallowed, flustered by the heat she felt crawl up her neckline as a result of such a small kindness. “Welcome.”

“Tell me I haven’t double booked lunch,” Miranda began. Andy shifted gears right away.

The drive was quicker than Andy would have preferred, but she dutifully followed Miranda into Elias Clarke. She had a hard time keeping her eyes off the curve of Miranda’s calves as those metal heels clicked on polished marble. Taking her life into her own hands, she followed Miranda into the elevator this time without asking. Fortunately, Miranda simply waited for Andy to hit the button for the 19th floor. She did it with her good elbow as she held the coffee carrier, exhaling in dismay as the leather shoulder bag slid down her arm.

To her surprise Miranda came to her rescue, carefully easing the bag back up and taking the coffee carrier from her. “We can’t have you spilling the most important part of my day on these shoes, now, can we?” she offered, slipping her cup into it. She glanced down at Andy’s selection for the day, an off-season iced peppermint mocha, with a mild scowl.

Andy reached out for it and tried extremely hard not to smile as she took a sip. “Thanks,” she said. “You’ve had me on tenterhooks all morning, Miranda. Are you really not going to tell me what happened with Irv?”

“I would have thought you’d already heard by now,” Miranda said, watching the numbers rise on the digital display. “We’ve been back for days.”

One day. “I haven’t. And I’m dying--”

The elevator dinged on 14, doors opening to the astonished faces of two men who mechanically stepped into then out of the elevator in unison. The moment the doors closed again, Miranda huffed in what sounded to Andy like pleasure. “I love it when they’re afraid of me.”

Andy laughed in genuine surprise. Now she wanted to know two things--what the heck had gone on with Irv, and how Miranda had convinced literally the entire building that she would not ride in the elevator with another person. “Yeah, but--”

The elevator dinged again, except this time it was on the 19th floor. Miranda strode out as Andy hurried in behind her. Looked like she wouldn’t get either story till later.

The day breezed by. Andy spent lunch eating at her desk, courtesy this time of Nigel. He went above and beyond for some reason, leaving her a still-hot take-out container of chicken piccata, broccolini, and the most delicious mashed potatoes she’d had in ages. When she tried to pay him, he scoffed and walked away before she could even get her wallet out of her bag. She used the time to clandestinely review and correct a handful of errors on the expenses, since Emily had taken her full thirty minutes today. Miranda would be out of the office till 2:30 and then had an unexpected board meeting so she wouldn’t see her at all till at least 4.

Sitting across from Emily later that afternoon, Andy finally got her courage up to ask Emily how Paris had been. “Other than the whole divorce papers thing.”

When Emily looked up, Andy could tell she was debating on how to answer. Make a sharp-tongued joke as a distraction, or be honest? “Well,” Emily began, “it was absolutely magnificent. Magical. It’s the most beautiful city in the world, and as busy as it was, I’ll never forget it till the day I die.”

Andy was stunned. She made a fist with her left hand and took a deep breath, spending a single moment relieved that she had never had the chance to tell Emily the bad news about the trip. “Wow. I’m so happy for you, Em. Really.”

Emily’s mouth twisted, and her acerbic expression returned. “Yes, well, whatever. Why do you ask?”

Andy considered how to fish for information. “Just wondered if anything, you know, weird happened while you were there.”

Right away, Andy knew that whatever took place with Miranda or Irv or Nigel, Emily knew absolutely nothing of it. There was not even a hint of subterfuge in her face. “Weird. No. I mean--no. Have you heard something?”

“No, no. Just curious. I can only imagine how crazy it was, you know, with the big announcement at the luncheon about James Holt International. That’s pretty exciting news.”

“Mm.” Emily’s eyes glazed over as though she was drifting in a memory. “Miranda looked glorious, as per usual, although she’s always detested Jacqueline Follet so I don’t understand why they chose her to make the announcement. I suppose that was odd. The two of them ended up having dinner together that day, along with Nigel. And I had dinner with Christian Thompson.”

Andy blinked in surprise. “Oh, that’s cool. How is he? I know he’s friends with James but I didn’t know he’d be in Paris. I always think of him more as a writer than a fashion guy.”

Emily shrugged and turned back to her computer. “He was profiling Gaultier. And he’s apparently quite friendly with Jacqueline too.” She tilted her head. “Come to think of it, he seemed rather down about her taking the spot at James Holt. Don’t know what that would have to do with him, in any case. He certainly wasn’t up for it.”

That fired something in Andy’s brain. Why would Christian Thompson care about Jacqueline? He’d always seemed so smooth, so sure of himself the times she’d spoken with him. Maybe he’d had some sort of ulterior motive for helping Andy out; most people in this town had the expectation that favors would at some point be returned. Andy certainly had since she’d worked for Miranda. It had come in handy with other assistants and coordinators more than once. She’d assumed his attention toward her was mainly sexual with a peppering of interest in her writing, but maybe… or maybe not.

The phone rang, startling the both of them. Emily ignored it. Andy rolled her eyes and answered.

Miranda returned soon after and strode between the two desks, not glancing in either of their directions. To Andy’s surprise, Irv was hot on her heels. He tried to slam the glass door of her office but it refused to cooperate, only drifting slowly shut on its hinge. He turned back to shove it closed and Andy was shocked by the fury on his face, briefly afraid for Miranda’s safety. She stood and headed for the office but from over Irv’s shoulder, Miranda caught her eye and shook her head once. She motioned subtly for Andy to return to her desk as Irv’s voice exploded behind the glass. Only now did she realize that the office was anything but soundproof; typically she heard nothing at all from it when the door was closed, but only because of Miranda’s careful, modulated tone.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” she heard Irv shout.

Andy quickly returned to her desk, but there was no change with the scant additional distance. She didn’t hear Miranda’s reply, but Irv continued without seeming to care that his voice could easily be heard by everyone in a hundred foot radius. “You had no right--”, followed by, “You’re never going to get away with this--”, then “There’s no way in hell I’ll ever--”, and eventually, “Not a chance will anyone go public. Ever.”

After that, the conversation was quieter. Andy could hear Irv’s raised voice but he was no longer rattling the windows. Emily looked spooked and kept her hand on the handset of the phone for the entirety of the few minutes Irv spent in Miranda’s office. Finally, mercifully, he tore through the door, again frustrated that it didn’t smash against the wall when he threw it open. He headed for the elevators and only then could Andy take a deep breath.

Miranda appeared in her doorway, thoughtfully glaring in Irv’s direction. “I apologize for that,” she said. Emily appeared as gobsmacked as Andy did; she didn’t expect Miranda to ever say “sorry” to anyone at all within these walls. “The board meeting was difficult for all involved, especially Irv.”

“Are you all right?” Andy said, without thinking. She knew she probably shouldn’t have asked, but she was genuinely concerned. She was freaked out and she hadn’t even been in the room.

When Miranda turned toward her, Andy blushed. Hard. She felt the skin of her chest flare with heat, along with her cheeks, all the way out to her ears. “Of course.” They watched one another for so long Andy felt the blush deepen; she wasn’t sure if she was embarrassed or… something else.

Nigel broke the tension when he came barrelling into the space, and Andy put a hand to her chest in an effort to cool down, or cover the flush at least. “Everything okay here?” he asked.

“You couldn’t possibly have heard that,” Miranda said, turning around and heading for her chair.

“No, but half the floor did and about four people sent me over here to make sure you weren’t in danger of getting thrown out the window.”

Miranda laughed, but there was no mirth in the sound. “Unlikely. I’m perfectly well. Irv, on the other hand, is not having a good day.”

He smiled then and followed her in, and this time the door closed softly on its own. The tension dissipated and Andy’s skin returned to its normal color. Mostly.

“Maybe more went on in Paris than I knew about,” Emily added, continuing their early conversation.

Andy cleared her throat, pondering the exchange they’d witnessed. “Keep your ear to the ground.”

“You too.” Their eyes met. For maybe the first time ever, it felt like they had an understanding.

Nearly an hour later, Nigel emerged from the office. Emily was away from the desk, so Andy got his full attention. He pointed at her and said, “You. Me. Dinner, tomorrow.”

“Uh, okay?” she said, glancing at the calendar open on her computer screen. Miranda had a late meeting with Paul and the art department, but she’d probably be done by 7:30. “Maybe at 8? 8:30?” Andy offered.

“Your keeper has given me permission to snatch you away at 6:30 sharp, thank you very much. I suppose martinis are out if you’re on pain killers, but I can indulge and you can put me in a cab at the end of the night.”

Andy grinned and nodded. “I guess if my keeper has agreed, I’m in.”

That night and the next morning, Miranda kept her scrawling notes and rolling calls from the car, so she never got a chance to get any further details about Irv related to Paris or the board meeting. There was no chatter in the hallways or the elevators either. She counted the seconds till her dinner with Nigel, who arrived at her desk ready to go at exactly 6:29, coat in hand. He shouldered her bag and smirked at Emily’s scowl as she retrieved her trench. “I’m not the boss of me,” she said in her own defense as Emily ignored her. “Oh, please, you went to Paris for a week and got loads of free stuff. You can at least give me a couple of extra hours.”

“You don’t need to explain anything, darling,” Nigel crooned. “This is Miranda’s doing, so just come along and do as you’re told.”

Andy stopped short, hearing that. That sounded different from the simple permission Nigel had mentioned the night before. “Uhm, what?” Nigel took her good arm and steered her toward the long hallway that led to the elevators.

“We haven’t had a moment to catch up since we’ve been back and Miranda wanted us to have time to connect. There’s quite a bit to tell, and the office is no place to dish this dirt.” When they reached the ground floor, he asked, “How’s the arm?”

She flexed her fist. “Broken. Annoying. But theoretically it’s getting better.”

“It’s a shame it kept you from coming to Paris,” he murmured, so low she’d barely heard the words.

That caught her off guard. She couldn’t imagine Miranda sharing that little tidbit with anyone at all. “I’m not the first assistant, Nigel. Maybe if I make it to next year I’ll get the chance.”

Andy saw the tiny smile that curved Nigel’s mouth when they reached the sidewalk. “Liar,” he said. “Taxi!”

Fifteen minutes later they were seated at a corner table at a cozy fusion gastropub that Andy had never heard of. The menu was written in chalk on a wall coated with blackboard paint; there was no printed menu. “Everything here is amazing,” he stated, nibbling from a bowl of gratis fried chickpeas that came not a minute after they sat down.

Andy tried to hide a wince. There were no prices on anything at all.

Nigel fortunately had his eyes on the door as another couple entered the pub. “Let’s over-order. Plates are small and you’re not drinking so we can get everything.” He glanced at the blackboard and read silently. “Oh, good, the tempura brussels sprouts are still available. We want two of those, definitely. And it’s on me, so order whatever you like.”

She was embarrassed at her sigh of relief. “Cool, thanks.”

Nigel hadn’t been kidding; he ordered almost half the menu. Caramelized cauliflower with pine nuts, kimchi tacos, the brussels sprouts, a spicy tuna sushi burrito that Andy couldn’t wait to try. But the central dish was a branzino, to be filleted and presented whole. Nigel ordered half a litre of white wine to go along with it, while Andy got a root beer made on the premises. Finally they settled in under the dim Edison lights in mason jars that Andy had never seen in a New York restaurant before. “They’ll be all the rage in a year or so,” Nigel noted, watching Andy’s gaze.

“I bet. Pretty,” she added. Finally she met his eyes. “I feel like I am missing a metric shit-ton of information. Are you ever going to tell me what went on over there? Or today? Miranda’s been making funny comments to me all over the place.”

He tilted his head, smiling slowly. “I can honestly say you are the only assistant of Miranda’s who has ever uttered such a charming and unusual phrase.” He popped a few more chickpeas into his mouth. “So, first, I’m going to say thank you.”

Andy frowned. “Why?”

He leaned back in the seat and removed his glasses. It was unnerving, seeing him without them. “Miranda rarely shares secrets with me, or anyone that I’m aware of. That’s a given, right?”

Andy nodded.

“But she shared something confidential before we left for Paris. Not only did she share this information, she suggested that you were responsible for her display of trust.” He gazed at Andy with so much affection it startled her with its intensity. “You saved me a great deal of pain and humiliation, and I don’t know--” His voice actually broke as he said the words, “--how I will ever be able to properly show my gratitude.”

Tears were in Andy’s eyes within moments. This was not what she’d expected. “Oh,” she breathed.

“Let’s say you’ve made up for the ‘Pretty Woman’ makeover in spades,” he added, probably so neither of them would embarrass themselves by actually crying over dinner.

She touched the corners of her eyes and laughed in reply, trying to be as subtle as possible to brush away her tears. “So do I get the details or what?” she prodded again.

He nodded and replaced his glasses. “This is strictly between us, get it? Forever. You cannot share it with anyone. Not a friend, or family member, or god forbid, Emily--”

Andy motioned the zipping of the lips, throwing the key over her shoulder.

“Okay, it started months ago. I’d been talking to James, and he mentioned off-handedly that he was looking for someone to take the reins when he went international. Naturally, it wasn’t off-handed at all--he was fishing to find out if I’d be interested. And of course, I was. I went to Miranda first,” he noted, easing Andy’s mind, “and she was all for it. She’s got a good fifteen years before she’d even consider moving on, so I’m at the peak of the mountain at Runway till then unless I find something else.”

Even at this stage of Andy’s nascent career, she understood how his hands would be tied in that case. It must have been incredibly frustrating for him to be so held back, even knowing how vital his skills were to the magazine. “Makes sense.”

“I went after it. Miranda gave her blessing and it was looking extremely promising. After my third official but unofficial conversation with James and his team, I actually cleaned out my office drawers, which I had not touched in at least a decade.”

“Wow,” Andy said, chuckling. “You should probably do that more often.”

He raised an eyebrow at her. “Find a job you love and you’ll be shocked at how long you can let things go.” He took a deep breath. “Suffice it to say it seemed like a done deal, I just needed the offer to make it real. I was expecting it in Paris. And then, the Friday before we left, Miranda told me she wanted to have dinner with me. At her home.” He made eyes at her as if she should recognize the significance.

“Okay?” she replied. She’d been to Miranda’s house over a hundred times by now. Not to chit chat or have hor’s d'oeuvres, but still, it wasn’t that shocking.

“I’ve never had a meal with Miranda at her home. In fifteen years.”

“Oh, shit,” Andy said.

“Right. A million dinners out, but not one in. And certainly not alone. I knew something was up. So I went to her place and sat at the table while she made me an absolutely phenomenal piece of salmon with quinoa and tomatoes. Can you fucking believe she can cook too?” he said, taking a generous sip of wine.

For a few seconds, Andy experienced a fantasy in magnificent, vivid technicolor; Miranda at the kitchen counter after a long day, rubbing a little marinade into a piece of fish, washing up at the sink, sliding the glass casserole dish into the oven. Pouring herself and Andy glasses of wine, sitting down at the kitchen table Andy had seen so often and wondered if it was ever used. Talking over their respective days, crossing their ankles together under the table as they waited for the gently ticking timer to ding. It took a monumental effort to bring herself back to the present. So much for blocking out romantic thoughts about her boss. “I totally buy that she can cook,” Andy declared. “Definitely.”

“And when she put that perfect plate down in front of me, she told me that Irv was trying to oust her and replace her with Jacqueline Follet as Runway’s editor in chief so he could have total control over the magazine.”

Andy gasped. Her mouth hung open in astonishment.

Nigel clearly enjoyed her response. “I had the same reaction. She didn’t even lead up to it, just laid it all out.” At that point, a server came with most of their dishes, so Andy had to wait another minute to hear more. Finally, he continued. “For all intents and purposes, Irv runs Elias Clarke, but Runway is and has always been Miranda’s baby. She was here first, and though she reports to Irv in theory, on paper, she reports to the entire board. It’s in her contract. As chairman he can make it difficult to get budgets and shoots and hires approved, but overall, she controls every element of the magazine. Everything. Irv gets the bigger paycheck while Miranda has the glory of the flagship. Most people in the business and the financial industry know Irv; he’s a shark who’s been around forever. But the whole world, present company excepted, knows Miranda’s name. And it always irked him.”

Andy was on the edge of her seat, literally. “Oh my god.”

He nodded in agreement. “I know. Somehow he convinced enough--two thirds--of the board to replace her and hire Jacqueline. But Miranda found out about it as soon as he started nosing around for support. She has connections with everyone in publishing, and when I say everyone, I mean everyone. That includes a few of the board members who are not and never will be on Irv’s side. And La Priestly might have a reputation for being a miserable boss, but she’s a creative genius who’s given dozens of successful executives across countless industries recommendations that have gotten them to the top. I think in the last few years, Irv forgot that.”

“I repeat, oh my god!” Andy said, still stuck on the idea of Miranda getting fired. “He can’t do that!”

Nigel laughed. “No, he could not. But he tried. Anyway, Miranda had already laid the groundwork to kill the whole idea of Follet. She talked to piles of key players who pledged immediate fealty to her, as well they should. If Irv had been successful at the takeover, Jacqueline would have been fucked for talent. Miranda would have started something new elsewhere and taken everyone--designers, photographers, models, art directors, writers, editors, even lighting designers--with her. The magazine would have gone under, and that, shall we say, would have been that.”

“This must have been going on for ages!”

“It had been, indeed. Except Miranda needed to find a suitable job to dangle in front of Jacqueline to convince her to abandon the idea of taking over Runway.”

The whole scheme crystalized then for Andy. “And you were out of luck at James Holt, because that’s the job she decided would be the one.”

“Exactly.”

Andy took a deep breath. “Your dream job.”

Nigel shrugged. “A dream job. There’s never only one. That’s something for you to keep in mind, my darling girl,” he added, finally digging into his food. Andy did the same; she didn’t want everything to get cold. “Miranda’s original intention was not to tell me anything until the announcement with Jacqueline taking the job was made.” He chewed thoughtfully, again tilting his head as he looked at Andy. He motioned toward her with his fork. “But you changed her mind.”

Andy laughed lightly. She didn’t think it had anything to do with her and was more about her friendship with Nigel. Their history went much further back than anything Andy could imagine. “I’m sure she would have told you.”

Nigel shook his head silently. “I can tell you the truth, Six. She would not have told me anything. I would have sat at that table at the luncheon and had my heart ripped out in public for all the world to see, without any warning at all.”

Andy put her head against her hand, leaning on the table. “That would have sucked. I mean, it still sounds like it sucks. You didn’t get the job.”

“I did not get the job, but a lot more has happened since she gave me the head’s up.”

That perked Andy up. “Really?”

“Really.” He waved a hand toward the server. “One more root beer for the lady,” he added with a wave toward her empty bottle. “So, Miranda told me her scheme at our Friday night dinner, and once I had digested the whole thing--the info, not the food, mind you--I had a realization. I suddenly knew that Miranda could not possibly have heard the stories that go around the building about Irv.”

Andy frowned. “Stories?”

“Come on. You know how everyone’s afraid to share an elevator with Miranda?” Andy bobbed her head. “The women of Elias Clarke are equally afraid to share an elevator with Irv.”

Andy gaped at him.

He watched her, surprise etched across his forehead. “Andy, you’re a gorgeous young woman. You can’t tell me no one warned you.”

She shook her head. “No one warned me. And I’ve been in an elevator with both of you at the same time and you didn’t even mention it! Besides, Irv’s never struck me as very threatening. I can’t imagine him getting away with anything really serious--” One look at Nigel’s face told Andy just how wrong she was. “You’re not kidding. What are we talking about?”

“Without going into to much detail, repeated claims of sexual harassment. Multiple hushed up settlements. NDAs that never expire. It all adds up to the fact that Irv’s been chasing women around the desk at Elias Clarke for seven years, and who knows how long before that at his previous companies. He’s always gotten away with it. Until now.”

“So you knew, but Miranda didn’t? How is that even possible? You just told me Miranda knows everyone, has connections everywhere. How could she not?”

“Okay, in my defense, I had only heard a story or two, not much detail. But now I can say it was because Irv picked the right people. The right targets. All young, vulnerable, and inexperienced, and exactly zero connected to her edition ofRunway by design. I’m sure he knew if he did it would eventually get back to Miranda, but he still had a whole building to choose from. Who knows, if you’d gone to work at Auto Universe, you might have been one of them.”

Andy shivered in stunned silence. “That’s beyond horrible. How has no one done anything to stop him?”

“Irv is powerful. Beyond that, he has powerful lawyers. And let’s not forget, shame--of being a victim, of being gaslighted, of being humiliated--is a powerful protector. Think about it. Would you want to go up against a man like Irv, with billions of dollars at his fingertips and a staff of hundreds ready to fall on their swords to protect him?”

“If he harassed me, then yes--”

“What if he threatened your livelihood? Or your parents’ jobs? Or your sister’s, or your boyfriend’s, or all your friends? What if he assured you the kind of public embarrassment someone can never get out from under?” His gaze was steady. “And who would believe you, little twenty-something Andy from Podunk, Ohio? Especially if Rupert Murdoch cast you as a golddigger in pursuit of easy settlement money from a well-regarded zillionaire with connections at every level of politics and industry. And if someone did believe you, proof isn’t even enough in this day and age. Men at his level can practically admit guilt and survive unscathed. It happens over and over.”

Andy stared at him, the waterfall of information crushing her with its intensity. Nigel was right. At her age, at her income level, she would have been a perfect mark. She would have tried to laugh it off, like it was just something women had to deal with. Maybe it would have started innocently enough; questionable comments, a hand on the shoulder. An invitation for a drink at the end of the night. The promise of a promotion if she would just do this little favor... She had no idea how she’d react if someone like Irv Ravitz had pursued her. Predators knew all the right buttons to push. With enough pressure, she would have kept her mouth shut, too. It might have killed her inside, but if a man with unlimited resources went after her and her family, she would have stayed quiet.

“I’m seeing where you’re going, Nigel. This is… a big deal. Like, the kind of deal that someone needs to do something about.”

Her second root beer arrived, so he clinked his wine glass gently against her bottle. “Someone is doing something. Someone did something today.”

Andy recalled the leather Miranda donned this morning; the heels that suddenly reminded her of knives. “The board meeting.”

Nigel grinned. “Let’s back up. So that Friday Miranda tells me that I don’t have a new job, but I finally tell Miranda that Irv needs to get fired for harassing women. Miranda has always hated Irv, but she didn’t know anything about his history. So we both go to work ferreting out information, but we don’t find anything concrete. Whatever settlements he’s made did not go through official channels.” He leaned back against the hardwood of his seat. “Then we fly to Paris, go to show after show after show, and then, you know, Stephen.” He rolls his eyes. “Always wanting to be the center of attention, the idiot. He couldn’t wait to derail her. Not about Irv, mind you, he had no idea about that. But he knew she was presenting for Massimo and he deliberately wanted to ruin it. Or try to, anyway. Miranda told me that you, along with Emily, kept that from happening. So kudos to you, my dear. You inadvertently helped keep Miranda focused enough to move the plan along, because after the luncheon, Jacqueline Follet joined us for a drink. Er, drinks.” He paused dramatically. “She had quite a few interesting tidbits to share. With her new job signed and sealed at James Holt, she was out from under Irv’s thumb and had no fucks to give. She spilled her guts about her own experiences with Mr. Ravitz.”

Andy slapped the table with her good hand. “Are you kidding me? I thought she was Miranda’s sworn nemesis!”

By now Nigel was laughing heartily. “She was. But once she understood what Miranda was after, she was more than ready to band together against a common enemy. The enemy of my enemy is my friend and all that.”

“But Jacqueline would have had to work for him at Runway--she was willing to, I don’t even want to--”

“Don’t go there, kid. It’s complicated. Always is. I worked for Irv for seven years knowing there were rumors about him and I just lived with it. Hundreds of thousands of regular, hardworking folks have their paychecks signed by terrible people. You and I are just a drop in the bucket.”

Andy’s head spun. She couldn’t even imagine the repercussions of what Nigel was explaining. “So what happened today?”

“Miranda walked into the board room with three lawyers and a notarized statement from Jacqueline. She said that if Irv didn’t leave, Jacqueline would go public. That bombshell was enough to force a vote of no confidence in the chairman’s ability, or rather suitability, to continue on in the company. And he was summarily removed from his post.”

Covering her mouth in shock, Andy couldn’t speak. Nigel just sipped his wine as she sat there as the seconds ticked by. “Irv is out?”

“Yep.”

“You and Miranda got Irv Ravitz fired.”

“We all did. Of course he has a golden parachute in place, but there is potential that the lawyers might sue to recover the funds. It’s never happened before, but we’ve never had a chairman go down in flames in one day. If word gets out, women who have settled, or those who never filed complaints, could conceivably go after Elias Clarke.”

This was all way over Andy’s head. She had taken the initial required sexual harassment training when she started her job, but the pertinent details had seemed so outlandish they’d barely registered. Most of the training involved watching a video starring a couple of retired soap opera stars from her childhood pawing at each other in a fake office environment in a variety of scenarios. Besides, Irv’s golden parachute sounded like a lot of money that should have been directed elsewhere. It was the opposite of fair. “So what happens now?” she asked.

“The lawyers are probably hashing things out, but if we’re lucky, a press release will go out on Friday about Irv’s departure. It won’t mention any of the details; they never do.” He eyed Andy solemnly. “No leaks can come from our team in advance.”

Andy nodded. She wanted to shout from the rooftops what Miranda had achieved, but she would have to keep it to herself. If anything leaked it wouldn’t be courtesy of her.

“Good. Miranda appreciates you, kid. I do too. You went above and beyond. We both owe you a lot.”

“I’ll take payment in the form of this incredible dinner, but I reserve the right to call in a chit for three martinis some Friday in the future,” Andy joked, waving her root beer bottle.

“Done.”

Chapter Text

Nothing leaked on Thursday, as Nigel had hoped. But on Friday at exactly 10am, a company-wide email went out, not just addressed to Runway employees but for all Elias Clarke staff. It stated that Mr. Irv Ravitz was leaving the company effective immediately, that the board wished him well, and they thanked him for his many contributions over the years. Andy had not known what to expect when the information came out, but she certainly didn’t anticipate hearing the responses in real time.

The moment the email landed in her inbox, she heard Emily’s gasp of “fucking what?” Only a few seconds later, there were cries of elation from nearby cubicles. “Ding dong,” she heard someone cry out, and then a smattering of applause. There was a whoop of celebration, and a variety of brief explosions of positive reaction went on for another few minutes. Miranda was in her office during all of it, with the door wide open. She didn’t make a sound or change her expression, from what Andy could tell. But somehow, Andy vicariously felt the unbridled satisfaction of a job well done.

“Emily, bring me two more lattes,” Miranda called out from behind her desk at 10:22am, despite the vacuum sealed thermos of extra hot, non-fat latte still unopened on her desk. “And get something for yourself,” she added, almost under her breath.

Emily nearly fell over getting out of her seat and bolting from the office, to Andy’s amusement. At 10:23, Miranda called softly, “Andrea,” and Andy picked up her notebook and went to the office.

Miranda pointed to the chair in front of her desk. Andy sat.

“So,” Miranda said, apparently waiting for something.

“Yes?” Andy replied, not sure what she was waiting for.

“You knew this was coming,” Miranda said.

Andy didn’t know if this was a statement or a question. “I might have heard something the other night.” There was no reason to lie now, not when it was out in the public sphere.

“Had you… had you heard about him? Did you know to avoid him?” Rarely if ever had Andy heard her sound so uncertain.

“I hadn’t. But I guess,” Andy glanced out the doors toward the rest of the office. “I guess other people had.”

Miranda put a finger to her lips, her expression unhappy. “I have to make some-- this entire situation is unacceptable. I--this office…” Miranda trailed off. Andy had no idea what she was thinking, but the situation had clearly affected her. “No one should be subjected to harassment at work, or anywhere. If an employee of Elias Clarke ever speaks to you in an unprofessional manner, I expect you to report it immediately. Is that understood?”

“Yes, Miranda.” Andy tried not to think about all the times Miranda had demanded completely unreasonable tasks of her. Called her at insane hours, made her run across town to retrieve clothing she didn’t even look at till three days later. Had her race for a meal that ended up in the trash.

At that, Miranda turned her chair toward the windows. Andy admired her profile as she looked out onto the city skyline shimmering in the distance. “This can’t happen again. I’ve been looking at things--” she cut herself off.

Andy waited, and waited some more. As she did, she considered all those outlandish, silly tasks that were part of her job. They might be unfair, but they weren’t wrong.

“We’ll talk again soon,” Miranda finally said, nodding as though she and Andy had been having an actual exchange of thoughts and feelings.

“All right,” Andy said, returning to her desk.

---

That night, Miranda sent everyone home at 5:00. Nothing was getting done anyway; the news of Irv’s departure was the only subject on everyone’s mind. Andy had never seen so many people race through the halls of Runway with such jubilation, but there it was. A few minutes later, Nigel appeared and sat at the edge of her desk, watching the hordes make their escape.

“You headed out too?” he asked, looking down at her from over his glasses.

Andy shrugged one shoulder. “I think so.” They both glanced into Miranda’s office, where her boss was speaking so quietly on the phone that Andy had no idea who was on the other end of the line. “She told Emily to head out and asked Matt to just bring the Book over now no matter what state it’s in.”

His eyebrows rose. “That’s a first. You want to claim those three martinis tonight?”

For a moment, Andy was tempted. But there was something she wanted more, which was ten minutes alone in the car with Miranda. “I’m still on some pain meds,” she fibbed. Two ibuprofen every eight hours weren’t exactly heavy drugs. “Next week, though.”

“Is it getting better?” he asked, motioning toward her brace.

“Yeah. I’m sort of used to it now, I guess. Only seven more weeks,” she said before grimacing. “Better than eight, I guess.”

“It will be over in the blink of an eye. Get some rest this weekend. We have no idea what’s coming in the next few months, but it’s going to be nuts. Okay?”

She nodded as he snuck out before Miranda got off the phone. Fortunately she didn’t have to wait long for that to happen. As she heard Miranda packing her things, Andy slipped her notebook into her bag and wriggled halfway into her coat. Evenings were getting cold now and she’d need it even on the short run to the car.

Tonight, Miranda retrieved her own coat and bag. “Come along, now,” she said, heading down the hall without a backward glance. A few stragglers let Miranda pass them by, mumbling polite goodbyes and immediately looking away, probably worried that she’d change her mind if she saw them having even one iota of fun. Andy got a few stunned looks when she charged into the elevator right after Miranda, who appeared uninterested in the attention. As the doors closed, three jealous clackers glared at Andy without reservation.

Andy tried to smother a smirk once they began their descent. “They think you’re flying too close to the sun,” Miranda drawled. Andy looked over in surprise. “That you’re bound to get burned.”

Startled, Andy retorted, “Come on. Any one of them would give their favorite Jimmy Choos to be in here with you.”

“Well, none of them have thrown themselves in front of a cab for a collection of scarves, now, have they?” Miranda replied.

“Hey, I didn’t throw myself in front of a cab!” Andy said in reaction before realizing that yes, Miranda had just made a joke. “Anyway, they’d have to fight me before they’d get in here. This is my place.”

Miranda looked pleased at the curiously possessive statement. “It is, indeed,” she said, sliding on black leather gloves with a charcoal horsebit at the cuff that Andy had coveted since she’d first seen them. “I’m glad you’ve realized by now that everyone wants to be us,” Miranda said, just as the elevator doors opened. Miranda breezed out, leaving behind a gob-smacked Andy. She nearly got stuck behind the doors as they closed on her. Fortunately she had the wherewithal to thrust her shoulder bag between them till they opened, hurrying out after Miranda. Andy caught up just in time to benefit from a wide-eyed young man who had held the door for her. Roy was waiting at the curb, ready to go despite the busier than usual traffic. Andy was reminded again how unusual it was for them to be out the door this early.

Once settled in their seats, Andy looked up at the partition as it rose; Miranda was closing it without a word. When they had privacy, Miranda turned toward her, gaze piercing in the close quarters. Although Andy was hoping for Miranda to expand on her previous comment, she had shifted gears. “I need you to be absolutely honest. Are you certain that Irv didn’t pursue you?”

Andy nodded. “I’ve had exactly two conversations with him. Once with Nigel, and once at the gala with you and, you know, Stephen,” she said, muttering the name at half volume. “I didn’t know anything about what was happening.”

Miranda inhaled deeply and sat back, looking away from Andy. “But if you had known, you wouldn’t have said anything to me,” she said. Andy could sense her frustration, anger, and irritation. She turned back, her eyes flashing in the darkness of the car. “Am I so inhuman that everyone inside that building thinks I have no sense of understanding or justice? No empathy? Despite the fact that I, like nearly every woman in this country, have been subject to harassment myself?” Miranda remained very still, but Andy could see the tremble in her expression that told of many secrets buried beneath that cool facade. “I won’t have it. I won’t.”

It shouldn’t have been a surprise, but knowing it had happened was different than suspecting. “I know it’s not my business, but part of me wants to ask--” She paused. “I can’t imagine anyone harassing you, Miranda,” she said softly.

Miranda huffed a laugh. “Not now, not anymore. But it hasn’t always been this way.” She shook her head, gazing out the window. Andy could see something close to devastation in the faint reflection of her face. “Accusations backed up by evidence against my direct report and I never heard a peep. Meanwhile, you heard them all when the news broke. They didn’t even try to hide their elation.”

“I guess so,” Andy said, wishing she could say something to comfort Miranda, to ease her burden.

“I should have known,” she said. “Looking back, it makes sense. Off-hand comments now that I didn’t spend any time examining, or even registering as unusual. My single-mindedness is often a detriment in many parts of my life outside work. Never before has it been a detriment at Runway.”

Andy tried extremely hard to keep her expression blank. She’d never heard Miranda speak of herself in this manner before. “I can only imagine what it must have been like when you found out.” Miranda turned to her, eyes wide with realization. She blinked once, twice, silent so long Andy looked down at her coat, thinking maybe she had a spot on it. “What is it?” she finally asked.

“It was--”

The car slowed to a stop. Andy heard Roy get out and a moment later the door on Miranda’s side swung open. They sat there staring at one another until finally Miranda said, “Did you have plans this evening?”

“Um, no. Usually I’d still be at work at this time of night.” She didn’t add for a few more hours.

“May we continue this conversation?” Miranda asked, appearing more hesitant than Andy had ever seen her. Miranda Priestly told Andy Sachs to do things. She had never once asked her to do something.

“Sure. Yeah, of course.” Miranda left the car and Andy slid out after her. She looked up at Roy and told him, “I’m good, Roy. I’ll get a cab later.”

“Right. Have a pleasant evening, Miranda,” Roy said. “Andy.”

Miranda was already up the stairs and unlocking the door, so Andy just said, “Thanks. Have a great weekend.” She chased after Miranda too and followed her inside, slamming the door against the cold night air.

Once in the townhouse, Andy immediately felt weird; Miranda stood stiffly in the hallway, looking at her with a vacant expression. “Are you uncomfortable?” Miranda asked. “I shouldn’t have done this.”

Andy frowned. “Miranda, I work for you. We were in the middle of a conversation.”

“It could be misconstrued. It could be considered--”

The lightbulb went off. “Oh,” Andy breathed with relief. She was right; it could be misconstrued. The two of them alone together in Miranda’s home could conceivably have led to a situation in which Miranda made a pass, and the Andy of last week, or even a couple of days ago, would have happily reciprocated. But now, after everything with Irv, Andy herself recognized a difference in herself. As much as she was attracted to Miranda, found her beautiful and magnetic and brilliant, she wouldn’t want this just now. Not with the job between them, or with the spectre of Irv Ravitz hanging over their heads. “I promise if there’s anything you do that makes me uncomfortable I’ll say. And I really will say it, Miranda. I swear.”

That helped Miranda relax. Her shoulders dropped an inch or two; Andy hadn’t even noticed how tense she seemed. “All right. Come in then.” Andy trailed after her into the den off the kitchen with the soft lighting and the sweet portraits of the twins. “The girls are with their father this weekend. They… they’re disappointed that Stephen is gone.” She chuckled as if to herself. “They barely liked him but they’re disappointed anyway. Another father figure they most likely won’t see again.” She motioned for Andy to sit down and went to the kitchen. She pulled an open bottle of wine from the massive refrigerator and stated, “I’m having a glass. You’re welcome to one, too.”

Andy was on the verge of saying no. Instead, she found herself saying, “Yes, that would be great.” She watched Miranda pour them each a glass and tried not to think of the twilight zone she had recently entered. When Miranda handed it to her, she took a sip and held back her delight at the taste. There apparently was a difference between the cheap stuff and the not-so cheap stuff. She watched Miranda drink deeply, draining a quarter of the glass before she sat back in her cushiony loveseat.

Miranda took a breath. “I was going to mention earlier that you were the reason Nigel told me about Irv.”

Andy had a hard time believing that. “Pardon?”

“He must have explained how we talked before we went to Paris, when I let him know about James Holt and Jacqueline?” Andy nodded. “Without that conversation, I wouldn’t have known. I sincerely doubt Nigel would have told me about Irv if I’d gone about my business the way I’d originally planned. So you’re at least partially responsible for this whole mess.”

“I hadn’t, uh, thought about it that way.” She took a sip of wine, then another. She’d need the whole glass to go down fast to make it through this conversation.

“So strange how one turn of events can result in such tremendous change, wouldn’t you agree?” Miranda said, almost to herself. “I had always wanted Irv gone but it never occurred to me that I could actually make it happen. The board needs a super-majority to remove any particular member, and Irv had friends, old friends, in the group. It’s how he got the job in the first place.”

“How much is a super-majority at Elias Clarke?”

“Sixty-seven percent. In other words, seven of ten, and Irv himself was one of the ten.” A grim smile appeared. “It was extremely gratifying to watch him realize what was happening and that there was nothing whatsoever he could do to stop the train from leaving the station.”

“Especially knowing what he’d gotten away with,” Andy added, considering what it must have felt like to be in the room with Miranda and Irv and all those powerful people. She imagined the sharp cut of Miranda’s figure as she leaned over the table, throwing a pile of evidence toward the former Chairman. She could hear the sound it would have made as the pages skimmed across the oak, spreading every which way. The chaos as he realized what was happening; the angry voices as the vote was cast.

She got lost in the fantasy for some time, and when she came back to herself, Miranda was watching her in silence with one eyebrow raised. “That looked like quite a potent little scene you were enjoying,” she murmured.

Andy blushed, realizing it was obvious what she’d been thinking about. “It must have been amazing.”

“It was, indeed.”

“Do you think he’ll come after you?”

“Me, personally? He can try. He could try to sue me or the company, but by doing so he’ll open himself up to more risk through the discovery process. If I’m right, there may be more than one woman out there willing to break her NDA to help bring him down. To be frank, I have no clue how many accusations he’s buried. When word gets out, it could be an absolute nightmare for Elias Clarke, and for him. And for me.” She blinked, her expression firming against the coming storm. “It will be worth it.”

“But won’t it be better now that he’s gone?” Andy asked.

Miranda laughed then, but the sound wasn’t beautiful. It was hollow. “Yes and no. There needs to be a reckoning within the entire corporation. A sea change. You mark my words, Andrea. The Elias Clarke of yesterday no longer exists. One can only guess what it may become in the future.”

Hearing the words, she had the strangest feeling. Miranda said that Andy was at least sort of responsible for starting the avalanche that had taken place over the last week. Was that really true? Could one person really be a catalyst for change within an entire corporation of thousands upon thousands of employees with just one decision?

When she looked at Miranda, she too started to feel the weight of a burden on her own shoulders. What if things didn’t turn out right? What if everything came crashing down because of what Andy had done?

They sat together in silence and drank their wine, both lost in their own thoughts.

---

Over the next few months, Andy happened to be privy to more information about the quiet evolution of Elias Clarke than most. It turned out that the first glass of wine she shared with Miranda in her home was the beginning of something that was similar to, yet almost entirely unlike, a normal friendship.

If Emily had been jealous of Andy during her initial time at Runway, the next twelve weeks resulted in a near-catastrophic reaction to the closeness that developed between herself and Miranda. Emily could not fathom what it was that kept them in each other’s orbits every single day. Em argued with Andy about nearly everything when Miranda was away from the office: who would bring Miranda lunch, who would deliver the book, who would be there with her during public events or private functions. It made Andy feel a bizarre hybrid of sympathy and rage, depending on the time of day and the proximity of Miranda.

Andy ended up saving Emily from being out and out fired multiple times, not that Emily had any idea of how close she came to imminent disaster. Ultimately, Andy was also the one who ferreted out a position for her in the beauty department when one of the associates took a job at Glamour. It solved a myriad of Andy’s problems as well as Miranda’s, who was getting more frustrated by Emily’s inadequacies as an assistant by the day. Getting Em promoted into a new job gave Andy the chance to hire her own second assistant, which she did without any help from Miranda at all. One day she handed Miranda a resume and said, “This is the one.”

Miranda scanned the single page and within thirty seconds, replied, “Fine.”

One week later, after the requisite background checks, drug screening, and reference confirmation, Leticia was Andy’s new coffee-runner, skirt-retriever, and dog-walker, all in one cheerful package. She was a size eight with two dads from Oaxaca and Guatemala City (respectively), and more importantly she was a walking encyclopedia of both Runway history and current fashion trends. Miranda had a single moment of hesitancy when she first met the new assistant but managed to sublimate her purely habitual desire to dress her down. Andy rewarded her with her most delighted smile when Leticia returned to her desk with her head still attached to her body, and Miranda simply rolled her eyes and motioned her into the office to sit in on a call with Michael Kors and his people.

Leticia had no reason to be jealous of the changed relationship Andy had to Miranda because from the start it seemed normal. Andy had simply always arrived with Miranda daily and departed with her at the same time. She was not bothered by the fact that Andy got a lift to and from work in Miranda’s Mercedes and she once told Andy so. Leticia told her the idea of being in a car alone with the boss was terrifying. She much preferred her solitary subway ride in the early hours of the morning so she could devour the latest WWD news in a peaceful pre-rush hour.

“Oh, that sounds nice,” Andy told her with a disingenuous smile, remembering her own far less pleasant subway rides to work before her accident. She was spoiled now and did not miss those days at all. The day after she got her brace removed, she didn’t know if she’d still have a luxury chauffeur, but Miranda acted as though nothing at all changed once her assistant had two working arms again. Well, except now Andy always carried the coffee tray.

And if Andy was often at the townhouse when the book arrived, she kept that little nugget of information to herself. Leticia didn’t need to know all her secrets.

She learned how to tell the twins apart by the practicalities of earrings (Caroline had finagled a second piercing in her left ear before her furious mother could put a stop to it) and got to know them well enough. She once sat on the stairs with Cassidy and listened to stories about how Stephen really did seem like he would be a nice, dad-like guy when they’d met more than five years before. “He spent every Sunday for a month taking me to Central Park when I wanted to learn how to play softball,” she’d told Andy. “He taught me how to throw and catch and hit. He seemed cool. Plus, he taught Caroline how to do a flip off the diving board when we went on vacation two years ago.”.

Andy had put an arm around the girl, who leaned against her and cried a little. Andy, for her part, thought those stories were pretty sad. Four weekends and a couple of days at the pool did not a father make. Not to mention the fact that Stephen had dropped off the face of the earth when it came to the girls. The divorce was acrimonious, obviously, but he had no interest in continuing any kind of relationship with either of the kids. Miranda told Andy that she worried the twins would blame themselves for the breakdown of the marriage. In turn, Andy did not tell Miranda that the twins believed wholeheartedly that their mother was responsible for the fiasco by starting off with a poor choice in husbands in the first place and then wrecking the relationship single-handedly.

And because Miranda sometimes complained about the house being quiet and empty in the weeks Cass and Caroline spent with Jeremy, Andy often joined her at the townhouse. After Irv’s departure, things were in flux at Elias Clarke for weeks, and the only person Miranda trusted other than Nigel was Andy herself. Miranda swore her to secrecy on a daily basis, to which Andy would always agree (although she was vaguely insulted that Miranda could not remember how often she promised to keep her mouth shut). Then Miranda would share tidbits of conversations, information she’d learned about the political inner-workings of the business.

But the thing that really stuck in Andy’s craw over those months was the total lack of information about Irv Ravitz’s dismissal. Everyone knew he was gone, and some people assumed why. But outside the building and in the press, no details made it to a larger audience. It bothered her so much that one evening in the kitchen as they went through the schedule for the following week, she asked Miranda about it. It took a little liquid courage.

She took a big breath and jumped into the deep end. “Do you think Irv will ever be held accountable for what he’s done?” she asked, staring into the empty wine glass at her right. “Properly, accountable, I mean. The wider public has no idea what he’s done.”

Miranda inhaled deeply. “I don’t know. People are afraid of money and lawyers and power. Irv still has all three, despite his departure from Elias Clarke.”

“But what about all the other women? They have to be out there.”

Shaking her head, Miranda replied, “If they didn’t report while he was there, they certainly wouldn’t do it after he left. If I had to guess, they’re probably just relieved he’s gone.”

“Can’t you say anything?”

“My hands are tied because of the confidentiality agreement in my contract. The information wouldn’t harm just Irv; it could destroy the reputation of the company. I’d be fired for cause and trapped in litigation for eternity, which would defeat the purpose of all the corrective work I’ve been doing in the first place.” Andy knew some of that involved working with the board to bring in a firm to update the corporate harassment policy and training, as a start. Miranda sipped her wine, looking as angry as Andy felt. “You can’t win the game if you’re not in the game, Andrea. To make change, I need to be here.”

Andy heard her, but her attention was starting to drift. Something in Miranda’s words had triggered a thought that was transforming into an idea. It was daring. Stupid. Dangerous. She considered it, turning it over and over in her mind. She had no idea how to even go about it. Nothing might come of it, but she had to try. She had to do something.

Finally, she remembered where she was and who she was with. She looked at Miranda, who was staring back at her with intensity. “You disappeared again, didn’t you,” she murmured.

Andy nodded.

“Care to share with the class?”

“I--I had an idea.” She swallowed. “I could do something. I know a lot of people in the building who don’t work at Runway and I could start asking questions. I’m--you know, a journalist. An investigative journalist.” She inhaled and spoke the words she had been dreaming of saying almost her whole life. “I could do a story. Make a difference.”

Miranda went very still. Her eyes narrowed, but she did not speak. Andy thought she might shoot the idea down right away, but that didn’t happen. Miranda tilted her head. “It would involve considerable risk.”

“Yeah.”

There was a long pause. “No one here would publish it. You might have trouble finding anyone to publish it.”

“Yeah.”

“But you--” Miranda’s gaze drifted over Andy’s shoulder. Her eyes went out of focus as if she were trying to look into the future. “You could do it. You could.” Miranda bobbed her head once, as if making a decision. “You wouldn’t be able to tell me any details whatsoever. It’s a conflict of interest; you have to do it all completely above board, documenting meticulously. Everything you do, every conversation you’d have would have to take place off hours and outside the building. You already work late; I’m not sure how we’d--well, no more weekends, of course, and you’d have to start leaving on time.” Miranda frowned in what looked like real disappointment. “We won’t be able to do--” she motioned at the space between them, “--this any longer.”

That took the wind out of Andy’s sails. She’d have to sacrifice time with Miranda, quality time she valued above almost everything else. But not quite everything. For a great story, an important story, Andy would have to give up these private hours of quiet with a woman she’d come to care for more each passing day. When Miranda met her eyes, Andy said, “Yeah. That’s going to suck.”

She saw humor in Miranda’s expression at her phrasing. “You must be out of practice. You’ll have to brush up on your literary skills to pull this off, Andrea.”

Andy smiled. “I can do that. I can do anything, remember?”

Miranda's smile in return was soft and thoughtful. “I remember very well, indeed.”

---

Andy did not sleep that night. She relived every moment of the conversation she’d had with Miranda, and sometime around three o’clock had a realization: Miranda had acknowledged that there was something unusual going on between them. Andy had been so distracted by her idea for a story she hadn’t even stopped to recognize the significance of that moment.

“We won’t be able to do this any longer,” Miranda had said.

Heart pounding, Andy could hardly breathe. This thing she felt wasn’t one-sided. Not at all. This, Andy thought. But what was this?

For now, it would have to wait, almost as if in stasis. But if Andy was right, if she persevered and was fortunate, she might get to find out what it could be for both of them.

Chapter Text

The next day, Roy appeared at Andy’s apartment like clockwork. She hadn’t been sure if she’d still have a ride to the office, but for now, at least this would not change. However, since she wasn’t yet on the clock, she used the ride to Starbucks to make notes in her brand new, non-work-related notebook with strategies and to-dos. When Miranda joined her as usual, they didn’t even speak to one another. Miranda drank her coffee in silence as Andy made observations and wrote questions and considered background research into Irv’s previous positions. It was going to kill her to wait to do it, but she couldn’t use any Elias Clarke time or equipment to get started.

Andy barely noticed when they got to the office, only looking up once Miranda had left the car. By the time she slid out herself, Roy was looking at her with concern.

“You two have a fight?” Roy asked.

Andy was startled. “No,” she said with a laugh. “Why do you ask?”

Roy glanced over at Miranda, already nearly at the front door of the building. “There’s just uh, not usually any dead air between the two of you when you’re in the car. None of my business, really. Sorry.”

Andy blinked at him. “Right.” She hadn’t realized that, but of course it was true. “Anyway, we’re fine.” She frowned at herself and shook her head, wondering how she came to the point where she was explaining their relationship to her driver. “She’ll be solo at night, though. I’m uh, doing other stuff.”

“Sure, Andy. If you ever need a ride, you can still text me.” He glanced over her shoulder and his eyebrow lifted. “I’m sure she’d want me to look out for you.”

“Oh,” Andy said, and followed his gaze. Miranda was impatiently waiting at the door for her. “Oh shit. Um, thanks Roy, see you later,” she said, rushing over to Miranda as quickly as she could. “Sorry,” she said as Miranda rolled her eyes.

They rode up in the elevator together. For the first time in a while, Andy felt not quite comfortable. She wanted desperately to share her plans but had to bite her tongue to keep from speaking. “Can I tell you--”

“No,” Miranda said, staring at the elevator doors. “Find a willing ear that is not mine.” Miranda turned, eyeing her slyly. “I think you know who to start with.”

Miranda may as well have shouted Nigel’s name directly into her face. “Oh, got it. Do you think that would be okay?”

With a sigh, Miranda said, “My god, you don’t need my permission for everything.” Miranda’s lips firmed as she returned her gaze forward. “Don’t forget your actual job, Emily,” Miranda said. “Did you sleep at all last night?”

Andy grimaced, knowing the dark circles under her eyes were worse than usual. “A little.”

“Get some concealer from Serena, you look like death warmed over.”

Well, their workplace non-romance was definitely alive and well. “Got it.”

Once the doors opened, Miranda was all business, departing with a speed and flourish so quick Andy could barely keep up with her. Andy thought she overcompensated a bit with a longer set of demands than usual, but Letty offered to take on at least half the list once Andy sat down. Usually Andy wouldn’t hand anything off to the second if Miranda assigned it to her, but she had to see both Nigel and Serena first thing.

She took off and stopped over at Serena’s desk. Right there in the middle of the hallway, she dabbed and painted and fixed Andy up in less than five minutes. Next she made a beeline for Nigel’s office. Fortunately he was there, phone to his ear as he waved her in. She shut the door behind her as his eyes widened in anticipation.

“Sure, yes,” Nigel said as Andy tried not to fidget. “Not the yellow, you know she hates that… Yes, that works… Okay, Serge, call me if anything goes awry. On second thought, don’t call me, just handle it.” He grinned. “And don’t go over budget. Ciao.” He leaned forward, both hands on the desk. “Well, you’re looking like a little eager beaver today. What can I help with?”

“I need a name, Nigel. At least one to start with.”

It took him a moment to understand what she was talking about, and when he did he couldn’t hide his surprise. Though the door was shut, he glanced around as though anyone could have been eavesdropping. “Andy, you shouldn’t be talking about this.”

“It’s too late. I’m doing it, with or without your help.”

“Kiddo, I have a contract--”

“Giving me a name isn’t a violation of it. It’s just a name. I’ll do the work. My NDA is primarily focused on Miranda, obviously. I can’t reveal anything about Miranda that would embarrass the company, not that any weird thing Miranda does is a secret. She’s in Page Six practically every week, each story more outlandish than the next. Believe me, Nigel, I read my paperwork about four hundred times last night. And if I do this right, it will have nothing at all to do with her.”

“Other than the fact that you might have the potential to destroy the company she and I and thousands of other people all work for. Including you.”

Andy was resolute. “If Elias Clarke can’t handle this scandal, they shouldn’t have let a predator use it as a hunting ground for seven years.”

Nigel blinked. “Well.” He breathed deeply, leaning back in his chair and steepling his fingers. She could see the thoughts flying through his mind; he was surely weighing consequences, both good and bad.

“Just one name. I’ll do the rest.”

“What are you planning?”

Andy shook her head. “I can’t tell you. You shouldn’t know.” He didn’t budge for over a minute till finally she stood and said, “We’ll talk more at lunch.” With that, she headed out the door.

“Andy, I’m booked today--”

“I’ll be back at 12:30,” she called out with a smile. “I’ll bring the chowder.”

She did not, in fact, bring chowder, instead picking up delicious Italian food from a mom-and-pop shop two blocks away. There were jealous looks up and down the cubicles as she snuck the bag into Nigel’s office and closed the door.

The smell of garlic wafted out of the bag within seconds, and that was most likely the main reason he removed his glasses and threw them on his desk before demanding, “Okay, hand it over.” She gave him a still steaming hot cacio e pepe, the end of a fresh garlic bread, and a box of arugula with fresh pecorino and lemon vinaigrette. He didn’t even look up as he started eating. “I don’t take well to bribes,” he mumbled, mouth full of pasta.

Andy piled her lunch on an open corner of the desk, starting in on her carbonara before it could get cold. The salad would come at the end, along with the anise biscotti tucked away in the bottom of the bag. That was her ace in the hole.

They ate in silence as Nigel shook his head, clearly arguing with himself over whether or not to say anything. In ten minutes he’d worked his way through most of his meal. He sat back, hand on his stomach, eyes closed. “Andy--”

“One name. If she won’t talk to me, I’ll back off. I swear.” That wasn’t entirely true, but Nigel didn’t have to know that.

He leaned his forehead against his hand, rubbing it once before covering his mouth. “Fine. Janine Harper. I knew her when she was an editor at Elevation. Now she works for Adventure West.” Andy knew the magazine, though Elias Clarke didn’t publish it; it covered hiking, travel, and outdoor vacations. “Please keep my name out of it, but she might know it was me.”

“I’ll try.”

“I’ve known her for ten years. Sometimes in situations like this you hear bits and pieces from different people, which I did. We were close enough that I felt like I could go to her. She told me there had been some ‘incidents’ with Irv and she’d gone to HR. A couple months later, I went by to see her and her office was cleaned out. Not long after that she landed at Adventure West.”

“How has she been?”

“We’ve had lunch a few times, but she was always uncomfortable talking about Irv, so I just tabled it and we moved on. She didn’t owe me any explanations. To be frank, I don’t really know what happened and it’s none of my business.” He took a huge breath. “Andy, listen. This is--I’m not sure what you’re up to--”

She reached into the bottom of the bag and tossed the biscotti on the desk. “You’re a lifesaver, Nige. Really. I’ll see you later, okay? And we never had this conversation.” Before she left, she blew him a kiss. He already had a look of regret on his face, even as he tore open the box of biscotti.

Back at her desk, she pulled out her non-work cellphone (an expense she could ill afford) and did a search. She found a few business headshots from her associations with both Elevation and Adventure West; Janine had long dark hair, a nice smile, and wore minimal make-up in all the photos. In fact, she reminded Andy of a slightly older version of herself, or the self that had first set foot in the Elias Clarke building hoping to finally start her career.

She dropped the phone back in her bag when she heard the familiar cadence of heels barrelling down the hall toward the office. Miranda was back from a lunch with her divorce lawyer, and if her speed was any indication, she was in a foul mood. Within moments she appeared and tossed her coat toward Letty with sublime irritation. She didn’t even look at Andy and shut the door to her office without a word to either of them.

Letty grimaced. “Guess it wasn’t a good lunch,” she whispered.

Andy nodded. “Probably not.”

---

A little over a week later, Andy had her plan in place. She’d scouted out the Adventure West offices to get a feel for Janine’s schedule, nipping out from the desk whenever Miranda was at a meeting that Andy herself did not have to attend. Thankfully, the building was only two blocks from Elias Clarke, so she had been able to get back and forth a few times without drawing any attention to herself. Tonight, she was skipping out a few minutes before six to try and catch her as she left work. She felt like a stalker, but that was one of the many uncomfortable parts of being an investigative reporter. She’d gotten out of the habit.

Standing outside the massive skyscraper, she shivered as the cold snuck down her collar; she should have worn something warmer today. The short Chloe dress she had on under her merino coat did nothing at all to protect her from the elements, and obviously the hose were a failed attempt at warmth as well. Fortunately she did not have to wait too long before she spotted Janine, who had aged a bit since her last photo but more or less looked the same. Andy took a deep breath and went to catch up with her as she strolled toward the sidewalk.

“Hi, Janine?”

Janine jumped at someone calling her name, but when she registered Andy as a nonthreatening woman, her demeanor relaxed. “Yes?” she asked.

“Hi, I am so sorry to bother you,” Andy said. “My name’s Andy Sachs, and I work at Runway, for Miranda. Miranda Priestly, I mean.” She hoped the name would help keep Janine in her sights for long enough to explain why she’d stopped her.

“Oh,” Janine said, frowning in confusion. “Sure, I know Runway. Is there something I can help you with?”

Andy looked around, taking note of the dozens of people nearby. “Listen, I’m also an independent journalist and I wanted to talk to you about a story I’m working on. It’s really important, but it’s kind of private. Would you be willing to chat with me for a few minutes, maybe over coffee or something?”

Janine stiffened. She knows, Andy thought.

The woman’s shoulders hunched closed in an unconsciously self-protective gesture. “Um, I don’t think I’m the right person to talk to you.” She turned and started down the block.

Andy fell into line next to her, assuring her, “It wouldn’t take more than half an hour, really. Or less, whatever you can spare. I was hoping to just get some background-”

“No,” Janine said, “I’m sorry.”

“But you could really help--”

“Leave me alone,” Janine said, and her voice was loud enough for people to turn and stare at the scene, and at Andy herself. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

The conversation was over; Andy stopped in the street and let her go. She didn’t turn back once before she’d vanished into the night.

“Fuck,” Andy murmured to herself.

---

Without a human source, Andy’s efforts were relegated to online searches. Each evening for days, she looked for a name, any name, to start with. She wouldn’t continue to pursue Janine, so she aimed to find an assistant or someone equally low level who had worked directly for Irv but left under undisclosed circumstances. She had no intention of going back to Nigel for more information.

In the end, she didn’t have to. Nine days after her failed interaction with Janine, Andy exited the elevator at 6. Her intention was to head to her local coffee shop for another night of pointless research, until Janine Harper stepped into Andy’s line of sight. Andy stopped so suddenly the clacker behind her bumped into her and cursed. “Sorry,” Andy said, not really noticing the dirty looks from the people who flowed around her. “Hi.”

Janine looked upset, her mouth twisting as though she had a fury of words stored up inside, waiting to finally escape. “Where can we go?” Janine barked, as though they were in the middle of a conversation.

Andy’s heart soared in excitement, but she tempered her expectations. “I know a good spot. It’s quiet and private. Are you hungry?”

Janine shook her head. Then she shook it again.

Andy nodded and led the way.

---

Once Janine confirmed that Andy was working to expose Irv’s bad behavior, all bets were off. The thirty minutes with Janine that Andy had hoped for transformed into a marathon conversation with a woman who had deliberately, angrily chosen to break her NDA.

Andy ordered them sandwiches after the first hour, then another pot of tea and two pieces of cake after the second. By the time the evening was over, Andy realized the story was not going to be as simple as the one she’d constructed in her mind. That little story involved Irv finding out about one or two women who had reported him to HR and paying them off to stay quiet.

This story bore exactly zero resemblance to that one. This story was so much worse that Andy’s skin crawled when she looked back on her interactions with the former CEO. This story involved many complicit individuals, both inside and outside the company, who had worked steadily to keep Irv Ravitz’s extensive history of sexual harassment and coercion as quiet as the grave.

That night, Andy had filled three cassette tapes using her dictaphone. She had fifteen pages of notes. And most importantly, she had two more names of women who Janine had said were expecting her call.

The next morning when Miranda slid into the Mercedes next to her, she looked shocked by Andy’s appearance.

“What? What is it?” Andy asked, touching her face. She knew she probably seemed tired, but she’d taken extra care with her make-up so she wouldn’t get sent to Serena in search of concealer.

“You look… different.”

Andy blinked at her. She swallowed, desperate to share information that Miranda could not know, not until there was a real story to be told. Andy held her tongue. “Yeah. I--I am different.” She felt like a new person today. A person with not just a purpose but a hunger to tell a story that could expose an ugly truth to the wider world, and by doing so give voice to the women who had been silenced for so long. She had nearly forgotten what it felt like to be so driven. But no experience prepared her for what she had learned last night. This would be a trial by fire, and it broke her heart not to be able to reach out for Miranda’s help.

Miranda nodded, but her brow furrowed in concern.

---

Within the next eight weeks, Andy learned an exorbitant amount of information about the women who Irv Ravitz had silenced through a variety of underhanded means. She had also grown increasingly paranoid. She made duplicates of every cassette tape from her conversations and transferred electronic versions to her laptop. She purchased a printer/copier so she wouldn’t leave a record of anything behind at a public print shop. The back-up pages and tapes went into a key-coded fire safe she kept locked and bolted to the floor of her apartment closet, and she started carrying her laptop to and from work. The originals of everything went into a bank lockbox every Saturday. On her way back from the bank the day she set it up, she called Lily, stopped at the gallery, and gave her a duplicate of the key.

“Don’t lose it, Lil. It’s--” she caught herself from saying it’s a matter of life and death. “It’s important.”

“Honey, are you all right?” Lily had asked. Andy just nodded and sighed in relief as she watched Lily attach the key to her already crowded ring.

The story of these women was a massive tangle of anxiety and chaos that lived and grew inside Andy on a daily basis. It changed how she saw the world. It made her suspicious of everyone she met, both men and women. It made her angry and devastated and cognizant of what felt like a lifetime of idiotic naivete.

From her journalism days at Northwestern, she had known a number of women who bravely shared their experiences of sexual assault, resulting in award-winning story for the paper. The women who spoke to her now were similarly victimized, not just by the perpetrator but by a system constructed to protect him at all costs. Some had gone to the HR department at Elias Clarke, only to be hurriedly dismissed and handed off to external counsel who wrote up large settlement agreements with extreme NDAs attached. One had gone to the police, only to be questioned by an aggressive district attorney who made it seem like she herself had been the instigator of the harassment. Another had sent in repeated, anonymous tips to numerous websites in the hopes that someone might pick the story up, but they’d been promptly ignored. It was becoming clearer to Andy that this was a conspiracy of silence. She did not feel capable of dealing with it on her own.

However, a stroke of luck finally landed in her lap. The sixth woman she spoke to was already communicating with another journalist, and this time, Andy knew the name. Angela DeSantis. She was a longtime investigative reporter for the New York Times. And apparently she’d been working the story for months before Irv had been let go from Elias Clarke.

So it came to be that Andy met her first real-life New York Times reporter on an abnormally freezing night in March at a bar in Tribeca after a grueling day at Runway. Andy was exhausted and did not care a whit that she had replaced heels for sneakers that clashed with her Jil Sander suit. She was sick to death of stilettos, and she was in no danger of Miranda spotting them either. The object of her continued, unrequited affection had left for the weekend at the Adirondacks with the kids, much to her disappointment. She found herself wanting desperately to be with them, to escape this constant drumbeat of work, work, work. She was burning out fast with two full-time jobs, only one of which was paid.

“Hi,” Angela said, holding out a hand from her seat at the bar. She looked to be in her mid-40s, with dark hair and a shrewd expression. She eyeballed Andy’s attire before glancing down at her own wrinkled button-down blouse and black jeans.

Andy laughed. “Don’t worry, it’s one of the perils of the job,” she replied to the unspoken question. “Nice to meet you.”

“Who do you work for again?” Angela asked. “Alex told me it was some fashion person.”

Andy’s mouth opened before she snapped it shut, hiding a grimace. Maybe Angela didn’t know much about Runway, or Miranda. Maybe she should just not mention her at all. “Oh, you know, I work at Runway.”

“Yeah, that makes sense. I’ve heard… a lot about the editor in chief over the years,” Angela said with a knowing grin. “She’s a formidable woman.”

Andy was relieved to hear the description. She wanted to start this meeting off on the right foot, and she’d rather be defending herself and her inexperience rather than her boss’s reputation. “She is absolutely that.”

“Do you have many interactions with her?” Angela asked.

“Mm, some,” Andy replied. Not as many as I’d like. It occurred to Andy that she ought to be forthcoming about her position at the magazine, as opposed to misrepresenting herself to someone she really hoped to work with on this story.

But first, she motioned to the handsome bartender with a scruffy five o’clock shadow, who practically sprinted over at Andy’s wider than usual smile. “Diet Coke with lemon,” she ordered, unwilling to let her guard down with alcohol tonight. “Don’t worry, I tip well,” she joked, giving him her best clacker smile.

“No worries, duckie, designated drivers drink on the house,” he said with a thick British accent. “And for you?” he asked Angela.

“Uh, glass of house white. And some fries to share?” she asked.

“You got it.” He turned and winked at Andy. She wished she was interested. He certainly would have been her type a year ago. She wondered if he made a good grilled cheese.

Andy returned her attention to Angela, who was watching her carefully. Andy steeled herself and began to explain. “So I want to be honest here. I’m not a writer for Runway. I’m just an assistant. But I edited the Daily Northwestern and I’m a damn good reporter.”

“Huh,” Angela replied. Andy tried to read her response, but she gave nothing away.

“You seem pretty young to be tackling a story like this. What inspired you to take it on?”

“Oh, lots of reasons. One, I’ve been in an elevator with Irv Ravitz and had no idea I should be afraid. I could have easily been one of the women in this story. Two, I’m a journalist who couldn’t get a job last year, so it seemed like the right thing to do. Three, and most importantly, these women deserve justice. Ravitz should never work again, not in any industry.” Finally, she took a deep sigh of longing and added, “Four, I’m in love with someone at work and it’s high time I get the hell out so I can take my shot.”

Angela laughed. “That’s a mouthful.” The bartender returned with their drinks and Angela tapped her wine against Andy’s glass of soda in a silent toast. “Well, our mutual friend was really impressed by you. She said she hadn’t told the whole story to anyone at all till you two spoke.” The woman nodded in stern admiration. “It takes a lot of skill to draw someone out that way. You can learn that sort of thing through experience, but when it’s in your nature, you have an advantage. In this job, soft skills are key, which I imagine you’ve realized by now.”

With a nod, Andy replied, “I’m figuring it out. I’ve written about some difficult subjects, but this one is different. I’m glad to have found someone to work it with, if you’re open to that.”

 

“Let’s compare notes and we’ll decide. Besides, it’s a heck of a lot easier for me to collaborate with someone who isn’t at a rival publication, by the way.” She wrinkled her nose and took a sip of her wine. “Assuming you’d be comfortable with us publishing in the Times.”

Andy swallowed thickly as her heart thrilled at the thought. “Um, yeah, that sounds good,” she said weakly. She pulled out the notebook in which she had summarized most of the salient points she wanted to share. The pressure was on; just the night before she’d read a story on Deadline about a rumor that Irv was in talks to land a huge new job. They needed to derail that if at all possible.

Earlier that day, Andy had worried her information would only be a drop in the bucket compared to Angela’s. But to her surprise (and probably Angela’s as well), they were about even. As Angela had noted, it had been easier for Andy to get the women to talk, sharing heart-wrenching details that lent a tremendous amount of depth to her reporting. Meanwhile, Angela’s expertise was more forensic in nature, following the money and navigating the legal aspects of the financial settlements and confidentiality agreements the women had signed, on most occasions, under duress. She had put copies of two redacted contracts in front of a trusted friend who had been horrified by some of the excessive requirements and legalese included. With years of this kind of reporting under her belt, Angela realized early on that the story, if published, might be a massive bombshell not just in New York but across the country.

They had only a single shared source; the one who put them in touch. In total, they had eleven. That number made Andy’s stomach clench. She wondered how many more were really out there.

By one o’clock, they had migrated to a small table in the back corner of the bar as the place filled and emptied and filled again throughout the course of the night. “I think we’re close, Andy. We just need to keep going. I’m going to connect with my editor on Monday and talk to him about everything we covered tonight.”

Andy’s eyes widened. “You’re telling people what you’re working on?”

Angela chuckled. “Of course I am. He has as much interest as I do in making this happen.”

“Are you sure that’s safe?”

She scoffed. “It’s not like Ravitz works for the mob. Hank can keep a secret. I’ve worked for him for fifteen years and I trust him implicitly. Don’t worry.”

Andy hoped she was right.

---

Somehow, Andy managed to keep her head above water. She got ten minutes of peaceful silence with Miranda every morning, did her job with the required level of excellence, and went home every night to work. She and Angela touched base every day, often multiple times, either by text or phone. When the Priestly twins’ spring break arrived, Miranda atypically insisted Andy visit her parents (whom she had only briefly seen at Christmas). She caught a crack-of-dawn flight and spent four long days trying in vain to focus on spending time with her family and not thinking about Miranda, or Irv, or the article, or Runway. Angela continued to text so often that her father finally asked when Miranda would leave her alone.

“It’s not Miranda, Dad. It’s something else.”

He raised his eyebrows. “New boyfriend?”

She just laughed. “It’s something I’m working on outside Runway. I’ll let you know how it goes.” She left it at that, despite the nagging sensation in her stomach that things were escalating to a breaking point. Her anxiety had grown dramatically in the last weeks; the most recent story she heard made her hair stand on end. For the first time, she’d felt not just paranoia, but fear. She slept poorly and worried constantly. Miranda noticed too; it had been the reason she’d sent Andy home.

As the summer equinox arrived, Andy started to wonder how much more evidence they would need to get the story into the paper, but Angela assured her that it would not be too much longer. They sent drafts of paragraphs back and forth, striking and rewriting whole sections all through July. The paper would take a massive risk by publishing the story at all, and the legal team would have to see everything in advance. That gave Andy pause, but they barrelled forward toward their goal with a singular purpose.

Eventually Andy became so nervous that she brought all her duplicate evidence, both paper and cassette, into the office. Her fear for the safety of the women who had told their secrets to her in confidence was too much. She carried everything unobtrusively into the Elias Clarke building on a humid morning in early August, notebooks and tapes stacked like sardines inside a small combination briefcase. It fit so precisely in her regular shoulder bag that Miranda herself didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary on their ride to the office. That her desk had uniquely locking drawers was one benefit, but so was the very public nature of its positioning. Anyone who went near it was on camera, and anyone who went inside the Runway offices at all was as well.

Things came to a head on a Tuesday evening exactly one week later. That night Andy went straight from work out to dinner with Lily and Doug, then arrived home to a ransacked apartment.

She bolted to her closet. The door was open, the fire safe gone. Her heart felt like it might fly out of her chest.

Calmly she left the apartment with its door wide open and somehow made it down the stairs into the street without collapsing. She called the police, then immediately rang up Angela, who sounded as rattled as Andy. They each spent more than a few minutes repeating to one another that it probably had nothing to do with the story. This was New York City; surely it was a random occurrence. But the thief had used a crowbar to get the safe out of the closet, ripping the floorboards up to get it.

“You had your laptop with you though, right?” Angela had said, as worried about their sources’ protection as Andy was.

“Yes. I have my notebooks with me too. And the safe was empty. I hope they’re pissed as hell if they get it open.”

“The safe was empty?” Angela echoed. “What the hell?”

Andy immediately realized she’d better stop talking. She assumed the burglars were long gone, but she could be mistaken. “Um, I’ll tell you later.” She was relieved when a police car pulled up to the curb, lights flashing. “Gotta go, the cops are here.”

“Are you going to tell them about the story?”

“Probably not. There’s no telling who they might know.”

The patrol officers were helpful as far as they could be; they were able to confirm the place was empty before Andy went in to check if anything else had been taken. The culprits had left four pairs of brand new, still-in-the-box Christian Louboutins next to the ripped out section of the closet floor. That detail alone told her this was not a coincidence. Any thief looking for high-value, easy to offload loot would have snapped up those shoes without a second thought.

The female officer took notes, frowning as she eyed the high-end shoeboxes. “You sure they weren’t looking for something specific?”

Andy waffled. She should probably say something, but either way was risky. Instead, she shook her head. They all waited for a crime scene tech to arrive; Andy hadn’t realized they would bother, but she was happy they at least gave it a try. That said, if the job was as professional as she thought it had been, the only prints she expected them to find were her own.

“You have someplace you can stay tonight?” one of the officers asked. The landlord wouldn’t be able to get a replacement door installed till the following day but had promised to board it up till the job was done.

Andy took a breath. She thought of Lily. She thought of Doug. She called Angela for a minute to let her know the cops were leaving and she was going somewhere else to sleep. Then she called Miranda.

Miranda, to her credit, picked up on the first ring. “What’s wrong?”

Andy wanted to laugh and ask why on earth she thought something was wrong. Then she said, “My apartment got broken into. Can I come over?”

Miranda inhaled sharply. “Yes. Yes, right away. Do you need Roy to come--”

“No, no. I’ll pack a bag and get a cab.”

The officer who had initially asked her the question whispered, “We’ll take you where you want to go.”

“Okay, thanks. The officers here will drop me off. Are the girls home?”

“They are, but never mind. Use your key. I’ll be in the study.”

Thirty minutes later, she stepped out of the police car on West 73rd. She did not need to use her key, however; the door swung open and there Miranda stood, practically wringing her hands. Andy hoisted her bag onto her shoulder, ignoring the twinge that came along with it. She still forgot that her left side was weaker after the accident, even with the PT she did for all those months. Then again, she’d started to let things slide some time ago.

“Hey,” Andy said as Miranda practically dragged her into the house, touching her shoulders, her elbows, then her cheeks as though looking for injuries.

“Are you sure you’re all right?”

Andy nodded. “I wasn’t there.”

Miranda stared, her mouth a thin line of anger. Andy knew it wasn’t directed at her, but it was frightening seeing her so upset. At the office, Miranda frequently displayed a dismissiveness that was perhaps more stinging than outright rage. She never raised her voice. She could disembowel an enemy with a few sharp words.

This Miranda was different.

“It’s because of what you’re working on,” Miranda said, and Andy took a breath. “It’s Irv. He knows, or his people do, whoever they might be. I assume you’ve learned a great deal.”

Andy opened her mouth but did not speak.

“I knew you had to have made progress; you barely say a word to me every morning, always scribbling in your notebook, texting, staring into space. I certainly knew you weren’t fantasizing about the layouts for the January issue.”

With a smile, Andy relaxed. She liked hearing Miranda make a joke. It calmed her more than anything else could have. She was so tired, so freaked out, so rattled, that she did something she’d wanted to for months and months: she leaned forward and put her head on Miranda’s shoulder. To her immense relief, Miranda wrapped strong arms around her and drew her in. Andy let her duffel slide off her sore shoulder, let her laptop bag fall to the floor alongside it. She put her arms around Miranda’s waist and breathed in the scent of her perfume and skin; it felt like delicious agony to finally hold her. Her body began to shake as she let herself feel the terror of the violation, but more importantly, the realization that her safety was uncertain.

“You’ll stay here,” Miranda said, almost as if she was talking to herself.

“Yeah,” Andy murmured. “I’m scared.”

Miranda gripped her harder, her chest expanding as she breathed in and out against Andy’s ear. “I’m not,” Miranda said, her voice so low and close it caused Andy to shiver violently in her embrace. Goosebumps broke out on her neck, racing down her arms.

There was a small thunder of footsteps from above as the twins appeared on the staircase. Andy was reminded then of the first time she’d ever met them, when she’d nearly been fired. It made her smile to think of it. “Hey kids,” she said.

“Andy, are you okay?” Caroline asked, or she thought it was Caroline. She couldn’t see her ears from here, but at this point it was a lot easier to tell them apart. The more time she spent with them, the more their differences were apparent.

Andy tried hard to hold back the tears that felt like they were crawling up the back of her throat, desperate to escape. Her eyes stung. “I’m good. But I’m gonna stay here tonight--”

“Girls, would you mind very much if Andrea stayed with us for an extended period?” Miranda asked, cutting her off. She released Andy as she turned toward her children.

The two girls wore the exact same expressions of anxiety. They could easily read the tension in the air. Both nodded vigorously.

“Uh--” Andy began hesitantly.

But Miranda had an ace up her sleeve. “I won’t sleep unless I know you’re safe,” she said firmly, meeting Andy’s eyes. “I want you under this roof. We have a top of the line alarm system and armed response. I’ve alerted them that we need additional protection for the time being. For all of us.”

That gave Andy pause. The idea of putting either Miranda or her children in danger was almost too much to consider.

Miranda’s eyes softened. “Please,” she said. “Please, stay here.”

Andy swallowed against a dry throat. “Okay,” she replied. “Okay.”

By then it was midnight, and the two glasses of wine she’d had with Doug and Lily alongside the stress of a burglary had given her a splitting headache. She climbed the stairs after the three Priestlys and followed Miranda into a bedroom on the third floor. It was cool and inviting, with the bedclothes turned down and fluffy towels on the dresser. Soft, filmy grey curtains moved gently with the breeze of the air conditioning. She dropped her bags on the floor and sat on the bed, closing her eyes.

“I’ve kept myself from asking any questions all this time, but I think we should talk in the morning,” Miranda said.

Andy bobbed her head in agreement. “I’ll tell you what I can. It won’t be much.”

“Fine. I’d say you should go in late, but that would draw even more attention to what happened. What about your apartment?”

“I should go over tomorrow to get some things and pick up a key. I’m getting a new door at some point.”

“Tell Leticia you have a doctor’s appointment. She’s perfectly capable of handling the desk on her own for a few hours.”

Andy preened a little on Letty’s behalf. She knew that Miranda’s office had been running smoothly because of her second assistant; Andy was tuned in only for the exact number of minutes she was in the office, and even then she wasn’t giving it 100%. Since this whole thing had started, she was probably working half the hours she used to. “I will. Thanks.” As Miranda stood awkwardly in the doorway, wearing a grey robe and no makeup, Andy wished she could pull her back into her arms. She was beautiful. “I mean it, Miranda. Thank you.”

Miranda’s troubled expression returned. She clasped her hands together. “You need to take care, Andrea.”

Andy tried to smile a little. “It’s almost over.”

Nodding, Miranda lifted her eyebrows and said, “Good.”

Chapter Text

It was weird for Andy, going to work with Miranda at 7:45 in the morning, leaving the office at 6 to meet Angela for dinner, then going back to Miranda’s sometime around 11 every night. Strangely, the only part of her routine that changed was the place she slept. She didn’t miss her apartment at all, not even on the weekends. Saturdays and Sundays she mostly spent poring over interviews, writing and rewriting, consulting with Angela and Hank, the Times editor who was now fully involved in their project, and drinking what seemed like gallons of coffee.

It was even weirder that no one at all noticed that Andy was now, for all intents and purposes, living with Miranda at the townhouse. While there, Andy shared as little information as possible. She kept it extremely brief: she was onto a story, it was likely going to be published in the fall, and it would affect a number of people she knew. She didn’t say that a few board members who had fired Irv the day Miranda had implicated him had already known and kept quiet about a number of Irv’s privately settled lawsuits. She didn’t say that one of the women Irv had coerced into a relationship had attempted to harm herself. She didn’t say that Irv was about to take the reins of Emarco Global, an international entertainment corporation with production offices around the world and four billion dollars in annual revenue. She didn’t say that for years, Irv and his lawyers had paid an intelligence agency hundreds of thousands of dollars to dig up background information on his victims to prevent them from going public. Andy assumed that the same agency had broken into her apartment, but she had no proof. As expected, there had been no identifiable fingerprints left behind after her apartment burglary.

If Andy had thought her relationship with Miranda might escalate once they were living in closer proximity, she was wrong. The entire month of August, she could count on one hand the number of hours they spent together. But Andy’s mind was in overdrive; romance was the last thing she could think about. The only fringe benefit she enjoyed was watching Miranda descend the staircase of her home every morning, dressed to the nines and smelling like a beautiful garden after a spring rain. Andy grew reliant on the smile Miranda granted her during her initial appraisal, followed by the returned devouring look as she took in Andy’s style choice (although uniformly less daring than Miranda’s) each day.

By mid-September, Angela and Hank were as ready to go as they could be. The lawyers and the fact checkers had done what they could to cover all their asses, especially those of the women who had so bravely offered their stories despite the stranglehold of confidentiality. Three were willing to have their identities published; the rest would go unnamed. A dozen former employees had breached their own NDAs as well, both anonymously and otherwise. But they each felt compelled to speak out once they realized their own experience was part of a larger pattern that had gone on long before their involvement and would continue indefinitely unless they revealed the truth.

Hank had carved everything out into a series of articles to run over the course of a full five days in early October, beginning on a Wednesday and wrapping with a half-page feature on the cover of the Sunday edition. A graphic designer excited about the project was developing a special interactive timeline to accompany the digital version of the paper as well. For the most part, Andy’s work was done. With the help of a lawyer, she’d established a contract that afforded her a standard freelance fee per word and a co-author byline on all the articles. For so many months of work, it wasn’t much. But Angela had hinted they might continue their collaboration after publication. She had an idea for something bigger that would involve more writing, more research, and eventually, more money.

Meanwhile, action at the office was ramping up to the dull roar that always accompanied the approach of Fashion Week. She had briefly waffled over the decision to go along with Miranda on the trip to Paris. But when she thought about anyone other than herself at Miranda’s side for the shows, the dinners, the red carpets, she knew there was no choice to be made. She would attend, no matter what.

But as she helped the team prepare for Runway’s biggest week of the year, she understood that this would be the end of her time at the magazine. The article would come out only a few days after their return, so she planned to resign around the same time. Although in theory she could continue on, her whistleblower status providing legal protection, she would not. For one thing, she loved Miranda; she was certain Miranda cared for her as well. She hoped that once she was out from under the assistant’s mantle, Miranda would be willing to try some sort of relationship, whether clandestine or not.

But beyond that, Andy had truly found her calling. It shouldn’t have been a surprise; she’d spent five years focused almost exclusively on journalism in college, and two years before that in high school. If she was fortunate, a freelance contributor byline in a bombshell series of New York Times front page articles would help her find a new job.

Two weeks before their scheduled departure, Andy met with Angela for their standard dinner on a Friday night. This time it was Angela’s treat; she sprung for a delicious meal at Sfoglia, where Andy ate so much pasta and dessert she was fit to burst.

As she paid the bill, Angela said, “Consider it a thank you. You’ve been an unbelievable partner all this time. I’ve collaborated with a lot of other writers over the years, but ego always gets in the way. That never happened once with you. The work was always the most important thing.” She smiled in appreciation. “That rarely happens with new journalists. They usually take any criticism really hard.”

Andy laughed. “Oh, don’t worry, I had to get taken down a few pegs when I first started at Runway.” She thought back at the person she’d been on the day she met Miranda. “Okay, a lot of pegs.”

“I can imagine. I still can’t believe you’ve been able to pull all this off. How did you convince Miranda to let you out of the cage on time every night? I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about the hours her staff works.”

Andy flushed slightly, then worried her affection would show on her face. She could not let it slip, not now when they were so close to the end of the road. “I won’t say Miranda was unaffected when Irv left. She is known for being tough, some might say impossible to please, but it’s about the work. If you can’t do it, you can’t stay. She didn’t get soft, but she changed the culture with really small adjustments. When I started at Runway there were all these bizarre ‘rules’ I heard about that were actually just rumors. Stuff like you couldn’t have photos of your family on your desk, that you couldn’t eat at the office, or hell, you couldn’t eat anything because you had to be a size zero. Now, I will say that at the beginning Miranda had unrealistic body type standards, but she’s become more open in the last couple of years.” Andy still thought back to the day Miranda had called her fat. She wondered if she’d ever have the guts to bring it up and ask for an apology. At this rate, she probably would. “That’s growth in this crazy industry. Call it a work in progress. But off the record, Elias Clarke HR now requires modernized harassment training for new employees and annual refreshers for everyone either full-time or freelance. It’s not a joke anymore. I guarantee that would not have happened under the Ravitz regime.” Andy had also noticed a handful of names disappear from the Runway talent rosters over the last quarter in particular; names she had heard whispers about, unlike Irv. A few photographers who had been worshipped by the masses had quietly vanished from the magazine’s pages. Andy wondered who had finally spilled the beans, because Miranda never said a word about it to her.

“But that doesn’t explain how you were able to reduce your hours,” Angela prodded, reminding Andy that she was a crack investigator. She just wasn’t used to being the one under the microscope.

She presented the excuse she’d had in her pocket for a couple of months. “I’m hourly, and when we hired a new second, it was better for her to get the lion’s share of OT. I got a raise when I was elevated to executive assistant, so it works out. And believe me, I start early. I’m on the clock by 8 every morning at the latest, so I still get overtime. It’s an even exchange.” She also did not mention that assistants and coordinators across the Runway floor now were officially required to take 45 minutes (most managers gave an hour) for lunch, as directed by labor laws. Emily’s self-imposed 15 minute limit was out the window as soon as she left for the beauty department. Elias Clarke was lucky it hadn’t already been sued by past assistants, who would easily have been able to make a case for abusive practices.

“Makes sense,” Angela said, signing the receipt after the server handed it back to her. “I’m glad to reap the benefits. Have you thought about what you’ll do when the article comes out?”

Andy nodded. “I’ve decided to go to Paris for Fashion week, then I’m done. I’m hoping a contributor byline on a big story will help me land something at a paper or a monthly. Miranda always offers to help her assistants get gigs when they make it to a year, but I’d rather get something on my own.” She definitely didn’t want to add the why behind that reasoning.

Angela was staring at Andy as though she’d grown another head. “Andy, you’re kidding, right?”

“Kidding about what?”

She shook her head. “I guess we’ll have to see what happens. But I’m betting you won’t be hard up for offers once the story lands. I’ll just leave it at that.”

Angela stood from their table and Andy followed as they both donned their coats. Fall was in the air, a brisk breeze caressing Andy’s face as they stepped outside. “Want to share a cab? I know you’re downtown and you can drop me off on the way.”

Andy stilled. She hadn’t mentioned that she had only been back to her apartment sporadically to pick up clothes and throw away old takeout from her fridge since the break in. “I’m good. I’m actually staying with friends up in this neighborhood.”

Eyebrows raised, Angela replied, “Well-heeled friends.”

With a laugh, Andy just waved her off. “There is a thing called rent control in this city, you know.” It wasn’t exactly a lie, but she didn’t feel badly about the misdirection. She didn’t ask Angela where she slept every night. Besides, she didn’t want to attract any attention to the unusual situation she was in at the moment. Staying at her boss’s home, however innocent it might actually be, while investigating high-level harassment claims of a former CEO and the employees under him felt a little uncomfortable. But not enough to send her back home. She still felt like she was being watched. “I haven’t really been back since the burglary,” she confessed. “I’m too creeped out.”

“Yeah, I get that. I like having a doorman and a husband who works from home. So far we haven’t noticed anything odd, but I’ve also been in the business long enough to make sure my info is as invisible as possible. If they’re following me, they’re not getting into the building without being seen.”

“Yeah, a doorman would be nice. Even though it might still be a coincidence.”

Angela met her eyes. She cleared her throat. “Right.”

It was a quick walk “home” for Andy, who admittedly looked over her shoulder a few times on her trip. She put her key in the lock and was relieved when she got inside without incident. Feeling a little foolish, she shook her coat and hung it in the closet, noticing the Book still there on its regular side table. It was Friday, so that wasn’t too much of a surprise.

She heard the tap-tap-tap of nails on the hardwood floors before Patricia came into view, panting with her wide doggie grin. Andy happily knelt and gave her some good scratches, adroitly avoiding a long line of drool with skill borne of bad experiences. “Where’s your mommy, huh? Is she around?”

Patricia knew “mommy” because that’s what the twins called Miranda. She turned around and trotted to the staircase and up to the second floor, where Andy found the twins sleeping on a long couch. The television was on but muted as Miranda lounged on the couch opposite them, reading what looked like a novel. That was a surprise; Miranda rarely had time to read for pleasure from what Andy had noticed about her habits at home.

Andy leaned against the entryway and watched with a contented smile as Patricia took her place of honor at Miranda’s feet.

Miranda’s eyes lifted from her book, smiling serenely. “Early night?”

Andy nodded. “Just dinner.” She motioned with her chin toward the other end of the sofa. “I’m going to change for bed. Mind if I join you after?”

“Please,” Miranda replied, her glasses slipping a little down the bridge of her nose. “There’s wine, if you like.”

“‘Kay.” Andy quietly headed to the third floor bedroom that had become her temporary home. Miranda had ruefully accepted her Old Navy pajama pants and tees after offering in vain to replace them with something higher end. As Andy dressed in the soft, cotton drawstring pants, decorated with an assortment of dogs (including Saint Bernards), it occurred to her just how bizarre it was to be hanging out in her PJs on a Friday night with her boss and family in this magnificent home.

She had grown used to the sounds of life and activity here and dreaded the return to her apartment, filled with a different type of noise. Cars driving by, neighbor music (or arguments), parties across the street had never bothered her. They had felt like pieces of city life she had come to love. Now she knew she would long for the cool silence of the townhouse, punctuated by the occasional shrieks and laughter of two sweet kids, the barking of a lumbering dog, and the quiet affection for them all from the woman who had become the center of Andy’s life.

She blinked back the sudden onset of tears.

On her way downstairs, she ran into Caroline and Cassidy as they climbed to their bedrooms, one next to Andy’s and one across the hall. “Night, kids,” she said, surprised when they each went in for a half-hug from her, mumbling their own good nights in return. She stopped to make chamomile tea for herself, bypassing the open bottle of sauvignon blanc in the fridge.

When she returned to the living room, the tv had been shut off, the flat panel hidden behind closed cabinet doors. The only light was the one Miranda was reading by. Instead of taking the sofa the twins had recently vacated, she sat at the opposite end of Miranda’s couch and leaned back to face her. Miranda, in turn, slipped a metal bookmark into her book and closed it. Then to Andy’s pleasure, she mirrored Andy’s pose, her bare toes only a couple of feet from Andy’s in their fluffy socks.

“You look serious,” Miranda began.

“I have a lot on my mind,” Andy said, unsure where to start.

As usual, Miranda was already two steps ahead of where Andy was. “Please tell me you haven’t changed your mind about coming to Paris… Leticia is stellar but I’m not sure I can deal--I need you with me.”

It was a relief not to have to deny Miranda this one important thing. “Of course I’m coming, I promise. But… I think I need to give notice now and be done when we come back. I was thinking the Tuesday after would be my last day.”

Miranda closed her eyes and nodded once, sighing deeply. “I convinced myself it wasn’t time yet. But I knew.” When she opened her eyes, she looked so bereft it nearly broke Andy’s heart. “You don’t owe it to me, but is there anything I should be worried about?”

“You aren’t mentioned at all, except that you run the flagship publication of Elias Clarke. But I will say, it might be rough seas for a while. It’s going to be… well, it’s a bigger deal than I thought it would be.” Andy didn’t want to use the word bombshell, but that was what this story would be for everyone at the company. And possibly beyond it. “I could probably stay after everything comes out, but I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“Will you--will you go back to your apartment?” Miranda asked.

Andy had never heard her voice so broken, not even when Stephen had left. Considering they’d never so much as kissed, this non-romantic romance was killing both of them. Or was Andy creating a fantasy out of nothing? Not talking about the elephant in the room felt like a mistake at this point. “I--I want… I want a lot of things. But I can’t say what they are yet. Can you understand?”

Miranda tilted her head, eyeing Andy carefully. “Tell me more.”

Andy forged ahead. “Looking into this whole thing has completely changed my perspective on the line between boss and employee. I mean, we have sort of… an unusual arrangement, here. If you told me the day we’d met I’d end up living with you for any reason I’d have laughed in your face.”

That made Miranda smile. “That makes two of us. After I stopped laughing, I’d have been rather insulted.”

“Of course you would have been,” Andy quipped, shaking her hands at the side of her head as Miranda sometimes did when she wanted something to just go away. “But I--I want to be in your life, Miranda. I don’t know what you want from me, if anything, when all this is over, but I hope this isn’t the end of the line. I think,” Andy swallowed hard, trying not to tear up again, “I couldn’t bear to not see you anymore. Even as, I don’t know, maybe friends?”

There was a very long pause as Miranda watched her. “Is that what you want?” Miranda asked softly. “To be friends?”

Andy was trembling with nerves now. Slowly, she shook her head.

Miranda exhaled uneasily in what looked like a shiver of relief. “Well. That’s… that’s good.”

Andy hadn’t realized how tense Miranda had been till she practically melted into the sofa. “It is?” Andy replied, almost surprised. She knew what she wanted, but to hear that perhaps Miranda wanted it too was somehow unexpected.

Miranda nodded. “We’ll just… wait.” She squirmed slightly in her seat; Andy wondered if she was thinking about not being friends the way Andy was at the moment.

Now Andy wanted to spell things out a little more since she and Miranda were on the same page. “Neither of us will owe the other anything. I’ll find another job, and we’ll be even. I mean, not really even at all, but it won’t be this,” Andy said, motioning to the space between them, as Miranda had months ago. “The line won’t be there anymore.”

“I can help you find another--”

“I know you could,” Andy quickly cut her off. “I know you would. But I might not need help. Not after the, um, big thing happens.”

Miranda rolled her eyes. “I can’t wait for the day we don’t have to talk in code any longer. I don’t know who we’re trying to fool. No one’s listening in with a glass at the wall.”

“At least you have plausible deniability. Even though I’m living here and people are probably watching every move the both of us make.”

“I suppose. We certainly put on a good show for the cameras between the house and the car every day. You always look so put upon as I rattle off my list of impossible tasks before you even set foot in the office.” Miranda frowned. “Are you concerned that simply because of your proximity to me you’ll become part of the story?”

Andy shrugged. “Someone broke into my apartment and stole what they thought was data that would put a lot of people at risk. I don’t think it’s unreasonable that I’d relocate for my own safety. And I think you’re a lot scarier than your security guards, Miranda. You could kill an interloper with one look.”

Miranda appreciated that compliment, the flush creeping up her neck as evidence of her pleasure. “Would that I could. I’d enjoy that power very much.”

“Anyway, I’ll probably get drawn in no matter what I do. I’m pretty much blowing the whistle on a cover-up. But I’m not telling my own story at all. I’m just helping others tell theirs.” Andy thought about it for a minute. “I’m a conduit of the truth.”

“Well, we’ll both be targets then. No good deed goes unpunished.” Miranda’s gaze was flat and unimpressed when it settled on Andy. “It’s not a pleasant position to be in. I may not escape this scandal unscathed, no matter who is at fault.”

“At least we’ll be in it together,” Andy suggested more cheerfully than she felt. She hated the fact that Miranda was right. They might both be dragged through the mud once the media realized that Andy had worked for La Priestly, and Elias Clarke, till the day before the news broke. “I’ll defend your good name if it comes down to it.”

Miranda threw her head back and let out an exuberant “ha.” “That’s a first. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a good name to defend. You know what they say about me. Dragon lady. Career-obsessed. God only knows what they’ll call me now.”

Andy suddenly wanted to change the article to include all the incremental adjustments Miranda had made within Runway since Irv’s departure. She wanted to call Angela and ask her to add a whole section dedicated to it. Instead, she pressed her lips together and remained calm. Miranda would survive this. She had no concept of the breadth of accusations about to be publicly leveled at Irv Ravitz; she couldn’t know the seriousness of it, not to mention the financial and legal implications.

Miranda was many things; she might be career-obsessed, she might be impossible to please, she might be dismissive and thankless and yes, some might call her a dragon lady. But Andy had not once heard an inkling of sexual harassment or coercion toward any gender. She had never made even half a pass at Andy, who had spent months dreaming of kissing her and would happily have fallen at her feet many months ago.

“You might be surprised. I know what I’d say about you if anyone asked.”

That appeared to turn Miranda’s thoughts in a more pleasing direction. Her eyebrow lifted in easily the most sensual expression she’d ever displayed in front of Andy. “Oh?”

Andy tried not to let her mouth fall open as she made a conscious effort not to throw herself across the sofa into the arms of this woman. Why were they waiting, anyway? No one would know. It would be so easy, so effortless to just set down her mug and slide across the couch and -

But Andy would know. They both would. It would be all over their faces when they went to Paris. Andy knew that once she had Miranda Priestly in her bed, she would glow with the knowledge of it. She would shine and shimmer like a million-watt light bulb. She would--

Miranda waved a hand in front of Andy’s face. “Hello in there?”

“Huh?” Andy replied as she snapped out of her stupor. “What was the question?”

Miranda seemed to retract her body a few inches, following the path Andy’s traitorous brain had taken. She rubbed her face with one hand. “Never mind.”

---

Andy spent Saturday mostly holed up in her borrowed room, updating her resume and putting together writing samples, some of which felt like she’d written a thousand years ago. On Monday she would formally submit her notice so HR could put out a job description for a second assistant. Letty would, thankfully, be elevated to executive assistant and would have a direct hand in the hiring of her #2. She didn’t know it yet but she was about to get a promotion.

Andy wondered what Nigel would say when he heard she was leaving. He occasionally asked how her “side project” was going, but Andy had never given him any information about it. His lack of involvement would protect him from retaliation, or she hoped it would. Lots of people who worked for Elias Clarke would have known Janine and could have suggested Andy speak with her, so he would be free and clear.

Andy also skimmed the job boards, none of which looked particularly promising. She had seen a couple of interesting postings at The Mirror last month when she’d poked around, but those were now gone and there was word of layoffs coming on one of the gossip sites she followed. She shivered, relieved she hadn’t flown the coop earlier for what may have seemed like greener pastures.

On Sunday, Andy met Doug and Lily for brunch at the Mayrose. It was crowded, but not so much that they couldn’t get a table right away. Lily wrinkled her nose as they were seated, asking, “When was the last time we didn’t have to wait to get waffles?”

Doug snorted. “Never. Maybe this place is on its way down. Like the rest of the economy.”

Lily rolled her eyes. “Dude, my 401k is killing it right now. Why do you say things like that? Are you trying to freak me out?”

“Because there’s a recession coming, dude,” he replied. “You know it’s my job to watch this stuff. Real estate is in the shitter but the market hasn’t corrected yet. Put your money in bonds and staples and you’ll hang onto it. Or hell, just put it in cash for a minute and reinvest when things change. Normally, I’d hate to have you miss on compound interest and dollar cost averaging, but this time is an exception.”

“There’s a lot of information in there that I don’t have my head wrapped around, except the first one.” Lily said. “Recession?”

Doug nodded as he perused the menu. “Trust and believe in Janet Yellen. I do.” He set down the menu and said, “Omelettes always kill here. I’m going for it.”

“Hi, I think we also have a fire drill to deal with, money man. Will you help me move some money around? I don’t have much, but I’d prefer to be safe for a while,” Lily said, unable to shift her attention back to food.

“You know it. We can do it today, if you want.”

“I want. Andy, how about you?”

Andy laughed. Her 401k was puny, but she’d take the advice anyway. It was hard to lose your shirt when you barely had one to begin with. “Yep, guide us, oh wise one.” Maybe she’d give Miranda a tip when she got home.

“Laugh now, but in a year no one’s gonna be laughing. But that’s not what we’re talking about. Andy, let’s hear it. You definitely have news,” Doug said, elbows on the table, head in his two hands.

“Well, I do have news,” Andy started. “I’m um, I’m leaving Runway in a couple of weeks.”

Both her friends’ eyes grew wide at her announcement. “Holy crap, I can’t believe it!” Lily crowed. “Did you finally decide that fashion is the enemy of the people?”

“Or did you and Miranda finally do the deed?” Doug asked, leaning forward with excitement.

Andy gasped. “No!” she practically shouted. “And no. What the hell, Doug, why would you ask something like that? I would never sleep with my boss.”

He and Lily looked at each other, clearly in disbelief. “Andy,” he said carefully, “we know you’re into her. It’s okay. I get it. Miranda’s hot as hell.”

Lily nodded too. “She treated you like shit that whole first year, but this year was different. I mean, after you and Nate split, anyway. Seemed like things changed. And you always talk like you’re madly in love with her. It’s cool with me, if you’re worried, which obviously you shouldn’t be, after my thing with Amanda last summer.”

Andy had so much she wanted to share with them both, but it wasn’t time. “Well, I mean, yes, I am into her, but no, I didn’t sleep with her. It wouldn’t be right for either of us.” She glanced up at the ceiling. “Not yet, anyway. But maybe after I’m done. Maybe. I don’t even know if she’s really into me,” Andy said, deliberately not thinking of the change in tension between them since their recent conversation. “She’s been married a bunch of times.”

“Well, maybe there’s a reason none of those marriages ever took,” Doug said with a lecherous grin, tapping her on the nose with his index finger. “So, no sex is being had. But after you leave, where are you going? You must have something lined up.”

Andy took a deep breath. “Actually, no. I don’t.”

Both her friends, again, stared at her as though she had gone completely off the deep end. Lily was first to intervene. “Honey, you can’t quit without a job. Is there something happening that we don’t know about? A reason you have to go now?”

Andy bobbed her head, then shook it. “I have an iron in the fire. It’s something that will pay my rent for a few months while I get something else. I don’t have a ton of savings but it’ll be enough to get by at least till January. Probably February.”

The server interrupted them then, so they gave their orders as quickly as possible to get back down to business. Andy continued, “The insurance thing is annoying but I can make it work, simmer down, Doug,” she said, seeing the outrage on his face. “Sometimes you seem like a 63-year-old near retirement instead of a guy on the verge of 28.”

“I am that 63-year-old on the inside. Andy, you know I have total faith in you, but this is a risk.”

“Must be a big iron if you’re willing to leave your job over it. Doesn’t Miranda owe you a connection?” Lily asked.

“In theory, yes,” Andy said. “But I’m going to try and go it alone.” She looked down at her hands, feeling that innate sense of inadequacy where Miranda was concerned. “I know you guys were sort of joking when you were talking about us, but… I love her. A lot. I don’t want to use her to get ahead in my career.”

“Wow,” Lily said, reaching out a hand to cover Andy’s. “Love. That’s not… I mean, I shouldn’t be surprised. You’ve been mooning over her for a long time.”

Andy turned her hand over and held Lily’s. “I know it sounds nuts. The age difference alone could be a deal-breaker, but to be honest, it’s totally not. It’s just a fact. And I know her so much better now that I’ve been st--” And then Andy remembered that she had told neither Doug nor Lily that she had been living with Miranda since August.

“Since you’ve been…” Doug prodded.

Andy cleared her throat and replied weakly, “Staying with her.”

Lily sat up straighter in her seat. Andy could practically see the cartoon siren, flashing red and rotating wildly over her head. “That does not sound healthy. You’re living there?”

She grimaced. “Since the break-in.”

With a wince, Doug put a hand to his forehead. “Andy, this feels off. Why are you there?”

As much as she wanted to tell them about the article, she couldn’t. It would only be a couple of more weeks and then they’d know. Everyone would. “I was scared. Miranda thought it would be easier if she just put me up for a bit. She has a good alarm system. Since Nate left, I’ve been on my own and I was just kind of scared.” She crossed her fingers that this made sense as an excuse. For the most part, it was true.

“I guess, but it’s been a couple months. When are you moving home?” Lily asked.

Opening her mouth, Andy realized she didn’t know the answer. “Probably after I quit.”

Doug started to smile. “Or not at all,” he added.

Andy looked at him with uncertainty.

“Honey, I think you’re the most extreme example of the lesbian u-haul joke. You moved in before you started dating. You couldn’t even wait till the second date!” Doug clapped loudly as he cracked himself up, and Andy joined Lily in laughter as other patrons stared in irritation at their noisy table.

---

Later, Andy went to her apartment and packed the best of her Runway collection to bring to Paris. The rest she stashed in neatly lined up garment bags in her closet so it could all go back to the office once she returned to the states. She’d have to use some of her article money to replenish her work attire since she’d been dressing in styles way out of her budget for more than a year.

The first of her last two weeks sped by. She worked an old-school schedule of 7am to nearly 10pm every day, helping Letty not flip about hiring someone, making sure the events in Paris were scheduled down to the minute, confirming with Jeremy about picking up the twins on Wednesday, and packing her own things in preparation for the upcoming flight. By Friday afternoon Andy was exhausted like she hadn’t been for ages. At least on the plane, she might be able to get some sleep.

She checked in with Angela that evening to make sure everything was still on track. It was; the leadership hadn’t gotten cold feet and the legal team was confident as confirmations of all their work rolled in. Barring any discoveries in the coming days, they would flip the switch on the story.

And so the following afternoon, Andy got into the car with Miranda and an unfamiliar driver (Roy had the weekend off) took them to the airport. Their entire entourage breezed through security despite the Saturday rush due to an apparent head’s up--not from Andy in this case--that Miranda was on her way. Sometimes it was nice to get special treatment.

Miranda always flew first class but often her staff did not; they were lucky to get business and were sometimes stuck in coach. This year, the Runway team took up more than half the first class section of an enormous Boeing jet. Without Irv running things, the interim Chairman, Charles Landon, caved to nearly all of Miranda’s requests, which at this point weren’t really requests, as such. Landon had been a board member for a long time and was unlikely to be voted in for the permanent position, but at least he was making an effort to keep the boat from sinking. Sometimes Andy thought Miranda should get on the board herself. She could do it without sacrificing a great deal of time to the job, since she so frequently had to present to the board her own reports of the magazine’s financial status. Those presentations were a lot less stressful for everyone since Irv’s departure.

Andy was very happy to revel in her comfortable seat. There was some work to be done on the flight, but she was tired after so few hours of sleep and the day spent confirming what felt like a thousand arrangements both at home and abroad. Glancing over at Miranda a few feet away, she raised her eyebrows.

As it so often happened recently, Miranda seemed to read her thoughts. “I’ll wake you when I need you.”

With a grateful smile and a silent “Thank you,” Andy grabbed earplugs and an eye mask and promptly checked out.

Some time later, a bit of mild turbulence woke her from a sound sleep. She lifted her mask to recognize dim cabin lighting and flight attendants handing out warm towels to those who were awake. Sitting up, she checked her watch, already changed to Paris time. It was just about 6:45am, which meant she’d slept nearly the entire flight. When a blonde flight attendant noticed she was awake, he leaned down and said softly, “Can I bring you breakfast and coffee? We’ll touch down in a little over an hour so I can sneak you in.”

Andy eagerly nodded, making a lightning fast choice of an omelette, toast and fruit along with coffee, water, and juice. She had a full tray in front of her when Miranda raised her own eye mask and looked over. Her eyes were greedy as she took in the spread, so Andy waved over her new pal and ordered scrambled eggs for Miranda as well.

She ate quickly so they could spend at least a few minutes catching up. As usual for long haul trips, Miranda had an empty seat beside her, purchased so various staff could come and go without displacing one another. Andy thought it was an outrageous expense, but she also wanted to take advantage of it so it wasn’t a total waste of money.

After a quick freshen up in the tiny bathroom, Andy returned feeling more human than she had in days. “Hey,” she said as she slid into the seat, notebook in hand. “You didn’t have to let me sleep so long.”

“I most certainly did,” Miranda said as she sliced a strawberry in two. “You would have been useless with no rest. I know you’ve barely slept all week.” At that, she glanced around, realizing that it would not do for either of them to be caught having an intimate conversation. Most people were preoccupied, so she continued. “I heard you snoring.”

Andy just ignored her with a grin and opened her book to run through the schedule for the day, which was packed with meetings: lunch, drinks, more drinks, dinner, then drinks again, all with designers or couturiers. The same went for the following day, except jammed with shows between the various meals, drinks, and more meals. Today Miranda would do all her meetings solo, but tomorrow Andy would attend the shows as part of the Runway entourage. Throughout the rest of the week she had a bit of time to herself between events that she intended to fill with whatever she could. A walk along the Seine, a stop at the Rodin museum (she doubted she could fit a visit to the Louvre in), a stroll down the Champs-Élysées would be quite enough. She fervently hoped this would be the first of many trips to the City of Lights.

After touchdown, disembarkment and the trip to the Ritz were uneventful, even counting the throng of paparazzi waiting at the airport. It was nothing Miranda wasn’t used to, but Andy, even after so many crowded events hovering just behind her boss’s shoulder, still hated it. It made her dread the aftermath of the article and she hoped that she would remain anonymous for the most part. Andy spent most of the car ride staring out the window, awed by the beauty that was Paris. She continued to gape, to Miranda’s obvious amusement, when they arrived at the Place Vendôme. The staff at the Ritz handled everything with a speed and efficiency that Andy envied; she knew they were eminently capable but experiencing it first hand was another story.

When she arrived at her room, which turned out not to be a room but a suite, she gazed around with a frown, thinking that she’d inadvertently taken Miranda’s accommodations. But when she headed for the door, Miranda was there, observing her with a generous smile. Andy shook her head. “I can’t stay here.”

“Yes, you can. I chose it for you.”

Andy put a hand to her head, gazing at her surroundings, uncertain what to say. Miranda simply strolled through and out of the living room, so Andy followed her, taking in the gorgeous pale blue furniture and Louis XV style chairs, floor to ceiling windows, and a table with a little tray of macarons that were apparently there for her own consumption. They ended up in a bedroom with a fireplace and a crystal chandelier, and then went out onto a balcony with a small table and two chairs. From here Andy could admire the hotel’s remarkable architecture, along with an immaculately tended garden and a little café below. Miranda sat down, shielding her eyes as the sun peeked out from among the clouds. Andy sat as well, stunned at the extravagance. “You shouldn’t have done this. I booked myself in a room like the rest of the team, Miranda.”

“Well, I am the boss. For another few days, at least,” Miranda said, her half grin wildly appealing. “And I wanted you on the first floor, near me. With you staying here, we get the best of both worlds. Garden and city.”

“How do you mean?”

“Come along,” Miranda said, so Andy did. Within a minute they had moved to Miranda’s palatial suite, with crystal chandeliers, antique desks and chairs, luxurious couches, and a magnificent four poster bed that was a major distraction for Andy. But the pièce de résistance was the view of the Vendôme column, visible from a terrace and the many windows that lined the suite. Andy wished she could press herself against Miranda’s side, sliding an arm around her waist as they gazed out at the city. Instead, she put her hands behind her back, one hand grasping the other wrist to keep herself from reaching out.

“It’s incredible, Miranda. Thank you for sharing it with me.”

When Miranda’s eyes met hers, Andy felt the love inside her welling up and mirrored back. She looked away, unwilling to let it take over just yet. “I should,” she cleared her throat, “go unpack and let you get on with your day.”

“You’re coming to the welcome reception,” Miranda stated firmly, then softened her tone. “Rather, aren’t you?”

“I was going to unpack--”

“Let the butler service do it for you. I know you’ll end up tipping them whether you use them or not. Put it all on your expense account, please. Just don’t go overboard.” She sniffed. “Too overboard. Not everyone will respect your bleeding heart habit of overtipping.”

Andy smiled. “You know me so well.”

“Indeed.”

Andy scurried off, afraid if she stayed too much longer she really would go in for that embrace, or more than. The Parisian air had already started to affect her impulse control. Or maybe it was just the way Miranda looked in this place, the differences in the light caressing her features delicately, making her rose mouth softer, her eyes more blue.

She went back to her ridiculous suite, running into absolutely no one. She wondered where Nigel was in relation to them and hoped he was on another floor altogether. Quickly she unpacked her things and hung them up, ignoring Miranda’s advice and doing a quick steam of the most wrinkled items with the supplies in the closet. She’d brought far more than she would on any other trip, but she’d also need three times the clothes. As a Runway rep, she needed multiple options for morning, afternoon, and evening. She was glad she’d nabbed a few extra dresses from the Closet before she left on Friday. Already she had decided to wear one that afternoon to the reception in lieu of a few hours roaming Paris. But really, wouldn’t she rather hover in Miranda’s orbit, watching her shine for all those who worshipped at her feet? She would.

An hour later, she left some euros on her pillow under the assumption that housekeeping would be in to turn down her bed later, even though that creeped her out a bit. Miranda, on the other hand, had a massive amount of luggage and was used to other people hauling it around, caring for it, and then repacking it when the trip was over. Andy just wasn’t comfortable letting people she didn’t know touch her stuff. When the staff went into her room later, they would probably not be able to tell she’d been there unless they opened the closet door. All her valuables and the computer were in the safe and everything else was out of sight.

She went down the opulent hallway to Miranda’s room and knocked; a few moments later, Miranda opened the door and perused her in the usual fashion. A quick motion of her head south, then slowly her eyes crawled up the rest of Andy’s body, noting the little touches Andy had added to dress up her little black Zac Posen. Short boots with silver chains at the ankles, long matching necklaces hanging down her torso, a huge aquamarine ring on her index finger, and her hair brushed straight and sleek as she could get it in twenty minutes. A nod of response gave Andy goosebumps.

Only then did she admire Miranda’s structured military jacket with a little shock attached--the silver, draping chains at the shoulder matched Andy’s ensemble as if they’d planned it. Miranda wore it not with a dress or a skirt but figure-hugging black trousers, plus the knife-like heels she’d donned when Irv got the boot all those months ago. Most people thought Miranda would not wear garments twice simply because of her position, but she did so all the time. She just rarely paired the same selections together unless she really loved the particular look. She wore an enormous amount of black and white, often with a splash of red. But she gravitated toward unusual prints, animal or otherwise, and had taken a shine to a new designer whose digitally printed mandalas would be featured in the upcoming March issue. Andy expected Miranda to wear one of the as-yet-unseen dresses on Tuesday or Wednesday and was looking forward to it.

But today, she would enjoy the sight of those trousers. She felt the heat flaring in her cheeks as Miranda disappeared behind a set of double doors, perhaps to the bathroom to finish her makeup. Andy spent the time she had alone admiring the incredible suite. There were flowers everywhere; on a writing desk, on a glass coffee table, on a tall chest of drawers. The soft blush tones of the decor were calming; the design and details were more whimsical than in her rooms. She also noticed a portrait of the Duke of Windsor in a prime location and had a realization.

When Miranda emerged, she stopped short at the look on Andy’s face. “What?” Miranda asked.

Andy felt like a total idiot; she’d booked the suite herself more than eight months prior. She’d asked Miranda her preference, to which she responded, “You know what I like. Just not Chanel.” Andy had asked for the most romantic of the options and ended up with this one. “I think I know why it’s called the Windsor suite.”

Miranda smirked. “Go in the bedroom, you’ll recognize Wallis right away.”

So Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson had stayed here. Andy decided she did not want to go into the bedroom, because that would be just… too much. “I’ll take your word for it.”

“I used to stay in a different suite, but after last year I prefer something else. This is perfect. I’m glad you chose it.”

Ah, so last year was the Chanel suite, where she had heard that Coco had lived for more than thirty years. Only then did Andy consider what traumatic memories Miranda might have of this hotel--the divorce papers, the James Holt near-debacle, the discovery of Irv’s predilections--and that she should have selected another location in the city. “Oh my gosh, Miranda, I--”

“I told you I wanted to stay here, and I do. My second choice was the Hôtel de Crillon, but when one stands on their balconies it sounds like every bus in Paris is driving through the lobby.” She brushed her shoulders free of imaginary lint and tugged down her jacket to straighten it. “You would have enjoyed the views had we gotten their rooftop suite, however. Perhaps another time.” She disappeared again, leaving Andy to consider when “another time” might be.

Chapter Text

The reception was, in fact, nearby at the aforementioned Hôtel de Crillon, and Andy noticed that it was absolutely awash with activity. The ballroom was opulent, overlooking the Place de la Concorde, which Andy thought she’d want to get out and visit before they left if she had time.

Andy mostly hovered near Miranda, never drinking from her single glass of champagne and making sure Miranda’s Pellegrino was always chilled to the proper temperature and refilled on the regular. A photographer was skulking around, taking candid shots of the various movers and shakers from Elias Clarke and its “friendly” industry competitors. Andy did her best to stay out of the shots, although she was caught once or twice without realizing it. She was thrilled when Nigel arrived and saw the flash go off as they hugged. Emily was not far behind and Andy was surprised when she went in for a real kiss on the cheek.

“You look not horrible,” Emily said, eyeing her outfit. “That ring’s quite nice.”

“Always so effusive,” Andy replied, taking in Emily’s surprisingly subdued ensemble; she must be saving the Westwood for show days. “You look great, as usual.”

“I know it’s boring but this is the business part.” She snapped up two glasses of champagne for herself and Nigel, handing one over. “I heard you gave notice, by the way. Where are you headed? Scholastic Reader?” she quipped.

Andy rolled her eyes as Nigel chuckled. “I’m taking some time off,” she replied, using the non-explanation she came up with whenever people asked what was next.

She wished she’d had a camera the moment she said the words, because their eyes became simultaneously, comically large. “Are you joking?” Nigel asked softly, concerned. “Six, are you sure about this?”

Andy nodded, taking the smallest sip possible from her champagne. “Just need a little break.”

The two of them stared at her for longer than expected. Emily stated, “Well, that’s got to be a lie. As much as it pains me to admit it, you’re not stupid enough to do something like this. It would be extremely out of character for you to simply quit.” She raised a sculpted eyebrow. “What do you think, Nigel? Going to the competition?”

His eyes narrowed. After a few moments, Andy saw the lightbulb go off, but he masked it quickly enough so Emily missed it. “You young kids, so impulsive. Always making crazy decisions, following the wind wherever it takes you. Congratulations. I’m sure you’ll find something interesting when you’re ready.”

She sighed in relief and wondered when he’d corner her, or if he wanted to continue maintaining his plausible deniability.

They stood together, chatting mostly amiably (Emily continued to prod her for more information) until a familiar figure came into view. Christian Thompson stood leaning against the bar, toasting her from a distance. She smiled at him in reply. She hadn’t seen him in over a year, not since he’d gotten her the Harry Potter book. Which she owed him for, now that she thought about it. A little embarrassed by her lack of follow up, she excused herself and headed over to say hello.

“Hey, stranger,” she said.

“Hello, Miranda Girl,” he replied.

He has no idea how right he is. “Glad to see you here. How are you?”

“Not dead, though I might be for all you care. How long has it been?”

Andy chuckled ruefully. “A little longer than respectable, but that’s life at Runway. Things going okay at New York?”

He shrugged and lifted a hand. “Comme ci, comme ça. Always looking out for the next opportunity, like any good writer worth his salt. How’s your writing going?” He glanced around the room. “Can’t be going that well if you’re still under Miranda’s thumb. I would have thought you’d moved on by now.”

His tone was more bitter than Andy remembered; gone was the charm that had taken her in those few times they’d met. He seemed, well, angry. She decided then that she would not mention she was leaving in a week or so. “I’m learning a lot and things have been pretty interesting lately, so I haven’t been in a rush. But soon, I think.” Out of a sense of guilt, she found herself saying, “Look, I still owe you for helping me out with that top secret project last year. Can I take you to dinner?”

His mood brightened. “Whenever a beautiful young woman asks me to dinner, I always say yes. I know the perfect place. I’ll pick you up.”

Thirty minutes later, Andy had abandoned all conversation in lieu of admiring the cityscape through the window of the salon. Despite the traffic, it looked lovely in the waning afternoon light. She felt someone beside her and knew at once it was Miranda.

“Everything all right?” Miranda asked, eyes trained out the window.

“Mm-hmm. Just needed a minute to myself.”

“Enjoying the view?”

“I am.”

“It is deceptively beautiful. And also the square where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, among hundreds of others, were executed by guillotine in front of the masses.”

Andy closed her eyes and shook her head with a grin. Leave it to Miranda to offer such a detail at this exact moment. “Of course they were.”

“I imagine any number of individuals in this very room would be perfectly happy to see my head lopped off out there as the crowd cheered the executioner on,” she quipped. “Including your friend, Christian Thompson.”

She considered playing off their earlier interaction, but thought better of it. “Yeah, he seemed a little off when I saw him earlier. We’re having dinner tonight.”

Miranda turned to her, eyes sharp with distaste. “Traitor.”

Andy wrinkled her nose in confusion. “He’s just a guy. We’re not hooking up, trust me. And I owe him a favor. I don’t plan on telling you why, so don’t ask.”

“I’m certain he’ll try to wheedle gossip out of you about how much of a gorgon I am. He’s always hated me but now he truly has reason to. I’m surprised he had the gall to even show his face here today.”

This vitriol was coming out of nowhere. “Is there something I’m missing?”

Miranda turned back toward the view of the city as the sun shone down on the obelisk in the center of the square. “He would have been on Jacqueline’s team, had she taken over Runway last year. Head of editorial.” She scoffed. “Can you imagine? The magazine wouldn’t have lasted six months.”

Andy was, to put it mildly, flabbergasted. Now she really did feel like a traitor. “I had no idea, Miranda. No one told me.”

Miranda turned back to her. “Well. A dinner with you will be a consolation, in any case. Just don’t let him ply you with too much wine.”

Andy enjoyed the practically visible waves of jealousy coming off Miranda like steam. They gave her much more confidence than she ought to have, but not enough to tease. Not just yet, anyhow. “Water only, all night long.”

That brought a curve to Miranda’s mouth. “Acceptable.”

---

Christian did, in fact, try to ply Andy with wine, but as promised she had water, all night long. Not even an aperitif or a port with dessert. He also tried, rather desperately, to get into her good graces again, but at this point his bitterness and the reason behind it were much more apparent to Andy. He flirted, he bantered, he complimented both her beauty and her intellectual prowess. He seemed much more obvious in his attempts to pull information out of her about Miranda and the magazine, even trying to tempt her to share Nigel’s dashed hopes from the James Holt incident as well. He obviously knew that Nigel had been up for the job Jacqueline had nabbed out from under him, but Andy played dumb. Had no one told her what really happened in Paris last year, she wouldn’t have had a clue. As an assistant, she’d have had no reason to find out, either. She just happened to have been directly involved, without realizing it, both before and after the entire thing.

Following their meal, they walked along the 7th Arrondissement on the way back to the hotel. Little sparkly lights hung from the street lamps, making the stroll far more romantic than Andy felt. Christian reached out for her hand, and though she didn’t exactly pull it back, she did turn to him with an apology in her eyes.

“What? I’m just holding the hand of a friend,” he tried, flashing a curious expression of innocence and seduction.

He was handsome. A year ago, she might have been tempted, even if she and Nate had still been together. Not anymore. “That’s all we can be, Christian. I’m sorry.”

“Come on, you can’t tell me le boyfriend is still in the picture.”

Andy laughed and squeezed his hand before releasing it. “No comment. But I do have an early day of work tomorrow.”

He took his disappointment in stride. “I should have known you’d still be preoccupied with Miranda. She’s tough competition, even if she is a bitch.”

Andy did not take the bait; she had no need to defend Miranda to anyone, much less a man who had tried to beat her at her own game and lost. It was the wine and the disappointment talking and she understood more than he knew. She used the only method of distraction she had at her disposal: redirection. “I’m glad we got to get together before all the craziness of the week. Will I see you at all the shows?”

He nodded, mouth in a grim line. “Some. I leave on Thursday, though. How long are you here?”

“Sunday.”

“Fancy,” he said. “Well, I’ll be gracious in defeat. Give my regards to La Priestly, won’t you?”

She nodded, relieved she wouldn’t have to go to battle just to get back to her suite. They exchanged air kisses at the door to the hotel and she waved when he turned once to glance back as he made his way down the street. With a deep sigh of gratitude, she headed for the lift.

As soon as she walked in the door, the jetlag hit her. At home it was the middle of the night, but the reception and the dinner had helped her power through. She would sleep hard, if she was lucky. She had to be up at 6 to prepare for the day, and that hour would come too fast if she didn’t get into bed shortly. Briefly she felt a sadness that she would likely not have enough time to enjoy the lavish setting, eyeing the fireplace and settee in front of it. As she undressed, removed her makeup, and set up her wardrobe for the following day, she fell into a fantasy of herself and Miranda in front of that fire, enjoying after dinner drinks, talking of their days, then kissing. Then more. Then a lot more. By the time she was in her pajamas, her cheeks were flaming and she was wet between her legs. She’d already decided that a little self care might just be the ticket to a good night’s sleep when someone knocked on the door.

Frowning, she donned one of the hotel robes over decidedly more upscale pajamas than the ones she wore at home. As she lifted the little cover to her room’s peephole, she gasped; Miranda stood there in all her evening glory. Andy hurried to open the door, worried. “Hi, what is it?” she asked. “I didn’t get a message--”

“It’s nothing,” Miranda sniffed. “You look--” she scoped Andy out much faster than usual, “--like you’re heading to bed.”

“I’m fine, would you like to come in?”

Miranda’s mouth opened. In that moment, Andy saw the want, as well as the reason she’d stopped in, plain as the nose on her face. To make sure Andy was in her room, alone. And maybe something else, too.

Andy bit her lip and breathed out an exhale of desperate need as she took her in. Miranda was utterly beautiful tonight in a dark cashmere wrap coat that hung open to reveal a navy dress with a deep vee. Andy’s favorite Fred Leighton pendant hung between her breasts and Andy felt almost faint with the desire to lift it over Miranda’s head and press her lips there.

When Andy raised her eyes to meet Miranda’s, it was like looking in a mirror. Desire refracted between them, brightening in intensity with each successive moment. Andy closed her eyes briefly and stepped back from the door. She felt lightheaded. “Actually, you should probably not come in.”

Miranda shook her head as she licked her lips unselfconsciously. “Right,” she breathed, and there was so much sex in that one word that Andy wanted to scream in frustration. “See you in the morning.” She turned on her heel and strode down the hallway as Andy quickly shut the door and locked it.

“Fuck. Fuck,” Andy repeated to herself, one hand on her forehead. That had been close. Really close. How the hell had they managed to live under one roof for months and never had a run-in like that?

Andy knew, though. She’d been distracted by the article. With her work complete, everything changed. The tension between them had ratcheted up to a boiling point practically overnight. She headed back to bed then, throwing her robe off and tossing it on an absolutely gorgeous wingback chair that might have cost more than she made in a year. Almost angrily, she set her phone to charge and shut off the lights.

The noise from the city outside was faint; the hotel had fantastic soundproofing, and being on the garden side was even quieter. Briefly she held off touching herself; it felt like cheating, somehow, to put her hands on her own body without Miranda there. But she needed the relief now more than ever. So she slid one hand softly down her belly, trailing her fingers so lightly, feeling her muscles jump in excitement and delight. When she slipped her fingers between her legs, she was more than just damp; she was drenched. She imagined Miranda returning, pushing her way in the room, stripping off her coat and the dress and that necklace and lying down beside her, mouth pressed to Andy’s, and that was it. Andy moved with abandon, mouth open and gasping for air as she pictured Miranda there with her, legs open to Andy’s thigh, moving against her hotly as fingers thrust inside her, thumb working, teeth pulling at her ear. Then Andy was gone, muscles strung tight as the orgasm swept over her, pulsing against her fingers as she whispered Miranda’s name once, so softly. Then she relaxed, lassitude and endorphins flooding her system with a brief, sweet pleasure.

She imagined Miranda doing the same thing, right now in her own bed, and smiled.

---

In the morning, Miranda practically ignored her. Andy was convinced she knew why and smothered her grin beneath a hand.

As the day sped by Andy did not have a moment to herself. The idea of getting away for a few hours, or even one, vanished in the energy that Fashion Week created. Andy knew it would be exciting, but this felt more like a constant stream of electricity both leading up to and following each event. Watching the models take their turns down the catwalks was more thrilling than Andy had expected, even when she hated the designs or thought they were completely outlandish. She took copious notes as Miranda whispered to her, adding nods and headshakes and the occasional half-smile when something remarkable emerged. She met what felt like hundreds of people, some of whom Miranda introduced her to as simply “Andrea.” Not “my assistant.” She told no fewer than three people, “Andrea is a writer, a journalist.” She felt practically high by the time dinner came around. The Runway folks had plans to dine together without Miranda, who was having her annual dinner with the Versace team.

At the restaurant, Nigel commented on her appearance right away. “Good lord, woman, you look ecstatic. Have fun today?”

“I really did!” Andy exclaimed. It might have been helped along by the glass of wine she’d had at the bar before they’d sat down, but generally she felt excellent. “I didn’t know what to expect, but it was awesome.”

Nigel preened a little as he cleaned his glasses with his tie. “I feel like my baby’s just graduated from college with honors,” he joked, wiping an imaginary tear from his eye.

She laughed, but Emily cut them both off. “She’s just happy she’s avoiding the rest of this madness in a week. If I didn’t have to deal with all the insanity that will happen once we get back to the office, I’d be glowing too,” she said.

“Aw, Em, you think I’m glowing?” Andy said, feeling even more cheerful.

“Oh, sod off,” Emily replied with a signature roll of her eyes.

Andy was careful to keep her glass from getting topped up too often; tomorrow would be even busier than today, plus she had to keep the pace up for the rest of the week. The whole evening made her feel more a part of the crew than she ever had before. She loved listening to everyone’s opinions about the various shows and styles, offering a few thoughts of her own when asked. Her words were all respected, too; no one laughed or ignored her because she was a lowly assistant. She had proved her mettle by dedicating many long, difficult months as Miranda’s shadow, and it showed.

Later, before she returned to her room, she had a terrible, potentially disastrous thought. Should she pay a visit to the Windsor suite? Just to make sure Miranda returned safely, or so she told herself. She might not even be back yet, so it wouldn’t matter. She stood motionless in the hallway for a few long, tortured minutes before deciding yes, she would. Without hesitation, she headed for the suite and rang the bell.

Only then did Andy consider what she might say if Miranda opened the door, which she did ten seconds later. There she stood in a robe and without makeup, her hair brushed free of its typically tamed style. She looked more like the Miranda of home, the one Andy wanted to hold in her arms as she spoke of love and desire and forever, not the woman who wore an armor of couture for most of the hours in a day.

Andy swallowed helplessly. They stared at one another without speaking. Before she could make a bigger fool of herself, she turned and left. Miranda did not call her back.

Chapter Text

The next three days were as exciting as the first. They required an enormous amount of concentration and effort, but she kept Miranda on schedule (for the most part) and herself from losing her own mind.

Each night, she fell into bed exhausted. But she couldn’t sleep till she caressed herself into oblivion, thinking of Miranda’s eyes as they watched her, of her hands as they might feel on her own skin.

On Friday, she finally made good use of the butler service, which delivered an ensemble pressed sharply into submission. But before she put it on, she texted Serena and scurried up to visit her on the fourth floor. She, too, was in a suite, but it did not compare to Andy’s. It was elegant and modern with a gorgeous fireplace and straight backed chairs, plus a pretty cream sofa in the sitting area. There, under a professional light rig illuminating them both, Serena leaned down to apply such a complex series of liquids and powders to Andy’s face she could barely keep track of it all. Serena topped it off with a silvery, smoky color on her lids, followed by the perfect wing of thick, dark liner. Mascara was last, and she held out the wand of Diorshow and instructed Andy to “blink, blink, blink” before declaring her work of art complete.

“C’est magnifique, querida. Whomever you are planning to impress today, you shall succeed. What are you wearing?”

Andy felt the blush come on strong, pleased that it was probably only visible on her neck and chest beneath her zipped sweatshirt. “Just a suit.”

Serena broke out into an approving grin. “I cannot wait to see it. Will you be downstairs shortly?”

Andy nodded. “I owe you so much, Serena. Thank you!”

“Anytime, beautiful darling.” Serena winked. “And if things don’t work out with your sweetheart, you may always give me a call.”

Now Andy really blushed. “Oh, stop it,” Andy said, waving a hand in embarrassment. “You tease!” she said as she headed out the door.

“I do not tease!” Serena declared confidently. “I always follow through!” she added as the door closed behind Andy, who laughed as she descended the curved staircase back to her floor.

Quickly she shed her hoodie, jeans and underwear in favor of the black lace bra and matching panties that had been packed in her suitcase for this very day. The white tuxedo shirt was next, followed by slim black trousers that landed near her ankle. Butter soft ebony oxfords completed the look. The black of her bra was not visible through the shirt exactly, but there was just the suggestion of it, which she quite liked. She pulled her hair back in a loose chignon once, twice, then got it as close to right as possible on the third try. Her black cross-body bag was small enough to work with the ensemble, so she piled all her necessary supplies for later touch ups, along with her notebook, wallet and phone. With a glance at the oversized men’s watch on her wrist, she grimaced, noticing she only had a few minutes to spare. She finally added the single-breasted suit jacket, buttoned it, and departed to meet the Runway crew in the lobby.

Nigel saw her first and put a hand to his forehead. “You’ve given me the vapors, Six. Well played.” Serena was practically gleeful when she saw the finished product, and Emily granted her an irritated, frowning nod of appreciation. She got a few glances too from both men and women she didn’t know as they walked by. The suit worked. That was a confidence booster as she anticipated Miranda’s arrival with an eagerness that felt more like anxiety in her belly.

She did not have to wait long; Miranda descended the stairs to the lobby wearing a drop-dead gorgeous, bateau neck red dress--Valentino, if she was not mistaken--that fell below her knees, and sleek Louboutins. She wore no jewelry except long, pendant earrings, as per usual when she was showing off a fair amount of skin. She carried a black cape over one arm and a cup of coffee in the other. Her hair was fantastic, styled more casually than usual in elegant waves over her brow.

Andy sighed, lovesick.

“Honey, you might want to put your eyes back in your head before someone notices,” Nigel murmured, and Andy stood straighter, remembering where she was and who she was with. “I could see the little hearts fluttering around there for a minute.”

They were both watching Miranda when she caught sight of Andy, who couldn’t have planned the timing better. She got the exact response she wanted--first look, no reaction, followed by a deliberate second look. She slowed to a stop, examining Andy’s ensemble starting from the shoes more gradually than her customary appraisal. When she reached Andy’s face, Miranda Priestly, queen of the blank expression, dragon of disapproval, smiled. In a moment of pure electricity, their eyes met. If they hadn’t been surrounded by a hundred people in the lobby, Andy would have thrown caution to the wind and kissed her.

Then it was over; Miranda moved on, sipping her coffee nonchalantly, as though she hadn’t turned Andy’s dial all the way up in the span of five short seconds. Nigel, still standing next to her, muttered, “Hmph.”

After swallowing against a dry throat, Andy croaked out, “What?”

“I think I just saw little hearts fluttering around Miranda’s head, too.”

Andy almost bit her lip before remembering her lipstick.

Throughout the day, it was near impossible for Andy to do her job with any level of effectiveness. Miranda made sure they sat next to one another wherever they went. With every passing hour, Andy drifted in and out of infatuated daydreams, each more elaborate than the last. She continued to marvel that she had worked at Miranda’s side for so long, lived in her home, sat next to her on a thousand car rides, and never once allowed herself the freedom to really go to the edge in her fantasies. It was as if she’d entirely compartmentalized the physicality of her desire, but this week, the box had opened and it was all around her. She had fallen in love with Miranda a long time ago, had thought about kissing her and making love to her, but never to the point of utter distraction. She glanced at her book near the end of the day and decided she probably shouldn’t show her notes to anyone; some were illegible, punctuated by doodles of flowers, while others started out fine but trailed off before she’d completed the thought.

But it was Friday. Her last Friday of work for Miranda, ever. She would be done in a few short days, and really Saturday didn’t count even though there were shows and she would be working. Weekends weren’t the same, were they? Sunday they would fly home, Monday was the end of it. She’d targeted this date for so long, and now the thought of leaving the day in and day out of Miranda’s presence gave her an almost physical pain.

There was raucous applause as Andy woke from her near stupor. Everyone stood, including Miranda. The Runway team was immediately swarmed with attention, surrounded by photographers and sycophants, some hovering close while others stood back to silently observe and judge. Andy felt a bit light-headed as she got to her feet but shook it off.

Miranda touched her elbow and leaned close. “Are you all right?”

Andy nodded back, replying as softly as she could. “Sorry. I’m okay. Just a little tired. Or hungry. I’m not sure.”

They headed out of the show then. Miranda kept her gaze even, glancing around distantly as flashbulbs went off and paparazzi followed them on the way back to the car from the Palais du Tokyo. To Andy’s surprise, Miranda did not step away, instead leading her down the walkway with their arms linked. Although it was growing dark, Miranda slipped her sunglasses on. This was a clear sign to any outsider that screamed “Do not approach.”

At the sedan, Miranda put Andy in the car first and slid in after her. Andy was relieved to have a moment of quiet as they returned to the hotel to dress for yet another large affair, this time with the global Runway group. Andy would be disappointed to say goodbye to her tuxedo shirt and flat shoes. They made for a far more comfortable day than any of her earlier outfits.

To Andy’s surprise, Miranda raised the privacy screen; she had not done so once since they had been in Paris. Then Miranda turned to her, eyes softening. “Are you really okay?”

Andy nodded. She nearly played it off, acting like it was nothing. But she believed Miranda wanted the truth. She rarely asked anyone anything twice. Then again, she rarely needed to. “I got a little overwhelmed, I think.” To her horror, she felt tears in her eyes. “I forgot it was ending, you know? It’s my last Friday. With you.”

Then another first happened. Miranda reached out and took her hand, lacing their fingers together. Every hair on the back of Andy’s neck stood at attention as she caught her breath. The feeling--just that small hand in hers--was the most incredible thing in the universe. “You know that’s not true.”

Andy exhaled in relief, squeezing Miranda’s fingers. “I know. But it still struck me. I won’t be with you every day, all day. I’ll miss it.” She met Miranda’s eyes and let her feelings show. “I’ll miss you so much.”

“You won’t have to miss me, Andrea. I promise.” Then, Andy held her breath as Miranda brought both their clasped hands to her mouth. Lightly, so lightly, Miranda pressed her lips to one of Andy’s fingers, then another. “I keep my promises,” she whispered.

They stared at one another as Andy felt liquid heat pulse in her blood. She flushed, mouth opening, heart pounding. Miranda noticed right away, her eyes following the telltale red streaks as they crept across her neck. Andy might have been embarrassed if she hadn’t been so turned on, especially when Miranda gripped her hand more tightly.

“I promise, too,” Andy said, not even sure that made sense, but it felt right. Miranda’s breath was so hot on her hand that Andy wanted to moan. She bit the inside of her lip and breathed deeply, desperate to get herself under control.

“Tonight after the dinner I’d like you to come to my suite,” Miranda murmured. “I want to give you something.”

Barely able to comprehend the words, Andy nodded in agreement.

“It’s not a gift. Not exactly, anyway. But I’ve been waiting a long time for it to arrive.”

“Sure,” Andy said, almost robotically. She’d do just about anything Miranda asked of her right now. “I’ll be there.”

As Miranda lowered their hands back to the seat, Andy was able to take a proper breath. “I’m sorry you won’t be wearing that suit,” Miranda said with a half grin. “Don’t bring that back to the office, by the way. Keep it.”

Andy was relieved to hear that; it was Armani, tailored to her exact measurements. No one else would have fit into it anyway. “Okay.”

When they got back to the hotel, it was like nothing at all had happened. They exited the car and went their separate ways. But Andy hung on to every minute, hoping the more she relived it, the more it would carve itself into her memory for all time. That first touch of Miranda’s mouth had been thrilling beyond imagination.

She attended the dinner, she spoke to people, she ate, she drank. Later, she would barely recall anything other than observing Miranda from afar that night. She wasn’t up for socializing and left the event almost as soon as she could without drawing attention to herself. She went to her room and washed her face, combed her hair, brushed her teeth. She dressed in her most elegant sleepwear and a hotel robe, uncertain when Miranda might want to see her. To calm her nerves, she made herself a cup of tea with honey at the little coffee bar. Switching on the fireplace, she reclined on the beautiful sofa and tried to stay in the moment.

It couldn’t have been more than twenty minutes before her phone pinged with a text message. Are you available?

She shut down the fireplace and turned off all the lights before typing back, I’ll be right over.

Andy felt strange leaving her room in a robe, but she did it anyway. Phone and key card in her pocket, she departed her room and made her way to Miranda’s. The door opened when she arrived, which meant Miranda had been waiting for her. Andy slipped in, taking the time to admire Miranda’s evening dress close up. Like so many of Andy’s favorites, this one had been made for her by Valentino, off one shoulder with black, hand-beaded layers giving the illusion of a sheer sky full of stars. She watched the dress and the woman in it move from the foyer into the living area, unable to take her eyes off the way the light reflected on the fabric.

Miranda went to the long table near the fireplace and retrieved a shallow white box tied with a lavender ribbon. She handed it over to Andy, whose eyebrows went up in surprise when she saw the “LA PERLA” logo printed across it.

“Don’t worry, it’s not lingerie,” Miranda quipped, apparently enjoying Andy’s reaction.

“Too bad,” Andy mumbled, heading for the sofa in front of the lit fireplace that generated a bit of heat in the otherwise cool room. Miranda joined her, not too close, but the sofa was on the small side compared to the others in the room. Andy pulled the ribbon and let it fall away before lifting the lid. She opened the tissue and uncovered… a pile of paper. Frowning, Andy lifted the pile out and set the box aside, flipping through some of the pages before she realized what she was looking at. In that moment, her heart could have leapt from her chest; she could hear her pulse thundering in her ears. She looked up at Miranda.

“Check the last page,” Miranda said, lifting one arm to rest along the wood of the sofa’s intricately carved back.

Andy did. There, at the bottom of the page, was Miranda’s signature and today’s date, next to Stephen Tomlinson’s, dated yesterday. Andy’s hands were sweating. “Your divorce decree,” Andy said, her voice faint.

“It’s finally official. Signed, notarized, and mailed, a copy of which was returned this morning via fax,” Miranda said. “I thought you would appreciate the timing more than anyone else.”

Andy knew there was a message in here. A big one. “You’re divorced. A free woman.”

“Mm,” Miranda said, pausing in thought for a few seconds. “Always an interesting expression, that. A free woman. As though a relationship, a marriage, is a trap, assuming one has willingly entered into the partnership. Of course in this day and age, marriage doesn’t have the same connotation of ownership as it once did, but the phrase lives on.” Miranda tilted her head, her eyes moving lazily across Andy’s form. “I have always been and will always be a free woman, Andrea, no matter whom I happen to love or marry. I know the same could be said of you.”

Andy set the papers down on her lap, waiting. “Go on,” she said.

“Should you choose to enter into any relationship, you must do so on even terms. You must never convince yourself that you owe your partner your continued presence. Say, for example,” Miranda turned toward the fireplace, as though afraid to witness Andy’s reaction to her words. “Were you to choose to be with someone like me, it would be because you cared for me and wanted to be with me. Not because you owe me anything at all. Because you don’t.”

Andy had never felt so grateful in her life. Miranda was giving her an out; she was handing Andy the responsibility of the decision so it would be clear how they would move forward, or not.

“Thank you, Miranda,” Andy sighed, letting the papers fall to the floor, scattering. She could hardly move. Her emotions were so high, filling her body with such an intense joy it was difficult to process. “I feel the same way.”

Miranda nodded. She made no move toward Andy, continuing to watch the fire in silence.

Andy swallowed, trying to find her voice. “I need a piece of paper,” she said, practically out of breath. “I need to write something down.”

That confused Miranda. “Pardon?”

Andy got up from the sofa, barely noticing that she was stepping on the divorce papers. She was frantic now, searching around the room for a blank sheet. There were boxes of clothes all over the room, some stacked four feet high; there was Miranda’s computer and phone in one corner; there was a hotel notepad on the antique writing desk. Would that suit her needs? Would it be official enough? She shrugged. At least it marked their location.

Miranda stood and followed Andy across the room. “What are you doing?”

“I’m resigning. Effective immediately.”

“What?”

Andy started writing as Miranda looked over her shoulder.

I, Andy Sachs, assistant to Miranda Priestly, of sound mind -

“For god’s sake, Andrea, it’s a resignation letter, not your last will and testament,” Miranda said. Andy felt like an idiot and crossed out the words of sound mind. “Hurry up,” Miranda said breathlessly. She had caught on to Andy’s urgency, recognizing what it would mean, even if it was unsanctioned and certainly not HR appropriate.

--do hereby resign from my position, effective immediately. Thank you for the opportunity.

Kind Regards,

Andy Sachs

Andy dated the signature before stepping aside and handing over the pen. “Now you.”

Miranda leaned over and wrote,

I accept your resignation. Miranda Priestly.

Her signature was barely legible next to the date she had scrawled next to it. “No regards? Not even a thank you?” Andy said, examining their extremely unofficial-looking resignation letter.

“I’d rather not put my feelings in writing, if you must know.” Andy turned to her, lighter than she had been in ages. “I have waited to say many things to you, Andrea Sachs.” Miranda cupped her cheek. “A year is a long time to wait for love,” she said softly.

Andy’s heart soared. She trembled as Miranda stepped closer, close enough for Andy to pull her into an embrace. She was awed that Miranda had spoken of love first, before they’d even kissed. “I hope it will be worth the wait,” Andy whispered back, those traitorous tears again clouding her vision. “Because I do love you. So much.”

Only then did Miranda’s expression truly relax; Andy hadn’t realized that she’d been nervous or at all uncertain. Miranda leaned in, and finally, finally, they kissed. Andy’s whole body was alive with excitement and want, chills racing through her as their mouths met again and again. Andy slid her hands into Miranda’s hair, thrilling to the sensation of Miranda’s body as they pressed tightly together.

When their mouths parted, Andy said, “No more line between us, right?”

“No line,” Miranda answered, looking down at Andy’s mouth. “I do want to mention that it’s rather irresponsible of you to quit during my busiest week in Paris,” she said, kissing Andy’s jaw, moving to her throat as Andy threw her head back and groaned. “Can’t imagine what I’ll do without you,” she murmured, nibbling at Andy’s ear.

Andy was ready to explode; as much as she had worried that perhaps she’d overestimated their sexual chemistry, those worries receded like a wave on the ocean. She was already alight with pleasure after only a few kisses. “You’ll get by,” she gasped. “You’re a smart lady.”

Miranda chuckled and bit down on Andy’s neck as she yelped in response. “Cheeky,” she murmured, pulling the robe open to reveal Andy’s silk sleeping attire. “Very nice,” she said. “Not from Old Navy.”

Andy truly laughed then. “I brought the good stuff for Paris. You’ll have to deal with Halloween PJs as soon as we get home,” she said, kissing Miranda’s cheek before returning to her mouth. It felt so right to hold her after so many months of anticipation. “That dress is beautiful but I’d really like you to take it off.”

They stayed molded together, inching across the room as Andy found the hidden zip at the side of the dress, sliding it down carefully. Miranda paused in the doorway to the bedroom, dark but with ambient light from the Place Vendôme streaming in. She leaned over behind Andy and pressed a button on a side table until Andy heard the whir of mechanical privacy screens descending. “Convenient,” she said. Then Miranda hit another button and the room lit up until gradually the bulbs dimmed to a soft glow. She abandoned Andy for the second fireplace (she supposed if a room cost what this one did, two fireplaces were acceptable) and flipped a switch to light it. Then when Miranda turned around, Andy saw the flush on her chest, the darkness of her eyes as she opened the dress to reveal her lingerie, a black corset of Italian lace. She peeled the dress down and off, lifting it from the floor to drape it along the back of a chair. Andy felt her knees weaken as Miranda stalked forward, heels still on.

“You’re overdressed,” Miranda said, pulling her toward the bed by the waistline of her pants.

But Andy wasn’t ready to focus on herself, preferring to touch that lace and everything beneath it. She smoothed her hands along the wires of the corset that didn’t seem to be holding anything in, instead accentuating Miranda’s assets. Particularly the underwear, with its scalloped edges that revealed more than it covered in the back. Andy slipped her hands beneath that lace and Miranda’s head tipped backward as she inhaled sharply. “I’ve been thinking about this all week,” Andy said, mouth making its way to Miranda’s breast, biting at her nipple gently through the corset. “And longer. But this week was… a lot.” As she worked at the long set of eye hooks in the back, she felt cooler as Miranda pushed her pajama shirt open to the shoulders.

Things seemed to speed up; Andy lost her shirt, her pants, her underwear and the bra she hadn’t been sure she should wear under her nightclothes, and Miranda left her lingerie on the floor as they pulled the bedclothes down and fell against the soft, soft sheets. Andy started out on top, because she wanted to cover Miranda, to press their bodies together from head to toe, but Miranda was not having it. She rolled them over and straddled both of Andy’s thighs, her hair a silver halo about her head as she sat up.

“My god, you’re perfect,” Miranda said, her mouth moving along Andy’s collarbones, hands skimming her sides. She held Andy’s breasts as though she’d never felt anything so lovely, tongue flicking as Andy writhed, till she used her teeth, and in less than a minute Andy had to beg her to slow down.

“I’ll come,” she panted, clawing the sheets as she felt Miranda’s slickness against her skin. “Fuck, I’m already close. I was going to make you come first,” she hissed.

Miranda’s breath was short and sharp in her face and she was thrusting against nothing. “Together, then,” she said, taking Andy’s hand and pressing it between her legs. She was so wet. Andy arched, feeling a throb deep inside herself. Then Miranda cried out, moving above her, back and forth till she leaned over and nipped Andy’s breast again, pulling it between her teeth while Andy keened.

Miranda reached down, searching out Andy’s clit and finding it. “Yes,” she moaned, “yes, yes,” and then Miranda was coming. Andy could feel the pulse of it and she followed her right over, because she couldn’t possibly stop herself when she knew that Miranda was feeling the same delirious, unimaginable pleasure.

As Andy lay there in the afterglow, her whole body still twitching with energy, she eventually noticed Miranda’s lips gently moving across her shoulder. She pressed her mouth to Andy’s skin, whispering along a few more inches till she came to rest at her sternum. “I can feel your heart beating,” Miranda said.

All for you, Andy thought. She reached down and pulled Miranda up, kissing her languidly, enjoying the sensation without the desperate need behind it. Andy rolled her over so they both lay on their sides, legs twining. She was already in love with the feeling of Miranda’s smooth shins sliding along her own, the way their thighs met and rested against each other.

Miranda had spent the better part of a year and a half communicating with Andy via glances of varying temperatures, everything from scorn to fury to concern to hesitant affection. But she’d never looked at her this way before, as though she’d discovered something wondrous and beautiful right here in her arms.

Andy couldn’t hold back her question any longer. “What are you thinking?” she asked.

Miranda swallowed and kissed her again. “I’m happy,” she said. “Extraordinarily happy.”

Andy smiled. “I’m happy, too.”

---

They spent the next hours getting used to one another, taking things more slowly than the first time. While Andy thought she might instinctively know every secret about Miranda by virtue of spending more than eighteen months satisfying her every professional whim, she appreciated these small discoveries. Miranda liked when Andy kissed her lower back, caressed her ankles, lightly stroked the inside of her elbows. She did not like her belly button touched (a very definite no), and while the ankles were a hit, her feet were off limits.

Andy, in turn, got to experience what it was like to be the focus of Miranda’s complete and undivided attention. She had no specific requirements for what Miranda could do to her. She only wanted more and more and more of everything.

Eventually, Andy left the bed to use the bathroom and wash her face. Her legs were sore and weak as she crossed the room, but it was a good kind of pain. When she flipped on the lights to wash her hands, she caught a glimpse of herself. Her lips were swollen and deep red, and there were small marks all across her shoulders and breasts, even a few on her upper arms. They weren’t bruises, but they were certainly a visual representation of Miranda’s particular interest in her body. She wouldn’t be wearing anything open at the neck for the next few days, that was for sure.

She hunted down the dimmer to the lights that Miranda had used when they’d first entered the room and turned them off completely. The fire could stay on, though; it was pleasantly chilly even with the heat of it.

She hopped back onto the high mattress, where Miranda lay prone, one wrist at her forehead. “I’m going to pay for this tomorrow,” Miranda said.

By the light of the fire, Andy eyed her neck, noticing a few marks she’d left of her own. She didn’t mention them, though. Better to leave that till Miranda discovered them herself. “Should I sleep here?” Andy asked. “I don’t want us to get busted after all this waiting.”

Miranda stared at the ceiling, her eyes narrowing. “Hmm. I’d prefer if you did, but it might not be the best idea.” She sighed sleepily. “At least we don’t have to be up so early. Perhaps we can meet here in the morning for breakfast? That won’t seem suspicious.”

“I would love that.” Andy reached for the watch she’d thrown on the side table sometime earlier. “Oh my god, it’s almost two.”

Miranda smirked. “Time flies,” she said, turning on her side to throw a leg across Andy’s. “Stay a few more minutes,” she said.

Andy liked this touchy-feely side of Miranda. After nothing for so many months, it felt like she’d been starving for ages and had finally found sustenance. “Sure.”

When she next opened her eyes, it was still blessedly dark except for the silent fireplace. Miranda had turned over, her back pressed against Andy’s side, feet touching her shin. She would never describe Miranda as “cute” in a million years, but still, this seemed awfully cute. She reached again for her watch and held it up to her face, lighting it with the little button on one side.

She sat straight up in bed. “What the fuck?” She looked again at the windows and realized that it wasn’t dark out at all; the privacy screens were just really, really good at blocking out light.

“Hmm?” Miranda said, turning over in the darkness. “What is it?”

“It’s five after nine,” Andy said. “We have a show at ten.”

Miranda had no visible reaction. “No wonder I feel so rested,” she said, stretching leisurely. “I always sleep well after… Well, you know. Good sex.”

It made Andy laugh to have heard her pause, almost as if she were shy. She had definitely not been shy the night before. “You don’t seem worried. Won’t people notice you’re not downstairs yet? We’re going to be late.”

“I‘m not sure what you’re so concerned about. You no longer work for me. You’re practically on vacation for the next 24 hours.”

“Shouldn’t we, I don’t know, get up?”

Miranda sighed again and sat up, groaning with the effort. “Oh my god,” she said, massaging her side. “I knew I’d be sore.” She leaned over and kissed Andy once, morning breath and all. “I’m going to shower and dress. I’ll be ready in thirty minutes. Would you mind calling for room service for both of us?” She stopped for a minute. “That’s a question, not a demand, by the way.”

“Okay?”

“You go shower and just come back here when you’re done. We’ll go downstairs together.”

Andy couldn't understand how relaxed Miranda was about all this. They might get discovered. Hell, they might get outed. Andy hadn’t thought too much about that when she’d closed her eyes last night, enjoying Miranda’s weight across her legs. She didn’t have time to dwell on it though, leaping from the bed and putting on her nightclothes and robe. Miranda was in the shower when she departed, and she did two quick glances down the hallway, blessedly empty, before racing back to her room.

She had already laid out a simple skirt and blouse the previous night, having made her big fashion splash the day before. She was out of the shower and dressed in fifteen, hair smoothed down and straightened as well as she could in twenty. Luckily the blouse did the hardest work of covering the remnants of the night’s debauchery and a bit of concealer did the rest. By 9:37 she was back at Miranda’s, bag and phone in hand, just as the room service staff arrived with a cart stacked with silver trays. She followed the attendant in and signed for everything, leaving a generous tip before he left. To her immense relief, Miranda strode out of the bedroom looking like her usual self, albeit with a scarf around her throat.

Andy bit her lip and did her best to not smile. Miranda saw through it, though. “Mind your teeth next time, won’t you?” she said.

“You should see what you did to me. We’ll both have to be a little more careful,” Andy replied. “Within reason.”

Andy lifted the tray covers, pleased that everything looked perfect. They sat and ate breakfast and chatted as they often had, sharing the occasional grin or knowing look. To Andy’s pleasure, there was no awkwardness at all. Their big declarations of love had happened, but they were still just Miranda and Andy. Just with some really good benefits. Just together.

There was a knock at the door. Andy was startled and immediately felt guilty, sure that someone was about to come in and accuse her of… something. Miranda simply stood and opened the door to Nigel, who she had apparently called in Andy’s absence and invited to share breakfast, too. He pulled up a chair and they went over the schedule for the day, their last in Paris, with only two shows and an early dinner on the roster.

As they talked of their respective thoughts on the previous day’s Schiapparelli event, Andy wondered if maybe she should just play the assistant part for the rest of the trip. It made the most sense and there wouldn’t be any reason to change how things were, externally at least. She pulled out her phone and checked her email, realizing how many things she’d ignored since showing up at Miranda’s the previous night. She sent some quick replies to Letty, who had emailed a few questions about preparations for Miranda’s return.

As they were finishing up, Nigel noticed something unusual in the room. “What’s over there?” he asked, wiping his mouth with his napkin and pointing to the papers spread all over the floor in front of the fireplace.

“Oh,” Miranda said absently, touching her neck. “My divorce was finalized yesterday. I must have dropped them.”

“Huh,” Nigel said, blinking slowly. “Congratulations. What’s it like being a free woman again?”

Andy shouldn’t have taken a sip of her coffee at that moment; she choked a bit, and Nigel pounded her back a few times as she tried to catch her breath. “Sorry,” she said, trying not to laugh through her coughing fit.

Miranda, on the other hand, ignored Andy altogether. “It’s excellent,” she answered him, not bothering to expound on her notion of what it meant to be free. “I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting for that long and sordid chapter to come to a close.”

“I can imagine,” Nigel replied.

No, you can’t, Andy thought as she looked out the window with a smile.

Chapter Text

The day was pleasant enough; Andy just did her thing after mentioning in a moment of privacy that she was going to act like nothing had changed. “If you insist,” Miranda said, her mouth firming into that thin line that Andy had grown to dislike. She was not happy, but she’d put up with it.

So Andy assisted as usual, making calls, confirming reservations, and checking them in for their flight as soon as she was able to that evening. She still felt the little zing of adrenaline when she heard the chime of her email, but it was less pronounced.

The final dinner was Miranda’s very expensive, non-expensed meal for everyone on the US Runway team at L’Arpege. Andy enjoyed her incredibly beautiful and unique meal, recognizing Alain Passard when he emerged to converse with Miranda. She leaned over to Nigel, whispering, “He was on Iron Chef!” she said, more excited at this sighting than many of the others she’d experienced on the red carpets. She’d watched many hours of episodes with Nate, Doug, and Lily over the years. She knew her Iron Chef competitors like the back of her hand.

Nigel smothered a grin before asking, sotto voce, “Did he win?”

Andy wrinkled her nose in response.

“Got it. Won’t say a word.”

Feeling sentimental, she asked everyone if they’d pose for a photograph during this, her last official meal with the staff. There were nods all around and one of the servers kindly offered to take the picture for them all at the table. She was seated across from Miranda, who surprised her when she stood and encouraged a few others to join them on Andy’s side of the table so they’d all be in view. Emily and Serena both joined her, and they all posed for the photo as Miranda’s hand fell on Andy’s shoulder, gripping it with gentle purpose. Andy’s heart swelled as she smiled, thrilled to have marked the memory.

That night, she packed as quickly as possible. They would check out at 11 in the morning for their flight, but would still be back in New York by three the next day. It would be much easier to go home than to travel to Paris.

She didn’t want to assume anything, but she really hoped to spend one more night with Miranda in this magnificent hotel.

As she was zipping her last suitcase, she heard a scratch at the door. Her heart stuttered in hope as she rushed to answer it. Miranda was there with a demi-bottle of Agrapart & Fils Vénus champagne in one hand and a small bag in her other. Andy ushered her in, only to be pressed against the wall barely before the lock snicked shut. Andy threw her arms around Miranda’s neck and heard the contraband drop to the floor, quickly forgotten as they made their way to Andy’s king-sized bed.

They took their time this evening, Andy stripping Miranda slowly of her clothes piece by piece, then stripping herself of her own as Miranda observed with unblinking eyes from the bed. Andy knew it would be so good, wanting to show Miranda the depth of her desire by making her body the exclusive focus of her attention for as long as Miranda could take it. Every cry from Miranda’s throat felt like a gift, every moan and whine and whisper made her clench in response. It felt like a dream; she wished she could live this night forever as they coaxed pleasure from one another.

Some time later, Miranda left the bed to retrieve the champagne and what turned out to be a box of strawberries, so they each drank a warm glass and shared the fruit in the center of the mattress. Pouring the last of the bottle into Miranda’s glass, Andy noticed a little furrow between her brows. “Something on your mind?” she asked.

“It will be different, at home,” Miranda replied. “I know it’s happening later this week, right?”

Andy had not forgotten, but she wished she could, just for tonight. “Yes.”

“Mm,” Miranda hummed. “Should we stay clear of one another for a time? Just in case?”

The thought of it was agony to Andy. Now that she had a taste, how on earth would she manage without this? She knew that Elias Clarke would be affected as soon as the first article landed; the implication of the board members could not wait. There would likely be a number of emergency meetings when the investors made waves. It would not be convenient for Andy to be staying on 73rd street if that happened. Miranda would need to be one hundred percent dedicated to work when this all went down. Andy would be a distraction. A nice one, but not a good one. “Yes,” she finally said.

Her sadness was evident and Miranda put a hand on hers. “It won’t be long, now. We’re nearly there.”

Andy hoped she was right.

They shared Andy’s bed that night, Andy awakening to Miranda’s back pressed to her side again. Though it had only happened twice, Andy felt almost sick with longing and they hadn’t even spent a second apart yet. So much for living in the moment. She turned over and did her best to set her discomfort aside, instead stroking her fingers along the line of Miranda’s neck, watching the goosebumps rise as she woke so they could make love a last time before morning.

The flight home was painless, Andy spending most of the time staring out the window, lost in thought. There was a flurry of activity going on around her, but she was no longer a part of it. Runway would go on without her. Tonight she would collect all the important things from Miranda’s home and leave. Tomorrow was her unofficial last day, when she would go into the office, box up her few remaining items (including the tapes she’d locked in her desk), and say her goodbyes. She would give a positive exit interview, leave for her solitary, no doubt dusty apartment, and wait.

It was going to be a long few days.

---

On Tuesday, Andy woke for the first time in her old apartment with absolutely nothing at all to do. After a leisurely breakfast, she called Doug, who was working, and Lily, who was also working. She called her dad, who picked up and asked her all about Paris, then her mom, who asked her the exact same questions. Then she watched a marathon of Martha Stewart on PBS and laid on her futon, moping, wishing she could talk to Miranda. She went to bed at 7:30, pretending it was jetlag instead of heartache.

Her phone rang at 5:37am. The name on the display read Miranda. Her heart was pounding. “Miranda?” she said.

“I’m very proud of you, Andrea. I want you to know that, before… everything happens.”

It sank in that it was Wednesday morning and the paper had been released overnight. The article was probably live on the website already. “You are?” she asked, her voice thin and high.

“You have done absolutely incredible work and I love you. I promise we’ll talk when we can.”

Andy heard the word promise and remembered what Miranda had told her in Paris just a few days before. “I love you, too. Miranda. I wish I could be there to help you. I wish that so much.”

“Don’t worry about me, darling. I’ll be just fine.” She hung up.

Andy got out of bed right away and grabbed her laptop. The time it took for her to load the homepage of the New York Times may have been a minute or an hour; every second was endless. Then it was there, the headline: DISCLOSURE: FORMER CEO OF ELIAS CLARKE IRV RAVITZ’S HARASSMENT SETTLEMENTS EXPOSED. And then the words Andy had dreamed of all her life:

By Angela DeSantis

and Andy Sachs

Hank had kept his word. Her name hadn’t been dropped to the bottom of the page, nor replaced with “contributing reporter.” She was right there on top.

She read the article as she had a million times before. Very few changes had been made since she’d left for Paris; the first installment ran more than four thousand words. She read it twice before getting dressed and grabbing her wallet and keys. Quickly she ran down the stairs and headed for the corner newsstand, where the Times was sitting unobtrusively on the shelf right in front of her. The headline was larger than it had been on the website; the article took almost half the page above the fold and continued on an interior page within. Her name was there, too. She bought five copies and smiled when Arnold, who had been selling her newspapers for nearly two years, recognized her name and pointed to it.

“That’s you!” he said. He held out a hand to high-five her.

“Keep a few for me for the rest of the week, okay? Till Sunday.”

“You bet. Go get ‘em, kid.”

She tucked the papers under her arm and went to Starbucks to have breakfast and read everything one more time.

The next call came at 7:43, from Nigel. “Jesus, Six, you really did it,” he said as soon as she answered.

“I did my best,” she replied.

“It’s stellar. I feel glad to have been a tiny part of it,” he said softly. “Looks like there’s more to come. ‘Part one of a series,’ it says.”

“Yeah. I’m--I’m sorry if it makes things hard for a while.”

“Listen. Andy. Remember who the bad guy is, okay?”

Andy blinked. “Right. You’re right.”

“Talk soon.”

Andy watched the early local news and the story was reported everywhere; Irv was a big deal in the tri-state area and the reporters were salivating over the details. She got a few texts too, from Emily, who just sent a series of eight exclamation points, as well as Serena, who sent an xo. At 11 she caved and called Doug, who was working and hadn’t checked the paper. “So, I have sort of a story on the Times website today.”

There were a few seconds of silence. “The Times?”

“Yeah.”

“Like which Times?”

“Um, the New York one.”

Andy heard some furious clicking through the phone line. “What am I looking f-- holy shit, Andy. Holy shit, that’s your name, right there. Holy shit!” His voice grew louder with each subsequent exclamation. “Okay, reading.”

He stayed on the phone, mumbling to himself as he devoured each paragraph, whispering various expletives as he learned more information. It took him slightly over ten minutes to get through the whole article. “Andy. This was your iron in the fire,” he said.

“Yeah.”

“You know what’s really strange?” he asked, his voice pensive. “Have you ever had the experience of knowing someone you care about is really good at a specific thing, and you spend a bunch of years totally sure that this person will do something incredible one day? You, like, believe it with all your heart and you’re just waiting for it to happen?”

Andy started to cry. “Yeah,” she repeated.

“This is that something,” he said. “I knew you would do it one day. I didn’t know when, but I had so much faith that you would use your powers for good.”

She laughed as silent tears slipped down her face. “My powers?” she asked.

“You have powers, Andy Sachs, and you know it. You fucking did this. Can we have dinner tonight? I’ll cut out early. This is worth coming up with a really creative excuse for the boss.”

“Sure. I have nothing at all to do. I’m just sitting at home watching the news and looking for updates.”

“Oh shit, I forgot Monday was your last day! And I didn't even ask you about Paris! Oh my god, I’ll be there at 5 at the latest. We’ll order in. Call Lily and make sure she’s there, too.”

“I will,” Andy agreed, feeling more like herself now. She’d been on tenterhooks all morning, suspended in uncertainty, waiting to experience some sort of aftermath herself, even though she wouldn’t.

She called Lily next and left a message, receiving a reply less than an hour later that rivaled Doug’s enthusiasm. Lily agreed to meet them for dinner too. That helped distract her from her single-minded focus on the website, which despite all her staring, did not update much throughout the day.

When she finally touched base with her parents, they were both more surprised than she thought they would be.

“I knew you were working on something, honey, but I thought you were trying to get a promotion at Runway! I never suspected you were doing investigative reporting. It’s been so long!” her mom told her. At least she sounded pleased. “You seemed really wrapped up in your work at the magazine, and I suppose Miranda. She was all you ever really talked about, even before you and Nate broke up.”

Andy froze. “Um, really?”

“If I didn’t know you better, I’d have thought you were in love with her.” She sighed and continued, “We’ll, you’ve moved on, now.” When Andy didn’t assure her she was right, her mom sensed there was more to be said. “Haven’t you?”

When Andy still didn’t reply, her dad said, “Oh, no.”

“Well. It’s so funny you say that,” Andy said, wondering if now was the right time to tell her mom she’d been right all along. She didn’t need to come out; she’d dropped the B-word bomb on them sophomore year when she’d declared she was in love with her female Reporting & Writing TA (who, to her eternal disappointment, did not love her back). But she did need to come clean about Miranda. “While I was working on the story, which was like, a really long time, I couldn’t be involved with someone I worked for. But, uh, I don’t work for her anymore. And, as it turns out, I am in love with her.”

Andy’s dad repeated himself. “Oh, no. Dammit, Maureen!”

“Richard, your daughter is telling us something very important,” her mom said in her defense. “Honey, your father’s just upset that I knew something he didn’t. Why don’t you tell us what’s going on?”

Andy explained what she could, about having feelings a long time ago for Miranda, and Nate noticing, and both of them living with it till they just couldn’t anymore. She told them all the good things Miranda had done, like looking after her when she broke her arm and taking her in after the break-in (“it was totally platonic, Dad,” she made sure to insist). And then realizing that with the article coming out, she didn’t want to have work between them anymore, even though it was going to be hard because Miranda was so much older and established in her career while Andy was just getting started. Plus there were the kids to think about, and their respective work, not to mention the public vilification they might both face.

“Are you sure, honey?” her mom asked. “I don’t want to assume the worst, but I want to make sure she really cares about you.”

“She does, mom. And with all this stuff coming out about Mr. Ravitz, we’re in no hurry to tell people. It will probably be a while before you have to explain anything to your garden club. Or Aunt Janice. Or Grandma.” Andy grimaced. She hoped her mom would just spread the word through the grapevine so she wouldn’t have to.

They ended the call soon after, her mom giving her as much support as she could offer. Her dad came around by the end of the call, at least enough to tell her he loved her and was proud of her. That was good enough.

Before Doug and Lily arrived, Andy exchanged texts with Angela, who was working on another story but reminded Andy that she wanted to get together as soon as next week to talk about “next steps,” whatever those might be.

She didn’t have time to dwell for long on the subject. The intercom rang and Andy buzzed in her friends, who brought pizza and an excessive amount of wine. Once they’d gone through the first bottle, Andy confessed to them of her earlier than expected resignation and very few details about why she’d done it. But Doug drew the truth from her not very long after that.

“If you’re together, why aren’t you with her tonight?” he asked.

“I think she probably has some fallout to manage. I mean, I know she has. And don’t you think it would be weird for Miranda to hook up with an assistant right as her ex-boss goes down for harassment of women who worked for him?”

Lily shook her head. “Andy, you’ve told us it’s not the same thing.”

“I know it’s not, but the optics are pretty bad. Hopefully in a month or so, things will die down. Maybe even less.” She swallowed some wine and felt more maudlin than ever. “Don’t you think it could be less?”

Doug gave her an enthusiastic nod. “Absolutely.”

---

It was not less than a month.

The articles rolled out over the allotted five days, each delving deeper than the last, until it was clear that Irv Ravitz would not be taking over at Emarco Global or any other corporation. The story blew up, devoured by network and cable news, not to mention every other significant paper across the country. The more people knew, the more they wanted to know. The women who shared their real names and stories so privately with Andy and Angela suddenly found their faces splashed across CNN every day. Some gave interviews, while others did their best to vanish into the woodwork.

After that, Andy committed to staying in touch with Miranda daily. They would exchange texts and emails, but more often phone calls late at night. Miranda was having trouble sleeping, a reminder for Andy that her lover was as human as the next person. Andy had always seen her as a warrior who could survive any battle, a ship that could weather any storm. But Miranda had not faced this kind of broader chaos before, and each evening it took time for her mind to calm enough to rest and restore for the next challenges. Miranda did not share much of what went on at the office, preferring to talk of the twins’ latest adventures and Andy’s own projects.

Elias Clarke was, as expected, rocked to its core. The three board members who had suppressed information about the settlements were unceremoniously removed after two weeks. A few days later, a number of replacements were voted in by investors and the remaining directors. One of those replacements just happened to be Miranda Priestly.

To say Andy’s reaction was shocked at the news was putting it mildly. Miranda had spent so many years exclusively focused on Runway that the rest of the company seemed outside the realm of her interest. But once the details of Andy’s story came out, Miranda realized that she wanted more of a hand in the company’s direction, not just in the States but worldwide. She could not in good conscience let another Irv Ravitz take the reins, and to ensure that, she needed to be more involved. When nominated for a place on the board (at least partially because she had escalated the situation with Irv in the first place), she accepted.

Meanwhile, Andy had her own excitement to share. She’d gotten three interviews at different publications courtesy of a few strategic phone calls placed by Hank, who turned out to be as honorable as Angela had said. The Times staff was on an extremely lean budget, but Andy jumped at the chance to get in the door at The Atlantic, Mother Jones, and one she had coveted beyond all others, The New Yorker. All were entry level but not assistant level, which meant better money for the kind of work she’d always wanted to do.

She’d also gotten an email from Christian Thompson that made her squirm in discomfort. The tone of it had been both jealous and admiring, wrapping up with a question: was she looking for a new position now that she was away from Miranda’s all-seeing eye? “My boss read your story and he’s interested. Let me know if you want to come by for lunch.” She didn’t turn it down straight away, but put him off. If she didn’t land anything at her three other interviews, it wouldn’t make sense to say no to an opportunity. But the idea of working with him in an office environment was probably not going to fly.

On one Friday night in mid-November, Andy got home from her third New Yorker interview and made a phone call to the townhouse. Miranda answered. Andy immediately asked to speak to Caroline.

“Hello?” Caroline said. “Andy?”

“Hey, kiddo. How are you?”

“I’m good! When are you coming home?”

The stab Andy felt at those words, uttered so innocently by a twelve-year-old girl, took Andy’s breath away. She couldn’t speak for a few seconds as she tried to pull herself together. “I--I hope it’s soon. I miss you all so much.”

“We miss you, too.” And in a quieter tone, “Especially Mom.”

“Well,” Andy said, inhaling and blinking back tears, “I need you to do something for me, so I can feel more connected to you and your mom. Where’s her laptop?”

She heard Caroline and Miranda for a minute in the background talking to one another until Caroline replied, “I’ve got it.”

“Okay. Get her to put in her password--”

“Duh, I know her password,” Caroline replied. Andy’s eyebrows went up.

“Caroline!” Miranda said sharply in the background.

“What, it’s not like she keeps it a big secret. It’s Dandylion81, with a y. See, it’s like your name, plus lion because you have courage, and the year you were--”

“I got it, Caroline,” Andy said as she tried not to consider the depth of Miranda’s sentimental streak that felt like a giant rainbow reaching all the way to Andy’s lower east side apartment. “Go ahead and log in.”

Andy walked her through the steps to create a personal Skype account and in ten minutes, they were talking to each other via webcam. Andy had bought an add-on camera that plugged into her laptop, but Miranda’s Mac had one already installed and ready to go. Cassidy joined them too and Andy gave them all a tour of her apartment that took approximately three minutes.

“It’s really nice, Andy,” Cassidy said. Andy tried not to take her obvious tone of sympathy personally. “Maybe we can come see you soon.”

“That sounds great,” Andy said. “I want to visit you, too.”

Fifteen minutes later, Miranda shooed the girls away and brought the laptop to her third floor bedroom. “This was a very nice surprise, darling. I’ve missed your face. And the rest of you.” Miranda’s smile was seductive.

Andy bit her lip. She hadn’t exactly angled for private time, but she wasn’t going to say no to it either. “I’ve missed you, too, Miranda.” She swallowed. “So much.” Andy watched as Miranda set the laptop on the bed and disappeared for a moment. When she returned, she had a set of wires in hand that Andy realized were earbuds. Andy’s heart raced just a little faster.

“How much have you missed me?” Miranda asked, her voice low and dripping with sex.

Andy’s mouth dropped open. “Uh, are we doing this?”

“We are absolutely doing this. You first.”

Andy wrinkled her nose. She had no particular plan for “how to be hot on camera.” Without direction she felt rudderless.

“Why don’t you lie down on your bed, all right?” Miranda suggested.

Andy could do that. She set the computer down next to herself and flicked the light on next to the bed. She reclined and turned to Miranda, who was staring directly into the screen, unblinking. There was something about that focus that gave Andy some motivation. She turned on her side and started to unbutton her blouse.

Miranda’s expression did not change, but Andy thought her nostrils flared very slightly.

She shed her shirt, her jeans and socks, leaving her in very pretty matching La Perla. Miranda nodded, continuing to watch Andy intently, her eyes roaming the screen. “Use your hands,” she said, her voice breaking.

The suggestion made Andy tingle all over, the sensation spreading from the backs of her thighs and up her torso. She followed that path with her hands, pausing when it felt good, thinking of Miranda. Soon she took off her bra and heard Miranda gasp; Andy knew she had a thing for her breasts, so she caressed them one at a time, pinching till it almost hurt. Now Miranda was closer to the screen, mouth closed and absolutely rapt.

Andy didn’t want to draw this out with a lot of foreplay, eager for Miranda to have her turn. She asked, “Should I use my vibrator?”

Miranda did not reply in words, but nodded. Andy rolled over and grabbed a little battery operated pocket rocket from her side table, primed with new batteries. It seemed Miranda was more interested in her expression than anything else, so she simply returned to her original position and turned on the toy. She slid it between her legs and arched her back, turning toward the screen. Now Miranda appeared almost anguished, her brow furrowed as Andy panted, working the toy where she liked it, a little inside but not too much, till she moved to her clit and focused on it. When she cried out, Miranda flinched. Andy was careful to let her see her look of desperation on her face as she got closer. Her mouth opened as she felt the orgasm approach, expertly working her body until she was at the edge for a long moment, then calling out into the empty room. She came hard, wishing Miranda was there, holding her, touching her as she throbbed with pleasure.

Andy lay there for a minute, breathing fast, enjoying the rush. Eventually she smiled and turned to the camera, noticing that Miranda had her head down, hair hiding her face. “Honey?” Andy asked. “Miranda?”

Then Miranda lifted her head, throwing it back, gasping in pleasure herself. She was breathing hard through her nose but otherwise did not make a sound. Andy stared at her with wide eyes. Miranda let out a tiny cry from the back of her throat then held her breath, mouth open in a silent O, grimacing in what looked like a stellar orgasm.

And Andy hadn’t gotten to see anything at all except the end. She watched in indignant outrage as Miranda gradually relaxed. When Miranda opened her eyes again, lazily caressing Andy’s body, Andy declared, “Unfair! I didn’t even get to watch!”

“You got to see the critical moment,” Miranda said, licking her lips. She sighed rapturously. “I rather enjoyed that. It will certainly tide me over,” she added. Tilting her head, Miranda regarded her with that blissful expression that had made Andy fall in love with her all over again that first night. “I couldn’t wait. Not after watching you.”

The compliment eased Andy’s ire somewhat. “Well. Next time, give me a minute to catch up.”

“Next time will be in person, I hope,” Miranda said softly.

Andy exhaled. “Me too.” She didn’t think it would happen on anything other than video for a while, but she could live on hope for a little longer.

Chapter Text

The first week of December, Andy started her new job at The New Yorker as an official staff writer. But before that, she took on an additional gig: helping Angela edit and research a longform piece for the New York Times Magazine. It was focused on harassment in the workplace and explored a significant number of high-level, evidence-rich accusations resulting in little to no consequence for the accused. Irv’s story was the exception rather than the rule. Angela wanted to reveal the pattern of protection that men in power generated for themselves and their cohorts through money, power, or other more nefarious means. Andy spoke to her new bosses about it in advance to make sure there were no conflicts. She’d been hired because of her work around the subject and they took no issue.

After a few Saturdays on the project, Andy thought the magazine was the wrong place for the piece. It felt more like a full-length book. But she’d let Angela come to her own conclusions as things evolved.

Leading up to the holidays, Miranda had dozens of social events to attend, more than ever now because of her higher profile. Andy worked what felt like longer hours than she had when she’d first started at Runway, when her day started as the sun rose and ended when she fell into bed at midnight. She wanted to make a solid impression at work and be there for Angela, but her personal life, the one she wanted to have so desperately, wasn’t going anywhere. After she went home for a few days to visit her parents and celebrate Christmas, she made a decision.

She and Miranda were going to start dating.

“Dating?” Miranda exclaimed on a Skype call the night before New Year’s Eve. Andy was in Cincinnati till the next morning, while Miranda was at the townhouse, getting ready for a late dinner with Donatella and Miuccia. “I’m not in high school. I don’t date.” She looked away from the screen to slip on her earrings.

“You’re gonna start. Tuesday the 3rd, we’re going to dinner. I don’t care who picks the spot, but we’re going out, in public, together. Then maybe I’ll go back to the townhouse with you, or not. But I can’t do video calls anymore, Miranda. The dust has settled. I love you. Let’s not waste any more time.”

Miranda looked off into the distance, eyes narrowing. Andy could see her weighing the consequences. She nodded once. “All right. I’ll make a reservation. Eight o’clock?”

Andy tried really hard not to glow with happiness. “Perfect.”

The next night, she celebrated New Year’s with Lily, Doug, and scores of people she didn’t know at an annual bash thrown by Lily’s gallery. It was fun to be with her friends and meet new people, but she didn’t enjoy trying to keep her distance when a few men (and one woman) kept circling her like sharks. By eleven, her spirits were flagging. Lily knew she probably didn’t want to be there much longer and gave her tacit approval to depart. “Love you, girl. Don’t be sad tonight, okay?”

“Love you, Lil. I’m not sad. I just… I’m pretty done. Give Doug a New Year’s kiss for me, okay?”

It was freezing out, but Andy had dressed down for the event and thought it might be nice to walk. After a few minutes, snow began to fall, and that made her miss Miranda even more. She huddled in her coat and ignored the random groups of revellers stumbling their way between bars and parties, shouting “Happy New Year” to anyone who passed them by. Andy just kept her head down, ready to be home.

When she got to her apartment, a long black car was double parked and idling in front of her stoop. Her eyes widened and she held her breath, trying not to get her hopes up. The door opened and Andy covered her mouth as Miranda emerged in silver and black splendor. A dark cape covered her hair, and she carried a handbag and a bottle of her favorite Agrapart & Fils champagne. Andy hurried to unlock the exterior door, holding it open for Miranda and racing up the stairs after her. She unlocked her apartment door and pulled Miranda inside, kissing her in gratitude, in desire, in delight.

“My god, you’re freezing,” Miranda said, holding Andy’s cold cheeks in warm hands.

She considered a quip about not everyone being able to afford a car service, but it wasn’t worth it. Not when she was riding a wave of pure euphoria knowing that Miranda had missed her so much she’d skipped out of a party on New Year’s Eve to hang out in her crappy apartment. “You keep kissing me like that and you’ll warm me right up.”

Miranda liked the sound of that, clearly, because she kissed Andy all the way to the bed until she was very warm, indeed. The pile of clothes they left behind was enormous, but Andy ignored it all in favor of pressing her mouth to the places she’d missed so much for so long. Miranda let her lead, lying very still as Andy used her tongue and her hands and her whole body to express her appreciation for Miranda showing up so unexpectedly.

Later, once they were sated, Andy pressed her knees behind Miranda’s and spooned her. They had left the champagne in the fridge and missed the passage of the New Year entirely, neither noticing the raucous noise out on the street in favor of paying attention to one another.

“You didn’t know I’d be home before 12. Couldn’t make it three more days, huh,” Andy teased, unable to keep the smugness out of her voice.

“You couldn’t last three more days in Paris, remember? Now we’re even.”

Andy thought that sounded just right. “Where are the kids?”

“A friend’s house till the morning. What are you doing tomorrow?”

“Nothing. I thought I’d be sleeping off a hangover after the gallery party.”

Miranda didn’t say more for a minute. “You could come over, if you like.” Andy tried not to hold her more tightly, even though she wanted to. “Spend some time with the girls and me.”

“I could not imagine a better way to start the year.”

The next day, Andy made coffee and tried not to laugh as she watched Miranda get ready in her tinier than tiny bathroom. She didn’t turn down a ride in a sedan back to the townhouse, where they drank more coffee and ate eggs and toast and fruit. The girls squealed when they found Andy there waiting for them and wanted to share all the exciting things they’d gotten for Christmas, clothes and video games and music and DVDs, plus a couple of books thrown in for good measure. It was the best day Andy could remember for so long that by the end of it, she found herself crying in the foyer as she put on her coat to leave.

Miranda watched her, frowning.

“I keep telling myself it won’t be much longer,’” Andy told her, wiping her tears. “I’m being really patient. I didn’t think it would be this hard to be apart. I mean, we weren’t even together before. It didn’t hurt like this.”

“You’ve got your new job, and things have quieted down at mine. It feels like enough time has passed to… be seen together.” Miranda rolled her eyes. “I’m not calling it dating.”

That lifted Andy’s spirits. “I am. We’re dating. We’re going to make out at the movies, go to Friday night football games, maybe even go to the Homecoming Dance--”

“Very funny,” Miranda interrupted, stepping closer and taking Andy’s hands. “I need you to be prepared for this, Andrea. The news is going to cause a stir, once people realize we’re together.”

“Stir,” Andy repeated. “I like the sound of that. Like a good cocktail.”

“Or prison,” Miranda added. “Remember those words when your name is in every gossip column in the city, darling. You might regret it.”

---

Their first date was at a small Italian restaurant where she and Miranda met for dinner at 8 on the dot. It was romantic and lengthy as they consumed a full bottle of wine, three courses, and two desserts. No one paid any attention to them. She went to her own apartment that night since she had to be up and at the office early.

The second date was Andy’s choice at her favorite Indian restaurant on Clinton Street. Miranda glowed in the darkness as they sat in a corner, huddled close together, ankles crossing beneath the table. It felt like a normal meal with someone she loved. She was happy and Miranda looked happy, too.

For their third date, Miranda picked her up in a sedan on a Friday night and took her to Tom Colicchio’s Craft, where they sat in a highly visible location and shared an outrageously priced, unbelievably good strip steak for two. The chef made an appearance at their table to confirm Miranda’s approval and Miranda introduced Andy to him as “a writer for The New Yorker. You might already know her work.”

When they finished, Miranda suggested they walk a few blocks, which Andy thought made no sense at all, looking at her ridiculous Zanotti heels. But then Miranda took her hand, lacing their fingers together and Andy got it. This was it; maybe they’d be seen and photographed together. They’d be out and everyone would know. Andy smiled and brushed her hair back from her face, hoping she looked okay.

But it didn’t matter. They didn’t show up in any papers or columns that day. By then she’d had it. She planned to start going to the townhouse and staying over every night. If no one cared, then she didn’t either.

A few days later, she was in the middle of the weekly editorial meeting with fifteen other people when her phone started buzzing in her pocket. She ignored it, assuming whoever it was would leave a message. Then it started going again, and again, and again, till finally she fished it out as clandestinely as possible. Below the conference room table, she opened the first message--a text from Emily--which read are you and miranda screwing? you are the worst don’t ever speak to me again. She noticed she had 6 other messages and a voicemail, so with a silent groan she pocketed her silenced phone and tried to look like she was paying attention.

Thirty minutes later, she left the meeting and immediately raced to her cube to find out the damage. The texts were from the usual suspects: Doug, Lily, Nigel, Serena, Leticia, Jocelyn, her mother (who seemed awfully cheerful about the whole thing), Angela (who noted she had left a few details out about the person from work she’d been in love with), plus a group text from Caroline and Cassidy who were both relieved the news was out so Andy could move home. The voicemail was from Miranda, who was sure the story had been held until they had real proof, most likely “because of the whole Thiel fiasco.” Andy didn’t know what she meant until she discovered Gawker was behind the story, aptly titled We Don’t Just Out Dudes: Runway HBIC Miranda Priestly Nabs a Gal Pal.

Gawker photogs had actually been tailing her and Miranda since New Year’s Day when an eagle eye spotted them with the girls walking Patricia in the park. (Apparently very few residents in the area had such an easily identifiable dog.) There were zoom lens photographs from all of their dates accompanying a detailed timeline of every event, written in a lighthearted tone that Andy appreciated. To her relief, the writers did not accuse Miranda of anything untoward by dating a former assistant; they were simply impressed that a woman with such a dragon-lady reputation had bagged an up-and-coming writer who had publicly vanquished Irv Ravitz in the pages of the New York Times.

“Anyone who worked for Miranda Priestly knows what she’s getting into when it comes to relationships,” the article read. “She works twenty-four hours a day. We spoke to numerous former assistants, all female, who stated flatly that their time with the Runway EIC had been extremely challenging. One claimed that it had been ‘the unsexiest, most depressing job [she] ever had and [she] wouldn’t do it again for a million dollars.’ We also contacted Miranda’s former husbands on publication of this article--”

Andy gasped in horror.

“--and only one had anything to say of interest about their ostensibly straight ex. The most recent Mr. Priestly, Stephen Tomlinson, replied with a surly ‘No comment,’ while the previous husband Jeremy Garner, of law firm Garner, Stubbs and Rockford in midtown, offered us four words: ‘That’s nice,’ followed immediately by, ‘No comment.’”

Andy examined each of the pictures they had published. Some were nicer than others, but none were unflattering. One in particular from their walk after dinner at Craft was verging on beautiful, with Miranda gazing at Andy with what the Gawker team called “an historically out-of-character actual smile” as they strolled down the block holding hands. “One thing can be said for Miranda’s actions: she’s not hiding. So if you wanted out, Miranda, here you go. You’re out,” were the article's final words.

Andy thought maybe she’d send Nick Denton a thank you note.

She left the building and from the sidewalk called Miranda, who bypassed both assistants to pick up the call herself. “I think I should send Nick Denton flowers,” was Miranda’s first comment.

Andy laughed and agreed wholeheartedly.

From there, photographers chased them around the city for a few weeks till the news cycle found more interesting fodder. It turns out covering two people who go out to dinner, go to work, attend school soccer games, and walk dogs was pretty boring. At the office she was far from the only queer person so the news was mostly ignored. Her new colleagues were much more interested in her Ravitz investigation than anything else related to Runway.

By the middle of March, she and Miranda decided that Andy would give up her place, so on April Fool’s Day, Andy became a full-time resident of the Upper East Side. The big move was so small that the workers had the tiny truck unloaded in less than thirty minutes. Consequently, the only two photos that Andy caught online appeared on JustJared: the back of the U-Haul as it drove away, and Andy herself handing a backpack to Caroline as they climbed the stoop. Miranda was in Milan at the time, so it was a non-event for the tabloids.

But the thing that made her feel like she had made the right decision around this massive yet mostly unremarkable moment of her life was discovering something unexpected in Miranda’s office. She stopped in to drop a few extra wires and chargers on the desk when she noticed a new frame hanging on the wall that didn’t quite match the other decor. Those were of Caroline and Cassidy at various stages of their lives; babies walking, toddlers with ice cream, young girls frolicking on the beach. But to the left of those images now hung a professionally matted piece of notepaper in a silver frame: Andy’s hand-written resignation letter from Paris. Andy took a photo of it and sent it to Miranda with the accompanying words, i guess this never made it to HR.

Four hours later, Miranda replied: certainly not.

Andy had just started to feel settled in with Miranda and the kids when she got an invitation that confused her. It was for a dinner at Dovetail on West 77th, hosted by CFG, scheduled for the end of April. The timing was curious. Miranda’s big gala would take place only a few days later with Andy attending as a guest rather than an assistant. She texted Miranda, who would arrive home from her European travels the following afternoon.

Got an invite to some dinner from CFG. ???

I will also be in attendance, Miranda replied.

What’s it for?

Pre-gala celebration. They probably included you because of me, Miranda typed.

Andy felt somewhat indignant at that, but when she thought about it, Miranda was right. She was no longer remotely part of the fashion universe and had converted her work wardrobe to something more staid. Then again, she was no longer trying to impress Miranda with her clothing, preferring to dazzle her while wearing nothing at all.

Weeks later for the CFG event, Andy let Miranda dress her in an elegant Chanel cocktail dress with an absolutely gorgeous organza neckline and flared skirt. She felt as beautiful as she ever had at Miranda’s side when they arrived, flashbulbs going off and photographers calling out their names from behind a roped-off sidewalk entrance. Inside, it was already crowded although they were only a few minutes later than the suggested arrival time. Dozens of exquisitely dressed industry insiders milled around the dimly lit, elegant establishment. Andy saw Serena and Emily right away, hovering around a table with some others she knew from the art department. She turned to Miranda, who motioned with her chin for Andy to mingle, so Andy squeezed her hand and went straight over.

Serena enveloped her in a huge hug, complimenting her on her dress and her makeup. “Not as good as mine would have been, but still wonderful,” she added. “How are you?” she asked, her eyes tracking to where Miranda was in conversation across the room. “And how is your beautiful girlfriend?”

Emily groaned. “Do not call Miranda that ridiculous word,” she grumbled.

Andy smiled and put an arm around Emily. “She’s so good, Serena. Really. She’s just…” She leaned close to Emily and said seductively, “Delicious. Mm.”

“You are my nemesis,” Emily said stiffly, turning her head away as Serena laughed loudly enough to attract attention from nearby guests.

“Aw, come on, Em. You know I’m just teasing. Sort of.” She paused. “How are things for you all?”

“Going well,” Serena said. “Busy. You remember what it’s like just before the gala every year.”

“I know,” Andy replied. “I thought it was so weird that they’d have some event tonight with it coming up on Saturday. Do you know what this is for?”

Serena looked at her in confusion, eyebrows rising as she glanced at Emily. “Um, no. I have no idea,” she said.

“None whatsoever,” Emily added, sipping from her glass.

“Huh. Oh well, I suppose we’ll find out eventually. I hope we’re eating soon.”

Emily shook her head. “Of course you do.”

Not long after, Andy joined Miranda at a table where she claimed her seat next to Nigel. “Well, don’t you look dapper,” she told him as he enfolded her in a warm embrace. “I’m so happy to see you.”

“Me too, darling. You are gorgeous as ever. As is your lovely… What are you calling each other now, partner? Sweetheart?”

Andy shrugged, reaching out for a moment to touch Miranda’s thigh beneath the table. Miranda took her hand and threaded their fingers together. “Both sound nice.”

“Well, I for one am so glad you’re here. You’re practically the guest of honor.”

Andy frowned. “I am?” she asked.

There was a clinking sound across the room as someone tapped a wine glass with a piece of silverware. “One of them, anyway.” He kissed her cheek unexpectedly. “I love you, kid.”

Andy was so surprised by his words that her mouth fell open. She was unable to reply.

“Thank you everyone, for coming,” someone said as the room grew quiet. Andy turned to see who it was, realizing it was Massimo Cortelione himself, the head of CFG. “I’m so happy to welcome you all here tonight to celebrate the success of James Holt International these past eighteen months. And that is in no small part to the partnership we share with our esteemed colleague, Jacqueline Follet.” There was a smattering of applause as Andy noticed Jacqueline at Massimo’s table too, alongside James Holt. “We are tremendously grateful for her guidance and influence as we launched JHI to become a leading brand in the industry. As some of you know, for more than a decade, Jacqueline was part of the fabric of the number one fashion publication in the world, Runway. She came up through the ranks to lead Runway Française before joining us. Her efforts have been invaluable, but we know her heart has always been with her home and the world of Runway. Which is why now, our friend Miranda Priestly has some news to share with you all.”

Andy glanced next to her with wide eyes as Miranda stood and put on the placid smile that she used for public events. Andy knew it well but hadn’t seen it for some time.

“Yes, thank you, Massimo, it’s wonderful to have you all here tonight, on the eve of my very favorite event of the year.” She paused, glancing around at the crowd. “For almost seventy-five years, Runway has been a gleaming diamond of aspiration and influence for readers around the world. Runway Française has always been an essential part of our global brand. Under the tutelage of Jacqueline Follet, it grew to become the top-selling fashion magazine in Europe before her departure to JHI. But now, we are thrilled to announce her return to the family, leading the charge in the European division not just for Runway Française, but Runway Italia, Runway Deutschland, and Runway España.” When Miranda smiled this time, it was the real thing. “Congratulations, Jacqueline. Welcome home.”

There was an explosion of applause as Miranda retook her seat. Jacqueline stood and waved to the crowd, nodding and thanking everyone in appreciation. The clapping went on for at least a minute as Andy tried to digest the new information (that Miranda had clearly kept to herself all this time). She considered Miranda’s unexplained trip to Milan earlier this month and knew instantly that this had been a part of it. Massimo stood again, quieting the group as he did. “Thank you again, Jacqueline. We’re so happy for you and cannot wait to see what you will achieve across Europe and the rest of the world in this new position.” He allowed the rest of the applause to die down before he continued, “That leaves, well, a vacuum in our team that we must fill with only the most qualified individual. Someone who understands all sectors of fashion with the proper perspective and experience, who commands respect and excellence in all things. And because of that, we knew there was only one individual for the job. I could not be more pleased to bring the remarkable Nigel Kipling on board as our new Co-President of James Holt International.”

The applause was just as big, if not larger than it had been for Jaqueline, peppered with a few jubilant cheers. Andy turned to Nigel with so much joy in her heart, she could hardly stand it. Stunned didn’t come close to describing her reaction. Nigel stood to accept the accolades, glancing down and removing his glasses for a moment as he took it all in. “Thank you all. I’m so grateful for the opportunity. Thank you,” he said simply, before retaking his seat.

Massimo continued, “We celebrate you both tonight and look forward to your continued success. Congratulations Jacqueline and Nigel. Now, let’s enjoy the evening. Thank you all!”

There was another round of applause as Andy turned to Nigel, who was staring at the table in what looked like a determined effort to contain his emotions. Andy had tears in her eyes. “Your dream job,” she whispered to him.

He bobbed his head and laughed weakly before looking up. “Yep. My dream job.”

She reached out for his hand and gripped it tightly, overwhelmed. “I’m so happy for you, Nigel. I’m so happy. You’re gonna be great.”

“Thanks. I--just thanks, Andy. For everything.”

Soon Andy noticed that the table had been surrounded by a dozen people who were waiting to congratulate her friend, so she urged him to accept their appreciation. She turned to Miranda on her other side, who acted as though she hadn’t known all along that this was happening, at least until she met Andy’s gaze.

“I wanted it to be a surprise,” Miranda said. “I thought you would appreciate it.”

Andy just watched Miranda, taking in her beautiful features, the motion of her chandelier earrings, the diamonds at her throat. The perfect fall of her hair over her brow. But most of all, she could not tear her eyes away from the way Miranda’s face transformed under Andy’s adoring attention. There it was--that look that made Andy feel loved beyond compare. “I do appreciate it, Miranda.”

Miranda swallowed and looked away, the beloved expression vanishing under the veil worn for the public. “I just needed time to make it happen.”

Andy looked around the room, watching Nigel receive congratulations from the many people who had come to tonight’s event. He accepted it all with humility and a familiar wry grin. Andy turned her to Miranda, thinking back to their very beginning. “Remember the day we first met?”

Miranda huffed a little laugh, smiling at the crowd as she waved at someone across the room. “I do.”

Reaching out again for Miranda’s hand, she said, “I’m so glad they didn’t send me to interview at Auto Universe.”

That made Miranda really laugh, head thrown back with that single “ha” Andy loved to draw out of her. “Me too.”

The dinner was delicious, the company delightful, the occasion worthy of a party. Andy ate and drank with abandon, enjoying her friends and the event more than any she could recall in recent memory. Andy hugged them all, even Emily, with a deep gratitude before she and Miranda departed, saving Nigel for last.

“Ready to call your own shots?” she asked.

“You bet your ass,” he replied. “See you on Saturday.”

“Wouldn’t miss it,” Andy said.

Andy waited for Miranda to make her last goodbye with Massimo when someone touched Andy’s arm. She turned to see Jacqueline, who looked curiously hesitant for a woman who was now running 25% of a massive corporate conglomerate. “Hi! Wow, Jacqueline, congratulations. I don’t know if you remember me, but I--”

“Of course, I do, Andrea. I’m so pleased to say hello to you tonight.” Andy leaned in and gave her the expected dual air-kisses as Jacqueline pressed close. “I wanted to say thank you, from my deepest heart. I know how much work you did on your story about the former head of Elias Clarke.” It was evident that she didn’t even want to speak his name. “I am indebted to you. Eternally.”

“Oh,” Andy exhaled. She had never personally interviewed Jacqueline and knew very few details of what went on between her and Irv. But Miranda had known and kept her secrets. “I just--I wanted to help.”

“You did, my dear. Thank you.” With glassy eyes, Jacqueline kissed her cheek for real this time, clutching briefly at one of her elbows before disappearing back into the crowd.

Moments later, Andy sensed Miranda at her side. “Ready to go?” she asked.

Andy nodded and accepted her coat, drifting in thought as they departed. Andy barely noticed the photographers still taking photos while they slid into the car in silence. Andy didn’t even have to worry about privacy; this car’s screen was already up by the time they had their seat belts on. Miranda reached out a hand in concern. “Are you all right?”

Andy nodded. “I just… had a moment with Jacqueline back there. All evening I’ve been reminiscing a bit, you know how it goes. I was thinking about that day in Paris, when I was still in New York and Stephen sent over the divorce papers, and you and Nigel and Jacqueline ended up talking about Irv.”

“Mm, yes,” Miranda replied. “You had to stay home because of your broken arm,” she added, running a finger along the inside of Andy’s left forearm.

“Right. And before that, you came to visit me in the hospital.”

“I did,” Miranda said. “Gave me quite a scare.”

“Really?” Andy asked. “But I was nothing to you, then. A nobody. An assistant.”

“Andrea, you have never been ‘just an assistant’ to me. You’ve always been more.” She shifted in the seat, staring out the window as they inched up to 81st and toward the Park. “You were a challenge. A pain in the neck. A frustrating conundrum. And if you asked me why I showed up at the hospital that day, I wouldn’t be able to tell you.”

This was something they’d never discussed, not in all the months they’d known one another. “I always wondered about that.”

Miranda sniffed. “I was there, you know. Outside your room when you were talking to that boy. The one you broke up with.”

Andy was shocked, as shocked as she’d been when she learned Nigel had gotten the JHI job after all. “What? You heard us?”

“I didn’t intend to eavesdrop. Emily told me where you were and I must have been right behind him as he arrived. I have a vivid recollection of him saying you were obsessed with me.”

With a laugh, Andy turned her body and slipped off her heels so she could lift her legs over Miranda’s lap. “I was obsessed with you. Still am.”

With a gentle hand, Miranda caressed her shin, sliding up toward her knee. “We’re barely going nine miles an hour, take off that seat belt and come over here,” Miranda said. For once, Andy disregarded safety and followed instructions.

Miranda’s arm came around her shoulders as Andy cuddled close. She thought back all those months, remembering the words that had echoed in her mind since Nate had said them. “That morning before the accident, Nate and I were arguing about Paris and you called me. He said ‘the person whose calls you always take, that’s the relationship you’re in.’ I didn’t know it then, but he was right.”

“He treated you very badly that morning,” Miranda said, one hand under Andy’s dress holding her thigh. Rather than sexual, it was a gesture of comfort and familiarity. “I recall being extremely pleased that you cut him loose. He assumed I’d fire you because of the accident.”

Andy winced. “I think he was just trying to convince me to take him back.”

“Well, I’m quite relieved you didn’t.” The car was by the Park now, near the Museum of Natural History where the gala would take place in a few days. Andy thought back to the first one she attended, when she had stood behind Miranda and murmured in her ear. But Miranda’s mind was still on the day of the accident. She turned Andy’s face toward her own. “You showed me something, darling, about making choices. To take a leap of faith and trust another person more than I myself could be trusted.” The soft lights from the street glittered in her pale eyes. “I never thought I could do such a thing. Not until you made me believe I could have this life and still make the right choice.”

“To tell Nigel the truth, you mean.”

Miranda nodded. “And to believe in someone else. Someone like you.”

Andy shivered in the embrace, resting her head on Miranda’s shoulder. She breathed in deeply before kissing her throat, trailing her lips up and over until she found Miranda’s mouth. “I love you,” Andy whispered. “I believe in you.”

“I know you do, my love. And I am grateful.”

They sat together, enjoying the quiet until they arrived at the townhouse. The driver put the car in park, hurrying out to open the door for Miranda while Andy spent a moment getting her shoes back on and gathering her things. By the time she slid onto the sidewalk, Miranda had already unlocked the front door and turned to wait for her expectantly. Andy shut the car door and set aside all thoughts of the past. She raced up the stairs, took Miranda's hand, and followed her home.

-the end