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When in Doubt, Wear Red

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Andy frantically dialed Miranda's hotel room, trying to remember what Miranda had planned for the morning. Something about a meeting, and then the luncheon. What else?

"Allo?" said Miranda.

"Oh! Miranda, Miranda I have to—"

Miranda hung up.

Miranda hung up on her. It wasn't the first time, of course, but this was important. This was about Miranda, not about Andy. This was about Runway.

Andy dialed again, this time Miranda's cell.

This time, Miranda wasn't nearly as pleasant when she answered her phone. "What?"

"I need to talk to you about—"

"Andrea, you are late," Miranda said, and hung up again.

Andy stared at her phone. "Shit. Shit, shit shit shit."

Andy spent the next hour and a half running around Paris, trying to track down Miranda. No one knew where she had gone; Nigel said, "Isn't that your job, to know Miranda's schedule?" Andy glared at him and then went to interrogate Miranda's driver. Eventually, she gave up because she had to get to the hotel 45 minutes early to double-check on the last details and to make sure that the necessary changes had been made to the seating chart. When that was finished, she paced the hallway, fretting and waiting. Waking up that morning with Christian seemed a very long time ago.

When Miranda walked in, completely oblivious to Andy's panic, Andy dashed over. "Miranda? Miranda, wait. Listen to me. Irv is making Jacqueline Follet the editor-in-chief of Runway. Christian Thompson told me—"

"I know."

Andy stopped dead. "What?"

Miranda kept walking, and then narrowed her eyes at Andy. "Do I smell freesias?"

Andy's own eyes widened, and she hurried after Miranda. "No. I specifically told them—"

"If I see freesias anywhere," Miranda said, thrusting her coat and gloves into Andy's arms, "I will be very disappointed," and then she swept into the banquet hall, leaving Andy alone in the hallway staring after her.

By the time Andy entered the banquet hall, Miranda was already holding court at her table, and Andy hesitated at the edge of the room wondering if she was expected to go to Miranda, until she saw Nigel gesturing at her furiously from across the room. Oh god, she thought, Nigel. But of course, Nigel was supposed to introduce Miranda, and there were several thousand people who wanted to ask Andy questions to make sure everything went well for Miranda, and she didn't get a chance to see Nigel before he got up to speak.

As soon as Nigel sat down after joining in the applause for Miranda, Andy grabbed his elbow. "Nigel."

Nigel barely glanced at Andy before shushing her. Miranda was speaking.

Andy ignored him. "I think—Irv Ravitz is going to make Jacqueline Follet editor of Runway."

"I would like first to share some news with you," Miranda was saying.

"What?"

"I tried to tell Miranda," Andy said, "but she blew me off, and I don't know what to do now."

Nigel shifted in his seat. "I'm sure your job is safe."

"Nigel!"

Up on the dais, Miranda said, "Runway and James Holt share many things in common, chief among them a commitment to excellence."

"I'm sure she has a plan," Nigel whispered, rubbing his eyes underneath his glasses. "She always has a plan."

"...when the time came to for James to choose the new President of James Holt International, he chose from within the Runway family. It's my great happiness to announce to all of you that that person is my friend and longtime esteemed colleague—"

Miranda paused dramatically. Andy and Nigel both held their breath.

"—Jacqueline Follet."

The expression on Christian's face was horrible, and Andy couldn't bear it. Nigel controlled his reaction much better; he only took off his glasses and wiped them carefully. Miranda was smiling and clapping, and Andy wondered how long she had been working on this solution. It involved hurt egos, but even Andy could tell it gave Miranda a great deal: Jacqueline was out of Elias-Clarke and in her debt, and Miranda had stood up to Irv when he wanted to fire her.

Miranda may have broken Christian and Nigel's hearts, but Nigel had a good job, one that he loved, and Christian was the sort of person who always landed on his feet. Or had women landing at his feet. Andy felt like an idiot. Miranda looked like a queen.

Nigel smiled tightly. "When the time is right, she'll pay me back."

Andy stared at him. "You sure about that?"

"No," he said. "But I hope for the best. I have to."

"She sure had a plan," Andy said, and had a sudden memory of the way Jacqueline smiled at Miranda at the benefit. It had made her uneasy then and now she knew why.

Nigel almost snorted. "That she did." He smiled wryly at her. "Watch and learn, Andy; that's all we can do."

When the luncheon was over and Miranda had finished accepting all sorts of accolades and fawning, she and Andy pushed past the photographers and hangers-on and settled into the car. Andy didn't know what to expect; Miranda was quiet, staring out the window, and Andy thought that she was going to be ignored entirely. It would suit her mood. That lasted approximately ten seconds.

"You thought I didn't know," Miranda murmured.

Andy couldn't think of a reply.

"I have known what was happening for quite some time." Miranda adjusted herself in her seat, sinking deeper into the plush leather.

Andy swallowed her fear. "Nigel knew you would have a plan."

Miranda smiled, her face sharp. "The truth is, there is no one that can do what I do, including her. Any of the other choices would have found that job impossible and the magazine would have suffered." Miranda glanced at Andy, pinning her to the seat. Andy felt breathless, and nearly missed what Miranda was saying.

"—promised me they will follow me whenever and if ever I choose to leave Runway." Miranda chuckled; it was not a happy sound. "But I was very, very impressed by how intently you tried to warn me. I never thought I would say this, Andrea, but I really see a great deal of myself in you." There was something in Miranda's voice that Andy couldn't quite identify; it was low, and seductive, and Andy was mesmerized. "You can see beyond what people want, what they need, and you can choose for yourself."

"I-I-I don't think I'm like that, Miranda," Andy said. "I don't think I could do what you did to Nigel."

"You already did," said Miranda. "To Emily."

"I didn't." Andy licked her lips. "I didn't—I didn't tell her."

Miranda lowered her sunglasses. Andy quailed.

"It wasn't necessary," Andy said. "I couldn't—A-a-and the she was in the hospital, and I told her there was no way she could be your assistant in Paris on crutches and—"

Miranda's eyes flashed. "You lied?"

"So did you. To Nigel. But I didn't betray Emily. I didn't take anything from her. I just—"

Miranda gazed at Andy appraisingly, her eyes narrowed. Andy couldn't tear her gaze away from Miranda's.

"Perhaps," said Miranda and looked away. "Regardless, you chose to get ahead. You want this life, those choices are necessary."

"But what if this isn't what I want?" Andy asked.

"Don't be ridiculous, Andrea. Everybody wants this. Everybody wants to be us." The car pulled up to the next event, and Miranda put on her smile and adjusted her glasses.

"Us?" Andy mouthed.

Miranda hesitated ever so briefly before getting out of the car. Us.

Andy hesitated at following Miranda. There were so many people, and all the photographers, and she was still feeling fragile from the luncheon. As Andy dithered, Miranda, halfway up the stairs, turned to look for her but Andy wasn't there. Andy gasped and dashed up the stairs past the crowd with her heart in her throat; she was waiting for Miranda when Miranda reached the top of the steps, but before Miranda saw her, Andy's phone beeped. She didn't answer. Instead, she reached out and touched Miranda's arm.

"I'm right here," Andy said.

Miranda's face changed from frozen fury to something else. "Andrea," Miranda whispered fiercely, "you are to stay with me at all times."

Andy stared at Miranda, long enough for Miranda's eyes to narrow behind her glasses. "Of course, Miranda."

After the show, Andy followed Miranda around the room, stopping for all the photographers and reporters. She was at Miranda's side for everything, and she was sure that every single picture of Miranda taken today would include her hovering. She was exhausted from the tension of being constantly on display, but at least Miranda was happy. Now, Miranda was insistently leading Andy somewhere, but she couldn't be bothered to figure out where. She didn't know any of these people, anyway.

Where they were going, it turned out, was toward a gray-haired man with an unfortunate tie and an even more unfortunate haircut. He looked vaguely familiar.

Miranda smiled at him and accepted a kiss on her cheek.

"Miranda!" he said in a drawling English accent. "Lovely to see you."

"And you as well." Miranda was smiling at the guy like he was going to be her next husband. Andy started to wonder whether she should quietly step away and leave Miranda to it when Miranda said, "Arthur, this is Andrea Sachs. Andrea, Arthur Treddick."

"How do you do," he said, and kissed her cheek as he had Miranda's. "Miranda says such wonderful things about you."

Andy glanced at Miranda incredulously, but she was still smiling at Treddick. Miranda had just introduced her to the editor of the Times Literary Supplement, and he already knew who she was? Miranda talked about her to other people? To other important people?

"I noticed that Runway is once again reaching new heights in circulation, Miranda," he said. "Nearly 1.3 million for the latest figures?"

"But not without price, Arthur," Miranda said. "We're running articles on plastic surgery; I despair for the future."

He laughed. "We've about 3 per cent your circulation, and it's getting worse. No one reads anymore."

He gave Andy an appraising look, and she wanted to tell him, I read, but the truth was, the last thing she had read that wasn't connected to Runway was before she had ever been hired at Runway. But that article on choosing a plastic surgeon had been fairly interesting.

Miranda tilted her head. "Thank goodness they still like to look at beautiful things."

"As do we all," Treddick said.

"Yes, that is why we're here, isn't it." Miranda glanced at Andy. "For the beautiful things."

Treddick nodded, and waved hello at someone across the room. "It's always a pleasure to see you, Miranda. Andrea."

"It's nice to meet you, Mr. Treddick," Andy said, and then he was gone.

The rest of the day was a never-ending parade of clothes and people and cameras and stress and tomorrow they were going to do it all over again. By the time she got back to the hotel that evening, Andy was groaning in pain and she collapsed onto the cushions in Miranda's suite, rubbing her feet.

Twenty minutes later, Miranda strode into the room, completely changed but dressed perfectly as usual. Andy stared for a moment, wondering exactly how long it took Miranda to achieve and maintain that state of effortless elegance, because from what she could tell from her own attempts, it wasn't effortless at all. It took unimaginable energy and determination and a lot of uncomfortable underclothes. Miranda was fixing her hair one last time. Andy didn't think Miranda even noticed she had gotten up and was now standing behind her, waiting.

Miranda gathered her purse and Andy held out her wrap. It was luxurious and heavy, and probably felt wonderful to wear. Miranda looked over what Andy was wearing—the same thing she had been wearing all day, minus the shoes—and her face barely quirked into dissatisfaction. Andy marveled briefly at the legion of words Miranda could summon without changing the expression on her face before she blurted, "Was I supposed to come tonight?"

Miranda gave her the stop-being-stupid smile, and said, "Be ready to leave tomorrow at 8:00 am."

Andy was too tired to take offense, and besides, the stop-being-stupid smile was preferable to the you've-fucked-up-again smile. "Of course," Andy said to Miranda's back.

Andy sank back onto her chair, and stared at the spot Miranda had been sitting in the night before; in 24 hours, everything had changed and nothing had changed. Great, now she was becoming maudlin and quoting insipid truisms. Miranda would not approve.

A few minutes later, Andy jerked awake. Miranda was sitting across from her, in the same bathrobe as the night before with her face scrubbed clean. For a moment Andy wondered if she was dreaming, but for one thing, the dress was a lot more uncomfortable than her skirt had been. For another, Miranda wasn't saying anything.

Eventually Andy's nerves got the better of her, and she broke the silence. "Did you have a nice evening?"

This elicited another Miranda glare, but it lacked any heat.

Andy blinked back the last remains of her nap and tried to rally. "Is there anything you need?"

Miranda leaned back and closed her eyes.

Andy's jaw dropped. When Miranda didn't say anything, she awkwardly stood and edged out of the room, pausing in the doorway and waiting for Miranda to say something, anything. She didn't. Eventually, Andy sighed. "Good night, Miranda."

"I don't know how to tell the twins."

Andy stopped and turned. Miranda hadn't opened her eyes, and she didn't say anything else.

"Miranda—"

"That's all."

Andy stared at the ceiling for a very long time that night.

* * *

 

Their flight from Paris to JKF was delayed due to mechanical failure, and Andy spent the entire three-hour delay tense, waiting for Miranda to launch into a tirade about how it was somehow all Andy's fault. The flight itself, once it took off, wasn't much better: Miranda demanded that Andy take notes on her recitation of the good, the bad, and the ugly from the Paris shows. Andy had a horrible feeling that Miranda would be working from these notes for the next year, and the level of disaster that would transpire if Andy messed this one up would make walking in on Miranda and her husband fighting seem like an ant infestation compared to an attack of dinosaurs. Miranda didn't stop talking the entire flight. By the time they landed, Andy's hand had long since gone rigid with cramps, but she continued to scrawl notes on Lagerfeld, Valentino, fabrics and cuts and colors and even the requisite lighting for pieces. Once Miranda stopped talking, Andy collapsed in relief. She could get away from Miranda now, just for a moment, and see if her hand would ever recover.

She stood at the curb for any last minutes instructions, waiting for the driver to shut the door on Miranda, longing for the anonymous relaxation of the subway.

"Andrea," Miranda said, and gave her one of those significant looks. Andy hesitated blankly for a moment before jumping into the car. The drive was silent until they pulled up to Miranda's townhouse, when Miranda woke Andy up by saying, "Pick up the book."

"Now?" Andy asked thickly. Miranda was already out of the car.

It was past 1:00 am, so the book was finished and waiting on Andy's desk when she got to Elias-Clarke, and Andy fell asleep again in the car on the way to Miranda's, cradling the book to her chest. As the car pulled into Miranda's street, Andy jerked awake again. "Wait! The dry-cleaning!"

"There wasn't any today," the driver said dryly.

Andy flushed. Of course not, they'd been gone for a week. "Sorry. I'm glad you're on the ball."

It took several minutes for Andy to find the key to Miranda's house, and Andy missed the lock twice before she woke up sufficiently to coordinate her fine motor control. Once she got inside, she was about to put the book down in the hall when Miranda's voice came from the far room.

"Andrea?"

Andy's shoulder's sagged and she barely managed to hold in her groan; she was exhausted, it was late, Miranda wanted her at the office at much too early o'clock the next morning, she was jetlagged, she had to face Emily and find out what was going on with Nate—

"Yes?" Andy asked as she handed over the book.

Miranda said, "You'll be meeting with Simon tomorrow at 9:00 am."

Andy stared at Miranda. "O-of course."

Who the hell was Simon? Was she being fired? Replaced? But Miranda was consumed with the book, and besides, she would prefer that Andy bore someone else with her—Andy stopped her thoughts. She really was too tired for this. By the time she reached her apartment, it was well into the next day and it was clear that Nate had moved out: all his stuff was missing, along with three of her CDs and her favorite t-shirt. The shirt was technically Nate's, but he hadn't worn it in years. Dumbass.

Too bad she wasn't too tired to cry.

* * *

 

When Andy arrived at Runway for her 9:00 am meeting the next day, it turned out Miranda meant Simon the features editor, and that meeting with him meant exploring ideas like she had already been discussing with people in hallways and in the lunch line. It also meant asking the sorts of questions she knew Miranda would ask if she were there about publication timing and schedules and integrating new fashion lines. Evidently, Miranda was much too busy to work out a rough draft of an entire year's features with the man in charge of producing them, even if the draft was still twelve months in advance.

"I thought we'd do something on the movie industry in January," he would say, and Andy would have to remind him that everyone would be doing features on Hollywood during award season, and it just didn't make any sense to be following rather than leading. Or he would mention a potential author's pet topic about animal abuse in zoos, and Andy would say that Runway was a fashion magazine, and unless the pet topic morphed into something on fur or leather or something actually interesting to people who cared about fashion, it probably wouldn't work very well.

Andy ran into Nigel on the way back to her desk after the meeting. He looked her up and down, and said, "You look horrid."

"Thanks."

He raised an inquiring eyebrow.

Andy's exhaustion hit her all over again. "My boyfriend was about to break up with me just before we went to Paris."

"And?"

"When I got back, he'd left a note on the kitchen table. He had an interview in Boston while we were gone, and he left, just like that, without saying anything or waiting to talk to me or anything."

Nigel snorted and pushed open the door for her. Emily was busy typing away. Miranda was hidden somewhere in the depths of her office. Andy didn't particularly want to speak to either of them. "He accused me of paying more attention to my job than I did to him," she said. "He said, the person whose calls you always take, that's the relationship you're in."

"Emily," Miranda said softly from the doorway, interrupting her. Andy jerked around, and Emily glared at her before following Miranda into her office.

Andy hung her head. "If I didn't take Miranda's calls, I'd get fired; what the hell does he want from me?"

Nigel didn't look up from perusing the most current list of designers included in the November issue. "Nothing, anymore."

Andy rubbed her eyes. "He said he hoped my job and I were happy together. God, no wonder no one everyone's life around here is falling apart."

"Indeed," said Nigel, and slipped out of the office.

The rest of Andy's morning was lost in a haze of desperate caffeine intake, avoiding Emily, and disposing of the millions of samples that Miranda had brought back from Paris. Andy was typing up her notes from Miranda's marathon lecture on the plane, trying to figure out if her handwriting, usually so precise and neat and easy to read, said "slingback" or "elephant," when she realized Emily was staring at her from across the room.

Andy sighed, and looked up from her indecipherable notes. "You know, I brought you something."

"You brought me something?"

"Yeah, some stuff from Paris," Andy said. "A lot of it I'd never wear, but I thought maybe you'd like it."

Emily sniffed. "And you guessed my size?"

"Nigel did," Andy said.

"Well."

Andy upped the ante. "It's waiting for you on the rack outside."

Emily clicked at a few things on her screen. "I suppose this is meant to make up for everything."

"Maybe?" Andy said hopefully.

Emily glared at Andy. "You'd better have gotten me something from Balenciaga."

"I did," Andy assured her. "Many somethings. There were so many skirts to die for; you'll love them."

Emily opened her mouth to reply, but Miranda interrupted her. "Emily?" she said, peering out of the door of her office. "Pick up the layout sheets."

Andy frowned in confusion, and as soon as Miranda was gone, she whispered, "You're on crutches. Besides, I thought that was my job?"

"I am, and it is," Emily hissed.

"Then what's going on?"

"Andrea," Emily said, "You never ask—"

"Miranda anything," Andy finished. "Right. It was rhetorical."

Emily smiled thinly at Andy and left the office in as much of a flurry as someone on crutches could. Andy went back to her notes. She had finally decided that nothing in Paris had been reminiscent of elephants and the word therefore must be slingback when Miranda called again, this time for her. She collected her scattered notes from the meeting with Simon, and dashed into Miranda's office.

"Yes?" Andy asked.

"What do you think, the red or the black?" Miranda was standing in front of the mock-up table, holding two pieces of print next to each other over a photograph. There wasn't a hint of tiredness in her face, and her posture was perfectly upright. She had pages and swatches and other things that Andy couldn't identify but which she knew were integral parts of the layout process, and she looked beautiful.

"Um," Andy said.

Miranda switched the layers, black on top of red and then vice versa. "Well?"

The phone rang.

Andy looked back at her desk. Emily was away from the desk, and the phone was ringing. Oh, shit.

"Andrea?"

"Um," Andy repeated. "I should go—"

"It isn't anyone important," Miranda said. "Red, or black?"

Andy stared at the layout. It was a picture of a woman wearing a complicated black and white dress that exposed a lot more than it covered, holding a very red rose to her very red lips and standing in a dramatically lit empty room. It was a striking piece. Andy licked her lips and opened her mouth to tell Miranda that either would work. Nothing came out. The phone stopped ringing. She swallowed and tried again. "R-red?"

"Mmm," said Miranda. She set aside the black text and laid the red on the picture by itself. "Yes, I think so."

Andy stared at Miranda, dumbfounded.

She had no idea how much time had passed before Miranda looked up, peering at her from head to toe from behind her glasses, then quirked her lips and said, "That's all."

* * *

 

By Friday, Andy was about ready to collapse. She was still jet-lagged, and Miranda hadn't stopped asking her strange, fashion-related questions and actually expecting honest responses. As soon as she sat down at the bar where she was meeting Lily, she dropped her head on her arms. "She actually asked me if I thought a Lacroix or a Saint-Laurent would work better for the timeline in the piece we're doing on the 60th anniversary of Dior's New Look."

Lily stared at Andy over the top of her beer. "I have no idea what that means."

Andy shrugged, peering up at Lily. "Neither do I. I said the Saint-Laurent, because it was prettier."

Lily laughed, but now she was staring over Andy's shoulder. "Speaking of pretty."

Andy twisted around to see where Lily was staring. He was cute, in a non-descript, rugged kind of way. "I mean, it's not supposed to run until next May, so who knows what's going to change between now and then. But still—I picked the stock photo that is going to be part of the miniscule timeline that will run in the issue; I saw it, in the book. It's there."

"Yeah," said Lily. "I remember that feeling, designing my first show. It was such a rush."

"And then you get over it; I get it." The bartender slid a bottle in front of her, and Andy picked at the label. "Miranda picks everything in every issue."

Lily clanked their beers together. "Andy, you have arrived. You are no longer a mere assistant."

"Nope. I'm moving up in the world."

Lily didn't answer. Andy winced. She had known that Lily wasn't going to make this easy on her, but she had been hoping for a little bit of leeway. "So, um, Nate got a job in Boston."

Lily wasn't looking at Andy. "I know. I helped him move."

Andy stared, mouth agape. "And you didn't tell me?"

"You were in France."

This wasn't fair. "You could've told me. I got home and he was gone. He left me a note. A note!"

Lily shrugged. "You don't seem too broken up about it."

Andy glared at her.

"I know you two were having problems," Lily said, "but he's a good guy. What happened?"

"He is." Andy rubbed her forehead, and started to think that maybe meeting Lily for drinks after a jetlagged week from hell and Nate's leaving and Emily's glaring and all of Miranda's weird questions was not a good idea. "I just—maybe I don't want the same things he does."

"You were together forever; you were the perfect couple." Lily shook her head in disbelief. Andy steeled herself, knowing what was coming. Lily said, "You moved to New York to be together; what do you mean you don't want the same things?"

"He didn't like Runway."

"Maybe he's right."

Andy's jaw dropped.

"You're different now," Lily said. "You've changed."

"Maybe I have, but it's not all bad. Is it?"

"I liked the old Andy."

Andy's throat was suspiciously tight, and she blinked back tears. "Are you going to move to Boston without telling me, too?"

"Andy," Lily said.

"I just—I'm doing my best. And Nate's the one who left."

Lily rummaged in her bag and handed Andy a tissue so she could wipe her face.

"Nice bag," Andy said. That might have been a little low, but months later, Lily was still in love with the Marc Jacobs bag that Miranda hadn't wanted.

Lily opened her mouth to object, then snapped it shut. "You're right. There are good things about your job, and now that Miranda isn't trying to kill you, things might even get better. But you can't deny that you've changed."

Andy stared at the bar top for several minutes, and then took one last long pull on her beer. "You're right," she said, and slammed the bottle down. "I have changed. And you know what? I don't think it's all bad."

* * *

 

Andy spent the weekend alternately crying, rearranging her apartment to eradicate any traces left of Nate, and deleting messages from all their friends, who seemed to have found out and were trying to figure out which side to take in the breakup. When she got to work on Monday, it was almost a relief to be on emotionally stable ground: at least she knew what was expected of her at Runway.

Andy was in the middle of arranging the details on Testino's photoshoot at the Noguchi—no, they would not put the lighting anywhere near the special exhibit photographs; yes, they would make sure the models didn't touch the sculptures; no, they would not take more than eight hours—when Miranda called for her. She apologized to the man from the Noguchi for putting him on hold, and rushed into Miranda's office.

"Be ready to leave in fifteen minutes." Miranda didn't look up from her computer to make sure Andy had gotten the message, and Andy didn't wait for Miranda to tell her that was all before returning to her desk. Emily stared at Andy. Andy looked back helplessly. No, she wanted to say, I don't know what this is about; yes, you keep Miranda's appointments and should know what it is; no, I don't know why she wants me to come with her—

"I'm so sorry, Mr. De Nicola," Andy said, picking up her abandoned phone call. "Where were we?"

A quarter of an hour later, Andy and Miranda were getting into Miranda's car and sliding into the midtown traffic like there was no one else in the city but them. Andy pulled out her notebook just in case Miranda started talking at her, but even though Miranda didn't have any work with her, she didn't say anything to Andy. She didn't say anything in the elevator and she didn't anything when they walked into a PR office that was, if anything, even more lushly appointed than the Runway offices. The woman waiting to see them was several inches taller than Miranda and was wearing Aki Choklats. Andy was impressed despite herself: so this was Leslie, who was going to try and minimize the press for the divorce.

Miranda, as usual, ignored the niceties of introductions or greetings and launched into a conversation as soon as the door closed behind them. "We need to focus on making this as painless as possible for the girls."

"Of course," the woman said. "I was thinking perhaps we could stage a few opportunities for you and your daughters to be seen in public as a family, low-key outings, that sort of thing."

Miranda looked at Andy.

Andy's eyes darted between Miranda and Leslie. Miranda was waiting with a clear air of expectation; Leslie was looking at the paperwork in front of her. "Um, yeah," Andy stammered.

Miranda waited.

"That sounds good," Andy tried again. "Th-th-the girls love spending time with you, Miranda."

Miranda nodded and turned back to Leslie. "You have suggestions?"

That was evidently the only reason Miranda wanted Andy along, because she didn't look at Andy for the rest of the meeting or demand her opinion on anything else. Leslie pretended that Andy wasn't even there. Then again, so did Miranda. Andy took furious notes.

Once Miranda and Leslie were done and Andy's mortification was over for the moment, Miranda swept from the office in a flourish of coat and hair. Andy sighed, imagining that Miranda must be constantly irritated that she hadn't been born several centuries earlier and royalty, so that people could better appreciate her bearing. Poor woman. On the way out, Miranda bypassed the elevator for the bathroom, and Andy followed her without thinking. It wasn't until she realized they were standing in front of a marble-edged mirror that Andy noticed the line of toilet stalls and she blushed before turning to leave Miranda to her privacy.

"Andrea," Miranda said.

Andy turned back hesitantly.

Miranda's face was completely inscrutable, and Andy's fingers twitched, waiting for whatever new horror Miranda would throw at Andy and for which Andy would be both completely unprepared and completely unqualified.

Miranda reached out and brushed Andy's hair back from her face.

Andy blinked.

Waves of terror held her still. Miranda had just realized what Andy had seen and heard, Miranda was going to cut off her ears and her tongue so that she didn't go to the press, Andy's life was forfeit. Miranda sighed and, with impatience coloring her every movement, began to fuss with Andy's hair. It started with Miranda undoing the bun that held back most of Andy's hair, continued with Miranda's fingers brushing along Andy's neck, and finished with Miranda caressing the side of Andy's face. Just when Andy thought the tension of being Miranda's own personal Hairstyle Barbie would send her into an apoplectic fit, Miranda said, "That's all," and turned away.

Andy glanced at the mirror. Her hair was down now, and sleekly mussed. It looked better. It looked sexy. It looked like she had just been thoroughly fucked.

The bathroom door closed behind Miranda. Andy gave the person in the mirror one last envious look, and hurried to follow. The ride back to Runway was as silent as the ride to Leslie's office, and Andy was thankful. She wasn't sure she would have understood anything Miranda said over the pounding of her heart.

* * *

 

The next day, the first thing Miranda said to Andy was, "That Lagerfeld drapes well on you."

Andy spent the next twenty minutes trying not to hyperventilate. After Nigel inquired as to why she was standing in a hallway freaking out, he agreed with her that Miranda never complimented anyone; Andy didn't have the guts to ask if she ever played with her assistant's hair in the bathroom. She was pretty sure she knew the answer, but since everything else had gone completely upside down, she kind of wanted some confirmation.

Miranda didn't act like anything had happened, of course, so Andy decided to ignore things, too. And then the following day, Miranda asked Andy to pick her up lunch from The Green Room, and to "Get yourself one of their grilled cheese sandwiches. They are delightful."

Andy stared at Miranda blankly, wondering if that was some sort of slam on Nate. But Miranda had gone back to work almost before finishing her sentence, and Andy didn't even think Miranda knew that she and Nate had broken up. Besides, she had certainly never told her about the grilled cheese.

The sandwich was very good.

The day after that, Andy wondered if maybe Miranda spent a little bit too much time watching her scurry around and perhaps wasn't concentrating very well, but if she imagined Miranda was calling her into the office at the slightest provocation just to see her walk in and then out again, she was probably wrong. Andy had thought the outfit was very flattering when she put it on that morning, if a little revealing, but she was starting to get self-conscious.

Not that Miranda was staring at her ass or anything. Andy put on a jacket when she went out to get lunch, and conveniently forgot to take it off for the rest of the afternoon. And she certainly didn't think Miranda looked disappointed when she called for Andy for the first time that afternoon and realized she had added a layer.

Two weeks later, Andy's home life had suddenly turned into smooth sailing—she had managed to work around how messy Nate was for nearly two years of living together but now that it was just her, she was unable to put into words the luxury of not having to fight over the toilet seat—but her work life had become a confusing mess. She was constantly tense, wondering what Miranda was going to say or do next. Miranda noticed Andy's new haircut, and while the only thing she had said was, "Acceptable," Andy had a bad feeling Miranda might have wanted to say more. Miranda had taken to fussing with Andy's coat in the elevator whenever they left the office, and Andy might have felt like a small child if Miranda's hands hadn't sometimes lingered along the back of her neck.

And that was another thing. Since when did Miranda let anyone ride in elevators with her? Ever since they had returned from Paris, it seemed that every time Miranda was in an elevator, Andy was standing right there next to her.

So when Miranda walked through the office, stopped in front of her desk, and said "Andrea," Andy tensed. Emily smiled smugly. The only good thing about whole problem was that Emily had decided it was better for Andy to have to deal with Miranda's current insanity than Emily, and so she left Andy alone about almost everything.

"Yes?" Andy said.

"Hold these. Call Jocelyn. You must make absolutely sure all the," Miranda paused and waved her hands vaguely, "actors will be there."

"I've been in contact with all their PAs," Andy said.

Miranda narrowed her eyes at Andy. "We need the location set up by midnight."

"I just got a call that the initial staging went fine," Andy said, "and they'll let me know when they're finished."

"And Leibovitz, get me Leibovitz."

"Her flight is over Arizona now," Andy said, "and she'll be landing shortly. Her assistant is going to call when they've reached the hotel."

Miranda narrowed her eyes. "Where is Jocelyn?"

"I'll get her now."

Andy was ready with Jocelyn just as Miranda picked up the phone. She and Miranda were starting to gain a spooky sense of timing.

"Jocelyn, you must be ready tomorrow morning when I call with the final choices," Miranda said.

Andy shared a smile with a newly arrived Nigel. "So why did Miranda send Jocelyn and not you?" she asked as Nigel started to set up the final run-through.

"I'm needed here," he said.

"To do what?" Andy watched Miranda give Jocelyn last minute directions, her head tilted and her eyes distant. "This is the biggest shoot Runway's had in years, fifteen actors, 25 pages, it's even storyboarded, and you're here playing with the back page?"

"There is more to the magazine than a single shoot," Nigel said. "Jocelyn will do fine."

Andy wasn't so sure. But then, the shoot was going to be a madhouse with all those actors, and Miranda hated to be anything less than the center of attention. Andy thought that was strange, because Miranda actually hated having her picture taken, which happened constantly, not that Andy was keeping track of all the photos of Miranda in circulation. In fact, she should really just start staying away from Page Six and the fashion blogs because nothing good could come of it, especially not after someone had posted a picture of Andy and Miranda arriving at a preview together, complete with Miranda's hand resting on Andy's back. Andy didn't want to think about why she had bookmarked that page.

Three hours later, Nigel had long since gone home but Miranda hadn't stopped. "The yellow belt. No, the other one, and those shoes. Andrea, are you paying attention? Hand me those shoes."

The shoes were actually in Los Angeles and the shoot was going to be in black and white anyway and all Andy had was a Polaroid and Miranda's steel-trap memory, but she held the selected yellow belt and the shoes against the photo of the dress Miranda had already picked out. Miranda leaned over Andy and poked at the shoes.

"No. Get me the other ones."

Andy sighed and picked up the pile of shoe photos. She got as far as saying "Which—" before her stomach growled. Loudly.

Miranda turned to Andy, and then looked down at Andy's stomach. Andy turned bright red and braced herself. She knew that look; she was about to get reamed. She stood there for an eternity waiting for Miranda to open her mouth. When the expected tirade didn't materialize, Andy slowly unclenched.

Miranda wasn't even looking at her. "Go to Atelier and get me something to eat."

"Um," Andy said. "Okay." She waited to see if there was anything else or if Miranda expected her to read her mind, but Miranda merely selected a different pair of shoes to go with the Dior dress. "Wh-what would you like?" Andy finally asked.

"I don't care," Miranda said. "The terrine."

"Okay," Andy said slowly and backed out of the room.

"Andrea?" Miranda said. "The guards downstairs can hear your stomach. I don't need to."

Atelier was insanely crowded when Andy got there, and she stood at the front desk waiting for someone to notice her for what seemed like forever. Didn't these people know that Miranda was waiting?

Finally, an elegantly dressed older man slipped behind the stand. "May I help you?"

"Yes, please," Andy said. "I wanted to order some food to go."

He raised an eyebrow, shook his head subtly, and just barely managed to restrain his undignified snort.

She said, "It's for Miranda Priestly," and his face brightened. When she continued, "and she wanted your terrine especially," he practically glowed.

And then, so dramatically Andy almost laughed, his face fell. "I'm sorry, miss, we are out of the terrine tonight. Perhaps our veau à la persillade?"

Andy's own expression collapsed as soon as he finished speaking. "No terrine?"

He frowned, his face animated in sorrow. "If not the veal, then the steamed loup de mer, with a sauce of mustard and pink grapefruit juice?"

She shook her head, slowly and mournfully. "She wanted the terrine."

The Maitre'd ignored the growing line behind Andy. "As a special tonight, we have chicken en cocotte, in a goat-yogurt emulsion; I'm sure that would suit. We'll add a Grand Marnier soufflé, Ms. Priestly loves it."

"You're really out of the terrine? Are you sure?" she asked one last time.

The Maitre'd shrugged.

Andy pulled out her phone and bit her lip. This was not going to be pretty, but given Miranda's strange moods lately, maybe she could get away with it. "Miranda?"

"What?" Miranda sounded distracted.

"I'm sorry, Miranda. I'm so sorry. They're out of the terrine. Is there anything else you'd like?"

"Andrea, I am busy."

"Yes, but you sent me here specifically for the terrine—"

"Are you incapable of making a simple choice?"

"But I don't know what else you'd—"

"I don't see what is so difficult about selecting a few items for dinner." Miranda said. "You know what I like, Andrea." She hung up.

Andy whimpered. The Maitre'd smiled sympathetically.

When Andy returned to Runway, everything was dark and silent. It looked like everyone had gone home for the evening; the night before something as big as this shoot, Andy was surprised that there weren't more people hanging around and panicking. That more people around would have also resulted in other targets for Miranda's ire about her dinner was sheer coincidence. Andy crept through the hallways, dreading the carnage she might find—or cause—in Miranda's office.

"Andrea. There you are." Miranda waved Andy over to the low table in the corner, which had been cleared and set with a bottle of wine and flowers. Andy stared. There were candles. There was a bottle of French wine on the table that Andy seemed to recall Nate drooling over in a shop once, and candles. What the fuck?

"Sit," Miranda said, and poured the wine. Andy watched as one glass filled up, and then a second. Miranda glanced up and Andy sat down, jerked by the power of Miranda's gaze. She set down the food and waited for Miranda to say something cutting about how lacking Andy was in her serving skills, but Miranda merely watched. It made Andy nervous.

"Is the duck for me?" Miranda asked.

Andy flinched. Miranda nonchalantly reached across the table for her plate. She had made significant inroads into her duck when Andy's stomach growled again.

"Eat, Andrea," Miranda said. "Are you not hungry?"

"No, no, I'm—"

Miranda ignored her and looked down at her plate. "Did you want the duck?"

Andy blanched. "No," she said quickly and grabbed the second plate from the table. "No, that's okay." The lamb was good, delicate and flavorful, but Miranda was done with her dinner by the time Andy was halfway through hers. When Miranda put down her knife and fork, Andy reluctantly started to abandon her food as well, so they could get back to work.

Miranda shook her head.

Andy opened her mouth, and then snapped it shut before anything could escape. Miranda was leaning back on the couch, idly holding a glass of wine and staring across the room at Manhattan; the sun had long since set, but midtown was lit up brilliantly. Andy studied Miranda's face, wondering what she was looking at so intently.

"Drink your wine," Miranda said without looking at Andy.

Andy decided that she had pushed the gift of Miranda's strange mood too far already, and returned to her dinner. She practically gulped the rest down, and was draining her wine when Miranda refilled her own glass.

"More?" Miranda asked softly.

Was this some sort of test? Did Miranda think Andy would get drunk on the job? Did Miranda want Andy drunk? This was turning into some sort of Lifetime special about the older employer and the young secretary and there would be whispers and lawsuits and Andy would end up in Idaho writing obituaries when Miranda was finished with her. Oh, God. Miranda must have seen something on Andy's face, because she sat up abruptly.

Andy just knew Miranda was about to say something vicious and cruel and designed to make sure Andy never wanted to think about this moment ever again. "Yes, please," Andy blurted, cutting Miranda off.

Miranda paused. Andy held perfectly still, trying not to cower. She had the feeling that she wasn't succeeding, but Miranda seemed to accept whatever she saw, because she silently refilled Andy's glass and reclined again. She didn't look nearly as graceful or as peaceful as before, but she didn't say anything. Andy smiled weakly. Miranda wasn't looking.

* * *

 

The next night, Andy stood in Lily's apartment watching her grab plates for the take-out Andy brought. The first day of shooting had gone off without a hitch, and the book had been done by the mind-bogglingly early time of 9:00 pm, so as soon as she left Miranda's house, Andy had called Lily. She needed some sanity in her life, because after their very strange and awkward and silent dinner, they had gone back to work, and Miranda hadn't decided she was done until almost one in the morning, and then she expected Andy to call Jocelyn in LA and convey all the changes. It might have been only 11:00 pm for Jocelyn by the time she was done, but it was two in the morning for Andy, and Miranda hadn't been in a mood to let Andy come in late the next morning. But at least the art department had been on the ball, so Andy had been able to escape Runway and Miranda for a little while and see her friends. Friend.

"So finally I just decided to open the shipment and deal with it," Lily said, "and you have no idea: everything was fine. After all that, nothing was even scratched. I mean, thank god all the paintings are fine. But I have no idea what they were thinking, shipping with the US Mail." Lily didn't seem to require any comment to her monologue, so Andy focused on eating dinner; the food wasn't nearly as good as the night before, but at least the company was more congenial, and also, she knew what to expect from Lily. Lily was easy. Andy knew what Lily wanted from her.

"Then Roger called the idiot artist, and they got into it on the phone; everyone in the gallery could hear them. Of course, the artist blamed his agent; it's never their fault, of course. But now that I have the paintings, I can start on putting together the show; I have a rough idea, but it's so much nicer to be able to see what you're working with." Lily paused in her monologue to scoop up a huge bite.

Andy said, "Has your boss ever, you know, tried anything?"

Lily stared at her in complete confusion, her fork hovering. Andy blushed. Maybe that was a little blunt.

Lily recovered remarkably quickly. "Tried anything?" she asked. "Are you asking if I've been sexually harassed? Roger would never do that; he's the gayest gay man I've ever met."

"No. Well, yes. I mean, no, not sexual harassment, nothing weird or uncomfortable, just—"

Lily narrowed her eyes. "Did someone try something?"

"No," Andy said quickly. "Maybe. I don't know."

"Who?"

Andy worried at her lip, trying to think of a convenient, or at least plausible, lie. Nothing came to her.

"Oh my God," said Lily. "Oh my God. Miranda Priestly? She tried something? I didn't even know she was into women—oh my God."

"No! She didn't try anything." And she hadn't. Regardless of anything else, Miranda had never actually suggested anything untoward, at least not in any language that Andy could understand. Although Miranda's eyes on her ass might have meant something, if Miranda didn't already spend her entire life looking at clothes and the women in them. Sometimes, Andy wondered if Miranda saw the women anymore, or if all she saw were the clothes.

Lily raised an eyebrow. "Then why did you ask?"

"She—" Andy couldn't finish the sentence.

"What, Andy?" Lily prodded.

"We had dinner."

"So?"

"She never eats with anyone from the office." Andy rubbed her face and peered at Lily through her fingers. "Nigel, maybe, once every six months. But other than that, nothing."

"Except you."

Andy sighed. "Yeah."

Lily eyes flitted over Andy's face. "And?"

Andy shrugged. "It was dinner." The food had been excellent, and even with the weird silence, the company had been nice. Most of the time these days, Andy ended up eating alone, and now that she was divorced, maybe Miranda had that problem, too. Maybe that was it: it was just two lonely people eating dinner together.

"So what makes you ask, if Miranda didn't actually try anything?" Lily asked.

Andy made an unhappy sound. "She set the table. We had wine. There were candles."

Lily's jaw dropped. "Candles?"

Andy nodded and buried her face in her hands again. Okay, so maybe Lily wasn't getting the wrong impression. Maybe this really was the Miranda Priestly version of seduction, and she would eventually give up trying and look at Andy like she was too stupid to understand the very simple thing that Miranda wanted to her to do.

Lily reached out to rub her shoulder. "You can talk to someone—I have the number of a pro bono clinic that deals with this kind of stuff. You don't have to stay there if she's—"

"I'm not going to quit," Andy said. It wasn't that bad; Miranda hadn't actually done anything illegal or immoral or that made Andy feel uncomfortable. At least, nothing new: Andy spent most of her time at Runway feeling uncomfortable, but it wasn't because Miranda was harassing her. At least, not sexually. Not yet. Not really. Unfortunately.

"Okay," Lily said slowly.

"I just—" It was not unfortunate that Miranda wasn't harassing her; it was good. She did not want to be subject to whatever weird fetishes Miranda had, or become the next person Miranda used up and spit out. Who was she kidding? She was already jerked around by Miranda. Maybe this explained why Emily was so infatuated with Miranda. "What do I do now?"

"Stay away from her?"

Andy bit her lip. Nate had suggested that, and Andy hadn't wanted to listen to him, either.

"You don't want to stay away from her," Lily said. "Shit, Andy, this is bad."

"She hasn't even tried anything."

"Then why are you so freaked out?"

Andy took a deep breath. "She didn't try anything," she said again, trying not to sound too mournful. It didn't work.

"No wonder Nate left."

"Hey!" Andy glared at Lily.

"What? She might be gorgeous, but damn, Andy, you cannot tell me you've got a thing for your female boss. Have had for a while."

"Fine. I won't tell you."

They hugged when Andy left Lily's apartment, and Lily whispered, "Just be careful," into Andy's ear. Andy nodded, but she wasn't sure how far careful would get her. What Miranda wanted, Miranda got. If Miranda wanted Andy, Andy was going to have a hell of a time saying no.

* * *

 

The next morning, the office was in chaos when Andy arrived.

"Where is she?" Emily said. "She's late. I don't like this. She was supposed to be here at nine."

"She'll be here," said Nigel. "Where is that brief on the new ads?"

Emily's phone beeped. "There she is." Emily began to gather Miranda's schedule and a notepad, and then paused and looked at Andy.

"What?" Andy said.

"Did she say anything to you about—Never mind." Emily patted down her hair, and scurried down the hall to meet Miranda.

Andy frowned after her, then double-checked that Miranda's office was prepared for her day. Her gut clenched in anticipation.

Miranda blew into the office, a glowering Emily right behind her. She dumped her coat and bag on Emily's desk, and said, "Andrea, I would like you to take over the organization for the Runway Holiday Extravaganza this year. Last year's was at the St. Regis, and while it was nice enough, I would like something a bit more—" she paused to glare at Emily hovering in the background "—fun this year."

Andy stared at Miranda.

"That's all." Miranda breezed into her office.

Andy turned to Emily, who was staring at the coat on her desk. "It's the tenth," Andy said. "She knows it's the tenth, right? And Christmas is in two weeks?"

"I'm sure you can do it," Emily said and picked up the coat. "You've taken over everyone else's job lately."

Andy's jaw dropped. "Em—"

"Miranda thinks you can do anything," Emily said to her from deep inside the closet where she was hanging up Miranda's coat.

"Emily, I never meant to—"

"I don't want to hear it," Emily said.

"Andrea?" Miranda said fifteen minutes later, poking her head around the door.

"Yes?"

"They are going over the final layout for February. Why are you not there?"

"But—" Andy said, but Miranda was gone. Andy tried to meet Emily's eyes, but Emily's jaw was tight and her posture closed. Andy sighed.

Andy slipped into Nigel's office just in time to hear him say, "Miranda was quite clear: no single pages opposite the Denali shoot. Multi-pages only."

Paul said, "But this Godiva is gorgeous, and balances the mountain perfectly."

"Personally, if we're going to piss Miranda off," Liz said, "I'd go with the Chopard. You always like topical contrast, don't you, Paul?"

Andy sank down onto a stool behind Nigel and pulled out her notebook. Both Paul and Liz eyed her warily.

"I like the Chopard," Nigel said. "Maybe advertising can convince them to run at least three consecutive pages."

It took four hours to finalize the layout of the issue, and once Paul and Liz left Nigel's office, Andy said, "Is it always like that?"

"No. Usually it's worse."

"You're the one who told me that Miranda's is the only opinion that matters," she said. "So why do they all spend so much time thinking up things they already know she won't like? She spends enough time telling them that she doesn't like stuff."

"Her opinion matters when it comes to fashion. She hired the rest of us because we know something about design." Nigel saluted her with his pencil.

"She doesn't know about design?"

Nigel looked at her appraisingly. "Andy, there is a great deal that Miranda doesn't know. That is why she surrounds herself with people who know those things for her."

Andy frowned.

"Go," he said. "I'm sure she's waiting for your report."

Andy turned to leave, but then paused. "Nigel? Why was I here?"

"I have no idea," Nigel said.

When Andy got back to her desk, Miranda was gone.

"Lunch," Emily said. "Which is where I'm going, now that you're back to do your job."

Andy didn't even try to argue. Instead, she dialed Miranda.

"What?" Miranda demanded.

Andy couldn't hear any background noises on Miranda's end of the phone. "Miranda, um, Jennifer, who's been doing the organizing—"

"Andrea, I am busy. Is there a point?"

Andy bit her lip. "What exactly did you have in mind for me to do about this Christmas party?"

"You're smart, Andrea," Miranda said. "You know what I like."

That was the second time Miranda had said that to her in almost as many days, and Andy had the feeling that there was a lot more to it than she was hearing. Andy blew out a breath, making her hair flutter. Things Miranda liked: verbally eviscerating her employees, Donna Karan classics, callas, her privacy, roasted duck, long walks on the beach—she had no idea what Miranda liked. And even if she did, how would that help Andy plan a Christmas party?

An hour later, standing in the lobby of the Museum of American Folk Art, Andy turned to Jennifer and said, "White. White with a touch of greenery. Silk ribbon and live plants. No Christmas trees, nothing kitschy. Nothing Martha Stewart would suggest. And the Folk Art Museum was a great choice, but we're going to have a hell of a time working around this exhibit."

Jennifer's smile wavered. Andy sighed.

After spending all afternoon and part of the evening with Jennifer going over the existing plans for the Christmas Party, Andy was exhausted when she returned to Runway. And then the book was late. It was past eleven when she left the building, and she leaned her head against the window of the car as they drove uptown. Snowflakes started to drift down as they passed 60th, and by the time they reached Miranda's, the snow had begun in earnest.

Andy hung the dry cleaning up, and had already set the book down when Miranda called her name.

Andy sighed as she picked the book up and made her way to the back of the house. Miranda took the book, and Andy waited for her orders. But Miranda didn't say anything.

After several minutes, Andy turned to leave. As she left the room, Miranda spoke, low and soft.

"You can do anything you set your mind to."

Andy looked over at Miranda surprise, but Miranda looked like she wasn't paying any attention to Andy. Andy stared at her, wondering what Miranda meant, and then Miranda looked up. Their eyes met.

"Anything, Andrea," said Miranda, and smiled.

Andy opened her mouth, then closed it again and left so quickly she almost tripped over the door.

* * *

 

A week later, Andy still couldn't concentrate on anything, but it didn't matter. Miranda was in and out of the office so constantly, Andy wouldn't have known where she was without the help of Emily's anal scheduling. She had to admit, Emily was scarily good at keeping track of Miranda.

"Andy," Emily said hanging up the phone, "Miranda will be here shortly. She needs to speak to Nigel, and then you are leaving immediately to preview Proenza Schouler's spring line."

Andy nodded and gathered Miranda's coat and bag, along with her own coat and notebook. When Miranda breezed through, coming from Nigel's office, Andy was waiting. As usual, Miranda said nothing on the drive over, and when the car pulled up in front of Proenza Schouler, Andy followed Miranda into the uncomfortably small elevator, and stood half a step behind her. Somewhere around the third floor, Miranda stepped back, putting herself parallel to Andy. Andy stared at her out of the corner of her eye, trying to be unobtrusive. It wasn't working, because as they passed the seventh floor, Miranda turned to face her.

Miranda's eyes roamed over Andy's face, Miranda's breath brushed Andy's cheek.

Andy slowly leaned forward. So did Miranda.

The elevator doors opened, and Jocelyn said, "Oh, hello, Miranda."

Andy shrank back and stared at Jocelyn in horror. She had just—she was going to—Miranda was going to let her—she was fired. She was dead. So dead, and she couldn't even complain because it was all her fault and just when she was starting to really like her job and learn a lot and—

Miranda strolled down the hallway like nothing had happened. Jocelyn was babbling at Andy. Andy had the vague impression that Jocelyn probably had no idea what she had interrupted, but Andy had never seen Miranda in those Bill Blass pants, and they were exquisite. Or rather, Miranda in those pants was exquisite. And gone.

"I love those pants," Jocelyn said, standing next to Andy in the hallway looking after Miranda.

"Um," said Andy, and hurried after Miranda.

By the time Andy arrived at the showroom, Miranda was just snapping her cell phone closed and everyone else was sitting down. The showing was agony. Andy was stuck sitting behind Miranda and couldn't see her face at all, and afterwards, Nigel grabbed Miranda to discuss a layout based on the new modernism that was showing up in at least three lines that spring and he ended up in the car with Miranda.

When Andy finally arrived back at the office, Miranda was nowhere to be found. Andy looked at Emily curiously; Emily just rolled her eyes. Two minutes later, Miranda swept out of her bathroom. "Emily, I'll be out until three. Andrea, get me the complete financial information for the magazine from the last five years."

Andy stared after her, and then at Emily.

"Well, go on, then," Emily said. "You heard her."

Andy swallowed. Miranda hadn't even looked at her.

Two hours later, Andy had reached the ends of what she could do without specific input from Miranda. The Christmas party was in three days, and time was running short for any Miranda freak-outs. For any Miranda freak-outs not related to her assistant jumping her in the elevator, that is. The Andy freak-outs were also going to have to be put on hold for the time being. She dialed. For a moment, she thought that perhaps Miranda's phone was off or on silent—or Miranda was ignoring her, but that was completely juvenile and nothing happened and it wasn't a big deal, people almost kissed their bosses all the time—and then Miranda picked up.

"What?"

I was going to kiss you, Andy thought. I want to kiss you. "I just wanted to run some last-minute things by you about the Christmas—"

"Andrea, that is your responsibility. You make those decisions."

"Okay," Andy said. "Well, then we're having a string quartet, and canapés to go with the champagne service—"

"No. No, no, no, no. Andrea," and then Miranda's voice dropped. "I expect more from you."

A shiver ran down Andy's spine. "Miranda, I—"

Miranda cut her off. "No."

"Then tell me what you want!" Andy blurted, and then cringed.

Miranda inhaled sharply. "I want you to listen to simple instructions, so that I can do my job without having to keep track of you at all times."

Andy took a deep breath. She could do this. She could follow Miranda's instructions to the letter. "I'm listening."

"Good," said Miranda.

"But—"

Miranda hung up.

As Andy stared blankly at the phone, Emily flounced into the room with Nigel at her heels. Andy dropped her head on her desk. "But you won't tell me what to do," she moaned.

Emily glared at Andy and said to Nigel, "Talk to her. She's having Miranda problems."

That was an understatement, Andy thought.

Nigel looked at Andy intently. "And are you?" he asked.

Andy stared at him. "Sort of. I just— Last week we— She said—" Andy stopped and took a deep breath. "She hates me."

"I sincerely doubt that, Andy." He moued. "And since she has decided that your opinion is to be valued above all others—"

"Not you, too. Besides, you have no idea what I've done now."

"Is this about the Holiday Extravaganza?"

Andy stared at him.

"She mentioned that you had some very interesting ideas. She's looking forward to it."

"You're kidding."

"No. I am not."

"But she sounds so... not happy." Andy buried her face in her hands. "Like that's anything new."

"I think Miranda is perfectly content, barring company politics. I think you are the one who is unhappy."

"I'm not— I'm happy."

"Then why are you wearing those drab clothes?"

"This is Armani!"

"Mmm," said Nigel. "And it's boring. You are too young, and dare I say it, too pretty to be wearing something that looks like it belongs in the board room."

"I just—" she sighed. "Tell me what to do."

"About?"

"About the Christmas party." That would do for a start. Although, she mused, Nigel would probably have good ideas about the other thing, too. Not that she was ever going to ask him.

"Is that what she's upset about?"

"She doesn't want canapés."

"It is a Holiday Extravaganza, Andy," he said. "It's supposed to be magical, a once-a-year event, extravagant, not your grandmother's Christmas party."

Andy glared at him. "My grandmother serves fruitcake."

"Don't they all."

Andy snorted. "So I'll just ask Michel Cluizel to bake us some cookies, is that it?"

"That's not a bad idea," he said, and wandered away.

Andy stared after him for a moment, and then picked up the phone.

Three hours later, Miranda swept back into the office, and Andy jumped up to take notes on the latest crises.

"Where is my Starbucks?" Miranda said. "I want the Polaroids from the shoot on my desk immediately, and pick up Cassidy's violin; she forgot it this morning. And first thing tomorrow, I want to see everything for the March lingerie spread."

And then she disappeared into her office. She hadn't looked at or spoken directly to Andy, but at least she still wasn't fired. Yet.

* * *

 

The night before the Christmas party, Andy had to get out of the office and away from Miranda for just an hour; they hadn't had any time to spend alone together since the Elevator; every time Andy thought about it, which was often, it was capitalized in her head. So she called Lily and dragged her to a bar down the street from Elias-Clarke. As Andy handed Lily her gin and tonic and sat down at the small table they had snagged, Lily said, "You're going to get burned, girl. This is not good."

"I know that! I just—I don't know what to do."

"I still have the number of the free law clinic."

"I'm not going to sue her."

"You should."

"If word got out," Andy said, and poked at the ice melting in her drink. "She's getting divorced, and her ex might try to change the custody agreement. And there's something going on with Elias-Clarke internal politics; I should ask Doug if he knows anything. Or read the business page. If people knew about this, she might—"

"Then she shouldn't be doing it, should she?" Lily said.

"Lily," Andy warned.

Lily shook her head. "You know what? It's your problem. You know what I think, and I'm not going to say I told you so when it all blows up in your face, but..."

"You told me so?"

They shared a wry smile. "Yeah."

"It's not like that," Andy said. She still wasn't sure what it was like, but it wasn't just Miranda.

"It's not going to blow up?"

"It's not harassment."

"It isn't?" Lily asked dryly.

"No. It's—she's just being nice."

"This isn't difficult to understand, Andy. It's not right, even if you did want it."

"I—"

"And don't tell me you don't want it," Lily said, and wagged a finger at Andy. "We both know you do."

"It's not like it would ever work. She's—And I'm—It would never work."

"So you're going to take what you can get?"

"I guess."

"You are so going to get burned," Lily said, shaking her head.

Andy nodded morosely.

* * *

 

Andy spent the following day double and triple checking the last-minute preparations for the Christmas party. When she got back to Runway in the late afternoon, Miranda was standing outside her office in mid-sentence and Emily was taking furious notes.

"—why is it impossible to find anyone who can do as they're asked? The piece on the Malaysian fashion industry is late, again; make sure it is on my desk by the end of the day. And confirm to Eric Gaskins that I will attend his party tomorrow."

Miranda glanced at Andy and entered her office. Andy followed. "I will be leaving shortly to prepare for tonight's event," Miranda said, "but I need to you make sure that Valentino is ready for the girls and me to arrive on the 23rd, and that everything is in place for the Savannah shoot." Miranda stopped in front of a rack that was waiting in the far corner, flipping through the hangers. "The shoot is dependent on the weather, so everything needs to be ready by January 15th. Did you send out my Christmas presents?"

"Yes. Miranda?"

"What?" said Miranda.

Andy carefully grabbed Miranda's elbow and spun her around. Miranda looked at her. Andy stepped forward.

Miranda's lips were soft, and she emitted an almost surprised sound before she lunged forward and grabbed Andy's shoulders to pull her closer. Andy went willingly, following Miranda's tongue, until suddenly Miranda's hand was on Andy's breast and Miranda's hair was in Andy's hands, and that was a little too much, a lot too fast. Andy pulled back and stared at Miranda. Miranda with the mussed hair and reddened lips, Miranda who was panting and whose eyes were glazed, Miranda who was her boss.

By the time Andy hit the office door she was running, and she didn't stop until she was on the sidewalk outside of Elias-Clarke, shivering in the December cold. Miranda's car came when she called, and Andy stared at the back of the driver's head for several minutes, trying to think. She went to the Museum, where at least it was warm, because Andy's coat was in the closet at Runway, and that was entirely too close to Miranda at the moment. Several hours later, which Andy spent alternately berating herself for kissing Miranda in the first place and berating herself for leaving so abruptly, there was nothing left to do. A quick call to Emily confirmed Miranda had left to get ready, so Andy took a deep breath and called the car again.

As he pulled up to Runway, the driver said, "I'm supposed to pick you up at seven. Ms. Priestly's going to arrive at the Holiday Extravaganza at 8:30 sharp, so make sure I can get you to the museum and back over to her house to pick her up."

"Yeah, sure," Andy said. "Seven. Got it." Miranda still expected her to go to the Christmas party? Maybe she wanted to fire her in public, to complete her day's epic humiliation. That would be perfect. The evening was a mess, the Holiday Extravaganza was going to be horrid, and less than a week before Christmas she was going to have to look for a new job. Great.

But once Andy arrived, everyone kept congratulating her about the party. Irv Ravitz said, "Wonderful food, Andy," and Robert Lewis, the Elias-Clarke CFO, said, "I dabble in 15th Century court music myself, but I confess, I don't know this ensemble." That might have been because they were friends of Lily's, thought Andy.

Miranda arrived at 8:30 on the dot, just like her driver said she would, and when she swept into the lobby, resplendent in red, everyone paused for a moment, watching her. It wasn't anything that Miranda did, particularly, that made her capture everyone's attention. It was more how everyone else responded to her; how everyone treated her like she was the most important person in the room, in the world, maybe. Miranda, of course, ignored them all.

Twenty minutes later, Miranda had made her way to where Andy was standing, listening to the musicians and attempting to respond to the CFO's increasingly obscure comments about the music.

Robert Lewis said, "And this is Cornysh, of course, but usually it's performed with a vocal trio," and then he noticed Miranda. After the requisite air-kisses, complete with Miranda glaring at Andy over Lewis' shoulder, he said, "You've outdone yourself this year. And with the exception of the costs associated with the museum, you've done an admirable job of staying on budget for this little soirée."

Miranda's eyes narrowed. "I'm so glad you could make it."

"I wouldn't miss it for the world," he replied. "Your assistant and I were just comparing notes on the Tudor composers."

Andy smiled weakly.

Miranda said, "Give your wife my best," and then she was gone.

Andy figured that was only to be expected; Miranda wouldn't fire her in front of someone who was sort of Miranda's own boss, she would wait until she had an appropriate audience before she tore Andy apart for what happened—what had almost happened, what Andy had wanted to happen—in the office. The solution, then, was to stay with Robert Lewis and the musicians until Miranda left. Good thing the driver said he would be available after 9:30 to bring her home; that meant Miranda was only staying for another fifteen minutes at most. Andy's vacation started the next day, and Miranda and her daughters left for France two days later. They wouldn't see each other for a week and half, and by then maybe Miranda would have forgotten. By then, maybe Andy would have forgotten.

* * *

 

Andy's fight arrived in Ohio less than 18 hours after she had completely destroyed any chance she might have ever had to work in the publishing industry again, but she couldn't actually regret kissing Miranda Priestly.

She exited the runway, and gazed around the airport; it still had the same threadbare carpet and psychedelic colors and uncomfortable vinyl seats. Her father was waiting in front of the baggage claim, his hair still sticking up in the front and his favorite tweed jacket showing under his winter coat. Andy hugged him, closing her eyes in familiar comfort.

"I missed you," he said.

"Me, too."

"Your mother misses you." He briskly rubbed her shoulders and turned to the baggage carousel.

Andy grimaced. Twice-weekly phone calls were obviously not enough, but she was so busy and usually by the time she had a minute to call, getting some sleep usually seemed a lot more important. "I know, Dad, and I'm working on managing my hours better."

"Well, at least you still have time to email."

Andy resigned herself to a lecture on the drive home. Getting to the car was an adventure: first she tried to wait at the curb for him to pick her up, and then she tried to get into the backseat.

He frowned at her. "Is this who you've become, Andy?"

"It was a long flight."

He harrumphed; she snorted. At least some things didn't change.

The ride home was a stream of questions about the breakup, anecdotes about his colleagues, and even a few fishing inquiries about new job prospects or potential replacements for Nate.

"I can't believe you want me to jump into a new relationship so quickly," she said. "We were together for three years; let me get over it a little."

"I just want you to be happy," he said.

Andy stared out the window. "Maybe I'm happy being single right now."

"And maybe your boss doesn't let you have any time off."

Andy sighed. No, Miranda didn't let anyone have anything resembling a private life—herself included, which explained the divorce—but it wasn't like prospects were beating down Andy's door. After the fiasco in Paris, Christian Thompson had disappeared off the face of the earth; Andy heard third-hand he was working in London, far away from Jacqueline, Miranda, and Runway. She hadn't bothered to check if it were true. And she wasn't going to think about Miranda's private life, because it was none of her business and Lily was right, it would never work between them, and besides, she had fled after what happened in Miranda's office, and Miranda hated cowards and—

"At least tell me you like your job," her father said. "Ever since you went to Paris, it seems like you've been—"

"Happier?" Andy said.

"More fulfilled," he corrected, pulling into the driveway. "You're doing more than getting coffee, right?"

Andy stared at her parents' front door. "Yes, I'm doing more than getting coffee." A lot more, Andy mused, and immediately quashed the thought.

"Well, that's good. At least you have that."

"It's a good job," Andy said. "I'm learning a lot."

The next few days passed by in a rush of Christmas cookies—not anything like the ones at the Holiday Extravaganza, and she wasn't going to think about work for just ten minutes, that's all she was asking for, ten fucking minutes of no Runway and mostly, no Miranda—and family visits and seeing high school friends. Everyone else was working in shit jobs for no money too, and they all wanted to hear about Andy's adventures at Runway with the famous Miranda Priestly. Andy was shocked to realize how many people not involved in New York fashion were actually impressed by Andy's job; she had been certain Doug was a strange anomaly.

So Andy tried to tell them some funny stories, like when Miranda fired one of the copyeditors for not correcting the Oxford comma she found in the fine print of an ad on page 103 four months before the issue was even supposed to go to print, or when Miranda reduced a grown delivery man to tears because he dropped a vase that she was planning on having in the background of a shot that ended up being 2 inches by 3 inches in the final print. Afterwards, none of her friends told Andy how much they wanted her job and how lucky she was. But Andy didn't tell them how glorious Miranda smelled, or how Miranda's eyebrow twitched whenever she was trying not to laugh at something, or how she could look at Andy over the tops of her glasses and make Andy melt on the spot.

The day before she left Ohio, her father cornered Andy to try and convince her to reconsider her career plans, again.

"I know you thought that you could be a journalist in New York, but maybe it's time to think about branching out. My friend David knows the Business editor of the Plain-Dealer; I'm sure he'd love to talk to you."

"Dad, stop it."

"Andy—"

"No," she said. "Stop it. This is what I want. I want to—I want this."

And she did. The job, the career, Miranda. She wanted it all.

Of course, there was no guarantee that she wasn't going to get fired for sexual harassment herself, or get Miranda fired, or that she hadn't fucked it up beyond all recognition already, but Miranda tended to give her employees enough rope to hang themselves thoroughly, so at least she could count on that. Maybe Miranda would demand that Andy give her a demonstration of what she was offering, or, you know, write an eighth Harry Potter book herself, just to make sure she really wanted the job. She could do that; she was pretty good at being put on the spot and surprising Miranda.

"As long as you're sure," he said.

"I'm sure. I'm completely sure." And as soon as she got back to New York, she was going to do something about it.

* * *

 

Andy arrived at work early in preparation for Miranda's post-vacation entrance, but so did everyone else. After the past two vacations, both of them to Europe with Stephen and the twins before the divorce, Miranda had taken weeks to stop giving everyone die-now stares and settle back into her ordinary I-am-surrounded-by-idiots look, so people were bracing for an uncomfortable few weeks. By the time Andy got there, Emily and Nigel were conferring on the shooting schedule for following week, Jocelyn and Magda were discussing the day's run-through, and Stacey was organizing the racks waiting in the outer office. Andy glanced into Miranda's office, but she was nowhere to be found.

Andy nudged Nigel. "Where's Miranda?"

Nigel didn't look up from the current list of booked models. "Upstairs, meeting with suits."

Andy was surprised. "Already?"

"Some people are here to work," said Emily.

She didn't see Miranda until just before lunch, although rumor had it that Miranda had been breezing in and out of offices all morning. The phone was ringing, but before Andy could pick up, Miranda strode into the office and went directly to her office without speaking. After a rapid, and entirely unspoken, argument with Emily about which one of them would face Miranda's wrath for their afternoon orders and which one would answer the phone, Andy stood up and took a deep breath. Then she took another one for good measure.

Andy edged into the office. "Miranda, I'm almost done with the preparations for the Savannah shoot, but I wanted to run a few things by you—"

"I simply cannot—" Miranda broke off and rubbed her eyes. Andy slowly sank into the chair across from Miranda's desk. Miranda took off her glasses and waved her hand at Andy, leaning back in her chair and closing her eyes. Miranda did not look happy. She also didn't look like she was sleeping very well.

Andy licked her lips. "We have Mirabelle, Jessica, and Heather ready to go to South Carolina as soon as we need them, and Hilary or Lily are ready, depending on when we shoot; they have conflicting schedules—"

Miranda nodded, and then abruptly said, "No."

Andy paused and waited for elaboration. There wasn't any. "Okay, how about Michelle? She's available through April, but she's got a different look...."

Miranda nodded again, and opened her eyes.

Andy stumbled briefly under the weight of Miranda's gaze. "The Gaultier dresses are on a rack waiting, do you want me to bring them in?"

"Jacques said something about boats?"

Andy blinked. That was a no about the dresses, then. "We can shoot a two-masted schooner on Hilton Head? I've booked one out of Key West, it'll be there by the time we're done with the shoot in the city itself—"

"Fine."

Andy took another breath. "Um, I've scheduled the initial run-through for this Friday, and the shooting schedule is that we're going to do the square first, and then at the Low House—" Miranda glanced at the clock, and then stood up and began gathering paperwork. According to Miranda's schedule, which Emily made sure was constantly and meticulously updated, Miranda had another meeting in accounting at 11:30, and would probably not be done until after one. Andy made a mental note to make sure she was waiting with Miranda's lunch when she got back.

"I—I think I can handle the rest of it," Andy said. "I'll give you a final rundown of what I've got tonight?"

"When you deliver the book," said Miranda.

"Yeah."

"That—Yes." Miranda stepped past Andy to leave the office. Andy stayed in her seat, staring blankly at the mass of scattered paperwork on Miranda's desk.

Andy twisted around to look at Miranda. "Miranda?"

"Yes?"

Andy hesitated. "Knock 'em dead?"

Miranda quirked her lips and left. Andy laughed softly.

By three that afternoon, Emily had had a small breakdown about two dozen missing skirts needed for that afternoon's reshoot run-through, Jocelyn had stormed through in tears—Nigel explained Miranda had fired all but one of the assistants who kept the Closet intact, and now that task was being added to Jocelyn's job—and Andy realized she hadn't eaten in seven hours. I hate my job, she thought, and then Miranda walked back into the office.

Maybe she didn't hate her job.

"Andrea," Miranda said, "get the updated figures from accounting."

Andy nodded. By the time she returned, everyone was already deeply involved in the run-through for the Soho loft reshoot. Miranda seemed strangely detached from it, although she didn't curtail her constant criticism. Jocelyn's choice of shoes was insipid, Magda's preference for jackets was completely outdated, Emily's lack of attention to detail had caused the skirts to walk off on their own, even if it was Emily's attention to detail that also made them return. Even Nigel's dry comment on the wonderfully morbid flavor of Gucci's new line didn't calm Miranda down.

Everyone was exhausted by the time the clothes for the reshoot had been selected and they had trundled the racks out of Miranda's office again. Andy stayed behind to give Miranda the new numbers.

"Did you have a nice trip?" said Andy, and then winced.

Miranda, engrossed in her computer, gave Andy a look that didn't say anything Andy hadn't already thought, so Andy ignored it. Miranda continued to type.

"Are you—"

Miranda looked up again.

"—upset with..." Andy trailed off. They stared at each other.

Miranda pulled off her glasses. "I don't have time to deal with equivocation right now, Andrea. Things are... difficult right now, with Irv and the stockholders." She sounded tired. Or sad. Whichever it was, it wasn't a tone Andy had heard her use before.

Did that mean Andy was just supposed to ignore the other thing? Andy chewed on her lip. "What do you have time for?"

Miranda sighed and ran her fingers across her lips. Andy was so transfixed that she almost missed it when Miranda started speaking again. "James Holt is having one of his little soirees tonight. I need to make an appearance."

Andy swallowed. Miranda was still playing with her mouth, sliding her finger over her lips, back and forth and then up her cheek and back to her lips again. Andy wondered if she meant to be quite so seductive when she did that. Probably.

"The car will arrive to pick you up at 9:00 pm," Miranda said.

"The car?"

Miranda's lips quirked. It wasn't a smile Andy had seen before, either: it was softer, calmer, and just a little bit predatory. Andy gulped.

"Andrea," Miranda said, "why are you not working?"

"Right." Andy spun around on her heel and left the room. She wondered if Miranda was staring at her ass again as she walked away, and threw a little more sway into her hips. Just in case.

She was going to do this. She and Miranda were going to do this. She was going to—she was going to go find something to wear. What did one wear when one was intending to seduce one's boss? Nigel would know; Nigel knew everything about fashion, and almost everything about Miranda. Nigel probably already knew about them. Not that there was a them, yet. But there would be. Soon.

When she finally had a chance to corner Nigel in the Closet and ask his advice on what to wear, he got a strange look on his face. He pulled out a few things, but shook his head and put them all back before she had a chance to try them on, and then he sighed and reached for a shimmering blue sheath that even Andy could tell was pure sex.

"She called this one of the most enticing pieces of the season," he said, and gave her a measured look. "I am trusting you to be careful."

The rest of the afternoon passed in a blur of nearly missed phone calls, frantic catching-up, and inappropriate boss-related fantasies. She was starting to work up a collection of favorites—there was the one where Andy was wearing the Chanel boots and not much else, and there was the one where they were in an elevator that had mysteriously gotten stuck, and then there was the one where Andy got to take off those Bill Blass pants that always made her mouth water whenever Miranda wore them. It seemed like Miranda was wearing them an awful lot lately.

She was too nervous to eat dinner, not that her dress could accommodate a full stomach, and she was home, dressed, and ready to go at 8:30. Luckily, Miranda and the car were early, and when Andy scrambled down the stairs, Miranda was waiting for her. Miranda glanced at Andy appraisingly, but didn't say anything. James' new showroom, where the party was being held, was only a few blocks from Andy's apartment, so the silence didn't have a chance to become uncomfortable.

When they arrived, Miranda made a beeline for a familiar-looking man, but when Andy tried to detour to say hello to James, Miranda grabbed her hand and dragged her along.

"Charles," Miranda said, "lovely to see you again."

He kissed her cheeks and smiled charmingly. "Miranda; I was so sorry to hear about your recent difficulties."

"May I introduce Andrea Sachs?" Miranda slid her hand up to Andy's elbow, her fingers caressing the inside of Andy's arm. "Andrea, Charles Thomason."

Andy couldn't think of anything to say that wasn't directly related to the feel of Miranda's fingers on her arm.

"As I'm sure you know, Andrea," Miranda said, "Charles is Chairman of New York Times Publishing."

"Miranda mentioned you won the IRE student award?" said Thomason, directing his smile at Andy. He probably thought it was seductive. Andy wanted to laugh; she had already been seduced, thank you very much.

"Um, yes, I did," Andy stammered. Miranda let go of her arm, and Andy choked back a whimper at the loss.

"I'm impressed," he said, "and I must say, you look lovely." He sounded overly appreciative for Andy's taste. "Beauty and brains, just like our Miranda."

"Oh, thank you." Andy glanced at Miranda, who was staring at Thomason, her brows drawn and nostrils flared, and Andy guessed Miranda agreed that he looked a bit too interested in Andy. Andy glanced back at Thomason, but someone else nearby had captured his attention. Good thing, otherwise he might have gotten the wrong idea from Miranda's impression of a mad bull. Miranda pulled Andy away from Thomason and the socialite he was talking to, and then examined Andy as if seeing her for the first time that night.

Miranda opened her mouth, but Andy headed her off. "Nigel thought you'd like it."

Miranda's mouth snapped shut. "Did he."

"Yeah," Andy said, and smoothed the skirt. "I asked for something you thought was, well, beautiful. This is what he picked."

Miranda lifted her chin. "It's nice enough."

Andy raised an eyebrow, and Miranda's cheeks grew faintly pink. Andy smirked. Miranda blushed harder. Andy, refusing to think about what she was doing, reached out to grab Miranda's hand and dragged her across the room to the hallway, and from there to the bathroom. She could feel Miranda's body heat against her back as they entered, and she before she could change her mind she pushed Miranda back against the closing door and kissed her.

This time it was hot, and fast, and Miranda carefully kept her hands away from Andy's breasts until Andy pulled her hands up to cup them. Miranda moaned into Andy's mouth. Andy grinned, and slowly, deliberately, mussed Miranda's hair, nibbling on her lower lip. Miranda pulled back to meet Andy's eyes, but Andy merely smiled and moved her attention to Miranda's jaw line.

"Andrea," Miranda said.

"Shh," said Andy, "let me," and then she slid her hand into Miranda's pants.

Miranda gasped and thrust her hips forward. All Andy could think about were the sounds coming out of Miranda's mouth, the roll of her hips, the slickness of Miranda under her hand and the exquisite pressure of Miranda's thigh in between her legs, and then, suddenly, it was over, and Miranda was pushing at her shoulder.

Miranda said, "Go." She was trembling against the door, as if it were the only thing holding her up.

"What?" Andy's ears were still echoing, and it sounded like Miranda was speaking from very far away.

"Leave. Please."

Andy left the bathroom, flushed and panting and barely past her own orgasm. As she stared at the closed door, James Holt walked by. Andy smiled weakly at him. When the bathroom opened again, Miranda looked almost completely composed; only someone who had recently had her fingers buried inside of Miranda would know differently. Andy pushed past Miranda to enter the bathroom again.

"What are you doing?" Miranda demanded.

Andy refused to look at her. "Washing my hands."

Miranda didn't say anything, and when Andy left the bathroom for the second time, Miranda was gone. Trying to leave was harder than she thought it might be—everyone wanted to talk to her, as if she were important or had any say in anything that happened at Runway—and when she finally made it out the door, half an hour had passed since her interlude with Miranda. When she arrived on the street, however, Miranda's car—and Miranda in it—was waiting for her.

Andy approached the car, and when she finally opened the door, Miranda said, "There you are." The car ride was silent until they hit Broome, when it occurred to Andy that they were not heading toward Miranda's house.

"Was—was there something else?" she asked.

Miranda turned to Andy. "You need to go home, surely."

"What about the book?"

Miranda ignored her. Andy sagged against the seat.

The car stopped in front of her apartment, but Andy didn't open her door immediately. Miranda was quiet. Andy waited for some move, some indication of what Miranda wanted, some comment about what they had done, but Miranda was staring out the window at the pizza place across the street.

* * *

 

The next morning, Andy woke up alarmingly early and rather than lounge in bed until she had to get up, she decided to go to Runway and get a head start on her day. It wasn't that she was eager to see Miranda again after last night or anything. And she wasn't actually looking forward to talking to Miranda, and finding out what the hell had happened. Not that Andy had been picturing flowers and soft music, but after the glacial pace of the previous fall, ten minutes in a bathroom seemed a little strange.

When she got to work, Andy guessed Miranda had the same idea because she was already seated behind her desk staring out the window, the closed book in front of her and a pad of post-its and a pen at the ready. Miranda had risen as soon as she saw Andy walk into the outer office, and by the time Andy reached her, they were face to face by the side of the desk. Andy was unable to stop a small grin.

Miranda smiled back, hungrily.

Andy quailed briefly before lifting her chin and meeting Miranda's lips head on. It was as desperate as the night before, as hot, as fast. Before Andy knew quite what was going on, Miranda's skirt was bunched up around her waist, framed by what Andy quickly decided was her favorite underwear tugged down below and Andy's new favorite bra exposed by her open shirt above; Andy's own dress was open and pulled down and Miranda was sucking on her nipples and then, just as she was starting to get really involved and figure out what she was doing, Miranda gasped and bucked and Andy convulsed and whined and it was over. Again.

And just like before, Miranda disappeared before Andy had chance to recover, this time into her executive bathroom. This was becoming tedious.

Andy wobbled a little, leaning on the desk. When she thought she could stand without help, she straightened her clothes and took one tremulous step toward the office door.

Before she could take another step, Miranda exited the bathroom. "The Savannah shoot?"

Andy stared at Miranda. They were going to talk about work? Now? With her thighs all sticky and her fingers still wet and her pulse pounding?

"You got coffee?" Miranda said. She looked calm and composed, and Andy was sure she had gotten to wash her hands and possibly even change her underwear. Even her hair looked perfect again, and Andy was sure she had mussed it fairly thoroughly. At least, she thought she had.

Andy nodded.

Miranda headed for the kitchen. "How do you take yours?"

Andy collapsed into the chair in front of Miranda's desk; Miranda kept taking her completely by surprise. Maybe she should start getting used to it, if they were going to—Andy stopped that line of thought, remembering the distinct lack of afterglow. Miranda probably did it to all her assistants. Miranda was lonely and horny and getting a divorce. That was all. Lily was going to be pleased to hear it. Andy sighed and grabbed a tissue to wipe her fingers. "Milk?" she asked.

She could hear Miranda in the kitchen, opening the refrigerator and pouring the milk and then Miranda returned and placed one of her precious Starbucks cups in front of Andy. It might have been poisoned, given what they had been doing just minutes earlier; Miranda might be attempting to dispose of Andy in a very permanent kind of way, so that no one ever found out about Miranda's little fetish for—what? Women? Employees? Sex in public places?

"I detest cold coffee, Andrea," Miranda said, appearing completely focused on the book in front of her. Andy watched Miranda scrawl something across a post-it and carefully affix it to a layout of a partially clothed young man in orange trousers with massive teal lettering across his chest. Unfortunately, Miranda's handwriting was too unruly to be read upside down and Andy had long since given up trying.

Andy reached out for her coffee. As she wrapped her fingers around the cup, Miranda looked up. Miranda's gaze was so intense that if the cup hadn't been resting on the desktop, Andy would have spilled coffee all over herself.

"Well?" Miranda said. "You neglected to finish your description yesterday."

Andy blanched: she had neglected? Instead of saying anything, she took a deep breath and sipped her coffee. She winced at her burned tongue, and then, carefully, slowly, and in excruciating detail, explained the preparations for the Savannah shoot. It took her a few minutes to collect herself enough to recall the precise arrangements and figure out how to ignore the lingering scents in the room and uncomfortable squishiness between her legs, but Miranda didn't seem distracted at all. There was still more than a week before Miranda's arbitrary deadline of January 15th, but instead of demanding any changes on what Andy had already done, Miranda merely nodded, occasionally asked a clarifying question, and sipped her coffee. Andy knew her attention was divided between the book and the shoot, but Andy also knew Miranda was listening to every word she said. Andy wondered at Miranda's control: she was fairly sure that Miranda had come rather explosively not ten minutes earlier, but she wasn't acting like it.

When they were done, Miranda handed Andy the book, and said, "Take this to the art department, and then finish the arrangements for the Detroit shoot; I hope Nigel is right about that, it all seems so tedious and common. Call Adeline André and make sure that we can preview the fall collection when I'm in Saint-Tropez next month. She can be so difficult sometimes. We should think about shooting around the regatta at some point; make some inquiries. Does Emily have my receipts from last year organized yet?"

Andy opened her mouth to answer, but Miranda barreled on. "Ask her when she gets in, whenever that might be. Have her schedule an appointment with my manicurist for tomorrow, and then speak with Simon about that piece on African wild animal sanctuaries. He said it was your idea? We're running it in June, if it gets done on time." Miranda smiled at Andy. "That's all."

Well. Miranda certainly wasn't going to let anything change between them, except for the obvious.

After a frantic morning scrambling and trying not to remember how Miranda had felt pressed up against her and shuddering in pleasure, Andy was more than ready for lunch. The first thing she did when she got out of the building was call Lily.

"So?" Lily asked. "How was it?"

"It was... it was good. Great. I don't know." She cringed. "I'm having an affair with my boss." Andy knew she was whining, but she couldn't stop herself. The roaring was back in her ears, but this time it wasn't nearly as pleasant.

"So you're going to do it again?" Lily sounded far too amused for Andy's peace of mind.

"Yes. I mean, well, yes. I am. We are. Oh, god, I am so screwed."

"Only if she's doing it right." Now Lily was laughing out loud. She wasn't even bothering to hide it. Andy pouted.

"This is totally going to explode at the worst possible moment, isn't it." Andy watched the clackers crossing the lobby and exiting Elias-Clarke. "I really shouldn't be doing this."

Andy was thankful when Lily didn't say anything about that; Andy was right, and they both knew it. Instead, Lily said, "Tell me everything."

"We had sex in a bathroom last night, with half of the most influential people in the New York fashion and publishing industries waiting outside," Andy blurted before she could think better of it.

"In the bathroom?"

If she hadn't been so close to a panic attack, Andy would have laughed at how flabbergasted Lily sounded. "Yes, the bathroom."

"Wow."

"You have no idea."

"What?"

This time, Andy thought better of it, but still couldn't stop herself from saying, "This morning, before anyone came into the office."

"You're kidding."

"No."

"Andy, wow."

Andy's jaw dropped. "Are you impressed?"

Lily was quiet for a moment, and Andy tried to imagine the look on her face. "Yes."

"Oh, god," Andy said, and giggled. She knew she sounded slightly hysterical, but she figured she was due.

"Should I not be impressed?" Lily asked, and Andy could still hear the amusement in her voice.

It wasn't fair that Lily was having fun at her expense. "No, you should be," Andy said, struggling to get herself under control. "She's—she's good at everything. Great, even. But I think she's going to kill me. Especially if she finds out you know."

Now Lily was laughing out loud again. "You'll go out happy. And maybe you'll stop moping around, now."

"Shut up," said Andy, and hung up. Immediately, her phone rang. Of course it was Miranda, and of course Miranda wanted her back in the office immediately. Andy smiled despite herself and went back inside.

Nigel was waiting for the elevator when she got there.

"So," Nigel said.

"So?" Andy asked, hoping she sounded entirely innocent.

Nigel glared at her, grabbed her wrist, and dragged her into the empty elevator that had just arrived, jabbing at close door button before anyone else could join them. "I hope you know what you're doing."

"I have no idea what I'm doing."

Nigel rolled his eyes and opened his mouth.

Andy didn't let him. "Besides, she liked the dress, just like you said she would."

Nigel blinked, and then repeated himself from the night before. "Be careful."

Andy nodded. "I will."

* * *

 

Three weeks later, after being cornered and devoured by Miranda in more random Runway offices than Andy even knew existed, and coming to the conclusion that Miranda really did have a thing for sex in public bathrooms, Andy finally had time to meet Lily for drinks for the first time since it had all started.

"She makes you happy, doesn't she?" Lily said without preamble.

Andy shrugged. "Well, not her so much as the...."

"The really awesome sex?" Lily was laughing at her again. Andy scowled, which just made Lily laugh harder.

"Yeah. But don't you think I would have known already if I were the kind of person who gets off on adrenaline, and almost getting caught—"

"You didn't tell me you almost got caught."

"—and public sex?" Andy thought she might have been ranting just a little bit, but the whole thing was starting to bother her, a lot. An affair was one thing; she was fine with that, mostly. But this catching ten or fifteen minutes of lightening fast half-clothed groping in other people's offices was taking things too far. "I mean, I know myself pretty well, and I had no idea."

Lily gazed at Andy appraisingly; Andy almost felt like one of Lily's paintings. "And women? Did you know you got off on women?"

"Maybe?"

"Andy!"

Andy sighed and waved at the waitress for another drink. "Miranda reminds me of my 10th grade English teacher. She was a holy terror, but I learned more from her than I have any other teacher, ever."

"Most of it at night, under the covers," Lily said.

Andy glared at her; Lily ignored it. "Maybe if I had just kissed Ms. Miller in the supply closet, I wouldn't be fucking my married boss."

At least Ms. Miller had enjoyed lecturing Andy about all sorts of books that weren't on the syllabus. The most time Andy and Miranda had ever spent together not talking about work since they started this whole thing had been in the Closet one day, surrounded by clothes from the 1980s; they had leisurely kissed for 15 minutes, and then passed three very fondly but hazily recalled minutes with what felt like Miranda's entire hand buried inside Andy; they had almost been late to the Calvin Klein preview, and Andy had had to borrow a jacket from the Closet to disguise her torn shirt.

"When's the divorce final?" Lily asked, breaking Andy out of her reverie.

"I have no idea. I don't even know if they've filed yet. We don't actually talk about anything." Andy snorted. "At least the sex is awesome."

"Yeah?"

"Oh my god, you have no idea. She's—I have no idea what I expected, but it wasn't this. She's willing to try anything, anywhere, anytime. It's kind of—"

Lily looked expectant.

"Scary," said Andy. "Actually, it's a little scary."

* * *

 

After almost six months of catching indiscriminate encounters with Miranda anywhere they could, being at the receiving end of Miranda's attention hadn't stopped being scary, but at least Andy was coping better.

They were in the car, and Andy blew out her breath again; there was traffic stacked up against itself for blocks, and the last three attempts the driver had made to get out of the whole mess had been resounding failures. Andy set aside the layout she was working on; she had a million other things to do at the office, none of which she had brought with her, but by the way Miranda was frowning, she was almost done with her argument with the woman at the Donna Karan warehouse concerning coats for the November shoot. Andy gazed at Miranda speculatively. Miranda wouldn't say no. Miranda never said no.

Before Miranda could hang up on Marguerite, Andy had slipped to the floor and was pushing up Miranda's skirt.

"What—" Miranda asked.

Andy shook her head and tugged at the back of Miranda's knees.

Miranda snapped her phone shut. "Andrea."

"Scoot," Andy replied.

Miranda frowned.

Andy tugged again and raised an eyebrow. Miranda snorted and reluctantly slid forward; Andy dragged Miranda's panties down her legs.

Less than five minutes later, Miranda breathed, "That's all." It was more a whimper than anything. Andy smiled at Miranda's latest attempt to maintain the upper hand.

Andy licked the crease of Miranda's leg genially and unbent herself. Her own thighs were slippery and she knew that another pair of underwear and all her makeup had been destroyed by Miranda. Nothing to do about it, although by now she should have remembered to take off her underthings before she got into a car with Miranda, especially if there was going to be traffic.

Andy slid into her seat and rebuckled her seatbelt for the last few blocks to Elias-Clarke. She didn't have to look at Miranda to know that she was attempting to recompose herself. Andy smiled. The driver didn't say anything.

As they exited the elevator, Andy murmured to Miranda, "I'm going to the bathroom. I'll be right back."

She didn't bother to look, but she knew Miranda's cheeks had gone ever-so-slightly pink.

Just before she entered the inner sanctum of Runway, Miranda spoke. "Andrea?"

Andy glanced back.

Miranda didn't look at her. "Be ready to leave again in half an hour."

Andy smirked all the way to the bathroom. At least she'd be able to pick up some more work in case they got stuck in traffic again.

* * *

 

That night, Andy and Lily were drowning in the heat and were perched on Lily's fire escape to catch some of the non-existent breeze.

"Are you going to apply for the Mirror job?" Lily asked, rolling her beer around the back of her neck.

"What?" Andy asked absently. Her shirt was sticking to her skin, and all Andy could think about was the fact that Miranda's entire house had perfect climate control. Maybe she could finagle a visit when she dropped off the book later.

Lily sighed. "Come on, Andy. You didn't hear about it? How come I know more about journalism in this city than you do? The Mirror is losing their political staff writer to The Washington Post or something, so they're doing a little reorganization. It's the perfect time to jump in and start your career. You know, your real career?"

"I don't know. I haven't really thought about it."

"Because you're having so much fun at Runway?"

Andy grinned. "Runway has its perks."

"Like Miranda in the bathroom?" Lily said with a raised eyebrow.

Andy nodded. "And Miranda in the car, and Miranda in the elevator—"

"What?" Lily asked, staring at Andy in shock.

"It was pretty hot." Andy smiled fondly.

"God, Andy, you have got to get control of yourself."

"This is stupid, and reckless, and stupid," Andy said. "But you know, I'm young, and I'm having fun, and at least I'm not on drugs."

"I'm not so sure about that," replied Lily.

"Don't give me that. You slept with Professor Gibbons."

"Once! Two semesters after I took his course."

"So don't I get a chance to run a little wild? I mean, that's why Nate left, because he wanted stodgy and committed—"

Lily shook her head. "This is more than a little wild, if you're doing it in elevators with your married, and oh yeah, famous, boss."

Andy shrugged and swigged her beer. "Not married anymore. Separated."

Lily snorted. "So what's Miranda getting out of this?"

"I have no idea," said Andy. "Orgasms? I don't think her husband was very good at sex. Either of them."

"Really?"

"I mean, I'm not the world's foremost expert on cunnilingus, but she always seems really surprised whenever I go down on her, like she doesn't expect it to actually work or something."

"And she's old."

Andy glared at Lily. "She's not old."

Lily waved Andy off. "She's at her sexual peak, right? And she doesn't have anyone around, so that's why she's using her assistant to get off."

"Maybe," Andy said.

"It's just you, right?" Lily looked concerned. "It's not the other one—"

"Emily."

"—too, is it? Because that would just be weird, if it were both of you." Lily was frowning and pursing her lips. Andy wondered why Lily was worrying about this now.

"It's just me," said Andy. "I think. Although maybe that's why Emily hates me so much."

"Not because you stole her job?"

"I'm still second assistant."

"And Miranda's little," Lily said and paused. "Friend."

Andy made a face.

"Friend sounds better than plaything," said Lily.

Andy scowled. "Lover. Mistress. What's wrong with calling me her lover?"

"Well, that describes your feelings pretty well. I'm not so sure about her feelings."

"Okay, fine," said Andy. "'Friend'."

* * *

 

The next night, Andy was working late when the book arrived and she jumped up from her desk to take it from Mathias. "Thanks. I'll just bring it in to her."

He shrugged and wandered away.

Andy watched him go, and then went into Miranda's office. "Miranda?"

"Hmm."

"The book is here."

Miranda nodded, not looking up.

"How much longer do you think you'll be?" Andy asked.

"Do you have somewhere to be?"

"I'm kind of out of work."

Miranda finally looked up and raised her eyebrows.

"The kind of work I can do without calling people," Andy said. "It's past ten."

Miranda rustled through the papers at the edge of her desk. "Here," she said, pulling out a stapled section. "Edit this, it's the piece on sweatshops, and it manages to be... boring. I would think outrage would be a simple emotion to evoke when writing about exploitation, but that seems entirely beyond our dear little author."

"You want me to—" Andy didn't bother to finish her sentence. Edit a feature article by a Pulitzer Prize winning author, sure, why not. She hadn't edited anything since college, and she would have ordinarily looked forward to it but this was a little out of her league. Andy stared at the first page of the article and turned to go.

"Work here," said Miranda.

Andy stared at Miranda. Miranda was back to being absorbed in her computer, and Andy glanced around the room, wondering if Miranda meant for them to share a desk. There wasn't any room on Miranda's desk for Andy to work, it was so messy; what in the world was she working on? Of course, Miranda wasn't any help in Andy's decision-making, and finally she sat down at the low table in the corner. It wasn't perfect, except that it was: from here, Miranda was right in front of her and Andy could watch her work without having to turn her head.

Three thousand words of good, but boring, article later, Andy tossed down her pen and stretched. When she opened her eyes again, Miranda was watching her over the top of her computer screen.

"The divorce is final."

Andy wondered what kind of response Miranda was looking for. "When?"

"Today."

"Oh." Andy hesitated. "Congratulations?"

Miranda gave a short, sharp laugh. "At least that's over." Her eyes roamed over the bookcase on the far wall. Andy waited for Miranda to say more. She didn't.

Andy bit her lip. "I'm sorry it didn't work out."

Miranda examined Andy, and then stood up and crossed the room. Andy slid over, and Miranda sat down next to her, running her hand over Andy's neck and cupping the back of her head. They kissed, and Andy soon found herself sprawled on the couch on top of Miranda, her pants around her ankles and Miranda's skirt pushed up around her waist. They squirmed so much they fell off the couch, and Andy let out a grunt when they flipped over and Miranda's full weight landed on top of her. Miranda didn't let their mere change in locale stop her, and very quickly, Andy forgot about it entirely in favor of making Miranda whimper and letting Miranda elicit Andy's own groans.

Afterward, Miranda lay still, panting and staring blankly at the ceiling.

Andy said, "Is that all?"

"Mm," moaned Miranda. Andy sat up from the floor, and Miranda grabbed her arm. "No."

"What?"

"That's not all," murmured Miranda, and slid her fingers up Andy's thigh.

Andy gasped. "You want more?"

"Come here."

* * *

 

Andy hung up Miranda's dry cleaning and smiled, recalling the last time Miranda had worn that outfit—the hungry look on Miranda's face when Andy had pressed the stop button on the Elias-Clarke elevator, Miranda pressed back against the elevator wall, pants down and face flushed, panting and gyrating her hips madly, and then, of course, Miranda returning the favor—and hesitated at the hall table, waiting to see if Miranda was around. She was.

"Andrea?"

Andy smiled and clutched the book to her chest. She felt like playing, and Miranda was going to have to pry it out of her hands today.

Andy took her time strolling to the office where Miranda was waiting. "Yes?"

Miranda looked at her intently, gaze drifting from head to toe and back again, before raising her hand for the book. Andy was gratified to note that Miranda's gaze lingered briefly on her breasts; the new lingerie was paying off. Of course, so might a little playing hard to get.

Andy raised an eyebrow and waited.

Miranda glared and leaned forward, extending her hand further. Of course, that meant she was now eye-level with Andy's waist, and Andy waited until Miranda's concentration broke, ever so slightly.

Andy smirked and stepped forward. Miranda's hand trembled in the air, stretched out to touch Andy. Andy carefully placed the book in Miranda's hand, wrapping their hands together around it as she did.

She stepped back. Miranda held still for moment, but all she said was, "That's all," and sank back again to open the book.

"Okay." Andy sat down across from Miranda, smiling.

Without looking up, Miranda said, "That's all, Andrea." Miranda's posture was stiff, and Andy was pretty sure she wasn't actually seeing the pages she was turning.

"So you said."

"Was there something you wanted?"

"Yes," Andy said.

Miranda continued to flip through the book at a rapid pace, tracing some pages and tapping on others. After an agonizingly long time during which Miranda valiantly attempted to ignore Andy, Andy said casually, "You said the girls were going to be at their grandmother's this week?"

"Yes," Miranda drawled; Andy knew that tone of voice: Miranda was trying her utmost not to be bothered by Andy.

"Good," said Andy.

Miranda finally looked up.

Andy was splayed naked on the couch opposite Miranda, one hand nestled between her legs, the other hand drifting across her breasts. When she was sure she had Miranda's attention, Andy pulled her fingers out and licked them.

Miranda stared, mouth agape.

"I want you," Andy said.

"I—"

"I want you to fuck me."

Miranda blinked.

"Right here. Right now."

Miranda swallowed.

"So," Andy said, "come and get me."

Andy had never seen Miranda move that quickly, and by the time she crossed the room, her pants were on the floor and her shirt was half-off. Andy chuckled when Miranda tripped in her haste to get to Andy, and then Miranda's elbow hit Andy in the stomach. Miranda glared as if it was Andy's fault, but Andy was too busy gasping for breath to care. "Ow."

"I'm sor—"

Andy kissed her quiet and slid her hands under Miranda's blouse. Miranda wasn't wearing a bra, and Andy smiled and grabbed at her nipples. Miranda moaned into Andy's mouth and ground her hips against Andy's thigh. It didn't take long for Andy to flip them over and have Miranda shaking and shivering and silently pleading under her, but Andy tried to draw it out as long as she could. It still wasn't very long.

Afterward, Andy stretched and stood up, enjoying Miranda's dazed expression.

Miranda blinked sleepily and snuggled deeper into the couch; Andy tossed a throw over her. She watched Andy dress with half-lidded eyes, and when Andy gave her one last smile before leaving, Miranda stirred again.

"Andrea."

"Yes?"

Miranda's voice was soft. "You have a meeting with Alan at 666 Broadway at 8:00 am next Thursday."

Andy made a small noise of annoyed agreement. "Goodnight, Miranda."

Miranda closed her eyes.

* * *

 

The following Wednesday, not ten minutes after a very enjoyable encounter in the lobby bathroom that caused Andy's knees to reconsider the merits of linoleum versus marble for floors, Miranda paused on her way from Emily's desk back to her own office.

"Andrea, make reservations for dinner tonight at that place that serves the excellent sushi."

"For how many people?" Andy asked.

Miranda didn't answer. Andy suppressed her sigh and picked up the phone.

"This is Masa," said the voice on the other end of the line.

"I need to make reservations tonight for Miranda Priestly."

"We have a corner table for two, but if Ms. Priestly wishes, I'm sure we could—"

"No. A corner table is fine." If Miranda had a date on Andy's birthday, she could damn well deal with a corner table.

Maybe Lily was right: it was just sex. Awesome sex, but evidently just sex. She shouldn't care who Miranda dated, and since they barely saw each other outside of work, anyway, it wasn't like they had any sort of emotional connection. It wasn't like they were in love.

When she hung up, Emily demanded, "Is there any reason you are being hyper and twitchy and extremely annoying today?"

Andy worried at her lip. She was just going to have to get over this: who cared if Miranda had a date that wasn't with her? She was going out and she was going to have fun, and she wasn't going to think about the sensitive spot on Miranda's neck or the way Miranda unconsciously tapped her fingers to "Yeah" whenever it was playing on someone else's car stereo; Miranda would never admit that she actually liked Usher, not least because it would make Snoop respect her less.

"It's my birthday today," Andy said. "I'm going out with Doug and Lily and Lily's new boyfriend tonight; I think we might even be going clubbing." Andy dredged up a smile and attempted to inject a suitable amount of perkiness into her voice. "Do you know how long it's been since I've been to a club?"

"Andrea?" Miranda interrupted whatever Emily might have said in response. From the look on Emily's face, that was probably a good thing.

Andy squared her shoulders and marched into Miranda's office.

Miranda didn't look up. "Cancel my dinner reservations."

It was the most expressionless tone Andy had ever heard from Miranda. Andy was sure her face was a map of confusion and then realization hit about Miranda's dinner companion.

Andy opened her mouth to say something.

Without looking up, and with that preternatural talent for interrupting people, Miranda said, "That's all."

It wasn't until just before she went home, standing in the bathroom for the thousandth time frowning at the mirror in confusion, that Andy realized Miranda hadn't spoken to anyone in the office except for Emily all afternoon, and they were supposed to discuss the Spring Preview issue when she delivered the book that night.

"Shit."

Fine. If that's how Miranda wanted to play it, Andy was going to step up to bat. They were going to resolve this stupid thing, and then as soon as Andy was out on her ass, in more ways than one, she was going to apply for as many reporting positions as she could find, and she wasn't going to confine herself to New York, either. Washington, Boston, hell, Cleveland would all be on her list. She might never work in publishing again, but she wasn't going to let Miranda break her heart.

She treated herself to dinner—still sushi, if not Masa—and then raided Miranda's personal wine stash when she got back to Runway to wait for the book. Andy didn't know enough about wine to distinguish much in the collection, but since Miranda's taste was impeccable, it was probably all excellent. She chose a red with an Italian label that she couldn't read but that she vaguely recalled was expensive from Nate, and had downed half of it by the time the book arrived.

There wasn't any traffic, so unfortunately she had not sobered up appreciably by the time she thundered into Miranda's house. A quick check proved that Miranda wasn't waiting in the anteroom, so Andy steeled herself and climbed the stairs. At least this time she wouldn't be running into any husbands. Unless, of course, Miranda really had originally intended to go out with someone else on Andy's birthday, and was at this very moment upstairs with him, laughing and chatting and—

No, Miranda was sitting stiffly in one of the extraordinarily uncomfortable chairs at the top of the stairs, waiting for her.

Andy stopped. Miranda looked at her silently. Andy lifted her chin, and climbed the last few steps.

Miranda didn't move.

"Don't ever do that again," Andy said.

Miranda looked away.

"That's—It's not fair, and it's not nice, and I can't stand either of us being miserable because you're being a—"

Miranda's eyes flashed, and Andy let out a huff. They both knew how that sentence ended.

"If you wanted to go out to dinner with me," Andy said, stepping closer and laying the book at Miranda's knee, "all you had to do was ask. Is that so hard? To do me the courtesy of asking?"

"Andrea—" Miranda grabbed the book and opened it.

"Just fucking ask me!"

Miranda met Andy's eyes. "I thought you knew."

Andy dropped into the seat next to Miranda. "Yeah, well, obviously I didn't."

Miranda opened her mouth, and then reconsidered. "Happy birthday."

"I can't cancel on Doug and Lily now."

"Of course not," Miranda said. Andy was too tired, and probably too drunk, to decipher her tone.

Instead, she said, "Doug's been looking forward to this for weeks. He and Pete just broke up, and he's—"

"Excuse me?" said Miranda.

Andy stared at Miranda in confusion. "What?"

Miranda was looking back, just as confused. "Doug is your...?" she prompted.

"Oldest friend? We met in kindergarten, and then lost touch until we were on the same hall freshman year at Northwestern?"

"Oh." If it hadn't been the result of a hellacious misunderstanding that had left her feeling miserable all afternoon, Andy might have laughed at the stunned look on Miranda's face.

"You thought he was—" Andy didn't bother to finish the sentence.

Miranda was back to looking at the book. As usual when Andy was in the room, Andy got the feeling Miranda might have been looking at the book but she wasn't actually seeing it.

Andy shook her head and pulled out the already opened bottle from her bag. "Do you have any wine glasses?"

Miranda stared at her incredulously.

"Happy birthday to me?" Andy said.

Miranda snorted, and then disappeared into the far room. Andy followed her with the wine; she left the book on the ottoman.

They sat in silence, perching next to each other on stools at the bar.

"You were serious?" Andy said, after they had each made strong inroads into their wine. "Dinner at Masa? Together?"

Miranda contemplated her reply for so long Andy started to wonder if she had gotten everything that had happened that day completely wrong. Finally, Miranda said, "Yes. I thought—" She shrugged. "Some people are seen in public with their," she waved her hand vaguely and continued, "and their public image is left unaffected."

Andy turned and stared at Miranda. "I thought this was an affair, an office fling. I didn't think it was serious."

Miranda flinched.

"I didn't think you were serious," Andy said softly.

Miranda looked at her, her answer vivid on her face. The resulting warmth started deep in Andy's belly and crept upward and outward. Miranda was serious. About Andy. About them.

"So what does this mean?" Andy couldn't help asking.

Miranda maintained her uncharacteristic silence.

"Miranda—"

"I don't know," Miranda said. "This is...new."

Andy bit her lip. "I have to go; they're waiting for me."

"Fine."

"Miranda," Andy said warningly.

"Fine," Miranda repeated softly and smiled. It didn't quite reach her eyes, but at least it was something.

Andy rolled her eyes and sighed. "Ask next time?"

Miranda hesitated long enough that Andy almost started to worry. Of course, it was a vague worry, filtered through quite a bit of fuzzy-headed giddiness.

"Have a nice evening," Miranda said. "And don't forget your meeting tomorrow morning."

Andy impulsively leaned over and kissed her. "With Alan at 666 Broadway, I remember," Andy said. "You know, I'd have a better time tonight with you."

Miranda laughed softly. The sound followed Andy down the stairs.

* * *

 

When Andy got up the next morning, her head still woolly, she discovered that 666 Broadway had nothing to do with fashion or taking notes for Miranda Priestly or even with Satan—that one was a long shot, but even now, Andy wouldn't put anything past Miranda. 666 Broadway was the offices of Harper's, Alan was the magazine’s Editor Alan Cabot, and the magazine needed a new associate editor. It wasn't quite what she had once imagined as a career, but it was a far cry from being second assistant at a fashion magazine.

After an hour and a half of interview that felt a great deal more like a job orientation than anything else—Alan started explaining things to her before she could open her mouth, so Andy didn't have any time to get nervous—she stepped out into the bright summer sunshine blinking in confusion. Alan had pretty much just assumed she would be taking the job, but Andy wasn't sure. She stood on the sidewalk, buffeted by people hustling past, and slowly dialed Miranda's cell.

"Yes?" Miranda demanded.

"I think I just got fired," Andy said, "because evidently someone thinks I need a new job."

Miranda didn't reply.

"I just—" Andy sighed and moved out of the middle of the sidewalk to the shelter of a nearby newsstand. "What about," Andy said, and gestured between the two of them, unable to put words to the thing between them. She groaned in frustration: Miranda couldn't see her gesture, of course. "What's going on?"

Miranda didn't respond immediately. She was probably multi-tasking. Andy could hear Emily's voice in the background, but Miranda was evidently ignoring her. "I don't imagine you've been happy," Miranda said finally.

Andy's throat was blocked, and the sunlight was reflecting off the buildings; that's why she was blinking back tears: it was too bright out and the glare was terrible. Was she getting dumped and fired? The Harper's job was great, but not if it meant giving up Miranda. And she might be able to handle giving up the sex, but she liked working at Runway, and she was good at it, and it wasn't fair that she should have to give up everything in her life just because Miranda was done with whatever it was they were doing. Except this meeting had obviously been set up before they had talked and now that Andy knew where she stood and so did Miranda, she was still trying to pull some sort of crap that didn't make sense—

"I'm tired of paying my driver an obscene amount of money not to go to the press," Miranda said.

Andy stared at the entrance to her prospective new job, watching people stream in and out. She couldn't think of anything to say; Miranda still wasn't making any sense.

Miranda tried again. "Andrea, I—" she stopped. "I always take your calls."

Oh.

Wait, what?

"He was an idiot not to support your ambition," Miranda said, "and I assure you I will not make the same mistake."

"How in the world did you know—" Andy asked.

"You must have realized by now how well sound carries from the outer office," Miranda said dryly.

"You heard?" Andy was completely mortified. "You listen?"

"Only when it is something I find interesting."

Andy's jaw dropped, and she could feel hysterical laughter bubbling up. She felt a little faint with relief, and the giddiness from the previous night had returned, even stronger. "Interesting?"

Miranda ignored her. "I expected you back at the office ten minutes ago, Andrea."

"Of course, Miranda," Andy said.

The sun was shining, she was getting a substantial promotion, her girlfriend was going to take her out to dinner—it was a fantastic day. Andy dialed her phone again. "Hi, I want to make reservations for Miranda Priestly?"

* * *

 

The next day, Andy called Doug. "I'm taking you out for drinks."

"What?" said Doug.

"I have news, and we're going out to celebrate."

"Okay," he said.

"It's good news, Dougie."

When Andy arrived at the bar, Doug and Lily were already waiting with two empties on the table.

"So you have a new job?" Doug said as he handed Andy a pint.

"That was supposed to be a secret," Andy said, hugging Doug and glaring at Lily.

"This is a bad thing? Un-uh." Lily said.

"It's not bad, it's just—" Andy said, and then her phone rang. Doug and Lily exchanged knowing glances, because of course it was Miranda. After assuring her that Andy would in fact be delivering the book that night, she hung up.

"You're going to do your two weeks, right?" said Lily.

"Yeah, to train my replacement. Emily is having fits; evidently, I made her job a lot easier, and now that I'm leaving, she's decided I'm not the devil incarnate."

"She doesn't know, does she?" Lily asked.

Andy shook her head. "No. At least, I don't think so. Nigel wouldn't have said anything."

"Know what?" asked Doug.

Lily laughed. "Andy here has been screwing her boss for, what, six months? Longer?"

"Seven," Andy mumbled, "on the fifth, it'll have been seven months."

"What was that?" Lily teased. "Are you planning anything special for your seven-month anniversary?"

"Shut up," Andy said. She was smiling, though.

Doug was staring at Andy, jaw hanging and eyes bulging. "Miranda? Miranda Priestly? You're—you and Miranda Priestly?"

"I think he's going to have a heart attack," Lily said, and whacked Doug on the back.

"Stop it." He fought off Lily's pounding. "I'm not going to have a heart attack. I just—for seven months, and you didn't say anything?"

"What was I supposed to say, 'Oh, hey, Doug, I'm sleeping with your idol and my boss. Isn't that just swell?'"

"But—"

"What happens now?" Lily asked, cutting Doug off.

Andy shrugged. "I have no idea."

"Are you going to keep sleeping with her?" Doug said. "Are you going to tell people?"

"I have no idea," Andy repeated.

"You can't really think this is going to work out," Doug said.

"No. I mean—" Andy shrugged and stared at the table. "No. But it might," she said, looking up with a small grin.

* * *

 

Two weeks later, Andy was writing up last minute notes for her successor, who was currently out collecting skirts from Calvin Klein. Andy had almost laughed when she heard Miranda ask for them.

When she was done she squared everything on her desk, nodded once, and wandered into Miranda's office. "Miranda? How did I get that job?"

Miranda barely looked up from where she was perusing drawings of Michael Kors' latest collection. "Nigel suggested we submit your resumé."

Andy stared. "My resumé?"

Miranda didn't bother to answer.

"That was—did you at least update it?"

Miranda gave her the stop-being-stupid look, and Andy started to wonder if it was possible she got the Harper's job on her own merits, no matter how unlikely it sounded.

"You gave me a reference?" she asked.

Miranda shook her head sharply. "Nigel did."

Andy stared blankly.

"Nigel seemed to think—that is, he recommended that I not appear to be too—" Miranda waved her hand vaguely and raised a dismissive eyebrow. Maybe she didn't think the idea had any merit, but she still did it, Andy thought.

"A year working for you," Andy said, instead.

"Yes. Well."

"Thanks, Miranda." She turned to go, and then turned back. "Nigel?"

"He's been very protective of you lately," Miranda said, looking at Andy thoughtfully.

Andy winced. "That might be because he knows."

"Knows what?" Miranda's voice was alarmingly low.

Andy squirmed. "I didn't say anything. He had it figured out pretty much from the beginning. He cornered me, and—"

"You told him everything," Miranda accused.

"I didn't! It's not my fault he can read us both so well."

Miranda sighed, but didn't say anything.

Andy shrugged helplessly and went to retrieve her coat to leave Runway for the last time as Miranda's assistant.

"Andrea," Miranda said before she had gotten two steps.

"Yes?" said Andy when it became clear nothing more was forthcoming. She turned around and looked at Miranda. Miranda was staring at her, a contemplative look on her face.

"Would you please make reservations for dinner?"

"Where?" Andy asked.

Miranda's eyes narrowed. Andy smirked.

"Sure," said Andy, "as my last official act as your assistant, I will make you dinner reservations. But you're going to have to figure out what to call me, when you tell your next assistant to make reservations for us."

Miranda snorted. "I think that will remain your job, Andrea."

"Oh?"

"Surely you don't imagine I'm going to stop phoning you at all hours?" Miranda smiled. It was a new smile, another one Andy hadn't seen before: Miranda looked happy, unreservedly so.

Andy laughed and picked up the phone.

The End