DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. Star Trek: Voyager is the property of Paramount. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To qhfletcher[at]gmail.com

By quiethearted (QH Fletcher)


Chapter 11

Janeway found herself gazing into smoky gray eyes not unlike her own. She couldn't help but wonder if her own hair would be that same pristine, snowy shade of white one day and if she would look half as good when it did.

Miranda, for her part, said not a word, merely held her hand out for the portfolio which B'Elanna handed over. A quick cutting glance from those icy eyes had the Klingon excusing herself to the outer office before she'd even realized what she'd done, if the look on her face was any indication. It caused a small smile to curl Janeway's lips as she recalled reacting the same way when she received an identical look from her own mother. At least now she knew where Gretchen Janeway had gotten it.

Janeway watched Miranda flip through the images contained within the portfolio, waiting to see if she would receive the dreaded lip purse that Seven had warned her about. Other than the occasional "Hmmmm" Miranda said nothing, merely studied each photograph closely. At last, she reached the final image and closed the back flap.

"Why have I not heard of you before?" Miranda asked in her quiet tone.

Janeway found herself leaning closer to hear and wondered why she'd never thought to use this tactic herself. It would come in quite handy with some of the more belligerent species she had to negotiate with.

"Perhaps because I don't wish to be known outside of a certain circle," Janeway offered by way of explanation. "I work selectively so that my time is my own."

Miranda nodded. "The photographer contracted to shoot a spread tomorrow has had to drop out at the last moment. I want you to replace him. "

Janeway offered up her diplomatic smile which gave away as little as Miranda's neutral expression. "If we can come to an agreement on terms, I'd be glad to," she said as if she was granting Miranda a personal favor.

The sudden arching of Miranda's brow told Janeway that the woman was not unaware of her implication.

"I see," Miranda leaned back in her chair and studied Janeway for a moment. "And you make this offer, why?"

Smart lady, Janeway thought, realizing Miranda was aware there was no plausible reason for anyone to do the editor such a favor without some hope for gain. That was evidently how it worked in Miranda's world, so Janeway gave her the most believable reason she could come up with on short notice.

"I have a fondness for Annika, and she asked me if I would assist you," Janeway explained with a small shrug.

"And you always do what your ex-assistants ask of you?" Miranda inquired with an arched brow.

"About as frequently as you do, I would suppose," Janeway chuckled lightly. She noticed Miranda glance towards the open doorway. A quick check in the reflective surface of a picture frame on the wall behind Miranda showed Janeway that B'Elanna and Seven were talking to someone she assumed was Andrea Sachs.

"There seems to always be exceptions to one's personal rules," Miranda murmured as if to herself while staring intently toward the three women.

"Yes, there do," Janeway agreed quietly, watching one particular woman in the reflection as she suspected Miranda was doing as well. The thought that Miranda might be looking at Seven made Janeway shift uneasily. Surely not—Miranda. Miranda barely knew Seven. But then how long did it take me? Janeway thought with an internal sigh. This was a complication they did not need. Janeway cleared her throat gently to bring Miranda back to the topic they had been discussing.

Miranda blinked at her for a moment, as if unsure where she was or what they had been discussing. "Oh, yes. Your terms. And they would be?"

"My staff, my equipment, and I do the final processing," Janeway listed.

Miranda nodded. "Acceptable."

"And the photographer's credit can read anything you want, except my name," Janeway added, raising her hand to forestall a comment as the editor clearly bristled. "It's not that I consider Runway to be an inferior publication. Far from it. I am simply aware of what shooting for your magazine could do as far as expanding my reputation. I prefer to photograph the things I wish to. It's simpler for me to continue to do so by keeping my anonymity to a certain extent."

Again Miranda nodded at the reasoning. "Very well. Seven informed me that you normally work with nine assistants. As you've just set up your studio here, I assume you do not have your full staff with you yet?"

Janeway blinked at her in confusion. "You call Annika Seven?" she asked, wondering how that had come about.

Miranda's lips quirked for a moment. "It seems my Art Director, Nigel Kipling has nicknamed Andréa Six for reasons of his own. Annika explained that she was the seventh of your nine assistants and prefers that 'designation.' I chose to comply with her request. As I said, exceptions abound."

Janeway bit her lip to stifle a laugh. "Ummm, no, I don't have a full staff with me," she replied choosing to answer Miranda's first inquiry and not to respond to Seven's little fabrication.

"Seven is quite capable of maintaining the functioning of this office to the level that I require. So much so that Andréa finds herself free at the moment. Serena has met her deadlines for this month. I should be able to spare her as well to assist you," Miranda seemed to think for a moment and then an almost evil gleam made her eyes glow a bright blue. "And, by all means, take Emily as well. I'm sure she will be thrilled by the idea. Perhaps you'll have better luck with keeping up with her," Miranda muttered the last under her breath. "I'll instruct Andréa to notify them immediately. When would you like them to start?"

"If you'll give me the details of the shoot you want, then I'll have a better idea when they need to report," Janeway hedged. What was she supposed to do with three extra people?

B'Elanna walked out of Miranda's office with such a startled expression on her face.

"There is a problem, B'Elanna Torres?" Seven asked her crewmate.

"Umm, no, I just think I finally met someone who could scare my mother," B'Elanna admitted.

"Miranda Priestly is a formidable woman," Seven agreed.

B'Elanna nodded. "And I thought Janeway could scare a targ," she muttered low enough she knew only Seven's Borg enhanced hearing could discern her words. She was proved right when Seven nodded subtly, and the other woman remained non-reactive. "Who's your friend, Annika?"

"Andrea Sachs is Miranda's first assistant, B'Elanna Torres. Her designation is Six." Seven introduced the two.

"Six, huh?" B'Elanna chuckled. "Was that Annika's idea?"

"No, that was Nigel's, but Seven seems quite happy with it. You can call me Andy, though," Andy shrugged as if it didn't matter to her what she was called, though B'Elanna noticed a certain tension in the woman's shoulders that belied her words.

"Got them calling you Seven already? Fast work," B'Elanna teased her crewmate.

"It is my designation, B'Elanna Torres. What else would they call me?" Seven leaned her head to the side waiting for an answer.

"I can usually think of a few things," B'Elanna laughed.

"Indeed," Seven agreed, rolling her eyes for emphasis.

"I take it you two get along really well," Andy asked sarcastically.

"We have our moments. Usually when Seven's acting superior to everyone else," was the quick reply.

"I am not superior, B'Elanna Torres," Seven said with a small sigh.

Reminded of what the captain had said to her earlier, B'Elanna smiled at the tall Borg. "Anyone who can run in these shoes is superior, Seven. Trust me." For just a moment, she thought the Borg was going to actually smile at her, then remembered that Seven never smiled. Does she even know how? B'Elanna wondered for the first time. A closer examination revealed a definite twinkle in those big blue eyes. Yeah, I guess she does in her own way. Deciding to turn her talents of gathering information in a way that Seven normally couldn't, B'Elanna focused her attention on Andy.

"So have you worked for Miranda long?" she asked with a smile.

"Just short of a year, which is about as long as any assistant does, though Emily made it almost two," Andy responded easily.

"I'll have to meet this Emily. She must be an incredibly strong woman."

"Or maybe a masochist, I haven't really decided," Andy quipped. "Good luck with meeting her though. Emily has made herself pretty scarce lately. I think she's afraid of having to do assistant duty again."

"But you're not?" B'Elanna nudged her gently.

Andy's smile was wry. "I don't have that long left to make my year. What's the worst that could happen? Miranda fires me? That doesn't keep you from getting hired in this town; that only happens if she blacklists you as well. I doubt Miranda would waste her time with that."

Something wasn't right, and B'Elanna couldn't put her finger on what it was. From what Seven had told them, Miranda had seemed anxious to have this woman back in the office. Yet, Andy Sachs seemed to be almost blasé about the editor firing her. It didn't add up. She glanced back at the inner office to see the editor staring toward where Andy and Seven stood near each other, but really couldn't be sure which one Miranda was watching so closely. There was something going on here beneath the surface, and B'Elanna didn't think Seven was comfortable enough with the subtleties of personal interactions to ferret it out. She made a mental note to talk to the captain about it later. Maybe Janeway had picked up something from Miranda.

"So where's a good place to get a drink around this city?" B'Elanna asked, hoping for an opening to spend some time outside of Runway with Andy and to get a chance to see what else she could find out.

"There's a couple of bars nearby that several of us go to after work. I can write them down for you," Andy offered, giving her a true friendly smile for the first time.

"I'm actually new to the city. Maybe you'd want to go have a drink with me sometime," B'Elanna inquired. She put just a hint of seductiveness in her smile, having picked up a vibe from Andy that she might be receptive to female attention. She was relieved when Andy's smile didn't falter but grew a bit wider.

"I might like that," she said. "We'll have to compare schedules. I think I'll be getting out of here pretty early the next few days since Seven is taking over most of the things that used to keep me here late."

Noticing that Janeway and Miranda were walking toward them, B'Elanna grinned. "I think the schedule question will be answered soon enough. Looks like they're finished in there." She kept an eye on Andy as Miranda addressed them all.

"Andréa, notify Serena and Emily, if you can find her, that the three of you will be assisting Kathryn for the next three days. Seven is quite capable of handling the office by herself. You will report directly to her studio during that time so there is no need for any of you to come into the office."

B'Elanna watched as those warm brown eyes took on a decidedly chilly cast at Miranda's words, though Andy answered in a polite, professional tone.

"Of course, Miranda."

"Kathryn will provide you with the address of her studio and the details of your assignment. That's all."

Andy nodded. "I'll get them now. Would the small conference room be suitable, Ms. Janeway?"

It was clear the captain was somewhat startled to be addressed in this manner, though she hid it well from anyone who hadn't spent years becoming familiar with her cool veneer.

"Kathryn, please. That will be fine. Seven can show us where it is."

"If you'll excuse me," Andy said, turning to leave.

B'Elanna leaned over as Andy passed and whispered, "Guess we can have that drink sooner rather than later."

Andy nodded with a pleased smile and continued out. B'Elanna looked back in time to feel a chill race down her spine as her own eyes were seared by the ice in Miranda's glare. Kahless! That woman could end a blood feud with one look. There was definitely more going on here than met the eye.


Chapter 12

B'Elanna had just sat down with Janeway at the small table in the aft compartment when Seven materialized and joined them.

"Have a seat, Seven," Janeway directed.

"Yes, Captain," she responded and seated herself primly on the opposite side of the table from B'Elanna.

"How'd you get away from Miranda?" the engineer asked, surprised that Seven could get free so early.

"Miranda Priestly is attending a school function for her offspring tonight. She left early to have dinner with them as well," Seven replied.

"Captain, did you notice anything unusual when you were talking to Miranda today?" B'Elanna asked.

"Unusual how, B'Elanna?" Janeway wanted to know.

"I don't know to be honest. I just got a strange feeling from Andy Sachs. Something isn't right there. I don't know quite what it is though. I know that's vague, but I'm not sure how else to describe it." B'Elanna threw up her hands, frustrated that she couldn't be more precise.

Janeway nodded and rubbed the back of her neck. "Seven, you said that Miranda seemed anxious for Andy to return to the office last week? How did she act earlier today?"

"Her heart rate and respiration had returned to normal ranges. She did not exhibit the same signs of physical nervousness that she had previously. Yet, she did not interact with Six as I expected her to. It seemed sufficient that Six had returned to Runway."

Janeway leaned back her in chair and seemed to think for a moment. "During our conversation, Miranda paused once and seemed to be fixated on the three of you in the outer office. Well, on you and Andy, Seven, though I couldn't be sure which of you she was watching. "

"Miranda Priestly does look at me frequently, Captain. I did not notice her doing the same to Six today."

B'Elanna noticed that Janeway frowned at this piece of information. It clearly was not to her liking.

"Andy was friendly with me, a bit cooler towards Seven, but that would make sense if she thinks Seven is a threat to her job," B'Elanna observed.

"Yet, she did not seem concerned with the idea of being fired," Seven interjected.

"No, she didn't," B'Elanna agreed. "And when Miranda told her that she'd be working with us the next few days, Andy became really cold towards her. She was outwardly polite, but you could see the chill in her eyes."

"Yes, I noticed that, too," Janeway commented.

"I'm not sure it matters, but I think Andy is gay. Is it possible that Miranda made a pass at her at some time, and that's why she's so cold toward her?" B'Elanna wondered. "Tom said that this time frame had big concerns with sexual harassment on the job."

"It's possible," Janeway admitted. "Though Miranda doesn't strike me as the type to make unwanted overtures to her staff. It's also possible there is or was a consensual relationship between them, and Andy sees Seven as a threat to that in some way."

Seven frowned at that, attracting B'Elanna's attention.

"What's up, Seven?" she asked, since it was clear that the Borg found something disquieting about the conversation.

"It is possible for two women to have a romantic relationship?" Seven asked, exposing her naiveté to B'Elanna for the first time.

"Well, yes," B'Elanna answered, surprised at the question. "In fact, I have a sort of date with Andy for drinks later tonight."

Seven tilted her head and studied B'Elanna in that way she had which always left the Klingon feeling vaguely like a bug under a microscope. "I was aware you were no longer involved with Tom Paris, but I did not know you dated women as well, B'Elanna Torres."

"I did before I ended up on Voyager. I just haven't met a woman among the crew who's interested me that way," B'Elanna confessed.

"Intriguing," Seven responded, and it was clear she found it so, which served to draw another frown from Janeway.

Deciding that retreat was definitely the better part of valor in this situation, B'Elanna slapped her hands lightly on the table top. "Well, if I'm going to be on time meeting Andy, I better get ready. Captain, is there anything else?"

"What?" Janeway who had appeared deep in thought, started at the interruption. "No, that's it for right now. Try to find out from Andy what is going on between her and Miranda if you can. "

Relieved, B'Elanna headed to the fore compartment to replicate an outfit for her "date," leaving the other two women alone.

Janeway waited until the door panel slid shut behind B'Elanna before speaking."Seven, has Miranda said or done anything that has made you think she's interested in you in a romantic way?"

"No, Captain. She has not."

"You said she looks at you," Janeway prodded.

"Miranda Priestly looks at everyone, Captain. She evaluates their clothing. It is what she does," Seven stated, clearly unconcerned about the attention. "I have experienced the type of looks you are asking about, and that is not what Miranda Priestly is doing."

"You have?" Janeway asked startled, not at all pleased that someone had been giving Seven the eye.

"Yes, Captain. Both on Voyager and numerous times while walking in New York, as well as at Runway. I was not, however, aware that the women who did so had the same intentions as the men. I will need to re-evaluate based on that knowledge," Seven answered her.

"No one has made you uncomfortable, have they?" Janeway had to ask, knowing she was likely to punch anyone who had, even if it was her umpteenth great-grandmother.

"No. I have become used to it. It is of no consequence as I do not return the interest."

Janeway nodded, refusing to admit to herself how relieved she was to hear that Seven wasn't interested in any of the people who had been ogling her, though she still wasn't thrilled with the ogling itself. That was something else she didn't want to look too hard at.

"You should get back to Runway, Seven. I'll speak to you later this evening or in the morning."

Once she was left alone with her thoughts, Janeway found it hard not to return to examining the feelings she held for Seven. It was a useless effort as far as she was concerned because Seven would never return her feelings. Her Borg had as much as said no one on Voyager interested her, which obviously included Janeway. Frustrated with her train of thought, she reached for one of the padds that held the journals. She knew one was missing, but couldn't recall the content or who had written it. Nor it seemed, could Seven. Janeway could only theorize that the alteration to the timeline's effects on Seven had included minute changes in her cortical node just sufficient to eliminate that knowledge. It wasn't a perfect theory but the only one she had, and they might never know exactly why Seven couldn't remember the contents of the journal any better than Janeway could.

She soon lost herself in the stories of the past. The one journal that had always intrigued her most, and now was the most concerning due to the change in tone didn't have a clear author. Since it described events often spaced out over years, it was difficult to pinpoint to one specific person. It was only clear that it had been written in the latter half of Miranda Priestly's life, though the actual writer could have been anyone within the family. Janeway didn't think it was Miranda herself as she was referred to by name and not by the first person pronoun most would use when writing of their own lives. Maybe with what she had learned today, re-reading it would bring her closer to identifying the author. She couldn't shake the thought that, whoever it was, he or she was the cause of all the symptoms she and her crewmen were experiencing.

B'Elanna walked through the bar, resplendent in form-fitting black leather pants and matching medium-heeled, knee-high boots. Her black silk blouse molded her frame lovingly, unbuttoned just far enough to reveal a hint of cleavage. She looked good and knew it, which was reflected in the way she moved.

She scanned the after-work crowd looking for Andy and found her standing at the bar towards the back of the room. B'Elanna swallowed around a sudden tightness in her throat as she scanned the curvaceous body clad in skinny jeans, heels, and a tight red sweater. Andy Sachs was built way too much like Seven for B'Elanna's own good. Unfortunately, unlike with Seven, B'Elanna couldn't notice in a non-romantic way. Miranda Priestly might not want this woman, but B'Elanna Torres was going to have a hard time keeping her hands to herself. Steeling her resolve, she walked up to Andy and smiled.

"Hey, hope I didn't keep you waiting long."

"Not at all," Andy grinned with a mega-watt smile that rocked B'Elanna back on her heels. "I just got here myself. Can I get you a drink?"

"What's that you're having?" B'Elanna asked, gesturing to the glass in Andy's hand.

"Dirty Martini. Ever had one?"

B'Elanna shook her head in the negative and watched as Andy got the bartender's attention and by raising her glass and holding up two fingers. Draining the drink she held, Andy set it on the bar and accepted the new drinks after dropping a few bills on the bar. She turned back and handed one to B'Elanna who sipped cautiously. The drink was a bit salty but didn't carry anywhere near the kick of blood wine so she took a healthy swallow.

"It's good," she smiled and looked around for a table. Seeing one open up near them, she led Andy over to it, and they sat making small talk through that drink and another. They fell silent as the next round was delivered by the server.

"How long have you worked for Kathryn?" Andy asked, breaking the silence.

"A little over seven years, though sometimes it seems much longer," B'Elanna laughed, glad that at least in this she could tell the truth.

"I take it she's a tough boss," Andy grinned.

"Tough? Yes, but fair, and she looks out for her people. If things are going to get unpleasant, she's at the front of the line ready to charge in, not the back. You have to respect that," B'Elanna explained.

"Must be nice," Andy sighed. "Miranda tends to look out for Miranda first and foremost. In some ways, she doesn't have a choice. Anyone who has the kind of power she does pretty much has a target on her back, especially a woman. She's worked hard to get where she is. I suppose it's only natural she'd fight to keep it."

B'Elanna gave a lopsided grin. "Makes sense. I guess the problem comes with what you're willing to do as part of that fight."

"Yeah, that is a problem," Andy agreed with a grimace. "If I didn't know for a fact she adores her girls, I'd swear she's the type to eat her young to win."

A bark of laughter was B'Elanna's response. "I'll be honest. The woman scares me. I think she'd even scare my mother, though you'd have to know my mother to realize what a huge thing that is."

Andy giggled. "Miranda scares most people. I've seen grown men cry when she tears into them. About the only person who's safe is Nigel, and even he hasn't always been." She sobered and looked away, her face hardening. "Truthfully, none of us are safe. Trusting Miranda is a mistake. Do yourself a favor and don't make that one."

B'Elanna nodded in understanding. "Okay, I'll keep that in mind. So you're really going to leave her when your year is up?"

"I'd go sooner, but I'm determined to see this through. I can get a job anywhere with a recommendation from Miranda. It takes one year to earn it. I'm too close to give up now," Andy said and compressed her lips into a determined line.

"You'll make it," B'Elanna reached out impulsively and rested her hand over Andy's.

Andy bit her lip and gazed at B'Elanna through thick, dark lashes. "You're really nice. Why can't I fall for someone like you?" Her lips twisted ruefully before she gave a bitter laugh. "Damn, I'm drunk. Why aren't you?"

"High genetic tolerance," B'Elanna shrugged negligently. Keeping her interactions with Andy casual was proving harder by the minute. She had to actually restrain herself from taking the other woman in her arms to comfort her.

"I should probably get home, if I'm going to meet you guys in the morning," Andy smiled and started to rise only to grab the edge of the table. "Whoa. Okay, I definitely should have eaten first."

B'Elanna rose and took her arm. "I think it would be a good idea if I see you home. Wouldn't want anything to happen to you."

Andy laughed softly. "Normally, I'd argue and be all…'I can take care of myself,' but to be honest, I'm not quite sure I can, so lead on."

They quickly found a cab once they reached the street, and Andy provided her address to the driver. It wasn't long before B'Elanna found herself standing outside Andy's front door as Andy turned back in the open doorway.

"You really are sweet," Andy said with a gentle smile. "I had a good time this evening, but next time, we eat first."

B'Elanna's eyes widened at the thought there might be a next time and widened more when Andy leaned forward to give her a hug and a soft kiss on the cheek.

"I'll see you tomorrow. Good night," Andy whispered near B'Elanna's ear. She stepped back and closed the door, leaving the Klingon standing in the hallway.

A huge grin split B'Elanna's face as she stepped around a corner and out of sight. A quick entry in her hand-held had her beaming to the Flyer.


Chapter 13

The next morning Andy wandered into Kathryn's studio, a tray of Starbucks in one hand, venti-sized cup in the other, and large Prada sunglasses covering her eyes. Walking up, she shoved the tray into Serena's hand, simultaneously taking a sip from the cup she held.

"You are channeling Miranda, perhaps?" Serena teased her, causing Andy to choke on her coffee.

Andy coughed, clearing her lungs. "Oh, damn. Not nice, Serena. And after I brought your favorite Starbucks and everything."

Grinning unrepentantly, Serena checked the labels and pulled her cup from the tray. "You are a good woman, Andy. Me, I am not so nice." She gave an elegant shrug of one shoulder.

"But somehow that's what I love about you," Andy teased, giving her a light shoulder bump.

"It is understandable," Serena assured her in a matter of fact tone. "I am beautiful."

Andy laughed and slung an arm around her friend's shoulders. "Inside and out, Serena. Not to mention modest."

"You always say this, though we both know it is not true," Serena chuckled, wrapping a long arm around Andy's waist.

Janeway appeared on the upper landing, drawn by the smell of her favorite elixir and looked down at the two women standing arm in arm and laughing. Was it possible these two were a couple? She turned to start down the stairs to greet them, only to stop when a strident voice rent the air.

"Bloody hell! Can't you keep your grabby, bleeding hands off anyone?" Emily snapped from just inside the doorway to the street.

"As Andy has never touched you, I would say the answer is yes," Serena answered, taking a sip of her coffee to hide a mischievous grin.

"Good morning to you, too, Em." Andy rolled her eyes. Plucking a cup from the tray Serena still held in one hand, she offered it to Emily. "Skinny tea, steeped at the boiling point. You're as bad as Miranda trying to fry your tongue."

"Perhaps it is what keeps it so sharp," Serena teased.

"Careful you don't make me cut you with it," Emily warned, taking the cup and sipping from it with a purr of delight. "Pity you're not my assistant, Andrea. You always get the tea right."

"If I didn't know better I'd think that was a compliment," Andy laughed. "But face it, Em. We'd kill each other in a week."

"It wouldn't take nearly that long," Emily sniffed disdainfully. "The incessant chatter would make me daft in the first hour. I couldn't be held responsible for my actions."

Janeway rolled her eyes at the three. If she weren't there to see them, each with a smile of varying sizes playing on their lips, she would swear they hated each other. Yet, they actually seemed to be friends. Andy was all smiles and kindness, Serena calm and superior, and Emily pure hauteur and abrasiveness. They seemed to have nothing whatsoever in common except their jobs at Runway, but still somehow, they complimented each other. She stayed where she was, watching their interactions for a moment longer and was shortly joined by B'Elanna.

"Miranda hires some amazingly beautiful women," B'Elanna said in a soft voice.

"Mmmm," Janeway allowed as a response. Her mind was caught by the image of the three, so different. The fieriness of the redhead, the earthy sultriness of the brunette and the serene, airy sensuality of the blonde spoke to her. There was a lack of balance though, and Janeway couldn't put her finger on the cause. She glanced sideways at B'Elanna, perhaps…No, B'Elanna was also fire, so that wasn't what was missing. Frustrated, she pushed the thought away and continued down the stairs.

"I believe I smell coffee!" she called ahead, smiling at the three who turned to face her.

Andy laughed and offered up a cup. "I guessed black with an extra shot. How'd I do?"

"You're a mind reader," Janeway grinned, taking the cup and sipping avidly.

"And one for you," Andy added, proffering the last cup to B'Elanna.

"No, but thank you. I don't really like coffee. It has a nasty taste," the engineer said.

"Don't say that in front of Miranda," Emily advised.

"Did I steer you wrong on the last drink I bought you?" Andy asked with a grin.

"Well, no," B'Elanna admitted, her face taking on a pink tinge that had Janeway arching an eyebrow.

"Then take a sip," Andy encouraged her.

Hesitantly, B'Elanna sipped at the contents of the cup, a look of surprise coming over her features.

"This is good," she admitted, taking a healthier swallow much like she had the night before.

Andy laughed. "It's tea. Manhattan Earl Gray to be exact. Em hates it, but I thought you might like it."

"You got this at the same place as the coffee?" B'Elanna asked and as Andy nodded continued, "I'll keep that in mind. What's with the sunglasses? Hangover?"

"A little one," Andy said holding her thumb and forefinger close together and then widening them considerably with a laugh. "It's much better now. Just not thrilled with the sunlight is all." She pulled off the glasses to reveal amazingly clear brown eyes. "So what do we do first?"

Noticing the sexy look B'Elanna was giving Andy, Janeway spoke up. "The models should be here soon. I'm assuming you've worked photo shoots before, and Miranda picked you for a reason."

"I am hair and makeup," Serena said.

"Clothing and accessories," Emily spoke next.

"That just leaves you, Andy. What's your expertise?" Janeway asked her.

"Usually I keep things organized and moving smoothly, make sure the models don't pass out or eat anyone, and try to make sure Miranda doesn't kill or maim anyone," Andy smiled.

"Well, I'm not Miranda, so anyone I kill or maim will deserve it," Janeway advised, her lips quirking.

"Yes, ma'am," Andy grinned.

"Oh, and don't call me ma'am. I hate it. Call me Kathryn. Save the ma'am for crunch time, and I'll tell you when it's crunch time."

"Yes, Kathryn," the three women said together in a tone that told Janeway it was a rote response they gave Miranda regularly.

Janeway threw back her head and laughed. "I'm going to like you three. Let's get organized. The models will be here soon."

The rest of the day went smoothly. Since Miranda had asked for studio shots, there was no location to deal with. Serena had the models made-up and styled in record time and was then available for touch-ups and to help Emily as she bullied the women in and out of couture and jewelry. Andy seemed to be everywhere at once. If she wasn't riding herd on bickering models, she was helping B'Elanna adjust lights and props for the different setups. The shoot was done by early afternoon, and the five of them working together had things cleaned up and organized for the next day by a much more normal quitting time than the three from Runway were used to.

Janeway stood, hands on hips, surveying the last few details of the first setup for the next day. Satisfied that they were as ready as they could be, she called them all together.

"Excellent work. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm starving. We never stopped for lunch. Someone should have reminded me," Janeway laughed.

"Like you ever eat," B'Elanna scoffed.

"Serena and I are used to Miranda keeping us too busy to eat," Andy told them.

"And Emily believes food is an evil created to tempt her into sin," Serena joked.

"I thought that was you," Andy teased her.

"Shut it," Emily snapped in her usual gruff manner.

"I tell her I have no calories, but she is not impressed," Serena told Andy. Emily huffed and stomped away.

"One day she'll figure out you're not kidding," Andy spoke low enough her voice couldn't carry to where Emily stood organizing the already immaculate accessories table. The jewelry and couture were already locked in the two safes Miranda had had delivered the previous evening. Only she, Nigel and Emily had the combinations, and he would be by later to exchange the current outfits with the ones they would shoot the next day.

Interesting, Janeway thought. Serena was interested in Emily, and Andy was aware of the fact. Emily either thought Serena wasn't serious or didn't return the feelings. Though Emily showed a surface hostility toward Andy, they actually worked well together and seemed to be friends. Janeway pinched the bridge of her nose between thumb and forefinger. The interactions between these women were more complicated than negotiating with the Tak Taks. All the posturing that was innate to that species had nothing on the Runway crowd.

"How about I treat everyone to dinner?" Janeway offered. There had been little time to talk to the women throughout the day, and this might give her a chance. So far all they had found out was that there was some type of disagreement between Miranda and Andy Sachs which resulted in Andy distancing herself from Miranda and her children. Janeway couldn't see how anything in that which was drastic enough to threaten her own existence. There hadn't been any more episodes since the one when they'd first arrived in this time frame, but that didn't mean there wouldn't be more. Perhaps their presence was holding whoever was behind this at bay.

As the others chorused their agreement and then went to gather their coats and bags, Janeway pulled B'Elanna to the side. "Find out as much as you can about what's happened between Miranda and Andy. I know it's a long shot, but that's the only thing we've found that's obviously wrong here."

"Aye, Captain," B'Elanna responded with a smile, quite obviously pleased with the option to spend more time with Andy.

"And, B'Elanna, don't forget that we don't belong here and we'll be leaving as soon as this is over," Janeway reminded gently.

Sighing, B'Elanna nodded. "I know. I keep telling myself that. She's just probably the nicest person I've met in a long time."

"It doesn't help that she's beautiful either," Janeway smiled at her chief engineer and friend.

"No, it doesn't," B'Elanna agreed with a rueful laugh. "I'll keep it under control, Captain."

"You do that, Lieutenant," Janeway clapped her on the shoulder. "Now, let's go eat."


Chapter 14

Dinner had proven an interesting affair. B'Elanna and Andy had each devoured a large steak, Janeway and Serena had consumed most of their grilled chicken Caesar salads, and Emily had artfully arranged and rearranged a small dinner salad into various patterns while nibbling the occasional lettuce leaf. They had all then adjourned to a nearby bar for a nightcap and dancing where they were joined by Nigel.

Janeway was watching the dance floor and attempting to suppress a laugh as Andy, Serena, and Emily attempted to teach B'Elanna one of the current dances. The half-Klingon was definitely more suited to battle than this form of dancing. Finally a slow song came on, and B'Elanna was able to lead Andy smoothly around the dance floor.

"Your friend seems quite taken with our Six," Nigel observed.

"I'm sure it's nothing serious," Janeway said cautiously.

"Pity," he said taking a sip from his Mangotini. "Andy could use that type of diversion. She hasn't been the same since Paris."

"Really? Paris was difficult for her?" she asked casually.

"Mmmm. Paris was difficult for all of us," Nigel replied with a sigh. "Though Miranda and I have gotten past it, I'm not sure Andy ever has. Things have been different between her and Miranda since then. At least, Andy's different. I think Miranda is just confused." As if aware that he had suddenly said too much, Nigel looked into his glass. "These appear stronger than I remember. I should probably go in search of another." He wasted little time in vacating the area.

Pulling out her hand-held, Janeway sent a quick message to Seven to find out about any trips to Paris that the three had been on. This was obviously the location of the pivotal event between Andy and Miranda. Hopefully, Seven could find out what had happened. As she was sliding the unit back into her pocket, Emily dropped into one of the chairs and scooped up her drink, draining the glass.

"Having a good time?" Janeway asked.

"Quite. Bit of bloody fun never hurt anyone," Emily stated adamantly while signaling the server for another round.

"That's true," Janeway smiled. "We try to relax whenever possible; though traveling constantly makes that difficult at times."

"I was supposed to travel," Emily sighed. "I was going to Paris." She waited while a full glass was placed in front of her and the empty one taken away before continuing. "Andrea went instead. Bloody cab. Bloody Andrea. Bloody Miranda. I did get a lot of clothes though. Andrea got them for me. She's quite nice, you know, though I will have to kill you if you ever tell anyone I said that."

Janeway nodded as if that made perfect sense. Evidently, a career in fashion was a one-way trip to alcoholism. She'd never seen a group of people who drank as much.

"Just as well I didn't go," Emily went on, her accent growing thicker as she talked, "since that tosser, Irv, tried to replace Miranda with that cow Jacqueline. She put an end to that right quick, but I imagine she was pissed off the rest of the time. And then that bugger Stephen asked for a divorce in the middle of it all, by fax no less. Bloody coward, if you ask me. Miranda's well rid of him."

Janeway kept nodding and making appropriate noises to encourage the woman to keep talking, though she had a feeling the Universal Translator would come in handy. She had surreptitiously placed her hand-held on the table when Emily first began so she would have the entire conversation to review later.

"They've not been right since they got back though," Emily shook her head. "Always together they were, Miranda and Ahn-dray-ah. Miranda took her everywhere, even to Paris. I thought Andy fancied her for a while. She never smiles at her anymore, Andy doesn't. Makes Miranda bleeding daft." She sighed and looked remorsefully into her glass. "They just stopped being happy after Paris, and now Miranda's a real Dragon Lady. I'm having to hide at Natural Woodsman and under desks. It's bloody humiliating."

"Emily, it's time to take you home," Serena's calm voice broke into the diatribe. "Andy sees what she wishes to, and Miranda wishes but does not see. It will be settled, or not. You must stop worrying. You cannot make them work it out." She gently helped the other woman up while nodding to Janeway. "We will see you in the morning, Kathryn. B'Elanna has taken Andy home. She wishes you to know she will speak with you in the morning. Do you wish to share a cab with us?"

"No, I'll see myself back." Janeway smiled up at her. "I've had very little to drink, so I'll be fine. Good night, Serena."

A golden glow bathed the stark outlines of the city as the first hints of dawn began to warm the sky. The artificial lights that had decorated the city began to wink out as the ambient light from the heavens reached into each street and alley as if a blanket were settling down to warm the city by cloaking the night's chill. B'Elanna leaned back in the camp chair she'd liberated from the stores in the Flyer, watching the beauty unfold before her.

Spending time with Andy Sachs had been like that for her, being warmed slowly by the golden glow of kindness that radiated from the sweet woman. B'Elanna growled low in her throat. It was just her luck that Andy's expansive, loving heart was already claimed and by one of the two women that B'Elanna felt she couldn't compete against and win. It figured the two were related; they had the same charismatic personality, the same internal strength and confidence. While not the visions that Andy, Seven, or Serena were, they were arresting, stunning in their loveliness, becoming the focal point of any room they entered without effort. While B'Elanna knew she was attractive, had been told so often enough to know it was true, she would never stop traffic the way the other three did, nor would she cause the world to hold its breath the way Miranda and Janeway were able to, just by looking its way.

No, B'Elanna saw herself as more like Emily. Beautiful in her own right but with a much more approachable type of beauty. Andy and the two blondes, they were the stuff of fantasies. People looked, they couldn't help but look, but never approached, always convinced they'd be shot down. Janeway and Miranda… B'Elanna chuckled to herself. Those two could melt duranium with a glance. They were like sleek, wild cats. Beautiful, elegant to behold, but deadly when displeased. Many might try to tame them, even think for a while that they had succeeded, but invariably, they'd walk away shredded and bloody. No, there was no taming those two. Each was in her own way jaded and cynical about romantic relationships, though each still yearned for love. That much was clear in their repeated attempts to find the elusive emotion.

Where B'Elanna saw Janeway and Miranda as lion or tiger, she saw herself and Emily as more panther or jaguar. No less deadly, but without the overawing presence of the elder women. What would it take to tame them? Serena seemed determined to do so with Emily. The tall blonde was well named, that was for sure. There was such an aura of calmness and peace about her that when Serena stepped into Emily's presence she seemed to cause the irascible Brit to retract her claws and purr gently.

B'Elanna had watched just such an occurrence the previous evening on the dance floor. A large drunken man had slammed into Emily almost knocking her over, and the Brit had rounded on him like a Klingon warrior in full blood lust. Serena had quietly stepped into her line of vision and laid a hand on Emily's forearm. Although she never said a word, Emily visibly relaxed under that gentle touch as if the anger and rage had drained away like energy deflected into the peace and serenity of the earth. B'Elanna had experienced a moment of envy, almost jealousy, at the sight. She wanted that for herself, to be grounded by the presence of another. Tom had been much too kinetic in his own right to provide it, his attention flitting from one holo-program or attractive woman to the next without rhyme or reason. B'Elanna thought that was why she'd been attracted to Andy. She had many of the same qualities, as did Serena, and Seven for that matter, but with a bright joy that seemed to light up a room with her brilliant smiles. That thought brought B'Elanna full circle to why she had dragged the chair out into the cold night to sit staring into the darkness. Andy was in love with Miranda Priestly.

Escorting Andy home the previous night, B'Elanna had found herself once again at the door to Andy's apartment. Only this time, she was on the other side, pressed back against the wood by a long, curvaceous body while the hands in her hair pulled her mouth tightly to Andy's. Instead of the gentle hug and peck on the cheek like the previous evening, she found herself pulled into the apartment and deep in a searing kiss before she'd realized Andy's intentions. Not that B'Elanna was complaining -- quite the opposite, in fact. She was participating fully.

Pivoting, she soon had Andy pressed to the door, freeing her hands to roam over that beautifully curved body. Their lips and tongues had battled, as they each swallowed the other's moans. Hands frantically worked at buttons until bare bellies were pressed together. B'Elanna's hands were filled with large naked breasts, her Klingon lust moments from the point of consuming her when gentle hands pushed against her shoulders and a soft "No" was spoken against her lips. She stepped back immediately, panting to regain her breath. She watched the rise and fall of Andy's chest as the woman fought to bring her own breathing under control.

"I'm sorry, B'Elanna. I-I can't," Andy gasped. "It wouldn't be fair. Not to you, not to anyone. I…" She turned away and bit her lip. "I'm in love with someone. They…they don't want me, will never want me, but I can't help how I feel." A single tear tracked down a velvety cheek.

The sight dampened B'Elanna's lust as efficiently as a tsunami. She nodded, inhaling one last deep, cleansing breath and exhaling it slowly. "She must be pretty special," B'Elanna allowed through her own disappointment.

Andy's laugh was bitter. "Oh, she's something all right, though I'm not sure special is the word I'd use," Andy replied and proceeded to tell B'Elanna much of what had happened in the last year. That Andy was deeply in love with Miranda Priestly was clear, but she was just as deeply determined to finish her year and go, intending to rebuild her life elsewhere than in Miranda's shadow.

B'Elanna ached for the pain Andy had revealed while applauding her determination. Nothing in the woman's actions to that point had led B'Elanna to believe unrequited love was the issue that stood between the two women. Andy would have made a good Klingon in B'Elanna's opinion, though she really needed a bit more blood lust to truly make it in the Empire. Okay, a lot more blood lust. B'Elanna had a feeling though that if Andy thought Miranda would in any way welcome the attention, she'd go after her like Kahless defending the Empire.

The soft crunch of the heels on fine gravel of the roof had B'Elanna glancing over her shoulder. Seven.

"B'Elanna Torres, this is an inappropriate place for you to regenerate. Even Klingons cannot sleep well in such a position," Seven informed her.

Primed to explode at the Borg for disparaging the ability of a Klingon, and B'Elanna in particular, to sleep well wherever they chose, B'Elanna bit down on the words that hovered on her lips. What was it Janeway had said? Seven protected the collective. B'Elanna couldn't help being surprised as she realized Seven was doing just that, showing her concern in the only way she knew how. Instead of exploding, she smiled wryly and rubbed a hand over her tired eyes.

"I was just thinking, Seven," B'Elanna explained.

"Your…date…with Six did not go well," Seven stated flatly, though B'Elanna could detect a hint of concern in the blue depths of Seven's eyes.

"For the mission, it went great. But for me personally…" B'Elanna debated for a moment before continuing. "For me it didn't go so well. Andy's in love with Miranda."

Seven nodded. "Miranda has many admirable qualities with which to attract a mate. She is strong, confident, powerful, and beautiful. It is logical for her to attract others in such a manner. She has much to offer a man…or a woman."

B'Elanna rolled her eyes at the admiration clear in Seven's tone. Did everyone develop an infatuation with Miranda Priestly?

Neither woman noticed Janeway standing just close enough to overhear, nor did they see the defeated dip that her shoulders acquired at Seven's words. She slipped back to the shuttle before either was aware she had been near.

"Do not be distressed, B'Elanna Torres. This is not our time. We will be returning to Voyager. I must go to Runway, or Miranda will be displeased," Seven turned to go, paused and then turned back. "There is an ensign on Voyager who watches you. Her physiological changes while doing so indicate she is attracted to you."

"Oh, yeah? Why'd you never say anything?" B'Elanna asked, unused to the Borg not speaking her mind on every occasion.

"I did not know the attention was appropriate. You do not respond well to my commenting on your mating habits. I did not wish to cause another argument on the subject. It would have displeased the captain," Seven answered in her logical way.

B'Elanna smiled and shook her head. "And we all know how you hate to displease the captain," she chuckled thinking of all the times the two could be heard in the ready room or Janeway's quarters, voices raised in yet another example of the captain being "displeased" by the Borg.

"You are correct, B'Elanna Torres," Seven agreed, surprising the Klingon. "I do not like to displease her. Yet, I do so frequently. It is…frustrating."

If B'Elanna had felt surprise that Seven didn't like upsetting the captain, she was shocked to hear Seven was frustrated by doing so. She felt an unexpected rush of compassion for the Borg. Rising, B'Elanna moved closer to look into sad blue eyes. "The captain gets upset because she cares, Seven. Kahless, she gave up Voyager and faced down the Borg Queen to bring you home. She was ready to kill a drone with her bare hands to get you a new cortical node. Janeway doesn't do stuff like that for just anyone."

Something flickered across Seven's face and was gone before B'Elanna could figure out what it was.

"I must go to Runway. You need to regenerate and consume nutritional supplements." Seven activated her handheld and was gone, leaving a startled Klingon staring at nothing.


Chapter 15

The second day of shooting was not going as well as the first. Janeway was not satisfied with any of the models that had been sent for this part. The overall intent was a retrospective of the great designers' most iconic pieces. The previous day had featured the more modern styles and that had gone well, but the ultra thin women didn't have the right body types for the earlier designs.

"What ever happened to curves?" the diminutive captain groused for the third time in the past hour.

"Yeah, what happened to them?" B'Elanna teased while giving Janeway a slow once over.

Huffing, Janeway reached for a new memory card to slip into the digital camera she was using. "We can't all be built like…" she bit off the words before she could finish the thought.

"Like Andy?" B'Elanna asked.

Janeway glanced at her lieutenant only to find the Klingon's eyes fixed on the tall brunette. "Or Seven," Janeway added. She continued to follow the movements of Miranda's first assistant as she flitted around the room. Hmmmm. Andy... Her eyes moved on to the other women helping her. Serena…and Seven. She began to smile in that way that caused most of her crew to want to throw themselves out an airlock.

"Uh, Captain?" B'Elanna asked, a quiver of fear evident in her voice. "You're not planning on having the doctor rebuild the models, are you?"

"What? Rebuild?" Janeway looked aghast at the woman before chuckling. "Nothing quite that drastic, B'Elanna. I'm just going to use the women who fit the clothes."

"That wasn't exactly what Miranda asked for. Do you think she'll mind?"

Sighing, Janeway turned her back to the others and lowered her voice. "B'Elanna, I don't think it matters whether Miranda minds or not. We're almost out of time. You said we'd have a week; this is the seventh day and we're no closer to figuring this out. We've found out very little about what could have altered the timeline, so I need to get this finished and get back to what's important." She growled at the engineer's grin. "There's something funny in what I said, Ensign?"

"According to Seven's calculations, we have several more days before we have to be at the rendezvous point," B'Elanna assured her.

"I distinctly remember being told one week." Janeway rested her hands on her hips only to find the camera in the way on one side. Frowning, she laid it on the nearby table. "How could we still have several days?" She held up a hand. "No, don't tell me," she said, pinching the bridge of her nose. "If you say so, I believe you. I hate time travel. Really, really hate it."

Chuckling, B'Elanna folded her arms. "So what do we do now?"

"We do the shoot my way and see what else we can find out from these three," Janeway stated, grabbing her camera and heading over to the women she was watching earlier. "All right, ladies," Janeway called out to get everyone's attention. "I appreciate all the hard work you've put in this morning, but it's just not working for me the way it's been laid out. I've decided to make a few changes."

"You're going to change Miranda's layout?" Emily asked, aghast.

"Yes, Emily, I am," Janeway said. "Are the models still in the back?" At Andy's nod, she continued, "You can tell them to go. They're too thin for the clothes."

"Too thin!" Emily squeaked.

Annoyed, Janeway glanced at her, but ignored the interruption. "Serena and Andy will be the models along with Seven. I'll shoot you two solo first, then do the group shots when Seven arrives, and finish off with her solo shots later to save time."

"Bloody hell! Miranda will kill us all!" Emily cried. "I'll be hiding in that horrendous nature magazine forever. Have you seen what they wear down there?"

"I'll handle Miranda," Janeway sighed as the others snickered at Emily's hysteria.

"No one handles Miranda," Emily snapped.

Janeway leveled a Force 10 glare at the woman as B'Elanna crossed her arms over her chest and smirked. Emily seemed to shrivel on the spot.

"Well, almost no one handles Miranda," she mumbled, stepping behind Serena and out of line of the fierce gaze.

"Now as I was saying, these clothes were designed with women in mind who have more curvaceous figures, so that's the kind of model I need. Only about a third of these designs are working on the models we have. Serena, you'll wear those with the rest split between Andy and Seven," Janeway finished.

"Kathryn, we're not models," Andy objected.

"Good. I don't want models. I want women just having fun and feeling beautiful."

"Well, at least Serena's beautiful," Andy quipped.

"Does this mean you will be feeling me?" Serena shot back.

Andy chuckled and wrapped an arm around her friend's shoulders affectionately. "I'm always feeling ya, Serena."

Emily sniffed and moved a step away. "It appears you mean feeling her up," she sniped.

"Me-ow," Andy giggled. "Jealous much?"

"I am not jealous," Emily defended. "You simply seem to touch Serena a great deal for someone who isn't interested in women."

"Emily, you have been hiding in the men's magazines too much," Serena chastised. "Andy is very interested in women. "

They all laughed as Emily's mouth dropped open.

"Come on, Em," Andy took pity on her. "You can help me re-separate the clothes between three racks instead of the five we setup earlier."

"You're actually going to do this," Emily gasped.

"Why not? It might be fun," Andy grinned, dragging the woman towards the changing area in the back they had established the previous morning. "Tell you what, I'll let you fire the models. It'll make you feel better."

"Really?" Emily's gleeful voice floated back to the remaining three, who broke into loud laughter.

"Is she always like that?" Janeway asked wiping a tear from one eye.

"No," Serena told her. "She is usually worse, but being away from Miranda these two days has mellowed her."

B'Elanna snorted. "That's mellow?"

"For Emily, it is practically comatose," Serena assured her before following after her friends.

"Miranda Priestly, I have received the first images from Cap-Kathryn Janeway."

Miranda looked up and took the file Seven was holding out. Opening it and spreading the proof sheets out on her desk, she began to study them. Seven had been right. Janeway was extremely talented. The images were perfection. She'd have a very hard time selecting the few they would actually use.

"Seven," Miranda murmured, "have Nigel come in here."

"Right here, Miranda," Nigel spoke from the doorway. "Seven called me a few minutes ago." Walking further into the room, he came to stand beside her and looked down at the proofs. "How are they? Anything usable?"

"Everything," Miranda stated, pushing the sheets closer to him. "I can't begin to narrow them down. See what you can do with them."

Nigel gathered the images back into the file and glanced at Miranda over his glasses. "How are you today?" he murmured.

Miranda started to respond then remembered Seven was still standing before her desk. "That's all, Seven." She waited until her assistant was back at her own desk before answering. "I thought having Andréa out of the office for a few days would help, give things a chance to calm down a bit. However, that is not proving to be the case."

"Well, it worked so well when she was in Ohio," Nigel remarked.

She leveled an icy stare at him. "Sarcasm is not appreciated, Nigel. If it is to be your only contribution, perhaps you would do better to take it elsewhere."

He held up a hand in surrender. "You're right. I apologize. I simply don't see how sending Andy away and replacing her with Seven will improve the situation between the two of you."

Miranda stared at him uncomprehendingly. "I did not send her away," she denied. "Nor have I replaced her. Andréa is not replaceable."

"She's not?" Nigel questioned, clearly surprised since it was well known that Miranda considered everyone at Runway expendable, except herself and perhaps Nigel on a good day.

"Of course not," Miranda waved the idea away. "I cannot believe you would even suggest such a thing, Nigel. She did not appear happy with her current duties. I thought perhaps something more responsible might suit her better."

"And being a gopher for a photographer is more responsibility?" Nigel asked still clearly not following Miranda's reasoning.

"Nonsense. She is overseeing the shoot, as I intended. Seven verified that yesterday," Miranda sniffed. Really, what was Nigel's problem? It was all so obvious to Miranda.

"And have you thought about when this shoot ends? Is this going to become a regular part of Andy's duties?"

"I thought she might like writing the copy for this spread and if that goes well, there is going to be an opening in editorial that she might enjoy," Miranda explained.

Surprised, Nigel pulled off his glasses and taking a tissue from his pocket cleaned them absently. "I wasn't aware that someone had resigned. Who is it?"

"I haven't decided yet," she stated, taking a sip from the glass of Pellegrino that sat ever ready on her desk.

Throwing up his hands, Nigel gave a sharp bark of laughter. "Miranda, you can't just fire someone to make a spot for Andy in that department."

She gave him a level look but didn't respond.

"Well," he backpedaled, "you can, but you shouldn't."

"Why ever not?" Miranda questioned. "Andréa will do a much better job, I'm sure, not to mention being happy in the position."

"That's the second time you've referred to Andy's happiness, or lack of it," He fixed her with his own level gaze. "Since when is Miranda Priestly concerned with the supposed happiness of her assistants?"

Miranda shifted uncomfortably. "I'm not," she denied. "Andréa is…different."

"That much is clear." Nigel rubbed his eyes. "But it does not tell me why her happiness is of such primary concern for you."

Miranda looked at him helplessly. "Why should it not be?" she asked.

It was the first thing Nigel had no answer for.


Chapter 16

Music pulsed through the small studio as Serena, lost in the sounds, flowed from one pose into the next. Janeway seemed to be everywhere at once, climbing up on ladders, crawling across the set as she called out directions and compliments to the tall Brazilian the entire time. B'Elanna attempted to stay close enough to overhear Emily and Andy's conversation. They stood off to the side but out of the way of the absorbed captain.

"She's gorgeous," Andy commented to a mesmerized Emily, who had ceased her job of adjusting the accessories to Andy's outfit the moment Serena stepped before the lights. Andy fought a smile at her friend's reactions as Emily just stood and stared, periodically licking her lips. "Tasty, too," Andy added, as Emily's tongue made another quick appearance.

"Wha?" Emily shifted her gaze to Andy and blinked myopically. "Were you speaking to me?"

"Yes, Em," Andy answered patiently. "I was saying Serena looks beautiful."

Emily turned back to the object of her obsession. "She's stunning," was her succinct judgment.

"Yes, she is," Andy agreed. "So when are you going to let her know?"

Emily shot a stern look at her friend. "Let her know what?"

"That you're crazy about her," Andy said with a gentle smile.

"Nonsense," Emily replied, waving the thought away and looking more like Miranda in the response than Andy thought the other woman realized.

"Emily, I'm not blind. You can't take your eyes off her, and you're going to ruin these vintage shoes I'm wearing with the puddle of drool you're creating," Andy laughed quietly. "You're crazy about her, and Serena obviously returns the feeling, so what's stopping you?"

A hopeful look flashed across Emily's face but was just as quickly replaced by a neutral expression. "I am not foolish enough to believe anything could come of such an attraction…if one even existed outside your vivid imagination," she snapped. "Someone like Serena is far out of the league of someone like me or even you."

"Even me!" Andy laughed. "I think you might have actually paid me a compliment there, though admittedly it's well buried."

"Yes, well," Emily sniffed. "You're not unattractive," Emily admitted and then gave a meaningful glance to Andy's generously displayed cleavage, "if one likes such obvious overabundance."

Andy threw back her head, laughing loudly. Impulsively, she threw her arms around Emily for a hug. "Emily, don't ever change. You're absolutely adorable just the way you are."

Emily stood for a stunned moment allowing the hug before pushing Andy away with a blush. "Honestly, must you rub those bloody things all over me? And the clothes! Wrinkles, Andrea. Have you learned nothing from Miranda?"

Andy froze, her face taking on a hard, icy countenance not unlike the woman just mentioned. "Trust me, Emily. I've learned more than I ever wanted to from Miranda. Learn from the mistakes of your friends. You adore Serena, and she feels the same. Be glad you're in love with a woman who's capable of returning your feelings. Go for it. Take a risk." Andy walked toward the set without another word as Serena stepped down from the small dais, and Janeway waved her over, leaving an open-mouthed Emily staring after her.

B'Elanna stepped up beside Emily and spoke quietly. "Is Andy okay?" she asked, thinking the normally abrasive woman might be a bit more forthcoming with an oblique inquiry into the topic of her conversation with Andy.

Emily started at the interruption and shot an irritated glance at B'Elanna.

"About as okay as anyone can be when tossing out the prince to covet the dragon," Serena answered for Emily, having overhead B'Elanna's question. "But I believe you are already aware of this, B'Elanna."

Sadness shadowed B'Elanna's eyes for a moment before she nodded. "Wanting what we can't have seems to be a theme around here," she responded cryptically.

Serena shrugged one shoulder negligently. "Some want what they cannot have. Others simply do not see what is available," Serena commented with a glance at Emily before turning with a swirl of her skirt. "I must change for the next set."

The two watched her loose-limbed walk, hips swaying as she moved farther toward the back of the room. Just as she reached the doorway to the changing area, Serena turned back.

"You will help me with the zippers, Emily?" She slipped through the doorway without waiting for an answer.

"That is a lot of woman," B'Elanna murmured.

Emily rounded on her with warp speed. "Do not get any ideas," she snapped. "Andy turned you down. Don't think you're going to bloody well move on to Serena."

Knowing she should back down and reassure the woman, B'Elanna felt the sting to her Klingon honor. She had backed off when she found out Andy's heart was taken; she wasn't about to try anything with Serena, whose heart was similarly committed.

"Don't push me, p'taq," she snarled.

"B'Elanna!" Janeway's voice carried across the space between them with a tone that would strip duranium from a hull.

"Aye-I mean, yes, Kathryn?" B'Elanna snapped to attention, barely remembering their guises.

"Help me with these lights. Emily, don't you have something you should be doing?" Janeway's raspy purr was enough to send shivers down everyone's spine.

Andy, who had walked up behind Kathryn, murmured quietly in her ear. "I'm wondering who Emily is going to end up more afraid of, you or Miranda?"

Janeway chuckled. "Depends on who's closest to her at any given moment, I'd think. Let's get back to work."

Nigel continued to stare at Miranda unsure how to answer her. Was it wrong for her to care about Andy's happiness? No. Was it wrong for her to fire other people willy-nilly to bring that about? Well, that was a resounding yes. At least, it was to anyone who wasn't Miranda Priestly. She still met his eyes, clearly waiting for an answer.

"No reason that I can think of, Miranda," he began and hurried on as she assumed a complacent look. "The question is why? Why is it so important to you that Andy be happy?"

Miranda opened and closed her mouth several times, clearly thunderstruck that she was expected to have a reason for her actions. Her mask soon fell smoothly into place, and she pursed her lips. "I choose to do so. That should be sufficient for anyone."

"Miranda," Nigel gentled his tone, knowing it was wisest to tread carefully, "we've been friends a long time, since well before either of us came to Runway. I've never known you to act like this about anyone except…" His voice died off and his eyes widened as realization hit. "Oh!"

"O? O is a letter, Nigel," she snapped defensively.

His lips quirked for a moment but he bit back the smile quickly. "It's also an exclamation, my dear. An acknowledgement of realization, if you will."

She narrowed her eyes at him in a frigid glare that worked with everyone except Nigel who knew her too well to be frightened by her Dragon Lady persona. He had learned long ago that Miranda was only truly dangerous when hurt. True, she would strike out when angered or threatened, but if a person hurt her, she wouldn't stop until she had one Prada-clad foot resting on that person's lifeless chest. He now believed her deepest emotions were involved. It was the only thing that would explain Miranda's unreasonable reactions to Andy's withdrawal from her. Miranda was, at the very least, infatuated, and that left a huge potential for her to be hurt. That she hadn't yet realized exactly how she felt about Andy was the only thing saving all of them from a full nuclear Priestly meltdown. He wasn't about to be the one who enlightened her.

"And what, pray tell, have you realized?" she asked in a warning tone.

"That I need to narrow these photos down before the next batch arrives. If they're as good as you say, I'd better get on it." Wagging the file at her in farewell, he strolled out of the office, thankful for an easy get away. He stopped for a moment to smile at Seven. "How's our crew working out for your ex-employer?"

"They are adequate," Seven stated in her concise manner. "Kathryn Janeway seems…pleased." She hesitated a moment, her eyes flickering toward Miranda's office. "B'Elanna Torres appears to have developed an attraction to Six. They have dated on two occasions."

The sharp snap of a pencil breaking drew both their attention to Miranda, who appeared in the doorway.

"That's all, Nigel," she said in glacial tones, ignoring his arched eyebrow and worried gaze. Miranda waited until he was out of hearing range. "What is going on at that studio? I did not send my first assistant nor my other staff over there to form a harem for some photographer's assistant." She stalked back to her desk and dropped into her chair, fearing her shaking knees would no longer support her.

"B'Elanna Torres does not desire a harem. She wishes to form a single, lifetime connection. She finds Six eminently suitable as a potential mate." Seven responded in cool tones.

Desire…lifetime…MATE! Impossible! Not with her Andréa. "Seven, call Roy. I want him downstairs immediately. Cancel the rest of my appointments and anything else that's on the schedule. You and I are going to that studio. That's all." Miranda was fairly hissing the words, her voice becoming softer with each syllable. She did not send Andréa over there to date some fly-by-night flunky.

Rising she stalked from her office, barely pausing to grab the coat and bag Seven held out to her. That Roy was already waiting, she neither doubted nor questioned. Seven always anticipated her needs before she could even clearly form them herself. It would have been unnerving if Miranda had stopped to think about it, but she never concerned herself when things operated smoothly. She merely expected them to be that way, only involving herself when they were not. And right now, they were not operating smoothly at all. Andréa was not behaving as she ought. Not at all. Going out on dates with that…that….person. Her Andréa was wasting herself on someone who could never appreciate her talents or her true beauty. Miranda had every intention of correcting that situation…immediately.


Chapter 17

"Miranda Priestly," Seven's voice stopped her just as she was about to step on the elevator.

"Seven," she snapped, glaring. "I realize that you are not familiar with American phrasing, but I have told you repeatedly to simply address me as Miranda. Is that really so difficult?"

"It is not; however, it is less accurate. Nevertheless, I will attempt to comply. There is also the matter of your meeting with the Board of Directors. It cannot be rescheduled. You must attend. Irv Ravitz will be assigning the budget for the next quarter. And you have promised your children you will be at their school this afternoon for their piano recital." Seven stood waiting for Miranda's decision whether to stay or to go.

"Why are you standing in the hallway? Where are my materials for the meeting? Must I do everything?" Miranda asked in an icy voice, stalking back to her office.

The tiniest of smiles quirked Seven's lips as she followed Miranda back to her desk, laying the information Miranda needed on her desk and returning to her own. Seven was beginning to have her own theory of what was wrong in this timeline, and having Miranda arrive at the shoot later in the evening would test that theorem perfectly.

The shoot had gone well, and Janeway was pleased with her decision to replace the models with the women from Runway. Andy and Serena's individual sets had turned out well. She expected Seven's would as well if she could get the Borg to relax just a bit. Hopefully, posing with the other two women first would help Seven to understand what was needed. Not that she wanted Seven to be too relaxed. The contrast of Seven's icy coolness against the sultriness of the other two was exactly what Janeway wanted to capture.

She smiled to herself as she sat before the computer, scanning through the images she had captured that day. Andy had questioned her use of a digital camera for all her shots the previous morning, saying that most photographers preferred film for their photographs since there was less image degradation. Janeway had patiently explained that she used software that was much more advanced than what was commonly available, so she was able to limit the degradation sufficiently to produce the images she wanted. Andy had looked doubtful but let it drop. Once she had seen the finished product when they first arrived this morning, though, Andy had grinned and complimented Kathryn on them before arranging for the proof sheets and finished images to be messengered to Miranda's office.

Now the young brunette ran around helping B'Elanna reset the lights and arrange the setting for the next part of the shoot. She seemed even more invested in the outcome now that it was her who stood in front of the camera. In fact, they all did. Emily had even volunteered to make a food run. Of course, Serena had insisted on going with her, saying they could not all survive on a couple of cheese cubes. Whatever that meant.

Kathryn rose and wandered to the back to take another look at the clothes she would be featuring next and to try to get a more vivid image of what she wanted to do, leaving B'Elanna and Andy working in the front.

Andy watched Kathryn strolling to the back, appearing deep in thought. "She's pretty amazing with a camera," she observed to B'Elanna.

"Kathryn Janeway is pretty amazing all the time," B'Elanna smiled. "I get the feeling Miranda is as well."

"Miranda is…" Andy stopped. What was Miranda? "She's Miranda," she finished with a shrug. "I'm not sure there's any way to describe her that would make you understand without having been around her a while."

B'Elanna nodded. "Janeway's a lot like that. She's tough as nails, all by the book, but there's this other side to her as well. Like with me, she didn't have to take a chance on me. Everything I'd done to that point would have made any sane person run the other way, but Janeway…well, she saw something no one else did, I guess. She gave me a lot of responsibility and a chance to do something I really love. Not many would have done that."

"Miranda wouldn't have," Andy muttered with a sigh. "She'd have fired you or stuck you where she wanted you without any thought to what it meant for you."

B'Elanna laughed. "Don't get me wrong. Janeway put me in that position because she needed me there. I had the skills she needed. Unfortunately, those skills came with a lot of baggage that made selecting me a risky option. She had to think about it long and hard."

Would Miranda have made the same choice? Andy didn't think so. "What would you have done if she hadn't picked you?"

A cocky grin accompanied B'Elanna's answer. "Found my own way. But, honestly, I'm better for it this way. I had a lot of anger, a lot of growing up to do. I wouldn't have done it without Janeway."

Andy rested a hand on B'Elanna's shoulder, giving it a friendly squeeze. "I'm sure you would have," she said.

"No, I can promise you I wouldn't. A few things have happened recently that let me know I wouldn't have. There's no doubt in my mind that I wouldn't be the same person without Kathryn Janeway's influence," B'Elanna assured her with a wry grin.

Scrubbing her hands over her face, Andy sighed. "Miranda has definitely been an influence on my life, but I'm not so sure it's been a good one. I probably should have left before now, but something always deflects me back to sticking it out, getting my full year in. Then I can go anywhere in publishing and get a job. A recommendation from Miranda is like being platinum-plated in this business. I can't just walk out on that, as much as I might want to at times."

"Who said you have to walk out?" B'Elanna asked curiously. "You've been promoted to first assistant. You almost have that year you want. I'd think you could just submit a resignation and leave on decent terms. Miranda must think well of you since she put you on this shoot she needs to save the layout."

Andy stared at the other woman stunned. She'd never thought of it in those terms. She could submit a resignation now and leave in a professional manner. She could get on with her life and do so with her dignity intact. It no longer took just walking away to make a statement. She grabbed at B'Elanna's shoulder again as her knees weakened under a sudden surge of relief. It could be over soon. She could finally be free and give her heart a chance to heal. Admittedly, it would only shorten her time at Runway by a matter of weeks, but still…

"I could do that, couldn't I?" she gasped.

B'Elanna slung an arm around Andy's waist to support her. "Yes, you could," she assured her, though her concern for Andy was clear in her voice.

Andy straightened as strength flowed back into her shaky limbs, her megawatt smile bursting forth. "And I'm going to do just that when this shoot wraps tomorrow. I'll type it up tonight and hand it in as soon as I get back to the office. I want to do this personally. I'd say let's celebrate with champagne but since I still have to be coherent enough to stand in front of that camera, I'll make a coffee run instead."

B'Elanna laughed. "For Janeway, that is celebrating."

Clackers rushed around corners, slid into closets or under desks, anything to get out of sight. Word had gone out that Miranda was stalking the halls and in the mood for an eruption that would put Vesuvius to shame with its destructive power. No one wanted to be in her path. What had set the Dragon Lady of fashion off no one knew, nor did anyone care to ask. It was self-preservation time and that meant every clacker for herself. The only person not hiding was Seven, who seemed impervious to the fashion queen's ire, though plenty of it was cast her way.

"Annika," Miranda called in a voice that was so soft as to be at an almost sub-human hearing range. She had intentionally used her assistant's given name.

Seven appeared before her desk and arched an eyebrow. "As you are aware that is not my preferred designation, I can only assume you are 'killing the messenger,' Miranda Priestly. How may I assist you?"

"Fine, Seven," Miranda gave the name an evil twist. "Then you will return the gesture and call me Miranda and only Miranda." She was going to get her way in something today.

"I will comply…Miranda," Seven agreed, then stood waiting, hands linked behind her back.

"What?" Miranda snarled, thoroughly irritated by the day, the conversation, and everyone associated with both.

"I did not call you…Miranda. You called me," Seven offered helpfully.

"I…" Miranda stopped suddenly realizing she'd forgotten why she had called Seven into her office. "That's all," she snapped. How was she expected to get anything done with these constant interruptions? Really, did Seven have nothing more to do than stand around in Miranda's office? She would simply have to find more work for her assistants if that was the case. Andréa had far too much free time on her hands that much was obvious, especially if she had time to go on dates with just anyone who asked. Yes, Miranda would definitely have to correct that situation.

Looking at the time on her monitor, she growled softly. As much as she wanted to go to Janeway's studio immediately, she was forced to wait. It would soon be time to leave and head to Dalton for her girls' recital. She had promised, and she tried never to break promises to them nor for that matter make ones she could not keep. Miranda was determined to get to that studio before the day was out, though, and things had better be as she wanted them. Otherwise, she'd show them all just what a dragon Miranda Priestly really could be.

Mentally framing the resignation she would write later that night, Andy stood near the counter of the Starbucks nearest the studio, waiting for her order to be prepared. She wanted to phrase it just right so it left no doubt as to why she was leaving Miranda's employ without actually revealing her true feelings for the woman. It also needed to be apparent to Miranda while slipping under the radar of HR. She jotted notes into the memo application of her phone when a particularly good phrase came to mind. With each word her spirits became that much lighter, buoyed by the knowledge that she would soon be far from the source of her torment.

But is that really what I want? To be far away from Miranda, to never see her again, never hear her voice? Andy stared down at the phrases she had typed. Leaving Miranda was going to hurt. There was no doubt about that, but how much more would it hurt to see her every day and be subjected to Miranda's scathing lectures, each word cutting into Andy's heart as a reminder of just how much Miranda didn't care about her as a person or a woman? No, Andy had to leave. Maybe if she wrote the resignation just right, it would wake Miranda up to how her words and actions actually affected people.

"Well, hello," a warm voice interrupted her thoughts. "We do seem to keep bumping into each other. Not stalking me, are you?" The gentle chuckle that followed revealed the joke behind his words.

Andy turned to smile at the man she continually seemed to run across lately. "Like you said, small world, I guess. How've you been?"

"Good, good," he answered jovially. "How's the job coming? Things getting better?"

"Much better," Andy responded, her smile growing. "I've decided to resign and move on."

"Really?" He seemed amazed by her decision. "You didn't strike me as the type to admit defeat so easily, but I guess we all have our limits. Smart of you to realize when it's too much for you. Probably for the best that you quit, if that's true." He glanced toward the counter as an order was called for pick-up. "Well, that's me. You have a good evening." He smiled, took his cup from the counter and left the coffee shop.

Andy stared at the door he had just passed through. Was that what she was doing? Admitting defeat? Acknowledging that she was beaten and Miranda had won? Not in this lifetime, Andy thought and pressed her thumb firmly on the backspace key, deleting all that she had typed previously. She'd make it to the end of her year and win on her own terms. Miranda Priestly be damned.

More determined than ever, Andy stepped forward to take her two trays of coffee, one cup for each of them and two for Janeway, not unlike her normal orders for Runway. Pity Miranda wasn't more like the photographer. They could both be hard when it came to getting what they wanted, but at least Janeway seemed to have a heart.

Miranda sat through the recital, applauding politely after each performance and more exuberantly for her own girls' duet. They really were quite talented, though it was Caroline who excelled on the piano. Cassidy's interests leaned toward more physically challenging pursuits, but she diligently practiced the piano if only to please her mother and sister. Therefore, she was quite good technically, but lacked the emotional presence while playing that her sister seemed to create so effortlessly. Miranda often wondered if Caroline would make a career of her music. She had both the talent and the drive necessary to do so.

Miranda smiled and embraced both her daughters once they ran up to her after the performance. "Hello, my darlings. You were wonderful," she complimented them.

Cassidy grinned up at her mother. "Caro was wonderful. I made it through without any mistakes," she corrected.

"As I said, wonderful," Miranda smiled, planting a kiss on each of their foreheads. "You both played to the best of your abilities and that is always the most any mother can hope for and be proud of." She truly loved her daughters and was proud of all their efforts. She never wanted them to have any doubts about that and was determined they would have the security that had been sorely lacking in her own childhood.

"Thanks, Mom," Caroline smiled, secure in the knowledge that at least her mother loved her and could be counted on to keep her promises.

"Did you see Andy today?" Cassidy asked, never one to use tact if there was something she wanted to know and a direct question could get to the heart of the matter sooner.

"No, I did not," Miranda replied stiffening. "Andréa is not in the office at this time, as you well know." She tried to keep her voice gentle, but really, this was neither the time nor the place for this discussion.

"You promised," Cassidy reminded with an accusing stare.

"I did not promise," Miranda corrected her. "I said I would speak with her if I had the time. I have not had that time as of yet."

"Mom, you're the boss. You can make time," Cassidy explained patiently.

"This is not a work related conversation you wish me to have, Cassidy. I cannot simply call a halt to the business day to have it, surely you understand that?" Miranda hedged. Truthfully, she didn't want to have it at all, foreseeing only a disastrous result given Andréa's current attitude towards her employer. One look into Cassidy's pleading eyes was all it took for Miranda to capitulate. She could never refuse her girls anything they wanted badly enough and after all, she was planning to go to Janeway's studio after the recital anyway. There would likely be a moment she could speak with Andréa. "Very well," she sighed. "I will be stopping at the photo studio next. I will talk to Andréa if time permits, but I cannot guarantee the outcome."

"I want to come, too," Cassidy insisted. "I can talk to Andy while you do your business stuff."

Miranda sighed, knowing she would likely not refuse Cassidy's request but hesitant to agree without knowing what was actually going on at the studio. She did not want her daughter present if there was licentious behavior taking place. Her eyes narrowed and her fists clenched behind her girls' backs at the thought of her Andréa involved in such things. She would allow Cassidy to go, but she must wait in the car until Miranda ascertained what was happening in that studio first. She gave a nod of agreement and smiled when Cassidy cheered.

"You coming, too, Caro?" Cassidy asked her sister.

"No, I'd rather go home. I've got a lot of homework and I should get started on it," Caroline replied, stepping away from her mother and sister. "You go. I'll see you both at home."

Cassidy frowned at her sister. "You sure?"

"Yes. Go on. Our driver's outside waiting. I'll be fine. I just really need to get started on homework," Caroline insisted.

The twins gathered their things and the three walked to the car that would take Caroline home. After instructing the driver to be sure he waited until her daughter was safely inside the townhouse before leaving, Miranda and Cassidy settled themselves into the other car. Telling Roy to take them to Janeway's studio, Miranda became wrapped in her own thoughts, as did Cassidy. By the time they reached the studio Miranda was once again furious and after instructing Cassidy to remain in the car until sent for, she stalked across the sidewalk and into the building.


Chapter 18

"Miranda's already left for the day?" Nigel asked, holding up the folder he held. "I've got the photo recommendations for her."

"That is correct," Seven responded offering no other information.

He stood watching as she focused her attention on the small unit she held in one hand, the fingers of the other flying over the tiny input pad almost faster than he could follow. "Everything okay with her?" he asked. "She seemed a little upset when I was here earlier." Seven was nice enough but not what he'd call friendly, not like Andy. She wasn't as abrasive as Emily could be. No, coolly efficient was the best way to describe her. Still, he hoped she'd be a little more forthcoming with Miranda out of the office.

"Miranda Priestly appeared displeased that Six has dated B'Elanna Torres on two occasions. I believe she intends to 'check out' Kathryn Janeway's studio after her children's school function," Seven informed him without stopping her work.

"Did you warn Andy that Miranda is headed over there?" he asked. He knew Seven was a cool customer, but he was surprised at how calmly she was acting over something that likely had Miranda ready to dine on Clacker Flambé. If Nigel was right about the way Miranda felt about Andy, then finding out she was dating someone else was not going to make their illustrious leader very happy, to say the least. He had been more than happy to get out of Miranda's office when she had dismissed him earlier. He cringed to think what Miranda would do if she walked in on Andy and B'Elanna sharing even the most innocent of romantic interactions.

"I did not. I am going there myself in 10.4 of your minutes. I will observe Miranda's actions for myself at that time," Seven replied, still engrossed in her handheld.

Nigel propped his elbow on his crossed arm and pinched the bridge of his nose. "You want to see Andy and B'Elanna get killed?" he mumbled, unable to believe what she'd just said.

"Miranda Priestly, while extremely intimidating, is not capable of damaging B'Elanna Torres in a physical altercation. B'Elanna Torres has a unique physiology and is more than a match for Miranda Priestly. Her honor will also require that she protect Six from undue harm." Seven looked up as Nigel rubbed both hands briskly over his face. "Are you unwell, Nigel Kipling?" she inquired with a concerned tone.

"Seven, we're really going to have to enroll you in ESL classes," he responded. At her intrigued look, he waved the comment away. "Later. Put this on Miranda's desk, please. I need to finish a few things up, and then I think I'll check out this studio for myself." Not that he was looking forward to stepping between Miranda and the object of her anger, but someone had to make sure no one ended up in jail or the hospital. The duty seemed to fall to him, unfortunately.

Seven had arrived at the studio shortly after Miranda left Runway to attend her daughters' recital. Having received a message from Janeway earlier in the day, Seven knew what was expected of her but wasn't so sure she could fulfill Janeway's wishes. She had seen models posing during her brief tenure as Miranda's assistant and was apprehensive of being able to mimic the necessary emotions. Knowledge of ashion modeling was not part of the Borg collective's vast database.

Emily had poked and prodded her into various outfits until Seven had resorted to clenching her Borg hand to keep herself from assimilating the irritating woman. Only a warning glance from B'Elanna had kept the urge in check. That is until Seven noticed the way Janeway kept looking at her as if unable to tear her eyes away whenever she thought Seven wasn't aware. As the captain once more slid her gaze the length of Seven's body and back, the Borg decided to test a personal theory she had begun to develop. She inhaled deeply, intentionally expanding her chest to which Janeway's eyes flew and remained. Interesting, Seven thought as she accessed her cortical node and evaluated the captain's physiological responses. Very interesting indeed.

Seven continued her evaluation moments later when she found herself posed with Andy and Serena, each clad in similarly revealing clothing. As Janeway focused her camera on each in turn, Seven assessed the captain's reaction to the visual stimuli. She noted no significant changes when Janeway was photographing the other two women, but a noticeable jump when the lens turned her way. Seven felt warmth seep through her body as she registered the affect that looking at her was having on Janeway.

Another costume change to an even more miniscule outfit, and they were all once again on the dais. This time posed in a tighter grouping, Andy leaned back against a wall, with her left side toward Janeway while Serena a step away, leaning toward Andy suggestively. Seven stood to the side, facing out with her arm draped on the wall near Andy's head, and she, too, leaned in with the other two framing her between them. The pose allowed for all three dresses to be shown fully but added a heightened sense of the erotic to the staging.

Andy looked down at the tiny bodice held up only by the tiniest of straps, the material barely covering her nipples, and smirked. "One deep breath and we'll be shooting for Playboy," she quipped.

Serena giggled. "If a deep breath is your concern, Seven will have to stop breathing all together," she joked.

Seven looked down at her own plentiful breasts. "Indeed, I have the larger breasts, but Six has the more precarious angle," she observed.

"Thank heavens I'm still young enough they don't end up under my arms when I lean back," Andy poked fun at herself.

"Something for you to look forward to and another reason I am glad mine are not so large," Serena smirked at her friend.

"Hey, these babies get attention," Andy defended herself.

"I am beautiful," Serena stated once again. "My breasts are noticed second."

"Modest, too," Andy gave her standard reply with a grin.

"It is only the truth," Serena shrugged negligently as she always did when they had this particular exchange.

"Bloody hell, Andrea," Emily's voice carried over to them as she drew closer. "Must you always be ogling Serena's goods?"

"When they're so generously displayed, Em, it would be rude not to," Andy shot back, smirking.

Seven watched them with an arched eyebrow. Such exchanges between her and B'Elanna in the past had always instigated near brawls. Her eyes sought out B'Elanna who appeared to be noticing the same thing. The Klingon gave her a small smile and a shrug. Perhaps things would be different now between them.

"Ladies, as pleasant as this is, we need to get back to work," Janeway called for their attention. "These clothes are romantic, but also highly erotic so I want to see some serious desire here." She smiled at Seven, clearly amused by the perplexity that Seven was sure showed clearly as it was what she felt. "Try thinking about someone you've fantasized about. That might help," she offered.

Alterations to the physiological information from the two women nearest her that Seven was subconsciously registering told her that they each had a name immediately, as had she. Unaware that she had spoken just loudly enough for the other two to hear, her sensitive hearing registered the name each spoke.

"Emily," Serena whispered.

"Miranda," Andy murmured.

"Kathryn," Seven breathed with them.

She shared a glance with the other two, observing their faint blushes as having revealed their innermost secrets. The faint warmth of her own facial epidermis told Seven that she shared in this reaction as well, a unique response that she filed away for later thought.

"Let's do this," Andy said.

Seven turned her thoughts inwards, allowing her eidetic memory to delve into images of her captain in their most private shared moments.

"All right, look my way," Janeway called as she focused through her camera.

Seven noted that Janeway did not take the picture but rather, looked over the top of the camera to meet her own eyes. Her captain appeared stunned by what she saw. Her cortical node registered the actions of those around her while she never took her eyes from Janeway allowing all she felt for the dynamic woman to show for the first time.

B'Elanna Torres stared at Andy, while Emily Charleton stood as if mesmerized at the edge of the set. "Shoot the picture! Shoot the picture!" Emily Charleton kept hissing between mutters of, "Bloody glorious."

Seven saw Janeway's finger move pressing the button on her camera and just holding it down as the shutter activated over and over while she stared open-mouthed through the viewfinder.

It was at that moment Miranda walked in.

Miranda pushed open the door and stepped quietly in so as not to announce her arrival. Her eyebrows shot up at the sight of her Andréa leaning against a wall and staring lustfully at Janeway while Serena and Seven virtually attacked her. The pose was indecent, and the clothes were indecent, never mind that she had selected them herself. She certainly hadn't chosen them for Andréa to parade around in essentially naked for the entire world to see. Furious, she stalked farther into the room.

"What the hell is going on here?" Miranda snapped in a tone louder than any of her employees had heard her previously use. "I do not recall having contracted for pornography." She advanced on Janeway. "Explain to me why Andréa is standing there naked with those women rubbing all over her!"

Patiently, Janeway lowered the camera and turned to the irate woman. "Andy is not naked, and she looks a good deal better in that dress than that stick you sent me to shoot. If you'd look at the images, you'd see what I mean."

"I have no desire to see Andréa with her breasts hanging out, nor do I intend to put such a thing in my magazine," Miranda replied haughtily.

Andy pushed Serena away from her and stalked over to the arguing women. "And what exactly is wrong with my breasts?" she roared at Miranda, clearly stung by her comment.

"There is nothing wrong with them, Andréa. They are simply not meant for public consumption," Miranda informed her, trying hard not to fixate on the breasts in question.

"Excuse me, Miranda, but the last time I checked, they were my breasts. If I want them consumed, it's my decision," Andy snapped thrusting her decidedly desirable décolletage under Miranda's nose.

Miranda simply stared at the pale, tempting mounds so close to her mouth losing the battle with herself now that it was unavoidable. She now fought to refrain from licking her lips or the flesh so enticing close to her tongue. If she leaned forward the smallest bit she could snake her tongue under the material barely covering them and stroke Andréa's nipple which pressed against the fabric. "Will you please show some decorum and cover yourself?" she rasped in a hoarse voice, fighting every instinct that told her to take what was seemingly offered.

"There is nothing wrong with the way I'm dressed, Miranda. You're not exactly prudish about naked women walking around in front of you. What's the problem? Can't stand the sight of 'the fat girl' showing a little skin?" Andy jeered, clearly too furious to edit her words. "Maybe you'd prefer it if you never had to see me at all. You made that clear enough shipping me over here first chance you got. Well, I can make it easy for you, Miranda. You can have my resignation. It'll be on your desk in the morning, first thing."

"That would be your solution," Miranda shot back, her own anger getting the better of her. "Running away like the child you are."

"Child!" Andy screeched. "I'll have you know I'm fully grown, Miranda. Isn't that what you were just complaining about? My overly large breasts sticking in your face? Those don't come on children, Miranda. Not that I'd expect you to notice."

"I notice many things, Andréa. Including the rather tasteless display you are making of yourself at the moment," Miranda responded in a tone that sent a shiver down even Janeway's spine, who was watching the two in wide-eyed wonder.

"Oh, you haven't seen tasteless yet, lady. Stick around and watch how the lower classes get it on," Andy snarled before turning on her heel and stalking back towards the dais.

"You will never appear in Runway, Andréa," Miranda called after her in a last ditch attempt to stop whatever Andréa was planning.

"There's always Playboy. They like big tits over there!" Andy shouted back as she yanked the bodice of her dress down and grabbed Serena by the neck, pulling her friend's face between her breasts. Oblivious to Emily's squawk of protest, Andy looked at Janeway. "Shoot the pictures, Kathryn!"

Shrugging, Janeway raised her camera.

"Take so much as one image of Andréa in that position, and I will personally feed you that camera," Miranda hissed more furious than she could ever remember being, both by the things Andréa had said as well as the sight of another woman's face pressed to her Andréa's breasts. "And, Serena, I would recommend you remove yourself from that position…at once!" her low voice carried with deadly intent to the woman in question.

With a mumbled apology for deserting her friend, Serena stepped away from Andy, holding up her hands to show they were nowhere near any part of Andy's anatomy. Andy stood trembling, angry tears evident in her eyes.

"You may frighten the rest, Miranda, but I'm not afraid of you. Not anymore," Andy shouted as the tears began to roll down her cheeks. "I'm free of you. Finally and at last, I'm free. There is nothing you can do to me that will ever alter my sheer relief at that one fact."

"Fine. You're free. Congratulations. Let's see how you celebrate with no job or income," Miranda sneered, responding to the pain Andréa's last words had inflicted. "You'll be back in East Podunk writing for some yellow rag telling enthralling stories about J-Lo's alien love child in no time. That is what you wanted, isn't it? To write? I was going to give you that. It was planned, but now I'll make sure you never write anything more important than a grocery list." Miranda fairly vibrated with suppressed rage. "You have insulted me, but more, you have hurt my children, and for that I will never forgive you. I will destroy you, Andréa Sachs."

Janeway dropped the camera and reached out for something, anything to hold herself upright. Wave after wave of dizziness poured over her, drowning her in inky blackness, and she was swept into the depths.

"Captain!" Seven cried hoarsely as her own body ceased to function, and she crumpled to the floor, conscious but unable to move.


Chapter 19

B'Elanna tilted her head back and inhaled deeply, her keen senses sampling the air in the room. Her eyes fixed on the bare-breasted woman on the raised platform. Andy. The name came to B'Elanna with ease, though she was not aware of how she had come by that knowledge. Fury rolled from this Andy in waves, anger steeped in the delicious scent of arousal. A magnificent woman, standing straight and proud, glorious in her half-nude state, she wore her fury like a cloak of honor. Truly a suitable parmaqiai for a Klingon warrior, B'Elanna thought. To be betrothed to such a one would bring great honor. B'Elanna took an instinctive step forward to claim this woman only to halt at the realization that this woman was not for her. She felt a strong feeling of friendship for the woman and somehow knew Andy's heart was already committed to the white-haired pIntIn, Miranda, a formidable warrior in her own right. Even now, the strands of anger and lust wove around and between them. Were they Klingon their mating would be a foregone conclusion, but their human natures did not perceive the fiery emotion between them as love. Theirs would be a glorious joining. jachchoHmeh 'Iwrej penaghtaH! B'Elanna sent them a silent blessing. Mate until your blood screams.

The air reeked of pheromones and adrenaline, and B'Elanna felt her blood fever awaken in response. She glanced at the two women on the floor. Janeway and Seven, her mind whispered. B'Elanna could sense their life forces ebbing. Though Janeway was joH of B'Elanna's House, she could do nothing to save her, nor could she help Seven. Valiant warriors both, she would sing of their glorious deeds, tell stories of their great victories, and roar to announce their entry into Sto'Vo'Kor. Though they did not follow the Way of Kahless, they had earned the right to be so honored with their courage and fearlessness. B'Elanna would see that their lives were celebrated and embark on a quest in their names to prove their worthiness to enter Sto'Vo'Kor and stand at the side of Kahless. Knowing she could do nothing for them until the time of their passing, and consumed by the rising blood fever, she turned to the other two women in the room.

The red-head at her side, Emily, was fixated on the verbal battle between Andy and Miranda. B'Elanna sniffed and curled her lips in disgust. This one smelt of fear, not suitable as a Klingon bride at all. But the other one, who stood closest to Andy, she was a magnificent creature. There was no fear in this one, though she held her hands up in gesture of surrender. In fact, she seemed amused by the warring women. As if privy to a joke no one else knew or had realized. Such a one could bring honor to any Klingon House.

B'Elanna growled low in her throat and bared her teeth. She advanced towards the tall blonde with her right hand extended, prepared to enter the mating ritual with an overture of personal combat. "HIghoS!" she shouted, summoning the woman to her. Serena. Once again B'Elanna's mind provided a name she was not conscious of knowing. "HIghoS, Serena!"

B'Elanna watched as Serena, who had knelt beside the fallen Seven, glanced over her shoulder, her eyes widening. A feral grin curled B'Elanna's lips as she came to stand over the kneeling woman. "I will have you as my be'nal. It will be a glorious wedding night with many bones broken," B'Elanna promised, thumping her chest with one closed fist.

"You bleeding bitch!" Emily screeched, running forward.

B'Elanna couldn't help but be impressed by how quickly the woman moved in her ridiculous shoes. The previous stink of fear about her had been replaced by anger and the reek of jealousy. "You wish to challenge me for the woman," B'Elanna chuckled, amused by the idea.

"I'll bloody well wring your neck," Emily snarled.

"I will enjoy this." B'Elanna clenched her fists ready to throw a sharp punch to the woman's mouth.

"B'Elanna Torres, ghobe'," Seven shouted.

"No?" B'Elanna roared, irritated at having her fun interrupted. "She has challenged me. Honor requires I tear her into targ fodder."

"This woman is not meant to be your be'nal," Seven stated with a nod toward Serena. "You must look elsewhere, among your own House. Your honor is best served by helping your joH."

"I am not a healer," B'Elanna spat. "What would you have me do?"

"Activate the ring, B'Elanna Torres," Seven instructed.

B'Elanna frowned, and she held up her hands. "I have no…ring?" She stared at the strange gold band on her right hand. Where did that come from? I don't wear a ring.

"The notch. Use your thumbnail to trigger the notch. You must hurry. You must save the captain."

What was wrong with Seven's voice? With each word there was less emotion reflected in the tones until they had sounded almost mechanical at the end. What's happening here? There's something terribly wrong. Finding the notch in her ring that Seven spoke of, B'Elanna pressed her nail into it.

The doctor materialized near the back of the room, only drawing everyone's attention when he spoke. "Please state the nature of the me…"

"Tend to the joH!" B'Elanna snapped imperiously. She watched him closely as he hurried to Janeway, affixed a small metal device to the fallen captain's neck and activated it. Convinced she had done all she could, B'Elanna turned back to Emily. "I will grind you beneath my heel," she snarled.

"And I'll skewer you with mine!" Emily threatened, taking off her shoe and holding it with the heel pointed out as a weapon. "Keep your bleeding hands off my woman!"

"B'Elanna, stand down," Janeway's raspy voice carried across the room.

B'Elanna grabbed at her head as a blinding pain tore through it. "qaStah nug?" she shouted.

"What's happening is that your body just shifted back into temporal phase, Lieutenant," the doctor supplied.

"That'll be enough, Doctor," Janeway snapped as she attempted to stand on shaky legs.

"Captain! You need to rest," he cautioned, pressing down on her shoulder to hold her in place.

"I need to make sure Seven's all right," Janeway snapped, shoving his hand away.

"I'll see to Seven as soon as I make sure you're recovering," he tried again to restrain her.

"You'll get your hands off me, Doctor, or I'll have B'Elanna remove them from your programming," Janeway ordered, rolling over and onto her knees.

"Captain, do not concern yourself. I am…fine. My limbs are reactivating," Seven assured her.

Janeway's head dropped for a moment and then, with a bracing breath, she rose unsteadily to her feet.

"Would someone please tell me what in the bloody hell is going on around here?" Miranda's voice cut through the room with icy intent.

Still furious from her confrontation with Andréa, Miranda seethed as Janeway ignored her and started toward the dais on shaky legs.

"Andy, cover your breasts, please," Janeway said as she made her way to Seven.

"Yes, Kathryn," Andy responded and pulled the bodice of her dress back into place, tying the straps behind her neck.

Miranda could almost feel the steam rising from her collar. How dare that woman order her Andréa around! And how dare Andréa obey her! Incensed, Miranda stalked over to the dais. "Who do you think you are ordering my staff to do anything," she hissed in an icily low tone.

"Get over it, Miranda," Janeway growled. "I don't have time for petty concerns." She knelt at Seven's side, ignoring the gasps from the Runway group. "Are you all right, Seven?"

"I am functioning," Seven responded calmly. "You will assist me to rise, B'Elanna Torres."

B'Elanna extended a hand and pulled Seven to her feet with a grunt. "Maybe you should try a few of Emily's cheese cubes," she joked.

"I do not believe that would decrease my weight significantly, as you well know, B'Elanna Torres…though perhaps such a meal would benefit you," Seven shot back.

With a crooked grin, B'Elanna leaned forward and spoke just loud enough for Seven's Borg enhanced hearing to register. "One day, Borg. Pow!"

"You will fail, Klingon," Seven murmured.

"Ladies," Janeway interrupted, chuckling. "Did either of you notice what happened?"

"I believe the temporal distortion was triggered by Miranda Priestly's threat to destroy Six," Seven answered.

B'Elanna nodded her agreement. "That's the last thing I remember before I started channelling my mother."

"I had suspected that the rift between Miranda Priestly and Six was the cause of the temporal variances," Seven continued.

Janeway rubbed the back of her neck. "Yes, I was beginning to think the same thing. So how do we fix it?"

"You people will never work in this industry again," Miranda interrupted before Seven could reply. "Any career you might have will end as of tonight."

Janeway threw up her hands and rounded on the other woman. "I hate to break it to you, Miranda, but you have no impact on my career one way or the other, so why don't you back off and let me talk to my staff."

"How dare you!" Miranda drew herself up, giving Janeway her iciest gaze.

"I dare a lot right now," Janeway growled, fixing Miranda with her hottest Force 10 glare.

Nigel hurried down the street toward Kathryn Janeway's studio. He had hoped to get there sooner but a last minute problem in the Art Department that would have delayed the Book had held him up. Once he had found the missing layout and gotten it to the correct person, he had decided it would be quicker to just walk the several blocks. Now he was hoping that Miranda hadn't done too much damage to her relationship with Andy. He barely glanced at the town car as he passed it, so he didn't see Cassidy peeking out of a partially open window.

Throwing open the door to the studio he stepped inside and swore he could see steam rising between Miranda and Kathryn as they stood locked in a stare down. He couldn't recall ever having seen Miranda look so furious, nor Kathryn for that matter, though he didn't know her as well. He started to speak and then thought better of it. Perhaps the best move would be to minimize the potential for collateral damage.

Catching Emily's eye, he gestured for her to take the others to the back. Sticking close to the wall, he followed his friends. He'd find out what was going on from them. Whatever it was it looked like Miranda and Kathryn needed to have this out between them. He just hoped the bloodshed would be minimal and that he wouldn't be delivering the Book to Ryker's Island for the foreseeable future.

Once everyone was in the back, leaving Kathryn and Miranda to finish their stare down, Nigel looked at the others over his glasses. "Anyone care to tell their uncle Nigel what's going on around here?" he asked, then wished he hadn't as they all started talking at once, except Seven who watched the rest with a lifted eyebrow and Serena who could barely contain her amusement.

The other three were talking so fast and so hotly that all he caught was something about Andy's breasts, a bleeding cow hitting on Serena, and Emily having delusions of grandeur thinking she was a match for B'Elanna. Holding up a hand, he shouted for quiet. "Enough! Seven, Serena, do you think one of you could tell me what happened, calmly and without all the histrionics?"

He listened as the two alternated telling the story, filling in as many details as they were able, which with Seven involved was a great many indeed. Removing his glasses, he rubbed his eyes, unsurprised at the headache that had begun to pound behind them. Folding his glasses he tucked them into an inside pocket of his jacket and stared at the other three while shaking his head. Andy had a decidedly sheepish look, while Emily and B'Elanna both stood with their arms crossed defiantly over their chests and glared at each other.

"Andy, what possessed you to bare all in front of Miranda?" he asked at last, still unable to quite believe that part of the story. Such an action was totally unlike the Andy Sachs he knew. She'd practically died of embarrassment in a room full of models wearing lingerie, for heaven's sake.

"It wasn't all, Nigel. Just…" She gestured to the upper half of her body which even with the bodice firmly in place was barely covered. With it released she would have been nude to the waist.

He could only imagine what that had done to Miranda's libido feeling as she did about Andy. Miranda must have felt incredibly exposed herself and for Andy to say she was relieved to be free of Miranda -- he shuddered as he thought of the pain that would have caused her. Miranda in pain could be incredibly vicious. It was no wonder she threatened to destroy the woman she loved. Unfortunately, he wasn't convinced Miranda wouldn't do just that.

"Six, you have no idea what you may have unleashed," he sighed.

Andy joined Emily and B'Elanna in their pose, crossing her arms defiantly. "I can't say that I really care, Nigel."

"Well, you'd better care and do so quickly," he advised. "You have no idea how badly you've hurt Miranda."

"Hurt Miranda?" Andy repeated, shocked. "No one can hurt Miranda. She'd have to care first, and she's not capable of that."

"Dammit, Andy, how many times do I have to tell you to grow up?" Nigel snapped, finally having had enough. "That woman in there is in love with you. You wouldn't believe what she has gone through lately trying to find a way to get you to just smile at her again. Get your head out of your ass and wake up before you lose any chance at the best thing that might ever happen to you, if you haven't already."

"She…I..Miranda? Love? Me?" Andy squeaked pointing a finger at her own chest. "Oh, shit. I need to sit down." She waved a hand in thanks as B'Elanna swung a chair under her a second before she would have collapsed to the floor.

"And as for you," he rounded on Emily, holding up a hand to stop her when she would have spoken. "No, you shut up until I'm done. You're worse than Andy. I can half understand her blindness. God knows, Miranda is hard to read on a good day, but you don't even have that excuse. Serena has done everything short of wrapping her legs around your head to get you to see she wants to be with you. Are you that obtuse or just too damned scared to take a chance? Whichever it is, get over it, Emily. Serena is possibly the most patient person I've ever met, outside of Seven here, and even she isn't going to wait forever for you!" He threw up his hands and paced back and forth for a moment before turning to them all again. "Fix this!" he shouted, missing the amused look that passed between Seven and B'Elanna, as well as their subtle nod of agreement.


Chapter 20

Janeway and Miranda were still locked in their battle of wills when a shouted, "Fix it!" from the back startled them both.

"What the—"Janeway snapped.

"Nigel," Miranda replied by way of explanation.

Janeway sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. This was getting her nowher,e and whatever Nigel was referring to back there, his shouted command was a reminder to her to get on with it. "Would you like to tell me why my telling Andy to do something you had already made clear you wanted her to do would upset you so much?"

"Would you care to tell me why you so dramatically draped yourself across the linoleum?" Miranda countered.

Rolling her eyes, Janeway threw up her hands. "You're almost as irritating as my younger sister."

"Give me a moment. I constantly improve," Miranda bit out, glaring.

Janeway was unable to stop another eye roll. "I'll just bet you do. "

"Roll your eyes at me one more time and I will ensure the next time they roll across the floor," Miranda growled, her spine stiffening. "Whatever is between Andréa and me is no one else's business but our own."

"You barging in here tonight and interrupting my shoot made it mine," Janeway corrected.

"I don't recall telling you to use Andréa in such a reprehensible manner. I sent her here in good faith to assist you, not to be mauled by her co-workers," Miranda stated coldly, drawing her haughtiness around herself like a cloak.

"No one was mauling…you're in love with her," Janeway realized suddenly. As unlikely as it seemed, Miranda Priestly was in love with her much younger assistant. It explained everything. And Miranda standing there simply staring back told Janeway she was right. "Why haven't you told her?" she asked gently.

Miranda's laugh was bitter. "You heard her. She despises me. Why would I set myself up for that kind of humiliation?"

Janeway's lips quirked. "What I saw was a young woman lashing out to try to get your attention any way she could."

Miranda's eyes widened, and Janeway was struck by how much the color reminded her of her mother's eyes, that same smoky blue. The similarity struck a chord, and Janeway suddenly wanted to help this difficult woman, for Miranda's sake as much as anyone's. She could almost see the moment when Miranda denied the possibility to herself that Andy felt the same way.

"Why would you say that?" Miranda almost whispered. "What do you have to gain from it?"

My very existence, Janeway thought, even as she said, "I have nothing to gain. I'm simply telling you how I interpreted what I saw tonight. I've become aware over the last two days that Andy has very strong emotions toward you, and while they do appear to be negative ones, I think there's more to it than that. She's been with you almost a year, Miranda. You couldn't have come to feel the way you do if it were always like this between the two of you. What changed?"

"And why should I confide in you? I barely know you," Miranda asked in her usual cool tones.

"Because you need to talk to someone. You've all but lost Andy by not opening up to her. What do you have to lose, Miranda? Even if I were to repeat what you tell me, who'd believe me anyway?" Janeway smirked at the truth of the statement. No one would ever believe Miranda Priestly was in love with her much younger female assistant, not the Ice Queen of Fashion.

Miranda sighed, walked over to the dais and sat down, unmindful of the potential damage to her clothes. "A chance set of circumstances caused Andréa to accompany me to Paris instead of Emily as was the original plan." Miranda stopped and looked down at her clasped hands. "No, that is not true. I insisted Andréa accompany me, even went so far as to threaten her job if she did not do so." She looked up at Kathryn, eyes pleading for understanding. "I simply could not face being without her for a week. I knew it was wrong. I was still married at that time, though I knew the marriage was ending, which is truly no excuse. I just couldn't seem to help myself."

Janeway sat beside her and smiled gently. "I understand that better than you might think," she admitted. How many times had she done similar things with Seven? She'd stomped right into the middle of the Borg Queen's lair to get her beloved Seven back, never once questioning the feelings that had caused such a rash action. So yes, she understood Miranda's actions completely. "From some things that have been said by Andy and others Paris seems to be where the changes started," she observed.

"Yes," Miranda agreed, nodding. "Andréa is the single kindest, gentlest human being I have ever met. She has the purest heart, or rather had the purest. I changed that. It haunts me that even if I could have foreseen the far reaching consequences, I don't know that I would have changed my actions. Everything I had worked for my entire life was threatened. I was in danger of losing Runway. I took the necessary actions to eliminate that threat." Miranda looked away as if embarrassed to admit the next part. "There were several ways to go about it, but I chose the most expedient, the one I knew would put an end to that particular threat with the greatest finality and speed. It required I sacrifice a dear friend's dream on the altar of my own ambition."

"Nigel," Janeway guessed and wasn't surprised when Miranda nodded. "Andy seems very close to him."

"She is. Nigel was the first friend she made at Runway. I-I hurt him rather badly as he is also my oldest and dearest friend, but he forgave me. Andréa never has. She-she stopped smiling at me." Miranda sighed shakily. "I never realized how much I needed those smiles until they were gone. Now, I don't know how to get them back."

Janeway looked down at the floor, deep in thought. Seven never smiled, not with her lips, but her eyes were a different matter. She smiled with them all the time. Janeway knew what it was like when there was no smile in them as Seven looked at her. She shivered, her sympathy for Miranda deepening. "So Andy confronted you?"

Miranda shook her head. "No, she walked away. I thought she was gone, she wouldn't answer my calls. I had just decided to go after her, to explain. I never explain," she finished, muttering the last almost to herself. "Then Andréa suddenly answered and gave some excuse about needing a breath of air. She was back at my side in moments, but it was all different. She was no longer warm or friendly to me. There was a coldness I'd never seen in her before. She's more subdued with everyone now, but with me, she's almost icy. I-I don't like it, but I'm helpless to change it. She's young, vibrant and so very lovely. There's nothing I can offer her. If I were to confront her, she might actually leave this time, or worse, laugh at me." Miranda dropped her face into her hands and shuddered.

Rejection. Janeway knew that fear well. She'd had the same argument with herself many times. What did an old starship captain with a battered heart and far too much stress have to offer a beautiful young woman with her whole life ahead of her? History repeating, she thought cynically. At least one of them deserved a happy ending, and Janeway was determined Miranda would have hers. There were too many lives at stake not to at least try. She slapped her hands on her thighs decisively. "You don't strike me as a woman who allows fear to rule her life. Talk to Andy, tell her how you feel. One of you has got to take the risk. You put your job first, and I can understand that since I do it myself often enough. This time put Andy first by taking the biggest risk of your life; show her your heart."

"Like you have done with Seven?" Miranda asked quietly with a satisfied smirk.

Janeway knew her mouth was hanging open and closed it with a snap of teeth. "How did you--what do you mean?" she finally managed.

"I am not as oblivious to my surroundings as I allow people to believe, Kathryn. When you look at Seven…well, I know that look well. I see it in my mirror when I allow myself to think of Andréa. You're in love with her, but you've not told her. I think possibly for the very same reasons that have made me hold my tongue with Andréa. Why should I take your advice and risk what you won't?" Miranda asked.

"Because Seven doesn't return my feelings the way Andy does yours," Janeway said, her voice hoarse with gathered emotions.

"Self-delusion is such an interesting exercise, don't you think?" Miranda scoffed. "It allows you to think the only life you affect is your own, the only heart you're breaking beats in your own chest. It's a trait we share. Look what I have done to my Andréa with mine and ask yourself what the effect of your denial has been on your Seven." Miranda reached out and laid a hand on Janeway's nearest her. "We are alike in many ways, Kathryn. Not the least of which is our ability to justify our own actions to ourselves. But what of the effect on the women we love? When we deny ourselves, we deny them too, and I realize now that the cost is greater to them. We're each strong, authoritative women who, for all we have accomplished, do not believe we're worthy of being loved by such pure hearts. It has changed my Andréa in ways I don't believe even she realizes. Do not do the same to Seven. You will regret it, Kathryn, and the rest of your life will not be long enough to make amends." Miranda patted the hand under hers. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to speak with Andréa. I promised my girls, though I think the topic will be different than what they requested of me."

Janeway watched as Miranda ran her hands over her iconic hairstyle and smoothed her clothing. Settling her shoulders, she marched confidently towards the back room and disappeared inside. Janeway smiled to herself. If that was how she appeared when she strode onto the bridge during a red alert, it was no wonder her staff snapped to attention when she stepped off the turbolift. It was quite an intimidating sight and evidently, a genetic trait.

She chuckled softly and shook her head as the backroom suddenly emptied save for Miranda and Andy, even B'Elanna rushed out of the room with that same look of confusion she'd had the first time Miranda had sent her packing with a well-timed glare and a quiet admonition. Shannon O'Donnell might not have been as inspiring an ancestor as Janeway had originally believed, but she felt a warm glow of pride at the knowledge she was related to Miranda Priestly. The woman was a force of nature, and God help anyone who stood in her way, even herself.

Can I as her descendent do any less? Janeway asked herself, looking over to where Seven stood in conversation with B'Elanna near the door to the back room. No, I don't think I can, she decided. Standing, she started to tug her tunic in to place, only to roll her eyes as she grabbed, not the expected uniform, but a soft knit shirt. Leave it to me to end up having the most important conversation of my life in civvies. But maybe it was better that way, no uniform to hide behind, nothing between herself and Seven except the love that burned in her heart every time she saw or thought of her Seven. Trying to project the same confidence she'd seen in Miranda, while knowing she was filled with the same fears, Janeway began to cross the room.

Part 21

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