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 21

Andy watched Miranda from the corner of her eye as the door closed to the room, leaving them alone. She was very glad she had had the chance to change into her jeans and sweater before Miranda marched in and ordered everyone out with a look. As much as she might want to, she refused to meet the other woman's eyes. Knowing this might be the last chance she had to look at Miranda up close, her eyes darted to one of the large mirrors that had been set up. Miranda was so incredibly beautiful it almost hurt Andy to look at her, even at her reflected image. She watched in the mirror as Miranda's lips moved.

"We should talk, Andréa."

Andy stiffened. "I don't know what we could have to talk about, Miranda. I believe it's all been said already. You'll have my resignation in the morning. I'll gather my things and be out of the building before you even arrive."

Andy could see Miranda move closer to stand directly behind her. Before she could glance away, Miranda met her eyes in the mirror. There was such sorrow in their blue depths that Andy caught her breath.

"I don't wish for you to go, Andréa."

Her resolve to leave Miranda began to weaken, but Andy reminded herself of what Miranda had done to Nigel. How long until it's my turn? Nothing changes the fact that Miranda can't be trusted. With her determination once more in place, Andy tore her gaze from Miranda's and looked away. "What you want no longer matters to me, Miranda. I've talked myself into and out of this too many times already. I want out."

"You want to write. You can do so at Runway. I'm sure there'll be an opening in Editorial very soon," Miranda tried again.

Andy rubbed her forehead. Why was Miranda fighting this so hard? Was Nigel right? No, he couldn't be…could he? "You mean as soon as you fire someone to make one, don't you? I know how you operate, Miranda. People aren't pawns. You can't just move them around to please yourself."

"Then you haven't forgiven me for what I did in Paris," Miranda stated. "Nigel has. Why haven't you?"

Andy crossed her arms over her chest, trying both to lock in her emotions and lock out Miranda's beseeching tone. "You didn't do anything to me. What's to forgive?" she deflected, not wanting to explain and inflame the situation more.

"But I did do something to you, didn't I, Andréa?" Miranda guessed. "I put a very large crack in those rose-colored glasses you insisted on wearing. I shook your faith, didn't I?"

Andy shot her an angry glance and then found herself trapped by those deep blue eyes. "Cracked them, Miranda? You ground them under your Prada-clad heel. But you didn't shake my faith, you solidified it. I'm more convinced than ever that trusting you would be the biggest mistake of my life," Andy bit out with a bitter laugh.

"You think I would do the same to you," Miranda stated levelly.

"I know you would, Miranda." Andy dropped her hands to her side, fists clenched. "The moment it was to your advantage you'd toss me aside like a K-mart reject."

Miranda arched an eyebrow and moved to lean back against one of the make-up tables. "Tell me, Andréa, do you believe I'd do the same to Caroline and Cassidy? Do you think I'm so evil I would eat my young?" she asked, her tone casual.

Andy flung an arm out, swinging herself around and staring at the wall previously behind her. "Don't be ridiculous. You adore the twins. Everyone knows that," she was forced to admit. But that doesn't make any difference. I'm just an assistant.

"And do you believe that if I loved someone, truly loved them with all my heart, I would do the same to them?" Miranda continued with the same light tone.

"Didn't you?" Andy accused. "Didn't you sacrifice your marriages to your ambition? Isn't that what really happened there?" Andy knew she'd been digging her own grave with Miranda since the conversation began so she might as well go the requisite six feet.

"I said with all my heart, Andréa," Miranda corrected. "I've always known I could never love a man in such a way."

"Then why marry one?" Andy had to ask. If what Miranda was saying were true, then why would she settle for less? It didn't sound like the Miranda that Andy knew.

"Generational differences," Miranda shrugged. "Being a lesbian wasn't as fashionable as it is today. It would have killed any chance I might have had for advancement were anyone to find out, and while I might dictate what hangs in closets today, I did not wish to be one of those items. When I was your age, gay was not the new black. History has proven that all things are cyclic. I knew the day would come when it would be more acceptable to be who I truly am openly, if I had sufficient power to deter open detractors. So I supported the appropriate causes anonymously and worked my way to where I am today. My children will not face the same choices I did, should the need arise."

Andy's lips curled in a cynical smile. It was just like Miranda. If she couldn't live as she chose, she simply rewrote the rules to her satisfaction. "So you played the good, little straight girl and had the best of it all," Andy sneered.

"Do not presume to judge me for my choices, Andréa," Miranda cautioned in a cold voice. "Not until you're faced with similar ones. I knew I was a lesbian at a young age, and I've buried more friends than you have yet to make, both to disease and to violence. At your age I was attending a funeral a week. Forgive me for not making myself a statistic, for choosing instead to sacrifice love for money and power." Miranda waved a hand to stop Andy before she could speak. "Oh, I do not deny I did that. But there were reasons, reasons that went beyond just my own comforts. I have donated more money to hospices, research, and political organizations than you might possibly make in a lifetime."

Andy rounded on her, infuriated that with everything else Miranda would try to justify herself with lies. "Remember me, Miranda? I'm your assistant. I've seen the files of your charitable donations. Hell, I authorized the checks. They were nice, but nowhere near the kind of money you're talking about."

"You saw the public donations, Andréa," Miranda informed her with an exasperated sigh. "The private ones are handled by a charitable trust, the Joshua Princhek Trust to be exact. Joshua Princhek, my older brother, who was beaten almost to death for walking down a sidewalk holding his lover's hand. It was while he was in the hospital they found he had AIDS. He died a delusional bag of bones that would have made a Runway model look fat. I was determined to help end that insanity in any way I could. So do not presume to think you know all there is to know about me, Andréa, nor to judge the way I chose to go about it. We are all driven by something."

The tension in the room had risen to the point where Andy had to bite her lip to keep from screaming. She stared wide-eyed at Miranda, who stood, chest heaving, as if challenging her. She walked on shaky legs to a chair and dropped into it. Have I really been so wrong about Miranda? Are the small glimpses I've had the real woman, or is the fashion icon the truth? Andy dropped her head into her hands. She really didn't know anymore what to believe or who to believe. Always trust your heart. It won't steer you wrong. She could hear her father's voice as he stood beside her. And my heart says what? Andy asked herself, though she already knew the answer. That I love this confusing, complex woman with everything that's in me. But how does she feel? She looked up at Miranda, who still stood poised to continue the battle. "Why are you telling me all this?" she asked, the answer seeming of paramount importance to her in that moment.

"Because I need for you to trust me again," Miranda whispered hoarsely.

"Why?" Andy stood and moved closer until they were almost nose to nose, searching Miranda's eyes for the truth. "Why do you need my trust so much? Why, Miranda, why?" she pleaded for the truth.

"Because I'm in love with you, and I cannot lose you," Miranda answered, her eyes clear with honest intent. "If it means I must metaphorically bare myself, as you did out there," she swung a hand toward the door indicating the room beyond, "then I will do so…gladly, if it means keeping you at my side in any capacity. Just do not ask me to be without you, Andréa. I could not survive doing so."

Andy staggered back and dropped back into the chair, the room spinning around her. She leaned forward pressing her face between her knees, knowing she was hyperventilating and would faint if she didn't do so. She heard the click of heels on the floor coming closer before a narrow black skirt and two slender knees came into view as Miranda knelt beside her. A warm hand began to make circles on Andy's back.

"Breathe deeply and slowly, Andréa," Miranda instructed, before adding with a huff, "I don't know what it is with women perfecting their swan dives around here tonight. It's becoming quite redundant."

Andy had to laugh. It was such a typically Miranda thing to say, and she loved the woman as much for that as for anything. She crossed her arms over her knees and buried her face in them, laughing until her sleeves were wet with the tears from her mirth.

"Really, I do not see what is so humorous, Andréa," Miranda objected, clearly offended that her declaration of love would be met with such hysterical laughter.

"Everything, Miranda," Andy gasped, her laughter slowing to the occasional chuckle. "I just knew you didn't care anything about me. I was convinced I had you all figured out, and I was wrong about it all." Tenderly, Andy brushed back the lock of hair that always fell over Miranda's eye. "You're right. There's a lot I don't know about you…outside of the fact that I love you, but I'm willing to learn." She was astonished to see Miranda's eyes flood with tears.

"You…love me?" Miranda asked.

"Yeah, I do. That's why it hurt so much to think you'd do the same thing to me that you did to Nigel," Andy admitted.

"Andréa, I had no other choice. I spent weeks looking for another way, but everything else I came up with would only delay Irv's takeover. I had to end it, quash it completely or face the challenge again with far less ammunition on my side," Miranda explained.

With that, Andy finally believed Miranda loved her. Miranda, who never explained herself to anyone, was doing just that to calm Andy's fears. The Queen of Fashion and Haughtier was on her knees on a cold, dirty floor explaining herself to Andy Sachs. So Andy did the only thing she could think of to let Miranda know she understood the effort--she kissed her. Softly and slowly Andy moved her lips against Miranda's, tasting the mouth she had fantasized about so many times. She pulled back, ending the kiss and smiled. "I love you, Miranda Priestly, and you couldn't lose me if you tried. My heart is yours for as long as you want it."

Andy suddenly found herself pulled from the chair and lying on top of the woman she loved. Arms wound around her tightly as Miranda claimed her mouth in a ravaging kiss, as if she needed to imprint herself on Andy. Miranda rolled until she was on top and Andy was looking up at her.

"I adore you, Andréa. You may consider your heart claimed for the rest of my lifetime," Miranda said between deep searching kisses.

"M-Miranda, we're on the floor," Andy gasped when Miranda at last let her breathe.

"I don't care," Miranda stated emphatically. "I have you now. I'm not letting you go."

Andy threw back her head and laughed, baring her neck which Miranda latched onto immediately, bathing the soft skin with her lips and tongue. "Wouldn't a n-nice, so-soft bed be b-better for this? Oh, damn," Andy moaned. "At least the first time."

Miranda drew back and looked down at her. "I have a bed," she admitted. "A very large one."

Andy raised her head and planted a small kiss on Miranda's chin. "You saw part of me out there," she nodded her head toward the door. "Wouldn't you rather see the rest spread out on your bed…entirely bare…naked?" she asked with a kiss to the side of Miranda's neck. She could feel the movement against her lips as Miranda swallowed at the thought.

"Really, Andréa, why are we on this floor when I have a perfectly good bed at home?" Miranda asked with a raised eyebrow.

Andy laughed and pulled her back into a thorough kiss. "You always have the best ideas, Miranda," she teased.

"Yes, well, of course I do," Miranda agreed. "Now do let me up so we can go home."

Andy chuckled as Miranda rolled to her feet with a litheness that belied her years. Loving Miranda Priestly wouldn't always be easy, but it would definitely be exciting, and that kind of excitement Andy could handle.


Chapter 22

"What can you hear?" B'Elanna asked, glancing at the door and then back to Seven.

"Far less with you speaking at the same time," Seven responded as she tried to focus on the conversation happening behind the door. She listened for a moment and then said, "Miranda Priestly is attempting to ascertain why Six is angry with her. Six is not being cooperative."

"Well, Andy is pretty mad," B'Elanna defended.

"Indeed. I believe she is more hurt than angered," Seven qualified.

"Eavesdropping, Seven?" The captain's raspy voice interrupted them.

"I am merely trying to determine if there will be another temporal fluctuation in the immediate future, Captain," Seven explained her actions.

"Good one, Borg," B'Elanna murmured.

"Indeed," Seven agreed under her breath.

"Seven, could I speak with you a moment…in private?" Janeway gave B'Elanna a significant look.

"I'll just go start adjusting some lights or something," B'Elanna said and hurried away.

Seven watched her new-found friend and ally for a moment before turning back to the captain. "You wish to reprimand me for attempting to listen to Miranda Priestly and Six' conversation," she guessed.

"Normally, I don't approve of eavesdropping, but we need information. Since those two seem to be the cause of the fluctuations it wouldn't necessarily hurt to know what is happening with them. I have an idea I know, though, so I'd like to talk to you about something else," Janeway said.

Seven nodded and assumed her normal stance of parade rest. "Very well, Captain. What do you wish to discuss?"

Janeway smiled crookedly. "Miranda is in there hopefully telling Andy that she's in love with her."

Seven arched an eyebrow. "Indeed, Captain. It is certainly time that she did so."

Laughing, Janeway shook her head. "Do you know why she hasn't before now?" she asked.

"I can only assume that she held false beliefs as to her fitness to be loved by Six," Seven began. "She is in a position of authority over Six and is two times her age. I would imagine those would cause considerable consternation for someone of Miranda Priestly's personality."

"You said 'false beliefs.' You don't consider those to be valid reasons?" Janeway pushed.

"No, they are not," Seven stated emphatically. "I do not have a great deal of experience in the practical aspects of romantic love, but it would seem that one cannot determine who they love, only whether they choose to express that feeling. Am I incorrect, Captain?" Seven tilted her head and fixed Janeway with an inquisitive look. She was curious to know where the captain was going with this line of inquiry. Janeway seldom asked questions just to do so; she always had a point in mind, though she frequently led Seven to discover it on her own.

"No, Seven. You're not incorrect. There's an old saying, ,The heart will love who it wants.' We don't often get to choose. Sometimes a person finds themselves in love with someone…well, let's say that for many reasons that person might not be the best or most logical choice," Janeway finished with a shrug.

"But would a person's heart not know what is best for it…for them?" Seven asked, feeling her own heart begin to beat faster. Was this the moment when they would finally speak of love in more than an esoteric manner?

"Not always, Seven. Sometimes we find ourselves loving someone who isn't right for us, or who we're not right for. Sometimes it's someone who can't love us back," Janeway frowned and stared down at her boot tips. "Telling someone you love them for the first time can be a frightening proposition."

"Even for a starship captain?" Seven wondered, attempting to bring the conversation around to a more personal footing.

"Especially for a starship captain," Janeway chuckled ruefully. "We're rather used to getting our way. We tend to take rejection a bit harder, and it could be highly embarrassing as well as emotionally hurtful to be turned down by a crewmember of lower rank. Not to mention the legalities that would be involved."

"I would think," Seven began softly, "that anyone would be foolish to turn down certain starship captains."

Janeway's eyes darted up to look into deep blue depths. "Do you, Seven?" Janeway asked. "Would an ex-Borg drone, let's say, find such an offer…appealing?"

"Almost as appealing as the drone would find the starship captain," Seven admitted, feeling an unusual warmth in her cheeks.

Glancing over her shoulder at the others in the room, Janeway took a small step closer. "So, if the starship captain were to ask for a date at some point…when they were back onboard ship…?"

"The drone would wonder what had taken the captain so long," Seven answered decisively with her heart pounding in her throat, "and why the captain wished to delay the inevitable."

Janeway caught her breath. "Seven, I…" She glanced back over her shoulder again.

"You worry too much about what others will think, Captain," Seven said taking Janeway's hand and leading her back into the shadows. "I do not wish for you to wait longer."

Janeway reached up and cupped the back of Seven's neck. "Are you sure they can't see us?"

"Only my ocular implant can penetrate the darkness in this corner, and I will hear anyone who approaches before they are sufficiently close enough to disturb us," Seven assured her.

"Love that Borg efficiency," Janeway murmured before bringing her lips to Seven's.

Never having kissed anyone before, Seven wasn't sure what to expect, and with the first touch of lips, she thought for a moment her cortical node was malfunctioning. She felt tingles spread out through her body from the slide of soft lips against her own. Heat began to build in her core and she wanted to press her body tighter to the captain's. Unclear as to why, Seven instinctively felt that relief would come from being closer. "Captain," she whimpered when Janeway finally let her breathe again.

"Kathryn," Janeway corrected. "The captain is much too uptight and rigid to kiss you the way I want to, Seven."

"I-I do not understand," Seven gasped just before her mouth was claimed again, this time by a seeking tongue that delved deeply to stroke against her own. She moaned as she wrapped her arms tighter around Kathryn. Understanding was irrelevant, more and deeper kisses were all that concerned her now.

The sound of a throat clearing nearby forced them apart.

"I thought you said you'd hear anyone who came close," Janeway growled in a voice rough with wanting.

"I seem to have underestimated the power of your kisses, Kathryn," Seven explained her lapse, arching a brow as the captain laughed.

"And I yours, Darling," Janeway smiled up at her. "Back to work. We will continue this later, however."

"Yes, Captain," Seven said demurely, knowing well how Kathryn would react to such a display coming from her. She was not disappointed as the captain laughed gustily.

Emily stalked from the back room to the front of the studio and stood with her arms folded over her chest, fuming. It was bad enough being verbally filleted by Miranda, but to have Nigel do it and in front of everyone was just too much. The fact that he'd tore Andrea a new one as well, didn't excuse him at all. So angry was she that she didn't realize Serena had followed her until the other woman spoke.

"You are angry with Nigel," Serena stated calmly.

"Bloody damn right I am," Emily snapped. "Bleeding wanker has no right to talk to me that way. Who does he ruddy well think he is?"

"Your friend."

Emily stared at Serena, knowing she was right and hating the fact. "Yes, well," she huffed, not sure what else to say.

"He is also right. What will it take, Emily? What must I do to make you see me?" Serena asked, her eyes glistening with tears. "Tell me you do not think of me this way, and I will leave you alone."

"No!" Emily gasped, reaching up to grab Serena's shoulders. "I don't want you to leave me alone." She blushed, realizing what she was admitting. "I mean…Oh, fuckitty fuck fuck!" she snarled throwing up her hands.

"Do you realize you use more profanity than all the others put together?" Serena gave her a teary smile.

"I'm sorry," Emily apologized sheepishly.

"I do not mind." Serena rubbed the backs of her fingers over Emily's cheek. "It tells me that you are very passionate, though you pretend not to be."

Emily could feel herself blushing and cursed her fair British coloring. She knew Nigel was right. Serena had as much as come out and said she wanted to be with her. Why she was still hesitating Emily didn't know. She supposed the most likely reason was that she just couldn't conceive of someone who looked like Serena being interested in her. Emily had never had that kind of luck. She captured Serena's hand in her own and brought it down from her face. She really couldn't think with Serena touching her.

"I don't know how to open up to you," she confessed. "I want to. I'm just not sure how to go about it."

"Perhaps we could start with a meal?" Serena suggested, her expression hopeful.

Emily started to nod and then stopped herself, if there was a prat in that building, it was her, not Nigel. This beautiful woman wanted her, was throwing herself at her, and all she could do was make excuses. She wanted Serena just as much as Serena seemed to want her. It was time to stop being a fool. "Oh, bloody hell," she snapped and launched herself at Serena, losing herself in the long arms that wrapped around her instantly and the soft lips that pressed to her own. It was all Emily could do not to devour Serena now that she had finally given herself permission to feel.

"This works, too," Serena mumbled against the lips that were ravishing her.

"I want you," Emily groaned wrapping her arms tighter around Serena and trying to lift her against her body.

Serena broke their kiss and rested her forehead against Emily's, chuckling lightly. "Emily, I am too tall and too heavy for you to lift."

"Don't care," Emily mumbled against her neck. She tried to avoid the hands that cupped her face and attempted to pull her away from the skin she was tasting.

"Emily, Emily, please," Serena gasped.

That finally got through to Emily, and she lifted her head, blinking in confusion. "Yes? What? Anything," she said in rapid succession.

Serena laughed and pulled Emily's head to her shoulder. "I knew you would be this way, but could we not wait until we are alone? I will be much more cooperative then, I promise you."

"Right. Cooperative is good. Yes, I can work with that," Emily agreed, feeling her face heat up again, this time at her total loss of control. "Right, so when do we get out of here?" She covered her mouth with her hand too late to stop herself from saying it and blushed all the harder.

"Soon," Serena assured her with a sexy chuckle. "You will not regret the wait."

Emily felt heat suffuse her body at the look she was getting from Serena. She jumped when the sound of a throat clearing broke their connection.

They turned and looked toward the back of the room where Miranda and Andy stood hand in hand.

"This seems to be an eventful night for many of us," Miranda said with a tiny smirk curling her lips. "Would anyone happen to know where Kathryn is…and Seven?"

Janeway stepped from the shadows, attempting to tug her blouse into place, forgetting yet again she wasn't wearing her tunic.

"Right here, Miranda," Janeway responded, her voice lower than normal.

"I see you took my advice," Miranda murmured.

"We both seem to have recognized good advice when we heard it," Janeway said with a glance at Andy.

Miranda nodded in agreement before fixing Janeway with her penetrating glare. "Perhaps now you'd like to explain why you and Seven appeared to faint in concert while your assistant did a rather striking imitation of a Neanderthal?" Miranda asked in a tone that brooked no refusal.

Dead quiet met her question.


Chapter 23

Janeway coughed and glanced toward Seven. She really hadn't expected Miranda to ask that particular question. She'd been sure she'd deflected the issue earlier, but evidently, Miranda was not that easily put off.

"I'm sure the answer does not require that much thought, Kathryn," Miranda nudged her.

"No, it doesn't," Kathryn admitted. "But a polite way to say I can't discuss it does. The answer is somewhat on a need to know basis," Janeway attempted to deflect once again.

"Need to know. An interesting choice of phrasing," Miranda mused, tapping a finger against her lips. "Perhaps you would be more willing to discuss the matter with more…shall we say, official inquisitors? Let's drop the pretense, shall we? You have involved me and my staff. I would say that gives me a definite 'need to know.'"

Janeway sighed and rubbed her eyes against a lingering feeling of fatigue. It was clear Miranda wasn't about to let this go. From the corner of her eye she noticed Seven flex her fully human hand and look at it with the tiniest of frowns. Janeway supposed she could activate an emergency beam out and leave Miranda with her questions unanswered, but somehow she didn't think the situation was entirely resolved. She felt more like herself since encouraging Miranda to talk with Andy, and the woman having done so successfully, if one could judge by the fact that she had yet to release Andy's hand, had alleviated all symptoms save the lingering feeling of fatigue that had been ever present since the first episode.

"Mommy!" A child's voice split the silence that had descended following Miranda's last comment, followed by a small, fiery haired girl running up to the editor. "You were taking a long time," she chided her mother.

Janeway stared at the little girl, struck by her startling similarity to Janeway's sister Phoebe at that same age. An overpowering wave of nostalgia and homesickness swept over her. Her mother had always said Phoebes had their great-grandmother Cooper's coloring, the flaming red hair and translucent porcelain skin. Janeway suspected she now knew where Meredith Cooper had come by those traits in order to pass them on. Was this little girl her ancestor? And, if so, was she somehow the source of the fluctuations? Janeway tapped Seven on the hand to get her attention and gestured for her to follow. A nod toward B'Elanna had her following them, and the three moved away to give Miranda and Andy some privacy to speak to the child, and afford Janeway a few moments to consult with her crewmembers.

"I'm sorry, Bobbsey. I took a bit longer than I expected. There was a great deal to address," Miranda explained.

"Did you at least talk to Andy?" Cassidy persisted with a frown.

Miranda smiled and traced her fingertips over her daughter's cheek. "Yes, I spoke with Andréa."

Cassidy looked at their clasped hands, and a wide grin spread across her face as she raised her eyes to her mother, amazement apparent in her sparkling eyes. "You're holding hands," she gasped. "Does this mean Andy wants to be our friend again?"

Andy dropped to her knees in front of Cassidy and grasped her by the shoulders gently. "I never stopped being your friend, Cass. Things just got mixed up for a while," she sighed and glanced up at Miranda who laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder. Andy looked back at Cassidy again."I misunderstood some things about your mom."

Cassidy nodded knowingly. "Yeah, lots of people do that. Cause they think she's Miranda Priestly, but she's just Mom."

Andy's lips twisted in a rueful smile. "I'm not sure she's 'just' anything, Cass. Except amazing. She explained a lot of things to me that I didn't know before."

"Mom explained?" Cassidy's eyes widened. "She never explains anything. Well, except to me and Caro."

A gentle laugh from Miranda met her daughter's incredulity. "And now Andréa," Miranda added. "Just to the people I care about most."

Cassidy paused as if considering her mother's words before nodding. "But if you were upset with Mom, why couldn't you be our friend anymore?" she asked, tears forming in her eyes.

"You remind me so much of your mother, Cassidy," Andy began by way of explanation. "You have the same beautiful blue eyes, the same quick mind, all her good, wonderful qualities you have, too. She doesn't show those things at work very often."

"Because she's the boss," Cassidy said seriously. "And the boss has to keep her distance so people will listen and do what she wants. That's why I don't ever want to be the boss. It's too lonely."

"Yes, it can be," Andy agreed. "But only if you let it be that way. There are always people around who want to be your friend. It's just sometimes hard to tell who likes you for you and who just likes what you can do for them. You have to learn to tell the difference. Otherwise, you could end up missing some really good friends and hurting people who just want you to give them a chance."

"So Mom hurt you," Cassidy guessed, shooting a stern look at her mother.

Feeling the hand on her shoulder tighten, Andy turned the small face back to her own with a finger under Cassidy's chin. "I hurt her, too, Cass, by not talking to her and telling her what I was thinking and feeling. You and Caroline remind me so much of her that it hurt to talk to you guys when I thought I couldn't talk to your mom. I know that probably doesn't make much sense to you, and I'm really sorry if I hurt you."

"It's like when Caroline stopped being best friends with Susan Clark, and then Susan didn't want to be my friend anymore, either. She said it just made her miss Caro more," Cassidy said sagely. "So you're going to be Mom's best friend now?"

Andy looked up at Miranda helplessly, unsure how to explain the changes in their relationship. Were they going to be friends…with benefits, or was there more to it? She really didn't know what Miranda envisioned for them. There hadn't been time to discuss the intricacies beyond their love for each other, and how did you explain that to an eleven-year-old?

With one hand automatically smoothing the back of her skirt to her thighs, Miranda squatted to look her daughter in the eye. "Darling, I very much hope that Andréa will be my best friend and much more than that. I love her very much, Cassidy."

"More than a best friend," Cassidy said frowning as if she wasn't clear what that meant and was trying to reason it out. Suddenly, her expression cleared, and she looked at her mother in wonder. "You want to date Andy!" She looked from one to the other, seeking confirmation.

"Yes, I do, and I hope one day she'll choose to make her home with us," Miranda admitted with a gentle smile.

"Miranda!" Andy gasped. She didn't know why she was shocked exactly. Miranda was never one to do things by halves. It only made sense that if Miranda was in love with her, she'd want them to live together. Andy just hadn't expected her to admit as much to her children and so quickly.

"You don't want to live with us?" Cassidy asked, her expression revealing her hurt at the perceived rejection. "We'd be nicer to you than we were to Stephen and wouldn't play any more tricks on you. And I bet Mom would even come home for dinner more so we could be like a real family."

Andy laid a gentle finger on Cassidy's lips to stop her. "Your mom just surprised me, Cass, that's all. She only just told me she loved me. We haven't had a chance to talk about dating, or what we were going to do about it."

"So do you love her?" Cassidy asked as if that were the only thing that mattered, and Andy supposed she was right.

"Very much," Andy said with a glowing smile at Miranda.

Cassidy gave a single nod, looking so much like her mother with the gesture that Andy had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. "Then you'll come home with us tonight, and after dinner, you and Mom can talk and decide when you're moving in," Cassidy said as if everything were settled.

Andy felt her face heating up as Miranda smirked at her. "Moving in," as Cassidy put it, was a breathtaking proposition when Miranda was involved.

"By all means, Andréa, come to dinner. It will be my pleasure to show you where you'll be sleeping once you've moved in," Miranda said in an even tone but with a glowing fire in her eyes as they rested on Andy's face.

Andy swallowed to suppress the moan she could feel rising in response to the look Miranda was giving her. It was all she could do not to lean over and taste those soft lips again, but she knew doing so wouldn't be appropriate in front of Cassidy. Besides, she felt that once she started kissing Miranda again, she wasn't going to be inclined to stop until she'd tasted every inch of her body. When Miranda raised an eyebrow in inquiry, Andy realized she was expected to answer.

"Oh, ummm, yeah, okay, I'd love to." She gave Cassidy a warm smile and then turned the temperature up on it when she turned to Miranda.

"Very well," Miranda said rising to her feet and holding out a hand to assist Andy. "I believe Kathryn and Seven will be joining us for dinner as well. There is still the issue of a few answers I'd like to have."

Janeway led her crewmembers toward the dais. "It's not over, is it?" she asked by way of beginning the conversation.

"No, I do not believe so. I am still experiencing a marginal feeling of numbness in my extremities," Seven said while flexing her hand.

"B'Elanna?" Kathryn asked.

"The anger's still there, Captain. Just not as prevalent at the moment," B'Elanna admitted, crossing her arms over her chest as if to hold the feeling in.

"Any ideas as to why you suddenly go full scale Klingon when this happens?" Janeway asked.

B'Elanna looked away, blushing faintly. "You've been something of a role model for me since we've been in the Delta Quadrant, helping me to diffuse a lot of the anger I've held for years. I think that when my personality was split by the Vidiians and later re-integrated without me having that influence the Klingon half of my personality became dominant. At least that's the doctor's theory, and it makes pretty good sense to me as well."

Janeway nodded. It did make sense and was just another example of the impact she had on various lives that she wasn't even aware of. Who would her newfound relationship with Seven impact and how? Was she doing the right thing?

"Kathryn, withdrawal is unacceptable. I will not allow you to end what has only just begun," Seven stated sternly.

"You know me too well, Seven," Janeway said with a lopsided grin.

"Permission to speak freely, Captain?" B'Elanna requested.

"Go ahead, B'Elanna." Janeway nodded.

"You have an effect on every person on Voyager. Up to now, it's been one of self-denial in many ways, but who knows how long we're gonna be out there. Wouldn't a better example be to continue to live life in the best way possible while still trying to get home? I know of at least four potential couples onboard who are denying their feelings for each other because they don't think you'd accept it. They're giving up a chance at happiness because of your example. Is that really the message you want to send?"

Was that the message she wanted to send? No, it wasn't. Janeway didn't need to think about it. She wanted her crew happy, or as happy as they could be given their situation. Telling them so wouldn't work if she showed them something entirely different. "Thank you, B'Elanna," she murmured, twining her fingers with Seven's. She turned her mind back to the problem at hand. "Evidently getting Miranda and Andy together wasn't enough as we're all still having some symptoms. So either the issue goes deeper or there's an outside influence we're not aware of, yet. Seven, are you eavesdropping again?"

"That is correct, Captain," Seven admitted with a tiny smile. "Miranda Priestly has more than one child, though I was already aware of this, and it appears Six will be 'moving in.'"

Janeway couldn't hide her astonishment. "Already? Miranda isn't wasting any time."

"Miranda Priestly is known to be decisive," Seven affirmed. "She is also extremely protective of her children."

"Then you're thinking what I am? That one of her children is the problem?" Janeway asked.

"Yes, Captain. I also believe that she will not take well to any attempt to question them without knowing the details of our mission," said Seven. "There is still the possibility of the alteration coming from a different source entirely."

"None of which explains how this got so far off track in the first place," Janeway said, rubbing the back of her neck. "Someone had to have taken an action that caused the deviation. The question remains, who?"

"There is a possibility, Captain. One we have not yet explored. This is not the first time an attempt was made to erase your existence," Seven reminded her.

"It isn't?" B'Elanna spoke up.

"Temporal Prime Directive," Janeway said by way of explanation.

"Then I'll leave you two alone. Let me know if you need me for anything else," B'Elanna said before walking over to fiddle with some of the camera equipment.

"Braxton is supposed to have been re-integrated and confined for treatment, Seven. Surely, Ducane would have let us know if he'd gotten lose again," Janeway said.

"It is possible they are not aware of his activities. They did not realize it was Braxton who attempted to destroy Voyager the first time. It was even Braxton who sent me to apprehend the perpetrator."

Janeway rubbed both hands over her face in frustration. "I hate time travel," she snarled.

"I am aware, Kathryn," Seven said with the infinitesimal smirk she often assumed when Janeway had done something that she considered typical behavior.

Shaking her head at her love's expression, Janeway chuckled. "I'm sure you are, Seven. I guess we need to talk to Miranda. It seems the best way to get this settled. And it looks like this is the time," Janeway said nodding subtly to let Seven know Miranda was approaching.

"Kathryn, you and Seven will be accompanying us to my home for dinner this evening," Miranda said as she walked up.

"What a lovely idea, Miranda. We'd be glad to," Janeway smiled. This might turn out to be easier than she'd first thought.


Chapter 24

"So, you're a doctor?" Nigel asked giving the tall balding man a subtle once over. Nice Armani suit, but that tie was just… Nigel shuddered. Well, they could do something about that later.

"Yes, I am," the doctor said pleasantly as he examined the collection of cameras spread out on a table in the studio.

"Not many doctors make house calls these days. You must be very dedicated," Nigel observed.

"Nice of you to notice," the doctor preened. "I wish my patients were as observant. It would make my job a great deal easier."

"I've always been impressed with doctors, the long years of study, the level of commitment. It takes a very special person," Nigel said moving closer. "Your wife must be very proud of you."

"Oh, I don't have a wife," the doctor denied. "I have my music and my studies. They're…sufficient."

"Really?" Nigel purred. "You're a musician?"

"A singer, actually. An operatic tenor," the doctor bragged.

"I love opera. There's a wonderful café I know that features a series of singers. Most are young hopefuls, but they often have lovely voices. Perhaps you'd be interested in hearing them," Nigel said smiling.

The doctor's eyes widened. "Oh, well, I don't know. I might be needed here," the doctor hedged.

"Nonsense, Doctor," Kathryn said as she walked up, followed by Seven, Andy, Cassidy, and Miranda. "Seven and I are having dinner with Miranda tonight. We can call you if we need you. B'Elanna's going to finish up here, and I believe we'll probably be late getting back. I know how much you love the opera. Go and have a good time."

"No, really, I…" the doctor started.

"Wonderful! It's settled then," Nigel cut in and, grabbing the doctor by the arm, began to drag him toward the door. "See you all tomorrow." He pulled the doctor through the door and was gone.

"You do realize that Nigel is gay," Miranda commented.

"Yes, I do," Janeway said with an evil smirk.

"Kathryn, why did you insist the doctor spend the evening with Nigel Kipling when he clearly did not wish to?" Seven questioned.

"Darling, the doctor has shown entirely too much interest in you over the years. I thought it was time he broadened his outlook. I'm sure Nigel will prove quite creative in assisting him to do so," Janeway chuckled.

"Indeed," Seven commented with a concerned look. "And if the doctor does not choose to be…broadened?"

"Nigel can be quite persuasive, I assure you," Miranda informed her. "Emily, call my home and inform the cook there will be three more for dinner. Then you and Serena may go. We will see you both here tomorrow. That's all." Miranda waved them away.

Janeway stifled a laugh as Emily dragged Serena through the door much as Nigel had the doctor, though Serena was being much more cooperative. Andy wasn't as successful, giggling softly at the display.

"My car and driver are waiting outside. It will be a bit of a tight fit, but I believe we can manage it." Miranda said, taking Cassidy's hand in one of hers and Andy's in the other, and heading for the doorway. "Kathryn, Seven, come along."

Dinner was a pleasant affair. After Janeway got over her surprise at exactly how identical the twins actually were, she began to perceive slight differences in their appearance, but more importantly, she realized that they were two entirely separate people with their own views and opinions. Cassidy was the more outspoken of the two, reminding Janeway even more of her sister, while Caroline seemed to be the more reserved, not unlike Janeway herself. The more time she spent with them the less sure she was which one was her direct ancestor, and without knowing that she was going to have a hard time figuring out how to correct the deviation in the timeline.

After they finished eating, the twins excused themselves upstairs to play something called a Wii and Miranda invited Janeway and Seven into the den for an after dinner aperitif and coffee. As Miranda was pouring out measures of brandy for all but Seven, who had declined the offer and requested tea instead, Janeway continued to muse on their predicament. The Temporal Prime Directive did not allow for her to tell Miranda the truth about who she was or why she was there. Yet, it was becoming apparent that she really didn't have a great deal of choice other than to do just that.

"The Temporal Prime Directive prohibits doing what you are thinking, Kathryn," Seven spoke in her ear.

Janeway sighed. As if she had to be reminded of that. I hate time travel. "I'm aware of that, Seven, but I see little other recourse. Miranda would know better than anyone if one of her girls is acting differently, and there's no way she's going to let either of us interrogate one of them without knowing exactly what is going on."

"You must decide quickly," Seven advised nodding toward Miranda, who was advancing on them with two goblets of dark liquid in her hands.

"Kathryn, I believe it's now time for you to explain what exactly is going on with your group," Miranda stated, handing over one of the goblets to Janeway and offering the other to Andy. She returned to the bar and retrieved her own glass, taking a small sip before fixing Janeway with a steely glare.

"Would it be possible for us to speak in private?" Janeway asked. She needed to explain things to Miranda, but Andy was another matter.

Miranda took another small drink of her brandy, appearing to weigh the idea, but giving a decisive nod. "Very well. We can adjourn to my study. Andréa, you are aware of my girls' bedtime. Please see to it that they do not miss it. I will look in on them when we are finished if they're already in bed," Miranda said, giving Andy a gentle smile. She squeezed Andy's hand in passing and led Janeway upstairs.

Andy wasn't thrilled with Miranda being alone with Kathryn without knowing what was going on. She had instinctively trusted the woman from the moment they met, but in truth, none of them knew very much about the photographer. She also wasn't all that happy about being left to entertain Seven. She still held a small resentment for the tall blonde who had usurped her place as Miranda's assistant. Were it not for Seven, Andy might not have been sent away in the first place, though Andy couldn't help thinking that she and Miranda might never have spoken of their feelings if they were still in daily contact. Would Miranda have said something that much sooner if I had walked away in Paris? Knowing there was no point in second guessing the past, Andy rose to accept the tray from the cook that held Seven's tea. She rested the tray on the coffee table and, once seated, poured out a cup for Seven. "Milk, sugar, lemon?" she asked, playing the proper hostess.

"Sugar, one lump," Seven replied and accepted the cup once it was prepared. After a tentative sip, she nodded. "Perfectly prepared."

Andy couldn't help smiling. "Miranda wouldn't have it any other way."

"Miranda Priestly is extremely efficient," Seven agreed. "As is Kathryn, though perhaps more emotionally overt in her methods."

"Miranda can be very emotional with those she trusts. There just aren't a lot of people that she allows that close," Andy said, feeling she had to defend the woman she loved.

Seven sat neatly on the couch near Andy, knees together and back straight. The contrast between the two was startling as Andy turned to the side, resting one knee up on the cushion and leaning against the back of the couch.

"Kathryn can be very similar. I believe she thinks that allowing her emotions to show would inhibit her ability to lead. Her logic is faulty, though understandable," Seven observed.

"Oh, that definitely sounds like Miranda. No one at Runway can see her as human. She takes great pains to reinforce her Dragon Lady image whenever possible," Andy laughed and gave an affectionate shake of her head at some of the things Miranda had done to instill fear in her employees.

"I assume she has proven quite difficult to work with," Seven mused.

"You have no idea," Andy said chuckling. "She regularly demands I do the impossible. Somehow I always manage to pull it off, though I'm never really sure how." She looked down into her goblet for a moment before taking a drink. "I just don't want to disappoint her, I guess. She gets enough of that from other people."

"The fact that you are able to perform these duties prohibits their being thought of as impossible," Seven stated logically. "Perhaps she seeks to challenge you. Kathryn is quite fond of challenging me. I believe it amuses her to observe me while I attempt to assimilate the knowledge she takes for granted." Seven frowned for a moment. "Though she is always available to assist me when I have questions of a philosophical nature."

Remembering the "Cerulean Lecture" as it had become known at Runway, Andy grinned. "Yeah, Miranda explains things to me a lot."

"Cassidy Priestly expressed surprise that her mother does so. This is unusual behavior for her?"Seven asked.

"How did you--," Andy started and then waved the question away. This was Seven she was talking to, and anyone who could impress Miranda that much with her constant efficiency must have a healthy dose of mind-reader in her genetic makeup. "Miranda never explains anything, and no one dares ask. Well, except the twins, of course. They're the exception to all the rules the rest of us live by."

"And now, it would seem, so are you," Seven observed.

"Yeah, I guess I am," Andy agreed with a dreamy smile. Miranda loves me. How cool is that?

"I have observed you with Miranda Priestly since I came to Runway. I did not believe at first that you liked her. Your new relationship status will come as a surprise to the rest of your collective as well."

Andy laughed. "Seven, you have a unique way of putting things. If you weren't so efficien,t you'd drive Miranda crazy."

"She has expressed as much to me," Seven stated by way of agreement.

"You're right though," Andy continued. "Things haven't been good between me and Miranda for a while, though it was mostly me with the problem. I thought of leaving so many times but then kept changing my mind. Getting my full year in seemed to become more and more important, and I just kept getting angrier at Miranda the longer I stayed." Combing her fingers through the hair on the side of her head, Andy then rested her head on her knuckles, elbow propped on the back of the couch and pulled her other knee up to rest on the leg already curled before her. "I cared about her, and it was so hard to be around her feeling the way I did and thinking she'd never feel the same, wasn't capable of it. It was easier to build walls between us and use anger to keep them there."

"When Kathryn and I became angry with each other, the effect was directly the opposite. We seemed to draw closer during those discussions. Her body is often centimeters from my own when we have a strong disagreement."

"Strong emotions reflecting other strong emotions," Andy mused with a grin. "You should have just kissed her, would have saved a lot of time."

"As you kissed Miranda Priestly?" Seven asked with an arched eyebrow.

"Umm…yeah, point taken," Andy said blushing. "I guess the first move did have to come from them."

"You said that you often wished to leave Runway. Why did you not do so?"

"Every time I decided to walk away, something stopped me," Andy began and then stopped. She ran her fingers through her hair again, curling a lock around and around as she thought. "You know, that's not exactly right. Every time I made up my mind to leave, I'd run into this guy, and he'd say something that got me thinking. Anyway, I'd change my mind and be more determined than ever to stay for the full year. They say a year with Miranda and you can work anywhere. I wanted that." She smiled ruefully. "Or maybe I just wanted any excuse I could find to stay near her. I don't know. Being close to her, even as angry as I was, was better than not seeing her at all."

Seven straightened even more if that was possible an expression of intense concentration on her face. "Someone interfered with your leaving Runway?" she asked.

"Well, not interfered really. He'd just make a comment that would get me to thinking that I should stick it out." Andy shrugged.

"What did this man look like?" Seven asked.

"Average, I guess. Middle-aged, about fifty, I'd say," Andy blushed as she realized what she'd said. Miranda was also fifty. If I can look like that at her age, bring it on!

"Six, you must concentrate," Seven directed with a note of exasperation in her tone.

"What's so important about him?" Andy asked, leaning her head to the side.

"I do not know that anything is important about this individual. However, it would appear from your statements that you did not know him prior to your interactions with him recently. I find it interesting that a stranger could have such a strong impact on your actions."

Andy frowned, twirling a strand of hair around her fingers rapidly. "It was just that the stuff he said got me to thinking, stuff about giving up and being beaten by Miranda. It just fed into what I was already feeling."

"When did you first meet this individual?"

"In Paris, after…well, something happened at one of the luncheons, and I was going to walk away from Miranda and Runway. I'd gotten as far as a fountain in the square nearby. Miranda was calling me, and I was about to throw the phone in the fountain when he said something about not letting it fall in. I just instinctively held on to it. We talked for a minute, and then Miranda called again. That time I answered and made some excuse about needing a breath of fresh air. She just told me to get back there and do my job, which kinda surprised me, but that's what I did, though I made up my mind that's all I'd do. I wouldn't care about her anymore. Easier said than done," Andy finished ruefully.

"This man, what did he say that made you change your mind?" Seven pushed.

"Something about being forewarned is forearmed. I—what happened that day, it made me think Miranda couldn't be trusted. That eventually she'd do the same thing to me. I thought I needed to get out before she could, or worse, I became so much like her that I'd do the same to someone," Andy finished. Dropping her head back, she closed her eyes and remembered the feelings she'd had that day. "It would have killed me if she'd done what she did to N – the same thing to me."

"And it would have been equally as devastating for me, had I been forced to do so, Andréa," Miranda said, clearly having caught Andy's last comment as she came back into the room followed by Janeway. "Were I now faced with a choice of losing Runway or you…I would miss the magazine, but I'm sure I could find another use for my talents that is just as satisfactory."

Andy stared at her. Miranda would give up Runway for her?

"Breathe, Andréa," Miranda advised with a smirk. "You cannot think I would allow anything to take you from me, now that I finally have you."

"Oh, wow, Miranda. I don't even know what to say," Andy gasped.

"Then say nothing, Darling. I spoke with the girls before we came down, and they're getting ready for bed now. Kathryn and Seven will be remaining with us tonight. Could you please show them to the guest room on the third floor, last room on the right? I'll tuck the girls in and join you afterward," Miranda directed.

"Join me?" Andy asked, frowning. "Where?"

"In our room, Andréa. Where else would you sleep tonight?"

"Our room," Andy parroted, surprised both that Miranda would speak of a room as theirs and that Miranda seemed to think she knew which one it was.

"Yes, Darling. Our bedroom. First door on the left on that same floor," Miranda explained as if Andy should be aware. "I'll join you momentarily." She turned and left the room without glancing back.

"We" have a bedroom. Andy felt her heart race at the thought, though she realized she should have expected it. Miranda always moved quickly once she'd made up her mind about something. The woman was nothing if not decisive. Andy's eyes widened as she realized that their having a bedroom also meant they had a bed. One in which Andy was evidently expected to sleep with Miranda. Breathe, Andy, breathe! She sucked a loud breath into her lungs and blushed as Janeway chuckled. Two could so play at that game, Andy thought before putting on her most innocent smile. "Just follow me, Kathryn. I'll show you and Seven to your bedroom for the night." Andy bit her lip to keep from laughing as Janeway's eyes grew enormous and she sucked in her own loud breath. Payback is a glorious thing, Andy chuckled to herself.


Chapter 25

B'Elanna once again sat in her chair on the roof, feet propped on the low stone wall that encircled it. She watched the blinking lights of the city. Heaving a sigh, she rubbed her eyes. They burned both from the long day, and the tears she had fought not to shed for the last hour. Upon returning to the shuttle, she'd checked on the captain's journals and was surprised that one was still missing, which supported the captain's theory that the situation wasn't resolved yet. She supposed she shouldn't be surprised that things hadn't proven to be as easy as they'd hoped. When was it ever? she thought with a wry grimace.

Nothing had ever been simple in B'Elanna's life. There was no reason for it to suddenly change now. She had broken things off with Tom because she'd realized she was taking the easy way out, settling for something that was less than what she really wanted. It wasn't that he was a bad person, because he wasn't. Just a little too immature and childishly impulsive to make B'Elanna really comfortable in a long term relationship with him. She supposed she had just reacted to the loneliness of being stranded so far from home, with few options for romantic companionship and instead had settled for the first person who dared to approach her. When she'd caught herself more and more frequently thinking that she'd be better off alone than dealing with Tom's issues, she'd realized it was time to get out. So here I sit on this stupid roof while even the doctor has a date tonight! Kahless, how pathetic can a person get?

Not that she resented any of her friends for what they'd found together. It was about time the captain and Seven admitted their feelings for each other. The rank and file onboard Voyager had been taking bets for years on how long it would take them. She wondered who would win or if anyone would since she doubted anyone had bet on a date three hundred years in the past. B'Elanna snorted at the thought. Only Janeway would finally admit her love for the Borg in the middle of an away mission that held all their lives in the balance, but then, would there ever have been a better time? If they failed, then Janeway would lose any chance of telling Seven.

B'Elanna had thought they'd succeeded when Miranda had kept Andy in the backroom to talk to her. Getting those two to admit their feelings was a major coup and she'd been sure it was what was causing the variance in the timeline. Evidently, there was something far more insidious going on. She only hoped the captain could figure it out in time. In a little over an hour, three couples had been able to work out their issues and come together. B'Elanna grunted at the irony. They were all out there right now spending their first night together as couples, and here she sat alone. Two weeks ago, before this all began, she'd been the only one in a relationship, and now she was the only one who wasn't, which is what had brought her to be sitting here fighting tears.

Disgusted with her own sentimentality, B'Elanna pushed up from her seat and strode toward the shuttle. It was time to take another look at the clues they'd gathered so far. They still had a mission and a mystery to solve.

Andy opened the door Miranda had indicated and gestured for Janeway and Seven to precede her into the room. "If I know Miranda, you'll find everything you need. I'll see you in the morning," she said before closing the door and leaving them alone.

Janeway walked further into the room, avoiding looking toward the bed at all costs. The door nearest the bed led to the en suite. That much she could tell through the open door, which meant that the other door must be a closet. She drifted towards the dresser and idly opened a drawer finding several pairs of silk pajamas in assorted sizes folded neatly. She drew out two pair, one for herself and one she estimated would fit Seven.

"Kathryn, there is no sonic shower," Seven observed standing in the doorway of the en suite and observing the interior of the smaller room.

"They didn't have sonic showers in this century, Seven. Those are pretty much relegated to space ships of various types to preserve their water supplies," Janeway informed her while suppressing a grin. Seven really was a child of the stars. Though child was a very loose term when applied to Seven, Janeway thought, letting her eyes slide down the long, curvaceous body standing before her. It would be foolish to try to deny to herself that she wanted Seven as she'd never remembered wanting anyone before, but it all seemed to be happening too fast. She'd barely allowed herself to acknowledge her own feelings, much less considered what all this would mean with Seven returning them. She crossed to stand beside Seven and held out a pair of royal blue pajamas. "How about you change into these, and we can work out the shower situation in the morning?"

"I am to wear these?" Seven asked, holding the clothing in her fingertips and allowing both pieces to unfold and dangle before her. She eyed them with a look of disdain. "Will they not interfere with copulation, Kathryn?"

Janeway choked on a laugh. "Seven, we will not be making love tonight." She could almost see Seven evaluating the phrase and filing it away for later usage.

"We will not?" Seven questioned with a frown. "You have changed your mind. You no longer wish to be in a relationship with me." Her face settled into the expressionless planes that Janeway knew meant Seven was hiding her emotions. "It is understandable. This drone has little to offer. I will request that Miranda Priestly assign me different quarters for the night." She turned for the door to the hallway, but Janeway caught her elbow.

"Seven, I haven't changed my mind about anything and believe me, you have a great deal to offer. I would just prefer to take things a bit slowly at first, if that's all right."

"It is not my preference, Kathryn, but I will comply," Seven stated. "I do not require the usage of the en suite at this time. You can change there, and I will do so here. I am assuming you do not wish to watch me disrobe."

Janeway cupped a porcelain cheek gently. "Darling, I would very much love to watch you, but I'm afraid it would severely shake my resolve to take things slowly. Please stay with me tonight. I want to hold you, Seven. I want to sleep in your arms. Will you do that for me?"

"Yes, Kathryn," Seven gave her tiny smile. "I do not…sleep, but I would very much like to hold you while you do so."

"All right, Darling. Just give me a moment," Janeway said. She closed the door between them and quickly changed, finding a toothbrush and paste in a drawer of the vanity. She only took a few minutes to clean up enough to feel comfortable while sleeping. Walking back into the bedroom, she stopped and smiled at the woman lying stiffly in the bed.

Seven was on her back under the covers and was clearly uncomfortable in that position. "What do you find so amusing, Kathryn? Am I doing this incorrectly?"

"No, Seven, you're doing fine," Janeway said, lifting the covers and sliding under them. She curled up against Seven's side and rested her head on a slim shoulder. "Is this all right?"

Seven's arm moved around Janeway's waist and pulled her closer. "This is acceptable," Seven replied.

Janeway smiled as she felt Seven slowly relaxing into the fit of their bodies. Soon a second arm encircled her, and she was pulled closer to her love's long body. She draped her knee over Seven's thighs and snuggled close. Lifting her head, she shifted enough to bring their lips together giving Seven a gentle kiss. "Good night, Darling," she murmured against the full lips under her own.

"This is a good night kiss?" Seven asked.

"Yes, it is," Janeway agreed. "Though good night kisses don't necessarily require you to be in bed to give or receive one."

"I like good night kisses," Seven stated emphatically and reclaimed Janeway's lips in a deep, thorough kiss.

Janeway found herself lost in the warmth and subtle passion that flared between them. She enjoyed it for a moment or two, but then forced herself to break the kiss. "It's time to sleep, Darling."

"Yes, Kathryn," Seven acquiesced. "Though I believe kissing to be more beneficial, you are tired and should rest."

Resting her head back on the soft shoulder, Janeway's chuckle was interrupted by a yawn. In moments she was asleep, safe in Seven's embrace.

Andy sat on the side of Miranda's bed nervously fidgeting with her fingers. Every few moments, she'd jump up and pace the room before settling back down to sit on the bed. She couldn't help wondering what was taking Miranda so long. As the door opened to finally admit her soon to be lover, Andy leapt to her feet once again.

"Andréa, relax, please," Miranda said, closing and locking the door behind her before moving further into the room.

"I'm sorry. I just can't seem to sit still," Andy apologized with a shrug. "I don't know what's wrong with me."

"Perhaps the same thing that I'm feeling," Miranda offered. "I'm quite nervous about this, Andréa."

Andy smiled ruefully. "You look as calm as always, Miranda. I wouldn't have thought you were the slightest bit nervous."

"I've had a great deal more practice at hiding my emotions. Just because I don't readily show them does not mean they aren't there. I find myself in love with a woman half my age and having confessed to those feelings, I'm now alone with her for the first time…in my bedroom. I could quite easily be utterly terrified if I allowed myself to be so. However, more than anything, I want to be with you, Andréa. I want a chance for something beyond tonight. To have that I cannot allow my fears to rule me." Miranda had crossed the room as she spoke until she stood so close to Andy that a deep breath would have brought their bodies into contact. "I want you, Andréa. Tonight, tomorrow night, and every night for the rest of my life. The question is can you overcome your own fear enough to allow me to have you?"

And that really is the question, isn't it? Andy's fear of the hurt Miranda could cause her had started the entire chain of events. Could she now put that fear aside, knowing what she did about Miranda and not just love her, but let herself be loved by the woman? Doing so would be the biggest risk she had ever taken. But then, how could she not? To have the chance to be with Miranda, to love her, to make love with her, could Andy really pass that up?

"What do you want, Miranda? How do you see this working?" She gestured between them to let Miranda know she meant their relationship and not just that night's activities, though she'd have liked to know that, too.

Miranda took her hand and led her to sit on the bed once again. She kept the hand in her own as she traced a finger over the slender knuckles, appearing deep in thought. "I would like the time and opportunity to get to know you outside of the office. I would like to date, to spend time together, both just us and with my children. I would like to take the time to see how things develop between us, but I am me, Andréa. Patience is not a virtue that I have in any great quantity. Nor does my notoriety allow for anonymously moving forward slowly. The first time I take you to dinner outside of this house the world will know of it. Plus there is the fact that you work for me, directly under me, if you'll forgive the phrasing, something that will carry only the vilest of connotations in the press. I realize very little of this answers your questions, so I will attempt to be more concise. I want you to take the position I offered you in editorial, regardless of how the opening came about, and I want you in my bed openly, now and forever," Miranda finished and sat waiting.

Andy huffed a sigh. "I can't take a job that you fired someone to give me." Andy held up her hand as Miranda started to object. "We'll find another alternative. I can get a job somewhere else. It might be better if I'm not where Irv can use me against you anyway. I'll have no trouble getting a job with your's or Nigel's recommendation. As for the rest, as long as the girls are good with it, you couldn't pry me out of this bed after tonight."

"Then make love with me, Andréa," Miranda said, sliding her hand behind Andy's neck and pulling her closer.

The kiss was soft, a sensual sliding of lips. It was the kind of kiss that brought the world to a standstill and caused hearts to lurch in panting chests. It reached down deep and created an ache that could only be satisfied by the other's touch. Andy lay back on the bed and drew Miranda with her. She wanted to feel Miranda's weight on top of her, pressing her down into the softness of the mattress, feel the heat of Miranda's body holding her down, imprinting on her senses. She opened her thighs, trapping Miranda between them as she accepted a hot probing tongue into her mouth. She sucked on Miranda's tongue, moaning low in her throat.

Fingers worked buttons and zippers as hands drew clothes from heated flesh until, at last, Andy's fantasies came to life with the feel of Miranda's naked flesh against her own. She moved her legs reveling in the feeingl of narrow hips against the insides of her thighs and rounded buttocks under her heels. Soft breasts pressed into hers, and Andy bit her lip to suppress a sob. This was Miranda's body on hers. Andy bit her lip again moments later to keep from screaming aloud as her nipple was enveloped in wet heat and Miranda began the steady pull and release of sucking.

"Let me hear you, Andréa. The rooms on this floor are sound-proofed," Miranda mumbled around her mouthful.

It was all Andy needed to know. Though vocal by nature, thin walls had always necessitated restraining herself in past encounters. From Miranda's first touch, Andy had feared she would end up chewing her lips to shreds or smothering herself with a pillow to keep from being heard outside the bedroom. Released from the need for such restraint, Andy practically sang as Miranda drove her higher and higher. Lips and fingers danced over her skin, eliciting moans and cries of pleasure as they moved down her body.

Andy lifted her head to look down at Miranda's head between her thighs and almost came from the sight alone. Soft white hair whispered over the skin of her inner thighs, tickling and stroking with each movement of Miranda's head. Andy groaned loudly, her head falling on the bed as Miranda's tongue stroked the length of her center. She could feel the arousal flowing out and toward the hot muscle that slid over her flesh. Grabbing at a pillow, Andy shoved it under her head. She wanted to see, to watch as Miranda took her. She fastened her eyes on that deep blue gaze as Miranda feasted on her tender flesh, nose rubbing against her clit randomly, sending shockwaves through her body.

"Miranda," Andy moaned. The blue seemed to twinkle at her as if Miranda knew her thoughts. Then Andy felt the deepest recesses of her core begin to stretch as Miranda pressed fingers into her. Knowing Miranda had small, delicate hands, Andy realized there were at least three fingers moving steadily up inside her.

Miranda pressed a kiss against the inside of one thigh. "What do you want, Andréa? It's your turn to tell me."

Barely able to think, Andy stared at Miranda for a moment until the words finally clicked in her consciousness. She blushed furiously, though what there was to be embarrassed about spread-naked with three of Miranda's fingers deep inside her body, Andy wasn't sure of, nor did she feel capable of reasoning it out. "Fuck me," she gasped. "I wa–want you to fuck me."

A roar rose from deep in Andy's belly as Miranda's hand began to move hard and fast. Soft lips fastened tightly around her clit and the effects of sucking alternated with a flashing tongue tore through her. The sensations wiped all thought from Andy's mind. She could only feel, feel what Miranda was doing to her. Her hips began to move independent from thought, meeting each stinging thrust of Miranda's fingers, accelerating the movements, adding to the power of Miranda's penetration. She was being taken, claimed by her Miranda. Threading her fingers into that beautiful white hair, Andy wrapped her thighs around Miranda's head and arched towards her, screaming as her body exploded and the world imploded.

When Andy became aware of her surroundings once more, it was to the feel of soft skin against her body and lithe arms holding her securely. Lips moved gently over her face in delicate kisses. "Miranda," she murmured, arching against her lover.

"Hello again, Andréa. I was beginning to wonder if you would be rejoining me tonight," Miranda said with a warm smile.

Andy buried her face in Miranda's neck, feeling a blush warm her skin. "I'm sorry. I don't usually get that carried away or noisy. I didn't even take care of you."

A finger under her chin tipped Andy's face up to Miranda's. "Do…not…apologize for that. It was the single most amazing sexual experience of my life. Just knowing that I could cause that reaction in you finished me off quite nicely. I would have joined you in sleep, but I wished to make sure that you were all right."

"I'm fine, Miranda. Wonderful, in fact," Andy grinned and then yawned strongly. "I'm sorry. I think you wiped me out."

"Yes, it appears I did," Miranda agreed with a decidedly smug look.

Andy laughed. "You're going to be insufferable now, aren't you?"

Miranda sniffed in disdain. "I'm always insufferable. I would wager to bet you find it quite stimulating."

Giggling, Andy nodded. "Yep, and how freaky does that make me that I get aroused when you get bitchy?"

"I predict that you will spend a great deal of your life wet if that is the case, Andréa," Miranda said in her haughtiest tone.

"Lucky me," Andy said with a moan as she pulled Miranda in for another deep, wet kiss.

Part 26

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