DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SEQUEL: To A Visitor Comes to Town.

How Others See Her
By kosmos8



She is saying something in the back seat about the dreadful Manhattan traffic, and that the mayor had better pass that wretched congestion tax soon, or else.

Roy half-listens and grunts in agreement, noting briefly in the rear-view mirror that she is flipping through some work. He learnt very early on that whenever Miranda Priestly speaks, it's best to acknowledge her, whether or not she's actually speaking to you. Most of the time she's not, but you would have no way of knowing until she suddenly and swiftly swoops on you to inquire why, exactly, you are not paying attention. And that usually means a very painful rest of the day for Roy, so he avoids it if he can.

Miranda informs him that if he were half as good a driver as he claims to be, he should be able to find a way to her office without taking all morning.

Not for the first time, Roy wonders why he still works for her, and like every time before, the answer is clear. It is said that if you work as Miranda Priestly's assistant for one year, you can find a job anywhere; likewise, if you drive for Miranda Priestly for one year, you can probably even chauffeur the Devil himself. Unfortunately, no one in Manhattan, including the Devil, would likely pay as well as Miranda does, so Roy bites his tongue and nods a "I'm sorry, Ms Priestly."

She must be in a talkative mood today. "There's no need for all these people to be driving in these streets. Why don't they take the subway or something?"

"No idea, Ms Priestly."

"Even the mayor takes the subway. I don't understand why more people don't. It's so much better for the environment."

"That's a good point."

Probably not a good time to mention that Miranda Priestly is chauffeured nearly everywhere she goes.

"Do you take the subway, Roy?"

"Sometimes, Ms Priestly."

"What's it like?"

Roy nearly misses a right turn. "Excuse me?"

"Riding the subway." She sounds impatient. "What's it like? It's been so long, I barely remember."

She's asked stranger things before -- once she asked Roy what "spare time" was, and what "people like him" do when they find themselves with it. It's near suicidal not to take everything she says seriously, so Roy answers the question as if someone had asked him about his health insurance.

"Well, there are lots of different subway lines, so you want to make sure you know where you are going and you don't get lost. After you buy a ticket at the gate, you find the right train and then you wait for the train to arrive. They come pretty frequently. It's like riding a car, only it's underground and you can't tell it where to go and you share it with lots of people."

Roy can see her visibly shudder behind him. "Is it crowded?"

"Maybe during rush hour. But most of the time you can find a seat."

She sniffs. "Can't imagine how people manage to live like that day in and day out."

"No idea, Ms Priestly."

"Don't take the subway if you can avoid it, Roy -- who knows what you can catch down there from all those people, and I certainly don't want you giving it to me. Feel free to use my car when I'm not in need of it."

Which would be practically never.

"That's very kind of you, Ms Priestly, but what about the environment?"

"Oh, use clean gas or something. Does this car run on ethanol?"

"I don't think it does, Ms Priestly."

"Well, make it so it does."

Roy thankfully stops the car outside of Elias-Clarke Publications. He hopes by the next time she sees him, she will have forgotten this entire exchange and the request to add an ethanol-compatible engine to the Benz.

"We're here, Ms Priestly."

"And so we are." Miranda gathers her things. "How's your mother lately, Roy?"

"Still in hospital, but doing as well as can be expected. Thanks for asking."

Roy's mother fell down the stairs a week ago and broke her hip. She is at the age where such an injury can cause dangerous complications, so Roy cannot mask the worry in his voice.

"I've been keeping you busy recently. When's the last time you saw her?"

"A few nights ago, I believe."

Miranda checks her watch. "I need you at lunch, but after that I'm in meetings all afternoon. You should take the time to visit her then."

It has been rumoured recently among Miranda's employees that she has been acting very strangely as of late, and this latest, uncharacteristic interest in his life outside of work is just more evidence of it. Roy struggles to keep his jaw shut. "Thank you, Ms Priestly."

Miranda shoots him a glare in the rear-view mirror. "Use the time to visit the hospital, Roy, and nowhere else."

Roy knows that she would see through him in an instant if he didn't. "Understood, Ms Priestly."

"I'll see you at noon, then."

"See you later, Ms Priestly."

She steps out of the car, heels clacking on the pavement, handbag tightly on her arm as she approaches the entrance of the building. Roy watches her enter before letting out his breath and stepping on the accelerator.

Roy has learnt that the best way to work for Miranda Priestly is to work with everyone else that works for her, from her personal assistants to her facialist to the waiters in the restaurants she eats at. He's acquired a good deal of communication skills and networking skills as a result, and he'd be well equipped to deal with any job should he ever choose to work elsewhere.

He won't, though. Because in spite of what Miranda says to his face, he believes that he has been one of the best drivers in her employment recently -- he's learnt to expect what she wants, and can deal with whatever she sends his way. Because she's a demanding employer, but he recognizes that she compensates well -- you just have to know how to look at it. But most of all, because after all this time, he still forgets that the woman can surprise him out of nowhere.



Magazines, check.

Cleared desk, check.

Glass of water (Perrier, not San Pellegrino, because she had a bad experience with it a week ago), check.

Scalding hot coffee for Miranda, check.

Reports for the day, documents to be signed and approved, new pens in her desk, paper in the printer, check, check, check.

Bathroom stop, check. (Emily won't get another one for a few hours, and she's already taken care not to consume any liquids this morning.)

Last minute confirmation with Miranda's driver, check.

"She asked about your mother?" she says into the phone. "I've worked here for over two years and I don't think she even knows if I HAVE a mother."

But now is not the time to be gossiping. Emily hangs up and waits patiently by the elevator with her trusty notepad.

Right on cue, Miranda emerges and shoves the Book into Emily's waiting arms, and barks out her orders for the morning as she stalks to her office. Emily is prepared for this every morning, but as usual she struggles to keep up.

1) Confirm a table for two at fifteen past noon at that Japanese restaurant Miranda doesn't hate.

2) Contact the guest writers for next month's issue and remind them that the deadline to send their articles to Runway for proofreading and editing is today at ten; they've had weeks to do it, so there should be no excuse.

3) Confirm interview times with Kate Winslet and Helen Mirren for the future English actresses feature, which isn't happening until Emily can actually confirm their availability, so please hop to it.

4) Schedule a meeting with Jocelyn that afternoon to discuss next year's Fall trends, doesn't matter when, just stick her into any free slot.

5) Reschedule the 2PM meeting with Irv to 4:30PM.

6) Finalize the menus for the benefit in two weeks. No, have the menus on Miranda's desk and Miranda will look over them first.

7) Call that woman from that company and get those props sent over for that photo shoot this afternoon because last time they were thirty minutes late and they better be on time this time.

8) Have someone go to her house today to check on the climate control in that guest room on the third floor that is rarely used.

9) Have flowers sent to the wife of the CEO of that firm with a suitable note; Miranda trusts Emily to come up with something adequate.

10) Pick up the scarves and samples from Hermes and have them here before noon.

11) Prepare Miranda's schedule for Fashion Week and check that the guests seated to the left or right of her will not be too odious; if they are, demand a seating change.

12) Remind Roy to pick her up at 6PM after work today.

13) Have an order of antibacterial wipes delivered to her house today.

They have arrived at Emily's desk, and Miranda is about to continue onto her own part of the office, so Emily decides that now is the best and only time to bring it up.

"By the way -- have you made a decision on which one to hire yet?""

Miranda stops brusquely. "Which one what who?"

No one ever suggests anything to Miranda Priestly, so it's no wonder that she's suddenly glaring. But Emily has rehearsed this in her head all morning, and quite honestly she is tired of only being able to pee every five hours. She nods her head in the direction of the empty desk across from her own.

"The second assistant vacancy -- I showed you a few candidates last week? We narrowed it down to three that you liked, but HR is waiting on a final decision from you. I left their paperwork on your desk -- once you sign it, I can have them start whenever you want -- as early as tomorrow, or today -- right now even --"

"Oh, that." Miranda loses interest immediately. "Take care of it for me."

"But -- the last three I hired for you stayed for less than two months each, and I've been doing the work of two people for -- I mean, you've gone without a second assistant for nearly a week now --"

"And you're telling me you're incapable of doing the job."

"No, that's not it at all," Emily reassures hastily. "But I believe I can do my best work for you when I'm part of a team of two."

As Miranda takes the time to think about how to pick a logic hole in that statement, Emily continues. "The last assistant that stayed for a meaningful amount of time was one you personally handpicked, so I was thinking that perhaps if you picked out the next one yourself --"

Miranda's faced changes instantly. "If you're tired of juggling two workloads at once, do your job properly -- hire an assistant, train her, and make her want to stay. It is your job. To. Handle. It."

The sweat on Emily's back feels like it has frozen over.

And all of a sudden, Miranda is back to normal. Tells Emily to get their man from Calvin Klein on the phone. Sits down at her desk, right as you please.

For Emily, the morning passes slowly and miserably in a flurry of tasks and phone calls and trying to get other people to do things for her -- things that normally should be done by the editor-in-chief's SECOND assistant -- that she can't do because no one else is around to man the bloody phone. She is up to her neck in owed favours.

Miranda marches in and out, back and forth, barking orders and making demands and generally making life difficult for everyone around her.

I love my job, I love my job, I love my job, Emily chants to herself.

Blessedly, noon rolls around, and not a moment too soon.

"Roy is downstairs," Emily announces. Miranda saunters off for lunch.

Emily sends a quick instant message on her computer. Within minutes, Serena appears in sight with a cup of zero fat soup and a small salad. Before Serena even reaches her desk, Emily has dashed for the bathroom.

"Sorry for not saying thank you earlier, so thank you," she says once she gets back. "Did anyone call?"

"No problem, and no, thank God." Serena stands up to give Emily back her chair. She watches Emily as she pours copious amounts of (regular, not even low fat) ranch salad dressing over the salad and tears into it. "You know, I'm kind of worried about you lately."

"What makes you say that?" Emily has her mouth full.

"For one thing, you're eating."

Emily rolls her eyes. "Last time we were between second assistants, I tried sticking to my diet and I damn near fainted crossing the street one day. No way I'm going to be able to stay on my feet without something in my stomach."

"You really need to hire someone soon."

"Like I don't know that." Emily scowls. "Do you want the job?"

Serena shrugs. "Sorry, I don't like you THAT much."

"You are a true friend, Serena." Part of Emily had actually been hoping Serena would be dumb enough to say yes.

"Oh, don't be like that. I'll help you pick someone." Serena leans onto Emily and pushes her over, so Emily scoots over reluctantly and the two balance precariously on her office chair. Emily continues to munch on her salad while Serena brings up the resumes of the three candidates Miranda has shown a preference for, and displays them side by side on the widescreen monitor.

"It's not going to be that easy," Emily complains.

Serena shushes her. "Don't be so negative. So they're all college graduates. Pick the one with the best degree and be done with it."

Emily throws her hands up in the air. "Okay, firstly? That is not going to work. Secondly -- Wesleyan, Haverford and Tufts. I don't even know where those places are, much less which one's the best."

"They're schools in America. Of course you're not expected to know where they are."

Serena is trying to soothe her, which only agitates Emily more. "I'm not an idiot."

"I didn't say you were. English major, Psychology major, Communications major ... so tell me why are they applying for a job here again?" Serena shakes her head. "Actually, the bigger question is, why does Miranda like these ones over the others?"

Emily tosses her salad bowl into the trash can and gulps down the soup against her better judgment. Her bladder will pay for that later, but right now she doesn't give a damn.

"God knows. Maybe she's trying to find another Andy Sachs."

"You think?" Serena looks doubtful. "I know Miranda liked her, but she did leave Miranda stranded in Paris."

"And she's probably the best assistant Miranda's had in ages." It kills Emily to admit it, but she knows it's the truth, and she has a closet-load of clothes from last year's Paris show to prove it.

"So why don't you hire someone just like Andy then?"

"I tried. Hired some dumpy fat girl from God knows where."

"Oh, that was the one that only lasted a week?"

"Yeah. Miranda hated her. Guess that being ugly doesn't make you smart."

Serena laughs. "Okay, let's compare their GPAs then. The English one has the highest, so she must be smart, right?"

"What do you do with a B.A. in English? What is my life gunna be?" Emily sings. "Four years of college and plenty of knowledge have earned me this useless degree."

"Okay, okay, I get your point. Please stop singing. How about the Communications major? That's sort of like journalism, right?"

"Haven't the foggiest. She actually had decent fashion sense, though," Emily recalls.

"Great! Go with her."

Emily is doubtful. "Maybe she's not dumpy enough. What if she's too trendy for Miranda's tastes?"

"You have to pick SOMEONE eventually," Serena points out.

"I know, I know. But I have to get this right." Emily is desperate. "Do you know how frustrating it is? I mean, it takes so long to train someone, and just as they get good enough to do anything on their own, they up and leave, and I have to start the process all over again."

Serena regards Emily silently. "Are you unhappy in your job right now?

The question stops Emily in her tracks. Is she?

"No, of course not. It's just that -- it gets depressing watching everyone walk out of here sometimes. I mean, I've been here for more than two years now -- I think I'm going to break some kind of record as Miranda's longest-staying personal assistant. And no one else has stayed that long, you know? It's got to say something about me."

Serena puts her arm around Emily supportively. "I think it says that you're dedicated, and loyal, and hard-working. But you know, if you're really unhappy --"

"I'm not!" Emily shouts.

Serena pretends to not notice Emily's tone of voice. "I'm just saying that if you wanted to, you could always leave and find a job elsewhere. Being first assistant to Miranda Priestly will get you anywhere."

Emily buries her face in her hands. "I can't leave."

"Of course you can."

"I can't. Not until I can train someone who sticks around long enough to replace me."

"Miranda will live without an assistant."

"No, she won't." Emily can't believe Serena is being so naive. "Can you imagine her answering her own phones? Buying her own coffee?"

"You have a point there."

"Plus, If I leave before she's ready for me to, she can make it so that I never work in Manhattan again."

"But she didn't do anything to Andy when she left."

"I'm not willing to take that chance." Emily removes her hands from her face, dabbing at the tears that are threatening to spill from her eyes. "Miranda can be hard to work for --"

"I think you just won the award for understatement of the year."

That makes Emily smile, finally. "She's a demanding boss. But I just need to tough it out until someone can take my place, and wait for a good opportunity to come along, and it will have all been worth it. It can't be that hard -- after all, I love my job."

Serena gives her a hug. "Whatever you say. If you need me to come up again, just call. Do you want to go to the bathroom again before I leave?"

Emily doesn't wait to be asked twice.

When she returns, Serena gives her one last hug, and tells her that Fabio called. Emily returns Fabio's call, check's Miranda's schedule, and tells Fabio that he'll have to wait till next week.

Next, she contacts the Tufts Communications major and tells her that she's got the job, and if she's still interested, she'd better be ready to start tomorrow. The excited "What time should I be there?" tells Emily all she needs to know. Of course the girl would be thrilled -- who wouldn't be? A million girls would kill for this job, after all.

At Miranda's desk, she digs out the HR paperwork that Miranda has buried under a mountain of paper and throws out the documents for two of the candidates. She puts a sticky note on the remaining documentation with an arrow pointing "SIGN HERE" at the dotted line.

This will work out, Emily tells herself, because this time, she's going to work with the new girl and do everything she can to mentally and physically prepare her for the job as Miranda's second assistant. She's going to be friendly, she's going to be available, she's going to teach the girl all she knows, all the ins and outs, every trick in the book that Emily knows makes Miranda happy. She's going to make her a second Emily, not just in name only, and the second Emily will be a capable and willing right hand of Miranda's, because God knows -- no, Emily knows -- that Miranda needs and deserves nothing less.

Emily sits at her desk, looks at the clock, and waits patiently for Miranda to get back from lunch.



Old habits die hard.

Nigel glances at his watch. He is seven minutes early. Like time, Miranda Priestly waits for no one. Everyone else waits for her.

He's back in the States on business; when Miranda caught wind of it, she contacted him about meeting up to catch up, for old times' sake. This was the only time he had available for her. He hasn't seen her ever since he left Runway.

Why Miranda has picked a Japanese restaurant is beyond him. He lives and works in Japan for most of the year now -- it's not like Japanese cuisine is a novelty or rarity for him anymore. The chef is bustling behind the counter. A little Asian waitress comes up and asks him if he wants more sake, and Nigel declines demurely. It's still early in the day, and he only needs a little to take the edge off. No good being sloshed for Miranda.

Nigel recognises the sound of her gait before he sees her. She waltzes in, five minutes late, and the few people in this quiet restaurant instantly are drawn to her. She always knows how to make an entrance.

Nigel stands, takes her hands in his, and lightly kisses both her cheeks. She is stunning as always, and he tells her so.

"And you haven't changed at all, Nigel." She smiles charmingly at him and sits down. "The swordfish here is absolutely divine -- you must try it."

Nigel calls the waitress over and asks for several orders of sashimi, including an order of -- what else? -- raw swordfish. Miranda gets the daily sampler platter and plum wine. They chitchat as they wait for the food to arrive.

"So I hear you were promoted recently," Miranda smiles. "Congratulations."

Nigel inclines his head. "Thank you."

"How do you like working for Kazu? Everything is going well, I hope?"

"Very well. We've just opened new chains across East and South-east Asia. Our presence in Europe is not quite there yet, but we're working on it."

"Of course, of course." Miranda nods. She already knows all this, of course. "'I'm very, very happy that everything's working out for you."

"Well, it was all thanks to you that this opportunity came my way, so I owe you my gratitude."

"Oh nonsense. You did it all on your own."

Miranda is being warm, effusive, pleasant -- and it's making him uneasy. He realizes in a flash that he is not used to being on the receiving end of Miranda's politeness. He is no longer privy to the side of Miranda he is accustomed to -- the side that she reveals to those under her, or those whose opinions don't matter. The face before him now is the one she reserves for outsiders. The thought stings. He thought he knew her like the back of his own hand, and now he cannot tell what she is thinking.

If not for Miranda, he would have been working for James Holt now, maybe. Or maybe not -- James probably would have sold him out, eventually, hand in hand with someone else. What Miranda did hurt him, but he has decided long ago that he regards her in such high esteem that he will not treat her any differently than he has done in the past, no matter what she does to him. He can't say that his current situation is entirely undesirable, so maybe everything has worked out for the best.

"I'm the man I am today because of you, Miranda." He says it with utmost sincerity.

"Oh, don't be so humble." Miranda waves her hand. "So you're in Tokyo now, the fashion capital of the east! Tell me all about it. You must be loving every minute of it. "

"I am indeed. The food is wonderful, the city never sleeps and the night life is amazing."

"Quite," Miranda agrees. "The last time I had the chance to visit Tokyo, I happened to pass through Shinjuku ni-chome -- a most intriguing place. You must be well familiar with it."

"The second block of Shinjuku?" Is she baiting him? Surely such a shot below the belt is beneath her.

"You know, the area where kids parade around in the most outrageous costumes. Some might call their sense of fashion hideous, but I would call it quite daring. Great shopping district, too."

"You must mean Harajuku," Nigel clarifies.

Miranda shrugs. "Probably."

There is no way that anyone would confuse Tokyo's fashion district with its world-famous gay neighborhood in Shinjuku if they have actually been there, but Nigel decides to believe that even Miranda can make an innocent mistake. "It's a most exotic place, filled with -- oh, who are we trying to fool. Harajuku, and the consumption of raw fish, provide living proof that Japanese people are insane."

Miranda chuckles. "They traditionally have a very dedicated work ethic, don't they? Must result in long work hours for you."

"No longer than at Runway," Nigel declares. "Although, I actually have time outside of work to enjoy it now."

"Enjoy what?"

"Life, I suppose." Nigel has no trace of bitterness in his voice. He chose this lifestyle, after all. "And a relationship."

"How lovely," Miranda exclaims. "And about time, too. Where did you meet her?"

Nigel lets his mouth quirk. "Actually, I met, ah, him, in Shinjuku ni-chome."

"Ah. I -- see." He can tell that she must have expected this sort of response, and yet she still can't hide that she is slightly flustered, which Nigel finds a bit amusing. "Well, you must tell me all about him. Where's he from? Is he Japanese? How do you communicate?"

"He's Japanese, but he's fluent in English. He spent a fair amount of time in Europe." Nigel feels a warm pit of happiness in his stomach just talking about him.

"How long have you been together?"

"About half a year now. I'm a bit out of practice on the romance front, but he hasn't left me yet, thank god."

"How do you mean?"

In all the years Nigel has known Miranda, this is the most intimate conversation that they have ever had. He has never volunteered information about his private life, and Miranda has never shown the faintest inkling of interest. He is not sure why Miranda is asking now. Maybe she still feels guilty about the James Holt deal -- but that would be impossible, because Miranda is never sorry for anything.

"Well, it's been a good -- what, ten or fifteen years since I've been in any sort of relationship -- one that isn't a one night stand or some anonymous quickie." Nigel laughs embarrassedly at the admission. "I probably wouldn't know what to do with myself after work if I were single again."

There has been quite a profound change in Miranda's expression, as if all the muscles in her face have gone lax. It's not that she is stunned, she just seems ... unguarded. He has never seen her like this. He wonders what kind of life change she must have gone through to become this way.

Her next words come as a shock to Nigel. "It's a pity that you felt you had to wait until Japan to pursue such a relationship. I would have supported you wholeheartedly, no matter your orientation."

"Oh, God no," Nigel says quickly. "That's not it -- it wasn't on account of -- I mean, I just never found the time, that's all."

"We worked you too hard, I'm afraid," Miranda says pensively.

"Not at all." Nigel shakes his head. "Fashion is a demanding mistress, and we all have to pay our dues to her."

"That's an interesting way to put it."

"It's true. And if I might be honest -- my dedication to her pales far in comparison to yours."

Miranda looks surprisingly touched once his meaning becomes clear.

Their food arrives. They pause their conversation briefly as the waitress sets down their plates.

"So how is Runway?" Nigel asks as he eats.

"It's much harder without you, but we're managing somehow."

"Oh, stop." Nigel ducks his head in modesty. "We both know that the only irreplaceable person at Runway is Miranda Priestly."

"You're being too kind."

"We can't have that now, can we?" His eyes twinkle. "Speaking of irreplaceable people, have you found a new second assistant yet? Emily tells me that the position has been in a constant state of flux since Andy Sachs left."

Miranda's lips press together imperceptibly. She might be struggling to hold her tongue. Is Andy Sachs a safe topic? Nigel would prefer she give into the urge to berate him, if only so that he can tell what the appropriate boundaries are with her.

She eventually decides on, "Just because you no longer work for me doesn't mean I'll take that sort of cheek from you." But there is no malice in her voice. "How's the swordfish?"

Nigel probably would only be able to find this quality of sashimi in a very select few restaurants in Tokyo. It's absolutely delicious.

He is glad he came. Maybe he can squeeze in a few more jabs about Andy later.



Irv Ravitz drums his fingers impatiently on his desk. "Where the hell is she?" he yells for the third time in the past ten minutes.

His assistant meanders in to deliver the same news he has already heard twice: "Her assistant says that she's still supervising the Donna Karan shoot for the next issue --"

"She doesn't need to be there! And what's taking it so long anyway?"

"Her assistant says she's been in meetings all afternoon, and that several of them ran late. And then the photo shoot started late because the models ran late and --"

"How can EVERYTHING be running late?"

"Her assistant says it's a busy day for her, what with Fashion week coming up and all."

"Stop letting her damn assistant cover for her, and get Miranda on the phone directly!"

"She always communicates through her assistants, Irv," his own assistant reminds him. "Like you do."

"Just send her in here the moment she gets here, okay?" Irv dismisses her angrily and turns to the other person in the room. "I apologize for the wait."

"Oh, no problem at all. Miranda Priestly's punctuality, or lack thereof, is legendary even in the accounting department." She's a sleek, long-haired brunette in an Armani suit sitting in one of the empty arm chairs to his right, with her legs crossed. They are nice legs. They go well with her nice ass. She is here as backup, and she's half Miranda's age.

"Miranda is here," announces his assistant, ushering that woman in and hurrying out just as quickly.

Speak of the Devil.

"Miranda!" Irv jumps to his feet. "How nice of you to finally join us."

"You expressly requested my assistant to set up an appointment with you, on today of all days, so it must have been important. I wouldn't have missed this for the world." Curling her lips, without invitation, she struts in and seats herself directly across from him like she owns the place.

Irv sits down himself, grateful for the coffee table that separates them. "I appreciate you making time out of your extremely busy day to meet with me, but there are several urgent matters I would like to discuss with you."

"But of course. Everything is urgent, isn't it?"

Irv decides to ignore the comment."What's special about today?"


"You said, today of all days -- never mind." He gestures to the woman at his right. "This here is --"

"Dispense with the niceties and cut to the chase."

"Very well." He tersely flips open the binder on the table in front of him, turns it around, and shoves it towards Miranda. "Tell me what this is."

Miranda does not even so much as glance as it. "Unless you invited me here for an afternoon of trivia games, which I don't particularly enjoy, why don't you tell me?"

"It's your expense report from last month." Now it is the woman from Accounting in the Armani suit who is speaking. "And if you keep looking, your expense reports through the past eight months are there."

For the first time since she arrived, Miranda looks at the other woman to size her up. Irv finds her gaze slightly unnerving even though it's not directed at him. Her smile seems to be a perfunctory attempt to hide the daggers behind it, yet Armani suit doesn't seem to notice.

Miranda switches her gaze back to Irv. "So what's the issue here?"

"Irv, may I?" Armani suit cuts in. Irv nods, and she takes it as invitation to continue. "Miranda, are you aware that for the past eight months you have been completely over budget?"

Miranda examines her nails. "Is there a problem?"

"Well, yes -- this is costing us!" She taps his finger on the expense reports. "Reshoots, rewrites, scrapping entire articles at the last minute, hiring and firing and rehiring and firing again, training and retraining people -- this is completely unnecessary! We're angering our partners, wasting so much time and resources --"

"I recognize you now," Miranda says suddenly. "You were on The Apprentice -- one of the finalists, weren't you?"

"Yes, I was." Armani suit puffs up her chest proudly. "Final four, in fact."

"And now you work for Elias-Clarke. Lucky us. Irv, since when do we hire Donald Trump's castoffs?"

The smile is wiped off Armani suit's face instantly.

"Miranda, let's stay on track." Irv massages his brow. "I mean, one or two months I can understand, I can even accept -- but eight months in a row? What reasonable explanation can you have for this?"

"It's called running a magazine." Miranda stands up to leave. "I cannot believe you asked me to come here for this."

"This conversation is not over," Irv says loudly, jumping up himself. "Being editor-in-chief of our flagship publication does not grant you special immunity. I WILL hold you accountable for your operations."

Miranda rounds onto Armani suit. "You from accounting, tell me -- in the past eight months, has Runway once LOST money?"

"Well, no," she squeaks.

"How are our profits? How are our sales?"

"Holding steady, but --"

"I don't see what the problem is, then." She throws her hands up into the air. "You ignorant dishrag. All you can do is crunch numbers for the sake of the bottom line. You think that all there is to fashion and looking good is throwing on an Armani suit, but you don't have the faintest idea what it takes to sell a fashion magazine to the public."

"Lately, it seems that you don't either," says Irv.

Miranda's eyes narrow threateningly. "There better be a good reason for --"

"You used to be so good."

"I still am."

"So efficient -- such good judgment. You always knew exactly what would work and what didn't. Never had to think twice. Never had to redo a thing. Once was always enough."

"Times evolve. Tastes evolve. People evolve."

"Are you evolving, Miranda?" His tone is dangerous. "Or are you just a dinosaur, stuck in her tracks and trying to run on the good will of her former glory?"

Her eyes are flashing. "If you say one more word --"

"Oh, no," Irv steps back. "Don't wave your personnel list at me. For all you know, it could be outdated by now."

Miranda's eyes widen.

Irv, smelling blood, steps forward. "And Jacqueline Follet won't work with James Holt forever. Even if she does, there is more than one Jacqueline Follet waiting in the wings. A younger Jacqueline Follet -- a kinder Jacqueline Follet -- waiting for the prima donna to leave the stage when she's out of encores."

Miranda being dealt a sucker punch is a sight to behold.

"You and I both know," she says softly, shoulders hardening, "that the only irreplaceable person at Runway is me."

They glare at each other for a long time, each knowing that the other has spoken the truth, yet neither of them willing to back down, neither able to call the other's bluff.

There is a cough in the corner. "Do -- do you still need me here?" comes the pleading quaver from the woman in accounting.

"Yes," Miranda says, breaking eye contact with Irv.

He's got her.

Miranda steps deliberately towards Armani suit, who like she would much rather be anywhere else in the world than stuck like a deer in Miranda's headlights.

"I need accounting," Miranda says slowly, "to write me a recommendation --"

"Recommendation?" interrupts Irv. "Don't you mean policy?"

"Recommendation," repeats Miranda, "for how I should allocate my budget for the next month." She spins on her heel and heads for the door. "Have it on my desk by next Monday. Whether or not to follow it is entirely at my discretion. That's all."

"That's NOT all, Miranda," Irv sputters, following her. "You had better follow our recommendations to the letter, or else I'm going to --"

"Come now, Irv," says Miranda, smiling widely. "Don't make promises you can't keep."

He watches her as she sways down the corridor and out of sight.

"God damn bitch," he shouts, kicking the door. The stunned accountant flees the room.

Irv Ravitz can't reign in that wild horse. Neither could the former president of Elias-Clarke, and the one before him. She has out-stayed at least three presidents, and isn't likely to retire before his term ends. With any luck or some act of God, maybe lightning will strike her down. He hates her. He cannot tolerate her. He needs her. He has no faith that he can keep Runway glorious without her.



"Late as always, Miranda."

"Don't be like that, Stephen. You look well."

"We've have been waiting forever for you. Would you step inside already?"

"Thank you, Stephen. Ever the gentleman."

"Cut the crap. Let's just get everything signed and over with. I can't believe I've wasted an entire hour today just to sign a few measly documents."

"Work ran late --"

"Of course. Work always runs late. What else is new?"

"Stephen ..."

"When it boils down to brass tacks, though, I've wasted much more than an hour -- months, really, of going back and forth -- it's like you're determined to keep this fight going for as long as you can, even beyond our marriage --"

"... Stephen, don't start. Can we try to at least be civil to each other?"

"Too late for that now. What's the point?"

"We were husband and wife, at one time."

"Only legally."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You NEVER loved me."

"That's not true --"

"You married me only because you thought I was a submissive man who would willingly defer to an ambitious wife."

"That's NOT true."

"It was, once. Not anymore."

"I don't understand what you're saying."

"What's true is that I really once was that man. But you killed that part of me, Miranda. You slowly eroded away my sense of self -- my sense of manhood -- until I felt completely emasculated --"

"... Can we not have this conversation in front of our lawyer?"

"There's nothing he doesn't already know. What are you ashamed of? What are you trying hide?"

"It's not for my sake. Do you have any idea how -- how pathetic you sound? A man of your age complaining about how he's not enough of a man for his ex-wife --"

"What's worse? That, or a woman who drives every man around her away with her complete lack of femininity?"

"Enough, Stephen ... enough."

"Agreed. Let's just sign the damn documents and we can all get the fuck on with our lives."

"Watch your language."

"I'm trying to read this, Miranda."

"Okay. Fine."



"... I'm done. Where do I sign?"

"No problems, Stephen?"

"None at all. I don't want anything. Just my dignity. And my sanity. I'm sick and tired of this shit. I don't want to argue anymore."

"Really? You don't want anything? At all?

"How many times do I need to repeat myself? ... Why are you looking at me like that?"

"... Fine. There. I've signed it. Anything else you need my signature on? This one too?"

"I'm done with this one."

"... There ... and there. Done."

"So that's it?"

"Seems that way."

"Finally. So we are officially no longer married. I'm getting the hell out of here... Christ, why are you following me?

"There's only one way out of this building, Stephen."

"More if you count the windows."

"You're welcome to leave by gravity. I'm taking the elevator. Well? What are you waiting for?"

"I've heard you need a lot of personal space when it comes to elevators."

"Don't be ridiculous. Are you going to get in or not?"

"Might as well."


"You're awfully quiet all of a sudden."

"Thought you'd prefer it that way."

"I do. It's almost ironic that only in the dying gasps of our relationship that you try to be amenable."

"I've _always_ tried, Stephen."

"You could have fooled me."

"Stop talking in riddles."

"I know you wanted to say something back up in that lawyer's office -- I could see it in your face. If you have something to say, now's the time to say it."

"... I can't believe you would give up visitation rights."

"Is THAT all? Christ, Miranda, we've already been over this for months --"

"The girls -- they like you. They'll miss you. They'll be devastated."

"But seeing them means I'll have to see you, and the more I can avoid seeing you, the better."

"For God's sake. Don't punish them because you want to punish me!"

"They're not MY girls. They're YOURS. And his. I want no part in them. Never did."

"... You can't be serious."


"... Huh."

"Well, here we are. After you... You know, I never noticed how austere this lobby was. Always had something on my mind every time I passed through here, but now it's like everything in the world is beautiful again. Isn't that strange?"

"Hm. Is that so. Oh, there's no need to hold the door open for me. No one's watching us leave, after all."

"It's last time I'll ever do it, so you might as well just let me play the gentleman until the -- ow, Jesus Christ! MIRANDA! FUCK!"

"So sorry. Didn't notice your hand was in the door."

"Oh, you are so full of SHIT! Jesus fucking -- ow! This better not be broken, you vindicative, demonic -- Miranda -- MIRANDA!"



"Mommy's home," Caroline announces at the kitchen door.

"Good, just in time for dinner," Andy declares. "Which one of you is setting the table?"

"She is," both twins point in unison, right before they glare daggers at each other.

Cassidy eventually caves in, like she always does, and fetches four plates and four sets of cutlery. Caroline goes to greet her mother, who has paused by the side table to examine the Book, and stops short once she sees her mother's face. She stands stock still until her mother looks up and notices her.

"Hello, darling." She replaces the Book on the side table and tiredly pats Caroline on the head. "What are you doing?"

"We made dinner," Caroline says.

"What on earth for?"

"Did you forget?" Andy calls from the kitchen. "You gave Rosario the day off today for a friend's funeral."

"Oh, yes, of course." Her mother's probably forgotten. They walk hand in hand into the kitchen.

"You're home late today," Caroline says.

"I've been late to everything today, unfortunately," her mother smiles faintly. "Manhattan traffic is terrible." Suddenly she wrinkles her nose. "What have you been making?"

"Pasta carbonara," Cassidy chimes. "With turkey bacon instead of regular bacon and and egg substitute. And low-carb wheat spaghetti."

"Everyone helped." Andy grins and distributes a suitable portion of pasta on each plate. "Cassidy boiled the pasta, Caroline grated the cheese, and, um... well, I picked an easy quick recipe -- it's about all I can manage, really." She pours the pasta sauce over each plate. "It didn't take very long, but we didn't start until after Emily came -- you should really stop making her stay so late, the girls said she looks thinner and thinner every time she comes, and there's really not much more weight on Emily to lose --"

"Mommy," says Cassidy.


"You saw Daddy today, right?"

"Stephen." Caroline shoots a glare at her sister. "Cass means Stephen. How's he doing?"

Their mother's mouth has formed an O. "Why -- he's the same as usual, hard at work. He misses you both terribly, of course."

"Are we going to see him --"

Caroline interrupts her sister again. "Do you want to try the pasta?"

"I'm sorry, girls. Daddy doesn't know when he can stop by. He's very sorry, too. He wanted to --"

"Mommy, the pasta," Caroline repeats insistently.

Her mother turns to leave, patting Caroline's head again. "I'm not hungry."

"You shouldn't skip dinner." Andy is frowning. "Plus --"

"That's okay," Caroline says loudly. "We'll bring it up to you later when you feel like eating."

"Thank you, Caroline. Andrea, I left a box of antibacterial wipes for you by the front door that you can use after you leave the subway. I'll see you upstairs later." Her mother and Andy exchange glances above her head, saying things to each other with their eyes that Caroline sometimes tries to eavesdrop on, and other times prefers not to see. Then she is gone, taking the Book with her.

Caroline waits till her mother's footsteps can no longer be heard on the stairs, and scowls at Cassidy.

"'How's daddy?'" Caroline mimics, temper flaring. "Are you stupid?"

"YOU'RE stupid," Cassidy flings back. "I just wanted to know! What's wrong with asking?"

"The fact that you don't know means you're STUPID!"

"Whoa, whoa." Andy steps between the two. "Time out. Let's eat dinner and we can decide who's stupid later, okay?"

The sisters sit down at the table in a huff and don't look at each other.

"How's the food?" Andy prods.

"It's okay," Cassidy grumbles.

"She's having a dark day," Caroline mutters.

Cassidy picks at her food.

"And you have to go on and on, when we know perfectly well he doesn't want to see us, and now she's not even going to eat tonight, just because you --"

"I didn't know!" Cassidy snaps. "I'm sorry, okay?"

"How could you not know? She came home all looking like --"

"She looked FINE when I saw her --"

"What's a dark day?" says Andy quickly.

Caroline rolls her eyes. Andy always tries so hard to play peacemaker. It's almost sweet, if it wasn't so goody-two-shoes of her.

Cassidy explains. "We just call it that when Mommy comes home in a certain mood."

"You mean when she's angry or upset?"

"No, that's normal for her." Cassidy thinks for a moment. "It's when she looks darker than usual, I guess."

"What do you mean?"

"She's ... more tired," Caroline says, looking at Cassidy to signal a tentative truce. "I don't know. Droopy."

"Depressed?" Andy tries. "Uncertain?"

"No." Caroline struggles for the right word. "Smaller."

"Huh." Andy sits back. "Interesting. Is it worse than when she's angry?"

"Sort of. At least when she's angry she'll still talk to us. I mean, she'll be meaner --"

"And she'll make us eat less --"

"Or she'll make us practice on the piano longer --"

"I sort of get the idea," Andy sighs. "So what happens usually when she has a dark day?"

"Nothing, really," Cassidy says. "Sometimes she and da--Stephen would fight, but most of the time she just stays in her study and doesn't come out till morning."

Andy chews on her food for a while with a thoughtful look on her face.

"You'll do something, right?" Caroline says.

Andy swallows, opens her mouth, and closes it again. Caroline waits for Andy to ask her "Do what?" or "What do you mean?" or worse, like Stephen does -- "There's nothing I can do."

Instead, Andy grins. "Yeah, I'll do something. And I'll make her eat some pasta, too."

Caroline is satisfied with that answer for now. She wasn't sure what to think of Andy at first (not Andrea -- only their mother calls her that). They still don't quite know what Andy is to their mother (daughter? boyfriend? girlfriend?) -- or to them -- (older sister? aunt?) Sometimes she and Cassidy still get jealous of Andy. Sure, their mother hugs them and kisses them and does the whole mothering thing -- but she never relaxes around them, and she never seems to grow stronger after she touches them, like she does after touching Andy.

Caroline wishes, and she know Cassidy does too, that they could be there for their mother properly; Caroline's smart enough to know that that won't possible until they're older, and wiser. Andy can be a bit dim sometimes, but she's good to their mother, and good for her, and that's all that matters.



Andy is curled up in an armchair in Miranda's study with her computer balanced on her lap. She is glad she convinced Miranda to install wireless internet for the entire house, but she's been having trouble concentrating on the screen in front of her. She scrutinizes Miranda silently. She can see what the twins mean by Miranda looking smaller -- it's not so much that she's shrunk, but that every muscle in her body seems to have gone lax, so that she appears to be drooping. She doesn't look sad, or depressed -- just -- lost. Aimless.

After dinner, Andy found Miranda at her desk with the Book, and she silently left a plate of lukewarm pasta at her elbow and settled down to wait for Miranda to finish working. Two hours later, it remains untouched.

Andy clears her throat.

"What?" Miranda does not look up. It is the first word that either of them have said since Andy entered the room.

"You haven't eaten yet," Andy says delicately.

"I'll eat when I feel like it."

"The girls were really looking forward to seeing you enjoy it," Andy tells her. "I know it's not that hard to boil pasta and grate cheese, and you've had a rough day, but you could have at least acknowledged their effort, or sat down at the table with us for a few minutes--"

"Andrea." Miranda's voice is chilly.


"Keep your mouth shut."

"Okay, in a minute, but if you could just eat one bite -- I'll call the girls down so they can see your face when you --"

"I let you stay here on the condition that you do not disturb me when I work, and you are not upholding your end of the bargain. Don't make me throw you out."

"You might as well give up for the night," Andy scowls, "because you're clearly not getting any work done."

"I'm not because you keep distracting me, with your annoying keyboard, click clack click clack, and the sound of your breathing. Lord, would it kill you to blow your nose once in a while --"

"I haven't typed a thing in the half past hour," Andy declares triumphantly. "I've been watching you. You've been on the same page the entire time, and you haven't written a single thing down."

Miranda glares sullenly at the page in front of her. She hates it when Andy's right.

"Why don't you work on it tomorrow morning?" Andy suggests, more gently.

"No, I -- I have to get this done tonight --"

"But it takes you so little time to get ready for work in the mornings," Andy tries. "You'll have plenty of time then." It turns out that Miranda does not like to look at herself in the mirror; Andy doesn't understand this because she can Miranda-watch for hours if the opportunity allows. Miranda pays a team of beauticians to maintain her appearance regularly, but only relies on a combination of God-given looks and luck to look perfect in the mornings. Andy thinks the world is so unfair.

Miranda grips the cover of the Book determinedly.

"How about I give you a back rub, ease the kinks out of your back," Andy coaxes. "You can have a long relaxing sleep, and be all refreshed and ready for the start of a new day."

Miranda finally relents and slams the Book shut. "No complaining that I wake you up early tomorrow," she mutters, standing with the Book in her hands.

"I promise." Andy closes the lid of her laptop and follows Miranda up the stairs. "Miranda, you know how we had that conversation about communicating more, and talking to each other if we had any problems?"

"I don't remember anything of the sort."

"We definitely had this conversation. Very early on. It was one of the terms of our relationship." Andy is insistent. She is going to make Miranda talk, no matter what.

"It must all be in your head."

Miranda walks into the bedroom, tosses the book into a chair in the corner, and falls down face first on the queen-sized bed. Andy eases next to her and attempts to centre her on the mattress.


The older woman co-operates reluctantly, wiggling clumsily to the centre of the bed. Satisfied, Andy straddles her and begins to massage her back.

"You're really tense today, Miranda." Andy kneads her fingers up and down Miranda's back slowly, working the tight knots as best as she can, trying to get Miranda to relax. She might be succeeding.

"Mmmmmm. Mmmmm. Mmmmmmmmmm. Mmmmmrightthere."

"Feels good, huh?"

"Mm hm."

"... So do you feel like talking about your day yet?"

"Nuh uh."

Andy pinches a tight spot under Miranda's right shoulder spitefully. The woman shows no sign of response. Andy lightens her touch, and dances her fingers up and down Miranda's back, along the sides of her ribcage, strokes her bare neck. Still no response.

Time for plan B.

Andy hitches Miranda's bathrobe up and shifts her weight so that she is straddling Miranda's now-exposed legs, and the only thing between their skin is the cloth on Andy's pajamas. She can feel the heat off Miranda's legs. She moves her hands to the junction where Miranda's back ends and her buttocks begin, drawing circles there lazily and suggestively. When Miranda continues to say nothing, Andy moves her hands lower. She accidentally brushes her hand on the skin between Miranda's legs.

Miranda gasps and her eyes fly open. "Andrea."

"Yes?" Andy says innocently. She lifts the bathrobe until Miranda's entire backside is visible. She grabs a butt cheek in each hand and massages, alternating between digging her fingers in and caressing the skin lightly with her fingertips.

"You said this would lead to a long relaxing sleep -- not sex."

"I always sleep better after sex, don't you?" Andy swipes her tongue between Miranda's butt cheeks, dangerously close to her anus.

"Don't try me, Andrea," Miranda hisses. She tries to push herself up, but Andy pins her down by weighing down with her hand on the small of her back, and Miranda remains immobile. "I'm not in the mood for this."

"Really? Your body says otherwise." Andy dips a finger into Miranda's folds and removes it. It is dripping wet. "You see? You do want to tell me something. Stop trying to deny it." She reaches up and traces along Miranda's lower lip with the moist finger, pushing the finger forcefully into Miranda's mouth.


Miranda erupts into a throaty growl, and in one swift motion flips herself over, pushes Andy's hand off her back, and jumps onto her. Before Andy knows it, she's the one under Miranda, both hands pinned above her head, head hanging off the edge of the mattress, her long hair trapped in clumps under her. Andy raises her head with some effort. Miranda's face is so close, Andy can feel her breath on her face in fast, short bursts.

"You look, ah, upset," Andy says.

"You goddamn bet I am," Miranda snarls, before kissing her savagely, not stopping to breathe. Andy's lips are sore and she feels dizzy when Miranda finally shifts the pressure on her mouth, first licking and sucking on her lips, then moving her mouth down her neck, snapping and nipping at the skin as she goes.

Andy has found that Miranda is rather easy to manipulate, once you know what buttons to press.

She stays in position, trying to resist reacting in pleasure to Miranda making her way down her body, even after Miranda removes her iron grip on Andy's wrists to frantically tear open her pajama top. Miranda lets Andy sit up long enough for her to wriggle out of the sleeves, then she pushes Andy back onto the bed and bites down onto a swollen nipple.

Andy screams.

"Quiet," Miranda hisses, clamping her hand onto Andy's mouth, "the girls will hear --"

The girls are one floor down. But Miranda always feels a need to hide her guilt and shame when she gets like this, so Andy allows Miranda to cover her mouth as she hungrily licks and bites and squeezes at Andy's breasts, tries to breathe through her nose and the gaps between Miranda's fingers, shrieking into Miranda's hand when Miranda gets a particularly sensitive spot. In moments of rare playfulness, Miranda likes to say how glad she is that Andy is fat in some areas. She probably won't say it tonight.

Miranda moves down Andy's stomach, trailing wet kisses and sucking tantalizingly at the flesh, before lowering her mouth to the elastic waistband of Andy's pajama bottoms.

"W-wait. Wait --"

Andy's cries are muffled against Miranda's hand, and the older woman removes it from Andy's mouth unwillingly.

"What is it," Miranda croaks. Andy hears the desire in her voice.

"I want to --" Andy gasps. "I want to watch. I want to see you -- when you --"

Miranda snarls and roughly repositions Andy so that she's on top of the pillows against the head board. Andy lifts her abdomen so that Miranda can yank off her pants and soaking underwear. They are tossed somewhere onto the floor.

"Ready?" Miranda growls, hooking her arms under Andy's knees.

"I can't wait," Andy whispers, looking straight into Miranda's eyes.

Without breaking eye contact, Miranda thrusts her tongue viciously inside Andy, her nose pressing hard into Andy's clit. Andy's entire body jackknifes and she clenches her teeth together to keep from screaming. Through dimmed eyes she watches Miranda's silver head bobbing between her legs. She can feel Miranda's hair brushing over her thighs, Miranda's nails digging into her butt checks --

In her mind she imagines the path that Miranda's slick, nimble tongue is taking, in and out of Andy's vagina, up and down her folds, dipping down to her anus and back up to her clit, circling that aching bud of nerve tissue slowly and tortuously again and again, never touching it, until Andy is ready to cry tears of anguish.

It is too much. She can't control herself. "Mi--randa -- please --" She tries to raise her hips, but suddenly Miranda loosens her grip, and Andy falls to the bed in a limp heap.

"Miranda," she chokes desperately. She watches, aching with desire, as Miranda pulls her bathrobe off and kneels fully naked before her, straddling her right thigh.

Miranda has always looked very fit for a woman of her age, thanks to the wonders of modern day skin treatment and weekly yoga sessions; tonight, her passion makes her look even younger. Her chest and shoulders are tinged pink, heaving with every breath. She is glowing. Andy doesn't know why she suddenly thinks of Artemis, the huntress, the moon goddess.

Miranda leans forward and slips two fingers easily inside Andy, who lifts her free leg to accommodate a third finger as Miranda feels around the walls inside Andy. When Miranda pushes a fourth finger in, Andy has to swallow a cry. Miranda thrusts her hand back and forth, fucking Andy senseless, while rocking herself to climax against Andy.

Andy can see Miranda's eyes, wild and hungry, and so full of want; can feel Miranda's searing heat and wetness slipping and sliding against her bare thigh. Miranda is sucking energy out of Andy, somehow, growing stronger with every motion, taking and taking from Andy as she lies there, allowing Miranda to devour everything she possesses, everything she is.

Andy latches helplessly onto any part of Miranda's body she can, a breast, a shoulder, a hand, just so that she can hold on to something before she is completely swept away.

Miranda needs this. She needs to feel her fingers deep inside someone, to feel that she can pull out their very soul and claim it as her own. She needs someone to bear her sadness, and her rage, to satiate her thirst and appetite, so that she can go on fighting the battles she feels she must engage in for her pride and property, without caring what the world thinks of her, without breaking and crumbling under the weight of it all when she is alone. And Andy is the only one Miranda has trusted -- the only one Miranda can trust -- to carry her.

The knowledge makes Andy's eyes roll back into her head and she comes, hard, chanting Miranda's name like a prayer as she does so.

Feeling Andy convulse around her fingers, Miranda comes too, not long after Andy does.

"Andrea," she breathes into Andy's ear, collapsing on top of her and resting her face against Andy's chest. Andy wraps her arms around Miranda, appreciating the weight of a human body against her. Miranda is heavy, but Andy can take it. She waits for Miranda to catch her breath.

"How do you feel?" Andy murmurs softly. "Better?"

"Hungry," Miranda mumbles.

Andy bursts into laughter.

She knows Miranda's not going to talk tonight. She might talk in the future about other days, but whatever happened today she may keep to herself forever. Andy supposes that it's fine; she knows what Miranda needs to feel better, and in the future if such a day comes again she'll open herself up and let Miranda take whatever she needs. That's something only Andy can do; in some ways, it's _all_ she can do -- but it's enough.

In the mean time, she knows there's a good place where Miranda can find a soggy, cold helping of pasta.

The End

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