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.
It's All Relative
Andy Sachs took a swig from her venti two shot low-fat cappuccino and groaned as she stared at her computer monitor. It was 4:30 on a Friday afternoon and she was trying to finish the last sentence of an ending paragraph that was making her feel more than a little uptight.
As she did so, she unconsciously registered the flashing of lights outside her New York Mirror office building, lights she attributed to passing emergency vehicles, all too often a fixture in Manhattan.
Who would even notice them? People in her office had. The lights outside were flash lights, camera lights.
Reggie, her youngest coworker, approached her tentatively, "Andy, they're reporters. TV reporters, and they're here for you."
Andy was thunderstruck, "For me? Why?"
"They didn't saythey're just shouting for you."
Andy's editor, Mike Anderson, emerged from his office in time to hear this, strode to the window and perused the scene. "Jesus Christ, Sachs! Did you rob a bank? If you did, we get the exclusive! If you didn't, get out there and get them gonebut send me that story first."
She straightened in her chair, "Will do." Andy smiled at her monitor. Mike acted like a hard-ass sometimes but Andy always nearly laughed when she thought about the difference between the definition of 'hard-ass' at the Mirror and at Runway. She covered her ears with her hands and closed her eyes. She thought for a two full minutes, retyped her last sentence and reread it. Good enough, she said to herself as she emailed it to her boss, then stepped into his office, "Mike, it's in your in-box."
"Thanks, Sachs. Tell Reggie to turn on CNN out front. Maybe we'll catch it live."
Andy thought, for maybe the thousandth time, about what sort of reverse chivalry would have Mike always calling his female employees by their last names but male employees by their first. Nevertheless, she gave Reggie the message, reached into her desk, grabbed shoes and a bag and went to the restroom to amplify her hair and to greatly fortify her make-up. She exchanged her sensible shoes for the pair of Jimmy Choo's she kept in her desk. She might be frumpy these days, by Runway standards, but she hadn't forgotten some hard-won lessons.
As she stepped out of her office, she was barraged by blinding lights and screaming from, perhaps, thirty people, "Andy! ANDY!"
She held up her hands and shouted, to her surprise, "QUIET!!!" To her additional surprise, this worked. "Could somebody please tell me what's going on?"
A newswoman stepped forward and said, "We understand you're a former personal assistant to Miranda Priestly."
"I am, but"
"We want your reaction to the news that Miranda Priestly was shot by her personal assistant today."
"Oh my God! No!" Her reaction was everything the reporters could have hoped for and they greedily filmed it. Andy clapped both hands over her mouth as tears immediately formed in her eyes and fell down her cheeks. After two deep breaths, she removed her hands and asked, hoarsely, "Is she"
"The hospital says she's in surgery but expected to live. We're here to"
"Bellevue. But we're here to ask youwhat would cause her personal assistant to snap? We've all heard the storiesshe's legendarily difficult to work for and "
As Andy listened, her stomach and mind were churning. She felt nearly faint with relief that Miranda might live but she heard the tone and the tack this story would be taking and it made her furious. She wiped her face, sniffed and answered coolly, quietly and in a manner quite unlike her.
"First of all, it's misleading to say that her personal assistant assaulted her"
"That's what the police said and"
"She has two personal assistants. Her permanent first assistant is a person whose devotion to Runway and Miranda is absolute. If the assailant was described as her personal assistant, it would've had to have been her second assistant. You need to underscore the difference. Emily did not do this."
A belligerent man shouted, "Seems like you know more than you should about"
"No, damn you! But I do know Emily. You obviously don't."
A savvier newswoman asked, "You're a former second assistant yourself. What's your take? Could working for Miranda Priestly make a person snap?"
Andy felt red-hot pokers behind her eyes. Because she'd wanted to murder Miranda on a semi-regular basis. But never, ever would she have actually have hurt her. And to think that someone had somehow entirely enraged her. Her voice, however, remained calm.
"Do you people actually think this is just a fashion story? You're talking about Miranda Priestly, for God's sakea publishing legend and for good reason. Do you understand that her opinion shapes, creates and influences untold numbers of jobs and 100s of millions of dollars in international commerce on a monthly basis? This is more than the tabloid story you're obviously looking for. I know what you want, but I'm not going to give you the satisfaction or that story. I have nothing to say about Miranda Priestly but that I'm truly grateful to have worked for her and wish her a speedy and full recovery."
She glared at the reporters filming her and added, "And I'm disgusted that people who call themselves journalists would attempt to defame the mother of two young children while she's in surgery and perhaps fighting for her life. Shame on you. I really mean that. Shame on you. Please leave before we have the police remove you."
As she stepped back into the office, she heard the sound from outside echoed in the newsroom. Yeah, they'd heard all that. Her coworkers looked sheepish.
Over the young woman's few months at the Mirror, her coworkers had learned this was something Andy Sachs would not make fun of, although nearly all of them had tried. Because they considered themselves 'true' journalists, it was odd to know anyone who'd actually worked at any fashion magazine, much less the golden calf of Runway. But Andy was almost scarily protective of her former magazine and would never, ever speak disparagingly of her former boss. She didn't look all that fashionable to any of them but they quickly realized, from her comments, that she knew more than all of them combined about the fashion world.
Samantha, one of her older colleagues, said, "Ever thought about giving press conferences fulltime, Andy? You're good at them."
Andy wiped her eyes again and smiled weakly, "Never. And I'm not good at them they just pissed me off." She turned to her boss and said, "I think I need to leave for the day. This is all quite a shock."
Mike looked her over with compassion. She was actually very pale. "Get outta here, Sachs. I'll call you tonight if I need a rewrite."
He nodded. She rarely said this but when she did, she was never wrong. "See you Monday then."
At that very moment, Emily's mouth was still open with surprise. She'd been sitting in the emergency room waiting for the end of Miranda's surgery, watching the CNN coverage of the shooting and was gob smacked to see Andy Sachs giving a passionate defense of Miranda and of herself.
Her cell was imploding with press calls that generally merited "No comment." The other calls were from Runway, because today was the deadline for the all-important Fall Issue. Although Nigel was on his way, she needed to get back to Elias Clark. She needed to field press calls. She needed to change her clothes, because Miranda's blood was all over what she was wearing. Her second assistant was now in custodyas she should be, the bloody cow. She had no one to rely upon, no one who could help, no one who had the least idea what to do except
Emily considered every possible alternative, and then dialed a number she'd kept for no real reason and never thought she'd willingly call again.
"Manhattan isn't Mars, Andy. Where on Earth are you?" Emily asked in her most peremptory tone.
Even four months after she'd left Runway, Andy smiled at that familiar, snotty English accent, "Already on my way, Emily."
"As you should be. This is all your fault, you know."
Andy almost laughed, despite the gravity of the situation, "Really? How's that?"
"If you hadn't left, we wouldn't have hired this crazy woman, would we?"
Andy choked back her answer, "I suppose not. You have a point. It's convoluted, but it's a point."
"Is there a point in keeping my cell phone busy?"
"See you soon, Em."
For what felt like the first time in hours, but was actually for the very first time since Andy had left, Emily took a few deep and peaceful, calming breaths.
Andy pushed her way through the press outside into the waiting room where she found an astonishingly unkempt Emily waiting. Emily was on the phone and her blouse was entirely blood-stained. Her hands, forearms and cheeks were also smeared with blood. The English woman didn't seem to have noticed, as she barked short, brutal commands into her phone while reading from the pad in her hand.
As she approached Emily, Andy saw an immaculate Nigel crossing from another direction with a long coat draped over one arm. She changed direction, met and kissed him, then turned toward Emily, who continued her non-stop harangue.
Nigel said quietly, "You know, Emily's the heroine of the day. I was following her into the office to run the final blue-line gauntlet. When Isabelle shot Miranda, Emily didn't even thinkshe just jumped on her like a leopard on a tuna steak. The next shot went into the ceiling and I had to pull her off of the bitch to take care of our patient."
Her expression said it all and he replied, "I know I never curse. But I do under duress."
She nodded. "How is Miranda?"
"In surgery, as you heard. But well enough to give Emily those notes in the ambulancein case she died, she said."
"That's not funny."
"I didn't think so, either." Nigel finally looked her over, "By the way, nice press." He looked her clothing over, pointedly and dismissively, "And nice shoes."
Andy grinned, "I've missed you, too, Nigel."
"Let me see that caboose " He took an appraising look at her ass, "Well, at least you're still a four."
Andy shook her head fondly. "That's right. Talk dirty to me."
Emily had finished her call and looked at Andy with no little bitterness. Andy crossed the room and rocked the woman in a tight hug. Emily did not entirely regret this (as she needed a hug) but she only said, "To what do I owe this maudlin display?"
Andy pulled away from Emily and smiled, "Nigel told me you saved Miranda's life. Thank you."
"Why thank me? It's my job."
"To save her life?"
"Every day. And in every way."
Andy thought about this, "If you put it that way, I guess you do. But still, that woman had a gun."
"Yes. She had a gun but we have a print deadline. Midnight tonight."
Andy was amazed, "Since when do we I mean you have a print deadline at midnight on a Friday?"
"Since Miranda told them it couldn't possibly happen at close of business Tuesday."
"Starting a late print on a Saturday? On the biggest issue of the year? That's going to cost"
"Yes. Yes, it is." Emily thrust her pad into Andy's hand, "Can you read these?"
Nearly a year of experience made Emily's scrawl easy to read but Andy had another concern. "Of course I can but where are the twins?"
Emily blinked, "The twins?"
"Yes. Who's telling the girls?"
"If you must know, I called Magdalena in the ambulance and told her to keep them away from the television. Their father's on his way to pick them up and I told him we'll keep him abreast of Miranda's condition. Their father will tell them. Do you think I'm so incompetent that I would forget the twins?" Emily's eyes began to tear, "I'm not bloody heartless."
"No! Of course you're not". She moved to hug Emily again but Nigel stopped her with a firm hand on her arm and a question.
"Emily, where is the book?"
Emily sniffed, went to her bag and produced the book.
Nigel's voice was calm and professional, "I heard what you were saying. You got through the clusterfuck that was 670 through 672?"
"Yes, before she lost consciousness."
"So perhaps about 35 more decisions, right?"
"I'll make them. Go home and I'll make them. If she doesn't like them, I'll take the responsibility and Andy will take your calls."
Emily scowled at Andy and handed over her cell. "Call me on my personal if you need me. I'll be back in an hour."
"Take more like four hours, Emily. Take a long hot shower and a nap. You don't need to go to the office. We'll still be here and we'll cover it. It's going to be a long weekend."
Nigel's tone and demeanor told Emily she had no choice, "Still, call me if"
"We will. Go to the bathroom and clean yourself up before you leave. The press is outside." He handed her the coat he was holding. "I brought you thisit'll cover what you can't clean. No need to give those jackals anything more than they have already."
Emily's face and voice softened, "Thank you."
"You're welcome. Now get going."
As Emily stalked toward the restroom, Andy asked, "Why'd you"
"If you coddled her right now, she'd break down right here and she'd never forgive us. She needs to go cry and lose her mind in private. Have you ever almost lost the most important person in your life to violence?"
"Nonot to violence."
"I have. My first boyfriend. We were gay-bashed. He got the worst of it and almost died."
"Oh my God. I'm so sorry."
"So was I. But I was also very private about my emotions. Still am. Emily is, too. As soon as she lets her guard down for a few minutes, today will hit her like a ton of bricks. She needs to do that by herself."
Andy nodded as Emily's phone rang. She answered it, "Miranda Priestly's office."
After Emily moved through the gauntlet of the press and got into a taxi, she nearly immediately began to weep as she hadn't since she'd been a child and her pony had been put down because of a broken leg.
Suddenly, she didn't want someone watching her. She wiped her tears away, harshly, and said as she tossed money into the front of the cab, "This far will be fine."
She got out and cried as she walked the hour it took to reach her home.
Two hours later, a nurse bellowed into the room, "Emily? Emily?"
Nigel didn't turn away from his magazine, but said, "She means you."
Andy jumped to her feet. "Oh yes. I'm here!"
Andy shook inside and internally apologized to Emily's phone as she turned it off and followed the harried-looking nurse into the elevator. "How is she," she asked as she looked at the nurse's nametag, "Nan. How is she, Nan?"
"Amazingly aggressive for what she's been through."
"Will she be alright?"
"Oh yeah. Remarkably clean gunshot wound through the back and stomach. Of course, with gastrointestinal involvement, you always have a greater concern about infection but barring anything unforeseen in her recovery, she should be just fine."
The nurse, a much older woman who didn't look like she suffered fools or foolishness gladly, looked pointedly at her, "Thank God it's you who have to deal with her. I'm not usually the errand-girl, but she demanded that I get you myself."
"Really? She's acting like a bit acting out already?" Andy's spirits lifted immediately. "Then she is okay .but I guess she's NPO?"
"Right. Nothing by mouth. A few ice chips to moisten her mouth but that's all."
The young woman nodded and, as they approached the room, the nurse said, "She's still coming out of anesthesia and has some pretty strong pain medication onboard. So she's only semi-lucid but one hell of a lot more lucid than I've ever seen under the circumstances."
"You're seven to seven, Nan?"
"You got it. I'll be here all night."
They entered the room and Andy found a very pale Miranda connected to all the telemetry the hospital could give her.
Andy hesitated and asked, "Why's she on a telemetry floor if she's so stable?"
The woman shrugged. "Orders from on high. She's too important a patient to mess with."
Andy nodded, "Okay. Good to know."
The nurse left them alone, saying "I'll be back in a few minutes."
Miranda woke, shaking her head and blinking her eyes. Andy could see from the monitors above the bed that Miranda's heart rate immediately rose as the older woman focused increasingly widening eyes upon her.
"Andrea!? Am I dead? Am I in"
Andy stepped toward the bed. "You're going to be fine, Miranda. You're in Bellevue."
"What are you doing here?"
"Nigel and Emily needed to finish for the printers and I"
"Good. And the girls?"
"Are with their father. When I leave, I'll call him and let him know"
Miranda's eyes widened even further,"No. No. Absolutely not, Andrea. Now that you're here, you are not to leave me again."
Andy stared into Miranda's pain and medication-glazed eyes, nodded simply and answered, "Of course not, Miranda."
"Call Emilyshe'll tell him."
"I will. She will."
"And tell her thank you."
Andy's eyes widened. "Thank you?" She'd never, ever heard a 'thank you' to a subordinate from Miranda.
Miranda's eyelids were fluttering, "Obviously. She saved my life. Send her flowers and tell her thank you."
"And you're not to leave me. Do you understand?" Miranda suddenly looked extremely pained, "Please call the nurse."
Andy quickly pushed the button and waited. Nan appeared and canceled the signal. "May I help you?"
"Two things. I need more medication for my pain. In the ambulance, I know I said my assistant could see me but I need Andrea, Emily and Nigel. They can see me. Only my family beside them. But I want Andrea available at all times."
"That's fine, Ms. Priestly. I'll check your chart for your pain meds but you need to get some rest now because"
The rest of the sentence was superfluous. Miranda was unconscious again.
Nan gave her a scolding look, "I take it you're Andrea, not Emily."
Andy ducked her head a bit and smiled, "Right. But she did call me Emily for the first few months I worked for her so I'm sort of used to it. Check her meds and I'll get back with you when she wakes up."
Nan shook her head and left the room.
Andy was a bit flummoxed by this turn of events but took some pleasure in stepping out of the room, calling Miranda's 24/7 florist and sending the largest bouquet she could think of to Emily for a Monday delivery.
As she rang off, she thought for a second and immediately redialed, "For the love of God, no freesia!" she said as the florist answered. He answered, "Freesiafor or from Priestly? Of course not! You think I'm nuts or somethin'? I just saw CNN. What'd Emily do?"
"Probably saved her life."
"Flowers are on the house, then, and I'm sendin' a bouquet from me to both of them. Nice to hear your voice again, Andy."
"You kiddin' me? The only polite person who calls from Runway? You never forget that voice."
She smiled at the air, then took a chair by Miranda's bedside. Miranda turned on her side toward her. Andy placed her hand over Miranda's hand, the one which had no IV, and was surprised to feel the woman grip it.
Miranda whispered, "Don't leave me."
Andy felt a rush of pity. "I won't but I have to let Nigel know what's
Miranda didn't open her eyes, but answered in a cool tone, "That's what phones are for, Andrea." She fell asleep as Andy dialed.
When Nigel entered the room, he was surprised to see the women holding hands. Miranda awakened instantly, but she didn't move. Her voice was soft and sweet, "Nigel, are you alright? I don't remember. You weren't hurt, were you?"
He was as stunned by the question as by the manner of it. "No. Thanks to Emily, I'm fine. How are you?"
Miranda rubbed her head into her pillow luxuriously. "I couldn't be better." It was a thin hospital pillow with a poly-blend pillow case. Clearly she was still heavily medicated. She gripped Andy's hand and motioned toward her side, "Did you see? My Andrea came back."
Andy waved with her free hand and smiled a sheepish 'don't ask me' smile.
Now, Nigel knew Miranda was too drugged to speak to him. She might be speaking the truth but no truth she'd want anyone to have heard once she really woke up.
"So she did, Miranda. I'll tell Emily to call John. The twins will know you're alright. We'll take care of everything else. Get some rest."
"Did you get the issue finished?"
"Of course we did. Don't we always? Emily and I will come in the morning. Can we bring you some coffee?"
Miranda's eyes lit up at this but Andy said, "No. She has a stomach wound. She can't have anything by mouth until the doctors clear it."
"Ouch," Nigel said.
"Indeed," Miranda answered.
"You two get some rest, okay?" Nigel's voice was so soft Andy could barely hear it.
As Nigel left the room, he called Emily, "Call John and tell him she's fine but don't you bother coming back. Andy's staying."
Nigel heard Emily exhale heavily. "Oh, thank God. I was so out if it earlier it didn't occur to me that maybe Miranda wouldn't want her worst professional disappointment invading her hospital room."
Emily paused and asked in a deeply suspicious tone, "And speaking of that, why is Andy staying?"
Nigel's eyebrows rose but he replied smoothly, "I have no ideabut Miranda was fine with it and I didn't argue."
"How is she really?"
"Recovering and loopy but happy."
Nigel thought for two seconds and decided he'd said enough, "Happy to be alive. We should be there by nine in the morning. And believe me, she'll be a bear."
"As opposed to?"
"Goodnight, Emily. I'm very proud of you."
Nigel heard Emily sniff, "Thank you."
"Are you okay?"
"I will be. See you in the morning. Waitdo you think she'll want coffee?"
"She will but she can't have coffee or anything else yetwhich is the bearish part for us. Get it?"
Later, Andy asked at the nurses' station for a blanket and a pillow. She pulled her large standard-issue hospital chair, which she didn't call a recliner but a recline-a-bit, out into its semi-restful position and settled in for the night. She left one hand on the closest and least obtrusive part of Miranda she could touch, her blanket-covered leg.
Even later, Miranda awoke in a panic. For a moment she didn't know where she was, then felt the dull, aching pain in her back and abdomen. She'd been shot. She was alive. The room was dark except for the lights of the telemetry. Miranda looked down at the face of the young woman whose hand was gently resting on her leg.
What a beautiful girl, Miranda thought, then looked again. The girl looked cold.
"Are you warm enough?"
"Not really," the young woman murmured without opening her eyes.
"Call the nurse and get another blanket."
Andrea was clearly trying not to wake up,"Don't care."
"I do. And I'm cold, too."
Miranda was startled by how quickly Andrea sat up. "You're cold? Why didn't you say so?" She realized her hand was still on Miranda's leg and removed it like she'd touched a hot stove. "I'm sorry. You fell asleep and I .uh I just wanted you to know someone was here with you." She gulped and apologized again. "I'm sorry."
"You don't have to be so sorry. As far as I know, I haven't been declared an untouchable."
Andy gulped again. "Oh no. Of course not! I mean, I know." She left the room and came back with three blankets. "This is the best thing about hospitals, Miranda. They have blanket warmers!" She placed two blankets on Miranda, then leapt into her chair and placed the warm one over the one she had. "Doesn't that feel great?"
Miranda nodded as Andy sat up again and said, "You know, you can't have anything to drink or eat but you could have some ice-chips to moisten your mouth."
"Go to sleep, Andrea," Miranda said, much more sharply than she'd intended.
Andy felt as stung by this dismissal as she usually did, plopped down, covered her head with her blankets and gave a muffled response. "Fine. Whatever."
Andy uncovered her head, and said with some heat, "What? What, said the ex-employee to her ex-employer as the former spent the night in a freezing hospital room just so the latter, who doesn't even like the former, would have someone with her? What?"
"I apologize. I feel really very sick and I never have been and I don't know how to negotiate that. Could I please have some ice?"
All anger immediately left her. Andy was, again, up like a shot. "Of course you can, sweetheart. Won't take but a minute."
As they parted, both of them gave thought to the word sweetheart. Andy because it was natural for her to say to someone who was sick but it was sort of weird to give Miranda that designation; Miranda because no one had ever called her that. Not even her mother.
Andy opened the bathroom door and turned on the light so that it shed a dim light on the room. "Be right back."
When the young woman returned she had a cup of chipped ice and a spoon. She raised the head of Miranda's bed and said, "Remember, just a few."
After Miranda had savored a spoonful of ice, she said, "You seem to know your way around hospitals."
"Yeah, I do. My mom had breast cancer."
"I'm sorry. Is she"
"Oh no. She's alive. She beat itbut it took about eight months. I was there the whole time."
"You're a good daughter."
"Nope. She's a great mom. I was just lucky to be able to help."
Miranda took another ice chip and said, quietly, "You know, I can't even tell you whether my daughters would be here if they were old enough to be. Isn't that strange?"
Andy was stricken to the heart, "Miranda, I'm sure they'd"
Her sentence was cut off by Miranda's soft voice. "No, no. I just said I couldn't be sure. How could you be?" Miranda winced as she relaxed into the bed, "You said it yourself. I'm in a hospital room and the only person who cares enough to stay with me is an ex-employee who thinks I don't like her."
"That's not true! Emily or Nigel would have stayed if I didn't."
"Take this, please," Miranda said. Andy took the cup and placed it on Miranda's bedside table, then sat in her chair, wondering what to say.
Miranda spoke first, in a whisper, "I don't want the only people who care for me to be on my payroll."
"I'm not on your payroll. And I care enough to be sleeping on this, frankly, shitty chair."
Andy watched, in the vague darkness, as Miranda sat up.
"But why? You left me! You deserted me in Paris and you've clearly never liked me. Regardless, I thought enough of you to make you my first and take you to Paris. Isn't that worth anything? And I never implied that I don't like you."
Andy nearly laughed aloud at this outrageous bit of revisionist history but she heard the pain in Miranda's voice and answered very softly, "No. You never implied you didn't like me. You told me outright that I had no taste, was fat, clueless, worthless, brainless, incompetent, etc. etc. Day after day and month after month. I'll allow that all of those derogatory adjectives, all the demeaning things you put me through and all of the miracles I worked for you on a daily basis that you totally took for granted, wouldn't necessarily prove that you didn't like me. But if that's what you call liking me, God help the person you didn't like."
She hadn't been able to resist this sarcasm but as she looked into Miranda's tearing, vulnerable blue eyes, she continued, "Enough of the past. I'm here because you're easily the most astonishing person I've ever met, Miranda Priestly," Andy took a deep breath and added, "You're impossible and maddening and I don't know how to like you. I don't think I'll ever know why I miss you so much or why I think of you so oftenbut I do."
Miranda gave a short snort of laughter. "You do?"
Andy shrugged. "Yep. Call me a masochist. But don't tell anyone else because I'll deny it. Now we both need some sleep. Are you warm enough?"
"I am now."
"Good. Need anything?"
"Turn out that light."
Andy leapt up, turned out the light and took her chair. "Anything else?"
"Hold my hand."
Andy settled herself into her chair and took Miranda's hand, "Goodnight, Miranda."
Miranda whispered, "I have to say something while I'm still so drugged that I will say it. I'm never sorry about the way I do my job but I am sorry I hurt your feelings. When I first saw you here with me I asked if I were dead and in"
Andy interrupted with a chuckle, "I know. You thought you were in hell."
"No. Not at all. I thought I was in heaven."
Andy's heart jumped. "Miranda"
Miranda's voice returned to its usual dismissive tone, "That's all."
Andy was so stunned that she stared out at the darkness for a very long time.
One hour later, a deeply flustered John Priestly approached the nurses' station and said, "I'm here to see my ex-wife."
As all of the nurses gave him the fisheye he said, "We're still friends and I'm her emergency contact. I need and our children need for me to see her."
Even as John said this, he knew it was both true and not true. Because of the children, John had remained her emergency contact despite her remarriage to Stephen but this had (justifiably, he thought) angered Stephen. It had also caused a slight rift in John and Miranda's friendly relationship in order to keep the peace.
Nan corroborated this with Miranda's chart, then approached him and said, "Ms. Priestly has a very helpful assistant with her now, but I'll be glad to take you back. She'll need to be here for two to three days and I don't think that'll be easy for her. Or us."
John snickered a bit at this as Nan led him to the room. The nurse only opened the door to Miranda's room but let him enter by himself. It was entirely dark except for Miranda's glowing telemetry. As he entered the darkened room, he saw a very pretty young woman who he recognized from the news sleeping in a reclining chair next to his ex-wife's bed. They were holding hands.
Miranda awakened immediately and whispered, "Hi, Johnny." She had not called him this since before their marriage.
"Hi, Mir. You okay?"
He immediately felt a world of stress falling from his shouldershis children's mother was really okay. At that moment, Andy woke up and registered someone else in the room. "Oh my God. I'm sorry, Miranda." She removed her hand from the other woman's, forced her recline-a-bit into its upright position, punched a button and stood as the dim light above Miranda's bed came on.
"Andrea Sachs, this is John Priestly, my only worthwhile ex-husband."
Andy shook his hand, "Please call me Andy. Nice to meet you," and grabbed her bag, "I think I'll go get you some coffee. You guys need anything else?"
"We'll be fine. But I still need you." Miranda's eyes were impenetrable. Andy had no idea what the woman meant.
She said, "I'll be back in a few."
"Andrea, please don't leave."
That was the answer. 'Don't leave' was the answer. Andy smiled, "I'm not and I won't. Just getting coffee. You can have more ice chips. But how do you like your really crappy hospital coffee, John?"
As he told her, Andy smiled again. After so many months at Runway, this was certainly something she could do.
As Andy left the room, John asked his ex, taking the seat Andy had vacated next to her. "So. Want to tell me how I find a former second personal assistant sleeping in your room and holding your hand?"
Miranda winced, "How do you know that?"
"Mir, I talked to her all the time when she worked at Runway and she's all over CNN defending you and Emily like you're the dual Baby Jesus."
"Really? CNN?" Miranda thought about this, frowned and John amended his answer.
"Mir, what I mean is that the press caught Andy outside her office asking her about some assistant who'd shot you. She said that Emily would never hurt you and that she was happy to have worked for you and was concerned for you. That's all. No big deal."
Miranda relaxed into the bed, "John, you always know what to say."
John laughed and said, "Not always, Mir. In fact, almost never."
"Well, you more than most."
"There you go."
Miranda looked at the clock. It was 11:45. "Why'd you come? It's so late and they've told me that I am alright."
"I came because I wanted to make sure you were okay and I wanted to tell our daughters that I'd seen that for myself. They love you and I'll always love you, too, you know."
Miranda grumbled out "I love you, too," and her mind instantly flashed to John's past infidelity, "You bastard!"
John smiled. "Ah! That's my girl! And speaking of girls, Caroline and Cassidy are..."
They spoke for a few minutes before Andy returned. She handed John his coffee, "At this hour of night, this is the most scalding hot crappy coffee that's available."
"You didn't want any?" Miranda asked. Andy hadn't brought any coffee for herself.
"No. I know exactly how that stuff tastes and I'm going to sleep in just a bit. But I thought John might need a jolt before he drove home."
Miranda chatted with John for another few minutes. She finally offered her ice cup to Andy, who placed it on her bedside table, "John, come back tomorrow, will you? And tell the girls I'm okay and I love them. I need to rest."
John leaned forward and kissed his former wife on the cheek.
She said, "Thanks for coming."
"I'm so grateful you're okay and have someone to take care of you."
"I am, too."
"Nice to meet you, Andy."
"You too. Drive safely."
As Miranda watched him depart, she said, "It was nice of him to come but we need our rest, don't we, Andy?"
The idea that 'they' were resting together made Andy blush as she pushed the recline-a-bit out and turned out the light. With her face the color of a carnation, she answered "We do."
"Hand." Miranda said, without hesitation.
Andy offered her hand and Miranda took it. Sleep claimed them both.
The next morning came very early. After the four AM vitals check, both of them fell back to sleep. Andy woke at about 5:45 but didn't move. Miranda woke shortly thereafter. After a few minutes, the only motion either of them made was to caress each other's hand as they looked into each other's eyes.
It was the most confusing, yet sensual and arousing, experience Andy had ever had. She felt the warmth of the woman's hand everywhere, not just in her hand.
Her mind slipped a gear when she registered that she never had these kinds of feelings about another woman. But she undeniably wasand about Miranda, of all people. And Miranda in a hospital bed. She was beginning to feel like she was the world's biggest pervert when Miranda finally spoke, "Thank you for staying."
Andy blushed and managed a thin smile as she sat up. "No big deal."
The older woman rearranged the pillow under her head, "I think we both know it was a very big deal for me."
Andy grinned but didn't reply to this. "How are you feeling?"
"Like I've been shot and had surgery."
"I know and I'm so sorry."
"I probably look it, as well."
"You look sick, yes, but you're still gorgeous." Andy suddenly jumped up, couldn't look Miranda in the eye. "Need some more ice?"
"Don't torture me, Andrea."
"I'm not. Just giving you your one option."
"For your information, options come in multiples. One option is no option. You, as a writer, should know that. I don't want ice. And I don't want you to leave."
Andy repositioned herself in her chair, "Alright, but Nigel and Emily are coming this morning and I could just leave long enough to get a shower, make some calls and change my clothes."
Miranda looked at her with an inscrutably bland expression, "But you'll come back?"
Andy's expression was just as inscrutable, "If you want."
"And should I stay the night?"
Andy felt a mountain of emotion avalanche upon her at that one word from Miranda's lips, but she kept it from her voice as she stood and replied, "Will do. You can give Em's phone back to her. And maybe you'll see how many calls a first assistant gets on a Saturday morning."
She turned Emily's phone on, handed the woman her own pad and pen and said, "My number's in the cell. Call me if you need anything before I get backit'll be maybe 11:00 at the latest."
"I'll count the minutes, Andrea."
Andy moved forward, stopped, moved forward, hesitated, then leaned forward to kiss Miranda on her cheek. At the same time, signals crossed, Miranda turned and the result was a gentle, quick kiss on the lips.
As Andy pulled away in horror, she watched as Miranda settled back into her bed, looked with some amusement for a long few moments into enormous brown eyes and said, "I was right. I am in heaven."
The younger woman blushed furiously and managed a quick wave before she left the room, feeling utterly overwhelmed. "OhmyGodohmyGodohmyGod," she whispered to herself. "I just kissed her and she OH MY GOD."
Miranda was astounded that she'd just said that aloud but found that she was too drugged to care, smiling as she fell asleep.
Andy was still freaked and blushing but, before she left the floor, she stopped by the nurse's station and motioned toward Nan.
"Do you need something?"
"Nowell, yes. I know you're going off-shift soon but, believe me, it'll be as much as the next shift's life is worth if Miranda can get some decaf for breakfast." Andy's eye's bored into the other woman's. "I'm really, really serious. I meanyou can't truly know."
Nan snorted. "No. Actually, having interacted with her before you got up here last night, I think I do. The doctor has some dietary orders up. I'll see what they are, and if she's clear, I'll expedite a different tray for her."
Andy visibly relaxed. "You don't know how"
Nan interrupted, "You actually care, don't you?"
Andy blushed again, then answered, "Well yes, of course, she's my former boss and"
"She's not your boss now. I saw you talking about her on CNN. You care about her, don't you?"
The nurse saw how rumpled and tired the girl was, noted the blush on the young woman's cheeks but the girl pulled herself to her full height. "Of course I do. Anyone who really knew her would."
Nan leaned forward and whispered, "It's the other way around. Anyone with a friend like you must not be all that bad."
As she maneuvered toward the subway, Andy realized she hadn't known how much a prime spot on CNN might mean to her phone messages until she checked them. Motherfucker! Lilly, Doug, Nate(?), Mom, etc. etc. Then Em and Nigel. Okay. First thing's first. Mom, Dad, Sam.
Audrey's voice was exultant,"Sweetheart! How are you? You were so pretty on TV but you looked so upset that I just had to"
"I'm great Mom. Just going to get a shower and a change of clothes."
Andy sighed. "I spent the night with Miranda in the hospital and I've got to get back."
"What?! But why? I thought you hated her?"
Andy thought for a long few seconds. "I thought I made that clear in the interview. I don't hate her. I never did. She might have been too demanding as an employer for me then but she needs me now. And you know how I love a hospital."
This was delivered as a joke but the concern in Andy's voice tempered Audrey's response. "Oh, I know you do. She wants you there, Andy?"
"Of course she does. I wouldn't stay against her will, you know."
Andy could hear her mother thinking, although nothing was said. "Alright, I'll let your father and Sam know you're well. You really did look lovely on the news and you sounded so professional."
"Thanks, Mom. I'll call you guys later, okay?"
One call down. A billion to go.
The call to Lilly had been brief and to the point. Her friend had been stunned by her choice to help 'the dragon lady' but had agreed to talk to Doug and Nate and avoiding the Nate-call was golden, as far as Andy was concerned.
"Miranda Priestly's office."
"Emily. You're answering your own phone."
"Right. I often forget that. Actually for the past two years, if anyone asks me anything at all, I find myself saying, 'Of course, Miranda.'"
"Speaking of, I left your business cell with Miranda."
Andy heard the ratcheting tension in the other woman's voice, "Are you absolutely and completely mental?"
"Probably. I just thought she might need to see what you go through on a daily basis."
Andy heard the English woman take a few breaths. "SoI suppose you think that"
"I don't think anything, Em. Just giving you the heads up. Call the nurses' station before you go up. They're trying to get the okay for decaf."
"Thank God and me, Em. I'm going home and taking a shower. See you soon."
Andy cut the call before Emily could wonder why Andy might still be part of this scenario.
Before Andy could make her next call, she received one, from Emily's work number. "Hello, Miranda."
"Andrea. Do you know that three members of the press called before 7AM?"
"Doesn't surprise me a bit. What'd you tell them?"
"They wanted interviews with her. I put on my British accentand I do have a way with accentsand gave them my best haughty, snotty Emily "No comment."
"You'll have to demonstrate sometime."
Suddenly Miranda's voice sounded uncannily like Emily's, "Miranda Priestly's office. No, she's not available. She's in a meeting. Noyou can either give me the message or you can call again, at which time she'll be in meeting and you'll have to give me the message. Whether you call for the fifteenth or twenty-fifth or two thousandth time, she'll be in a meeting and you'll have to give me the message. Your message or goodbye. I happen to be busy."
Andy choked back a laugh, "Geez, Miranda! You could take that on the road!"
Miranda sniffed, which to Andy's practiced ears, sounded like she was pleased.
"Do you know she has 273 messages this morning and 158 text mails? I'm surprised Emily hasn't shot someone."
Andy smiled, "Emily might shoot someone eventually, but it would never be you. I thought having her phone might be instructive for you."
Andy winced as she heard dead silence, then a tired voice. "We're straying away from the point. I was calling to ask if you could"
"Go to your house and pick up your make-up, toiletries and pajamas? Yep. Already had that on my to-do list."
Andy heard Miranda exhale loudly, "I miss that."
"Where to begin? Competence. Not having to explain myself, not"
Andy interrupted her, "I'm nowhere near as competent as Emily, Miranda. She's the one you should be grooming to take your place, by the way. The only things she really cares about are fashion and Runway. I only care about youthat's the difference." She suddenly realized that she'd actually said that aloud when the phone went silent again.
She managed to whisper, "Uh, Miranda? Still there?"
"I want you here as soon as you possibly can be. Do you understand?"
"Of course, Miranda. I'm sorry if I"
The phone went dead but Andy smiled.
Next call. Nigel.
"Hello, Mary Sunshine. How was the night?"
"About typical for a night on a hospital chair."
"How is Our Lady?"
"Don't be sacrilegious, Nigel."
"I wouldn't dream of it. But my God is fashion and she is Our Lady."
Andy shook her head to clear this vision. "She's okay. In a lot of pain but John came to visit last night and that cheered her up a bit. She might get some decaf today and that will definitely help."
"LookNigel, when you guys go up there, just realize that she looks like shit pan-fried and warmed over. Try not to react too much, okay? It'll only embarrass her and hurt her feelings. I'm gonna go to her house and get her some makeup and some stuff to wear before I come back. Tell Em, okay?"
There was a pause before Nigel answered. "Andy, you are one of the singularly kindest people I've ever met. But never quote me on that."
"Off the record. Gotcha. See you soon."
Although they'd promised themselves 9AM, they arrived around 10AM and despite Andy's warning, Emily and Nigel were both shaken by Miranda's appearance. She was pale, had glassy eyes, no makeup, and disheveled hair. She looked small and defeated, something they'd never seen. She tried to rise to the occasion but they could both see she couldn't.
She offered, lamely, "My appearance is directly tied to the coffee and breakfast I didn't have this morning."
Emily smiled and offered Miranda a scalding hot decaf Starbucks, "I cleared this with the nurse."
"Bless you," Miranda offered dryly, before sipping it. She closed her eyes in bliss. "You will never know. And speaking of never knowing, I took messages for both of us this morning. It was literally mind-numbing."
Emily blushed and retrieved a portable DVD player from her bag. "I took the liberty of having Joshua do a quick disc of the TV press coverage on the shooting. I thought you'd want to see it."
"Excellent idea, as always, Emily."
As Emily blushed more deeply, handed over the player and took the phone and paper, Miranda noticed scrapes and bruises on the younger woman's hands. "What are these, Emily? You were injured yesterday?"
Emily was utterly taken aback. "Injured?"
"Yes. Look at your hands. Did that woman hurt you?"
Emily obediently looked at her swollen, scraped and bruised knuckles, "Oh. Right. No. Not really. Not anything to mention."
Miranda's voice was icy, "You will show me every injury you have and right this second."
Emily looked like a child whose mother had caught her in an outrageous fib. She lifted her blouse sleeves to reveal two swollen, scraped and bruised elbows, one much more livid than the other. She lifted her skirt a few inches to expose similar damage to her knees, visible even through her hosiery. Even Nigel was horrified and surprised; those injuries absolutely had to hurt. But the young woman hadn't even made a sound about them the night before.
Miranda's voice was even lower and cooler than usual, "How did they happen?"
Emily lowered her chin and spoke quietly. "Well, you see, once she shot you, I only had a split second to react so I tackled her and we hit the floor rather forcefully. I believe that accounts for the bruising and swelling. I wrestled her a bit before the second shot, then Nigel and I had to wrestle her for the gun and that's the scraping, I think. And my knuckles? I felt I just had to hit her a bit." She paused and her volume went up a couple of notches, "One, because the bloody bitch had shot youyou! and during a print deadline and, two, just for good measure."
Miranda blinked because she was trying not to laugh, "Nigel. Were you injured?"
"Not a scratch."
Miranda's mouth twitched at Nigel but she turned to her assistant, "You must go to a doctor."
"Oh, I don't think so, but thank"
"You will go to a doctor. God only knows what damage that lunatic did to you."
This was not a request.
"Good. And you'll need a raise if you're going to be wrestling and punching maniacs and saving my life every few minutes, not to mention answering all of these calls. We'll talk about that when I get back to the office."
Nigel watched in amusement as Emily looked as flustered as she'd ever been in his experience, then answered shakily, "I didn't do what I did for a raise, Miranda."
Miranda waved one hand dismissively, "Don't be silly, Emily. I know that. I said we'll talk. In addition to your actions, someone has recently pointed out to me that you're worth much more to me than I thought. I'm beginning to think that person was right."
Emily's eyes glassed over and she swallowed hard, then rose to the occasion and said in her clipped English accent, "I'm only grateful that Isabelle turned out to be as incompetent an assassin as she was an assistant."
Nigel and Emily were treated to the first genuine laugh they'd ever heard from their employer.
As Andy went through her morning tasks, she began to go over her emotional run-through. This nomenclature, she realized, was a perverse holdover from her Runway days. She'd also realized, from spending the night with Miranda, that there might be other perverse holdovers from her Runway days. She shook her head. No. Not perverse. Interest in a woman wasn't perverse. Just differentfor her. Unexpected. After kissing, actually kissing Miranda Priestly, she wondered was that what all of that angst had been about? She'd had a difficult job and an overly demanding boss who what?
She forced herself to remember just how desperately she'd wanted to please Miranda, how many times she'd gotten actual chills when she'd exceeded the woman's expectations and had gotten that slightest of surprised nods. How she'd noticed when Miranda approved of what she was wearing with an almost imperceptible widening of her eyes. She'd looked for these things; she'd worked slavishly for them. At the time, she hadn't questioned them, although Nate and Lily certainly had. What had Nate said? Something like, 'the person whose calls you always answer that's the relationship you're in.'
Andy realized with a jolt that she'd thought she'd had a tough job and a tougher boss, which she had. But she'd also had a very serious crush. Even Lily and Nate had noticed something was differentalthough they hadn't really known what it was. It was a crush and she still had it. Bad. And Miranda wasn't exactly helping matters. Maybe it was the drugsmaybe it was really how the woman actually
Andy closed her eyes for a moment. Despite this, she could still certainly, at the very least, take care of Miranda in the hospital. That was second nature to her. She opened her eyes and lifted her chin. Play it by ear, Sachs. That's all you can do.
When Andy arrived at 11 on the dot, she found Emily and Nigel seated in two small chairs they must have dragged from elsewhere on the floor. As she placed her multiple bags on the floor, she was a bit startled by the tableau before her. Upon her arrival, Emily looked her over with bitterness and jealousy. Nigel looked gentle but unreadable. Miranda seemed both overtly pleased to see her but very tired, very ill.
Andy rushed to Nigel and they kissed congenially. Andy gave an air kiss to Emily, for which Emily could only barely conceal her shock. Andy only did this so that she could frankly kiss Miranda on the cheek. As she pulled away from the older woman, she saw such pain in her eyes and something that looked like humiliation, that she lowered her head toward Miranda's.
"You know what we're going to do?"
Miranda shook her head.
Andy's voice was quiet and soothing, "I just talked to the nurse. You're due for your pain meds so she's coming with them soon. You're too weak to shower. But once your meds are onboard, a really great nurse tech named Wanda is going to give you a nice bed bath and they have these little shampoo caps so you can do your hair while you're in bed. I've already cleared your hairdryer by the hospital electrician because you know how people hate for you to blow up the hospital mixing oxygen and faulty appliances, right?"
Miranda only nodded.
"Em and Nigel are going to leave and come back later or leave and come back tomorrow. I brought your makeup and stuff for your hair and some nice pajamas from your house. You'll feel so much better when you get a little bit more comfortable and feel more like yourself. I promise."
Miranda felt a sense of relief she had rarelyactuallyhad never experienced in her adult life. Someone else was in charge. Someone she trusted. She sighed and looked at her employees. "I'm sure you two have more important things to do on a weekend. We can meet on Monday."
Nigel stood immediately and Emily followed him. "We'll call you tonight. Maybe we can meet tomorrow. You're obviously in good hands, Miranda. We'll talk tonight." Emily nodded her agreement as she followed him out of the room.
As soon as the door closed, however, Emily hissed, "What in the hell was that?"
Nigel had his own ideas about what that was but he replied, "It's called simple human compassion, Emily, and it works wonders, even with fire-breathing dragons."
Emily scowled but not because she didn't realize he was right.
Nigel pushed it a bit, "And you do know who 'that person' who talked you up that Miranda mentioned is "
Emily scowled more deeply. "Of course I do. I'm not an idiot. Andy Bloody Sachs."
"Andy likes you, Emily."
"I don't know why."
Nigel patted Emily's shoulder, "Because wonders never cease."
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