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.
FEEDBACK: To xenabard[at]hotmail.com.

Like Love
By Gin


Part 1

Miranda's patience, what little there was left, was on the verge of dissipating.


Dr. Dawson took a deep breath and exhaled slowly as she studied the numbers on the page in front of her. Looking up she gave Andy a significant look and managed to meet Miranda's eyes. "Your liver is fine."

Blinking at the relieved sound Andrea made, Miranda waited, knowing the doctor had more to say.

It was Andy's turn to be impatient. "So what's causing the bruising, the fever?"

Nodding, the doctor again slowly exhaled, wondering how she was going to handle this. "One is causing the other." She held up her hand to stop any questions. "That is, the self-medication for one is the cause of the other." She met Miranda's eyes. "You took aspirins for your fever yesterday, correct?" She paused as her patient reluctantly nodded. "How many?" Her suspicions were confirmed when Andy and Miranda gave different answers.

"Two." Andy stated confidently.

Miranda grudgingly corrected her. "Ten."

Andy blinked and turned to Miranda. "Ten?!"

Nodding, the older woman recounted. "The two you gave me, three more while you were making my fourth cup of tea, three more after you left to get the girls and two more just before you arrived home."

Dr. Dawson tried not to smile, but her lips twitched. "How many before that?"

Miranda studiously avoided looking at Andy. "Since Wednesday of last week I've taken an average of eight aspirin pills a day." The small gasp from Andy's direction made her eye twitch. The doctor continued her questioning.

"And today? How many have you had?"

"Two?" Now Andy wasn't quite sure of the answer.

Shaking her head, Miranda gave the true total. "Four."

"Miranda!!" Andy was appalled. Four aspirin in the last four hours?

The older woman just shrugged. "It didn't seem to be working and I wanted to make sure my fever came down."

"You are one of the most physically fit people I've ever met." Dr. Dawson met Miranda's eyes. "But aspirin is a blood thinner, and you said you drank several cups of tea yesterday…" She turned to Andy. "Caffeinated?"

"Um…" Andy thought back. "Yes."

Shaking her head the doctor sighed. "Even as fit as you are, large amounts of aspirin, especially with caffeine, can cause easy or unexplained bruising so I don't think we need to be concerned with that at the moment. Take Tylenol for fevers from now on, and take the correct dosage." She smiled at the women's obvious relief then Andy spoke.

"What caused the fever?"

"Now we come to the heart of the problem." The doctor tapped the results of the blood tests. "You have an infection."

Miranda tilted her head, as if to hear better. "Excuse me?"

"An infection, a significant one." Dr. Dawson was not smiling now. "If you hadn't come in today, I would have seen you within a few days in the ER."

Andy reached out automatically to hold Miranda's hand, frowning as she realized it was warmer than it should be. "What's the treatment? Antibiotics?"

"Normally, with these numbers, I'd admit you to the hospital so they could administer IV antibiotics overnight and observe you." Isabella Dawson was no fool however and saw her patient bristling at that thought. "But, as the fevers suggest, your own immune system is starting to put up a hell of a fight. If you will agree to take one round of IV antibiotics here, in the office, I can send you home with some oral supplements and we can hope that will take care of it."


She cautioned the woman. "I'll need to see you back in four days for another blood test to make sure the numbers are dropping. If not, you'll need, at least, another round of IV medication or possibly the overnight stay I mentioned."

"Of course," Miranda grumbled.

Andy thought she heard the word 'vampire' from Miranda's direction, but couldn't be sure. "How would she get an infection like that?"

Shaking her head, the doctor closed the file in front of her. "Could be anything, we all come in contact with bacteria almost all day every day, there's really no telling."

"Is it contagious?" Miranda suddenly thought of something. "Could I have caught it from…someone, or given it to…" She glanced at Andrea. "What about the girls?"

"Doubtful, not with this type." Isabella tried to think. "There are hundreds of ways a regular person can pick up bacteria, in the subway, on the bus, just walking down the street," she thought about Miranda and her life. "It's harder to think where you might have come in contact with something. I assume you don't ride the subway very often."

"I don't." Again Miranda glanced at Andrea.

"I do." Andy looked stricken. "Could I have…" Oh God. Did I give this to her?

"Possible, but again doubtful. This is more of a thing you have to pick up yourself." Isabella took pity on the girl. "Any public place is rife with bacteria. Stores… parks," inspiration hit her as to a place Miranda might have come in contact with something 'public' and she shrugged as she voiced it, "elevators. Normally people can fight it off, but if you've been working long hours, not eating correctly, your immune system gets weakened and isn't able to combat the steady daily attack of the various bacteria it comes in contact with."

Andy nodded, only slightly reassured. She made a mental note to buy some hand sanitizer. "So, how long does the IV drip take?"

"I can speed it up somewhat, but I'd like to give it an hour and a half at least…"

"I'll call Peggy and ask her if she can stay with the girls." Andy reached into her bag for her phone.

"No." Miranda's eyes twinkled with mischief. "Don't bother Peggy, call Emily, tell her to go to the house and stay with the girls until we arrive." She eyed the doctor carefully. "Don't speed up the process, do it correctly."

Isabella smiled, glad her patient was cooperating. "I will."

"Miranda Priestly's office."

"Hey Bethany, this is Andy, let me talk to Em would ya?"

"Oh, sure Andy, hold on." Bethany hit the hold button and looked across the aisle at her co-worker. "She wants to talk to you."

Rolling her eyes, Emily's lips pressed into a flat smile for a second. "Oh, goody." With a deep breath, Emily picked up the phone. "Andrea, I really don't know why you…"

"Miranda's sick."

Emily's heart stopped for a beat. "What?"

"Miranda is sick." Andy looked at the white-haired woman and winked. "We're here at the doctor's office now. She needs a treatment right away and it's going to take a while, so she wanted me to call and ask you to please go to the house and stay with the girls until we can get home." Pressing her lips together, Andy did her very best not to laugh at the outrage beginning to show in Miranda's widening eyes.

"She didn't really say that, did she?" It wasn't really a question, Emily knew full well that Miranda would never 'ask' and she would never, ever say 'please'. Nevertheless, the English woman sighed, "Fine. I'll leave in a few moments."

"Thanks, Em." Andy held the phone to Miranda so that the older woman could thank Emily as well.

Miranda shied away from the device for a moment, knowing what Andy wanted. Then with a smirk, the editor leaned forward and spoke clearly and distinctly, "That's all."

Laughing, Andy disconnected the call and put the phone back into her bag. "You are such a trouble-maker."

"I'm surprised you told her of my medical condition." Miranda wasn't sure she liked the idea that Andrea was so free with such private information.

Her laughter stopped. "Miranda, that was Emily I was talking to. She'll never tell anyone anything about you. You know that." She paused. "Besides, I didn't really tell her anything."

"I suppose she wouldn't." Trusting people was still so difficult for her. There were only a select few that were actually on the short list in her head of people to trust, sometimes Miranda forgot that Andrea and the girls weren't the only people listed there. And Andrea was correct when she said she hadn't really told Emily anything, only that I was sick, not with what, or what the treatment was.

"Shall we get started?" Dr. Dawson stood, picked up the file and gestured to the door. "My nurse will show you to an exam room and I'll be in to start the IV in a moment."

Andy and Miranda stood, Andy linking her arm with her partner. "You don't by chance have a CD player we could use do you?"

"Actually, yes, I do." Isabella looked puzzled at the brunette. "Why?"

Andy patted her bag, "Almost immediately after we told her about the impending wedding, Emily gave me a bunch of sample CD's to review; to see if we want any of the bands to perform at the wedding reception. So far I haven't even had a chance to listen to them, much less let Miranda hear them. I thought we might be able to do that now, while I have a captive audience, so to speak." Miranda groaned and Andy laughed.

Isabella nodded as she reached the hallway. "I'll find one for you." Gesturing for her nurse, the doctor handed the woman the file. "Exam room four."

"Sure." The rotund woman smiled kindly and motioned for them to follow her. "This way." They walked down the hall and when they reached the door on the end, she opened it for them. "Doc'll be in soon."

Andy spoke for both of them. "Thanks."

"No problem, hon." Sliding the file into the holder on the door, the nurse flashed them another kind smile and closed the door.

Miranda looked around the room, her nostrils flaring at the equipment surrounding a surprisingly comfortable looking chair. Bowing to the inevitable, Miranda sat and pulled her phone from her purse. "I'm going to call the girls. They shouldn't hear about my so-called illness from Emily."

Andy nodded and began to dig the zippered CD case Emily had given her out of her large bag. "That's true, they'll feel better hearing it from you."

Emily ignored the handful of reporters standing on the sidewalk in front of Miranda's home. She knocked on the door and wasn't surprised when one of the children answered. "Hello."

"Hi." The sullen girl opened the door wider. Without another word, the child turned and walked away, apparently not caring if the redhead entered the house or not.

Mumbling, "Brilliant," Emily slipped through the door, closing and locking it behind her. The girl's voice, she assumed it was the same one that answered the door, called down from the staircase.

"We're up here."

Shaking her head, wondering what fresh circle of Hell she was walking into, the long time assistant put her foot on the bottom step. "Oh," she blinked. When she'd agreed to do this the ramifications hadn't occurred to her. In all the years she had worked for Miranda, Emily had never, ever, been upstairs. It felt very strange to be walking up to the actual living space her boss utilized.

She was barely able to take in the elegant surroundings and the unique scent, much like Miranda herself, of the house. There was only one door on the second floor with a light shining from it and she was drawn to it rather like a moth to a flame. She wondered how long it would take for her to burn. Squaring her shoulders and adjusting the strap on the messenger bag at her side, Emily remembered that Miranda had asked her to do this, or so Andy said. So she walked into the room with as much confidence as she could. It faltered immediately as each twin looked up from the books they were reading.

"We don't want you here," one of them said.

Emily sat on the end of the overstuffed couch and sniffed. "I don't particularly want to be here."

"Then why are you?" The other one questioned.

"Miranda told me to be here." Why I have no idea.

"Do you always do what Mom tells you to?"

Emily's eyes widened, "Of course."

Both girls snorted at that and shaking their heads resumed their homework assignments.

Without anything else to do, Emily simply sat on the couch, and watched them. It took about ten minutes for one of the girls to throw her pencil down on the paper she'd been working on.

"This is creepy! Do you have to just sit there and look at us like that? Don't you have something else to do?"

"As a matter of fact, I have several thousand things to do, none of which I can accomplish at the moment. I need my computer at work for that." Emily shook her head. "Sorry if that's an inconvenience to you, I didn't ask for Miranda to get sick and need a treatment…" The stunned looks on their faces stopped Emily's rant. Oh God, don't tell me they didn't know. Andrea I'm going to kill you… "I mean, you know… I never want her to be sick."

Cassidy actually heard true worry in the woman's voice. "Don't worry, Mom will be fine." She grinned at their sudden babysitter. "She called from the doctor's office and told us all about it."

Caroline nodded. "We were just a little surprised that you knew. Mom's pretty private about her health."

"I only know that she's sick, no details." Emily wondered if she could get some from the girls. "Does this have something to do with the drugs that woman gave her a few months ago?" She was still angry at herself for allowing that to happen.

Shaking her head, Caroline refused that thought, that particular nightmare had no business in the light of day. "No, it's some kind of infection. Mom has to take IV antibiotics for it."

Emily absorbed the information, filing it away as she did everything she ever discovered about her intriguing boss.

"What does Mom have you doing now?" At Emily's blank stare, Cassidy prompted. "Several thousand things?"

Blinking, the assistant didn't know which girl had asked the question but it didn't matter. "I'm planning the wedding."

"Really?!" Cassidy moved to sit next to the woman. "What still needs to be done? You can use my laptop if you want…"

"Everything! I still need to get final approval on the invitation design." Emily was extremely grateful that the actual wording of the invitations had already been decided, but the design still needed to be settled.

"Do you have them with you?"

"Yes," she began cautiously. She thought they might be able to finalize a design tonight at least, if she could monopolize Miranda's time long enough for the woman to look at the choices. "But I really don't think…"

"Let us see them." Cassidy tugged on Emily, wrinkling her forehead as her small hands wrapped around the woman's arm. "I'll bet we can guess which one Mom will pick."

Caroline laughed. "I'll bet we can guess which one Andy will pick."

Emily pulled the binder she'd created of all the sample invitations out of her bag. "You can look at them." She highly doubted the children would be able to predict either woman's favorites though. Perhaps Miranda would be impressed that the children had been kept occupied. "When Miranda gets home maybe she'll come to a decision."

Nodding, the girls both began turning the pages of the binder slowly, carefully evaluating each example. Emily, on the other hand, was carefully evaluating the girls. After nearly an hour of watching them debate about the invitations, Emily realized just how different they were. One of them, as scary as it was to think about, was very much like Miranda in mannerisms and attitude. The other, oddly enough, seemed to favor Andy. She reached out to touch the shoulder of the one more like her former co-worker. "What is your name?"

Looking up from the book, the girl flashed a very Andy-like grin at their babysitter. "Cassidy."

Nodding absently, Emily blinked and suddenly was able to tell the twin terrors apart. Well that's something I guess. She wondered why she hadn't seen the difference in them before. Then she answered her own question. You weren't ever looking, were you? Caroline's voice drew her out of her thoughts.

"This is the one Mom will pick." She pointed to a cream colored invitation with scripted gold lettering. It was very elegant and Emily privately agreed that it might just attract Miranda's attention. The girl flipped a few pages farther. "This is the one Andy will want." Her sister interrupted her.

"No," flipping through several more pages, Cassidy found the example she wanted. "This, is the one Andy will want." She went back to the one Caroline had picked for Andy. "This is the one they'll settle on."

"Settle?" Emily bristled at the thought. "Now you see here, Miranda won't 'settle' on anything, she'll get the invitations she wants!"

This was the second time Emily had made a statement indicating she thought it was going to be Miranda's decision. "Better not." Caroline warned. "Don't think Mom has the final say… at Runway yeah, but here they decide things together." She tapped the agreed upon sample. "This invitation is like the other two got together and had a baby, this is the one they'll use."

Emily looked dubiously at the off-white card Caroline was touching and could see elements of both chosen invitations in it. "We'll just wait and see what Miranda…and Andy, have to say."

Shrugging, the girls moved away from the binder and resumed their schoolwork. Cassidy looked up at their mom's assistant. "You're going to stay for dinner aren't you?"

"Um…" Dinner? Emily's eyes widened and she shook her head. "I hadn't thought about it, Andy didn't say anything about dinner on the phone."

"Oh," Cassidy thought about it for a minute. "Stay for dinner." She smiled. "You can be my guest."

Blinking at that, Emily wasn't sure what to say. She didn't want to refuse the girl though there was no telling what Miranda's reaction to that would be. "Um… Okay."

"Great! We're having pot roast." Cassidy turned back to the page under her pencil. "It's Andy's favorite."

Caroline agreed. "It's really good when you use the dinner roll to soak up the gravy."

Emily managed to keep her sarcastic reply internal. Oh Goody, carbs. She could feel herself gaining weight just thinking about it.

Miranda and Andy arrived home to find the girls going through the caterer's menu selections. "What's all this?"

"Mom! Andy…" The girls immediately ran to hug their parents. "Are you okay, Mom?"

"I'm fine." Miranda smiled down at the girls. "The doctor gave me medication to take, but I'm sure the infection will be eliminated quickly."

"What's up, Sweetie?" Andy eyed the things scattered on the coffee table.

"We're helping Emily plan the wedding." Cassidy smiled. "We've already picked out the invitations and now we're choosing the menu."

"Indeed." Miranda cast a significant look at Emily. "Using my children to do your work for you?"

"Of course not…" Emily wrung her hands together. "It's just they asked to see… and I had them, so naturally I'd…" The assistant found her nervous hands covered with smaller softer ones.

"It's okay, Emily." Cassidy rolled her eyes at the assistant-turned-babysitter and gave a little glare in her mom's direction. "She's just teasing you."

Startled, Emily looked up at Miranda and blinked. There was a hint of a smile on the woman's face. Oh my God, she's teasing me? Joking?! It was so weird, but that little tiny bit of a smile on Miranda's face and the slight twinkle in her eyes calmed Emily almost instantly. Wow. She patted the small hands on hers. "Thanks, Cassidy."

"No problem." The girl smiled and she informed the adults. "Emily is staying for dinner, she's going to be my guest."

Miranda's blue eyes widened as did Andy's brown ones. Miranda was the first to speak. "Very well. Shall we?"

Nodding, the girls scrambled to their feet as Miranda linked her arm with Andy. Both women suppressed their grins as Cassidy linked her arm with Emily. They stopped at Andy's insistence to wash their hands, like they wouldn't have anyway, then made their way down to the kitchen. Cassidy seated Emily at the table then helped her sister set the table for five.

Andy couldn't help notice the dazed look on Emily's face. It had to be strange for the woman, being at Miranda's house, Miranda joking with her, eating at Miranda's table. Emily had put Miranda on a pedestal for so long, Andy thought it would probably be difficult for her to interact with the iconic woman on such a personal level. Cassidy's current actions would be a little disconcerting too. Andy leaned close and whispered to her former co-worker. "You're doing great, just go with it…" Walking to the stove, Andy began to fill a plate.

What? Go with what? Just then Cassidy set a plate, heaped with food, in front of her. Oh my god.

"Yeah, um… Sweetie." Andy moved back to the table. "I think you got my portions and Em's mixed up." She took the over-laden plate away from Emily and replaced it with the plate she'd just prepared. It had a small amount of beef with a few onion slivers on it, one small potato, two bites of carrot, and a small section of celery. No dinner roll.

"Thank you Andrea," Letting out a breath of relief, Emily nodded at the plate. "Even this is more than I normally eat," she looked at the other plate. "I'd never be able to eat all that!"

"But you're so…"

"Cassidy." Miranda interrupted her child's statement, knowing the next word would be, 'thin'. She was a little disconcerted at this turn of events, she'd never expected Emily's short stint as babysitter would be long enough for Cassidy to develop an apparent crush on the woman. She'd only wanted the assistant to be here when they got home to go over some of the wedding decisions with her tonight. "Everyone has different nutritional needs."

Nodding, Andy put the full plate in front of her usual chair then moved back to the stove. "Speaking of which," Andy grinned and put several vegetables on the plate in her hand, added a small portion of meat and half a dinner roll before placing it in front of Miranda. She had given Miranda slightly larger portions than Emily, but not much more. "Doc said you need to start eating better."

With barely a glance at Emily, Miranda picked up her fork, stabbed a carrot and smiled at her future wife, "Yes, Dear."

Rolling her eyes, Andy chuckled and took her seat. Leaning over she kissed the older woman's cheek. She grinned and with a sing-song voice and a twinkle in her eye, Andy informed her fiancee adoringly, "I love you, Miranda."

A tiny smile curled the corners of her lips and Miranda nodded and returned the chuckle. "And I you." She turned to their guest. "Emily, I expect to go over the wedding plans with you after our meal."

Dipping her head once, Emily was grateful for the change of topic. "Yes, Miranda." She poked the food on her plate and tentatively licked the gravy that stuck on her fork. She wondered how much she'd have to eat before she could declare herself, done.


Part 2

After dinner they'd all gone back up to the TV room, where Emily had left her bag and all the wedding samples. Miranda, Caroline and Emily were looking through the invitation examples that had all been laid out on the low table in front of the couch. Andy was sitting cross-legged on the floor, across the room from the others, helping Cassidy finish up her homework.

Andy watched her soon-to-be daughter for a while before she leaned over and whispered. "Do you like her, Cass?" The girl's eyes widened and a blush spread across her cheeks.


Grinning, Andy winked at the girl and continued their whispered conversation. "She is quite pretty."

"Buh…" Cassidy shook her head. "No, I… just…" She wrapped her hands around Andy's bicep and squeezed slightly, feeling the solid muscles there. "Have you ever done this, to her?" When Andy shook her head no, Cassidy sighed. "Her arm isn't any bigger around than mine or Caroline's, I don't like her, but I like her and don't want to see her be too thin, you know?"

"Ah." Nodding, Andy understood. "Your Mom and I are worried about her too." Then something about the way Cassidy had voiced her denial niggled at Andy's brain. "You don't like Emily, but there is someone, isn't there…someone you do, like?" Understanding eyes twinkled as Cassidy's head nodded slowly. "Someone at school?" Another nod and Andy continued the quiet interrogation. "Someone in your study group?" She grinned at the confirmation of that guess.

"Please don't tell Mom or Caroline!" Cassidy's intense plea caught Andy's heartstrings and played a mellow tune.

"Of course not." Andy rubbed the girl's back to soothe her. "You're a little young, I think you have a few more years before anything too serious happens anyway."

"I think about her all the time, Ma." Now Cassidy's hand flew to her mouth and her eyes were wider than she thought possible. She swallowed hard as her hands opened to whisper. "Did I just say that out loud?"

Her? Cass thinks about her all the time… Andy took a deep breath. She hadn't really been serious when she teased the girl about 'liking' Emily. Cassidy wasn't even twelve yet. Wow. "Okay, Sweetie, listen to me." Andy waited for the girl to focus on her. "Feeling what you're feeling is perfectly fine. We all get crushes on people, it's natural. No one can tell you what to feel or who to feel it about, do you understand?" She smiled when Cassidy nodded. "If you ever need to talk, about anything, I'm here, and so is your Mom."

"Thanks, Ma."

Andy grinned, deciding that the moment had grown far too serious. Cassidy grinned then suddenly found herself on the receiving end of some major tickling and returned it as best she could. Both she and the older woman were rolling on the floor squealing when a clearing throat cut through their play.

"If you two are finished with your shenanigans, Andrea, we need your input on this." Miranda kept her tone as disapproving as she could, but the twinkle in her eye betrayed her. She was totally charmed with the sight of Andrea and Cassidy playing.

"Sure," Andy picked herself up off the floor and brushed off imaginary dirt. "but only if you say the word 'shenanigans' again."

"Blackmail?" Miranda's lips twitched.

Andy was aware of the girls' amused looks and Emily's amazement. Shrugging, the brunette crossed her arms and stood her ground; the corners of her brown eyes crinkling as she smiled. "Or you could just beg me."

With barely a glance at Emily, Miranda chuckled and spoke in a bored monotone as she examined her fingernails closely. "Oh please Andrea, please, please, please grace us with your wisdom on this, most important, matter."

Dropping her arms to her sides, Andy grinned and shook her head as she crossed the room. "You're such a goof." Lowering herself to the floor, Andy looked at the paper strewn table. "What am I looking at?"

"What you see before you," Miranda informed her fiancée, "are the invitations I deem acceptable. It is now up to you to choose from them which one you want. Emily will then have them printed with the relevant information."

Cassidy wandered over and spotted the invitation she and Caroline had picked out as the one that would ultimately be the one used. She watched Andy look over the samples for ten minutes until the woman chose the very one they'd predicted.

Emily wondered why she was surprised when the girls grinned at each other. They had always been creepy children with their own little telepathic language. At least, that is what she used to think. Tonight they had actually seemed more like little people than she'd ever given them credit for. When they were looking over the samples of things for the wedding both girls seemed to know Andy's tastes as well as their mother's. Emily admitted although that was probably normal, it was weird to her, because she wouldn't have had a clue at their age what her own mother's tastes were. In fact, when Emily thought about it, she knew Miranda much better after a few years working with her, than she knew the mother she'd had her whole life.

When Miranda declared that it was getting late, Emily nodded and packed up all the samples, infinitely glad that some decisions had been made. Invitations were an important first step. She did need further information though. "I'll need to know either the guest list or at least the guest number for the printer."

"There will need to be two separate lists." Miranda absently brushed her thumb across the bare skin on her left hand ring finger and reminded her assistant. "One for the wedding itself, and another for the reception."

"We want to keep the ceremony small." Andy glanced at Miranda, she noticed the motion on Miranda's left hand and thought. Soon. She was also relieved to see the older woman nodding. "I was thinking maybe fifty?"

Miranda stopped nodding and managed to keep her expression blank. "I had a number closer to a hundred in mind."

"That's not 'small'." Andy shook her head trying to wrap her mind around declaring her love for Miranda with a hundred people in the same room. Actually that wouldn't be a problem for her, but having Miranda declare her love in front of all those people… it was nearly unthinkable. "I thought we were going to keep it to family and friends."

"Of course, but if your birthday party is any indication, your family alone will require a hundred invitations." Now the older woman couldn't keep the amusement out of her eyes or the slight twitch from crossing her lips.

"Oh, my, god… you're teasing me now?" Andy laughed as Miranda chuckled. "You're in a good mood tonight."

"Mmm…" Blue eyes twinkled at the love of her life and Miranda smiled. "Must be the fever…"

Andy rose gracefully from her cross-legged position on the floor and with a hand against Miranda's forehead, tested the 'fever' theory. "Nope, not feverish." She gently traced her fingertips from the woman's forehead to her chin. "Time for your meds and bed though, Doc said you need your rest."

There was a glint in those pale blue eyes that clearly asked Andrea if she actually believed when they went to bed there would be any rest, for a while. The brunette's answering smile was a resounding no. For Emily, who was just beginning to wrap her mind around the fact that Miranda and Andy were going to be married, the thought of them 'together' was far too much.

"I'll bring The Book later..."

"No," the editor spoke quietly, "No Book tonight and I won't be in until ten, adjust my schedule accordingly."

"Of course." Emily bowed slightly as she nodded. "Good night, Miranda." She turned to her former co-worker. "Andy," then she faced the girls giving each a nod as she said their name. "Caroline, Cassidy."

Andy grinned at Emily's sudden ability to tell the twins apart. She and the girls returned the wish in unison. "Good night, Emily."

Miranda, however, raised an eyebrow at the redhead still standing in the doorway. "That's all."

Even though it was said without its normal hard edge, Emily instinctively moved at the familiar command and they soon heard the front door closing behind the woman.

Miranda watched Andrea, much like a hawk watches a rabbit crossing a wide open field. There had been a subtle interaction between the young woman and Cassidy when they had bid the girl goodnight, something that hadn't been there with Caroline. Since it was obvious that observation alone wasn't going to shed any light on the situation, Miranda decided it was time to swoop in for the kill. "What are you and Cassidy hiding?" Sharp eyes didn't miss Andrea's quick intake of breath. There is something. Andrea's next words were very disturbing indeed.

"I promised her I wouldn't tell." Andy sighed as Miranda's lips pressed together in disapproval.

"Keeping secrets from me." The cool words matched Miranda's expression. "This does not bode well for our future…"

"Miranda," Andy tried to explain, "I'm not keeping secrets from you," Not many at least, "I'm keeping a trust Cassidy gave me." She practically begged the woman. "It's not anything bad, it's just a little embarrassing for her. She doesn't want Caroline to know either."

"This has to do with the crush she's developed… for Emily."

"Sort of." Andy temporized.

"I assume you told her that Emily is far too old for her…"

Andy laughed, loudly. "Says the pot to the kettle!" She blinked at Miranda's confused expression. "Miranda, Emily is only two years older than I am." She waited for the editor to do the math in her head then confirmed the result. "Yep, there are only eighteen years difference between Em and Cassidy." She held up her hand to stop the comment. "But they are important years," She smiled and shifted pressing Miranda gently back onto the bed. "Cass is only eleven, nearly twelve, she's got a lot of time for a lot of crushes before the real thing comes along."

"The real thing…" Miranda looked up into the eyes of her love and was lost. "I… I hope she does find 'the real thing', like we have."

"I hope so too." Andy smiled, lowering herself to capture the no-longer-disapproving lips with her own for a long lovely moment. "Oh, God, I hope so too." She carefully fit herself against the older woman. "Everyone should have this."

"Mmm…" Miranda turned. "Perhaps." She nearly growled, "But they can find their own Andrea." Shifting, Miranda found the soft skin at her fiancée's long neck and traced gentle kisses down from there. "This one is mine."

"Mmmm…" Andy closed her eyes at the sensation of Miranda's mouth claiming her. "You bet I am."

Caroline and Cassidy hugged the women bye and ran to the car waiting to take them to school. Both girls were glad that the reporters had thinned out so much and they didn't need a police escort anymore, although they did miss Detective Jo. There was only today and tomorrow left in the school year though, so Jo wouldn't have been around too much longer anyway.

"What are we going to do for the girls' birthday?" Andy was a little worried about it. The day was fast approaching, faster than the wedding actually.

"They will have a party, naturally." Miranda was confused at the question.

"Really?" This was the first Andy had heard of any such plan. "Where?"

"Wherever they want." That should have been obvious to anyone, especially Andrea.

"Well… shouldn't we ask them what they want, so that we can make it happen on their birthday?"

"How do you know I haven't already asked them?" Miranda sounded slightly upset. "Perhaps the girls and I keep secrets from you as well?"

"This again?" Andy slid closer, wrapping her arms around Miranda's waist, lightly. "I thought we settled that last night."

"Perhaps I simply need some reassurance." Miranda smirked, her eyes reflecting the amusement in her tone.

Laughing, Andy rubbed their noses together. "When I was working for you, I'd never have imagined how playful you are."

Miranda shook her head. "I wasn't. Not then." She would never tire of looking into Andrea's eyes and Miranda reached up to gently caress the young woman's cheek. "You... bring that out in me."

Andy melted and leaned slightly into the touch. "Miranda…"

"We don't have time for this," The editor sighed, "I know." Pulling away, the older woman picked up her coffee mug and carried it to the sink. "I'll need to be going soon."

"You told Emily you wouldn't be in until ten this morning."

"What? Ten?" Miranda shook her head. "Don't be ridiculous, why would I say something like that?"

"Miranda?" Andy looked into the woman's eyes with concern. "You told her ten."

Realizing Andrea was very worried, Miranda leaned forward and kissing the worried lips reassured her quickly. "So I did." She smiled as the tension left Andrea's shoulders. "I have some business to attend to before I go into the office."

"I see." Andy shook her head. "It's still hard for me to tell when you are joking and when you aren't."

"I shouldn't have teased you about this, I know you are concerned regarding my health." Miranda grinned. "But, honestly, I hope you are never fully able to read me." She admitted. "I like being able to… play, with you."

Andy's eyebrows shot up and she smiled. "Oh you do… do you?" She moved closer, again lightly wrapping her arms around the older woman's waist.

"Yes." Miranda melted into the embrace. "You are one of the few people I can actually 'joke' with…"

"Anytime…" Andy assured her fiancée, "Joke, tease, torment…" Finding the woman's ear, she whispered. "I'm a big girl, I can take it."

"Mmmm…" Miranda sighed at the familiar stirrings Andrea's voice caused within her and spoke almost to herself. "What you do to me…" With a growl, she tried to pull away. "I have to go."

"Why?" Andy continued her assault, slowly moving her lips from the perfect ear down the length of the woman's neck. She murmured against the softness. "Stay…"

"You don't fight fair." Miranda chuckled and closed her eyes savoring the full lips caressing her skin.

"All's fair in love and war." Andy quoted never stopping her gentle exploration of Miranda's neck and shoulders.

"Which is this?" Miranda asked absently.

Andy chuckled. "Good question." Buttons on Miranda's blouse fell prey to Andrea's long nimble fingers. "Let's see if we can figure it out." Exploring the expanse of skin she found there, Andy suddenly pulled away. "Oh," she widened her eyes, innocently, "but what about the business you need to take care of this morning…"

A tiny grumble issued from the editor's throat and Miranda pulled Andrea back against her, threading her elegant fingers through the dark wavy hair. "What business? Really Andrea…" Forcibly tilting the young woman's head back to gain access to the long neck, Miranda began her own assault, lips moving against soft skin, murmuring. "…the only business I have this morning is with you, upstairs."

"Yay." Andy's dark eyes fastened on the mercurial woman. "Shall we?"

Miranda gestured to the stairs. "After you." She watched Andy walk several steps up before she slid her phone out of her pocket, quickly texting a one word message and sending it off. Reschedule. It was only slightly annoying for the person, Miranda knew, she did need to get the matter taken care of but at the moment that could wait and this, smiling as she chased up the stairs after her lover, this couldn't.

At ten a.m. exactly the elevator door slid open and Miranda Priestly paced into her domain. Emily was there, waiting, as always.

"Good Morning, Miranda."

"Emily," The Editor walked briskly down the corridor. "Did you get the invitations to the printer?"

"Yes, Miranda." Emily cleared her throat, "they are typesetting them now, but they still need to know the numbers to print."

"Seventy-five for the wedding ceremony itself." Miranda's heels clicked steadily on the marble tile. "And two hundred and fifty for the reception." She'd taken several more steps when she realized Emily was no longer following her. Turning to the stunned, still woman, Miranda tilted her head. "Problem?"

"Uh… no, it's just, um… with 'plus one' guests that would make five hundred, that's," Emily searched for a way to hide her amazement and shock, "that's more than the hotel's ballroom capacity."

"Actually, it isn't. I spoke with them and if they open the French doors out to the garden they can accommodate twice that many, but two hundred and fifty will do." Miranda waited for Emily to catch up to her and began to move again. "Besides which, many of them will simply be sent out of courtesy, obviously not everyone will attend." She'd never been to a function yet where the turnout had been a hundred percent.

Emily snorted to herself. Care to make a wager on that?

Andy concentrated on the article she was writing. The study was quiet except for the sound of the grandfather clock ticking. The ticking didn't distract her, even the three long chimes signaling the hour didn't cause the writer's focus to waver, but when Patricia's heavy head rose and turned in the general direction of the front door, growling, Andy took notice. Automatically dropping her hand to the scruff of the animal's neck, Andy comforted the canine. "Shhh… it's just the mail." She ruffled the dog's stiffened hair and laughed. "You're so vicious." The St. Bernard was huge, very intimidating, but also about the kindest and gentlest dog she'd ever seen. Her bark was definitely worse than her bite.

Abandoning her work, Andy went to retrieve the bundle of mail that had passed through the slot in the door. "Let's see what horrors have been delivered today, shall we?" Although, several weeks had passed since they had been 'out' as a couple, she still hadn't quite grown accustomed to seeing her grainy image splashed across the 'entertainment' section of the papers. She sorted through it absently as she walked back to the study laying the majority of the envelopes and magazines on her partner's desk. Holding the final few letters addressed to her, she returned to her seat on the couch. She smiled at the return address on the top envelope and dropped the others to quickly open it.

Hello Darlin,

I'm sorry I haven't had the time to write until now. Things here have been very, busy.

I was glad you called the other night to let me know you were okay after the hostage situation. I'm sorry if I sounded gruff, Mary is having a very rough time right now and she was crying when you called, that is what took me so long to get to the phone and why I wanted to end the conversation so quickly.

Your mother came back from her visit with you almost a new person. I'm glad she got the chance to see you where you are the happiest. She's very enthusiastic about helping you plan the wedding, even though I told her that you most likely have a professional planner dealing with the details. She's talking about another visit soon, and I will probably come along for that one, if you don't mind, but I was wondering if perhaps Mary could come along too? I truly want to be there for you, but I don't really want to leave Mary alone either. I think a change of scenery might do her good as well.

All my Love


Andy smiled at the letter, what Gram had said, and what she hadn't. Don't want to leave her alone indeed. Andy chuckled. Gram, Gram, Gram… you are just full of surprises aren't you? She tried to control her imagination and spoke to herself sternly in what sounded vaguely like Miranda's voice. "You are jumping to conclusions far too quickly, Andrea!" She still grinned at the idea and the word 'trouble' floated through her mind. She told herself once again that she would ask Gram about the situation as soon as she could.

The next letter was from the former head cheerleader of her high school, it was a form letter telling everyone about the upcoming class reunion. "Blech…" Andy shuffled that one off to the side. "Shredder for you…" Her hand stilled, then began to shake, as she reached for the next envelope in the pile and now paid attention to the return address. "Dammit!" She really wanted tear up the envelope, put it in the shredder and be done with it, but Andy knew that would only encourage the psycho.

Andy rarely swore, a 'dammit' or 'Hell' or 'bullshit' or version thereof every now and then, and a 'fuck' from time to time…when the situation warranted it, but in normal conversation she didn't usually curse. This, however, had caused all sorts of rarely used words to parade through her head, every one of them directed at the bitch who had nearly killed Miranda. Grinding her teeth together, Andy found a black Sharpie in Miranda's desk and wrote clearly on the outside of the envelope Return to Sender.

There was a Post Office drop box on her regular morning running route that would start the thing on its trip back to the corrections facility from whence it came. She looked back at her laptop and closed it. There's no way I'm going to be able to concentrate now. Sliding the envelope into her back pocket, she called for the big dog to follow her and walked into the kitchen. She grabbed a quick drink and smiled as Peggy entered the room. Andy put her glass into the dishwasher and took the animal's lead out of the drawer they kept it in as she spoke to the housekeeper. "I'm going to take Patricia for a walk."

"The girls will be home soon." Peggy knew the children were becoming used to the brunette being home when they were. Soon though, different arrangements would be made as she knew Andy would be returning to work before long and school was nearly out for the year. At the moment though, the girls were old enough that they weren't any problem to watch in addition to her other duties.

"We'll be home before you need to leave." Andy assured the woman. She clipped the leash to Patricia's collar. "I really just need to walk for a while, clear my head, stretch my legs." Mail a letter. She did hate not being here when the girls got home though. "I'll have my cell phone. Call me if they need anything, even just to say hi."

"Sure." Peggy grinned as the young woman and obedient dog walked out the door. The relationship that had formed so quickly between Andy and the children was rather amazing to see. The housekeeper was happy that things seemed to be working out so well. It's about time. She thought. Those children deserve a happy family, and so does their mother.

Andy sat quietly on the park bench, her denim covered legs stretched out in front of her, crossed at the ankles. The few reporters that had followed her seemed to have taken the hint that she didn't want to talk and had drifted out of the park after the first fifteen minutes. She was happy to just sit in the park on a nice warm day. Andy watched Patricia bounding around the grassy area and smiled at the carefree life dogs seemed to live, at least, dogs with owners who brought them to the park. Her thoughts of living the life of a dog were interrupted by a young voice, cracking next to her.

"Hello again."

Andy returned the greeting. "Hello." It was the same boy she'd seen here a few weeks ago, before their vacation. He was just as thin and awkward as before and she looked around for the rest of the group that had been with him then. They'd dared him to try and get her phone number, which she hadn't given. What she had done was give him a hug which had put him in good stead with the other boys. "Do your friends still give you a hard time?"

"Nah, I don't hang around them much anymore."

"Well, I can't say as I blame you, they didn't seem to be treating you very nice last time…" Andy grinned at his blush. "Did you have a nice birthday? Get anything good?"

"Oh, yeah… the usual you know, money from my grandma, some clothes, a video game. You?"

Nodding Andy thought that sounded like a typical birthday for a teen. She knew some of her gifts had been chronicled in the papers, one in particular. Her left thumb absently touched the ring on her finger. "Oh you know, the usual… clothes, some jewelry…" But that turned her thoughts to the girls. What am I going to get them for their birthday?

He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees but turned his head to see her. "You… um… don't have a big muscled up boyfriend."

Licking her lips, Andy smiled and shook her head. "No." With an admonishing tilt of her head, she reminded the boy. "I never said I did."

"Well that's true." He recalled his guess at the situation. "You just agreed with me, right?"

Nodding, she answered with the same phrase she'd used then. "Something like that," Andy turned her attention back to Patricia for a second. "I think, you have an advantage on me now." With a tiny smile at his confused look, Andy chuckled. "If you read the papers, you know my name, but I don't know yours."

"Your name is Andy Sachs, you're twenty-eight years old currently engaged to be married to fashion and publishing mogul Miranda Priestly. You work at The Mirror as a staff writer. You grew up in Cincinnati with one brother, your parents are still together and still live in Cincinnati, you went to school at Central and made honor roll all four years then graduated with honors from Northwestern University after turning down an offer to attend Stanford Law…." He trailed off at the shock on her face. "Yeah, I know your name." When he'd recognized the woman's picture in the paper, he'd gleaned through every article in print and online that he could find about her. Some information had taken a little hacking to access, the honor roll information mostly, but he'd always liked doing that kind of stuff. The harder it was to get the information the more fun it was to try, even if it was useless and you didn't need it for anything. It wasn't the sort of thing you could usually brag about but he knew he was good at it. If it was online, he could find it.

Andy didn't think the papers had gone into that much detail about her life. In fact, she knew they hadn't. At that thought an instant stab of fear shot through her and aiming a loud shrill whistle at the playing dogs, Andy yelled. "Patricia!" Thankful that the dog immediately returned to her. She only barely stopped the large animal from jumping up to put her paws on her shoulders, something Patricia only did when she was very excited and unable to work off the excess energy. Andy quickly attached the leash to the dog's collar. "C'mon, girl." She could feel herself trembling as she glanced at the confused looking boy then literally ran from the park, Patricia only just keeping pace with the suddenly terrified woman.

Oh man, that was stupid. He smacked himself on the forehead. Now she thinks you're some kind of stalker. Just thinking that word made him realize what he'd done. Awww, crap, she just testified in that big trial, against the woman who actually was stalking her. Crap crap crap! Looking toward the park exit where Andy had disappeared he wondered what he should do. He almost went after her, he did know where she lived, to try and explain then common sense kicked in. Yeah, genius, chase after the woman who thinks you're stalking her…what a good idea, not! Sighing to himself, he jammed his hands into his pockets and slowly walked toward home. Maybe he'd run into her again and be able to apologize for being so stupid.


Part 3

Andy ran as fast as she could and was nearly half way back to the house before she began to calm down. A quick glance behind her reassured her that no one was following her and she began to slow down the pace. Relaxing her grip on Patricia's leash, Andy took a deep breath and calmed herself even more. Easy, she told herself, you're fine, it's not a big deal, he just knew a bunch of stuff… it's all online somewhere. She slowed to a walk and continued to calm herself. He's just a kid. No one's following you, no one's watching you, it's okay, you're fine. Taking regular deep breaths, Andy's thoughts turned toward the girls. Calm down now, you can't let the girls see you upset, it will only upset them too. This is nothing, no need to worry yourself or the girls. It will just give you wrinkles. She grinned a little bit because that last bit of reassurance she'd given herself had sounded distinctly like Miranda in her head.

By the time she'd gotten back to the townhouse, Andy was almost completely back to normal and she smiled as the girls basically tackled her when she walked through the door.


"Hey guys…" She managed to stay on her feet. "What's up?" Both girls began to talk at the same time and Andy tried, but couldn't sort much out of the jumbled words. "Okay, I got, 'study group', 'meeting', and 'place'." She grinned at both sets of eyes rolling. "One at a time, please?" She pointed at Caroline. "Tell me again."

Caroline took a breath and nodded. "Study group is tomorrow, but since tomorrow is the last day of school we don't have a place to meet. We have a faculty sponsor," she added. "But, Ms. Bax said she wasn't sure if it was... um... appropriate for us to meet at her house, especially since she hadn't met all the parents yet. Can we meet here?"

"The group decided today at lunch that we could take turns meeting at each other's houses once or twice a week, during summer break, but since there are two of us." Cassidy pointed from herself to Caroline. "We sort of volunteered to be first. Ms. Bax said that once we'd visited all the student's houses and she'd met the parents, if it was okay with them then she would let us meet at her house when it was her turn."

Andy nodded. "Of course," With the barest of glances at Cassidy, Andy smiled, "I'd love to meet your friends."

"Yes!" Caroline wrapped her arms around Andy's middle and squeezed. "I'll go call them!" She ran upstairs, leaving a subdued Cassidy and Andy alone.

Bending down to unlatch Patricia's leash, Andy gestured for Cassidy to follow her into the kitchen. "Wanna go grab a snack?"

Cassidy nodded and joined the woman in the brightly lit room. She watched Andy put the leash away, wash her hands and open the fridge.

"What sounds good?"

"Peggy made a veggie tray." Cassidy pointed to the second shelf. "We asked for carrots earlier."

Nodding, Andy pulled the small platter out and set it on the island counter. "Where is Peggy?"

"Upstairs." Cassidy said absently and reached out to take the cover off the snacks.

Concentrating, Andy could just hear the sound of the vacuum. "Ah." Picking up a small floret of broccoli, Andy dipped it in the ranch sauce and watched Cassidy carefully. "So, will she be here?" The brunette quickly popped the vegetable in her mouth to chew so she wouldn't grin or laugh at the blush spreading across the girl's face.

"Yes," Cassidy sighed. "I want you to meet her, but I don't want you to freak out…"

Andy's eyes narrowed. "Um… freak out?"

"You know… like, stare at her, or make her feel weird…she.. um… she doesn't know I like her." She wished she'd never told Andy, but Andy was the only one who could possibly understand.

"I wouldn't do that." Andy shook her head. "Why would you think I'd do that?"

Cassidy remained silent for a long moment. "You'll meet her tomorrow." Then you'll see.

"Okay then." Andy picked up a carrot stick and changed the subject. "So… Birthday's coming up." She knew better than to ask the child directly what she wanted, but… "What do you think Caroline will want to do for that?" She tilted her head and smiled as the girl latched on to the subject change. She listened to Cassidy's ideas on what her sister would want, for presents and for the party. Andy was sure that Caroline would be just as enthusiastic telling her what Cassidy would like to do for the big day as well.

Caroline had finished her calls and joined them in the kitchen. They were all munching on the veggie tray and chatting about the upcoming birthday. Surprisingly, Caroline had been in near agreement with Cassidy. Andy wished the wedding things could be that easy to decide. Her phone vibrating made her jump and they all laughed as she dug the thing out of her pocket. A quick glance at the screen made her smile and she answered cheerily, winking at the girls, "Hello, Beautiful."

Miranda's breath caught in her throat. "Andrea," she let out an exasperated sigh. "You are so…incorrigible."

Andy laughed and chided. "You wouldn't have me any other way."

"Wrong." Miranda's smirk came through the phone connection loud and clear. "I'd take you any way I could get you." It was Andy's turn to be silent for a moment and Miranda chuckled then sighed. "I'm calling because I'm going to be late tonight. Some things have come up that I need to deal with, here."

"Ah," Andy's smile faded and she gave Peggy a 'hello I'm back from my walk' wave as the woman entered the kitchen but continued to speak to Miranda. "So, you won't be here tonight for supper?"

"No, I'm sorry, I have a mountain of work to do and it's just impossible for me to get away tonight." Miranda closed her eyes and waited for the onslaught, the cries of how unfair it was, the subtle jabs at how Runway was more important that her own family. Andy's concerned voice in her ear forced the editor to swallow hard. It was so unexpected that she almost didn't hear it, didn't believe it, and asked for it to be repeated. "What? Did you say you'd send something…?"

"Miranda, if you are going to be stuck there this evening you at least need to eat. Yes, I'll have something sent over for your dinner." Andy's eyes twinkled at the girl's grins and got an idea. "Don't worry about us," she assured the woman. "We'll be fine."

"I love you, Andrea." Miranda's voice was a bit shaky.

"I love you too." Andy smiled into the phone and chuckled. "Now concentrate on finishing up your work and getting home at a decent hour."

Miranda smiled and knew Andrea could tell as she responded. "Yes, Dear."

Chuckling as the call was disconnected; Andy informed the rest of the household of what they'd already surmised. "Miranda won't be home for dinner tonight."


The twins' disappointment was obvious just by the look on their faces and Andy couldn't really blame them. "She just has to work…"

"She always has to work!" Cassidy had hoped things would be different this time, with Andy, but it seemed like her mom was just starting down the same 'work-first' path she'd always followed and they weren't even married yet!

"She says she's going to change and she never does." Caroline scoffed. "How long will it take her to drive you away, Andy?"

"Whoa!" Andy understood their frustration, but their leap to her leaving Miranda was just out there. "Let me make one thing perfectly clear. I love your mother and I am not leaving her, not ever, not for anything." She tried to make them understand.

"Miranda isn't like most other people. Her job, isn't just a job for her, it is part of her, part of what makes her unique. If she didn't do what she does, she wouldn't be the woman we love." The girls looked at each other and swallowed hard then looked back at Andy, their eyes wide as the brunette continued. "Tonight she has to work late and she's very sorry about it. I know she'd rather be here with us…" holding up her hand to stop the girl's from saying 'well then why isn't she' or something to that effect, Andy shook her head. "…but she needs to be there for a while." Andy glanced at the clock and knew it was time for Peggy to leave. "You taking off, Peggy?"

The housekeeper, nodded. "Yeah." She pointed to the oven. "I have the casserole set to finish at your regular evening mealtime." She shrugged. "Thought sure she'd be home tonight." Miranda had been doing so well lately, coming home to be with the girls.

Andy nodded. "Thanks." She waved. "Have a nice night."

Peggy glanced at the girls and rolled her eyes. "You too."

They all watched the door close behind the woman and the girls sighed. Caroline shook her head, resigned not to see her mother until tomorrow at least. "I suppose I'll go read a book until dinner's ready."

"Not so fast, Munchkin." Andy grinned as the girl turned an intense look on her. Just like Miranda, Andy marveled. "You aren't gonna have time for that. We have a Mohammed impression to do."

Caroline snorted. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Cassidy laughed, hearing the inflection in Andy's voice and knowing exactly what the woman had in mind. She grinned at the look in Andy's eye. "…it means we're going to Mom's office."

The office was quiet, she'd sent Emily and Bethany home an hour ago, much to their surprise. There was no noise in her office now aside from the occasional distant ding of the elevator as yet more employees left for the evening. It wasn't even that late but the images in front of her went blurry for a moment. Only sheer concentration focused them again. Taking off her glasses, tossing them on top of the mountain of photo proof sheets she'd been staring at for the last forty-five minutes and rubbing the bridge of her nose, Miranda took a deep breath. She wanted to get this done and get home. It was so frustrating, If only I didn't have to choose, she thought and longed for the ability to simply pick up the red pencil and circle four of the pictures then go home. They were all pretty much the same pictures, the same vacant expressions staring out from the same hollow eyes. But so far each photograph had been dismissed due to some tiny flaw. Why does it have to be perfect? She recalled Dorothy's assessment of one of the layouts in The Book and asked herself outloud. "Why can't I just settle for 'fine'?"

"Because if you did that… you wouldn't be you."

Miranda's eyes flew open and met a trio of smiles. "This is a surprise!" She stood quickly and found herself enveloped in a double hug, then a much welcome embrace from Andrea, although Miranda was concerned at the tension she felt there.

"Are you okay?" Miranda's brow furrowed as she massaged her young partner's shoulders. "What's wrong?"

Andy shook her head. "Nothing really." She smiled and kissed the editor's cheek lightly. "We can discuss it later." Forcing herself not to think about the incident in the park or the mail she'd received and returned, Andy asked, "Can you take a break to eat with us?" At Miranda's nod, Andy guided the editor to the table in the corner of the office. The twins had already set out the casserole they'd brought from home, along with some vegetable side dishes and a small basket of bread rolls. "I got a letter from Gram today. She wanted to know if it would be okay to bring a guest when she and Ma come to help with the wedding."

"A guest? Of course, we have plenty of room…" Blue eyes narrowed, "What's that look for?"

"The guest will be Mrs. King," Andy pressed her lips together then shrugged, "And I don't think she'll need a room separate from Gram."

"Oh?" Miranda's eyebrows rose significantly. "I…see."

"Are you okay with that?"

"It would be rather hypocritical of me not to be, now wouldn't it?" Miranda shook her head, "It does seem rather sudden though, her husband only passed away a short time ago."

Andy admitted, "I could be mistaken." But I don't think so.

"It doesn't matter," Miranda leaned forward and kissed her fiancée lightly on the lips. "Whoever you want to be here with you is fine with me."

Caroline had wandered over to Miranda's desk and was looking at the photo sheets. "What are you doing tonight, Mom?"

"I must choose four of those to illustrate an article highlighting the designer's work." Miranda walked up behind her daughter. "This is for an article in next month's issue."

"Next month!" Caroline blinked. "But the print deadline for that is…" Saturday.

"Exactly." She smiled tiredly at the girl. "That is why I must do this tonight." She knew that Caroline was aware of the fact that all the article content had to be set days before the actual deadline in order to finalize the Book for printing. With a deep breath she motioned with her hand and waved away the problem. "At the moment though, I have the company of my three favorite people and what smells like a lovely meal to eat." Offering her arm to the child, Miranda grinned. "Shall we?"

Taking the offered arm, Caroline smiled up at her mother. "Yeah."

"Ah," Andy held up her hands to stop the pair, gesturing them to turn around. "Wash your hands first, please."

Miranda's eyes narrowed as Andy sat a bottle of antibacterial hand gel on the corner of her desk before joining them at the bathroom sink.

Andy and Cassidy were still nibbling on some dinner rolls, but Andy nudged the girl with her shoulder and gestured toward the desk where Caroline stood next to Miranda who was seated in her chair.

"Why not this one?" Caroline pointed to a picture that had been marked as rejected, but it was almost identical to the one next to it.

Sensing an opportunity, Miranda looked down through her glasses at the photos and threw the question back at her daughter. "Why not that one?"

Caroline looked at the sheet again and hesitantly took the magnifying glass her mother used to examine the proofs. "Oh, I see." She set aside the glass and nodded. "There's a weird shadow across her left pantleg."

A smile touched Miranda's lips and a gleam of pride appeared in her eye. From her seated position she circled the girl's waist with her arm and squeezed with a bit of a jostle. "That's right."

Andy watched with a small smile as Miranda pulled Caroline into her lap and they continued looking at the proof sheet.

"Ma?" Cassidy whispered, not wanting to disturb her mother and Caroline. "Can we go down to Sight and Sound? I saw Mr. Edmonds at the music store the other day. He said they were getting some new equipment in to review, it sounded cool."

Nodding, Andy gathered up the leftovers. She grinned as she labeled the containers 'M. Priestly' and thought whoever looked in the break room fridge tomorrow was going to have a mild heart attack. She also took a prescription bottle with three pills in it and quickly stashed it in Miranda's private bathroom, for the next time Miranda had to work late, which would, of course, be tomorrow night.

No one would be snooping through the editor's bathroom, but the break room fridge was a different story. Anyone going through the food stored in the refrigerator tomorrow would pretty much freak and think, Miranda doesn't actually eat this kind of food, does she? Casserole and vegetables, that's so… so common!

"Hey, Boss?" Andy smiled as two eerily similar sets of pale blue eyes looked up and she lifted the containers of food slightly. "I'm going to take these to the break room fridge, then Cassidy and I are gonna go wandering. We'll probably end up on eleven."

Miranda nodded. The Sight and Sound offices were on the eleventh floor. Cassidy loved going there to see what new gadgets had been introduced in the world of music and sound manipulation. "I don't know if anyone will still be there."

"We'll just check it out." Andy winked at Cassidy.

Cassidy was nearly jumping in place. "There's almost always someone there, they usually update the website right about now."

Nodding, Miranda turned back to her task. "Very well then, have fun."

Andy patted the pocket with her phone in it. "Call me if you need us."

Miranda nodded and reached out, touching the phone on her desk lightly, then pulling her hand away. "I will."

"Have fun, Cass." Caroline smiled at her sister and tried not to be too jealous that Cassidy was going to spend time alone with Andy.

Cassidy grinned at her mirror image and tried not to be too jealous that Caroline had found a way to have time with their mother. "You too."

Much later that evening, Miranda and Andy stood side by side at their respective sinks removing their makeup for the day. The girls were snug in their beds, dreaming of the last day of school no doubt and Miranda cleared her throat quietly. Andy finished her task and waited for the woman to say what was on her mind.

"I'm probably going to be late from now until Saturday. The print deadline is looming and there is still quite a bit to do." Contrite blue eyes avoided looking at their dark companions in the mirror, especially when Andrea spoke in that sort of resigned tone.

"I'm on my own for a while then, eh?" The brunette tried to smile. She wanted to talk to Miranda, to discuss what had happened at the park, to tell her about receiving the letter in the mail. But I can't do that to her, she thought, Miranda's so stressed at work, I can't add to that. Maybe on Sunday, after the issue is done.

Miranda's shoulder's sagged, "I'm sorry, Darling. It just can't be helped. Being gone on vacation for two weeks has set the schedule back too much for me to ignore."

"Miranda, I know you have to work." Andy tried to reassure the woman. "It's just been a long day for both of us."

"I know the girls are out of school tomorrow. I spoke with James earlier today. He said he could take them for a few days beginning Thursday." Miranda now wondered at the wisdom of that. "Would you rather they stay here to keep you company?"

Shaking her head, Andy rolled her eyes. "I'll be fine Miranda. I don't need them to 'keep me company'." She shrugged. "If they aren't going to be here, and you aren't going to be here, I may as well not be either." The sharp gasp Miranda gave to that statement immediately moved her into the editor's arms. "It'll probably do me good to go into the office for a few days." She hummed as the arms around her tightened. "I'm getting to be a very lazy writer."

"Andrea," Miranda smiled against the young woman's shoulder. "Whatever are you talking about?"

Laughing, Andy walked Miranda backwards all the way to the bed, pushing her down lightly. "You know exactly what I'm talking about Ms. 'I-don't-have-to-be-in-until-ten'. You spoil me!" She looked down at Miranda sprawled on the bed, "As a matter of fact, I think you should be punished for the way you've corrupted me."

Blue eyes widened considerably and Miranda pointed her index finger at her own chest. "I've corrupted you!?" She blinked. "I… have corrupted, you?"

Andy grinned as Miranda's laugh echoed through the room. It wasn't something she would ever tire of hearing, a genuine Miranda-laugh. "Yep."

"Andrea, you are ridiculous." Sitting up using the muscles in her stomach alone, Miranda grabbed her partner and pulled her down to the bed. "I am the one who used to be the hard-working executive. That I now cancel appointments on a whim and cavort in bed until all hours of the morning just proves that I am the one who has been 'corrupted'." She lazily began to unbutton the pajamas Andrea wore. "I would never do those things without your influence."

Laughing, Andy wriggled as her shirt parted. "That was entirely your decision."

"You really think you've been corrupted?" A crushing kiss drew a moan from both of them and when they parted, Miranda grinned her most evil grin. "You haven't seen anything yet."

Swallowing hard, Andy managed to whisper. "Should I be scared right now?"

"Scared is acceptable, so long as you are equally aroused." Miranda's blue eyes twinkled, knowing the fifty-fifty of emotions in Andrea was just that combination, arousal and terror in equal measure. The scales tipping, favoring one or the other with any given heartbeat was only a bonus. Slowly Miranda began to trace her fingernails along the outline of her lover's face, trace the curve of her neck, trace the slope of her shoulder… not with her fingertips, but the nails; hard and impersonal moving along Andrea's skin.


"Shhhhh…" Miranda watched fascinated as pinkish-red lines appeared, showing her exactly where her touch had been. She asked, absently. "Does this hurt?"

"No, Miranda." Andy closed her eyes against the sensation that wasn't really pain, but wasn't exactly pleasure either; it was a combination, just as her emotions were. Half of her wanted to ask Miranda to please touch her, to beg for Miranda's soft hands on her, and half of her wanted the fingernails to scratch harder, dig deeper, mark her. Feeling the nails moving back toward her throat, Andy tilted her head to give Miranda better access and released a contented sigh. "I love you, Miranda." The wandering fingers tangled in her brown hair and held her head in place. Miranda murmured against the skin at her neck as the editor began to cover the quickly fading pink lines she'd made, with soft kisses.

"And I you."

The next morning after her usual run and shower, Andy was waiting for Miranda at the bottom of the stairs. She smiled as the woman descended the staircase looking perfect as always. "Okay, Roy said he'll be here in five minutes, so I'll catch a ride with you and go into the office for a while."

Nodding, Miranda reached the bottom step and stopped. "Very well." She smiled as Andrea took two steps to close the distance between them. "What will you be doing for lunch?"

"Um... Jo called earlier, while I was running, she said she had something to talk to me about." A worried look passed across Andy's face and sincere brown eyes studied her fiancée. She loved it when she could look directly into Miranda's eyes and thought, Steps are awesome. "You aren't in any trouble are you?"

"Me?" Miranda smiled. "Whatever would I be in trouble for? The Good Detective wants to speak with you, not me."

Andy shook her head. "The hard drives?"

"Andrea," Miranda lifted her hand to caress the woman's cheek with her fingertips. "I've told you a hundred times. I had nothing to do with that." She sighed. "I suppose I'll just have to prove it to you."

The soft touch distracted Andy. "Miranda…"

"We will discuss it later." The editor exhaled dramatically. "I'm stuck for a late lunch today with Donatella. I've put her off for as long as I can and now she insists I tell her the entire story of our 'undying love', her words." Miranda rolled her eyes. "Italians."

Andy laughed. "What are you going to tell her?"

"As little as possible." Miranda chuckled. "The woman is a hopeless romantic, so even a tiny portion of the truth will be enough for her."

"Such as?" Andy prompted.

"I will regale her with tales of your beauty. How you call me a Goddess but it is, in fact, you who have that distinction. How your eyes capture my soul with every glance." Miranda smiled. "How your lips are so soft I cannot help but kiss them." She leaned in to do that very thing. She loved stairs and the way she was able to put her lips even with Andrea's when standing on the bottom step.

Slowly parting, Andy rested her forehead against Miranda's. "You aren't really going to tell her all that, are you?"

"She likes flowery declarations of love." Miranda shook her head. "I have no idea what I'll tell her, but whatever it is will not go any farther than her ears. She can be surprisingly discrete, especially when it comes to matters of 'amore'."

"Oh, I spoke with the girls about their birthday party, they are both in agreement." Andy chuckled. "They want a Twilight Party."

Miranda groaned, "Still fascinated with the paranormal…"

"I thought maybe we could get Emily to plan it… since she's looking at caterers and all that stuff already." Andy grinned at her fiancée, "The birthday is going to be here soon, sooner than the wedding."

Andy's phone vibrated and she fished it out of her pocket quickly. "Roy's here." Her forehead furrowed at the message. "'The horde has returned.' What's that supposed to mean?"

When they opened the front door to leave they found out. More reporters and photographers were there than the second day of their public announcement. None of them had been there when the girls had left for school. Worse than their presence, were the questions the reporters were throwing at the women.

"Andy! Is it true that you cheated on your boyfriend while in Paris on Runway business?" "Andy, how long did your affair with Christian Thompson last?" "Did you sleep with Miranda too?" "Miranda, are your ex-husband's previous allegations true? Did you have an affair while you and Andy were in Paris?"

Andy's first instinct was to run back inside and slam the door, but Miranda grabbed her by the elbow and propelled them both to the waiting car. She didn't acknowledge any of the reporter's questions except the one who had asked. "Have you ever taken advantage of your employee's before?" Him she glared at for a full second before entering the relative calm of the vehicle.

"Oh My God, Miranda… What the hell was that?" There were only three people in the world that knew she'd slept with Christian; her, Miranda, and Christian. So for it to leak to the press, he had to have been the one to tell. Miranda's next comment confirmed her reasoning.

"Apparently, Mr. Thompson needed some publicity." Miranda was seething. "It's too bad he chose this way to get it." Mock pity seeped into her voice, "Such a shame." Reaching up, she casually pushed a lock of white hair out of her eye. "He seemed to have had a promising career too."

Andy's eyes widened. "Uh… what does that mean?"

Miranda's expression clearly showed her surprise at the question. "I'm going to ruin him, of course, because I am in complete agreement with you, Andrea."

"With me?" Andy blinked and thought. What does that mean?

With a nod and a smile that would make anyone shiver, Miranda spoke quietly.

"Nobody messes with my girls."


Part 4

There was a security team waiting at the curb when Roy rolled the car to a stop. Miranda and Andy both got out and were escorted through the throng of reporters that had gathered in front of the building. They were all shouting pretty much the same questions that the ones in front of the house had.

Andy took her cue from Miranda and tried not to acknowledge any of them. She did however notice that Sandra Gatten was there, but not shouting or pushing for a quote. Once in the lobby, the security detail was dispersed except for Jeff. Andy spoke to him quietly. "There is a reporter outside, Sandra Gatten, from the Times… can you bring her up?" He nodded at the request and turned to go carry it out when Miranda's hand on his arm stopped him.

"I require a moment of your time." The editor leveled a serious look on the man. "When you escort Andrea's reporter friend to my office, plan to stay a few moments."

"Yes, Miranda." Jeff smiled as the most influential person in the building released him. He watched as the two women entered the elevator then went to carry out Andy's request.

The ride up in the elevator was quiet, as was the car ride after Miranda's statement of retaliation for Christian's oddly timed press leak. Andy's soft voice broke the silence.

"Miranda… what are you going to do?"

"The man had no right to spread that kind of rumor about you!" Miranda's voice was intense, and her eyes sparked with the fury behind them.

Andy nodded and took a step back, swallowing hard. She had never seen Miranda this furious, not even when she had the gall to walk upstairs in her house and witness an argument she was having with then-husband Stephen, not even when she wasn't able to get home from Florida to see the twins recital… "Miranda…"

"I cannot speak about it right now." Blue eyes watched the numbers on the elevators control panel climb, the editor's jaw working rhythmically as her teeth ground together; trying desperately not to reveal her thoughts. Until holding in the words became too much and they echoed, uncharacteristically loud, in the small metal box around them. "He had no right!" Miranda's nostrils flared at the thought of the arrogant man touching Andrea. She turned to her companion and forced the moisture glistening in her eyes to stay there, by sheer will. "You are mine!"

The intense growl of Miranda's voice told the whole story and nearly caused Andy's knees to collapse. Jealousy… Miranda was extremely jealous; she was also furious about it and the cause. The numbers continued to climb and Andy spoke, trying to calm the woman down before the doors opened.

"I wasn't… not then." That statement awarded her with one of the most unfathomable looks she'd ever received from Miranda and just as the number on the control panel changed from sixteen to seventeen, the older woman spoke quietly, but with the same intensity she'd been displaying since they left the house.

"Yes... you were." She straightened her shoulders and took a deep breath as the doors opened to reveal Emily waiting, as always.

Andy blinked. I… Oh my god! She knew Miranda was right, I was. She barely had the presence of mind to exit the elevator before the doors closed to continue its mindless journey back down to the lobby. Walking quickly to catch up with Miranda and Emily, Andy thought there was something odd happening and it took the entire trip to Miranda's office to understand what it was. The editor had not spoken the entire time. Miranda had tossed The Book at Emily and then just walked, down the corridors, and into her office, shutting the door behind her before even Andrea could follow her inside.

"What have you done now?!" Emily hissed at the tall brunette. "God."

"Emily," Andy stared at the closed door to Miranda's office for a few seconds then turned to face the snotty woman, but kept her voice calm. "If you ever speak to me in that tone of voice again, I swear to God, the next time Miranda wants to let you go, I'm not going to talk her out of it."

Emily paled and opened her mouth for an immediate retort then closed it quickly. Scooping up The Book, she glared at Andy then shot a significant look at Bethany before practically running off to the Art Department.

"Andy?" Bethany spoke quietly, not wanting to draw Andy's wrath, but wanting to help. "Is there anything I can do?" Soulful brown eyes turned on her and Bethany's heart went out to the woman.

"Your job." Andy almost laughed at the irony of uttering those words.

She ruffled her bangs and took a deep breath. "Jeff's going to bring a reporter up in a few minutes. Miranda wants to speak to Jeff, and I want to talk to the reporter." She inhaled deeply again and letting the air out of her lungs slowly, moved toward the closed door. "Let us know when they get here." She paused and managed a small smile for the second assistant. "Thanks."

Bethany nodded and watched as Andy didn't even bother to knock. Barely opening the door, the brunette slipped into Miranda's office and with a small click, the reception area was quiet again. Bethany's voice barely broke the stillness as she whispered to no one in particular.

"You're welcome."

Laura stared across her desk at the man calmly sitting there. The publisher couldn't believe what he'd done and was momentarily speechless at his nonchalant attitude about the situation. It was he who broke the silence.


Pressing her lips together, Laura shook her head. "I knew you were an arrogant son-of-a-bitch when we signed you on, but I didn't know you were a moron too."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Christian laughed. "You wanted publicity, my name out there again, now you've got it." He didn't understand why her eyes widened like that, almost as if she was scared.

"I did not ask you to do this." She was adamant about that. "You did this all on your own, don't drag me down with you."

"Drag you down?" The man's dark blonde curls shook as he chuckled. "What are you talking about?"

Rolling her eyes, Laura sighed. "Oh my God, you really are an idiot aren't you?" Before he could respond to that the phone on the publisher's desk rang. She was a very busy person, a lot of people called her all the time, but from the way her morning was going she knew exactly who would be calling right now. Picking up the phone, she glared at the laughing man before she closed her eyes and responded to the voice in her ear. "Yes, Miranda. I was just discussing the topic of consequences with him." Nodding into the phone, Laura swallowed hard. "Yes, Miranda. We're on our way."

Christian looked puzzled. "Miranda?"

Slowly hanging up the phone, Laura forced herself to stand. "You still don't understand what you've done do you?" Poor simple fool, Laura thought. "C'mon, it'll sink in soon enough."

"Where are we going?"

"Miranda has summoned us to her office." Laura resisted the urge to grab him by the ear and drag him all the way there. "It's Judgment Day."

"You mean, the Apocalypse?" Christian wasn't afraid of Miranda, she was just some old lady that people took way too seriously. "Or like when Skynet comes online and decides machines should kill all the humans and take over the Earth?"

Laura shook her head at the levity in his tone and informed him in all seriousness. "For your sake, you should pray that one or both of those events happen, before we get to Miranda's office." The confusion on his face just made her sad for him. "C'mon, we can't keep her waiting."

Christian followed the woman, supremely confident that Miranda couldn't touch him. What can the old lady do me anyway? I don't have anything to do with fashion…

"Miranda?" Andy closed the door behind her with a soft click and walked around the desk. She knelt next to the chair and put her hands on Miranda's arm. "Can you talk to me now?"

"I cannot do this now." Miranda rested her head against the back of her chair. "I have called for…him… to be brought here."

"Miranda…" Andy rested her cheek against Miranda's arm and swallowed hard against the thought of Miranda 'ruining' Christian. The gentle touch of Miranda's hand on her head and softly spoken words quieted anything Andy was about to say.

"You are far too forgiving, my darling."

Looking up into sad blue eyes, Andy leaned into the touch; her voice rough with emotion. "Don't... Please." Soft fingertips under her chin held their eyes locked.

Miranda searched the lovely young face intently. "Do you care that much for him, Andrea?"

With a small shake of her head, Andy refused that idea. "Not even a little bit, I care about you, Miranda. Doing this, ruining him, because of a rumor he started, even as heinous as it is…" It would cement her Dragon Lady persona in stone, the reputation she has would turn into who she is… Andy closed her eyes against the thought. "… that isn't who you are, Miranda. That's just your reputation, rumors and whispers at parties are only that. Please, don't let that, them, dictate who you are."

A soft knock at the door interrupted the conversation. Andy rose from her knees, brushing her lips against Miranda's on the way up. "I'll get it."

Andy opened the office door to admit the security guard. She smiled at the man and began to exit the room when Miranda's velvet voice called to her.

"Andrea, don't leave."

Blinking at that Andy stopped cold in the doorway. She heard 'Andrea, don't leave.' But she knew what Miranda meant was, 'Andrea, don't leave me." Gesturing to the reporter and mouthing the word 'wait', Andy closed the door and walked back around the desk to stand next to Miranda. Her hand automatically dropped to Miranda's shoulder as she reassured the editor. "I won't leave." you.

With a nod, Miranda turned her gaze to the security man standing in front of her desk. "I wanted to thank you, Jeffrey, for being so vigilant in dealing with the mass of reporters during these odd times." Taking a deep breath, Miranda continued. "I would also like you to explain to Andrea the nature of the 'extra' assignment I asked you to perform."

His eyes widened but he nodded and told the story. "You asked me to use my contacts at the police station to destroy the hard drives with the footage from Andy's apartment on them."

Andy gasped and felt Miranda's hand reach up to hold hers.

Jeff continued. "I was able to track the drives to the storage locker the Feds were using for their evidence but when I was able to physically touch the drives it was too late. They had already been drilled."

"Thank you, Jeffrey." Miranda nodded. "That's all."

With a bit of salute to both women Jeff left the office.

"So you see, Andrea. My reputation isn't all just rumor. It has grown over the years, true, but it is based in fact. I had nothing to do with the drives being destroyed, but if they hadn't already been… I would have." Miranda watched her fiancée process that information. "You must understand that, Andrea. You have to know that I will do anything for you. You have to realize that when I say 'anything', I mean it."


"I thought you should know, before you married me." Miranda's blue eyes flickered away, focusing on the report on her desk. She dropped the young woman's hand and turned back to her desk, picking up a pen to get back to work. "So you could change your mind if you wish."

"Change my…" Shaking her head, Andy gently took the pen from Miranda's hand; tossing it aside she turned the woman's chair and pulled the editor up. "I'm never going to change my mind." Leaning down slightly, Andy brushed their lips together lightly, then opening her mouth slightly, deepened the contact for a long lovely moment, lipstick be damned. "You think I don't know who you are, Miranda?" The young woman smiled, "Of course I do. I know exactly what you are capable of, it's what got you the Dragon Lady reputation after all. I accept that. I know what you will do to protect the people you love." Leaning in, Andy found Miranda's ear and whispered. "It's one reason I love you so much."


"Shhhh…. My turn to talk." Pulling Miranda into as tight an embrace as she dared, Andy smiled against Miranda's neck. "I love you for wanting to protect me. What I'm telling you is that he isn't worth the trouble it will cause you. He's not worth waking the Dragon. I'm a big girl, I can handle whatever the tabloid's say because you and I both know it's not true. We didn't have an affair in Paris. You did not cheat on Stephen. I didn't even cheat on Nate, we'd already broken up before I left. Christian was an alcohol influenced mistake, that's all it was and that's all it will ever be."

The Dragon is already awake, Andrea, you saw her on the elevator. "Why you were even out with him to begin with I'll never understand..." Miranda sighed but then felt Andrea tense. "Andrea?"

Andy released her hold. "Okay, I'm going to tell you this because I don't want him to give you the wrong idea." Andy bit her bottom lip and with a deep breath told Miranda exactly why she went to dinner with Christian. "I owed him for helping me get the Harry Potter manuscript."

All the air left Miranda's lungs and she dropped back into her seat, momentarily forgetting how to breathe. "You… with him… because…" Because you asked her to do the impossible, you stupid old woman!

"I went to dinner with him, because he helped me, yes. Anything more than that was my own wine-muddled choice." Andy moved slightly away and sighed. "I…" Shaking her head, Andy stepped farther back. "There isn't anything else to say. Nate and I weren't together, you and I weren't together, you were even still married… it was just one of those things." The ice in Miranda's eyes let Andy know that her reassurances weren't helping so she tried again. "Miranda, it was nearly three years ago." Andy moved closer and reached out to trace the editor's proud jaw with her fingertips. They both held their gaze steady. "It was so long ago I barely remember it, but I know that when I came back from Paris, it wasn't him I dreamed of... it wasn't him I cried for." Blue eyes melted a bit.

"Andrea." Miranda closed her eyes and rested her head against the back of her chair. "You cannot ask me to let this slide."

Thinking about it, Andy knew it was true; she couldn't ask that. "Do what you think is best." Bending nearly double, Andy brushed her lips across the pulse point on Miranda's exposed neck. "Now, I have a reporter waiting on me." Andy smiled against soft skin as Miranda grabbed her shoulders and held her in place, growling.

"Let her wait."

Sandra Gatten was patiently waiting in the reception area in front of Miranda's office. Andy had asked for her and then asked her to wait, so that's what she was going to do. Even with the redhead glaring at her, Sandra remained calm. Security had escorted her up; she was supposed to be here. She watched the women working for quite some time before attempting to speak to the one who seemed more amiable than the other. "Hello, I'm Sandra… Sandy."

Bethany looked up at the woman and nodded, responding politely. "Bethany."

"There will be no comment to the press from this office."

Sandy turned to look at the redhead, who glared at Bethany. "I wasn't asking for a quote, I was just introducing myself." She smiled at the hostile woman. "And you are?"

"Busy." Emily turned back to her computer screen.

With a deep breath, Sandy nodded and was again quiet for a while before addressing Bethany again. "You haven't worked here very long have you?"

"A few weeks." Bethany glanced over at Emily's desk when the redhead cleared her throat purposefully. "I… um, can't really talk to you."

"Right." Sandy shrugged and continued to wait for Andy. Thankfully it didn't take too much longer before the brunette stuck her head out the door and summoned her inside Miranda's office.

"C'mon in Sandy, Thanks for waiting." Andy looked at Bethany and Emily. "When Christian and his publisher get here let us know." Emily's jaw dropped but the first assistant immediately closed her mouth and nodded acknowledgment.

Bethany chuckled when the door closed again. "Wow, wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall for that conversation?"

With a sniff more of arrogance than anything else, Emily continued to focus on her computer screen and lied. "No."

Sandy stepped into the office as confidently as she could. She blinked and swallowed hard when she realized that Miranda was there. She wondered why she'd only expected to see Andy, despite the fact that this was indeed Miranda's office. "You wanted to see me?"

"Andrea requested your presence." Miranda spoke quietly, as she normally did, forcing whoever she was conversing with to listen very carefully. "But it is fortunate, for you. Mr. Thompson will be here soon, therefore, you will have the exclusive on the real story."

Nodding, Sandra resigned herself to wait, again. Then decided it might not be the best use of time. "Do you have a statement?"

"Only that Mr. Thompson's statements were inaccurate and misleading." Miranda licked her lips and exhaled slowly. "I believe a conference with him is in order, so that he has the opportunity to clear up the situation with a more precise version of events."

Sandy agreed. "Of course." She would be waiting outside again, but that was fine with her. Another exclusive on Andy and Miranda's relationship would be awesome and totally worth the wait. She did wonder though. "Um… can I ask… why me?"

Andy smiled at the woman. "You reported the facts of our engagement accurately. You didn't take my comments out of context and you are a good writer." Andy's eyes twinkled. "I saw you downstairs in with the mob, but you weren't pushing or shouting… You're observant, I like that."

"Your article detailing our engagement was quite nice," Miranda added. "It is refreshing to see the truth in print occasionally." Her voice lowered to a warning tone. "This situation should be handled with equal care."

"It will be," Sandy assured the editor. "I promise." She was proud that her voice didn't sound as shaky as she actually felt. I'm actually talking to Miranda Priestly, a woman who could very easily make or break a budding journalist's career or for that matter a fairly well established one. Christian Thompson was actually someone the new reporter thought she could look up to, emulate; a successful writer whose work she felt was top quality. Her forehead furrowed at the thought; What the Hell was he thinking?

Miranda noticed the wrinkles appearing on the reporter. "Problem?"

"No…" Sandy opted for the truth. "I, um… was just wondering exactly how stupid Christian Thompson is." Half a second later she was extremely glad she'd decided not to lie as Miranda and Andy both laughed quite loudly. Andy looked at the text message on her phone and calmed herself.

"Well, we'll soon find out." Large dark eyes focused on Miranda. "Jeff says they're on their way up."

Christian watched, amused as his companion grew more and more agitated while the elevator rose.

The only thing Laura could think of was how the hell she was going get out of this with her publishing business intact. There was no doubt in her mind that she'd toss Christian under the closest bus if that is what it took. There was no way she was going to take Miranda's wrath for his assholiness. Glancing at his smug face, Laura's nostril's flared. No way.

Walking down the corridors to Miranda's office was an experience in itself. Laura was very aware of the eyes on her, but it seemed Christian didn't notice at all. The publisher knew that when they arrived at Miranda's office the man was in for a huge shock. Why he thought Miranda would just let this stunt slide, she had no idea.

As they approached the reception area in front of Miranda's office, they both heard Miranda's disembodied voice. "Emily, are they here yet?"

"Yes, Miranda. Only just."

"Send them in."

The redhead gestured to the forbiddingly closed office door and spoke to the newcomers. "Go right in."

Laura hesitated for a moment then squared her shoulders and nodded, gesturing to Christian. "Go ahead."

Shaking his head in amusement, he pushed the door open; surprised to see not only Miranda, but also Andy and another woman he hadn't met yet. As his publisher walked in behind him, Miranda spoke. Her low tones filled the office and somehow seemed to lower the temperature.

"Close the door, Laura."

The woman glared at Christian but did as she was told, then moved to stand in front of Miranda's desk. Pre-emptive strike. She thought and began to speak. "Miranda, I just want you to know that I had nothing to do with his statement to the press…"

"Spare me the details…" Miranda dismissed the woman from her attention, focusing on the man standing in front of her desk. His curly blonde hair, twinkling blue eyes and easy smile were as attractive as they were infuriating. "I'm very displeased with you, Mr. Thompson." Her lips twitched at the slight groan Laura made at that statement.

"What were you thinking?" Andy shook her head slightly at the man. "Why bring it up now?"

"You're big news. I need to get my name out there for publicity sake. You understand." He shrugged but grinned at her. "It's nothing personal, Baby."

Andy saw Miranda bristle at the term and reminded him. "Don't call me that. The last person that called me that got their ass kicked."

"Nothing personal." Miranda's voice was low and warning. "Very well." Again her lips twitched as she heard a second groan. "After you leave this office I do not wish to see you again."

Still grinning, Christian chuckled. "Well that's going to be a little difficult, Miranda, we are often invited to the same gatherings."

At that statement, Andy rolled her eyes. Laura threw her hands into the air and made a sound of disgust. Sandy, thrilled to have been allowed to stay, just watched everything very closely, taking a few notes along the way, to be sure and get the quotes correct.

"Indeed." Miranda's eyes twinkled dangerously. "Therefore, I'm sure Ms. Gatten will accommodate us by letting everyone know my feelings. Any gathering that you may possibly attend, I will not."

"You are going to avoid me?" Christian wondered why that sounded like a warning.

Laura rolled her eyes this time and Andy shook her head sadly. Sandy still watched, trying to figure out the political currents happening in the room, knowing she was part of it, but not sure exactly how.

"Not at all, Mr. Thompson." The white haired woman spelled it out. "Anyone who invites you to their gathering will know not to invite me…" It was unnecessary but Miranda watched the man's expression shift as she impressed upon him the corollary. "And anyone who invites me to their gathering will know not to invite, you."

Suddenly Christian wasn't smiling. "Blacklisting me?" He shot a startled look at Andy, whose still face offered no comfort.

"Not at all." Miranda's tone and smile sent shudders through everyone in the room, even Andy. "Anyone can invite anyone they want to their little gatherings." Her smile vanished and the editor's expression could now only be described as stony. She continued her explanation. "If, however, I attend their function and you should happen to be there, I will obviously be displeased with…" The very tip of her tongue caught between her teeth for half a second before Miranda pronounced the next word very distinctly. "…them."

Now Christian began to understand what Laura had been trying to tell him earlier. He was a freelance writer, making contacts and networking at parties was a large part of his livelihood. If he wasn't invited, which he wouldn't be, because anyone having a gathering would rather there be a possibility of Miranda's attendance than the surety of his, he would slowly fade into the background. He'd made a mistake, miscalculating, not understanding, the sphere of influence Miranda commanded. He also hadn't realized exactly how angry the woman would be. "For how long?"

"I take slander very seriously, Mr. Thompson." Miranda's expression was still set in stone. "The implications against me would not be too easy for me to move past but in time I most likely would since I know that they are totally untrue. The problem, you see, is that you have also spread very nasty falsehoods about the woman I love. I'm not sure exactly how long it will take me to get over that." Raising her hand, negligently gesturing to the Time's reporter, Miranda's quiet voice instructed. "Your statements to Ms. Gatten will help determine the duration."

Andy now spoke softly, but loud enough for them all to hear. "Nate and I had already decided to part ways, before I left for Paris." She held Christian's gaze. "You knew that. I told you that."

With a deep breath, Christian nodded. "Yeah, I knew." Running his fingers through his curls, he squared his shoulders and spoke to the reporter. "Any speculation regarding either Andy or Miranda's fidelity to the partners they were with, or not with, at the time is just that, pure speculation. To my knowledge neither of them engaged in any inappropriate behavior at any time during that Paris trip."

Sandy dutifully wrote down the quote then asked. "Why did your first statement imply otherwise?"

"For publicity, of course." Christian shrugged. "Mention Miranda and Andy these days and the press goes nuts." Unable to stop himself, the man glanced at the couple, his gaze lingering on Andy for a moment longer than necessary. "Can't really blame anyone for that though."

Miranda shifted slightly in her seat. It was nothing obvious, the others in the room probably didn't even notice. Andy, however, was hyper-aware of the older woman's reactions and automatically dropped her hand to the editor's shoulder, soothing her with the touch. She looked down to meet Miranda's upturned eyes and smiled a tiny smile as the hard blue eyes softened somewhat.

No, I can't ever blame anyone for their interest in Andrea. Miranda thought as she redirected her gaze to the visitors in her office. But I don't have to like it. Speaking to the Times reporter, Miranda asked. "Do you have what you need for your story?"

Nodding, Sandy almost bowed. "Yes, I believe so."

"Andrea," Miranda looked up into her love's eyes. "Do you have anything to add?"

"Yes, Miranda." Andy's thumb moved, casually caressing the older woman's shoulder. "There is one more thing I would like to say." Miranda had used such restraint in her reaction to Christian. Andy knew what an effort it had been for the editor to do that instead of simply blacklisting him as the man had first assumed. Andy also knew that the reason Miranda had done that, made the effort, was because she, Andy, had asked her to. "I love you." She expected the usual 'and I you' response so she was momentarily shocked when the very corners of Miranda's lips moved slightly and the editor spoke softly.

"I love you, too." With the vaguest hint of a wink, Miranda turned to the other reporter in the room. "I believe you have an article to write." She patted the hand on her shoulder. "Andrea will walk you downstairs."

Andy snorted and rolled her eyes, gesturing for Sandy to accompany her out of the office. The Times reporter continued walking past the assistant's desk, but Andy looked back at the seated editor fondly, throwing the woman a kiss. "Back in a bit."

Miranda's blue eyes twinkled in acknowledgment, locking with her fiancée's deep brown gaze for just a moment, before the door shut between them. She knows me so well.

Laura spoke up. "I can put the new book on hold…" Miranda's hand gesture stopped that idea.

"By all means, publish it. There is no reason for you to be punished for his indiscretion."

With a deep breath, Laura nodded. "Right." She was glad the word didn't sound as sarcastic as it did in her head. Publishing while Miranda was displeased with you is never a smart thing to do. It pretty much guaranteed the book would be a failure; too many reviewers didn't want to incur the powerful editor's wrath. Thank God I only sign him on a book by book basis.

Turning to evaluate the man standing in front of her desk, Miranda spoke as low and deadly as either person had ever heard anyone speak. "Do you know the rules of baseball, Mr. Thompson?"

"Um… yes?"

Nodding, Miranda had assumed he would say yes. "Most people do claim to know the rules of that game when in fact the 'official' rules are quite complicated and the majority of casual observers don't completely understand the nuances." Suppressing a smile at the confused look on his face, Miranda continued. "There is, however, one rule of the game I find quite elegant in its simplicity. Three strikes and you are out." Now a smile appeared, for a moment; one that would make Runway employees duck and cover. "This is your second strike, Mr. Thompson."


Miranda simply blinked at him, unwilling to inform him of his first offense toward her, toward Andrea. "If there is a third, incident, you will indeed be… out." She studied him for another few seconds before picking up her red pencil and slipping on her glasses. She spoke absently, dismissing the pair in front of her as insignificant.

"That's all."

The people leaving her office moved faster when Miranda's cell phone rang and she answered it with a snarl. "What do you want?" After a few minutes of listening to the man's rant, Miranda disconnected the call and closed her eyes. Damn… She sighed, but only one thought passed through the editor's mind. I hope Andrea returns soon, with my coffee. She needed the caffeine right now, but she needed Andrea's presence more. Perhaps a distraction would help…


Part 5

Sandy was surprised when Andy didn't part ways with her at the elevator. "Um… you are going to walk me all the way out of the building?" She looked a little confused. "Was there something else you wanted to tell me?"

Chuckling, Andy shook her head and pushed the button for the lobby. "Nah, Miranda just wants me to get her a coffee." She grinned at her reporter friend. "You're my ticket through the mob. They won't bother us if I'm walking with you, and I'll come back through the loading dock."

"Why not just get someone else to pick up the coffee?"

"Off the record?" Andy waited for the woman to agree before she explained. "Miranda wanted me out of the office so she could…impress upon Christian the precariousness of his situation."

"Um… huh?"

Andy laughed and ruffled her bangs a little self-consciously. Talking about this particular subject wasn't something she was comfortable with. She didn't like talking to people about Miranda's personal feelings. "She… didn't want me to see her threaten him, you know, if he does anything like this again."

The elevator door opened and Andy chivalrously held it so Sandy could exit and several extremely thin women could enter. One of them checked her out and Andy held her amusement at the irony. It was a completely different reception than what she was used to getting from the clackers. She wondered how Miranda would react to it and then doubted she'd be on the receiving end of any admiration if the editor had been present. Feeling a little playful, Andy pushed the button for seventeen and winked at the models inside the elevator before she let the door slide shut. Sandy continued their interrupted conversation.

"Threaten him? Really…?" Sandy blinked. "With something worse than she's doing now? What would that be?"

Licking her lips, Andy grimaced slightly at the thought. "Um… yeah." Worse, oh yeah, I should say so. The memory of how furious Miranda was and probably still was made her insides tremble slightly. "This is nothing compared to what she could do… he was very lucky today." Andy knew that if Christian ever did anything to cross Miranda again, Miranda wouldn't be as lenient. The thought made her shudder. She'll end him.

The two women walked across the marble lobby picking up a security detail along the way. The uniformed employees protected the two reporters from the crush of their colleagues until they reached the end of the block. They were on their own at that point, but by then the journalists gathered had gotten the idea that they weren't going to get a quote from Andy and had abandoned the notion of following her in favor of staking out the door for Miranda.

They walked until the Starbucks was in sight before Sandy said her goodbyes. "Thanks for the exclusive, again."

Andy nodded. "Keep writing the way you do and you'll get more. When people know that you aren't going to screw them over in your articles they'll talk to you."

"Can I ask you a question?" It was something Sandy had been wondering about.

"Um… sure." Grinning, Andy ruffled her bangs a little. "I can't guarantee an answer though."

"Why don't you write the articles yourself?" It seemed like the perfect situation to Sandy. Andy had the inside story and she could scoop everyone with any new developments in the relationship.

"Ah…" Licking her lips, Andy took a deep breath and thought about that for a moment; trying to organize her thoughts before she attempted to explain them to her fellow reporter. "For me, this is not news, this is my life. I'm only just coming to terms with the fact that other people seem to think it's news. I'm still not terribly comfortable with details of my life being accessible to pretty much anyone. I won't report on myself any more than I've already done and The Mirror doesn't even have a gossip page. Lisa does the fashion/society articles, but for the most part we don't cover 'stories' like this. I only did it the first time to make sure the truth was printed at least once."

"I see." Sandy nodded, still a bit confused as to why the editor didn't start a gossip section, especially with a main source of material working at his own paper. They'd reached the front door of the coffee shop and the blonde gave Andy a little wave. "Have a great day. See ya, later."

Nodding, Andy waved and entered the store. The familiar scent made her smile. It was late in the morning so there weren't too many people inside and only one other person was in line. Ordering for Miranda almost made her giggle, it seemed like old times and she wondered how fast she could make it back to the office with the scalding drink.

She was on her way back from Starbuck's when she heard a familiar voice calling to her.

"Andy! Wait up!"

Slowing her steps, the brunette took a deep breath and cringed away from her friend slightly. "You gonna yell at me?"

Lily shook her head. "No." She fell into step next to Andy and winced as she spoke. "I did see you kissing him though, that day in the gallery."

"No." Andy corrected. "You saw him kissing me, on the cheek. I most certainly did not kiss him."

"That's true." Lily agreed.

"Um…" Andy ventured. "What, what does Nate have to say about it?"

Lily shook her head. "I don't know, I haven't heard from him in weeks. Since before the news about you and Miranda broke."

"Oh, I had wondered why he never called when the news hit. Do you think he'll be a jerk about this? Side with Christian?" That had worried Andy, because for some reason she always thought Nate was ready to believe that she'd been cheating on him.

"I don't know." Lily repeated. "But, um… if Nate does start being a jerk about it. Saying he knew that you were with Miranda or whoever..."

"That's not true." Andy clenched her jaw together briefly. "I wasn't, we weren't, not then."

"I know and I'll tell anyone who asks that Nate is lying. If, and that is a big if really, if he does that, I'll back you up." Lily sighed. "The way he left was rotten, taking off while you were in Paris, barely speaking to you before he went to his new job in Boston…"

"It was for the best though." Andy slowed her steps as she made her way up the ramp on the loading dock. "We had grown apart." She shrugged. "Truth be told, we never really had that much in common to begin with."

"Yeah, I know." Lily looked at her friend questioningly. "What was up with that? I know we were all friends, but you were both so different I was never sure how you even ended up together in the first place… I mean friends, sure, but more?"

Andy looked around the empty delivery bay and leaned forward to whisper. "It was his eyes," Closing her own eyes at the memory, Andy smiled. "One look from those eyes and I could just imagine… I had it bad." She grunted softly to herself and thought. At least I thought I did.

"And now?" Lily couldn't help but tease her friend. "Do Miranda's eyes capture your imagination too?"

"Oh, no." Andy laughed at the surprised expression on Lily's face and explained with what Jo would call a 'sap-filled' statement, "Miranda's eyes capture my soul." She held the door on the express elevator for Lily to enter then, swiped her All-Access visitor badge in the card reader on the panel and pushed the button for seventeen. "There is no real comparison between what I feel for Miranda and what I felt for Nate. If I had to try and explain it I could say in terms of wind velocity what I felt for Nate is what you feel when a car drives past you, and the feelings I have for Miranda… well, they'd probably be measured in terms of a hurricane."

Lily pressed her lips together, holding back her reaction to that for three whole seconds before she let loose with an awed, "Wow!"

Rolling her eyes, Andy grinned. "Yeah, that's one of the best words I've found so far to describe Miranda." Her smile softened and her eyes glazed for a moment. "She's really…Wow."

Lily grinned wryly. "Better than what you used to call her…"

"You…" Andy emphasized the pronoun. "You and Nate used to call her 'Dragon Lady' and all the other tabloid spawned names. I only ever called her Miranda."

They walked off the elevator and Andy led the way through the seldom used back corridors of Runway to Miranda's office. Using the delivery dock and back way through the offices had cut three minutes off her trip when she used to make coffee runs as Miranda's assistant. Emily never had figured out how she had been able to bring the coffee back so fast. Lily didn't pay attention to the twists and turns opting instead to focus on her friend and continue their conversation. "What do you call her now?" Lily grinned at the almost glaring glance that question got her and offered some options, "Sweetie, Honey, Baby…" She couldn't recall Andy using any endearments when they were all out at the bar the other night.

Andy sighed. "I call her Miranda." Holding a door open for Lily to walk through, Andy gestured her companion down one of the main halls.

"And?" Lily pushed a little. "C'mon… what do you call her when you're… together… you know, close."

"Lily…" Stopping their journey, Andy turned to look at her long time friend. "When we are 'close'," Andy closed her eyes and a visible shudder ran through her. "…I can barely remember my own name, much less try to remember hers." Twinkling dark eyes took in her companion's shock and Andy grinned as the continued on their way. "There isn't usually much talking anyway."

Lily watched her friend take several steps away before she hurried to catch up. "Okay, I deserved that."

"Damn right you did." Andy opened the last door and gestured Lily through, pointing to Bethany's desk. "This is where I used to work."

"Nice." Lily nodded to the woman sitting behind the desk. "Hello."

Andy grinned. "I'll be back in a minute to make introductions…" Carrying her still scalding hot burden through the open doors to Miranda's office, Andy smiled as she realized why the doors were open. The run through? Wait… "I thought you had this scheduled for tomorrow." Andy's eyes widened as Miranda whirled to face her. "Whoa… sorry, I was just sayin'." She set the coffee on the desk. "I'll just be going."

"Stop." Miranda quickly crossed the space between them and wrapped her arms around Andrea's waist. She searched the young woman's face, blue gray eyes never left Andrea's, but the editor spoke to the others in the room. "Give us a minute."

Andy pulled her fiancée closer, resting the woman's head on her shoulder. Amused dark eyes flickered to Nigel, Jocelyn and the others. "She means you." Andy almost chuckled at the mass exodus and hoped Lily hadn't gotten trampled. Nigel, at least, had the presence of mind to close the door behind them and Andy took the opportunity. Lifting Miranda's face with two fingers under the woman's chin, Andy asked softly. "What's up?"

"I don't know." Miranda admitted and laid her head back on the broad shoulder. "Nothing really… I just saw you and needed this."

"Well I'm not complaining." Andy kissed Miranda's forehead lightly. "I'll hug you any time you want." The arms around her tightened and Andy shook her head. "Miranda?" Andy guided the older woman to sit on the couch and sitting next to the upset woman reached out to take the editor's hands in hers. "Now tell me, what's wrong?"

"This whole thing with Christian and his accusations, now Stephen is getting into the act…he gave an interview to the Star! Can you imagine? He called after you left to tell me all about it." Miranda sighed, unable to remain sitting she stood and paced. "They have a large circulation though, a lot of exposure. I don't usually care what they print, but I'm not sure how we can combat this." It was awful to feel so helpless. Andrea had intercepted her last pacing motion, stopping her in front of her desk in a loose embrace that the editor tightened, fiercely. Miranda trembled not as much in fear of the future accusations, as in anger at the cause.

Andy felt the tremors as she held Miranda and exhaled softly. She knew what she had to do, she had actually known for a long time and had been putting it off. But now, it was time, whether she wanted to or not. Kissing Miranda lightly on the forehead, Andy assured her. "I'll take care of it."

Closing her eyes, Miranda let the contact and the words wash over her. Andrea will make everything better. She thought then wondered. "How?"

"I'll do one or two of the talk shows." Andy smiled softly at her fiancée, "It'll be easier to just tell everyone the truth than try to counter Stephen's lies with our own truths in the papers." They would still have to issue a statement to the printed press, television would reach a broader audience but production took time, she doubted she'd be able to be on any show too quickly.

"But, you said you didn't want to do that…" Miranda looked into Andrea's eyes and realized the young woman was scared. "… you're terrified of going on television, yet you are still willing to do it."

"You told me earlier that you would do anything for me. You have to know that goes both ways. I will do anything for you, Miranda." Andy smiled and tried to relax. "Even go on national television…" The thought made her shudder slightly.

Miranda felt it. "Don't." Loving blue eyes bore into her companion. "We'll find another way."

"Shhh…" Andy pressed her fingers against the editor's lips. "I will do this, because this is the best way." Now her brown eyes twinkled. "You could come with me." She laughed as Miranda's eyebrows rose. "Or not." Dropping her fingers from Miranda's lips, Andy replaced them with her mouth, smiling against the softness as Miranda returned the pressure wholeheartedly. Andy smiled as she wiped a lipstick smudge from the corner of Miranda's mouth. "Are you still having lunch with Donatella today?"

"Yes." Miranda tilted her head, "Aren't you still meeting the Good Detective?"

"Yes." She began to release her hold on the smaller woman. "Oh, the girls' study group is meeting at the house today… they're going to start taking turns meeting at each others houses during the summer."

"Mmm…" Miranda sighed again. "I can't get away from here for very long. I can try to get there before the children leave but most likely I'll have to meet the group the next time they visit."

Nodding, Andy stepped completely back out of their embrace. "First I have to apologize to Em."

Miranda's eyes widened. "Apol…" Two of Andrea's long fingers again pressed against her lips to stop the protest.

"Yes, apologize." Andy replaced her fingers with her lips briefly and then explained. "I was upset earlier and she said something that annoyed me." Andy looked around the office, anywhere but at Miranda. "I said something back that made it sound like I could get her fired if I wanted to." She saw Miranda stiffen and Andy talked fast. "I'm going to apologize and tell her that there is no way that I can influence you in regards to Runway and how you want things here… I know that."

"You can." Miranda said and stepped closer, her hands resting on they young woman's waist. "If you really wanted to, you could influence me." She reminded the young woman. "You have, remember? I wanted to promote Emily on and you talked me out of it." She smiled. "That is what you were talking about wasn't it, but Emily took it the other way." It was a bit disconcerting how easily and well Andrea was learning to bend the truth. "Tell her what you wish, but if I ever hear her saying anything remotely nasty to you she will be out so fast her little red head will spin off."

"I'm pretty sure she knows that." Andy mentally rolled her eyes; everyone at Runway knew that by now. "I'll let you get back to work. Jocelyn is waiting."

"Jocelyn will continue to wait until I say otherwise." Miranda smiled and shifted closer. "Don't you agree?"

Always agree. Andy thought and smiled as she spoke. "Yes, Miranda."

Nigel looked at door and smiled. "I'm going to go grab something from my office." He held up his hands at their collective gasps. "I'll be back."

Jocelyn and her crew were crowded in front of Emily's desk. None of them were sure what to do, should they go back to their departments too? They looked at each other in confusion. Emily rolled her eyes and informed them in her normal exasperated tone. "Just wait. She'll call you back in shortly."

One wide-eyed blonde asked the others, quietly. "What do you think they're doing in there?"

Emily glared at the woman who had spoken and poured as much haughty accent into her tone as she dared. "You will not speculate about that or any other part of Miranda's personal life."

Jocelyn translated the comment. "You're telling us not to even think about it?"

"Yes." Emily focused her attention on her computer screen. "It's better for everyone that way." Clicking to open a new page, Emily glanced up at the woman. "Just do your job."

"There is no way we can do that." They all agreed by nodding at their co-worker's statement. "Don't tell us you don't think about it, Emily." Jocelyn leaned forward over the redhead's desk. "I heard you've actually seen them…kissing."

Emily sighed and turned to fully face the women gathered at her desk. "I am only going to say this once, so listen and listen well. They are getting married for God's sake, so yes, they kiss. What I'm telling you right now is that if you begin to let yourself think about Miranda and Andrea, you will not be able to stop yourself when you are in Miranda's presence. If you are thinking about that, She will know. Do you understand me? It's better for everyone if you just keep your mind on your jobs. Unless you would rather Miranda take one look at you and know what you are thinking…about them...about Her."

All their eyes widened perceptibly and their heads, along with the rest of their bodies, began to shake. Most of them murmured to themselves something on the order of, "No… no no.. we don't want that." With one satisfied nod, Emily turned back to her task at hand, dismissing the subject from her mind. "Good, just wait until she calls you back."

Bethany hid her tiny smile behind her own computer screen as she heard the words and watched the women turn to look at the door, waiting for it to open. Despite Emily's stern warning, Bethany knew every single one of them was trying to picture their white haired boss kissing the young former assistant. She watched them all, and knew none of them could imagine it. None except, a small shudder went through Emily's thin frame and Bethany knew, her co-worker had no trouble imagining it at all.

Lily watched the office drama and grinned to herself. I'll bet all their heads would explode if I told them I'd been out drinking with Miranda and Andy not so very long ago. Drinking buddy or not, Lily was also on the outside of the door and she too waited for the women to finish doing whatever it was they were doing. Lily smirked. I wonder if I'll have to remind Andy what her name is when she comes out.

"Miranda…" Andy mumbled against the soft skin of the editor's neck. "We're gonna get in trouble…"

Threading her fingers through the young woman's hair, partially because she loved the feel of it, partially to hold Andrea right where she was, Miranda chuckled. "Remember what I said about being boss?"

"Mmm… I remember." Andy continued her gentle explorations. Finding a lovely ear, she whispered. "It's your turn at the desk…on the desk…"

"No." Releasing her hold on Andrea, Miranda moved away, taking a deep breath as she went.

"No?" Andy followed her fiancée slowly. "Uh… yeah, I'm pretty sure it was me there last time…"

"No, I don't mean 'No, it's not my turn'." Miranda immediately held up her hands to stop Andrea's quickened advance. "I mean 'No, that isn't going to happen'." The editor smiled and added, "Not today."

"Awww…" Grinning, Andy slid her arms back around Miranda's middle and sighed. "Ah well, it's probably a good thing at least one of us is a responsible adult."

"I'm sorry, Andrea, It's just that…"

"Who said I was talking about you?" Andy kissed the end of the editor's nose. "You're the one that blows off work on a whim." She grinned at her beloved, her amused face taking on a serious expression. "Are you okay now?"

"Yes." Miranda allowed herself one more, light, kiss on Andrea's luscious lips before moving away from the young woman. "I'll be fine." Walking to the window, Miranda absently ran her hand across her flat stomach. "I really should get back to the run through."

"Yes." Andy moved up behind Miranda and slid her hands around the woman's waist, covering the editor's restless hands with her own. "But we both know what you really want to do."

Miranda tried to ignore the arms around her, the warm hands on hers, the warm breath in her ear. "And what's that?"


"Mmm… aren't we confident today." Miranda murmured, closing her eyes against the sensations Andrea was igniting in her only served to heighten them.

"You don't think you can, you don't think it's appropriate…" Andy grinned mischievously and purposely pitched her voice lower. "But you can have me, Miranda." She ran her hands up and down the older woman's arms as she pressed herself against the editor's back and continued to whisper in her love's ear. "I'm right here… yours for the taking… you've done it before…"

"So you're a temptress now." Turning in the young woman's arms, Miranda faced the eyes of a goddess, nearly black with desire. "Andrea…" The editor's breath caught in her throat, my god those eyes. She managed to speak in a whisper. "… tell me what you want."

"You." She knew she wanted more than an office quickie could give though, so Andy smiled at the love of her life and leaned down, kissing the woman very gently on the lips. No pressure, no demands, just a light loving kiss with a hint of promise for things to come, later, at home. "I, always, want you. But I know now is not the time…" She straightened and gently arranged the white locks into a good semblance of their previous positions. "… not with an audience outside…" The young woman felt the editor trembling and ran soothing hands up and down her arms. "Easy… s'okay…"

"If you had…"

"Shhhh…" Andy smiled softly and nodded as she continued her soothing touches. "I know…" If I had pushed it, even a little bit, she would have gone through with it…even with all those people right outside the door. That knowledge, knowing she had that kind of power over Miranda was almost intoxicating. But this was not the time or place for what Andy really wanted, so she took a deep breath to calm herself. "I love you, Miranda."

"I love you too, Andrea." Miranda smiled and wrapped her arms around her fiancée's waist. "I do love you so."

Andy held the woman for several long comfortable moments before breaking the silence. "Better now?"

"Yes…" Miranda released her hold and took a step back. "Thank you Andrea, much better."

"I should be going." Andy pointed to the door with her thumb. "They're all probably milling around out there driving Emily insane."

"It wouldn't take much at this point." Miranda smiled. "The wedding plans are doing quite a good job of that already, I'm sure."

"Should we dump the girls' birthday on her too then?" Andy hadn't realized that Emily's wedding planning duties were that stressful.

"She'll live." Miranda looped her arm in Andy's as they walked to the door. "The girls' party will be priority since it takes place first, but there isn't that much actual 'planning' that needs done with it, a few phone calls to secure the venue, a decorator and caterer…"

Andy nodded as she opened the door with her free hand and smiled as the waiting women gasped. Aware of the audience, Andy tried to disengage her arm from Miranda's. "Tell Donatella I said hi."

Miranda chuckled. "She will want to meet you, eventually."

"I'll meet her at the wedding, right?" Andy looked down into Miranda's eyes and couldn't help her hand's action as it cupped the woman's cheek gently, her thumb automatically stroking the high cheekbone. "Okay…" She started to drop her hand away, when Miranda's elegant one caught it and held it in place.

Miranda dismissed the women watching them as irrelevant and focused on Andrea. "I'll see you at home, tonight."

"Yes you will…" every inch of me. Andy grinned and bent slightly capturing the editor's lips in a quick goodbye kiss.

Miranda responded in kind; she wanted more, she wanted to drag Andrea back inside her office, close the door to the world and have her way with her beautiful fiancée. Once again the difference between what she wanted and what she got made itself painfully clear as Andrea moved away from her, through the crowd of slack-jawed clackers. "Well?" Miranda addressed the Runway employees. "Have you all just been standing here doing nothing? Where is Nigel??"

"I'm here…" Nigel walked back through the doors waving a file. "I wanted you to see this." He smiled as he moved past Andy. "Hi, Six."

Andy waved. "Hi." She snapped her fingers. "Oh, Miranda…" She smiled as pale blue eyes focused on her. "… I have some time before I need to meet Jo, can I show Lily around, take her to see The Closet?"

"Of course." Miranda narrowed her eyes as she took in the outfit the woman was wearing. Bill Blass…Acceptable. "You should call security first and have a visitor's badge sent up." She tilted her head. "They are very strict about that, how did she get upstairs without one?"

Andy hadn't even thought about it when she had been walking with Lily. "Through the loading docks… I'll talk to them about it."

"Very well." Miranda smiled at the dark skinned woman. "Nice to see you again Lillian." With a last look at Andrea, Miranda turned and began to deal with Runway business. Not so fast though that she didn't hear Lily's response.

"You too, Miranda." The gallery director widened her eyes and turned to her friend smirking. "So… do you remember your name??"

Rolling her eyes at that, Andy walked to Bethany's desk, sat on the edge and grabbed the phone. "Security…" She waited a moment. "Yeah, Jeff, it's Andy… I have a friend here with me on seventeen and she doesn't have a badge… Yeah, well we came in through the loading docks. I was bringing Miranda her coffee and forgot to stop and get her one at the desk," Andy laughed, "exactly… wouldn't want it to get cold…we just used my pass to get upstairs. Do we need to come downstairs and get one or can you send one up?" She smiled into the phone. "Great! We'll be waiting in the reception area of Miranda's office." Replacing the phone handset, Andy winked at Lily. "They'll be up in a minute." She stood and turned gesturing to the woman at her old desk. "This is Bethany, she has my old job, Second Assistant." Andy's hand indicated the woman across the way. "That is Emily, Miranda's First Assistant."

"In point of fact," Emily stopped her work on the computer and turned to face her former co-worker, and the visitor. "I have Andrea's old job. She started out as Second and was promoted over me… then when she left… I again moved up to First and Bethany here is the current Second." Emily looked at Andy with a significant stare. "Just to be clear."

"I only went to Paris because you broke your leg." Andy took a deep breath, she couldn't be sure but close enough to be able to say with conviction. "If you hadn't been hurt, I would have quit before I was forced to go." She shook her head at Emily's disbelief. "How many alterations did you have to do to the clothes I gave you?" She smiled as the redhead opened and closed her mouth. "Yep, that's right, I got them in your size, not mine."

"Yes, you are so nice and thoughtful…" Emily hissed. "Until you get angry and have me fired."

"I'm sorry I said that… I wouldn't… I won't." Andy exhaled softly and shook her head again, refusing the thought. "I can't, I don't have that kind of power with her."

"Bollocks!" Emily abandoned any sense of decorum but kept her voice low so the editor in her office didn't hear. "You can influence her and we both know it." She mumbled. "You've always been able to."

Before Andy could respond to that, Jeff walked up to the glass doors and all the women in the reception area looked up as he entered the room. He smiled at them and singled out the one he didn't recognize. "Hello, I suppose this is for you." He handed Lily a generic visitor's pass. "Drop it off downstairs at the desk as you leave."

"Thank you." Lily took the plastic badge and began to fasten it to her jacket.

"Thanks, Jeff." Andy smiled at the man. "I'm sorry I bypassed security, I just wasn't thinking."

"It's not a big thing, Andy." Jeff's eyes twinkled. "I asked about it and they said they saw you on the monitors when you accessed the loading dock. We all know you used to go that way when you worked here."

Andy chuckled. "Thanks for being so diligent." Deep brown eyes locked with the big man's. He was in charge of protecting Miranda when she was here, at work, and he'd fallen down on the job once. Andy knew just by the look in his eye and the set of his jaw, it wasn't going to happen again. He was in charge of Miranda's safety, but Andy realized that meant the man held her life in his hand's as well. If anything happens to Miranda… She mentally stopped that line of thought. Dwelling on it just depressed her.

"C'mon, Lily…" Andy looped her arm through her friends. "… Let me introduce you to The Closet." She had time to talk to Emily later about the birthday party. If she didn't catch the woman tonight when she delivered The Book, she'd come back tomorrow. If Emily was as stressed as Miranda thought over the wedding details, Andy wasn't so sure it was a good idea to assign the birthday party to her as well. She'd discuss it more with Miranda tonight. Right now she wanted to give Lily the tour. "We can't stay long though, I have to meet Jo for lunch in a little while."


Part 6

"Why is it so difficult to prepare for these run-throughs?"

"Well, Miranda, to be fair." Nigel spoke up. "It was scheduled for tomorrow." He was shocked at the look the editor turned a look on him. He hadn't gotten one of those in a long time. Whoa! "Okay," He clapped his hands together and instructed Jocelyn and her people. "Take your lunches and meet back here."

All the women looked at Miranda who dropped to her office chair and waved them away, her eyes already closed against whatever it was Nigel was going to say to her. She heard the snick of the door closing and waited for the man to clear his throat. Opening her eyes, she trained them on her long time friend and waited, only taking a small amount of pleasure in watching him begin to shift nervously from foot to foot. Rolling her eyes, she again waved her hand. "Oh for God's sake Nigel, say whatever it is and let's get this over with."


"This…" She gestured to the empty room. "Whatever you are doing here… intervention or suicide… your call."

"You seem out of sorts." Nigel began. "Six's visit didn't seem to help…are you two…um, okay? You aren't fighting are you?"

"It helped. Of course, we're okay, better than okay. If we were fighting it wouldn't last long. It never lasts long." Miranda rested her head on the back of her chair and watched the man squirming. "You would all be fired now if she hadn't returned when she did."

"Really…" Nigel exhaled softly. "That bad eh?"

"This situation with Christian Thompson is intolerable, and now Stephen is getting into the act." She shook her head. "It's forcing Andrea to do something she doesn't want to do and I find that very annoying." The fact that I'm going to do something I don't want to do is beside the point.

"I heard you blacklisted him." Nigel grinned at her shocked look. "News travels fast these days with all the Twitters and such…"

"I did no such thing." Miranda shook her head. "I merely, suggested… that I never wanted to see him again."

Nigel nodded. "You told him that?" He rubbed his hand over his bald head. "And you told the reporter that…" Wow, she went easy on him, not an official blacklisting but very close. He thought he knew, but asked anyway. "Why so lenient?"

Miranda shrugged and answered in one word as if it should clarify everything, "Andrea."

"Wow." Nigel knew Andy would have some influence over Miranda, but to be able to soften the reaction to the Christian Thompson situation was, amazing.

"She is." Miranda again focused on Nigel.

"I'm sorry? She is?" He didn't understand until Miranda clarified.

"Wow," the editor smiled. "She is, Wow."

"You have it bad." The man smiled at his boss, happy for her.

"I do." She traced the arm of her chair with her fingertip. "I can't lose her Nigel, not ever. I'll do anything I have to, to keep her."

Nigel understood now, the Miranda he knew wouldn't have hesitated to dissect the man and hand his guts back to him on a silver platter. "Even go against your nature?"

"Yes." Miranda agreed softly. "Even that." She glanced at her watch. "I'm leaving for lunch with Donatella." She needed the distraction the Italian woman could provide; mindless talk and good food. Gesturing to the racks of clothing littering her office, she ordered, "Have this all sorted out by tomorrow."

Nigel grinned, they were saved. Thank you, Six. "Yes, Miranda." He watched as she walked out the door, ordering, "Purse." She actually had to stop and wait for Bethany to get the requested item and the new girl got a patented Miranda glare, before the editor was out the door.

"Oh, My, God!" Lily stood, mouth open at the doorway to The Closet.

Andy laughed. "Uh… Lil… you um… have a little bit of…" She grabbed a tissue and motioned to the corner of her friend's mouth. "…drool. Just there."

Grabbing the tissue, Lily closed her mouth and wiped it. "Well of course I do! Look at this place." She smacked her tall friend lightly, playfully, in the back of the head. "You are an idiot!"

"Ow!" Andy played along, laughing. "What did I do?!"

"You left…this?!" She faked another lunge at Andy, who held up defensive hands and dodged.

"Yeah, I'm an idiot… but not because I left this." Dark eyes held just a tinge of sadness. I'm an idiot because I left Miranda. But she was back now and she smiled at her friend. "C'mon, let's shop."

They'd spent several minutes wandering through the racks and racks of clothing when suddenly Andy felt herself grabbed from behind and forced against the nearest wall. "Whoa!" It was an entirely unexpected motion followed by angry words in her ear.

"Who do you think you are!?"

Turning her head enough to see her attacker, Andy's forehead wrinkled. "Serena?" What the...? "What's your problem?" Bucking off the wall she broke the woman's grip, it was surprisingly strong, but awkward, and Andy was stronger.

"You threatened to have Emily fired and you're asking me what my problem is?!" Serena's thick accent heightened the anger in her voice. "What is your problem?"

Glancing at Lily, Andy shook her head. "I was wrong to do that, it's just been very stressful lately and I snapped." She held up her hands to calm the tall woman. "I already apologized to Em."

"You did?" Serena stepped back. "I…" The Brazilian's eyes widened as if just realizing what she'd done. "Oh, I'm sorry. I don't know what came over me… I just…"

Andy nodded and smiled. "S'okay." The young woman looked up at her attacker. "If anyone threatened Miranda…"

"But you are, with Miranda and I'm…" Serena looked down into Andy's eyes, the dark orbs daring her to deny her feelings for Emily. Suddenly sagging under the weight of those very feelings, Serena almost cried. "What am I going to do?" Now it was her turn as her eyes pleaded for Andy's help. "She thinks we're just friends!"

Reaching out, Andy patted the woman's arm. "We'll figure something out."

"You'll help me?" Serena was surprised. "After…" She indicated the wall she'd slammed Andy into.

"Don't worry about that." Waving off the pseudo-attack, Andy nodded at the question. "I'll help… but," She pressed her lips together then continued, "I'm not sure how much longer she'll be around." When the woman's features began to morph into anger, Andy quickly explained. "Miranda wants to promote Emily on… I talked her out of it the last time because Miranda needs Emily right now, not just for the wedding… but I'm not sure how much longer I can convince Miranda of that." Andy saw comprehension dawning in Serena's eyes, the question she was asking herself was clear.

Do I want to get any closer now? Now when she's going to leave soon?

"Moving on?" The tall Brazilian wasn't sure what she would do without the English woman's presence. "Out of New York?

"Maybe…Let me know what you want to do." Andy again patted the woman's arm. "I'll help, any way I can."

Serena nodded and drifted away without another word. Lily watched her go.

"Wow…" The dark skinned woman blinked. "That was…" intense.

"Yeah," Andy felt sorry for Serena, and Emily, it was so hard to love someone and deny yourself the joy it could bring. She'd been there and done that for longer than she cared to admit. "I hope they work it out." Her eyes lingered on the space emptied by the Brazilian then she shook off the other women's drama, she had enough of her own to deal with. Grabbing her friend's arm, Andy continued their brief tour of the Closet. "C'mon, I gotta go soon."

"Are you serious?"

Jo sighed and ran her fingers through her hair. "Yeah, she's going insane. You have to help me."

Andy shook her head, "I dunno if it's a good idea or not." She watched her friend shred a napkin. "Look, I have no doubt that Blair is good, but… a showing?"

"She can't get Miranda's compliment out of her head." Jo growled. "She has spent every night this week drawing designs…new ones." The detective sighed again. "I really think she needs to do this."

"But…" Andy didn't want her friend to get hurt. "…here's the thing." She paused, trying to think of the best wording. "Miranda is very serious about fashion. If she likes something, she says so…and if she doesn't…"

Jo nodded in understanding. "She won't hold back just because we're friends." That thought actually gave the police officer comfort.

"No, she won't hold back." Andy shook her head at the thought of Miranda ever doing that when it came to fashion.

"Good!" Jo put down the decimated napkin and laid her hands flat on the table. "That may be just what Blair needs."

"You don't think she's good?" Andy couldn't imagine Jo not having faith in Blair's designs.

"Oh, I think she's good…" The brunette hedged, "but I'm not sure she's that good, you know? It's been a long time since she's done anything like this."

"Ah." Andy nodded. "Okay, tell her I'll try to set something up, but next month is really busy, and July will be impossible, the only time I might be able to do will be soon, in the next two weeks. Can she be ready?"

"I'm sure she can be." Jo looked worried. "She's really obsessing over this…"

Andy smiled and reached out to hold Jo's hand. "We'll help her." Releasing the hand, Andy's expression turned dark. "Speaking of obsessing…" She ruffled her bangs. "I got a letter yesterday, from Judy."

Jo sat up straighter. "And?"

"I marked it 'Return to Sender' and dropped it back in the mail." Andy exhaled slowly. "I haven't told Miranda about it yet. I'm almost scared to look in the mail today."

"Don't be. You did the right thing. She's circumventing the rules, somehow, to get a letter to you. Convicted criminals don't get to communicate with their...victims." Jo took a small notebook out of her pocket and looked through the contacts on her cell phone, writing the number quickly on the small sheet. "If it keeps happening, call this guy." She ripped the page from the notebook and handed it to Andy. "He's in charge of the correctional facility where Judy is currently residing, until her sentence is pronounced and she's transferred to a permanent home."

Andy glanced at the paper before shoving it into her pant's pocket and nodded. "Thanks."

"Don't let her get to you." Jo smiled encouragingly. "She's never getting out."

"Yeah," Andy thought about the boy in the park. "But how many others are out there?"

"Whoa!" The detective in Jo kicked in. "Someone else threatening you?"

"No." Andy ruffled her bangs again. "Not really." At Jo's raised eyebrows, Andy sighed and told her about the boy in the park.

"Have you told the old lady?"

"No," Andy licked her lips. "She's really busy right now. Print deadline for the magazine is Saturday. I was planning to tell her on Sunday, so I don't stress her out any more than necessary."

Nodding, Jo made an offer. "You want me to run with you for a while?"

Andy laughed. "You tried that once. You can't run for shit…"

"Hey!" Looking indignant, Jo grinned. "I catch the bad guys when I have to."

"Yeah, but just running for the sake of running… you suck."

"Gee thanks." The detective rolled her eyes and laughed because she knew it was true. Picking a final bite from her plate, she pushed it away. "I better be getting back to the station." She grinned wickedly. "Alan will think I'm somewhere with Blair…"

"Yeah, I need to get home. The girls are having some friends over after school." Andy motioned to the waiter for the check.

"Ohhhh… doin' the Mom thing eh?" Jo chuckled and looked her friend evaluating the brunette thoughtfully. "It suits you, you know?"

"I love it." Andy smiled softly. "You have no idea how much." Then she realized who she was talking to. "Oh!... Oh God, Jo… I'm sorry. I didn't mean…"

Jo waved off the apology. "S'okay." She smiled, with only a tinge of sadness. "There was a time when Blair wanted kids more than anything. We did try. There was no way an agency at that time would let us adopt, no matter how rich Blair was… and now, well… we're pretty happy with our life together. We can't have a kid now, we're just too old." She laughed. "We'd be retired when they graduate high school!"

Andy blinked and spoke as if she just realized… "Miranda will be fifty-nine when the girls graduate." She grinned at Jo's shock. "It's never too late." She turned to the approaching waiter, took the check, barely looking at it before handing him a couple of bills. "Keep it."

"Thanks." The man smiled and bowed slightly. "You ladies, have a nice afternoon."

"Thanks." Jo rolled her eyes at the man's remark and Andy chuckled. The detective linked her arm with Andy's as they walked out of the restaurant together. "And thank you for lunch."

"No problem." Andy smiled and patted the arm around hers before they disconnected and parted ways on the sidewalk outside. Andy walked quickly to the subway station, intent on getting home to check the mail before the girls and their friends arrived. That reminded her of Emily and the birthday party. She pulled her phone from her pocket as she walked and dialed the number she knew by feel alone.

Miranda returned to the office in a better mood. Forty-five minutes spent doing nothing but thinking and talking about Andrea had done wonders for her disposition. The fact that she'd realized, on the way back to the office, that a lot of the work she had to do tonight could be done from home was a plus as well. It wasn't exactly like a movie night, but being home, surrounded by her family was always good. She walked into the office, tossing her purse negligently onto Bethany's desk, even though it was designer and probably worth as much as, or more than, the desk itself.

"Emily," the editor stopped in front of her First Assistant's desk. "Have you heard from the printers?"

"Yes, the invitations are finished." Emily almost bowed to her boss. "I only need the guest list so I can have the envelopes addressed."

Miranda's phone chirped and she answered it quickly. "Yes, Andrea?"

"Hi, Boss." Andy grinned into the phone. "I just wanted to let you know I didn't ask Emily about the girls' party yet. I'm not sure it's a good idea to put her under that much stress."

"She'll be fine." Miranda scoffed. "I'll speak to her about it."

"Miranda…" Andy started then stopped herself. "Whatever you think is best."

That brought a slight smirk to Miranda's lips. "Of course." Her eyes glittered, knowing Andrea was rolling her eyes at that. "Emily informs me that the invitations have been printed. I'm going to tell her to hold out twenty for us to invite special people with handwritten addresses, will that be enough for you?"

"Uh… yeah, more than enough. I can't think of twenty people I'd want to invite, much less with handwritten invitations." Andy stood at the top of the steps leading down into the subway tunnel. "Should I ask her to dinner this evening? We can go over the guest list and I can let her talk to the girls about the birthday party."

"Yes, I'll do that." Miranda smiled and nodded into the phone. "Excellent idea."

"Thanks, Boss." Then she realized what Miranda had said and questioned. "You'll be home for dinner?"

"Yes." The editor confirmed. "I'll have to work, but I'll be there."

"Excellent!" Andy laughed. "Gotta go, gotta get home in time to get a little work done before the house is over run by the kids in the study group."

"Very well." Miranda closed her eyes for a long moment wishing Andy's lips were as close to her ear as they sounded. "I love you, Andrea."

"And I you." Andy smiled at the sky and asked again with a bit of wonder in her voice, "See you at home?"

"Yes," Miranda smiled into the phone, "at home." She disconnected the call and held the phone to her chest for a few heartbeats, then returned her focus to her assistant.

"Emily, you will join us for dinner this evening. Be prepared to finalize the guest list." Miranda nodded. "I also have another matter to discuss with you, so plan for a late night."

Pressing her lips together, Emily's mind raced. Has Andrea made good on her threat? She apologized but… Reason took over. Emily knew if she was going to be fired Miranda would already have her out the door. The English woman decided there was no use worrying over it, she'd find out in good time what 'other matter' her boss had in mind. "Yes, Miranda." It would be a long night though, if she had to stay at Miranda's late then come back here for the Book and then take it back to Miranda's. She ventured a question. "Shall I have the Art Department hold off on the Book?"

"Don't be ridiculous." Miranda scoffed and absently gestured to the woman across the aisle. "Bethany can deliver it."

Emily's mouth dropped open. "But… I…" She blinked and took control of her reactions. "Yes, of course."

"You are soon going to be far too busy for such duties." Miranda regarded the redhead thoughtfully. She was a bit surprised at the disappointment etching its way onto her long-time assistant's face. "Train Bethany to cover your duties during your temporary reassignment. Have you made arrangements for Mila's stay in New York?"

At the word 'temporary' Emily felt as if she could breathe again. "Yes, Miranda. She's scheduled to arrive on Sunday morning. I have accommodations ready for her."

"I wish to speak with her first thing Monday morning." The editor walked away from the desk without another word. It was risky bringing the model to New York, but she hoped her gamble paid off. Jean-Paul was a very talented designer, if his ex, the purported love of his life, was present at the showing, perhaps his creative side would kick in. It would mean giving him another two weeks to redesign everything, which would be cutting it very close, but there should still be plenty of time to do a photo shoot for the August issue. Settling into her office chair, Miranda looked over the layouts on her desk and sighed. "Get me Demarchelier."

Emily immediately grabbed the phone and began to dial. Three numbers into the call, she closed her eyes, gripped the handset tightly and hung up. She looked across at Bethany and practically ordered. "Listen to what I say," She again dialed the number, when the call connected she simply said, "Hold for Miranda," placed the call on hold and informed Miranda, "I have Patrick." Writing the number down on a post-it, Emily handed it to Bethany. "Whenever Miranda asks for him, call this number immediately."

Bethany nodded and took the small yellow paper reverently, feeling somehow like a torch was being passed. "Thanks, Emily."

"Just don't screw up." The English woman sighed and reached into her own purse, pulling out a key. She held the small piece of metal as though it was worth all the gold in the world. "Guard this with your life."

Bethany's eyes widened as she reached out and nodded. She barely heard her co-worker's instructions as the key to Miranda's townhouse warmed in her palm. Wow.

Andy climbed the steps out of the subway station and began to walk toward the house. She dug a small container of antibacterial gel out of her purse and covered her hands liberally with it. When that was dry she found her cell phone and searched through her Contact numbers for the right one. She held the phone to her ear as she walked and smiled as the voice sounded in her ear.


"Hello, Gram."

"Hey, Darlin'" The older woman's voice reflected pure pleasure at hearing her grand-daughter's voice. "How are things in the big city?"

"Aside from the odd sensationalistic tabloid headline or two, it's good." Andy smiled. "Listen, I got your letter." The sudden stillness on the other end of the line almost made her laugh. "We think it would be great if you want to bring Mrs. King along." A small exhale made it through the connection. "Is she doing okay?"

"She's, well, as well as can be expected." Pava's voice took on a distant quality. "They were together for a long time…"

Andy nodded, "Well, she might even be of some help. I mean, she's obviously seen her fair share of honeymooners and has probably heard a thousand wedding stories, so maybe she'll have a few ideas on this fiasco in the making."

Pava laughed. "You think it will be?"

"Time is the problem." Andy sighed. "The girls are going to have to stay with their father during our honeymoon so we want to have it during the summer break. The hotel had an opening at the end of July, so that worked out. But, now we have to get everything done."

"You have a planner though, right?" Pava wasn't sure why her grand-daughter should be stressing over this at all. That was the planner's job.

"Oh, yeah, Emily is handling most of it." Andy agreed. "But there are decisions that need made. Invitation styles we've already done, but there's still the music, the cake, the menu…" And the biggest one of all, the one that was terrifying her beyond all reason. "…the dress. Gram, I have to pick out a wedding dress." It wasn't just a monumental decision, like a normal bride oh no, Andy had to pick out a wedding dress to get married to the woman who decides what fashion is on a daily basis. Her voice quavered as she pleaded. "I need help, Gram."

Pava chuckled. "We'll help you, darlin'. We'll get things squared away here and c'mon over. End of next week sound okay? I think your mother has a job until then."

"It sounds perfect, Gram." Andy felt better already. "I'll call Ma and see what's going on with her." She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, wondering if her Father would speak to her this time. Instead of voicing that concern she went back to the problem at hand. "There's just so much to do."

"Most of those things sound like fairly basic decisions." Music though, I hope I can talk Dorothy out of wanting a Karaoke machine at the reception.

"Yeah Gram, they all just take time." Andy sighed. "I'll call Ma." She thought the woman would be in school at this time. "I'll just leave a message on her machine. See ya next week?"

"Yep, we'll be there, Darlin'" Pava smiled into the phone. "See you then."

Andy nodded. "See ya." She disconnected the call and walked a few more steps before she dialed another number. The tension that had dissipated during her talk with Pava began to creep back as the tone warbled in her ear. It was answered after the third ring.


"Ma?" Andy was startled that the woman had actually answered. "I thought you'd be in class. Are you okay?"

"Yes, I'm fine, Honey, I only had one class to cover this morning." She wondered why her daughter was calling out of the blue. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. I just talked to Gram about coming to New York, to help with the wedding…" Andy cleared her throat. "She said you might be busy until next week?"

"Yes, starting tomorrow I'm filling in during a teacher's vacation, they'll be back on Wednesday." Dorothy hesitated. "I suppose I could tell them to find someone else."

"No, Ma, that's okay. Just when you finish, come on, we can spend the weekend visiting and the next week we can start the search for dresses and such." Andy was actually a little relieved that her family wasn't going to be able to visit for a little while. Miranda was going to be very busy until Saturday and she knew once the editor finished the current issue of Runway, they would want to spend some 'quality time' with each other. This way she and Miranda would have four days to themselves.

"Are you sure?" Dorothy worried that it seemed she was putting her work before her child.

"Positive, Ma." Andy assured the woman. "Whenever you can make it, just let me know."

"Okay, Sweetie…" Dorothy paused again, then continued. "I'll see you next week."

Andy was just on the verge of asking about her Dad when Dorothy sighed. "I doubt your Father will join us."

"I…" Andy stopped walking for a second. "I didn't think he would."

"He does love you…" Dorothy hated that her husband and daughter were at odds.

"I know, Ma…" Andy began to move again, this time her feet took her in the direction of the park. "I know."

After reassurances from her mother that they would make travel plans as soon as they could, Andy pocketed her phone and walked aimlessly through the park. She wished Patricia was with her, not only for companionship, but also because the dog loved to go for walks. She didn't linger in the park for long though, knowing she had to get some work done before the kids arrived.


Part 7

Andy walked up the steps to the townhouse, ignoring the reporters yelling questions at her back. Well the kids are gonna have fun wading through that mess. The urge to call Jo was strong, but she hated the idea of having the police force on call. It was nice, but it was starting to seem like she was taking advantage of her friendship with Jo. Andy wondered if she should ask Jo or even Jeff for some names of police officers who might want to earn a few extra dollars as a security detail in their off time, to escort their guests through the horde from time to time. If this kind of thing was going to continue, they might just need that kind of help.

Entering the house, Andy quickly went up to the sun room and started her laptop then went to find Peggy. This time of day the woman was normally in the kitchen. "Hello, Peggy."

"Hi, Andy." The housekeeper smiled. "Good day?"

"Yeah," The brunette smiled. "I talked to my Gram and after that to my Ma for a minute. They're gonna come stay for a few days next weekend, to help with some of the decisions I need to make for the wedding."

"That's great! I'll be sure and have the guest rooms all spiffed up."

"Yeah, I'll be glad of the help making some of the decisions…" Andy rolled her eyes. "…especially the dress. It's weird not being able to ask Miranda about something so important I need to wear!"

Peggy chuckled. "It depends on if your tastes run the same or not… don't want you to be at odds over the decisions to make."

"Nah…" Andy was confident on that point. "They're mostly gonna be for moral support, I'll make the decisions."

"Good for you." Peggy encouraged. "It's your day. Make it the way you want."

"My day…" Andy mumbled almost to herself and thought, not entirely. "Well right now we need to concentrate on the girls. Their study group is coming over so I think snacks are in order."

Peggy nodded. "I can do a veggie tray, and a fruit tray," She opened the fridge to gather the named items. "You know though, kids… would probably want chips and dip too."

Andy sighed and reluctantly moved to the corner cabinet. She opened the door and moving aside a large cookie sheet, retrieved three bags; tortilla chips, Ruffles and some nacho flavored Doritos. She looked at Peggy's wry grin and chuckled. "The things I do for these kids, I swear."

"Good thing Miranda hasn't found your stash…" Peggy laughed. "Then you'd be in for it."

Rolling her eyes at that, Andy hid her blush. It wasn't that Miranda cared so much what she ate, because with the running and other exercise she did, Andy remained fit. And in fact when Andy had brought up the subject of losing a bit to prepare for the wedding gown search, Miranda had been, well, appalled was the only word that fit. Andy had been told in no uncertain terms that she was perfect the way she was and losing even one pound would be tantamount to a sin. The concern was for the girls and Miranda didn't want them to have access to the salty, bad-for-you snacks on a regular basis. Once in a while, though, like today for the gathering was fine.

Andy also knew they were a weakness of Miranda's but she didn't tell Peggy that. Miranda had caught her once, at the beginning of their relationship, eating Cheese Doodles and the fashion queen had 'helped' her finish the entire bag. It was an eye opening experience and Miranda had informed her in no uncertain terms that that particular snack was not to be introduced into this house again.

"I'm just going to get these trays ready." Peggy began peeling and washing the vegetables.

"You want me to help?" Andy wasn't that great a cook, but she could peel veggies and cut up fruit.

"Nah… this is my job after all." She shooed the young woman away. "Why don't you go on and do yours?"

Snagging a small carrot, Andy crunched down on the sweet bite and laughed. "Yes ma'am."

Peggy chuckled as Andy grabbed an apple and left the kitchen quickly. Peggy was right, she had work to do.

"You can't."

Dorothy widened her eyes and almost laughed until she realized he was serious. She repeated the relevant word. "Can't?"

"You can't go." Richard set his jaw and crossed his arms. "I won't let you go."

Incredulous now, Dorothy blinked. "Won't let me?" The man was often controlling, but this was just too much.

"That's right." The muscles in his jaw tensed for a second. "I forbid it."

Dorothy licked through her pursed lips and was now on the verge of anger as she repeated the latest infuriating word. "Forbid..."

"That's right."

"She's my daughter, Richard!" Dorothy used her sternest 'teacher' tones to press her statement home. "I am going to be a part of her wedding."

Richard still felt his stomach turn at the thought of his daughter and another woman together. "It's not right, you shouldn't approve of it. You shouldn't help…"

"I shouldn't approve of my daughter being happy with the person she loves?" Dorothy frowned. "What is wrong with you?"

"Wrong with me?!" The man almost laughed and ran his fingers through his hair. "I'm not the one…" He stopped himself, barely, from saying something about his own daughter that he couldn't take back. "I don't understand it, her…" He swallowed his revulsion. "…them."

"You should go and visit them." Dorothy almost pleaded with her husband. "She's so happy Richard, she's so much in love."

"She can't be! Not with a woman, not like that!" He crossed his arms stubbornly. "I won't believe it."

"You would." Dorothy sighed, "If you'd just open your eyes and see."

Shaking his head, Richard spoke through clenched teeth, "Never."

Exhaling in frustration, Dorothy just shook her head and left the room. There was no use in trying to convince the man, she knew when he'd dug in to an idea like this it was best to just let him think about it for a while. He wasn't going to stop her from helping Andy with her big day though.

She had given Richard a lot of leeway over the years because of their marriage and the fact that she loved him, but he had no right to stop her from participating in her daughter's wedding, that she wouldn't allow.

Andy took a deep breath and stepped out of the townhouse's front door. Immediately the reporter's pounced, a thousand flashes went off and it took at least a minute to calm them down. Finally Andy's voice could be heard over the cacophony. "Miranda and I have already spoken to a reporter from the Times. Mr. Thompson also gave his statement. The story will appear in tomorrow's paper. I would respectfully ask that you leave now." She sighed as none of the people gathered moved an inch. "If you do decide to remain, I ask that you leave the children arriving this afternoon alone. They have nothing to do with this situation. Miranda's request remains in effect, the girls, and their friends, are off limits." A surprise question reached her.

"How are the wedding plans coming along?"

Despite herself, Andy smiled. "Plans are going well, thank you."

"Are any of the press going to be invited?"

Andy responded truthfully. "Miranda and I have not discussed that yet." She allowed for the possibility. "Most likely there will be a few representatives of the press at the reception." At least some of the fashion reporters from the larger magazines… She thought, and maybe…

"Have you set a date?"

Grinning at the questioner, Andy nodded. "Yes, we have." She held up her hands as a barrage of questions were flung at her. "I really need to get some things finished. Again, there is no need for you to stay, but if you do, please leave our guests alone. Thank you." Without another word, Andy turned and re-entered the house.

"This is so cool!"

Roy grinned at the comment from the backseat and he glanced in the rear view mirror in time to see Caroline roll her eyes just like he'd seen Miranda do a million times before. Unlike her mother, however, the girl was crammed into the back of the car with three of her giggling friends. And he grinned at the boy sitting next to him up front as Caroline jostled her cohorts around.

"It's usually a lot less crowded!"

There was some more jostling and laughing as the kids teased Caroline about being chauffeured, "like someone important".

Roy knew that some of the kids who went to Dalton were on the same social level as Caroline and Cassidy, but the ones in the car with them now didn't seem to be quite up to that level. They had to be a little well off though to even be attending the elite private school, just possibly not quite as well off as Miranda and the girls' father were. Speaking quietly to Caroline, Roy gave her a head's up. "The reporters were back this morning, after you left."

"Really?" The girl's eyes widened as the rest of the car went silent. "Why?"

Clearing his throat, Roy gripped the steering wheel tighter. "You might want to ask Andy that." He winced a little and told the child. "Someone is saying some fairly unkind things about her, and your mom."

"Oh," Caroline thought about that. "Does Mom know who?"

"Yes," Roy made a turn as he nodded. "I believe she does."

Watching the passing buildings pensively, Caroline sighed. "They're toast then."

"Yeah," Roy grinned at the girl. "That would be my guess too."

Caroline pulled out her cell phone and called her sister's number. "The losers are back."

"No way!" Cassidy looked around the car she was riding in, settling her gaze on the driver, their faculty adviser, Ms. Bax, but continued her conversation with her sister. "Why?"

Caroline answered with a scoff. "Doesn't matter right now. We can talk to Andy about it when we get home."

"Okay, Caroline." Cassidy gave a long exhale and closed her phone. She just hoped the reporters would leave their friends alone.

Mark, sitting next to Roy, was the oldest of their group and usually the quietest. He turned and asked Caroline. "Andy's going to be there?!"

Caroline rolled her eyes again. "Of course she is, she lives there, duh!" Then her eyes narrowed. "Why?"

"Why?! Duh! I've seen pictures of her, she's hot!" The boy ran his fingers through his short dark hair even as his red headed friend wrinkled her nose.


"What?!" Mark grinned, his vivid blue eyes twinkled. "She is!" He looked to the other male in the car. "She is! Right Roy?"

The driver chuckled and shook his head. "Oh no, don't drag me into this conversation."

One of the other girls in the backseat reached up to smack the boy in the back of the head. "Dude, she's like…Ro's Mom!"

That thought deflated him a bit. "Oh, right." He smiled weakly. "Sorry, Ro."

Caroline waved off the apology. She knew that most people found Andy attractive. It was something she and Cassidy had to deal with and so long as Andy didn't act on any of the offers she got, the girls were okay with it. It was kind of cool really. Caroline liked that so many people thought Andy was beautiful, or hot, or whatever because whatever people thought Andy was, Caroline knew, Andy's ours. She smiled a little, knowing her mother felt the same way and better yet, Andy did too.

Instead of dwelling on Mark's insanely inappropriate remark, Caroline decided to give her friends a little tutorial on how to deal with the reporters when they got to the house. She was fairly sure Cassidy was giving the rest of their group, in the other car, the same instructions.

Andy was waiting for them at the door. She was glad that the reporters had thinned out and the ones that were left didn't say a word to the kids as they walked up the sidewalk. A couple of pictures were taken though when one of the girls stopped and posed for the cameras. "Hey guys! Welcome." She'd changed into some not quite tight faded jeans and fairly form fitting brown t-shirt with the breast cancer slogan 'Fight like a girl' in pink lettering across the front. She looked very casual, much more so than the girls had seen her ever be in front of company. Of course, company didn't usually comprise six kids their own age and one adult advisor from school. In fact, they rarely had company at all.

Caroline's lips pressed together so very much like Miranda's that Andy almost laughed. Smiling, she brushed the girl's cheek with her fingertips and winked. "It's okay to be casual every once in a while."

"I guess." Caroline looked dubious.

"Even your mom wore jeans to my birthday party." Andy reminded her.

"True." The girl's eyes appraised the tall woman again. "And I guess they are designer jeans…"

Andy laughed at the appraisal, eerily similar to Miranda's, and tapped the child on the nose. "You bet they are, Munchkin." She grinned. "Miranda wouldn't have it any other way.

Dropping the subject, Caroline gestured back toward the door. "Cassidy and the others will be here soon. She decided to ride with Ms. Bax, in case she couldn't find the house."

Nodding, Andy smiled at the kids present. "Why don't you go ahead and introduce me to these guys and Cassidy can do the honors with the others."

"Sure." Caroline turned to see her friends all lined up in the hallway. Turning her eyes skyward for a moment, she began to name off the kids. "That's Mark, Heather, Amber and Allison." She gestured to Andy. "Guys, this is my Andy."

"'Your' Andy?" Mark grinned at his friend then blinked as Andy wrapped her arms around the girl's shoulders. Caroline smiled and laughed at the jostling.

"Yeah, there are a lot of Andy's in the world, this one is mine." Caroline tilted her head to listen as Andy whispered in her ear, she wrinkled her nose when the tall woman was finished speaking. "Ewwww…"

Laughing at that, Andy released the girl's shoulders with a final pat. "You guys can go on upstairs if you want."

"Yeah," Caroline gestured for them to follow her. "C'mon guys."

Andy watched them go and wondered if she would be able to remember their names. She suddenly understood at least superficially, why Miranda found it so easy to just call everyone Emily. She started into the kitchen when her phone rang. Knowing from the ringtone who it was, Andy answered with a smile. "Hey, Sweetie."

"Ma, we're pulling up in front of the house." Cassidy asked. "Are the others here yet?"

"Yeah, they got here a few minutes ago."

"Great!" Cassidy pulled the phone away and spoke to the woman driving. "You can park here, the other car has already gone." She spoke to Andy again. "We'll be right in."

Andy put her phone away and went to the door, opening it for the second wave of kids. "Welcome!" She gestured the kids and the older woman inside without any interference from the remaining reporters. Sparing a glance at the people gathered in front of the house, she pressed her hands together in front of her and bowed slightly. "Thanks guys." The reporters smiled and some of them waved before she closed the door. Turning to the new arrivals she grinned at Cassidy. "Care to introduce me?"

"Sure." The girl pointed to the kids with her. "This is Sarah, Devon, Hunter and Ms. Bax." She moved to Andy's side, wrapping her arms around the tall brunette's waist, and looked at her friends. "This is Andy."

"Hey guys." Andy grinned at the kids. "Caroline and the others are already upstairs."

Ms. Bax moved forward keeping her features carefully professional. "Ms. Sachs, it's so nice to finally meet you." She extended her hand to shake with Andy. "Cassidy and Caroline have told me so much about you."

"Andy, please. They talk about me? Really?" Andy returned the shorter woman's firm handshake, absently noting how different the teacher's hand was compared to Miranda's. She chuckled. "They don't talk much about school when they're home."

Jostling Cassidy's shoulder, Andy suggested. "Why don't you take your friends upstairs? I'll bring up some snacks."

"I'll help." Ms. Bax smiled.

Andy was quietly amazed as the smile transformed the fairly stern looking teacher into a rather beautiful woman. The corners of her blue eyes crinkled as she peered out from under her dark bangs, and a small dimple appeared in her right cheek.

"Excellent." Andy laughed and looked at Cassidy. "We'll be up in a minute."

Cassidy shook her head. "I'll help." She went to the bottom of the stairs and yelled. "CAROLINE!"

"Cassidy!" It was so rare for voices to be raised in the house Andy was momentarily shocked. A voice from above interrupted any response.

"WHAT?" Caroline looked down over the stair railing and saw their friends there. She gestured to the new arrivals. "C'mon up."

Andy gave Cassidy a gentle nudge toward the kitchen. "Let's grab those snacks."

Nodding, Cassidy led the way to the kitchen, giving a gleeful 'Yay' when she saw the chip and dip platter. She grabbed the sectioned serving tray and met the adults coming in. "I'll take this on up."

Laughing, Andy gestured behind her with her thumb. "G'wan, Ms. Bax and I will get the healthy stuff."

The girl left the kitchen and Andy chuckled when the teacher commented, "Cassidy is so funny and it's Nora by the way."

"They can both be a handful at times." Andy opened the fridge and pulled the fruit and veggie trays out, setting them on the counter.

"Wow, you went all out." Nora blinked at the 'snacks' arranged on the platters, "Those look great."

Laughing, Andy ruffled her bangs, "I didn't, Peggy wouldn't let me." At the teacher's confused look, Andy clarified. "The cook, slash housekeeper."

"Ah," Nora slid onto one of the breakfast bar stools, resting her chin on her hand as she watched Andy carefully. "What's that like? Having servants?"

Shaking her head, Andy began to gather some drinks from the fridge, several different choices of drinks, fruit juices and bottled water. "It's weird, definitely different, I'm just a middle class girl from Ohio." She grinned at the woman's laugh and rolled her eyes self-deprecatingly, admitting, "And it's strangely easy to get used to." She chuckled again as her guest looked around curiously. "I sent her home early."

Nora laughed louder and slid off the stool. "No reason she should be subjected to the pack." She picked up the platter with the decoratively arranged fruit pieces on it. "Shall we?"

Nodding, Andy balanced the veggie tray on top of the drink tray. "Yep…" she pointed to the back stairs. "Up the stairs, follow the sounds of the explosions..." Picking up the trays she followed the woman, carefully.

Andy's instructions had been accurate and the women had found half the group avidly watching the other four playing a horribly violent video game on the big screen. It was one Miranda only barely tolerated and that was only because the violence was fantastic in nature, not realistic. Four rounds of the game later and after a heated debate about the influence violent video games had on today's youth, the group was all arranged on cushions around the coffee table that held the remains of the snack trays. They were talking and laughing about school and how glad they were that it was over for the summer so they wouldn't have to be under the teacher's rule anymore.

"You know." Ms. Bax grinned at the kids. "I could take offense at this conversation. Not all the teachers are that bad!"

"'Course not," Cassidy looked up from her cushion nearly at the teacher's feet and smiled. "Not you, Ms. Bax."

Nora laughed and patted the girl's shoulder. "Thanks, Cass."

Andy blinked at the nickname. When she saw Cassidy's smile and the adoration in the girl's eyes, Andy opened her mouth slightly in surprise. Before she could stop it, a sound escaped and she tilted her head in question at Cassidy, her dark eyes alternated quickly between the girl and Ms. Bax. Cassidy's quick study of the fringe on the pillow she was sitting on and the pink tinge gracing the child's cheeks confirmed Andy's guess. Cassidy's crush was on the teacher!

"You know what?" Andy began to consolidate the remaining snacks, then decided against it and just piled one tray on top of the other. "I could really use a cup of tea." She turned to the only other adult in the room. "Care to join me?"

Nora smiled. "That sounds lovely." She unloaded the few unopened bottles of juice and water, then picked up the tray they'd been on, to carry it back downstairs.

Andy informed the kids. "We'll be in the kitchen if you need anything." She picked up the decimated snack platters and left.

"Your parents should be arriving soon to pick you up." Ms. Bax grinned at the group. "I let you slide today because of the newness of the casual format, but you need to pick a book to read and review for the next meeting. You also need to decide whose house you'll be at next time."

Cassidy watched her favorite teacher walk out of the room and tried not to be jealous of Andy getting to spend time with the woman. It's not like anything's going to happen between them, she told herself, Andy's totally in love with Mom! Her attention was drawn to the others already talking about which book they wanted to pick for their next meeting.


Part 8

Nora slid onto the same bar stool she'd occupied so briefly earlier. "I've um.. been meaning to compliment you in your choice of shirts." The woman openly admired the shirt. "My mother is a breast cancer survivor."

"Oh, that's great!" Andy stopped a moment and shook her head. "I, um.. I mean the survivor part."

Laughing, Nora waved away the nervousness. "Yeah, I knew what you meant." She smiled, again making the dimple appear. "And yeah, it is great."

Andy cleared off the trays and left them in the sink for the moment. Opening the drawer with her tea stash in it, she gave her guest the options. "decaf, oolong, Earl Grey, herbal, raspberry, blueberry, cinnamon…Chai"

"Um… the choices are a little overwhelming." Nora shrugged. "I just do 'tea'."

Nodding, Andy picked a lemon herbal, it was kind of late for caffeine, unless the point was to stay up all night. She got the cups from the cabinet and dropped one teabag in each cup before moving to the center island. "So what do you teach at the school?" She watched as the steaming water going into the cup began to turn a light yellow. She passed the drink across to the woman and also handed her the sugar.

Filling her own cup, Andy got two spoons and handed one to Nora.

"Thank you." The teacher took the spoon and measured out three scoops of the sugar before stirring the mixture. "I teach music."

"Ah," Andy nodded and, leaning against the counter, began to scoop sugar into her drink. A big reason for Cassidy's crush choice became clear, aside from the obvious physical attraction; Cassidy loved music and sound.

"I have two Masters Degrees, one in music and the other English." She pointed upstairs. "We've only met twice so far but I will usually make them read and review a book for these meetings. In the last meeting, they all were just studying for finals, so we discussed the previously assigned book from one of their classes and then I let them study. I knew this one would be a bust since it was the last day of school so I let them slide."

"Oh…well, it was actually an interesting debate. Some of them had some really good points about hand eye coordination and online interactions." Andy had wondered what the study group was actually going to 'study' during the summer break. She watched the woman sip her tea. "I am glad that you actually make them read."

"Mmmm… I think Cass is smart enough to find another solution." The teacher sipped her tea, "Most likely I will be talked into letting them read newspapers and discuss the stories, instead of dissecting novels this summer."

Cassidy can talk her into things? Andy answered slowly. "Well, keeping up on current issues, is good."

Nora looked up at her hostess. "So is this, it's wonderful."

Andy laughed. "Yeah, I like it when it's later in the evening. Miranda so rarely drinks tea I'm usually on my own for this particular ritual." Andy pushed away from the island counter, "C'mon." She led the woman to the small, dimly lit, sitting area just outside the kitchen. Settling into Miranda's favorite chair, Andy sipped her tea and gestured for Nora to have a seat in the next chair. "This is much more comfortable than the kitchen." She looked through the large doorway into the well lit room, "We'll be able to see if the kids come down and need anything."

Nodding, Nora sat in the chair on Andy's right so that they could speak quietly to each other and still be heard. "Cass tells me you and her mother are going to be married."

"Do you spend a lot of time with Cassidy?" Andy explained the question, "That's the third time you've used her nickname."

"Oh!" Nora laughed, "I didn't realize... I guess I just hear the kids calling her that."

Yeah, Andy thought, I'd buy that, except you never call Caroline 'Ro', like the others do. She decided to just answer the previous question. "Yes, we're getting married. You didn't get that from the papers?" Andy knew it was big news and had been headlines in some of the more desperate rags.

"It's so hard to tell what's true and what isn't." Nora grimaced at the thought, "How do you stand it?"

A flash of white teeth gleamed in the dimness and Andy shrugged. "I know what's true."

Nora thought about that, "I guess that would help." She grinned and blinked as a movement of Andy's left hand sent a glint off of her ring. "Oh, wow, that's gorgeous."

"Yeah," Andy looked at the ring on her finger with something akin to awe. "It's a beautiful ring." What it represented was the real awe inspiring thing though. The ring, as beautiful as it was, was merely a physical reminder of the actual gift; Miranda's love. Andy couldn't help but smile whenever she thought about it. I hope Miranda feels the same when...

Thunderous footsteps on the stairs caused both women to turn and look down the hall. The kids stopped at the sitting area and Caroline spoke for them. "Amber's mom called. She'll be here in a minute."

Heather spoke up, "I'm gonna catch a ride with them, we live next door to each other."

"Are your parents aware that you will be riding home with Amber?" Ms. Bax was hyper alert to things like that. Working at such an elite school had obvious advantages, and not so obvious disadvantages. Student's safety was a huge deal, with some of their parents as influential as they were. The children's safety was a serious issue.

"Yes," Heather pulled her phone from her pocket and dialed. "You can make sure though." She handed the phone to the teacher.

Ms. Bax took the device and waited for the connection. It only took a short conversation to confirm that Heather did indeed have permission to ride home with Amber.

It was amazing to see, much like dominos as soon as the two girls were picked up, the others rides soon followed. In a very short span of time the group was gone and the twins were upstairs watching television so only Ms. Bax lingered with Andy in the sitting area.

"Do you have plans or can you stay to meet Miranda?"

"Oh!" Nora clasped her hands together in front of her in an attempt to stop them from shaking at the thought. "I've, um… met her before. At recitals and programs at school… she's rather serious about attending."

"Mmm…" Andy shook her head. "Yeah, I nearly got fired once because I couldn't get her home in time for one of their recitals."

"Are you kidding?"

"Nope," Andy's gaze focused past the seated woman, "She was very upset."

Nora jumped slightly at the voice behind her.

"Well of course I was, Andrea, it was just drizzling! There was no reason whatsoever for planes not to be flying."

Andy stood and laughed. "It was a hurricane and you were in Miami!"

With a dismissive sound, Miranda dropped the subject. "Have the children already left?"

Moving around the chairs, Andy nodded. "Yes, the last one just left. The twins are upstairs watching TV." She closed the distance between them and kissed her fiancée lightly. "And welcome home." She looked over Miranda's shoulder and nodded. "Hello, Emily." She grinned as the redhead studiously avoided looking at her.

"Mmm…" Tossing her handbag into the chair Andrea had just vacated, Miranda wrapped her arm around the young woman's waist, but faced the now standing teacher. "Ms. Bax, how nice to see you again."

"You too, Ms. Priestly."

Andy and Emily inhaled sharply but Miranda simply smiled. "Miranda, please."

"Right… sorry." Nora rolled her eyes. She had no idea why this woman made her so nervous, some of the other parents were judges, lawyers and even one Senator, but trying to speak directly to Miranda Priestly was just so intimidating.

"It's very kind of you to take days out of your summer break to supervise the children's study group." Miranda turned her head to speak to Emily.

"Go lay out the catering information in my study."

"Yes, Miranda." Emily, grateful for the distraction, moved back down the hall and entered the door across from the table where she normally left the Book.

"It's not that big of an inconvenience. I don't have any big plans for the summer anyway."

"I see."

The silence drew out until Nora smiled weakly, "Okay, well, I know you're busy. Wedding plans and all..." Nora smiled at the couple. "So I'll just be on my way."

"It was nice to meet you." Andy smiled and reached out to shake the teacher's hand.

"Oh! You too." Nora shook the offered hand. "Thanks for the tea."

"Of course." Andy and Miranda walked with Ms Bax toward the door. Miranda went upstairs to say hello to the girls while Andy continued to show the students' adviser out. She was surprised and pleased to see that most of the reporters had gone. "Drive safely. Have a nice evening."

"You too." Nora waved and walked down the sidewalk to her car.

Andy watched to make sure she got all the way there without being hassled by the few remaining reporters. When the teacher's car pulled away from the curb, Andy closed the door and locked it before making her way back down the hall to the study. Nora Bax... Andy thought ruefully about the young teacher and Cassidy's crush. Tomorrow she knew their internet connection would be quite active as she searched for as much information as she could get on the nice music teacher, that used Cassidy's nickname without realizing it. Nora Bax, you seem nice enough, Andy took a deep breath and calmed herself down. Cassidy had a crush, okay, everyone had those at some point. Thinking back on the evening, aside from the nickname thing, there was nothing to indicate that Cassidy was anything more to the teacher than just another student. Still just to be on the safe side Andy would check the woman's background. She knew in her heart it was the only thing she could do, just to be sure, because she and Miranda agreed on one thing above all else.

Nobody messes with our girls.

Miranda and Emily had taken places on the couch while Andy settled cross-legged on the floor intent on evaluating several different caterer's various menu offerings; determined to make a decision on something. It took twenty minutes of reading delicious descriptions of food before Andy's stomach growled, loudly. She sighed as Miranda and Emily both turned their attention to her.

Emily looked at her former co-worker with annoyance but Miranda's blue gaze captured Andy's. "Do you have something to tell us, Andrea?"

Andy chuckled, "Only that the snacks I shared with the kids seem to be wearing off."

"You had snacks earlier and you're hungry now?" Emily was appalled. "How do…" She just stopped herself from asking how Andy ate all the time and still stayed size four.

"I'm larger than the people you are used to seeing but a lot of my mass is muscle, so the food I eat burns away fairly quickly." Andy smiled at the diet conscious redhead. "It's mostly because I run every day."

"Andrea keeps herself in very good shape." Miranda's lips twitched as her fiancée's stomach rumbled again. "Perhaps it's time to order dinner?"

Nodding, Andy gracefully rose to her feet. "I'll go ask the girls what they want. Indian okay with you?"

Miranda nodded, "Yes, my usual will be fine." She turned to Emily. "What would you like?"

"Um…" The woman had no idea. "I don't… um… I don't do takeaway that often. What's good?"

Ordering Indian food was a frequent occurrence in the Priestly-Sachs household, but the addition of Emily with her English accent caused a flash of reminiscence. Getting takeaway with friends, co-workers really, after long days at work, were among some of Miranda's favorite memories of her younger days.

"Add a vegetable curry to the order, Andrea."

Nodding, Andy reached out and trailed her fingertips down Miranda's arm tangling their fingers together briefly, as she left the room. "Be right back."

Miranda watched the brunette leave and turned back to the task at hand. From the corner of her eye she studied a rather unreadable expression on Emily's face. It only lasted until the editor turned to face her assistant fully. As soon as Miranda's cool gaze landed on Emily's face, the redhead was all business. "Glorious Foods say they are more than willing to work with you on the menu."


"Bu…" Emily stopped herself from arguing, that particular caterer had worked with Miranda before and for them to willingly want to work with her again had been amazing in and of itself.

"Any caterer will be willing to work with us. That is their job. For them to make it sound like a favor to us is unacceptable." Miranda picked up the sample menu and crumpled it before tossing it into the wastebasket at the end of the coffee table. "I believe Andrea's grandmother was interested in cooking a few things for the reception." She ignored Emily's horrified expression. "Therefore, any caterer we utilize must be willing to recreate any family recipes we give them."

Forcing down her obvious disdain for the idea of 'family recipes', Emily only paused a few seconds before responding in the only way she could.

"Yes, Miranda."

Andy barely paused at the door of the tv room. "Hey girls, I'm calling for Indian, do you want your usual?"

They both gestured for her to be quiet, their eyes riveted to the screen. "This is the exciting part!"

Glancing at the screen, Andy rolled her eyes. She had forgotten it was 'Top Chef' night. "Sorry."

They again gestured for her to let them hear and both girls cheered, in unison, as Padma intoned. "Please pack your knives and go."

From their comments, Andy realized that neither of the girls liked the contestant that had been eliminated and were glad they wouldn't have to put up with the usual whining on the next episode. As the credits rolled, she asked again about the dinner order and after they confirmed their usual, she also informed them. "Emily will be joining us…"

"Yeah?" Cassidy asked. "What's she having?"

"Your mom told me to order a Vegetable curry for her." Andy grinned at their rolling eyes and moved the palm of her hand across her tummy. "We've been going over the caterer's menus. It's making me hungry, I thought Indian would be the fastest."

"Oh! More wedding plans?" Caroline widened her eyes. "Can we help?"

Smiling, Andy wrapped her arm around the oldest-by-minutes girl's shoulder and squeezed slightly. "Of course." She winked at Cassidy. "I'm gonna go place the order, your mom and Emily are down in the study."


Andy parted ways with the girls as they descended to the study and she continued up the stairs to the sun room, where she'd left her laptop earlier.

Miranda continued looking over the menus after Andrea had left the room. She picked up one they had discarded for use at the wedding and handed it to Emily. "This one I think will do well for the girls' birthday party."

"Uh…" Emily took the sheet numbly. "Birthday party?"

"Andrea thinks that it may be too much to burden you with, but I assured her that you would be able to plan both events admirably." Miranda turned her gaze to the woman beside her. "I know you won't disappoint me."

The very thought of disappointing Miranda made Emily's mouth go dry. "I'll try not to let you down." She was amazed to see the normally icy eyes soften and her heart almost stopped at the quiet words.

"Thank you, Emily."

For a moment the redhead's cheeks were the same color as her hair then she got hold of herself. She looked at the paper in her hand and frowned. "I don't think these people will do for the twins' party." Emily saw Miranda begin to frown and spoke quickly. "I've spoken with them before and while their attitude toward the wedding is very positive, they are quite… snotty for anything they feel might be 'beneath' them…"

"…such as a birthday party for twelve year old girls."

"Exactly," Emily added. "They also continually asked when they would meet with you…"

"Ah…" Miranda understood, blinded by the chance to meet a celebrity. "Very well. Choose someone you deem suitable." She informed the woman of the girls' wishes. "Caroline and Cassidy are in agreement that the theme of their party should be 'Twilight'."

Emily forced herself not to roll her eyes. They were only children after all and Twilight things were quite the fad at the moment. Before she could comment any further the girls in question practically barreled into the room.

"Whoa!" Miranda found herself pressed back into the couch by her enthusiastic children. "What's all this?"

"We're gonna help with the wedding plans…" Cassidy settled between her mother and Emily.

"Andy said you were looking through the caterer's menus." Caroline was slightly better at containing her excitement and she sat on the arm of the couch next to Miranda.

"Yes," The editor indicated the papers covering the coffee table in front of them.

The description of one entrée caught Cassidy's eye and she picked up the menu handing it to Caroline. "Look, this one sounds like what one of the contestants made tonight."

Emily tilted her head. "Contestants?"

Both girls nodded and Cassidy answered. "Yeah, on Top Chef! We love that show." The girl laughed and Cassidy announced, "I'm thirsty." She grinned as Caroline quickly put the paper in her hand down.

"Me too."

And as suddenly as they'd arrived the girls were gone, heading to the kitchen for a drink.

"Ah... Top Chef…" Emily had watched the show a few times. She thought about it and a wild idea caught itself in her brain. Oddly enough, Miranda's blue gaze held some amusement and before Emily could speak, the Goddess of Fashion did.

"Call Padma in the morning, she will be able to direct you to the correct people."

Nodding, Emily grinned. "Yes, Miranda."

"Now," Miranda dismissively waved in the direction of the scattered menus. "Let us discuss the cake for a moment."

Emily cleaned off the coffee table and pulled the information on the bakeries from her bag; the bakeries that dealt exclusively with celebrity weddings. "The first decision will be to determine exactly what kind of cake you want."

"Mmm…did I hear the word 'cake'?" Andy walked into the room and settled on the floor with her back against the couch, curling her arm around Miranda's legs, tucking her shoulder under the woman's knees. "Dinner will be here in twenty minutes." She closed her eyes as Miranda's fingers automatically threaded through her hair.

"Do you want a traditional white cake, Andrea?" Miranda asked absently. Her mind was no longer on the wedding. The young woman's cheek leaning against her thigh was just too distracting.

"Hmm..." Andy absently caressed the silk covered legs under her hands. "I have no opinion on the matter."

"Really?" Emily sniffed but spoke blandly. "I would have thought the cake would be one of your favorite parts."

Andy recognized the dig at her weight even without the usual snide tone. "Oh no," With a grin and a knowing glance at Miranda, Andy responded wryly. "My favorite part will be the honeymoon."

Miranda turned a wicked grin on the woman at her feet. "Mine as well."

Caroline returned from the kitchen with a drink in her hand. She took one look at Andy's position, Miranda's expression, and Emily's burning cheeks then rolled her eyes. "I don't even want to know do I?"

Miranda chuckled and answered. "Probably not."

"We're talking about the cake, Munchkin." Andy shifted and patted the carpet next to her. "What do you think? Should we go traditional?"

"Traditional?" Caroline scrunched up her nose. "Why?"

"What's traditional?" Cassidy walked into the room. She narrowed her eyes at Caroline sitting close to Andy and moved to wiggle into the space she'd left earlier between Miranda and Emily. She smiled as Miranda wrapped an arm around her shoulder, even if her other hand remained lightly brushing through Andy's hair.

"The wedding cake, Bobbsey. We are discussing options for it."

"Traditional?" Cassidy agreed with her sister. "Boooorrring!"

"There you have it." Miranda turned toward her assistant, "We will require a non-traditional cake. We certainly can't have the iconic center of our wedding ceremony to be," the editor's eyes twinkled slightly as she imitated her daughter. "…booorrrring."

To her credit, Emily's lips twitched but she managed not to smile. With a slight sort of seated bow to the editor, she replied wryly, "No, we certainly can't have that."

They all spent several more minutes discussing size and design of the cake before the doorbell ended the debate of tiers versus layers. They all knew who was at the door even without Andy's comment.

"Food's here," Andy kissed the knees so close to her lips and rose from her position on the floor. "I'll get it."

Miranda also stood, gesturing to the others to follow. They occasionally served appetizers in here, small snacks during long work sessions, but they never ate a full meal anywhere other than the table; either in the kitchen or the formal dining room. With just four or even five of them the kitchen was always the preferred choice. The formal dining room had not been utilized for a meal since Andrea had begun living with them, not even when Dorothy had visited. That may be something to change soon… Miranda thought. No time for thinking about it now though and her attention was drawn to the young woman walking down the hall with two large bags of food in her hands. "Girls, set the table if you would please."

"Ah…" Andy stopped them. "Wash your hands first please." She set the example by setting the food on the counter and cleansing her own hands before she began to set it out on the table. The girls exchanged looks with each other, they had just washed their hands when they'd come into the kitchen to get a drink. A pleading look toward Miranda only gained them a quick 'just do it' head jerk from the editor.

Andy dried her hands off and gave Miranda, and Emily, a pointed look. "You too, please."

Nodding, Miranda moved to the sink, Emily held back until Miranda was finished.

Miranda was rewarded with a quick kiss and a small cup containing her antibiotics. Andy smiled at her former co-worker and asked. "What would you like to drink, Em?"

"Just water…"

"Sure." Andy poured their guest's drink and filled the girls' glasses with fruit juice before turning to Miranda just in time to see her pull a bottle of wine from the cooler. "Ah… uh uh…" She snagged the bottle from the editor's hands and replaced it on the rack. "No alcohol, not while you're still on antibiotics." She kissed the woman lightly on the cheek. "You can have grape juice, but not 'grape juice plus'."

"Fine then, I'll have some of that hideous tea you're constantly drinking, but be sure you put enough milk and sweetener in it." Miranda took her seat at the table.

Laughing at the instructions, Andy went about the business of preparing the drinks. She knew Miranda despised tea, but as an accompaniment to Indian food, Chai spice tea was often a tolerable compromise. She didn't want to call attention to the concession though so Andy simply smiled at the older woman. "Yes, Dear."


Part 9

Wedding plans resumed after the meal was finished. They had only moved as far as the small sitting area outside the kitchen for their continued discussion so they were all aware when the front door opened to admit Bethany with the Book. Miranda's eyes met Andrea's and the brunette nodded as she rose from her seat.

"Be right back."

Miranda leaned back in her chair and relaxed for a moment, "I didn't realize the hour. Tomorrow make the appointments necessary with the caterers and bakeries." She absently gestured to the pages scattered around the area. "The rest of this can wait." She rested her head on the back of the chair and closed her eyes. "I have a doctor's appointment in the morning, I'm not sure how long I'll be, it will depend on what the blood test shows. You may need to reschedule my morning."

Pulling her eyes away from the resting woman's face, Emily nodded then began to gather the brochures and informational literature. "Of course, Miranda. Whatever you need me to do."

Andy walked down the hall toward Bethany. When she saw the newcomer's dilemma her pace quickened, in five stretched steps she met the short assistant, struggling to hold the dry cleaning and the Book, relieving her of the bulky dry cleaning bag. "Let me get that." Andy smiled and opened the closet door, hanging the clean clothes in their proper space. Closing the door, Andy smiled at the woman's grateful look. "In the future if there is too much dry cleaning, bring the Book in first and leave it here." She indicated the correct table. "Then go back to the car for the dry cleaning."

"Okay." Bethany sighed. "Thanks, Andy." The woman checked her watch. "Wow, it's late, I wonder if Tony's home yet. At least I don't have to take the subway, right?"

"Yeah, that is a plus at this hour." Andy remembered how nice it was once she started delivering the Book, she didn't have to deal with the subway and its late night patrons anymore. She also remembered how Nate reacted to her late nights. "Is this going to cause you problems… at home?"

Bethany waved off that concern. "Nah," She shrugged. "It's my job, he'll deal with it." She smiled at the worried look on Andy's face. "We've been together a long time, through a lot of different schedules. There were times we went for months and barely saw each other!" Bethany chuckled. "I think that's one reason we've stayed together for so long."

"Okay then," Andy walked Bethany back to the door and opened it, leaning against the edge. "Guess I'll be seeing you from time to time now."

Nodding, Bethany walked through the politely held door. "Yup, I guess so. Have a nice night."

Andy smiled. "You too." She shut the door slowly, thinking back to her own days as the one who delivered the Book and chuckled to herself. Oh how things have changed. Turning around, intent on retrieving the Book and taking it to Miranda, Andy was surprised to find her path blocked and her arms suddenly full of her partner. "Oh! Hello." Now her chuckles were all for Miranda. "Something on your mind?"


Dark eyes twinkled in the dimly lit hall. "Imagine that." Looking over Miranda's shoulder, Andy met Emily's eyes. "All done for the night?"

"Yes." Emily exhaled softly. "She's all yours." You lucky cow. Shaking that thought from her head, she adjusted her bag over her shoulder and walked toward them, toward the door. "I'll just be going then." She reached the door and had opened it slightly when Miranda's voice stopped her.


Turning, the long-time assistant met her boss' eyes. "Yes, Miranda?"

"Good night, Emily," a small smile ghosted across Miranda's lips, "and thank you."

"Good night, Miranda," the redhead shifted her gaze slightly to include the younger woman in her parting words, "…Andy." Her shoulders dropped a little and Emily nodded as she acknowledged Miranda's gratitude. "You're welcome." Then she was out the door, knowing it would be locked behind her; putting Miranda and Andy inside, warm and together, leaving her outside, alone, as the night air whipped around her. Only now did she realize that there was no car for her and she was going to have to walk, at least to the subway station. Rolling her eyes at the sky, she mumbled, "Brilliant," and headed home. She walked nearly three blocks when she noticed that a car had been slowly following her for the last one, and she tried to ignore it. She was startled by the driver's voice.

"Get in."

Ducking to look through the window, Emily squinted as she recognized the driver, "Andy?" Emily shook her head in confusion. "What?"

"C'mon…" The journalist waved her ex-coworker into the vehicle. "I don't have all night." Rolling her eyes, Andy asked, "Would you rather walk home?"

"No." Emily took her seat in the Porsche and sighed. "Thank you."

"No problem." Andy smiled and pulled away from the curb. "Miranda was worried when she realized you'd have to walk, or take the subway."

"She was?"

Nodding, Andy shifted and accelerated. "She was going to call Roy, but by the time he got here you'd have been home." The brunette stopped at the light. "So I offered to give you a lift." The light turned green and Andy hit the gas as she worked the stick shift.

Emily braced herself against the door and the dashboard, trying not to think that there was only a thin layer of fabric between her and imminent disaster. Convertibles suddenly didn't seem like a good idea at all. "I'm not sure this is any safer than the Tube." She glanced over at the younger woman. "Do you even have a driver's license?"

Laughing at that, Andy assured her passenger. "Yes, I have my license and trust me, you'd rather have me behind the wheel right now than Miranda."

Emily held on as Andy turned the corner. When she sat straighter in the seat, the redhead muttered. "I doubt that."

"No, really." Chuckling, Andy stopped at another light. "Miranda doesn't drive at night if she can help it. The street lights and oncoming headlights play havoc with her eyes. She can do it, but she doesn't like to because she can't see the turns and things very well."

"Oh, I had no idea."

"Most people don't." Andy saw the red change to green and hit the accelerator, "most people don't think about her driving at all." The brunette shrugged. "Hardly anyone knows anything about her. She's a very private person. She always has been."

"How did you…" She was going to ask how Andy found out about Miranda's problem with driving after dark, but as she looked over to ask, a streetlight glinted off the ring on Andy's left hand. Oh, right. She sighed. "I suppose you know a lot of things about Miranda that most people don't."

"Yes." Andy agreed. "But then, so do you."

"Me?" Emily shook her head. "I don't think…"

"Yes, you do." They drove for a while in silence until Andy pulled the car up to the curb, in front of a fairly nice apartment building. Andy put the car in park and turned toward her passenger. "I wanted you to know I really appreciate you taking on the girls' birthday party as well as the wedding plans and if you need me to do anything just tell me okay?" The brunette grinned. "I used to be pretty good at that kind of stuff."

Rolling her eyes at that, Emily protested. "You shouldn't have to plan your own wedding."

"People plan their own weddings all the time, Em."

"Ordinary people, yes."

"I am 'ordinary people', Em."

"No," The British woman sighed and put her hand on the door. "You're not, not anymore." She took Andy's stunned silence as her chance to exit the car. "Thanks for the ride."

Nodding, Andy made sure Emily entered the building safely, then she slowly pulled away from the curb. Emily's words floated through her head the entire drive back. She parked the car in the garage behind the house. Why would she think I'm not ordinary? She walked slowly through the backyard garden. Emily has always thought I'm ordinary. Hanging the brand new set of keys to the car on the hook by the kitchen door, Andy made sure the doors were locked and the alarm was set, then walked up the stairs. She went through her nightly routine quickly, still distracted by Emily's words, protesting them in her head. I'm nothing special.

She honestly couldn't think of anything that could possibly make Emily's opinion of her change so much. Then she shut out the lights and climbed into bed. The other occupant shifted in her sleep and Andy felt an elegant arm drape across her waist. Miranda's shift brought her head to rest close enough to Andy's that a bit of soft white hair brushed her cheek and each even breath warmed her shoulder. Oh… Andy smiled as she closed her eyes. You're right, Emily… She relaxed under Miranda's protective arm.

I am special.

Miranda felt the softest flutter against her cheek. A slightly different pressure followed as Andrea placed soft kisses along her jaw. "Andrea?"


"What time is it?'

"Early." The young woman murmured and didn't stop her gentle exploration of Miranda's soft skin. She felt the older woman beginning to assist in her quest to reach the harder to access spaces. "Miranda…" The heat between them was growing and Andy whispered into a convenient ear. "…I love you, Miranda." She lightly traced around the outside of the editor's ear with her tongue. With infinite care, she reached out, gently tracing every curve she found with trembling hands. "I love you so much."

"Andrea…" The editor melted into the younger woman knowing this encounter was going to be similar to the last several they'd enjoyed. Andrea's light touches were wonderful, but today, when Miranda knew it was going to be a long grueling time before she returned home, the older woman wanted more. She knew her young love was frightened, she knew Andrea didn't want to hurt her, but the tentative touches only served to highlight the difference between them. Andrea probably thinks she's treating me like something precious… Miranda thought and loved the woman for it, but at the same time Andrea being so careful with her made her feel precious, it also made her feel a little old, less like a delicate flower and more like an antique vase. "Andrea," she captured the wandering hands in her own. "I want you to listen to me."

Andy blinked and focused on Miranda's beautiful eyes. "Yes?"

"I will not break, Andrea."

Wrinkles appeared on Andy's forehead. "Ummm…"

"Ever since the unfortunate incident in the Closet, you have been worried about hurting me again." She saw Andrea's eyes close at that memory and gently kissed the backs of the fingers, still held in her hands. "I know you would never hurt me on purpose." Smiling at the young woman's honest concern, Miranda shifted closer. "I haven't had an aspirin in almost three days now, I'm fine." She placed Andrea's hand on her forearm and covered it with her own smaller one, squeezing firmly. "You won't hurt me. I won't break."

"I…" Andy swallowed hard, the memory of Miranda saying that she was being hurt, that she was hurting Miranda, drifted through her head. "I never want to hurt you again."

"I understand that." Running her fingers through Andrea's long dark hair, Miranda smiled encouragingly at her young love. "Don't treat me like I'm some fragile thing… I'm actually a pretty tough old broad."

"Miranda…" Andy sighed. "I really wish you wouldn't say things like that about yourself."

"You don't think I'm tough?"

"You know what I mean." Andy rolled to sit on the edge of the bed. "Talking about yourself, calling yourself old…"

Rising up, Miranda pressed against Andrea's back and kissed her fiancée's elegant neck. "I will try to stop calling myself old, if you will try to stop treating me as if I am."

"What!? I'm not…" She stopped herself from leaning back too hard against the editor and then realized what she was doing. With a sigh she melted into Miranda's embrace. "I just don't want to hurt you… again."

Miranda pressed a kiss between Andrea's shoulders. "You won't."

"You don't know that." Andy allowed herself to be pulled backward; to once again be stretched out next to Miranda. Reaching up, she lightly covered the previously bruised area on the older woman's arm. "I didn't know I was hurting you the first time, how can I stop it from happening again?"

"You did know." Miranda corrected the concerned woman. "You knew because I told you, and as soon as I did you stopped. Immediately." Leaning in, Miranda tasted the skin she found just below and behind Andrea's ear and whispered, "Don't hold back, Andrea." Closing her eyes as Andrea's hands slid over her sheer nightgown, Miranda shifted into the trembling touch. "Don't hold back."

"Oh, Miranda." Andy's voice reflected her need. "I have to hold back." Pressing the slightly smaller woman back into the mattress, Andy supported herself on her elbows and looked into desire darkened blue eyes. "If I don't hold back," the muscles in her throat convulsed, emphasizing the need building within her, causing her voice to break. "I'll swallow you whole."

"Andrea…" Tiny shivers ran the length of Miranda's spine. Elegant fingers tangled in Andrea's soft dark hair and Miranda pulled the woman down to her. "Show me."

Tugging on the silky material Miranda was wearing, Andy spoke softly. Her voice trembled. "Take this off."

In the time it took Andy to rid herself of her own clothing, Miranda had finished her task. Andy hesitated as long as it took to blink twice before sliding against the love of her life. It was intoxicating, Miranda's skin, her scent. Andy's hands roamed over the older woman's curves pulling the lithe body into her as tightly as she dared, Miranda's protest that she wouldn't break had been noted, but the woman still needed to breathe. Capturing the soft lips with her own, Andy's hands continued to explore as her legs tangled with Miranda's. Writhing together, Andy found herself kissing, nipping and biting any bits of slick salty flesh her mouth happened upon. It was, animalistic and out of control and Andy didn't care, the taste of Miranda's skin was dizzying. She wanted more, needed more.

"Miranda…" Andy's breath came in heaving gasps and she was quickly losing the ability to stop herself. She looked into eyes nearly black with desire. "Are you sure?" She was shaking now, all over, this was Miranda's last chance to stop it.

"Yes." Miranda smiled and pulled the young woman back down to her, crashing their lips together as she mumbled between the desperate contact. "Oh God, yes."

Miranda was barely able to think as Andrea's lips and hands seemed to be everywhere all at once. She knew though that this was more than lust, more than desire, it was need; a deep abiding need. No one had ever made her feel like this. Her blood was on fire and she moved on instinct alone, but this wasn't just anyone. This was Andrea, My Andrea, the thought ran through Miranda's mind repeatedly as the sensations washed over her. My Andrea… She had never been able to give someone this kind of power over her, but she could, and did give it to Andrea. For a long while there was no hesitation, no fear, just the mind-blanking ecstasy that only Andrea could evoke in her.

It was glorious.

"You are making it very difficult for me to leave."

"Mmmm…" Andy shifted and snuggled closer. "I can't wait until I can spend a whole day with you in bed… a whole week…"

Miranda chuckled, knowing Andrea was talking about their honeymoon. "It will be two weeks, my darling." She took a deep breath as she traced the young woman's high cheekbone. "Two weeks of nothing but you and me."

Andy's hands absently roamed over Miranda's curves. "Sounds like heaven."

"Really?" Pulling back slightly, Miranda studied her partner's face. "Do you believe in Heaven, Andrea? You've never struck me as a particularly religious person. Do you require a religious ceremony for our union?"

"Heaven is a great idea. A wonderful place you can stay and be happy for all eternity… who wouldn't want that?" Andy shifted closer, wrapping herself around Miranda. She rested her head on the older woman's chest, listening to the solid rhythm of the editor's heart. If she could pick a moment to live in forever, this one would be high on the list of choices. After a moment of silence, she answered the question.

"As far as the ceremony goes, no, I don't need it to be religious. I don't need a ceremony at all really. I love you, Miranda," She smiled as the heart under her ear did a double thump. "I don't need a ceremony to confirm that." Kissing the skin under her cheek, Andy whispered. "I don't care what anyone says. I'm already yours, forever." Then a thought occurred to her. "Do you need a religious ceremony Miranda?"

Lifting her head off the pillow slightly, Miranda kissed the top of Andy's dark head. "No, the ceremony need only be legal. As you said, we supply the spiritual side of it ourselves."

"Who better to supply the spiritual side than the Goddess Herself." Andy shifted so she could see the outraged expression she knew Miranda was now displaying. "C'mon Miranda, don't deny it. Emily worships at your altar every day."

"My altar?"

Andy licked her lips and grinned. "Runway, of course. You have millions of followers."

Rolling her eyes, Miranda laughed quietly. "Subscribers you mean, Andrea, you're so ridiculous sometimes."

"Yeah," the young woman didn't deny the accusation, "but you love me anyway."

"Yes," Miranda smirked as she continued her agreement. "Despite your myriad of exasperating qualities, I love you."

"Myriad?" Andy laughed and touched her fingertips to the spot just between her breasts. "I have a myriad of exasperating qualities?"

"Of course you do, as I'm sure do I." Miranda's eyes twinkled with mischief, "but you love me anyway."

Nodding at that, Andy winked. "You bet I do."

Miranda tapped her fiancée's cheek with her fingertips and chuckled. Her mirth ended as she glanced at the clock. With a sigh, she ran her fingers through her hair and moved to get up. "Time to start the day."

Mock frowning, Andy groaned, "I probably won't see you much now until…when… Saturday night?"

"Mmmm…" Miranda was already up, shrugging on her robe. "Make it Sunday morning." She reached down to trace across Andy's forehead, down her jaw to her chin and promised, "We can sleep in."

"Yay." Andy quickly kissed the palm of the hand on her face and grinned. "Okay then, time to get on with the day." Standing to stretch her hands over her head, Andy rotated her shoulders. "Coffee?"

"Thank you, Darling." Miranda nodded as she headed toward their bathroom.

Andy chuckled as she moved to the door, mumbling. "Still bringing you coffee…" Miranda called after her.


"Hmmm?" Turning to face the older woman, Andy tilted her head in question. "What?"

"You don't have to… bring me coffee."

With a shake of her head, Andy snorted and waved off the statement. "I know that," with a saucy grin, the brunette shrugged. "But at least now you say thank you."

Miranda blinked as the young woman exited the room. Running her hand through her silver-white hair, Miranda chuckled as she continued her journey to the bathroom. Her thumb absently brushed the bare skin on her left ring finger.

"She's going to marry me."

Miranda was surprised three hours later when the doorbell rang. She looked up from her study of the Book and was about to rise from the couch to answer the door when thunderous footsteps on the staircase told her it was being taken care of and who it was at the same time. James. The girls had been watching through the upstairs window for his arrival. She heard their enthusiastic greetings, some whispered words and another round of elephantine stomping back up the stairs. A knock on the door frame of the study again pulled her attention from her work.

"Mira, can I speak to you for a moment?"

Ignoring the hated diminutive of her name, Miranda gestured toward one of the chairs next to the couch. "I am quite busy." She made a show of setting the Book aside.

He nodded, knowing that Miranda was always 'quite busy'. "I wanted to speak to you about… something."

Obviously. The editor displayed a great deal of patience waiting nearly fifteen seconds before she urged, "So speak."

He looked around the room and nervously wrung his hands together. "Where is… Um…"

Barely containing an exasperated sigh, Miranda waved her hand in the air absently. "Andrea has not yet returned from her morning run."

Nodding, James ran his fingers through his graying hair. "I… um.. I wanted to let you know… I'm, um seeing someone."

"Someone…" Miranda repeated, analyzed the word along with the man's tone and concluded, "Someone you believe will upset me."

"Possibly." He sighed. "One of the reasons I want to take the girls for a few days, is so they can get better acquainted with Candice."

"So it's serious." Miranda knew that James wouldn't bring the girls into it unless it was. "You intend to marry the woman?"

"I… um." He sighed. "She's pregnant, so yes, I intend on marrying her."

"Preg…" Miranda was glad she was sitting. Her eyes narrowed. "How old is this woman?" His continued silence was not reassuring. "James, how old?"

With a deep breath, he confessed, "Twenty seven."

Running her tongue over her teeth, Miranda pressed her lips together. James was slightly older than she was so the age difference between the man and this Candice person was larger than the one between Andrea and herself.

She wasn't jealous. She had loved him at one time, but that was long over. However, she didn't want to see the man made a fool of, for the girls' sake. "You are sure the child is yours?"

"I…" He shrugged, "reasonably sure." Miranda's relative lack of venom obviously surprised him. "Is that all? Don't you want to slam me for her age?"

"I am many things, James." Miranda shook her head, "I try not to add hypocrite to that list, whenever possible." At his confused expression Miranda rolled her eyes. "Andrea recently celebrated her twenty-eighth birthday."

"Oh." James digested that information. He hadn't spent much time with the woman his ex-wife had chosen to consort with, but from what little he'd seen of her, and what the girls had told him, Andy seemed… older than that. Not older, he admitted to himself remembering his interactions with Miranda's… companion she seemed quite young, but the way she handled herself was far more, mature, than his current girlfriend even if his was about to become a mother. Miranda's voice pulled him from his musings.

"My advice to you would be to get an iron-clad pre-nuptial agreement, should the child turn out not to be yours." Miranda didn't care how James wasted his time, but if some newcomer thought they were going to come in and take anything that rightfully belonged to her children, they were sadly mistaken. Miranda sighed at the timing as Patricia padded into the room and settled at her feet.

"Do you have one?" He managed to meet Miranda's eyes. "A pre-nup..."

"No." Miranda clenched her teeth together, making the muscle in her jaw jump. "I don't want one." The new voice was expected.

"But I do." Andy ran her fingers through her sweaty hair as she walked into the room. "And Miranda knows I do… but she refuses to consider it." Leaning over the back of the couch, Andy murmured, "So stubborn," before she placed a gentle kiss on the older woman's angled cheek. "I'm going to take a shower."

Miranda took a deep breath, nodded and watched Andy go before refocusing on her ex-husband. "You were saying?"

"What did she mean, you refuse to consider it?" James tilted his head. "Why? Don't you want to protect yourself? What if things don't work out with you two?"

"It has to work out." Miranda took a deep breath and admitted to the man she once loved. "If things don't, work out, between Andrea and I, there will be nothing left of me to protect."

"Wow." James felt his eyebrows rising. "She's really got you wrapped up then, huh?"

"Mmm…" Miranda's mind wandered upstairs for a moment, knowing Andrea was currently preparing for her shower. "Indeed." They sat in awkward silence for several long moments neither of them knowing what to say to the other. The strain was beginning to wear on Miranda and then thunderous footsteps on the stairs and two thumps next to the door heralded the arrival of their children. She braced herself as they jumped onto the couch next to her. "All ready for your stay at your father's?"

"Yeah, our bags are by the door." The girls snuggled close on either side of her and looked over at the man; their eyes clearly asking. Did you tell her?

"I have informed your mother about Candice." He smiled at them. "We'll have fun for a few days and you can get to know Candice a little better, then your Grandmother wants to see you for a few days too." He spoke for a few moments about the activities they could do both with he and Candice and with their grandmother then looked at Miranda. "I can have them back on Wednesday night."

Miranda asked. "Is that acceptable, girls?" She reminded them. "You'll miss your study group."

Caroline shook her head. "No we won't."

Cassidy spoke up. "Next study group meeting is Thursday. Some of the others had things to do on Wednesday."

"Well then, it seems as though you have most of your next week planned out." Miranda smiled at the children. "I'll miss you."

"So will I." Andy grinned from the doorway, her hair still slightly damp from her quick shower. She made her way to the couch and settled in the space Cassidy created for her next to Miranda. Only now did she look at the man in the room. "How are you, James?"

"Can't complain." He studied the woman now fresh from her shower and admitted she did look very young but it was her easy interaction with the girls that caught his attention. It was quite heartening to see. He hoped Candice would, could, achieve that at some point. "Okay then, if you're ready…" He stood. "We should probably hit the road."

"Goodbye my darlings…take care…" Miranda hugged the children tightly.

"Bye, Mom." Caroline assured Miranda, "We'll be fine."

"Yeah, we'll be fine, don't worry," Cassidy grinned. "It'll just give you wrinkles."

Andy wrapped her long arms around Caroline. "Be good, Munchkin," she switched her embrace to Cassidy and whispered, "and if you can't be good, be careful."

Caroline grinned, but Cassidy glanced at their mother and then gave Andy a pointed look. "You too."

With a twinkle in her eye, Andy leaned down and whispered in Cassidy's ear.

The girl's eyes widened and she grinned. "Really?"

Andy winked and nodded.

Laughing, Cassidy grabbed her sister's arm. "C'mon, Ro…"

"But…" Caroline didn't like being left out of the loop.

Rolling her eyes, Cassidy assured her mirror image. "I'll tell you about it later."

Miranda waved and watched them go. When the door closed at their exit, she turned her attention to Andrea. "More secrets?"

"Yes." Andy confirmed and grinned at the narrowing blue eyes. "But it's nothing bad…"


Moving closer, Andy wrapped her arms around Miranda's tense frame. "I swear, I'll tell you on…." Andy pretended to think about it. "…Monday."

"You require I wait four entire days?"

"Patience is a virtue."

Miranda sniffed in annoyance. "Patience is over-rated."

Andy grinned and kissed Miranda's forehead. "I might be persuaded to tell you on Sunday… if you are very, very good."

"Andrea." Miranda shook her head sadly but spoke with amusement. "You should know by now…" the older woman grinned wickedly, leaned in to find one of Andrea's ears and whispered, low and seductive, "I'm always, very, very good." There was a smirk on her face as she moved away from the embrace and the younger woman sighed.

"It's going to be a long three days." Andy pulled the smirking woman back to her and brushed their noses together. "I'm gonna miss you, until Sunday."

Nodding, Miranda smiled. "And I you."

"Do you want me to come with you, to the Doctor's office?"

"Not necessary," Miranda waved off the offer. "It's just a blood draw and won't take more than ten minutes." She smiled at the younger woman. "I believe I can manage on my own."

With a deep breath Andy smiled, "Okay." She was trying very hard to honor her end of the bargain and not overprotect Miranda. She waved as the editor moved away and walked out the door. "Try not to fire too many people." When she heard Miranda's laughter echo down the hall, Andy smiled wider. She loved that sound.


Part 10

Andrea was correct. Miranda thought as she slid into the already occupied bed. It has been a long three days. She sighed and relaxed as Andrea shifted and wrapped herself around the new arrival. Miranda smiled as she closed her eyes. Runway was printed and on its way to distribution, plus she was looking forward to sleeping for several hours before waking in Andrea's arms. Tomorrow was the day Andrea had promised to tell her the 'secret' she'd shared with Cassidy three days ago. Tomorrow was also a day Miranda had been looking forward to for another reason. Then, Miranda smirked, Andrea will find that I can keep a secret or two myself. With that thought the editor drifted off into sleep, secure in the knowledge that Andrea was sleeping peacefully next to her and life was good. She's going to marry me, was the last thought that passed through her mind before unconsciousness claimed her.

Miranda was aware of the mattress shifting and Andrea's warmth moving away. For a moment she was worried that Andrea was getting up for good. Nightmares often woke the young woman and prevented sleep afterward. A quick glance at the clock, and the light leaking from around the bathroom door reassured her that Andrea hadn't gone far. If it was a nightmare that had disrupted her sleep, Andrea would have gone to the kitchen for some milk. Shifting, Miranda closed her eyes, dozing until she felt the mattress shift again and Andrea's warmth along with the vague scent of soap and antibacterial gel returned. With a deep breath she spoke, but kept her eyes blissfully closed. It hadn't been too long since she'd made it to bed. "I thought we were going to sleep in today."

"Yeah, we can sleep later." Andy moved closer and kissed Miranda's cheek lightly. "It's after midnight, that means it's Sunday and I promised to tell you what I'd told Cassidy."

Opening one eye, then the other Miranda turned her, now fully awake, attention to Andrea. "And?"

Andy grinned. "My exact words were. 'It's finished.'…" Reaching down, she took Miranda's left hand in her own and kissed the woman's knuckles or more specifically the backs of the elegant fingers, and more specifically than that, the bare skin between the large joint on the editor's left ring finger and the knuckle at the base of it.

"finished?" Miranda managed to push the word past the lump in her throat. She can't mean… we're finished… she can't…Cassidy wouldn't be happy about that… Her heart began to race as panicked thoughts rushed through her head. "Andrea!..."

"Shhhhhh…" Andy slid her fingers through the white disheveled hair and held the older woman in place for a thorough kiss. Miranda's thoughts were apparent and Andy addressed them, "We, will never be finished." Large brown eyes conveyed the love she felt and also a bit of sadness that Miranda had jumped to that conclusion so fast. "I've seen you, playing with your bare ring finger… I'm sorry I couldn't manage to get this any sooner."

Miranda looked at her partner in confusion. She almost missed the motion, but the warm metal slipping around her finger made her blink. She blinked again as she looked down at the glittering ring on her finger. "Andrea… what have you done?"

"It's one of a kind, hand-crafted… that's why I had to wait for it to be finished…before I could ask… I mean, when you asked me, weeks ago, I should have returned the question then, but I didn't have the ring finished yet, so I've never asked you… " She pressed her lips together; unable to read the expression on Miranda's face as the older woman's eyes fixed on the ring now resting on her finger. It made her thoughts take a tangent. "… I wasn't sure if you would like it or not…"

It's amazing, Miranda thought. From a distance it would look like a simple ring, one actually very similar to an item Miranda already owned, but up close the diamond cluster took form. Miranda couldn't take her eyes off the tiny intricate dragon now resting on her finger. Its body was curled into a spiral and its tail was wrapped around her finger. The scales on its body were diamonds and there were two vividly blue sapphires to represent the miniature animal's eyes. Miranda's voice was barely above a whisper. "It's perfect." Miranda nodded. "I am the Dragon Lady, after all…"

"Yes, you are." Andy saw the hurt flash in Miranda's eyes and shook her head. "You and I both know it's true." The brunette's eyes held the older woman's in a steady gaze. "Did you hear me? I know it's true… but you aren't what the press makes you out to be. You aren't mean just for the sake of being mean. " She waited for the editor to register that and continued. "You only lash out when something you love is threatened, the girls, Runway, me. It's one of the many things I love about you."

"How long will it be before you're tired of dealing with the Dragon Lady?" Miranda knew it would happen; it always happened.

Andy corrected her gently. "You're my Dragon Lady and you will be, always." The younger woman smiled, her dark eyes glistening in the dim light. "In case you didn't notice, I am on that list, you protect me… do you have any idea how special that makes me feel? How loved?"

"Andrea…you will eventually…"

"No, Miranda, listen to me. I will never get tired of you, I will never leave you…" again, "I promise." She willed the older woman to believe her. "This ring is part of that promise."

Miranda dragged her gaze from the ring to look into the even more mesmerizing sight of her fiancée's eyes. They had been together for such a short time and Miranda wanted this so very badly, but knew there were a great many things they had yet to learn about one another. She didn't mean to say it, but one of her biggest fears wouldn't be silenced and she whispered. "… you don't even know me that well. How can you…"

"We haven't been together very long," Andy admitted, acknowledging at least the truth of that, "but I think I know you well enough and I look forward to learning more…" Andy smiled and snuggled close. This conversation was becoming far too serious, "so… will you… marry me?"

She wants to learn more about me… I don't think anyone has ever told me that. Miranda spoke quietly, her gaze returning to the ring. "For longer than I care to admit, I have wanted you to be at my side. Since we've been, together, I've begun to accept that, on occasion, I prefer to be at yours."

Nudging the editor's cheek with her nose, Andy grinned. "Is that a yes?"

Smirking as she recalled Andrea's acceptance to her proposal, Miranda chuckled. "That is a definite, oh my friggin' god…Yes!" She had to blink tears of joy from her eyes, but would have blinked anyway because Andrea's smile was blinding. Miranda wondered for a moment if the sun was ever as dazzling. When the young woman kissed her for a very long moment then snuggled down next to her, Miranda chuckled. "Now what do you think you're doing?"

"Mmmm…" Andy settled in and answered sleepily. "Dozing off in the love of my life's arms."

Miranda was caught off guard by the matter-of-factness of that statement. "Andrea…" The older woman's chuckle shook them both. "What am I going to do with you?"

Andy rubbed the other woman's flat tummy and lightly kissed the shoulder beneath her cheek. "Anything you want, after we wake up… you promised we could sleep in today."

"So I did." Miranda wiggled her left ring finger slightly, feeling the weight there, and wrapped her arms firmly around the young woman, her Andrea. "Sleep it is then." For a while. Closing her eyes, the editor reveled in the contentment she felt. She didn't mislead herself, it would not always be like this, so perfect, but while it was she intended on enjoying it to the fullest.

I'm going to marry her.

"Miranda?" Andy walked into the bedroom from the bathroom. She was dressed in jeans, and a t-shirt. Her hair was still damp but styled. Miranda on the other hand was dressed in a stunning pinstriped pantsuit, the blouse unbuttoned just enough to look rakish with one lock of hair falling into her eyes. "Going somewhere?"

"Mmm… the airport." She scooped up her purse, casually asking, "You want to come along?"

"Why are you going to the airport?" She had hoped they'd be able to spend the day together. "Runway business?"

"Yes." Miranda admitted. "There is a model arriving that I want to meet with for a moment." She straightened her lapel. "Meeting her at the airport will be the easiest." She looked Andrea in the eye. "Come with me."

"Okay…" Andy shrugged and grabbed her purse as well. "Only if I can go like this." She indicated her jeans, blue form fitting t-shirt and her running shoes. Something Miranda never allowed worn out of the house unless there was actual running involved. She fully expected to be told to change them.

"Put on a jacket." Miranda's eyes twinkled at Andrea's widening eyes but the brunette walked toward the closet. When the young woman returned, straightening the jacket on her shoulders, the fashion icon nodded once. "Acceptable." She smirked at Andrea's rolling eyes. "Shall we?"

Roy was waiting for them at the curb and they were both pleasantly surprised that the reporters were considerably fewer. The remaining people were rather pushy, but manageable. Since there was nothing more to say other than what had already appeared in Sandy's article, both women ignored the people shouting redundant questions. It was kind of a challenge going out and doing things, but they refused to let the reporters dictate what they did or when.

She knew it was at least a half hour ride to the airport, so after only about a minute Andy pressed the button to raise the privacy divider between the front and backseat. She didn't wait for it to close all the way before she was straddling her fiancée.

"We don't often get a chance to fool around in the car." Andy's knees pressed against the back of the seat, her feet hanging over the front edge. "Whaddaya say?"

"I say you talk far too much." Miranda reached up to pull the young woman to her, making any more speech impossible.

Mila stepped into the small terminal and looked around for the driver she'd been promised. Had she not been one of the last people off the plane, she would have been slammed from behind as she stopped dead in her tracks. That was fortunate, because the wafer thin model would have surely taken heavy damage had that happened. The dark haired woman didn't count herself very lucky at that point though, because one terrifying fact was running through her mind. Miranda is waiting on me! She rushed up to the woman.

"Miranda! I'm so sorry!" Vivid green eyes conveyed the depth of her worry as the model twisted her hands together in front of her. "Am I supposed to be somewhere?"

"No, Mila…" the editor sighed, "…in fact, you do not have to be here now." She motioned for the woman to follow her.

The model blinked and then quickly caught up with the white-haired woman but managed to hold her tongue before she asked any more questions.

Miranda led Mila to an unmarked door, pushing it open and holding it for the model to enter. Miranda kept her expression neutral as she let the door close behind them and moved to sit next to Andrea on the couch in the small VIP lounge. While she waited for Mila to take a seat across from them, Andrea offered her a dollop of antibacterial gel. It wasn't an unreasonable precaution in the very public airport, so Miranda accepted the cool goo in her palm. Rubbing it over hands, she took a deep breath and began. "I called you here, to New York, because I want you to be at the preview of Jean Paul's designs." She could see the disbelief on Mila's face, but it was Andrea who spoke.


The editor turned slightly and answered Andrea's question. "Jean Paul is rather talented, but when he and Mila discontinued their relationship, his muse seemed to have left him." Mila was now speaking quite vehemently, in French, and Miranda grinned because she understood every outraged word. She thought Andrea probably picked up a few words as well, especially the one for 'prostitute'. Miranda however continued speaking to the French woman in English. "I do not expect you to renew your relationship with him." That caught the model's attention. "I merely want you to be present at the preview, so that he will be forced to think of you wearing the so-called clothing he has designed." Miranda spoke matter-of-factly. "You are under contract to Runway, therefore you will be wearing what he creates for the photo shoot, but that is the extent of the contact I expect between you. You never have to speak with him as far as I'm concerned. You only need to be there."

Mila sighed dramatically. "Of course, Miranda. I will do as you say." The contract she'd signed with Runway was a good one, but it did mean she was at the mercy of the various editors, especially this one since all the others bowed to her. "He is a pig though and I will not have anything other than minimal contact with him."

"I understand." Smiling at the model, Miranda continued. "However, business has called me out of the country for the next few days, so instead of having the preview tomorrow, it will be on Thursday." She ignored the small sound of dismay from Andrea as she stood. "Therefore you have a couple of days off." Spreading her arms wide, she indicated the city. "Enjoy New York and I will see you on Thursday, a car will arrive at your hotel at ten am."

"Yes, Miranda." The model's dark hair shook as she chuckled. "I should tell everyone how nice you are."

Miranda held up one finger and shook it side to side. "I wouldn't if I were you… they'll think you've gone mad." Walking to the door she opened it and beckoned Roy over. "Take Mila to The Plaza." She lowered her voice considerably. "Then you will be off-duty until I call for you on Wednesday." She saw his widening eyes and she winked at him. "Andrea and I will be perfectly fine from here."

"Yes, Miranda." Roy looked past the older woman and gave Andy a wave before gesturing to the model. "Do you have luggage, Miss? This way to baggage claim."

Before they had taken three steps down the concourse, Miranda had closed the door, isolating Andrea and herself from the rest of the bustling airport.

"Miranda…" She had been so disappointed to know that Miranda was going to be leaving for a few days. It had kept her quiet the entire time the editor had been talking to the French woman.

"Are you ready to go?"

Andy blinked. "Um… what?"

Smiling, a genuine Miranda smile, the older woman offered her hand to help her fiancée up off the couch. "We have a plane to catch."

"We do?"

Nodding, Miranda linked her arm with Andrea's and led her out of the private room. "Yes." She spoke as they walked down the wide corridor. "You expressed an interest, not too terribly long ago, in 'seeing where I grew up'. I thought that now would be the appropriate time for that," before we marry. Before you commit to someone you don't even know that much about.

"We're going to London?" Andy stopped, pulling Miranda to a stop. "I don't have my passport," she shook her head, "Miranda, I don't have anything…"

"Shhhh…." The older woman grinned. "Your papers are in my purse and we can buy whatever we need when we get there. British Runway will supply us with clothing but I thought you might want to shop… and I'm sure we'll find plenty of suitable attire and whatever sundries we require at Harrods."

"Oh my god," Andy put her hand on Miranda's forehead. "You've gone insane." She couldn't believe this was happening. "What about work!?"

Dismissing that with a wave of her hand Miranda spoke in a bored tone. "Print deadline is passed. I have time before the next one. Nigel will cover anything that Emily can't reschedule until Thursday."

"Miranda! What about my work?! I don't have my laptop or anything!"

"Andrea," Miranda sighed. "Your editor informs me that you are ahead of all your deadlines and has agreed not to assign you anything for the next three days. You do have your phone and can check your email from there, can you not?"

"You talked to my boss?" That was odd, Greg hadn't said a word.

"I made arrangements for our trip." Blue eyes began to take on a tinge of hurt. "I had hoped you would be excited at the surprise."

Seeing the twinkle begin to fade from Miranda's lovely eyes made Andrea realize what she was doing. I'm being Mom…resisting an extravagant gesture. With a soft snort of laughter, Andy smiled. "Excited…" She took a deep breath and with only a quick glance around at the sparsely populated terminal cupped both Miranda's cheeks in her hands, forcing those loving blue eyes to meet hers. "I'm overwhelmed, and amazed. You are wonderful. Yes, I would love to see where you grew up." She touched their lips together lightly before releasing her hold. "I'm sorry I was acting like such a jerk."

The twinkle of mischief returned to Miranda's eyes. "It's okay, Andrea," she smirked, "I'm used to it."

"Oy!" Andy laughed because she knew Miranda was teasing her. The comment would have cut her to the bone had it been meant as hurtful, but it wasn't, not anymore and that thought brought a dazzling smile to her face.

I will never tire of seeing that smile, Miranda thought and took a deep satisfied breath as she once again offered her arm to her fiancée. "Shall we?"

With a grin, Andy linked their arms together and nodded once. "Let's shall."

Andy woke slowly and stretched before returning her seat upright. As far as flying went, First Class seats weren't bad for napping. It wasn't a private plane with an actual bedroom in it, but still, not bad. She turned to the window next to her and gasped. "Miranda, it's beautiful!"

A soft smile played on the editor's lips as she indulgently watched her companion look out the plane's small window at the approaching city below. It was her hometown, as Cincinnati was for Andrea. Miranda mused about comparing London to Cincinnati and chuckled to herself. How many times has this historic old city been torn down and rebuilt in history, or even since I lived here? Several times, she knew, new things going up, she almost snorted at that and eyed the Gherkin Tower distastefully, old things being torn down... but not the important things, not the landmarks, no matter how the city changes, those you can always pick out of the skyline. Speaking diplomatically, so as not to squelch Andrea's enthusiasm, Miranda nodded. "It has its own kind of charm."

The plane banked slightly and Andy laughed. She pointed to one of the relatively new parts of the city's distinctive skyline through the window as she turned to the woman next to her. The tiny, from this altitude, circle that stood on the bank of the river was what demanded Andrea's attention. "The London Eye… can we ride?"

Miranda smirked. Tourists, but spoke with great affection. "Of course, we'll take a flight if you wish," reaching out she stroked the young woman's soft cheek with her fingertips, "anything you want."

Leaning into the touch, Andy closed her eyes and smiled. "Mmmm…" Dark eyes opened to see nothing but love on Miranda's face. "Thank you, for bringing me here."

"I thought it was only fair." Miranda took a deep breath and dropped her hand to her lap. "After all, I've already met your family. I suppose it's about time you met mine."

Andy was stunned. Family? "Uh… Miranda? Your…"

"Mmmm…" The older woman nodded. "Family, yes." She tilted her head. "Why is that so surprising, Andrea? I didn't, as many have hypothesized, spring from the ground fully formed."

Rolling her eyes at that, Andy laughed. "Of course not. You just never mention them." At all.

"I haven't spoken with many of them in quite a while." Miranda admitted. "I did have a conversation with my sister right around the holidays last year."

"So," Andy interpreted the Miranda-speak, "You're going to see them because you want them to know… me?"

Blue eyes studied the young woman's face intently. "Andrea, I want the people I loved in my old life to meet the person I love in my new one."

"Oh, Miranda…" she reached out and threading her fingers through the soft white hair, she held Miranda's head steady to press their foreheads together, "Have I told you lately that I love you?"

Miranda chuckled, relieved at the chance to break the seriousness between them. "Are you asking or cueing a song?" Blue eyes twinkled and she responded to the question semi-seriously. "Not for a few hundred miles…"

Andy laughed. "I love you."

"I love you too." A lump formed in her throat, Miranda knew there was no way those words would ever convey the depth of feeling she had for the smiling young woman next to her. "I do love you so."

Whispering, "Miranda," Andy brushed their lips together, lightly, then deeper for a long moment before they both became aware of an audience. Miranda turned in her seat and Andy looked up, they both waited for the flight attendant to speak.

"uh… We are preparing to land, if you would fasten your seatbelts…"

They nodded and complied as the pleasant woman moved on to request the same action from the other eight people in the compartment.

Leaning her head back on the seat, Miranda closed her eyes and smiled as she felt Andrea's long fingers tangle with hers, the young woman's thumb ever so slightly adjusting the tiny dragon that rested on her finger. "It's not going anywhere, Andrea."

"I know."

The awe in her fiancée's voice forced Miranda to turn her head and open her eyes. "Tears?"

Andy smiled and shook her head. "Sometimes I just can't believe how lucky I am."

Bringing the hand in hers to her lips, Miranda smiled against the knuckles. "You are not the lucky one, Darling." Returning their hands to the armrest, Miranda again leaned back into her seat and closed her eyes. "I most certainly have that distinction."

Before she could respond to that, Andy felt the plane begin its descent and Miranda's fingers on hers tightened, painfully. A quick glance at the older woman's tense jaw line and Andy added another entry to her mental list of things she knew about Miranda that she doubted anyone else did.

Whenever they flew anywhere, Miranda had always assumed almost this same position when they'd taken off or landed. To anyone on the outside that happened to see Miranda like this, they would see the woman in what looked like a serene state of calm. Andy knew better, she could see the tight muscles in the older woman's neck, the flaring of her nostrils, and she had the advantage of feeling the woman's hand in her own, the editor's pulse beat rapidly against the hand in hers. No, there was nothing calm about Miranda in this moment. Of course the older woman wouldn't say anything, but now Andy understood, although Miranda was fine once they were in the air, she hated take-offs and landings. It's more than hate, Andy thought and clenched her teeth at the white-knuckled grip her fiancée had her in, this is terror. Andy watched the woman struggling with her fears and realized that she was the only one in the world who was allowed to see this, vulnerable Miranda, it filled the young woman with awe, and love. She didn't have to make this flight, Andy thought and tightened her grip on the scared woman's hand slightly, so she could feel the support there, She did it for me. Her thumb brushed against the little dragon ring and Andy smiled.

She's going to marry me.

Part 11

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