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 21

Andy gave herself a pat on the back for her timing as she heard a knock on the door. Dropping down the last half flight of stairs quickly, Andy pulled the door open for her guest. "Good morning, Serena." She closed the door behind her guest and gestured toward the outside with her thumb. "They give you any trouble?"

"No," Serena adjusted the pony tail she'd threaded through the back of her baseball style hat and sighed, "They just took a lot of pictures."

"I don't doubt it." Andy grinned and looked her friend up and down playfully, "You're gonna do wonders for Nike's sales. They should pay you for such great advertising."

"Well I knew I would have to wear a brand name outfit at least," Serena indicated the running suit Andy was wearing, "Mine is not a Versace, but I would not disgrace Miranda, or Runway, by wearing common sweatpants and t-shirt."

But I would have... Andy closed her eyes for a second, incredibly thankful that she had taken Miranda's advice and used the birthday presents from the very beginning. The idea of embarrassing Miranda was not something she ever wanted to contemplate, and the potential for that was so huge with the upcoming television appearances. Pushing that particular terror from her mind, Andy smiled at her guest and motioned for the tall woman to follow her. "You ready to run?"

Serena nodded absently, answering the question as she looked around. "Yes."

Andy grinned at the fascination with the house that all Runway employees had, she remembered from her time there that Miranda's personal space was the subject of much whispered speculation in the break room. Especially the torture chamber that all Runway employees agreed Miranda kept in her basement. "Great!" Leading Serena into the kitchen, Andy opened the refrigerator and taking a bottle of water for herself, handed one to Serena, then retrieved Patricia's leash from the drawer. "Here we go," She continued their trek out the kitchen door to get the large dog from her area in the back yard.

It was too difficult to talk while they ran, so a comfortable silence settled between the pair as the longer legged woman matched Andy's stride. They only spoke as they waited for the lights to change at the crosswalks.

"Are you going to be okay with this pace?" Andy worried as they jogged in place waiting for the light to signal it was safe to walk, "It has to be an adjustment for you."

"It's not that much of a difference," Serena assured Andy, again, "We are not going all out, the stride length is similar to what I have to keep on the treadmill. Continue at your normal pace, I will keep up."

Andy laughed, "Thanks, I think..." She wanted to see what the woman running all out actually looked like, someday. At the next light she spoke, almost apologetically. "I would like to do a shortened run today, if that's okay."

"Of course," Serena didn't care how far they ran, so long as Emily was at the end of it.

"This is the last light by the way, before the park. We'll do one of my regular circuits and then meet Emily..." Andy tried not to grin at the smile on Serena's face at that, "then another circuit around and back home."

"That will work." The tall Brazilian touched Andy's shoulder and indicated the signal, "Shall we?"

Nodding, Andy tugged on Patricia's leash and they were again moving toward the park. It was different, running with someone, Andy glanced over at her new running partner. It's kind of nice though, she watched the road ahead of her and tried not to think about how much nicer it would be if Miranda was there with her too.

When they rounded the last curve on the circuit path, Andy released Patricia from her leash and pointed to a bench in the distance, a lone figure with very visible red hair sat, waiting. She grinned at her running buddy, "Race ya."

Andy laughed as Serena didn't hesitate, the long legged Brazilian took off like a shot and no matter how fast Andy ran, the enormous stride was too much for her to overcome. There were a good five seconds between the time Serena and Andy reached the bench, and the waiting Emily.

"Good morning, Em." Andy twisted and stretched a little, as Serena was doing, cooling off somewhat before she simply sat on the bench next to Emily. "So, what's the scoop on the wedding plans?"

"The 'scoop', Andrea, is that we must decide on the decor for the ceremony." Emily pulled a three ring binder from her bag and handed it to the rather sweaty woman next to her, "Look these over and tell me if any of them seem suitable."

Andy nodded and opened her bottle of water, taking a long drink before she began to look through the binder. She'd flipped through nearly half of the book before she found what she was looking for, This is it, she thought as she stared at the page and spoke out loud, "This is the one."

Serena hadn't really been paying attention to the pictures in the book, she'd been obliquely focused on Emily. Shifting her attention to the page, the tall woman was surprised, "What design is that?"

Emily rolled her eyes, "It's the Greek Temple layout." She shook her head, "Andrea, I don't think..." It was such a common thing, why would Miranda want that?

Andy's dark eyes pinned Emily's blue ones. "She's a goddess, Em, this is where she should be married."

Unable to look away, Emily swallowed and nodded, "Right."

With a glance at Serena, Andy sort of shied away from Emily, wondering what the reaction was going to be to her next statement. "I, um... want to change the colors too..."

"What?!" Emily stood and turned to face Andy, shaking her finger at the seated woman. "Now you see here, I am not going to deal with a bunch of this 'bridezilla' crap... you will make a decision and stick by it or so help me God I'll... I'll..."

Serena stood and wrapped her arms around the smaller woman's shoulders. Her voice was soothing, "Emily, shhh... it's okay, just hear her out."

Andy tried not to grin at the way Emily tensed then relaxed into the embrace, "I've just been rethinking it is all. And now with the decor chosen I realize I made a mistake. I love the way Cerulean Blue and Black go together, it's very elegant, but I think Cerulean Blue and White would be better, light and airy.. the sky and clouds... okay?"

Serena leaned close and spoke to Emily, "That sounds reasonable, doesn't it?" She asked, "Are there any black decorations that have been ordered, that can't be canceled?"

Emily sighed, "Only one, but I can still use it for the Twilight party, so it's not a total loss." She reluctantly moved away from Serena and sat back down on the bench, "I'll tell the hotel and the decorator what you've decided."

Andy caught the pronoun, "You think I should ask Miranda her opinion as well?" The answer surprised her.

"No," Emily took the binder from Andy and slipped it back into the carrying bag, "Miranda has made it abundantly clear that it is your decision, Andrea, so whatever you want is what I'll make happen." Pulling another folder from the bag, Emily handed it to Andy, "Now that the decor is settled we can move on to the seating arrangement."

Andy took the folder and blinked at the contents. "I um... wow."

"Yes, wow indeed." Emily let out a long exasperated sigh and shifted the pages for Andy to see, "I believe this is the best layout for the expected turn out."

"This is..."

"Huge," Serena supplied, leaning across Emily to see the floor plan drawing.

"There are five hundred people on the guest list, Andrea, that means sixty three tables of eight... plus the head table. I thought about doing tables for ten, but they are larger, and we can't spare the space they take up." Emily indicated the tables around the edge of the space. "These are reserved for people who will most likely not show up, according to Miranda." Emily still had her doubts about that. "But if they do arrive, they should have a place to sit."

"And if they don't," Serena reached over, pressing slightly against Emily's shoulder in the process, "then those tables can be removed easily to provide more space for dancing."

"Exactly. We'll have a better idea once people RSVP." Emily tried to keep her mind focused on her work, and not the warmth pressing into her shoulder, or the rich voice next to her ear.

"Looks good, Em." Andy nodded and handed the pages back. "What about the girls' party? Everything on track there?"

"Yes, that is all going quite nicely."

"Great!" Andy checked her watch. "Okay then, I have to get back. I want to say bye to Miranda before she leaves for the office and I have to go to the studio this morning..."

Emily nodded and slid the folder into it's place in her carry bag, "Miranda has the showing with Jean-Paul at ten-thirty, then lunch reservations at 'that place Andrea likes' so I was assuming you were going to meet her there."

Andy laughed, "I'll ask her when I get home." She saw Emily's eyes widen, "Yes, I ask her things." Speaking of which, "Um... what is 'that place I like' this time?"


"Oh!" Andy grinned, One of Miranda's favorites, "I do like that place and the girls love it too." She saw Emily's shock and nodded, "They're out of school now, can you change the reservation to four people?"

"Of course." She spoke sarcastically, "I'm sure that week in advance policy they have is just a suggestion."

Standing, Andy chuckled and stretched a little, "Thanks, Em." She looked around for Patricia then let out a piercing whistle. She nodded to the seated woman. "This works out well I think. See you here tomorrow?"

"Yes." Emily stood and adjusted the bag across her shoulders. "I'll just run home and change before heading into the office."

"You look fine now, Em... why change?" Andy's eyes twinkled as Serena spoke up.

"I agree, why change?"

Andy barely stopped Patricia from jumping up on her then clipped the leash on Patricia's collar and ruffled the dog's neck as her companions spoke to each other.

"I have a brilliant new Westwood that I want to wear." Emily hoped Miranda, and Serena, liked it.

"Of course you do." Out of sight of Emily, Serena grinned at Andy, "Are we ready to start back? I too need to go home and change, Emily would be able to go directly to the office from here, but I," She indicated her running outfit and small amount of perspiration, "cannot."

Nodding, Andy gave Patricia's leash a little tug, "C'mon, Patricia," She waved to Emily, "Later."

Emily watched them go then turned to start her own trek home. An ultra skinny boy stood in her path, "Excuse me."

"Um... you were talking to Andy Sachs?"

Emily's eyes narrowed, "Yes."

His adams apple bobbed convulsively as he held out a folded piece of paper, "Could you give her this, for me?"

"Certainly not," Emily chastised the boy, "this is not grade school and I will not be passing notes for you. She will be here tomorrow at this same time, I suggest you give it to her then."

He licked his lips and nodded. "Yeah, okay... thanks."

Emily turned to see Andy and Serena just rounding the corner they had appeared around earlier. Andrea had apparently said something to Serena and the tall woman had reached out to playfully punch the brunette's upper arm. Emily sighed, first Miranda, now Serena, she wondered how Andrea managed to endear herself into people's lives like that.

Miranda was in the small sitting area just outside the kitchen, looking over the Book when Andy and Serena returned. "Welcome home, darling." Miranda removed her glasses and tilted her head to accept a kiss on the cheek from Andrea.

Andy whispered, "Feel better?"

"Mmmm..." Miranda nodded subtly, "Yes, quite a bit better." She turned to Serena, "Did you enjoy your run? It must be quite different than running on a treadmill."

"It was very pleasant and I will completely enjoy continuing the routine." Serena smiled at the couple. "I will have to get used to the extra time it takes to go home and shower though, I normally change at the gym."

Miranda closed the Book and nodded, "You should bring your office clothes here, we do have running water here." She licked her lips and glanced up at Andrea, "Sometimes it's even hot."

Andy laughed and sat on the arm of Miranda's chair. "That's a great idea, just change here."

"Oh... I don't think..."

"It seems like a sensible solution," Miranda stood, "but suit yourself." She held the Book up slightly, as she spoke to Andrea, "This is a complete disaster, and I have that showing at ten thirty, will you meet me for lunch?"

"Yes," Andy smiled, "The girls and I will go to the studio this morning and meet you at the restaurant at noon."

"Very well," Miranda leaned in and kissed Andrea not so quickly on the lips, "Until then." With the barest of nods to Serena, Miranda walked down the hall and out the door to the waiting car.

Serena watched her boss leave and let out the breath she'd been holding. "I've watched Miranda walking the halls of Runway more times than I can count..." she began, Andy finished the thought for her.

"Amazing, isn't it?"

"If you don't mind my saying so," Serena looked at the door Miranda had exited through, "She's a force of nature."

Andy grinned, "Hurricane Miranda."

"How do you live with that?" Serena's admiration for Andy jumped a notch, especially when the brunette sighed and answered softly.

It's rather easy, once you make it to the eye. "There's nowhere else I'd rather be." Andy shrugged and looked up as they heard loud stomping down the stairs. "Sounds like the twin tornadoes are awake."

Almost before Andy finished speaking the girls barreled down the stairs, they both clung to Andy. When they saw Serena, their enthusiasm for the day dampened slightly.

"Hello," Caroline addressed Serena and Cassidy chimed in.

"Good morning," Cassidy looked at Serena's outfit, "Did you go running with Andy?"

"Yes," Serena smiled at the child, "We are going to start running together."

Andy felt Caroline's grip tighten slightly and smiled down at the girls. "You guys remember Serena right? She's the head of the Beauty department at Runway." Dark eyes twinkled as Andy watched both girls nod slowly. "Why don't you two go in the kitchen, I'm going to tell Serena bye and then we'll have some breakfast."

Cassidy agreed, grabbing her sister's hand, "C'mon Ro, let's go get some juice."

Caroline allowed herself to be dragged off, but kept her eye on Serena the whole way. Once in the kitchen, Caroline turned around to watch the women by the door.

Andy chuckled and walked with Serena to the front door, "Never a dull moment."

"Andy, I want to thank you for helping me with Emily... getting to see her in the morning is... nice." Serena wrapped her arms around the shorter brunette's shoulders and as she pulled away brushed her lips against Andy's cheek. "I hope the extra time will work to my advantage."

"I'm sure it will." Andy squeezed Serena's hand. "If nothing else, we'll just have Miranda order her to go on a date with you!"

Serena laughed, "That might actually work!" Her eyes darted sideways without moving her head, "Um... I might have gotten you in trouble with the little ones though, one of them is watching us."

Andy sighed and rolled her eyes. She didn't have to look to know who was watching. "Caroline, and of course she is... they are always watching." Running her fingers through her hair, Andy smiled. "I'll explain it to them."

Serena bestowed Andy with one of her most peaceful smiles, "You, make a wonderful mother."

With a dazzling smile in return, Andy opened the door for her friend, "Thank you."

Serena gripped Andy's upper arm briefly, "See you later, or tomorrow."

Nodding, she made sure Serena made it down the steps and out to the street where the Brazilian had parked her car earlier then Andy shut the door. With a deep breath she made her way into the kitchen, to face her inquisitors.

"So," Andy clapped her hands together as she entered the kitchen, "What should we have for breakfast?"

"Why are you suddenly running with her?" Caroline's eyes were accusatory. She had seen the kiss Serena gave Andy, Cassidy hadn't.

"Ro!" Cassidy sighed, "They were just running."

"That isn't all they were doing." Caroline's eyes were hard, very similar to Miranda in full Dragon mode. "I saw her kiss you."

"What?!!" Cassidy looked at Andy in horror, "Why?!"

Uh oh, double interrogation. Running her fingers through her hair, Andy gestured for the girls to take a seat at the table, she sat across from them. "Yes, you saw Serena give me a kiss," She pinned Cassidy with a stare and pressed home the fact, "On the cheek." Andy saw Cassidy relax slightly, "Serena is a very tactile person, but that was a 'thank you' kiss, for helping her."

"Helping her?" Caroline narrowed her eyes, what could Andy help Serena with that earned a kiss?

"Yep," Andy's dark eyes twinkled, "I've asked Emily to start meeting me at the park, so while Patricia plays, Em and I can discuss the wedding plans."

"What does that have to do with Serena?" Caroline was confused, but now Cassidy spoke up.

"She likes Emily!"

Andy nodded, "She does indeed."

Caroline blinked, the Miranda-hardness was gone from her eyes replaced with a child's 'I-really-want-to-believe-you' look. "So you and Serena aren't..." She couldn't say it, it had happened so many times, but this time... "You aren't going to..." she choked back a sob, "...leave?"

"What?!" Andy quickly circled the table and, dropping to her knees, gathered Caroline in her arms, "No... no.. I'm not going anywhere." She held the now crying girl and looked to her sister for help.

Cassidy explained, "Whenever Mom is dating anyone, whenever they break up, it always hits Caroline the hardest. Sometimes she's even more upset than Mom."

"C'mon, Munchkin," Andy petted the girl's hair gently and spoke soothingly, "I'm not going anywhere, I love your Mom and I love you and your sister so much..." She could lie, and tell the upset child that she would never leave them but she opted for the truth, "There are only two things that will ever make me leave Miranda."

"Huh?" Caroline sniffed and pulled away from the woman to look at her face. "What?"

"Two things," Andy reiterated, "I will never leave unless Miranda wants me to, and I mean really wants me to..."

Caroline calmed down slightly, that would never happen and she knew it. Her mom loved Andy with all her heart and would do anything to keep Andy with her, with them. "What else?"

"If I die."

"No!" Caroline again was clinging to Andy and Cassidy joined her.

"You can't die!"

"Shhh..." Andy assured them, "I'm not going to if I can help it." She spoke seriously, "I'm not leaving...but, I am going to have friends, and sometimes they are going to kiss me on the cheek, and sometimes I'm going to kiss them on the cheek... it doesn't mean I'm going to leave your Mom, I'll never willingly leave her." Something bothered her about this whole episode though and she asked. "Why would you even think I would?"

Cassidy stiffened slightly, and Caroline tensed too.

"Munchkin?" Andy tilted her head down to see Caroline's face. "Why would you even think that?"

Caroline bit her lip and mumbled something Andy didn't quite catch. She knew Cassidy had understood the mumble though because the girl nodded in agreement.


Cassidy sighed and repeated Caroline's comment coherently, "Serena is really beautiful."

Whoa... they think because... Andy shook her head, "Okay, do me a favor." She waited for them to look up at her, "Close your eyes," She smiled as they did, slowly, "Now, think of the most beautiful woman you can." Cassidy stiffened in her arms again and she assured them both, "You don't have to tell me who, just get the picture in your head." When they both nodded, Andy gave them a little squeeze, "Okay." They opened their eyes and she instructed them, "Now, tell me to do the same thing."

Caroline looked confused, but Cassidy understood and spoke, "Close your eyes, Andy."

Andy closed her eyes and heard the next instruction from Caroline, "Now picture the most beautiful woman you can."

Nodding, Andy smiled at the picture in her head, "Got it." She hadn't needed to know who the girls were thinking about, but they couldn't stand the mystery and Caroline asked, "Who is it?"

Keeping her eyes closed for a heartbeat longer, Andy smiled and answered softly, "Miranda."

"Duh, Ro... and if we asked Mom it would be Andy." Cassidy was a little ashamed that she'd thought so little of Andy's feelings toward her mom. They are so much in love, Cassidy looked up at Andy, "Sorry, Ma... we should have known better."

Andy winked at Cassidy, "S'okay Sweetie, so long as you know now..."

"We do." Caroline had come to the same conclusion her sister had, Andy wasn't like all the others, she wasn't going to leave.

"Okay then!" Andy released them, "Now, what are we gonna have for breakfast?"


Part 22

He wasn't running, not exactly, but he was moving fast enough that when he wanted to stop he skidded slightly before his motion ended. "Um... Miranda, can I help you with something?"

Miranda continued to peruse the garment choices in The Closet, "Nigel, had I wanted your opinion I would have requested it." Taking a dark power suit, complete with a white button down shirt, off the rack, she handed it to him.

Nigel took it automatically, barely registering its dullness, "Is there something I can help you find?"

"Doubtful." Miranda continued to look through the selections. Two more outfits were chosen before Miranda gestured to the clothing. "Have a messenger get those to the studio, as soon as possible." Raising one eyebrow, she moved toward the exit as she muttered, "That's all."

Nigel blinked at the clothing in his hand, and thought about Miranda's order. Studio? He went to find garment bags for the outfits, to prepare them for transport. He just hoped Emily knew what the hell Miranda was talking about.

Andy and the girls walked into the ABC building, stopping at the security reception area. "Hello," Andy smiled at the burly guard, "I'm supposed to meet one of the producers of Good Morning America this morning..." She chuckled at his bored 'yeah-sure-you-are' look and reached into her purse, retrieving the small post-it Emily had given her with the name scrawled on it. How Emily could possibly read her own handwriting Andy would never know. She tried to remember the way Emily had pronounced it as she looked at the note. "Raj..." skipping the first name she moved to the second. "Mahajani..."

"Oh," The guard seemed surprised, "He's the promo guy..."

"Yeah," Andy agreed, "I was told to meet him for some shots to promote my appearance on the show, Monday."

Nodding, he picked up the phone, "Hold on a sec." When the line connected he spoke quickly, "Yeah, Raj... I got a gal here says she's supposed to see you today?" He nodded into the receiver and looked up at Andy. "Your name?"

"Andy Sachs."

He passed the name on to the man and winced, pulling the handset away from his ear as the man on the other end squealed. When he was finally able to break through the producer's excitement, the guard tried very hard not to laugh, "Yeah, okay, I'm sending them up now." He rolled his eyes and grinned as he hung up the phone. "I guess you guys are cleared." He handed all three ready made Visitor's Passes and directed them to the elevators.

"Thanks." Andy clipped the Pass to her lapel and made sure the girls had theirs securely fastened before they entered the elevator.

The girls moved toward the walls of the elevator but Andy reached out and held them to her sides in the center of the car. She pushed the button for the floor they were supposed to meet the producer and immediately pulled the small bottle of antibacterial goop from her purse. The girls exchanged glances as Andy covered her hands in the stuff.

Raj was waiting for them when the elevator opened. "Ms. Sachs?" At Andy's nod, he visibly relaxed. "Great!" He motioned them to follow him down the hall, "There is a dressing room here that we put the outfits in."

"Outfits?" Andy wasn't sure why there was more than one.

"The clothes Ms. Priestly had couriered over from Runway this morning."

"Ah," Andy's eyes twinkled at the thoughtful gesture. "She didn't tell me she was going to do that."

He opened the door for them and gestured inside, "There was a note for you as well." He pointed to the mirrored dresser and the envelope with her name on it sitting on top.

Cassidy grabbed the envelope and handed it to Andy.

Andy smiled as she read it to herself,


While I certainly don't object to being the one to undress you, you are completely capable of dressing yourself. I have sent a few outfits from The Closet.

The choice is yours.



Sticking the note in her purse, Andy unveiled the outfits. She looked at the selections and studied each one, they all had good points. The dark pencil skirt and jacket with the white button down shirt would get the point across that she wasn't kidding around, the designer jeans were accompanied by a lower cut but longish cream colored shirt with a sparkling design around the collar was casual enough to put her at ease while still looking stylish, and the dark dress was kind of in between the two with a thin black belt to match the Christian Lou shoes. There were also black Jimmy Choos and a pair of white Prada running shoes to go with the other two outfits.

"Which one will you choose?" Caroline thought they would all be good on television.

Andy grinned as she ran her fingers down the lapel of the dark jacket, "All of them."


Andy selected the cream colored shirt pairing it with the pencil skirt. She had just buckled the thin belt around her waist and was sliding her feet into the Christian Lous when Raj knocked. Cassidy answered the door and Raj looked Andy over quickly as she adjusted the shirt to puff out over the belt slightly.

"Great!" He gestured for her to follow him.

They all filed out of the room and followed him down the corridor to the GMA set. The show was over for the day so the studio was empty. Raj motioned to the interview area. "Just have a seat there and I'll light it up so we can get some shots."

"Okay." Andy sat, Caroline and Cassidy stood just off to the side. Andy spoke nervously to the man, "I didn't realize this would all be necessary."

"Well, normally we have clips of whoever they are going to interview, from whatever movie or show they are on, or from press interviews." He manipulated the lights and nodded to himself as he moved to the camera. "But in your case there just isn't any of that. All we have are still pictures." He moved the camera to center her in the shot and asked. "Ready?" Andy took a deep shaky breath and nodded. He motioned with his left hand as his right hand manipulated the switch on the camera and the red light on top blinked on. "Okay then, smile and wave at the camera."

Andy stared into the camera lens and froze for a long moment. Her heartbeat pounding in her ears was all she could hear. She caught some motion with the corner of her eye and glanced over at the girls. They smiled and waved at her so she smiled tentatively and gave a half-hearted wave in return, Oh God, I'm going to suck at this... The light went off and Raj sighed.

"Okay, let's try it again... try and be a little happier about being on TV." He spoke to her seriously, "You know a million girls would kill to be in your position."

Laughing at that, Andy nodded, "Sounds familiar." But it also put her more at ease, this was something she knew and she knew what to do. "Okay, I'll try it again." The light went on, and this time when she looked at the camera, she imagined Miranda was getting the feed directly. Smiling her trademark dazzling smile, Andy waved enthusiastically as though Miranda was going to wave back at her. The light went off again and again Raj sighed.

"Okay, um... one more time, only..." He didn't know exactly how to put it so he just said it, trying to ignore the children as he did. "Can you be a little um.. sexier?"

Running her fingers through her hair, Andy shifted her shoulders slightly and with an apologetic glance at the girls she nodded to Raj. "I think so."

The light on the camera went on again and this time when Andy looked at the camera she still imagined Miranda there, but this time when her dark eyes hit the lens she smiled wickedly. Wanting Miranda to know that at this moment Andy wanted nothing other than to be with her fiancee in every way possible.

The light on the camera went off and Raj stepped out from behind the equipment. "Uh... yeah, that will be good." He wiped the sweat that had appeared on his forehead. "You can either take that outfit with you or leave it here, but be sure and label it," he pulled a tag out of his back pocket that obviously attached to the hanger. "I can send the other stuff back to Runway later today."

Nodding, Andy took the tag and she ushered the girls back toward the dressing room. "Um... can the girls come with me on Monday too?"

He nodded, "Sure, you can bring anyone you want, they'll have to wait in the Green Room during taping though..."

"That okay with you guys?" Andy looked at their wide grins and knew it was. "It's gonna be early in the morning," She warned, "You up for that?"

"How early," Since school let out, Caroline was enjoying the luxury of sleeping in.

Raj spoke up, "You'll have to be here by five."

"In the morning?!" Cassidy snorted, "No way!"

"Yeah..." Caroline agreed, "I'll pass." Even the excitement of Andy being on television couldn't get her up at five am. It was still dark then!

Andy laughed, "Suit yourselves." She ushered them back to the dressing room, removing the outfit she'd chosen, to quickly change back into the clothes she'd arrived in. It hadn't taken that long so they still had a little time to kill. "What do you want to do until it's time to meet your Mom for lunch?"

The girls glanced at each other briefly then turned to face and and replied, in stereo.


Andy swallowed hard and widened her eyes. Uh oh... But then she realized this could be an opportunity for her to get an idea for a birthday present for the girls. "Okay then," she carefully filled out the label and attached it to the garment bag with the outfit she'd just been wearing. "Where?"

"We know just the place," Caroline assured Andy. Cassidy chimed in.

"Yeah, you're gonna love it."

Jean-Paul opened the door to his hotel suite and greeted his visitors warmly.

"Miranda!" He threw open his arms to hug her, the only time he would ever get away with that particular show of affection. Apparently he wouldn't get away with it this time either as Miranda gracefully dodged the outstretched arms. He lowered his arms and cleared his throat, "Please, come in... I..." His speech stopped as he realized who was standing behind the fashion editor. "Mila?!"

"Mmm..." Miranda brushed past him, gesturing for the rest of her entourage to do the same. She settled herself on the couch with Mila next to her. "I requested Mila's presence since she will be the one wearing most of your designs in the layout, if I decide to use your work."

"She..." Jean-Paul's eyes grew wide as he quickly, mentally, sorted through his designs. "Oh, no... I cannot allow it..."

Mila began to bristle and Miranda casually laid her hand on the woman's knee, patting it gently. "I will see what you've done so far, Jean-Paul." There was no room for discussion as she informed him of what everyone already knew, "I will decide what to allow."

He narrowed his eyes at the hand casually placed on his girlfriend's, former girlfriend's, knee, but nodded and responded the only way he could. "Yes, Miranda." He sighed and moved to open the door that connected this room to the next; the one the models wearing his pathetic efforts were waiting in. He glanced back at Miranda whose lips were already forming into the dreaded 'catastrophe' position. Unfortunately, he knew that was probably the best he would get today. With a sigh, he motioned the first girl forward and even as she walked toward him he could see that the outfit she was wearing was all wrong. In the time it took to parade her out, he had completely redesigned the garment in his head. As he spoke to Miranda about the material and thought process behind its making, he also told the fashion icon the changes he planned.

After three more models had shown creations that were to be completely redesigned, Miranda had had enough. She stood. "Obviously you have some more work to do." She glanced at her watch, "I will give you until Monday." Tilting her head, she spoke quietly, "Do not disappoint me Jean-Paul." With that she motioned to the rest of her entourage and they all left quickly, including Mila.

"Mila..." The designer saw his former love in his mind's eye and nodded to himself. He promised the absent woman, "I will make clothes worthy of you, my Mila..." his mind supplied the rest of the thought, and I will not disappoint you, Miranda.

"How did you girls even find this place?" Andy was amazed and surprisingly appalled, she didn't think she'd changed so much that shopping in a thrift store would bother her. But it does, she thought as she avoided touching the edge of the 'bargain bin'. She also felt very out of place in her designer jeans and brand name shirt. Pulling a bottle of antibacterial gel from her designer original bag, Andy smeared some goop on her hands and insisted that the girls both do the same.

After a glance at each other, they submitted to the strong smelling gel but continued to search the racks and bins for something, anything, that caught their eye. Andy asked again, "How do you know about this place?" It was an old creaky building in a run down neighborhood. Even when she was a lowly assistant she never would have found this place. Andy took a good look around the store again, and thought, if I had found it I would have loved it. She also knew, Emily would die before setting foot in a place like this, Andy amused herself for a moment trying to picture the look on Emily's face at the mere suggestion of such a thing. She would have thought that Miranda would never deign to visit here either, before the trip to England, but now that Andy knew Miranda's background she could actually imagine the older woman visiting a few shops like this in her youth. Now though? Andy shuddered and asked again, "How did you guys find this place?"

"Allison told me about it." Caroline offered and tried to sound casual, "We've had Dad bring us here a few times." Twice. Speaking of Allison reminded her and the girl pulled her phone out, dialing quickly to talk to her friend.

"Why?" Andy didn't see the reason for coming here when they could afford other places. She decided to have a talk with the girls about it later. Now was not the time.

Cassidy shrugged, "Why not?"

Andy crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes. It was a good question, why not indeed. She wasn't sure why, but Andy felt really weird being here and had a horrible sinking feeling in her guts, "I'm going to get in trouble for this aren't I?" She looked around the place, the one person that seemed to work here wasn't really paying attention. "Miranda is going to kill me for bringing you here!"

Caroline waved that notion away even as she spoke to Allison on the phone. "Relax... Mom won't do anything to you."

"Says you!?" She dropped her arms to her sides, "I don't want Miranda angry at me... for anything, ever!"

"Easy Andy," Cassidy glanced at her sister for a moment, Andy was really worried, Cassidy could tell by the tremor in the brunette's voice. "We won't be much longer. It's nearly time to go meet Mom for lunch anyway."

With a deep breath, Andy nodded and stood back as the girls continued their treasure hunt. Caroline had put her phone away. Shaking her head, Andy watched the girls digging through the bins, although Caroline didn't seem quite as enthusiastic as before. Andy absently smeared more goop on her hands, Miranda is going to kill me.

They had almost made it through a very pleasant lunch when the subject of their morning shopping excursion was broached.

Miranda placed her fork, very precisely, next to her plate and blinked at the children. "You went, where?"

Andy pressed her lips together and swallowed hard, "Uh..."

"Oh, c'mon Mom... it was a thrift shop, they have all kinds of cool clothes really cheap!"

"You," Cool blue eyes pinned Andrea's widened brown ones, "took them, to a thrift shop."

"They wanted to go, Miranda."

"Yes, Mom," Caroline rolled her eyes, "We went to a thrift shop and it was fine."

"Did you purchase anything?" Miranda knew there were no shopping bags in evidence when she arrived at the restaurant.

Caroline sullenly admitted, "No."

"Good," Miranda nodded, "At least there are no returns to deal with."

"What?" Caroline was astounded, "You'd make us take stuff back?" She hadn't wanted to believe...

"Ro," Cassidy tried to warn her sister, "I don't think Mom meant..."

"No, Cass," Caroline tossed her napkin down on her plate, "Look at her, the clothes she's wearing probably cost as much as all the clothes in the whole thrift shop combined!" She went on with her rant, gesturing to the restaurant in general then to her plate, "Look at this place, this food. It's all the most expensive crap, it's not normal!" She turned hurt young eyes on their mother, Allison was right... "Why do you have to be such a snob all the time?!"

"Caroline!" Andy was almost as upset at Miranda's haughty attitude as Caroline was, but she certainly wasn't going to make a scene about it. Miranda always had reasons for her actions, "Modify..."

"No, Andrea," Miranda held her hand up to stop Andy from speaking, but continued to look at Caroline intently. "I always encourage the girls to ask questions, otherwise how will they ever learn things they are ignorant of?" Without another word, Miranda pulled out her phone and dialed quickly. This was not the Dragon, this was the Ice Queen, "Emily, I have something to take care of this afternoon, push my schedule back at least an hour. I will be back in the office as soon as I can. That's all." Disconnecting the call, Miranda matched her daughter's glare, "Are you finished eating?"

Caroline lowered her eyes and nodded. "Yes."

With barely a glance at Andrea, Miranda called for the check, paid it and they all went out to the waiting car.

Andy remained quiet as Miranda gave Roy an address she didn't recognize but seemed vaguely familiar.

They were all quiet and Miranda did not speak during the ride. When the car stopped, Miranda did not wait for Roy to open the door for them. She merely exited the vehicle, leaving the door open for her family to follow. Andy was the last to enter the building and was surprised to hear Miranda calling for Emily.

"Em's here?"

With a glance that clearly requested Andrea not speak again, Miranda again asked the thin air for 'Emily'.


Andy openly gawked at the woman approaching them, this was definitely not the Emily they knew. She was pretty, but blonde, and much larger than even the size six that garnered Andy the 'fat girl' designation she'd acquired when she worked at Runway.

"I didn't know you were going to be here today, Miranda!" She gave the editor a polite air kiss which Miranda didn't seem to have any problem reciprocating. "To what do we owe the honor?"

Miranda smiled, a genuine Miranda-smile Andy noted, and gestured to the girls. "Caroline seems to think I'm a snob, because my clothes are expensive and don't come from a thrift store."

Emily turned her attention to the embarrassed looking twin, "And what would you know about thrift stores?"

"I know they have perfectly good clothes at cheap prices,and I know that Mom doesn't want us to shop there." Caroline was becoming angry now. It was one thing for her mom to reprimand her, but for this, stranger to do it...

Andy saw that Caroline was beginning to get angry and stepped in. She put her arm around Caroline's shoulders but looked around and spoke to the woman. "What is this place?"

Miranda answered. "Welcome to the Bottomless Closet."

Emily nodded, "Why don't we all go into my office and we can talk."

Miranda agreed and ushered the girls into the woman's office.

Andy trailed behind, unsure what to think about all this. Miranda was acting very strange and Andy knew, had seen, that when Caroline had called her a snob the older woman had been hurt. She had actually heard of the Bottomless Closet though and spoke to the blonde Emily. "You're in charge here?"

"Not exactly," Emily smiled and gestured for them to sit.

"Emily is one of the founders of this organization." Miranda informed them, "She has done many things since her tenure as my assistant at Runway twenty-three years ago."

Andy gasped, "Emily?!" She swallowed hard, suddenly knowing. "You're the original Emily!"

The woman bowed and grinned jauntily, "At your service." Emily laughed, and her eyes sparkled in delighted mischief, "Are you still calling your assistants Emily?"

"Why change what works?" Miranda shifted in the chair, "I would like you to explain to my daughter, what you do here."

Nodding, Emily spoke to Caroline. It was obviously the standard p.r. statement. "The mission of Bottomless Closet is to promote economic self-sufficiency to economically disadvantaged New York City women by providing interview skills, business clothing and ongoing career development and support programs. By enhancing their self-confidence and self-esteem, we enable them to enter and succeed in the workforce and transform the vision for their lives."

She continued, "We help approximately a hundred clients a month."

Caroline didn't understand, but Andy did. "You help the women help themselves, by giving them clothes and teaching them how to be successful in interviews."

"Yes," Emily nodded, "Because many of them can't afford the bare necessities of living, much less the clothing and expenses necessary for interviews that will win them gainful employment."

Caroline was still confused and this time spoke up, "I don't understand, what does this have to do with us shopping at a thrift store?"

Miranda bristled and Andy reached over to lay a hand on her knee before speaking to Caroline again. "I used to shop at thrift stores because that is all I could afford, now I don't have to, so I don't."

"But... why not shop there? If the clothes are good? Why pay more for what we need?" It was simple economics to Caroline.

Miranda shifted again and Andy realized what the problem was. Caroline said 'need'. Andy asked quietly, "What do you need, Caroline?"


"Need," Andy questioned, "What do you need?"

Caroline opened her mouth to answer, but then closed it without saying anything. She blinked as Miranda spoke quietly. "There are hundreds of thousands of people in the city that need clothing at cheap prices, because they can not afford it otherwise. Cannot afford decent clothing for themselves to wear or their children to wear to school. And by decent I mean clothing free of stains and rips." She tried to impress that fact upon her daughter and repeated, "Because they can not afford it otherwise."

Cassidy gasped, "But we can."

Miranda nodded, "We can, so we do." She pinned her daughter with a glare, "Living in a manner your income allows is not being a snob."

"No, I guess not." Caroline sighed and admitted, "I shouldn't have listened to Allison."

Cassidy rolled her eyes, "Oh my god, Ro, why did you!? She's the biggest snob of all!"


"Good grief," Cassidy was exasperated with her sister, "Allison has been all pissy ever since her Dad got knocked off the top four hundred list, and Mom gained three ranks."

"What?" Andy didn't understand the reference.

"Forbes," Miranda chewed out the word distastefully, "They insist on that ridiculous list." She absently, belatedly, reprimanded her daughter. "And watch your language, Cassidy."

The girl in question just rolled her eyes, again.

"Your Mom isn't a snob, she just understands the need for thrift stores and who needs to use them." Emily smiled at the children, "You should be proud of her. She's actually quite active in many charities and donates money to our organization generously every year. Plus..." Emily glanced at Miranda, "her clothing donations, and the donations she talks others into are a great help to our cause, not that she allows us to advertise it."

"Spring cleaning!" Andy exclaimed and chuckled. "I remember Nigel talking about that."

Nodding, Miranda confirmed that ritual at Runway, "The Closet is cleared of all the older, business appropriate clothing and sent here."

"So," Caroline struggled with the concept, "You don't have a problem with thrift stores. You were only upset because other people need places like that, to survive, and we don't?"

Miranda relaxed slightly. Lesson learned. "Yes."

"I can't believe you took anything Allison said seriously anyway," Cassidy had never liked the girl, but she and Caroline had seemed like friends. "She's always been jealous of us, of Mom, now with the Forbes thing and..." Cassidy's eyes slid to Andy. "Allison has issues."

"You're just saying that because you've never liked her." Caroline didn't want to admit her friend was not really a friend.

"She only hangs around with us because we're in the news and she wants to be too. Did you see her playing it up to the cameras last week at the house?" Cassidy sighed, "She only tolerates me because Mark is my friend and she likes him."

All three adults exchanged glances as the girls talked to each other.

Caroline narrowed her eyes at that, "Mark couldn't care less about Allison."

"I know that," Cassidy smiled at her sister, Mark likes you, "And you know that, but Allison still needs to get a clue." She cleared her throat, "I think she only told us about the store because she wanted to tease us about 'slumming it'."

Gritting her teeth together, Caroline nodded, "We'll see how much teasing she does this afternoon." Their group's meeting was supposed to take place at Allison's house today. Right now though, she knew there was something she had to do. She tried not to think about the virtual stranger in the room with them as she moved to stand in front of her mom. "I'm sorry, Mom. I shouldn't have called you a snob, I should have known better." She wanted to hug her mother, but wasn't sure if Miranda would allow it in front of Emily. Apparently she was worried for nothing.

Miranda reached out and held Caroline close, reassuring the girl and forgiving her all in one gesture.

Caroline pulled away slowly, "Why didn't you just tell me? Why bring us here?"

Miranda considered her response carefully then responded truthfully, "At first I was too angry to speak to you."

"And then?"

"Had I given you a lecture in the middle of Nobu, would you have believed me?" Miranda asked, "Had I tried to speak to you about this issue in the back of the car would you have understood? Perhaps we should have returned to our luxury home for the discussion?"

"This place was more appropriate..." Caroline understood and knew her mom was right; anywhere else and she wouldn't have listened to a word. This place did what Mom always does, drove the point home.

Andy cleared her throat and spoke to Emily, "Um, would it be possible to schedule an interview with you?"


"Andrea is a reporter for The Mirror." Miranda smiled at her fiancee, "Quite a good one."

"Great!" Emily smiled at the young woman, "We can always use good publicity."

Andy nodded, "I'll talk to my editor."

"Excellent." Emily smiled and stood. "'I'll look forward to it."

They all stood when Miranda did, but the editor paused to produce a small packet of envelopes from her purse. She sorted through them quickly then took one, handing it to the blonde, "This is for you, Emily." She paused, "I was going to mail it with the others, but since we're here..."

Emily looked at the envelope, her smile fading. "Wow, Miranda... I don't know what to say."

"There is a number to call for your RSVP," Miranda looked at the woman and spoke thoughtfully, "You were there when I became editor-in-chief of American Runway, when I became a new person." She reached out to hold Andrea's hand and a tiny smile touched Miranda's lips, "I think it's only appropriate you should be there when I begin my journey into a life with the woman I love."

Emily chuckled, "I never thought I'd see the day..." The woman's eyes twinkled at her former boss, "I'm glad you're finally happy."

Twining her fingers with Andrea's, Miranda took a deep breath and nodded, "I am."

That's where I knew this address from, the guest list...Miranda must have written her's out this morning... Andy moved a bit closer to Miranda, but spoke to Emily, "I'll be in touch about the interview."

Nodding at that, Emily waved to the family as they exited her office. When they were gone she collapsed back into her seat and turned her amazed eyes to the invitation Miranda had given her. An invitation to Miranda Priestly's wedding... to a woman... half her age.. Emily tried to imagine that, based on her experience with Miranda as a boss, and failed miserably. Married to Miranda Priestly... With a grunt of amusement Emily thought about the young woman who was the other half of that couple, Andy Sachs, may the Lord have mercy on your soul.

"Mom?" Caroline broke the silence in the car, she swallowed hard when her mother's cool gaze landed on her, "Um... what... what happens to our old clothes, the ones we outgrow?"

Andy pressed her lips together, she knew exactly what happened to the girls' old clothes because it had been one of her duties when she worked at Runway to deliver them to their new home.

A small smile touched Miranda's lips as she answered the question, quietly, "The clothing you have outgrown is gathered and sent to Goodwill, to be sold in their Thrift Store."

Caroline nodded and Cassidy smiled, "Cool."

Miranda's smiled widened and she winked at her daughter, "Indeed."

"How long has that been happening?" Caroline was a little dismayed that she hadn't known about this before.

"Since you were born." Miranda's eyes twinkled, "You have always had an excess of clothing, when you were small you grew so fast often you didn't even wear some of the outfits you were given." She grinned at the girls, "That changed when you became old enough to play outside, the nanny would have to change you several times a day for all the mud you acquired."

The girls laughed and spoke in unison, "Mud wars!"

Caroline watched her mother's nostrils flare, but she didn't think it was because of the mud wars. Her own nose was twitching too and she turned to see Andy rubbing some gel on her hands. Before she could say anything about it, the car slowed and Miranda prepared to go back to work.

"I will see you at home tonight, my darlings."

"Have a nice afternoon, Mom."

Andy grinned at the editor, "Don't fire anyone."

"Ha!" Blue eyes twinkled at her fiancee, "No promises on that!" That garnered her a dazzling Andy-smile and she winked before exiting the car.

Andy asked the girls, "So we have a few hours before your study group meeting, what do you want to do?" She was filled with a sense of dread as the children looked at each other for a moment then answered.


Andy narrowed her eyes at the girls and they laughed, "No trouble, Ma. We promise." They gave Roy their destination and Andy nodded.

Macy's. Good.


Part 23

Taking off her glasses, Miranda pinched the bridge of her nose. This meeting was taking far too long. "Where are we on the cover for August?"

"Good," Nigel reported, "The shoot went well and the proofs will be on your desk in the morning."

Nodding at that, Miranda moved on, "How are the articles shaping up, Gretchen?" She looked to the content editor, who always sat on her left at these meetings. Miranda accepted the folder that the woman handed her.

"Good," Gretchen ran her fingers through her short graying hair and indicated the contents of the folder. "There are actually too many submitted, so I will need your decision on which ones to push back another month."

Nodding, Miranda closed the leather bound planner she'd been scribbling in and placed the folder on top. "Anything else?" When no one else spoke up, she nodded, "Very well..." Standing, Miranda picked up her things and left the room.

As the group broke up there were a few comments, "Well that was..." "Did she seem..." "I think she was actually distracted..." That thought shocked them, Miranda was never distracted, ever. She was the most focused person any of them had ever met. They all turned to Nigel. He paused as an animal in headlights would then sighed, "I'll talk to her."

He mumbled to himself as he walked down the corridor, "It's always me that has to talk to her..."

"They say talking to yourself is a sign of insanity, Nigel..." Miranda pushed off the wall she'd been leaning against, waiting for him. Knowing her staff would send him to sort out her unusual, even for her, behavior. She resumed walking, certain that he would fall into step next to her, which he did.

"You did seem sort of... distracted in the meeting." He ventured a question, "Anything I can do?"

"No," Miranda shook her head ruefully, "unless you want to deal with Andrea's mother, and grandmother when they arrive tomorrow."

"Ohhh... ouch.." Nigel chuckled, "I've met Dorothy. She seemed okay."

"Mmmm..." Miranda walked between her assistants' desks and turned her head slightly in Bethany's direction, "Coffee." Leading the way into her office she gestured for Nigel to sit as she settled into her chair. "Dorothy seemed pleasant enough to you I'm sure, but then again you are not marrying her daughter in two months."

Nigel chuckled again, "Ah... No... I hear Andy has a brother though..."

Unable to stop it, a burst of laughter escaped Miranda's lips. "Yes, Nigel, she does have a brother." With a twinkle in her eye that could have been mistaken as affection, Miranda elaborated, "A very tall, very blonde, very young... very heterosexual brother."

"Ah well." He shrugged, "Thus is the story of my life." He grinned at his boss, "So that's what's bothering you today? The imminent arrival of the mother-in-law?"

"Mostly." Miranda opened the folder and absently sifted through the articles it contained. Glancing at the titles as she clicked her teeth together, Nigel waited and with a sigh she abandoned the task, gesturing to him. "Close the door, Nigel."

Nodding, he complied and shot Emily a glance as he did so.

Emily met his eyes and heard Miranda's voice behind him, "We have about ten minutes before Bethany returns with my coffee...so listen carefully..."

So Miranda confides in him... Emily thought, then shook her head, derailing that train of thought. Her mantra took its place as she began the low chant under her breath, "I love my job, I love my job..."

"This is the place," Cassidy pointed out the window at one of the large houses with the immaculately landscaped lawn standing separate from the others on the street. "That's Allison's house."

Andy looked out and her jaw dropped slightly. The place was huge and would rival anything millionaire row on Fifth Avenue had to offer. "Wow."

"I know, right?" Cassidy scoffed at the place. "She doesn't even have any brothers or sisters... it's just her and her mom and dad."

"She can't help what house her parents have." Caroline tried to defend her friend, although she knew that Allison often made comments regarding other people's places, including theirs, as 'quaint' or 'cozy' which in Allison-speak meant 'small'.

"Do you want me to come in or just pick you up later?" Andy thought she would like to meet the parents of the girls' friends, but she wasn't sure she had the right, yet.

Caroline asked, "Don't you have something better do to?"

"Yeah," Andy nodded, "I guess I do..."

Rolling her eyes, Cassidy smacked her sister on the upper arm and looked at Andy, "She didn't mean it like that." Glaring at Caroline, Cassidy explained, "Allison's parents are...weird, a little stand-offish, um... narrow-minded... not that we've been around them too often. They may not even be there, it could just be the Nanny..."

"Ah..." Andy understood, she thought, "What does Allison's mom do?"

Caroline snorted, "Nothing."

"She does... something, some kind of charity work or something, I think..." Wrinkles appeared in Cassidy's forehead, "You know, I'm not really sure what she does."

"Besides the poolboy?"

"Caroline!" Andy was shocked, "You should not accuse someone of... that." She'd had enough accusations flung at her to know that false ones weren't fun to deal with.

Caroline shrugged, "That's what Allison says."

Narrowing her eyes at that, Andy decided that 'Allison said' a lot of things that Allison probably shouldn't be saying, "Okay, well you are only going to be a couple of hours right? So, I think I'll just go in with you..." She was relieved as the girls both nodded as if that was fine with them. She opened the car door and stepped out.

Exchanging a quick glance, Caroline and Cassidy followed. They both knew that this could get interesting, if Allison's mom was home.


Bethany scrambled to produce the requested accessory and only managed to get it to Miranda before the editor had left the office completely. The only reason she managed to do that was because Miranda had stopped at Emily's desk for a moment. "Schedule me gone for the rest of the afternoon."

"But..." Emily shook her protest away, "Yes, Miranda."

Pressing her lips together, the editor exhaled through flared nostrils, "I will also be gone tomorrow." She ground her teeth together, "But," and she emphasized this point, "Andrea does not need to know that... should she call, I am merely out of the office. She will be able to contact me via my cell phone."

"Uh..." Emily swallowed hard, "Yes, Miranda."

Both assistants watched as their boss stalked away.

"Wow," Bethany blinked, "Uh.. where do you think she's going?"

"Nowhere that concerns us." Emily refocused on her computer. Miranda's schedule was fairly clear this afternoon so it took very little effort to change it. Tomorrow however there were a couple of meetings that would need to be rescheduled for Monday, and one she would talk to Nigel about leading. She also had to finish this spreadsheet quickly, before the RSVP's began to roll in. A little organization now would help her tremendously in the next few weeks. Knowing how much work she had to do in the next two months, for the wedding and the girls' birthday party, was a little overwhelming and Emily was almost glad that Bethany had been given the task of delivering the Book, almost.

"But don't you..."

"No! I don't..." Emily sighed, "You will not speculate on Miranda's personal life, do you understand? Your job is here, you anticipate her needs if you can, bring her coffee when she asks for it and answer the phone... in the evening you take the Book to her and that is all."

"Right." Bethany sighed and couldn't help her eyes from sliding to the door Miranda had exited.

With an exasperated sound, Emily clicked the save button on the spreadsheet she'd just created and minimized the window to focus on Miranda's schedule for tomorrow. Picking up the phone she dialed Miranda's ten-thirty meeting and actually smiled as the ringing in her ear was answered, "Hello, yes, I'm calling to reschedule the meeting with Miranda tomorrow." She blinked and nodded, "Yes I know it's short notice, but Miranda has become unavailable. The new time will be Monday at nine." Emily paused as the person on the other end of the conversation said something. "Mmmm... no, Miranda no longer conducts breakfast meetings." Nodding, Emily rolled her eyes, "Right, nine am. Ta." She hung up the phone and scoffed, "God, these people."

"Miranda doesn't do breakfast meetings?" Bethany didn't know that.

"No," Emily confirmed absently as she made the changes to the schedule, "She prefers to spend that time with her family."

Bethany was once again struck by the amount of love that her reputed Ice Queen, Dragon Lady, boss exhibited toward her family. "Wow."

"Mmmm." Emily rolled her eyes and then plastered another smile on her face as she dialed the number to reschedule Miranda's one o'clock meeting tomorrow.

Upon entering the huge house, they were told by a formally dressed butler that "Miss Allison's" parents were not home, but that she was waiting for her guests upstairs.

Cassidy tugged on Andy's arm as they climbed the main staircase, "C'mon, Allison's rooms are on the third floor."

Rooms? Andy allowed herself to basically be dragged upstairs. Along the way she looked around at the furnishings and wall hangings curiously. One painting caught her attention and she reached out to stop the girls' motion then indicated the picture. "Isn't that the same painting Miranda has in her study?"

Caroline glanced over and nodded, "Yeah." She continued up the stairs. Cassidy also nodded, but she was more elaborate with her answer.

"Yes, but the one at our house is not a reproduction." She continued up the stairs, "Mom's always liked John Constable's work... ever since she lived in France."

"Not a repro..." Andy looked at the painting again then wondered what other of the paintings hanging at their house was 'not a reproduction'. Swallowing hard she recalled some of the names scrawled on the hanging canvas' and sketches at home. O'Keefe, Picasso.. all those names you hear when you go to a museum... there's even that brightly colored Peter Max one... It was actually one of Andy's favorites and made her smile to look at. Andy almost gasped as a snippet of the earlier conversation came back to her. Cassidy had said Miranda was on Forbes' Top 400 list... moved up three ranks is what she'd said... She controlled her breathing and continued shakily up the stairs, vowing that when they got home she was going to look up that list, then she and Miranda were probably going to have a fairly serious talk. She couldn't think about it any longer though because they'd reached the third floor.

It took every ounce of willpower Andy had not to laugh as they entered the room the rest of the group were already in and saw Ms. Bax. Caroline and Cassidy were not as disciplined. Cassidy felt badly for the woman as she saw the teacher's cheeks redden, "I'm sorry, it's just..." Cassidy indicated the woman's hair. "It's not usually so..."

"Poofy." The teacher sighed and pressed a hand against the hideous curls covering her head. "Yeah, I know. It's a perm gone completely awry. My niece is in beauty school..." Rolling her eyes she pointed a thumb at the other kids and one parent present, "We've all already had a good laugh" Nora chuckled at herself now, "It is quite funny to look at... not so much to wear."

The other adult stepped forward, "Hello, I'm Priscilla Batson, Hunter's mother."

"Nice to meet you," Andy shook the woman's hand. "Andy Sachs."

"Um.. yeah," Priscilla laughed, "I know."

Sighing, Andy nodded and blushed but laughed as she spoke, "Of course you do."

"I tried to think of how to solve..." Priscilla indicated the teacher's hair, "But I just really have no idea..."

"Hmmm..." Andy grinned, "I don't either, but, I know who might." Pulling her phone out of her purse, she dialed quickly. "Serena! Listen, we have what can be classified as a 'hair emergency' do you think you could spare Terry this afternoon? No, it's not me, or Miranda," as if... Miranda's hair is always perfect, "not the girls either... it's one of their teacher's from school, she got a perm from Hell. Is Terry available? No? How about this evening?" Andy waited as Serena consulted with the woman in question then nodded into the phone, "Great, bring her by the house okay?" Andy gave Nora an encouraging thumbs up. "Excellent! We'll see you then." She put her phone away and automatically squished a dollop of antibacterial gel on her hands, rubbing it in as she informed the teacher. "You are having dinner with us this evening while the best hairstylist at Runway fixes your... problem."

Visibly relieved, Nora smiled. "Thank you!" She was in a much better mood and smiled despite her outrageous curls. Turning to face the group she clapped her hands together, calling their attention to her, "Okay, so who wants to start the discussion of the assigned book?"

Andy and Priscilla laughed at the children's groans before they found seats slightly away from the discussion group. Priscilla spoke quietly, "I'm so glad Hunter decided to be a part of this group." She focused on her son as she whispered, "He's not usually very sociable. Being friends with Cassidy has helped him so much this past year."

Andy watched as the boy in question smiled shyly as Cassidy praised the point he'd just made. Uh huh... interesting. "Cassidy seems to make friends easily." Andy glanced at the woman. "Hunter seems like a good kid."

"Thank you." Priscilla beamed, "He is." She hastily added, "The girls are great too!"

Andy nodded, "Yeah, they are." But I can't take credit for that... Her eyes drifted closed and Andy willed them to open again.

"If I may say so..." Priscilla looked sympathetic, "You seem tired."

Andy combed her fingers through her hair and agreed, "Yeah, long day."

Priscilla wasn't sure what to say to that so she didn't say anything, merely sitting back in her chair and watching the kids interact with each other.

Andy was grateful for the lull in the conversation, but she did not want to fall asleep. The last thing Caroline or Cassidy needed was for her to wake up screaming from a nightmare in the middle of their meeting. She hated to be rude to Priscilla, but decided it would be worth it to hear Miranda's voice so she again pulled her phone from her purse.

"I would be remiss in my capacity as your lawyer if I didn't, again, advise you against this, Miranda." He shook his head as he reviewed the document in his hands. "This is madness."

"This is what has to happen, Keith." Miranda gestured for him to pass the papers to her. She glanced at them, merely making sure that what was written there was as she had specified. Signing with a flourish in the presence of the man who duly notarized it, Miranda folded the paper in thirds and put it in her purse. "I will mail it back to you when Andrea has signed." Not that she will. She looked at him and raised her eyebrows, "The other one too."

With a sigh, he handed over another document, "This is beyond madness." He did worry about the ramifications of this one, "You realize that if the details of this get out your sanity could be called into question? You aren't even married yet."

Cool blue eyes met his, "The people who know the details of this document are all currently in this room. Therefore, if the details of this document 'get out', my new lawyer will certainly know whose name to put on the lawsuit, yes?"

Keith nodded, "Yes," he ran his hands through his short graying hair and assured her, "I'm certainly not going to tell anyone at this point."

"Good." She glanced at this paper as well, but again she already knew what it said and signed it quickly. Andrea did not need to sign this one. "Cheer up, this one may not even be necessary for quite some time, if ever."

"That is my fervent wish."

Miranda's cool blue gaze landed on him and warmed perceptibly, "Your attention to this matter is appreciated, Keith."

"Well I am your lawyer, Miranda." Keith smiled at his client. "You pay me an obscene amount of money to pay attention to matters that concern you."

"That is what I've always liked about you," Miranda stood and tilted her head to emphasize her joke, "You are so honest, when you want to be."

He chuckled and winked, "It's a talent that good lawyers cultivate."

Nodding, Miranda turned to leave, speaking to the man over her shoulder. "You will be receiving an invitation to the wedding soon." Pausing at the door, she looked back at the man standing behind his desk, "I do hope you can attend."

He opened his mouth but no sound emerged, he did manage to convey that he would be there, at least he hoped he got that point across, and watched as one of his most valuable clients exited his office.

"Most valuable and craziest..." he sat down at his desk and shook his head, correcting the thought by mumbling to himself, "Not crazy... poor people are crazy, people with as much money as Miranda has are, eccentric."

Miranda was back in the car when her phone rang, the ringtone made her smile and she answered the call quickly. "Yes, Andrea, how is the study group going?"

"It's going well." Andy took a deep breath, "I... um... wanted to let you know I've invited Ms. Bax, Serena and Terry over for dinner tonight."

"Oh?" Miranda was a little disappointed at that, family dinners had become a rather special time for her but she rolled with it. "Why?"

"Well," Andy tried not to look at the teacher's poofy hair, "Ms. Bax is having a hair emergency and I asked Serena to bring Terry over tonight to diffuse the situation. I also thought I might chat with Terry some about how I want my hair for the wedding." Andy grinned into the phone, "Do you think we could get Em over here too?"

"Oh, I think that can be arranged." Miranda leaned back against the leather seat and sighed, "I'll be back in the office shortly but I only have a few things to finish there before I can leave for the day."

"I didn't realize you had an off-site meeting this afternoon." Andy was sure Miranda was scheduled to be in her office today.

"It was a last minute task that I remembered," Miranda closed her eyes but kept her tone bored, "Nothing major."

"Okay then," Andy exhaled slowly. She knew Miranda was keeping something from her. She could tell even over the phone, just from the older woman's tone, but she decided to drop the issue, for now. "See you at home then." She smiled and whispered. "I love you."

Miranda smiled. "I love you too."

Terry looked at the woman and blinked, "Who jacked up your head?"

Nora sighed, "My niece, she's in beauty school... wanted to make me blonde."

"Lord have mercy," Terry sighed and shook her head sadly, "I weep for the future."

Andy was worried about the woman's reaction, "Can you fix it?"

Looking at the head again, "This isn't like when I straightened and conditioned your hair, Andy." Terry touched Nora's frizzy curls evaluating the texture and spoke to the teacher. "I don't want to put any more chemicals on your hair. It will cause too much damage."

Nora sighed, "I understand." She smiled at the woman, "Thanks for taking a look anyway."

"Hey now," Terry grinned, "I didn't say I couldn't help, just not with chemicals." She hefted the fairly large case she was carrying and nodded, "We're just gonna have to go old school on you."

Serena assured the teacher, "Terry is the best we have, she can help."

"Cassidy, why don't you show Ms. Baxter and Terry to the bathroom upstairs." Andy grinned as the girl led their guests upstairs. "Caroline, Serena... come with me." She led them into the kitchen and apologized to Peggy. "I'm sorry to spring all these people on you. I'm thinking we can just call out for..."

"You'll do no such thing!" Peggy was already busy chopping. "And you didn't 'spring it' on me, you called before the study group was even over."

"Yeah, but... eight people..."

"It's not a problem, stir-fry style vegetables with chicken strips and beef strips, a little brown rice..." Peggy grinned as Caroline snagged a bell pepper strip from the pile.

"Yum." Caroline grinned. Stir-fry vegetables was one of her favorite meals.

"If you're sure..." It worried Andy because it really had been very last minute with barely any notice at all for Peggy. Andy still wasn't used to dealing with Runway people though, if she'd had an impromptu gathering at her old place, with her other, pre-Runway, friends, Lily, Doug...Nate and his buddies...or even Jo, they would have just called for pizza. That wasn't really an option right now, pizza, real pizza, was something she still reserved for Miranda-less nights out. She had to admit though, Miranda did agree to a Lombardi's white pizza every once in a while.

"G'wan... visit, chat...whatever, it'll be done twenty minutes after you say you want it." Peggy tried to continue chopping, but Andy's question stopped her.

"You're staying late?"

"Yep, I'll be here for a bit tonight getting things ready for your guests tomorrow." The woman waved them away from the prep area. "G'wan now... unless you want drinks..."

Andy shook her head and heard Serena decline as Caroline proceeded to fix her own glass of juice. The girl announced she was going upstairs to watch what Terry did to Ms. Bax's hair.

Serena and Andy went into the study where, Andy knew, Miranda would want to go over any information Emily had regarding the wedding. They settled into comfortable seats, Serena in one of the overstuffed chairs, Andy on the couch.

"Miranda is bringing Emily..." Andy grinned at the light that appeared in Serena's eyes at the thought.

"Thank you for trying to help me... with Emily..."

"Are you making any progress?" Andy wondered when Serena would make her move.

"No, not really." The Brazilian shook her head, "I don't want to scare her away..."

"Yeah, I understand that." Andy exhaled with a slight whistle, "Boy, do I ever." She shrugged and offered the only advice she could. "Eventually you're going to have to take the chance."

"I know." Serena rotated her shoulders trying to relax.

Andy sympathized with the woman. "Would you like a drink?" She indicated the table with several decanters of amber liquid.

Serena declined the offer but asked a bit wistfully, "You wouldn't happen to have any wine?"

Andy's eyes twinkled at the thought, "Do we have wine?" She laughed and thought about the huge collection of vintages in the wine cellar downstairs as she stood, "Come with me."


Part 24

Miranda stepped inside the townhouse, followed closely by Emily. They both stopped short just inside the door as the sound of what could only be described as wailing.

"What on Earth?" Miranda led the way to the study to find Andy and Serena sitting on the couch one arm around each others shoulders, leaning against each other, their free hand each held a glass that had obviously been filled and emptied several times. "Andrea, what is the meaning of this? Where are the girls? Wasn't Terry and Ms. Bax supposed to be here this evening?"

Andy disentangled herself from Serena and both stood shakily. "How come you call Terry, Terry and you won't call me Andy??" She weaved through the furniture to stand in front of Miranda barely registering Serena moving to face Emily. "Why's that?"

Miranda reached out to steady the young woman, "That's because her name is Terry, and your name is Andrea."

"Oh." Andy smiled as she gazed into Miranda's eyes, "I love you."

"I love you too," Miranda repeated herself, "Where are the girls?"

"Upstairs," Andy leaned against the editor and rested her head on the older woman's shoulder. "Watching TV."

"Okay..." Miranda prompted for her other question, "And Terry, and Ms. Bax?"

"Terry fixed Nora's hair... but they had to leave." Andy sighed and nuzzled against Miranda's neck.

"I thought you were going to speak to Terry about your wedding hair style..." Miranda guided her inebriated fiancee to the couch and sat next to her. "Andrea, your hair?"

"Oh... um... she wanted me to pick my dress first, then we'll see..." Andy recalled a bit of her discussion with the stylist. Reaching up she bunched her hair up on the top of her head, "Terry thinks maybe up? You like my hair up right?"

Miranda reached out and traced the line of Andrea's now exposed neck, "I love your hair up or down and you know it." Glancing at their guests still standing by the door, talking, Miranda pressed her lips together in a frown. "Why are you drunk, Andrea?"

Andy giggled, "I guess because I had too much to drink..." She frowned and reached up to trace the downward curved lips. "Awww... don't be a sad panda, Miranda..." Laughing at that, Andy rephrased it, "Please don't be a sad Miranda panda...."

"Okay... that's enough of that." Miranda tried to stand only to be stopped by Andy's lanky arms.

"Where ya goin'?"

Patting the arms around her reassuringly, Miranda spoke gently, "I'm going to the kitchen to make you some coffee..." She glanced at Serena still on her feet, but only just and only with Emily's support, "It looks to me as if you both could use some."

Andy's forehead furrowed in thought, "N...no, y.. your not posa make the coffee... s'my job."

"No," Miranda smiled at her very drunk fiancee, "It's not your job anymore, remember?" She patted the arms around her again. "Let me up, I will start the coffee brewing and return." The long arms went lax around her and Miranda stood taking a moment to look down on the woman now curled up on the corner of the sofa. "We will discuss this later."

Nodding, Andy closed her eyes, "You're a good panda Miranda..." Then she giggled. "My Miranda Panda."

Rolling her eyes at that, Miranda stood and walked over to where Serena and Emily were standing.

"What do you think you are playing at?!" Emily was furious at her friend. Running with Andy in the morning was one thing but getting drunk with her?

"Are you angry with me?" Serena's bowed her head to hide the sorrow in her eyes, "I don't want you to be angry with me."

That surprised Emily, "Why do you care what I think?"

"I care..." Serena sighed, "I'm sorry..." Wrapping her long arms around the English woman, Serena continued to murmur, "Don't be mad at me...please please... don't be mad..."

Emily looked over as Miranda approached them.

"Sit her down, I'm making coffee."

"Right." Emily guided her tall friend to one of the overstuffed chairs in the room. Much to her surprise, Serena pulled her down into the chair as well. "Serena, what do you think you're doing?"

"Don't want to let you go..." The Brazilian held tighter as Emily seemed like she was going to try and get up.

"I'm going to crush you!"

"Never," Serena rested her forehead on Emily's shoulder, "You weigh practically nothing."

There was only a moment longer that Emily half-heartedly tried to escape from Serena's arms before Miranda was back. The older woman touched Emily's upper arm lightly and ordered, "Leave it." Taking her place back on the sofa, Miranda proceeded to speak to Emily as if her assistant was not sitting on a living, intoxicated, chair. "You have the tasting schedule?"

"Uh..." Emily blinked and went with it, shifting to retrieve the requested information from her bag. "Yes, I scheduled them all for Saturday since Andy said her mother and grandmother would be arriving tomorrow." She passed the paper with the locations printed on it.

"We are expected to go to all these places?" Miranda looked at the paper with raised eyebrows.

"Oh! No.. sorry." She spoke as she handed Miranda another sheet. "Those are the addresses of the businesses, this is the schedule of when they are supposed to be here. You never have to leave the house."

"Excellent," Miranda looked at the paper, "This is to be an all day affair I see."

"There are several to choose from," Emily relaxed back into Serena's arms, "I tried to alternate the caterers and bakers and put at least a half hour between the tastings." The assistant immediately tensed and stiffened as Miranda's housekeeper entered the room carrying a tray with a coffee carafe and four mugs on it.

As she placed the tray on the coffee table, Peggy spoke to Miranda, "I can make dinner now if you like?"

"I didn't realize you were still here." Miranda looked confused, then Andrea made a noise and Miranda wondered if Peggy had stayed simply because she felt Andrea was unable to take care of the girls in her current state. The girls didn't need that though, they were nearly twelve and could take care of each other just fine, "Is there a reason you stayed late?"

"Yes, I was preparing the spare rooms for your guests tomorrow." She gestured upstairs, "I just finished the final details in the bathrooms." And Andy was slowly getting drunk... Peggy smiled. "I cut the vegetables and meat for stir fry but was going to wait until you called for it. It doesn't take long to finish. There is brown rice in the cooker, it's done. I turned it to the 'keep warm' setting ten minutes ago."

Miranda nodded, "Thank you, Peggy, we can handle it from here if you want to go."

With a quick glance at what looked like a peacefully sleeping Andy, Peggy nodded, "Okay, thank you." With a bit of a wave, Peggy left quickly not really wanting to see how Miranda dealt with an inebriated Andy.

Pouring two mugs half full, Miranda took one and gestured to the other one as she spoke to Emily. "Try and get her to drink it." Dismissing the other couple from her mind, Miranda turned and shook her fiancee gently, "Come now, Andrea... drink some of this for me."

"Not thirsty..."

"Andrea," Miranda spoke slightly sterner, "You will drink this." She took a deep breath and informed her fiancee of her feelings on this matter. "You are intoxicated with the girls in the house, I'm very disappointed in that." Andrea's reaction to that shocked Miranda nearly speechless. The young woman's features became a study in sorrow tinged with terror.

"I'm sorry Miranda... don't be disappointed in me... don't make me leave... I'm sorry, it will never happen again... I promise... don't make me leave." Andy reached for the coffee, "I'll drink it... anything you want..."

Miranda closed her eyes as Andrea took the mug, My god she still thinks I'm going to make her leave... Opening her eyes Miranda studied the young woman's wide, terrified brown eyes looking over the rim of the mug. She wondered how she was going to convince Andrea otherwise. I wonder if that is why she's having nightmares? Miranda took the mug back from Andrea and gathered the young woman into her arms. "I will not send you away, Andrea... ever."

Andy nuzzled into Miranda's neck, murmuring, "I love you, Miranda."

"And I you, my darling." Miranda patted the arms around her for release. She poured another mug of coffee and handed it back to the young woman, "Drink this, slowly, and I will go prepare dinner. The girls must be hungry by now."

"The girls are hungry?" Andy didn't take the mug. Her eyes glistened with tears, "I let the girls be hungry?"

"Shhh... I'm sure they aren't that hungry. I will prepare dinner and you will feel much better once you've eaten something..." Miranda patted Andrea's hand and placed the coffee mug in it firmly. "Drink. I will be back in a moment."

"Shall I help you?" Emily tried to extricate herself from Serena's grasp to follow Miranda into the kitchen.

"No," Miranda gestured for the redhead to stay where she was. "I need you to stay with them and make sure coffee is the only thing they drink."

"Of course." Emily wasn't actually that upset about being ordered to remain in Serena's arms. It would be a lot more enjoyable if Serena wasn't so pissed out of her mind. Emily thought then tried not to think about it. Because if Serena wasn't so plastered, Emily was sure the woman's arms would never be around her like this.

Miranda gathered the ingredients from the refrigerator, set a large wok shaped skillet on the stove and pulled a wooden spatula from a drawer. Motion from the corner of her eye caught her attention and she spoke quietly, "You can come in."

Caroline and Cassidy finished coming down the stairs into the kitchen. They stayed close together as if to comfort each other against something terrible that was about to happen. "Is Andy... um... okay?"

"Andrea..." Miranda pressed her lips together, stopping herself from covering for the young woman's inebriated state. She did somewhat excuse it though, "Andrea has had too much to drink on an empty stomach."

Cassidy restated the Miranda-speak, "Andy's drunk."

Caroline sighed, "Like Stephen."

Miranda slammed the spatula down on the counter, the loud crack it made against the granite caused the girls to jump. Their Mother's sharp voice made them shiver. "That is the one and only time I ever want to hear you speak of Andrea and Stephen in the same breath, do you understand me?" With visible effort, Miranda controlled herself but still spoke with intensity, "There is no comparison between the two, Stephen is nothing!"

"Yeah..." Cassidy couldn't help asking. "But if he's nothing, what's Andy?"

Miranda took a deep breath, Andrea's lapse in judgment was not the girls' fault and she refused to take her annoyance out on her children. She knew the answer to Cassidy's question though and it escaped her lips quietly, What is Andrea? Besides quite annoying at times... "Everything."

Caroline and Cassidy remained silent but nodded in agreement as they watched their mother cooking dinner.

There was silence as Miranda and Andy went through their nightly ritual. Andy glanced at Miranda in the mirror three times before she began to speak.

"Miranda, I'm.."

"Don't say it." Miranda put her hand over Andrea's lips, "You said you were sorry at least fifty times during dinner. I don't want to hear it again." She removed her hand.


Replacing her hand over Andrea's mouth, Miranda sighed, "I'm going to take my hand away, do not speak. Understand?" She waited for Andrea to nod and slowly removed her hand, nodding as the young woman remained quiet. "Now listen to me. We all make mistakes Andrea, you're human, it happens. I was not thrilled to find you drunk with the girls in your care, but you were not negligent, Peggy was here and you knew that. At no time were the girls endangered."

"You were disappointed in me." Andy felt the muscles in her stomach tightening at the thought of that. "That kills me Miranda, I hate it when I disappoint you."

"We are just at the beginning of our relationship. There will be many times that we disappoint each other I'm sure." Holding her hand up as Andrea began to speak, Miranda shook her head and repeated, "I'm sure there are many times we will disappoint each other, but that doesn't mean we don't love each other. So long as the love is there, we will get through whatever crisis it is." Moving forward, Miranda wrapped her arms around Andrea's waist, "And I'm telling you, promising you, that the love will always, always be there. Do you understand?"

Andy looked into Miranda's blue eyes and lost herself for a long moment. "I understand." Wrapping her arms around the older woman's shoulders, Andy rested her forehead against Miranda's, "I love you."

"And I you." Miranda kissed the young woman's cheek lightly, "always."

"Are you finished in here?" Andy took Miranda's hand to pull her toward the bedroom.

"In a minute..."

Nodding, Andy released their hands, "I'm just gonna check my email."

Miranda exited the bathroom a few moments later to find Andrea sitting on the bed. The young woman had her back to the headboard and her laptop resting across her legs. That was not an unusual pose, it was the look on her face that caused concern for Miranda. "Andrea? What's wrong?"


"Something in your email?" Miranda hurried to the bed.

"No," Andy swallowed hard, "I didn't have any new messages... so I .. um..."

Miranda looked at the laptops screen and sighed, the Forbes.com logo was prominently displayed across the top of the webpage. "You looked up that damned list."

Andy blinked at the curse, it was not something Miranda did very often. "Yeah, I did.. and.. um..."

Crawling into the bed, Miranda sat next to Andrea and reached for her glasses on the nightstand, then for the laptop. "Let's see what they have to say then."

Numbly, Andy watched as Miranda transferred the computer to her own lap and reviewed the information. "One thousand one hundred and fifty... Mmm... pretty close."

"Miranda," Andy whispered, "That's measured in millions..."


Andy swallowed hard and managed to push the words out, "One thousand million, Miranda... that is a billion, with a B."


"But... I... I knew you were.. but I didn't realize..." Andy's heart was pounding, "How..."

Removing her glasses, Miranda pinched the bridge of her nose, "Andrea, I've been editor in chief of one Runway magazine or another since I was twenty two years old... and for the last thirty years I have made a minimum income of seven figures, the first of which has not been a one, in decades. That is not counting stock options which frankly were worth more than that." She smiled at the widening brown eyes, "Do you think I just stuff it in my mattress?"

"I have a genius money manager. Archie saw me through the dot com years with phenomenal success, and now with this whole stock market crisis during the last few years he's been a guardian angel. Many people have lost millions, Andrea. I have not. I didn't gain, but I didn't lose. Much of that has to do with my efforts to keep Elias-Clarke stock healthy via Runway." Sliding her glasses back in place, Miranda turned back to the computer, "This is not a cash amount. It's not as if I can pull out a check book and write a check for a billion dollars. This is all our assets, the stocks, the properties, the artwork..." she cleared her throat, "...the jewelery." Tapping the keys in the correct sequence, Miranda nodded as a picture appeared on the screen, "I assume that would be the next thing you look up." She handed the computer back to Andrea.

Andy looked at the screen and gasped. "My necklace." Then she blinked and read the description, Oh my god... I had... "Miranda... I had a million dollars around my neck?"

"More or less," Blue eyes twinkled, reflecting the light from the computer screen, "some of it was on your ears, and you weren't wearing the bracelet that goes with the set."

"Brace..." Andy looked at the screen again, "Where is the bracelet?"

"Oh, it's in the box, with the rest of the set, in the safe..." Miranda negligently waved toward the closet. Since its return from the police evidence locker, she hadn't had the chance to return it to the bank vault, "...but the bracelet didn't go with the dress, only the earrings and necklace accentuated that."

"Ah.. of course." Andy didn't know whether to laugh or cry. "I won't be able to wear it now, knowing how much it cost..."

Shaking her head, Miranda sighed again, "Andrea, the cost isn't the issue. I wanted you to have it, not because of the cost. As we have established, I could buy you whatever outrageously priced bauble I want. When this came up for sale I purchased it because, one, it would be perfect for you, and two, it... meant something to me, because of its pedigree."

"Pedi..." Andy shook her head and looked back at the screen. Her jaw dropped slightly, "Coco Chanel?""

"Mmm...she didn't usually care if her jewelry was 'real' or not, so long as they accentuated the designs, but she did have a few pieces that were genuine." Miranda smiled, "When Karl told me that it was coming up for sale I watched closely. She was an incredible lady."

Something in the tone of Miranda's voice caught Andy's attention. "You met her." It wasn't a question but Miranda nodded and answered anyway.

"Once. About a year or so before she died." The editor's blue eyes twinkled at the memory, "She was really a force of nature."

Setting the computer aside, Andy slid down to lay on her side, pulling Miranda down with her, "Tell me about it."

Resting her head on the pillow, Miranda savored the feel of Andrea's arm across her stomach. "I met Coco Chanel when I worked in the dress shop. Daniella was always going on about the Chanel designs and we sold a lot of them. I used to just think it was because she was French. I didn't realize that they were friends until one day she, Coco, came into the shop, Daniella introduced us and I was allowed to shake her hand."

"Sounds like you had a little hero worship going on there." Andy smiled at Miranda's self-depreciating grin and wasn't surprised at the admission.

"More than a little," Miranda smiled softly at the memory, "Coco and Daniella spent the afternoon going over some new jacket designs and I was privileged to have witnessed it." Shifting slightly, Miranda snuggled close to Andrea, "She was an incredible woman who changed the fashion industry forever." With a sly grin, Miranda slowly explored the curve of Andrea's hip, "She created that little black dress you look so good in."

"I was wearing Chanel the first time you noticed me, after the makeover Nigel gave me." Andy mused, "You were on the phone and when you saw me you stopped short and did that little grin you do when you don't want anyone knowing you're grinning..." Andy looked down at the woman in her arms, "You checked out my butt when I walked out of your office, didn't you?"

"Oh," Miranda nodded seriously, "Most definitely."

"Turnabout is fair play I suppose," Andy grinned, "I checked out your butt every time you walked out of the office."

Miranda laughed, "You are so ridiculous sometimes."

"No, really," Reaching around, Andy caressed the butt in question. "It's really quite nice..."

"Mmm..." Miranda pressed closer, "So are we finished talking?"

"I suppose so," Andy grinned and captured Miranda's lips with her own, "You'll probably have to talk me through it all again when it really sinks in." She chuckled, "I thought your family was clueless about how rich you really were... turns out I was too!"

"Does it bother you?" Miranda sighed, she had hoped to have this conversation sometime after the wedding.

"It doesn't bother me, Miranda, because none of it is mine. I don't want your money, no matter how much of it you have." Andy traced her fingertips down Miranda's arm, "That's why I want the pre-nup... to show people that I don't want your money. I want it to say that I don't get anything... that it will all go to the girls."

"I am marrying you." Miranda threaded her fingers through Andrea's dark hair, "That means sharing, what's mine is yours." When Andrea opened her mouth to protest, Miranda covered it with her own for a long moment. "I don't want to argue about this tonight."

"Oh?" Andy grinned at the phrasing, "What do you want to argue about?" As she had hoped, that question pulled a genuine laugh from the older woman.

"Andrea, I want to argue about who loves who more."

"Oh, well that's easy," Andy grinned, "No one can love anyone as much as I love you, so obviously, I win."

"Ah, but therein lies the problem," Miranda began to explore Andy's exposed skin, "I believe that no one could possibly love anyone as deeply as I love you, so it seems we are at an impasse."

"It's no problem." Andy slid the strap of Miranda's nightgown off her shoulder and kissed the now uninterrupted curve of skin. "This is easily solved."

"Mmm..." Miranda pressed into the younger woman's body. "How's that?"

"We simply agree to disagree," Andy continued kissing the soft skin all the way to Miranda's neck, nibbling at the pulse point there as she murmured, "And realize that we both win."

"It certainly feels like I'm winning right now..." Miranda arched into Andrea's lips and could feel them smiling against her.

"That's funny," Andy murmured, "It feels to me like I am the one who's winning..." She stopped her explorations for a moment, "Can we meet you for lunch somewhere tomorrow?"

"Mmm... No," Miranda sighed in contentment and resignation as she informed her partner, "I have meetings tomorrow all day."

"Oh?" Andy pulled away to look Miranda in the eye. "Something major?"

"Just things I need to clear up before the wedding. Being gone for two weeks creates a bit of a strain on the staff." Miranda smiled, "I should be home in time for dinner."

"Okay," Andy resumed her gentle exploration, "I'll just keep our guests busy tomorrow..."

"If I could put off the meetings I would..." Miranda gasped as Andrea raked her teeth across a particularly sensitive spot.

"I know." Andy dismissed the issue from her mind, she had far more important things to think about, such as making Miranda gasp like that again.


Part 25

Cassidy picked at her cereal for a moment longer then couldn't stand the silence anymore, "Are we meeting Mom for lunch?"

"No." Andy kept her eyes on her plate. Miranda assured her that her behavior last night, her drunkenness, was forgiven, but she knew it had been wrong; the wrong thing to do, the wrong message to send to the girls. With a sigh, Andy looked up, "Miranda has meetings all day today, she won't be home until dinner." Pressing her lips together, she decided to get it over with and spoke quietly, "I'm sorry, about last night... I had too much to drink and..." Shaking her head, Andy swallowed hard, "...and I'm just sorry."

Caroline's eyes, so like Miranda's, were hard. "Stephen drank all the time," She added quietly, "He was mean to Mom when he drank."

Andy's nostrils flared, "Miranda told me he never hit her."

"He didn't," Cassidy jumped in quickly, "but... he said really mean things to her..." she licked her lips, "to us."

Andy could see Caroline's chest moving as the girl breathed heavily, "We were scared you were going to be mean to us too..." she whispered, "mean to Mom."

"Never!" Andy felt the tears welling in her eyes, "I will never be mean like that... I'm so sorry you had to go through that, but I'm not him... I don't get that way when I'm drunk, and I promise you that I'm going to try very hard not to ever get that drunk again."

"Why did you... get drunk?" Caroline had wondered about that all night. "Are there... problems? Stephen always drank when he and mom fought...or he was upset..."

"No..." Andy assured them, "No, Miranda and I are fine. Serena was tense because Emily was going to be here, I offered her a drink and I joined her, but I hadn't eaten very much yesterday, nothing since lunch, and neither had she... so the drinks hit us hard on an empty stomach, the alcohol worked faster than we expected. It was just a mistake in judgment. I didn't intend on getting drunk." She looked down at her plate, "I didn't mean to scare you." She didn't notice the girls moving until she felt their arms around her shoulders.

"It's okay, Andy." Caroline kissed her cheek and moved back to her chair.

"Ma," Cassidy hugged her for a moment longer, "Don't be sad, we love you."

Nodding, Andy smiled, trying to keep the sadness out of it, "Thanks, Sweetie."

Cassidy smiled at her and dug into her breakfast.

Andy looked at Caroline, "You too, Munchkin."

Caroline nodded as she ate her cereal slowly, but the girl didn't smile and Andy couldn't help but notice that Caroline had called her 'Andy', not 'Ma'. She watched the miniature Miranda eating her breakfast and sighed to herself, All is not forgiven on that front, yet. She wished Miranda was here to help smooth things over. Surely if Caroline saw that Miranda was okay with last night's behavior the girl would be too, right? Unless, Andy bit her bottom lip, Miranda would smooth things over with Stephen's behavior too I'll bet. Damn... I screwed up.

Licking her lips, Andy tried to keep a grin off her face, "I, um... did call your Mom a name last night." She watched as the girls both went very still.

"You did?" Cassidy was stunned, Andy had just said she wasn't mean.

"What?" Caroline asked quietly.

"I called her a panda..."Andy's brown eyes twinkled as her grin broke through, "A...'Miranda panda'."

Cassidy laughed, "You didn't!"

Even Caroline couldn't keep from laughing, "What did she say to that?!"

"Well... I think she rolled her eyes," Andy smiled wider as Caroline did exactly that, "...and she said 'that's enough of that', right before she went to make me and Serena some coffee."

"She was pretty upset while she was making dinner," Caroline pushed her cereal away, "she yelled at us."

"What?" Andy swallowed hard, "I know she was upset, but we worked it out... I'm sorry she yelled." Yelled being a relative term, in Miranda's case it meant she spoke sharply in a volume most people would expect in normal conversation.

"We deserved it," Cassidy said.

"I don't think so," Andy sighed, "She was just upset at me..."

Caroline nodded, "We did deserve it. We compared you to Stephen."

"That's understandable."

"No," Cassidy shook her head, "Mom didn't like that at all."

Caroline agreed, "She told us..." Closing her eyes the girl did a chilling imitation of Miranda's tone. "That is the one and only time I ever want to hear you speak of Andrea and Stephen in the same breath, do you understand me?"

Cassidy nodded, "She said there was no comparison between you, that Stephen was nothing."

"Nothing huh?" Andy liked the sound of that, but her curiosity got the better of her, "Did she say what I was?"

The girls glanced at each other then answered the question in an almost breathless whisper, in stereo, "Everything."

Pulling her phone from her pocket, Andy dialed quickly a little surprised when she got Miranda's voice mail, but left a message anyway. "I love you." Hanging up the phone, Andy managed to wipe away the tear rolling down her cheek with a little bit of finesse. "Um... Serena will be here soon for our run."

"Okay," the girls took their dishes to the sink and rinsed them before putting them in the dishwasher. "We'll just be upstairs."

"Do you want to go to the airport with me today?"

"Airport?" Caroline turned to face Andy, "Going somewhere?"

"No," The brunette sighed and ran her fingers through her hair, "Ma and Gram Sachs are coming for a visit. Mrs...Ms. King too. They're gonna help me pick out a dress for the wedding." Andy looked at the girls hopefully, "I was hoping you'd be able to help me with that too."


"Well, I figured today we could just relax and settle in, then tomorrow Em has the bakers and caterers coming over for tastings... so we can choose who we want for the rehearsal dinner and reception. I'm thinking we'll need the day on Sunday to get over that." Andy grinned, "So Monday after the tv appearances, we can go round to the showrooms and see what we can find?"

Both girls nodded and Cassidy spoke, "Yeah, the sooner the better."

"Yes, weddings take a lot of planning you need to make sure you have each step covered so nothing gets lost in the shuffle." Caroline tugged on her sister's sleeve, "C'mon, Cass."

"Soooo, are you coming with me to the airport or not?" Andy raised her eyebrows, "If you are I need to call Roy to make sure he has the limousine." She watched as the girls looked at each other, exchanging comments in their own silent way before Cassidy answered,

"Yeah, we'll go with you."

Andy watched and listened to them stomping up the stairs then sighed. She wished for the thousandth time she hadn't screwed up so badly. Something about Caroline's words niggled at the back of her mind though, What had she said? Lost in the shuffle? The doorbell pulled Andy's attention away from the subject and she forgot about the problem as she walked down the hall to let Serena in.

Cassidy listened as Caroline spoke on the phone to her friend, Allison.

"I know Alli..." Caroline sighed, "No, no!" Rolling her eyes, the young Priestly woman spoke through her grinding teeth, "Fine, whatever," before disconnecting the call and tossing the phone across the room to land on the couch.

"Why do you let her get to you that, Ro?"

"I don't know." Caroline ruffled her fingers through her hair, "She's just so... sure of herself. Like whatever she says is right, even if it's not."

"Then why let it bother you?" Cassidy didn't actually 'hate' Allison, but she'd never understood why her sister was even friends with the girl because, well, Allison was just mean sometimes.

"The same reason the tabloids bother you, Cass." Caroline sounded exasperated at her sister. "You know ninety-nine percent of that crap is completely made up."

"I know, that's not what upsets me." Cassidy admitted, "It's the other percent, the truth that bothers me." She looked at Caroline and shrugged, "It's no one's business but Mom's and Andy's what Mom gave her for her birthday, where they go to eat, what they're wearing when they go to whatever function." Cassidy felt the tears begin to roll down her cheeks and brushed them away angrily, "Why does anyone else even care?!"

"Whoa!" Caroline moved to hug her sister, "Why does this bother you so much?"

Cassidy hugged her sister and sniffled. "I'm gay, Caroline."

Pulling away slightly, to look her sister in the face, Caroline blinked, "What?"

"I'm gay." Cassidy lowered her face, unable to look her sister in the eye, "So if the tabloids make up all that stuff about Mom and Andy, what do you think they're going to do to me?"

"Hey..." With both hands Caroline lifted Cassidy's face up, brushing away the tears with her thumbs, "Do you honestly think Mom or Andy will put up with anyone dissing you?" She smiled at her sister, "Mom may not even have anything left to do once Ma gets through with them!" Her heart did a double thump as she realized what she'd called Andy and why. No matter what, Andy will be there for us when we need her. Even if she is so caught up with the wedding that she, and Mom, forget our birthday.

Caroline wondered, "Are you going to tell them?"

"I um... think they already know." Cassidy admitted everything to Caroline, about Ms. Bax, about confiding in Andy and what Andy told her about feelings being natural. "They haven't said anything, but I'm pretty sure Mom knows too."

"What about Dad?" They both knew that their Mom and Andy would be supportive, but they weren't so sure when it came to their father's reaction.

"I..." Cassidy shook her head, "I dunno."

Caroline grinned, "You want me to tell him?" Her eyes twinkled, "We can do a switcheroo and I can break the news to him."

"No way!" Cassidy grinned at the idea though. When they were younger they could trick their father easily. They had never managed to pull one over on Miranda though and they both doubted Andy would fall for a switcheroo either. After all, they'd tried it when they first met Andy and she'd seen right through them. Stephen never could tell them apart. "You are not going to pretend to be 'gay' me, Caroline..." Cassidy warned her sister, "and you better not do it when we're older either... I'll end up seeing you in the tabloids at some club with whatever girl you think I'd like, which I probably won't by the way, and my name will be in the headline."

Caroline laughed, "Okay... fine... sheesh. Try to help a sister out..."

"I don't think Dad needs to know right now anyway." Cassidy wasn't really sure he ever needed to know.

"Okay..." Caroline smiled at her sister and hugged her again. "Whatever you want." The girl grinned at her sister. "So... Ms. Bax..."

Rolling her eyes Cassidy smacked her sister's shoulder, "Shut up! I knew I never should have told you..."

"No, I'm sorry," Caroline laughed as she rubbed her shoulder, "She's nice. If I were gay I could see how I might be attracted to her too."

Cassidy buried her face in her hands and groaned, "I'm so going to regret telling you this, aren't I?"

Caroline grinned mischievously at her sister and spoke cheerily, "Probably, yeah."

Cassidy groaned again.

"Wow, Em.. I'm impressed." Andy looked through the list of plans the redhead had made for the wedding and knew that even though it was seven weeks away almost everything was done. Well, not exactly 'done', but arranged for and planned for. "This is great." She grinned and asked Serena, "Don't you think so, Serena?" Emily spoke before the Brazilian could.

"You still need to choose a baker and caterer," Emily warned, trying her best not to acknowledge her Brazilian friend's presence, "Did Miranda show you the schedule for tomorrow?"

Andy nodded, "Yes." She didn't tell Emily that the paper with the times of arrival for the various places was currently tacked with a banana shaped magnet to the front of the refrigerator. She didn't want poor Emily's head to explode. "Thank you for arranging that too. Going to all those different places would have been taxing for my mother and Gram."

Serena cut in, "Emily is always very thoughtful."

Emily sniffed and ignored the comment, choosing to answer Andy, "Miranda wouldn't have liked it much either. Being on someone else's time schedule often tries her patience. Besides, they are caterers... you need to see what their presentations will be like."

"That's true." There was no way Andy was going to deny any of those statements. "Is that all we have to go over this morning?"

"Seems so," Emily repacked her messenger bag, "You only still need to choose the caterer and baker..." She looked Andy in the eye, "And you need to choose a dress."

"I know, Ma and Gram will help me with that on Monday... I think the girls are going to go with us as well."

"After you choose your dress, things will start moving rapidly." Emily looked around the park, "Your hairstyle and jewelry choices, plus your shoe choice will be crucial at that point, but all the other arrangements have been made."

"Has Miranda chosen her dress yet?" Andy was curious about that. She wondered what the fashion icon had decided on.

"Not that I'm aware of." Emily sighed, "She doesn't always tell me things you know."

"Right." Andy smiled and looked around the park for Patricia. Her expression froze as she saw a boy walking toward them. "Ummm..."

Emily scoffed, "Him again."

Whirling on the redhead, Andy swallowed hard, "What?"

"He was here yesterday, wanted me to give you a note, can you imagine? Like we were in Primary school or something. I told him to give it to you himself." Emily frowned at Andy's wrinkled forehead. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." Andy stood quickly, "Be right back."

When she was close enough to speak in a regular voice and still be heard, Andy asked, "Are you stalking me?"

"No!" the boy held up his hands, "I just wanted to apologize."

Andy stood, feet apart, arms crossed, "I'm waiting."

"Look, I didn't realize how it would sound when I told you all that stuff about yourself." He sighed, "I only realized afterward how weird it would be... especially because of that trial and all... Most of that stuff I told you is all online, I only had to do a little hacking to get into the school records. Their security is crappy." He offered her a folded piece of paper, the same one he'd tried to give Emily yesterday. "I wrote it all down, how sorry I am... where I got all the info... I'm not going to use it for anything, I just... you were so nice to me and... I was curious. Sometimes when I'm looking up stuff online I don't know when to stop."

Andy reached out and took the paper, but didn't look at it, merely crossing her arms again, "What's your name?"

"Oh!" He nodded, she'd ran away last time before he could tell her, "It's Thomas, Thomas Hall."

She scanned his face for any sign that he was a total freak and grunted once at the oh so not freakish name, "Well, Thomas, you shouldn't go around scaring people like that, or prying into their private records."

"I know," He hung his head but was silently thrilled that she had not kiddified his name to the much hated 'Tommy'. "It won't happen again."

"I should hope not!" Andy grinned, "At least not until you get a little older and get your Private Investigator's license." She chuckled at the glimmer in his eye at that idea. "Who knows, in a few years when I'm on a hot story I might just need a crack P.I., to help me out with some research."

"Yeah?" Thomas grinned, "That would be awesome."

Nodding, Andy's eyes narrowed at the school insignia on his shirt and the Ma in her kicked in, "Why aren't you in school?" Then she remembered, "Oh... school is out..."

"I always schedule independent studies in the mornings anyway, so I don't actually have to be at school until after lunch." He grinned, "Summer school starts in three days, but if it was still in session I'd totally skip if it meant I got to see you."

"Ha!" Andy shook her finger at him, "You better not! You have to have good grades to be a private investigator. The more you know, the better you'll be at it. No skipping!"

He grinned and gave her a little salute, "Yes, Ma'am!"

Rolling her eyes at that, Andy waved him away, "Get outta here!"

"So you aren't mad?" He had hoped things would go something like this.

"No, I'm not mad." She smiled at him, "Just don't let it happen again."

"I won't," he assured her, "I promise."

"Are you still not talking to me?" Serena sighed to herself as Emily continued to look through her bag as if no one had spoken. The statuesque woman laid her arm across the back of the bench they were sitting on, but didn't touch the smaller woman. "Thank you for making sure I got home safely last night."

Emily's shoulders sagged and she turned to her tall friend, "What else was I supposed to do? You were totally plastered."

"Not as totally as you might think." Serena admitted, "I remember everything that I did last night. I'm sorry to have held you like that."

Emily felt like crying, I knew it, she thought, She never would have done that if she hadn't been....

"Holding you against your wishes like that, it was wrong of me." Serena sighed, "I should have let you go when you wanted up, but..." Andy's advice rolled through her mind, eventually you're going to have to take the chance.... and Serena plunged on, "It felt so good to have you there, I couldn't seem to let go."

Startled, Emily looked at the Brazilian with wide eyes, "You wanted to..."

Serena smiled a bit sadly, "I've wanted to for a long time." She looked at Emily seriously, "I want to be more than your friend."

Emily could feel her heart thumping in her chest and wondered that it didn't pound it's way out by now. "You do?"

Taking the risk, Serena curled her arm around to rest her hand on Emily's shoulder, "I most certainly do." She squeezed the shoulder under her hand gently. "Have dinner with me tonight."

"I had dinner with you last night," Emily reminded her, "It wasn't all that pleasant."

"Ah, but tonight we will not be at Miranda's, and I will only be intoxicated by your presence." Serena grinned at Emily's rolling eyes.

"Stone cold sober then."

"No," Serena countered the self-recrimination, "Your presence? I'll be high as a kite." The Brazilian smiled, "So will you, have dinner with me, tonight?"

Emily nodded, "Yes, I will." She glanced at Andy seeing that she had finished talking to the boy then back to Serena, "It appears we have some things to discuss."

Serena nodded and looked up as Andy returned to the bench. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," Running her fingers through her sweaty hair, Andy shoved the folded piece of paper into her pocket and asked Emily, "Was that all we had to go over this morning?"

"Yes," The wedding plans had gone as far as they could until the choices were made for caterer and baker. "Oh.. have you decided on the music yet? Live or DJ?"

"The girls are going to play at the ceremony, pianos, so there should to be two set up and available... and in tune please, Miranda will have a fit if they aren't tuned properly and so will the girls, especially Cassidy. A DJ for the reception, make sure they have a huge selection of music and will take requests from the guests, the guest list is so diverse a large music selection will be vital."

"So should I start setting up interviews for you to choose the DJ?" Emily had automatically taken out her notebook and was taking down every word Andy said, just as if she was Miranda herself giving orders. For a moment it felt odd, but then Emily got over it and got on with her job.

"I suppose so, but if you could pre-interview most of them... I don't want too many choices on that front. Who is going to DJ at the girls' party?" Andy had thought they'd decided on that form of entertainment for the girls.

"Oh, I got the hottest new DJ in the city for them, but I'm not sure she'll be appropriate for the wedding reception." Emily dug in her magic bag of plans again to come up with a bundle of invitations and a business card. She handed the card to Andy, "Her name is Carmen, she worked a lot on the west coast but recently moved to New York."

Nodding, Andy accepted the card and looked at it, then handed it back to Emily, "Okay then, we can see how she does at the girls' party. You can set up interviews with a few others, or, better yet, if you know where they are working I'll try to get Miranda to drop by and give a listen."

Emily's eyes bugged out at that idea, but she said nothing about it as she passed the bundle of invitations over. "These are the invitations for the girls, Miranda said ten each."

"Right," Andy was glad to get these, the date for the party was only three weeks away. "Great, I'm sure they'll start mailing them or taking them to their friends right away."

"I would have gotten them to you yesterday, but I forgot, like an idiot. They kind of got lost in the shuffle." Emily closed her bag and looked up as Andy made a frustrated sound. "What?"

"Lost in the shuffle!" Andy sighed, that is what Caroline said... weddings take a lot of planning you need to make sure you have each step covered so nothing gets lost in the shuffle. "Have you spoken to the girls about their party at all?"

"Um.. no." Emily shook her head, "The Top Chef thing was a secret, and I thought you and Miranda had been speaking to them."

"Spoke." Andy ground her teeth together, "I talked to them about what they might want for a party and then after Miranda plopped the job in your lap, we haven't talked about it since..." Recalling the look on Caroline's face when she was talking about things getting lost in the shuffle, Andy suddenly knew what Caroline was thinking. An exasperated groan escaped her as she hit her forehead with her palm, "They think we've forgotten." She let out a piercing whistle for Patricia to return to them.

Serena laughed, "Like that movie."

"What?" Andy set the bundle of invitations down on the bench to clip the leash onto Patricia's collar. She was glad the large dog was easily stopped before the large paws ended up on her shoulders, "What movie?"

"The old one... with Molly Ringwald... Her sister was getting married and her family forgot her birthday." Serena laughed, "It's a very funny movie."

"Sixteen Candles. Right!" Andy grinned, "Thanks, Serena!" She stood and gripped the leash in one hand and the bundle of invitations in the other, "You ready?"

Nodding, Serena stood. "Yes, Once back around and home yes?"

"That's the plan." Andy grinned, "See ya later, Em" Clicking her tongue at Patricia, Andy began to jog down the path.

"Yes," Serena smiled at the redhead, "See you later, Em."

Nodding, Emily watched as Serena's long legs allowed her to catch up with Andy and the pair jogged away down the path. Later....


Part 26

"Hey girls!" Andy took the steps upstairs two at a time to the TV room, oddly enough to find the girls reading. "I'm gonna take a quick shower, you wanna watch a movie before we head off to the airport?"

"Sure," Cassidy closed her book immediately, "You want a comedy or what?"

"Yeah," Andy grinned, "I seem to recall one, an old one, with Molly Ringwald... it was like... there was a wedding and all the grandparents were at the house... find that one and I'll be right back."

Caroline's eyes narrowed at the empty doorway where Andy had stood, "Why does she want to watch Sixteen Candles?"

Cassidy shrugged, "I dunno... maybe she's just got weddings on the brain but it is a funny movie." She asked absently as she looked through the DVD collection, "Is it too early for popcorn?"

"Yes!" Caroline made a sound of annoyance, "Good grief, it's not even eight o'clock in the morning yet."

"Right." Cassidy pulled the correct movie off the shelf, "Ah well, it's still a good movie."

They waited the few minutes it took for Andy to 'hose off' as she called it, then they all settled on the couch to watch.

Andy found it interesting that both girls seemed to think the blatant sexual innuendo was hilarious and was slightly shocked that they seemed to understand the not so blatant references. It was a funny movie though and at the end of it, Andy shook her head. "Why do parties in movies always end up trashing the house?"

Both girls shrugged. Cassidy answered, "Makes for a good movie, I suppose."


"Haven't you ever been to a party like that?" Caroline thought Andy might have been a little wild when she was younger.

"Uh... well..." Biting her lip, Andy admitted, "Once." As the girls' faces lit up she spoke quickly, "but it was in college!" Pointing to the screen, Andy laughed, "Those kids were in high school!"

"Sometimes movies get things right though..." Caroline sighed and stood to put the disc away.

"I guess," Andy admitted and watched Caroline with twinkling eyes, "Luckily our family isn't quite as dysfunctional as theirs... for instance, no matter what else was going on, Miranda and I would never forget your birthday." She grinned as Caroline stopped in her tracks.

Turning to face the brunette, Caroline blinked, "What?"

"Your birthday... geez Caroline, did you forget??" Andy grinned wider, "It's only three weeks away you know?"

"Well I know!" The girl sighed, "I thought you'd forgotten."

"That... well, that's my fault." She bumped shoulders with Cassidy, "After I asked you guys what kind of party you thought you might like, I discussed it with Miranda, and then what do you think Miranda did??"

"Oh man!" Cassidy laughed, "Of course, she dropped it in Emily's lap!"

Caroline rolled her eyes, "Oh no! I should have known..."

Andy nodded, "Yep, and once Em got hold of it, we really didn't mention it anymore."

"So... what's the scoop?" Caroline moved back to sit next to Andy, "What kind of food will there be? Where's it going to be? Will there be a DJ... dancing?"

Nodding to all that, Andy evaded the food question, "I'm sure the food will be wonderful, it's going to be at... I think she said it was a dance studio, they rent it for parties and movie shoots."

"A dance studio?" Cassidy grinned, "Cool! Just like from Twilight."

Andy nodded, "Em said there was a lot of room to dance, and she said the DJ was 'hot', some kind of new talent on the scene... I think Em said she'd just moved here from California... Carmen?"

"O.M.G. West Coast Carmen is going to DJ at our party?!" Cassidy laughed, "Awesome!" She glanced across at her sister, "Let Allison suck on that!"

"Hey! Language!" Andy tried to be stern, but chuckled a little, "Be nice."

"No," Caroline admitted, "That's gonna kill Allison."

"Mmm... maybe you shouldn't invite her then?" Andy laughed louder at the expression on Caroline's face, "or maybe you should..." Wrapping her arms around both girls' shoulders, she shook them gently, "I tossed each of your packets of invitations on your beds. Ten each... invite whoever you want."

"Cool!" Both girls stood to go get the cards right now. Andy called after them.

"We have to be going to the airport in just a little while, Roy will be here with the car soon."

"Yeah." and "Okay." echoed down the hall as each girl went to their respective rooms to retrieve the all important invitations. "Thanks, Ma!"

Andy chuckled as duel squeals sounded down the stairway. That is exactly the sound I wanted to make when I saw the printed wedding invitations. She wanted to call Miranda, but knew she had meetings all day so instead she lay her head back on the couch and closed her eyes, thinking about the woman she loved. The picture of loving blue eyes framed with that stray lock of white hair made her smile.

Miranda's gonna marry me and I'm really going to be their Ma!

Richard looked over the document in his hands for the fiftieth time. He was still seething that Dorothy had left this morning, against his explicit wishes. Could she not see how wrong this whole situation was, how it was going to ruin their daughter's life?

"Your ten o'clock is here, Mr. Sachs."

With a deep breath, Richard ran his hand through his graying hair and nodded as he pushed the intercom button. "Send them in, Grace." He was in the midst of standing when the last person he ever expected to walk through his door, walked through his door. Stopped mid-motion, he wasn't sure what to do next.

"My hair is quite distinctive, but I'm not exactly Medusa," Miranda took a seat in front of his desk and it immediately felt as though this was her office, not his. She gestured to the chair he was half out of, "Have a seat, Richard, we have some things to discuss."

"How dare you come here?" He kept his voice low. Making a scene at his office was not something he would ever do.

"I am here, because I love your daughter, and your actions are hurting her." Miranda reached into her purse and drew out her glasses, holding them in her hand as she also retrieved a folded legal document. When he didn't respond to that, she continued, "The wedding is coming up soon, and I'm under the impression that you will not be attending, much less walking Andrea down the aisle..." Miranda pinned him with a glare as he scoffed at that idea, then continued as if he hadn't interrupted, "... therefore, since you are going to fail to act as a father, I was hoping you could at least manage to act like a lawyer." She handed the document to him and waited.

"A prenuptial agreement?" Richard furrowed his forehead as he scanned the document. "This says Andy gets nothing!"

Nodding, Miranda agreed, "Yes, Andrea has been very adamant about that. She wants none of my assets, continually saying that when the time comes the girls should inherit the estate." Miranda held up her hand at the outrage beginning to form on the man's face, outrage on behalf of his daughter, his daughter that he loved. "It is a sentiment I do not share." Miranda let a tiny smile twitch the edges of her lips and gestured to the document, "Read it again."

Narrowing his eyes at her for a moment, Richard turned his attention back to the document, this time not just scanning it. Paragraph after paragraph his eyes widened and by the end of the document his mouth had fallen open slightly, "I..." He looked up at the older woman, "Do you know what this really says?"

Nodding, Miranda exhaled slowly, "Of course. It says exactly what I told my lawyer I wanted it to say. As you can see, I've already signed it." She smiled and lied, "I always get what I want, Mr. Sachs."

His stomach turned, knowing that what this woman wanted was his daughter. "Why are you showing me this?"

"Andrea is troubled by the rift between you. I want only to ease that burden." Miranda pulled a small rectangular folder from her purse, "If you bring that to her, to sign, she will do it without looking too closely at it. Were she to discover the actual undertones and meaning of the passages, she would not sign it." She paused to remember the near argument she'd caused when she'd shown a similar document to Andrea. The young woman was clever and had quickly seen through the legalese wording. Miranda stood and told him what he needed to do, what she wanted him to do, "Bring it to her, argue with her that it isn't right, tell her what it says on initial inspection, push her not to sign it... and she will, without question."

"You want me to manipulate her into signing..."

"I want what is best for her." Miranda dropped her glasses back in her purse and clicked it shut. "This is the best thing for her and we both know it. Be a father, Richard, do what is right for your daughter." She dropped the airline ticket on his desk, "This is a limited time offer." Miranda turned to leave when Richard's voice stopped her.

"You flew all the way here from New York, just to give me this?" He met the fashion icon's eyes, "Why?"

"Because I love your daughter, Mr. Sachs. We have that in common, you and I." Miranda sighed, "She loves you and your continued absence is hurting her. You won't stop us from marrying each other, but I would prefer if she at least thought she had your blessing, because it will make her happy." Miranda licked her lips and informed him, "There are exactly three people in this entire world who's happiness I care about, more than my own, Andrea is one of them." She paused to allow him time to process that statement, then continued, "As I said, if you cannot act like a father, at least try to be a lawyer. As you can see, I have some fairly competent lawyers on my payroll, so you might want to think about trying that father role, if you feel up to it." Without another word, Miranda left the office.

Richard watched her go then shook his head, for a moment he thought he'd dreamed it all, but then he caught the lingering scent of Miranda's distinctive perfume and looked at the document in his hands. It was amazing, on first glance it looked like Andy would get nothing out of this 'marriage', should it dissolve, but as he had read it closely he realized that Miranda intended for Andrea to be extremely well taken care of no matter what happened to the 'marriage'. He picked up the airline ticket and noticed the dates. Limited time offer... The ticket was only good until the day of the wedding. He felt the weight of that deadline on his shoulders. What can I do, he thought. How can I convince my baby that she's making a mistake? Toying with the ticket in his hand, he ground his teeth together. He hated feeling as though he was being rushed into a decision. That was one of Miranda's tactics, he realized, she forced people make snap decisions in order for them to more easily make the decision in her favor. After another moment of thought, Richard began to smile, a plan was forming; like it did when he had a case that was seemingly impossible to win. He didn't know exactly what he was going to do yet, but now that he started thinking of the situation as a court case, he felt much better. His track record of late in regards to his children wasn't exactly stellar, but as far as work went Richard knew that he was very good at his chosen profession. He always won when the stakes were high. Glancing at a framed picture on his desk, ten year old Andy smiled at him, Richard nodded to himself and thought, These are the highest stakes ever. He smiled at the picture, at his baby.

"Ma! Gram!" "Grandma!" Andy grinned and enveloped the shorter woman in a hug before relinquishing claim to the girls. She turned to give the taller older woman a squeeze.

"Well this is different," Pava laughed as she watched the girls attach themselves to Dorothy, "I've always been the Grandma!"

Andy laughed, leaving her arm around her Gram's shoulder, "You always will be!"

She looked at the third visitor and smiled, "Nice to see you again, Mrs. King..." She felt Gram wince and grimaced a bit herself. "I.. um... "

"It's okay dear," the woman took a deep breath, "I was Mrs. King for almost fifty years, when people call me that now... it just feels, normal. You are more than welcome to call me Mary though, if you prefer."

Nodding, Andy gave the woman a friendly hug, "How was your flight?"

"Not bad," Mary laughed, she'd been nervous about the flight for no reason, "You know it's not that far from here."

"That's right," Dorothy laughed, "A couple of hours in the air and you could be home."

Andy rolled her eyes as both girls looked up at her, "Ma, home is a twenty-five minute car ride from here." she winked at the girls, and continued talking to her mother, "But I get what you're saying... maybe we'll try to get back to Cincinnati a little more often." Running her fingers through her hair, Andy asked, "Do you guys have luggage checked?"

They all chuckled and Gram responded, indicating their carry-on bags with a wry grin. "Darlin', you are talking to three women traveling for an undetermined amount of time. It is safe to say, we have luggage."

Laughing at that, Andy signaled for a Porter, "Right," She gestured off to the side, "This way to baggage claim then."

Dorothy only took a moment to consider how at ease her daughter was not only with signaling, dealing with, and tipping the Porter, but when they all climbed into the long car, Andy seemed not to notice the luxury around them. The girl, Dorothy sighed and corrected her thought, young woman, is completely at ease in this world. Licking her lips as the girls snuggled up against Andy, Dorothy again realized, this is where Andy belongs. She wished her husband could, would, see that too.

"My goodness!" Mary looked up seeing the levels of stairs above them, "This house puts the B&B to shame!"

Andy laughed, "I liked the B&B."

"Yeah," Caroline agreed, "It was nice."

Andy's thumb touched the ring Miranda gave her, a smile touched her lips. "Yeah, it was."

Cassidy groaned, "Ugh, here we go with the sappy looks and the dreamy smile."

Laughing at that, Andy jostled Cassidy's shoulders, "Nevermind." Grinning at the girl, Andy switched her attention to Dorothy, "I figured you could be in the same room you were before, Ma." She turned to her Gram and hesitated, then spoke quietly, "Ma's room is on the second floor, there are two guest rooms on the third floor that share a bathroom. Is that okay?" Andy continued, "There is also a guest room on the fourth floor with an ensuite bathroom..."

"I think we'll do fine sharing." Pava glanced at Mary who nodded. "Third floor sounds good. Thank ya, Darlin'."

Caroline grabbed one of Gram's bags, letting the older woman take the other one. "I'll show them where!"

"Me too!" Cassidy also grabbed one of the suitcases Mary had brought before the woman could pick them both up.

"Well I guess that's settled." Pava grinned, amazed by the children's enthusiasm. "Lead on Macduff."

"Lay on..." Mary corrected quietly.

Pava laughed, "It's just a saying! No Shakespeare lessons from the Peanut Gallery."

Mary chuckled and wrinkled her nose and stuck the tip of her tongue out in Pava's direction, much to Cassidy's delight.

Andy and Dorothy watched them troop up the stairs. "They're good girls, Andy."

"Yeah, actually, they are." With a deep breath, Andy picked up both her mom's suitcases, "Miranda did good."

Dorothy shook her head and pointed to the suitcases in her daughter's hand, "You're an influence on them too, you know?" Dorothy smiled at her daughter's confused look, "Girls that age are highly susceptible to suggestion. They're just on the verge of being young women and need role models to show them how." She brushed a bit of dark hair from her daughter's eyes, "You are a great role model for them, Sweetheart."

With a deep breath, Andy nodded, "Thanks, Ma." She smiled, "I learned from the best."

Laughing at that, Dorothy bumped her shoulder into Andy's bicep and winked, "You bet you did."

"Here you go." Caroline indicated the doors in the hall. "Both rooms are the same, just...flipped. The bathroom is in the middle, just like the kids rooms on that old Brady Bunch TV show."

"So they connect?" Pava glanced at Mary who, almost, grinned.

"Yeah," Cassidy widened her eyes. "Is that okay?"

"Yes," Mary patted the girl's shoulder. "It's fine, dear."

"Cool." Caroline asked Gram, "So which one do you want?"

Pava shrugged and pointed to the doors as she spoke, "Eeny Meany Miney Mo.." She left her finger on the 'Mo' door and laughed, "That's one's as good as the other."

"Okay." Caroline carried the suitcase she'd picked up into the room, while Cassidy moved with Mary into the other room.

"Our rooms are just down the hall." Cassidy pointed toward the back of the house, "We aren't usually too noisy or anything though. I promise not to practice piano if you are trying to sleep."

"Don't you worry about that," Mary assured her, as she sat the bag she carried down and looked around the room, "This is nice."

"Yeah, I like this room, but just to warn you, keep the curtains closed in the morning, or else the sun will shine right in your eyes and wake you up." Cassidy put the suitcase on the bed and shuddered at the memory. She saw the woman's confused look and explained, "They were painting my room once and I slept in here..."

"Ah, I see. I'll remember," Mary walked to the window in question and looked out, "Nice view." The third floor height let her see the cityscape quite well.

"Yeah, it's okay I guess." Grinning impudently, she informed their guest, "Of course, the view from Mom and Andy's room is the best."

Mary's eyes glittered at comment but also at the ease with which the girl seemed to accept her mother's relationship with the younger woman, "Of course." Mary's eyebrows raised significantly when her stomach growled loudly. Placing a hand on her stomach the older woman laughed, "Wow, I guess I'm a little hungry."

"A little?!"

Mary admitted, "I skipped breakfast this morning. I was a little nervous. I don't really do well flying."

"Oh," Cassidy smiled. She and Caroline both knew that their mom didn't really like flying all that much either, especially take-offs and landings. "Well, you're here safe and sound and I'm sure Peggy has something planned for lunch."

"Peggy?" Mary tilted her head in question.

"The housekeeper, cook... she's great." Cassidy gestured for their guest to follow her back out the door.

"I um, think I need to freshen up a little first." Mary pointed toward the bathroom door. "Is that okay?"

"Oh!" Cassidy nodded, "Sure. Just come downstairs when you're ready."

Mary smiled. "You're a sweetheart. Thank you."

Cassidy rolled her eyes at the endearment, but grinned as she left the room, obviously pleased with the assessment.

"This is a lovely room," Pava dropped her case on the bed and looked around. She smiled at Caroline as she put the suitcase she was carrying on the bed as well. "Thank you, Darlin'"

Caroline showed the older woman the door to the bathroom, "You can just lock the other door, so Mary will know you're in there..."

Nodding, Gram smiled, "I'll try to remember, but if I don't it's no big deal. Mary and I are pretty good friends."

"Yeah, I guessed." Caroline shrugged, "Didn't think you'd bring a stranger with you..."

"Exactly," Pava tilted her head, concerned with the girl's demeanor. "You okay?"

Nodding, Caroline shrugged again, "yeah."

"Uh huh..." Pava sat on the edge of the bed and patted the space beside her, "What's up?"

"How do you know, when a friend is really a friend?"

"Hmmm..." Wrapping her arm around the girl's shoulder, Pava answered slowly, "Well, sometimes you don't."

Caroline blinked. "I... wasn't expecting you to say that."

"Sometimes, people you think are friends turn out to be the opposite, and the people who you think hate you turn out to be the best friend you've ever had." Pava sighed, knowing she wasn't helping the child at all. "You have someone you think is a friend but you aren't sure?"

Nodding, Caroline told the older woman, "Allison, I've known her for a long time, since second grade, we always got along and liked the same things..."

Pava took a deep breath, "Ahhh... and now she doesn't seem so, compatible?"

"No," Caroline played with the edge of her shirt, "Cassidy says she's jealous of us, but... it's really her mom that's the problem. I think Alli would be okay if her mom wasn't twisting her mind about... things."

Pava's eyes narrowed, just as Andy's did sometimes. "What...things?" Caroline remained silent and Pava pressed her lips together for a moment before filling in what Caroline wouldn't say. "Things like, your mom and Andy being together?"


"But you know that's okay, right?" Pava had thought the girls seemed completely accepting of the relationship.

"Oh, yeah... definitely." Caroline rolled her eyes, "We tease them about being all mushy, but Cass and I are really happy that Mom found Andy. We've never seen Mom happier than she is now."

Nodding, Pava agreed on the other side of the pair, "I've known Andy all her life and I've never seen her happier either."

"They were made for each other." Caroline sighed, " I wonder if I will ever find someone to make me that happy."

Pava chuckled and jostled the girl's shoulder, "You're young yet... You'll find 'em."

"How will I know when I do?" That question had plagued Caroline for quite a while now. A new voice from the bathroom door answered.

"You'll know."

Looking up, Pava's dark eyes twinkled at Mary as they both smiled, "Yup, You'll definitely know."

Everyone says that, 'you'll know'. Resisting the urge to roll her eyes, Caroline stood. "Thanks for talking with me... Gram."

"Any time, Darlin'" Pava winked at the girl and watched her leave before she crossed the room to stand in front of Mary. She bent her knees to catch the slightly shorter woman's eyes. "You okay?"

"I, I thought it would be odd, being here, but they are all so... kind... and," Mary hesitated.

Pava understood and thought, times change. She wrapped her long arms around the woman's shoulders and pulled her close, filling in the last word, "accepting."

"Yes," Mary rested her head on Pava's shoulder and sighed, "But it wouldn't have been, back then... for us."

Pulling back slightly, Pava brushed her fingertips across Mary's creased cheek and smiled sadly, "No, it wouldn't."

"We did the right thing... all those years ago, we made the right choice." Mary's eyes didn't hold the same conviction her voice did. Pava reassured her.

"We made the only choice we could." Again pulling the woman close, Pava rested her cheek against Mary's temple. "We had good lives with men who loved us."

"We did." Sighing, Mary closed her eyes, hating the tiny empty space in her heart. "I miss George."

"I know you do, Sweetheart. I missed John for a long time after he passed...still do... sometimes" Pava soothed the woman, "but it will get better, I promise."

Melting into the embrace, Mary sighed. "Thank you."

"For what?" Pava smiled as the woman in her arms gave a short low bark of laughter.

"For what?" Mary was amazed at her life-long friend and her voice reflected that, "You've always been there for me."

"Not always..." Pava knew there were times that she should have gone to the woman, to help her, comfort her, but, "... I trusted George to take care of you."

"He did," for the most part, "but..." Mary admitted, "He wasn't you."

Pava sighed, nodded and kissed the woman's temple. Time for a change of subject. "C'mon, you didn't have any breakfast and it's nearly lunchtime. You must be hungry. Let's go see if we can find some munchies."

Mary resisted the move for a moment then gave in, she could feel her stomach on the verge of growling again. There was more to say, but we've waited this long, she thought, why not a little longer?


Part 27

"So what's on the agenda for today?" Dorothy looked around the room as Andy set the suitcases on the bed.

"Nothing today," Turning to face her mom, Andy shrugged, "You can all settle in, rest today, or we can figure out something to do later. Tomorrow we are scheduled for tastings with the caterer's and bakers to decide which of them will be doing the reception and cake. I figured Sunday we could rest, and Monday make a tour of the showrooms for a dress... after..." Andy groaned as a wave of terror hit her.

"After what?" Dorothy moved to her daughter and took her shaking hand, "Andy?" She pulled the brunette to sit on the edge of the bed. "What's going on? After what?"

"After I make my appearances on television."

"What!?" Dorothy was amazed at that statement. "But you're..."

"Deathly afraid of being onstage? I know... believe me, I know." Andy sighed. Getting up in front of family and friends to do karaoke was one thing, being on stage in front of an audience of strangers was totally different, and terrifying, even doing that little bit with waving at the camera had been hard until she just concentrated on Miranda. "But this is the best way to... counteract the crap Stephen and Christian too have been spewing."

"Stephen is..."

"Miranda's most current ex," Andy steeled herself for her mother's next inevitable question.

"And Christian?"

With a resigned sigh, Andy nodded, "Christian is the guy I slept with in Paris, a week after Nate left me." The look on her mother's face was indescribable and Andy shrugged, "I know you don't want to hear about me in any kind of sexual situation, Ma..." The woman's scoffing tone stopped Andy's speech.

"Please, don't confuse me with your father. I'm sure he still believes that you and Nate had separate rooms when you were living together." Dorothy rolled her eyes, "I'm just surprised... um... what about Miranda?"

"Ma, Nate and I broke up because I was changing, and he wasn't. Miranda, the job at Runway, only helped facilitate that change. Miranda was married at the time and I was her assistant. She never would have done anything inappropriate with me or anyone else as long as her marriage was still legal, as long as I was her employee." Andy ran her fingers through her dark hair, "That is one of the things Stephen is saying that is just not true, Miranda and I were not together then... at all."

"But you wanted to be." Dorothy knew her daughter well enough to know that much.

"Honestly, Ma, back then I had no clue what I wanted." Andy tipped her head back and closed her eyes remembering those times. "But, there were moments, when I would look at her and feel... as if I would die if I didn't take her in my arms right then and just hold on..." Exhaling softly, Andy blinked her eyes open, "Sometimes I still feel that way."

"What did you do? When that feeling happened then... what do you do when it happens now?" Dorothy felt most of the air leave her lungs as her daughter's smile lit up the room.

"Then... I did my best to ignore it and died a little inside, now... I take her in my arms, and hold on tight." Laughing, Andy patted her mom's knee, "C'mon, let's go see if Peggy has any munchies for us."

Miranda entered the house at exactly the same time she would have if she had spent a regular day at the office. Unlike a normal day however the house was not quiet, there was raucous laughter coming from the kitchen. Moving to investigate, Miranda stopped short in the doorway. "What on Earth?"

"Mom!" Caroline grinned through a powdery mask. "We're baking cookies with Grandma!"

Turning her gaze to Dorothy, Miranda's eyebrow raised. "Is that so?"

Nodding, Dorothy sighed and wiped a bit of white stuff off her cheek. "Yes, but there was an...incident, with the flour."

"Hmmm... flour mishaps run in the family I think." Opening her arms she welcomed hugs from her girls, despite their current powder covered state. "Where is Andrea?"

"I'm afraid Andy bore the brunt of the fallout." Dorothy's eyes glanced up, "She went to get cleaned up."

"I see." Patting the girls on the back, Miranda coaxed them back to their activity. She resisted the urge to go check on Andrea and instead brushed off a stool at the preparation island. She sat as she continued to converse with their guest. "How was your flight?"


"Good," Miranda looked around the kitchen, "It seems you've been occupied since you arrived."

Dorothy laughed, "Actually, we only just started this fiasco..."

"We spent most of the afternoon at the museum." Cassidy and Caroline both grinned. "It was fun."

"Mmmm..." Miranda brushed a bit of flour off her sleeve.

Dorothy continued her work but spoke quietly, "There was a woman there that spoke to Andy..."

"Oh?" Miranda became intensely interested in the outing, "What did they discuss?"

"It was the new Director, Mom." Caroline grabbed a rag and began to clean up the layer of flour dusting every surface. "When she recognized Andy she asked her about getting in touch with you."

"Me?" Miranda blinked in surprise, "Why ever for?" She didn't miss Dorothy's lips pressed tightly together.

Cassidy chimed in helpfully as she too grabbed a rag and began wiping off the flour dusted surfaces, "Something about the Picasso's."

"Ah," Nodding, Miranda sighed, "They're probably planning another exhibit and want the sketches loaned for the duration."

Andy took the final two steps down and entered the kitchen. She'd overheard the last comment, "Yes, but no worries, the exhibition isn't going to be until next year so Ms. Porter has plenty of time to contact you before then." Leaning down, Andy kissed Miranda's upturned cheek, "How was your day?"

"Productive." Smiling, Miranda kept hold of Andrea's hand, pulling it up to kiss the back of it lightly. "And yours?"

"Lazy." Andy laughed, "We've done nothing but eat and wander around the museum."

"Mmm..." Blue eyes twinkled, "I doubt that." She grinned, "Did you not run your customary five miles this morning?"

"Well, yes.. I did that..." Andy admitted, "And I got some work done on the articles I have due..."

"So," Miranda winked, "You have also had a productive day."

"Andy gave us the invitations to our birthday party too!" Cassidy grinned, "They're cool!"

"You should send them as soon as possible," Miranda warned, "The date is only three weeks away."

Both girls nodded, "Yeah, we have most of them addressed already. Andy said she would mail them tomorrow."

"Most of them?"

"Yeah," Caroline explained, "We get ten each, but so many of our friends overlap, we each have a few extra. We're not exactly sure who else to invite."

"You do not have to limit yourself to your peers." Miranda suggested, "You may invite anyone you wish. Perhaps Detective Jo and her wife would attend? Or perhaps your student adviser, Ms. Bax?" She ignored the light squeeze Andrea gave her hand.

Caroline giggled at that suggestion and Cassidy glared at her sister before she asked their mom. "Can we invite Dad?"

Miranda saw Dorothy's hawk eyes train on her, waiting for the answer as interestedly as the girls were. She could also feel Andrea's tension through their connected hands. "James is always welcome at functions regarding you two, you know that. He is your father after all." Miranda continued, "I'm not sure you need waste an invitation on him though, you can simply email him with the address and remind him of the date."

Cassidy turned to Andy's Mom, "What about you, Grandma, do you want to come to our birthday party?"

"Yeah!" Caroline agreed, "That would be great!"

Miranda turned her intense gaze on the woman, curious to see what the response would be.

"I think I would like that." She smiled at the girls and Andy, "I'm not sure what I have going on that day, but I'll try."

"Where are Pava and Mary?" Miranda wondered why the older women weren't here sharing in the baking experience, preventing 'flour incidents'.

"We left them at the museum." Andy winked at the twins as Miranda's eyebrows raised.

"Excuse me?"

Andy laughed, "They wanted to look around some more. They know the address here and promised to get a taxi when they were ready to come home."

Dorothy nodded, "They're big girls, they can handle themselves." She held up a cookie sheet full of unbaked goodies. "Ready to finish these?"

Caroline, Cassidy and Andy chorused. "Yeah!"

Dorothy and Miranda chuckled. Andy bumped Miranda's shoulder, "You aren't going to eat any cookies anyway."

"No, most likely not." Miranda eyed the bowl Dorothy had been dipping dough out of and deliberately waited until all eyes were on her before she reached over with one finger to scrape some of the extra dough off the inside of the bowl. She quickly brought the finger to her mouth to savor the rare treat. "I prefer the dough."

Andy smiled, charmed by the oh so common preference Miranda freely admitted to. She watched as the older woman went back for another swipe but this time Andy intercepted the finger, bringing it to her own mouth instead, slowly licking the sweet dough off Miranda's index finger.

"Oh gross." Caroline hid her eyes. Cassidy sighed and covered hers as well. Dorothy chuckled and looked away, but more to give the couple a bit of privacy than out of revulsion.

"It's not gross," Andy insisted, "Cookie dough is delicious."

Caroline continued hiding her eyes behind her hand and Cassidy groaned. "We're going to be traumatized."

Dorothy chuckled again, "Andy walked in on her father and I doing worse than that..." Glancing at her daughter, Dorothy grinned, "You seemed to have turned out okay."

Laughing at that, Andy released Miranda's hand, "I guess so... it's not exactly a memory I cherish though," she grinned and gestured for the girls to go upstairs. "C'mon, it's time for you two to get cleaned up."

"But what about all this mess?" Cassidy indicated the lightly dusted countertop with the rag she'd been using to wipe down the other surfaces.

"We'll clean it up when we are." Andy gestured again, "Nothing is going to get done if it all keeps falling down off you back onto the counter."

Cassidy couldn't argue with that logic and put her rag down, "Okay."

Andy grinned as she followed the girls upstairs, speaking to them fairly loudly, "Besides, maybe an elf will come and magically clean the place while we're gone." Both girls laughed as Miranda's voice followed them up the stairs.

"Don't count on that!"

Dorothy watched the easy interaction between her daughter and this other woman then narrowed her eyes as Miranda again reached her finger into the bowl and brought it to her lips. The reprimand was automatic, "You'll ruin your supper."

Blue eyes looked up at the mothering woman and blinked once then Miranda unrepentantly reached for another taste. Grinning, she took the final bite and pushed the bowl away, "Probably so." She looked around curiously, "What does Peggy have planned for our evening meal?"

"Oh, well... I, um..." Dorothy's shoulders sagged slightly, "I asked Andy to let her go early today."

Miranda merely watched her guest and waited for the explanation for that action.

"Having someone, a servant, around is just very strange for me." The woman sighed and ran her fingers through her salt and pepper hair, "I figured that between myself, Pava, and Mary we could come up with some sort of meal." Dorothy ventured a smile at Miranda, "I'm also under the impression that you are quite handy in the kitchen yourself."

"Mmmm..." Miranda thought about it, "Normally I don't wish to deal with the preparation of our meals. Long days at the office often require some of what Andrea calls 'down time' in the evening." She saw Dorothy's nod and continued, "Nevertheless, today was mostly meetings, however tedious, aside from one notable encounter this morning, not terribly draining." Again she looked to Dorothy curiously, "What would you suggest we prepare?"

"I'm fairly flexible," Dorothy shrugged, "What do you want to make?"

Miranda surveyed the wreck of a kitchen, the flour covered surfaces, the dirty mixing bowls, the haphazardly tossed measuring cups and spoons and murmured, "Reservations."

In their search for ingredients, the pantry turned up several varieties of pasta, three variations of rice, and other staples such as beans, cereal and oatmeal, but the inspection of the refrigerator didn't yield nearly as much bounty. There were very few vegetables, hardly any fruit and no proteins.

"I'm surprised at how little there is in the refrigerator." Dorothy had been shocked at the lack of groceries available.

Andy snapped her fingers, "Peggy must have skipped the market this morning." She explained to their guests, and Miranda, that when warmer weather set in, Peggy had started daily morning trips to the farmer's market for their supplies. "She knows we're doing the tastings tomorrow," Andy gestured to the schedule on the fridge, "And we often eat out on weekends, especially when we have guests." Not that we ever have guests...

"There's a chicken casserole in here," Cassidy piped in, hanging on the appliance door, her head half inside the freezer, "And a lasagne."

Miranda nodded, "Either are acceptable, unless you would rather go out, or call for delivery."

"Pizza?" Dorothy was surprised. Based on Andy's many rants about the woman during her tenure as assistant at Runway, she didn't think Miranda ate pizza.

"You can get anything you want delivered in New York, Ma." Andy laughed, "Anything except a decent Chicago-style pizza." She sighed, "Ever since Josie mentioned Giordano's I've been craving a slice."

Miranda's blue eyes trained on Andrea, "Is that what you want?" The white-haired woman's lips twitched, "I believe Donatella's plane is at LaGuardia at the moment."

Andy's eyes widened, "No..." She saw Miranda's eyebrows raise, "Miranda! No.." She pointed her finger directly at Miranda's chest, "You put that thought out of your head right now! We are not going to get on a plane and fly to Chicago just so I can have some pizza!"

"Why not?" Miranda almost, almost, pouted, "If that is what you want..."

"Miranda..." With a sigh, Andy moved closer and rested her forehead on Miranda's, "Thank you for the thought, but why don't we just stick to Lombardi's for tonight?"

"Mmm..." Miranda accepted a gentle kiss on her cheek and shook her head, "Very well, Call them, and Andrea..."

Andy held up her hand to stop Miranda's next order, "I know, don't worry..." She winked at her fiancee, "I'll get your favorite."

Dorothy grinned as the twins exchanged long suffering looks.

"This is great." Mary took another bite of her pizza.

"I agree," Pava reached for another piece, "Why would you want a different pizza than this?"

"It is good," Andy agreed, "it's just not the deep dish Chicago-style I lived on in college."

"That explains a lot." Miranda smirked as she bit into her portion of the pizza.

Andy rolled her eyes, "I do eat a lot healthier these days."

"But junk food is okay every once in a while...right?" Cassidy took another piece out of the small pizza she and Caroline were sharing.

"Everything is fine, in moderation," Miranda nodded and pushed her plate, still holding half her second piece, away. "Did you enjoy your extended outing at the museum?"

Pava grinned as Mary's hand shook slightly at the wording. "It was lovely, they have some brilliant works there." Mary silently agreed.

Miranda nodded, "Andrea and I did not have time to visit any of the museums in London, but one day we will return and make a point of going, perhaps we'll jump across the Channel and visit the Louvre as well."

"Wow," Mary laughed, "That sounds..."

"Extravagant." Dorothy filled in the word and then pushed her cynical thoughts away. "And fun."

Andy grinned at her Mom's effort and at Miranda's outrageous suggestion. "It does sound fun." Turning to the girls, her dark eyes twinkled, "Doesn't it?" The bobbing heads made her smile.

Miranda also smiled at her family and guests before looking around the room and changed the subject, "One day we will have a formal dinner in this room, as was intended."

"Yeah, it's kinda weird eating in here." Caroline looked around, as if just noticing where they were.

"It is unusual," Miranda looked around the dining room, "With the way our lives have been in the recent past, dinner parties have been out of the question." She looked at Andrea and smiled, "Perhaps that will change soon?"

"I hope so. Maybe the press won't be so interested in a boring married couple." Andy nodded, "It would be fun to have friends over every once in a while."

Miranda nodded but remained thoughtful, I will have to stop keeping her all to myself... cultivate friends for her, she smiled at her young fiancee, she will need that, one day.

"Ugh, I'm stuffed!"

All the adults chuckled as Cassidy patted her belly, Andy nodded and agreed, "Me too! I can't even think about tomorrow and all those people bringing us samples of their wedding offerings..."

"It will only be small bites though right?" Dorothy didn't think the caterers would actually bring large amounts of the items on their menus.

"Yes, small samples, but," Andy rolled her eyes as she recalled the schedule stuck to the fridge, "A lot of them!"

"That reminds me." Miranda picked up her cell phone and dialed one of the many pre-programmed numbers. The call was answered just after the first ring, "Emily, we require your presence tomorrow for the tastings." Not waiting for the woman's response, Miranda simply said, "That's all." and disconnected the call.

Andy saw the appalled look on her family's faces and sighed, picking up her own phone she also dialed Emily's number. It was answered on the third ring. "Yeah, Em... Hi." She raised her eyebrows at Miranda who merely took a sip of her drink, "Miranda tells me that she wants you here tomorrow for the tastings... so I guess we can skip our park meeting in the morning."

"Oh, are you sure?"

Trying not to grin at the slightly disappointed tone in the woman's voice, Andy answered with only a bit of regret of her own, "Yeah, no reason for you to get up that early on a Saturday when I'll just be seeing you later anyway."


Andy waited for it and wasn't disappointed when Emily asked.

"Will Serena still be running with you then?"

"You know, I'm not exactly sure." Andy grinned, "I haven't spoken to her about running on the weekends."

"Ah...perhaps I can ask her later."

"Oh?" Andy grinned, wondering if Emily was going to admit she was having dinner with Serena tonight. The tall Brazilian had told Andy about the arrangements during their run back to the house this morning.

"Yes, she and I are having dinner this evening..." The tone in Emily's voice left no room for ridicule, the snobbery masked her nervousness, "...friends do that, you know?"

"Yes, of course they do." Andy smiled and winked at Miranda, "I've had dinners with Jo and Blair."

Emily sighed, "I'll be there tomorrow before the first caterer arrives."

"Okay then," Andy again caught Miranda's eyes and said, "Thank you, Em."

"You're welcome, Andy."

Disconnecting the call, Andy immediately dialed Serena's number. "Hey, Serena. Listen... can we push our run tomorrow back a little?"

"Sure..." the statuesque woman was surprised and asked, "Why?"

"Well, My mom and Gram are visiting from Ohio and I wanted to take them to the Farmer's Market in the morning... We need some supplies around here anyway, and if you've ever been there you know the best time to go is in the morning."

"Of course," Serena hesitated, "Have you informed Emily of the schedule change?"

"As a matter of fact I just spoke with her. We are having the caterer's and baker's come here tomorrow for tastings and Emily is going to be present for that, so I told her that she didn't have to meet us in the park." She heard a disappointed sound and grinned, "I figured, if we timed our run correctly, we could be just getting back when Emily arrives."

"Oh!" Serena's tone brightened, "That would be lovely..."

"Bring a change of clothes..." Andy grinned at the new enthusiasm, "You can stick around and help us encourage Emily to at least taste the food."

"I will." Serena laughed, "Thank you, Andy."

"Anytime... and Serena... have fun tonight." Andy winked at Miranda and the girls as she disconnected the call.

"How long is it going to take for them to get together?!" Caroline was exasperated by the situation.

Andy laughed, "I dunno, Munchkin, sometimes these things take time... their dinner tonight might help."

Cassidy scoffed, "Mom, just order Emily to go out with Serena."

Laughing louder at that, Andy reached over and jostled the girl's shoulder gently, "I've already brought up that possibility with Serena."

"Really," Miranda pressed her lips together for a moment, "I would have thought I would be the one with which to discuss that strategy."

"It would expedite matters considerably, I would think." Andy chuckled, "But I don't think either Serena or I were serious when we brought it up."

"Mmmm..." Miranda tapped her lips with her fingertips thoughtfully, "I suppose we shall see how it plays out tomorrow."

Mary broke in to the conversation quietly, "I'm not sure I understand..."

Grinning at their guest, Andy explained about Serena and Emily, their friendship, how Serena wanted to be more than friends but was afraid that Emily didn't return those feelings and how both she and Miranda were helping the couple try to figure it out.

"I have nothing to do with this...matchmaking." Miranda lowered the timbre of her voice, "This is all on you Andrea..."

"Fine," Andy waved off the warning tone, "When they finally get together and decide they are the loves of each others lives, they can blame me." Changing the subject completely, Andy looked around the table. "Who's up for a movie?"


Part 28

The end credits rolled and as Caroline rose from her place on the beanbag and headed for the lights, Pava slowly slid her hand out of Mary's. "That was a lovely movie."

Andy sighed and released her hold on Miranda's arm, lifting her head from the older woman's shoulder. "It's one of the most romantic movies of all time."

"They both died in the end." Dorothy wondered how her daughter thought dying was romantic.

"They were together in the end." Andy reminded her mother then turned to gaze at Miranda, "He was her heart and she was his, always."

Miranda's eyes burned into Andrea's, but the white haired woman didn't respond.

"Jane Seymour is really pretty." Cassidy's forehead wrinkled as all eyes turned on her. "What? She is!"

Miranda chuckled, "Yes, she is." An amused blue eye winked at the girl, "Christopher Reeve was quite a striking man in his day as well."

Caroline sighed, "Yeah, he was the best Superman, ever."

Pava chuckled, "Well, it was a lovely movie anyway." She stood and stretched, almost automatically holding her hand out to assist Mary up.

"I agree." Mary took her long time friend's hand and stood as well, "It was very sweet." She too stretched, but yawned as well, "It's been a long day though so I think I'm going to turn in."

"Me too." Pava laughed, "I'm not used to walking around all day." Her dark eyes twinkled, "It was completely worth it though," her gaze turned to Mary, "everything was beautiful."

Andy grinned, "Maybe we can find time to go to a few galleries before you leave. Do you remember my friend Lily?" She paused and waited for both her mom and Gram to nod affirmatively. "The gallery where she works has some great pieces."

"That sounds nice." Dorothy smiled, "I would like to see Lily again and that nice boy, Doug." She stretched her linked fingers out in front of her. "I think I'll head on to bed as well."

Andy nodded and looked pointedly at the girls, "It's about bedtime for you guys too, eh?"


"Big day tomorrow..." Andy reminded them, "Lots of people in and out..."

Cassidy rolled her eyes, "I guess so."

"It is getting a little late, later than our regular bedtime during school anyway." Caroline shrugged and stood. "Good night, Grandma." She hugged Dorothy then turned to Pava, "Good night, Gram." She hugged the older woman, whispering something in her ear that widened Pava's eyes considerably.

Finishing the hug, Pava stood her full height and looked down at the unrepentant girl. Tapping Caroline's nose with her index finger, Pava chuckled. "I knew it the first time I saw you... Trouble."

Caroline grinned and nodded to Mary before she stepped out of the way to allow Cassidy to hug Gram good night. Cassidy too whispered something to Pava that made the old woman grunt in surprise.

Laughing as she stood, Pava shook her head, "Two peas in a pod... I swear."

Andy and Miranda chuckled as the girls began to move toward the door, their young voices chorused goodnights to their guests, "Good night, Grandma... Good night Gram..." There was a long pause before they reached the door and then just as they left the room they said, "Good night... Grandma Mary!" The silence in the TV room was broken by the sound of hastened footsteps up the stairs, giggles and doors slamming.

All eyes turned to the shocked woman. Mary shook her head, "I..."

Wrapping her arm around Mary's shoulder, Pava smiled, "S'okay."

Miranda moved forward and reached out, grasping both Mary's hands, "My daughters are very perceptive. Often moreso than any child has the right to be, but they are only eleven and not exactly tactful with their observations." She squeezed the hands in hers lightly and smiled, "I will tell them not to call you grandma if it makes you uncomfortable."

"No, it's not that..." Mary returned the pressure on her hands and nodded, "I don't mind."

"Okay..." Miranda's eyes only flickered once to the arm around Mary's shoulders, "Good night then. Sleep well." With a nod to Pava, Miranda released her hold on Mary's hands and took a step back. She watched the pair walk out of the room, Pava's supportive arm dropping to Mary's waist. Miranda smiled as she felt Andrea's arm sliding around her waist then Dorothy spoke quietly.

"Do you really think they..."

Miranda's arm found its way around Andrea's waist and they turned to face the inquisitive woman. "I believe they are very good friends and that Mary is quite fragile at the moment. I don't care to speculate any further than that."

Dorothy nodded, "Of course." She patted her daughter's cheek, "Good night, Sweetheart."

"Night, Ma." Andy smiled but never released her hold on Miranda. "Rest well."

Dorothy nodded to Miranda, "Good night."

Miranda returned the gesture, "Good night, Dorothy."

Andy watched her mother leave the room then turned to the woman in her arms, "Alone at last."

"Mmm..." Miranda soaked in the closeness. "Not for long..." Resting her head on Andrea's shoulder, Miranda sighed, "Bethany will be here with the Book soon."

Groaning at that, Andy pulled away, "Of course she will." With a sigh, the brunette slid her hand down Miranda's arm and twined their fingers together, "C'mon, let's go tell the girls goodnight then we can go to the kitchen. I'll buy ya a cup of coffee while we wait."

The girls were in bed and already dozing off when Miranda and Andrea arrived in their rooms. Normal good nights were said quickly and although Andrea took Miranda's hand to lead the older woman to the kitchen, Miranda had her own ideas of what to do while they waited for the Book.

"Miranda?" Andy questioned as she was being led upstairs.

"Shhh..." The older woman smiled and turned, as the bedroom door closed behind them, pushing Andrea against the solid wooden panel. "Alone at last."

"Mmmm..." Savoring the feeling of Miranda's warm body pressing against her, Andy responded enthusiastically to the lips moving against hers. Miranda didn't give her any chance to say anything for several long moments. When the kiss broke, Miranda murmured.

"My heart. Always."

Aware that the Book would be delivered soon, Andy took the initiative. Guiding Miranda backward, they reached the bed and fell into it, limbs tangling together. Her quiet murmur drew Miranda up short.


"Hmmm... what?" Andy stopped, hoping like hell she didn't actually say what she was just thinking.

"You said 'going for the record'..." Miranda narrowed her eyes at the younger woman, "What does that mean?"

Laying back on the bed, Andy covered her eyes with her arm, "It means I'm an idiot who can't manage to keep her thoughts to herself..." she sighed and admitted, "It's a game I play..."

Miranda pulled away, "Game..."

"Mmmm..." Andy winced slightly at the expression on Miranda's face. "I um... see how long I can keep you distracted from the Book."

"I see." Miranda moved away slightly and sat on the edge of the bed. She felt Andrea also sit up and move nearer. Ignoring the long arms surrounding her shoulders, the editor asked quietly, not sure if she wanted to know the answer, "And how long is the record?"

"Not counting the trip to London..." Andy kissed the shoulder under her cheek, "Two hours and seven minutes."

Reaching over, Miranda threaded her fingers into Andrea's dark hair. She held the young woman's head steady and gazed deeply into the darkened eyes for a long moment before whispering, "Shall we go for the record then?" Andrea's trademarked and patented dazzling smile appeared.

"Let's shall."

Miranda looked up from the Book when she heard movement in the kitchen. Rising from her favorite chair in the sitting area just outside the kitchen, the editor picked up her empty wine glass and moved to investigate the noise. It had only been about six hours since their guests had retired for the evening, but for some reason it didn't surprise her to find the older woman in the kitchen. "Pava?"

"Oh, hello." The tall older woman smiled and leaned against the counter, "I was tryin' to be quiet. I didn't think anyone was up."

"Mmm..." Miranda licked her lips and smiled, because the curve in the counter that Pava was leaning against was exactly the spot Andrea often used for that purpose. "I was just up doing some work."

"Work?" Pava tilted her head, "At this hour?" The clock had read three a.m. when she left her room a few minutes ago.

"Yes," Miranda smiled, "I'm often up at this hour."

"Have you slept at all?" Pava was worried for the woman, it had only been six hours since they had all retired for the evening.

"I did, a little, and will return to bed soon," Miranda smiled a bit wickedly, "Tomorrow won't be a terribly stressful day, and we can sleep tomorrow night, rest on Sunday."

Pava nodded. "Even though I don't really work anymore, weekends are wonderful things." She looked around, "Where do you keep your glasses? I was looking to get a sip of water."

"Cabinet next to the refrigerator." Miranda pointed to the door in question.

"Ah... Thank you." Pava reached into the cabinet and with barely a glance at her hostess, pulled two glasses from the shelf.

Miranda bit down on her lips to stop her smirk, Pava isn't the only one who wants a sip of water. Suddenly Miranda realized who she was talking to, Andrea's grandmother, a woman who had known Andrea all her life. "May I ask you a question?"

Pava lowered her head and looked at the glasses for a heartbeat before nodding. "Sure."

"Was Andrea prone to nightmares as a child?"

"What?" Pava whirled to face her soon-to-be granddaughter, "Is she having them now?"

Miranda nodded, "Yes."

"What are they about?" Pava moved forward to lean on the preparation island across from where Miranda was sitting.

"She can't tell me."

"I'll talk with her tomorrow," Pava nodded, "maybe she can tell me."

"No... it's not that she won't tell me... she can't." Miranda explained, "She can't remember them."

"Hmmm..." Pava sighed. "She did have nightmares when she was little, but I don't know if she remembers having them. She was very young at the time." Pava exhaled slowly, "It was after my husband John, her Gramps, passed away." She shook her head and returned to her task, grabbing the glasses, filling them from the tap at the sink. "She had them for several months, she would flail in bed... and wake up screaming sometimes."

Miranda nodded, "Yes, that sounds very similar to what is happening now."

"When did they start?" Pava took a sip of her drink, waiting for the answer.

"Honestly, they started back at the beginning of our relationship, when the crazy woman threatened to kill us both." Miranda spoke calmly. "They had tapered off somewhat, but then the whole charity event hostage situation occurred and that was the night I believe she found out about Mr. King's passing."

"Mmm..." Pava nodded, "Death is the trigger then."

"That would make sense," Miranda sighed, "And I became ill recently..."

Oddly familiar dark eyes narrowed, "Ill? Are you okay?"

Miranda waved off the concern, "Yes, I'm fine. A few antibiotics took care of the problem."

"What was the problem?"

"I had some sort of infection," Miranda shrugged, "The Doctor explained that I had probably come into contact with a bacteria my immune system couldn't fight in its weakened state."


"Yes, I hadn't been sleeping well, working long hours, not eating correctly. Stress plays a large role in our health." Miranda moved from her seat to make herself a drink.

"And yet, here you are at three a.m., working." Pava grinned at Miranda's rolling eyes.

The editor had only taken a sip of her drink when rapid footsteps on the stairs caught both women's attention. She barely had time to set the glass down before a wide eyed Andrea rushed into the room, looked around wildly and dove for Miranda with a frantic cry.

Miranda found herself wrapped in long strong arms and returned the embrace as well as she could, soothing the young woman in the process. "Shhh... I'm here. I'm here, it's okay." Blue eyes looked over Andrea's shoulders at Pava, who looked back with sympathy.

Moving closer Pava reached out making slow circles on her granddaughters back. "Everything's fine, Darlin', Miranda's here, we're all here..."

Andy tightened her grip on Miranda but her voice was a whisper, "Oh God, I couldn't find you... Miranda, I woke up and... don't leave me... please..."

"Shhh..." Kissing the temple hiding under Andrea's dark hair, Miranda returned the embrace as tightly as she dared, "I'm here..." Guiding the distraught young woman back toward the staircase, Miranda soothed, "I'm right here... come with me, we'll go back to bed..."

Pava's forehead wrinkled with worry for her granddaughter but she moved away, trusting Miranda to handle the situation. She picked up the forgotten glasses of water and followed the couple up the steps, parting with them on the third floor. The older woman gave Miranda an encouraging nod before entering her guestroom.

Miranda led Andrea on up to their room and settled her on the bed. "I will be right back, Andrea."

"No!" Andy clung to the woman, "Please, don't leave."

"Shhh... I'm just going to the bathroom." Miranda assured her and tucked her under the blanket. "I will be right back." She leaned over to press her lips against Andrea's forehead while she disentangled her arms from the young woman's grip. "It won't take me long."

Nodding, Andy curled around her pillow and tried to calm herself down. "Okay." Dark eyes watched as the older woman walked into the other room, then closed as Andy spoke softly to herself, "She's fine, Miranda's fine, she's just in the bathroom, she'll be right back..." The litany continued for some moments until Andy felt the mattress dip and a warm arm slide around her waist.

Miranda slipped between the sheets of their bed and moved close, fitting herself against Andrea's back, kissing the young woman's neck softly. "I'm here Andrea. Sleep now."

Pava quietly walked into Mary's room from their connecting bathroom and set the glass of water she carried on the nightstand. She looked down at her friend's peaceful, sleeping, face and smiled. Turning to go, a soft voice stopped her short.

"Thank you."

Looking back, Pava faced the bed and shook a finger in Mary's direction, "Faker, I thought you were asleep."

"I was... a little..." Mary sighed and sat up, "for a while." She reached for the glass and took a sip of the water. As she set the drink back in its place she sighed again, "I, um... know it's a lot to ask, but..." Looking up at her friend, Mary swallowed hard, "...would you..."

In the darkened room Mary's eyes looked nearly black and Pava smiled, knowing exactly what was being asked. "Of course." She slid into the bed and barely kept her tears in check as Mary met her in the middle, their bodies fitting together as if meant to be. Because they are... were... are, Pava thought. Willing the tremors from her voice, Pava assured the woman in her arms, "Anything you need, Darlin'...I'm right here." She smiled as the head on her shoulder nodded and Pava closed her eyes trying to content herself with what she had now, instead of wishing for what had never been.

Wishing for the past to change is about as productive as worrying about the future, Pava thought as she savored the feel of holding her friend while she slept. You never know what the future holds. The elder Sachs knew she would have never in a million years believed she would have Mary in her arms again.

Life was amazing and full of wonder, worrying about what is coming just wasn't worth missing what was happening now. Pava knew she would have to find time to speak with her granddaughter about the concept of knowing what can be changed and not worrying about what can't.

Caroline and Cassidy walked downstairs together. Both their hairstyles were sleep mussed and their pajamas were wrinkled. Caroline yawned and Cassidy smiled as they entered the kitchen to find their guests at the table drinking coffee. Caroline spied their Mom in the sitting area just outside the kitchen, going over the Book. "Where's Andy?"

Dorothy watched as the girls prepared themselves a bowl of cereal. "Well good morning to you two, Sleepyheads, too..." The older woman grinned and laughed as both girls mumbled good morning greetings. "Andy and Serena left for their run nearly half an hour ago."

"I thought you were going to the Farmer's Market this morning?" Cassidy was sure that is what Andy had said.

"We did, Darlin'" Pava laughed at the children's expressions, "Been there, and back for almost an hour before the tall gal came to go running."

"Good grief," Caroline shuddered, "What time did you all get up?!"

A low chuckle from the door drew all their attention.

"It was a beautiful sunrise." Miranda smiled, her blue eyes twinkling at the girls, "Would you like us to wake you tomorrow? You could see it for yourself." The chorused answer made them all chuckle.

"No thanks!"

Moving with her empty mug to the coffee maker, Miranda laughed and stopped briefly to kiss each of the girls on the head. "Good morning, my darlings."

"Good morning, Mom." Each child dutifully allowed the kiss then dug in to their meals.

"Would you mind if I take an extra lap this morning?" Andy jogged in place as they waited for the last light before the park entrance. "I kinda need to clear my head."

"Of course," Serena nodded agreement and gestured to the road as the light turned green. Something had been bothering her running companion this morning and as she often did herself, Serena thought the extra miles might help clear Andy's head. She followed the brunette into the park and onto the now familiar path.

Running the usual circuit Serena eventually saw the bench where Emily normally waited for them. Seeing it empty was not a good feeling. She will be at the townhouse later, the tall Brazilian told herself, You will see her later. Andy's chuckle pulled her out of her thoughts.

"It's weird being able to keep up with you on this part." Andy grinned over at her companion. "Normally when you see Em, you take off like a shot and leave me in the dust." Not once had Andy been able to even come close to keeping up with Serena at that point, much less beat her to the bench.

Serena laughed, "My legs are longer than yours."

"Yeah," Andy settled into her regular running rhythm again as they made the loop one more time. Luckily Patricia didn't fight the extra running time and actually seemed to be enjoying the exercise. Andy wished she could say the same. It was nice, running, but her mind was so occupied with everything, that enjoying the beautiful day was a little difficult. She thought back to this morning. Waking up with Miranda wrapped around her was good; that was always good. The trip to the Farmer's Market with Ma, and Gram, and Mary was interesting and actually a little fun, even when Gram started hinting about recurring dreams. Miranda had decided to stay home, ostensibly to be with the girls, who were still sleeping, but Andy knew Miranda wanted to go over the Book too. All three of her guests had been astounded at the variety of things available and they'd gotten some lovely produce and cheese for dinner, tomorrow. Today was to be dedicated to the caterer's and bakers who wanted to provide the meal and morsels for the wedding... the wedding...our wedding... Andy smiled, she couldn't wait, she was going to marry Miranda Priestly and Miranda was going to marry her. It was almost too incredible to wrap her mind around. But first, Andy told herself sternly, there are things that need done. For one, she thought with a sigh, you need to stop with these nightmares! She hated how they made her feel, alone and helpless, it was stupid, she knew. Miranda is always right there, she's not leaving me, she's marrying me.... Serena's voice broke through her thoughts.

"Are we going around again?"

"Hmmm..." Andy blinked and turned to look at her friend. "What?"

"Are we going again?" Serena gestured to the path.

Andy looked and gasped, "Oh," They were back at the beginning of the circuit. "Um... no, not again... let's just let Patricia do her business and we can go back to the house."

"Okay." Serena again allowed Andy to take the lead. She was here to run of course, but the main reason for Serena being in the park at all was not here today. So today, Serena was merely here for the sake of keeping Andy company, she really wanted to be back at Miranda and Andy's house, waiting for Emily. She wanted to get back fairly soon too, because she wanted to clean up before Emily arrived. Emily had never seen Serena sweat quite this much, and the first time she did, Serena didn't want it to be from running.

Miranda was studying the Book when Patricia paced up to her and flopped down on her feet. Blinking down into the animals soulful brown eyes Miranda sighed and spoke quietly as she continued to look over the Book. "What have you done to my dog?"

Andy laughed, "Excuse me?"

"Look at her," Reaching down, Miranda stroked her fingers through the shaggy fur on the animal's head, "The poor thing is exhausted!" She frowned and spoke to Patricia sympathetically, "What did they do to you my darling? Did they make you run in this heat? Barbarians."

"Miranda... she loves running." Andy pulled her sweat soaked shirt away from her chest, fanning it a little, "It is really hot outside though," Both Andy and Serena had let out a sigh when they'd walked in the door to the temperature controlled house. Andy had reached for a towel immediately. "I should go grab a shower."

"Me too!" Serena wiped her face with a towel Andy had handed her and moved down the hall where she'd left her gym bag next to the foot of the stairs.

Miranda nodded, "Fourth floor Serena, there is a guest room at the end of the hall with a bathroom you can use." All the other showers except the one in the basement, were currently being utilized for their guests' comfort. And the one in the basement was not exactly to be used for Serena's purpose. Even though it was barely ever used, it had been installed there next to the laundry area explicitly for Patricia but as the animal had grown it was much easier to just take her to the groomers. The one in the fourth floor guest room was the only one Serena could use comfortably and privately.

"Thank you, Miranda." She bowed slightly and grabbed her bag then headed up the stairs quickly. She wanted to get cleaned up before Emily arrived.

The tall Brazilian had barely disappeared up the stairs before Miranda moved to embrace Andrea.

"Ugh... Miranda!" Andy tried to push the woman away, "I'm all sweaty and gross..."

Pressing herself closer, Miranda's head shook and she inhaled deeply, "Oh no... you're perfect." Had they been alone in the house Miranda knew her young fiancee would have found herself on the floor being thoroughly ravaged right now.

"C'mon, Miranda," Andy tried to wriggle away, "I don't want to make you all sweaty..."

"You don't?" Desire darkened blue eyes looked up at the woman, "Are you sure?"

Andy laughed quietly as she pushed Miranda away, "Not like this." Looking around she asked, "Where is everyone?"

"Upstairs engaged in a dance dance revolution tournament."

"Then you should be up there...as defending world champion..." Andy grinned at the eye roll that got her.

"Andrea, why would I possibly want to be up there when you, in all your perspiring glory, are down here?" Miranda again moved closer, inhaling deeply.

Laughing at that Andy just stopped the woman from pressing herself against the sweat soaked clothes. Leaning over Andy pressed her lips against Miranda's then pulled back slightly to look into the editor's eyes. "You are too twisted for color TV."

Miranda sighed, "Have you been watching that movie again?"

"C'mon Miranda, you know I love it..." Andy teased, "Olympia Dukakis... Mmmm...."


The tone was low and dangerous, but Andy could see the amusement in those lovely Miranda-blue eyes. She laughed and leaned over for another quick kiss, "I love you, and I need a shower. Be right back."

Miranda nodded and watched Andrea disappear up the stairs. Going over one more page of the Book was all she could manage before she closed it and started for the stairway herself. A voice behind her stopped her progress.

"Mom!" Cassidy was bouncing with excitement. "I won!"

Whirling toward the girl with a smile, Miranda laughed, "Good for you, Bobbsey!"

"But now I have to beat you!" Cassidy grabbed her mother's hand and began to drag her toward the kitchen stairway, the one she'd used to come get her mother. "C'mon... we have to have the championship!"

With a final glance at the stairway Andrea had used, Miranda allowed herself to be led up to the TV room. A devious plan already forming in her head.

Serena walked up a flight of stairs and heard voices, laughter and music. Curious to see if Emily had arrived yet, she snuck over to the door and peeked inside. The girls were playing a video game, dancing on a mat on the floor and the three older women she'd met earlier, before her run with Andy, were seated on the couch clapping and cheering them on. Great, no Emily yet... Serena quietly retreated without being seen and made her way on up the winding staircase. Once on the fourth floor she laughed at herself, Of course, Emily wouldn't be there, she would have been downstairs with Miranda. Rolling her eyes at her thick brain, Serena went to the door at the end of the hall as Miranda had said. She walked through the room without paying too much attention and into the bathroom. Wow... she thought, Nice... But then caught the reflection of herself in the mirror, grimaced and quickly began to strip out of her running clothes. She'd just taken off her bra and slid out of her underwear when the door opened.

"Oh!" Andy gasped and quickly turned around, which didn't help because she could still see Serena's reflection in the mirror. Snapping her eyes shut quickly, Andy stuttered, "Uh... sorry..."

"Oh!..." Serena grabbed her shirt to hold in front of her more out of sympathy for Andy than any embarrassment on her part. She had practically lived on the nude beaches of Brazil for most of her life; modesty wasn't something that upbringing fostered. "I..." Her eyes went from side to side, "Miranda said the room at the end of the hall..."

Andy nodded, eyes still closed, "Yeah... the guest room is at the other end of the hall though..." Turning toward where she knew the door was, Andy opened her eyes, staring at the wooden panel. "No problem, I'll just go to the guest room."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah..." Andy opened the door, "No sense in you getting redressed and undressed again. It's not a problem."

"Uh... okay then." Serena watched her running partner go and exhaled softly, a shudder running through her at the thought that this was actually Miranda's personal bathroom and it could have been Miranda that had walked in. That would have been a nightmare.

It didn't take long to defend her title and Miranda chuckled at the dejected look Cassidy gave her. "I'm sorry darling. You will win one day."

Cassidy sighed, "Yeah, okay... sure." She rolled her eyes and hugged the woman. "It's cool." Grinning as she pulled away, Cassidy laughed, "Check out that score, I made you work for it. C'mon.. give me another chance. I'll beat you for sure!"

Miranda felt the twitch at the corner of her lips and nodded, "You certainly did make me work for it." She pretended to wipe some sweat from her forehead. "But, I believe I need to go freshen up before Emily arrives and the first caterer sets up." Nodding to their guests, Miranda left the room quickly, heading upstairs to where she knew Andrea was also cleaning up. Reaching the fourth floor Miranda could hear the water running in both bathrooms, As she walked through her bedroom, she quickly shed her clothing and picked her robe up from where it was draped over the dresser chair.

Miranda slipped into the bathroom quietly and hung her robe on the hook next to the shower door, speaking as she opened the panel. "You haven't washed it all away yet have you, my darling?"

Serena whirled to face the newcomer and widened her eyes unable to keep from, looking. "Miranda!"

"Oh!" Exiting the shower quickly, Miranda grabbed her robe and held it in front of her as she backed away from the shower. "Serena... I..." She put on the robe, tying the belt tightly, and now became angry. "What are you doing in here?!"

"I'm sorry..." Serena beat her head lightly against the wall of the shower, "You said 'end of the hall' and I came in here..." She thought Andy should be the one to tell the editor about their little encounter so she skipped that and continued to speak quickly, "I was already in here when Andy arrived so she said it wasn't a problem and that she would use the other one in the guest room..."

"I see..." Miranda tightened her grip on the closure of her robe, see... oh God... what did Serena see... She was getting better about not being self-conscious about her naked body. Andrea's adoration helped that quite a bit, but she knew she was, older, and for anyone else to see, her, unclothed, was quite disconcerting. The water shut off and a long arm snaked out of the shower stall, retrieving a towel from the rack next to the door.

Serena wrapped the towel around herself and stepped out from behind the door. "Miranda," Serena saw her boss, looking as regal standing in her soft terrycloth robe as she'd ever looked in any designer outfit. "Miranda, I apologize..." The Brazilian blinked as Miranda's ice cold gaze raked over her. Summoning her courage, Serena spoke quietly, "Miranda, you are very beautiful for a woman your age, you have nothing to be..."

"Get out." Miranda could feel her vision tunneling.

Serena swallowed hard, "Miranda, I'm very sorry..."

"Leave, now!"

Nodding, Serena grabbed the clothing she had stripped off earlier and shoved it into her gym bag then left the room quickly. She knew she had one important thing to do before actually leaving the house, however, because the last thing she saw in the mirror's reflection was Miranda, clutching her robe closed, sliding down the bathroom wall.


Part 29

Andy chuckled as she walked to the guest room. Walking in on Serena like that was kind of surreal. Like one of those sitcoms on TVLand, where someone walks in on someone else in the bathroom. Only there was usually a shower curtain to be pulled aside for the big reveal.

Bustling into the guest bathroom, Andy started the water in the shower and, laying aside the clean pair of sweats and dry t-shirt she'd grabbed from her part of the closet, began to strip her now cold, sweaty clothes off. She'd already showered once this morning, but the heat and run had made that go around pretty much moot.

The water felt good and Andy stood under the shower spray for slightly longer than was strictly necessary before she quickly washed her hair. A fast scrub of the rest of her and she was done, toweling off her hair and body briskly before putting on the sweats and t-shirt she'd brought in with her. Miranda loved her robes, but Andy always felt they were too hot and preferred to wear the comfy outfit until she dried sufficiently to change into what Miranda had dubbed 'real' clothes. She wondered if Serena was finished in her bathroom yet, because the time was approaching for the caterers to arrive and the hairdryer in here was fine, but Andy was used to the one in her own bathroom and liked it better.

A quick knock at the door was followed by Serena entering the room.

"Serena?" Andy laughed, "You looking for payback for earlier?"

"No." The tall Brazilian dropped her bag and grabbed Andy's arms, pulling her out of the room.

"Serena?!" Shaking loose, Andy stared at the towel clad woman. "What the hell?"

"You have to go!" Serena gestured down the hall, "Miranda walked in on me, in the shower... she's..." Serena shook her head. "You must to go to her!"

Andy groaned, "She walked in on you in the bathroom too?"

"No..." Serena sighed, wanting Andy to go now. "Not the bathroom, the shower, she was going to surprise you I think..."

"Oh God..." Andy closed her eyes. "So she was...in the shower...with you..."

"Yes," Serena confirmed, "For a heartbeat, or less. She can move very fast when she wants to."

"Okay...." Andy scrubbed her face and asked, "How much did you...see?"

"I saw as much of her as she saw of me." She hesitated and added, "She's very beautiful for her age..."

"Oh God," Andy exhaled softly, "Did you tell her that?"

Serena nodded and sighed, "She told me to leave. So I will get dressed and go..."

Nodding, Andy thought she had enough information about the situation and was moving down the hall, fast, "Yeah, that might be best for today. I'll see you on Monday to run," Andy was halfway down the hall now, calling back over her shoulder, "I'll call you about... this."

Serena nodded as she watched Andy disappear into the door at the other end of the hall.

"Sure," The tall beauty sighed and spoke to herself quietly, "I'll just be out looking for another job I'm sure." She sighed to herself, there was always Vogue if Anna's multitude of offers was anything to go by.

For a woman your age... very beautiful, for a woman your age... Resting her forehead on her knees, Miranda couldn't shake the words, for your age... for your age... She heard the door open and squeezed her eyes closed. Miranda knew who it was, Serena would not return and Andrea was the only other person who would dare come in. She kept her eyes shut, not wanting to see the pity in those deep brown eyes. Keeping them closed also helped hold back the tears that threatened when familiar long fingers threaded through her hair.

"Miranda?" Andy knelt next to the distraught woman, speaking softly. "You wanna tell me what happened?"

"No." Miranda sighed, "I don't need to do I? I'm sure Serena filled you in on all the sordid details."

"Miranda," Andy shifted to sit next to her fiancee, with her back against the wall she pulled Miranda across her lap. "It wasn't sordid, it was just an accident."

Miranda's lips pressed tightly together for a long moment before she could bring herself to admit, "It was humiliating."

Andy sighed, "You're both grown women, there was nothing you hadn't seen before." She cradled the woman in her arms and rested her cheek on Miranda's forehead, "How many models have you seen in various stages of nekkidity?"

With a little grunt at the made up word, Miranda began to breathe slower, "I don't have any idea, I never paid attention." She chuckled, "At least, not that way."

Grinning, Andy knew that if she asked about the details of what every model Miranda had ever worked with had worn, then the editor would remember each stitch and button with the precision of a super computer. "She... um... told me what she, said."

Blue eyes peeked out from under a wayward white lock, "Did she?"

"I happen to agree with her," A knuckle under Miranda's chin brought the woman's face up to meet Andy's gaze, "You are a very beautiful woman."

Wrenching away, Miranda stood, towering over Andy, still seated on the floor, "For my age!" she spat. "That's what she said, that I was beautiful for my age..."

"You are beautiful, Miranda."

"For my age," the white haired woman sneered.

"No," standing slowly, Andy shook her head, "You are beautiful with no conditions, there have never been any conditions with me..." She held Miranda's arms and forced the woman to face her, "I love you."

"Andrea," Miranda felt her stomach muscles tense. She hated this, this insecurity, "How can you say that?"


"No, Andrea," Miranda had to make the young woman see reason, "Serena knew... she saw... 'for your age' she said..." Pulling completely out of Andrea's arms, Miranda moved to grip the edge of the sink, but not daring to look into the mirror. "It will always be that way, me being older, too old..." Looking up she saw Andrea's horrified reflection as she spoke, "It's not fair to you, to... burden you with that life..."

"Miranda..." Andy managed to whisper, "What are you saying?" Andy thought her heart was going to beat out of her chest.

"You know what I'm saying." Miranda swallowed against the inevitable, "You are quite intelligent." for your age...

"No!... No no no..." Angry now, Andy moved, turning Miranda to face her, cupping both the older woman's cheeks in her hands, forcing the troubled blue eyes up to meet her dark brown ones. "You listen to me... I love you."

Miranda tried to look away, away from that intense gaze, those eyes she could never resist, but Andrea wouldn't allow it.

"No. You look into my eyes," Andy waited for the Miranda-blue eyes to meet hers, "I love you, Miranda. I loved you yesterday, I love you today, I will love you tomorrow, and the day after that and the day after that... a year from now, ten years from now, forty years from now..."

Words are easy, Miranda thought. She had said them, and they had been said to her hundreds of times. James and Stephen had both professed their love for her, others had as well if she were honest about it, but standing here, looking into Andrea's eyes she couldn't deny the depth of feeling the young woman had for her; that she had for Andrea. She couldn't not feel the love Andrea had for her, my Andrea.

Andy's trembling thumb shifted to catch a tear as it tracked down a nearly invisible wrinkle on the editor's cheek and Andy whispered, "I love you so much Miranda, always. That won't change, married or not."

Miranda sagged against the stalwart young woman and sighed, "I love you too."

Letting out a breath of relief, Andy squeezed the woman in her arms gently, "So are you still going to marry me?"

"Mmm..." Kissing the smooth skin of Andrea's neck, Miranda exhaled softly. "I'll consider it." She sighed and pulled away from the embrace. "Our guests are going to wonder where we've run off to."

"Caroline and Cassidy will keep them busy." Andy kept her arms loosely around her fiancee.

"Will the girls also evaluate the caterer samples?" Miranda's lips twitched at the corners, "Our wedding guests will be enjoying Cheese Doodles and Potato chips..."

Andy smiled and breathed a quiet, "Yay."

Rolling her eyes, Miranda sounded exasperated, "Only you would cheer for Cheese Doodles."

"Miranda, you love Cheese Doodles, and I'm cheering for knowing there will be a wedding." Andy rested her forehead against Miranda's, "You hadn't told me if you were still going to marry me or not."

Miranda hesitated, "Was that really ever in doubt?"

Andy bit her lip and nodded a little, "You scared me for a minute."

"I..." Licking her lips, Miranda pulled away slightly, "I overreacted. It was just very shocking, expecting to see you and then... seeing..."

"Serena..." Andy couldn't help the little rumble in the back of her throat.

"Yes, Serena..." Miranda recalled the encounter, for your age "she is very..."

Andy's eyes widened at Miranda's lips beginning to smirk. "She's very...what?"

"Tall." Miranda reached up to stroke her fiancee's cheek, "And she doesn't hold a candle to you in my eyes."

"No one holds a candle to you in my eyes..." Andy brushed aside the one errant lock from Miranda's forehead and kissed the cleared space then moved lower to kiss the woman's cheek, before brushing her lips across Miranda's lips.


"Shhh..." Andy moved to nip at the pulse point on Miranda's neck, smiling against the smoothness as the older woman's head tipped back, giving her better access despite the protests.

"Andrea, our guests..."

"They can fend for themselves." Andy mumbled and reached down, loosening the robe's belt. "Don't you think?"

Miranda arched into the touch as Andrea's hand slid under the fabric to caress her ribs. She gasped as the wandering hand dropped lower. "No, Andrea... when you touch me I can not think at all."

"Mmm..." Andy pulled the woman closer, "Good answer." Walking Miranda backward, Andy moved them to the much more comfortable bed. She was determined to show Miranda exactly how loved and adored she was.

Miranda closed her eyes and even as the normally mind-blanking sensations Andrea was so adept in evoking in her began, there was a tiny voice in the back of her mind, for your age.... for your age...

Serena dried off and dressed quickly before making her way downstairs. She closed her eyes briefly as Emily's voice reached her ears just before she entered the kitchen.

"Should we go check on them? The caterers will be here soon."

"No." Serena took the final steps down and entered the room. "They... um.. need to talk."

The mother in her recognized that tone and Dorothy asked the tall woman, "What happened?"

Shaking her head Serena refused to answer that, "Not for me to say." She sighed, "But I need to go, and they need to talk."

Emily rolled her eyes and spoke, "Oh God, what has Andrea done now?"

"Hey!" Dorothy rounded on the redhead, "That's my daughter you're talking about!"

"She is always causing trouble!" Emily's eyes widened as Dorothy advanced on her and Serena spoke quietly.

"It wasn't her this time." Serena stepped forward, between Emily and the angry woman. "This time it was me, and now I have to go."

Emily blinked, "Go?" She moved forward, closer to Serena, instinctively, "Go where?"

"Just go," Serena gave in to what she was feeling and pulled Emily into a hug. When she broke the embrace, the Brazilian spoke quietly, "Do not mention my name to Miranda, do you understand?" She nodded at the redhead's expression and repeated, "Don't mention my name and don't act like anything is wrong. Hopefully, Andy will correct the situation and there really won't be..."

"But..." Emily was horrified at the instructions. Don't mention her name? Something terrible had happened and Emily was going to find out what. "Call me tonight."

Hesitating, Serena bit her lips together and nodded, "Okay." Looking up as if seeing their boss all the way on the fourth floor, Serena winced slightly, "I have to go."

Emily watched as Serena hurried out the kitchen door, gym bag in hand and wondered if she really would ever see the woman again. She got the feeling Serena wasn't sure either.

Dorothy had been angry about the woman verbally attacking Andy, but now, the look on Emily's face, well it's like she just lost her best friend isn't it? Dorothy's heart went out to the young woman and she asked quietly, "What was that all about?"

"I'm not sure, but we need to take her advice for now. Don't mention her name around Miranda." Emily looked down the hall when the doorbell rang. "I'll get it," She looked at her watch, right on time, which meant they were late, but Miranda and Andy hadn't come downstairs yet anyway. "They'll want to set up in here and serve in the dining room."

Dorothy nodded numbly. Just a moment ago the woman had been on the verge of tears, and now she was all business. She wondered if it was just this woman's nature, or if working for Miranda Priestly gave you that ability. Or maybe, if you don't have that capability, working for Miranda is impossible. She wondered if that might be why Andy had left her job as Miranda's assistant. Dorothy didn't think her daughter was capable of such fast mood changes.

Miranda propped her head up on a pillow and looked at the dark head resting on her stomach, "We need to be going."

"Mmmm..." Andy grinned as Miranda's fingers found their way into her hair, "I heard the doorbell, I guess the caterers are here." She didn't move though, staying right where she was, listening to Miranda's strong, steady heartbeat. Shifting, Andy turned her head so she could still hear the rhythmic pumping but could also see Miranda's face. She smiled and the rhythm increased, "I love you Miranda." She grinned as the heart just beyond her ear did a double thump.

"And I love you," Miranda took a deep breath and nodded, "but it is time to rejoin our guests."

Sighing, Andy turned her head slightly and nibbled on the edge of Miranda's ribs, "Mmmm... It will just be Ma and Emily now, Gram and Mary decided to go sightseeing today, but... I suppose you're right."

"Andrea," Miranda chided, "I thought you knew..." Blue eyes twinkled down at her young fiancee even as her eyebrow disappeared behind her errant lock of white hair, "I am always right."

Andy grinned and gave the soft surface she was currently exploring a final kiss. "Fine," She laughed and began to move off the bed, "I should take another shower!"

"Oh no..." Miranda shook her head, "If I don't get one, neither do you..." She also rose from the bed, "We will have to make do with just washing our naughty bits..."


Miranda chuckled, "Something Daniella used to say," Miranda mimicked in a sing-song voice, " 'Wash your feet and your pits and your naughty bits...and you'll be ready for the day', she was quite the character."

"She probably didn't have this situation in mind." Andy went to the closet and grabbed a pair of jeans and a polo type shirt.

Miranda followed closely behind, choosing a less casual skirt outfit. Decisions were going to be made, she didn't want to be casual for that, plus Emily was going to be here. It wouldn't do for an employee to see her in too casual of clothing, even Emily. For your age...

Despite Andy's protests that they needed more time to clean up, they were both more than presentable in record time and arrived downstairs just in time for the caterer to present them with samples of cold appetizers. From the aroma wafting from the kitchen, there were hot morsels almost ready to be taken from the oven.

Miranda was impressed that the caterer didn't blink an eye when the entire complement of the house gathered around the table, six people instead of the two they were most likely expecting. Reaching out she chose one of the offerings and tried a nibble. It wasn't bad. Ignoring Emily's comfort zone, Miranda fed the rest of her bite to Andrea, "What do you think?"

Andy chewed and swallowed, "Not bad."

"Mmmm...." Miranda looked over the samples again, "Perhaps we should do better than 'not bad' for our guests?" She reached out and selected a different morsel, gesturing for Andrea to take one as well. This one was also, not bad.

Andy frowned slightly as she bit into the next morsel, but didn't say anything good or bad about the taste, so they moved on, bite, after small bite, caterer after caterer; frown after frown.

Andy grimaced as she chewed the beautiful little canape and sighed. This was the third caterer that she had pretty much rejected. For Emily it was the last straw.

"Andrea, may I see you in the kitchen for a moment?"

Nodding, Andy stood, "Yeah," She wanted a drink of water and wash her hands anyway. What she didn't want and was not prepared for was Emily's venom as soon as they entered the other room. The woman's hand on her arm whirled her around to meet the angry redhead's eyes.

"I told you before I am not going to put up with this bridezilla crap..."

"Hey!" Andy pulled her arm out of Emily's grip and backed off slightly, "I'm not doing it on purpose! Everything just tastes weird!" She sighed, "Maybe I'm coming down with something..."

Stepping forward, Emily grabbed both Andy's biceps in her hands and shook the young woman, "Well, snap out of it!"

"Emily," Miranda's quiet voice from the door way froze her assistant mid-shake, "Do you honestly believe physical assault will improve the matter?"

The redhead glared at Andy, still angry enough not to hold her tongue, "It makes me feel somewhat better."

Miranda's lips twitched in what could possibly have been the beginning of a smile, covered by a quick lick of those same lips. "Go and evaluate the selections, Andrea and I will return momentarily."

"Yes, Miranda." With a final glare at Andy and a nod to Miranda, Emily left the room.

Miranda studied her young fiancee for a long moment before crossing the room, closing the distance between them. She brushed away the dark hair from Andrea's forehead and laid her hand on the cleared space. "No fever."

"I'm sorry, Miranda," Andy sighed and moved to the sink, washing her hands, she dried them on the kitchen towel and automatically squirted a dollop of antibacterial gel into her palm. "I just don't know what's wrong with me today." She laughed at herself as she rubbed the gel on her hands, "You know, normally I love to eat!"

Miranda watched the entire hand-washing process and her blue eyes narrowed at the end of it. "Andrea, what does the food taste like, to you?"

Andy shrugged as she wrung her hands together, "I dunno, just... yuck. The first one you fed me was okay... but then..."

"Then you began to feed yourself..." Miranda reached down and brought one of Andrea's hands up between them. She kissed the back of it and grimaced, "You think the samples taste something like this?" Miranda manipulated Andrea's fingers so that her thumb was available to taste and pushed it toward the young woman's mouth.

Andy automatically opened her lips but pulled away quickly when her tongue touched her thumb, "Ewww..."

"It's that antibacterial gel you continually put on your hands." Miranda sighed, "You use far too much of that anyway." She instructed her fiancee, "Wash your hands and let's get on with this."

"Oh my god, why haven't I ever noticed that before?"

Miranda chuckled, "I believe you normally eat with a fork."

Andy washed her hands, twice, and just stopped herself from squirting another blob of gel on her hands afterward. "It's become a habit I guess."

"It's a bad habit, Andrea." Miranda wrapped her arm around Andrea's slender waist and pulled her away from the sink. "Soap and water are plenty."

"But, I go out, running, and on the subway, and all that... I don't want to pick up anything that will make you, or the girls, sick..." Andy clung to Miranda, "I don't want to make you sick, again."

"Andrea, you didn't make me sick the first time..." Miranda sighed, "Dr. Dawson said I could have gotten it from anywhere, and you know she has since given me a clean bill of health. The antibiotics did their job and I'm fine. People get sick from time to time, I am no exception, but it's no reason to live in fear of it happening. When I get sick, I will take whatever medicine the vampires tell me to and will be cured in no time."

"Okay, I'll try not to use the goop while I'm home, but I'm still taking some with me for the subway." Andy shuddered a bit just thinking about all the germs she could be bringing home with her from those trips, even though lately she'd started standing in the middle of the car and only touching what she needed to, to hold on while it was in motion.

"Fine," Miranda sighed, she didn't want to argue about the issue right now, "Smear it wherever you want, but it's not edible..." Miranda grinned, thinking she might know a way to help Andrea break the habit. She reached down and pulled Andrea's now clean hand up to her mouth, "...so anywhere that...goo... touches you will be off limits to my lips." She gently kissed each recently cleaned fingertip.

Andy smiled and cleared her throat, "You know, I um...have never put any of that...goo... um... here," She pointed to her cheek and closed her eyes as Miranda kissed the spot. "Or.. um... here," She pointed to the side of her neck, elated when Miranda nuzzled that very spot, kissing it lightly.

"Perhaps, I can find some other places you've never applied the gel... later." Miranda continued her exploration of the young woman's neck.

"I can't wait." Andy began to return the kisses.

Both women froze when a loudly clearing throat reached their ears.

Andy sighed, kept her eyes on Miranda, but spoke to the person at the door, "Hi, Ma."

"What is it with you two and kitchens?" Dorothy chuckled as the couple moved away from each other, "That redhead woman, Emily... sent the caterer away."

"Very well," Miranda kept her arm around Andrea's waist, "We have a little time before the next baker arrives."

"At least I'll be able to enjoy this one." Andy sighed and laid her head on Miranda's shoulder.

"Not if they are like the last two..." Dorothy grunted at the memory. "They bring out the fat free, sugar free... whatever else free cake, because it's you," she looked at Miranda, "So obviously they aren't going to taste like anything good."

"She's probably right." Andy acknowledged, "You're reputation is working against us in this case."

"In that case, the first baker that realizes our wedding should be a celebration of decadence will get the job." Miranda laughed at the looks on both women's faces. "What?"

Andy grinned, "A celebration of decadence?"

Miranda smirked, "You want it some other way?"

Dorothy held her tongue as she watched her daughter interacting with Miranda.

"Our wedding, will be perfect, no matter what food is served, who is there, or not there..." There was only a brief flash of her father's face in Andy's mind, before she continued, "So long as we're married at the end of the day, I'll be happy."

Miranda smiled and kissed Andrea's cheek lightly, "I only want you to be happy." For your age...

Dark eyes narrowed at that, but accepted the kiss. "So, what do we do until the baker gets here?"

"I believe Cassidy wanted another chance at beating me at that video game..." Miranda raised her eyebrows. "Care to cheer me on?"

Andy smiled, "I'm there for ya, always."

Miranda returned the smile and nodded once, "Come on, let's dance." For your age...

Dorothy just smiled and followed the couple upstairs. Andy and Miranda were so in love it was beautiful to watch. She wished Richard would see it, would accept that this is where Andy belonged. She sighed, doubtful that would ever happen.


Part 30

Dorothy was correct, fat free, sugar free... Miranda thought as she tasted the cakes this bakery had to offer. Taste free... "What do you think, Andrea?"

Curling her lip, Andy shook her head.

Nodding, Miranda turned to the woman who had presumably baked the cake in question, "It appears your offering is not what we require." Gesturing to the small tray that held morsels of each cake they'd tasted, Miranda told the woman. "You may go."

"No...wait." She licked her lips as the cool blue gaze turned her way, "I um..." She took a deep breath, "When I told my friends and colleagues I was going for this booking, they all thought I was crazy. They said there was no way I could ever please...you." She looked at Miranda, "But I'm good at what I do, the best, and that is what you need at your wedding."

Miranda blinked at the woman's forwardness, but sat back in her chair and waited for her to proceed.

"They all told me that you, being who you are, wouldn't want sugar and carbs and all that... so I made these," She gestured to the tray Miranda and Andy had been sampling off of, "But that isn't really what I make. I also know that it is nearly time for your children's birthday." She pressed her lips together at Miranda's distrustful look, and shrugged. "I looked on the internet, last year's society page, reported on their party."

Andy didn't like that any more than Miranda did. "What about the girls?" Apparently the girls didn't like it all that much either, because they both moved to sit on their parents' laps, Caroline on Miranda's, Cassidy on Andy's.

Cassidy whispered to Andy, "That's kinda creepy."

Wrapping her arms around the girl, Andy pressed her cheek into Cassidy's shoulder and nodded, "I know..."

"I was just trying to find stuff about you," She looked at Miranda, "To figure out your tastes... but the search brought up the article about the girls' party..." She continued quickly, "Anyway, I decided that in addition to these things, I would also make samples of cakes for the girls' birthday party, for their cake, if you don't already have someone to make it." She licked her lips, "I can use any of them for your wedding cake as well."

Miranda was intrigued. "What is your name?"

"Brenda." She breathed deeply, glad to still be standing here talking instead of heading out the door.

"Well, Brenda," Miranda wrapped her arms around Caroline's waist, "Show us what you have concocted that you deem suitable for a child's birthday cake."

Nodding, Brenda reached into the cooler at her feet and quickly produced a second tray with several squares each of four different kinds of cakes. "I make all these myself, no mixes."

Cassidy, Andy, Caroline and Miranda all reached out each taking a different bite from a different selection on the tray.

The girls chorused, "Oh!" "Yum!"

The bite Andy had taken literally melted in her mouth, "Oh my god, that's... that's..." She wasn't sure she knew a word that described the delicacy. She looked over to Miranda whose eyes had closed to savor the taste.

When the editor's eyes opened Miranda smiled and provided the word Andrea was looking for. "Decadent."

Andy smiled and turned to Brenda, "You have the jobs, wedding and birthday."

"Excellent!" Brenda was elated.

"Right," Emily marked a tick in her planner and pulled out her phone. She dialed the number of the baker who was scheduled to arrive later, "The Priestly Sachs wedding will not require your services, therefore your attendance for the tasting today is canceled."

Brenda produced several three ring binders, passing them over to the couple. "These are examples of my work, I can do any design though, tailored to your specifications."

"We're having a Twilight themed party." Cassidy informed the woman, "Do you have any designs for that?"

Nodding, Brenda turned the pages to the section where all the currently popular designs were shown. "I'm not sure you girls would want something so common though..." She pointed to the photos of the cakes, "I could do something like this as a center piece," The picture showed a square black and white checked cake with chess pieces and an apple on it, "then make individual cakes shaped like apples to set around it..."

"Ohhh! Cool!" Cassidy grinned. "That would be great, right Ro?"

Caroline nodded, "Yeah, that will be cool."

Brenda nodded, "Which kind of cake do you want?"

Cassidy pointed to the sample she'd tried, and Caroline pointed to the one she'd taken.

"Girls," Miranda chided, "you should try them all before making a decision."

Dutifully trying each of the samples, both girls stuck to their original choices.

Brenda nodded and made a note of which design and which cake types they wanted. "I can do two separate cake types if that's what you want. It's not a problem." She looked at the adults, "And for the wedding cake? What's the decor for the wedding going to be?"

Miranda was a little taken back by the question, because she had no idea what had been decided on that issue. She looked to Andrea for the answer.

Andy smiled and deferred to Emily, "It would be easier to show her don't you think Em?"

"Of course," Emily produced the designer's book and turned to the page showing the Greek Temple design.

Miranda peered over and sniffed when she saw the photo, "It's rather... common, don't you think?"

Emily looked shocked and then turned an almost angry 'I-knew-it' glare at Andy.

Laughing, Andy waved off the redhead and reached over to take Miranda's hand, "You're a goddess and that is the appropriate place for a goddess to be married in." She grinned as Miranda and Caroline both rolled their eyes in exactly the same way.

Cassidy groaned and slid off Andy's lap and shook her head as she walked out of the room, mumbling, "I'm going to get cavities from all the sweetness around here..."

Dorothy chuckled and reached for a cake sample. She had waited for Andy and Miranda to make their decisions before tasting the morsels, not wanting to influence their choices. She was only there to help if they had trouble making a decision. "I tend to agree with Cassidy..." Dorothy popped the bite in her mouth and groaned, turning startled eyes at the baker. "We're going to talk."

Andy laughed, "Brenda, this is my mother, Dorothy." Her dark eyes twinkled, "And I've seen that look in her eyes before, so you may as well just give up the recipes now."

Brenda laughed, "My secret recipes?" She grinned, beyond happy to have gotten the jobs, "I don't think so."

Andy shook her head as her mother reached for another bite. "I'm telling you, it's a lost cause." Andy watched as Dorothy's eyes glazed over slightly at the bite she'd just taken, Oh yeah, Brenda's recipes are practically sitting on index cards in Mom's kitchen right now.

The next caterer arrived and began to set up their presentation in the dining room as Brenda was gathering her things. Dorothy helped the baker and followed her closely to the kitchen, as Andy had predicted, determined to get the recipes. Caroline decided she was bored with the tasting process and went upstairs to find Cassidy. Most of the caterers all brought the same things and there wouldn't be any more bakers coming around with any sweet stuff anyway.

Andy was a bit surprised that this presentation was actually slightly different than the four they had already endured. Their appetizers were much the same as the others, but had a little something extra that made them very good. They had also done their homework and tried to present dishes they thought were Miranda and Andy's favorites, for the meal portion of the evening. Andy thought it was creepy that someone could find out that she like Chicken Marsala, and that Miranda's favorite was steak. Of course, there were quite a few restaurants they frequented, especially Miranda, and they almost always ordered the same thing. Most of the better known chefs in town knew their preferences.

These people however, were obviously mainly used to preparing the appetizers and weren't actually very good at cooking main course entrees. The beef was overcooked, a sin in Miranda's eyes, and the Marsala sauce was severely lacking on Andy's chicken. Andy had known these people weren't really serious when she saw the salad offering. Caesar salad was good, and she loved it, but the lettuce in this case had been cut, with a knife. She had clenched her teeth and not said anything about it, mindful of Emily's 'Bridezilla' comments, but even she knew that lettuce for salads should be torn by hand. She'd given them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps they'd just been in a hurry or something and had the main courses been acceptable she could have easily told them how to prepare the salad correctly.

Miranda didn't bother to take a bite of the not-even-pink steak. Although the appetizers were delicious there was no way to overlook the ruined main course and she gestured for the hopeful caterer's to leave.

Emily ushered them out quickly and was apologizing when she returned, "I am so sorry, I mean really, I could cook a steak better than that..." She ran her fingers through her hair, "God, these people..."

"Relax, Emily." Miranda waved off her apologies, "Sit, we have more things to discuss yes?"

"There are still several things to decide," Emily took out her planner as she sat across from the couple. "You still have to decide on your dresses, you need to choose brides maids and their dresses, and I don't know who will be performing the ceremony so that I can coordinate their schedule."

"I'm going to begin my search for the perfect dress on Monday, after my television appearances." Andy leaned back in her chair, "That is why Ma, Gram and Mary are here, to help me out with that..."

Miranda nodded, "I too am still contemplating my ensemble for the occasion." For my age...

Nodding, Emily moved down her list. "Bride's maids?"

Miranda looked over at Andrea and raised her eyebrows in question.

Andy grinned, "That's what I was thinking too, but I haven't asked them yet."

Blue eyes twinkled at the ease with which the young woman had read her intentions. "Perhaps we should do that now?"

"Sure," Standing, Andy offered her hand to assist Miranda up, which was, as always, not taken until the woman was already standing. She listened carefully, "At least one of them is upstairs, practicing."

Emily was puzzled by that statement and tilted her head to hear what she thought was a classical CD playing much too loudly. Curious she followed the couple up the stairs, past the second floor where she knew the tv room was, to the third floor. There were bedrooms here and also another large room at the end of the hall, it was about the size of the TV room on the floor below, but this room contained two baby grand pianos nestled together so that the players would face each other, in addition to several other musical instruments, some chairs and a sofa that looked like a match to the one in the study downstairs.

Cassidy was seated on the sofa, well, seated wasn't exactly correct. Sprawled was more accurate, but her eyes were closed as she listened to Caroline playing. "Watch your tempo, Ro..."

Caroline sighed, nodded, then saw the newcomers in the room and stopped playing. "Uh... was I bothering you? I should have closed the door."

"No, my darling, that was lovely." Miranda smiled at the girl and grinned as Cassidy hurried to sit up. "Andrea and I wanted to speak to you for a moment."

"Oh," Caroline moved to the sitting area, "What's up?"

"It's about the wedding." Andy started, "We um.. well we wanted to ask you..."

Miranda continued Andrea's halting speech, "It is traditional for the bride to have someone stand with her, in our case we need two people to be bridesmaids..."

Cassidy's eyes widened and Caroline's jaw dropped, but they both spoke simultaneously. "Us?!"

"That was to be the point of my statement, yes." Miranda frowned as the girls answered in stereo.

"No way." Cassidy shook her head and Caroline held up her hands to fend off the suggestion, "Not us!"

"Why not?!" Miranda was disappointed that the girls didn't want to stand up with them, Do they not approve of the marriage after all? Do they also realize I'm too old for Andrea?

Caroline sighed, "Okay, look... We want nothing more than for you two to be married and together forever... but we've talked about it, and there is no way we can be bridesmaids. There are things bridesmaids have to do, things we can't do."

Cassidy nodded and elaborated, "The bachelorette party... we can't organize something like that. For that you need her." She pointed to Emily.

Andy understood that the girls were serious about not being bridesmaids. "You are my first choice," she told them, "But if you really don't want to, I can always ask Lily, or Jo."

Miranda also nodded, "Yes, if you truly don't want to take part in the ceremony, I will get someone else as well."

"We're gonna play at the wedding," Cassidy gestured to the pianos.

Caroline saw how disappointed the women were and spoke up, "Some people have more than one bridesmaid..."

"So, you will stand up with us..." Andy clarified, "As long as you don't have to plan the 'bachelorette' party?"

The girls looked at each other then back at their parents. "Yeah, we could do that."

Emily shuddered slightly at the silent communication between the children and their simultaneous response. That is so creepy. She vowed, I am never having children. Miranda's voice pulled her out of her musings.

"So now we will each have two bridesmaids."

Andy nodded, "I'll have Lily and one of the girls..." Andy grinned at the twins, "And you will have one of the girls and whoever else you decide..." Now Andy glanced at Emily then again before rolling her eyes at Miranda's obstinance. Leaning over, Andy whispered, "Just ask her." A quick kiss on the cheek justified the motion and Andy stood. "C'mon girls, lets go see what Ma is up to." She hoped they wouldn't find her mother with the baker tied up in the pantry, torturing her to give up the cake recipes.

Miranda watched her family leave the room then turned to face her assistant. "Emily."

"Yes, Miranda?" The redhead looked up from her planner, "I can schedule lunch for you with Donatella on Tuesday."

Blinking, Miranda shook her head, "What?"

"Um.. so you can ask her to be your bridesmaid?" Emily watched her boss' face, as the eyes she normally saw as hard and icy, softened.

"I'm sure Donatella will attend any party that is organized, and of course she will be at the wedding, but I do not think she would make an appropriate bridesmaid."

"Oh," Emily began to erase the penciled appointment she'd made, "So, uh..." She couldn't figure out how to ask Miranda who she wanted to stand up with her.

"Andrea is under the impression that, you, should fulfill that duty, for me." Miranda watched Emily's eyes widen and nodded, "I understand if you are unwilling to do that."

"You...Uh... want me to?!" Emily paled slightly and clasped her hands together on her lap.

Miranda sighed, "Don't faint, Emily, we have no cheese cubes readily available." She waited for the woman to control herself and continued, "You have been my assistant, my trusted right hand, for the better part of five years, longer than any other assistant in the history of my tenure as Editor-in-Chief at any Elias-Clarke publication." Miranda smiled at the redhead, "Don't you think it would be appropriate for you to stand with me in this as well?"

"I... don't know..." Emily studied her hands, avoiding Miranda's gaze.

"Because of your feelings toward me." Miranda's blue eyes watched intently as Emily's head snapped up.

"How do you..." She pressed her lips together and bit them to keep them closed then looked down at her lap again. Strong fingers under her chin gently lifted her face up to meet Miranda's gaze.

"How could I not know?" Miranda sighed, "I had hoped it would pass, I am a cold hearted bitch most of the time after all."

"You're not!" Emily swallowed hard as Miranda's fingers slid away from her chin. "You just get the job done..."

Nodding, Miranda agreed, "Yes, I do that, but often I'm quite ruthless while I do it. I didn't keep the Dragon Lady reputation for being nice and reasonable." She smiled at her assistant, "I have watched your relationship with..." Serena... "certain people, growing...possibly into love..."

"I loved you first." Emily's eyes widened and her hands clapped over her mouth.

Miranda sighed and she informed her assistant in no uncertain terms, "You do not love me."

"Oh but I..."

"No," Miranda reached out and took Emily's hand, pulling it over, placing it on her own knee, Miranda let go and Emily immediately withdrew her hand. "You see? You draw back when you touch me. Love is tangible and tactile, a palpable thing. What you feel for me is not love, possibly a crush, infatuation maybe, adoration at times..." She refused to vocalize Andrea's assertion of 'worship', "but love?" She shook her head, "No."

"I had always hoped that you would..." Emily clamped her lips shut, unwilling to embarrass herself further.

"I do care for you, but not in that way." Miranda smiled sadly, "I will miss your presence in my office."

"Miss..." Emily thought she was going to cry, "Am I being fired?"

"No," Miranda smiled and reached out to tap the woman's cheek gently, "Promoted... there is an opening in Event Planning..."

"But," the red head shook, It doesn't feel like a promotion.

"Five years, Emily," Miranda raised her eyebrows, "You can not be my assistant forever, can you?"

"I could." She sighed as Miranda shook her head. "But you don't want me to be."

"I want you to fulfill your potential." Miranda leaned back in her seat, "You can not work for me forever. You have done a wonderful job with the wedding, reception and birthday party so far..." Tilting her head in question, Miranda again offered, "The opening in Event Planning is yours, if you want it."

"I spoke with Joan yesterday, she didn't say anything about firing anyone." Emily liked the woman and her staff. They had worked together on several occasions, when Miranda was going to attend the event being planned.

"No, the opening is at British Runway." Miranda watched the woman carefully, "Would you like that Emily? Do you want to go home?"

Home? "I... I'm not sure..." She answered truthfully, "I would miss all my friends," she reminded herself, Don't mention Serena's name...."and colleagues here. I do miss London sometimes, but I love it in New York."

"I can arrange that," Miranda offered, "Joan can go to London and you can remain here in her place."

Emily blinked, "But she's..."

"The Head of the department, yes, but that is the opening in London as well." Blue eyes twinkled at the redhead, "Think about both offers, and let me know." Miranda stood, looking down at the still seated, slack jawed woman, "The bridesmaid offer is rather limited on time, there are preparations to make before the ceremony, a dress to fit, and apparently a party to throw..."

Closing her mouth to swallow against her dry throat, Emily nodded and actually ventured a question, "How long do I have to decide on the job?"

Licking her lips Miranda smiled, "Take tonight and tomorrow, talk to..." She closed her eyes as again the woman's accented words came to her, For your age..., and she couldn't bring herself to say Serena's name, "someone you trust, you can give me your decision on Monday... for both offers."

Someone I trust, Emily thought, Serena, she means Serena...but won't say her name... What could have possibly happened...? Emily looked up at Miranda and thoughts of Serena left her for the moment, there was another burning issue she wanted to understand and now might be the only chance she ever got to resolve it. "May I ask you a question?"

Nodding, Miranda waited for the woman to speak.

"Why... her?"

Miranda's eye twitched slightly at the question, knowing who the 'her' in question was, but then she took a deep breath, sending a silent apology to her fiancee, and moved out the door. Leaning over the railing of the staircase, Miranda called down through the house, "Andrea, would you join us up here for a moment?"

"Be right there," reached Miranda's ears and she nodded as she reentered the music room. Sitting on the large sofa, Miranda rested back against the soft surface, "I feel ill."

Emily sat up straighter and moving slightly away, reached for her phone, "Should I call a doctor?"

Waving off that suggestion, there was a moment of silence between them before they heard footsteps on the stairs and Miranda quietly broke the silence, "Watch."

When Andrea entered the room Miranda again said, "I feel ill."

Andy immediately sat next to Miranda, wrapping one arm around the woman's shoulders, she used her other hand to feel Miranda's forehead and cheeks, "No fever. Is it your head or stomach??"

Andrea's phone appeared seemingly from nowhere. "Stop," Miranda captured phone and cleared the screen of Dr. Dawson's information. Holding Andrea's hand between them, settling back into the embrace, Miranda assured the young woman. "I will be fine. I didn't mean to upset you." Miranda kissed Andrea lightly on the cheek then blue eyes looked past the woman currently holding her to see the dismay on Emily's face. "You see?"

Love... Emily nodded, "Yes. Of course."

"Perhaps you should go home and, think about things?" Miranda patted her fiancee's arm lightly, "I'm sure Andrea and I can manage the last caterer on our own."

"Of course," Emily stood, "I'll do that, thank you."


"Andrea, there isn't that much more to discuss regarding the wedding, so I won't be meeting you in the park anymore." Emily slid her phone into her pocket, "If you have any questions about any of the arrangements, just call me."

"Um... okay." Andy watched her former co-worker walk out of the room before she turned to Miranda. "Are you sure you're okay?"

"Yes, Andrea, I'm fine." Miranda had known the demonstration would concern Andrea for a moment, but she hadn't realized the extent that the young woman would worry. "I didn't mean to worry you so much."

Narrowing her eyes at the tone, Andy realized that Miranda really was fine. "You gonna tell me what that was all about?"

"Yes." Laying her head on Andrea's shoulder, Miranda began recounting the encounter with Emily.

They all heard the mail drop through the slot and Dorothy chuckled as the twins exchanged looks then ran down the hall to check the daily delivery. She looked up as Andy walked into the kitchen. "Hi Sweetheart..." One look was all it took for the mama instincts in her to kick in, "What's wrong?"

Andy shook her head and waved off the question, "Nothing we can't deal with."

"Does this have anything to do with that redheaded woman running out of here in near tears?" Dorothy had worried about the woman getting home safely in the state she was in.

Andy winced to think about Emily being close to tears. "Yeah, a little." She snagged a cold bottle of water from the fridge and informed her mom, "I'm going to take a walk." She opened the drawer to grab Patricia's leash.

"Where are you going?"

Andy whirled to see Cassidy and Caroline standing just inside the kitchen door. "I was just telling Ma, I'm going for a short walk. I need to clear my head."

Caroline's venomous tone caught Andy off guard.

"Maybe you should take your mail with you to read!" A letter was flung across the kitchen at her.

Andy looked down to see the letter at her feet, closing her eyes at the now familiar handwriting. "Dammit!" She wanted to tear it up, she wanted to burn it and she was beginning to want to take the pieces and the ashes to the jail and throw them in Judy's face. Scooping up the letter, she slammed her water down on the counter, grabbed the marker from the white board and wrote the usual 'Return to Sender' instructions on it. "Now I have to take that walk to mail this back!"

"What?" Caroline didn't understand, "You aren't going to read it?"

"No I'm not going to read it!" Andy was angry now, angry at everything and nothing. She raised her voice, "She tried to kill Miranda! You think I want to have anything to do with her?! You think I want to know what her demented mind has come up with now?!"

"We're sorry, Ma..." Cassidy tried to intervene, she'd never seen or heard Andy this mad. "It just, surprised us..."

"Sweetheart," Dorothy ventured, "Why don't you go ahead with your walk..." She urged Andy toward the door, "We can talk about this later when everyone is a little calmer." She tried to switch the conversation to the one subject that always distracted her daughter. "Where is Miranda?"

Andy took a deep breath, her voice dropped to it's usual level, "She's upstairs, she'll be down in a little bit."

Nodding, Dorothy rubbed Andy's back lightly, "Okay... go on then. We'll be here when you get back."

"Okay," Opening the door, Andy whistled for Patricia to meet her and she snapped the leash on the dog's collar. "C'mon Patricia, let's go walking..."

Dorothy closed the door behind her daughter and turned to see both children's crestfallen faces.

"We didn't mean to make her mad..." Caroline seemed to be on the verge of tears. This day sucks!

"We're really sorry." Cassidy's glistening blue eyes looked at the door sadly, "It just..."

Nodding, Dorothy opened her arms and grunted as the girls moved to either side of her holding on tightly, "It will be fine. Andy wasn't upset with you..."

"She yelled..." Caroline buried her face in Dorothy's side, "I've never seen her yell before."

Miranda came down the stairs quickly, adjusting her earrings as she stepped down, "What is all the yelling about," she saw Dorothy hugging the girls and looked around, "What happened? Where is Andrea?"

"She's taking a walk." Dorothy smiled as the girls detached themselves from her and reattached themselves to their mother. "She...had a letter to mail."

Closing her eyes, Miranda muttered under her breath, "Damn."

Cassidy looked up at her mother, shocked, "Language!"

"Sorry, my darling," Miranda kissed the girl's head, then turned and kissed Caroline's head too. Frowning, she pushed some of the curly red hair off Caroline's forehead and pressed her lips against the skin there. "Caroline, you have a fever."

"Huh?" Caroline pulled away, "I don't feel bad."

"Go upstairs and take your temperature." Miranda patted Caroline on the back, "I'll be up in a moment to check on you." She eyed her other daughter, "Cassidy, go with your sister."

Cassidy sighed, she knew she was going to keep Ro honest about the results on the thermometer. "Okay..." She grabbed Caroline's hand, "C'mon, Ro, let's go see how hot you are."

Miranda chuckled at Cassidy's phrasing, but worry crossed her features as she watched the girls disappear up the stairs. She spoke quietly to Dorothy, "Caroline often becomes ill, we will have to keep an eye on her temperature."

Dorothy nodded, "Some children are more susceptible to that kind of thing than others." She'd seen it time and time again while she taught school. There were some children who became sick as regular as clockwork and others who never missed a day. "Andy was very rarely sick."

Miranda was thoughtful as she moved to the fridge, "Andrea is always wonderful with Caroline. You said she was taking a walk?"

"Yes, she took the dog." Dorothy spoke quietly, "She was upset about something, before the letter arrived. Can you tell me about that?"

Miranda retrieved a small Sprite from the fridge and answered slowly, "No. It is a private matter between Andrea and me... speaking of which," reaching into a cabinet she grabbed a small package of saltines, "Have you spoken to Andrea regarding your mother?"

"No," Dorothy justified herself quickly, "I never seem to have time."

Heading for the staircase, Miranda paused to look Dorothy in the eye, "It's her grandmother, she deserves to know. Make the time." Without another word, Miranda started up the stairs to check on Caroline.

"Make the time..." Dorothy shook her head speaking softly to herself, "Why does that sound so easy?"

Miranda entered Caroline's room to find both her daughters sitting on Caroline's bed. It was Cassidy who spoke, "Her temperature is ninety-nine point nine."

"Hardly anything at all..." Caroline pouted. "I feel fine." Except for those stupid letters... She knew it wouldn't last though, soon she would begin to ache, and her stomach would start to turn on her.

"Mmmm..." Miranda put the soda and crackers on the nightstand and sat on the edge of the bed next to the feverish girl, wrapping her arm around the small shoulders. "Would you like to go to the sunroom and rock?"


Nodding, Miranda shifted so that her back was against the head of the bed. She beckoned both girls to settle on either side of her. "Have I ever told you about the time I met Coco Chanel?"

Both girls gasped and shook their heads. "No." "Really?" They knew Coco Chanel was their mom's very favorite.

Caroline thought it was awesome that her mom had actually gotten to meet the woman. Her voice was a bit breathless as she rested her head just below Miranda's shoulder, "Tell us."

"Well, I was very young, just a few years older than you are now and was working in the dress shop for Daniella..."

Cassidy saw that Caroline's eyes were closed and she hoped Ro didn't get too sick this time. I wonder why I don't get sick all the time too, I guess we're not exactly identical. She didn't think about it too long though, instead she concentrated on her mother's soothing voice. Cassidy closed her eyes too, she loved listening to their mom's voice. It didn't happen often though, so she wanted to savor each word.

Part 31

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