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 31

Andy returned to the house to find her mother processing some of the produce they had acquired at the Farmer's Market this morning. Pre-chopping the veggies was something her mom had done for years and would make them much easier to use tomorrow. Andy also knew chopping was not something Dorothy did if there was anything else to do. Looking around the kitchen as she washed her hands, Andy's forehead wrinkled. She listened hard to the rest of the house and asked, puzzled, "Where are the girls? Where's Miranda?"

"Caroline had a fever. Cassidy and Miranda have been up with her since just after you left." Dorothy put down the knife and took a deep breath. "I... need to talk to you about something."

Andy rubbed the antibacterial gel into her hands and was barely listening, "Fever?" Leaving Patricia's leash on the counter where she'd tossed it, she thought to drop her empty water bottle into the recycle container before bounding up the stairs three at a time.

Dorothy blinked at her daughter's sudden disappearance and spoke quietly to herself, "I guess it can wait a little longer."

Upstairs Andy stopped in front of Caroline's door and took a moment to catch her breath. The door was slightly open and she quietly pushed it enough for her to enter. The sight of Miranda peacefully sleeping between the girls nearly brought her to tears. She is so beautiful and she loves them so much... Andy knew that it was pure love she was seeing now, unguarded in sleep. She thought she could probably stand and watch them forever. Instead, she moved stealthily forward and leaned over the bed, kissing Cassidy on the cheek, then stretched carefully across the girl to place a light kiss on Miranda's lips. Moving quietly to the other side, she pressed her lips against Caroline's warm forehead. She whispered, "I love you," to all three sleepers and moved away.

Andy backed out of the room slowly, not wanting to disturb them any more than she already had. There was some time left before the next caterer arrived and she now vaguely recalled her mother saying there was something they needed to talk about.

Returning to the kitchen, Andy took a seat on one of the stools at the island and snagged a sliver of bell pepper from the pile.

"Everything okay?" Dorothy smiled indulgently at her daughter's snacking.

"Mmm.. yeah," She gestured upstairs with the bit of green in her hand, "they're all napping."

"Ah," Nodding, the woman continued to chop the carrot in front of her. "Best thing for Caroline probably..."

"Yeah, sleeping often helps Caroline keep the nausea down to a minimum. And Miranda works so hard all the time, she needs all the rest she can get." Andy sighed, she'd done some research online. She hadn't spoken to Miranda about it yet, but she thought Caroline's frequent illness was due to stress. I did this, Andy thought, I yelled at her and now she's sick. I'll apologize when they wake up. Dorothy cleared her throat and Andy looked up to meet her mother's gaze.

"There is something I want to talk to you about..." Dorothy exhaled softly, "...tell you."

"Um... okay." This wasn't like her mother, usually the woman was straightforward about anything that needed saying. She watched Dorothy put the knife down and wipe her hands.

"Let's go sit..."

Blinking at that, Andy dropped the rest of the green pepper into the trash and slid off the stool that, she refrained from pointing out, she was already sitting on and followed her mother to the conversation area just outside of the kitchen.

As the settled into the comfy chairs there, Andy asked, "What's going on, Ma?"

"It's um... about how I acted when you first told us about Miranda..." Dorothy sighed, "It all has to do with your grandmother..." She looked at Andy sadly, "My mom."

Andy's eyes widened, she didn't know what to say to that. To her knowledge her mother had never mentioned her grandmother at all, save that one time in the sunroom when a comment was mumbled under her mother's breath. Being the curious girl she was, Andy had done some research on her own though... Is she actually going to tell me... Pressing her lips together, Andy forced herself to remain quiet, silently urging her mother to continue.

"First of all, before you ask, I'm only going to be talking about my mother, because," Dorothy sighed, "because I have no idea who my father is."

Blinking at that information, Andy swallowed hard and nodded, "Um.. okay."

"I don't know who he was, but I do know what he was." Exhaling slowly, Dorothy continued the story, telling Andy exactly what she had told Miranda about the rich man courting her mother, about her mother finding herself pregnant after the man had left, about the day she came to tell the woman that she was pregnant and finding her mother had overdosed on pain pills.

Andy could feel her heart beating so hard in her chest it was a wonder it didn't wake up Miranda and the girls three floors above. She managed to push the word past her lips. "Suicide?" That was something she hadn't expected, the report she had found said 'accidental'.

"It was ruled accidental, but..." Dorothy wiped away a tear as it rolled down her cheek, "I wouldn't be surprised if she did it on purpose." The woman looked at her beloved daughter and tried to explain, "He... broke her... that man, that rich man, used her, took her... and left her when he was done." She wrapped her arms around her middle and asked, "Do you understand? I wanted to keep that from happening to you. I didn't want you to be hurt."

Andy shifted, sliding to her knees in front of her mother. "Ma, I'm not going to get hurt. Miranda will absolutely not do anything like that to me. I promise you."

Nodding, Dorothy smiled and reached out to brush Andy's bangs away from her eyes, "I know, Sweetheart, I know now. Then I didn't know her," Dorothy licked her lips, "Now I've seen her with you, talked to her, and I..." she shook her head, "I still don't understand the why of it, but I know that you love each other, I can see it."

Andy felt the tears welling in her eyes, "Thanks, Ma."

"I love you, Andy." Dorothy tried to stem the tears long enough to continue speaking, "I've only ever wanted you to be happy."

Hugging the woman close, Andy assured her, "I am happy, Ma." She laughed, "Deliriously so."

A pang of regret washed through the older woman. "I wish she had at least known about you." Dorothy sighed, "Sometimes I think if I had only told her sooner...she wouldn't have..."

"Ma," Andy moved back to her chair but sat on the edge and leaned forward. Resting her elbows on her knees she reached out to hold her mother's hands.

Andy couldn't read people as well as Miranda could, yet, and she hadn't taken all the psychology courses Chad had, but she knew that there was something her mom needed to hear. "It wasn't your fault. What happened to...grandma, was an accident, just like the report said."

"I can't be sure of that." Dorothy shook her head, remembering her mother, "She was so depressed for so long."

"Why was she on pain pills?" Andy shuddered at the memory of Miranda being drugged. Most of the mixture Judy had used consisted of pain killers and muscle relaxers, strong ones. Miranda could have easily been overwhelmed by them and the thought of that happening, the possibility of the girls finding their mother like that, Andy shook off that line of thinking to concentrate on what her mother was saying.

"She had back pain, degenerative discs. After she was left with a child to raise she had to take any job she could, she was a waitress when she met my father and after he left she continued that for nearly twenty years." Dorothy had always felt guilty about that, like somehow it had been her fault that her mother was in constant pain.

"Hard work." Andy had actually done that for a while, in college. It had only been part time, but Andy knew how sore she had been after just a weekend of back to back shifts. She repeated the earlier sentiment, "It wasn't your fault though, you were just a kid."

"My head knows that, but my heart..." Dorothy sighed. "I should have told you all this a long time ago."

Andy was glad her mom had finally opened up about the tragedy. It meant the woman had started thinking of Andy as an adult, something Andy had wanted to happen for a long time. She had known about her grandmother's death for several years but had never brought it up because she also knew it hurt her mother to think about it. What Andy didn't really understand why it was being brought up now. "Why are you? I mean, why now?"

"You are, on the verge of joining a family, making them your own." Dorothy shook her head, "You deserve to know about your past as you head into your future.

Nodding, Andy bit her lips together and swallowed hard. A family of my own... "No matter what happens in the future, you, and Daddy, and Chad will always be my family."

"Of course," Dorothy smiled, "But with us you didn't get the choice..." It was her turn to leave her seat. Standing next to her daughter, Dorothy reached down and traced the girl's cheek lightly, "... you love Miranda, and the girls, and have chosen to bring them into your life, and ours." Smiling, Dorothy leaned down and kissed Andy's forehead. "I'm glad you are so happy, Sweetheart."

"Thanks, Ma." Andy watched as her mother walked down the hall and up the main staircase. Wrapping her arms around her own waist, Andy took a moment to digest everything her mother had told her, filing it away with the information she had dug up years ago, then stood and walked through the kitchen and up the back staircase. She glanced at the clock on the nightstand when she entered her bedroom and knew there was at least a half hour before they could even expect the next caterer to arrive. Not enough time to take another walk, but it was enough time to do a little work. Grabbing her laptop she moved down the hall to the sunroom. There were some things she wanted to research and possibly outline yet another story idea. Not an article, a book, a novel.

She loved journalism, loved working at the paper and would do so for as long as possible. But she'd discovered that it wasn't the news that she loved, it was the writing itself and she'd seen the signs of things to come, as had many other people. Newspapers were slowly being pushed out by the digital revolution. Miranda had managed to keep Runway's circulation up, and actually growing slightly, but for the most part printed news was on the downslide. Andy was determined to be ready when that began to affect her.

Cassidy descended the stairs slowly. She'd woken a few minutes ago and reluctantly left her mother and sister sleeping in Caroline's room. She looked in all the rooms finding them all empty. After she grabbed a drink from the fridge, she wandered back upstairs, passing the closed door of the guest room where her grandma was staying, passing her own bedroom and Caroline's. Knowing Gram Sachs and Mary were gone sightseeing, Cassidy continued her trek up the stairs to the fourth floor, not surprised to find Andy in the sunroom. "Hi."

"Hey, Sweetie." Andy smiled and stopped her writing. "Did you have a good nap?"

"A short one, yeah." Cassidy sipped her drink.

"I'm afraid a short one is all Miranda is going get too." Andy checked her watch, "It's nearly time for the next caterer to be here."

"You think you'll like this one?" Cassidy had been surprised that Andy was being so picky with the selections.

"I hope so." Andy wondered what they were going to do if this caterer also turned out to be a disaster. "Maybe Emily saved the best for last." They both heard the doorbell ring and Cassidy nodded.

"I guess we'll see, huh?" She slid off of the chair and offered, "I'll get the door, you can go wake up Mom."

"No," Andy shook her head, "I'll get the door. You can wake your mom, gently... and let her know that the caterer is here. Try not to wake Caroline though."

"Okay." Cassidy walked with Andy down one flight of stairs, then parted ways as the woman continued down to the door and she went to Ro's room to carry out her mission.

Andy let the caterers in and showed them to the kitchen. "The dining room is through that door." She gestured to the archway that led to the room in question.

"Are you Ms. Charlton?" The man in charge looked puzzled, "You sounded different on the phone."

Laughing, Andy shook her head, "No, Emily had to leave earlier," She held out her hand to shake and introduced herself, "I'm Andy Sachs."

"Oh," He smiled and shook her hand, "Sachs... as in Priestly-Sachs wedding..." He looked at her with polite curiosity, "Are you the groom's sister?" He knew that Miranda Priestly was a woman, therefore she would be the bride.

"Um...I'm actually the bride..." Andy's smile faded as the man's handshake began to falter and was pulled away quickly, "...well... one of them anyway." Miranda chose that moment to walk down the stairs and having heard the last bit of the exchange, corrected the young woman firmly.

"You are the most important one, my darling." The fashion icon kissed Andrea on the cheek and turned to scrutinize the man. "Do you have a problem with that?"

"Well..." He took a deep breath, "I just didn't realize... I mean..."

"So you don't read the newspapers, or the tabloids..." Miranda considered that a plus, but if the man's attitude was hostile, once he got over his confusion, his lack of knowledge regarding their personal life wouldn't help him win the catering contract. "If you don't wish to proceed, by all means, leave now. There are plenty of other caterers in the city." She continued to speak as they walked into the dining room and the man contemplated the situation. "In fact, we should probably be looking for someone's services who are based closer to Martha's Vineyard." A glance at Andrea's nodding head confirmed the logic in that notion. "Perhaps the hotel would provide us with a list of local businesses."

"Meh..." The man scoffed, "No need for that." He decided a job was a job, food is the great equalizer. "I am, Gunter. I am the best. You need not look elsewhere."

Miranda's lips twitched slightly and she challenged the claim. "Prove it."

He chuckled, "I'm not used to proving my skills to anyone."

Andy remained silent as Miranda shifted slightly in her seat, "That is too bad." She appraised the confident man, "I am the best at what I do, and I prove it every day. It keeps my skills sharp and leaves no doubt in anyone's mind as to my abilities."

"You're the most powerful woman in publishing." Andy smiled at her fiancee and slipped her hand into Miranda's tangling their fingers together, "Everyone knows you're the best even without your daily dose of excellence."

"Mmmm..." Miranda squeezed the hand in hers lightly, "Thank you, my darling."

Smirking at the couple, the caterer held up his index finger, "I said I was not used to it, not that I couldn't do it." He uncovered the trays that his minions had set on the table in front of them. "Sample what you will, they are all excellent."

The first thing that hit them was the visual, the trays were arranged in amazingly pleasing ways even though these were just samples of the man's work. Then came the aroma; no longer muffled by the covers, the scent was in itself mouthwatering. When they tasted the items it was all Andy could do not to groan with pleasure. She noticed Miranda was also fighting with herself not to subvocally express her opinion.

"Quite good." Miranda kept her voice monotone, "How are you at entrees?"

"I can make anything." He boasted. "I have brought with me the ingredients for anything you might want, tell me your preferences and I will prepare it."

"New York Strip, medium rare," Miranda smiled at the man. This was the real test, if he cooked the steak correctly he was eighty percent assured to get the job. Of course Andrea would have a say after she tasted her entree as well.

He looked at Andy, "and for you?"

"Chicken Marsala."

He nodded and bowed slightly to them, "I shall return with your requests in about forty-five minutes."

Andy grinned, she knew this guy was probably going to get the job. She also wanted the horrible memory and taste of whatever the last caterer had called chicken marsala to be banished. She wished Caroline felt like joining them, and wondered where Cassidy was at the moment. Leaning over she kissed Miranda on the cheek and whispered, "I'm going to go check on Ma, and Cassidy..."

Miranda nodded, "I'll look in on Caroline, she stirred when I was leaving the room."

"Okay," Andy passed through the kitchen nodding to the busily working chef, he had apparently dismissed his other helpers. She climbed the stairs to try and find Cassidy. She thought the girl would be in the tv room so she stopped there first. Surprisingly, Cassidy was not there. She stopped at the guest room door and knocked lightly but no one answered. She didn't want to disturb her mother if the woman was napping so she continued up the stairs to see if Cassidy was in her room or the music room.

She found both objects of her hunt in the music room. As she opened the door she heard the soft playing, but then smiled when she saw her mother sitting on the sofa.

Cassidy nodded to Andy when the woman entered the room, but kept playing.

Dorothy shifted slightly since she was sitting right in the middle of the sofa and patted her daughter's thigh once she'd settled. They both listened to the song and when it was over Dorothy was surprised when Andy spoke.

"That's great Sweetie, I'm glad you finished it."

"Finished it?" Dorothy gasped, "You wrote that?!"

Grinning Cassidy nodded, "Yeah, I play around with tunes from time to time."

"That's wonderful..." Dorothy smiled. "You're very talented."

Cassidy shrugged, "Whatever...no title or lyrics yet." She looked at Andy's frown and sighed, "But thank you, I'm glad you liked it." The corner of her mouth pulled upward at Andy's nod of approval and Cassidy asked her Ma, "How was the food?"

"The appetizers were great," Running her fingers through her hair, Andy laughed, "We're waiting on the entrees now, but unless they're just horrible he's got the job." Andy grinned as the girl nodded and resumed playing, this time practicing the piece she and her sister were going to play at the wedding.

"That's great, Sweetheart. One more decision down..." Dorothy smiled at her daughter and reassured her. "We'll find the perfect dress for you on Monday."

"I hope so." Andy sighed, "It's making me nervous just thinking about making a decision about something to wear without Miranda's input. I'm sure hers will be designer and fabulous."

"She hasn't picked one yet." Cassidy offered the information as she absently played.

"How do you know?" Andy was curious about how the subject of dresses had come up between Miranda and Cassidy.

"I asked her," Cassidy stopped playing and looked at the women, "After she finished telling her story to us, Ro was asleep and I asked her about her dress, and the bridesmaids dresses. She said she hadn't decided which designer to use yet, before we both dozed off too."

"Ah," Andy nodded, "I see." She sighed, "She isn't leaving them much time."

Waving that lament away, Cassidy assured the woman, "They've all been submitting designs since the news broke." She grinned at Andy's shocked look, "I'll bet half of them already have dresses made in Mom's size."

Andy tipped her head back against the couch and covered her eyes as she groaned, "Of course they do."

"What exactly does that mean?" Dorothy didn't understand the conversation other than Miranda hadn't chosen a dress yet either.

"It means that the designers are falling all over themselves to be the one Miranda chooses to create her wedding dress. So while we are going to be traipsing all over town on Monday to find the perfect gown and I will be subjected to numerous fittings... all Miranda has to do is point to a drawing and say, 'That one.'"

Cassidy laughed, "She didn't even bother when she married Stephen. Her dress then was from The Closet, they were running a bridal issue at the time. She just grabbed one, went and got married, then went back to work."

"No honeymoon?" Dorothy was appalled. Is that how Miranda regards marriage? A low voice from the doorway startled them all.

"I gave him the following weekend." Miranda moved into the room, "It was far more time than he deserved."

Andy smiled, "How's Caroline?"

"Her temperature is one hundred point six," Miranda sat in the chair closest to the couch, "I gave her some medication so hopefully we caught it in time and she won't be sick to her stomach."

"Can I go see her?" Andy wanted to apologize for yelling at the girl.

"Of course," Miranda was a bit confused, "You don't have to ask..."

Nodding as she stood, Andy leaned over to kiss Miranda lightly on the cheek, "Yeah, I think I do." She glanced over her shoulder and whispered, "Ask Cassidy to play her new song for you." Standing, Andy nodded to her mother before she walked out of the room to have her chat with Caroline.

Miranda watched her fiancee go and stared at the empty doorway for a few heartbeats before she turned back to her daughter. "Andrea informs me you have a new song."

Nodding, Cassidy paused from playing the tune Rachmaninoff composed and switched to the one she had written.

Smiling, Miranda watched her daughter play the piano, charmed at the expression on the child's face, the white-haired woman identified it. Joy. Miranda loved that her daughter was capable of such an emotion and thought, She completely loves doing this, this creating of music. She knew that although the feeling was never shown on her own face, it was the same for her when a finished issue of Runway hit the stands. Except Cassidy doesn't think of this as a viable job option.

"Knock, knock..." Andy pushed to door to the girl's room open and slipped inside, "How ya doin', Munchkin?"

Caroline sighed, "Not so great..." She shifted on the bed so Andy could sit next to her.

"Your tummy starting to bother you?" Andy settled in next to the girl and wrapped her arm around Caroline's shoulders, "You want some crackers?"

Caroline shook her head, "I've already had a couple."

Andy started slowly, "I... um... wanted to, apologize, for yelling at you earlier."

"No, I deserved it... I was being a stupid brat." Caroline sighed, "Accusing you of wanting to read what...that woman, had to say was just dumb."

"I don't ever want to have to think about her again."

"I know," Cassidy nodded and snuggled down into the woman's embrace. Soft lips on her forehead made her smile.

"You're still warm." Andy had hoped after her apology, Caroline would get better.

"Yeah, well." Shrugging, the girl slid down into her bed, resting her head on Andy's thighs, "I think Mom caught it in time this time, I don't think I'm going to puke."

"Well that's good." Andy played with the riotous auburn curls that both girls had declared the bane of their existence. "How about after you get better, we all have a day at the spa? Girls day out... maybe you can straighten your hair?" That was something both girls had expressed an interest in recently.

"Really?!" Caroline smiled and exhaled softly as Andy's fingers massaged her scalp soothingly. "That sounds great." The tightness in her tummy eased slightly. She hadn't told them about the letter she had gotten, yet, so the tension didn't go away entirely.

"Maybe we can even get Miranda to come along." Andy smiled at the unlikely thought of Miranda taking a day off work for something as frivolous as time at a spa. Caroline's snort let Andy know the girl was thinking about how unlikely it was as well. Still they both remained quiet, Andy continued threading her fingers through the girl's hair as they contemplated the possibilities.

Miranda sat quietly with Dorothy listening to Cassidy playing not only her own tune but a few others as well.

When it was nearly time to resume the tasting, Miranda stood. She crossed the room and leaned over to gently kiss Cassidy's forehead, "Lovely music my darling, thank you."

She couldn't hear the words, but the adoring look on Cassidy's face, and the loving one on Miranda's, charmed Dorothy. She wondered who would actually believe her if she told them that Miranda Priestly had a soft side. Smiling at her soon to be daughter-in-law, Dorothy grinned, "Time to go eat some more?"

Rolling her eyes, Miranda headed for the door, "Yes." She took a deep breath, "Hopefully this one will be the one."

Nodding, Dorothy watched the woman leave, then turned her attention back to the still playing girl. "Don't you want to go try the food?"

"Nah," Cassidy continued to lovingly caress the keys, coaxing even more melodic sounds from the instrument. "I'd rather play." She stopped for a moment, "You can go though, if you like."

Dorothy waved off the suggestion, "I'll taste it at the wedding." She raised her eyebrows, "Unless you want me to go?"

Cassidy shook her head and continued the melody, "I kinda like playing for someone new and... I need the practice."

"Well I kinda like listening." Dorothy smiled as a light blush crossed the girl's cheeks. "You really are very good. It doesn't sound like you need practice to me."

With a sigh, Cassidy stopped playing and stood. As she walked over to where her soon-to-be-grandmother was sitting, she pulled a folded piece of paper from her pocket. She held out the paper for Dorothy to take, "I, um... haven't found a way to tell Mom, or Andy, yet."

Blinking, Dorothy took the sheet and unfolded it, scanning the text quickly. "Wow," The Julliard School logo at the top of the page struck her as very official. "You did this without them knowing?"

Cassidy nodded, "We just thought we'd give it a try, we didn't really think we'd get in... but..." She gestured to the paper. "I did. It will be pre-college classes, every Saturday starting in September. Mom still has to sign the paperwork though."

Dorothy pressed her lips together and heard what Cassidy wasn't saying. She asked gently to confirm her suspicion. "You said 'we'," kind brown eyes watched the girl nod, "So Caroline tried out too..." another nod, and Dorothy licked her lips, "But she didn't make the cut."

Cassidy hung her head, and whispered, "No... she got really nervous at the audition, flubbed some pretty basic stuff..." Now Cassidy looked at the woman with pleading eyes, "She's good, she's really good, she just got so nervous... and.."

Nodding, Dorothy stood and hugged the girl, "And you didn't. I understand."

"Well I don't!" Cassidy stomped her foot lightly, "We're supposed to be identical, why did I make it and she didn't? Maybe I should just skip it too..."

Narrowing her eyes, Dorothy guided the girl to sit on the couch, "It would be scary, I guess."

Cassidy looked up, "Huh?"

"You two are always together, from what I understand, you do everything together..." Dorothy watched the girl closely, "So I think it would be kind of scary for you to go and do this...alone."

Nodding, Cassidy whispered, "The only reason I wasn't nervous was because Ro was there."

Dorothy laughed softly and reached out to stroke the child's cheek, "You are growing up, you both are, and this is only the first of many things you are going to do separately. You are identical twins, but you are not the 'same'. You are each your own very special person, with your own individual talents and preferences."

Cassidy narrowed her eyes at the word 'preferences' but then let it pass. "I know that, but..." she sighed and admitted, "It is scary."

Gathering the girl up in a hug, Dorothy reassured her. "You'll do fine."


Part 32

"So..." Andy continued scrubbing down her face and watched Miranda doing the same. "Another decision down..." A non-committal grunt was all Andy got as a response to that, but she grinned knowing that Miranda had very much enjoyed the steak that had been cooked and seasoned to perfection. The Chicken Marsala she'd had was also divine. Gunter was true to his word and Andy had the sneaking suspicion that pretty much any catering job they had to do in the future, large or small, would be handled by this particular company and this particular chef. Her partner was being very quiet this evening though and Andy picked up some weird vibes rolling off the woman, ever since Gunter and his magical disappearing/reappearing entourage had left. Andy washed her hands and only just stopped herself from putting a dollop of antibacterial gel on them, "Miranda? Are you okay?" The answer was sharp and immediate.


Uh oh... Andy bit her upper lip and with a slight feeling of dread in her stomach asked quietly, "Are you angry with me?"

"What?!" Spinning to face the young woman directly instead of looking at her reflection in the mirror, Miranda's eyes searched Andrea's face. "Why?"

"For yelling at the girls, for yelling at Caroline..." Andy hung her head, unable to look Miranda in the eyes, "I think I stressed her out, made her sick..."

"Andrea, look at me." Miranda's eyes softened as tearful brown eyes rose to meet her gaze. She tried her best no nonsense tone, "You did not make Caroline sick."

"But I yelled at her." Andy bit her lips together and wiped a tear off her cheek. "I yelled at her and then she got sick."

Moving forward, Miranda wrapped one arm around the young woman's waist and brushed away even more tears with the other hand, "Coincidence, Andrea, nothing more. You know Caroline often gets sick... you did not cause it."

"I don't want her to be sick, Miranda," Andy buried her face in the convenient hollow where Miranda's neck met her shoulder, breathing in the calming scent of Miranda's signature perfume, "I would do anything to help her, I'd be sick myself if it meant she'd be better."

"I know that," Miranda threaded her fingers through Andrea's dark hair, "And so does Caroline." Kissing the dark head so close to her lips, Miranda smiled, "You love her and she knows you do... it's part of what makes you a great mother."

Andy sniffed and blinked as she pulled away from the embrace slightly, "What... Nn.. no.. I'm not..." Dark eyes trailed along as her fingertips traced the outline of Miranda's face. "You, are the most wonderful mother... you love them so much..."

"I do love them and I will do anything for my family," Miranda sighed, knowing the truth, "but I have not always been here for them."

"Yes you have." Andy moved closer, resting her forehead against her fiancee's, "Yes you have. They know that if they really need you you'll be there."

"They deserve more than that." Miranda shifted to rest her head on Andrea's shoulder, "They deserve better."

"Miranda, there is no one better," Andy pulled the woman tighter against her, "I wish I knew what to say or do to convince you of that." Miranda remained silent, and Andy sighed, "C'mon, let's go check on Caroline one more time before we turn in." She kept her arm around Miranda's waist as they walked to the girl's room, loving how the woman's skin felt as it warmed through the silk gown and satin robe Miranda was wearing.

Andy knocked quietly and when a faint 'come in' was heard, held the door to Caroline's room open and hung back as Miranda approached the child's bed.

Miranda sat on the edge of the bed, aware when Andrea moved, quietly, up behind her. Tracing Caroline's cheek gently, Miranda asked, "How are you feeling, my darling?"

"I'm okay." Caroline took a deep breath. "I'm, um.. glad you're both here." She hadn't told Andy earlier because she didn't want to have to say this more than once. But she also didn't want to tell them by herself, "Ma, can you go get Cass?"

"Um, sure, Munchkin..." Andy's hand trailed along Miranda's shoulder and neck as she moved away, "Be right back."

"What's this all about?" Miranda didn't like the air of sadness surrounding her daughter.

"Please, Mom, can we just wait for Ma and Cass?" Turning on her side, Caroline curled around her pillow and sighed.

Miranda just nodded and reached out, watching the auburn curls on her daughter's head fall through her fingers, waiting for the others to join them.

Andy knocked lightly on Cassidy's door, pushing it open when she heard the girl's usual 'enter' response. "Hey Sweetie, um... Caroline wants you to come to her room for a minute."

"Oh, uh... sure." Cassidy straightened her pajama top then pulled a folded piece of paper from under her pillow and followed Andy the short distance down the hall.

The first thing Miranda noticed when Andrea re-entered the room was the odd expression on her face, the second thing was the piece of paper in Cassidy's hand. "What is this all about?"

Andy shrugged and took a seat on Caroline's bed, behind Miranda, but close enough to feel the heat radiating from the woman's skin.

Cassidy climbed on the bed to sit next to Ro. She spoke quietly to her sister, "You want me to tell them?" She sighed internally as Caroline nodded. "Okay."

Miranda and Andy listened as Cassidy explained to them about the pre-college classes at Julliard, about the admissions audition and as she handed over her letter, about the results, "I got in."

Caroline slid her own letter out from under her pillow, handing it over sadly, "And I didn't."

Miranda's forehead wrinkled as she took the papers, passing both of them to Andrea.

Andy blinked then realized Miranda wasn't wearing her glasses. She opened Cassidy's and read the first line, "We are happy to inform you of your acceptance into..." then opened Caroline's, "We regret to inform you that you currently do not possess the skill required..."

"What!?" Miranda was outraged, "Of course she does..."

"Mom!... Mom... calm down." Caroline reached out and caught one of Miranda's hands. "They're right. I totally blew the audition. I got really nervous and flubbed a bunch of stuff."

Miranda looked directly into her daughter's eyes and asked, "Do you want to be in this program?"

They all knew immediately what that question meant. If Caroline wanted it, Miranda would make it happen. For a moment, Cassidy was slightly upset, she and the other participants had earned the right to be there, and if Caroline could get in on their mother's whim then what was the point? Her sister's voice pulled her from her thoughts.

"No," Caroline shook her head, "not like that."

Andy smiled, proud of Caroline for turning down the easy way. Miranda nodded too, "You can do anything you want, but I think there was a reason you 'flubbed' the audition."

"Yeah!... I was nervous!" Caroline laughed, glad that Miranda didn't seem disappointed in her, "Cass went first and she was just totally awesome!"

Blue eyes twinkled as Miranda spoke to her musically inclined daughter, "I'm sure you were wonderful." Turning back to Caroline Miranda asked, "Why did you take piano lessons in the first place?" Both girls snorted and answered at the same time.

"You made us."

Miranda nodded and heard Andy's chuckle behind her, "And when you got older, when I no longer forced you to take the lessons, why did you continue?" This time the answers were different.

"Because I loved it." "Because Cass did."

Again nodding, Miranda smiled at her girls, but spoke to Caroline, "You only took lessons because I forced you to, and only continued because your sister did. But, she loves music and takes great joy in creating and playing it. I observed that earlier when Dorothy and I were listening to her new song."

"You finished it?" Caroline looked over at her sister, "You didn't tell me you finished."

Cassidy shrugged, "You were sick and it still needs a title and lyrics."

"My point is," Miranda reached out to tap Caroline's cooling cheek, "You don't love it as she does. If you wish to further your studies in something, find what you love and we will discover ways for you to explore that."

"So you really aren't angry that I... failed?" Caroline swallowed hard, "You aren't disappointed?"

"As your mother, someone who loves you both, I only want you girls to be happy." Miranda patted the Caroline's knee through the blankets. "You can never disappoint me so long as you're happy."

Andy pressed her lips together at the words, wishing all parents felt that way. Deep brown eyes watched as the girls exchanged a look as Caroline's hand slowly reached under her pillow again.

"In that case," Caroline gathered her courage and pulled another folded page from under her pillow, "I think this is what I want to explore."

Miranda took the paper and could see the header and logo, New York Film Academy, before she passed the paper to Andrea.

Andy scanned the page and vocalized the relevant information for Miranda. "Summer camp for kids?"

Caroline nodded, "I can't do it this year, but I'm going to check into some things and next year I might want to go."

Can't do it this year? Andy looked at the dates and smiled sadly at the girl, "It conflicts with the wedding date this year."

Caroline nodded, "Yeah, and that's okay."

" You want to study filmmaking?" Miranda hoped the tone of her voice wasn't terribly confusing for Caroline. She had just told the girl that she wouldn't be disappointed if Caroline was happy, but, "I was under the impression you wanted to go into publishing..." like me.

"Yeah, but there is a creative writing class at the Academy," Caroline shrugged, "And I can't seem to find any programs for kids in the publishing field, not for magazines."


Andy's lips twitched as she held back a smile. She could practically see the wheels in Miranda's head turning.

"Perhaps we can remedy that situation." Smiling at her girls, Miranda leaned forward, "Right now it is late and you should get some sleep." She kissed Caroline on the forehead.

"Thanks, Mom..." Caroline hesitated, not sure how to explain what she was thanking the woman for, "For everything you do..." She turned her pleading eyes to Cassidy who winked and nodded. Caroline knew Cassidy would explain it for her.

Miranda automatically answered the thank you, "You are welcome. Good night, my Darling."

Smiling, Caroline snuggled down in her bed, "G'night."

Andy stepped forward and brushed some hair away from Caroline's shoulder then leaned in and kissed the girl's cheek. "Good night, Munchkin. I'm really proud of you."

"G'night, Ma and thanks."

Miranda and Andy sandwiched Cassidy between them as they walked out of Caroline's room, back to Cassidy's. They got all the way to her door before Miranda stopped and wrapped both arms around the girl. "I'm very proud of you."


"I wanted to tell you in private, because I don't want Caroline to get the wrong idea. I'm proud of her too." Miranda tapped the girl's nose, "I meant what I said about wanting you girls to be happy. I know music does that, makes you happy."

Cassidy nodded, "That's what Ro was thanking you for." She led the adults into her room and settled on her bed much like Caroline had. Miranda again sat on the edge but this time Andy sat behind her, cross-legged at the foot of the bed. "We both know that we are very lucky to have you as a Mom. We know that it's because of you, your hard work, that we can do things like this." She waved the letter she'd received from Julliard at them. "There are so many kids, talented kids, who can't even dream about doing this, because they...their parents... just can't afford it. We know we're lucky like that and we aren't going to waste it. Making the most of what we have, it's a talent that you gave us."

Cassidy smiled at her mother, "It's like that scene in the movie, National Velvet, when Velvet wants to enter her horse in the race, but needs a bunch of money to do it and the Dad won't allow it... but the mom... takes Velvet up into the attic and shows her a trunk full of stuff from when she'd swam the English Channel, including the money she'd won. When she gave that money to Velvet...to follow her dream..." Cassidy shook her head to clear the emotion from it. "That's what you do... Doing what you love to do, with Runway and fashion, has given us the chance to do what we love." She didn't know what else to say, to explain. "You're a great mom, Mom. I promise you, neither Ro or I will ever forget it." Sitting up Cassidy wrapped her mom up in a fierce hug and was almost surprised, but kind of not, when it was reciprocated.

"I love you, Cassidy." Miranda's voice was tight with emotion. "Thank you."

Andy waited for the embrace to be broken and when Miranda moved away, Andy also wrapped her long arms around the girl. "You did good, Sweetheart. I'm really proud of you."

"Thanks, Ma."

Miranda leaned into Andrea's solid form as they walked back to their room. The older woman was silent and Andrea maintained the peace until they reached the privacy of their room and Miranda sighed, "Go ahead."

"Hmmm?" Andy turned down the blankets and climbed into bed, holding the covers up for Miranda to do the same.

Rolling her eyes, Miranda took off her robe and draped it at the foot of the bed before snuggling in next to the brunette. "You know you want to, so just say it and get it over with."

Andy bit her lips together and smiled but didn't say a word. Her dark eyes twinkled at Miranda's, almost squirming, discomfort for nearly a full minute before she wrapped her long arms around the fashion icon. She trailed tiny kisses from the corner of Miranda's mouth up her jaw to the woman's ear and whispered softly. "Told ya."

An exasperated sound escaped Miranda, "You are the only person in the world who can get away with saying 'I told you so' to me."

Chuckling, Andy continued to drop light kisses on Miranda's neck and jaw, "Hmmm..." She shifted to press the annoyed woman down onto the mattress, "Let's find out what else I can do that no one else in the world can." A wicked grin pulled a low moan from the back of Miranda's throat.

"Oh, let's." The issues that had upset her previous to checking on the girls seemed to dissipate. Miranda was sure they would return later, but on that occasion the doubts would be dealt with, she gasped as Andrea's lovely lips found a sensitive spot. Miranda knew that no matter what, anything could be dealt with so long as Andrea was by her side.

Conversation at the breakfast table was unusually subdued. The clink of utensils on the dishes randomly broke the silence.

Pava looked up at the ceiling and asked, "When do you think they'll be down?"

Caroline and Cassidy exchanged glances and then they both just shrugged and continued eating their cereal. Dorothy ventured a guess, "I wouldn't think it would be too much longer, it's already eight a.m." Mary, wisely, decided not to comment.

The girls had almost finished their cereal when the back door opened and a very sweaty Andy walked inside. She stopped short at the sight of her family crowded around the small kitchen table. "Whoa! I guess I'm just in time for breakfast, huh?"

"Oh, Hello, Darlin'" Pava laughed, "We didn't even think you were up yet."

Andy ran her fingers through her damp dark hair, "Are you kidding? It's after eight!" She pulled her phone from her pocket and dialed the first number on her speed dial list. "Hey you...Everyone is up." She paused at the response, "Okay... we'll be here." Smiling into the phone, Andy laughed, "I love you too." Ending the call, the youngest Sachs in the room washed her hands, only just stopping herself from blobbing some antibacterial gel on her hands afterward and informed her guests, "Miranda will finish up at Runway soon and be home in time for lunch." She grinned at their astonished looks, "We're supposed to 'determine if we want to go out or get delivery'."

"We're going to cook here," Dorothy stated in no uncertain terms, "That was the whole purpose of going to the Farmer's Market yesterday morning."

"Right," Andy laughed again and pulled her sweaty shirt away from her chest. "I'm going to go hose off." Snagging a half slice of toast from her mother's plate, Andy dashed up the stairs. "I won't be long."

"I don't recall her ever being that energetic." Dorothy shook her head and chuckled, "Not when she lived with me."

Pava laughed, "She has different priorities now, different obligations." A sly grin crossed the older woman's features as she thought, Different ways to re-energize.

"I guess so." Dorothy reached for her remaining half piece of toast and smiled, "She's still my daughter though..."

"Of course she is," Pava snorted, "That never changes, no matter how old they get."

Caroline groaned, "So when we're in our fifties, Mom is still gonna treat us like kids?"

Pava laughed, "Probably so..."

Dorothy snorted softly, "If you can drag her out of her office long enough." She blinked at the twin's soft almost sad expressions and explained, "I'm surprised she's working today, on a Sunday."

They both nodded, but everyone concentrated on the food in front of them for a long time after that comment then Cassidy broke the silence.

"Coco Chanel died on a Sunday."

"What?" Mary glanced at the other adults at the table, then back at Cassidy. "Coco Chanel?"

Cassidy nodded, "She was Mom's favorite designer. Mom told us a story about her yesterday, but we've both done research on Coco Chanel for school projects."

Caroline took up the explanation, "Coco Chanel changed the world of fashion, forever, she was a revolutionary, like Mom is."

"She worked all the time, like Mom does." Cassidy watched her spoon swirling the last bit of cereal around the milk in her bowl.

Miniature Miranda eyes pinned Dorothy with a look, "They say, Coco Chanel died on a Sunday, because her shop was closed that day and that was the only time she had to do it."

"You think that's why your mom works?" Mary was intrigued.

Both girls nodded.

Caroline temporized, "I think that's part of why."

Dorothy grunted, "Most people work because they need the money."

"Mom doesn't need the money." Cassidy picked up her bowl and carried it to the sink to rinse.

"That's the truth..." Caroline took a drink of her juice. "There's already enough money for her, and us, and our children, and our children's children's children...before we even do a thing."

"Really?" Pava knew Miranda was rich but thought the girls were probably exaggerating somewhat and chuckled. "Well, just don't go all 'Paris Hilton' on us..."

Caroline rolled her eyes and Cassidy scoffed, "Not likely."

Caroline tilted her head thoughtfully, "Nicky isn't so bad though." She knew Cassidy was nodding in agreement.

"Oh?" Mary didn't really keep up with celebrity gossip but she had of course heard Paris Hilton's name in the 'news', but there wasn't as much coverage on the attention hound's sister. "Do you know them?"

"Know who?" Andy took the final few steps down the stairs, still ruffling her damp hair with her fingers.

Cassidy mumbled, "Nicky and Paris..."

"Ah..." Andy shook her head a bit to settle her damp hair in place, "What brought them up? Has Nicky done another clothing line?"

"No, Gram was just warning us not to be like Paris... you know, RGS, when we hit our teens."

"Um..." Dorothy questioned the letters, "RGS?"

Andy, Cassidy and Caroline spoke simultaneously, "Rich Girl Syndrome."

"Miranda won't tolerate it," Andy explained, "There have been a few discussions as to what is and is not appropriate behavior for young women, usually after a more sensationalistic story hits the papers and/or tabloids."

"Ah..." Dorothy nodded, but then questioned, "She doesn't like the behavior, but she does like the clothing designs?"

Andy grinned as the twins shook their heads, "Not 'like', as such," Andy chuckled, "More like...didn't hate.... Nicky got a mention in the article Runway did in conjunction with the Las Vegas fashion week when they were unveiled. I think Miranda gave her a small picture or two as well."

Caroline nodded, "Yeah...Chick was a pretty basic label. Mom didn't want too much space devoted to it."

"Why devote any space to it?" Mary was fascinated by the conversation. Miranda seemed so, unapproachable in the media, but was in fact quite lovely to socialize with. Insight into the fashion icon's mindset was interesting.

"She rewards effort." Andy chuckled, "Her employees wouldn't agree with me, but she does."

Pava gave a soft grunt at the statement then changed the subject. "So, what are we going to do this morning, while we're waiting for lunch?"

"We could take a walk..." Andy suggested. "We still have birthday invitations to mail and I could show you around the neighborhood," She grinned at the girls, "I saw a moving truck at the house down the street, so I guess someone bought the place. Looked like they might have kids...and I saw a piano in the truck."

"Yeah?" Cassidy thought about it for a second, "I could take a walk."

"I thought you said it was hot..." Dorothy felt bad about it, but she wasn't as in-shape as the rest of the group was, even the older women. "What about the reporters outside?"

Andy shrugged, "It's not too hot if you aren't running, and if you don't mind having your picture taken, the reporters shouldn't bother you. They usually leave after I get back from my run anyway... there won't be many, if any, out there now."

"Can we take Patricia?" Caroline didn't want the dog to be left out.

"Sure," Andy laughed, "If she'll come. She may be tired enough from her run that she won't want to go."

Andy was a little surprised at the large dog's enthusiasm for the walk. Maybe because of all the other people joining them, or because Patricia recognized Andy's 'street' clothes as opposed to 'running' clothes she had changed out of.

In any case, the group of them paraded down the street. Their first stop was at the new 'neighbors'. Two kids, a boy and a girl, who looked slightly older than the twin's, were playing basketball with a portable hoop set aside, obviously temporarily, on the sidewalk. Andy did her best to hold Patricia back at the sight of the ball. Her stern "sit!" command got the player's attention.

"Hello." The girl tucked the ball under her arm.

Andy sighed in relief as Patricia calmed down somewhat. "Hello." She smiled at the two young people. "We just live down the street and thought we'd say Hi, and Welcome." She gestured for Cassidy to move forward.

Taking a step closer, Cassidy held out a Chinette plate piled high with cookies. "We... um... made them ourselves." She tried not to stare, but the taller girl was so, mesmerizing. Her light blonde hair was cut short, but styled to accentuate her high cheekbones. Cassidy thought maybe it was her eyes that were the most striking though, they were very very pale blue, almost gray.

"Really?" The girl exchanged glances with her brother as she took the offering, "We'll have to hide them from Mom."

Wincing at that, Andy tried to diffuse any trouble the kids would get into, "If you aren't supposed to have them..."

"Oh, no!" The girl laughed, "She'll just eat them all if she sees them!" Looking back at Cassidy, the girl grinned, "They look delicious..."

Nodding, Cassidy agreed, "They taste great," She sighed and indicated Dorothy, "Grandma helped us make them."

"Neat," Alyssa laughed, "Our grandma never makes cookies with us."

Alan snorted, "You got that right, I doubt she even knows where the kitchen is in her house."

Andy laughed and introduced the group, "My name is Andy," She pointed to her walking companions naming them quickly, ending with Caroline and Cassidy.

"Identical twins..." The boy smiled, "Neat." He stepped forward offering his hand to shake to Caroline, "My name is Alan, this is my sister, Alyssa."

"Hi," Caroline took the boy's hand and shook it firmly. Something in the way he had said their names tipped her off. "Twins?" They didn't look anything alike, almost opposites in fact. Alan had dark hair and deep brown eyes, he did have the same bone structure as his sister though. Caroline thought the boy's high cheekbones and soulful eyes made him look very handsome.

Alyssa shoved the basketball into Alan's chest, "Fraternal, obviously. I am so much prettier than him."

Alan grinned, "You wish." He tossed the basketball up in his hands a few times. His eyes twinkled at Caroline. "You two wanna play?"

Andy grinned as both Cassidy and Caroline's eyes lit up. "Hey, why don't we," she indicated the older women and herself, "finish our walk, mail your invitations and then meet you back here?" She looked around as she told the twins, "We have to make sure it's okay with your parents first though."

Alyssa nodded, tipped her head back and yelled, "MOM!"

A tall, thin woman with long, light blonde, almost white hair appeared at the door of the house. Seeing her children standing with a bunch of strangers, she walked toward them quickly. She rolled up the sleeves on her white button down shirt, but didn't tuck it in to her form fitting jeans, as she approached them. "Why are you bellowing, 'lyssa?"

"Can Cassidy and Caroline stay and play?" The blonde girl wrapped one arm around Cassidy's shoulder like they'd known each other forever and teased her mother ruthlessly, waving the plate of goodies under the woman's nose, "They brought homemade cookies..."

Andy laughed, "Hi," She reached out to shake the woman's hand, "I'm Andy Sachs..." She went through all the introductions again.

"Nice to meet you," The blonde smiled as she shook Andy's hand, "I'm Lara, Lara Hartstone."

That name sounded familiar to her, but Andy couldn't place where she'd heard it before. "Your children have invited the girls to stay and play," Andy grinned at the girls, "They love to play basketball but I wanted to clear it with you first."

Lara looked at the younger children, "You love to play basketball?"

"Yeah, we play sometimes at school and Grandma has a hoop in her driveway." Cassidy grinned at the memory and at the arm around her.

Caroline also remembered it fondly, "Yeah, we wiped the court with Uncle Chad and Andy's Dad."

Andy felt a pang in her heart, Not Grandpa, she thought. Andy exchanged glances with her Mom and Gram then let it pass. "We just have some things to mail, and I was showing my family around the neighborhood..." She grinned at the twins, "I thought the girls might find it boring."

"Oh," Lara scanned the group of older women, "you aren't from around here?"

Dorothy stepped forward, "We live in Cincinnati. We're just here to help out Andy with some wedding plans."

Lara glanced at Andy's hand, just now noticing the ring on her finger, "Wow... that's... wow."

"Yes," Andy looked down at the ring concentrating on the love it represented and not how much this particular ring had cost in terms of money. She had to put it out of her mind or she would worry about wearing it every day. Or, she would start obsessing about how much more this one cost than the one she got for Miranda. Cassidy's voice brought her out of her musings.

"It's us."

Everyone looked at Cassidy who regretfully ducked out from under Alyssa's arm to hold Andy's hand. "The diamonds, Mom explained it to me. They're us..." She pointed to the large gem in the middle then to the two smaller ones on each side, "Mom, Ro, and me."

Andy looked at the ring again swallowing hard as the love she didn't think could grow any more, swelled in her heart. Lara's voice pulled her from her thoughts.

"Um...you, Ro and... Mom?" She blinked now realizing something fairly important. The woman standing in front of her was engaged, to another woman.

"Yeah," Cassidy stiffened her arms at her sides, her hands balling into fists as she turned to face the blonde woman. She stood between Lara and Andy, seemingly ready for anything, "You got a problem with that?" She was aware of Caroline moving next to her, shoulder to shoulder in front of Andy.

"Easy girls..." Andy put one hand on each of their shoulders and looked over the curly red heads, locking eyes with Lara, "I think it just surprised her."

"Oh!" Lara realized now what she had sounded like, "Yes! Sorry... yes, I was just surprised for a minute. I don't have a problem with that at all..." She smiled at the protective girls, "... I think it's wonderful."

Andy felt the tension under her hands relax and grinned at the woman, "Thanks."

"So," Alan sounded thoughtful and asked Andy, "You're gonna be like... their mom?"

Again, Cassidy tensed, but it was Caroline who spoke, "She is our Ma!"

Alan held up his hands, "Whoa... I didn't mean..." He swallowed hard at the look in Caroline's eyes, a look that many Runway employees knew and feared, "I think it's cool, having two mom's... that would be awesome."

"I dunno..." Alyssa spoke up thoughtfully and grinned at the shocked look on the adult's faces, "With two mom's we'd never get any cookies!"

Lara snorted and rolled her eyes at her daughter as everyone in the group chuckled a bit at the statement.

Dorothy took the break in the tension and ran with it. "I think maybe we should continue with our walk."

"Yeah," Andy agreed. She bent down and hugged Cassidy, then Caroline. "Thanks guys. It won't take us long." They waved goodbye to Lara, "Thanks for watching the girls for a minute..."

"No problem," Lara smiled as Alyssa again claimed Cassidy's shoulders for an arm rest.

Andy began walking in the direction of the mailbox, the others following, when Cassidy stopped them.

"Wait!" The girl ducked away from her new friend and grabbed the packet of invitations out of Andy's hands. She looked though them quickly, taking one out and handing the rest back to Andy. "Okay."

Cassidy felt bad about misjudging the comments their new neighbors had made. She looked at the invitation and gathered her courage as she spoke to Alyssa, "It's going to be our birthday..." She handed the taller, older, girl the envelope, "You guys can come to the party...if you want."

Alyssa blinked at the addressed invitation, "Um... who's James Apple?"

"Not Apple, Appel... He's our dad... but he doesn't really need an invitation... I'll just send him an email, and call him. I was only going to send him a card because I had an extra." Cassidy smiled at Alyssa as she opened the card.

Caroline spoke up, "You can both come to the party. Just tell Emily how many will be with you when you RSVP."

"Emily is Miranda's assistant," Andy explained to Lara, "She's handling all the arrangements for the birthday party. You're more than welcome to stay at the party or you can just drop them off... whatever you are comfortable with."

"Miranda..." Lara smiled, "that's a lovely name..." Sky blue eyes twinkled at Andy's smile.

Alan peeked over at the invitation, "Cool." Then he began to dribble the basketball again. "C'mon, let's play."

Andy winked at her girls then clicked her tongue at Patricia, "C'mon girl..." They started again on their mission to mail the rest of the invitations. Andy walked absently for a short distance in silence, just putting one foot in front of the other, as she thought about how great it felt to hear Caroline say she was their Ma. Then the sunlight glinted off her ring and she stared at it as if this was the first time she'd seen it. She was almost glad Miranda hadn't told her what the diamonds represented, if she'd known, she was sure the gunman who had taken them hostage at the charity event would have had to kill her to get it off her finger. Dorothy fell into step next to her daughter and asked quietly, "Are you okay?"

"Hmmm... " Dragging her eyes away from the ring, Andy looked at her mother with watery eyes, "Yeah, I'm great."

Dorothy smiled and wrapped her arm around Andy's waist and jostled her a little. "You bet you are."

Pava's arm slid around Mary's waist and she leaned close, "Are you okay?"

Mary nodded, "I had gotten used to the atmosphere at the house, but when it seemed like those people weren't going to... accept..."

With a sigh, Pava nodded, "Yeah, I know..." She keenly felt the loss when Mary moved out of the embrace. Pressing her lips together, Pava sighed to herself, Things haven't changed as much as we thought.... She continued walking next to, but not touching, her friend and listened to Andy as she began to tell them about the neighborhood.


Part 33

Lara looked up from the box she was unpacking in the kitchen and smiled as the children piled into the room. Alan dropped the ball into a basket just inside the door. Lara had wondered how long they could play in this heat and admitted to herself that she probably wouldn't have lasted nearly this long without stopping for a drink.

"Thirsty!" Alyssa declared and opened the fridge. She began to list off the available choices for their guests. "Water, milk, orange juice, apple juice, grape juice..."

Caroline decided quickly, "Apple juice."

Alyssa grabbed the small bottle and looked over her shoulder, "For you Cass?"


Alan set four small glasses on the counter, "Juice is all well and good, but we're gonna need milk for the cookies..."

"Are there any cookies left?" Alyssa cast a significant look at their mother who scoffed and spoke with innocence tingeing her voice.

"I certainly wouldn't know what you are talking about...they're right there on the counter." Lara turned her back to continue unloading the box she was working on and casually wiped an incriminating crumb from the front of her shirt. She knew her children were smirking at her, glancing over her shoulder then wilting under the relentless gaze, "Okay, fine.. I had two... you happy now?"

Alyssa looked over the pile of cookies on the plate and rolled her eyes. She winked at her new friends and held up her fingers, thumb tucked next to her palm, and mouthed 'four'. Cassidy giggled and Caroline grinned.

Andy rang the doorbell and smiled when Lara answered the door. "Hi, are the girls' ready to go?"

"They're all in the kitchen having cookies and milk," The woman ran her fingers through her long, nearly white hair and stepped back, opening the door wider, "Come in."

"Um..." Andy hesitated and indicated Patricia, "Should I tie her up out here?"

Waving off that suggestion, Lara gestured them all inside, "Don't worry about it. We have a dog too, but Benji is boarded until the moving is done."

Andy relaxed a little and they all walked into the house. It was similar to Miranda's, Theirs, Andy corrected herself, and spoke aloud. "Nice place."

"Thanks." Lara smiled as she looked around her new home, "I loved it the minute I saw it."

Andy chuckled and mumbled to herself, "I do know that feeling."

They all followed Lara into the kitchen where the kids were just finishing their snacks. The room was huge and Mary spoke up, "Great kitchen."

Lara beamed, "Yeah, it's really what sealed the deal on this place."

"Well it beats the heck out of the kitchen at the Bed and Breakfast, that's for sure." Mary looked around the space then at Pava. "Do you think I should remodel the kitchen at home?"

Chuckling at that, Pava grinned, "It's your house..."

Lara licked her lips and grinned at her children before redirecting her attention to Mary. "I, um.. might be able to help you with that."

Alan finished his milk and carried his, and Caroline's, glass to the sink to rinse before putting them in the dishwasher, "Mom's an architect."

Alyssa spoke up as she followed her brother's example and took care of her glass as well as Cassidy's, "She's the best."

"Hartstone, LLC," Andy breathed a sigh of relief, finally remembering where she'd heard the name before, "Your company designed the new resort that's going up in the Catskills this year..." She frowned, "Wasn't there some kind of big scandal about that?"

"Controversy," Lara nodded, "Yeah, they aren't sure if the project will go through or not. There is still a lot of political maneuvering that needs to be done, apparently. But my part is finished. I designed the thing, it's up to someone else to get it built."

Alyssa snorted, "You mean, Dad."

Lara wiped her hand across her mouth, rubbing her chin as if she had a beard, "Eyah.. that is who I mean." She explained to their guests, "My husband is a general contractor, his company would build the resort, if it gets pushed through."

Dorothy nodded and thought, No wonder they can afford this house. Even with Richard being as successful a lawyer as he was, Dorothy knew they would never have a chance at a home in this neighborhood. Shaking her head to clear that snide thought, Dorothy laughed at herself, not like I want one. She realized where the thought had come from and tried not to think about it anymore. She knew she was going to have to get over her bias toward rich people. With her daughter marrying Miranda, there were plenty of times she was sure she would have to associate with people in income brackets several steps above hers and Richard's. One of the movers knocked on the kitchen's doorframe.

"Mrs. Hartstone? Everything is unloaded." He shuffled his feet, "Did you decide where you want the piano?"

"Oh!... Yes!" She quickly wiped her hands on her pantlegs and walked toward the man, "In the living room..."

Cassidy glanced at Andy and followed, highly interested in the placement. The rest of the group followed Cassidy. When they arrived in the living room, Lara was directing the men to move the instrument into the corner and Cassidy was shaking her head.

Alyssa noticed the girl's displeasure, "What is it?"

"Wrong corner," Cassidy said. "It should be in the other one." Pointing to the space on the opposite side of the room, she explained, "The case would be facing the correct way to disperse the sound and the light from the window would be available in the daytime to see the music."

Alyssa seemed impressed, "Hey, Mom... Cass says put it in the other corner."

Lara looked at her daughter and then at their young guest with some amusement. "You are the authority on the subject?"

Andy moved forward, placing her hands on Cassidy's shoulder. "Yes, Cassidy knows her stuff."

Grinning at that, Lara directed the men to move the piano across the room.

"It doesn't really matter anyway," Alan shook his head, "Mom's never gonna get around to playing it..."

"Alan!" Lara huffed, "I will too, eventually... when it gets tuned..." Realizing she was leaving their guests out of the conversation, Lara explained, "I bought it a few months before we moved. The guy said it needed tuning and he actually had some tuning tools that he sent with it, but I never found anyone to do it..."

Cassidy looked up at Andy with a bit of plea in her eyes, "Ma?"

Andy winked at the girl then asked Lara, "Where are the tools?"

"Uh... seriously?" Lara raised her eyebrows in question, receiving a small nod from Andy in answer, "I think they're in the bench."

Cassidy walked over to the bench the mover had just placed in front of the keys and opened it. "Yep," she looked over the equipment and sighed, "No tuning fork though..." Reaching up she hit the middle C key on the keyboard and winced at the sound. "Yikes."

"He did say it needs tuning." Lara wasn't sure what Cassidy had in mind. She certainly didn't expect the girl to call to her sister.

"Ro, I need a middle C." Twirling the tuning tool in her hand, Cassidy glared at Caroline. "Ro..."

With a sigh for the inevitable, Caroline moved to stand next to the piano and Cassidy. They all watched as Caroline stood straight and inhaled deeply, expanding her stomach to its fullest extent before opening her mouth to emit a clear tone. Cassidy nodded and pounded on the key as she tightened the string to match. When Caroline ran out of breath she stopped for a moment to wait for Cassidy's tweaking to finish.

"One more."

Caroline let out an exasperated breath then sang the sustained note again.

"Thanks, Ro."

"S'okay..." Caroline punched her sister in the arm playfully, "Just don't take too long, eh? We're supposed to meet Mom for lunch at home."

Lara watched the entire procedure and again looked at Andy, "Is she serious?"

Nodding, Andy grinned at the diligently working girl, "Yep," A glance at Caroline's disgusted look and the off-key, even to her, tones coming from the string Cassidy was working on, told her it would be a while too. "We should probably go back to the kitchen. This could take some time."

They all gathered back in the kitchen, the adults sat at the table while the kids found stools around the center prep island. With the sounds of Cassidy working away in the other room, Lara looked at her guests then addressed Caroline, "How old are you guys?"

"The party you're invited to is for our twelfth birthday."

"Twelve?!" Lara shook her head, "I don't remember what I could do when I was twelve, but I'm fairly sure I couldn't do anything as complicated as tuning a piano..."

"Cassidy is very, thorough in her education..." Andy shared a glance with Caroline, "When she likes something she learns everything she can about it." A small twinkle appeared in Andy's eyes as she thought, Just like Miranda.

"Will it take long?" Dorothy looked at her watch. "What time was Miranda going to be home?"

Andy looked at her watch and sighed, "Soon." She licked her lips, "I don't think Cass will be able to finish before we need to leave." She listened to the girl's progress and thought she might be wrong, "Then again, it will depend on exactly how much she has to do."

"C'mon..." Alan gestured to the girls as he picked up the basketball from next to the door, "Let's go back out and play..."

"Can I, Ma?" Caroline was practically vibrating with excitement.

"Sure," Andy grinned as Caroline kissed her on the cheek. They both gave Patricia's head a pat when the animal raised up from her place at Andy's feet.

"Thanks, Ma!"

"So you're their 'Ma' and... Miranda is their 'Mom'?" Lara studied the young woman sitting at her kitchen table. "That must be different."

"I wouldn't have it any other way." Andy smiled and reached for her phone, "Sorry but I really should call Miranda." Dialing, she didn't bother to leave the kitchen, she grinned when Miranda's vibrant voice sounded in her ear.


"Hello, Beautiful." Andy grinned and took Miranda's moment of silence to stick the tip of her tongue out at her audience, "I was just curious to know about when you were going to be home for lunch."

"Andrea, really, are you going to be one of 'those' wives?"

Andy smirked and winked at her tablemates, who couldn't hear the playful remark, "Yes Miranda, I'm practicing to be a nagging wife." The exasperated sound in her ear and the smiles all around the table forced a wide grin to her lips. "We just took a walk. We met the new neighbors and Cassidy discovered a severely out of tune piano in their possession..."

"Ah, I assume she is correcting the situation?"

"Yes, but she only started a few moments ago... so I wondered how much longer you will be at the office." Andy nodded at Miranda's response.

"There are several things here I can do." The editor hesitated, "I would like to get them done as a head start on tomorrow."

"Of course, we can push back lunch," Andy glimpsed her ring and a soft look crossed her face, "Just give us a call when you're heading back, or have Roy call me."

"Very well." Miranda cradled the phone to her ear, "I love you, Andrea."

Lara gasped quietly as the young woman on the phone smiled to rival the sun and spoke in a tone so full of feeling it almost made her blush.

"I love you too."

Miranda placed the phone on her desk and looked at it for a long moment. She hadn't exactly lied to Andrea, there were several things that she could do to get a jump on Monday's workload, but she didn't really want to do any of them. There was one thing in particular that she didn't want to do but she picked up the phone anyway. After looking up the number, Miranda dialed slowly and took a deep breath as the accented voice on the other end of the connection answered.

"I need to speak with you. I'm in the office now." Miranda's tone was no nonsense, "Get here as soon as you can. That's all." Ending the call, the editor went about the business of going through her inbox, slowly clearing it out as she waited for her guest to arrive. A glint off her dragon ring caught her attention and Miranda suddenly looked around the empty office. She had always liked coming in on Sunday when no one else was around. She felt it was easier to get things done without the distraction of other people thinking their ideas needed attention as well. But now as she looked around the empty office, Emily and Andr...Bethany's abandoned desks, and listened to the silence that she once cherished, all she felt was, alone. But I'm not alone, she thought and turned her attention back to the ring on her finger, She's always with me. Had the security cameras still been installed in Miranda's office no one would have believed any guard that happened to see Miranda at that moment. The editor was working as diligently as she always did but with one major exception. Today there was a brilliant smile on her face.

That state lasted for quite a while, until the distant ding of the elevator let her know that the woman she had summoned had arrived. Schooling her features into her normal work mask, Miranda waited for the tall woman to enter her office. Vivid blue eyes watched her approach and studied the Brazilian intently down and back up as Serena stood in front of her desk. One word escaped her lips. "Jeans?"

"It is the weekend, Miranda. You said as soon as possible, so I did not change." Serena smiled, "At least I tucked in my shirt."

"I suppose I should be grateful that you are wearing clothing at all." Miranda smiled softly and gestured toward a chair, "Sit down, Serena."

"Yes, Miranda." Serena licked her lips and swallowed convulsively as she found a seat. From the intense scrutiny her boss was giving her, Serena thought she may as well be naked, "You, um.. wanted to speak to me?" She winced as she realized she'd just asked Miranda a question; something Emily had warned her against time and again.

"I did." Miranda took off her glasses tossing them on the desk negligently. "I wanted to make sure that we did not have a problem, before we had to confront each other in an office full of people."

Serena assured her boss, "I do not have a problem, Miranda."

"No, I can see that," Miranda leaned back, resting her head against the chair, "There was, however, the distinct possibility that I may have had a problem working with you after the events of yesterday morning."

Nodding, Serena dared to ask more questions, "Do you? Should I request a transfer?"

"You are the best makeup artist at Runway or anywhere else for that matter. I will not allow the magazine to suffer because of my personal feelings." Miranda licked her lips, "The issues I have are mine to deal with." She waited a moment, impressed that Serena said nothing in response to that. "Andrea will be appearing on television in the morning. I want... would like, for you to be at the ABC studios to do her makeup for the appearances."

"Of course, Miranda." Serena blinked, "What time should I be there?"

"Andrea is sworn to be there at five a.m." Miranda waved her hand, "I'm sure a few moments before that will suffice. Get with Emily if necessary, she can clear the way for your admittance, or you may come to the house and accompany Andrea there."

"Thank you, Miranda." Serena gave the impression of bowing while still seated, "I will meet her there at the appointed time."

"Very well," Miranda nodded in dismissal and picked up her glasses as Serena slowly stood. The woman didn't leave the office though and Miranda was resigned to the knowledge there was a little more to discuss. Looking up over the rim of her glasses, Miranda instructed Serena, "Say what you must regarding yesterday's event, then the whole incident will be forgotten."

"Yesterday's 'event', Miranda, was an accident." Serena clasped her hands in front of her, "I saw no more of you than you did of me," she continued quickly, before she lost her nerve, "You are very beautiful Miranda, and if it is your wish that we never mention the incident again I will honor it... but even if I live to be one hundred and five, as my Vovó did, I will not forget."

Her Grandmother lived to be one hundred and five... Miranda's lips were on the verge of the expression every designer and Runway employee dreaded then the countenance shifted. Crystal blue eyes twinkled with mischief as Miranda smirked, "Nor will I." She watched a small smile appear on Serena's face and nodded, "Tomorrow morning, at the studios, and bring Terry. Andrea's hair will need attention as well." Now Serena's smile was full blown and Miranda rolled her eyes at the familiar response.

"Yes, Miranda." The tall woman bowed slightly at the waist then turned to leave, a slight spring in her step. She was not in trouble, she was not going to lose her job, and right now, she was going to see Emily, just as Miranda had ordered.

The editor watched as Serena left the office and nodded to herself. She had hoped there wouldn't be any awkwardness between them and there didn't seem to be any more nervousness than usual coming from the Beauty director. There was actually a little less, if she thought about it. She admitted, to herself, that there was a little stiffness from her toward the woman, but she didn't know how much of that was simply her usual manner and how much stemmed from the 'accidental' exposure of herself. Serena's assertion that she had seen no more of Miranda than Miranda had seen of her was not exactly helpful. Miranda knew what and how much she'd seen. Shaking that thought from her head, Miranda began closing down her computer. Reminding Serena of Andrea's television appearances served to remind herself as well.

Andrea will be nervous, she thought, I need to be home for her.

After an hour of pleasant conversation mostly regarding Mary's new kitchen and a possible exercise area in the basement at the townhouse, the pounding single notes that had been emanating from the living room turned into a quick run through the scales.

Caroline sat her glass of juice down and grinned, "She's finished."

The proclamation was confirmed when Cassidy's favorite Chopin piece began to fill the house. They all went to the living room and watched as Cassidy performed the musical composition flawlessly, from memory. When it was over she ran down the scales again to confirm none of the notes had lost their tuned status. With a grin, Cassidy stood and bowed to the small but appreciative audience then looked at Lara, "It won't last too long, some of the strings need replacing." She smiled, "Maybe mom can give you the name of the guy who does ours, but until then..." she gestured to the piano, "It should do."

"Wow..." Alyssa stared at the younger girl, "That was fantastic!"

"That's why they picked you..." Caroline smiled at her sister. "I could never do it that well."

"You play too?" Alan was impressed. "Mom tried to get us to take lessons once, when we were younger... but we refused."

Caroline's eyes widened, "We can get away with a lot of stuff, but..."

"...our mother isn't 'refused' very often, even by us." Cassidy slid her eyes to Andy, "Or by..."

Andy grinned and wrapped her arm around the girl's shoulders, "No.. not even by me."

Alyssa was more interested in the first thing Caroline had said, "Who's 'they' and what did they pick Cassidy for?"

Everyone looked at Cassidy who blushed and mumbled, "Julliard."

"Julliard?!" Lara gasped, "But you're only twelve!"

Cassidy nodded, "I will be. It's their pre-college classes, every Saturday, starting in September."

"Wow." Alyssa looked at her new friend with awe and just a little envy. "That's excellent, I wish I could do something that well...I'm nearly sixteen!"

"Everyone has something that they excel at." Pava assured the girl, "You're still young. You'll find yours."

Alyssa was curious, "What do you excel at?"

"Alyssa!" Lara reprimanded her daughter for the intrusive question.

Pava chuckled, "Young woman, I possess infinite patience." She glanced at Mary, "I can wait for as long as it takes, for the things that I want."

Andy's nearly smiled at her Gram, and the slight blush gracing Mary's cheeks. I knew it. She cleared her throat, "I think we should be going soon..." She doubted Miranda would be at the office for very much longer. As if on cue, her phone rang. Andy didn't even look at the screen before she answered it, and was surprised at the irritated voice in her ear before she could even say 'Hello'.

"What the hell, Andy?"

Andy's forehead wrinkled, "Lily?"

"Yeah, Lily.. remember me... your supposed best friend that you never tell anything anymore?" The woman accused and asked, "Why did I have to see you in a promo for Good Morning America before I knew you were going to be on TV?"

"Oh!" Andy smacked herself in the forehead, "Sorry... it was all pretty sudden and Ma and Gram are in town... I only did the promos on Friday and then yesterday we had the tastings for the wedding..." Her excuses dwindled down and Andy shook her head, "Sorry... I should have told you." She glanced around at the people watching her and smiled, then gestured back toward the kitchen.

Dorothy nodded and watched her daughter walk back down the hall, to take the call with some degree of privacy.

"You know..." Lily was obviously grinning through the phone, "You aren't going to be able to use that 'things are hectic planning the wedding' excuse for too much longer."

"Yeah..." Andy smiled, dazzling even through the phone, "I know." She looked at the ring on her finger and sighed, "I really am sorry, Lil... Um... after the tapings tomorrow we're all gonna go dress hunting, you think you could come along?"

"To the dress hunting or the taping?"

"Both if you want, or you can meet us after..." Andy grinned, knowing her friend's habits, "I have to be at the studio early."

"How early?" Lily sounded suspicious.

"I, umm... have to be there at five a.m." Andy heard music begin in the other room and was slightly amazed that someone had talked Cassidy into playing one of her own songs.

"Oh my god... that's obscene..." Lily almost couldn't believe Andy would be able to do that. "Is anyone even awake that early?"

Andy admitted, "I often am."

"You are so not the Andy I grew up with." Lily laughed, "But you're still pretty cool, where should I meet you to begin the dress hunt?"

"Not sure yet," Andy confessed, "I'm going to ask Miranda where to start. She won't be with us, because of the whole bad luck seeing the bride in her dress thing... but she can give me an idea where to start at least." The brunette smiled, "I'll call you okay?"

"You better!" Lily laughed. "Or else I'll hunt your ass down!"

Andy laughed, "Yes, Ma'am!" The easy camaraderie she'd always had with Lily was a comfort right now and her voice softened, "Thanks, Lil."

"Any time..." The woman joked, "except five a. m.! Sheesh!"

Andy laughed again, "See ya tomorrow, Lil..."

"Yep." Lily assured her, "I wouldn't miss it. Bye now."

Andy disconnected the call and tapped the phone against her chin for a moment before she looked at Patricia. She told the resting animal in no uncertain terms, "Things are coming together." She ruffled the fur on the dog's neck and grinned. "Your Mum and I are getting married."

Patricia just huffed and laid her head back down on her paws.


Part 34

Lara watched one of her guests walking down the hall, obviously being berated to some degree by the person on the phone. A word had caught her attention though and she turned to the other adults, "Promos?" It was Cassidy that answered.

"Yeah, Andy's gonna be on TV."

Alan found that kind of surprising, he thought Andy was very pretty but she didn't seem famous or anything, "Why?"

Caroline tried to think of how to explain it when Cassidy jumped in, "It's because of Mom, and that they're together and the wedding and stuff."

"Miranda..." Lara recalled the name, "She's someone important?"

Dorothy smiled as Caroline and Cassidy looked at each other with similar incredulous expressions. "Yes, Miranda is quite important in the fashion industry. She is the editor-in-chief of Runway magazine."

"Ah..." Lara tried to place a face to the name and found only vague images of a white haired woman she had seen from afar at a charity function or two. Certainly the woman she was thinking of was too old for the young woman currently in her kitchen. Lara temporized her response, "Well, I don't watch much TV, and I certainly don't follow fashion..."

"That's understandable." Dorothy tried to assure their hostess, "I didn't either until Andy started working at Runway, and then only in passing. Now..." With a shake of her head, the older woman indicated her large tummy, "I'm afraid it's not much use." She winked at Cassidy and changed the subject, "You want to see if those strings hold out long enough to let Gram, Mary and Ms. Hartstone hear your song?"

"Grandma..." Cassidy groaned, wondering if this woman had embarrassed Andy as much as this when Andy was a kid. One look into Dorothy's twinkling eyes told Cassidy, yes she probably had. "They don't want to hear that..."

"You wrote a song?" Alyssa's pale eyes searched her young friend's face, "That's amazing."

"It's just a..." Cassidy swallowed hard as Alyssa smiled. "It doesn't even have a title or lyrics or anything..."

"That's okay. Can I hear it?" Alyssa tilted her head in question and asked, "Please?"

With a sigh of resignation, Cassidy moved back to the piano, "Okay..." She began to play the song she had written. She had actually intended it to be a gift, for Miranda and Andy's wedding, but now that they had both heard it she didn't think it was appropriate for that purpose anymore. As she played, her eyes closed and a picture formed. Most of the time when she did this, played and let her mind wander, the image of Ms. Bax would come to her. This time though, it wasn't the laughing teacher that appeared in her head, it was a smiling blonde girl with pale blue eyes.

Dorothy remained quiet as her future grand-daughter played the piano so beautifully. It struck her that the previous times she'd heard this song played it hadn't been rendered so, emotionally. When Andy slid into place next to her and gave her a little wink, Dorothy knew her daughter had caught the difference as well. Her nostrils only flared a bit as the scent from the antibacterial gel on Andy's hands reached her nose.

When the piece was over, they all applauded and although Cassidy rolled her eyes, she stood and bowed playfully.

Andy moved to wrap her arms around the girl's shoulders, "That was great, Sweetie." She kissed the top of Cassidy's head then looked at Caroline, "But I think it's about time for us to go."

Lara walked them to the door and they were all standing either on the steps up to the door or the sidewalk when the low rumble of tires on the pavement drew their attention. Andy smiled and moved toward the towncar even as Miranda exited the vehicle. "Miranda!" Wrapping the woman in a warm hug, Andy kissed her cheek, "C'mon, meet our new neighbors."

Miranda appreciated Andrea's arm around her waist as they walked up the short sidewalk to meet the group of people standing there. She was not exactly thrilled with the familiarity that the taller girl seemed to exhibit toward Cassidy but it was the woman she was most interested in. The way Andrea smiled when she said her name, "Miranda, this is Lara Hartstone. Lara, this is Miranda."

"Nice to meet you, Miranda, finally. I believe we've attended some charity functions together, but I've never had the honor of being introduced." Lara held out her hand to shake and was a little surprised when Miranda didn't take it. She smoothly gestured to her children, "These are my twins, Alyssa and Alan."

"Pleasure." Vivid blue eyes glanced at the children then returned to hold Lara's gaze for a moment, "I'm told you have put Cassidy to work."

Uh oh, Andy thought and tried to figure out why Miranda was upset, Maybe something happened at the office...

"Mom." Cassidy shook her head, "I wanted to do it.."

"Of course you did my darling..." Miranda smiled at her daughter, despite the older girl's arm around her shoulder, "... there are few things worse than an out of tune piano."

"She did a wonderful job." Lara tried to smile again, "Cass says you can give us the name of the man who maintains your pianos, this one is in need of restringing."

"Indeed." Miranda narrowed her eyes slightly at the truncation of her daughter's name, but nodded, "I can send you his name and number."

"Thank you." Switching subjects, Lara reached out to ruffle Caroline's hair, "The kids have been playing basketball, Ro here has been running my two ragged."

Miranda's eye twitched as the woman again used a diminutive name for her daughter and Caroline smiled at the woman affectionately. "In that case, we should be going home. Playing strenuous sports in this heat can't be good for you, Caroline."

"Mom, I'm fine!" Caroline rolled her eyes. "We took breaks when we got too hot."

Dorothy exchanged a wide eyed look with Pava, "Um... we were actually on our way back to your house when you pulled up." She indicated their position outside the door, with Patricia on her leash, "We were just saying goodbye when you arrived."

"Well then I suggest that process be completed so that we may go home and have our mid-day meal." Miranda was aware she was being a bitch but at this point she couldn't help it.

Oh! Andy suddenly realized what the problem was and she wasn't too happy about it. She decided to give Miranda a healthy dose of reality and waited for the girls to say their goodbyes.

Miranda watched uncomfortably as her children exhibited a disconcerting familiarity toward this, woman. When the girls gave their new friends, and their mother, hugs goodbye she could almost tolerate it, but then Andrea released her hold and moved forward.

Miranda watched her fiancee move, as if real life had suddenly shifted into slow motion. Watched as her Andrea's long lanky arms wrapped around the tall, thin woman with the long, nearly white, hair. Watched as the light disappeared from between their bodies as her Andrea willingly pressed herself against this woman who had to be at least a decade or more older than Andrea, but also a decade younger than Miranda herself. Miranda felt her heart pounding at the sight of Lara's smile as the hug ended, a smile that caused the woman's absolutely wrinkle free face to light up.

"Come back any time." Lara grinned at Andy and the girls then turned her gaze downward as Patricia whined a little and reached her paw up to get Lara's attention. Kneeling, Lara ruffled the fur at the large dog's neck, "You too you gorgeous girl... Next time you come, maybe Benji will be here to play with." She laughed as Patricia licked her face.

That was the last straw, even her dog was a traitor, Miranda's nostrils flared as she spoke to the women staying in her home, "You are welcome to take the car home." She stepped forward, wrapping her arm around her Andrea's waist, "Andrea and I will walk Patricia back."

"Awesome!" Andy smiled and leaned lightly into Miranda's embrace, "I don't think we've taken a walk together since our vacation on the Vineyard."

Miranda thought about that and realized Andrea was correct, even in London they hadn't actually taken a walk.. they'd only gone from the car to the buildings. Shopping at Harrod's for hours apparently didn't count, nor did the flight they'd taken on the Eye. It was a problem, Miranda should be spending more time with Andrea and she knew it. It was also a bit embarrassing for the editor that Lara, a virtual stranger, was privy to a problem between Andrea and herself. "That is something we will need to work on, in the future." Andrea's arm finding its way around her waist calmed Miranda's jealousy somewhat.

"I actually meant to ask you," Lara spoke, unaware of the near boiling point of Miranda's blood and the imminent danger she was in, "Where is a good place to walk Benji? Once we get him here, he's gonna want to run some."

"Oh, sure..." Andy grinned, "I'll take you to the park and show you the dog friendly areas... Patricia has a great time running around with the other dogs there. You have to go early though, they're only allowed to be off-leash until nine a.m."

"You're up that early?" Lara was surprised at that for some reason. Possibly because her teenage children were rarely up before ten and Andy seemed closer to their age than to her own. Lara started her day around five every morning.

"Andrea runs every day before she goes to work." Miranda informed the woman almost imperiously, "Her workout regime is quite strenuous."

"Oh," Alyssa grinned at her mother, "Maybe you can start running again, Mom."

Miranda felt her mouth go dry, "You run?"

Lara ran her fingers through her long hair and nodded, "Yeah, I did... I haven't for a little while, getting ready for the move, house hunting and packing has thrown me out of my routine."

"Oh, well I pass here every morning on my way to the park." Andy offered, "Maybe we can run together?" Andy could feel the tension singing through Miranda's slight frame.

"I'd like that." Lara laughed as her stomach growled, "Wow... it is lunchtime isn't it?"

"Indeed," Miranda managed to unlock her jaw and speak through her fake smile, "I believe I said that some time ago."

Andy's eyes widened, realizing now exactly how upset Miranda really was, I shouldn't have tweaked her like that... "Yes, It's time to go." She gestured for the girls to start heading down the sidewalk, "You two pile in front with Roy, Mom, Gram and Mary can sit in the back. Miranda and I will walk Patricia and meet you there."

"Sure, Ma," Caroline pulled Cassidy out from under Alyssa's arm and down toward the car. She was aware of the older women mumbling goodbyes as they followed.

"Have a nice afternoon," Lara moved to drape her arms around her own children's shoulders. "Come back soon."

Andy only smiled and waved as she tugged lightly on Patricia's leash and with one arm firmly around Miranda's waist, began walking toward home. They walked almost half a block before Andy asked quietly, "Problems at the office?"

Miranda kept her voice neutral. "The usual incompetence."

"Mmmm..." Andy ran her tongue across her teeth, "That's strange since you were probably the only one there."

"No one likes a smart ass, Andrea." Miranda walked a few more steps before admitting, "I called Serena in..."

"Oh?" Andy kept her interest casual, "How'd that go?"

"We... came to an understanding." Keeping her eyes forward, Miranda asked, "How do you think Serena will feel running with a perfect stranger?"

Andy grinned, she'd wondered when Miranda would get around to that, "Oh, I think she'll be fine. I'll introduce them."


"What?" Andy stopped short, pulling Patricia to a stop as she turned to face the older woman, "What Miranda? I'm not allowed to have friends?"

Miranda answered automatically, "Of course you are, but..." She pressed her lips together to stop herself from voicing her fears.

"But what?" Andy widened her eyes, "I can have friends but only if you approve of them?? I'm not one of the girls Miranda! Jesus...You're not..." Andy closed her mouth and bit her lips together quickly, the phrase she was about to say was too hurtful, but from the look in her eyes, Miranda knew what had been poised on the tip of her tongue.

"Say it." Miranda's face was closed, hard and as much the Dragon Lady as she had ever been with Andrea. "Say it, Andrea..." She shook, visibly trembling as Andrea stood on the sidewalk in front of her unwilling to finish the phrase. "Very well, I will... I am not..." Taking a deep breath, Miranda licked her lips and nodded, "...your mother."

Soulful brown eyes met Miranda's watery gaze and Andy frowned. "I'm sorry Miranda, I didn't mean..."

"Don't patronize me. We both know very well what you meant." For your age... Miranda began walking toward the house, a hand on her elbow stopped her motion.

"Miranda, stop." Stepping closer, Andy gently cupped Miranda's cheek in her palm, "Don't do this..." She looked directly into the editor's cold blue eyes, "Don't shut me out. Talk to me."

Leaning into the touch, Miranda sighed, "Andrea, this is not the time or the place to have this discussion." She reached up, removing the hand from her face, "We will continue this conversation, later."

"Promise me." Andy searched Miranda's eyes for a bit of softness, "Promise me you won't sweep this under the rug and forget about it. We have to finish this."

Miranda nodded, "I promise. We will finish it..." One way or the other. They both began walking toward the town house and Miranda nearly lost her steely reserve as Andrea's arm automatically wrapped around her waist. She returned the gesture without much thought, only knowing that was where her arm should be and dying a little at the possibility that she might lose the privilege.

Andy let Patricia off her leash as soon as they walked into the foyer. She started down the hall toward the kitchen, but Miranda turned to go upstairs. "Miranda?"

"I'm not hungry at the moment." Miranda looked down from the steps she was standing on, "I'm going to go rest for a while." She took another few steps before adding, "Wake me when you wish to continue our... discussion."

Andy watched as Miranda continued up the stairs. The urge to follow the irate woman up the stairs was strong, but Andy took a deep breath and resisted. She knew herself well enough to know that continuing the argument now would only result in yelling on her part and Miranda shutting down, which wouldn't be constructive at all. She wandered into the kitchen, wondering what she was going to say to defend herself. Miranda's jealousy wasn't exactly new, but for some reason it had hit her the wrong way today. Andy knew she shouldn't have tweaked the woman the way she did, hugging Lara so closely, but... why not? She's nice, and it wasn't like we're having an affair or something, we were just hugging goodbye! What's wrong with that?! She entered the kitchen with a slight frown on her face. Pava commented on it.

"Troubles, Darlin'?" The older woman smiled at her granddaughter then looked at the empty space behind her, "Where's Miranda?"

"She went upstairs to rest." Andy washed her hands, globbing some antibacterial gel on at the end, then sighed and washed her hands again. When she was done she reached into one of the storage containers arranged on the counter, snagging a crisp bell pepper slice to munch on. "She wasn't hungry."

"We decided to do individual stir fry's," Cassidy smiled at Andy and indicated the containers on the counter, each filled with a chopped or sliced vegetable or protein. "Just get a plate, fill it with what you want and then we'll cook it."

"This way everyone gets what they want." Caroline grinned as she piled veggies on her plate, carefully avoiding the thinly sliced red meat.

"Good idea." Andy looked over the selections and sighed, "You know, I'm not terribly hungry right now either. You guys go ahead and eat... I think I'll go rest for a while too." Dorothy's quiet voice stopped her at the bottom of the stairs.

"Andy..." Dorothy smiled at her daughter as the young woman looked back at her, "It's going to be okay."

"What?" Andy's forehead wrinkled, Does Ma know Miranda and I are....

"Tomorrow... your television appearances.... Don't worry, you'll do fine."

"Oh..." Blinking, Andy nodded, "Thanks, Ma." In fact she hadn't thought about that for quite a while now, not when Miranda was upset at her, compared to that, nothing could scare her. She walked up the stairs but found herself turning away from her bedroom door heading for the sunroom instead. She stopped short when she saw Miranda sitting in the lounge chair. "Oh, sorry I... I guess you want to be alone..." She began to back out of the room.

"Andrea," Miranda's voice was choked. "Don't leave," The editor knew tears were gathering in her eyes and she thought her voice sounded like she felt, broken, "I don't want to be alone."

"I won't leave, Miranda." Andy sat on the edge of the lounger. "I'll never leave..."

"I will always be this way, Andrea." Miranda laid her head back and closed her eyes, "I cannot change my nature."

"I don't want you to change, Miranda." Andy took the chance and reached out, brushing the wayward lock of white hair off her fiancee's forehead, "I just want you to trust me."

"I do!" Miranda leaned into the touch, "I do trust you... it is other people's motives that are suspect..."

Andy shook her head, "It doesn't work that way, Miranda." Shifting, Andy slid into the chair next to the older woman, "Do you feel this?" Andy molded herself against Miranda, "You have to trust this... trust us."

"I'm trying..." Miranda admitted, "This helps," she sighed, "It's very hard for me, Andrea, because everyone leaves. Everyone has always left..."

"I'm not everyone..." Andy spoke quietly, "I'll tell you what I told the girls." She kissed the side of Miranda's neck lightly, "There are only two things that will make me leave you."

"Oh?" Miranda was barely able to push the word from her lips, not really wanting to know the answer. "What?"

"I'll leave, Miranda, if you want me to go and I mean really want me to go." Andy smiled as Miranda scoffed.

"That won't happen." Miranda couldn't imagine a scenario that would cause her to go that insane. But Andrea had claimed two reasons. "And the other?"

"If I die."

"Andrea..." The very thought of anything happening to the woman in her arms caused tremors to roll through Miranda, "Nothing is going to happen to you..."

"Everyone dies, Miranda." Andy smiled and peppered Miranda's neck with light kisses, "I won't go looking for it and I will fight with everything I have to prevent it... I eat right," she grinned at Miranda's rolling eyes, "Usually... and I exercise. I'll get checkups regularly, all that, but eventually..."

"You understand that we had an agreement." Miranda spoke in her best business tone. "You are to remain with me until I am one hundred years old."

Andy nodded, "Yes... then you're going to kick me out."

"When we marry, that agreement is going to change." Miranda looked into Andrea's dark eyes, "We will vow to each other to stay together until death parts us."


"Serena informs me that her grandmother lived to be one hundred and five years old..." Miranda shifted, wrapping herself around the woman pressed against her, "So, the marriage vows will have to supersede the verbal agreement we have." Closing her eyes, Miranda savored the feel of Andrea in her arms, "I don't think I could live five minutes without you in my life, much less five years."

"You're going to live to be a hundred and five?" Andy grinned at the response.

"If Serena's grandmother can do it, so can I." Miranda smiled as Andrea's chuckle vibrated both of them.

Andy gently traced the outside edge of Miranda's ear. "You are so competitive."

"No I'm not..." Miranda moved into the touch, "I just like to win."

Laughing at that, Andy captured Miranda's lips with her own, pulling away only far enough to speak, "I love you, Miranda. Always. No one will ever change that."

"Not even a tall, thin, older woman with long white hair, and twin children?" Miranda's tone was mostly playful with only a slightly sarcastic streak.

Andy relaxed, knowing that the crisis that could have been very very bad, had been averted. "Miranda," Andy whispered into her love's ear, "You just described yourself." Dark eyes twinkled a few inches from Miranda-blue ones. "Well, except for that long hair thing."

"Shall I grow it?" Miranda's eyebrow rose in question, her lips twitched at Andrea's outraged expression.

"You most certainly will not!" Andy was appalled at the very idea. No matter how incredibly sexy Miranda would be with long hair, to change one single strand on her iconic head would be tantamount to blasphemy as far as Andy was concerned.

"Come now, Andrea." Miranda licked her lips and smirked, "I'm a full grown woman, capable of making my own decisions about how I look." Blue eyes twinkled, "You aren't my mother after all."

"No," Andy smiled, "but I will be your wife, and you are going to be my wife. And I will need to remember that the things I do affect you."

"That goes both ways." Miranda chuckled, "That hasn't been an issue for me in my previous relationships... perhaps that speaks to a reason they didn't work out."

"Perhaps." Andy inhaled deeply, content to stay right there in Miranda's arms, with Miranda in her arms, except her inhalation had revealed something important. "Miranda?"

"Mmmm?" Miranda also took a deep breath, closing her eyes to savor this moment with her Andrea.

"Whatever they're doing in the kitchen smells good." Andy grinned as one blue eye opened to peer at her through wayward white hair. "Well, it is lunchtime and it smells really good."

Miranda laughed, "So it does!" Patting the arms around her, the older woman requested release.

"Miranda..." Andy didn't let go and in fact pulled her fiancee closer, "...let it wait, for just a minute?"

Nodding, Miranda settled back into the embrace. "Of course." Closing her eyes again, Miranda smiled, content in her Andrea's arms, "For as long as you want."

Dorothy took the last bite of her stir-fry then eyed the remaining cut vegetables in the storage containers. She knew there was probably just enough left for one portion that she would eat, or one for each slender woman who hadn't yet taken their lunch. She looked up at the ceiling, as if she could see her daughter through the layers of the house. "Should we go get them?"

"No," Caroline picked at the bean sprouts on her plate, "Mom was upset about something, Andy is calming her down. They'll come down when they're ready."

"Unless they fell asleep in the chair again." Cassidy shrugged, "Then they'll be down when they wake up."

"Um... your mom was upset?" Mary took her plate, and Pava's, to the sink rinsing them before putting them in the dishwasher. "How do you know that?" Miranda had seemed somewhat curt toward the new neighbors, but Mary wasn't sure that the attitude was any different than normal for Miranda, if Dorothy's stories about Miranda's work persona were to be believed. Then again, she hadn't been paying that close of attention to Miranda this afternoon.

"We always know." Caroline informed their lunch companions, "Mom thinks she hides it from us, but we always know when she's upset."

Cassidy nodded, "Ro's right, we always know when... it's not often we know why."

Caroline shrugged, "It's usually something about work."

"Not always..." Cassidy shook her head, "Mom tries to shield us from most of the bad stuff."

"And when she's upset, what happens?" Pava was curious. Long ago, when she was Miranda's age or younger, Pava's temper had gotten the best of her several times, resulting in items being thrown and broken. She couldn't imagine Miranda doing that, but she wondered what the woman did do to let off steam.

"Nothing happens," Cassidy took her plate to the sink, "She just gets really quiet and goes to the sunroom, or the study, or her bedroom... 'to think' she says."

Caroline agreed, "That's where they'll most likely be, in the sunroom. We found them there once, sleeping in the lounger after a fight."

"They fight?" Dorothy didn't like the sound of that.

"Of course they fight," Pava shook her head at Dorothy's dismay, "All couples have arguments and misunderstandings from time to time..." She glanced at Mary, "I had plenty with John during our marriage... but they usually worked out in the end."

Mary nodded, "George and I didn't always see eye to eye on things... but yes, we always managed to get past our differences." or just ignore them...

"Mom and Andy work things out," Cassidy smiled softly, "When Mom and Stephen were together things would drag on for weeks and weeks... but now if there is a problem, Andy doesn't mess around. She takes care of it."

Pava shot a significant look at Dorothy who chuckled in self-recognition, "That's my girl."


Part 35

Andy rolled over in the bed and blinked as the digital readout on the clock changed from two seventeen to two eighteen. She sighed, she only had a couple more hours before she would have to get up and get ready for her television appearances. Soft warm arms slid around her and she smiled when she felt Miranda's lips press gently on her shoulder. "Sorry to wake you."

"Mmm..." There was a shift as Miranda glanced at the clock, "It's early, go back to sleep."

"I wish I could." Andy hugged the arms around her and relaxed back into the embrace. "I just can't stop thinking about it."

"Darling, you will do fine." Miranda moved the arm she had draped over Andrea's waist to brush the thick wavy hair away from the young woman's exquisite neck. Dropping a light kiss there, Miranda asked quietly, "Shall I try to distract you?"

"Well you're doing a great job so far." Andy moaned quietly as questing lips found her earlobe. "And thank you for yesterday."

When they had finally dragged themselves away from each other in the sunroom, the rest of the afternoon had gone fairly normally. Much to Andy's delight and Dorothy's amazement, Miranda had prepared both their mid-day meals and cleaned up the kitchen afterward. They watched a rerun of Top Chef that the girls insisted on seeing again, and a movie before they all went to the music room for an impromptu concert. The girls played together quite well, but even people without an ear for classical music could tell that it was Cassidy who enjoyed the music the most. Several classic and contemporary songs later, Cassidy challenged Miranda to a rematch on Dance Dance Revolution. Miranda remained the champion even when the rematch became a three out of five competition. Miranda was correct, she liked to win. Dinner was a light affair mostly just 'grazing' as her mother put it, but Andy wasn't in the mood for anything heavy, not when she had to get up so early to go.

"Yesterday was quite pleasant, and I will be happy to recreate it at any time." Miranda's mind wasn't on the past though, she was firmly in the present with Andrea's warm body to explore with abandon.

"We can't do it too often, Miranda." Andy gasped as long fingers brushed a particularly sensitive area, "We have to keep things like that special, trying to recreate it only makes it... common."

"Andrea," Miranda caught the dark brown eyes with her own blue ones and kissed her fiancee's full luscious lips for a long moment, "Nothing about you, is common."

Andy shifted so that most of Miranda's weight was on her, pressing her back against the mattress. Lanky arms wrapped around the older woman, pulling her impossibly closer, "I need to feel you, Miranda." She admitted, "I'm scared."

"I'm right here." White hair mixed with dark as Miranda nuzzled her fiancee's neck, murmuring reassurances, "I'm right here... always with you... I love you."

The rhythmic beeping caused one dark eye to open and a lanky arm to snake out from under the warm blankets. "Time to wake up..."

The other occupant of the bed took a deep breath, "Mmmm... this is early even for me."

"You were always an early riser, Darlin."

"Ah... in the last few decades I've started sleeping in, sometimes I sleep until six thirty!" Mary grinned as Pava chuckled.

"A woman of leisure indeed." With a sigh, Pava released her hold and forced herself up off the bed. "C'mon, Andy needs us."

"Does she really think this is a good idea?" Mary was worried for the young woman. Pava had explained to her about Andy's terrible stage fright. "Why television?"

"Dorothy said that Andy had explained to her the why... it is because of those rumors Miranda's ex-husband is spreading. They've been fighting each other in the press, but Andy believes this way is faster to stop the man's stories from getting any more attention." Pava ran a brush through her hair as she looked into the bathroom mirror and spoke through the open door. "Television is faster, and a lot of people watch, people who gossip with each other around whatever passes for a water cooler these days."

"So rumors bother her?" Mary hadn't thought Miranda or Andy really cared what people said about them.

Pava nodded, "When they are vicious, and false, yes." Dark eyes examined her hair in the mirror and she nodded once before putting the brush down. "Miranda doesn't stand for that either, not when it hurts her children." Pava sighed, knowing the lengths she'd went to in order to protect Richard from rumors about herself. She watched her mirror's reflection as Mary's arms reached around her stomach. Leaning back into the embrace, Pava's eyes closed as Mary pressed her cheek against her shoulder and spoke quietly.

"That's why you stopped socializing with me. Stopped going to the movies, stopped going shopping... after you had Richard, you completely pulled away from me." Mary's voice choked, "From us..."

"Not completely," Thinking back to those days, Pava felt a tear slip down her cheek, "We still did things together, as couples..."

"You and John, me and George," Mary almost laughed, "Dinner parties and backyard barbeques..." Memories of those times brought a sentimental note to her voice. "Stolen moments in the kitchen, fingertips brushing when we pass the salt... it was torture."

"I know." Pava swallowed hard against the lump in her throat and managed to whisper, "I was there."

"Why?" Mary released her hold, stepping back to wipe the tears from her cheeks, "Why didn't you just stay away altogether?"

Pava leaned forward with her hands on the vanity for a long moment, "I couldn't." She turned to face the woman she loved, and melted at the tears, "I had to see you..." Moving forward Pava gathered the crying woman into her arms and smiled sadly, heedless of her own tears, "...I didn't think I could live without seeing you but, I understand why you needed to stop... that..."

Mary sobbed, "It hurt so much...and when the company they worked for closed...." It had been the perfect opportunity, different jobs, different schedules, lives diverging. Dinners and barbeques became less frequent, then stopped altogether. It was hard at first, not seeing Pava, not brushing past her to get to the kitchen, not hugging her when they arrived and left. Soon all she'd had were her dreams. "I missed you so much."

"I know, Darlin'. I missed you too." Pava held on tight while Mary cried on her shoulder. She hated this and knew it was why they'd put off this conversation for so long. It had been coming though, building since the minute she had knocked on the door of the bed and breakfast so many weeks ago, with the legitimate reason of Andy being there. It had been a little awkward at first, staring at each other over untouched cups of coffee. But then they'd began to talk, like friends, friends that hadn't seen each other for a long time. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be," Mary sniffled and wiped her tears away as best she could with the sleeve of her nightgown, "Like you said before, we had good lives with men who loved us."

"We did." Pava bent down slightly, kissing Mary's moist, salty, cheek lightly. "And now?"

"Now..." Mary looked up at the only woman, the only person, she'd ever really loved and shied away from the subject, "Now, we need to get ready to go. Andy will be waiting."

Pava took the subject change in stride. Mary wasn't ready to define their relationship past friendship and that was frustrating, but okay. It is a big step to take, and we've hidden it from everyone, even ourselves for decades.... Pava moved toward her own room, beginning to unbutton her pajamas. "I suppose we need to be getting dressed then."

"Pava, I..." Mary called after the tall woman, but faltered when dark understanding eyes turned to gaze at her. "I..."

"S'okay, Darlin..." Pava smiled, "We can talk more later."

Nodding, Mary turned back toward her own room with a slightly lighter heart. We.

Andy fidgeted in front of the mirror, making odd faces at herself, "Are you sure?" They had stayed up very late discussing the issue after all the rest of the house had gone to sleep. They talked and talked about the issue and although Andy didn't agree with Miranda's logic, she understood the woman's reasoning and thought. I need to do this alone. Reassuring robe covered arms appeared around her and Andy leaned back into the embrace.

"You will be fine." Miranda rested her chin on Andrea's shoulder as she smiled at their reflection, "Don't worry."

"I can't help it," Andy turned to look into Miranda's actual blue eyes. Resting their foreheads together, Andy sighed, "What if I say something stupid? What if I embarrass you?"

"You are very intelligent Andrea," Miranda tipped her head back and kissed the young woman lightly on the lips, "Just stick to the truth."

Andy had interviewed quite a few people in her nearly two years at the newspaper, "What if they ask me questions I don't want to answer."

"Then don't." That was an easy fix for Miranda, "Just tell them, 'I don't want to answer that without some thought' or 'I would rather not answer that at this time'." Some questions would be harder than others though, and Miranda knew it. "You'll do fine. They asked you to be there... remember that, and I believe Mr. Cuomo will take it easy on you."

"Really? You think he'll be the one to interview me?" Andy wasn't above tweaking Miranda, especially after the whole deal with Lara yesterday. "I was hoping to get Robin Roberts... or..." She let the dreamy look settle on her face, "Diane Sawyer..."

"Andrea..." Miranda's voice was low and her blue eyes narrowed, "She's older than I am..."

Andy managed to keep her grin from appearing, and let the wistful tone in her voice continue, "I know..."

Miranda's eyebrows rose, "And she's married."

Andy grinned and winked at her fiancee, "So am I."

"Not yet..."

"Practically..." Andy grinned, "...and loving every minute of it."

Rolling her eyes at that, Miranda scoffed, "You are so ridiculous sometimes."

Laughing at that, Andy wrapped her arms around Miranda's shoulders and pulled her close, "I try." She sighed as the worry settled on her again, "I'll do my best." She couldn't quite keep the tremor out of her voice.

"Andrea," Miranda melted into the embrace. "Your worst is better than many people's best. You will do fine."

"Will you watch?"

The quiet question pulled at Miranda's heart. "Yes, my darling, I will be watching."

"Good," Andy smiled as she released her hold, "It will be easier to pretend I'm only talking to you if I know you're really watching."


Andy nodded and pulled away from the embrace entirely, "That's how I'm going to get through it, I'm going to pretend that I'm only talking to you. That's how I managed the promo video, I pretended you were watching me through the camera." She ran her fingers through her hair, "It will be harder today, because the studio will be full of people, but I think I can do it."

"You can." Brushing the back of her fingers against Andrea's cheek, Miranda smiled, "You can do anything."

"Yeah, well, if I'm gonna do this... I better get going..."

Nodding, Miranda stepped aside, "Let me finish dressing and I will ride to the studio with you."

"Really?" Just the thought of that calmed Andy down considerably.

"Yes, I need to go in early this morning anyway." The editor waved her fiancee out the door, "Go on... get glass of milk or something. I'll be down shortly." Miranda knew Andrea wouldn't want any food on her stomach right now. "Perhaps we can all meet for lunch after the tapings."

Andy looked at Miranda for a long moment, She knows me so well... She swallowed hard and spoke quietly. "I love you."

"I love you too." Blue eyes twinkled at the young woman, "Now go..."

With a jaunty grin and a playful bow, Andy laughed, "Yes, Miranda." She was glad the woman was in the bathroom and not still on the bed, or else Andy knew she would be dodging a pillow missile right now.

Her smile didn't fade until she reached the kitchen and found her entire family assembled there. "What's going on?" She looked at the girls, confused, "I thought you didn't want to get up this early?"

"Yeah well," Caroline shrugged, "I can't miss an opportunity to see backstage at the morning shows... I need something to rub Allison's face in."

Cassidy grinned and told the truth, "We want to be there for you."

"We will all be there for you." Dorothy smiled tentatively at her daughter, "I want to be there, for you." She indicated their nearly empty plates, and another untouched plate. "I made you some breakfast." It was just a slice of bacon, some toast and some fruit, Dorothy intended on making some eggs for Andy when she arrived downstairs.

"No thanks, Ma." Andy hugged the woman tightly then moved toward the fridge, "I'm gonna get a drink."

"You should eat something." Dorothy worried about her daughter's increasing thinness. Despite Andy's assurances that Miranda didn't want her to lose any weight, it seemed to Dorothy that Andy was thinner now than ever.

Andy shook her head, "Too nervous. I'll just drink some juice. Miranda said we can all go out for lunch after the tapings. She'll be down in a minute and we can all ride to the studio together."

"She's going with you?" Pava had been under the impression Miranda wasn't going to appear on the shows, only Andy.

"She's going to ride to the studio with us, then go on to the office." Andy's eyes twinkled over the rim of her juice glass. "She's going to watch the shows though, from her office."

She should be there with you... Dorothy thought, but didn't say anything. It was difficult, but she didn't want to be the stereotypical mother-in-law any more than she already was.

Miranda met them in the kitchen. She draped a closed black garment bag across the back of a chair before accepting a cup of coffee from Andrea. "Thank you, love."

"What's with the clothes?" Andy indicated the bag Miranda had carried downstairs.

Swallowing her coffee, Miranda made a dismissive gesture to the bag, "Just some things I need to take back to the Closet."

Pava looked at her watch, "Should we be going?"

Miranda looked over the rim of her cup at Andy, waiting for the young woman to respond.

"Yes." Andy sighed, "I guess it is time."

Nodding, Miranda dumped the rest of her coffee into the sink and rinsed her cup out before stacking it in the dishwasher. All the breakfast dishes were loaded and the machine was started before they left, despite Dorothy's protest that the machine wasn't full. Peggy would unload the clean dishes when she arrived.

Roy had the schedule and knew what time Andy wanted to leave, so he was waiting outside for them, along with a large number of paparazzi. The women managed to wade through the crowd and were safely in the limo before anyone spoke.

"Is that what it's going to be like when we get there?" Mary was dismayed by the tactics of some of the photographers. Apparently shouting obscenities was a legitimate way to get their subjects attention, at least try to, but doing so with children present wasn't something Mary had any respect for at all. Andy and Miranda seemed to ignore the throng of yelling people and flashing cameras. As shocked as Mary was by the paparazzi, she was equally amazed by the two women at the center of the attention.

"No," Miranda assured her, "Roy will go to the underground parking facility. It is a secure area with an entrance to the studio. You will be met by security guards there."

"We will?" This was the first Andy had heard of that precaution.

Miranda nodded, "I told Jeff to see to it, personally."

Andy smiled and wrapped her arms around Miranda's shoulders, "Thank you."

"I will always do everything in my power to protect you." Miranda glanced at the other people in the car, including the horrified look on the girls' faces. Pulling away from the embrace, Miranda smiled and brushed the back of her fingers against Andrea's cheek. "Everything will be fine, Andrea."

Nodding, Andy leaned into the touch then shifted to lay her head on Miranda's shoulder. Breathing in Miranda's, unique, signature scent calmed Andy considerably. Closing her eyes, she spent the rest of the trip just trying not to worry.

Dorothy watched her daughter relaxing on Miranda's shoulder while Miranda gazed out the window thoughtfully. Again, Dorothy held her tongue. She wanted to tell Miranda how frightened Andy was, how unfair it was for the older woman to make her daughter do this all alone, but she didn't. Andy looked too calm at the moment and Dorothy didn't want to interrupt that. It was Cassidy who broke the silence.

"Where are we going dress shopping after this is over?" Both girls looked to their dark haired parent. "What kind of dress are you looking for?"

"After the shows we will be going to lunch, Andrea didn't eat anything this morning." Miranda barely acknowledged the 'neither did you' comment from Dorothy's direction, "Your first stop after we eat will be the James Holt showroom, I'm sure you can find your way from there."

"We sent him an invitation didn't we?" Andy thought she remembered his name on the main list for the reception.

"Yes, most of the designers received reception invitations, only a few of them have invitations to the wedding ceremony." Miranda took a deep breath, that was going to be a problem, as was her dress selection. She knew that Andrea was quite anxious about choosing her dress, but in all honesty Miranda's choice of outfit would be even more difficult.

Showing favoritism for one designer over another was something Miranda really couldn't afford to do. Feuds among designers were notoriously fierce and she really didn't want to cause herself headaches at Runway by bruising any of the diva designers feelings. The very last thing she needed was to have a hot rising designer turn to that 'other' magazine. Miranda kept her gaze out the window, even when Roy turned the car into the ABC parking entrance, and thought sarcastically. Anna would just love that...

"I guess this is my stop..." Andy smiled nervously as she found the back of her hand being kissed.

"I will be watching, Andrea." Miranda smiled, "You will do fine."

In a sort of odd mutual consent, everyone piled out of the car to give Miranda and Andy a moment alone, Roy even raised the privacy screen.

"You sure you won't come with me?" Andy's eyes clearly expressed the terror that was building in her heart.

"We discussed this last night." Miranda traced the outline of Andrea's face.

"I know I need to face my fears..." Andy sighed, "But it sure would be easier if I could face them looking over your shoulder, maybe from Cincinnati...that should be far enough away." She took a deep breath, "You and me on the porch of the Bed and Breakfast... we can face anything there..."

"You do not need me to hide behind, Andrea. You are an intelligent, beautiful woman." Miranda's fingertips brushed the young woman's lips lightly, "There is nothing you can't handle."

Capturing the wandering hand in her own, Andy placed a kiss on the pulse point of Miranda's wrist and smiled against the faint rhythm she could feel through her lips. "I love you."

Swallowing hard, Miranda nodded and smiled, "I love you too."

Andy took a deep breath, steeling herself for the ordeal then set her face in a determined expression. "Right... here I go then." She exited the car before she could lose her nerve and actually smiled as a uniformed guard approached her. "Jeff!"

"Good morning, Andy." The large man gestured toward the door where the rest of her family waited, "Everything looks secure... although I can't do anything about the cameras this time."

Laughing at that, Andy patted his beefy arm and nodded. "Thanks, Jeff..." She walked to her waiting entourage and forced herself not to look back at the limo. She knew it was still there because she hadn't heard it leave, but if she looked back, she wasn't sure she could keep herself moving toward the building.

Miranda rolled the window of the car down to get a better look at the scene. Jeff approached the car, blocking her view just as Andrea and her family entered the building. She looked up at the friendly guard as he spoke.

"Good Morning, Miranda."

"Jeff..." The woman actually smiled, "Thank you for doing this."

"My pleasure." He glanced back at the door Andy had disappeared through. "Are you sure about..."

"Yes." Pushing her errant lock of hair from her face, Miranda licked her lips, "I'm sure."

Nodding at that, Jeff smiled, "See you at work then."

"Yes." Blue eyes again drifted to the innocuous door. "At work." She rolled the window up, and the privacy screen down. Issuing her orders to Roy, Miranda picked up her phone and dialed, barely even aware of the driver's grin or his 'Yes, Miranda' response as the ringing in her ear became a sleepy voice.


"Archie, listen closely, I want to do something for my fiancee..." She nodded when the man indicated he was indeed listening, "I know you aren't a real estate agent, but there is a house..."

Andy and her entourage were led to her dressing room. The intern assigned to be their guide seemed very excited to be meeting her and Andy tried not to laugh at the girl. She didn't understand the attitude, but she'd encountered it before. She did allow herself a grin when her mother brought up the exact meeting she'd been recalling.

"Do you remember that gal at the airport?" Dorothy asked as they walked through the corridors.

"Yes," Andy nodded as the girl's face popped into her head, 'surfer girl' Andy had labeled her, Sarah was her name. An architect student from California. A designer of roller coasters. Andy had promised the girl that she was going to do something to make her room mates believe that they had actually met. Her intention had been to print the story of the meeting in an article, but she hadn't been able to manage it, yet. Dark eyes twinkled at the thought, perhaps I'll be able to mention it on TV... She wondered if that hadn't been the plan all along. Ever since Miranda had mentioned the possibility of doing this kind of show Andy had known it would be inevitable. She had just put it off for as long as she could. She hoped they would take it easy on her then chided herself. Get a grip Andy... it's not like Jerry Springer, they aren't going to surprise you by bringing out Christian, or Stephen or... Nate... That thought caused her mind to take a tangent wondering where Nate was. Neither Lily or Doug had seen or heard from him in weeks... even his friends that Doug knew in Boston didn't have a clue where he was. It was beginning to be concerning, except that a stop had been put on his mail, according to the Boston friends. So wherever he was, Nate intended on going there.

"Um..." The intern wrung her hands together. "You can't all stay in the dressing room, there isn't enough room. I'll take the rest of you to the Green Room."

"It's huge," Andy protested, "I was here on Friday..."

"It won't fit eight people..."

Andy glanced around, "There are six of us..."

"Oh," The girl laughed nervously, "But your hairdresser and makeup artist are already inside." She opened the door for her charges.

Peeking inside Andy relaxed when she saw the familiar faces. "Serena! Terry!" Rushing into the room, she hugged both of them tightly. "What are you doing here?" She held up her hand and laughed at herself, the answer was obvious and she spoke the name, "Miranda."

Serena smiled and nodded, "Yes."

Andy felt her mother's arms around her and leaned into the embrace, speaking quietly, "She didn't tell me she was going to do that."

Pava moved to sandwich Andy between herself and Dorothy, "She loves you, Darlin'. More than I've seen anyone love anyone else in a very long time."

"I know Gram." Andy took a deep breath and relaxed for a moment in that knowledge then gently squirmed for release. "Time to get ready." She kissed the girls' foreheads and sent them off with the older members of her family to the Green Room to wait. Knowing they were here in the building, with her, was comforting. With a nervous smile, Andy reached for the garment bag with her outfit in it and spoke to the two remaining women in the room. "Do your worst."


Part 36

A/N - When I posted this section on my LiveJournal page I asked the readers there a question. I asked them that IF, and you see that word is Capitalized, IF I were to have one of the original short stories I'd posted on LJ put into print, if they thought anyone would buy it. It's a bit more difficult to ask that question here, since I doubt many people here have read the story in question. But knowing what you know about my writing from this story, do you think you would purchase a short story written by me? Let me know, because I'm really very interested in the answer to that question. :)

Anyway, on we go...

Miranda watched the television screen closely. There had only been a few glimpses of Andrea so far, but the blurb had said her segment would be next. Tuning out the commercials, Miranda wrung her hands together, adjusted the ring on her finger slightly and sighed. Her heart was pounding for her fiancee, she wanted to be there, to help her, but they had decided that it was best for Andrea to face this fear on her own.

You old fool, Miranda chided herself, We didn't decide anything... you did. You decided and Andrea went along with it, because she loves you and trusts your judgment. The program's intro music pulled her from her thoughts and Miranda again focused on the screen. Andrea looked lovely, as always, especially with her hair up like that, but knowing her fiancee as well as she did, Miranda could tell the young woman was nervous. Fretting over that, Miranda sighed and thought, I should be there with her.

"She looks great!" Cassidy smiled at the monitor in the Green room as Andy looked into the camera.

Dorothy spoke to the women who had joined them in the room, "You did a great job."

Serena shook her head and held up her hand, "You and your husband did most of it, I merely accentuated a few things for the camera's lighting."

"Her hair is nice, too." Caroline grinned at the quiet hairdresser who also waved off the compliment.

"With a neck like that, putting her hair up is a no brainer." Turning to Andy's Mom, Terry asked, "You think maybe something like that for the wedding?"

"Mmmm..." Dorothy nodded as she peered at the screen, "Yes, but we really should wait until she chooses a dress."

Nodding at that, Terry sat back in her seat. Serena had informed her that they were to stay with Andy until her last appearance this morning, on the View. After that they would be free to go to lunch then return to Runway for the afternoon. The picture on the screen drew her attention. Andy really was quite lovely.

"Are you clear now on how things will work?"

Nodding, Andy wrung her hands together in her lap, "Yes, I think so, thank you for the quick orientation."

"We're glad you could join us this morning and want you to be as comfortable as possible."

"Thank you." Andy tried to smile without giggling nervously. She started to run her fingers through her hair but stopped her hand before it touched the much fussed over locks. "I... um... I'm still a little nervous."

"Don't worry, you'll do fine. Remember what we talked about?" The older woman smiled. She'd interviewed a lot of people in the years she'd been on the job and knew that Andy was more than nervous. "We'll take it slow at first..."

Nodding at that, Andy smiled tentatively and felt a little stupid, knowing she was repeating herself, "Thanks." That was all she got to say before the stage manager cued them and they were on the air.

"For anyone who doesn't follow the fashion industry..." Diane flashed her own signature smile at the camera, as her slightly gravely voice explained the young woman's presence on the show, "Our guest, Andy Sachs, took the fashion world completely by surprise several months ago by announcing her involvement with the editor-in-chief of Runway magazine, Miranda Priestly. Good Morning, Andy, nice to have you here."

Miranda watched the view shift to Andrea who smiled shyly. "Thank you, Diane. Good morning to you." She watched Andy swallow nervously as the veteran reporter continued.

"The flurry of subsequent press has developed into somewhat of a 'he said, she said' argument between Miranda's ex-husband Stephen and the couple." Diane looked at her guest and raised her eyebrows slightly, "Care to shed some light on that development?"

"Oh, sure, start with something easy..." Andy chuckled and shook her head as she drew in a deep shaky breath. She was very grateful to the woman for taking a few minutes before the interview to assure her that there wouldn't be any surprises and to give her a heads up that this question was going to be asked first. Andy had been surprised, but in a nice way, because that was the issue that she wanted to talk about, to clear up. Their personal lives weren't something she wanted to delve into to deeply. "I can't really explain what is happening with the press, it is odd to me that my life seems so interesting to people. I suppose the person they are really fascinated with is Miranda." Andy's eyes twinkled at that though, "And I guess I can understand that." She smiled at the camera, almost able to see Miranda rolling her eyes. "What I can't understand are Stephen's motivations for making the statements he's been feeding the press or the willingness the papers seem to have to print them. They are wild speculation on his part, at best, and I haven't read or heard one thing that he's said that has even been remotely true." Talking about this issue was also good because it made her angry. Anger she could use, focus on, instead of the terror she felt regarding the camera.

"So the claims that your relationship with Miranda began far earlier than you are admitting to are... lies?"

"Yes," Andy had no trouble with that, "It's a blatant lie. He can think what he wants, but Miranda and I never had any sort of physical relationship until after the infamous 'brunette' issue of Runway was published."

"The issue that Miranda produced while under the influence of drugs."

Andy immediately corrected the statement, "Illegally administered, several times prescription strength, drugs."

"Yes, of course. The person responsible for that crime is in jail."

"Yes," Andy nodded, "Once we realized the problem, New York's finest apprehended the assailant very quickly."

"The trial was well covered in the media."

"Yes," Andy licked her lips, "There were hordes of paparazzi on our doorstep the entire time...and still are actually."

"Because of the gunman at the charity event." Diane took a deep breath, knowing she had escaped that situation by the grace of God. She had been slated to go to the function but decided not to at the last minute.

"Actually that furor died down fairly quickly. The man was arrested, and everyone's belongings were returned." Andy shuddered a bit at the memory, "Most of the paparazzi are just out for pictures anyway..."

"Does that bother you?"

"Doesn't it bother you?" Andy exhaled slowly and shook her head, "Not being able to go anywhere or do anything without being recognized, photographed... it's not as fun as some people might think."

"How does Miranda feel about that?"

"Miranda... is," Andy thought about it and decided to answer truthfully, "... used to it. She doesn't usually give the paparazzi a second thought unless they affect the girls, then she isn't happy." Veering off the topic of Miranda, Andy took a tangent off the subject and accomplished one of her goals, "But I've also met some very nice people. There was a sweet girl from California that I met at the airport coffee shop. She recognized me from the tabloids. We spoke for a few minutes and she said her roommates would never believe that she had met me." Grinning at the memory, Andy looked into the camera, "So, Sarah, roller coaster designer, I hope your roommates believe you now."

Miranda chuckled and sat back in her seat, the leather creaking under her. Andrea had told her about that meeting. Loving blue eyes watched as her young fiancee calmed down and the interview continued.

"So, Miranda being happy, that's important?"

"Of course," Andy grinned at the woman across from her, "You want to keep the people you love happy, right?"

"Yes," Diane nodded, "Most people do."

"Exactly," Andy shrugged, "Miranda and I both want each other to be happy." Andy grinned, "So much so that I have to be very careful what I say around her."

Diane's follow up question was logical, "For example?"

"When I just mentioned that I was in the mood for some Chicago style pizza, the kind I had practically lived on during college, Miranda was ready to charter a plane and fly to Chicago to get what I wanted...." Smiling into the camera, directly at Miranda, Andy laughed, "She's like that, very romantic."

"I've never heard that word used to describe her." Diane kept her calm interviewer's face on. "Most of the time people describe her as tough, or intimidating... one person said she actually makes the models cry."

"Oh yes.. that too." Andy laughed a little, "Very intimidating, especially when she's working to pull the magazine together and always when she's evaluating your outfit." Shifting a bit in her seat, Andy could feel Miranda watching her though the camera. "You can feel it when she does that, it's quite amazing."

"Maybe she will come on the show sometime and demonstrate?" Diane smiled, knowing Miranda was not going to be on the show. Miranda Priestly did not do talk shows.

"I don't think we need to wait." Andy gestured to the camera, "She's watching now."

Miranda was amazed as dark eyes looked out from the screen directly at her and Andrea's voice flowed from the small television speakers, "What do you think, Miranda? How's Diane's outfit today?" The fashionista grunted but her focus, as well as the camera's, shifted to the morning show personality and Miranda automatically, intently, assessed the outfit.

Diane chuckled a little then her smile faded, her eyes widened, she sat a little straighter and looked at Andy with a bit of alarm on her face. "Uh..."

Andy nodded, "I know.. right?"

Swallowing hard against the odd sensation, Diane nodded and shook off the feeling. "That is, uh..."

"Mmmmm... yeah." Andy grinned into the camera, at Miranda, "It sure is."

"How do I know if I... passed?" Diane was shifting in her seat straightening her collar a bit.

"You did." Andy assured the woman solemnly. "You would know if you didn't."


Andy couldn't contain her smile any longer, "You'd be running for your dressing room to change."

"Ah..." Diane shook her head in amazement. "No wonder her reputation is so..."

Andy supplied the word, "Formidable."

"Yes," Glancing at the stage manager's raised hand, Diane smoothly transitioned, "We'll be back in a moment to continue our conversation with Andy Sachs."

The manager's hand fell and when it was down at his side again, he called out, "And we're clear."

Sitting back in her chair, Diane looked at her guest, "That was amazing."

"Yeah, sorry it does get quite intense.. and you weren't even in the same room with her." Andy grinned as her phone rang, "Excuse me." Lifting the phone from beside her, Andy winked at her interviewer as Miranda's voice caressed her ear.

"Are you quite finished touting me as a Las Vegas lounge act?"

"I suppose so," Licking her lips, Andy teased the woman on the phone, "Unless you want me to ask Robin to come out here."

"You seem to be very familiar with the crew there..." Miranda ran her tongue across her teeth, "... over your stage fright are you?"

"So long as I know you're watching me, I'm fine. But Diane talked to me for a minute before we started... and," Andy admitted, "Being angry about Stephen didn't hurt either..."

"Mmmm... just don't let her take you off the subject. Stephen's and...Christian's lies need to be refuted."

"I know," Andy nodded as the stage manager frantically gestured to her, "Listen, I gotta go. I love you."

"I love you..." Miranda blinked as the silence of a disconnected call met her eardrum. "...too." She returned her attention to the screen.

Andy slid her phone back to its spot on her seat next to her thigh as Diane spoke to the camera.

"We're talking with Andy Sachs, who shocked the fashion industry when she announced her involvement with fashion icon, the editor in chief of Runway magazine, Miranda Priestly. Can you tell us the motivation for that announcement?"

"Yes. We decided to make the announcement on our own terms, before an 'investigative' reporter discovered the situation." Andy exhaled softly, "We knew that because of the upcoming trial for the crimes against Miranda, our lives would be scrutinized very closely. In order to minimize the sensationalistic tendency's of the press, I wrote the article myself and it ran in the paper I work for. We had informed our family and friends prior to the article's appearance."

"Family," Diane repeated, "Your parents?"

Andy nodded, "And the girls' father."

"How did that go?"

"James is... supportive." Andy licked her lips, wanting to say more but not wanting to bring too much press attention to the girls.

"And your parents? How did they take the news?"

"Not well at first, it was shocking to say the least. Better now, Mom has actually been here in New York, staying with us, for a few days. She's helping with the wedding, helping find a dress..." Andy smiled, "She's the best."

"And your Dad?"

"I haven't spoken to my father in several weeks." Andy ignored the pain that caused in her heart, but knew it showed on her face from the expression on Diane's. Trying to smile, Andy sounded distant, even to herself, "He needs more time." Trying to cheer herself up, Andy looked into the camera, at Miranda, "My brother is great though, and all my friends have been there for me when I needed them."

"And Miranda's family?"

"The girls are all for us being together." Andy's trademarked smile appeared at the thought. "They're great."

"She has other family..."

"Yes, she does." A soft smile appeared at the memory of the babies. "Most of them are supportive as well."

"So it seems the only person that is really trying to make trouble is Miranda's ex-husband and your prior...um... boyfriend?"

A wrinkle appeared on Andy's forehead, "Nate? I haven't heard from him..."

"I was referring to Christian Thompson." Diane shook her head slightly, "He isn't your..."

"No," Andy rolled her eyes, "Christian isn't my anything... other than a grievous miscalculation of my tolerance for French wine."

Miranda's eyes were glued to the screen and a smirk appeared at Andrea's words, Take that you smug little... the thought didn't finish as her fiancee continued speaking.

"He was just trying to capitalize on the press' fascination with Miranda and me." Andy shrugged, "I'm not sure that I wouldn't have done the same in his shoes."

"I was told Miranda blacklisted him..."

"No," Andy shook her head, "She just made it very clear that she is very unhappy with him right now... as anyone would be if someone had spread rumors like that about the person they love."

"Of course," Diane had to agree. No one could argue with that statement. "The real reason you agreed to appear on the show is to refute Stephen's allegations in regards to the girls' welfare."

"The main reason yes." Andy agreed, "Because he can say what he wants about me, and Miranda too for that matter, we are both adults and take the source into account. But his statements have begun to include the girls, and that is unacceptable." Andy's anger burned through her nervousness, "His allegations that the girls aren't being taken care of properly are completely unwarranted and untrue. Miranda is a wonderful mother and loves her children dearly." Andy's hands curled into fists, "And I would do anything for those girls." She clenched her teeth and almost growled out the pronoun, "He... can't even tell them apart!" A small vibration at her thigh broke through her rant and she looked down to see the screen. The hostility drained out of her when she read the message. Letting out a slow deep breath, Andy licked her lips and relaxed her hands, "Sorry, I'm just very protective of my family." She glanced down at the three word text again then smiled at the camera, at Miranda and mouthed, 'And I you.'

Miranda relaxed back into her seat, as Ms. Sawyer informed the audience that the time allotted for Andrea's segment was up. The editor's eyes narrowed as the veteran reporter reached out to hold Andrea's hand, presumably to say goodbye, and summarized the conversation quite nicely; reiterating how unfounded the statements Stephen had been making to the press were and that there was no evidence whatsoever that the girls were anything other than loved and cared for properly. Even as her eyes were glued to the image of someone else holding Andrea's hand, Miranda thought, At least the message was conveyed correctly. It had been one of Andrea's great fears that her words would be somehow twisted and help Stephen's allegations rather than hindering them. Miranda wished she had been with Andrea on the show, knew she should have been there, but Andrea had done wonderfully all on her own. Miranda had known that would happen as well. Andrea can do anything. She is so remarkable. I wish she could see what I see in her. Miranda smiled as Andrea's image on the television looked straight into her heart and the joy bubbled up inside her.

"I'm going to marry her."

Andy was nearly bowled over as she stepped across the threshold into Good Morning America's Green Room. "Whoa!" Looking down at the girls now attached to either side of her, she automatically dropped a hand to each of their backs, "What's up?"

"You did great!" "You were awesome!"

Andy met Caroline's eyes, so like Miranda's, and smiled. "Thanks, Munchkin." Cassidy's question transferred her attention.

"Did you mean that?" Cassidy blinked up at Andy with unmistakeable adoration, "You really don't care what the papers say about you?"

"Nope, not a bit." Andy grinned at the girl, "But if they start printing anything about you... I'll take 'em down."

Cassidy nodded and thought, I knew that. Her nearly Miranda-blue eyes twinkled, "Love you too, Ma."

Dorothy stepped closer to her daughter, "You did really well."

"Thanks, Ma." Andy grinned as the young man behind her cleared his throat. "This guy is here to escort us to the next waiting room we need to be in, for the Regis and Kelly appearance."

"Are you up for that Darlin'?" Pava knew that Andy had done a great job during this interview, but this was more of a 'news' show. Regis and Kelly were more sensationalistic, and Pava hoped her granddaughter knew what she was getting into. "Yeah, I think so Gram." I hope so.

The British woman had to pull her attention from the television screen to answer her phone.


The long time assistant closed her eyes for the duration of the greeting, "Yes, Miranda?" Emily began walking across the hall to Miranda's office and her desk as Miranda issued her orders.

"Reschedule my nine a.m. appointment. There is something I need to take care of. I will be back in the office after lunch." Even through the silence on the phone, Miranda could tell Emily wanted to protest. "I know it's an inconvenience for them and to make up for it I will concede to a breakfast meeting tomorrow, if necessary." Not wanting to shock her assistant any more than she already had, Miranda let a bit of 'herself' slip into the conversation. "Shall I continue to do your job for you and call them myself?" She grinned as she heard Emily gasp through the speaker at her ear.

"No, Miranda... I'll call them, of course. Straight away." The redhead ground her teeth together and tensed the muscles in her arms as the familiar 'That's all' echoed in her ear before the call was disconnected. Someone in the conference room was replaying Andy's interview and Emily looked through the glass at the brunette's image on the large monitor on the wall. She wondered what the cow had done to ruin her day this time. It has to be her fault, Emily thought, It's always her fault! Shaking her head, the dutiful assistant dialed Miranda's nine a.m. appointment with savage intensity, wondering what she was going to tell them to soothe egos over this last minute schedule change.

Miranda watched the tiny screen on the television in the limousine as she held her phone to her ear. "Yes, that is correct." With a deep breath, she closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose, "No, this is not a prank call. I'm in the parking garage now." She waited for the producer on the other end of the call to make a decision. Glancing at Roy she gestured for him to get the door, because she knew what the decision would be, before the man making it knew himself.

The car door opened and Miranda exited the vehicle, but stood so that the door could not be closed just yet. Nodding at the eventual choice, the only choice the producer could make, she smiled. "Naturally." Closing the phone, Miranda gestured to the backseat, "You are welcome to watch while you wait."

"Thank you, Miranda." Roy had listened to the Good Morning America interview and smiled, "Andy did a good job with the last one."

Nodding at that, Miranda agreed, "Yes, but this next one will be slightly different." She wasn't sure if Andrea had realized the difference yet or not. Another prompting gesture from Miranda and Roy entered the vehicle, sitting so that he could see the television.

Miranda re-entered the car long enough to grab the garment bag she had brought along this morning. A glance at the small screen revealed the show in full swing with Regis and Kelly engaging in what was supposed to be humorous banter. She was glad she had the sound adjusted to low at the moment.

"I will return with the others after the last appearance." She nodded as the man acknowledged the unspoken order to wait. Another glance at the antics of the television hosts caused Miranda to roll her eyes. She muttered to herself, "The things I do for love." She walked resolutely to the building's parking garage entrance, the outfit she'd brought with her bouncing against her back.

Andy stood in the corridor waiting for Regis to introduce her when she first heard it. The sound that had been absent from the set of GMA; applause. Oh God, she froze, an audience! During her interview with Diane she only had the camera's and crew to deal with, now there were, she swallowed hard against her suddenly dry throat, people. She heard her name called and that frightening sound again. The stage manager actually gave her a small push and once she began moving, Andy couldn't stop her legs from carrying her out onto the set. She briefly hugged Regis and Kelly saying hello then found her seat quickly before her legs, that wouldn't stop earlier, crumbled beneath her. She heard Kelly say the usual, 'We're happy you could be here.' greeting and tried to smile.

"Thanks, I'm um..." With a glance at the audience, Andy let out a long shaky breath, "...a little nervous. There was no audience at GMA."

"Oh, that's true!" Regis chuckled, "But you should be used to audiences by now what with all the paparazzi camped on your doorstep..."

Nodding, Andy clasped her hands together to keep them from trembling, "Yes, but the last time I was with this many people in the same room, it didn't turn out so well."

Kelly jumped on the subject. She had last minute orders on how to direct this conversation after all. "You're talking about the charity event." Kelly smiled when Andy nodded again, Perfect "We saw the reports of that in the news." She turned to Regis, "Remember that, Big Daddy? The gunman and the hostage situation..."

"Oh yes! I remember... I'm not senile you know."

Kelly grinned and patted his arm as she spoke in a slightly condescending tone, "Of course not." She glanced at the audience and rolled her eyes as the people laughed at the banter. "But the big deal was that Miranda Priestly herself had fought with the man." She turned back to Andy, "Is that true?"

Nodding yet again, Andy wondered what was wrong with her neck that she couldn't prevent the action and confirmed that report, "Yes, Miranda was awesome."

"I sure would like to see that." Regis smiled at their guest, his eyes wandering downward from her face.

"Not likely, Miranda doesn't really have time for television shows." Swallowing hard as she tried to ignore both the direction of Regis' stare and the audience. She looked into the camera, at Miranda, and Andy could feel her heart beating out of her chest. "She is my hero though, no question." Andy managed a nervous chuckle, "I kinda wish she was here right now."

Miranda watched the woman she loved on the monitor from where she stood backstage and let a little smile slip across her lips. Suddenly what she was doing didn't seem quite so crazy. Despite her best efforts, Miranda knew that Andrea was terrified, and here there wasn't any helpful veteran reporter to see her through. Miranda seethed a bit at that, she should have been the one holding her fiancee's hand, not that... married... woman. The view shifted to Regis and Miranda's nostrils flared when the man not-so-casually checked out Andrea's breasts. She murmured very quietly to herself as she played with the edge of the black fabric belt she was wearing, "Careful what you wish for, Mr. Philbin."

"Andy looks really nervous." Cassidy worried about the woman. People thought she was really strong, but Cassidy knew inside Andy was not as sure about things as she led people to believe.

"She'll be fine." Caroline assured her sister, but she too developed a vertical line between her eyebrows as Andy continually nodded in answer to the questions. Miranda-blue eyes narrowed at the man sitting in the chair next to Andy. "I hope mom isn't watching."

"Why?!" Dorothy and Pava both directed shocked looks at the girl.

"Because she's going to kill him if he keeps looking at Andy's boobs like that." Ro, laughed as Cassidy punched her lightly in the arm, "I'm just sayin'"

Dorothy's eyes studied the picture carefully and crossed her arms, "Miranda won't be the only one he has to deal with if that behavior keeps up!"

"I'm sure he's harmless..." Pava studied the man closely. Lecherous behavior was part and parcel ingrained in men his age. Pava saw it all the time in men in their age bracket and her own husband's eyes had been known to wander. "I'm sure his wife will keep him in check much easier than any of us... even Miranda."

The girls giggled and the adults chuckled as they continued to watch the show.

Kelly grinned and nodded to the stage manager's frantic gesturing. "Well it just so happens... that I can help you out with that." The blonde gestured to the curtained area of the stage, "We have a special guest here today to demonstrate the technique Ms. Priestly used to disable the gunman."

"Really?" Regis looked at their producer, "A surprise guest, Gelman? Why wasn't I informed?"

The tall thin man smiled his goofy smile and asked, "You do know what the word surprise means...right?"

"One of these days, Gelman..." Regis threatened comicly, "One of these days..."

"Forget it," Kelly laughed, "I'll tell you who..." She gestured to the curtains again, "Here to demonstrate Miranda's quick moves against the gunman, is the woman herself. Miranda Priestly."

Andy gasped and her head jerked to the indicated space, No way... Andy blinked as a person who looked very much like Miranda walked out from behind the curtain. But, no, it can't be... The person standing there on the set was dressed in a karate Gi! No... way! Kelly was saying something and Andy struggled to focus on the words, they finally penetrated her numbed brain.

"We'll be right back for that demonstration. Don't go away."

Leaving her seat instantly, Andy was across the set before anyone could stop her. "Miranda... what are you doing here?"

Reaching up, Miranda casually slid the tiny button on Andrea's microphone to the off position then, ignoring the busily working stage hands, stepped closer to the brunette and answered quietly, "I'm here because you need me and I love you."

Andy leaned in resting their foreheads together. "I love you too." Resisting the urge to kiss the older woman, Andy took a step back, "You look great."

With a wry grin, Miranda winked, "For my age." She chuckled and tapped the younger woman on the cheek, "They want you to return to your seat now." She tilted her head toward the interview area, "Go on and don't forget to turn your microphone back on."

Rolling her eyes at that, Andy moved back toward her seat, mumbling playfully. "Yes, Miranda."

"Oh wow!" Cassidy and Caroline's eyes nearly popped out of their heads, "Mom's here?!"

"'Bout time!" Dorothy crossed her arms. Everyone looked at her with wide eyes. She chose to defend herself to Pava and Mary, "You know she should have been here before! Andy is terrified."

"Andy's doing great!" Cassidy stood to face her grandma, "Mom has her reasons for not coming sooner." She hoped.

"Yeah, Mom is always there for us and she's there for Andy now." Caroline stood with her sister, facing the older naysayer. "You'll see, Mom knows what she's doing."

Mary reassured the girls, "I'm sure she does. I think we were all just a little surprised that she didn't accompany Andy on the other show too."

Nodding at that, Cassidy and Caroline sat back down not quite as close as they had been to Dorothy before. Linking their arms, the girls watched the monitor for the show to return.

Dorothy sighed quietly and thought to herself, Dottie... One of these days you'll learn to keep your big mouth shut..

There was complete and utter silence in the conference room. Emily stood at the front of the room, blinking at the large screen that held the image of Miranda Priestly, their boss, standing on the set of the Regis and Kelly show, in a Karate Gi. She heard the sound of skin on skin and knew that, off to her right, Nigel had just run his hand over his head. "This is her fault," Emily murmured into the silence.

Nigel licked his lips, knowing who the 'her' was. "Six didn't know Miranda was going to do that... didn't you see her face? She was as stunned as we were."

The soft words calmed Emily somewhat. Crossing her arms, the assistant stood with her feet slightly apart wishing her gaze would go through the television as Miranda's had earlier. It didn't work, she knew it didn't because Andrea just sat there smiling like an idiot at Miranda. If it had worked, there would be a pile of ash where Andrea was currently sitting.


Part 37

The 'applause' sign went on just as Andy found her seat and clicked the little switch on her microphone back on. Kelly spoke as she slid off her chair to her feet. "Today we're talking with Andy Sachs and now a surprise guest, Miranda Priestly." She walked over to where Miranda stood, quickly followed by Regis. "Thank you for agreeing to be here and demonstrate how you took down the gunman."

"Yes, what exactly did you do to the guy?" Regis moved closer to Miranda and was now standing on the padded mats that had hastily been assembled during the break.

"Exactly? I took his legs out from under him then kicked him in the head when he tried to get up."

Regis was intrigued and took a sort of half crouching stance. "Show me."

Miranda smiled her sweetest faux smile, "I was informed that the man suffered a mild concussion and a hairline fracture to his jaw." She didn't move from where she stood, "He was in his early forty's," Raising her eyebrow as she assessed the nearly eighty year old man in front of her, Miranda almost smirked, "I'd kill you."

"Oh, c'mon..." Regis gestured for the woman to come at him, "You can pull your punches can't you?"

Miranda laughed, a full rich Miranda laugh, and shook her head. "If there is one thing anyone who has ever dealt with me knows." Her smile turned slightly predatory as her voice dropped lower, "I never pull my punches."

Andy laughed and watched as a hapless assistant director was pulled from backstage and suddenly found himself as Miranda's punching bag. She clapped along with the rest of the audience as Miranda replicated what she had done to the gunman. Then it was time for another commercial break. Straightening in her seat, Andy watched the trio approach the interview area and smiled as a stage hand set another chair next to her. Miranda settled into it easily, sliding her hand into Andrea's in the process.

Andy leaned into her fiancee and kissed her lightly on the cheek, whispering, "You were wonderful, then and now."

Miranda accepted the kiss and tilted her head to look at the young woman next to her. Brushing a strand of dark hair off the young woman's shoulder back up in place behind her ear, Miranda smiled softly and winked at Andrea. She didn't have a chance to say anything though because the 'applause' light went on and the show resumed.

Kelly took the lead as the 'after commercial' applause died down, "Thanks for being with us and giving us that demonstration." She smiled at the couple but directed her question to Miranda. "How did you find the courage to face an armed man? I would have been scared to death."

"Fear is something that often hinders a person's actions, many times for a good reason such as possible death." Miranda held Andrea's hand tighter, "But if you can get past it, the rewards are often worth the effort." The editor grinned as she informed the talk show hosts, "Besides, he wasn't armed at the time. Andrea had already gotten the gun away from him before I stepped in."

"What?!" Regis laughed and looked at Andy incredulously, "You?"

Andy shrugged, "He... said something that made me more angry than afraid." Andy knew what the next question would be.

Regis was curious, "What did he say?"

Andy's thumb caressed Miranda's wrist, "He called me 'Baby', one too many times."

"Oh?" Kelly was surprised, "Marc calls me Baby all the time."

Nodding at that, Andy agreed, "Some people do, and some people don't care. But I don't like it. There are only three people in this world who have the right to call me 'Baby', and only one who does." Now Miranda was curious.

"Who is that, Andrea?"

Blocking out the crowd and their curious host's unconsciously leaning forward, Andy looked directly into Miranda's eyes and pushed the word past the lump in her throat, "Daddy."

Dorothy closed her eyes as she heard her daughter utter that one, solemn, heartbreaking word. Dammit, she thought, Why can't he just see... She highly doubted Richard was watching the show this morning, but she had told him about the appearances and made him promise to record them for her so she knew, even if he wasn't watching now he damn sure would when she got home. Cassidy's small voice only served to strengthen her resolve.

"Why does Andy's Dad hate her?"

"He doesn't hate her, Darlin'" Pava sighed, "He's just having a hard time dealing with the fact that his daughter isn't exactly the person he wanted her to be."

"Because she's gay?" Cassidy swallowed hard at that, not sure if she actually wanted to know the answer.

Thinking back to all the love she'd seen between the father and daughter, Pava assured Cassidy. "He'll come around... He loves Andy and eventually he'll see that she's happy in the life she's made for herself, with you and your Mom."

Nodding, Cassidy stared back at the monitor, but her mind wasn't on the show, or Caroline's tightening arm around hers. Andy's dad loves her, but because she's gay he won't talk to her. The corollary was obvious. What if Dad stops talking to me when he finds out I'm gay?! I don't want that to happen! She didn't spend a lot of time with James anyway, but the times they were together they had fun and he was a good guy. I don't want him to be mad at me! She felt the tears start and was angry that she couldn't do anything about them and angrier still when Ro and everyone gathered around her closer trying to comfort her, telling her 'it' would be okay and 'not to cry' like she could help it... she couldn't help crying... she couldn't help that she was gay... that thought just made the tears flow faster.

"What's going on here?" Miranda stood at the door, still in her karate Gi. "Cassidy, what's wrong?"

Andy pulled Pava aside, "What's going on, Gram?"

"I'm not really sure, Darlin'," Pava tried to smile at her granddaughter, "Cassidy asked if your daddy hated you because you were gay..." The older woman felt a pang in her heart at the pain she saw in those big doe-eyes, "and we were telling her that he didn't really, that he loved you and that he would come around eventually... then she started to cry."

"Oh..." Andy moved to sit next to Cassidy. She wrapped her arms around the girl's shoulders and looked up at the rest of the people in the room. "Can we have a minute?"

Nodding at that, Miranda spoke gently to her daughter. "You stay here with Andrea, I'm going to go change, yes?"

"Okay." Cassidy sniffled and watched as they all filed out of the Green Room, following Miranda out the door. Caroline stopped at the door and looked back at her twin sitting on the couch with their Ma.

Andy asked Cassidy quietly, "Do you want Ro to stay?" The girl shook her head negative and Andy smiled a bit sadly, "Okay." She looked up at the waiting girl and tilted her head toward the door, mouthing, 'Go on.' When the room was empty, Andy asked Cassidy, "Are you okay?"

"What if he hates me!?" Cassidy sighed, knowing Andy knew what she was talking about. "I know he loves me, but your dad loves you too... and he..."

"Hey," Andy pulled the girl close and lay her cheek on top of the girls head, "Now you listen to me. James loves you so much... you and Caroline are the apples of his eye and nothing you do is going to change that. Your dad and mine are two different people. You can't think that your dad is going to react the same way mine has, because he won't." Andy shifted to look Cassidy directly in the eye. "When you do finally tell James that you're gay, no matter what reaction he has he will still love you." She reinforced that statement, with what she had been told over and over, "My dad still loves me, he's just reacting badly to a situation that he doesn't like and can't change. I love you. I love Caroline. And I love your Mom so much sometimes I wonder how I hold it all inside me. Even if James does react badly, at first, he will still love you, and your mother and I will be here for you until he gets over it. Just like you and Caroline and Miranda are here for me."

"Because we're family?"

Andy grinned and wiped a tear streak from Cassidy's face and nodded. "Because we're family."

"Are you going to tell Mom that I'm gay?"

Blinking at that, Andy answered with a question of her own, "Do you want me to?"

"I thought you might have already."

Shaking her head, Andy ran her fingers through the girl's curly hair putting it in somewhat normal order. "You asked me not to. Do you really want me to?"

Cassidy thought for a second and nodded, "Yeah, I think she should know."

"Don't you want to tell her yourself?" Andy tried to catch the girl's eyes as Cassidy looked down at her lap and remained silent.

Exhaling slowly, Andy nodded and licked her lips, "Okay, I'll discuss it with her later." Kissing the girl's forehead, Andy squeezed her shoulders and shook them slightly, "You okay now?" At Cassidy's nod, Andy grinned, "Good, 'cause we gotta move." Standing she offered her hand to the upset girl. "On to the next Green Room!"

Andy stood backstage, holding Miranda's hand. "You look great." The older woman had changed out of her Gi and was now in her normal work clothes, which by the nature of her work, meant that Miranda was impeccably dressed. Andy did notice that the outfit today was an uncharacteristic combination of several designers, but she brushed that thought away as irrelevant. Serena had touched up both their make-up jobs and Terry had made sure their hair was all in place.

"Thank you, Darling." Miranda let her eyes wander down the length of her fiancee, "You look lovely yourself."

With a deep breath, Andy nodded and smiled. "Thanks." She glanced at the monitor and cringed as she saw their hosts' outfits, most of them were okay and would probably pass inspection... but.... She closed her eyes as the applause filtered through the corridor and a shudder ran through her, "This audience is larger than the other one."

"It makes no difference how many people are there Andrea." Miranda squeezed the hand in hers. "We are together, there is nothing to worry about." They both turned to listen as Barbara Walters began to speak.

"Several months ago, a wave of astonishment spread through the fashion world. Miranda Priestly, editor in chief of Runway magazine, the flagship of Elias-Clarke publications announced her relationship with her former assistant, Andrea Sachs; a woman half her age. As if that wasn't enough send shock waves through the industry, now amid the Proposition Eight controversy brewing in California, Miranda and Andrea have announced their engagement and are scheduled to be married in Massachusetts later next month. Please welcome, Miranda Priestly and Andrea Sachs."

Andy attempted to separate their hands as they walked out onto the stage, but Miranda was having none of it. The editor only released her hold to greet the women hosts as she would anyone at a social function, an almost real smile and an air kiss next to their cheek.

Giving each woman a quick hug and a genuine smile, Andy moved to the long curved couch that served as an interview area on the show. She slipped her hand back into Miranda's as they settled into their seats and took a deep calming breath when she felt elegant fingers lace in hers, tightening slightly. She saw the slight pursing of Miranda's lips and the direction of the fashionista's glance. Andy leaned closer, whispering, "Be nice."

"Andrea," Miranda barely vocalized, "It's hideous!" There was no more time to discuss the formless shapeless frock Whoopi Goldberg had chosen to wear because the interview was beginning.

"We're glad you could join us today." Barbara Walters studied her guests closely, "We were amazed to learn that you would be joining Andy for the interview, Miranda. It was my understanding that you don't do talk shows."

"Yes, well, Andrea did a marvelous job on Good Morning America but I realized that the subject of the subsequent appearances would be slightly different." Miranda tilted her head slightly toward Andrea, "I believe that issue is really one that both of us should address, together. So I rearranged my schedule at the last minute."

"She rearranged her schedule?!" Emily made a frustrated sound and the others in the conference room laughed. They all knew that no matter how Emily Charlton fumed and blustered, the woman was totally devoted to Miranda and if the Dragon Lady were to say jump, Emily would wonder which floor she was going to be diving from as she walked to the elevator.

Nigel chuckled, "Don't worry Emily. We all know what a great job you do for her."

Pressing her lips together, the redhead nodded and thought, Not for much longer. She and Serena had talked about it and Emily was going to take Miranda up on her offer of the Events Planning job. They had yet to do more than declare their intentions of exploring the relationship further, but she and Serena were both intent on seeing where their feelings led. Emily also wanted to stay in New York, So, sorry Joan, it's off to London with you. Watching the screen intently, Emily narrowed her eyes as the camera angle caught Miranda and Andy's hands joined together. She couldn't help the thought, Lucky cow.

"'This issue' being, your marriage?"

Miranda agreed, "Yes, and the slanderous comments regarding our relationship." She looked into the camera, knowing Stephen was watching, "My lawyer informs me in no uncertain terms that all slanderous and liable comments can be court actionable, if we wish."

Andy spoke up, "But, we don't want it to go that far."

"There have been some very serious allegations being made as to inappropriate behavior while Andy was employed as your assistant, for quite a while now..." Whoopi questioned the couple, "Why are you just now coming forward to say, stop?"

"Because of the girls." Andy smiled as the pressure of Miranda's hand in hers increased for a moment and she fell silent for her partner to take up the explanation.

"The fact is that this is a free country and everyone, even my ex-husband, Stephen..." It was rather amazing that Miranda could say the man's name and make it sound as though she were spitting out something nasty at the same time. "... is entitled to their opinion about anything. Anyone, apparently, can think and even say what they want about any subject. It is then up to the tabloids or any legitimate publication to decide if they want to risk the possible legal action it will cause to print it." Miranda continued matter of factly, "Neither Andrea nor I have any problem with anything said about us in the papers because we are adults and we know what is true and what isn't. It is when the comments begin to include our children that our protective instincts arise."

"Excuse me," Joy turned on the couch to face their guests at a better angle, "'your' children?"

"Yes." Miranda smiled softly at her partner, "Ours."

"I love the girls and I'm very protective of them." Andy grinned into the camera, knowing they were watching from backstage. "And they've been known to stand up for me, if they feel the need."

"They adore you, Andrea." Miranda leaned a little closer to her fiancee, "Almost as much as I do."

"I have to say," Elizabeth spoke up, "When the news broke about your relationship I was very skeptical about you two as a couple, but you seem happy together."

"You make a striking pair," Barbara agreed and they all turned to see the large screen behind the couch displaying photos of Miranda and Andy together at a few public events, a few paparazzi shots of them candidly walking in and out of the townhouse and a very lovely picture of them walking into Signor Sassi in London.

"But there is quite a difference in age." Joy smiled and addressed the gasps from the audience, "What? It's true. I'm just asking what we're all wondering..."

"Most of the time, our ages make no difference." Miranda's eyes slid to Andrea, "There are only a few, specific, situations where it causes slight problems."

Joy was the only one blunt and curious enough to ask the next logical question, "Like in the bedroom... how do you deal with that?"

"That is..." Miranda began, when Andy signaled through their joined hands that she would take this question. Falling silent, Miranda wondered what Andrea was going to say, her first words were unexpected.

"It's not easy." Andy managed not to grin at the interviewer, "But I exercise and eat right," She kept a straight face as she informed their hosts, the audience and a large portion of America, "...so most of the time I can keep up."

Miranda licked her lips and chuckled as their hosts jaws dropped. Reaching over with her free hand, she patted Andrea's thigh lightly. "You do just fine."

Emily wrapped her arms around her middle, not that she'd eaten anything today, but she just knew the last thing she'd eaten was going to come back up at any moment. No way Andy had just said that on national television, no way Miranda had said that... there was just no way in hell that Miranda Priestly, fashion goddess was sitting on a couch, talking to four loud mouthed gossips, on national television, about her sex life with Andrea Sachs! No. Way!

"Ewwww...." Caroline and Cassidy chorused. "Gross..."

Dorothy sighed, "Well if Richard was watching he won't be anymore..." She shook her head. It wasn't really anything she wanted to think about either, but she wasn't wide-eyed enough to think her daughter was going to be in a relationship with anyone that she was about to marry without having sex with them. Her husband was a smart man, but he had long since chosen to ignore certain aspects of their daughter's development. It was part of what made him so reluctant to accept her new relationship. Dorothy knew it was a cardinal rule in Richard's mind; Andy, his baby, did not have sex.

"Moving on!" Barbara changed the subject, "How do you feel about the controversy regarding the definition of marriage being between a man and a woman?"

"Obviously we don't agree." Miranda shifted uncomfortably and admitted, "However, I am not exactly the best person to talk to regarding this issue."

Whoopi jumped into the conversation, "Your previous divorces do beg the question. Why would you want to get married, to anyone, again?"

Miranda nodded carefully looking at Whoopi's face and not her outfit, "That is a good question, and the only answer I can give you is... This time, it's different." She smiled at Andrea and spoke softly, "This time, it's right."

"That's amazing..."

Miranda turned her gaze to the woman on her left. "Yes, Sherri, it is." Reaching out, Miranda casually patted the woman's knee. "I find myself amazed by it every single day. Believe me I know how lucky I am..."

Andy jumped in, directing her comment to Sherri, "We have arguments over who is the luckiest."

"Is that all you argue about?" Joy's asked, "Because I had heard a rumor you were arguing just before the last charity event you attended."

Miranda nodded shifting slightly closer to Andrea who was studying her own lap intently. "We did have a misunderstanding at that time. It did not last long and was completely overshadowed by the threat of death."

"Our....misunderstandings rarely last too long." Andy tried to smile. "I hate it when we argue." There was still one big thing that Andy felt was between them. Miranda's attitude about her age continually caused friction. Even today, Andy knew the whole reason Miranda wanted her to do the shows alone was just to prove that she could. Because, Miranda wanted her to prove to herself that she didn't need the older woman. Andy realized what Miranda was doing, She's preparing me...even after all that talk about living to be a hundred and five... She's still preparing me... That logic was just wrong as far as Andy was concerned and she shivered a bit at the thought, Miranda isn't dead, The practical side of her knew what Miranda was getting at though and her mind couldn't help adding one tiny, terrifying word, yet. With a tiny shudder rolling through her, Andy focused on the conversation. Joy was speaking.

"I heard there were no injuries. There was actually an officer attending the event?"

Andy nodded, "My friend, Detective Jo Polniaczek was attending with her wife. She kept the gunman calm and kept the attendee's safe."

"The Good Detective did a wonderful job but there were injuries," Miranda informed them, "Andrea had bruises on her wrist..." she pressed her lips together from disclosing the other bruise location. They had not told the girls about that one.

Unlacing their fingers, Andy held up her left hand and wrapped her fingers around her wrist, "He grabbed me here and squeezed very tightly."

"Some of the witness' said he seemed to have a fascination with you." Whoopi lounged back against the couch, "That must have been scary."

Nodding, Andy licked her lips, "Yeah, I was umm, really glad he was by himself." She knew without a doubt if the man had been with an accomplice, if he had someone to watch the rest of the hostages, she would have been separated from the others. "Things would have gone a lot worse if he had been able to get me alone."

"Witnesses said you danced with him." Barbara shook her head, "That must have been terrifying."

"Andrea," Miranda gently turned Andrea's face to hers and spoke softly, "You do not have to speak about this..."

"No, I can do it." Andy touched foreheads with Miranda for a second, then turned back to Barbara, "It was my idea to dance. I was going to trip him while we were dancing, try and get the gun away from him." She swallowed hard at the memory, "But before we started he told me... he told me that if I did anything 'funny' he would kill Miranda."

"So he forced you to dance..." Elizabeth shivered, "That's awful."

"I could feel the gun on my back while we danced." Andy shuddered, "A gun against my skin is not a sensation I will forget any time soon, no matter how much I want to."

"Your dress was backless?" Sherri eased into the subject she'd been dying to talk about. She hadn't seen any pictures of the back of the dress Andy wore to the charity event in question.

"Mmmm, I wore one of the Oscar de la Renta's. Miranda had given me the Cerulean Blue collection for my birthday and I thought it was appropriate to wear one of them to mark the occasion of the first time we went 'out'." Andy grinned at the fashion conscious host, "It's not all just love and understanding," She winked at Miranda, "There are some fairly fabulous clothes that come with the package as well."

"I'll bet!" Sherri wiggled in her seat, "Do you get to meet all the designers too?"

Andy laughed, relieved to be off the more serious subjects, "As a matter of fact, I met more of the designers when I was Miranda's assistant than I have as her partner."

"That will change." Miranda assured her, "Our lives thus far have been far too scrutinized for any social engagements. When all this press dies down, and the wedding is finally behind us, there will be ample opportunity for you to meet everyone. In fact, many of them will be at the wedding."

Andy leaned closer and laughed, "Yay."

Cassidy and Caroline were jumping up and down when Andy and Miranda entered the View's Green room. The women barely had time to brace themselves before the children attached to their sides.

"You did great, Mom!" Caroline's eyes glittered up at her mother. "I've never seen you on TV before."

"I am frequently on television." Miranda reminded her daughter. "I often issue press releases."

"That's not the same, Mom." Cassidy grinned and squeezed Andy tighter, "This was like... you, on TV. It was awesome..."

"Yeah, except when you started talking about..." Caroline couldn't bring herself to say it, but Andy grinned, knowing what part of the conversation the children would have not liked at all.

"Sorry about that, Munchkin..." Andy grinned, not sorry at all. "Are we ready to eat?"

"Yes!" Cassidy and Caroline had both taken advantage of the snacks available in the series of Green Rooms, munching here and there on some fruits and veggies provided. Dorothy had also snacked a little, but the two older women had not.

"Where are we going for lunch?" Pava wondered if they were going to head back to Miranda and Andy's home or if they were going to go out.

"Perhaps French?" Miranda asked the group, smiling as the girls grinned widely and Andrea also nodded enthusiastically. Without a thought, Miranda dialed her phone and spoke into it as soon as it connected, "Please make lunch reservations for seven at that French restaurant I like. We are on our way there now. That's all."

Andy put her hands on her hips, while the rest of the adults looked stunned. "Miranda! Be nice."

Miranda widened her eyes, slightly taken back by the admonishment, she placed her hand on her chest, "What?" She looked at the others in their group, seeing that they were astonished, but not sure if it was because of her phone call or Andrea's order. Looking back at her fiancee, Miranda shook her head, "Andrea... I said 'please'."

Laughing at that, Andy wrapped her arms around Miranda and held her tight, "God, I love you."

Miranda laughed and briefly returned the embrace, "Come now. You are obviously delirious with hunger."

They all laughed at that and agreed that lunch sounded like a very good idea.

Emily hung up the phone then finished confirming the guest's attendance at the wedding on her RSVP database. A crease appeared in her forehead as she noticed a discrepancy between the list and the number of invitations. Immediately she turned to Andrea as the trouble maker and, as she thought, three of the handwritten invitations that Andrea was allotted had not been listed with the appropriate names. With an exasperated sigh, Emily started to pick up the phone, but was halted by Miranda's voice floating out of her office. "Emily."

The assistant's breath caught and she responded uncharacteristically slowly. Hanging up the phone with exaggerated care then standing in front of her chair for several heartbeats before walking into Miranda's office. "Yes, Miranda?"

Looking directly into Emily's eyes, Miranda asked, "Have you come to a decision?" There was no need to elaborate, they both knew what she was talking about.

"I would like to remain at Runway even if I cannot remain your assistant." Emily loved the thought of going home to London but there was no way she would ever ask Serena to make that kind of move. Even though Serena claimed that her feelings had been present for quite some time, the relationship between them was far too new and fragile to put it through that kind of stress. "I would very much like to stay in New York."

Nodding once, Miranda maintained her gaze, "And my other... offer?"

Pressing her lips together for a moment, Emily took a deep breath and spoke from her heart, "I don't think she's good enough for you." Seeing Miranda bristle at that, Emily kept talking quickly, "But I understand that you believe she is..." The redhead licked her lips and continued, "I won't do it for her, but, if you are sure this is what you really want." Emily nodded, "I'll do it, for you."

Miranda picked up a Post-it note from her desk. "You are to go to Valentino's showroom for a fitting this afternoon."

"Fitting?" Emily numbly took the small square of paper.

"Yes, for your bridesmaids dress..."

"You're wearing Valentino for your wedding?" Emily blinked when Miranda shook her head.

"No, Emily," She chuckled, "You are wearing Valentino for my wedding." Leaning back in her captain's chair, Miranda locked her fingers together over her stomach, "I'm still not sure what I'm going to wear." She waited a few heartbeats, watching her Maid of Honor standing in front of her desk, staring at the paper she'd been given. It was sweet that the woman was so flustered, but Miranda needed to get on with her day. "That's all." Emily scurried away and Miranda immediately called, "Bethany." The small woman appeared in front of her desk in very short order and Miranda informed her, "Emily's time with us will soon be at an end. You will begin training to take over for her and you will need to begin the process of finding a replacement for yourself. Cheri in HR will assist."

"Uh... Yes, Miranda."

Blue eyes twinkled, "That's all."

"This is a very popular design this year..."

Andy's eyes widened considerably as a model walked out from the dressing room. The dress was beautiful, on the model, but her waist had to have been the tiniest Andy had ever seen, even from her days at Runway. She could use Patricia's collar for a belt! Caroline's reaction stunned Andy.

"It's nice. It could work, with a few modifications."

Cassidy snorted at her sister, "You mean like making it proportional to a human?"

Andy turned to her friend, "Whaddaya think, Lil?"

"I think it's a work of art," Dark eyes studied the dress, the lines and the beading, carefully, "And it's entirely unsuited to you... it's completely... tense, you are far more relaxed than that."

"Right." Andy agreed. "Not the one."

Non-plussed at the decision, the salesman clapped his hands together and gestured for the woman to go, smoothly introducing the next model. "Now this design is classic..."

They all watched as yet another emaciated model stepped through the doorway.

Andy sighed softly. This morning television appearances had gone far better than she'd expected, and lunch had been wonderful even with her mother's dismay at her estimate of the final bill. Closing her eyes, Andy almost smiled at the memory of Miranda's matter-of-fact voice, "Unless you are in France and know where to go, good French food is rarely cheap." But all during this long afternoon, they'd been looking at dress after dress, showroom after showroom and nothing seemed... right. They were all beautiful, with the embroidery and the beadwork and the extra special silk fabrics, but Andy knew not one of them was right for the occasion, not right for her. She felt restless and frustrated. She wanted to see Miranda. Pulling her phone from her pocket, Andy dialed quickly speaking before the familiar 'hello' sounded in her ear, "I need to see you."

"Where are you?"

"Anna Sui's showroom" Andy licked her lips, "I just need to see you."

"I'm on my way."

Andy took a deep breath nodding as the call was disconnected.

"You okay, Darlin'?" Pava studied her granddaughter closely.

Andy nodded to the older woman and spoke to the salesman, "These are all very beautiful but none of them seem to be... speaking to me."

The man took a deep breath, wanting to sell Andy on one of these dresses so bad he could taste it, the designer that managed to dress either women in this wedding would get a huge jump in business and if he could manage it Anna would give him a raise for sure. But he had dealt with enough brides to know he was out of luck today. "Of course," He was too much of a salesman not to take a chance, "Feel free to look through the catalog perhaps something will strike your fancy for the bridesmaids?"

"Whaddaya think girls?" Andy motioned to the books, "Wanna take a look?"

Shrugging Caroline and Cassidy took a few minutes to look through the pages and although they did like the dresses, they didn't think any of them were appropriate for a wedding. "I think we need to see your dress first." Caroline looked at Andy, "Then we can decide on ours."

Lily draped one arm over each girl's shoulders, "I'm with these guys, don't make them pick something without seeing yours first."

Andy grinned, "Well, Lily, funny you should phrase it like that... because I would like you to be."

Narrowing her eyes, Lily released her hold on the girls, "Be what?"

"With them... when I get married... will you?" Andy looked hopefully at her long time friend. "Will you be my maid of honor?"

"I..." Lily swallowed hard, "Andy... I... I can't afford..."

"Don't worry about that Lil, the dress is covered..." Andy exhaled softly, "I know you were mad, when Nate and I broke up... but, you've been my friend for a long time and... you need to be there."

Smiling at that, Lily hugged Andy tightly, "Damn right I do..." Lily looked over her friend's shoulder to see a car pulling up to the curb outside. "Wonder Woman has arrived."

Andy turned to see Miranda walking into the showroom. She walked quickly to meet her, "Miranda, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have interrupt..." Her apology was stopped by warm lips on her own.

"Now, Andrea." Miranda wiped a bit of lipstick smear from Andrea's lips, "What seems to be the trouble?"

"We've been looking at dresses for hours and there is just nothing that is striking me as 'the one' dress I want to wear." Andy knew it sounded like she was whining and tried to describe her dilemma, "I want it to be special, I want it to be 'right'."

"It will be." Miranda assured her, "You'll find just the right one... I promise." She looked at the entourage Andrea had collected around her and informed them, "I am on my way to a showing, would you like to attend?"

Dorothy nodded, "It would be interesting to see you doing what you do."

"I agree," Pava nodded as did Mary.

"I wish I could," Lily spoke up, "but I should be getting back to the gallery." She hugged Andy, "Talk to ya later, girl."

Caroline was all business. "Who's the designer Mom?"

"Jean-Paul." Miranda winked at the girl's astonishment, "I told you I could salvage the situation." She hoped that statement was true. The redesign had been so rushed that Jean-Paul had never even given her preliminary drawings for the new fashions.

"I knew you could." Caroline grinned at her mother. One day, Caroline thought, I'm going to be just like her.


Part 38

Miranda and her family filed into Jean-Paul's hotel suite, followed by the entourage from Runway. The man greeted them with enthusiasm, to the point of trying to hug Miranda.

Andy covered a grin as Miranda deftly avoided the embrace, moving to the seating area pulling everyone else with her in her wake. As the others found their own spots, the editor settled on the small loveseat. Pulling Bethany aside, Andy whispered, "Where's Emily?"

Bethany was still slightly in shock at the abrupt change in her status, "Emily is back at the office. I'm... I'm training to be First Assistant now..."

"Oh!" Andy smiled and gave the shorter woman's shoulders a companionable shake, "She took the job offer, good for her! And you!" Andy wondered if Emily had decided to stay in New York or not.

Grinning, Bethany nodded, "Thanks," Her grin disappeared and she looked almost panicked, "...but I don't have a clue what do do here!"

"S'okay..." Andy grinned, "You'll figure it out, just watch and learn." She glanced over at the others and gave Bethany a little push toward the seating area, "We better go."

Miranda caught Andrea's eyes and a tilt of her head brought her fiancee to the couch, nestling at her side.

"This must be the fair Andrea." Jean-Paul's eyes roamed over the brunette sitting next to Miranda. "It is a pleasure to meet you."

Looping her arm with Miranda's, Andy shuddered a bit. The man was as 'smarmy' as Miranda had described and she wasn't about to shake his hand but she nodded and smiled, "Likewise."

"I don't have all day, Jean-Paul." Miranda's bored mask covered her irritation at the delay and his slow evaluation of Andrea.

"Of course," He bowed slightly and retreated to the doorway where he clapped sharply at the women getting dressed. "Quickly now!"

There was a loud crash and a dismayed look on the designer's face as he disappeared into the other room. They all heard him speaking quite loudly in French, but only three of the people present clearly understood what the man was saying. They all sat, waiting for the problem in the other room to be sorted out.

Andy pressed her lips together, controlling the urge to get up and fix the problem. Miranda was waiting and that was unacceptable! She thought, Why isn't Em...oh. Andy looked over to see Bethany sitting in her seat, waiting with all the others.

Miranda shot Andrea, a 'see what I have to put up with' expression, which put the brunette in motion.

"Bethany," Andy said as she untangled herself from Miranda's arm and stood. "Come with me." She stalked into the other room with the new First assistant close on her heels.

Miranda grinned as Andrea's voice, also speaking French, filtered back through the suite. They all listened to a fairly loud exchange of words between Jean-Paul and Andrea. She couldn't help the smile as Mila leaned forward and spoke quietly in her native language, "Your fiancee is... colorful with her language." Mila was as awed by Miranda as any other model, but she had seen the couple interacting at the airport and was bolder in the face of love, "Does she actually kiss you with that mouth?"

Gracing the model with a withering expression, Miranda waited for an appropriate subdued expression from Mila, then smirked, "Oh yes, she does indeed."

Mila relaxed and sat back, grinning at the others who, she knew, did not understand a word she or Miranda had just said.

"You stupid models!" Jean-Paul was dismayed that their clumsiness was going to ruin him. "I work until my fingers bleed and you can't manage to stand upright for ten minutes... you are more comfortable on your back eh?"

"What is going on in here?" Andy took two steps into the room and stopped dead in her tracks so fast, in fact, that Bethany bumped into the back of her. She ignored the smaller woman's mumbled apology and quickly scanned the chaos in front of her. Three models were still sitting on the floor, a large tray was overturned and there were accessories all over the floor. Andy asked in English, "What happened?"

"I tripped," The blonde model on the floor moved slowly but pointed to a lamp cord that lay across the floor. The lamp had obviously been moved from its place in order to give the women more light to work with for their make-up. "I'm sorry." That set Jean-Paul off on another spate of French that widened Andy's eyes considerably.

Andy listened for a moment at the vile things the man was directing toward the women on the floor and anger loosened her tongue. She also began speaking the man's language, loudly and clearly over his ranting, but what she said was not directed at the models. Andy took some satisfaction in the man's chagrin, but Bethany's blush brought her mind back into focus.

Bethany had been trying to learn French, just because many of the designers spoke that particular language. In addition to the regular lessons, she had done some research on her own for curse words, wanting to know what was being said, if it was something nasty. What the man had said to the models was bad, but Andy's rant at him clearly matched it. Jean-Paul was obviously stunned at the words falling from Andy's lips and he turned away from the verbal attack, seemingly ready to berate the clumsy model again.

Calming herself somewhat, Andy shook her head and spoke lower but with more intensity, "Listen to me..." Andy physically grabbed Jean-Paul's shoulders, turning him to face her. "It wasn't her fault, you need to calm down. We have to get this settled because Miranda is waiting, and if you think keeping her waiting is a good idea you better just pack up all your crap and leave the country now."

One model had jumped out of the way of the pile up and now spoke up softly, "I could go on out... if it would help?"

Andy turned and blinked at the woman she hadn't noticed before, dark eyes evaluated the dress then she smiled and shook her head, "No, take off that dress."

Jean-Paul was aghast, "That is one of my better efforts! Miranda must see it!"

"Shhhh..." Andy leaned closer to him, knowing how easily their voiced carried into the other room. "She can't see that one. Trust me." Turning to the helpful model, Andy gestured to her and spoke quietly, "Take off that dress." Grabbing the next one in line on the rack, Andy pushed her toward an empty space in the room, "Change quickly."

Bethany was helping the other models up off the floor and Jean-Paul was rapidly checking the clothing they had on for damage while handing them the rest of their ensembles to wear. Andy nodded at the man's efficiency, once he got over his initial, incredibly over the top, reaction to the mishap. She reinforced her decision quietly in his ear, "Do not let Miranda see that dress."

Nodding, Jean-Paul lined up the models and gestured for the first one to go into the other room. "I will do as you ask, Andrea, but you will explain to me why later?"

"Of course," Andy gestured him out of the room with a shooing motion, "No time now.. go!"

Checking to see that the models had gained a semblance of organization, Andy led Bethany back to the seating area, speaking quietly to her as they walked, "This is your job now, always watch Miranda, always make sure things are to her liking, never make her wait. You are her First Assistant, you have the authority..."

Swallowing hard at the advice, Bethany found her seat and watched as Andy again curled herself around Miranda's arm. She found herself amazed at the slight shift in Miranda's shoulders and realized that it was a result of tension draining away. Wow, Bethany thought as Andy's words came back to her 'always watch Miranda', I'm going to have to pay closer attention. The realization struck her, I have to be the one to help her when Andy isn't here... I'm the new Emily! Suddenly the weight of her new position landed squarely on her shoulders but surprisingly, Bethany smiled, Cool.

Miranda watched dispassionately as one model after the other appeared in the redesigned garments for her judgment. She did not smile, or nod, or give any indication whatsoever that the designs were acceptable. But she also did not give any sign that they were not. Jean-Paul seemed heartened by this, passing acceptance. He seemed even happier when Miranda allowed him to overhear her telling Bethany to set up a photo shoot for later in the week. That concluded the business she had with him, so the editor stood to go, Andrea rose with her. They walked mostly in silence down the hall and the elevator ride down was also quiet. Only when they exited the building and moved toward the waiting car did they actually speak in sentences.

"I must return to the office for a while this afternoon." Miranda wrapped her arm around Andrea's waist, pulling her close for a moment, "You have more shopping to do?"

"Yes," Andy sighed and kissed Miranda's cheek before they began walking, "We'll be a while longer yet, on our quest for the perfect dress and I'll need shoes to match if I ever find the one I want."

"Don't give up hope, my Darling..." Miranda stopped their trek back to the cars and brushed Andrea's cheek with the backs of her fingers. "You'll find it."

"Yeah," Andy smiled as she reached up to hold the hand against her cheek for a moment longer, "Have a nice afternoon."

"You as well." Miranda hugged the girls then settled into the back seat of her car before addressing Andrea. "I will only be a short time more at the office, if you can hold supper, I shouldn't be too late."

"Of course!" Andy's eyes twinkled at the thought, her hands dropping to each girl's shoulder. Evening meals together had been fairly rare lately. "See you at home."

Nodding, Miranda gestured for the door to be closed between them and with a glance to her left to make sure Bethany was where she was supposed to be, she issued her instructions to the driver. "Go."

"So," Dorothy walked up next to her daughter, "Where to next?"

Andy watched as Miranda's car turned the corner and moved out of sight then answered her mother excitedly, "Back upstairs..." She ushered her little group back upstairs to Jean-Paul's suites.

The designer opened the door quickly at the sharp knocking and queried the brunette. "Now you will tell me why I am not showing Miranda my best work?"

"Yes," Andy moved past him into the other room then returned with the dress in question, "She can't see it, at least, not until I wear it at our wedding."

"What?!" Dorothy took a closer look at the fabric draped over Andy's arm, "Seriously?"

"Oh yeah," Andy held the dress up and smiled, "It's perfect."

Jean-Paul smiled, "It will be." He bowed gallantly to her, "Please, go put it on and I shall fit it for you and you alone."

"Darlin', are you sure about this?" Pava didn't think the dress in her grand-daughter's hands looked like anything special. Certainly nothing like she had assumed Andy was looking for.

"Oh yeah, Gram," She grinned, "I'm totally sure." She stroked the diaphanous white material, "Wait here..." She disappeared into the bathroom, unwilling to change in front of the models who were now nearly back into their regular clothes.

Jean-Paul dismissed the models then joined the others in the seating area to wait for Andy's return.

"Yes, Cheri," Miranda spoke crisply into the phone, "The whole change-over should be finalized as of August first." She listened intently to the woman's response and nodded, "Acceptable. I will have Emily conference with Joan to orient herself to her new responsibilities..." She spoke quietly as she looked over a list of addresses written in Emily's distinctive script, "I will of course need a third assistant for a few weeks, in order to be trained correctly." Again she paused as Cheri protested that request. "It is not up for debate, the problems in the past have mainly stemmed from inadequate training. I require a decently trained replacement available when I return from my honeymoon." Miranda smirked as that term, being applied to her, caused dead silence on Cheri's end of the conversation for a long moment. With a twinkle in her eye, Miranda acknowledged the proper congratulations from Cheri, "Thank you." Her voice took a serious edge one that harbored no protest. "A third assistant, within four weeks. That's all." Disconnecting the call, Miranda tucked the small sheet of paper into her jacket pocket then turned her attention to the photo sheets on her desk. Miranda kept her attention on the proofs even when she spoke to Bethany, who stood shifting from foot to foot in front of her desk, "Yes?"

"Um... Mr. Ravitz wants to see you, upstairs... um... immediately." Bethany nervously handed Miranda the Post-it she'd used to take the message.

"Mmmm..." Still keeping her attention on the photographs in front of her, Miranda held out her hand for the note, immediately crunching it up and, never looking up from her task, tossing it into the small waste can next to her desk. She circled a photo and crossed out three more, evaluating yet another photo through the glasses perched on the end of her nose she absently asked. "Anything else?"

"No, Miranda, nothing else."

"Good," The editor crossed out two more pictures then circled another before moving on to the next sheet. "Inform Nigel that I wish to see him, immediately."

Nodding, almost bowing, Bethany's voice faded as she spoke and moved at the same time, "Yes, Miranda."

Within two minutes Nigel was at the door of her office, almost out of breath at the pace he had set himself to get there, "Yes, Miranda?"

"Ah... Nigel," Looking up from the pictures, Miranda smiled evaluating the man, Not ready yet.... Pulling herself from that line of thought, Miranda stood. "I have chosen four for the Calvin Klein layout," She indicated the proof sheets, "You will need to choose two more." Standing, she gestured to her seat, her eyes twinkling at his hesitation. She explained her motives for pressing him into service. "I have been summoned to Irv's office and do not wish to sacrifice my family time this evening by having to deal with his nonsense." She watched him settle tentatively into the big chair then checked her watch. "Have your choices ready for approval when I return."

"Of course, Miranda."

Nigel watched her go, issuing an order for coffee as she passed Bethany's desk, then turned his attention to his task. He had to make the right choices otherwise Miranda would just go through the photos herself and he wouldn't have helped a bit. Irv always put her in a bad mood, so the correct choices would be crucial. He didn't want her to regret allowing him to do this. It was a common theme among Runway personnel, especially the newbies, but even Nigel, having worked for Miranda as long as he had, didn't want to disappoint her.

Andy looked at her reflection and grinned, she moved side to side and twirled, making sure she could dance without falling and injuring herself or anyone else. As soon as she had seen this dress she'd known it was exactly what she wanted. Jean-Paul had made the adjustments for length and shoulder width as her family had watched, fascinated at the process. It hadn't taken too long for the alterations then they were on their way home, the dress carefully encased in a black protective garment bag.

They were all dubious about the choice, but Andy was grateful that they didn't make too big a deal about protesting. She had set any arguments against the dress to rest and even Dorothy had stopped her diatribe against the outfit when Andy had uttered one simple, quiet statement, "This is the one."

She twirled again, loving the way the hem fell at her ankles brushing the tops of her feet lightly. The diaphanous cloth was layered, drawn up and knotted over one shoulder leaving the other shoulder completely bare. A quiet knock at the door pulled her attention away from her reflection, "Yes?"

Pava opened the door a bit, "Can I come in, Darlin'?"

"Gram!" Andy smiled and turned to face her visitor, "Do you need something?"

"Just makin' sure you're okay..." Pava smiled at her grand-daughter. "I'm glad you found what you were lookin' for so quickly. I know you thought it would take several days..."

"Oh me too! Especially after the dismal failure this afternoon's search had seemed to be. But this..." Andy smiled and brushed her palm against the fabric covering her stomach, "This is perfect."

"You keep sayin' that," Pava's forehead wrinkled in concern, "but it doesn't really seem all that...traditional."

"It's not, but it goes perfectly with the Greek Temple decor, this dress makes me look like a Priestess or something... and that is exactly what I want to do...worship, love and adore Miranda... it's her day too, Gram. She is trying to be all nonchalant about it, trying to make it all about me, but it isn't Gram... it's about us... me and her... I need her to see that, feel that."

Pava nodded and smiled softly at her grown up granddaughter, "She will, Darlin'." She knew exactly how Andy felt because if she had the right to publicly show her feelings for Mary, Pava would want the woman she loved to feel exactly the same way; like she was loved and adored, forever. Grinning, Pava physically turned Andy back to face the mirror, looking over the young woman's bare shoulder at the reflection. "It's a beautiful dress, and you are a beautiful woman, and Miranda is a very lucky person to have you in her life."

"I'm the lucky one," Andy felt the tears suddenly spring to her eyes, "Thanks Gram..." She tilted her head slightly to accept a light kiss on her cheek. "I just hope Miranda thinks so, too."

"You're welcome, Darlin'... and she will because you're right, this dress is perfect." Gazing at the reflection, Pava thought there was only one flaw in the young woman's logic. People won't think you're a Priestess, Darlin', in that dress, you're the Goddess. She smiled at the thought and knew Miranda would love this dress, for just that reason. Andy wasn't the only one who wanted their partner to feel loved and adored.

"Go right in." Irv's secretary made a face, "He's expecting you."

Miranda grinned as she walked past the woman's desk, murmuring, "I'll bet he isn't...." She entered her supposed boss' office and sat in one of the plush chairs situated in front of his desk. She didn't say a word, merely sitting, waiting for him to begin.

"I suppose you're happy with yourself? Was it your intention to make a fool of yourself on national television?" His eyes narrowed when his words didn't have the desired effect. The woman should have been apologetic for her actions, "Do you know what you've done to the value of Elias-Clarke stock?!"

With barely a twitch to her lips, Miranda spoke blandly, "It is my understanding that the stock price is holding steady." Pulling her blackberry from her pocket, Miranda pressed a few buttons and shrugged, "It's nearly the same as it was when I checked it this morning, a quarter point higher actually."

"It dropped twenty points when you showed up on television, in that...costume!" Irv was livid now, "How could you possibly pull a stunt like that without telling anyone?!"

"I didn't know myself until a few moments before I called the producers and even then it was their decision. They could have refused my appearance as disruptive to their show." Miranda was calm. The editor chided the CEO, "You know as well as I do stocks dip from time to time."

"Twenty points!" Irv raged, "No one knew what the Hell was happening..." Suddenly he stopped his rant and narrowed his eyes at her, "Why aren't you more upset about this??"

"There is nothing to be upset about..."

"Noth..." Irv was aghast, "Twenty points Miranda... do you understand what would happen if that was a permanent drop?"

"Get a hold of yourself, Irv, it's only "permanent" if you sell. Surely you didn't sell..." His demeanor indicated that he had ridden out the drop and Miranda scoffed, "You are acting like this was the end of the world. "The stock dropped for a short time, and now it's worth more that it was this morning." She glanced at the device in her hand, "And it seems to be continuing to climb."

"You bought..." Irv stood and pointed an accusing finger at her, "You made money on this whole fiasco."

"Well I certainly hope so," Miranda smiled, "I have a standing order with my broker to buy if the price dips more than eighteen points."

"How much?"

Consulting her Blackberry yet again, Miranda raised her eyebrows, "I currently hold forty thousand shares more than I did this morning."

"Eight hundred thousand dollars..." The man collapsed back into his seat, "You made..."

"Mmmm...not quite that much," Miranda blinked, "And spent nearly five million to do it." Cool blue eyes raked over him, "But that's all up to my money manager."

"You have a standing order." Irv repeated her previous words, "He does this all the time?"

Nodding, Miranda confirmed, "He is in total control of my stock portfolio, aside from a few standing orders he has in regards to certain companies, it is built entirely on his discretion."

"Did you warn him that you were going on television?" Irv was not thrilled at this development. If she had told anyone it bordered on insider trading.

Miranda admitted, "I spoke to Archie just before I went on the show. I wanted to speak to him about a present that I wish to purchase for Andrea." She shrugged, "I wanted to talk to him while I was thinking about it. We did not discuss any other topic."

"And what is this 'present'," Irv sneered the word, dismissing the mention of a charity, "that you couldn't wait to discuss with your money manager?"

"A house, if you must know...Andrea had mentioned it earlier and I wanted him to evaluate the return on investment potential. It is currently a Bed and Breakfast." Miranda sighed, "The owner had passed away, but I have since learned that it is not on the market, yet." She sat, relaxed, "I will, however, have my real estate agent watch the property for the correct opportunity."

"And where is this fabulous property?" Irv thought if Miranda was interested in it, it might be worth his time to watch it as well.

"It's in Cincinnati," Miranda smiled as the calculating look on the man's face dropped away, "It's a sentimental thing between Andrea and I."

"Oh." He didn't believe her for a moment, if there was one thing Miranda Priestly didn't do, it was sentimental.

"Are we finished here?" Miranda stood, "I actually have work to do."

Irv shook his head and waved her away, "Go."

Miranda smirked as she walked out of the office and was actually in a good enough mood, she winked at the man's secretary as she passed the desk.

The woman behind the desk swallowed hard as she watched the enigmatic editor walking down the hall, Miranda was in much too good a mood when she'd left. Finally, the secretary peeked into her boss' office, hoping the man was still alive, terrified that he wasn't. The last thing she wanted to do was to testify against Miranda Preistly at a murder trial. A relieved breath escaped her when she saw Mr. Ravitz sitting behind his desk talking on the phone.


The brunette looked up from her laptop and smiled, "Hey Sweetie, what's up?"

Cassidy moved closer, "Do you know when Mom's going to be home?"

"She said she thought she'd be here for supper." Andy checked the time at the bottom of her computer screen, "So she should be here anytime now."

Nodding, Cassidy slowly started to move away, "Okay. Peggy grilled some chicken. She says we can have it as an entree with rice and mixed veggies or cut up on a salad, our choice."

"Ohhh... salad for me. Miranda will want the meal," Andy licked her lips anticipating the flavors of the salad. "Ask the others though, Ma isn't much for salads and neither is Gram... but I dunno about Mary."

"Okay, Ma," Cassidy left to complete her order taking mission.

Andy finished the article she was working on and sent it spinning toward the Mirror offices at cyberspeed before she closed down her computer. Standing, she stretched then wandered down the stairs toward the kitchen. Gram and Mary were there, standing very close together, until they heard her on the stairs and separated quickly. Andy managed to keep the knowing look off her face and greet them with a smile. "Hello."

"Hello, Darlin'" Pava flashed a guilty look at Mary then moved even further away from the other woman, "Finish up all your typin'?"

"Yep," Andy reached into the fridge and poured herself a glass of juice. "All caught up on my work, for now." She knew full well there would be at least three assignments in her inbox tomorrow morning. "I have my whole evening free." She smiled at the thought, all evening and night, and she intended on making the most of it, as soon as Miranda got home.

Not even the small paparazzi crowd gathered on her front sidewalk could dampen Miranda's mood. She did keep her carefully cultivated 'Dragon Lady' mask in place during her walk from the car to the house, but once inside she smiled and chuckled. A voice from the stairway pulled her smile even wider.

"You're in a good mood." Andy stepped up the last step from the lower level and, setting down the bottle of wine she had retrieved, wrapped Miranda in a tight embrace, "Welcome home."

"Why shouldn't I be in a good mood, Andrea?" Miranda kissed her fiancee soundly, "Things are running smoothly at Runway, for a change, and I am home for a lovely," She sniffed the air and grinned, "...chicken dinner with my family and a nice bottle of..." Moving slightly she checked the label on the bottle Andrea had brought from the cellar, "Bordeaux."

"The dining room is set, if you're ready to eat." Andy linked her elbow with Miranda's and grabbed the bottle. "Otherwise we can just let it stay in the warmer for a bit."

"I'm sure you are all ready for your meal." Miranda patted the arm in hers, "I will need to speak with you, after we eat."

"Um..." Andy didn't like the sound of that, "Okay..."

Miranda chuckled, brushing the back of her fingers against Andrea's cheek, "No worries, love."

Andy blinked at the tinge of English accent coming through in Miranda's voice. Wow, She did have a good day. She's really relaxed. "Okay then, let's go eat."

They had nearly finished their meal, Cassidy and Caroline had already been given permission to leave the table and were most likely upstairs playing their video game. The adults had engaged in small talk, waiting for Andy to tell Miranda that a dress had been chosen. That news was suddenly and completely overshadowed by a casual comment Miranda made. Andy was incredulous.

"You had a meeting with Irv this afternoon?"

"Mmmm..." Miranda scooped a small forkful of rice and hesitated to take the bite long enough to answer, "Yes, tedious, but necessary."

"But..." The young woman didn't understand, "You're in a good mood!" Her eyes narrowed, "You didn't kill him did you?"

Miranda laughed, "No, he's very much alive, quite angry with me and unable to do anything about it."

"Ah," Andy stabbed another bite of her salad, "That explains the good mood then." Andy knew that Miranda loved it when she got the upper hand with Irv.

Licking her lips, Miranda nodded, "Indeed."

"Is that what you wanted to talk to me about?" Andy was still a nit nervous about that particular statement. She'd wondered all through the meal what Miranda was going to say. Miranda's next words would never have made the list of possibilities.

Clearing her throat, Miranda smiled at her fiancee, "Emily gave me a list of establishments that some potential DJ's are performing this evening. Perhaps we could evaluate them?"

Andy translated the Miranda-speak for the others at the table, and to confirm the amazing proposal, "You want to go club hopping with me tonight?"

Blue eyes twinkled across the table, "Yes."

"Do you think that's wise?" Dorothy was slightly shocked that the older woman had even suggested such a thing. That sort of behavior was more for the younger generation.

"I think it's an awesome idea." Andy grinned at Miranda. "I've wanted to go dancing with you for ages."

"What about the press?" Mary didn't think she would be able to enjoy herself, knowing there were people with cameras trained on her all the time.

Miranda answered the serious question with a serious response, "I will not allow the paparazzi to deter me from enjoying Andrea's company. I had a wonderful day today, everything fell into place quite nicely and if I want to go out with the love of my life to celebrate that, I will."

Andy grinned and nodded, again translating Miranda's response, "Yep, screw 'em."

With a little chuckle, Miranda nodded as she took a last bite of chicken, "Indeed."


Part 39

"Where are we going?" Andy fluffed up her hair and picked up an earring from the counter. Tilting her head slightly to put on the jewelry, Andy listened for the non-existent answer. "Miranda?" Grabbing the other earring, putting it in its proper place as she walked out of the bathroom, Andy stopped short just outside the open door. Her jaw dropped slightly as the older woman emerged from the large walk-in closet, also putting her earrings on. Andy swallowed hard as her vision tunneled and she swayed slightly at the sight in front of her. Her hushed voice barely registered, even in her own ears, "Miranda... you... look..."

Miranda smirked slightly and walked across the room quickly, the red fabric of the slinkiest dress she owned brushing against her curves as she moved. "Andrea," She cupped the younger woman's cheek in her palm, "Breathe, Darling..."

Andy took a deep breath and nearly lost it again as Miranda smiled. On impulse, Andy wrapped her arms around Miranda's waist, pulling their bodies together, reveling in the skin on skin contact that quite frankly was more than even some of the pajamas that they often wore allowed. "You look awesome!"

"You're surprised?" Miranda chided, and winked at her fiancee, "You don't look so bad yourself. You know I'm partial to the Little Black Dress and the woman who invented it..." Miranda ran her hands down the fabric over Andrea's ribs, "This, was one of her finer designs," Moving closer, Miranda nuzzled her love's ear, her hands continuing to roam Andrea's curves, elegant fingers encountering the smooth skin on Andrea's back, as Miranda whispered, "You're so beautiful."

"Miranda..." Leaning into the murmuring lips, Andy sighed, "Do we have to go out tonight?"

Laughing softly at that plaintive question, Miranda answered with a grin, "I thought you wanted to go dancing."

"Ohhh..." Andy grinned and draping her arms over Miranda's shoulders, pressed their foreheads together lightly, "I most certainly want to dance with you, but I'm not sure I want anyone else around when I do it." Andy grinned wickedly pulling Miranda closer and swaying to music only she could hear.

Melting into the motion, Miranda followed the young woman's lead for several long moments before taking back control. "We need to evaluate the DJ's, and this is a good time to go, with Dorothy, Pava and Mary in the house, the girls will be supervised."

Dark eyes twinkled at Miranda for a long moment before Andy agreed. "Yes, we should take advantage of the free quality babysitting while we have it."

Chuckling at that, Miranda offered her arm to Andrea, blue eyes filled with amusement, and love, "Shall we then?"

Linking their arms together at the elbow, Andy nodded, "Let's shall."

"Whoa, Mom.... you look great!" Caroline was actually a little stunned at Miranda's appearance, "You too, Andy."

"Thank you, my darling..." Miranda moved to the refrigerator and retrieved the bottle of wine they hadn't quite finished off at dinner. She poured two half glasses, handing one to Andrea.

"Yeah, Thanks, Munchkin." Andy accepted the drink from Miranda with a small bow, "And thank you."

Miranda's eyes twinkled at Andrea over the edge of the glass and she thought, This is going to be a great night... I can feel it. It had been a long time since Miranda felt comfortable enough to go out without some ulterior motive that had to do with Runway.

Cassidy and Dorothy walked into the kitchen and stopped short, so fast that Pava and Mary nearly bumped into them.

"Wow!" Cassidy gasped, "You guys look great!"

Pava chuckled, "I wish I looked that good at your age." She grinned at the twinkle in Miranda's blue eyes as Mary commented.

"I wish I looked that good at Andy's age!" Mary laughed and looked over Miranda's outfit. "Red has never been my color."

Protesting that, Pava's arm automatically wrapped around Mary's waist, "You look great in any color." Smirking at Mary's shy smile, Pava pulled the woman slightly closer, "You always have."

Miranda and Andy exchanged glances before Cassidy interrupted their thoughts.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Cassidy couldn't quite believe what her mother was going to do. To her knowledge Miranda had never gone club hopping.

"Yes." Miranda knew Cassidy often had problems with the photos that showed up in the various tabloids, "And there will most likely be pictures in the paper during the coming days."

"You're okay with that?" Dorothy wondered why Andy had bothered trying to set the record straight on the television shows this morning if they were just going to go out tonight and make a spectacle of themselves.

"So long as it's the truth, pictures of Andrea and myself together do not bother me in the least." Miranda smiled at her fiancee, "It's when they fake ones of us with other people that I will be upset."

"You think someone will do that?" Cassidy was appalled at that idea.

"Possibly, Sweetie," Andy shrugged, "If we run into someone... or bump into them on the dancefloor, a photographer can capture that instant and make it look bad. That's what you have to remember about photos, they are only a second in time, captured... not the whole moment, or the events leading to it."

Nodding at that, Cassidy grabbed Dorothy's hand, "C'mon Grandma, you said I could have ice cream."

Andy laughed, "Ice cream? In this house?"

Dorothy was surprised and looked from Andy to Miranda, "I thought I saw..."

Miranda locked eyes with Dorothy then sighed and set her wine glass on the counter. Opening the freezer door, Miranda reached in and from the far corner, behind the large box of frozen brussel sprouts, she pulled out a pint sized container of chocolate fudge swirl ice cream.

"Miranda!" Andy's eyes bugged out that there was ice cream in the house at all, much less chocolate fudge swirl!

"I... indulge in a spoonful from time to time," Miranda admitted then turned a stern eye to her daughters, "But not often."

Cassidy grinned and kissed Miranda's cheek, "Thanks, Mom!"

Caroline looked at the container with a shaking head, "My world has turned upside down."

Miranda laughed, "You're so dramatic!" She opened the container, it was a new one she had smuggled into the house a few nights ago, and grabbed a small teaspoon from the drawer, "I expect between the five of you this will be gone when I return... so..." She used the spoon to dig a small hole in the center of the confection. With the loaded utensil in one hand, Miranda pushed the container toward Dorothy and the girls, "Have at it."

"Not without me they don't!" Andy dove for the silverware drawer and found a large serving spoon. She scooped the ice cream onto the spoon quickly.

Suddenly there was a rush on spoons and in very short order the ice cream was nearly gone.

"You people eat far too fast." Miranda held up her spoon that still contained some ice cream. "You should savor treats for what they are," Locking her eyes with Andrea's, Miranda slowly licked the last of the ice cream from her spoon. "Slow is always best."

"But, Miranda..." Andy grinned evilly as she tossed her empty oversized spoon in the sink and moved closer to Miranda, reaching up lazily to take the spoon from the older woman's hand, "When you eat it all, there's always more." She dipped the empty utensil into the carton and held up the results, another half spoonful. With a smirk, Andy quirked her eyebrow at Miranda, "Slow huh?" Relishing the treat for a long moment, Andy smiled as she pulled the small spoon from her mouth and tossed it into the sink. Licking the last of the sweetness from her lips, Andy smirked, "You ready?"

Miranda blinked and slowly turned to face Dorothy, "This behavior runs in the family?" Blue eyes twinkled at her soon-to-be Mother-in-Law.

Dorothy opened her mouth to respond then glanced at Pava and closed it quickly.

Pava chuckled, saw Mary blushing out of the corner of her eye and grinned at her granddaughter, "I believe it does." Appraising the young woman seriously, Pava winked, "I have always known she had an aura of trouble around her."

Miranda licked her lips and grinned at the non-repentant look on Pava's face and the blush on Mary's cheeks. "I see." Turning to her fiancee, Miranda laughed, "So you come by it honestly after all."

" Hey!" Andy huffed, her hands on her hips, "Why am I being ganged up on here?!"

Laughing at that, Miranda separated one of Andy's hands from her hip, pulling the brunette toward the door, "Let's go, Trouble. I'm sure there will be all manner of mischief we can find tonight."

Andy's laughter mixed with Miranda's and she called over her shoulder to her mother, "Don't wait up!"

Dorothy shook her head, and Pava let out a long slow whistle, "Wow, it almost makes me want to follow them."

Cassidy let out a bark of sarcastic laughter and scooped the last of the ice cream out of the container. "Why bother? We can just watch it on the news tomorrow." She tossed the empty carton into the trash and gathered all the spoons, stashing them in the dishwasher rack. "I'm going to watch a movie... or play a game... or something." She glanced at her sister, "You coming, Ro?"

The adults tracked the girls' progress up the stairs and none of them were surprised when loud, almost angry, music began to pour from the television room.

"I do believe that child has issues." Pava shook her head and physically stopped Dorothy from going upstairs. "She'll work it out on her own, or Miranda and Andy will help her. Best for us to just leave them be."


"I know," Pava smiled at her daughter-in-law, "The mama in you wants to fix it, but I'm tellin' ya... leave 'em be."

Exhaling deeply, Dorothy nodded. "Okay." She checked her watch, "I'm going to call Richard. Do you want to speak with him?"

"No, just tell him I said hi." The older woman stretched and yawned, "I think I'll just go on to bed."

Mary checked her watch and gasped, "Oh, I didn't realize how late it was!" She glanced at the doorway where Miranda and Andy had exited, "And they're just going out?!"

Pava chuckled and draped her arm over Mary's shoulders, "Club hopping is an activity best left to the young."

Dorothy snorted, "Tell that to Miranda."

"Ah..." Pava's eyes held a bit of mischief themselves, but the woman knew one thing for certain, "Dot, Miranda is young at heart... Andy makes it so."

They had barely stepped foot inside the first two clubs before Miranda had summarily dismissed the DJ's there as suitable candidates for the wedding and they had moved on. Andy groaned as the limo pulled up to their third stop. "Miranda... this is the hottest club in town."

Glancing out the window, Miranda nodded, "Yes, I believe you are correct."

"Uh, yeah... that's why there's a huge long line on a Monday night..." Andy looked out the window and shook her head, "We're gonna have to wait."

" Andrea!" Miranda laughed, "You in that Chanel dress, me in this Valentino dress, getting out of this car... we will not have to wait."

Andy scanned the waiting crowd and mumbled, "I bet we will."

"What?" Miranda asked, her lips twitching slightly. "You say that all the time, "I'll bet" or "you bet"... what do you bet, Andrea?"

Andy looked at the bouncer team, a fairly slender, rather stern looking, young woman with a clipboard, and a huge mountain of a man standing next to her with his arms crossed. "Fifteen minutes."

"Excuse me?"

Andy grinned, "I'll bet you, fifteen minutes. If we don't have to wait then I'm yours to do with as you please, anything you want... for fifteen minutes."

Miranda laughed, "That's a loss?"

" Mmmm..." Andy leaned closer and whispered, "But if we do have to wait, then you're mine, for fifteen minutes... you have to do whatever I say no questions asked...."

"Again..." The corners of Miranda's lips curled slightly, "You believe that is a loss for me?"

"Think about it, Miranda... If I show up at your office and demand my fifteen minutes, even if you are in the middle of a run through and I ask you to...cluck like a chicken... you'll have to do it." Andy's smile widened, "How sure are you that we won't have to wait?"

Miranda looked out the window again at the line, at the stern looking bouncer and doorwoman then turned back to Andrea. "Make it twenty and you have a bet."

Andy's eyes narrowed and she hesitated a heartbeat before nodding, "Deal."

Miranda opened the car door slightly and allowed Roy to open it the rest of the way before she got out. She turned to take Andrea's hand as the younger woman exited the car and they walked past the people standing in line, directly toward the doors.

Andy blinked as the woman with the clipboard gave the big guy a signal and he immediately unclipped the velvet rope in front of the door. Andy watched the door guards stand aside and they never even slowed down on their stroll into the club. Andy heard the woman speak when they were close enough, as they passed, "Have a lovely evening, Miranda."

In a very rare act, Miranda reached out and touched the woman's arm as they passed, "Thank you, Emily..." Then she corrected herself, winking at the smiling woman, "Amanda."

They were inside and seated before Andy could speak. "You cheated!"

"I did no such thing!" Miranda gestured for a waitress and ordered two glasses of red wine.

"You knew the doorman was one of your former assistants!" Andy shook her head, "That is totally cheating."

"And if I had told you that she was a previous Emily?" Miranda smiled, "What would you have done?"

Snorting at that, Andy sat back in her seat, "I'd have probably doubled the time."

Nodding, Miranda chuckled, "That sounds about right. But, they aren't all disgruntled, Andrea." She shrugged, "Most of my assistants do actually learn a thing or two about the publishing business and are grateful for the experience."

Andy nodded, "Yeah, I know I did." With a grin, Andy leaned closer, "And as for the experience..." The brunette found Miranda's ear, "...so far, I'm loving it." That did make Andy curious though, "Going from your assistant to the doorman at a nightclub doesn't seem like she would be too happy with you though..."

Miranda smiled as she accepted her drink from the waitress and took a sip before responding. "She is actually co-owner of this club. She and her husband...decided, that publishing was not the right track for her. That is what the experience brought to her. The knowledge that she didn't want to be in publishing."

"You don't agree?" Andy sipped her wine, mindful of how insidious the stuff could be with her.

" Oh I did... her forté was public relations." Miranda looked around the room, it was a fairly typical place, the crowded tables were full of drunken friends laughing over the loud music. There was also a large well used dancefloor, the sweaty people were jumping to the thumping beat of a techno song. "She and her husband did well."

Andy stood and held out her hand to Miranda, "Care to dance?"

Both Miranda's eyebrows rose, "To this?!" Laughing, Miranda informed her, "Christian Louboutin shoes are not made for techno-dancing."

Waving away the protest, Andy reached down to take Miranda's hand, "It's almost over..." Dragging Miranda around the edge of the dancefloor, Andy made it to the DJ and motioned him down to where he could hear her. She made her request and he nodded giving her the thumbs up before returning to his mixing table. The current song ended and Andy grinned as the one she'd requested began. Sarah McLachlan's voice sounded through the speakers.

"Just close your eyes..."

Miranda laughed, "Andrea this is still techno..."

Andy grinned and began to jump to the music, "It's a dance mix of one of my favorite songs..." She moved closer as more people poured onto the dance floor and closer still when the lyrics began to be interwoven into the techno-beat.

"And I would, and I would be the one... hold you down... kiss you so hard... I'll take your breath away... and after I wipe away the tears... just close your eyes...."

Enjoying the activity with Andrea, Miranda watched her dance partner as closely as she could while spinning and twirling to the music. The lyrics had taken her by surprise for a moment and she wondered why this song was one of Andrea's favorites. Hold you down, kiss you so hard, take your breath away... that didn't sound like Andrea at all at least not the holding down part. Miranda-blue eyed darkened slightly, it did bring some intriguing thoughts to mind though. There was, after all, the small matter of some twenty minutes that she suddenly found on her hands.

Andy closed her eyes as the slower music was about to end. She pulled Miranda impossibly closer and found the ear hiding under a bit of white hair, "I love you." Allowing Miranda to pull away slightly, Andy smiled at the familiar return.

"And I you."

"This has been a great night, so far." They had been dancing for about half an hour now and the DJ seemed to be very good at what he did. Andy knew that Miranda was seriously considering offering him the wedding gig. Then the song they had been dancing to ended and a familiar sound began to fill the club. Andy groaned as the DJ spoke over the extended fingersnapping beginning to the song.

"And we have a couple of celebs in the house! Give it up for Mirandy!"

A spotlight hit them and Andy locked eyes with Miranda for two heartbeats before shrugging, "Next?"


They waved and smiled at the crowd then made their way toward the exit. A group of drunken college age people stopped them for a photo op, all of them taking the music lyrics suggestion to 'strike a pose' literally even as Miranda and Andy calmly stood in the middle of them. They were halfway to the car when a voice caught up with them.

"Miranda!" Amanda skidded to a halt in front of them, "I am so sorry..."

"No worries, Amanda," Miranda smiled and again lightly patted the woman's arm, "We couldn't stay all that long anyway, we have other places to be."

"You aren't angry..." Amanda hoped the woman's legendary temper wouldn't be unleashed on her club just because the DJ was an idiot. "...He really didn't mean anything...He just... " Andy finished for her.

"Doesn't know the difference between Runway and Vogue."

"I understand." Miranda leaned into Andrea's solid form and assured the former Emily, "There was no harm done to your club, it's very nice and I have the feeling we will return on occasion."

Amanda relaxed and smiled, "Thank you, Miranda."

Nodding, Miranda turned to Andrea, "Now we really must be on our way."

"Of course."

Andy opened the door to the car and gallantly gestured for Miranda to enter first. She turned to say goodbye to the club owner. "It was nice to meet you."

Amanda nodded, "Likewise." She glanced at the car and whispered, "You're a brave woman."

Laughing at that, Andy shook her head slightly, "Not as much as you might think."

Miranda's voice carried from inside the car, "Andrea..."

Amused brown eyes held Amanda's for a heartbeat and then Andy responded, "Yes, Miranda." Winking at the club owner, Andy climbed into the car and shut the door firmly. "All set."

Miranda nodded and the car began to move. "She's right, you know." Glancing at her companion, Miranda elaborated, "You are brave."

"No," Scooting closer Andy lay her head on Miranda's shoulder, "I'm a coward. Living without you scares me senseless." She snuggled closer, "Miranda?"


"Do we have to go anywhere else tonight?" Andy tipped her head back, lightly brushing the side of Miranda's neck with the tip of her nose. "Can we just go home?"

Closing her eyes as Andrea's soft lips caressed the pulse point on her neck, Miranda licked her lips. "Yes, Andrea. We can go home." Opening her eyes, she caught Roy's eye in the mirror and knew the change in destination had been heard. She had the presence of mind to raise the privacy window between the driver's section and the passenger area then she only knew Andrea's lips on hers and the wonderful warmth of Andrea's hands caressing her.

Andy mumbled against the soft hair covering Miranda's temple. "We should do this more often."

"Go out dancing?" Miranda's eyes glittered in the dimly lit vehicle. "Or make out in the back of the car?"

Andy chuckled, "Yes."

"We can still continue our evening..." Miranda gestured to the gridlocked traffic they were currently stopped in. "...we don't have to go home."

"I dunno..." Andy shifted slightly, "I'm kinda sweaty.."

"Mmmm... I know..." Leaning in Miranda nipped lightly at Andy's neck.

"Miranda..." Sighing Andy pushed away slightly, "Why is it you've never care when I'm all..." She gestured to herself, "...ick."

"Andrea, I have spent the better part of my working career surrounded by women who have plucked, painted, and perfumed themselves to the point of nausea." Miranda pulled the woman in her arms closer and breathed deeply, "You are one of the very few people I know who use minimal makeup, and only a small amount of perfume or deodorant. Because you know it's all you need." Miranda shifted nibbling on Andrea's ear. "You, my darling, are real and I love the scent of you," Miranda nuzzled against the smooth skin on Andrea's neck, "I love the taste of you..." She gently licked the skin so close to her lips, sucking lightly at the softness. "I love you."

"Miranda..." Andy moaned and moved into the touch, "Take me home."

Smiling against the skin she was exploring, Miranda murmured, "Yes, Andrea."

They entered the townhouse as quietly as they could and Miranda automatically turned to go up the stairs. Andy whispered, "I'll meet you upstairs." She knew Miranda was going up to check on the girls. The woman always checked on the girls when she got home late. She fleetingly thought of going with Miranda, but this was something that Miranda did on her own. Her time with the girls was special and Andy didn't want to intrude.

Nodding, Miranda continued the climb as Andy went to the kitchen for a drink. She grabbed two bottles of water from the fridge and a glass from the cabinet. It had been hot in the club with all the people moving around and if Andy had her way, they would soon be sweating even more. She walked up the back stairs quietly and slipped into their room just before Miranda did. "How are they?"

"Sleeping like angels." Miranda accepted the water Andrea had poured into the glass for her. "Thank you." Not just for the water, Miranda knew that Andy could have checked on the girls with her, but instead had let Miranda have the quiet moment with her children. It was that kind of deep understanding of what Miranda needed that had caught and held Miranda's heart.

Nodding, Andy sucked a large drink from the mouth of her water bottle then set it aside. "It was fun dancing with you tonight."

"Yes," Miranda agreed and moved closer, "We can go out again..."

"I would love that." Andy wrapped her arms around Miranda and began to sway to music only she could hear. "I loved being the one with you tonight, making all those people jealous of me..."

"Mmmm..." Miranda smiled, "And here I thought they were all jealous of me." She followed Andrea's lead for a long moment then asked quietly, "Andrea, may I hear the non-techno version of that first song we were dancing to?"

"Sure," Andy walked over to the stereo system in the room and quickly scrolled through the menu of the iPod attached to it. 'Possession' by Sarah McLachlan began to fill the room softly as she resumed her dance with Miranda.

Miranda was surprised at how different the lyrics were on this version. The dance mix had not given the song's whole picture.

Listen as the wind blows
From across the great divide
Voices trapped in yearning
Memories trapped in time
The night is my companion
And solitude my guide
Would I spend forever here
And not be satisfied

Well that just about says it all doesn't it. Miranda thought. Is that how she felt for all that time? The song continued...

Through this world I've stumbled
So many times betrayed
Trying to find an honest word
To find the truth enslaved
Oh you speak to me in riddles and
You speak to me in rhymes
My body aches to breathe your breath
Your words keep me alive

My God... Miranda listened to the words and thought she might cry, That's it exactly.. that's how I felt... for all that time without her... connected only by the words she wrote... I ached for her...

They moved together, only the thin fabric of their dresses separating them and to Miranda's mind even that barrier was too much. One of the greatest privileges of her life was the ability to explore this young woman's body with total abandon. Miranda wondered if Andrea knew what kind of power she wielded so seemingly easily. "Andrea..."

"Shhhh..." Moving to the music, Andy brushed her temple against Miranda's and cheek to cheek they danced around the room. "No deep thoughts tonight..."

Closing her eyes, Miranda concentrated on the soft skin against her cheek and Andrea's strong arms around her. Any thoughts in Miranda's head left as Andrea's hands caressed her back and there was only one response possible. "Yes, Andrea."


Part 40

Andy knocked on the door and smiled as the tall blonde opened it. "Good morning. Are you ready to go?"

Lara held up her hand, "One second... I need to leave a note for the kids."

Andy nodded and restrained Patricia from running into the house, "Sure. We'll just wait out here."

Glancing at the tall woman standing next to Andy, Lara smiled and went back into the house for a moment. When she returned she took a deep breath and introduced herself, "I'm Lara Hartstone."

Laughing, Andy rolled her eyes, "Yeah... sorry... Lara, this is Serena... Serena, Lara."

"Pardon me for saying so," Lara looked Serena up and down, "You don't seem to need to run..." Much to the architect's surprise that drew almost musical laughter from the tall bronze skinned woman.

"Running allows me the freedom to eat what I want with impunity." Serena shot a conspiratorial look at Andy, "The consequences would be very bad if I didn't."

Andy nodded, "You got that right... I'd be as wide as I am tall..."

"Doubtful," Lara laughed, "but your point is taken." She checked to make sure she had her keys and pulled the door shut behind her, making sure it was locked, her children safely inside. "Okay... so show me this fabulous dog park that Benji is going to love."

"What is this?" Miranda looked at the sheet of paper Emily had handed her.

"Um.. it's your schedule for the rest of the week." Emily winced knowing what the problem was; Friday afternoon. Miranda had asked her to try and keep that time free but after canceling two meetings with this particular designer, Emily had made an executive decision. Unlike the decisions Miranda made, Emily's required explanation. "They didn't have any other time free and you've already canceled on them, twice."

"Yet another example..." Miranda mumbled, finishing the thought silently, of what Miranda wants and what she gets being two different things. She almost sighed and then merely pursed her lips, "Very well... inform Bethany that my eggs and coffee should both arrive here hot... soon. That's all."

Emily went back to her desk. She knew that whatever it was Miranda wanted to do on Friday had to do with Andrea... it had to, because it was making her life miserable and anytime her life was miserable, Emily knew it was Andrea's fault. Picking up the phone to call Bethany with her status on the breakfast situation, Emily shook her head. Miranda had been eating at home so the eggs order was a rare thing indeed lately. Looking back through the doors Emily saw that Miranda was on her cell phone talking to Andy. Emily knew it was Andy on the other end of the conversation because Miranda was smiling and only Andy could make Miranda smile like that. Exhaling slowly, Emily snobbishly informed Bethany of Miranda's orders and turned to her computer screen the RSVP database for the wedding waiting for her. Trying to push the thought of Andy making Miranda smile out of her head, Emily automatically began her mantra... I love my job... I love my job... then her breath caught in her throat, knowing that the job she loved so dearly was not going to be hers for very much longer. The thought nearly brought her to tears.

Andy sat on the bench watching Patricia play. Lara sat next to her. Serena had opted to take another lap around the long circuit. Andy smirked, apparently the Brazilian had some extra energy to work off but Andy wasn't sure if that was a good or bad thing.

"Your friend seemed a little...agitated." Lara licked her lips as she looked around the park, "She having problems with her boyfriend?"

Running her tongue over her teeth, Andy cleared her throat and corrected, "Girlfriend."

"Oh... I um..." Shaking her head, Lara sighed, "You'd think I'd know not to assume...but she seems so..."

"S'okay..." Andy laughed, "Contrary to popular belief you can't really tell just by looking who's gay and who isn't."

"How do you know then?" Lara turned on the bench to look at Andy, "I mean, how do you find...someone..."

Andy held up her hands in defeat on that question, "I wouldn't know and don't need to try... I've found my someone. No one elses orientation matters to me in the slightest."

"You realize that is an incredibly romantic thing to say... right?" Lara grinned at the blush on her new friend's cheeks. Chuckling, Lara patted Andy's leg casually. "I think it's wonderful how in love you two are."

With a dazzling smile, Andy blushed a bit, "Thanks." Her cell phone ringing distracted her with a grin she quickly answered the call, knowing who it was by the ringtone, "Hello, Beautiful." She loved answering Miranda's calls like that, because no matter how gruff the woman was, Andy knew Miranda loved it. Winking at Lara, Andy listened to what Miranda was saying then sighed, "Miranda... Blair will be heartbroken. She's been so looking forward to..."

"I know, my darling.. but it honestly can't be helped. Emily informs me that I have already canceled on these people twice." Miranda looked over the paper in her hands. "The only other time I have this week would be this evening...and from the looks of things I may have to fly to Germany next week to settle some kind of misunderstanding about the photo shoot there..."

"Yeah? Germany?" Andy thought about that for a moment then decided to deal with the immediate problem first, "Let me call Jo and see if she thinks Blair could be ready by tonight..."

"Thank you, Andrea."

"Of course," Andy smiled and didn't bother to whisper into the phone, declaring in an almost sing-song voice, "I love you, Miranda."

"I love you too, Andrea." Miranda chuckled, knowing Andrea understood her, even though she'd said the phrase in German.

"I'll call you back about the Blair thing." Andy took a deep breath and disconnected the call, then dialed Jo's number. She explained the situation to the detective and was glad that Jo seemed almost relieved at the change of schedule.

"Blair's been going' nuts waiting..." Jo said, "The sooner the better as far as I'm concerned. We'll see you at the penthouse, tonight."

"Great! Later then..." Andy looked up the path to see Serena turning the corner and nodded as she disconnected her call, "Time to go." Whistling for Patricia, Andy stood and stretched a bit while she waited for Patricia to return to the bench.

Lara also stood. She didn't want to comment on anything she'd heard Andy discussing on the phone and brought the topic back to one relevant to their relationship, "You were right about this place, Benji is gonna love it."

Andy laughed as she barely stopped Patricia from jumping up on her and clipped the leash on the collar, "It is nice." Ruffling the fur at the large dog's neck, Andy spoke to the animal, "You like it, don't ya girl..." Dark eyes widened as the expected tongue lolling response gave way to a deep low-throated growl. Looking around, Andy asked absently, "What's wrong girl?" Nothing seemed to be out of place as Andy scanned the area, "C'mon," Tugging the leash, Andy started moving down the path, "Let's go home." They met Serena on the way and they all jogged to the park exit, Patricia growling the entire time.

Calculating brown eyes watched from behind a tree as the trio of runners and the huge shaggy dog left the park. Leaning against the rough bark, he smiled unkindly and hefted the camera in his hands lovingly. It was a little skeezy and he gladly admitted that to himself. The focus of his pictures wasn't really doing anything wrong, but perception was the key. His job was only halfway done but he expected a large reward to be waiting for him when it was over.

"Are you two going sightseeing again today, Gram?" Cassidy looked up from her cereal at the two older women.

Glancing at Mary, Pava sipped her coffee and nodded, "We were considerin' it..." Pava turned to Dorothy, "Do you want to join us?"

"Um.. no... thank you." Licking her lips, Dorothy sighed, "I think I'm going to go ahead and fly home."

"Awwww..." Cassidy and Caroline both protested, "Why do you have to go so soon?"

"Well," Dorothy shrugged, "Andy's found her dress, so I'd like to go home for a while before we come back for the wedding." She knew Richard wasn't thrilled with her being in New York and was a little anxious to get home as soon as she could, to minimize his annoyance. They all turned as Andy, Serena and Patricia entered the kitchen.

"Good mornin', Darlin'" Pava grinned as Andy released Patricia from her leash. "Have a nice run?"

"Yes..." Andy grabbed a towel to wipe the sweat off her face. "It's hot though... I need a shower."

"Me too." Serena leaned back against the wall next to the door, "I should be going."

Andy's dark eyes twinkled, "We have showers..."

Serena's eyes widened as she held up her hands, "No thank you... I'll go home."

Shrugging, Andy grinned, "Suit yourself." She asked, "See you tomorrow?"

"Yes," The tall Brazilian gave Andy a brief hug and waved at the others before she left quickly.

Dorothy asked, "What was that all about?" Then she realized it was none of her business, "Nevermind... you want some breakfast, Sweetheart?"

"Nah... I'll just grab some toast. I gotta get cleaned up and go into the office for a while today." She ruffled Cassidy's hair, "If I don't go in every once in a while they might forget I work there."

Caroline informed Andy. "Grandma's going home."

"What?" Looking at her mom for confirmation, Andy questioned, "Why?"

Shrugging, Dorothy told her what she'd told the girls, "You've found your dress... I need to go home for awhile, before I come back for the wedding." She watched Andy pull her shirt away from her sweaty chest, "We can talk about it later... right now you really need a shower."

Laughing at that, knowing Miranda wouldn't agree, Andy grinned, "Yep... be right back."

"I have Patrick." Bethany pushed the hold button and grinned as the flashing light went solid, indicating Miranda had picked up. Cool. That didn't last long though, as soon as the light on the phone line went out, Miranda's voice called out.


Scrambling to stand in front of the editor's desk, Bethany held her pad and pencil at the ready, "Yes, Miranda?"

"Push the run through up to this afternoon, I want everyone ready by four." Miranda ordered. "And I need more coffee," she indicated the container on her desk, "This is cold."

"Yes, Miranda. Right away." Bethany left quickly. She tried to figure out which to do first and Emily was surprisingly helpful.

Impatient at her replacement's indecision, Emily picked up the girl's cell phone from her desk and shoved it into her hands. "Call Joscylen on your way to Starbucks...when the new girl arrives she will be the one getting the coffee." She practically shoved the smaller woman toward the door and hissed quietly, "Go.. never keep Miranda waiting."

"Never keep Miranda waiting..." Bethany murmured to herself and thought, That's what Andy said too... She dialed as she walked and informed the others about the run through schedule change then she sped up her pace toward Starbuck's, her new mantra repeating in her head, Never keep Miranda waiting... Never keep Miranda waiting...

"I still need shoes..."

"Andy," Dorothy sighed and continued packing her suitcase, "You don't need me here..." she mumbled as she folded a shirt into the carry case, "You didn't really need me before."

"Ma," Andy stepped between Dorothy and the dresser drawer, "I do need you."

Stopping her activities, Dorothy shook her head, "No, not here." She smiled, "If we were in Cincinnati, I would be able to take you around to the stores for a super shopping spree, but here... I can't even pronounce the names of some of the places we went yesterday." Moving closer, Dorothy embraced her daughter tightly, "I love you Andy, but it's time for me to go."


"No buts... I'll try to come back for the girls' birthday party and I will definitely be back for the wedding." Dorothy grinned, "That nice hairdresser, Terry, offered to do my hair for the wedding too." She tilted her head appraising her daughter quietly, "Your hair should go up. It would go great with that dress, up with a bit of the length hanging down the back in curls... ancient Grecian style."

Nodding, Andy ran her fingers through the hair in question and stepped aside, "Yeah," Licking her lips, Andy turned to the mirror on the dresser. She bunched her hair in her hands and lifted it off her neck, turning her head from side to side she appraised the look, "Miranda likes it up."

Dorothy chuckled, "Sweetheart, Miranda likes your hair any way you want to wear it."

Lowering her arms and shaking her head to settle the dark locks back into place, Andy whined a little, "Isn't there anything I can say to convince you to stay?"

"Not this time," Dorothy closed and zipped the bag she'd been packing shut. "I really need to be going..." Exhaling softly, she admitted, "Richard isn't too pleased with your television appearances yesterday." She clenched her teeth at the look of hurt that caused on Andy's beautiful face, "I'm going to go home to try and smooth things over." She asked softly, "Do you still want him to come to the wedding?"

Andy frowned, "I..." Pressing her lips together for a moment she thought about the question then nodded, "Yes, but only if he wants to be there, and won't make trouble."

Nodding at that, Dorothy hefted her suitcases, "Okay then. Can you call me a cab?"

Rolling her eyes, Andy slid her phone from her pocket and grinned. "I can do better than that." She winked as the call connected.

"Hello, Roy. Can you do me a favor?"

Lara patted her hair down a bit as she walked down the hall to open the door. "Hello?" She smiled at her visitor, "Oh, it's you!"

"Hi," Cassidy grinned and held out a business card. "I wasn't sure if Mom had gotten back to you about the piano." She indicated the card, "This is the man that tunes ours. He's really good and he's nice too."

"Okay, thanks." Lara took the card and nodded, "I'll give him a call."

Looking past the girl, Lara asked, "Are you alone?"

"Not really... Caroline stayed home with Peggy, but Gram and Mary are taking a walk." Cassidy pointed to the couple walking farther back down the sidewalk. "They're slower than I am but they want to go on to the park. I'll just head back home."

Lara's eyes widened, "Not alone you won't."

"But..." Cassidy indicated their house. They could see it from here. "It's only a block and a half away..."

"That is a block and a half too far young lady..." Lara waved at the older couple as they arrived, "Hello, I was just telling Cassidy here that she has two choices... one, wait here for you to pass back by and walk home with you, or two, I'll have my twins walk her home..."

Pava nodded, "Or we can just walk her back then go to the park..."

"Gram!" Cassidy protested, "It's not that far!"

"Nope... not at all..." Pava was firm, "Makes it easy for us..."

"Ugh!" Cassidy shook her curly head, "I'm not a baby!"

"Of course not," Lara laughed, "But you aren't old enough to be walking the streets of New York alone, no matter how nice the neighborhood is." Stepping back into her house, Lara yelled, "Frick... Frack... get down here! You have a visitor."

Cassidy listened for the tell-tale sound of twins coming down the stairs and was surprised when first Alan then Alyssa appeared on the staircase walking down to the foyer quietly. She smiled at the older children, "Um.. Hi."

"Hey!" Alyssa grinned and moved to stand next to the girl, almost automatically wrapping her arm around Cassidy's shoulder. "Come to play some more music for us?"

"Nah...Just wanted to give your Mom the name of the piano tuner." Cassidy grinned up at her new friend. "Now she says I can't go home."

Alyssa shot a reprimanding look at her mother, "Kidnapping children again? What have we told you about that?"

Rolling her eyes at that, Lara looked at Pava and Mary, "My daughter the comedian."

Pava grinned and asked Cassidy, "You want us to walk you back home, darlin'?"

"Nah... I'll be okay." Cassidy looked up at Alyssa when the older girl spoke up.

"She can stay for a while.. or we can walk her home." Alyssa pointed to herself and Alan then looked down at Cassidy, "If that's okay with Cass..."

Cassidy swallowed hard and nodded, "Sounds good to me."

Pava carefully avoided looking at Mary, but grinned at her soon-to-be great-granddaughter and nodded, "Okay then. We'll see you back at the house later."

Lara smiled at the older couple, because there was no doubt in her mind that was what they were, a couple. "Have a nice walk."

With a chuckle and a wave, Pava and Mary moved on toward the park.

"Wanna come in for a minute?" Alyssa gestured to the open door.

Cassidy nodded, "Sure."

It had not been a particularly long day, but the incompetence Miranda had dealt with on an exponentially increasing level throughout the day had left her nerves on edge. Minions scattered as she stalked across the Elias-Clarke lobby and a path from the door of the building to the waiting car was instantly created when she stepped outside. Upon entering the vehicle, Miranda spoke crisply to Andrea, "Let's get this over with." before thinking. I want to go home.

"Whoa!" Andy shook her head and pulled out her cell phone, dialing quickly. "Jo! Listen, we just got in the car but traffic is horrid and I'm dying of thirst so give us at least an hour before you expect us... m'kay?" She listened to the response and nodded, "Great. Thanks..." Disconnecting the call, Andy sent two quick text messages then turned to Miranda, "What's wrong?"

"No one thing, Andrea." Miranda sighed, "There were several small annoying things, incompetence and a labyrinth of red tape..."

"Ah," Andy shifted closer, sliding her hand into Miranda's, "Permits for the patriotic shoots not coming through?" Andy knew that was the last layout needed for this month's issue.

"Oh they will..." Miranda narrowed her eyes, "There is a clerk that has realized there are certain times that withholding permits will garner him some extra 'tips' to facilitate the paperwork..." The editor shook her head, "Such as when the print deadline is looming..."

"Wow..." Andy thought about that, "Corruption at City Hall... You want me to dig more? Maybe this guy is doing this to other people too... we can get him out of that job."

"No, unless you are very low on stories." Miranda began to relax as Andrea's thumb gently caressed her wrist. "He's an annoyance, but not actually all that costly. I would pay a lot more to have the paperwork expedited." Miranda growled, "This time it's the location that is causing most of the problems. There is a lot of paperwork involved."

"Oh? Where's that?" Andy's smiled faded and her thumb stopped moving at Miranda's quiet response.

"Ground Zero."

"Miranda... No..." Andy's eyes became misty, "You can't..." Wiping an escaped tear from her cheek, Andy pleaded, "You can't make Jo go back there... Please...Please, Miranda... pick another place. You can't make her... you just can't..."

"Shhhh..." Wrapping her arms around the distraught young woman, Miranda sighed, "I should have realized... Shhhh..." She kissed the top of Andrea's head and promised. "I will have Patrick choose another location."

Andy sniffled and nodded against Miranda's shoulder, "Thank you."

"Can I ask, what happened to the Good Detective?" Miranda had her own demons from that day and knew that although it was hard, talking about it did help.

"She doesn't talk about it, at all." Andy took a deep shaky breath, "But once, I was at the penthouse... we had been watching a movie and then turned the television on. One of those commercials came on for the commemorative coins?" Andy waited for Miranda to nod and continued, "Jo jumped off the couch and left the room..." The car started to slow and then stopped. Andy held Miranda in place, "We're just at Starbucks. Roy's going to get the coffee I ordered."

Miranda was confused for a moment then realized, "You texted the order in and texted Roy to get it..." Miranda relaxed slightly, she loved Andrea's efficiency.

"Yes," Andy could see the line for pick-up orders through the window and knew that they had a bit of time, so she continued the story. "After Blair turned off the television, she explained Jo's sudden departure." Swallowing hard, Andy tried to imagine the horror of that day for New Yorkers and knew it was impossible. Only someone who had been there could truly understand. "Jo was there, at the towers, that day...she watched them fall. Blair wouldn't say more, only that Jo wouldn't want to talk about it."

"Understandable." Miranda ran her hand up and down Andrea's arm, "No worries, Love. Patrick will choose another suitably patriotic location."

"Okay," Andy felt the tension in Miranda's arms and asked gently, "Miranda... Where were you when the towers fell?"

Closing her eyes for the time it took to exhale softly, Miranda tried to smile, "A story for another time."

"Okay." Andy rested her head on Miranda's shoulder and waited for Roy to bring their drinks.

"CAROLINE!" Cassidy stood at the bottom of the stairs and looked up into the spirals of the staircase expectantly. When Ro didn't appear, Cassidy sighed and gestured to her escorts, "C'mon..." Leading Alyssa and Alan up the stairs, Cassidy complained, "She's probably got the headphones on..." The television/entertainment room was empty, so Cassidy led her escorts on up to the music room where they found Caroline, headphones on, playing the electronic keyboard. She stopped when she saw they had guests.

"Hello." Taking the headphones off quickly, Caroline patted her hair back into place. "What's up?"

"How's the practice going?" Cassidy indicated the keyboard, knowing her sister had been going over the song they were going to play for the wedding.


"You know we need to practice that together, right?" Cassidy sighed as Caroline shrugged, "If we get set playing it each in our own way it will never mesh..."

For a moment Caroline forgot about their visitors and focused on her sister, and the terror she felt at the prospect of playing at the wedding. "I'm gonna screw it up!"

"You know the song, Ro. You'll be fine." Cassidy knew the problem though, it was the same reason Caroline always flubbed things at recitals, usually small stuff... but enough to make the girl angry at herself.

"You want practice with an audience?" Alan smiled at the unsure girl and alternated pointing to himself and his sister, "We can listen... we're not that scary are we?"

"Yeah, that's a great idea!" Alyssa smiled, "Play for us! We don't know the difference if you screw up!"

"You wanna give it a try, Ro?" Cassidy watched her sister take a deep breath and grinned. Moving to her piano, Cassidy waited for Ro to settle on the bench in front of her own instrument and turn back to the beginning of the sheet music. "Ready?"

Nodding, Caroline waited for Cassidy to play the first note before she began on the second. She didn't struggle with the music exactly, but it never came as easily to her as it had to Cassidy. The fact that her sister wasn't using any sheet music didn't escape any of their notice.

When the song was over Alyssa and Alan clapped and Alyssa whistled through her teeth. Both musicians blushed slightly and Caroline looked at her sister, "Told you I'd flub it."

"Just those three places... they're tricky. You'll get it before the wedding... I know you will." Cassidy grinned, "I doubt anyone would know the difference anyway."

"Mom will know." Caroline sighed, "Mom always knows." A chuckle drew their attention to the door.

"That's what Mom's do, Darlin'." Pava grinned at her great-grandaughters. "They're supposed to know."

"That was lovely music." Mary watched the girls carefully, "We didn't get to hear it all though... could you... would you play it again?"

Cassidy looked to her sister, "One more time?" She grinned as Caroline shrugged and she waited for Gram and Mary to settle on the couch before she began playing, Caroline again coming in on the second note.

Even though they were aware that the elevator was on its way up, Blair jumped a bit as the doors opened to reveal Miranda and Andy, coffee in hand. Standing nervously next to her wife, Blair fell back on her socialite training and smiled, "Miranda, Andy, how nice to see you again."

"Blair," Miranda matched the faux polite smile and leaned forward as Blair did, brushing their cheeks close but not touching each others for a socially accepted 'air' kiss. "I hear you have some fabulous designs to show me."

Jo's eyes widened as she slowly turned to evaluate Blair's actions then shot a 'what the hell' look at Andy.

Andy laughed softly and stepped forward, pulling Jo into a brief hug, saying "Hiya Jo." outloud then whispering into the detective's ear, "Just go with it." Andy knew what Miranda's presence did to even the most seasoned designer. Blair must be feeling nervous to the extreme, Andy thought and was very proud of Miranda for putting aside her own day's irritation to help Blair through the case of nerves. Or, Andy thought morbidly, Miranda is just falling back on the social niceties to get herself through this showing... If that was the case, Andy hoped Blair had a thicker skin than it seemed.

Andy used her vantage point well to watch Miranda as yet another design was modeled for the editor. Blair's voice was soothing as she explained the details of this particular gown. Andy was a little worried though, because Miranda only seemed to be paying minimal attention. Since the third dress had been brought out, Miranda seemed lost in her own thoughts and that worried Andy tremendously. Miranda very rarely let her mind wander or her attention lapse. Andy watched as Miranda slowly drew her index finger and thumb along her chin in thoughtful contemplation. Three times Andy thought she saw a frown begin to form, but then the index finger would pass across Miranda's lips and her expression of mild interest would be reset.

Blair nodded to the model currently next to her and turned to Miranda hopefully. She kept the socially accepted smile on her face as she unclasped her hands from in front of her and spread them wide in a gesture of finality. "That's all I have for you right now." She spoke quietly to the model, telling her that she and the rest could leave after they changed back into their street clothes.

Miranda shifted, licking her lips briefly before asking quietly, "Is there somewhere we can speak in private?"

"Wait just a minute..." Jo was becoming alarmed, "Why private?" If Blair was going to get her heart broken, Jo damn well wanted to know what Miranda was going to say to break it.

"No," Blair assured her wife, "It's okay, Joey..." Gesturing to a door across the room, Blair set her socialite smile in stone and nodded, "I believe my office would suffice."

"Miranda?" Andy stopped the older woman's forward motion and moved to look her in the eye, "Miranda... are you okay?"

Reaching up to caress Andrea's cheek with the backs of her fingers, Miranda felt the small tug of a smile at the corners of her mouth. "I am fine, Andrea... no worries."

Catching the hand touching her, Andy kissed Miranda's wrist, "Okay..." She watched Miranda move on into Blair's office and linked arms with Jo to prevent the detective from following. "C'mon, Jo... buy me a drink."

Jo's eyes never left the, now closed, door. "You sure this is gonna be okay?"

Andy took a deep breath and told the truth, "No, I'm not sure, but I hope so... for all our sakes. C'mon," Andy tugged her friend toward the kitchen, "I need some grape juice plus."

Reluctantly, Jo allowed herself to be led to the kitchen. The sight of the appetizer tray on the counter reminded her, "Blair's made dinner..." Jo asked quietly, "Do you think you'll stay to eat?"

Andy pressed her lips together and shrugged, "Let's just wait and see..."

Nodding, Jo poured two glasses of wine, handing one to Andy with smile, "One "grape juice plus" for you."

Accepting the stemmed glass, Andy nodded, "Thanks." They'd watched one of the original Planet of the Apes movies a few months ago and when the female chimp doctor had called wine 'grape juice, plus', both she and Jo had cracked up, laughing so hard they'd hurt for a while afterward. It had been a joke between them ever since. They both took a drink and Jo asked again, glancing in the direction of Blair's office.

"Do you think it'll be okay?"

Andy just sighed, and took another drink.

Blair courteously gestured to a large chair across from her office desk and asked, "May I offer you a refreshment?" She indicated the small bar in the corner, "I have ice water... or wine if you prefer."

"No, thank you," Miranda leaned back in the seat and studied the woman standing in front of her. "What do you expect to gain from this endeavor?"

"Um... gain?" Blair took a seat, not in her office chair, behind the desk, but in the other large chair next to Miranda's. "I don't...know."

"Were I to say that your designs are brilliant... would you resign your position at Warner Industries to pursue a career in fashion design?" Miranda tilted her head as she continued the questioning, "If I were to say your designs are hideous, would your life change in any way?"

Blair thought about it for about thirty seconds and shook her head, "The answer to both those questions would be, No." She smiled, a genuine smile, "I love being CEO of Warner Industries, and even if you believe all my designs were terrible, my life will be the same tomorrow as it was yesterday."

"So this is a hobby for you..."

"Yes, I suppose so." Blair sighed and chuckled at herself then questioned the fashion icon, "That bad huh?"

Blue eyes twinkled as Miranda answered the question, "Not at all... some of them were quite good."

"Really?!" Blair almost melted with relief. Miranda was right, even if her designs had been deemed catastrophes it wouldn't impact Blair's life in the slightest. Blair was greatly relieved that Miranda liked them though, Blair hated to fail.

"Yes." Miranda cautioned, "But I'm afraid you won't be getting a layout in Runway for them."

"Oh," Blair hid her disappointment, but did ask, "Why not?"

"Because it is a hobby for you..." Miranda spoke with quiet intensity, "...a game, a diversion from your stressful occupation." The editor continued as Blair nodded. "The people I feature in Runway are actively pursuing careers in the field. I cannot in good conscience devote pages of Runway, in effect taking away from someone's livelihood, in order to promote your hobby."

"I understand." Blair did her best to smile, "I had hoped to brag to my friends about my designs being featured in Runway... One of my best friends used to dabble in fashion design. I had hoped to impress her with your approval."

"What gives you the idea you won't be able to do that anyway?" The distinctive glint in Miranda's eye would have garnered her one of Andy's sun-rivaling smiles. "Let us change the subject, slightly." Miranda smiled as Blair leaned forward in her chair in order to hear the quiet words better, "Let us discuss... the third gown you presented."

Jo stood from her seat at the kitchen counter for the tenth time, "That's it... I can't take it..."

"Jo!" Andy quickly blocked her friend's path, "They'll be finished when they're finished..."

"But what if..." Jo never finished that sentence because at that moment the door to Blair's office opened and both women emerged, arms linked together, both laughing fairly loudly.

Andy's eyes widened perceptibly while Jo's narrowed. It was the detective who spoke, "What's so funny?"

Blair tried to control her laughter and answered, "Nothing..."

The reporter in Andy also wanted to know, "Miranda?"

Miranda too tried, with better results than Blair, to control her expression, "As I said before Andrea, no worries."

"Uh..." Dumbstruck for a moment, Andy finally just shook her head and went with it, "Yeah, okay..." She pointed to the significantly reduced tray of snacks on the counter, "Blair made snackies... and dinner..."

"Excellent," Miranda perused the remaining offerings and raised her eyebrows at the first taste of her selection. Swallowing the bite she began to speak only to find an unexpected hand covering her mouth. Jo's voice was near her ear, but the detective spoke loudly enough for everyone to hear.

"Do not tell her she could be a caterer... I'll spend the next month with her obsessing about food and all my meals will be appetizers!" Releasing Miranda, Jo grinned, Blair tossed her hair in a huff, Miranda glared, and a subdued Andy simply watched the action with narrowed eyes. Miranda's next words vocalized what Andy was thinking.

"You are being very familiar with me, Detective." Miranda leveled her Dragon gaze on Jo, "It is not often someone is allowed to do that to me...not without consequences."

"I... uh..." Jo's eyes widened. "I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking..."

"Mmmm... It seems luck is on your side this evening." Popping another morsel into her mouth, Miranda raised an eyebrow, she dismissed the subject, returning to the earlier topic. "Would having all appetizer meals really be so bad?"

Scoffing at her wife's behavior and thankful that Miranda was so gracious about it, Blair answered Miranda's question, "Yes." Crossing to the oven she opened the warming tray and removed a platter with one large steak, two smaller cuts and a chicken breast on it. "My carnivorous, Barbarian, wife would go insane if she didn't have a huge chunk of meat at least three times a week."

"That's right, Princess..." Jo grunted as the large steak was transferred to her plate. "Meat... good."

Miranda chuckled at the caveman impersonation. Mischief twinkled in her eyes as she cut into the perfectly prepared meat. Tasting the steak, Miranda nodded. "Delicious." She smiled at their hosts, "You are a lucky woman, Detective..."

"Oh, I know that..." Jo grinned at Blair then scowled as the blonde preened a little under the admiration. "Well don't get a fat head about it!"

Miranda chuckled then realized Andrea had become very quiet, "Andrea?"

Jumping a little, Andy looked up from the spot on the table she'd been studying. She tried to smile, "Sorry, Miranda... I'm fine."

"Are you sure?" Miranda put her fork down and reached over to hold Andrea's hand. "If you're ill we can leave."

"No." Andy squeezed the hand in hers, "I'm okay." She nodded at Miranda's questioning look then smiled at Blair and indicated the chicken on her plate, "This is delicious."

"Thank you." Blair studied Andy closely for a moment then shook off the weird feeling she was getting from the younger woman. Andy was more Jo's friend than Blair's, but she'd had enough interaction with the reporter for the last year or so to know when something was bothering Andy. Right now though, Blair was far too happy with the turn of events her showing had brought to even worry about Andy's strange mood. She was bursting to talk about it, to Jo, but couldn't, not yet. So she took a small bite of her steak and smiled shyly at Miranda, smiling wider when the older woman took a bite of her steak and winked.

Part 41

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