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 brithna[at]gmail.com

By Brithna


"Mom…Mom, wake up." Cassidy poked her on the arm until she opened her eyes. Miranda looked at her daughter and wondered when a twelve year old had suddenly become her designated alarm clock. It was becoming clear that Cassidy slept less that she did. There was probably something wrong with that picture.

"Alright. I'm awake. What time is it?" Miranda stretched and pulled Cassidy into the bed with her.

"Six-thirty. I made coffee." Cassidy snuggled in close and Miranda took a deep breath inhaling the scent of girls' hair-strawberry's.

"Of course you made coffee. Cassidy, you really shouldn't be drinking coffee. You're too young." Right. It had been going on for two years. That's how long it took for Miranda to notice that a few sips of coffee were always missing from her first cup in the morning. For someone who was paid millions to notice details as small as a fleck of dust in a photo, Miranda definitely missed that one by miles. Now Cassidy made her own cup of coffee every morning and Miranda laid down her sword and gave up the battle.

"You always say that Mom. I still love you though." Cassidy kissed her cheek and slipped out of bed. "Don't go back to sleep. I have to wake up Caroline now and I don't have time to come back and check on you."

"Yes, dear." She fought the urge to salute. "I'll be down stairs shortly." Miranda sat up and took a sip of the coffee Cassidy left on her bedside table. There were certainly worse ways to start the morning. She could have had no one there to wake her up at all.

At eight-thirty the elevator door opened and Miranda stepped out ready to face all the incompetence the world had to offer. But of course, there was always Andrea to greet her. That at least took some of the edge off.

Andrea took the book out of her arms and started down the hall, leaving Miranda behind. Someone obviously woke up early and in a very good mood. "Andrea, is there a fire? Must you race down the hall-way?"

Andrea slowed down, finally realized she had not even said anything yet. "Sorry, good morning!" Ah, and there's the grin. Thank God. Miranda hated to miss that. It made her feel invincible.

"So, what's for breakfast this morning?" Andrea gave her a sideways glance and spoke in a low voice. Caroline felt the need to slip something into Miranda's bag every morning that was suppose to resemble breakfast.

"Today's fare is a granola bar and a banana." Miranda pulled it out of her bag as they rounded a corner and gave it to Andrea. "I'll take the banana; the granola bar does not interest me in the least. What's on the agenda?" Miranda threw her things onto Emily's desk and marched into her office with Andrea close behind. Since Miranda had acquired a Blackberry, there was little need to begin spitting out a string of orders as soon as the elevator door opened. Now Andrea and Emily simply received no less than ten e-mails before Miranda even arrived.

"Call Annie first. She wants to schedule a session with the twins. She said to consider the pictures an early birthday gift to them. I left a list by the phone for the others; you can make those calls whenever you wish. You have a nine o'clock with the art department and a meeting with accounting later today…and of course we're working on the e-mails you sent this morning. Do you need more coffee?"

"No, Cassidy is trying to make me go into cardiac arrest with that Jamaican Bold blend she buys on eBay. God knows what's in it." Miranda rolled her eyes and sat down. The list by the phone wasn't too long and Miranda could knock it out in no time along with her emails before the first long and uninspiring meeting on the schedule.

She heard Andrea chuckle and looked up. A catalog of imagines flashed through Miranda's mind. She saw every outfit, every glance in her direction, every smile. Did this girl even have one tiny clue how beautiful she was? Obviously not; which only served to deepen Miranda's attraction for her.

"I'll get you some water. Is there anything else?"

"No. That's all." Miranda never took her eyes off Andrea as she left.

After scheduling the girls' birthday photos and listening to Annie go on and on about a new project she was working on, Miranda tried to focus on the magazines spread across her desk but five minutes later her mind was already off in another world. Miranda took off her glasses and pinched the bridge of her nose. Closing her eyes briefly she saw another flash of images. Her hair, those dark brown eyes with flecks of gold, those legs, the lips, and the freckles covering her face that you would only notice if you looked close enough…and often. And Miranda looked close enough, and often.

Ah, but there was no time for day-dreaming. Dreaming about her assistant was reserved for the deep, dark hours of the night, when it was safe and quiet. If she waited until then there was no need to worry about anyone seeing the panic, grief or any other emotion you could look up in the dictionary, written all over her face.

Why grief? Because she knew full well she couldn't have what she wanted. Too many ugly and evil deeds marred the way. Andrea knew her for what she was, which meant there was no chance. Andrea marched through life with a moral compass that would not withstand the likes of Miranda in a relationship of any kind. The only reason she was still here was because Nigel talked her out of leaving over a year ago in Paris. Miranda wanted to thank him for it but couldn't bring herself to do it. He already knew how she felt. There was no need to say it out loud.

Andrea had stayed, Miranda got a divorce, Runway survived and everybody carried on as usual. There were changes underneath the surface though but those where not spoken of, just like her thanks to Nigel.

"Miranda, I have Caroline." Emily called out from the outer office.

Miranda looked at the clock. Eleven-fifteen. It was their lunch time. "Put her through."

"Hey, Mom. What are you doing?" Caroline sounded out of breath.

"The same thing I'm always doing, darling. Why are you so out of breath and why did you not call me directly?" Miranda got up and shut the door. The older the girls got the less and less Miranda cared for other people hearing her conversations with them.

"I wanted to talk to Andy. We're dissecting frogs. It's gross. I came outside before lunch. Cass says hi."

Miranda could hear Cassidy in the background saying something about dinner. "Tell Cassidy I said hello as well and I will be home for dinner. Do not worry. Shouldn't you be going to lunch, darling?"

"Yeah, okay. Is Andy back at her desk?"

Miranda leaned over enough to see out of the glass wall that separated her from the best part of her day. She was back. "Yes, would you like to speak with her?"

"Yep. Bye, Mom."

"Alright, thank you for breakfast by the way. Let me transfer you." Miranda put Caroline on hold and transferred the call. She saw Andrea pick up the phone and listen for a moment before bursting out into laughter. No doubt, Caroline was recounting her frog adventure.

If only she could come on vacation with them everyone, including Miranda, would have a better time. Going back to her mother's old house was never something Miranda was excited to do. The actual house was not the problem. It wasn't where she grew up; but merely a gift purchased for her mother some years back. Yet, every piece of Miranda's childhood, even so far back as her parent's childhood, was in that house stored away for safe keeping. That was the real problem. Miranda remembered every item and every story that went along with it and because of her exceptional memory, sometimes everything was overwhelming. If Andrea went with them it might somehow ease some of the anxiety, but no, inappropriate and foolish were only two of the many words that could be used to describe that idea. Miranda would just have to get over the emotions and countless images all on her own.


The beautiful smile that came through the door washed away the heavy feeling in Miranda's chest. Tonight she would allow herself to think about what it would be like to have Andrea there with them but right now there was work to do.

"Is Nigel attending the meeting with Nathanial for me? The man has a promising future but I am not in the mood for hearing more about his love for Anna. It turns my stomach. If he loves her so much he needs to knock on Vogue's door instead of ours."

"Nigel will be meeting with Nathanial and your meeting with accounting is in thirty minutes."

"Fabulous. Just what I was hoping for. I expect coffee when I return. That's all."

"Yes, Miranda."

As always Miranda watched every step she took. Sometimes she wondered if Andrea knew she was watching her. Andrea was eerily attuned to Miranda so yes, she probably knew. Yet she never said a word about it.

Miranda shook her thoughts away one more time and gathered her things for this meeting that would go nowhere as usual. At least they were consistent.

Miranda tossed her pen on the table and flipped to the next page of notes. Her chest was pounding. Would there ever be a day when these meetings didn't make her want to beat her head against a wall? Apparently not. Why she ever hoped for better was beyond reason.

There was a knock on the door and Miranda's ire instantly rose another notch. No one ever interrupted a meeting unless the building was about to fall down and even that was a sketchy thing to consider. Miranda ripped off her glasses and beckoned whoever the idiot was to come in.

"Yes, what is it?" Miranda bit back the many insults she was preparing to launch as Andrea came through the door. Something was wrong, very wrong because Andrea knew better.

"You need to take this call." Andrea held out the cordless to her. "It's James…your cousin James." Andrea swallowed hard and stepped closer when Miranda didn't lift a hand to take the phone. "Take the phone, Miranda." Andrea gave her a hard look as if she was silently commanding Miranda to move. It worked. Miranda took the phone and walked out of the meeting into the hall. She was only vaguely aware of Andrea's hand on her back as she went toward her office.

"Miranda, it's James."

"What is it James. What has happened?" James had never called the office directly so there was no need for small talk.

"It's the house, Miranda." She stopped in the hallway and Andrea practically ran right into her. "It caught fire. You need to come. I'm not home right now but Celia called. I'm on my way and will call you back soon. You need to be quick about it. Understand?"

Making statements out of what would ordinarily be questions ran in the family. Miranda understood exactly what she needed to do. "Yes, I will call you with my arrangements. James is it…" Is it gone? All her memories? Were they lost?

James hesitated. "I…Mia I don't know for certain. Just come." Mia? Instantly her mind was flooded by the memory of her cousin James in his infancy, reducing Miriam to Mia of all things. Much to her disliking the name stuck and for a long time everyone referred to her by that name. Now it seemed in James' heightened emotional state, she would have to get used to hearing that name again.

"I'm on my way." Miranda ended the call and realized Andrea's hand had been on her back the whole time and remained there as they walked the rest of the way down the hall.

"What do you need us to do?"

"He…he told you?"

Andrea pulled her hand away from Miranda's back "Yes, he did. Now tell me what you want to do."

Miranda sank into her chair and tried to think but it was almost impossible. "Uh…I…My mother's house is…" She ran her hands through her hair in frustration. "I need a plane…London. Private. Call Jeffery and be sure to put it on my account. Tell him it's an emergency. Get Meryl to pack some things for me…a few days worth and my passport. I need her to stay with the girls. I'll call her later myself as well. Once you get the flight settled we'll go from there. If James calls put him straight through and obviously cancel the rest of my day…the rest of the week. That's all."

Andrea retreated and instinctively closed the door behind her. The tear running down her cheek was not missed by Miranda. As she watched it flow down gracefully and hit the floor, Miranda knew it was caused by the emotion of sympathy. What a waste.

In less than an hour and a half Miranda was on a private jet headed home. How ironic. It took a fire to get her to go back. Had this happened on purpose? Miranda lifted her hand away from her eyes and stared at Roy. She had no idea why he was here but he was here nonetheless.

He had simply met her on the runway with her bags and climbed aboard with her. When she turned to ask him if he'd lost his mind, he simply interrupted her and said, "Get on the plane Miranda. I'm going with you whether you like it or not and then I'm going straight back home. Just get on the plane."

Miranda got on the plane. For once in her life she didn't have the strength to argue.

Honestly it shouldn't have surprised her. Since Stephen left Roy had slowly been working his way in. Miranda let him, she couldn't help it. Everybody needs someone to talk to, right? The conversations were never deep and philosophical but they were enough. He knew how she felt about Andrea. Granted she'd never said a word to him but he didn't need her to. Roy was a good detective.

One night after a dinner party Roy saw Miranda's face once Andrea was out of sight. He turned in the seat and said "You should do something about that Miranda." Part of her wanted to fire him, part of her wanted to cry and part of her wanted to just tell him everything. Instead she did nothing and Roy got the hint and drove her home.


Miranda looked up at him in a daze. "Yes Roy, what is it?"

Roy shifted in his seat to get more comfortable. "So it's gone? The whole thing?"

"Yes, the whole thing, Roy." Miranda sniffed and looked out the window. "James let me know just before I got on the plane."

"What are you going to do?"

"I really don't know." She envisioned walking up to it, looking at it for five minutes then getting back on a plane but she seriously doubted that's how it would go. Miranda waved her hands in the air "This will likely be one of those situations I hate to find myself in."

"The fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of situation?" Roy chuckled softly then cleared his throat.

"Indeed. Why are you here Roy?" Miranda turned her gaze to him.

"Because you shouldn't go all that way by yourself. Not now. This is different." It always amazed Miranda at how firm Roy's voice could get in the blink of an eye.

"Hm. Well…thank you."

Roy coughed. It wasn't like he heard those words every day. "It's no problem. Andy said she'd go to the girls' recital tomorrow night…in case she forgot to tell you."

Miranda rolled her eyes. Of course she would. "I see. Well that's acceptable I suppose." Miranda looked out the window again. The girls' would be thrilled.

Roy fidgeted in his seat some more and Miranda knew what was coming. Roy always fidgeted when he was about to swim into what he considered dangerous waters. "You're lucky to have her…I mean in whatever way you can…she's good to have around."

Miranda smiled bitterly at her reflection in the window. Yes, she was lucky. She reminded herself of that fact even when she wanted to wallow in self-pity. She was lucky.

Miranda detested the weakness she felt inside right now. In an instant this whole event had drained her dry and just thinking about Andrea made that weakness even worse. If she made it through the flight without baring her soul to Roy it would a miracle.

Roy read her thoughts and retrieved two Coke's, a handful of those tiny little bottles Miranda was sometimes fond of along with two glasses of ice. One of her private guilty pleasures was a simple Jack & Coke.

Miranda distributed the Coke and Jack Daniels as if she was working on a science project. Perfection, even in the middle of utter chaos, made her feel better in some small way.

After insuring the drinks were perfectly equal Miranda downed half of hers and finally decided to respond to Roy's statement. "I know I'm lucky Roy…in whatever way I can have her, I know I'm lucky." Well, here we go. Let the soul barring begin.

"Have you ever thought about telling her…you know?" God, Roy was certainly brave today.

"Every day."

"Well then?"

"I can't. It's not that simple." There was no way. Too much had happened.

"You're wrong." Too bad he was wrong.

"Oh?" Miranda took a long sip of her drink.

"Yeah, you're wrong. As a rule you're never wrong but you are about this. Sorry boss but it's the truth. I think she…you know? Feels the same way."

"I don't want to talk about this anymore, Roy." Miranda put down her now empty glass and traded in her seat for the leather couch. Oh, the joys of a private jet. Roy brought her a pillow and blanket from a storage bin and she was quickly lulled into a deep sleep. In her dream Andrea was sitting in a chair nearby watching over her, making her feel safe.

When the plane touched down Miranda said good-bye to Roy and thanked him for coming with her. His Christmas bonus was going to be huge this year. In fact, she probably wouldn't even wait for Christmas. He put her into the waiting car and made sure the driver knew where to take her. Her first stop was a hotel. It was far from daylight so a few more hours sleep probably wouldn't hurt.

Once in her hotel room, Miranda called Meryl to make sure everything was okay at home then lay down on the bed fully-clothed. She put her phone on her chest, closed her eyes and was almost asleep when the phone rang. Miranda didn't bother looking at the number.


"How are you?"

Miranda sat up on the bed quickly. "Andrea, have your phone skills been reduced to the point where you cannot even say hello first?" Who would Miranda be if she didn't complain about something right away? It wouldn't do for the girl to hear how happy Miranda was to hear her voice now would it? And it certainly didn't matter that Miranda had not said 'hello' either.

"Sorry, I just thought you would look at the caller id."

"Never assume. Where are you?"

"Home. I figured you would be at the hotel by now and I wanted to touch base with you."

Andrea sounded a little quiet, maybe even upset. "Please tell me everything is still the way I left it at Runway. If Nigel has already fowled things up beyond all recognition I will kill him."

"Yeah, everything is the way you left it. He went to that meeting and handled everything else. Nigel told me to tell you he's thinking about you…"

"Indeed, I'm sure he is. And you? How are you?" For reasons unknown to her, Miranda needed this phone call to last.

"I'm fine. I should have come with you. I mean to be there with you, not just bring you like Roy did. That was really awesome of him by the way."

As if she needed to have the awesome factor clarified. "I'm well aware and thanked him properly. I don't intend on doing much work while I'm here and I'm certainly not going to the London offices so it would have been pointless for you to accompany me."

There was a long pause on the other end and Miranda wondered if they'd been disconnected. "Andrea?"

"I'm still here. I wasn't talking about work. You just…I just think you need someone to be there for you."

Miranda was sure her hearing was fine and the whiskey had worn off long ago so this was sincere. Andrea wanted to be here with her. "Well I hardly find it necessary." Miranda instantly cursed herself. That was completely uncalled for. Before she could take it back, Andrea responded in kind.

There was a deep breath on the other end of the phone then Andrea said "Okay, you're right. Sometimes I forget that you're totally 100% self-sufficient. What I wouldn't give to never need anyone."

What the…? "Excuse me?" Was the girl drunk? No, Miranda would have been able to tell that right away. Andrea could not hold her liquor. At all. Miranda witnessed that first hand and almost kissed her right there in front of Roy because of it.

Miranda heard Andrea cough. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that."

"No, you should not have." Miranda ended the call and lay back down. How dare Andrea speak to her like that! She made a living being self-sufficient and was not ashamed of it in the least. How else would she have made it this far? If she had not been then she would have been kicked out of the business a long time ago. The phone interrupted her thoughts. Fabulous.


"You hung up on me." Her voice was strong and firm, not at all what Miranda had expected.

"Yes, I most certainly did. Your tone and choice of words were most unappreciated." Miranda sat up again and propped up against some pillows. Why not get comfortable. This was probably going to take awhile.

"I apologized and you hung up anyway." Again she was strong and firm. Why wasn't she afraid? Anyone else would be scared out of their mind to be having such a conversation with her.

"Andrea…" Andrea, what? What was she supposed to say? You're fired? No, of course not. Miranda couldn't even imagine firing her. It made her have a panic attack to even think about such a thing. "Fine, I accept your apology."


Oh, for God's sake! And? What was that supposed to mean? When did Andrea turn into the most gorgeous yet infuriating woman Miranda had ever met in her entire life? "And what Andrea?"

"I want you to apologize for hanging up on me."

Miranda cleared her throat and swallowed. She was suddenly very thirsty. "As you wish, I apologize."

"Do you mean that?"

"I'm not in the habit of saying things I do not mean so yes, I mean that. I apologize." Miranda would die before she said that to anyone else but yes she was sorry. It was Andrea after all, not some ridiculous clacker.

"Okay then. Did you sleep on the way over?"

"Yes, I slept. Roy insisted on getting me half drunk, so yes…I slept." Miranda couldn't help but chuckle remembering Roy bringing all those little bottles to her.

"Wow…Roy's a good guy." Miranda could hear rustling in the background, it sounded like papers.

"Yes, he is. What are you doing?"

"Cleaning off my kitchen table. It's trashed with notes and stuff…sorry. Notes and things. I've been working on something...just an article."

Hm. Yes, there was that journalism part of Andrea that Miranda knew nothing about. Miranda got up and grabbed a bottle of water from the mini-bar. After downing half, Miranda sat back in the bed and listened to Andrea tell her about the latest article she was working on for The Mirror.

Miranda wasn't sure if Andrea Sachs freelancing under the name Michelle Conner was against company policy or not but she didn't really care. She had seen several articles by this Michelle Conner and they were good. The fact that Andrea was willingly telling her any of this at all amazed Miranda. She must know Miranda wouldn't do anything to stop her, company policy or not.


"Yes, I'm listening."

"I was just wondering…I've only heard you mention the house once. Did you go there a lot?"

"No." Miranda couldn't believe her eyes were watering. She managed not to bare too much of her soul to Roy, but now? "My mother passed and…just a few times after that really."

"You bought it for her?" Andrea's voice had lost its earlier strong, firm tone and had taken on a quiet, gentle quality that calmed Miranda.

"Yes, it was left to the girls' when she died, but I'm not sure what will happen now."

"You can rebuild it. There are plans somewhere, right? Rebuild it just like it was." Miranda smiled as the words left Andrea's lips. She made it sound so simple, so easy.

"Perhaps, at the moment I'm not so much concerned with the house. What was in it…is my primary interest."

"I understand, I just meant…ouch."

"I know what you meant. What's wrong?" Miranda heard the sound of something falling.

"Nothing, I ran into the coffee table."

"Perhaps you should sit down."

They talked on and on about everything and nothing at all until Miranda fell asleep, on the phone no less. How embarrassing. She hoped it wasn't something Andrea would make her apologize for later.

After a quick shower and three cups of coffee, Miranda lost all good sense and did indeed apologized to Andrea via voicemail. Which was good because it was hard to keep her train of thought on the phone. Andrea made her…well there were too many feelings to list.

Precisely at eight o'clock Miranda arrived at her mother's property. Her cousin James was standing at the edge of the road as promised. James was hugging her before she could close the car door. "James you're crushing me, darling." Miranda gave in and hugged him back. She had not seen him in a year so he was due.

"Ah, Cousin. This is a horrible reason to see you but I'm still glad of it. You look wonderful." He held her at arm's length and looked her over. He didn't look too bad either. Still the tall, obnoxious fool he always was when they were children. James was more like a brother than a cousin. Miranda had no siblings and with everyone gone, James was all she had left now.

"Well, you look the same as always." She took the arm he offered and they started walking up the driveway, the faint smell of freesias immediately hit her and she smiled. The memories it brought back were the single reason she didn't want it anywhere near her in New York. Flash-backs were unproductive.

"Miranda, I don't know what to say. It was probably electrical or something of that sort. It's still being looked into." He squeezed her hand and she drew in a deep breath thinking of how this might feel just a little better if Andrea were here.

"I don't know what to say either. I will need your help though."

"You have it. You know that, Mia."

The house was coming into view and the smell of smoke quickly overwhelmed them. The urge to turn around and not look back hit her hard. "You haven't called me that in ages James. Oh, God…"

And there it was. All that remained was the stonework from the two fireplaces at either end of the little house, the rest was gone.

"I know it's hard to believe really." James rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand and Miranda gracefully pretended not to notice. He always was a crier. She would cry later.

"It's quite a mess isn't it? Mother would be furious." Miranda laughed in spite of it all. Her mother would definitely be angry right now. She hated messes. If things were not perfectly clean and in order, heads would start to appear on mirror-shined platters.

"Yes, yes she would. I miss her."

Of course he did. James had looked after Miranda's mother far better than she ever had. For all intents and purposes, James was her son.

"I miss her too. What are the boxes for?" Miranda pointed to the few cardboard boxes sitting on a nearby bench under a few trees. Her mother's favorite spot.

"In case we find something that can be salvaged. You never know." James led her around the burnt remains carefully.

"Perhaps. I…oh, the shed. Look." Her mother's gardening shed was untouched by the flames. Miranda opened the door and even though it was empty now she saw everything just as it had been years ago. Today her near photographic memory served a better purpose than Runway's interests.

"I suppose that's something at least."

"Yes, it's something. I really don't know where to begin with all this." Miranda closed the shed door and turned to survey everything again. While raking her eyes over the scene, her mind saw each small moment she had spent here. They were too few.

"Logically, clean up will be first of course, and then you can decide everything else later. No rush. I must admit I would hate for you to give it up though." James looked down at the ground as if he was waiting for her to snap at him.

"I'm not giving it up. That much I can tell you." James looked up and smiled. At least one of them was happy now. "A friend of mine suggested rebuilding it as it was. What do you think?" Miranda began walking back around to the front of the burnt pile and James followed close behind.

"I think you have a smart friend. I don't know if there are any plans for the house tucked away somewhere but between our memories we could come up with something." James rocked back on his heels like he was already seeing it take shape.

"It's something to think about at the very least. Do you think it's alright to go digging around in there?" Miranda motioned to the pile and James nodded.

"Yes, it's fine now. There might be some warms spots but I doubt we'll come across anything life threatening." He chuckled as Miranda hit his arm. As children she always claimed he was trying to kill her in some way or other. "I've got some shovels in case we need to dig around a bit and of course boots. You always did have a horrible taste in footwear." This got him another slap on the arm.

"Darling, you will be doing the digging, and as for my footwear…well never you mind about that." Before she could continue her phone rang. She sat down on the bench, dug around in her bag and sighed. Half of everything in the bag belonged to the girls. Finally she found it.


"Hello. It's Andy." Miranda noted that the 'hello' was said with emphasis; probably due to Andrea previous mishap.

"Hello, I don't even want to know what time it is there. Why are you up?"

"I wanted to see how you were doing. Is that a crime?" Again, she was fearless. Sleepy, but fearless.

"No, it is not a crime. I'm well. I am here with James." Miranda looked up at him "James can you give me a moment?"

"Your friend?"

She blushed and nodded. He headed off toward the shovels.

"Did you eat breakfast?"

Miranda turned her attention back to Andrea, noting that she did not mention Miranda falling asleep on the phone the previous night. "Only coffee. My stomach was not up for it. I will eat soon though. Caroline told you to ask?"

"Yeah. I'm going to their recital tonight. I'll email you pictures."

"Roy told me. Be sure to give them a little pep-talk beforehand. It seems to help. Cassidy gets nervous and Caroline just feeds off of her." This was the going standard in the Priestly household. The girls' fed off of each other's emotions to the point of driving Miranda mad. Sometimes it was like she had not two but three children. They consisted of Caroline, Cassidy, and some mutated version of them both in one body. She genuinely dreaded their teen years to come.

"I'll take care of it. No worries. Are you sure you're alright? How does it look?"

Miranda could hear Andrea sigh quietly and imagined that she was stretching under nice warm covers. It made her blush even worse. "Uh, yes…yes it's…well its awful really." Both of them were silent for a moment and unlike herself, Miranda knew Andrea was not asleep. She was merely waiting for Miranda to gather strength to continue the conversation.

"I'm giving your idea some thought. Rebuilding." Miranda sniffed. Her eyes were watering again but she chose to blame it on her allergies or dust or the ash or whatever else could be the cause. It could be anything but her burned up memories or the empty spot beside her on this old bench.

"Sounds good. You should do it. Make new memories."

"I'm not sure that's possible."

"It is. You can do anything Miranda. Even that."

"You are so naive." And young. Far too young.

"I am not. Okay, maybe a little but I have faith in you. That's all."

"Well I'm glad someone does. Call me today if something horrific comes up. Otherwise just let Nigel handle it. You and Emily know what to do with everything else. I'll call the girls in a few hours. Thank you for going tonight."

"It's no problem. You know that…"

"I know. I know."

"I still wish I was there with you." There was a long pause and Miranda dared not speak. The ash was really wreaking havoc on her eyes at the moment. "If I call you after the recital will you care? I know you'll be asleep." Andrea was almost whispering now.

"That's fine. I'd like to hear how everything went.

"Okay, I'll call then. Goodbye for now."

"Yes, goodbye Andrea." Miranda ended the call and James was suddenly sitting beside her. She wondered how much he had overheard. "Since when have you started sneaking up on people?"

"Since you started crying on the phone. You always were pretty good at hiding it though. I doubt she even knew." He put his arm around her shoulder.

"I still am."

"I know. So that's Andy? The woman I spoke with when I called your office?"

"Yes, that would be the one. Why did you tell her what the call was about?" Miranda put her phone back in her bag.

"Because I know you Mia; you don't break meetings for phone calls. No matter whom it is. I knew she needed a reason in case you didn't do as asked. She sounds like a good friend. The girls' like her?" Miranda felt a trap forming here but yet again she was missing the details.

"Hm…well yes, the girls like her. She won them over somehow. I still haven't figured it out and I probably never will. I suppose it doesn't matter really."

"Quite right. Say you remember that girl Christine? From when we were in school?"

Miranda turned on him with sharp eyes. "James! For the love of anything you hold dear do not bring that up!"

James withdrew his arm from around her shoulders and slapped the bench as he laughed "Mia calm down. I only mentioned it for old time's sake."

"I believe we can just strike that from the record and you? You can think of better things to bring up for old time's sake. God…I haven't thought about that in years."

James apparently did not understand that he was supposed to shut up now. "She was certainly a looker. I have to admit I was a bit jealous of you for a while there."

"As well you should have been…" Miranda rolled her eyes and cursed James's uncanny way of making her continue the conversation. Finally she gave up and laughed along with him.

"Remember when I caught you kissing her in the car? Ha! I thought you were going to die right there."

"So did I. She didn't speak to me for two days after that, thank you very much. Oh, how I hated you." Hate wasn't even the word for it. Miranda threw most of his favorite books into the fireplace including his favorite shirt. He nearly cried.

"I know you did but I loved every minute of it. Your mother was ready to kill us both over all that fighting. I was sad when you two broke up. It was great fun for me."

"I was sad too, as you might recall. Positively in the very depths of despair is how I remember it." Of course when you're seventeen you think such things mean your life is over. But then you grow up and move on, realizing that conforming is more important or something like that.

"You were…your face, when you were on the phone? Reminded me of when you used to talk to Christine. That's why I brought it up. Up until you started crying, your face was…" James threw up his hands "it was happy. Like nothing else mattered but the phone and that voice on the other end."

"That's doubtful." How does he do it? He and Roy must be long lost brothers.

"Mia you're lying but that's fine. At least I know the truth." James patted her leg and stood up. "Come on let's go get something to eat. Do you still want to rent a car? We can come back to this later."

Miranda took his hand and they walked back to the road in silence. She wondered what Christine was up to these days. Probably the same thing she was. Conforming, fitting in, while at the same time feeling completely lost.

As promised sometime after mid-night Miranda's cell phone rang. She was able to answer immediately since she went to sleep with the phone. Which was an accident of course because why on Earth would she be waiting for this phone call?

"Andrea?" Miranda threw the covers back and sat up against the pillows, leaving the light off.

"Yeah, it's me. Sorry to wake you." Andrea sounded if she was having to restrain herself due to her excitement.

"Well…how was it? Did they do well?" Miranda said impatiently.

"Get to your laptop and you'll see for yourself. Check your email. I have to go change. I'm soaking wet. It's raining like crazy here."

While Andrea abandoned the phone to change, Miranda nearly drowned herself in a bottle cold water while she waited for her laptop to boot up. All she could remember of the last thirty seconds was something about rain and being soaking wet. It was suddenly very warm in her suite. Miranda grabbed a nearby notepad and fanned her face.

"Okay are you into your e-mail? By the way the girls told me to tell you hi and all that. They're having too much fun with Meryl I think. Gotta love her, she makes the best pie…oops. You're not supposed to know about the pie."

"I know about the pie and yes they're probably having too much fun. She lets them stay up far too late. Ah, I see your email." Miranda opened the email and clicked on the pictures one by one. While she studied them, Andrea rambled on in her usual way.

"They were both fantastic, do you like the pictures? Roy took some of them and he's not the best with my phone, or any phone really. You know…technologically challenged…" She carried on and for once Miranda didn't mind.

There were several pictures of each of the girls, they were beautiful as usual even if they were in identical dresses, much to Miranda's disliking. It amazed her that they still dressed alike. Hopefully they would grow out of it soon. She had a feeling they did it simply to mess with people's heads. It worked.

Just when she was about to insist that Andrea stop and take a breather from her play-by-play account of the recital, she clicked on the last picture. Obviously it was of the girls but this one was far better than all the rest. Andrea was between them and the three of them were laughing. It took Miranda's breath away. Her smile was blinding…add in the dress and Miranda had to start fanning her face again. Surely the air conditioning would kick on soon?

Miranda often wondered what it took to make Andrea look so happy. Even when Miranda was in one of her most terrible moods and made everyone suffer for it, Andrea still seemed happy. Miranda thought it would be nice to one day be the reason for that happiness. But it was doubtful that she would ever get the chance to know.

"…and Nigel's been freaking out about some idiotic dinner party he wants to throw, and I just…"

Miranda cleared her throat and ended Andrea's infomercial. "Stop, stop, you're going so fast I can hardly keep up."

"Sorry, sorry I know how you hate that. Do you like the pictures?" Andrea sounded as if her life depended on Miranda's answer.

"Hm, yes. They're acceptable considering they're done via a cell phone. I'm sure I'll be printing a few." One. She would be printing only one and putting it in her study. She already knew the exact spot to place it in.

"Whew, I'm glad. So…how was the rest of your day?"

Miranda settled back under the covers and recounted her day. She'd called the twins, rented a car, had lunch and dug around a little with James. His wife, whom Miranda hated, tried to convince her to stay with them but she refused. The woman smoked like a chimney and never stopped talking about trivial matters that made absolutely no sense.

"Tomorrow we'll dig around some more; well James will be digging. I of course prefer to supervise. We found a few half burnt pictures so that's something I suppose. James has someone coming to discuss the clean up. I…I might as well tell you I'm rebuilding it. Between you and James I've been convinced."

"You won't regret it. Do you have blueprints?"

"If I did I wouldn't know where they were, but that is irrelevant. I can have them drawn up from memory. It won't be a problem."

"You could do that? I mean you have…"

"Photographic, yes to a degree I suppose."

"Huh, that's interesting. Oh, my God…"


"I just got an email from my brother. He's in Iraq and hasn't emailed me in three weeks."

Miranda felt like she should be taking notes. First Andrea's writing freelance under a different name and now she has a brother. "I didn't know you had a brother. I'll go so you can read then."

"How would you know?" She laughed. "I've never mentioned him. It's not like there's time for small talk or a family history lesson, Miranda. Don't hang up. It's just a short note. He got the package I sent him ages ago."

Miranda smiled and a strange feeling of relief washed over her. She was glad they weren't hanging up yet and it was a rare occasion when Miranda actually wanted to stay on the phone. "So…what did you send?" While Miranda had never been one to enjoy small talk before, she was quickly becoming quite good at it, or so she thought.

"Just some magazines and candy. A few books too. I was even nice enough to send him some copies of Runway for the girls he's chasing. Shane is a total player when he's not being shot at."

Runway in Iraq? Now that was something. Miranda sat up and turned the bedside light on. "How many did you send?" She grabbed a pen and paper out off the table. Miranda wasn't known for letting a good idea pass her by.

"Oh, just a few. He'd rather get the candy so that's what I try to focus on."

Why stop with a few? While Miranda would never be described as being 'patriotic', this would be a nice gesture; a nice, anonymous gesture. She hated to be thanked for any charitable gift.

Miranda scribbled her reminder down and turned the light back off. They would discuss this further when she got back. Very soon a lot of troops would be very happy. Or at least as happy as some magazines can make you under such conditions.


"Yes, I'm here. I was just turning the light back off."

"I should go, you need sleep and I need to finish this article…or rather Michelle Conner does. Are you sure you're alright?"

"I'm fine. Tell Nigel I'll be calling him tomorrow."

"I will. I don't think you're fine but I won't argue. I'm glad James is there."

"Hm, well" Miranda swallowed and took a deep breath "there isn't any other way to be." What was the alternative? Crying twice in one day just wasn't her style.

"Goodnight Miranda. I still wish I was there, just so you know."

"I know, Goodnight." Miranda shut the phone off and whispered to the ceiling, "I wish you were here too."

"Cassidy Priestly do you know what time it is there? What are you doing up?" It was five o'clock in the morning in New York and here Cassidy was reportedly sitting in the kitchen. Miranda wasn't even going to ask her if she was drinking coffee.

"I'm up cause I'm up Mom. I wanted to talk to you!"

"Very well. There is no need to raise your voice. How are you darling?" Miranda already had a headache and listening to Cassidy yell in her own little way was not helping.

"I'm awesome, did Andy send you the pictures like she promised? I did way better than Caroline." Cassidy smacked her lips and that was all the confirmation Miranda needed. The girl was drinking coffee. Fabulous.

"Yes, I got the pictures and I'm sure your sister did equally well. Contrary to your belief everything is not about which one of you is better than the other." This was another pointless argument. Miranda was positive they would still be competing and arguing when they were ninety years old.

"Yeah, but I was. Seriously I was. Did you see the picture of us with Andy?" Cassidy paused, smacked her lips again and continued "She looked nice in that dress, huh?"

"Yes she did." Nice wasn't the word Miranda would have used but for a twelve year olds ears it would do. "All three of you looked nice. When can I expect you and Caroline to stop dressing alike, hm?"

"Probably never. It's fun."

"Indeed. Is Meryl making you go to bed at a decent hour?" Miranda wasn't sure why she asked. It wasn't like she would get a truthful answer.

"Yep, for sure. She got mad at me yesterday though. I forgot to put my clothes in the hamper."

"Well, good for her. You know we've discussed that. If you cannot put your things away then you obviously don't need them." For the millionth time Miranda said a silent prayer in thanks for Meryl coming into their lives.

"I know. I'll do better. I promise. Are you bringing us something back?"

"I don't know Cassidy…this isn't exactly a trip for shopping."

"Yeah…sorry about the house Mom. I guess we're not going on vacation now, huh?"

"Oh, I'm sure we can think of something. We'll discuss it when I come home, which will probably be tomorrow or the next. I really need to go darling and please do not wake your sister up right now. Let her sleep."

"I won't, bye Mom."

"Goodbye darling." Miranda snapped her phone shut and looked over at James. "That child is killing me with her wake-up calls and coffee addiction. I don't even have to set an alarm anymore."

James chuckled "It's entirely your fault. You used to do the same thing when you were her age. Remember your mother complaining about finding you sitting in the kitchen well before anyone else was even alive?"

"Ah, yes but it was worth it. That's how I learned to sew and as you might recall you benefited quite a lot from that."

"This is true. I used to love those shirts you made for me. Until you burned my favorite one… "

"Indeed. You deserved it." She cut him a glare that effectively stopped him from bringing up Christine again. Thank God.

"Come on let's get back to it. I have to go see a patient of mine in about an hour, and then you're on your own for a while." James got up and pulled Miranda to her feet.

So far they were able to find some plates and a few tea cups along with a few more pictures. The plates and cups were covered in soot but Miranda insisted that they could be cleaned.

After today they would do no more digging around. Very soon a crew would invade her memories with their big, loud equipment and everything would be taken away in preparation for a fresh start. The fresh start would begin later but for now at least the ground would be clear.

As they played around James began to talk again. He never could shut up for more than five minutes at a time. Too bad there wasn't a gun handy; maybe hitting him over the head with a shovel would do the trick?

"Say, did you hear from your friend last night? Ah, look another plate." James held up the now blackened plate and carried it over to the boxes on the grass.

"Yes, I imagine that you did find a plate. You're standing in the kitchen after all. If you must know…yes, I spoke with her and the girls' recital went well. I should beat you with a shovel for continuing on about it."

"Beating me with a shovel won't change how you feel."

They were silent for a while after that. Miranda had no desire to speak. It was enough that apparently James read her like an open book. If she actually talked about it, it would just get worse.

Miranda went back to what would have been her mother's bedroom and looked around a bit more. This corner of the house was a little less charred and she hoped to find more here.

"James, come here and move these boards out of the way. I think I see something." Miranda waved him over and quickly grew impatient when he did not immediately march to do her bidding.

He stuck his tongue out at her and said "Hold on woman. I don't work for you. Be patient."

"Do not stick your tongue out at me James. You're forty-seven not five." How aggravating. Men never really grow up.

James finally came over and moved the boards and some other debris out of the way. The two of them stood there, shoulder to shoulder, looking down in silence at a blackened trunk.

"I wonder what's in it." James bent down and brushed the top of it off. "It's probably still sturdy enough for us to move. What do you think?"

Miranda was racking her braining trying to think if she had seen it before. Had it always been hidden away? "I suppose. I'm already dirtier than necessary so a little more can't make anything worse."

After arguing about who would carry which end of the trunk for a full five minutes, it was successfully moved and set on the ground near the bench.

"Hurry up and open it." Miranda waved her hand in front of the trunk impatiently.

"Why does it have to be me? You open it!" He rolled his eyes in just the right way to remind Miranda of her own iconic habit.

"Fine. Stop rolling your eyes." Miranda opened the truck with her gloved hand and once again they were shoulder to shoulder staring down in silence.

Finally James found the words "Is that…what I think it is?"

"Indeed it is. You can pick it up. I'm not touching it."

James made no move to touch the stained red flag that lay neatly folded in the very top of the trunk. It was plainly clear this trunk held items from Miranda's father who had fought in the Second World War. Their family hardly ever spoke of the war in front of them as children and neither Miranda nor James had ever seen this flag or whatever else lay beneath it. What else had their parents collectively sheltered them from? Miranda surmised that they were probably about to find out.

"I'm serious James. I am not touching that flag." She couldn't. For someone who lived their life creating a visual representation of beauty, Miranda had no intention of touching something that represented one man's ideal of a perfect world in which millions were killed. Period.

James finally lifted the flag up and unfolded it just enough to make sure they were right. They were. The beginning of a white circle was confirmation enough. He folded it back up and set it beside him.

"Certainly a surprise, hm? Of all the things to find…that's what we get."


"We should probably put all this in some of those boxes. I doubt the trunk will survive travel. That is if you want to take this home…"

"I don't know what I want to do right now. Don't you have somewhere to be soon?" Miranda was suddenly eager to be alone. James did not need to see her cry anymore than he had already. This was all a much bigger dose of the past than she knew how to deal with at the moment.

"Ah, yes. Just leave it here. I'm sure it will be alright. Close it up and when I get done at the office I'll move it to the house. You can decide what you want to do with it later. I must admit it is more than even I know what to do with at the moment. Are you going back to the hotel now?"

"James, I do not have my every moved planned out. Your incessant need to know everything is completely annoying as I'm sure you are aware. Now go do whatever it is doctors do and I will call you later."

"Fine then." James hugged her even though she did not hug him back this time. "Call me later."

It wasn't till she watched him walk out of view that Miranda realized James had left the flag on the bench. Fabulous. Miranda was almost inclined to let it sit right there and rot. Why had her father even kept it all this time? Perhaps even horrible things are kept for the sake of a memory, or maybe it was just his way of ensuring that he never forgot what could have been…

What was she suppose to do with all this? James was right, the trunk wouldn't survive travel. He could have all of it as far as she was concerned…suddenly she heard footsteps again and groaned. He must have forgotten something. While he was here he could put the flag up. Serves him right for forgetting to do it in the first place. Miranda tilted her head back and took a deep breath. The end of today could not come soon enough.


Miranda left her head tilted back and closed her eyes. Oh, wonderful, had she really been reduced to hearing voices? Weren't the images running through her mind enough? Much more of this and she was going home tonight. And why did it have to be her voice that Miranda heard? Why?


Fine, fine. She would look for the source of the voice if only to confirm she was going crazy. Miranda opened her eyes and yes, this was it. She had finally gone round the bend because there was no way in any heaven or hell that Andrea Sachs was standing no more than twenty feet from her. Absolutely not.

The apparition if you will was in the most casual manner of clothing, a faded pair of jeans, a t-shirt, and what looked to be an old pair of brown boots. It could have been worse.

"You're not going crazy. It's really me." Andrea grinned and waved her hand in reassurance.

There was really only one way to make sure so Miranda got up from the bench and walked over to this vision of perfection, even if it was in jeans and t-shirt. Andrea moved to meet her in the middle of their separation and realization sank in. This was real.

"Why? What are you…How?" So much for vocabulary. Miranda shook her head at her own stupidity.

Andrea looked at her and smiled again. "Roy isn't the only one with poor phone skills. You thought you hung up the phone last night, but you didn't. I heard what you said and since I wanted to be here anyway…I figured why not?"

"Oh, well…how did you…" Okay this was horrible; Miranda couldn't even form a complete sentence.

"I just went to the airport and called Nigel. He didn't ask any questions, but I'm sure Emily is having a cow. I called your brother too. He met me at the end of the drive way…can we sit down?" Andrea pointed to the bench and Miranda followed her.

So the high-spirited girl neglected her job and got on plane just because she wanted to? How is everything so simple for her? As much as Miranda wanted to chastise Andrea for leaving her job duties; like so many things lately Miranda didn't see the point. Andrea was here because she wanted to be and because Miranda wanted her to be, there was no merit in denying it.

"You are quite bold in doing so. I wonder what your boss would say." Something like 'thank you, I'm glad you're here because that's all I really wanted'…something like that.

Andrea waved her hand in jest. "She'll never know! See she's out of the country too and at the moment it really doesn't matter."

"You sound so certain. Did you bring any work with you?"

"Nope, I'm on a little vacation. Hell, right now I don't even work for Runway. Come to think of it…neither do you at the moment. I decided that all by myself."

"Ah, I see. So, I no longer have a job? I'm not quite sure how to feel about that." Actually right now it sounded rather nice. "Andrea, when did it become acceptable for you to converse with me in such an informal manner?"

"I'm not sure…a while ago I guess when you finally decided to start talking to me. Like really talking to me. If you can converse with me in an informal manner then I can too. I've just been waiting for the chance." Andrea stretched her legs out and yawned. She had to be tired. Miranda had never seen her sleep on a plane. She was always too busy doing things for Miranda, or reading, or God forbid- talking.

"Waiting for a chance? What else have you been waiting for?"

"You don't want to know. What's in the trunk?

Yes, she did want to know but Miranda wasn't about to insist, not yet. "We found it around the back corner of the house. It belonged to my father."

Andrea leaned down and took a closer look. Miranda thought about the retched flag. It was sitting right next to Andrea. She would probably notice it in….right now. Fabulous. And of course she had to pick it up and start unfolding it. Journalists, specifically one Michelle Conner just had to know everything about everything didn't they?

"Don't." Miranda put a hand out to stop her. "Do not unfold that. I'm very serious." Her voice came out a little on the frantic side and she instantly regretted it. Miranda never liked to show her true feelings through her voice and it was a repulsive habit to start this late in the game.

Andrea put the flag back down beside her and by the look on her face she had obviously figured out what it was. "Got it…no unfolding. I can't even believe..."

"Neither can I. Why would he want such a thing? I just…" Miranda covered her eyes for a moment then pinched the bridge of her nose. "When we were children he barely spoke of it and now I find this."

Andrea scooted closer to her on the bench and put a hand on her shoulder. It didn't come as a surprise to Miranda that she instantly relaxed because of it.

"You know Miranda, if you don't want to talk about it, that's fine, but if you do then that's okay too. Have you seen what else is in there?"

"No I haven't." Without thinking, Miranda moved closer, removing the last few inches of distance between them and felt Andrea slide her arm all the way around her shoulders. It reminded Miranda of those sly moves she made on Christine a thousand years ago.

"Why are you smiling?" Andrea regarded her in suspicion.

"It's nothing…I just remembered something from a long time ago. Do you want to look in there? I don't mind." Now that Andrea was here it didn't seem like such an impossible task.

"Are you ready for that? I mean that's pretty heavy stuff. My grandfather was there. He never talked about it either unless he was telling us about some drunken brawl he was in with his buddies. My brother certainly doesn't say a word about it anything he goes through unless I force him to tell me why I haven't heard from him in weeks. And then I usually end up wishing I hadn't asked in the first place.

So…I might understand a little bit of how surprised you are to find this. I know I would be. The point is…" Andrea removed her arm from Miranda's shoulder and picked up the flag "The point is…don't be afraid of this. No matter what's in here, don't be afraid of it." After putting the flag back in the trunk, Andrea sat back and returned her arm to its previous place.

"Are you sure you didn't minor in psychology instead of journalism?" Miranda kept her face forward and concentrated on breathing. "By the way I'm not afraid of it…but I'm still not touching that flag." Not, not, not touching the flag. And yes, she was afraid of it but there was absolutely no way she would ever admit it. She had a feeling Andrea knew that.

"I didn't minor in psychology; I'm just doing my job."

"And what exactly is that? Your job? I thought you said you were on vacation."

"I am on vacation but I do have one job while I'm here. It's like I told you on the phone Miranda, I wanted to be here for you…with you."

"I see. Andrea, I…oh God, this is absurd." Miranda ran a hand through her hair out of pure frustration. Where were her words?

"Miranda, why don't you let me do the talking for a minute? After I'm done you can say or do whatever you like, okay?"

"Alright, go ahead. I don't seem to be making any progress so maybe that's for the best."

"Yeah, it probably is. Just please don't say anything until I'm finished. Miranda, I wanted to come here because I'm tired of not being able to be there for you through everything…not just work. You mean more to me than anything having to do with Runway and I think you feel the same way…or at least I hope you do. I know you'll say I'm too young, or too naive, or too whatever but I don't care."

Well, Miranda hello? What do you say to that? "I don't care either…for quite a long time now." Crazy answer but a true one. She didn't care. Age, naiveté, any differences at all…this was becoming her personal slogan for God's sake – It doesn't matter.

Andrea let out a long, deep breath. It sounded as if she had been holding it in for ages.

"Oh, but you might one day. You might. That's why I came here like this." Andy pointed at her t-shirt and Miranda raised an eyebrow. "This is me, Miranda. The clothes, the hair, the makeup…hell even the La Perla lingerie is for another world. Don't get me wrong I enjoy all of it…to a degree; but that isn't me. You might figure out that you don't like that one day. I'm not cut out to live that life twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week."

"Do you honestly think I'm that shallow?" Miranda scooted back to her original spot, further away from Andrea. "I can't even believe we're sitting here talking about this. Was that your greatest worry this entire time?" It had certainly been Miranda's but yet again there was no way she was admitting it. This was one of the things that always stopped Miranda from believing something could happen between them. People thought she was shallow…and maybe she was about some things but that didn't mean that's all there was. Miranda wasn't an idiot. Deep down she knew there was more to life than Runway. She just couldn't afford to show it. That's all.

"I know I eat, breathe, and sleep Runway but I also know there is more to a person than what they choose to put on their back! Did you assume there was nothing more to me? If so I find your little dissertation on your manner of dress and how that isn't your life twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to be highly hypocritical because I already know there's more to you than that."

"Okay, I deserved that one but you do remember a certain dissertation on the makings of a sweater, don't you?"

Miranda crossed her arms in front of her "You will never forget that will you? Yet, you obviously failed to comprehend the meaning of it. It wasn't about the sweater per se…all though it was poorly made. It was about your lack of appreciation for it; the true meaning of a piece of clothing and what goes into the making of it. I know at least a miniscule amount of that must have sunk in because you were able to at the very least conform to the way things are. "

"I still think it's a little silly sometimes."

"I know but it's the choice I've made. It's who I am and what I do…" Miranda knew Andrea wasn't necessarily talking about her specifically but she might as well have. To think of fashion as being silly meant that in some small way Miranda was put in the same 'silly' category.

After sitting in a tense silence for a minute or two, Miranda moved back to Andrea's side but refused to look at her so she spoke to the trees and hoped her message was clear enough for Andrea to understand.

"Andrea, I am no fool. I know you better than you think I do. I know about conforming…fitting in. I know about it because I'm the best there is at doing that very thing. I always have been. In fact, I'm so good at it that I now determine what others should be conforming to. Ironic, isn't it?"

Miranda tapped a finger against her lips for a second while she contemplated her next move. Only one example would explain everything. "I was sixteen the first time I kissed Christine." She heard Andrea gasp and Miranda put a hand on her thigh. "Yes I know, shocking. Just let me finish. As I was saying…I was sixteen and it still makes me blush to think about it. Oh, we had a good time that's for certain."

Miranda cleared her throat and forced herself not to fan her face. It was burning up. "I was seventeen when we broke up and God I thought I would die from grief. I didn't of course and there were other women after a little time went by…but eventually you have to grow up. I knew at that time, my family and more importantly my career wouldn't survive a thing like that so: I became the very definition of conformity."

Finally Miranda looked Andrea in eye. "Andrea, I gave up my religion, my heritage, my family, my accent, my own name, and much more. No one knows me. My own children don't even know me half as well as they should. I've been hiding myself away for thirty years and I-am-tired. Do you understand? I am tired of it and I cannot resist letting you in any longer. When I say I don't care – I mean it. Yes you're young, a little naïve, and you dress one way for you and another way because doing so is required, but I've done far worse. I've sold my soul to the devil on countless occasions; so a pair of jeans and a t-shirt is the very least of things that I should be worried about."

"Miranda…I love you in spite of all that, okay? I can't not be with you, so if you're trying to scare me away with your past; it won't work. Just like me trying to scare you away with my present won't work either. So…we'll just have to put up with one another, hm? " Andrea put her arm back around Miranda and the tension between them evaporated. "Now...what are we going to do with all this?" She pointed to the truck.

Miranda expected Andrea to have more to say but apparently it was over. They would accept each other and that was that. Nothing more could be said on the subject. Oh, but there was. Andrea loved her. Miranda didn't know if she realized she had said the words, but she had said them all the same. Miranda wasn't sure if right now was the right moment for her to return those sentiments.

"You decide. I can box it up" Miranda waved her hand over to the boxes on the ground "I can take it home…stick it in the basement, I can leave it all with James, or I can burn it all and dance around the flames. Take your pick."

Andrea backed up just a bit and looked at her "I get a vote?"

"No, you get to decide." Why not? Miranda couldn't make up her mind and a decision needed to be made…and she was here. The one that she wanted was here. "But before you decide, I need one thing. I need to put my arms around you before I go completely and totally out of my mind. May I?"

Andrea's answer was a smile and her arms around Miranda's neck. As Miranda slid her arms around Andrea's waist, the cold facade that wrapped itself tightly around her fears and vulnerability found a way to let go for just a moment. It might never disengage itself from her completely but this was certainly a step in the right direction.

Miranda finally pulled away, and kissed Andrea's forehead. She wanted to do more, and definitely say more; but wasn't about to in front of this trunk. Even thought it would make a good memory, she wasn't inclined to have that item in the picture she would keep inside her head forever.

Andrea understood without having to be told and got up to grab a few of the boxes while Miranda watched her. Evidently a decision had been made.

"I'll box it up. You don't have to touch any of it. Just take it home, put it away and deal with it later. Can you live with that?"

"Yes, I can live with that."

And she could. It would take time but Miranda would figure out how to deal with the things in this trunk eventually. If only for the sake of her children she would do it. They had a right to know. Hiding things was fast becoming something Miranda was unable to tolerate, for any reason.


"Okay…that's the last of it." Andrea slammed the truck of the car and wiped her hands on the back of her jeans. "Are you good? Feeling okay about all…this?" She waved her hands over the car.

"I'm fine. It's fine. Really. I put your bags in the back seat. We should go to James'. I'm going to kill him for not telling me you were coming today. That must have been what his 'appointment' was all about this morning." Miranda opened the car door for her but stopped her before she fell into the seat.

"Yeah, you should so kill him. What he did was such a travesty." Andrea wrapped her arms around Miranda waist as she laughed. "Actually he didn't even do anything except tell me how to get here."

"Well travesty might be too strong a word but it was evil nonetheless." In mere seconds Miranda realized this was an acceptable moment to at the very least kiss her. The burnt trunk was behind them, the boxes were in the back of the car, she could see the remains of her mother's house in the corner of her eye but she could deal with that…the wind was blowing in just the right way and the faint smell of freesias was in the air. This would be a bit of a distraction sometimes but it would be worth it. Yes, definitely worth it.

"You want to kiss me don't you?"

Miranda rolled her eyes in frustration and tried very hard not to laugh. How did she do that? "Was it written all over my face?"

"Yes." She whispered softly.

It made Miranda's stomach tighten. If one whispered word could do that to her then… "May I kiss you?"

"Gee…I don't know…"

Miranda wrapped her arms around Andrea's neck and tugged at her pony tail "Don't be like that." Just before Miranda gave herself time to think about the fact that Andrea had probably never kissed a woman before; she decided to just go ahead and do what she wanted to do. The lips that she'd been staring at for so many months just couldn't go un-kissed any longer.

Any remaining nervousness was erased as she felt Andrea pull her closer. Yes, this was an acceptable moment. Miranda held Andrea's face in her hands. She was so beautiful and there was nothing but love inside her. Miranda had never seen anything so pure.

Later on when Miranda would remember this moment she would think about the fullness of Andrea's lips and how sweet she tasted. She would laugh at the memory of how Andrea basically took over in two seconds and tried to jump on top of her right there out in the open. And Miranda would remember how powerful it felt, to finally kiss a woman again; but not just any woman. This woman, this girl that she had wanted so badly for so long. It felt like nearly thirty years of hidden emotion, passion and God knows what else was set free.

"Ahem" There was a sound from somewhere but Miranda was busy. Very busy. She had Andrea pressed up against the car now and was mapping out the long lines of her neck with her mouth. Andrea was holding her head in place and moaning her name in the sweetest way and it drove Miranda out of her mind with need.

"Ahem…excuse me, hello?" Oh, not again. Not, not, not again.

Miranda pulled away and had to grab Andrea's hands to keep her from pulling Miranda back in. The girl was insatiable. "I don't think we're alone anymore."

"Oh, shit…sorry."

"No, no it's fine." It wasn't fine but it was about to be. "James…darling what a surprise." Miranda turned and her cousin waved. He was standing by the old trunk rocking back and forth on his heels with his hands in his pockets now. It reminded Miranda of when they were children and he would try to deny stealing candy.

"Yes, sorry about that. I was just coming to check on you two. Certainly didn't intend to catch you kissing another girl in a car again…once was enough thank you."

Miranda ignored the snickering coming from behind her. Andrea would get what was coming to her later. But her cousin however…Miranda started toward him and he backed up a few steps. "Why you miserable bastard…You have nicer things than books and shirts now. I wonder what I should ruin first?"

"Now, now…let's not be hasty. It was all meant in fun I assure you." James put his hands up in surrender.

"Miranda…Miranda wait." Andrea came up behind her and grabbed her hand. She was laughing.

"Do not laugh. This is not funny. Not in the least. He's always doing things like this to me." Miranda stopped and James put his hands down.

"Well I didn't come all this way to witness a murder. Now…James, hi." Andrea let go of her and went over to James and gave him a hug much to Miranda's disapproval. "Thank you for helping me get here. Thank you, thank you." Oh and now she kisses him on the cheek! Fabulous.

"That's quite alright I was happy to do it." James hugged her back and winked at Miranda who rolled her eyes.

"No, no. Get away from him. He's useless and unattractive. Just ask his wife Celia."

"Oh my God…I had no idea you could turn into a kid at the drop of a hat." Andrea walked back over and put an arm around her waist. Miranda returned the gesture and held onto her tightly. That was much better than watching her fawn all over James. Argh.

"Come to the house Miranda. You can get cleaned up and have a bite to eat."

"Fine but you're walking back." Miranda turned and headed toward the car, ignoring the conversation going on behind her.

"No you're not. Get in the car, I'm sitting in back."

"Thank you darling at least someone has some manners."

"Shut up, I can hear you both perfectly well." Miranda got in the car and slammed the door. How aggravating.

Miranda might hate the fact that Celia had absolutely no idea of when she needed to remain silent or that she smoked like a chimney but she could not deny that the woman had impeccable taste. If not for her James would likely be living in some dirty flat in the middle of London.

"James, I see Celia has gone on a yet another decorating campaign. It is…not entirely hideous." No need to let him know that she actually approved.

"Yes, I'm afraid she insists on spending every penny I make. So long as she stays away from my den I keep my mouth shut. You remember where the guest room is on the second floor? Use that bathroom. I'll keep Andy company." James grinned and Miranda rolled her eyes. He looked like he was going on a date or something. Fabulous.

"Just please try and behave yourself."

"Come along Andy. Let's go explore." James put his arm around Andrea and led her away. Miranda would be lucky if the girl didn't decide to stay in England forever by the time she got out of the shower.

In spite of her hesitation to leave Andrea with her evil and vile cousin, Miranda was looking forward to a ridding herself of these clothes and taking a quick shower. Once her new ensemble was laid out on the bed Miranda undressed and got the shower going. While she let the water get hot she washed her face and stared into the mirror.

She looked different. Her eyes were clearer, brighter even and the constant stiffness in her expression was gone. Well not gone but certainly lessened. "I suppose love just does this to you…" she whispered into the mirror.

The rest of her body however, was another matter. She was definitely not in her twenty's anymore like a certain someone downstairs – and it showed. Yes, she was thin but she wasn't in shape…or at least Miranda didn't think so. When pray tell did Miranda Priestly have time to exercise? She barely had time to sleep. Her legs were decent, thanks to the heels and all the walking but her stomach? No. Hardly what she would call acceptable. Yet she was slightly proud of that fact. The stretch marks were merely evidence of the joint decision made by her babies to come into the world at seven pounds apiece. Tiny monsters indeed.

Miranda shook her head and smiled as she entered the now steaming shower. She wouldn't have it any other way and she had a very good feeling that Andrea would have no concern about stretch marks of any kind, anywhere.

Freshly showered, make-up applied and hair blown dry, Miranda made her way downstairs where it was much too quiet to suit her liking. As with her girls, silence usually meant someone was up to no good. When Miranda went into the den she found the source of the silence and breathed a sigh of relief. Andrea was asleep on a leather sofa and James was sitting beside her in a chair, reading a paper. It was almost heartwarming. Or it would have been if James wasn't sitting there looking at her with that stupid grin now.

"What happened here?" She whispered as she sat in another chair next to him. "Did you bore her to sleep?"

James put his paper down "No of course not. I'm far too charming to do such a thing. I was showing her some old photos and she just drifted off. She is quite interested in them." He pointed to the album that Andrea lightly held in her arms. She was beautiful. Like an angel. "She had a lot of questions." James said again, breaking Miranda out of her thoughts.

"Oh, wonderful. Before you know it you'll have her writing the family history."

"I know." James smiled again and swatted at her with his paper. "That's exactly what I intend to happen."

Miranda rolled her eyes and leaned back in the chair. "James…why must you drive me so crazy. Really darling."

"Because it's fun. She told me she writes so…why not? It won't happen right away. Better let her figure out that she wants to do it. But she will eventually."

"I hate your certainty. Were you showing her those photos the whole time I was gone or did you manage to corrupt her in some other way? Show her your ridiculous train collection perhaps?"

"No we didn't make it that far…she asked to borrow my laptop for a moment. Something about e-mailing her friend Michelle…"

Miranda chuckled but covered her mouth with her hand quickly to muffle the sound. "I suppose she brought work with her after all." James gave her a funny look and she continued. "James, she…" Miranda gestured toward Andrea "she is Michelle…Michelle Conner to be exact."

"I'm afraid I'm officially lost."

"Of course you are. You always have been. She writes freelance…under that name. She's been doing it right under my very nose for quite some time."

"Hm, well then- she's even more ready than I imagined!

"Argh, be quiet."

For a while he was and they sat in a comfortable silence until without thinking, Miranda muttered "What am I going to do with her?" Realizing that she'd spoken allowed, Miranda glanced over at James.

He reached over and took her hand. "The only thing you can do. Love her. That's all. She certainly did not come all this way for nothing. She loves you Miranda. I wish you could have seen her face when she arrived. It was priceless. So…just love her. I expect that's all she would ever ask of you."

For the next hour Miranda sat watching Andrea sleep. It reminded her of the dream she had on the plane. Andrea had been watching over her while she slept and now she was willingly returning the favor. It felt strange in a way, to genuinely want to do something for someone. Normally that wasn't her style. Yet when she thought about it, she had wanted to do things for Andrea for a long time. Simple things too, even as simple as doing something for herself for a change instead of having Andrea tend to whatever it was that Miranda dreamed up that was so urgently needed.

She didn't mind Emily doing those things though. Of course not. After all, that was what Emily was paid to do. This should have served as the first indication that something was different between herself and Andrea. Which also meant things could not remain the same for them on a professional level.

Especially not after tonight. Not if tonight went as Miranda hoped. After tonight it would be a long time before Miranda would ever be able to behave in an appropriate, professional manner around Andrea. Surprising for someone who was always in complete control, but Miranda knew her limits and Andrea – was her limit. Simply put, Andrea would have to move on. Miranda had a feeling that Michelle Connor was about to get the chance to turn into Andrea Sachs.

Andrea finally awoke and immediately began to apologize for falling asleep. "Oh, wow. I'm so sorry Miranda. I guess I'm more tired than I thought."

"Don't be ridiculous. Your body has no idea what time it is. I'd say you were due for a nap." James was out of the room so Miranda moved to the couch and sat down beside her. "Andrea do you…I certainly wouldn't presume but do you have somewhere to stay? Tonight." Dear God please say no.

"Nope. I'm homeless." Andrea yawned and stretched, deftly moving her arm around Miranda's shoulder as she did so.

"Darling, I must admit you have some very smooth moves."

"I know…I'm apparently cheesy like that. Sort of old-school."

"Well it suits you. I'll likely never say that again so please remember that I at least admitted it once. Would you be opposed to staying with me tonight?" Dear God please say no.

"No, I would not be opposed to that Miranda. You are okay with that?"

"No Andrea, I merely brought it up for fun." Miranda settled into Andrea's open arm and sighed in perfect contentment. She could not remember the last time she had released such a sigh. It was a rather uncommon occurrence in her life, usually reserved for those times when she was able to put her girls to bed for the first time after being away. For it to be released now simply from being in someone else's arms was…well, remarkable.

Before more could be said James knocked on the door frame. "Ahem, may I come in?"

"Yes, for God's sake…at least you've learned to knock after all this time."

They stayed a little while longer with James but Miranda finally managed to get them away just before Celia was due to return home. Thank God. Andrea would just have to meet her another time. Now they were alone in the car for the hour drive back to Miranda's hotel and it was quiet. Way too quiet.

Perhaps Andrea was just tired? That would be a reasonable explanation of course, but perhaps not. Asking would be the only way to find out which made Miranda realize again that she wasn't good at those kinds of things. Personal things. Asking questions. Being there for someone. She wasn't good at any of those things. What if she couldn't be the sort of person that Andrea needed? After all, the very last thing Miranda Priestly was known for was her ability to be emotionally available.

Yes, she was ready to do all that but what if she couldn't? Even if it was something as simple asking someone what was on their mind? What if there was finally something in this world that Miranda Priestly could not do? Like touching that ridiculous flag? That would be rather inconvenient considering that Andrea was all she wanted so…Miranda had better learn.

"Andrea, what are you thinking about?" There, good start.

Andrea kept her eyes on the passing scenery and traced droplets of rain as they slid down the window. "Nothing really. Well…just two things."

"Two things are more than nothing darling."


Miranda blushed. "No…not if you…"

Andrea put a hand on her arm and laughed. "I'm just messing with you baby. No worries."

"Baby?" Now that would take some getting use too. She'd never allowed anyone to call her that. Well that wasn't true. She could think of a few women…fantastic. Blushing again. "Fine, it will grow on me I'm sure. Now tell me what these two things are."

"I was thinking about how nothing has gone exactly like I wanted it too in a very, very long time. And this has…finally…hopefully. So…you should know that I'll probably kill anyone that tries to foil my expertly laid plans for the future…whatever those might be." Andrea smiled slightly as she went back to tracing the rain drops on the window.

"Dually noted. What else."

"I was wondering why James calls you Mia. It's very sweet. Hard to imagine but sweet all the same."

"I was hoping you hadn't heard that. I was four when he graced us all with his presence. Argh." Miranda rolled her eyes as she remembered how everyone had fawned over him; taking away all the attention she was used to receiving. "I had high hopes that he would never learn to talk. I prayed for it really, but alas I wasn't so lucky. To this day I believe he was able to sense my hatred for him even has a baby. For revenge he began to address me as Mia as soon as he could form words. And of course since he was allowed to do and say whatever he wanted, everyone joined in and he has yet to break the habit."

There was silence then all of the sudden Andrea burst into laughter. "Oh my God…you looked so serious when you said all that. Totally serious and totally pissed. I love it."

Miranda smiled bitterly. "It's nice to know that someone can find joy in it. I never want you to see him again. He is a horrible old fool who will only corrupt you with his trains, pipe smoking and love for gossip." She tried to retain that bitter smile but broke out into a laugh. "I do love him though. He may never hear it from me but I do love him."

"The two of you must have been something else growing up. Torturing each other."

"We did. I burned some of his things once. That was a glorious moment for me. He caught me kissing Christine in the car and she didn't speak to me for two whole days."

Again there was silence then another burst of laughter. "You shouldn't have been kissing her in the car if you didn't want to get caught, Miranda. Then again if it had been me I wouldn't have cared. " Andrea grabbed Miranda's hand and held it tightly. " I can't tell you…how many times I've had to stop myself from kissing you in the car. Right there in front of Roy even without the screen up."

"Trust me darling…you haven't been alone in that. Trust me."

"Hey this is a pretty nice place." Andrea looked around the suite and threw her bags into the bedroom. Miranda smirked as she sat down on the couch to look for her phone. Tonight was going to go exactly like she wanted.

"Yes it's nice. I've stayed in nicer of course but this is acceptable."

Sitting down on the other end of the couch, Andrea began to take her boots off. They were scuffed with dirt and a bit ash. It was all evidence of yet another way she had taken care of something for Miranda. "Your boots are-"

Andrea cut her off. "Yeah, I know they're dirty. I'll move them."

"That is not what I was going to say. You should let me finish." Miranda leaned down and took the boots from Andrea and set them down beside her. "I was going to say that I would clean them off for you. That is if you do not object. You did something for me that I couldn't. I love you and I want to clean your boots." That came out a little firmer than she had intended but she couldn't change that now. Miranda shrugged and looked back down at the boots. They were old, made of brown leather, and looked like they had seen more than their fare share of miles. She could easily imagine Andrea stomping her way through a crowd and onto the subway.

Andrea moved to sit next to her and took her hands. "Hey, look at me." When Miranda didn't, Andrea placed a finger under her chin and turned her head. "Please, look at me." Miranda finally looked up but was ashamed. Her eyes were filled with tears and there wasn't anything around to blame it on other than her own emotions. Andrea held Miranda's face in her hands and brushed the tears away with her thumbs. "You can clean my boots, okay? And just so you know I was happy to do all that back there. That wasn't about a job so don't think that."

"Actually that thought didn't enter my mind. Just so you know." Miranda sniffed.

"I figured that…I just wanted to...I don't know...reassure you. About the only thing that I still consider a job these days is getting your dry cleaning. I really hate that." She laughed and pulled Miranda into her arms and held her there tightly.

Miranda let out another surprising sigh of contentment. She could get used to that. It was easy to let go with Andrea. Easy to let herself be…just be. Right here in her arms there wasn't a list of things to accomplish, no magazine to produce, no reshoots, no run-thru's; just one person that was ready, willing, and able to love her. Just like that sigh of contentment, realizing this…was remarkable.

"Are you tired?"

"I believe mentally drained is more appropriate." Miranda pulled out of Andrea's embrace. "I meant what I said. I do love you. I should have told you a long time ago, but I suppose things happen in the order they are meant to…whether we like the order or not is another matter."

"I love you too, Miranda. Very much…more than I could probably ever show you."

"I believe it's the other way around darling but I won't argue. Would you like to take a shower? It's stocked and there are fresh towels of course." Miranda wiped her eyes dry and sank back into the couch. It was possible she was more than mentally drained; but only barely.

"That sounds like a great idea. Why don't you call the twins and check your e-mail."

Andrea disappeared into the bedroom and Miranda called the twins. It was probably one of the oddest phone calls she'd ever been a part of. Apparently they were aware Andrea was with her because their immediate concern was 'are you being nice to Andy?' From there they only wanted to know when they were coming home and ended the phone call with a 'seriously, be sure and be nice to Andy'. She was barely on the phone three minutes. Strange.

Miranda moved to the desk and booted up her laptop. Hopefully checking her e-mail would be less confusing than calling her children. Miranda heard the shower turn on and looked up. Andrea had left the bedroom door open and oh yes, the bathroom door was half open as well. There was nothing to see as Andrea was apparently already in the shower but it was enough to make Miranda light headed.

Back to e-mail. Miranda quickly replied to several e-mails from Emily and fired off a list of things for Nigel to check on. She read through several others but decided they could wait until later. The last e-mail was from Andrea and it had been written today. Miranda surmised this was probably the reason she had suggested Miranda check her e-mail in the first place.


You're upstairs taking a shower so I thought I would take a second to talk to you about something. I know I could say all this in person – and I'm sure we'll discuss this later – but at least this way it's out in the open. So…

I have to quit my job. I have to. I don't know what your feelings are on this but for me—this is what I have to do. Here are just a few examples of why this has to happen:

1. Last week my boss was in one hell of a bad mood and refused to eat lunch due to "I cannot possibly eat right now Andrea. Have you lost your mind? These spreads are horrendous and no one can be trusted long enough for me to eat something today." I nearly choked on my words because all I really wanted to say was "Honey, I know they look like shit but please just take ten minutes to eat. It won't kill you and oh, by the way, I love you so please eat."

2. This week I almost kissed my boss twice in the elevator and three times in the car.

3. This week I almost put my arms around my boss when she was standing there looking so beautiful staring out the window in her office.

As you can see - I have to quit. My ability to compartmentalize is pretty much shot to hell. I know I could have waited to talk about this later but I wanted to let you know now in case you were worried about anything. You're always thinking twenty steps ahead of everyone else and at least thirty steps ahead of me so I'm sure this has already crossed your mind.

I've spoken to my other boss – Michelle's boss, and he is willing to let Andy Sachs out of the closet so I already have another job waiting for me. I can either stay two-weeks or not; it's up to you.

Oh…wait I forgot the biggest reason I need to quit! I plan on kissing every single inch of your very naked body as often as possible and I really don't think I should be doing that while I'm still working for you!

So—I quit.

I love you very much…


Ps: If I ever hear of you using the 'I can't eat because I can't trust anyone' excuse again, I'm going to kill you. That was officially one of the dumbest things I've ever heard you say. That's all.

Miranda read the letter one more time in between bouts of laughter. Now she was short one assistant but she was gaining so much more. There would be no two weeks' notice. Miranda already knew neither one of them could survive that. And as for the whole 'I can't eat because I can't trust anyone' excuse? Well she would have to think long and hard about that one.

Shutting her laptop, Miranda grabbed a note pad and wrote a quick note. Something to the effect of 'I accept your resignation-effective immediately'. As she finished Miranda looked up and could see Andrea's reflection in the bathroom mirror. She was wrapped in a white towel and was busy blow drying her hair. Miranda realized she couldn't wait any longer.

"Hey." Miranda leaned against the door frame, note in hand.

"Hey." Andrea kept drying her hair for a moment then turned the blow drier off and turned, leaning against the bathroom counter. "So did you call the girls?"

"Yes, yes I did. It was very short conversation. They instructed me to be nice to you and practically hung up on me." Miranda watched as Andrea turned back around and started putting moisturizer on her face. This whole thing felt extremely normal considering they had hardly spent any time even kissing. Here she was in nothing but a towel without the slightest hint of nervousness.

"Hm, and you checked your e-mails?"

"Yes, I checked my e-mail. I received a very interesting note from one of my employees."

"Oh?" Andrea turned back around and hopped up onto the counter top, her legs swinging back and forth lightly hitting the drawers underneath. Unfortunately the towel remained perfectly in place.

"Yes, it seems the wayward employee that has quite unexpectedly gone on vacation is now resigning. I can't say that I blame her though. Her reasons sound sufficient enough to me."

"So, you're in agreement?"Andrea bit her lip and raised her eyebrow all at the same time.

"I am. I have already written my acceptance letter." Miranda held up the hand-written note. "It is in effect as we speak. I'll not require a two week continuance. I wonder if she would like to keep this note?"

Andrea held out her hand. "I believe she would, for the sake of posterity." Her laughter echoed though-out the bathroom as Miranda stepped up and handed over the note. Andrea looked at it for a brief moment then placed it beside her. "Well then…" She put her arms around Miranda's neck. "I guess that's settled."

Miranda slid her arms around her waist and decided that this towel would have to go very soon. Very, very, soon. "It is…and now I would like to move on to other things." Miranda looked into her eyes as the tips of her fingers slipped under the towel and traveled up Andrea's thighs. Whether her skin was hot from the shower or from…other things, Miranda wasn't sure but it felt wonderful all the same.

Before Andrea kissed her she whispered "I love you" then brushed her lips against Miranda in a gentle kiss that was more meaningful than anything else. Miranda was careful to catalog that away for the future and then deepened it, slowly opening up and letting go. She placed her hand on the back of Andrea's neck, leaving one securely around her while she teased that full bottom lip that tormented her on a daily basis.

Andrea moaned and pulled back just enough to gain the upper hand and kissed Miranda so hard she couldn't breathe. Miranda moved both her hands back under the towel then and let them travel all the way up to Andrea's hips, digging her nails into her hot skin. She finally broke away from Andrea's attack for a breath of air then placed a soft kiss on the pulse point that was so clearly visible now.

While Miranda was preoccupied with tracing her collar bone with more soft kisses, Andrea's hands were in her hair, pulling her in even closer. "God Miranda…you feel so good, so good. I have needed you…like this… so bad…"

"I'm right here and I have every intention of giving you exactly what you want Andrea." Miranda moved back up and kissed along her ear. She felt Andrea shiver as she bit her ear lobe.

"Ah, Miranda…baby, please I need your hands…oh, God. I need your hands on me." Andrea let go of her and tried to undo the towel by herself but wasn't having any success. Miranda was more than happy to help and in two seconds the towel was unsecured and fell around her. Her hands immediately went to Andrea's hips again then slowly traveled up her back and down her rib cage.

"Andrea, you are so beautiful. I don't even think you realize how beautiful you are."

"I don't…hm, yes I love your hands. I love it…needed them for so long…" Hearing that, Miranda moved slowly over Andrea's sides again then used her thumbs to just barely brush against the edge of her breasts. Andrea arched her body forward, reaching out for more contact. Miranda again was more than happy to oblige and cupped her breasts that were nothing short of exquisite.

In an instant Miranda wondered why in the hell she ever thought a man could ever be this satisfying. Andrea nearly slid right off the counter when Miranda started to roll her nipples between her fingers and she pulled Miranda against her hard, trapping her between her legs. They kissed again, this time even deeper than before, exploring each other's mouths thoroughly.

When Miranda felt the back of her shirt being pulled up, she lifted her arms so it could be removed, completely forgetting about any hesitation over body image. After she was rid of the shirt Andrea went straight back to undressing her by unclasping her bra and pulling it off.

Miranda almost fell to her knees as Andrea pressed firmly against her body and their breasts touched for the first time. She sucked hard at the tender spot behind Andrea's ear, raking her nails down Andrea's back. Then suddenly without warning Miranda found her slacks down around her ankles. She quickly stepped out of them and kicked them behind her along with her shoes. Unable to avoid Andrea's breasts another second Miranda leaned down just enough to take a rock hard nipple into her mouth and teased it roughly with her tongue. She heard Andrea's head hit the mirror but refused to be distracted. She surmised that Andrea was just fine as she felt her nails digging into her scalp. "Oh my God! Miranda! Ah…don't stop…oh, yes."

"I'm not…ever stopping." Miranda switched to her other breast and bit down hard, sucking firmly at her nipple causing Andrea to buck against her and cry out. She let go of Miranda and leaned back on her hands. As she arched her back, offering herself up to Miranda's mouth, Miranda spread her thighs further apart.

The heat coming off of Andrea's body was now steaming hot and Miranda couldn't resist. She came up for air, kissing her way up Andrea's throat and jaw line. Finally reaching her lips she kissed her deep all the while teasing the inside of her hot, wet thighs with her finger tips. Andrea was bucking against her, pressing harder and harder, still trying to find the contact that she desperately needed.

"Miranda…please…oh shit…touch me...please touch me."

"Yes…I will darling…I will…I am." Miranda pulled her forward until her ass was barely on the counter and held her tight around the waist with one arm. "Look at me Andrea…I want to see your eyes when I touch you. I want to see you…"

Andrea threw her arms around Miranda's neck and rested her forehead against her. Breathing hard through her nose she said "I love you...please…ah, Miranda!"

Later on when Miranda thought about this moment she would remember how wet Andrea was and that it was all just for her. Every bit of it was all because of how much Andrea wanted her. She would remember how Andrea moved in beautiful, fluid movements; arching her back and moving her hips as Miranda teased her hard and sensitive clit. She would remember the sounds she made, moaning so loud…almost screaming when Miranda slowly entered her with two fingers, then three; moving through her hot, wet core so slowly. But for the time being, Miranda would concentrate on what she had in front of her and think about the memories she would have at a later date.

Andrea was clinging to her now, bucking against her in near hysterics. Miranda gripped her tightly, trying to keep her on the counter as she drove into her harder and harder. She buried her head in Andrea's neck kissing and biting it. "Come for me…so beautiful…you're so beautiful Andrea."

"Miran…Miranda…yes faster…yes!"

Miranda of course did her very best to grant Andrea's wish while brushing her thumb against Andrea's clit. Nothing that Andrea was saying now, crying out now, made any sense whatsoever and Miranda knew the end was very, very near.

Finally she stilled her hand deep inside and let Andrea move against her, then suddenly Miranda felt the orgasm rip through every fiber Andrea' body, inside and out. She fell back and Miranda tightened her grip on her as her head hit the mirror again. The way her body was arched, her breasts were now too irresistible again and demanded Miranda's immediate attention. She leaned down and brushed her tongue against a nipple; which caused Andrea to grind against her hand one more time and come again, screaming Miranda's name. It echoed through the bathroom much like her earlier laugh and it was the most amazing thing Miranda had ever heard.

She could still feel Andrea's body pulsing as she slowly removed her hand and held onto her, caressing her back. They were both breathing hard, completely spent.

"Ah…God, Miranda…I can't…I feel like I need to be held together."

Miranda pulled her limp body up, letting it rest against her. "I've got you…I'm not letting go."

"Good…good…Miranda I have never…that was…"

"The best thing I've ever done in my entire life."

Andrea laughed and patted her back. "Abso-fucking-luetly baby…I couldn't agree more."

"I'm just sorry it happened in the bathroom. That wasn't exactly how I imagined it."

Andrea finally lifted up her head. "Well I'm not. Why do you think I jumped up here in the first place?" She grinned shamelessly.

"Ah, I see. You planned this."

"Sort of…maybe…yes…I planned this too." She slid her hands down into the waist band of Miranda's soaked panties until they fell to the floor.

"Oh God…you planned this too?" Miranda shivered as Andrea's hands traveled over her breasts and down her stomach. Her hands were so soft.

"Yes…I planned this too. And much more."

Miranda couldn't help but jerk forward as Andrea's hand found its way through her drenched folds. She almost came right then and there but managed to distract herself by kissing Andrea hard and deep.

"You feel so good Miranda. So good. I knew you would…I knew it." Miranda spread her legs a little further apart to grant her better access. "Does this feel good baby…I want to make to make you feel good." Andrea continued to work her hand back and forth and Miranda's body unconsciously rocked against it.

"Yes…yes it does...I needed this. Not just now…Ah! Yes…yes inside." Andrea was now buried inside her and rubbed Miranda's clit hard on her way out each time. Miranda was moaning, more like growling with every thrust of Andrea's hand. She couldn't last much longer now. "Andrea…I can't…Darling I can't last…"

"Good…I don't want you to last…I want you to let go. Let go of everything for me Miranda. Let me have everything."

Miranda's body locked up so tight that somewhere in the furthermost corner of her mind she wondered if her very spine might snap. It remained intact but nothing else did. She climbed higher yet kept falling over the edge time and time again, never reaching an end. Her mind detached as she let go of everything just like Andrea asked her to and for the briefest of moments, she even let go of Miranda Priestly and found Miriam Princhek on the other side of all the things she had thrown away so long ago.

Without realizing it she was crying…sobbing almost. It was all too much. Andrea eased out of her and tightly held her to keep her from falling in her not only physical but mentally weakened state.

"I have you now Miranda…don't be afraid baby. I have you. Shh…" Miranda rested her head on Andrea's shoulder as she gripped the counter for support and tried to catch her breath. "I love you Miranda…I love you so much."

"I love you too…I'm sorry. I just…"

"No. No…never be sorry. Everything was perfect. Is perfect. I want you to be able to do that with me. To let me inside." Miranda's tears were wiped away as Andrea held her face in her hands. "I think we should go lay down. What do you think?"

Miranda took a step back and helped Andrea off the counter. "I think I'd like that."

Andrea led her by the hand into the bedroom and pulled back the covers. "I know this is an odd question to ask right now but, do you have a side?"

"The middle." Miranda smiled.

"Well me too. Come on." They crawled into bed and Miranda was instantly gathered up into Andrea's arms. She let out another sigh of contentment. The third one in less than twelve hours. That was definitely a world record.

"Are you okay?" Andrea asked as she smoothed back Miranda's hair.

"Yes, yes I am. I haven't this okay in...well, forever."

"I know exactly what you mean."

Sometime in the night Miranda woke up to the sound of more rain. In the shadows she could see Andrea, on her stomach in a heavy sleep not making a single sound. She looked peaceful laying there…like she didn't have a care or worry in the world. Perhaps she didn't.

Twice they had awoken in the night; exploring each other's bodies, learning how to give and take the love they felt for each other. Miranda had never truly known how to love someone with her body, and certainly had never allowed someone else to bring her body and mind to such unimaginable heights as what she had experienced with Andrea. Never in a million years did she think she could find even a tenth of the happiest she felt right now and there was no way she could lose that. Miranda knew in her heart that she would do whatever it took to keep Andrea with her…and happy.

Miranda laid there for a while, her mind drifting back and forth over the events of the past week then she remembered the boots. Since there was no way Andrea was waking up any time soon, Miranda slipped out of bed and put on her robe. She left the door to the bedroom open just a crack and went to find the boots that were still in the living room area.

The suite had a small kitchen so Miranda turned the light on above the sink to take a closer look. She had been right. The boots were old. Old and scuffed up to the point that Miranda knew a bit of soap would not do anymore harm to them since they looked like they had never been properly polished much less cared for in the correct way.

Miranda filled one side of the sink with a few inches of hot soapy water and unlaced the boots. The laces were equally horrid. She left those to soak then taking a rag she brushed the larger bits of dirt and ash away. Next she wet the rag and with a tiny bit of soap scrubbed each boot taking special care to get any dirt out of the soles as well. Soon satisfied with her work she dried them off holding each one gently.

It was silly she knew but she couldn't help it. As horrible as they looked Miranda would never allow these boots to be thrown away. Not only because Andrea had come to her in them but because of what she had done for her in them. Boxing everything up, shielding her from the things she could not deal with; so no, these boots were not going anywhere.

One cup of tea later the laces were dry enough to go back in the boots. After finishing this last task Miranda set them back down by the couch in the exact spot they had been in before.

Slipping back into bed she noticed that Andrea still had not moved one inch in her sleep. Yet when Miranda moved closer she stirred and threw an arm across Miranda's stomach. Shortly thereafter Miranda fell back to sleep, dreaming of her mother's house. It was in perfect condition, rebuilt anew. There were a pair of boots by the door and she could hear her girls laughing in the background.

The following morning and afternoon were spent in much the same way as the previous night, making love and occasionally thinking about breakfast and lunch. Oddly enough the girls never called that day and neither did James until it was time for him to take them to the airport where a private jet waited to take them back to New York. While the boxes were loaded under Andrea's supervision to ensure they were safe and would not encounter any damage along the way; Miranda stood with James by the car as they waited to board.

"Whether you like it or not, I'm going to hug you Mia." James laughed and gathered her up in a tight embrace. "You must come see us more often. I know you don't like Celia but she does try. Put up with her for me at least?"

"Oh, alright. I'll make an exception so long as you inform her that I will not subject myself to all that cigarette smoke. It's positively revolting."

"Yes, yes. I'll do that. Ah, here comes the light of my life." Andrea was approaching them and Miranda slapped James on the arm.

"Will you stop that. She is no such thing. You are just a jealous old fool."

"That might be true but I do enjoy her. Bring her with you or don't show up at all."

"Oh I see. You don't want to see me! You want to see her! Well…honestly I cannot blame you." Miranda smiled wickedly.

"Alright guys everything is loaded. They're ready for us." Andrea stepped up and much to Miranda's horror gave James another hug. That made five in the past forty-five minutes.

"Will you stop hugging him. As I told you before he's useless and –"

"I know, I know. He's useless and unattractive…just ask his wife Celia." Instead of getting away from him she kissed him on the cheek. Argh. "Come see us James. Miranda has tons of room and I can take you sight seeing."

"I just might do that. Sooner rather than later." He smiled and winked at Miranda and she rolled her eyes. Fabulous.

"Now that she's taken it upon herself to invite you into my home I think it's high time we leave. One more hug then we're off James."

"Fine, fine." James hugged them both and Miranda even managed to tell him that she loved him. Small miracles happen every day.

"Okay, you ready?" Andrea took her hand as they walked up to the plane.

"Yes, it's time. I have so much to do. I'm sure Nigel has half destroyed everything and then there's the matter of finding a new assistant. I do hope the next one manages to at the very least not skip town to trot around the globe. I have little time for that."

"Oh, yes I hope so too." Bumping her shoulder Andrea started to pull her up the steps of the plane but Miranda stopped mid-way. "What's wrong?"

Miranda turned around and stared up into the evening sky. She knew she would be coming back soon. "You were right Andrea…"


"You were right…on the phone…when you said I could make new memories here. I can…I've already begun."

The End

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