DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: In the same 'verse as When Ms. Priestly Met Mrs. Sachs. A very strong Angst warning and a Do NOT read at work warning on this one. Beta credit to xenavirgin, akasarahsmom, jennedyjld and an artistic credit for the tattoo design to needled_ink1975.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Nightmares Are Dreams Too
By quiethearted (QH Fletcher)


Chapter 1

Walking into her kitchen as she closed the fastener on her bracelet, Miranda Priestly headed directly for the coffeemaker. Reaching for the carafe, she filled the clear glass mug that her housekeeper conveniently left out for her each evening. She turned on the small under cabinet TV as she took the first sip, intent on listening to the early news before her housekeeper, Estella, arrived to get the twins ready for school. Knowing Roy, her driver, would be waiting outside, she opened the Book where she had left it on the counter before going to bed and scanned back over the notes she had made the previous evening as the news anchor droned on until a story caught her attention.

"This just in: New York Mirror reporter Andrea Sachs was found dead in her apartment this morning. Police are investigating though as yet there has been no word as to cause of death. Ms. Sachs is best known for her prize winning series on abuses in the city's foster care system. She was twenty-eight years old. More on this story as it develops. Now we go to James with today's weather report."

The twins came running when they heard a crash followed by their mother's scream, "NOOOOOO!" Terrified beyond words, they held hands as they rushed into the kitchen, followed by a curious Patricia, unsure what they would find. Neither expected it to be their mother on her knees in a pool of rapidly cooling coffee and shards of broken glass, crying uncontrollably.

"Mom! Mommy? What…" Cassidy began only to be stopped by her sister grabbing her arm and pointing towards the TV.

"Cassie, it's Andy!"

The two watched as footage of Andy receiving an award rolled on the small screen and the anchor once again recited the small amount of information he had to impart. They looked at each other with horror filled eyes before throwing themselves at their mother, seeking to both give and receive comfort.

A short time later, Estella arrived and was surprised when Miranda did not pass her on the steps in front of the townhouse. She hurried to unlock the door since she realized something must be wrong for Ms. Priestly not to be coming out the door ready to leave for the office. Hearing sounds in the kitchen, she rushed in to find the three Priestlys huddled together on the floor with Patricia huddled tight against them uttering small concerned cries. Her ponderous head turned towards the door and a low growl emanated from deep in her furry chest, warning Estella from coming too close. Turning she ran back out to the car and yanked open the door.

"Roy, you have to come in right now. There's something terribly wrong with Ms. Miranda and the girls. The dog will not let me close."

Without waiting to hear more, Roy threw himself from the car and raced into the house.

"Where are they?" he shouted back over his shoulder.

"The kitchen." Came the breathless answer.

Dropping to his knees, Roy wasn't sure exactly what to do as he too received a rumbling warning.

"Ms. Priestly, are you all right? Girls?"

One flushed, tear stained face lifted from her mother's shoulder to meet his gaze, the blue irises glowing eerily in the surrounding redness.

"Andy's dead," came the hoarse whisper.

He nodded silently as his own tears began to flow. Taking out his cell, he dialed the Runway offices. When he heard "Miranda Priestly's office," in a clipped British accent, Roy took a deep breath in an attempt to find his voice.

"Emily?" He knew his words were strangled but it was the best he could manage. "Find a TV, turn on the local news."

Arrested by his tone, Emily rose, hurried into Miranda's office and threw open the cabinet that doubled as an entertainment center. Grabbing the remote, she hit the power button on the large flat screen TV that Miranda used to view the coverage on various fashion events and designer's preview videos. She was watching a different station but the coverage was no less effecting. She grabbed for the back of a chair to steady herself while still retaining the presence of mind to hit the record button on the TIVO.

"How's Miranda, Roy?"

"It's not good here, Emily. They're all three just…shattered and the damned dog won't let us near them."

Though it was hard to imagine Miranda as less than in total control, the Brit took him at his word.

"I'll reschedule the morning. Nigel can handle anything that cannot wait should Miranda ask. I'll call her physician and the twin's father and have them both there within the hour. I'll call Andy's parents as well. You may need to pick them up at the airport later. Until then, don't leave them, Roy."

"I'm not going anywhere." He started to hang up and then thought better of it."Oh, and Emily…"


"Find her some answers." There was no need to explain which her he was speaking of. Emily had never done less than her very best for Miranda and today the Brit intended to exceed even that.

"Very next thing. I'll call when I know more."

Hanging up she dialed Nigel.

"Come to Miranda's office. Right now, Nigel." Without waiting for a response, she ended that call and placed the next one while simultaneously calling in the second assistant.

"Meredith. Call Miranda's physician and have him go to the townhouse immediately. There is no excuse acceptable for him not being there in the next 30 minutes." The cell diverted her attention. "Hello? Elliott? You need to go to Miranda's immediately…I don't bloody care who you're meeting with. Your children need you. Miranda needs you, so get your bleeding arse over there…Yes, well, she can fire me if she so chooses, but you she'll bloody well kill…that's better." Flipping her cell shut, she headed for her computer and Miranda's schedule. When Nigel entered moments later, she was firing off e-mails while talking on the phone. Tossing the remote to him, she mouthed "TIVO" and continued with her conversation.

"No, Miranda will not be able to meet with Mr. Ravitz later today. She is not available until later in the week…I'm sorry, Susan, I know Irv's schedule is packed, but so is Miranda's and she has urgent business to attend to that cannot be put off…Well, obviously it's more urgent than a meeting with Irv…I don't care what you tell him. Tell him she flew to China to breed silkworms for all I care, just reschedule…fine, I can work with that, ta."

She looked up as a very pale Nigel came back out of Miranda's office.

"I've rescheduled the entire morning and re-arranged most of the afternoon. There's one meeting that can't be cancelled because the designer is leaving tonight for Europe and won't be back for two weeks. If I reschedule that, we won't have what we need from him for next month's issue in time. Also Patrick needs to know the final dates and the models Miranda chose for the Dior shoot. I believe she gave you that information yesterday, so if you could call him back."

"Emily…" His voice was tight with emotion and unshed tears.

"I know, Nigel," she snapped and drew a shaky breath. "But that won't help Miranda right now and n-nothing can help An-," she stopped and fought for control, "…the other person. I'm waiting for a call back from Ms. Warner's PA. They ar…were close friends and hopefully, Captain Polniaczek can give me the answers Miranda is going to need. I have to do my job, Nigel. It's the only thing I can do for them both. You need to do yours too."

She held out a small stack of message slips. Wordlessly, he took them and turned back to Miranda's desk to make his calls. Emily was right and eventually this nightmare had to end.

It was two hours later before Emily received the call from Blair Warner's office. In that time Nigel had taken care of his share of the calls and Roy had brought the book to Runway so the rest of the staff could get to work on the changes. The Brit had spoken to Elliott, the twin's father, at the townhouse and learned that all three Priestly's had been sedated and were currently ensconced in Miranda's bed together, as the twins refused to be parted from their mother for even a moment, a fact that did not surprise the red-head in the least. The three had always been extremely close, regardless of the circumstances. Now, more than ever, they would need each other.

Donatella had called to inform Emily that her private jet would be landing in Ohio shortly and to call the Sachs family and inform them that a car would pick up anyone who wished to come to New York. It was Donatella's opinion that Miranda would need her family close at this time so she was making it happen. If there wasn't room at the townhouse for everyone, the Brit was to call her and she would see to arranging accommodations at the Ritz personally. Donatella had even arranged for her personal driver to meet them on this end and ferry everyone to the townhouse thereby leaving Roy free to assist the Priestlys. Emily had stammered her thanks and placed the call to Ohio. The Sachs family would be there shortly after lunch. The strange woman had even arranged for that, sending her own chef to assist the Priestlys' cook in serving the catered meal she had arranged.

Emily supposed she shouldn't be surprised. Ever since Donatella had assisted in Miranda's mad flight across country to pursue her fleeing lover, the Italian had been enthralled with their relationship. At the dinner she had insisted on as payment for her assistance, Donatella had become captivated by the brunette on sight, a fact that had caused the editor no small amount of jealousy, knowing of her lover's natural preference for older women. It had not helped when the Italian had a personal scent created for the younger woman for the holidays. Miranda had looked ready to dip her friend in a boiling pot of ambergris when the gift arrived at the Runway offices addressed to the brunette. At their next meeting, Donatella had shrugged elegantly and informed Miranda it would do her good not to become too complacent where that delicious angel was concerned. She had winked mischievously at Emily when the editor stalked away.

Shaking herself out of her revere, Emily got back to work. The Italian might be a character with a penchant for tweaking her boss' baser emotions, but right now, she was a goddess to the Brit. In a single phone call, the Italian had cleared hours of work off Emily's list, leaving her to concentrate on other equally important details. One of which was that bloody cow that sat in front of her.

Emily had taken it upon herself to send Meredith on as many errands as she could find, manufacturing them if she had to. She just wasn't able to tolerate seeing anyone sit at the desk across the office from her. It had to stay empty, if it was she could pretend the smart, fat girl, her friend, was on a Starbucks run for Miranda and just maybe Emily, herself, would survive this day. She knew it was denial, pure and simple, but it was all she had right now. Nothing else would let her stay in one piece. She had already fielded calls from Doug and Lily that left her shaking and nauseous. She had even sent a tearful Serena back to her office with a brisk, "Not now."

The Brit was surprised and yet, not, when Ms. Warner returned the call herself. It was clear the other woman was also distraught but fighting to hold it together for her wife. Captain Polniaczek could not provide any information prior to its official release by the NYPD, but Blair was a different matter. Like Miranda, she was a powerful woman who was used to having her questions answered, so she was doing the fashion maven the courtesy of providing that information. The blonde made clear to Emily that if it had been Jo, she would not have rested until she knew everything that had happened to the woman she loved, nor would she so insult Miranda as to assume the editor would accept less. When she finally hung up, Emily was shaking uncontrollably and it was all she could do to stumble into the Ladies room in time, before her stomach expelled everything she had eaten in her entire life and then tried to force itself out her throat.

She had no idea how long she sat huddled in the stall, arms tightly wrapped around her middle. Oh, god, Andrea. It wasn't right, what had happened to her friend. It was even more wrong that Emily was going to have to look Miranda in the eye and tell her exactly what that was. Blair Warner had passed on all the information that would be released at the next morning's press conference as well as everything she knew as the wife of the Captain whose unit was conducting the investigation, knowing it wouldn't be long before 'informed sources' began to leak information. Her knowledge was extensive and none of it was good. It was, in fact, more horrible than the red-head could have imagined and she would have willingly given up her entire future in fashion not to be the one to have to put those images in Miranda Priestly's mind.

Slowly she struggled to her feet. She needed to rinse her mouth out, call Roy and then find Nigel. She might have to do this, but she'd be damned if she was doing it alone. She was going to have to further shatter the heart of the woman she admired and seal the fate of everyone at Runway when she destroyed the soul of their queen. It wouldn't hurt to have Miranda's physician close by either. They might both need a sedative after this.

Her life would have been so much easier if the tall brunette had never walked into Runway, but Emily couldn't bring herself to be angry with her. With that enormous smile and those big doe eyes, she had touched each of their lives in some way and they were all better for it, especially Miranda. The editor had been walking on clouds the last six months. Emily could still remember the day she found out exactly who Miranda's new love interest was.

Emily had been keeping a close watch on her boss of late. The woman was acting entirely out of character and it unnerved the Brit. She had actually caught Miranda smiling this morning and at nothing! The editor was just sitting at her desk, gazing off into space with this self-satisfied "I've got a secret" smile on her face. While it was true she had been a great deal easier to get along with lately, it still left Emily jumpy, fearful that whatever had caused this remarkable change might too soon end it as well.

The current second assistant had lasted for an entire month and Emily was about to get the less than brilliant girl trained sufficiently that she might actually last out the year. True, Meredith had made several mistakes in that time and Miranda was no less scathing in her commentary, she was just much less quick to fire at the slightest infringement. Emily had hopes of once again having her Sunday's free, as was her entitlement as first assistant. It seemed ages since she'd been able to do more than give Serena a hurried wave as the Brazilian scurried in and out of Miranda's office during run-throughs and she was looking forward to an entire day of reading the paper and watching old Bette Davis movies together. They both adored the clothes in movies from the 30's and 40's and agreed that the storylines and acting from the time were far superior to anything offered today, especially Bette Davis.

Still, she was curious as to what was causing this strange euphoria Miranda now traveled around in. With a smirk, Emily realized that there were some habits the editor would never change, so she flipped open her phone and punched in a number from her speed dial.

"Hey, its Emily. Meet me for drinks after you get done. I'm buying. The usual place." She flipped her phone shut ending the call before the other party had time to give a negative response. She'd have her answers before the night was over.

Emily had just settled into a small booth in the back of the crowded bar and taken a sip of her martini when her guest slid onto the seat across from her. Negligently, she pushed the glass of draft closer to the other person.

"You and I have a very intricate relationship," she began with a small smile. "We need each other to make life as we know it bearable. Keeping secrets on certain issues is not in either of our best interests. So I suggest you tell me exactly what is going on with her." Emily knew she would not have to explain which her she was referring to.

Her companion gulped down half the beer before resting the glass back on the table and giving her a long, steady look.

"In your vernacular, spill it, Roy," Emily urged.

Not really happy about it, but knowing the red-head was right, the driver began to tell her everything he knew beginning with the first time Miranda had called him to pick up the girls and her at the park. To his surprise, Andy had accompanied them back to the townhouse.

"…so Andy walked Patricia into the townhouse as I was pulling away. I think that's when they started dating." He took another long drink of his beer and indicated to the waitress to bring them both a refill.

"Bollocks they are!" Emily couldn't believe the story he was telling.

"Miranda had me pick up Andy a couple of nights later and take her over to the townhouse again, stopping on the way for Andy to rent a movie. I guess they were staying in that night cause three hours later, I picked up Andy and drove her home," he continued.

"Bloody hell," Emily was too shocked to do more than mutter.

"Every couple of days, Miranda has me pick up Andy and take her to the townhouse. Then a few hours later, I drive her back to her apartment. They meet for lunch at least once a week. I tell ya, Em, they're dating."

"Buggery bollocks!" The red-head snapped and downed her second martini in a straight shot.

"You're watching too much Ab Fab, Em," Roy chuckled hoping to distract the Brit.

"What? Oh, yes, well…Saturday night, my place…we're watching three more episodes. Serena said she'd cook. Are you coming?"

"You know I have a thing for Edina and Serena's cooking," he laughed. "Wouldn't miss it, I need to get going. She's coming in extra early in the morning."

"Yes, she has a meeting with Irv. There's also a dinner meeting tomorrow night," she supplied wanting to do her fair share in the name of open communication.

"Can I give you a lift?" He asked, sliding out of the booth.

"No, Serena will be along in a bit. Enjoy the rest of your evening and I'll talk to you in the morning."

With a two finger salute, he headed towards the door.

It hadn't taken Emily long after coming to work for Miranda to realize the first assistant's job could be much easier if she had a good rapport with the woman's regular driver, something her predecessor never considered, so the Brit set out to make a new friend whenever they were alone in the car together. Upon discovering that he was a fan of British TV and the comedies especially, she had introduced him to Absolutely Fabulous, one of her favorite shows. Along with Serena, they would get together whenever they could make the time and watch a few episodes on DVD with one or the other providing the meal.

The Brit had no doubt that Roy was correct. If he said Miranda was dating Andrea Sachs, then that was exactly what was happening, nor could Emily argue with the fact that the editor seemed supremely happy in the relationship. However, the red-head couldn't help wondering what would happen if it ended. Miranda had been a harridan after Paris and as she had been particularly vicious to any new second assistant, Emily knew Andrea's leaving had more than a little to do with the editor's mood. The best the Brit could estimate things had only begun to approach normal again when the brunette walked back into her boss' life.

Well, she was just going to have to keep her fingers crossed and hope for the best. Not that she wouldn't also be paying close attention to how this little romance developed and doing everything in her power to keep it on a smooth track because a happy Miranda meant a much easier time for Emily in the office. And just maybe the Brit would get a chance at a bit of a life of her own. Serena had been dropping hints lately that she wouldn't mind being more than just a friend and Emily's mother definitely hadn't raised any stupid children. The woman was exquisite and they fit on many levels. Maybe she could convince her to stay after Roy left on Saturday and they could have a nice chat about possibilities.

The Brit couldn't keep a huge smile off her face as the woman in question walked through the door. Every eye in the room seemed to follow the Brazilian as she made her way to the back. And she wants me, Emily thought with a happy sigh. It looked like life had nowhere to go but up.

Back at her desk, Emily forwarded the calls to Meredith's cellphone and then sent the woman a quick text notifying her that she was doing so as well as one to Roy that she and Nigel were ready to be picked up. She gathered up the things she would need to assure Miranda that Runway had been taken care of. Then she sat at her desk and steeled herself for what was ahead while she waited for Nigel to join her.

What had happed to Andrea was horrendous beyond thought. Some of the horror of what she had been told must have still been evident in her face because Nigel paused as he was walking towards her desk.


She looked at him, tears shining for a moment in her eyes before she blinked them away and forced a bland expression.

"Do not ask," she cautioned. "I can only do this once and Miranda needs to know more than you." She stood and picked up the files she had gathered and her pad before stopping and staring sightless across the room. "No, no one needs to know something like this. I wish to bloody hell I didn't, but Miranda will want the details and I have to provide them." The eyes she turned on Nigel were so tortured he couldn't stop an involuntary wince. "After this, I'm done for the day, Nigel. I'm going home and I'm taking Serena with me. I may have to deliver this bomb, but you will bleeding well handle the fallout."

He could do no more than nod before following the red-head out to the elevators. He stayed silent on the trip down and as they exited the building. He looked towards Roy just as the driver met Emily's eyes and for a moment, Nigel thought he might have to do the driving himself. The tall rugged man paled at what he saw in the redhead's eyes. He tightened his grip on the door as if he needed the support to remain standing. It passed in a second and he stepped forward to assist the Brit. As delicately as if he was handling the most precious crystal, he handed his friend into the car and closed the door before following Nigel to the other side.

The silence was thick and unbroken on the ride to the townhouse, each trapped in their own thoughts, Roy and Nigel awash in memories of their smiling friend, Emily trying desperately not to let terrifying new images replace those mental pictures. They glided down a remarkably peaceful street. There were no paparazzi in sight since Miranda and Andy were still keeping their involvement under wraps. Only those closest to the couple knew they were together, though Nigel supposed it would come out during the course of the investigation. Hopefully, by then they would all be better able to handle the circus that would ensue.

As the car came to a stop in front of Miranda's home, the Brit spoke for the first time.

"Roy, you will come in with us. When I'm done, you will call Serena and tell her everything I've said. She is to be ready to be picked up and you will deliver us both to my apartment."

"Em, what about M…," he started.

"Please, Roy. Miranda will have to allow this or I can't do it. Nigel will make her understand."

Something in her voice made him simply nod and agree.

"Ok, Emily. Whatever you need."

He stepped out of the car and came around to open her door. Nigel followed her out and together the three mounted the steps to Miranda's front door. Using her key, Emily opened it and they all walked in. The house seemed eerily quiet with only the sound of whispered voices coming from the living room. It's always like that when someone dies, the Brit thought. As if speaking too loudly will make it real before it needs to be. Taking a shaky breath she led her little entourage further into the house.

Miranda was seated on the couch with someone who had to be Andrea's mother. The resemblance was so striking it brought Emily to a stop. Both women turned their eyes towards the doorway. The hollowness in their gazes seemed to echo through the room. Miranda's dull blue gaze narrowed on her assistant as if she could read the red-head's mind and share in the knowledge contained there before waving a dismissive hand at Roy in a still elegant gesture.

"You may go, R…"

"No, Miranda." Nigel cut her off. "For Emily's sake, no."

To everyone's shock, she simply nodded. "Very well. I assume that means you have information for me, Emily."

The Brit walked further into the room and sat on the edge of a chair as if she would take flight at any moment. Miranda was as composed as Emily had ever seen her, but for the first time it seemed to be caused by the lack of an internal spark as opposed to the iron-willed control the Brit was used to.

"Yes. If there's anyone else…" Her voice trailed off.

"The girls don't need to hear this," Miranda admonished. "And Richard is with them. Ellen and I will tell them what is appropriate."

Emily leaned forward and set the folders in her hands on the low table in front of her boss, feeling she needed to get the business matters over with first since she doubted anyone would want to deal with them after they heard what she had to say.

"These are the details of what was done at Runway today. Nigel can go over them when you're ready."

"Yes, whatever," Miranda brushed it aside. "What about Andréa? Are they positive it's her?"

Emily paused a second seeking the best way to word her answer.

"The police strongly believe it's Andrea. They are relying on DNA to give them a positive ID and that could take up to a week."

"Do…do I need to go and make an identification? Surely, Jo knows if it's her." Miranda was having trouble understanding. Captain Polniaczek was one of Andréa's closest friends.

"The bod…I don't know a gentle way to say this, Miranda."

"Then just say it, Emily." The editor was quickly becoming angry.

"Miranda." Ellen laid a calming hand on the editor's arm. "Let her finish."

"They can't carry out the identification by normal means," Emily hurried on. "She…there's too much damage." The women in front of her froze and the choking sound from behind could only have been Nigel. The Brit clasped her hands tightly together in her lap and focused her eyes on them. Refusing to look up again, she began to talk, explaining everything Blair Warner had told her. As dispassionately as possible she detailed the long hours of abuse and torture that had been inflicted, the methods used to make fingerprint, dental and visual identification impossible and the savage beating that had finally snuffed out a life. The silence was a tangible thing in the room when she was done, until suddenly, Miranda rose and ran to the nearest bathroom. The sound of retching filled the void. Ellen rose and went to the assistance of the only connection she had left to her daughter, the woman who loved her Andy with equal intensity.

"Roy." Emily's voice was hoarse as she fought to contain her own emotions. Just a little longer. Just until I'm home with Serena.

"I'll make that call for you, Roy. I'll make sure Serena is waiting in the lobby. Take them both home." Nigel watched as Roy led the redhead from the house, then he dropped into the chair Emily had vacated and covering his face with his hands he wept for the wonderful young woman he knew and the ending no one deserved.


Chapter 2

Ellen applied a cool cloth to the back of Miranda's neck and slid her arm around the woman's waist to help support her.

"Miranda, I'm here." It was all the brunette could think to say, knowing that the proud woman would not easily accept anyone's help, except for the one person who wasn't there.

That softly spoken assurance seemed all the catalyst the white-haired woman needed to begin dragging her iron-willed composure back into place. Slowly, she stood and turned to the sink, pulling the cloth from her neck she used it to wipe her face and mouth before folding it and laying it on the counter. Retrieving a small bottle of mouthwash from a cabinet she poured a small amount and used it to clean her mouth, as well as to buy time to strengthen her control. Finger combing her hair into place, she stared deeply into her own eyes in the mirror.

"I have faced every negative event in my life with only a minimal or short-term interruption in how I conduct myself," she spoke to her reflection. "No matter how traumatic the event, I continued to do and to be the reality I created for myself many years ago. There was comfort in knowing that a large portion of my world would not change." For the first time, she glanced at Ellen. "Andréa changed that reality, redefined it for me. I don't know who to be, how to be, without her. For the first time in many years, I find I'm frightened. What if I can't be this Miranda…her Miranda…without her?"

Ellen held her tongue because she knew the other woman did not want her reassurances, but, rather, simply needed to give voice to the one truth that she could never share with anyone who did not feel the same level of loss. In that, Ellen had to question herself. She wasn't feeling the soul deep pain that Miranda or her husband displayed. What she felt was almost a reflected hurt, as if she felt for their sense of loss. She knew it was possible that she was in shock and numb to the full extent of her own pain because of it. What kind of mother am I? Why can't I grieve? That was the stark truth of the situation. She wasn't grieving. Deep within herself, Ellen Sachs felt no need to grieve for her only daughter. There was something very wrong.

When Miranda led Nigel upstairs to her study so they could go over what had been done at Runway that day, Ellen took the opportunity to escape to the guest room she was sharing with her husband. When they had received the call from Emily that morning, she had insisted they not call Andy's brother, not until they had reached New York and obtained more information. There had always been a deep connection between Andy and Richie, as there was with all the Sachses, but with those two it was even stronger. If something was wrong with Andy, her brother would know. Ellen was surprised, and yet not, to have not heard from him by now.

Retrieving her cellphone, she settled into a chair in the corner of the room. She quickly brought him up on speed dial and made the connection. He answered after only one ring.

"What's wrong, Mom? Is Dad ok?" She closed her eyes and took her first full breath since awakening to the phone ringing that morning.

"Richie, we're both fine. I need to ask you something and I want you to give me your first thought, all right?"

"Sure, Mom. Why all the mystery?"

"I'll explain in a minute. Now, is your sister all right?"

"Yeah, she's great. I haven't spoken to her in a while, but I feel like she's really happy. Why? What's going on?" The concern was evident in his voice.

Ellen opened her eyes and let the tears slide unheeded down her cheeks. She had not been able to cry before because there had been no need. Now there was…relief.

"Richie, your father and I are in New York. We're staying at Miranda's townhouse. I don't know a gentle way to say this. The local news is reporting that Andy has been murdered, but like you, I don't have a feeling for her being in trouble. I know there has to be some mistake but so far, everything points to it being Andy that was found. I'm not sure what to do next." She continued to quickly fill him in on all that had happened that day. When she was finished there was a moment of silence as Richie processed all she'd told him.

"You said this cop was a friend of Andy's?"

"Yes. She and her wife are very close to both Andy and Miranda."

"Talk to her. There's got to be something there that proves it's not Andy, something the cops are holding back or maybe, just don't realize is important. That's where I'd start."

Ellen sighed, relieved to have a direction to go in.

"Thank you, Richie. I'll talk to Miranda about it right away," she assured him.

"I'll get a flight as soon as I can and call you with the details," he began.

"No, you stay there. We still don't know where Andy is. She might try to contact you if there is a problem and someone needs to be there for your grandmother in case this goes beyond the local news."

"Hey, call me and keep me updated as soon as you know something." The concern in his voice was evident. Andy might not be dead, but not knowing where she was worried him.

Assuring him that she would call as soon as she had more information, Ellen hung up and went in search of Miranda and a conversation she was not looking forward to.

Miranda raised her phone to her ear for perhaps the hundredth time that day. She didn't know why she continued to torture herself in this way, but she seemed helpless to stop. Pressing a button with her thumb, she listened to the message she had received the evening before while she was in a dinner meeting.

"Hey, Miranda. It's me. Ok, you hate voice mail, but I don't really have a choice. I'm kinda pressed for time. I know I was supposed to come by later, but I've got to go out of town. There's a couple of interviews I need to do and they just can't wait. It'll be really late before I'm finished tonight, so I'll call you tomorrow night if I'm going to be gone longer than a day. Shouldn't take more than two at most. Maybe we can do something with the kids this weekend…I mean, if you're free. Damn, I miss you already. I love you. Bye."

With a trembling hand, she saved the message carefully, wishing her mailbox were full of similar messages. There were so few such reminders. Their time together, after all, had not yet amounted to a year. She had only just begun to think of some way they could celebrate their first anniversary, wanting to do something to show Andréa how incredibly precious the younger woman was to her. Now instead of planning a celebration, she would be planning… It's too much.

A knock broke into her thoughts. Slipping the phone into her pocket where she would always have it close, Miranda took a moment to settle herself.

"Come in." She swallowed trying to clear some of the hoarseness from her voice and tried again in stronger tones. "Come in."

Ellen opened the door and stepped into the room.

"Miranda, I need to speak with Andy's police friend."

"Joanne will be here in an hour to take my statement. You can speak with her then," Miranda assured.

Leaning back against the door jam, arms crossed at her waist, Ellen smiled at the other woman.

"An NYPD captain coming to your home to take a statement? You do rate," she teased gently.

Something in the tone struck deep into the center of Miranda's grief. This was Andréa's mother. At the least, she should be equally as devastated, but that wasn't what was coming across to Miranda.

"Joanne Polniaczek and her wife are dear friends of Andréa's and of mine now. She is doing this as a courtesy and to keep the press at bay for as long as possible," Miranda replied, her tone and posture stiff and unyielding.

"Miranda, I was just teasing," Ellen hurried to reassure the other woman. "It's really nice of Captain Polniaczek to make the gesture."

"And that's exactly what's bothering me right now, Ellen. How can you possibly joke about anything? There is absolutely nothing funny about any of this." Standing abruptly, Miranda began to pace the room. "It's a nightmare of epic proportions and you, as Andréa's mother, should be the most devastated of all. Instead, you're standing here making weak jokes." Turning she stalked towards the other woman. "Explain that to me, Ellen. Explain how you're not as destroyed by this as I am. Let me in on that little secret and maybe, just maybe, I can wake up from this…this…horror that is my life right now. Explain it to me, please."

Ellen stood quietly, staring at the woman who breathed so raggedly in front of her. Never had she seen Miranda so totally distraught. Except for that moment in the bathroom, her grief had seemed completely internalized, appearing on the surface as if the white haired woman had simply shut down. For the first time, Ellen realized just how destructive this was to the other woman. Stupid, Ellen. You know how much Miranda loves Andy. Of course, she's torn apart by this. Unable to let Miranda continue to suffer in this way, Ellen placed a gentle hand on her shoulder, gratified when it wasn't shrugged off as she expected it to be.

"It's very simple, Miranda. I don't think that it was Andy."

The editor stared at her as if she'd suddenly grown a second head that was spouting bad knock-knock jokes.

"But the police…Emily said…," Miranda sputtered.

"I don't care what they say. If something had happened to my daughter, I would know. I would have known before Emily called this morning. Her brother would have known. The simple fact is neither of us believes that the poor girl they found was Andy. I'm hoping that by talking to her police friend I can prove it and then we can get on with the business of finding my daughter because I do believe that, wherever she is, it's possible she could be in danger."

Miranda stared hard at the other woman, searching her eyes for any hint of doubt and finding nothing. She was terrified to believe Ellen was right only to have it all cave in on them later, but she couldn't stop the tiny sprig of hope that unfurled deep in her heart.

"Very well. Joanne and Blair should be here soon, as this is to be an unofficial visit." Closing her eyes and taking a shaky breath, Miranda sent up a silent prayer. "I sincerely wish you're right, but I can't let myself hope for it. I don't think I could survive the let down if you're wrong."

Ellen squeezed the shoulder that her hand still rested on.

"I'm not ready to believe otherwise," she said. "But you do what you have to. Now I need to go fill Richard in on what's going on."

"Not a word to my girls," Miranda cautioned. "I won't have them needlessly hoping for something that may well be little more than a mother's wishful thinking."

Nodding her agreement, Ellen hurried out of the study to find her husband. Convincing him wouldn't be half as hard as convincing Miranda, who just couldn't afford to believe without solid proof. Her mother's instinct would be good enough for Richard.

Miranda's eyes swept over the two women who entered her living room ahead of Richard, who had opened the front door for them. Blair was impeccably dressed, as always, and Joanne's Armani suit earned a slight nod from the editor, which caused the captain's wife to cast a loving glance at her spouse, before stepping forward and holding out both hands to Miranda.

"Miranda, I'm so sorry. I'm still having trouble believing it all," Blair offered, a trace of tears in her voice.

"Thank you, Blair." Miranda took the blonde's hands and they exchanged their usual air kiss, though the squeeze of hands was much stronger and more reassuring than usual. Turning to the Captain, the white haired woman found herself enveloped in a hug. Miranda allowed herself the slightest moment to revel in it, so reminiscent was it of how her Andréa would hug. Both of the brunettes had always been effusive in their displays of affection. It made the ache of missing Andréa both easier and harder. "Joanne, thank you for coming."

Jo released the older woman and stepped back gifting her with a sad smile. Only her mom and this woman ever got away with calling her Joanne.

"No way I wasn't coming. I'd have been here sooner but I needed to do what I could with the investigation first."

Cupping the brunette's soft cheek in one hand, Miranda gave her the first tremulous smile she had attempted since that morning before dropping her hand and stepping back to introduce the two women to the other occupants of the room.

"Ellen and Richard, meet Joanne and Blair Warner-Polniaczek, though the Captain only goes by Polniaczek at work. Joanne, Blair, this is Ellen and Richard Sachs, Andréa's parents."

The four shook hands and took the seats Miranda gestured them to, Ellen and Richard on the couch and Blair and Jo in adjoining chairs while Miranda settled into her usual chair.

"Before you take my statement, Ellen has a few questions for you, Joanne," the editor informed her.

"Sure. Just so you all know I can't tell you anything that would directly affect the investigation," Jo clarified her position. "So if I tell you I can't answer something, you'll just have to accept that. As long as that's clear, go ahead."

Ellen nodded her understanding.

"Was there anything out of the ordinary in the apartment? Anything that didn't seem like it would belong to Andy?"

"I'm only going to answer that because the answer is no. I've been to Andy's apartment many times and there was nothing there that stood out as not having been there before. It was obvious someone had been packing for a trip. There was a suitcase with clothes and personal items in it. Andy mentioned Miranda giving her luggage for Christmas so I wasn't surprised to see the Coach suitcase on the bed. Nothing else stood out," Jo finished.

"What did you say?" Miranda's voice was barely above a whisper.

"Um…there was a packed suitcase on the bed," Jo supplied.

"No, what kind of suitcase? What designer?" There was a note of desperation in the question that Jo caught easily.

"Coach. Didn't you give Andy a set of Coach luggage?"

"No," Miranda shook her head, that tiny sprig of hope slowly growing. "I gave her a full set of Louis Vuitton. Most of which is stored upstairs since she couldn't fit it into her apartment. She kept the carry-on and the weekend bag at her place."

"You're sure about that?" Jo questioned, a frown of concentration forming on her brow.

Rolling her eyes, Miranda huffed. "Of course, I'm sure. I picked it out personally."

"Still, it might have been something she bought for herself at some point," the captain reasoned.

"Her father and I gave Andy a full set of luggage when she left for college. It was not Coach and she used a bag from the set we gave her when she came home after that misunderstanding with Miranda before the holidays," Ellen argued.

"That's where I saw it and decided to give her a new set as the other was a bit worn. She told me it was the only luggage she had," Miranda added, unable to keep a hint of excitement from her voice.

Jo narrowed one eye as she contemplated what they had both revealed. It was curious but still not anything concrete enough to change the conclusions that had already been reached by the investigators. Unless…

"Did Andy have any identifying marks?" she threw out.

"You mean like scars or birthmarks?" Richard asked.

"Yeah. Or tattoos?" Jo added.

"No, she doesn't have anything like that," Ellen assured. "And there's no way my daughter would have a tattoo."

Miranda blushed and cleared her throat.

"Actually," she began, "Andréa does have a tattoo."

Richard looked everywhere but at Miranda while Ellen fixed her with a baleful stare.

"What would my daughter be doing with a tattoo?" she bit out accusingly.

Miranda was surprised that the normally open minded woman should have such a reaction to a simple tattoo. While she wouldn't have one herself, she hadn't been shocked to find out her girlfriend had one. Tattoos hadn't been something that was accepted when Miranda was in her teens and twenties, not as they were now anyway. The editor supposed Ellen felt as she did about them and projected that feeling on to her daughter, which made the white haired woman a bit uncomfortable talking about Andréa's in front of the young woman's mother, especially as the brunette's was located in such a personal spot.

"I put it on her personally, Ellen. What do you think?" Miranda chided in her most sarcastic tone.

The older brunette flushed, realizing how she must have sounded to the editor.

"I'm sorry, Miranda. You just took me by surprise. I wasn't aware Andy had gotten a tattoo. She never mentioned it and she usually told me everything."

"Not quite everything," Richard disagreed. "Miranda came as something of a surprise to both of us."

Smiling ruefully, Ellen patted her husband's knee. "True enough."

"You want to tell us about this tattoo of Andy's," Jo encouraged gently.

"After we returned from Paris and she formally broke up with cook boy…" Miranda began.

"Nate," Ellen and Richard spoke in stereo.

Miranda waved the name away as unimportant.

"She and her friend Douglas, who had also broken up with someone, had rather too much to drink one evening and talked each other into celebrating their new found freedom by getting tattoos. The next day, after they had both sobered up, they still thought it a good idea, so they went to an artist that Douglas had found in his research to be one of the best in the city. No one has ever seen Andréa's except her, the artist who applied it and myself. It's not in a location that the average person would see it," Miranda finished while flushing an even deeper color.

"Unless she was in a bathing suit," Ellen offered hopefully.

"No, not even then," Miranda denied, clearly not wanting to clarify.

Jo took pity on the uncomfortable woman, reasoning that she wouldn't want to talk about Blair's tattoo in front of the blonde's mother either, though, like Miranda, she had played no part in her wife getting it.

"Miranda, just answer two things for me. Is it on the upper or lower half of her body, and is it on the front or the back?"

Clearing her throat softly, the editor cast a quick glance at Ellen before answering.

"Upper front, her right breast," she spoke quickly before pressing her lips together to indicate she would say no more.

Jo felt her heart sink. She had really hoped they were on to something.

"So does the body we found," she acknowledged quietly.

Blair reached over to take her wife's hand.

"So do I," she offered quietly. "It's not an unusual location for a woman."

"I've seen many on the models we use at Runway and I believe Andréa's to be a bit distinctive, though probably not exceedingly rare," Miranda clarified. "Could you not tell us about the one you found and I'll tell you if it's Andréa's?"

"No," Blair answered for her wife. "As an attorney I can tell you that would both jeopardize the investigation and be a leading question, which would invalidate any potential evidence or testimony that came from this interview. You're just going to have to tell us, Miranda. I'm sorry." She gave the older woman an encouraging smile.

"You tell me about Andy's, I'll tell you about Blair's," Jo offered with the gallows humor common to police officers, which earned her a half smile from Miranda and a punch on the bicep from Blair. "Ow."

"Well," Miranda began only to be interrupted as Richard suddenly leapt to his feet and headed for the kitchen.

"I'll just get us all something to drink," he tossed over his shoulder as he hurried out.

Ellen watched him go, snorting when he was finally out of sight.

"He couldn't stand taking Andy for her check-ups once she got to a certain age either. I should have figured he wouldn't stay around to hear about a tattoo on her breast. He still hasn't acknowledged she has them," she commented.

"My dad's the same way," Blair added. "Must be a father thing. Mention the words "Blair" and "sex" in the same conversation and you don't hear from him for months." She sent her wife a warning look. Jo was always looking for a way to avoid her partner's father and his constant attempts to get her to change jobs. Even as upset as they all were, Jo would have filed this away for later.

"All right, Miranda. As much as I don't want to know this, go ahead," Ellen encouraged.

Rolling her eyes, unable to believe she was doing this in front of Andréa's mother, Miranda inhaled slowly and began, "It's a finely woven vine inscribed on the chest under her breast, cupping it, not unlike an underwire. There is a small floral like pattern in the center and vines to either side that end in a leaf on both ends. It's rather Celtic in appearance with eternity symbols interwoven. It's very delicately done."

"That is not the mark we found," Jo shook her head unable to conceal a huge grin. "This girl was missing a small amount of tissue at the top of her breast. There was a small amount of ink around the site so the medical examiner theorized it was from cu…um…the removal of a tattoo to hinder identification. There was nothing where you say Andy's tattoo is. That can't be her."

Seeing the tears streaking Miranda's cheeks, the captain looked helplessly at her wife. Blair rose and moved to kneel in front of the older woman taking her in her arms and murmuring words of reassurance. Turning her gaze from the two back to Jo, Ellen pursed her lips.

"Which still leaves us with the question, where is Andy?" she commented.

Leaning back, Miranda separated herself from Blair, giving the blonde a reassuring nod and a murmured "Thank you." Accepting the tissues, Ellen handed her from the box on the table beside the couch, she wiped the tears from her face.

"In her message, Andréa said she would call me tonight if she was going to be gone longer than a day, but she didn't say at what time."

Jo looked at her watch. "Well, it's eight now, so I guess we wait, as long as you have no objection to our staying, Miranda."

"I'd welcome it, Joanne. I think it would help pass the time. I still don't wish to tell my girls about this, yet. Not until we hear from Andréa, at least." She looked at each of them in turn to make sure they realized this point was not up for debate. She was adamant her girls not have to be told of this loss twice. When the others nodded and gave quiet murmurs of agreement, she rose. "Donatella sent an enormous amount of food and I know Estella and Philip left a large buffet out in the kitchen. Everyone please feel free to help themselves."

"Miranda, you need to eat something as well," Ellen chided her.

The smile Miranda offered was weak. "I don't know that I can. It seems such an effort."

"One you would insist on Andy making if the situation were reversed. You owe her to at least ensure your own health."

"Perhaps you're right," Miranda acknowledged. Turning, she led the way to the kitchen and their dinner. That small sprig was growing into a mature flowering plant and now it needed to be fed and nurtured.

The hours had passed slowly. They had eaten, Miranda had spent quite a bit of time with the twins before tucking them in, and finally joined the adults who had settled into a desultory game of cards to pass the time. The conversation seemed centered on the absent member of their group with each of them telling stories about meeting Andy and the activities they had shared. Ellen and Richard, of course, had the richer wealth of stories as the young woman's parents and the other three found themselves laughing frequently at some of the more hilarious episodes from Andy's youth. Miranda had enlightened them to the fact that her young girlfriend was not above banding together with the twins to play pranks on the older woman. Jo almost slid off her chair laughing as the editor described her reactions to a set of photos that were supposed to be from a Runway shoot for La Perla having been substituted with faked shots from a cheesy lingerie catalogue. She had just been reaching for her phone ready to fire everyone from the designer to the factory workers who made the camera when she heard the unmistakable sound of her three darlings trying to suppress their giggles outside her study door. While she was a bit taken aback that they would use her sacred magazine for such a prank, she was thrilled at the knowledge that they loved her and felt free enough with her to attempt such a joke in the first place. To anyone on the outside, their mirth might have seemed disrespectful, but hope had lightened all their hearts and they were in desperate need of a break from the suffocating sadness that had blanketed them throughout the day.

As the clock moved closer to midnight, they had returned to their original seating in the living room. The conversation had wound down to random comments on various general subjects and Miranda could no longer deny the rising feeling of dread she was experiencing that while the woman in Andréa's apartment might not be her girlfriend, it did not follow that the young woman was safe. So deep in their thoughts was each person that they didn't hear the small sounds coming from the front door and then the foyer. Their first inclination that something had changed came with a comment from the person lounging in the doorway.

"Damn, Miranda, if you'd told me you were having a party, I'd have hurried back earlier."

They all froze and turned to stare at Andy leaning against the door jam, exhaustion evident in every line of her body.

"An-Andréa," Miranda gasped and threw herself across the room to wind her arms tightly around her lover, bursting into tears at the solid feel of the brunette pressed against her body.

Catching sight of her parents, Andy blushed but didn't make a move to release the older woman. In fact, she ran her hands up and down Miranda's back, murmuring to her all the while as the editor buried her face in her lover's neck and continued crying from relief. Whatever was going on with Miranda had to be huge. Andy never thought she'd see the day that the editor broke down in front of anyone but herself or the twins. The twins!

"Shhh, baby. What's wrong? Are the girls okay? Where are they? I'm here, Miranda. Everything'll be all right."

"The twins are fine, Andy," Ellen reassured her daughter as she and Richard joined them, one on each side, embracing the two women and adding their own tears to the mix. Andy looked helplessly at Jo and Blair, who held each other, while Blair gave in to her own tears and Jo fought mightily not to show hers. Jo just shook her head at her friend as if to say, just go with it. So Andy did just that, continuing her reassurances and peppering Miranda's one exposed cheek with tiny kisses. Just when the young woman thought they'd be spending the night in the four way embrace, her parents released them and Andy was able to get a finger under Miranda's chin, tipping her face up so the younger woman could kiss her gently.

"Want to tell me what's going on?" Andy asked her lover. With a shake of her head, Miranda burrowed back into Andy's neck and body. Realizing she wasn't going to get an answer from her lover, Andy looked over at Jo with a raised eyebrow.

"It's a long story, my friend. But the synopsis is…there was a body in your apartment, we thought it was you. Now maybe you can tell me who it actually was," Jo gave her friend a meaningful look.

Shocked, Andy looked down at the woman she loved and back to her friend. Jo nodded, her face a mask of sadness for what the older woman had been through that day. Shuddering, Andy wrapped her arms tighter around Miranda pulling her even closer. No wonder the older woman was acting this way. If positions had been reversed, they would have had to scrape Andy up with a spatula, her melt down would have been so complete. She hurried to reassure her lover.

"I'm ok, love. I'm right here. I'm never going to leave you, Miranda. Baby, look at me. I love you and I'm right here."

Slowly the editor lifted her head to stare into her girlfriend's eyes. Without warning, she slapped Andy on the shoulder.

"Don't you ever scare me like that again, Andréa Sachs. I will never forgive you, if you do," Miranda threatened. "Why didn't you call sooner? We've been worried sick. The twins are practically hysterical and I….I….oh, god, Andréa, I couldn't breathe thinking I'd lost you." She grasped the brunette's face between her palms and pressed their lips together, putting every ounce of the pain, heartache and loss she had felt that day into the kiss, then slowly feeding in her love and longing for the younger woman until she heard Ellen's voice behind her.

"Hello! Innocent parents in the room! Richard has run for the kitchen again, Miranda. You're gonna give him a heart attack."

Blushing, Miranda ended the kiss and stepped back but not out of Andy's arms. She turned to face the others and rested back against her lover, laying her own hands over the ones that rested low on her abdomen.

"I would suggest," she purred, "you issue him industrial strength ear plugs tonight."

The other three women laughed as Andy hissed a shocked, "Miranda!"

"Yes, darling?" The look she turned up at Andy was pure innocence, however what showed in her eyes was the exact opposite. She smiled slightly as she heard her young lover gulp.

"N-nothing," Andy thought better of having this conversation right that moment. Instead she turned to something else that occurred to her. "The girls! Are they all right? They must be totally freaked."

Miranda patted the hands under her own and continued gazing over her shoulder at that so loved face. "Yes, they are, darling, but they're finally asleep. Even though the news is wonderful, I'm hesitant to wake them for it. The excitement would ensure no one sleeps tonight if we do. We'll tell them in the morning. Selfish as it may be I want you to myself tonight."

Nodding her understanding, Andy returned to the question Jo had asked, thinking it safer than a discussion on Miranda's thoughts for the evening. "Jo, check on Carol Stevens. She's a reporter for the Mirror. We're working together on a story about missing homeless teens. Her apartment is being painted, so I offered to let her stay at mine while I went out of town to interview a possible source. I was planning to come back here and stay with Miranda through the weekend anyway, so it seemed the logical solution."

"So she's a friend of yours," Jo commented.

"Not really. I know her from work is about all. We got assigned this story together and have been working on it for the last two weeks. We've met for drinks a couple of times after work. I know she has a boyfriend, Jake or Jack. Something like that. I can get her address from the Mirror in the morning or I can give you her phone numbers now, whichever you prefer," Andy offered not quite sure how to react to there being a body in her apartment. "I can't believe she's dead."

"Dead isn't the half of it, Andy," Jo said, as Miranda shuddered in Andy's arms. "We'll talk about it tomorrow. Give me those numbers and I'll get someone over to her place tonight, see what we can pick up. I'm sure Miranda's ready to have you to herself for a while."

The editor mouthed a silent 'thank you' to the other woman for her understanding. She stepped away from her lover and went to give Blair a hug, instead of their usual air kiss, as the two brunettes walked out to the foyer where Andy had left her bags.

"I'm glad she's home, Miranda," the blonde whispered.

"So am I, Blair, so am I," the editor agreed.

As she drew back, Blair gave her friend an impish look.

"You do realize that once Jo explains what happened there she's never going to want to set foot in that apartment again, don't you? The poor thing is going to need somewhere to live." she asked in her most guileless tones.

Miranda's expression was at first surprised and then thoughtful.

"Thank you, Blair," she smiled.

"Any time," the blonde laughed. After saying her good-byes to Andy's mother, who then went in search of her husband saying they were going up to bed after they spoke with Andy's brother and would see their daughter again in the morning, the two walked out to the front door where their lovers stood deep in conversation. "Take me home, Joey," Blair commanded in a provocative tone.

"Sure, Blair," Jo responded, knowing exactly what it meant when her wife called her Joey. Tonight they would be reaffirming both life and love. She gave her friend a tight hug and bestowed a gentle one on Miranda, being one of the few people besides Andy and the twins who dared to do so, before they took their leave of the other couple.

Closing the door behind her friends, Andy turned to look at the woman she loved.

"Jo gave me a few details. She's posting a surveillance team out of site. She doesn't want draw attention to the house," she began. Still trying to process what Jo had described to her, Andy was left with a feeling of it all not quite being real.

Miranda gave a small nod and sighed with relief that Jo was being proactive. "Blair provided all of the details to Emily who informed me," Miranda couldn't stop the shudder that racked her body every time the murder was mentioned. "I need to let her know you're all right. She was extremely upset when she left here earlier today."

"It's after midnight, Miranda. Emily's asleep," Andy assured her glad for the moment to be distracted.

Rolling her eyes, Miranda's expression was fully disbelieving.

"I do not see how she can be."

"If I know Emily, she went directly to Serena from here." She smiled as Miranda nodded in the affirmative. "And if I know Serena, she made sure Emily slept, either by wearing her out completely or providing a medicinal nudge in that direction or both." Andy grinned.

"Yes, I suppose you're right. I'll call her first thing in the morning and have her-them come here. She deserves to see this in person," Miranda acceded. "I was not aware they were a couple."

"Since right after you followed me to Cincinnati. All that extra time off gave Em the chance she'd been waiting for to spend time with Serena. They haven't moved in together yet, but I don't think it will be much longer. Whichever apartment they ended up in tonight might just be where they stay from now on."

Miranda leaned a hip against one of the foyer tables and studied her girlfriend who was now leaning back against the front door.

"And what about you, Andréa?" She asked.

"What about me what?" Andy questioned not sure what point Miranda was trying to get at.

"You can't go back to your apartment. It's a crime scene. Where will you live now?" Miranda fixed a penetrating look on her lover.

Running a hand through her bangs, Andy thought for a moment.

"You know I hadn't really thought about that. I guess I'm pretty much homeless at the moment. I had thought we'd spend the weekend together, then I guess I could check into a hotel until I find a place," she reasoned.

Dragging one finger over the table surface, Miranda tried to appear unaffected by Andy's suggestion.

"Yes, I suppose you could do that," she conceded. "Though, is that what you truly want to do?"

Andy gave her lover a weary smile.

"Sweetheart, I am way too tired to figure out what you're trying so hard not to say. We're either going to have to table this discussion 'til after I've had some sleep or you're going to have to exercise some of that famous La Priestly bluntness." Andy advised her lover.

Miranda studied her finger as it continued to trace randomly over the table top.

"Mmmm…perhaps both," she murmured. Looking up, she met the warm brown eyes of her girlfriend. "Take me to bed, Andy." She mimicked Blair, letting the brunette know she was fully aware of what the blonde had meant.

Andy gave her a crooked grin as she pushed off from the door and slowly walked towards the older woman. Miranda only ever called her 'Andy' when she was in a particular mood. Suddenly, she didn't feel quite so tired.

"With pleasure, love." She took Miranda in her arms and began a slow deep tasting of the other woman's mouth. "I've missed you."

The white haired woman clung to her lover, not pausing to question the seemingly bottomless neediness that the events of that day had stirred in her. She tried desperately with her hands and lips to let Andréa know how much she was needed and loved, how totally desolate Miranda would be if she lost her. Andy responded in kind, able to empathize with what her lover must have been feeling believing her to be dead and in such a horrible manner. The younger woman knew deep in her heart that her soul would never survive losing Miranda in that way. So she gave back all the reassurance that was in her, meeting fearful neediness with loving passion until she felt the older woman relax in her arms and knew she had gotten through to her on the most basic of levels.

They slowly released each other, though Andy kept an arm around her lover's waist as she stooped to snag her bags in one hand. One arm looped around each other they climbed the stairs to Miranda's room. Andy dropped her bags inside the door and nudged it closed with one foot. Miranda flipped the lock before walking backwards towards her bed, leading Andy by the hands. When the backs of her legs made contact, she lowered herself, stretching out on her back and pulling the brunette down to lie on top of her. Wrapping her legs around Andy's hips and her arms around the younger woman's shoulders, Miranda held her there, savoring the weight pressing down on her, the warmth and heat that was Andy's body, the softness of breasts pressed to her own, the rounded buttocks that her crossed ankles rested on, the press of Andy's pelvis into her core, the warmth of the breath that caressed her neck and ear, the arms that held her- these things, all these things, told her that her Andréa was alive and here with her.

"Stay with me, Andréa." She pleaded for perhaps the first time in her life. Tomorrow…tomorrow she would be Miranda Priestly again and then, she might regret having allowed her fear and need to show in front of so many people, but for now, she was still just the woman who thought she had lost the one person, besides her children, who had ever owned her whole heart. Tonight there were things she needed to say, to do and there were no walls left within her to stop her from doing so.

"I told you I planned to do that, Miranda," Andy reassured her.

Miranda shook her head pulling the younger woman tighter to her with legs and arms.

"Not just tonight, or this weekend. Stay with me. Live with me. I can't let you go again. I need to know you'll always be here, with me, like this."

Andy pulled back just far enough to be able to study her love's eyes, searching to be sure Miranda wasn't just reacting from her fears. While Andy did see that, she also saw an eternity of love and desire in those boundless blue depths, enough to reassure her that, even without the fear, this is what Miranda wanted, for them to live together and make a life with her children. Andy kissed her lover gently.

"I'd like that," she smiled. "I want very much to live with you, Miranda, to make love with you, and sleep with you, and wake up with you every day for the rest of my life. So yes, I'll stay. I love you. How could I want anything else?"

Smiling, Miranda slid one hand up to the back of her lover's neck, pulling downward until she could suck a full lower lip into her mouth. She teased across it with her tongue before biting gently.

"Make love to me, Andréa," she whispered. "I followed you before. I made you mine then. Now make me yours." She arched up into her lover, pressing their bodies tighter together to accent her plea.

Andy's groan came from so deep within her it sounded like a growl as it reached Miranda's ears, who responded immediately with an answering moan. With infinite care, Andy's fingers and lips began to move, to stroke and taste, sweeping clothing away as they progressed until as last skin met skin in a full body caress that brought tears to both women's eyes.

"I never thought I'd feel you this way again," Miranda gasped, breathless from the sensations her lover was invoking, knowing that very truth made feeling Andréa's touch now all the sweeter.

"As long as I'm breathing, I'll want this with you, Miranda," Andy answered, caressing her way down her lover's neck with moist lips. "I love you. With everything I am, I love you." She'd told the woman many times how she felt, now it was time to show her.

Andy took her time, kissing her way down silken white shoulders and chest. Miranda had such beautiful skin. Her lips curled slightly upwards as she remembered when she had seen it on display for the first time, the night of the gala when she had still been Miranda's assistant. At the time she hadn't realized why her eyes kept straying to that exquisite expanse, she only knew she couldn't seem to stop looking, marveling at the fine texture. She'd tried to blame her inappropriate attention on being concerned over missing Nate's birthday party. Now she had to laugh at her own naiveté. How could some guy's party explain Andy wanting to know the feel and taste of Miranda's skin, boyfriend or not?

Turning her mind back to the beauty that lay before her, the young woman indulged herself in what was one of her favorite pastimes, exploring every inch of that soft paleness with her mouth and hands. She bathed her lover's body with her lips and tongue, paying close attention to all the spots that made Miranda writhe and moan under her.

Working her way down, she began to circle one breast moving slowly towards the tip, dragging her tongue over the skin until she reached the areole. Feeling Miranda tense, expecting the feel of mouth on nipple, Andy reversed direction, moving downwards and across to repeat the actions on the other soft mound. Her lover moaned, legs moving restlessly on the bed as her hips attempt to press up against the brunette's abdomen.

"Andréa." The word was more moaned than spoken, a plea to end the exquisite torment.

Andy responded, moving her lips over a turgid nipple, sucking and drawing it in. Her tongue stroked roughly over it even as she pinched it between full lips. She glanced up, watching as Miranda bit at her lips, hips continually flexing. The older woman's breasts weren't large but they were full and firm. Releasing the nipple she had been attending to, Andy slid her hands up Miranda's sides until she could press them to the outsides of her lover's breasts, pushing them together, bring the nipples so close they almost touch. Bowing her head again, Andy sucked both into her mouth, nipping and chewing, in a move Miranda loved.

Head thrashing on the pillow, the white haired woman's moans turned guttural as she almost growled her pleasure. Andy loved that she could pull such sounds from the normally elegant and reserved woman. Only she could shatter Miranda's self-control so thoroughly. Each time it happened it reassured the brunette that her girlfriend truly loved her.

"Please….please…..touch…" Miranda's gasping pleas did not fall on deaf ears. With one final bite and tug, Andy slid down. Parting dripping folds with her fingers, she pressed her face in, devouring her lover. She bit and sucked glistening flesh, plunging her tongue inside, curling upwards to stroke the tight ring of muscle that took Miranda apart.

Hips driving towards release, the older woman could only feel, lost in waves of sensation. She could feel it gathering, the icy tingle in her spine growing and warming. Still it would not peak, she needed…


Knowing extreme tension always made it harder for Miranda, Andy was ready for the request. Had, indeed, been waiting for it, knowing it would come when her lover was clinging to the edge. Moving slightly to wrap her lips around the throbbing clit and throwing one hand tight over her lover's hips, she drove three fingers in deep, curling them so that each stroke dragged back and forth over the spot just inside. Miranda was hot, wet and slick, muscles grasping and releasing. Andy growled her pleasure, the sound vibrating through her lover's body.

Miranda, mouth open and gasping, arched up. Grabbing Andréa's head to hold her lips in place, she began to force her hips harder onto the invading fingers, which responded, driving back to meet her thrusts. For her, tonight wasn't a night for gentle lovemaking. She wanted to be taken with force and power, to revel in the life within her own body and that of her Andréa's.

Knowing her love as she did, Andy released her clit to move upwards. Keeping her fingers firmly in place, she lowered her body down onto Miranda's, pressing their breasts together. Letting her lover feel her weight, Andy used her hips to drive her fingers harder and faster.

"Yesss." Miranda hissed. Her Andréa always knew…always knew…just w-what she needed. Without thought, she met the thrusts. Gone was the cold editor who negligently exercised her power. In this moment, she just was, and the essence of her belonged to Andréa, who took her now with such exquisite force.

Andy knew when the steady pant of Miranda's breathing became broken by more frequently held breaths that her lover was rapidly reaching her peak, nor was she surprised when her own arousal began to crest. It was always like that when the older woman was in this mood. The act of taking Miranda was all Andy needed at those times.

As sharp nails cut into her back and Miranda's movements become frantic, the brunette claimed the lips before her, plunging her tongue into the wet heat of her lover's mouth. Miranda screamed into her mouth, legs wrapping tightly around moving hips to force the fingers in deeper as lights flashed and danced before her eyes. Andy's hips slammed hard into her once, twice, and again. They froze, arched together, unable to think, unable to breathe as their release tore through them.

At last reality began to leak back in as their bodies relaxed languidly into each other. The torpor settled over them. Andy's head dropped to Miranda's shoulder and her lips pressed softly in tender kisses. She gave a deep shuddering breath and tried to move off her lover, to shift her weight to the side, but arms tightened around her, holding her in place. She tried to gently withdraw her fingers and was stopped by Miranda's legs around her hips.

"No. Stay. Want to…feel you."

So Andy relaxed and simply stayed in the moment with this woman whom she adored.


Chapter 3

When Andy awoke, it was to the gentle feel of fingers sliding through her hair. During the night, she had moved to the side, leaving her head resting on Miranda's shoulder and one long leg thrown across a thigh. Her fingers had withdrawn and her palm now cupped her lover intimately. She pressed a kiss to soft skin, before lifting her head to meet a warm gaze.

"Good morning, darling," Miranda greeted her, brushing tousled hair back from her love's face.

"Morning. What time is it?" she mumbled.

"A little after six."

Dropping her head back down, Andy groaned.

"That's just cruel," she groused. Her hand pressed against the treasure it held. "Though this is nice."

Miranda shifted slightly, lightening the pressure.

"This, as you refer to it, is a bit sore this morning," she cautioned.

"I can't imagine why," Andy teased.

"Yes, well, perhaps when you're a bit more awake, your memory will improve," Miranda huffed.

"My memory is just fine," Andy laughed, her fingers gently beginning to tease the curls under them.

The older woman hissed.

"I'm serious, Andréa. I possibly understated, in fact."

"I'm serious too, very serious," Andy assured her. "But then I'm always serious about loving you."

"Andréa, I don't think-,"

"Good choice," Andy cut her off, fingers becoming a bit more insistent as she began to shift over and down her lover's body. "You know you like this, Miranda. You always start out protesting and end up begging for more." Her head dipped as she replaced her fingers with her tongue.

Miranda moaned and slid down closer to the source of her pleasure. It was true, everything Andréa said. She did like it, though she never had with anyone else. Her lover's tongue was always soothing and when the brunette would penetrate her the burn from the soreness made it all just that much better. Andréa would not take her as hard as she had the night before, but neither would she be gentle with her. Closing her eyes, Miranda gave herself up to the incredible sensations her love was providing.

When next she awoke, Miranda was very glad she had insisted that the two of them clothe themselves just in case the twins awakened before they did. It had proved to be a providential move as a pounding began on the bedroom door promptly at 8:00. Slipping from under a long arm that wrapped around her waist, she moved to unlock the door calling softly for the noise to cease. She had barely gotten the door open before, having caught sight of who still rested under the covers, two red-headed blurs and a furry streak charged past and dove for the bed amongst twin squeals of, "Andy!" and an equally excited "Woof!"

The loud "Umph" the brunette gave as she was buried under wiggling children and one large dog brought a peal of laughter to Miranda's lips. Patricia had refused to be separated from the twins since the furry colossus took up her guarding position in the kitchen the previous morning. She was evidently very excited that they were once again happy. Though if she crushes Andréa, we'll all be right back where we started from, Miranda thought as she moved to rescue the younger woman from an excess of affection. As she drew closer to the bed, she found she couldn't bring herself to break up the affectionate free-for-all as the girls both tried to strangle Andy with hugs while Patricia licked her to death. Wanting to just laugh with her family for the first time in days, Miranda threw her dignity in one direction and herself on the top of the pile, arms around them all.

Ellen followed the sounds of squeals, barks and laughter down the stairs from the guest room to Andy and Miranda's bedroom. Leaning against the door jam, she smiled, watching the entire family rolling around tickling and hugging, happy to once again be together whole and loving. She'd had her reservations about Miranda Priestly at first, but there had been no doubting the depth of Andy's feelings when her daughter had come home convinced she'd lost the woman she loved, nor the sheer joy Ellen saw on her child's face now. Andy was exquisitely happy with Miranda, her children and that small horse they called a dog. What more could a parent ask for? Like most mothers of grown children, Ellen wanted grandchildren and she thought these two would do very nicely. If she was lucky, she'd have even more, from Richie if not from Andy.

"Hi, Mom," Andy greeted, catching sight of her mother over Caroline's shoulder. "Help me! I'm being mauled here."

"Yes, well, don't damage my grandchildren. They're the only ones I have," Ellen laughed back.

Andy's already huge grin reached enormous proportions as two red heads whipped around to stare at her mother.

"You mean it?" Caroline breathed as Cassidy shot their mother a pleading look.

"Well, of course I meant it. Why else would I have said it? Andy can be very heavy handed without realizing it," Ellen teased even as she arched an eyebrow questioningly at Miranda whose smile and small nod sent the twins rocketing across the room to hug their new grandmother. "Why don't you two come downstairs with me and we'll start breakfast so your mother and Andy can get dressed?"

With twin shouts of glee, they each grabbed a hand and began to drag Ellen downstairs chattering away about making Andy's favorite dishes, followed closely by their fur clad shadow. The voices faded away and silence once more reigned as Andy lay on the bed catching her breath fingers idly stroking through silky white strands.

"You okay with that?" she asked Miranda, stuffing a pillow under her head to better see her lover.

Glancing up from where she'd rested her head on Andy's t-shirt covered stomach, Miranda smiled.

"Yes, darling, I'm very okay with that. I effectively have no family and Elliott's mother...well, the less said about her the better. Suffice it to say, I am not her favorite person, a fact she does not try to hide from my children when they visit. It makes things very difficult for all involved. I think it would be very beneficial for the girls to have the experience of loving grandparents, who do not despise their mother. Even if those grandparents are the same age as myself," she finished with a sigh.

"Young grandparents will be around a long time, Miranda, just like their mother," Andy stressed. "It's the love that's the important part and they'll get lots of that from all of us. Besides, now they'll have a whole other set of grandparents to go visit on school holidays, leaving us to struggle along…all by ourselves…in this big house…all alone. Whatever will we do?" The young woman's smile took on an evil appearance that left Miranda with no doubt what the younger woman had in mind for their 'alone' time.

"Whatever am I going to do with you, Andréa?" she admonished.

"I have suggestions," Andy grinned wiggling her eyebrows.

Miranda laughed and rested her chin on the taunt muscles. "I would not have thought otherwise; however, right now we need to shower and dress. There should be a veritable feast waiting for you by the time we get downstairs." She rose from the bed and held out a hand to Andy. "Wash my back?" she asked with as close to an innocent smile as she could manage.

"And everything else you've got," Andy laughed, taking the offered hand.

"You're so accommodating." Miranda tugged on the hand in hers and led the younger woman to the master bath. "After breakfast there are a few things we need to discuss, such as your moving in." Among other things, she thought, not at all convinced the body found in Andy's apartment was a random event. There was no way she would allow her lover to go back there to claim so much as a dishcloth until the killer was safely locked away. If the event was connected to the younger woman in any way, then hopefully, her staying at the townhouse would make it harder for her to be found just in case anyone was looking. After all, who would expect a reporter to be hiding in the home of the Queen of Fashion.

Breakfast had proved to be a rollicking affair. Ellen had made pancakes in the shape of a famous mouse, something she had been doing since her children were small to celebrate their big days. She couldn't imagine a bigger event than returning from the dead. Cassidy kept piling pancakes on Andy's plate while Caroline drowned them in syrup. Miranda, who normally would have shuddered at the amount of carbs the younger woman was consuming, simply smiled and helped herself to two with a small drizzle of syrup. The laughing and teasing continued throughout the meal. Ellen and Richard imparted tale after tale of Andy's antics during childhood while the twins listened in rapt amusement, teasing Andy over some of the more embarrassing stories. They sighed over the romance of Ellen and Richard having been high school sweethearts and squealed when it was revealed their new grandmother had been a cheerleader. They had promptly dragged the woman upstairs to challenge her to a round of cheerleading competition on their Wii.

After cleaning up the kitchen, Miranda and Andy had gone upstairs to watch only to find the twins and Ellen in a heated but good natured debate. Ellen had beaten the twins two games out of three and Caroline was hotly objecting, claiming Ellen had an unfair advantage as an "experienced" cheerleader. Ellen defended that having been a cheerleader over thirty years in the past had nothing to do with a game that was based entirely on hand/eye coordination. Richard was too busy laughing to referee, so Cassidy turned pleading eyes on her mom and Andy.

"Caroline," the name was said in Miranda's normal quiet tones but there was an edge of caution laced throughout.

The red-head froze and blushed. Looking up at the elder Sachs female from under her lashes, she apologized.

"I'm sorry. I wasn't being a very good sport."

Ellen smiled and hugged the girl.

"That's quite all right, Caroline. How about we play again and I'll give you a chance to catch up?"

The girl grinned and nodded her acceptance. She was restarting the game when Miranda took Andy's hand to lead the young woman further along the hallway to her study. Closing the door and leaning against it, she watched the brunette settle herself into one corner of the couch, legs tucked beneath her and arm stretched along the back of the couch. She found it hard to believe that only yesterday she had been in this room listening to a voicemail and thinking it would be the only way she would ever hear Andréa's voice again. Joining her girlfriend on the couch, Miranda entwined their fingers on the couch back.

"I got a text from Jo this morning. She's coming by later." Andy advised her, wanting to get the preliminaries out of the way since Miranda tended to bring her into the study for their more serious discussions.

"I spoke with Serena while you were dressing."

"You called Serena?" Andy questioned. She would have thought Miranda would have called Emily's cell.

"I called Emily," Miranda corrected her. "I spoke with Serena who answered. I suppose, given the circumstances, I shouldn't be too critical of Emily not answering her own phone."

"Ya think?" Andy quipped. She loved being the only person who could get away with being sarcastic with Miranda and live to tell the tale, though she exercised the privilege sparingly. No sense in being reckless, after all.

Miranda rolled her eyes in mock irritation. "Yes, I quite often think, Andréa. You should try it some time. It can be quite enlightening."

Andy laughed and squeezed the fingers entwined with her own. She really loved Miranda's sense of humor. The trick was knowing when Miranda was teasing and when she was serious, as nothing about her tone or expression differentiated between the two.

"They will be here after lunch. I did give Serena forewarning. I have little desire to see Emily spread out on my living room floor like a lumpy British rug." She immediately launched into a new topic and left it to Andy to catch up or be left behind. "I was very serious about you moving in, Andréa,"

"You're sure it's not too soon?" Andy asked. She very much wanted to live with Miranda but she didn't want the other woman rushing into something in a knee jerk response to the events of yesterday. The look of affection she received from Miranda went a long way towards reassuring her.

"The actual asking might have been moved a bit forward by recent events, but the intent to do so has been there for quite some time. I simply did not wish to rush you. Thinking that you…that I might never see you again made me realize how foolish it would be to wait if we're both ready to take this step. I know that I am and can only hope that you are as well."

The look Miranda gave her girlfriend was filled with hope and just a touch of fear of being rejected. If Andy knew anything about Miranda it was that the other woman hated putting herself in any situation that left whoever she was dealing with in a position of power. That Miranda was doing so now went a long way in reassuring Andy that her moving in was not something the other woman had suddenly decided would be the right thing to do. Had that been true Miranda would simply have demanded that Andy move in with her. Making her feelings clear and then leaving the decision in the younger woman's hands left Miranda in a vulnerable position which spoke volumes about her trust in Andy to never intentionally hurt her.

Reaching out to caress one porcelain cheek, Andy smiled gently. "Of course, I'm ready. I just wasn't sure you were."

Miranda leaned into the caress even as she rolled her eyes and huffed. "We really must work on your communication skills, Andréa."

"My communication skills!" Andy stared at the other woman in disbelief. "I didn't hear you speaking up before now."

"Well, of course not. You're the more aggressive member of this relationship," Miranda responded as if that were understood.

"Only in our bedroom, baby," Andy defended herself. "Everywhere else you call the shots and you know it."

"Which only serves to prove my point, Andréa, as it will be our bedroom you'll be moving into." Miranda's smirk was pure triumph.

Andy opened and closed her mouth in an attempt to respond several times before she finally gave up and laughed.

"If you ever become any less difficult to deal with, I'll know a pod person has taken your place, Miranda."

"Really, Andréa," she sniffed, followed a moment later by a very un-Miranda like squeal as she found herself drug across the couch to lie half atop a long, warm body. "Expanding your territory to my study?" she gasped.

"Yep, if I'm moving in I plan to branch out. You might be surprised at the amount of 'territory' I decide to conqueror," Andy husked as she brushed her lips lightly against Miranda's.

"Oh, my," was the only response Miranda had time for before her mouth was very much dominated by the woman lying below her. It was the last coherent thought she had for a while, able to only respond to the woman who took control of her body so easily.

Later as they lay curled together on the wide couch, Andy napped as Miranda lay holding her and watching her sleep. Miranda had been mildly surprised that after their first time together when Miranda had led the way, it was Andréa who more and more had taken the lead in their physical relationship, a situation Miranda was amazed to find was extremely comfortable for them both and would have amazed anyone who knew either of them. Having reached legal age in New York at the beginning of the 1980's, Miranda was no stranger to sexual roles. For anyone just starting out in fashion at that time it was important to be seen in the right places and with the right people. Her natural aura of command and elusiveness brought many of the 'beautiful people' into her sphere. It was during that time that she had first met Nigel, who knew many of the more selective haunts to which Miranda's beauty and poise quickly earned them entrance. She had both worked hard and played hard, experimenting with anything that struck her fancy at the moment though always being circumspect about her dalliances. It was good to be seen and be talked about; however, she knew that any hint of scandal would put an end to her career before it even had a chance to take off. For that reason she chose her partners carefully and well. Yet, she had never allowed herself to be topped, not with her lovers nor with her husbands. Sex was always on Miranda's terms, until Andréa. That the younger woman was clearly her top, Miranda never questioned. It was just how it was with them. She felt safe, protected and loved. For the first time she had placed complete trust in a lover and had no desire to change anything about their interactions. In fact, she was once again beginning to feel the desire to experiment but only with Andréa as her partner.

All of which made maintaining her lover's safety paramount in Miranda's considerations. She had no intention of going through what she had the previous day again. She would protect Andréa if it took every last dime she had ever made. Being poor with her family intact did not frighten Miranda at all. Being without any one of the three people who held her heart terrified her beyond belief and she would fight with a viciousness that would stun even her most ardent detractors to ensure she never had to know that feeling again.

Hearing a car pull up out front, Miranda left Andy and her mother talking in the living room and went to answer the door. Before she had reached, it swung open and Emily stalked in, having used her key for The Book to gain entry. She barely spared a glance for her boss rather issuing a clipped, "Where?" Surprised at the young woman's audacity Miranda merely pointed towards the living room and followed along with Serena as the Brit strode across the foyer.

Serena offered up a helpless shrug. "She's been pacing the apartment all morning. She refuses to believe it until she sees it for herself," she quietly informed Miranda who simply nodded. After yesterday, Emily had earned the editor's tolerance, as least this once.

Emily entered the living room and made directly for Andy who had risen at her entrance. Without a word, she threw her arms around Andy's necks and hugged her tightly.

"You are real," she whispered, her voice catching. They stood together quietly until Emily pushed away and stepped back. In as haughty a manner as she could manage with a tear making a slow track down her cheek she glared at Andy.

"Right. You should know that the next time you get involved with something like this, it had bloody well better be you because as soon as I find you it will be."

While the rest gasped and Miranda glared, Andy threw back her head and laughed. "I love you too, Em. So does this mean I get regular hugs now?" She teased.

"You may be alive, but you're quite obviously brain damaged," Emily snapped.

"Emily," Miranda's quiet voice cautioned. She would never understand why her lover seemed to adore someone who was as likely to snarl as to smile at her. After a moment's reflection, she decided to count her own blessings that her Andréa had that remarkable capability.

Serena and Emily only stayed long enough for Miranda to provide a list of what needed to be handled back at the office. She had every intention of working from home until she was sure Andréa was safe.

Jo arrived as the two were leaving and she, Miranda and Andy retired to Miranda's study. Declining the offer of a drink, she sat in a leather end chair while the other two took the couch.

"Andy, I need for you to stay here at Miranda's and keep out of sight," she plunged right in. "We went to Carol Steven's apartment and it was ransacked. We found evidence there that leads us to believe it was her we found in your apartment, some photos and the rest of the set of luggage. We still won't know for sure until the DNA results are in, but since no one has seen her in the past two days and she missed her shift at the Mirror yesterday and today, it looks like that's who it is. I'm sorry, Andy."

Miranda reached over and quietly took her lover's hand. With a grateful squeeze, Andy sighed and leaned back into the couch.

"I really didn't know her all that well, like I said. She was relatively new at The Mirror. She'd been there about three months, kept to herself mostly. It was luck of the draw that we ended up on this story together."

"What can you tell me about the story you're working on?" Jo asked.

"A tip came in from one of our informers about a number of young homeless women going missing from a shelter. They all seemed to be relatively new to the city. Only seen around for a couple of days before they just vanished. They weren't exactly high on anyone's priority list. We spoke to people at the shelter and found out from a social worker that one of the girl's had called her mother the night she disappeared. He thought they had worked something out and the girl was going home. When she wasn't there the next morning, he thought she'd left to do just that so no one thought anything about it. That's where I was yesterday, talking to the girl's mother. She said her daughter was supposed to call her back the next morning and give her instructions about how to arrange for a ticket home. She hasn't heard from her since."

"I need the names of the people you talked to and the name of that informant," Jo stated fully expecting to be stonewalled and Andy didn't disappoint.

"You know I can't give you that, Jo," she shook her head.

"Dammit, Andy, one woman's dead and since it was your apartment, you're probably meant to be next. I don't have time to play Constitution games with you," Jo shoved long fingers through her hair frustrated that her friend wasn't cooperating.

"They all requested to have their names kept out of it until there was something solid." Andy wasn't budging.

"I think a murder is pretty damned solid, Andy," Jo snapped.

"You don't even know for sure the two are connected," Andy defended herself. Jo knew the rules just as well as she did.

"Yeah, actually, we do. Your boss got a phone call this morning warning him off the story unless he wanted to lose another reporter. The caller knew it was Carol that was dead and threatened to come after you. So you're not on a story at this moment. Your editor pulled the plug. Now you gonna help me or not?" Jo stared hard at her friend, trying to will the younger woman to give her what she needed.

Without a word, Miranda stood and strode out of the room as they both stared after her mouths agape. Moments later she was back with a reporter's notebook that she shoved into Jo's hands.

"This is what you need. End this," she directed Jo.

"Miranda!" Andy jumped to her feet unable to believe what her lover had just done.

"No! No, Andréa. You will not object," Miranda held up her hand to stop any comment from Andy. "You were not here yesterday. You didn't see what our girls went through, what I went through, what everyone who loves and cares about you went through when that story broke. You will cooperate fully. You will give Joanne everything she needs to catch this person. You will do it or you will leave this house and never come back. I cannot live like that. My children won't live like that. I will not allow it. I know you have your principles, but what if someone comes after you and misses. What if Caroline or Cassidy are in the way? What if I am? Or what if they don't miss and we're subjected to a lifetime of that loss, your loss? Is that worth some principle that may not even apply in this situation? Will it take you feeling what I felt yesterday morning before you realize what is of primary importance? Answer me!"

Andy could only stare at Miranda. The fear and rage in those blue eyes was terrifying, her body visibly trembling with the emotions she was trying to contain. For the first time, Andy began to understand some of what her lover, her family had gone through the previous day. That Miranda would rather her leave than go through it again told her all she needed to know. She reached out and took the notebook from Jo. She looked at it for a long moment as she thought of all that Miranda had said. Her decision wasn't difficult. She flipped it open to a page about half with through, tore out a handful of pages and handed them to Jo.

"That's what you want, names and notes except for the informant. Copy it and give it back. I'll call the guy. He's reputable and I think he'll be willing to talk to you. I'm still not sure exactly why, but girls are disappearing down there. I have a theory but don't have enough to prove it. It's all in there. I'm trusting you to protect my family, Jo."

"I won't let you down, Andy," she left quickly tucking the folded papers into a jacket pocket.

Andy and Miranda looked at each other for a long moment, neither speaking nor moving. With a deep breath, Andy finally broke the silence.

"I'm thinking the crime beat isn't exactly right for me. A woman with a family shouldn't do things to put that at risk. There's an opening for someone to cover local politics. Maybe I'll check into that. You know, or there might be something in sports. I don't really know much about it but I'm sure I could learn." Andy knew she was babbling, but couldn't seem to stop.

Crossing the room, Miranda slid her arms around the taller woman's neck and pulled Andy's head down bringing their lips closer. "Thank you," she breathed before claiming her lover's mouth.

Walking into her kitchen as she closed the fastener on her bracelet, Miranda Priestly headed directly for the coffeemaker. Reaching for the carafe, she filled the clear glass mug that her housekeeper conveniently left out for her each evening. She turned on the small under cabinet TV as she took the first sip, intent on listening to the early news before her housekeeper, Estella, arrived to get the twins ready for school. Knowing Roy, her driver, would be waiting outside, she opened the Book where she had left it on the counter before going to bed and scanned back over the notes she had made the previous evening as the news anchor droned on until a story caught her attention.

"This just in: New York Mirror reporter Andrea Sachs-"

Dropping the book, she rushed up the stairs moving much faster than one really should in 4 inch Blahniks. She passed the twins who seeing the look on their mom's face followed her immediately.

"Mom? What's wrong?" Cass called after her, but Miranda kept going not stopping to answer. Pushing open the door to her bedroom, she scanned the room frantically. Not finding what she was searching for, she crossed the room and threw open the bathroom door. Yanking open the shower door, she stared at a very soaked Andy Sachs who stared back in concern.

"Hey. What's wrong, Miranda?" she asked not liking the fear written so clearly on her lover's face.

"Nothing," Miranda denied. "I just…" With a sigh, she kicked off her shoes and walked fully clothed into the shower and into Andy's arms. "The news said-."

Realizing what must have upset her lover, Andy ghosted her lips over Miranda's. "I'm fine. We're fine. I was going to surprise you but they evidently jumped the gun. I won the National Journalism Award for Investigative Journalism for the story on the missing homeless girls. Jo got me the exclusive, remember?"

Miranda nodded into Andy's neck. She knew she must look foolish, hair and clothing wet, her makeup running down her face and now Andréa's chest. For just a moment she had been thrown back to that nightmarish morning and she had desperately needed to know that her lover was safe.

"You do realize that you're going to have start all over getting dressed now, don't you?" Andy teased her hoping to lighten the mood.

Releasing Andre'a, Miranda stood back and with hands smoothed the hair back from her face. "Nonsense. If I say the wet look is back, it's back."

Laughing Andy reached for the buttons on Miranda's blouse. "Well since you're already in here and you know how I like any kind of 'wet look' on you," Andy stopped to push the blouse off her lover's shoulders and reached around to unclasp her bra. "I'll just help you out of these wet things and we'll start celebrating now."

Miranda licked her lips. "An-Andréa, the girls were right behind me."

Andy laughed. "They took off the moment you stepped into the shower with all your clothes on. Mama Priestly didn't raise no dummies."

Miranda lifted an eyebrow. "Really, Andréa, you won an award? Your grammar is a nightmare." She asked in her chilliest voice.

"Nightmare's over, Miranda. Time to make dreams come true," Andy murmured before pulling her lover into a slow deep kiss.

The End

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