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By punky_96


Part 1

"Andy." Miranda whispered holding the tabloid in a vice grip over her desk. She coughed once and shook her head in dismissal of calling out for him. She was not going to call out after anyone. Miranda sucked in a hearty lungful of air and exhaled forcefully through her nose almost growling. If a heart breaks and no one is in the room to see it, does it still hurt? Miranda Priestly would tell you that most certainly it does hurt, and she would most certainly prefer that no was around to see the pain. Andrew had been on a 'business trip' for a week now, and their marriage had been struggling for nearly a year. However it was never expected or easy to accept when your husband ended up in the tabloids with another woman in the French Riviera instead of Japan on a business trip.

"Emily." Miranda summoned. She was so thankful that after the hailstorm of assistants in the last few years she had at last let Emily hire Replica-Emily. Miranda knew the universe was going back to how it should be when the girl was also named Emily. On the rare occasion that the Real-Emily was called to the office from elsewhere in Runway—Miranda just called her Charlton. "Call Leslie." She swept all of the tabloids up in her hands and threw them across her desk to flutter to the floor and bring Emily back from her shock-induced state to pick them up.

Emily scooped up the offensive publications and rushed from the room before any other commands could be added on or she could suffer from anyone else's mistakes this morning.

Miranda never even called the 2nd assistants by a name anymore. "New Girl." After a few moments the girl appeared in her door ready for orders. "Locksmith. Starbucks. Now." The girl scurried from the office and moments later she was connecting Miranda to the unsuspecting locksmith. Then, like a superhero the scared girl turned herself into a blur leaving the building for Starbucks.

Greg, Stephen, and now Andrew—three failures, right in a row. 11 years, 3 years, and 4 years but the end was the same. The definition of insanity was repeating the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. Only the same thing in this case was Miranda herself and that was unacceptable. Miranda was not the failure in this, there was no way that this was all her doing. Yet, there must be something in common. Miranda was afraid to put her finger on what exactly it could be. Greg had given her two wonderful girls who had grown up to become beautiful young ladies. Sixteen and halfway through high school they were the apple of Miranda's eye. Her relationship with them had its ups and downs as any mother/daughter teenager relationship did, but she made the effort when at all possible to be at their events, check in with them at home, to know their school friends. Greg was a good partner for raising them even though they had not lived together well. They both wanted the best for the girls and that outshone their issues with each other, until they didn't have to pretend to get along anymore—it was natural. Stephen, well, he was never interested in her as a person, nor was he ever interested in having a family. He never made more than half the effort and Miranda didn't suffer time wasters at work—and she refused to tolerate them at home. It was no wonder that Andrew did not last long at all.

Stephen had no courage whatsoever and told her about the divorce while she was in Paris: that frankly was unforgivable. It was really a shame that he was not in a position that she could easily effect. In the courtroom however and in the press she was sure to vivisect him and dissect him. She was sad that the girls did not have a father figure in the house, but Stephen had never been much of one in the first place. To be honest he could not live up to their real father whom they saw regularly anyway.

Leaving in Paris. Absolutely totally, unequivocally, irreparably unforgivable.

Miranda shuddered as she continued to throw Andrew's clothes on the bed and her thoughts began to wander to dark but not forgotten corners of her mind. "Hope. I live on it." She shook her head again. "Well, not any more. Not any more indeed. Hope has left the building." Miranda ruthlessly and tirelessly shoved his clothes onto the bed and then into his luggage. What did not fit got put in the trash bags that she brought up from the kitchen. She thanked the heavens that the girls were staying at a friend's house tonight. She had come home in a miserably furious mood. She parked his car on the street so that he could get to it later. She had already changed the locks. Her lawyers were drawing up the paperwork while her publicist tried to make sure that the focus stayed on Andrew's infidelities rather than herself or her children. They were older than they were when Stephen left, but she was still fiercely protective of them.

Andrew had been caught on a French Riviera holiday with his mistress. Miranda snorted at that thought. He didn't have much to offer a mistress and from what she had read, he certainly had not traded up in any sense of the word. She had considered letting him come home to have the battle on familiar turf, but when she imagined his pleading brown eyes and probable tears her resolve against him solidified. There would be no homecoming for Andrew. Not now, not ever, not to plead his case, not to beg forgiveness, and most importantly not to look at her with his big brown eyes full of hurt and anguish. He would be hurt by her coldness, and his own guilt, but she would have no part of watching him impale himself on his own wrong-doing.

Instead she called the airline and had his ticket changed to the following week and back to coach. It was not a regular request but Miranda had a full arsenal of persuasive tools at her disposal starting with charm and increasing to promises of vengeance. She was able to stay with charm as she worked her way through the proper people in command of the airline until she got what she wanted.

The girl. Woman. Whatever. Miranda shook her head. She apparently was a journalist like Andrew so she was easily enough dispatched on assignment to follow an environmental group around Alaska for six months. New Emily could not help a smirk when she walked into the office at the end of that conversation.

Miranda surprised herself that she simply banished them instead of permanently disfiguring their careers. A small part of her wondered at the change from her reputation and normal course of action, but the larger part of her shook that off. She did not want to know the source of the change, or rather she did not want to think about the source of the change even though she knew full well who it was and what was in those dark corners of her mind. No, that would not do any good at all, to contemplate such a fetching young woman. So Miranda continued packing and trashing.

When the bedroom and bathroom were done Miranda moved on to Andrew's office. It took a surprising amount of will power for her to not smash his various diploma frames and awards. She did not want to think of his success or her role in it. At the moment she wanted to crush him, his hopes, and all of his dreams. If he loved that woman, then she was already on the right track by sending her away. Part of her hoped that he loved her so this was worth the press and emotions. She also hoped he truly loved her so that sending her away did hurt him in his heart parts. Various papers and knick-knacks were swept off the desk and into boxes quickly. Shelves of books took a little longer as they were too heavy if piled too high in the box. Miranda was not used to such physical exertions beyond her workouts, but tonight the extra motion helped to distract her thoughts, which were a surprising mixture that was not wholly focused on Andrew. She shook her head again at the notion that she wasn't upset with Andrew, but rather that she was upset with herself and a certain former assistant who left in a blur that Miranda actively blocked from her mind. Of course she was upset with Andrew—he had betrayed her and he had landed himself in the tabloids which was inexcusable.

Letting out a great puff of air Miranda stood in the middle of the room to assess her progress. Desk empty and cleared off—check. Shelves empty—check. Walls cleared—check. Anything else? Miranda wanted to hang other things immediately, but fought this urge telling herself that she would want to paint and maybe ask the girls for their input. The rational part of herself telling her that was a more permanent way to get rid of him and his doe-like brown eyes. She shook her head again. Would she ever escape doe-like brown eyes? Andrew, her assistants, her assistant… No. That was unacceptable. Cupboards under the shelves, yes, that was what was next.

Miranda pulled an empty box with her to the first cupboard and found a surprising stash of various videos and DVDs that should have been under lock and key, if they were to be allowed in her house at all. Rolling her eyes in disdain of her younger soon to be ex-husband's apparently youthful taste for poor quality adult videos. She stuffed the rubbish into the box. This box she took all the way down to the garage and loaded into her trunk. It would not do to have her girls come home and find the boxes—find this box—before she could get his stuff dropped off somewhere. As she huffed back up the stairs Miranda contemplated having Roy put it all in storage so that she would not have to see Andrew again. Satisfied with that idea she returned to the study and the rest of the cupboards.

Another box and another cupboard—this one yielded Andrew's liquor collection which was in keeping with her own tastes so she boxed it up and took it down to her own study to simply be absorbed into the liquor cabinet there. Miranda smugly thought that she was depriving him of some small pleasures by keeping his liquor, and she savored the thought that he would never, ever dare to ask her for his liquor. He would notice, maybe feel the prick of loss, and some anger—but he would never be able to challenge Miranda. He never could in the end, which was why he had taken the coward's route intentionally or unintentionally by having this affair and being careless enough to be found out. He didn't have the guts to tell Miranda what he wanted or needed, so he had gone outside the marriage. He didn't have the guts to leave, so he had carried on in such a way that he would be left. And yet she knew that he had not wanted to hurt her. She knew that those eyes would look at her full of sorrow and a genuine regret that he had wronged her—which was precisely why he would not return to the town home.

Miranda opened the next cupboard to find magazines. An assortment of magazines, but they were all the same—women's naked bodies on display in such a vulgar way that made Miranda want the models of Runway to wear turtlenecks and long pants in order to distance themselves from such filth. Each handful of magazines upset Miranda more than the one before it. It was trashy, lewd, but most importantly it lacked artistry. In Runway the artistry was the point. The clothes, the models, the photography, the layout, the text—was all very thought out art. This? This was nothing more than catering to the bottom line of the lowest common denominator for men's preparation rooms in sperm donor banks. As Miranda pulled handful after handful out of the cupboard she slowly made herself upset and then nauseous. Almost to the final handful of magazines Miranda's grip slipped and the magazines in her hand fell to the floor.

Miranda cursed under her breath as she kneeled to scoop them up. Her hand stilled over one slightly to her left with two post-it tabs sticking out of the side. In her shock she released the other magazines, which fell to the floor. Swallowing hard Miranda reached with trembling fingers to the magazine with the tabs that had caught her attention. Doe-like eyes stared at her from the cover of the magazine daring her to look at them, to be mesmerized by them, and to be honest with them. Miranda trailed a disbelieving fingertip along the girl's face and then her palm covered the girl's body as she let out a breath she had not known she was holding.

Nigel would never admit to reading the Harry Potter books or watching the movies. He was not afraid to admit it since he knew that Miranda let the girls enjoy them. He just liked to keep certain things to himself. Harry Potter was one of those things. Today though, he could have sworn that there were Dementors prowling the halls of Elias-Clark. It was colder than it should have been, the hairs on the back of his neck were doing creepy little dances as if they could feel the changes in the air, and he was certain that he had woken up full of joy—only now he felt certain that he would never be happy again.

He had wandered over to check with Emily to see what the run-down was this morning. Surely a tragedy had occurred that he was just unaware of, or perhaps a newsflash had gone up about Miranda, or Roy had called explaining some kind of Miranda-related catastrophe. Emily looked on edge as usual—no more, no less. She answered his questioning gaze with a shrug. They both turned to scowl at the 'new girl' as Miranda had taken to calling them.

The elevator pinged open signaling the arrival of La Priestly. She looked straight ahead in a way that made you feel as if you were burning up into thin air like a malfunctioning transporter beam from Star Trek that simply vanished you instead of taking you somewhere nice. Today that look was not directed at any failing employees, nor was it fiery with a mission. There was something different, unreadable behind her eyes. She did not acknowledge Celine, Emily, or Nigel as she walked by throwing her coat and bag before entering her office. "Coffee." She said to the air and Celine practically Matrixed her way over the desk to hang the coat and bag while she simultaneously retrieved her own and caught the same elevator that Miranda had only just vacated.

Emily sucked in a cold lungful of air and looked mournfully at Nigel.

"I think she's part Dementor." Nigel said under his breath.

It was not meant for Emily to hear, and yet he was pleasantly surprised when she responded with, "We'll find out when she gives the Dementor's kiss to someone. Today might just be the day."

Nigel whistled just barely and walked away. There was really nothing that he could say at that point so he decided to retreat and fight another day. Or at the very least later, when he was summoned.

Later was all of 45 minutes it turned out. As Miranda stalked into his office he thought, 'at least I'll be murdered in private.' His office was a little ways off the beaten path, so at least he would not be publicly embarrassed while she sucked the life out of him and made plans to get rid of his body. He did not look up when she made her entrance. It was a silly instinct that went something like, 'If I can't see you, then you can't see me.' Under that logic as long as Nigel did not look up or acknowledge Miranda in anyway, then he was safe. Of course on the other end of that Catch-22 was the fact that if he did not acknowledge Miranda in any way—he was just as sure to be dead. It was no fun holding the tail of an angry tiger.

He was saved the decision when a magazine was forcefully slammed onto his desk over the layouts he was trying to comprehend. His eyes went wide as he took in the fact that Miranda Priestly had just thrown down a Playboy magazine on his desk. To top it off she obviously blamed him for its existence. In the world of Miranda Priestly that was how the planets orbited. Nigel struggled for air as his blood literally ran cold through his body. At this point asking Miranda for quick death sounded like a good plan—at least in his head.

Nigel knew the truth of this magazine.

He also knew that as much as Miranda wanted to blame him—she couldn't. He knew without a doubt that this magazine, this model, this particular 'spread' was all her doing. On the pain of death, which seemed unavoidable at this point, Nigel would rather not tell Miranda this, but it did not change the unmistakable truth to it. Six years ago Andrea Sachs had left Miranda, or left Runway, in Paris. Six years ago Miranda had decreed a six-month blacklist on the girl to punish her. Six years ago Andrea Sachs returned home from Paris to be left by La Boyfriend, Les Friends, and she had tried to keep her apartment and her mind and find a job. She could not.

"What is THIS?" Miranda asked in a whisper that was really a growl.

Nigel blinked at her thinking 'bullet to the head or bullet to the stomach?' He remained silently assessing her.

"Nigel." The arrow had been loaded and the crossbow cocked back and ready.

He pursed his lips and then he opened the magazine to one of the tabs to reveal a two page photograph of Andrea Sachs. Miranda gasped as the page flopped open before her on Nigel Kipling's desk. "That is…" He looked up to Miranda and then pointed at the page forcing her to look before he continued. "Blacklisting, scary weight loss, abandonment, heartbreak and rock bottom all rolled into one."

"What?" Miranda whispered desperately.

"You blacklisted her."


"How could she know that, Miranda?" Nigel asked her gently. "She knew the legend, not the heart. A million times she had escaped being fired, but she knew that there was no way to escape the wrath of the Dragonlady after Paris. Not after she left the way she did and when she did."

"Six months." Miranda croaked out.

"Six months that were like six years for her." He looked at her, but then his eyes softened at her obvious pain. "She worked at a hair salon, but it wasn't enough. She lost her apartment." Miranda turned moist pleading eyes on Nigel and briefly he wondered if he didn't like Dementor-Miranda better. He figured he would have a quicker death that way. "Her boyfriend left her because she chose you. Her friends sided with him because she wasn't the person they thought she should be. I ran into her one night at a bar and she lived on my couch for a few months."

Miranda closed the open layout and covered Andrea's exposed body with her hand. "How did this happen?"

"One night after going out she went to a party and at the party she met a contact from Playboy. She was desperate slowly starving herself, working a pitiful job, and trying to pretend she didn't live on my sofa." Nigel rested his hand over Miranda's in a reluctant but uncontrollable urge to comfort her. He took a deep breath and let it out. Miranda mirrored his actions breathing again for herself. "Her parents disowned her. They were ashamed, but she was able to get the tiniest apartment ever, and make ends meet for a while. She was proud to have accomplished that much and other modeling gigs followed. She lived the underground glamour of parties, modeling, and no small amount of fame in that circle."

"What is she doing now?"

"She modeled for a few of the James Holt parties then and met some people. I lost track of her, but I think she's still modeling. The last I knew she was going to leave New York."

"You don't know where?" Nigel hated that Miranda sounded defeated.

"Somewhere she could still model, but not here." He stopped there and Miranda left his answer alone. "I told her to try Los Angeles, and offered to call some people for her, but then I never heard back from her."

Miranda sucked in a painful breath of air and removed her hand from underneath Nigel's. He was looking at the magazine cover intently. She did not want his comfort or his words, but she knew he was far from done. He knew what was in that magazine and apparently thought that she should know. Miranda closed her eyes to brace herself and gripped the edge of his desk till it hurt her. "And?" She managed to utter out.

"Did you see her name?"

Through clenched teeth Miranda said, "Marina Keating."

Unseen by Miranda, Nigel nodded and opened the magazine to the second tab. He ran his finger over the name. "Marina—for—Miranda. Keating—for—Kipling."

"What?" Miranda snapped her eyes open filleting Nigel with her glare.

"Did you see her secret confession? Or did you not read it all?"

"Nigel. Don't play with me."

"Hmmm. Look here—'I fell in love with my boss.' Poor girl." Nigel read so quietly that Miranda was unsure that she heard him correctly. Nigel put his finger on the line daring Miranda to read it for herself. She leaned forward hurriedly bringing her glasses up, but did not dare to touch the magazine.

As she read Nigel remembered out loud. "Secret Confession: What's the best and the worst thing that you have ever done? That's easy because it's the same thing: I fell in love with my boss."

Miranda stood reading and looking at the brown doe eyes of her former assistant for many minutes. Nigel unsure of the status of the wild zoo animal loose in his office waited with baited breath for the next question, accusation or outburst. Finally Miranda let out a small wailing sound and uttered Andrea's name as she caressed the face on the layout before she closed the magazine again.

Nigel let out a sigh after a few more moments of silence. True concern and compassion flooded his voice when he found it. "Miranda. I thought you had moved on."

"What?" The sharpness of her voice was like the edge of an axe. "What did you say?" He knew that it was a defensive attack, but he chose his words carefully. Defensive wounds were still wounds.

"For two years every assistant looked like Andy Sachs." Nigel pointed out and Miranda visibly shuddered in her skin. "When they weren't as smart as Andy, or as efficient as Andy, or as Andy as Andy—you fired them. For two years you punished every girl that looked like Andy."

"Oh you have lost it." Miranda pinched the bridge of her nose.

"Have I? Play a slideshow in your mind of those assistants? Then tell me who you have right now instead. Replica-Emily a follow up to Charlton. And New Girl? She is Serena's virtual twin--Celine. The antithesis of Andy."

"There is a line, Nigel Kipling."

"And you crossed it, my dear, Miranda. That younger husband of yours whom you so dearly loved—what was his name? Oh yes. Andrew. Andrew with the dark hair and charming smile. He was a little dull, but he was a journalist with a heart of gold. He had eyes of pure brown innocence that sparkled in the moonlight. You, Miranda, you called him Andy although he told everyone to call him Andrew."

Miranda's mouth hung open for a minute before she snapped it shut tight enough to actually hear teeth gnash together. Nigel put a pen to his lips in thought.

"Oh. I see. Miranda. You didn't move on. You punished and replaced. Or transferred, I think they call it. Yes. It has been a long process for you. And now this." Nigel reached for the magazine but his hand was painfully slapped into the desktop and Miranda snatched up the magazine and left in a poof of volcanic ash and a flow of red-hot molten lava. Nigel cringed as he heard the crash of some lesser individual being struck down and then getting melted out of her way as Miranda bolted from the truth laid out so plainly in front of her face.


Part 2

Paris always caused a buzz in the lives of anyone associated with fashion, but in particular Miranda Priestly's team from Runway experienced more of a sonic boom than a buzz. Nigel took a brief opportunity to watch Miranda berate the Serena look-a-like commonly known as New Girl. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but there was something different this year about Miranda. Andrew was dropped months ago. More properly he was drop kicked. After she changed the locks Miranda had parked his car on the side of the road and left a key to a storage unit with his stuff in it in the console. Truthfully Nigel did not think she batted more than an eyelash one evening over his brief blip on her radar. Perhaps finding that magazine and having that blow out conversation with her about the Andrea look-alikes in her life had been beneficial?

Nigel observed his boss with trepidation. Dragonlady was not a name that came out of nowhere and landed on a person. She had earned the title and as such Nigel always kept an eye on her. Over his years of observation he had learned that she was human and that while she did breath fire, she was warm hearted too. Her refusal to explain things he thought stemmed from not wanting others to know that she operated from a tender place of inspiration and pure desire for artistic perfection. He told himself that in this cutthroat business she had been forced to hide her pure love of art under the business façade so that she would not be trifled with. This ultimate irony helped him to explain her irritability. The business was about art—color, line, presentation, and form—and yet she was forced to put forth a merciless front that demanded excellence because of detail and financial bottom lines. No wonder she was irritable. She was hiding a pure heart that simply wanted to be lost in the beauty of it all. A tender heart that only wanted beauty in the world. If the press or her business associates only could see the love—well, that was what Nigel had told himself. He had no proof but it made perfect sense to him. If it were true and Page 6 or Irv Ravitz knew she had a soft center that just wanted beauty, well Miranda Priestly would be crushed by the heartless machine of the business industrial complex which had no place for beauty in its mindless, heartless pursuit of the financial bottom line. Had Miranda been able to be anything she desired, Nigel thought she should have been an artist—able to live on her passion and blind the world with the beauty that she would create. Instead she had tried to shield beauty from the travesties that business would force upon it by becoming a crusader to protect fashion as she lead the flagship of Elias-Clarke thus taking on the responsibility of saving fashion from the fashion industry as the Editor-In-Chief of Runway.

Continuing his observations of Miranda he noticed that going into Paris this year she seemed nervous. Not worried about the arrangements, or the fashion shows, or the interviews, or the press, or all the people she would have to play nice with. He thought his own conclusion was absurd why would Miranda Priestly be nervous about going to Paris for Fashion Week? He could think of no reason and so he dismissed his conclusion and continued to observe her in search of a new explanation. Miranda always raked her assistants over the coals about hotel arrangements, tickets for shows, front row seats, flight arrangements, and the floral arrangements. But this year she seemed to pause in between these episodes of OCD harassment and take time to stare out the window, or look at pictures of Paris on her screensaver in some kind of daydream that was equal parts longing and nerves. These mysterious bouts of quiet contemplation in the midst of the daily havoc of Runway were making Nigel nervous.

Two days before leaving for Paris, Nigel's vigilance paid off. Standing next to Miranda at her desk Nigel looked down and saw the edge of a photograph peeking out from under the layout he was discussing with her. It would be another of his nine or ninety lives to ask Miranda about it. So he did the only thing he could think of and picked the layout up swinging it around to hold it in the light of the window for effect. This was quite effective toward achieving his goal because it swept the photograph off the desk. Miranda quickly reached for the photograph and Nigel innocently turned to look at it clasped in her hand. He was trying for stealth, but his gasp of air gave him away at the sight of a picture of Andy and himself in Paris—6 years ago. Miranda's look would have killed him, but after 20 years he had developed near total immunity.

'Nervous indeed,' Nigel thought as he quickly took his leave. 'Nervous for what?' He wondered as he walked past New Girl and silently prayed that no Dementors would make an appearance on this trip. He did not know what to make of seeing Andrea's picture on Miranda's desk months after the discovery of the Playboy and years after her departure. He was certain that the photograph was of Andrea even though it actually was of Andrea and himself. His presence in the photograph was incidental, of that he was sure. What was Miranda thinking now deep down in her secret heart? Nigel could place Andrea there in her heart of hearts. That was not a mystery to him. How that connected to this year's Paris trip, now that was still a mystery that was still open for interpretation. Was it simply that Andrea had left during the Paris trip six years earlier? Was it an ill-fated anniversary of sorts now that Miranda was single again and Nigel had confronted her about the Andrea look-alikes? He wished that he had not lost track of Andrea. It had never been his intention. At the time he had assumed that she would be back and he had also assumed that she would have made a name for herself within the lower echelons of the fashion world. Not enough to draw Miranda's attention, but certainly enough that Nigel would have heard a whisper of her by now. Andrea's lack of location on the fashion map unnerved Nigel as he continued to contemplate the strange behavior of Miranda.

Some children developed a love of drama early on. Those children dressed up or dressed others up. They created the world in which they wanted to live for the time. They were daydreamers and big thinkers. Often their love spread out over those around them creating a spellbound audience that waited to see what they would come up with next. These children often thrived on the reactions of the people in their lives and eventually strangers. The children became adults who controlled a room merely by entering it. Adults that created an entrance, provided entertainment, and left before all their secrets were shared and people still wanted more from them. These dramatic adults took many forms each as unique in their existence as the type of drama that they thrived on. In business these adults were movers and shakers who quickly worked their way up the ranks and accomplished much with seemingly little. They were the CEOs of start-up companies and multi-billion international corporations. In Hollywood these adults were the likes of Katharine Hepburn or Cary Grant.

In fashion these adults were Coco Chanel, Miuccia Prada, and Miranda Priestly.

In a small town in the countryside of France one of these children was Bertrand Leroux. He wanted to be one of the movers and shakers of the fashion world. He wanted to bask in the spotlight and leave a legend behind him that would allow his name to be whispered with reverence for generations to come within the upper echelons of the fashion world. Indeed like Chanel he wanted to transcend the world of fashion and be known because of it in the larger world. He believed her words, "In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different." His highest hope was to always be different so that he would live beyond a one hit wonder of a season at Paris Fashion Week: dropped as quickly as he had come. He occasionally lost sleep thinking of the risks he was taking. His doubts were only soothed when he entered his studio and re-visited his inspiration and work. Filled with the beauty he had created, Bertrand emerged knowing it was time for him to make his entrance. He also knew 'making an entrance' was his special gift, so with his renewed confidence he would nod at his creations and bow out the door.

His entire life was about style and drama. As a small child he perfected the art of 'making an entrance.' His friends and family had come to love this knack he had developed over the years. He set up fashion shows in friends' houses. He directed plays for the younger kids' amusement. Even at family events he found a way to perform in some way or another. His theatrics inevitably drew people to him. At school he was a local celebrity. He did not let others have a chance to think his individuality or difference was a weakness or something to be ridiculed. Instead he drew them in playing to their sense of humor or shock. He made sure to make an entrance in every arena of his life whether it was school, work, or love. His talent for 'making an entrance' was not always appreciated by his lovers. They were frequently not as comfortable with the room stopping to look at them on his arm. Bertrand did not let this bother him in the slightest, either they wanted to be on his celebrated arm—or they did not. As a younger man he studied icons in every field and studied every mannerism, signature quirks, and how they used their body, eyes, clothes, and projected mind to rule a room.

Bertrand's highest passion was dressing the female form. Beyond that he loved the unique drama that accompanied fashion shows, model competitions, and indeed every facet of the fashion world right down to the seating arrangements, invitations and the actual events themselves. He had an eye for detail and mystery that taken together with his ability to 'make an entrance' would ensure that he would not be forgotten any time soon in the collective memory of Paris Fashion Week, if not the World of Fashion in general. He intended to catch every eye in Paris and to have them spread his work to women around the world. He had caught enough eyes to put him on the schedule at Paris. Now it was the time to catch the world. He did not care that he was a relative new comer. He dreamed big and in vibrant Technicolor and made no apologies for it.

To this end he observed virtual radio silence about his show, but had planted people in every corner of fashion to talk about his creations and create a buzz regarding his show. This included rumors of his lovers, quarrels with models that always ended in a stroke of creative genius, and supposed sightings of his work on various public figures. Nothing had been written in the months leading up to Fashion week, but with just a month left he had sent out 'summons' instead of invitations and only to about 50% of what would be considered fashion's key players. This in turn caused a hailstorm of speculation within the industry as it would have appeared the summons were sent at random. Only to be followed one week later by summons to the other half of fashion's key players. Again causing a renewed buzz. Everyone wanted to know the man and the clothes behind the hype and they either wanted to string him up or conquer him.

Miranda Priestly was a rock. She was unmoved by the theatrics, but she was intrigued as to why a newcomer would apparently go to such lengths to alienate the fashion nobility on the eve of his debut. In her opinion he was either a genius or a moron. Surrounded as she was by incompetence—she leaned in favor of thinking him a moron. He had gotten himself to Paris, which was in Miranda's mind apparently just enough rope for him to hang himself. Nigel received his summons on the first round, as had Irv. This fact only furthered her impression that the man was indeed a moron and as such that she would look forward to seeing him crash and burn, even if she had to steal Nigel's 'summons' to see it for herself. Not receiving a summons had irked Miranda, but her invitation was in the second round. She wondered if this Moron Laroux knew what game he was playing at. If he was worth the fuss, why hadn't someone already found him and offered their guidance to him. Then a thought occurred to her, one that might make crashing his little soiree a worthwhile endeavor indeed. Perhaps what the man needed was guidance. This thought cheered Miranda greatly. She loved nurturing new talent, even if she did it with the harsh lash of a whip. Watching a new artist meet her demands on their talent was incredibly rewarding. She dispatched Nigel to find out as much as she could about this mysterious Bertrand Leroux. 'Man or moron,' Miranda had told him over her reading glasses as she fixed Nigel with her eyes.

He had been able to turn up surprisingly little in the way of verifiable facts prior to leaving. The Bertrand Leroux fashion show was to have some kind of woodland fairy theme which Miranda outright laughed at. Nigel's jaw had dropped at this reaction as it was a first for him to experience. He also was incredibly giddy that he had not been fired for 'incompetence' because he had been unable to uncover anything else of value for Miranda. It was always 'incompetence' that got you fired with Miranda. Her definition of 'incompetence' was incredibly far-reaching as it covered everything from less than scalding hot coffee to the inability to secure proper travel arrangements for the Runway team. It was not often that Nigel feared for his job, however when Miranda showed a particular interest in this mysterious designer and he had come back empty handed—well, he re-visited those old fears. With Miranda's surprising laugh still ringing in his ears Nigel was glad to board the plane for Paris where the week would surely pass by in a blur. Nigel noticed that by Thursday in Paris Miranda seemed to be relaxing. Whatever tragedy she had been anticipating in Paris had apparently not occurred. Now Miranda was simply La Priestly instead of Nervous La Priestly. With this realization Nigel felt a tension he had not realized he was storing in his muscles ease up as well. Idly he thought, 'If Miranda isn't happy, then no one is happy.' He hadn't even realized how tense he had let himself get with worry over Miranda's apparent nerves.

Friday was the Bertrand Leroux show and unlike other shows it was very late in the afternoon leading into the early evening and the party was in the same venue immediately following—unorthodox to say the least. The expected order of things was that a fashion show happened early enough that there was a free period of time between it and the evening activities. This fashion siesta allowed teams to gather notes, compare impressions, of what they had seen, and generate ideas for stories or layouts depending on which corner of the fashion world they had come from. It allowed for between show schmoozing and Miranda's favorites: plotting and scheming. The break from the busy-ness also allowed the fashion elite to transform from daily grind gorgeous to stylish soiree. Bertrand Leroux apparently wanted to tout as many rules and traditions as he could. 'Perhaps he is trying for best in the Crash and Burn category.' Miranda considered with the hint of a smirk.

In keeping with the woodland fairy theme an elaborate trellis covered with leafy branches had been erected as a false ceiling for the vast room. It was so close to the regular ceiling that most people did not notice it at first. Miranda noticed the leaves scattered under her feet before she looked up and noticed the ceiling. She checked her chair before sitting to be sure that no nature would surprise her. Miranda nearly laughed out loud again as she fleetingly thought of a production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" she had attended once. Maybe Bertrand Leroux would come out at the end of the show dressed as Bottom. That alone was enough to hook Miranda in for the show. She was in the front row of course and halfway down the runway. Nigel was behind her diagonally to the left. The rest of the team was seated next to him farther away from Miranda. The air was charged with electricity as the patrons hob knobbed before hand gossiping, plotting and scheming. Everyone being dressed up for the party immediately following lent an extra degree of sophistication. The woodland decorations provided an excellent contrast to their finery and there was a collective buzz regarding the feasibility of any theme let alone woodland fairies.

A hush fell over the crowd as the lights dimmed and the spotlights illuminated the runway. Backlit at the entrance to the runway two masculine figures with horns appeared, their silhouettes playing the panpipes as music warbled through the speakers. Then in a moment of breathless anticipation where the crowd collectively agreed to watch the show regardless of spectacle or speculation a model appeared in the finest fairy costume of reds, greens, and browns complete with the most delicate flowing wings ever. She glided down the runway throwing what would appear to be glitter or confetti into the air, but whatever it was disappeared as it floated—lending an air of magic to the show—before she spirited herself back up the runway and the first outfit of the afternoon walked a fierce walk to start the show.

The border where lingerie met evening out was a familiar one, however Bertrand's designs took on this familiar theme and gave it a wild feel—there was something animalistic and magical about it. Miranda could see that the clothes had dictated this kind of presentation. The colors and textures flowed together to create this pageantry somewhere between the fanciness of a royal court and the almost Greek Bacchanalian earthy pleasures. Small details flowed together to create a magical space within the crowd's suspended disbelief. The forest trellis and some scattered leaves were all that it took to set the scene. The mood was created by the two fauns and the fairy that began the show. The magic was hidden in the folds of fabric wrapping the gorgeous blonde models. The crowd watched in slack jawed wonder as the press became drunk on camera flashes.

After this bevy of spectacular blonde females the two horned fauns took the runway and a gasp settled in over the crowd. They were clad in tight pants that were darker than their skin tone and their bare chests were tinted wildly. They took a few moments to jump over each other and tumble animatedly in a series of playful moves. Then a throat was cleared and they froze. The crowd looked with them to the silhouette at the head of the runway. They looked at each other in dramatic panic and looked high and low for their leader and an escape route. The throat cleared again and the two ran down the runway jumping off. The startled crowd turned its attention to the head of the runway.

Silence descended again and a female form was backlit behind the blind. The figure struck three poses as the crowd sucked in a collective gasp of air. Building the moment at the end of a show had taken on a whole new twist here. The Fairy Queen Titania herself emerged from behind the blind to pose again just inside everyone's view. The camera clicks sounded like the snapping of shark jaws during a feeding frenzy. Many of the gathered elite sat forward on their chairs. Even the great Miranda Priestly tilted her head to see. Queen Titania's lips were deep red, her hair was dark as the woods of which she was the Queen. A solitary lock of hair hung down in front of her shoulder curling just so above her breast. The deep red coat matched the color of her lips and had a high neck. The lapels dove down over her bosom—drawing the observers' eye down into the ivory cleavage hidden there. The Queen's hands were in the pockets of the deep red jacket as she turned this way and that to give the eyeful that everyone wanted so very badly from her.

Mid way down the runway she stopped walking on her deep red four-inch heels that were the same red of the jacket, and of her lips. The Queen scanned the crowd as she turned a slow 360 degrees and slid the red jacket off her shoulders. As if held in place that one lock of hair hovered over her now exposed cleavage. With no chain a red garnet pendant hung above the valley between her breasts. The crowd fell silent as her cold regal brown gaze swept over them. Miranda's breath caught in her throat as she looked up to catch the hard brown of the Queen's eyes. Almost carelessly the model dropped the jacket just beyond the runway with a subtle flick of the wrist. It landed at the feet of Miranda Priestly. The crowd gasped and then 'ooohed' as its collective gaze landed on the four inch deep red heels of the Queen before traveling up long slender legs. A murmur washed over the crowd as it took in the pure cream of the dress that covered the Fairy Queen. The hem of the skirt slanted so that it was longer than one knee, but just above the other knee. The cameras went wild as she circled taking in the crowd once more. With a flip of her head the lock of hair flew over her bare shoulder taking their eyes with it. The bodice hugged tightly to her body and her ivory skin almost melted underneath the cream. As she walked you could see her legs through the high slit on the short side of the skirt.

At the end of the runway she fiercely looked over the crowd almost following the protocol at the end of the runway, but then she raised both hands and snapped her fingers. The long forgotten males stood at attention. She reached out her hands to them and they helped her take one long swooping step to land on the ground and then they escorted her one on each side as they cut through the crowd and headed toward the banquet hall down the long hallway. The crowd went wild as the designer, Bertrand Leroux, took the runway only to announce in a similarly unusual fashion that the party had begun. He held up a champagne flute and drank before he jumped down from the runway and followed the Queen.

Things that pleased Miranda Priestly were hard to come by. Rarer still were things that impressed her. It was no wonder then at the end of a solid hour of being impressed, Miranda Priestly sat a moment in contemplation. The daring nature of the new comer to break with tradition and custom had proven invigorating. Setting the scene with props and a small touch of drama had kept the mind alert. However his big finish was truly breathtaking. It was a true culmination. The blonde models brought in all the woodland colors and in their similarity to each other they had blended one into the next indistinguishable. This brought focus to the clothes whose colors all were of the woodland scene—carefully avoiding that final color of cream. Until the last model—the Queen—for that was what she was. She was separated from the others by the fauns before her entrance, her authoritative entrance, extra time on the runway including dropping her jacket, and finally in the color of her hair and the dress itself. Miranda Priestly picked up the deep red jacket still at her feet. She slowly stood adjusting her neck and shoulders before turning to Nigel and slaying him outright with her icy blue eyes. Weak though it might be, Nigel simply lifted his hands and shrugged completely as he mouthed that he didn't know. The crowd slowly woke from its trance after the designer announced the party and as it thinned Miranda made her way to the end of the runway and Nigel followed behind her.

"I told you she was modeling." Nigel tried to keep his voice neutral. He did not want to reveal how proud he was of the Queen. After everything she had been through, she had emerged victorious and he was indeed proud of her.

She glared at him and shook the jacket up at him in a white-knuckled grip.

"I didn't know she would be here." He added in his defense.

"Tell the others to go back to the hotel. You are with me tonight. That's all."


Part 3

Surprises were rare in Miranda's life. She ran a tight ship at home with the twins and at Runway. Andrew's recent infidelity had been unpleasant, but it couldn't truly be called a surprise either. New Girl messing up 3-4 times a week was not planned out, but her moments of incompetence were expected—it was always just a matter of when. A designer impressing Miranda was unexpected, as was the more rare fact that it was a game-playing new-comer at Paris Fashion Week. The true stop-your-heart-for-a-moment surprise was the sudden appearance of the Queen. Not just her existence in the world, but how vividly striking she was as she burst out from the dark corners of the past into the bright lights of the now. Nigel had thought that he had seen all of Miranda's facial expressions. He had even explained the code of them to Andrea once upon a time. Tonight a new expression overtook her countenance and he wished he knew how bad it would have to get before it could get better.

Nigel followed Miranda into the party after he dismissed the rest of the entourage. The models were distributed around the room like party favors showing themselves off and giving an up close look at Bertrand Leroux's designs. Even off the runway in the large crowd of people, the blonde's were all still indistinguishable. The one that everyone looked for was the Queen and Nigel followed the eyes of the crowd until he saw the dais raised up above the party. The Fairy Queen was seated with the male models on either side of her. Their roving eyes scanned the crowd like laser beams, but they did not linger on anyone in particular. It appeared that their job at the party was to be seen and reign above it silently. Nigel was reminded of the soldiers outside Buckingham Palace because that was how aloof and unaffected they seemed intent on being. Nigel wondered about the sanity of Bertrand Leroux and the mental wellbeing of the staff that worked for a man with such a high-level of demand and expectation. From the looks of it he rivaled Miranda in this regard. Everything had been a little over the top and Leroux resolutely refused to follow fashion week protocols. In addition to all of that, now he had the audacity to have the Fairy Queen overseeing the event while the other blonde pixies mingled with the crowd showing off the clothes and in effect continuing the show.

Normally Miranda Priestly was in the center of the room—the nexus of all fashion communication and the comings and goings of the people. Tonight Miranda was off-center and yet nothing or no one was in her place. Nigel took his time surveying the scene before him. He was on alert for the Jaqueline's and Irv Ravitz' of the industry, but he did not see the one time challengers or any of their kind in the room tonight. He wondered if they were waiting to make an entrance or if they had left already for some secret rendez-vous. Miranda was holding the deep red jacket down by her side, almost as if to hide it from everyone. No one would dare to question her so she was hiding it in plain sight. Miranda's position left of center allowed for people to come and go, but required the Queen to make an effort to look for her in order to captivate her with her gaze. Nigel realized that there was a larger game of cat and mouse at work tonight. Miranda was not taking the center because she refused to be in the center of the Queen's view. Nigel was not sure what kind of tactic this was—defensive, coy, flirting, fear, or something else. The men holding court with Miranda, the Fashion Queen, were occupying her time, but clearly not her mind. Nigel could tell from the hue of her gaze, the slight flicks of her eyes around the room, the small nod she made for him to come over, and the set of her jaw that Miranda's mind was very far from the point at which she was standing. He however could not imagine where she was, only that it had to do with the Fairy Queen up on the dais and the 'accidental' drop of the deep red coat at Miranda's feet.

Over the course of the next hour Nigel was brought into several small conversations and was encouraged to talk while Miranda gave an opinion and fell silent. At one point he looked to Miranda and noticed her looking at the Fairy Queen with that same look on her face that he had not been able to identify earlier. A small touch to her arm and her attention was snapped back to the conversation at hand and she faultlessly added her opinion in support of Nigel's idea for the September issue. Thirty minutes later Nigel was about to suggest that they go, having already stayed beyond Miranda's usual time at these events. He had enough of this unease that had settled in. Miranda was never distracted and it unsettled him to continue in a situation that was so obviously throwing her off her game. As he opened his mouth to make his suggestion none other than Jacqueline Follet strolled through the room right down the center. She stopped only to talk to Bertrand Leroux whom she gave a hearty hug and marked with her lipstick on his cheek. With a single minded determination and singular bravery she proceeded up onto the dais where she dropped to one knee before the Fairy Queen and kissed her hand before standing again.

Nigel's jaw dropped momentarily until he felt the icy vice like grip of Miranda's hand on his wrist. He clamped his jaw shut wincing in pain that he could not show anyone. No one had approached or spoken to the Queen all evening and now Jacqueline Follet was in her personal space having a focused conversation. Giving the women privacy the male attendants stepped farther away on the dais, but remained close. Eventually Jacqueline turned so that she could survey the room and still talk to the ivory beauty with the hard brown eyes. The queen's eyes stopped roaming the room when Jacqueline approached her. Her focus was drawn to the woman the entire time that she crossed the room, chatted with Bertrand Leroux and made her way to her. Her focus was intent, but the amber spark that once was a fire behind those eyes did not flicker tonight. Nigel wondered where it had gone and whether Miranda had noticed this change as well.

Just once the Fairy Queen's slender fingertips reached for her pendant and one finger ran over it, as if to know it was still there. Perhaps a metaphorical heart on the outside that stood in place of the one left unfeeling on the inside of the cold queen. Miranda swallowed hard at the thought, an uncomfortable knot stuck in her throat at such a foreign, unfounded, wholly romantic idea. As if she could read her thoughts the Queen's glance shot straight to Miranda's and held her ocean blue orbs within the spell of her hard dark brown ones. It was a summons and Miranda released her grip on Nigel's wrist and huffed as she turned away and grabbed a champagne flute from a passing waiter to break the spell. Nigel looked around his attention landing on the Queen in time to see her gaze still locked on Miranda. He wasn't sure that he had imagined them meeting again, at least not consciously, but he was sure that he would not have chosen this strained formal setting. He was confident that Miranda would not have an angry confrontation. It wouldn't be an easy interaction, but Miranda was not bringing anger if she had the chance to talk to Andrea again. Miranda had seemed so hurt that her own actions had harmed Andrea—she had truly only ever meant for her to be temporarily blacklisted. Nigel was certain that if she got the chance Miranda would not call names or make any other kind of scathing comment. However in this public display where they were each locked into the character they had to play—there was no room for any kind of personal talk or progress.

Nigel quietly moaned his relief and massaged his wrist before looking for another flute of champagne. He looked around the room before looking back up to the Queen. The Fairy Queen had turned her attention back to Jacqueline who made her goodbyes. Jacqueline stepped down from the dais and kissed Bertrand Leroux on the cheek again. She moved through the center of the room and the crowd with ease talking to her business partner James Holt and a few others. Then as quickly and as silently as she had arrived she left on whisper-lite feet. The Fairy Queen did not watch her go instead she studiously surveyed the room not looking at either Jacqueline or Miranda again. Her cool demeanor stretched over the crowd. The Queen's male attendants returned to their closer posts by her side but they did not engage in conversation or look at each other.

After a third champagne flute and another half an hour of small talk with Miranda not moving from her spot and not allowing Nigel to float away. She indicated that they would go. Nigel called the driver and he intended to follow her out the door. When he looked up he found that instead of walking to the exit Miranda had gravitated toward the front center of the room to the dais of the Fairy Queen. As he changed course to follow her Nigel had the distinct impression that he was walking into the eye of a hurricane. As she closed the distance to the dais Miranda brought the deep red jacket up and had it draped over her forearm as she walked and talked her way to the front. The crowd parted for Miranda as it always did and then in a shocked instant (that Nigel was certain he would never breath again) the two queens faced off.

Miranda at the foot of the dais bowed low in an oddly masculine gesture which emphasized the red jacket on her arm, but also very publicly and purposefully showed respect to the Fairy Queen. She stood again to her full height and locked her gaze with the hardened brown eyes before her. A warmth flashed behind them in an instant and was gone again as the Fairy Queen closed her eyes and nodded her affirmation to Miranda. "My Queen." Miranda addressed her. They each took a deep breath in the intervening silence. Miranda focused on her posture and not wavering in front of the Queen. The brunette on her dais trembled slightly and unconsciously the Queen's fingertips again found the red pendant on her ivory flesh. It was as if to remember herself, to keep her heart protected. "Goodnight."

There was a pregnant pause as Miranda hoped despite herself for a response and the Queen tried to find her too long silent voice. "Till we meet again." The Queen said softly as her hand clasped the other in her lap to keep her control.

Miranda turned and as she did so she slipped the deep red jacket over her shoulders and glided effortlessly through the crowd. Nigel beamed at the Queen. With a flamboyant arm gesture and one leg forward bow he acknowledged her and prepared to leave. The Queen blinked at him and a quiet desperation flickered across her eyes. "Nigel." She said in a pained whisper. He turned with his eyes wide at the break in her façade. "Jacket pocket. Tell her an hour and a half." His jaw fell open in surprise, but she dismissed him with her hand and turned to her male attendants. On either side of her they walked with her as she made her way to the end of the dais and stepped down. The stone cold Queen began to work the room in a way that only a student of Miranda Priestly could. Nigel rushed from the room in as non-rushed of a way as he could knowing that Miranda would be impatient to leave by now.

Nigel slid into the car ready to brave Miranda's impatience. He held the ultimate trump card to any of her complaints—he was sure of it. "By all means, Nigel—" Miranda was cut off as Nigel reached over to the jacket still on her shoulders and tugged a small envelope out of the jacket pocket. He looked at the envelope in his hands and then into Miranda's eyes. Her eyes were hard, but a flicker of curiosity flashed behind them. Nigel narrowed his eyes at her in thought, but did not hand the card when she reached for it. After a moment's hesitation he nodded as he made up his mind. He looked to his watch and gave the driver the name of the hotel.

The two regarded each other in silence for the 15-minute car ride to the hotel. Nigel could see the vein on the side of Miranda's head pulse as she fought the desire to snatch the envelope out of his hands and perhaps beat him about the head with it. Nigel alternately studied Miranda, the passing lights of Paris outside the car, and the envelope in his hands. His thoughts never wavered from the two women who were slowly drawing into orbit around one another. In his mind he weighed the benefits of telling Miranda the Queen's request straight away versus talking with her first. He wasn't sure what effect the possible meeting would have on the conversation he knew needed to happen. Miranda might resist being dictated to, even though that was not how the Queen meant it. Pieces of information were floating in his mind before dropping into place and forming a proper sequence of events. The envelope was nothing special in itself—an ordinary gummed end flap brown coin envelope, often used at Runway for buttons. The kind he had seen Miranda with eleven years ago or more when the twins had first lost a tooth and she had brought it to Runway with her in a fit of motherly fancy.

Nigel sighed as they reached their destination and slipped the envelope into his own pocket as he got out of the car and held a hand for Miranda. Wordlessly he turned into the hotel and Miranda followed. Nigel asked Miranda to wait for a moment and then he approached the front desk. Miranda tried to melt the back of his head with her eyes as she waited impatiently. She wondered what business he had to attend to and fought with her dueling desires to seize control and to wait for information. She wondered if his front desk business had anything to do with the mystery behind the Fairy Queen and she hoped for his sake that it did. If the jacket had been 'carelessly' tossed at her feet, then how had the envelope been meant for her? An incomplete set of facts and a sense of things beyond her control were rapidly turning from intrigue to discomfort before plunging into anger. Nigel appeared to be some kind of nexus where all the information connected and if the laser beams of her eyes were true to the legend then the man would have no flesh left on his body at all. Fortunately the state of eye surgery was far behind the advanced gossip of the clackers' legends and he was safe—for the time being.

When Nigel stepped into the lift Miranda hesitated. Decades of not sharing made her response automatic. Nigel looked at her sadly amused and then she stepped in with him. It would not do to be separated from that precious envelope. It was small, but it was all she had to go on in order to solve the mystery. Nigel himself and whatever scrap of information was in the envelope were her only links to Andrea. Now that she had seen her face to face there was no way to deny her feelings. Her passion may be unrequited—Miranda knew this—but even so, she had to know everything she could. The door to that corner of her mind had been opened a crack and come what may there was no turning back. For every floor they went up Miranda formed another five questions. The lift stopped and Nigel stepped out heading to his room. He did not glance back knowing that she would have to follow him. She was uncomfortable in the role of follower. It killed her to not have information, but she was the one who had played a dangerous game with the blacklist and not realized the consequences. She bristled with every passing second. The intrigue filled the air around her and it settled around her like a choking fog that would surely suffocate her.

Nigel stood on the far side of the room watching her close the door and enter into the sitting area. He was not sure in his own mind, but had formed a theory. How best to approach the tiger that was Miranda Priestly and not get maimed—that was Nigel's chief concern. He knew that he had guessed her attraction for Andrea, but he was unsure how to go about talking to her when it was so far out of his usual place with her. It also was unsettling that he had not talked to Andrea in three years or more. "I'd offer to take your coat." Nigel said with a reluctant smirk. "But I see that it has become your new favorite. Have a seat." With a flick of his wrist Nigel checked the time. He had to draw this game of cat and mouse out to time it just right. Otherwise the big cat in the room would pounce on him instead of going to get the mouse. If that happened then the mouse would get away again, just as it did six years ago right here in Paris. Miranda hadn't realized it but she had crossed her arms over her waist and was holding onto the deep red jacket as if to keep it there. She rolled her eyes at Nigel and sat down not leaning back into the chair.

A short knock at the door drew Nigel's attention. Miranda resigned herself to more waiting. He dealt with the staff and then placed two wine bottles on the side table. He grabbed two wine glasses and uncorked the wine. Holding out a glass to Miranda he settled onto the couch nearest her chair. Without even asking what it was Miranda took a sip. Just from that smallest amount she tilted her head back and let a small moan escape her lips—she knew this wine—bittersweet with longing and leaving. Six years ago in Paris. Six years ago she had taken this same sip of wine. Andrea Sachs had come to her room that night. Her pleading brown eyes tearfully apologized to her. Her gently desperate voice begged Miranda to understand that while she couldn't explain—she couldn't work for her. Andrea choked on her own words as she explained she was leaving Runway, not her, but Runway. Andrea had left a bottle of wine on the door step when Miranda had shut the door in her face. Nigel had shown up an hour later and they had drunk the bottle together in silence.

Stephen had left her. Andrea had left her. Nigel: she had betrayed and yet he stayed loyal. Nigel did not leave her. Instead he drank with her while she drowned her wounds in wine and stained her heart with memories. Nigel's eyes had spoken everything to her that night, but her hardened eyes looked unseeing at him and her heart could not listen. To let him in would have been to let the truth out. Miranda would have had to crumble the façade she had so desperately cultivated. She would have had to act against the legends that she herself had watered to make them grow. No, indeed no words were spoken that night, nor had they ever been spoken in the days, months, and years to come.

"Why now?" Miranda indicated the wine in her glass.

"I did not know she would be here tonight." Nigel began uncertainly his eyes focused on Miranda trying to communicate the care he had for her. Miranda pursed her lips slightly and tilted her head for him to continue. "I wondered if she would be here. This week. Paris. Six years later. But you wondered the same thing, didn't you?"

Miranda gasped and looked at Nigel in wonder. So he continued. "The pictures of Paris on your computer screensaver. The photo of Andrea on your desk that day." The words had to feel as a smack and it hurt him to have to do this to her. Sometimes pain must be gone through to feel happiness on the other side. "You were nervous going into this trip. What did you think would happen?"

"I don't know what you are talking about."

"You were anxious all week. Today you were finally relaxing because the week was almost over."

"Paris is the biggest week of my year. You know that Nigel."

"It wasn't that. You did your normal grilling over the details. But the pictures and odd moments when I'd catch you staring out the window." Nigel shook his head and pat his chest pocket where the envelope was.

"Why did you wonder if she'd be here? What did you know?"

"I knew she was modeling. You found the magazine that ensured her place in that world." Nigel stopped, but when Miranda fixed her most glacial stare at him he continued. "I knew she often went to Paris. But I didn't know this." He shrugged at her admitting he had been in the dark as well.

"Jacqueline and Bertrand Leroux." The names were said flat without fire behind them. However Nigel knew that the cold could kill just as well as the fire and he nodded his head.

"I told you about the James Holt parties." Miranda nodded at him and it clicked for both of them. Nigel continued with his thoughts out loud. "Your interest in Andrea must have piqued Jacqueline's. She knew about the blacklisting. Hmmm." He thought a moment. "Modeling is not publishing and France is not the United States. Considering her life at the time…" Nigel trailed off putting another piece in place. "Beyond that Andrea's heart yearned for Paris in a way that she fiercely refused to explain. She said on more than one occasion that New York was lifeless to her, too much loss. I always assumed it was the boyfriend who thought she chose you over him. Now I know it was something else that drew her here and sent her running from New York. Andrea had me fooled I admit. Los Angeles indeed. She would never have gone there. I should have known. I should have guessed when she disappeared."

Nigel moved to the window looking out over the streets below them. It was still fairly early in the night by Paris standards. Miranda closed her eyes sucking in a steadying breath. She swallowed the remaining wine in a sip and the clinking of her glass on the table caught Nigel's attention again. He looked her over in a sad sweep of his eyes. They both considered that six years was a long time, that a lot had happened, and that a lot had been left unsaid. Miranda's voice was quiet, "The boyfriend left her because of me?"


"She left New York because of…" Miranda trailed off unable to accept the truth that was threatening to over take her, threatening to undo all the lies she had told herself.

Again Nigel appraised her with his eyes. Miranda could see a click as knowledge became certain in his mind. He nodded sadly, but said it out loud as confirmation. "She left New York because it was lifeless without you." It was silent for many moments and Nigel counted his heartbeats while wondering why he only noticed them in times like these. Miranda hugged the jacket tighter to her and shivered as if she was cold. "When she left six years ago what did she say to you? What wouldn't she say to you?" Nigel turned his gaze back to the window letting Miranda answer his questions in her mind. He did not really expect her to answer him, but he knew she heard him all the same.

"She said she couldn't thank me enough for being me." Miranda's breath caught in her throat as she truly heard the words for the first time in six years. "She said that she would always remember what she learned and that she couldn't explain, but couldn't stay." Miranda swallowed back the sadness that was threatening to over take her from within. She wanted to control these reckless feelings that had scared her then and she had stuffed away.

"Andrea never left you, Miranda. Do you see? She left Runway to be sure. She stayed in fashion. She made a name for herself. She stayed where she could always see you and know about you. Even from as far away as Paris and through the eyes of none other than Jacqueline Follet."

Miranda clutched at her own throat as a small moan escaped her before she could stifle it down. Nigel did not blink or recoil in anyway. His eyes accepted the truth of her as if he had always known it, and in that moment Miranda found comfort there.

"And you never left her, did you, Miranda?" He said softly. "You blacklisted her temporarily. I heard the order you gave—six months. Only by then she had already run out of options and she had no way of knowing it was temporary or how you felt." Nigel looked heavenward. "I don't know that either of you knew what you felt." He let out a long sigh. "She had know idea that you made Emily hire Andy replicas until you gave up and let her hire Replica-Emily. And even then you dated Andrew. I didn't see it right away with Andrew since you kept him to yourself for so long, but then it became clear."

"Nigel." Miranda whimpered. "What does this mean?"

"It means that it is time." Nigel checked his watch, "Quite literally time. That you both face the truth. She has become someone for you to be proud of. You saw her tonight as she held her pose. You saw her runway walk. You've seen her photos. You did not see her come down from the dais after you left and work the crowd in the way that no other has except for you. You have always been her queen. Now it is time for you to make her your queen. To evaporate this six year fog of sadness that has clung to you both." Nigel came closer to Miranda beseeching her.

"What if she doesn't feel the same?"

"Do you think that she dropped that jacket exactly at your feet on accident? Do you think that she slipped this card in there for some random person to find? Would she stop me and tell me about this envelope and when to send you to her if she didn't feel the same?"


"You turned to go and she broke character enough to tell me where to find this and when you should be there." Nigel pulled the envelope out of his pocket opened the flap and slid out a plastic hotel card. He looked up at her locking her eyes in his. "Six years ago this wine was an ending." He held up the card to her. "Now it can be the beginning. What do you say, Miranda?" He picked up his wine glass and lifted it to her in a silent cheer before he took a deep thoughtful sip.

The closest she had come to cracking was in this moment. "How?" Miranda said in a low voice allowing her confusion to manifest itself. Then she let out a puff of air that signaled her defeat to the forces beyond her control and knowledge she had locked herself away from.

Nigel crossed over to her. "Not a lot needs to be said, Miranda. Eyes and kisses go a long way. Do not doubt the truth that you know is there on both sides. If you leave now, you will be on time for your Queen." With that he pulled Miranda up, put the card in her hand and turned to the side table once again. This time he handed her the second bottle of wine—a bottle of Andrea's wine to take with her. "I'll call the car. Now go." He turned Miranda wordlessly to the door and as she took a few uncertain steps toward the door he pulled out his cell phone.


Part 4

Leaving Nigel's suite Miranda's uncertain steps down the hall to the elevator were those of a big cat that had been shot with a tranquilizer gun. The ride down in the lift was a daze that she didn't know had begun when the door opened on the lobby signaling its end. On uncertain legs she walked across the lobby and out to the car. She had no idea where they were going and barely remembered to nod at the driver when he greeted her. Miranda was a big cat going for her mouse, only she felt like a kitten could knock her over at this point. Fighting off panic with deep breaths Miranda sat motionless as the car brought her closer to her destiny. For indeed that was the only word she could come up with to describe it. Not much of one for believing in destiny Miranda paused in her mind on this word. She had never subscribed to the idea of destiny because she was such a fan of free choice, hard work and her power to control the world she lived in. Yet tonight shook the foundations of everything, which she had told herself to believe in. Tonight feelings that she had willed to die sprung back to the front of her mind, and she was in a car heading toward a future that she had no concept of and felt very little control over. In the quiet of the car and the flashes of Paris at night Miranda could admit to herself that maybe she was destined to rule fashion, run Runway, and be with Andrea. Destiny certainly could account for all of those things.

Miranda told Andrea once that she lived on hope. At the first breathless moment that Miranda had recognized Andrea on the runway it was hope that welled up within her filling her heart and mind completely. 'Hope springs eternal.' Her girls sometimes quoted from somewhere. Miranda rolled her eyes at this thought from her girls. Leave it to them to have a sarcastic comment in the middle of the ultimate chaos of her life when they were all the way across the ocean. Yet Miranda couldn't bring herself to argue with the sentiment. Here she was after not seeing Andrea in six years heading towards her and she had begun to hope like it was all she had ever done for the last several hours. Hope and destiny were not that far apart really. Both pulled her inexplicably forward. Was it her hope to become the Empress of Fashion or her destiny? And did it matter? Was it her destiny to find Andrea again, or just a secret hope that the universe had seen fit to make happen?

As the car stopped and the driver opened the door for a shocked Miranda, she hoped that it was her destiny to be with Andrea. Miranda's shock wore off as she realized how fitting it was to be back six years later. Pulling the deep red jacket tighter around her she caught what must have been Andrea's scent on the lapel. She had been too overwhelmed with visual and auditory impulses to notice it before, but the slight breeze as she walked into the hotel and her calmer state of mind allowed this detail to sink into her now. Miranda chose to take it as a sign of positive things to come. She figured that if she was going to over-indulge on hope and begin to believe in destiny—she might as well look for signs of a positive outcome in this. Miranda nodded to the doorman and proceeded to the elevator. She had memorized the room number when she was in the car. Now she proceeded without hesitation to the room that had been hers six years previously. In the elevator she realized she had not been in this hotel since that night six years ago. She shook her head at her own reflection realizing just how deep the denial had been.

The room, like the wine, was bittersweet with longing and leaving. Six years ago she had not recognized the longing for what it had been. She had not recognized it for what it was until it was too late for it to be saved. At least she had thought so. At least she had told herself. So she had drunk with Nigel over the unnamed sadness and then she had set out to hurt the one she loved. She had never intended to maim Andrea's life, just hurt her for what Miranda wasn't even sure. At the time she had wondered why she didn't want to permanently ruin the woman, and she refused to answer herself. Now this same hotel suite was a place of longing because she longed for a reunion with Andrea. Miranda longed to know what future they could possibly have together. Miranda longed to at least make peace with Andrea and for once in her life tell her that she was sorry and that she didn't know. Miranda knew that come what may she wanted Andrea in her life. She thought that Andrea's invitation had to be a sign that she wanted something from Miranda as well. Not something like business or the news, but from the woman within the icon. A woman that she knew Andrea had seen in her during brief glimpses. In this place of leaving Miranda found herself alone and waiting tightly wrapped in Andrea's jacket stitched together with hope and destiny.

Miranda let herself into the chilled room. Dark and empty for hours the cold had settled there as if putting hope and destiny in the cooler for a later time. She set the bottle of wine on the chair with her purse as she walked in. Miranda turned the heat up and looked briefly around the main part of the room. As much as she hoped and longed for certain things, she did not want to rifle through Andrea's possessions or invade more than she was welcome. Sitting on the couch as she had six years ago Miranda suddenly felt old and foolish. She began to question exactly what she was doing here and what hope she could possibly have with Andrea. Fifty-six and thirty-one were not the most common ages to put together in a romantic relationship. Miranda's thoughts flickered to when she was thirty-one. She was in her second year as editor-in-chief of Runway and it was her life's work to be wined and dined, and to seduce in every arena of her life. Men and women were so much social furniture that she arranged and set together in order to establish herself as the best of the best in order to ensure that Runway was the premier magazine it could be. The hours and the affairs were marvelous. Then she had fallen in love with Greg the twins' father and things had begun to change within her. She could not imagine falling in love with someone so much older at that time of her life, and certainly not someone so much younger. What could she possibly hope to tell Andrea, or to offer her? What could Andrea possibly want from her or see in her?

Miranda was about to leave the room when she looked down at the coffee table in front of her. The latest issue of American Runway was there and a post-it tab opened up to her editor's letter for the month. Two sentences had been underlined. 'True beauty is timeless and love for it never changes regardless of fashion or style. The love of beauty is eternal.' Miranda turned the magazine over and saw a mailing label for Andrea in France, not Paris, but still France. It warmed Miranda's heart to think that Andrea had an overseas subscription to American Runway, although the French address started her stomach turning. Bittersweet echoed in her head again as she laid aside the magazine. Miranda paced the room a few times in a new place of turmoil. Destiny did not mean happy ending. Andrea lived in France, while Miranda lived in New York. The age difference had not gotten any smaller and if anything Miranda felt that it had increased because she was now closer to sixty instead of just barely fifty. In a flurry of doubt Miranda switched the heater back down and turned out the light on the far side of the room. At the doorway she took one last look around but stopped her retreat when she noticed a small card on the floor near the coffee table. She had not noticed it earlier and wondered if it had slipped out when she picked up the magazine.

Despite herself Miranda couldn't help her intense desire to look at the card. So she stepped back into the room and bent at the knee to pick it up. Her name on the envelope was another unexpected detail that by now Miranda was too tired to react to. She opened the flap of the card to reveal a small sheet of white paper that had been folded in half and covered with Andrea's writing.


I have watched you from afar these many years, while carefully keeping myself in the shadows. I leave today for the fashion show where I will once again enter your world. I hope you will be proud of me. As I step off this cliff I do not know if I will crash to my death below impaled on your frosty glare and long ago pain, or if I will soar to new heights under your forgiveness and where I can share my affection with you. Six years is a long time and there has surely been a lot of water under the bridge between us. I hope to see you tonight when I am able to get away. I don't know if it is hope or destiny that guides me, but the details of your trip and my modeling have lined up in such a way that I had to take this chance even after all this time. I do not know what I expect to happen. I do not know that there is anything to say except I am sorry and hopefully I forgive you. If somehow you are there before I am, please stay. Destiny or hope. This moment will not come again, I fear.


Reading Andrea's words was like seeing her own thoughts on paper. Her heart beat faster than it had in some time as she processed the similarities in their thinking. Andrea had known she would see her at the fashion show and had planned on meeting her here in this room. She had carefully prepared and set out with no small amount of uncertainty to guide her. Yet she had done it. She had accepted that this was a moment that would not come her way again and she had chosen to claim it. Andrea had foreseen the possibility of being stuck at the party longer than anticipated. She had also foreseen that Miranda might get all the way here and then leave. It was so very much to take in, every detail of these hours rushing headlong into such a crazy place that Miranda by now was truly hoping that it was destiny so that she could not mess up despite herself this time.

Miranda turned as she heard the lock click. She turned to see the door opening to reveal the Fairy Queen still in her fashion show glory. The outfit, the persona, the look still hung on her to great effect. Miranda felt a surge of pride in her chest as she took in how regal and powerful she looked now. Then her mind flickered to how magnificent she had been on the runway and while sitting at the party. It was no small feat to remain in that kind of character for so long. As she stepped into the room her eyes landed on Miranda who was also still in her evening wear. The two queens locked eyes for the first time in six years. Comforting blue soothed cold hard brown in an instant and Miranda could literally see the air shift as walls came down. The Fairy Queen became Andrea before her very eyes and Miranda could see how tired the woman before her was.

"You're really here." Andrea said in a breathless whisper as if she said it too loudly Miranda would disappear. She stepped into the room and threw her clutch over the back of the chair. She turned to face Miranda only two feet separating them.

"I was about to leave when I saw your note." Miranda held the note in her hand up so that Andrea could see it. "I think you are right. This moment will not come again."

They stared into one another's eyes each searching the other's soul and looking for the words they needed to start. Beyond securing that the other one was actually there, it was difficult to decide how to begin this, whatever THIS would be.

Andrea was the first to break the ice. "I have so much to say." Andrea stepped close enough to grab Miranda's hand. "I hope it's not too late." They looked at each other in surprise after that and then Andrea smiled. "Too late tonight. You know."

"If we do not get this moment again, then too late cannot happen." Miranda squeezed Andrea's hand savoring the simple gesture. "We are here now."

Andrea smiled sheepishly. "I'm thirsty. Do you want anything?"

Miranda smiled back and squeezed Andrea's hand before letting go. "I may have just the thing." Miranda went around the chair to pick up the wine. "Nigel sent some wine with me. If I didn't know better I'd think he helped plan some of this." She held up the bottle for Andrea to see. "How about this one?" Miranda came to Andrea's side to show her the label.

Tears filled Andrea's eyes and she simply nodded. Miranda swallowed a sudden lump in her throat and turned to the side bar where the glasses and corkscrew were. "Nigel and I got drunk on this." Miranda admitted sadly as she poured both glasses. "I didn't understand."

"I barely did." Andrea admitted quietly.

"I wanted to hurt you." Miranda uttered as she handed Andrea her glass. "Not ruin you."

"I knew you blacklisted me when the door shut in my face."

"It was only for six months."


"Temporary misery, then you would have had the job you wanted." Miranda looked deep into her wine. Truth time was always painful. "I hoped to forget you." She added in a soft whisper.

Andrea's brow furrowed in question. "Six months?"

"Yes, although Nigel has recently pointed out to me that you had no way of knowing that, and that by then your situation was—" Miranda left off and locked her eyes meaningfully on Andrea's. "—dire." She finished.

"Oh." Andrea motioned to the couch since she was unsure of what to say next.

"I would never have let you pose for that magazine." Miranda huffed angrily. "You were not banished. I simply had to know that you were punished and then… Well, it's done." Miranda drew in a shaky breath before looking directly into Andrea's eyes again. "I am incredibly sorry, Andrea."

"When did you find out?" Andrea asked shyly.

A mirthless laugh escaped Miranda's lips as she realized the situation. Ruined marriage and closeness to Andrea all involving Paris in some way. "Oh, the irony of all this." She sighed again. Perplexed Andrea peered at her. "I found the magazine six months ago." Andrea nodded. "When I saw you last it was in Paris and Stephen was filing for divorce and I hadn't understood the depth of my feelings for you." Miranda tilted her head looking at Andrea. She couldn't get enough of her now that she was face to face with her. Andrea was more beautiful than Miranda had let herself remember. "Now I have filed for divorce from Andrew and am sitting with you in Paris still not sure where my feelings for you will land me."

"Oh, the laugh." Andrea shyly smiled at Miranda. "I see then. So, what else?"

"When I packed his things to throw him out I found your magazine in his belongings." Andrea watched in horror as Miranda paled at her own words.


"Hmmm." Miranda couldn't help the arctic chill that crept into her demeanor at that point. The very thought of him ooogling over Andrea along with countless faceless nameless others made her physically sick.

Andrea had come to peace with the ugly side of what she had done, when she had to face her parents. It was not less ugly, but she had dealt with it and accepted that it was part of what created the life she was living now. She figured that she had weathered the storm and created a beautiful life for herself. "That was a long time ago." Andrea set her wine down on the coffee table and laid her hand over Miranda's free one. "I'm sorry that's how you found out. I wouldn't like that either. Of course you'd never be in such a magazine, but if you had been and that was how I found out—well, I'd be in jail for murder." Miranda blinked at Andrea in utter disbelief. There was so much they did not know about the other, but it felt inescapable that they were face to face once again. Destiny and hope—there they were again each in the other's eye.

They each took quiet moments to look the other over, sort through their thoughts and search for the next words. Miranda looked serenely into Andrea's eyes then, "I am proud of you." Seeing Andrea's questioning look she clarified. "Your note."

Andrea's eyes filled with tears. "You are?" She asked timidly.

"Yes. Andrea. You stood up to me so long ago. You survived what you thought was a blacklisting. You are a successful model. You live in France. Seeing you today work the runway and the party, I couldn't have been more proud that I knew you once."

"Th-thanks. I wanted to live up to a standard for myself that I know you would have created, Miranda. Thanks. It really means lot to me." Andrea lowered her head to examine her hands that were now both in her lap. Absently one hand played with the other and Andrea steeled herself for the next question she had to ask. "You wanted to forget me?"

"I was unable to. At the time I dismissed it as a passing fancy—a dangerous attraction that could not lead anywhere. We are 25 years apart, my divorce was going to be splashed all over the tabloids, and I had never been attracted to a woman. How could I even begin to consider something with you? By the time I figured any of this out, you were gone. And so I hoped to forget you." Miranda set her own wine down and tilted Andrea's head up with her fingertip. "I could not forget you. And I realize how wrong we both were. Since you are sitting here just as I am tonight six years later."

Miranda saw the hope swell up in Andrea's eyes. For the first time since she stepped onto the runway in the afternoon Miranda saw the bright glow within them that signaled to her that this was really Andrea and not the construct of the fashion show Fairy Queen and her long years of a hard life. Slowly Miranda leaned in until she could feel Andrea's breath on her lips and then she closed her eyes. Andrea met her halfway and a kiss that should have happened six years before over took them.

After more kisses of passion and caresses of soothing Andrea pulled back. "Miranda." She waited for the other woman to look her in the eyes once more. "I, uh. Will you stay the night?"

"Yes, if you are inviting me."

"I just. I know we need to talk. And I want more kisses." Andrea trailed off.

"But?" Miranda raised an eyebrow.

Andrea looked pitiful as she admitted, "I need to get out of these clothes. I don't. I mean. There's no pressure. I just. Um. If you're going to stay I need to change. And if you were going to go, then I was going to suck it up."

"No. I quite understand." Miranda stood as Andrea did and watched her head to the bedroom.

Miranda rose with Andrea but hung back uncertainly until she heard Andrea call out from inside the room. "Would you? Uh, Miranda?" Andrea called to her confused that Miranda wasn't with her. Miranda stepped closer to the bedroom door. "Oh, there you are. Would you get the zipper?" Miranda stepped all the way into the room then. As she pulled the zipper down over Andrea's smooth skin she couldn't help but trail her thumb down as she went. Bringing her hands up Miranda eased the shoulders forward caressing her skin as she did so. Andrea's small moan settled into Miranda's consciousness igniting a wet hot desire between her legs. Andrea turned to face her still holding the front of the dress over herself. Staring Miranda down Andrea seductively lowered the dress below her knees. Then with a wink she stepped out of it. She turned briefly to hang it up. Miranda devoured the image before her.

Andrea was in four inch deep red heels, thigh high stockings held in place with deep red garter belts, matching red panties and bra and against her ivory skin was the red garnet pendant. Her hair was still mostly up as it was on the runway with that one long curl hanging down her back now. Miranda inhaled the smell of Andrea. She seared the image of her stockings and smooth skin into her mind. It was easily the most erotic thing she had ever seen in her life. Miranda reached out to cup Andrea's cheek and then pulled her in for a soul-searching kiss. Pulling back to look at one another again their eyes danced with love and they knew that what needed to be said had and what else would be said could wait. Miranda trailed her fingertips down Andrea's neck over her collarbone and rested very near the pendant on Andrea's sternum. Miranda could now see that it was held in place by a pin directly through Andrea's skin. Concerned Miranda looked up to Andrea.

"A stone heart in place of my broken one." Andrea said as she looked down and slowly unpinned the garnet. "If you are in my life I will not need it." She said as she pinned it to the lapel of the red jacket Miranda was still wearing. "The outfit was too bland, but a necklace didn't seem right. Besides I liked that it made me feel something where my heart should be." Andrea slowly smoothed her hand over the pendant feeling Miranda beneath the jacket lapel.

"When I was watching you tonight your fingers absently stroked it a couple of times. I thought it was silly of me, but I thought that it was a metaphorical heart on the outside standing in place of one that was cold on the inside." Miranda paused to look at Andrea and made sure that she hadn't upset her before continuing. "You seemed so different, so cold up there tonight. I knew it was part of the persona, but I felt that you had maybe been chosen because you lived it to a certain extent. I dismissed the first idea as wholly silly on my part and the second as purely speculative." Sadly Andrea swallowed and nodded. Lowering her hand Andrea blinked the hint of tears away.

"You have always had a good eye, Miranda. I'm surprised that you would doubt it now." Andrea leaned in for another kiss, but this time she could feel Miranda holding back. "What is it, Miranda?"

"There's no one else, is there? This will only be as complicated as you and I and all the water under the bridge?"

Andrea beamed at her for the first time and Miranda basked in it like the first rays of sunshine she had felt on her heart in six years. "You and I can make it quite complicated on our own I'm sure. But no, there is no one else."

Miranda closed the distance then and wrapped her arms around Andrea in a passion filled kiss. Andrea shivered as much from the cold as from the sensations filling her body. Miranda's lips worshipped Andrea's mouth, jawline, and neck. She whispered nonsense in Andrea's ear that made her moan in delight. She teased Andrea's bra straps down over her shoulders and reached around to undo the clasp before she lowered the lacy red bra down her arms and away. Miranda kissed from Andrea's shoulder down across her chest savoring the feel of her chilled skin under her hot mouth. Miranda hesitated and looked into Andrea's eyes before kissing the spot where the pin had pierced her skin to hold her stone heart. "Does it hurt?" She leaned back to capture Andrea's brown eyes with her own blue ones.

"For a time it was all I could feel and I treasured it." Andrea pulled Miranda close to her to feel her body heat against her own. "Will you take care of my heart now?"


"Then it doesn't hurt at all. A real heart in place of my stone heart." Andrea had dealt with much of her pain long ago, but seeing Miranda's anguish over what she had put Andrea through hurt her anew. "Don't fret, Miranda. We have now. My heart began beating again the moment I dared to hope for you. It's rhythm has become steady in the time since I've been with you." Andrea brushed her lips across Miranda's in sweet comforting kisses until she felt her begin to kiss back. Then she darted her tongue out asking Miranda to let her in. It was as if they were inside a magical whirlwind where they could feel themselves and each other at the same time. Just as Miranda was about to surrender wholly to the moment she pulled back breathless and searching Andrea's eyes.

"I never meant for you to leave, Andrea. I didn't understand then."

"I never left you. Miranda." Andrea deliberately kissed her nose and slowly kissed each cheek. Then she looked her in the eye. "I never left."

"I never left you either, Andrea." Letting her actions speak for her Miranda leaned in and claimed Andrea's mouth once more. She thrust her tongue into Andrea's mouth and moaned as Andrea hungrily kissed her back. Miranda was lost in the whirlwind once more, but she longed to feel Andrea's skin. She wanted her to feel all the small pleasures that she was feeling. Andrea concurred because she pushed Miranda's jacket off her shoulders and then draped it over a nearby chair. Kissing her neck Andrea then unzipped her dress and stepped back to look Miranda over. Their eyes locked again, but there was something feral in Miranda's eyes now—a wild, wanton look of lust that sparkled in her brilliant blue eyes. Miranda slowly lowered the dress and stepped out of it in front of her lover. For that was what they were since that first kiss—come what may, they had crossed the line that they had run away from so long ago. Andrea took the dress at once and hung it up.

Standing in various levels of lingerie they stood at the brink of their future breathlessly regarding one another. Miranda wanted to claim Andrea for her own in this moment of destiny or hope or dreams. All Miranda knew in this instant was that it was divine. "Will you be my Queen?"

Andrea closed her eyes breathing in the joy of the moment. Shaking her head slightly and smiling she opened her eyes to answer her love. "Yes." She said definitely and stepped to hold Miranda in her arms. Feeling the heat of their bodies together again Andrea held her mouth just at Miranda's ear and added. "You have always been mine."

At those words Miranda walked Andrea back until the bed knocked against the back of Andrea's legs startling her. Andrea looked at Miranda in wonder as she indicated that Andrea should lie on the bed. She did as she was instructed and then her mouth went dry as she watched Miranda reach behind herself to unclasp her black lace bra and then lower it down until she dropped it to the floor. Miranda positioned herself over Andrea letting their bare breasts brush against each other for the first time. Miranda lowered her mouth slowly to Andrea's lips where she kissed her slowly and appreciated their softness. When Andrea squirmed below her their breasts met with more pressure and Miranda moaned. Andrea smiled up at her.

Andrea began to stretch her head up so that she could reclaim Miranda's lips with a kiss. Her arms wrapped about her pulling her down and as they crashed together once again two horrible things happened at once: a knock came at the hotel suite's door and Miranda's phone began ringing.


Part 5

Both annoyed and frustrated they separated and stood looking at each other in disbelief. It would appear that they had a mutual thought which was something like, 'This can't be happening.' The knocking drew Andrea out of her shock and she rushed to the closet. Miranda reluctantly went to retrieve her phone and frowned when she saw the number. "Hello?" Miranda said running her hand through her hair. She was split between the phone, the knocking, Andrea, and her own lack of clothing. Again her mind screamed, 'This can't be happening.' She could hear Andrea rushing into the room, but Cara's desperate voice on the other end held her in fear. Andrea instantly saw her distress and went to her. Miranda held up a hand to Andrea so that she could concentrate. "Cara, I can't understand anything you are saying." Andrea watched as Miranda tried to get reasonable information from her. When the knocking continued, she rolled her eyes in a huff. Then she gently guided Miranda back into the bedroom. Andrea ran to the door in her robe and yelled that she'd be there in a minute. She ran back into the bedroom to Miranda. She grabbed the other robe and laid it on the bed next to Miranda before she kissed her on the forehead and left again.

"Bertrand. What are you doing here?" Andrea asked impatiently as she let her designer in.

Bertrand's eyes glistened with drunken pleasure. He looked at her but had a hard time focusing. "It is a night for celebrating." He announced loudly as he sat in the chair. He sounded upset with her and looked uncomfortable. "Why did you sneak away? You should have been with us." He was scolding her, but Andrea had to laugh because he was looking around quite confused.

"Get up." She said at wit's end with him already. "You're sitting on…"

"Two purses?" His voice sloshed over the words.

"Just sit over there." Andrea motioned to the couch. When he had done so, she fixed her Fairy Queen glare on him. "What do you want Bertrand?"

"What I've always wanted, my most beautiful creature. Andy, you should have figured it out by now. Why would you leave me tonight of all nights?"

Andrea's stomach fell to the ground. She had always wondered if Bertrand had a special fondness for her. She didn't want him to, so she had not looked very hard. Although in the weeks leading up to Paris Fashion Week she had not been too focused on him, since she was worried about Miranda. Her mind screamed once again, 'This can't be happening.' Then she added, 'Of course it's happening tonight. Miranda is here and nothing can be easy.' Desperate to end this situation and return to Miranda, Andrea began. "Bertrand." This was so not the time or the place, although she knew there would never be a good time or place for this conversation. Andrea sighed.

"You were beautiful tonight. I knew you were amazing, but it wasn't the same tonight. There was an edge to your character and I could feel it all night." Bertrand stood woozily and Andrea wished she had told him to go away instead of trying to figure out what he wanted. "You were so beautiful, my dear. You ruled the runway and the room. Only Jacqueline and Miranda dared to approach you. I couldn't have been more pleased with your performance." He looked at her with a predatory look. "You are my star. We will take over the world of fashion together."

"No, Bertrand. I, uh, no. You will make over the world of fashion. Not me."

"With you by my side, how could I do otherwise?"

"Bertrand. I can't be by your side. This is for you to do, not me."

Bertrand closed the distance between them. His alcohol-sweetened breath hot on her skin sickened her. She fought the urge to back away from him.

"Why are you resisting me? I will be the center of a fashion revolution and you can be my queen." Bertrand took her hand in his and would not let her pull away. "You will be the face of the revolution. I want you, Andrea."

"No, Bertrand. I am not your queen. I am…" Andrea sighed. Truth be told she didn't know what she was, but whatever it was didn't include him. "My heart belongs to another."

"Ah. Yes. Your stone heart in place of your real one." Bertrand traced his finger along the edge of her robe to where the pinned pendant used to be. Andrea swatted his unwelcome finger away from her and yanked away from him.

Andrea turned away from him saying, "You should leave."

"If you reject me, then you will not have a future in fashion." Andrea turned to face him her mouth falling open. Of all the people, of all the things to say, of all the nights for everything to be happening—this was the most absurd. Even if the Queen of Fashion was not in the bedroom 15 feet away, it was ridiculous. Andrea had been publicly in fashion longer than him. Her eyes flashed with anger in an instant and she was about to let loose on him with both barrels when they both heard a throat being cleared from the bedroom door.

Miranda Priestly—Editor-in-Chief of American Runway, Queen of Fashion, the Ice Queen, or the Dragonlady—was standing perfectly coiffed in her gown from the party and looking every ounce the powerful woman with someone new to crush that she could look. Andrea was proud of herself that she did not react the way Bertrand was reacting to her. Indeed she knew better than to cringe in fear, by now she was simply filled with a whole new surge of desire for the woman in front of her. First things first though, Bertrand was either going out the window or going out the door, but his life would never be the same.

"Idle threats? Hmm." Miranda's threat was loud and as pure as glacial ice as it pierced Bertrand's ears. "You should leave." She paused waiting for her words to sink in. "Leave as Andrea asked you to. Twice." Bertrand was as sober as he could be coming face to face with Miranda Priestly in full fashion regalia and the danger signs radiating off of her like rays from the sun. Her words froze him to the core while her presence threatened to incinerate his body. He gulped, but stood frozen to the spot. "Now." Miranda flipped her hand for him to leave. With a startled jolt and girlish whimper Bertrand left the room leaving the door swinging open behind him.

Andrea looked at Miranda standing in her evening gown once again with her hair and make-up perfect. Andrea opened her mouth to speak, but found she couldn't choose which sentence to begin with as they all collided into a giant mess in her brain. Miranda's eyes looked to the door and Andrea followed her gaze to realize it had been left hanging open. Gathering her wits about her Andrea moved to the open door and closed it. "Thank you." Andrea quietly said as she approached Miranda. She stood very close to her and reached for her hand. Miranda returned the squeeze.

"I'll talk to you later about him." Miranda said, as she looked Andrea over. It was a memorizing gaze as Miranda studied her face, looked into her eyes and then roamed her grey robe clad body. Her eyes were pleased with what she saw and she softly smiled at Andrea.

Timidly Andrea returned her gaze. "You're leaving?" Miranda nodded. "What happened? Cara, the girls?" Miranda's eyes filled with tears and Andrea wrapped her arms around her.

"Car accident. They're in the hospital."

"Do you want me to call anyone for you?"

"No." Miranda pulled back and held Andrea's face in her hands. "I. I don't want to leave."

"The girls need you."


Desperation in her voice Andrea had to ask her. "We will talk though?"

Miranda could not stop the tears escaping her eyes. She opened her mouth to speak, but words suddenly failed her. Andrea closed her eyes as they filled with tears as well. "We WILL get this moment again, Andrea. I am sure of it. Hope, destiny, whatever it is, we are not finished. Not at all." Miranda's voice was firm and steady and Andrea's heart believed her instantly. Andrea crushed forward, her lips on Miranda's. Her tongue sought entrance and her body pressed flush against Miranda while she wrapped her in her arms. It was a hungry kiss, an incomplete moment in time, and it was goodbye all in one. It was at once beautifully mind blowing and breathtakingly desperate.

Andrea pushed her away fighting back a sob and somewhere between a moan and a whimper she breathed, "Go."

Miranda looked at her with such tender affection that Andrea wasn't sure she would ever get her breath back. Miranda held her fingers over her mouth as more tears spilled down her cheeks. Then she turned and was gone. Andrea walked back into the bedroom and looked around in disbelief. When she retrieved pajamas from her suitcase she noticed that Miranda had left the red jacket behind her. Picking it up Andrea was filled with a fresh wave of sadness. She sat on the side of the bed with it in her lap. When she noticed that the red garnet pendant was gone she curled up with the jacket and inhaled the blended smell of herself and Miranda.

Two days. Two of the longest days in both of their lives. Andrea was uncertain whether she should call, even though she had the old numbers. If the girls were home and recovering she didn't want to interrupt their time together. If they were still in the hospital, then she wasn't sure if she should interject herself into that moment in their lives. Miranda was feverish with worry until she arrived at the hospital and saw the girls for herself. Even though they were 16, they were still her baby girls and she felt horrible that she had not been there when they were brought into the hospital. Once she saw them, had an update on their condition, and took some relaxing breaths—she was okay. She would not be good until she saw their blue eyes again and talked to them, but she was okay and could settle in for the long wait. As there was nothing she could do her mind began to wander to other areas of her life. She deeply regretted the timing of her reunion with Andrea and this emergency with her girls. She wanted to call Andrea, but the only numbers she still had on file were not useful anymore. Her apartment in New York was long gone, and her cell phone number had already been sold to another user. She could track down Bertrand Laroux easily enough, but was loathe to do so. She wanted to crush him, but something held her back. Perhaps his connection to Andrea or the fact that he was the instrument that had brought them within the same circle again. At any rate, she could always crush him later.

Early in the morning on the third day Andrea tried Miranda's cell phone number, but it had been changed sometime in the last six years. After a few minutes of indecision she decided to call Runway. She knew that there was no bounty on her head after all, so she figured that the worst that could happen was that she got no information. Miranda was unavailable as was Nigel. The new Emily was apparently named Emily and had no clue or wasn't going to give it to Andrea. In fact she said that she wouldn't give her any information as she had no way to tell if Andrea had been the reason that she changed the number in the first place. Andrea hung up angry and sad. Later in the day she tried Runway again and was able to talk to Nigel.

"Nigel Kipling." He answered in a sullen mood. The phone had been ringing off the hook with the next issue coming due, Paris Fashion Week ending, Miranda's absence, and the news that her twins were in the hospital. If he had hair—he'd pull it out.

"Nigel? It's me, um, Andy."

"Andrea? The Fairy Queen? Or Andy? My favorite size 6?"

"Can I still be your favorite size 6, even if I'm not a 6 anymore?"

"Sure, sure. Where are you?"


"Is France permanent then?" Nigel sounded defeated.

"Permanent? No, I don't think I know what that means. But I've been here for almost 4 years now, so I guess it's permanent. I mean my subscription to American Runway gets mailed here."

Nigel sniffed. "At least you still read her."

"Nigel, please tell me what's going on?" It was Andrea's turn to sound defeated now.

"I feel like we're putting together a puzzle in a pitch black room. How do you feel?"

"Um. Yeah. That about sums it up."

"What happened the other night? I sent her off with a bottle of wine and then she disappeared in the night only to haunt my phone and make Replica-Emily cry. Did you know she was back in New York before we even left?"

"No. I know that her daughters were in the hospital. Cara called and then she had to leave. But this is the third day and I haven't heard from her and I'm worried about the twins and Miranda. I'm worried that I'm never going to see or hear from her again, Nigel."

"Oh, if I know anything about Miranda, you will. I know, okay, I don't know, but I know this is hard. From my end I can tell you that she's just barely settling into this and getting her head back on straight. She didn't talk to any of us the first day and a half. But this afternoon has been pretty rapid fire about setting things up in the mornings so that she can go back to the hospital after lunch. I expect that after she feels like herself again, she'll call you."

"Thanks Nigel. It helps to know that she wasn't talking to anyone. I know I should be concerned with the twins' welfare and I am, but I just felt like the way we left… You know I just wanted to be sure of her or me or something. God, I don't know."

"I get it. You want to know where you stand with her. I take it that it went well the other night?"

"Oh, Nigel. I didn't know. I didn't know all this time. I feel like I wasted time because I was afraid or something. She never hated me."

"I told you she was just mad."

"But you weren't certain."

"No, I wasn't. In fact I wasn't certain until she threw down that magazine on my desk and about knocked me off my stool with her unspoken feelings."

Andrea laughed and it was good for both of them. Nigel had not been sure how much Andy was left beneath the Fairy Queen persona and he was glad she could still let loose with an honest laugh—besides the fact that he had had a long couple of days. Laughing proved good for Andrea because she had begun to wonder when she had lost that ability and if it would ever come back. "Knocked you off your stool, huh? I'd like to see that." She laughed again and it felt great. "So what happened to the twins? What's going on?"

"The girls were at their friend's house and the older brother was taking them to the theater. A crazy person ran out into the street and caused another car to swerve into on-coming traffic. There were 6 cars involved and two other accidents by the time it was all said and done. The girls haven't regained consciousness, although their other injuries were relatively minor. Miranda is standing sentry over their beds."

"Can I, uh, do you think I should send flowers, Nigel? Or what do you think?"

"I think that Miranda would love that. And you're one of the few assistants that those little punks remember fondly, so they might even like it too when they feel like waking up."

"Okay. So do you still have my email?"

"Sure thing, Six. I'll bring up the email now and send you the info."

"Great. Thanks, Nigel."

On the fourth day two magnificent bouquets arrived and Miranda choked back her tears as she read whom the note was from. Miranda watched over her girls a little longer and then she left the hospital to call Nigel. "I need you to find Andrea's contact information. Please. Even if you have to call that miserable moron Laroux."

"I've got it right here. Are you ready? And what happened?"

"What do you mean what happened? How do you have her contact info 'right here'?"

"Relax, Miranda. I meant what happened that you're calling to get her number. I assume the flowers arrived?" Nigel calmed her down. He also took her silence for a yes. "And I have the info right here because she called looking for any news about you and in a bit of a panic. So, are you ready for that number?"


Miranda tried the house number, but there was no answer, not even an answering machine. Then she tried the cell phone number, but it went to voicemail. Sadly Miranda gave up and saved the numbers so that she could try them again later. She was beginning to manage the hospital and work balance again, but that meant her mind was freer and her thoughts continually returned to Andrea.

The sounds of a hospital were disturbing, but even more disturbing was the silence that washed up underneath all those chirps, beeps, and buzzes eating away like the ocean at a cliff. Miranda was balancing okay in the sense that work was getting done and she was where she needed to be with her girls. However that didn't mean that she was okay. In fact she was very much not okay. She was exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally. Andrea might heal a wound that had been left untended for too long, but before she could do that her twins were put in the hospital to fight for their lives. Work was in the most demanding part of the year. And she had not slept, not well and truly slept, for months and months. Four days in the hospital standing guard had not helped any of that. Miranda was just contemplating the sounds of the twins' various monitors and wondering how soon the next check up was when she heard a commotion in the hallway. At first she was not moved, but as the sounds drew closer to the twins' room and a familiar voice sounded out she jumped to her feet.

Hand on hip Miranda surveyed the scene in the hallway and couldn't help but be amused. Andrea Sachs was wearing a deep red jacket, black low cut top, and true religion jeans with deep red Manolos that matched her jacket. From the look of it, Miranda felt confident that she could retire as the Dragonlady of New York, because Fairy Queen Andrea was in town and her magical powers rivaled her own. The nurse was standing down the hall animatedly blocking and talking to Andrea. To her credit Andrea was cool and cutting. She was not in a rush, nor was she rashly aggressive. Her eyes flashed up the hall to Miranda, but they were shining with joy and not pleading for help. Miranda couldn't help her pleasure as she watched the body language. Continuing to drink in the vision of Andrea, Miranda noticed that she had a backpack hanging off one shoulder. It was apparently all of her luggage. Miranda wasn't sure what to make of that.

In a flash Andrea side-stepped the nurse who fairly screamed at Andrea. "You can't go in there. Family only. Ms. Priestly said not to let anyone in. I will not have her angry with me. Now see here."

Andrea stopped and Miranda could tell that she was amused as she stared down the nurse. "I am Andy Priestly, the girls' aunt. I'm just off the plane and haven't had time to contact Miranda. If you insist on getting in trouble with her, by all means continue to fight me on this." Andrea crossed her arms across her chest. Andrea, the Fairy Queen, tilted her head to the side and she continued to stare down the nurse. What made it all the more intriguing was that this was no youthfully submissive nurse in training, but a fully-fledged veteran. They were evenly matched, but the exchange showed how they each viewed their power. Andrea was patiently playing a role that she saw as the path to get what she wanted, while the nurse was just trying to keep order in a disordered world. For Miranda it was like watching two chess players and some competitive banter between them. Andrea was pushing the limit and the nurse was visibly folding. Just as the nurse's body language was beginning to show defeat, Andrea turned to look at Miranda. "Ask her yourself, then." She said in a quiet voice that Miranda realized mimicked her own.

The nurse turned pleading eyes at Miranda who nodded serenely at her. Then Andrea was alone facing Miranda in a calm moment in the hallway. Miranda stepped two steps out into the hallway. "Come here." She said in a low throaty voice on the edge of breaking. Andrea closed the distance between them and they wrapped each other in a tight embrace only releasing to melt into a passionate kiss. After a few precious moments Miranda pulled back and took Andrea's hand pulling her into the room. They sat for some quiet moments watching each other and then watching over the twins. Finally Andrea smiled and Miranda's brow questioned for her. "Remember the first time I delivered the book and came upstairs to find you arguing with Stephen?"

Miranda tilted her head to the side and answered, uncertain that there wasn't a trap. "Yes."

"Your twins told me to go upstairs. That Emily did it all the time." Andrea bit her lip to keep in a long lost laugh over her own gullibility. Miranda laughed quietly and put her arm on Caroline's bed.

"You were the only assistant that they ever asked about when you were gone. All the rest just disappeared without notice."

"Hmmm. That's probably because I brought them candy a few times. I also talked to them about school."

"I always knew you were the smartest one." Miranda reached out with her free hand and pulled Andrea's hand into her lap. Andrea laughed.

"God that seems like so long ago. They were so little then. Now they're quite the young ladies aren't they?" Miranda looked sadly into Andrea's eyes and then caressed Caroline's hand.

The nurse came in and checked on the girls and updated whatever needed updating. When she was gone they were left in the relative silence of the room again. Miranda broke the silence first with a quiet question. "How is it that you're here?"

Andrea shrugged. "I don't have a schedule or anyone to answer to, so I thought I'd deliver myself instead of some flowers for you." Andrea slipped the red jacket off and handed it to Miranda. "Besides, you left your jacket."

Hanging the jacket on the chair behind her. Miranda countered, "But I have my heart." She reached into her blouse and pulled out a long chain with a red garnet pendant on it. Andrea smiled at her. Then Miranda's eye filled with a devilish gleam and she leaned forward to ask the next one. "Aunt Andy Priestly?"

Andrea waggled her eyebrows at Miranda and then schooled her face into the Fairy Queen in moments. "I told you in Paris that I learned from the best." Andrea stared Miranda down for few moments causing both of their hearts to race. As quickly as the Fairy Queen appeared, Andrea's walls were down again—her face was soft, her eyes were warm and inviting.

Taking in this acting performance with a proud look Miranda congratulated herself and Andrea at the same time. "Oh, you have indeed." Bringing her hand up to kiss it gently Miranda continued. "I wonder what other tricks you've got up your sleeve."

When Cassidy woke up Andrea went in search of coffee and snacks. By the time she returned Cassidy was asleep again and Miranda was staring at Caroline like a cat waiting for a gopher. "None of that. Miranda. You'll scare the girl. I know she's probably used to you, but evil staring isn't going to convince her to wake up."

"She's always been the defiant one. Headstrong like her mother." Miranda said wistfully as she continued to stare at Caroline.

"Well, evil staring isn't going to help. Maybe you could sit by her head and brush her hair?" Miranda looked at her well and truly confused. "Like this." Andrea said and stepped up to the bed next to Caroline's head and began running her fingers through her red tresses. "My mom did this to me when I was coming out of the anesthetic from my wisdom teeth surgery. I was terrified and she just sat with me the whole time and did this. It's probably one of my fondest memories of my mother." Andrea's breath caught in her throat as she looked at Miranda. Her look was full of awe and desire as she watched Andrea take care of her daughter. "Here, you do it."

A couple of hours later Caroline woke up and again Andy went in search of coffee and snacks. When she returned they talked about what the doctors had said and Miranda figured that they would be able to come home sometime the next day. Andrea was thrilled and offered to go pick up clothes or anything they needed. Miranda sent her to the town home, but made her call her driver to go.

"Where are you staying?" Miranda asked her after Andrea yawned for the third time.

Rooting around in her backpack Andrea didn't even look up to answer. "Here. With you."

Miranda smiled, but then pressed again. "Where and how long, Andrea?"

"Here until you kick me out, and then Nigel said I could stay with him if I need to. And how long? Well as long as it takes to feel better than I did when you left so we'll see." Andrea leaned forward and gave a chaste kiss to her lips to end the conversation. Then she pulled on a hooded sweatshirt from her backpack and offered another one to Miranda. She tried not to gasp in surprise when Miranda took it, but then she just shook her head as Miranda smelled it, balled it up, and used it as a kind of pillow in her chair. "Good night." Andrea murmured before falling asleep.


Part 6

The girls were released from the hospital on the condition that they stay home and take it easy for a few days and come in the following week to check everything out. Miranda and the girls seemed impatient with this, but the doctor pointed out that head injuries were very tricky things and being out for as long as they were it was better to err on the side of caution. Andrea was impressed at how wonderfully he handled the three Priestly women. She was not so sure how she would have done under the pressure of three intense blue glares. Miranda was quite enough to handle, but her girls working with her to battle a foe or take over the world, well that sent Andrea's brain into quite the tailspin. The doctor was able to remind them of some famous cases that had gone horribly wrong without the proper follow up and the point was made without a trail of bodies left in their wake. Andrea however was still in a tailspin as she watched them get ready to leave the hospital.

In all of her thinking she had focused primarily on Miranda, not the girls. Without Miranda, thinking about the girls was a moot point after all. 'True enough,' Andrea's brain told her, but ever since their meeting maybe she should have been thinking of the possibilities and at some point the children would have to enter the picture. 'Silly me,' Andrea shook her head and followed them down the hospital hall, into the elevator and into the waiting car. Roy was still the driver and Andrea was pleased to see him. For his part Roy was shocked to see her, but he covered well and seemed pleased she was back.

Everyone was tired so the first day 'home' was spent in napping, a quiet dinner with the twins and sleep. Miranda had some clothes messengered over for Andrea since she couldn't imagine what could possibly fit into that magical backpack. Two hoodies should have taken all the room, but Andrea had managed to have a different top for the morning and basic care needs as well. Miranda was impressed. Andrea had just shrugged, "I've traveled a lot in the last few years. I've found I always need a hoodie and they can make good pillows. Everything else can happen when you get there. In modeling clothes are everywhere and in personal travel you don't really need that much."

Andrea was up first having rested, but woken often in an unfamiliar place. She had gotten used to broken sleep in all of her traveling and figured she could always nap later. She crept downstairs to the kitchen in a pair of red rumpled boxers with white hearts on them from the bottom of her backpack and her favorite brown Northwestern hoodie. It was an old sweatshirt, but no matter where she was she felt safe and at home. Andrea looked around the downstairs in the quiet of the morning. She felt like a spy, but pushed that out of her mind right away. This was like when she was a child and slept over at a friend's house only to wake up early and have nothing to do and not want to wake anyone. Of course you spied on the house by wandering around in it! What else was there to do? It wasn't like you touched anything or opened anything. Cupboards and drawers were explicitly forbidden. However what was out in plain sight was fair game.

After a while Andrea made it to the kitchen where she turned herself in circles a few times as she decided what level of intrusion was acceptable. A glass of water was certainly acceptable, but how about some fruit or toast? And if fruit and toast were okay what about coffee or pancakes or eggs? A rumbling stomach settled it for her. She was here for as long as Miranda let her so she was just going to go for it. Coffee, pancakes, fruit, juice, the works. Andrea made a pot of strong coffee figuring she liked it strong and knew how to doctor it up to meet Miranda's specifications if it came to it. Then she set about finding everything she needed to make pancakes. Bowl, mixing spoon, flour, eggs, milk… She carefully laid them on the counter like a mechanic getting all of the tools ready for a job. She had just located the measuring cups when she heard two shocked gasps from the entry of the kitchen.

"Good morning." Andrea said cheerily to the girls.

"Good morning, Andy." They chorused and sat down at the kitchen table watching her.

After a few moments Cassidy broke the silence. "What are you making?"

"Pancakes." Andrea turned to look at them and then smiled. "Do you like a certain kind of pancake?"

"What do you mean?" Caroline asked.

"Well, I like pineapple pancakes. My father used to make them for me. But there's always blueberries, bananas…" Andrea thought a moment. "Hey, there's always chocolate chip pancakes."

"You can make those?" They asked in identical surprise.

"Well, sure. You can too. What do you want in them? Cassidy?" Andrea turned to Cassidy and stepped toward the fridge in anticipation.

"Hmm. Banana."

Andrea turned to the fruit on the counter instead of the fridge while Caroline teased her sister. "You always get banana everything. That's like baby food."

"What?" Cassidy turned on her.

"Bananas are for babies." Caroline said making a horrible face at her sister. Andrea told Cassidy to cut the banana into small pieces and then turned on Caroline.

"Look. I don't mind making something nice for you guys, but I don't have to." Caroline's mouth dropped. "So, if we're going to have a nice breakfast, then let's not make fun of each other's choices." Caroline closed her mouth and nodded. "So, Caroline, what would you like? I thought your eyes sparkled when I said chocolate chip." Caroline again nodded.

Andrea got out two other mixing bowls so that she could help each of the girls make their own brand of pancakes. Then she had them pour the juice or milk that they wanted and bring her their plates. The girls had many real life skills, but making breakfast had never been something they had felt the need to try. It was a lot of fun and Andrea found herself relaxing with them. Halfway through the meal Andrea got stuck on a word in English and switched into the French without noticing it. Cassidy gasped, but Caroline switched into French and asked her a question that continued the conversation. Andrea and Caroline continued in French and after a while Cassidy joined in. They were having a quite a lively discussion and contemplating what they should do for the day when Miranda walked in.

"Is there a reason you sound like an episode of 'Ben et Thomas'?"

Andrea looked at Miranda startled. "Pourquoi?"

The girls started giggling immediately causing both women to look at them. "Andy switched into French when she forgot a word." Cassidy said full of mirth. "Then Caroline just started talking to her in French. And that was that." The kept giggling as Andrea realized what they said and she blushed looking at Miranda.

"Well, I'm delighted that your French was up to snuff for Andrea." Miranda said amused at her girls and Andrea as well. 'How nice to have a house filled with laughter,' Miranda thought.

"Do you take your coffee the same way? I can fix it up for you." Andrea had moved over to the coffee pot and already had a mug in her hand. Miranda nodded not trusting her voice as she feasted on Andrea's long legs topped off with the most absurd red boxers with hearts on them of all things and a brown 'hoodie' to top it off. 'She couldn't be further from the Fairy Queen today,' Miranda thought as Andrea made the coffee. 'But she's just as entrancing hidden in all that cotton casual.'

"So what did you have for breakfast girls?"

Caroline pointed delightedly at her plate and said, "Chocolate chip pancakes for me. And Cassidy had banana pancakes." She couldn't help herself and made a face. "Andrea had pineapple ones. She showed us how. Would you like some Mom?"

The excitement on her daughter's face was enough to light her up for the whole day, but she realized that if she didn't choose some pancakes that delight would disappear as quickly as it came. "I'll try Andrea's pineapple ones."

"Can I make them for her, Andrea?" Caroline immediately turned on her. "I watched you."

"Yes, but I'll do the stove part again, okay. Just cause you haven't had the practice yet. Burning your own was one thing." Andrea amusedly pointed out. When she turned to Miranda she was delighted to receive a most loving look.

After so many days' absence Miranda needed to make an appearance at Runway so she reluctantly said farewell to her girls and Andrea. The girls were feeling restless and wanted to do something, but Andrea reminded them that they had promised to take it easy. After a while she said that in France she had often gone to the park with friends to play cards on a blanket and take pictures of whatever was around them. It was a way to get out when they had no money and yet it was still almost as easy-going as taking a nap. The girls warmed to this idea instantly and went in search of cards, a blanket, and a camera. Andrea found Cara and told her that she could go because they were going out for the day. Andrea felt great about her decision when she saw the light in Cara's eyes. Working for Miranda in any capacity was difficult and Andrea felt good about being able to help her out.

"How is it that you can tell us apart?" Cassidy asked shyly.

"Well, back when I was your mom's assistant I tried to figure it out and had just barely gotten the hang of it, when I left." Andrea smiled first at Cassidy and then at Caroline, but it was a sad smile and didn't reach her eyes. "Then in the hospital I talked a lot with your mom about you and she told me for sure how to tell you apart."

Caroline was very much to the point reminding Andrea of Miranda. "How come you got sad when you mentioned leaving Runway?"

"I didn't want to leave Runway."

"You didn't want to leave Runway or you didn't want to leave mom?" Andrea smiled at Caroline, but this time it reached her eyes. Caroline really was spectacular. Cassidy was too, in a very different way. These questions though, they were quite to the point and Andrea loved that Caroline was not shy about it.

"Are you making this easier or harder for me?" Andrea said looking soulfully at Caroline and then at Cassidy. She waited while they looked at each other and engaged in some kind of silent twin ESP.

"Easier." Cassidy said in a whisper. "We think certain things and want to say certain things, but we're not sure. But even though we're only 16 we know that at some point in time someone has to say something. Or, maybe moments in time pass by that should be held onto with both hands."

"Wow. Are you the same twins that tried to get me fired the first time I brought the book?"

The twins giggled and then looked at Andrea solemnly. "We're sorry." Again with that ESP.

Andrea shook her head and looked at them. "Okay. Since you said you were trying to make this easier on me, and I'm guessing your mom?" Andrea looked at them again for confirmation. "Then I'll start. I left Runway because I had developed feelings for your mom. Then I was miserable because I left her."

"Did she blacklist you?"

"I always assumed that she did, but she and Nigel have told me that it was only for six months."

"What happened to you?"

"What do you mean?"

"You model. You live in France. You. Well, you're different. If we told you to deliver the book upstairs now, you'd school us in French and send us to bed without blinking."

"What makes you say that?"

"Your confidence around mom." Caroline said.

"Something major had to happen to you. No one is like that around mom without a lot of time with her. Most still never achieve it. We've seen it. And it's not just you, but she's different too."

"You girls are as smart as she always told us, aren't you?"

"We're top 10 in our class at Dalton."

"Of course you are."


"I need you to know that I made decisions that other people, including your mom, aren't comfortable with. I need you to know that I made those decisions after a lot of thought and while they weren't easy decisions, I ultimately stand by them. I did not want to go back to Ohio, or teach, or go to law school. I wanted to stay in fashion and I became a model. Part of that modeling included posing for an adult magazine."

Cassidy asked in a shouted whisper, "You posed in Playboy?" It was a question, but it needed no answer. The girls were off in an out loud hailstorm of electric activity as they connected the dots for themselves.

Caroline confirmed in her head what she had been thinking in regards to her mother's latest ex-husband. "That's why mom hates Andrew the most!"

"Why do you say that?" Cassidy hadn't given much thought to her mother hating Andrew any more than Stephen or Greg so she wasn't sure what Caroline was getting at.

Caroline rolled her eyes and then clued her sister in. "Remember that pile of Playboys he had and she told him to get rid of?"

Cassidy thought about it for a moment. "Yeah."

"He didn't. He hid them in his study." Caroline tacked on this piece of information as her closing speech to seal the guilty verdict from the jury like a veteran lawyer.

Cassidy followed her logic and took it one step further now that she was familiar with the scenario. "Oh! Mom found them when she packed his shit after the Riviera pictures hit the tabloids!"

Both girls turned on Andrea then. "She found your magazine in his things, didn't she?"

Andrea had watched this exchange in stupefied silence. She had not really wanted to tell the girls about her Playboy days, but found that she wanted them to have a completely honest picture of events. She wanted the girls to know her from start to finish if she was to have any kind of future with Miranda. Their breakfast and subsequent outing to the park had been very promising toward her goal of establishing camaraderie with them. However their reaction to her revelation left her speechless. Andrea simply looked from one to the other hoping that they'd ask something else or the words would finally appear in her brain.

"Is that why you went to live in France? Were you ashamed?"

"No. I was not ashamed." Andrea was quick to make sure the girls knew that. She was proud of herself and her ability to make a life that she wanted from nothing. She had gone from a hopeless fashion disaster to one of the most wanted women in the United States in just under two years. That was quite an accomplishment and really she had lived in such a way that she was insulated from random guys trying to brush up on her in day to day life acting like she owed them something. Her other modeling situations and who she chose to associate with did not lend an easy hand to those who made the idea of posing in Playboy lecherous instead of artistic.

"Why did you leave then?"

"New York wasn't the same after I wasn't working for your mom anymore."

"You left New York, because you weren't close to mom?"

"Yes." Andrea smiled and put her hand out on each of theirs. "I've never told anyone that."

Caroline turned to Cassidy then. "I hope mom doesn't screw this up." Cassidy nodded.

Then with a wicked gleam in her eye Cassidy added to Caroline, "But we know about it this time." With that the twins turned once again on a shocked Andrea.

"May I come in?" Andrea turned to see a cautious Miranda in the doorway.

She flashed her a great smile and pulled her into the room. "Of course." Andrea hugged her close and whispered in her ear. "Cara put me in this room and I wanted to talk to you about that."

"Hmmm." Miranda said as she enjoyed Andrea's embrace, but still tensed up. Andrea pulled back to look into her eyes for answers. The girls were in bed already, and Miranda had come to see her, but now it seemed that she was backing off. With no answers in her eyes, Andrea turned and shut the door to the bedroom so that she could talk to Miranda. Pulling the enigmatic woman to join her on the side of the bed Andrea started simple. "What's wrong?" Miranda's silence did nothing for Andrea's mood and stomach.

Miranda shook her head in answer and stood up. Andrea watched her in wonder. Miranda seemed to want escape within her own house, and away from her. It hurt to know that Miranda was hurting and shutting her out. Miranda turned to face her and then she held her finger over her mouth as she sucked in a slow sad breath of air to give her courage. In an extremely low voice Miranda started. "In your note you said that you kept yourself carefully in the shadows, but watched me." She looked at Andrea an inscrutable look on her face. Andrea nodded as she began to see where this was going. They had agreed to talk later and that time was apparently now. "Why would you keep close enough to watch me when you thought I had done this to you? When you thought that I ruined your life?"

Andrea smiled a sad thoughtful smile at Miranda. They were reunited, their initial conversation had proven that this was all so much ancient history, and most of all these had been happy days with the twin's coming home and everyone finally being able to relax once again. So, of course, Miranda had to bring out their unfinished conversation. Andrea regarded Miranda as an older cousin would regard a youngster who wanted to play make-believe and she was about to give in. Andrea swallowed and hoped to get them both through this to the other side. She shivered, suddenly cold in the room. "For most of a year I watched you. Everyday at work and in the news I paid attention to every detail of you. It was my job to anticipate as much about you as I could so that I could do my job and help you to run through life at 100 miles per hour with as few hang-ups as possible." Andrea paused getting to the hard stuff now. "I saw the Dragonlady, the Queen of Fashion, and the Ice Queen." Miranda bristled. Andrea closed the distance between them and reached out to take her hand. She waited for eye contact as they stood a breath apart. "I also saw Miranda—the woman, the mother, the gem inside that needed to be protected. And somewhere along the way I began to care for that woman."

Miranda sighed in confusion. "But you still believed I could ruin your life? You thought the woman you cared for was capable of that?"

"I'm sorry, Miranda. I had no doubt that you could ruin my life." Miranda tried to pull her hand away from Andrea's hand, but she simply held on tighter. "Not with what I had seen." She waited for Miranda to stop pulling and look at her. "Do you remember the Harry Potter incident?"

Miranda nodded.

"You were certain I would fail and you seemed amused. In fact you were quite enjoying reminding me of that fact. Changing your lunch plans so you could make me throw the steak away and waste time that you knew I would need to get the book. And I knew then. I knew before I saw what you did to Nigel. I knew that if you needed to do something, you would."

Andrea looked at her longingly. Wishing that she could open her head up and let Miranda look inside to understand what she felt and to accept her love. Instead they had go through this the old-fashioned way—complete with pain and suffering. "Why would you watch me then? Why meet me in Paris? Why take me into your arms?"

Stepping close to her Andrea let her hand go, but then lightly caressed her cheek before resting her hand on her shoulder. "I told you. I saw the woman, the mother, the gem inside of you. I knew that despite those facts about you… I mean both things are true about you: fire and ice. I think that's why the press can't decide if you are the Dragonlady who breathes fire, or the Ice Queen who freezes people out. I think they are both true."

Miranda turned to hide. Andrea let her suffer a little.

"Even if they are both true, Miranda. They are incomplete. The press can't get it right because they don't know you. I don't know if I know you, but I think I know you better than a lot of others—because I wanted to know you. I looked for glimpses of you inside the front you presented to everyone else. When I heard you on the phone with the twins and your voice would change and your facial expression would soften, I saw the woman." Andrea smiled a little at that thought. "Then you would catch me observing you and you would glare."

"You are the Dragonlady of Runway castle and you rule like the Ice Queen that you need to in order for it to be perfect. And yet in your quiet quarters you are a mother who would sit in a hospital for days and hold hands. You sat sentry over them and stared your children down—demanding them to wake up, to not disappoint you, because you love them so much. You are a woman who has a sensitive core that will not tolerate criticism, will not suffer being laughed at and as a result you make sure that no one knows that. You make sure that everyone thinks it will be their death to touch your hand in the office, or step into the elevator with you, or fail to complete a task. If they are worried about those things and believe them, then they won't try to get close to you, joke with you, or dream of being with you.

"But I'm a dreamer, Miranda. And you knew that on the first day. And you said as much later when I couldn't get you out of Florida for the twins' recital in the hurricane. You said that you had hoped I would be different, that you lived on hope. I dreamed I could be good at that job, which I was utterly unsuited for and you instinctively grabbed onto that dreamy hope-filled nature and believed in it in no small way. Of course you had to punish me for my failure, but you still lived on hope as you said. I think that's why you didn't outright fire me, but gave me that impossible task. You had hope that I'd make it, but you'd enjoy some suffering on my part in the meantime.

"When I left you, it was because of how I felt about you and that I was afraid of what it would mean for me. You crushed Nigel in front of me and I knew that I couldn't take it if you did the same to me. I accepted that I would be punished when I threw my phone into the fountain. But I couldn't have taken it face to face like Nigel did."

Miranda looked pained.

"You have repaid Nigel. I know. And I know that he had no such reaction as I did. But my mind had blown things way out of proportion. I couldn't reconcile that both the hot and the cold were true, not when I had seen most vividly evidence of the woman the night before in your hotel room.

"Instead I assumed I was blacklisted and I moved on as best I could. I didn't have to do the things that I did. I could have gone back to Ohio. I could have gone out to California to Stanford Law. I could have become an English teacher at Dalton. I could have done a lot of things. For reasons that were only partially clear to me, I chose modeling and fashion. Not high society fashion, but grungy garage up and coming fashion. I can't tell you how many outfits I've worn in the last 6 years that eventually were on the pages of American Runway."

Miranda looked shocked at that.

"You didn't ruin my life, Miranda. You put a boulder in my path and dared me to move it. Only I built a house around it and waited until you knocked on my door. It was your boulder and my link to you."

Miranda still didn't accept the Andrea didn't blame her, so she asked. "You hoped I would be proud of you. How could you even care?"

"I just did. Regardless of whether you had blacklisted me, or let me get away, or whatever. Your opinion mattered. I left not because I didn't respect you and not because you had sent me away. I left because I knew that I was a sensitive gem that hadn't developed any protective mechanisms. I knew that I was too close to my own edge. But I wanted you to be proud of me, because if you were proud of me, then it didn't matter that my feelings would not be returned or that you had been disappointed in me once. None of that would matter because you were proud."

Not willing to let it go Miranda asked another one. "Your note said you didn't know if anything could be said except I'm sorry and I forgive you. Who would say what to whom?"

Andrea smiled at her. "I am sorry for leaving. I hoped that you would forgive me for leaving."

"That simple?" Miranda asked in disbelief.

Pulling Miranda to sit next to her on the bed again Andrea told her in a matter of fact voice. "That simple. Complicated doesn't have to be hard. I fell for the woman not the dual edged sword that she wields. Although that's kind of hot now that I think of it. Miranda Priestly dressed as Sabine…"

Miranda interrupted her daydream, repeating her words back to her. "Complicated doesn't have to be hard." Miranda's tone was clear that she didn't believe it. "How come the phrase, 'too good to be true' is rattling around in my head?"

"Ok. Let's look at this the complicated way." Miranda glared at her and Andrea laughed in her face. "No, really. You can't imagine this should be easy, yet you don't want to give up hope which is why you came to the suite in Paris, why you waited for me, why you were glad I came to the hospital, and why you've let me stay here. Right?"

Miranda nodded in agreement and gave a hope-filled look to Andrea. "So, now you're waiting for the other shoe to drop. Okay. Let's drop it. You feel like you ruined my life so much that I went to pose in Playboy." Miranda cringed at the word. "And you think that I was suffering because of how miserable you made me. You think that I am utterly disgraced and shamed by posing nude and being a bunny." Miranda shivered and let a silent tear fall. "Is that everything? You ruined my life and I'm not supposed to forgive you?"

Miranda sobbed and Andrea pulled her head up with gentle fingers under her chin. When Miranda's eyes met her own she told her. "That's in your head." Wiping her tears with gentle fingertips Andrea continues. "I was miserable because I wasn't near you anymore and couldn't figure you out. I was miserable because I didn't think you cared about me the way I cared about you. I let myself get pretty down, because I wanted to hang onto my sadness. I stayed in New York and didn't look for publishing jobs because I didn't think I could. It took me a while but I figured out that I was great for low-end modeling. I was able to begin to emulate the person that I admired by forming boundaries like 'no touch,' and later to voice demands and have them met like 'no shooting on Fridays'—until I was the Fairy Queen whom you met.

"You inspired my transformation and shaped it, but you did not ruin my life. If anything I'm quite happy. I like writing and still do it occasionally, but I don't know that I really wanted to run around chasing leads or making cold calls to people to get information or writing sports statistics, weather and obituaries. With the modeling came a sense of freedom." Andrea stood to face a shocked Miranda. With a wicked smile and a wink she continued. "To tell the truth I'm a bit of an exhibitionist." Andrea pulled her top over her head. "You should see some of the other stuff I model with the Fairy Queen exterior." Andrea unclasped the front of her bra letting her breasts free. Miranda gasped and Andrea laughed.

It was music to Miranda's ears. Andrea stepped to her and ran a finger over her lips and down the front of her shirt where she began undoing buttons. "So are we done being hard? Can we just be complicated?" Miranda looked warily at her, but desire was fighting for dominance in her eyes. Andrea explained, "We have complicated already. You are 56, the mother of twin teenagers and you live in New York where you are career obsessed. I am 31, a model in low-end enterprises, and live in France. So I hope that we can stop being HARD and just be COMPLICATED and…" Andrea put her bent knee next to Miranda's leg on the bed bringing them very close together. "And." She smirked over Miranda. "While we figure it all out we can have a lot of great sex." Miranda whimpered underneath her.

In a breathless desire filled moment Miranda felt the mattress soft under her and Andrea hot over her. In that moment she realized that Andrea could make everything simple in the smallest of actions. Hard and Complicated disappeared as Andrea's velvet tongue left a hot trail along her neck and her hand rose up under the curve of Miranda's breast until her pebbled nipple was firm between Andrea's finger and thumb. Indeed, none of this had to be hard even though it was complicated.


Part 7

Andrea's body clenched with desire as she began to tease Miranda and convince her with her body instead of her words. Sometimes words were good to hear, but took time to sink in. Actions could communicate the tenderness and the passion that words might not be able to convey. Andrea was determined to use a combination of every tool she had in order to convince Miranda that she wanted to be a constant in her life, if she'd just let her. Andrea had been miserable and she had blamed Miranda, however in time she realized that she was miserable because she was in love with her and not still in her sphere. She also realized that as much as she wanted to blame Miranda, she didn't regret what she had done. Andrea was in a place of discovery and she felt she had a lot to discover and to prove to herself. That others disagreed or thought her choices were made out of desperation, well, that was their problem for not understanding. Andrea could not regret where her journey ultimately brought her, so she could not regret any of the decisions made to get here.

When Andrea slipped backward off the bed to rid herself of her jeans and panties she watched Miranda watching her with eyes half-lidded with desire. Andrea shivered with the jolt of desire that Miranda's look sent through her body. Andrea pulled Miranda up off the bed and slipped off her open blouse and bra. Kissing her and letting their breasts brush against each other for the first time Andrea stroked Miranda's back and then trailed her hands down in order to unzip her skirt. Miranda was just barely recovering from the overwhelming sensations of their hardened nipples teasing against each other as Andrea continued to move around her. As Andrea bent down to lower the skirt to her feet her nipples slid over Miranda's until they were below her. She guided Miranda as she lifted first one foot and then the other to free the skirt from her legs. Then Andrea slid her body back up Miranda's torso until her nipples brushed up and over Miranda's once again.

Completely naked Andrea stood before Miranda in her black lace panties. Andrea seared in the image to permanent replay in her mind and bit her lip in anticipation. "Lay down." Her voice throaty with desire and desire pooling between her own legs Andrea encouraged her to take the center of the bed. Dipping the mattress with her hands and knees Andrea placed herself between Miranda's legs and stretched her torso up and over Miranda so that they were face to face but not touching. Miranda's eyes were glassy with desire and uncertainty. Her body pulsed with want and desire, but her mind had shut down all intelligible thought as to what she should do next. Andrea was content to hover over Miranda for several loud heartbeats, which she could feel in pulse points throughout her body.

Andrea lowered her mouth to Miranda's and lightly kissed her. Her breasts brushed against Miranda's and she undulated side to side in time with her light kisses. Miranda started to kiss back and Andrea pulled away again. Miranda whimpered at the loss of contact and brought her arms up to capture Andrea again. Andrea smiled down at her and pinned her arms above her head. Andrea kissed Miranda's cheeks, nibbled along her jaw line, and sucked on her pulse point. "Let me enjoy you." She whispered into Miranda's ear. Miranda swallowed but then nodded her head. Andrea let go of her arms and proceeded down Miranda's body her mouth kissing down the valley between her breasts. After many teasing open-mouthed kisses Andrea's tongue swirled around one nipple and the other was pinched between finger and thumb once again. Miranda would have been certain she was having a heart attack if she didn't know what was really happening to her body.

As it was Miranda fought not to grab Andrea with both arms. She wanted to bury her hands in Andrea's hair and forcefully bring her up to her mouth again. Miranda wanted to feel the length of Andrea's body hot against her own. She could not reach for her lover though, because she had the distinct impression that Andrea might stop if she reached for her. Instead Miranda stretched her body up and her hands wrapped around the lower part of the headboard. Miranda wasn't sure if Andrea made her more sensitive or stretching her breasts up with her reach made her more sensitive, but she was sure that if Andrea kept at it she would come just from her mouth on her breasts coupled with her relentless fingertips.

In fact she could feel her sex clenching as she squirmed under Andrea. Alternating breasts one more time Andrea sucked Miranda's nipple into her mouth and flicked her tongue against it under the pressure of her mouth. Her other fingers pinched hard on Miranda's other nipple. Miranda cried out as she locked her legs around Andrea and shuddered her release. Miranda let go of the headboard and roughly grabbed Andrea by her upper arms bringing her up even with her face. She couldn't catch her breath and she couldn't kiss Andrea, but she had to stop her while she continued to shake as jolts of desire coursed through her body. Andrea panted in her ear and under the weight of Miranda's full body hold she rested her body on Miranda. When she became uncomfortable Andrea shifted in Miranda's full body lock and Miranda loosened up.

Stretching her body out along the side of Miranda's Andrea had to ask, "Did you just?"

Miranda swallowed and nodded her head unsure whether she could in fact speak or not. "I would never have thought that was possible." Miranda said and then turned on her side to face Andrea. "I don't know what to do, Andrea."

Smiling from ear to ear Andrea leaned her face in to claim Miranda's mouth in a languid kiss. Andrea reached her hand out till she found Miranda's shoulder then she slid her hand down her arm until she found her hand. Continuing the kiss Andrea took Miranda's hand and placed it on her breast. Her hand warm on Miranda's was heavenly and Andrea's sex once again clenched in anticipation. Miranda coming just from attention to her nipples and kissing was hot enough that Andrea thought she might be able to replicate that moment herself. Andrea squeezed her hand over Miranda's and felt her nipple catch between two of Miranda's fingers. Her mouth stopped moving on Andrea's as she realized what her hand was doing. Andrea diverted her mouth along Miranda's neck as she explored her new territory. Eventually Miranda's instincts guided her to rise up on one elbow over Andrea and she pushed Andrea to lay flat on her back as she began to kiss and caress Andrea's breasts with her lips and tongue. Andrea ran her hands all over Miranda's skin encouraging her as she navigated this new territory and enjoying the feel of Miranda's skin under her flat palm, teasing fingertips and even the graze of her nails.

Miranda sat up unsure, but full of desire. Andrea flipped her leg over Miranda who looked down at her dripping wet sex. Miranda froze caught between passion and lack of knowledge. "Kiss me. Miranda." Andrea invited her with a sultry voice and open arms. Miranda lowered herself over Andrea mimicking Andrea's earlier position over her. The kiss reassured her and allowed desire to take control again. Her sensitive nipples brushed passed Andrea's and it was her turn to whimper. Miranda shifted back on the bed to cover Andrea's nipple with her mouth. She began to pinch the other nipple with her thumb and forefinger.

Andrea was whimpering and her head was thrashing back and forth as she tried to remain quiet. Nothing had been said between them, but she was aware that the girls were in the house on the floor above them. Andrea had begun to buck her hips up, but Miranda was unsure of what to do next. She brought her face back up to Andrea's and waited to look her in the eyes. "Ma chere?" Miranda asked her gently. Andrea's hands flew into her hair and she kissed her hard.

Miranda whimpered under the wild contact of her lips. Then Andrea pushed back against her and she was sitting up and then on her knees as Andrea followed to face her. Again Andrea attacked her with a feral kiss. Miranda wrapped her arms around Andrea knowing she wanted to feel the press of her body against hers skin to skin. Andrea caressed around Miranda's back scratching at her skin with fevered motions. Her hands trailed lower until she was cupping Miranda's ass through the lace of her panties. The rough texture of the lace over Miranda's smooth ass cheeks caused Andrea to let out a long loud moan before she could stop herself. Andrea's body was undulating in time with hands against Miranda's. They were both hot, sweaty and in need of release. Miranda couldn't believe the level of her desire despite having been sated earlier. She allowed her hands to trail along Andrea's skin following her lead until she gasped into Andrea's mouth upon cupping Andrea's smooth bare ass. Miranda left off kissing as this sensation overtook her and Andrea began to ravage her neck with nibbling kisses and gentle licks.

Andrea brought one hand up to pinch Miranda's nipple in the impossibly small space between their bodies. Miranda let her head fall back on her neck and Andrea took advantage of her offering. Coming back to her senses Miranda brought her head back up to kiss Andrea once again. Always delighting in how wonderful the sensation of Andrea's lips on her mouth was. Miranda brought up first one hand and then the other as she realized she needed to copy Andrea with the opposite side for this to work. Andrea gasped as Miranda's fingers claimed her nipple and her hips bucked harder against Miranda. If it was not for the steady presence of Andrea's arm around her Miranda was certain that they would have fallen to the side by now.

Andrea lowered her fingertips from Miranda's breast down her ribcage and rested them at the curve of her hip. She kissed Miranda on the mouth once more and then whispered her own words to her, "Ma chere." Andrea tickled along the edge of Miranda's panties and then slid her hand below the waistband of them until her fingertips found the warm wetness of Miranda's sex. Miranda pinched Andrea's nipple hard and let out her own long loud moan. Andrea's fingers slid into the wetness all along Miranda's slit carefully avoiding her clit. Miranda's hips bucked against her hand anyway. Miranda subconsciously adjusted her knees so that her legs were farther apart. As a reward Andrea slid her fingertips back along her slit and lightly caressed her clit. Miranda sobbed against her shoulder. Andrea slid back and with one finger she penetrated Miranda. In her ear Andrea heard Miranda's breath stop and on her nipple she felt her hand drop away. Andrea turned her mouth into Miranda's ear and whispered into the perfect shell, "Follow me."

Andrea stilled her fingers in Miranda's panties and waited for the words to travel into Miranda's brain, cut through the fog of desire and into her hand's actions. Miranda paused at Andrea's hip, but then Andrea twitched the finger inside her and she plunged her fingertips between Andrea's legs. Knowing she was close Andrea began to circle Miranda's clit with her fingertips. She knew that all it would take for Miranda to set her off would be a couple of gentle passes and she wanted to make sure that they came together. Miranda froze as the twin pleasures of feeling Andrea's wet sex for the first time, and having her clit caressed overtook her at the same time. She could only hope that Andrea was close because she wasn't sure that she could fight giving into the pleasure very long at all. Just as that brief hope flickered across her mind they were both overcome with the first waves of their mutual orgasm and they clung together like they each were the other's mooring to stay firmly rooted to earth. Miranda clutched around Andrea's body as she wailed against her. Andrea sunk her teeth into Miranda's shoulder to stifle the shout that was sure to erupt from her body. After long trembling moments Andrea eased away from Miranda and guided her to lie down once again. Hovering over her Andrea looped her fingers around Miranda's panties and tugged. Miranda lifted her hips and Andrea discarded the underwear with a slight toss. Grabbing the turned down blanket to cover them Andrea settled in along Miranda's side. A few kisses later they were asleep, wrapped in warmth and love and smelling of sex.

Andrea woke to the sound of twin footsteps outside the door. Her mind wandered pleasantly over her first encounter with Miranda last night. She groaned in happiness as little jolts of joy coursed through her body remembering Miranda's uncertainty, tenderness, and passion. Her skin was so smooth and delicate, and her fingers were tantalizing and teasing at the same time. Andrea had woken once in the night having roused herself by touching Miranda in her sleep. It warmed her heart to know that she reached for Miranda even while she was unconscious and it fueled her desire to see Miranda responding to that touch in her least defensive state. Miranda had woken up her body fully aroused and Andrea had devoured her. Thoroughly exhausted once again they fell asleep in each other's arms.

It was no wonder that they had slept late having kept such a late night before. The room was full of soft light and Andrea smiled into Miranda's silver hair and kissed her gently. The twins were getting ready and roaming around it would seem. Andrea liked the idea of being with Miranda and her daughters in the house. Their day together could have been very stressful, but had easily turned into one of her favorite days in New York. Looking at their mother, her lover, Andrea was proud that Miranda had faced her fears with her last night. Andrea was proud that they had become what the other needed in the years that they spent apart. The steps came back down the hall and then the whispers began outside her door. Knowing what the twins were up to Andrea ran her free arm up and down Miranda's side and kissed her lips several times. The whispers outside became voices. Miranda grumbled in her sleep and brushed her face. Andrea laughed and kissed her again. Miranda said something that Andrea could have sworn was a plea for five more minutes. The voices outside the door were growing impatient. Kissing her once more Andrea was about to call to her lover when the voices gave up and knocked on the door.

Two sharp raps on the door and Miranda was suddenly, fully awake. Completely naked in the arms of a naked Andrea in the guest room and the only ones who would dare to knock on any doors in this house were her very teenaged daughters. "Mom? Andrea?"

Andrea opened her mouth to call out to the girls. Miranda gasped in panic and covered her mouth with her hand. Two more knocks and another call of their names and Miranda was on her feet in the middle of the room—still very naked. Andrea had sat up quite amused and still very sexy.

Miranda came back to the bed and began to yank on the sheet, much to Andrea's delight. Andrea giggled and crawled across the bed to sit on her knees facing her lover. She had deliberately put herself completely on the sheet. Miranda glared at her with her flesh-melting stare and Andrea tittered again, but at least tried to hide behind her hand. In a whisper Andrea tried to make the situation right. "Miranda? It's okay."

Leaning her face very close to Andrea's and using the quietest, most deadly whisper in her arsenal Miranda whispered right back. "There are so many things about this that are not okay."

Andrea hopped off the bed in a flash and kissed Miranda hard. She liked having the tiger by its tail—incredibly exciting and not the least bit sexy. "Girls?"

"Yes. Andy."

"We'll be down in a minute. Can you pour the juice and get out the stuff for pancakes? I'll want chocolate chip today."

"I told you she'd help us again." One voice said. Andrea thought it was Cassidy.

"I told you she'd switch to chocolate chips." The other voice said. 'Definitely Caroline,' thought Andrea.

Twin footsteps traveled down the hall and then stomped down the stairs.

Andrea smiled to herself. The twins wanted her to be there this morning. They had come looking for their mother in her room as if it was fine. They had gone off down the stairs without a hassle and… 'Oh, shit.' Andrea thought as she looked at Miranda standing buck naked and shocked in the middle of the room deathly still her eyes piercing Andrea's calm demeanor.

"Here." Andrea offered as she handed over her brown Northwestern hoodie and a pair of green boxers. The tiger may be hanging by its tail, but that doesn't mean it can't get the occasional scratch in. Andrea knew she had to be very careful. As Miranda dressed she laid her other hoodie and the red boxers on the bed. Once Miranda was all covered up again Andrea turned on her still without a scrap of clothing. As mad as Miranda wanted to be, she couldn't deny how sexy her Fairy Queen was in the glowing light of day. Andrea was obviously using this to her advantage, but Miranda found that she was powerless to fight against it. Andrea stood close and cupped Miranda's cheek pulling her in for a kiss. Miranda tried to not let Andrea have her way, but when a chill hand snaked its way up and under the hoodie she gasped and Andrea slid her tongue into her mouth. The touch of lips, the taste of tongue, the confidence that they could do this all instantly blended together as their bodies sung to one another. Just when Miranda was finally giving in to the distraction Andrea pulled back. "They figured it out." Andrea kissed her again and rested her hand on Miranda's hip. "They want you to be happy."

Miranda pushed Andrea with both hands to get away from her. Her eyes shone with anger. Andrea knew it was coming, but still let out a heavy sigh. "You told them?!"

Andrea angrily shoved the hoodie over her head, leave it to Miranda to completely mishear and misunderstand the situation entirely. Patience stretched Andrea huffed. "No. I didn't." Then she picked up her boxers and put them on. She looked back at a seething Miranda. Knowing it was futile, Andrea still tried to tell Miranda how the twins had come to this understanding. "We spent all day together and went to the park. We were talking about various things and they asked why I left Runway. They are very perceptive and they figured it out." Andrea looked at Miranda who remained unmoved. Andrea threw her hands up in defeat. "They told me, Miranda. Not the other way around."

"I don't believe you."

"Believe me?" Andrea asked deadly quiet and a cold draft blew into the room. "Ask them yourself." Andrea felt like someone had pierced her skin and placed her stone heart back on her chest in place of her other one. She took back every happy thought she'd had in the last couple of weeks as she looked at her Dragonlady. Miranda had drawn the defensive line around herself and was not going to budge. She wielded her double-edged sword of cold fury and hot anger in reflexive and instinctive motions that Andrea could not divert. Andrea was not the same person from six years ago, and her own defenses kicked in as well. The Fairy Queen sliding into place over her features as she declared. "I'll call Nigel." The Fairy Queen scooped up all of her things including the backpack and went into the bathroom. The firm click of the lock should have brought Miranda back to her senses, but she was locked in the tower that she had built to keep her safe. Miranda turned away from the cold Fairy Queen's dismissal and on quiet feet sought to outrun the ruin that she felt coming in her bones.

Andrea was ready within minutes after she called Nigel. She had only needed to stash a few items in her backpack and dress properly in her own clothes in order to make her getaway. She rushed down the stairs in a blur of emotions and a jumble of psychosomatic reactions her body was throwing her into. The twins heard her on the stairs and came running. Caroline caught her arm before she could slip out the door. Andrea looked back at her assailant with crazed eyes. Then she whipped her eyes to look out the door to Nigel's waiting car and her escape. "What happened?" Caroline asked her voice mirroring the desperation on her face.

"Nothing." Andrea sniffed and tried to pull away.

Caroline did not release her grip in the slightest when she turned to Cassidy and said, "I told you she'd screw it up."

"Andy, don't go. She's pig headed, but you know that."

Andrea looked at the face of each girl wishing that the morning had been so different. Her previous day with them and night with Miranda had been so perfect that she had let down her guard and begun to believe in the possible. Movement caught her peripheral vision and she looked up the stairs where Miranda had just appeared. Her brown eyes flashed hard and her jaw set, but she managed to softly tell them. "I have to go, girls. You're lovely." It was just loud enough for them to hear, although she knew that Miranda was watching them. Caroline released her arm slightly and Andrea slipped out the door leaving it to close on its own. It was ten steps down and thirty more to the sidewalk. Andrea remembered her fearful anticipation upon going up them once upon a time. She also remembered her absolute joy to have escaped unscathed each time she went down them way back when. Today she would have traded anything to feel either of those things. She would have traded because what she was feeling now was worse than any perceived rock bottom she had ever hit before in her life. She did not speak or make eye contact with Nigel. He must have sensed her distress and squealed the tires as he sped away from the crime scene.

"You finally figured it out and then fucked it up faster than you could blink!" Caroline turned on her mother and pulled Cassidy with her back to the kitchen.

Miranda sat on the top of the steps wondering what dimension she had woken up in. It was just last month when she was in charge of everything in the world around her. She was the Editor, the mother, the puppet-master of her world—She was 'Miranda Fucking Priestly.' Today sinking into her skin on the top of the stairs, she had no idea what she was or where to turn or who to even ask for help, now that she finally wanted some. Andrea was gone with Nigel and her girls were apparently on a warpath against her. Miranda held her face in her hands and sobbed for many minutes until she heard a loud crash and yelp from the kitchen. Panic rising in her throat Miranda sprinted down the stairs.

"What happened? Are you all right?" Miranda panted once she reached the kitchen.

Cassidy had her hand under the running water in the sink but she turned sad eyes on her mother. "I'm fine." Cassidy pulled her hand out of the water and looked it over, before putting it back under the water. Glumly she said, "We were just trying to flip them like Andy did and I burned my hand." She checked her hand again and curled it into a fist to see if it was all right. Then wiping in on the towel she repeated quietly. "I'm fine."

Caroline's anger rolled off her body in waves. She was truly her mother's child and at age 16 she was quicker to use that double-edged sword. She had the righteousness of youth behind her and did not wait for icy glares or utter quietly scary whispers. Instead Caroline let you see her anger on her body and if you got close to her she'd tell you about it, and maybe even show you with her hands about it. Cutting her mom by commenting to Cassidy she said, "You'd be fine if Andy was here to help us." Caroline stayed determinedly facing the stove with her back to her mother. "Stupid." She muttered to herself as she flipped the little pancakes one by one with the spatula. She stepped away from the burner to grab a plate off the small stack on the counter. Then she filled the plate and took them to the table. She turned on her mother fixing her with her very own flesh-melting glare. "Sit down. You're eating chocolate chip pancakes." Like her mother that glare and that tone was not to be questioned, bargained with, or ignored. There would be hell to pay otherwise. Miranda wondered when her daughter had learned to harness that power and how long she had been wielding it.

For the better part of two hours the twins schooled Miranda on what was what. They told her about their day with Andy. They admired her for being so strong. They enjoyed her thoughtfulness as she created an outing that was okay for their medical limits. They told her how it had been a nice touch that Andy had let Cara go for the day. They repeated almost word for word their conversations with Andy about what happened to her, how they had figured out she like their mom, and how they thought it was a good thing for both of them. They took several minutes to explain their theory about her hating Andrew the most of her husbands because he had been an Andrea substitute in the first place, and because he had been found in possession of the magazine. By the time they were done Miranda felt well and truly schooled for the first time in an incredibly long time. To Miranda's shock as they winded down they demanded that she go to Nigel's and fix the stupidity. They would not take any excuses that Miranda through up. They didn't want her to give Andrea time to cool down. It was not acceptable for her to call Andrea, this had to be done now and in person they said. As soon as they had shoved Miranda out the door to a confused but ready Roy—they called Nigel.


Part 8

Sir David Frederick Attenborough's British narrator voice echoed in Nigel's head as he watched the big cat prowl his living room and he contemplated the big cat whose house he had just driven away from. "The biggest of the cats—the tiger—and the biggest of the tigers—the Siberian Tiger—surely the most formidable hunter of all. The tiger is a creature of fearful power and stunning beauty, the top predator and the most powerful killer on earth. Few creatures could escape it, nothing could threaten it, and it is the ultimate in lethal grace and beauty." If Miranda was a tiger, then she was indeed the biggest of the tigers. Andrea, formerly a kitten, had apparently outgrown all traces of the runt to take her rightful place next to Miranda as a Siberian as well.

Nigel did not like tigers particularly. That he worked for one was a hazard of the job, but within the set environment of fashion's various backdrops he felt that he had some knowledge of her habits, temperament, and feeding schedule. Like a zookeeper, Nigel felt a certain sense of comfort in the context of work. Now however, Nigel found himself in a situation more like one of the tiger and the zookeeper in the wild where all bets were certainly off and one had to be on constant guard. Had Nigel realized the extent of 'little Andy's' transformation from kitten to tigress, then he might have re-considered his willingness to become involved in the wilds of personal life. Nigel, after years with Miranda, felt he could temporarily handle one tiger and he was glad that it was Andrea and not Miranda. However that was exactly where his temporary comfort ran out—Nigel only had one tiger, right now, but time was running out before the other tiger would arrive. At which point he would have a second tiger to contend with.

Andrea, part tiger herself, rather enjoyed tigers. In fact she didn't even seem to mind the inherent dangers of holding a tiger by its tail. Nigel supposed that playing with a tiger was a game for people with a special brand of death wish and even when she was a sloppy size six who ate onion bagels, Andrea had the spirit to tame a tiger when she had a mind to. Perhaps, Nigel mused, one must be part tiger to play the tiger. After the twins called he talked to Andrea for a while. He paced out the minutes much as he had done before sending Miranda off to meet her in Paris little more than a week ago. Understandably furious and melancholy Andrea seemed at a loss as to how to proceed. She cursed herself for following fancy and hopping on a plane to come here. She cursed herself for not being able to move on all these years. Most vehemently she cursed Miranda for making complicated into HARD one more time, when it was so patently not what was needed. The girls had come up with it on their own and had asked Andrea about it. Not to mention the fact that they had basically caught them naked in bed. They may not have had the visual, which everyone was thankful for, but they were 16 and they most definitely had the idea. "Get over it, already!" Andrea growled as she paced.

Andrea did not know the twins had called. Nigel had played it off as any other phone call. Originally he had feared the tiger that was Miranda Priestly. As each moment passed however he began to fear the tiger in his living room that was Andrea Sachs. Knowing that each heartbeat thundering in his chest was bringing the two tigers together, he was understandably in need of a strong drink even though it was just gone noon. Thankful for Andrea's ignorance in this instance Nigel jumped when the doorbell rang. Andrea sank into the couch trying to pacify herself so she wouldn't scare Nigel's guest. She thought she heard him say, 'gird your loins,' before he opened the door. Then there was silence as she waited for him to come back and introduce his guest. Unbidden her first memories of Miranda burst into her mind—employees scurrying for cover after his battle cry and then that first breathtaking look as Miranda Priestly morphed the world around her in front of Andrea's very eyes. It did not matter that Andrea did not know her at that point—she exuded pure unmitigated presence, power, and (even then) sex. Mad again Andrea realized she had heard the door close and yet there was no Nigel. Andrea stood to go look for him and his mystery guest.

Her eyes locked on bottomless blue and in a blink the Fairy Queen was facing off with Miranda. Andrea felt the change across her features like the first shiver from cold. Miranda saw the doors slam shut in Andrea's brown eyes going from warm to cold in a flash.

Miranda wasn't sure where to begin, but knew it was her responsibility. "You were right." Andrea just blinked at her and crossed her arms over her chest—not about to make this easy. "I freaked out and I'm sorry."

Sucking in a breath and then slowly releasing it, Andrea squinted her hard eyes at Miranda. "And I'm just supposed to be okay with you now?"

"Andrea. Please. I don't know how to do this." Her voice was quiet and unusually soft as she admitted defeat. Miranda crossed the room to stand close to her. "I'm sorry. I was overwhelmed this morning. There have been so many changes in the last two weeks. I know you know that, so don't look away." Miranda stopped there and the silence was filled with their breathing. "Please." It was a gentle plea full of repentance Andrea hadn't expected. After and awkward silence she continued. "I know I'm stupid."

Andrea gasped at this and turned to face Miranda once again. "What?" Andrea couldn't help herself. Of all the things to be said or done this morning—now Miranda Priestly was calling herself stupid. Not for the first time today Andrea wondered what dimension she had woken up in.

Matter of fact Miranda explained. "The girls have sided with you. They were quite clear as they made me eat chocolate chip pancakes in your honor and told me in no uncertain terms that I've screwed up." Miranda shook her head remembering how upset the twins were with her.

"I think your girls like me more than you do." Andrea couldn't help her sullen mood. She was glad that the twins tried to put their mother in her place and apparently sent her over here. Even so, she was still upset that Miranda needed to be prodded at all.


Andrea motioned to the couch and started laughing. The whole situation was ludicrous. Starting a relationship with Miranda Priestly after six long years, bonding with her daughters, fighting after their first night together, and having it out in Nigel's apartment. "Didn't we come to any understanding last night, Miranda?" Andrea sat close to her and took her hand in hers. "This is complicated enough on its own, but together we can make it not be hard. It doesn't have to be hard. And we've wasted so much time already."

"I'm sorry, Andrea."

Andrea looked at Miranda every inch the teacher in this moment. "So let's go through it again shall we?" Miranda squeezed Andrea's hand and silently agreed to do whatever Andrea wanted to do. "Last night we let the other shoe drop and we looked at the situation. We forgot to look at this angle so let's do that with this morning's events. We still have a lot ahead of us, right? I mean there are a lot of hurdles to go through: The girls, your ex-husbands, Page 6, Irv, whoever else you'll worry about." Andrea paused and let these potential obstacles sink in one by one. Without understanding they could not hope to achieve peace. "Because… As for me? I don't care. The press doesn't bother me and my friends all know the score. My parents lost the right to say anything after the Playboy fiasco."

Miranda gasped at that, but Andrea just looked at her hard. "They were stupid." She waved her hand at Miranda to stop any discussion on that topic. Four years was enough time for them to have made peace with each other or the situation and Andrea wasn't going to waste time on that today. Andrea steamed ahead. "So. You woke up in a strange place with a strange woman and your children nearly caught you basically having sex. Does that sum up the situation for you?" Andrea knew her words were harsh, but they needed to get to the most drastic version of these things in order to move forward.

Miranda shook her head at the whole thing, but then quietly said, "Yes." It was rather humiliating having Andrea her junior by 25 years taking the lead here. It was also rather mortifying to think that her 16 year-old daughters very nearly did catch her in a 'compromising' position.

"Okay. So that's stressful. I get that. I was a little worried except that I knew the door was locked. Your girls knew it was just us. And while freaky it would be all right. Cooler heads and all of that. So where exactly did your brain spike out of control?"

Caught in a web stuck somewhere between the Dragonlady and Miranda, she pursed her lips in frustration. Of course she was known for her cool, collected exterior. But her whole life had been turned on its head, couldn't she get a pass here?! "Andrea. I really hope that you'll forgive me. Last night was the most intense night of my life. First of all my brain has been running non-stop about you with the exception of the twins. So last night so many things were becoming clear and confusing all at the same time." Miranda paused and looked at Andrea almost shyly. "I've never had a sexual experience like that, Andrea. I think if I had been able to wake up on my own I would have found myself pleasantly transformed." She smiled at Andrea. "However, I was jerked into this awakening where I was confronted with too many things all at once and I panicked." Miranda swallowed. "I panicked. Here I was obviously having slept with you with my girls outside the door and all I understood was that you had told them. Not only that you told them, but that my panic was out of place, and then I snapped. I thought how dare you talk to my girls about things we hadn't even talked about."

Andrea sat quiet for a while. She had learned from her own crazy encounters that sometimes a little patience was all that was needed. Part of her wished that she hadn't called Nigel and left, but the rest of her rejected that saying that Andrea had to stand her ground and Miranda had to trust her. The trust should have been the first instinct and the questioning or anger should have come second. Andrea would have been happy to talk to her before going down to meet the girls.

"Andrea, I was not consciously aware that I was attracted to you, to a woman, until I found that magazine and Nigel forced me to face up to unspoken things in my life. I had no idea if I would ever see you again. Nor did I have any idea that when I did see you, we would even possibly get together in this way. I was afraid of the possibility of telling my children and others, so a small part of me didn't want to meet you again. Then I would never have to tell anyone. But like you said whether it was hope or destiny, something was drawing us together. I forgot all of my concerns when I saw you. And I even forgot most of them in the last couple of days with you and the girls."

Taking a small mercy on her, Andrea reached for her hand. "But?"

"But last night and this morning was real and the fears knocked on the door in the form of my two darling girls."

"And you freaked?" Andrea smiled widely at Miranda figuring the tide had turned now.

"And I freaked." Miranda agreed and smirked back at Andrea.

Andrea laughed at her and kissed her hand. "Miranda Priestly freaked out." Andrea held her hands up like she was reading a news headline. Journalism still ran in her blood in some small part and she feasted on the idea of the juicy headline. Over the years Andrea had developed a knack for waving the tail at the tiger to get it going and today was no different.

Miranda pouted and tried to move away from Andrea's side, only to be wrapped in a sideways embrace. "Andrea." She said in warning, but it wasn't as harsh as it once was and Andrea was right back in catch a tiger mode.

Rubbing her nose in against the skin of her ear and neck Andrea teased in a low whisper. "I can see the headlines now. Miranda Priestly loses her shit." Miranda tensed up next to her trying to pull away again, but Andrea held her firmly wrapped with both arms. Andrea quite delighted with herself placed a gentle kiss on the sensitive spot behind Miranda's ear earning a moan of appreciation. Emboldened Andrea licked along the lobe of Miranda's ear and then sucked it in between her teeth before licking it again. Miranda leaned her head back surrendering to Andrea. "Hmmm. You are so soft." Miranda's eyes fluttered open, but then flickered shut as Andrea continued to kiss and lick. "I can see it now: Miranda Priestly takes over Playboy Mansion; Moves in her own Bunny." Andrea snickered and then bit Miranda's neck as her hand slipped under the bottom of her blouse and stroked the soft skin of her abdomen. "No bunny?" She asked as her hand moved up to cup Miranda's breast. "I could be your sex kitten instead?" Andrea rubbed her nose along the edge of Miranda's ear and then kissed down her neck to her pulse point once more. "Miranda Priestly takes in stray sex kitten. Watch out Miranda, this one's a tiger." Andrea continued her newspaper game. Miranda was surprisingly quick to react, but Andrea had the gift of anticipation on her side. Andrea let Miranda think she was getting away as she stood behind her. Only she pulled her back by the hand she had latched onto.

"Andrea." Miranda's voice slid over the syllables like molten lava.

Andrea tried to pull her close and Miranda turned away from her. "Don't make this HARD." Andrea said as she stepped flush to Miranda's body and began rubbing her lips back and forth on the skin of her neck. "I want you. Even mad at you, I want you. So stop freaking out." Andrea wrapped her free hand under Miranda's arm and across her stomach. Then she released her grip on her wrist and repeated the process with the other hand. Andrea sucked and licked and placed open-mouthed kisses on all of Miranda's exposed neck. Miranda was still trying to fight it and her body was tense so Andrea upped the ante on her. Continuing her assault of kisses she moved both of her hands to cup and caress Miranda's breasts through the thin fabric of her blouse and the lace of her bra underneath. Miranda reluctantly began to relax, but to Andrea's amusement she was biting her hand to stifle any noise she might make. "Miranda. You know what the press is going to say. You've been through worse than this before." Andrea began to unbutton her blouse from behind. "This time, you can have a lot of fun with it." Andrea had her shirt open now and she was very glad to feel that her bra had a front clasp as it gave way easily under her fingertips.

Miranda's nipples pebbled under her palms and Andrea felt her sex getting wet as she stood behind Miranda. "You are the Queen of Fashion." Andrea leaned back enough to lower the blouse and bra off her shoulders and Miranda whined at the loss of contact. Returning her mouth to Miranda's neck, shoulders, and earlobes Andrea began to rhythmically roll her nipples to match. In between kisses Andrea continued her verbal seduction. "I'm a sex symbol." Andrea pushed her leg between Miranda's from behind and smiled against her skin when she widened her stance.

"Instead of hiding from the headlines we can decide which ones we want them to run." Andrea ran her hands along Miranda's sides and down her thighs until she felt the bottom of her skirt. "You used to enjoy your power, Miranda." Andrea hiked her skirt up and lowered one hand to cup between her legs. "You used to enjoy your power, but you never had any fun with it, did you?" Andrea returned one hand to Miranda's nipple and rubbed her other hand up and down slowly over Miranda's sex. "You are a master of games." Andrea rested her fingertips at the top edge of Miranda's lace panties. "Illusions. Manipulations. People bowing to you." Andrea slowly eased her fingers under the lace and slid down until her fingers were resting in Miranda's hot wet folds. "A sex symbol. A playmate. A bunny." Andrea slid her fingers from slit to clit and back again at each phrase she uttered in Miranda's ear. "We are in charge, Miranda." Andrea dipped one finger into her opening causing Miranda to gasp and buck her hips. "We can decide what others know." Andrea slid her finger out and returned with two all the way to the knuckle. "If you let me love you." Andrea pumped in and out of Miranda who had begun to tremble against her. "If you don't make things hard." Andrea curled her fingers inside of her and Miranda bucked against her again. "If you trust me and turn to me first." Andrea pulled out of her. "Do you hear me, Miranda?" Andrea asked in her Fairy Queen voice. "Do you hear me? If you trust me and turn to me first." Andrea lowered her fingers again and cupped Miranda's sex as she whimpered. "If you trust me. It will be simple. As simple and wonderful as this." Andrea began to circle Miranda's clit with two fingertips while her other hand wrapped firmly around her body so that they were flush against one another. "It will be beautiful." Miranda shuddered against Andrea who smiled against the back of her neck before kissing her there. "And you can come."

Miranda shook right off of her feet as Andrea played her like an instrument. She felt like a beautiful symphony was coursing through her veins and her red-hot desire shook every muscle she had. Her hands reached blindly around until she curled forward onto herself around Andrea's arm. Seeing her lover overcome this way Andrea pulled her backward until Miranda was laying on her back on top of Andrea. Eventually she maneuvered under Miranda such that she was to the side of her more or less. She locked her leg around Miranda, smoothed her hair and shushed her as she soaked in her presence. Sometimes you had to tear down the wall to get it built in just the right place. Andrea hoped that she wouldn't have to do this every time there was a stressful turning point. Miranda turned to her after several long moments. "Andrea. I lo—" Andrea silenced her with a kiss. Now was not the time.

Smiling at Miranda. "I guess you do like me more than the girls do." Miranda rolled her eyes. They basked for a while until Miranda came back into herself enough to realize that she was in Nigel's living room and had just had sex on his couch, or more precisely near his couch. In her mind she could already hear Andrea's horrible headline. 'Fashion Queen and Over Sexed Bunny Caught on Co-Worker's Couch.' While she was able to stifle her laugh, she wasn't able to completely hide her smile. Andrea quirked an eyebrow at her then asked as if she could read minds. "Catching on to the more enjoyable aspects of this, are you?"

Miranda sat up and looked around for her bra and blouse. "Let's go home, Andrea. There are things I need to say to you that would be better said not in Nigel's living room."

"Home it is. Although I don't think your daughters are done with you."

"I think you are right. They have latched onto you. I must say. Quite uncommon for them, then again it is you. I guess you have that effect on the Priestly women? Hmm." Miranda half asked and they shared a smile. "They play for keeps too, so I expect you to be stuck with them even if you tire of me."

"I doubt I will ever tire of you, but I'm happy to have them on my side if they help keep you in line." Andrea said.

"And if they don't?"

"We can always go on vacation in France when you misbehave. Eventually you'll come looking for us." Andrea fluttered her eyelashes at Miranda as if she was the picture of innocence instead of the sex-crazed bunny that had just taught her a lesson using her own body against her.

"So have you forgiven me?"

"I think you need to grovel a little more." Andrea said with a sniff. "But I'll give you a kiss." Miranda encircled Andrea in her arms and kissed her as if the rest of the planet was being blown away and they would be the only two survivors in the super bubble of their kiss. Andrea accepted her kiss immediately and wrapped her arms around Miranda too.

The End

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