DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: For those who may wish to know, the issues I have given Miranda regarding her emotions are related to some forms of high functioning Asperger's Syndrome (sometimes called Autistic Spectrum Disorder). A condition with which I am quite familiar. For you non-Brits, the Chuckle Brothers a real comedy duo here, but are, well somewhat bizarre.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To xvnot15[at]hotmail.com

Tickle Tantrum


Part 4

When Philip Walker entered his office some 25 minutes after he'd received his secretary's call, he found Miranda seated in front of his desk waiting for him. As he approached, she rose and accepted their customary air kiss before settling in the chair once again.

"I'm sorry I've interfered with your weekend plans Philip, but this really couldn't wait, I needed to see you as soon as possible."

Taking a seat beside her, he waved his hand in understanding.

"Not a problem Miranda, the weekend was a last minute thing, now what's the problem?" He sat back in the chair waiting for Miranda to begin. His concern for his friend was written in the worry lines on his face, lines that had increased when he'd touched Miranda's arm and had felt how incredibly rigid with tension she was holding herself.

The severity of whatever was going on was brought home to him even further as the most singularly forthright person he'd ever known, hesitated, as if uncertain where to begin. Miranda rose from her chair, walked over to the window and with what appeared to be a Herculean effort, turned back to her lawyer and began to explain.

"Stephen is attempting to blackmail me." She looked at her friend, gratified both by the scowl of genuine anger that came to his face at this unexpected news, and also for the fact he didn't attempt to interrupt her, just waited for her to continue. Returning her gaze to the New York skyline she proceeded to do just that.

"He called me this afternoon asking me if I'd bothered to check my cell-phone for messages. He said I'd definitely find one that would bring back fond memories and that I should call him to discuss terms after I'd had a chance to think about his little gift," she snapped off the last word with a vicious snarl.

"When I checked my cell, this is what I found," she took her Blackberry from her bag, tapped a few buttons and taking a deep breath she reached out to hand it over to him, but paused before she released her hold on the phone and looked him directly in the eye, her gaze unwavering.

"We'd been dating for four months and it was the first, and only time I ever stayed at his apartment." She gave a tiny snort.  "Apparently it was one time too many."

As she released the phone Philip looked down and his face paled as he scrambled to turn the phone off and stop the images that had been moving across the small screen. He looked up at Miranda in disbelief before sputtering.

"Jesus Miranda! Why did you show me this? You could have just told me what he was trying to blackmail you with! You didn't… I mean there was no..." Struck speechless he slumped back into his chair.

"Stop it Philip. Of course I had to show you the video, you're going to need to see it, the police will need to see it and when this goes to trial a whole damned Courtroom will be seeing it." She waved her hand at his discomfort as she retook her seat. 

"You know I hate explaining myself Philip. But, I'm sorry if it shocked you, I suppose I could have given you a clue to better prepare yourself. I just, well... I just wanted the first revelation to be with someone I trust.  I felt it best to get it over with, like ripping a band aid off." She leaned back herself now and allowed him a few moments to take it all in.

"Okay you're right I will need to see it and the police will, but I'm going to do my utmost to make sure this doesn't need to go to trial. And absolutely no one else in my office will be viewing it and I will see to it the police and the DA's office limit the number of people who need to view it." His obvious desire to help spare Miranda undue embarrassment was typical of him and his protective response solidified his place in Miranda's affections.

"It's a nice thought Philip, but we both know that it's unlikely to happen that way. Stephen's lawyer will demand to see it and between now and then there will be any number of people who will have the opportunity to leak this to the press."

For the first time since she'd arrived, Miranda looked hurt and uncertain, even a little bit lost as she unknowingly repeated something she'd said to Andy only a few months previously.

"They can print what they like about me, but my girls, my ... girls don't deserve to see their mother like that in the press or worse somewhere on the internet. It is so very unfair to them"

The moment passed and with a slight firming of her shoulders, Miranda lived up to both of her titles of Dragon Lady and Ice Queen, as with fire in her eyes she said in her deadliest and coldest voice.

"Stephen is over."  Her glacial tones continued as she proceeded to clarify her meaning, "I want him in jail, and after the criminal charges I will be bringing a civil suit. I want him left with nothing! I mean it Philip, he is not to be left with one red cent!"

Moving forward in her chair she shared her outrage further.

"He thought he could manipulate me! He thought I'd be so concerned with my image that I'd hand over more than half my fortune to him! He thought he could use my feelings for my girls against me!"

She leaned back in her chair with a look of grim determination.

"I will show him just how severely he has miscalculated"

Secure in the knowledge that Miranda would not be back at the office for the rest of the day, Andy entered the Elias Clarke foyer much more sedately than she had earlier in the day. The security guards looked positively bemused to see her strolling toward the elevators holding only her own handbag and a single Starbucks cup.

She continued her relaxed pace when she arrived on the 18th floor and made her way down the corridor toward her desk. Her outward calm belied the turmoil of her thoughts as she continued to wonder and worry about what it was that had Miranda suddenly so spooked. She knew it was something to do with Stephen and the divorce but just couldn't imagine what might be so bad that the Editor had needed to see her lawyer at such short notice on a Friday afternoon. With another small sigh of concern she decided she would probably find out about it soon enough.

"Have you, hic…got the hic…Pepto-Bismol?" Emily demanded as she appeared suddenly from the kitchenette.

Startled, Andy nearly dropped her Frappuccino.

"Sheesh don't do that Em! Are you trying to give me a coronary?" She grumbled as she moved past the red head toward the cutlery drawer beside the sink.

"Oh, hic...ple…hic please! Given your wei…hic weight, if you haven't…hic had one… hic...hic by now…hic a little shock hic...hic...hic wouldn't do it." She bit off, determined to have her snipe at Andy despite her hiccups.

Andy turned around with a large spoon in her hand and pointed it directly at her workmate, "Hey, you might try being a little nicer to someone who has what you need for those hiccups, or I just might decide that the drugstore was closed when I went by."

Emily continued to glare at the brunette in between trying to muffle a series of strangled little hiccups. Seeing the effects of the poor woman's condition, Andy relented and reached into her handbag pulling out the biggest bottle of the chalky pink drink Emily had ever seen in her life. The red head couldn't believe Pepto-Bismol came in a 32 oz size. Without a word Andy took a step forward and handed over the bottle and the spoon before heading out to her desk.

Andy booted up her computer and started to make the required changes to Miranda's schedule for Monday. As she did so, she realised that Miranda still didn't know about the total fiasco of the Haskell shoot. Her shoulders drooped just a bit as she realised it would be her job to tell the Editor when she delivered the book later that night.

As she considered Miranda's likely reaction she made a note of all the staff she should call to give them warning that they were probably going to be summoned into the office over the weekend. She pointedly omitted Francesca's name from the list, knowing that the Accessories editor's days at Runway were definitely over, and having her show up at the office would just be putting her in the direct line of fire for Miranda's wrath.

Finishing up with Monday's schedule, Andy glanced at her watch before darting over to the closet and getting Miranda's coat. She called out to Emily who still hadn't emerged from the kitchen area.

"Em, you're gonna have to get the phone while I take Miranda's coat down to Roy." She glanced back at the kitchen door, from which Emily had yet to emerge, but there was no response. Fine, if Emily wanted to sulk then more power to her, Andy had better things to do and continued on her way to the elevator.

Down in the lobby she saw Roy draw up in front of the building and hurried over to open the passenger side door and lay the coat on the seat.

"Hey Roy, here's Miranda's coat. I've called Mr Walker's Assistant and she'll be waiting in the lobby for you when you get there." She smiled as she shut the door and waved him off before hurrying back inside. She was glad she'd thought to have him swing round for the coat, the late March days were warm enough, but once the sun was gone the temperatures were still quite chilly. Miranda would definitely need her coat for her journey home.

On her way back up to the office Andy decided to let Emily sulk a little bit longer and detoured with a quick trip to the bathroom. As she walked down the corridor leading to Miranda's office she heard someone howling with laughter and just as she was about to round the corner, Emily's voice snapped across the sound and identified the offender.

"For God's sake Nigel, grow up! Did you think I was going to chug it from the bottle? I'm not Andrea you know!"

As the reception area came into view she stopped dead at the sight of Nigel doubled over with laughter, tears streaming down his face. Emily was facing away from the corridor as she busily clacked away at her computer. Beside her keyboard was a large glass tumbler with about a quarter inch of pink liquid in the bottom. The paler pink residue on the sides indicated that it had been filled to the brim. As Andy continued her approach Emily reached for the glass and finished the rest of the medicine.

Bending to assist the nearly helpless man in front of Emily's desk to straighten up, Andy chuckled herself and asked, "Is this a new exercise regime Nigel? Lose weight with Laughter?"

Nigel continued to chortle and gasp unable to get his breath back enough to speak. As Andy patted him on the back Emily turned to continue her tirade against Nigel, and Andy let out a strangled squeak as she witnessed what had been the balding man's undoing. Emily was sporting a shocking pink Pepto-Bismol moustache. Before she could help herself Andy too began to snicker, actually trembling as she tried to hold back her laughter.

"Oh that's just wonderful, the ruddy Chuckle Brothers are on tour in Manhattan, I must let my nephew know, he'll be thrilled." Emily managed to maintain her glare even as she rolled her eyes at the giggling pair. "You two keep on cackling, some of us have work to do." With that she turned back to her computer.

Pulling herself together, Andy went to her desk and got her handbag from her bottom drawer. She felt around for a few seconds and then walked over to Emily's desk and handed her a compact mirror and a pack of wet wipes.

"What's this? Trying to give me make-up tips Andrea?" Emily sniffed dismissively at the items on her desk.

"Absolutely," was Andy's quick response. "I may not know much about make-up Em, but I do know that pink really isn't your colour, not with that shade of hair." She winked at Nigel as she sat down at her desk.

"Spoilsport." He managed to whisper as he took out a handkerchief and dabbed at his eyes.

"Pink? What are you talking about, I'm not wearing pink." Emily grabbed the compact and jerked it open. When she saw the thick neon film covering her upper lip she let out a screech. "Nigel! You Cretin, why didn't you tell me?!" Snatching up the wet wipes she removed the offending blemish and snapped the compact shut.

Narrowing her eyes at the still giggling man, she pulled back her arm and winged the compact at him with deadly accuracy, nailing him right between the eyes. Nigel clapped the bridge of his nose and blinked through tears of pain.

"Jesus Emily you could have put my eye out," he whined as he continued rubbing the stinging spot between his eyes.

"Just be grateful the round one over there has a round compact," she snapped back. Giving him another filthy look she turned back to her computer and announced, "I hate you both.

"Hey! I'm the one who gave you the heads up! And stop making cracks about my size, I'm not fat." Andy protested indignantly

With a dismissive shrug of her shoulders Emily continued typing as she replied, "No. Shant."

"Okay Miranda, that should be enough for the moment. I'll just see if I can get through to Captain Cragen in the Special Victims Unit." Philip looked up from the notes he'd been taking as Miranda had described the key points of Stephen's actions to date.

"The Special Victims Unit?" Miranda raised an eyebrow in question.

"It's the unit that investigates crimes involving sexual assault, the very young, or the very elderly, as well as any crime loosely connected with any of the three."

"I wasn't assaulted Philip, believe me it was completely consensual."

"But you didn't consent to being filmed Miranda, and that falls under the "loosely connected" aspect or their remit."

"Fine, I'm sure you know best. Make your call Philip."

He pulled the phone closer and placed the call, managing to just catch the Captain before the end of his duty. He filled him in on the main facts and agreed to a time for Miranda to be interviewed.

"Thank you Captain, your assistance and your discretion are greatly appreciated. We'll see your people tomorrow then." He hung up the phone and focused on Miranda.

"As you're not in any immediate danger he agreed that it would be sufficient to send two detectives to interview you tomorrow at 11am at the townhouse." He wrote the details of the meeting into his diary when something occurred to him.

"Are the girls with you this weekend?"

Miranda glanced at her watch before answering, "No, I've sent them to their grandmothers for the foreseeable future. I don't want them in town when this hits the headlines. Even if by some miracle we manage to keep the video footage from the press, it will still be pandemonium when Stephen is arrested. I want them as far away from that as possible."

Knowing how important the twins were to Miranda and how protective she was of them, he wasn't surprised to hear that she'd already seen to their needs.

"Right, that's definitely for the best I'm sure. I'll be there just before 11:00 to fill you in on some of the details the detectives may need to know and to prep you as much as possible. Once they've interviewed you we'll have a better idea of how they're going to proceed and I'll walk you through what will happen next."

He paused for a moment and looked steadily into her eyes as he assured her, "Just as you said Miranda, Stephen is over. The bastard won't know what hit him."

"I have every confidence in you Philip. If there's nothing else for the moment I'll be on my way, my driver should be here now."

"No, there's nothing more for now," he rose and escorted Miranda to the door, just before they reached it, he placed a gentle hand on her arm and said quietly, "I'm truly sorry this has happened to you Miranda."

She looked at her long time friend and read the sincerity in his eyes before leaning in to give him a very real kiss on the cheek.

"Thank you Philip, you're a dear friend and I appreciate your concern." She patted his hand before she gently disengaged his grip on her arm.

When they exited the office, Helen came up to them and handed Miranda her coat, who took it with a look of utter surprise on her face.

Seeing the look of surprise, Helen explained. "Your assistant Andrea rang me and asked me to pop down and collect this from your driver when he arrived to pick you up. He's waiting for you in front of the building."

Miranda nodded her thanks to the older woman and put on the coat, thinking all the while that it was very thoughtful of Andrea to have sent it.

"I'll see you tomorrow morning then Miranda." Philip continued to walk with her to the firm's entrance doors. Miranda nodded and before exiting she wished Helen a good weekend.

As she travelled down from the 22nd floor she began buttoning the coat against the chilly spring evening; her pleasant thoughts of the woman who had sent it giving her a small reprieve from the less than welcome thoughts about Stephen and her current situation.

Nigel had made good his escape from Emily's disapproving shoulders very soon after being hit by Andy's compact, and Emily spent the remaining 20 minutes she stayed in the office, pointedly ignoring Andy as she concentrated on her computer.

She wasn't actually working, she was instead frantically Googling the calorific content of both Pepto-Bismol and miniature hearing aids. While she was relieved to discover that the hideously pink medicine was calorie free because it contained no sugar, oils, or proteins, she was becoming frustrated at not finding any information about the hearing aid. She finally decided that no information must mean no calories and shut down her computer for the night.

With a final sniff in Andy's direction she left the office. As she travelled to the lobby she sent up a heartfelt prayer to any deity that might be listening that Monday would contain considerably less mortifying incidents for her than this day had.

Left waiting for the book Andy fell into her normal routine of a Miranda-less and Emily-less office, she turned her computer's i-tunes selection on and made herself a cup of tea. When she entered the kitchenette to boil the water, she noticed the Haskell bags on the table and opened one of the boxes to have another look at the bracelet it contained. She lifted it out of the box and held it to her wrist, noting that it was incredibly beautiful. Putting the chunky turquoise piece back, she thought again that it was a real shame that the pieces couldn't be used just because of their colour.

The kettle whistled at this point and she looked over to the stove, noticing the gas flame under the old fashioned appliance that Miranda had insisted on having. With that glance an idea began to form about how they might be able to salvage the June issue and use the Haskell collection to help do it.

Taking her tea back to her desk, she began to do some research, scribbling notes on her pad as she surfed the net for inspiration. The Book still hadn't been delivered by the time she'd finished her tea but she didn't mind as she looked over the notes she'd just made, there were some definite possibilities there, she just didn't know if Miranda would like any of them.

As Andy continued to wait, her thoughts persistently began to focus on Miranda and her extreme behaviour during the day and in the preceding weeks. Her constant annoyance bordering on, and many times tipping over into outright anger, had been draining for everyone around the demanding woman. It was something of an epiphany when Andy realised that it had probably been just as draining for Miranda as it had for everyone else. It had to be tiring to sustain that level of tension and anger all the time she thought.

Sighing she looked at the clock which read 8:30pm, and rang the production department only to find out that it would be at least another half hour maybe more before they had the Book ready. With nothing else to do she decided to write some of the overdue e-mails she owed to various family members. She prided herself on keeping up with her parents and her brother, making sure to send them e-mails at least once a week. But it had been a while since she'd written to her grandmother or her Aunts or cousins.

Scrolling through her family e-mail file she came across one from her Aunt Virginia that had been sent over a month before and to which she still hadn't replied. She opened it and read all the news about her uncle's new snowmobile and how her aunt was convinced he was going to drive it into a tree any day now, about how her cousin Phoebe had finally decided on what to major in when she started college next September. The final bit of news had been about her cousin Martin and how he'd been involved in a major study being conducted by the Autism Society of America. The study had focused on comparing the experiences of teenagers who had been diagnosed with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder and offered training and help before they reached puberty with those who were diagnosed during or after puberty and therefore had had less support in dealing with their special social communication needs.

As she thought about her cousin, her mind flashed back to Miranda's face when she was in the car with her earlier in the afternoon. She remembered the rapid change of emotions that had skittered over the older woman's features as if she wasn't sure which one to stop and engage with. As she thought back further she remembered witnessing a similar emotional kaleidoscope on her bosses face in a hotel room in Paris over two months earlier.

She realised now that the struggle that had played itself out in Miranda's features had been a little bit familiar to her, it was very similar to how her cousin had looked when he was in a hyper emotional state and struggling to process several emotions at once. Her aunt had explained to her that one aspect of Martin's Aspergers Syndrome was an inability to "do" more than one emotion at time. This meant in times of emotional tumult he would focus on the emotion he felt best equipped to deal with and suppress all the others. In Martin's case the emotion he worked with was sadness, it was what he felt safe expressing.

Her aunt and uncle had learned that while their son's condition didn't allow him to process and express more than one emotion at a time, it didn't mean that he didn't have or need to experience the full spectrum of emotions. It just meant he needed some assistance in managing an outlet for the unexpressed emotions to be released. They learned the consequences of Martin not being able to vent those suppressed emotions the hard way; before they discovered how to help him, if he was overwhelmed by several emotions at once he would go into a meltdown where he wouldn't be able to communicate and where his body would freeze and go completely rigid. He'd actually given himself a hernia when he was five years old just from the tension his body had been exerting.

It suddenly struck Andy that this was a damned good description of how Miranda behaved emotionally, only it would seem that Miranda's most easily accessed emotion wasn't sadness, it was anger. And her version of a meltdown could be seen in the instances when she went completely rigid and pursed her lips so tightly you could hardly even see a white line, the times when she went totally quiet for long minutes at a time, or as Nigel referred to these times, when she went into her mini ice ages.

She realised her cousin had been fortunate to have parents that understood there was something more serious going on with their son than just normal "growing pains". They'd taken him to specialists and gotten not only a diagnosis but instructions on how to help Martin cope with his condition. She remembered how they had learned to help him vent his excess and tangled emotions and how this had improved both his emotional and physical health. The first time she'd seen their method of help she'd been completely shocked, but she'd also seen the results afterward and couldn't deny that the method worked, and continued to work if subsequent instances she'd witnessed were anything to go by.

Andy was brought out of her ruminations by the thud of the Book being deposited on her desk and the short mumbled apology offered by Merv the copy boy. She powered down her computer and gathered her things along with the Book and headed toward the elevators for the final time that day. As she walked a crazy thought went skittering through her mind. "I wonder if Aunty Gin's method would help Miranda out?"

The doors of the elevator closed and she began her descent as she gave a loud snort and said out loud. "Oh yeah, that's gonna happen! I'll just walk up to Miranda Priestly and start to tickle her. Oh yeah, definitely...NOT!"


Part 5

Miranda entered the empty townhouse and immediately hung her coat up before making her way into the kitchen. The Friday evening traffic had been absolutely appalling and it had taken nearly 40 minutes to travel the relatively few blocks from her lawyer's office to the townhouse.

She decided to bypass the grilled chicken Caesar salad Cara had left for her, and aimed instead for the bottle of white Merlot resting where she'd left it last night. Taking the bottle and a glass she made her way back through the house and up the stairs towards her bedroom. She knew she'd have at least an hour, and possibly two, before Andrea would arrive, and decided that she'd try to relieve some of her tension with the wine and a soak in a warm bath.

Less than an hour later Miranda was bathed, dressed in a casual pair of slacks and a simple tunic, her make up re-applied and seated on the divan style couch in her downstairs study waiting for the Book. She'd stayed in the bath for a mere 20 minutes, unable to relax even with the aid of the wine.

The tumult of emotions still warred within her for some kind of release, and she instinctively concentrated on the anger, allowing it to build and crowd out everything else. The magnitude and sheer number of these emotions; hurt, betrayal, embarrassment, shock, guilt, depression and others, made her struggle to process them harder than she'd ever before experienced. The conflict was further complicated by the fact that the true object of her rage, Stephen, was beyond her reach at the moment, so her anger had nothing immediate to hand upon which to focus.

With her feelings in freefall Miranda found she was unable to stay still and began to stalk the confines of her study, her movements far too erratic to be described as pacing. She paused momentarily to refill her glass with the last of the wine and carried it with her as she continued her prowling.

This went on for another 15 minutes or so and just as she finished the wine and set her glass down she heard the sound of the front door opening and Andy arriving with the Book. As the sounds continued, indicating that she was putting the dry cleaning away in the closet, two distinctly different sets of feelings prompted Miranda to a singular response. In the first instance she felt a sense of relief that Andy was once again close by and in the second she found her carefully fostered but unfocused anger zooming in on this now available target. Not sure which emotion she would act on, Miranda called Andy into the study.

Andy had just closed the closet behind her and was gathering her courage to approach Miranda with the news about the Haskell problem when she heard Miranda's voice calling her into the study. Unknowingly imitating Miranda's split emotional prompting, Andy felt both a sense of relief that she had been invited into Miranda's study rather than having to enter it uninvited, and an added sense of dread because of not knowing what Miranda wanted to see her about. Straightening her shoulders Andy said a prayer and headed toward the Dragon's den.

Rounding the doorway Andy nearly bumped into the still prowling Miranda managing to just stop a collision by leaning back sharply and whacking her head against the door frame. The pain made her eyes water as she tried to right herself.

"Where is the Book?" Miranda demanded.

Disoriented and blinking back small tears, Andy started to stumble over her response, "I...in the, I mean it's where…"

Miranda's glare bore down on the unsettled brunette. The near miss and Andy's stuttered response decided Miranda's emotional direction; anger, safe and familiar, would be her haven.

She spoke, her voice heading toward arctic temperatures.

"Is it beyond your capabilities to both walk and carry things at the same time now Andrea? Are you incapable of finishing a sentence without getting lost?" she sniffed derisively when Andy failed to answer.

Andy blinked the last of the stinging tears out of her eyes and turned without a word to go and retrieve the Book. There was no way she was going to fall into the trap of feeding Miranda's bad temper. She returned to the study to find Miranda sitting at one end of the couch, her arm whipping out to take the Book the second Andy crossed the threshold.

Putting the precious mock up into Miranda's hand Andy could feel the tension coiling in the seated woman's body. Holding Miranda's gaze, Andy was moved once more to see a look of extreme hurt and then confusion ghost over the older woman's face as she unthinkingly continued to maintain her grip on the Book.

Seeing and feeling Miranda's obvious distress, Andy wanted desperately to do or say something that could help ease that distress.

"Miranda, is there anything I can do?" she asked in a voice made soft with a tenderness that appeared to surprise both of them.

For a split second Miranda's expression wavered but then her eyes narrowed and she wrenched the Book from Andy's hand as she shot up from the couch.

"What an interesting question Andrea. What can you do? Can you tell the difference between cerulean blue and turquoise? No, I think not. Can you follow simple instructions such as, give me the Book? Apparently not."

Miranda moved forward forcing Andy to take a step back as the litany of failures continued to fall from her lips.

"Can you manage to correctly spell one of the most well known clothing brands in the world more than 50% of the time? Can you get a more than lukewarm latte to my desk on time? Can you go even ten minutes without giving someone that revolting, syrupy Mid-Western grin? Can you manage to achieve a decent grade on a child's school project? Cassidy's 'C' in Science says no that is beyond your meagre capabilities. Can you manage to even dress yourself decently without Nigel picking out your outfits?

Andy took another step away from Miranda as the angry woman continued her tirade. She could see Miranda's clenched knuckles whiten and her arms flexing as her body continued tensing with each passing second and her face began to take on a ruddy hue as her breathing came in short gasps. Ignoring the hurtful and scathing comments pouring from Miranda's mouth, Andy became seriously worried that the older woman might have a heart attack or stroke if she continued in this manner.

In a moment of epiphany Andy realised just how much the older woman had come to mean to her, how much she genuinely cared not for the editor in chief of Runway, but for Miranda, the woman behind the icon. She saw as through a crystal that for the past six months at least, everything she had done had been to make Miranda's life that little bit easier, both personally and professionally. At the crest of this wave of revelation she even saw that her desperation to find the Harry Potter manuscript hadn't stemmed from a fear of losing her job, but much more from the desire to see to it that Miranda wouldn't have to disappoint her beloved girls.

In a final flash of knowledge Andy realised that she was head over heels in love with Miranda Priestly, and the idea of Miranda suffering as she so obviously was, stabbed straight at her heart. She knew she had to do something, anything to help the woman she loved.

She watched as Miranda, who had continued her outburst at Andy, put the Book down on a coffee table so that she could bring both her hands into play as she ranted on, her face still a deep red. Andy made her decision, come hell or high water, firing or actual injury, she was going to help Miranda release her dangerous build up of tension and anger.

Back straight and intent firmly in place, the young brunette advanced on the unsuspecting Miranda. As she entered Miranda's personal space, she offered up a quick prayer that the older woman was ticklish in at least one of the obvious places. Reaching out she stopped Miranda in mid stride and spun her round till they were face to face.

"What do you think you're doing?!" Miranda demanded, too shocked by Andy's physical proximity to make any move to pull away.

"Miranda, you may fire me for this, but believe me, it's for your own good," and with that she grabbed at Miranda's waist trying to get a decent grip before the shock could wear off and the Dragon lady could show her claws. With a little effort Andy managed to work her way under the designer tunic and graze her fingers over the bare skin of Miranda's ribcage. This brought the older woman out of her shock and she began to struggle to get away.

"Are you mad Andrea! Get off of me this instant!"

With a strength that caught Andy by surprise, Miranda pulled away from her, the force of the older woman's action making Miranda tumble backward onto the couch. Andy took a deep breath before lunging after her and making another grab for Miranda's waist. She managed to get one hand under the tunic and start to tickle in earnest from waist to ribs and back again as Miranda squirmed and struggled under her.

Andy realised that Miranda's movements weren't due to ticklishness on Miranda's part but more of an attempt to get away from what she probably believed was a crazed and insane employee. She tried the next nearest standard ticklish spot and dug her fingers into Miranda's armpit as best she could, suppressing a shiver of her own as she grazed the older woman's breast in passing.

With a mighty heave Miranda managed to push Andy to the floor and tried to regain her feet but became tangled in the throw that had wrapped itself awkwardly around one arm in her struggle with the younger woman.

Andy lunged again and threw herself perpendicularly over Miranda's midsection and made a grab for the next known ticklish point, the back of the knees. As she struggled to get her hand behind a bucking leg, Miranda's struggles became truly frantic and her elbow came sharply up and straight into Andy's left eye causing her to fall to the floor once more.

"That does it, you're gonna be tickled if I have to die in the attempt!" Andy snarled as she lunged once more for the back of Miranda's knees, knowing she was on to a winner from the strength of the older woman's reaction to the last attempt.

This time Andy pinned Miranda down using the whole of her body and reached to Miranda's knees with one arm as she maintained her balance with the other. Miranda began to alternately squeal and giggle as Andy ran her fingertips behind the squirming woman's knees again and again. Between the spasms of laughter and squeals of torment, Miranda begged her to stop, but Andy was relentless and continued on until the older woman was truly crying in her physical distress, the tears pouring down her cheeks unchecked.

The younger woman allowed this crying to go on for several minutes as she very gradually lessened her tickling movements. Andy also slowly adjusted her position so that she was lying beside Miranda instead of on top of her in order to allow the distraught woman in her arms to draw breath more easily.

Miranda continued to cry even after the tickling had completely ceased, and Andy who had worked her way round so that she was behind her and actually cradling Miranda in her arms was now stroking her back and arms with gentle reassuring caresses.

As Miranda cried she gulped out phrases between her sobs that she obviously needed to voice. Andy understood that the references to 'the bastard' and 'betrayal' and 'I'm ashamed' and her own 'blindness' must be referring to the unknown situation with Stephen, but the odd reference to 'so kind' and 'how does she know that' and 'I don't understand', were complete mysteries to her.

Miranda's great heaving sobs eventually gave way to a gentler but steady crying and then that too began to lessen to intermittent sniffles. Andy could feel that Miranda's body had lost its' unbearable tension and was resting gently against her own. To Andy's pleased surprise the older woman made no move to try and leave the shelter of Andy's arms. Indeed at one point she had pulled Andy's arm around the front of her own waist and held it there lest the younger woman try to take it away.

Andy glanced over at the clock on the mantelpiece and was shocked to see that more than an hour and a half had passed since she'd first arrived at the townhouse, and Miranda had spent at least a full hour of that crying. She looked down at the now silent woman in her arms and a wave of tenderness washed over her at the sight. Miranda's hair was mussed, her eyes swollen and red, as was her nose, streaks of mascara ran down both cheeks and her nose had been dripping almost as prodigiously as her tear ducts. To Andy she had never looked more human or in a very important way, more beautiful than she did right at that moment.

As Andy continued to watch that beloved face, she knew that Miranda, when she came more to herself would be quite distressed about her appearance, so she looked around the room in search of a box of tissues. Finding no sign of any tissues within sight, she was pondering what to do when she remembered that she'd popped the pack of wet wipes from Emily's desk into her jacket pocket.

Disengaging her hand from under Miranda's she reached into her pocket and brought the packet out laying it on Miranda's hip. Andy took a few of the damp sheets out and gently began to clean away the mascara and other signs of Miranda's cathartic weeping. She took out one more at the end and held it to Miranda's nose and without instruction or hesitation Miranda cleared her nose into the sheet Andy held for her. Andy gathered the used towelettes and placed them out of site on the end table before gathering Miranda into a light embrace

Miranda continued to look into Andy's eyes, seeing clearly the depth of the younger woman's feelings for her and letting some of her own feelings through in response. She reached up a trembling hand and traced first one dark eyebrow and then the other before trailing her finger down over a cheekbone and over to full red lips. As she rested her finger there, Andy gently stroked that famous lock of white silk off Miranda's forehead and tucked another stray strand of hair behind her ear.

Miranda shifted her fingertips down the line of Andy's throat until her hand had curled round the back of the brunette's neck and gently pulled her forward. She raised up slightly and gently met Andy's lips once, twice and then a third time before laying back down with a gentle but satisfied smile fixed on her face.

"Thank you," she whispered as she closed her eyes and settled even further into Andy's arms. Within minutes her breathing became low and steady as she fell into an exhausted sleep.

Andy held her as her mind tried to process the incredible sensation of Miranda's tremulous caresses and earth shattering feather light kisses, not to mention the unexpectedly sweet tones of Miranda's gratitude.

Part of her was truly convinced that this was all a dream and any minute now she'd jerk awake and find herself still in the office, waiting for the Book to be delivered. Another part of her took the wonder of those kisses and the feel of Miranda safe in her arms and held them as surety of greater things to come.

Pulling the woollen throw from the floor beside the couch she draped it over Miranda and leant back till she could rest her head comfortably on the armrest. Miranda moved with her and cuddled tightly into her shoulder wrapping her arm around the younger woman's waist. Andy sighed in utter contentment, feeling her own tension ebb away as she slipped into an equally well deserved slumber.


Part 6

Andy stretched and turned her head into the back of the couch wincing as she felt a stinging pain around her eye, the unexpected discomfort pulling her into full consciousness. She blinked as she adjusted to the light and raised a hand to the left side of her face wincing again at the tender feeling around her eye. Her movements caused the woman in her arms to murmur and nestle in closer to her side. Looking down Andy could see that Miranda's sleeping face was peaceful even though it still bore some signs of her earlier crying.

As she continued to lay there she was amazed at how incredibly natural it felt to be holding Miranda, as if she had been made for just this purpose. She wasn't sure what Miranda would do when she woke up, how she would react to what had happened earlier, but the memory of her soft lips and even more the whispered thank you filled Andy with hope for the best.

Without warning Andy's stomach gave a loud rumble and she was reminded that she hadn't eaten since breakfast. Not wanting to wake Miranda, she began to move as gently as possible, attempting to manoeuvre herself out from under the sleeping woman in her arms. Miranda murmured and her brow creased in displeasure as Andy fully extricated herself from the couch.

"Shhh, sleep, I'll be here I promise," Andy whispered as she settled Miranda's head on a pillow, and re-settled the throw so she was fully covered. The younger woman gave in to the temptation and paused in order to gently stroke the silken strands of white a few times before standing up. She smiled at Miranda who hummed in contentment and snuggled deeper into the couch.

Leaving the older woman in the study, Andy went down the short hall toward the kitchen in search of something to stop the rumble of her hungry stomach. She figured if she didn't get fired for giving Miranda a tickle torture, she was unlikely to be fired for raiding her fridge for a midnight snack. The thought made her glance at her watch and with some surprise she realised she'd slept for almost an hour and it was now nearly one in the morning, no wonder she was hungry, she hadn't eaten in almost seventeen hours.

She quickly went about throwing together a PB&J and a glass of milk, smiling all the while at being right that where there were children there would be the four most important food groups, milk, bread, peanut butter and of course jelly, even here in the Priestly household. Sitting down at the kitchen table she bit into her sandwich and chewed with gusto. As she ate she looked around the kitchen noting with some surprise its country style design and furnishings, it was homey, welcoming and warm. She smiled to herself as she pictured Miranda and the twins having a lively dinner time conversation or a cosy Sunday morning breakfast in what would be a sunny, well lit room. As she washed, dried and put away her dishes she expanded her vision to include herself in the scenario making her famous marmalade French toast for the Priestly women. Sighing she sent up a small prayer that her fantasy might someday become reality and went back to the study to see how Miranda was doing.

On her way there she detoured to the half bathroom opposite the study. Looking into the mirror she gave a tiny gasp as she saw why the left side of her face felt so stiff. The eye was red and swollen and the area around it and her cheekbone were beginning to discolour. With some dismay she realised that by the morning she was likely to have one hell of a shiner. She couldn't help but smirk, just a little as she remembered Miranda elbowing her in the eye in her mad attempts to get away from Andy's menacing fingers.

"I won't even be able to say you should see the other guy," she chuckled to herself as she grabbed one of the soft face towels and wet it with cold water to make a compress for her eye. Holding the cloth in place she went back into the study where Miranda was still peacefully sleeping on the couch, her arms hugging the cushion Andy had rested on earlier like a teddy bear.

Andy found her bag on the floor just outside the study and took out the notes she'd been working on before the Book was delivered. She hoped that if she could expand on the two ideas she'd come up with one of them might be able to save the shoot and minimise the need for changes in the June issue. Nipping back to the kitchen she made herself a cup of herbal tea and then returned to the study where she made herself comfortable at Miranda's desk and began to work.

Miranda stirred at the familiar sound of the clock in the hall striking the hour. Blinking sleepily, she let go of the cushion she had been pressing her face into and sat up as she shrugged the throw from her shoulders. Reacting to the sound of the hall's time piece, she squinted at her watch and saw that it was 4:00 in the morning. She stretched and tilted her neck back and forth to work through the kinks she'd developed sleeping curled on the couch. As she moved her head to the right her desk came into view and she was treated to the sight of her second Assistant sound asleep and sprawled across the desktop pen still in hand, as if waiting for a new stream of instructions to note down.

"Andrea," she whispered with a note of wonder threaded through her voice.

Sitting back into the couch she watched the amazing, perplexing, and gently beautiful girl sleep as she sorted through her memories of events earlier in the evening. Miranda didn't know what had prompted Andy to do what she'd done. At the time it was happening she'd truly thought the girl had snapped under the pressure of the job and her boss' terrible moods. Miranda snorted as she thought about her abysmal behaviour since Paris, and shaking her head at herself, she quietly said, "Who could blame Andrea if she had snapped?"

Apparently however, Andy had known exactly what she was doing and somehow the tickling assault had led to a much needed release of her scrambled and intense emotions through her subsequent crying fit. Miranda's cheeks shaded a light pink as she remembered that part of the evening, realising that she must have looked an absolute fright, red faced, snot nosed and tear stained. Those thoughts led her to memories of Andy's gentle and comforting caresses and the way she'd taken care of her, cleaned her up and held her close offering her silent comfort.

Miranda's eyes grew large as she remembered what had happened next, the look of love Andy had graced her with had touched an answering feeling inside the editor's own heart. She remembered the feel of the smooth skin of the girl's cheek, the incredibly soft, pliant lips as she'd kissed her, not once but three times. She also remembered falling into a dreamless sleep wrapped in strong, protective arms feeling safe and at peace.

'What now?' The thought intruded into her mind as she watched Andy move in her sleep, dropping the pen and folding her arms under her head, seeking a more comfortable position, finally resettling herself with her face now pointed toward the couch. Miranda continued to watch the sleeping girl as her mind thought furiously about what she should do next.

She knew she should feel shocked and maybe even distressed at having kissed Andy, she should feel surprised at finding herself attracted to a woman. She should be concerned that Andy was half her age, that the girl was her employee, that she was straight, that Andy was, as far as she knew, straight as well. She should be considering the idea that her feelings were only the result of her emotional overload and should not be trusted. She knew she should be worried about the twins and how this could affect them. She knew she should be concentrating on the fiasco of Stephen's blackmail plans and the media circus that was going to occur. She should also be worried about the press feeding frenzy that would continue if she pursued anything further with Andy. She knew that Irv could and would try to use this against her if given the chance.

She knew she should be feeling and considering all these things, but the simple fact was, that she wasn't. She wasn't feeling shock or concern or worry, what she was feeling was calm, centred and whole, and she knew that was due entirely to the woman sleeping less than ten feet away. She knew on the most basic and essential level that she and Andy were meant for each other, and that they would be stronger together than apart.

Miranda stood up and folded the throw over the back of the couch. As she turned toward her desk she was reminded of something her grandmother had been fond of saying. "Miranda, life is always a challenge, but it is only hard if that's the way you choose to make it."

"Well Bubbe, I hope you're right. I'll deal with the challenges that being with Andrea sends my way and I won't make this any harder than it needs to be." Miranda whispered this pledge into the silent room as she moved to wake the sleeping girl at her desk.

Miranda stroked the brunette locks away from Andy's face and then gently shook her shoulder. Andy mumbled something into her arm but remained sleeping. Miranda shook her shoulder again and quietly called her name.

"Andrea. Andrea you need to wake up darling."

"M'randa, wha's wrong, whatchoo need?" was Andy's muffled and sleepy response as she raised her head and looked at Miranda with bleary eyes.

"My God! Did I do that?" Miranda was shocked to see Andy's swollen eye and reached out to gently touch her cheek, "I'm so sorry Andrea, I had no idea I'd lashed out that strongly." Filled with remorse for her clumsiness, she continued to gently stroke the bruised skin.

The feel of Miranda's velvet soft fingertips grazing her tender cheekbone brought Andy to full wakefulness in a matter of seconds. She looked up at the older woman who continued to delicately cup her hand around Andy's injured face. Andy reached up her own hand and held it over Miranda's hand lest she take it away and deprive her of her touch.

"It's not so bad really, it looks worse than it feels," Andy reassured her.

Andy was nervous and a little uncertain about what to do now that Miranda was awake. Looking into clear blue eyes she saw the warmth and tenderness the woman was feeling as well as an interesting tinge of La Priestly determination. Wanting to respond in kind she took Miranda's hand from her cheek turning it over and pressing a single feather light kiss in the palm before entwining their fingers together.

"How are you feeling now Miranda?"

"Considerably better Andrea." She gave the brunette's hand a tiny squeeze and continued, "Thank y…" She failed to finish the expression of gratitude as she scrunched her face into an enormous yawn, followed by a second in quick succession.

Andy's eyes twinkled and she let out a delighted chuckle at the expression of surprise on Miranda's face. As she laughed she realised her nervousness had completely disappeared, and she was feeling truly at ease and comfortable with their interaction. She decided to go for broke with this comfortable feeling and took her confidence in hand as she stood up from the desk, let go of Miranda's hand and enfolded her in a firm hug.

"You're welcome Miranda. I'm glad I could help." She pulled back and looked deeply into the older woman's eyes as she continued. "I will always want to help you Miranda, always."

Miranda pulled her back into the hug and thanked Andy once more, or at least that's what Andy thought she was saying, the words were a bit muffled as they were being spoken into the base of her neck where Miranda had tucked her head. After what Andy thought was an entirely too brief period, Miranda pulled out of the hug again and took a step back as she reached for both of Andy's hands and held them gently in her own.

"Andrea, I know that we have a great deal we need to discuss, and I promise we will discuss it. For now, I want you to know that I care about you…care for you a great deal, and I have hope that you feel the same…" she paused and smiled at Andy who was vigorously nodding her head in assent before continuing with a pleasant twinkle in her eye.

"Well then, I'm pleased we're agreed on that point. I want to tell you…" again she was caught short by a huge yawn which was instantly mirrored by Andy. They both smiled sheepishly before Miranda continued.

"I want to tell you about what's been happening, but it's complicated and not at all pleasant and I'd prefer to wait till the morning to do that now. I…I would greatly appreciate it if you would be here tomorrow when my lawyer and some… other people arrive." Miranda paused not sure how to voice her next request. She knew what she truly wanted to ask Andy, she wanted to ask her to finish the early morning hours the way they had begun, with her strong arms wrapped around Miranda holding her close and safe. But as wonderful as that would be, she accepted it was too soon to invite the young woman into her bedroom even for something as platonic as comfort cuddling. She stayed silent as she tried to figure out how to proceed.

Andy watched Miranda ponder how to ask for what they both wanted and needed. She didn't think Miranda would ask her to actually share her bed, but she sensed she didn't want her to leave either, and that was fine by Andy because she didn't want to leave. The soft chime of the clock striking the half hour gave Andy an idea and she pulled Miranda back into a loose hug.

"Of course I'll be here for you tomorrow and the day after that, and the one after that and next week and next month. Always Miranda, I will always be here for you as long as you want me to be." Andy held Miranda closer and continued.

"Now, it's four thirty in the morning and we're both tired, you should go to bed and get some more sleep." On a whim she reached up and tapped Miranda's nose playfully, "Don't worry about me I'll be fine, I happen to know from experience that the couch over there is quite comfortable."

She grinned openly at Miranda and started to move toward the piece of furniture in question. Miranda stopped her move to the couch and took her hand as she headed toward the hall Andrea following along behind her.

"Don't be ridiculous Andrea. I have several perfectly good guestrooms for you to choose from, all with very comfortable beds." Without further explanation she led Andy up to the third floor of the townhouse pausing at a doorway at one end of the landing.

"Cara always keeps this room ready in case of unexpected guests, not that we've ever had one in the ten years she's worked for me, but it seems to make her happy to have the room prepared. You'll find toiletries in the adjoining bathroom and sleepwear in the dresser. My lawyer should be here at 10:30 tomorrow but I would like to be up by 9:00 so that we can talk before he arrives."

Andy was a little bit taken aback by Miranda as she babbled on with more details than the older woman had ever given her in the entire time she'd worked at Runway. The brunette realised the stream of information was probably due to a bit of nervousness on Miranda's part and tried to put her at ease. She drew Miranda in for a fierce hug and as she released her she bent and kissed her ever so sweetly, first on the lips, then on the forehead and then with a sparkle of mischief in her eye, Andy kissed the tiny little bump on Miranda's nose just for good measure.

"I'm sure it will be wonderful, but as you saw downstairs I can pretty much sleep on anything, couches, desks you name it I can conk out on it." Andy grinned at Miranda urging her to share in the banter, and Miranda didn't disappoint giving a perfectly gauged rejoinder.

"Yes apparently you can even nod off while leaning on editors of fashion magazines it seems," Miranda teased.

"Only one and she's not just an editor, she's the Editor in Chief," Andy tapped Miranda once more on the nose and leant in for a more thorough kiss before moving away toward the bedroom door.

"Goodnight Miranda, I hope you sleep well. I'll see you in the morning." With that promise she slipped into the room and gently closed the door behind her.

"Goodnight Andrea. Sweet dreams my darling." Miranda murmured to the closed door before turning and making her way to the other end of the landing and her own bedroom. As she made her way into her en suite she hoped that they would both manage to get at least a few more hours sleep before the gruelling day they had ahead of them.

Part 7

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