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.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To xvnot15[at]hotmail.com

Tickle Tantrum


Part 7

Emily tossed and turned in her bed, deep in the grip of a disturbing dream. In her mind she was running as fast as she could through the halls of Runway. She was constantly stumbling and losing her balance, hindered in her flight not by fashionable four-inch heels, but by a pair of huge, pink, feet shaped slippers with yellow polka dots. She was desperately trying to get away from the phalanx of rotund and bright pink figures who were chasing her and chanting something that sounded like, "Bloptobismolblobbyblobbybismol."

She knew she needed to get to Miranda's office, she'd be safe there. Those hideous rampaging affronts to all things fashionable would never dare to invade the Dragon Lady's Lair. As she ran she chanced a quick glance to see if her pursuers where getting closer and her jaw dropped as she suddenly realised she was being chased by mob of manic Mr Blobbys. She squealed and redoubled her efforts to escape. She'd ruddy-well hated Noel Edmund's bloody House Party when she was a child!

Careening around a corner she sprinted as best she could past her own empty desk and propelled herself through Miranda's office door slamming and locking it just as the first pink butterball crashed into Andy's desk sending her computer hurtling to the floor. Panting the red head leant her forehead against the door while she tried to get her breath back.

Just as her heart rate had lowered to something closer to normal she heard a shuffling sound behind her. Whirling around her eyes bugged out at the room that was now filled with several dozen Mr Blobbys surrounding Miranda's desk. She looked more closely and saw that what had been the editor's desk was now actually a desk sized version of a hearing aid and sat on top of it was a maniacally grinning Noel Edmonds.

"Now HEAR this Ladies and Blobbys! We have this evening's final contestant for the Gunge Tank! Remember it's your calls that decide if Emily gets gunged or an all expenses paid make out session with Serena the Brazilian Bombshell. Call now but make sure to get the bill payers permission."

Emily looked down at herself and blinked as she realised she was now tied to a chair inside some sort of Perspex cabinet outside of which Noel and the Blobbys were dancing. She pulled at the ropes holding her prisoner but to no avail.

"Just one more call and we get to Gunge her! Come on viewers, you can't beat a good gunging." Noel waved at Emily and gave her a thumbs-up sign as a line of Blobbys formed a bucket chain to fill the tank above her head.

Emily's anger got the better of her and she started shouting.

"Get me out of here you sickening great Blanc Manges!!!!! And you Beard-Boy! I'm going to pluck you one hair at a time I swear!!!!" As she continued to bellow her threats the red head began to pull at her bindings like a madwoman.

One of the Blobby's waved at Noel indicating that the gunge tank was now full and ready for action. Noel shook the phone in his hand at Emily.

"Come on folks just one more call and Red here meets Pink big time. Just one more little call, just one, just one…" he continued chanting as he shook the phone.

Suddenly the room was filled with the staccato ring tone of the phone, the sound so loud it seemed to echo from wall to wall.

"Gunge time!!!!! Let her rip Mr Blobby!"

Emily was caught mid scream as she looked up to see the cascade of neon pink gunge plunging down and hitting her square in the face. It filled her open mouth and streamed on past her shoulders covering the rest of her body.

"Hahahaha," Edmonds taunted as he continued to wave the ringing phone, "As long as this keeps ringing we keep gunging!"

Emily managed to spit most of the foul tasting gunge from her mouth and was looking with alarm at the not so slowly filling tank, noting that the squidgy pink liquid was already covering her knees and continuing to rise. She could still hear the incessant and high pitched ring tone of the phone in Edmonds' hand. As the gunge reached her chest and then her chin, the bearded host leered and called out to her.

"It's for yoooohoooooo!!!!!!" And with that he tossed the phone over the Perspex wall and it fell with a nauseating plop into the swirling pink soup, just as the gunge covered the screaming red head completely.

Emily jerked up in her bed, suddenly wide awake, her own very real scream still echoing in her ears. She struggled to untangle herself from her knotted and sweat soaked blankets as she realised her phone on the bedside table was ringing ever louder as she continued wrestling with her bedclothes.

Her heart beat still galloping a mile a minute she finally pulled herself free and lunged for the phone, noting two things as she squinted at the brightly lit display screen. One was that the time was seven am and the second, unsurprisingly was that the caller id was flashing the word Miranda. Taking a quick breath and grabbing a pencil and scrap of paper from her purse on the floor, she pressed the receive button and managed a remarkably calm greeting.

"Yes Miranda?"

Hearing her assistant's voice, Miranda launched into her list of instructions without preamble or explanation and Emily scribbled them diligently on both sides of her scrap of paper only stopping when the familiar dismissal of, 'That's all.' was heard.

Emily blinked at her phone and flopped backward on the bed.

"Seven in the freaking morning! On a Saturday for God's sake! Well at least she was speaking at a normal volume, or maybe that was just the phone amplifying the sound."

She glanced down at the piece of paper in her hand trying to decipher her own writing as she heaved herself out of bed and headed toward the bathroom. She continued her grumbling as she started the shower, knowing she'd have to hurry to complete Miranda's instructions in the time she'd specified.

Emily carefully put the bags she was carrying on the stoop and used her free hand to open the door of the townhouse, before retrieving the bags and balancing two large Starbucks' thermoses as she pushed the door closed with her foot. Looking around the foyer, she stopped, suddenly unsure what she should do next, wait, call out her presence or go looking for Miranda, they all had potentially perilous outcomes not least of all the mere chance of choosing the wrong one. She heaved a sigh of relief when she heard Miranda calling her name from deeper in the house, and headed toward what she knew was Miranda's study at the end of the hall.

Miranda was sitting at her desk reading through what appeared to be a pad of long hand notes, but looked up as soon as Emily entered the room. She carefully placed the pad of notes into a folder and closed it before looking at the red head expectantly. Emily hastily placed the bags at the side of the desk and continued to hold the warm thermoses as she launched into a progress report on the instructions Miranda had given over the phone.

"The clothes you requested are in the bags. The white Donna Karan blouse you wanted was being used for the Halston accessories spread so I brought the other two available in the same style, one is cream and one is egg shell. I also brought the white scoop neck Karan and the wide collared Ralph Lauren from February's issue." Emily paused and braced herself for the onslaught of scathing remarks she was sure was on its way. She waited, and waited some more before chancing a glance at her boss. Miranda said nothing, merely raising an eyebrow and giving a very slight nod for Emily to continue. The bemused girl blinked in surprise but decided to be thankful for this unexpected reprieve and hurried on with the rest of the details.

"I've left notice for HR that Francesca no longer works at Runway and they should send her termination papers out immediately. Leslie said she had already rescheduled today's appointment so she'll be at the office for one o'clock as you requested. Likewise Nigel and everyone in the production team confirmed they will be waiting in the main conference room at two as per Andrea's e-mail and text instructions." Emily finished her monologue and waited for Miranda's next set of instructions. Miranda stood up, picked up the folder and rounded the desk as she began to oblige Emily's expectation.

"I want all of the layouts, editorial and scheduling for the June edition ready and available. Have Jocelyn gather all the accessories we'd agreed on and have the Haskell items there as well. Ensure that there is a decent supply of coffee for everyone, and we will need catering later in the evening." She paused in front of Emily as she neatly relieved her startled assistant of the two thermoses.

"No one will be leaving until the edition is back on track and on schedule." She continued past Emily and headed toward the kitchen throwing a nonchalant, "That's all." over her shoulder before disappearing from view.

Left behind in the study Emily was rather surprised at the fact that Miranda had apparently decided to decant her coffee herself, but gathered herself together with a characteristic declaration.

"Yes. Right. Runway," and headed for the front door. Her annoyance over being called to work so early on a Saturday had been replaced by a surge of relief that Miranda was at least speaking at her normal quiet but audible volume. Emily also felt pleased that it had obviously fallen to Andrea to tell the Dragon Lady about the Haskell fiasco and not her, thank God. As far as she was concerned, having to work notwithstanding, the day was looking up.

Miranda put the folder on the kitchen table and then placed the thermoses on the centre island and reached for her favourite mug from the mug tree on the counter. Opening the first thermos she smiled at the rich aroma of the still scalding hot coffee. She added hot milk from the other thermos and then resealed them both before picking up the mug and taking her first sip of the day.

Sitting down at the table she opened the folder and continued to read through Andy's notes and ideas that the girl had obviously written last night. She'd discovered the pad of notes when she'd come downstairs in search of her Blackberry. At first she was extremely confused as to why Andy had been outlining ideas for changes to the June edition until she'd flipped to the third page where Andy had jotted some points about the Haskell jewellery which mentioned its turquoise colour. A few pages after that she'd had to chuckle at a little section of notes in the margin where Andy had apparently had a mini rant to vent her frustration over Francesca's cowardice and stupidity and the problems caused by them. Putting two and two together Miranda had formulated a fairly good understanding of the potential disaster she was facing and had planned accordingly as she rang Emily to get the damage control underway.

Miranda drank her coffee as she continued reading through Andy's notes. The final five pages contained a rough but well written article on Miriam Haskell's influence on early 20th century jewellery design. She found that even in its rough form the writing was both informative and quite engaging. This didn't come as a surprise to Miranda as she had in fact read through all the articles that Andy had provided with her résumé and knew that the younger woman was a good writer with a great deal of talent and potential. As she finished reading the last of Andy's notes an idea began to form in Miranda's mind and she smiled with pleasure as she thought through how she was going to execute this new plan.

Getting up and rinsing her mug out Miranda smiled as she recalled some of the details that Emily had provided earlier. Apparently Andy was well and truly on top of things and had somehow found time before she'd gone to sleep, to reschedule Leslie and to organise the emergency meeting of the production staff. She chuckled as a thought crossed her mind, "Philip can keep Helen, I have Andrea and that's what I call competence!"

The clock chimed the half hour prompting Miranda to head upstairs to wake Andy and to deliver the clothing that Emily had brought from Runway. As she made her way up the first flight of stairs she chuckled once more as she imagined the look that might have graced Emily's face if she'd know the clothes Miranda had asked for were for Andrea. Picturing it in detail, Miranda let out a full throated laugh as she continued on to the guest room.


Part 8

Miranda knocked on the guest room door listening carefully for any response. None came, so she knocked a little louder and waited a moment more. When there was still no response she quietly opened the door and moved into the dimly lit room leaving the door ajar behind her. Letting her eyes adjust to the dim light she looked to the bed and saw that Andrea was still sleeping soundly. She stepped to the side of the bed and spent several moments just looking at the peacefully sleeping woman. A small but oh so genuine smile graced the older woman's lips as she contemplated the budding, what, romance, relationship? Well the budding something that was happening between herself and the beautiful brunette.

She glanced at the carriage clock on the nightstand and realised that as much as she would have liked to continue watching Andy sleep, she needed to wake the woman so they would have time for the very difficult conversation they needed to have before Philip and the rest arrived later in the morning. She sat on the side of the bed and stroked a lock of hair away from Andy's face as she called her name.

"Andrea. Darling, wake up."

Andy rolled toward Miranda and flung her arm around the older woman's thigh cuddling her face into the side of Miranda's leg. Miranda thought this truly adorable but she still forced herself to reach over and give Andy's shoulder a gentle but firm shake to help her into the waking world.

"Please Andrea I need you to wake up now." This certainly worked as Miranda was forced to pull her torso back as Andy suddenly sat bolt upright in the bed. Although she appeared to have snapped completely awake her voice was still sleep roughened and her words a little bit mumbled. Miranda fleetingly wondered whether it had been the shake of her shoulder, the fact that she'd heard Miranda use the word please, or the fact that she had been alerted to Miranda needing something that had been the impetus to Andy waking so quickly.

"M'randa, whas wrong? You okay? Whatchoo need?" Andy rubbed the sleep from her eyes with one hand, wincing as she touched her bruised cheek and eye, before reaching out and taking hold of Miranda's hand with the other.

"What do you need sweetheart? Just let me get dressed, I'll only be a minute." Andy squeezed Miranda's hand and started to scramble out of the bed only to be firmly held in place by Miranda's free hand braced against her shoulder.

"Slow down there Tiger." Miranda smiled and couldn't resist affectionately ruffling Andy's bangs.

"Nothing's wrong. It's just past nine and I thought you might want to shower and dress before coming downstairs." Miranda's face saddened a little and she sighed as she continued. "We still need to have a discussion before my lawyer arrives at ten thirty."

"Sure thing," Andy replied as she once again squeezed Miranda's hand, trying to give the troubled woman her wordless support. Miranda grew more pensive, but she didn't pull her hand away.

"I have some things to tell you Andrea, unpleasant things, and they need to be dealt with before I can think about addressing," she pulled their linked hands up into their mutual line of sight, "this, whatever this may be." She pulled Andy's hand toward her face and placed a gentle kiss on each of the young woman's knuckles.

"I may not be sure exactly what it is, to me or to you Andrea, but I want you to know I'm very grateful for last night and for the wonderful support you've been to me since well before Paris really."

Andy was fascinated as she watched Miranda lower her gaze before she continued, her voice holding a most uncharacteristic hint of shyness as she did so.

"And, well, I, um, well I hope that we can…" Andy's eyes widened as Miranda blushed and actually ducked her head before she continued. "That we can continue to be, um affectionate even if we haven't the time to immediately discuss, well…" Miranda trailed off as she looked into Andy's eyes and gave a sheepish grin and another shake of their joined hands.

Andy was entranced. If someone had told her 24 hours ago that she would be fortunate enough to see Miranda Priestly being openly uncertain and well truth be told, so totally adorably at a loss for words she would have scoffed in their faces. Not that anyone would have told her this would happen, because the brunette was sure the number of people to have seen Miranda like this could be counted on the fingers of one hand, possibly with fingers left to spare. Andy felt a giddy sense of wonder as she realised that she had been added to that very special and tiny number of people in Miranda's life. Impulsively she pulled Miranda into a full body hug, mumbling a response into the older woman's shoulder.

"Affectionate. Right. No Problem, I'm on it."

Pulling back just a little she smiled with pure joy and kissed Miranda, on the lips, on her eyes, her forehead and as was becoming a habit she ended with a gentle peck to the bridge of Miranda's nose. Andy couldn't help the snort she gave as Miranda, doing her infamous eye roll in response to Andy's antics, managed somehow to look more cute than caustic.

"Yes, well, I suppose I should have known you'd excel at that particular task Andrea." The twinkle in her eyes and the tilt of her head took any possible sting out of the words.

"I will trust you then to know when such affection is appropriate and when it is not." She reached over and stroked an errant strand of hair behind Andy's left ear, ghosting her fingertips over the swollen flesh of Andy's cheek before continuing in a quieter voice. "And to know when it is truly needed, appropriate time or not. Now I really should leave you to shower and dress." As she stood up she reached down to the bags she'd set beside the bed and handed them over to Andy.

"I had Emily bring these over for you, they should all be the right size." Glancing at the far more developed black eye Andy was now sporting she continued. "My bedroom is at the other end of the hall, the last door on the right. When you're ready to do your makeup use my ensuite, you'll find an excellent range of concealers for your eye, help yourself to what ever you need."

Bending down she kissed Andy's forehead before heading for the doorway where she turned back to say one more thing. "There's fresh Starbucks downstairs, but if you dawdle in the shower I won't be held responsible for its disappearance." She smirked before adding in her best Runway drawl of boredom. "That's all." And with that she winked at Andy and left closing the door behind her.

Left still sitting in bed, Andy stared at the door, totally blown away. Miranda Priestly had winked...at her! She was in love with the Dragon Lady and it seemed the Dragon Lady was, well certainly very fond of her in return. The whole amazing, improbable, and wonderful situation caused Andy to hug herself and fling herself backward onto the bed as she let out a squeal of pure happiness.

Calming herself a little she sat back up and began to look through the bags now scattered over the huge bed. Just as Miranda had said, there was everything she needed down to shoes and lingerie. As she laid out the blouse she'd chosen from the selection available and the skirt and hosiery, Andy wondered if Emily realised exactly who the clothes she'd brought had been for. With that thought it suddenly dawned on her that she and Miranda were actually the same size, both a normal four, not a model two or zero. Well no wonder she'd always been able to find something in the Closet at Runway that fitted her, the designers must make it a point to know Miranda's size and send some samples hoping that she'd wear them.

Andy grabbed the lacy white bra and panties and headed for the bathroom, a wicked grin on her face as she pictured Emily's likely reaction to seeing Andy in the clothes she'd picked out that morning. Well she thought, at least it will lighten up what is likely to be an otherwise gruelling working weekend.

Less than twenty minutes later Andy entered the kitchen in search of Miranda and some coffee, in that order. She immediately noted the Starbuck's thermos' on the counter top but continued looking around for the missing editor, quickly spotting her standing in the small solarium attached to the kitchen. Miranda stood looking out the window on the grey and overcast day as she contemplated how she was going to manage the day ahead. Her shoulders were slumped and she held her arms around her middle as if to comfort herself.

Andy watched her for a little bit, her heart aching for the troubled woman. Then she made her way over and wrapped her arms around Miranda's waist pinning the older woman's arms in place and holding her securely from behind before giving her a simple kiss on her cheek. To Andy's pleasure Miranda didn't seemed surprised by the action and certainly didn't seem displeased by it either given that she didn't pull away but instead leant back and allowed Andy to hold her. It was amazing to Andy to feel this physical, almost instinctual trust that Miranda was showing her, just as she had the previous night. She knew in the marrow of her bones that she would never betray that trust, that she would happily spend the rest of her life demonstrating that Miranda had finally found the right, the only true guardian worthy of that trust.

They stood quietly for a few more minutes before Miranda extricated an arm and patted Andy's hand silently asking her to release her hold. Reluctantly Andy removed her arms from Miranda's waist allowing the older woman to turn and without warning pepper her cheeks with tiny little kisses before giving the startled brunette a final, slow, deep and lingering kiss on her lips

"Whoa!" Andy beamed at Miranda before she continued, "You know I'm gonna get addicted to those don't you? Hell I already am!"

Miranda's lips quirked into a genuine smile and there was a mischievous twinkle in her eye.

"Well, so long as I'm your only supplier I think that's an addiction that can be catered to on a regular basis." And she leaned in for another quick kiss before completely disengaging and heading toward the kitchen.

Andy followed her into the kitchen and accepted the cup of coffee Miranda handed her before they both sat at the kitchen table. Miranda had refilled her own mug and took a small sip before looking at Andy, still uncertain where to begin. She cleared her throat, started to say something and then decided to stall for time as she said something else instead.

"Um, are you hungry? I could make you some breakfast." She started to rise from her chair only to be stopped by Andy's hand gently taking hold of her wrist.

"No, that's alright Miranda, I'm fine, I had a PBJ last night." She kept hold of Miranda's wrist until she sat back down and then she moved her hand and twined their fingers together.

"Okay, I know this is hard for you, so let me save you some trouble by telling you what I already know or may have made an educated guess about." She continued to hold Miranda's hand, pausing just long enough to allow the other woman to speak, but she stayed silent, merely giving a slight nod for Andy to continue.

"Well it's no secret that Stephen has been doing his best to make the divorce difficult, I've been assuming he's challenging your pre-nuptial agreement in some way." Andy paused to give Miranda an unusually feral little grin, "But I have no doubt that the challenge has proved beyond his abilities, I can't imagine you'd have allowed any loopholes in something as important as a pre-nup." She smiled as Miranda responded with a feral smile of her own.

"So I assume he decided to up the ante yesterday by changing tactics in some drastic way." Miranda gave a brief nod confirming Andy's suppositions and allowed her to continue.

"Considering your reaction and the fact that you sent the girls out of town so quickly I'm assuming that it's either about them or something so bad that it could seriously affect them as well as you. At first I thought that Stephen might be making some kind of threat that he intended to accuse you of being an unfit mother and that he was possibly trying to enlist James' co-operation for that, egging him on to sue for sole custody or something similar. However, the fact that you sent the girls to their paternal grandmother for safe keeping made me reconsider that idea."

She looked at Miranda and said earnestly, "That could never have worked anyway because you are a great mother Miranda. The girls know how much you love them and they love you just as much." She added the last statement in response to the sorrow and doubt she saw in Miranda's eyes.

"How do you know that? Don't you think I'm a terrible mother? I'm hardly ever…" Andy cut her off, placing the fingers of her free hand on Miranda's lips to stop her speaking.

"Are you kidding!? Maybe you don't remember the Miami hurricane, but I sure do, not to mention the aftermath in your office when you got back. I have no doubts about how much you love your children Miranda. And if you doubt how well you show that love just add up how many of their school and social functions you've moved heaven and earth…" she paused and gave Miranda a little smirk, "or had others try to move heaven and earth to make sure you could attend. Have a little think about how many their father has gotten to, or some of their classmates parents have attended, and you'll see how far ahead you are. And the girls know it too."

Andy chuckled before adding, "I overheard Cassidy on the phone once when you sent me to the house to pick up that change of outfit for the Hearst Foundation cocktail party. She was bragging to a friend that you were the only parent in her entire class who had attended more than three events at school that year and that didn't mean you'd been to four events, nope you'd attended nine. Cassidy's final comment was that you were the best mother in Dalton." Andy squeezed Miranda's hand. "Believe me sweetheart the twins know you love them."

Miranda gave Andy a wobbly little smile as she whispered, "Thank you." Andy's words were a balm to the sore point of her abilities as a parent.

"Anytime." Andy raised her mug as a toast to her reply. She took a drink and braced herself to continue with her second far more serious supposition.

"So I thought some more and the next thing that seemed to fit was that Stephen has found something damaging enough to blackmail you with, something that could hurt you at work and worse something that you don't want the girls to know about. I think it's the second idea, not least of all because I assume the extra 'guests' at the meeting with Mr Walker this morning are the police." Having laid her thoughts out as succinctly as she could, Andy took another sip of her coffee and waited for Miranda to reply.

Miranda for her part, found she could only stare open mouthed at Andy's oh so accurate guessing. How on earth did the girl manage to be so insightful? How was it she was able to read Miranda so clearly? Miranda was beginning to feel as if she'd never really noticed Andy at all before now. Firming her shoulders she vowed that that would change from this moment on. Current issues not withstanding she had plans for her Andrea, great things lay in the girl's future and she knew that Andrea would both earn and deserve every one of them. But first things first she thought and took a deep breath before she replied.

"You're accuracy is a little bit frightening sometimes Andrea. I'll be honest and say I'm not sure how I feel about you being able to read me so easily."

Andy gave a small snort, "There's no easily about it Miranda, my being able to read you at all is down to over a year of having only one focus in life…make sure Miranda gets what she wants and what she needs. After that long studying your every muscle twitch from head to toe for clues as to what those things were I admit I am reasonably fluent in 'Miranda'. But I have no doubt that you'll always manage to surprise me when it suits you." She gave their joined hands another friendly squeeze.

Miranda returned the squeeze. "Hmmmm, I'll bear that in mind."

Feeling restless she released Andy's hand and rose from the table beginning to pace between Andy's chair and the refrigerator as she continued

"Your second supposition is correct Andrea, Stephen is trying to blackmail me and this morning's meeting is so that the police can interview me and take my statement. Philip will be there to advise me and to supervise the police's discretion as much as he can."

She stopped as she turned away from Andy and continued in a much lower tone and with a stumbling uncertainty.

"I'd… that is… you would… I mean I would…" she trailed off unable to complete her thought.

Andy made a shrewd guess at what Miranda was trying to say and rose to stand just behind her putting a gentle hand on the older woman's shoulder.

"Always Miranda. I'll always be there for you as long as you want me to be, I meant that when I said it last night and I mean it now." She gently turned Miranda to face her. "I know you'll be giving the details to the police and I can hear them then, but can you give me at least an idea of what it is Stephen's holding over you? Just so I'm you know, at least a little bit prepared."

Miranda bowed her head as pink stained her neck and cheeks. She remained silent for a moment as she struggled with her embarrassment. This simply wouldn't do! She needed to get a hold of herself and remember that she was not the wrong doer in this situation. She had absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about, she was an adult, Andrea was an adult and she needed to just get on with it. She raised her head and set her chin in firm resolution to do just that.

"It appears that Stephen is something of a voyeur, and he apparently taped the two of us when we were still dating and I stayed over at his apartment. Entirely without my consent or knowledge for that matter, and now he's threatening to release the images to the papers and to put them on the internet if I don't give in to his demands." She watched Andy's face carefully for her response, she didn't have long to wait.

Andy was stunned for just a few seconds and then she clenched her hands into tight fists and her neck and jaw muscles clenched as her face went beet red. Her eyes became stormy and changed from their usual beautiful colour of chocolate with flecks of amber to a deep mud brown. The tenseness of her facial muscles totally undid the effects of the concealer she'd used on her eye and you could truly see the swollen and now discoloured bruise on her left cheek. She looked like a boxer that had just gone ten rounds and was itching for ten more.

"The dirty rat-bastard! I'll break his god damned neck! How could he do that!? He… oh the…" she growled out through gritted teeth, "I will kill the son of bitch! How dare he threaten you like this and…fuck him!!! Who the hell does he think he is?? He's trying to use the girls against you too isn't he? I'll… I.. will.. break every bone in his fucking body!" Her anger was palpable the air around her crackling with the energy of it.

Her body was actually shaking with the force of her emotions. Andy had never felt such utter hatred for another human being in her life, but there was no denying that if Stephen were suddenly to appear in front of her right now she would have gone for him without a second thought, and no doubt done a considerable amount of damage.

Seeing her condition, Miranda was torn between feeling a strange kind of elation that someone, anyone could be that honestly angry on her behalf and feeling concerned about the strength of Andy's reaction. She reached out and placed a hand on Andy's shoulder trying to calm her a little by gently stroking her hand down her arm. This seemed to work as Andy took in a deep ragged breath and refocused on Miranda's concerned face.

Realising she might have frightened Miranda with her extreme reaction she pulled her into a fierce hug feeling like she wanted to hold onto her forever and never let Stephen or anyone else hurt her ever again. She pushed her damaged cheek into the side of Miranda's neck muttering apologies and that she hadn't meant to frighten her and half formed promises to always protect her in any way she could. Miranda returned the hug just as fiercely and rubbed her hand over Andy's back continuing to sooth her as best she could. She murmured her responses into the girl's ear and they stayed in each other's arms until Andy's breathing evened out and she felt considerably calmer. Blushing, Andy gently disengaged from the hug and looked sheepishly at Miranda.

"Just what you don't need, I'm supposed to be here to help you not to add to your troubles, it won't happen again." Andy promised as she let go of Miranda and went to the sink to splash some water on her face. Miranda followed and handed her a towel to dry off.

"I'm sorry it was such a shock Andrea. It would appear there's just no gentle way to tell people who care about me what's happening. Philip had a similarly angry, if somewhat less demonstrative reaction when I told him." She looked at Andy's somewhat worse for wear appearance and then glanced at her watch. "Philip should be here any minute now, why don't you pop up stairs and repair this," she smoothed her thumb over Andy's cheek, "while I make a pot of coffee. It's not Starbucks, but I'm sure we'll all need it."

"Okay, back in a minute. And Miranda, seriously, I promise, that will not happen again, no more losing control." She kissed her cheek and headed back upstairs.

Thirty minutes later Andy ushered two detectives into the downstairs study where Miranda and Philip were waiting for them. Philip had arrived slightly later than he had wanted to and they'd only had a few minutes to go over what Miranda should tell the police and what, if anything, she should not. Andy had been pleased to discover that apparently even Philip Walker operated the 'never ask Miranda questions' rule, calmly accepting Miranda's curt explanation of Andy's presence during his consultation, "Andrea stays." at face value.

Miranda rose and held out her hand to the two police officers, shaking each of their hands before indicating they should take a seat wherever they would be most comfortable. She then retook her seat on the couch where Andy sat down beside her with a small but acceptable distance between them.

"Gentlemen, thank you for coming. I hope that we can get this over with as quickly as possible. I'm somewhat embarrassed to have to take valuable time away from your pursuit of much more serious criminals, but my attorney assures me that your department is the correct one to handle this case." She nodded her head at the two men as they sat down.

"That's not a problem Ms. Priestly, Mr Walker's correct that this type of crime is down to our department to investigate." The older of the two detectives spoke, his tone giving nothing away of how he was a little surprised at this wealthy socialite's atypically non demanding attitude. He was more used to people like Miranda Priestly demanding immediate and special consideration when they were the victims of crime. He decided it was actually refreshing to come across someone of Miranda's social standing with a much more realistic understanding of the system and how it worked.

"Miranda, please. I prefer just Miranda, not Ms. Priestly."

"Miranda, I'm Detective Munch and this is my partner Detective Tutuola. Could you tell us what happened. If you could be as detailed as possible about the times and sequence of events that will be helpful." He opened his note-book ready to write the details as they came.

Miranda described the first phone call from Stephen and seeing the short clip he'd sent to her, as well as the second call she'd received while she was waiting for Helen to arrive when she'd gone to Philip's office. The second call had been when Stephen had stated his demand for Miranda to drop the pre-nuptial agreement and to agree to give Stephen two thirds of her fortune, nearly nine million dollars. He also wanted to take her home in the Hamptons and he demanded that she continue to pay him alimony after that. He had then threatened that if she didn't agree to his terms, he'd post still pictures to all the tabloids and he'd post the footage on the internet. His parting shot had been very close to one of Andy's angry statements earlier, as he had deliberately told her he would take great pleasure in posting the video on the Dalton School forum page so that her daughters were sure not to miss it.

"He then said he would be out of town until Monday morning and I had until then to get back to him with the paperwork from my lawyers. Then he hung up, as did I." Miranda finished her statement with a long drawn out breath. She noticed for the first time that Andy had taken her hand at some point as she'd been speaking and was holding it firmly to let her know she wasn't alone.

"Did he mention where he would be this weekend? Do you think he might be out of the country?" Detective Tutuola asked as Munch continued to make notes.

"No, he didn't say where he was, but it's possible he was in Los Angeles I seem to remember he mentioned some time ago that he'd be away on a business trip there this month."

Detective Munch made a note about this and closed his note-pad. "That's all the details we'll need for now. We'll have to take the phone for evidence…" he was cut off by Philip Walker.

"Is that strictly necessary? Surely you'll need to find evidence either at Mr Tomlinson's apartment or on his phone for it to be accepted in court?"

"We will be doing that as well Mr Walker, but we're going to need a search warrant to gain access to Mr Tomlinson's apartment and that video is the best way to obtain the warrant."

"It's alright Philip, we've already discussed this, I knew it would have come to this from the start." Miranda reached into her pocket and brought out her cell phone.

"Andrea ascertained that you would need the phone itself as well as the sim card, is that correct?" Miranda reluctantly handed the phone over to Munch.

"Yes, we'll need the phone to confirm the calls you received came from Mr Tomlinson's phone." Munch carefully put the phone into an evidence bag and tagged it with the proper details.

"We will do our best to limit the number of people who actually need to see the video. I'm sure our A.D.A Ms. Cabot will be able to get a warrant without actually needing to show the judge the video. She's really good at things like that." He gave Miranda what he hoped was a reassuring smile. His good opinion of her had grown during the interview and he found himself inclined to help in minimising the potential embarrassment the circumstances were likely to throw her way. He and his partner rose to their feet as the others followed suit.

"We'll start the process for the warrant immediately, but it's unlikely to come through until Monday morning. We'll contact Mr Tomlinson's secretary and find out when he's due to arrive back in New York and work from there." He noticed Miranda's concerned expression and reassured her, "I'll call you and let you know when we've got the warrant and when we're on our way to his apartment."

"Thank you detective. Your kindness and your discretion are appreciated." Miranda let go of Andy's hand and asked her in a warm tone. "Would you show the detectives out Andrea? I need to gather a few things before we leave for the office."

Andy quirked her lips a little at the novelty of Miranda actually asking her to do something rather than simply ordering her to do it; looking into those deep blue eyes she was pretty certain that it might be a novelty for the moment but it was likely to become a common practice pretty quickly, at least where Andy was concerned.

"Certainly Miranda, I'll be back in a minute." With that she escorted the two detectives from the room leaving Miranda to say goodbye to Philip Walker.

As she reached the front door Andy stopped the detectives.

"Detective Munch, umm how many people do you think are going to have to see that video? I mean I noticed that you didn't actually watch it or anything…" Andy trailed off looking anxiously at the older policeman.

"Don't worry Andy, we really are going to do our best to limit who sees the video. Captain Cragen asked us to bring it to him, he'll watch enough to verify taking the case and then Alex, sorry A.D.A Cabot will have to do the same. After that it depends on what we find at Mr Tomlinson's place and what charges are made and whether or not it goes to court. When the Captain and Alex have seen it the phone will go into the evidence locker and it will have a black band on it limiting who's allowed to sign it out." He saw Andy still looked worried.

"It's the best we can do Andy, I won't lie and promise you it won't get leaked to the press, but we're going to do everything we can to make sure it doesn't."

Andy gave the man a shaky smile, "Thanks, I really appreciate your dedication Detective Munch, yours too Detective Tutuola. It just… it would really suck for her kids if it got out you know? They really don't need that kind of experience."

"No kid does Andy. We'll be in touch." He shook her hand and the two detectives made their way down the front steps as she closed the door behind them. She headed back toward the study meeting Philip Walker hallway down the hall.

"It was a pleasure to meet you Andy." He said as he shook her hand. "I'm truly glad that Miranda has someone like you looking out for her as she goes through this mess." His kind grey eyes watched her as she ducked her head in acknowledgement.

"Thanks Mr Walker, the feeling's mutual." her smile vanished and her face hardened as she continued, "Make the bastard pay Mr Walker. Make sure they throw away the key when they lock him in his cell."

"Don't worry about that Andy, even when he does see the light of day again, the view's going to be very different from the gutter he won't be able to afford." His face was stern and confident as he said this and Andy nodded approvingly.

"Right. I'll text you Miranda's new number as soon as I have it." With that Andy continued on her way to the study as Philip let himself out.

"There you are." Miranda stepped from behind her desk where she'd been readying her briefcase. She stepped straight into Andy's personal space and hugged her close, as Andy's arms automatically closed around the older woman. After a few minutes Miranda pulled away and gave Andy a long sweet kiss.

Blinking a little in surprise Andy finally responded, "Umm, yup here I am. If I go out and come in again will I get another one of those?"

Andy was pleased to see that her cheeky response caused Miranda to smile and relax her body a bit more. She'd noted that Miranda had been tensing up considerably during the interview and she was pleased the older woman was trying to relax a little before moving on to the next headache which was waiting for them at Elias Clarke. Andy had filled Miranda in on the Haskell problems and the production team meeting she'd organised to address them as they'd waited for Philip Walker to arrive. Miranda never let on that she was already aware of the problem from having read Andy's notes.

Miranda rested her forehead against Andy's and sighed. "I wish we had time for you to do that Andrea, but we really need to go if we're to be on time for Leslie. Roy should be waiting out front now."

Andy nodded but Miranda made no move to let go of the brunette's waist, instead she pulled her closer and rested her head on Andy's shoulder. Andy rubbed soothing circles on her back and just let her be for a few minutes before urging her head up and moving away from her embrace. She gently stroked her finger down Miranda's chin and kissed her, once, twice and then a third time, grinning as she saw the flicker of recognition in the older woman's eyes.

"We do have to go now Miranda. Come on, it's time for the Dragon Lady to spread her wings and do what she does best." Andy chuckled as Miranda cocked her eyebrow questioningly.

"That would be frightening her minions into achieving the perfect and the impossible. This minion however doesn't need frightening to do those things." She kissed Miranda's nose as she whispered with heartfelt conviction, "I want to do them. For you." She smiled at Miranda as she picked up her briefcase which was still beside the desk where she'd left it the night before.

"And listen, Miranda, just be yourself, I mean, I'm not expecting… I mean not that I was thinking you would…" she stuttered to a halt before gathering herself together and trying once more. "What I mean is I want you to know that I understand that work is work and I'll be completely professional…and…" Miranda cut her off with a quick kiss.

"Thank you Andrea, I understand what you're trying to say, and I appreciate the reassurance. I have every confidence in your ability to remain professional." She kissed Andy one more time before grabbing hold of her briefcase. As she passed Andy, heading for the study door, she goosed the girl good and proper. Andy squealed and rubbed her assaulted butt cheek.

"My ability to do so however still remains to be tested. Come along Andrea." And without turning around the Dragon Lady swept from the room followed by a grinning and very happy minion.


Part 9

Miranda sailed through the outer offices of Runway at 12:40, she said not a word as she dumped her coat and bag on Emily's desk and continued on her way into her office. As Emily finished hanging Miranda's coat up she grabbed her phone and quickly tapped out a text to Andy. "Where are you!? Miranda's here! Get here ten minutes ago!"

As she finished the text, she heard Miranda call her name from the inner office. The red-head stalled for a split second trying to process the confirmation that just like at the townhouse that morning, Miranda was once again speaking at her usual quiet, but audible volume. Emily wasn't sure if this change would continue or not and decided not to delete the bookmarks for hearing aids she'd accrued, just in case. Her mind getting back in gear, she hurried into Miranda's office.

"Did you get lost?" Was there a temporal anomaly in my doorway that whisked you to some alternate timeline Emily?" Miranda smirked at the girl's stuttering denial and launched into a list of instructions for her, which she scribbled furiously onto her notepad.

"Gather all the Runway staff who are in the building and have them at the Production meeting at 2:00pm. Go to the Closet and find the blue Stella McCartney off the shoulder tunic from her fall collection and the vintage Westwood steel blue romper from 1998. Also I seem to remember Donna doing a Maya blue flounced skirt in her 2003 spring collection get that as well. Get the Betsy Johnson tuft blue and haze blue mini dress collection from her first season of ready to wear. And the Fraiche scarves I saw last month, all the turquoise and aqua- marine shades. I want a meeting this week with Vera Wang's people, I want the full showing of ready to wear evening gowns she was working on, especially the aqua marine and stardust grey material. When Andrea arrives go and get me a new Blackberry, I want the same kind as my previous one not a newer version. Give it to Andrea before this afternoon's meeting so she can programme my contacts list and schedule into it." Without looking up from her desk where she was sorting through the contents of her briefcase she finished absentmindedly, "That's all."

Emily jumped to the tasks she'd been given and had just finished leaving a message at Vera Wang's office when she heard Andy's arrival behind her. Without bothering to look up, she continued typing out the e-mail summoning anyone at Runway to the two o'clock meeting, and still managed to take the opportunity to snipe at Andy as she worked.

"Well you took your sweet time, did you crawl to work, or did you sleep through the alarm because you were all tired out from texting people at four in the morning? When you've delivered the coffee go and get Miranda a new Blackberry, she wants…" she was interrupted by Miranda's decidedly biting call.


The red-head's face paled at the icy tone. Still without sparing a glance toward Andy, she scurried into Miranda's office at top speed, coming to a halt directly in front of Miranda's desk.

Andy took the time to shrug out of her coat before gathering Miranda's latte from the tray of Starbucks and following Emily into the Dragon's den, she stopped just inside the doorway while Miranda spoke to Emily.

Earlier Miranda had instructed Roy to drop Andy directly in front of the coffee shop before continuing on to Elias Clarke. This allowed them to arrive separately and had the added bonus of assisting Andy to stay dry for a longer part of the journey, as the dull grey day had turned drizzly.

"Emily are you quite well?" Miranda looked at her nominal First Assistant intently, her displeasure apparent in her raised eyebrow and pursed lips.

Shocked at the question Emily managed to squeak, "Yes Miranda, I'm well."

"I'm pleased to hear that," the older woman's look took on a decidedly feral quality as she continued. "So, if you are not ill, not suffering from some disorder affecting your cognitive abilities, could you explain why you were about to send Andrea to carry out a task that I had assigned to you?"

Emily opened her mouth but no words came out to supply a reply to the question. She closed her mouth and her shoulders sagged in defeat as she finally managed to whisper the only thing she could say, "No Miranda."

"Hmmm, I see."

Steepling her fingers under her chin, Miranda continued to pin Emily with her intense gaze. Noticing Andy standing uncertainly in the doorway, she had to repress a smile. She thought back to what the brunette had said before they'd left her study and her eyes took on a menacing glint as she straightened in her chair shrugging her shoulders to left and right giving the strange but unmistakable impression of unfurling wings. Andy's eyes grew large in recognition of what Miranda was doing, and marvelled how, with such a simple movement, the Dragon Lady became larger than life and prepared to unleash her fiery breath.

"Emily I've always prided myself on being a straightforward individual, have I failed in that endeavour? Have I become less than clear when giving instructions? Have I been wafting commands to the four winds in hopes that someone within hearing will see that a task is completed? Is that the reason I'm surrounded by incompetence and mediocrity?"

At the mention of 'wafting commands' Andy nearly snorted out loud, before she managed to viciously bite her lower lip. She focused her gaze over Miranda's shoulder on the skyline of New York, making sure she avoided eye contact with Miranda because she knew if she saw the hint of mischief that was very likely glinting in the editor's eye, she'd be rolling on the floor in laughter. Nope, she would not react to that question, she wouldn't! Although she was sure Emily hadn't caught it, Andy was tickled at the undertone of self-knowledge in which Miranda had coated that statement. She thought Miranda might even have added it in order to share an inside moment with the brunette. Miranda continued to glare at poor Emily as she stood up and leaned over her desk to emphasise her next point.

"If I want Andrea to do something I will tell Andrea to do it. If I tell you to do it I expect you to do it. Is that a concept within your limited grasp?" Miranda's lip curled even as she said the final question in a saccharine sweet tone. The unnerving effect of the curled lip and hard as flint gaze caused both Emily and Andrea to shiver involuntarily, but not for the same reasons.

"Yes Miranda." Emily managed to say between audible gulps.

Miranda sat back down and relaxed into her chair as she flicked a wrist toward the cowering woman in front of her.

"You have your instructions, I'm sure they will keep you busy until the meeting, I don't expect to see you until then. That's all."

Emily turned so suddenly she made Andy jump in surprise and she just managed to keep the Starbucks steady in her hand without spilling it. As she struggled with the tray Emily looked at Andy for the first time that morning and her eyes bugged out when she saw what the brunette was wearing. She glared up at Andy's face and immediately registered Andy's bruised eye, still visible under the concealer. She looked at Andy and then swung back to look at Miranda with wide eyes and then back at Andy.

Emily's mind whirred and worked and leapt to an amazing feat of creative, indeed down right hallucinogenic accounting. Adding one, Andy's black eye, and one, Andy wearing the designer clothes she'd delivered to Miranda earlier in the morning, the red-head created the dizzying product of seventeen billion, … Miranda's terrible mood having finally made her snap she'd hit Andy when she'd delivered the Book the night before, and had then trapped the brunette in the Townhouse until Emily could deliver the clothes that would bribe Andy not to sue her boss.

She looked back at Miranda once more, eyes wide with fear she squeaked and ran from the room pausing only momentarily to grab her coat and bag from the outer office before continuing her sprint down the hall. Safely ensconced in the elevator and almost on auto-pilot, she rummaged in her purse and pulled a small bottle of a bright pink hue from its depths. As she raised the medicine to her lips she was struck with a vivid memory of her morning nightmare and pulled the bottle away from her face, capping and pushing it back into her purse she hastily decided that the risk of chundering all over the Elias Clarke foyer was preferable to choking down any more Pepto Bismol.

Andy stood watching Emily disappear around the corner before turning back to Miranda with a truly bemused look on her face.

"Okay, you were on top form for minion terrorising, not to mention that very effective …" Andy waved her hand fluttering her fingers toward Miranda's shoulders, "… um, pretend wing thing you did, but damn, Em was seriously spooked. What's that about?" As she spoke she moved forward and placed the Starbucks' cup in its usual location on the editor's desk.

Miranda smirked and reached for her coffee, slowly savouring her first sip as she considered Emily's reaction. She had been able to read Emily like a book from the minute the girl had started as her Second Assistant just under three years ago. She'd noticed how Emily had been drawn back to Andy's face more than once and Miranda made a fairly accurate guess at what interpretation Emily had put on Andy's injury.

"I believe Emily has interpreted your black eye to mean that my temper finally got the better of me and that I assaulted you."

Andy looked truly taken aback at Miranda's statement.

"Oh no! Are you sure? I mean surely she can't think you'd actually hit me? That's ridiculous!"

Miranda took another sip from her cup before replying.

"Well it was my elbow that did the damage Andrea, so I suppose in a way I did assault you."

"That was an accident Miranda, it's not like you actually came at me intending to…" quite suddenly the colour drained from Andy's face and her hands flew to cover her mouth.

"Oh my God! It was me. I… oh God…"

Miranda rose from her seat and hurried over to the clearly upset young woman, who now had tears shimmering in her eyes.

"I assaulted you Miranda. Oh God, I.. I'm so sorry. I… I don't know how I didn't see it…." She looked at Miranda as the older woman reached her side and finished in a whimper. "Please forgive me, I'm so sorry."

Miranda reached behind Andy and shut her office door before pulling the distraught girl into a firm hug. Andy started crying in earnest and Miranda held her tight rubbing her back until her body relaxed a little and her sniffles lessened. Pulling back a little but keeping Andy within the circle of her arms Miranda caught and held Andy's gaze.

"Andrea I want you to listen to me very carefully. You did not assault me."

Andy started to protest but was cut short by Miranda's fingers on her lips asking for her silence.

"Tsk, I said listen and I mean that you must really hear what I am saying Andrea. You did NOT assault me last night. You had no intention of harming me, you didn't hurt me, I know you never would. You weren't doing it for your own pleasure or satisfaction or for any other reason other than a sincere desire to help me. Some people might say that it was assault, lawyers mostly I imagine, but as far as I am concerned Andrea, you didn't assault me," she paused as she raised Andy's chin up and stroked away an errant tear with her thumb, "no you didn't assault me, you helped me, you saved me from myself."

Andy blinked at her and Miranda gave a little snort before continuing, "And you know how scary I can be… even to myself." Miranda smiled as Andy replied with a snort of her own. "So if you feel you need to apologise, I accept the apology and offer one of my own for having put you in that situation in the first place."

A little dazed from hearing Miranda apologise, Andy hugged her close.

"Um, okay, I really am sorry. At the time I was just so worried about you. I…I thought you might have a stroke or something you were so tense and your face was so red…" She hazarded a glance up at Miranda's face where she caught a look of mild irritation morph into one of amusement as she watched the famous Priestly eyebrow inching up Miranda's forehead.

"Right. So. Two mini tantrums for me today, that's my quota. I promised this morning not to lose it and get angry, and I promise now, not to lose it and start blubbering again." She stroked Miranda's cheek and impishly kissed the bump on her nose before quietly and seriously finishing, "I heard you Miranda, and thank you, I'm glad you know that I would never hurt you."

Miranda looked steadily into the chocolate brown depths of Andrea's eyes before moving forward and giving her a long, lingering and deep kiss that left the brunette breathless but smiling.

"Miranda, if you want me to keep my promise about the tantrums, don't reward them with toe curling kisses like that."

"Who said I was rewarding you Andrea?" Miranda smiled devilishly back at her and Andy let out a full throated laugh at that. Realising that they were still firmly held in each other's arms, Andy gently disengaged from Miranda and took a step back.

"Time for me to keep my other promise now I think. It's almost one and I'm sure Leslie is outside waiting for you." She stepped a little further back toward the door.

Miranda looked at her quizzically wondering what promise Andy was referring to, but when Leslie was mentioned she realised Andy was referring to her promise to be professional. Remembering her own reply she straightened her blouse and replied.

"Yes, right. Show her in if she's there Andrea, and make sure you sit this out of temptations way when we start our meeting with her." As she said the word this she had goosed Andy again before she turned and made her way back to her desk.

Andy squeaked at her second goosing of the morning and wagged an admonishing finger at Miranda, who unrepentantly returned the admonishment with a wicked grin. Andy struggled to dampen the huge grin on her own face as she headed for the outer office. Fortunately by the time she actually opened the door she was wearing a more sedate version of her signature smile, and a good thing too as Leslie was indeed waiting just in front of Andy's desk.

Continuing to smile, Andy invited her into Miranda's office closing the door behind them and ushering Leslie to one of the two seats in front of Miranda's desk. She sat in the second chair, flinching just a tad at the tenderness Miranda had produced with her pinch. Settling herself she couldn't help noticing the gleam of mischief in Miranda's eyes when the older woman had noticed her mild discomfort. 'Looks like she failed her professionalism test with flying colours,' was Andy's thought as she prepared to take any notes that might be needed in the meeting.

To Be Continued

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