DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to ravenbull for the edit. Feedback and con crit welcome, and thanks in advance.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To needledinkrsa[at]gmail.com

Hidden Yet Bright
By needled_ink1975


~Four Months After Paris~

It's pure coincidence: one walks into a public restroom as the other is about to exit. They collide bodily and both simultaneously mutter that blank sort of apology one would usually reserve for absolute strangers, only, they are not. They make eye-contact. Before she can suppress it, Andy is smiling; before she can help herself, Miranda's lips quirk in amusement.


"Me," Andy chuckles. "And I really, really need to go."

Miranda steps aside, steps back to the bank of basins, as Andy scuttles into a stall and shuts the door. She tells Miranda that she's been stuck at a table with the most boring man on the planet. Miranda asks the person's identity, and hearing it, she snorts a laugh: she knows very well that Councilman Fitzroy is boring as mud. Andy exits the stall, and while washing her hands she looks critically at Miranda's reflection in the mirror.

"Tired," Andy diagnoses.

"Yes." Miranda feels safe saying as much. This girl has always, always been kind not that Miranda has ever deserved it (or so some might say). "The press... But you know."

"Yes. I'm sorry. Fame sucks, huh?"

"Most of the time."

After drying her hands, Andy offers Miranda a business card. They part with honest smiles.

When next they meet it's arranged. They have dinner at Miranda's townhouse. The events of the last Paris Fashion Week are rather much an elephant in the room, until Andy is brave enough to break that ice, and they discuss it.

Miranda doesn't regret any of it. From a purely professional viewpoint it was all the right course of action, and Miranda never allows her professional actions to interfere with her private conscience. This is a skill; it is a facet of her personality that has taken many years to fortify and perfect. And what she did was necessary, ultimately, for the good of Runway, and whatever is necessary should never have to be explained. She explains it all to Andy Sachs, though. Miranda is patient and paints the sort of picture, with analogies and examples, that make it less of a bitter pill, but it's still a pill, and she doesn't ever deny that: it wasn't a nice thing to do, to Nigel. In her business life, Miranda Priestly is an apex predator who has never masqueraded, nor will she ever masquerade as anything less. Her reputation for being ruthless is useful no-one dares to screw with her, or if they do (as Irv Ravitz did) then they soon find out how foolish they are. Those who cross swords with her often find themselves to be armed with toothpicks, while Miranda Priestly smiles coldly at them down the razor-edged length of a needle-sharp rapier. She is never simply a victor; she is a conqueror, and conquerors crush their opponents utterly.

"You didn't make things hard for me," Andy notes. "You could have. Why didn't you?"

"I respected the strength of character it took to walk away," Miranda says simply. "Let's forget—this once—that yours wasn't the most professional of exits. The point to make here is that you took a stand, and from that place you stiffened your spine and owned it all: your life; your decisions; your way. That's me, too just about every day."

So they have common ground. It's a good start.

~One Year Later~

Stephen didn't contest, mostly because he has a new woman in his life and wanted it all to be over soon. The papers are signed, the decree is formalized, and Miranda is a free woman. She returns to the office as though she has been only to a showing, not to court. When she arrives home her daughters have already been collected by their father. The house is empty.

In her study Miranda pours herself a scotch, neat, and sips at it. It's the Glenmorangie, twenty-year-old; red-amber and smooth, and imbued with subtle hints of peat and smoke and a slight sweetness. She has been wise in her choice. If the whisky came from a bottle with a less respectable label she might have slugged it back.

She looks back on the last sixteen months. Her daughters were upset to begin with, and Miranda had expected that to last, but it hadn't. It had not been pleasant to find out just how much the two girls had disliked Stephen, and just how easily they had hidden that fact, but only until they were free not to. Then the truth reared up like a cobra, and it struck: they weren't upset because Stephen wasn't going to be a part of their lives anymore; they had been upset because their lives were once again going to be a subject of public discussion. Miranda hadn't said no when the twins had demanded to go and live with their dad for a while. If not for James Lewisham's fair nature, Miranda might now be fighting for custody of her children. If not for James's insistence that the girls be fair, her daughters might both be of a mind to tell a judge that they would rather live in Nome, Alaska than in New York City with their mother. But she is spending more time with them now every moment of every weekend that they spend with her, and it's working. The evidence is a phone call at around eight p.m. Miranda chats with her daughters (who both utilize the speaker function on Cassidy's phone) for about a half-hour. The call lifts her spirits somewhat. The scotch is forgotten and she brews tea.

At around ten there is a knock at her front door. This can be only one person. Miranda checks the peephole anyway, because she wasn't born yesterday. A check earlier showed that the reporters and paparazzi encamped on the opposite side of the street had decided to call it a night, but one of them might be back, trying their luck. There is indeed a reporter on the other side of the door, but this one is welcome. Miranda opens the door.

"Only you would dare, at something after ten."

"And Emily's just arrived with the Book," Andy says as she steps through the door.

Miranda sighs in a long-suffering way and waits for her first assistant to get out of the town-car. That process is hurried considerably when Emily Charleton notices that her boss is waiting. Andy's waiting, too, just out of sight, because she's in a shit-stirring mood, plainly put. Before Miranda can put a hand out for the Book, Andy steps into view and snags it playfully from an astounded Emily. The poor woman just gawps, unable even to make a peep of protest.

"Really, Andrea..." Miranda drawls and rolls her eyes.

"Hey, Em. Still a Westwood fan, I see," Andy says with a vast grin.

"Bloody hell," Emily mumbles. And then she says quite seriously: "Might get me fired, or at least glared at, but you ask this one if she had dinner. I quite doubt that she did."

"Did you have dinner?" Andy demands.

Her tone is, by now, one that Miranda knows not to trifle with. The maven hesitates, then shakes her head.

"Fix it," Emily tells Andy. "God alone knows what the state of affairs will be from next month on, when I move up and over to Editorial. Lara is barely passable, and my head aches to think of the sort of training the new girl will get. Keep an eye on Miranda, you. Goodnight."

"Night, Em."

"Goodnight," Miranda mumbles before she thinks better of it.

Emily's step hitches, but she keeps going, back to the car and away.

In the house Andy sits Miranda at her own kitchen table. The contents of the fridge, freezer, and pantry are evaluated, and then this and that is gathered. Miranda protests against "breakfast-dinner", but all too soon the delicious scents of bacon and sausage and toast and egg cause her belly to growl. Miranda rather lovingly regards the plate set before her, and tucks in. Every morsel is pure sin, and wonderful. She takes her time, but not so much that her last mouthfuls are cold. Andy has been cleaning up and makes little of taking the plate and washing it; various items are left just to drip-dry in the rack. There's a pot of tea waiting and Andy pours herself a cup.

"You okay?" Andy asks at last.

"Middling," Miranda admits. She can say anything she likes to Andy, who says anything she likes to Miranda. They have spent a little more than a year cultivating an environment of trust. Miranda knows that if anything were to happen to this friendship, anything bad, she will be devastated: she has never trusted anyone as much as she does Andrea Sachs. So considered, this relationship is high-risk, and yet Miranda dares and gambles all. She sets caution in the corner now and, in a register barely above a whisper, she says, "I remembered how I loved him, when I saw him today, and in that exact moment I saw as well that he's forgotten all of it."

Andy nibbles at her lip and takes Miranda's hand across the table, and squeezes it gently. The grip is returned, and Miranda inhales slowly and doesn't fight the tears that well and spill. She doesn't sob, but somehow this gentle weeping is worse.

~Three Months After The Divorce~

The girls regard Andy suspiciously, but Roy is driving the car so they get in. He watches the buckling up process in the rear-view mirror, and then guides the car away from the collection area outside Big Dalton.

"You got us the Harry Potter."

Andy is riding shotgun. She turns and regards the twin who said this (the voice had come from Andy's left). More Miranda's shape of face, but with James's eyes.


"You remembered," Caroline says, and she's pleased as punch, really.

"It was you, right?" Cassidy asks.

"Yes. Score one to Andy; Miranda, twenty-five-thousand, four-hundred-and-nine. Never managed to score much more than one maybe a half point more, back then. Now there's no score."

"Mom's the best, at work," Cassidy says grudgingly. "Where are we going?"

"Upstate, to the lake house near Syracuse. I'm just going along for the drive. I'll come back in the chopper that brings your mom later."

"Oh. Why couldn't Mom collect us?" Caroline asks.

"Cos stuffy old fart Irv Ravitz called a meeting, probably on purpose. This long weekend away has been scheduled for a month. Your mom so wanted to surprise you, and now she's really mad."

"So you're along cos she might only see us kinda late?"

"That's right. Roy can't stay, and your Mom gave Cara this weekend off, and she can't just up and change that: Cara is already in Chicago with her family."

"So she just told you to—"

"No-no. She asked if I could, and I said yes. I'm here because I want to be here. I like long drives. What's the longest roadtrip you two have been on?"

"We drove everywhere when we went to England—"

"Yeah. Miles'n'miles everywhere. When Dad worked it out on the plane home, the total was over fifteen-hundred miles—"

"Cos we drove, like, in circles. Dad gets lost. Funny."

Andy keeps the girls talking, which isn't difficult. They end up playing the traveling games that Andy used to love as a kid, and the time passes pretty quickly. She has no trouble at all from the twins. Typical Andy, she feels guilty about having expected trouble.

The lake house is lovely, and old, and the grounds are enormous. This is one of the girls' paternal grandmother's homes. A caretaker lives in what used to be the estate manager's cottage, and this unseen person is who has made sure that the house has been readied correctly.

The girls give Andy the tour, first in the house, and then of the grounds. Sugar maples, Norway maples, and oaks spread their shade here and there to the east of the house in a meadow where, the girls tell Andy, the helicopter will land later. The helipad is well-disguised by naturally long grasses that fringe the concrete square, which is painted green and sports a huge reflective yellow H.

They're all three hungry when they get back to the house and three heads poke in the fridge to see what's available. They make sandwiches and the chatter continues, and plans are made to whip Andy's butt at a game of Monopoly. They're still playing the game when Miranda calls Andy's phone. She's at the helipad. Solidly built, this house, and the stiff breeze is blowing in a way that disguised the chopper's approach.

"Does she hafta go, Mom?" Cassidy yells over the whine and whip of motor and rotors at low revs.

"I didn't bring a bag," Andy says, shaking her head. "Yeah. I gotta go. When you two get back, we'll have a do-over on that Monopoly game, okay?"

"Even with the mulligan, we're still gonna leave ya bust'n'broke," Caroline threatens with a grin.

"We'll see," Andy says, laughing. "Go see if you can beat your mom."

"She always wins," Caroline grumbles.

"Always," Cassidy agrees. "See ya, Andy."

The girls and Miranda step well away from the helipad as the helicopter's rotors are sped up by the engine, almost at max power. The rotors tilt ever-so-slightly forward and the aircraft lifts in an near-vertical climb: the pilot is playing it safe where the trees are concerned. It's dark now and the instrument lights are an eerie glow through Plexiglas. The three people on the ground see Andy, vaguely, waving through the chin bubble, and they wave back (Caroline waves the flashlight, so Andy was sure to see that much).

In the house, Miranda inquires after the girls' afternoon and evening, and she smiles at their report and their insistence on seeing Andy more often. And really, what's not to like about that?

~One Month Later~

There's only one person to ask about this, and though it's late she won't mind because it's nearing print deadline at Runway and the Book probably hasn't arrived yet. As it turns out Andy and the Book arrive together. As usual, Lara gives Andy a snooty look, but the journalist has visited at Runway occasionally. Andy Sachs has twice secured a genuine laugh from Miranda, at work, and Lara might wear a snooty expression but she hands over the Book and dry-cleaning when Andy asks for both. Andy waits until the girl is back in the town-car before she knocks. The door is soon opened.

"Aah. My wish came true you're my assistant again," Miranda says dryly.

"How bad?" Andy asks and puts away the dry-cleaning.

"I fired Michelle today. I'd really like to fire Lara, too, but..."

But. But Miranda is stuck with her. Two new girls at once? Nightmare. Miranda need not explain Andy knows that story; she lived it once.

In the kitchen Andy hands over the headhunt offer she received via email. Of course, she's been working her backside off; of course, she has considerable talent; of course, she wants something better than the job she has now at the Mirror. The trouble is, this is a huge leap, and it might not be in the right direction, and it might also be too soon. Andy voices these facts and concerns, and then she is still, and patient: Miranda is staring blankly at the sheet of paper, with the back of a forefinger stroking back and forth under her chin.

"Do it," she says at length. "It's not too soon, and editorial is really what you want. The New Yorker is adequate, I suppose."

"You suppose?" Andy laughs.

"They think an awful lot of themselves over there. Don't catch the disease. And do be as tough as you like when you work a piece over. Take the offer and show them a thing or three."

"Okay..." Andy says on a shaky exhalation. Some would expect to see her searchlight smile right now. It is nowhere to be found because this is serious business more that than good news. The offer has come just a week after a three-month stint as acting editor at the Mirror. Andy says abruptly, remembering something: "Heh. I'll be new but I'll basically be Christian Thompson's boss."

Miranda knows about Christian Thompson, and Andy, in Paris. Her lips twitch slightly, and then she's smiling when Andy snorts a laugh. But it's late and she has the Book to review. They walk to the door together and they wait together for the cab Andy called for just now.

"This new direction will be good for you," Miranda says quietly.

"I want it to be," Andy says.

"You needn't have asked my advice."

"Your opinion holds more weight than that of anyone else in my life," Andy states.

They hear a vehicle pull up outside, and Miranda has no chance to ask about those words. Andy is gone into the night and Miranda stands in her open doorway watching the taxi down the street. She takes a gap and thinks on it: Andy means just as much to Miranda.

~And Onward, From The Following Weekend~

From the corner, Andy sees the twins getting into their father's BMW. She hangs back and waits for the vehicle to drive away, and then she continues her stroll along Miranda's street. She sees the girls quite often nowadays. They would have delayed their departure with James if they'd spotted her, wanting to chat. Eventually she knocks at the door and it's opened quite soon. Miranda murmurs about hoping that she'd see Andy this evening. Why? Just because. They are like that with each other, after eighteen months of growing and growing closer. Sometimes Andy pitches up, like she has this evening, out of the blue with no call or email beforehand. Miranda copies Andy on her weekly schedules; Andy had known that Miranda would be free tonight.

Lily hasn't spoken to Andy since August last year; Doug took a better job in Houston, Texas at the start of this year, and Andy hasn't heard a peep from him in months. She has other friends besides Miranda, the kind of friends who join her for a drink, who go to clubs with her, who occasionally take in a movie and dinner with her. None of them are anything like the friend that Miranda is, though.

Tonight they order in. Miranda's 'slumming it' with Chinese, which she loves, actually (Andy knows that and dinner is on her this time), but they don't eat out of the cartons: that would be going that bit too far, according to Miranda. So they're eating Chinese out of and off of good China. Andy makes a predictable quip about this and Miranda rags her about being 'singularly unoriginal'; Andy giggles and Miranda is 'singularly unoriginal' in her own way: she rolls her eyes. Miranda will be fifty-two this year, but at times like this she feels at least ten years younger.

The food's all gone and they've cleaned up in the kitchen, and there's banter about take-out meaning no dishes, and Miranda's poke back about take-out tasting better because of the dishes.

"Full of it," Andy states.

"Your fault," Miranda snipes back. "You're a terrible influence on me."

"Awful," Andy agrees, but she's smiling.

Her smile softens when Miranda internalizes a chuckle, something that Andy is particularly fond of. No-one else laughs like that; it is a sound uniquely Miranda's, but one evidenced only when she's very relaxed. That Andy hears it quite often is a fact that she cherishes.

"What are you thinking- such a faraway expression," Miranda says quietly.

"You mean a lot to me," Andy almost whispers.

Some speak of chemistry; here it's more like a whip-crack, as their eyes meet, and two pulses race suddenly, and it's almost impossible to breathe. It's mutual; each sees that plainly; each also sees her surprise mirrored in the other's eyes. They might speak now. They might try to rationalize. Conversely, they might speak about something far removed from this new reality. They might speak, but they do not. They stand and stare for long seconds, and everything they feel increases and builds. It's Miranda who steps in, who sends her hand in a confident slide over Andy's denim-clad hip to the small of her back; her nose brushes Andy's, her free hand comes up and she draws the backs of her fingers down the lovely column of the girl's neck. Andy's eyes shut as she gasps.

"No look at me," Miranda breathes, her mouth no more than an inch from full lips that are slightly parted. "Look."

Andy opens her eyes and they find Miranda's, so close, so dark. The hand at the small of her back pressures her forward and she goes with it, and winds her arms around Miranda's neck. Another arm joins the first around Andy's waist and that circling is possessive; Miranda pulls the girl in close. Their eyes are locked. Closer: a small step forward that brings Miranda's thigh between Andy's, and that meeting, there, is almost enough to break the eye-contact. They're both trembling now.

"Never done this before," Andy whispers.

"I have," Miranda mutters against Andy's mouth. "Often I've missed it, but I've never put you there, in that context. This context... Wet for me?"

"Yeah," Andy whimpers. "Aching. Like my first time feeling so much."

And Miranda is almost lost, nearly dismantled by words alone. She feels herself slipping and losing control, and steels herself against it; she absolutely refuses to end up in a half-naked tangle on this kitchen floor. But she kisses Andy, risking that tangle. She must. She'll take the girl upstairs in a little while but this kiss mustn't wait: Miranda feels she might go mad without it.

It's soft, though hungry and somewhat urgent. Andy has never before experienced such softness and smoothness and suppleness in a kiss. For a small moment she's concerned that she isn't responding in kind, until she remembers that she, too, is a woman. Everything she is feeling, every sensation, is being experienced by Miranda in almost precisely the same way. Miranda knows it all; Andy doesn't have to describe any of it. This is the single most erotic thought ever to enter Andy's head. Or so she thinks. When they are upstairs, when she is nude and full of want, when Miranda smiles and kisses and caresses and generally proves herself an expert (what else?), and when her mouth travels, hot and wet, down the girl's body without any hesitation at all, Andy Sachs realizes that all of these erotic thoughts rather much defy any sort of classification. And then, unsurprisingly, she ceases to think.

Some hours later they are a fully naked tangle in Miranda's bed, and how pleasant that the night is still young (as in the wee hours), and how wonderful that tomorrow is Saturday (Miranda had planned to go in to the office; so much for that). At present her mouth is leisurely learning the inside of Andy's upper arm: softer than silk.

"Again?" Andy teases. "I've never come four times in just four hours, before tonight. Again?"

"I've yet to gift you with a multiple, beautiful. But no, not again. I'm just... reveling," Miranda purrs. She continues with kisses and tasting and nibbling, and eventually ends up worshiping a breast. She isn't trying to arouse Andy, and the girl's body has stilled. "You feel the difference?"

"Yeah, but how does that work?" Andy murmurs. "We're so new with each other... I was with someone for more than two years, once, and he and I could never—It was never like this."

"You wanted this, though," Miranda says softly. She smooths her hand down the plane of Andy's belly, and lower. Her fingers comb through crisp trimmed curls. As she cups Andy, almost cuddles her sex, she says, "Intimacy and sex are not one and the same, and you can have intimacy, as in intimate contact, without sex attached. You wanted this."

"Yes," Andy says, and her expression is thoughtful. "Why's it so different? I mean, like I said, we're so new with each other every time you touch me, I should be going nuts. Not now, not even with your hand there. Why?"

"When I say that this is all I want with you, for now, you believe me. And we're not like men, who react, often, even if they don't want to. They might want what you and I want, now, but then their bodies betray them. Or worse, they think that you want more and they're spent—"

"And they get all grouchy uh-huh," Andy drawls and rolls her eyes. She adds sheepishly: "I admit, sometimes I did want more."

"Most men want the score even," Miranda says wryly. "All fair and square. More for you and less for them? No-no. Not allowed... This is all very much like arriving at an oasis after wandering about in a desert for nineteen years. Clichéd, I know, but true. Of course you wouldn't know. It's dear to me being your first."

"Wish you could be my only," Andy whispers, and her eyes cloud a little with tears. She blinks them back and kisses Miranda briefly. "Can't go there, can we?"

"I could never bear it knowing I've kept you from a longer future with someone closer to your age. You might meet that person tomorrow, or next week, or even in five years..." Miranda trails off and makes her mind up to it fully. She's fond of this girl; they're fond of each other. Certainly, sex could mess things up, but then again if they can talk like this, as they're speaking right now, perhaps the addition of sex will not be a negative thing. And just as it has been easy to add it in, it should be easy enough to take it out and continue without it. The truth here, and they both know it, is that this knowledge of each other's bodies is pleasant, and it's very, very good, but it's not important. If it were important, that creature called Logic would find itself barred access to this room. But Andy has expressed a wish, and Miranda has made up her mind: "What you really wish is for me to magically shrug off twenty years."

Andy nods. There's no point in denying it.

It's not just sex that's been added. With sex comes a small host of other additions, as they discover over the next months.

Sex brings with it certain expectations, not least the expectation of sex itself. At first, understandably, they want it often and they want a lot of it. Poor Roy. In the beginning he's the only person who knows what's going on. Often he has only the privacy screen betwixt himself and two rather hungry and energetic females in the back of the town-car (naturally, Roy is stoic and taciturn; he likes his job. He is, however, tempted to smirk when he gets an unexpected raise). And there are the hasty couplings, many, in moments stolen away from Miranda's daughters: if the room has a door, if the door has a lock, then the room sees action, and before two months are gone the only rooms that haven't seen action are the girls' bedrooms and their personal den (they had a quickie in the attic once). When the girls spend weekends with their father, Miranda spends weekends with Andy. Her schedule during these months shows every weekend red-lined; Miranda attends only the most necessary events, rated on a professional scale, and she is grateful that she has attained that level of importance which allows her to say no more often than yes. So there's a lot of sex.

Perhaps the most important of expectations brought into a relationship with and by sex is that one which causes the parties involved to want, simply, to know more. If the couple concerned is two women, this is especially so. Women talk (perhaps too much). Andy and Miranda have been talking of matters personal for more than a year already, but add sex and now their conversations are intimately personal. Each is free to ask the other the kind of questions one would never ask of a platonic friend. Knowing more brings added depth to their dynamic, and added familiarity. The old saying has it that "Familiarity breeds contempt", but the right sort of familiarity brings with it a measure of confidence, and respect, and both add to the overall quality of any relationship. Where Miranda and Andy are concerned, both tend not to ponder on that aspect of increased quality; thinking about it too much leads them down paths they should not tread. Knowing where not to go, emotionally, is the only real rule that they have; one rule, and it's quite simple: don't go there. It's left worded just-so; it is literally what they occasionally tell themselves. The last time either of them implied it to the other was on their first night together; neither has had to say it outright, nor have they had cause since then to even hint about it. That creature called Logic is their constant companion even—and perhaps especially—when they are apart. Plainly put, it's just not smart for either of them to care more than they already do.

Their single rule is also pretty much enforced by the necessary aspect of secrecy. Caroline and Cassidy need to be kept in the dark. They are already attached to Andy, but that attachment is one which, basically, allows Andy to go home, and makes it all right if they don't see her for two weeks and more. When Miranda and Andy first became lovers, the girls had only just turned fourteen; they are still children in a real and delicate and impressionable sense. It also can't be forgotten that they have quite recently suffered through their mother's divorce, and all the press attention that came with it. Added complications to their young lives are to be avoided. If ever they suspect that their mother and Andy are intimately involved, it's likely that they will develop a concomitant expectation of some kind of permanent arrangement: Andy 'living in'. With this often at the very forefront of their minds, Andy and Miranda find that the Don't Go There rule is one which isn't at all hard to stick to.

It pays to be cautious, and they are. Roy isn't any sort of risk: he's been working for Miranda for sixteen years and he just does not talk about his boss; he doesn't speak about Miranda even to Andy. After nearly ten months they tell Nigel the truth, because someone they both trust must know. Life is uncertain at the best of times and the reality of this world has it that if anything should happen to either of them, someone trusted will have to become a go-between. It's either that or spill some exceptionally sensational beans. Again Logic is working for them. Logic says that in times of stress the added stress of discovery will be distinctly unwanted. Nigel didn't have to be asked twice, mostly because Miranda is that go-between person for Nigel and a certain high-profile designer.

"What!" Andy squawks, upon hearing the name of said designer.

"Oh, and you're one to talk," Nigel says with a smirk and waggled eyebrows. "Look who you hooked, huh? Only La Priestly."

Miranda chortles when a blushing Andy ends her goldfish impression by taking a sip of wine.

~Around The Twelve-month Mark~

Andy cannot sleep. She knows with certainty now that she's in trouble. A little over three hours ago she saw someone out of her apartment and hurried into a shower, and she mixed the water as hot as she could bear it. This is the fourth time, with someone besides Miranda. It doesn't get any better; it worsens, exponentially. Guilt gnaws at her now to the point where she feels almost nauseous. And she cannot do what she wants to, which is go straight to Miranda. The older woman is out of the country, but even if that wasn't the case, Andy wouldn't dare take this to Miranda. She knows Miranda very well by now, but there's no knowing how she will react to this.

Four days later Miranda is looking her lover over as they stand in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil. Andy has been chirpy until now. In the quiet the boiling kettle is a roar, and Miranda finds the noise to be a distraction, so much so that she flips the switch to turn the appliance off. Andy snaps out of staring at a bowl of fruit and frowns at Miranda.

"Why'd you do that?"

"What's wrong?" Miranda asks, and her tone is one which brooks no dissembling.

Andy shuts her eyes and shakes her head, and her full lips are pressed into a near-flat line. She can't say 'Oh, it's nothing', so it's best not to speak at all. But then she feels Miranda's warmth, and a gentle hand runs over her shoulder to her neck. A forehead is rested against hers. Though it's late and the twins are in bed, this is a risk that Miranda should not take, one that she should not encourage Andy to take. Andy leaves her thumbs hooked in the front pockets of her jeans, and she keeps her eyes closed.

"Tell me?" Miranda entreats gently.

"Falling for you." Andy's whisper is barely audible.

Miranda's throat works; she swallows hard and it seems unnaturally loud. She wants to step away, at once, but a larger, gentler part of herself will not allow that. She's no fool: there was always a chance that this might happen; it might even have been Miranda Priestly saying those three words, instead of Andy Sachs, because every possibility is simply a reality in the making. She is honest now, with herself. Miranda has often awoken with a sigh, and the memories of a dream; many dreams, many sighs: if only. She has quietly put away such dreams and she has abruptly ceased such sighing, for months.

She is the Dragon Lady, the Ice Maiden, the Terror of the Garment District, but here and now she is none of those things. She is only Miranda who knows that the three words Andy has so recently uttered are not bad. There will be difficulties to surmount, certainly, but more good than ill will come of this newer kind of love. Andy's words are not an unkind undoing, and Miranda is undone.

"Is that all, Andrea?" Miranda whispers.

Andy draws back her head and looks a long while into Miranda's eyes. She sees a simple truth there and, above all, a willingness. Andy wraps her arms around Miranda's middle and hugs her close and tight.

"Yes," Andy says, with a swelling, soaring heart. "That's all."

The End

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