Title: A Valentine's Day Story

Author: Brithna

Beta: Peetsden

Crisis Management Team (Don't ask.): Gun, Lara

Fandom: Devil Wears Prada

Pairing: Miranda / Andy

Other Participants: Caroline, Cassidy

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Summary: It's Valentine's Day. What more of a summary do you freakin' need?

Note: We all know that I do NOT do deadlines. The thought of a deadline makes me vomit. Yet, here I am trying to give myself a deadline. In a sense – I failed. The whole story is not ready today but 75% of it is. Instead of the last 25% suffering because I cannot stop freaking out and rushing –I will begin to post it in parts - TODAY. The other parts will be posted Saturday and Sunday. I would like to thank Gun, and Lara for their crisis management skills and Peetsden for coming up for air to help my pathetic ass.

A Valentine's Day Story

Miranda has always felt that the number thirteen is appalling, unlucky no matter what the occasion. It shouldn't exist at all, banished from every language, eradicated from history, period. No exceptions. But here it is, at two o'clock in the morning, popping off Miranda's way too bright laptop screen. What's worse is that everything associated with it, in this article, is completely true.

Next time she has lunch with Arianna Huffington, Miranda just might shoot her and then pull all the plugs to all the servers that hold all the idiotic articles in her idiotic blog. Well, alright. She won't go so far as to shoot precious Arianna. Miranda has two daughters who would not be impressed by the idea of visiting their mother in prison. But what she will do is delete the idiotic app from her phone, and her account on this idiotic website. And she's definitely going to chew Arianna out for keeping her up this late. Miranda should have been asleep hours ago but instead, she's sitting in the middle of her enormous bed wide awake.

And it's all Andrea's fault. Wait… No, no. Arianna's fault. Because God, what did Andrea have to do with this? Nothing. She has nothing to do with this article. She did not write it. Thank heavens; it's deplorable, barely an article to begin with, full of pictures and mindless captions. Andrea would never write such drivel. Then again, when is the last time Andrea has written anything? Miranda doesn't have the slightest clue but thinking about her Assistant has been keeping her awake for much longer than Arianna and her idiotic blog that is filled with nothing useful whatsoever.

It's all drivel, starting with: 13 Signs You're A Full-Blown Coffee Addict. What kind of title is that? Really? And the fact they put the word 'PHOTOS' right behind it, makes the whole thing ludicrous. And these thirteen signs? Well, like she has already admitted, they're true.

One Cup Is NEVER Enough - Of course that's true. In what universe would it not be?

It's The ONLY Reason You Get Out Of Bed In The Morning - There is one word for this: Obviously.

A Bottomless Cup Of Coffee Renews Your Faith In Humanity - This makes Miranda laugh. It is true that a bottomless cup renews something inside her, but what it renews has no name. But at two o'clock in the morning, in a dark bedroom where she is all alone, it's easy to admit Andrea is likely to be the true source of this renewal. Yes, perhaps it is that, because if Andrea is out doing a thousand things and Emily or some other unlucky minion brings her a cup of coffee, Miranda is never renewed. Never. But when Andrea comes through her door or meets her at the elevator, she is renewed in some way. In Andrea's presence, Miranda is renewed and in this dark bedroom at two o'clock in the morning, it's an easy thing to admit.

You Would Rather Drink A Bad Cup Of Coffee Than NO COFFEE AT ALL - She hates this, and wants no one to know, but it is true; she will take whatever she can get if there is no other choice. Miranda tries like hell, though, to never be out of range of a Starbucks and if she is, she makes sure everyone pays the price. Which brings her to number five.

You Keep Instant Coffee Stocked – Well, Miranda hasn't always, but when her beloved Starbucks got on this particular bandwagon, she did too. There is a stash in her desk and she tries to remember to bring some on trips so everyone has to pay a little less for something that truly isn't their fault. And Andrea remembers. In fact, Miranda hasn't done without a decent cup of coffee in about two years. Andrea always remembers. She remembers everything. And Miranda is always renewed.

By 4pm, You've Lost Track Of How Many Cups Of Coffee You've Had - Noon would be closer to truth here, but what right does Miranda have to argue with Arianna Huffington and her idiotic blog?

This Is How You Feel Every Second Of Every Day = We're Gonna Need More Coffee - Just as with number two, there is one word for this: Obviously.

You've Seriously Considered Brewing Your Coffee With Coffee - Miranda has not only considered this, she's done it. How could anyone have expected her to be up at all hours of the night with two babies and still produce the greatest magazine that has ever been published? In Miranda's mind at least, it is the greatest. Of course it is. But all that aside—and even if it had been an incredibly weird accident—the coffee done up with even more coffee is quite good. Stout, and a little bitter, but good.

Clearly, though, that is not the only time she's resorted to this somewhat accidental grasp for sanity. A few months ago both the girls came down with sinus infections and everyone was miserable, and everything was upside down. Caroline and Cassidy are sick so rarely; but to tip the scale—this happened at the same time the last changes to the January issue could be made.

Andrea had been there for her and Miranda's daughters, and she's never forgotten that. She's never forgotten making some flippant comment about the coffee done up with more coffee that week, and how it appeared in front of her late one night at the office when Miranda was at her worst. Andrea delivered it with an almost hysterical laugh and outright refused to try it when Miranda told her to. She's never forgotten that, Andrea's laughter, the way her eyes sparkled, the instant feeling of being renewed.

Miranda hasn't forgotten what happened the next night either when she returned to the townhouse, unable to get out of an endless dinner meeting, only to find Andrea there with Caroline and Cassidy in a pile of blankets, in front of the television, with a thousand Kleenexes. There was food too, spread out all over the coffee table; Chinese takeout boxes and bowls of hot and sour soup. She started to get up to leave but Miranda held her there. Not literally. She did not hold Andrea in her arms. Miranda just held out a hand and said one word, "Stay." Andrea stayed and Miranda came to find out; hot and sour soup is great for clearing up sinus infections.

If You Don't Have Coffee Before Noon You Get A Headache Of Epic Proportions - This has never happened so how would Miranda know? But now that she does know headaches are a possible outcome of such a thing, she will be even more diligent in her addiction from here on. Who would ever want to purposefully have a headache?

You Have More Than One Way To Brew Coffee - This must be a joke of some kind. Who doesn't have more than one way to brew coffee? Miranda's current favorite method—which she only uses on the weekends because it takes so much time—is her Siphon Pot. It's like a science experiment right there in Miranda's own kitchen and since her father was a chemistry teacher, the joy in it is twofold. Spending a little time alone on Saturday mornings, thinking about her father or even her mother—who she can hardly stand—is never a waste. The sad thing, or not, is that when Miranda sits there watching her coffee slowly come to fruition, she doesn't just think about her parents. She thinks about Andrea, who like Miranda's father and even her mother—who she can hardly stand—is quite brilliant.

You've Tried To Quit Coffee Before, And It Was The Worst 24 Hours Of Your Life - This has to be some kind of joke too. Why in the world would Miranda ever do this? To even think of it is madness.

You've Made Coffee Ice Cubes - She detests cold coffee, obviously, but has in fact done this. A few years ago Miranda had some torturous dental work done and hot foods or liquids were forbidden. She needed her fix though and a little dental work was not going to stop her. The girls had a small snow cone maker and being very eager to see their mother very happy, made her the first snow cone she'd had since childhood. Now, in the summer it is a regular occurrence.

Without Coffee You Pretty Much Turn Into A Monster - Miranda will never be able to deny this. She does become a monster. It's a fact, but in all reality, this almost never happens; she's never without it for long. Just as things are about to reach that stage, Andrea comes through Miranda's door and she is renewed. Funny thing? It doesn't matter if Andrea has coffee in her hand or a file folder full of work for Miranda to do, she is renewed and that monster goes back into hiding regardless.

At some point Miranda is able to forget all about Arianna's idiotic blog and go to sleep. It's a wonder she doesn't do so right on her laptop but thankfully manages to push it over in time. Her glasses aren't so lucky and when she wakes up, they're bent all to hell. Between refereeing a fight about which twin would wear which purple sweater and making a large pot of coffee, all time for bitching and crying over her glasses is used up.

Mornings like this make Miranda wish the girls' father was still around or Stephen, but those thoughts never last long. What would be the point? It's not as if either of them was ever good at these kinds of things. A year later and Miranda is still trying to figure out why Stephen supposedly made for a good father-figure. He didn't, but Miranda had hoped like always. And like always, Miranda's hope had been wasted. Thank God it is never wasted on Andrea. She is reliable. She is constant. She knows the perfect cure for sinus infections and come to think of it, she'll probably be able to fix Miranda's glasses.

Right before Miranda starts to make not so idle threats about forcing the girls to go live with Nigel and his newest boyfriend if they don't hurry up; they come running out of the kitchen, and not just with their backpacks.

Caroline and Cassidy both have what looks like Chinese takeout boxes in their hands, made of pink and red card-stock with silver hearts glued all over. Their faces are eager and happy and they look incredibly proud of themselves, which means she can't say anything nasty about whatever is going on here. After all, Miranda has been trying to do less of that. It's not as if she is ever nasty to her children. But there's no denying she's guilty of treating them as if they ought to act like adults instead of the twelve year olds they really are. So if they are eager, happy and proud about these little boxes, it's important that Miranda is too.

With a completely honest and tender look on her face, Miranda asks, "And what do we have here?"

What they've got are boxes of candy for Andrea because tomorrow is Valentine's Day. Right. Today is the thirteenth, which means tomorrow is the fourteenth. February the fourteenth. Valentine's Day. And Caroline and Cassidy want Miranda to give them to Andrea as a kind of 'thank you' for spending the evening with them when they were sick. Miranda remembers the takeout boxes and realizes the theme. Of course. Right. Valentine's Day.

Panic hits her right in the stomach and it's almost more than she can handle. How is she supposed to give these boxes of candy to Andrea? How could Caroline and Cassidy possibly think this would ever be acceptable workplace behavior for her?

She's their mother, that's how they think it's possible. To them she is not Editor and Chief. To them she is 'Mom' and nothing else. And 'Mom' allowed Andrea to stay… So of course it's okay, right? Of course they don't know Miranda cannot do this. The Editor cannot do this. But 'Mom' can, can't she?

Quickly, Miranda explains that they can give their little boxes of candy to Andrea themselves later today if they come to the office after school, or even tonight when Andrea brings the Book. Caroline and Cassidy quickly remind her that they can't. They can't because they've got a study group after school today. They can't give them to her later tonight because "Remember, Mom? Andy only brings the Book on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday." And they can't tomorrow because they've got a Valentine's Day party then a sleepover at their friend Amber's house. Miranda can't figure out what else to say; arguing with these two is sometimes like trying to argue with a team of lawyers.

While they ride to Dalton, Miranda holds those little boxes in a little white bag on her lap and contemplates her options. She could toss them out and just say she gave them to Andrea. She could make Roy do something with them. She could also get caught in the ridiculous lie later on when the twins slip downstairs to see Andrea on Monday night like Miranda just knows they'll do. And there would be hell to pay. A worse kind of hell than Miranda has ever made anybody pay for anything. By the time she reaches Elias-Clarke, Miranda knows that price is not something she will ever be willing to suffer if she can help it.

During the elevator ride Miranda grips her handbag tightly and that little white bag even tighter. At least they're in bag. At least no one will know what she's doing. That the Editor and Chief of Runway is giving two little pink and red boxes of candy to Andrea for Valentine's Day. Well, the Editor isn't, and frankly, Miranda isn't either because Caroline and Cassidy are giving these to Andrea. Not Miranda. This has nothing to do with Miranda.

The easiest thing would be to hand the little white bag over to Andrea as soon as the elevator door opens but she can't do that out here, out here in the lobby of Runway. Even if no one knows what's in the bag, Miranda cannot let go of it out here.

But that's not the only thing Miranda can't do. She can't stop staring. At Andrea. There is always that little morning 'once over', of course, but this is more than just a quick 'once over' because Miranda can't even force herself to look away.

For February, Andrea is definitely wearing something that's not going to be warm at all if she ventures outside. And she will. Of course she will. Miranda hopes the girl—well, she can hardly call Andrea a girl when she looks like this—has a good coat to go with a dress that is revealing things which cause Miranda's brain to burn inside her skull. This shouldn't bother her. It never has before. In two years this has not bothered Miranda. But it's bothering her now and everything is starting to point toward the fact that even though today is not a Friday, Thursday the thirteenth can be as bad or worse.

Or is 'bothered' even the right term for what is causing her brain to fry? It only takes Miranda a second more of staring to realize that no, 'bothered' is not the right term at all.

Taking that into account, she can't go though her usual morning list of instructions either. In fact, Miranda can barely think clearly enough to walk in a straight line—which is dangerous. The main floor of Runway has been going through a bit of construction these past few weeks and the place is not only a mess, but a maze. Well, it's always been a maze, hasn't it? But now it is ten times more horrible and Miranda's got to take the long way around to her office. If she can get there without falling down.

Perhaps this entire thing does have something to do with Miranda. And maybe staying up all night thinking about that idiotic blog post does have something to do with Andrea because ever since Miranda came home to find her curled up on the couch with Caroline and Cassidy, she's been taking up the bulk of Miranda's emotional energy. And now this. This dress. Or lack thereof… And here she is, the Editor and Chief of Runway, about to give Andrea Sachs, her assistant who just happens to look like the very picture of sin today, candy for Valentine's Day.

Miranda is barely listening to Andrea as she goes on and on about changes that have already been made to the schedule as they go through the maze, but her attention is finally caught with the mention of her lunch date with…Arianna Huffington. Christ, no. Not today.

Miranda comes to an immediate stop. "No," she shakes her head. "Absolutely not. Cancel it. I don't care what excuse you make. Just cancel it and don't bother to reschedule. I don't fancy myself finding time for her in the near or distant future."

"Okay," Andrea says as she scratches that item off the list. "I'll order from Smith & Wollensky's then?"

"Fine," Miranda answers, still standing right there in the middle of the hallway. People are rushing past and she knows this is odd, worse than odd, for her to be standing here but right now she can't move. These two little boxes in this little white bag weigh about fifty pounds. In fact, everything feels heavy. "And get the crab cake instead. I can't handle steak today."

Andrea stares at Miranda and writes this down all at the same time. God, is it written all over her face? Is this thing about candy and Valentine's Day and the fact Miranda cannot move or stop staring at Andrea's breasts, written all over her face? Apparently not because Andrea makes no mention of it. Instead she goes back to Arianna.

"You know she wanted to talk to you about the Third Metric conference."

"I have no interest in that," Miranda says, forcing herself to focus on the current topic. "Hasn't she got Mika? That's her sort of thing anyway. Those two," Miranda finally starts to walk but only because Andrea has taken off slightly ahead, "love to tell everyone how they ought to change their lives for the better. Personally, if women need that sort of guidance, they've got bigger problems than they're aware of. I know how to live my life, thank you. And Arianna and her blog. I've had enough. That thing kept me up all ni-"

Miranda shuts up. What is she doing running off at the mouth like this? Well, at least she's not staring at Andrea's breasts anymore. So there's a plus. But now that she's thought about it again, Miranda can't help herself. This is beyond worrisome.

"So you don't like good ol' HuffPost?" Andrea asks with a faint laugh.

"No," Miranda answers her, glad for the distraction again even if it means talking about something she can barely comprehend right now because her brain is taking some kind of demonic turn for the worse. "I do not," she continues as they walk through more of the maze. To be honest, this is starting to feel like one of those infamous West Wing walk-and-talks. "If what I read last night is an example of what Arianna finds as acceptable advice, then her Third Metric talk, really is just talk."

"Must have been a good post if it kept you up all night."

"It wasn't." They stop for a moment to allow a group of people hauling a desk to pass by, then someone with a ladder. "Coffee," Miranda continues as their path clears, giving this conversation all her attention to avoid staring at anything in particular. "Coffee addiction. Thirteen signs. As if the general public is ignorant of such things. And pictures—" Miranda is cut off momentarily by another man wandering around with a ladder then they're able to continue on once more. Will this maze ever end? Perhaps this is hell instead of one of those West Wing ordeals. "The entire thing was more like a picture book than an article…post. Whichever." Miranda waves a hand in the air or tries.

"Oh, I read that!" Andrea points her pencil at Miranda and smiles. Miranda is barely able to cover the fact she only missed walking into a wall by a few inches. "It was pretty horrible but you have to admit, it was spot on. You've got all thirteen points."

"Yes, well…" They're stopped again by a throng of people with paint buckets. Both of them press themselves against the wall and Miranda can even hear Andrea gasp, no doubt fearful of something getting on her absolutely sinful dress.

"Number eight had me cracking up," Andrea says as they continue to wait for the hallway to clear out. "And I'm sorry but that has got to be disgusting."

Miranda rolls her eyes and instead of saying something cutting and rude, she says something playful with an equally playful tone. It's obvious the fourteenth, hell, March cannot come fast enough. "You'll never know since you refused to try it," Miranda says as they start to walk again.

"I could smell it. That was enough, thanks. But, anyway, I understand your thing about the posts…articles, whichever."

"Oh?"

"Yeah. All these numbered lists and pictures. A lot of its useless. There are some that I can't help liking, though."

Miranda has no idea what they're doing now. Making small-talk it seems, but that's not something Miranda ever does. But it's better than staring at Andrea's breasts, isn't it? That could get her sued, right? In serious trouble, right?

Since she doesn't want to get sued, Miranda keeps walking and manages to participate in more of this foreign method of conversation. "Such as?" she asks, unable to believe anything on Arianna's blog is acceptable after what she saw last night.

"Oh, I saw a pretty funny list of reasons to date a bookworm after I read the coffee addiction post and I-"

Before Andrea can say more, they are stopped yet again and then pushed right into a conference room to wait while a crew finishes doing something to the ceiling tiles above them. Miranda wants to do nothing more than bitch, protest and fire people because the prospect of being stuck in a room with Andrea isn't what she needs right now. Never mind the inconvenience of the whole thing. But this is the only path to her office now—meaning Miranda cannot bitch, protest or fire anybody. Instead, she stands there in the conference room with Andrea and waits to hear more about this bookworm business.

"Well, this is a big waste of time." Andrea looks about as fed up with the construction as Miranda is. "I will be so glad when this constriction crap is over with. I can't even hear myself think."

"Shut the door then."

What? Shut the door? Miranda has to almost physically restrain her own eyes from widening at her own statement. Shut the door? That is the worst thing that could happen right now. Besides staring at Andrea's breasts again—which is the first thing Miranda does as soon as Andrea turns from closing the door without a single objection. Odd. She didn't object. Which means Andrea has no problem being locked inside a room with Miranda. But of course she doesn't. Andrea is alone with Miranda all the time. The car. The elevator. Places like that. But all of a sudden this is entirely different from all of those places.

"So anyway. The bookworm thing?" Andrea says.

Miranda can only nod her head.

"It was a list. Eleven reasons. Pretty funny." Andrea leans against the door, leisurely folding her arms in front of her, causing more of what Miranda should not be looking at to become the focus of her attention. "All of them were spot on," she continues. "Like your list. But number two and six were the best."

Miranda can only raise an eyebrow.

"Number two was something like 'We won't smother you. We like our personal time. If our E-reader is on, it means you need to be silent.' And that's totally true. Give me a book and I'm pretty self-sufficient." The noises on the other side of the door get closer and louder and Andrea steps forward. Miranda isn't paying a bit of attention to the words coming out of Andrea's mouth and swallows hard as she grips that little white bag tighter to keep her hands from doing something stupid. "Number six was pretty much the same thing 'We're not needy. Stick a book under our nose, and oh! We forgot you were still here!'"

Miranda must have been doing something seriously inappropriate with her eyes at this point because Andrea shuts her mouth and her face turns red. The look in her own eyes tells Miranda she has been caught; it couldn't have any other meaning. She's been caught. Staring at Andrea's breasts.

Before Miranda can do something to play her behavior off as nothing, Andrea turns around and opens the door. The ceiling tile business is finished and now Miranda can get out of this conference room and hopefully not be sued.

Silently, they make their way to Miranda's office without any further delays and Miranda's eyes are on their best behavior. Her brain cools off a little too because this is so awful. How can she give Andrea the candy when she's made the girl feel incredibly uncomfortable? Because she is. Andrea is uncomfortable. Her posture screams it. Her red face screams it even louder. And it's Miranda's fault, not the fact that it's the thirteenth. She'd like nothing more than to be able to blame this on some stupid number but she knows that's impossible. This is all on Miranda. This is all her fault.

When they get there, Miranda tosses her handbag onto Emily's desk and manages to somehow get out of her coat without putting the bag of candy down. Saying nothing to Emily and definitely nothing to Andrea, Miranda retreats to her office and wastes no time gulping down most of the coffee that is waiting there for her while standing at the window behind her desk.

She is screwed and in spite of how stupid and unforgivably inappropriate she has already been this morning, Miranda knows she's got to get rid of that little white bag right now. Right NOW. It cannot wait because if she waits, it just… Well, who knows what would happen? Either way, if Miranda does it now or waits, who knows? But between the panic, the guilt and the fire that is burning in her head all over again, Miranda's got no choice. If Andrea confronts her about the thing in the conference room, well she'll have to stand there and take it because she's guilty. Period.

"Andrea." Miranda calls out and drops her now empty Starbucks cup into the trash. It's now or never.

Andrea comes right in, like she always does. She's still a little red in the face, and it's obvious by the way Andrea looks around the room that she is trying to act like everything is as normal as it always is. And of course she's got her pencil and notepad. Miranda takes a deep breath and begins.

Pointing at the little white bag that's resting on the corner of the desk, Miranda says, "That is for you. From Caroline and Cassidy. They made them for you."

Andrea comes up to the desk and pulls the bag open further to look inside. Even though she's looking down, the smile on her lips is visible. It makes Miranda's stomach do a complete flip inside and instantly she knows she'll have to skip breakfast.

"What is this for?" Andrea asks, still smiling. Miranda's stomach does that flip thing one more time and for some insane reason she's glad her daughters made these boxes and even happier they came down with those nasty sinus infections. Andrea's smile is worth this whole mess of a morning.

Miranda's judgment, God, her entire sense of reasoning is so clouded now that she blurts out, "It's for Valentine's Day, of courses." Feelings of inappropriateness don't even exist. "The girls wanted to thank you for spending the evening with them a few months ago."

"Oh, it was nothing, really." Andrea is still smiling.

"Well, to them it wasn't 'nothing'."

Andrea's smile fades and immediately, panic of a new variety settles inside Miranda. "Tell them I said thank you." Andrea says, at a whisper. "Tell them I'd do it again. Anytime."

Before Miranda can say something stupid like 'If I had it my way, Caroline and Cassidy would have sinus infections on a regular basis.' Andrea picks up that little white bag with those little takeout boxes full of candy and goes back to her desk.

TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW!