Title: Things You Just Can't Do
Fandom: Devil Wears Prada
Rating for Whole Story: PG13 – NC17
Disclaimer: I own nothing and only earn sanity from this work.
Summary: There really are things you're not capable of doing alone…or at all. And that's okay. You've just got to figure out what to do once you realize this, especially when you realize this is true for someone else as well.
Notes: I started working on the story in the early Fall of 2013 purely for myself. You might say –isn't all this for you? But that's not completely true and you know it. BUT this is truly a gift to myself and I've had so much fun! As for getting it done—I've got a harsh taskmaster practically standing on my head and a nifty spreadsheet to thank. Oh, and I also need to thank my partner Laurie. I suppose my statement, that no one has seen this, should be amended. She's seen it and provided much in the way of fact checking. Considering she does not read fanfiction, this is a REALLY big deal for me and makes me even happier. Needless to say, I'm so proud of this story—and that's sayin' something. No one knows about it either —and that's also a big deal because I ALWAYS blab to either Gun, Peetsden or whoever about what I'm working on. This time I haven't said a word and would like to give myself a high-five. Keeping my mouth shut about a story is never easy. I hope you all enjoy this as much as I have. It's brought a lot of joy to me for quite a while.
This morning the sound of Miranda's footsteps remind her of an entire legion of Stormtroopers coming down the hall, Darth Vader at the head of the column, ready to choke someone to death with his mind alone. Andy's first inclination is to run and hide before Miranda makes it inside the office, but she doesn't move a muscle. By now Andy is well practiced in stuffing down those 'first inclinations' and able to go for the more practical and realistic choice—even if it's the more dangerous. And she's tired too, so running and hiding anywhere that doesn't involve a bed or couch to drop dead on, really requires too much effort. So, Andy stays right where she is, notepad in hand, waiting for Darth Vader…Miranda, to arrive so the day can officially start.
Sometimes Andy wonders if it would make Miranda feel better to really choke somebody, really beat the crap out of whichever ugly and incompetent creature has pissed her off at that particular moment. It might. But at the same time it's hard to visualize. While there isn't much in the world that Andy considers scarier than Miranda, she still can't quite make her mind draw up the image of Miranda kicking the shit out of someone. Not even Irv.
She's so small and fragile looking. Which isn't true at all, of course. While she is a size four and a little shorter than Andy, she's not small. And she is definitely not fragile. Miranda is bigger than life, tougher than an entire legion of Stormtroopers, scarier than Darth Vader. There is nothing she cannot do. And she sure as hell isn't scared of anything or anybody.
Take the past few months as an example. Miranda's divorce still isn't final and Stephen's being a real dumbass. Honestly, though, that's kind of the norm for Stephen. The hard part is that in the beginning (according to the Rumor Mill known as Nigel) he'd agreed everything should be quick and painless. But quick and painless soon became long and excruciating. He wants money now. He wants the house in the Hamptons now. He wants, wants, and wants.
In the middle of it all (as if this isn't bad enough) Miranda's ex-husband Greg decided to turn into a dumbass too and tried to screw with their custody agreement. Well, actually, there isn't a custody agreement. Never has been. Apparently, (according to the Rumor Mill known as Nigel) all those years ago Miranda and Greg agreed to keep everything out of court as far as the girls were concerned. They worked everything out on their own and it's been fine for about six years or so. But not anymore. When news of Miranda's separation from Stephen hit the papers, Greg felt like the girls would be better off with him. Permanently.
This means Miranda has been spending an awful lot of time in courtrooms lately, fighting to keep as much of her money as possible and fighting to keep her kids. She's been fighting Irv too, of course, and trying get back at him anyway she can think of because or once, somebody was able to force her to make a choice. A choice she never wanted to have to make. And even though Miranda was able to save her ass back there in Paris—she's going to make Irv suffer.
Throughout all this Miranda has held her head high, daring anyone with just a single glare to come and fuck with her and so far, no one else has. But that doesn't mean Miranda isn't watching and waiting. Oh, she's watching alright. Watching and planning is more like it.
The ink hardly had a chance to dry on Jacqueline's contract with JHI before Miranda started messing up shit for James. Even before then, his work had started to slip, but after Jacqueline was brought on board, it just got worse. In an effort to not crash and burn in the eyes of the entire fashion world, he quietly became Miranda's snitch.
In summary: James tells Miranda about every single move Jacqueline makes and Miranda helps James not make a complete fool out of himself when he puts something new out there for the masses to see.
But there's more to it than him tattling on Jacqueline all the time. James is tattling on Christian too, having hired him (because Miranda said so) to do what—no one's really sure because Christian is a writer, or thinks he is. Honestly, Andy doesn't know all the gossip there is to know about that whole thing because frankly, she doesn't want to. She doesn't mind hearing all about Jacqueline's latest adventures from Nigel's Rumor Mill but seriously can't be in the same room if someone's going to be uttering the name Christian Thompson. Andy would rather chat about a young Tom Riddle than Christian Thompson and that's considered sacrilege in certain circles. If you're well read at least.
The point is: Miranda is the most terrifying and unafraid person Andy has ever met and that will never change.
One thing she would like to change though is all this running around, feeling like a chicken with her head cut off. Ever since they've come back from Paris Andy has been working harder than ever before at being everywhere at once and performing more miracles in one day than Christ himself ever did on Earth. All without the aid of a time turner, mind you.
It's like Miranda just can't let her have a break. She gets to work at six (sometimes even earlier) and more often than not, doesn't step foot back inside her apartment until around one in the morning (sometimes even later). Even after that she isn't really off the clock. Miranda, Nigel, hell sometimes even Emily is likely to call her at all hours, meaning a good night's rest is something Andy has completely forgotten was possible.
And that's not all. That's not the only reason Andy is so tired that all she wants to do is crawl up under her desk and go to sleep. Nate's still around, bugging the absolute shit out of her. Ironically enough, even though they are broken up, he's moved out and Andy is at work 99% of the time—Nate still finds a way to be irritatingly present in her life. He wants to get back together. He wants Andy to move to Boston with him. He wants her to be whoever it was that she used to be. He wants, wants, and wants.
All Andy wants is for Nate, Stephen, Greg, Irv, Jacqueline, and He Who Must Not Be Named to drop dead. All Andy wants is for Miranda to be terrifying and unafraid without having to have Andy in her pocket every single minute of the day and night (or at least that's how it feels) so she can get some sleep. All Andy wants is peace and quiet and little to no drama whatsoever because her nerves are more than a little frayed at the edges.
If she could be so lucky.
"Where is my coffee? Did Emily break her leg again?" Miranda snaps at Andy as she marches in, throwing her coat and bag onto Emily's desk in the same breath.
"Emily's on her way up with it now, Miranda." Or so Andy hopes. She better be. Emily had better be on her way up with it because there will be hell to pay otherwise.
"I want my coffee now. Not when Emily thinks I should have it—but NOW."
And here we go.
Three seconds later Emily comes through the door with Miranda's coffee and they get enough work handed down to them to do in two lifetimes. But of course, Andy's is all that and more, and just looking at the list makes her want to demand a raise.
By the time Andy leaves to retrieve Miranda's lunch, she's been so busy that she's forgotten about all the people she wishes would drop dead and how tired she is and how her nerves are basically one catastrophic event away from being turned into a pile of goo. In fact, Andy's barely even thinking about the task at hand because she's busy wolfing down a very greasy and disgusting looking hotdog that tastes like heaven.
Heaven turns into Hell a mere block away from Smith & Wollensky's though. Or maybe she should say Azkaban instead of Hell because calling this experience Hell is kind of like insulting the Devil. And who is the Devil? That was hard to tell on most days. Especially today.
The last bite of her hotdog turns to ash in Andy's mouth when she sees Christian Thompson walking right toward her. In a matter of seconds what has to be an entire legion of Dementors begin to suck out her soul. Everything comes back. The hurt, the panic, the irrationality of it all and feelings of stupidity fill her up as her soul leaves. By the time he reaches her, Andy is dead inside. Which is the point, isn't it? The Dementors. They leave you alive but they take everything else.
"Well," Christian stops in front of her and grins. "If it isn't Miranda-girl."
No, no, no. She is not 'Miranda-girl'. NOT.
"Aren't you going to tell me you've missed me?" He smiles again and before Andy can move, Christian grabs her hand and kisses it.
Andy pulls her hand back and forces herself not to slap him. That won't do. Showing him her anger won't do because she can't. The entire Runway staff has all been instructed by Miranda to treat Christian Thompson with the 'upmost respect' in an effort to make him let down his guard because she intends to make him pay too.
Andy nearly spit coffee in ten different directions when she first learned of this new tactic, but calmed down soon after because there was no way in a million years Christian Thompson would ever approach her after all that had happened, would he? Well he has. He has approached and now all Andy wants to do is run as far away from him as possible. But she can't do that. Andy's got to treat Christian with the 'upmost respect' or he'll think something is wrong. Andy's got to go with the more practical and realistic choice. The more dangerous choice. For her anyway, this is the more dangerous choice.
"Uh…hi. Hi, Christian!" Andy smiles, which turns her stomach. "How have you been?"
"Oh, I've been great," he says, running a hand through his hair. "Having a lot of fun working with James."
"Ah. That's good…that's good."
While Christian grins some more and plays with his hair, he goes on and on about James and...whatever. Andy's not paying attention. Her brain has pretty much shut down so she keeps smiling and nodding, all the while praying that somebody with a really, really good patronus charm shows up. But nobody does.
"So, yeah… Would you like to accompany me tonight?"
"What? I'm sorry…what?"
"The party. At James' studio?" He studies her, obviously anxious to see what Andy will say.
If the Dementors haven't completely sucked out her soul already, the job is for sure done now. Of course, Andy knows what she should do, has to do, but can't. There is no way. If she can't even be in the same room when his name is mentioned, how in the hell is she supposed to go out with him? Seriously? How is that supposed to work?
As she keeps standing there staring at him, Andy thinks of all the crap that happened in Paris; she can't help it. Being asked to go (told to go is more like it) was bad enough but after that it was like someone kept pouring water into her little life-raft, to say nothing of poking holes in it every single day.
She'd been drowning right from the start with Miranda making her choose, then Emily and her guilt trip, then the ten thousand things Miranda needed done at once and then…Miranda. Miranda, all by herself, in a bathrobe with wet hair and a tear-stained face let the last bit of air out of Andy's raft and all sorts of ugly and terrible things happened because of it. Things that Andy doesn't like to think about. Things like Christian Thompson. Things like walking away then (thank you, God) turning around.
"I'm sorry, but I can't," Andy says and she's pretty sure she sounds like a complete bitch. "I have work until God knows when."
Christian's face goes a little pale at the mention of Runway, like he forgot where she works. "Oh, okay," he shrugs. "I guess I'll see ya around, Miranda-girl." After that he smiles, does a little half bow thing then saunters off, leaving Andy to hurry her ass to Smith & Wollensky's.
Honestly, she didn't expect him to give up so easily but is thrilled anyway and tries hard to forget any of the past five minutes even happened. Andy's soul is still in the possession of the Dementors though so everything still feels fucked up and she can't get that image of Miranda out of her head… Miranda, all by herself, in a bathrobe with wet hair and a tear-stained face that filled Andy up with so many feelings she still to this day hasn't got them all sorted. She might never; because there's no Sorting Hat around that she can put on and have everything explained. But even if there was, the Hat wouldn't help Andy with this. Whatever this is.
Andy's in and out of the restaurant in seconds then begins the journey back. She's trying hard to get herself together, wondering why things aren't coming back into place. But it's no wonder, really. She's tired. More tired than she was willing to admit this morning when she thought about bolting as Miranda marched down the hall in all her terrifying glory.
It's just that there is no time. In fact, Andy feels like any time she does get, is stolen time. Nothing is really hers anymore. Not even the time she takes to eat; that's only a basic necessity now, never for enjoyment.
Her cell phone rings when Andy is about four blocks from Elias-Clarke. The only reason she doesn't scream (and this is totally screwed up) is because it's Miranda. As she answers, part of her starts to feel normal again (which is even more screwed up), like her soul is being given back to her, like someone has come along and performed a really, really good potronus charm.
"Hello, Miranda." Andy says, fighting a stupid smile that wants to come to the surface without her permission.
"Turn around. We're behind you."
There is nothing after that. Miranda has already hung up the phone, of course, and Andy grins because that's just Miranda's way. She has no time for pleasantries, chit-chat or anything other than what is necessary. Saying 'hello' and 'goodbye' are not necessary.
The town-car is three cars back, stuck in traffic. Andy takes a deep breath before maneuvering her bag and Miranda's lunch into one hand so she can open the door, steadying herself for Miranda's bad attitude. She hates traffic. It's unnecessary.
To Andy's complete shock, the door opens from the inside. Miranda…has opened the door for her.
While she carefully gets in, trying to make sure she doesn't drop anything, Miranda reaches across the seat one more time and takes the Smith & Wollensky bag from her. Once Andy gets herself situated, she turns to Miranda.
"Thanks for the lift," she says, and instantly wants to hit herself in the head. Thanks for the lift?
For a moment Miranda says nothing and does nothing but look her up and down in the seat. Andy tries not to tense up. Lately, when Miranda inspects her it feels weird, off in some way, not at all like it used to. She can't say that she ever liked being looked over like this but somehow it always felt good to get the nod. It still feels good but there's more to it now and that's another reason why she needs a Sorting Hat to help her make sense of all this mess inside, even if it's not designed for that kind of thing. Or maybe Yoda. Maybe he could explain everything to Andy in some backward way that would only sound like a riddle. But hopefully a riddle she could understand.
Finally Miranda takes her sunglasses off and speaks. What comes out of her mouth is not only more shocking than her opening a car door, but it's the beginning of the end, basically.
"What is the matter?" She asks. "You look unwell."
Unwell? She looks unwell? Okay, Andy probably looks a little worse for wear considering she's been running around chasing down Miranda's lunch but she can't look that bad. And really, why does Miranda care?
"I…uh. I'm…I'm sorry?" Andy shrugs and gets ready to hear an insult or two. But she doesn't. She doesn't hear an insult at all. Instead, Miranda dismisses her apology entirely.
Of course she is. They are well past summer and Andy's skin tone is only a shade or two above Miranda's now.
"I feel fine," Andy says since it looks like Miranda is getting impatient for her answer.
"I dare say you do not feel fine, Andrea." Miranda rolls her eyes and stares two holes into Andy. "Honestly, you look as if you've…well, I don't know. But you look horrid. And pale. Did something happen?"
Did something happen? Oh, yeah, something happened alright. Andy's soul just got sucked out about twenty minutes ago, that's what.
"I'm serious." Miranda snaps. "What is the matter?"
From the look she's getting, Andy knows she can't get out of this and she's too damn tired to come up with any kind of excuse that Miranda might believe. Which means she's got to tell the truth. She's got to go with the choice that is far from practical and realistic. She's got to go with the truly dangerous choice.
With a sigh she says, "I ran into Christian Thompson."
"Not literally, I hope." Miranda says, with a hint of amusement in her voice.
"No. Not literally."
"Hm. I see." Miranda shifts in her seat. "What did he have to say for himself?"
Andy wants to lie. She doesn't want to tell Miranda the truth but yet again, she's too tired to come up with something that has any hope of being believable. The only people that are able to lie to Miranda and get away with it are the twins. But even Miranda probably knows she's being lied to. She just chooses to do nothing about it because they're too cute to yell at. Even Andy has softened up to them and they almost cost her a job she didn't know she wanted until the prospect of losing it hit her in the face. When they smile though, it's hard to stay mad.
Knowing she doesn't have the strength to lie, Andy says, "He said something about a party tonight. At James'. He asked me to go."
Out of the corner of her eye Andy watches Miranda's expression change. At first it's kind of odd, kind of dark but then it changes again. In fact, it changes so much it could almost be considered a smile. An evil smile.
"James has some sketches prepared for me to look over. Fetch them before you leave the party."
No, no, no. She can't. Andy cannot do that. Besides, she's already told Christian as much.
"I'm not going. I told him I couldn't." Andy blurts out.
Miranda raises an eyebrow. "Why ever not?"
"I just…I just don't want to go, Miranda."
"I see. Well, you will go, Andrea, and bring the sketches to me tomorrow morning. You will go."
Miranda shakes her head then looks out her window. All the while Andy's heart starts to beat faster and faster and those Dementors are seconds away from sucking out her soul again. At this point, Darth Vader might as well be headed straight for her too. What a perfect combination.
She cannot do this. Andy cannot do this. She can't hear his name, can't stand on the same sidewalk with him, and definitely can't go out on a date with him. She can't. She can't feel all those awful feelings and relive all those days she spent being fucked up because Andy is still fucked up somehow.
"But I'm supposed to be organizing everything for the board meeting next week." Andy points out, praying that this will work.
"No, no," Miranda looks at her and glares. "That can wait. I want you at this party, Andrea. With him. I want to see what he's been up to."
Doesn't Miranda already know? After all, that's why she made James hire Christian, isn't it?
Before she realizes what she's doing, Andy tells her flat out, "I don't want to go, Miranda."
After the words are said, she feels those Dementors really start in. They're ripping everything out so slowly and honest to God, she might pass out right here in this car. It hurts. Betraying Emily hurt. Seeing Miranda cry hurt. Feeling Miranda get closer then pull away…hurt. Jumping into bed with Christian—
Andy whips her head around. Miranda is touching her shoulder.
"I don't want to go, okay?" Andy starts fidgeting. "I really can't, Miranda. Just…just send somebody else. Please," she begs, trying to salvage whatever bits of sanity she has left at the same time because it's clear that this, this is that catastrophic event that's going to undo her completely. She cannot go out with Christian. Andy will quit before she does it. No matter if leaving tears out her soul to the point where she'll never get it back, Andy is not going to that party.
Miranda lets go of Andy's shoulder and looks out the window again. "You've had dealings with him? In the past?"
Well, duh! Andy thinks but, miraculously, holds back that part of her reply. Instead of going off, she says, "Yes, I did."
"Paris, I presume?"
And here's another 'well, duh!' moment. Miranda knows this already! Or has she forgotten? She might not know that they slept together but Miranda damn well knows that they got close enough for Andy to find out what a conniving bastard he is.
Instead of confirming what Miranda ought to know anyway, Andy begs once again for clemency. "Please, Miranda," she says, close to vomiting at the mere thought of Miranda making her chose between this party and her job. "I would do anything for you, Miranda…but not this. I can't. I won't go to that party. I can't. Please."
Andy doesn't realize what she's just said, that she'd do anything for Miranda. But even though she doesn't realize what she's allowed to come out of her mouth, it is true. She would do anything. She has done anything. In fact, through Miranda, Andy has learned that she can do anything she chooses. She has the abilities, what it takes, to make it far, very far in life. And she learned that from Miranda. But sadly enough, today Andy learns there is at least one thing she isn't capable of.
Immediately, Andy expects a threat to be made but that is not what happens. "Very well, then." Miranda takes a deep breath. "Don't go," she says. "I will make other arrangements for the sketches."
Before Andy can say anything, the car stops; they're back at Elias-Clarke and that is the last place Andy wants to be right now.
"Why don't you go across the street?" Miranda nods toward the Starbucks on the corner like she really and truly knows what Andy is thinking. "Get some coffee. Perhaps something to eat. I'm sure Emily can handle things for another thirty minutes."
Andy's too stunned to say anything at all.
Roy opens Miranda's door but before she exits, Miranda says, "I expect you to be refreshed and feeling better when you return, Andrea. That's all." Roy shuts the door behind her and by the time Andy gets out of the car, Miranda is walking up the steps.
Without sticking around to question the weirdest thing on Earth that has just happened, Andy runs across the street, right in the middle of traffic. Something makes her stop on the sidewalk though before she continues on. Andy can feel something. Something pulling at her. She turns...and it's Miranda. Standing there in the doorway of Elias-Clarke. Just looking at her.
Andy isn't sure what to do. She can tell that Miranda hasn't changed her mind about this thirty minute gift of peace, but what exactly is she doing? This is another thing Andy can't sort out and it causes her to do the dumbest thing ever.
She waves. She smiles and waves at the one person in the world who finds that kind of thing completely unnecessary. Miranda pulls down her glasses then and stares at Andy even harder. She can feel Miranda's eyes piercing her. Before turning around and going into the building, Miranda gives that little nod of approval for the second time today and leaves.
Since Andy already had a hotdog earlier, and her stomach isn't feeling all that great right now, she gets some soup and a Sprite from a deli just past Starbucks. Sitting there, looking out the window at everybody rushing by, makes Andy feel pretty lucky. She has just been given thirty more minutes to herself than she's had in who knows how long. She has just been given time to get herself together.
She has just been given a way out.