Title: Owner

Author: Brithna

Beta: Peetsden, who looked at this last year. A little has changed since then, but not too much.

Fandom: Do I really have to say it?

Rating: PG-13

Summary: The things you own end up owning you. – Tyler Durden

Note: I'm stuck at work, unable to complete some safety reports, due to someone else's fuck up, so I thought I'd clean out the closet a little. I did this last year but put it away, not entirely happy with it. Tonight (after playing with it a little) I'm surprisingly fine with it – so here you go. Enjoy. All I'll say is that something happened last year—I really hate it when certain people try to step outside of the parameters I have set for them. In the middle of being incredibly angry-this story happened and then I had a thing at work…wasn't pretty. Basically, I'm lucky to work and live with people that are really invested in the care and feeding of Laura. Otherwise this would probably happen more often.

Owner

This was ridiculous, Miranda thought as she studied the scene playing out in front of her. Starting with the setting, everything about this was ridiculous.

It was gloomy day and would probably start to rain in a few hours. For now the sun still managed to come through behind the clouds though, fading in and out, causing a silvery edge to appear. What's that saying? A silver lining? And that was supposed to be a good thing, right? Miranda had always thought so. But now she wasn't quite so positive because it only made this whole situation all the more ironic…and ridiculous. The last thing this scene resembled was a byproduct of a silver lining.

It was decidedly unclear if it was actually the wind Miranda felt against her cheeks or simply the rush of movement causing the air to whip against her. In either case, it was cold; stinging her skin, reminding her that she was awake. This day was not a dream. It was only that this particular part of this particular day was completely unscripted. Not planned. The Weather Channel had promised blue skies and no wind whatsoever. No, Miranda had not planned for this.

Over the voices calling her name, begging for her to speak, to give some scathing commentary on the day, Miranda heard the echo of Andrea's heels, setting her teeth on edge, bringing on a wave of panic.

As a rule, Miranda Priestly never panicked. Not even last night, when she was unceremoniously kicked to the curb by her husband. Not even today, this morning…when the possibility of losing everything was very likely a sure thing indeed. Not even when she betrayed her friend this afternoon by unceremoniously kicking him in the gut, saving everything, keeping what was hers and hers alone. No, Miranda never panicked. But she was now. Over this girl and the sound of her walking in the opposite direction, she was definitely panicking.

The flash of cameras and the noise of ill-mannered reporters finally hit their mark inside Miranda's head and she snapped, albeit silently. The temptation to rush through a decision was rare, but in the midst of the panic and noise, Miranda knew something had to be done. Something had to be done before Miranda lost sight of her. Something had to be done before nothing could be done. Before it was too late. Before Andrea did something horrible, like kick Miranda to the curb, or in the gut…or in the heart. Yes, something had to be done. Perhaps everything that was hers had not been saved after all.

Pushing past the loud voices and greedy arms that were reaching out for biting remarks on the state of the fashion empire, Miranda made her way forward, already pressing and holding down the number six on her cellphone.

On her way through the crowd and vehicles, Miranda could barely make out the back of Andrea's head. The girl's dark, brunette hair moved back and forth, matching the rhythm of her step. She was angry, walking fast, the sound of her heels continually bringing on wave after wave of panic. And she was not answering the phone. In fact…

Miranda stumbled for a brief moment; it seemed to last forever as the realization and even the sound of Andrea's cellphone hitting the water came through loud and clear over the noise of the fountain. And it definitely felt like a kick in the gut…or worse.

Andrea began walking again; her steps still angry, still fast. Miranda picked up her own pace, pressing the number six again out of desperation even though there was clearly no need. Andrea's phone, by now, was dead, having been swallowed up by this most impressive yet nauseating act of self-preservation. Miranda had no choice though. After all, she had to save this; the rest of everything that was hers had to be saved.

Hurrying now to close the distance between them, it dawned on Miranda that she had no plan of action or guidelines to follow. None fit this particular situation. Or at least none that Miranda knew of. Navigating professional storms had always been an easy thing, but this…this thing that was hers, this feeling, this girl was anything but a professional storm. This was personal. This was everything.

Finally, Miranda caught up with her and reached out, firmly grasping Andrea's shoulder in the first attempt to keep what was hers. It proved to be unwise, obviously startling Andrea, causing her to nearly knock Miranda down as she forcefully swung her arm back against the unknown intrusion. Miranda kept to her feet and instead of reaching out again, her mouth leapt into action, spitting the words out fast in her well-practiced, dark and icy tone.

"What, Andrea, could you possibly think you are accomplishing?"

At first, Andrea said nothing. She simply stood there with a stunned expression on her face that slowly morphed into something just as dark and icy as Miranda's tone.

"I said," Miranda repeated, glaring back at those dark eyes, "what are you trying to accomplish? Andrea, I can promise you that this will not work."

This piece of news seemed to open the girl's mouth. And to think, usually she was far more than willing to speak.

"Accomplish?" Andrea said, blowing her hair out of her face. "I think it's kind of obvious Miranda. I quit."

"Oh, Andrea," Miranda smirked and shook her head, "self-preservation does not look good on you. Not at all. You would hardly last another five minutes walking in the opposite direction. You know that."

With wide, angry eyes Andrea came back quickly with her defense. "This isn't self-preservation! It's just the right thing to do, Miranda. I don't belong in that!" She finished by waving a hand toward the building and ocean of people still waiting for more pictures and those comments they'd never received in the first place. Thankfully, security had somehow been successful at keeping them from following Miranda.

"Belonging in that, to that, isn't the issue," Miranda retorted, mentally steeling herself for what was to come. The truth. The cold, hard truth. The truth that Miranda had left out back there in the car. "The issue," she began again, "the reason this selfish and idiotic display will not work—is the simple fact that I own you, Andrea. You belong to me! I own you. In every way but one, I own you." Miranda finished with a deep breath and then took another when Andrea's eyes flashed, not in bewilderment, and certainly not in amusement, but in fury. In rage.

There were, of course, many things Andrea could have done or said after hearing such a bizarre declaration—many, many things—and Miranda, being who she was, always expected the unexpected. But, she, however, hadn't honestly expected Andrea to push back against the words, against the truth that was, to Miranda, so obvious.

"You know what? If we weren't out here, out in the open, I swear I'd smack you right in the face! I seriously would. You don't own me, Miranda! I don't belong to you! And I'm damn sure not anything like you!" Andrea declared, quite loudly but quickly lowered her voice to a forceful growl. "You're so fucking arrogant. You don't own anything, Miranda. You don't even own Runway! Look at what you had to do," she said, pointing toward the building again. "You had to stab someone in the back. You had to make a deal to keep it. People don't have to make deals like that to keep what they profess to own. And you don't control everything! Least of all, me!"

Starting off with the first sentence in Andrea's attempt to push back, Miranda pushed back all the harder, refusing to retreat or concern herself with how this conversation was going to end. It would end her way. In triumph. End of story.

"What a pity then…that we are not indoors, hm?" Miranda said, with her head held high, chin jutting out. "You could smack me, as you say, and then get over yourself. Really, Andrea. You have hit your head, haven't you? Don't you see? I've owned you since the very moment you walked into my office. You could have turned around then. For good. In fact," Miranda paused briefly; it was all just as clear, as if it had happened yesterday. "In fact, you did turn," Miranda pointed at her with a finger that might as well have been a sword, momentarily forgetting about the fact that she was the one that had sent Andrea packing after her interview. Yet, Andrea had walked away quite proudly…like there was nothing else she'd rather be doing. "You did start to leave, she continued, "but you turned back around. Right from day one, I've had control of everything. Everything you've turned yourself into. Everything you do. Time and time again, you've turned back around and you will do so again. Right here. Right now. And you know it."

By the time Miranda finished, she was only a step or two away from Andrea's face. In her own growing rage she'd come closer and closer. Closer to what she owned…in order to save it. She would never let Andrea go. The girl had been willingly purchased a long damn time ago for Christ's sake and it was simply time she realized it.

For her part, Andrea had tears in her eyes but Miranda cared nothing about reacting to them. If Andrea wanted to cry about her latest failed attempt at getting away, then so be it. Miranda would be the last person to stop her. She'd been victorious—Miranda was already certain of it—and there was no way she was going to stoop so low as to console Andrea on her way to defeat.

"Okay. Fine," Andrea raised a hand to her eyes, and then looked up at Miranda. "I'll give you that one. You're right. I have turned around. Every time. I've always come back."

"And you will do so again," Miranda firmly pointed out.

"You think so?"

"I do. And the sooner you do it, the sooner you stop this, the sooner we can get on with the day. This is ridiculous, Andrea, and I am growing tired of you testing my patience."

Andrea hung her head and sighed, clearly knowing that she was beaten. But, that didn't mean she wouldn't try one last time to push back.

"Which means I really shouldn't," she said. "The fact that you think I'll come back again…always come back, means I really, really shouldn't."

Miranda took that in and graciously decided to not push back harder with more rage or even a glare; but to just once again state the obvious. And very gently, almost at a whisper.

"But you will, Andrea. You will."

And she did.

Miranda had clearly won but somehow the victory was not as sweet as she had predicted. Somewhere, in the back of Miranda's mind something had been overlooked. The week had to progress however, which meant Miranda had no time for soul-searching; a task she hated anyway and rarely gave in to. So, without any soul-searching or further attempts at self-preservation from Andrea, the week did in fact progress.

The always numerous swarm of cameras, voices and arms reaching out with questions naturally doubled by the following day. News of Miranda being kicked to the curb by "Mr. Priestly" was fast in spreading. The tabloids ate it up, as expected, and all seemed to be fair game. On this side of the world at least, Miranda couldn't remember a time when the media had been hungrier. This meant once she landed back in New York, the hungry storm would grow, in size and strength, becoming a full-blown hurricane.

E-mails and phone calls with her PR firm were all short and to the point. They had dealt with this before after all and knew what to do. But, considering Stephen and the possibility of his becoming a fool in front of a microphone, the twins, and the physical distance between herself and New York, the thought of leaving this entire mess in the hands of others didn't sit quite well with Miranda. Something would have to be done, yet again, to save everything.

She knew in an instant what needed to happen but was hesitant at first. It would mean doing something she'd never done before. Well, at least not to this degree. Of course she'd given herself over to the media like a sacrificial lamb, often daily. Miranda was the face of an empire so it couldn't be avoided.

But for all the publicity, Miranda remained an immensely private, not to mention silent person; never giving interviews beyond short comments here and there when it just couldn't be avoided. Essentially, Miranda lived by the basic principle that Miriam Princhek had to be protected at all costs. The step she was about to take would decidedly change all that…and it would piss Barbara Walters off. The woman had asked for this very thing more times than Miranda could count.

Inwardly, Miranda was pretty well traumatized by the mere thought of what she was about to do, but knew it was the right course of action and intended to see the job done. Appearing to be as human as possible would hopefully work to dial up the sympathy factor and make everything seem less awful than it really was. And it would stop Stephen from letting his ass overload his mouth. He'd likely be dazed and confused over this gesture for months to come.

In the car, two days before their return, Miranda mentioned—rather nonchalantly—her plan to Andrea and was met with just the sort of shocked look she had expected to see from the girl. Shocked because this plan, while calculated, was hardly vicious. In fact, for lack of a better term, it was just plain nice.

Before leaving Paris, the world would hear her side of the story; a good story. A story where Miranda would admit that her failed marriage had failed specifically because of her. She would admit work overshadowed Stephen and who could blame him for eventually wanting out of such a thing? She would admit that he was actually a good man and had been a more than adequate father-figure for the girls. She would even go so far as to offer that should Stephen want it, he would have access to her children—should they want the same thing. They wouldn't. Miranda already knew this but she'd make the gesture anyway. And, she would say that she still loved him, which was true…a part of her always would but that this divorce was what was best for all parties involved.

Yes, Miranda would say many good, positive things and also humbly ask the media to respect her children and their privacy and take their cruel shots at her, instead of them.

It just so happened that several vultures from People were within easy reach; in the same hotel actually. Andrea made the calls and sat right there in corner of Miranda's hotel suite while the entire affair went on a day later.

Miranda only spoke for a few minutes about her incredibly early and quick rise through the publishing ranks, and then moved on to more personal matters; about her upbringing and the brother and sister of whom she saw very little. The public would definitely eat those little morsels up.

And then Miranda went farther and farther, digging even deeper, giving more of herself, of Miriam, away one word at a time. It seemed to go on forever.

Before calling an end to the festivities, the reporter's final question would be one that—in spite of Miranda's strict policy on "no soul-searching"—would make her think long and hard before she answered. When she finally did, Miranda looked across the room, not at the reporter, but at Andrea who was watching and listening, attentive as ever.

The question was a simple one: "Will this divorce change the way you value future relationships?"

Miranda raised an eyebrow and turned her gaze thoughtfully toward the other side of the room. Change the way she valued future relationships? Well, it already had.

While she had not necessarily thought of her ownership of Andrea as some sort of "relationship", Miranda guessed that it was by far a better—not to mention less peculiar—word for it. In all reality, there was a relationship there. Wasn't there always some sort of relationship between the owner and that which was owned? It would probably be a good idea to let Andrea know Miranda did in fact value that…their relationship. That in its self might go a long way in preventing the girl from pulling anymore stunts in the name of 'self-preservation' because obviously, just keeping her close wasn't doing the job. That, after all, was the very reason Miranda had brought her along on this trip instead of Emily: to insure that Andrea remained. And look how that turned out? Not well, obviously.

So, with that in mind Miranda swiftly decided not only to make this interview about quelling the desires of the Press and making herself appear to be an actual human-being, but about Andrea as well. After a few seconds of further contemplation, Miranda cleared her throat and very firmly put a final end to the perception that Miranda Priestly never explained anything about herself.

"First of all," she began, shifting in her chair to find a more comfortable position since this was probably going to take a while, "it's hardly believed, I know, but I do value all past and current personal relationships. Of course, I value them." The reporter looked skeptical but Miranda hardly noticed. It was Andrea's yet again shocked look she focused on. "But, I think it's painfully obvious that my talent for holding onto, or taking care of, what I value is…lacking."

She laughed absentmindedly and rolled her eyes at the memory of her father and his constant speeches about her talent for neglect. It fit this situation perfectly so she dug in even deeper, giving even more of Miriam away to the public. But it was worth it. She had to save this.

"When I got my first car, my father used to give me speech after speech about 'take care of the things you own and they'll take care of you'…he was always after me about that, always. I suppose, in some small way, that analogy applies here," Miranda shrugged. "I don't take care of my relationships, my friendships. I value them, but I fail in the end to keep hold. I take them for granted…and then, in time, they are gone. And who knows if I can change?" Miranda leaned back a little and tapped her lip with her finger tip, thinking that over for minute. For someone like Miranda, change was hard. Finding the reason to change was even harder and just seeing the need for it was like looking for a cell phone in the bottom of a churning fountain—nearly impossible. Judging by the look on Andrea's face right now, she knew that too.

"But," Miranda sighed and waved a flippant hand through the air, "I've always said—I live on hope. Hope and wishes…which, I suppose are the same thing in many respects."

As luck would have it, statements about hopes and wishes led the reporter—she happened look an awful like Emily—right into one more question. With a bright, yet stupid and childishly hopeful smile she asked, "Will you be hoping and wishing for a new Mr. Right any time soon?"

For a second Miranda was completely annoyed. It was as if this woman completely missed the reason she was here. Just before opening her mouth to throw everyone's hopes for a new "Mr. Right" down the proverbial toilet, Miranda glanced again at Andrea. She was looking rather pointedly at Miranda, waiting for an answer. And there was no childishly hopeful smile on her face; in fact her face said nothing…but there was anticipation clearly visible in her eyes. So, instead of answering the Emily look-a-like, Miranda answered her, because really—owning Andrea was all Miranda would ever need. That is, of course, if she could keep the girl from continuously running off.

"No, I don't think I will," she finally said, with a slight roll of her eyes. "In fact…I imagine I'll be tossing my wishes into something far greater and more important than any fountain named Mr. Right."

Andrea's gasp was difficult to ignore after the tiny bit of emphasis Miranda had placed on the word 'fountain'. Even the now thoroughly disappointed reporter turned to look but Andrea quickly covered it with a cough, and stared at the carpet. Miranda kept herself in order, as if she'd heard nothing at all.

After the interview was over, pictures were taken. This would only be the second time Miranda ever graced the cover of a magazine because while she was terrified of giving interviews, she absolutely loathed being photographed. And to be honest, it wasn't all that good for her self-esteem.

Miranda was anything but happy about the way she looked and never had been, even as a child. Besides, she was the one who was supposed to be scrutinizing what was acceptable. Now, some other editor would be doing the picking, choosing and touching up of her face. It would have been infinitely better if Andrea were the one undergoing the torture. She was beautiful; hardly what could be considered 'fat' and sometimes it took Miranda's breath away, to know that she owned her. Not counting her children, Andrea was ultimately the most precious and most beautiful thing Miranda possessed and she never should have made that stupid comment about her weight.

When the reporter with a never-ending list of questions, the photographer with lights that were far too bright, and the hair and make-up artists with hands that never seemed to stop reaching out had vacated her suite, Miranda, for a moment failed to notice Andrea was still in the room.

"That went okay, don't you think? I mean you…you did great."

"I should hope so," Miranda said, suddenly feeling entirely drained, finally allowing herself to truly experience the emotions of selling pieces of Miriam away to buyers that couldn't care less what her real name was. She turned to find Andrea standing right behind her. "I suppose we'll see in a few days."

"Yeah," Andrea shook her head in agreement as Miranda tried her hardest to gracefully sit down on the couch instead of throwing herself onto it due to pure exhaustion. "It'll be out next week," Andrea kept on even though Miranda had already closed her eyes. "But Penny said they'd put some of it up online. Like a preview sort of thing…"

"Good, that's good," Miranda waved a hand weakly through the air, hardly giving a damn about a preview.

"And Entertainment Tonight has agreed to air a "behind-the-scenes" promotion tomorrow night. With the…uh…footage they shot at the beginning…Miranda, are you okay?"

With another weak wave, Miranda all too casually dismissed Andrea, already forgetting about valuing what she owned. "I am perfectly well," she said, irritated, barely opening one eye. Had she not been handled enough tonight? Had she not answered enough questions? For God's sake she'd just given more of herself in the last hour than ever before and Miranda was decidedly D.O.N.E. "Don't you have work to do?" Miranda questioned her. "I'm positive everything is not ready for tomorrow. It will be a full day, you know."

"Right. I do. It isn't. But are you okay? Do you need anything?"

"Yes, Andrea," Miranda abruptly sat up straight and just like the other night she said, "Your job. That is what I need. I need you to do your job." After that Miranda laid her head back against the couch and closed her eyes again, wistfully thinking for a moment that she ought to have the girl pour her a drink. All though…a drink was about the last damn thing Miranda needed right now. How long had it been since she'd eaten? Yes, Andrea could add fetching dinner for Miranda to her job. It was a fantastic, not to mention urgently needed idea, even though Miranda wasn't sure if she had the actual stomach for it or not. And the girl was fetching; she always had been.

The door closed behind Miranda's most prized possession before she had the chance to ask Andrea for a drink or food or anything else. She was gone.

It didn't take very long at all before the now familiar feeling of panic pushed Miranda to her feet. Apparently, even though she'd won, yet again, earlier in the week…apparently, the risk of Andrea trying, yet again to push back was still too strong. And Miranda was tired of it. Too tired, especially tonight, to lie in wait for it to happen. This only meant that before she could rest, or try to eat like she knew she ought to, or anything else, Miranda would have to go save everything. Again.

Practically ripping her own hotel room door off its hinges, Miranda marched barefoot down the hall, not caring who saw her and nearly made her knuckles bleed from pounding on Andrea's door. If she was supposed to be working, then she would be working in here, wouldn't she? So why wasn't Andrea answering the door?

Perhaps not. Perhaps she was off running some unknown about errand or hidden away, gossiping with Nigel. After all, he had no idea of Miranda's late night appointment with People Magazine. No one did. It was to be a complete surprise to everyone. Including Stephen.

At the sound of the lock turning, Miranda sucked in a small breath.

"Miranda?" Andrea looked at her, clearly surprised and Miranda looked right back…clearly surprised because why, why in God's name had Miranda ever told this girl she was fat, or stupid, or incompetent, or anything else? Why?

There Andrea stood in a pale pink, worn-out and faded v-neck t-shirt and baggy, cotton lounge pants with little multi-colored teddy bears all over them. A towel was wrapped around her head; strands of wet hair could be seen trying to make their escape. Evidently, she'd just gotten out of the shower.

Miranda's heart felt like it was going to explode.

The urge to turn away from this absolutely perfect scene only lasted a few seconds because Miranda wasn't the kind to walk away. She never had been able to. Not from Andrea. Not from what she owned.

Ironically enough, that's when it finally hit her, finally the thing that had been overlooked all this time, made itself known.

Miranda never owned this girl. Not in the way she thought. Not as completely as she imagined.

It was Miranda. Yes, Miranda who was owned, having been completely and willingly purchased the very second Andrea walked out of her office, not five minutes after they first met. It wasn't until much later that Andrea sold herself for a handful of nods, a few rare smiles and one 'thank you'…and obviously not all that willingly either. Otherwise, she wouldn't be constantly trying to get away. But the fact remained that just like the first time—when Miranda made Emily chase Andrea all the way through the Elias-Clarke lobby—Miranda would somehow find a way to save everything.

Each and every time. Because this girl owned her.

Andrea's hand came up, Miranda watched as it slowly encircled her arm, still unable to say anything, still thinking about all the chances she'd given the girl when others would never have received such a thing. Miranda had created those chances and even though some of them, at the time, seemed out of reach, she knew Andrea would meet each challenge. So Miranda had done it all on purpose… Just when it was apparent Andrea was about to make her escape, Miranda provided the chances that would bring about her return.

Even Nigel, she'd told Nigel to make a "special and thorough effort" to change Andrea's mind whenever the girl decided to make a run for it. Subsequently, he changed not only Andrea's outlook on her surroundings, her work ethic…and Miranda; but her wardrobe as well.

Yes, Miranda had set that whole thing up. Far in advance, in fact. She'd just been waiting for the right opportunity to present itself.

When it finally did, when Andrea ran off in tears because of her mistake, Miranda knew without a doubt that she would head straight to Nigel and that once again everything would be saved; Andrea would not leave any time soon. And for a while, it worked. For a while…

"Miranda, what's wrong?"

Miranda just kept staring at the hand on her arm and the owner of it. Nothing would come out of her mouth. There were too many words to choose from.

"Okay, what the hell, Miranda?" Andrea shook her, panicked. Good then. It was about time she joined Miranda in those unexpected waves of terror anyway. But there was little point in continuing to stand here in a complete trance, was there?

"Nothing," Miranda said quickly, totally ignoring the fact that she'd probably been drooling for three straight minutes. But what the hell had she come down here to say in the first place? Miranda couldn't remember. Oh…she'd come down here to save everything. So, Miranda took a small breath and did just that.

"I am very tired, Andrea. Very tired…and that is all. Earlier when you asked," Miranda motioned down the hall with her head, "I'm only tired. It has been a long day."

"Okay," Andrea slowly let the word linger on for a few beats, as if she didn't believe Miranda was okay at all. "I, uh, appreciate you telling me, Miranda."

"Well, you did ask."

"Yes. I did. Miranda?"

"Yes?"

"Please don't get mad, okay, but I have to ask you one more time. Do you need anything? I mean you didn't even have dinner. I should have gotten you something. God, you never skip meals. I'm so sorry. Time just got away and-"

"No…" Miranda paused and looked down at Andrea's hand again. It was still there, gently grasping Miranda's left arm. She wondered for a brief moment if Andrea felt her shaking. Or maybe it hadn't gotten that bad yet. Or maybe it was just on the inside… "Time got away from me as well," Miranda said, trying hard to make sure everything came out calmly. "But I couldn't eat now, or earlier. The…the interview. It just…I couldn't have eaten before and I am too tired now." But she should have eaten. Long ago…even now. Hopefully, it wouldn't make much of a difference later on…or sooner. Whichever. It didn't even matter because it was happening now instead of later. The signs were all there, hitting her square in the face just like those teddy bears.

"It made you nervous? You don't like that kind of thing?"

"I do not," Miranda admitted firmly, trying again to sound calm and like she wasn't spinning out of control. "I appreciate the idea of being seen and not heard; but this had to be done."

"I guess," Andrea bit her lip and sadly, pulled her hand away. "But why? I just…I mean, I know it was hard for you. It's just that either way…"

"It is going to be hard. Either way." Miranda finished for her since it looked like Andrea was struggling between keeping her mouth shut like she ought to and letting it run freely like she wanted to. "It always is," she continued. "But doing this will, I think, humanize the situation. Or…me. However you see it."

With eyes that shown just as brightly as her smile, Andrea said, "Miranda, you're the most human person I've ever met. Which is why you probably hated every minute of what you just did."

Miranda swallowed hard as a warm, comforting sensation seemed to flood through her body. The warmth carried away the panic and if it had not been for the… Well, it was almost peaceful.

So she was human? The most human person Andrea had ever met?

Miranda wasn't sure how that was possible but already knew Andrea understood more about her than most. And this was proof. Miranda was a human, like everyone else. She was a mother. Sometimes a cook and on the rare occasion she was even a maid, picking up after two wild girls and putting the cap back on their toothpaste every single morning and night. Now and then she was a wife too. Albeit a bad one. And sometimes, sometimes she was just an emotional mess, like everyone else, like someone named Miriam Princhek.

Maybe the person Andrea understood so well was actually Miriam and not Miranda? Maybe Miranda had unknowingly given that part of herself over to the girl in their somewhat mutual transaction? And unlike giving Miriam away to the Press, giving that part of herself away to Andrea didn't seem like such a bad thing because the girl understood how much it cost. Somehow she knew the price Miriam had to pay for everything Miranda had.

"Miranda?"

Oh… "Yes. I, uh…I apologize," Miranda shook her head slightly to clear away thoughts of exhaustion, toothpaste caps, and most of all—Miriam. If she thought about Miriam for much longer she'd end up caving to that emotional, messy part of herself. Or maybe she was about to cave regardless. "You're right, Andrea," she confessed, suddenly unsure which one of her was speaking: Miranda or Miriam. "If it were possible for me to do my job behind closed doors…in my home even, I would gladly do it. My children would most certainly benefit. And a lot less people would probably be fired."

"Maybe. But they're okay. The girls will be okay."

"They are, they will be. But, as you were saying, I do not like the, uh, interviews…or the photography aspect. I am a very private person. "

After that, Miranda was more than ready to reach out and run all at the same time. She was too tired to do either but knew it would be more prudent to get away from this girl with a towel wrapped around her long wet hair; in an innocent pale, pink tee-shirt with a hundred teddy bears all over her. The girl that owned Miranda and didn't even realize it. She had to get away. Just for a little while. Just long enough to formulate some sort of plan and get some sleep. Just long enough to eat and stop this dangerous babbling…

"Goodnight, Andrea," she said sharply, trying to regain her usual cold demeanor.

Andrea sighed and looked down at the carpet with her arms folded in front of her. "'Good night, Miranda."

Miranda turned and marched away quickly. She felt Andrea's eyes on her, and after the other day on those steps, it was only fair that Andrea be the one to watch.

But Miranda just couldn't leave well enough alone. She would never be able to walk away from Andrea, knowing that she was likely hurt in some way. Not anymore. Wasn't she supposed to be taking care of what she owned? Andrea, coming away from this conversation in the same way it had started, was not the ideal way to go about improving upon Miranda's propensity for neglect.

Just as quickly as she'd turned away, Miranda turned back. She did not come closer though, but stayed where she was, mid-way between their rooms. Andrea still stood there with her arms folded across her chest, leaning against the door frame.

"Andrea?"

Hearing her name, Andrea stood straighter and tilted her head a little. "Yes, Miranda?"

Seeing her quick change in posture and the small smile that could barely be made out, Miranda allowed the corners of her mouth to turn up just a little as she swept her eyes up and down Andrea's figure for the last time tonight.

"I just wanted to say…that I do value you." Miranda stopped short for just a second as Andrea's eyes bugged out and her head tilted farther to the side; the towel nearly came undone. "And…that," Miranda was at a loss for words on just how best to describe it and not make a fool of herself so she just gestured up and down with her hand. "That your outfit, the teddy bears…they hardly do you justice but they are quite acceptable. That's all."

Before she could see the full-blown grin, or hear the pleased sigh, or turn around one more time and go back for good, Miranda hurried to her room. Once there, she leaned against the door breathing deeply, incredibly thankful that everything was saved. Again, everything was saved. But probably not for long. That fact was hard to ignore.

She had to make the girl see things her way somehow though. She had to make her see that this had never really been a one way transaction. Not in the least. And most of all…Miranda had to make Andrea see that she was in love with her. Miranda was in love with a girl in a pale pink t-shirt and teddy bears all over the place… That's exactly what this was. It was love, bought and paid for with hundreds of tiny moments spread throughout the course of nine months.

It was well past mid-night but Miranda knew he would be up. Nigel was notoriously known for issues with jet-lag, no matter how long they were gone or how stressful the trip was, he hardly slept.

Miraculously, he agreed to come to her room right away. It was probably the "Nigel, I know you absolutely hate me right now but I desperately need to see you. Now. Please." He knew exactly what that was all about. In fact, he was the only one that knew.

When he got there Miranda was laid out on the couch, unable to move and in the minutes before his arrival the ability to see straight had become a serious problem. She wasn't sure if it was just how tired she was, or the fact that all she could see in her head was a pale, pink shirt and little teddy bears, or lack of food, but she couldn't see straight.

Nigel, obviously worried, sat right down on the coffee table. Miranda looked over at him and actually grinned. She could see just well enough to tell that his t-shirt said "Bitch don't kill be vibe." How fitting.

"I promise not to kill your vibe, Nigel."

"Well, that's a comfort," he said sarcastically as he laid a hand on her forehead. "I should call Six. You don't look so great, Miranda."

Miranda waved him off but grabbed his hand to keep him close, a clear sign that she was truly losing all good sense. "Don't call her. Please. Please, don't. I was just down there. Down the hall. At her room."

"And?" He sounded completely confused.

"And nothing…it's nothing. Everything is fine now."

"Can you see?" Nigel waved a hand in front of her face; obviously he could tell something was wrong with her vision.

"Of course, Nigel," Miranda denied everything. "You are so stupid sometimes. I see perfectly fine. Pink. She has on a pink shirt. And teddy bears."

"Oh, God. This has got to be your blood sugar talking. I can't fucking believe this. You know better, Miranda."

Before Miranda could foolishly try and deny that too, Nigel disappeared. Why she wanted to deny it, she really wasn't sure but that was usually her game when it was like this. Once she realized she was in trouble and undoubtedly started freaking out, Miranda usually did a one eighty and tried to dismiss it, knowing she was in trouble the whole time. And seriously, Nigel was full of bullshit. The teddy bears had a lot to do with her current state. Yes, her blood sugar had long ago bottomed out but for Christ's sake…the girl had teddy bears all over her!

Miranda heard him rummaging around in the bathroom, digging through all her things, in search of her glucometer and candy and God knows what else. Her toiletries bag would likely never be the same again.

When he came back, Nigel placed a totally unnecessary wet washcloth on her forehead, looking out of sorts and a little angry. She'd expected it. Hadn't she? But this hadn't happened in so long; he could at least cut her a little slack. Miranda was always so careful. It was never-ending protein; everything prepared a certain way…on and on. Hypoglycemia and Miranda had been walking hand-in-hand for years and it was nothing now; unless she pulled a stunt like today and totally disregarded eating for twenty-four hours. But truly, things had been going smoothly for a long time.

"There, now what's this about pink teddy bears?"

"No…the bears weren't pink," Miranda said, completely irritated. "You're not listening. You never listen. Why don't you ever listen, Nigel?"

"Okay. Oh, and by the way, I don't hate you, Miranda. Can you do this yourself?" Nigel held up the glucometer.

"No," Miranda admitted since everything was still fuzzy. "And I'll fix everything," she continued, holding out her hand for him as he got everything ready. "That's what I do. I save everything…everything. And the bears were all sorts of colors, thank you very much. But not pink. Her shirt is pink. Pale pink, if you must know. And she's got a towel…her hair. She just got out of the shower."

"Miranda?"

"What?"

"What in the hell is the matter with you?" Nigel asked as he stuck her finger.

"That hurt!"

"Duh. Now seriously… Shit."

"What?" Miranda glared at him or tried to as he practically shoved a piece of candy in her mouth after tossing the glucometer onto the coffee table. It must be bad. "I don't want to know the number," she mumbled, chewing the piece of candy while he watched her every move.

"Fine then," he huffed and unwrapped another piece. "I won't tell you. But I am ordering you something to eat. Finish this first."

Miranda nodded and sat up, or made a game of it until he helped her a bit. Soon enough Nigel, having grown confident that she wasn't about to die or something, disappeared again only to reappear almost instantly with a soda from the bar.

"Drink this. I'm ordering something."

Miranda nodded again and drank, growing more thrilled by the second that she was feeling better. She still felt lightheaded though but it wasn't the 'crap I forgot to eat' kind of lightheadedness she was used too. No, it wasn't that at all.

"Can you see now?" Nigel asked, standing in front of her with his hands on his hips, looking bossy.

"Yes," she answered back with a sarcastic grin she knew he would hate.

"I'm serious."

Miranda rolled her eyes and patted the couch. "I'm serious. I feel better."

With a heavy sigh Nigel plopped down on the couch next to her. "You scared me. When's the last time that's happened?"

"Honestly, I can't remember. Time just got away from me today…" Indeed. And she'd given away a lot today too, pieces of herself, all in the name of trying to gain some sympathy from the Press.

"Well, I'm glad you still keep all this stuff around." He waved his hand over the coffee table where the glucometer and candy wrappers still resided.

"Me too," she sighed. "But the strips are probably expired. It's really been a long time. I'm usually so careful…"

"Mind telling what had you so busy today? I haven't seen you for most of it, granted, but I know you had time to eat in there somewhere."

"Things," Miranda mumbled, really not ready for this. Yet, she'd called him, hadn't she? And he'd come right to her room, hadn't he? Taking a deep breath, Miranda spilled the news that he would know soon enough as it was. "I did an interview today."

"With?" He looked down his nose at her with both eyebrows raised. If anyone knew how much of a private person she was, it was Nigel.

"People Magazine."

"People what!?" He exclaimed.

"People Magazine," Miranda said slowly since Nigel was obviously hard of hearing then added, "Stephen asked for a divorce several days ago."

"Well…I know about the divorce," Nigel rolled his neck and Miranda heard several vertebra pop. "Six told me the other day. Said I should be aware in case you wanted to talk or something." He finished by waving a hand in the air because he knew the very idea was ludicrous. But here they were 'talking' anyway.

Changing the subject, if only for a moment, Miranda asked him, "Why do you insist on calling her that?"

"What? Six?"

"Of course."

"Size. She was a size six when she stumbled into our wonderful abode. Surely you noticed."

Oh, she'd noticed. She'd noticed… And was honestly sad that the girl was a now a size four. Andrea still had plenty of curves though, but still. A size six did anything but look horrible on her so Miranda had never seen why a change had been warranted, but then she'd been the one to call Andrea 'fat'.

Without waiting further for an answer or further explanation about the interview, Nigel brought up the teddy bears again.

"So, she's got hideous teddy bear pajamas on, you said?

"Yes. But they are not hideous."

Nigel just looked at her and she looked at floor wishing she could shut up already. Why she suffered from 'open-mouth-insert-foot' syndrome every time the bottom fell, was a complete mystery.

To her complete shock, Nigel's only reply was, "Well, we'll look into doing a spread with cute nightwear and teddy bears thrown all over the place for February, I guess. It's horribly predictable but I suppose it will work."

"Perhaps."

"Hm…"

They sat in total silence until a knock on the door announced the arrival of her much needed meal. Nigel rose to answer it immediately, probably still afraid she would pass out if she tried to stand. Once he had everything in place he just stood there looking at her.

"I'm fine, Nigel." Miranda said as she balanced the plate on her lap and continued to sip on her soda.

"You're sure?" He asked.

"Yes. Perfectly sure."

"Well…"

Miranda could sense there was something else besides a 'goodnight' and tried not to tense up. Honestly, she didn't have the strength.

"Miranda, what were you doing…down the hall? At her room?"

She looked up at him and absolutely nothing would come out of her mouth. Nothing at all, but her silence was quite revealing. Without meaning to, by keeping her mouth shut, Miranda somehow gave more of herself away. And now he knew. In just one look, he knew.

"I'll go now," Nigel nodded and stepped backward. "Sleep well, Miranda. Don't stay up all night, okay."

"I won't…" Miranda murmured. "Thank you, Nigel."

He stopped then and turned around at the door. "It was nothing. I'm glad you called. And Miranda?"

Miranda couldn't help but inhale deeply. "Yes, Nigel?"

"Be careful."

She wasn't sure what he meant and never got a chance to ask. The door closed behind him as soon as the words left his mouth.

Be careful? And take care of what you own, right Miranda? Well she'd better. Life was about to be hellish enough without having to chase Andrea around the world at any given moment. Not that she wouldn't do it anyway, of course. Of course she would… Miranda would always drop everything, to save everything.

That's just what you do when you're owned by a girl who wears pale pink, worn-out and faded v-neck t-shirts and baggy, cotton lounge pants with little multi-colored teddy bears all over them.

THE END