Title: Growing Pains

Author: Ellie Writes

Disclaimer: I own nothing to do with the Devil Wears Prada. Well, I do own a copy of the book, and the dvd but that's all.

Thanks - To Jeep. You rock - you stepped up to save my a$$ in case I failed at making this deadline, and for that and many other things I thank you. Look - I finished. I'm not happy with the results per say but at least this story can finally be put to bed.

To my readers - well - here goes:

"Miranda, I have Patrick for you," she heard as she was pulled from a rather pleasant daydream. This it seems had been happening more and more recently. The Editor would find herself staring aimlessly out of her office window, into the expanses of Manhattan contemplating previous interactions with a certain doe eyed brunette who was currently summoning her. Where did the time go? It was almost three in the afternoon and Miranda had just a few more Runway problems to address before wrapping up the work week and heading out for a special evening with her girls. She quickly reprimanded herself for wasting time on such a distraction, and grabbed the phone mentally preparing for whatever she may hear.

After several minutes on the phone with Patrick, Miranda begrudgingly acknowledged that she had to appear on site at a photo shoot on this Friday afternoon to avert disaster. Nigel was taking a week vacation with his latest fling, and Jocelyn and Patrick were scrambling to make up for a problem with some of the models who were currently staging a small protest over something in their contracts. Jocelyn didn't dare call the Editor in Chief, and instead begged that from Patrick who all but insisted on Miranda's presence to clear up the issues. Miranda considered sending threats of something like death or at least professional death through the phone to be passed to onto these models, but the perfectionist in her demanded she address the issue in person to ensure that the magazine would not suffer from the actions of these fools. She was considering therapy for the repercussions that stemmed from her lifelong motto of, "if you want something done right, do it yourself." She was a control freak and knew it, but that's why Runway was number one and would remain that way as long as she was steering the ship.

This evening though Miranda's other priorities would make themselves known. The girls were having several of their friends as guests to a once a year event. They had a luxury suite awaiting them for PBR, Professional Bull Riding at Madison Square Garden, which only came to New York one time per season. The girls had recently developed crushes on one particular bull rider, as well as several of the bulls it seemed. They had insisted their mother print tee shirts specifically for the event so every girl in attendance would wear the shirt featuring their favorite bull.

Andrea had of course arranged all of this, and she and the girls had spent what seemed to be endless hours ensuring that every detail would be fulfilled right down to the type of soda's that would be served. Several times Miranda had caught the girls bombarding Andrea as soon as she set foot into the townhouse during her nightly book deliveries, and somehow recently they had started dragging the girl into the kitchen for brainstorming sessions before going to bed. She recalled the argument from just a few nights before when the three girls ganged up against her with the menu choices. Miranda finally gave in as the three pleaded their case. It must have been due to the shock of how Andrea had seemingly grown so comfortable with her small family unit, thus she decided this once to overlook the fact that her children were overindulging on chemical sugar bombs and was quickly smothered in twin hugs and screams. Andrea looked on with a curious smile and reminded her that the girls ordered specific agave flavored beverages instead of those that normal children drank with actual corn syrup so they would live to see another day. Miranda met her smile with a glare but Andrea could only shake her head until the glare was replaced by a roll of the eyes and a smirk. In fact Miranda secretly listened in on the conversation and could not help but laugh the following day while Andrea argued with Management at the Garden, who declared the Agave Soda's violated their beverage contract. Once again Andrea won another argument, and the MSG representative gave up. The girls would have their organic sodas awaiting them in the suite as promised. It seemed nobody could escape the whims of that girl.

"Andrea, I'm leaving," Miranda said as she popped her head through the door, failing to acknowledge the new second assistant whom she still referred to as Emily. "I will not return to the office before meeting Roy and the girls, so you may leave as well and deliver the book in the morning. Is everything in order for this evening?" Andy ignored Miranda for a moment looking fixedly at the girl, Robyn, until she jumped out of her seat to fetch Miranda's coat and bag from the closet. Andy quickly turned her head back to Miranda. The smug expression on Andrea's face sent a shiver of something foreign through Miranda, as she smiled in approval watching the intimidated second assistant running in fear not of her own disapproval but of Andrea's. "Of course, Miranda. I confirmed everything twice, and your passes are waiting at the entrance. Have a wonderful time tonight. I know the girls are so looking forward to it," she said with enthusiasm and belief in her statement. Miranda could not help but be warmed by Andrea's words, thinking for a moment how she was in fact excited for this crazy event, and turned back to her desk to wrap up for the weekend before departing. Just when had this girl grown so bold, she wondered while attempting to suppress the nervous flutters that came every time Andrea was near.

It was nearing 6:30pm, and Miranda had yet to make it out of Harlem, where this photo shoot was taking place in a Jazz Club. The shoot should not have run nearly this late. In addition to dealing with the models, Mirada was also fighting back the Club Manager who was desperate to clear out the Runway Crew and open his doors to the public for the evening. After a few choice words thrown his direction he bowed his head and walked away in a huff, and the shoot continued. Miranda noted the time and placed several desperate phone calls, the last of which was to her first assistant.

After half a ring she was relieved when Andrea picked up the phone. "Miranda," she heard with a question, hearing Andrea's friends in the background teasing her. She sighed at once again having to take away Andrea's personal time which she had so little of, but she needed this and there was no one else she trusted. "Andrea, I am just leaving Harlem, and with traffic I will not be in time to meet the girls at the entrance. I spoke with Kara who is already on a bus to Vermont, and the girls are en route now with Roy. Where are you," she asked just hoping Andrea was close to the venue. "Miranda, I'm right near Times Square. I'm one stop away and can be there in 15 minutes. They'll be in good hands until you get there."

Miranda let out the breath she was holding, and knew that if there was any substitute that the girls would accept for their mother for at least part of the evening that would be Andrea. They had come to rely on her as much as Miranda had, and not just to do their homework. Instead she had become a friend, and a mentor, and someone who they trusted, and in their life those people were few and far between. She remembered she was still holding the phone as she walked out onto the street to find her driver. "Thank you, Andrea. I will see you shortly."

Miranda walked into the Townhouse as it was nearing two am. The past few hours were almost a blur, and a small headache was coming on from the stress of the evening. The one saving grace of the night was that she had been bold enough to ask Andrea to remain with them at the Garden after she made her late arrival. Images of Andrea and the girls shrieking with excitement watching the terrifying bulls launching grown men into the air now played through her mind and she couldn't help but admit she had loved every minute of it. Then it all went wrong.

Cassidy and Caroline were entertaining four friends, and Miranda had noticed immediately upon entering the Luxury Suite that one of those friends did not look well. As the evening progressed, so did her illness until finally the girl was writhing in pain and no option was left but to cut her night short with a trip to the emergency room. Andrea had been hard at work trying to reach the girl's parents, but as their daughter was supposed to be on a sleepover they had left town to spend the night in Connecticut with friends. They finally arrived at the hospital at eleven, just in time to see their daughter into surgery for her Appendix. Miranda waited until the surgery was over before leaving the twin's friend in the sole care of her own family.

Now she was back in the Townhouse, where Andrea and the girls had returned earlier. They had remained at the Garden to watch the end of the Bull Riding, and stay for a meet and greet with the Bull Riders and the Bulls after the show. Miranda did not want to deny them this opportunity, and Andrea of course was more than willing to stay and take care of everything. Miranda sighed at just how much she relied on this woman now, and how much comfort having Andrea in her life brought her. In fact she could not help but feel a twinge of excitement knowing now Andrea was somewhere in this house waiting for her.

Miranda had texted that Andrea should take a spare bedroom, not knowing what time she would make it back to the townhouse. She was now curious to check and see just where she had ended up, and make sure of course that everyone was safe and sound. She made her way upstairs after depositing her coat and bag at the door, and one by one opened doors to check on her guests.

Cassidy was sleeping in her bed with one of her friends, and across the hall Caroline was in her own bed with two small girls in sleeping bags on the floor. They all looked peaceful enough, and Miranda was in fact surprised that they had actually fallen asleep. They must have been worn out after all of the screaming and cheering, and for that Miranda was thankful. Miranda continued further down the hall and noticed that the next guestroom door was cracked open. Obviously Andrea sacrificed her privacy for the sake of concern over the welfare of the children. Miranda could not help herself but to risk a peek to check on her older guest. She questioned the motivation for her actions, but justified it by thinking she was simply making sure everyone was comfortable.

The light from the hallway illuminated Andrea's figure sprawled in the middle of the bed, her long brown hair splayed over the white pillow beneath her. Miranda froze upon seeing the beauty in front of her. She was suddenly drowning, unable to tear her eyes away from the site in front of her, and was overcome with an unfamiliar longing. The girl was wearing a tee shirt, probably one from Caroline's collection the top of which was showing out from under the comforter, which had been pulled backwards halfway down her torso. Miranda could suddenly imagine herself sliding right into the space between the girl and the edge of the bed. Her imagination took her, and she was overwhelmed by a fierce desire to be able to touch the beautiful creature on display before her. The feeling was so foreign and so wrong that it needed to be suppressed. It took every bit of Miranda's carefully practiced will power to turn away, and close the door behind her as she exited.

The next morning was more of the same. The girls awoke early, even before Miranda, and of course before Andrea who was ripped from her bed by five girls eager for more of her attention and approval. Apparently Cassidy and Caroline realized how "cool" Andrea in fact was during the course of the past six months or so, and noted that their friends were impressed with their relationship with her. Now Andrea had no chance but to submit to their wishes, and she was promptly dragged down to the kitchen.

Hearing the commotion, Miranda was not far behind. When she spotted a half awake, bedraggled Andrea running around to pour juice the butterflies returned and she paused in the doorway as her heart skipped a beat. When the girls turned to acknowledge her presence she struggled to snap out of it, and covering for her actions she began to laugh. When Andrea finally looked up shocked at seeing the lighthearted version of Miranda, she shook her head, beamed a smile, and laughed as well. The girls resumed their loud chatting in the background, and Andrea walked to Miranda with the bottle of juice in hand and with a challenging look stated very clearly, "I put the coffee on. You make the pancakes." Miranda lingered there pleasantly stunned by this very different version of her assistant, and with a small nod answered, "yes, Andrea."

Months later…

"Six, what are you still doing here," Nigel asked spotting Andy in one of the conference rooms at 11pm on a Friday with her head down surrounded by papers. He had just returned to the office to pick up his laptop which he had left in error several hours before, and was shocked to see anyone in the office. Come to think of it though last weekend when he stopped in Andy was there as well. His friend looked truly worn out and stressed, of late that seemed a common occurrence.

"I just had to finish up a few things, before Miranda sees them on Monday. Natasha and Jane neglected to finish their edits on this month's Guides and I wanted Miranda to have a preview of that and everything else that's scheduled. I guess the time just got away from me."

"Well darling, when I joked with you about being ready for a promotion when your personal life went to hell, I didn't think you would take those words to heart. You're young. Go, have a life already." As he said this he remembered it seemed that for the past month Six had become his shadow when she was not around Miranda. First he found it endearing that she wanted to learn from him, and was embracing the world of fashion, but lately she had become intense and almost demanding of an understanding of it all. The lighthearted girl that he knew was taking on a new persona, and he felt as if he had forcefully slow her down from this self-imposed overload.

Andy shook her head at went back to organizing papers in the folder in front of her. "Okay thanks Nigel, I'll remember," and with that Nigel sighed as Andy was clearly brushing him off. Something was going on with her and it pained him to see that the light in her eye was slowly fading. He suspected that if he were to stop in again on Saturday, he would find her in exactly the same place.

That Sunday Nigel shared brunch with Miranda and the girls. They tried to see each other socially once a month, and ever since the Paris debacle their relationship had somehow strengthened. While the girls ordered French toast, Miranda and Nigel both had Omelets, carefully avoiding carbs. Nigel could not help but bring up work, despite their agreements not to.

"Miranda, I stopped at Runway Friday evening only to find your first assistant still there. It was nearing Midnight, Miranda. Have you noticed anything odd with her recently?" At the mention of Andrea, Miranda's eyes popped up to meet his. Nigel was briefly surprised by the eagerness Miranda was exhibiting for any piece of news of Andrea's name but she then realized her mistake and adjusted her expression to her typical air of boredom. She had in fact noticed that Andrea's demeanor had changed over the course of the past month or so, but did not want to cross any lines asking questions, as those lines had become so grey already in her own mind.

"She is a hard worker, Nigel." When the words left Miranda's mouth she realized what an understatement that was. Recently Andrea was doing her job, and the job of several others on the staff as well, including even her own. Andrea filtered away half of the problems before they reached the Editor in Chief, and when Miranda stopped to consider it, that was quite the task.

"Yes, but Miranda something is going on with her. When she is not with you she is with me, and it seems she must have time for nothing else at this point besides work. Since when did she take such an interest in fashion? I expected that as she's almost hitting her two year deadline she would be halfway out the door by now, at least mentally if not physically. Have you any idea where you will send her?"

Miranda froze at Nigel's reminder of the timeline, and as the girls heard the last part of the conversation Caroline chimed in her two cents. "Mom, Andy's leaving? You can't let her leave. That's totally not cool." Cassidy got into the mix as well. "No way mom she's the first assistant that we've ever liked. And the first one who has ever liked us. You have to get her to stay." Miranda's stomach was doing flips, and any further attempts at eating during this meal would be abandoned. She had to respond.

"Girls, Nigel's right. Andrea's tenure as my assistant is almost up, and when she leaves us we will wish her well because that is what she deserves." Nigel glanced at Miranda able to recognize the look of hurt in her eyes, as she argued with her daughters that this was simply the way of things at Runway. Nigel was aware that his Six had bonded with the girls, and would all but physically attack anyone who had any nasty thought about the two girls she had taken under her wing. Nicknames of old such as the "twin terrors" or "devil's spawn" were no longer acceptable within 100 feet of Andy. In that way she was equally as feared as Miranda, and Nigel laughed to himself at how the awkward girl who entered their offices two years ago had become such a force of nature.

As brunch continued the children took over leading the conversation telling Nigel about their most recent accomplishments and activities, while Miranda feigned interest, deep in thought with other concerns. She had not realized just how quickly time had passed, and how she would shortly undergo an upheaval in her inner sanctum. For once in her professional career everything was simple. The chaos that had become the norm in her professional life had at some point subsided, and the incompetency that she normally found to her left and right were now hidden from her. It seems that without even noticing, Andrea had made these things disappear and Miranda could focus on the important issues at hand. Now she would leave and the chaos would resume, and Miranda would be left to fend off the idiots herself. She shuddered at the thought, but knew that the loss she felt when Andrea was no longer an arm's length away would be significant. She shook her head hoping the other table guests did not notice when she admitted to herself that it was not only her professional life that would suffer. The sinking feeling in her stomach at the thought of Andrea so far away was confirmation.

It was odd, Miranda thought that she hardly saw or spoke to Andrea this past week. They had achieved a level of comfort with one another over the past two years that seemed to have vanished recently. Andrea hardly spent any time at the townhouse these days, and the girls who had grown used to her presence were also noticing a change. Andrea had become almost elusive, despite the fact that she still managed to fulfill every requirement, request, and whim of Miranda. It was almost as if she had taken to avoiding the Editor, while continuing to perform her duties, and frankly those of half the staff to a level of perfection. It seemed every time Miranda attempted to have a conversation with the girl, she was off and running somewhere. Even now she was sitting at her desk but had distanced herself. She still did the job with a smile, but Miranda had to note as well that Andrea's spark that normally exuded from the girl was all but non-existent.

It was time for Miranda to pin her down. It was Thursday, and Miranda decided that it was time for them to have a long overdue discussion regarding Andrea's career possibilities. She dreaded every thought of Andrea leaving her, but she had to do what was best for Andrea because of all people she deserved better. Andrea would go far, and Miranda wanted to do her part to make it all happen for her. The girls would be devastated. Miranda would be devastated as well but she was used to it. Andrea of all people deserved to be happy and that was what mattered. If Miranda could not have Andrea in her life, she would make sure to give Andrea the Launchpad she deserved to have a successful and fulfilling career. She would have to survive on that thought alone, knowing that she had in some way taken care of this girl. If that was all she had then it would have to be enough.

"Andrea," Miranda called from her inner sanctum. The girl came running with a pad and pen as per her usual, giving Miranda an expectant look. "Close the door and have a seat."

Miranda watched as Andrea contemplated her escape route. It was almost as if she could see the wheels turning in Andrea's head, and this made her even more curious as to why the girl was suddenly so uncomfortable around her. Miranda thought for sure they had gotten past that more than a year ago. She had to start somewhere, took a steadying breath and finding her editor's persona found her most professional voice devoid of emotion and began with the obvious.

"You have given me almost two years of your time Andrea, and I must say you of all people have surprised me. You came into my office two years ago a young scared girl, and you have grown into the mature professional I see before me now. You must know how highly I value your work, and it is time for you to be rewarded in kind. Have you considered where you wish to go next Andrea?" Miranda forced the words out of her mouth feeling almost sick with emotion. There should be no next and that Andrea should remain by her side.

The girl in front of her did not look pleased as Miranda had expected, but rather flustered instead. Her eyes were looking down at her hands, and by the time she looked up they were filled with unshed tears.

"Miranda, I would like to stay with Runway. You may not think that my fashion sense is up to par, but I learn more every day and I know I can add value. The past few months I have made it a priority to shadow Nigel and Jocelyn as much as possible, and my knowledge of designers, fabrics, and style increases daily. I'd like you to give me a chance to prove that to you. I'd like to write but remain a part of this world - your world. I am ready for the challenge." She looked at Miranda with pleading eyes, and Miranda looked back at this young woman with some semblance of confusion, and budding anger.

"Andrea, by now I would think you have realized I do not wish for you to tell me what you think I would like to hear. I was under the impression you wanted to be a reporter. That fashion was merely a stepping stone towards your ultimate goal. While I am certain you would work hard, and find success here I'm not certain I believe that this is where your heart is. What has driven the change?" Miranda truly wanted to know now, and Andrea was appearing less and less comfortable by the minute. "Miranda let me stay and I will show you that fashion are where I want to be. I've learned so much from you, and Nigel, and Jocelyn. This is where I want to be." Andrea could hardly look Miranda in the eye, and something was clearly off.

"Andrea, by the end of next week I would like to see a short list from you of publications you would consider worthy of having you. I will take your words into consideration. That's all." Miranda felt a twinge of guilt sending Andrea off like that, and she watched the girl flee towards the bathrooms after a short nod in her direction. She watched Andrea return more than fifteen minutes later looking significantly less composed than normal.

By the end of the day Miranda realized she had spent far too much time analyzing Andrea. Rather than exhibiting her normal cheery disposition, Andrea appeared nervous, and defeated. Every time Miranda caught her eye she would look away, while months ago Miranda would have received a smile, with a hint of smugness peeking through. Against her better judgment she made a spur of the moment decision she wished she could take back once the words were out of her mouth. With both assistants listening in she announced, "Andrea, you will deliver the book tonight." Within five minutes she was out the door and down the elevator heading to meet Roy. She knew that a conversation was in order, and that this evening a line would be crossed. Something was wrong with Andrea, and she cared too much to leave it be.

Three weeks later Emily, Serena, Jocelyn, Nigel, and several other of Andy's closest friends from Runway surrounded her at her official going away celebration. Nigel had organized the get together, just simple drinks at their local hangout, to send his little "Six" into the great beyond on the evening of her second to last day at Runway. Her attitude had reverted back to her normal self thankfully, and he could see that while she appeared somewhat nervous about starting her new job, she was also clearly filled with the hope and joy that so often emanated from this girl. It was contagious, and he couldn't help but to be happy again just being in her presence. While he knew people grew apart when they were no longer colleagues, he truly wished that their relationship would continue as he felt pride watching her succeed knowing he had some hand in it.

She assured him of course that he would never be forgotten, and in addition reminded him that she no longer had access to the closet and now that this fashion thing had caught on with her she would undoubtedly be found outside his door begging for handouts frequently. She was starting at MSNBC in a few short days as part of their digital writing staff, and while Miranda had helped her negotiate quite a decent starting salary she would hardly be able to afford the wardrobe that she had used on a free lease over the past two years.

The night carried on late into the morning hours and each of them knew it would be a very long Friday in the office. Emily and Jocelyn told stories of their horror stricken minds at learning that Miranda hired Andy, and they had to admit that she had come a long way fashion wise. Everyone knew that she was a star at her job. After the first month that had never been a question. With hugs and a few tears mostly from Andy they said their goodbyes, out of the watchful eye of Miranda. They knew Miranda would be upset that Andrea was leaving them, and fearing that anger could be easily misdirected their direction, they decided to lay low on Andy's final day in the office.

Andy's last day at Runway was somewhat uneventful. There was a new Second Assistant in place and now she would pass the reins of first assistant to Robyn who was fully briefed on every detail of her job requirements. Andy had spent the past two weeks compiling binders of critical information hoping that Miranda would have a rather seamless transition during her departure. She was saddened by the thought of leaving, but knew that her future lay ahead of her and that future did not include working at Runway.

Miranda had all but avoided Andrea during her last week in the office. Robyn had assumed most of Andrea's duties anyway, and so Andrea focused on tying up loose ends. Finally around four o'clock that Friday, Andy's last day at Runway she was sent home. Miranda simply ushered her into her office, thanked her for her hard work and dedication, took her work phone and key to the townhouse, and wished her well in her future career. As Robyn listened in the background she was somewhat surprised that Miranda was so blasé about all of it, but then realized it made sense that Miranda did not get attached to any of her assistants. There was a revolving door, and her time would come as well.

Andy walked around the office wishing a goodbye to everyone, and finally she was gone. Nigel walked her to the elevator, and passed Miranda along the way who imparted a quick, "Goodbye, Andrea," along the way. Even Nigel was confused, and surprised at how Miranda could remain so detached. He was sad to see Andy go, and realized that his Six was sad as well and he had to say something. As he pressed the button to summon an elevator he paused and looked at Andrea. "Andy, don't think for a second that she's not going to miss you. She just can't tell you."

Andy sighed and her smile faded. "It's okay Nigel, I know how it is. I'm just amazed that I survived after all this time, and now I'm doing what I came to New York for." Both quiet for a moment Andy turned towards Nigel. "Nigel, I just have to say thank you. Without your help I never would have made it. You took a stubborn child, opened her eyes, and laid the path to success down in front of her. Please know that I am forever grateful to you for being my first true mentor." He looked up at her with his hand on his chest Andy could tell he was a bit choked up. With that Andy couldn't help herself but she hugged Nigel, kissed his cheek, and almost managed to hold back tears until one finally fell and she quickly wiped it away. He held her hand and ushered her into the waiting elevator. "Six, you are my Swan and I am like a proud gay uncle. Now go save the world like we all know you will."

Andy left the Elias Clarke building, with her personal belongings in a big Mark Jacobs bag that she hadn't carried in some time now. As Miranda was not one for clutter, the personal belongings consisted of only a few family photos that had been hidden in her desk, and a few other items that she had received that Miranda had tossed aside. Her emotions were in check, despite the odd desire to shed another tear or two, but she lifted her chin, and reminded herself that this was just the beginning of bigger and better. Deciding that today she should treat herself, she stood on the side of the street to hail a cab but was met quickly by Roy who pulled up before her. Andy could only shake her head in laughter, smile, and look upwards towards the Runway offices to silently thank Miranda for her parting gift. If the past few years had taught her anything, it was that Miranda was always one step ahead of everybody, and loved a good surprise as much as the next person. Apparently today that included ensuring that Andy did in fact have a proper sendoff.

Roy pulled away from the curve, and after two minutes of driving received a text message that changed his destination. Within three minutes of backtracking while Andy questioned Roy with no response besides a knowing smile, the car stopped on the backside of the Runway building and Miranda slipped in beside Andy. As the car pulled away from the curb Andy could only look up at her new travel companion and ask, "change of plans," as Miranda slid over towards her. She was trying to keep it light but the older and very perceptive editor pursed her lips and pulled the younger woman's face towards hers to impart a very chaste kiss, pulling back to assess the look in Andrea's eyes, but holding onto her forearms.

"Andrea, I had hoped our discussion this morning set your mind at ease, but now I see it did not." Andy shook her head as the outpouring of emotion began, and Miranda took Andy's hand in hers while wiping errant tears from Andy's face with the other.

"I am okay Miranda, or I will be. I feel so silly - I'm sorry. I just, I'm not good at goodbyes." Miranda would not accept the answer, and checking to make sure Roy didn't seem too interested in their conversation she stroked Andy's hair.

"Andrea, you're still scared." She paused, not waiting for an actual answer to what was more of a statement instead of a question, but noted the hopeful pleading in Andrea's doe eyes for some type of strength that the Editor could share with her. She continued, "That's okay. I will admit you are not the only one feeling a bit lost today. I was compelled to follow you out the door after watching you leave." Miranda had to shake her head at how far gone she was after so short of a time. "But this," she said as she squeezed Andy's hand in hers, "this is just the beginning. That I promise you."

Andy's tears continued to fall but she did her best to smile as she pulled the editor towards her. The rest of the ride was silent as the two women found better ways to occupy the time besides talking. The car slowed, then finally stopped, but only after Roy cleared his throat before opening his door did the two women separate. Miranda laughed inwardly when she reluctantly pulled away from Andrea. Feelings like the ones she had now were completely foreign to her over her fifty years, and she simply could not get enough of the other woman. She nodded her head with a knowing smirk towards Andrea to follow and they made their way up the stairs into the Townhouse hand in hand.

After setting foot through the door Andy and Miranda were attacked by two twelve year olds and rather large dog, all insisting on some level of attention. The girls noticed the heavy demeanor of the two women and did their best to liven the atmosphere asking about their acting skills and their formal goodbye in the office, already having acknowledged earlier in the day that this day was special. Miranda attempting to gain control of the situation began to recount to the girls, her version of the uneventful send off. Andy, charmed by Miranda's story of her subterfuge looked down with a smile to note their still joined hands and was reminded of how this all began in this very spot only three weeks before. Her mind wandered...

Andy had entered the Townhouse, miserably failing in her attempt at Ninja like silence, while hoping to avoid any confrontation with the Editor in Chief. She knew that Miranda would once again try to corner her and demand answers that Andy simply did not possess.

The past month had been horrible. Andy hardly ate, hardly slept, and was overwhelmed by emotions she could not understand but knew were partially motivated by fear. Typically a confident person, she did not imagine that leaving Runway should scare her so, yet it did. She hardly dared question why, knowing that a career in fashion was never something she had aspired to. That it seemed had changed. Tonight she would prove to Miranda that she deserved to stay, because otherwise she would need to seek out some serious therapy but for what she had no idea. Job addiction?

"Andrea," she heard and without thinking proceeded to walk towards Miranda's study, channeling Emily in her mental chants, reminding herself to stay calm. "Other direction, Andrea," she heard and changed course towards the kitchen. She gripped the book and took steadying breaths, desperate to reenergize her own inner negotiator, who would be put to the test this evening. Any charisma and charm Andy possessed in her armory was quickly destroyed upon laying eyes on Miranda, sitting on a kitchen stool flipping through a copy of Vogue while sipping white wine. She looked so at home and content and it was a wonder. The bottle and a second glass lay before her, and Andy forced her body to continue its journey forward despite the urge to take in the view.

Still after all this time the sight of a human version of Miranda sent a surge of feeling that came in like a wrecking ball, and devastated all of Andy's brain power. She took in the scene before her and tried to focus. The change of venue was tactical on Miranda's part, and Andrea knew immediately that Miranda planned to get what she wanted this evening, as she always did. While covering the short distance to the nearest stool Andy rediscovered her gumption and took a seat.

To the shock of the woman next to her after setting the book down Andy grabbed the bottle of white from in front of Miranda, gave herself a generous pour, and proceeded to down the glass without even acknowledging the editor's presence. Taking a cleansing breath, she poured herself a second, this time reading the label on the bottle, then turning to find a stunned Miranda with a look on her face she had never seen before. Maybe just maybe this had evened the playing field. She laughed inwardly at her bold assumption. No playing field that Miranda was on would ever be equal. She wouldn't step on it if that were the case. Her best option was to fall back on her Runway tactics. She would smile and wait for the interrogation to begin.

Within seconds, Andy as at a complete loss for words, and she suspected this could become a regular dilemma. Given her dreams at becoming a writer, this inability to form coherent sentences could in fact pose a real problem. But when she turned towards Miranda and Miranda pulled her in for a kiss, her brain, as well as her heart may have been permanently altered.

Andy, stunned by the action failed to respond, but when the older woman began to retreat Andy's brain synapsis fired and she attacked. She poured a year's worth of pent up emotion into the kiss, and immediately connected all of the dots that had confounded her for months now. This was what she wanted. This was what she had to have. Allowing her body to catch up with her brain she reached for Miranda's waist, pulling them both from the stools to connect their bodies for the first time, eliciting a moan from Miranda that Andy felt in every one of her nerve endings. She had never felt this before, and the pleasurable longing and desire ripping through her veins was heavenly torture.

"Miranda," Andy whispered as she moved her hand higher to stroke through Miranda's iconic hair, their eyes meeting, mirrors of one another with wonder and desire. She pulled the woman in again and resuming her attack.

To Andy's dismay Miranda took over once again and slowed their pace, taming the fire that built between them. With two handfuls of Andy's hair she guided the women into a series of short kisses that completely changed the atmosphere. Miranda pulled back to look at her, wiping a tear from Andy's face. Andy took in the beauty that was Miranda and a smile that was reserved exclusively for this moment. She was speechless.

"I had hoped," Miranda said, pulling Andy back into a tender kiss before returning them both to their seats, forcing herself to let go of the girl as decisions needed to be made. "But I hardly expected this of myself, and it was not what I intended when I invited you here this evening."

Andy fought to stay silent while she processed the events of the past few minutes, afraid to ruin whatever this may be before understanding the situation further.

"You are the one person, Andrea, who throws me off balance," she paused to note Andy's smile at that statement, "and I cannot say I find that…unappealing." Pulling back a step Miranda stiffened, her professional demeanor appearing once again. "I had not intended for more than a discussion, but I am not sorry for what just happened. While it was impulsive, it was also – eye opening – for myself at least." Miranda was ever one for the understatement, and looked at Andy who quelled her fears with a slight nod of agreement, and Miranda continued.

"I've watched you Andrea. I've watched over past few months, struggling. I struggled as well you may already know, as you seem to read me better than most. But I would like to know why."

Andy watched Miranda with new eyes, catching up with this version of truth she had managed to disregard for some time now. Her stomach did somersaults as she performed an expeditious self-analysis before speaking. It was not Runway. It was not fashion. It was not a magazine at the center of her world, but the woman behind it all. It was the formidable woman who sat before her now who she could not bear to leave. The woman who ran an empire and was the queen of the fashion world, cold as ice in the public eye, who Andy had fallen in love with when she looked behind the curtain. This mother of two who looked at her now with hope in her eyes, hidden behind the iron curtain but Andy could see in. She could see the vulnerability in the women in front of her who awaited her fate. Miranda had levelled the playing field, and given Andy the power to beat her. But Andy had no intention of beating her. She intended to join her team, and in fact she already had long ago but needed to confirm it for Miranda, because together they would be the undefeatable winners.

Andy stood once again harvesting confidence from Miranda's physical confession, to take Miranda's hands in hers. The editor pulled back at first but Andy persisted and grabbed hold. She waited for Miranda gaze to meet hers, and began. "Miranda, I didn't know." Miranda looked to the side for a moment, acknowledging her insecurity, but Andy guided it back with her fingertips. Andy put all of her effort into conveying her sincerity through her expression while speaking. "But I know now Miranda, and it's so very clear to me. I was terrified to leave you. It was you all along. And the idea of leaving your side was tearing me apart, but I didn't understand why until now."

Talks of taking it slowly were brief that evening, and tossed aside after mere minutes. Andy recalled the first, and second, and third times that evening, and then the next morning before riding to work together, taking a long detour with Miranda by her side to pick up clothing from her apartment. Even more surprising was when Miranda followed her up three flights of stairs, and after a short commentary about the state of her clutter proceeded to disrobe, taking care not to wrinkle her work clothes before pushing Andy towards her bedroom. Fortunately Roy was a professional at double parking. They returned within half an hour to the Town Car with Miranda smirking at Andy's blush as Roy gave her a knowing nod.

In fact in Andy's last three weeks at Runway they had hardly separated, and Andy had not felt such peace, well ever, that she could recall. It seems Miranda had experienced much of the same anxiety, and so it just made sense to both that instead of suffer they would do whatever was comfortable for them. Andy had not slept at her apartment since that night. There had yet to be an actual declaration of love, but that would come, along with the rest of it.

A tug on Andy's hand brought her back to reality as Miranda led them towards the kitchen, following the twins. She looked back in question, but Andy nodded letting Miranda know that she was in fact okay. She smiled at her luck. Few people would ever know the real Miranda, and her Miranda was more loving than anyone could imagine. As she entered the kitchen there was a cake waiting for her, next to a bottle of Veuve. The girls were excited for Andy to read the cake, as in the past few weeks they too had fallen in love with what appeared to be the newest member of their family unit. She laughed as she read, "Congratulations Emily! You survived. That's all."

Miranda moaned and complained as Andy dipped her finger into the chocolate, eliciting an, "Andrea," and the girls excitedly followed doing the same with the three of them laughing and chatting as Miranda poured champagne. The girls of course had only a thimbleful, but as she handed over the glasses she paused to admire the happy family before her, making a silent promise to herself that this time she would do whatever it took to make this last. There would be no one else besides this girl, because what she felt over the past few weeks was like nothing she had ever experienced. She was happy.

Handing a glass to Cassidy and Caroline, Miranda turned to find the remaining two glasses and hand one to Andy. Their eyes met as Andy took the champagne, and they paused, both silently reminding the other that they weren't going anywhere. Miranda stepped back, lightening the mood remembering the girls were there and made a toast. "To the future and your future success Andrea." Miranda seemed at a loss for words for a moment but Caroline chimed in. "Yah, don't let us down," and they took a drink and laughed together at Caroline's threatening statement. She was her mother's daughter after all, but to Andy it was further proof that this family had accepted her as theirs. Andy sipped from her glass, smiling as Miranda fielded more questions from the twins, and in that moment realized that she had in fact already succeeded and she would happily bask in every moment of it her success.

The End…