The memory of the moments she had spent in Miranda's arms was the source of as much anguish as ecstasy and did little to stop Andy from sinking into a depression that deepened with each passing day.

By mid-week, on the cusp of crumbling under the suffocating weight of guilt, frustration, helplessness, and hopelessness, she knew she could no longer put off the conversation she had to have with Miranda.

So with Patricia and a choking sadness dogging her heels, Andy slowly made her way to the study. She stopped in the doorway and drank in the sight of the editor seated in her wingchair, silver head bent over the Book.

"Miranda, I'm terribly sorry to bother you so late, but I was hoping I could have a moment of your time." Andy was shaking and she prayed for the emotional wherewithal to remain calm and dispassionate—at least until later, when she could break down in private.

The quiet seriousness in Andréa's tone had Miranda instantly on alert. "Come in and sit down," she said, focusing her full attention on the other woman and noting tense shoulders, clenched jaw, and trembling fingers.

Andy complied with jerky movements. Swallowing hard, she forced herself to make eye contact. "Laurel's training is essentially complete. Which means"—she willed her voice to remain steady—"I am no longer of any use to you, I mean," she corrected herself, "to Runway. So once again I am tendering my resignation, effective Friday at close of business."

Miranda relaxed. The problem of her assistant's immediate professional future was one she could easily solve. "You can still be of use to Runway, Andréa. I will move you to Features. You can critique articles and point out grammatical errors. They certainly make plenty of them."

Andy was stunned. Miranda tolerated nothing but the best when it came to Runway, but here she was willing to employ someone who couldn't even write or type. It was beyond generous—and absolutely unacceptable.

"Miranda," Andy said softly, "I can't. I can't take advantage of you and of Runway like that. Even if I could, I still need surgery, which will prevent me from doing any work at all for a bit. I-I've decided that it would be best to go home." She fought back a sob. "To Ohio. Until I get through this."

Miranda stiffened. She was no more ready for Andréa to leave now than when the young woman was first injured. "Don't be absurd. Even if you don't work for Runway, you may stay here and Helen will continue to assist you until you are able to live on your own. That offer was never conditional upon your usefulness to me or the magazine." Did Andréa really think so little of her?

"I understand that," Andy assured her earnestly. "I do. It's about my pride. About my need to do something in exchange for your generosity. My need to reciprocate." She sighed. "Though I would point out that your offer was made before I needed surgery that will prolong the amount of time I will require help."

Miranda's hurt dissipated only to be replaced by frustration and the stirrings of real panic. She narrowed her eyes at the too-noble-for-her-own-damned-good young woman, who responded by jutting out a quivering chin in stubborn defiance.

Why did the girl have to be so remarkably difficult about this? Miranda wanted to order her to abandon her foolish altruistic notions, but the reality was that the editor lov— admired her for them. In general. They were unnecessary and inconvenient at the moment and could be detrimental in the long run.

An unpleasant and altogether unwelcome thought occurred to her. "Perhaps you would really rather not be here at all and are offering a polite excuse. If that is the case—"

"No, Miranda," Andy burst out. "That's not it at all. The problem is how much I do want to be here. God, you have no idea how much. But how am I supposed to get over you if—" She stopped abruptly, the blood draining from her face as she realized what she had inadvertently revealed.

Oh, fuck. She covered her face with her good hand, knowing there was now no way she would be able to walk away with any dignity or with any part of her heart unbroken.

Miranda struggled to contain the hope that was rising in her. She had to be sure she had not misunderstood or misinterpreted what she had heard. "Andréa," she said gently, setting the Book and her reading glasses on the side table and leaning forward. When the girl did not respond, she tried again. "Andréa, look at me."

Andy reluctantly lowered her hand and raised tear-filled eyes. "Please," she begged, "don't say anything. I'm sorry. But now you know. You know why I can't stay." She stood and gave a sad smile. "I've fallen in love with you, Miranda Priestly. You. A woman so far out of my league we're not even playing the same sport. And it's not a crush or some form of hero worship or gratitude or anything else that could be easily dismissed. God knows I wish it was."

She turned to flee, but Miranda rose to her feet in one fluid, graceful motion and moved quickly to prevent escape.

Bowing her head, Andy braced herself for further humiliation in the form of pity or condescension or contempt.

"Andréa," Miranda growled, "you are impossibly, infuriatingly decent, honorable, and considerate." She cupped the young woman's cheek and used a thumb to brush away tears. "Since you insist on viewing everything in terms of quid pro quo, then understand that your presence in my life has become a necessity. You make it better. You make me want to be better. Tell me what my selfish offer of assistance is in comparison," she demanded. "Would you deny me the opportunity to do something in return?"

Hopeful but uncertain brown eyes finally fixed on the editor's face, prompting Miranda to press a kiss to lips that had parted in a silent gasp. "In case it's not clear, I've fallen in love with you, too, Andréa Sachs," she breathed.

Andy searched the other woman's countenance desperately, disbelievingly. The warmth, affection, tenderness, and desire she found there stole the air from her lungs, rendering her lightheaded and mute, and all she could do for a long moment was stare in wonder.

Miranda pulled Andréa closer and kissed her hard, laying claim even as she offered her own surrender. Mine. Yours. "Please stay," she murmured against that intoxicating mouth.

Knees weak, Andy nodded.

Miranda's smile was both relieved and triumphant. The editor would be content—for the time being—with the young woman's remaining in the townhouse solely for the duration of her recovery. Should Andréa then decide she needed her own place as they learned to navigate the complexities and challenges of their new relationship, Miranda would accept that. For a short while. She smirked. Because eventually Andréa would move into the editor's master bedroom permanently.

Where they'd be sure to put her ridiculous need to reciprocate to very good use.

For the rest of their lives.

FIN.