Disclaimer: I don't own The Devil Wears Prada.

The Elias-Clarke Annual Fourth of July Shindig is, without contest, Miranda Priestly's least favorite function of the year. It is the only event open to every employee of the media conglomerate, from the lowest janitor to Miranda herself. It is a party so gauche that Nigel guffawed the first time he attended and has returned every subsequent year out of pure schadenfreude. Worst of all, for everyone ranked Editor-in-Chief and above, it is mandatory.

God damn Irv Ravitz, anyway. "Important demonstration of this company's commitment to patriotism", her ass.

Miranda sweeps onto the forty-fifth floor of the Elias-Clarke building like a particularly malevolent hurricane, making no effort to hide her displeasure. The mass of poorly-dressed plebeians part before her like the Red Sea. Miranda is dressed impeccably, of course, because even Irv can't get her to look less than her best. Her Manolos alone no doubt cost more than most of these people's monthly salaries.

"Emily," Miranda says, in a calm, cool tone easily heard over the hush that's fallen over the party. "Find me something tolerable to imbibe."

Her first assistant squares her jaw like a samurai whose only option is seppuku and vanishes into the crowd. Apparently taking this as permission, the crowd resumes its low buzz of conversation, though Miranda can still feel dozens of eyes on her. She's sure that if she listened hard enough she would hear her own name being spoken by more than a few people, but she does not care enough to make the effort.

Miranda turns to her other hanger-on and, impossibly, feels her mood darken further. "Nigel."

The fashion director hums, an unholy light of amusement in his eyes as he takes in the garish red-white-and-blue bunting that is simply everywhere. "Yes, Miranda?"

"Stop enjoying this so much," she barks.

He snorts. "As you command." Then, in complete disregard of her order, he saunters away to pick up a popper from a distant table and give it a yank, sending a shower of confetti everywhere. Over the noise of the crowd, Miranda can barely hear his awe-struck, "Incredible. Simply incredible."

Left to her own devices—Miranda's instruction for Emily to find a tolerable drink at this party is rather like sending someone to locate an attractive pair of Uggs—Miranda picks her way across the crowded floor to the window, barely noticing the underlings who scatter in her wake like so many bowling pins. Glaring out the million-dollar view, she crosses her arms over her chest, taps her toe impatiently, and mutters, once again, "God damn Irv Ravitz."

"Hi, Ms. Priestly."

Miranda goes very, very still. Then she swivels her head, ever so slowly, to stare incredulously at this person, whoever it is, who has the unmitigated gall to walk up and say those three appalling words.

It takes a moment, but she recognizes the girl. Broad, goofy grin as if she has no idea of the faux pas she's just made. Size six figure, long, poorly-groomed hair, knock-off Dolce and Gabbana purse, ugly sneakers, ill-fitting jeans, and a cerulean sweater that can only generously be described as frumpy. Miranda has had nightmares about forced at gunpoint into this exact outfit.

Surprisingly, the girl's grin doesn't falter under Miranda's disdainful perusal. "Beautiful night, huh?" she says instead, blithely, coming a little closer to gaze out the window. "Sorry to interrupt your, uh, solitude, but I saw you over here and just wanted to say hi."

"Anyone at this train wreck masquerading as a party could have told you to stifle that instinct," Miranda says, practically twitching at the girl's proximity but refusing to be the one to step away. Show weakness in front of this Gap reject? Absolutely not. "Now, go away, whoever you are, and be glad I don't know your name."

"Oh, it's Andy Sachs," the girl says, completely disregarding the lifeline Miranda so uncharacteristically tossed her. Her grin turns rueful. "Maybe you don't remember me. I interviewed to be your second assistant a couple of months ago. You know—" her voice takes on a strange, high pitch "—'I may not know too much about fashion, but I'm smart and resourceful and I will work very hard.'" She lets out a little self-deprecating chuckle, as if realizing precisely how ridiculous she sounds.

"Yes," Miranda says in an icy tone that would cause Emily to find the nearest balcony to jump off of. "The smart, fat girl. I remember."

The girl winces. "Ouch. You really don't pull your punches. They warned me—well, never mind. Like I said, I just wanted to say hi. You looked kind of lonely. Hey, it won't bother you if I stay here until the fireworks, will it? I've never seen them before, and I want to get a good—"

"What are you doing at an Elias-Clarke function?" Miranda demands. It has suddenly occurred to her to wonder at the girl's place here. Is it possible she's snuck in? Is she stalking Miranda?

"What—? Oh!" Not a total idiot, then. She's clearly caught Miranda's train of thought. "Nothing nefarious, don't worry. I work at Auto Universe."

Miranda surreptitiously checks the girl's fingernails for any sign of engine grease. They look clean, at least. "Of course you do."

"As a copy editor," she adds.

"What a fascinating story. No, please, do go on."

"You're a really good conversationalist, you know that?"

"I'm devastated by your disappointment."

"Who said anything about disappointment?" The girl shifts a little closer, until the sleeve of her cerulean nightmare almost brushes against Miranda's Donna Karan blouse. Miranda twitches away. "You know, speaking of disappointment, I think about you sometimes. How my life would be different if I'd gotten that job at Runway."

"There was never any possibility of you getting that job," Miranda says, wondering when the derision in her voice will finally get through this girl's thick head. Thank God she didn't develop temporary insanity and hire her. "I've seen better fashion sense from a three-year-old who eats his own snot."

The girl shrugs. "I don't need to be passionate about the topic to do good work. I care even less about cars than I do about fashion, but Mr. Styles seems to like what I do."

Miranda shudders, repulsed. Where is Emily? It's just like her idiot assistant to be absent when Miranda needs her to frog march someone away.

Something about her new expression makes the girl look at her more keenly. "What?"

"What, 'what'?" Miranda snaps.

"You look like I just said I torture puppies or something."

"You disgust me."

"Yeah, I figured that out. What did I say?"

Miranda's voice, normally so calm, drops to a low hiss. "You are the worst kind of scum. You claim to have aspirations of being a writer—yes, I remember your interview—yet dare to stand in front of me saying passion is not a requirement?" She leans into the girl's personal space, plucking at the sleeve of her sweater. "Without passion, how could you ever write an article of any quality that delves into the history of the color cerulean or deconstructs the allure of a simple black belt? How could you bring a reader to care, about anything at all?" She shakes her head, and leans back, finally done with this abhorrent conversation. "Get out of my sight."

"Hmm," the girl says, and though she's gone a little pale she isn't nearly as devastated as she should be. In fact, she looks almost thoughtful. "No, I don't think I will." She squares her shoulders to face the window full on and shoves her hands in her pockets. She glances at Miranda sidelong. "You're free to leave if my being here bothers you."

Miranda sniffs to show just how much she does not care about some nobody's presence and turns, as well, to gaze out at the view.

They stay that way until the fireworks start; until they finish.

Two weeks later, Miranda is in the midst of a truly devastating verbal assault on Jocelyn—what was the woman thinking, putting that shade of red against that shade of green when it isn't even Christmas?—when Emily comes in with the afternoon mail. Normally, this would not be reason enough to stop a good rant, but something unusual about the small stack catches her eye and she dismisses a pale, trembling Jocelyn with a distracted, "That's all."

She throws away several invitations to events hosted by minor celebrities in the fashion industry before honing in on the large manila envelope which bears the stamp "INTEROFFICE DELIVERY". Miranda can't recall the last time she received such a thing. She has assistants to fetch and carry for her, and everyone at Elias-Clarke important enough to send something directly to her has assistants of their own.

Dozens of names have been scrawled and scratched out on the much-abused envelope. On the bottom of the "TO" column it says Miranda's name and Runway, as if even the lowest imbecile in the mail room would not have known where Miranda worked. On the bottom of the "FROM" column it says:

Andrea Sachs
Auto Universe

It takes her a moment to realize who the envelope is from. She hasn't thought about that wretched party since she stormed out five seconds after the fireworks concluded.

At least Andrea is a respectable name. Much better than the provincial "Andy". She eyes the envelope for a long moment, tapping her lip with her finger, debating whether to open it or send it to join the rest of the mail in the trash. She thinks about the way the girl—Andrea—had watched the fireworks with wide eyes, her joy almost childlike. She shudders at the memory of the awful sweater. She remembers that she'd almost enjoyed their conversation, until something Andrea said had truly bothered her.

She opens the envelope.

Inside is a neatly-stapled printout, perhaps ten pages long. At the top it says:

A Study in Cerulean
By Andy Sachs

Miranda scoffs at the girl's shamelessness. She drops the article into the trash and goes back to reviewing this month's Michael Kors spread.

She lasts all of five minutes before curiosity overwhelms her and she finds herself pulling the article out of the trash. She intends to skim the first paragraph. She reads the entire thing.

Fifteen minutes later, she marches down to Nigel's office and thrusts the document in his face. "Read this," she orders, and glares at him until he understands that she means for him to do it now, while she watches.

Eyebrows raised, he adjusts his glasses and holds it to the light.

About halfway down the first page his lips twitch. Miranda nods to herself; that would have been in response to Andrea's humorous jab at Runway's clear preference for certain colors over others. At the bottom of the second page, he chuckles. That would be the part where Andrea makes a witty but preposterous claim about Anne Boleyn wearing cerulean to her execution. (Miranda doesn't know if the claim is true. She makes a mental note to have Emily fact-check it.) Nigel turns more serious as he gets deeper into the article, where Andrea's history of cerulean turns into an incisive analysis of how the fashion industry has evolved over the years and changed the way women see themselves.

"In an era where zero is the new two, two is the new four, and six is the new twelve," Andrea writes, "is it any wonder that Runway is the new Bible for so many women?"

Nigel finishes reading and removes his glasses. "Huh."

Miranda waits for his assessment with what she considers to be immense patience.

"We can't publish it, of course," he says.

She rolls her eyes. "Of course not."

"Jim at Rolling Stone would love it, though. It might even have a shot at The New Yorker, if this Andy Sachs has the right connections." Nigel frowns. "It's odd someone so intelligent would send an article like this to your attention. He must have known this wasn't a Runway-style piece."

"You think it's good, then?" Miranda probes.

He looks at her in surprise. "Very good. I didn't realize that was in question."

"Hmm." Miranda takes the article from his fingers. "That's all."

She leaves Nigel to his work and stalks back to her office. She places the article on her desk and stares at it, but the article does not obediently burst into flames. She's already wasted far too much of her day on this nonsense. She should throw it out and be done with it.

She goes back to the Michael Kors spread. This time she only lasts two minutes.

"Emily!" she barks. "Get me Andrea Sachs."

"Yes, Miranda." Emily's volume lowers to a barely perceptible mutter. "Andrea Sachs? Andrea Sachs. Who the hell is Andrea Sachs?"

Entertaining as it might be to let her drive herself crazy trying to figure out who Miranda means, Miranda doesn't have the patience right now. "Andrea Sachs of Auto Universe, obviously."

There is a long, long beat of silence.

"Auto Universe? Ah, of course, Miranda."

Miranda studies her nails as she waits. There is the sound of frantic typing. A low murmur of voices. A moment later:

"I have Andrea."

Miranda plucks the phone from its holder. "Andrea," she purrs.

"Hi, Miranda." Just from her voice, it's clear that she's smiling, that goofy, wide smile that has no business being within a six block radius of Miranda, let alone the same building. "I take it you got my article?"

"I won't publish it," Miranda says bluntly.

Andrea laughs. "I didn't think you would."

"And I won't pass it along to anyone else in the industry, if that's what you were hoping for."

"What? Miranda, the thought honestly never crossed my mind."

She sounds so baffled that Miranda believes her. "Then why are you wasting my time with this?"

Andrea is silent for five slow beats of Miranda's heart. "I didn't mean to waste your time," she says, her voice small. "I didn't have expectations or anything like that. You're the one who challenged me to write something. I really enjoyed working on it, and I hoped you'd tell me your thoughts. That's all."

Does the girl know she's just stolen Miranda's signature phrase? Unlikely. "The article is…acceptable," she says stiffly.

Andrea waits, as if expecting more. She has gumption, Miranda will give her that. "Thanks," she says when it becomes apparent no additional praise will be forthcoming. She chuckles. "To be honest, I wasn't sure you'd even read it."

"I did."

"Can I take you out for coffee?" Andrea offers. "To say thank you?"

Miranda scoffs. "No." She hangs up, thrusts the article into a little-used drawer, and resolves to never think of Andrea Sachs again.

Another week, another interoffice envelope. This article is shorter, but no less well-written. The topic: the allure of a simple black belt. Despite the simplicity of the concept, Andrea has clearly done her research. She writes knowledgeably about belts of all kinds, from Chanel to Costco. The tone is compelling; the occasional humor dry.

Miranda shoves this article in a drawer with the other. She goes back to work. Later in the afternoon, she takes the article back out and says, "Emily, get me Andrea."

Emily mutters something under her breath.

"What was that?" Miranda calls out.

"Nothing, Miranda," Emily says. "I have Andrea."

Miranda jerks the phone out of its cradle, lifts it to her ear, and demands, "What is this?"

"Hi Miranda, I'm great, thanks, how are you?"

"I told you not to send me any more of your writing."

Andrea hums thoughtfully. "No, I'm pretty sure you didn't say anything like that."

Who is this young woman, who thinks she can speak to Miranda Priestly this way?

"I won't publish it," Miranda declares.

"I didn't ask you to." She sounds amused.

It's the same answer she gave last week, and it leaves Miranda just as baffled. "Well. Fine."

"Did you like it, though?"

"It was not the most appalling thing I've ever read," Miranda admits grudgingly.

"In that case, I definitely owe you a coffee." Andrea's voice is beaming. "Are you free this afternoon?"

Miranda doesn't know; that's what Emily is for. "No," she says, and immediately wonders at her own response. Why didn't she shoot the woman down completely, make it very clear that she would never be "free" for coffee with her?

"Okay," Andrea says amiably. "Then when are you available?"

"You say you owe me, then expect me to do all the work?" Miranda demands. "Really, Andrea." She hangs up.

The next morning, Emily's rapid fire recitation of Miranda's schedule for the day contains a surprise.

"—viewing with James Holt at two, fifteen minutes for coffee with Andrea Sachs at 3:30 at Starbucks, then you have a 3:45 with Irv—"

"Coffee with Andrea Sachs?" Miranda interrupts, her eyes narrowing. "Andrea Sachs of Auto Nation?"

Emily goes even paler than usual. "I'm sorry, Miranda," she stammers. "I thought—she made it sound as if—I'll cancel immediately."

Miranda frowns. "No. Why should Andrea suffer for your mistake? If you told her I would meet her, I suppose I'll have to do so. That's all."

Emily sways. She really is looking too thin these days. Miranda makes a mental note to have Nigel remind the girl that there is a fine line between attractive and anorexic. (Later, when she makes the comment to Nigel, he gives her an odd look and says, "You realize you just quoted that article by Andy Sachs." Her scowling reply: "Nigel, shut up.")

It doesn't occur to her to wonder which of the five nearby Starbuckses Andrea has in mind until she is standing in the Elias-Clarke lobby at 3:15—fifteen minutes early, as always. She could call the young woman to ask, but she doesn't have her number, and anyway this is something Andrea should have anticipated. Well, she's hardly going to wait around like just another fashionista come to worship at Runway's hallowed doors. Abandoning the whole idea, Miranda stalks back to the elevator bank and jabs the button.

The doors open and there is Andrea, her rather striking face tense. "I'm so sorry I'm late," she says quickly, leaping out of the elevator, looking relieved to see Miranda. It is 3:16. "Emily told me about Miranda time, but I messed up and put the appointment on my calendar at 3:30 instead of 3:15 and I'm so glad you're still here. Come on!" She takes Miranda by the elbow, apparently failing to notice the way she stiffens in shock, and leads her in the direction of the doors.

It isn't until they step out into the stifling July heat that Miranda has the presence of mind to jerk out of Andrea's grip. Andrea is too busy babbling to notice.

"I know we only have fifteen minutes, but I figured we could go to the Starbucks that's three blocks away instead of any of the closer ones. That way you don't have to worry about any of your coworkers seeing you with a low-life like me."

That's…surprisingly thoughtful. Though it's Andrea's apparel, rather than her station, which makes her a truly unsuitable companion.

Miranda speaks not a word in the time it takes them to reach the coffee shop. She casts her eyes around until she finds a table that looks slightly less grubby than the rest. The fact that it is occupied matters not in the slightest, as the well-dressed girl who is sitting there flees upon Miranda's approach.

Without waiting for instruction, Andrea heads for the line. This is the first chance Miranda has had to really look at the other woman today. Hair—just as bad as last time. Same knockoff purse as at the party. Ugly flats. (Just how much of Andrea's wardrobe was acquired off the streets in Chinatown, Miranda wonders.) Black slacks—tolerable but cheap. At least the white button-down shirt is significantly better than that sweater had been.

This time, Miranda notices other things about Andrea, as well. Such as the rather unusual sparkle in her eye, and the disconcerting openness of her grin.

There's something rather charming about her, Miranda realizes, horrified by her own train of thought.

Andrea arrives three minutes later, bearing a steaming cup in one hand and some sort of sugary nightmare in the other. "Center of the sun hot," Andrea says cheerfully, holding out Miranda's coffee.

Miranda doesn't take it. "What is that."

Andrea frowns before catching the direction of her gaze. She brightens. "It's a Frappuccino. Oh—did you want one of these instead? You can have mine. Emily told me you always get the same coffee order, but maybe—"

"You will not drink that monstrosity in front of me." It takes every ounce of strength Miranda has not to bat the obscene beverage out of Andrea's hand. Or worse—take it for herself.

Andrea's eyes go wide. "Okay," she says, drawing out the "o". "I'll just, um…" She drops the offending item in the trash, though she looks rather mournful about it.

Miranda seizes her coffee and takes a long gulp. The intense heat does little to quench her sudden, overwhelming desire for something sweet. "I have not had sugar since 1998," she says through clenched teeth.

Andrea winces. "I didn't think. I'm sorry."

"Oh, stop apologizing," Miranda snaps. "You're a size six. I should have known you would be intolerable to be around."

Andrea's eyes flash. "Hey, now. I've never felt self-conscious about my weight before, and you're not going to make me start. If that's your plan, I'll leave you in peace and I won't bother you again."

Miranda should say, "Good, go away." Instead, the words that emerge from her lips are: "Don't be ridiculous. Size six is only an insult for models and Runway employees, and when last I checked you were neither of those things."

Andrea's very stiff spine relaxes as she lets go of her indignation. "No, I'm not," she says. "Thank God for that."

Miranda raises an eyebrow, takes another sip of her coffee, and waits for the woman to cut to the chase.

"Anyway, now that I've bought you a coffee, you owe me," Andrea says.

Miranda's stomach twists in something suspiciously like disappointment. So. Of course Andrea has an agenda. Of course she is not as naïve as she appears, prancing around New York like some kind of demented cross between a unicorn and a 1980s fashion reject. Miranda sets down the coffee, resisting the desire to hurl it in the woman's face, stands, and leaves.

Though she walks quickly, Andrea catches up almost immediately, her flats far more forgiving than Miranda's four-inch stilettos.

"Miranda, wait—" She takes Miranda's arm again.

This time, Miranda does not tolerate it. She jerks sharply out of the other woman's grasp and hisses, "I owe nothing to anyone in this world, you conniving strumpet, and you least of all."

Andrea mouths the words "conniving strumpet", seeming at once taken aback, offended, and impressed by Miranda's choice of insult. Miranda, furious with herself for remaining still long enough to witness the wretch's reactions, resumes her rapid departure.

"It was a joke," Andrea calls after her. Miranda stops, but does not turn. "Well, not a joke. A—a tease, I guess. I was going to ask you for something I didn't think you'd mind giving. My mistake. I'm sorry."

Miranda whirls around. Andrea looks lost and a little helpless, like a kitten set adrift on the city streets. "I can imagine what you were going to ask for. A recommendation? Perhaps an introduction to the editor of the New York Times? Or maybe just an interview with the Editor-in-Chief of Runway that you can sell to the highest bidder."

Andrea seems shocked. "Nothing like that. Just another idea to write about. I swear, that's it."

The woman is either the best liar in the world, or she really means it. The former seems more likely. "As if I can believe that."

Andrea takes a tiny step closer. "If you don't believe me, then have me fired. We both know you can." She spreads her palms. "Think about it. You have all the power here, Miranda. I couldn't force you into something if I tried."

Her words make Miranda pause, make her rethink every interaction she has had with this infuriating woman. She's right, isn't she? Miranda does have all of the power here, as she does in almost every relationship in her life. Yet, when it comes to Andrea, despite the dramatic disparity in their stations, wealth, age, experience, fashion sense, and reputation, Miranda does not feel that she holds the upper hand.

She blames Andrea's fearlessness.

"In exchange for that coffee," Miranda says slowly, testing each word, "you wished to ask me for another topic to write about. As if I have somehow become your journalism teacher."

Andrea inches a little closer. They are now standing on the same concrete square on the sidewalk. "My copy editing job pays okay, the hours are great, and it's good for my resume," she says. "But it doesn't challenge me. These past couple of months, I've been coasting. Then you came along and threw down the gauntlet. Working on those articles made me remember what I want to do with my life, and why." She smiles crookedly. "I can push myself, when I have something to work towards. That kick in the ass you gave me helped. I hoped you wouldn't mind doing it again."

It should be easy to dismiss the other woman. It is not. She knows this feeling Andrea speaks of, the fear of a slow, lingering death as one is sucked into a sinkhole of ennui.

"My daughters wish me to obtain a sports car," Miranda says abruptly. "Something new and trendy. My top concern is safety." She looks Andrea in the eye and likes what she sees. "Sell me on something."

This time, when she turns to go, Andrea doesn't stop her. Miranda is running late for her meeting with Irv. Oh, well. The unusual spring in her step, she decides, is attributable entirely to her lovely pair of Manolo Blahniks, and has nothing to do with Andrea Sachs at all.