Um. Hi. So, the world is a disaster right now and my life has gone through some major changes in the four years (yikes) since I updated this fic. I've been devouring old favorite Mirandy fics as comfort food the past couple of weeks and finally got the courage to confront this one again. I don't know why I've never been able to finish it; perhaps fear of not doing justice to a story a lot of people seem to enjoy. Whatever the reason, it was terrible leaving off where I did, so here is a new chapter of One Step at a Time. Please forgive the long absence. I can't promise to update again soon, but I'll try-and in the meantime, I think you'll like where this one ends. Thank you to everyone who's read and commented. It means a lot. Take care of yourselves in these difficult times!

Miranda sits gingerly on Andrea's thinly padded sofa. A pile of bulging file folders occupies the seat beside her—not exactly her first choice of companion, but she understands that they need to build back some trust. Halfway across the room, Andrea perches on a stool, her bare feet hooked under the bottom rung as she wolfs down what's left of the takeout.

"I like your apartment," Miranda says for want of a better opener.

Andrea snorts and tosses the noodle container into the trash. "No, you don't. It's messy and small and I got most of the furniture on Craigslist after Nate moved out. I don't think a single thing in this room is up to Miranda Priestly standards."

Miranda can immediately think of one thing, but she can hardly say that.

Taking Andrea's words as a challenge, she looks around the dingy room, seeing it through new eyes as she imagines Andrea trying to fill the empty spaces left behind by the chef. The painting Lily gave her for her birthday occupies a prominent position on one wall. Pictures of Andrea, her friends, and an older couple that must be her parents are placed around the room in aesthetically pleasing locations. Framed copies of her articles from The Atlantic and The Cincinnati Monthly hang over a desk in a way that feels aspirational rather than hubristic.

Give the place a good cleaning and it might truly be a suitable home for Andrea Sachs, though Miranda will always want better for her.

She concedes, "It may be small, and it's certainly messy, but it's a home, Andrea. I remember being young and poor in New York. I know how hard it is to make a space for yourself on those terms."

Andrea rolls her eyes. "I'm not poor. I'm lower middle class."

"I was under the impression you are no longer employed," Miranda points out.

Andrea gazes at her for a long moment. "Is that why you came?" she says at last. "You heard I was out of a job and my mom is sick, so you came to the rescue?"

It's a fair question. They both know that Miranda's instinct is always to problem-solve. But in this case, Andrea is wrong.

"I came because my life is not as it should be if you are not in it." The Miranda of a year ago would have been appalled at the thought of admitting such a thing or having such a thing be true. How surprising to find, at fifty years old, that she is capable of learning humility.

Andrea's breath hitches. She leaves her stool and joins Miranda on the couch, shifting the stack of files to the coffee table. There's a scant bit of space between them, but Miranda fancies she can almost feel the warm line of the other woman's body against hers. They must present quite the picture, Andrea in worn pajamas and Miranda in an outfit that would pay two months' rent on this apartment.

"My mom's going to be okay," Andrea says. "It's cancer, but she's responding well to treatment and the doctors are confident she'll make it through."

Miranda places a hand on Andrea's shoulder. "I'm so pleased to hear that."

Andrea manages a wobbly smile. "Yeah. It was a really hard time for a while. Luckily, I had Doug and Lily to help me through."

Miranda winces. "But not me."

"I didn't say—"

"No, no. You're right. I should have been there for you. We were close enough—you deserved at least that much from me, whatever had happened between us."

"Miranda," Andrea says firmly. "Seriously, don't kick yourself over this. Would it have helped to have you there? Yeah, a little. But as you told me once before, there's no secret medical degree hidden away in your pocket, and I had people to talk to and scream at when things got too scary. You dodged a bullet, not having to go through all that with me. I don't blame you for missing it."

I don't want to miss a moment of your life, Miranda thinks, and oh, how frustrating that these past few months were enough to erode her anger but not this inconvenient love.

"Next time you need to scream at someone, call me," she says.

Andrea's eyebrows go up. "You can't mean that. I've seen the way Emily walks on eggshells around you. People don't scream at Miranda Priestly."

"You're right. People don't."

It takes a moment for her meaning to sink in. Andrea's eyes crinkle. "You're going to regret it when I take you up on that."

"Andrea, I have many regrets in my life, but you aren't one of them." Miranda clears her throat and briskly changes the subject before she can embarrass herself further. "Now, tell me about Auto Universe. They fired you? Why?"

Rather than seem depressed by the topic, Andrea grins. She leans forward to rummage through the many folders on the coffee table. The one she's looking for turns out to be very thin. She offers it to Miranda with a flourish.

Fascinated—and altogether too charmed by this playful side of Andrea—Miranda opens the folder, skimming the top page.

"You filed a formal complaint against Henry Styles? I warned you that that would have little effect."

Andrea nods. "You were right. The only effect it had was getting me fired."

Miranda flips the page; the only other paper in the file is a brief notice of termination for "work that fails to meet the standards of our company." The letter is dated two days after Andrea's complaint.

Miranda can barely breathe through her fury. "This is outrageous." Not surprising, of course, but still. Outrageous. Especially with Andrea as the victim. "I will speak with Irv Ravitz tomorrow," she vows. "You'll have your job back by next week."

"Slow down, tiger," Andrea says with a laugh that seems completely out of place when her career is at stake. "I'm not looking for you to rescue me, remember?"

Miranda grits her teeth at Andrea's typical stubborn refusal of help. It was one thing when she was trying to get her first articles published. It's something else entirely when her livelihood and reputation are on the line.

"Perhaps you don't understand the gravity of the situation," Miranda says with forced patience. "This is tantamount to a blacklisting. You'll be lucky to get a job in a mailroom after this. I will help you through this, you infuriating woman, whether you want me to or not. What's the point of having Miranda Priestly on your side if you aren't going to take advantage of her resources?"

Andrea's smile flickers. "The point of having you on my side, Miranda, is having the support of someone I respect and care about deeply. If I ever took advantage of your resources, I wouldn't be worthy of that support."

"I'm offering, Andrea," Miranda grinds out.

Andrea puts her hand on top of Miranda's. "I know, and I love you for that. But I don't need you to rescue me. I set this whole thing up."

Miranda's brain fills with static at hearing "I love you" emerge from Andrea's lips. It takes superhuman effort to make sense of any of the words that came after.

"Explain," Miranda orders.

"I'm not exactly unemployed, you see," Andrea says, looking ridiculously pleased with herself. "I'm working freelance. For The New Yorker."

The pieces of the puzzle begin to slot together in Miranda's mind. "Freelance, for a prestigious publication. Writing…an exposé, isn't it."

Andrea nods gravely. "An exposé on sexual harassment in the publishing industry and the ways major publications cover them up." She waves at the stacks of paper scattered around the room. "My own experience is just one of dozens I've gotten proof of so far. Before I filed that complaint, I documented all of my interactions with Henry Styles, my performance reviews, everything. I can prove that my firing was retaliatory. And I'm going to prove that it's systemic. This is another type of cancer, and one that we need to root out. You know, you actually gave me the idea."

Miranda does not respond as she considers the implications. This is a different form of journalism than anything Andrea has written before. It's risky. It's deeply personal.

It's the kind of article that will show the world she is a force to be reckoned with. People will know the name Andrea Sachs when all is said and done.

"Are you…angry?" Andrea asks eventually. "Because Elias Clarke is one of the places I'm targeting?"

Miranda scoffs. "Angry on behalf of Elias Clarke? No. You're absolutely right about them. You're right about all of this. Andrea, this…" She shakes her head. "This is incredible work. I have nothing but admiration for what you are doing."

Andrea grins. "You have no idea how much that means to me." She bites her lip. "I've started writing the article, but I've got a long way to go. Once I have a draft…will you read it for me? Help me edit it?"

Miranda feels as if she's been treading water for months and now has finally found solid footing. "Andrea, I can't think of anything I'd like to do more."

They spend some time talking about Andrea's article in more detail, but when Miranda can no longer hold back a yawn Andrea looks at the time and yelps.

"It's almost four! What are you still doing here? Don't you have an empire to run like four hours from now?"

Miranda waves a dismissive hand. "Runway will survive me arriving late to work."

"I'm not sure Emily will," Andrea says with a smile. "Hey, we've been so focused on me that we've barely talked about you. I want to hear about how the past few months have been. Maybe we can get lunch this week? Catch up?"

They stand, both sensing that the evening is drawing to a close. Both perhaps not wanting it to end just yet. The new angle offers Miranda a view of a photograph she hadn't noticed before. It's a picture of Andrea and Miranda from Andrea's birthday party. The shot is candid—their heads are pressed close together, Andrea mid-sentence and Miranda listening with a faint smile, her eyes intent on Andrea's face.

Miranda wonders how anyone could look at that picture and not know the way she feels about Andrea.

"Tomorrow," she says in answer to Andrea's question, then corrects herself. "Today, rather." She has no intention of letting the other woman out of her sight for any substantial period of time. "I'll tell you all of the mundane details then. The only significant event since we last spoke, however, is…I've discovered I'm a lesbian. Or perhaps bisexual."

Andrea's mouth falls open. "Oh. Oh!" She blinks rapidly. "Wow, that's—Huh. Okay. Wow."

Miranda has no idea how to interpret that reaction. It hadn't occurred to her that Andrea might disapprove. Stiffly, she says, "I assume that isn't a problem for you."

"A problem? Oh, Miranda."

Andrea yanks her into a fierce embrace. Miranda melts into it, wrapping her arms around the other woman, inhaling the faint lavender scent of her conditioner. She feels Andrea's heart pounding against her own. She could hold Andrea like this forever.

"I'm so proud of you," Andrea murmurs, her breath tickling Miranda's ear. "And who you are could never be a problem for me. That would make me a hypocrite, anyway. I just wish—never mind, it doesn't matter."

Miranda pulls back enough to look Andrea in the eye. "What do you wish?"

Andrea's cheeks flush a lovely, vibrant red. "It's stupid."

"Tell me."

"I was just going to say—I wish I'd known months ago. But that's silly, because even if I'd known, it's not like I'd have had a chance with you."

Miranda can't breathe. "What are you saying?" It can't be what Miranda thinks she's saying.

Andrea shrugs, her mouth quirking. "I had the biggest crush on you. I actually thought I was in love with you. That's the other thing I've been doing these past couple of months—putting my heart back together. But like I said, it's not like there was ever a chance of something happening. So really, this news doesn't change anything. I'm just happy for you."

There's a roaring in Miranda's ears.

I had the biggest crush on you.

Thought I was in love with you.

Putting my heart back together.

That means—Miranda's feelings were reciprocated. If she'd put herself out there months ago, Andrea would have welcomed the overture.

But not any longer.

She missed her chance.

"I should go," Miranda says numbly. "It's late."

Andrea squeezes her hand, then takes a step back. "I'm so glad you came tonight. What you said, about how your life isn't the way it should be without me in it? I feel the same way about you."

Miranda's eyes burn. "Good night, Andrea."

"Good night, Miranda. I'll see you later."

"Yes," Miranda says, and leaves.

The moment the door swings shut behind her, she doubles over in agony. Great, ragged breaths burst from her lungs.

Eventually, she gets herself under control. She straightens enough to place her hand on the wall, leaning on it for support.

There's a hole in her chest that feels like grief. This missed opportunity is perhaps the greatest loss of her life.

Miranda tells herself that Andrea is back in her life now, and that's enough. Like Andrea, Miranda has always known there's no real chance for them. Nothing has changed.

They are friends again. Dear friends. It will be enough.

It has to be.

It's almost eleven by the time Miranda makes it to work that morning. Emily is nearly hysterical, though Nigel has done an admirable job of holding down the fort in Miranda's absence.

"I won't be here long," Miranda says, tossing her purse and coat in Emily II's general direction. "I have lunch plans." That reminds her—"Emily, make a reservation at Eleven Madison Park for noon."

It's one of the most exclusive restaurants in the city. Ridiculously expensive, of course, but that's unimportant. What matters is that it will be a new experience for Andrea, an exciting way to rekindle their friendship.

"Noon is an hour from now, Miranda," Emily says, rising panic in her voice.

Miranda levels a cold glare at her. "Thank you for the lesson in timekeeping." She sinks into her chair and dons her reading glasses, reaching for one of the magazines on her desk. "That's all."

She looks forward to treating Andrea to an exquisite tasting menu. More than that, she looks forward to spending time with Andrea in any capacity. They have months to make up for.

When they meet outside the Elias Clark building, however, and Miranda tells Roy where to take them, Andrea—looking stunning in Miranda's necklace and one of the blouses Douglas got her in Paris—interjects. "Absolutely not."

Miranda frowns. "Have you been there already? Did you not like it?"

"Have I been to Eleven Madison Park?" Andrea says incredulously. "Aren't you the one who pointed out how poor I am?"

"Then now is the perfect opportunity."

"No more thousand-dollar meals," Andrea declares. "No more of you wining and dining me. Okay? I'm going to pull my own weight."

Miranda blinks, nonplussed. There's no one else in her life who would turn down her generosity. "Andrea, it's my pleasure to pay for such things."

Andrea's smile has an edge to it. "Well, you're welcome to take Roy out to lunch. I'm sure he'd love to try a Michelin starred restaurant."

Roy's lips twitch.

Miranda scowls. "Where do you have in mind, then?"

"Roy," Andrea says with a grin, "take us to Chinatown."

Which is how they end up at Jing Fong, a massive restaurant in a part of town Miranda would never have dreamed of frequenting.

"Have you had dim sum before?" Andrea asks as they take the escalator to the second floor, Miranda clutching the handrail for balance.

"Of course," Miranda says. She isn't some uncultured philistine, for heaven's sake. "Numerous times at the Ritz-Carlton in Hong Kong."

Andrea laughs. "Of course. Well, this may be a different experience. I love this place, and they have a weekday happy hour for lunch."

To Miranda's horror, they're given seats at a table meant to seat ten. Two other parties occupy the rest of the table, with just a fold in the tablecloth to separate them. Still, something about Andrea's expression—a little expectant, a little resigned—stifles Miranda's desire to complain. She would hate to be predictable.

Andrea expertly orders for them, filling their little section of the table with shrimp dumplings and fried taro and a variety of other dishes from the carts being pushed around the massive dining room. Everything is fresh and delicious—almost as good as the company.

Miranda spends most of the lunch filling Andrea in on the various frustrations of the past few months. She describes her ill-fated date with the boorish Peter McGinnis; Andrea chuckles when Miranda imitates Peter's habit of droning on about the stock market.

With some reluctance, she also tells Andrea about Simone. There's a flicker of something in Andrea's eyes when Miranda describes Simone's appearance, the classical beauty that had drawn her in.

Andrea plays with a chopstick, gazing down at an empty dish, and says, "And that's when you knew you liked women? When you kissed Simone?"

"I had been attracted to a particular woman before then," Miranda says carefully. She won't lie to Andrea, but she certainly can't share the whole truth. "But that moment with Simone last night was when I knew I was attracted to women in general, yes."

Andrea's smile doesn't quite reach her eyes. "I'm happy for you. So are you and Simone…dating? A couple?"

"Hmm? Oh, no. She's a lovely woman, but not one to whom I can see myself forming a last attachment."

"That's too bad." Andrea is a terrible liar. "So what's your type, then? I know your type of man—handsome and boring and rich—but what are you looking for in a woman?"

Miranda considers the question. "To be clear, I'm not 'looking for' a woman or any other romantic partner at the moment."

"Understood. That doesn't answer my question, though." Andrea raises a playful eyebrow.

Miranda takes a sip of water and licks her lips before answering. "I suppose—she would have to challenge me. She would need to be intelligent. Clever. Interested in my children. And—I would need to have a connection to her. Some immeasurable, inexplicable chemistry tying us together."

Andrea gives her a strange look.

"What?" Miranda says defensively.

"You didn't say anything about her looks. Or her clothes."

Miranda frowns, realizing Andrea is right. "I suppose those things are immaterial, if I truly care for her."

Andrea smiles. "Miranda Priestly, you're a romantic." She pops the last shrimp dumpling in her mouth.

"I'll expect you to keep that tidbit to yourself," Miranda says wryly. "That's me, then. When did you know you were a—lesbian? Bisexual?"

Andrea blushes. "Bisexual, I guess. I had no idea, really, until I—well, I already told you how I used to feel about you."

Miranda is in the middle of sipping her water; she chokes at the reminder. After a ferocious bout of coughing, she croaks, "I was the first female you were attracted to?"

"The first one I could admit to myself, at least," Andrea says. "And it's not like there's been anyone since. I don't have a Simone of my own. I've never kissed a woman."

Miranda removes the thin paper napkin from her lap and folds it on the table, smoothing out the creases with the pads of her fingers.

"May I ask," she says to the napkin, "why you never told me how you felt, back when you had feelings for me?"

Andrea stares at her incredulously. "Why didn't I humiliate myself? Why didn't I risk pushing you away forever? Miranda, you're so far out of my league we're not even playing the same sport. I knew what the answer would be. There was no point in telling you. What about you?"

"What do you mean?"

"The 'particular woman' you were attracted to before. Did you ever tell her?"

"No," Miranda says quietly.

"Why not?"

"I suppose—for the same reasons as you."

Andrea nods, as if that were the answer she'd expected. "Well."


They sit in silence as a waitress efficiently cleans their little section of the table. It's past time for them to have left, but still they sit here, sensing that there's more that must be said.

"You must be relieved," Miranda says at last. At Andrea's quizzical expression: "To have gotten over your feelings for me, I mean. Your crush."

Andrea flinches. "Miranda, getting over you is the hardest thing I've ever done. And—part of me will never get over you, not really. I hope that doesn't scare you away from our friendship. I promise, nothing will change for me. Everything will be like it was before."

Miranda is quiet as she summons every reserve of courage in her being. "Nothing is as it was before," she says softly. "One way or another, it never will be again."

Andrea looks down at her lap, where she's wringing her hands together. "I understand."

"No. I don't think you do. Andrea, look at me."

Because Andrea is a woman of astonishing bravery, she does, though pain swirls in those soft brown eyes.

"I want to be happy for you," Miranda tells her. "I want to encourage you to move on, to find someone as young and vibrant and beautiful as you. But I can't do that. Because maybe you can get over me, can act as if nothing has changed between us. But I can't. I can't get over you, Andrea. I don't want to. And I can't pretend otherwise, not any longer."

Andrea whispers, "Miranda, what are you saying?"

I love you. "I'm asking you out," Miranda says, because her courage only goes so far. "Andrea Sachs, will you take a chance on me and accompany me on a date?"

"Yes," Andrea says quickly, almost before Miranda finishes speaking. "Yes, of course I will."

Miranda blinks, dazed. "Are you certain?"

Andrea laughs and smiles that wide, open smile that never fails to create a pool of warmth in Miranda's stomach. "More certain than I've ever been about anything. What about you? Are you certain?"

"More certain than I've ever been about anything," Miranda says, and, daringly, reaches out to cup Andrea's face with her hand, savoring the moment as she brushes her thumb across the corner of that enchanting smile.