A/N: It seems to me that we're heading to one update every month. Don't hold me to that but that seems to be what is happening. I had my second vaccine on Thursday just gone and it's kicked my ass. That's no reason not to get it but you should definitely give yourselves some time afterwards.
We're coming closer to the end. I can just... feel it.
After their impromptu family dinner, Andy's weeks had started to blur together. Their work was just as stressful as it had always been. However, at times, it was even more stressful than at the beginning of her tenure. Irv had started taking great delight in turning the screws on the budget, on the locations, on anything that might inconvenience Runway as a whole. Small inconveniences initially, ones that Miranda growled at but never engaged with, until it all came to a head when Andy went to check in the team for their flights to Washington the following day and she found them all cancelled without cause. After hours on the phone to the airline's customer service, the call ended with a quiet explanation from one of the supervisors that someone had called and cancelled them, citing misuse of funds.
Andy was utterly ropable and her hands shook when she stood in front of Miranda and told her. Far from the reaction Andy had expected, Miranda had merely taken a deep breath, nodded and they'd hashed out a plan for an alternative. Central Park had been chosen, permits had been booked quietly and without interference and Andy's anger had slowed to a simmer.
Then Andy had returned to her desk, not days later, to find their new budget light 100k. Andy stormed through the glass doors into Miranda's office and paced in front of the desk. After finishing the phone call she was on, Miranda threw her glasses onto her desk and gave Andy her full attention.
"Why aren't you livid," Andy said petulantly. "You should be murdering him. I want to murder him and I'm against that sort of thing. Have you seen the budget?"
"Of course I have. But I look awful in orange," she drawled.
Andy looked at her and then the penny dropped and she laughed, surprising herself with the ferocity of it.
"Unbelievable," Andy chuckled as she calmed. She dropped into the visitor's seat. "What do I do?"
"An animal is most dangerous when it is cornered," Miranda counselled gently. "Even if he is unaware of the true terror that awaits him, there is an energy of doom in the air."
Andy grinned as she watched Miranda's eyes glint. She shook her head.
"So fucking poetic."
"Am I wrong?"
"Well," Miranda smirked. "No," she chuckled. "But one should conduct themselves with better deportment."
"I probably won't ever do that," Andy grinned.
"Heathen," Miranda chuckled. "We will do our best to work around it. If we show weakness, he will think he has won and though I take great delight in knowing that we have already won, I wish to never provide him with the satisfaction."
"See," she grinned. "Poetry."
"Don't you have work to do?"
"Yes," Andy sighed, but didn't move.
"What," Miranda asked, giving her more time than she really had time to give.
"Have you spoken to Nigel recently? Since we had dinner?"
"Of course I have."
"No," Andy said as the squelching feeling in her gut made itself known. "I don't mean it like that."
In truth, it had been on her mind for the last week or so. Their dinner had been lovely and Nigel had ended up staying well into the morning and then sleeping on the sofa. They'd awoken to him gone with a lovely note that really only said that he'd had fun and that he'd see them at work, but every time she'd talked to him he seemed reserved. She knew it was a bit weird and that he'd been surprised by the gathering, but surely Nigel - the man who had been Miranda's second for as long as Andy had probably been alive - would not be too uncomfortable with having dinner with the woman? She had thought about whether he was uncomfortable with Cassidy and Caroline, but that hadn't made any sense either. So she'd figured it must be her that had made him uncomfortable.
"Sorry," she frowned. "He hasn't spoken to me properly since that night. He says hello and whatever, but," she sighed. "Something changed."
Miranda stared at her for a long time and sat back, letting the chair lay back as well.
"I will speak to him."
"No, I don't mean for you to do that," Andy said quickly. "I just mean -"
"Andréa," Miranda said, more gently now, in that tone she used that made Andy smile.
"Yes, Miranda," she said, doing just that as she got up. "I need to take the new files to Ann. I'm going to take the stairs."
"Andréa," Miranda chuckled. "Call her assistant and tell her you're coming. Then take the elevator. And if he gets in, you get out. Don't let him win."
Andy rolled her eyes and in a flash of childishness poked out her tongue and left the woman laughing as she loaded the files onto the USB. She locked up her desk and nodded as she left, wondering whether the prickling on the back of her neck was from general anxiety and why she felt like someone was watching her.
She pushed the button and made it to Ann Shankley's office without incident.
"Andy," Sarah said with a smile. "Come in, Ann just stepped out."
"No, it's fine," Andy shrugged. "I just wanted you to have these. There's a report on the last week or so as well. Anecdotal but," she sighed. "In detail."
"I'll let her know. Would you like a seat?" she said carefully.
"Um," Andy looked at her and Sarah flashed her eyes towards the door. Andy felt her skin crawl without even needing to look. "Sure," she nodded. "That'd be great."
"I'll show you that new program we're going to use while you're here," she said, getting up from behind her desk and closing the door. Her small round belly made Andy smile.
"Congratulations," Andy smiled as she sat back down. "I didn't know."
"No," Sarah chuckled. "You wouldn't. We keep everything quite private. You'd know how that goes, right?"
Andy nodded, but the smile Sarah wore hinted that Andy had missed some important secret. They chatted for a while, about working for important women and Andy found she quite liked chatting to Sarah. She was open and funny and kind as she hid in her office until Irv had made himself scarce.
"I think that was him leaving, let me go and see."
"No," Andy said, getting up. "That's ridiculous, you don't need to. I can go. If he's there, I'll take the stairs. At least for a few floors until I figure it's been enough time. Why don't I -"
The door opened and Ann came in carrying a pedestrian, plastic bag of takeaway boxes and a tray of drinks. She stopped, midstep when she saw her secretary had company, before rallying quickly.
"Oh," she blinked. "Andy," she glanced at Sarah. "Good to see you."
"Hi Ann," she smiled genuinely. "I'm just leaving. Sarah let me hide in her office for a while, to," she shrugged. "Avoid certain -" she shrugged and Ann nodded knowingly.
"Then I am glad," she said. Where Miranda's voice was programmed in Andy's mind to be the most powerful one she'd ever heard, there was a quiet, gentle assurance in Ann Shankley that made her as powerful as she was. "Obviously, it's my duty to feed the hungry hordes," she chuckled. For some reason, Ann blushed and Andy caught Sarah's subtle shift and decided it was time for her to go. She wasn't paid enough to be concerned about whatever mystery was going on here.
"Well, it was great to see you both. Sarah, thank you for letting me keep you company."
"You're welcome," Sarah said gently but didn't stand.
Andy didn't think twice about it. She stood at the elevator doors and for reasons she couldn't identify, at the last moment, she turned around to look back to the office where she'd been. Through the crack in the still-open door, she watched as Ann Shankley, Board Member of Elias Clarke and powerhouse extraordinaire, ran her hand across Sarah's shoulder and leaned over to kiss her hair as she passed over her lunch. Andy spun back around as her breath stilled. She stared at the doors until the elevator dinged its arrival and she scrambled into it, jamming her finger onto the "Close Door" button until it did her bidding. At the last moment, she glanced up again but the door was closed and Andy's heart thumped loudly in her ears. She went back to her desk in a haze as she tried to come to terms with what she had seen.
"Andréa?" She heard Miranda's call but couldn't find it in herself to answer. "Andréa?" She felt two hands take hers and was led into Miranda's office again. In the haze, she heard the door snick shut and she blinked. "Andréa? Speak to me. What did he do?"
"Who?" she blinked, finally finding her mind quiet.
"Irving. What did he do?"
"Irv? No, I didn't see him. I -"
"What?" She stared at Miranda. She wondered what the implications of Ann being with her secretary were. And what she needed to do now that she knew. She realised that Sarah had said something about it, at the beginning of their meeting. "Andréa?"
That was a tone Andy hadn't heard in a while and she blinked up at her boss.
"Have you ever met Ann's secretary?"
"I haven't," Miranda said, the frown between her eyes deepening. "I hear she is a," she paused. "Lovely woman." There was a carefulness to her tone that Andy didn't like, but she knew she couldn't say anything at all. Ann had done so much for them and Andy would protect her from any untowardness. It was one thing for a lowly PA to know about their relationship, if that was indeed what it was. It was another for one of the Editors to know. She didn't want to put Miranda in any sort of impossible situation.
"She is," Andy nodded. "She really is."
"Yes, sorry. I think," she shook herself and tried to stop her heart from thumping quite so fast. "I think I might just need some water."
"Are," Miranda looked at her carefully. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah," Andy blinked, realising she'd made a fool of herself. Again. "Yeah, I'm fine. Sorry."
"Nonsense," Miranda muttered, getting up from where she was crouched at Andy's knees. "Why don't you go to that bakery you like so much and get us some lunch?"
"It's early?" Andy checked her watch, swiping away a few notifications as she looked. "Oh, and I need to call the vet for Patricia's check-up."
"Do that, then go to the bakery. We are off to Central Park this afternoon."
"Oh," Andy chuckled. "I remember. Sorry. Maybe I do need to eat."
"Good," Miranda nodded again. "The chicken soup for me, I think?"
Andy grabbed her purse and left without another word, her mind occupied with what she'd seen. She had only seen such a tiny glimpse of something that for a moment, she didn't believe her own thoughts, but nobody treated their secretary that way, if they were not in a relationship? Also, what kind of board member ate their lunch with their secretary. She was quite sure Irv had never eaten lunch with the long-suffering woman on his front desk. She shook her head and took a deep breath, wishing the elevators of Elias Clarke smelled a little less stale.
"Andy!" She spun around and smiled as Roy waved to her from the curb. "I've been summoned to take you to wherever it is you're going."
"There's no understanding her some days," Andy chuckled, sliding into the front seat. "How are the kids."
"Great," he smiled. "Doing well at school. Happy and healthy. It's all we ever want for them, right?"
"I'm so glad," she chuckled.
"How are the twins? I feel like I haven't seen them for ages."
"There was some discussion about how much time they were spending with their Dad so Miranda let them go a few times during the week to see how their schedule worked. I think she's secretly pleased because that way, she can have them for longer over the summer."
"Smart woman," he chuckled.
"The smartest," she grinned.
"Alright, you ready?"
"Yeah, I got it. See you in a bit, I guess. I'll text you when I'm ready."
"I got you."
She got out and placed her order at the deli counter of the little delicatessen. It was a little out of the way and a little more expensive than some of the ones that were closer but it was Andy's favourite. She'd made Miranda try some of their soup and sandwiches and after that, it had become Miranda's secret favourite as well. Their pastrami on rye was arguably one of the best in the city.
Knowing it would take them a while, she sat at one of the little tables and sipped on a glass of water she'd ordered. Her mind was still in turmoil and she sought to understand exactly why it was so muddled. Emily and Serena were together and nothing that they did ever shocked her anymore. It had in the beginning and she'd realised that her midwestern tendencies had made it all the way to New York intact, but she'd untangled herself from them as soon as she could. And if she had done that all that time ago, why did that simple, gentle action send her into such a spin. She chewed on it and mulled it around in her head, replaying the action over and over again until she was dizzy. Just as she was about to groan out loud, her name was called and she sent a quick message to Roy with her watch and picked up the bag. She slid into the car, in the back seat this time on account of the traffic and sat chewing her thumbnail as they rode back in silence.
"You alright?" Roy asked as he helped her out.
"Me?" she said, blinking. "Oh, yeah, sorry. Lots on my mind."
"Alright, Andy. I'll be here to take you guys to the park. Todd's already setting up as far as I know."
"Perfect," she nodded. "Thanks, Roy."
She wandered back up to Runway and joined Miranda in her office for lunch. Miranda was on the phone arguing with one of the designers - one of Donatella's lot, if the Italian was anything to go by - and set up their lunch on the desk, putting away the papers that she wouldn't need and smiling supportively as Miranda winked at her in thanks.
"There's something wrong, isn't there," Miranda said once she'd hung up on the little primadonna and turned to sip her soup.
"No," Andy said quickly. "Well, yes. But it's not my secret to tell. I figured something out and it's not," she sighed. "It's not any of my business and I wasn't supposed to see, I don't think."
"Andréa that doesn't make any sense."
"It does," she argued. "I'm keeping the confidence of someone who doesn't know that I know. You might have a duty to report something like that."
Andy shook her head.
"Nothing, just something that I saw earlier. I wasn't meant to."
"Andréa, if someone is being taken advantage of -"
"No," Andy almost squealed. "No, why would I keep that silent. Do you really think -"
"Ann Shankley," she said petulantly. "And Sarah."
"You -" Miranda stared at her, hard, putting down her sandwich and wiping her hands. "You didn't know?"
"They've been married for years. They're having a baby."
"Why would I have known that?" Andy squealed. "And why didn't you tell me!"
"I thought you knew."
She'd shouted the last bit and there was a thump outside that made Andy roll her eyes skyward.
"You know what, I'm going out there. I'm going to eat my lunch and make sure everyone's ready to go to the Park. I have no idea who that is, but they're going to come in here, no doubt and we can just get on with our day."
"I don't understand why you're -"
"Save it," Andy muttered, pushing open the door and almost smacking into Nigel. "Brilliant," she sighed. "Hi Nige. Great to see you."
"Hi," he said carefully.
"Right," she nodded, more than a little hurt at his new attitude. "Great. Have fun together then, I suppose."
She stormed out of the office, no idea why she felt so discombobulated and walked down to the cafeteria, somewhere she hardly ever went anymore and sat in the corner wondering whether she'd just had the worst onslaught of PMS she'd ever had or whether there was something brewing that she did not understand.