Fic: Side by side ... by side
Fandom: Devil Wears Prada (movie)
Pairing: Andy/Miranda, unrequited Emily/Miranda
Rating: R
Description: Emily observes, and tries to do her job right.

"Undress," said Miranda, "and put on the Stella McCartney."

Emily did so, ignoring her nakedness before the woman's imperious gaze, but trembling all the same as she donned the dress and felt the soft fabric on her skin.

"That won't do at all," Miranda mused, lips pursed. "Try the Dries van Noten."

Emily stripped again, but even before she'd had time to put her arms through the sleeve holes, Miranda motioned impatiently for her to take it off. "Nothing looks right on you, so why don't you just stay unclothed for this?" she said thoughtfully, approaching Emily and caressing the underside of her breasts, causing Emily to suck her breath in sharply.

"Yes," Miranda murmured, "this will do just fine, Andrea."

Emily blinked.

It was then that she noticed it was still dark outside, her sheets were tangled around her legs, her neck was bent at a funny angle, and her alarm clock was flashing an impertinent 4:38AM.

Bloody hell. It had taken her so long to fall asleep, too.

Might as well get up, she reasoned, and she did so groggily, wiping drool from her mouth and the remnants a vaguely unsettling dream from her mind.

Emily had felt strangely off-kilter lately. For the good part of about a year now, she'd concluded her work day by delivering the Book to Miranda, waiting patiently around the office for hours or more, and now that she'd been relieved of that duty she didn't quite know what to do with herself and her free time. She'd tried meeting up with some friends she'd lost touch with, but even as she laughed and ate and danced and drank, there was a niggling feeling in the back of her mind that by genuinely having free time, and making use of it, she was shirking a responsibility somehow.

Which was ridiculous, of course. It wasn't like Emily had saddled an unwilling Andy with a job she no longer wanted to do and failed to do well. Miranda had chosen, and Miranda had spoken; it was as simple as that. Emily had known that she'd have to turn over the keys to Miranda's house someday, and she'd long resigned herself to the fact, but all the same, the thought of Andy eagerly dashing up the steps of Miranda's house, unlocking the door and entering, in place of her, filled Emily with a vague tinge of melancholy.

"Okay!" Andy hyperventilated. "I have four hours to get the impossible manuscript -- Smith and Wollensky's doesn't open until 11:30 -- how am I gunna get the steak?"

Emily sat down primly at her desk.

"Okay, I WILL be back in fifteen minutes," Andy declared, grabbing wads of cash from her desk. "Wish me luck!"

"No, shan't," Emily replied airily.

Initially, there'd been a faint possibility that Andy's new duties would end as soon as they'd started. The morning after Andy had first delivered the Book, Emily had been scared half to death to find Miranda at work early, doing a perfect impression of a simmering pressure cooker. Emily had had no idea what was wrong, but she had a sneaking suspicion it was somehow related to the second assistant's new responsibilities. Visions of Andy clumsily attacking Miranda's vagina swimming before her eyes, Emily cursed Andy's lack of expertise in bed while envisioning worriedly what might be in store for her. Miranda had declared Emily Personally Responsible for Andrea's training and general competence, and she wasn't sure exactly what Miranda had intended by that statement, but she knew that her fate was intertwined with Andrea's; if Andrea sank, along sank Emily with her, and her dreams of Paris, too.

Emily had been alternately relieved and infuriated when Andy explained indignantly that all she'd done was go upstairs; one simply did NOT go upstairs without invitation, but at least it had sounded like Andy hadn't had a chance to lay her hands on Miranda yet. Emily been heartlessly amused for the rest of the morning at the sigh of Andy dashing around like a headless chicken in an effort to salvage her job. If Andy was going to bring Emily down, at least Emily could enjoy herself as it happened.

Allowing herself for the first and last time to tell Miranda exactly what she thought of the whole affair, Emily had remarked at noon, with the tiniest of smirks, "Maybe she's not ready for it yet." They both knew Emily was not referring to the gargantuan task of tracking down an unpublished Harry Potter manuscript, but the task of going to Miranda's house every night.

To this, Miranda had responded: "For God's sake, it's nothing special. It's not like she's doing anything a monkey couldn't do."

Emily had walked away, expression frozen and knees shaking, understanding clearly in that moment why she'd been so easily replaced.

Nothing special. So easy a monkey could do it. It hadn't been personal. Miranda had simply tired of her, and had found the closest available replacement. That was all.

Andy had returned that day, with Harry Potter and the Impossibly Leaked Manuscript in her arms and a triumphant smile on her face. Noticing Miranda's stunned, glazed and suddenly intrigued expression, Emily had seen what Andy hadn't yet realised -- that Andy would not be allowed to leave Miranda's house early that night, or the night after that, or the night after that -- for many, many nights to come.

"Don't make me feed you to one of the models," Nigel sniffed.

"Sorry," Andy repeated, brushing hair out of her face. "It's a busy day." She swallowed and admitted, "My personal life is hanging by a thread, that's all."

"Join the club. That's what happens when you start doing well at work, darling." Nigel turned to face her. "Let me know when your whole life goes up in smoke. That means it's time for a promotion."

"Psst." Andy was trying to catch Emily's attention from behind her desk.

Emily pointedly ignored her, keeping her attention on her monitor. She was feeling the frosty beginnings of a cold coming on, and was in no mood to entertain stupid questions.

"Do you have a minute?" Andy whispered. After another moment of deliberate silence, a crumpled wad of paper whizzed inches past Emily's head.

"What is it, Andrea?" Emily said impatiently. "I'm not picking that up for you."

Andy jumped to her feet, crossed the room, and towed a protesting Emily towards the kitchen area.

"What on earth is the matter with you?" Emily exclaimed.

"Shhhh shhhh shhhh!" Andy waved her hands to shush her, and Emily felt an odd sense of deja vu, except last time she'd been the one doing the towing and asking the questions. "You know how Miranda was scheduled to be at some charity event for some museum last night?"

"What about it?"

"She didn't go!" Andy hissed. "Well, maybe she stayed just long enough to get her picture taken by reporters --" she had, because Emily had seen a photo of Miranda at exactly that charity event in the newspaper this morning, "but instead of going home last night, she came back to the office instead, and, well..."

"Get to the point."

"She expects us to, uh, do her -- at work, too?" Andy hissed incredulously.

"In the office, at her house, in her car, in other people's offices, you name it," Emily inclined her head, "whenever and wherever she wants it, however she wants it --"

"You gotta be kidding."

"It's part of the job," Emily said, somewhat bitterly. "If you're too much of a prude to handle it, you're welcome to leave."

"That's not it," Andy said, a hint of red tinging her cheeks. "I can do the -- I mean, I don't mind the -- in fact, it's been kind of --"

"What's the problem?"

"What if someone had seen us?" Andy protested feebly. "We just got lucky that no one else was around, and how did she even know I was still there? I mean, the Book could have been done by then, and I could have left, or--"

"You think she just randomly decided to show up for a quickie? She knew who was in the office and who wasn't," Emily shrugged. "She's not trying to get caught. She plans these things in advance."

"I don't get it. Is this some kind of sick game to her?" Instead of distaste, Emily thought she'd heard the slightest note of fascination in Andy's voice. "Is it for stress relief? Is she, I dunno, a closeted lesbian seeking some outlet for her frustrations?"

"She just does it. Don't question it."

"Why not?" said Andy.

"Why do you care?"

"I don't," Andy insisted hastily, "I just --"

"Did you SEE what Condi wore at that press conference?" Emily said loudly. "That suit was so totally unflattering for her figure. And the colour was so wrong for her skin tones!"

Andy looked at Emily like she'd sprouted horns. "What are does Condoleezza Rice have to do with anything?"

"Is anyone on my payroll actually trying to get some work done around her?" came a chilly voice from behind Andy, who froze, eyes widening at Emily, who mouthed, I tried to warn you.

"Emily, finalise the guest lists for the benefit next week. Andrea!"

Andy spun around on one heel, jumping to attention. "Yes, Miranda?" she quavered.

"Come to my office." The voice was calm and steady; only her eyes, darting quickly over the exposed area of Andy's chest, betrayed her intentions.

"Yes, right away," Andy said quickly, then faced away from Miranda and mouthed "help me" to Emily, who looked back stonily. Given that she would have traded places with Andy in a heartbeat, Emily felt no obligation to sympathise with her at all.

"For the benefit tonight, I need to make sure that you're both fully prepped on the guest list," Miranda said, and the two girls stared at Miranda in disbelief and resentment, for different reasons.

"But -- I-I thought that only the first assistant went to the benefit," Andy tried.

"Only when the first assistant hasn't decided to become ... an incubus of viral plague." Andy looked indignant; Emily looked dismayed. "You'll come and help. That's all."

"Emily. I'm begging you." Andy was on her knees. Sort of. Actually, she was crouched behind Emily's desk, chin resting against the edge of the table.

"I could never dream of giving advice to the brilliant Andrea Sachs, who can do anything." Emily, still suffering from the tail end of a nasty cold, blew her nose. She was half-tempted to treat Andy's mouth like a rubbish bin and stuff her soggy wad of tissue into it.

Andy's eyes took on a crazed sheen. "I don't know who else to ask. You're the only person I can trust with this." She gripped the edge of the table tightly. "I'm having trouble with figuring out how to do ... certain things, for, ah, Miranda." She actually blushed as she said the words.

Oh. That.

"Just look on the internet," Emily said testily. "That's what it's good for."

"I can't do that anymore," Andy hissed. "Nate accidentally caught me one night, and ever since then he's always looking over my shoulder when I'm on the computer. I think he's going through my search history, too."

"I fail to see the problem."

"I was watching a video of a woman licking a vagina!" Andy shrieked before she covered her mouth.

Emily was starting to get bored. "Some guys like that kind of thing."

Andy threw her hands up. "Nate and I aren't in that sort of relationship."

"Put a password your computer and tell him you're doing work-related research, then," Emily sniffed. "Honestly, I'm couldn't care less about your little boyfriend problems."

"My problem's not with Nate," Andy insisted. "I mean, it's true we've been kind of distant lately, ever since I missed his birthday party, and our sex life is completely dead in the water -- but it's not like we did it all that much before, anyway, because it's just so tiresome to--"

"Not. Interested."

Andy caught herself. "Look, I don't really know what to do, okay? With another woman. Sexually." The blush was spreading to her neck and ears, and she couldn't even look Emily in the eye now.

"Well, what do you want me do about it?" Emily said in exasperation.

"I need your help," Andy quavered pleadingly. "I get the mechanics of it, and I can sort of figure what goes where, but -- Miranda's so hard to please, you know, and I'm out of ideas."

There had to be some kind of rule out there that forbade a person's current lover from asking his or her former lovers for sex advice. Emily counted to ten, thinking of her predecessor's first words to her, of sinking ships chained together, of Paris.

She said finally, "I'm not having sex with you again."

"Uh, that's fine. A practical demonstration wasn't what I had in mind, anyway." Andy actually had the nerve to wrinkle her nose. Emily wasn't sure whether to be insulted or not.

"What exactly are you doing with her?"

As Andy nervously answered the question in detail, Emily closed her eyes and thought of England, both literally and figuratively.

"I don't really see what the problem is," Emily frowned when Andy paused to take a breath. "You do exactly what she tells you to do. You touch her where she wants you to, and she touches you wherever she pleases. She hasn't kicked you out of her house once. You haven't been fired. So what are you so worried about?"

Andy stared at a spot on Emily's desk.

Emily crossed her arms. Tapped her foot. Looked at her nails. Cleared her throat. Just as Emily was about to toss up her arms in defeat and leave for the day, Andy said softly:

"It's not enough. I don't do enough."

Emily stared. "What more could you possibly do?"

"Tons more." Andy's voice shook as she twisted her fingers together. "This isn't enough. I don't simply want to follow orders blindly. I don't want to just make her come at the end of the day, and have her dismiss me like the whole thing means absolutely nothing to her."

"You want to make it special?" Emily said curtly. "It's just sex. It's just your job."

"It's not just a job!" Andy said fiercely, surprising them both.

"So what is it, then?" Emily grimaced. "What's it mean to you?"

"Nothing! Nothing at all! Don't give me that look, Emily," Andy glared. "It's not like I -- I don't -- I'm not -- we're not --"

The girl doth protest too much, Emily thought. But Andy seemed genuinely unaware that the dark murky hold Miranda had over her was slowly growing. Or perhaps Andy didn't even realise that Miranda had such a hold over her.

"What do you want it to mean?" Emily said quietly.

"Nothing," Andy repeated, leaning her face against the desk. She said forlornly, "I have a boyfriend."

"I know."

"Miranda's my boss."

"I know."

"She's married. With two children."

"I know."

"This whole deal is totally screwed up."

"I know."

"I don't understand how you manage it."Andy lifted her head off the desk and looked into Emily's eyes searchingly. "How do you just distance yourself emotionally from -- all of this?"

"It's not that hard," Emily lied.

"What should I do, Emily?"

"Easy," Emily replied. "Your job."

At the time, Andy had thought that there was no way she could have committed all those names to memory, but here she was, murmuring into Miranda's ear, "It's Ambassador Franklin, and that's the woman that he left his wife for, Rebecca."

Hearing Emily's stunned, sincere "thank you," and feeling very pleased with herself, Andy decided that this evening hadn't been an entire waste of time after all. Being of use to Miranda was a gift all in itself.

Emily wasn't panicking; she never panicked. She was just slightly flustered, that was all. Having happened to lose -- no, temporarily lose sight of a pile of Miranda's scarves, with no idea where they might be, it was completely excusable that she was tearing up half of Manhattan looking for them. First assistants just didn't make mistakes like this.

Emily tried every store she'd passed through that day with no luck. As a last resort, in the chance that some bumbling colleague had taken it in error, she snuck back into the Runway offices after hours. If word got out that Emily had lost something of Miranda's -- well. She didn't want to go there. Suffice to say that Paris would be out of the question, and after that, who knew what other kind of trouble she might be in?

Stealing past the late shift security guard in the lobby undetected, armed with the master key to every Runway office, she began to search every nook and cranny she could think of. After going through every possible location once, she began to lose hope, and backtracked her steps to make sure she hadn't missed anything. She was going through the Closet for the second time when, to her utter horror, the sound of footsteps and quiet murmurs reached her ears. She ducked behind a rack of clothes, hoping the dim ambient lighting would hide her.

"--don't see why we had to come all the way down here," someone grumbled, and Emily froze, recognising Miranda's voice. What on earth was she doing back at Runway so late?

The footsteps were getting closer, and then, Miranda came haughtily into view, directly across from her through a gap in a rack of Calvin Klein dresses. Emily held her breath, too scared to move an inch. She was beyond screwed if Miranda caught her.

"-- make rounds through the office, but the guards never come down here," someone was explaining quietly. It took two seconds for Emily to realise it was Andy, and that Miranda's family must be at home right now, and that there could only be one reason why the two women could be down here at this hour.

Emily remembered that Miranda had never come back to the office for sex with her, ever.

Miranda had stopped to examine a paper bag on a table. "What are my scarves doing here?" she muttered.

Fuck, Emily shrieked internally. She was going to search that bag for fingerprints, track down their owner, and skin him or her alive.

"Ah, never mind those," Andy pulled the bag from Miranda's hands and tossed it aside casually, then backed Miranda slowly against the table, cupping her cheek shyly. "May I?" When Miranda nodded imperceptibly and Andy leaned in to kiss her, Emily decided she would be witness to this no longer. Stepping gingerly out of her shoes, she bent over, took one in each hand, and began to steal towards the exit. She made her way to the end of the rack, took a deep breath, and dashed.

"I heard something." Miranda jerked away from Andy, looking around. Emily dove behind another rack of clothes in the nick of time, and she sank to the ground, heart hammering, as Miranda's gaze darted over the spot she'd just vacated.

"Trust me, no one's here right now. You're imagining things." Andy pulled the older woman to her and kissed her neck, cradling her head with one hand. From this angle, Emily could see both of them clearly in profile, and she couldn't look away even though she wanted to.

Miranda was glancing round the room, letting Andy nuzzle her jawbone. After a moment, as Miranda slowly relaxed, Andy reclaimed Miranda's mouth with hers, tangling their tongues together.

Miranda had never liked being kissed by Emily.

"What should I do?" Andy murmured into Miranda's mouth. "Where do you want me to touch you?"

"Why are you even bothering to ask my opinion?" Miranda came up for air. "You called me to the office, dragged me down here --"

"I didn't hear you complaining earlier," Andy said before silencing Miranda with her mouth.

The only sounds Emily heard for the next few minutes were their wet, gentle kisses; the quiet, almost embarrassing whimpers coming from Miranda's throat; the blood thudding in her ears. Emily wasn't sure which revelation had shocked her more; that Andy had been the one to call Miranda here, or that Miranda had actually agreed to come.

Eventually, Andy said hesitantly, "Should I just touch you wherever I feel like?" Miranda didn't answer, so Andy slid her hands down Miranda's back and under her shirt, stroking the bare skin there. Miranda pulled Andy's body closer, breathing in the scent of her neck.

"Opium?" Miranda inquired.

"Yeah, you said you liked it last time I -- ahh! -- wore it." Andy trembled when Miranda nibbled her earlobe.

What the heck was with all this ... snuggling, Emily thought. Just get on with it.

Perhaps Andy had heard her thoughts, because she slipped a hand up Miranda's skirt and touched her still-clothed crotch.

"Too fast, Andrea." Miranda stilled Andy's hand warningly. Andy must have taken Miranda's earlier unresponsiveness as a license to do whatever she pleased, because she looked straight into Miranda's eyes and stated matter-of-factly:

"You seem ready."

No wonder the girl had come to Emily for help; Andy appeared to possess zero imagination. But having successfully rendered Miranda speechless yet again, Andy continued to stroke Miranda through her underwear, maintaining constant eye contact. The older woman, not relinquishing her grasp on the hand between her legs, stared straight back, mouth slightly agape, as if just looking into Andy's eyes was a source of arousal for her.

Miranda had always told Emily to bend over, or lie face down, or face the wall, or look away, never at her.

Even though they were both still fully clothed, standing slightly apart to allow room for Andy's hand, Andy seemed closer to Miranda than Emily had ever been.

After what seemed like an eternity, Andy murmured, "Do you want me to use my mouth?"

Something changed in Miranda's expression, and she quivered.

"Should I?"

"Don't make me wait," Miranda croaked.

Just hurry up so that I can get the fuck out of here, Emily muttered to herself through clenched teeth.

Andy pushed Miranda's skirt up to her waist and pressed her face to the fabric between Miranda's legs, inhaling Miranda's desire. She tongued Miranda's clit through the cloth tentatively at first, then with more urgency. As Miranda began to hiss impatiently, bracing herself against the table, Andy tugged Miranda's underwear down just enough to expose her flesh. Stroking her tongue along the exact spot as before, Andy brought one hand up and buried her fingers inside Miranda's moist tunnel.

Miranda ghosted her hands over the skin of Andy's face, eyes fluttering open and shut, until Andy reached up with her free hand and gripped one of them tightly, intertwining their fingers together. Miranda twisted the the shaking fingers of her other hand into Andy's long hair.

Emily's eyes came to rest upon Miranda's face as the older woman gazed down at Andy. There was an oddly out-of-character expression on her face -- something akin to tenderness. Then Miranda tossed her head casually, and glanced straight in Emily's direction, and her expression morphed to one of utmost shock. For a moment Emily thought she'd been discovered, and perhaps she had, because it seemed that Miranda was staring at her with an almost taunting look in her eyes --

-- what she does for me is something you could never do --

-- but then Miranda gasped, and sighed, and simply looked lost, as if unable to understand what had just passed through her mind moments before. She didn't let go of Andy's hand until she came with a spasming, shuddering climax, the low moan erupting from her chest unlike any other Emily had heard from her before.

Emily didn't sleep a wink that night.

"Emily, w-when you come in, there's something we -- I have to talk you about," Andy mumbled.

"I hope it's not another Miranda problem," Emily said, dodging pedestrians and weighed down by shopping bags.

"Not exactly."

"Well, good, because I've got so much to deal with before I go, I swear to god --"

The last thing Emily saw was a taxi bearing down on her, and then she didn't remember anything at all.

Emily was lying in a hospital bed, right leg in a cast, scarfing down a chocolate pudding, watching silent, moving images on TV of attractive, expensively-dressed people at Paris Fashion Week. Oh look, there was Miranda Priestly, and at her side, Andy fucking Sachs, wearing a dress that probably should have been Emily's, by all rights.

There was something very wrong with this scenario.

Emily's mind wandered back to when Andy had oh-so-regretfully informed Emily that there was a huge bruise on the side of her face from the car crash, but it wouldn't really matter if foundation couldn't hide it, because Emily wasn't FUCKING GOING TO PARIS ANYMORE.

Andy probably didn't even know why Emily was so mad. It wasn't Paris or the clothes -- okay, it was partially Paris and the clothes -- but the whole point of going to Paris, one Emily didn't broadcast to the world because it might sound just a teensy weensy bit pathetic, was the privilege of parading Paris as part of Miranda Priestly's entourage, and being introduced as Miranda Priestly's Assistant to all the celebrities, designers and models that a member of Miranda Priestly's entourage would be entitled to meet.

And wouldn't you know it, Andy was shaking hands with Valentino right that moment. That should have been me, Emily thought, the girl wearing those clothes, meeting those people -- standing at Miranda's side --

Emily put her pudding down, having lost her appetite.

That week, when she felt well enough to walk around on crutches in small spurts, she spent most of her free time curled up in a wi-fi hot spot with a laptop Serena had been kind enough to bring her. She caught up on emails, browsed the internet, keeping abreast of news in the fashion world, specifically in the Paris region. Even if she wanted to avoid the pictures of Miranda and Andy together, she couldn't. Miranda was everywhere, everyone took pictures of Miranda, and since Andy was with Miranda at all times, she ended up in the pictures too.

The rest of the world had to be blind not to see it -- how close they were standing, how attentive and constant Andy's presence was at Miranda's side. Andy would always have a hand on Miranda's elbow, or on her hip, or Miranda would be leaning in to catch something Andy was saying. When Emily did a tally, the number of pictures where Andy and Miranda were firmly in each other's personal space far exceeded the number where they weren't.

She was ecstatic to finally be able to go back to work, and she was as surprised as anyone else when Miranda returned to Runway without Andy.

"Oh, don't be ridiculous, Andrea. Everybody wants this. Everybody wants to be us." So saying, Miranda slipped on her shades, smiled radiantly, and stepped out of the car, instantly surrounded on all sides by flashing cameras and buzzing reporters.

Andy climbed out of the car, too, and stared after her for a few moments. She took a deep breath, turned around, and walked away.

When Miranda turned to look for her, Andy was already gone.

"I should have never let you go to Paris with her," Emily screamed into the phone.

"I'm doing fine, Emily, thanks for asking." Andy sounded distant. There was the possibility that she was holding the phone far away from her ear. "I see you heard that I resigned."

"I've heard more than that. Apparently you've decided that working as a personal assistant paid you so much that you've decided to take a pay cut and start over as an entry-level journalist."

"Where'd you hear that?"

"I have my ways."

"... Right. So can I ask why you're calling?"

Emily cut to the chase. "You need to come back."

"Why? Did I leave something in the office?"

"Uh, yes, Andrea. Many things."

"I don't recall anything of note I left," Andy said thoughtfully. "The only thing that's mine is probably a picture of Nate, and I don't really need that anymore. Can you throw it all out for me?"

"I was actually thinking more along the lines of -- something like your responsibilities."

"Ah, those." Andy had the grace to sound sheepish.

"You left your job. You left next month's Gap shoot preparations. You left me with a shitload of stuff to do, including and not limited to hiring a replacement for you," Emily raged.

"Sorry about that."

"You left Miranda. Miranda, of all people! God, Andrea, what happened?"

"Yeah... " Andy trailed off. "You know, I don't really want to talk about it."

"Andrea, listen to me. You must come back. This is all your fault."

"What are you talking about?"

Emily pinched the bridge of her nose."Ever since she got back from Paris, it's just been terrible. She doesn't listen to anyone, she loses her temper at everything --"

"And that's different from usual how?"

Emily ignored the wisecrack. "She always used to maintain an air of emotional detachedness with everything she did. Now, it's like she's completely closed herself off, walking around all day looking like someone killed her dog. Whatever you did to her in Paris really got to her."

"Don't blame me," Andy said sullenly. "Blame everything else going on in her life right now."

"You mean her divorce, or nearly losing her job?" Emily retorted. "She can talk about either of those things with a straight face. But today, someone calls the office to check your references -- and Miranda completely withdraws to her office and stares off into space."

There was a silence.

"Everyone knows you left because of Nigel -- and by the way, he thinks you're a retard, because if anything, it's his prerogative to leave, not yours." Emily decided to lay it on thick. "What's more, he feels partially responsible too, because he says if he'd never told you he'd gotten that James Holt job, you wouldn't have ever have known, and you wouldn't have walked off in a self-righteous huff."

"Tell him he doesn't have to feel guilty," Andy muttered. "It's not because of him."

"Ah hah! I knew it. Something happened between you and Miranda, didn't it?"

Another silence.

"Andrea, I have all day. If you dare hang up, I'll just keep calling."

"Nothing happened, okay?" Andy muttered. "For God's sake! Nothing happened. She wouldn't let it."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I -- I tried to ... comfort her, after she told me about the divorce." Andy paused, clearly having difficulty with her words. "She threw me out of her hotel room."

"You were upset Miranda snubbed your advances," Emily sighed, "and leaving her was your way of getting back at her?"

"Of course not," Andy said indignantly. "Well, it might have been why I fucked Christian Thompson after I had dinner with him."

"Jesus, Andrea."

"What? I needed to get it out of my system. He was willing, I was available... "

"Thought you had a boyfriend."

Andy didn't respond to that.

Emily sighed again, no closer to understanding anything than before she'd called. "Andrea, just come back. Please."

"I don't want to work at Runway ever again," Andy declared. "Do you hate taking over your old responsibilities for Miranda so much that you have to drag me back there?"

"No, that's not it at all," said Emily honestly. "I just want to keep Miranda happy," it was killing her to admit this, "and you do something for Miranda that no one else can do."

"If that were actually true, then maybe she might have actually trusted me enough to --" Andy stopped and laughed harshly. "God, never mind. It doesn't even matter anymore."

Emily wanted to reach into the phone and throttle her. "Okay, here's the deal. In my hands right now is a recommendation for you from Miranda, to be faxed to the New York Mirror. You agree to come back and talk to Miranda, I fax it. You don't, I feed it to the paper shredder."

"Gee, I dunno. What a thinker. I think you accidentally stacked all the right choices to the same side, Emily."

"Trust me, Andrea, it would look terribly bad for you if your references couldn't confirm your employment here."

"I don't know if I really want a prospective employer to read anything Miranda's written about me."

"Have a little more faith. It turns out Miranda thinks more highly of you than you do of her. But it's your choice, Andrea."

Andy sucked her breath in quickly. "Can I trust you?"

"Why would I lie?" Emily said. "Can I trust you, is the question?"

"I need some time to think about it."

"Sure, Andrea. Take all the time you need. Get your life in order. Patch things up with your boyfriend. Just make sure you get back to me so I can fax it to them by the end of the day."

Emily hung up. God. Did she have to do everything around here?

Their eyes met across the street, over the traffic. Andy nodded and raised her hand in greeting. For a moment it seemed like Miranda had seen her too, but she ducked into her car without a single note of acknowledgment.

Andy grinned. That was just like Miranda.

Emily stood alone in the middle of Miranda's office. She glanced at the documents and papers lined up neatly side by side atop the desk, empty Starbucks cups resting casually on top of them. One of them had a faint smudge of lipstick on the lid. Emily tossed them into the trash.

Miranda had just gone downstairs moments before, where Roy was waiting for her with the car. Remembering where Miranda was going and who she was about to meet with, Emily was suddenly filled with a vague sense of emptiness. She shook herself and slapped her face with her hands. There was no room for regret now; she was simply lying in a bed of her own making.

Approaching the windows, Emily looked down at the street below her, barely able to make out a tiny, silver-haired Miranda walking towards the curb. She watched as Miranda paused briefly at her car before climbing inside, and after a while the car pulled away from the sidewalk.

Impulsively, Emily flipped open her phone and dialed Miranda's number.

"Do you remember where you're supposed to go?" Emily said when Miranda picked up.

"Do you take me for an idiot?" Miranda replied.

"No, I just wanted to check --"

"I just saw her."

"Oh, you're there already?"

"Of course not. Just happened to see her across the street, that's all."

"Oh. That's nice."

Soon, Miranda's car would have circled around the block and pulled up unobtrusively to a quiet street corner; a few minutes later, Andy Sachs would arrive at the same pre-agreed-upon location and climb into the car waiting for her there. From there, they would drive somewhere, and they would talk; Emily didn't know where they were headed, or what they'd talk about, or even what the hell was going on between them. It was none of her business, she supposed.

One thing was for certain. Staying late at Miranda's house and providing "extra services" to her would no longer be part of the second assistant's unwritten job description. It seemed that Andy had come to some sort of arrangement with Miranda whereby she would continue to assist Miranda with ... certain as-of-yet unspecified needs. The terms and conditions of this arrangement were unclear, nor was anyone sure how long its duration would last. Probably something to be discussed in the car.

Emily wasn't even sure why she'd called, nor did she understand why she'd not been hung up on yet. She was just about to end the conversation when Miranda suddenly cleared her throat.

"I wanted to tell you that I appreciated that very much how helpful and .. insightful you have been this past week."

"Oh, not at all. Just doing my job."

"Yes. Of course." There was a pause. "I think I owe you an explanation. About why."

"It's okay, you don't really have to --"

"Why her. Why Andrea. I don't really know myself." She was speaking more to herself than Emily, so Emily just listened. "She's not that special. She's not that pretty. She's not even that smart."

Emily rested her forehead against the glass. "Smarter than most, perhaps."

"Perhaps," agreed Miranda. "Emily, am I crazy?"

Emily was taken aback. "I don't know if I'm in a place to judge that."

"Right. Of course." Miranda hummed. "Andrea would probably tell me I am."

Emily tilted her head towards the door; someone was shouting at her. "I think Nigel needs me."

"Emily, before you go," Miranda said, "if there is any new opportunity that you have your eye on -- not to say that you haven't been doing a satisfactory job -- be sure to let me know. I will put in a good word for you."

"Thank you. Goodbye, Miranda." Emily didn't wait for Miranda's reply, knowing there wouldn't be one. She took one last look around the room, making sure everything was in order, before stepping outside.

Miranda had probably reached that street corner by now. Andy might already be there too.

"Miranda's ... coming back to work, right?" frowned Nigel, falling in step with Emily, who shrugged. "Oh, don't look so despondent." Nigel put a firm arm around her shoulders.

"Who says I am?"

"Let's grab drinks after work," Nigel suggested. "We can commiserate over having our hearts broken by the same despotic goddess of the fashion world."

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

"After that, we can steal every Hermes scarf in Manhattan and set them on fire in Rockefeller Plaza. It'll be spectacular."

Emily chuckled in spite of herself, feeling better. "Sure. Let's do it."

Oddly enough, Emily felt good about herself, like she had closed a chapter of her life, and now she was ready to move on.

Word had it that Jacqueline Follet was shopping for a new personal assistant. Maybe she might take up Miranda's offer of a recommendation sooner than she realised.