Title: Masque

Author: Susan L. Carr
: The Devil Wears Prada
: Miranda/Andrea
: NC-17
: P&P, Cryptic Rain. Others: Do not archive without permission.
I'll claim these characters as my own if I want them by god, but since I don't make any money off 'em, then who cares? Honestly, some people!
Author's Note
: Inspired by a discussion started by grdnofevrythng and written for the dvlwears_prada community. This story takes place not long after Miranda had a very successful conclusion to her Paris trip. In other words, Andy didn't quit. Can you guess why? 
This story would not have been possible without the endless assistance of mercurychkita. She was invaluable and from the wonderful banner to the beta, she did it all. This story is hers as much as it's mine. Thanks, dude!
: A mask can hide many things.


Part 1

Andy struggled to keep up with Miranda's rapid-fire instructions as the editor paced around the office reviewing the run-through. Jocelyn struggled to pay attention while trying to dress a model in something that wouldn't completely offend Miranda's sensibilities. The model standing in the center of the room watched everything with a stunned look as Jocelyn adjusted the hem on the sweater she was displaying for the fifth time. Only Nigel serenely observed the chaotic scene. Andy was glad that at least she only had to think about fifteen things at once instead of having to do fifteen things at once on top of the thinking.

"Andrea, call Martinique and tell her I need those production samples immediately if she expects them to be featured in next spring's layout. Really, is it too much to ask for a small amount of lead time? Can't she find a suitable sweatshop somewhere that can get them done in a timely manner? Jocelyn, do you really expect me to admire that sweater much less keep my lunch? Have you lost your eyesight? Do something else. Andrea, go with Nigel to James Holt's studio today and harass that inept assistant of his until she gives you the reports I asked for last week. If she doesn't, then tell James to fire her."

She paused and then looked pointedly at Jocelyn. "Well?" she asked in her coldest voice.

Jocelyn looked panicked for a moment until finally Nigel pulled something from the rack. He motioned to the model to remove the offensive sweater and then he draped a sheer black silk wrap over her shoulders, accentuating the low-cut ivory blouse. Andy noted that the new combination gave the model wearing it a luminous glow. Miranda narrowed her eyes as she looked.

"Fine," she said curtly. "That's all."

Andy grumbled when Jocelyn and the model fled the office, leaving her to wheel the rack back to production while Nigel headed to his office. By the time she had returned, Emily was with Miranda receiving a new set of instructions. Nigel poked his head through the door and said, "Come on."

Andy stuffed her notebook and phone into her bag and grabbed her coat as she rushed to follow the fashion director. They got into the elevator and it paused a few floors down to allow the Elias-Clarke chairman in.

"Irv," Nigel murmured.

"Mr. Ravitz," Andy said politely.

"Nigel," Irv greeted and then looked at Andy. "How's life with Miranda, Andy?"

Andy gave him her sweetest smile. "Interesting," she answered and out of the corner of her eye she noticed Nigel smirking. "Definitely interesting."

"I'll bet," he said and turned to Nigel. "Are you looking forward to next week?"

"Wouldn't miss it for the world," Nigel said and gave the smaller man a thin smile. "I simply adore Spanish culture."

Irv turned to Andy. "What about you, young lady," he asked. "Are you interested in Spanish culture?"

Andy goggled at him a moment, wishing she knew what he was talking about. "Um, yes," she finally answered. "I uh…I spent three months in Seville before my senior year studying there."

Irv looked pleased and the small smile on his face grew wider. "Excellent," he said as they all stepped out. He pointed a finger at Andy. "I'll have my girl drop by with an invitation. I'll look forward to seeing you." He paused and turned. "Later, Nigel."

"Irv," Nigel nodded back. "Enjoy the rest of your day."

Nigel grabbed Andy's elbow and quickly led her to the town car waiting for them at the curb. As the driver pulled away, Andy turned to Nigel. "Invitation?"

Nigel didn't turn to Andy, instead he watched the pedestrians – okay, men really – on the sidewalk as they drove by. "Every year Irv throws a big masquerade." Andy smiled at his exaggerated air quotes. Nigel continued, "Each has its own theme. This year's is 18th century Spanish Culture."

Andy felt her mouth curling into a wry grin. "And let me guess, we're talking about the culture among the Spanish aristocracy and not the Spanish people."

"Of course," Nigel chuckled with a shrug. "What fun is having a party honoring the seething masses? Regardless, you'll enjoy yourself all the same. Some interesting people will be there for you to meet."

"Will Miranda be there?" Andy asked.

"Are you serious?" Nigel was obviously enjoying himself. "Miranda makes it a point every year to be conveniently out of town during Irv's events. That gives her a good excuse not to go. Besides, Miranda would rather wear baggy jeans with her boxer shorts showing than attend a costume party, no matter who's giving it."

"Costume party?" Andy squeaked. "I have to wear a costume?"

Nigel finally turned to her with a big smirk on his face. "Don't worry, darling. Your fairy godmother will make sure you're the belle of the ball."

"Oh boy," Andy breathed out.

Later that afternoon when Andy returned from her errand and gave Miranda the requested reports, she found a linen envelope on her desk with her name elegantly handwritten on the front. Emily glared at her as she opened it and Andy concluded that Emily did not get an invitation.

Inside was another handwritten card requesting her presence at the Fifth Avenue home of Mr. and Mrs. Irving Ravitz. Andy gulped. The Ravitzes didn't live in a house, they lived in a mansion. Well, Nigel had promised to help her so hopefully she wouldn't embarrass herself too much.

The card also invited her to bring along a companion and Andy gave a bitter chuckle at that. Even if Nate were still in town, he wouldn't go anywhere near this kind of society event. As it was, she had no intention of calling him in Boston to see if he was even interested. Their attempt at a long distance romance was a dismal failure.

Andy glanced up and saw Emily eyeing her again. She smiled. "So Em…this is for that Spanish thing Irv's throwing," she started.

"I know," Emily replied with a sniff. "Tranquility told me when she dropped it off."

"Wanna go?" Andy asked waving the invitation. "It says I can bring a date."

"Go with you?" Emily said scornfully. "Andrea, you are deluded. I hear those things are terribly boring. And besides, I already have a date for the theatre that night. Not that that's any of your business."

"Anyone I know?" Andy said and playfully wagged her eyebrows just to see Emily roll her eyes.

Miranda's voice floated out of the office. "Andrea."

"Oh well," she said. "Maybe next time." Emily glared at her and Andy smiled sweetly as she put her invitation away and then got back to work.

Later that night, after Miranda had left for dinner and Andy was waiting for the book, Nigel popped into the office and laid a long garment bag over her desk. Andy nearly squealed in delight as she unzipped the cover and spread the flaps.

"Oh, Nigel!" she breathed looking at the gown. It was dark charcoal with subtle floral highlights. Both sleeves were ruffled, leaving a wide expanse of bare chest in between. The midriff was cut in a slenderizing hour-glass design leading again to ruffles layering their way down and around the skirt. Pink and white pleated bows sat low at the hips, accentuating the full-length slit.

"Like it, do you?" he asked with a smile as he glanced fondly at the dress. "I knew you would."

"Like it?" Andy said. "I love it! They had gowns like this on display at the Flamenco museum in Cadiz. I never thought I'd ever wear one."

"Well, try it on then," he urged. "I'm sure it'll fit quite well, but I need to see if we have to do any nipping and tucking."

Andy picked up the gown and started for the restroom, but Nigel stopped her. "Use the kitchen, it's easier and no one will see," he said.

"What about you?"

"I promise to discretely hide my eyes," he said and made a dramatic show of turning his back. Andy slipped into the kitchen and started to undress. "So tell me about Spain," he said over his shoulder. "Feel free to discuss all your sordid intimate moments with any hot Latin lovers."

"Not a single one, I'm afraid," Andy said. "I was very devoted to Nate at the time."

Nigel made a dismissive noise in his throat and asked sarcastically, "Any word from the Boston Baster?"

Andy smiled. Nigel enjoyed making subtle jibes at her ex-boyfriend and made no effort to hide his contempt for the way Nate had up and left her. At moments when she was missing Nate, she'd think of Nigel and feel a little better. Fortunately her days were so full and busy with Miranda, she was missing him a lot less. Almost not at all, if she wanted to admit it to herself. Someone else was occupying her thoughts.

"Not a peep," Andy said. "Doug's been dropping hints that Nate might be seeing someone."

"And how do we feel about that?" Nigel asked. Andy smiled at his cautious tone.

"Fine, actually. In fact, so fine I think I might be over him," she said and reached around to zip up the gown. Fortunately the back was low-cut. She ran her hands down the sides of her torso, loving the way the fabric clung to her like it was a part of her skin. The dress felt wonderful and for the first time she was looking forward to Irv's party.

"Well, glory hallelujah and it's about time, sweetheart. There's a whole city full of men and women more worthy of your affections. You don't need anyone who threw yours…" Nigel turned around and then stopped in his tracks as Andy stepped out of the kitchen. He stared for a long moment and said, "Wow."

"Yeah?" Andy asked. "Really? I mean Chanel is one thing, but this is…" Andy trailed off.

"Perfect, my dear," he said twirling her around. He handed her a pair of Christian Lou's Mata Orlatos, the red soles contrasting wonderfully with the dark fabric. Andy slipped them on and loved the way they made her legs look and feel as they peeked through the slit of the dress. Wow, sexy.

"Can you dance?" Nigel asked.

"Dance?" Andy's eyes widened as she looked back at him, thrown by the out-of-nowhere question.

"Yes, you know that activity where people move their bodies to the rhythm of musical instruments…in this case plenty of castanets, guitars and tambourines."

Andy glared. "I am familiar with Spanish music."

"But can you dance?"

Andy looked at the floor and scowled at the plush carpet. She thought a moment and then grabbed Nigel's hand and pulled him out of the office and into the reception area. She let go of him and moved to the center of the area. Nigel looked intrigued as he leaned against the reception desk. Andy closed her eyes.

It had been a while so it took her a moment to recall her favorite palo, but the rhythm came back easily into her mind and she willed her breathing to match. A moment later she began snapping her fingers and a moment after that her feet started tapping out the percussion. Andy wryly thought that clacking had never sounded so good in the halls of Runway.

As she began to quicken the baile, she glanced at the astonished Nigel and smiled inwardly. She loved it when she was able to knock his cynical self off of its perch. Closing her eyes again, this time seeing the room's contents clearly in her mind, she started to enjoy herself as she spun and twirled. Even though it was only for Nigel, it had been a long time since she had danced this way. It was wonderful to just move to the rhythm in her head with her body expressing the passion of the dance. Andy realized how much she had missed it. Nate hated to dance, and he hated this style of dancing even more. To hell with him. Andy vowed to go dancing more often.

After a couple of minutes, she came to a spinning stop with a final stomp in front of Nigel. She opened her eyes and laughingly cried, "¡Olé!"

Nigel returned the laugh and clapped his hands. "Belle of the ball, indeed," he drawled. "Your talents far exceed my expectations and you are truly worthy of that gown." Then he looked over Andy's shoulder with a raised eyebrow and asked, "Wouldn't you agree?"

Andy spun around. To her horror she saw Miranda standing in the entrance to the offices and looking at her with narrowed eyes. Her mouth dropped open as Miranda slowly scanned her from head to toe and back again and then moved behind Andy to repeat the inspection. Andy was used to Miranda's critical examinations, but this seemed to last longer than usual and she realized the pounding in her chest had nothing to do with her recent exertions. She closed her mouth with a snap and unsuccessfully tried not to blush under the scrutiny.

"Mmm," Miranda said at last, still looking. "When dressing as a flamenco dancer, one should do it well. You'll include the proper accessories?"

Andy started to answer then realized Miranda was speaking to Nigel.

"Of course," Nigel said. "Valentino has a wonderful fringed shawl from last season that's perfect for the dress."

"Yes, I remember – the carnelian one," Miranda drawled. Andy rolled her eyes. Yeah, as if Miranda ever forgot anything, much less something made by Valentino. Miranda continued to stare. "I have a fan that'll do nicely. I'll send it over. That's all."

Andy started to sputter her indignation at being treated like nothing more than a Runway model, but Miranda forestalled that. "Andrea, I have a few calls to Tokyo to make so don't disturb me. Go home." With that, she disappeared down the hall.

"What the hell was that?" Andy said, turning to Nigel.

He looked amused, but simply shrugged at her question. "Who can guess what goes through that woman's mind? The true Miranda Priestly lies hidden beneath many layers no one dares reveal. In any case, at least you don't have to wait for the book tonight," he said and led the way back to the office. Andy noted that Miranda had shut the door behind her. "The fit is good," he said once again examining the gown and then waved her toward the kitchen.

Andy changed back into her clothing and replaced the gown in its bag. When she rejoined Nigel she asked, "Are you going with anyone?"

He scoffed. "No, but after going to all this trouble to make you look good, I might as well be your escort. That is, unless you have someone else in mind?"

"Nah, you kidding? I'd love to go with you," she said. "You'll be the best date I've had in a long time."

"I would take that as a compliment except I know your last date was with that odious Christian Thompson," he said dryly. "Come on, we'll share a car. I want to make sure that treasure gets home in one piece."

Andy gathered up her belongings, slung the heavy garment bag over her arm to keep it from dragging on the ground and, with a final look at Miranda's closed door, followed Nigel out of the office.