A/N: All disclaimers apply; see Prolog/Chap01 for full disclaimers and remember, I don't own these characters (except for Madeline and Bethany and a myriad other bit players).

I really did not intend it to take as long as it has to finish this chapter; as it is, it's the longest one yet and it also brings to a close Arc 2. I had every intention of warning you all when I was going to wrap it up but for some reason this story kept insisting upon ending here. Arc 3 is in the planning stages but it will probably be a couple of months before I have it ready to roll.

Thank you to everyone who has commented throughout this work; I truly appreciate your encouragement and feedback. It makes me feel really good that something I wrote entertained you and maybe even made you think a bit. Now, on to the story.

Chapter Twelve

"Miranda, I just read that Fashion Week started today?" It was twenty after four on Sunday afternoon and Andy had just finished reading an article about the impact of the bombing on the two week event.

Miranda looked up from her laptop. "Yes."

Andy bit lightly at her bottom lip, wincing as the affectation caused a pulling in her cheek.

"Erm, uh, shouldn't you be there?"

Miranda pursed her lips. "Don't worry about it, it's being handled. My girls will be here shortly and it is important that they see you; I promised them as soon as you were moved that they would be able to visit."


"No, Andrea, no buts." She returned her focus to the laptop clearly dismissing the conversation.

Outwardly Andy rolled her eyes but the action hid her absolute astonishment; Miranda was putting her before Runway?

She was about to inquire further but the door opened and her mother returned forcing Andy to bite her tongue and wait until they were alone again.

l l l l l l l

Miranda received a text that Caroline and Cassidy were only a few minutes away and went down to the lobby to meet them.

For a Sunday the main lobby was rather busy; people were bustling in and out but Miranda only had eyes for the two redheads making their way through the doors.

"Mom!" Both girls ran to their mother, hugging her.

"We can't wait to see her!"

"I loaded this IPod!"

"We made a card!"

Miranda allowed herself a moment to revel in the generosity and warmth of her daughters, giving each an extra squeeze before leading them towards the elevators; she was relieved that they were the only ones in the car and turned to look at them seriously.

"Before we go in you need to understand that Andrea looks very different from when you last saw her."

Caroline bit her lip as she looked up while Cassidy shuffled her feet.

"But know that the bruising will go away, the stitches and bandage removed and with time she will be back to the "Andy" you both know."

They started to talk in unison but Miranda held up a hand. "Also, under no circumstance are you to jostle or be rough with her; her ribs are still healing and she has bruises all over her body."

"We won't mom."

"We'll be extra careful."

"We promise!" This said in unison.

The elevator was moving slowly and Miranda used the time to absorb the scene as she noted that the highly polished doors reflected her girls' images and burnished them in warm gold. They were so earnest, so natural; how did I manage to raise them to be so? Perhaps it was luck, maybe a twist of the universe's sense of balance or perhaps it was that she had actually done something right; whatever it was, in that moment she understood completely how incredibly full her life was with life. She surreptitiously dabbed at the tiny bit of moisture that had gathered in the corner of her eyes with her index finger then pulled each girl back towards her with an arm around their shoulders, kissing them on the head as the car stopped and the doors slid open.

l l l l l l l

Louise had settled on the couch, resuming her place in front of her laptop. She looked up at Andy even as she kept half an eye on her emails.

"You're really excited about seeing them aren't you?"

Andy's eyes sparkled even as she winced slightly at the dull ache behind her forehead when she lifted her head. "Wait until you meet them, you'll see."

Louise smiled. "Then I can't wait to. Oh, I meant to tell you, Bethany is beside herself with worry for you."

"I need to call her I know; I just haven't had the energy. How's she been?"

"Busy with her senior year. She's threatening to take her spring break here with you instead of going to Florida."

"She is?"

"She said, and I quote, 'Andy's been there for me through everything and I need to be there for her.' I don't believe she's letting her father stand in her way on this."

Andy grimaced at the reminder of her father's brother. "Yeah, and just how has Robert been?"

"As unreasonable and as unpleasant as ever but no amount of grounding or threats is making Beth back off…"

Louise's attention returned to her computer and she frowned as a particularly troubling message from one of her law-partners caught her eye.

"What's wrong?"

"I may have to return to Cincinnati sooner rather than later."

Andy's mood sank a little at that but she knew it was inevitable. "I understand; I just hoped we'd have some time to talk before you do. I need to explain a few things to you."


"Medical power of attorney for one? Not telling you about Miranda, another."

"Darling, I understand."

"Do you?"

"You didn't want to put me in the middle of you and your father."

Andy's eyebrows rose but not in surprise. "Figured that part out huh?"

Louise stood and moved towards the bed until she was standing close enough to take Andy's hand. "It was somewhat obvious although misplaced. I would much rather be included in your life and have to endure any discomfort with your father than not. I've been doing a lot of thinking and it hurt me that you didn't trust me enough to allow me to deal with it."

Andy looked down and fiddled lightly with the IV line. "I'm sorry; I am really sorry that I hurt you but it's not because I don't trust you. Yeah part of it had to do with protecting you somewhat with the power of attorney thing, but even so, I still think it's for the best this way; from what Doug told me it was good that it was them because they were in town and close." She looked up, her resolve firm. "And they knew to contact Miranda."

She inhaled and decided to be completely honest. "As for not telling you about her, I just didn't know how to. I was afraid that you'd not be able to see past the "who"; not so much that she's a woman, I knew you'd not get all hung up on it, but because of her reputation as 'La Priestly'."

She shrugged then and added sheepishly, "Plus the fact that she's twenty-two years older…"

"I can see where you might have had several reasons to hesitate; it wasn't an easy thing to hear at first. Madeline tried…"

"Madeline? How'd you meet her?"

Louise related how Miranda had enlisted her friend to get them to the city when it would have been otherwise impossible at which point Andy's eyes misted and she settled back into her pillows, staring at the ceiling. "Mom, I am so lucky… she's…"

"Yes, Andy, you are and I never thought I'd say this to you with regards to Miranda Priestly but don't let her go, that woman loves you with a fierceness I've not seen in a long time." Louise's voice trailed off and she looked at her daughter, eyes suddenly very sad.


But the door opened at just that moment and Andy had to put aside her questions for the time being; she hoped she could remember all of the truncated conversations she'd been having that needed revisiting; the list was starting to get rather long.

Louise stood and then backed away a bit as two blazing streaks of red shot into the room and flanked the bed. She watched the smile alight within the eyes so like her own at the "Andy!" shouted in two-part harmony and felt a warmth blossom in her heart. Her child had not only survived a near life-ending injury but had a family and was happy; what more could a parent ask for?

l l l l l l l

A couple hours had passed and Miranda stood in the doorway at the back of the room watching the three most precious people in the world interact. Louise moved to stand alongside of her, both women had eventually moved to the other room while the girls visited, allowing them time to heal their own fears and assuage their concerns.

"They get along well with my daughter; I seem to remember that wasn't really the case when she worked for you."

Miranda snorted quietly. "My daughters, up until the last year, had the unfortunate habit of baiting and tormenting my assistants. Andrea received their tender attentions and it nearly got her fired. However, after that, and mind you I did not discover this until Andrea returned to our lives, they came to see Andrea in a different light; they actually missed her when she left." Miranda's voice trailed off as her eyes returned to the room; her lips pursed as she noted the utter exhaustion that Andrea was trying to hide and she retrieved her cell phone, sending a text to Roy.

"Girls, it's time to wrap up; Cara will be here shortly to get you."

Both girls pouted but they could see how tired Andy was and didn't push. "We'll be back tomorrow after school; Roy's going to drop us off!" Cassidy nudged her sister and they both gently leaned in for a hug.

Miranda helped them gather their things and with a nod in Andrea's direction shepherded them out. Once the door closed Andy looked at her mother who had resumed her seat next to the bed and resolved to get a few answers.

"Mom?" She hesitated for a moment, unsure if she really wanted to have this conversation.

Louise shifted in her chair, aware of a seriousness that had not been there only moments before and decided a deflection was in order.

"Andy, shouldn't you rest now?"

"No mom, I'd like to finish our conversation from earlier; you said yourself that you might have to leave soon and I don't want you to go without us finishing this." She inhaled sharply and went straight to the point. "What's going on with you and dad?"

Louise bit her lower lip and looked down at her wedding ring. "Really, this isn't the best time to discuss this."

"Damn it! I'm tired of everyone treating me like I was some kind of fucking invalid!" Andy forced herself to calm down and kept her face neutral, her mother didn't need to know everything still hurt whenever she moved; especially her ribs and face.

Louise looked up and met her daughter's eyes. "I'm seriously considering filing for a divorce when I return home."

Andy gasped, but other than the exhalation remained silent. Part of her was stunned at the surprise even as she thought it's about time.

"Is this because of me?"

Louise looked at her hard for several moments and then shrugged. "Yes and no. It's really about him and how he treats both of you girls and me too; so it has nothing to do with you per se but… in a way it's everything. I love you girls so much and his treatment of you both has been something I've been in denial about; hoping that someday he would see reason."

She ran a hand through her dark hair and picked at some lint on her trousers. "But instead, it's been getting worse." She paused for a moment, debating upon how detailed to be but then decided it needed to be said.

"He's going to mass daily now and spends more, not less, time with that pompous ass Robert; his rhetoric has gotten less rational and more forceful; listening to him spout off his religious BS and his political crap is not how I want to spend whatever time I have left on this planet. I'm tired of it all Andy, I've been tired of it but have been too…" she searched for the word to express exactly what would explain why she'd stayed as long as she had. When she finally found it shame colored her face; she really thought herself better than that. "… complacent; lulled by my daily routine, to feel motivated to change it. I've kept hoping…"

Once again her voice trailed off and she didn't bother to finish the sentence. "It doesn't matter, this entire incident has shown me just how far removed he is from the man I fell in love with and married all those years ago."

Andy noticed that Louise had begun absently twisting the ring that had been on her finger for nearly thirty-seven years, and remained silent; intuiting that her mother wasn't quite finished.

Louise looked up from her contemplation and Andy's heart nearly broke at the lost look found there. "I just don't want to be sad anymore." She straightened and allowed the strength she showed in her successful law practice to come through. "I deserve better."

Andy grasped her hand and squeezed lightly, again mindful of not revealing the dull ache from a mild wrist sprain. "Oh mom, I don't want you to be sad either. I understand; I wish it didn't come to this, but I understand and support you in whatever you decide."

They shared a watery smile and sat in silence until Miranda returned several minutes later.

l l l l l l l

It was somewhere in the early hours of Monday morning and Andy's sleep was plagued by images of carrying heavy bags and running in dark, damp places, panic spurring her forward. No matter what she did she couldn't keep her feet and she kept dropping her bundle right before she heard a loud, concussive blast which was followed by searing pain as she watched her limbs sever and fly away from her body. Then it would all start again. After what seemed like countless repetitions, dream Andy was exhausted and began screaming that all she wanted was for the endless loop of dark, confusing and painful images to stop. As if the universe was merely waiting for her to fight back, once the echoes of her lament faded away, the scenes shifted.

She looked down and could see for the first time what it was that she carried in her arms; a young boy with dark floppy hair and big eyes staring back up at her. She squeezed him tight and told him to hang on as she saw much needed light illuminate what she could now recognize as railway ties. As before the world fell in on her but this time she didn't let go, curling instead around the little boy.

The next image was of a blond man standing over her, telling her that she'd be okay; she sort of recognized him but his name and context eluded her. Then the pain once again got to be too much and she descended back into the darkness only to be delivered up into the faint light of a new day. When she opened her eyes they were captured by watchful blue ones as a gentle hand soothed her forehead.

"You were dreaming darling."

Andy attempted to sort through the images but couldn't pull anything completely out into her waking thoughts. "Yeah, it was the explosion; it's still fuzzy for me. During the day I'll remember a little something, like looking down at my red Doc Marten's on the train or maybe a smell or sensation but at night, more comes to me I think."

"It didn't look like it was particularly pleasant."

Andy considered for a moment and decided not to prevaricate. "Yeah, it was painful. Like needles piercing my skin and ball bats beating me all over."

They both shared a shiver and Andy looked up at her love. "I know it's going to take time but I just wish I could remember more now. This reading about myself without remembering is making me nuts."

"Yes, but the dreams are a good sign that it will come back to you."

Andy smiled as best she could and lifted Miranda's hand to her lips. "Mmm, yeah, a good sign that it will be a good day; plus, I have you…" she continued to lay tender kisses along the side of Miranda's index finger until she reached her palm where she paused and licked, then added with a devilish grin "and the catheter comes out today!"

Miranda snorted inelegantly. "Yes, well, I so appreciate being included in the same sentence as that observation."

Andy gave one final kiss to the palm and lowered her hand to the bed. "Unfortunately my life seems to now revolve around milestones of the bodily function variety. Who'dda ever thought that peeing on my own would be so exciting?"

Miranda grew pensive and murmured almost to herself as she stroked the dark curls gently. "Better than the alternative darling."

They remained quiet for several minutes until a nurse entered on her morning rounds. After a few minutes of fussing with the lines and inquiring about her comfort level, they were once again left alone. As she became more awake, Andy was aware of a dull aching all over her body and some stronger localized discomfort wherever she had stitches; the morphine had been discontinued the day before and replaced with a less addictive pain killer that was not quite as effective but her head felt clearer and she welcomed the feeling.

"Do you think you will be up to more visitors today?" Miranda had been waiting until she thought Andy was strong enough; having successfully stonewalled anyone who had attempted to gain entry before now.

Although still tired Andy nodded. "I guess it depends upon the who."

"Greg wishes to speak with you and I told him you may be available today."

"Greg? You're on a first name basis with my boss?"

Miranda had a slight glint in her eye and she smirked slightly. "Let's just say that in our mutual panic to find you last week that certain things were revealed and since we've had several conversations centered upon your well-being."

Every single one of Andy's insecurities seemed to suddenly emerge like roaches in the dark corners of a kitchen and her eyes snapped with fire. "Goddamn it Miranda this isn't funny! What the hell?"

Miranda counted to ten, trying to remember to look beyond the anger, understanding that if the roles were reversed she would be feeling very frightened by her powerlessness and confusion of events right about now; also the doctor had warned them that one of the side effects of a concussion such as Andy's could be outbursts of anger. Once she saw that Andrea had calmed she patiently explained the contact starting with her calling the day of the blast and the subsequent daily conversations they'd had concerning her recovery.

"I assure you, I have not interfered in any way with your position at the paper; instead it was about allaying the concerns of your boss and quite a few of your co-workers regarding your wellbeing. We also discussed the possible ramifications of the press coverage regarding both your "hero" status and our relationship…" Andy's brows knit together and barely banked embers simmered once again in her eyes, but Miranda saw and marginally increased her volume "… whenever it be made public which I believe will not be much longer."

Andy's ire was doused by a sudden need to hide only to be replaced in mere seconds with self-castigation for the desire. She practically bit her tongue until it bled just so she wouldn't say something inappropriate. Brimming with questions, she was unsure of which to ask first, but she needed to get a grip; she didn't want to become sidetracked by unfamiliar and unwanted feelings of helplessness and claustrophobia.

Miranda took the silence as a signal to continue.

"Greg, being the intuitive news individual, quite successfully deduced that I was your 'suitor' as he so quaintly put it. He has been most discrete and has turned out to be quite compassionate. And no…" she held up her hand as it looked again like Andy was about to intercede, "… no decisions regarding how to approach all of this with the press have been made. I believe that today though would be a good day to move forward with making those decisions. How would you feel about meeting with both Greg and Leslie at some point today?"

Andy leaned back into her pillow. Mother fucker. Her hands shook as she moved her hair back away from her face and she convulsively swallowed at the sudden feeling she had to vomit. She closed her eyes for several long moments struggling with remaining calm. She breathed in deeply, remembering the rudimentary meditation techniques she had started using the year before, and reached for one of her quiet places. This time it was an image from the world she used to inhabit; the last time Miranda and she had snuggled in Miranda's king size cocoon. But the scene dissipated like so much smoke, leaving her with an overwhelming awareness of both her current bed, its metal a trap holding her prisoner, and of her body, which literally felt as if it was liquefying and about to come rushing out of every possible orifice.

"I… um, I'm having kind of a rough…" She coughed, nearly gagging on a sudden push of stomach acid; then gasped for breath. "… shit; um, I'm feeling really strange all of a sudden, like I can't breathe… or I'm going to puke." Andy's eyes were growing wider, her voice was constricted and she started to push herself up and out of the bed.

Miranda was reaching for the nurse's call button after Andrea voiced that she was having difficulty breathing but retracted her hand when she realized that it was in fact a panic attack.

"Andrea, listen to me, look at me." She sat next to Andy on the bed and reached for both hands; stilling their near frantic movements and keeping her from pulling the connected tubes from her body.

"You are having an anxiety attack; you've told me you've had these before, remember? Do you remember how you used to cope with them?"

Andy's body seemed to relax slightly from its fight or flight state although Miranda was still prepared to physically contain her if she looked as if she would attempt to get up again.

"That's right, whatever it was you used to do to cope, do it now. Remember, you're all right. If it helps, focus on my voice and concentrate on taking slow, calming breaths."

Andy redirected her thoughts away from their attention on her body's minutiae, aware now of what was going on. She accepted the panic for what it was and allowed it to flow through without fighting it. Her breathing calmed and she no longer felt as though the bed were an evil entity that had her within its clutches.

They sat together for many minutes, Miranda keeping a watchful eye over this extraordinary woman who was now so much more fragile than she'd ever witnessed. The instinct to protect her at all costs strengthened her resolve to have the meeting with Leslie as soon as possible even as she debated whether or not Andrea was truly ready. Her intuition told her they couldn't postpone it.

Andrea cleared her throat and looked up with sorrowful eyes. "You had asked me a question. Am I ready? Truthfully? I don't want to do anything. Nothing; I want it to go back to how it was."

Miranda continued her vigil silently, hating this but knowing there was no recourse, allowing Andrea the space to come to terms with it all.

"But I know that's not possible and I trust that you wouldn't ask if you didn't think it was necessary." Her voice was now completely resigned as silent tears leaked from the corners of her eyes. "So sure; whenever they can meet, have them come by."

l l l l l l l

It was eleven thirty later that same morning and a light knock sounded on the hospital room door. Miranda arose and opened it allowing Greg Hill entrance; the two shook hands and she guided him over to one of the chairs positioned around the bed.

Andy smiled as best as she could while Greg beamed. "It is so good to see you, even if you do look like you went ten rounds with an Ultimate Fighter champ and got the shit stomped out of you!"

"Please Greg; don't hold back your observations on my account."

The two chuckled as he settled back into the chair. "Seriously, you had us all really worried."

"Yeah, well, you're not getting rid of me that easily."

"We wouldn't dream of it, our sales have increased in the last week and new advertisers have been sniffing around." He deadpanned but there was a twinkle in his brown eyes.

Andy paused, the banter was familiar but still, it made her feel uncomfortable in a way she'd never been with her boss. Before she could comment and break the suddenly awkward silence, Greg reached down and pulled a messenger bag up from the floor. Andy noted the Prada label on the side but said nothing further as Greg continued.

"Miranda had a little something delivered to the office this morning and IT went ahead and worked their magic."

Andy's eyes lit up then, grim thoughts temporarily cast aside, and she looked over to Miranda who nodded once and then back to Greg while she opened the bag. As she peeked inside Miranda offered an explanation.

"We have been informed that your laptop and phone are still in police evidence and that perhaps there was some damage; so, now, you will be able to talk, email, surf the web, anything you want, whenever you want." She was hopeful that being once again able to control her own interaction with the outside world would help ease some of Andrea's anxiety.

Inside was the new 16GB iPhone and a 15-inch MacBook Pro in an aluminum case. Andy looked questioningly at Miranda. "I don't remember seeing these in the store…"

Miranda quietly smiled at the minor coup she had affected. "Yes, well, they may not be out for several months yet."

Andy allowed a bubble of delighted laughter to escape, visualizing the newest "Emily" attempting to pull off this coup as Greg added conspiratorially. "I had to swear our IT guy to secrecy; he almost choked on his breakfast burrito when I took it in to him." He looked back at Andy and continued in his normal voice. "All of your contacts, images and calendar entries, current to the last time you uploaded, have been synced to the phone and the computer has been loaded with the certificates necessary to access The Mirror's database and live site. I'll expect the finished product on any outstanding articles within the week."

Andy quirked an eyebrow and raised her middle finger to her forehead in mock salute, knowing he was only teasing. "Sure boss, I'll get right on that, right after I'm able to take a piss by myself."

Even as she bantered with Greg she unconsciously reached for Miranda's hand, as she switched her gaze to stare lovingly at her. "Thank you. This is awesome!" She pulled the hand up for a kiss to the palm, her new favorite place, and then threaded their fingers together as she returned her attention towards her boss, ignoring his slightly widened eyes at the display of affection. "And seriously Greg, thank you for taking the time to get it all ready for use; you have no idea how crazy this isolation has been making me."

At another knock at the door Miranda made her way over, this time admitting a tall, slender redhead with short, straight hair shaped into a flattering bob. Andy had spoken with her countless times over the phone while employed at Runway but they had never met in person. So this is Leslie; impressive. Her carriage radiated a no-nonsense demeanor that screamed competency and Andy relaxed marginally, glad she was on their side.

Once the introductions were made and pleasantries exchanged Leslie looked at everyone and took a deep fortifying breath then ripped the Band-Aid off without prevarication.

"Tomorrow Page Six will be running an article on Miranda's absence from Fashion Week. My sources tell me that a woman named Marion Jenkins called one of the 'reporters' and informed them that you had barely been seen for the last week and that perhaps you were starting to slip in your performance as the reigning queen of fashion. Also…"

"What? That's bullshit! Miranda, who is this woman?" Andy was appalled that anyone would be so ignorant of the consequences as to seriously attempt a full-on assault of Miranda's competence, let alone a media outlet foolish enough to provide the forum.

Miranda pursed her lips, her voice deathly quiet. "A nobody who has aspirations of grandeur; when I am through with her she will be lucky to aspire to assistant manager at a Pizza Hut in Poughkeepsie…"

Leslie interjected forcefully. "Yes and of course I am available to help you there, but let's return to the other issue, aside from the numerous attempts by reporters to gain access to both the ICU here and to Andrea's newly assigned room..." She felt a slight flutter of her eye lids and her hand twitched minutely; no matter that Miranda had been one of her clients for the better part of ten years, the woman could still surprise and intimidate her. What she had to say next was sure to draw her ire.

"The Daily News reportedly has a photo of you and your girls in the lobby of this hospital as well as several others of you entering and exiting the past couple of days. Unfortunately they are set to publish several in tomorrow's paper complete with a caption speculating on just why exactly you are spending your time here where 'coincidentally' your former employee, now very famous, just so happens to be in temporary residence."

Everyone stared for several seconds, processing. It was Andy who finally broke the tableau with a very loud "Fuck!"

"Yes Andrea, 'fuck' indeed." Miranda was livid, they usually left the girls well alone but now it was as if someone decided that the rules no longer applied. Oh someone will dearly pay for this. "It won't take long for it all to come together; as a matter of fact your Mr. Blankenship will undoubtedly put together a few more of the pieces and…"

"Wait a minute." Greg interrupted. "What the hell does Howard have to do with any of this?"

The string of curses that Greg let rip after Andy explained was quite impressive although they did little to mollify Andy. "Greg, you can't do anything to him. It's all hearsay!"

"Perhaps not officially, but off the record? I can do plenty. So leave Howard to me; I'll explain just how much he stands to lose should I ever find that he contributed in any way to this cluster fuck."

Miranda chuckled wryly. "Well then, that just leaves The Post, Daily News and every other jackal working for any of a dozen or so other gossip rags; not to mention the on-line websites and blogs."

Andy tried not to freak out too badly but was finding that both her equanimity and patience were in short supply; the panic was edging back and the fight to keep it at bay lent her voice a tone of desperation. "What the hell are we going to do? Damn it this isn't fucking fair!"

Leslie pulled the conversation back towards constructive brainstorming, a hint of her native Boston coloring her tones. "No, it isn't fair; but it is occurring and there's nothing we can do to stop it. That said; just because it's inevitable doesn't mean that it can't still be on our terms, but we must move quickly. Greg, I think you will like what I have to say and I really hope that you both…" She looked at Miranda and Andy. "will listen all the way through before voicing opinions one way or the other."

l l l l l l l

Andy still wasn't sure how she felt about their decided course of action but pecked slowly at the keyboard, determined to fulfill her end of the bargain despite her misgivings and the pain in both of her hands. She had completed nearly everything she had to say and was reviewing it when the door swung open and her father stepped in. Andy looked up briefly and stifled a sigh; Miranda was in the other room on a video conference call and her mother was at her hotel packing for her flight back to Cincinnati later that evening leaving Andy with the first uninterrupted time with her father since the Thanksgiving weekend drive to the airport.

"Hey dad." She tried as she had the last time he visited to muster some enthusiasm to inject into her tone but fell short.

Richard looked around him, surprised to find that he was alone with his daughter. "You're looking better; it looks like you've turned the corner."

"Yeah; I'm getting a bit clearer since we got rid of the morphine. Last night was the last time I had it."

"You aren't in any pain are you?" Richard grimaced, the bruising on her face and arms were now blotches of deep purples and yellows and there was still swelling at the points of impact although greatly reduced from when he first saw her.

Andy shrugged. "It's not too bad. I'm really sore but I'm still getting painkillers so no…" She let her voice trail off; part of her was hurt and angry with the way he had been acting and she really didn't feel like talking about a topic he would have been better informed about if he had actually spent any real time with her. She was curious though about what his take was on her mother's decision to remain at the hotel. "You know, we haven't really had a chance to talk, you haven't been here much…"

Richard looked down at his hands for a few moments. "Yes, well, I didn't really feel like I was welcome here."

"Bullshit!" Andy couldn't believe that of all the reasons he could have offered that he would actually attempt to blame others for his actions.

"Andy, watch your language."

"Well then don't lie to me." She snapped back.

"I'm not lying; I didn't feel welcome."

Andy stopped for a moment considering what she had heard about the interactions between her father and everyone else; perhaps in his mind he believed it. "So, did you feel that I didn't want you here?"

"No, that's not it. I…"

"Here's what I heard…" She didn't let him finish his sentence wanting to keep control of the conversation. "… please tell me if this is incorrect. You came in here and expected that everyone else would just fall into line with how you thought things should be and when it didn't happen you got mad and then argued with pretty much everyone in the room."

Richard clenched his jaw. "I was not respected. Your so-called friends and that woman ignored every concern I had, back talked and dismissed me. I can't understand how you can think those people actually have your best interests at heart…"

"Oh my god!" Andy's voice nearly squeaked. "you have no clue, do you? It's called cause and effect. You attack and people react." Andy stared at her father, seeing the man, perhaps for the first time, from a more detached point of view. "Look, I'm truly sorry you feel this way. It makes me really sad that you aren't able to see that it was your actions which brought about what happened. It was you dad; you didn't offer anyone in this room, including me, respect."

Richard started to object. "That's what everyone is telling you."

She shook her head, her next words heavy with admonishment. "Please dad, everyone, including mom, is not lying to me."

Richard remained silent but his flinty green eyes flashed with anger.

Andy, softened her tone, she had questions and she really hoped to get answers. "Dad, why didn't you stay with mom at the hotel?"

"There was no way I was staying anywhere that that woman was paying for."

"Even if you knew that it would hurt me?" Andy tried not to get emotional but she could feel a traitorous liquid brimming her eyelids.

"Look, Andy, it's not about hurting you. I don't want to hurt you, I want to protect you and by allowing this temptation to have any foothold is what is truly hurting you. You must understand, it's not too late to ask for forgiveness…" His words were rushed and hopeful; since he couldn't convince her to leave New York he had spent his time investigating options and contacts and was prepared to show her that there was a community in the city, one that would provide her a better path than what she was on.

"Forgiveness for what dad?" Andy was nearly pleading now.

"Andy, your soul will spend eternity in torment if you continue on this path. Laying with another woman is an abomination, one that God will not forgive unless you renounce it and ask for forgiveness." Richard's voice picked up force and volume, now loud enough to be heard through the closed door at the back of the room.

Miranda had finished her call and was reviewing her notes when the she heard the now familiar strident tone. She moved towards the door but hesitated, she knew that Andrea had had a lot to deal with this day already but truly, this was Andrea's battle to fight, she couldn't take it away from her.

But, she is so fragile.

Miranda made a decision and cracked the door, enough so she could hear if the exchange got out of control.

Andy lost the battle with her tears as she realized that she was truly about to lose her father; that in fact she was already lost to him unless she gave away the greatest love she would ever know in her life. "Dad…"

Richard misunderstood his daughter's emotion, thinking that he had finally broken through. "It's alright honey, it's going to be okay, you'll see, it'll get easier. You just have to trust God…"

"Trust god?" Her voice was strangled as she nearly choked on the mucous running down the back of her throat. "Trust god? Which god? Your god? The god that says that I have to deny the love in my heart for Miranda? The god that says that I must choose between my father and the love of my life?"

"What do you mean?" Richard was perplexed.

"Dad, don't you see? I choose Miranda; I will always choose Miranda. Even if by some slim chance the world really ends up being like you say it is and when I die I end up in some fiery hell, it doesn't matter, I choose to burn because I'll at least be burning with her."

Behind the door Miranda felt her entire body shiver from the fervor of Andrea's proclamation; never had she felt so loved as at that moment.

"This makes no sense!" Andy could see the genuine struggle her father was having in grasping her declaration. "This woman has totally brainwashed you." Richard was up and pacing now.

"No dad, we love each other, that's all." Andy wiped at her tears with a handful of tissues and blew her nose as she waited for her father's next salvo.

Richard didn't disappoint as he turned quickly and spat, "Love? What do you know about love? You are still young, swayed by this city you moved to where everyone does whatever they want; where the devil lives on every corner and is celebrated as normal!"

"Jesus dad! Listen to yourself! You talk about your devil, this imaginary fabrication, as if it were actually real. You know what's real? Real is the fact that Miranda has been with me every day since she found out about what happened. She's worked from here, she's slept here, she's even missed the first two days of New York Fashion Week! She is willing to withstand the awful things the gossip rags are going to publish about her tomorrow and every day after. She's allowing the world to know about us and do you know why? Because she loves me! So don't you dare stand there and tell me I don't know what love is because I think it's you that doesn't have a fucking clue!"

"Andy! What the hell are you talking about? What's going to happen tomorrow?"

Andy and Miranda rolled their eyes simultaneously. Miranda scoffed, it figures that the only thing the plodding idiot heard in all that had to do with what people were going to think.

"Seriously? That's all you got out of that?" Andy tried not to be shrill but it was taking all of her self control not to fly out of bed and shriek in his face. She regrouped and tried to find the shreds of her equanimity, no matter what else he was still her father and she didn't want him to be blindsided.

"Look, tomorrow the two major gossip rags in the city are each going to publish separate articles regarding Miranda and speculation on her whereabouts the past week, including one that has photos of her here at the hospital. Once those two stories are out there the picture will be very clear that Miranda has been with me and it won't take long for people to connect the dots and out us."

"Can't they be stopped?" Richard was nearly panicked now.

Andy snorted. "Can you piss into a tornado and not get wet?" She stared for a moment and explained quietly. "No, they can't be; we're just lucky that Miranda's PR person is just that good. She gave us enough of a heads up to do a pre-emptive strike."

Richard furrowed his brow, now looking completely out of his depth. "I don't understand…"

"I will be publishing an announcement that will run on the front page of The Mirror tomorrow. That's what I was working on when you came in."

"What sort of announcement?" Dread was welling in Richard's heart, he was too late.

"Here," she pointed to her open laptop and keyed in her security code, "this is the article." She quickly saved a copy to another location on the computer, closed it and reopened it; she wouldn't put it past him to try to erase it.

Richard moved towards the bed and stood, scrolling through the document, his jaw tensing with each sentence. Once he finished he pushed it away and shook his head. "Andy, you can't…"

"Don't tell me what I can and can't do dad. I need your support, I need your love, I don't need you to tell me what to do."

"I…" Richard struggled for a minute, then murmured; "This is wrong, I can't condone this."

Andy closed her eyes and the tears reappeared. Just as she was about to speak the door opened and two redheads bustled in.

"Andy! How're you feeling?" Both girls stopped suddenly and took in the tense scene.

Cassidy asked. "Uhm, where's mom?"

Andy sniffled and fiddled with the laptop. "She's in the other room on a call, she should be just about done by now."

Caroline moved closer to the bed and put her hand over Andy's. "Are you okay?"

Andy wouldn't meet her eyes and Caroline looked up at Richard. "Who are you?"

Richard stared for a moment, debating whether or not to acknowledge the child as he was peeved by their interruption; after a moment he finally relented. "I'm Andy's father."

The other redhead stepped forward then and looked up at him. "I'm Cassidy and that's Caroline; did you say something to make Andy sad?"

Miranda decided that it was time to make an appearance. "Girls, I am certain that that is none of your business."

"But mom! It's not right! Andy's been through too much already; why would someone want to make her sad?" Caroline had taken Andy's hand and was holding it; Andy had yet to look up.

Miranda wondered the same thing but held her tongue. "Why don't you come back with me for a few moments and let them finish their conversation?"

Andy squeezed Caroline's hand and held on. "Actually Miranda," she raised her head and looked at her father. "I think we were already finished. Dad, you know mom is heading back to Cincinnati tonight, right?"

Andy caught the slight flinch but it was gone in a flash. "Yes, I do."

"Are you planning on going with her?"

"I hadn't decided yet."

Andy had yet to let go of Caro's hand and Cassidy moved to the far side of the bed and pulled Andy's other hand into hers.

"I think it would be a good idea if you did."

"Andy, I…"

"No dad, there's nothing else to say. I think you've said it all fairly clearly, you don't approve of my life or my relationship..." Both girls gasped but held their tongues at the sharp look Miranda gave them. "… and I have no plans to change either. I am going to publish that article and then I'm going to focus on getting healthy and moving forward with my family." She squeezed and raised each of the small hands in her grip. "Until you can accept that I don't think I want to see or hear from you." She pulled her lip between her teeth but held his gaze firmly.

"Are you sure that this is what you want Andy?"

"What I want is for you to accept that my life is my own to lead and to respect my decisions without trying to cram redemption down my throat. And really, as long as you are unable to accept me as I am, it's not so much about want anyway. It's about what I need. I need your unconditional love and I need to not feel your constant disappointment. So yeah, please go back to Cincinnati."

Richard spun towards Miranda who had remained at the back of the room and hissed. "This is all your fault! My daughter will lose her soul because of you."

"And because of her, I have found mine." Cool shards of gray-blue pierced him as she dismissed him quietly. "Goodbye Richard."

They stared at one another for another few moments until Richard broke eye contact and made a dismissive snort as he headed for the door. He did not look back and no one moved until the door closed completely.

Andy still had both girls' hands within her own and she found that she couldn't let go. Miranda approached and moved to stand behind Cassidy where she reached an arm around Andy and placed a kiss on the top of her forehead before loosely enveloping her in a hug. Andy was soothed as she was rocked gently and despite her desire not to freak the girls out, or to risk tearing her stitches, heavy sobs erupted.

Caroline and Cassidy stared at one another, slightly panicked and then at their mother. Miranda was too busy trying to calm Andy to acknowledge their discomfort so they stood quietly and continued to hold on.

"Andrea, darling, we've got you, we're here for you; we've got you." Miranda murmured in a soothing voice; she had never before been in such a position with another adult as no husband or lover had ever been as vulnerable as Andrea in this moment. The only time she had ever comforted another like this, aside from her daughters, was her sister after their father's death so it forced her to dig deeper inside to pull forth an empathy that was little practiced. Andrea had taken a stand for her and her family, at very high cost, and despite having reservations that she was doing it well enough, Miranda was determined to reassure her that her love was not misplaced.

l l l l l l l

Louise entered the room sometime after the hospital dinner hour surprised to see the room so quiet. Caroline and Cassidy were on the sofa doing what she surmised was homework while Miranda sat next to Andy in quiet conversation. Everyone had a somber look about them and she grew worried.

"Honey? Has something else happened? Are you okay?" Louise had been apprised of the media storm that was going to befall them the next day and deeply regretted having to return home.

Andy looked up at her with swollen eyes and her lip began to quiver as a slow trickle of tears leaked from the sides of her eyes.

"Hey mom."

Andy picked at the blanket and shifted slightly unsure of what to say. "Uhm, dad was here."

Louise shook her head. "Let me guess, he was his usual bright and cheery self?" She heard several giggles coming from the couch but ignored them.

"Yeah; you could say that. Uh, mom? I basically told him that if he couldn't accept me for who I am that it was best if he went home and that we not talk."

"What the hell did he say?"

"Does it even matter anymore? It's the same thing, every fucking time!" She didn't realize her slip until she noticed that a pair of interested little ears were canted in her direction. She grimaced and mouthed towards Miranda a quick apology who merely waved it off before turning to the girls and shooting them a warning glance.

Andy explained to her mother the interaction she had with her father. "Mom, I'm really sorry if…"

"Why are you sorry? You've done nothing wrong!"

"I know, but I just wish I coulda handled it better or something. I don't know!" She leaned her head back and tugged at her hair. "I have tried so hard not to let it get to this point but between now and Thanksgiving I just couldn't ignore it, I just couldn't hold the peace anymore."

"Andy, we've done enough dancing around all of this, and I'm not just talking about your interest in women and one woman," Louise nodded towards Miranda with a small smile. "in particular. No, this has been building for a long time. We've all swallowed our feelings and hoped for the best but the best now is that Richard and I will be going our separate ways."

"You've decided then? You're going to divorce him?"

Louise nodded. "I've been doing a lot of soul searching and this latest confirms what I deep in my heart know; I do not know this Richard and I'm not in love with him. It's time to walk away before the situation gets more unpleasant than it already is."

Mother and daughter shared an intense visual exchange and then each seeing the truth they nodded and came together in a hug. "I'm going to miss you mom, I wish you could stay."

"I know honey, but I'll be back; I'm going to take care of what I need to and then I'll be back for a visit, do you think you could stand me for a week?" They smiled and hugged again then Louise stood and looked at Miranda.

"Miranda, it has been a true pleasure to meet you." She reached for Miranda's hands and grasped both, one in each hand and then drew her in for a strong hug. "Take care of my baby." She whispered.

Once Louise was gone Miranda took Andy's hand in hers once again. "You know she will be welcome to stay at the townhouse when she returns?"

Andy felt her heart warm at Miranda's offer but found she couldn't think that far ahead; there were too many questions yet as to what her future would hold and even thinking about something as simple as her mother's next visit was overwhelming. "I think she would actually take you up on the offer too. Amazing; I never would have thought it possible."

"There are a lot of things I wouldn't have thought possible but in the past week I've come to realize that much of what I'd held as important or true has changed." She squeezed Andy's hand lightly then settled back into the chair, crossing her legs.

Andy looked at her and then at the girls. "Do you mind talking about something right now or would you like to wait awhile?"

Miranda caught Andy's reference and shrugged her shoulders slightly. "I suppose it would depend upon the topic."

"Fashion Week and when you will be making an appearance?"

"Of course, I was actually planning on discussing that with you this evening. Tomorrow, I will need to attend three of the shows, one of which, Mark Jacobs, won't start until about seven; I will be here in the morning and the first, Ralph Lauren, starts at one."

Andy felt a curl of anxiety begin to wrap around her at the prospect of being alone in her hospital room for such a long period of time. Before she blurted out something embarrassing Miranda continued.

"I'll need to leave here about twelve-thirty as Erica is having my clothes sent here so I'll be able to remain until it's time to leave." Miranda eyed Andrea carefully, she hated to leave her and she could tell by the tiny shifts of her throat muscles and the slight fidgeting with the covers that Andrea was uncomfortable as well. "The girls will be coming here directly after school and, since they do not have school the next day, will be spending the night."

Andrea's countenance brightened considerably but Miranda felt the need to ensure it was her choice. "Will that be alright with you?"

Andy felt like a weight had been removed. "It will be great! Hey guys…"

Caroline and Cassidy removed their earbuds and looked up from their computers. "Yeah Andy?"

"Are you alright hanging out with me tomorrow?"

Cassidy bobbed her head quickly; "We've got a new game we want to show you…"

Caroline's words tumbled into her sister's; "We'll get to pick out dinner and even have popcorn later with a movie!"

Andy's eyes warmed. "That's a yes then!"

Once the girls were focused back on whatever it was they were playing with as homework was obviously complete, Andy looked back over at Miranda. "Are you nervous about tomorrow?"

"Really Andrea, me? Nervous?"

Andy poked at Miranda's knee. "Yes honey, you. I mean I'm anxious and I'm not going to have to see anyone tomorrow while you are going to be thrown into the middle of the storm. So, what are you feeling?"

"Andrea, it matters not to me what people think or say; magazine sales will probably double so my job will not be in peril and the board has already been informed of what's coming tomorrow; there will be no surprises on that front. Cameras are always thrust into my face during fashion week; this will be no different."

Andy settled a bit but found she couldn't leave it alone. "What do you think will happen?"

Miranda set a look upon her face that Andy hadn't seen focused on her for quite some time; the arrogant queen of fashion had rejoined them in the room, skewering Andy with liquid nitrogen eyes that drew a shiver from head to toe.

"Oooh, yeeaah. Good one; got it." And she did and loved it, all of it. This was her woman, just as surely as she was Miranda's, with all of her many facets; from brutal businesswoman and loving partner to devoted mother and sensual lover. Andy could see the smile that warmed the ice chips, even as it was constrained upon nearly pursed lips, meant only for her to see and it did more to calm her than any platitude or spoken reassurance could hope to do.

Andy gingerly swung her legs over the side of the bed, adjusting the IV lines and stand slowly as Miranda rose to meet her. It was the first time she had stood since the removal of the catheter; the nurse had appeared shortly after her father had left and with all of the emotion she hadn't even taken the time to realize she was no longer tethered to the bed. Now, all she could think about was feeling Miranda next to her.

"Darling, don't move too fast." Gone was the industry queen, voice soft and caring, now so close.

"Yeah, wow, a little dizzy here…" She reached out and wrapped her arms around Miranda's waist.

The girls looked up from their game and paused it; watching silently.

"Is there something you need? Do you need to use the restroom?"

Andy shook her head, "No, just you. I just need to feel you."

"Very well, you have me." Miranda pulled her closer and whispered in her good ear, "And you will definitely have me again soon darling, I've missed you more than you might imagine."

Andy felt faint tremors of desire skitter tentatively through her still abused body and rejoiced that Miranda professed to still want her even after everything. Still, she harbored doubts but held them deep inside; she didn't want to think about the likely scar on her face or the unaddressed issues now.

Instead Andy allowed their bodies to melt together, smell the delicate fragrance that lingered after the long day along with the familiar scent that was Miranda. "Do you think…"

Miranda, lost for a moment in the contact, pulled back and looked at Andrea carefully; she could tell there was much going on beneath the surface but vowed not to push. She knew there were many things that needed to be discussed but now wasn't the time. "What, darling?"

"Is there any way you would sleep with me tonight?" Andy looked down at the floor, feeling foolish. No matter that every one of the medical personnel that worked with them knew they were together, Miranda wouldn't want to be so intimate in what was still somewhat a public place.

Miranda considered the venue which was anything but private, but, really, does it matter? It didn't but she looked at the bed and then at Andrea. "Darling, I would love nothing more than to sleep at your side, but right now I don't think it's a good idea."

"I'm sorry for asking, I understand that it would be awkward."

Miranda saw the dejection shutter the dark eyes and hastened to reassure. "You don't understand, I would love nothing more than to sleep next to you but," she reached down and lightly tugged at Andy's right arm, noting the flinch, and lightly traced the purple-yellow skin, "I don't want to hurt you. I don't give a damn what other people think but I do care about you and that bed is too small to fit both of us without me putting pressure on your still healing body."

Andy couldn't help the traitorous reaction of her body; her arm was still very sore and even minor movement was somewhat painful but the reality angered her. She lifted her gaze back to Miranda's, saw the sincerity and swore quietly. "Damn it. I hate this!"

"Soon. You are making great strides; I believe they will be willing to let you leave here in the next few days." She softly pushed back the dark hair and lovingly stroked along Andy's jaw. "So…" A long exhale of breath as her thoughts were sidetracked by the watery gaze that captured hers, "we will both just have to be patient."

Andy mirrored the caresses and traced the soft lips, eyes widening slightly at the tiny shiver that her touch elicited, then leaned in to lightly brush their lips together. She caught sight of the girls who were obvious in their attempt to appear as though they were not watching so forced herself to pull back quickly, the kiss a fleeting promise for more.

She searched within to reach beyond the layers of her insecurities and moved to lightly embrace Miranda one more time, whispering in her ear. "I love you Miranda; I may not always be the best at showing you, but I really love you and I miss you so desperately even though these last few days have been the most we've been together." She pulled back and looked at Miranda, a befuddled look on her face. "How is that possible?"

Miranda forced herself to take a step backward and then guided Andy back to the edge of the bed, wordlessly indicating that she should sit. Once Andy had scooted back a bit she moved to help lift her legs up and under the covers, settling her into a comfortable position once more. She then bent down, effectively blocking her daughters' view, and nuzzled the skin below a delicate ear before nibbling lightly on the beckoning lobe drawing a low, rumbling moan.

"With you darling, everything is possible. I love you."

l l l l l l l

Early the next morning Miranda was finishing her morning routine, one hand adjusting the cuff on a casual blouse, while the other brought a cup of steaming coffee to her lips when a knock on the door signaled the arrival of their expected visitor. They held each other's gazes for a moment until Andy nodded then watched in rapt fascination as Miranda transitioned into the Miranda Priestly as she opened the door.

Leslie bustled in bearing with her The Mirror, The Post and The Daily News. Andy was learning that the woman rarely bothered with small talk and today was no different.

"My sources were accurate however they did not have access to the final edited content." She cringed as Miranda took the papers from her grasp and placed them on top of the blanket covering Andy's legs.

They opened to the front page of Page Six first.

"Where is the Fashion Queen?" Fashion Week has started and there has been one glaring absence. Miranda Priestly, famed editor of Runway Magazine and chair of the Elias-Clarke Board of Directors has yet to make an appearance. Add to that, Marion Jenkins, associate editor at Marie-Claire and an interim member of the New York Fashion Week operating board who graciously afforded us an impromptu interview, indicated that the Dragon had not been available for detailed planning and conducted all of her meetings this last week via phone or video-conference. This of course has lead to major concerns by other board members and us to question whether or not the notorious queen's reign is in the early stages of decline.

Both Leslie and Andy watched as Miranda read the story aloud; even as her lips moved Andy could tell they were pursed as her features became more hardened with each syllable enunciated. By the end of the reading a full blown sneer dominated her face as she threw the article on the floor. "I will ruin her. Bloody fucking fame-sucking media whore will rue the day she tripped into my realm. By the time the sun sets that woman will be lucky to be able to hail a cab in this town. Leslie, would you please gather a file of all of this woman's pertinent information? I…"

Leslie dared to interrupt as she pulled a folder from her bag and handed it over. "Already done. The number for Marie Claire's Joanna Coles is at the very top. Everything, from the company that holds the lease on her one bedroom apartment in mid-town to her dry-cleaners and favorite coffee house is in that file. Let me know if I may help in any way; I believe I would most enjoy assisting you with this one."

Miranda's face transformed from one of suppressed anger to devilish merriment so quickly that Andy had to shake her head. Marion Jenkins, whoever she was, just enjoyed the last day of her life as she knew it. The alleged decline of the Ice Queen's power would certainly prove to be nothing more than a child's fantasy by the time Miranda was through.

After everyone paused and took a breath The Daily News was opened next and Leslie was forced to admit that the depth of their material was more than what her sources had indicated. "I'm afraid that Mr. Hill was too late in having that conversation with Howard Blankenship." They took in the two photographs accompanying the article; the first clearly showed Miranda and the twins, laden with their gifts for Andy, in the Presby lobby. Miranda narrowed her eyes, displeased beyond measure that they dared print a photo of her girls.

The second photo was of Andy and it grabbed her attention so much so that she nearly did not hear as Leslie began to read the article. It was of Andrea in a long leather coat opened to reveal the black leather and silk outfit that she had gifted her for their evening at Madeline's, poised to enter the opened car door as Roy waited outside The Mirror.

"The Angel and the Devil?" Is it a coincidence? Our ever present eyes have proof (see photo at left) that none other than our illustrious dragon has been spending all of her time ensconced in a certain "Angel's" hospital room.

Sources have it that Miranda Priestly and Andrea "Andy" Sachs have been engaged in a very hush-hush Sapphic association; that's right, the 'Angel of the Broadway Line', newly moved from the Presby ICU, and our most notorious Prada wearing 'Devil' are said to be an item! Word has it that it's hot and heavy with lots of black leather and sparkling ice (see picture at right) and this with twenty-two years between them; mayhaps the queen is feeling her oats? Perhaps a mid-life crisis gone wild? Keep your eyes here, we'll have more for you soon!

Miranda hummed as her eyes kept returning to the photo of Andrea in that outfit, while Andy merely stared into space with glazed eyes. Andy finally noticed what held such fascination for Miranda and blushed to the roots of her hair while Leslie looked back and forth at both women trying to gauge their reaction.

Finally Miranda looked up and skewered Leslie. "Get me a copy of that photo."

Andy finally found her voice. "That's it? That's all you have to say? God damn it, they're making me look like some sort of predatory sex fiend!"

Miranda noted the outraged expression and decided to inject some levity into the situation. She patted Andy's hand then slid a fingernail gently up her index finger, over the soft skin of her inner wrist and then up her forearm to the inside of her elbow as she couched her voice in just that timbre that caused a tremor to rush through Andy's body and Leslie to wish she were anywhere but where she was at that moment. "Yes, but darling, you are my predatory sex fiend."

Andy lost every thread of her outrage and squeezed her thighs at the sudden pulsing; she crossed her arms over her chest hoping that Leslie hadn't notice that her nipples were rock hard.

Miranda smirked as she noted Andrea's predicament as well as her understanding that this article, unlike the Page Six fabrication, was inevitable and unavoidable. No action could be overtly leveled at any one person although, given the details and that photo, she was certain that Greg would have a few choice words for Howard (and Miranda did have a few ideas that she remained silent about as she saw no need to worry Andrea unless necessary).

"Hmm, let's continue." Miranda picked up The Mirror and proceeded as if nothing were out of the ordinary.

The front page headline was by far the most prominently placed of the three articles and it invited, with its nearly sublime headline, the reader to step away from the circus and into a quiet room with just themselves and Andy. Miranda skimmed the piece and nodded; no changes had been made and she raised her head capturing Andrea's eyes with her intense gaze.

"You should be proud, this is a wonderful piece."

Leslie nodded. "I agree. Andy, you have a very unique and compelling style that will resonate with anyone who reads it."

Andy nodded absently as her eyes traced the photo which was nestled within the italicized type of the article; it had been shot by Andy's favorite nurse on Saturday with no intention of it ever being made public. The image was informal and candid in composition with Louise, Doug, Lily and Miranda, positioned in her usual spot holding Andy's hand, all surrounding Andy's bed, deep in conversation. It portrayed a sense of family, strength, unity and warmth.

Miranda moved closer to Andy's side and once again reached for her hand. "Before you know it, the worst will have passed; we will get through this."

Andy was still hung up on the Daily News article and photo. "I do know that Miranda; it's just more overwhelming than I could imagine. I mean, jesus f-ing christ! We just came out to the entire freaking world!"

Miranda leaned down and whispered in Andrea's ear even as Leslie moved to the far part of the room to give them privacy. "Yes my love and now everyone can see just how lucky I am to have you."

Andy turned her face and murmured against the soft lips. "Say it again."

"What darling?"

"Call me your love." Dark eyes sought the light within the now sparking blue. "Tell me Miranda, because that is the only thing that will keep me from completely losing it. Tell me."

Miranda saw the first real glimmer of her Andrea since she awakened, the one who took what she wanted and gave her everything, as they exchanged a look so laden with heat, want and love that she needed to sit as her legs were threatening to give out.

She pulled the chair as close to the bed as possible, never breaking their intense stare, keeping her voice a near whisper, despite knowing that Leslie had moved to the guest suite and shut the door, leaving them completely alone. "You, Andrea Sachs are the love of my life. You said you would burn for me, well my love, I burn for you, and you only. Hold that thought deep within and whenever it should get too hard remember it. Remember that you are the only one who makes me weep with desire; if I could I would have you right now because I need you."

Miranda brought their lips together in a kiss that brought a moan from both, more for its promise than actual physicality, and pulled quickly away before it could cause pain.

"You are so incredibly hot and beautiful to me. So you are mine Andrea; mine and don't you ever forget it."

End Arc 2


The "Angel of the Broadway Line" – In her own words

My name is Andrea Sachs but I prefer to go by Andy. I have been a reporter for the New York Mirror for the past year and before that an assistant to Miranda Priestly, Editor in Chief of Runway magazine.

I am writing this from my hospital bed at New York Presbyterian Hospital where I am recovering from injuries sustained in the recent subway bombing. My memory of that day is virtually non-existent but I've been told that my actions allowed the train to be evacuated in time and in a location that created the least amount of damage; more importantly, no one was killed and apparently I was the only person seriously injured.

I have also been informed that there are many people interested in the extent of my injuries and in my recovery. I took a pretty bad blow to the head, hence the not remembering part, have broken ribs, a ruptured ear drum, a minor perforation in my small intestine and numerous puncture wounds, muscle strains and bruises. It's going to take a while to get back to my normal day-to-day self and it really can't happen soon enough. I was not an individual designed for bed rest; the inactivity is starting to drive me crazy and I've only been fully awake for two days.

It's been a week now since the bombing and throughout I have been supported by the love of my family, friends and a very special woman who has not left my side despite knowing that to do so would create speculation. Yes, your eyes have not deceived you, that is Miranda Priestly, Editor of Runway magazine, pictured in the photo next to this article and we are involved in a romantic relationship.

After not seeing my former employer for a little over a year I ran into Miranda at a holiday party of a mutual friend nearly three months ago; we have been seeing each other ever since.

Please note, this is not normally something I would be discussing with people I don't know, let alone write about it in a daily newspaper but unfortunately circumstances are extraordinary and discretion is a luxury I have no longer been afforded. I am not one who seeks fame, but apparently life has had other plans and has thrust it upon me. I didn't do what I did on that train for accolade, no, I did it because I care and it was the right thing to do. The same can be said of my relationship with Miranda, I am involved with her not for the fame, fortune or even professional advancement rather I am with her because in addition to the driven career woman who accepts nothing but the best, she is a warm, loving and ethical human being who has captured my heart.

It should be noted, because many will no doubt ask, that when I worked at Runway we were not together, our relationship was strictly professional. Miranda was "The Miranda Priestly" and I was one of her assistants, running over the whole of Manhattan to ensure her life ran on time.

So that's pretty much it; really, nothing that earth-shattering but I suppose a lot of people will have opinions to the contrary. I am a lot of things but not naïve to the way our "culture of celebrity" works so I suppose it's probably too much to ask that my privacy and my family's privacy be respected at this unexpected "news". I am however hopeful that we will each at least be treated with some modicum of restraint.

One last thing, although it may be the most important of all; I need to express my gratitude.

First, to transit officer Bud Straszinski; it is because of Bud's selfless actions that I am alive today; without his intervention I was told that I would have bled to death in that tunnel. Myself, Miranda and my family are forever in his debt.

I would also like to thank every one of the many people, both known and unknown to me, who have sent their wishes for a speedy recovery and who have kept me in their thoughts and prayers. Your love and support are greatly appreciated and knowing that you are behind me is giving me strength as I move forward in my recovery.

Andrea "Andy" Sachs

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