Disclaimer: These characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox and were brought to life by the incredible talents of Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway. No infringement is intended or profit made from this work. I'm just borrowing them for a bit, and I promise to put them back when I'm finished. Whether or not they'll ever be the same again is anybody's guess.

Rating: M/NC-17. If you have a problem with two adult women in a committed, loving relationship then this is where you need to find something else to read.

Distribution: Do not archive or repost without author's permission.

Feedback: As always, constructive criticism and comments are welcome.

Summary: It's four years after Paris. Miranda and Andy have been together for nearly three of them, but a nasty argument pushed both of them further than they'd intended, and Andy moved out. Now nobody's happy, and the twins have had enough. On a weekend trip out to the Easthampton house tragedy strikes, forcing everybody to take a good hard look at what's been going on.

A/N: I must give thanks to the people who labored mightily to wrestle this into a readable story. Quiethearted and JAZwriter13 uncomplainingly dealt with thousands of extraneous commas (both deleting AND adding), corrected my ongoing and unapologetic misuse of the ellipse, and managed to keep my plot churning determinedly in the direction it needed to go despite my whines, pleas, and threats. Gin and scotti provided encouragement and some pretty nifty plot ideas when I hit the wall and my Muse ran screaming into the next county. Ladies, you are amazing. A would-be writer could have no better friends.


Cold… so cold. Hurts… legs… Pain….breathe… cold, so cold…

Quiet… no… noise. Wait… Bark? Dog? Patricia... Girls! Caroline?! Cassidy?! Where…? What…?

A curtain of blessed darkness slipped over her, obliterating the searing pain and dragging her toward unconscious oblivion. As if from a distance, she could hear the urgent voices around her.

"This one's bad, Ed. We're gonna need Life-Flight evac for all three of 'em. Angie, how are those kids doing?"

"Coupla fractures… one of em's got internal bleeding — abdomen's rigid. Lotsa blood but I think that's just scalp lacs. Doesn't look like there's underlying head trauma. Trooper's on the radio callin' in the helo now."

"Stabilize both of 'em, and let's get 'em to Heritage. Helo will meet us there. Let's move it, people! And somebody shut that damned dog up!"

What…? Helo? Bleed…? Dog? My dog? Wha… oh… hurts…

"C'mon lady, stay with me, stay with me! Shit! She's not breathing! Ed! I need to intubate right now! Number 8…Hold off on the cervical collar until I get her tubed. Dammit, her larynx is swelling! Hang on…hang on… okay, I got it! Chuck, bag her when you get the collar on. Try to keep her pulse-ox up until we can get her on a machine. I bet she's got a hemo/pneumo… Holy crap! Her chest feels like rice crispies… this is bad. Real bad… hurry people…we're losing her…"

Sirens wailing… flashing lights… strange hands… voices… warmth... Pain, so much pain…

"Lemme see that chest film! Start a central line! Her pulse-ox is in the toilet: get that vent going on 100% O2. Type and cross, and get five units on the rapid infuser."

"Left pupil's blown – not responsive. IC pressure's up. We've got a brain bleed - get Neuro down here right now!" A trauma nurse leapt for the phone.

"Uneven breath sounds… she's bradying down!"

Can't breathe… hurts so much… just give in, sleep, let pain take you… let go… so tired… NO! Wait! Daughters! Where… ? Girls! I… love… you…

"Terry, she's got a cardiac tamponade! I need a centesis syringe! Is that chest tube in yet? We've got to relieve that chest pressure! Move people; we don't want to lose her!"

"Vent's up on 100% oxygen. Pulse-ox is 73… we've got to get this up."

"Her pulse-ox won't matter if her intracranial pressure keeps climbing. Where the hell's Neuro?"

"On their way, Doctor. Here's the chest tube tray."

"Jerry, get that chest tube in. Okay, centesis needle's in the pericardium… damn! Look at all this crap! Where's the bleeding coming from?"

"Somebody call for Neuro?"

"I did, dammit. Her pupil's blown; ICP is climbing real fast."

"Do we have head films? Let me see. Okay, here's the problem. Subdural hematoma, left temporal area. Big sucker. How do you want this: done properly up in surgery or quick and dirty?"

"Quick and dirty. Life-Flight's due in any minute. Presbyterian is standing by. We just need to keep her alive until she gets there."

"Quick and dirty it is. Get me a 10-blade, cut down kit, a bone drill, and betadine. Nurse, she'll need prep: shave her head just here over the ear while I gown up."

Buzz… like bees… cold…

"Area's clear… swab it and drape her. 'Kay people, let's go. 10-blade… retract that. Good; hand me the bone drill. No, I need the ultra-low speed. Easy… all right, got some osteoblasts harvested. Be ready, this is gonna spurt when I… whoa! Suction! Hang on, I need to get at that bleeder. Good, okay, now give me gentle suction right there. Careful; don't disturb that clot until I make sure the bleeding is controlled. Laser cautery… and… okay, that's got it. Now suction that clot out. Good. Let me get some gelfoam in there, and then pack the burr hole with osteoblasts. Okay, just tape down that skin flap, and cover the incision. How's that pressure? Good; it's dropping fast. She'll be okay until they get her back to the city."

City… home… where…?

"How are the kids doing? Will they all be on the same Life-Flight?"

"No, they're sending a second bird for the kids. This one's the priority. Fitzpatrick's trauma team is standing by at Presbyterian. Helo's one minute out."

"All right people, secure everything, and let's head to the helipad."

Need… talk to girls… wait! Need… Oh my darlings, I love you so

And the darkness claimed her once again.

Andy Sachs looked around her apartment in disgust. Nearly two freakin' months and you still can't force yourself to unpack the boxes. Sachs, you're pathetic! The lady made her wishes clear. Miranda showed you the door, and you walked through it. It's time to get on with your life. Now grow a pair, and do it. Hell, even Doug says I'm being ridiculous, and he's…

The ringing phone startled her out of her self-dissection. "Hello?"

"I'm calling for Andrea Sachs. Are you her?" The voice sounded businesslike and official.

"Yes. Who's calling, please?"

"This is the trauma unit at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital. We've got you listed as the emergency contact for a Miranda Priestly. Am I speaking with the correct person?"

"Miranda! Dear God, what's happened?"

"There was an auto accident out in the Hamptons. She was Life-Flighted here."

"Life-Flight? How badly is she hurt?"

"I'm afraid it's… serious. The car left the road and apparently rolled several times. We need medical power of attorney, and you're listed as…"

"Do whatever you need to. I'll be there as quickly as I can. Her daughters… where are her daughters?"

"There's a second Life-Flight helicopter inbound with two fourteen-year-olds. Would that be them?"

"Her twins, Cassidy and Caroline, yes. What's their condition? I've got medical power of attorney for the girls too."

"Serious, but not immediately life-threatening as I understand."

"You do whatever you need to for them as well. I'll be there as soon as I can. I'm leaving now."

"Very good. The trauma unit is on the southeast side of the hospital complex; use the south entrance off 68th Street."

"Thank you. Call me if there's any change in her condition before I get there."

Andy dove for the box marked "DESK PAPERS" and frantically began digging for the lockbox and the three blue-bound documents she had resisted accepting so hard.

(Twenty-one months ago)

"Miranda, I don't want this. You and Geoff should be the ones making those decisions, not me."

"Would you please listen? He and I discussed it. We both want it this way. As much as we both travel, it's only wise to have another adult capable of making medical decisions for the girls. You live with them, with us. You're the logical choice."

"I don't mind having your medical proxy; we're partners, and I'm the one who should make those decisions. But the girls? How am I qualified to make choices for them?"

"You love them. Welcome to the wonderful world of parenthood. You are now officially the wicked stepmother."

Andy looked at her partner in disbelief. Which lasted about three nanoseconds before she dissolved in laughter. Shaking her head, she gave in and kissed her wife.

"Where do I sign?"

(Present day)

C'mon Dougie, pick up. I need you, buddy.

"'Ssup, girlfriend?"

"Doug? Listen, I need your help. Miranda and the girls – there was a wreck... I'm on my way to the hospital. But I need you to go out to Easthampton and find..."

"What? Slow down. What's happened?"

"I don't really know. They were in the Hamptons for the weekend, and the car went off the road and rolled. Miranda was Life-Flighted to Presbyterian. The twins are on a second helicopter inbound to the hospital now. Miranda's in critical condition, and the twins are bad but not critical. That's all I know. I'm on my way out the door."

"Critical? Jesus! What's the address out there? I remember what the house looks like, but I forget the name of the road."

"Nichols Lane at the beach. Doug, if they were on their way out there, the dog would have been with them in the wreck. If they were already there, then she's alone in the house. Find Patricia. Find out if she's alive. Bring her home. The key's in that funky rock you always laugh about by the pool house door. Take Ruth with you."

"I remember the rock. But it's gonna take us a while to get out there this time of night."

"Drive, it'll be faster. I… Roy! I'll get Roy to take you! I don't know where the wreck happened. You'll need to contact the Suffolk County Sheriff to get information. The car's Wi-Fi enabled; you'll be able to use the internet on the ride out."

"All right. Are you gonna be okay?"

"God, Doug, I don't know. What if she's dying? What do I do? What if the girls are hurt worse than they thought? What if…"

"Just breathe. Take it one step at a time. If you start to get shaky, call me. We'll find out what we can and get back as quick as possible. We'll meet you at the hospital. Em and Serena can deal with the magazine and call Nigel."

"Okay. Hurry, please, Doug."

"I will. Hang in there. We're on our way, baby girl."

He disconnected the call and speed-dialed a number. It rang four times and went to voicemail. He quickly dialed another number and began to curse as it went immediately to voicemail. He ran out of his apartment, charged upstairs to the third floor flat, and began pounding on the door.

"Emily? Serena? Is Ruth with you guys? Open up! We've got problems!"

Andy's cab deposited her outside the trauma center's entry in a surprisingly short time. She'd barely had time to call Roy and get him moving to pick up Doug and Ruth before she found herself at the hospital's brightly lit doorway. Andy threw some cash at the driver and bolted into the lobby.

"I'm Andy Sachs. They called me about Miranda Priestly and her daughters."

The admitting clerk handed her a clipboard. "Yes ma'am. I'm the one you spoke with. Do you have the medical powers of attorney with you? Let me make a photocopy of them while you complete these forms."

"How is Miranda? Where is she? Can I see her?"

"The doctor will be out just as soon as we get the paperwork filed. I'll call him now."

Andy handed over the legal documents and turned her attention to the data sheets in front of her, scrawling the required information as fast as she could. She completed the forms for all three Priestlys and took the proxies back from the clerk just as a short, stocky man in scrubs came through a set of double doors and strode up to her.

"You here for Miranda Priestly?"

"Yes, I'm Andy Sachs, her…wife. We're separated, but…"

"Doesn't matter. I'm Dr. Burghar. Do we have your power of attorney on file?" Andy nodded. "Then come with me."

As they hastened back into the trauma rooms, he quickly explained what had happened. "From the preliminary report, they were on their way to their Easthampton home. Mrs. Priestly was driving, and the children were in the back seat of the SUV. The police think a deer jumped out onto the road in front of her, and she lost control of the vehicle on the ice. It rolled over several times and wound up down an embankment. The children had their seat belts on and suffered extremity injuries and some internal trauma. But it doesn't look like Mrs. Priestly had her belt on, and she received some very severe crush injuries to her chest and a traumatic brain injury. The kids just got here a few minutes ago and are still being evaluated. But we need to make some immediate decisions for Mrs. Priestly."

"What decisions?"

"Did she specify her wishes on an advanced directive?"

"Advanced directive? She's dying?" Andy's feet stopped working and spots began to swim in front of her eyes. Just as the world began to fade to black, a pair of strong hands grabbed her arms, swung her into a chair, and pushed her head down.

"Burghar, you have the bedside manner of a kumquat! Get back into the treatment rooms. I'll handle this." A firm hand held Andy's head between her knees. "Just try to breathe easy. You'll be okay."

Her head cleared in a moment, and Andy sat up to gaze into the only eyes she'd ever seen that were as blue as Miranda's and the girls'. The stunning chestnut-haired woman attached to them smiled warmly at her.

"Better? Good. I'm Dr. Fitzpatrick, Chief of Trauma Surgery. I'm in charge of Mrs. Priestly's case. First off: she's not dying. She's a long way from it. But she is in critical condition, and she's not stable enough for me to guarantee that she won't take a turn for the worse. I'm going to fight that with every ounce of experience and skill I've got. And I'm pretty good at what I do, so that's saying something, okay? Now, in terms of her injuries. It looks like she wasn't wearing her seatbelt, and when the car rolled over she got thrown around pretty badly."

"But, didn't the airbags work?"

"They did, but they're designed to work with seat belts. The airbags did deploy, but once the car started rolling, she was thrown around violently because she wasn't belted in. That's why she was injured as badly as she was."

"How bad is it? He was talking about advanced directives for God's sake!"

"Yes, but he's the village idiot. Great surgeon; zero social skills. We try and keep him away from conscious humans as much as possible."

Andy almost managed a smile. "So tell me, how bad is it?"

"Miranda… do you mind if I call her Miranda? That makes me feel closer to my patients to call them by their first name."

"She'd want you to."

"Okay, then. Miranda's got crush injuries to her chest and abdomen. Basically that means there are multiple broken ribs, and her left lung is collapsed. There's bleeding in her chest cavity, and she has a cardiac tamponade, which is blood filling the sac around the heart. The pressure keeps the heart from beating normally. Now they drained the blood out of her chest and from around her heart out at Heritage, but the bleeding hasn't stopped, and we need to take care of that. And, somewhere in being tossed around the car, she hit her head hard. They removed a little piece of her skull and suctioned out a good-sized blood clot from the temporal area of her brain, right about here," Dr. Fitzpatrick reached out and gently tapped Andy's head just over her ear, "but the pressure inside her skull is still high, and we need to see if there's a secondary bleeder in there that we haven't located yet. And we're going to need to surgically fix her ribs so we can re-inflate her lung. She's going to need some work on her left knee too. Looks like the ligaments were sheared through as she was being thrown around. And there's something wrong with her left shoulder too, but that's not life-threatening so we're not worried about it just yet. All that's a lot of surgery, and we're going to have to do most of it at the same time. And we're going to run another body scan to make sure there's not additional bleeding anywhere or anything else we missed. I know that all sounds scary, and they're really serious injuries, but we've got the best trauma teams in the world here, and we've fixed much worse. Besides, if everything I've heard about her is true, Miranda's a pretty tough lady; she's a fighter. That'll help."

"So when does all this start?"

"We're prepping her right now. I assume you want to see her before we take her upstairs?"

"Yes! Oh, God, yes! Is she conscious?"

"I'm afraid not. She was unconscious at the scene, and that hasn't changed. But that's not unusual with a brain bleed, so don't panic. I want to warn you: there's a lot of blood and it looks pretty scary. We've replaced all the blood she's lost, and we're keeping ahead of it, but it looks bad, so be prepared. She won't be able to respond to you because of the breathing tubes, but I'm a firm believer that somewhere, somehow she'll know you're there. So tell her what you need to, and then we'll take her up to surgery."

Dr. Fitzpatrick helped Andy rise and guided her to a curtained cubicle. "Ready?" Andy took a deep breath and nodded as the surgeon pulled back the curtain.

The motionless figure on the gurney couldn't have looked more different from the Queen of Fashion and Runway Magazine's Editor-In-Chief the world knew. Blood was soaked through bandages, concealing the iconic white hair and pooled on the floor. Miranda was nude beneath a light sheet, and thick pressure bandages marred what would normally be the sleek lines of toned flesh. Tubes and monitor wires lay across the sheet every which way: telemetry pads across her chest and back, a tube into her chest draining watery-looking blood out, another into her subclavian vein with two IV bags and the rapid infuser flowing into it. The vacuum bottle for the chest tube and a bag of dark yellow urine were hanging below the bed, indicating that Miranda had been catheterized as well. Monitors beeped and tracked every vital function. But the scariest thing was the mechanical hiss of the ventilator, forcing much-needed oxygen into Miranda's battered lungs and the large intratracheal tube down her throat which facilitated it.

"Remember; don't touch her head, chest, or abdomen. I can give you a minute or so, but not much longer. We need to get her upstairs." Dr. Fitzpatrick left with a rustle of curtains.

Andy nodded mutely, unable to tear her eyes away from the woman she loved. Blindly, her hand sought some kind of contact, finally gripping Miranda's leg and hanging on for dear life as the nurses quietly went about their business.

"Oh, sweetie, I'm here; I got her as fast as I could. They're going to take you up to surgery in a minute to fix you up. I know you hate hospitals, and you think all doctors are ego-maniacs. But you'd like Dr. Fitzpatrick; she's nice. She's got blue eyes just like yours and looks like she's every bit as stubborn as you are. So you let her take care of you, you hear? The girls are okay; don't you worry about them. I'll go stay with them as soon as they take you upstairs. Oh, Miranda, don't you dare die on me! I was stupid to let you scare me off. I love you, and I'm gonna keep on loving you forever. You might as well know right now that I'm moving back in, and I don't care how pissed you get. I'm not leaving again. So you let these doctors fix you up, and you get busy getting better or I'll… I'll run out and dress you in polyester knock-offs from Wal-Mart until you wake up. You hear me? I love you, Miranda. I'll love you forever. Come back to me, baby, please…"

A quiet cough behind her pulled her attention away from the still form on the gurney. "I'm sorry, Ms. Sachs, we need to take her now. If you'll go with Angela here, she'll take you to the girls. I promise I'll take good care of her."

Andy rose and locked gazes with the surgeon. Jesus, she's tall! And built like a Greek god. Did Armani tailor those scrubs for her? Miranda's gonna wake up, take one look at this one, and put her on the cover.

"My friends call me Andy. Please, promise me you won't give up on her. Miranda never gives up. You can't give up either. You said you were good at what you do. You use every bit of your skill, and you bring her back to me. You hear?"

"My friends call me Fitz, and I won't give up on her. Your Miranda will get the absolute best we've got. Try not to worry too much. I know that sounds silly, but concentrate on the kids for a while. The surgery is going to take a long time, so see to them. I'll try and get progress reports to you as often as I can."

The surgical team began to wheel the bed out of the cubicle before Andy jumped to follow them. "Wait!"

She sprang to the bed and leaned over it carefully. "I love you, Miranda Priestly, and I always will. Don't you ever forget that!" And she pressed her lips to the corner of the unconscious woman's mouth. "I love you!"

Miranda tried to swim up out of the pain. Voice… Who…? Andréa! Oh, wait… was… was scared… Never wanted… you… go… Come back… Can't live… without… Come back… come…

And the darkness closed over her once again.

"Dr. Napolitano is the pediatric surgeon assigned to the Priestly girls. I'm so glad you're here, Ms. Sachs. The girls have been… difficult. We're going to need to sedate them before we can get the full-body scans we need."

"Sedate them? Before surgery? That can't be right."

"Well, no, we don't normally, but like I said, the girls have been difficult and…"

"Difficult how?"

"Uncooperative. Hysterical. Acting out. If they don't calm down, we'll have no choice. One of them is in here and the other is…"

"Which one?"

"I don't know what you mean."

Andy was usually slow to anger, but with Miranda critical and knowing the girls were hurt, and frightened, and alone, her inner Mama Grizzly came roaring out of hibernation. She bit off her words with a snarl.

"I. Said. Which. Priestly. Girl. Is. In. This. Room!"

"We don't know, exactly. The chart is for Priestly 1."

"Where's this Dr. Napolitano? Get his ass in here right now!" Andy flung back the curtain to see a redhead covered in gore, thrashing on an exam table and fighting off a lab tech who was trying to draw blood. An orderly was attempting to hold the fourteen-year-old down.

"Get your hands off my daughter, you big ape!" Andy bellowed.

She was at the bedside in two long strides and swept Cassidy up in a ferocious hug. "I've got you, baby girl, it's okay now. I've got you…" Cass clung to her while sobs wracked her slender frame. Andy rocked her and murmured soothing nonsense until she felt the teenager relax in her arms. Just as she opened her mouth to ask about Caroline, Dr. Napolitano came in.

"I'm Dr. Napolitano You wanted to see me?"

"You're damned right I do. You claim to be a pediatric specialist, and you want to sedate a seriously injured teenager? Are you out of your mind?"

"I admit, it was our final option, but we weren't having much luck with anything else."

"They're identical twins you moron! Your staff can't even tell them apart! You want them to calm down? Put. Them. Together. Identical twins don't do real well when they're forcibly separated!"

The surgeon looked at his feet and shook his head. "Jesus, I never thought… so freakin' simple. Angela? Put the girls together in this room. Give Ms.…?"

"Sachs. Andy Sachs. The wicked stepmother."

"… Give Ms. Sachs a few minutes to calm everyone down, and we'll go from there. My apologies, ma'am."

Andy continued to comfort Cassidy for the two minutes it took for Caroline to be wheeled into the room. Andy just stood between the beds and the three of them held each other until everyone calmed, then she kissed them both and left them to settle each other as only twins can seem to while blood was drawn.

Andy found the nurses working on the twins, got the names and identities straightened out, and got a situation update on their conditions. Both had extensive and severe bruising on their torsos consistent with seat belt restraint. Each had good-sized goose eggs on the back of their heads; Caroline on the right and Cassidy on the left. Cass appeared to have a badly sprained left knee and Caroline's right ankle was discolored and swollen. Both were scheduled for full body scans after ultrasounds indicated some bleeding in the abdomens. They were pale and shocky and were being watched closely. The medics were going to take them to get the scans done and then if necessary, would take the girls to surgery to repair anything that required it. Their conditions had been upgraded to serious but stable.

Andy went back into the trauma room as the hematology tech left and had just started to explain things to the girls when raised voices and the crash of an instrument tray focused their attention on the outside hallway.

"Get your hands off me you fascist goyim! Those are my kinderlekh in there!"

Oh, shit! This is gonna be trouble. The twins recognized the voice and began to giggle as Andy dove for the doorway. She stuck her head out of the bay just in time to see 5 feet 1 inch of Ashkenazi fury take down a six foot, two inch security guard and hold another at bay with one judicious swing of her vintage Birkin bag.

"You touch me again, you momzers, and just see what happens!"

Andy skidded into the hallway and wrapped the miniature dervish in a bear hug to restrain her. "It's okay! It's okay! She's the girls' grandmother! Don't arrest her! Please! She's just upset." The guard got to his feet and once it was determined that there was no permanent damage, Andy herded a still bristling Ruth Goldberg into the bay with the girls.

"Bubbe!" "Grandma!"

"Oh my darlings, are you all right? Don't you worry about a thing; we're here, and everything will be just fine now." She moved to the gurneys and hugged both of the girls with all her might. Andy stood back with arms crossed on her chest.

"Are you calm now? I thought you were going out to Easthampton with Doug and Roy."

"What, I'm supposed to just sit and kvetch all the way out to Long Island and back when my bubbelehs are here in the hospital? What are you, meshugeneh? This is where I need to be. You'll have your hands full with Miranda; I'll take care of the girls."

Andy knew when she was beaten and surrendered accordingly. "All right, you win. Are there any other wounded hospital employees likely to be pressing charges tonight?"

Ruth began to mutter Yiddish curses under her breath, and Andy just shook her head with a grin. Temper notwithstanding, Ruth was the proverbial good man in a storm, and Andy was glad she was with them. The tiny woman continued to fuss over the twins until she was satisfied that they were all right. Then she turned back to Andy.

"You need to call Emily and give her an update. She's at the office."

Before Andy could pull out her cell phone, orderlies arrived to take the twins across the building to the Imaging Center. She and Ruth gathered all their belongings and followed alongside. As they went, Andy told everyone what she knew about Miranda's condition. She put the best spin on it she could in front of the kids, but once she and Ruth were alone, the tears she'd held back began to fall.

"I know she's got the best surgeons in the world working on her, but her chest was basically crushed, and her brain is bleeding, and how much can one body take before it's too much? Oh God, Ruth, I'm such an idiot! I let her push me away when I knew she didn't mean it, and now she's maybe dying, and I have no way to tell her that I love her. I…"

Ruth took Andy in her arms. "Shhh, bubbeleh, easy. Miranda is as tough as they come. She's not going to go down without a fight. You just concentrate on that. We'll take it one day at a time; an hour at a time if we need to; a minute. Right now, we've got two scared kids to take care of. Did you get to talk with Miranda's doctor before the surgery?"

Andy chuckled as she wiped away the tears. "Yeah; Dr. Fitzpatrick. Miranda's next cover shoot."

Ruth was confused. "What? The surgeon? On the cover of Runway?"

"Wait until you get a glimpse of her. Gisele Bündchen has nothing on this one. She was very nice and explained everything to me before they took Miranda upstairs. She gave me a couple of minutes with her."

"Well what does… what's her name again? Fitzgerald? Fitzpatrick? What does she say?"

"She said that Miranda is critically ill. And that she can't guarantee that Miranda won't take a turn for the worse. But that she's going to do her absolute best to keep Miranda alive. It was pretty basic at that point."

"And what about the girls?"

"They've got some pretty nasty contusions and hematomas all over their torsos. Probably from being thrown around in a seat belt. Lots of cuts that bled. They've both got goose eggs on their heads, and leg and ankle injuries. Again, most likely from flopping around in a seat belt during the rollovers. There's evidence of internal bleeding, and these scans should indicate how severe it is. If it's bad enough, they'll need surgery tonight. If they can control the bleeding with medication and rest, they they'll be upgraded to stable and admitted. They're a little shocky, so the doctors want to give them IV fluids. If either Caroline's ankle or Cassidy's leg is broken and it's needed, I imagine they'll operate and put them in a cast. And that's all I know."

"Well, the girls will get better when they know more about their mother. Did you find out anything about the dog?"

"Yeah, the girls said Patricia was in her crate in the back of the SUV. Cassidy thinks it was thrown clear of the car when it rolled because she remembers hearing Patricia barking while the paramedics were getting them out of the wreckage."

"You'd better call Doug and give him that information. And then get on the phone with Emily and Serena so they know what to tell the staff. Emily said she'd take care of the press. Someone named Leslie, I think?"

"Yeah, Leslie Hamilton is Miranda's publicist. She'll handle press releases and any press conferences that need to happen."

"Where's your phone? You need to call them."

"I can't call from here. Cell phone aren't allowed in hospitals; they interfere with the telemetry units. I'll have to go find a lobby somewhere, and I don't want to leave the girls until we know more."

"I think you should call her. Emily was beside herself when they left for the office. She'll be frantic. And you know Nigel will be a nervous wreck until he hears something too. Give her a quick call."

"You're probably right. I'll sneak out into the hall and see if I can get one through there. If anybody comes out with news, come grab me."

Andy walked out into the corridor and found a tiny waiting area with a couple of uncomfortable chairs and a rickety table. She sat down and called Runway Magazine.

"Miranda Priestly's office."

"Em? It's me."

"Is there news? Can you talk? How is she?"

"Is Serena there?"

"Yes, so's Nigel."

"Then put me on speaker, In fact, conference Leslie on; I don't want to have to repeat myself."

Once Emily linked the calls, Andy took a deep breath and began.

"Miranda is in critical condition. She has extensive crush injuries to her chest and abdomen and is bleeding into her brain. She's up in surgery now with the Chief of Trauma Surgery working on her. The car rolled over several times, and it doesn't look like she had her seat belt fastened. She was thrown around violently when it rolled."

"That doesn't sound like Miranda. She always wears her seatbelt in the car. I can't remember a single time I've ridden with her that she wasn't belted in. What was going on?" Emily couldn't believe her ears.

"I don't know yet. The girls are here too. They're listed as serious but stable and are in getting scans now to determine how serious their internal injuries are. Both are bleeding into the belly, and have leg injuries, and goose eggs on their heads, and cuts, and bruises. The girls did have their seatbelts on, and that's why they weren't hurt any worse. I haven't heard from Doug or Roy yet on the dog. And that's what I know. Oh yeah, Ruth assaulted two security guards who tried to keep her in the lobby. I don't know if they're pressing charges or not."

The laughter that followed her last comment broke the worst of the tension for all of them. They talked frankly about Miranda's recovery, and Andy suggested they call her every hour until the situation had stabilized somewhat. Leslie said she'd call the Public Affairs office at the hospital and establish her credentials with them so they could coordinate the release of information when it became necessary.

Needing to move, Andy rose and paced down the corridor as they spoke. Arriving at a side door she looked out and gasped. Hospital security staff were trying to control an unruly mob of media types and not having much success.

"Uh, Leslie? I think maybe you'd better make that call right away. I can see three TV trucks in the drive, and cabs are dumping reporters out as fast as they can veer to the curb. I think maybe the word is out. Either that or The Donald just keeled over."

Leslie started to cuss, thanked them all, and promised to keep in close touch before she hung up and got to work. Emily got buzzed from the security desk in the lobby that reporters were congregating and wanted to know what to do with them .Everybody knew it was going to be a media feeding frenzy, and there was no avoiding it. Anything involving Miranda always was. It was the one thing about their relationship that Andy didn't miss. She left Emily, Serena, and Nigel to handle things with the magazine and headed back to Ruth before some enterprising paparazzi snuck in to try and catch a photo of the twins and Ruth beat him to death with that damned Birkin bag.

An hour later the twins were back in a room together, and Dr. Napolitano was reviewing the scan results with Andy and Ruth. Both girls had mild concussions, Cassidy had a grade two lacerated spleen and torn cartilage in her left knee, and Caroline had a severe sprain of her right ankle and a small laceration on her liver. The surgeons decided that the internal injuries, while worrisome, were not severe enough to require surgery and that once the girls were stabilized, both internal tears would probably respond well to bed rest. Cassidy was going to require arthroscopic surgery to repair her cartilage tear, and Caroline was going to be wearing a boot cast for the next six weeks. The treatment plan was to keep both girls in the hospital for four to five days to monitor the internal injuries and get their orthopedic injuries repaired and stabilized. After that, they could go home, but they would be on bed rest for another two weeks before they could return to school.

Andy was relieved that the injuries weren't worse and she, and Ruth began making plans to move into the townhouse so that there would be plenty of help available to care for the girls once then were discharged. Since there was still no word on Miranda's condition, Andy could only deal with the twins and pray that her condition didn't deteriorate further. As Dr. Napolitano was walking out to schedule Cassidy's surgery, an intern came into the room looking for Andy with an update on Miranda's condition. Dr. Fitzpatrick was working on vascular repairs in Miranda's chest and abdomen. A small secondary bleeder had been located in the temporal area of her brain and been repaired. Orthopedic specialists were working on stabilizing her ribs so that the lung could be re-inflated to stabilize her breathing. She was still critical and would remain so until her lungs were fully inflated again, but she was holding her own, and the young doctor said Dr. Fitzpatrick was pleased so far. Once the critical repairs had taken place, orthopedists were going to surgically repair her separated shoulder and the torn ligaments in her knee. If she lived, Miranda was in for a long recovery.

Andy's initial inclination was to start building to-do lists in her head for the twins' return to the house. But the more she considered it, the more she realized that without Miranda, all their lives would be empty. And she wasn't ready to contemplate that. No, what she needed to do was to focus on the here and now and get the girls through the next few days. Once they knew more about Miranda's condition, then she could make plans. Not until. To her relief, Ruth seemed to understand.

Over the next hour, Cassidy was taken upstairs for her surgery, and Caroline was taken to the pediatric orthopedics ward to get fitted for a fracture boot — or Frankenfoot as Andy and Doug referred to them. Andy had been in one for eight weeks after a nasty slip on some ice in college and was quite familiar with it. Ruth went with Caroline, and Andy went up to the surgical wing to wait for Cassidy to be released from the recovery room. The surgery was being done under local anesthetic, so the effects of the anesthesia would be short-lived.

Andy sent Doug a text message and was on the verge of dozing off when a very businesslike woman walked into the room and called her name. When Andy answered, she sat down next to her and introduced herself.

"Ms. Sachs, I'm Grace Neiderman from the Admitting department. Fitz — Dr. Fitzpatrick—called me earlier and made an unusual request of us."

"What was that?"

"She said that her patient had twin daughters brought in from the same wreck, and she thought that all three of them would benefit from being together rather than spread out all over the hospital."

"They're very close. I know that Miranda would worry far less if the girls were nearby, and I'm sure they would be better off being near their mother. At least until we can get everybody home."

"That's what the doctor was thinking as well. I checked, and your daughter won't be out of recovery for another half hour. Would you mind coming with me?"

The two women boarded an elevator that took them to the ICU pavilion. Ms. Neiderman walked past the nurses' station which looked like the control center for a Star Wars Death Star to a locked, unmarked door. She produced a key to unlock it, swung it open, and gestured Andy inside.

"This was part of a pilot program we attempted and abandoned. We tried to incorporate hospice care into our critical care pavilion, but the project was unsuccessful. We were left with this suite, which was designed for a terminal patient and their family. There is a standard private hospital room here and another double room adjoining it and sharing a bathroom. Dr. Fitzpatrick suggested that we could put Mrs. Priestly in here and both the girls in the next room. The suite is actually part of the critical care pavilion, so telemetry will work from here to monitor their conditions, and as you can see, staff is close by. Would this be something you would be interested in?"

"Interested? Ms. Neiderman, it's all I can do not to kiss you right now! This is the answer to my prayers."

The administrator smiled. "I'll take that as a yes. Let me get housekeeping up here to get the rooms ready, and hopefully by the time the girls come out of their procedures, it will be ready for them. I warn you, though; there is a chance that group medical policies won't cover the cost of the room because it is classified as private, although in Mrs. Priestly's case we can classify it as ICU. Will that be a problem?"

"What would the cost per night be?"

"As I said, Mrs. Priestly's charges will be classified as ICU which is warranted by her condition. The girls, however, are not critical care. The room would be around $6000 per night for both of them."

"$6000? That's all? Hell yes, put them in here."

"All right. I'll see to getting it set up for them. Let me see if I can locate a couple of the cots we use in PEDS for parents as well. I assume you're planning on staying here for at least a couple of days?"

"Yes, and I imagine the girls' grandmother will too. We can spell each other that way."

"Very good, then. As soon as the girls are settled, I'll send someone up with some paperwork for you to fill out."

"Thank you so much. You don't know how much I appreciate this."

"Thank Fitz… Dr. Fitzpatrick. It was her idea. I'm just facilitating it. I'll be up later to check on things. Here's my card; call me if you need anything or have any questions."

Andy was on her way back to the waiting room when a text message arrived from Ruth. Andy sent her a reply and picked up her pace. When she arrived at the waiting room, Caroline was asleep on a gurney in the hallway, and Ruth was speaking quietly with a surgical nurse.

"Ah! Here you are. Cassidy is ready to come out of recovery. Do you know what room the girls are going into?"

"I just left Ms. Neiderman from Admitting. The girls are going into Suite G110. They're setting the room up now.""

The nurse frowned and, saying she'd have to check on that, and returned to the recovery room. Andy quickly brought Ruth up to speed on the latest developments. They went out into the hall to check on Caroline. The youngster was out like a light, and Andy couldn't blame her since it was close to 1:00 a.m. The kids had every right to be exhausted. So did Andy and Ruth, but there was no rest in their futures until the girls were settled. Thankfully, that happened more quickly than they had thought possible.

It only took about ten minutes for orderlies to wheel a very drowsy Cassidy into the hall, Soon both girls were moved to the elevators. When they arrived at the critical pavilion, Andy could see major activity in the rooms they had been assigned. A linen cart stood outside the door as well as two fully-stocked cleaning carts and a wheeled dolly. When they stuck their heads in, two freshly made-up hospital beds with full telemetry and support hookups were waiting, and the bathroom was being cleaned thoroughly. The orderlies moved the twins into the beds, and ICU nursing staff immediately hooked them into the waiting monitoring equipment. They were efficient and knew their jobs, and within twenty minutes, both girls were bathed, dressed in clean pajamas, and sound asleep with a full complement of electronic watchdogs surrounding them.

Andy and Ruth collapsed into the universally uncomfortable quasi-recliners found in every hospital in the world and quietly talked about what they were facing. Neither of the girls would be allowed any food until it was determined that their abdominal injuries wouldn't require surgery. Until that happened, they would be allowed ice chips only. Andy made a note to check on dietary restrictions once they could eat again to see if maybe she could have one of their favorite meals brought in to make up for starving them. They were discussing how to best accomplish that when yet another intern arrived from surgery with a report on Miranda.

"Dr. Fitzpatrick says the vascular repair is almost complete. They're working on something radical with her ribs, and nobody is sure how long that might take, but if it works, it's going to cut down her recovery time a lot. Her intracranial pressure is good, and so far there's no sign of any more bleeding. Dr. Fitzpatrick has repaired the spleen and is finishing the liver repair, and Dr. Ely has just finished repairing the coronary vessels that were bleeding into the pericardium and is starting on the pulmonary repair. So no more tamponade and just about no more belly bleeding. No more head bleeding, and they're working on the ribs so that the lung can be repaired and re-inflated. She's still critical, but she's holding her own and moving toward stable. It shouldn't take too much longer. Dr. Fitzpatrick says she'll come find you when she's finished."

Andy thanked her, and she and Ruth relaxed for the first time in what seemed like forever that night. She's holding her own. Keep telling yourself that. She's. Holding. Her. Own. This is good news. Certainly better than what you expected. I just wish that young surgeon wasn't so excited about whatever radical thing they're trying with her ribs. I want them to experiment on somebody else, not my Miranda. I just want her safe. Alive and safe and back with me.

She looked up to see Ruth regarding her gravely. "What?"

"Don't you think it's about time you told me what happened? You've been in that horrible apartment for two months, you haven't unpacked anything but your toothbrush, and you haven't said one word to any of us about why you moved out. Don't you think it's time?"

Andy hung her head. Ruth was right; there was no question there. It was just that she felt so freakin' stupid for what she'd done and how she'd reacted.

"It was all my fault. I knew better; I knew what it was like. Ever since she took that seat on the board when they ousted Irv. Any time a magazine is in trouble, they ask her to take a look at it and see if she can turn things around. They have no idea how much strain that puts on her. How many extra hours she has to work to make sure that Runway stays the best in the world and to take on another publication that's hemorrhaging money. But I know. At least I should know; I've watched her kill herself enough times doing it.

"But this time I was wrapped up in the election fraud. I had my teeth in a story that had Pulitzer written all over it. And I didn't want to take time away from that story to have a family. Or be part of one. So neither Miranda nor I was around much. I should have called you, had you come over more to help them. But I didn't. I just got pissy that she wasn't taking her share of the responsibilities. And those two sweet kids," she gestured towards the hospital beds, "those two sweet kids paid the price. I couldn't be bothered, and I blamed Miranda.

"They started acting out at school. First it was just harmless pranks, then not-so-harmless pranks. Then Cassidy got suspended for getting into a fight. Their grades began to slip. And all we did was argue about whose turn it was to go meet with the Headmistress. Finally I screamed at her that they were her damned kids and she needed to step up and be their mother. She lost it. I've never seen Miranda that angry before. She told me if I didn't like her children that I could get the fuck out. And stupid idiotic me, I did. The only saving grace of it all was that we had the fight when the girls were at their father's, and they never had to listen to me deny how much I love them because of my fucking ego.

"So I moved out the next day. I was so embarrassed that I couldn't call you and tell you. I just found that roach motel I'm living in and called movers to pack my stuff and haul it off. By the time the girls got home Sunday night I was gone. I gave them some lame excuses when they tried to call me, and I took them out to lunch a couple of times. That was it; I just cut myself off from them. I couldn't deal with the hurt I saw in their eyes.

"And then I got the phone call. And all I could think of was how scared they must be, and my heart broke, and I couldn't get here fast enough. My career, and my ego, and my job don't mean shit. God, what have I done? I am such an idiot."

"Well, you may have acted like an idiot with Miranda, but it looks to me that when things got rough, you chose the girls over your ego. That's got to count for something. I overheard the nurses talking; you scared that orderly that was holding Cassidy to death. He really thought you were going to attack him."

"I should have. She was hurt and scared, and he was the size of Sasquatch, the sonuvabitch. I should have kicked his ass to Schenectady and back."

Ruth smiled. "That's my girl. Now, what do you plan on doing about all these mistakes you made?"

"I'm moving back into the townhouse. I'm taking a leave of absence from my job until the girls and Miranda are back on their feet, and I'm gonna spend the rest of my life loving that irascible, opinionated, gorgeous, wonderful woman I'm married to."

"Just like that? You decided everything just like that?"

"No, I decided all that in the three seconds after they told me about the wreck. Didn't need to think about it more than that. I'm moving back in, and I'm going to make a life with these impossible Priestly women. That's all there is to it."

"And if Miranda says no?"

"I don't think she's going to be in any shape to fight me on it for a while. By the time she is, I'll be a fixture again."

Ruth beamed. "I always knew you were a smart one. Now that we've got the girls taken care of, tell me about this surgeon that's working on Miranda. The Irish cover girl."

"Irish goddess is more like it. Six feet of Celtic warrior queen. Thick chestnut hair, bone structure to die for, and the only other person I've ever met with eyes a blue as Miranda's and the girls'. I wasn't kidding when I said Miranda is going to wake up, take one look at her physician, and put her on the cover of Runway. Oh, and did I mention that she wears scrubs that look like they were tailored by Vincenzo at Armani? Nothing like taking your breath away to give you a shot of confidence in your surgeon."

"Shouldn't we have heard something more by now?"

"We're going to have to be patient. Miranda's injuries were extensive. Fitz told me it would be a while before they know anything for sure."

"Fitz? When did you get so friendly?"

"Just before I started blubbering all over my unconscious wife, begging her not to leave me."

"Ah. Good timing, then. Listen, when did you eat last?"

Andy was a little hazy on that subject. "Maybe lunch. I think I had a gyro. Maybe not. Why?"

"Because a hospital this large is going to have a cafeteria open 24 hours, and I'm going to get you something to eat and some tea. You don't need coffee because as soon as they bring Miranda back into the room, I want you to get some sleep. I'll stay awake until morning, and you can take over again while I sleep. That way I can run errands for everyone while you stay with the girls. That will be best for them."

"Okay, that sounds good. Give Doug and Roy a call, and try to get an update on Patricia while you're at it, will you? The girls will want to know about her just as soon as they wake up."

"All right. Anything special you'd like to eat?"

"I'd love a roast beef sandwich about an inch thick."

"I'll do my best. Try to rest until they bring Miranda back in. I won't be long."

The suite suddenly seemed deserted when the gray-haired dynamo left to forage for food. Andy fidgeted in the chair for a couple of minutes before getting up to watch the twins. Both were sleeping soundly, and she gently kissed each of them, pulling their blankets up a little higher and tucking them in.

"I love you guys," she whispered softly. "I was a numbskull for leaving you, and I won't ever leave again. I promise." She kissed them again and collapsed back into the chair with a sigh. Now if only she could get Miranda back with them, they had a fighting chance.

"Andy? You in there?" long fingers gently shook her shoulder, and she sat up quickly looking into vivid blue eyes.

"Oh, Dr. Fitzpatrick. I must have dozed off. I'm sorry, I…"

"Don't worry about it. First rule of residency is to grab whatever sleep you can whenever you can. I'm glad you were able to."

"How is she doing? Is she any better?"

Fitz grinned. "That is one tough broad you're married to."

Andy rolled her eyes. "Tell me about it."

"Okay, here's what's happening. They're reconstructing both the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments in her left knee. She tore both of them flying around the car. Another team is repairing the shoulder separation on the left side. Those repairs will take maybe another half hour or so; then she'll need to spend at least that long in recovery so we know that everything is holding like it should. I'd like you to step into the next room with me; there's an x-ray viewer in there.

"Now, we've fixed the bleeding into her head, and into her heart, and into her lungs, and into her belly. That means we've surgically repaired a posterior coronary artery, a chunk of the pulmonary artery, the hepatic vein, and the splenic vein. In addition, I've sutured lacerations of her spleen and liver and surgically repaired the damage to her left lung. That was a lot of surgery, let me tell you. But here's what I wanted to show you. What we did with her ribs."

Fitz snapped an x-ray into the viewer and turned it on. Andy recognized a rib cage, but on one side there were what seemed like hundreds of stark white, spidery-looking things.

"What are those?"

"Those little thingies are Judet struts and Sanchez plates. What we do is use them to hold the broken ends of the rib together. You need to be very careful with where you place them and how you attach them to the ribs, but when you do it right, the ribs can expand like they need to and still be stabilized to minimize pain. Well, we took it one step further. This kinda cloudy-looking stuff is microfilament titanium mesh. We wrapped that around the inside of the ribs and tightened it down using the struts and plates to give the ribs some extra support. You see, the neatest thing about these little doohickeys is that these little legs here? They're titanium too. And bones just love titanium. They grow new bone right around them and incorporate the titanium into the bone. That extra mesh around the inside of the rib gives it some extra support while it's healing. We're a little excited because this has never been done before. We'll be anxious to see how well it works."

"Do you think it will?"

"Yeah, I do. Because we got a positive pressure in her lung just as soon as we put the vent to her. The lung is almost completely re-inflated. And that's great news. Now don't get me wrong; with the spleen and liver lacerations and the damage to vessels around the heart, she's going to have to be on strict bed rest for a while. We can't take any chances that she'll rip anything loose in there. That will also give her ribs a good chance to heal up too. But that's the minor down side of some really great news. She's breathing better, her pulse is stronger and stable, her pulsox is nearly normal, and there's no sign of bleeding at any of the repair sites. I gotta be honest with you; I didn't think she'd respond this well. I am as pleased as I can be."

"How soon will she wake up?"

"Now that's the big question. Remember, she had two brain bleeds. They're both repaired, and the neurosurgeon did an evaluation. Everything seems fine. But there's no telling how long her brain will want to rest itself. She might wake up in the next two hours, or it might not be for two weeks. We just don't know. We'll take it hour by hour, and monitor her intracranial pressure, and watch. We'll use the ultrasound to monitor any bleeding, and if we need to do more scans, we will. Right now it's basically a waiting game."

"What do I tell her daughters?"

"That she came through the surgery like a trooper, and we just have to wait for her brain to heal."

"Fitz, I need the absolute truth here. Is there any chance she won't wake up?"

"Yes, there's always that chance. We may have missed something. The initial point where her head strikes something is called a coup. But her brain will rebound from that inside her skull and hit the opposite side of the cranial vault as well. That's called contrecoup. And it's always possible that the contrecoup was more severe than we think. But I really don't see that here. Her injuries were profound and serious. And we repaired them. Now we wait and see how long it takes her body to start healing."

"So, is this the Celtic cover girl?"

Andy and Fitz turned around at the voice behind them. Ruth set her bags, bottles, and cups down and extended a hand to the surgeon.

"Ruth Goldberg; grandmother."

Fitz grinned and took her hand. "Sholem Aleikhem, bubbe. Ashleigh Fitzpatrick, surgeon. Fitz to my friends."

"So how is Miranda?"

"Amazingly good. She's responding well to the surgical repair, and it looks like her lung is trying to re-inflate, which is always a good sign. She's still critical, but I feel a whole lot better about her chances than I did four hours ago."

"How soon will I get to see her?"

"Andy, she'll be back in this room in less than an hour, I promise. They were finishing up when I left the operating room. It won't be too long. Looks like Ruth brought food. Why don't you sit down and have something to eat? You'll feel much better, and the time will go faster until they bring Miranda down. C'mon, you look ready to drop." She took Andy's arm and guided her back to the recliner.

Ruth got busy unpacking her feast and invited Fitz to join them. To their surprise and delight, the surgeon accepted, pulling another chair over from across the room.

"I don't usually do this, but I didn't get any dinner tonight, and I'm starving. Then I'll go back to my office and grab some sleep. Fiona's waiting for me, and I hate to leave her alone for too long."

"Is Fiona your partner?" Andy shot for political correctness and missed by a mile.

"No, Fiona is our Bernese Mountain Dog. I bring her to my office when my wife is traveling so she doesn't have to be alone at home. Here I've got legions of willing medical students, and interns, and residents who will walk her and play with her. Not to mention the Pediatrics Unit, which Fee regards as her own personal playground. So she and I kind of do a not-so-happy bachelor thing here in my office when Blake is out of town."

"Blake is your wife?"

"Yeah. She's an investment banker; she specializes in the Pacific Rim. She's in Shanghai until Tuesday. So Fee and I are here."

"Speaking of dogs, have you heard from Doug or Roy?"

"I got a text message while I was in line. They found her. Seems she held off most of animal control, and they just put her in a pen until she settled down. Once Roy and Doug got there and she was with someone she knew, she was fine. They're on the way back, and they're taking her straight to the vet to get checked out. Here, Andy. Roast beef on sourdough, an inch thick. Fitz, do you like roast beef or ham?"

"If you've got another of those roast beasts I'm in heaven. We have an arrangement with Rosen's Deli on 61st. They make up a bunch of gourmet deli sandwiches for the night crew. Their potato salad and slaw are out of this world if you've got some." Ruth produced containers of both and plastic forks with which to eat them.

The three settled in to enjoy their food and chat. "So this dog you were talking about. I assume she's the Priestly's dog?"

"Yeah, Patricia. The St. Bernard. It seems she was in her crate and got thrown clear of the car when it started to roll. Suffolk County Animal Control picked her up. Miranda's driver and a friend of ours went out there to find her and bring her home. Knowing Patricia is okay will help the twins a lot."

"Sure it will; kids and their dogs are a given." Fitz felt her cell buzz with an incoming message and pulled it out of her pocket. "Ah! That's what we've been waiting for. They're on their way down here with Miranda. They'll have her settled in no time. We'll need to move these chairs out of the way." They rose and cleared the center of the room just before three surgical nurses wheeled a blanket-swaddled Miranda into the room, followed by a duo of ICU nurses to calibrate telemetry.

"Ladies, if you'll move into the other room, we'll get her settled and cleaned up a little." Ruth and Andy gathered up the food, and Fitz moved chairs as they reorganized their picnic in the twins' side of the suite. Andy kept looking back into Miranda's room until Fitz cleared her throat to get her attention.

"Trust me; you'll want them to do this. They'll clean her up, give her a sponge bath, and get her in a fresh gown. She'll look ten times better than she does now, and you'll feel ten times better when you see her."

"What about the girls? They're supposed to be watching them for signs of internal bleeding. What will that mean?"

"They'll use ultrasound and blood work to determine if there's any bleeding going on. The bad part is that the kids can't eat until they're sure they won't have to rush them into surgery to fix a bleeder. And that can take up to 24 hours. They're going to NPO until then. Once they decide there's no more bleeding, they'll get them eating again, and when their bowel functions are normal, they can go home. Bed rest for a couple of weeks at least, though. That's going to be critical with kids their age. Got to give them time to heal."

Fitz smiled at Andy who wasn't paying any attention to her at all but was staring into Miranda's room to the exclusion of all else. "Let me go check on her and see how they're doing." She stood and disposed of her dinner wrappings. Strolling into the other side of the suite her experienced eyes swept the monitors and over the unconscious figure in the bed.

Miranda's color was pale but a vast improvement over what it was. Fitz picked up her chart and scanned the vitals as she watched the nurses work. In another minute they had Miranda bathed and in a clean hospital gown with IVs flowing and all telemetry functioning. Fitz decided she couldn't be happier with the progress Miranda had made and beckoned Andy in to see her. Andy was at the bedside in a flash, gently stroking Miranda's cool cheek with trembling fingers. Ruth followed a minute later with a chair for her, and Andy dropped into it, never breaking her contact with Miranda.

"Everything looks good. I'll go grab some sleep and be back in the morning. You should try to get some sleep too. There's no telling how long she'll be out, and those kids are going to need a lot of your attention in the morning. You too, Ruth. The worst thing either of you can do is to exhaust yourselves. You won't be any good to any of them if that happens. Clear?"

Ruth nodded and walked to the door with her, talking quietly. Andy never moved from her place beside Miranda's still form.

It was like swimming through tar. She could manage short breaths, and the pain that had overwhelmed her before was less now. But she was still lost and couldn't find her way home. She knew there was a reason to go home, but she couldn't remember what it was. Candles… she could remember candles all over the room. And… Andréa waiting for her. In their bedroom. Welcoming her home from Paris Fashion Week. She had been gone for a week. It felt so good to lay with that lush, warm body pressed against her. She hadn't slept well all week, missing Andréa snuggled beside her. Now she was home again and reveling in the feel of her beautiful wife in her arms. They made long, slow love that night, and the candles had burned low as they took their pleasures again and again, finally falling asleep just before dawn while wrapped in each other's arms.

But Andréa was gone now… why? Where was she? What had happened? Miranda struggled to remember but only managed to sink back into the inky depths in surrender…

"Please, darling, come back to me. I love you, and I need you so much. The girls are doing good; they're asleep in the next room. Ruth's watching over them. She nearly got arrested tonight when she hit two security guards with her Birkin bag because they wouldn't let her in to be with the twins. We couldn't have anybody more fiercely protective of them. I'm glad she's here. Oh, and Doug and Roy drove out to Easthampton and picked up Patricia. They're on the way to the vet now to get her checked out, but they both say she looks okay. Just muddy and needs a bath. So everybody is doing fairly good except you. We need you to wake up and come back to us. Can you do that, honey? Please? For me?" Fingers kept softly stroking Miranda's arm as Andy continued talking to Miranda in a quiet voice.

"Andy? How's she doing this morning? Any change?" Fitz scanned the chart in her hands for the morning's vital readings.

"I don't know. She feels warmer to me. And for some reason she seems restless. I mean she's not moving or anything, but I can feel her muscles, and it's like they're fighting something. And her breathing is uneven. It shouldn't be uneven on a ventilator should it? Is that a bad sign?"

"On the contrary, that's a very good sign. It means that her body is trying to breathe on its own; normal breathing reflexes are trying to kick back in. Let me pull the latest pulmonary function test, and we'll see if it backs you up. I'll be right back."

Ruth stuck her head in from the girls' room. "Was that Fitz?"

"Yeah. She thinks that Miranda may be trying to breathe on her own, and that's a good sign. But she's still out cold and not responding to me."

"Why don't you let me stay with her for a little while. Go say good morning to the girls and give them an update."

"Okay, I'll be back in a few minutes." Andy went into the bathroom to splash some warm water on her face and brush her teeth before joining her daughters in their room.

"Good morning, girls. How are you doing this morning?" Caroline's right ankle was encased in a composite inflatable boot and propped up on pillows, and Cassidy's left leg was immobilized in a similar knee splint and also propped on pillows. Both had a variety of bruises adorning their faces and arms, but both were clear-eyed and wide awake. She kissed them both, then took a seat between their beds.

"How's Mom doing? Is she better this morning?"

"She's doing a little better, but you need to remember that she was very seriously hurt, and it's going to be quite a while before she's back to her old self. You're going to have to be patient with her. Because you know she's not going to be patient with herself."

"Andy, what are we going to do when we have to go back home? Will nurses have to come to the house?"

"Well, I'm sure we'll get some home healthcare people in, but for the most part, Ruth and I are moving in to take care of you guys. Is that okay?"

To her dismay, Cassidy began to cry. "It's only okay if you stay; it's not okay if you're just going to leave again when we get better."

Andy wrapped the girl in her arms and rocked her. "I'm moving back in, and I'm never going anywhere ever again. I was stupid to leave in the first place, and I know I hurt you guys. I'm so, so sorry for that. Can you forgive me? The only thing I want is for us to be a family again. Is that okay? Have I messed that up too bad, baby girl?" Cassidy clung to her fiercely, and Caroline broke into a huge grin. Andy reached over and grabbed her outstretched hand. After a few more tears were shed, the three of them relaxed with each other and took the first, tentative steps back toward normal.

"How much do you guys remember from last night?"

"I remember everything."

"There's one question nobody seems to be able to answer. Why was your mom driving without her seat belt? She never does that. Why last night?"

"We were arguing. We'd stopped to pick up some sandwiches for dinner in town and were heading out to the house. We were arguing with her about you. We told her we didn't want to live apart from you anymore and that we wanted her to ask you to come home. She kept saying that she would ask but that she didn't think you wanted to live with us. And that we would have to figure out some way to deal with it." Cassidy hesitated here then plowed ahead. "We told her that we wanted you to come home. And I shouted at her that it was probably her fault that you were gone and that she should apologize to you and ask you to come back."

Caroline picked up the thread. "She was mad that we said it was her fault. She said that you both had said things you didn't mean. We yelled at her to just apologize, and she kept saying it wasn't that simple. We were stopped at a light, and she unfastened her belt to turn around and holler at us that she couldn't do everything. That some things were broken too bad to fix. And then the light changed, and she turned back around and started to drive, and she was fumbling with her seatbelt, and then this deer bolted onto the road, and we swerved, and then everything went crazy."

Andy nodded, careful not to let the girls think they were responsible. "That's why they call them accidents. They happen in a flash, and nothing is ever the same after they do. Did Ruth tell you Doug and Roy found Patricia and brought her home?"

"Yeah, she said they were taking her to the vet this morning and that Uncle Doug was going to keep her until we got home. I wish we could see her; she must have been really scared last night."

"I think you all have every right to be scared after that wreck. You and your mom and Patricia. But Doug said she's doing much better this morning. All she really needs is to see you guys and make sure that you're okay, and then she'll be okay. Come to think of it, it's probably the same for your mom. All she needs to get better is to know that you two are okay."

"Well, she'll need a few other things, but she's a mom, and that's how they roll. Good morning, girls. I'm Dr. Fitzpatrick, and I operated on your mom last night. I kinda figured you'd have some questions for me this morning." Fitz and Ruth stood in the doorway, ready to field a typical barrage of Priestly twins' questions. Andy took the opportunity to slip back into Miranda's room and lean over the iconic white head. She brought her lips close to the delicate shell of an ear and whispered, "Things are not so badly broken that they can't be fixed. We will fix us, Miranda. We can to that together." Then she kissed the alabaster cheek and returned to her silent vigil at her wife's bedside.

They were on the floor in the sitting room, gathered around the fireplace. Miranda had been intending to convert it to a gas log, but Andréa was adamant that they needed one honest-to-God wood-burning fireplace in the house. So Andréa had purchased a load of firewood and spent most of a Saturday stacking it against the back garden wall. Now, she had moved several logs and some strange-looking sticks into the room. She painstakingly stacked logs, and sticks, and wads of loosely crumpled newspaper.

When she was satisfied with her creation, she pulled a single kitchen match out of the box and held it up in front of the girls. "One match is all it should take. If you build your fire right and set it up with enough air circulation, you can light a roaring blaze with a single match. Ready?"

The twins nodded eagerly, and Andréa turned back to the firebox. She struck the match and waited until it flared to life before moving her hand under the grate. Slowly she moved the match along the bottom of the logs and watched as the wadded newsprint began to catch. When her match had burned dangerously low, she tossed it into the flames and bent over in front of the firebox. She began to gently blow under the grate, and the twins and Miranda watched in amazement as the flames grew brighter and hotter and the starter sticks caught and began to crackle. Andréa began to blow a bit harder, and now the edges of the logs were starting to ignite. Within three more minutes the logs were burning brightly in a roaring blaze. She closed the screen and settled back against the sofa with Miranda as the twins ran into the kitchen for the hotdogs and toasting forks she'd brought home.

"You have many talents, it would seem. Who knew you were so talented with wood?"

"I'm talented with a lot of other things too, sweetie." Andréa waggled her eyebrows suggestively, "Just wait until the kids are in bed; I've got a few tricks I can show you then." Miranda laughed gaily and unobtrusively slid her hand down the back of Andréa's jeans.

"I can hardly wait, darling."

When had it become so difficult? They had been so happy. Why had she fallen back into old habits? Why did she allow the job to take over her life again? She has promised the girls those days were over. She had promised Andréa. And then the board had asked her, and she agreed, and it all went to hell. And when Andréa called her on it, she had grown angry. But Andréa was right; she shouldn't have let the job interfere with their lives. They wouldn't have the girls at home for that much longer. How could she do anything to lessen their time together? Foolish, old woman. She had run Andréa off because of it.

Was it too late? Why did she always make the same mistakes? She could change; she had changed. How hard would it be to make things right? Surely she could manage it. Just… so tired. So hard to breathe… need Andréa with me again… Need to share more fires…

Doug and Roy arrived shortly after nine that morning. Patricia had been thoroughly examined and found to be a bit bruised and obviously sore but not seriously injured. The vet had given her a steroid shot to reduce any inflammation. They'd left her at the vets' for a quick bath and brush and would pick her up later that afternoon. The men furnished photos of the beast to reassure the worried twins that their beloved pet was just fine.

Doug took a shift with the twins and wasted no time in getting a hot game of Uno organized while Roy took Ruth to run several errands for everyone. When she returned in the early afternoon, she had new sleepwear for the girls and Miranda and a change of clothes for Andy and herself. The kids were delighted with the new flannel boxers and tee-shirts she had purchased for them. Andy took the opportunity to take a quick shower as they were getting into their new sleep duds, and she felt like a new woman with the clean clothes.

The twins gave blood every four hours and had ultrasounds just a frequently. By nine that night Dr. Napolitano decreed that if they weren't showing any other signs of internal bleeding by the next morning, he would start them on a soft diet and see what happened. Fitz and a pulmonary specialist checked on Miranda several times during the morning and finally decided to extubate her around 3:00 p.m. They sent Andy into the twins' room and pulled the breathing tube out of her throat. A nurse cleaned her mouth up a bit, and they fitted her with a nasal cannula for oxygen. Fitz watched carefully for half an hour and was pleased that there wasn't even the slightest drop in her pulse-ox or vitals. She ordered an ultrasound of Miranda's left lung and seemed pleased with the result. The amount of air in the pleural cavity was greatly reduced, indicating that the lung was returning to its original volume. All were good signs, and Fitz's report calmed Andy's fears.

Emily, Serena, and Nigel came by early that evening to check in and bring Chinese food. Emily took one look at Miranda and burst into tears. Andy did her best to try and calm her, but Serena and Nigel finally had to take her home so that she didn't upset the girls. They were doing better, especially since Fitz had arranged for wheelchairs so they could sit by their mother's bed and talk to her. When they could see for themselves that she was alive and getting stronger, they stopped being frightened, which was just what their doctor ordered.

She sat on a park bench and watched as her wife taught their daughters to fly stunt kites. It was a brilliant July afternoon in New York, and they were taking advantage of a break in the heat to enjoy an afternoon in the park. Andrea was very skilled with the skittish kites and was attracting quite a crowd as she made the brightly-colored delta dance across the sky.

Caroline trotted over to get a bottle of water. "Andy's really good, isn't she? She can really fly that kite."

"Yes, she is. The woman constantly surprises me with her talents."

Caroline looked at her with a strange expression, then broke into a grin. "You know, Mom, you did good this time. Andy's a keeper."

Miranda ran her fingers through the red bangs. "Why thank you, darling. I couldn't agree more. I think we should keep her too. Is your sunscreen still on?"

"I'm good, Mom; don't worry." She dashed back to the kite fliers, laughing at something Andréa said.

Yes, indeed. We need to keep her. When did I forget that? I was so wrong. I need to make it up to Andréa. I must think of a way.

Andy glanced at her watch. Almost midnight. Miranda had been unconscious nearly thirty hours. Fitz kept telling her that things were all looking good, but Andy was beginning to worry, terrified that the brilliant mind and acerbic wit would never return to them. To her. She was so still, and Miranda was never still. Even when she was sitting or reading, she was moving and doing something. This utter lack of life was frightening. Her weariness was bone deep, and that didn't help. It was hard to look on the bright side while this tired.

She laid her head on Miranda's good leg and continued the soft stroking on it that she had maintained all day. It was late, and it was dark, and she was so tired, and everything came crashing in on her. Silently she cried, hot tears spilling down her cheeks. She cried for the twins, she cried for Miranda, she cried for herself and her stupidity, and for all the mistakes they'd both made. All she wanted in life was just one more chance to make things right.

"I'm so sorry, darling. I can't stand not being with you. Please come back to me." Soft sobs shook her shoulders, and she almost missed the butterfly-light touch on her hair. She raised her head and felt that same trembling touch on her cheek as she looked up to see bright blue eyes looking back at her.

"Miranda? Miranda? Oh, honey, look at me! Look right at me. Oh, sweetie, you're back, you're… you're okay! I need to get the nurse. No, let me tell the girls. No, I need… Oh honey, look at me... Stay with me, darling. Let me look at you… I should wake the girls. No, they need to sleep. The nurses… Oh, darling…" Tears of joy tracked down her cheeks.

She leaned over the bed and brought her own trembling hand to the cheek now blushed with a delicate color. Slowly she caressed it and nearly sobbed again when Miranda turned her cheek into it, savoring her touch.

"Baby, I need to get the nurses for you." But those trembling fingers held hers even as chapped lips tried to form words. "No, darling, don't try to talk yet. The nurses need to do things for you first. Please darling, don't exert yourself. Please. We almost lost you. I almost lost you. But you're back..."

She leaned closer and murmured softly, "I love you, Miranda." And then her heart took flight as her ears caught the barest of whispered words…

"Come… home…"