Title: Choose Wisely and Well
Feedback address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date in Calendar: 27 June 2012
Fandom: Devil Wears Prada
Pairing: Miranda/Andy (Professional…for now)
Word Count: 4349
Advertisement: Part of the FSAC:DD12
Author's Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, I make no money from my scribbles. Go on and sue me if you must, my life's ambition is to be given the opportunity to read femslash out loud in court.
Note: Two of my favourite interactions in the film are the scene in the den when Miranda tells Andy she is going to Paris and at the end in the car before Andy leaves. I've conflated the dialogue from both into a single scene…it just works better.
"I'll wait for you Andy." Roy smiled into the rear view mirror, watching as Andy gathered up the dry cleaning and the Book.
"Are you sure? I mean I'll only be a minute, but I don't want to keep you later than necessary."
"Naa, it's no bother, you're place is actually on my way home."
"Cool, I'll leave my bag here then." She reached for the door handle, "Back in a minute." Exiting the car she headed quickly up the steps and slipped into the townhouse.
Moving confidently, she placed the book on the table and opened the closet to hang up the dry cleaning. She smiled to herself as she moved through this daily task with ease, remembering how nervous she used to be coming into Miranda's home. She gave a very quiet snort as she rolled her eyes at herself thinking that, given the fiasco of her first night delivering the book, that nervousness had been a rather healthy reaction really. Still, she'd definitely come a long way since then. Nigel may have been responsible for her external make over before that, but that night and the following day she'd done an internal make over and found her determination to succeed come hell or high water. This make over was a work in progress and was touching all facets of her life these days.
One upshot was that she had become stellar at her job, which, given the initial effort required, had actually become increasingly easier to manage as she applied her considerable talents to the task. As this new confidence grew she found herself free to better observe and absorb everything she could from watching Miranda operate. She figured she'd learned more about business and publishing from the fashion maven in six months than she could have in a four year MBA at Columbia.
Pausing to centre the book she turned to go when she heard her name being called from down the hall, she immediately picked the book up and went in search of Miranda, relieved that the voice had come from somewhere downstairs; confidence increase or not, it would be a long time before she'd feel ready to go up those stairs again.
She found a small den set just off from the kitchen where Miranda was sitting behind her desk writing in a large journal of some kind. She finished what she was writing and held her hand out for the book which Andy handed over immediately. The white-haired woman began to flip through the pages as she let Andy just stand there for a few minutes.
Andy took advantage of the time to admire the lovely off the shoulder cashmere sweater the older woman must have changed into when she came home. A very tiny smile made its way onto her face as she noted that even ‘casual' was ‘classic' when it came to Miranda Priestly. Her attention focused as the woman in front of her began to speak even as she continued to flip pages.
"Mmm, Paris is the most important week of my entire year, Andrea. I need the best possible team with me." She glanced up at Andy before looking back down. "That no longer includes Emily."
Andy drew in a surprised breath and before she could help herself started to stutter out.
"Wait. You want me to…" She made a shaking motion with her head. "No, Miranda…Emily would die. Her whole life is about Paris. She hasn't eaten in weeks. L..I can't…do that. Miranda I can't." She looked at the woman before her, wondering why she was so surprised to hear such a blasé destruction of someone's dreams coming from her lips. She was the Dragon Lady after all.
Miranda flipped a page with particular vehemence before replying.
"If you don't go, I'll assume you're not serious about your future… at Runway or any other publication." She looked up over her reading glasses. "The decision is yours."
Andy was still stunned and scrabbled for something to cling to, perhaps she was misunderstanding something, so she sought clarification like a drowning man seeks a life preserver.
"Are you saying I have to choose? Choose between destroying a friend's dream and my job?" She couldn't help the slight harshness in her tone of voice as she spoke. Miranda picked up on this and put the Book down in order to give her full attention to the girl in front of her. She gave her a head to toe appraisal, confirming her opinion of the outfit she'd seen this morning. Acceptable, in clothing, but, and her eyes narrowed, not necessarily in attitude.
"Oh yes. You have to choose. Choose to get ahead, or not." She skewered Andy with her eyes. "You want this life Andrea, then these choices are necessary."
Something in Andy began to grow, a seed, only beginning to sprout, a rebellion to the ideas being presented to her by Miranda as her only options.
"But what if this isn't what I want?" The seed wasn't very strong yet, and this was betrayed in the timidity and uncertainty in her voice.
Miranda gave a dignified little snort and dismissed the girl's uncertainty with a flick of her wrist. Returning to the book she made her final comments on the subject before dismissing Andrea.
"Don't be ridiculous, Andrea. Everybody wants this. Everybody wants to be us. That's all."
Andy reacted instinctively to the dismissal, turning and leaving the room and the house without another word. She continued to keep silent as Roy drove her home, occasionally glancing in the rear view mirror, concerned about Andy's quiet distraction and definitely more subdued mood.
"You okay Andy? Did the Dragon give you a hard time?" Andy's response was an absent minded agreement but no more. Once arrived at her building she left the car with only a quiet thanks for the lift.
Later in the evening, Andy grabbed a glass of wine and went to sit on the sofa, glancing at the pictures she had strewn over the coffee table. She'd been looking through her photo albums, pictures of graduations, High School and College; pictures of her and Nate and pictures of her family. This was the third time in the past five months that she'd gone through this ritual. Looking at these images of her former self helped her to re-centre herself, see what she was like then, compare it to the person she was now and allowed her to envision who she wanted to be in the future.
She'd first done this after the Harry Potter fiasco, it was the core of her internal make-over and had set her on the path to professional improvement and satisfaction. Added to Nigel's earlier comments she realised she hadn't really been present in her job, so there was no wonder she was floundering, you couldn't do a job well in absentia. She'd hauled herself to order and found much to her surprise that she actually enjoyed the challenges the job, or more specifically Miranda presented. She especially relished surmounting those challenges and replacing obstacles with solutions that made her job permanently easier and allowed her to expand her challenges on her terms.
The second time she'd done it was a mere two weeks previously, the result of yet another fight with Nate about her hours and to him, unreasonable attachment to a frivolous and dead-end job. The result there had been just as life altering, she had come to realise that Nate wasn't just resentful of the person she was becoming, but that he himself was refusing to change to adapt to his own change in circumstances. Essentially he just didn't want to grow up, he was the same person he'd been at the end of college, indeed the same as the person he was at the beginning of college, and although she hadn't known him then, she suspected he was just the same when he was in High School.
Andy had decided that this was not the way she wanted to live, and that if Nate stayed the same as she continued to grow and change, they would only continue to fight as they grew further and further apart. She'd tried to be reasonable and gentle when she had talked to him, laying her cards on the table, but he'd thrown a tantrum and blamed everything on Runway and "That bitch Miranda Priestly." Andy had looked at him sadly and given him a week to find a new place to live. Having made her decision she saw no reason to prolong the connection that was just holding her back. Nate was gone in two days and the resulting calm and sense of space she'd been enjoying at home were just a couple of the things confirming the rightness of her decision.
Andy bent forward and picked up the picture of her receiving her Citizenship Award at age 17. She and Lily had received the accolade for setting up an after school club at their old elementary school for kids whose parents both worked. She'd had to convince the town council and the local school board to allow the club and to fund it and it had taken more than a year, she'd actually started the campaign when they were 15, but she had been determined. Her parents had encouraged and supported her, even when her mother temporarily lost her substitute teaching job because of the intervention of one of the school board members most opposed the scheme. Andy had wanted to give in at that point, but her mother had talked to her, pointed out it was up to her to choose to do the right thing or to give in to bullying and corruption. Andy chose to fight.
As she looked at the picture, memories vividly swimming in her vision, a look of unadulterated determination came to settle over her features. She glanced at the clock, noting it was nearing midnight, she grabbed a pen and a pad and began writing a mile a minute. She crossed out several things, reworked and re-ordered her thoughts until she was satisfied with what she'd done. At half past one in the morning she went to bed and slept the deep and satisfying sleep of someone at peace with her decisions.
Andy was at her desk by 8:00am, Emily was out of the office running errands and Roy had texted that Miranda was on her way up. Andy popped into the dragon's den, arranging magazines and placing the cup of piping hot coffee in its assigned place. Finished, she returned to her desk just in time to pick up a pad and pen before Miranda swept through the door.
The editor glanced at Andy, standing and ready and then carelessly threw her coat over Emily's desk and computer, covering the red-head's screensaver of the Eiffel tower. Glancing again at Andy, appraising the girls outfit from foot to head until she finally met Andy's steady gaze and small determined smile. Thinking she understood the smile, Miranda nodded and headed through to her office. Less than a second later she startled Andy as she popped her head back out the door.
"Don't forget to tell Emily." Her eyes narrowed a little, unable to read Andy's expression. "Now. That's all." She then disappeared once more.
Andy glanced at the pad of paper and the envelope in her hands, firmed her shoulders and walked into Miranda's office. She carefully closed the door behind her and approached the desk. Miranda ignored her as she took a sip of her coffee and opened her computer. Andy remained silent, waiting for Miranda to acknowledge her presence.
After several minutes Miranda finally raised her head, she didn't say anything merely quirking her eyebrow in surprise. Without bothering to ask, Andy set the tone for this encounter as she sat in the chair facing Miranda and proceeded with her plan.
"I've thought a lot about what you said last night Miranda and I'd like to start by thanking you for an excellent life lesson distilled into a mere few sentences." She watched as Miranda carefully sat back in her chair and a hard edged expression slipped onto her face. Andy didn't flinch and continued with what she planned to say.
"You're right that it is down to each person to choose the direction they want to go in life. It's equally true that often those choices are difficult and may require personal sacrifice or they may have a severe impact on others as well as yourself."
Miranda's eyes narrowed, she wasn't happy with the direction this little speech was heading, so she decided to intervene.
"Andrea is there a reason you are assaulting me with this drivel and wasting my valuable time?"
Andy sat forward and held the older woman's gaze with determination to say what she intended and to take the consequences that may come after.
"I've come to the decision that I won't crush Emily's dreams of Paris. I do not want to be that person. As you said last night it's my decision. Your stated decision to take this as an indication that I'm not serious about my work or my career however is a mistaken one, I am very serious about both things. Something which I know I've already proven to you or else you would not have offered me the Paris trip in the first place." Andy paused as she saw the sneer make its way onto Miranda's face, twisting her classic beauty into something almost ugly. Even though she'd been expecting it, it still made her a little sad.
"Oh of course, the little mid-western girl couldn't be that cruel could she? No, that's something only the Dragon Lady, the Bitch in Heels could manage. You think you're so far above other people who make these difficult and necessary decisions every single day do you Andrea?"
Andy wasn't the least bit phased as she gave the tiniest feral smile before replying, "Oh no Miranda, I most certainly could be that cruel, it's in me, and in the future I may find that I do something very cruel indeed to further my career. I may decide then that it's a right decision. But here, today, I CHOOSE not to. I choose to be who I want to be and to make my way on my terms. Those terms do not include trampling someone's hard earned dreams."
Miranda's sneer faltered as she kept eye contact with the brunette, noticing that there was a glint of determination in those chocolate eyes, but no antagonism, and more amazingly, no condemnation of Miranda herself. Confused she blinked and then looked again and noted the girl's calm body language and was so dumbfounded she failed to respond as her instinct demanded. What was wrong with her, she should have fired this insolent girl and sent her packing before she'd even sat down. What kind of spell had she cast over the editor?
Andrea watched Miranda's confusion, waiting for the woman to snap and lash out at her, fully prepared for fireworks and summary dismissal. As the silence continued she realised she'd taken Miranda completely by surprise. She couldn't help but wonder if this was the very first time someone had ever stood up to the powerful woman. She smiled slightly as she internally confirmed her admiration for her boss. Well in for a penny in for a pound she thought as she prepared to push on with the rest of the plan she'd outlined for herself the night before.
"I have a counter proposal for you Miranda." She paused briefly to see if Miranda would interrupt, but the woman remained silent and attentive.
"Emily has worked very hard for you for nearly 2 years as both second and first assistant and she deserves to go to Paris. She's earned it Miranda." She looked pointedly at the older woman and then gave a grim little smile. "That said, I have no qualms in pointing out that as hard as she has worked, I actually do the job more efficiently than she does." Andy paused as Miranda's eyebrow hiked in surprise and was that amusement she saw?
"Her talents, as I know you know from hearing you speak with Nigel, lie more in the creative field than anywhere else. Take her to Paris Miranda and then give her a recommendation or a transfer or a promotion to something more suited to her skills. If you do that…" Andy paused and took a deep breath as she threw all her cards onto the table.
"If you do that, I promise to stay with you for a full year as your First Assistant and to properly train a Second assistant to take over from me when it's my turn to move on. What's more, I'll make sure to have systems set up so that my replacement will be able to properly train her replacement when that time comes." She paused as she noticed Miranda's expression change to a guarded interest.
"Well that's my proposal." She leaned forward and placed the envelope on the desk in front of her. The envelope represented the scarier possibilities of her plan. She had been realistic enough to prepare herself for the a number of possible reactions to her idea, positive, negative and even utter catastrophe.
"Alternatively, here's my resignation letter. I realise this might look like I'm trying to strong arm you, making Emily your only immediate option. That is not my intention at all, it is however, something that is necessary for me to do if you decide not to take up my offer." She sat back into her chair and finished what she had to say.
"So Miranda, you can accept my proposal, take Emily to Paris and get at least 2 years of excellent assistance in the office; you can accept my resignation and take Emily because you have too and then have to put up with her for a longer stretch of time as she haphazardly trains my replacement." She then raised her own eyebrow as she sardonically, but honestly added, "Or you can fire me here and now, blacklist me and still end up with Emily in Paris."
Miranda blinked, impressed in spite of herself at Andy's bravery in giving clear cut voice to what others would see as the Devil's first and preferred choice every time.
Then the brunette narrowed her eyes in determination, "If you decide on the third option Miranda, just let me assure you that I will fight that blacklisting. I'll fight it and I'll beat it. It might take me years, but please be assured I will beat it. You know, I'm a lot like you in some ways. I get what I want, and I'm prepared to work my ass off to accomplish what I set my mind to."
Looking at the young woman she could feel the iron will behind her words. She realised Andy wasn't challenging her to do her worst, she was just giving the Editor fair warning. Miranda wasn't happy, but she was impressed.
Having said most of what she had to say Andy stood and offered her final thoughts.
"I admire you Miranda, and I've learned an amazing amount from you in the past eight months, and I know I could learn even more in the year to come." She smiled and continued with a tone of genuine affection, "What's more, I like you, I really do you know. I'm not 100% sure how or why, but there's just something about you I can't help but really like." She shook her head ruefully.
"Well, there you go. That's what I had to say. It's up to you now Miranda." She smiled again and then she put the final nail in Miranda's amazement she winked at the older woman. "The choice is yours Miranda. Choose wisely and well."
With that Andy walked out of the Dragon's den, head held high, no matter what choice Miranda Priestly made, she, Andrea Sachs was her own woman, and would lead her life on her own terms, making and owning all her own choices.
Time passed, calls came in and Andrea fielded them, forwarding those that required it, she worked on Miranda's schedule and as the time stretched she stopped from time to time to calm herself and stop the anxiety trying to bubble up inside her from running amok. Miranda remained in her office the whole time, a run through went ahead and people filed into the inner office and out again. Toward noon Andy looked up as she heard Emily's arrival from several yards down the corridor. A second later the red-head flew into the reception area loaded down with what looked like at least a hundred different bags.
Without a word, Andy rose and helped her stow and deal with the items, allowing her colleague to take those Miranda required immediately into the inner office. Emily returned and made a shooing motion at Andy.
"Go, eat, pee, be back in 20 minutes." And with that she sat down at her desk sighing with pleasure as her screensaver popped up as she touched her mouse. Andy had already hung up Miranda's coat from earlier, Emily would never know about that little piece of theatre. Glancing into Miranda's office she saw the white haired dragon busy on her computer. Sighing she grabbed her handbag and headed for the elevators.
18 minutes later she returned and Emily left for her 30 minute break, never bothering to say a word to Andy. The brunette had caught the scent of Miranda's steak when she got back and was a little relieved not to have had to plate and take that in, acting as if nothing had happened that morning. Emily was due back in five minutes when she heard Miranda's voice calling her name. Taking a leaf from Nigel's book, she girded her loins and answered the call.
Miranda looked up as Andy entered searching for any signs of timidity or concern on the younger woman's features. Andy looked back calm, but alert for what might be coming next. Miranda waved at the remains of her lunch.
"Get rid of this. When Emily returns I want to see you both." She glanced up once more intending to give her signature dismissal. Instead she shocked herself when, "Thank you." Tumbled from her lips.
Andy kept her face neutral as she took the tray and murmured. "Of course Miranda."
Emily came back and upon hearing their instructions lunged forward grabbing Andy by the arm before hissing at her.
"What the bloody hell have you done?? If you've gotten me fired you fat little troll, I'll kill you with a cheese cube, I swear I will!" She shook Andy's arm to emphasise her point.
"Chill Em. You never know, you might be getting a ringside seat to my execution, you'd like that now wouldn't you?" Her serene expression was at odds with her words but she just shrugged off the red-head's grip and headed for Miranda's office.
When they entered, Miranda's chair was facing the window and she stayed that way for several minutes before swivelling round to look at her two assistants. Andy stood tall, firm and ready to stand by her decision no matter what was coming, and Emily, well she was trying hard to hide her shaking hands as she waited the Dragon's judgement.
Leaning forward she picked up an envelope and beckoned Emily forward to take it from her. When she'd taken it she glanced down to see her name written in Miranda's own hand. Her head snapped up as the colour drained from her face, believing the envelope contained her termination papers. Seeing her discomfort Miranda started to speak.
"Oh do calm down Emily, you're not being fired." She took the opportunity to glare over her glasses and added, just because she could, "Not yet."
Emily nodded dumbly and continued to clutch the envelope in her fist, the idea of actually investigating its contents never even entering her head.
"As you both know Paris is only three weeks away and those weeks are crucial." She paused and looked at Andy as she addressed her words to her First Assistant.
"Emily you will be accompanying me to Paris. Your sole focus from now till then will be on preparations and scheduling the shows and invitations. You will not be answering calls or running errands." She paused at the flash of triumph the Brit flashed toward Andy. "You needn't worry that you will be bored, with time differences and workload I'm sure you'll be putting in 16 and 18 hour days." This sobered Emily somewhat and she nodded in acceptance of her bosses instructions.
Miranda waited a beat before continuing. "When we return from Paris you will be transferred to Jocelyn's team as assistant Head of Accessories." Ignoring the pole-axed expression on Emily's face she turned to Andy, locking eyes as she continued.
"Andrea, you will contact HR and get a new assistant in place within the next week. You will begin her training immediately and continue while I am away." She narrowed her eyes a bit to emphasise her next point.
"Do not make me regret my choices." Each young women answered; one ‘yes' and one ‘no' Miranda quietly floated to the fashion maven's hearing. Giving a slight nod of her head, "That's all." she dismissed them before turning back to the view from her window.
As they left she heard their exchange and smiled.
"Congratulations Em. You deserve it. You're gonna have blast in Paris I'm sure." Andy's well wishes were sincere and accompanied by a gentle knowing smile. The red-head's response was pure ‘Emily' and Andy was hard put not to laugh, just a little at her friends attitude and especially at her parting shot.
The Brit sniffed with disdain before replying, "Yes, Well. Quite." She looked Andy up and down and shook her head in dismay. "But even now it completely escapes me why Miranda ever chose you."