Author's Chapter Notes:

A/N: None for this chapter.


Official Disclaimer: Big surprise; still not mine.

Andy Sachs and the Cleverly Worded Plot Device
by: Hayseed (

Chapter Two: ...and the Three Strikes

“Lily,” Andy hissed into her cell phone, “I need you to come to Runway, now!”

“Andy, baby, I can’t just--“

“Please,” she begged, desperation welling in her gut. “I’ll owe you for life.”

Lily’s reply was more amused than anything else. “You already owe me for life. I never told old man Russell that you broke his window back when we were eight.”


“All right, all right. Don’t get your panties in a wad. I’ll be over in three. Can I come directly, or do I need to use more... conventional means?”

Andy looked furtively around the office. It was empty, just like it ought to be at eleven PM. Even Miranda, who was the one holding Andy at work so frigging late, was nowhere to be seen.

“Just be careful.” She snapped her phone shut and started saying silent prayers to every single god she could think of.

No more than three minutes later, there was a loud popping noise. Andy winced and all but tackled Lily the instant the Apparition was finished.

“Did you have to be so loud?”

“What?” Lily asked blankly.

She was going to cry any second now; she really was. “Oh my God, Lily...” she half-sobbed.

“Andy, you’ve got to chill,” Lily said, giving her a little shake. “Because I have no clue what’s going on, and I’m standing in the middle of an office basically just waiting for your boss to leap out of the closet or whatever and bite off my head.”

“Th-the computer,” she stuttered, pointing over at Emily’s eerily blank monitor screen. “I swear, Lily, I didn’t mean to get so close, and now it’s dead, and it’s got all the records on it, and you have to fix it, or I’m so dead, and they’re going to put me in jail or something, if I manage to survive, because Miranda is totally going to kill me dead, and--“

“Breathe, Sachs,” Lily interrupted with another shake of her shoulders. “Just breathe. In and out. That’s a good girl. Do you realize how many times you just used the word dead in a single sentence?”

Her breathing slowed marginally, but her eyes were still wild with fear. “And she’s still here, Lily. She’s conference-calling someone or something, and... Jesus, what if she sees you? Do you have an Invisibility Cloak?”

Lily sighed and covered her eyes with a single hand. “Two things to mention here, chica,” she said irritably. “One, it would have been nice to know I would be working around Muggles before I got here. And two, fuck no, I don’t have an Invisibility Cloak! How much money do you think I have?”

“I’m sorry,” Andy replied, meaning it. “I’m just--“

“Freaked out beyond the limits of all reason, wizarding or Muggle?”

“Not helping,” she said with gritted teeth.

“Sorry,” Lily said, distinctly unapologetically. “Which computer am I fixing, again?”

She nodded toward Emily’s Mac before all but collapsing at her own desk. “I don’t know if I can do this, Lily.”

“Do what?” But Lily was already in her own world, disassembling the computer and beginning to pull at various wires.

Letting her guard down since... well, since the last time she’d talked to Lily, Andy just sighed and studied her fingernails. “Maybe I’m not cut out to be a halfer,” she admitted. “A month ago, when I first started here, I just... I snapped, Lily. The Obs had to come wipe half the staff because of me. I’ve never been so out-of-control, even when I was a little kid. And Nate and I, we’re fighting all the time, and it’s about stupid stuff, too. He doesn’t like me working here. It was a lot easier when we were in school.”

“So you’re quitting?” Lily asked, looking up from the motherboard with a confused expression.

“No... yes... I... hell, I don’t know,” she said with another heartfelt sigh.

“Well, as long as you’ve made up your mind.” Biting her lip to hold in what was clearly a giggle, Lily turned back to her work.

Andy rolled her eyes. “It’s not funny, Lils.”

“Oh, I know,” Lily replied, tapping the motherboard with her wand in a sequence that resulted in a puff of bright pink smoke. “But I also know you, remember? If you don’t see this halfer thing through, you’re going to spend the rest of your life working in a dingy old bookshop, counting quills and wondering what you could have been.”

“You make it sound so appealing,” she said, staring at the screen of her cell phone before dropping it solidly on her desk.

“Hey, best friends don’t let best friends throw away life goals, you know?” With a satisfied grunt, Lily slid the motherboard back into the guts of the computer. Andy heard a little click as it fell into place. “Well, that’s one problem fixed. Now, let’s see what you managed to do to the--“

“Emily?” A hatefully familiar voice asked from somewhere across the office.

It was as if she was frozen in place. “Oh, no,” Andy breathed as she looked up into the eyes of a baffled (and therefore angry) Miranda Priestly.

“Emily, who--?”

She thought Miranda’s entrance was the scariest thing that had ever happened in her entire life.

As it turned out, it was nowhere near as scary as hearing Lily calmly say, “Stupefy,” from her position at Emily’s desk.

Which also wasn’t anywhere as bad as actually watching an arc of red light hit Miranda square in the back.

The worst part, of course, was when Miranda’s eyes rolled back in her head and she hit the floor.


Andy felt her mouth fall open as she stared down at Miranda’s motionless body. “Um, Lily?”

“Yeah?” It was kind of comforting that Lily’s reply was equal parts dazed and horrified.

“Did you just Stun my boss?”

“Um...” And then, unbelievably, Lily appeared to think about it. “Yeah, I guess so.”

“My incredibly famous, powerful, and evil boss?”

“Unless there’s someone else walking around Runway who calls you Emily?” Lily sounded almost hopeful.

“I’m so dead,” Andy whispered, slithering out of her chair and barely even noticing when her knee whacked against the leg of the desk. “Merlin’s fucking left tit, Lily, you just Stunned Miranda Priestly! And I didn’t even do anything to help her!”

With a snort, Lily resumed her efforts to remove the hard drive without further damage (it was melted in spots, making it more difficult than it might have initially appeared). “Because her watching me Stun you instead would have been so much better, right?”

“What are we going to do?” Andy all but wailed, peeking around the edge of her desk to look again at Miranda sprawled on the floor, looking more like a corpse than anything else. “She’s going to--“

“Wake up?” A completely different voice said, kind of muffled by the fact that it was through the locked office door. “Damn. A little help here, ladies?”

It couldn’t hurt now. Andy waved her hands in a complicated gesture that left Lily shaking her head and the door clicked open to reveal none other than Luke Stephenson.

“Evening, all,” he said, nodding and grinning. “And how are we doing?”

“Actually, we’re wondering exactly how much trouble we’re in,” Andy said tremulously.

He laughed. He actually laughed! Andy wanted to hit him.

“Well...” he drawled. “That depends entirely on how much I let your pal the Dragon Lady here remember after I wake her up.”

“Don’t call her that,” Andy said automatically, wondering why she was leaping to Miranda’s defense even as she did it.

Maybe she was doomed to turn into Emily after all. A fashion-crazy compulsive-worrier of a stick insect with nary an independent non-Miranda-approved thought in her brain.

She shuddered involuntarily.

“What, are you afraid she’s going to hear us?” Luke asked with a sarcastic tilt of the head. “Are you sure you’re Andy Sachs, Defense teacher’s pet extraordinare? She’s out cold.” He gave Miranda’s thigh a nudge with his foot. “See? Harmless.”

Don’t do that, Andy wanted to cry, but she wasn’t quite sure what she was protesting, so she dropped it.

“Anyway,” Luke continued blandly, “I’ll take care of it, Sack-of-Shit, so you can just relax.”

“Technically, if you’re splitting hairs, Lucas dah-link, this one’s my fault,” Lily said, flicking her fingers in a pattern Andy recognized as a Warming Charm to heat the hard drive’s casing. Another charm that Andy didn’t recognize left Lily’s fingers glowing a warm orange, and she started carefully reshaping said casing.

Another one of those stupid laughs that made Andy long to brain him with something heavy. “Yeah, I know,” he said, “but Sachs over there looks so much more worried than you do.”

“Andy’s the one that depends on the woman’s survival for a steady income,” Lily pointed out. “I’m just here because she melted someone’s computer with her magic mojo.”

“Hell of a first job, Sack-of-Shit,” Luke told her with a wide smirk. “You sure you want to work with Muggles?”

“Shut up,” she said sullenly. “Isn’t it your job to fix shit like this?”

With a causal air, he stretched out in one of the comfortable chairs nearby. “Yeah, but only after you two have cleared out. I’d really like to only have to mess around with her memory once.” He paused, considering his own words. “Well, twice now, I guess. If we’re counting.”

It wasn’t funny, which was why no one laughed.

“Boy,” Luke said into the silence. “Tough crowd.”

“Let’s see you laugh about a stranger having to fuck around in your boss’ head because of your continual ineptitude,” Andy said, almost giving in to the hysterical tears that had been threatening ever since Emily’s computer screen went blank.

The silence was even more awkward than before, and she could have sworn she saw Luke and Lily exchange nervous looks.

“Andy, baby, this isn’t your fault,” Lily said seriously.

“It’s, like, your settling-in period or something like that,” Luke added with what she was sure he thought was a helpful smile. “You’ll get the hang of it, kiddo.”

“Nate thinks I should quit,” Andy pointed out.

“Who’s Nate?” Luke asked, just as Lily sighed and rolled her eyes. “Yeah, Andy, why don’t you take the advice of the clueless cat-hating Muggle who’s been hellbent on turning you into his granola-eating bride practically since the two of you met?”

It was Andy’s turn to sigh. Lily had never liked Nate. “He’s not that bad,” she protested. “And he’s never once forced me to eat granola.”

“Man... chicks are weird,” Luke said to no one in particular.

With a final twirl of her finger, Lily turned in Emily’s chair to give him a sweetly sarcastic smile. “Still a virgin, huh, Lucas? Come on, Andy, baby. I’ve done all the damage I can do here tonight, and there’s a bar stool with your name on it.”

As Lily dragged her from the office, ignoring her spluttering protests that she had to work in the morning, Andy saw a scowling Luke leaning over Miranda’s still body. Briefly, before the door swung shut, she wondered exactly how much of tonight Miranda would remember.

“I can’t believe this,” Nate exclaimed, voice tight with fury. “You’re staying? After all your goddamn whining and moaning about how awful life at your stupid job is, and you’ve decided that a new pair of shiny boots makes it all better?”

“What the fuck does that mean?” Andy cried, putting her hands on her hips. “Are you implying that I can’t do my job?”

“Andy...” Nate blew out a breath of air and ran his hand through his hair. It was an act he always pulled during their arguments to make her think he was calming down and being rational; it usually just made her madder. “Andy, sweetheart, that’s not what I mean at all.”

“Sure sounded like it,” she snapped.


She held up a single hand. “Don’t.”

For emphasis, Bucky (perched up on top of the fridge like any sane cat would do in a situation like this) let out a loud growl.

“Look, all I meant was that you clearly hate working for that damn magazine,” he said, taking a cautious step forward. “Even your fucking psycho cat agrees with me, see?”

To Andy, Bucky’s hiss and puffed tail did not at all indicate agreement with Nate, but it didn’t really seem worth pointing out at the moment. “You mean that you hate me working for Runway,” she said flatly.

“Me?” he asked. “This isn’t about me, it’s about--“

“You bet your snippy little ass it’s about you, Nate Reichart,” she cut in, wishing she had claws like Bucky to vent her frustration all over his stupid face. “That’s what it always comes down to. What, you don’t like my new haircut? Your new cell phone? What about all the free clothes? What is so wrong about my job? You know what? I’m not half-bad at it, either.”

At least, she wasn’t half-bad at it when she didn’t have nagging little thoughts in her brain that she was better than Runway. Because she wasn’t, really. No matter what Nate said. Fashion might not cure world hunger or anything, but it was a step in the direction she wanted to go in, and that was all that mattered.

If she told herself that often enough, she might even start believing it.

“I just... whatever, Andy,” he sighed. “I’m tired of fighting with you. I’m going to bed.”

It was a clear signal to stay the hell out of the bedroom.

Nate turned his back on her and strode out of the den. As soon as he set foot into the kitchen, there was a loud yowl and a scuffling noise.

“Goddamn freak cat!” Nate shouted.

Without even hesitating, she scrambled after him to see what had happened. It was pretty clear, actually. Bucky, from her excellent vantage point on top of the fridge, had jumped onto his shoulder once he’d gotten close enough. She’d gotten a few good licks in before he’d knocked her to the ground.

Andy had arrived just in time to watch him raise his foot to deliver a vicious kick to a hissing, spitting Bucky.

Petrificus totalus, she wanted to cry. That and a dozen other hexes.

Instead, she leapt forward and gave him a big shove. “Nate, don’t you fucking dare!” she said coldly. “You kick my cat and you can find somewhere else to live!”

The glare he shot her was full of pure hatred. “Just keep that thing the fuck away from me,” he snarled, stomping off into the bedroom.

Once he was out of earshot, Andy sat down on the floor and scooped Bucky up in her arms, scratching her ears until the cat slowly relaxed and began to quietly purr. “Bucky, you have to cut him some slack,” she said in as soft a voice as she could. “I can’t put up with the two of you going at it all the time. Besides, he doesn’t understand us yet, but he will, if we give him time.”

The purring stopped, and Bucky gave her a look that was clearly full of skepticism.

“I’m so tired, Bucks,” Andy said, pressing her face into the warm fur and breathing in the smell of catnip and flea shampoo and... cedar. For some reason, Bucky always smelled like cedar and she could never figure out why. “I told Nate I could do this, and I told Nigel I could do this, but I don’t know if I can.”

She felt Bucky’s whiskers brush against her cheek. You can.

“I almost hexed him just now,” she confessed into Bucky’s side. “I wanted to hex him. And I’ve wanted to use spells a million times at work, and I just... I can’t, can I? Even thinking about it makes me tired.”

So sleep. Bucky’s ear twitched in obvious amusement.

“Not a bad thought,” Andy told her, giving her ears one last scratch before letting her go to begin her night explorations. “I guess I’m stuck on the couch, though. I wouldn’t chance the bed tonight for anything.”

Bucky laid both ears back and flicked her tail dismissively at the bedroom. She never slept there.

Andy chuckled. “Seriously, Bucks, just leave him alone for a little while. If you do, maybe I can find my way to leaving some Oreos in your food bowl tomorrow.”

You better. As she sauntered off to do whatever it was cats did under sofas and behind chairs, Andy reflected that even Miranda’s most punishing smirk couldn’t hold a candle to Bucky’s.

“I come bearing gifts,” Nigel called, sauntering into the office with a couple of shoe boxes. “You can still wear a seven, can’t you?”

Actually, she was an eight, but who was she to turn down free... Louboutins? At least, she was pretty sure that’s what the box said -- it was kind of hard to tell from across the room.

“Sure,” she said neutrally, although her inner child clapped her hands and cried, Pretty, when Nigel opened the box to reveal a pair of red-soled black shoes with glittering five-inch heels. “I can do a seven.”

“It’s just that’s all they send for samples, even though I tell them over and over that we don’t staff a model who wears below a nine. Really, we don’t employ midgets!”

A month ago, she would have probably argued with him about his unreasonable standards, but that was before she decided to play Dress-Up With Nigel. One of the unspoken rules about Dress-Up With Nigel was that his sly insults were either agreed with or ignored.

She chose to ignore the midget comment, mostly because she couldn’t decide whether or not it was directed toward her personally. The only person in the whole office who didn’t absolutely tower over her was Miranda herself, and she didn’t think even Nigel could bring himself to call Miranda a midget.

“Well, come on, darling,” Nigel simpered, dropping the box on her desktop. “Let Uncle Nigel see what your tootsies look like in your new shoesies.”

“Okay, Uncle Nigel sounds kind of... creepy,” Andy replied, lips twitching.

He tittered. “Granted. Now, put ‘em on, Six.”

It was a close thing, but she managed to cram her foot the whole way in without Nigel noticing how much of a struggle it was. She could have sworn that one of her toes actually made a cracking noise, just like old McMinamin’s knuckles right before he started throwing hexes at some poor student who fell asleep in lecture. But Nigel remained serene through the whole ordeal.

“So... what do you think?” he asked, watching her teeter to her feet.

They hurt. Bad. It was like turning her foot into an accordion while trying to walk on a bed of nails without any shoes.

“Oh... they feel awesome,” she lied with a wide, fake smile.

Because the last thing she wanted Nigel to know was what horrible pain she was in. First of all, she really wasn’t in the mood to hear another ‘beauty isn’t without sacrifice’ lecture. On top of that, she wasn’t about to give all of the clackers yet another reason to snicker at her behind her back.

But, really, the clincher in the whole deal was that these were free Louboutins and she wasn’t above making a few modifications to render them wearable.

Like right this second, for instance.

If she had to take so much as a step in these damn shoes, she was going to fall screaming to the ground.

So as unobtrusively as she could manage, Andy sat back down in order to caress the soles of her new shoes, muttering the words to a Cushioning Charm under her breath. It didn’t fix the agony in her cramped toes, but it meant that she could probably walk to the ladies’ room to transfigure them without dying of pain along the way.

She might even be able to wait for Emily and Miranda to get back from wherever the hell they were before she made her escape.

One of her toes spasmed at the thought. Screw it, she decided. If the phone rang while she was away, whoever it was could damn well leave a message. She hadn’t fallen flat on the job in a few weeks; really, she was due a good fuck-up. That would give Miranda a good excuse to glare at her, and lately, Miranda had been deprived of some quality glaring-at-Andy time.

“Oh, Nigel,” she said as sweetly as she could manage. “Could you watch the phone for me? I really need to... um, go.”

“What happens if it rings?” Nigel asked, regarding the phone warily. “I don’t do reception work, kiddo.”

“I’ll be quick,” she wheedled. “If it rings, you don’t have to touch it -- it’s my fault.”

“Didn’t we discuss this, Ahn-draya?” he asked with a pointed expression. “Not backsliding, are we?”

She grinned. “Wouldn’t dream of it. After all, I hear a million girls would kill for this job. I just really, really have to pee.”

Or magically fix my shoes so I don’t suffer long-term, debilitating foot damage. It amounts to the same thing, doesn’t it?

He frowned. “Run, Six.”

Nigel only called her ‘Six’ when he was feeling playful, so she was pretty sure he would cooperate if the phone rang. Or at the very least, deflect the Miranda-glare in the event someone had to leave a message on her voicemail.

As she hobbled toward the bathroom, she got the distinct impression he was laughing at her. But she so didn’t care.

The instant the lock on the stall slid home, she dropped onto the toilet and popped the Louboutins off. While wiggling her still-cramping toes, she waved her hands over both shoes, adding a slight transfiguration to the Cushioning Charm, stretching them from a seven to an eight. Since she was already going to Fashion Hell for defacing a pair of designer heels, she went ahead and added a cooling spell, a lightweight spell, and a No-Wear Charm on the sole.

She left the ladies’ room with a deep sigh of relief.

“Feel better?” Nigel asked playfully upon her return.

Andy just tossed her hair in a dismissive gesture. “Shut up. Did I miss any calls?”

“Oh, dozens. She’s going to be out for your blood when she gets back.”

“I hate you and take back anything nice I’ve ever said about you,” she replied without missing a beat, folding her arms across her chest.

Nigel shook his head. “Is that the thanks I get for slaving away over a busily ringing phone while you ran off to do whatever it is pretty young things do for fifteen minutes in a bathroom? See if I ever help you again.”

She seated herself as primly as possible, crossing one leg over the other and tapping her foot impatiently in the air. “The phone didn’t ring, did it?”

“Not once,” he said with a cheerful grin. “But I notice those shoes are really suiting you, Six. You came striding back in here like you were wearing bargain-bin sneakers.”

Another sly insult she chose to let slip by without comment.

“In fact...” His tone shifted to something more thoughtful. “I’d swear you were wearing different shoes.”

“What do you mean?” she asked, keeping her voice absolutely level. No, really. That squeak? Runway must have a problem with mice.

“You winced when you put them on, Andrea. Don’t try denying it. And then you walking out of here? Nobody has to pee that badly. That, my wonderful girl, was new-shoe-limp at its finest.”

“I just... my fingernail got caught when I put them on, and you know how much that hurts,” she said casually.

Boy, the office was just overrun with mice today. Squeaking all over the place. One of the clackers must be on some weird cheese diet.

“To which I reply: bull and shit, my dear.”

And before she could even react, he lurched forward and tugged the shoe off her dangling foot. “Hey!”

“What on Earth happened to this thing?” Nigel exclaimed in wonder, turning it over and over in his hands. “It... I’ve never felt anything like this. It doesn’t weigh anything at all!”

“Well, you know Louboutin,” she said weakly.

“And this isn’t it,” he breathed. “This is... this is a miracle shoe. You have to tell me what you did, Andy.”

She couldn’t pretend any more. Her entire body went numb. “I didn’t do anything,” she said, feeling like she was on autopilot.

“You have to have done something,” he persisted.

Voices floated down the hall.

“No, it’s just a really good shoe,” she replied. “I told you it was awesome when I put it on, didn’t I?”

The voices were getting closer. Well, one of them was, anyway. Screw the imaginary mice. Andy was so far past squeaking, she was on the verge of hyperventilating.

“Didn’t you hear me? No shoe is as good as this one. I just... I can’t believe this.”


Andy’s head dropped into her hands as if of its own accord. It was about to get so much worse.

“Miranda,” Nigel replied smoothly. “Have you seen Louboutin’s latest work?” He held the pump up in an affected gesture.

“Sufficient,” she said, dropping her coat and bag on Andy’s desk, apparently willing to ignore her stricken assistant.

“Yes,” he said, “but have you felt it?”

She quirked an eyebrow. “I’m certain I don’t know what you mean.”

“Here.” He pushed it into Miranda’s surprised hands.

The eyebrow went higher.

After a brief pause, the other one joined it. “Nigel...” she drawled dangerously.

“Don’t look at me,” he said with a smirk. “I lent them to our dearest Andrea to try on, she dashed off to the restroom for a split second, and when she came back, this shoe was magically transformed into the miracle of engineering you’re currently holding.”

Andy wanted to keep her head in her hands. Watching all of this unfold through her fingers was bad enough. But now, she was going to have to maintain eye contact with Miranda Priestly while lying through her teeth.

She’d rather face a Dementor.

“Andrea?” Miranda asked in that slow, even voice that usually meant she was about to verbally flay someone for no good reason.

Strike that. She’d rather face a Dementor riding a fire-breathing dragon and armed with a machine gun.

“Yes, Miranda,” she said automatically, looking up and pasting on her best Employee-of-the-Month smile.

“Explain why I am holding a shoe that feels more like a marshmallow than anything else,” Miranda told her, dangling the Louboutin by its heel in front of her face.

“I... uh... Miranda, I...”

Her stuttering was interrupted by a popping noise loud enough that Nigel jumped and Miranda dropped the shoe.

“Andy, Andy, Andy,” someone said into the resulting silence. “Haven’t we learned anything about Muggles?”

Her heart fell into her stomach. Shit.

“Who are you?” Miranda snapped, giving one of her best glares to the person who’d just literally appeared right in front of her nose.

“Luke Stephenson, ma’am,” he replied with a tip of an imaginary hat. “We’ve met before, believe it or not.”

“I would remember such a rude person,” she said loftily.

He grinned. “Funny you should say that, Mrs. Priestly.”

Andy sighed, and even from across the room, she saw Nigel’s jaw tighten. As much as that idiot Luke knew about everything, he didn’t know about that?

“I wouldn’t call myself rude,” Luke said conversationally. “In fact, I think I’m rather charming. Wouldn’t you agree, Andy?”

“Would you just shut the fuck up?” Andy asked, feeling tears well in the corners of her eyes. “Do you have to be so nasty?”

“Has anyone ever told you that your sense of humor sucks, Sack-of-Shit?” he retorted. “It’s not like they’re going to remember any of this anyway.”

Nigel blinked at this. “What?” he asked, and Andy could hear the panic in his voice. “Not remember?”

“I’m calling the police,” Miranda announced imperiously, hand swooping for the phone on Andy’s desk.

Petrificus totalus,” Luke sighed, twirling his wand in Miranda’s direction.

Nigel’s jaw flopped open as Miranda’s entire body went stiff and slid gently to the floor. “But... you just... who are you?”

“Like I said,” Luke told him with a wide grin. “Luke Stephenson. Good night, Mr. Kipling. Stupefy.”

Less elegantly but just as effectively, Nigel dropped to the ground.

“What’s wrong with you?” Andy asked Luke, now crying in earnest.

He sighed. “Aw, I was just playing around, Sachs. Don’t take it personally.”

“How the hell could I not take it personally?” she retorted, wiping her cheeks. “You’re here to kick me out of the Muggle world, and you decide to twist the knife on top of it?”

“Kick you out?” he echoed. “But, Andy...”

“Three strikes and you’re out,” she sniffled. “One, the coffeemaker. Two, Emily’s computer. And now, this. I can count, Luke.”

With a shrug, he flicked his wand at Nigel, sending a jet of warm golden light toward his head. “That night last month went on Lily’s tab. She’s the one who used a spell in front of a Muggle, not you. So, really, Miss Magical-Counting-Witch, you’re only on strike two.”

“Really?” Somehow that made her cry more, not less. “Do you mean it?”

The next wand-flick was in Miranda’s direction. “Would I lie about something that important? Trust me, Andy, no one’s dragging you in for a Council hearing any time soon.”

“Oh, my God, Luke,” she said, almost choking on her tears. “Have I ever told you how much I love you?”

“Not that I don’t appreciate it,” he told her with a wry shake of the head, “but I’d prefer if you save the inappropriate romantic declarations for later and get the hell out of here now. I’ve got to mess around in these two weirdos’ heads so they don’t remember you and your magical new shoes.”

“Yeah, okay,” Andy said, still sniffling. “Thanks, Luke.”

He laughed. “Don’t mention it, kiddo. Although, you could do me a teensy favor.”

“Name it.”

And all of a sudden, he went from comforting, vaguely dim Luke who she teased in school to big, bad Obs Squad member with a menacing frown. “No more magic at work, okay? Just because it isn’t strike three today doesn’t mean it won’t happen if you’re not careful.”

“Deal,” she said, meaning it. Even if her job did kind of suck and Miranda was ten shades of hell on a good day, it beat the alternative. She was going to make Runway work even if it killed her.

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