STEELE 'O MY HEART, PART VIII: ADDICTED TO STEELE
By: Susan Deborah Smith
First printed: More Red Holt Steele #13/14
Summary: Laura just has to get away.
Disclaimer: This "Remington Steele" story is not-for-profit and is purely for entertainment purposes. The author and this site do not own the characters and are in no way affiliated with "Remington Steele," the actors, their agents, the producers, MTM Productions, the NBC Television Network or any station or network carrying the show in syndication, or anyone in the industry.
Remington stood and watched her pack, watched a lot of nervous energy expended in a direction that scared him, scared him to the bone, in ways held never felt or imagined, scared him worse than the various times he'd actually come face to face with death and laughed because he had nothing to lose.
He had a great deal to lose now, and he fumbled desperately on thin ice to find the words that would get him back on solid ground, words that would not send him crashing into cold darkness.
"I don't understand," he said carefully. "Did something happen? Something I don't know about?"
"No," Laura answered.
"Well, then. Did I do something? Upset you in some way?"
She stopped packing. "No," she said at last. "It's me. It's just me. I have to get away for a little while."
Getting away for a little while sounded to him a lot like getting away for a little while and maybe not coming back.
"Where are you going?"
She threw a sweater into the suitcase. "I don't know."
"When will you be back?"
"I don't know."
He waited, afraid to ask any more questions, afraid he might get a real answer. He didn't understand. The day had been like any other: a case, a little excitement, a close call. And then, after hours, in the office, with Mildred safely away, a bit of a romp, a few moments of love stolen out of the daylight.
Finally, she turned to him. "I'm sorry," she said, laying her hand on his arm. "I guess I'm being unfair. I just need to be by myself and think a little."
He put his hands in his pockets and looked away. Then he looked back at her.
"I'm a little new at the marriage game, Laura. Is it inappropriate for me to ask what it is you need to think about?"
"Just you and me, I guess," she said. "Me, mostly."
"I've reached the point where..." She hesitated, searching for the phrase. "I'm having trouble understanding my own behavior."
Mystified, he repeated, "Your behavior? What about it?"
She shrugged. "I'm doing things, thinking things, that I just don't get." Smiling a little, she regarded him with the light of fond memory in her eyes. "Sometimes, when we're coming home, I feel like running all the reds, so we'll get here sooner. Or at the office, I wonder how we could get Mildred to go home early, so we can lock the office and - " She looked away. "Like tonight. Sometimes, in the morning, I think about sending her out for doughnuts, when not two hours before -- "
Remington came nearer and tried to put his arm around her. "Laura, I can't think of anything you could say that could be more flattering -- "
"It's not flattery!" she exclaimed. "And it's not me! It's another person. Another Laura."
"The real Laura?" he suggested.
"The old Laura," she whispered, shrugging him off.
"And what was wrong with that Laura, then, eh?" he demanded. "Except that she got left by a man who wasn't worthy of her?"
Her eyes were bright when she looked at him.
"A man who wasn't worthy," he repeated. "A man who couldn't appreciate everything about you: in bed and out of it, at work, at play, good times, bad, sickness and in health, Laura..."
She turned away from him.
"It isn't something we can talk about?"
"No," she said abruptly, the tears that wouldn't fall caught in her throat. She picked up the suitcase. "It's something I have to work out alone."
Held tried; he couldn't push her any farther. "Okay," he said softly. "I'll be here."
She went past him without a word, without a kiss, without a goodbye.
He made dinner and ate alone, and put her share away in neat containers in the refrigerator. He took a shower and put Casablanca on the VCR. Rick and Ilsa had said goodbye and the Letterman show was on when he was startled awake by the sound of a key in the lock.
Laura pushed the door open and stood looking at him. He sat up, a bit groggy.
"You're home early," he said.
She dropped her suitcase and kicked it aside.
"Maybe I'm better at this marriage thing than I thought," she suggested wryly.
He kept himself open, neutral, receptive. "Really?"
She came over and sat on the couch beside him. "I got to Santa Barbara, and I realized that there really aren't any problems for me to work out on my own anymore."
"I should trust you to help me with them, right?"
"Well, yes, actually. We're partners, aren't we? Always have been. Any trouble you have -- "
"I know. Maybe trust isn't something I do well."
"You're learning," he said gently.
She looked at him, in a way she had sometimes, as if he weren't part of her life, as if they were at a distance. She could put him there, if she needed to, could take all the intimacy out of it, if it were business, and put it back in five minutes later. She was like him, in a way, with a talent for leading different lives.
"I've told you before," she said. "I'm afraid of losing myself in you."
"No," he said, because he knew her. "You're afraid of losing yourself in us."
"Yes," she agreed. She was shaking.
He took her hand and squeezed it. "Is that so bad?"
"Why? Because I can't tell if you're lost, too."
"I wouldn't call it lost," he said. "Lost has too many negative connotations."
"Oh, be serious!"
He was serious. "Laura, you're a very passionate woman, I admit far more than I'd ever dreamed. But as far as I can see, it's not lust by itself. I'm under the impression that you want us to be together."
"So the fact that you can't wait to get home is wonderful, isn't it?"
"I thought so."
"What questions could you possibly have, then, eh?"
"Oh, I don't know. That I'll burn out, or you will."
"Laura, we have nearly five years of unspent passion built into our relationship. And it's not going away. If we could ever work through the desires we've had through all these years, we'll have built up more in the meantime."
She was forced to smile, and looked away.
"Maybe this is a new experience for you, Laura. I'd grown used to sitting in my office and wondering how to get you alone."
"Sometimes I'm afraid that that's all there is."
"In what way?"
"Lust. Nothing but lust."
"On the surface, perhaps, I agree," he said, thinking of dinners ruined because she came up behind him and put her arms around him and he had ceased to think of pans on the stove and only the sizzle of burning calphalon brought them back to their senses.
He swept the hair off her neck and kissed her shoulder. "A healthy sort of lust. An honest desire. But deep down - " He kissed her again. "Deep down, where you can't see it, it's something else, isn't it?"
"Do you have to ask?"
She swallowed hard. "No," she whispered.
"I'll admit I'm old-fashioned," he said. "But I've come to think it all goes hand in hand. It's not wonderful with you because I've wanted you so badly for so long; it's wonderful because I love you. And I wanted you because I love you."
"You're always good with a line."
"And you know when it's a line, and when it's not. It could never be good with anyone else, because you're the one I love. And when you love someone, you don't get burned out, do you? The lust doesn't go away." He kissed her hand. "Now I admit, in forty or fifty years, we might want to take up some other hobby."
"Or maybe not?"
She leaned against him, feeling exhausted by thought and exhilarated by hope.
"So what's really the matter, then, eh?"
"I don't know," she said. "Maybe I love you too much. Or I'm too much in love with you. Or I want you too much for my own good."
"Are we talking about you and me?" he asked. "Or is it your mother again?"
"I don't know."
"Let me ask you something." He turned her to face him. "Let's leave entirely aside our marriage, and our feelings. Speaking only hypothetically, eh? Let's say someone's afraid of being left, and purposely keeps himself or herself from feeling anything deeply enough to be hurt by being left. Is that person any happier? Any better off?"
She looked up at him. "I'm not worried about you leaving," she said finally. "I think, maybe, we've come far enough together for me -- to get over that."
"Maybe?" he repeated.
"Old habits are hard to break," she explained with a wry smile. "What I think this is is -- subconscious. It's something I have to live with."
"If I ever meet your father, I'll wring his bloody neck."
"Kind of Freudian."
"But satisfying. Infinitely satisfying." He put his arm around her and drew her head to his shoulder. "You don't know how hard I have to fight that man."
"It's all right. You've fought some battles in your day."
"Some things -- take time, I guess."
He took her hands in his and looked into her eyes. "I can't see the future," he told her. "I don't know what's going to happen to us. But I can make you one promise, and I'll write it in blood. I won't leave without a fight, and I'll never let you go without one, either."
"You can't be rid of me so easily."
"I don't want to be."
"All right, then. Tell me again about those worries you have."
Snuggling her closer, he settled back on the sofa.
"Well, aside from the agency, and our mutual desire, do we have anything in common?"
"Joking, Laura. Only joking."
"But you're right. We don't have anything in common."
"So we don't bowl together Thursday nights. What are we missing?"
"Nothing, but -- "
He held her tight, drawing her into him, drawing her spirit to his. "Laura," he said. "We work together. We go out together. We make--" A little sigh escaped him at the very thought. "We make exquisite love together. Does it matter that we're not a matched set? Perhaps it's better this way."
"I guess -- I've learned to like the movies."
"And I suppose I've learned to work a little harder."
"We like to dance.?'
"We like to travel. We like each other."
"And it's nice to eat a decent meal every night."
"And to come home to a safe place. Every night."
"We could take up golf."
"Or we could just keep on with our current hobby," he suggested.
"Give Mildred shorter hours," she agreed.
"Let Fred drive us home."
She smiled hesitantly. "Sometimes I'm afraid of us."
"Nice young couple, good looking, relatively harmless. What's there to be afraid of?"
"Nothing," she said. "Nothing at all."