By: Susan Deborah Smith


First printed: More Red Holt Steele #13/14

Summary: When Laura falls ill, Remington is there to help her.

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 was awakened by an odd bang and a thump from the bathroom.

"Laura, what was that?" he muttered into his pillow. Opening his eyes, he realized that Laura was not beside him, and jumped out of bed.

"Laura? Are you all right?" He knocked on the bathroom door. Getting no reply, he tried the knob and threw himself against the door. It opened under his weight, and he found his wife slumped on the floor.

"Laura!" He knelt beside her and lifted her head. "Laura?"

She murmured something incomprehensible and looked up at him.

"What's the matter, eh?" he demanded.

Struggling to sit up, she said, "I guess I have the flu."

"Here." He pulled her to her feet. "Let's get you back to bed."

Groping for the thermometer she'd left by the sink, she held it up. "What does that say?"

"It says--" He squinted, not wanting to believe what it said. "Laura?"

Laura was no longer beside him; she had turned away. Abandoning the thermometer, Remington held her hair back and handed her some Kleenex. She flushed the toilet and leaned against the sink.

"Just leave me alone, all right?" she asked.

"Not for the world, Laura," he replied, rising to the unusual situation of being able to help her for a change. He rinsed a washcloth in cold water and bathed her face with it. "How about you and I take a little ride in the car, eh? Nice little trip down Wilshire to St. Vincent's."

He guided her out of the bathroom and sat her down on the bed. Grabbing the first pair of shoes he could find, he put them on her feet and wrapped her up in an overcoat. A detour through the kitchen brought a bottle of 7-UP, which he made her drink while he threw on some clothes.

"All set?" he asked, checking for his keys.

She looked up at him with a dull expression and eyes that were too bright. "I'd rather stay here," she told him.

"Me, too, Laura. Me, too. But Robert Young doesn't make house calls any more. Now, here we go. Up you get." He got her on her feet and into the elevator, but when the doors opened on the garage, she began to fade and he had to carry her to the Auburn. He put her in the car, then jumped into the driver's seat and roared away.

Magic words in the emergency room were "raging fever," though indeed, one look at Laura would have shown the most callous E.R. clerk that a serious case had been dragged through the door.

They didn't have to wait a moment in the lobby; a nurse put Laura on a table in the ward, gave Remington some forms and a clipboard, and drew curtains around them.

"Mother's maiden name," said Remington in his perkiest voice. "Morgan, isn't it? Abigail Morgan?"

"My mother?" said Laura.

"Abigail Morgan," he wrote in the box. "Actually, this is a good warm-up for another of those tedious Immigration interviews."

"What's going on?" she asked.

"Not much," he replied. "How are you feeling?"

"I don't know." She gazed blankly at the ceiling. "I'm cold."

Remington took off his coat and tucked it around her. Just as he was about to go in search of some medical authority, another nurse arrived and picked the clipboard off the chair.

"Mrs. Steele," she said, scanning the form. "How are you tonight?"

"What?" said Laura.

The nurse slipped an electronic thermometer into a plastic cover and put it into Laura's mouth.

"Can you keep that under your tongue for me, Mrs. Steele? There you go." She strapped on a blood pressure cuff and took a reading. "You Mr. Steele?" she asked, making notes. She took the thermometer out of Laura's mouth and wrote something else.

"Yes, and can you tell me--"

The nurse had disappeared. A moment later, she resurfaced with a chemical ice pack. Breaking it open, she pressed it against Laura's chest.

"She said she's cold," he said.

"You cold, Mrs. Steele?"

Laura opened her eyes.

"You shouldn't be cold. Your husband's got you all tucked in here."

"I don't know. I was. Cold."

"Warm enough now?"

A violent tremor wracked her body, but Laura didn't seem to notice.

"Yes. Thank you."

"Okay. You get some rest, Mrs. Steele."

As she passed Remington's chair, she said quietly, "Doctor will be right in."

"You're sure about that?" he demanded.

"Positive." She went out and pulled the drape shut.

"This is a hospital, isn't it?" said Laura.

"Spoken like a true detective," he smiled.

"Don't go away," she asked.

He kissed her hand as another chill shook her. "I'm not going anywhere."

"Hiya, folks," said a relentlessly cheery voice. "Somebody in here named Laura Steele?"

Laura didn't reply. Remington nudged her.

"Me," she said. "I'm Laura Steele."

"Okay, let's see what's going on here." He tossed Remington's coat over another chair and slipped the icepack under Laura's knees. He listened to her heart and lungs, and felt under her ears and arms. Unbuttoning her shirt, he began to press on her abdomen; she made no protest.

"Ever have your appendix out, Mrs. Steele?"

She shook her head, but that made her dizzy, so she stopped.

"Silly question; I'd've seen a scar if you had. Just wanted to be sure you were awake." He buttoned her back up and looked into her eyes with a penlight. This brought a whimper from Laura. "Just one more. Real quick. Okay." He turned off the light and let her shut her eyes.

Remington watched attentively, alert for any clue.

The doctor consulted the file. "How about this, Mrs. Steele?" he suggested. "I'm going to read a list of symptoms, and you answer yes or no to each one, okay? Okay, Mrs. Steele?"

"Yes," she answered.

He read a relatively short list. Laura admitted to all symptoms but one.

As he wrote, he said, "Okay, good. Now, for the million dollar question: Are you menstruating right now, Mrs. Steele? Are you on your period?"

She opened her eyes. "Yes."

"Using a tampon now?"

She shook her head.

"Earlier tonight?"

She nodded. Suddenly she had a terrible feeling that she was lying in a pool of blood and tried to sit up.

"No, no, no, Mrs. Steele. You just lie here and relax. Let's have somebody draw some blood, all right?"

He signaled the nurse, who wheeled a little cart over to the table. Breaking open a package, she rubbed the inside of Laura's right elbow with Betadine, a procedure Laura watched with vague interest, then inserted a butterfly needle and drew a tube of blood.

Dr. Jackson reappeared with an IV bag, which he attached to the butterfly once the blood was drawn.

"Mrs. Steele?" he said. "This is a glucose solution. It'll replace some of the fluid you've lost."

"I'd like a drink of water," said Laura.

"No kidding," he said. "I'll get you one." He gave the cup of water to Steele, who held her head up for her to drink.

Meanwhile, the doctor had dragged off the bottoms of her pajamas and pushed her feet up into stirrups, and was scrubbing his hands. Drawing on a pair of gloves, he said, "You tell me if I hurt you. All right?"

This part was strange and alien to Remington, and he couldn't watch.

After a few moments, the doctor stripped off the gloves and eased her legs back onto the table. "Okay, enough of that," he remarked. He threw a sheet over her and said quietly, "If I could see you for a moment, Mr. Steele?"

Remington rose. Laura jerked him back to her and clutched his hand to her breast.

"Don't go," she whispered.

"I'm not going anywhere," he replied. "I'm going to speak to the doctor, that's all."

"Don't leave me," she insisted. "I don't want to be alone."

"You won't be," he assured her, smoothing her hair with his free hand. "Just please don't leave me." Her grip tightened on his hand with the strength of desperation.

"Laura," he said with a smile. "In sickness and in health, remember?"

She did remember, and returned his smile weakly. "Till death us do part," she added.

He sat down again and held her hand pressed in both of his. "That's not the issue here, Laura."

"Mr. Steele?" said Dr. Jackson, waiting with his clipboard.

"Just a bloody minute, okay!" Remington shouted. His voice rang in the silent ward. More quietly, he said, "Be right with you, mate."

Laura was speaking very softly; he had to lean close to hear her. "He won't talk to me; he wants to talk to you. That means it's bad, doesn't it? He doesn't want to scare me."

"But that's pretty foolish, isn't it? You're scared already."

"I've never been this scared. Not for myself. For you, maybe. Sometimes. When I thought Descoines had killed you. Or when Keyes was setting you up in Mexico

"Laura -- "

"I was frightened then. But not for myself."

"Laura, you're a bit under the weather here," he told her. "Let's face the simple fact that the only thing you really need to concentrate on right now is not losing the 7-UP I gave you. Now, am I right?"

He had somehow managed to coax a smile to her lips.

"Right. Dr. Jackson wants to explain his diagnosis to me, so I can explain it to you. That's all it is."

"You really think so?"

"Laura. Would we be here right now if I didn't trust these people to help you? Is that your opinion of me?"

A tear slid down her cheek. "I'm sorry."

"Oh, Laura. Laura - " He dried her eyes with his handkerchief and bent to kiss her. "I'm going to be right over there with the doctor." He pointed. "Right there. Never out of sight. Now, you be a good girl and lie still, eh?"

She nodded, and he stepped over to where the doctor was waiting.

"What did she say?"

"Till death us do part."

Dr. Jackson took a deep breath. "You must understand, Mr. Steele, your wife has a very high fever. I'm not surprised if she's bordering on delirium. But we'll have the fever down in no time, and she'll be back to normal."

"She's very frightened, Doctor, and I would like to be more confident of the assurances I gave her."

"You brought her in right away, which lessened the risk. Right now, all we're waiting on is the blood test. Can you answer a couple of questions for me?"

"She's not in danger?"

"Not at the moment. I wouldn't be standing around talking if she was." He put a hand on Remington's arm. "She's stable; she's conscious; she's not going into shock. She's as safe right now as if you were by her side. Now," he flipped open the chart.

"How did she seem when you went to bed last night?"

"Perfectly well."

"No fever? No complaints of faintness or nausea?"

"None. Absolutely tip-top. So what's the story?"

Jackson shrugged. "There's no pelvic or abdominal inflammation, which rules out ectopic pregnancy and appendicitis. I expect the blood test to confirm my diagnosis. Your wife has TSS."


"Toxic Shock Syndrome. She has most of the symptoms, and she fits the profile: a healthy young woman on her menstrual period."

"But that's serious, isn't it? I mean, people die of that!"

"Yes, but you got her here in time. Is she allergic to any drugs?"

"Not that I know of."

"She seems coherent enough to ask. We'll give it a try."

The nurse returned with a printout. "It's positive," she said.

"Okay. Get me a syringe." He moved to Laura's bedside. "Mrs. Steele. Mrs. Steele?"

Remington's heart ground to a halt in his chest. "Laura," he said, taking her hand.

She opened her eyes with a start. "What? What is it?" She stared at him, frightened.

He held her hand to his face, weak with relief. "Listen to the doctor, Laura."

"Mrs. Steele, are you allergic to any drugs?"


"Taken penicillin before?"

"Of course."

"Any reaction? Anything at all?"


"Okay, good. You're making my life real easy. We found out what's wrong with you, Mrs. Steele, and we're going to take care of it." He rolled her gently onto her side and swabbed her hip with alcohol. "This is going to sting, so I want you to take a couple of nice, deep breaths, okay?" Depressing the plunger, he massaged the area around the needle with his free hand, forcing the drug out into the muscle.

"Okay so far?" Remington asked.

She looked at him bleakly. "Maybe."

"You're doing fine."

"I feel so bad - "

"That's because you are one sick girl," he explained. "But that's all been taken care of."

"I think this is the worst thing that has ever happened to me."

He smiled. "I thought our wedding was the worst thing that ever happened to you."

The doctor let her roll onto her back again.

"No," she said, staring at the ceiling. "That was the worst day of my life. It wasn't the worst thing that ever happened to me."

"I take it the distinction is flattering to me."

"Mrs. Steele?" said the doctor. "We're going to keep you here, at least overnight, okay? Just so we can keep an eye on you."

"I didn't bring anything -- "

"That's okay. We've got everything you'll need right here. Now, let's get you up to a room and get you settled. Mr. Steele, why don't you wait down here until we call you?"

"No!" said Laura, struggling to sit up.

"I'm going with her," Remington replied, easing her back down.

"Really, Mr. Steele, it's nothing to worry about. Just hospital stuff. Service elevator, I.D. bracelet, that sort of thing."

Remington smiled. "Then you won't mind if I come along, eh?"





It was, in fact, boring hospital stuff, and Remington could have little to do with it. He sat in a chair within what he hoped was Laura's line of sight, and waited while an efficient medical team stripped her out of the rest of her pajamas, bathed her with alcohol and wrapped her back up in a hospital gown. Then they lifted her into a nice, clean bed, inserted the I.V. into her hand, and departed.

"Where am I now?" asked Laura.

"Fourth floor," he replied. "Room-ah-" He got up to check. "Room 421."

"Is it Intensive Care?"

"Heavens no, Laura."

"I'm sorry," she said suddenly. She began to cry, sobs tearing from her, and she turned away from him. "I'm sorry."

This frightened him. Held seldom seen her cry, and never like this. This was something he couldn't help, something that he couldn't see, a pain he wondered if he could soothe. Something mysterious was happening in her head, and he felt helpless.

"Laura." He sat on the edge of her bed and took her in his arms. Careful of the I.V., he held her tight and laid his face against her hair. "Laura, what's the matter?"

"I don't know," she sobbed. "I don't know."

"You're sick; you're tired; you're scared. Have I forgotten anything?"

She took a shuddering breath. "I've never felt like this before."

"How, like this?"

"Like -- I'm not really here. Like I'm not -- me. Not Laura. Not real."

"Oh, you're very real, my love. You just have a terribly high fever. That tends to do things to your mind. Dr. Jackson told me you might feel this way, and that you mustn't worry about it."

"I want to talk to you, but I can't."

"Why can't you?"

"I don't sound right."

"You sound perfectly all right to me." He rocked her slowly in his arms. "But you know, I have an idea. Why don't you relax and be quiet for awhile. See if you can get some sleep, eh?"

"I'm scared."

"Of course you are, but let me tell you, there's nothing for you to be scared of." He took the glass of water from the tray and held the straw to her lips. "Why don't you take a few sips of this, and then have a nice little nap."

Laura drank the water obediently, and settled back in his embrace. After awhile, he had her safely rocked to sleep, and soon after that, in nervous exhaustion, he fell asleep himself.

"Mr. Steele," said a soft voice. A gentle hand shook him. "Mr. Steele."

He came awake with a start. "What?" he said. "What?"

"Wouldn't you be more comfortable over there?" The nurse pointed to a chair.

He glanced at his wife. Laura was still sleeping peacefully, her fingers interlaced with his under her breast.

"Possibly," he said. "But I don't think she would be."

The nurse took Laura's pulse and felt her forehead.

"Fever's dropping," she said. Pouring another glass of water, she added, "Next time she wakes up, make her drink all of this."

"I will."

She adjusted the I.V. "How long you two been married?"

"Five months."

"Only five months?"

"Why?" he asked wryly. "Do we look like an old married couple?"

She shrugged. "I see all kinds of people; you learn to scope 'em out. I'd've put you down for four or five years. A good four or five years."

"A happy four or five years," he suggested. "I met her in September, in 1982."

"I knew it. There's a kind of trust you only get with time. But I ain't seen nobody come in here in that condition and go to sleep without a good dose of something. Of course, most people come in with people who've got their own problems, you know? They want to complain about the food, when the patient's still unconscious. You wouldn't believe the folks who come in here. They make it worse, believe me."

"I've no desire to make anything worse than it is."

"I know you ain't going to leave her for a second," she said, "but if you want to step outside and call somebody, let 'em know where you are, maybe have them bring you some clothes, bring her a hair brush--"

"Maybe when she wakes up."

"Okay." She made a note on Laura's chart and went out.

"Laura. Laura?"

The voice reached her, but it was muffled. She felt like she was underwater; it was a great effort to speak. She barely tried.



She opened her eyes.

"You awake?"

She looked up at him, puzzled. Then she shook her head. "I feel lousy."

"I know. I know you do. Here, now, you just relax, and I'm going to call Mildred before she leaves for the office. Okay?"


"Laura." He looked down at her. "Don't move, and don't worry."

This made a little bit of sense to her, because the way she felt was certainly cause for worry.

"Okay," she said.

"Good girl."





Mildred was awake and ready to swing into action as soon as he explained the situation.

"No, no, Mildred," he said. "No need to rush right over. I just wanted to catch you before you went to the office."

"What do you need, boss?"

"I'd say Mrs. Steele is in need of sundry undergarments, a dress, and a hairbrush."

"Toothbrush, too."

"Yes, yes, good idea. And my watch, too, please, Mildred. By the bed."

"Got it."

"And of course, anything else you think might be suitable."

"Right, chief."

The doctor had arrived at nine and by quarter past had relieved Remington of most of his worries. Laura's fever had dropped substantially, and there was no reason to suspect complications. Rest was the main thing, and they wanted to keep her another night.

"She'll be all right, though?"

"No problem."

"You're sure?"

"We'll just let her rest today, keep her under observation. It's just a precaution, Mr. Steele."





Mildred nearly crashed into the doctor on her way down the hall. She had a visitor's pass stuck awkwardly to her blouse and Remington's overnighter in her hand.

"Mrs. Steele," she said to the nurse at the desk.

Checking her roster, the nurse replied, "421."


Mildred found the room and looked timidly inside. She caught Remington's attention at once; he tiptoed over to her and pushed her back into the hall.

"Excellent, Mildred. Excellent. What do we have here?"

"Everything you said, boss. How is she?"

"Doing better. Doctor gave us a good report."

"And it's really that toxic shock thing?"

"Nasty business. She was fine yesterday, wasn't she?"

"Never looked better."

"Good, good." He glanced around and lowered his voice. "I've had rather a nagging thought that there was some warning I overlooked."

She patted his shoulder. "Nah. These things happen, chief."

"Yes, well." He sorted through the suitcase.

"Got everything you said," she explained. "Plus a few extras."

"Good. Fine. I'll let her look through them." He hunted a bit longer. "My watch."

"Your watch?"

"My watch. By the bed, remember?"

Stricken, she took a step back. "I was so worried about Mrs. Steele ... I guess I must have forgotten it."

"Not to worry, Mildred. I suppose the time isn't as important here."

"Did you get any sleep?" she asked.

He shrugged. "A bit."

"She awake?"

He looked in and shook his head.

"Then why don't you go get something to eat? I'll stay with her."

He hesitated; she gave him a push.

"Go on, chief. She'll be okay with me."

Finally, she convinced him to go. Clucking softly over poor Mrs. Steele, she tucked the covers in more neatly, pulled a chair over to the bed and settled down. After awhile, she became aware that she was being watched.

"Mildred?" said Laura.

Mildred patted her hand. "Right here, honey. How're you feeling?"

"I don't know. Where's Mr. Steele?"

"He went downstairs to get some breakfast."


"Five minutes ago. Ten, tops." Laura tried to get up; Mildred pushed her back down. "You just relax. You want him to starve?"

"No." Laura stared at the ceiling. "Don't think I'm crazy, Mildred," she began. "But what day is this?"


"Wednesday? That's all? Wednesday?"

"All day."

She couldn't be sure how much time had passed; she had a feeling people were lying to her.

"Tell me the truth, Mildred." She opened her eyes. "Am I making any sense?"



Mildred gave her the glass of water; concentrating hard, Laura held it and drank.

"Mrs. Steele, I think you need to rest. Get your strength back, you know? Fever's can really take it out of you."

"But am I making sense?"

Mildred nodded ."Yes."






"What time is it?" said Laura.

"Don't know," said Remington.

They'd been sitting for awhile, both awake, each knowing the other was awake, neither needing to speak.

He gave her another glass of water.

"Where's your watch?"

"Home," he replied. "By the bed."

"Am I making sense?"

"Perfect sense. Every word."

"You're sure."

"Have I ever lied to you?"

She tipped her head back, and Remington was relieved to see her eyes were back to normal.

"Recently," he added.

"Okay," she agreed.

"How about this, then?" he said. "I'll go out and see what time it is, eh?"

Her fingers tightened on his, and then relaxed. "Okay," she said.

He slipped out from under her and laid her carefully back on the pillows.

"You'll be all right here?"

She didn't want to be alone, even for a minute, but she replied, "Sure."

In the hall, he found an orderly who told him it was three fifteen. He reported back to his wife and resumed his place.

"What do I look like?" she asked.

"What do you look like?" Pondering this question, he resumed his place and took her again in his arms. "You mean, do you look as bad as you feel? Probably not."



"Any sign of a doctor?"

"Too early. Shall I call the nurse?"

"No. No. I'm all right. I just want to know -- if I'm all right."

He kissed her forehead. "No detectable fever," he said.

"My mother used to do that," she said dreamily. Then she stiffened. "You didn't call her, did you?"

"Your mother? No. Should I? Is that one of the husbandly things I should do without needing to be asked?"

"No! No, that's okay. She'd just rush out here."

"No need. I can see you're on the mend."

"I want a professional to tell me that. No offense."

"My word is never enough," he complained.

"Yes, it is," she said softly. "Yes, it is."

"Mrs. Steele, afternoon." Dr. Jackson arrived, chart in hand, stethoscope at the ready. "How you doing?"

"Better, I think."

"You look better."

Remington slid off the bed and out of the way.

The doctor pressed the stethoscope against her chest. "Yeah, I had this idea that you must be one beautiful lady, but sometimes it's had to tell under those E.R. lights. And of course, this morning He shone his light in her eyes, and she tried not to blink.

"What about this morning?"

"You were still a little woozy. I make it a point not to judge people unless they're halfway lucid."

"Thank you."

"Nurses told me you slept most of the night, and most of today."

"I think so."

"No sedatives at all. That's very good. Wish we had more patients like you. How's the hip?"

"Pretty sore."

"Then I've got bad news, Mrs. Steele: I've got another dose here for you. We'll try the left side this time. We'll strive for symmetry. You wanna go home?"

"Yes!" she exclaimed.

"Okay, then. Another shot of penicillin, and we'll see how you do tonight. If you're this chipper in the morning, I'll order up a prescription, and we'll let you go after lunch. Now, for dinner, what sounds good to you?"

She considered this. "Nothing."

He smiled. "We'll bring you something light and see what happens. Mr. Steele, why don't you go down to the cafeteria and get yourself some dinner?"

He hesitated. "Laura?"

"Go on."

He left, reluctantly.

"You have a very devoted husband, Mrs. Steele."

Laura stared after him. "Yes," she said.

The nurse returned with the penicillin; Laura suffered through another injection. She tried to decide whether this was the most humiliating experience of her life. She had an uneasy feeling that it should have been, but it wasn't.

Remington took her home the next afternoon and carried her upstairs.

"This isn't necessary," she said.

"Yes, it is," he replied.

"Well, even if it isn't, it's romantic, anyway."

"That's my middle name," he told her, unlocking the door. "Remington Romance Steele."

"I guess that's the one thing I forgot," she said. "A middle name."

"You don't like Romance?"

"It's a little over the top."

He put her down on the bed. "Now, what can I get you?"

"Nothing," she said.

"Nothing?" he repeated.

"I want to take a shower."

"A shower?"

She stood up and sat back down again. "A shower."

He looked down at her, brow furrowed. "I think I can arrange that, actually."

The phone rang, and Remington answered it impatiently.

"Mr. Steele?" said a female voice. "Mr. Steele, I've tried to reach you all day -- at home, and at your office. Needless to say, I've been quite concerned."

"Have you?" he replied absently. "Who is this?"

"Gladys Lynch. INS."

"Oh, yes. Miss Lynch. What can I do for you?"

"You had an interview with us today. Remember? I must warn you that the Service takes a dim view of probationary candidates who are so cavalier about important appointments."

"I've been rather busy, actually, and

"Busy, Mr. Steele? Must I remind you of the seriousness of this matter?"

"Quite frankly, Miss Lynch, I'm not at all worried about that right now. I have other -- concerns."

"May I ask what else could possibly concern you more than imprisonment or deportation from the United States?"

"Mrs. Steele."

"Mrs. Steele?"

"That's right, Miss Lynch. Mrs. Steele concerns me more at this moment than any of your threats."

"I'm afraid I don't understand."

He walked with the phone into the dining room, lowering and intensifying his voice.

"Mrs. Steele was taken ill the other night, and I've only just brought her home from the hospital."

There was a brief pause. "I'm sorry to hear that," Miss Lynch told him, although her voice was professionally skeptical. "I hope Mrs. Steele is enjoying a quick recovery."

"Yes, thank God."

"You understand I must corroborate your story."

"You do that, Miss Lynch. St. Vincent's hospital. Dr. Jackson, I believe. Okay, Miss Lynch? Good bye."

"That was Immigration, wasn't it?" said Laura, from the doorway.

"Back to bed, Laura," be told her, at her side in a moment.

"Wasn't it?'

"Yes, it was."

"We missed another interview, didn't we?"

"Yes, but it isn't important."

"I'm sorry."

"Sorry?" he said. "Don't be absurd, Laura. Nothing to be sorry for. We'll just schedule another one, that's all."

"Much as I like travelling," she went on, "I'd like to keep you here in Los Angeles. If I can."

"Keep me here? What do you mean?"

"Gresham's checked. You're not looking at jail time anymore. Just deportation."

"Just deportation?"

"Just deportation. And while I admit, the idea of following you out of the country and into exile has more than a touch of melodrama to it, I think I'd rather pursue our romance in a more -- familiar -- environment."

He looked at her -- wonderful, beautiful, still unsteady from the fever and trying to stay on her feet -- and wondered what could have possessed him to play a game with her all those years, when they could have been safe together and agreed upon their goals.

Instead, he stood now with his wife in their home, and listened to her talk about leaving her country to stay with him, but preferring to pursue their romance in the city where she grew up.

But it was a romance, and it was a pursuit, because after five years of friendship and partnership and a few months of marriage, they were still uncertain of the ground they stood on, and the slow progress they made toward understanding was giddy and perplexing and frightening and exciting, and brought him close to believing it was possible to have the best of all worlds.

"Back to bed, Laura," he said again, picking her up and tucking her in.

She settled back into the pillows. "Read to me," she said.

She looked very young, girlish even, freckled, covers tucked to her chin, hair streaming over the pillow. After a brief search, he found the book she'd left on the nightstand, and turned to her page.

In all the years of their acquaintance, he had, he realized, paid little attention to her interests, except where he could exploit them to his advantage, or where they intersected his own. He knew she liked the ballet, because tickets to the ballet were always an entree to an evening in her company. She was athletic, as he was not, and she played the piano. Her university education intimidated him a bit, and books? Literary interests? He didn't consider a book a romantic gift, and so he had never inquired about her reading interests. He'd once had a clue that she liked the "bodice ripper" genre, but held never pursued it. Even lately, with her reading beside him in bed, held had no idea what book it might be. He didn't know she was reading War and Peace to appease her literary friend Kay.

He read, and Laura listened, and after twenty minutes, he and Tolstoy had put her to sleep. Tiptoeing across the room, he drew the blinds and went out.