STEELE 'O MY HEART, PART III: STEELE AT HOME
By: Susan Deborah Smith
First printed: More Red Holt Steele #13/14
Summary: The honeymoon is over, and life starts back in L.A. for the Steeles.
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.
The Steeles arrived home, jet-lagged and exhausted, and fell into bed at three in the afternoon. They arose at six, making a desultory effort to abide by L.A. time, had a light dinner and returned to bed. In the morning, they got up very early, dressed, and held something like business hours in their empty office. Mildred was due back on Monday and had left their calendar clear until then.
Laura spent her day tidying up the details of her business; Remington watched Casablanca over and over again on the VCR.
Since it was Friday, Laura felt no tremor of guilt at closing up early. They went home, ate dinner, made love, and fell asleep.
Remington was awakened at some ungodly hour by the bell chiming on the coffee maker. He himself seldom drank the stuff; Laura had found the machine abandoned in a dark corner of the kitchen.
He got out of bed, not entirely used to the sleeping presence of Laura beside him and therefore not missing her when she was gone. Intellectually, however, he noted her absence from the bed.
He found her in the kitchen; he could see the light from the hallway. Closer approach revealed her to be seated at the breakfast table, writing and drinking coffee.
"You shouldn't drink that stuff at this hour," he told her. "No wonder you can't sleep."
"I've been thinking," she said.
"Have you?" He opened the refrigerator and scanned it for an appropriate nocturnal snack.
"Maybe I haven't been doing my best to help you pull off this charade."
"Perish the thought, Laura," he replied. "You've been doing a bang-up job. Really."
She ignored his sarcasm. "Thank you. But I did, after all, put the brakes on your wedding to Clarissa. Sort of. And that might have been simpler in the long run: no professional or -- emotional -- attachments."
He was chilled by the direction this conversation was taking. "None whatsoever.''
"Whereas now..." How much professional or emotional attachment could Laura safely admit to? "Well, you might have been perfectly satisfied with her to help you with this fraud."
"Perfectly," he agreed.
"But," she continued, "since I got myself into it, I've decided that the least I can do is shoulder the burden like a good soldier."
Remington still wasn't sure where she was headed.
"Burden?" he repeated.
"Well, this isn't my life as I planned it, but -- I can handle it."
"I'm not sure I follow you, Laura," he said, keeping a fairly tight rein on his anger. "Is there anything I can do to make this more convenient for you? Twin beds? Separate bedrooms? I've no objection to that, except for the already stated one. The INS man with the binoculars." He set down the pitcher of juice. "But I had the impression that we were all right together."
"Of course, we're all right together," snapped Laura. "But people are supposed to think we're great together. Aren't they?"
"Of course they are," he said automatically.
"All right. So eighty six that separate bedroom talk. I guess," she added, her eyes twinkling, "we'll be able to manage in that monstrosity you've got in there."
"Laura, that is the best bed ever made. Every inch of it is devoted to comfort. It is the very pinnacle of the mattress-maker's art."
"Okay. So here's what we're going to do: We're going to be so married it makes people sick. We'll be so married it makes us sick."
However deeply Remington loved Laura, he was nevertheless absolutely terrified to tell her. He didn't know exactly what she felt for him. He hated having to depend on her for his safety, and yet -- and yet, he had often depended on her for his safety.
"Excellent plan, Laura," was what he said.
She tapped the list with her pen. "Tomorrow we're going to pack up all the stuff at the loft and bring it over here. Then I'll rent the place. I can call my sister and tell her to ask Mother to send out wedding announcements. Monday I'll have to see a lawyer about an official name change..."
"Yours or mine?" he interrupted
"...because I think that will make everything look very permanent, and then I can change my passport and voter registration. Do you think we should register at a department store? It's a bit after the fact, but people might still want to send us something."
She looked up. "What?"
"We really needn't go to these extremes. I think a simple address change at the post office and your consent to be called Mrs. Steele will be enough."
"I think," she said, and stopped. "I think," she began again, "I need to do more because in the beginning I was very impulsive. I didn't face the fact that we were playing for keeps, and that I could've done some real damage. To my life. And yours." She laid down her pen and leaned back in her chair. "It just seemed like another one of your little escapades on the far side of the law.
"Actually, one of my big escapades," he offered.
"And my behavior on the Mexican trip," she continued, "was a bit questionable, and back in L.A., and halfway through England, so maybe I owe you -- a little something."
"I owe you, is more like it."
She shook her head; he pressed the point.
"All things considered, Laura," he told her, "you make a very believable Mrs. Steele. Far more believable than anyone else. And I'm grateful for that."
"Maybe," she suggested, "what we need to work on is our Irish commitment. Mutual trust."
"In addition to the petty, department store details?" Remington took her hand and raised her from the table.
"Mutual trust," she repeated.
He looked at her through narrowed eyes. "I have no choice but to trust you, Laura. You have me over the proverbial barrel. One false step, and I face the prospect of a very long five years in the slammer.''
She took a step closer. "Did I ever tell you," she asked in a husky voice, "that I love the way you talk?"
"You never mentioned it, no."
"Well, I do."
He lifted her suddenly in his arms.
"What I like about you is that inexpressible je ne sais quois," he replied.
"I love the way you talk," she repeated.
That was a big improvement from the many days when she seemed to hate everything about him. Remington carried her out of the kitchen.
"The window," said Laura as they traversed the living room.
"Walk closer to the window." She had her arms around his neck and, despite the mischievous twinkle in her eyes, was quite serious.
He complied with her request, and she reached out with one hand to pull the drape aside.
"Beautiful night," she said.
"Very beautiful night," he agreed.
She let the drape fall back into place.
"We never know who might be watching," she explained.
It occurred to him that if he had ever had the nerve to discuss openly how he felt about her, and assuming she felt the same about him, Immigration would have had a very small part to play in this marriage.
Now, he said, "We'll live our lives according to that dictum for two more years."
"At least," she said. Then, flushed, she added, "Sorry. Caught up in the. moment, I guess."
Her husband carried her back to bed. As he straightened, she took him by the collar.
"Where are you going?" she demanded.
"Over to my side. To get some sleep."
"Not so fast, Steele. I've had three cups of coffee. I'm not ready to sleep."
"Laura, it's two o'clock in the morning."
"That shouldn't stop a man on his honeymoon."
He looked at her. She pulled him down to her and kissed him.
"I've come to rely on your -- presence," she said.
"My sentiments exactly, Mrs. Steele," he told her.
Much later, he lifted his head from the pillow and listened to the even sound of her breathing.
"Laura," he said. "Are you asleep?"
She didn't open her eyes. "Yes," she murmured.
He rose up on one elbow and pulled the hair back from her face. She always turned away from him in the night, no matter how they had fallen asleep. On the few mornings they had awakened together, Remington had found his hands clasped around her waist, pulling her back to him, her fingers laced with his. Her position didn't seem unfriendly, but he did wish, in a vague, uncertain way, that she would sleep with her arms around him, her head pillowed on his chest, the way he was used to a woman sleeping.
"Laura," he said.
"This two year thing
"Not a bit of it. Are you?"
She opened her eyes. "No."
"Planning to stick it, then?"
"So Ireland's not forgotten."
"I've fought for you," she said. "I'm not giving you up."
Reassured, somehow, he fell asleep.
The next morning found her standing among boxes and crates in her loft.
"Laura," Remington puffed, coming down the steps with a load of junk. "You don't really mean to pack all of this into my flat!"
She gazed at him with clear brown eyes.
"Our flat," he added hastily.
"Of course not," she said. "Only half of it."
Not at all reassured, he told her, "Even half isn't going to fit."
"It will if we put some of your stuff into storage," she replied.
He stared at her. "You can't be serious," he said.
Laura came to him and, holding his collar, stood on tiptoe and kissed him. Then she smoothed back a hair that had fallen out of place.
"I think it's only fair -- darling," she smiled.
He put down the boxes. "Obviously this takes more planning than we've given it."
"I'd forgotten all the personal baggage you'd be bringing along."
"Emotional and otherwise?"
"Especially 'and otherwise.'" He had been surprised to realize something about Laura, something about himself, in fact: no matter how she looked, no matter what she was wearing or doing, no matter that she might be sweaty and dirty and rumpled and her hair a mess, he still wanted her. Before, it had been an idle sort of wanting; now, with her within reach, he could act on it.
He took her and kissed her; all thoughts of working on the loft were abandoned.
"When are the movers coming?" he gasped.
"Three o'clock," she replied.
"It's only half past one."
The carpet was still laid out on the floor; soon they were, as well, tangled together, struggling with buttons and snaps and zippers.
They didn't hear the heavy door being rolled back.
"Miss Holt?" said a voice.
They froze. Laura looked back to see the unpleasant figure of Gladys Lynch, their personal Immigration demon, standing in the doorway.
"Miss Lynch!" she said.
"Miss Lynch," said Remington, through gritted teeth.
They hadn't gone very far; it was merely a matter of buttoning, snapping, zipping and tucking, and putting unrestrained passion away for a moment.
Laura stood up, stuffing the tails of her shirt into her shorts. "It's Mrs. Steele, actually," she said.
"Of course." Miss Lynch's smile was thin. "Mrs. Steele. I have some more forms here for you to fill out."
"Oh. Thanks." Laura took them and looked them over.
"Also, I'd like to schedule you for a personal interview."
Laura glanced back at Remington, then took one step towards Miss Lynch. "I'm sorry, Miss Lynch, you'll have to call me at home or at my office for that. I don't have my calendar with me."
"Very well, Mrs. Steele." Looking around, the Immigration investigator added, "Selling?"
"No," said Laura. "I'm going to rent it out."
"Not very permanent."
"I beg your pardon?" Laura held Remington's arm, pulled him back.
"Renting it out. When you've given up your charade, it will be easy for you to evict your tenant and move back in."
"Which charade is that, Miss Lynch?"
"If you want to convince us, you should sell."
"Thanks to the interest they've taken in my husband, Immigration can tell me a lot of things," said Laura. "One of them is not how to dispose of my personal property." She walked to the door and stood by it. "Good day, Miss Lynch."
"Have a nice trip, Mr. Steele?"
"Quite," he replied through clenched teeth.
"Good day," said Laura.
Miss Lynch departed, her air of smugness intact.
Laura dragged the door shut and sank to her knees, clinging to the police bar that locked it.
"Laura?" He went to her and lifted her up.
"Damn," she said. "Damn, damn, damn. What else can happen?"
"Nothing, Laura, nothing. We're all right. You handled her very well."
"I hate her," she said. "Telling me what to do with my life."
"It's going to be like this," he said. "You knew that."
"I hate it."
She looked up. "It's not your fault," she said. "Not really. As you so cheerfully pointed out, I got us into this, both ways."
"The passport was a vote of confidence," he said.
"And the busted up wedding?"
"A kick in the pants," he said. "Always saving me, Laura. Always getting me out of trouble."
Hauling herself to her feet, she dusted off her hands. "Where were we?" she asked.
When her loft was emptied of her cherished personal belongings, Laura turned her attention to the next domestic chore: sorting through closets in Remington's apartment.
"Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen..." She turned to see Remington standing in the doorway. "How many dinner jackets does one man need?"
"Come now, Laura," he answered. "A gentleman should be prepared for any contingency."
She gathered an armful off the rod and threw them onto the bed. "These can go in the coat closet," she announced.
He rushed forward to rescue them. His arms full of tuxedoes, he drew himself up to take command of the situation.
"Laura, this arbitrary division of space has gotten entirely out of hand." He gestured awkwardly. "Look at you. You're out of control. You take my things, my possessions, you hurl them around at random, paying no heed to the damage you're doing."
Laura was a little taken aback. How could he characterize her careful organizational skills as reckless?
Remington had calmed down a bit. "I think it's only fair that you consult me before you do any more harm."
"Did I put a wrinkle in one of your jackets?" she asked. "Get a bit of lint on the collar?"
"That's not the point," he said, struggling forward over the dress shoes scattered on the floor. "The point is, if you'd relax your grip on this take-charge attitude of yours just for a minute..."
She looked at him, ready to fight.
"...I'll help you," he finished.
He was terribly sincere, but Laura did not look convinced.
To show his enthusiasm for helping, Remington threw the dinner jackets on the bed and, with a flourish, pushed aside the door of the other closet.
On the floor lay a pile of Laura's clothes, the result of his previous effort of unpacking some weeks earlier. Realizing that this was not a good example of his abilities, he swept up the clothes and hung them on the rod. The closet, jam-packed with his clothes and hers, seemed to tremble on the brink of an explosion.
"Shall we work on the dresser drawers first?" he suggested.
Thus, the Steeles spent the greater portion of their weekend organizing dresser drawers and cleaning out closets. Once territory had been tacitly agreed upon, they worked harmoniously. Laura's armoire did not look out of place in the corner by the balcony, and that became the repository for tennis outfits, bathing suits, resort clothes and blouses Laura never wanted to see ever again, but still was reluctant to part with.
This done, the two enormous closets in the bedroom were now cleared sufficiently to hold the wardrobes of Mr. and Mrs. Steele.
Laura took the right hand section for herself and arranged her clothes in an orderly and systematic fashion. She was rather taken aback by the fact that Remington was so well-organized: evening clothes on the far side, every day light woolens next, California summer-weights nearest to hand. His shirts, carefully folded by the laundry, were laid out in drawers according to style and color. Ties and socks were similarly arranged. It amazed her that someone who was so careless about so many details of life, and who devoted too much energy to doing things which were not quite honest, should have such a system. She really wished he would apply these virtues to their work.
By Sunday afternoon, organization and harmony reigned in the Steele household.
"My God! Did you see that, Laura!"
Laura came awake with a start and was faced with unexpected spectacle of the Death Star being blown up on the big screen TV. The shock of this scene, in all its eardrum-blasting glory, was mitigated somewhat by the fact that she could feel Remington's hand on her hair, and that her head was pillowed comfortably on his thigh.
"I've seen this a hundred times, and I'm always surprised when Han Solo comes back and saves the day."
She blinked and looked around with bleary eyes as she struggled to sit up. It had grown dark; only the dim glow of the television lit the room. "What time is it?"
"Half past six."
"We should be making dinner."
"That's one of the things I like about you, Laura," he told her. "The way you epitomize emancipated American womanhood. Do you say, 'I, Laura, should be making dinner'? No! You say 'We, Mr. and Mrs. Steele, should be making dinner.' Husband and wife, partners, share and share alike."
"Let me up," she said, interrupting his rhapsodizing.
Remington had another idea. Star Wars was safely over; he rose and scooped Laura into his arms.
"What are you doing?" she demanded.
"Indulging in a little honeymoon revelry," he explained.
"Steele -- "
"Come now, Laura. We've been married for what seems like an eternity, and I'll wager we've enjoyed each other's intimate company -- well, a very paltry number of times, indeed."
"Steele." But she had her arms around his neck; he was amusing her.
"And since we are agreed that this is not precisely a civil marriage..."
Laura knew he was going to quote her words back to her and laid a finger on his lips to stop him. The finger was replaced by her mouth, and Laura was then quite happy to be carried into the bedroom, quite happy to undress and be undressed, quite happy to make love in a stolen moment when most people were in the kitchen, or in the living room watching the Lakers or something.
Finally, she lay upon his breast, gasping and spent. After awhile, he lifted her head in his hands and looked at her.
"Why, in all the long and glorious years of our association, didn't this occur to us sooner?"
"It occurred to me," she said.
"And it certainly occurred to me," he admitted.
"I guess -- it just never occurred to us."
"Timing is everything," he said.
She smiled and knew that, for some reason, she was blushing. She rolled over with him and smoothed his hair, then drew back a little in surprise.
"What?" he asked her.
"Your hair," she said. "Doesn't it ever get messed up?"
"Never," he answered.
"That's not fair." She ran her hands back through his hair. It was very nice hair, soft and thick. "I look like a woman who's just climbing out of bed, and you look like you spent the afternoon with a blow-dryer."
He made a little self-deprecating gesture with his hand. "It's a curse," he confessed.
Freshly showered and dressed, the Steeles decided that their supreme good looks ("What a pair!" Remington exclaimed, studying his and Laura's reflections in the steamed up mirror) were wasted on a dinner at home. Thus, they jumped into the Auburn and made their way into the quiet, hip, half-deserted streets that were Westwood on a Sunday night.
"Ah, Mr. Steele," said Mrs. Chan, the owner of Remington's favorite Chinese dive. "And Miss Holt. Have not seen you in long time."
"Not so very long, Mrs. Chan," Remington replied graciously. "And this isn't Miss Holt. This is Mrs. Steele."
Mrs. Chan looked from one to the other. "Mazel tov!" she said. "Congratulations. Prosperity! Many strong and beautiful children." She shook Laura's hand vigorously.
"Thank you," said Laura, for want of a better reply.
Mrs. Chan led them to a booth in the back of the dark, narrow dining room. "Just back from honeymoon?" she asked, holding out the menu.
"Just this week," Remington replied.
"No wonder I not see you here. Both too busy! Enjoy meal, please."
"Thank you," said Laura again.
Remington settled down with the menu. "This is far easier than I anticipated," he remarked. "Our friends and acquaintances seem completely unsurprised by our news."
"Mildred Krebs and the owner of a Chinese restaurant hardly count as friends and acquaintances."
"Well, then. What did your sister have to say?"
Laura studied the menu more intently.
Remington glanced up at her. "I didn't quite catch that."
"I haven't called her yet."
"You haven't called her?"
"Well, when have I had time to call her? If we're not chasing around the world, we're fighting or moving or sleeping--"
"Or making love," he suggested.
"That's right," she agreed, and she knew that she was blushing for no reason she could imagine.
Except that her relationship with Steele seemed so strange. She had to confess that she did feel something for him -- something like love, something like friendship -- but that it also seemed rather furtive. It felt like -Laura didn't know what it felt like. In some ways it was wonderful: Life as Steele's cover and business associate had been wild and crazy, and life as Mrs. Steele was wild and crazy, too, and sweet and romantic -- she hated to admit how romantic.
She watched him as he read the menu. Who was this man? More than four years together, amazing revelations, and she still didn't really know.
Laura had a lot of ideas, though. He was a crook; he was a scoundrel; he was the lowest form of life on the planet. He was also a gentleman (most of the time), chivalrous, tender, funny, a terrific dancer, and great -- she couldn't believe how great -- in bed. And anyway, she often asked herself, who else did she love? Was playing at being Mrs. Steele keeping her away from Mr. Right? Mr. Right hadn't shown up so far; what made her think he was right around the corner? Had anyone else, anyone she could take seriously, appeared on the horizon lately? That Roselli character had had a certain charm, but he had pursued her for one reason only: to get the goods on Steele. Steele, on the other hand -- face facts, Laura, she told herself repeatedly -- had stuck around for years longer than held needed to if held just been looking for a cover.
The fact of the matter was, they got on well together, in spite of endless petty squabbles and disagreements. They certainly got on better than Frances and her shyster dentist husband. In these days of AIDS and secret INS agents and wackos of varying degree, Laura had no doubt that Remington would be unswervingly faithful.
So what more did she want?
She blinked. "Sorry. What?"
"Everything all right?"
"Ready to order?"
She became aware of a tall young man who waited for her to make a decision.
"Oh. Um -- "
"Allow me?" said Remington. At her nod, he told the waiter simply, "Chef's special."
"Very good, okay." The young man retrieved their menus and went away.
"What's the matter?" asked Remington.
"Drawing upon my years of experience, I'd wager it's a sign of trouble."
"Don't be paranoid. I can smile sometimes."
"Of course you can, Laura. We're still on honeymoon, after all."
"Still on honeymoon" did not exactly describe it, but Laura was determined to pretend they were. The strength of that determination, the imperturbability of the pretense, made it seem reasonable and realistic. And in carrying out the pretence, she made it real.
The situation was, in fact, rather satisfying in the small details, in ways Laura hadn't expected. Remington was there to fasten the back buttons of blouses, to hook the clasps on necklaces, to pronounce that she looked very lovely indeed. And the reverse had its little pleasures as well: Remington was there, needing his cufflinks linked, his tie straightened, needing her approval and admiration of his impeccable grooming.
In some ways, pretending to be Mrs. Steele -- to all intents and purposes, being Mrs. Steele -- was less dishonest than pretending to be the employee of a non-existent, world-renowned detective, or for that matter, pretending to be the employee of the impersonator of that non-existent detective.
Thus, it required less effort, less pretense, to be Mrs. Steele than to be Miss Holt "my capable associate." Through how many repetitions of that phrase had she ground her teeth in suppressed rage? Yes, she certainly had more freedom now. She could be much more blatantly the power and the brains in the Steele agency. After all, did not married people often disagree? Did they not often have differing points of view? Of course they did. And Steele, with all the verve and panache he had put into being Steele, was putting the same effort into being a real husband, no matter that it had taken her so long to decide to be a real wife.
And she was, she reminded herself, his real wife. The Irish marriage was valid, whether Immigration believed it or not. She looked at him and tried to recapture those magic days.
"What aftershave were you wearing?" she asked.
"In Ireland. On our trip. What aftershave was that?"
He stared at her, then shrugged. "I don't remember. Why?"
She looked at him, her eyes deep and clear. "I liked it," she said simply.
All in all, with her mind at peace with her situation, Laura had few complaints. She had plenty of personal space in Steele's palatial apartment. She had all of the positive attributes of marriage, and none of the negative ones. So what was the problem?
Laura wanted to confide in someone. Laura wanted to tell the whole story, in all its comic and spine-tingling details: her pursuit of the truth when Steele was planning to marry Clarissa, the nightmare of immigration, Roselli in Mexico and England and Ireland, that dreadful woman from out of Steele's murky past. She just wanted to share this episode in her life with someone who didn't know it already.
It was only this tiny little thing that marred what could easily become joy.
He came to bed that night, freshly washed and smelling faintly of Ireland. She sat up, all the synapses in the olfactory center of her brain firing her memory.
"Remington," she said.
He reached for her. "What?" he asked.
"Don't ever wear anything else," she told him.
"Grown fond of it, have you?"
She settled in beside him. "It reminds me," she explained, "of how you really are Remington Steele."