STEELE 'O MY HEART, PART II: STEELE IN IRELAND
By: Susan Deborah Smith
First printed: More Red Holt Steele #13/14
Summary: There are still plenty of things for Laura and Remington to work out.
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.
Laura was a long time coming to bed, and Remington at last got up to pace a bit while he waited. When she finally came out of the bathroom, looking, in his opinion, positively fetching in peach silk and lace, he sprang to her side and took her in his arms. She returned his embrace, and his kiss, with affection, but passion was what he was after.
Disengaging herself from him, she turned back the bed.
"Still tired?" he asked, with what he hoped was heavy irony.
"A bit, yes," she replied.
He got in on the other side. "As I recall, you were a bit too tired for an afternoon romp, as well."
"A good night's sleep," she smiled. "That's all I need." She settled deeper into the feather bed.
"I see." After a minute, he added, "You weren't too tired to go exploring or for a walk in the woods."
Laura opened her eyes. She had intended for those activities to act as a kind of consolation prize, to show him that she wasn't pushing him away.
"I guess that's different," she admitted. She turned over to put her arms around him, but he was out of bed and on his feet, putting on his clothes.
"Wait a minute," she said.
He ignored her and reached for his shoes.
"Hey," she said.
He headed out the door. Laura jumped up and followed, barefoot.
"Where are you going?" she exclaimed.
He barely glanced at her. "Somewhere my company will be appreciated."
She ran after him as far as the first landing. "Hey," she called.
"Don't wait up," he called back.
"Remington!" she cried.
He hesitated, then the door slammed behind him.
Her blood warmed by fighting, Laura barely noticed she was shivering as she went back to their room, threw on a coat and muffler and the first pair of shoes she could find, and ran downstairs again.
Outside, under a crystal moon, a car with an unhappy driver sped away.
She found the chauffeur and the cook chatting over coffee in the kitchen.
"Mr. Steele," she said. "Do you know where he went?"
"Sure and his lordship took one of the cars to the village, your ladyship."
Laura had no idea how to find Glenn Cree in the dark.
"Let's go," she said, tossing the chauffeur his cap.
Glenn Cree was a one horse town, and it was easy to spot the blue Ford parked outside O'Flynn's.
"Wait for me," she said, and crossed the yard.
She hesitated just inside the door of the pub. As soon as she got out of the car, she'd heard the sounds of roistering within; now, the sound of Irish voices, combined with a murky haze, confounded her senses. She couldn't see him anywhere, and went to the bar.
"Yes, your ladyship," said the barman.
"Remington Steele," she said. "Is he here?"
"Sure, and your ladyship's lordship's right over there."
He pointed. Laura's gaze traveled in the same direction, and she was able to make out a table of six or eight men, all singing MacNamara's Band at the tops of their lungs.
"I should've known," she said. "Thanks."
She walked over and stood beside him. He scarcely looked up.
"Ah, Mrs. Steele," he said. "Not too tired for an evening stroll, I see."
She snatched the drink from his hand. "Come home with me," she said in a low voice.
"Sorry, darling, but I've promised me mates here another round."
Slamming the glass down on the table, she said, "If you won't come home, then you'll at least come outside and talk to me for five minutes."
He moved his drink out of her reach. His mates offered glances of nervous sympathy.
Laura was about at the end of her patience. "I hate to resort to threats, Mr. Steele --"
"Not necessary, my love," he said, rising. "I'm sure the lads can spare me for a moment or two."
Snatching his jacket off a peg, he followed her into the yard.
She halted and turned to face him, her hands thrust deep into her pockets. Her breath misted between them.
"Well?" he said. "The boys are waiting."
"You can get back to your mates in a minute," she snapped. "But you're damn well going to listen to me, first."
"Then can you make it quick, Laura? They'll be getting the darts out soon."
"How she said, and stopped. "How," she began again, more quietly, "can we ever expect to live a life together if we can't at least be honest with each other?"
He shrugged. "We've managed so far. Lots of people manage."
"I don't want to manage!" she exclaimed. "I want to be happy!"
Remington was a little taken aback by her intensity; he wasn't sure what she meant.
"So what are we going to do about it?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"You know good and well what I'm talking about!"
He rubbed his eyes. "Give us a clue, Laura."
"Why didn't you tell me you were in trouble with Immigration?"
He felt as if held been hit by a ball spinning out of left field. "Eh?"
"That's how this all started. That's just the perfect example of how we are
together. It's as if we can't trust each other with anything. You couldn't trust me enough to tell me what was going on with you, so we end up with this stupid, last-minute fishing trawler wedding, after which nothing either of us says makes any sense at all, so of course Immigration and everyone else thinks you bought me into it."
"Laura," he said. "I assure you that anyone who has even suggested such a thing has been soundly thrashed."
The wind left her sails only temporarily. "Well, fine," she said, and gathered steam again. "Then," she went on, "when we're inextricably bound together, when we're both looking at fines and jail and God only knows what else --"
"Deportation," he said helpfully.
"That's right! Then, you don't tell me you're being blackmailed, so naturally, when that bimbo.keeps showing up in her underwear, and tells me you're trying to get into hers, naturally, I think the worst. And then, when I get into a stupid, awkward situation
"With the Italian stallion?"
"I'm easily persuaded that you'll think the worst of me, so I resort to the kind of underhanded behavior I find so repugnant in you!"
"Ah," he said. "This must be about when I nearly caught you and Tony in our bed."
"He was going through your stuff!" she yelled. "I caught him rifling our suitcases. And yes, he tried something, but believe me, if I was tempted, it was only because I couldn't get my hands on you!"
The very thought that Laura, hot and panting with lust for him and unable, thanks to the labyrinthine course events had taken, to have him, had therefore been on the verge of grabbing anything in trousers that happened to have a handsome face, was rather engaging.
"So he tried something," he agreed. "How far did he get?"
"How far would you like to think?" she asked coldly.
"Sorry," he replied. "Withdraw the question."
"Damn straight. You think I don't know how to fend somebody off?"
"So it was you who roughed him up a bit."
"That's right! But you know what? I couldn't just open the door and tell you what had happened. I couldn't even give you the chance to defend my honor. I mean, I never believe you, so why should you believe me?"
"Why indeed?" he said.
She looked at him. He looked back.
"So I take it that's it."
"No, that's not it, you jerk!"
"Thank heaven, because I'm still waiting for the punchline. You know, the glib explanation of why, after three days and nights of uninterrupted wedded bliss, days and nights that give new meaning to the word 'passion,' the notoriously hot-blooded Laura Steele has transformed herself back into the off-putting Laura Holt."
"Oh, I can't talk to you!" she said.
He caught her arm. "Talk to me," he said softly.
She took a deep breath. "I'm on my period," she told him in a low voice.
He didn't know what he expected, but this wasn't it. "Eh?"
"I'm on my period," she repeated in clarion tones. "You know. Menstruating. Do I have to draw pictures?"
Comprehension spread slowly over his face. He flushed with embarrassment, with the overwhelming feeling that he was a dimwitted bugger for not having guessed. Worse still, he realized, furious with himself, was that he was guilty of demanding that she feel as he felt every minute. Time of the month or not, she had a right not to be in the mood, and he had an obligation to that right. He had an obligation to respect her. In his joy that they were at last together, he had forgotten that she was not him, and had perhaps other needs and desires. Guilt followed embarrassment, which was quickly chased by gallant concern.
Taking a step towards her, he put his hand to her forehead. "And you're suffering, aren't you?"
She pushed him away. "No, I'm not suffering."
"We'll wake up a chemist."
"I'm not suffering!" she screamed.
"Then what's the matter?" he demanded.
He was determined to be even-tempered. "You're right," he said. "We're not honest with each other. So let's give it a go, shall we? You told me you were a little tired. Fine. I can understand that. But I got the impression that you weren't really tired, and that, Laura, is what's pissing me off."
"You're right. I'm not tired," she said. "Working a long day makes me tired. Ten hours in a plane makes me tired. Making love to you does not make me tired."
He shrugged helplessly. "I realize this isn't my area of expertise, but I think it's merely an old wives' tale that forbids lovemaking under the circumstances."
"I know that."
"Of course I do!"
"I was afraid you didn't."
She was almost panting with the exertion of making herself understood; her eyes were large and bright.
Hurt and understanding showed in his. "You thought I'd turn away."
"I didn't want to watch you struggle for some excuse."
"So you made one up instead."
"It was easier."
"Oh, for God's sake, Laura." He held her close; she buried her face in his sweater.
"Sometimes men forget that women have egos, too."
"If I ever forget," he whispered, clinging to her, "just hit me a goodone."
"Count on it," she replied.
Her hair was soft against his face; he drew her against himself, into himself. She was right: they never openly, easily trusted each other. The truth had to be dragged in, kicking and screaming, before they ever reached an understanding.
"What do you need?" he asked. "What can I get you? Hot water bottle? Those pills, what are they? Ah, Midol. That's it. Some Midol, eh? Cup of tea?"
"I'm fine," she told him.
He held her back from him. "You're not fine; you're freezing. What have you got on under that, eh?" He unbuttoned first one button, then another. Held gotten four open before he caught a glimpse of lace veiling her pale, freckled skin. His eyes dropped to her feet. "And your shoes. What kind of shoes are those, then?"
She couldn't remember, had to glance at them herself. They certainly were not the sort of shoes to hold up well in the mud.
"Terence," he called to the chauffeur. "I'll be taking her American ladyship home."
"What about your mates?" asked Laura.
"Forget 'em. Terence."
"Have someone make up the fire in our room. There's a good man."
Then he picked up his wife and carried her to the Ford and put her in.
"Obviously there are a few things I need to teach you about life in a damp climate," he remarked.
He drove her home and carried her up the stairs.
"I like this," she said, clinging to his neck.
When he stopped at their door, she kissed him; he bent down a little so she could turn the knob. Then he kicked the door shut behind them and set her down in an armchair near the fire. Grabbing a thick towel out of the bathroom, he knelt and began to dry her feet.
"You'll catch pneumonia, pulling stunts like this."
"Then don't give me cause."
He looked up sharply, but when she wriggled her toes against his fingers, he was distracted from his retort. She was right, anyway.
"Yes, well. Just remember: this isn't Los Angeles." He fetched a bottle of brandy and two snifters and, leaving them on the floor, scooped Laura into his arms and sat down in the chair.
"Better?" he asked.
"Much," she replied.
"Not anymore." She locked her hands behind his neck. "In fact, I'm nice and warm."
She smiled at him, but he looked past her to stare into the flames.
"I suppose I'm an insensitive brute."
Laura hunted for the connection. "Come again?"
"Either that or an ignorant oaf. I mean, what kind of man takes off in the middle of the night on his honeymoon, just because his bride would like to get a good night's sleep?"
"A man who's been under a lot of stress?" she suggested.
"And what kind of man can't guess at at these little biological details?"
"Lots of men."
"I should have figured it out for myself."
"Just because I assumed you'd be able to read my mind?"
"Give me time, Laura, give me time. I'll master it soon enough."
"Will you? That'll save a lot of trouble." She settled back in his arms, her head on his shoulder.
"If you'd confided in me from the beginning," he said presently, "we could have spent the whole evening like this."
"I guess -- we've gotten into a habit that's hard to break."
"I'll have a go if you will."
She offered her hand and he shook it.
"This will be a whole new thing for us."
"It's good to keep things fresh." He poured her a brandy and one for himself. "In the interest of furthering our new policy, will you tell me something?"
She took a sip. "Sure."
"Why wouldn't you have married me?"
"In Los Angeles. When I did finally tell you about my -- problem -- you said you wouldn't have married me if I'd asked you."
She'd said exactly that. "I was -- upset," she said finally.
He didn't believe it for a minute. "Laura."
She glanced away, and back again. "It was pride, maybe. And it took me by surprise. I never really thought about us -- ever -- getting married."
The idea of Laura secretly pining away for him had brightened his darker hours, and the suggestion that she hadn't been doing it struck at his heart.
"You mean to say you never had daydreams about us? Little cottage by the sea, babies tumbling at our feet?" He was shocked. "Even I had those, and I've tried to be footloose all my life."
"Of course I did."
"It's just that -- well," She shifted uncomfortably. "In those dreams, neither of us was wearing a wedding ring."
"Neither of us is now."
She held up her left hand. "True."
Another side of Laura had opened up to him. "So you imagined..."
"Running away with you. To some exotic place. But not marrying you."
"To shock your mother?"
"Oh, no. I've done that. I wanted -- I didn't want us to be bound by a piece of paper."
He took her hand and kissed her fingertips. "You of all people should know that paper doesn't bind."
She looked at him, then looked away. "That's exactly why. What I wanted was -- the impossible, I guess."
"What did you want?"
"Now and forever, because that's what we want. Because that's what we promised each other."
"My very modern bride." He was often surprised by what she thought, though now it seemed very clear why marriage was no priority to her. Her parents had been married, and her father had run away. There were no guarantees.
"So for all that, you wouldn't have saved me from my predicament."
"Of course I would've. I did, didn't I? You just caught me in a bad mood. What the hell did you expect? My God, if you had married Clarissa, where would that have left us?" She struggled out of his arms. "Immigration would've been watching the two of you every minute of the day. We never could have -- not for two years --"
She was humiliated to find herself in tears. Remington stood up, gathered her up again, and sat back down.
"Insanity," he whispered. "That's all I can plead."
Insanity was the defense she had to accept.
It was hard for him to recapture his own line of reasoning preceding that fiasco. It had somehow involved the noble wish not to involve Laura in a potentially dangerous scam, and also a desire, kindled in a moment of pique, to be able to spurn her for a change.
It had been the stupidest decision held ever made, and thinking about it now, the possibility of harm, lasting and irreparable harm, to their friendship, was overwhelming. But honesty had never quite seemed the best option to him; he was out of practice, and somewhere in the back of his mind lurked the fear that when he was honest, Laura wouldn't believe him anyway, so what was the point?
If he'd been honest with himself above all, involving Laura from the first wouldn't have been a scam. It wasn't a scam at all, being married to Laura.
"You know I'm a man of few words on this subject," he said hesitantly, "but sometimes I think you're a woman of few words."
"It's our history. I'm afraid -- was afraid -- of being trapped somewhere, and you're afraid of being left. So I don't say what I feel, and neither do you."
"What do you mean? You know how I feel!"
"Do I? All these years, I hear words of self-defense. You would, but. You want to, but."
"And what did you ever have to say to me? Let's go to bed, to put it bluntly."
"Because I didn't know any other words. I wanted to show you."
She was angry, in a way, because she'd never allowed him to, because she'd been insisting on things her way the whole time and had never given him a chance. He was not Lothario; he was a deeply tender lover, one who could devote himself to her pleasure for hours, in a way she'd never known before.
"From anybody else, I'd say that's the worst line I've ever heard. But if I'd known it meant something to you..."
"Why did you think it wouldn't?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. Because it doesn't, to most people. I didn't know you."
"And it was never important enough to risk a little part of yourself and find out."
"I fell in love with someone once. Fell hard. She pretended -- well, you know the story. Did you ever stop to think that you and I were afraid of the same thing?"
"No," she said. She reached down for her brandy. "I'm just not big on risk."
"But here you are, illegally married, trusting to that Italian fellow to make things right."
She'd had enough of talking about Tony. "I'm not trusting anything to him."
"Has he called you?"
She swallowed. "Twice." He didn't ask, which she appreciated, so she said, "I told him not to call ever again. And I've told him that if he ever so much as hints to anyone that we didn't go into this legitimately, I'll just come over and castrate him and that will solve everybody's problems."
"You told him that?"
"More or less. I wasn't that polite."
"That's my girl," he said softly.
"So we're finished with that episode. We'll have to find some other problems."
He stroked her thigh idly. "I was thinking," he said. "My life would've been quite a different one if my parents had taken the trouble to get themselves a piece of paper..."
"Mine, too," she agreed. "If they had, you'd never have walked through my door."
"So I suppose it's all for the best, then."
"I'm flexible," said Laura. "I'm here, aren't I? This marriage thing has been okay so far."
"You've got to admit ours has been the most interesting honeymoon you've ever heard of," she laughed.
"Here I thought we were settling down."
"Never. Not really."
"Even so." He seemed to be mulling something. "I was wondering if you'd agree to have another try."
"You know. In a church. Get dressed up. Take pictures, drink champagne. Do the thing up right."The dreadful thought of having to explain to people why there were no wedding pictures had crossed her mind.
"I'm not Catholic," she said.
"Neither am I, really. I'm sure we could find a friendly priest."
She smiled at him, then poured more brandy and gave him his glass. Touching hers to his, she said, "To our successful partnership, Mr. Steele."
"To many more glorious years, Mrs. Steele."
She drank and kissed him. He held her tight against him, his kiss tender and insistent. Drawing back, he held her gaze.
"I'm torn," he said. "Which would better prove my love and devotion? Letting you get a good night's sleep or making mad passionate love to you?"
"It wouldn't bother you?"He shook his head. "Not in the least."
"Because it does bother some guys."
"I refuse to be lumped together with 'some guys.'"
"It's a little messy."
"Love is a messy business, Laura. Broken hearts, hurt feelings, misunderstandings strewn all over the place."
He was very charming, very sweet. "Maybe a good night's sleep, and then mad, passionate love," she suggested.
"As you please, your ladyship."He stood up with her, let her set her glass down on the mantelpiece, and laid her carefully on the bed.
"Whatever it takes to prove to you I can be the Remington Steele you've always dreamed of."
She pulled him down to her. "You are the Remington Steele I've always dreamed of," she said. "You don't have to prove it."
He slipped his arms about her. "Tonight was the first time you ever called me by name."
"What are you talking about?"
"You called me Remington. You've never done that before."
Laura stared at him. "Really?" she said.
"In all these years, you never have."
"I guess not."
"It was rather a shock. I'm entirely used to being 'Mr. Steele' to you. In fact, it doesn't even surprise me when you sob out 'Mr. Steele, oh, Mr. Steele!' whilst in the very throes of passion."
She pushed him playfully aside. "I do not say that." She couldn't be sure, though, of what she said. "Do I?"
"Word of honor."
In the dark, she was blushing. It was difficult to recall every detail when each experience was so overwhelming.
"Old habits are hard to break, I guess." Actually, it was kind of funny; maybe she did say that. She snuggled closer.
It's all right, Laura," he assured her. "It's actually rather endearing."
"When I made up the name, I never thought I'd have to call anyone by it."
"I'm rather fond of it, myself. Always have been."
"Remington," she said, turning the word over on her tongue. It wasn't so unfamiliar. "Remington."
"What?" he smiled.
A little surprised, she said, "Then you'll answer to it."
"Of course I shall. I'd've been answering to it for years, if you'd ever called me by it."
"I don't know. Mr. Steele always seemed so much more -- intimate."
"Rather like the dress that reveals by not revealing."
"One has a hint of what's there, even if it can't be seen." He wrapped his arms around her as if held never let her go. "When you said 'Mr. Steele,' I knew what you meant. It was in your voice. Never what you said, but how you said it."
She'd almost forgotten what it was like to lie next to someone, close against him, protected from the cold by the warmth of another's life. She'd nearly convinced herself that she slept better alone, but it was a reaction to sleeping beside those she didn't care for. It was better to put on her shoes and go home, than to turn over and fall asleep with someone who didn't matter. And finally, it was better not to go out at all. In the last two years she'd gone on only one date that hadn't ended chastely; ridiculous, for a healthy young woman like herself; prudent, in these dangerous times.
Long before they'd ever made love, though, they'd slept together, she and Remington: off somewhere, on a case, or stalked by thugs, clinging to one another for safety, like children, or even, she thought, like people who really did trust each other more than they could say.
His voice came to her from a distance. "You're certain I can't get you something?"
The brandy had warmed her up nicely. "I'm just fine, right here."
It was satisfying to know that she was just fine right there, clasped in his embrace, for only the pleasure of his company and the warmth of him against her.
"You've got the advantage here, Laura," he said.
"Well, you've lived with someone before. Co-habitated. Set up home. I haven't."
"That was a long time ago," she said. "I've forgotten him."
They were silent awhile. He understood that he was happy, but something still lurked in the corner of his mind. Looking up into the darkness, he said, "I suppose, in these modern times, that it's good manners to mention this," he said. "I haven't met anyone, in the past year, that I've so much as wanted to touch, except you."
She turned to him, meeting his eyes to catch his meaning, and took a sharp breath. "Me, either," she said, and felt oppressed by the weight of days and nights spent alone, without him. "I guess I've wasted a lot of time."
He shook his head. "If it hadn't been right for you, it wouldn't have been right," he told her. "I'll admit I've been a man of conquest, but that's never what I had in mind for us."
"I guess," she said, "this is the right time?"
Along time later, they were still awake. She shifted away from him, and he put his hand against her abdomen, stroking lightly.
"You're sure you're not suffering?" he asked.
The massage was nice. "Positive," she replied.
Remington waited outside the bathroom door. When he heard the water come on at the tap, he knocked.
"Laura?" he called. "Can I get in?"
"I'll be out in a minute," she called.
"There are fifteen bathrooms in this place."
He knocked again. "Laura!"
She spat out the toothpaste and opened the door. "All right, all right."
He caught her in his arms and bore her back towards the shower.
"What are you doing?"
He turned on the water. "Shower."
"Do you mind? I'm trying to brush my teeth."
He kissed her. "Aim or Colgate?" He kissed her again. "Colgate." Tugging off his pajamas, he tested the water. "Come along, Mrs. Steele."
Ignoring her protests, he lifted her in his arms and deposited her in the shower.
"This is silk!" she exclaimed.
"And you do look lovely in it," he agreed.
"I notice you're not ruining your silk pajamas."
"Certainly not. Chap looks damned silly standing around in wet pajamas. Whereas my lovely bride --" He kissed her. "-- looks even lovelier Another kiss, as he ran his hands down her body. in drenched sleepwear."
The water ran down their faces, and other parts; she could barely suppress a laugh.
"This is Ireland," she said. We'll freeze."
"We'll turn up the furnace," he countered. "Throw on more coal. Stoke the fire."
"We'll drown," she protested.
"Gentle way to go," he replied.
Drops of water clung to her eyelashes, and she sputtered when she talked. "I was never very good at this," she confessed.
"Good at what?" he gasped, peeling the sticky silk from her body and tossing it out of the shower in a water-logged heap.
"The shower thing. It was never one of my specialties."
He paused. "Mine either."
"What a relief." She put her arms around his neck. "I thought I was getting clumsy."
He reached out and turned up the radiator. "What about the tub?" "Cold tile?"
"I think we've got it nicely warmed up."
Laura fumbled for the tap. "I might be a little better at this."
In fact, she wasn't, nor was he. Irish bathtubs weren't designed for the pleasure of those overwhelmed by their desire. Finally, Laura dragged him out of the shower, threw down some towels and laid him out on the floor.
"I don't know why I didn't suggest this in the first place," he said, reaching up for her.
Her hair dripped on his chest. "Better than drowning?" she proposed.
"Infinitely better," he agreed.
The bathroom was soaked; it looked as if there'd been a major catastrophe with the plumbing. This was not a surprise to the two chambermaids. They expected this sort of thing from their American lordship and ladyship. Bridget wrung out the silk nightie.
"Aye, they're a lustful pair, aren't they?"
"Pretty romantic, I'd say," Siobhan replied. "When was the last time Johnnie put a bathroom under water for you?"
"The time he didn't have to clean it up."
But they didn't begrudge the Steele's their soggy frolic. Mrs. Steele was such a gracious, kindly soul, and his lordship such a charming and good-hearted fellow, that they kept nothing but love and admiration in their hearts for the pair of them.