STEELE IN ONE
By: Leah B.
Summary: Laura and Remington take to the links.
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 Holt was standing on the curb with her clubs as the limo pulled up. Remington Steele, her partner in business and friend in life, jumped out and attempted to lift her gear into the car as Fred popped the trunk, but Laura didn't let go.
"I've got them," she said good naturedly.
"Laura, please," Steele objected, "Let me. A gentleman doesn't allow a lady to struggle with steel shafts in public." He wiggled his eyebrows at her and grinned.
She continued to resist, "I'm more than capable of lifting my golf clubs into the trunk, thank you. Now, get out of the way."
Miss Holt's dogged insistence on doing things for herself was part of her charm, Steele had to admit, but sometimes it was damned annoying. Steele stopped her by placing his hand gently on her arm and took on a wounded expression, "Of course you are, Laura. It's not that I don't think you can. It's just that I want to do it for you."
She looked at him quizzically, "Why?"
He grinned. "Good practice for carrying you to bed, my dear. Have to keep those muscles toned."
They had spent almost five minutes trying to lift one set of golf clubs into the car, and they were already late. Why was everything such a struggle with him? Or was it her? Laura finally let go of the bag, shook her head, and got into the limo.
As Steele slid in beside her, he attempted to take her hand and said, "I'm just trying to be a good golf partner."
She shook him off dismissively, "Whatever," and got right down to business. "Now, we're golfing today with Jerry Manuel and his wife, Celeste. Mr. Manuel's company designs and produces high-tech electronics products out of eight separate facilities around the country. His competitors have begun to market his designs before he can and he wants it stopped."
"Ah," Steele sighed whimsically, "industrial espionage. The stuff dreams are made of. Haven't had one of these in a while."
"We don't have this one yet," she cautioned. "The whole purpose of this little foursome is for Manuel to size us up."
"Remington Steele audition?" Steele was outraged. "Really, Laura, this is beyond the pale. My," he saw the storm clouds begin to gather and patted her shoulder, "uh. . .our reputation speaks for itself. What can this Mr. Manuel find out during a round of golf that he can't glean from the myriad press clippings and awards that adorn the walls of the Remington Steele Agency?"
"Well, whatever it is, this assignment would be worth a lot of money to the Agency, not to mention the terrific PR. So, be on your best behavior and let me do the talking."
"Oh, of course, of course," Steele responded absently. He was picturing himself, with Miss Holt at his side, at the helm of the most beautiful sailboat he'd seen at the marina the day before - sharing intimate moments on a moonlit deck; relieving each other of intimate apparel below deck. The road to this nirvana ran through Mr. Jerry Manuel, and Steele was suddenly determined not to be detoured.
Jerry Manuel was a tall, dark-haired man with warm brown eyes and an athletic build. Celeste Manuel was a leggy blond who looked as if she might have played tennis in college. They both seemed pleasant enough and Laura felt optimistic as they made their way to the first tee. Laura and Jerry Manuel walked slightly ahead of Steele and Celeste. "So, how did you get into electronics?" Laura began.
"Family business," Jerry answered, "Celeste's family. Her father brought me into the company. Taught me everything I'd need to eventually take it away from him. Bet he wishes now he hadn't been so generous." Manuel laughed loudly at his own joke. Laura managed a weak smile and began to doubt her decision to pursue this client. "Okay, Steele," Manuel went on, "what say we make this interesting. Care to place a little wager?"
"Always interested in a wager, Jerry," Steele smiled back, "What did you have in mind?"
"My wife and I are a team against you and Miss Holt. We'll score it straight up. No handicaps. The way I figure it, Celeste is my handicap and Miss Holt is yours. A thousand dollars to the winner of the round. Are you in?"
Steele hesitated and Laura responded. "We're in, Mr. Manuel." Laura figured if they got the contract, it would be worth far more than any money they might lose here. And she and Mr. Steele weren't bad golfers. Her mystery man seemed to be good at everything. They probably wouldn't lose.
Still smarting from the "Peppler" case, Laura was determined not to be stuck in the "spouse's cart," effectively isolated from any business talk. She needn't have worried. All four drives off the first tee were long and straight, with she and Steele slightly outdistancing the Manuels. Laura was relieved to see that the Holt/Steele team rode in the same cart.After the first seven holes, Steele and Holt were ahead by two strokes. As they rode to the eighth tee, Steele leaned over in a conspiratorial manner and winked. "I see your strategy, Miss Holt, and it's an excellent one."
"What?" she asked.
"Keep it close. Always makes a person feel more triumphant to have pulled ahead at the very end."
"I have no idea what you're talking about, but you'd better stop lifting your head or we might lose this thing," Laura replied in an aggravated tone.
Steele looked dumbfounded. "Isn't that the point?"
"What do you mean?" Laura questioned.
Steele explained what he thought she already knew. "Aren't we here to jolly them up? What better way to do that than to see to it that they win?"
"Let them win?" Laura's voice was picking up volume.
Steele put his hand to her lips, "Laura, please. They'll hear you."
They played the next two holes even and moved on to the back nine. When Laura and Steele were alone, she started in again. "You actually think I'm trying to lose? Whether or not winning makes them feel good, I can't lose on purpose. That's cheating."
Steele almost laughed out loud but stopped himself just in time. "Laura, I hardly think it's possible to cheat to lose. Anyway, why are we here? Are we here to nail down this contract or to beat these people at golf? What's more important to the Steele/Holt team?"
Laura was really worked up now. "Anyone worth his salt would want to play fair and square, win or lose. And he wouldn't hold it against the winner. I'm not sure I want the contract if the Manuels can't behave in a sportsmanlike manner."
"You've got to be kidding," Steele responded in shock. "You'll only represent clients who are of moral fibre and strength of character similar to your own? I hate to break it to you, Miss Holt, but, if that's your standard, you have a client pool of exactly one - you.
Laura looked thoughtful for a moment, then she shook her head. "No. I can't do it. Even if I wanted to, I can't lose on purpose."
Steele could see his beloved sailboat slipping away from him into the mist and mentally yanked it back. "Well, I can," he responded.
"You'd better not," Laura warned, poking him in the chest.
"I can only do my best, Miss Holt," Steele smiled, "You can hardly blame me if that's not enough."
The route from the thirteenth tee to the green passed over a clear lake. Laura pulled out a three iron and glanced at the club in Steele's hand. It was a six iron. "Mr. Steele," she whispered, "that's not enough club to clear the lake."
He feigned mortification, "Miss Holt, are you implying that my length is insufficient?"
She giggled and allowed her eyes to rove over him. "Never, Mr. Steele. I'm only saying you've chosen the wrong club."
"Nonsense." he replied, "this will suit my purposes perfectly."
The Manuels and Laura cleared the lake, landing softly on the green. Steele gave Laura a knowing look as he approached the ball. His shot, though well hit, landed in the water about twenty yards in front of the green. "Hmm," Steele mused, "Not quite enough club. I really wish you'd given me some advice on that one, Miss Holt."
Laura fumed and stormed back to the cart. Counting the penalty, the Holt/Steele team was now one stroke behind. Laura managed to compensate for Steele's play over the next four holes. It would be too obvious if he suddenly turned into a hacker, but the scores began to seem like a mantra: Holt - birdie; Jerry Manuel - par; Celeste Manuel - bogie; Steele - double bogie. Laura was playing some of the best golf of her life just to keep their heads above water. The eighteenth hole was a long par 5. Steele and Jerry Manuel stood off to the side, waiting for the tee area to clear."So, what role does Miss Holt play in your organization?" Jerry asked.
Across the tee area and within their sight but out of their partners' hearing range, Celeste Manuel turned to Laura, "Word around town is that your boss is something of a dandy."
"She's a licensed private investigator Jerry." Steele answered, "She excels at her craft. The real backbone of the Agency."
"He's not my boss," Laura said in a huff, "what do you mean, dandy?"
"I'll bet she is excellent," Jerry leered, "So, you and I can meet next week to discuss the project."
"That's my point," Celeste nodded knowingly, "he glad hands the clients. You do all the work."
"Sure," Steele started, visions of high seas and the lilt of Laura's laughter in his head. "I believe Miss Holt and I are free Tuesday afternoon, if that's convenient for you."
Laura looked puzzled. "Well, he's quite good with clients, but that's far from all he does." She recognized that Celeste Manuel was putting into words the very misgivings she felt from time to time but, said aloud, they seemed quite petty.
"No Miss Holt," Jerry insisted, "this is a job for the men. It might get dangerous. I'm not bringing Celeste to the business meeting , am I?"
Celeste Manuel put her hand up to stop Laura's objection. "C'mon, Laura, we've all been there. You come up with the brilliant idea. He makes a few calls, and everyone perceives it as his brainstorm. Then he has the nerve to say he doesn't want it to be that way. It's just that society is more likely to accept the idea from a man."
"Wait just a minute." Steele tried hard to control his temper. "That's not the same at all. Celeste is your wife with no role in your business. Laura Holt is the driving force behind Remington Steele Investigations."
Laura looked uncomfortable. "Actually, if anyone has tried to take that view, it's me. He always tries to give me credit."
Jerry Manuel's leer was back. "And who is the driving force behind Miss Holt, huh?" He made a crude gesture. "Is this more than professional loyalty I hear? Is she superlative between the sheets as well?"
"Yeah, sure," Celeste Manuel snickered, "in that backhanded way that only makes people think he's oh so noble for trying to broaden the limelight. Don't you see, Laura, it's calculated to gather all the publicity, all the attention back to him. I saw your last press clipping. He was sleuth extraordinaire. You were unidentified woman. If he's trying to give you credit, he's doing a piss poor job of it."
Steele was smoldering, but somehow he knew he had to deny that there was anything personal between him and Miss Holt. As bad as this was, admitting that he had feelings for Laura would only further undermine her credibility. "No," he answered as casually as he could, "No extracurricular activity. Miss Holt is her own woman."
"I does seem to work out that way, Laura admitted, but she knew even as she said it that she wasn't being fair. She was the one who set up the arrangement. It was as she had wanted it. She looked across the tee area to where Steele and Jerry were standing and was surprised to see them engaged in animated debate. She wondered what had happened to "suck up and sign the contract." "Mr. Steele and I are partners, Celeste. He contributes and I contribute. I wouldn't have it any other way."
"Well then, you won't mind if I make a play," Jerry grinned. With that, he walked over to Laura and put his arm around her shoulder, casually at first but gradually moved his hand down toward Laura's backside. Luckily for Jerry, before he arrived at his destination, Laura had moved away to tee off. Steele was torn between jealous rage at Jerry's actions and amusement at the thought of what Laura would have done to Manuel if his hand had reached its goal.
The eighteenth hole played quickly and with very little discussion among the foursome. Steele was on the green in two and sank an unbelievable 30 foot put for eagle. The other three parred.
Steele smiled broadly. The Steele/Holt team had won by a stroke, and because of Steele. Laura came over to give her partner a victory hug and to ask what happened to his "lose at all costs" strategy. "Oh, you know, Laura, I was trying to miss close. Not be too obvious. Damned thing went in. Bad luck, eh?"
Steele turned to Jerry Manuel, "So, we'll see you on Tuesday? Say two o'clock?"
Jerry Manuel looked less than thrilled at the day's outcome as he shoved the winnings into Steele's hand. "I'm busy Tuesday. Maybe some other time."
As the Manuels walked away, Steele smiled and fingered the easy thousand. "Well, Laura, it seems we're flush." Steele sighed as he recalled that long days and blissful nights aboard his sailboat had slipped quietly from his grasp. "Dinner and a movie, Miss Holt?"
"Love to, Mr. Steele," she smiled, then turned and kissed him in a way that was not at all appropriate for a public fairway.
Laura Holt was surprised to see Mr. Steele standing at the curb with his clubs as she approached in the Rabbit. It wasn't like him to be ready on time and even less like him to risk being seen waiting in public. She had barely come to a stop before he threw his things into the back seat, climbed in, and leaned over to give her a quick kiss.
"Aren't we a little eager today?" she queried with an amused smile.
"Always champing at the bit to spend time with my lovely associate," he replied, putting his arm around her shoulders and giving them a squeeze.
Even this minor and innocuous physical contact made her heart race and her mind wander to places that did not facilitate safe driving. She forced herself to concentrate on the road. Their relationship of late had taken on a certain comfort level. He felt more confident asking her out and she felt freer to accept. They had learned to spend time together in relative intimacy at night yet keep their minds on business during the day. She was still sensitive about openly seeing each other. There were always those who would assume she was at the Steel Agency because the boss liked to spend time with her and that kind of criticism simply had no effective answer. No matter how untrue, it still hurt, personally and professionally. Then there was the matter of her mother.
"Bad news," she started apologetically, "Mother is arriving tomorrow for a visit, so we can't get together. Sorry."
"Don't be ridiculous, Laura," he quickly rejoined, "Abigail and I are quite fond of each other. I'll take us all out to dinner. I know just the place. The very table."
"Look," she continued, "I'm not comfortable with my mother knowing we spend time together."
He smiled what she called his "goofy smile." "Laura, you make it sound as if we do time together. What's the big deal? We're dating. Surely your mother can handle that."
"We're not dating," Laura quickly corrected.
"Really Laura. We go out to dinner, for ice cream, to the movies, dancing. You allow me a good night kiss that occasionally develops into a quite torrid connection, the melding of our hearts, souls, and lips, temperatures rising, hands wandering."
She could feel her palms beginning to sweat. "Please, Mr. Steele."
He went on. "Granted, I'd like more, but I can be a patient man. That, Miss Holt, is dating. Now, I'm not surprised it's a foreign concept to someone such as yourself - with that all work and no play attitude - but I can assure you from my own vast experience that we are dating. Of course, dating, in my experience, has a better ending, but as I said, I can wait for that last act."
She tried again. "Whatever it is that we're doing, I'd rather my mother not know about it."
He was incredulous. "Why not? I mean, I would think she'd be happy for you. Spending time with someone you care about who cares about you." She smiled and sighed inwardly at his description of their relationship. That's exactly how she thought of it. "Really, Laura, how can that be bad?"
Laura blushed. "She'll make embarrassing, inappropriate comments."
He patted her hand. "Come now. I can handle your mother."
"I know," she said, " the problem is I can't handle you and my mother." Laura tried to change the subject. "By the way, I noticed last week, you're not shifting your weight properly on your downswing. I think it's because you're not getting enough turn. You should stretch out more before we start."
Steele looked shocked. "Laura, you're giving me golf advice? Please. I've beaten you soundly the last - well, just the last time we golfed, but I can tell you're feeling the pressure."
Laura laughed. "One one-stroke victory is not a sound beating and you shouldn't even have won. I think you played my ball on the seventh hole."
"Laura, how can you say such a thing?"
She backtracked a bit. "I don't mean on purpose. I'm sure it was an innocent mistake. Anyway, that can't happen today. I've taken care of it." She pulled a TOP FLITE XL 2000 out of her pocket with a large "LH" written on it with waterproof marker.
"Very stylish, Laura. Don't worry. I won't be going near that ball."
Good," she smiled, "if we all play by the rules, I'm sure we'll soon return to our old pattern - I win, you lose."
He sputtered. "Wh . . .what? Are you implying that your golf skills are superior to mine?"
"I'm not implying anything," she stated with a confidence that bordered on arrogance. "I'm saying it. I'm a better golfer. Period. End of story."
"Well, well, Miss Holt, care to back up your patently false bravado with a wager?"
Laura rubbed her hands together in anticipation. At least she'd gotten him off the topic of her mother and their relationship. "The only thing false about me, Mr. Steele, is my business partner. You were saying?"
Steele grinned. Nothing like a bet to get the old blood flowing. And he and Laura had entered into some outstanding wagers in their time. "All right. If I win, I get to tell Abigail, in my own words, the status of our relationship."
Laura frowned. Mr. Steele's sense of focus was better than she'd expected. As much as she would love to hear, in his own words, the status of their relationship, she didn't want her mother to hear it. Damn. She'd just have to win. "Okay. And if I win?"
"Miss Holt, I am completely at your disposal. Do with me what you will. Fold, bend, spindle, mutilate. I have no restrictions whatsoever."
"Hmm," she thought out loud, "Much as I like the idea of mutilation, I have something else in mind. I want the answers to twenty questions. I pick the questions. Any topic. Past, present, or future. You have to answer truthfully."
Now it was Steele's turn to hesitate. He knew what at least one of her questions would be, and he honestly didn't know how he would answer. It wasn't so much that he didn't want Laura to know about his past. It was more that he just didn't want to talk about it. There wasn't 10% of it that would make a favorable impression on Laura and he was trying so hard himself to put it behind him. And now, there was so much at stake. He became suddenly aware that he had been quiet for a long time and that she was staring at him.
"Okay," he said quietly. There was no way he could let her win.
Laura held his gaze. He'd been so hesitant to agree. Maybe she was pushing too hard. Maybe he had perfectly legitimate reasons for not wanting to talk about his past. But he had agreed. At least she now had some idea what it would cost him to lose this bet; what he was willing to give to her.
"Okay," she answered. "Here are the ground rules. Official rules of the game of golf apply." She pulled a pocket sized rule book from her bag.
"Good Lord, Laura. You have the rules in your bag?"
"You never know when a question might come up," she said defensively.
He shook his head. "Why am I surprised?"
She went on. "We're comparable golfers so instead of recalculating our handicaps, we'll play straight up, only you play from the white tees and I play from the red."
"Okay," he conceded. As he recalled, this course didn't give the ladies much of a break anyway, and where it did, the women's tee area was uneven and often not designed to play to proper landing zones. Typical, really. "That's it?" he questioned.
"That's it," she smiled.
By the fifth hole, she was two strokes ahead. They were playing so evenly that he knew it would be very difficult to make up ground if he got any further behind. Desperate times called for desperate measures. As she reached the top of her backswing, he coughed. She stopped, stared daggers at him, and lined up again. This time, as she began her downswing, he moved suddenly into her peripheral vision. She was too far along to stop and just distracted enough that she didn't hit the ball cleanly. "I think question number one will be have you ever been in jail," she choked out. Steele felt a little relieved, knowing he hadn't. He gained a stroke on the hole.
On the eleventh green, he was still one stroke back. He quietly moved between the sun and the cup to cast his shadow across her line. As she putted, he moved ever so slightly so that his shadow danced across the cup. She missed the ten footer and bogied the hole. She glared at him. "My next question will be have you ever been married?" These questions were so easy. Maybe he could get through twenty like this.
They were now dead even. When he tried the same maneuver on the thirteenth green, she stopped, walked over to him, smacked him smartly on the back of the head, and said, "Will you please grow up and move your shadow away from the cup?" Her Stanford class ring really hurt. He quietly did as she asked.
"Then I'll ask you if you've ever been in love," Laura teased. All right. This was getting tougher.
Laura was all too aware now that it could go either way. Time to pull a few distractions of her own. As he lined up to tee off at the fifteenth hole, she moved to the side of the tee area and took a few practice swings with her back to him, swaying quite suggestively with the effort.He stared at her for a long time, forgetting entirely that he was supposed to be teeing off. "I think the next question will be to tell me about your best childhood memory." He gasped. Were there any? He could always make one up, right? No. He'd promised to be honest. There must have been some time when he'd not gone to bed hungry. Maybe when he'd snuck into a flea pit to see his first Bogey film. Finally, he hit, but hooked the ball into the woods.
She was one stroke ahead as they approached the seventeenth tee. As she prepared to hit, he stood at the cart and poured water over the back of his neck. Then he decided he'd make use of the extra shirt he kept packed in his bag. It was a very warm day after all. As she lined up her shot, he slowly took off his sweaty polo shirt and stood bare chested, letting the soft breeze cool him down. He didn't look at her but he knew she was looking at him. She couldn't take her eyes off his chest. How many times had she dreamed of precisely that pose? Finally, he put on the clean shirt, smiling to himself. This wasn't over yet. Not by a long shot. She shook her head but the image refused to leave her mind. She managed to keep her tee shot in the fairway, but was one stroke back as they approached the eighteenth tee.
Laura was in a panic. She pictured Steele saying God knows what to her mother. And Abigail? "Oh, Mr. Steele, I do hope your intentions toward my daughter are honorable." Worst of all, "Do I hear wedding bells, Mr. Steele?" "Arghhh," Laura practically screamed.
"Laura, are you all right?" Steele asked, concern in his eyes.
"Fine," she muttered. The eighteenth hole was a dogleg left with the men's tee set back among the trees and relatively secluded. The group ahead of them had played around the dogleg and were out of sight and the group following was still on the seventeenth green. Laura had just a few private moments to carry out her plan. As Steele stood over the ball, she did it. She pulled up her shirt and sports tee, exposing her chest entirely and just stood there. That got his attention quick enough. His driver dangled from his right hand and his mouth hung open. Laura thought his trousers seemed a little tighter too than they'd been a few moments before. She lowered her shirt just as the foursome behind them approached. "How about worst childhood memory?"
He stood still in a daze. "Mr. Steele," she asked sweetly, "are you ready to hit? The next group is waiting."
"Huh?" he mumbled. "Right. Sure." To the extent he could pull his conscious mind away from the image of Laura's breasts, it was focused on the horror of revealing to her his worst childhood memory. He gave a half-hearted effort and the ball didn't go 50 yards. The group waiting to go next snickered and Steele flushed. "Let's just finish up, shall we?" he said quietly.
She gazed at him as they moved away. He wasn't just distracted over her "bare all" ploy. It was the question. As happened so often with them, what started as a light-hearted contest veered down some horribly dark less-traveled path into a battle to the death. She moved closer to him, put her head on his shoulder and her arm around his waist. She wanted him to know she would never intentionally hurt him but she couldn't say the words. They finished eighteen holes in a tie and each gave a sigh of relief.
"Compromise, Mr. Steele?"
"What did you have in mind?" he asked quietly.
"I tell my mother, in my own words, the nature of our relationship, and you pick five things about yourself to tell me."
He smiled and gave her a long embrace. She stroked the back of his head and thought she felt him shudder. "I don't know what I would do without you, Miss Holt," he said almost in a whisper. Then he smiled, "That's one."
PS - For those of you who don't play golf (perish the thought), par is the number of strokes (each hit of the ball equals one stroke) that a good player is expected to need to get the ball from the tee (the start of the hole) into the cup (which is located on the green at the end of the hole.) A bogie is one over par. Double bogie is two over par. A birdie is one under par. An eagle is two under par. The person or team with the lowest score in a round of golf wins.