Once Upon a Steele

copyright 1998 by Conner McBride

"Is it time for my story Daddy?"

"Yes Angel. Now tuck under your covers. What story would my big girl like to hear?"

Her smile was a myriad of rosy lips and dimples. She snuggled under the covers as she clutched Pooh Bear protectively. "Why can't Mommy tell me my story?"

His smile felt like a grotesque masque as he kissed his little girl, answering her. "Because Mommy doesn't feel well, so she went to bed early." This response seemed to satisfy her curiousity, at least for the time being. Her innocent, dark eyes were serious as she lay back down. "Okay. Are you going to tell me one of Mommy's stories?"

Remington shook his head as he sat on the edge of her bed. "No, but tonight I'll tell you the story of a very special princess." Her eyes grew wide with anticipation, rapt with curiousity. Taking a deep breath, Remington Steele began to spin a dream for his daughter.

"Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess who lived with her mother and sister; but she was not happy, because it seemed as if no one could understand her. You see Angel, this princess wasn't your ordinary princess. She wanted to see things and do--"

"What did she want to see, Daddy?"

"Shh. Don't interrupt." He held her childsh hand in his large one. Such tiny hands. Even when she grew up, her hands would still be small and delicate. Such beautiful hands.

"Daddy! What did she want to see?"

Pulled out of his thoughts, Remington continued. "She wanted to see everything and she loved excitement and adventure, everything a princess was not supposed to like. Her mother and everyone else would always tell her she had to be more ladylike and quiet; but the princess refused. you see, she wanted to be a seeker. There was just one problem. Do you know what that was?"

Laura Rose bore out the silence as patiently as a four-year-old could. Steele continued, "Princesses couldn't be seekers."

"Why not Daddy?!" Her young voice was positively indignant.

"Because Angel, that's just the way it was. But as I've said, this princess was different. She wanted to be a seeker, so she pretended a seeker was teaching her; and it worked until the day she had to guard the Magic Jewel."

The little girl's eyes were starting to droop as her father's voice lulled her into sleep. "One day, the seeker met a thief who wanted to steal the Magic Jewel for himself. So he pretended to help her, but the seeker wasn't fooled. She was suspicious of the thief, even if he was rather handsome." He laughed softly at the last comment. he could almost see Laura rolling her eyes.

The seeker found out the thief was going to steal the Magic Jewel. Now the thief was worried. But the seeker did something remarkable. She trusted him and taught him to be a seeker like herself. But more than that, she gave him two things he had never had before: a name and a home."

His daughter's breathing was slow and peaceful, her mind now wandering through a wonderland of dreams. Remington quietly stood up, finishing his story as he tucked her in. "There is a secret to this story. Do you know what that secret is, Angel?"

A sleepily murmered, "What Daddy?"

Gently, he tucked her in. "No one ever knew she was the greatest seeker of them all, no one except the thief. The thief fell in love with the seeker and took her to live with him in his castle."

She was fast asleep now, Pooh Bear dangling carelessly in her small hand. Remington turned off her lamp and moved Pooh Bear up to the more dignified place of his daughter's side. He brushed her hair back from her forehead, placing a soft kiss there. "And the thief and the seeker had a princess of their own whom they named Laura Rose and they loved her very much."

Laura Rose shifted in her sleep, clutching Pooh Bear protectively as he guarded her against the monsters in her closet and under her bed. The lump in his throat grew. He pinched the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes, fighting the pain.

"So what happened to the seeker and the thief?"

Remington whirled around to see Laura leaning against the doorframe, an apparition in white. Her long, dark hair fell in soft waves around her face, making her look like an angel---no, he wouldn't think of her like that. He walked up to her, cupping her cheek in his hand, trying not to notice the dark smudges under her eyes; nor would he notice her thinness, her increasingly fragile appearance. He kissed her, relishing in her physical closeness, wrapping his arms around her slender waist. They stayed like that for what seemed an eternity. Finally pulling back, Remington chided her gently. "Laura, what are you doing up? You should be resting, love." Laura smiled, resting her head on his shoulder. "I know, but I wanted to see if she was alright, what with the nightmares she's been having."

Remington smiled, wondering how their daughter had managed to wrap the most strong-willed woman he'd ever met around her tiny finger. Not that she didn't have her father in the same position. The former thief ran his hands through his wife's thick chestnut hair, the softness of it stimulating his senses. "Give her a kiss good night then. She missed her Mommy's story tonight."

"I know." He didn't miss the guilt in her voice. Laura kissed her namesake, brushing a gentle hand over the little girl's head. "Laura," Remington grabbed her hand. "She understands."

"I hope so."

He studied the exhaustion in her face. Sweeping her up into his arms, he didn't even try to stifle her laughter. It had been far too long since he had heard that lilting music. His grin matched her own. "Allow me to keep you warm Mrs. Steele."

Laura let her hand dance across his chest. "So what happened to the seeker and the thief." Her eyes shined like glowing embers. Remington lay her on their bed, stretching out next to her. "They lived happily ever after." Laura moved into his arms, resting her head on his chest, wrapping her arms around his torso. "Always."

It cut him to hear her pain and know he could do nothing to ease it. He spooned his body around hers like a cocoon, imagining he could protect from anything. For tonight, at least, he could pretend he was that strong. He finally spoke, the words more a prayer than an answer. "Forever lady." They lay entwined, melding into one, daring anything to pull them apart.


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