Steele Not Enough
by SteeleChic
Time: A fourth season story, set after "Sensitive Steele" but before "Bonds of Steele".
Note: Working under the guise of the fact that Laura says she's 27 in season 1, and in season 2 (ie when Laura is 28) Frances says she and Donald have been married 15 years, we find out in season 4 that Frances got engaged 6 months after Mr Holt left, so 28 less 15 years and 6 months, leaves us with an approximate age of 13.

Laura and Remington had been building up to a spectacular argument all day. Constantly griping and snapping at each other, they had forced poor Mildred into skulking around the office, barely venturing more than two words at a time to either of them, but now it was 4:30 and she'd already left for the day to go bowling with her league.

It had been a long and harrowing week, a particularly bothersome case had kept them busy from go to whoa, and now, late on Friday afternoon, Laura was busily trying to complete the necessary paperwork so that she could forget about it and enjoy a quiet weekend.

She didn't know what Remington was doing in the other office, but a glance at the lit up telephone told her that it probably wasn't work. Every time she'd looked around this week, he'd been on the damn phone.

Laura sighed. She was tired and fed up and, on top of that, she was hormonal. She guessed it to be a matter of days before that time of the month, although she really couldn't be certain, but more than a couple of tell tale signs were present. She was emotional and high strung and her libido was raging.

It didn't help matters any that she and Remington had spent a wonderfully romantic evening a few nights ago. That is, until Laura, as per usual, had allowed her head to win the battle with her heart and had gone home, a fact that had left her confused and very, very frustrated.

She was not in the mood to go out to Tarzana for dinner with Frances and Donald, but Frances was insisting that it was ridiculous for them to see each other no more often than they did when she lived in Connecticut, especially since she now lived a mere 20 minutes away. Laurie Beth's pleading on the phone had been Laura's undoing. Of course, Laurie Beth had also been asking for her Uncle Remington, but Laura didn't want to burden him with her family.

She didn't know he'd entered her office until she felt his hands on her shoulders and his lips on the nape of her neck. Shrugging him off in mild annoyance, she got up out of her chair and moved away. When would he learn that sometimes he couldn't simply kiss it better?

His hands fell back to his sides in an action of dejection and frustration combined, "SO we're back to that are we?" he asked her bitterly.

"Back to what?!" Laura screeched, rounding on him, his simple but accusing question all the motivation she needed to vent her pent up emotions.

"Back to us pretending that we don't mix business with pleasure, back to you holding the reins in this relationship, back to square one," he fired at her, "What happened to the other night? I thought we made some progress?"

"The other night was the other night," Laura lied airily, trying to dismiss him.

"What goes on inside that head of yours, Laura?" he wondered aloud, clearly baffled, "I've said it before and I'll say it again, you are, without a doubt, the most ridiculous woman I've ever met. Why are you so afraid of change?"

"What?!" she shrieked, unprepared for his psychological attack.

"You're terrified of moving forward and yet, equally so, you don't want us to go back," he accused, "So we're constantly trapped in limbo, and I refuse to believe that this endless swinging makes you happy."

Laura knew there was no point denying it, so she chose instead to turn the tables and launch a counter attack.

"Me?" she argued, "What about you? You're just as afraid to change as I am!"

She was, of course, referring to his difficulty in making a commitment, and this had not escaped his attention, but, just as she had been unprepared for his accusations, he was equally as unprepared for hers.

"There!" he feigned victory, "You see what I mean, here we go again, covering the same tired ground. You want guarantees, but how do I know that they'll erase your fears if I give them to you?"

She stood dumbfounded, hot angry tears welling in her eyes, but she blinked them back, refusing to let him see her cry.

He wanted nothing more than to go to her and take her in his arms, but he wasn't sure he could take another rejection. His voice softened as he asked her the one question whose answer he truly needed to hear,

"How do I know it still won't be enough for you, Laura?"

His question had her reeling. She needed time to herself, time to regroup.

"This isn't getting us anywhere," she ventured, "We both need time to cool off, to think..." she trailed off as she collected her purse and coat.

"Fine, Laura," he told her, disappointment evident in his tone, "Go. Run away. I'll still be here on Monday morning."

Regretting it instantly, she turned her back on him and fled the office in a rush, tears blinding her as she tried in vain to keep them in check. She knew it was dangerous to drive while crying but she didn't seem to be able to stop them falling. They still flowed as she stood under the soothing spray of the shower until she forced herself to get it together.

Laura did the best she could with her make up but her red rimmed eyes did not escape her sister's attention, much less the fact that, tonight, Laura seemed to be little more than a hollow shell of her usually chipper self. Sure, she went through the motions of pleasant dinner conversation, listening to Danny and Mindy, playing with Laurie Beth and politely asking Frances about school, but, with the practised eye of a mother, Frances could tell her sister's facade was only skin deep.

Actually, Frances was looking forward to testing out some of the things she'd learned. Instead of studying to be a dental assistant like she'd originally intended, Frances had decided that, having been a mother and wife for so long, her skills as such had left her rather well suited for child psychology. Granted, her sister was no longer a child, but, Frances has just bought a book on teenagers, in anticipation of Danny's thirteenth birthday, and, for one reason or another, she had a sneaking suspicion that, deep down inside, Laura still harboured the pain of a hurting teen.

Frances was tactful enough to wait until they were alone before she said anything. Laura had been so good to her when they'd first moved to California, she could at least try to return the favour. She waited until Donald had gone to put the children to bed before she went out to the porch, where Laura was nursing a mug of coffee.

"Laura?" Frances began, placing a hand on her sister's shoulder. Laura nearly jumped out of her skin, "Penny for your thoughts?"

"What?" Laura played dumb, "Oh, no, it's nothing." and she waved her hand in the air for added emphasis.

"Laura, I don't believe you," Frances' voice was filled with concern, "What's wrong? Please let me try to help you."

Laura looked at her sister carefully. Growing up, they'd never been particularly close. Apart from the six year age gap, there had also been their mother's continual comparison of her to her older sister Frances, the paragon of virtue, she who could do no wrong, or so it seemed to a child.

On the other hand, Laura didn't have all that many people who were close to her. There was Remington, at least most of the time, there was Mildred, although Laura had a fair suspicion that Mildred's loyalty would lie stronger with her `Mr Steele', Murphy was too far away, as was her mother, but the two of them had never been close either. Come to think of it, Frances was about the only person Laura could think of who should be guaranteed to be on her side.

Frances eased down onto the porch swing beside Laura, still looking at her with a mixture of love and concern written on her face.

Laura opened her mouth to speak but instead she started to cry, tears once again flowing freely down her cheeks.

"Laura, my God! What is it?" Frances was more concerned now, she had never seen her sister like this before.
"I know you think I have all the answers," Laura choked out, "But I don't!"

"Oh, honey, you know I didn't mean that," Frances said, putting her arms around Laura and offering her a comforting hug. She felt a pang of guilt over the old accusation but, at the time she had been a little stressed and, straight afterward, she and Laura had shared a conversation that Frances thought had helped bring them closer to each other.

Laura returned her sister's hug gratefully, still crying softly, but, after a moment, she pulled back, laughing a little through the tears and sniffles.

"You know, it's funny," she said with a wry smile, "The last person whose shoulder I cried on like this, was Mr Ste-" she took a deep breath, "Steele," she finished shakily and fresh sobs began.

Oh great! She thought to herself. She couldn't say his name without bursting into tears, she couldn't have him touch her without going up in flames and she couldn't go a day without battling her constant feelings of fear and confusion.

Haltingly, Laura told Frances about their week, their date and how their week had culminated in their screaming match earlier that day.

"OK, so what?" Frances asked, "So you had an argument. Can't you just apologise?"

"It's not the argument, Frances, we bicker all the time, it's just how we are," Laura told her, "It's what we said. And the way we seem to keep saying it."

"Well, what did you say?" Frances prompted.

Laura relayed their heated conversation, word for word, to her sister.

"Oh, Laura," Frances sighed sympathetically.

"What?" Laura sniffed.

"Oh, Laura," Frances said again.

"What?!" Laura demanded,"Frances what does that mean? `Oh Laura'?" Her tears subsided and she began to bristle at her sister's vague remarks.

"What do you want from him?" Frances asked her, already reasonably sure of the answer and formulating an opinion.

"I want to know he's not just staying around until we - uh - you know, experience the ultimate moment," Laura said, mentally shuddering at the tacky euphemism.

"Honey, no man would stick around for four years just for that," Frances replied.
"How do you know?" Laura argues, growing more heated, "You and Donald waited until you were married."

Frances laughed, "That's what you think. Remember the first convention I went to when we'd just gotten engaged?"

"Ah, yes!" Laura exclaimed bitterly, "The one Mother never found out about. You're still Little Miss Perfect in her eyes!"

"Do you love him?" Frances asked quietly.

"Yes, of course!" Laura snapped and then she gasped. Frances smiled, mission accomplished.

Laura's head was spinning. It was the first time she'd admitted that to herself.

"That's not fair!" she accused, "You tricked me into saying that."

Frances shook her head with a smile, "I didn't force you to say anything you don't already feel," she told Laura.

Laura pulled a face. It was supposed to be a glare but her heart wasn't in it, she was too busy still pondering her own admission.

"Now, tell me what you want for you, Laura?" Frances asked.

"I want him to make a commitment, to me, to us, to this life," Laura said in a small voice.

"Do you really?" Frances queried gently, "Have you made one to him? Maybe you're afraid to commit, too. Deep down you have this fear that all relationships are painful and that they don't last. First our parents and then Wilson."

"Frances, what is this?" Laura cried, a little incredulous, "You were supposed to be on my side!"

"I am on your side," Frances told her, "I'm trying to help you get what you want, but in order for me to do that, I need you to shut up and listen."

Laura blinked, taken aback by her sister's attitude, "OK," she squeaked out.

"Oh, Laura," Frances sighed, her tone softening. She took her baby sister's hand, "Daddy leaving hurt you so much more than me. I was older, I had Donald....You were still so young, so vulnerable."

"I was thirteen," Laura said.

"Just barely," Frances added, "Daddy meant the world to you. I'm so sorry Laurie, I should have been there to help you through it. God knows Mother was no help, she never even faced her own feelings, how on earth was she supposed to help you deal with yours?"

"Don't say that Frances, you had your own life to lead," Laura told her.

"Did I?" Frances asked, "Sometimes I wonder if I am living my own life. You don't know how much I envied you Laura, your freedom to be who you wanted to be, do what you wanted to do..."

"Me?" Laura repeated, "All I ever heard was why can't you be more like your sister Frances. I was never good enough for Mother."

"I suppose, but I was so busy trying to make Mom happy after Daddy left, I forgot what it was that I really wanted," Frances explained, "Oh, Donald makes me happy, and I wouldn't trade the kids for anything in the world, but my psychology course is so interesting, little things that make me think what if...or maybe I could've..."

Laura sat in silence, gazing compassionately at Frances.

"But enough about me, we're talking about you. You keep telling me that you want him to commit to you but what would you do if he suddenly did, if he told you that he loved you or even if he wanted to marry you? It wouldn't change anything Laura, you'd still be waiting to wake up one day and find him gone. Mom and Dad taught you that there ARE no guarantees, so how can you ask him for them?"

Laura digested the information her sister had presented her with, so eerily similar to the question Remington himself had asked her that afternoon. But Frances was far from finished.

"You need to see that it's not just him standing in your way," Frances told Laura softly, "That it's you, your fear of abandonment and your distrust of men."

"But, it's what keep me from being hurt!" Laura objected strenuously in her own defense.

"No Laura," Frances said firmly, "It's what keeps you alone."

Again Laura was struck by the similarity between what her sister was telling her and what Remington himself had said in the past. Hadn't he told her at the Sensitivity Spa that it was her inhibitions that stood between them? Hadn't he accused her of projecting her father's faults onto him?

"Do you really think so, Frances?" she asked, her voice wavering, "Is it really all my fault?"

"Of course not, honey," Frances exclaimed, "I'm not saying he has no faults, no demons, but you need to face your own first. It's not fair of you to lump him with all the blame. Now, I don't know your Remington Steele all that well, but, just like there's something in your past preventing you from committing to him, did you ever stop to think that there may be something similar in his?"

Laura was stunned and just a little ashamed to realise that she hadn't thought of that at all. What did she know about his past really? Not that much.

"I'm not saying you're the only one at fault," Frances went on, "I'd say it's pretty clear he fears commitment too, but, like you, he probably has a very good reason. Isn't knowing that he wants to commit and that he wishes he could, a step in the right direction?"

Laura's eyebrows dipped as these words broke through her foggy mind with startling clarity. She raised her clear gaze to Frances.

"I didn't know he wanted to commit," she told her sister carefully, "How did you?"

This surprised Frances a little and, as she answered Laura, she wondered if she was giving too much away, but, she'd come this far, and there was no point in stopping now.

"Remington told Donald that he envied Donald's commitment to me and the family. He pretty much admitted that he wished he could do the same."

"He admitted that to Donald?" Laura repeated, more to herself than to Frances, "But not to me?"

Frances stood up, her job was done, it was up to Laura now to take the information and put it to use. Touching a hand to Laura's shoulder, she said quietly,

"Maybe you just needed to give him the chance." And she disappeared back into the house.

Laura set the swing into gentle motion as she finished her coffee and thought about what Frances had said. She jumped when she heard Donald's voice.

"Everything all right out here?"

"Fine, Donald," she answered softly, "I think everything's fine." She stood up and placed a vague kiss to Donald's cheek, "Thanks for dinner."

A baffled Donald followed his sister-in-law back into the house and watched as she collected her purse and coat and said goodbye to Frances.

"Goodbye Frances," she said, hugging her sister tightly, "And thank you," she whispered.

Frances watched her little sister leave in a rush, only the knowing smile on her face assuring Donald that everything was OK.

Laura spent the drive home from Tarzana in silence. At least a dozen different questions flooded her mind as she wondered what WOULD change if he told her what she thought she needed to hear.

Was Frances' amateur psychological evaluation right? If Laura was brutally honest with herself, she would have to admit that, in all likelihood, it was alarmingly accurate.

Did she trust him? Well, this one was harder to answer but, either way, it certainly wasn't his fault. She did trust him enough to believe that he would never intentionally hurt her.

Did she love him? This one was easy, a resounding yes. Laura had never been so sure of something in her life.

Was she satisfied holding him at arms length? Of course not. She desperately wanted to be able to release her fears, to hold him close and to become partners in every way.

And finally, was she happy? Well, no, but she knew a way she could be.

Abruptly, Laura changed her course and headed for his apartment.

She never had a second thought the whole way there and, only when she stood in the hallway and had already pressed the buzzer, did her resolve begin to weaken. Laura realised that, although she now understood her fears and what was driving them, being able to put them aside was another matter altogether. She balked at laying her heart bare to him, at being the first to open up, in case her fears were actually well founded. What if he didn't feel the same? Could her fragile heart cope with another rejection? No, putting her fears aside was definitely something that would take time to achieve. She only hoped he would be there by her side to help her do it.

Before she had a chance to back down, the door swung open slowly and he filled the doorway, staring down at her.

She gazed up at him with a mixture of hope and apprehension as he stepped aside silently, swinging his arm wide, motioning for her to enter. She watched his face, hoping it would hold some indication of what she could expect or of how he was feeling. It was a foolish hope because Laura knew he was just as adept as she at concealing his true feelings. His expression was difficult to read. Calm? Sure, and his eyes were clear and steady, she saw no anger in them at her earlier behaviour, merely open expectation as he waited for her to break the almost oppressive silence.

Laura walked into the apartment and dropped her purse and coat onto the couch, but she didn't sit down, she kept pacing around the coffee table until she stood in front of the fireplace.

She turned to find him watching her intently as he stood leaning with both hands onto the arm of the sofa before him. The silence was killing her but she knew it was up to her to break it. She had come to him.

"I...ah..." Laura began hesitantly, "I realised I never answered your question this afternoon."
His penetrating gaze would have unnerved her if he wasn't so damned attractive. In the time since she'd last seen him, he'd removed his jacket and tie and undone the first few buttons of his shirt.

"You really want to know why I'm so afraid to change what we have?" It wasn't really a question but he nodded in response. In truth, Laura was glad he didn't speak, fearing she would lose her nerve at the slightest interruption.

"The only two major changes in my life occurred when a man that I loved walked out of my life," she said quietly, "First, I watched my father walk away from our family when I was only thirteen, then, years later, I came home to find that Wilson had packed up his things and left me. Two unrelated events that hurt me, much more than even I realised, and left me with some irrational idea that relationships are painful and don't last," Laura paused, "I know you're not them, I KNOW that, but...they left cuts so deep....fears so well entrenched, irrational though they may be, but they're still there and I need to try and overcome them, I'm ready to try and overcome them but..."

She swallowed and licked her lips, bringing a hand up to her forehead in a gesture he recognized as signaling her confusion and inner turmoil. He watched her carefully, his heart ached to see her struggling with her inner demons but at the same time he was aware that it was something she needed to do by herself. While he wanted nothing more than to go to her there and then, he knew better than to interrupt her.

She went on, "I suppose what I'm trying to explain, is that I'm terrified of loving and losing one more time," her voice cracked. She crossed her arms around herself in a protective gesture and turned her head away, fighting to keep control.

"Oh, Laura," Remington sighed. That certainly seemed to be the catchphrase for the evening, "It seems we're more alike than you realise." His mouth twisted into a wry smile as he ruefully shook his head. He straightened and shoved his hands into his pockets. Moving away from behind the couch, taking only a few steps, he stopped in front of the coffee table.

When she would have asked what he meant, he went on, "Since you answered my question, I think the least I could do would be to answer yours," he began, "You want to know why I'm afraid of change? Laura, everything I've ever known has been change, nothing in my life has been stable until now. As a child, I was bounced around from place to place, if I ever got the chance to put down roots, they were quickly ripped away from me," he paused, slowly coming to a few realisations about himself, "I suppose it was for that reason, later in life, that I chose not to put down any roots at all, to never stay in one place longer than a few months, sometimes no more than a few weeks. I never found anything, or met anyone, who made me want to. Until I met you Laura," he waited a moment, giving her time to take in what he'd said, what he was trying to say, before he came to the crux of his argument, "I'm afraid this is too good to be true. So you see, I too, am afraid to love and lose."

She drank in his response eagerly, finally getting a glimpse into his soul, but there was still so much she didn't know. She felt freer than she had in a long time, like the shackles had finally been lifted from her heart. She decided to take their moments of complete honesty a step further, it was only fair that he knew exactly what it was that kept her tiny flicker of fear alive.

"But there's more," Laura told him, "I'm afraid of the unknown, of what your past might bring. I mean, maybe you have a wife and kids stashed away somewhere, maybe you're wanted for some crime in some other city, maybe there's another Anna, someone to drop into your life and take you away from me, someone who has a greater claim on you than I do."

"No-one has a greater claim on me than you, Laura. How can you even think that? You created me, my whole existence as I know it, I owe to you. You changed my life, you saved my life, you ARE my life," he told her passionately.

"I only changed your name," Laura said quietly, "And I don't even know what it was before I changed it. Sometimes I get the feeling I don't really know who you are." There, finally she had come to the root of her fears.

"How can you say that Laura?" he asked her, "I am a man who enjoys impossible challenges. A man who isn't afraid of your wild side but who is afraid you'll never trust his intentions. A man who, over the last four years, has changed his whole life and learned more than he ever thought possible. But above all, I am a man who loves you to distraction and has done since the day he met you. Laura, if you don't know me by now, then you never will."

Laura watched him from across the room. She gulped and opened her mouth but no words came out. Had he just said what she thought he'd said?

He was right, of course. She did know him. He was Remington Steele, her Remington Steele, everything she'd envisioned when she created him and more. And what did it matter what was in his past so long as his present, and his future, were here, with her?

"Laura?" he questioned gently, for this was her show. He waited for some indication of what to do next. He'd just bared his soul to her and the woman was standing there in silence. The chasm stretched between them and it felt like an eternity as he waited for her response, waited and hoped, hardly daring even to hope that she might love him in return. Part of his concern over the last four years had been his inability to trust that someone, even someone as wonderful as he knew Laura to be, could love him, the scars left on a young boy who had never been loved by anyone. How could one who had never been loved, except perhaps by Daniel, be expected to show love in return. He hadn't had experience to teach him how, he'd had to muddle through on his own, and he was suddenly afraid that he'd made a right royal mess of it. He watched her carefully as tears began to slide down her cheeks, but through them, she smiled.

"I love you," she said simply. Relief flooded him.

He was across the room in two strides, clasping her face in his hands and kissing her sweetly.

Flames. Laura sighed against his lips, wrapping her arms around him and opening her mouth to his kiss.

"I'm tired of being afraid," she whispered when they paused for breath, "I love you and I want to move forward."

"We'll do it together," he promised her before reclaiming her lips.

Their passion ignited quickly, the way it always did. Remington lowered his hands from her face down to her back and around her rib cage and he waited for the instinctive stiffening of her back that always preceded her retreat from him.

It never came. Instead, she arched closer to him, her own hands splaying firmly and moving down to tug at his shirt.

Moving deftly, Remington swept Laura up into his arms, carried her into the bedroom and lowered them both gently onto the bed. He rained tender kisses over her forehead, eyes, cheeks and nose before returning to capture her lips passionately.

Remington lifted his head to look down at her, "This will change everything," he whispered, giving her one last chance to back out. He didn't want to force her if she wasn't truly ready to take the next step.

Laura smiled. Looking up at him lovingly, she touched her fingertips to his cheek, "Do you promise?"


Home CaseBook E-Mail