records of steele
by Melanie

Summary: Laura and Steele always went back to their past in their relations. Now they're being backed up to, as somebody else investigates what happened.

Author's note: Thanks to Betsy, my fabulous editor.
Feedback welcome!

October 6, 1987
Los Angeles
8 p.m.

Laura pursed her lips. She'd waited all night to come, she realized quietly. Now that she stood at his door, she still hesitated. A smile danced across her face, so she knocked lightly on the door. Which opened.

"Miss Holt," he greeted warmly; he stepped aside to let her in.

Laura blushed, but she entered, more than aware of his curious glance. "Mr. Steele," she acknowledged.

Steele smiled to himself. She'd wavered, he knew, having detected her shadow under the door for more than one minute: He flashed her a smile and waited for her to blush again. Then he disappeared into the kitchen, letting her do what she pleased.

Laura wandered into the room. Scanning up and down his walls, she carefully picked out pictures and vases that he'd added since her last visit; just little things, she knew, things that don't make an apartment, but personalize one, and she imagined he might have always lived here where corners of the books would wrinkle and magazines would pile up underneath the coffee table. She grinned; now-familiar gourmet smell wafted through the apartment, and she made her way into the living room. A fire blazed in the fireplace, and she could just pick out strains of jazz from the stereo.

From the kitchen doorway, he watched her. She looked so at ease by his fireplace, he observed, admittedly uneasily; millions of crimes were occurring now, ones she couldn't solve if she tried, and she remained here. She turned to catch his gaze, almost knowingly.

"Mr. Steele?"

A smile flirted with his mouth. Almost wasn't enough. "Please; sit down," he offered, focusing her attention. Her eyes laughed as he moved them to the couch.

Hunger stirred her head. "Is dinner. . .?"

He moved correctly.

"Oh!" she amended. "I wasn't implying there was a rush," she laughed. She noticed her
hand had latched onto his, and she moved it away awkwardly, before reconsidering to
take his drink from his other hand. "May I?"


His eyes laughed at her, she saw. She put the glass down, embarrassed by her attempt to watch him in the glass's reflection. He caught her gaze. "It's not important," she grinned sheepishly.

"Penny for your thoughts," he drawled.

"My thoughts cost more than a penny," she taunted playfully.

"Not about me, I imagine," he tested her choice of conversation.

Her hair came back from her face, revealing a smile, "No," she laughed.

She quieted. "I've never told you how much I value your being here," she revealed. "We've certainly made a public splash in . . . in well, public, but that's not what I'm trying to say," she stopped.

"Laura," he prompted.

"I want you to stay," she voiced.

He believed her. The realization surprised him, yet he'd noticed she maintained eye contact, and though he thought she'd looked for the right words, she'd surprised
herself. . .

She looked to him for a response. When she accepted he wouldn't reply, she prompted, "Mr. Steele?"

He coughed loudly, surprised by his lack of a ready response. Her admission wasn't about what she wanted, he'd watched himself, but there was desire in her eyes and damn it, earlier in this conversation he would have recognized what she wanted, but now there was doubt . . .

Laura felt rejection and moved to inch away. He sensed it, stopping her, instinctively pulling her close. But she leaned in he was right.

"Laura," he tried. "We can wait, we can . . ."

"No," she whispered. "This is right."

A smile crept into her features. She'd always thought she didn't need complications, that
she couldn't live by herself let alone with another person, but maybe her life wouldn't get easier. Nothing could hurt her anymore, she promised. Nothing but . . .

The fireplace roared into flames. Its intensity echoed that of the lovers on the couch, as the shadows on the wall spread its heat. She pulled the blanket he'd provided closer around them, assured he'd honor his unspoken promise to stay.

Tonight, she loved him. Tomorrow

* * *

October 6, 2032
Los Angeles
1 p.m.

Tomorrow the room would be covered in dust. Had she not come here.

Rane stood in the attic of Remington Steele. Each surface was thick with dust; each wall was shadowed by boxes. After fifty years, it would be no surprise that her grandfather's name mean nothing. His granddaughter moved through the chaotic mess.

Five years of her parents' life in San Francisco had put a lot of distance between her parents and her grandfather's past. Her grandfather had been a renowned citizen of Los Angeles, which had embarrassed her parents, she realized now. Her contained curiosity came to life, as she went eagerly for the collection.

He'd accumulated a lot for seventy years, a world-traveled detective. Rane chose carefully a box to her right. Removing its large top, she flicked aside the yellowed tissue paper to reveal her grandfather's detective license. Received in 1996 in London, it had solidified his earlier success in Los Angeles.

Rane traced his signature on the glass. She balanced the license on a shelf. She'd find a place for it later. She would put its box . . .

The box fell to the floor, its holder abandoning it. From the back of the corner, a blue trunk lay untouched. Rane moved to it, blowing its surface dust away.

Its cloth was old, but it flaunted its dark blue loudly. Rane moved her hand over its clasp and, allowing for its age, gently lifted the lid. Bits of paper crumbled in her fingers; she flipped the top completely over. On the inside was the rest of paper yellowed. She read:

In this suitcase you will find
All the memories left behind.

Rane sighed. Whoever had written this was long gone. Her hand caressed it once more.
The trunk's interior was blue velvet, she realized; it almost matched the photo album that had been out of her reach as a child . . . the album she'd missed appeared beneath her fingers.

She didn't have to be reminded that her grandfather had been gorgeous. The little girl that had sat in his lap had stared intently into eyes so focused on her, a rarity in adults. She'd look up at him and a reflection of her pain would look right back. When she was seventeen, he'd died.

Rane's near-black eyes sought out his wedding photo. Picture perfect meant nothing really: Grandma Ana had left the family twelve years ago; she passed away two years later.

Rane skimmed through the album, to stop at a newspaper clipping. The photo might have been taken at any number of parties he'd attended; Rane's eyes flicked to the photo's caption: Remington Steele and Laura Holt. Her grandfather's associate was disturbingly lovely. But what did a crumbling old newspaper reveal?

Her eyes flicked to the trunk. Her glance swept consciously past a black dress, as she set down the album, in favor of a notebook. She smiled fondly at its softness. Dated 1984, she opened it to read:

I can't believe how foolish I was I was willing to take responsibility for my actions. I know that what I put up with now is nothing to the price I might pay. But I don't know how to work with this; I want to be alone, I want my peace of mind back. I can't now, and it's my fault.

The English was flawless. The writer knew exactly what to say . . . a fact that shouldn't startle her except . . . it wasn't her grandfather's writing. She flipped to later pages, stopping at 1987 where the handwriting was gentler.

I wanted to thank him. I don't know what I wanted. I never cease to be amazed by the events of this last month. Everything's coming so fast, so suddenly, and finally I don't want to think or plan anything. I'm waiting, I guess, for it to end. These things do. Eventually.

Rane let the diary go, hey eyes darting between the diary and the photo. Conclusion: Laura. The connection was absurd, but there was no other explanation, unless . . . Had this woman had an affair with her grandfather that her parents had covered up? Rane was shocked at the unbidden thought.

She looked again. Rane's was mesmerized by Laura. A lump caught in her throat, surprising her. She thought her eyes were the only brown eyes in her family.

Gently, Rane took the notebook from the box, carefully set the newspaper clipping inside
it, and removed her sweater to wrap it around the notebook for protection.

Laura would be dead now. But everyone's past was recoverable, a lesson her grandfather had impressed upon her.

* * *

October 20, 1987
Los Angeles
6:39 p.m.

"Mr. Steele?"

"Laura. I thought you'd left an hour ago." He rose immediately from behind the desk.

"It seems I left something behind." She moved towards her office, enjoying him watching her. She grinned, disappearing into her office. "Thanks for covering the Summers' case for me," she called out to him. She came back with her purse. He was still looking at her. She met his glance teasingly, coming around to stand in front of him. "I don't suppose you're leaving soon?" she inquired suggestively.

He turned to her apologetically. "Not tonight."

She sighed and began walking towards the door. "Will you . . . ?" She pointed to the door with her hand bag.

"I'll lock up," he promised her.

She smiled warmly. "Thank you, Mr. Steele."

"Laura?" She stopped and turned back to face him. He was looking at her earnestly. "Did you . . . ?"

Her own face went serious. "I'm sorry; I meant to tell you earlier. Negative . . . the test was negative." She paused cautiously. Did he want to know because he wanted a child, or because he didn't?

He nodded assuredly. "I'm glad, Laura."

Their eyes locked, briefly. It was understood that neither of them wanted a child at this time. He imagined she'd want to be a mother eventually, of course, though he would not allow the issue of the father to enter his mind. Were she pregnant now . . . No, he stopped himself. She was too young to lose her life in raising a child, too young to lose a part of her self, like others he couldn't know. . .

She smiled at the kind look on his face. He froze upon seeing it. She searched his face fleetingly. "Goodnight, Mr. Steele." Her questions could be answered later.

* * *

October 6, 2032
Los Angeles
3:30 p.m.

The streets exploded into droplets of wetness, as winter hailed its approach. Rane closed her pelted umbrella. The library would close at 5. An hour and a half here would have to do.

"Can I help you?" Rane looked up at the old woman guarding the front desk. She glanced at the older woman's nametag: Mary, Archives Librarian. Rane smiled thankfully.

"I don't suppose you remember Laura Holt," Rane hoped. She pulled the newspaper clipping that she had brought with her from her bag and offered it to the librarian. "She worked with my grandfather, Remington Steele, a private detective in Los Angeles some time ago."

Rane smiled. Mary raised a speculative eye, but Rane could see that the name Remington Steele drew respect. Mary reached in her pocket for her key: "Follow me."

The back room was almost as dusty as her grandfather's attic. Rane tried not to cough, as
Mary worked to pull out drawers of microfilm.

Mary smiled pleasantly. "You should begin by looking under `Laura Holt Investigations.'" Rane looked puzzled. "She had her own agency before she joined your grandfather," Mary offered kindly. "Miss Holt was "

"Miss Holt?" Rane interrupted, surprised by the habitual formality she sensed.

"Oh, she was always called Miss Holt. I remember seeing her when I was a child," Mary shared. "They worked well together, she and Mr. Steele, but "

"He got married," Rane interrupted, realizing her uneasy gut reaction with his life with Miss Holt.

"No," the librarian relieved her, questioning her with a look.

"No," Rane echoed, slightly satisfied.

"Mr. Steele and Miss Holt dissolved the agency at the height of their success," Mary continued. "It would have been 1988 when they announced their decision close up. It was in the news forever." Mary's eyes flicked to Rane. "They could have done about anything afterwards." Rane looked in the glass case to see regret in Mary's reflection.

"Of course," Mary recovered as if sensing Rane's observation, "Miss Holt could have opened up her old agency she could have with her success with Steele but it wouldn't have been the same." Rane sensed regret. "I think she eventually went back to her former partner, in Denver." Mary caught Rane's gaze. "I admired her," Mary admitted sheepishly.

Rane thought a moment. Her father would have been born around 1988. Mary waited for her to speak. Rane didn't doubt this woman had answers.

"They must have been set financially," she fed.

"They were," Mary confirmed, pleased to reminisce. "He was the city's most eligible bachelors for years, living where he did. And she she never made a big deal but she was always there during his big cases."

"But it was his agency," Rane tried.

"Yes, it was." The older woman thought. "I suppose they had an understanding," she allowed. "You'd never think they had any problems between them personally, I mean."

"Why do you say that?" Rane perked up.

The older woman felt Rane's urgency. "Oh, I'm sure they had their problems, because they worked together, of course. But nothing really . . ." Mary gazed at the newspaper clipping that Rane was holding. "She died young, you know," she added more gently.

"No; I didn't."

Mary moved away.

Rane breathed. She eyed the photo again. Had her grandparents' marriage been a sham then, her grandmother a second choice? Well, Rane couldn't know because she hadn't known her father's mother very well and now she was . . . Rane supposed she had loved her, in a familial way.

But if they weren't actually fam Rane cut off her thoughts, embarrassed. It was almost four p.m. She went for the family records.

* * *

October 24, 1987
Los Angeles
5:45 p.m.

"Mr. Steele?" Laura called from her office. "What was the number I wrote on the first page of that file?"

"Laura." His cautious tone drew her from her office into his, and she stood beside him. "Who's Detective Roberts?"

"He's one of the top detectives at the LAPD," Laura replied. Her hand gripped his shoulder. "Why?"

Steele scanned the contents of the piece of paper in front of him, and finally he found the words and turned to face her. She was young, he realized. She'd been a blonde when she was a small child, he remembered from a photo album she'd shown him once. Now her hair was a rich dark color, brought out by her black suit and red lipstick. He sighed.

"He's been asking people about the agency, Laura. He's going to want to know about our past, our records." He saw the panic flash across her face. "He's not going to find anything, Laura. Laura," he pressed when her face became blank.

"Pass me the telephone, Mr. Steele. Now."

* * *

November 12, 1987
4:17 p.m.

Detective Roberts sat down in his chair. The estimates in front of him told him he definitely had a very heavy problem in front of him. Either Remington Steele had been laundering thousands of dollars, or he had been evading taxes for the last three years. He looked at the list: unpaid taxes, missing records of his past and all of his personal expenses were paid directly from the Agency's accounts or from Laura Holt's.

A knock on his door brought him out of his calculating.

"Mr. Steele, Ms. Holt come in," he called.

Steele opened the door and stepped inside. "Miss Holt couldn't make it, I'm afraid," he said casually.

Roberts pointed to the chair. "Please."

Steele looked like a gem, Roberts thought. The man exuded confidence and charm. Roberts imagined Steele would challenge anyone who didn't see it. Roberts would love to break him.

"Enlighten me," Roberts began. "Ninety-two percent of Ms. Holt's income comes from the salary she receives from Remington Steele Investigations. You, on the other hand, apparently have all of your personal expenses paid directly from the Agency's bank account. Can you explain this, Mr. Steele?"

Mr. Steele brushed aside the question, replying, "We thought it'd be easier than transferring the money."

"I won't tell you that I think that most of your agency's revenue is the result of her work," Roberts smirked, "so I'll start out by pointing out that you take more than your share . . . if this distribution form your staff has produced is correct, of course." Roberts handed Steele a piece of paper.

Steele nodded deliberately. "Well, I would assume so," he replied in an insulted tone. "It's recent." His eyes quickly moved across the figures. Of course they weren't right because of all the liberties they'd taken. From the very beginning, the agency had been working towards evening out those expenses. Over time, Laura would have been able "edit" the records to make forms like this look correct!

But now Laura wouldn't have time, Steele thought guiltily. She wouldn't have the chance to make this right. I'm sorry, Laura.

Roberts looked at him accusingly. "Mr. Steele, let's be blunt. Are you blackmailing Laura Holt?"

"No," Steele answered, offended. Is that what it looked like to anyone else? he wondered. Of course, Roberts wasn't just `anyone else.' But then it wouldn't take anyone very long to figure it out if anyone looked.

"I understand that Ms. Holt is in town. I'd like to speak with her, if you'd pass on the message," Roberts said, holding out a business card. Steele took it coolly. Roberts would call her soon anyway, whether Steele gave her the message or not. Steele stood.

"Mr. Steele." Roberts stopped him with his hand. "Please sit," he said threateningly. Steele obliged, unperturbed. "I'd like to hear your account of the last five years if you will," Roberts demanded politely.

Steele would. He would repeat what Laura had told everyone, making exceptions where he saw need. Then he would call Laura and tell her what Roberts expected to hear. She'd call Murphy then she'd call Mildred and Bernice and her mother and sister.

Steele settled for delaying Roberts now. Laura would take care of this.

Then she would take care of him.

* * *

November 12, 1987
Los Angeles
2 p.m.

He strode purposefully down the hall. He swept past the reception area and burst into her office, looking for "Laura!"

"Murphy!" she jumped up and strode over to him. "Thanks for coming! I wouldn't be doing it here, except transferring files to my home would look even worse."

He smiled. "Sure, anytime "

Laura cut him off. "I need you to re-familiarize yourself with these cases. These," she thrust him a pile of papers, "are the changes I've made."

"Changes?" He followed on her heels, puzzled.

She turned on him. "You've worked with Roberts; he's not going overlook anything. I've been changing these files to fit with what he thinks happened "

"And your effort will make it look changed!" he retaliated. Murphy looked at her sleep-deprived face. He felt as if he'd just walked into a hurricane zone, and he had to try to salvage everything before the actual hurricane came . . . which, incidentally, was Laura.

She pulled him over to the edge of her desk, before grabbing a pile of papers hastily, to knock them on the desk aligning the pages.

He looked around. "So is he here?" Murphy taunted. "You're working your ass off here, where's ?"

"He's calling in favors, to help us with our records. I won't discuss him with you, not here, and especially not now." Laura glared at him, daring him to launch into a full-blown tirade. Then she began sifting through a new pile of papers.

"Miss Holt?" The voice from the outer office sent her off the ground. She rushed off her desk, closing the door firmly behind her. "Detective Roberts," she acknowledged.

Murphy quietly opened her office door and followed.

Roberts scanned the reception area. Everything looked as usual, though he'd hardly come here. Not as if there'd been any . . . His old friend emerged; Roberts looked at Laura critically. She looked exhausted.

"Laura," he greeted. "It's nice to see you again."

She crossed her arms antagonistically in reply. Murphy watched as Roberts tried to apologize to Laura for having to investigate her and the agency. From their demeanors, Murphy would guess Laura and Roberts had had an affair; it wouldn't surprise him.

Roberts' gaze pulled her into a whisper. "Laura, you can tell me the truth. We can work something out."

She met his gaze levelly. "I believe you came to investigate the agency, not renew our . . . friendship. What do you want?"

Roberts acknowledged her manner. "All right, Laura. I came because I wanted to talk to you. You never showed up at my office."

"No, I was busy," Laura replied.

Roberts pointed to her office, to suggest that they conduct their interview there. "I'm still busy," she continued, making no effort to move.

Roberts picked up on her hesitation. "Busy? What are you doing?" Roberts demanded sharply.

"I'm waiting," she interjected. "For Mr. Steele."

"What's he doing?" Roberts prompted.

Ah! She inwardly cursed. He was probably still at the photocopier, copying documents she'd produced just an hour ago! Laura cringed to herself. She thought hard. "I asked him to pick up my laundry," she answered smugly.

Roberts' surprised gasp made her flinch. He recovered quickly and then smiled mockingly. "I didn't know you and Mr. Steele were together."

Laura caught Murphy staring at Roberts intently. She answered calmly. "I don't believe that information needs to be in your file," she answered evenly.

"I'll be back, Laura," Roberts warned, turning away. "If I have to have men posted outside the agency, his place or your place I will."

Laura nodded. She didn't cordially smile. It wouldn't have made a difference anyway.
She turned towards her office.

Murphy was looking at her. "How did this start, Laura?" he broached cautiously. "You never had any problems with the police . . ." Laura's looked quieted him again.

"I don't want to get into it. I don't know what provoked him to become suspicious." She walked across the room and fell into one of lobby chairs. She looked at him honestly. "Thank you for coming, Murphy. I appreciate your taking time out of your business and life to come help me," she appealed to him. "I need those files."

* * *

October 9, 2032

Rane stood outside the small house. It was a long shot, she realized, tracing Laura's sister's family, who had stayed in LA. Rane smiled dryly: the Piper house was a dream, the way the white picket fence perfectly lined the green lawn, the way she imagined each grass measured the same size.

Rane grunted.

But she brought her finger up to the buzzer. In the seconds that the shrill bell sounded in her ear, Rane wondered briefly what she was doing here. She didn't have anything except curiosity, and that didn't justify showing up at someone's house, unannounced: `Let me come into your house and interrogate you.'

The door opened. A forty-ish man looked expectantly at her. Rane straightened.

"Mr. Piper?" Rane asked warily.

"Yes," the man confirmed. He watched her closely it occurred to her that he might not let her in.

She said awkwardly, "I don't suppose you have time to share the legacy of your Great Aunt?"

Jason rewarded her with a curious look and bid her entrance.

If Rane had been put off by the front house her attitude had changed within seconds of entering the house. Though it was small, the creative use of space and the large windows that let sun in expanded each room.

"Laura was a fabulous woman," Jason gushed.

"So you did know her," Rane marveled quietly. She felt an unexpected pang of jealousy in her stomach at the possibility.

"Oh, no," Jason affirmed. "Only through photos . . . over there, as you will."

Grateful, Rane wandered around the leaving room. Filled with family photos, Rane admired a couple that had know love. She speculated whether she would be intruding if she continued asking questions but Jason was so welcoming and Rane wouldn't be coming back, so:

"When did they get married?"

Jason smiled. "I think it was in 1990. They'd been working together for some time his agency, of course "

"What agency did you think I had in mind?" she tried out delicately.

"Well, Laura had her own agency my grandfather worked for her then."

"Your grandfather. . .?"

"Murphy Michaels." Rane nodded.

Rane considered. Would Jason be averse to talking about Laura's time with her grandfather?

Jason smiled. "Laura and Murphy would come over for the holidays sometimes, I knew," he explained. Of course, Rane reasoned: the trunk alone showed that Laura had been beautiful.

"When did Laura leave LA?" Rane asked suddenly.

"Oh, well, she used to work in LA, at Remington Steele Investigations." Rane nodded, noticing Jason's sudden breeziness. "So did Murphy, for a while. He left soon after. They were successful of course you'd know that if you'd lived here but I never thought she got enough recognition."

Ah. Reason number one for breeziness, Rane thought. "She did a lot of behind-the-scenes," she recognized. If Jason found out that she was the spawn of the devil Rane would lose all chance of getting her answers. Rane wondered briefly what it was that either Murphy or Laura had said to cement this opinion she wouldn't dream of asking.

"I don't suppose you ever met Mr. Steele." It had suddenly occurred to Jason, and he studied her more closely. It was a valid question they were a decade from his death. But:

"No," Rane answered well. "I never had the chance. I was a fan of Laura's work, but I was only familiar with her early work," she apologized. "I seem to remember that Remington Steele Investigations underwent many changes in staff, particularly."

"Well, after my grandfather and Steele's secretary left, Laura brought in Mildred Krebs older woman I never met." He regretted, Rane knew.

She tried once more: "Do you know whatever happened to him Mr. Steele, I mean?"

"Mr. Steele married," he admitted, "a beautiful woman: Ana."

Rane decided not to inquire about her grandmother. Jason had been kind enough. Rane smiled. "Thank you so much." She swallowed, "You can't imagine how much I admired your Great Aunt." She stood up to go.

Jason stopped her. "You know, I noticed just now you remind me of my grandmother."

Rane froze.

"It was just one of your expressions," Jason dismissed. "I'm sorry if I . . . startled you."

Rane waited until he finished studying her for the last time, she reminded herself. He met his eyes, she didn't smile: "Thank you."

* * *

November 16, 1987
Los Angeles
8:45 p.m.

Her heels dug into the carpet. She paused. The outer office lights were off, but the slit under the door confirmed his presence. She stepped in and her fingers found the letter in her folder.

"I don't suppose you know what this is," she announced rigidly, holding the return name for him to see: Detective Roberts.

Her public boss rose.

"I received it this evening," she pronounced. "I suppose you imagine only you would be contacted in an emergency." Laura let the telling report fall carelessly. "If you want another copy, just let me know," she invited icily.

He looked at her. She watched him pick it up slowly. He didn't bend down, she noticed, but leant over to give her a moment of advantage. He didn't read it, but folded it tightly, standing up.

"It was a debt, Laura "

"It was a favor," she corrected. "One of your buddies at the bank helped you out." She realized, "Nobody else within 100 miles would help you repay one of your debts . . . to Daniel, I suppose?"

"Laura, that isn't fair," he stated.

"But Roberts knew about your buddy," she continued, ignoring him. "Roberts knew because this buddy has pulled stunts like this for you before. Isn't that right?"

"Laura . . ." he protested.

"He thinks I know," she informed him, sickly amused. "He even thinks that he can save me." Her smile faded, and she withdrew another piece of paper. "Maybe I am being unfair; I agree I've tried to change you . . . " She straightened. "I've organized a folder that will help with Roberts. You'll be brought in for questioning they'll have a lot more . . ."

"I'm not asking for your help, Laura." He moved threateningly closer.

"I'm not giving it to you," she replied darkly. "If you get caught, my name is the first one that's ruined."

"So this is about names?" he mocked her. "Because I've got more names than you'll ever have."

"Don't even," she rebuked immediately. "I started this agency, years of hard work. . . I'm not paying for it for the rest of my life."

"Even though it was your decision to fool the entire world?" he criticized.

"I know that you can punish me for this . . ." she granted.

He was revolted. "Laura, this isn't what this is about . . .I'm not going to take revenge . . ."

"You can tell everyone that I black-mailed you," she talked over him, "and I can spend the rest of my life in prison." She marveled at his silence. "All right then." She thrust the folder into his hands. "Finish off Remington Steele, and we'll call it a day." She began to walk away.

"Laura?" he called quietly.

She froze.

"Aren't you forgetting something?"

She turned back. "I didn't want to do this now," she admitted.

Steele waited. For the first time since she'd come, he studied her face. She hadn't enjoyed her discovery, he realized, her jaw was tense. And she'd been . . . crying often, might have started at work. His hand inched towards her face.

"I'm fine," she warned, not moving.

Laura closed her eyes. She felt a numbness spreading in her stomach, and a volcano rising in her head. She wanted space and time. She wanted him, the way he'd been before this had happened. And she wanted herself, the way she had been before he'd ever come.

He waited expectantly.

"I didn't lie to you when you first asked," she promised quietly. "But now wasn't . . ." her mouth twitched ". . . the Right Moment."

He sensed sarcasm in her voice and matched it in his glare. But she wasn't taunting him, he saw. He expected her to be relieved everything had been said. To his surprise, she looked sad and . . . old. She removed her heels, crossing her arms, to lean against his desk. He joined her.

"It was a week ago," she murmured. "It was . . . after Roberts left. You'd gone to lunch, and I went to the bathroom to . . . Then you came in and . . ." Her attention focused on him again. "I couldn't believe it was you who initiated Roberts' investigation," she admitted. She was so at peace with that, he reproached himself for thinking he'd earned her trust. She said, "Even if we pull this off, there's no guarantee we'll be clear. Records get saved: memories like these don't fade." She looked away at his effort to lighten things with a small smile. "If not him, the next Roberts will show up . . ."

"Laura," he stopped her. "Why are you telling me this?"

"I've lived in L.A. for almost 30 years," she explained. "I have records, ones I can't even change ones I don't want you to. I wouldn't move even if I had to, but . . ." She avoided his eyes. "You could disappear at the drop of the hat if you wanted to."

"I wouldn't," he insisted.

"But you could," she persisted, meeting his eyes again. "Should police come to my door, there's nothing I could do to prevent them . . . taking the child away from me." Her arms crossed. "But . . . you're Remington Steele. Your reputation alone could prevent . . ." She let him approach. "I won't let the child be taken away from both of us." He began to understand. She didn't know it, but she'd just solidified their relationship and . . . all he could give was a promise she might not value. "I swear to you, Laura, that everything will be all right." He put his hands on her shoulders, but she tensed immediately, so he removed them.

"I'll call Murphy," she moved from the desk, "and you can get Daniel to . . . to do whatever he does."

"Laura." She turned sharply. But he wasn't demanding anything from her. It wasn't a reproach, only a request to acknowledge him. She gave him a ghost of a smile. He reached back to the desk and wrote a number on the back of one of their business cards. He closed her hand over it. It was an Irish number, she noticed. "I'm not always there, but . . ."

"I'll let you know," she promised, turning.

His hand went to her shoulder. She stopped.

"I'm sorry, Laura."

She looked up. A smile had crept into his eyes, involuntarily. She thought: maybe it was this quality that had prevented her initial doubts of letting him in, what had said `here is Remington Steele.'

He'd go on being Remington Steele, she appreciated, at the expense of both their lives. She felt his hand. He stood before her, now, she realized, to ask forgiveness for the four years he was now ending and any future they might have had. And she couldn't grant him that. She removed his hand from her shoulder. Everything that need be said between them had. She took his hand and he understood.

They smiled.

Laura let him take her into his arms. He let her kiss him softly on the lips. Then he left.

* * *

October 6, 2032
The Attic
6:30 p.m.

They dissolved the agency successfully, and they parted; he to London to get the legitimate license that Laura had valued before he returned to L.A., Laura to Denver to join Murphy Micheals. Somewhere in Laura's pages, Rane might find how her father passed from one family to the next. Maybe no one was around to know . . . or care.

Had Laura been happy?

Rane would never know. Laura married Murphy. Steele found another woman. They must have agreed, Rane justified, which is why she couldn't explain the tear that wetly pricked her eye.

Rane felt the diary again later she would go through Laura Holt's thoughts to find . . . anything.

Was it a secret because Laura Holt had had a "love-child," or was it a secret because Laura never would have come forward to acknowledge her parenthood? How happy had her grandfather been with Ana? Would Laura have stayed with him if they hadn't dissolved the agency? If they worked so well together, why hadn't they stayed together?

Rane stopped asking.

The setting sun cast a strange glow across the room through a small window. In this light, her jeans looked tired and her face became younger. She searched for the black dress she'd overlooked. Her own clothes moved aside, the dress became her. A rubber band from her pocket drew her hair back and she smiled, a light smile she imagined resembled Laura's, before her world collapsed. She watched as Laura's likeness approached the mirror: a beautiful, sad sprite that only survived in Rane. Rane smiled. She missed her grandmother.

* * *

August 16, 2004
Los Angeles
10 p.m.

She hesitated before the large house on the corner. She'd promised herself never to find him . . . and House and Garden had dissolved her resolve, by publishing his.

Laura stared at her stomach where their child had left her womb five years ago. She'd been right, they had returned with background checks, and she'd finally given in to ask Roberts' help. Remington Steele Investigations had been closed for a year now.

Inside, Remington Steele sat back on his living room couch. Curtains closed, his house welcomed neither visitors nor observers. His son was asleep, his wife was away: silence, and he welcomed it with closed eyes.

Steps sounded on his front porch. He waited. No effort was made to silence the forced entry; he rose immediately, violently wrenching the door open, to let in

"Laura?" he demanded loudly. "What are you doing here?" He reached his arms around her to help her up quickly. "Are you all right?"

She checked herself. Her eyes betrayed her steady voice: "For whatever reason you think I'm here, you're wrong," she maintained solemnly. "I'm not here to take away your life or reveal your secrets," she tried to smile, and he thought he saw his old Laura. "I saw your house in a magazine, that's how . . ." She caught his gaze. "I shouldn't have come," she concluded.

"No, Laura."

She turned abruptly, but a table hit her stomach, and she winced sharply.

"Laura?" He moved to her. She accepted his help, looking up to him.

"I'm dying," she confirmed soberly. She looked strangely down as he took her hand, then up at him. "I didn't mean for you to know, but . . ."

She'd accepted death before she'd come, he realized, horrified. To come was to remind herself - and she'd come anyway.

She backed away, as if afraid of forgetting. "There's something I have for you. Outside." She opened the door to heave a chest into the room. "It's a collection of things, of mine, that I've collected over the years," she imparted. "It's yours to do with what you want," she spelt out. "If you should so choose to throw it away, I won't hold it against you."

"Laura?" he persisted.

"I want it passed down to his children," she answered tightly. "No one else need know . . ."

No one else need know who I was, he finished for her. The thought appalled him: the woman who had meant everything to him feared she wouldn't be remembered. "I promise, Laura," he said deliberately.

She calmed down, smiling. "Thank you . . . Mr. Steele." He smiled for her. But her voice began to tire so he led her to the couch. The strain of the trip and the trunk's weight had sunk in; he imagined dryly: memories made it worse.

Her sigh brought him back. Laura wouldn't have much time, he realized: she needed to rest, so that every moment with her counted. Laura wouldn't sleep in his bed (maybe she'd gotten married) so he'd sleep on the couch with her should she allow it, and they would be . . . like before all of this.

She watched at the thoughts flittering across his eyes. Her body relaxed, and she smiled lightly. A little later, sleep would take her, and she could forget that the sadness she'd been living in hadn't existed when she'd known him.

"I loved you, Laura." His admission was met with silence and they lay there until she was sure he would watch over her, and she communicated without a sound that she'd loved him back. He kissed her forehead, then her lips before forgetting altogether about their agreement.

Tomorrow she would wake up in his arms. Then she'd be gone at once, he knew, before her son and the rest of the world could catch up to her. He brushed her hair from her face, thinking of all the times he'd wanted to do that. Tonight, he was her Remington Steele, and Laura Holt could be held as she should have always been. The moon drifted across the sky, and August the 16th of 2004 was over. Tonight he loved her.


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