Holt Loosening a Steele Grip
by Wolfgang Walter

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Regular Mysterynet-visitors will recognize most of the things mentioned in the story, and I admit that the discussion there was responsible for me writing it. I also took this or that detail from one or another story, so I hope the authors don't bother; I have read so many stories that I couldn't be always sure to link it with the right one, so I didn't start asking for permission at all and beg those who think I have violated their copyright for understanding, but if you feel like venting about it, who am I to prevent you from that? Comments can be sent to: Wolfgang050972@freenet.de
It's an integral component of democracy to have different views and opinions. Without it development in general would be slowed down. This story isn't meant as an attack, it's just my opinion about the most reasonable and probable (and perhaps desirable) continuation after the lights went down at the end of the fifth season - or should I say before Bonds of Steele? - but I'm willing to discuss about it.
Then I want to thank Nancy for her patience. I hope you can enjoy it in spite of this serious beginning.
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters of Remington Steele and Laura Holt. Just borrowing them for entertainment.

Rriing - rriing - rriing.
"Agh!" With a start Laura sat up. For some seconds she didn't know where she was, then she realized she was sitting on a sofa - her sofa.
She reached for the receiver. "Hello?" - "Mother, why are you -" - "What? I don't think I -" - "Mother!! Remember I have a job to -" - "I'm not sure -" - "I can try, and of course I'm happy that you're coming, but it's been rather busy lately -" - "Mother, all I promise is that I'll try. Why don't you ask Frances -" - "You wouldn't dare -" - "Ok, I'll fetch you from the airport! Bye!"
'Great!' Laura thought wiping away the cold sweat from her forehead. 'First this terrible nightmare, and then Mother's coming!' She looked at the clock - 10 p.m. She didn't feel like sleeping now, she remembered far too well the events in her dream that had been mercifully interrupted by the phone. 'Would it really go that way?' Laura started to think about the last four years, years of up and downs, years of surprises, challenges, arguments, disappointments...
"Morning, morning, morning." Remington's cheerful greeting didn't match his mood. He didn't feel so cheerful, but Mildred was the last person he could make responsible for that.
"Morning, boss!"
"Miss Holt's already in here?"
"Yeah, but obviously she hasn't slept well. She looked quite pale and hardly acknowledged me when she came in. What have you done this time?"
"Nothing! At least nothing that would have such an effect on her." He sighed. "I'll look after her a as soon as I have some coffee. You didn't try to ask her?"
"I tried but it was like talking to a brick wall. What's up?"
"Mildred, honestly I don't know, but I'll find out! Where's she?"
"She went directly to the conference room."
That was strange. Why not her office?

After preparing two cups of coffee he walked to the conference room, knocked at the door and entered it without waiting for a reply. Yes, Laura was sitting on the sofa looking pale and uncomfortable. She looked up not at all surprised to see him. He didn't know what to say so he just offered, "some coffee?"
Surprised she stammered, "oh, yes, thank you." After a pause she continued. "We have to talk. About us, our relationship. And I mean real talk, not just accusations!"
Thinking about the spa some time ago he inwardly agreed. That quarrel had left too many questions unanswered, and they both had avoided picking up this sensitive subject again. But he was curious as to what had made Laura change her mind about it.
After laying down the two cups on the table he went to the still open door. "Mildred, please hold any calls. Until this city lies under nuclear attack, someone's going to pulverize this building or the police wants to arrest me for some reasons I don't know -" he knew his joke was quite weak, "- or may know, we're not going to be disturbed by anything!"
"Got it, boss!"
Laura watched him locking the door and taking seat opposite of her. She wasn't sure how to approach the subject. She silently admitted that she never have been good in admitting mistakes. "Well..." she started silently praying he knew what she was going to say but also knowing that it would have been a great shock if this had been the case. "I thought a lot last night, about our relationship, how we handled it."
'Great beginning,' she thought sarcastically half awaiting some remarks from him just to distract her but also grateful he wasn't doing it. She had to go through with it, and the sooner the better. He was still silently gazing at her, awaiting her to go on and silently, so it seemed to her, encouraging her to go on.
"In fact I had a nightmare about us, it included our marriage, and most of the things that could have gone wrong went wrong." She couldn't sit any longer and started to pace. "When it finally seemed to come to a *Happy-Ending* the telephone started to ring. It certainly reminds me of our usual way." From the corner of her eye she saw him trying to say something and she stopped him immediately. "Don't say anything until I have this out of my system. Please!" He nodded. "The funny thing about it is the fact that all started to go this bad in this dream because of something I had done. I usually don't give a damn about interpretations of dreams, but this was - scary. I started to wonder whether things could have gone this way or if they're already going this way. First of all I think I have to apologize to you." She was now standing right in front of him. She was searching for signs of triumph in his face, which would have been an indication that her fears might not have been in vain, but all she could see was sadness and sympathy displayed on his features. This made it both easier and harder to go on. "I apologize for accusing you that you'd only stayed for the *ultimate moment*!" She was still using a euphemism for that. "I should have realized that this wasn't your final goal after my house was blown up." She was thinking shortly about the half-year that followed this incident: the time he thought she was shot, her second *art theft*, the affair with the Auburn, how he tried to protect her because of the framing scheme of Descoine, all those times he showed how much he cared for her - until Cannes. She had realized last night that she never really had forgiven him that. She had thought that she was ready to commit to him, but he was anything but paying attention to her. But she'd also realized that she couldn't blame him for that: he'd tried to be loyal to his friends - wasn't loyalty one of the properties she linked with Remington Steele? - And he'd tried not to confront her with his shady partners, he hadn't wanted to choose between them and her. She hadn't handled his former friends well, especially the female ones, although one time with good reason.
Then some weeks later the Rutherford-affair: he'd lied to her because he knew she wasn't fond of Daniel. Daniel meant trouble everytime he was involved, she mused, and Steele had thought she wouldn't let him go with him. He still hadn't trusted her, and that had hurt. But would she have trusted him? Would she have believed him that someone was trying to kill him because he was part of a long-time con he didn't want to finish? She wasn't sure she wanted to know the answer, and she wasn't sure if she told Daniel the objective truth or a subjective lie when she explained Daniel her relationship with 'Harry'.
Also annoying was the fact that he now and then had disappeared without saying a word. Ironically he'd tried to find out what his name was just to show her how much he cared for her, love her - to surprise her, and, honestly, it would have been a nice surprise she admitted - but both times he stumbled over something that would have killed him if she hadn't been there. And after the third time he'd vanished, obviously having gambled away the agency, she didn't even try to visit him in prison because she thought he might pull the ultimate con. She had comprehended the night before that he'd never risked the agency voluntarily.
"I also want to apologize for not trusting you." While saying this she realized that she was sitting again, because one arm was laying around her waist now and gently pulled her to his side. It was comforting, and she laid her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes. She wouldn't have noticed that she was crying if he didn't wipe away her tears with his thumb. She suddenly felt relaxed - relieved - comforted - understood - secure. She didn't want this moment to end but she knew this was only an illusion. While the most nagging feelings had gone now, not everything was resolved - yet.
"Oh Laura", he said still stroking her cheek, "is this your way to say that you love me? If it is you will make me a very happy man, because I do love you!"
She almost stopped breathing. Did she hear what she thought she was hearing? But wasn't she expecting to hear it? It somehow was too good to be true. She opened her eyes and looked straight in his. They seemed to be full of love - for her. 'How can he still love me after all what I have put him through?' she wondered silently.
He continued. "I know you wanted to hear this before - badly - but I, ah, was afraid of losing you if I told you this."
This aroused her curiosity. Why should telling her that he loves her make him lose her?
It was as if he read her mind. "You know, the times we were talking about our relationship and you wanted me to tell you how I feel for you it seemed to me you were always pinning it that way that we were going to consummate it afterwards. I'd lie if I told that I don't want to do that," he smiled, "but, as you put it, it isn't my final goal. With you constantly telling me that I'm just staying for that reason I was afraid that you'd think it was a trick to make it happen. I was afraid of losing every bit of respect I ever earned, afraid of losing every bit of faith you ever had in me."
She gulped. Had she really combined both things all the time? She blushed. If this was the case she really had put him into a dilemma. She remembered the spa. While she expected him to say the words she also accused him that *the only part you're interested in is a little lower than the brain*. She felt like crying again.
Now she felt his second arm moving around her and she felt him embrace her. She returned it in understanding.
Somehow he managed to make her sit on his lap. Now he could make eye contact without bending his head awkwardly. He pulled her closer and kissed her, a kiss of love - reassurance - forgiveness.
"Yes, I love you, too," she managed to answer the still open question.
For some minutes they just sat there holding each other, not knowing what to say or to do. He then cleared his throat. "Well, I know, Laura, I haven't made it easy for you. I certainly have my faults. I don't like talking of my past, and keeping it secret or not revealing too much was not encouraging your trust in me. The truth is it contains many unpleasant things and memories, mistakes I don't want to be reminded of. One conclusion I drew was never to trust anybody more than necessary. It became a second hide. I also wanted to be as independent as possible, so I was used to do things without informing anybody because only few people would have cared - if at all. I thought that by staying with you, losing my independence, making my face known to everybody, it would be obvious to you that I intended to stay here with you as Remington Steele, but I was expecting too much, you couldn't know what this meant to me. Although I learned to trust you it is still hard for me to talk about it, but I want you to know that you can ask anything."
While he was pausing she thought briefly about what he just told her. He was right, she never would have thought that giving up his anonymity would be some kind of commitment, but she realized that it would be quite risky for him to return to his former trade: his face was well-known now. "And you succeeded in becoming Remington Steele. I think I never realized how close you come to my fictional boss. Perhaps even too much..."
"I take it as a compliment, but what is wrong about taking over the ideals of Remington Steele?"
"By becoming the man I envisioned I could easily forget that you have your own personality. So I just expected you to do things *my* Remington Steele would have done and was disappointed or even angry when you didn't act that way."
"I think there were times when I was quite unbearable as Remington Steele," he admitted ruefully. "When I bought those flowers and charged the agency, when I tried to make you feel like a subordinate..."
She grimaced. That she would subscribe wholeheartedly. Now talking about subordinate... "I wasn't fair to you, either. While I expected you to be a team player I didn't play by the same rules. You were right complaining that at the Courtney-doll-affair."
She knew that they weren't finished yet, but the most pressing points were taken care by now. She snuggled closer, enjoying the soft movement of his chest while he was breathing.
After some minutes of peaceful silence he asked: "Would you like to tell me about the nightmare that made you wanted to talk about us? You said that things went terribly wrong and perhaps we could avoid them."
She sighed and wondered why he had to bring this up disturbing their peaceful moment, but she had to admit that sooner or later they would have to take care of the office, and she knew he was curious. Even she would have been. The sooner they could close that chapter the better.
"Well, it all started that you acted strangely while we were taking care of an embezzling affair. I later learned that you were preparing your marriage with Clarissa, the call girl and friend of Bernard, to avoid deportation. Immigration got a hint from Norman Keyes who wasn't overjoyed by the fact that his insurance firm signed a contract with RSA that would make him contact us in important cases."
He chuckled. "Me and Clarissa? Even I could think of a better bride than her. She may be a nice girl, but it would have taken Immigration less than two days to look through the con."

She couldn't help but smile. Of course he was right. No sensible human being and no employee of Immigration in general, would have taken this marriage seriously, not under those circumstances.

"Naturally you hadn't told me of your little problem," she saw him making a face and regretted the sarcastic tone; didn't he admit a half-hour before that confiding people wasn't his strongest point? Hastily she went on. "Well, Norman Keyes wasn't happy about this event, either, and after finding out about her business he made the police arrest her. Without a bride you were going to be deported and I would have lost everything so I agreed to marry you under the condition the marriage would be a fake. I didn't want to have a real marriage with somebody who preferred someone like Clarissa over me." She bent her head down about this thought. She felt him squeezing her gently and she looked up.
"Laura, I don't know how I would react if Immigration had been after me, but I know one thing for sure: a fake marriage would have been out of question, and a real marriage without you participating as my bride would have been unthinkable. Both alternatives would have meant that I lose you. I probably would have tried to get some papers with Daniel as back up and I would have told you about this problem. I know what this agency means to you and I would have realized the threat it meant. I remember quite well what you went through losing your license while investigating the background of William Westfield. You wouldn't be the Laura Holt I've fallen in love with if you were without the agency. There were many times I wished I could have taken you to some place safe and secure, but I did comprehend that you wouldn't be yourself anymore."
"I believe you," and she really did. She had felt the same way. She was thinking of their dispute after he was beaten up at the Courtney-doll-affair. That had also lead to the conclusion that their *no-mixing-business-with-pleasure-agreement* of Cannes was worthless.
She knew she was walking on thin ice but she couldn't resist: "In case this falsifying of papers would have failed, would you have asked me to marry you?"
He sighed and shook his head. This question lead to nowhere. "Laura, I accept the agency as part of you, but I never would marry you because of the agency." He was wondering if he should say something more, but this topic was far too sensitive for his taste right now. Not that he wasn't sure about his feelings and wishes concerning her, but he still wasn't sure how'd she react. He didn't want to rush things or push her to something she wasn't ready. He had waited over a year to hear her saying that she loved him, that she would overcome her insecurities, he didn't want to give them the chance of taking the better part of her again by rushing her.
Laura accepted the answer. She felt that there was something he was holding back but she decided to trust that he may have good reasons not to reveal everything. There were some things that even she would rather not discuss with him - at least for now.
She continued with her nightmare. "After this marriage you became, well, if you think you were unbearable as Remington Steele then you were right near to impossible! I won't tell details because I know you wouldn't do anything like that," 'I hope,' she silently added. "We went for our honeymoon to Mexico which was paid by Mildred as wedding present. We arrived at a tumbledown hotel in a god-forsaken province. We decided to leave the hotel but you couldn't pay the bill because they didn't accept traveler's checks there. So you had to leave me as deposit while you were searching for a way to Las Hadas. While I was quite angry because of you, of Mildred and of this hotel I took a walk in the jungle and met there a man, I think his name was Tonio or something like that. He said he was an archaeologist. He was friendly and took care of me because I had lost my way somehow. We finally met at an exquisite hotel in Las Hadas, you didn't show any signs of jealousy towards Tonio who was still accompanying me, and we met Keyes. He provoked you and you had a quarrel. Later you found him murdered in your room and you were arrested while trying to remove his body. To make it short, Keyes had everything arranged, even his faked death and we could prove it with help from Tonio. We were returning to LA and tried to convince this Immigration person that we were the perfect couple. While awaiting her I found an old female friend of yours in our bed and I dealt her as bad as I dealt every former acquaintance of yours, didn't even give you the possibility to explain. Before the eyes of this new employee of immigration I flew in the arms of Tonio introducing him as my brother. We later learned that he was supervisor in this Immigration-affair." She stopped for breath, shuddering with disgust over this whole thing.
"If you don't want to talk about it, just leave it. I don't want to know all its gory details if it makes you feel sick," he gently offered.
"It's okay, I just go on with the *highlights*. This older acquaintance of yours, Shannon, tried to marry you because she had debts. She knew that you had inherited something form the Earl of Claridge what we didn't know at this time. You tried to get rid of her and eventually told her that our marriage was a fraud. She told this Tonio hoping that so our marriage would be stopped, but he had other plans. He blackmailed you for some espionage affair, and you did your best just to keep me out of everything so I couldn't see through his double game. After that we went to your heritage, a castle with lots of debts. On the way we met Tonio who was framed and accused you of being responsible for that. Although I learned of his double game I didn't get rid of him nor did I really want it. He had told me some time before that he had fallen in love with me, and I could so easily believe this." She snuggled closer while he stroked her trying to think of the best way to end the story. She was relaxed by his soothing caress and was surprised how tense she had become. "To make things more complicated we met Daniel there. I found out by coincidence that he was your father, but he refused to tell you because he was afraid of losing you. He was there to help someone get someone out of the USSR. Conveniently their embassy wasn't this far away. With Tonio trying to prove his innocence as double agent and Daniel trying to offer him as payment for the information he needed, there was a happy to and fro from castle to embassy with the Soviet attaché. At last we managed to persuade the Soviet attaché to desert his country for his own sake. He revealed the true double agent, Tonio's superior. The police had to take Tonio away because of the warrant, but he was cleared. Daniel was dangerously ill when we arrived. I knew it but had promised not to tell you. He told you that he was your father, and after you made his peace with him he died, not telling you your real name. He managed to get two funerals: one as a hero by exposing the double agent in London, while he was buried in Moscow as dead Soviet attaché, of course also with all honors."
She could feel him shaking with inner laughter. As crazy as this nightmare has been, it seemed to be so typical for Daniel to con even when he was dead. She couldn't resist and had to smile herself, but her smile faded when she thought about the end of the dream.
"After watching the news about both burials we went to our room to finally consummate our relationship, but the phone was ringing and I had nothing better to do than answer it." She gulped, and her tears almost started to fall again. "It was Tonio, he explained that he was released and wanted to meet me. I believe I hadn't given him the impression of a happily married woman, and during an earlier conversation concerning this I think I said something like I couldn't go back." She felt him squeezing her gently and managed to relax lightly.
"Laura, it was only a dream, a bad dream, everything will be alright!" he tried to calm her.
"Well, after not granting his wish and hanging the phone up I went upstairs to our room where you were awaiting me with open arms when the phone started ringing again -"
"Figures! Was it Mildred this time?"
"- And I woke up." After she had finished his comment sank in and she had to smile. "No, it was my mother announcing that she would arrive tomorrow and she threatened that she would call you to ensure my fetching her. I don't know what I shall do with her. What do you suggest?"
"Laura, you can't avoid your mother eternally. And I don't think that you really want to do that. I know you can't stand the way she's trying to make you lead a life that she thinks fits you, but I think it's just her way to show you how much she cares for you. And I think you know this deep down inside you. And you love her, too. Can you imagine her suddenly not interfering your life? I don't think you would take it well."
He was right. How could he manage to see all those things that escaped her?
"Well, Laura, to make things easier for you I could escort you and we both fetch your mother from the airport. I think our timetable will allow that. Perhaps she will be more reserved with me being around - and maybe we could make her speechless by shocking her."
"Shocking her? How?" Now Laura looked alarmed. 'What the hell did he have in mind?'
"We, ah, could announce - our engagement!" Now the bomb had dropped.

Laura tried to get to her feet, but he wouldn't let her go. His grip was firm but not painful. She knew she could break it easily but after seeing his eyes calmly watching her she stopped struggling.
"Laura, if there's any sense in this conversation, then we have to go on with our personal relationship. I won't ask you to marry me right now, which would be too soon - for you. An engagement wouldn't bind you to anything. You should see it as a symbol of our commitment. It would give us time to adjust our lifestyles. I won't rush you to anything you don't want to do. All I ask is to spend more time together, not just one evening here or there. We should spend more nights together. It wouldn't be the first time, and nothing has to happen, if you're afraid of that. But if we ever decide to take the final step, then it should be on a solid base. We could learn more of each other, learn to accept the darker sides of our characters, our fears and our demons. I know it's just a formality, but if we both mean it honestly we're both bound to it. And if we realize that we can't work it out - may God spare us from that - we can separate as friends and continue as partners knowing that we care for each other."
Laura tried to relax. He certainly had a point. What did they really know of each other? She thought about the time she had spent with Wilson. They both had thought that they had loved each other, but he couldn't cope with her impulsive streak. He also wanted her to change. But what about Remington? He hadn't seemed to be offended by her acting in this *Harry*-affair. This had been the real Laura Holt, this had been the Laura Holt that would dance with only some fans covering her. She had to smile at that thought. She'd told him that she maybe would show him this dance. She wasn't sure if she really wanted to uncover her old self. It contained too much sad memories, for example Wilson's leaving without a word. Perhaps she had been so angry all those times when Remington had left without leaving note because it reminded her of Wilson. She realized that all those thoughts lead to nothing, only time would tell. She - they - couldn't stand there frozen in time. They had to move forward and hope for the best.
"You're right. We have to move forward, and I think what you said is sensible." She heard him sighing with relief. "I think we both have to overcome this or that, and it will probably be easier when we're doing it together." It was true, talking about her faults and hearing him admitting his' hadn't been this hard after she learned that he understood her - or tried to - and she tried to understand his motivation. It dawned her that this was the difference. Wilson had never understood her, he may have loved her but he never wanted the whole package she consisted of.
It was also different from Cannes; that time they both had just been concerned for themselves thinking that they both were doing what was right. She shook her head sadly when she thought about all the times they suffered when it could have been avoided had they communicated well. But this was part of a process to maturity, and she hoped that they were both mature enough for living together. He had spoken of adjusting lifestyles. They both had completely different backgrounds, and this had lead to different opinions, priorities and habits. They both had to find the balance of tolerance and right for individuality. But they had the will to try.
He saw the determination on her face and leaned slightly forward to kiss her forehead. That seemed to break the spell she had fallen under, and she turned her head and smiled. "You haven't come prepared yourself for this occasion, have you?"
"If you're talking about an engagement ring - I have one piece in mind that I think would fit nicely to you. If you give me half an hour..."
"Well, if we want to celebrate this appropriately I certainly need much more time, and you probably, too."
"What about Mildred and the office?"
"I don't think that Mildred will have any objections for our early leaving if she knows the reason. As far as I remember we don't await any clients today, I intended to finish some case files, but that can wait until this afternoon, and with your help we'll finish it before the night starts and have a long cozy evening." 'It's the right time to show him what I expect from him,' she thought. 'I can't tolerate it that I'm doing the dull work while he's reading the papers.'
She was surprised to see him smile. "I agree. I hope your mother won't mind us staying this long in the office and not entertaining her."
"Speaking of my mother, why should it be shocking for her if we tell her that we're engaged? I think she will be overjoyed! She was almost expecting it."
She saw him trying to hide a wicked grin. "Did you ever do what your mother wanted you to do?"
She took a deep breath and tried to look serious, but after some seconds she had to give up and smiled. "If you put it that way, it certainly will be the shock of her life."
The End - or the beginning - or the beginning of the end - or the end of the beginning?
It's up to you to decide.

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