Authors Note: I just borrowed the characters. I dont make money off them. All rights, etc., belong to MTM. No posting without my permission. NC-17 (Very briefly).
If the 1994 Northridge earthquake had occurred in 1985. . . . Here's another "what if" story set after Steele Alive and Kicking in Season 4. "Bonds of Steele" and Season 5 never happen.
No matter what name he carried over the years, Sunday mornings seemed to be perfect for sleeping in. Of course, that was usually because he was out late on Saturday night and had lots of rest to catch up on.
This explains why he was awake at the absurdly early hour of nine on this bright Sunday morning. Laura had cancelled their plans on Saturday night, giving the rare excuse of a splitting headache. He offered to stay the evening with her, but she waved him off, insisting she was going to take some aspirin and go to bed for the night. There was enough strain in her voice that he believed her. Suddenly left without plans for the evening, and more specifically, without Laura, Remington found himself at a loss for what to do. Eventually, he settled on watching Notorious and drinking a glass of wine. At eleven, he went to bed out of sheer boredom.
Five minutes after waking up, Remington was dialing Lauras number to see how she was feeling today. No answer. He frowned at the phone before hanging it up. After a quick shower, he tried again. Still no answer. He dialed the office and the car phone. No answer at either place.
It took only fifteen minutes to drive from his place to hers in the Auburn. He rapped on the door to her loft with the back of his knuckle. He knocked again before he heard the slat being pulled back in the door.
Laura looked like death warmed over. Pale, shaky, and still wearing her pajamas, she held her hands up. Dont come near me. I think I have the plague.
Ignoring her, Remington placed a hand against her face as he came inside. Youve got a fever.
She struggled with the door until he reached across and closed it for her. I know. I feel terrible. She hadnt slept well the night before. The headache hadnt abated until well after midnight, and the residual tension in her neck and shoulders kept her from sleeping much for the rest of the night.
Have you eaten? Ill lay a ten she says no.
Not really. It seems like a lot of effort.
I win. Laura, you really must take care of yourself when youre ill. Had she ever been sick? He couldnt remember. Injured, yes. But sick? Never. Go lie in bed or on the sofa; I dont care which.
Mr. Steele, I promise Ill be fine, she said wearily.
Then youll have to accept my clucking over you like a mother hen. He led her to the sofa, tucking a blanket around her before pressing a soft kiss to her heated forehead. When he brought a pillow from her bed, she put her head on it, feeling dreadful but comforted by Remingtons presence.
He poked around in her larder. Good Lord, woman, dont you eat? As usual, all he found were a few pieces of fruit, some cheese, and yogurt. Oh, and the bottle of Dom he always kept stashed on the bottom shelf. In a cabinet, he found a single can of chicken broth which he warmed on the stove and served to her in a cup.
Drink this. Im going to the market. If Im going to stay here with you, at least one of us should be able to eat.
Once again, Laura protested but was inwardly relieved when he shot her his "dont argue with me" look. She never won anyway she rationalized inaccurately as she sipped her broth.
Where are your keys? I dont want to wake you when I come back.
On the counter, I think, she mumbled in misery. Remington picked up her keys and locked her inside. He decided to take her Rabbit as well. It was much better for carrying groceries than the Auburn.
While Remington shopped at the market for fresh food and the makings of chicken noodle soup, he had the idle thought to swing by his own place and pack a change of clothes. It wouldnt be the first time he spent the night on her couch, and probably not the last. It couldnt hurt to throw in a few of his favorite movies while he was there.
He stopped a woman with three kids in the market, flashing a charming smile. May I ask you a question? What would you recommend for a fever?
Normally, the woman would have been annoyed at the interruption, what with her fussy infant and two young children bouncing in the basket, but his smile made her sigh, and his accent warmed her toes. For an adult or kid?
Ah, adult. Shes feeling a bit under the weather, and I want to make her comfortable.
The woman pointed out three different choices, indicating her favorite, and made a mental note of recounting this conversation to her husband. Maybe he would be more sympathetic the next time she was sick.
Remington bought them all along with a new thermometer. He wasnt sure if Laura had one at the loft. If she did, he could take it to his place.
Laura was sleeping when he returned. Quietly, he unloaded the groceries and put them away before starting a pot of soup to simmer during the day. He put a hand to her forehead. She seemed warmer than before, but he wasnt sure. He had a hard time waking her for lunch, but he persevered and managed to get a few spoonfuls of soup into her. Her temperature was 101 according to the thermometer.
By nightfall, Laura was alternately shivering and sweating. She woke briefly to shower and change into fresh pajamas. Remington insisted that she take acetaminophen along with another sip of broth while she was up. She staggered to bed afterwards with Remington supporting her the whole way. He sat on the edge of the bed and stroked her hair until she fell asleep.
Afterwards, he sat at Lauras desk and dialed Mildreds number.
Mildred, Steele here.
Oh, hello, Mr. Steele. How are you this evening?
Ah, Im, ah, calling about Ms. Holt. Shes quite ill, and I doubt shell be in the office tomorrow.
Uh oh, thats terrible. Whats the matter with her?
Shes got a fever, a rather good one, I should say.
Are you going to stay with her, Boss?" Mildred wanted to know. "If shes got a fever, she probably shouldnt be alone.
I am. Ill stay with her tonight.
Good idea, Chief. Ill talk to you in the morning.
Thank you, Mildred. He hung up the phone.
Remington checked on Laura, noting her fever was down a bit after her shower. He settled in with TV and the remote, rapidly clicking through channels. He gave up and popped one of his own videos into Lauras VCR. He couldnt resist checking on her every twenty minutes or so, but she seemed to be sleeping well at the moment. After the first hour, he settled in to finish watching Sunset Boulevard.
As the credits rolled, Remington looked in on Laura again. Her temperature had climbed to 103, and she was shivering. He resettled the covers around her and added a light blanket. She woke briefly but went back to sleep again, almost immediately, when he stroked her hair once more. He fretted, wondering if he should stay awake to watch over her during the night.
Laura alternated between dozing lightly and having odd, vivid dreams. She was vaguely aware of Remington settling down next to her that night and lightly resting his hand on her arm. She turned toward him and shifted so that their fingers entwined while they slept.
She was dreaming of walking with him along the beach; only this time, instead of exchanging letters, she found the courage to tell him she loved him.
Shortly after 2 a.m., Remington woke, conscious of his need to check on Laura. He pressed a hand to her forehead, but it didnt seem any different than before. Relieved, he closed his eyes and slept.
Laura was dreaming of London. He'd left because he loved her; she followed because she loved him.
At 3:45 in the morning, Remington was abruptly awakened by Lauras violent shivering. He brushed his hand across her head and found it was sweaty. He fumbled for the lamp and the thermometer. Good God, her temperature had spiked to 105. He rolled off the bed and retrieved the acetaminophen from the kitchen.
Laura, wake up. You need to take your medicine. Laura, Laura, darling, wake up for me. He stroked her forehead and shook her gently, noticing that her pajamas were soaked with sweat. Laura? But she wouldnt wake, even after several minutes of prodding. Remington was terrified. He had next to no experience with illness and had no idea what to do with her. He called her doctor but could only leave a message with his answering service. For thirty long minutes, Remington rocked Laura, trying to rouse her enough to drink water, take medicine, anything. At four-thirty, when the doctor hadnt returned his call, he gave in and decided to take her to the emergency room at the nearby hospital.
He was lifting her into his arms when all hell broke loose. The earth rippled below his feet, throwing him off balance. The force of the quake threw the two of them into the railing separating Lauras bedroom from the rest of the loft. Pictures and small furniture crashed to the ground, and Remington could feel small bits of concrete raining down on him from the ceiling. He tried to cover Laura as three of her windows shattered loudly.
He looked up in time to see the bed dancing across the floor toward them in an eerie pantomime, as if a puppeteer was controlling the strings. With strength born of fear, Remington pulled Laura out of the way as the bed crashed into the rail. He stumbled and sat down hard with Laura in his lap. A deafening pop sounded as the transformer outside the building blew, and the loft settled further into darkness.
Remington could feel Lauras burning heat as she lay limp in his arms. He kissed her forehead and hugged her, afraid to let go. As he tried to get to his feet, another ripple of the earth knocked him to his knees. Desperately, he clutched Laura and tried to hold himself steady. His heart pounded. Oh, he had experienced his fair share of earth-shaking; after all, he lived in L.A. This? He hadnt been through anything like it.
Someone banged on the door. Ms. Holt? Ms. Holt? Are you okay? Remington scrambled to his feet, carrying Laura. He started to set her on the bed, but his hands brushed glass. He lifted her again, and he picked his way through darkness to the sofa, wincing at whatever he was stepping on before putting her down. He heard more banging on the door. Ms. Holt. Ms. Holt! Remington pulled the door open. Mr. Steele! Lauras downstairs neighbor shined a flashlight in his face.
Ah, yes, Mr. Bartholomew. Steele held up a hand to block the light.
Sorry, are ... are ... is Ms. Holt okay?
Shes rather ill, actually. I was about to take her to the hospital. High fever.
Youll never get there. The roads are blocked with debris and cars tossed all over the place. This is a bad one, Mr. Steele. I was going to tell Ms. Holt that if you smell gas to be sure to turn it off. Who knows what pipelines were broken in this thing.
Thanks, thanks for the advice, mate. He tried to break off the conversation to return to Laura, but the other man stopped him.
About Ms. Holt, how bad is her fever?
One hundred four, one hundred five.
As long as weve got water, try getting her to take a bath. The cool water can bring a fever down.
Remington raised his eyebrows. Ill try that. Thanks again, mate. He shoved the door shut and dodged spilled furniture and glass dotting the floor. He had to move the bed a few inches to reach Lauras side table. Another ten she keeps a flashlight in the drawer. Ah, easy money.
He found his shoes and headed for the bathroom, kicking aside debris and praying the water would hold out long enough to cool Laura down. He set the thermometer and flashlight on the counter, pointing the latter upward to cast a dim glow over the room. He got lucky with the water. While the tub was filling, he returned to Lauras side. His hands hovered for a moment over her pajama buttons, not wanting to betray her privacy. But her clothes were already soaked, and she was sweating profusely.
Grateful for the darkness, Remington stripped Laura out of her clothes and carried her into the bathroom. It took some maneuvering, but he lowered her into the tub. He had to support her with one arm and cup his other hand to pour water over her hair. His arm was starting to cramp when Laura began struggling and crying out in confusion.
Cold water, drowning, where was Remington? Why wasnt he here? S-s-s-so colddd. Why? Why water? S-s-s-so dark?
Shh, Laura. Its all right.
Mr. Steele? her voice quivered with fear.
Laura, youve a very high fever. Youre in water to help cool you down. The lights are off because theres been an earthquake and we lost power. His calm voice must have gotten through to her because she suddenly relaxed against him.
Her voice was slightly stronger. Im cold.
Let me take your temperature. If its come down a bit, Ill let you out. In the darkness, he could barely make out her nod. Can you sit up for a minute?
I th-think so-so.
Come on then. He raised her up, waiting a moment to see if she had her balance. She crossed her arms on the side of the tub and laid her head on them. He stroked her damp hair while he waited for the thermometer reading, wishing he could make her feel better. After a couple of minutes, he saw the mercury had dropped somewhat. Its down to 103. If I let you out, will you take more Tylenol?
Good. Now look at me, Laura. She slowly raised her head to meet his gaze. Without shifting his eyes from hers, Remington reached in and pulled the drain plug. He helped Laura stand and wrapped one of the bath towels around her before lifting her into his arms. The bed was covered in concrete dust and glass; therefore, Remington sat her in a hurriedly dusted-off chair while he quickly stripped off the covers and sheets.
She was wrapped only in the towel while he searched her dresser for clean pajamas. On a normal day, this could be quite a treat. But tonight he was looking for something simple to pull over her head. He found a shortish nightgown that looked as if it would do. Laura, I swear Im going to get you sexier things to wear at night. Oh, the pjs she wore around him were pretty enough, but there were a couple of outfits in that drawer that should never, ever clothe the female form.
It took only a minute for him to slide the nightdress over her head and pull the towel away from underneath. In another drawer, he found clean sheets and a couple of blankets. With the bed remade, he retrieved the medicine and water from the kitchen before resettling Laura into the bed. Cooler and more comfortable, she fell asleep in moments.
Remington sat down wearily beside her, listening to the sounds of sirens and frightened voices through the broken windows. He looked at his watch. It was 5:35. Had it only been an hour? The phone rang.
Mr. Steele? This is Dr. Mullins. I cant believe I got through. The phone lines have been jammed.
You mentioned Ms. Holt has a fever, Mr. Steele. Tell me whats happening.
Remington gave him the short version.
Youre doing the right thing. Ill tell you, the hospitals are packed with critical injuries and the walking wounded. Two of them are damaged so badly that they cant take any patients. Even if you could get there, the odds of Ms. Holt picking up a secondary infection right now are very high. Her best chance for a good recovery is there with you. Do you have water and gas?
Steele rubbed his face, thinking. He remembered the hot water. So far.
Boil the water before you cook with it or drink it. It would be a good idea to fill up every container youve got with boiled water just in case either the gas or water goes out. It will be a couple of days before the damages can be assessed, much less repaired, so theres no telling what will happen.
The doctor continued, Keep Ms. Holt hydrated and try to keep her temperature below 104. Ill check around today and see if I can find a doctor who lives near you that can bring you antibiotics. It sounds as if she may be fighting some sort of bacterial infection. The fever should burn it out, but a little extra insurance would help. Ill check back in with you later today to see how shes doing.
Thank you, doctor. I ... thank you. He hung up the phone.
Wearied and upset for Laura, Remington picked his way through the loft to the damaged kitchen. With his flashlight, he looked around for anything that could hold liquid, and for the next hour-and-a-half, he boiled water.
The dawn began streaking the sky around six. By seven, Remington could see the extent of the damage in Lauras apartment. If it was heavy, it had shifted several feet. If it was light, it had been tossed to the floor. Concrete flakes littered the whole lot, having been shaken off the walls and ceiling. Everything on the kitchen counters had landed on the floor along with most of the contents of the cabinets. Remington lifted the lid to the piano. It appeared to be undamaged although it was covered in dust.
At least the tea canister was still intact. He sipped a cup while he began the process of mucking out the flat, starting with Lauras bedroom. She never moved as he shifted the bed and dresser back into place. He swept and mopped the floors and wiped off the table tops with rags he found in her little utility closet. Most of her little knickknacks were broken, shattered beyond repair when they hit the floor. It made him sad to see Lauras home tossed about, especially since he knew how hard she'd worked on it after losing her first house.
Finally, the bedroom was as clean as he could make it. Laura was still sleeping well, so he dove into the shower to rinse off all the dust. There was nothing he hated worse than being dirty or hungry. Too many bad memories of both.
He crawled into Lauras bed again, this time holding her close as they slept.
Laura was dreaming of Remington. This time, he was in her bed, holding her. She felt ... loved.
* * * * *
Throughout the day, small tremors shook the building although none compared to the violent upheaval of that morning. Remington came fully awake during the trembling of the first one and gave up sleeping after that. Between coaxing Laura to drink water or broth, Remington did his best to clean up the rest of her loft. He found a battery-operated radio in a cabinet and discovered the full extent of the earthquakes destruction. Freeways had crumbled, roads were impassible, and whole neighborhoods were destroyed by the shaking. Remington tried calling both Mildred and Francis, Lauras older sister, but all he could get was an all circuits are busy message from the operator.
She was dreaming of Acapulco, wondering why Remington wasnt watching the fan dance. She was on the bar again, dancing for him. Why wasnt he there?
Mr. Bartholomew from downstairs knocked on the door at two in the afternoon.
Hello, Mr. Bartholomew.
Hows Ms. Holt?
Ah, still quite ill, but shes resting at the moment.
Good to hear. Um, just wanted to tell you that the supervisor checked out the building, and so far, they think its okay. We wont have power for a few days, but at least we have running water and gas.
Excellent. Ah, tell me, what are the chances of finding a doctor around here?
Ill see if I can find one.
Thank you. Id appreciate that.
Anything else you need?
Perhaps something to board up the broken windows? I like the breeze, but Id rather not entertain any unwanted guests this evening.
Sure thing, Mr. Steele. Mr. Bartholomew paused. You know, its a good thing you were here for Ms. Holt.
Yes, yes, it was. Thank you, mate.
You too, Steele.
A couple of hours later, two of Lauras neighbors boarded up her windows while Mr. Bartholomew brought Remington a bag of ice.
Its not much, but the Red Cross was handing them out down the street, and I grabbed you one. I gave them Lauras address and told them you were looking for a doctor.
Remington dished up a good serving of the soup he had warmed up again on the stove and passed it on to Mr. Bartholomew. Youve done for Laura; the least I can do is give you something in return.
Thanks, Mr. Steele. Its no trouble at all. Just let me know if you need anything else.
She was dreaming of the day she found he was gone. It was too late. Without a single declaration of love, he had already fractured her heart.
Twice more, in that afternoon and evening, Remington had to put Laura in the bathtub. The last time, he gave up trying to protect her privacy. She was so lethargic; he wasnt entirely sure she was even aware of her nudity. He worried because, each time, it took longer for her fever to come down, and it only dropped to 103 both times. She was barely waking up enough to drink water.
She was dreaming of her father. She missed him. But Remington wasnt her father. He came home.
By the time night fell, Remington had most of the place back in order. A good vacuuming would help the process along, but that would have to wait until the electricity was restored. In the meantime, he placed clean sheets over the couch and chairs. He didnt want Laura breathing in any more dust than necessary.
Because of the periodic aftershocks of the earthquake, Remington was afraid to light candles for fear of their falling over and causing a fire. When it was fully dark, even though it was an absurdly early hour by his normal standards, he settled in next to Laura again, hoping the night would be calmer.
Laura was dreaming that Remington was holding her, nuzzling her neck, caressing her.
It was not to be. Lauras fever hovered at 104 for most of the night. She tossed and turned as fevered imaginings took over. She mumbled incoherently and thrashed occasionally, settling only when Remington stroked her hair and talked nonsense to her.
She dreamed. Of what was, of what is, and of what was to be. Remington was there in all of them. But why?
By morning, Remingtons eyes were gritty with the lack of sleep, and he struggled to clear the fog from his head. He looked over and found Laura sleeping fitfully again. He shook her gently, trying to wake her this time. Laura? Wake up, sweetheart. Come on. Wake up. He patted her on the face.
Laura opened her eyes, startling Remington. She smiled sweetly and caressed his throat. Despite their situation, her simple touch felt quite good to him.
How do you feel?
Hot. Very hot.
He quirked a brow. Perhaps youll eat some breakfast? Take a shower?
Remington helped Laura to the bathroom and then raided the freezer where he'd stashed the eggs and milk with the ice. He put together a frittata, hoping to entice Laura into something a little more substantial than broth.
It wasnt until Laura paraded out of the bathroom wearing only a thin t-shirt that Remington suspected a problem. Her hair was lying in wet ringlets on her shoulders, and she practically sashayed into the kitchen where she brushed open Remingtons dressing gown in order to run her fingers across his bare chest. He caught her hands and noted the fever-bright glaze in her eyes.
Come, Laura, sit here and have a bit of egg and juice. He left her at the table and retrieved one of his shirts. He pulled it on over his head and returned to the kitchen to drape his dressing gown over Lauras shoulders. Down, old boy. He felt slightly lecherous at his reaction to his half-naked associate given her current condition.
Laura threw him a saucy wink and dove into her breakfast. When her plate was clean and her glass was empty, she tried to ease off the stool. But three days of illness took their toll, and Remington barely caught her when she fell.
Come on, to your feet, he told her. Laura held on to his neck and shifted forward when she had her balance, touching her lips to his throat.
Remington shivered. Laura, while I would adore returning the sentiments, I dont exactly think this is the time for it. He stepped away from her and drew her toward the bedroom. She crawled onto the bed, lying on her belly, and fell asleep.
She was dreaming of every kiss, every caress she and Remington had exchanged. Her body started to burn with need.
He stroked her hair for a while, then leaned in to kiss her temple. She slept quietly.
Remington took advantage of her quiescence, slipping into the shower before cleaning up the kitchen. Afterwards, when he touched his hand to her forehead once more, he could tell her temperature was rising again.
Mr. Bartholomew knocked on the door and brought in a doctor to look at Ms. Holt. He handed another bag of ice to Remington. Mr. Steele, this is Dr. Brannigan. Shes with the Red Cross, and shes going door-to-door to check on people.
Ah, excellent, right this way, doctor. Lauras neighbor nodded and trotted back to his apartment. Remington tossed the ice into the freezer and followed the woman to Lauras side.
How long has she been ill? The doctor was obviously weary but maintained a very professional demeanor.
Ah, she called me on Saturday with a headache. I came on Sunday, so three or four days, perhaps? Remington recalled. Ive been giving her acetaminophen when I can get her to take it and cool baths throughout to help her temperature come down. She ate a good breakfast this morning, though, the first since Friday or Saturday.
Thats a good sign. How high has the fever been? Any hallucinations?
One hundred five, one hundred six. And shes had odd dreams, I think. Im not entirely sure she was fully sentient this morning.
The doctor nodded as if she expected it. Laura barely awakened for the examination. Remington had to roll her onto her back while the woman listened to her breathing.
Her lungs are clear, and thats the most important thing right now. Ill give her an antibiotic shot to give her system a boost. If the fever doesnt break by tomorrow, we should consider getting her to a hospital. I dont know which one can take her right now; lets keep our fingers crossed. In the meantime, keep doing what youve been doing, although you might try sponging her down instead of giving her a bath to keep her cool. It would be easier on both of you, if not quite as effective.
While she prepped the shot, Dr. Brannigan peered over her glasses at Remington, noting the dark circles under his eyes. You havent had much sleep, have you?
Ah, no, actually. He winced as the doctor poked the needle into Lauras hip. She jumped but settled down as Remington soothed her.
Find a way to get horizontal for a while. You dont want to come down with whatever shes got. Its probably bacterial, but you dont want to take any chances.
Ill do that.
See to it. Heres my card. Call me if her fever doesnt go away by tomorrow evening.
Thank you, doctor.
She clipped out the door, leaving Remington staring morosely at Laura after he saw the doctor out. He decided to take the doctors advice and stretched out beside Laura again.
Her memories wove with her fantasies. Dressed entirely in black after lifting the triptych panel, Laura made good on her promise.
Later it would be funny, but by nightfall, Remington was short-tempered and exhausted. First Mildred had called, then Abigail. Then the building supervisor thoroughly inspected Lauras loft. After lunch, Dr. Mullins called again to check on his patient. Then Mr. Bartholomew knocked, bringing more ice, a jug of water and a few packages of Meals-Ready-to- Eat provided by the Red Cross.
Between interruptions, Remington woke Laura for her medication and to sponge her down periodically. He tried to sleep, but the temperature in the loft had gone up just enough to be uncomfortable. When he opened more windows to let the breeze waft through, he discovered he couldnt sleep with a window left ajar any more than he could with a door unlocked. Silly. Any decent thief could bypass either one, but then again, perhaps he was more concerned with the amateurs.
Laura was fitful for most of the day. She seemed to exist in a strange half-world of wakefulness. Sometimes she would talk about an old case; other times she was mumbling incoherently. At any rate, her temperature was a steady 102.
She was dreaming about airplanes. Remington unbuttoned her uniform jacket.
As the evening sun disappeared from the sky, the loft was once again left in darkness and cooled rapidly from the ocean breezes. Remington closed the windows and crawled into Lauras bed. He wasnt thinking very coherently when he stripped down to his boxers and scooted in next to her. His only rational thought was a vague hope that she would sleep soundly tonight.
She did, more or less. As the fever reached its breaking point, Lauras dazed mind was caught up in the tangle of memories and wishes, all revolving around Remington and her. She could smell and feel him, heightening the increasingly erotic nature of her dreams. She lost herself in the fantasy of touching him, feeling him grow long and hard in her questing fingers. Silk was tugged away, and that unique velvety hardness was revealed. She wanted to taste it. Savor it. Feel it twitch with the heat from her mouth. And when it was throbbing, she had to have even more.
Remington was dreaming of Laura, dreaming she was using that delectable mouth of hers. He groaned as the familiar desire for her rose up and enflamed him. Images of her nude body flashed in his mind. He was frantic to taste her, but she had him at her mercy. He twisted as his control began to fail. She shifted to straddle him and take him inside. Incredible. It felt ... real.
Remington forced his mind to wake with all the mental strength hed developed over the years. Desperately, he tried to regain enough sense to pull Laura away from him, but as his hands clutched her slim hips, she opened her eyes, staring straight at him.
I love you. Whatever your name, whatever role you play, I love you. She stroked his cheek. I love you, Remington Steele.
Her simple words did him in, and he convulsed powerfully within her. She gasped out her own climax and then sank down to lie on his chest. In moments she was sleeping again, leaving Remington dazed and wondering what to do next.
Hesitantly, he placed a hand to the back of her head and kissed her forehead. It was beaded with sweat but cool for the first time. He sighed in relief. In the end, he readjusted his boxers, tugged Lauras t-shirt a tiny bit lower, and then pulled the covers over both of them. It might not have been the smartest thing to do, but it felt right with Laura sleeping with her head pillowed on his shoulder. He closed his eyes, not waking again until morning.
Somebody was staring at him. Blue eyes opened to look into chocolate brown ones hovering inches from his face.
I seemed to have missed a few steps somewhere. Laura seemed amused, rather than distraught, to find him in her bed.
Remington scratched his cheek. Do you know what day it is?
She crinkled her forehead, considering the question. Monday?
Try Wednesday, Laura.
Shocked, she sat straight up and stared at him. What exactly did I miss?
Can I get a cup of tea first? Its a rather long story. Mmm, yes. Quite involved, I should think.
Of course. But she frowned as Remington slid from the bed, wearing only a pair of silk boxers. He retrieved his dressing gown from the foot of it, tied the sash and headed for the kitchen.
Lauras eyes swept the room, noting the missing knickknacks from her table and the boards over the windows. She threw the covers back and was shocked to discover she was clad only in a very skimpy t-shirt. Laura headed for the bathroom, frowning when flipping the light switch didnt do anything.
In the kitchen, Remington was at her stove, heating water for tea. Pots and pans full of water were scattered all over the counters. The last thing I remember clearly was sitting on the sofa and drinking broth. She sat down at the kitchen counter and sipped the tea Remington made for her.
That was Sunday afternoon. He leaned on the counter, rotating his own cup an exact quarter- turn every few seconds. He stopped when he realized he was stalling. Youve been quite ill, Laura. He began relating the events of the past few days, paling a little when he recalled the massive earthquake and how terribly feverish she had been that night.
Laura looked around, realizing that Remington must be responsible for putting her home back together. Hows your flat? And the office?
I dont know. Mildred said she would try to get to the office today, but so many freeways are closed that she might not be able to get through.
Laura nodded. I seem to recall a lot of hazy dreams. Im not really sure whats real and whats not.
If one of them involved a bathtub, it was probably real. Im surprised your fingers arent permanently wrinkled.
You ... bathed me? she squeaked.
I had to, Laura. Your fever was dangerously high, and I couldnt take you to a hospital. Remington started pacing. I dont think Ive ever been quite as frightened as I was that night, he admitted. I was afraid to fall asleep in case your fever spiked again. He went on to tell her about the last two days, of her fitful sleeping and the comfort she seemed to find when he was near. He told her about sleeping with her in his arms so that he could tell when her fever was rising.
From the dark circles still haunting Remingtons eyes, Laura guessed that he hadnt had much sleep since Saturday night. She began recalling her dreams, trying to meld them with the reality of the morning.
Last night, did we ... ? she couldnt get the words out.
He nodded, Laura, you must believe me when I tell you I had no intentions of any kind. I woke up and ... and you were there. I tried to stop but ..., he choked on the words.
But I told you I loved you. I remember that. Very clearly. She picked up a spoon and needlessly stirred her tea. I dont remember everything, but I do remember that.
He walked around the counter and leaned on the edge next to her. He tipped his face to the ceiling. Did you mean it, Laura?
She waited until he dropped his eyes to meet hers. Yes.
Thank God. Laura opened her arms and Remington stepped into her embrace. I love you, Laura Holt. He shivered as the enormity of the past four days sank in on him. He lifted her into his arms and carried her to the sofa where they sat and absorbed each others words for a long while.
A sudden thought stuck in his head. Ah, Laura, I have a rather personal question for you.
Personal? Is there anything left after finding out you gave me a bath, and I didnt get to participate? She raised a brow at him.
Well, next time, you can scrub my back. Remington stroked her cheek. Laura, Ive always been very careful with protection you might say, but last night I was ambushed by a certain lovely woman. I have to ask: are you on the pill?
Lauras mouth dropped open. No. I havent been since Wilson. She covered her mouth, rapidly calculating days. Her stomach suddenly turned sour.
Remingtons own stomach knotted up as he watched Laura grow pale. Well take it as it comes, love.
* * * * *
Their relationship took an abrupt turn that night. In the wake of the earthquake, Remington and Laura spent every ensuing night sharing a bed. It wasnt the wildly romantic affair both of them imagined, but rather, a quiet melding of hearts and bodies that brought them both a great deal of peace and happiness.
They spent the remaining three days of the week cleaning up Remingtons condo and the office. What little work they actually conducted in the office involved locating people after the earthquake. They did this free of charge, and Remington made sure Laura was stuck behind the desk, answering the sporadic phone calls while he and Mildred wrested furniture and files back into place.
The power came back on in Lauras loft on Friday afternoon, enabling them to finish their cleanup and wash all the laundry that had piled up.
Mildred noticed that Mr. Steele and Ms. Holt were oddly easier to be around. While their acerbic humor hadnt lessened in the slightest, the sparks werent flying at all. Instead, a calm contentment seemed to envelop them both. She wasnt sure if it was their friendship shining through in this difficult week or something else entirely.
The following week found the trio getting back to business in the office and Laura getting frustrated at her own fatigue. Dr. Mullins said it was normal after a prolonged fever such as she'd had, but it annoyed her, nonetheless, to have to dump a large portion of the incoming cases into Mildred and Remingtons laps. While they were out tracking down clues, she was stuck answering phones and begging the computer to spit out the information she needed. Remington hovered over her, making sure she slept on his office sofa every single day. She wasnt sure which annoyed her more: his insistence that she take a nap, or the fact she needed one. By the time the week ended, Laura was cranky and miserable.
On the second Monday after the earthquake, Laura tried to resume her normal duties, but found she was still fighting for every last ounce of energy. Before the illness, she was always wand-thin, but since then, she hadnt an ounce of extra flesh on her body. Remington spent the evenings coming up with appetizing soups and concoctions to tempt her palate. Most of it didnt sit well.
Wednesday rolled around, and Mildred was finding ways to escape the volatile workplace, going on even the most spurious of errands to get out of the office. Laura was in a rare temper, snapping at the smallest imagined slight. Even Remington tried to sneak in and out of the office as if he was dodging bullets.
On Friday, Laura and Remington had a fight of stupendous proportions. They were still yelling at each other as Laura shoved open the door of the office with Remington hot on her heels.
Damn it, Laura. Im only asking you to take care of yourself! To not go haring off and chasing cars down the bloody broken freeways of L.A.!
Fine? You were driving like a maniac after that man!
Hes a suspect, and I didnt want to lose him! she yelled, keeping her back to him.
Mildred covered her ears and wondered how many other offices were listening in to the conversation.
Steele took a deep breath and lowered his voice. Laura, this is not the same as it was a month ago; you cant do this. Remington touched her arm.
Laura whirled around. I ... She lost all color in her face, then staggered once as the dizziness overtook her. Remington caught her in his arms as she fainted.
Mildred jumped to her feet and ran to open Mr. Steeles office door. He placed her gently on the couch and sat down on the coffee table, frowning as he watched Laura. Mildred tried to lighten the mood with a joke. Mr. Steele, if it wasnt for her illness, what with all the short-tempers, nausea and fainting going on around here, one would think Ms. Holt was pregnant!
Remington rubbed his face and said very quietly, Precisely, Mildred.
Mildred stood in stunned silence. How had she missed this? You ... you ... youre ...? she stuttered.
He got angry. Yes, Mildred, I am the father. I got her into this mess. Shes not ready for a family any more that I am. He yanked off his tie and threw it across the room.
Mildred sat down in the chair. Her voice was calm and cool as she spoke. I didnt mean to ask if you were responsible, Mr. Steele. I just didnt realize you two were together.
Steele nodded once and put his chin in his hand.
Do you love her, Boss?
To distraction, Mildred.
She loves you.
Shes bound to be terrified. After all, theres the agency to think about and you and the baby, all at once. Give her time.
We dont have time, Mildred, Remington snapped. We cant do this little dance as we have for the past four years.
Then help her find the answers. Help her find a way to manage the agency so that shes not giving up everything she worked so hard for.
I dont know if I can. I dont know if shell let me.
Mildred crossed her arms. Do you want her?
Of course, I do!
Do you want the baby?
Remington looked up at her. I ... yes, actually. I could have hoped for better timing, but yes.
You do? That came from Laura as she opened her eyes. She had come around a couple of sentences ago.
Laura, I told you that last night. Remington took her hand.
I guess I didnt believe you. I thought you were telling me what I wanted to hear.
Now he lost his temper, jumped up and started pacing. Laura, when have I ever lied to you? Prevaricated, side-stepped the truth, avoided certain questions like the plague? Yes, I have. But lied to you?
Ben Pearson, Daniel, Cannes ... , Laura began counting off on her fingers.
About us, Laura. Ive never lied to you about us, Remington shot back.
Mildred interrupted, Now you two kids stop this right now. You both can be petrified all you want, but dont take it out on each other. You two got into this together, and Im not just talking about the baby. Now find a way to make this work. You owe it to each other. Both of you are going to have to make some compromises whether you like it or not.
Remington and Laura both had their mouths hanging open by the end of her speech. Yes, Mildred, they chorused.
Now if youll excuse me, I have an office to run. Mildred stood up and yanked her skirt straight before marching out the door.
* * * * * *
Mildreds harsh words spelled the beginning of a real détente between Remington and Laura. They realized that they were on the same team but playing by a whole new set of rules. Laura began to accept the reality of her pregnancy and made plans for the agency. She bounced ideas off Remington and Mildred, and the three of them decided a pair of interns would make a big difference. A great deal of the legwork and stakeout work could be shifted to them over the coming months as Laura needed. Remington and Mildred could handle some of the more sophisticated legwork with Laura still analyzing and sifting through details. A hard rule was drawn by Remington, though, that no matter how tempting the clue was, Laura was not to put herself in danger. She butted up against it from time to time but, for the most part, accepted it as being sensible.
Remington also surprised Laura one night with a pair of wedding rings. Hed always imagined proposing to Laura with some grand gesture that would take her breath away. Instead, they were relaxing in front of the fire in his flat, talking about the changes that were to come. Laura was lying on her back as Remington traced patterns on her belly, trying to fathom the tiny life growing inside her. He placed two boxes on her slightly-rounded tummy.
Laura, Id envisioned that one day I would fly you to Paris and ask you to marry me on top of the Eiffel Tower or some such nonsense like that. Somehow, this seems more appropriate. I do love you, Laura.
Laura eased open first one box, then the other. She set the rings between them and rolled over to her side, propping her head on her hand. Theyre beautiful. You dont have to do this, you know.
I know. But I want to. Will you marry me, Ms. Holt?
Yes, Mr. Steele, I will.
Four days later, Monroe and Mildred witnessed Remington Steele and Laura Holt exchange vows at the county courthouse. They celebrated afterwards with an elaborate dinner for the four of them at Remingtons favorite restaurant.
Surprisingly, Laura discovered she was happy. They were still working out living arrangements, but Laura felt confident they would have something in place in the next two months or so. Remington was up to his neck in baby books, having bought out the local bookstore. He seemed extraordinarily proud of escorting Laura about and introducing her to everyone as his new bride. He referred to himself as her "husband" every chance he got.
As for the agency, Laura had narrowed down the applicants to four. She and Remington would meet with them for one final interview before hiring two of them. It was going to take some interesting rearranging in the office to make it all work, but Laura was looking into additional office space from the suite next door. And, in an ironic role-reversal of their first two years, her new husband made certain that Laura was kept informed of every detail of the cases the agency was working.
A week after exchanging vows, the couple planned to spill the happy news to Lauras family on Friday night. Laura had wanted a quiet wedding and thought her mother wouldnt be nearly as disappointed about missing it if she found out a baby was on the way at the same time.
* * * * *
But sometimes things arent meant to be.
Laura was descending the steps of the courthouse with Detective Jarvis that Friday. They had just finished their testimony, guaranteeing that a murderer was put away for life. Laura was so proud of the fact she couldnt button her jacket this morning. At eleven weeks, her tummy was rounding beautifully on her tiny body. Jarvis was just complimenting her on the pregnancy as they passed a group of attorneys gossiping on the steps.
One of the women adjusted her briefcase strap over her shoulder, inadvertently shoving Laura off balance with her attaché. Jarvis missed catching her arm, and she tumbled down the flight of stairs, landing hard on the concrete.
Mrs. Steele, Mrs. Steele, oh God, Laura! Jarvis yanked his radio off his belt and had an ambulance on its way even before he reached bottom. The woman with the briefcase was on his heels, mortified by what she had done. Laura tried to get to her feet, but the detective made her sit back down.
Laura whispered to him, Call my husband, please. Can you call Mr. Steele? She held her stomach and prayed while he radioed the dispatcher.
Mildred and Remington were at the hospital twenty minutes after she arrived by ambulance. The older woman stayed in the waiting room while Remington navigated the emergency ward to get to his wife.
Laura, he called as he walked into the room where the doctor was examining her. He could see she had been crying, and her face was pale. The doctor was moving a paddle over her stomach, looking for a fetal heartbeat. Laura reached out for his hand which she kissed and held tightly. He stroked her hair while the doctor completed his assessment.
Mr. Steele, Mrs. Steele, I have to tell you that this doesnt look good. I havent found a heartbeat yet, and theres already been quite a bit of bleeding. But since youre only at eleven weeks, its possible Im just missing it. Mrs. Steele, I want you to lie quietly, and well try again in an hour. Im going to get a sonogram tech to come help.
Neither of them said a word, horrified by what the doctor had said. Remington pulled up a chair in the silence and held Lauras hand as they watched the clock together.
They didnt have to wait an hour. Forty-five minutes later, Laura began cramping terribly. The nurse on duty examined her and confirmed the miscarriage.
The nurse was gentle and kind despite the gravity of her news. Im very, very sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Steele. At this point there isnt much we can do except to let nature take its course. Ill leave you two alone for a while.
Laura clutched at Remington, and he moved over to sit with her on the bed. He held her while she sobbed hysterically, and his own tears rolled down his cheeks.
It was a while before Remington could pry himself away from Laura long enough to fill in Mildred. She knew about their big family plans for that night and took it upon herself to call Abigail and break the news, both of the Steeles' wedding and the miscarriage. Surprisingly, Lauras mother drove straight to the hospital and stayed for the rest of the evening. She hugged Remington and dried Lauras tears. In truth, she and Mildred provided a tremendous help that let the heartbroken couple get past their initial shock.
They went home late that night. Beyond their painful loss, Laura had only minor scrapes and bruises from the tumble, and Remington thought she might rest more easily in their bed. He certainly needed to hold her through the night.
The weekend was quiet with neither of them knowing what to say. Mildred brought a casserole to them for lunch and sat with each of them for a while. They both needed coddling and a reminder that none of this was their fault.
On Monday, Laura threw herself into work, taking on the toughest of their caseload to distract herself. Remington didnt say anything, only making sure he partnered her wherever the case called them. Laura was grateful for his solid presence. He seemed to understand that she needed time. For the first time in their relationship, they both consciously made the effort not to push the other away in anger.
But on Friday afternoon, Laura and Remington each made poorly veiled excuses to spend some time apart. Remington headed for a small, backroom boxing gym he frequented. He took out his own sadness and still-raging anger on a punching bag and a couple of willing contenders interested in eating dust that day.
Laura spent her time packing every bit of baby paraphernalia they had already accumulated. From her loft she put away the tiny baby outfits she hadnt been able to resist buying and the stuffed bear that Remington had picked out. She threw out the prenatal vitamins and placed two maternity tops into the box. The tears started streaming from her eyes as she drove to Remingtons flat. She cried while she put away all the baby, parenting and pregnancy books Remington had bought and the baby book she had started. There was only one thing left to put away.
Remington parked the Auburn next to Lauras Rabbit in the garage. He hoped he didnt look too awful. His hands hurt; he was covered in sweat and bruises, and he'd had to wipe away blood from his lip before he got into the car. He felt better though. And then promptly felt guilty over that fact, knowing Laura was still hurting. But for the first time in a week, he felt as if he could think past his own grief.
Laura had left the door unlocked, and Remington pushed it open. There was a box sitting on the sofa, and she was out on the terrace, holding something in her hand. He peeked into the box and winced when he saw what was inside. In this, he was grateful to Laura. He wasnt sure if he could have done it.
He crossed to the open door. Placing his hands on her shoulders, he dropped a kiss on her neck.
She leaned against him, and he could see she was holding the baby-name book. His mouth curved up in a smile. Over the past few weeks, theyd had some truly outstanding arguments, layered with biting insults and graphic threats, over baby names ranging from the ridiculous to the benign. Remington was bent on names from the silver screen, and Laura wasnt having any of it at all. It had become a game they played each night after dinner with periodic flare-ups at the office that left Mildred chuckling and biting back grins at some of the more creative exchanges.
I dont think I can put it away, Laura said softly. I packed everything else up. But I cant seem to put this in the box, too. She stroked her finger over the cover.
Then dont. We lost a child, Laura. We dont have to pretend it didnt happen.
How do you feel?
Sad, of course, and regretful. I hadnt realized how much I wanted a family with you. He rested his chin on her shoulder and wrapped his arms around her waist.
Im still angry. Terribly angry. I know its not logical. It was all an accident. It was an accident in the beginning, and thats the way it ended. Lauras hand tightened on the rail.
Do you really believe the beginning was an accident?
Oh, the timing of it all, perhaps. But not us coming together. Certainly some good came out of it. He lifted her hand and stroked her wedding ring.
I dont have to put that in the box, too?
Never. He tightened his hold on her.
She turned in his embrace. I love you, Remington Steele.
I love you, Laura Steele.
* * * * *
The book stayed on the bedroom bookshelf. From time to time, each of them would page through it and reminisce about what might have been.
It was nearly two years later when Remington came home to find the book on the table with a positive pregnancy test on top and a note lying next to it: