A rough block wall concealed Laura; she peered around it, the stone cold against her cheek. The alley stretching before her was dim and only indirectly lit by a distant streetlamp. The sound of water dripping down a drainpipe echoed in the dark silence of the night. Shivering a bit, she pulled her coat more firmly about her, shifting her tired feet. With a nervous scowl, she shook her head to clear her thoughts.
Fatigue befuddled her. The details of the case that had brought her to this black doorway were vaporizing from her mind, much like the mist rising from the damp pavement. A plaintive cry came from some distance. Laura tensed, listening carefully to discern the direction from which the noise had come. When no further sound pierced the thick quiet of the night, the detective closed her eyes for a moment to think.
Something was wrong.
A sudden chill shook Laura, despite the warmth of her coat, and she crossed her arms tightly around herself.
A low whisper called her name and at the same moment, a firm hand came out of nowhere to pull on her arm and to place within the curve of that arm a whimpering bundle.
Lauras confusion deepened, though even without looking she knew this bundle to be the thing she had been waiting for. Her arm tightened reflexively around it. Struggling to open eyes which refused to obey her, she felt the object squirm against her.
Laura, love, your son is hungry.
Groggily swimming up from an uncertain reality to the very real presence of the child in her arms, she felt her husbands weight settle into the bed in which she lay dreaming. He pulled their comforter up around her shoulders, the night breeze blowing in cool off the ocean. Groping, she adjusted her shirt to allow the babys searching mouth to find her breast. After a few moments, the infant settled into a soft sucking rhythm. Lauras milk flooded in.
Laura cursed softly.
Whats the matter? Harrys sleepy voice asked.
Harry reached among the bundling of the baby to produce a cloth diaper, holding it out to Laura, who took it and pressed it to the breast the child wasnt determinedly draining.
The babys quiet slurp was the only sound in the room.
And then, more softly this time, another curse.
I didnt even hear him cry.
Harry reached out to rest his hand on Lauras head, softly pulling a lock of her hair free, stroking it idly, and offering, Its OK. I heard him.
What kind of a mother doesnt hear her own baby crying?
One whos been caring for a demanding infant all day; one whos been working like a fiend at reorganizing her business to accommodate that child; one whos taking time to write personal thank you notes to every rag tag friend or relation who sent the son of the famed LA detectives a rattle, a ring or a romper. Cut yourself a little slack, Laura.
Laura used her finger to disengage the iron grip of Dylans rosebud mouth before shifting to allow him to empty the other breast.
I cant do this Harry. Im no good at it.
It seems to be working for Dylan.
Harry was smiling. She could hear it in his voice. I dont mean this... I mean this. Everything. Im exhausted. Im crabby. I jump down Mildreds throat every time she opens my office door. I havent worked out even once since I was cleared to exercise; I dont think I could chase this infant to the front door, much less a suspect down the block
Laura. Take a breath, woman. Hush. Dylans really not moving very fast yet. In fact, I think hes asleep.
In a voice so small Harry had to hold his breath to hear her, Laura continued. Yesterday, while you were meeting with the Fischer Group and Mildred had already gone home? I forgot him at the office. Locked the door and was in the elevator halfway down before I realized what Id done. I ran up six flights of stairs and found him sleeping peacefully in his little swing, but it was half an hour before I was calm enough to pick him up and come home.
Harrys answer was simply to settle his hand reassuringly on her head.
They lay listening to the silence for a while before she sighed, slid her hand under Dylan, and shifted him to her shoulder. Moving slowly so as not to jostle the satiated child she carefully pushed the comforter aside and stood. Harry followed her down the hall to the nursery of their new home.
Dylan looked positively angelic lying against the white bedding of his crib. Laura reached in to run her finger down the curve of his silken cheek. He drew in a faintly audible breath and what might be thought a smile flitted briefly across his face.
Harry wrapped both arms around Laura from behind as they watched their son sleep.
When you brought him into me, I was having the most vivid dream. I was on a stakeout, standing in a long dark alley.
Its natural for you to miss the excitement of investigative work, Harry whispered into Lauras ear.
The thing is, in my dream I was confused - terrified, even. Ive always loved being a private investigator. Rarely did I feel so out of control, so baffled, that I was afraid.
Laura gestured at the sleeping child before turning in Harrys arms. This terrifies me, Harry. What if I screw this up?
Bringing both hands up to gently smooth her hair away from her face, Harry contemplated Lauras weary face. He leaned in to kiss her, slowly and tenderly, willing her to feel some part of the confidence she had had in him throughout the years since he had assumed the role of her partner.
Look at me, Love.
There was a long, slow moment during which Laura dragged her eyes to Harrys face. The blue of his eyes was illuminated by a beam of pale moonlight angling in through the nursery window. Her tension eased in the deep, still pools of those eyes.
When I brought Dylan into our bed, were you awake?
No I already told you. I didnt hear a thing.
And as soon as Dylan was in your arms, what did you do?
Just call me Bessie the cow.
Lauura you drew your son close and you nursed him. You didnt have to wake up and figure out your next move. Youre a natural.
Hmm. You think so, huh?
Dont you trust the great Remington Steele?
Dimples puddled briefly around Lauras mouth. Of course, Mr. Steele. Honesty is one of the best of the qualities I imagined you to possess. You have that and far more.
His eyes never left hers as he added dryly, And I can honestly assure you that my mother didnt have a great deal to do with my becoming Remington Steele.
Laura bristled. Whats that supposed to mean? That Dylan would be better off without a mother around to mess things up?
Steele grimaced as he realized his misstep. You are without question the most difficult woman I have ever met. You know thats not what I meant. Laura, was your mother perfect?
Depends on who youre asking.
Abigail Holt is a beautiful, passionate woman, but as I recall, she wanted you to become a dental hygienist. You chose to become Laura Holt, private investigator, security specialist, partner of Remington Steele, and now, a wonderful mum.
Im not sure I thought some of those things through very well.
We didnt have perfect parents, Laura, and we didnt turn out so bad. Theres room for a little failure. Besides, the woman who dreamed up Remington Steele has the intelligence, the imagination and the courage to face whatever challenges parenthood holds. Shes already managing her son flawlessly. Just like she manages his father, eh? Harrys eyebrow rose impishly.
And if I forget to pick him up from school because I get too busy at work? Or dont hear him call me when hes fallen off his bike and gotten hurt?
It will be OK, because Ill be there, too. He smiled his most winning smile at Laura.
Dylan hiccupped and stirred, stretching one tiny fist up as high as his shell-like ear as the other fluttered under his chin. Laura turned to him, reaching down to cup his downy head in her hand as she quieted him with a few softly sung notes of a low lullaby.
Harry stood next to her, captivated by the sight of mother and child. When all was still once more, he pulled his wife close and murmured into her the crook of her neck, Youre the perfect mother for our son. You carried him in your body for nine long months, gave birth to him, and through some process completely beyond my grasp, youre providing the nourishment thats making him as plump as a little Christmas goose.
Well, when it comes to division of labor women still get the short end of the stick.
Anything I can do to make it up to you, Laura, I will.
Ill work on that list.
Reaching up to touch the corner of one of the gentle steel blue eyes she loved so well, Laura smiled sadly. Hes going to have brown eyes.
His mothers melting chocolate eyes, Harry agreed in a husky voice, leaning in to kiss her dark lashed lids.
Lets go back to bed. Im afraid this little tyrant of yours isnt going to sleep much longer.
Ours, Laura; our little tyrant. Were in this together. Mummy and Daddy. Deal?
Reaching out to shake hands with Harry, Laura still looked a bit doleful. Sure. Deal.
Grabbing her outstretched hand, he swung her around in a pirouette that backed her into his embrace. After a quick kiss to a favorite spot beneath her ear, he pretended to hide behind her small frame, hanging on to her waist as he pushed her playfully down hall to their room. My plan now is to stay close and make sure you dont leave me behind on any future dream stakeouts.
At this Lauras laugh bubbled out like a spring of dancing water. Keep those baby blues on me, Mr. Steele, and dont lose me in the turns.