Steele, Inc.-Atlanta Division

Steele in the Mood
Part 5
Debra Talley & Thekla Kurth

(This story is part of the Brendan Universe.)

They hadn't made it out of the living room before they heard the pitter patter of little feet.
"Aunt Laura," Laurie Beth whimpered, clutching her Cabbage Patch doll. "Can I have a drink of water?"
Laura excused herself and escorted her niece back to bed, leaving Remington and Mildred to prepare the movie treats.
She finally got Laurie Beth tucked into bed and settled, but not before giving her two glasses of water and a back rub. When she finally returned to the den, Laura found Remington and Mildred stretched out in front of the television, already munching on popcorn.
Remington, his shoes off and feet up, patted the couch beside him. "Ah, Miss Holt, just in time. I managed to save you a seat."
After Laura sank onto the couch and settled into his arms, Remington began feeding her a handful of popcorn. When she had finished, she meticulously licked the salt from each of his fingertips. Mildred tried to ignore them, concentrating instead on the movie. Laura and Remington ignored both Mildred and the movie, concentrating instead on their new method of eating popcorn.
Mildred suddenly cleared her throat but Laura and Remington, caught up in themselves, didn't hear her. She quickly cleared it again, louder. This time they heard her and looked up.
Laurie Beth was once again standing in the doorway, looking like a ghost in her long white nightgown, clutching her Cabbage Patch doll and her teddy bear.
"Aunt Laura, there's a monster under my bed," Laurie Beth whimpered.
Laura sighed and reluctantly rose to her feet. "He wouldn't by any chance be a popcorn eating monster, would he?"
"How did you know?" Laurie Beth asked as Laura took her hand and led her back to bed.
Remington got a faraway look in his eyes as he watched Laura walk away hand in hand with her namesake.
The look did not go unnoticed by Mildred. "Getting ideas, Boss?"
"Umm. Watching Laura with Laurie Beth makes me wish..."
"...that this was your home and Laurie Beth was your daughter? That you and Miss Holt were doing a lot more than just 'playing house'?"
"Perhaps," Remington hesitantly admitted. "But if it's so obvious to you how I feel, why isn't it equally obvious to Laura?"
"Oh, she knows. She'd be blind not to," Mildred assured him. "She's just afraid to admit she knows, even to herself. But she'll come around; just be patient. "
"I hope you're right. Otherwise, we're going to sound awfully silly some day making verbal passes at each other when we're both in wheelchairs," Remington predicted.
Mildred laughed. "You have a movie quote for everything, don't you?"
"Misspent youth," he explained. Then remembering his interrupted proposal earlier that evening in Bel Air, he added, "Who knows? I may even propose with a movie quote. Assuming, of course, I ever get up the nerve to propose in the first place."
"Don't worry, Boss. When the time is right, you'll know it. And if the right time doesn't arrive soon enough, just create it."
"What do you mean?" Remington asked, reaching for his back.
"Oh, just that Miss Holt may need a little nudge to force her to admit she loves you," Mildred explained.
Remington perked up on hearing the word love. "You really think Laura loves me, Mildred?"
"Are you kidding? If she didn't, you think she'd be giving you such a hard time?"
Remington grinned from ear to ear.
Warmed as he was by Mildred's encouraging words, he didn't even realize he was scratching. Mildred watched him until she could stand it no longer. "You got an itch, Boss?"
"Several, actually," he answered.
"Didn't I hear the kids say Max keeps getting in the poison ivy in those bushes in the backyard?"
"Perhaps," Remington admitted.
"You don't think maybe you..."
"Absolutely not! Why in the world would I have been wallowing around in the bushes in the backyard?"
"That's what I'd like to know," Mildred said, her tone assuring Remington that she already knew exactly what he had been doing.
He just gave her a chastising look and continued to scratch. Before either of them could say anything more, Laura walked back into the room, scratching her arm.
Mildred couldn't resist, in spite of the glaring look Remington gave her. "Got an itch. honey?" she asked.
"Several, actually," Laura admitted as she once again took her place beside Remington.
"Well, maybe you two can scratch each other. Mr. Steele seems to have developed an itch, also."
Remington shot Mildred a look that spoke volumes. She wisely hushed, but she simply couldn't stop grinning.
"I think she's finally asleep," Laura said as she snuggled against Remington's chest. "I sang every selection from Snow White I could think of."
"Wish I could have heard you," Remington said wistfully.
"Maybe someday," Laura said, patting Remington's knee.
Remington's face lit up like an airport beacon. Had he heard her correctly? Had Laura made another illusion to their future together, or was it just wishful thinking on his part? As he contemplated exactly what it was Laura had implied, he began chewing on his thumbnail. He always chewed his nails when he was nervous and Laura always nagged him about it. Tonight, however, she was so engrossed in the movie she hadn't noticed yet.
They continued to watch and Remington continued to chew, but after a while Laura became aware that something wasn't quite right. Remington had been holding her hand and she had even been vaguely aware of him kissing her fingertips. Eventually, it occurred to her what the problem was.
"Ah, Mr. Steele, I believe that's my fingernail you're chewing on," Laura pointed out with a teasing smile.
Remington stopped chewing and glanced down. He had indeed been chewing Laura's nail instead of his own. "Sorry," he said sheepishly, placing her hand in her lap and giving it a pat. "Guess I got carried away."
In no time at all, Remington was contentedly chewing his own thumbnail, once again engrossed in the exploits of John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.
It wasn't long, however, before they once again heard the pitter patter of little feet.
"Aunt Laura, I can't sleep," Laurie Beth whimpered, clutching her Cabbage Patch doll, her teddy bear and her Raggedy Ann.
Laura sighed and started to get up again, but Remington stopped her. "My turn," he offered, standing up.
"Be my guest," Laura said. "But no pillow fights, Mr. Steele! You know tomorrow is a school day!"
Remington scooped Laurie Beth up in his arms, saying, "Aunt Laura's just an old spoil sport, isn't she, Sweetheart? Don't you worry, though; we'll have another pillow fight one day real soon. Now, say good night to Aunt Laura and Aunt Mildred."
"Good night, Aunt Laura. Good night, Aunt Mildred."

You know what I think?" Remington asked conspiratorially as he headed towards Laurie Beth's bedroom. "I think Aunt Laura is ...No, wait; maybe I'd better whisper it in your ear." Leaning close, he whispered something in her ear which caused her to giggle.

Laura savored the sight and sound of them until they disappeared from view. She had the same faraway look in her eyes Remington had displayed just a few moments earlier.

Once again, the look did not go unnoticed by Mildred. "Getting ideas, honey?"
"Umm; watching Mr. Steele with Laurie Beth makes me wish..."
"...that this was your home and Laurie Beth was your daughter? That you and Mr. Steele were doing a lot more than just 'playing house'?"
"Yes," Laura admitted hesitantly, suddenly absorbed in tracing the patterns of the couch with her finger. "But I'm afraid Mr. Steele isn't the 'settling down' type."
"What makes you say that?" Mildred asked, puzzled.
"He told me," Laura said.
"And when was this exactly? Recently?"
"No, not exactly," Laura admitted.

"Well, when then?" Mildred pushed.

"The first year we met. He told me he'd always avoided commitment like the proverbial plague," Laura said remembering that night on the Devil's Playground when Remington had wanted to be honest.

"People change, honey. That was over three years ago," Mildred pointed out.
"That may be, Mildred, but he's never actually *said* anything to me to imply otherwise."
"You're wrong, Miss Holt. He says it every day--with his actions, with his deeds, with his eyes. If I ever knew a man who had made a commitment to the woman he loves, it's Mr. Steele. You're just too afraid to acknowledge it."
"What do you mean I'm too afraid? *I'm* not the one who's afraid of commitment!" Laura declared.
"Are you sure about that?" Mildred asked.
Laura just stared at her, really taking in what she was hearing.
"You're so busy demanding the words that you're ignoring the deeds. It's like a defense mechanism for keeping him at bay. Don't you think Mr. Steele deserves better?"
"Is it wrong of me to want to hear the words, Mildred?" Laura asked nervously.
"Don't you see, honey? That's the whole problem. He says the words every day, in his own way. You just don't listen. And besides, it's a two-way street, you know. How many times have you given him the words he needs to hear?"
Laura had no answer to that question. It was true; she demanded the words from Remington, but yet she had never given him those very same words. Perhaps Mildred was right. Perhaps she *was* the one afraid of commitment. After all, she never dreamed he would stick around for four years--and yet here he was. True, he had left earlier that year and gone to London, but hadn't she driven him to it? And besides, he hadn't really left her; he'd merely gone in search of his identity. And that was her doing, as well.
Could it be that maybe Remington *was* ready to settle down and make a real commitment? After all, he'd been reassuring her that he wasn't going anywhere ever since the Cranston fiasco. And he had certainly never given her any reason to doubt the sincerity of those words. Maybe Mildred was right. Maybe Remington did say the words to her every day. Perhaps it was time she started listening with her heart. Perhaps it was time they broke their self-imposed stalemate and got on with their future.
After several moments of silence, Laura stood up and said, "I think I'll see what's keeping Mr. Steele."
"Sure, honey," Mildred said. "Why don't you do that?"
Mildred smiled to herself as Laura, still deep in thought, left the room. She was satisfied that she had done a good night's work. After all, what could be more satisfying than helping the two people she loved more than anyone else in the world? Besides, while Laura and Remington were wistfully thinking of children, Mildred was wistfully thinking of godchildren. And the first step towards achieving that end was to get her surrogate children happily married.
Maybe after tonight, Laura and Remington were at least one step closer to matrimony.
Laura found Remington sitting on Laurie Beth's bed surrounded by three enthralled children. Laurie Beth was sitting in his lap while Mindy and Danny sat on the bed in front of them with their legs crossed. Since Remington's back was to the bedroom door, Laura leaned against the doorway and just took it all in. It was indeed one of the most beautiful scenes she had ever witnessed.
She was soon as enthralled with the story of The Children of Lir as her nieces and nephew were. She couldn't help feeling great empathy for the four hapless children who had been changed into swans for 900 years by their jealous aunt. But in spite of her interest in Remington's mesmerizing retelling of the classic Irish fairy tale, Laura was transported to other times, other scenes and other people.
She was reminded of Marcos Androcos and Xenos and the soul wrenching night when she wouldn't have been able to say no. She was reminded of little Joey and "McNamara's Band" and her prediction that Remington Steele would prove to be a good father one day. She was reminded of a holy terror named Angel being fed five bowls of Fudge Ripple ice cream by a man who couldn't connect a sewage line to an RV. She was reminded of a cheap little pickpocket named Jackie who was saved from a life of crime by a man who had once been there himself. She was reminded of a man who gave horsie rides and ordered pineapple pizza and started pillow fights.
But suddenly it was no longer scenes from the past which occupied Laura's thoughts, but a scene from the future. She was no longer seeing Mindy, Danny and Laurie Beth but three dark-haired, blue-eyed, dimpled children who looked remarkably like Remington. Laura would have known those children anywhere. They were her children...His children... Their children.
Laura suddenly realized the story was over. As Remington hustled Danny off to his own room and Mindy off to her own bed, Laura receded into the shadows before anyone could notice her, stealing a few more undetected moments to savor this wonderful side of Remington.
"In you get," Remington told Laurie Beth as he scooted her under the covers and tucked her in. "Now, we had a deal, remember?"
"I remember," she promised.
"Of course you do. Now, if you have any more trouble sleeping, just try telling Annabel Lee, Pookie and Raggedy Ann about The Children of Lir," Remington suggested. "The next thing you know, it'll be morning."
"Do you love my Aunt Laura?" Laurie Beth innocently asked.
"Ah...why, yes, I believe I do," Remington admitted after only the slightest hesitation. It rather surprised him how easy it was to admit the truth.
"Are you going to marry her?"
"I'd like to, very much. But that depends on your Aunt Laura."
"You mean she doesn't want to marry you?"
"Well, I'd like to think she wants to marry me," Remington explained, searching for the right words. "But sometimes I think your Aunt Laura is afraid to get married to anybody."
"Well, because when she was a little girl, her daddy ran away from home and left her mommy all alone. And now she's afraid that if she gets married, her husband might run away just like her daddy did."
"That's silly," Laurie Beth declared. "You wouldn't leave Aunt Laura like Grandpa left Grandma."
"I certainly wouldn't. But sometimes when a person has been hurt, it takes a long time for them to get over it."
"Do you think Aunt Laura will ever get over it?"
"I hope so," Remington admitted. "And until she does, I'll just have to stick around, won't I?"
"Well, if she won't marry you, I will!" Laurie Beth offered, throwing her arms around Remington's neck and giving him a tight hug.
"I'll remember that," he said, giving her a squeeze in return. "Now, to sleep with you, before your Aunt Laura comes in here and has my hide because you're still awake!"
'Will you stay for just a minute after you turn out the light?" she asked.
Remington assured her he would, so Laurie Beth snuggled under the covers with her bedtime companions and allowed him to turn off the bedside lamp. He kept his promise, watching her for several moments more before quietly leaving the room.
Laura walked back to the den slowly, knowing she had a few moments after Remington turned off the light. She found herself digesting all the wonderful things she had just seen and heard. Those last few moments had touched her to the very depths of her soul. She knew without a shadow of a doubt that she wanted marriage and a family with her man of mystery.
She had listened with her heart.
"Did the swans ever turn back into children?" Mildred nonchalantly inquired as Laura sank back onto the couch.
"Yes, but after 900 years they were so old they turned into dust," Laura answered in a daze. Then realizing she had been tricked, she turned to Mildred. "How did you know Mr. Steele was telling Irish fairy tales, Mildred?"
Mildred just shrugged. "So I was spying. So fire me. You must admit, you two were gone for quite a while. I had to be sure you weren't having a rendezvous behind the rubber tree plant or the under the kitchen counter or in the bathroom closet."
"Mildred, really!! You've been reading too many sleazy romance novels!" Laura declared.
"From what I've gathered about these past couple of days, you and Mr. Steele could write your own book," Mildred teased.
"Well, you're certainly one to be talking! What about you and Ralph in the supply room?"
"But that was just one time!" Mildred pointed out. "It's a wonder the two of you aren't exhausted! You've been holding a marathon!"
"Just listen to us!" Laura said. "What are we arguing about, anyway? This isn't a contest, you know. The fact is, we're all just innocent victims of an aphrodisiac cola."
"But it sounds so tacky when you put it like that," Mildred complained.
"I just mean that we aren't responsible for our recent interludes of spontaneity," Laura explained. "We were under the influence, so to speak."
"Whatever you say, honey."
Just then Remington bounced into the room, rubbing his hands together. "She's all tucked in and I can practically guarantee we won't be hearing the pitter patter of little feet again tonight."
"Indeed, Mr. Steele. In that case, you can use your gourmet skills and fix us some more popcorn. We're about out," Laura said, munching on the few remaining kernels.
"You're not serious?! John Wayne is about to drag Maureen O'Hara from the train station. Surely you can't expect me to miss that?!"
"Will you two sit down and shut up?" Mildred ordered. "Some of us are trying to watch!"
When the movie was over, Mildred gave Remington a pair of Donald's pajamas and escorted him to the spare bedroom. She then retired to the master bedroom with Laura.
Remington spent a miserable night tossing and turning. Being down the hall from Laura was bad enough, but that was the least of his worries. By the wee hours of the morning, Remington was suffering from a full blown case of poison ivy. He knew he shouldn't scratch, but he never had been one to resist temptation.
Finally, about 4:30 a.m., he decided he could stand the agony no longer. There were some itches he simply couldn't reach. He padded to the bathroom and rummaged through the medicine cabinet, hoping to find some sort of medication to relieve his discomfort.

Nothing. Hoping there was something in Donald and Frances' bathroom, he tiptoed to the master bedroom and quietly knocked. After calling Laura's name several times and receiving no response, he was debating whether or not to try the doorknob.

To his relief, however, the door opened. To his disappointment, it was Mildred.

"What is it, Boss?"

"Ah, is Miss Holt awake?" Remington asked hopefully, twisting awkwardly in an attempt to reach a particularly irritating itch.
"Sleeping like a baby," Mildred assured him. "What's wrong?"
"A slight medical emergency," he explained, scratching frantically. "I seem to have developed a rather nasty rash and I'm in desperate need of some sort of medication."
Remington was scratching like a mad man now. It wasn't a pretty sight.
"Oh, you poor thing! You've really got it bad! Whatever you do, don't scratch!" Mildred ordered.
"That's easy for you to say, Mildred! You're not the one covered with a rash!"
"Covered, Boss?"
"Just find me some medicine, Mildred. Okay?" he pleaded impatiently.
"Hang on. I'll check the medicine cabinet," Mildred promised, turning and closing the door behind her.
Remington knelt down and tried to see through the keyhole.
"Drop something?" Mildred inquired as she practically fell over him when she opened the door again.
"Ah, it's just easier to reach my ankle from down here," Remington not too convincingly explained as he straightened up. Thrilled to see Mildred holding a bottle of calamine lotion, he exclaimed, "Ah, Mildred, you're a life saver!"
"Careful, Mr. Steele. You don't want to wake up the children," Mildred reminded him.
Watching him attack the small of his back with a vengeance, Mildred instructed, "Take off your top."
"What?" he asked, surprised.
"Take off your top, so I can rub some of this stuff on your back."
"Oh, with pleasure!" Remington declared as he began unbuttoning with great fervor.
Mildred rubbed the soothing lotion gently over his pitiful back and he sighed his relief.
"If the rest of you looks this bad as this, maybe I'd better..."
"Thank you, Mildred, but no thanks."
"You sure, Boss? It wouldn't take that long. I mean, how many places could have been exposed?"
"Believe me, Mildred; you'd be surprised," Remington explained dryly.
"How come Miss Holt isn't suffering similar side effects from your interlude in the bushes? I mean, she's been scratching a little, but nothing like this!"
"I'm sure I don't know, Mildred," Remington replied testily. "Ahh, ahh-- just a little lower. Oh, yes! Perfect!"
"I guess that about does it, unless you've changed your mind about..."
"That'll be fine," Remington assured her quickly as he began buttoning his pajama top. "Just leave me the lotion."
"Right. Hopefully, you'll be able to get some sleep now," Mildred said.
"Maybe, if I can just keep from scratching myself raw," Remington said. "Maybe if you could just tie my hands behind my back..."
"That sounds kinky, Boss. You'd better let Miss Holt handle that," Mildred said wickedly.
Remington gave her a blank stare, then said, "Good night, Mildred."
"Good night, Mr. Steele. Oh, and Boss....Maybe you and Miss Holt should scratch those bushes off your list of romantic getaways."
"Good night, Mildred!"
Remington applied calamine lotion to the rest of his affected areas the best he could and crawled back into bed. He made a valiant effort to sleep, but it was a lost cause. What he really needed was for Laura to apply some lotion to those areas which were so awkward for him to reach. Of all nights for Mildred to be playing chaperone!
Reaching a decision, he climbed out of bed and headed to the kitchen. If he couldn't breach Laura's bedroom door, then perhaps he could breach her window.

Laura couldn't sleep. She had been awake ever since she heard Mildred rummaging through the medicine cabinet. She scratched her arm, wishing there had been an extra bottle of calamine lotion. Her outbreak of poison ivy was mild, but still irritating enough to keep her awake.

Suddenly she became aware of something hitting against the window. Crawling cautiously out of bed so as not to disturb Mildred, she quietly crept across the room. There in the moonlight stood Remington, holding a small box of some sort. When she saw him throw another item from the box, she quickly opened the window and found herself being assaulted by a chocolate bonbon.

"Ah, Laura. Thank goodness," Remington whispered. "I was afraid Mildred would show up."
"Are you alright?" Laura asked, worried.
"Yes, and no. Meet me at the back door and I'll explain. And whatever you do, don't wake Mildred!" he warned.
"Throw me another bonbon first"' Laura ordered.
Remington threw it and Laura caught it.
"I knew if I threw you chocolates you'd follow me anywhere," Remington teased.
Then suddenly there were two forms in the window instead of just one. Remington groaned and shook his head, suddenly feeling like an errant school boy who had just been caught by his mother.
Mildred just smiled at him across the bushes. "Nice try, Boss, but you're busted."
Laura shrugged her shoulders and gave Remington an apologetic look. "You heard the lady. Sorry!"
Mildred smiled again and shut the window. Remington slowly turned to walk away, but paused when he heard the window being opened again. Perhaps Mildred had taken pity on him and had changed her mind, he hopefully thought.
"Mr. Steele, could you throw us that box of chocolates?" Mildred asked.
"Get your own chocolates!" Remington snapped as he turned and walked away quickly. The nerve of that woman! Refusing to let him see Laura, and then expecting bonbons in return!
A dejected Remington walked to the back door and turned the knob. Or rather, he tried to turn the knob. Unfortunately, the door was locked. He could have sworn he'd left it unlocked!
Glancing at his watch, he realized it was 5:15. He certainly couldn't ring the doorbell at that hour and wake up the children. And he couldn't very well pick the lock without any of his tools. So, having no other alternative, he sat down on the steps to wait for the morning's activities to begin.
It could be worse, he decided. He couldn't sleep anyway, and at least he could scratch outdoors just as easily as he could scratch indoors.
About that time, Max realized Remington was planning to stay for a while. He galloped up, gave him big sloppy kiss and then stretched out beside him. Remington was too tired to argue. Instead, he reached into the box and pulled out a piece of candy.
"Care for a bonbon, Max?"
Receiving no answer, Remington ate the bonbon himself.

To be continued...


Steele, Inc.-Atlanta Div.

This story copyrighted 1982-2002 by Debra Talley. The characters of Remington Steele
are used without permission. It is purely for entertainment purposes.