Steele, Inc.-Atlanta Division
 Steele for Better or for Worse
Part 9
Debra Talley and Thekla Kurth

Remington went through the day in a daze. His plan to bust Keyes, set in motion the night before with Monroe and Felicia, had worked to perfection. Having realized that Keyes had seen him with Clarissa at the jail and would be suspicious, Remington had convinced Monroe to take his place at the poker game. Monroe was one of the best. He and Remington had once spent countless days on Barbados playing poker while recovering from injuries they received in a scheme gone bad. Remington was relieved to see that Monroe hadn't lost his touch.
Felicia definitely had not lost her touch, either--a fact of which Remington was all too aware. She had, however, kept her word. She had played up to Keyes admirably and kept him distracted; he hadn't even noticed that Monroe was cheating. Monroe busted him at the table, Keyes retrieved the gems to pay off his losses and Vigilance Insurance and the Police nailed him. Finally, Clarissa's problem was solved.
Remington couldn't help but think of the irony. Finally he and Laura could have an uninterrupted evening together--and here he doubted she'd let him within 10 miles of her. He had never felt so despondent. His whole reason for living had just vanished.
Monroe could tell something serious was bothering Remington;. He'd never seen Mick so withdrawn and preoccupied; he was just a shadow of a man. Monroe wanted to help, but Mick wouldn't let him get close. Having no choice, he watched Mick settle into the Agency limo and head for who knew where.
Remington wasn't ready to return to his condo yet. Indeed, he wondered if he'd ever be ready. Instead, he had Fred drive him to the Agency. After sending Fred on his way, he slowly shuffled into the Agency lobby. Walking right past Mildred without as much as a glance, he headed toward his office.
Remington was as much of a wreck as Laura was, Mildred noted. Her heart ached at the sight of him disheartedly walking through the office with sagging shoulders. She didn't think she'd *ever* seen his shoulders sag; he always stood tall and proud so as not to ruin the line of his suit. But then, he had far more important things on his mind at the moment than the line of his suit. She had heard every word of his argument with Laura in the wee hours of the morning. She'd spent the morning comforting a repentant and guilt ridden Laura, who was sure she'd never Remington again--that she had finally driven him away.
"Boss, you look awful!" Mildred said as she walked over to him. "You're all haggard and pasty; your right eye is twitching."
Remington just stared at her with bleary eyes. Without saying a word, he just walked around her and continued on his way to the sanctuary of his office.
"Uh, Boss, you have company. She's waiting in your office," Mildred informed him.
"Get rid of them, Mildred. I'm not in the mood for company. I'll just wait in Laura's office."
"But, Boss--it's Estelle Becker....from Immigration. Remember?"
"I remember, Mildred; only too well," Remington sighed sadly.
Realizing he had no choice, he took a deep breath, turned the knob and entered his office.
"Good afternoon, Miss Becker," he said blandly as he sat down behind his desk. "What can I do for you?"
"Something's come up, Mr. Steele. Our routine investigation of Justice Bailey has uncovered a slight problem."
"A problem?" Remington asked.
"Well, nothing that can't be easily taken care of. But, yes; a problem. It seems that the Justice Bailey's license expired the day before he performed your marriage ceremony. He's since received a new license, but it will be necessary for you and Miss Holt to get married again as soon as possible. Immigration understands that these things happen, Mr. Steele. We're more than willing to give you a few days if you'd like to plan something special," Miss Becker explained.
Remington was lost in thought. He could still hear Laura's voice: 'If you existed, I'd divorce you! It'd serve you right to be deported. You've been nothing but trouble since the minute I met you, and I was better off without you anyway!'
"Mr. Steele? Mr. Steele? Are you all right?" Miss Becker asked, concerned. "You don't look well."
"You're very perceptive, Miss Becker. Uh, listen...I'm really sorry for the inconvenience, but I'm afraid you'll have to excuse me. I have a personal matter to attend to that simply cannot wait."
With that, Remington stood and escorted Estelle to the door.
"Are you sure you're all right, Mr. Steele?" she asked, concern evident in her eyes.
"That remains to be seen, Miss Becker. Good day," he said as he opened the door.
Mildred surprised them all by tumbling into his arms.
"0h, Mr. Steele...I, uh, I tripped," she explained lamely.
"Of course, you did," Remington said, knowing full well she had been eavesdropping.
Miss Becker left quickly after saying her good-byes.
"You heard?" Remington asked.
"Every word. Listen, Boss, I can call Justice Bailey right now and schedule a time for another marriage ceremony ASAP," Mildred offered.
"No," Remington stated flatly.
"What do you mean 'No'?" Mildred asked in disbelief.
"Mildred, unless you suddenly went deaf, I'm sure you heard our little domestic confrontation this morning. Perhaps the best thing I can do is to just leave. As of this morning, I seem to have no reason to stay."
"But, Boss, all newlyweds have little spats!" Mildred explained sympathetically.
"Perhaps, but I think our confrontation this morning far exceeded a little spat," Remington explained dejectedly, walking past Mildred and heading for the main door.
"Where are you going?" Mildred asked, suddenly afraid.
"I'll call Fred," Mildred offered, grabbing the phone.
"I think I'll walk," Remington explained. "Goodbye, Mildred." Leaning over, he gave her a kiss on the cheek.
"See you tomorrow, Chief?" she asked hopefully .
Remington just looked at her with pain filled eyes, turned, and walked away.
At that point, Mildred's strong maternal instincts took over. Laura had cried on her shoulder that morning and now it was Remington's turn. If ever he needed sympathy and understanding, it was now and Mildred intended to be there when he needed that shoulder. She grabbed her purse and headed out the door, keeping a discreet distance behind Remington. He took one elevator and she took another.
She loved those two kids, but they had danced a dance around each other long enough. Never had she known two people more perfect for each other or more anxious to deny it. It was time she brought them to their senses once and for all, even if it meant cracking their heads together and then locking them in a closet until they settled their problems. She owed so much to her surrogate children and she was determined to see them through this crisis.
Mildred followed Remington for what seemed like hours, although actually it was only one. She ached with him as he wandered aimlessly and despondently through the streets of LA. Finally, he paused in front of a seedy watering hole which sported a couple of hookers conspicuously hanging around in front. Remington eyed the girls, giving them more than a passing glance.
Mildred knew he was depressed, but she hoped he wasn't so desperate that he...
She was just about to leave her hiding place, run across the street and intervene when Remington finally walked away. She breathed a sigh of relief and continued trailing him. But now instead of wandering aimlessly, he seemed to be looking for something. He finally spotted a phone booth on a nearby corner and headed for it, searching through his pockets for a quarter. When he came up empty, he did the only thing he could think of...He broke into a conveniently located parking meter. Somehow, that did not surprise Mildred at all.
Remington made his call. Mildred wondered who he was calling. She hoped it was Miss Holt, but feared it was not. He soon concluded his call and stepped away from the phone. Then standing on the nearest corner, he began pacing and watching the street. Occasionally, he glanced at his watch. Mildred decided he must be waiting for someone.
Finally that someone arrived and Mildred's jaw dropped. It was Clarissa. And she was sitting behind the wheel of a sporty red car wearing a very large smile.
Mildred hustled across the street as quickly as she could.
"Hold it right there, Buster!" she yelled at Remington just before he stepped into the car. "And you, too, honey," she ordered Clarissa.
Remington turned, shocked to see Mildred standing there. "Mildred, please; this is not your concern," he declared.
She addressed Clarissa first. "I can't believe you. After Mr. and Mrs. Steele took you in and helped you, this is how you pay them back? Why, you little..."
"Mildred!" Remington insisted. "It isn't what you're thinking."
Mildred whirled around and verbally attacked him. "And you! You really think this is going to help you and Laura? Maybe she was right about you. Maybe you are a no-good, two-timing, philandering..."
"Mildred, will you just calm down?" Remington pleaded as he placed his hands on her shoulders. "I told you it's not what you think. I'm not running into Clarissa's arm on the rebound, and I'm not doing anything out of spite."
"Ok, so just what are you doing?"
"Clarissa and I are getting married."
"WHAT?!" Mildred couldn't believe her ears. "Maybe you'd better repeat that, Boss. I could have sworn you said you and Clarissa were getting married."
Remington hastily explained. "I'm going to marry Clarissa in a fake ceremony, but it's merely to appease Immigration. I'm just trying to buy some time until Laura cools off. Then hopefully, Laura and I can be remarried. But the important thing right now is to buy some time with Immigration. I've still got all the paperwork from our first marriage, so all I've got to do is to find a phony minister. I know a few old mates who might help."
"Hold it right there, Boss," Mildred interrupted. "This is the dumbest idea I have ever heard."
"But it just may work," he protested.
"Even if Immigration does buy it-- and I have my doubts, because I know how these bureaucracies work-- what about Miss Holt? What's she going to think when she finds out you've married a hooker?"
"She doesn't have to know."
"But what if someone should tell her?" Mildred slyly threatened.
Remington put his arm around her shoulders. "Oh, come now, Mildred. I thought you were on my side."
"I'm on your side *and* Miss Holt's side. Come here; we need to caucus," she demanded, dragging him away from the car and from Clarissa.
"Boss, I love you and Miss Holt as if you were my own kids. I don't want to see the two of you get hurt and completely ruin your lives...but that is exactly what will happen if you go through with this half-cocked idea of yours! Buying time? You've already got time! Miss Becker said she's willing to give you a few days so you can plan something special. Use that time, Chief, but not for some con! Talk to Miss Holt! Apologize to here! Reason with her! That's where you should be right now--talking with her."
"Mildred, you don't understand. Laura doesn't want me within ten miles of her, let alone talking to her. She's in no mood to listen to reason."
"I think you'd be surprised," Mildred assured him. "If you'll just go home now, I think you'll find her quite willing to discuss things. Especially if you tell her the things that she needs to hear."
"And what would that be? That I'm leaving her for good? That she doesn't have to worry about a divorce because our marriage was never legal in the first place? That I'm going to be deported and I hope she's happy? That maybe she was right and she was better off without me?" Remington stated dejectedly.
"Oh, no, Boss," Mildred corrected. "Just tell her what's in your heart. Explain the whole situation to her up front. Be totally honest with her-- for once," she added pointedly.
"Mildred, I just... I just don't know," he hedged.
"You've got nothing to lose, Boss, but just think how much you've got to gain."
Remington still seemed hesitant, so Mildred took matters into her own hands. Leading him back over to Clarissa's car, she pushed him inside and then somehow squeezed herself in beside him.
"We're going to Mr. Steele's apartment," she instructed Clarissa in a no-nonsense tone.
"Does this mean you've changed your mind, Remington?" Clarissa asked.
Mildred answered for him and he didn't contradict her. "Mr. Steele is going home to his wife."
Clarissa didn't dare argue; she merely started the car and took off. Mildred could tell by the look in her eyes that she was disappointed, but to her credit, Clarissa kept her feelings to herself. She dropped Remington off at his Rossmore condo and left to take Mildred home.
He slowly made his way across the lobby and punched the elevator button for his floor, hoping it would be a long wait. It came straight away, however, so taking a deep breath, he stepped inside. He had the car to himself, so he took advantage of the privacy and rehearsed what he was going to say to Laura. He tried a couple of different approaches, but nothing sounded right. He was normally good at punting, but not when it came to something as important as this. Not when everything he held dear was at stake--his life, his happiness, his very reason for being.
Remington didn't know what to expect when he cautiously walked through the door of his apartment and everything was quiet and empty. According to Mildred, Laura should have been there, but there was no sign of her. As he stood there pondering his next move, he heard a sound coming from the bedroom. He headed that way and stood nervously in the open doorway.
There was Laura, leaning over the bed and packing clothes into a half-filled suitcase. A closed suitcase was standing by the foot of the bed. Walking into the bathroom, she quickly emerged carrying an overnight case.
He had no idea what he was going to say, but he knew he had to say something.
"Laura?" he asked hesitantly.
He was startled when he heard himself speak Laura's name. It sounded slurred, betraying just how nervous he really was.
Laura whirled around at the sound of his voice and they stared at each other, neither quite knowing what to say.
After what seemed like an eternity, Remington stated the obvious. "You're packing."
"Yes," Laura agreed, almost in a whisper.
"Then I assume that means you're leaving?"
"Yes," she said as she set the overnight case on the floor beside the closed suitcase and resumed packing the clothes, which were in neat piles on the bed.
Remington swallowed hard and nodded, almost as though he were resigning himself to the inevitable. Again, he was surprised to hear himself speaking.
"Laura, about last night..."
"We've already been through that. I don't want to go through it again. I understand that Felicia was an unexpected twist in your plan to nab Keyes and you were merely doing what you had to do," Laura unexpectedly explained.
"You do?" he brightened. "You really understand why I went with her last night?"
Laura didn't respond.
"You * do* understand, don't you, Laura?"
"Yes," Laura sighed softly. "I understand that Felicia is a part of your past. And as I told you once before, some people from our past are meant to never leave us. As much as we might wish otherwise."
'So you really do trust me?" Remington asked, unconsciously raising his hand to his lips and biting his thumbnail.
"I trust you, but I don't trust Felicia," she admitted.
"Well, it's a start," Remington said with relief.
"I just wish your old flames didn't have such lousy timing!"
They both laughed nervously
"Yes, well, perhaps you can help them work on that," he suggested.
Remington decided to be brave and delve deeper. "Estelle Becker from Immigration paid me a little visit this afternoon at the Agency. It seems Justice Bailey's license expired the day before he performed our nuptials. It was just an oversight; he's already applied for and received a new one. But that means our marriage wasn't legal in the eyes of the law or Immigration. According to Miss Becker, we will need to repeat our vows, or... "
"..or what?" Laura asked, already knowing the answer.
"...or I face deportation."
She paused for a few moments as she pondered the implications. Then looking him calmly in the eye, she said, "Well, I guess it's settled then. There's only one choice."
Remington sighed. "I guess there is. Look, Laura, I won't ask you to do something that you don't want to do. I'll send for my things. Maybe after I'm settled somewhere, you'll consent to come and visit me. With those new super saver fares, you can go just about anywhere in the world for $99.00."
He tenderly cupped her chin with his hand before turning to leave.
"Wait!" Laura exclaimed with an urgency that surprised even her. "You're leaving? Just like that? You're walking out on me?"
"I don't see that I have a choice, Laura," he said dejectedly.
"Isn't that's just like you? Just run out on me when the going gets tough. Just leave me to pick up the pieces and carry on. Good ole Laura, always volunteering for every thankless job, always sticking her neck out." Laura's brown eyes were burning as she lashed out at Remington, who had turned her life upside down in the course of just a few days. "After everything I've done for you, this is how you repay me? I've given you a sterling reputation, put clothes on your worthless back, kept a roof over your head-- a very expensive roof, I might add. I've stood by you when you were framed for murder, when you were wanted by the French police..."
"Really, Laura!" he exclaimed indignantly. "I'll say it again: I am sorry for Cannes! How many more times do you need to hear me say the words?"
She continued her tirade, ignoring his apology. "I was by your side, the reputation of the Agency be damned, when you were wanted by the Mexican police! I graciously endured all of your cockamamie schemes to solve our cases, in spite of the fact that you have no detective training whatsoever! I've done *all* of that, and here you're leaving me! Well, I always knew the day would come when you'd leave me in the lurch. And you know what? I don't care. I don't care what you do, you miserable swine!"
"Do you really mean that, Laura?"
"Of course, I mean it. Now go. Just get out of here," she ordered, quickly turning away so that he couldn't see the tears brimming in her eyes.
"I love you, Laura," he said softly as he looked at her one last time from the doorway.
"I love you, too, but that has nothing to do with it!" she exclaimed, her back still to him.
She angrily wiped the tears from her cheeks as Remington walked through the doorway and out of her sight into the living room.
"Wait a minute..." she said aloud as she suddenly realized that Remington had just said those 3 little words she once thought she desperately needed to hear.
Remington also turned back, realizing what she had just said, as well.
They met halfway and faced each other in the bedroom doorway.
"You said 'I love you'," they declared in unison.
Remington grabbed Laura and pulled her to him, saying, "Yes, I love you, and I'll even say it again... Laura Holt! I love you! "
When Laura started crying again, he looked into her face and tried to discern the reason for her tears.
"Do you know how long I've wanted to hear you say those words?" she blubbered as she hugged him tightly. "Surely you know that I love you, too, Mr. Steele! "
"Mr. Steele?" he questioned with a chuckle.
"Old habits die hard," she laughed, smiling through her tears.
They clung to each other for a moment longer and then Remington led Laura to the bed and they sat down. Grabbing a handful of Kleenex from the night stand, he began drying her tears. It was then that he noticed for the first time exactly what was in the suitcase on the bed.
"Laura, these are my clothes," he exclaimed. "Why are you packing my clothes? I thought you were packing for yourself; that you were leaving because you wanted out of the marriage. But you were packing for me. You were going throw me out, weren't you?"
Gently touching his arm, she said, "Yes, I was packing for you, but not because I was throwing you out; I was packing for our honeymoon!"
Remington stared at her, open mouthed. "You were what?"
Haltingly, she explained. "Mildred called when she was following you earlier. She told me all about Miss Becker's visit and the problem with Justice Bailey's license. I told her I'd do whatever was necessary to make things right, if only you'd come and talk to me--tell me how you felt. Mildred assured me she'd do everything she could to see that you did."
"She certainly did that," Remington chuckled, relaying the entire tale to Laura. Sheepishly, he even told her about Clarissa's involvement, figuring now was the time for total honesty. He had expected that might raise Laura's ire, but instead she was touched by his desperation.
"That was a dumb idea, you know," she chastised as stroked his cheek.
"That's what Mildred said."
"She was right," Laura agreed.
"You know what the alternative to involving Clarissa is, don't you?" he asked rather hesitantly.
"Yes, Mr. Steele; I know what the alternative to involving Clarissa is. But I don't hear you asking."
"Asking for what?" Remington asked, feigning ignorance.
"For my hand," Laura explained.
"Well, in that case..." Remington began as he got down on one knee. "Will you marry me, me darlin'?"
Laura laughed. "You call that a proposal?"
"Well, if I recall, it was you who did the proposing the first time around. Maybe we should just stick with tradition. Eh, Miss Holt?"
Laura laughed again. "Well, in that case, will you marry me, Mr. Steele?"
"I'd be honored, Miss Holt," he seriously replied.
Laura looked at him and leaned forward. It was all the invitation Remington needed. He took her head in his hands and pressed his lips to hers for a sweet kiss.
"When the bride-to-be does the asking, you know it's going to be a liberated marriage," Remington chuckled.
"You're not already regretting it, are you?"
"On the contrary, my dear, on the contrary," Remington assured as he kissed her again. "Now, exactly what kind of wedding would you like to have for our second and final time? Miss Becker says we can have a few days to plan something special."
"I don't care what kind of wedding we have; I just want it to be soon," Laura said as she pulled him close for another kiss. "The thought of marriage scares the hell out of me, but the thought of losing you scares me even more."
Remington lifted each of her hands and placed a kiss on them. "What would you have done if I had been deported?" he asked.
She didn't even hesitate. "I would have gone with you. I think there's enough money in the Agency's account for two $99.00 fares."
Remington clutched Laura to him as his eyes filled with tears.
Gradually they pulled away and Remington dried his wet cheeks with the Kleenex Laura handed him. He wasn't even ashamed to let her see his tears; he was just relieved and happy. Laura had forgiven him, they had worked everything out and they were making a start at a bright future.
"I'm sorry about this morning," Laura apologized. "I should never have said those things to you. I regretted them the moment you left." Then she added softly, "I was so afraid I'd driven you away for good."
"Not a chance," Remington assured her. "You're stuck with me, Lady. I'm not going anywhere; at least, not without you." He kissed her forehead, then her cheek and finally her lips.
While Laura reveled in the feeling, she knew they had plans to make. Reluctantly, she broke their kiss. "I believe we have a wedding to plan," she reminded him.
"Now, Laura? Today?" He was surprised. When she'd said ASAP, he'd assumed she meant sometime the next day. "I understand the need for expediency, but there are some things that can't be rushed, you know."
"I don't see where there's any problem. We have all the paperwork from last time. We just need to contact a Justice of the Peace and set a time." She added teasingly, "Could it be that you are getting cold feet, Mr. Steele?"
"On the contrary, my blushing bride. If a wedding right now is what you want, then a wedding is what you shall have." He picked up the phone and punched in a number. "Mildred?...Yes, everything is just fine. In fact, it couldn't be better. How about doing a favor for us... Contact a justice of the peace and make arrangements for him to perform a marriage ceremony ASAP... Yes, Mildred, our marriage. Oh, and Mildred, thank you."
Laura tugged on Remington's sleeve and said, "Tell her to get Justice Bailey again."
"Mildred, make that Justice Bailey... That's right... Let us know as soon you set a time. We're at my apartment." He hung up. "Mildred is going to arrange everything and call us back in a few minutes with the details. One harmless query, though, Luv. Why Justice Bailey?"
"Well, he's been issued a new license, so there shouldn't be a problem there. Besides, he did perform our wedding the first time. Tradition, I guess."
"I sense more," Remington prodded.
"Oh, all right. Stuart Bailey was my childhood idol. I must have been his biggest fan."
"Justice Stuart Bailey?" Remington was incredulous.
"No. Stuart Bailey from 77 Sunset Strip."
"77 Sunset Strip. It was one of my television shows," Laura explained.
"Sorry, Laura but you know you've lost me where American television is concerned."
"Never mind," she sighed.
* * * *
The next two hours were hectic, but memorable. Remington insisted Laura purchase an appropriate wedding dress and she was pleasantly surprised by his thoughtfulness. She found the perfect dress at a quaint dress shop she had visited with Frances on several occasions. As an early wedding present, the owner closed the shop and completed the minor alterations herself.
Within the hour, Laura was sitting in the back seat of the Agency limo as Fred hurried to the church. Mildred had would be picking up Remington at his condo and giving him a ride to the 6:00 ceremony. Laura smiled as she imagined Mildred straightening Remington's tie and fussing over him as she hustled him out of his condo. She allowed herself a moment to catch her breath, knowing things would become even more hectic when they all arrived at the chapel; Mildred would be transforming her into a bride and Fred would be taking Remington to his favorite florist. Suddenly, she was filled with a warm rush of emotion and gave in to an overpowering urge to burst into song.
Fred smiled as the lilting strains of "Going to the Chapel" echoed throughout the limo.
In two hours time, Remington and Laura were standing before Justice Stuart Bailey at the Little Chapel of Perpetual Happiness. Mildred, who had been asked to serve as a witness, was sitting in a front pew weeping uncontrollable tears of joy. Remington thought Laura had never looked lovelier than she did as she walked down the aisle towards him carrying a bouquet of white orchids. Her long, white gown with off-the-shoulder sleeves and flowing train suited her to perfection.
They smiled lovingly at each other as Laura took the hand that Remington extended to her. They turned to Justice Bailey and he began. It was a short and simple ceremony, very similar to their first one, the only difference being that the word "obey" was omitted from the vows. Laura had spoken privately with Justice Bailey beforehand and requested that omission.
Laura was expecting Remington to place the simple gold Peppler wedding band on her hand, but instead he slipped a ring of emerald cut diamonds onto her finger. Laura gasped in surprise. When they were officially pronounced husband and wife, the groom kissed his bride with great relish. Mildred took that moment to blow her nose and they separated, laughing.
Congratulations and best wishes were offered by Justice Bailey as he signed the marriage license and handed it over to Remington.
"May I have the privilege of being the first to kiss the bride?" he asked.
"Be my guest," Remington offered.
Justice Bailey placed a light peck on Laura's cheek. "You make a lovely bride, my dear. It has been a pleasure performing your wedding--this time *and* the first time." He looked at Remington in his gray morning suit and added, "You make a handsome couple, indeed. My congratulations and sincere best wishes to both of you."
Then it was Mildred's turn. She hugged Laura and then Remington, then hugged them both together, and then cried some more.
Mildred managed to compose herself long enough to put the camera she'd brought along to good use, taking several wedding photos of the happy couple. As they left the chapel and headed to the waiting limo, which was decorated with Kleenex flowers and streamers, she showered them with bird seed. She hadn't had so much fun in years!
Remington helped Laura into the limo. As an afterthought, she remembered to throw her bouquet. They waved their farewells and departed with Fred behind the wheel. Mildred stood with Laura's bouquet in her arms and tearfully waved until they were out of sight.
* * * *
To be cont... part 10

Steele, Inc.-Atlanta Div.
This story copyrighted 1982-2005 by Debra Talley. The characters of Remington Steele
are used without permission. It is purely for entertainment purposes.