Steele, Inc.-Atlanta Division

Steeling a New Life
Part 1
A Sequel to "Steele in the Mood" and "Bonds of Steele"
by
Debra Talley, with Thekla Kurth
Written Summer, 1988

 
Remington stood in the shower, hoping the hot water would wash away the guilt along with the mud and the smell of fish. The water streamed down his body and caressed his tight muscles, but it did not relax them. His eyes burned, but he realized it was not the steam causing the discomfort. He just shook his head, swallowed hard and let the tears of frustration mingle with the cascading water.
 
Today had been his wedding day. His dreams had finally come true and Laura was his wife. So why wasn't he turning cartwheels or shooting off firecrackers? He should be shouting the wonderful news from every rooftop! Why, instead, was he taking a shower--alone--feeling more miserable than he could ever remember?
 
So what's wrong with you, old sport? the old Remington asked himself. You got what you wanted, didn't you? And haven't you always said the end justifies the means? So what if you tricked Laura into marrying you? Does it matter if she thinks the marriage is fake? So what if she married you to keep you from being deported? She's still your wife, isn't she? Isn't that all that counts?
 
"No!" Remington shouted, banging both hands against the wet tile. "I want more than that, damn it!"
 
The sound of his own voice startled him out of his silent effort to ease his conscience. Maybe the old Remington--the one who breezed into Laura's office four years ago--would have been satisfied with this fiasco of a marriage. But the new Remington--the one who had been changed by the love of a good woman--could not.
 
The new Remington wanted nothing less than a full commitment and real marriage with the woman he loved. He wanted to share the rest of his life with her, the good times *and* bad times. He wanted to have children with her and to see to it that their children had the loving home life he himself had been cheated out of. The new Remington wanted to grow old with Laura, to awaken with her in his arms for the next 50 years. With all of his heart he wanted these things, but after the events of the last 48 hours he was afraid such dreams might have slipped through his fingers forever.
 
"You really blew it, mate," Remington said to himself. "Why couldn't you have been honest with her for once? Why?!"
 
Remington tried to recall the events of the last few days, hoping in some way to justify his actions. Unfortunately, however, everything was pretty much of a blur. All he could remember with any clarity was the feeling of total desperation that had washed over him when Estelle Becker of Immigration and Naturalization Services had informed him he was being deported to Ireland.
 
Hearing he had 48 hours to get his things in order, Remington had panicked. Only 48 hours to set things straight with Laura? A mere two days to convince her that he deeply loved her and wanted her to many him-- immediately? He had been trying to convince her of the depth of his love and commitment for four years! How could he accomplish in two days what he had been unable to accomplish in all that time? It seemed hopeless, yet he knew he couldn't give up Laura up without a fight. Desperate circumstances called for desperate actions-- and there had never been a more desperate man than Remington after that first interview with Estelle Becker!
 
He remembered wandering the streets of Los Angeles in a daze for hour upon endless hour, hoping a preoccupied driver would put him out of his misery. If he were laid up in the hospital, perhaps it would buy him some time with Immigration. At the worst, he would be out of Laura's life in a way she could accept. She would eventually get over his death, but she would be devastated if he deserted her, whatever the reason. All the men she had loved had left her. It wouldn't matter that his leaving would be by orders of Uncle Sam--Laura would view it as just another desertion.
 
Remington knew he had to find some way to save Laura from that final blow to her ego. He had promised her he wasn't going anywhere and he was determined to keep that promise. As he wandered aimlessly, he thought of the irony of it all. Just a month earlier he had finally summoned the courage to propose marriage to Laura. But somehow he had blown it and Laura had stormed out of his apartment in tears. That had hurt, and he had yet found the courage to bring up the subject again.
 
Laura was truly an enigma. Remington knew she loved him. She had even been loving and warm towards him since that fateful night she had stormed out with the keys to the Auburn. He had desperately wanted to broach the subject of marriage again, but was just too afraid. So instead of summoning his courage and plunging ahead, he had been praying for some circumstance to force the issue.
 
Well, I certainly got my wish, Remington had thought wryly. It just goes to show we better be careful what we wish for, because we just might get it.
 
After leaving the offices of the INS in a daze, Remington had found himself in one of the sleazier areas of L.A. When a group of hookers spotted him and and one headed his way, he quickly turned and walked in the other direction. Then he had come upon a church where a wedding reception was being held. As he watched the newly married couple run laughing through a shower of rice to their decorated car, his desperate mind had gone into overdrive.
 
Years of surviving as a con man had taught him to take advantage of any situation which presented itself. As distasteful as it was, he suddenly saw a way to beat the system and end up with Laura in his arms at the same time. Yes, it involved a bit of underhandedness. But if it worked, Laura would be his wife and he would be able to stay in the U.S.
 
And it would work. It *had* to.
 
Remington came back to the present. He had lost all track of time and had no idea how long he had been in the shower. The mud and the smell of fish had long since disappeared, but he knew the only way to get rid of the guilt was to be honest with Laura. He would simply have to tell her the entire ugly story. She wouldn't approve of his trickery, but surely she would realize he was motivated by his fear of losing her.
 
He would simply explain that he had tried to make her jealous by staging a fake marriage with Clarissa. He'd purposely given her plenty of clues, hoping she'd figure out his game--and that she cared enough about him to stop the fake marriage. He had even locked her in the closet, figuring it would make her even more determined to put an end to the wedding. At that point he had fully intended to tell her the whole sad story about deportation, hoping she would exclaim, "If you marry anyone, you marry me!" He had been so confident this plan would work that he'd already made arrangements for Juan's fishing boat to whisk them out into international waters, where Juan would then marriage them. Juan, as acting captain, had every legal right to perform a wedding, and they didn't need paperwork in international waters.
 

Remington knew he a dead duck if Laura didn't come through, but he felt he knew her well enough to predict her reaction. What he hadn't counted on, however, was Alessandra Henry and Laura's single-minded determination to solve the Unidac case of their "wedding day."

 
It was true that the end result was the same--Laura had finally offered to many him and Juan had performed the ceremony in international waters. But Remington felt like a real louse because he hadn't been honest with Laura. He had implied during the ceremony that the marriage wasn't legal and that Juan merely cleaned fish. Later, in his bedroom, he had joked that they could get a divorce in two years. It had really hurt when Laura perked up at the mention of divorce. Remington didn't want a divorce from Laura. Not in two years. Not in twenty years. Not ever. He realized Laura was just relieving some tension, but still it bothered him.
 
As Remington finally turned off the shower and dried himself, he was determined to face his bride and tell her what was in his heart--that he loved her with every fiber of his being and he wanted their marriage to last forever. Then, if she didn't storm out with the keys to the Auburn again, he would tell her everything. It was time he set the record straight and came clean. Time for total honesty in their relationship. No glib remarks. No movie quotes. Just the truth.
 
To be on the safe side, though, maybe he'd better hide the car keys.
 
*****
 
While Remington showered, Laura sat on the couch in a pair of his pajamas. She finally felt clean after her marathon shower earlier that evening, but her hair would never be the same. She had gotten rid of as many tangles as she could before finally giving up. Oh, well, she reasoned. If she felt like the Bride of Frankenstein, she might as well took the part. A visit to a beautician the next morning was definitely in order. Even if she couldn't salvage her pride, perhaps she could at least salvage her hair.
 
Laura had gone over the events of her wedding day until her mind had turned to mush. She had fumed and digested-- and then fumed some more. She had taken her frustrations out on Remington's couch pillows, plummeting them with savage force time and time again. She really wanted to pound Remington's all-too-handsome face until she had rearranged his features, but she had to settle for the pillows.
 
Laura hated being manipulated. She had never liked being a pawn in someone else's plan. And if anything, she despised having no voice in her own future. But here she was, a pawn in Mr. Steele's greatest scam ever. A willing pawn, but still a reluctant one. No one had held a gun to her head and forced her to say "I do" (or "Si," as it was), but what choice did she have? She couldn't stand idly by and see the man she loved marry a hooker, and she couldn't just wave good-bye as he was being deported. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place!
 
Laura was angry and upset at Remington's trickery, but she could understand his desperation. Not that she wanted to understand, but she did. Deportation, for heaven's sake!
 
Remington had begged her not to go after that consulting contract with Vigilance Insurance. He had even pointed out that Norman Keyes was determined to expose him as a fraud. Once again she had put the good of the Agency ahead of everything else. She mentally gave herself a good swift kick. Her professional zeal had almost gotten Remington deported and it was all her fault. She had come awfully close to losing him, and that thought scared the hell out of her.
 
In an effort to ease her own guilty conscience, Laura forced herself to concentrate again on Remington's judgment errors in this disaster. Why hadn't he come to her in the first place when he first learned about his deportation?! Why couldn't he have been honest with her? Just last month he had professed to loving her, even going so far as to propose marriage to her! True, he had used a quote from Gone with the Wind. And at the time, the thought of marriage had scared her silly and she had bolted, telling herself it was a cruel joke on his part. But later that evening she had realized he had been serious. He had bared his soul to her-- and she had rejected him!
 
Okay, so she rejected his marriage proposal a month ago. But hadn't she gone out of her way to make it up to him? She had devoted less time to work and spent more time with him. Hadn't they been closer than ever since that disastrous night? Couldn't he tell she was truly sorry for her abominable behavior? So why didn't he come to her with this problem? Had she really been so unsympathetic in the past that he couldn't turn to her in his hour of need? Regardless of what she had said outside the limo when she ran with the car keys, she would have married him! Didn't he know that? Was he blind? She'd have married him on a fishing trawler in international waters, or in a glitzy chapel in Las Vegas, or even in the hobby of the Century Center. Why couldn't he have been honest with her? Why?!
 
Laura knew deep in her soul that her previous rejection had hurt Remington so deeply that he simply couldn't bring himself to ask her outright to marry him. She knew, but it was so much easier to angrily put the blame on him than it was to admit to herself that it was partly her fault. She was hurting too bad to be reasonable just yet.
 
So she fumed and she yawned and she waited for her new husband to finish his shower. She knew it would take him a long time, because he had as much guilt to wash away as she had. Problem was, she still felt just as guilty after her shower as she did before. She hoped that he did, too.
 
*****
 
Remington quickly donned his pajamas and robe and started to leave the bathroom. He put his hand on the door knob, but was unable to turn it. After standing there a few moments, he took the hand towel and wiped enough steam off the mirror to allow himself a took. He didn't like what he saw staring back at him--the face of a con artist.
He brushed his damp hair out of his eyes and took a deep breath.
 
"Okay, mate. Go out there and get it over with. Tell her you love her. Be honest. You owe her that. And then maybe, just maybe, the next time you took in this mirror you can face yourself without cringing."
 
With a final deep breath, he opened the door and went to face his bride.
 
*****
 
Remington found Laura sleeping soundly on the couch. He didn't know whether to be disappointed or relieved. But instead of worrying over the setback in his desire for total honesty, he just smiled. One more night of guilt just might be good for his soul, he decided. And heaven knew that after all Laura had been through, she deserved a good sleep.
 
Beside, she might be more forgiving in the morning.
 
He gently lifted Laura in his arms and carried her into the bedroom. They had argued before showers over who would get the bed and who would spend the night on the couch. Remington had insisted on giving Laura the bed, but she had stubbornly demanded they draw straws. Well, if she complained in the morning, he would simply say he had drawn for her--and she had lost.
 
Tenderly he slid Laura under the covers and gave her a soft kiss on the forehead. He couldn't help remembering the night on the Devil's Playground when he had done the same thing. Even then he had loved her and had made a tentative effort to be honest.
 
He chuckled and brushed a damp strand of hair from her forehead. "No matter how much things change, they still remain the same, eh, love?" Remington said softly as he kissed her again, this time on the lips. "I'll make it up to you, Laura. I promise. Just give me the chance."
 
Remington quietly walked to his closet and retrieved covers for the couch. Standing there in the doorway, he gave Laura a long, lingering look before finally flicking off the light. He made no move to close the door; rather, he left it open wide. Never again would he be guilty of closing doors between them--figuratively or literally.
 
Plopping the covers onto the couch, he spied the couch pillows scattered around the room. Laughing, he retrieved them and placed them at the foot of the couch. At least Laura had managed to relieve some of her frustration, and he certainly preferred her pounding his pillows instead of his head any day!
 
He quickly made the couch into his bed and crawled beneath the covers.
 
"Well, this certainly isn't the way I pictured our wedding night, but I guess you have to start somewhere," Remington remarked to himself.
 
In spite of everything that had transpired that day, Remington felt optimistic about the future. After all, he was under the same roof with Laura and they were legally married. In addition, he wasn't stuck in some hotel room with Clarissa as his make-believe bride, and he wasn't on a plane to Ireland, leaving behind a devastated Laura to pick up the pieces.
 
Remington felt as though he would be able to make things right with Laura. After all, there had to be a future for two people who loved each other.
 
*****
 
Laura tossed restlessly in Remington's bed. Such a traumatic day had made a peaceful night's sleep impossible. So Laura continued to toss and turn...and dream...
 
Laura sat in her office, thumping her fingers on her desk. Where was that man? She angrily stood and stomped into the lobby of Remington Steele Investigations.
 
Mildred was still behind her computer terminal, though it was 6 p.m.
 
"Mildred, have you seen Mr. Steele?" Laura inquired tersely.
 
"Sure haven't, hon. Not since he left a couple hours ago with that big box of stuff."
 
"What kind of stuff?" Laura asked.
 
"Don't know. I asked him about it, but he just said it was some stuff he had collected for a local orphanage."
 
Laura looked puzzled. "An orphanage? What could he possibly have in his office that would be appropriate to donate to an orphanage?"
 
Mildred stopped working and faced Laura. She was also curious now about Remington's strange behavior.
 
"Did he say anything else when he left?" Laura asked.
 
"Yeah. He gave me a kiss on the check and said he'd keep in touch."
 
"He'd keep in touch?" Laura repeated, puzzled. Then s
 
Suddenly the words took on new meaning for her and she raced into Remington's office, muttering, "Oh, my God" on the way.
 
Mildred followed her. Both were stunned at what they saw--or rather, at what they didn't see. The picture wall was bare. Laura walked in shock over to the naked wall and just stared. Then she raced to Remington's desk and opened each drawer. Empty. They were all empty. No Courtney Doll. No blank Bloustein negatives. No reel-to-reel tape retrieved from the Auburn's coils. No spare parts to the Auburn. Not even the issue of Bedside Babes she knew he kept hidden in the bottom drawer. The only items to be found anywhere in the desk were six bullets for the agency gun.
 
With fear in her eyes, Laura ran into the bathroom. All traces of Remington were gone. His spare shirt and suit. His leather jacket. His hair brush. His toothbrush. Even his monogrammed towels were missing. There was nothing in either the bathroom or the office to indicate that Remington Steele had ever been more than a figment of Laura's imagination.
 
Mildred could sense Laura's near hysteria. "Maybe he decided to redecorate?" she suggested unconvincingly.
 
Laura tried desperately to make some sense of everything. After two years of marriage, why would Remington suddenly clean out his office with absolutely no warning?
 
Mildred put a comforting arm on Laura's shoulder. "I'm sure there's a perfectly good explanation, hon. Now why don't you just go on home and get ready to celebrate your second anniversary? I'm sure the boss is planning something really special."
 
Laura's eyes suddenly grew wild. "Yeah--like a divorce. He's leaving me, Mildred! He's met Immigration's two year requirement and he's leaving me!"
 
Running into her office, Laura grabbed her purse and quickly ran out into the corridor. She didn't have the patience to wait for the elevator, so she frantically ran down all eleven flights of stairs and threw herself into the Rabbit. It was so foggy she could hardly see, but she managed to somehow throw the car into gear, pulled into traffic and fought her way through the mist.
 
If a policeman had seen her, she would surely have been stopped. She sped through three red lights and sent several pedestrians scurrying for cover. Then leaving her car parked in a No Parking Zone in front of the apartment she shared with Remington, she raced inside to catch the elevator.
 
Her mind had been in high gear during the entire wild ride from the agency. All she could think of was that the man she loved was leaving her and that she'd driven him away. She hadn't *meant* to drive him away. She hadn't *meant* to let her bloody little inhibitions come between them. She hadn't *meant* to constantly distrust him and hold him at arm's length. What she had wanted to do for the past two years was to just love him, but she simply couldn't let go of her fears. She had been too afraid of losing herself in him. But now, faced with the real possibility of losing Remington, she would gladly lose herself a million times over.
 
Hurry up! Laura urged the elevator. She banged her hand against the door as she bit her lip in an effort to hold back the tears. It was a losing battle, however. Her mascara smeared as the tears streamed down her face. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the elevator door opened onto the fifth floor. Keys in hand,
Laura ran to their apartment.
 
The door was slightly open. She swallowed hard and entered their home.The unearthly silence deafened her. She took a few cautious steps and noticed that her legs felt like taffy.
 
"Mr. Steele?" Laura called out in a voice that wasn't her own. The voice echoed, repeating Remington's name over and over until she thought she would scream.
 
As she stood between the dining room and the living room, she was overcome with a definite feeling of deja vu. She called Remington's name again, and once again the mocking echo greeted her. Unable to stand the sound any longer, Laura covered her ears with her hands and tightly closed her eyes.
 
Sensing the echo had ceased, Laura slowly lowered her hands and forced herself to look around. Walking slowly around the living room, she gingerly touched the almost blank poster wall. Gone were all of Remington's beloved movie posters. The only one left was his first anniversary present to her--a vintage poster of Gone With the Wind.
 
Laura forced her legs to carry her into the bedroom. *Their* bedroom. The bed covers were still jumbled,a mocking reminder of their morning of passion. Tears streamed down Laura's face with greater force, now. For two years she had shared that bed with her husband, but she had always held her emotions in check. She had wanted to give herself to Remington body and soul, but she had never allowed herself to do so. That would be losing herself in him, and she had vowed never to do that.
 
Deep in her heart, Laura knew Remington was gone. But still, she went through the motions of being sure. She checked his dresser and found that every drawer was bare; even his Remington Steele passport was gone. She checked his closet, finding everything gone except for a few stray hangers. Not even a stray ex-girlfriend lingered.
 
"Just like before," Laura said softly. "You drove him away, just like before."
 
Laura slumped onto the crumpled bed in a dejected heap. There on Remington's pillow she saw something. Through her tears she could easily make out his keys and credit cards, along with a legal-sized white envelope with "Laura" written on it in Remington's hand.
 
Laura wiped her red, stinging eyes with the back of her hand and shakily opened the envelope. A gasp escaped in her throat as she realized she was holding formal divorce papers.
 
At that moment she heard a door closing. The papers fluttered to the floor as she jumped up and spun around, but she didn't notice. All she was aware of was a very nervous Remington standing in the bedroom doorway. She had never seen him took so lost.
 
"Uh, I forgot the remote to the VCR," he muttered hesitantly. He stared at the carpet, but made no move to retrieve the forgotten item.
 
"Yeah. Well, you always forget something when you pack. Last time you forgot your razor," Laura said.
 
She and Remington both laughed uneasily at the memory.
 
"Actually, I think you left it behind on purpose," Laura added quietly. "You just wanted to see how you looked with a beard."
 
"Yes, well, but you saw through me, didn't you?" Remington said. "You insisted I use your extra razor blade."
 
"Couldn't have you using my blade, now could I?" Laura asked. "Nicks the blade, you know."
 
"Yes, I know," he said, nervously raising his hand to his mouth and chewing his thumbnail.
 
Laura awkwardly swung her arms back and forth and bit her tower lip.
 
Remington finally broke the silence. "Yes, well, I guess I'd better get the remote and be on my way."
 
"Yes. Guess so," Laura said as fresh tears filled her eyes.
 
Remington walked to the wide screen TV and picked up the remote lying on top of it. As he did, he noticed the divorce papers scattered on the floor at Laura's feet.
 
"Here, let me help you with those," Remington gallantly offered, kneeling.
 
"No. Really. I can get them," Laura protested, kneeling beside him.
 
As they gathered the pages, their hands touched. They both felt the spark and looked at each other for a long moment. Abruptly, Laura stood up with her share of the papers. Then Remington stood, also, and handed over his portion.
 
She could hold back her tears no longer. They streamed unashamedly down her cheeks. Remington made an unconscious move to take her into his arms to comfort her, but caught himself. He let his arms drop limply to his sides.
 
"I'm sorry, Laura. I really didn't want it to turn out like this," he said, once again chewing on his thumbnail.
 
"You're sorry? After six years, that's all you can say? You're sorry?"
 
Laura was sobbing now. Remington offered her his handkerchief; she took it and blew her nose.
 
"Never at any crisis of your life have I known you to have a handkerchief," he remarked.
 
"What gives you the right to just breeze out of my life as easily as you breezed into it six years ago?" Laura demanded.
 
Remington just sighed wearily. "It just isn't working, Laura."
 
"We just need a little more time."
 
"We've had six years, Laura. I've never stayed anywhere in my entire life for six years!"
Remington tried to explain.
 
"And after six years you're tired of me? You're tired of us? You're tired of our marriage?"
 
"Laura, we never really had a marriage. Ever since that day on Juan's boat when you promised me two years, you've become more and more withdrawn. More inhibited. More and more...afraid...of losing yourself in me. You said it yourself in Acapulco. Somewhere along the line you lost us, Laura. I'm tired. I'm just too tired to keep fighting for your love and your trust...Of fighting for a life together for us."
 
"But what about this morning? Didn't that mean anything to you?"
 
Remington smiled gently and glanced at the bed. "This morning was very special, Laura. I'll always cherish that memory of our last time together."
 
"But...But you can't have felt something special between us then, and now just turn and walk away!"
 
"Don't you see? This morning was just a glimmer of what our life together could have been like. And the thought of what we could have, as opposed to the reality of what we do have, is tearing me apart. I simply can't live this way anymore. I've got to get on with my life."
 
"But what about my life?"
 
"You got along without a real live Remington Steele before I graced your life. I've every confidence that you can do it again. Just think-- without me to write about, you may actually start getting your share of the glory. Who knows? The papers may even start referring to you by name, instead of just 'unidentified woman.'"
 
"But you can't go," Laura pleaded. "I love you!"
 
"Laura, do you realize that's the first time you've ever told me that?"
 
"I've been a fool...A bloody fool. All those years, I was so afraid of losing you that I was too afraid to love you! But I was wrong, and if you'll just give me the chance I can make it up to you. I promise I can."
 
Remington merely looked at Laura with pain filled eyes, took her hand in his and kissed it. Laura felt the wetness of a tear.
 
"Good-bye, Laura," Remington said, releasing her hand and turning away slowly
 
"But I don't want a divorce!" Laura declared as she ran after him to the front door. "I didn't mean it when I said it two years ago. I was just tired and frustrated !"
 
Without looking back, Remington put his hand on the door knob. He then slowly turned and looked at Laura. Her face streaked with tears, she was standing like a lost child in front of the Gone With the Wind poster.
 
"But Mr. Steele... If you leave, where shall I go? What shall I do?"
 
Remington said nothing as he opened the door and stepped into the hallway into the waiting arms of Clarissa. He allowed himself one last lingering took at Laura, huddled there beside Scarlet and Rhett, and then closed the door.
 
With the sound of Remington's footsteps fading farther and farther away, Laura slid farther and farther down the wall beneath the poster. She cradled her drawn knees in the circle of her arms and cried. She cried for what might have been...for all she had lost. After a while, she had no more tears left. She just felt empty. Empty and lost. She sat huddled and rocked back and forth, thinking of how she had lost the only thing in her life that really mattered.
 
Then she heard it...softly at first, but gradually growing louder.
 
It was the neighbor's radio. Remington had always complained that the walls were paper thin. A few more tears streamed down her face at the memory. She dabbed at the tears with Remington's handkerchief and thought of the irony of the song she was hearing. She listened and cried, lost in the words of Phil Collins...
 
How can I let you walk away,
Just let you leave without a trace?
When I stand here taking every prayer with you?
You're the only one who really knew me at all.
How can you just walk away from me,
When all I can do is watch you leave?
When we've shared the laughter and the pain.
We've even shared the pain.
You're the only one who really knew me at all.
 
So take a took at me now;
There's just an empty space.
And there's nothing left here to remind me,
Just a memory of your face.
Oh, take a took at me now;
There's just an empty space.
Your coming back to me is against the odds
And that's what I've got to face.
 
I wish I could just make you turn around,
Turn around and see me cry.
There's so much I need to say to you,
So many reasons why.
You're the only one who really knew me at all.
 
So take a took at me now;
Well, there's just an empty space.
There's nothing left here to remind me;
Just the memory of your face.
Now take a took at me now;
There's just an empty space.
But to wait for you is all I can do;
Well, that's all I've got to face.
Well, take a took at me now;
Cause I'm standing here.
But you coming back to me is against all odds,
It's a chance I've cotta take.
Take a took at me now...
 
Laura had no idea how long she had lain half awake in Never-Never Land hearing "Against All Odds" blare on Remington's radio. She finally shook herself awake enough to reach over and shut off the offending music.
 
What a nightmare! she thought as she ran her fingers through her hair. Closing her eyes, she tried to erase the memory of Remington's departure. She realized at that moment that regardless of how hurtful his manipulations had been yesterday, his leaving would be far more devastating. No matter what the cost to her own pride and independence, she could never allow that nightmare to come true.
 
Why did I jump at his joke about divorce? Laura chided herself. I knew he was just kidding. He was as frustrated as I was. Why didn't I just tell him then and there that I loved him and there would be no divorce--Not in two years...not in twenty years...not ever!? Why can't I just be happy that I've finally gotten what I've dreamed of for four years?
 
Laura felt the tears welling up in her eyes again. She wanted to enjoy a good cry, but a wave of nausea swept over her and she made a mad dash for the bathroom.
 
*************
 
Remington sat among the jumbled covers on the couch and listened to the sounds coming from the bathroom. He finally slipped out from beneath the covers, pulled on his robe and then silently walked into his bedroom.
 
Laura had left the bathroom door open. Remington walked closer to the bathroom, but then he hesitated. He felt very much like he had that night so long ago when he stood in the shadows and watched Laura cry. He had wanted to ease her pain, yet he was terribly afraid of intruding. Laura was such an independent creature that he never quite knew how to comfort her.
 
After a few moments, he turned to leave.
 
"Don't go," Laura said quietly as she turned off the water at the sink.
 
Remington hesitantly turned and faced her. Even after four years, Laura could still make him feel like an embarrassed teenager at a toss for words. "Are, uh, you okay?" he finally asked.
 
"No, I guess not," she said with a half laugh.
 
Remington noticed how very white her face was. "Can I, uh, get you something?" he offered.
 
Laura's first reaction was to tell him that she didn't need his help, but she wisely didn't say so. She could tell he was truly concerned about her and that he needed to take care of her. So Laura decided to let him. It was a small step toward making peace between them, but at least it was a step.
 
"Uh, maybe some toast and hot tea?" she suggested. "It might help to, uh, settle my stomach."
 
"Of course. I'll just be a minute. But first, back to bed with you."
 
She allowed him to lead her back to bed and even to plump her pillows. It surprised her that she enjoyed his pampering. Maybe giving up some of her independence wouldn't be so bad after all, she surmised.
 
But before Remington could made it out of the room, the wave of nausea hit her. Laura wasn't even embarrassed when Remington rushed into the bathroom with her and offered comforting words. Afterward, he gently washed her face with a cool washcloth. As he tucked her into bed again, Laura decided that perhaps a husband was a nice thing to have around. Being sick had never felt so good.
 
**********
 
As Remington puttered around the kitchen, he made a valiant effort to get up his nerve. He knew he couldn't be the husband Laura deserved until he cleared his conscience. If she got angry and raked him over the coals, so be it. In fact, he expected--even needed--a verbal thrashing. And the sooner she let him have it, the sooner they could make up and really begin their married life and their honeymoon.
 
Remington decided to plunge ahead. He vowed that by the time they finished their tea, she would know the truth. Then gathering their modest breakfast on a silver tray, he returned to the bedroom.
 
********
 
Laura was lying on her side feeling very queasy. "Here we go--breakfast in bed. What better way to start a marriage, eh?"
 
Laura slowly sat up and propped herself up on two pillows. Remington could tell she still felt lousy.
 
"I've been wondering..." Laura asked. "How did I end up in your bed?"
 
"You fell asleep on the couch," he explained as he handed her a cup of tea. "Since I had to move you anyway so I could make up the couch, it was easier to just let you stay here all night."'
 
"I don't believe that for a minute."
 
"Know me that well, do you?"
 
"Sometimes I do," Laura admitted. "But then there are times when you still surprise me."
 
"Yes, well, there are times when you rather surprise me as well," Remington countered.
 
Their eyes met, but both quickly lowered their gaze. They sipped in silence and munched on their toast.
 
"Feeling better?" Remington asked after a bit.
 
"Maybe a little."
 
"I think you should stay home today and rest up a bit. I mean, you had a rather harrowing day yesterday, and we certainly don't want you to be sick on the honeymoon."
 
He half expected Laura to chastise him for his suggestion, but to his surprise she laughed.
 
"You know, from the hints Mildred kept dropping last night, I have this terrible feeling she's going to send us to Mexico," Laura said.
 
"That's the impression I got, too. Personally, I'd rather go to Bakersfield. Or even Howardsville," Remington said. "I can think of worse ways to spend a honeymoon than by sharing a sleeping bag."
 
Laura laughed. "Mexico hasn't exactly been kind to us, has it?"
 
"With the way my luck's been running lately, I'll probably be arrested for some past indiscretion and end up in jail," Remington predicted.
 
"At the very least, we'll probably wind up being shot at by banditos every time we even think about kissing!" Laura said, laughing again.
 
Remington brightened up at this indication that Laura was softening.
 
She saw his look and poked a finger into his chest. "Assuming, of course, that I forgive you for that fiasco of a wedding yesterday! Before I get through with you, buster, you may be wishing you *were* safely behind bars."
 
"Yes, well... about yesterday, Laura...I really do owe you an explanation," Remington sheepishly admitted. Putting both of their cups down , he set aside the tray and took Laura's hand in both of his. For a few moments he kept his head lowered and patted Laura's hand.
 
Finally he found the courage to begin his confession. "Laura, do you remember the day the Rabbit died?"
 
"Of course. But I fail to see what..."
 
"Laura, please. This confessions are difficult enough without your interruptions."
 
"Sorry," she apologized. "No more interruptions, I promise."
 
Again, Remington patted her hand. He swallowed hard and continued. "Anyway, the day the Rabbit died, I got a phone call from Estelle Becker."
 
"I remember."
 
Remington shot Laura an irritated took.
 
"Sorry," she mumbled again, looking contrite.
 
"She wanted to see me right away--within the hour, in fact. Well, I was already upset, what with the Rabbit dying and all, and..."
 
The telephone rang and Remington just growled at it. It rang again, so he reluctantly reached across the bed and answered it. It was Mildred, informing him that one of them was needed at police headquarters to answer questions and file reports on the Unidac case. Assuring her one of them would be there shortly, he slammed down the receiver.
 
Blast! he thought. Honesty was difficult enough without the bloody phone interrupting his confession.
 
Laura put a consoling hand on his shoulder. "Mr. Steele, it's not the first time the phone has interrupted us at an inopportune moment and it won't be the last. Now, what did Mildred want?"
 
"They need one of us at police headquarters to answer questions about the Unidac case."
 
"I'll go," Laura offered.
 
"No," Remington said, patting Laura's hand. "You're still a bit queasy. I'll go."
 
"All right," Laura quickly agreed. "Besides, I've got a few things I need to do later." Holding up a tangled hunk of hair, she added, "Like get something done with my hair!"
 
"Yes, it could use a touch of therapy," Remington admitted. He then smiled and patted Laura's hand again. "This discussion isn't ended, love. I promise to finish my confession tonight."
 
"That's one promise I'll hold you to, Mr. Steele. I have to believe that, in spite of yesterday's actions, you are a decent and honorable man. If I didn't believe that, I'd have driven you to the International Concourse myself."
 
Laura smiled and leaned forward. Remington tenderly took her face between his hands and gave her a kiss. When they broke the kiss, both were smiling.
 
"What did I ever do to deserve you, Laura Holt?"
 
"I don't know. But I *do* know you're due at police headquarters and you can't show up in your pajamas."
 
"Yes, well, I *am* supposed to be on my honeymoon. Maybe they'll just assume..."
 
"Mr. Steele! Get dressed!"
 
Remington gave Laura a quick, playful kiss on the forehead before he jumped up and headed to the shower.
 
Laura lay back against the pillow and smiled. In spite of her guilt and fading anger, she felt surprisingly optimistic. Remington's desire to be honest had heartened her, but she owed him that same honesty. She had much to account for, also. She would take her part of the blame, but she would have to take things one step at a time. She wasn't quite ready to tell him everything. At least, not yet.
 
The early morning nausea had not come as a surprise to Laura. She had been struggling with it for the past week or so. Between that and the fact that she was two weeks late, she was becoming increasingly suspicious. And the ironic thing was that it was Remington himself who had first planted the seed of suspicion in her mind.
 
She had suspected nothing until her Rabbit had died a few days ago. In her frustration she had breezed into Remington's office and proceeded to rant and rave about the dreadful disaster. At the time she couldn't make any sense out of Remington's excitement upon hearing the news, and she was too distraught to even think of it again--until the next morning, when she found herself suffering from morning sickness again.
 
All of a sudden a light bulb had gone off and she understood his bizarre reaction. He had no idea she had been talking about her car; he thought "the rabbit died" was her way of telling him she was pregnant! It was at that point that her detective's mind examined all the evidence and realized that Remington was probably right in his assumptions.
 
When Laura first suspected that she might be pregnant, she had mixed emotions. It would certainly be an unexpected complication in her already confusing life. It was bound to put a crimp in her lifestyle. And she certainly had never planned on being an unwed mother-to-be! In fact, until recently, she had never even given much thought to ever becoming a mother at all. But in spite of all the complications it would present, Laura desperately hoped that her suspicions were correct.
 
She had been trying for the past month to prod Remington into proposing to her again. She had been a bloody fool to run like a scared rabbit when Remington had made his infamous proposal four weeks earlier. Leave it to her Mr. Steele to borrow Rhett Butler's very words when proposing! Believing he was playing a cruel joke on her, she had driven away in his Auburn as fast as she could. Then later that night, alone in her bed, she recalled Remington's conversation with Laurie Beth while they were babysitting the evening before. He had confessed to the child that he loved her Aunt Laura and wanted to marry her. But because Laura had too much pride to go to Remington and apologize for her misunderstanding, she had been impatiently waiting for some circumstance to bring them together. She just never expected that circumstance to turn out to be Remington's deportation!
 
Laura had looked on this possible pregnancy as the answer to their problem. She knew Remington wanted children. Heaven knows he had dropped enough hints since first asking her if she would continue to be a detective after having children. And his obvious thrill to the news that the Rabbit had died certainly proved he would welcome this child. As for Laura, she had been dreaming of dark haired, blue eyed, dimpled children for quite some time--almost from the moment "Benjamin Pearson" had kissed her hand in the penthouse suite.
 
So Laura had welcomed the morning sickness and prayed for it to continue. She wanted this baby--their baby. It may not have been planned, but it would certainly be wanted and loved. They had indeed succumbed to Temptation, the Cola of love, and reaped its benefits! Though Laura was sure the baby had been conceived during the aphrodisiac cola case, she knew it wasn't merely the cola that had caused their extremely amorous behavior during that time. True, it had caused them to be more uninhibited than normal, but it was their love for each other than had created this new life.
 
Those whirlwind days of the cola case had been so hectic, Laura could easily rationalize having missed a pill. She would never have resorted to an unexpected pregnancy for the sole purpose of achieving marriage with Remington. She would never have wanted Remington to marry her just because of a baby. But as it turned out, she now had Remington *and* a possible baby. Funny how things turn out, Laura thought to herself.
 
Laura decided to wait until the shock of their sudden marriage wore off before sharing her news with Remington. And by waiting until then, it would also give her a little more time to be absolutely sure. She felt sure he would want a legal marriage as soon as they could make arrangements; after all, it would be terribly important to her mystery man that their child have a proper name.
 
Actually, though, Laura had her suspicions that their tunafied fiasco of a marriage *was* legal. She knew Remington had wanted a real marriage with her. If she hadn't been so pigheaded when he proposed a month ago, the entire deportation disaster would have been avoided in the first place. Laura felt guilty for that; she knew she shared at least part of the blame their current mess.
 
She shuddered as she recalled her nightmare, which had ended with Remington seeking comfort in Clarissa's embrace. It hurt that Remington had not been honest with her in the first place, but it hurt even more that he had involved Clarissa. Laura had to be absolutely sure that Clarissa was not a threat to her new life with Remington. And the best way to do that, she reasoned, was to put aside her fears and guilt and confront Clarissa.
 
And while she was at it, she might as well find out just how fishy this marriage of theirs really was.
 
As Laura lay in bed listening to the sounds of Remington shaving in the bathroom, she slowly drifted back to sleep. When she awoke an hour later, Remington was gone. As she sat up in bed, she noticed the note resting beside her on the spare pillow. She quickly picked it up and read it.
 
The note brought a smile to her lips. It said simply:
 
"All things are new again. Just think of the possibilities.
Remington"
 
Laura couldn't help thinking of a rainy night years earlier when Remington had taken her in his arms and protected her from a world that was falling apart around her. She had called him 'the man with no name.' But oh, how wrong she had been! He had a name. It was true she had created it, but he had earned it time and time again.
 
He *was* Remington Steele.
 
Laura ran her fingers over Remington's signature on the note. He had never referred to himself as Remington to her before. She was touched. Never would she have thought the use of a simple name could feel so intimate.
 
"Indeed, Remington," Laura said to herself. "All things are new again."
 
Another wave of nausea swept over her, but soon subsided. Remington had thoughtfully left hot tea and crackers on the night stand and Laura helped herself. Then using the phone by the bed, she made a hairdresser's appointment for later in the day. She thought briefly about calling for a doctor's appointment, but decided to wait until after the honeymoon.
 
Laura's own clothes from yesterday were completely ruined, so she rummaged through Remington's closet for a shirt and pair of jeans. Luckily, one of his numerous ties made a perfect belt. As she examined herself in the mirror, she couldn't help laughing as she though of her wedding attire. She had always dreamed of wearing a beautiful flowing white gown and of saving it for her own daughter to wear on her wedding day. But somehow she didn't think her daughter would be too thrilled about wearing a ripped and muddy brown suit.
 
After dressing, Laura drove the Auburn to her loft. She had assumed correctly that Remington had taken the limo to get the seat cleaned again. Had it really just been a month since its last cleaning.? Laura shook her head and laughed, remembering all the fun she and Remington had while getting the seat sticky during the Temptation cola case.
 
Lost in thought, Laura arrived at the loft sooner than she expected. Discarding Remington's clothes, she stepped into the shower. The hot water felt wonderful on her sore muscles. The tumble down the cliff the day before had left her sorer than she had first realized. Putting her hand lightly on her abdomen, she said a silent prayer that her tumble hadn't harmed her baby. She was going to have to be more careful now, she realized. It wasn't just her own hide she needed to protect anymore.
 
Then for some reason, she thought back to her recent roll in the mud with Andrews at Unidac. There she was, wallowing for her life, while Mr. Steele had just sat there brushing mud spatters off his tuxedo! What kind of man would allow his pregnant wife to suffer through such torture without even lifting a finger? Okay, so she wasn't his wife then. And he didn't know she was possibly pregnant--but was that any excuse? A gentleman would have jumped right in and protected his woman, regardless of the damage to his clothes! That conniving ingrate! Wasn't she more important than his lousy tuxedo?
 
The whole time she was ranting to herself, Laura knew she was being unreasonable. She was the one who had always insisted on taking care of herself. Remington had always tried to protect her, but his efforts usually just earned him a tongue lashing. "I could have gotten out of that myself," she had told him time and time again. So who could blame him for letting Miss Independence fend for herself?
 
Well, perhaps it was time for Miss Independent to become a bit more dependent. Perhaps losing herself in the man she loved wouldn't be so bad. After all, as Remington had reminded her, he wasn't her father and she wasn't her mother. If Remington could willingly risk five years in jail to stay with her, couldn't she willingly give up a bit of her independence for him? Wasn't their love for each other more important?
 
Besides, what good would her independence be if Remington were no longer around?
 
Laura emerged from her shower more determined than ever to make their marriage work. As she dressed, she thought about what she would say to Clarissa. The trouble was, she just didn't know *what* to say to her. All she knew for sure was that she was ready to fight for her man, if need be. She had to resolve Clarissa once and for all.
 
As Laura opened her jewelry box, her eyes fell on the silver heart Remington had given her at the conclusion of the Derek Vivian case. She picked it up and tenderly caressed it. Even then, Laura had seen the love in Remington's eyes; she was just so afraid of being consumed that she couldn't accept it.
 
Quickly, Laura fastened the necklace around her neck. She touched it, resting in the hollow of her neck. She seemed to draw courage from it; perhaps it would give her the courage to face Clarissa. At least, she hoped it would.
 
Laura threw a few clothes into a small suitcase. She packed just enough to wear the next two days while she stayed at Remington's condo. She'd come back later to pack for their honeymoon.; she didn't have the time now.
 
*****
 
Laura had a hard time explaining the condition of her hair to her hairdresser. Fights in mud puddles and death attempts in wind tunnels just weren't things most people could relate to. Later, as she sat under the dryer, she noticed the latest edition of the LA. Inquirer on the magazine rack beside her. With great trepidation, she picked it up and thoroughly searched it for some sleazy article on their wedding. She thanked her lucky stars when no such article appeared. She'd had horrible visions of finding a headline that read "Famed Detective Remington Steele Woos and Weds Secretary, Foils Immigration." She had even feared finding an equally tacky article explaining how she had slept her way to the top.
 
She threw the rag aside with a great sigh of relief. Glancing at her watch, she realized she would be stuck under the dryer for a while longer. That was okay, she decided. She welcomed the opportunity to further ponder the possible (or was it probable?) legality of the whole affair.
 
A lot of things made Laura feel the marriage was legal. As a detective, she always looked for cold, hard facts. But there were times, however, when those cold hard facts took the back seat to her"nags", as Remington called them. And this was one of those times. She knew Remington loved her. Since he had already proposed, she knew he had wanted to marry her even before the deportation problem arose. And since they were married in international waters, chances were that no paperwork was required anyway. Then there was the matter of Juan. He knew the marriage ceremony *too* well to have been a mere fish cleaner! Besides, why would Remington go through the *charade* of marrying her when he wanted to many her for real? There was simply too much at stake for him to have staged a fake marriage.
 
In addition to her own feelings about the situation, there was the matter of Immigration. Miss Becker had seemed satisfied that the marriage was legal. Surely an Immigration official wouldn't let herself be swayed by Remington's charms. She would have based her acceptance on hard facts.
 
And it was those hard facts that Laura was determined to uncover, even though in her heart she felt the marriage was legal. And if it turned out that her instincts were wrong and the marriage was a sham? She'd just have to convince Remington to officially tie the knot, even if it meant proposing to him herself!
 
When she left the salon, Laura called Clarissa from a nearby pay phone. She had been less than pleased to discover Clarissa's business card in Remington's jacket pocket, but at least she didn't have to call Mildred for the number. Clarissa was quite willing to have Laura come right over. She certainly didn't *sound* like a woman with anything to hide.
 
*****
 
With her fingers unconsciously stroking her locket, Laura entered Clarissa's condo. She was a little surprised by her elegant but understated abode. She wasn't exactly sure what she had been expecting; but probably something a bit more obvious.
 
Clarissa was pleasant and charming as they sat together on the couch, but Laura couldn't help feeling uncomfortably and inadequate. Laura knew Remington could have his pick from any number of beautiful women such as Clarissa or Felicia, and it always amazed her that he had settled on her. Her insecurities were still hard to overcome.
 
Clarissa sensed Laura's nervousness and decided to break the ice. "I'm glad you're feeling better. Remington mentioned you were sick this morning. That's really rotten luck, being sick on your honeymoon."
 
Laura forced herself to stay calm. "You talked to Mr. Steele, uh, Remington, this morning?"
 
"He stopped by for a few minutes to settle his account from yesterday. It was such a relief to find out he hadn't been deported! I'm so glad the two of you finally worked things out."
 
Laura was confused. "But if you were planning to marry Mr...Remington, why would you be glad he married me instead? I would have thought you'd be upset that your wedding was interrupted."
 
"Think about it, Laura. It wasn't your sudden appearance that stopped the wedding. It was my arrest."
 
Laura thought about it for a minute. It just didn't add up.
.
"Do you really think I would solicit myself to the likes of Keyes?" Clarissa asked.
 
Laura didn't even want to respond to that.
 
"I do have standards," Clarissa assured her.
 
"And I'm sure they're incredibly high," Laura responded. "But what does this have to do with anything?"
 
"When I saw how upset you were at the chapel, I knew I had to put myself out of the picture. I was hoping my arrest would encourage you and Remington to get married."
 
"Well, your plan certainly worked," Laura said sarcastically.
 
"I'm really glad you came to your senses, Laura. Remington was really desperate."
 
"Ah, yes--desperation. Hell of foundation for a marriage, wouldn't you say?"
 
Clarissa just smiled. "He loves you very much, Laura. You should have seen him when he first came to me with his crazy scheme. He was so depressed; I really felt for him. I tried to talk him out of it, but at that point that he wasn't quite rational ."
 
"Exactly what scheme did he come to you with?" Laura asked. She wasn't sure she wanted to hear the truth, but she needed to hear it.
 
"Remington needed a bride for a couple of hours. He assured me the marriage would be phony. We had no license, no blood tests, no legal papers of any kind. Even the minister was a phony--a regular client of mine."
 
"But if Remington needed to marry an American citizen to prevent deportation, why would he stage a phony ceremony? Surely he knew that Immigration would discover the truth sooner or later."
 
"He hoped it would be later. He just wanted to buy some time."
 
"Time for what?" Laura asked.
 
"To work things out with you. He hoped that by the time Immigration caught on to him, you and he would be legally married."
 
"But why didn't he just come to me in the first place?"
 
"I tried to get him to go to you, Laura--to be honest about the whole rotten mess. But he said he just couldn't--that you'd already rejected him just a few weeks ago."
 
"Oh, God," Laura said, remembering again that night at his apartment.
 
"He must have been very hurt. He said he just couldn't bare his soul to you again so soon. He just shook his head and said, 'If only Laura had married me then, none of this nightmare would be happening.'"
 
Clarissa's words hit Laura hard; she had never dreamed her actions would come back to haunt her so vividly.
 
"I'm afraid I, uh, over reacted when he proposed," Laura confessed, nervously twisting her ring. "At first I thought he was teasing. I mean, he was quoting Rhett Butler's proposal from Gone with the Wind, for heaven's sake! Then I guess I was just...overwhelmed. I ran away and drove home as fast as I could - in his car! I guess I've, uh, always had a problem dealing with the idea of marriage."
 
"Yes; Remington said it had something to do with your father."
 
Part of Laura wanted to be angry at Remington for discussing their private affairs with Clarissa. But at the same time, she understood. Clarissa was easy to talk to. And since Laura was also feeling the need to talk to someone, she found herself confiding in Clarissa, also.
 
"My father left when I was 16. I guess I never got over it. Since then, I've demanded total commitment from any man I've been involved with."
 
"That's a lot to expect, Laura."
 
"I know. For years I've told myself that Remington didn't really love me because he's never actually said the words 'I love you.'"
 
"Have you ever said those words to him?" Clarissa inquired.
 
"No. I was always waiting for him to say them first," Laura said, shaking her head and laughing sadly. "And then when he finally *did* say them, I locked myself in the bathroom and ran like a scared rabbit." She gave her ring another twist, then added, "Later that night I realized he had meant every word he said. But I had too much pride to apologize. I just kept hoping he'd propose again."
 
"And I'm sure he would have, if Immigration hadn't interfered. Anyway, when I realized he couldn't be talked out of his crazy scheme, I agreed to go along with it. I didn't want him going to someone who might take advantage of him...and in the condition he was in, he just might have." Clarissa reached over and put her hand on Laura's shoulder, adding, "Don't get me wrong--I never approved of his absurd plan. It just seemed like the lesser of other possible evils."
 
Laura had a sudden image of Remington 'renting' some strange hooker as a fake bride and then being blackmailed into a 'honeymoon' as payment. She shuddered at the thought, actually feeling gratitude toward Clarissa for looking out for Remington.
 
"Actually, Laura, I always had the feeling that Remington didn't tell me everything. I mean, if he had truly wanted to keep our marriage plans from you, I don't think you'd ever have suspected enough to show up at the chapel like you did. He must have given you plenty of clues and hoped you'd try to stop him."
 
Laura thought back over the events of the day before. She had been so emotionally involved with Remington's strange behavior that she had never considered that she had been set up. It certainly made sense. If he had wanted Clarissa to remain a secret, why announce his blood test appointment? Why have Clarissa pick him up in front of Century Center in full view of her window? Why have his tuxedo delivered to the office, of all places? And why tell Clarissa to use Ilsa Lund as a code name, or have Starbrite Jewelers call the Agency?
 
It was all so obvious, and she had been blind not to have realized it sooner. Some detective she was!
 
"Laura?" Clarissa asked, concerned by Laura's sudden silence. "Are you okay?"
 
Laura smiled. "Sure. Just mentally chastising myself for being so blind."
 
"Don't. Just be glad things turned out so well. You and Remington have something really special."
 
"I know," Laura sighed. "Now, if we can just find a way to admit to each other how we feel."
 
"Don't worry --you'll find a way. Just follow your heart and you'll be fine."
 
"Yes, well. I guess I'd better be going," Laura said nervously, rising.
 
Clarissa stood also and escorted her to the door.
 
"Thank you for talking with me, Clarissa. And thank you for being a friend to Mr. Steele. I'm glad you were there for him."
 
"For the record, Laura, I've never had designs on Remington. Not that he isn't attractive, but he made it very clear to me the first night we met that his eyes were set on different shores. The man I want has to want me body, soul and heart. I don't want his heart to belong to someone else. Remington has always been a dear friend to me, but that's all. A friend. He helped me when I was in trouble, and I was just returning the favor. We were planning to go our separate ways after the fake wedding."
 
Laura merely stroked the silver heart around her neck and smiled. "Thank you, Clarissa. For everything."
 
"Sure thing, Laura. You and Remington have a happy life."
 
Laura's step was lighter as she walked to the Rabbit. She could rest easy about Clarissa now. In fact, she was glad Remington had gone to Clarissa for help. Well, not exactly glad. She'd rather he had come to her, but at least she better understood why he had resorted to his deception.
 
Actually, Laura was flattered that Remington had resorted to such an elaborate ruse to marry her. At least now they were married, and at least they were still together-- and when all was said and done, wasn't that what really mattered? Where and how they were married weren't the important factors here, Laura realized. For that matter, neither was what she had been wearing.
 
But still, a real wedding would have been nice, she admitted to herself as she drove towards the agency. Before she knew it, she found herself lost in a daydream...
 
Laura imagined herself in a beautiful cathedral with every pew decorated. She was walking up the aisle in an off-the-shoulder, long white gown, the train extending halfway down the aisle behind her. Remington, indecently handsome in his wedding clothes, was waiting for her at the altar. The ceremony was flawlessly performed by a kindly minister, followed by Juan singing "Feelings" as soon as she and Remington broke their kiss.
 
The next thing Laura knew, the wedding was over and Remington was carrying her over the threshold of his apartment. Then out of nowhere, Keyes appeared holding a very prickly cactus. Remington quickly towered her to the floor.
 
"This farce you call a marriage is gonna cost you five years in the federal pen," Keyes bellowed.
 
Suddenly a gaggle of Immigration officials stormed out of Remington's bedroom and slapped a set of handcuffs on him.
 
Keyes turned and faced a dumb struck Laura, saying, "And it's gonna cost you your investigator's license."
 
Another official, a female one, pulled Laura's private investigator's license out of her wedding dress bodice and shredded it into little pieces.
 
"Wait! " Laura heard herself shouting as they dragged Remington to the door. "No, wait! Our marriage is legal! Come back!"
 
Laura realized she was crying not over the toss of her license, but over the toss of her husband.
 
"Please!" she sobbed. "Come back!"
 
Laura swerved to avoid hitting an oncoming car, effectively putting an end to her daydream. She shuddered as the last bits of it faded away.
 
Determinedly, she squared her shoulders. Well, she'd settled the Clarissa question to her satisfaction. Now it was time to settle the legality of their marriage once and for all. No lmmigration official was going to take Remington away from her!
 
To be continued...

Steele, Inc.-Atlanta Div.

"Life in the Steele Lane" Index

 
dtalley@mindspring.com
 

Disclaimer: The characters of Remington Steele are used without permission.
This story copyrighted 1988 by Debra Talley. It is purely for entertainment purposes.