xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx The Real Steeles – Part 8

Laura, Mildred and Shannon were being followed out of the hotel but Theodopolis and his man Smithers. They were just about to step in to the limo when Laura spied one of the MI6 agents from her interrogation across the street. He was clearly there to follow her and presumably to take Steele in for questioning. The agent recognized Theodopolis immediately and halted their departure. Not wanting any interaction with the authorities, Theodopolis left without the ladies.

"How is he involved?" the agent asked Laura.

"A very long and unrelated story," she told him. "But I am ready to tell you where my husband went."

"Why?" He was suspicious of her change of mind.

"Because I believe he is in trouble," she stated clearly. "And because I need your help."

"What makes you think I will help you?"

"Because we are both after the same thing." She paused. "The safe return of Remington Steele."

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Theodopolis was furious. He was barking orders and demanding results. All men were 'hopping to' except Smithers. He seemed totally unimpressed by his boss's attitude; in fact he seemed slightly amused.

"What is wrong with you?" Theodopolis yelled at him.

"I can answer that?" came Steele's voice from the corner. He was sitting in a chair by the fire smoking a cigar and sipping some brandy.

"Steele!" Theodopolis shouted. "Where are my pictures?"

Steele took a slow pull from the glass and nodded his approval of the vintage. "You might want to ask Smithers."

It was clear that Smithers was affected by the accusation, but he was maintaining his composure. "I gave them to you."

"No, you gave me posters," Steele corrected pointing to the desk at the cheap imitations. He looked back at Theodopolis, "your buyer was not amused."

Theodopolis' eyes burned with fire when he realized his chief lieutenant had double-crossed him – not once, but twice. "Where are they?"

Steele's calm voice continued. "With their rightful … well … their new owner, anyway."

Theodopolis was confused.

"Handed them over an hour ago." Steele said. "Please, contact him yourself. I have time." He took a lazy hit off the cigar.

Theodopolis did just that. When he hung up he spoke to Steele over his shoulder. "You may go." He nodded for one of his guards to take custody of Smithers.

Steele stood up and drained his glass. "Not interested in the details?" He was almost disappointed.

"No … just results." He turned to watch Steele leave. "I am in your debt, Mr. Steele."

Steele didn't want a man like Theodopolis in his debt, but it was better than the alternative. "How about just a ride back to town?"

Theodopolis ageed.

"One last thing." Steele waited for the nod from him, which was granted. He turned to Smithers and decked him.

Theodopolis laughed. "Anything else?" he asked.

Steele shook his hand from the pain. "No, that ought to do." Steele nodded and left.

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Steele walked out of interrogation shortly after 3AM. He had gone back to the hotel, Mildred told him of all that had been going on and he turned himself in – it seemed like the only logical choice. There was no sense in running from the CIA and MI6, not if they ever wanted to go home and there was nothing he wanted more than to go back to Los Angeles. It had been 9 weeks of adventure, intrigue and some very tense times. The time they spent at the villa in Fiji seemed like decades ago and way too short. It was time to take his bride home and back to their life – albeit vastly improved in one area.

Laura had fallen asleep on the wooden bench waiting for him. He had suggested that she go back to the hotel, but she had refused. Said she wasn't going anywhere without him. It wasn't as romantic as it sounded, Laura was in full 'Laura' mode and wasn't about to let anything get out of her control. Clearly she was ready to go home too.

He knelt down next to her and gently brushed her hair off her brow. She stirred slightly then startled awake. "What?"

"Hey, Hey," he said softly. "Everything is OK … we are good to go." He smiled holding up their passports.

"What? How?" She was still a little disoriented.

"Not sure, but I have to think your Mr. Roselli had something to do with it."

"He is not MY Mr. Roselli." She sat up and wiped her face. "And why would he help us, you turned him in?"

"I did," he said proudly. "I'm sure it was the most expedient way to save his own hide," Steele added.

"Did they let him go too?" She looked around.

"No ... I think they will keep him here for quite a while."

"Good," she stated. "Can we go home?"

He nodded. "But how about 24 hours of uninterrupted sleep first?" It had finally caught up with them that they had been up for some 36 hours.

"I have said it before, Mr. Steele."

"And you can say it again, Mrs. Steele," he prompted.

"I like the way you think." She allowed him to pull her to standing and the walked out leaning on each other for support.

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It wasn't quite 24 hours, but Laura woke feeling very rested. He was spooned up behind her holding her very securely. It was amazing to her. She had always been a tosser when she slept. Rarely if ever got a full night's sleep without waking once or twice or three times to shift her position and check the clock. But every night that they had slept in the same bed, she didn't move, didn't wake, didn't stir at all. That morning (afternoon?) she stayed there, still in his arms just feeling him breathe; thinking about the past, recent events and their future. Laura was never one to wear rose-colored glasses, but she did think things were looking up.

"Hey there," he whispered in her ear. "Tell me it's not morning." He pulled her close.

"It's not morning," she confirmed. "In fact I think it's very late in the afternoon."

"How about we order room service and not leave this bed until very late tomorrow afternoon." Not a novel request from our hero.

"You have my vote," she agreed knowing full well that it would not happen, but it was nice to think about. She laughed – well chuckled really.

"What's so funny?"

"Was just thinking that the last couple of months will make one hell of a story to tell our grandkids," she explained.

"Who would believe this?" He tried to ignore the rest of her comment, but really couldn't. He turned her toward him. "Do you want grandchildren? We never really talked about …" He let his words trail off.

"Yeah," she said reluctantly. "Someday … maybe … there's no rush." She looked up at him. "Is there? Do you want …"

"Haven't really given it much thought, really" he owned. "But I suppose … no rush … maybe … someday."

"Right! Yeah! Of Course!" She stated. "We don't want to drop a kid off at day care and go investigate a murder."

He smiled remembering a time when he asked her that very question but when he asked it was hypothetical.

"Or be kidnapped and held hostage, " she continued.

"My point, exactly."

They kissed and snuggled back into their positions pretending as if they would go back to sleep. There was silence for a moment as each stayed in his/her own thoughts spinning a little faster than they were.

He finally broke the silence. "We have one more stop before we can go home, you know?" He was referring to their plan to go to Ireland.

Laura thought for a moment, trying to choose her words carefully. His name had been a major sticking point between them. It HAD been, but ever since she found out that he really didn't know, rather than him keeping it from her – the 'sticking point' seemed to have faded away for her (except for the part that she had no good name to call him). She had only suggested they go to Ireland before because they needed to get his paperwork in order for him to go home – it had nothing to do with trust or a sign of his commitment. Since Anthony Roselli had done that for them, there really was nothing standing in their way to go back their lives.

She turned to face him. "I want you to know something." She paused hoping he would understand her sincerity. "You don't need to do that for me," she didn't like how the words came out. "I want you to know … to really understand … I know who you are … at least who you are to me … a piece of paper, a piece of history, a name on a birth certificate, a history, a heritage won't change that … what I know is enough for me."

He smiled. "A rose by any other name?"

"Something like that."

"Thank you, Laura." He kissed her forehead. "I think that is probably the nicest thing you have every said to me."

"I'm sure it isn't." She tucked herself into his embrace.

"But if I wanted to …?" He asked.

"Then we go … and not quit until we find the answer," she replied easily.

He pulled her close. "That's the 'never say die' Laura I know and love." He was silent for a moment trying to find his own words. He wanted to propose something to her and didn't really know how. "I need to ask you something else." He pulled away.

She sat up slightly worried. "Ok."

He took her hand. "When we get back to Los Angeles …" He paused again and swallowed hard. He had never asked this question before, nor did he think he ever would. He swallowed one more time. "Will you marry me?"

She was slightly taken aback. "Didn't we do that already?"

"No, not so much," he said. "I was thinking about something small … on the beach at sunset, maybe with your family and Mildred –without the INS watching over our shoulder, a nice dinner after and the weekend in Catalina or Malibu or Big Sur."

She shook her head smiling. "I don't know why, but your romantic side always surprises me."

"I hope to still be surprising you in 20 or 30 years." He waited for her response.

"Yes, I will marry you," she answered considering her next comment. "Ya know, I have always believed that marriage was a commitment between two people - not the family and extended family … would you mind if were just us? Just the two of us?"

He let out the breath he hadn't realized he was holding. "Just the two of us." He kissed her. "As you wish."

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They woke several hours later to the phone ringing. He had left strict instructions with the front desk and with Mildred not to be disturbed. He looked at the clock - 6:00AM. They had been sleeping for nearly 24 hours. It was time to get up.

Laura grabbed the phone. "Hello? … It's alright Mildred … The office?" Laura was confused. "Daniel?" Laura rolled her eyes and passed the phone over to Steele. "There was a message from Daniel," she told him.

He took the phone. "Yes Mildred … Where? … Do you know when? … Yes, thank you." He handed the phone back to Laura and stayed silent for a long moment. "I guess Ireland will have to wait," he stated. "Daniel wants to see me … he is in Sanremo."

"Italy?" She was surprised. "What is he doing in Italy … never mind … probably conning some Countessa out of all her money." She got up.

He didn't respond and leaned back against the pillows.

"Probably wants to pull you into the scam." She disappeared into the bathroom.

Steele shook his head. Daniel had never called before. If he wanted him for some con, then he would have just shown up with a plan and two tickets. It was not like Daniel to call and request a visit.

She popped her head out of the bathroom. "So you are going." She stated.

He nodded without looking at her. "Yes," he said slowly. "But you don't have to … I know how you feel about Daniel."

"I don't dislike him," she tried to sound convincing. She noticed that he was very distracted. "What are you thinking?"

He looked up at her. "Nothing … it's just strange."

"He probably read about us in the papers and wants all the gory details," she dismissed.

He took her place in the bathroom without commenting.

"You are really going," she called after him.

"I am," came his muffled reply as he brushed his teeth. "I owe him as much."

"You OWE HIM?" She came into the bathroom.

He turned the shower on and waited for the water to heat up. "Yes." He turned to her. "You may not understand this, but Daniel had a profound affect on me – with the possible exception of one other person, the most profound affect anyone has ever had on me. If it weren't for him, I'm sure I would be dead, in jail or lying in a gutter somewhere."

"I think that's a bit extreme," she dismissed.

"Then you don't fully appreciate where I was when I met Daniel." He stepped into the shower and that was the end of his part of the conversation.

Mildred knocked on the door. "I have us booked on the first flight I could get to Nice. We need to be at Heathrow in 90 minutes."

"Change of plans, Mildred." Laura declared packing what little clothes she had brought with her. "Mr. Steele will be going without us, we are going back to Los Angeles."

"Excuse me?" Mildred didn't understand. "What's changed?"

"Nothing has changed Mildred, that's the problem." Laura pointed toward that bathroom. "He gets a call from Daniel and he is on he next plane. No question, no discussion … nothing."

"I see." Mildred had seen this side of Laura before and was waiting her turn to speak.

"How do you call that a partnership, I ask you? Much less a marriage." She zipped her suitcase closed. "I was a fool to think otherwise. He'll never change."

"He's not the only one." Mildred tried to keep the sarcasm out of her voice, but didn't really try that hard.

"I think I have sacrificed quite a bit," Laura snapped. "And changed … a lot for this … whatever the hell it's called."

"It's a relationship, Miss Holt … good, bad or indifferent; it's a relationship with give and take."

Laura scoffed. "I give and he takes."

"You don't believe that," Mildred accused.

"No." She sunk down on to the bed. "No I don't, but …"

"But what?"

"How can I trust him … how can I run a business – build a life with him if every time he gets a call from Daniel or one of a hundred 'old friends' he drops everything and runs off on some scheme?"

"Is that really what is happening?" Mildred challenged.

"How would you describe it?"

She shrugged. "Honoring a friend's request."

"Please!!" she dismissed.

"You would do the same," she told her. "A call comes in from an old friend, he asks to see you and you go – that's what friends do."

Laura shook her head.

"Laura, I know you didn't ask for my advice, but I am going to give it to you anyway." She paused briefly to see if Laura would stop her. She didn't so Mildred went on. "If you really are in a marriage –"

Laura looked away.

"A relationship or even just a partnership that you want to continue then you have to accept his friends, his family, his baggage … just like he has to accept yours."

Laura crossed her arms and didn't say anything.

"I'm speaking from experience, honey. If you start putting wedges between you, if you start making him choose, if you demand that he change … you may win a few or more than a few, hell you may win them all, but it won't make you happy, and it won't make him happy and in the end it is you who will lose."

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There had been a strained silence between them as they packed and made their way to Heathrow. It wasn't as if they weren't speaking to each other, but they just kept the necessary questions directed through Mildred.

Laura had been remembering all her encounters with Daniel and the struggle they had trying to 'win' him as if he were a prize. Daniel more than implied that the only reason he (Steele) was still around was that he was waiting to get Laura in to bed and then he would be gone. Of course the phone call and Steele willingness to go without question or consultation confirmed her worst fears. He came very close to telling her that Steele could never be domesticated, that she was doomed to be left by him and that the only control she would ever have is to leave – or kick him out first – into Daniel's waiting hands no doubt. But as she looked back Daniel might have been playing on her fears rather than speaking from an intimate knowledge of how 'Harry''s mind worked. She had never really liked Daniel. He was smug, arrogant and condescending. She wondered what Steele had ever seen in him. She remembered the comment that Daniel made about what Steele – or Harry was like when they met. Words like: uneducated, unsophisticated, unwanted, hostile and violent. She had didn't dispute it at the time or even follow up with Steele about the validity of it, but could never really see the man she knew as Remington Steele as that juvenile delinquent living by his wits and his fists on the streets of London. But if it were true and Daniel had something to do with turning his life around, then she could completely understand Steele's loyalty.

When the plane finally took off and they were served their second glass of champagne Laura decided to end her silence.

"So tell me about Daniel," she asked honestly with no strain in her voice. "How old were you when you met him?"

Steele scanned her face to decide if she were earnestly asking or just trying to make a case against Daniel. She seemed sincere enough. "I was about 14 – 15, I'd guess."

"And you picked his pocket?" She prompted.

He smiled. "I did … it was clean too."

"How did he know it was you?"

"Ah, well that is a story." He turned in his seat to look at her. "He stuck around the station, stayed in the corner and watched. He pulled me aside when he had seen enough – demanded his wallet back, with all the money he had in it or he would turn me over to the police."

"You gave it back?"

"I denied the whole thing … got very offended; threated to call the cops myself; tied to fight my way free … full of piss and vinegar, I was. He didn't bat an eye; just calmly demanded his wallet. I would have given it back to him, but I had dumped it hours before … had no idea where."

"What happened?"

"He made me find it … tossed me into the dumpster to dig it out."

"Sounds like there was something more in that wallet than just money."

"That's why you're such a good detective." He pressed her hand. "A key … never knew exactly what it went to, but when I found the wallet, he pulled the key out of it and put it in a different pocket."

"He let you go?" She asked.

He nodded. "With a piece of advice and a promise."

"What did he say?"

"He said that I was good, better than good … that I was better than hustling for a few quid on the streets of London. Said that if I cleaned myself up (which was more than just taking a bath once a week), that he could use a kid like me. Said he could show me the world and we would go first class all the way."

"What did you say?"

"I laughed him off. I thought he was looking for something else from me – if you know what I mean."

Laura nodded.

"But his words stuck in my head and lit a fire in me. He was the first person I had ever met that had said I could be more than I was." He laughed. "Most people told me I was worthless and would never be more than stupid little c-." He stopped himself. "One thing was for sure, I needed to get out of London."

"Xenos in Greece … the Killkenny Kid in South America."

"Among others. Not steps up, but at least in better weather. The next time I ran into Daniel I was about 17 or 18 and ready for a change." He leaned back in his seat. "Taught me how to dress, talk, eat with the proper fork, appreciate the arts," He turned to look at her. "Appreciate a woman." He pulled her hand to his lips briefly. "Hell, I had my first taste of champagne and caviar with Daniel." He smiled. "Daniel may be a con man, but he sure knows how to live and he helped me put my skills to better use."

"You moved up from pickpocket to con man and thief." She stated not very impressed with the transformation.

"All in the past, my dear," he touched her arm and leaned in close to her. "I'm a new man now – I have a wife and a business to think about." He grinned in that disarming way he had.

She couldn't deny that he was charming when he wanted to be. "I'm glad you remember that."

"How could I forget?" He kissed her.

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When they arrived at the Villa Daniel was not there to meet them. Sophie, the housekeeper showed them to their rooms and asked them to join Mr. Chalmers for cocktails on the terrace at 6PM. 6PM was several hours away, Steele needed to know what was going on sooner. He went in search of Daniel and found him in a drawing room on the first floor. It had been turned into a hospital room and there was a nurse attending to him. Steele chose to walk away. He didn't say anything to Laura and waited not so patiently for the appointed time.

"Ah, Harry … and Mildred … " Daniel announced as they joined him on the terrace.

"Daniel," Steele shook his hand warmly noticing that he did not move much from the spot he was in.

"And Linda my dear, lovely as ever." Daniel took her hand. "I understand there are congratulations to be given … May I kiss the bride?"

Laura leaned in and reluctantly gave him her cheek. She wanted to be annoyed at this man, she wanted to gloat over the fact that she had 'won' and taken 'Harry' away from him, but all of that fell away when she saw the tiredness in his eyes. There was something wrong, something very wrong with him. He was thin and frail – completely different from the man she parted from a year prior.

"Harry, my boy." He waved toward the tray with drinks on it. "Would you do the honors?"

Steele poured while Daniel made idle chit-chat with Mildred. "Have you seen the grounds? The gardens are magnificent and the view is spectacular. Dinner is not for another hour."

Mildred took the hint. "I think I will go down and see for myself." She told the group.

"Linda, why don't you join her?" Laura was excused as well.

She would normally have felt that they were going to hatch some scheme, but after seeing Daniel, she knew his scheming days were over. "I think I will." She put her glass down and left with Mildred.

Daniel slumped down in the closest chair and tried to suppress his coughing.

"Daniel?" Steele sat down across from him.

"It's nothing, my boy." He coughed a few more times and sipped some water. "It comes and goes … coming mostly these days."

"What does?"

Daniel didn't want to say it out loud – to give credence to his murderer. "I'm dying, Harry," he said simply. "I suppose we all have to some time … my time just came earlier than I had hoped."

"What has been done?"

"Everything that could be done." He smiled. "Some times you can't con your way out. Don't worry, Harry. I have had a good life … no regrets." He smiled "Remember the time …"

Daniel and Harry talked and laughed for a long time about their past exploits, some that Harry had completely forgotten.

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Laura walked silently beside Mildred. She was in her own head.

"Where are you, Miss Holt?" Mildred finally asked.

Laura turned to her, "Miss Holt?"

"Old habit," Mildred smiled. "Laura … you are a million miles away – where are you?"

"More like a million years in the past." She sat down on a bench that looked out over the Mediterranean. "I was thinking about my father."

"Oh?" Mildred sat down next to her. Mildred had never heard Laura talk about her father and she understood it was a sore subject. "What got you thinking about that?"

"Daniel and Mr. Steele," she said. "It occurred to me that Daniel is more of a father to him than my father ever was to me."

"Your father left when you were 16?" Mildred prompted not knowing how accurate Laura's statement was.

"The day after my sister got married," Laura explained. "Not that he was around much before that. He was always working, or at least that is what he told us."

"You know differently?" There were too many questions to ask, Mildred stuck to the text.

"He was having an affair … it had been going on for years." She shook her head. "I don't think my mother ever knew, but if she did, she never let on."

"How did you find out?" Mildred asked. "Did he introduce you after the break up."

"HA," Laura scoffed unable to hide her anger. "He never made an attempt to contact me after he left." Laura told her. "No calls, no weekends, no Christmas cards, no birthday cards … nothing. It was as if he had died." She looked past the horizon. "Come to think of it, I am not sure he ever paid alimony or child support. I know damn well he didn't pay for my college and my grandmother had to help quite a bit during that time."

Mildred waited for her to continue.

"I hated my father for walking out on us and I felt like a fool for loving him and missing him. I was confused and hurt and scared and ashamed … when I allowed myself to think about it – to FEEL about it. I didn't really have much time. My mother was devastated … you know my mother, she can barely make out a grocery list … and with Frances out of the house – I had to take care of myself and my mother." She wiped at her eyes worried that a 16 year olds tears might fall. "Years later, when I opened my first detective agency I had a lot of time on my hands, so I tracked him down – it wasn't that hard, but it was the first time I had thought to do it. It was 12 years after he left … I remember. I found him 12 years -- to the day after he left."

"Did you speak to him?"

"No," she said coldly. "But I spoke to his wife and his daughters." She looked at Mildred to be sure that Mildred knew that Laura was not mean and spiteful. "They didn't know who I was."

Mildred wasn't expecting a new family.

Laura faked a smile and a pained laugh. "I suppose I should have been flattered."

"Flattered?"

"His oldest daughter was a beautiful, happy, bright, articulate, secure 13 year old girl." She looked away – the shame and hurt full on her again as it was when she was 16 and again at 28. "He named her Lauren."

Mildred did the math in her head quickly. Clearly the girl had been born before Laura's father had left. "I'm sorry Laura."

Laura nodded and stuffed it all back down. With one quick cleansing breath she was back to the in control, confident, the standoffish Laura that Mildred had known. "Do you know that I have never told anyone that story? … I hadn't even really thought about it in years, blocked it from my mind."

"I can understand why."

"Please don't tell …"

Mildred put her hand over Laura's. "This is not my story to tell."

"Thank you."

"But you have done nothing wrong, and you have nothing to be ashamed of." Mildred added before putting her arms around Laura and hugging her hard. There were so many things to say but Mildred knew that nothing would assuage the hurt that Laura felt.

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"Ah yes, the good old days." Daniel had a small coughing fit again. When it was over he nodded to an envelope on the table. "For you." He coughed again.

Steele reluctantly took the envelope and pulled out the papers inside. "This looks like a deed," he stated. "A deed to this house."

"I want you to have it, Harry. Call it a wedding present … or the place you can go when Laura kicks you out."

"Daniel --."

"It's paid for, just taxes and upkeep … and visit once in a while, the place needs a master."

Steele was speechless. He looked at the other document. It was a birth certificate. "What is this?"

"Well, Harry … that is you … your birth certificate at any rate." Daniel said proudly.

"MINE?" He immediately looked down in search of the name he had been missing and for one other. It wasn't there "Father: Unknown" it read.

"How did you get this?" He looked back up at Daniel.

"I am not such a bad detective myself, you know Harry." He shrugged. "I actually hired a detective, but I told him where to look and what to look for. I have the rest of the story, if you're interested."

Steele looked back down at the document in his hand and reread the child's name – his name - again. "Well that is one mystery solved – I guess Laura will be pleased." Oddly holding that document in his hands changed nothing for him. He wondered how it would impact Laura.

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They had said nearly nothing to each other the entire flight back to Los Angeles a few days later. There was not really much to be said … at least not about recent events; past events were resolved and future events were on hold (for the moment). Nothing was hidden, nothing was kept from the other, but it really didn't change that much and there was nothing really to discuss. They were on their way home, back to pick up the lives they left behind – or there abouts.

The taxi driver dropped Mildred off first and then took our heroes back to Laura's loft.

"I feel like we have been away for a hundred years," she said as he paid the driver.

He picked up their bags and directed her to the door. "I hope you aren't expecting me to carry you over the threshold."

"Maybe another time." She unlocked the door and let him precede her in.

Moments later they were standing in the wreckage that was THE LOFT – their combined belongings and ostensibly the home they were longing to get back to. His boxes and 'stuff' carelessly stored in her apartment. Every counter and edge covered with dust. A dank and musty odor filled the room.

"Home Sweet Home," he said dropping the bags.

"Four Seasons, Mr. Steele?" she asked as disappointed as he was at what they had found.

"Normally, I would say yes," he owned. "But not this time. Besides ... " He ripped open a box and pulled out several bottles of wine. "Thank you Mildred." He kissed the bottle. "We need to give that woman a raise."

"We need to do a lot more than that."

He shrugged his agreement. "Call for Chinese Mrs. Steele, while I start the shower." He stuffed a bottle in the freezer and put the others in the fridge before heading to the bathroom. "And crack a few windows, would you?"

Several hours later they sat on the floor of her bedroom in robes and wet hair with too many cartons to mention of Hop Li's Chinese Delivery.

She pulled the last shrimp out of the General Tsao's carton. "I have missed American Chinese."

He was picking the peanuts out of the Kung Pao Pork. "I think it has to do with the DELIVERY … God Bless America."

"Here, here," she touched her champagne glass to his. "So … work or apartment hunting?" she asked.

"For tomorrow?" He inquired as he snatched the last pot sticker and nearly swallowed it whole. "No use putting off the inevitable." He added.

"How about I go to the office," she started. "And you find us a real estate agent and we meet for lunch and compare notes?"

"Divide and conquer … you haven't missed a beat have you?" He leaned in to kiss her but stopped just short.

"And you knew I wouldn't, didn't you Harry?" She smiled and kissed him lightly on the cheek.

"'Harry'?" He asked.

"Do you mind?" She was worried that he might.

"I don't understand." He was about to point out that they now had a "good name" to call him.

"'Harry' fits you better," she lied. "At least when it's just you and I." She was clearly choosing to keep Daniel's name for him alive.

He was touched – really, really touched. "Thank you."

"We can bring him here, you know." She started, scared to broach the subject of Daniel's heath. "There are great doctors in the US."

He shook his head. "He had made his peace with it."

"Have you?" she asked.

"In time." He pushed all the cartons out of his way. "In the mean time, I have a wife, a wedding, a honeymoon and a business that I need to get back to … and I am thinking that the order on that is just fine."

She wrapped her arms around him. "Put me first on any list and you have my vote."

"Consider your position locked." He kissed her.

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Laura showed up at the office the next day. Mildred looked like she had never left, like they had never left. She was in full MILDRED mode. Laura watched her juggle six or seven calls before she could even say 'good morning'.

"Coffee is ready, Miss Holt .. Mrs. Steele … Laura."

Laura smiled. "Can I get you a cup?"

Mildred looked down at her cold cup that she hadn't even had a chance to get to. "Sure."

When Laura came back Mildred was again fielding and making several calls. Some were appointments, some were reporters and some were just to get the services back on. "Thank you."

"Mildred," Laura said slowly. "I know you are really busy, and I know that this could wait a few days … but we have a couple of priorities that we want you to add to your agenda."

"Oh?" She was slightly annoyed. How dare they come back and start making demands. She had been holding down the fort at her own expense for the past three months.

"First and foremost, now that the agency accounts have been unfrozen, you need to transfer funds to yours to cover all the costs that you have incurred over the past few months; for the personal expenses for my loft and moving Mr. Steele. … just tell us how much and we will cut you a check today."

"Oh Laura …" she wasn't going to press the issue but was grateful that she didn't have to bring it up.

"The next thing we need you to do is hire some a crew to clean out and paint Murphy's old office, and for you to order new furniture."

"Oh?"

"Yes, Mr. Steele and I have decided that we need help and if we are to grow this company ... personally I think he just wants to be able to take more time off ... at any rate we need another operative."

Mildred was beginning to get really annoyed.

"And naturally we will need to advertise for the opening." Laura paused for effect. "We need you to put an ad in the paper. We want you to screen, interview and make a recommendation for this new person. They will be a part of our family after all. We trust your judgment implicitly – but we would like to meet this person first."

"Fine," she felt the ire climbing up her spine.

"Good," Laura smiled. She got to her office door and turned back with her cup raised high. "And who ever you hire Mildred, make sure they know how to make coffee the way you do."

"Excuse me?" Mildred was confused.

"Why Mildred?" She could barely contain her smile. "You didn't think we would hire a new operative over you, now did you?"

Mildred just stood there speechless.

"You – as our gatekeeper will be impossible to replace – but I am sure we can all make due to facilitate your changing duties."

"But I haven't finished …" Mildred protested.

"We know … we will sponsor you and do whatever it takes." She came back out to Mildred's desk. "None of us would be here today if it weren't for you Mildred. This is not 'payback', you deserve this."

"Deserve it?" Steele's voice came from the doorway. "You have earned it … more than I have, I dare say."

Mildred nearly cried.

"None of that, none of that ol' girl," he wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "There is no crying in investigations."

Just then Laura noticed that there was a man at the door scraping off the "Remington Steele" name on the door. "Excuse me!!" She started for the door.

Steele grabbed her and turned her back toward him. "This one is on me." He stated. "Remington Steele Investigations is no more."

Laura and Mildred shared a look.

"Steele, Steele & Assocs has risen from the ashes." He looked to Laura to see if she would buck him.

"Which Steele is first?" She smiled.

"Brains before beauty, I always say." He kissed her quickly to keep her from responding.

Just then there was a commotion in the hall as a man pushed aside the door painter and made his way into the office. "Which one is Steele?" he asked. "My dog was just stolen."

"Your dog?" Mildred tried to field it.

"Yeah, my poodle worth about a million dollars … I will pay anything to get him back." He announced.

Laura and Harry exchanged a look. "Gotta to start somewhere," they said in unison.

"What did you say your name was?" Laura asked leading him into the office.

As the door closed the phone rang. "Steele, Steele and Associate." Mildred announced into the phone, "Yes Ma'am. Can you be here at 1:30? … We will see you then."

Mildred hung up the phone. Everything had changed, but it was all the same (more or less). "Can't wait to see what tomorrow will bring." She said to the empty room. Two lines started to ring and there was no time to consider. Today was just another day.

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If you had read thus far, THANK YOU. I do apologize for taking so long to get this out (I hope I didn't disappoint). I miss Larua and Steele. I miss the 80's when life and gas prices were easier to handle. We all go on, we all get older … but some things shouldn't change – and that is why GOD or whomever invented DVDs and the internet. Thanks again for reading. If you enjoyed or even if you found this mildly entertaining a quick note would be appreciated. If you hated it – why are you still here after 8 chapters? Oh well. Thanks again.