Disclaimer: Remington Steele is owned by MTM and all the grand high mucky mucks. No copyright infringement is intended and no money was made from this of course. Any similarity to any other story not my own is coincidence.
Title: When All is Lost
Genre: Remington Steele; angst
Timeline: Immediately following the end of the series
Author's Notes: Soooo... I intended this one to go the way of smut, but *shrug* it demanded to be a story of angst and tears instead.
Remington rested his forehead against the cool shower tiles and let the stinging torrent wash down his back, seeking some measure of release from the tension that was tying him up in knots. Blindly, he reached out to turn the water up to near scalding temperatures before pressing his palms to the blue patterned ceramic.
"Laura..." he breathed painfully, as close to a prayer as he had come to in several lifetimes. "Oh, Laura..."
Remington arched his spine into the heat, frustrated, aching, and heart-sore.
"Damn," he swore softly, almost comforted by the familiar and faintly chemical taste of LA water on his lips. But after several minutes of it being the only comfort he was experiencing, Remington turned off the faucet with a sigh and stepped out of the shower. For a moment, he simply stood on the bath mat, letting the water droplets cool on his almost over-heated skin.
He ran a quick hand through his dark wet hair and reached for a towel from the rack.
"It doesn't have to be like this," he murmured.
Remington dried himself off briskly before pulling back on his comfort worn blue jeans and wrapping the damp towel around his still tense shoulders.
"It shouldn't be like this," he corrected into the empty bathroom as he stepped out into the open space of Laura's loft.
He paused when he saw her sitting on the piano bench, her back to him and her shoulders shaking silently. Almost instinctively, Remington took a step forward before checking himself.
"Damn..." she muttered, unknowingly echoing the man behind her as she painfully brushed unseen tears from her eyes and began to play.
For several moments, only the deeply melancholy sounds of Chopin filled the vast walls of the loft and the empty gulf between them. Then, just as abruptly as Laura had begun playing, she stopped. Remington still hadn't moved from his spot near the bathroom door.
"I was scared," Laura said finally, loudly enough that Remington knew he was meant to hear her. "Terrified actually," she admitted. She waited, and when he said nothing in response, she sighed softly and continued.
"In Ireland, after the phone call, when we didn't... when..." Laura hesitated before taking a deep breath to steady herself. "In Ireland, you asked me 'why Tony?' Well... that's why. I was terrified, and Tony, he was safe; a hell of a lot safer than you."
Laura stiffened slightly when she heard Remington's small sound of disbelief.
"You asked me why, and I'm trying to be honest here," she replied a touch defensively.
"So you're saying that everything with Anthony, with you, was all about how safe he was?" Remington asked, the quiet incredulity he felt clear in his voice, even from across the room. "About how much safer he was than me?"
"Yes," Laura replied simply before touching the piano keys again as if she would return to her playing. Then she sighed softly. "Yes," she repeated.
Remington saw her delicate frame shiver slightly, almost as if she were cold, although he know that she couldn't be in the warm LA loft.
"Tony would have been just a 'teeth rattling, eye rolling fling' as Bernice would say."
Remington made a small sound. "And that made him safe, safer than me?"
"Yes... yes, because you wouldn't be," Laura countered. "You could never be just..." she answered, emphasizing the word. "It could never be just a 'teeth rattling, eye rolling' fling with you."
Despite himself, Remington took a step forward.
"And that's terrifying," she added. "You don't know how terrifying. And that thought makes me... well, it makes me hold back. It has from the beginning I think."
Laura shivered again, crossing her arms in front of herself as if she could physically hold back her emotions as well as her body.
"I could lose myself so easily in you... in us. I could fall into you and get lost. And the scary thing is... is that a very real part of me wants to do just that. A very determinedly romantic and impulsive part of me thinks that, that would be glorious."
"And you're afraid I'm going to leave," Remington supplied. "Laura..."
"Yes...no..." she interrupted. "I mean yes, you leaving would be... it would..."
She took a deep breath instead of completing the statement.
"But I know you would never leave," she said instead.
"I know now that you would never leave me," she interrupted again. "And that's another part of what makes you just so..."
"Unsafe?" Remington offered.
"Unsafe," Laura agreed. "It's one thing when it comes to the agency. I mean, at least there it's not really you. I mean, it is, but it's as much my Remington Steele as it is you. Besides, with the agency, we both know ourselves and where each of us stands... more or less... But outside of the agency?"
She shrugged briefly.
"I've already hidden myself in you, or at least the idea of you, at the agency and I'm fine with that... well, mostly... but it's just me and you here, and we're so..."
Remington took a few steps closer.
"Laura, I'm trying to understand, I really am, but..."
"Who am I?" she asked abruptly.
"What?" Remington asked, completely thrown and confused by her question.
"Who am I? And if we did this, if I let myself get lost in this, who would I be? Would I still be me? Would I still be who I am?"
She finally turned on the piano bench to face Remington, her autumn eyes vulnerable, confused, and a whole host of other emotions that he was at a loss to readily identify.
"What if I get lost?'
Suddenly, Remington had a flash of insight.
"You keep talking about getting lost Laura. But what if it's the other way around?"
"The other way?"
"That's how it was... how it is with me," he replied. He closed the distance between them until he was near enough for her to hear him as he practically whispered, "I found myself, Laura. With you, when I met you, I found myself."
He reached out carefully to tilt her face upwards, his fingertips gentle on her chin.
"So maybe it's time you find yourself."
Remington leaned down, bringing his lips close enough to hers to breath her in softly.
He waited; waited for Laura to make the next move.
"Maybe..." she whispered, and brushed her lips against his lightly. When she pulled back slightly, Laura watched Remington's lips a moment, quickly licking her own. "Maybe..."
Again, she brushed her lips over his in something that was only the promise of a kiss before pulling back abruptly.
"No..." she protested softly.
Laura stepped away from Remington quickly, ignoring the bench behind her and simply pushing it backwards until both it, and she, fetched up against the piano itself with a discordant thump.
"Laura..." Remington soothed. "Laura..."
He stepped carefully into her space once more.
"Don't you want us to be lovers?"
She took a deep breath, steadying herself.
"You know I do," she replied. "But..."
He interrupted her gently with a kiss.
"Then let yourself love me," Remington urged her.
"Love me..." he whispered, brushing his lips over hers until she quietly responded, letting herself sink into a deeper kiss. His lips were warm, and subtle, and exquisitely persuasive.
"I promise you won't lose yourself," he whispered against her mouth. "You could never do that..."
Laura pushed at his chest.
"I have before," she countered a bit breathlessly, her voice almost hallow. "It's happened before, and I can't... I can't let it happen again."
Remington stepped back just a bit to look carefully at her.
"I won't," she repeated more forcefully. "This can't happen..."
"Damn it, Laura," Remington interrupted.
"No," she interrupted in turn as he opened his mouth to continue. "No..." She met his eyes almost painfully, her own glimmering with aching tears. "No... I love you... I love you too much to let myself love you."
"Laura, you're not making any sense," Remington protested. "Can't we just..."
"No," she interrupted before suddenly ducking past him. Without looking back, she practically ran to the loft door. She rested her hand on the door handle.
"You can... you can stay here tonight. I'll stay at a friend's."
"Laura, don't do this, stay with me..."
She slid open the loft door.
"I'll see you at the office tomorrow," she replied.
Remington made a move to catch her up.
"Don't... just... let me go," Laura said, still not turning around. She slid open the loft door and fled into the LA heat.
"Laura..." Remington whispered into the suddenly empty loft. "Oh God, Laura..."
He slumped to the floor in defeat.
"Don't do this to us... please..."
He lowered his face to his hands and cried as he hadn't since childhood...