Author's Note: I had a brief but intense infatuation with Remington Steele the first season it was on, ending when at the beginning of the second season they ditched Murphy, who was a big favorite with me. This was written as a Christmas gift for a friend during that first season…which was a long time ago, so have some mercy…

Steele Christmas Without You…

by Pat Nussman


It was quiet, so quiet that she heard even the muted click-click-click of the electronic clock in the hall and, closer, a soft rustle as the Christmas tree dropped its needles on her newly-swept floor.

"Merry Christmas, Laura," she murmured. Yeah, real merry. All alone on Christmas eve.

She sat stiffly on the couch, hands folded, staring at nothingness. A glass of eggnog sat at her elbow, half-regarded. Its high alcohol content was the only point in its favor.

You could have gone home for Christmas, Laura Holt reminded herself. Right. And look forward to committing suicide for New Year's. No, thank you. Laura and her mother did not, as the polite euphemism went, see eye to eye.

She focused grimly on the dimly-glowing colored bulbs on the tree, the only light in the half-darkness of the living room. Don't know why I bothered to decorate a tree. I'm the only one who'll see it.

Thinning her lips angrily, Laura reached for the squat glass on the side table, started to drink, then slammed it down again, still untasted. Can't you tell the truth, even to yourself, Holt? You know why you 'decked the halls.' And why all your weekend invitations got a polite, 'no, thank you.'

It was hard to admit that she was such a fool.

Damn. Making a tight fist, she struck the sofa arm again and again in frustration. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn.

A fool, that's what she was. He wouldn't be sitting in the dark with nothing but a glass of spiked, synthetic eggnog to keep him company. Not the cool, unwrinkled, sophisticated Remington Steele.

As if the unpleasant thought gave her body animation, she rose, paced the steps to the window, turned, paced to the door. Looking up, she saw the small, foolish bit of mistletoe there.

"For the mailman," she blithely told the visiting Bernice.

Bernice hadn't been fooled. And, deep down inside, neither had Laura Holt. The house was decorated for him.

Disgusted, she glanced down at her red velvet hostess gown. Hell, she was decorated for him. For a man who was, no doubt, indulging right now in some under-the-mistletoe activities without benefit of either leaf or berry. With someone else.

She was a fool. An utter and complete ass.

Idly, she wandered to the tree again, examining the few brightly-wrapped gifts in the uncertain illumination of the tree lights. The garish red and green splashed paper was from her mother. An uninspiring juvenile print enclosed her sister's gift. Bernice's was as neatly wrapped as her orderly mind.

Smiling, she knelt to pick up Murph's gift. The ribbon was half-on, half-off, and a piece of tape flapped off one end , as if uncertain where it should go. Well, he's a good detective, anyway. The smile faded. And a good friend. Murph, why couldn't it have been you?

Her eyes traveled to the remaining package, enclosed nearly in a manner fairly shouting the businesslike, efficient Laura Holt, the red velvet ribbon tied up tight and crisp. All the hours and the agaonizing that had gone into the choosing of it, all the care that went into its wrapping, and she hadn't even had the courage to give it to him.

It doesn't really matter. She traced the letters on the tag, only half-seen in the dim light. It really doesn't matter at all.

She rose wearily. Bed suddenly seemed like the best of all ideas. If she could sleep. With habitual cautiousness, she reached to pull the plug that fed the tree lights.

The doorbell rang. Laura groze, mid-reach.

Get ahold of yourself, Holt. The mental adjuration was fiercely uttered. It's no one. Just a neighbor, wanting to borrow a cup of eggnog. Well, they can have all of it. I never wan to taste the wretched stuff again.

A moment passed. The bell pealed once more.

Carefully, as if treading over shifting sands, Laura crossed the expanse of floor separating her from the door. The velvet skirt whispered against her ankles, the sound produced by fabric against skin unnaturally loud in the thick silence. It's not him. It's not him. It's not--

Her hand closed firmly about the knob, swung the door wide.

It was him.

God, it's him. Hand still on the knob, she stood as if turned to marble, staring upward.

If he were an apparition, he was the most remarkably solid of ghosts. And few spirtis--whether of Christmas past or future--made their visitations laden with bottles of champagne under one arm, a package under the other. The burdens spoiled the set of his jacket, but he didn't appear to notice.

Laura's lips parted, but she couldn't think of what to say. She closed them again, searching his face for a cue.

Unbelievably, she found the expression there to be almost--uncertain. Like a small boy who's dragged home a perhaps-unwelcome puppy.

"Mr. Steele, I…." Her voice faltered and died.

His lips twitched into the familiar, quirking smile and a spark of the same humor ignited the sapphire eyes. "May I come in, Laura?" The cultured British voice was softened around its edges, sounding less clipped than usual.

Silently, she nodded, stepping back to admit him. As he crossed the threshold, an idea caused her to catch at his arm. "Mr. Steele?"

He looked at her in sudden doubt, as if fearing she had changed her mind. Deliberately, she cast her glance upward, to the sprig she had tacked up under Bernice's knowing eyes.

The blue eyes followed hers. She heard a thump at the package fell to the tiled floor, then a quieter clank as the champagne was set down with more care.

Strong arms enclosed her, pulling her close to a body that had haunted her dreams, both sleeping and waking. Inhaling deeply, she caught a hint of an elusive masculine scent. She tilted her head upwards, allowing her eyelids to drift closed.

It was, she thought vaguely as their lips met, going to be a very merry Christmas, after all.



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