The Alternate Link of Steele 19/?
Date: Saturday, February 03, 2001
Adriana <>

Thanks to my faithful beta reader, Debra, who keeps putting up with me...

Permission to archive, as always.

Pulkova 2 Airport. Saint Petersburg. 10:02 AM

Everyone turned to look at the woman who had just walked through the sliding doors, filling their hearts with instant happiness and relief. Laura moved slowly towards them, trying not to wake up from her dream. It seemed like ages since she had seen her two best friends, but it seemed even longer since she had last seen the man she loved.

As her gaze focused first on Mildred, the older woman's eyes began to moisten. After smiling briefly in recognition of their mutual affection, Laura moved her gaze to the blonde man standing beside Mildred. Murphy looked restless and angry, but as his dark brown eyes met Laura's grateful ones, his expression softened and he finally allowed himself to smile.

Though he had a nice smile, Laura wondered why he looked so tense and restless. His nose was flaring like a wild, powerful horse that had been deprived of a long, liberating race. Deep down, she feared she would find her explanation on the handsome face of the lean, dark man standing next in line.

She dragged her eyes slowly towards Steele, her progress painfully slow. Her gaze rested first on his chest and she watched it rise and fall rhythmically as he breathed agitatedly. Afraid of drowning in his cobalt gaze, she avoided looking at him square in the eyes. Instead, she imagined herself running her hands freely through his ebony hair and smoothing the rebel lock that tended to fall over his forehead.

Concentrating on his cleanly shaved jaw, she was reminded of the smell of his after-shave and her body became alive with the memory of a warm feeling she longed to reclaim. Squinting her hungry eyes, she memorized his strong jaw line and moved to his lips, warming instantly at the sight of that devil-may-care smile she knew so well, but hadn't seen in so long.

Finally, attracted by some magnetic, irresistible force, Laura looked up into his face. Steele's sapphire eyes were filled with infinite desire, a touch of remorse, and absolute, heart-gripping joy. After quickly making certain that she was unhurt, his eyes began roaming like hers had. Enjoying the way the soft fabric of her dress hung from her delicate shoulders, he followed the flow of the material as it sensuously embraced her hips and then fell freely in luxurious waves of pale yellow, caressing her shapely calves. He treasured the sight of her freckled cleavage and the way her chestnut hair rested on her bare shoulders and mentally pulled her brown mane aside with a gentle touch, kissing her long neck and succumbing to her full lips. Her delicate perfume filled his lungs and the fragrance of her skin filled his soul.

Though the urge to hold her grew almost too intense to bear, he remained motionless. In an exercise of excruciating will power, he smiled another tiny, grateful smile that beckoned her to come to him. Feeling rather self-conscious under the four pairs of eyes that were examining her, Laura held back her emotions, hoping to avoid creating a scene. She opened her mouth to speak, intent of taking the tension away, but failed miserably as Steele's demanding gaze paralyzed her with intense emotion.

Before Laura knew it, she was securely wrapped in his strong arms. He held her tightly, easily lifting her feet from the ground and burying his face in her soft brown hair. Seconds later he tasted salty tears, but whether they were his or hers he couldn't say. Tenderly nuzzling her cheek with his nose and lips, he murmured words that were meant for her ears alone. Then inhaling deeply and taking in her sweet scent, he drew her even closer and lovingly kissed her earlobe.

Laura squirmed momentarily, her whole being suddenly driven by sheer lust until his discrete hands expertly soothed her and then cupped her face. His seeking mouth then traveled north to gently brush her closed eyes and the tip of her nose. Finally, feeling her twitch restlessly under his warm lips, he broke into a small playful smile.

Laura realized her feet were back on the ground and cautiously opened her watery eyes. Looking up, she saw his blue ones waiting for her.

"Are you alright, luv?" he asked softly, his brow furrowed as he examined her carefully.

Laura was reluctant to let the moment go, so putting two slender fingers over his lips, she silenced his words before he could speak again and drew him back to her. He lowered his head willingly, closed his eyes and allowed her to guide him as he captured her lips in a long, searing kiss.

Lost in each other, they neglected to notice the three pairs of eyes that were focused on them.

The scene taking place before him made Murphy Michaels feel like retching, so he turned his face away, hoping to find anything to distract him. As his eyes traveled left, he noticed that although Mildred had a dumbfounded look on her face, she didn't seem really upset. In fact, she was even smiling. Grunting his disapproval and moving his gaze further away, he focused on Agent Donaldson.

The CIA man looked surprised as well, but hardly interested. When he felt Murphy's eyes on him, he turned to look at him and quickly hid a smirk.

"Anything wrong, Mr. Michaels?" Donaldson asked innocently as he glanced at his watch. "It would seem that everyone is here at last."

Choosing not to comment, Murphy nodded and looked at the couple again. They had broken their kiss, and even though Steele looked still quite shaken by the intensity of the whole thing, Laura had already assumed a professional attitude and was sizing up their surroundings.

"Miss Holt! Thank God you're alright!" Mildred said emotionally as the younger woman went to her and hugged her tightly.

"It's good to see you again, Mildred," Laura said.

"You too, honey," Mildred replied with a fond smile. Then directing a quick, stern glance at Steele, she added, "I was ready to kill that buster if you didn't show up in another minute."

"It wasn't his fault," Laura explained.

Steele nodded his thanks but didn't say anything, as he was looking at Murphy. Laura followed his eyes and found the blond detective sulking silently. She instinctively knew she had to make it up to him.

"Murph!" she exclaimed brightly, throwing her arms around his neck affectionately. "Thank you, Murphy. I don't think we could have made it without you," she assured him, glancing at Steele for confirmation.

Steele smiled thinly and nodded silently, but Murphy didn't even glance his way. Instead, the blonde detective's eyes were glued to the face of the woman who was momentarily in his arms. But as much as he hated to admit it, having her so close didn't feel right; it didn't feel right at all.

He removed her arms from around his neck and returned them to her sides, looking down at her with a sad, strained smile on his face. "I couldn't let you stay here all alone, could I?" Murphy said with a levity he didn't feel. "Do you know how cold winters are in Russia?"

"Thanks," Laura said, seriously.

Murphy held her gaze and became serious, also, as a true smile appeared on his features. "Anytime, partner."

The mood was broken as Agent Donaldson chose that precise moment to clear his throat.

"Much as I'd like all of you to get re-acquainted, I'm afraid you guys have a plane to catch," he said to the group. Then looking at Laura and Murphy, he silently requested an introduction.

"Laura Holt," Murphy said flatly as the agent put out his hand. "This is Agent Steven Donaldson, CIA."

Laura took the agent's hand and shook it firmly, saying, "I suppose we also owe you a big thank you, don't we?"

Donaldson smiled; he could already tell he liked Laura Holt. "Your boss and I will talk about that later, you can be sure of that. Right, Mr. Steele?" he said, looking at Steele with cold eyes.

Laura's smile froze and was replaced by an edgy grin- When had *he* become Remington Steele again?

"Oh," was all she said.

"Yes, well... Shall we get going, then?" Steele replied curtly, taking Laura by the elbow and pulling her towards the departure gates.

When they were ten feet away from the others, Laura shook her arm free and began walking away. Steele released her arm reluctantly, but continued to walk beside her with long, pacing strides.

"I'm sorry, Laura. Agent Donaldson jumped into conclusions and I... Well, I guess I just... let him jump," he explained apologetically.

"It's alright," she replied, still tense.

"I'm not going to masquerade as Remington Steele again; you don't need to worry," he assured her, trying to make her feel better.

"You're not?" she asked after a brief silence.

Sensing her trepidation, Steele looked into her eyes, but she immediately looked away. "Laura?" he said, testing the waters. "No more lies between us, remember?"

She was still looking down.

"Do you want Remington Steele back?" he asked.

Laura drew a huge sigh and let her head fall to her chest. Before she could answer, however, the rest of the group caught up with them.

"Is that our plane?" Murphy asked pointing at the small aircraft he and Mildred had spotted earlier.

When Steele didn't answer, Murphy looked at Laura; she, in turn, looked at her dark haired companion, but then merely shrugged her shoulders.

"Mr. Steele?" she asked, wondering what it was that had captured his attention.

Steele's eyes were fixed on the man with the paper bag they had seen a few minutes earlier. The man was obviously spying on them, but who would be interested in them now? Surely not the KGB. Whoever the man was, he meant trouble.

"Come on, we need to get going," he said to his three traveling companions. "Does everyone have their papers? They will be checked before we board the plane."

As they all nodded, Steele turned towards the CIA agent and extended his hand. "Thank you very much for your help, Agent Donaldson. Do drop by when you return to the States," he said politely.

"You'll be hearing from me soon enough, Mr. Steele," the agent assured him.

As they all began walking towards the gangway and as Laura approached the glass sliding doors, Laura felt an overwhelming urge to look back. Hardly believing they were finally getting out of Russia, she needed one last look around to assure herself. Turning her head, she smiled at Donaldson, but was disappointed when he didn't return the gesture. Then noticing his look of triumph as he looked at the other end of the lounge, she followed his eyes to see what was causing him such evident joy.

Sergeant Grechko and two police officers were walking briskly in their direction-- and by the look on their faces, they were far from feeling pleased.

"Grechko?" Donaldson said in mock surprise. "I thought you'd be somewhere on a well-deserved holiday by now, buddy."

Grechko, however, ignored both Donaldson and Laura. All of his attention was focused on the back of the tall, dark man who was about to exit through the gates.

"Mikhail Alexander Novikov! Stoi! Militysii!"

Laura looked at Grechko in confusion. Then suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, she saw Steele freeze, and she remembered-- Novikov.

"Turn around slowly and don't try anything, Novikov," Grechko ordered in Russian.

The guns of his two companions were leveled at Steele's back and everyone's eyes were suddenly on him.

Steele considered his options briefly-- should he continue walking as if he hadn't noticed he had been spoken to, or should he react and face whatever ghosts from his past had turned up to haunt him at this very inconvenient time?

"Turn around, Novikov; I'm warning you!" Grechko insisted.

The sound of that name sent shivers down Steele's spine. It hadn't been used in a very long time, and the few who had used it had done so only on a first-name basis. How the police ended up using the full name in all its glory was beyond Steele's comprehension.

Steele heard the sound of the guns being cocked and carefully turned around. The policeman standing in front of him smiled in triumph.

"Novikov," Grechko said, staring firmly into Steele's eyes.

"Novikov? Yah dumayu..."  - I'm sorry- Steele began in halting Russian, seemingly racking his brains to find the next words with as much innocence as he could muster. "... schto tut ashibka. Mai ymia y familiya.". - I think you are mistaken. My name is...-

"For Christ's sakes, Grechko!" Donaldson exploded. "I've told you a thousand times that there is no Novikov!" He'd be damned if he were going to let that pig-headed Russian ruin this, after all the trouble he'd gone through to get all these poor people out.

"Stay out of this, Steven. This is my jurisdiction and I have green light on it this time, so back off!" Grechko told the agent in perfect English, never taking his hard eyes from Steele.

It was then that Mildred decided it was high time to get some things straight once and for all. If they wanted to get out of Russia in one piece, then someone had to do something. In the boldest move of her life, she pushed Sergeant Grechko and his two armed officers out of the way and stood in front of Steele, her temper rising to levels that were, until that moment, foreign to her.

"What's going on, Mr. Steele?" she demanded in a no nonsense tone. "I think all of us deserve an explanation. Don't you?"

"I'm afraid this is hardly the appropriate time or place, Mildred," Steele replied, furrowing his brow as he tried to figure out what she was up to.

Sensing her ex-boss wasn't going to give, Mildred turned her attention to the stunned Sergeant. "Listen, Grechko. I don't know what is it with you and this Novikov guy, but we've told you a dozen times that we don't know him," she began furiously. Then making a half turn with her head and motioning to Steele, she added with great emphasis, "This gentleman here is my boss, Remington Steele!"

Steele looked into Mildred's eyes with genuine surprise. No doubt about it, she had just given an Academy Award performance. He felt like kissing her.

Grechko, however, was of a very different disposition. "Is he really? Where is your passport, then, *Mr. Steele*?" he asked, his patience wearing thin.

Steele directed an inquiring glance at Donaldson, hoping for a miracle to get him off the hook. *No such luck* he decided as he watched the agent make an annoyed face and put his hands in the air in a weary gesture of surrender.

"Show him the papers, Steele; see if we can get it through his head once and for all that he's chasing after ghosts," Donaldson said tiredly. Then looking Grechko in the eyes, he added, "You're way off your limits, and you know it."

"I've got a green light on this," Grechko insisted once again. "If your government doesn't like it, they can complain to the External Affairs Bureau on Monday morning."

"Green light granted by whom, Sergeant?" asked a new voice.

All eyes traveled to the new arrival. Murphy Michaels looked at the stranger and sighed. This was getting ridiculous! How many more people could be involved in all of this?

Kira Bulbakov, dressed in a very official KGB uniform and escorted by three similarly officially clad guards with customary AK-47s, stood imperiously before them. His green eyes were intently fixed on Grechko, and they held a very concrete warning.

Steele and Laura exchanged a quick look and she saw the relief in his face.

Grechko's resolution wavered for only a second and then he regained his confidence. "Green light granted by Saint Petersburg Police HQ, Major Trashkin-- that's who," he answered promptly.

"Did you check with the Komitet before making a complete fool out of the Police Force and yourself, Sergeant?" Bulbakov inquired.

As Grechko hesitated, Bulbakov took the opportunity to issue orders in fast Russian to the other two police officers. "Lower your weapons; I'm taking charge of the situation of behalf of the Komitet."

Grechko sent his officers a murderous look and they hesitated, but all of them knew Major Trashkin was the highest rank officer; he was with the highest rank corporation in the country.

"I wasn't aware the KGB had any interest in this, Major," Grechko said in Russian, his contempt for the man not remotely disguised.

"Lower the weapons or you'll be arrested!" Bulbakov snarled at the policemen, ignoring Grechko and motioning for his own men to get their own guns leveled.

Both officers reluctantly put their guns down. Grechko looked at them with disdain, but they quickly lowered their eyes to the floor.

"Very well," Bulbakov said, satisfied. Then looking at Steele, he put an apologetic smile on his face. "Forgive the Sergeant, Mr. Steele," he said in English. "It would seem he has confused you with somebody else."

Steele smiled widely in understanding. "Of course, Major," he replied. Then looking at the rest of the party, he said, "Now, if you will forgive us, I do believe we have a plane to catch, and-"

 "I don't see why Mr. Steele cannot produce his papers, Major," Grechko hissed. "After all, they ought to be checked before they board their plane."

"Fine," Bulbakov conceded at last, drawing a big sigh. "Have it your way, Sergeant; I couldn't care less." Then signaling his men with a nod of his head, he ordered, "Prinyesitye Gaspadyn Steele pasport." - Get me Mr. Steele's passport.

Steele and Laura froze and directed a quizzical look at the Russian.

"Yah dolzhyen atkrit partfyel?" Steele asked,, forgetting for an instant that he wasn't supposed to speak Russian well. -Must I open the bag, too?

 Bulbakov shook his head and gave Steele a quick, bemused look, his green eyes sparkling like emeralds, his deadpan expression hiding an amused grin. Even though the game was over, he was still entitled to a little fun, wasn't he?

"I don't have my papers with me right now, Major. However, I shall-" Steele muttered.

"Oh, that's a real shock, Novikov!" Grechko interrupted. "And I must say, your Russian has improved vastly in the last minutes. You must be a natural for foreign languages," he added sarcastically, thrilled that he had Novikov where he wanted now.

Steele shot a deadly glance at the policeman and didn't even bother to hide his discomfort. As a heavy silence lingered above them and for a few seconds, time seemed to stand still.

On the runway, the engines of the small aircraft roared with impatience as the airplane turned slowly positioning itself for boarding. Its nose pointed directly at the gates, as if it also wanted to see the events taking place inside. The sound reminded Laura of the roaring of the ocean, and a bizarre sense of calm helped increase her concentration. She could almost see the waves crashing on the shore, could almost feel the cold and the green splendor of the deeper waters of the open seas. It was funny how she had always thought of the ocean as being deep blue, just like Steele's eyes, but now with her gaze locked in Bulbakov's, all she could think of was glowing, intimidating green.

The eyes flickered suddenly and Laura saw them laugh. Bulbakov's face betrayed nothing, but yet his gaze was inviting, challenging and daring--  and Laura Holt had never been a woman to renounce a dare. Her brows drew together in concentration as she was engulfed in a green maze of deception and mystery.

*Come on!* Bulbakov silently urged her, sensing the turmoil inside her head. *Come on, Miss Holt! Let's see if you're as good as you think you are.*

To his delight, he soon saw a look a realization dawning on her features.

"But Major Trashkin," she said with apparent confusion, her dark eyes never leaving his green ones as she prepared gamble everything. "I was under the impression you were in possession on Mr. Steele's papers."

Bulbakov smiled. "Oh, dear. How silly of me!" he said in feigned distress as he gave her an apologetic, timid, smile. "That's why I came over here in the first place. I had completely forgotten."

He then trained his eyes on Steele, who graciously allowed him the victory on the bonus round of their game with a small, lopsided grin. Retrieving a passport from his breast pocket and handling it to his old friend, Bulbakov said, "Here you are, Mr. Steele. Rest assured your efforts and your help have been invaluable and will not pass unnoticed by the Russian Government."

Under the group's vigilant gaze, Steele took the brand new passport quickly and flicked through the pages as to confirm that everything was in order. Hardly able to believe his eyes, he saw a picture of himself taken a few years earlier and beside it, the name Remington Steele. The passport bore not only his own signature, but that of a US Immigration and Naturalization Service official, as well. It had been "issued" in November of 1986, and it even looked a bit worn. Yes, the document definitely looked legal and extremely legitimate.

How had Kira managed to get it? Strangest still, why had Kira done it? Had Laura talked him into it? Steele didn't think so, but he failed to understand the Russian's motives.

When Steele finally raised his eyes, he found that everyone seemed to be waiting for a verdict. His gaze moved calmly to Bulbakov's face, as if they had all the time in the world.

"Thank you, Major. I'm glad I could be of assistance," Steele said, ignoring the astonished expressions of Grechko, Murphy, and Mildred. Instead, he quickly looked at Laura and silently smiled his gratitude.

For the sake of discretion and to avoid further probing by the Saint Petersburg Police, both Steele and Laura refrained from expressing their feelings more openly. But there was no need to, since looking into the other's eyes for that fragment of a second told them everything they needed to know.

Kira Bulbakov smiled smugly at them, enjoying himself immensely. Acting on a strange impulse, he had acquired the document overnight. He had gone through great lengths to have a real U.S. passport delivered, but it had been worth it. A foreign feeling of loyalty and fondness towards his old comrade in arms and his very fetching companion had spurred him to call a few high ranking officers in the KGB and the CIA. A couple of returned favors from people on both sides of the curtain had ensured him prompt success.

If he had assessed Misha's relationship with Miss Holt correctly, and he was pretty sure he had, the two were going to need as much help as possible. And what the hell? Bulbakov thought. He had enjoyed Misha's company as long it had lasted. Granted, neither he nor Miss Holt had been easy guests, but it had been a fine sporting contest, as far as he was concerned. In his private book, the game had ended in a tie.

Directing his glance to Agent Donaldson, who was surveying the scene with some concern, Bulbakov frowned. "Let it not be said the CIA and the KGB cannot work together," he told the agent cryptically, his face again grim and serious, his hand extended for an appeasing handshake.

"Yes," Donaldson replied dryly as he shook Bulbakov's hand. "Maybe you and I will be crossing paths in the future, Major."

Donaldson eyed the Russian with distrust. What had he meant? Had Steele been working for the CIA *and* the KGB?  Perhaps he should have a word with the boys at Langley before he paid Steele a visit in L.A.

Bulbakov nodded politely and directed his stare towards the Sergeant. "Do you wish to inspect everyone else's papers, Grechko?" he asked, watching the Sergeant's face turn red with rage.

"I'm sure the customs officers are be more than able to do that, Major," the policeman replied.

"Shall we, then?" inquired Steele with a smile.

As they slowly moved towards the gates, Steele placed a possessive arm around Laura's waist, his fingers burning. When she looked up at him, the veiled expression of victory that appeared beneath her businesslike manner let him know that they had finally made it.

Murphy Michaels, walking a few paces ahead, turned back to face them. His face was dark; his hazel eyes full of contempt and his brows closely knitted together.

The three of them stood in tense silence for interminable seconds.

Holding Laura even closer, claiming her as his own, Steele's piercing blue eyes held his opponent's gaze in their unwavering grip. "What is it?" he finally asked, not too politely. He was really tired of this beating around the bush. "Spit it out, Murphy. What's bothering you, now?"

Laura tugged almost imperceptibly on Steele's sleeve and, with warning look on her face, reminded him two vital facts; firstly that she was not anyone's property, and secondly that the last thing they needed now was a fight. Steele got the message and loosened his grip a little.

She looked back to where Bulbakov was standing side by side with Donaldson and marveled at how two men with such different backgrounds and beliefs could still be so much alike. It was quite the opposite with the two men she was standing between; they were more different than day and night, but at the same time, they had a great deal in common.

An awkward feeling made her return quickly to the situation at hand, only to find that Murphy's eyes were staring at her. He looked furious.

Still, no one moved.

"Miss Holt, Mr. Steele, Murphy?  Are you coming?" Mildred called; stunned that she had been left walking all by herself.

Steele put on a strained smile, nodded towards his former secretary, and resumed walking, pulling Laura with him. Murphy, nonetheless, was still rooted to the ground. As they walked past him, Laura gave him a pleading look that was received in a cold pool of indifference.

Very nearly at the end of his rope, Steele wordlessly urged Laura to get going. His eyes blazing, he closed the distance between himself and Murphy. He took the blonde detective's arm and gave it a small, mollifying pull.

"We can deal with all this later, mate. There will be plenty of time to talk on the plane," Steele said urgently.

"It's not you that I need to talk to, Steele," Murphy said through gritted teeth. "I know more about you than I ever wanted to know. You're not the one I don't understand."

"Fine. Talk to Laura on the plane, then," Steele said, equally hostile.

Murphy met his opponent's eyes with unveiled hatred, but finally agreed to postpone the inevitable until they were safely out of Grechko's clutches.

As the two lean figures finally went through the doors and out into the strong summer light, Bulbakov said a last farewell to his old friend. If he had been a religious man, he would have said a prayer for him, too. But then again, Misha had tempted Lady Luck so often and gotten away with it that he must already have the Almighty on his side. The bugger had been born lucky, he thought with an inner chuckle.

With his eyes still glued on the vanishing forms of the two men, Bulbakov lit a Marlboro and silently offered one to Donaldson.

The CIA agent pulled back his hand, just in time. "I quit last week," he lied.

"Of course," Bulbakov replied. Inhaling deeply, he allowed a small, smug smile to surface.

End Part 19
To Part 20
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