Lost Art of Steele - Part IV-Slightly R
Date: Saturday, August 25, 2000
Lauryn Poynor <lpoynor@zebra.net>


by Lauryn Poynor

Rated Slightly R

Many thanks once again to Anne Rose for her invaluable help. Thanks for sticking with me on this one.

Steele awoke in momentary confusion. His mind felt pleasantly fogged in and yet restless. Although he was dimly aware that his muscles ached he felt strangely disconnected from his body, as though he'd been sleepwalking. Some indefinable thought or feeling nagged at the back of his mind. He opened his eyes, trying to focus on the surroundings of his bedroom. Then he remembered. Laura.

He reached out behind him and touched her sleeping form. Her arm was draped around his waist, her warmth pressed tightly against his spine. Gently disengaging from her grasp, he rolled onto his back and then turned to look at her. She was curled up under the sheets, her thick brown hair in waves across the pillow. A beam of afternoon sunlight fell across her shoulders and the pale skin of her breasts, just visible above the top of the bed sheet.

Images of the past few hours tumbled in his mind. They had both wanted this but neither of them had been prepared for what had happened between them. A slow ache spread through him as he remembered the feel of her skin against his, her heat surrounding him, the arch of her back, her lovely face as she came. He couldn't clearly recall how they had ended up here, just that their lovemaking had continued after brief snatches of sleep.

He thought of all the time they had lost waiting for the right moment, the perfect setting. Somehow that no longer mattered. He looked down at her face. This moment. The past few hours. The next. Perfect because they were together. Smiling, he placed a light kiss on her forehead.

When Laura awoke, Steele was sitting cross legged at the end of the bed, drawing pad balanced in his lap, pencil moving across the page. Her eyes narrowed, trying to focus on the pattern of the bedspread. Other details began to register in her mind. She felt the coolness of the sheets against her bare skin.

"Good morning Laura, or should I say afternoon?" he said. "No matter. You look lovely anytime."

How long had she been here, she wondered. Pulling herself up and resting against the headboard, she stared at him. He was poised, pencil in hand, watching, with nothing covering him but the drawing pad. Her memory began to recover. Him sketching. Her posing. And everything after. Especially after. Remembering, she felt light, as though a weight had been lifted from her. She smiled at him. "I'm not really at my best first thing in the afternoon, or the morning for that matter." She smoothed back her hair.

"You're so wrong, love. I have indisputable evidence," he rejoined, handing her the pad. There was her image seeming incredibly real. Her face in repose, something indefinable in her expression. Her heart knew what it was. Happiness, she decided. And maybe something more... if she would admit it.

She handed him the pad. Picking up the pencil, he turned the page. She pulled back the covers, and inched her way towards him until she was close enough to feel his breath. "Miss Holt, you're in my light, " he teased. She took the pad and pencil out of his hand.

"We'll try again later, Mr. Steele."

"Yes, love. Much later." He leaned in to kiss her. A flicker of disappointment crossed his face as she pulled away.

"Unless of course you like to sketch in the shower," she said, getting up with a grin and heading for the bathroom.

Steele followed. "Never tried it. Might be a bit damp." He came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. "Anything I can do to help, Laura?" She picked up the back brush.

"Excellent idea. A nice, brisk scrubbing," Steele murmured in her ear.

"Sounds stimulating," she agreed.

He grinned. "I've always had a soft spot for stimulation."

She trailed a finger slowly down his belly. "It's not your soft spots I'm interested in."

"Wicked girl."

Some time later both emerged from the shower a bit waterlogged and slightly breathless. Laura toweled off and went into the living room to retrieve her clothes. She went into the bedroom to brush her hair out and get dressed while Steele hunted for a spare toothbrush. She had her clothes back on when he stuck his head out of the bathroom, toothpaste running down his chin.

"Found one. But where's my bloody comb?" She went back to the bathroom and brushed her teeth, straining her eyes at the fogged up mirror.

She was sitting on the bed when he emerged, hair combed, towel around his shoulders. He walked over to the dresser, opened a drawer and retrieved a pair of silk boxers. She stared at him dreamily as he pulled them on over his hips. Hmm. Definite tan line, she thought. Maybe we could work on that. Mine and his. On some secluded beach somewhere...

"Laura?" His voice broke in on her thoughts. "Are you listening?"

"Oh, sorry."

"I was asking if you're still up for tennis."

"Oh, no. I don't think so. We've both had a pretty good workout for today." He leaned down, lifted up her chin and kissed her nose.

"Tennis does rather pale by comparison," he mused, smiling. He rummaged in his closet for something to wear.

Laura picked up the drawing pad that lay open on the bed. Her skin flushed slightly as she remembered the events of the morning. As she turned the pages everything stood out in her mind very clearly. She stared at the earliest drawing of her on the sofa. All of her conflicting emotions were captured on the page. Her face was pensive, her body slightly awkward.

She turned to the next drawing. She was naked from the waist up. She was still in the same basic posture but her chin was up, her gaze more straightforward, almost defiant. In the final pose she was reclining, her head and neck arched back, her hair falling over her shoulders. She hadn't been completely naked but he had drawn her so. The attitude of her face and body was sensual and confident. She seemed indelibly real. The process had asked a lot from both of them but it had also given something. It was as if they had been forced to see each other clearly for the first time.

She sensed his presence and looked up. He stood by the edge of the bed dressed in jeans and a soft grey polo shirt. "Well Laura, what do you think of them?" he gestured at the sketches. "It's hard for me to be objective. I was a bit um, distracted at the time."

"They're marvelous, incredibly good and you know it," she replied.

"Thank you. You are an inspiring and unbelievably sexy subject."

She thought for a moment. "You know, what I did..wasn't just foreplay," she began.

"I know."

"You had been honest with me about your feelings and I wanted to do the same. To stop hiding..." she stopped, unsure of what to say.

He sighed. "I guess it was about damned time for both of us. No more hiding, Laura. We'll start over, eh?" He kissed her forehead and smoothed back a lock of her hair.

"So, Mr. Steele. Tell me about this art training of yours."

Training?" he said innocently.

"Remember that case with Artie, the cartoonist for the Blaster? You let it slip then that you'd had a bit of art training in your mysterious past. Don't you think you should tell me about it? No more hiding, remember."

He winced. "Are you sure you'd like to know?"


"I was afraid you'd say that."

"Where are you going?" she asked as he strode out of the room.

"Be right back, Laura, I promise."

A few minutes later he returned and dropped something into her lap. It was a photograph. She picked it up. It was a shot of a young man sitting on the steps of a columned building with a massive Roman façade. His thick black hair fell down over his collar and the expression in his blue eyes was intense, with a hint of anger. He was wearing jeans, a charcoal grey pullover and a red woolen scarf.

"How old were you?" she asked.

"Eighteen, I think."

"Where was this taken? I've seen that building before."

"It's the Fitzwilliam Museum."

"Oh," she said surprised. "That's - at Cambridge. You went to Cambridge?" Her words came out in a rush.

"Ah, yes. Briefly."

"How briefly?"

"Oh, about nine months. I read History of Art."

"Oh I see." She remembered something. "But when we were on that case - the ghost at Murphy's reunion - you didn't know Cambridge was on the Cam river. So you were just pulling my leg."

"Well yes, even if I hadn't gone there I'd at least have known that bit of geography."

That was true, she thought. "OK, Let's start from the beginning. Your academic career, however brief. I want to know all the details." Steele sat down next to her on the bed and eyed her nervously.

"Well, there's not much to tell really. It was Daniel's idea. My schooling, as you would imagine, had been haphazard to non existent prior to that point. Daniel had just pulled off a very successful job and had a good deal of spare cash. He reckoned he could afford it and tried to convince me first, that he could get me in and second, that I wanted to go. Frankly, I was pretty doubtful about both. Daniel hadn't exactly been neglectful. I'd had tutors who had tried to fill in some of the gaps in my education."

Steele paused and glanced hesitantly at Laura before continuing. "Daniel had taught me a lot about how to dress and how to speak properly but I wasn't at all sure I could even survive socially, let alone academically. He was determined, though. He had records drawn up which were quite convincing but false of course. My father was supposedly in the foreign service and we traveled extensively so I'd been tutored privately and gone to boarding school in Switzerland. Well, Daniel could hardly claim that I'd been to Eton or Harrow. I'd have been rumbled the first day.

"When the day came for my interview I was more petrified than I'd ever been in my life. Daniel had put up all of my fees and expenses and refused to take no for an answer. I was ushered into the interview room before an old duffer in moldy tweeds with a smoker's cough." Steele leaned back on the bed, glancing up at the ceiling as he recalled the details.

"I had brought a portfolio of my work in different media and he barely glanced at them. I fielded a few easy questions about various art movements until out of the blue he asked me what horse I was backing in the Grand National. I hadn't even been following it but I managed to remember the names of some of the contenders. I told him the first name that popped into my head. I found out later that he won quite a packet on that horse."

Laura laughed. "Figures. So then what happened?"

"Well, after I was accepted I came up in October and it all started. I went to a few lectures a week. We had what were called 'supervisions' weekly where our progress was checked and we were given a bit of a going over. I was nervous about it at first but the coursework wasn't too demanding. It was mostly visual memorization which I was good at so I had a lot of time on my hands and more freedom than I'd ever had. I was out from under Daniel's thumb and able to breathe a bit." Laura, recalling her own college years, smiled in understanding.

To have access to the incredible collections of the Fitzwilliam was like a slice of heaven to me." Steele continued, warming to his subject. "I mean, Daniel had taken me to museums but always with another object in mind. I took advantage of private tutors in painting, drawing and a bit of commercial art. Cambridge also had a number of film societies which was quite wonderful as well.

"It wasn't always easy. I made some good friends but was a bit wary of getting too close.
I had to put up a good front even though I hadn't exactly had the typical Oxbridge background. It was the early 70's and elitism was out of fashion but that didn't mean it still wasn't pervasive. Sometimes I'd be listening to some pompous git at a party nattering on about the underclass and I'd want to bang his head against a wall. After all, I was member of that underclass and more 'under' than most. Most of time I'd hold my temper and console myself by imagining just how long the bastard would survive on the street."

He stopped for a moment lost in thought. Laura knew his difficult childhood had left its mark on him but he rarely let it show. Sometimes, though, she could see it on the surface - in the occasional flash of anger at a privileged client or in his quick sympathy for those in trouble. She put a comforting hand on his arm.

"So, you say it ended after nine months? What happened? Some dangerous liaison with the Chancellor's daughter?"

He chuckled. "Sadly no. Although I did my share of what was known as 'climbing in.' Now most of the colleges are co-educational but when I attended nearly all were single sex and mostly male. Competition for the available women was fierce and it was every man for himself. Faint heart never won fair lady and all that. One of my tutors got so tired of me climbing over his balcony railing that he gave me a map with a different route.

"If climbing in failed there was always what we called 'the backs' along the lower part of the river Cam.. a good place to...um, well I digress." He paused, gathering his thoughts as Laura raised a curious eyebrow at him. "Actually I did do a bit of punting there. That area of the river is pretty easy going. It's shallow and mostly gravel on the bottom. There are parts where the river is more secluded, away from the colleges, but they're deeper and muddier. It's a tricky business. It can take the edge off the evening when you've lost the pole and you have water running down your sleeves."

"Sounds like fun," Laura said a bit wistfully.

"It was. At least for a while. I got in a bit of hot water with a bookmaking operation and then Daniel called with news that he needed me for a job. He'd also had a sudden cash flow problem, so my brilliant career pretty much came to an end."

"Sounds like you learned a lot of skills for use later in life, Laura said smiling up at him. "Fine art, climbing in, breaking and entering.."

"That always nagged at the back of my mind, really. Whether Daniel sent me out of guilt, or for my best interests, or just to get me primed. It was only after that I realized he'd done me a favor. He'd taught me to survive among people whose backgrounds and mine were worlds apart. Besides it was all just posing, really, on everyone's part. Bluffing was sort of the essence of the whole experience. It's funny, actually. I'm still doing it now as Remington Steele."

"Yes, you are," Laura replied. "But I can't imagine him as anyone else." She kissed him lightly on the lips. "Just one question. Why didn't you ever tell me about this before?"

"Not sure, really. I suppose I wish things had turned out differently. A few regrets."

"Do you ever think about going back one day? Becoming Remington Steele (BA Cantab.)? Something to add to your resumé?"

He glanced reflectively at the photograph then tucked it away inside the drawing pad. "Maybe someday. But let's not tempt fate, eh? My resumé's given us both enough problems, remember? All that gop about the CIA."

"How could I forget."

"Well, Laura. I think we've had enough revelations for one day. That is unless you have something of your own that you're dying to share. Have any compromising photos from your days at Stanford hidden away?"

"Nope. Burned them," she said a bit too quickly.

"Hmm. Too bad. I'm sure your mother might - "

"Don't even think it," Laura said shuddering. A change of subject was in order. "Now Mr. Steele, tell me about those girls from Cambridge."

He pulled her into his arms. "Barely remember them," he said gallantly. "Pale, puny things compared to California girls."