Note: This is the fifth in a series. The series starts here: Steve Stalks Kayla
Kayla is taking a huge risk by gambling on this man, and she knows it. She doesn’t immediately plunge into wholehearted pursuit. Making the decision to pursue him—and to get him to trust her—is different from actually doing it, and Kayla is trying to figure out how to proceed. At the same time the fragile bond between them begins to be noticed, and everyone agrees: Kayla deserves better.
In Stockholm, Steve is shot. Hope calls Kayla for medical advice, and when Kayla hears that Steve is hurt, we can see how much it matters to her. She doesn’t think, she acts. She goes to Stockholm.
The moment when the wounded Steve sees Kayla so unexpectedly, Kayla who has flown all night to come to him, is to me the moment when his attraction, longing, trust, and desire for her all crystallize irrevocably into love. An angel of mercy, dressed in luminous white, stepping forward from the shadows into the light. His momentarily open, vulnerable expression of pure joy is almost painful to see.
Her coming is such a definite step, a positive, no-argument mark of attachment, that it’s the elephant in the living room. So how do they act around each other? Why, the same as usual. As we’ve seen many times before, Kayla bandages Steve as Steve shoots off his mouth. They both retreat into their familiar roles as they engage in a very funny conversational fencing match, eyeing each other across the thicket of their defenses.
They each seem to want the other to crack first. Finally Steve decides that if verbal sallies don’t work, try brute force. He reaches over, grabs the back of her hair and says harshly, “Why did you come here?”
Kayla throws it right back at him. “Because my brother is in trouble. Why else would I come?” There’s a touching mix of defiance and vulnerability in her manner. I think she’s challenging Steve to acknowledge that there’s something between them.
At this moment Hope comes in, breaking the tension. But later, when he’s sleepy from a sedative, he tells her he appreciates her being there. That’s enough, for now.
When Steve is feeling better (quickest recovery from a gunshot wound, ever!), he and Kayla go back to the tattoo parlor to look for clues, and find a hidden camera. They are forced to hide overnight from the police (pressed up against each other in a confined space, naturally). Coming back the next morning, they are confronted by a suspicious and disapproving Roman. “Tell your brother what nasty old Patch was doing to you all night long,” Steve sneers, deliberately coarse from a combination of agreement with the sentiment (Kayla has no business with someone like him) and a desire to shoot the messenger. The truth hurts.
Later, Roman does his best to warn her away. When Kayla repeats her soon-to-be mantra that there is “another side” to Steve, Roman acknowledges it: “Okay, so he’s got a few good points. It doesn’t make up for the fact that he’s got a stack of bad ones a mile high.” And going in for the kill: “Those bad points are are not just going to disappear with love of a good woman.”
This is the crux of the matter. Kayla knows it, so she sidesteps. “I am not in love with him.” When that doesn’t work, she ends the argument. She doesn’t try to further explain her incipient faith, or justify the course she’s embarking on. She just says she’s an adult and she can make her own decisions. That night, after listening to Steve needle her all day about “Ro-Man,” Kayla marches over to Steve’s room to tell him the same thing. If she thinks this will make Steve take her in his arms, or tell her how he feels, or even noticeably react, she is disappointed. This is wary, defensive Steve, and he stonewalls her. If she needed confirmation that Steve is not going to meet her halfway, this is it.
Back in Salem, after seeing Steve get Max to talk, seeing again that flash of innate goodness that keeps tantalizing her, Kayla ventures further out on the limb. She tries the direct approach: she asks him to dinner at the loft.
Steve, disarmed, accepts. After Kayla leaves (they’re at Shenanigans), Chris pulls Steve aside and attacks Steve’s weakest point: “I am asking the good man [in you] to leave Kayla alone.” Everyone—including Steve—makes the assumption that it is the bad man in Steve who is interested in Kayla and the good man who will push her away. It will be a long, hard road before Steve can see that the truth is precisely the reverse.
Steve makes his way to Kayla’s regardless of Chris’s warning, but when he runs into Bo, who gives him the same speech, it’s too much. He drops the flowers he’s brought, and leaves. He goes to a bar and gets picked up by a hooker. What a comedown! But Steve feels this is where he belongs, this is the best he can have. He brings the hooker home with him, and stands kissing her outside the door, where Kayla comes upon them. She runs away in tears (Steve doesn’t see her), and then Steve changes his mind and sends the hooker on her way. Steve is caught between longing for more and being unable to settle for less.
When he goes to the Emergency Center the next day to apologize, a cold, angry Kayla slaps him and throws him out. As angry as Kayla has been in the past, she has never treated him like this. This is it. The shoe has dropped. And again, Steve’s self-loathing tells him it’s no more than he deserves. “Look at you, man,” he jeers, hitting his reflection in the mirror. “Who do you think you’re kidding?”
But Kayla gets another visitor at the Emergency Center. It’s Florence, the hooker from the night before. A very chatty Florence, who lets Kayla know that a “terrific hunk” gave her fifty bucks and “didn’t even want anything!” This sends Kayla over to Steve’s to apologize. (He still stood you up, Kayla!)
What follows is a thrilling scene, where all the issues that have been percolating for months are brought out into the open. She accuses him of running away because he’s afraid; he tells her he’s doing her a favor by getting out of her life; and most importantly, they argue over who he really is. He says, “What kind of a weird fantasy do you have about me, Kayla? Do you think there’s a knight in shining armor in here just dying to get out?” Is the real Steve the one Kayla sees, or the one everyone else sees? Is he nasty old Patch or a knight in shining armor?
Kayla denies that she is mistaken about him—“I have seen you do good things!”—and passionately argues that she’s not going to let others’ perceptions dictate her actions. “I have a mind of my own, I have a heart of my own, and I will give my heart to whoever I want!”
And there it is. Kayla is taking the plunge, throwing the dice, stepping out into thin air. Though he surely knew or suspected her feelings, and he’s been stonewalling her or pushing her away for weeks, Steve can’t help but succumb to this declaration. He moves to take her in his arms, she takes a step toward him…
Then that soap opera classic: the Timely Interruption. The first of many. Argh!