Note: This is the eleventh in a series. The series starts here: Steve Stalks Kayla
It all starts as just another crisis bringing them together. An FBI agent named Ed Daniels approaches Steve and pitches a proposal to him. Senator Deveraux wants to fake his own death so he can go undercover. Steve will be the fake assassin, shooting the senator (with blanks) in front of witnesses. Mr. Daniels says that because Steve and Kayla were trapped in the lab explosion, they are already involved, they are already in danger. In return for Steve’s help, the FBI can offer them protection.
It doesn’t matter that there are holes in this plot than you can drive a truck through. Once Mr. Daniels mentions Kayla’s name Steve is a cooked goose.
It’s a setup. The bullets are real, the senator falls, and Steve flees, once again a wanted man.
There is no particular reason for Kayla to believe in his innocence. The circumstantial evidence is all against him. As Jack’s friend, it’s logical that her loyalty would lie with him in this situation. Jack himself is convinced of Steve’s guilt. But Kayla’s sympathy for Jack and his father, though genuine, is perfunctory and shallow. All her energy is focused on helping the man who shot him. And despite the tap on her phone, the guards at her door, and Jack sticking to her side like a leech, she finds a way. She brings Steve money and clothing, and no matter that the last thing he did before all this happened was break her heart (again), when she finally sees him she hurls herself joyfully in his arms.
Though Steve instinctively turned to Kayla for help, he does not want to draw her further into his trouble. Now that she’s found him, however, Kayla is determined to stay with him at all costs. Steve says it’s too dangerous, and she’ll only slow him down anyway, but when he can’t convince her he relents (for now).
Aware that most forms of transportation are being watched, Kayla suggests that they board a chartered rodeo train that will probably not be on the police’s radar (See? She can help!). They swipe someone’s luggage and change into rodeo garb. Kayla asks him to zip up the back of her silly, sexy rodeo gal outfit, and the leisurely, heated once-over Steve gives her as he does so ratchets up the sexual tension between them once again.
But the police do find them. Any possibility of appealing to Roman for help disintegrates when Ed Daniels comes up behind him. Steve gets them out of this sticky situation by pulling a gun on Kayla—which simultaneously ensures their escape and clears Kayla of the suspicion of aiding and abetting a fugitive. Of course, he’s also put himself in deeper hot water, but that doesn’t seem to faze him.
Since he can’t talk Kayla out of staying with him, Steve tries instead to sneak away. But that only makes her wander through the woods in search of him, calling his name, until her fear and ineptitude (she falls and hurts her ankle) force him to come to her rescue.
This is the show poking fun at the middle class princess on the run. But it is also important. Because Steve does agree to let her stay with him, when isn’t clear that she will be able to help him at all. In fact she might make things worse. But what she is claiming is the right to be with the man she loves. She says, “If something happens to you I want to be here.” And Steve, when he agrees to let her stay, is tacitly granting her that right.
As it turns out, Kayla does help him. When he falls over an embankment, she pulls him up. When it rains, she builds a lean-to for them. She insists that Steve, who scoffed at her claims of competency, apologize to her (and the Girl Scouts) before she’ll let him join her under its shelter.
Steve plays his harmonica, and they relax and talk about music, their body language showing their natural accord. Their eyes meet. It’s been a long time. Slowly, they lean in for a kiss, but they are interrupted by the radio (Timely Interruption #9) announcing the police are narrowing their search for Steve Johnson and his hostage.
The next day, Kayla, exploring, stumbles upon a natural hot springs. Unable to resist the thought of a bath, Kayla quickly undresses and slips into the water. When Steve finds her he teases her by taking her clothes, and Kayla ends up pulling him, fully dressed, into the hot springs. He has to struggle out of his wet clothing and lay them over a rock to dry.
They haven’t even kissed for months and months. Now here they are, plunged together in a hot springs, naked, with no one around for miles. Steve looks up and points out how bright the stars are, but Kayla doesn’t spare them a glance. She inches closer and closer. When Steve meets her gaze, and when their lips meet, and when their bodies press against each other in the water, it is deeply, powerfully thrilling. “I want you, Kayla,” Steve whispers. “I’ve wanted you for so long.”
And then this most painful of Timely Interruptions (#10) is a low-flying helicopter, sweeping the area with a searchlight.
It’s no accident that this scene—a symbolic turning point for them—takes place in the water. Again and again, key emotional moments in their relationship have been accompanied by a thorough drenching. There was the thunderstorm when Kayla came to see Steve after the failed date, the swim in the harbor when Steve rescued Kayla from Orpheus’s yacht, the storm drain in Stockholm where they almost drowned, the rainy night when Kayla told him she loved him, and the rain just last night when Kayla built the shelter for them to huddle under together.
What does all this water mean? Washing away barriers? A life-giving force? Drowning? Being swept away? A great excuse to take their clothes off? All of these, I think. And here, something more: baptism. This is a new beginning for them, a rebirth, particularly for Steve.
The first hint we get that Steve’s attitude has changed is after they evade the helicopter, when Steve is bitten by a snake. Kayla yet again proves her indispensability when she scores the wound and sucks out the poison. A feverish Steve sleeps with his head cradled in her lap.
The next morning, still weak, he struggles to stay upright so they can keep moving. “That’s all right,” he says, “With your little arms around me, I feel like I could go anywhere.” When has he ever turned to her for help so easily, so naturally? Suspicious, Kayla accuses him of teasing her. (How do you react when you’re being given your heart’s desire?) But he isn’t.
Next they come upon a collection of honeymoon cabins, and Kayla convinces Steve to sneak into one of them so they can clean up and rest a little. The cabin is extravagantly fussy and frilly, decorated everywhere with hearts, down to the heart-shaped bed. It is corny but somehow appropriate, because their time here will be a little honeymoon for them. Steve has finally let down his guard.
This seems backwards. Everything Steve warned Kayla about has come true. He has gone from being simply a lousy catch to a positive liability in her life. If he was wrong for her before, when at least he could keep himself in food, shelter, and harmonicas, then he’s a hundred times more wrong for her now. But by stripping all of those external factors away and reducing the world to just their two selves, it throws the essence of Steve—his sweetness, protectiveness, selflessness—into sharp relief.
We’ve never seen Steve so relaxed and open, so willing to share his feelings and be romantic, as he is here. He feeds Kayla in the bath, tends her wound, and tells her for the first time that he’s glad she’s there with him. “I would be dead three times over if it weren’t for you.” Kayla remembers the cliff, the snake bite, what was the third time? He says, “I think I was talking about the day I met you, baby.” He isn’t joking. He used to be a man who expected the worst, usually got it, and figured it was no more than he deserved. Kayla changed that. Her faith in him was a catalyst for him to reevaluate what he’d always believed about himself—and it also gave him a reason to change, so he could live up to that faith.
If we want to see how much he’s grown, we need only compare his behavior now to when he was a suspect in Britta’s murder. Then, he refused to defend himself, blamed Kayla when she tried to help him, and could think of no better solution to his problems than running for the rest of his life. Now, he openly tells his story, maintains his innocence, trusts that Kayla has his best interests at heart, and actively works to clear his name. He thinks he deserves justice, and even believes that he might get it—with a little effort.
Continuing the water theme, Steve sets off the hotel sprinklers to drive away some newly arrived guests. Steve and Kayla are soaked once again, and they strip out of their wet clothes and try to pick up where they left off in the hot springs. Kayla has wrapped herself in a big red towel, and she holds it open for Steve to step into. His look as he does so is tender, reverent, filled with sexual promise.
A little haste might be called for here, perhaps? But no, as always they are maddeningly slow, and yet again they are interrupted. When Kayla peeks outside through the curtains, they are shot at through the window (Timely Interruption #11).
They escape under cover of the crowd that gathers in the aftermath of the gunshots. Among the crowd are Justin and Adrienne, who join forces with them to help clear Steve. Their presence puts a damper on any opportunity to pick up (again) where they left off.
They track down a clue in Los Angeles that points them right back to a chemical company in Salem. Steve, however, decides to visit the LA orphanage where he grew up (though he doesn’t tell the other three where he’s going), and the others have to make their way back to Salem on their own. Because Ed Daniels is still working with the police, the three are forced to stick to the story that Kayla was held hostage.
Privately, Kayla tells Roman the real story and enlists his help. When Steve calls to say he’s back in Salem, she is delighted to tell him that Roman is on their side. But Kayla has her priorities. She asks Roman to wait until morning to bring Steve in, letting them have this one night together.
When Steve arrives, she demands that Steve tell her why he didn’t come back to Salem with them. After some initial reluctance—it’s still a sore subject—he does. He tells her about growing up in the orphanage, never being adopted, and how at sixteen he became “an emancipated minor—a kid nobody wants.”
“I want you,” Kayla says, and then sets out to prove it. But no sooner have they started their romantic evening—wine, candles, a nice negligee, really, is all this necessary?—the police burst in and arrest Steve after all (Timely Interruption #12).
Ed Daniels arranges for Steve to be transferred to a federal prison (he plans to kill him before he can get there). Kayla, Justin, Adrienne, and Alice Horton rescue Steve during the transfer, and hide him in a secret room in the Curtis mansion.
After breaking into the chemical company to look for clues, Steve and Kayla end up back at Kayla’s loft. It’s a hot summer night, and Steve makes his bed up on the roof. Kayla sits by an open window, trying to cool off, while Steve does the same upstairs. But it isn’t just the weather that’s making them so hot and sweaty, and cooling off isn’t what they want to do. Kayla comes up, and Steve turns to see her standing there. “Thought you’d never get here, baby,” he says.
No more interruptions.
They have waited so long for this. It all started with an attraction that reached across a seemingly unbridgeable gap. And no matter what else happened to them, desire was the one constant. Through hope and frustration, through love and alienation, through makeups, breakups, and timely interruptions, desire survived. Or rather, intensified.
But this is also a fulfillment of the emotional bond they forged at the same time—a bond inseparable from the erotic charge between them. Just as she saw something in him that no one else appreciated, Steve from the very beginning has seen and responded to the passionate, sensual woman in Kayla—even despite himself. Even when the last thing he wanted was to be involved with her, when he derided her compassion as naivete, and her integrity as complacency, he was always drawn to her sexually. Kayla, the good girl, finds that irresistible. It is no mistake that the song played here is “The Woman in Me.”
And for Steve, the trust that he feels for Kayla—unprecedented for him—allows him to fully open himself up during sex in a way that he never has before: as he says the next morning, sex with her was wonderful “because I love you, Kayla.” It’s the first time he’s said it willingly, and he says it looking her straight in the eye, with a look of absolutely open, naked vulnerability. We’ve been waiting for this almost as long as we’ve been waiting for them to have sex, and I’d be hard pressed to say which is more gratifying. (Luckily we don’t have to choose.)
After this momentous event, Steve goes back in his secret room, where he gets a visit from Jack, the man he once thought was so right for Kayla. Jack still thinks so, and he’s so certain that he’s willing to override Kayla’s wishes and make deals behind her back. He tells Steve he won’t turn him in to the police if Steve agrees to leave Kayla. He says Kayla is too blinded by love for Steve to know what’s best for her.
Only a few months ago, Steve firmly believed everything Jack is saying. So it is very satisfying to hear Steve refute Jack’s arguments point for point: “All the money, all the power, all the crap you want to give Kayla, and you think she wants, that’s nothing compared to what we have together,” he says. “Kayla has decided that she wants me … she loves me, and I want her. As far as I’m concerned that’s the only thing two people need to stay together.”
Kayla arrives in time to hear this. “I’m so happy to hear you say that,” she says.
As soon as Kayla comes to stand next to him, Steve’s body language shifts, completely shutting Jack out. He turns his whole body toward her, looks only at her, kisses her, touches her hair—everything signaling singleminded sexual intent. There is something primitive in this: my woman. Hands off. They’ve always generated sexual heat, but this is different—a sexual bond. This is what their night on the roof has given them.
With some help from Diana, Roman, Mike, and Jack, Steve and Kayla nail the real bad guy, Simon Hopkins. Steve is a free man. After it’s all over, Steve comes back to Kayla’s apartment, letting himself in with his own key. He’s come home. He finds her reading in bed, wearing a fuzzy pink bathrobe and the cutest, dorkiest black-framed glasses. Kayla is embarrassed. “You should have called, I would have changed … ” she says, but Steve cuts her off by kissing her.
“It’s not what you wear, baby, it’s not what you look like, it’s you,” he says, an echo of what Kayla told him so long ago: it’s not how you look, it’s how you are. Steve has finally banished his demons, and is on the same page with Kayla. They happily talk about a future together.
He has to go to Washington DC for a few days regarding the case, but when he comes back, he says, he’ll never leave her again.
If only. Ah, Steve.