This is the sixteenth in a series. The series starts here: Steve Stalks Kayla
Let’s take a break.
An irresolvable dilemma for any fan of a soap couple is if your couple is featured in an exciting, front burner story, they’re almost certain to be unhappy in some way. Here, after the heartbreaking drama of the rape and Kayla’s recovery, Steve and Kayla step to the backburner and are used to introduce a whole slew of new characters. The upside of this is that we get to see them be happy for a little while.
The old Emergency Center burned to the ground a few months back, and Steve and Kayla both get involved with the building of the new one. They decide to start a new community center in conjunction with it, with Steve serving as a liaison for the street kids and gang members in the area. In between all this we get to see Steve and Kayla hang out like a real couple, tease each other, argue a little, make up, whisper sweet nothings to each other, and kiss a lot. It’s hard to complain about that.
Of course, into any soap life some rain must fall, and for Steve and Kayla right now, it is Jack. I think Jack’s actions here have more to do with Steve than they do with Kayla. It hurts to lose Kayla, but it hurts even more to lose her to Steve. Jack would like to dismiss Steve as someone of no importance, but he can’t. First because Kayla prefers him, and second, because of the kidney. Jack will always owe his life to Steve, and it makes him feel not grateful but at a permanent disadvantage. He’s forced to wonder why this man would save his life, and he doesn’t like it. So with Steve’s kidney stitched up inside him, Jack does everything he can to make their lives miserable. The first thing he does is promise he’s going to fight the divorce from Kayla.
Kayla goes to the Deveraux mansion to see Jack about the divorce, and runs into Anjelica instead. Anjelica, naturally enough, thinks that Kayla has traded down, and sneers that Kayla is “forced to live in virtual squalor with your one-eyed boyfriend.” But Anjelica can’t touch Kayla anymore, and Kayla neatly turns the tables on her. “You’ve never been in love … I guess that’s why I always pitied you.” Anjelica’s face shows that Kayla hit her mark, and Kayla pauses outside the door to smile to herself. Our girl is back.
That night, Steve makes dinner for Kayla and tells her how glad he is to be able to take care of her like this. “I missed you, Sweetness,” he says.
“I missed me, too,” Kayla says, and it’s an acknowledgment of how much was at stake, how battling back from the rape meant coming back to herself. Now, things are nearly back to normal.
Almost. Their physical closeness is back–the touching, the kissing, the slow dancing—but they have not yet resumed their sexual relationship. The tension of unfulfilled desire begins to build. One night after a difficult day at the community center, Steve puts his arms around Kayla and kisses her goodnight.
“Mm, you feel good,” Kayla says. She gets a speculative expression on her face and snuggles closer. Steve begins kissing her neck, then pulls away abruptly. “You’d better go up to bed,” he says. He’s obviously afraid that if she stays he’ll start pressing her, and he doesn’t want to do that. Kayla goes, slowly, reluctantly, giving one last look of regret at the bottom of the stairs.
(All of this is beautifully conveyed by Stephen Nichols and Mary Beth Evans without a word of explicit dialogue.)
A few days later, after a scare in which Kayla thinks the plane Steve was on has crashed (but he wasn’t on it after all), they are getting ready for bed. Kayla turns to see shirtless Steve standing before her. The look she gives him needs no words, but Kayla says them anyway. “I thought I would never see you again, or touch you again.” She trails her fingers over his tattoo. “Or be with you again.” She kisses him, her intentions clear.
Steve takes her shoulders in his hands. He says, almost whispering, “I want you to want this as much as I do.” Then, smiling a little, “You do want me, don’t you, Kayla?” He knows, but it’s been so long, and so much has happened, that he needs to hear it.
“Of course I want you,” she says, and she means it. And slowly, kissing all the way, they make their way over to the bed and reclaim what they lost.
Jack senses his essential powerlessness to destroy their happiness, and it’s driving him crazy. It’s what helps him see himself as the victim in all this. When Jack comes by the community center and tells them that he’s determined to close it down, Kayla asks him why, as an assemblyman, he would want to hurt something that is good for the community. Jack snaps that Kayla doesn’t care what’s good for the community: “All you care about is you … and him.”
Another day, after Jack has dropped by and issued one of his threats, Kayla tells Steve, “I have trouble remembering he’s your brother.”
But Steve says, “I have trouble forgetting.”
This reminds us that, in fact, Jack has a significant source of power against Steve, but he has no inkling of it. It has nothing to do with his money or his position. He has the power to hurt Steve because of Steve’s unkillable love for his baby brother.
That love is what prevents Steve from retaliating against Jack in any significant way. He will attack him physically—punching him when he insults Kayla, slamming him up against the wall, practically making a career of grabbing him by the lapels—but he never uses the biggest weapon in his arsenal. He never taunts him, never even comes close to it, with the fact that Kayla loves him, not Jack—wants him, not Jack.
It is very satisfying, though, when Steve and Kayla are able to successfully combat or elude Jack’s attacks. A standoff with some gang members at the community center (one that includes holding Steve at gunpoint) results in one of the gang members being shot by the police. Jack persuades Emilio, brother of the man who was shot, to appear with him at a press conference and blame the community center for his brother’s death. Steve, seeing the press conference on TV, shows up in time to swoop in and manipulate Emilio into admitting the truth, then amiably agree to be interviewed by the assembled reporters and put in a plug for the community center.
When Kayla decides to host a rape prevention seminar, Jack corners her and offers some suggestions at how wives can avoid being raped. 1. Never lead your husband on. 2. Never pretend you’re going to make love to him someday. 3. Don’t get caught sleeping around. (Notice he is not denying here that he raped her.) He warns Kayla not to allude to him in her speech at the seminar, but naturally enough, refusing to be intimidated, she does anyway.
Jack next crashes the opening ceremonies of the community center and pulls Steve aside. Maybe he’ll be more responsive to threats. Jack says that if Kayla publicly withdraws her comments about him, and apologizes, Jack will give Kayla a quick divorce. If she doesn’t, Steve and Kayla should prepare themselves for the longest, messiest divorce in judicial history. Steve treats this offer with the contempt it deserves. But then, as always when Jack behaves badly, it seems to pain Steve as much as anger him. How could this be his baby brother? He says, “I used to think you were a stand up kind of dude … how does a nice kid turn into a smart-mouth jerk like you?”
This slips past Jack’s defenses, and we glimpse a little of what is fueling his actions. He says that when you’re a nice, trusting guy, people stab you in the back. Your wife lies to you. The guy out there campaigning for you is sleeping with your wife. Nice guys are losers. He’s already lost Kayla, and he’s never going to lose again.
In the midst of all this maneuvering with Jack, there are many, many scenes during this storyline that establish nothing more than “Steve and Kayla are happy” or “Steve and Kayla are hot for each other” (and usually both). I think my favorite is the Emergency Center elves scene. Kayla is working late, and Steve is trying to get her to go home with him. He plays her a song on his harmonica (“I’m very sleepy, baby, oh, won’t you please come home?”) He kisses her neck (which does totally distract her), and finally he enlists the help of the “Emergency Center elves” who will do all the work if Kayla will only leave them alone. It’s delightful to see Steve and Kayla get the chance to enjoy each other’s company like this, just a happy couple in love.
Not long after this, Jo has to have surgery to remove a lump in her breast. The surgery goes well, and on the day she is to be discharged, Steve and Kayla come to the hospital to take her home. Before they can leave, Jack swoops in to Jo’s hospital room and offers to give her a ride home in his limousine. Jo is flattered and pleased and jumps at this chance to spend time with her younger son, while Steve can only stand dumbly by and try to tamp down his jealousy.
For Jo, the disconnect between Jack and Billy is still operating in full force, and the closest she comes to acknowledging the misery Jack has caused Kayla and Steve is to say brightly, “Maybe I could help him!” This unfairness registers only in the minds of viewers, however. Steve’s jealousy is an emotional reaction, not a conviction that he deserves Jo’s loyalty over Jack. And Kayla, who Jack has hurt most of all, makes it very clear through this whole time period that she has no interest in turning the whole world against him. Melissa, Jo, and even Steve—especially Steve—are free to form their own opinions about him.
Meanwhile, Camby, the reporter who took the pictures of Steve and Kayla when Kayla was married to Jack, is working with Jack to dig up dirt on the center. Camby finds out that Emilio’s sister April was stealing drugs from the Emergency Center supplies, and that Steve and Kayla declined to prosecute her. This looks bad enough that Jack is able to get the community center funding revoked. The same night Camby finds out about April, he scores another little tidbit of information—which he brings promptly to Jack’s attention. Jack is intrigued. It seems there is a third Johnson sibling, a skeleton from Steve’s past he doesn’t want found. Could this “Billy Johnson” be the key to getting his revenge on Steve at last?
Steve and Kayla call a board meeting to discuss ways to restore the center’s funding. They hold the meeting at the loft. Despite the problems at the center, they are happy. They laugh and talk about “the big M”—getting married. When Abe Carver calls to say the center has been vandalized, Steve goes there to check it out. He reassures a worried Kayla that he’ll be fine: “Just think about the big M,” he says. (Now we know something bad is going to happen.) While he is gone, the lights in the loft go out. When Kayla goes down to change the fuse, a figure in black attacks her. They struggle, knocking a gas can underneath the boiler in the process. Steve arrives home in time to hear the resulting explosion. He rushes in to the burning basement and carries Kayla out.