Note: this the seventeenth in a series. The series starts here: Steve Stalks Kayla
Steve sits by Kayla’s hospital bed, where she lies unconscious in an oxygen tent. The doctors aren’t sure what the extent of her injuries will be. Steve has been instructed not to touch her. He pleads with her not to die, not now when they are finally together and happy. He tells her he used to look in the mirror and see a bum, a one-eyed bum who would never amount to anything. “Now, I see the man that Kayla loves.” He’s crying now. “Don’t leave and take that with you.” A lot of people have changed their minds about Steve. But in the end Kayla’s opinion is the only one that matters. Without her, he would truly be rudderless.
When Kayla does wake up, we see it from her point of view—we see Steve looking at her through the oxygen tent. We see him running to get Mike, we see Mike. But we hear—nothing.
Mike says her eardrums were damaged in the explosion. Kayla’s fear and helplessness at being deaf are evident, and all she can do is cling to Steve like a life preserver. After she’s recovered a little from her other injuries, Kayla makes her way to the hearing center, where they give sign language classes. She watches the teacher and all the little children for a few moments, then turns and runs away.
The sign language teacher, Peggy, comes to visit Kayla in her room. Seeing how upset Kayla is, and how reluctant to begin, Peggy shares her story of how she lost her hearing. Then she teaches Kayla her first sign, the one thing she needs right now. Courage. Steve makes the sign also, looking at Kayla with all the love and encouragement he can muster. And Kayla looks like she’s about the break down, but she looks at Steve and tries to make the sign also.
When Kayla is released from the hospital, she still feels lost and at loose ends. She goes up to the loft roof one evening to find Steve listening to music. When he writes down the name of the song that’s playing—“Lady in Red”—she stands up and holds her hand out to him. He bows, and she curtsies. Kayla leans against him as they dance. She seems to be drawing strength from being in his arms, and can even smile a little and kiss him. When the music stops they just keep dancing, as traffic noises float up from below.
As the days pass, Kayla becomes increasingly frustrated at her inability to resume a normal life. When Adrienne invites them both to a party at the Kiriakis mansion, Kayla decides to stay home but encourages Steve to go. After he leaves she has a change of heart, puts on a fancy dress and heads over to the party.
She stands at the entrance, looking for a familiar face, then collides with a server, spilling his tray of drinks, when she doesn’t hear him say “excuse me.” Kayla is mortified and distressed to make a spectacle of herself like this, and turns tail and runs. Steve runs after her and catches up with her at the loft. When he tries to talk (actually write) to her about it, she doesn’t want to explain. She scrawls “can’t talk” on a piece of paper, and it’s true in more ways than one.
Steve calls Kimberly for help. Kim knows sign language from having worked with deaf children, and she offers to move in with Kayla at the loft and teach her. Steve goes out for awhile to let Kayla and Kim talk it over.
While he is out, he runs into Jo. They have found out from Melissa that Jack is searching for Billy, and Jo wants to prevent Jack from finding out the truth. Steve says it’s hopeless. Jack has detectives on the trail and he’s going to find out eventually. But Jo suggests that Steve go to LA, break into the orphanage, and switch the adoption records (!). Steve turns her down flat. He says he’s already done enough for Jack—too much, in fact. “I wouldn’t walk across the street for him now,” he says.
But after talking with Kim, and with Kayla, they all agree that Kayla needs a little space. It was wonderful for Kayla to have Steve to lean on when she was utterly at sea. But she doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life like that. Her fundamental independence is asserting itself, and she needs to find her own footing. Steve obviously feels hurt at being sent away, but he knows it isn’t his needs that are important right now. He wants to help her above all else, so if going away helps her, he’ll do it.
After he leaves, Kayla stands holding a picture of the two of them, crying silently. How much she loves him and will miss him isn’t at issue. She’s afraid of how her deafness will affect not only her own life, but also her life with Steve. She doesn’t want Steve to have to take care of her all the time. What if they can’t recapture the right balance of closeness and independence they had before?
Kim finds Kayla crying and tries to comfort her. Then she teaches her to sign her first sentence: “I am sad.” It’s like being two years old and learning to talk all over again. Here she is feeling all these complex emotions and all she can say is “I am sad.” She’s taking a first, positive step, but in some ways it only serves to highlight her isolation.
When Steve comes back from LA at the end of the week, he has a surprise for her—he’s been learning sign language too. For the first time since she was attacked, they can really communicate. And they prove it by having a long conversation about Jack and Steve’s trip to LA. After some prodding from Kayla, Steve admits that it wasn’t just for Jo that he switched the adoption records. With his signs getting bigger and wilder, he says he doesn’t want Jack for a brother, he doesn’t want to deal with him. In fact, he hates him. If it weren’t for Jack, they would be married right now. Kayla looks at him with steel in her eyes and signs that Jack is his brother and Steve needs to face reality.
Steve protests—no, that’s not reality. But, he says, calming down, it’s okay. They will be married, and make up for all the time they lost. But Kayla just looks at him, her eyes showing her uncertainty. Finally she says that Steve might not care if she can hear, but she does. She can’t think about getting married right now.
Steve decides not to press it. Instead he brings out a gift he got in California. It’s a snow globe, a callback to their wedding in the snow, up at the cain. (I love the goofy grin he gives her when she opens it.) This perfect little gift breaks through the distance between them, at least for the moment. Kayla throws her arms around him.
Kayla’s next step in reclaiming her life is to go to the community center to touch base. (In a rare show of compassion, Jack restored the funding after her accident.) A street kid comes in and talks to her, then starts yelling and getting in her face when she doesn’t respond. Kayla is upset but, unlike at Adrienne’s party, she doesn’t run away. She is expressing her frustration to Steve when Melissa comes in with an update on Jack’s search for Billy. After Melissa leaves, Kayla asks what she was talking about, and Steve says it was nothing, not important.
At this, Kayla explodes. “Damn you,” she signs. “Don’t ever say that to me again.” When Steve is serving as her translator, he is her link to the outside world. If his natural instinct to protect her makes him edit what he translates for her, it really will change the balance of power between them—and that is her worst fear. She says, “We used to share everything … now we are far apart.”
Steve apologizes, saying he would hate it too if someone else dictated what he could hear, and he translates what Melissa said. But then he says that he believes they can overcome this together—they don’t have to be far apart—and pleads with her to say she believes it too. “Say you believe it,” he insists. Though her eyes show that she still has doubts, Kayla gives him the reassurance he’s asking for.
Later that day, Melissa comes to see Steve and announces that she is tired of this whole charade and she’s telling Jack the truth, tonight. Steve seems resigned. But Jo, again, ropes Steve into one last desperate attempt to keep the truth from Jack. He breaks into Melissa’s apartment and finds the adoption papers. He’s about the burn them in the fireplace when Melissa and Jack come in and catch him. Jack shoves Steve away, grabs the papers—and he finally finds out.
Jack doesn’t believe it at first. But after he talks to Jo, he is forced to accept the truth. Sitting on the pier alone later that night, he flashes back to when Steve offered him his kidney—it’s all starting to make sense. When Steve comes up behind him, Jack says, “You gave me Kayla, you gave me a kidney. You gave me my life back … no matter how much I hated you, you were always so good. And now I know why.”
And Steve can’t help opening up. Despite everything, this is a moment he’s been waiting for his whole life. Everything he’s been telling himself, that he hates Jack, that he doesn’t want him for a brother, falls away for the moment. He says, choking, “It was because I never stopped loving”—he stops short of saying “you”—“I always loved my little brother. I always loved Billy.”
Jack understands perfectly. He knows now that everything Steve did for him was out of love, not to play God or to have some kind of power over him. He knows there will always be a bond between them. And in a strange way, he even acknowledges it (later, talking to Harper, he snaps, “I suppose Steve Johnson gave me his kidney because he hates my guts.”)
But here, he says intensely, “It doesn’t make a difference who I am—Jack, Billy—I’ll always hate you.” He hates being a Johnson, his whole identity lies in ruins … but he finally found his weapon against Steve.
After Jack leaves, Steve is standing shellshocked on the pier when Kayla comes and finds him. Seeing his face, she doesn’t say anything, just puts her arms around him and leads him away. It’s important to Kayla that Steve can let her help him when he needs it—and he certainly needs it now. The last vestige of his dream of finding Billy has crumbled.
A few days later, Kayla is working with Kim to recover her memory of the night she was attacked. They have good reason to believe that the person who attacked her is the so-called riverfront knifer, a serial killer who has been killing prostitutes. As she reconstructs the attack with Kim, she remembers pulling a buckle off her attacker’s glove. When the police find it and trace it, it leads them to … Jack Deveraux.
As Roman, Abe, Shane, and Steve question Jack at the police station (Steve in overbearing big brother mode), Harper Deveraux sneaks into the loft to finish what he started. Kayla has been Harper’s target all along, in revenge for Jack’s humiliation at her hands. He ties up Kim and Kayla on the loft roof and is preparing to kill them, when Shane and Steve—“that white knight idiot lover of yours,” as Harper terms it—show up in the nick of time to save them.
Kayla signs shakily to Steve, “I knew you’d come,” and they fall into each other’s arms.
The next morning, after Kayla has a nightmare about Harper stalking her, Steve calls Peggy for help. Kayla tells Peggy that she still feels scared and isolated, and the more Steve and her family try to help, the more alone she feels. “What’s wrong with me?” she asks. Peggy tells her there’s nothing wrong with her, she just needs to accept her life the way it is now. She says, “You’ll realize this is it, I’m deaf. This is my life. And when that happens you learn different ways to deal with it … each day it will get a little easier.”
Kayla looks uncertain. If she really is going to be deaf for the rest of her life, could she really face that? Could she and Steve survive it?