Steve got off the elevator and strolled to Kayla’s door. He was just about to knock but hesitated, his confidence vanishing surprisingly fast. He turned away and looked down at the carnation he had brought. He had picked it up at the flower shop on the way over. The florist had told him it was a perfect flower to give to a woman as a friendly gesture. Now in the darkened foyer outside Kayla’s loft it seemed silly. Pulling off the long stem he placed the flower in his shirt pocket hoping it didn’t make him look ridiculous.Looking down at his new outfit, Steve felt his throat go dry. He pulled out his harmonica and used it as a mirror to give his hair one last look. God, he was an ugly man, why did he even bother? Putting the harmonica away, he turned back to her door and knocked loudly. Frankie and Max were waiting for them and he didn’t have time to be fooling around. He needed to get Kayla and get over to her parent’s house so they could pick the boys up.
Hearing the knock at her door, Kayla checked the time, wondering who could it be. She wasn’t expecting anyone. Tomorrow was her day off and after work she had came home, changed into something comfortable and lay on the couch to read a good book. She felt with the excitement of this week she deserved to have a relaxing night to stay in.
Opening the door, her mouth fell open at the sight of Steve Johnson standing before her. He was probably the last person she expected to see. Her surprise led her to exclaim, “Steve” and he waltzed past her as he took his name to be an invitation to come inside.
As he did so, he asked, “Well, what do you think?”
Knowing she should be upset with his gall, Kayla couldn’t stop the smile that formed on her lips. She wasn’t sure why but having Steve spontaneously show up at her loft was more pleasing to her than she could have guessed. She answered him, “What do I think about what?”
“That I got some new clothes,” Steve answered, his back still to her. “You don’t even notice when I dress up?”
Kayla had noticed his clothes as she couldn’t remember ever seeing him in anything other than jeans. He looked good wearing a blue and black striped shirt with black slacks. He looked very good.
Kayla was trying to come up with an appropriate complement that wouldn’t lead Steve into saying something inappropriate but he cut her off before she had a chance. “It’s no big deal, Baby. You ready?”
Having no idea what Steve was talking about, Kayla asked, “Ready for what?”
Turning around, Steve faced her and said, “Ready for our date tonight.”
Shutting the door, Kayla felt her heart hammering in her chest faster than she thought possible. Racking her memory she knew she hadn’t agreed to go on a date with Steve but yet here he was in her living room and dressed up very nice asking if she was ready.
“Date? We don’t have a date.”
“You got a short memory, Baby. I mean this is the night we are supposed to take little Frankie and Max out to celebrate. Celebrate you getting them off the streets and moving into your parent’s house. Doesn’t that ring a bell?”
Kayla took a moment before she answered Steve. When she did she made sure to keep eye contact, “Yeah, it does. But we didn’t make it for tonight. In fact I don’t think we made it yet.”
“Sure we did, Sweetness. You mean you didn’t get my engraved invitation with the date and time and everything on it?”
“No,” Kayla said, still keeping his gaze.
Steve turned away. He knew he was busted about not calling her first. He hadn’t thought of her having plans or anything. Mentally kicking himself, he finally worked up the nerve to get a good look at her. Up until now he had been focusing on anything else in the room to keep his confidence level up because whether he admitted it or not, Kayla was too damn beautiful to be legal. Even now, only wearing a t-shirt and jeans, the image of her took his breath away. He couldn’t tear his eyes away with how the jeans fit around her waist.
“Steve!” Kayla said.
Jerking his eye back up to hers, Steve smirked and said, “Come on, Baby. You got other plans?”
Kayla felt anger flush her face and part of her wanted to tell Steve to leave. She almost wished that her date with Chris was for tonight instead of the following night; it would serve him right for thinking she would be available. On the other hand, her irritation with Steve wasn’t fair to Max and Frankie whom had too much abandonment in their lives.
“No, I don’t have other plans, but it would have been nice to let me know before you came over here. I don’t like it when people drop in unannounced.”
Steve had a flash of being in her closet back in Cleveland and felt the guilt inside him stew. Truth be told, he had looked forward to this evening and he was afraid calling her up would give her the chance to say no. At least until he walked in he had the illusion she would want to go and calling ahead would spoil that.
“Kayla,” he whispered, “they really want you there.”
Kayla blinked at the shift in Steve’s demeanor. Focusing on keeping her voice even, Kayla handed the book she had planned to read to Steve and told him she would be down in a few minutes after she changed.
Steve grinned as he watched Kayla head up the spiral staircase. He didn’t really want her to change; she looked so adorable in that outfit. However, he knew Kayla well enough to know by now she didn’t leave the house like that. He felt himself leap a little bit, relieved to see she was going with him after all. Looking down at the book, Kayla had handed him, Steve’s eyebrow drew up at the title.
“Who knew Kayla Brady was a Stephen King fan?”
Kayla was nervous on the way to pick up Max and Frankie. She and Steve had walked in silence since leaving her loft. When she went to change, Kayla realized she had no real idea on what to wear. She had chosen a simple dress, knowing it would work with just about any restaurant. She was slightly disappointed she didn’t get a compliment from him, but at least there wasn’t a sleazy one either. Glancing towards him, she noticed Steve was acting quite different. If she didn’t know any better, she would think he was downright shy.
By now they had made it to her parents’ house and Steve rang the doorbell. Kayla couldn’t help but laugh. Hearing her, Steve asked her what was so funny.
“It’s just I’m not used to ringing the bell at my parent’s door. I simply go in.” With that she opened the door and breezed past Steve. Frankie was just about to answer it. He looked less than thrilled at their plans for tonight.
“What took you so long?”
Steve shrugged and gestured towards Kayla, “The woman wasn’t ready.”
Not letting Steve’s comment bother her, Kayla said hello to Frankie who just grunted back. Max came in carrying his patch bear and Kayla walked over to him. “Hi Max, how are you?”
The boy’s face was unreadable but judging by how he was ready to go she guessed he was excited about the evening. Steve walked over to him and began playing his harmonica in the silly way that would make Max smile. It worked again this time.
“That’s what we were looking for, little dude,” Steve said. “I take it you two are ready.”
“Yeah, Patch, we’ve been ready for over half an hour.”
Kayla flinched at Frankie calling Steve that nickname. Steve had done so much for them; the least he could do was say his name. Ignoring it for now, Kayla decided to apologize for keeping them waiting, “Sorry, Frankie. I wasn’t ready when Steve got to my door.”
Steve glanced at Kayla surprised she didn’t add that he hadn’t told her about the dinner. Feeling guilty that she was taking the blame, he told Frankie to quit complaining, tonight was a celebration. They locked up the house and left.
At Shenanigan’s, the hostess seated them fairly quickly. Steve tried to concentrate on the menu and what to order, but he was so distracted by how beautiful Kayla looked that night. He wondered if the boys knew how lucky they were that Kayla helped them out and arranged for her parents to take them in.
Clearing his throat, Steve said, “Now you guys order whatever you want. Don’t worry about price, it’s on me.”
He felt Kayla’s gaze on him and the look on her face was unreadable but for some reason his face grew very hot. He was grateful he could hide behind the menu.
After they ordered, Frankie slumped down in his chair and began playing with this napkin. Kayla wondered if the boy would ever learn to trust his feelings or others again. She couldn’t blame him for his behavior. She could only imagine what he had experienced in his life living on the streets and trying to protect his little brother.
“Oh, I forgot! I’ll be right back.” Steve said, jumping out of his chair and leaving them alone.
Frankie rolled his eyes, “Where is he going?”
“I have no idea,” Kayla said, but realized she had a moment to talk to Frankie about his comment earlier. “You know Frankie, it would be nice if you…” the look he gave her stopped her.
“It would be nice if I what?” he said.
Her patience wearing thin, Kayla replied, “It would be nice if you stopped calling Steve, Patch. His name is Steve.”
“Everybody calls him Patch. He even calls himself Patch.”
“It doesn’t matter. His name is Steve and Patch is a horrible nickname.”
Frankie was about to answer her when Steve showed up with a paper bag. He had meant to stop at his place with Kayla but had forgotten. He was lucky though he lived only a few steps from the restaurant. Reaching into the bag, he pulled out party hats and whistles.
“Oh, man, we don’t have to wear that do we?”
Kayla caught Steve’s face falling for a split second before he put on his tough guy facade again. It amazed her that sleazy act he put on was more show than anything else. Smacking Frankie on the back of the head, Steve said, “Shut up and put it on. Max likes it.”
Max did like it though the only way to tell was because he quickly put it on and wanted one for his bear. Steve blew the party whistle so it would shoot out and hit the bear in the face. Kayla smiled at how Max fought back smiling. If anyone could get Max to smile, it would be Steve.
Her eyes wandered over to Steve who was laughing at Max. The waiter arrived with the food. As the kids were scarfing what was on their plate down, Kayla said, “I didn’t realize how hungry I was until now.”
“Neither did I, baby,” Steve answered. Kayla’s eyes met his look and for some reason she couldn’t stop looking at Steve. Hearing Frankie ask for the ketchup helped bring her mind to who else was around, but she kept sneaking sideways glances at him during the meal.
After they had dessert, Steve leaned back stretching. Though Steve tucking in his napkin didn’t bother Kayla it was now blocking her view of his form. At the realization of where her thoughts were directed, Kayla looked away to hide the blush on her cheeks. It wasn’t quick enough.
“What’s wrong with you?” Frankie asked.
Feeling her cheeks grow redder by the second, Kayla turned around. Acting as nonchalantly as possible, she shrugged while saying, “Nothing.”
However Frankie was not one to let sleeping dogs lie, so he pressed on, “You got all red though. You aren’t embarrassed to be seen with us are you?”
Sighing, Kayla shook her head. “No, Frankie, it’s not that at all.”
“Well, what is it?”
“Nothing, really,” she told the teenager. She was careful to not look at Steve though as Kayla felt one look and he would know exactly what she had been thinking. Since her attention was so focused on the boys, she didn’t notice when Steve jerked up and blew the party whistle in her face making her jump.
Everyone including Frankie laughed as Kayla glared back at Steve.
“Sorry, Baby,” Steve said, not looking the least apologetic, “I just wanted to get you to relax.”
After the laughter died down, Max got up and grabbed Frankie’s hand, pulling him towards the bathrooms. Recognizing his little brother’s needs, Frankie looked at Steve and Kayla explaining, “He needs to go to the bathroom.”
“Do you want me to take him?” Steve asked, but Frankie shook his head no.
“No, I got him.”
Now alone, Steve had a moment to observe Kayla while she watched Frankie take Max to the bathroom. Though she was always so beautiful, tonight she seemed especially so. He wasn’t sure if it was because of the fun of the evening or something in the way he had caught her looking at him. Her looks always seemed to take his breath away.
“He’s so protective of Max. No matter how rude Frankie is you can see he loves his little brother very much.”
Before he could stop himself, Steve answered, “Big brothers are meant to take care of their little brothers.”
Kayla now turned her attention to Steve and he mentally kicked himself for forgetting she knew about his past. She didn’t say anything though, instead, she just looked at him. Out of all her looks, this is the one that got to Steve the most. It was like she could see straight into his soul or something.
“What?” he said gruffly.
“Have you told the boys about what you went through when you were a kid? I think what Frankie needs now is to realize they aren’t the only people who had hard luck while they were young.”
“No, it isn’t their business. In fact, it isn’t yours either.”
Kayla couldn’t argue with that, but she couldn’t let it go either. “Then why did you tell me?”
“Because you wouldn’t understand about the social worker if I didn’t.”
“But you didn’t have to tell me everything. You told me how you felt, the parents that adopted…”
Steve kept looking over Kayla’s shoulder. Where the hell were those kids? He signaled to the waiter they needed their check. He purposely didn’t answer.
“Steve?” Kayla asked.
“I don’t know, Kayla,” he answered as he got his wallet ready. “It’s like when I started talking about it, it all came out at once. I don’t usually do that.” Steve left off at the end of that last sentence “except with you”.
Kayla was giving him that look again. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Frankie and Max walking out of the bathroom. Leaning over to her, Steve said, “I can, however, show you what I usually do if you would let me, Sweetness.”
Kayla’s face went from empathy to anger so quickly it surprised even Steve. Just as the boys walked up, she said, “Why do you do that? Why do you have to ruin a nice moment?”
For once, Frankie didn’t say anything. He wasn’t sure what to say at all in fact. Looking at both Kayla and Steve, he broke the uncomfortable silence. “Um, we’re back.”
“Good,” Steve said. The check had arrived and Steve was ready with the money. “It’s time we got out of here.” Making sure the mood wasn’t changed with the kids, Steve got out his harmonica and began playing for Max’s benefit. Kayla got up and followed them out the door wondering if she was ever going to figure out Steve Johnson.
Everyone knew something had changed on the way home. Steve did his best to keep Max entertained, hoping the lively harmonica music would keep the little dude happy, but he wasn’t fooled. Steve wasn’t doing a great job hiding his feelings; he was angry with Kayla. Who did she think she was bringing up his past and telling him he ought to tell the kids?
Not that Steve didn’t open his mouth and invite her remarks to begin with… He was still upset that he could so easily bring up the past with Kayla, and it didn’t matter that his early childhood was what he guarded the most about himself. He’d rather talk about losing his eye than losing Billy. All his life he bottled up those memories and never shared them with anyone. Bo didn’t know. Britta didn’t know. Hell, even Marcus didn’t know about Billy since he arrived at the orphanage after Billy was gone.
Kayla was different though. He meant what he said back at Shenanigan’s; when he opened up to Kayla all the hurt and pain of the past came out at once. Why did she have that effect on him? Steve told himself it was probably because she was a nurse and his subconscious wanted her to heal his soul. For some reason he didn’t want to deal with that.
Kayla let them into the Brady house. Her parents had known tonight was the celebration night and knew they could trust Steve to get the boys back home safely. Steve wasn’t sure how Frankie had convinced them of that. He supposed it was more of Kayla being with them than actually Steve, but the illusion was nice for now.
“Anyone want anything to drink?” Kayla asked as she walked to the kitchen.
Frankie and Max shook their heads. Max yawned big while still clutching his patch bear.
“Are you ready to go to bed, little dude?” Steve asked. Max shook his head but it was obvious he was ready to topple over any second. Frankie was about to pick him up but Steve shook his head no. “Let me put him to bed. Would you like me to play you a song on my harp, Maxwell?”
Max nodded at they both headed upstairs with Frankie following them. Kayla remained downstairs. Not sure what to do she started to wipe down the counters.
Steve played the harmonica for Max; the song started off as a lullaby but became sadder and sadder. Steve didn’t like feeling this way and it was coming out in his music. As he played, he thought about Kayla downstairs and he knew he was going to have to walk her home. He wasn’t ready to deal with that so he kept playing.
Finally, Frankie put his hand on Steve’s shoulder making him quit and said, “I think he’s asleep now, Patch.”
Steve stopped and saw Maxwell sleeping with his bear in his arms. In spite of his mood, the scene before him of Max holding the bear with the patch over his eye was enough to bring a smile to his face. He was so glad the kids had a good place to call home. Plus they were together. Kayla had arranged all of this, for two kids she hardly knew.
Getting up, Steve turned and looked at Frankie and told the teenager goodnight. As he walked back Frankie called him back.
“Steve,” he whispered.
Frankie looked suddenly shy which concerned Steve. “What is it, Franklin? Something wrong?”
Shaking his head, Frankie asked, “Does it bother you… does it bother you when I call you Patch?”
Taken aback, Steve muttered, not knowing what to say, “Um, no. I… I hadn’t thought about it really. I mean, everyone calls me Patch.”
“Okay, I just, I mean if you want me to call you Steve I can do that.”
“That’s fine,” Steve said, “I mean, it’s nice to hear. I guess.”
Both faced each other awkwardly not sure how to end it. Frankie shrugged and said, “Okay, then. It’s just Kayla brought it up and I didn’t know if maybe she was right…”
“What did Kayla say?”
“She just said I should call you Steve and not Patch.”
“Everyone calls me Patch,” Steve said defensively. Not Kayla.
“That’s what I said!” Frankie said. “But she said it didn’t matter. It wasn’t a good nickname or something. I’d forgotten.”
Steve nodded as he experienced what felt like a hundred emotions at once. Swallowing while keeping his voice even, he said, “Thanks. It’s okay. Just…man, call me what ever makes you comfortable.”
With that, he went downstairs forgetting to walk softly since Max was sleeping. Seeing Kayla in the kitchen alone, he ignored the beating his heart took at the sight of her and launched in the question on his mind.
“Why did you tell Frankie to stop calling me Patch?”
Kayla stood facing Steve as he repeated his question.
“Why did you tell him not to call me that?”
Putting down the dishrag, Kayla felt her heart head up to her throat as she answered, “Because he just shouldn’t call you that.”
“Everyone calls me that,” Steve said walking closer to her. His face was unreadable to her.
“That doesn’t make it right. Your name is Steve.”
He paused for a beat before replying, “It’s just a nickname, Kayla.”
Kayla felt her pulse race at Steve’s excuse. He could try to pretend that it didn’t bother him or just didn’t care, but she remembered when he got hurt helping Bo. Dr. Curtis tried to speak to him but Steve only responded to his name. Bo even asked Dr. Curtis to refrain from calling him Patch then.
“No, it’s not, Steve,” Kayla said walking towards him. “A nickname is like… Tripp, Junior or… Sweetness.”
Kayla had to stop because her throat had gone dry and felt her cheeks flush. Why did she add that last word? She hated it when he called her that. Regardless, she continued, “Anyway, those are nicknames. Calling you by your handicap is just cruel and insulting. It implies that your patch makes up who you are and…”
Kayla stopped, realizing how close she was to Steve. She hadn’t realized how close until just then. She could almost reach up and touch his face. She had a flash when she kissed him on the cheek the other day.
“And what?” Steve asked with a hoarse whisper.
By now, she had lost her train of thought. Breaking eye contact, she shrugged, “I just think there is more to you than what shows up on the outside.”
Kayla didn’t see Steve’s hand until she felt it on her cheek. His hands were surprisingly warm and she felt her skin tingle all the way down to her toes from his touch. His head leaned in slightly and her lips automatically parted for him.
“Kayla!” came the roar out of her father’s mouth. There stood her parents who had just come home.
Suddenly feeling like a teenager caught skipping curfew, Kayla stepped away from Steve and started rambling on, asking if they had a good evening.
Caroline recovered well and said the evening was very nice but Shawn’s face read something quite different. Knowing it would be foolish to stay, Kayla smiled and said, “Well, Frankie and Max had a great time. They are in bed. I think we better be going. I’m glad to see you both. Love you.”
She shut the door behind her as she practically pushed Steve out the door. She knew her face was still red.
Steve looked at her; he had what looked like a bemused grin on his face. His smirk got bigger as he said, “What’s wrong, Baby?”
“Let’s just go,” Kayla said. She was confused about what just happened.