“You…you don’t want to go to Salem?” Kimberly asked, surprised.
Kayla, hearing the confusion in her sister’s voice, realized how she must have sounded. “Oh, yes, I do. I was just thinking what I needed to do. I need to call the hospital and arrange my surgery schedule. I need to get Stephanie out of school…”
At the last statement, Kayla realized the impact of what Steve coming home meant. Stephanie was going to have a father again. The meaning of this sent Kayla’s mind spinning and she quickly sat down.
Kimberly, watching her sister, knew exactly what was on her mind, “Stephanie?”
Kayla nodded. “How do I tell her?”
“You know I can’t tell you that, honey. She’s your daughter.”
For the first time since hearing the news, Kayla’s mouth slipped into a wide smile, she replied, “Actually she’s Steve’s daughter too.”
Kimberly was glad to see the smile on her sister’s face. “It’s sinking in right now isn’t it?”
Kayla met eye contact with her sister and replied, “Yes. Yes, he’s alive. Oh, Kim!” Kayla jumped up and embraced her older sister,overjoyed.
After they parted, Kimberly forced Kayla to face the situation, “Now, what about Stephanie?”
“Well, my first impression is to immediately get her out of school and tell her everything,” Kayla said but knew in her heart it was jumping the gun. “But to be honest, I don’t know… how Steve is, his mental state.”
Kimberly nodded, knowing what Kayla meant. “You aren’t sure if he is going to be ready to meet his teenaged daughter?”
“You say it like that and… it sounds cold. Of course he’s ready. I know he will be a good father, I always knew…” Kayla’s voice dropped off remembering how she used to convince him. “But according to what you said, it’s like he just woke up and it’s sixteen years later. That’s a huge adjustment.”
Kimberly nodded in agreement.
Kayla asked, “I guess… I guess he knows by now how much time has passed.”
“I’m sure even if they didn’t tell him, their appearances told him. They said he had figured it out once he recognized Benjy…”
It took a beat for Kayla to comprehend the name, “BENJY?”
“Oh, yes. It seems that’s why Steve was taken to begin with. Again, I’m afraid I’m not sure of the details but Steve was there only to keep Benjy living as a Dimera. He’s taken care of him, while he was comatose this whole time.”
“Benjy’s been living as a Dimera this whole time?” Kayla asked, her heart breaking.
“Yes, he’s a young man now. Apparently he was just as much captive as Steve and Marlena were. However, he helped them all escape once John and Bo made their presence known.”
Kayla nodded but still didn’t know what to say. She felt a surge of guilt rush through her as she had always promised to stay in contact with Benjy at the funeral. The pain and loss she felt at losing Steve prevented her from really following through. She’d lost contact soon after the funeral.
She pushed the guilt way. There’d be time for it later. “They’re really on their way home?”
Kimberly nodded and said, “Soon. They’re are at the airport now. Do you want to try to call them?”
Kayla almost said no, feeling the anxiety of the whole situation. But then the idea of hearing Steve’s voice got her excited and she nodded saying, “Yes, yes, I do.”
Kim smiled and pulled out her cell phone to look up the last number Marlena called from. Kayla dialed it and waited but sadly it went straight to voice mail. She hung up disappointed. “I guess they are flying now.”
She and Kimberly said their goodbyes and Kayla grabbed her purse to go to Stephanie’s school. Using her phone, she called Adrienne as everything was sinking in.
Kayla waited as Stephanie was being taken out of class. Before arriving she made contact with Adrienne who was on her way too. Kayla had no real experience informing anyone that someone was back from the dead and felt like she needed moral support, especially when dealing with her own daughter.
She had no idea how Stephanie was going to react. All her life Stephanie had wanted to hear stories of her father, and the more Kayla and Bo told her, the more she wanted to hear. They had a few videos of Steve back in the day but the technology was so expensive back then, and since then the tapes were just worn out.
Kayla thought of the time she caught Stephanie, about nine years old, looking at a picture of Steve that Kayla kept in her bedroom. It was one very early on, when they were barely dating actually. Someone else who had taken the picture gave it to her after Steve’s death. When Stephanie had seen it,she’d known at once that the man in the photo was different than the man she heard about from her mom. Kayla had a hard time being honest with Stephanie about the old Steve. The man in the photograph was in a transitional period; how do you explain that to a little girl? Now she was going to meet Steve in a whole new transitional period and Kayla didn’t know what to expect. It was obvious to her now that Stephanie was going to have to remain in LA for the time being but just as soon as Kayla and Steve became reacquainted they would come back to her.
“Hi Mom,” came a familiar voice and Kayla glanced up to see her daughter looking at her curiously. “What’s up?”
“Hey, baby girl, how are you?” Kayla said trying to give her daughter a hug. Stephanie jumped back and looked around nervous. “Mo-om. I told you not to call me that here.”
“Oh right, forgot,” Kayla said. “Listen, I have some news for you and we are going to have to a long talk. I’ve checked you out so you can come with me.”
Stephanie immediately became worried, “What’s going on? Is something wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong, actually… everything’s right.” Kayla said, trying not to let herself get too emotional at the school.
“It’s just… I have the softball game this afternoon and I need to be back for that…”
“Sweetie, you’re going to have to miss your game.”
“What? Why? I was told I would get to start today. You know how unusual it is for a sophomore to start on the softball team.”
Taking a hold of Stephanie’s arm she led her outside not wanting to get into a fight. Normally, Stephanie wasn’t this argumentative and Kayla knew how hard she worked to get on the team in the first place. What was so funny was this morning Kayla thought going to see her daughter in today’s game was the most important thing in her life.
“Stephanie, give me a little credit, please! I know how much this game means to you and you know I wouldn’t ask you to miss it if it weren’t really important…”
“What?” Stephanie asked as they got to Kayla’s car. “What could be so important? You already said nothing is wrong so I don’t get why I have to miss…”
“Stephanie! You’re father is alive!” Kayla blurted out.
“What did you say?” Stephanie asked shocked.
“I’m… oh, I’m so sorry, Stephanie, I hadn’t meant for it to come out like that!” Kayla said, mentally kicking herself.
“You said… my father…” Stephanie didn’t know what to think.
Just then, Adrienne came up in the parking lot. She was about to ask if Kayla had told her but the look on her niece’s face affirmed it.
“Sweetie, are you alright?” Adrienne asked.
Stephanie’s attention jumped from her aunt to her mother. What did her mom mean when she said her father was alive? “I don’t understand.”
“Honestly, I don’t think we do either,” Adrienne said.
Taking Stephanie’s hand, Kayla led her daughter to the car. She, Stephanie and Adrienne settled inside, a tense silence falling. Kayla broke the silence and began to tell her daughter everything she knew so far, which wasn’t much. When she was done, she looked at her daughter. Stephanie’s expression was unreadable. Kayla worried that maybe Stephanie didn’t believe her. How could she blame her?
“So, we’re sure… he’s back?” Stephanie said. “Just like Uncle Jack?”
Both women nodded. Stephanie would have been blind if she hadn’t recognized the joy in their faces. What was wrong with her? She felt so numb to the news. This is what she had dreamed of. All her life she wanted to have her father back with them, and now that she has the chance she felt so worried and nervous.
“I see,” she said.
Kayla looked over at Adrienne, worried at her daughter’s lack of reaction. Usually she was a bundle of energy and could never contain her feelings, so Kayla had thought she would have a much larger reaction than this.
Suddenly, all at once, Stephanie felt the truth crash down on her. Suddenly short of breath, she jumped out of the car into the fresh air. The older two women immediately followed.
“Are you okay?” Kayla asked, worried because she looked like she might have a panic attack.
“Yeah, I just needed… I just needed to breathe,” Stephanie said. She wasn’t about to stand still… she was rocking from side to side as she usually did right before a game she started in. “Mom, I’m sorry, I just… I don’t know.”
Then the tears came. Both Kayla and Adrienne grew teary-eyed while Stephanie felt all the energy explode through her. It occurred to her, maybe now she could let out a confession, one she had been holding on to for years.
“Oh, Mom, I mean finally. I think I can tell you,” Stephanie was openly crying now, “I… I used to hate Abby.”
Obviously the last thing Kayla expected to hear, she blinked back her tears to ask, “What?”
“I know, I don’t mean hate. It’s just… it was just so unfair that it seemed like Uncle Jack was always coming back from the dead! This last time I was really more angry than relieved. You noticed I didn’t really have a lot to say on the phone with him when we called.”
“Oh, Mom, I’m so sorry. I know it makes me terrible, I just… it seemed unfair that Abby was always getting her father back, and I didn’t even remember my dad EVER! But now you said…” By now she was bawling and Kayla took her in her arms, quietly whispering to her that it was alright.
Adrienne, though knowing inwardly this was a mother-daughter moment and that she should keep back, was so moved she was unable to stop herself. She swallowed both Kayla and Stephanie in a giant bear hug of an embrace, crying louder than the two combined. The gesture actually put Kayla and Stephanie in giggles imagining how the three of them must look out in the school parking lot.
Separating, Kayla asked her daughter, “So is it okay to head home and discuss this privately?”
Stephanie, still stuck between giggling and crying, nodded.
At the Johnson house Kayla immediately called the hospital to make arrangements for other doctors to cover her shifts while Adrienne checked plane reservations on the Internet.
Watching her aunt, Stephanie asked, “Do you think I should wait to tell my friends in person? Or text them?”
Adrienne laughed, “I don’t think there is a real short abbreviation in the texting world for your dad coming back from the dead.”
“Good point,” Stephanie laughed, feeling giddy.
Kayla was off the phone and asked, “Do you see anything leaving soon?”
Adrienne nodded and showed her one leaving in just under two hours.
“That’s great!” Kayla said.
Stephanie was heading up the stairs, “That doesn’t leave me much time to pack!”
Cringing, Kayla followed her daughter to her room, “Baby girl, I think… it would be best if you didn’t come with me.”
“What?” Stephanie asked, whirling around.
Steeling herself, Kayla tried to explain, “I know you want to go and part of me wants you to go too but we have to remind ourselves…”
“Remind ourselves what?” Stephanie asked annoyed.
“Remind ourselves that we don’t know much right now. I have no idea what condition your father is in at the moment and the information passed to us over here is minimal at best. We don’t know…”
Stephanie was furious, “Don’t know what? He’s my dad! He’s your husband, what else is there?”
“We don’t know if he wants to be,” Kayla said, shocking herself. She had been scared to say it. She hoped and prayed in her heart the man returning home to them was the same man who’d left them sixteen years ago but it was still possible he wasn’t. Experience in the Brady family told them returning from the dead was overwhelming to say the least. She had no idea how Steve was doing at this moment and having too many people at once coming to him might make his possibly already unstable mental state to go over the ledge. Kayla tried to tell Stephanie as much.
Stephanie, however, wasn’t having any of it. “So call him on the phone and ask him if I can come!”
“I want to!” Kayla said. “But the cell phones keep going to voicemail. It seems Miami airport is having a bad storm and all planes are grounded until it passes. John’s is a non-commercial flight so it’s regulated to secondary status. Plus his plane will fly slower than a normal jet…”
“Oh come on, Mom!!” Stephanie yelled, “I can’t believe you dropped this on me and then you’re leaving me here while you go off and have a rendezvous with Dad!”
“Stephanie,” Kayla said, her tears slipping, “It’s not like that. I have wanted your father back into our lives just as much as you have if not more… but before we can fully accept him… I have to make sure he…”
She could hardly say it.
“I have to make sure he wants us.”
Hearing her mom say that was like a softball landing in her gut. “How could he not…what you told me about him…”
“What I told you about him was true… but I have to make sure it still is.”
Stephanie asked, “And if it isn’t?”
“Well, we will cross that bridge when we come to it. In my heart, I know he can eventually be that man again, but without knowing what he’s been through I can’t know for sure.”
Kayla hugged her daughter than, knowing that none of this was going to be easy. She did add, “We know he’s alive and it’s enough, for now.”
Steve sat in the airline terminal, feeling lost. They were back in Salem. But Salem sixteen years later looked a lot different than Salem he knew. Salem International Airport had had a huge makeover and all the decor had changed. More security had been added as well as more stores and shops. There were even those machines he saw back in Miami built into the walls. Some were new fangled ATMs but the others he didn’t know. When he asked about them, they told him they were related to something else he didn’t know about called the Internet. He didn’t ask anything else.
At the moment, Steve and Benjy were by themselves while everyone else was making various arrangements. Looking over to his old friend, he saw Benjy looked just as lost as he did. Smiling, he signed, “How are you feeling?”
Benjy smiled back and said, “Fine. This place has changed a lot hasn’t it?”
Steve nodded, feeling especially glad Benjy was with him. On their journey home he’d heard about how Benjy “lived” on the island taking care of him, a life that couldn’t have been much better than being comatose. Restricted to life on Stefano’s island,his only exposure to the outside world was through TV and the very rare trip to Saba. Though he probably knew what everything in front of him was, it was probably the first time he’d experienced it in person.
“Are you okay?” Benjy asked, nervous about his friend.
“Why wouldn’t I be okay?” Steve asked. “I’m alive. I’ve come home and now I’m just waiting for someone to tell me Kayla is here.”
Benjy might not have been able to hear, but he could plainly see Steve was still upset. When they landed, Steve had wanted to contact Kayla immediately, but due to the unusually long time it took to get to Salem, thanks to the Miami storm, Kayla had already left LA to head to Salem and was in the air. Steve hadn’t taken that news very well but after much lecturing from his friends, as well as facing the fact there wasn’t anything he could do until they landed, Steve finally calmed down. Still, he refused to leave the airport until Kayla landed.
“It’s tough to see how much life has changed around you,” Marlena said, walking up.
Steve glanced at her and nodded. “I hear you guys talking about stuff that I think I’m supposed to know and I feel like an idiot.”
Marlena nodded, “I can relate. I wasn’t gone as long as you were but it was a rude awakening to find out how much the world had changed.”
“I forgot, you woke up from a coma too, right?” Steve asked, recalling what the others had told him about Marlena’s experiences.
“Yes, I came back on my own, no one knew I was alive and I was figuring things out.”
Steve sucked in air, “Wow, that must have been… I’d have gone mad if I hadn’t had you guys helping me get back to Salem.”
Marlena laughed, “Well it was easier for me. Only five years had passed and we still thought John was Roman then.”
“I think that’s the hardest part. It’s not how the world has changed, it’s how much my friends and… family have changed.” Steve nearly choked on the word family.
“They are on their way, Steve.”
He nodded at Marlena’s comment. Though Kayla never got through to them, she had left a voicemail on Marlena’s cell phone.
“Can I listen to it again?” Steve asked. Hearing Kayla’s voice gave him comfort and though it was fairly quick and to the point, the voice was all her. Marlena smiled, took out her cell phone and started the message from her voicemail while Steve leaned back and listened. After the introductory message, Kayla’s message started and Steve closed his eyes and imagined she was sitting right next to him.
“Oh Sweetness,” he whispered. He couldn’t wait to see her and Stephanie.
Kayla sat on the plane,as nervous as she’d ever felt in her life. Why was she so anxious? She was getting a wish she had dreamed of for years now—her husband was returning.
Because you aren’t the twenty-something woman he remembers.
For what was probably the hundredth time since the plane taking off, Kayla got out her compact and checked her makeup, wanting it to look perfect. She frowned at her reflection. It was as if every wrinkle, every extra pound, every gray hair were standing up and wanting attention.
“You look beautiful, Kayla,” Adrienne said.
Kayla smiled at her sister-in-law. Though it was nearly mutually agreed that Stephanie should wait and come out later—Stephanie being the only one against that idea—Adrienne had insisted on accompanying her to Salem. Kayla knew how much Adrienne adored Steve and she wanted to see her big brother almost as much as Kayla did.
“If anyone has changed significantly, it’s me. I’ve gained so much weight,” Adrienne said with an uneasy laugh.
Kayla shook her head, “Adrienne, you look beautiful. I think the only thing he’s going to notice is that you’re a redhead now.”
Adrienne burst out laughing, remembering she had her hair dyed since Steve left. “Wow, I bet he will. I hope he takes these changes in stride.”
“Me too,” Kayla said worriedly. Glancing out the window, she knew they still had a couple of hours before arriving in Salem. She’d have given anything to hear Steve’s voice but apparently they still weren’t able to turn on the cell phone, so she left a message. She managed to keep from breaking down and crying until after she hung up..
She still didn’t know what real state Steve was in. Now that she was a doctor, her professional mind kept going over all the kinds of long term effects a prolonged coma could have on one’s body and mind. Would this Steve be her Steve? The bigger question was, would he want to be her Steve? She wasn’t 100% sure they Dimeras’ hadn’t done horrific things to him and just thinking about the pain he might have gone through broke her heart.
“It’s going to be fine,” Adrienne said positively. “It’s going to be like you two were never separated.”
Kayla smiled back at the younger woman, thinking how her optimism had never really faltered after all these years. But Kayla wasn’t like that anymore. She wanted to believe that would be the way it would be, but her realistic side overode her heart, and that was what had sealed her decision to have Stephanie stay in L.A. with Kimberly’s family.
“Oh, Steve.” Kayla whispered, “please still love me.”
“Go on ahead, Kayla, I have to get my carry on,” Adrienne told Kayla as they deplaned. She hadover-packed and due to the size of the bag it had to go towards the middle of the plane and would take her awhile to retrieve it.
Kayla, anxious to get off the plane so she could call Marlena to find a place to meet–and hopefully talk to Steve–practically pushed people out of the way. Making her way down the ramp, she scrambled to find her cell phone, which naturally had worked its way deep inside her purse.
“Are you okay?” Bo asked Steve.
Steve nodded. Both men were waiting at the terminal where Kayla’s plane had parked, waiting patiently to greet her. Bo couldn’t help but worry if it was wise to have this reunion among so many people.
Steve watched with bated breath. He had memorized the latest picture he had of Kayla and Stephanie and was waiting for either to appear. It seemed forever before the doors opened to let the passengers disembark. Once they opened, Bo had to restrain Steve from walking right into the ramp.
Steve settled down and watched the open doorway for what seemed like an eternity. His heart pounding, Steve felt a scream of frustration rising in his chest as he waited for the plane to empty. Just when he thought he would explode, the first of the passengers came through the doorway. A few seconds later, Kayla emerged.
Steve had to hold on to the chairs in front of him to remain standing. He knew she was beautiful but those pictures didn’t do her justice. She was a vision cutting through the waiting room to get near a window not twenty-five feet from him. She put her back to them so she could keep a clear view of other passengers exiting. He guessed she must have been looking for Stephanie.
He glanced at Bo, who nodded They had agreed that Steve would approach Kayla himself. Steve took a deep breath and began walking towards his wife. His legs felt as stiff as they had when he woke up a few days earlier. He tried to speak but the power of speech had vanished upon sight of her. So he just walked, moving closer.
Fifteen feet away from her, Steve had to step out of people’s way as many were coming and going. Ten feet away, he saw Kayla stomp her foot in frustration, apparently not finding whatever she needed from her purse He smiled; she still had that knack of being sexy and adorable at the same time. Five feet away, he still couldn’t find his voice.
He reached out his hand.
Kayla could not find that stupid phone. Bobbing her head up and down to make sure Adrienne could see her when she exited the runway, Kayla kept digging for the phone. All around her people moved to and fro through the busy airport, but she gave them little notice.
All of a sudden, the hair on the back of her neck began to rise. Her heart began beating rapidly and she found she had trouble catching her breath. It seemed like the airport was in a vacuum and everything had slowed to a crawl.
Her mouth went dry. Her spine began tingling up and down. She knew he was there without looking. She started to turn but it was hard, somehow. It was as if she were living a dream she would wake from any moment. The simple act of turning around echoed her own dreams; dreams that disappointed her every night. The dreams that forced her to wake up everytime she laid on eyes on Steve. What if this was all yet another dream?
But she had to take the chance. Slowly, she turned around.
Before her stood the man she hadn’t seen in fifteen years, six months, three weeks and two days. Until that very moment, Kayla hadn’t known just how much she had doubted he was really alive.
Kayla’s heart released a flood of emotions she hadn’t been aware of holding back to protect herself. Without thinking, she blurted, “It’s true.”
Steve’s hand had jerked back; he had been so close to touching her. Now she stood facing him and on hearing her words, he felt tears began welling up in her eyes. He blinked and said, “I’m here if you…”
He was going to say if you want me. Before he could get it out, she closed the remaining distance between them. Stopping just inches from his face she wondered briefly if she wasn’t being too forward, or too aggressive, or just plain desperate. The insecurities bubbled up to the surface keeping her from moving on.
Her shaky approach broke through the mysterious hold that prevented him from touching her. Automatically his hand reached up and caressed her cheek. It felt exactly the same as the last time he’d touched her like this. To him it felt as if it had been only a few days ago.
Kayla stopped breathing when his hand touched her cheek. The electricity that sped out through her body from his touch reminded her that only Steve could affect her this way. His hand guided her mouth to his and she opened her lips for him.
The busy airport around them forgotten, they clung to each other, their bodies intertwined while their tongues re-explored each other. Emotions surged through them both: love, passion, sadness, and desire. Later they would reflect on what the kiss meant at that moment. For Steve, there was a relief that Kayla was still the same as was that fire inside. For Kayla, it was the wonder that after all this time, her body still remembered what it was like to kiss Steve. Right now, though, neither was capable of coherent thought.
Steve broke the kiss so he could catch his breath, for the first time experiencing evidence that he was older; his lungs weren’t able to hold their breath like they used to. He looked down at Kayla.
She looked up at him and smiled. “DNA test be damned. I’d know you anywhere!”
At that, Steve pulled her back in for another toe-curling kiss.
Bo watched as Steve and Kayla devoured each other in the airport. Hearing a gasp to his left, he turned to see Adrienne Kiriakis, who had just exited the ramp and caught sight of her brother with Kayla. Tears filled her eyes, and though it was obvious she wanted to interrupt them, she held back to let them have this time.
Realizing that they wouldn’t be parting anytime soon without intervention, Bo walked over to his sister and Steve and said, “Excuse me, ma’am, is this man bothering you?”
They broke apart but Kayla wasn’t fooled by Bo’s distinctive voice. She had a temptation to tell Bo to “get lost” but the action would require her to take her eyes off of Steve, something she was unable to do. As for Steve, he wasn’t able to let go of Kayla, and felt a grin cross his face.
Adrienne watched this from the side, her heart bursting at the sight of her brother before her. Adrienne quietly approached from his left and stood patiently waiting for Kayla to say something. But Kayla was obviously lost in her own happiness at having her husband back. So, Adrienne cleared her throat and said, “Hi, big brother.”
Steve’s head whipped around to face his sister. He did a double take at her striking red hair. “Wow, I guess I have to start calling you Red now huh?”
Reduced to mush, Adrienne stormed Steve full on, grabbing him in a bear hug. He laughed but realized a little too late she was much stronger now than before. He continued laughing and eventually she let go.
Parting, Adrienne added, “We missed you so much!”
Steve wished he knew what to say to that. He’d better figure it out soon because he hoped he was going to be hearing it a good deal more.
Patting Adrienne’s cheek and glancing at Kayla, still marveling at her beauty, he glanced back at the runway. “Where is my daughter?”
Steve’s question and the excitement in his voice made Kayla’s heart sink but swell at the same time. Her worst fears about Steve were proven untrue; he still wanted to be a part of their family, but he was going to be heartbroken she didn’t bring her. She could only hope he would understand.
“Steve,” Kayla began. Steve turned to her and in spite of the situation she had to pause to take in the sight of him. She still was having a hard time adjusting to him alive. Remembering what she began to say, Kayla finished it, “I didn’t bring Stephanie.”
Steve didn’t think he heard her right, “You what?”
“I didn’t bring Stephanie with us,” Kayla said, glancing at Adrienne who grimaced.
“Why not?” Steve’s mind immediately began worrying. “She’s okay right? It’s not like she didn’t want to see me.”
“Oh, she did,” Kayla smiled. “I just… I had to come see you first and be sure.”
“Be sure of what?” Steve asked. She had the test results; she knew he was Steve.
“Sure you wanted her. Us.”
“How could you think I didn’t want you?” Steve asked. Before Kayla could respond, Bo interrupted them, “Listen, we shouldn’t be having this conversation here. John rented a meeting room in the airport where we could talk and have some more privacy. Let’s go.”
Steve didn’t understand why Kayla was worried, of course he wanted them. Immediately taking Kayla and Adrienne’s luggage, they all followed Bo to the rented room.
And the whole way there, Steve worried if Kayla wasn’t as happy to see him as she appeared.