Stephanie came down the stairs at the Brady Pub expecting to see her parents already there. She didn’t sleep in as long as she usually did, but it was certainly well past the time her mom usually was awake. The Pub didn’t open on Sundays so there were no chores to do, which made Stephanie very relieved. Still, her grandparents were up and downstairs in the kitchen.
“Morning,” Stephanie said brightly, “anything left for breakfast?”
Caroline smiled, always loving to see a child with a healthy appetite. “I kept a plate warm for you. Your Aunt Adrienne wanted to go and meet some old friends this morning. That young man Benjy has already been up and eaten; he decided to check out any open apartments today.”
Stephanie nodded, not really listening. She took her plate and sat down, “So where’s Mom? I figured she and Dad had already been back…”
“Your parents aren’t back yet.”
Stephanie stopped and glanced up at her grandmother, who had her back to her. Why wouldn’t they be back yet? “That’s odd. You don’t think…you don’t think they’re still fighting?”
Caroline smiled, “No, I don’t think they are still fighting.”
When she didn’t offer anymore information, Stephanie looked down at her plate suddenly not very hungry. Truth be told, she felt guilty being the one who got her parents into the fight to begin with. She had hoped her mom would side with her father over the matter of her chores, but she had no idea they would storm out. Her mom had always said she and Dad were happy.
After a few minutes Stephanie put her plate away in the sink. Caroline saw what little she ate and asked, “Is that all you are going to have?”
“Yeah, I’m not as hungry as I thought,” Stephanie turned and gave her grandmother a kiss. “Bye, I’m going out now.”
“Where are you going?”
Stephanie grinned, “I thought I would go see Mom and Dad.”
Caroline was about to tell her to leave them alone but then, remembering how often little Kayla had interrupted them years ago, Caroline nodded as she watched her granddaughter leave. She chuckled to herself.
Kayla stirred awake slowly. She smiled when she realized her head was on Steve’s chest. After last night, she had slept like a baby, and she was thrilled to find Steve still sleeping. Now she got a chance to look at him and say a prayer thanking God he had returned to her life. Pushing the hair out of his face, Kayla felt herself blush as she remembered the night before, glad to know love-making with Steve was not only as wonderful as she remembered; frankly, it was better, even.
Her body getting turned on again, Kayla glanced at his dagger and began cover it with soft kisses. She felt Steve move underneath her and felt a thrill that she could get him to wake up the same way she used to. She wanted to pick up where they left off from last night.
“Morning, Sweetness,” Steve said huskily. She broke her kisses and looked him in the eye. His heart began racing as she saw that he too wanted to catch up on lost time. They kissed softly. Steve asked, “Did you sleep well?”
Kayla nodded, “Like a baby.”
“You’re my baby,” Steve said, smiling. “So what do you want to do now?”
She wickedly grinned but before she could answer, Steve’s stomach growled which startled both of them.
“My God, was that me?” Steve asked.
By now, Kayla was lost to a batch of giggles, “Well, it wasn’t me!”
Steve laughed too, “Wow, I guess I’m fairly hungry. Do your stomach growls increase with age?”
Kayla shook her head, “I think this is more over the fact you ate very little yesterday. We need to order room service.”
“Where are you going?” Steve asked, upset to see Kayla get out of bed while grabbing her robe.
“The menu is in the other room,” Kayla said, glancing at him. Seeing the look he gave, Kayla smiled gently, “You need to eat. Your body has just come out of a very long coma and we can’t deprive you of needed nourishment.”
“Sweetness, food ain’t the only thing I need,” he answered huskily. Kayla laughed but she was standing firm. As much as she wanted to stay in bed all day, Steve’s health came first.
Grabbing the menu, Kayla called out their choices. Steve answered, “Not Eggs Benedict, but Eggs Sweetness!”
“Steve, be serious!” Kayla said, but laughing anyway.
Steve shrugged, coming out in a bathrobe which the hotel provided and Kayla took a few minutes to take in the sight of him. Getting a hold of herself, she heard Steve’s choice and she picked up the phone and order.
As she hung up, Steve grabbed Kayla and began tickling her. “Steve!” was all she could get out.
Steve stopped but kept her in his embrace. “How much time do we have? I think we need to take a bath.”
Steve began nibbling on her ear and Kayla groaned at how that affected her body. Eventually, however, she managed to get control again and pull away. “No, there won’t be time for that. In fact, they probably won’t take long at all.”
“Oh,” Steve said dejected. Kayla, giving into temptation smiled, “But once we eat, there will be plenty of time to do… whatever we want!”
Steve smiled at that. “Goody goody!” He leaned in for another kiss.
“Oh, no, you’re going to weaken my resolve. You just stand guard at the door and I’ll be right back,” his wife said as she left him to head into the bathroom.
Folding his arms, Steve sighed but decided to let go, his stomach growling again to remind him Kayla was ultimately right.
“Traitor!” he said while patting his stomach. He picked up the menu and nearly did a double take at the prices and how much the meal would cost.
He was about to say so to Kayla until he heard muffled sounds from the main door. It was a girl’s voice and Steve walked to the door and listened. Peeking through the peep hole, he saw Stephanie on her cell phone.
“I know, Abby, that’s why I called! I’ve never done this before.”
She must be speaking to Jack’s daughter, Steve realized.
“Well there is no ‘do not disturb’ sign hanging here, that’s a bad sign, isn’t it?”
Steve grinned slightly; Stephanie really reminded him of Kayla at the moment. Hope was right, seeing your loved one’s traits in your child does fill the heart with pride and love.
“So should I knock? What? I have to? I have to know if they are okay, but if they are doing ‘you know’ I don’t want to interfere with that.”
Silence passed as Abby replied. Now Stephanie was agitated, “Well that’s why I called you! You have more experience with your parents reuniting and stuff! I don’t know if there is a protocol or not to this and…”
Steve smiled, finally giving in. Throwing the door open, he yelled, “Boo!”
Stephanie yelped and dropped her phone! Steve laughed at Stephanie’s reaction and for a quick second, Stephanie got angry. “Dad, that’s not funny!”
“You could have fooled me!”
Stephanie picked up the phone and told Abby she would call her back. Steve stepped aside for his daughter to come in.
Stephanie looked around nervous, where was Mom? “Um, I just wanted to come and make sure… everything is alright isn’t it?”
Steve was about to answer but Kayla walked out and beat him to it. “Everything is just fine!”
“That’s great!” Stephanie exclaimed, relieved. “I was a bit worried when you two didn’t show up at the pub this morning.”
Steve and Kayla exchanged glances and smiled sheepishly. Kayla walked over to her daughter, “I’m sorry, baby-girl, we got a bit preoccupied.”
“I bet. Well, I guess you two want to pick up where you left off… I’ll just go find Abby and…”
“Hold it,” Steve said, before Stephanie left. “I want to say something.”
Stephanie stopped and waited for her Dad say what he wanted to say. He appeared nervous and stood rocking back and forth on his feet. “Stephanie, I just want to let you know, that your mother was right in disciplining you for coming here without permission. You are going to have to work it off, just like she said you should.”
Kayla’s eyebrow arched at this, surprised Steve had a change of heart over the matter. Last night they really didn’t talk about the discipline in their daughter’s life.
“But Dad!” Stephanie started, upset at the change of events. “I was just coming to see you!”
“I know that, Little Sweetness,” Steve walked over to his daughter, putting his hands on her shoulders. “For me, the issue isn’t that you came on your own, it’s that you snuck off to do it. What if something had happened to you? We wouldn’t have had any idea…”
“I left a note!”
Steve folded his arms. “Do you really think I’m going to fall for that again?”
Stephanie started to open her mouth but shut it quickly. She knew what she had done was brazen and thoughtless, but all her life she had wanted to meet her father! Why couldn’t anyone understand that? Tears began to form in her eyes.
“Now, don’t cry, baby, I’m so glad you are here.”
Kayla added, “And really Stephanie, I think I can understand your actions as well. The fact is, it costs a lot of money to grab a plane at the last minute, especially first class…”
“First class?” Steve hadn’t known about that part.
Sniffling, Stephanie shrugged, “Well it’s not like you can’t afford it.”
Steve glanced at Kayla, wondering how much money they had. Kayla, on the other hand, had an answer for her. “But I earned that money, baby-girl. You know I work very hard for the income and savings we have. So now, you have to pay me back for that trip. You can do that by continuing to work with your grandmother at the pub.”
Her tears stopped, Stephanie folded her arms in a bratty pattern. Kayla had to keep from smiling; she recognized that stance meant Stephanie was accepting her punishment and would get over it.
“Is it really that bad? Aren’t I worth it?” Steve smiled at Stephanie whose heart melted.
She grinned and said, “I guess so.”
“You guess so?” Steve said incredulously.
Laughing, Stephanie shrugged but obviously teasing, “Maybe. I guess I just have to wait until you cook for me. I always heard you were a great cook.”
Steve leaned in, wondering if what he said would be true still. “Better than your mom.”
“You almost have to be,” Stephanie replied.
“Hey!” Kayla said but was grinning as well.
Steve hugged his daughter, “It’s a deal, I promise to make us all a dinner tonight! How does that sound?”
Both women nodded. Stephanie went further, “That sounds great!”
“Okay, then well, you better go see your grandmother and make sure she gets that kitchen all prepared for me!”
“I guess it’s good they are closed on Sunday!” Kayla said.
Stephanie hugged her parents then left, just when breakfast arrived. After Kayla signed the check, and she giggled as Steve got the chair for her. “How’s this, Dr. Johnson?”
“It’s wonderful!” Kayla picked up her fork and gave Steve a sideways glance. “Thank you for siding with me on the Stephanie thing. It means a lot to me.”
He shook his head, “No, Sweetness, I’m still sorry over that. You were right; it was a dumb thing for her to run off like that. And I had no idea she had gone first class!”
“Thank you anyway,” Kayla said, giving him one of those looks that kept him from breathing.
“Well, I do have one confession,” he said, and Kayla glanced up at him expectantly. “I’m still sort of glad she did it, I’m glad to have met my daughter.”
Kayla dropped her fork, “Oh, Steve, I’m sorry that you waited this long…”
He waved away her apology, “No, it’s okay, it’s good now. I’m fine.”
“Okay,” Kayla said. After a few minutes of watching him eat, she went back to her own plate.
Steve then said, “Um, can I ask a weird question?”
“Sure!” Kayla said taking a swig of orange juice.
“How much money do we have?”
She began to choke but recovered. Giving a nervous laugh, Kayla said, “Well, after I got my medical license, I have been working pretty steadily now and Stephanie and I have always lived rather modestly until recently when I was put on the board at the hospital.”
“Really? Wow, that’s great!”
Kayla nodded, “So, I gave into pressure and got us a fairly nice house, this is just within a couple of years. Stephanie isn’t used to the fancy stuff herself yet but seems to get over the inhibitions of spending money pretty quickly.”
“I bet,” he laughed.
“But the point is we have a good amount of money now saved and I bring in a good steady income. I haven’t taken a vacation in a long time so I have built up a large vacation stash too.”
“Wow,” Steve said again, feeling a bit lost. The woman across from him always amazed him. For a few minutes he briefly wondered if she had been even more successful if she had never met a bum like him, but he quickly pushed the thought out of his head.
“Yeah, I guess,” Kayla said. She felt really uncomfortable talking about it. She was done with her breakfast and she glanced and saw Steve was too.
The look in his eye at the moment was unmistakable. “Want to get naked?”
“Will you stop it!” Kayla said, giggling. They were just about to walk through the Brady pub door when Steve began tickling her.
“C’mon, Baby, give a guy a break! It’s been like sixteen years since I’ve had any. One day with you isn’t enough!”
“Okay, first, mentally for you it’s been like…a week. Second, you promised Stephanie and me a dinner cooked by your own hands!”
Steve smiled. He remembered but he was still hoping to put it off a little while. As they walked in, Stephanie and Adrienne were waiting for them in the pub.
“I understand you are going to cook a big meal?” his sister said. “Can I join?”
“Sure!” Steve said, happy to see his sister. “Where’s Benjamin? I was hoping he’d be here.”
Adrienne’s big smile covered her face, “Glad to hear you say that. I think he was nervous about joining in uninvited. He’s upstairs, I’ll tell him.”
As she walked into the kitchen, Kayla said, “You know, did we introduce you to Benjy? I guess it got lost with all the excitement around here.”
“Yea, we’ve met, Mom,” Stephanie said, “That sign language you taught me years ago kind of came in handy, but I’m real rusty.”
“You’ll figure it out,” Kayla said, smiling.
Steve was rolling up his sleeves and headed into the kitchen but before he went through the door, he glanced at his daughter, “Do you want to help me?”
“Me?” Stephanie asked.
“Yea, you!” Steve repeated.
“Sure!” With that, she practically leaped into the kitchen to join him.
Kayla watched them disappear into the kitchen. How many times had she imagined a moment like this? A day spent loving her husband and an afternoon watching him and their daughter bond while making dinner together? For Kayla, it was so much to take in but yet in a good way. Steve was back in their lives.
A knock at the pub door got Kayla’s attention while Adrienne was coming down the stairs. It was Bo and Hope! Kayla’s mouth dropped open, happy to see her brother with his wife!
“Bo! Hope! It’s great to see you two together!” Kayla said quickly.
Bo and Hope grimaced and Kayla realized all wasn’t well. Of course it wasn’t, too much had passed between them and Kayla cursed herself for letting her happiness of her own life blind her to the issues that still plagued her younger brother.
Clearing his throat, Bo shook his head, “Um, well. We’re here. Uh, we’ve been talking and decided to just take things slow right now.”
Hope quickly added, “Very slow!”
“Oh, well, good. I think that’s good!” Kayla said. “Hope, you remember Adrienne?”
Both women exchanged pleasantries and shook hands. Kayla questioned, “What are your plans?”
“Well, we thought we’d stop in and say hi to Steve again.” Bo said smiling.
Hope followed, “I really would like to thank him for getting to the truth of everything.”
Not able to help herself, Adrienne blurted out, “Why don’t you two stay for dinner? Steve is cooking.”
Kayla glanced at Adrienne. It wasn’t that she was against it, but she wasn’t sure if Steve was up to cooking for so many people. However, with the invitation already extended, Hope and Bo quickly took it. With no choice, Kayla said, “Let me just go let Steve know.”
She walked into the kitchen and said, “Um, add two more for dinner.”
“Who?” Stephanie asked.
“Bo and Hope.” Everyone looked at Kayla expectantly. “They are taking things slow, very slow.”
“Um, okay, well, that’s fine,” Steve said. “It’s just I was planning on making…”
Just then Adrienne popped her head through the door, “Guess what! John and Marlena are here! They want to join us too!”
Before Steve could react, John stuck his head in and said, “Is that alright? We wanted to stop by and your sister said…”
“Of course that would be fine!” Kayla said before she could stop herself. She glanced at Steve.
He shrugged and said, “I do owe you for bringing me back and all.”
“Great!” John said.
“Um, what are we going to cook?” Stephanie asked.
“Go ask your grandmother what she has in the freezer. Depending on what it is, maybe we can defrost it.”
Stephanie headed out of the kitchen to go upstairs but before she could make it, Steve and Kayla heard her say, “Uncle Jack! Abby!”
Thrilled to hear her brother is out of the hospital, Adrienne started out to see him, “Oh, they’ve got to stay too!” she flung over her shoulder at Steve as she headed out the door.
Steve rolled his eye and said, “Of course.”
“Are you up for this?” Kayla asked, worried. Though he’d certainly proved his endurance that day, she still worried about his health.
Reading her mind, Steve shook his head and kissed her sweetly on the cheeks, “Sweetness, with you by my side, I am up for anything.”
Eventually, Steve was able to cook up a decent meal, being so wholly unprepared with all the newly welcomed guests. After everyone sat down, Steve cleared his throat and stood up. “I’d like to say something.”
Taking a moment, Steve looked down the table at all the faces staring back at him. John, Marlena, Bo, Hope, Jack, Abby, Benjy, Caroline, and Shawn Sr. staring back at him, the love in their eyes obvious, and for a second Steve lost his train of thought. He glanced at the people sitting nearest him and who meant the most: his sister, his wife and his daughter. After all this time these people were still his friends, accepting him now as they ever did back then.
“Sorry, I’m afraid I’m out of practice giving speeches,” Steve said, fidgeting with the napkin he was going to stuff in his shirt. Everyone laughed affectionately at his nervousness.
“Less than a week ago, I woke up and realized that my life was never going to be like it used to be. In fact, the world had changed and so had my loved ones. What’s weird is…I hadn’t thought I had changed. You know, you hear people say ‘one day I looked in the mirror and I saw an old man staring back’ but I never thought it would literally happen to me. I guess some of you know exactly what it’s like to wake up in such a way.” Steve gestured to Marlena who nodded back at him while John gently rubbed her back.
Steve then laughed but continued, “Rude awakening is a good way to put it, I guess. I look at all of you, and it occurred to me…I realize now I wasn’t the only one with something stolen. Benjamin has been robbed of a life, all those years he was forced to take care of me. My Mama lost a son, Jack and Adrienne lost a brother, andGod knows what Kayla and Steph had to go through…”
He paused to keep himself from breaking down with emotion. “It’s just, I look across this table, all of you have experienced some really extraordinary tragedies but somehow managed to overcome and get through. Some of you are still experiencing them…”
Bo looked down at the table, thinking of Zack. Feeling a hand covering his, he glanced over at Hope who had tears in her eyes but was smiling. He returned the smile. They looked back as Steve continued.
“I just think I needed to say you are all an inspiration to me, and these last few days haven’t been easy, hell, I think they are the hardest of my life actually. And that counts the time Beauregard was nice enough to improve my looks.” Everyone chuckled while Bo shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
“I just wanted to thank everyone for their patience and advice, I’m probably going to still need it, especially when we go back to LA. If my death hurt any of you, I’m sorry…” Steve lowered his head, whether he liked it or not the waterworks were coming, so he better hurry it up, “but I’m back now. So you better get used to it! Whether I’m here or across the country, I’m here for good!”
Quickly he sat down as everyone was clapping. Steve glanced sheepishly at Kayla who also had tears in her eyes. She leaned in and kissed him on the cheek, suddenly wishing the others away so she could be more intimate with her husband.
“You know, Steve,” Shawn Sr. said, “I think it would be a good time for your wife to consider a transfer and return to Salem!”
Steve and Kayla were still staring at each other but Shawn’s words finally drifted in and broke their eye contact. Kayla glanced back at her father, and smiled. Returning home to Salem was something she always wanted to do; her heart never had really left. Now that Steve was back, she knew he would be more comfortable here than in LA and the temptation was greater than ever.
This on her mind, Kayla turned red but shrugged, “You never know. I certainly could be persuaded, especially now.”
Steve’s heart leaped at Kayla’s talking of possibly staying. Since hearing about her life in LA, Steve had been especially nervous in seeing it. The very idea that his Sweetness had forged a new life without him, no matter how lonely she was, still hurt. He was pretty worried about how he would fit in as a doctor’s husband, a man who hadn’t had a job in almost three decades. Remaining in Salem had more than enough appeal to it.
“I go wherever you go, Baby,” he whispered to her.
She grinned back, “I don’t need to go anywhere now that you’re back.”
The conversation then began breaking up into many. Bo and Hope talked, feeling awkward but for the first time knowing they would get over this. John and Marlena talked to Benjy about his new position. Caroline and Shawn watched as their youngest daughter looked finally like her old self again. Adrienne and Jack caught up while Abby finally was forced to listen as Stephanie told her how cool it was that her Dad had come back from the dead.
All of this going on around them really was in the background to Steve and Kayla . From time to time, they caught bits and pieces of dialogue and joined in when they could. However, they both kept going back to each other, the only two people in the room. Though not much was said out loud about the matter that Shawn had brought up, they agreed silently that they were home for good.
Epilogue – End of Summer
“Steve, where are you? You said you were bringing in the boxes…oh” Kayla said, seeing her husband entering with a box filled with books. “You need to empty some of those out! It’s too heavy to pick up by yourself!”
“What’s in these books?” Steve said, putting the box down and rubbing his back. He still was getting used to being on the wrong side of fifty.
“It’s my medical books. I need these for my practice.” Kayla opened up a box and began unpacking into the bookcase behind her. Steve watched as she measured using one book with one hand and counted down the shelf with the other. She was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, looking positively adorable. Kayla in casual clothes always made him feel frisky, and sore back or not, he couldn’t resist.
Walking up behind her, he reached and tickled her lower back, making her jump. “Steve! We’re never going to finish unpacking if we keep this up!”
He grinned, “That’s my plan, baby.” He turned her around and kissed her. At first she began to give in but finally her mind won the argument over her body and heart. Smacking him on the side, she pulled away to grab more books.
“Sweetness!” He whined.
“There are more boxes outside, try to empty some of the books out first.”
Giving in, Steve walked back out, mumbling. Kayla tried to concentrate on the job at hand but inside she was still finding it hard to believe at the change of events. After going back to LA, it hadn’t been long before Kayla turned her notice in and made arrangements for them to come back to Salem. University Hospital needed a new doctor and was glad to take her on. Kayla felt a rush of excitement at the thought of stepping into the first real hospital she ever worked back when she was a nurse. Who knew one day she would come back as a doctor?
And that Steve would return to her? Things hadn’t been exactly easy, but she knew there was no where else she’d rather be. Living with her husband and daughter in the town that always held a special place in her heart.
“My stuff is unpacked!” Stephanie said, bounding down the stairs. Jack and Jennifer had decided to move to London, taking Jack Jr. with them. Kayla and Steve had agreed to take in Abby, who wanted to finish school in the States, since she and Stephanie had become so close. The Deveraux had sold their house to the Johnsons and everyone was trying to fill up the house except for Abby, who’d kept her old room.
“I’m glad, baby-girl,” Kayla said. “Now you can help with unpacking boxes in the living room. We need…”
“Mom! Stop calling me that!” Stephanie said, running off to the kitchen to get a soda.
“Stop calling her what?” Steve asked as he passed his running daughter. He carried another heavy box, remembering now why his wife had told him to empty some of the contents of the box before carrying it.
Kayla ran to Steve to help him put the box down while repeating what she said earlier. Steve smirked as Kayla somehow had gotten cuter since he left the room minutes earlier. Stephanie came in with her soda and asked her mom what room she needed to work in. After her mom told her to start on her bedroom, the teenager put on her iPod headphones and left the room.
Taking a break, Steve and Kayla sat down in two chairs and looked at the room. “We still have a lot of work to do,” Kayla said tiredly.
“This house is much bigger than I thought.”
“We’ll fill it up,” Kayla said. “You’d be amazed at how much one accumulates over time. Hey, what are you doing?”
Steve had plopped down in front of Kayla with his back to her. “I’d thought you would take pity on your poor husband and give him a needed back rub.”
“If my husband had listened to me to begin with, he wouldn’t need a backrub!”
“Hey, I always want a backrub!”
Smiling, Kayla looked at his broad shoulders and decided it couldn’t hurt to rub them. Massaging him, she listened with a smile as Steve began moaning at her touch. Working her way down his back, she found a knot and decided he needed it worked out.
“This might hurt!” she said quickly and pinched as hard as she could making Steve yelp in pain. “Sorry.”
“No you aren’t!” he accused but at least the pain had subsided. “You like to torture me, that’s how you used to treat me way back in the day when I visited you in the emergency center.”
“And you loved it! They both laughed as Kayla continued rubbing.
After sometime passed, Steve leaned back against Kayla who now was cradling him. They remained that way for a few minutes. Steve broke the silence, “Are you happy, Sweetness?”
Surprised at the question, Kayla kissed him on the cheek but returned, “Absolutely. You shouldn’t have to ask.”
“It’s just….you have given up the life you and Stephanie made for yourself up because of me. So I can move back home to a more comfortable environment.”
“First,” Kayla said, turning sideways to look at Steve, “We are uprooting so we, all of us, can move back here. Second, it wasn’t that much of a life…for me anyway.”
Steve kept Kayla’s eye contact but remained silent. Sometimes he wondered how lucky he got keeping this amazing woman’s love even after he was thought dead.
“Besides, I miss my old hairdresser.”
Laughing, Steve pushed Kayla up and gave her a kiss which quickly deepened to an all out assault on his senses. Before it could go further, they heard a yell, “Hey! If you guys are going to just make out in there I want to go down to the pub and hang out with Abby!”
Laughing, Kayla and Steve parted and got back to work. Neither knew what was in store for them in Salem, but at least they knew they could face it together.