Hi folks! Thank you so much for the feedback and kind words. Here's the latest!
Also, I have the next chapter mostly drafted and I'm hoping to have it up and running by this Wednesday. If not though, it'll definitely be posted a week from today.
Steve was across the room, about to punch a hole through the wall, when Kayla started forgetting how to breathe. Her comprehensive knowledge of the respiratory system didn't amount to much when she was on the verge of a panic attack, and this one was no exception.
Gripping the table tighter, she took comfort knowing the toxin wasn't making her hyperventilate, for now anyway. This was typical, tending to happen in high-stress environments where she felt trapped with no way out.
She knew she wasn't captive on a yacht, down a storm drain, or stuck in another burning coffin. She knew she'd been out of that bunker for weeks. But since seeing the video message, Kayla felt like a hostage, and no amount of logic could make that feeling go away.
She'd tried to bury it back in the hospital room, putting on a brave face for the group and being the voice of reason. But, it broke something in her, knowing Orpheus had used her area of expertise against her. That the bastard's first strike against them had been successful enough for him to act like he'd already won.
And at that moment, knowing a forgotten phone was all it had taken to send her and Steve spiraling, it felt like he had.
Her knees about to give out on her, Kayla let go of the table just long enough to pull out a kitchen chair. Perching on the edge of it, she clasped a hand over her mouth to try and muffle her sobs. Unsuccessfully so.
Even doubled over at the waist with her eyes squeezed shut, she felt Steve at her feet before he even reached out to touch her.
He moved her hand away from her face first, linking their fingers together and ordering her to try and breathe.
She opened her eyes and, to her credit, did try, but her breathing was too fast and ragged, scaring the hell out of him.
Stroking her hair anxiously, looking right into her too-wide eyes, Steve tried his best to talk Kayla down before finally pulling her down from the chair and into his arms.
"Shhh, shhh. I've got you, Sweetness. I'm right here, baby. You've just gotta take some deep breaths now. Get some good air to that big brain of yours, alright?"
Sitting cross-legged on the floor with her leaning against him, still stroking her hair, Steve held her, not as close as he'd like for fear it would inhibit her breathing more, but enough for his wife to know he was with her. Kayla was still frantic and wide-eyed, though, not to mention as white as a sheet.
"C'mon, baby. Deep breaths. Slow and steady, Sweetness. You gotta try and breathe easy now. Just breathe easy, Kayla," Steve pleaded as she clutched at his shirt, still crying for air.
"This is no good, Sweetness. C'mon now. You gotta hear me." His hands shaking, he took a breath, trying to steady himself before speaking again.
"You know we're okay, Kayla," he reminded, kissing the top of her head. "I know you know that. We're here at home together, and we're safe, and we're holding each other and keeping each other close. You feel me here with you, baby? You feel me holding you so close?"
Feeling her slight nod against his chest, then feeling and hearing her breathing start to even out, Steve lightly laughed and held her tighter.
"That's it. That's good, baby. In and out, just breathe easy now. That's right. Just take it easy, Sweetness. I've got you, and I'm not letting you go. I promise you I'm not letting you go."
Feeling her shaking, fearing she was cold, Steve quickly eased out of his jacket and draped it over Kayla's shoulders.
Its weight –and the comforting combined scent of her husband and worn leather– provided an instant grounding effect, and Kayla let out one shuddery, full breath, then another as she looped her arms up around Steve's neck.
When his hand slid underneath the coat, though, feeling him rub slow circles on her upper back, she shook her head and bit her lip. She knew what he was doing but damn it; she had shed enough tears today.
"Steve..." she squeaked out.
"Just let it out, baby," Steve begged.
After his voice broke, Kayla finally broke down, curling tight to his chest before crying her heart out.
"Shh, I've got you. I've got you, baby. It's alright now. Just let it out, Sweetness," Steve soothed. Hearing Kayla cry cut him to the core, but he'd take her tears over the gasps from before that had taken at least three years off of his life.
He'd take it over her avoiding his eye and the stubborn "I'm fine's" and her and him trying to one-up each other in a game of who could be stronger for who. At least now that they'd accepted how terrified they were, they could start to come to grips. Focus on being strong and smart for each other and surviving this nightmare together.
For now, though, she was still sobbing into his shirt while his eye stung with unshed tears.
"Yeah, you go ahead and cry. You've got the right. Just go ahead and cry," Steve choked out before allowing himself to as well.
Once they were both out of tears, too exhausted to move, they resigned themselves to lying next to each other on the floor rug. Steve made some argument about how it was good for his back, and even though Kayla using him as a human body pillow probably negated that good, she told the MD in her to keep quiet and curled up more on her husband's chest.
"I'm sorry, you know."
"I am, Steve," she cut in, sitting up some to look him in the eye. "I scared you, and I'm sorry," she said as he shook his head.
"You had a panic attack, baby. You think that I'd ever hold that against-"
"No, of course not," Kayla said firmly. "I know that you wouldn't. But if I hadn't kept pushing down everything I was feeling, avoiding and snapping at you when you were just trying to get me to talk-"
"If you think I'm gonna call you out for taking a page outta my playbook, baby," Steve scoffed as Kayla shook her head.
"If I hadn't let everything build up so much, I know it wouldn't have been as bad."
"It was bad, Sweetness. We can't deny that."
"But we got past it. You made sure of it."
"After I yelled and almost walked out on you when you were-"
"You didn't walk out, though," Kayla interrupted. "And even if you had, you were just as panicked as I was. You think I'd hold that against you?"
"There would've been no excusing it if I'd left you, Kayla."
"But you didn't. You stayed, and you held me, and you took care of me, and you got us through it. We both got through it!"
"This time. We got through it this time, Sweetness," Steve said gravely as Kayla looked down. Content to focus more on the collar of his shirt than the words he was saying until she remembered avoiding the subject had been what led them to turn into a breathless, tearful heap on the floor. Letting out a slow breath, she met his gaze again.
"I know this is bad, too, Steve. I'm not denying it either."
"You weren't breathing, baby. And this time, I knew why but next time, if something else is the reason, you know I'm not prepared to..."
"There's enough damn room for you at your hospital, Kayla," he said roughly as she swallowed hard. Realizing her earlier remark at the nurse's station about saving beds for the actual patients had affected Steve more than he'd let on.
"I know. And I'll know when I need to go back."
Speaking calmly but firmly, Kayla looked her husband square in the eye.
"I would not have brought this into our home if I didn't know it was the right place for us to start working through it."
"Us?" Steve scoffed, "Last I checked, Sweetness, that jacket of mine you're wearing's not a lab coat," he said as Kayla softly smiled, pulling it more snugly around her. Her smile faded though at the skeptical, fearful look on her husband's face.
"Baby, right now, I don't need a doctor. When I do, I know where they are. All I need right now is my husband."
Nodding, shifting closer, Steve twined their hands, then kissed the back of hers. Looking up at her with so much love in his eye that Kayla almost cried again.
"And I need him to trust me."
"I trust you with my life, Sweetness," Steve said gruffly.
"Then trust me with mine. Please, Steve."
Looking down at their joined hands, then back up at his wife, Steve managed a nod before pulling Kayla into a fierce hug.
"If anything changes, baby, anything, you've gotta tell me as soon as you-"
"I will," Kayla assured. "Like I said, when we need to go back, we will. For right now, though..."
Pulling herself up from the floor with the aid of the coffee table, and Steve once he was upright again, Kayla stretched her neck before taking her husband by the hand.
"Come with me," she demanded, leading him to the bedroom.
Authors Note: Evening, folks. Here's the latest! This chapter kinda took on a weird life of its own but I hope it's liked. I promise things are gonna pick up in the action and family drama sense within the next couple of chapters (I'm really excited to start twining the kids into this fic, especially now that Tripp/Joey are back on screen), but for now, I hope you can indulge the S&K shipper in me a bit longer. (Also, blanket apology for any error in A) references to med school/research publishing and B) what Kayla was up to in Salem after Steve's 'death'. I've seen the plot I reference referred to in other fics and a few snippets from clips, but if the details are fuzzy or off...blame me for having a tough time digging into that era of the show. (her and Shane. I just...why?) Anyway, thanks for reading if you are!
"There's something we can do right here," Kayla said, leading Steve to the bedroom.
"All we're doing in this room right now is getting some shuteye, Sweetness."
"No, I'm changing into my jammies, baby."
"You'll have to go out and buy some first," Kayla smirked, crossing the room and opening the closet before pointing to something on the top shelf.
"Before you do, can you grab that for me?"
"I'll clean out the closet tomorrow, Sweetness. Let's just-"
"I don't need you to clean it. I just need you to get that."
Frowning but doing as asked, Steve reached for the large plastic storage bin on the shelf.
"Where'd this come from? Patchy Claus show up a couple months early?"
"No, our baby girl brought it," Kayla answered.
"After she left Seattle, Stephanie made a pit stop in LA. She cleared out the last of what was in our storage unit and drove it home," she said, acting as a spotter when Steve grabbed hold of the deceptively heavy bin. When he struggled to get a proper grip on it, she rushed up to grab hold of the bottom corner.
"What the hell were you two storing, baby? Bricks?"
"Here, let me help. Let me help."
Once they lowered the bin to the floor, Steve unlatched the lid to reveal neatly arranged stacks of textbooks, notebooks, binders, and medical journals, categorized with post-it note labels written out in Sharpie in his wife's cursive scrawl.
"I know, not exactly bricks," Kayla shrugged, sitting on the edge of the bed.
"Just my baby's brilliance all in one big box," Steve grinned, taking one of the notebooks out from it. When the post-it label fell off, smile fading, he tried to re-attach it, then swore when he realized the stickiness of it was long gone.
"Didn't mean to disrupt your filing system here, Sweetness."
"It's alright. I'm surprised those stuck on as long as they did," Kayla said as Steve sat beside her on the bed, studying the post-it.
"What is it?"
"Just trying to figure out your handwriting here, baby."
"What about it?"
"How the hell they let you become an M.D. with it."
"I'm serious, Sweetness. Surprised they didn't kick you out of med school for your pretty cursive."
"You may want to read the notes inside the notebook before you say that," Kayla warned.
"Which one, baby?" Steve asked, gesturing to the pile of them neatly stacked in the corner of the box.
"Yeah, there are a lot, aren't there," Kayla sighed. "But I figured so long as I'm stuck in bed, it might be a good time to try and organize all of this."
"All of it's already looking pretty organized," Steve noted. "And even if it weren't, you wouldn't have roped me into helping you on that kind of project."
"I needed you to get the box?" Kayla offered, giving him a shy smile as he gave her a knowing look.
"I just thought there might be some good resources in here. I know the textbooks are outdated, but from what I remember, some case studies and journals here might be worth looking at. Maybe give us some kind of clue as to what we're dealing with."
"Well, look, rather than sifting through here to try and find them, let me just run down to the car for your computer."
"Why not, baby? There's gotta be databases or something you can pull research and that kind of info from," Steve reasoned.
"There are," Kayla said. "But blue light and prolonged screentime make headache symptoms worse and-"
"You've got a headache?"
Jumping out of bed and to his feet, Steve made a beeline to the bathroom medicine cabinet.
"Here, I'll get you some aspirin, or you want Advil, Sweetness? Got some Tylenol in here, too. Which one's best?" he asked, leaving the bathroom juggling all three pill bottles.
"Steve, it's fine."
"Nope, doctor's choice here, baby. Now go on and pick one."
Taking the ibuprofen bottle, Kayla waved it in front of him, then set it on the nightstand.
"I'm due for another dose in an hour."
Nodding, Steve returned the other pills to the medicine cabinet before joining Kayla back on the bed and setting his watch.
"The headache's not bad," she said. "I just don't want to make it any worse."
"I hear you, baby," Steve murmured. Nodding for Kayla to move closer, reaching his arm around her, he tried to massage the knot out of the back of her neck.
"This helping any?"
"Yeah. Who needs painkillers when I've got you?"
Lightly Steve laughed, brushing his lips on the side of her head before reaching for and pulling the storage bin closer to the bed.
"So, which of these books are we cracking first, Sweetness," he asked. Grabbing a heap of notebooks and journals, he set them on the bed while Kayla grabbed her readers off the nightstand and put them on.
"Hand me that blue binder there. And what JAMA edition is that?"
After handing the binder over, Steve thumbed the journal open, then grinned after seeing the table of contents page.
"One that decided to get its act together. Publish someone who knew what they were talking about!"
When he pointed to the research article on infectious disease and her name in type underneath it, at the proud look in his eye, Kayla couldn't help but blush.
"How come you never showed me this before, baby?"
"It'd be like you showing me a report of a case that you cracked, Steve," she shrugged. "Getting published is an accomplishment, but it's also just part of the job."
Leaning over to see the journal year after Steve flipped to her publication, Kayla shook her head in disbelief.
"Or, in this case, part of my med school application. God, it feels like a lifetime ago that I worked on this."
"Pretty timely subject matter, though," Steve said gruffly before checking his watch, then his phone. "Speaking of timely..."
"What are you checking? I told you five minutes ago when my next dose is."
"Just checking on my former employer, baby," Steve answered.
"Wanna see if the word 'rush' means anything to that damn lab of theirs."
Not seeing any notification, he angrily tossed his phone toward the foot of the bed.
"I'll take that as a no," Kayla sighed.
"Aw, they're probably just busy. Maybe the lab at the ISA's trying to J-A-M-A, too," Steve mocked. "Yeah, they're putting their best lab techs on the important stuff. Coming up with a catchy article title. Picking out a pretty font."
"Oh, it'll be some brilliant research, baby. Only no one will see it 'cause it won't get rushed to the printer on time."
"Steve, they're just being thorough. They were thorough when I was an admin in one of their labs, and that was before half the new protocols and standards were even in place."
"You ran an ISA lab?" Steve asked as Kayla nodded.
"Shane provided the funding, but the lab was part of an operation trying to take down Lawrence Alamain. There was a virus he had a hand with designing, and we were trying to find a cure."
"And did you?"
"Why don't you take a look for yourself?" Kayla said, nodding to the journal Steve had flipped open to her publication's page.
"Baby, this is a lot of jargon to sift through for a simple yes or no."
"I did as much work as I could in that lab to try to find a cure, and it's all documented there."
"Looks like it took a lot of trying, Sweetness," Steve noted, seeing how lengthy and detailed the article was.
"Well, once I found out that Bo contracted the virus, I was pretty motivated."
"Wait, Bo is the Patient X that you're-"
"Yeah, and I went to a lot of extremes to try and help him. Protect him."
"Full-on big sister mode, huh?"
"Yeah," Kayla said with a sad smile. "Even got myself suspended from the hospital for him, if you can believe it."
The look on his face showing full disbelief, Steve shook his head.
"Why in the hell am I just hearing about all this now, baby?"
"Honestly, it all just seemed like ancient history," Kayla shrugged, taking her readers off and setting them on the nightstand.
"Til now, anyway," she sighed, her eyes clouding over.
Shifting closer, slipping his arm around her, Steve eased back against the pillows alongside his wife.
"Hey, look at it this way. You managed to save a Brady from a maniac's lab-grown mystery sickness before you even made the jump from NP to MD."
"Steve, the cure for that virus wasn't all my doing, far from it. And what we're dealing with now isn't the same thing as-"
"I know it's not. But I know sometimes history's got a way of repeating itself, Sweetness."
Reaching to hold her face, Steve softly smiled, thumbing a tear off her cheek.
"You've got a point there," Kayla admitted. "And speaking of history, you're no stranger when it comes to saving Bradys either."
"It's true! You bailed out Roman in Stockholm, well...Roman before we found out that he was-"
"You trying to make your headache worse there, baby?"
Rolling her eyes, Kayla smiled, squeezing his hand that was still cupping the side of her face.
"Obviously, you helped Bo, but my folks, Kimberly, Frankie, and Max...you were always there for them, too."
"You trying to make me blush, Sweetness?"
"I'm trying to point out your track record. And remind you that if it wasn't for you..."
When her voice broke and trailed off, shaking his head, Steve thumbed another tear from her cheek.
"Shh, baby. You don't need to remind me. I remember, okay? You know I remember."
"Yeah, I do," Kayla sniffled. "You saved me even when you didn't remember."
"It's true, though. You and me in that quarantine together, even with Billie right outside and you barely remembering us, even with all that in our way, we...we pulled off a pretty amazing miracle, right?"
Steve managed a nod, but between her tearful smile and flashing on that damn aquarium, swallowing hard, he fought to keep his own emotions at bay. From the look on Kayla's face, though, his efforts weren't successful.
"Sweetness, I'm not arguing. Everything that happened that day, you finding your way back. It was a miracle. I just wasn't counting on us needing to stage a revival. Especially not..."
"Baby, in that aquarium, what scared me the most, was the look I saw in Stephanie's eyes. The idea that our baby girl was gonna lose her mama had me so..."
"Of course it did," Kayla insisted. Moving Steve's hand from her face, she twined their fingers together and shifted closer to him.
"You think I'd expect anything different? Being terrified most for your child, grieving for their loss, that's natural, Steve. That's how I would have been if the situation had been reversed!"
"Sweetness, it was reversed," Steve reminded. "And when you thought I was dead and gone, you weren't just grieving for Stephanie's loss. When I was out there in limbo land, though, I told you how it was, baby."
His voice breaking now, Steve shook his head, blinked back tears when Kayla stroked his hair, then let her hand rest on the side of his face.
"My messed up head was in the game as Nick Stockton, and the rest of me was benched, Kayla. That's the only reason I didn't have a full-blown breakdown when I thought that you'd-"
Shaking his head, sliding her hand off his cheek, Steve brought it to his lips before kissing it, squeezing it tight.
"The only reason."
"No, it's not. Y...you would've held on for Stephanie. You would've found a way for our baby girl. Same as I-"
"No. Not the same, Kayla," Steve said sharply, bowing his head. "Sure, I can get a heavy box of books from the shelf, but when it comes to what counts? We both know you're the strong one, Sweetness. Not me."
After she dropped his hand abruptly and sat back, reluctantly, Steve looked up only to see his wife staring him down.
Post by wildheartashley on Oct 17, 2022 16:51:13 GMT -5
This was such a great chapter. Such a great use of Steve and Kayla’s history. Also when reading, I was totally envisioning Stephen Nichols in my head saying all of those great one liners you wrote for Steve. Can’t wait to read more.
Authors Note: Evening all, I'm so sorry this chapter is a day late! Real life + an upcoming vacation got in the way for me this week. This update is another that kinda took on an intense life of its own – the show leaving me wanting way more S&K 1 on 1 time than they had in last weeks hospital scenes fueled a lot of it. :/ Anyway, I hope it's enjoyed. Thanks for reading if you are! Also wildheartashley - the comment you made about SN made my day! Highest compliment ever, thank you!
"You're hopeless, you know that?" Kayla said matter-of-factly, taking her husband aback.
"I'm serious. You really are-"
"I'm serious, too, baby!" Steve exclaimed, "Calling me hopeless?"
Laughing without humor and with a slightly wounded look on his face, he shifted back on the bed in turn.
"When was the last...I mean, I haven't heard that one outta you since-"
"My hair was double the size it is now, I know," Kayla smirked as Steve softened, reaching over to stroke her hair.
"Still beautiful, though, Sweetness. Then and now."
Blushing again, Kayla bowed and shook her head, attempting to clear it and get back to her argument.
"You know, your trying to distract me's not gonna work."
"It's not, baby?" Steve teased as Kayla met his gaze again, her smile going sadder.
"No. Because no one beats up on my husband and gets away with it. Not even you," she said as his face went solemn.
"Trying to tell me you're not strong, Steve?" she said disapprovingly as he rolled his eye. Getting to his feet, he took the book pile, moved it to the side of the plastic bin on the floor, and then started turning down the bed.
"What are you doing? I wasn't-"
"Baby, I don't need a pep talk, alright? Now c'mon, it's late and-"
"I'm not tired," Kayla said stubbornly, refusing to budge from where she was sitting on top of the covers.
"Not physically, anyway."
"You know what then, baby, I take it back. I take back what I said. Now can you just forget-"
"If it was that simple, I would have done it by now."
Taking Steve by the hand, Kayla pulled him down to sit across from her on the bed.
"Now, c'mon, I'm not gonna sit here and stroke your ego, but I'm not gonna let you forget the facts here, either."
"I can't," Kayla admitted, her eyes welling up as she linked her fingers with his.
"I deal in facts, and so do you. And they're the only way we're gonna survive this. If they don't come from the lab or cops or from over there," she said, nodding to the notebook pile.
"Then they'll have to come from us, and what we know about each other."
"You sound like you wanna play twenty questions, baby," Steve quipped as Kayla arched a brow.
"Maybe I do," she said, getting a surprised, skeptical look in return.
"What? I don't have twenty of them!"
"19 and a half, then?" Steve scoffed.
"Well, you're clearly not ready for bedtime, baby. You got me staying up late looking at all your little books with you and chatting. Now you've got us playing games."
"Steve, I'm not-"
"How long you gonna keep this up? You waiting for Mister Sandman to stroll in here and knock you unconscious?"
"You sound ready for him to pay you a visit," Kayla noted as Steve shook his head, insisting he was fine.
"You're extra punchy, bordering on cranky, Steve Johnson. I know when you're overtired."
"And I know when you're wired wide awake, Sweetness," Steve sighed, reaching to hold the side of her face.
"I can't help it. There's just so much-"
"I know, baby. But don't worry. The Sandman's not coming for your Patchman just yet."
"I'm not resting this eye til you rest yours, Sweetness. Now c'mon. What are these 19 and a half questions?"
"It's just one."
"Well, lay it on me, baby."
"You and I get our strength from each other, so what makes you think that I'm stronger than you?"
"Kayla," Steve muttered, moving his hand away from where it was resting on her cheek.
"Actually, that might be too open-ended a question for this. Let me try again," Kayla said, speaking again after a beat.
"Are you gonna take off tonight to take down Rolf and Orpheus?"
"You heard me, Steve."
Caught off guard by the question and how coolly she'd asked it, getting to his feet, Steve crossed the room, running a hand over his face in disbelief.
"You gonna run off on some unauthorized mission across town or on a one-way ticket, all in the name of getting answers and some well-placed hits in?" Kayla asked calmly.
Jaw clenched now, Steve turned around.
"That's two questions, baby," he growled.
"And if you're expecting me to dignify either of 'em with an answer, your line of thinking tonight's just as good as your arithmetic."
Kayla didn't flinch at his scowl and the snark, but the pained look he'd given her before he turned to avoid her altogether, had her hoping her own well-placed hits had been worth it.
Watching Steve take a grip on the dresser with one hand and ball his fist on top of it with the other, slowly getting to her feet, she approached him.
Dodging her when she moved to rub his arm, at her sniffle, Steve swallowed back the lump in his throat.
"You really think I'm walking out on you?" he choked out, in too much of a state to see his wife shaking her head.
"No. Baby, I-"
"After everything that's happened, Kayla, everything we're up against, you think that I'd just up and leave here to kill those bastards?! Leave you alone without-"
Interrupted with a tearful no that only half registered, it took Kayla gripping Steve by both arms and turning him to face her for him to finally snap out of it.
"I said no, damn it!" Kayla cried. "I know you. And I know that you wouldn't leave!"
"So why the big freaking song and dance, baby?!"
"Because I needed to make sure that you knew it, too!" she shouted.
"You said you don't think you're strong. Well, that couldn't be further from the truth because you just proved it to me. Again!"
"How, Kayla?!" Steve exclaimed, looking and sounding as exasperated and exhausted as she was wired and desperate.
"Can you fill me in here, Sweetness? Drag me along?" he begged as she let out a breath and nodded. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Steve flopped down on his back next to her.
Seeing her fidget, tension practically coming off her in waves, he reached up and rubbed slow circles on her back as she spoke.
"When I wanted to get out of town with you, get on the first plane going anywhere. After-"
"After Justin?" Steve asked as Kayla shook her head.
"After Jack," she clarified as his eye went wide and watery.
"Baby...why are you-"
"Because I can't help how I'm feeling, Steve," Kayla cut in. "And how I'm feeling right now, how I did then...
Her voice breaking off, she took a ragged breath as Steve took a steady grip on her hand.
"There are more similarities than I care to admit," she hiccuped. "But the most important one...the only one that really matters..."
Shifting to look at him, Kayla managed a watery smile, gripping her husband's hand right back.
"In that cabin that night, after we had talked, I told you I never felt how much you loved me until right then and there. And that I never felt how much I loved you, and it was the truth."
"It was mine too, Sweetness," Steve murmured as Kayla wiped at her eyes with her free hand.
"I already loved you as my hero. By then, you'd already pulled me off one lunatic's yacht and out of one burnt-out basement," she said with a snort.
"But that day, even knowing you couldn't fix how I felt or take my pain away, you became even more of one to me, Steve. That whole time you stayed with me up there, and you held me. And instead of running off to try and kill Jack, you were gonna build us a fire."
"This your long way of asking me to check the pilot light on the fireplace?"
Rolling her eyes at the weak joke, Kayla shook her head.
"Is that one of your twenty questions? Because I've been asked better."
"Could ask you about your favorite food again," Steve smirked as Kayla smiled softly, shaking her head.
"This was my long way of asking you to stop questioning your strength when I know it takes all of it and more for you to stay and see anyone who's hurt."
Swallowing hard, when Steve moved to adjust his patch Kayla reached over and did it for him, pressing a kiss to it before he pulled her into his arms.
When she snuggled closer and lay pillowed against his chest, Steve rubbed her back, relieved to find the tension he'd felt there before starting to evaporate.
"Can you do that for me, Steve?" Kayla asked sleepily.
Refraining from teasing her when she tried and failed to stifle a yawn, Steve settling for covering them both up with a nearby throw blanket.
"Don't see a way around it, Sweetness."
Hearing her mumble about him still being a good tucker-inner, he held Kayla closer as she curled more into his chest, closing her eyes.
"You've given me everything," he murmured, hiding his tear-stained face in her hair before kissing her there.
Post by wildheartashley on Oct 25, 2022 18:02:45 GMT -5
Such an emotional chapter. I loved how we saw both Steve and Kayla’s vulnerability. SnK have always been there for one another,and this chapter was a wonderful illustration of that. Can’t wait for more.
Hi folks! I'm out of town with family so Ch. 7 is gonna be a bit delayed. I'll have it posted this coming Sunday (and if I get some time, may have ch. 8 up and running by then as well). I appreciate your patience, and all your kind words/feedback!
Evening folks, thanks so much for your patience with this update! More to come next Sunday, if not before!
His eye fluttering open, seeing he was alone in bed, Steve reached over to flip on the bedside lamp. The books he'd put on the floor by the storage bin were no longer there, and a patch of light was streaming out from underneath the closed bedroom door. Shaking his head, he stood up, tucking the throw blanket under his arm in hopes he could bundle his wife into it and get her back in bed.
Entering the living room, though, he saw Kayla had beat him to it, with a knit blanket around her shoulders as she sat on the floor in front of the fireplace. The lamp was on, textbooks and journals were strewn around her, and she had on her readers, pen tucked behind her ear, as she highlighted a notebook page with yellow ink.
"So, my tucker-inner work wasn't up to your standards, Sweetness?" Steve asked with a pout.
When Kayla turned, once he saw the thermometer in her mouth, Steve dropped to his knees at her side.
Removing the thermometer after it beeped, Kayla squinted to see the reading.
"I'm fine. Still low grade."
Taking the thermometer from her, it was Steve's turn to squint at the readout.
"You're doubting me?" Kayla asked, arching a brow.
"I'd just rather be seeing double digits here, Sweetness," Steve sighed, capping the thermometer up before sitting on the rug beside Kayla, who reached over and rubbed his shoulder.
"I'm fine, Steve. Fevers spike at night. And if I was worried about this one I'd have woken you up," she assured as Steve grinned.
"Just nice to see you keeping your word, baby."
"What are you talking about?"
"How once upon a time in a crumbling basement, you looked up at me and said whenever you had a fever, you knew who to call." Steve recalled. Reaching over, he stroked Kayla's hair back, trying not to be alarmed that her forehead was hot to the touch.
Sensing his nervousness, she shifted closer and snuggled into his shoulder.
"Don't think you need to go on a scouting mission just yet," she teased as Steve frowned.
"You remember that? 'Cause from what I remember you were pretty out of it that day."
"Some bits and pieces stuck," Kayla said with a soft smile. "You whistling. The poker game. Everything you did to try and distract me."
"I can still teach you to play five card stud," Steve offered with a grin.
Her smile going sadder, seeing her husband still up to the same tricks and trying to take her mind off everything, Kayla kissed him on the cheek before sitting up.
"Have a pretty full courseload already I think," she said, pulling a notebook onto her lap.
"Courseload? Sweetness, you mastered this already. Or else that diploma hanging in your office needs some explaining."
"Steve, I'm not revisiting all this to take some trip down med school memory lane," Kayla sighed. "But there could be some findings or information here that sparks something. I want to be sure and exhaust all of our options."
"And exhausting yourself's the best way to go about that?"
Rubbing the bridge of her nose, Kayla shrugged.
"I just don't want to overlook any facts."
"Well, a fact staring you in the face is that you're running on fumes, Sweetness," Steve sighed, reaching to rub his wife's shoulder.
"Look, how about I take over?" he offered. "A fresh set of eye on this couldn't hurt, and mine's not too shabby at picking up on the small details."
"Well, you're right about that. I..."
Trying and failing to fight back a yawn but too tired to beat herself up over it, Kayla handed Steve the notebook and highlighter. Thanking her, he set it aside and then stood up, helping her to her feet.
"Nope. Doctor Steven Earl's starting his shift, baby. Time to get you to the on-call room."
Shaking her head when he tried to walk her to the bedroom, Kayla broke free of his hold to curl up on the couch.
"The bed's comfier, Sweetness. You said so yoursel-"
"I know," she cut in. "But the fire's on out here, and you're here. I just want you close. Is that okay?"
Nodding, Steve swallowed back the lump in his throat and grabbed a throw blanket. Snugly wrapping Kayla up in it, he brushed his lips on the top of her head before hugging her tightly.
"This close enough for you?"
"Yeah. You've got me wrapped up like a burrito though."
"Too warm?" Steve asked as she shook her head no but freed one of her arms.
"I'd like to look at that JAMA though that I was reading before."
"I just want to skim it, Steve. It's like when I read before bed to relax. Please?"
Unable to refuse her and knowing she knew it, Steve grabbed the journal along with the other notebooks Kayla had marked up, then some bottles of water from the fridge. After uncapping one, he sat on the floor by the couch and handed it to her.
"Once you're hydrated we'll hit the books, baby."
Sipping the water, Kayla shook her head.
"Too bad this isn't coffee," she said lethargically. "Would make tonight really feel like an all-nighter."
"Feels like a pretty real one to me, Sweetness," Steve sighed, tucking her hair back before pressing the chilled water bottle to her forehead. When she didn't protest, he left it in place.
"Yeah," Kayla murmured in agreement. "It helps when you have company. I'd try to study at night after I got Stephanie to sleep. The house would be so quiet. Half the time I'd fall asleep at a right angle over my desk."
"Would've worked any kinks right out for you if I'd been there, baby."
"I know." Taking hold of Steve's wrist, lowering his hand holding the water bottle, Kayla linked her fingers with his.
"You know, when our baby girl got older, she was a terrific study partner."
Seeing the gleam in her husband's eye, knowing a distraction she could provide to take their mind off things, Kayla rolled over on the couch as Steve shifted closer to it and her.
"She'd bargain for a later bedtime by offering to go over the flashcards she'd made with me."
"Wait, she made you the-"
"Yep," Kayla laughed. "For the skeletal system, she made a whole set on black construction paper. Tried to draw the bones out freehand in white glitter gel pen."
"How'd they turn out?"
"Good enough for me to give them to some interns," she said as Steve grinned.
"No, she picked up on most of what I was studying. One of the ways I'd wrap my brain around all the material was trying to come up with ways to explain it to her."
"You walk around singing head bone is connected to the neck bone?" Steve teased, earning a look.
"You think I'd allow alternative facts around our baby girl?"
Rolling her eyes, Kayla smiled.
"No, I'd give her mini-lessons whenever I could. A lot of the time, it was the highlight of my day. And for Stephanie, any excuse she had to play school with her chalkboard easel."
"Hang on now. I thought you gave the lessons. Or were you little schoolgirl for our little Sweetness?" Steve crowed as Kayla's eyes narrowed.
"I swear to God, Steve if I hear one verse of that song-" she warned as he laughed.
"You'll fall for me all over again, baby?"
"You won't hear one of my favorite stories about our baby girl. And I'll make Stephanie promise not to tell you it," Kayla threatened as Steve's grin faded to a frown.
"Oh baby, c'mon," he pouted. "That's not-"
"Swear it. No little schoolgirl. And no blowing in my hair," she added, getting more of a pout.
"What? I'm covering all the bases here."
"Fine, Sweetness. I swear. Now c'mon, what's the story?" Steve asked as Kayla discussed nearly falling asleep one night in the plate of mac and cheese their daughter had decided to surprise her with for dinner.
"I felt horrible that she had to wake me up. She could've asked me for a pony that night, and I would've said yes."
"What did she wind up asking you for?"
"To not question what was in the two paper cups she set in front of me and to just drink what was in them. Turned out one had Pepsi, and one had Coke, and I had to tell her which was which," Kayla said as Steve laughed.
"She gave you a pop quiz. A literal pop-"
"Mmhmm," Kayla grinned as Steve laughed even harder. "It took way too many rounds before I finally got it right and she quit pouring soft drink shots down my throat. She knew how to wake me up, though."
"You know I'm gonna have to ask her for the full story, baby. Get her side and make sure you didn't leave anything out."
"I wouldn't expect anything less, Mister eye for detail," Kayla chuckled.
"Honestly though, after that night I thought she was gonna be a scientist. Or a teacher."
"Race car driver never crossed your mind?" Steve asked with a grin as Kayla smirked, then went solemn.
"She and I were texting earlier at the hospital."
"Is she alright? Is everything-"
"Yeah, she was fine. Just was checking in," she said. Swallowing hard, she rolled away from Steve and onto her back.
"She wanted to know if we could still get lunch this week. Said she'd treat and take me anywhere if it meant not having to eat at the hospital cafeteria."
"I didn't know what to say so I just reacted with one of those silly little hearts," Kayla scoffed, wiping her eyes.
"I don't mind the silly little GIFs," Steve deadpanned. "Joe likes those, too."
"And Tripp. He's more into the memes, though."
"I know what you're trying desperately not to say, so you may as well just say it."
His eye welling up along with hers, swallowing hard, Steve reached into his back pocket for his phone.