A Visit From Stephanie

This second story is based on the 1/4/17 episode of Days of Our Lives. I really hope it doesn't suck, but honestly, my muse is not what it used to be!

I have taken the liberty of posting some of the dialogue from the actual show to give you an idea of what was happening at this time in case you haven't seen the episode or have just forgotten about it altogether! Remember that Joey's sorta girlfriend Jade had just miscarried their baby and everyone was feeling tense and raw.

Characters featured in this one shot: Kayla, Joey, Jade, Stephanie (Steve, mentioned)


Joey: When I saw the ultrasound, and mom showed us the baby, it made it real. Next thing I know, I'm thinking about what it's gonna feel like to hold it for the first time. "It." I never even got a chance to find out if it was a boy or a girl. [Difficulty breathing] I made this happen.

Steve: No.

Kayla: What are you- what are you talking about? You did not.

Joey: I've been thinking about it all night. And I finally put it together. God took my baby away because I killed Ava, and got away with it.

Steve: I don't think you got off easy. And the universe sure as hell didn't take that baby away as some kind of payback.

Joey: Jade's in the same room Ava was in. You don't think that means something?

Steve: What? No! That's a coincidence.

Kayla: Your dad's right.

Joey: If you two are trying to make me feel better, it's not gonna work.

Steve: Joe-

Joey: I can't forgive myself.

Steve: Listen, we've been through this. You talked about this in therapy. You know that you believed that Ava would not stop until she killed your mom, and me, and everyone you care about-

Joey: Dad. All the therapy in the world isn't gonna get me to see this the way you want me to. What am I supposed to do? Go to college? Get married? Have a couple kids? Forget that I murdered someone?

Steve: What do you want to do?

Joey: What I should- what I should have done back then: Confess. To murdering Ava.

Steve: No. No. Me. I-I understand your need for wanting to pay for what you did, and I'm proud of you for that, but them sending you to prison? What is that gonna accomplish?

Joey: I don't know. It doesn't matter.

Steve: Joe. How about just focusing on living a good life?

Kayla: A life of helping people.

Joey: Nothing can fix me. No matter where I go, no matter what I do, I'll always carry this burden. I can't keep pretending that I'm okay. Because I'm not. And every good thing I have... anything beautiful... will die.

Kayla: My gosh-

Joey: Because that's my punishment.

Kayla: No, no.

Joey: That's what I deserve.

Kayla: No.

Joey: [Sobs]

Kayla: It's okay.

{Later, Steve is on the phone with Shane. He hangs up}

Kayla: What did Shane want?

Steve: Doesn't matter. I'm not doing it.

Joey: Dad, what's going on?

Steve: Stefano's been seen alive.

Joey: Where is he?

Steve: ISA agent spotted him in Prague. Then she lost him.

Kayla: So Shane wants you to help track him down?

Steve: Yeah. Along with Rafe and, uh, Marlena's going along too.

Kayla: Couldn't this get Hope out of prison?

Steve: Yeah, it could.

Joey: Dad. You have to go. Uncle Bo was your best friend.

Steve: I know that. And there's nothing I wouldn't do for Hope. But I've put things like this ahead of my family too many times. I'm not going anywhere.

Joey: Mom will be here.

Steve: You need both of us now.

Joey: Dad, I'll be fine-

Steve: No, Joey. It's a done deal. I'm not leaving my son. Not now.

Kayla: Joey's right. You should go. Hope is family.

Steve: No. I've been missing in action too many times when you needed a dad.

Joey: Dad, I'm not a little kid anymore. I want you to go. I'm not gonna do anything stupid.

Steve: You making me a promise? Kayla? You sure?

Kayla: Yeah. Go. You should go. We'll be okay.

[Dramatic music and hugs goodbye]

Steve: I love you guys. I'll be in touch.


Kayla awakened to the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans tickling her nostrils. It took a moment for her to recognize her surroundings. She was in her own bed with the soft, blue duvet cover; in her own airy, comfortably furnished room. She wasn't at University Hospital where she'd spent the past several nights holding vigil over a sickly Jade while Joey hovered about anxiously.

Bright light streamed through the slats in the blinds and she realized she was home. Joey and Jade were resting just down the hall in the guest bedroom.

Kayla wiggled her nose as the scent of fresh maple syrup wafted by her. Her stomach rumbled, reminding her it had been a good while since she'd eaten much of anything. "That smells delicious," she murmured. "Who is cooking… Steve? Can it be Steve?" She shoved her feet into her slippers and practically bolted for the bedroom door. Steve didn't cook often - if ever - but she didn't think Joey and Jade would be at the stove. So that left only Steve or-

"Stephanie!" Her eyes lit up as she skidded into the kitchen and spotted a familiar, willowy brunette flipping pancakes on the griddle. "Steph, sweetheart! What are you doing here?"

Stephanie looked up at her mother. "Hey, Mom," she said casually, as if she didn't live many miles away and as if she was always there every morning to cook breakfast. "Happy to see me?"

"Are you kidding me? I'm thrilled," Kayla said. She immediately closed the distance between them and slipped her arms around Stephanie's tiny waist, giving her a crushing squeeze. She stepped back to look at her daughter, cupping her pretty alabaster cheeks in her hands. "You look wonderful, honey. New York agrees with you but I can't believe you're here. How did you know -" she paused - "how did you know I needed to see your lovely face this morning?"

Stephanie smiled. "Dad told me what happened… He asked me to come and stay with you and Joe until he gets back from wherever it is he went."

"Prague," Kayla murmured. "He's chasing down Stefano DiMera."

"Again... Right... Mom, I just want to say I'm sorry I haven't been back to Salem in such a long time. If I had known things were this bad, I would have been on the next flight out here months ago."

"You're here now. That's what matters."

"Only because Dad finally told me what's going on," Stephanie said. "Are you okay? I mean, really okay?"

"I'll be alright. It's Joey I am worried about. He's miserable, Stephanie. Just miserable. He's… he's lost so much."

Stephanie nodded. "Dad filled me in on some of it. I was so shocked when I got your letter telling me Joey had gotten some girl pregnant. It took me some time to wrap my mind around it."

"I know exactly what you mean."

"And now… Mom, now the baby is just gone?"

Kayla nodded. "Unfortunately, yes. Jade will likely have more children someday… but this little one is gone. They never had a chance to be born, Stephanie, to breathe, to experience life... Joey and Jade never even got to hold to them. How are they supposed to heal from this?"

Stephanie sighed. "We'll get Joey through this, Mom. Somehow. You and me, and Dad, when he gets home from his latest mission, we'll sit down and figure things out. He wanted to be here for you guys so badly, but well…" She splayed her oven-mitten-covered hands. "I know I'm no substitute for Dad, but I'm here and I want to help in any way I can."

"You already are helping; just by being here," Kayla assured her. "Seeing you… Everything is starting to make sense again. I've missed you so much. We all have." She smiled softly. "But I do have one question for you."

"What's that?"

"Who taught you how to cook? I know for a fact that you didn't learn that particular skill from me. Whenever I tried to teach you anything in the kitchen, you said it bored you."

Stephanie smiled back; almost a little sheepishly. "Well, it was pretty boring back then. What teen wants to be trapped in a kitchen with a mixing bowl in hand when there are pep rallies to go to and cute boys to chase?"

Kayla smiled in spite of herself. "I seem to recall there were a lot of cute boys getting chased back then."

"Ha ha, Mom," Stephanie said. "Now come on - sit down and I'll serve you."

"I can help-"

"No, no. You need to relax. Dad says you've been running ragged lately and I can see it."

"What tipped you off? Is it the bags under my eyes?"

"There are no bags under your eyes," Stephanie said. "But there is weariness and fatigue written all over your face. Sadness, too."

"Things have been somewhat … difficult," Kayla admitted. "Alright, they've been very difficult. Joey's been through hell this past year."

"I've heard about some of that, yes."

"And what about you? Are you doing okay?"

Stephanie nodded. "I am. My job is good. I have a lot of great friends... "

"Hmm, did one of those 'friends' teach you how to cook?"

Stephanie smirked. "Mom, just please sit down. The bacon is getting cold." Kayla started to protest but Stephanie fairly pushed her into a seat at the small table by the window. Sunlight flooded into the room and warmed a part of Kayla that had been so cold, and so empty, for much too long.

Kayla picked up a slice of bacon and took a bite as Stephanie watched closely for her reaction. "Well?" Stephanie said.

Kayla finished chewing. "Well… it's heavenly. I really like the flavor of it."

"Yay. I'm glad."

"It has just the right amount of seasoning… Wait. Is that sea salt I taste?" She asked as she nibbled on a second piece.

"It is," Stephanie said. "It's just a little trick I picked up along the way."

"From who?"

"Mom!" Stephanie chuckled.

"Please humor me. I want to know about your life in New York."

"I told you about it already. I have a good job. I have nice friends, and -"

"Any special friends?"

"It's not like you to pry, Mom. What gives?"

"Stephanie, if I'm prying … I apologize… I just need to know you're alright. I need at least one of my children to be happy right now."

"Well, I am pretty happy. I am," Stephanie insisted. She speared two flapjacks and dropped them onto Kayla's plate. "I'm really good, Mom. But I don't think now is a good time to be talking about me."

"Of course, it's a good time. Your feelings are as important as anyone else's in this family."

"I know… You have always treated Joe and me the same. Even though we are both so different, you loved us equally. It means everything to me." She slipped into the seat across from Kayla. "The truth is… I'm happy. Almost too happy. I am a little afraid it can't last."

"Oh, honey…"

"I met someone a while ago. His name is Michael... Michael Corinthos. He's kind, and he's good, and just an all around amazing guy. Handsome as hell, too."

"Why haven't I heard about this Michael before now?"

"I don't know… I guess I didn't want to jinx things between us. He's a sweetheart and I'm falling hard for him."

"That's wonderful," Kayla said. She looked at her daughter; noted the way her cheeks were flushed and her eyes filled with a sweet softness. "I'd love to meet him sometime."

"He'd like to meet all of you too," Stephanie said. "I will introduce you as soon as I'm sure-"

"That we won't embarrass you?"

"No, of course not. I just want to be sure I won't mess things up."

"You couldn't."

"I have before," Stephanie said. "Do you remember the whole debacle with Philip, and then with Nathan…?"

"I do but you were a different person back then. I don't excuse the things you did, but I think somehow, I understood them. That they came from a place of hurt and desperation. But now you've clearly grown up. You've matured into this sophisticated, caring person who drops everything to rush halfway across the U.S. just to be there for your brother and your mother. You are a good person, Stephanie Johnson, and I won't let you forget it."

"I am trying to be a good person," Stephanie said. "I just … I want what you and Dad share … That strong, everlasting soulmate bond."

"Oh honey, you know your dad and I have had our ups and downs…"

"But you love him, Mom, and he loves you. Can you even doubt that?"

"Not now, but honestly, I've doubted it before. I think it's a very human thing to do; to question if we deserve love, if we're worthy of it."

"He's never stopped loving you, Mom. He never will. You're this amazingly devoted, storybook couple. You set the bar so impossibly high… How is anyone ever supposed to measure up to that? Your love story is freaking legendary."

Kayla took Stephanie's hands in hers. "I wouldn't go that far. We're human, you know. That means from time to time we do things that aren't in each other's best interests. That means sometimes we disappoint each other and hurt each other, even without trying to."

"But you always, always come back to each other."

"Yes," Kayla admitted, "but we've lost our way at times. We finally - well, we decided to fight for each other. To never give up on each other even when things got dark like they are now. Steve fought for me; for us; for our family. He's never given up on any of us. I can only try to reciprocate."

"You more than reciprocate, Mom. You return every bit of the love that Dad gives you."

"We're just doing our best, Stephanie. Taking it one day at a time. It's the best anyone can do. I don't want you to feel you have to measure up to some impossible standard. At the end of the day, your father and I are just mere mortals, like everyone else."

Stephanie splayed her hands. "God, I'm sorry, Mom," she said. "I came here to help you out and here you are counseling me."

"Stephanie, just you being here ... you're healing me inside. That is the very best kind of 'help' I can imagine."

"I love you, Mom."

"I love you too. So does your Dad. So does Joey."

"Are my ears burning?" Joey asked, padding into the kitchen on bare feet. He looked at Kayla and then at Stephanie. His eyes went wide. "Sis?"

"Hi, Joey," Stephanie said. She stood and Joey moved over to her, throwing his arms around her, crushing her tightly against him.

"I can't... I can't breathe," Stephanie panted out.

"S-sorry," Joey said, giving her a little space. "What are you doing here?"

"It just felt like a good time for a visit."

"Oh. You heard about what happened to Jade and me, right?" Joey said. "Dad sent you?"

"Would it be such a bad thing if he did?" Stephanie returned.

Joey shook his head. "No… It's actually good to see your big old mug, Sis."

Stephanie smiled. "It's good to see your big old mug too, Joey." She sombered. "I honestly wish it was under better circumstances."

"Me too… But I'm glad you're here now. Mom and I have missed you a lot. Dad has too, of course."

"I've missed all of you too."

"How long are you staying for, Stephanie?" Kayla piped in.

"For as long as I'm needed," Stephanie said.

"In that case, you can never leave again," Joey quietly joked. He swiped at his suddenly moist eyes and cleared his throat. "Uh, who cooked breakfast?"

"I did," Stephanie said.

"Oh no... Is it edible?"

Stephanie whacked his arm. "Yes, it's edible. I've been -" she looked at her mother - "taking some cooking classes in New York."

"Bout time."

"Very funny, Joe." She smacked him again. "Sit down and prepare to be wowed."

"I'll sit, but I make no promises about the 'wowed' part."

"Joey, it's all very good," Kayla said. "Especially the bacon. I love the bacon. If it wouldn't clog my arteries …"

"Mom, stop. Today, nothing clogs arteries and there is no such thing as too many calories," Stephanie said. "Today, we just enjoy ourselves." She set a plate before Joey. "Dig in, short stuff."

Joey eyed the food skeptically before he took a bite. Stephanie stared at him intently. "Well?"

"Well, what?"

"Is it good?"

Joey snitched a slice of bacon off Kayla's plate. "I think I need to try another bite. Just to be sure."

Kayla laughed. "How rude."

"Indeed."

Joey ended up eating eight strips of bacon before finally admitting that, "it's good."

"Just good?" Stephanie returned.

"Okay, pretty great. Where'd you learn to cook like that again?"

"Classes …"

"Right… Sure. Classes."

Kayla smiled at her two children. For a moment, everything was familiar; everything seemed almost normal again.

She could breathe for just a second.

Jade suddenly walked into the kitchen. She looked pale and utterly tragic; a tiny little waif swimming in Joey's baggy gray sweats, clutching a belly that no longer held a life. "Uh…"

"Jade, hey," Joey said. "How'd you sleep?"

Jade shrugged. "Eh."

"Oh well, come meet my sister, Stephanie."

Jade sighed softly. "Hi," she said hollowly. She looked at Joey. "I am going back to bed."

"No, Jade, wait," Joey called to her.

"Jade," Stephanie said. "We haven't been properly introduced yet."

Jade rolled her eyes. "Hi, Stephanie. I'm the screw up who miscarried your brother's kid. And you are …"

Joey looked at the floor, uncharacteristically nibbling his bottom lip. Stephanie shifted awkwardly from foot to foot.

Kayla reached for Jade and gently placed her hand on the small of her back. "You're not a screw up, Jade," Kayla said. "What happened … it was no one's fault. Not yours - " She looked at her son pointedly; knowing he still blamed himself - "not Joey's. Not anybody's. It hurts. I know it hurts a lot, and the pain … I'd like to tell you it goes away in time, but the truth is, it will probably hang around for a long while... Still, you should know you won't have to go through any of this alone. You don't have to suffer by yourself because we're here for you and we want to help you. All of us want to help you."

Jade looked at Joey. "My mom's right," Joey said. "You don't have to hide away or anything."

"But I'm … This is your life, Joey. This is your family. Now that there's no kid linking us-"

"We're still connected in all the ways that matter," Joey said. He moved to hold out his hand to her. "Come on over. Eat something."

"I don't know if I can," Jade sniffled.

"You have to try… You need to keep up your strength," Kayla said.

"Thanks, Doc," Jade muttered.

Stephanie offered her a gentle smile. "Come on now. I mean, not to brag, but this meal tastes amazing and you don't want to miss out on getting a taste of it."

Jade's eyes widened. Joey shook his head at her. "Steph…" he muttered.

Jade crossed her arms. "No. It's okay, Joey. I kind of admire the cockiness." She looked at the stack of pancakes. Her stomach rumbled loudly. "I guess I'm hungrier than I thought."

"Well, you can have all the bacon and pancakes you can eat; all the coffee you can drink. I also have orange juice, apples…"

"Jesus. I am not eating for two anymore," Jade griped and then she held up a hand. "Sorry. That was pretty bitchy of me. Copping mega-attitude is my default setting, or so I've been told."

"It's alright," Stephanie said. "Just … Listen to my mom and Joey, okay. You don't have to deal with this alone. None of it. We're all here for you and we're not going anywhere."

Xoxo

After breakfast, Stephanie insisted on cleaning up the kitchen and wouldn't accept any help from anyone. Kayla tried to offer to at least wipe down the table, but Stephanie said no; she wanted to handle it. She wanted to help in any way she could.

Kayla thanked her daughter with a big hug and a smooch and then headed to her room to get dressed for the day. Her phone suddenly beeped and she quickly grabbed for it.

Steve had sent her a quick text message.

Hey there sweetness. We're on the move but I wanted to check in on all of you real quick. By now you've probably got your surprise. Steph will take good care of you while I'm away. I wish I could be there now, but soon baby, soon I'll return and we'll start putting our lives back together. You mean everything to me. All of you make my life worth living. I love you sweetness. Don't you ever forget that. I can't wait to come home to you. Love Steve

Kayla smiled and dabbed at her teary eyes. She quickly typed out a return message, accompanied by several heart emojis.

Patch, you surprise me every day in so many wonderful ways. I feel incredibly lucky to be loved by you. Having Stephanie home is such a treat. I think even Joey's feeling a little better because she's here. All that's missing is you. So hurry home, my love. Stay safe. Your sweetness - Kayla

Kayla clutched the phone to her chest, feeling the beginnings of a true smile playing at her lips. Things weren't perfect - in fact, they were still far away from being so right now - but suddenly, there was a little hope taking root inside of her. The knowledge that maybe everything would be alright in time.

Maybe. Just maybe.

THE END.