Steve awoke to the promise of another day of pain, darkness and frustration. He sighed heavily. Waking up blind might not be so bad if he wouldn't keep dreaming of light and colors. As it was, however, the disappointment of awakening to find that he couldn't see was almost unbearable. He lay in bed for a few moments before slowly sitting up and feeling for his canes.
The folded one was in its usual place on he night stand, but he couldn't find his regular cane. Damn. Steve slowly got to his feet and extended the white cane. Maybe he could feel around for the other one. He moved the cane around and it tapped against something promising. He tried to bend down and immediately regretted it. Pain shot through his leg. Oh well. Time to call on the cavalry. "Hon..." Steve stopped. He hadn't heard a sound. "Beth?" he tried again. Still no sound. He gulped. Had he gone deaf? The thought sent Steve into a panic. He gritted his teeth against the pain and made his way out of the bedroom. Beth would probably be in the kitchen.
Too upset to pay proper attention to the signals from his cane, Steve misjudged a step and walked directly into a doorknob - striking his hip hard. White-hot pain coursed through his leg and he screamed. It would have been a scream if he could have heard it. He sank to his knees, breathing hard and fighting back tears. "Steve?" Steve snapped his head up at the sound of Beth's voice. He could hear her! He smiled, utterly relieved despite his agony. "My God, baby, what happened?"
"I..." Steve frowned. His voice still wasn't making any sound. He touched his throat, and tried to speak again. Nothing. He looked toward Beth in alarm. "My voice is gone!" he mouthed.
"You... you can't speak?"
He shook his head. His relief at finding that he wasn't deaf was quickly replaced by panic. His voice was gone. How would he speak to anyone? How would he sing? Steve tried to speak again, not wanting to believe what was happening. He could handle being in near constant pain. He could even get used to being blind in time. But how could he live without singing? How? Steve shook his head. He couldn't! He couldn't! He started to shake, his breaths coming in quick, short gasps.
Steve felt Beth kneel beside him. "Shhh. It's... it's okay," she said. She started to stroke him with shaking hands. From the sound of her voice, Steve could tell she was trying not to cry. "We'll... we'll sort this out. Just try to relax, okay?" Steve knew he should take Beth's advice, but he couldn't. His leg hurt terribly, he was blind, and he'd lost his voice. His voice. And he knew there was nothing anyone could do to help him. It would be just like before. The doctors would tell him there was nothing wrong with his voice. Nothing they could do. Steve started to breathe faster and he could feel himself getting light headed.
"Oh, shit," Beth said. "Steve, you're hyperventilating. You have to calm down. Just take deep, slow breaths, okay?" Steve tried, but he couldn't make himself calm down. The fact that he was unable to control himself only served to escalate his panic. He started breathing even faster. "Oh, God," Beth said, sounding panicked herself. "Okay. It's okay. I'll be right back." He heard her footsteps hurrying away. He kept trying to calm down, failing, and getting more upset as a result. He knew that he was caught in a vicious cycle but he couldn't do anything about it. He was so light headed now that he thought he would faint.
"I'm back." Beth put her hand on his shoulder. "I'm going to put a bag over your mouth, okay? It should help." Then Steve felt paper around his mouth and nose. "Can you hold it there?" Steve held the bag over his mouth while Beth stroked him and told him lies about how everything would be okay.
Eventually, Steve calmed down and started to breathe at a fairly normal rate. Now that he was calm enough to pay attention to it again, he realized that the pain in his leg hadn't abated in any way. But how could he tell Beth that he needed a pill? He took the bag from his mouth and looked toward her. "There you go," she said softly, still holding him. "Are you okay, now?"
Steve shook his head. "Leg," he mouthed.
"Oh, Steve, you must feel awful by now!" Steve nodded. Then he pointed to his hip and slammed his hand against the door knob. Beth gasped. "Oh my God! Can you stand?" Steve tried, then shook his head. "Okay, just sit tight. I'll get you something right now."
Beth went away again and Steve tried to maneuver himself into a more comfortable position. With the way his leg felt, that was completely impossible, so he gave up after a few seconds. After a while, during which he actively did not think about his voice, Beth returned. She gave him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, followed immediately by a pill and a glass of water. "Thanks," he mouthed.
Beth kissed him on the cheek. "Will you be okay while I call the doctor?"
Steve nodded. There was more waiting. Then Beth returned and sat quietly with him until his medication kicked in. When he could walk on his own, Beth guided him to the bathroom so he could get ready. He had a very difficult time in the shower, because he kept trying to sing. Each time it happened, he grew more and more worried. What would he do without his voice? Never mind speaking to people. How could he possibly live without singing? What about the tour? Tour? What about Journey?! His career! His dream! Gone in an instant. Steve could feel himself starting to panic again. Stop, he said to himself. You haven't even seen the doctor yet. This time they might be able to help. Steve let the thought calm him, but he knew all the time that it was a lie.
When he was finished in the shower, Beth gave him the clothes she picked out, and he got dressed. "Take this," she said, putting a pad and a pen in his hand. "I know you can't see it, but it doesn't matter. You don't have to write in a straight line or anything for me to understand you." She sighed sadly, then gave him a hug. "Besides," she said, releasing him. "We won't need it for long!"
Steve smiled half heartedly and wrote on the pad. "Thanks, baby."
Beth led him to the car, assuming - correctly - that he was more concerned with speed than independence right now. Steve kept his hand in Beth's as they walked through the building and into Dr. Reynolds' office. "Mr. and Mrs. Perry," she greeted them.
"Hi," said Beth. Steve waved.
"Why don't you have a seat on the table," she asked Steve. Beth put Steve's hand on the table, and he lifted himself onto it. "Okay. Open your mouth and try to say 'Ah'."
Thus began a series of tests. During Dr. Reynolds' checking, they discovered that it wasn't just Steve's speech that was affected. He didn't seem able to produce any kind of sound at all. He tried screaming, humming, coughing and even clearing his throat. Not a sound. Dr. Reynolds found this so unusual that she called in two of her colleagues - Dr. Plymouth and Dr. Atwater - to ask their opinions. The two new doctors (a man and a woman) were as puzzled as Dr. Reynolds. They ran even more tests, including another blood test.
Finally, they were finished. They asked Steve and Beth to have a seat while they told them their prognosis. Dr. Reynolds began. "Well, Mr. Perry. You aren't going to believe this, but..."
Steve held up a hand. Then he wrote on his pad. "Let me guess. There's nothing wrong with my voice." He showed them the pad, and the three doctors cleared their throats uncomfortably.
"Actually," said Dr. Plymouth. "You're right. We can't find anything wrong with you."
Steve sighed and sank down in his chair. Even though he'd expected such an answer, he couldn't help but be incredibly depressed that he'd been right. "What?" Beth exclaimed, unwilling to accept it.
"I'm afraid it's true, Mrs. Perry," Dr. Reynolds said. "Just like with his eyes and his hip, there isn't anything physically wrong with your husband's vocal chords."
"No. No! That's not possible! Can't you run some more tests or something?"
"The tests we've run are quite accurate, Mrs. Perry," Dr. Atwater said. "Running more tests won't change the results."
"However," Dr. Reynolds said quickly. "We will be perfectly willing to run more if that's what you want."
Steve grinned slightly, remembering the fuss he'd made the last time they'd been here. "Do you want to do that, baby?" Beth asked.
Steve shook his head. "Why bother?" he wrote.
Beth sighed in frustration. "I can't believe this! There has to be something you can do for him!"
"I'm afraid not," Dr. Plymouth said. "We can't fix a problem we can't find."
"Don't give me that crap again!" Beth cried. "I'm sick of it! You can't tell me there isn't something wrong here!"
"Mrs. Perry, calm down," Dr. Atwater said.
"No! I will not calm down! In less than three weeks, my husband has suffered an incredibly painful hip injury, been struck blind, and now completely mute, and you're telling me there's nothing you can do?!"
"We really are sorry," Dr. Reynolds said.
"Don't tell me you're sorry! Tell me you'll help him!"
"Please calm down," Dr. Plymouth said. "We've already told you that's not possible."
"I won't accept that!"
"You don't have a choice, Mrs. Perry," Dr. Atwater said sharply. "Getting emotional about it won't solve anything, so I think you should really calm down."
"No, God dammit!" Beth shouted. "Don't you fucking tell me to calm down again, do you hear me?! In fact, the next person who tells me to calm down is getting socked in the mouth!"
There was complete silence, then a nervous chuckle from one of the women - Dr. Atwater, Steve guessed. "You can't be serious."
Steve would have warned her that Beth was dead serious, but he didn't think he could write fast enough. "Tell me to calm down again and not be emotional while my husband is suffering and I'll show you how serious I am!"
"Really, Mrs. Perry," Dr. Plymouth said. "I can understand your frustration, but-"
"No, I don't think you can," Beth said. "My husband is a singer. He sings for a living! Do you understand that?"
"Yes, we do," Dr. Atwater said. "But there's nothing we can do about it. The best doctors in this hospital have done exhaustive tests. The results are indisputable. Your husband's voice is gone, Mrs. Perry. No amount of shouting on your part can change that. As for singing being his livelihood, I suggest he find another line of work."
Steve gasped silently, shocked by the doctor's callousness. In an instant, shock was replaced by fury. How dare she make such a suggestion, as if he weren't sitting right there in front of them? Even if he was forced to give up his singing career in the end, she had no right to just blurt it out like that - dismissing even the possibility that he might find a cure somewhere else. Steve glared in the direction of her voice, wishing he could curse her out.
Apparently, Steve wasn't the only one she'd infuriated. He heard Beth take a deep breath beside him, then begin to speak in a low, quavering voice. "I have a suggestion for you, too, you insensitive bitch! I suggest you walk your ass out that door before I show you what it's like to be a patient in this hospital!"
There was an offended cry from Dr. Atwater. "Are you threatening me?"
"What the fuck do you think?"
"Mrs. Perry, please," Dr. Reynolds said placatingly. "Try to calm... er... rela-" Dr. Reynolds floundered, apparently (and wisely, Steve thought) taking Beth's promise of getting socked to heart. She changed tacks. "Doctor Atwater, I think you should leave," she said sternly. "And I want to speak to you later."
"No," Beth said suddenly. "You know what? We'll leave. Let's go, Steve."
Steve slammed his cane down on the floor few times and shook his head. "Not yet," he wrote to Beth. He couldn't leave without saying something to Dr. Atwater. "Do you have a passion?" he wrote.
"What?" Atwater said, sounding perplexed. Steve pointed to the question, effectively repeating himself. "Of... of course I do."
"What is it?"
"To be a doctor," she answered. "To help people."
Steve wrote on a new sheet. "Is that your job or your dream? A dream you've had since you were a child? Something you were born to do?"
There was a short pause before Dr. Atwater answered. "It's... it's a job. My dream was to be a dancer."
"Do you still dance?" Steve wrote.
"Yes. I still do it as a hobby."
"Imagine how you'd feel if, in five minutes, someone came in here, hacked your legs off and told you would never dance again." He showed her the pad, and she gasped, obviously horrified by the idea. After a pause, he took the pad back and wrote, "Now imagine how you'd feel if, five minutes after that, someone said to you, 'Oh, well. Too bad. I'd suggest you get a new hobby.'" Steve ripped the paper off the pad and gave it to her. She gasped, but Steve didn't wait to hear her stammering apologies, nor those of the other doctors in the room. He headed for the door, feeling Beth's hand on his arm almost immediately. Back at the car, Steve wrote a note for Beth. "I hate hospitals."
"So do I, baby. Let's get the hell out of here before I go back and kick that bitch's ass on general principle." Steve laughed. Silently.
The wax figure had a new addition - a small amount of colored wax covering its mouth. Success could not be far away.
Beth looked at the note. "I need another pill."
"Already?" she asked. "It hasn't even been four hours!"
"I know," he wrote, looking worried. "It hurts!"
Beth frowned and gave Steve a pill. "This can't be good," she said. Steve shook his head. She drove to the nearest office supply store and told Steve where they were.
"What for?" he wrote.
"I need to get you a few things. Want to come?" Steve shook his head. Beth sighed, worried by how depressed he looked. "Okay, honey. I'll be back soon." Beth found a small dry-erase board and a set of markers at the office supply store. Then she went next door to the craft shop and bought Steve a small, silver plated bell. She went back to the car and showed Steve what she'd bought.
He felt the board carefully, looking perplexed. Finally, he figured out what it was. He smiled and opened the board and the markers. He picked a marker and wrote, "Thanks. What's the bell for?"
"Well, you can't call me, and I thought it would be a good idea to have it in case you need something."
He frowned and erased his message. "I don't like that. Ringing for you like you're a servant."
"Oh, Steve, don't feel that way! I'd feel awful if you fell or you needed a pill or something and I didn't know about it right away!" Steve still looked doubtful. "Look. When you get better, I promise to make you spend a day waiting on me hand and foot for every day you have to use the bell. How's that?"
He laughed an eerily silent laugh, then wrote, "Sounds fair." Beth drove them home. In the house, Steve asked her to put on the tape of their studio work for Escape. He sat on the couch, listening to it with a morose expression on his face. "Guess this means no tour after all," he wrote.
Beth sighed. She hated to see him so depressed. There had to be something she could do. She sat down next to him, held his hand and thought about it. In a little while, she had an idea. It wouldn't solve the long term problem, but it was worth a shot anyway. She told her idea to Steve. He sat without moving for a second. Then a slow smile spread across his face. "I love you, Beth," he wrote.